updated 3/10/2009 2:18:44 PM ET 2009-03-10T18:18:44

Guests: Perry Bacon, Howard Fineman, Harold Ford, Pat Buchanan, Mary Thompson, Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Diana DeGette, David Frum

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The triumph of science.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight, Obama drama.  He‘s done it again today.  For the Nth time in his new administration, our new president showed that elections do matter.  Yes, they do, on every front.  Today President Obama took two steps to put a Grand Canyon of difference between him and the man he‘s replaced, George W. Bush.

First the president announced his belief in the possibilities of embryonic stem cells and that they would be no longer stifled by politically-driven science.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers, doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for and fought for these past eight years.  We will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research.


MATTHEWS:  As I said, elections matter.  Some things time—some people win I some cases and some lose.  Republican congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey has called President Obama, quote, “the abortion president.”  He doesn‘t like the president‘s decision today to end the Bush restriction on federally funded stem cell research.  We‘ll talk to Congressman Smith, also to a backer of greater stem cell research.

The other rejection of President Bush came today when President Obama ordered federal officials not to rely on so-called “signing statements” that President Bush used to declare parts of bills he didn‘t like unconstitutional and therefore not to be obeyed.  Mr. Bush broke all records in using those signing statements.  Mr. Obama said those days are over.  Much more on that later in the show.

Plus: Wait until you get a drift of this week‘s “Newsweek” cover story blasting Rush Limbaugh.  We‘ve got the author, David Frum, on tonight.  Let‘s see what kind of threats he‘s been getting.  Should be wild tonight.

Here‘s an example, by the way, of the “Newsweek” language.  “From a political point of view, Limbaugh is kryptonite.”  Let‘s see how the author‘s taking up the blowback on that baby.

As many Republicans can tell you, it‘s dangerous to cross Rush Limbaugh.  This guy does, but then again, he‘s not running for anything but he is perhaps going to be running from this article.  We‘ll see.  We‘ve got him here with us to answer that question.

Also, is it time to let some of the country‘s biggest banks and brand-name companies simply go belly up—CitiGroup, Bank of America, General Motors?  Hearing the drumbeat on the Sunday morning talk shows, it looks like members of Congress, especially Republicans, are thinking the unthinkable: Dump them.  Let‘s get to that one.

And what a sweet and glorious night it was last night at the Kennedy Center as much of political Washington came out to pay tribute to the lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, to celebrate his 77th birthday.  We know he‘s been knighted.  We know he‘s got the Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy Library as of last night.  We‘ve got something for him ourselves tonight.  We‘ll present it to him in about 20 minutes.

But we begin with President Obama‘s big decision to lift the ban on federal funding for stem cell research.  U.S. Congressman Smith is a New Jersey Republican and U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette is a Colorado Democrat.  She‘s the author of the book “Sex, Science and Stem Cells:

Inside the Right-Wing Assault on Reason.”  Well, that‘s tough stuff.

Congressman Smith, thank you for joining us.  Here‘s the question.  When people try to have a baby and can‘t and resort to fertility clinics—a lot of couples do that today, they want children and they don‘t get them, so they need the help of a fertility clinic.  And they engage in that effort with the petrie dish and the sperm and the egg and they produce fertilized eggs.  They produce extra fertilized eggs that are not used in creating babies.  What do we do with those extra...


MATTHEWS:  What do we do with them?

SMITH:  They should be adopted.  A couple of hours ago, I was at a Capitol Hill press conference with some of the children, who are called “snowflake babies”...


SMITH:  ... babies who had been adopted while they were still in a cryogenically frozen state.


SMITH:  You don‘t have to throw them away.  You don‘t have to submit them to experimentation that kills them and then steals their stem cells.  You can adopt them.  And I think that is the humane...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Whose call should that be?

SMITH:  Well, hopefully...


MATTHEWS:  If the parents don‘t want that done.

SMITH:  If they don‘t want that done—you know, human life is not property, and I think we have to be very clear that the value and the inherent value of every human being has to be such that nobody owns anybody.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, who would have the right?  Back to my question...


MATTHEWS:  ... fertilized egg in a fertility clinic, who do you say should make the decision?

SMITH:  Well, right now, it is the biological parents who convey...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you want to change that?

SMITH:  No.  We want this option to be emphasized so that those people out there who have their...


SMITH:  ... human embryos being frozen in these cryogenic tanks to say there is an alternative to destroying either way, pouring down the drain or...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose they choose research?

SMITH:  Well, my hope would be that we would look at that individual not as...

MATTHEWS:  Should they be allowed to do that?

SMITH:  No.  I think they should be—they should be adopted.  They should not be...

MATTHEWS:  But should they be allowed to make...


SMITH:  Well, they‘re doing it—you know, the only issue today with Barack Obama is that he has said federally funded...


SMITH:  ... embryonic stem cell research will take place.  It‘s going on already.  It has not proved to be efficacious...


MATTHEWS:  That‘s a scientific argument.

SMITH:  Well, it‘s a good argument because it hasn‘t worked.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What do you do when you have—and I want to get to this point because a lot of people wonder about it.  If you go along with fertility clinics, and you do...

SMITH:  I prefer...

MATTHEWS:  You allow them.

SMITH:  It happens every day.

MATTHEWS:  You allow it, morally.

SMITH:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What do you do when people choose either to turn off the freezer and let the fertilized egg die, which I think, according to the Catholic religion, you never have to go to extreme purposes—no?  You don‘t have to go to an extreme circumstance to keep a person alive.

SMITH:  No, Chris, the hope would be...

MATTHEWS:  If you accept that those fertilized eggs are people, then there‘s nothing wrong with turning off the freezer.


MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s wrong with turning off the freezer?

SMITH:  Well, that would destroy them.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s wrong with using them for research, rather than doing that?

SMITH:  That would destroy them, as well.  The hope would be that you would look to adopt them.  And that‘s—there‘s an alternative that is humane and compassionate.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  But you want to foreclose the option of using it for research.

SMITH:  Well, if you use it for research, you have to kill those embryos in order to derive...

MATTHEWS:  You want to foreclose that option.

SMITH:  ... the stem cells.  But there‘s also a move—this is just the beginning of a slippery slope.


SMITH:  It begins with saying use the so-called spare embryos. 

There‘s no such thing as...

MATTHEWS:  Well, many would say the slippery slope...


MATTHEWS:  ... to use that terminology, is to have fertility clinics.

SMITH:  But then what you do is that you will create human life in order to kill it and derive their stem cells.


SMITH:  That‘s where all of this will go under the Obama order.


SMITH:  And that‘s unfortunate.  When adult stem cells, especially...


SMITH:  ... induced pluripotent stem cells, IPS stem cells—Dr.

James Thompson—he‘s the one who brought us embryonic stem cell research.  He‘s changed.  He may still support it in the abstract, but he‘s doing IPS research, induced pluripotent stem cells, where you can take my skin cells and yours and coax that into becoming embryo-like.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s...


SMITH:  ... so there‘s no destruction of life whatsoever.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s bring in—Congresswoman DeGette, what do you make of this argument that we don‘t need to go to these—to these embryonic stem cells, which the president has allowed federal funding for today?

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO:  Well, Chris Smith is completely incorrect.  First of all, what we do with our bill and what the president did today is he said couples who have undergone in vitro fertilization who have embryos that are left over can either donate them to other couples, as Congressman Smith is saying, or they can donate them for ethical scientific research.

Some people say it‘s the ultimate pro-life decision because it lets people donate something that would be thrown away as medical waste to give life.  There are about between 300 and 400 of these so-called “snowflake babies” that have been created through the donation of embryos.  There are 400,000 or 500,000 embryos that have been discarded.  And so we just say let them be used ethically for medical research.  Now, there have been...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the normal—what do the fertility clinics normally do?  Say a couple sets their minds to have three children.  And three children are created in vitro and they have their children, their sperm, their egg.  And they have that with the help of science.


MATTHEWS:  Once they‘ve had the three children, they normally say to the fertility clinic—what do they normally say, Congresswoman, to the fertility clinic to do with the extra fertilized eggs?  What do they ask them to do?

DEGETTE:  Usually, what happens is the eggs are frozen for some period of time and they‘re used for subsequent children.  But then when the couple doesn‘t want anymore children, the embryos that are left over are almost always thrown away by the fertility clinics as medical waste.  And so what we‘re saying—and frankly, a number of Democrats and Republicans, pro-choice and pro-life, say, Let people donate those voluntarily for embryonic stem cell research.


SMITH:  But Chris...

DEGETTE:  And let me just say one more thing.  This adult stem cell skin cell research is extremely exciting, but all of the researchers, including Dr. Thompson, say you need both.  Congress should not be making these decisions of what type of ethical cell-based research.  The researchers should do that and we should support that through federal funding.

SMITH:  Chris, I think most Americans would be shocked to know that if this ever did work—that is to say, embryonic stem cell research—and you only do research to try to prove and to make it work—it would require millions and millions of embryos to be destroyed far in excess of any...



SMITH:  Just because of the quantity and the quality that would be required.

DEGETTE:  The researchers disagree with that.

SMITH:  And that‘s what the other side has said in their own literature.


SMITH:  It wouldn‘t just...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re saying we would have to farm them, then.

SMITH:  There would have to be fetus farming...

DEGETTE:  No.  Absolutely not.

SMITH:  ... or human embryo farming without any doubt about that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is a scientific question.  This is not a moral question.

SMITH:  That‘s a scientific question, that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  And you argue, Congresswoman DeGette, that that‘s not necessary?

SMITH:  Read your own literature.  It‘s in there.

DEGETTE:  Not only is it not necessary but it would be prohibited under both the president‘s executive order and under the legislation...


SMITH:  No, I read the executive order.  It is not prohibited, with all due respect.  He says whatever‘s allowed by law, they‘re willing to do.  But it opens the door towards what we consider to be a slippery slope.


SMITH:  You start by saying we need to use so many.  Very quickly, the researchers will claim it‘s not enough.



MATTHEWS:  Just to bring back some of the politics here, Nancy Reagan, my friend, had this statement out today.  And of course, she lost the former president, her husband, to Alzheimer‘s disease.  Quote—this came out today—“I‘m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward.  I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers.  Countless people suffering from many different diseases stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide.  We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases, and soon.  As I‘ve said before, time is short and life is precious.”

Congressman Smith, do you know which diseases would benefit from embryonic stem cell research?

SMITH:  No, because...

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to know?

SMITH:  Oh, I know the list that is often...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you—why do you discard that argument?

SMITH:  Because...

MATTHEWS:  This is a scientific question.  You can make your metaphysical arguments, and I accept them.

SMITH:  Adult stem cells are already curing a large number or mitigating diseases in a large number of cases...

MATTHEWS:  Why do scientists wish to get access to embryonic stem cells...


MATTHEWS:  ... are favorable—more favorable?

SMITH:  Because there are always some scientists who are living in what worked or in what they thought would work before.  That‘s why I believe Barack Obama‘s statement today is behind the times.  He needs to catch up to where we are right now.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Congresswoman DeGette, respond to that, that he‘s—the president is out of date here.

SMITH:  Very much out of date.

DEGETTE:  We‘ve had a number of advances in the last few years—excuse me.  We‘ve had a number of advances, which are great, but ultimately, we need both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to the scientific question.  Or let‘s go back to the moral question.  If the embryonic stem cells had an advantage, a scientific advantage in terms of their ability to cure diseases—would you go along with that?

SMITH:  No because it‘s a hypothetical.  It‘s not true.

MATTHEWS:  Would you go along with...


SMITH:  No.  Doing human embryo experimentation might yield some results, but it‘s unethical to kill human embryos, as well as human fetuses...


MATTHEWS:  Therefore, even if it works, you wouldn‘t be for it.

SMITH:  No.  I would be for the alternative, which does work.  It‘s a hypothetical and it‘s no longer dated.  It‘s outdated because adult stem cells, especially induced pluripotent stem cells, are working and they‘re working amazingly.

MATTHEWS:  But the scientific community...

SMITH:  It‘s stunning.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m looking at the—now, here‘s some poll data...

SMITH:  Well, you know...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at some new poll data -- 64 percent of the American people according to the Rasmussen poll, which is about two thirds, support this.  These are independents.

SMITH:  Support what, stem cell or embryonic?

MATTHEWS:  Embryonic stem cell...

SMITH:  When you ask the question...


MATTHEWS:  ... the question put to them was embryonic stem cell research, and 64 percent of independent voters said yes.

SMITH:  What about the rest of the country?

DEGETTE:  Actually, 73 percent of all voters support embryonic stem cell research.  And also...

SMITH:  Well, when you ask the question, Did you know that there‘s an alternative that works...

MATTHEWS:  Well, isn‘t that an argument...


MATTHEWS:  This is where I wonder about, when we get into using moral arguments and then masking them with scientific arguments.

SMITH:  No, moral arguments—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I accept the moral—the metaphysics of this.

SMITH:  When it comes to experimentation...

MATTHEWS:  Your metaphysical position is sound, from your point of view.  It‘s totally sound.  The question is, do you then pull back and say, Well, even if you don‘t like my metaphysical position that it‘s wrong to kill embryonic stem cells for scientific purposes, I‘ll give you an easier way out.  I‘ll tell you they‘re not as good as adult stem cells.

SMITH:  Well, that‘s—that‘s true.  But it is true.  And we‘ve been saying that for years.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman DeGette, I don‘t believe that the scientific community accepts that, do they?

SMITH:  Oh, it sure does.  Let me...



SMITH:  I got lots of quotes.

DEGETTE:  Let me just say that there are really exciting new developments with adult stem cells.  But all of the researchers—I just spoke with Dr. Elias Zerhuni (ph), who was President Bush‘s NIH director just two days ago, and he reaffirmed that you need all of this research...


DEGETTE:  ... the ethical embryonic stem cell research...

MATTHEWS:  Can you stop the president from...


SMITH:  Let me make one...


MATTHEWS:  I got to ask Congressman Smith...


MATTHEWS:  Can you stop the president from doing this by executive order?  Are you going to bring action in Congress?

SMITH:  Well, we‘re going to bring action, but...

MATTHEWS:  But you won‘t be able to stop him.

SMITH:  He probably will have his way and many embryos will die as a direct result.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  I appreciate your metaphysical position.

DEGETTE:  I hope many diseases will be cured, though.

MATTHEWS:  Look, this is a real moral argument, and I accept both sides of this argument.  The American people are going to have to decide this.  Congressman Chris Smith, thank you.  Congresswoman Diana democratic, thank you for joining us.

DEGETTE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And congratulations on your book and your research.

Coming up: Is Rush Limbaugh actually bad for the Republican Party?  That‘s the argument conservative former President Bush speech writer David Frum makes in this week‘s cover story in “Newsweek.”  David joins us.  I want to ask him what kind of threats he‘s getting because this guy has staked out a position against the big guy in the black shirt.  And I‘m not talking about Johnny Cash.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The last two people who crossed Rush Limbaugh made public apologies.  Now David Frum takes a shot in a “Newsweek” cover story.  Quote, “Enough: A conservative‘s case against Rush Limbaugh.”  David Frum joins us.

OK.  I want to know what it‘s like, what kind of threats, physical, political, professional, whatever.  You are definitely under the gun here, buddy.  This cover story is a direct shot at the big guy.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECH WRITER:  We‘ll say the e-mail‘s running 90 to 10 hostile.  Let‘s say that.

MATTHEWS:  Hostile?  How bad have they gotten?  Have they gotten threatening?

FRUM:  It‘s nothing to complain about.

MATTHEWS:  Anything threatening?

FRUM:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Come on!

FRUM:  No.  No.

MATTHEWS:  No, don‘t tell the cops and don‘t tell us.


MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on!  If you‘ve had any physical threats, I want to know about them.

FRUM:  There have been no physical threats.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How about professional threats?  Have you been booked or dumped from any bookings for any show—without naming names?

FRUM:  Look, not every—look, not everybody is happy with this thing.  I understand that.  But it‘s—and I‘m not—but I didn‘t write it to make people happy or to make people unhappy.  I wrote it because we, as Republicans and conservative, have a very serious problem.  We‘re confronting one of the worst financial crises of the post-war era.  And it‘s a financial crisis in which my party‘s been flat on its back.  But what we are saying is increasingly not only counterproductive economically but also politically.  We look like we don‘t care.  We look like we‘re indifferent.  We don‘t offer solutions.  We‘re talking about a spending freeze in the middle of a 1929-‘30-style meltdown.

MATTHEWS:  Is your party going back to Hooverism?

FRUM:  We‘re just desperate.  We‘re floundering.  And one of the—but this time, it‘s not Hooverism because if you talk to individual members of the party one by one, they all know better.  They know that the country needs not an Obama-style spending fiscal stimulus but a tax holiday, something big and dramatic.

MATTHEWS:  Were those three Republican senators right -- - Specter and Snowe and Collins—in backing Barack Obama, giving him the votes he needed to pass the stimulus?  Bottom line, if you were a senator, just generally speaking, were they right to give him a break and get that bill passed?

FRUM:  I wouldn‘t have voted for that bill.

MATTHEWS:  You wouldn‘t have helped him get it passed.

FRUM:  Not that bill.  I‘m for a big payroll tax holiday that would go into effect immediately.

MATTHEWS:  I know about the payroll (INAUDIBLE)  In other words, it gets money back in the hands of people who are working people, right?

FRUM:  Up to $120 per week per worker starting last month.

MATTHEWS:  But it sounds like a liberal argument.  The funny thing is, the liberals haven‘t pushed it.  And I don‘t know why, because working people pay a pro—a very regressive tax when they go to work, right?

FRUM:  For eight—the $800 billion, you could have a—you could suspend this thing.

But let‘s get back to Rush Limbaugh.  Why—why...

MATTHEWS:  I want to take a quote.  Here‘s a quote from your piece. 

Let‘s go.

“Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic Party of the 1980s.  He plays an important role in our coalition, and, of course, he and his supporters have to be treated with respect.  But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise.”

Now, this is the issue.  I watched this weekend.  And I didn‘t think Rahm Emanuel was smart when he decided to put a pin into this big guy and puncture him like he did.  But when I saw Newt Gingrich jumping around this weekend, and when I saw John Boehner acting very unhappy, I realized maybe they‘re smart, the guys in the White House. 

FRUM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And maybe they‘re smart fighting with him. 

FRUM:  But they have also got Rush‘s cooperation. 

You know, Rush—when Rush made this famous statement, many times repeated, “I hope the president fails,” now, look, I wrote speeches.  And one of the things you know...


MATTHEWS:  You have a better way of saying it.  What would you have said?

FRUM:  I would have said, I fear the president‘s liberal plans will fear, as they so often—as liberal plans usually do, because what you know if you—when you do these things, and what Rush knows, you never—whenever you have something to say, you never write it in such a way that it can be sliced out and used against you by unfair people, because there are a lot of unfair people. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I have done that many times. 


FRUM:  So, don‘t do that. 

MATTHEWS:  I know how that‘s done. 

FRUM:  Don‘t create the clip. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Right. 

FRUM:  When the non-ideological, middle-of-the-road voter...

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t he do that in an interview? 


MATTHEWS:  ... planned it?

FRUM:  He did it many times. 


FRUM:  And, in his monologue, at the end of the monologue, he then offers a long explanation, which can be dropped.  And, at the end of it, he says:  I want this to be headlined Rush Limbaugh hopes Obama will fail. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think he said it? 

FRUM:  Because it‘s a tremendously memorable phrase.  It draws attention to him.  It sharpens the difference. 

Look, I don‘t know how many listeners he has.  They say 20 million. 

If you have 20 million listeners, you are an incredibly powerful person.  Now, if you have 20 million voters, you are Ross Perot.  But that doesn‘t matter, because people who don‘t like you on the radio, they don‘t have to listen.  They just turn you off. 

But people who don‘t like your politics, they—there‘s something you can do about it.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t women like him?  They don‘t, as a rule.

FRUM:  He‘s harsh.  He‘s divisive.  He‘s bombastic.  He has the most male audience of any major public affairs show.  He has a 31-point gender gap, as he himself jokes about.

MATTHEWS:  He bragged on that. 

FRUM:  He bragged on that. 



MATTHEWS:  By the way—and I‘m quoting you back.  I read the whole piece.  I giving you—let‘s take a look at a new poll that shows an overwhelming number of Republicans, 68 percent, say the party has no clear leader. 

And, by the way, what is interesting in this new poll is how divided your party is.  Five percent for McCain say he‘s the leader, just 5 percent.  Just 5 percent say the chairman of the national committee, Michael Steele, is the leader.  Just 2 percent say Limbaugh.  And 1 percent say Governor Palin of Alaska. 

So, you really don‘t have a high building, a big person. 

FRUM:  Right. 

And that‘s partly inherent in the American system.  There‘s no leader of the opposition.

But in—in this moment of crisis, with—the country‘s calling out fur solutions, if we—if our leadership are not able to present alternatives—we have to vote against Obama‘s stimulus, because it‘s big spending.


FRUM:  It‘s slow.  It‘s inefficient.  It builds the state. 

We have—but we have to send two messages.  We absolutely take on board the seriousness of what‘s happening in the country.  We are tremendously sympathetic...


FRUM:  ... to what people are going through, and we have a better and less statist alternative that will also work.

But we aren‘t allowed to say that.  I‘m not begrudging Rush Limbaugh his airtime or his fans and admirers. 


FRUM:  God bless him.

But he is hemming in this party for his own purposes...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Here‘s...

FRUM:  ... in a way that‘s going to make us uncompetitive in 2012 -- excuse me -- 2010 and 2012. 

MATTHEWS:  You accused him of being commercial, which is fine.  Everybody on television and radio is to some extent commercial, because you have bosses and you have sponsors.

I have a theory about Rush Limbaugh.  He‘s a support group, just like Phil, Dr. Phil, is or Oprah is.  He‘s a support group.  He addresses men, largely, who drive around in cars from 12:00 to 3:00 every day East Coast time selling product.  They‘re in the cars.  They‘re traveling salesman.  It is a brutal job, especially during a recession. 

It‘s not even a good time when the times are good.  You have got to sell.  You have got to go into a drugstore selling Chiclets.  You have got to walk into a store where you know you‘re going to face sales resistance.

You have got a boss back at home saying, have you sold?  Have you sold?  Family and children don‘t understand how hard you work.  And there‘s only one guy in the car with you all day.  That‘s Rush, telling you, it‘s you, not the feminazis, it‘s you, not the quota people, it‘s you, not—now, whether it‘s right or wrong, he‘s selling himself as an Oprah to white guys driving in cars—not just all white guys, but mainly guys, driving in cars, right? 

FRUM:  Yes.   

MATTHEWS:  So, you understand this, right? 

FRUM:  I—I... 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s his audience. 

FRUM:  And that‘s his audience.  And that‘s fine.  No complaints. 


MATTHEWS:  But you‘re saying he‘s not the Republican Party. 

FRUM:  But we have to be very careful as Republicans, one, to say, there are others, two, not to let him control our options, that the Republican Party in Congress has right now to be sending up a clear message.

BLITZER:  Do you think he has got a race problem?

FRUM:  He sometimes talks that way. 

BLITZER:  Lean over, grab your ankles, that thing?

FRUM:  He sometimes talks that way. 

And I don‘t know—I don‘t know whether it‘s conscious or—but he does—I went through how many times between Inauguration Day and the present he‘s made a comment about Obama—President Obama being invulnerable to criticism because of his race.  I found five instances, one a week. 


FRUM:  That‘s sort of a lot.


MATTHEWS:  But he does that—there‘s sort of a nag he does like that.  He about that about Donovan McNabb, the Eagle quarterback, like he‘s only given praise because he‘s black. 

FRUM:  That‘s one—that‘s one time.  And people...

MATTHEWS:  And he plays this sort of weird—it is not...

FRUM:  As we all know, I have said on air things I wish I hadn‘t said 30 seconds later. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  We all make mistakes.

FRUM:  So...

MATTHEWS:  But there is a theme there.  It‘s like he says, don‘t give the guy a break.  It‘s almost like he is benefiting from some quota system. 

Barack Obama won the election against a guy.  He didn‘t get any appointment here. 

FRUM:  Whatever—whatever‘s in his head, I don‘t know. 


FRUM:  This is not—this is, again, dangerous, because the Republican Party has this image of being a party that is unsympathetic to minorities. 

And Michael Steele works fiendishly in order to overcome that negative image. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, you know what I said to you as you came out here, David?  You have changed your life with this article. 

You will be the man that shot Liberty Valance. 

FRUM:  No, no, no.


MATTHEWS:  You will be the guy that took on Rush Limbaugh. 

FRUM:  I‘m going to be the...


MATTHEWS:  Just don‘t apologize.  Do me a favor.  Don‘t apologize. 

You are a journalist.  You don‘t have to. 


MATTHEWS:  You can make mistakes, but just don‘t do that thing. 

Anyway, thanks, David Frum.  Congratulations.  You have written an article. 

FRUM:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a literary politician, at least. 

Up next: what a wonderful evening last night, as Washington wished a happy 77th birthday to Ted Kennedy.  It was quite a crowd.  It was a beautiful night.  It had nothing to do with partisan politics, a lot of Republicans there who do respect this fellow.  And there he is with Vicki accepting the applause.  We‘re going to talk about the evening in just a minute.

Also, we‘re going to give out a prize ourselves. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



In the good times department, I was fortunate to be at the Kennedy Center last night for the tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy, or, as he was called throughout the evening, Teddy.

You see, it wasn‘t really a political evening.  There were a lot of Republican senators in the orchestra section enjoying the singing, dancing and generally fabulous entertainment, especially Kelli O‘Hara from “South Pacific” and Brian Stokes Mitchell, who sang “The Impossible Dream,” and the brilliantly funny Bill Cosby, who gave a wonderfully evocative account of everyone‘s time in the dentist chair.  He was really, really funny.

And we‘re hoping to have Mr. Cosby here on HARDBALL this Thursday. 

I say all this because it was really about fun, about a birthday for a 77-year-old guy who‘s grown over almost half-a-century to be one of the great U.S. senators of all time. 

Check around.  This is something conservatives and the liberals agree on.  Last night, the fellow leading the happy birthday was the new kid on the block. 



AND FEMALES:  (singing):  Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday to you. 


MATTHEWS:  That was President Obama. 

Senator Kennedy was later presented with the Kennedy Library‘s Profile in Courage Award by his niece and almost Senate candidate Caroline Kennedy, who joked about never expecting to be in a room with so many senators.

Well, here we go.  For a sailor against the wind, the seeker of the impossible dream, campaigner for the downtrodden, supportive uncle, and historic senator, a man who won‘t quit fighting for he believes, and that‘s health care for all Americans, Edward Kennedy, honorary Knight of the British Empire, full-fledged HARDBALL Award winner. 

Up next:  Key conservatives are taking on President Obama and now saying, let them fail about General Motors and some of the country‘s struggling banks.  They to see failing companies go belly up.  Is that smart strategy?  Will that help make the economy better? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks closed in the red today.  The Dow fell 79 points.  The S&P 500 fell more than six.  And the Nasdaq declined 25. 

A big pharma deal on Wall Street in the headlines today—Merck will acquire rival drugmaker Schering-Plough for $41 billion in cash and stocks.  Merck shares declined today, while Schering-Plough stock jumped about 14 percent.

Oil was higher on news of a U.S.-China naval incident.  Crude was up more than $1.50, closing at $47.07 a barrel. 

And McDonald‘s warned a stronger dollar might take a bite out of first-quarter results.  Still, the fast-food chain said same-store sales rose more than 1 percent in February, as U.S. sales outpaced international sales. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Lawmakers on the left and the right are giving some tough love—you might call it that—to struggling U.S. businesses. 

First, Richard Shelby and Chuck Schumer on banks. 


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA:  I don‘t want to nationalize them. 

I think we need to close them. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  So, when you say close, what do you mean by that? 

SHELBY:  Close some—close them down.  Get them out of business.  If they‘re dead, they ought to be buried. 



SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  You don‘t just keep putting money in, money in, money in, money in, and the bank never solves itself.  You have got to come clean.

What you do is, the federal government comes in.  It clears out the management.  It tells the existing stockholders, you are gone. 


MATTHEWS:  Now, what about the manufacturers?  General Motors took a beating, too.  Here is Senator John McCain and House Minority Leader John Boehner on how the government should handle GM. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I think the best thing that could probably happen to General Motors, in my view, is they go into Chapter 11. 



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  I don‘t think the government should put any more money there until General Motors shows that they can be a viable company for the long term. 


MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable. 

So, is it time to let struggling businesses die? 

Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and an American economic nationalist.  And Harold Ford is chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is a somewhat new breed view of Democratic politics.  He‘s an MSNBC political analyst. 

I want to ask you, Congressman Ford, because I don‘t know your views yet.  Do we take the hard line of Richard Shelby, who is a conservative Republican, and Chuck Schumer, a liberal New York financial district guy, representing the financial district, both of these guys, left to right, big city to small town, say, let them drop.  Hang them high. 

HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  I think they‘re saying similar things.  They just said it differently. 

Senator Shelby can be a little harsher in his words.  I don‘t believe you can just allow some of the larger institutions in the country to go under.  The credit—capitalism and, should say, our version of capitalism relies on credit flowing.  And if you just allow institutions to go out of business, it doesn‘t work. 

I think Schumer‘s point was very simple.  You can‘t continue to throw money down a draining hole.  And you have got to have some conditions.  You have got to set up these stress tests, which the president has, to determine who‘s viable, who‘s not, and who can be saved, and who, frankly, with all the money in the world, cannot be saved.

So, there‘s probably more harmony there than—than suggests.  I think, on the TARP piece...

MATTHEWS:  So, where are you on this, Congressman?  Where are you?  Are you for bailing out these companies ad infinitum, or letting them go the way of capitalism, in other words, die a natural death?  Where are you, life support or what? 

FORD:  I think it will—life support—I think you have to be willing—first of all, here are some facts.

The TARP money that we have put into these banks, it is important to know that these bank that have received it are going to pay a $13 billion dividend back to the government this year, number one.

Number two, some people say that TARP was a complete failure.  The purpose of TARP from the outset was to help stabilize some of the surviving banks and prevent a complete meltdown of our financial system.  It has achieved those goals. 

Now, as we move from here, we have to determine which banks are ones that can be salvageable and which ones are not.  Market forces are helping us to determine that.


FORD:  I disagree with anyone that says you have to allow them—you should just allow the largest banks and some of the more important institutions in the country to go bye-bye. 

If you do, the counterparty risk, the impact on depositors on this country, and I would dare say, Chris, because we live in essentially a single global market, the impact that would have, and the ripple effect, the multiplier effect, across continents would be enormous. 

So, we have to be thoughtful in how we do.  Those who can survive with additional resources, we should be there for.  Those who can‘t, I think Senator Shelby and Senator Schumer, you will find a way to reconcile their points. 



MATTHEWS:  The problem is that Ronald Reagan, I don‘t like the way he used it, went after welfare queens, poor people that relied on—minorities, I guess, was the implication, who relied on welfare. 

Here you have guys, rich people, who never complained when they made a zillion dollars.  They didn‘t ask for any interference.  They didn‘t say, stop me.  I have eaten too much.  I have taken too much. 

Now they say, though, come in and bail me out.  I want welfare for the rich. 

A lot people don‘t like—you know the numbers.  People hate this stuff. 


But, look—well, they do.  But let‘s take—let‘s separate the two out.  Let‘s take Citibank.  I think, if Citibank is—is dead, and I think I would take a hard look at it to see the consequences if you put it to sleep and put it out of...


MATTHEWS:  Was it smart to let Lehman die? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think it was. 



BUCHANAN:  I think what they did with Bear Sterns—I think what they did with Bear Sterns was right.  But you‘re right.  It‘s triage, Chris.  We have got to pick and choose here who we let go under and who we don‘t.

One place where I disagree with Shelby and others is General Motors.  You cannot let—you let that go, you will not only wipe out the shareholders, the preferred stockholders, the bondholders.  You will throw all the employees on the federal payroll for their pensions and health care.  You will throw tens or hundreds of thousands out of work.

MATTHEWS:  Does Chapter 11 mean destruction, or does it mean re—a restructuring? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, but, with restructuring, what happens to all the suppliers they owe money to?  Do they get out of that? 


BUCHANAN:  Do they get out of the contracts?

The question is, is, will that be Chapter 7?  And, if it‘s the end of General Motors, then you are pretty much writing yourself out of the world‘s greatest market, 100 million cars a year when the world economy comes back. 

Japan won‘t let Toyota go under, because they‘re looking out for the long term interest of their nation.  Economic nationalism we ought to be following here.  I think this is where I disagree with McCain and Shelby.  They say, let it go under.  We don‘t care.  They‘re free trade uber alles.  Free trade will take the Republican down to eternal death in Ohio and Michigan. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a comment.  Let‘s hear a comment from Warren Buffett.  Everybody respects this guy.  He knows how to make money.  He‘s given a lot away.  Warren Buffett, he used to be quite the sage.  Here he is. 


WARREN BUFFETT, CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY:  The message has to be very, very clear as to what government will be doing.  And I think we have had—and it‘s the nature of the political process somewhat.  But we have had muddled messages and American—American public does not know—they feel they don‘t know what‘s going on.  And the reaction then is to absolutely pull back. 


MATTHEWS:  Congressman and Pat, my problem with this administration is not its ideology, but its inability to speak clearly, the inability of Geithner to say anything I can understand, the inability of Larry Summers to get out in front and make it clear.  I think we need something on the order of like Japanese painting, strokes, clear strokes that we can get.  We can figure out, not this weird kind of impressionism we‘re supposed to figure out. 

Tell me what you‘re doing.  You guys have been trying to explain where your positions are.  They‘re not exactly stark and clear.  Roosevelt explained himself.  Reagan explained himself.  Kennedy did.  I‘m going to put a man on the Moon.  I get it.  What are these guys doing?  Would you tell me, Congressman, what Barack Obama is doing?  Let‘s start with the banks.  What is he doing with the banks right now, he and Geithner? 

FORD:  They‘re conducting stress tests and trying to determine from those stress tests which banks ought to be saved. 

MATTHEWS:  And then what are they going to do? 

FORD:  Their approach is high on uncertainty and low on confidence, unfortunately.  I think they‘re trying hard, but they‘ve got—They don‘t have as long a window to get this thing right.  Buffett hopefully will spark some change in thought, and change in the way they present this over at the White House. 

I think the point that Pat made about GM, I want to align myself with him for another reason, not just the politics of Democrat/Republican.  If GM goes out of business, if they allow them to sink into Chapter 11, the impact that will have on the delivery of health care through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan would be catastrophic in many ways.  Leaders of the health care field in Michigan and even Ohio have said the impact these companies, particularly at GM, would have is enormous.  I hope that Senator Shelby and Senator McCain, it is easy to sit in these perches in Washington and make those declarations, but you have to -- 


BUCHANAN:  The problem with Obama is a couple things.  One, there is no certitude.  We don‘t know what they‘re doing.  What are they going to do?  Either put them to sleep or save them, one or the other.  The second thing is the multiple messages we‘re getting.  Look, education.  Educational test scores have been dropping for 45 years.  Put it on the back burner.  We are not going to raise those in a year.  But get this stock market stopping the collapse.  You are burning up—

MATTHEWS:  How do you do it? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know exactly how they do it.  The banks—if they had certitude on the banks and they solved it, either killing some banks—this is it, bam, bam, bam, they‘re gone.  These are right.  You would get something.  People say, OK, we took the bullet.  Now we start up.  We are not getting that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get back to something simple.  We are beyond politics here.  Is the problem—Mr. Ford, is the problem that banks won‘t lend to good customers?  Is that the problem today? 

BUCHANAN:  No, it is not. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the problem, Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  People are buying houses and going out and buying cars.  If you have a good credit rating, they won‘t led—

MATTHEWS:  Why do we keep saying the banks are the problem? 

BUCHANAN:  They won‘t lend to other banks and things like that.  They‘re hording their capital because they don‘t know if you are going to put one of them to sleep.  Then he says, I‘m not paying you because I‘m bankrupt. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FORD:  Certainly. 

BUCHANAN:  They‘re frozen up.  That‘s what they‘re doing.  But you go down for a loan with your enormous credit rating, Chris, you would have no trouble getting a top loan and a top car in a second. 

FORD:  Certainty and confidence, they have to address those issues.  I

think Pat has simplified it a bit, in terms of what these banks do.  But I

think in large part he is right.  But if you‘re an average consumer, you‘re

an average business guy, in Memphis or Jackson, Mississippi, you‘re having

a little bit more of a problem than perhaps Chris or some others finding

credit, extending their

way.  Two, one thing we ought to think about on the car side, I know they have this incredible team led by two of my friends, Ron and Steve Radner (ph) -- the reality is you may have to look at how you remove some of those legacy costs from our big three, allow them to again compete against their foreign counter parts. 


FORD:  Auto sales are down across the board, for Toyota, GM.  Across the board, they‘re down.  So it‘s not just the U.S. auto manufacturers facing this challenger.  Because it‘s a global contraction, they all are facing the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know what scares me, guys?  That our future is being decided in the dark corners, the dark corners of northeast Pakistan, the northwest territories, the strange place where our enemy is, Osama bin Laden, and the banks, the back room of banks.  It‘s a strange world where we can‘t solve our problems in public.  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, Harold Ford. 

Up next, President Obama‘s decision today to lift the ban against the federal funding of stem cell research was a direct rebuke to President Bush.  We‘ll get to that next in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, are you OK? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh my god.  What happened? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE  What happened was you made Barack Obama angry.  And when you make Barack Obama angry, he turns into the Rock Obama. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That is formerly the Rock.  That‘s Dwayne Johnson playing him, the Rock playing Barack Obama this weekend on SNL.  We are back with the politics fix.  It‘s Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” joining us and the “Washington Post‘s” Perry Bacon.  Let‘s take on something really hot here.  I was saying in the beginning of the show—people have to keep hearing it.  It‘s one of my favorite anthems, elections matter.  You have an election and you get the blue-plate special, if you will.  If the Democrats come in, you may get card check, you may get more government spending, you may get better deals for labor, you get national health maybe, and you get stem cell research funded at the federal level, embryonic stem cell.  This is interesting. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Yes, especially because some of the things the president can delivery on within the administration at least initially don‘t require legislation.  You get the promise that he‘ll push for the legislation.  But in this case, with the stroke of a pen, there certain things that the president can do that is going to require some work on the hill.  But he can do that.

Yes, he‘s delivering on that.  He‘s delivering on several other things for his constituency because he believes it, and actually wants to state philosophical high ground of his own, saying he‘s a man of faith and he believes that you relieve suffering.  There‘s also a money angle to this, too, Chris.  Eastern Pennsylvania, very dependent on medical research.  This is a boom to medical research in the country. 

MATTHEWS:  And to the hospitals.  Let me go to Perry Bacon about the power of the story.  How big of a story is this for the newspapers? 

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think the announcement, itself, is big, only because it was something Bush talked about a lot.  President Bush had a more restrictive policy and Obama is reversing it.  I think it‘s a big story in the science and science part of it alone. 

There‘s also a big story here in terms of this is like the seventh or eighth move where Obama has sort of pointedly rebuked President Bush.  Part of it also today was this sort of executive order that says I‘ll put science ahead of politics, which is another way to rebuke President Bush for what Obama argues—Obama argues President Bush did the opposite.  A lot of rebukes of President Bush was also part of the story today too I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard and Perry—Perry jump in on this as well.  There‘s a bigger question here, science.  Maybe this is a more secular administration.  I know the president said he‘s a man of faith.  But it‘s a more secular decision.  If you look at this thing entirely from the terms of religion, you would be a little more squeamish about doing this.  You‘d say—Howard, right—maybe I wouldn‘t go ahead with this.  Let‘s try old stem cells and see if they work before we go to embryonic, because it does involve the destruction of these fertilized eggs, right? 

FINEMAN:  Especially since, as some proponents focusing on adult stem cell research have said, there have been tremendous advances in that. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  Even the representative admitted that earlier on your show.  It is the consensus of the scientific community that you‘ve got to try them all.  That‘s what Obama is saying here.  Yes, he‘s looking at the long-running argument in America between faith and science.  He says it‘s a false choice.  But the fact is, in our Bible-believing country, in our in many ways fundamentalist country, it‘s an on-going dispute.  Whether it‘s fundamental Evangelicals or the Catholic church, which has a tremendous role in politics, they view it as a slippery slope and morally abhorrent first step.  They‘re going to stick to the position.  Obama has to choose.  He did choose.  As you said, elections matter. 

MATTHEWS:  Look a at the issue.  We can go in a couple directions on this, Perry.  One is the whole question do we believe in evolution.  I was raised on evolution.  I was raised in a Roman Catholic tradition.  We believed in evolution.  We were taught it.  That‘s how we developed as we‘re sitting here now.  That‘s how it happened.  It was ordained by god, a supreme being.  But that‘s how it happened.  The science is the science.  Is there a fight here, a broader fight here between those who believe in following science at its dictates and those who step back and say, no, before we get to the science let‘s look at our faith. 

BACON:  I think both the Democrats and the Republicans would say that‘s over-simplifying it some.  They will both argue—I think the members of Congress—the Republicans I talked to today thought their view was scientific too.  Their view, more or less, was adult stem cells are really making a lot of progress and there‘s no reason to move yet into embryonic stem cell research. 

I‘m sure Obama would argue his view is supported both by faith and science, because some of the Democrats argue, you know, any kind of religious tenet who say we need to do everything we can to save people who are sick, or who are old, et cetera.  I think both sides would argue that science and faith are on their side. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come back and talk about Ted Kennedy.  This is a big story last night, amazing story about this guy in his 77th year, and his final fight, it looks like for health care.  He‘s going to get it or not?  That‘s the big question, after all these years, going back to before—well, the 1940s, the Democrats have been promising health care.  Are they going to get it?  Is Ted Kennedy going to get his final victory?  We‘ll be back with Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon.  There‘s Senator Ted Kennedy last night at that amazing evening, wonderful evening.  There he is.  Interesting fact there—let me ask you about something that broke today, Howard Fineman, who is here with Perry Bacon, to get to this hot question we haven‘t gotten to this half of the show—this whole issue of presidents when they sign bills—we all learned how a bill becomes law.  Well, there‘s been this little wrinkle where the president—presidency under President Bush could simply say, you know, I‘m going to sign this baby, but I don‘t really believe it.  It‘s not really constitutional.  I‘m not really wanting anybody to enforce it.  Barack Obama says when I sign something, that means I want it to be law. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s another example of what Perry was talking about; where he can, Barack Obama is painting a big, bright line between his new administration and the things that he think and most voters think George Bush did wrong.  The arrogation of power, the collection of power in the presidency, some of it justified by 9/11, a lot of it not, was something that a lot of people were concerned about it. 

MATTHEWS:  This is another question, Perry, this whole question, does the president have the power to be out there signing bills and saying, you can ignore this because I don‘t think it‘s Constitutional.  Bush did that.  This new president won‘t do that. 

BACON:  Yes, Obama was very explicit, at least in this order, saying he won‘t do that.  It‘s easier right now with a Democratic Congress.  I‘m not sure he‘s going to get a lot of bills he adamantly disagrees with in the first place.  That said, this is rebuke number 10 of President Bush.  This is very directly targeted at President Bush I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Why this inflection point?  Why do you think, Perry, he wants everything to be different?  Every day different? 

BACON:  He ran on this.  He said he was going—Obama started attacking President Bush during the Inauguration.  People were surprised during the actual—the first speech as president about how sharp he was while Bush was standing right near him. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he like that woman that drove her car back over the guy she ran over a couple times?  Remember that?  Is that what this guy is doing?  He‘s backing up the car for a couple times over the guy.  Just kidding.  Howard Fineman, Perry Bacon, I love my metaphors. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more

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



Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET


Discussion comments