updated 3/25/2009 12:26:06 PM ET 2009-03-25T16:26:06

Time: 23:00Guest: Phil Bronstein, Tom DeFrank, Jonathan Martin, Chuck Todd, Lynn Sweet High: Journalists, analysts discuss President Barack Obama‘s evening press conference. Based on his pronounced message, it appears Obama wants to be a transformative president.Spec: Phil Bronstein; Tom DeFrank; Jonathan Martin; Chuck Todd; Lynn Sweet; Barack Obama; Budget; Economy; CongressCHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to this special late night edition of HARDBALL. President Obama held his much anticipated press conference tonight and delivered his most pronounced message since taking office. But he wants to be a president who does more than muddle through. He wants to be a transformative president on the model of Roosevelt and Reagan. He wants to do big things.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)BARACK OBAMA., PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is that I want to see health care, energy and education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Again and again tonight the president stressed the urgency of getting Congress to pass his budget.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: Our point in the budget is let‘s get started now. We can‘t wait.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: I found it odd that no one asked the big question, how is he going to do it? Whether President Obama will use that special budget procedure that allows him to win his budget through the Congress on just 50 votes plus that of the vice president. Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell and Phil Bronstein who is editor at large of the Hearst newspapers and the “San Francisco Chronicle.” Phil Bronstein, let me ask you about that. Nobody asked tonight how are you going to do it? There are only two ways to pass bills. You get them through the budget procedure that allows you to do it with 50 votes or you wait around and try to get 60 which he‘ll never get. Wasn‘t that a good question that never got asked?PHIL BRONSTEIN, HEARST NEWSPAPERS: It was one of several good questions that never got asked. I think people were in a little bit of the gotcha mood. Keep in mind, the honeymoon is over for this guy. I think it lasted about 55 days. The Leno show was the line, though it wasn‘t necessarily the cause. The Sunday “New York Times”, “The New York Times” hasn‘t exactly been an opponent of Mr. Obama‘s, they threw all their sharpest objects at him on Sunday.I think you‘ve seen a sea change. It was a good question. But I think people were wrapped up in things like AIG and the budget deficit.MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s why he didn‘t take any questions from any major newspapers?BRONSTEIN: Well, that‘s a question that could be grim for me to answer myself. But, I think he was certainly looking for some diversity and he got a plus score from most people on that.MATTHEWS: Ha! Perhaps. Let‘s go to Lawrence O‘Donnell. Lawrence, I thought he had a message tonight. I‘ll get it all through, I‘m going to be a transformative president. I‘m not going to be Bill Clinton and do school uniforms and family home leave, I‘m going to do big stuff. Dick Morris is not advising me. I‘m here to do business like the big guys, like Reagan and Roosevelt and maybe Lincoln. I‘m going to be an important president or I‘m not going to be a good one.LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That‘s right, Chris. And if you listen to him the way you and I do, we were listening for hints about that reconciliation process, it was certainly there. He was certainly implying he will wrap it up in the budget bill which will go through the reconciliation process but it‘s not up to him what goes through the reconciliation process. It‘s up to the leadership in the House and in the Senate and the Senate has spoken. Chairman Conrad on the Budget Committee will not write a budget resolution that includes cap and trade for example. He has made it pretty clear he will not write a budget resolution that includes health care reform. He will not do major new legislation in a budget resolution because you‘re not supposed to.The parliamentary rules of the Senate say that‘s not allowed. In fact, if you try to do it, it then subjects the budget resolution to 60 vote amendments in order to hold them in there. Points of order that are 60 vote—require 60 votes to pass. So it‘s not going to be in reconciliation. That stuff is going to have to be done separately.MATTHEWS: Lawrence, maybe he doesn‘t know what you know and in terms of procedure and the rules. Here he is tonight. Let‘s listen to what he said. I believe he laid out what he wants in the budget again tonight.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: I want to see health care, energy and education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit. And there are going to be a lot of details still being worked out. But I have confidence we are going to be able to get a budget done that is reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Lawrence, he didn‘t hear you.O‘DONNELL: That‘s right. Here‘s the way it‘s going to work. They‘ve pretty much made this public. Nancy Pelosi wants the House budget resolution to include health care reform. The Senate budget resolution will not include health care reform. They‘ll go into conference. They will come out with a resolution that doesn‘t include health care reform. But the House wants to show the Republicans, this is how strong we are. We can do it. Right now we‘re not at the concession stage. Obama is not going to publicly come out and say, no, we won‘t do it within the budget resolution. They still want to make the Republicans feel like they are capable of doing it, but Kent Conrad has made it very clear, it is not going to happen that way.MATTHEWS: I want Phil to respond to this. Phil Bronstein. Here he is explaining why he went out to California, to the coast this week to do those town meetings, to do Jay Leno, why he‘s selling what he‘s selling. Here he is the president tonight.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: The budgets that we‘re putting forward and some of the decisions that we‘re having to make are going to be tough decisions. And we‘re going to need the support of the American people and that‘s part of why what I‘ve tried to do is be out front as much as possible explaining in very clear terms exactly what we‘re doing.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: What did you make out there in California, Phil, up in the northern part of the state to have the president of the United States make such an effort to go to the West Coast, the Left Coast, it‘s sometimes called, to sell in town meetings and on the popular “Tonight Show” his budget?What do you make of that?BRONSTEIN: First of all, Chris, I think the tonight show message got muddled because of the news he made there unfortunately about Special Olympics. But overall I think people were inspired certainly in the San Francisco Bay area by the victory of Barack Obama as anyone in the country. And I think, again, there was a big honeymoon for him. I think that they appreciate seeing him out here selling his program. The problem is there‘s a fine line he has to walk between inspiration and false hope. And the line is getting finer as the economy keeps tanking. And I also think he needs to not - we need to not have a president who‘s out there selling encyclopedias door to door, this is a health care bookcase we‘re going to throw in for free. Who else is out there? Geithner hasn‘t done a good job of publicly representing the administration. So I think there‘s going to be probably a short leash on how effective that‘s going to be. Who else is out there from the administration who can deliver that message?MATTHEWS: Here he is having a little funfest here with Ed Henry on the AIG issue and his lack of public anger. Here it is.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: . days to come out and express that out rage. It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the attorney general‘s office and it took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say look, we‘re outraged. Why did it take so long?OBAMA: It took a couple of days because I like to know what I‘m talking about before I speak.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Whoa. Lawrence and Phil, what do you make of that? That was the first rip-in of any reporter since he‘s been president.O‘DONNELL: I think the public is with the president on that kind of thing. I must say it is really striking what a star Andrew Cuomo has become in this crisis, he is the only politician who is soaring in terms of his command of the issue.MATTHEWS: I do believe he‘s in the running for a HARDBALL award. They are rare. I think he might be getting one as soon as this week. Lawrence, you‘ve given me an excuse to mention he does deserve it because he‘s taken the A.G. job, Phil, and he‘s turned it into a winning political job against a governor who‘s on the ropes up there. And it looks to me there‘s something of a Cuomo come back coming here in terms of how to win this. He‘s Teddy Roosevelt, he‘s a trust buster. He‘s going against the bad guys.I don‘t think the president has earned his spurs as an enemy of foul play on Wall Street yet. I think he has been very accommodating by naming Geithner, by naming Larry Summers. By working with Paulson, by working with these people, it seems like he‘s more a colleague of those people than a critic. What do you think, Phil?BRONSTEIN: First of all, Chris, you two guys can obsess about East Coast politics. We‘re not obsessed about East Coast politics here.MATTHEWS: The trouble you have, Phil, is Washington is on the East Coast and that‘s what we cover. New York is on the East Coast and.BRONSTEIN: I understand, but you come out here.MATTHEWS: You can obsess about the San Francisco mood ring about Barack Obama. That‘s one thing, too. We can play this game. I can talk about you guys in lala land. We can do this.BRONSTEIN: Chris, I‘ve seen you out here a few times.MATTHEWS: I love it out there. I just think to put down the East Coast politics is misunderstand the geography of our country. Washington is where everybody in the country from Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, all the members of Congress, they come to vote in Washington.BRONSTEIN: You‘re being defensive. I said you can obsess about. I didn‘t see it was wrong. But in terms of the AIG question, let me just say speaking of the mood ring of the press conference, I thought that that was the first question that the president answered in a short and concise manner which was really refreshing. I didn‘t think—I think CNN was crowing about how they had gotten his goat. I didn‘t see that at all. That and the charity deduction question were moments where he really focused his message. And his message on the charity deduction question was look, I‘m taking a big risk. I‘m solve the economic issues in the country and those will solve everything else. Whether it‘s charitable deductions and the problems of charities raising money or it‘s homeless kids. I thought he did a good job on the AIG question. Chris Dodd ought to be—speaking of East Coast, where is the bus tour going to Chris Dodd‘s neighborhood? That‘s what I want to know.MATTHEWS: You hit us in our soft underbelly there. Let me go to Lawrence O‘Donnell, do you think knowing as you‘ve done in your years working on the Finance Committee, that you can actually beat the charity organizations and take away their full tax deductions? Can he do this?O‘DONNELL: Nope. Nope, won‘t happen.MATTHEWS: There‘s a short answer.O‘DONNELL: Max Baucus will not even put it in the chairman‘s bill. They won‘t even have to vote it out as an amendment. It‘s not going to happen.MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Lawrence and Phil Bronstein. East versus West, the shrine game coming up next. Anyway, thanks, Phil for joining us.Much more on President Obama‘s press conference and the notion he wants to wrap up energy, health care and education into one big casino style vote for Congress to take or leave. That‘s on the table. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: We‘ll recover from this recession but it will take time and patience and it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our short-term interest to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other. That‘s when we succeed.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: It‘s important to remember that this crisis didn‘t happen overnight and didn‘t result from any one action or decision. It took many years and many failures to lead us here. And it will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out. There are no quick fixes and there are no silver bullets.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re talking about the president‘s big press conference tonight, the second of his presidency with Tom DeFrank now, Washington bureau chief of the New York “Daily News” and of course the “Politico‘s” Jonathan Martin. Tom, here‘s a country still at war, you might argue, in Iraq and certainly in Afghanistan. Except for the member of the press from “Stars and Stripes,” the armed services newspaper, not a single mention of Iraq tonight. That is profound, I think, in terms of the change in the culture of this country politically in the last couple of weeks.TOM DEFRANK, NEW YORK “DAILY NEWS”: It is extraordinary, Chris, and the latest polls show 80 percent of the American people are supporting Obama‘s plan to come home from Iraq. The other thing that‘s interesting that feeds into that is there‘s almost never happily an Iraq, KIA in Iraq now. There were two announced today in Afghanistan. And I think both of those things have fed into this.MATTHEWS: We want to thank all those people over there for their service. But it is interesting it has passed from our topic area. Jonathan, no mention of the wars we‘re fighting.JONATHAN MARTIN, “POLITICO”: I was so struck by it too, Chris. It is such a huge departure from the past few years. There was an antiwar protest in Washington this past weekend. I would venture that few of your viewers knew about that. The local estimate was about 2,000 or 3,000 people came out for this. It is just off the front page. I think part of the issue here is obviously we have made progress over there. There‘s sort of not the conflict going on but it‘s a profound shift and it‘s one that is partially explained by the economy. But I think you can‘t just pin it all on that.MATTHEWS: Did you think the press was rather non-threatening to the president tonight to the point where the only person he had to push back to was Ed Henry of CNN, that his somewhat aggressive questioning of the president stood out so much tonight, Tom? Not that it was aggressive but stood out so much from the other questioning?DEFRANK: That‘s the only one that seemed to momentarily get his goat. There were 13 questions and there were nine follow-ups and I think he handled them all pretty well. I don‘t think the questioning was less than aggressive, I just think he was really in command of the press conference from start to finish.MATTHEWS: Here he is taking a shot there. Jonathan, I want you to respond to this because we‘re looking at this develops tonight and we‘re getting a better look over time. Here he is taking—what many people see as the first clear partisan shot in this post partisan era at the inheritance he got from the Republicans. Here he is, the president blaming his predecessor. Here he is.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory. Because as I recall, I‘m inheriting a $1.3 trillion annual deficit from them.(END VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: Jonathan, personal partisan there you have it. Republican. The word.MARTIN: Absolutely. Any opportunity that he can get to remind folks of the guy who‘s now down in Texas, a fellow named George Walker Bush, he‘s going to take full advantage. That reminds Americans, yes, he did come into office and things weren‘t easy, he‘s grappling with a lot of problems that were sort of left on his lap.Chris, he can‘t milk that for the next four years, you can be darn sure every opportunity he has, especially when he is responding to a GOP critique, he is going to basically brand them as hypocrites and going to point to the bush years.MATTHEWS: Here he is talking about - go ahead. I‘m sorry, go ahead, Tom.DEFRANK: Chris, but it was a generic repudiation. It was a generic zap. He didn‘t single out President Bush, obviously that‘s who he had in mind, but he had more in mind the Eric Cantors and the John Boehners and the Republican leaders in Congress who he clearly is setting up as obstructionists for all of good things he wants to do. That I think is what he was doing more than going after Bush or Cheney.MATTHEWS: One of the challenges a president has is to maintain interest in his message, to be something of an entertainer in the deepest sense, in the sense that Jack Kennedy was, LBJ was, Ronald Reagan certainly was, someone who could command attention about the way he says things, the wit he uses and the clever way he agitates the country in a positive way. Did you get a sense tonight that he was tired, Tom? That he wasn‘t really out there to try to carry the game? That‘s what I thought.DEFRANK: Well, I think he did carry the game, Chris. But we didn‘t see a lot of smiling. I think he smiled once, maybe twice. And I think that probably was a reaction to the question he got from “60 Minutes” about why are you smiling all of the time. I thought—I think one of his strengths is he is a non-Bush in the sense that he has a great command of the issues and he does something that is not often done in these press conferences, and I‘ve been going to them for 41 years now. He‘s not afraid of long answers. I think his average answer tonight was about four minutes. That‘s a pretty long answer. He had pretty good sound bytes but they were interspersed with a lot of wonkish professorial stuff. I think for some reason that seems at the moment to work.He didn‘t want scintillate with his wit. He didn‘t have any jokes. But I think he was still effective, Chris.MATTHEWS: I don‘t think he carried it as a program. Kennedy used to carry them as programs and understand it was his job to keep us all engaged. I think he was answering the questions without an attempt to keep the general public engaged, but that said, what I do like, Jonathan and Tom, you can see the way his mind works, he‘s sharing with us his thinking.DEFRANK: Right.MATTHEWS: Active thinking.MARTIN: To borrow one of your favorite phrases. He doesn‘t do towel snapping, that‘s not his shtick. You know, Kennedy did that. President Bush did that a lot. That‘s not what he did. He‘s more the professor. This is a serious person in serious times talking about serious issues. In two press conferences now I can‘t recall one real joke or aside he‘s made. He‘s not working the room, he‘s reading off a pre-selected list of reporters, giving them the answers he has got pretty well honed. There‘s not much performance there, Chris, I don‘t think.MATTHEWS: Just to give everyone the provenance of the term towel snapping, it‘s what men used to do in the old movies in locker rooms, they would hit somebody‘s rear end by whacking the towel in their general direction, that‘s called towel snapping, I remember seeing it in the movie “The Graduate” among the waspy fraternity types Dustin Hoffman was definitely not a part of in that movie. That‘s where I got it from, but thank you for reminding me.Tom DeFrank, has this president got it? Has he got the command of that room tonight?DEFRANK: He certainty had command of the room tonight. And I also thought it was interesting, Chris. I don‘t know whether this was planned this way. But basically he had a closing statement. I think one of his best sound bytes with a the politics of persistence, he believes in persistence and whether that was programmed or just a target of opportunity, he brought it back to him and brought it back to his message at the end.MATTHEWS: And every teacher wanted to hear that. And every parent wanted to hear that. Thank you Tom DeFrank for staying up. Thank you Jonathan Martin. Up next, what was President Obama‘s focus tonight, what word did he use more than any other. That‘s next on the “Sideshow.”(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the “Sideshow.” President Obama avoids showing anger at AIG, he is the only pol in the country who hasn‘t shown anger. Catch the performance members of Congress put on today as they went after Treasury‘s Tim Geithner and the Fed‘s Ben Bernanke.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you understood yet that the American people‘s reaction last week to a large extent was due to the fact that they feel that they are boxed out of knowing what‘s really going on in this economic crisis?UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a clear and present danger here that just like we‘re finding that there are mini-Madoffs, there are mini-AIGs out there.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The $64 million question or $64 trillion question is what‘s the backup plan? I mean, if everything fails, what do we do? Where do we go from here?UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to give the chart or are you going to hide the ball?(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Pinata politics, beat them until the candy comes out. Next up, beam me up, fellows. Not only did the president deliver a prime time press conference but he earlier today dialed up the astronauts on the International Space Station to congratulate them.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: Obviously we‘re really proud about the extraordinary work that our American astronauts are doing, you know, you are representative of the dedication and sense of adventure and discovery that we‘re so proud of.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Wow, the president was joined in the video conference call by Washington area students and few members of Congress. Ah the joys of just being president. It‘s fun. Time now for the big number. President Obama tonight pounded it home, one word begin and again. Did this guy secretly attend Catholic School? Repetition is after all the mother of learning. Writing his message again and again tonight as if on a blackboard. And what is that word he kept repeating?(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: The budget I submitted to the Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation.It‘s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth.And is this budget.Alternative budget.The budget we put forward.Budgetary choices.Budget.Balance our budget.In this budget.This budget.Budget.Budget.Budget.Budget.Budget.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: The president said that magic word 38 times tonight. You get it? He wants his budget. Get it? He said it 38 times. Tonight‘s big number and it starts with a B.Up next, tonight‘s press conference with the culmination of President Obama‘s big media glitz. When we return, what‘s next for the president‘s agenda? Can he push his big budget through the Congress?Our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd will tell us. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I‘m Kristen Welker. Here is what‘s happening. The Obama administration announced it is sending more federal agents and money to help Mexico fight drug cartels and keep violence from spreading across the southwestern border.During his news conference President Obama said the U.S. is prepared to do more.The president is expected to layout a new strategy for Afghanistan on Friday. It is expected to call for more U.S. troops and increase aid to combat militants along the border with Pakistan.And stocks slid today after yesterday‘s big gains. The Dow fell 115 points.And cyclist Lance Armstrong says he expects to compete in a race in Italy in May despite crashing and breaking his collarbone in a race in Spain yesterday. He says he‘ll have surgery in Austin, Texas to insert a plate to stabilize his collarbone. He‘s been planning to compete for his eighth Tour de France title in July after a three-year layoff from cycling. Now back to HARDBALL.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: What that tells me, if you stick to it, if you‘re persistent, then the problems can be dealt with. That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I‘m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I‘m in this office. I‘m a big believer in persistence.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was of course President Obama earlier tonight at his press conference. Just how persistent is he going to be? Chuck Todd is NBC‘s chief White House correspondent. Chuck, I thought that was an interesting sort of didactic message from him about persistence, he used it in the context of the Middle East. I guess we have to look at the big fight to get the economy turned around. What was your sense of the message tonight from the president?CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It took him a while to get to it in some ways. I felt like he was on one hand trying to explain to the American people the incremental progress that‘s been made, he talked about the housing plan, he talked about the stimulus being signed, talked about the new bank plan. But boy, when he got to the persistence mark and it was shown—it showed that he realized he was on to something and it really to me summed up—I was glad that‘s what you opened with. Because it summed up the message he was trying to send. This isn‘t going to be easy.How many times did he say something was going to be hard, no matter what it was going to be? He said I think at one point decisions don‘t come to my desk unless they are tough decisions. This idea that everything was not easy, everything was going to be difficult. And then with that persistence line, I think, was able to push this idea that look, it‘s going—some of the process might be ugly, including this fight over the budget.But he‘s always going to be trying to move the ball forward. So I can tell you this, White House aides are very pleased with how he ended. He might have wished the beginning were stronger, they loved the end, Chris.MATTHEWS: Well, you know, great leaders tend to show their stuff early on. Of course, I was trying to think - Winston Churchill, my hero, was very clear when he destroyed the French Navy so they wouldn‘t be turned over by the Vichy government to the Nazis. Ronald Reagan broke the PATCO strike. Early on signs of strength. Is this president going to go for it and demand a budget, not just a budget resolution, but a budget he can sign that will accomplish his goals? Will he push for reconciliation? Will he do it?TODD: First of all, number one, the reconciliation plan or however you want to do it when it comes to health care and those other issues and you and I have discussed this before, this parliamentary move, that is basically a tool in his tool box he doesn‘t want to use unless he has to when it comes to health care and energy. And they are going to keep it there and keep it there until they get what they want on health care.But I thought he made a strong defense of his budget tonight. He made it seem he isn‘t going to give in on the tax cut. He wouldn‘t concede that point, wouldn‘t concede the point that the charity deduction push that he wants to lower for wealthier Americans, that somehow he was going to give in on that even though he‘s gotten some push back on the Hill. I thought he was more steadfast in this budget fight than I think maybe some people expected.I mean, Kent Conrad, two hours before the press conference starts leaks it out to let people know I took the tax cut out, I took cap and trade out, I‘m already thinning down this budget. I took the potential idea of a new bank bailout out of the budget. I think the president wasn‘t going to make it seem as if, while he was willing to work with Congress he was going to cave to Congress this quickly.MATTHEWS: That‘s the question, when you use the term sign, there‘s only one document to sign. You don‘t sign the budget resolution, the journalists kept asking that tonight. Signing. There‘s only one document to sign, that‘s a reconciliation bill that changes federal law, that changes the fiscal policy, that conforms to the budget resolution. If there‘s going to be a bill to be passed, is it going to include the big stuff or not?It seemed to be, he said tonight on numerous occasions, that if you don‘t have these elements in it, health, education and energy, it‘s not going to get us off the dime?TODD: Someone said it sounded almost like a campaign message speech, in that he was so persistent with how on message he was on those three issues. Health care, energy and education. He said it over and over again. Said it a number of times.Chris, I don‘t think he will believe this budget process was a success if he doesn‘t have health care—two of those three. I still wouldn‘t be surprised if major overhaul of energy policy gets postponed a year. They won‘t say that around here. I just think at some point, if you have to make the choice, do you do health care this year or do health care—do you do—and you have to do one of them in the even numbered year and one of them this year, I think they will say, no way we postpone health care, we‘ll get punished harder by middle class Americans than if we move energy to the election year.MATTHEWS: Also, if he fails on health care, he‘ll be like every other democratic president going back to Harry Truman.TODD: A failed promise.MATTHEWS: Promises, promises, and not getting it done. Here‘s the president talking on that point, Chuck, about the budget.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: Well, I‘ve emphasized repeatedly what I expect out of this budget. Now, we never expected when we printed out our budget that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume it has to go through the legislative process, I haven‘t yet seen the final product from the Senate or the House. And we‘re in constant conversations with them. I‘m confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: I‘ve been trying to think about this. You mentioned it‘s a campaign. I‘m trying to think about this president and the good people around him, smart people like David Axelrod and of course Rahm Emanuel and the rest of them. Are they developing, can you see the outlines of a clear, coherent strategy of building up this president‘s popularity and keeping it up, getting him out there with the public, not hiding from the public but getting out there, making him a man not just running as I said earlier tonight for prom king but running to get something done. Do you have a sense this schedule goes throughout this year or the big questions are going to have to be answered this spring?TODD: I go to back what I think they believe. Number one is you only have political popularity for a certain amount of time. Look at recent history of presidents since we‘re been doing polling and things like that. That first year, maybe 18 months is just when you get so many of your accomplishments done and when you have more running room. And I think they believe that. I think the president gets that, that you only have political capital once and you have to use it.And I actually think they look back and see the opportunity lost maybe with the second President Bush, who here was a guy who had huge approval ratings and in many ways didn‘t do some other things, many would argue maybe he wanted to but he felt he had to concentrate on the war and did the homeland security but never used the political capital in a way, almost waited too long to use it. He tried to see if he would get second term political capital.Guess what, there‘s no such thing as a lot of political capital in your second term. I think a lot of two-term presidents have learned that the hard way. And so I think they are absolutely focused on getting all of this done. Like I said, if they were to say which one will we postpone at least until the next calendar year, my gut says it‘s energy simply because there‘s just a lot of—you got to work out a lot of stuff when it comes to cap and trade.It hurts business and—there are a lot of players at the table and in many ways more players than in health care.MATTHEWS: And by the way, even the enormously popular Lyndon Johnson was basically out of juice in the Great Society by ‘66, the second year of his elected presidential term. And Ronald Reagan was out of juice by ‘82. You‘re right, they had to get it all done that first year, they must know that history.Let me ask you the whole question of the way they picked their enemies. Again these last couple of days, this president and his people, again they are smart, selected their enemies, they don‘t go after Mitch McConnell. They‘re rather unknown Republican Senate leader. They don‘t build up a relatively unknown John Boehner, the House Republican leader. They go after these off-campus characters like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and they almost openly mock them.Is that Chicago politics? Letting the country know there‘s one governing party, the Democratic Party, there is no alternative governing party, there is just a bunch of characters that we have to fend off once in a while. Is that strategy?TODD: I wouldn‘t even chalk it up to Chicago politics.Look, he did an interview with some regional newspapers earlier this week where he said, the president said he didn‘t really know what the Republican Party stood for. He really is trying to create a straw man in the loyal opposition a little bit. I absolutely think it‘s a strategy. But you know what? When Republicans were in the majority, they did the same thing. When you‘re in the majority, that‘s what you do. You want to define the terms and not only define the terms the debate but actually define who you‘re debating. And I think they absolutely would rather debate Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney and even maybe an Eric Cantor than they would somebody who may end up standing in the way of their priorities.MATTHEWS: Maybe they remember Ronald Reagan took on Tip O‘Neill and eventually lost to him. Maybe it‘s better to go after somebody you can eventually beat.Anyway, thank you Chuck Todd.TODD: Or that you don‘t have to really compete.MATTHEWS: Up next—Great to have you as a colleague, sir. Thanks for joining us tonight.Up next will President Obama ram through his agenda with 50 votes plus the vice president‘s vote or will he go the usual vote and not get anything done. We‘ll get to that in “The Fix” tonight. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: We‘ve been in office now a little over 60 days. What I‘m confident about is that we‘re moving in the right direction. And that the decisions we‘re making are based on how are we going to get this economy moving? How are we going to put Americans back to work?(END VIDEO CLIP)(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)OBAMA: I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit. And there are going to be a lot of details that are going to be worked out but I have confidence that we‘re going to be able to get a budget done that‘s reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows.(END VIDEO CLIP)MATTHEWS: There he is, the president of the United States. We‘re back with the “Politics Fix.” Political analyst Michelle Bernard is with us, and Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun-Times.”Lynn and Michelle, it seems to me he lays it on the line if you listen to him, we‘re going to have a vote called the budget. It‘s going to include all those things or he‘s not going to sign it. He‘s saying we‘re going to vote 50 votes is enough in the Senate is approve the budget, that‘s what he‘s talking about, right? And this is war.LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”: This is it. If he uses that budget reconciliation process, 50 votes not 60, he may be in danger of souring relations with the Senate and Congress. If he uses this technique it will be seen as a gimmick, one time.MATTHEWS: He said he wants the budget to include all those things.SWEET: He could get it through on 60 votes. You don‘t think so. I don‘t think so. I think this is—this is what .MATTHEWS: A budget vote doesn‘t require 60 votes.SWEET: Right. If he puts in, hears the question, the strategy question that his people are thinking of right now, and that is will you use this technique of putting all these mega programs in the budget reconciliation bill that only needs 50 votes or not, he seems headed that way.MATTHEWS: I don‘t think he seems, he just said tonight, let‘s listen, health care, education and energy and deficit reduction. There is only one vote called the budget reconciliation vote. That‘s what it is.SWEET: That‘s why, by the way, the potential of some rump Democrats forming this moderate Democratic caucus is endangering .MATTHEWS: If they‘re willing to deny him 50 votes.SWEET: Yes. That‘s what that‘s about.MATTHEWS: Yes. If they are willing to do that. He may face a revolution in his own party.OK. We‘ve got that. It looks like the president is going to have an up or down vote or the whole enchilada, the whole shebang, whatever the cliche is.Let‘s move on, what didn‘t he get to today? If you were in that audience and you had a question.SWEET: I was there and had a bunch of questions.MATTHEWS: Give him one about Notre Dame. Let‘s get on sports here for a second, at least it‘s a well known sports university.SWEET: This is a story that has been drowned out because there is an avalanche of other news. But the White House announced where he‘s speaking for commencement.MATTHEWS: Arizona State, Notre Dame University and.SWEET: Military academy.MATTHEWS: Naval Academy.SWEET: So, we now find out the bishop in Sound Bend has spoken out against his coming. I would have asked President Obama about that.MATTHEWS: He won‘t show up, will he?SWEET: The bishop isn‘t going to come and what message would he intend to send by appearing at the university whose policies on stem cell research and abortion are against their religious teaching. I thought that might have been an interesting discussion to have.But this is a news story to watch, it is coming down the pike. Because once the bishop said he‘s not coming to the commencement that triggers a whole national conversation.MATTHEWS: This seems to me an extension of the Catholic Church. Sometimes the Catholic Church makes statements where bishops don‘t show if they don‘t agree with a Catholic who is giving a commencement address, I‘ve never seen it before where it is extended to a non-Catholic, where the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church are projected on to and they‘re dogmatic and not just dogmatic, they are deeply moral, projected on to a nonmember of church like this. This is extraordinary, I think.MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And he duked it out for the Catholic vote during the presidential primary which is what makes it interesting.MATTHEWS: But he‘s not trying to become a Catholic.BERNARD: No, he‘s not trying to become a Catholic and quite frankly if I were there, it‘s not the question I would have asked, I earlier, I thought I would have asked about labor unions and the Employee Free Choice Act .MATTHEWS: If you were from Chicago you would have asked—It‘s a huge issue out there.SWEET: I had a whole list of questions. You could feel in the room, once President Obama went out there and he says, I‘ve got a list of people to call on, you felt like.MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they get the list people to show up? Why don‘t they print out the list ahead of time and you don‘t have to waste time—he shot back at CNN‘s Ed Henry.BERNARD: Ouch. Ouch. Ed Henry.MATTHEWS: I know what I‘m talking about before I start expressing emotions to that effect. Ed Henry—It seemed like he whipped back at him for a couple of reasons. My thought—He made reference to the president‘s daughters. How do you like leaving this debt to your daughters? I think in President Obama‘s mind, don‘t bring up my family.BERNARD: I think it was his daughters but also he asked the question more than once in several different ways and it was almost implying that something untoward had happened and that Obama might have been trying to cover something up.MATTHEWS: That was a knocking question, like I know how to give those questions.BERNARD: And Obama basically, I think, shot back at him and said, look, I‘m in charge.MATTHEWS: He also didn‘t want to be choreographed by some reporter. How come you‘re not showing the emotional reaction. This guy, Ed Henry, whatever his credentials are, he was suggesting to the president, you didn‘t have the right affect here, you didn‘t seem to be expressing yourself the way we think you should have.BERNARD: Or maybe he was saying, did you really know what you‘re doing?SWEET: The word outrage came into our political lexicon when Larry Summers and the rest of the White House gang a week ago Sunday said the AIG bonuses were outrageous. I think what‘s going on here—and the question is why didn‘t the White House move even faster to catch on.MATTHEWS: He was judging the president‘s emotional behavior. Let‘s watch and judge this moment in the presidential press conference tonight.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)HENRY: To come out and express that outrage. It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the attorney general‘s office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say look, we‘re outraged. Why did it take so long?OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I‘m talking about before I speak.(END VIDEO CLIP)BERNARD: I would not want to be on the receiving end of that.MATTHEWS: Ed Henry‘s well-known as the guy who took the first shot at the president.BERNARD: And might not get called on. He might not be on the list in the future.MATTHEWS: Knowing Barack Obama, the president, just knowing him as a student, he will call that reporter in the next 24 hours and say, I hope I didn‘t offend you.SWEET: I don‘t think he‘ll get a personal phone call on that.MATTHEWS: You never want to raise somebody below you to your level by making them an adversary.SWEET: These questions are being rotated between outlets. We saw that tonight. Some got called on, some not. And Ed works for a major outlet. Your guys got called on.MATTHEWS: George Will invited President George Bush to sort of have lunch and settle things. President don‘t have to settle things. But what they don‘t want to let somebody presume that they take them important enough to criticize them. We‘ll be right back with Michelle Bernard - this is all about manners. We‘ll be back with Michelle Bernard and Lynn Sweet. I may be wrong. On MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Michelle Bernard and Lynn Sweet for more of the fix. Let me ask you this, the president of the United States goes tomorrow to meet with the Senate Democrats. It seems to me, check me on this, he‘s going to have to tell them what he‘s up. I‘m either going to try to jam this whole budget through on an up or down vote, 50-50 or not and that‘s enough to win with the vice president‘s vote or I‘m going to go by the old procedure of waiting for 60 votes that are never going to be there because Arlen Specter was the 60th vote and he made clear where he stands with the Republican primary in Pennsylvania. He‘s not going to be an easy vote to get. Al Franken‘s not even there yet. Ted Kennedy‘s not able to vote a lot of times.So it seems to me the president can‘t count on getting 60 votes on anything.SWEET: And even though the actual vote itself might be days or weeks in the future, just in terms of knowing how to build the package, how to start selling it, first among their members, is something you need to know now because the strategy is in the formation. If the senators don‘t have a sense of it, I think they will rebel. They need to understand what the messages are going to carry.MATTHEWS: He‘s negotiating—last time he found three Republicans. Snowe, Collins and Specter. This time around, does he go looking for three renegade Republicans or does he say, I‘m not going to get any, they‘re going to hold together, I‘m going to put together a Democratic package and hold my troops, hold Blanche Lincoln, hold Ben Nelson, hold Mary Landrieu.BERNARD: Hold Evan Bayh.MATTHEWS: Michael Bennett.BERNARD: I think it‘s amazing if you look at the two press conferences he‘s held, this president is banking his entire presidency on the economic crisis and how we get out of it and what he throws in his budget .MATTHEWS: He said that Michelle. If I fail, kick me out.BERNARD: I keep looking at it—what have ever seen a president do this before?SWEET: We haven‘t had.MATTHEWS: This is why it‘s got to go for a vote. He‘s got everything on the table. Do you want him to be around at Christmastime saying, I really tried on health care, give me a break. Nobody‘s going to give him a break. It‘s now or never.SWEET: It‘s better to do it at the beginning. That‘s why he‘s got this campaign supporting the budget and sending people out into precincts.MATTHEWS: That‘s why he went on “The Tonight Show” and why he went on “60 Minutes.”SWEET: He wants to communicate this budget to everyone except whether or not people understand details is not the point, the point he wants to create a populist...MATTHEWS: Why does that work when the country is upset—rip Wall Street, rip against the institution of this country. They think the politicians and their oversight responsibility has let them down. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, everybody‘s let them down except the Army. It‘s almost like in Latin America, the only thing you can trust is the Army. And yet they like this guy.BERNARD: Obama.MATTHEWS: Explain, Michelle. The polls showed it again tonight.BERNARD: The polls show it because he is believable. There is something about him I can‘t put my finger on it. It is appealing and he has made it OK to say to the American public, I‘m going to tell you the truth, here‘s what the numbers really look like. Here‘s what I believe is the best course of action and he can also always blame it on the Republicans and say, nobody else is giving me an alternate plan. Have you heard them come up with anything different? And people want a leader—I don‘t know if it‘s going to succeed or not, but he is leading.SWEET: Let me offer this. I think there is a more fundamental reason, and that is people do understand that this problem that he‘s cleaning up is not of his creation.MATTHEWS: He said that tonight. First time he said that. I heard it, “The Republican Party.”Thank you, Michelle. Thank you very much, Lynn, as always.Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN.THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

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