updated 2/9/2009 11:23:46 AM ET 2009-02-09T16:23:46

Time: 17.00

Guest: Chris Cillizza, Jill Zuckman, Haley Barbour, Joe Conason, Gary Ackerman, David Axelrod, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Roger Cressey, Bertha Coombs

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Will President Obama win with his big stimulus package or lose?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight: To be or not to be, that‘s the question.  Will there be a big-budget, almost trillion-dollar economic recovery bill?  Will Congress agree to President Obama‘s job number one, this giant measure to spend federal dollars and cut taxes to put some forward motion into the American economy, or won‘t they?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work.  Now is the time for Congress to act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But because the U.S. Senate is now designed to not do something—in other words, taking a 60 percent super-majority to move any bill of any consequence—the deck is stacked against action, stacked in favor of the nay-sayers.  Get it?  The people who lost the last election have the say-so now on whether the people who won it get to do anything.  This‘s a superb way to run a railway, assuming you don‘t want the trains to move.  But that‘s the situation this Friday evening as we await action as the Labor Department tells us that the jobless rate up to 7.6 percent and spiking.  And that doesn‘t include the millions cut to shorter hours and to so many others who don‘t know where to find a job, therefore have stopped looking for one.

Tonight, we have the president‘s top communicator, David Axelrod, to try and make the sale, to answer my question, How will the big stimulus bill get this country moving again?  Then we have one of those Republican senators who‘s trying to get something passed, Olympia Snowe of Maine.  Next, we hear from a Republican governor, HARDBALL favorite Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who doesn‘t like the looks of the Democratic recovery bill.  So what‘s he want the Senate to pass, anything or nothing?

And former vice president Dick Cheney just couldn‘t help himself this week.  His warnings about the repercussions of ending of Bush-era policies like torture and Guantanamo smell of the same old scare tactics he used to sell people into war with Iraq.  Is he looking to build a government in exile across the Potomac where hard-nosed hawks discuss the weakness of the Obama administration over sifters of brandy and expensive cigars?

Also, what‘s the latest on the soft sell?  How‘s that talk of being post-partisan doing in Washington, this week of Daschle‘s ditch and unstimulating rhythm?

And finally, I‘ve got another winner for the HARDBALL Award tonight.  I think you‘re going to like this guy.  In a city of words without punch, this guy knows how to sock it to the bad guys, and that includes the guys who are supposed to protect us from the bad guys but don‘t.  And the winner will be right here on HARDBALL.

We begin with David Axelrod.  David, thank you for joining us.  My question, and you‘ve probably heard it a couple of times on this show—maybe 10 times—give me the four or five chunks of this stimulus package and tell me how it‘s going to get the economy moving again.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER:  Well, first of all, Chris, we‘re going to try and give some relief to people who‘ve been caught up in this economy, who‘ve lost their jobs, to extend unemployment insurance, to make sure that they don‘t lose their health care, which is enormously important.  There‘s a huge tragedy, 600,000 people, as you mentioned, last month alone lost their job.  That would be the entire number of jobs in Senator Snowe‘s state.  And it‘s getting worse and worse.  So that‘s job number one.

But we also want to make major investments in things that will employ people in the short run and make a big difference in our economy in the long run, alternative energy.  We want to double the amount of renewables produced in this country and wind power and solar power, and that will put hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people to work, but it‘ll also get us down the path to energy independence.  It will help on the issue of global warming.

We want to build the infrastructure, roads and bridges and dams and

levees in this country so we don‘t have—so we put people to work and we

don‘t have the Katrinas down the line.  We want to rebuild 10,000 schools

in this country that are dilapidated and give kids the 21st century

classrooms and labs and libraries that they need to compete.  It‘s going to

it‘ll put people to work and it will have a long-term—it will have a long-term impact on the country.

We want to build a computerized system of medical records in this country, so that will—everyone agrees, will lower the cost of health care and reduce medical errors and improve care.  It‘s a forerunner to health care reform we‘ve all talked about for so long.  So the crisis can be an opportunity.  We can put people back to work and put people back to work doing work that needs to be done.

What we can‘t do, Chris, is return to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.  We don‘t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.  There are tax cuts in our plan that will help the middle class, but tax cuts alone are not going to get this economy moving again or people back to work.

And we can‘t ignore the long-term needs of our country.  That‘s what we‘ve done for so long and that‘s one of the reasons we‘re in the ditch we are in.  So we want to move this economy forward, and we don‘t think we can wait.  I think there‘s a sense of urgency in the country that—you know, someone once told me Washington‘s always the last to get the news.  I think that was pretty wise.  Out in the country, I think people are really hurting, and they‘re looking to their leaders to stand up for them and they don‘t have much tolerance for prolonged debate on this issue.  They want action and they want action now, and we want action now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, give me the—show me how it works now.  We‘ve got 7.6 percent unemployment right now.  We have nobody buying any appliances, buying any cars, buying any homes.  We‘ve got people being thrown out of work.  Nobody‘s buying and nobody‘s investing.  Again, show me how this bill gets people buying, gets people investing big-time.

AXELROD:  Well, look, we think this is going to—we think this is going to—look, people don‘t have money to spend.  That‘s the problem, Chris.  If you don‘t have a job, you‘re not spending money and the thing becomes a circular problem.  We believe this will save or create three million to four million jobs in the next couple of years.  That‘s going to make an enormous difference in our economy.

Think of it this way.  Our economy is underperforming, the economists say, by something on the order of a trillion dollars a year.  And the stimulus is going to help generate and replace some of that economic activity to get things going again, and hopefully, we can get the circle going in the other direction.

When we help people with unemployment insurance and health care and so on, then they have some money to spend.  Every single dimension of this has an impact on our economy and will make a big difference moving forward.  What we know we can‘t do is talk this thing to death.  Every single day that goes on, this problem gets worse.  And we can‘t use—we can‘t make the perfect the enemy of the good.  We have to move forward.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me there‘s pieces of this that have different purposes.  One, the relief you mentioned.  If you‘re out of work, you want unemployment benefits extended, you want health care, you want COBRA.  You want to be taken care of.  That‘s relief.  And then there‘s recovery, stuff that really gets people spending money, gets people really out there working.

Have you done a bad job of maybe packaging it?  Roosevelt used to say, Relief, recovery, reconstruction.  I think those were his degrees of action.  Does this have to be explained that way?

AXELROD:  You know, I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  Relief, recovery, reconstruction...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not all stimulus, is it?  Is it all stimulus?

AXELROD:  I think—I think the president has—it‘s all for the benefit of our economy, Chris.  I think the president has done a good job of explaining.  And I think what you‘ll find is out in the country, not in Washington, there‘s an enormous amount of support of it.  I haven‘t seen any dimension of support for this program in the country.  I think people get it.  I think they want it and they want action now.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about the president‘s political strategy.  For a while there, we talked or you talked and the country was talking about a post-partisan era coming, where all we‘d get together, there‘d be enough people that got together, wouldn‘t have the usual street fights.  And then lately this week, the president‘s been getting with a harder edge.  He‘s been talking, as he did at Williamsburg the other night with the Democratic caucus—he was talking about basically sticking it to the other side, warning the Republicans they blew it, basically, Go along with what‘s new here.

What is it?  I don‘t know how many Republicans you can beat with this strategy.  Is this stick or is this carrot?

AXELROD:  Look, I think, Chris, the point is that we have a country in an economic crisis.  I think those who failed to act, those who want to turn back the clock, I think put themselves in some jeopardy.  But we‘re not trying to get into a political contest over this.  We‘re trying to move the country forward.

The president—by the way, the president does believe that we should

have dialogue over the issues.  He had conversations with Senator Snowe and

others.  I think he believes that there‘s value in talking.  But the time

for talk is now done.  We need to move this thing forward.  And if anybody

needed a wake-up call, I think these statistics this morning, these 600,000

people who lost their jobs last month -- 3.6 million in the last 13 months

ought to be that wake-up call.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me give you some numbers.  Mike Viqueira just reported for us a minute or two before you came on that the—the Democratic staffer he talked to in the Senate leadership says that the party needs six Republicans.  That means you‘ve got 54 Democrats.  That means you‘ve got four short of the number of people sitting there.  Maybe Ted Kennedy has health reasons he can‘t get there.  Obviously, Al Franken can‘t vote.  You need six votes from the Republican side.

If you don‘t get the six, whose fault is it?  Is it the Republican Party for obstructionism?  Is it the Democratic leadership for going along with this need for 60 votes?  Why don‘t they just vote a majority up there and see—and dare the Republicans to oppose it?  I don‘t understand the tactic.  Why don‘t they just vote 51 -- or 54 Democrats, have the Republicans filibuster?  Go ahead, bring the cots in, stay up all night, and point out the Republicans standing against the stimulus package.  What‘s wrong with calling their bluff?  I don‘t get it.

AXELROD:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Call their bluff.  Make them filibuster.

AXELROD:  I‘m going to—man, you should be in the United States Senate.  I‘m not going to make—prejudge the tactics up there...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

AXELROD:  ... or what might happen down the line.  The fact is there are a majority of votes in the United States Senate to pass an economic recovery package and begin the work of moving the country forward.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think there are.

AXELROD:  There are a minority of—there are a minority—there are a minority who are frustrating it now.  We‘d like to build the coalition and move this thing forward.  But what happens from this point on, we‘ll see.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I‘d like to see them bring the cots in, David.  It would be exciting, wouldn‘t it, sleeping all night, seeing if they can stand up against the people?  You say the people are on your side, you want to put the other guys in the cots.  Go to the mattresses!  Just talking here.  It‘s easier to...

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD:  I‘m worried—I‘m worried—I think it would be fun for you guys to have the cots there.  I‘m worried about people sleeping in the streets because they‘ve lost their jobs.  I think it‘s such a serious matter now, and we ought to move forward as quickly as we possibly can.  I love the theater of it, too.  And I know you‘re a great student of history.  But I‘d rather keep the cots in the closet and pass the plan.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But sometimes, it‘s important.  Well, I‘m just advising.  It seems sometimes it‘s important to let people show where they are, for or against this thing, up or down.  Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod.

AXELROD:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Olympia Snowe‘s a Maine Republican who‘s been working with Senate leadership on a compromise plan.  Let me ask a member of the United States Senate, why don‘t you force this to a vote, up or down, and if the majority says, We need a stimulus package, let the opposition filibuster, go ahead?  What‘s the problem with that?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE ®, MAINE:  Well, Chris, obviously, this is a major package, the largest in history, for one of the worst economic crises in our nation‘s history, so I think it‘s important to get it right.  I don‘t disagree with what David is saying with respect to the timeliness or the urgency, and that‘s what the president expressed to me in the meeting we had on Wednesday.  So I concur with that.

But we have to get it right.  I mean, this is, after all, a $800 billion, $900 billion package, and so we can‘t afford to waste dollars and then we‘ll be reading about or hearing about in the months to come as to why some of these programs were included in the stimulus plan and they weren‘t stimulative and they weren‘t doing what they were intended to do.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do we have presidential elections that are decided by a majority vote in the Electoral College and you can‘t have a vote in the Senate that‘s decided by a majority?  Why do you have to have 60 out of 100?  It seems like that is a road map for delay and obstruction.  It gives all the advantage to the obstructers.

SNOWE:  Well, you know, that‘s—that was a brilliance of the Founding Fathers, to build accommodation, and hence, we get the 60-vote threshold because it means it has to be bipartisan.  But I don‘t think that there‘s obstructionism under way in the United States, truly.  It‘s part of the legislative process to go through these issues and to find out exactly what is for the purpose of stimulus and what‘s a purpose of job creation.

Now, I know that the president said last night in his speech that the fact that, you know, people are making arguments against the stimulus plan because it‘s a spending plan.  But not all spending is stimulus, so I think we have to work through the issues.  That‘s what I recommended to him, similar to what President Reagan did, in fact, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SNOWE:  ... back in the early ‘80s.  We went through line by line, you know, see what worked, what was this all about, so that we‘re not wasting dollars and we‘re doing what the bill should accomplish, and that is jumpstarting the economy and to do it immediately and not have an omnibus budget bill that doesn‘t have the impact on the custody because they‘re not stimulative matters.

MATTHEWS:  Senator, how do you distinguish between something that‘s really going to get the economy rolling again and just another spending bill?  What‘s the cutoff to you?  How do you define the difference?

SNOWE:  Well, you know, just looking at the spend-out rate on discretionary, which I indicated to the president on Wednesday when I had that one-on-one meeting with him—in the discretionary accounts, which is $366 billion, only 12 percent spends out this year and 49 percent between 2009 and 2010.  So less than half of the discretionary won‘t even spend out over the next two years, so it can‘t have an impact on the economy.  I‘d say, you know, you got 12 percent spend-out this year, it‘s giving you 100 percent heartburn.  So we should address those issues.

I think we can come to an agreement, Chris.  I really do.  Today, for example, you know, Chairman Caucus had some modifications to the tax bills that I looked at and worked on because we think that could contribute to reducing the cost of the bill by $25 billion.  If we can have some agreement on the appropriations side, I think we can get there to get what is truly a stimulative bill that will help create jobs and jumpstart this economy.

MATTHEWS:  Mike Viqueira of NBC News up on the Hill there—you know him—he said it takes six Republicans to get this thing done.  Is it going to take that many?

SNOWE:  Well, you know, I was interested in that number.  I don‘t know, especially on the Democratic side, if they can‘t get all the Democrats.  Obviously, we have a vacancy and with Ted Kennedy‘s illness, but I don‘t know.  But I think that, clearly, you know, we can reach this consensus.  I don‘t see it as difficult if people are willing to sit around the table.  Now, the president indicated in his meeting on Wednesday that he would have the—you know, the director of Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orzag, contacting me and others.  And I thought, you know what?  It would be a good idea just to build that bipartisan group, go over those items—and I gave him a list—and say, you know, Are these really stimulative or do they belong in the budget bill?

This isn‘t an omnibus budget bill, it‘s a stimulative bill.  And if we don‘t get it right, it‘s going to further disillusion the American people on the heels of this financial rescue plan and all the problems associated with that.  And we don‘t want to deepen the skepticism and the anxiety of people.  We‘ve got to get this right, and I think we can.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, thank you so much for coming on on this important night.

SNOWE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up—by the way, we‘ve got Kevin Bacon coming on Monday night, one of my movie heroes.

But by the way, it remains to be seen how many Republicans are going to join with the Democrats to get this recovery plan, this stimulus plan, passed this weekend.  But Republican governors are split.  Some, like California‘s Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida‘s Charlie Crist, who was here, want the bill passed, while others are fighting against it.  One of those who doesn‘t like the looks of it is Mississippi‘s Haley Barbour, a friend of this show who‘s on it a lot.  He doesn‘t like this bill.  Let‘s find out why.  He‘s coming on live in a minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and other Republican governors, including Sarah Palin up in Alaska, are encouraging Republican senators to stand against Obama‘s economic bill, the big stimulus package. 

Governor Barbour is with us now. 

Governor Barbour, are you with or against the idea of a big stimulus package, or just against this one? 

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  No, there needs to be a stimulus package.  It needs to be a stimulus package that creates jobs and helps state governments and helps the unemployed. 

The problem with this one is, it‘s a gigantic bill that‘s got hundreds of billions of dollars of things in it that aren‘t needed, that really aren‘t stimulus.  And Olympia Snowe said it better than I.  Twelve percent of the money is going to get spent the first year out of the discretionary that is supposed to create jobs?

We need more tax cuts and we need less social policy in this.  And the spending ought to be focused on things that literally creates jobs. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Charlie Crist, the governor of—of Florida, was on the other night, and he was just glad to get the money.  He wasn‘t discriminating among the kinds of money.  He was just glad to get money back from Washington. 

You have a different view about that. 

BARBOUR:  Well, I do.  I mean, we need the help. 

And—you know, and a lot of states are in much worse shape fiscally than we are.  But we need the help, too.  But what we don‘t need is our taxpayers being saddled down with a trillion dollars that‘s going to be paid off by our children and grandchildren, and very little of what‘s coming down with this bill is going to create jobs or prosperity in Mississippi or anywhere else. 

You know, Chris, a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know. 

But what about Billy McCoy, your House speaker down there?  He says you need the money.  He can‘t—he says he‘s incredulous—or somebody said he said you‘re incredulous—he‘s incredulous that you would stand against getting this money in the coffers of the state treasury. 

BARBOUR:  Well, of course, I can‘t speak for the speaker, and wouldn‘t

wouldn‘t try to.

But I will tell you, there are things in the bill like this.  They talk about—and David Axelrod, who, by the way, I greatly admire—I think he is one of the great political operatives of all time in our country and anywhere else—David mentioned unemployment. 

Well, this bill, according to the advocates for the bill, would let Mississippi have $54 million of additional money for unemployment.  The only problem is, when you read the details, we get $3.9 million of that for what we do now.  And to get the other $50 million, we have to expand unemployment to let people collect unemployment that have never been eligible in our—in our state, including people who aren‘t willing to take a full-time job. 

Now, there‘s way too much of that in this bill, social policy, to the point it—it‘s kind of welfare state 3.0. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by—I thought you had to be able to—when you go to unemployment, you go down to the desk, you tell them what you can do, and they find a job for you.  You are saying that that‘s not a requirement under this new system? 

BARBOUR:  That‘s right. 

In Mississippi today, if you go to—say you‘re unemployed, we try to help you find a job.  Until you can find a job, get offered a job, we pay you unemployment.  But you have to be willing to accept a full-time job in order to be paid unemployment. 

This law, this bill, the stimulus package, would change that, and would require Mississippi, to get this $50 million, to change our law.

Now, Chris, that means that, in a year-and-a-half or two years, when the federal money runs out, however long it is, then my employers are about to get a $10 million or $15 million tax increase to give unemployment to people that Mississippi doesn‘t think you should give unemployment to, but is going to be crammed down our throat by Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this extra spurt of money, this stimulus money that would be coming down to Jackson, Mississippi, for Mississippi and the other states, you are saying it‘s going to bring with it the federal hold on you guys, tell you how to do certain thing that the government in Washington doesn‘t do now?

BARBOUR:  What I‘m saying is, we need to be very careful to make sure we understand what strings are attached. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BARBOUR:  I expect the vast majority of this money to have strings attached that are either manageable or insignificant.

But there are going to be some—or there may be some—I hope the Senate gets rid of all of them—there may be some that would require such a change in public policy in my state to raise spending, raise taxes, and to cede control of public power from our legislature and our state to Washington, D.C.

I‘m just going to be careful before I take that.  I hope there isn‘t anything like that.  But there‘s a bunch of that in this bill right now.  That‘s why it‘s been described as—as 40 years of pent-up demand of social policy changes that even Bill Clinton wouldn‘t support. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Senator (sic) Haley Barbour of Mississippi—thank you, Governor, for coming on tonight.  It is a big night in American politics and decision-making. 

Up next, I will give out the HARDBALL Award again to the one man who took on the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, for failing to catch Bernard Madoff.  You know him?  He‘s the guy that stole $50 billion in a Ponzi scheme.  And this guy supports the whistle-blower.  Wait until you watch this story. 

Wait until you watch a true congressman in action, Gary Ackerman.  He is going to get the award tonight, along with that pilot, and along with that senator from Illinois.  When people stick their necks out and show some moxie, we like them. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

Check out the cover of today‘s “Wall Street Journal.”  We‘re going to show it to you now.  Only now are we learning the full extent of New York financier Bernard Madoff‘s alleged $50 billion fraud, his Ponzi scheme. 

During Wednesday—Wednesday‘s House hearing on the scandal, U.S.  Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York took to task the SEC regulators who failed to uncover the scheme. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK:  Could you explain yourselves? 

You have single-handedly diffused the American public of any kind of confidence in our financial markets, if you are the watchdog.  You have totally and thoroughly failed in your mission. 

Why didn‘t you find him is the question. 

LINDA CHATMAN THOMSEN, ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE

COMMISSION:  I understand your question.  And we cannot answer as to the specifics. 

ACKERMAN:  You don‘t know anything. 

THOMSEN:  I can only talk about what we did—what we do overall. 

ACKERMAN:  No, no.  We want to know specifically.  I don‘t know what your general purpose in life is.  I don‘t need you to come here to tell me that you hate fraud.  Hate when that happens.  Don‘t you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are as committed as each of you

(CROSSTALK)

ACKERMAN:  That is not the question.  We give you credit for being committed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Perhaps you could let me answer. 

ACKERMAN:  Perhaps you can try to answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

With us now, U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman.

Thank you for joining us. 

Mr. Ackerman, Congressman, how much money do you think Bernie Madoff made off with?  What‘s the estimate here? 

ACKERMAN:  I don‘t think anybody has any real idea, but, certainly, his lifestyle indicated millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe—maybe—maybe billions. 

MATTHEWS:  And a lot of famous—and a lot of famous people. 

I hate to see Sandy Koufax lose out.  And Kevin Bacon‘s coming on the show here.  You hear the Lautenberg fund, a lot of wealthy, smart people. 

Why were they—why is—your sense as a U.S. congressman, why wasn‘t the SEC able to catch the person doing this, even though you had this guy Markopolos as a whistle-blower? 

ACKERMAN:  Well, it‘s easy why they couldn‘t find any wrongdoing. 

Because they weren‘t looking for any.  It was pretty obvious. 

It is a very, very sad thing, when—when people have confidence in their government, and that we have a watchdog agency that‘s supposed to be doing a job, and protecting the public, and making sure that the game is played cleanly by certain rules that‘s not really looking. 

There were so many clues.  And as Mr. Markopolos pointed out, he gave 29 red flags to them.  He gave it to them in writing.  He persisted over close to a decade in almost hounding the SEC to look.  And they just put blinders on.  They just didn‘t want to find any wrongdoing.  And that‘s absolutely outrageous. 

MATTHEWS:  And he—and the way that the whistle-blower who was working found out that there was a problem is, he said it was mathematically—arithmetically impossible to make the kind of returns that Madoff was offering or promising, right? 

ACKERMAN:  Yes. 

I mean, if he figured it out in a few minutes—and—and everybody that looks at what he looked at, you know, has—has—suspected something was going wrong—and he went and he showed it to them.  He went to the Boston office.  And they referred him to the New York office.  And the New York office didn‘t look to the Boston office. 

And, you know, what more do they want?  I mean, you—you—they led him to water.  They couldn‘t drink.  It‘s not that we need whistle-blowers.  I think we need people with cattle prods, basically, to stimulate these people into looking. 

(LAUGHTER)

ACKERMAN:  They just don‘t move. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Congressman Ackerman. 

By the way, to date, I have given HARDBALL Awards to two very different figures, U.S. Senator Roland Burris, who showed guts and dignity in taking his seat under terrible circumstances, but was also due him under the law, and U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who landed his plane amid horrendous dangers to his passengers and his crew.

I hereby name you, Congressman Ackerman, as a HARDBALL Awardee for speaking out without the indignation, the passion, and the acuity that too often goes missing in public life, not least in the Congress of the United States. 

Congratulations, Mr. Ackerman. 

ACKERMAN:  Thank you, Chris.  I am absolutely honored and flattered. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  As you should be.  An appropriate trophy will be coming to your office, which we hope you find a place for. 

Thank you very much...

ACKERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  ... for coming on this show.

Up next: Dick Cheney‘s broadside this week of the two-week old Obama administration.  He‘s already smacking them.  It seems like the old scare tactics of the Cheney crowd, the tactics, of course, they used to get us into war with Iraq. 

We are going to look at whether Cheney‘s warnings have any basis in fact, or whether they‘re just the same old stuff that they used before to get us moving into war, a war that was never justified by the facts. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallied, despite massive job losses in January, on optimism Congress will pass an economic stimulus package, also with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to unveil new plans Monday to stabilize the financial system, the Dow Jones industrial average surging 217 points, the S&P 500 tacking on 22, while the Nasdaq was up a massive 45 points, putting it into positive territory for the year. 

The economy lost another 598,000 jobs in January.  That‘s the biggest one-month loss since December 1974.  It pushed the nation‘s unemployment rate to 7.6 percent, the highest level in 16 years. 

Toyota warning, losses for its fiscal year, ending in March, will be worse than expected—the world‘s largest automaker now saying it expects to report a loss of nearly $5 billion.

And oil falling a dollar, closing at $40.17 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former Vice President Dick Cheney wasted no time in going after the new Obama administration for the rollbacks on controversial Bush era policies, like torture, and the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo.

He, the former vice president, warned this week that we risk sustaining a nuclear attack if we eliminate those policies that he supported. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I

think there‘s a high probability of such an attempt.  Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts since 9/11 to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, does this smack of the same type of scare tactics that Cheney and top Bush officials employed to get us into war with Iraq? 

Roger Cressey is an MSNBC terrorism analyst and a former national security official.  And Joe Conason is with “The New York Observer,” a great newspaper, I must say.

Roger, you first. 

I want you to analyze what Cheney—now, here‘s another bite of him and—and his world view. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Obviously, I‘m one who believes it‘s a—it‘s a tough world out there.  And the United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected.  And we need, from time to time, to use military force or all of the resources at our command in order to defend the nation and defend our friends. 

Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy.  I‘m not at all sure that that‘s what the Obama administration believes.  I think there are probably some who actually believe, if we just go talk nice to these folks, everything is going to be OK.  I don‘t think the world works that way. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The hardest thing, Roger and Joe, for me to figure out is, when Cheney is talking about facts, which he has access to, and when he‘s simply pushing his sort of strange personality on the world, his view of, you have got to punch down the opponent, you have got knock them down, keep them down.

No matter whether it‘s a Democrat or it‘s a world leader, you must always keep the guy off balance and down.  That seems to be the Cheney attitude towards life.  And you have to separate that, it seems to me, for safe reasoning, from the facts he has at his disposal. 

Roger, you are the expert.  What does he know that we don‘t know?  What should we listen to in what he has to say?  And what should we just simply chalk up to a kind of an interesting personality trait? 

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Chris, a lot of this is about the interesting personality trait.  But one of his big points is that the world is dark, dangerous place.  And if you only approach the threat the way that the Bush administration did, that‘s your only sense of salvation. 

That‘s ludicrous.  Of course the world is a tough place.  I think everybody in the Obama administration, many of whom dealt with these issues before, understand that, as well.  This is about legacy burnishing, Chris, more than anything else. 

Will al Qaeda try to attack us?  of course.  They aspire to attack us on a variety of different fronts.  That doesn‘t mean the only choice in front of us it to pursue the same policies.  Everybody wants to defeat al Qaeda.  Their way, the Bush administration‘s way that Cheney articulated, is not the only way to do this. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe? 

CONASON:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe? 

CONASON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this?  What do you make of Cheney coming back like this and snapping back at this new administration?  There‘s usually a sense of honeymoon. 

CONASON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t believe in that? 

CONASON:  No.  Clearly not.  Chris, this is in very poor taste and it‘s also bereft of facts.  I mean, first of all, the Obama administration has already authorized a military attacks on our enemies, as we know from recent newspapers.  I mean, if he got out of the bunker more or out of the duck blind, and read the papers, he would know that this administration has already authorized attacks on al Qaeda, using sophisticated weapons. 

So when he says they just want to make nice or they just want to read them their rights, this is just pure propaganda.  It is an attack that is unbecoming somebody from an administration that really had a long honeymoon before anyone criticized them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Roger, knowing what you know, were any of their questionable tactics, whether it‘s the water boarding of KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, or it was the use of electronic surveillance in terms of communications in this country and from this country to other countries and other countries to here—was there any of their questionable tactics that have points of controversy, that worked, that helped keep us safe? 

CRESSEY:  Here‘s the point with water boarding, for example.  Water boarding was used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, Ramsey bin al Shi.  If they could demonstrate that water boarding led to actionable intelligence that allowed the United States to defeat a terrorist attack, I think we all would have a different view of it.  The answer is it didn‘t. 

Electronic eavesdropping, some of the signals collection work—certainly some of that does play a role in helping us better secure ourselves.  But, Chris, what it comes down to is better cooperation with intelligence services in other countries.  It‘s expanding our defensive perimeter. 

What you see Cheney doing here is trying to justify his actions in a way that, frankly, does not support the facts out there right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe going to war in Iraq made us safer or made us more enemies, Roger Cressey.  It created al Qaeda in Iraq. 

CRESSEY:  It created a self fulfilling prophesy.  I used to work the al Qaeda portfolio.  There was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq beforehand.  The fact that the war unleashed a series of unintended consequences—the biggest, of course, was the al Qaeda presence that was established, grown and killed—ended up killing hundreds of U.S. soldiers—was a direct result of the mistakes we made and missteps in the invasion. 

So Cheney and people around him are going to have to go out and justify a lot of their actions and the mistakes they made for the legacy and protect their legacy.  That‘s what you saw in this interview with the “Politico.” 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re short tonight.  Thank you, Joe Conason.  Thank you, Roger Cressey. 

Up next, President Obama talks tough for his economic recovery plan.  Will it be enough to get it passed this weekend?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

OBAMA:  These Americans are counting on us, all of us in Washington.  We have to remember that we‘re here to work for them.  And if we drag our feet and fail to act, this crisis could turn into a catastrophe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual, while millions of Americans are being put out of work.  Now‘s the time for Congress to act. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That‘s President Obama pushing back hard, putting pressure on Congress to pass his recovery plan.  It is a high stakes political game being played out here today in Washington.  Let‘s go to straight to the politics fix.  Jill Zuckman with the “Chicago Tribune,” and Chris Cillizza is author of “The Fix” for the WashingtonPost.com. 

Jill, it seems to me that this thing is not done yet.  They‘re still working on it.  There‘s the chance that the more they give to the Republicans, in terms of getting rid of education plans—it means a lot to Democrats, especially in the House—the more they risk losing their base. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  I think right now this is what the Senate does.  They‘re negotiating.  They‘re getting behind closed doors.  They‘re trying to find out where—where they need to be, what they need to do in order to get to 60, which is always the magic number in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they call the bluff of the Republican minority and say, we won the election.  We got 58 senators, including Ted Kennedy.  Let us have a majority rule here.  Why do they want 60 vote, when the public picks presidents based on 51 percent? 

ZUCKMAN:  Not how the Senate works. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they change—I don‘t understand.  I understand filibusters.  I went to the movies.  I watched “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.”  But that‘s when somebody actually filibusters.  Ask the minority to please filibuster.  Please come in and filibuster.  We respect your rights to keep talking.  Let them keep talking.  Let them try to filibuster.  What‘s wrong with that? 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THEWASHINGTONPOST.COM:  I agree with you, Chris.  But I think it‘s very unlikely.  The name I heard thrown out there this week was Richard Shelby from Alabama saying we should filibuster.  It is easy when you‘re a Republican from Alabama who is sitting on 13.5 million dollars in your reelection account to say we should filibuster.  It is much harder to do in reality.

But to Jill‘s point, look, the Senate, much more so than the House, is run on gentility.  It‘s run on them generally getting along.  And so I think if they tried to do this with 60 or less, it would be seen as Democrats ramming this down the Republicans‘ throat, this call for bipartisanship.  Barack Obama elected on a post-partisan message.  And they returned to the politics of the past. 

MATTHEWS:  As recently as Clarence Page getting into the Supreme Court.  He didn‘t have 60 votes.  He had low 50s.  This whole new notion that you need 60 to get something done is brand new. 

ZUCKMAN:  The Senate has evolved to this place, where they anticipate a filibuster on every single controversial—remotely controversial. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what the public thinks of this?  They think about this like they think people not pay taxes.  We elect a person on the basis of a majority vote.  Why don‘t they get it done.  In other words, we‘ve rigged the train system so the trains don‘t run.  We give more power to John Cornyn or more power to Lindsey Graham than to the people we elect for the majority.  Do you understand that? 

CILLIZZA:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me that what you just defined here, Jill—I hope you‘re not defending this system.  You‘re saying that Mitch McConnell in the minority should have the right say no to anything he wants to. 

ZUCKMAN:  Let‘s talk about the founding fathers for a second. 

MATTHEWS:  They never said 60 votes.

ZUCKMAN:  They talked about the saucer that cools the cup. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, I am a student of history.  There was once a rule you had to have 67.  You needed two-thirds.  Then they got it down to 60.  Why don‘t they get it down from 51? 

CILLIZZA:  Chris, I think the problem is, frankly, from a public opinion perspective, I don‘t think your average person is following is—are they going to file cloture.

(CROSS TALK)

CILLIZZA:  They want to know, is it going to pass or is it not?  Is this a good bill or a bad bill?  I think that the problem that anyone who engages is long-term obstruction is—look at the numbers for Congress.  It‘s not as though they are not coming down from a Barack Obama like 75 or 80.  They‘re in the 20s right now.  The more dysfunction -- 

MATTHEWS:  You know when countries have militaries coups, not that I would advocate one, when they‘re tired of their parliaments diddling around.  Whether it‘s Greece or somewhere in Latin America, when they diddle around and diddle around and don‘t get anything done, that‘s when the men in the barracks come out, because they want to get something done. 

CILLIZZA:  One quick thing though; I‘m interested to see, because even when you look back at polling in 2008 and the run-up to 2008, people said, who‘s in control of Congress?  Republicans.  They just assumed they were, because George Bush was in the White House.  I‘m interested to see, if this doesn‘t go through for whatever reason, does it somehow get blamed on the new president who is going to bring everyone together and make—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pass the majority.  If he‘s got it, if Harry Reid‘s got the majority to pass it, pass it with a majority.  Then when they filibuster, let‘s go on national television with this 24/7.  All the cable shows, we‘ll all watch the filibuster.  Let‘s all watch the Republican filibuster.  It would be great.  Let them speak. 

ZUCKMAN:  I think that President Obama has been winning big on extending his hand to the other party, going up to Capitol Hill and visiting with Republicans and saying that he wants to work with them.  I think voters believe that he‘s really trying.  And if Republicans are viewed as being the ones who torpedo this jobs‘ bill, I think they are the ones who are going to ultimately get the blame. 

CILLIZZA:  And remember, Chris, he‘s got—

MATTHEWS:  We‘re hearing—we‘re going to come right back.  By the way,here‘s David Axelrod, who was on HARDBALL earlier in the show, making his best case—he‘s head of communications—for this plan.  Let‘s hear him now, the pro here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD:  We want to double the amount of renewables produced in this country and wind power and solar power.  That will put hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people to work.  We want to rebuild 10,000 schools in this country that are dilapidated, and give kids the 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries that they need to compete. 

We want to build a computerized system of medical records in this country, so that will—everyone agrees will lower the cost of health care, reduce medical errors and improve care. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Right after this break, we‘re going to tell you what the breaking news is.  It looks like there‘s a deal approaching, perhaps right now as we speak.  We‘ll be back with the hot news of whether there‘s a deal or not, or whether it looks like a deal.  We‘ll be right back with HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix with the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Jill Zuckman, and Chris Cillizza of the WashingtonPost.com.  Jill, it seems to me we‘re getting all kinds of signals it‘s a possible a deal.  It seems like this thing—the stakes on this thing are going to grow throughout the weekend.  If he can‘t get a bill, if he can‘t get 60 votes under the current procedures to avoid a filibuster, he‘s got problems.  He‘s got to push this to final passage by next week. 

ZUCKMAN:  I‘m usually really pessimistic about Congress‘ ability to do anything big, because it‘s hard.  But this is a new president at the beginning of a new presidential term.  We‘re getting bad economic news every single day.  Of course they‘re going to pass this. 

MATTHEWS:  The only thing I see is I don‘t see many Republican senators—specter, of course, is one example, where he has a perhaps tough re-election next time, maybe.  But the rest—Olympia Snowe doesn‘t have to come up until 2012.  Susan Collins has already been just re-elected.  It seems like there‘s very few out.  Maybe Jim Bunning in Kentucky will have a tough race.  There aren‘t many tough races out there. 

CILLIZZA:  To that point—that‘s interesting, Chris—a lot of the

ones the would be right in the middle of this grind, Kit Bond in Missouri -

-

MATTHEWS:  He‘s leaving. 

CILLIZZA:  George Voinovich in Ohio, retiring. 

MATTHEWS:  Leaving. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is tough talk.  I wonder whether it works. 

CILLIZZA:  One thing I do think—I think Jill is right.  This is going to go through in one way, shape or form.  But the key is the selling of it to the Senate is one thing.  The selling of it to the American public, as to how it works, what it does, you‘re going to see that start next week.  We‘ve got Monday, a prime time press conference.  Tuesday, he‘s in Indiana, the president.  He is getting out of the White House, trying to sell this very much in a campaign mode. 

That may, long term when you‘re looking at political consequences, that probably matters more than whether they get 58 or 64 or 75 votes in Senate.  Do the American people believe this is a jobs‘ bill or do they believe that this is a pork-laden bill that is more politics as usual? 

MATTHEWS:  Here we are in the early evening.  The only we word we got is they‘re working on something.  It looks like they may have a deal among the bipartisan group, the rump group in the middle, led by Susan Collins and by Ben Nelson of Nebraska.  They may be able to put something together by late tonight.  That‘s where it stands. 

ZUCKMAN:  I think voters though are confused about what is this.  Is this the right thing to do?  Will this help the economy?  Obama‘s been very clear this is going to get worse.  It‘s going to take a long time.  They may have to go back and do other things as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Along that line, 7.6 percent unemployment as of this morning,the January number.  We can just bet right now it will be over eight.  It‘s going that way, this spiking up.  It went up .4.  It‘s going up a half point a month.  Thank you, Chris Cillizza.  Thank you, Jill Zuckman. 

You might have noticed my red tonight, my red tie.  I‘m very proud of wearing it for Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association‘s movement to raise awareness about heart disease, the number one killer of women in America.  Go Red For Women and support women‘s heart disease awareness. 

Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.

Right now, it‘s time for “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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