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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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Congressman, what`s the right way to deal with this in tonight`s debate? That`s the biggest question.


REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: You say -- the president says, we need accountability, we need transparency, and we need responsibility.

But, fundamentally, this election, when it comes to national security and foreign policy, is about, has the president made us safer? Has he made us more secure? This is a president who made the tough choice to eliminate Osama bin Laden. This is the president who

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: But fundamentally, this election, when it comes to national security and foreign policy, is about -- has the president made us safer? Has he made us more secure?

This is a president who made the tough choice to eliminate Osama bin Laden. This is the president who ended the war in Iraq.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: But what about Libya?

ISRAEL: And this is a president who is winding down in Afghanistan. We`re on Long Island, you know, my hometown.

MATTHEWS: But what about Libya? They`re going to say, well, you`re dodging the question. You`re changing the topic. You got to answer it directly I think and boldly and finally tonight. Finally say where it stands. It looks like a combination of events were occurring.

What do you have to know?

JEN PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think the president is going to make an evaluation based on information that`s gathered and he`s not going to jump the gun on that.

MATTHEWS: When is he going to do it?

PSAKI: He`s focused on it every day as is his team. I think, Chris, the important point here is that, you know, this is something --

MATTHEWS: You know that Biden lost the debate on this issue the other night. On that point, he was his weakest.

PSAKI: Biden said what was true and what Secretary Clinton said, which is that she received the request and that`s where those type of requests land and where they`re denied or approved. Biden had a pretty fired up debate.

MATTHEWS: What do I find it so unsatisfactory? Because it reminds me of the kind of kernel issue that gets blown up to the biggest thing in the world right before an election and becomes a symbol of weakness and incompetence. And unless you straighten it out now and hit this at the butt and say something strong tonight, I don`t think you get away with it.

Anyway, last night, Secretary Clinton previewed the big debate tonight. Let`s hear what she had to say.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think he`ll do fine. I think he just has to get out there and talk about what he`s done for the country and what he wants to do for the next four years. You know, I am out of politics but I care deeply about what happens to the country that I love and that I have served. And I think that he will do fine in explaining what needs to happen next.


MATTHEWS: One of the fun things to worry about besides Libya, which is not fun, it`s a tragedy, is watching that two Clintons as they do the two cops, not good cop/bad cop. Bill Clinton is as randy for this presidential campaign to get over so he can get into the one he`s really interested in, his wife running for president.

She actually does ask diffident, like she hasn`t decided about running.

Your thoughts, Congressman? You know here. You served with her in the delegation.

ISRAEL: I don`t know what her plans are, but I`ll say this, it`s appropriate that this debate is on Long Island. This is the home of the undecided voter, the defiantly independent suburban voter, the Bucks County moderate voter. And tonight, the president will win the debate when he talks about policies that he`s pursuing to reignite the middle class, as opposed to Mitt Romney who is trying to take Medicare away from the middle class.

He needs to focus on talking about how we need to stop giving big corporations tax incentives to outsource jobs and instead give middle class families some incentives to send their kids to college. On those fundamental middle class issues, this president has performed.

Mitt Romney is talking about protecting tax breaks for millionaires.

This president is talking about protecting Medicare. And when he make that is case, he wins, the middle class wins, and that`s why it`s so fitting that this debate is here on Long Island.

MATTHEWS: To that point, Latest polling we got from Quinnipiac today in my home state, where I grew up, Pennsylvania. We`re -- well, the Democrats are losing the working class, non-college people, especially Catholics. Explain.

PSAKI: Well, look --

MATTHEWS: Why is that happening?

PSAKI: There`s a lot of polls outs there about Pennsylvania and most of them have us up by a few points.

MATTHEWS: Four, that isn`t a lot.

PSAKI: Look, Chris, I think across the country, working people are looking at the choice between them. They`re looking at, you know, the president`s fighting for middle class families --

MATTHEWS: Why were they shifting away in the last few days?

PSAKI: I don`t buy into a lot of numbers in some of these polls.

MATTHEWS: So the polls you like, you like and the ones you don`t like, you don`t like.

PSAKI: No, no, there`s a lot of state polls out there. There`s a lot of national polls.


PSAKI: We don`t get too whipped up and down with every poll that comes out. Ultimately, it`s about the argument you`re making on the ground. Tonight, as Congressman Israel said, is a good opportunity for the president to say to people at home why he`s a better fighter for them.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s agree on something. I think Bill Clinton should spend the last two weekends with the president campaigning through Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, the gritty areas of the key states.

ISRAEL: With House Democrats.

MATTHEWS: With House Democrats. We agree. They should be together out there holding their hands in the air.

PSAKI: What about the other places President Clinton could reach and engage them while the president is in other places?

MATTHEWS: I put them together.

PSAKI: Two birds.

MATTHEWS: They got to look like a team. I disagree. Don`t divide the army.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. -- well, you decide, I watch. Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, a fighting Democrat for the DNC -- DCCC, of Long Island actually.

ISRAEL: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Jen Psaki of the Obama campaign.

Up next, it`s do or die time for the president.


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