MATTHEWS: Well, this should be interesting.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On Tuesday, Salon.com quoted Elizabeth Edwards saying that Hillary Clinton isquote"just not as vocal a womans advocate as I want to see. John is."
At a campaign event last night in Iowa, "The Des Moines Register" reports that Mrs. Edwards saidquote"Maybe Hillarys staying away from some of those issues described as female issues."
Is Elizabeth Edwards right? Is John Edwards a better advocate for women than Hillary Clinton?
The campaigns have provided two surrogates to address this issue on our behalfon their behalves. Kate Michelmans an Edwards adviser who was with Mrs. Edwards at last nights rally.
There she is, Kate. Hi, Kate.
KATE MICHELMAN, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Hi.
MATTHEWS: Shes also the former president, as everyone knows, of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
And U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a pal of this show, is national chair of the Clinton campaign.
Well, this isIm going to try to do this as well as I can. So, heres how I start.
Kate Michelman, why cant a woman be more like a man? Why do we have to have a gender dispute here?
MICHELMAN: We dont have to have a gender dispute. What I think is very important is the very issue you raised, which is that women cannot be assumed as a monolithic vote. Women are not going to vote just on gender. Theyre going to vote for the candidate that they believe willrepresents the issues, thethe values, the leadership, the competence that they expect from a candidate.
And I believe thatthat candidate is John Edwards.
So, I think, in fact and indeed, gender is not the only issue thats going to weigh heavily on the minds of women. And in fact, as women begin to look at the candidates more closely after Labor Day and voters begin to focus, I think they will see that John Edwards has stood his entire life for those who have no voice.
As you had him on earlier, Chris, he hashe is working on the issues that most affect women, poverty, health care, education, minimum wage, wage equality.
MICHELMAN: I mean, these are conditions that face womens lives and affect their lives. And hes leading on those issues, and those are the issues that carethat women care tremendously about.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, the numbers show women voting for Hillary.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, I mean, if theyre like me, when they heard about the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president and being president of the United States, my parents raised me to believe that, in America, little girls could grow up and be anything they wanted to be, even president of the United States. I have two daughters. And I want to make that a reality for them.
With Hillary Clinton, they see experience, they see work ethic, they see an agenda that has been pro-family and pro-children and pro-woman for her entire career. And then they have the added bonus of making the dream of having a woman president for the first time in history a reality. Its a no-brainer for women. We have an opportunity that is historic in this country.
MATTHEWS: You knowyou know, Kate, I know youre a pro on issues affecting women. Youre one of the top pros in the country.
But that argument I just heard there, I have been saying to myself, trying to figure this thing out, that, whatever happens in Iowa, whatever happens in Nevada, when you get to south Florida on January 29, those retired women down therea lot of them from New Yorkhave dreamed of their daughters growing up to be like Hillary Clinton, to be that professional, that educated, that smart.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to get them to vote against the girl they wanted their daughters to be? And maybe their daughter is like that, like Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz. So maybe she is what her mother wanted her to be. Probably is.
MICHELMAN: Well, I hope so, too.
I have three daughters. I have a granddaughter. And I have worked all my life for women and families, as Hillary has. And it is extraordinarily exciting and important that we finally have a woman running for president, a serious candidate. And it is important.
But women have evolved over time. We have been on a long journey to dignity, equality and political and social power. And were not going to use thatwere not going toyou know, it would be antithetical to everything that we have worked for to vote only because we have a woman running. Its an important fact...
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: But, Kate...
MICHELMAN: ... its an important factor.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Chris, I have...
MICHELMAN: Go ahead.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: I have enormous respect for you, Kate, and I have...
MICHELMAN: And I you.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: ... fought side by side with you, and Im soreally, its nice for me to be on HARDBALL with someone I agree with onon virtually everything, for once.
But, on this issue, it is so incredibly important that we take this historic opportunity to elect the first woman, who can articulate the importance of equal pay, who can repudiate the decisions that the Supreme Court has been making recently...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... that have destroyed the opportunities for women.
Hillary Clinton will be able to do that uniquely, because shes been a leader and she has the experience and shes a woman.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, is Hillary holding back, laying back on health care, because of how badly it went back, because of Bill Kristol and other critics, back in 94? Is she afraid to touch that issue again?
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Gosh, if shes laying back on health care, I would like to see it if shesee what happens when she really kicks into gear, because she has repeatedly said that her number-one priority when she becomes president of the United States will be to make health care universal.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have got to make sure that health care in this country is a right and not a privilege.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And that is her number one priority.
MATTHEWS: Last word from Kate.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Shes repeatedly said that.
MICHELMAN: Well, John Edwards is leading on all of these issues. And I dont thinkyou know, I dont think that voters are going to be, you know, looking just at gender, as I said.
Theyre going to be looking to the candidate who has stood firm all his life, whos not played politics with issues, whos always led on principle, and who has a health care plan that is universal, who is working to eliminate poverty, who has a plan to affect education, who has a plan to turn around minimum wage, which affects women.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Chris, I dont either.
MICHELMAN: These arethese are issues of great importance andto women. I think...
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Chris, I dont think they will look at gender. I dont think they will look at just gender, either.
MICHELMAN: I dont. I dont.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: But it sure would be nice to have the experience of Hillary Clinton and the added bonus that shes a woman and make little girls dreams in America possible for the first time in history.
MICHELMAN: I think womenI think women most need someone they can trust and believe in to...
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: And thats Hillary Rodham Clinton.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know, I like this debate. I like this debate.
MATTHEWS: Kate Michelman, thank you.
MICHELMAN: Well, we will do it again.
MATTHEWS: Youre a leader.
And, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, youre always welcome here.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I like this debate, very civilized.
MICHELMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I wont say ladylike...
MICHELMAN: Thanks, Chris.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... because I might get in trouble, but I liked it.
Anyway, thank you. I mean it. I think we need this debate.