updated 3/26/2009 10:47:41 AM ET 2009-03-26T14:47:41

Guests: Harold Ford, Jr., Pat Buchanan Sen. Evan Bayh, David Bossie, Zach Wamp, Chris Cillizza, Evan

Thomas

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama goes inside.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight: Just do it. That‘s what President Obama wants Congress to do: Shake loose from the old ways, stop being so damn deliberative and pass my budget and do it now. But is that the answer he‘s getting from the Democrats on the Hill? Is he hearing senators say, Yes, sir, Mr. President? No, he‘s not. He‘s hearing the reality that senators have to worry not just about what he thinks, the president thinks, but what about the people back home and what do they think back in their Indiana home, for example? Some of those Democrats up on the Hill are worried that this president‘s got too much he wants to do this year.

Tonight, we‘ve got the number one person on that list, the number one senator of those concerned, Evan Bayh of Indiana, to tell us how—how much of Barack Obama‘s budget the president‘s going to get done this year.

Plus: The people who hate Hillary Clinton just won‘t quit. There‘s a brutal anti-Hillary Clinton movie out last year—you know, the kind of Michael Moore movie—or was it, in fact, a 90-minute campaign commercial? The Supreme Court is trying to decide on that, whether what‘s really at stake here is the 1st Amendment, the right of any of us to say what we believe politically anywhere, anytime. We‘ll have the producer of “Hillary: The Movie” in just a few minutes.

And how about this. A number of Republicans have decided that former vice president Dick Cheney should just go back to that secure undisclosed location and stop criticizing President Obama. Condoleezza Rice was on the “Tonight” show with Jay Leno last night. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My view is, we got to do it our way. We did our best. We did some things well, some things not so well. Now they get their chance. And I agree with the president. We owe them our loyalty and our silence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Our silence? We‘ll have a Republican who agrees with former secretary Rice join us in just a bit.

Also, the issue unions care most about, the labor unions, the so-called “card check” bill, may have just been checked out when Pennsylvania‘s Arlen Specter came out against it the other day. Will those unions now try to defeat him when he‘s up for reelection next year? Who knows? But that‘s coming up in the “Politics Fix.”

And finally: Did you really think Rod Blagojevich had gone beddy-bye?

Come on. He started today, sitting in for a Chicago radio talk show host.

Here he is. Here he comes, the next voice you hear, Rod Blagojevich.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I was hijacked from office, not allowed to bring witnesses, bring in evidence and show that I did nothing wrong. It was a political fix, and I predicted that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. We‘ll get to B-Rod‘s hosting gig in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first, Senator Evan Bayh, who‘s showing his stuff as leader of a moderate group of Senate Democrats that President Obama‘s going to have to woo. Senator Bayh, thank you for joining us. Are you worried that President Obama is trying to do too much this year in terms of education, in terms of energy, in terms of health care?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: No, Chris, I‘m not. And I frankly don‘t think the president has much choice. I mean, clearly, his focus is jobs, growing the economy, dealing with the financial crisis that we have. But if you want to do that in the long run, you also have to address the rising cost of health care, college affordability, energy independence, those sorts of things. So you know, look, this agenda he‘s embraced, and I don‘t think, frankly, he has much choice.

MATTHEWS: In other words, his argument that we have to do the big stuff if we get through the current recession, we have to do it all—his budget is the recovery plan? You agree?

BAYH: Well, we have to do both short run and long run. I think you have to do both. And so in this year and next year, we have to have a stimulative fiscal policy and run a deficit. But in the out years, Chris, we have to be worried about the debt and the deficit growing faster than the economy because then you‘re paying interest on your interest, and ultimately, you‘ll have higher interest rates, a depreciated currency and more sluggish growth. So he‘s trying to do both those things, short run and long run, and I think that‘s what a president should be doing.

MATTHEWS: The president‘s spoken often in the last couple weeks during his media tour on the “Tonight” show, on “60 Minutes,” et cetera, and all the town meetings—he talks about how he wants Congress to approve his budget. I‘ve never really heard a president talk about the budget coming up as one big vote. Do you think he‘s right to think about doing this through what‘s called “reconciliation,” one big vote to achieve his overall budget objectives?

BAYH: Well, I do. He‘s not the first president to do that. As you‘ll recall, President Bush passed his tax cut agenda through the use of reconciliation, and other presidents have done the same. Now, ideally, Chris, you wouldn‘t have to resort to that. But on the budget itself, as opposed to some other things, I don‘t think you‘ll see any Republican votes for the budget.

Now, Max Baucus and Kent Conrad and other Democrats have said reconciliation should not be used for something like health care, possibly cap and trade. And the reason for that, Chris, as you know, if you use reconciliation to pass something, it disappears. It goes away at the end of the five-year period. So if you‘re completely reforming the health care system, you probably don‘t want to run the risk that that‘s going to just, you know, go back to the way it was after four years. That would create chaos.

So on the budget, yes. On some of those broader things, it‘s a little more difficult.

MATTHEWS: Can the president succeed in his agenda of big health care reform, universal health coverage, big climate change legislation and a lot more effort on education from K to 12 -- can he do that if he doesn‘t do it through the budget?

BAYH: I think he can. But some of that will be hard and it will vary issue by issue. On the budget and the investments, and you know, real increases in the investment in education, health care, energy independence, I think he can get that. Reforming, you know, 17 percent of the national economy on health care, probably going to need more bipartisan cooperation on that.

And the problem with cap and trade and global warming, Chris, is we can do that, but if you don‘t do it in right kind of way, you run the risk of sending jobs from our country, places like your home state of Pennsylvania or mine of Indiana, to other countries that have lower emissions standards. So the irony would be we‘d lose jobs and not help with global warming.

So you can do that, but you‘ve got to do it in the right way, and you‘re probably going to, you know, need, you know, Democrats from states that are going to be adversely affected if it‘s not done in the right way. So a little less likely on that one, although I think we can still get it done.

MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s imagine, besides being a moderate Democrat

representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate, that you are his adviser. How

would you advise the president to get through the big things he‘s promised

health, education, energy—in time to get them done before his popularity erodes? How would you recommend him do it?

BAYH: You know, Chris, I think at heart, the president is a pragmatist. As you pointed out, he is, you know, advocating for his budget. He‘s staked out an aggressive agenda. But at the end of the day, I think he‘s going to want what works. And he told us today in our caucus that he very graciously came and attended, he said, Look, I‘m going to insist on my core principles. And that is, you know, reforming health care, energy independence and security and making college and education more affordable for middle class families. We‘ve got to do that within the context of being fiscally responsible.

And then he said to us, Chris, he said, Look, I understand this is a cooperative process. You guys aren‘t potted plants. You‘re going to have your own ideas. I respect that. But we got to do it in a way that preserves those core principles.

So in some ways, Chris, I‘d advise him do what he‘s doing. And I, you know, see some groups who seem to think that members of the Congress or the Senate shouldn‘t have ideas or suggest better ways of doing things. The president is wise enough and smart enough to know that it needs to be cooperative. And if he continues in that spirit, I think we can get a whole lot of what he wants done in a way that middle America will embrace and it will work in a practical way.

MATTHEWS: Can he do it with 50 votes? Can he do it with Democratic votes, or does he need to get 60, the way you see it legislatively?

BAYH: It‘s going to be hard on the budget because the Republicans

just won‘t participate. So you might have to go with reconciliation and 50

you know, 51, 52, 53 vote kind of situation. On health care, that‘s a little bit harder, but still doable. Cap and trade, you‘re probably going to need, you know, 60 votes because it just affects so many states economically that if you don‘t do it in the right kind of way, you‘re taking money from carbon-intensive states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and redistributing it to California and New York. That‘s just a very hard sell to our people at a time when they‘re hurting. And you also run the risk of taking jobs away and not actually solving global warming.

So to answer your question directly, I think he‘ll get more than 50 votes for his budget but probably not 60, so you need to use reconciliation. Health care, Max Baucus, who‘s helping to lead the charge on that with Ted Kennedy, has said he doesn‘t want to use reconciliation. At the end of the day, you might have to use reconciliation. But you run the risk, as I mentioned, Chris, of the thing then disappearing in five years, which for something as important as health care, you‘d prefer not to do.

Cap and trade, you probably need to get to 60 there because you‘ve got to handle it in a way that will save jobs, actually solve global warming, and not suck money out of more carbon-intensive states and redistribute it to other, less carbon-intensive states. So less likely to use reconciliation on that one.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much for making news tonight, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.

With us now, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Harold Ford, who‘s also a public policy professor at Vanderbilt. You know, that was interesting, Harold. I just want to ask you about it. It seems to me what he‘s saying is, the bottom line, he doesn‘t think the president can jam it all through in a 50-vote system. He has to wait to get to 60. It looks to me if he wants the big reforms, he wants health care and climate change, he‘s going to need Republican support. That‘s the way I read what I heard. How did you read it?

HAROLD FORD, JR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you read it just right. I think the other read from it, the takeaway from it, is that Evan Bayh is going to be one of the leaders in helping to broker the back-and-forth and eventually reaching some kind of consensus with Democrats who come from some of those states that Senator Bayh referenced, particularly the carbon-intensive states, around the climate change and global warming issues. But he clearly will be a lead voice there.

I would say two other things really quickly. Most—a lot of Democrats in leadership remember the 1993 budget, President Clinton‘s budget, where you had not one Republican vote in favor of it in the House. So you have a lot of Democrats in the House, particularly my former colleagues, the Blue Dogs, who are attuned to that, sensitive to that and want the president to understand there‘s got to be a give-and-take.

Two, the issue of deficits is important to a number of Democrats, particularly many who won in ‘06 and ‘08, who campaigned laboriously and loudly on the issue that Republicans were running enormous deficits. So President Obama, although the five-year projection is that it will cut the deficit in half, the outer years creates some challenges on some issues for a lot of those Democrats who won in very, very close races.

MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s interesting, Pat, whenever you have a party line vote, it exposes those who vote with the party. Marjorie Margolies of Pennsylvania got kicked out of Congress because she voted with the president, President Clinton. You‘re laughing, Harold, but it‘s brutal.

FORD: No, no.

MATTHEWS: If you go with a party line vote, where only your party votes for it, you can almost be assured that those people at the margin will be defeated in the next election. So it is damn tricky. I think that‘s what Senator Bayh‘s talking about. He doesn‘t want to have a party line on things like health care, party line vote on energy. It sounds like he‘s up (ph). The president‘s not going to get his way. He‘s going to have to get Republicans.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, no. What I got from the president in—I got first the president‘s conciliatory. He knows the problems of the Blue Dogs. They‘re going to go for the budget. They‘re going to go to reconciliation because they‘re not going to get a single Republican vote on the budget. But when you get these separate things out for the health care and you cap and trade, they‘re going to have to work with those Democrats. They‘re going to have to scale those things back. The president said, according to Bayh, I‘m concerned about my principles.

He didn‘t say, I‘m concerned about the exact...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but...

BUCHANAN: ... amount of money.

MATTHEWS: ... he wants Republicans.

BUCHANAN: Well, the point is...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: He‘s going to have to get Republicans to get to 60 votes, which they‘re going to have to do in health care...

MATTHEWS: Well, the thing that I don‘t understand, Pat...

BUCHANAN: Who‘s he going to get?

MATTHEWS: ... and Harold Ford—I don‘t understand this. He doesn‘t act like a president who depends on Republican votes. He acts like a guy who simply has to corral the Democrats. Here he is, we‘re getting the word from Evan Bayh, a reality check right now on this show, that the president can‘t go to that all Democrats all the time. He won‘t get them all the time if he goes for just Democrats.

FORD: He realizes that.

BUCHANAN: He‘s going to—let me tell you, he‘s going to—what he‘s going to do—you‘re right, he‘s got to get—he‘s got to get Specter or he‘s get to get the two...

MATTHEWS: Or Voinovich or somebody...

BUCHANAN: Somebody—Voinovich. He‘s not going to get these guys from Ohio. So I think he‘s going to have to get the two senators from Maine or two out of three and Specter because I don‘t think he‘s got any other Republican folks here, unless he really works with them, say, on health care. You can get some on health care.

MATTHEWS: What do you think? I mean, Harold Ford, do you think he can bring in enough Republicans to get 60? Because everything he‘s been saying aid so far has convince me he‘s going to try to jam it through, through that procedure that only requires 50 votes. If he goes for this the regular way, the way that Senator Bayh suggests he‘s going to have to do on health care and energy, he‘s going to have to collect several, I‘d say three or four Republicans, to make up for a couple losses and the fact they don‘t have 60 votes.

FORD: Bayh—Senator Bayh laid out, I think, a formula for the president on, and there‘s some areas that reconciliation will most likely will work, and he laid out the strengths and weaknesses of either way.

I think two other things. One, the president‘s explained pretty clearly how we have found ourselves in a bubble economy over the last several years based not on solid foundations, but his budget seeks to do that—new energy, a health care plan, an education plan. The president‘s got to speak more specifically and more succinctly about that and be willing to make some trade-offs in terms of some other spending to achieve those core principles that he wants.

Two, to Pat‘s point. He may not need to target at this time just specific senators. I think he may need to target those issues where you‘re able to then target senators, as opposed to just targeting three who may have varied interests.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FORD: And for those who care about health care...

BUCHANAN: He‘s got—he‘s got a real...

FORD: ... or those who care about education, he‘s got to go right after them in the House and in the Senate.

BUCHANAN: Chris, the problem with these Democrats, a lot of these guys are up in 2010. There‘s the Blue Dogs and the others. And these guys, you know, they ran against the Bush deficits, and here they‘re looking at a deficit four times as large as Bush‘s largest right now, and next year almost that large. And they‘re saying, You‘ve got to scale this back in the out years so we can go home and tell our folks that we‘re not a bunch of big-spending liberal Democrats.

MATTHEWS: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... one thing worse than big-spending Democrats. That‘s the people that don‘t get done what they promised to get done.

BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s...

MATTHEWS: And this president has...

BUCHANAN: ... Obama‘s imperative.

MATTHEWS: ... made promises, and he‘s going to have to keep them.

That‘s his personal commitment.

FORD: And if he gets down the road...

BUCHANAN: All right, but now, he can‘t—he can‘t...

FORD: ... and makes his case, Pat, he gets...

BUCHANAN: ... roll over them. He can‘t get 60 votes on health care or cap and trade without making compromises with the Democrats. And then, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe you‘re right. That‘s what Senator Bayh just told us, gentlemen. I guess he has to. We‘ll see, though. I still think he‘d like to drive that truck right through that Budget Committee. Thank you, Pat Buchanan. Thank you, Harold Ford.

FORD: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, a 1st Amendment fight over a scathing film about Hillary Clinton. Can the conservative-backed “Hillary: The Movie”—that‘s the name of the movie—be shown on cable TV, or is it essentially a 90-minute attack ad? We‘re going to get to the film‘s producer. This is hot. It‘s going before the Supreme Court. It‘s hot. This is a question of 1st Amendment rights versus McCain-Feingold, Democrat versus Republican. Very hot.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, and it‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Hillary haters live on. Long-time opponents of Hillary Clinton made a film that was highly critical of the former senator and wanted to release it on cable TV as an on-demand option and promote it on TV ads during her primary fight for the Democratic nomination last year. Here‘s one of those advertisements right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is Hillary Clinton?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She‘s continually trying to redefine herself and figure out who she is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least with Bill Clinton, he was just, you know, good time Charlie. Hillary‘s got an agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary is really the closest thing we have in America to a European socialist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you thought you knew everything about Hillary Clinton, wait until you see the movie. “Hillary: The Movie” on DVD now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, the federal government said that that film that was advertised there was one big expensive attack advertisement funded by corporate contributions and blocked it under the McCain-Feingold campaign law. But the filmmaker say the ban violated free speech, the 1st Amendment, and now the case is before the Supreme Court as we speak.

David Bossie is head of Citizens United, and he produced the film, “Hillary: The Movie.” You have gotten under the cover here into the very key question, should the United States government be restricting free political speech? That‘s what you‘re arguing, isn‘t it, it should not be.

DAVID BOSSIE, CITIZENS UNITED: It absolutely is right on point. Should we be able to—should the government be able to ban political speech? The 1st Amendment is free speech. And it is the 1st Amendment because the Founding Fathers found it to be the most important. And underneath that political speech is the most protected of all speech, and that‘s what we have here.

MATTHEWS: Now, McCain-Feingold by most lights—and the reason I thought it was a good idea—it mainly controlled advertising on this media, basically broadcast and cable television, which basically has to do with public airwaves. It has to do with the public—what we would public territory, if you will.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But you got outside that box. You got to something called “on demand.” And anybody lucky enough to have that feature, you can push a button and you can say, I want to see...

BOSSIE: You can opt in.

MATTHEWS: ... I want to see old movies, I want to see a selected group of movies. I want pay for some, not pay for others. That‘s all there. You had your movie listed on that. And what did the court—what is the Court looking at there?

BOSSIE: Well, first of all, the Federal Election Commission told us we could not do that. We could not advertise our movie. We could make the movie, which they really want to squelch us from being able to do. We put it in theaters, but they want to say, You can‘t let anyone know it‘s there. You cannot advertise at all. You can‘t advertise on the radio. You can‘t advertise on television.

And, so, we ended up putting the film in book form as well.

MATTHEWS: And a court ruled the other day—I was listening to the arguments yesterday.

And what I think you made your case on is, when one of the justices said, if this were a book, would it also be outlawed by McCain-Feingold? And once we think about book burning in this country and banning books, this country says, we don‘t do that here, right?

BOSSIE: But not...

MATTHEWS: That‘s where you won your argument.

BOSSIE: I think so.

MATTHEWS: You think?

BOSSIE: And let me tell you this.

It was because Justice Kennedy asked that very question, if the content of this film was in book format, should the deputy solicitor general the United States, the government‘s lawyer, sir, would this be the same? If the content was in book form, would you say, as the government, we should ban this speech? And he said yes.

He also said the Kindle, which is the new technology, that wasn‘t even thought of when McCain-Feingold came down, where books come on electronically off satellite, also fall under McCain-Feingold.

So, they wanted to ban all speech. And that is dangerous. And I think that‘s where they overstepped.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your—your motive. It seems to me that—you‘re a little bit smile going on here, David. I know you a little bit.

I think, from what I have read, is, you wanted this case.

BOSSIE: I did. I did.

MATTHEWS: You...

BOSSIE: I have been wanting this case for a long time.

MATTHEWS: Why did you—you made this movie for the purpose of testing this law.

BOSSIE: Well...

MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you.

BOSSIE: That‘s right. I did. I absolutely did.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You made the movie for the purpose of advertising it on television, so that somebody would wave a flag and say, that violates McCain-Feingold, so that you could push this to the Supremes and get a ruling on the First Amendment aspect?

BOSSIE: That is—that is 100 percent right.

In 2004, Michael Moore made “Fahrenheit 9/11.” We just—I saw the impact of that film and what documentary film can do in the public discourse when people are paying attention and want information. Education...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a very entertaining film, by a lot of lights. And I think a lot of people went to see it.

BOSSIE: Well, ours is as well.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BOSSIE: You have not seen our film. Ours is an entertaining film as well. It does—look, forget the content. Forget the content.

MATTHEWS: Is it possible to enjoy this film if you respect Senator Clinton?

BOSSIE: Absolutely.

Look, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It is?

(LAUGHTER)

BOSSIE: Look, you may not agree with the content. You may...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I‘m asking, though. But could a person who respected—for example, a conservative could look at Michael Moore and say, you know, the guy is a hell of a filmmaker, even if I disagree with him?

BOSSIE: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can anybody say that to you?

BOSSIE: Well, look...

MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing again.

BOSSIE: ... I‘m not Michael—I‘m not Michael Moore, but I...

MATTHEWS: OK.

BOSSIE: But we have now made 11 films in the last three years.

MATTHEWS: Do you...

BOSSIE: So, we‘re getting better at that craft.

So, I think our film stands on its own. But the point is, I don‘t care whether you agree with the content or not.

(CROSSTALK)

BOSSIE: I don‘t agree with Michael Moore‘s content. I believe and fight—yesterday at the Supreme Court—for his right to do that.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that there is a feature film -

this is another question. We have done your thing now. We want to—we have done the book discussion here.

BOSSIE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that Dennis Quaid is going to play Bill Clinton in this new movie. Julianne Moore, who is a very important actress, actor, she‘s going to play Hillary Clinton.

They‘re bringing back on film—Peter Morgan, the guy that did “The Queen,” a hell of a movie...

BOSSIE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... is bringing back the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. What is that going to do politically?

BOSSIE: Well, I don‘t know what it will do politically.

MATTHEWS: I mean, it‘s going to come back 15 years later.

BOSSIE: I can tell you right now, if they were making it when...

MATTHEWS: Ten years later.

BOSSIE: ... Hillary Clinton was a candidate for federal office, they would not be able to put it out, under McCain-Feingold. A Hollywood movie, the one you‘re just describing, would be illegal and not be able to advertise.

MATTHEWS: Why? But I thought the issue was that yours was funded by corporate sources.

BOSSIE: Who‘s paying for this movie?

MATTHEWS: Well, all—obviously, all movies are built—are made by corporations.

(CROSSTALK)

BOSSIE: Ah. But—and exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BOSSIE: That is the exact point. What makes—what makes GE different than Citizens United Productions?

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, that‘s the question.

So, in other words, that if a corporation has a political intent, it‘s impossible to discern that.

BOSSIE: That‘s what the court is going to decide.

MATTHEWS: Because a lot of liberals in Hollywood make liberal movies all the time.

BOSSIE: That‘s right. And they‘re all funded by corporations. And that was what the justice asked yesterday. If Simon & Schuster publishes a book, what is the difference between Simon & Schuster and GE?

MATTHEWS: OK. David, forget—take off your conservative hat for a split-second here.

BOSSIE: Certainly.

MATTHEWS: what will be the impact on McCain-Feingold if this law gets

I get the sense they may be striking down. There‘s a possibility that Judge Kennedy, that fifth guy out there, Anthony Kennedy, will be on your side of this fight. It could be 5-4.

Will they strike down McCain-Feingold, all this campaign restriction that we have been looking at for years?

BOSSIE: Look, I—we all try to do our crystal ball here.

MATTHEWS: Do you they might go all the way with a broad ruling?

BOSSIE: I think—look, I feel very confident—first of all, Ted Olson, the former solicitor general...

MATTHEWS: He‘s the best there is.

BOSSIE: He is the best there is. He argued the case for me.

MATTHEWS: You were lucky to get him.

BOSSIE: We are. We were honored. And...

MATTHEWS: Did he know about this case as you developed it from day one?

BOSSIE: He did, yes.

MATTHEWS: So, he knew you were going to build a movie, so that you could test the case?

BOSSIE: Absolutely. And he did an unbelievable job in presenting our case yesterday before the Supreme Court.

And, so, to have him argue this case, it‘s—it‘s tremendous. And I think we all want to win the entire thing, the entire argument. But I will be satisfied with winning a piece of it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I know who is going to be happy. The conservative columnist George Will has been pounding the table on this issue since day one, arguing that you cannot deny or regulate free speech in this country. Political speech is protected.

Of course, I‘m all the way on this stuff. I think free speech includes things that we hate, like flag-burning.

BOSSIE: Absolutely. It absolutely does.

MATTHEWS: Things I despise are covered. Do you agree with that?

BOSSIE: I—I said I fought yesterday for Michael Moore‘s right to do this.

MATTHEWS: Because free speech is free speech.

Anyway, thank you, sir, David Bossie, who may well be the victor in a Supreme Court case to be resolved in the next couple weeks.

Up next: B-Rod on the radio. Disgraced—well, maybe not disgraced yet—if he wins his case in court, he may not be. Ex-Governor—he is an ex-governor—Rod Blagojevich, he‘s been impeached, but he has not been silenced. He hits the airwaves as a guest host out in Chicago today.

We are going to have the highlights of B-Rod. There he is. He looks like God put him there.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

The man was made for the mike.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”

First up: B-Rod is back. He‘s impeached, but he‘s not silenced. Rod Blagojevich, our B-Rod, was guest host earlier today on WLS Chicago.

Here‘s our man doing the job God made him for.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: It seems like only yesterday I was the governor of the fifth largest state in America. And now I‘m sitting here sitting in the seat that Don Wade sits in.

You can say that I have achieved higher office.

We have got—got some challenges ahead, but I‘m going to trust in the truth. And as it says in the Bible, the truth shall set you free.

I was hijacked from office, not allowed to bring in witnesses, bring in evidence, show that I did nothing wrong. It was a political fix. And I predicted that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you sure did, B-Rod?

Now, how about an upgrade? How about I bring HARDBALL to Chicago? You be the home team. We do the show together. You can bring some witnesses, if you want, as you said. And, with your help, we will have a million of them watching.

Back to Washington. Is there a newspaper bailout in the works? Well, not quite, but with the death or near-death of some of the great newspapers, “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,” “The Rocky Mountain News” out in Denver,” “San Francisco Chronicle,” “The Philadelphia Inquirer,” to name a few, Congress is taking notice.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin yesterday introduced legislation that would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits that, while free to report on the issues, could not, of course, make political endorsements.

Well, let‘s face it, Senator Cardin. The newspaper business is already nonprofit.

So, I will tell you, who is making profits out there? Hedge fund bosses. Catch this report in “The Times” this morning, “The New York Times.” The top 25 hedge fund bosses raked in $11.6 billion last year. That‘s billions. That works to a half-billion dollars each, $500 million each. A lot of them made that money, by the way, those hedge fund guys, betting on disaster.

Next up: a new movie in the works, as I said before, a big feature film on the Clinton-Lewinsky story. Bill will be played by one of my favorites, Dennis Quaid. He‘s a cool guy. And Hillary is even luckier. She‘s going to be played by the wonderful Julianne Moore. I remember her from that great film, the Oscar Wilde film “An Ideal Husband,” which will not be the name of this movie.

Monica, by the way, will not be portrayed by an actress. She will simply appear in the film in real-life news clips.

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

It shows that court battles are not cheap. Nearly five months after Election Day, Al Franken and Norm Coleman are still waging their Senate fight through the Minnesota legal system. How are they financing it? Good old-fashioned disgusting political fund-raising.

Just how much have the two raked in since Election Day? Over $11 million. That‘s about a quarter of what they spent the entire election cycle. Can‘t you just see this—how this is money raised? Anyway, Minnesota‘s $11 million plus recount tab, and it‘s still running—tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next: Dick Cheney was one of the most unpopular vice presidents ever. But, you know, it‘s bad for Cheney when members of his own party, fellow Republicans, want to see him quieted, mugged—I‘m sorry—muzzled. We have got one of them coming up here, Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp, coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finishing higher, after a volatile day—the Dow Jones industrials gained almost 90 points, the S&P 500 up seven, and the Nasdaq up 12 points.

Sales of new homes rose unexpectedly in February. The 4.7 percent increase was the first since last July. It follows news earlier this week that sales of existing homes also rose unexpectedly in February. The prices of all homes sold fell significantly.

Meantime, orders for big-ticket and manufactured goods rose in February for the first time in seven months. Analysts had been expecting another decline.

Oil prices fell, as U.S. inventories climbed to the highest level in 16 years. Crude dropped $1.21, closing at $52.77 a barrel.

And IBM will reportedly cut another 5,000 jobs in the U.S. and transfer many of them to India. IBM has already cut at least 4,000 jobs this year.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, former Vice President Dick Cheney has been far more visible out of office than he was in. And not all Republicans are pleased about that fact. Even Jay Leno asked former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice what she thought about Dick Cheney‘s criticisms of President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: I know President Bush says he wants to remain silent...

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.

LENO: ... and give Barack his—an opportunity.

Vice President Cheney out there saying that Obama has made the U.S. less safe, we shouldn‘t be closing Guantanamo Bay, the interrogation method.

What is your opinion?

RICE: Look, these are difficult questions and—and difficult issues.

My view is, we got to do it our way. We did our best. We did some things well, some things not so well. Now they get their chance.

And I agree with the president. We owe them our loyalty and our silence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, plus, a group of congressional Republicans told a reporter for “The Hill” newspaper they would rather Dick Cheney retreat to his undisclosed location rather silently.

Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee said—quote—“We should focus on the people that will lead us tomorrow, not the people who led us yesterday. With all due respect to former Vice President Cheney, he represents what is behind us, not what is ahead of us.”

U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp is running for governor of Tennessee in 2010 and today announced his gubernatorial campaign staff.

So, you‘re on the road statewide?

REP. ZACH WAMP (R-TN), TENNESSEE GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: All the time. And, today, I‘m playing HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you.

Here‘s - well, I‘m not going to be that tough on you.

I...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Dick Cheney. He‘s a tough customer.

It takes some nerve to stand up to him.

WAMP: Well, I‘m not standing up to him.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, you are. You‘re saying he ought to go back in his box, basically.

WAMP: No. I‘m saying that it‘s time to look forward. I mean, we have got people like...

MATTHEWS: But he‘s yesterday. You said so.

WAMP: We have—we have the voice and the face of the Republican Party. And, unfortunately, for him, it‘s not him. You know, we need their ideas, and we need their—their knowledge, just like Newt Gingrich gives us some good ideas.

But we need to have Mike Pence, and John Thune, and Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin, and Zach Wamp, and John Kasich, and others out there speaking for the Republican Party, because it is a party now that‘s—we have hit bottom. We‘re grounded. We know what we stand for again.

It got really confusing over the last eight years. We need to leave that behind us and go forward on a solid platform of limited and effective government, with a smile on our face, love in our heart. We‘re doing this for the right reasons. We love our country. But this is why we believe as we believe. And it‘s time for new faces, new leadership to lead our party, Chris.

MATTHEWS: But Dick Cheney was not exactly a—a fiscal conservative. He was part of this big-spending administration. They didn‘t veto a single spending bill. They had vast international ambitions, certainly not conservative ambitions, in the world. It was almost like Napoleon: We‘re going to go around the world democratizing it all.

Do you think Dick Cheney is truly a traditional conservative, or is he some kind of a new thing?

WAMP: Well, that‘s why it‘s time to turn the page.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WAMP: It got really confusing. And it‘s time to turn the page for our party.

So, frankly, we can‘t rewrite history. The historians are going to tell us what happened. We need to go out now with a positive spirit and a good, solid platform. You know, it is ironic that the administration didn‘t communicate very well. I mean, I remember “Mission Accomplished.” I remembered a photograph from 30,000 feet looking down at Katrina.

Those were bad communication efforts.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

What did they signal?

WAMP: Well, they signaled that they were out of touch, and sometimes aloof, and, frankly, miscommunicating things, instead of communicating.

We remember how important communication was when Ronald Reagan was either in trouble or establishing a new agenda. He was a very effective communicator. Clinton was a good communicator. But it‘s ironic to me that people are still making noise that weren‘t the greatest of communicators.

We need to put our best communicators on the field to say why we believe as we believe, so that we have a chance of winning and coming back.

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to give Dick Cheney a chance to speak. Here he is on tape talking about the state of the union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING”)

JOHN KING, HOST, “STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING”: Do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

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

I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11.

And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Now, the vice president obviously showed up at the studio.

That‘s always hard.

Thank you for coming, by the way.

The lazy way is to let them bring the camera crews to your house. He obviously wanted to make this statement. Let me ask you—you talked very tough here, very independently. Will that sell in Tennessee? Pretty conservative state that voted for John McCain. Can you talk like this when you run for governor?

REP. ZACH WAMP ®, TENNESSEE: They know President Bush was my friend and I got along just fine with Vice President Cheney. This is not about the personalities. This is about the future and the heart and soul of our party.

MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s put some—you mentioned your own name. You mentioned some other names. Let‘s just imagine that I were—which I do every day with the producers, try to book guests. And we‘re trying to get Governor Palin on. We‘re trying to get different people on this show. Who would you like to see the news media promote by giving access like this over the next several years as the future of the Republican party? Give me two or three names?

WAMP: John Thune, John Ensign, Bob Corker from my home state, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy in the House, younger, smarter, real principled people who really represent the future of our party.

MATTHEWS: You never mentioned Rush Limbaugh.

WAMP: He‘s not an elected leader. That‘s really where we need to focus.

MATTHEWS: You never mentioned Michael Steele, the chairman of your party.

WAMP: Well, they‘re having their own little spat.

MATTHEWS: You want to edit media coverage so we pick the good guys.

Look at these guys, look at them up there. These guys demand the podium.

They grab the bully pulpit by both hand, these guys.

WAMP: The people who have been in the arena and have been elected, as Teddy Roosevelt said, are the one that actually ought to be on camera talking about policy, not the people that get paid. Sometimes people make more money by saying outrageous things. If you‘re elected, you have to face the voters.

I know sometimes that gets forgotten here. But I think the elected leadership ought to speak for us. Frankly, when John Boehner and Mike Pence and Eric Cantor come up with a new platform, they ought to be able to articulate it without all the pundits telling—

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you one of the pundits is named President Barack Obama. I think he and the people around him, the smart people around him,-- they‘re very smart, Rahm Emanuel, Axelrod—you know them all—have decided that they‘re going to anoint the opposition they want to fight. They don‘t want to fight the names you mentioned, the more attractive names. They want to fight the big guy on radio, Rush Limbaugh. They want to fight Cheney from yesterday. They want—they‘ve almost become the news directors.

WAMP: Right. Chris, I agree. This is intentional. It‘s by design. They know that they‘re easy targets. Then they don‘t have to talk so much about policy, because then it‘s about personality. It‘s easy to hit Rush because he‘s got money. So the public can turn against him.

MATTHEWS: What do you mean he‘s got money? Because he‘s known as a rich guy?

WAMP: That‘s the way they want him portrayed. Therefore, that‘s why they would raise him as a target. They always have to have the bad guy, because it was Delay for a while. It was Gingrich for a while. Now they‘re picked another one that‘s not even an elected leader.

MATTHEWS: Are you saying that we put Tom Delay on this program every week we can because he‘s a bad guy? I put him on because he says exactly what his gut thinks. He talks exactly from his gut.

WAMP: But when he was the whip or the leader, he was the bad guy. They have to have a bad guy. And I think sometimes they go out and find one.

MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right. It‘s great to have you on. Good luck in your race for governor. Zach Wamp, running for governor, announcing his staff as of today.

Up next, guess who is figuring out the House race in the New York Senate race. Rush Limbaugh has become the target of the Democrats, I suppose. They‘re using el Rushbo, as he calls himself, to really support for their candidate to fill that seat by Gillibrand, who is now the senator up there. That open seat up there is a big fight for the R‘s. It‘s a very Republican seat. If the Democrats can beat the Republican in a Republican seat by going after the large man on the radio, I think they‘ll keep at it.

We‘ll be right back to talk about that on MSNBC. HARDBALL coming back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We‘re back now with the politics fix, with “Newsweek‘s” Evan Thomas and Chris Cillizza of the WashingtonPost.com, as well as the “Washington Post.” Chris, thank you for joining us. You‘ve just broken a story late this afternoon about the role being played, perhaps passively, if that‘s possible, by Rush Limbaugh to fill that House seat up in New York being emptied by Gillibrand, who is now the senator replacing Hillary.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, Chris, there‘s a piece of direct mail that‘s gone out today, folks are receiving up in that district today, from the Democratic candidate. It essentially has the quote, a picture of Rush Limbaugh and a quote saying, I want him to fail, about the president, and saying “Rush Limbaugh wants to keep you from voting on March 31st.”

It‘s a really interesting tactic. We‘ve seen Democrats use Rush Limbaugh to raise money, the comments he made at the conservative political action conference, to raise money. This is aimed at trying to drive out their base, trying to make people turn out in a special election, where they might not turn out otherwise. It‘s an interesting move, because I think they‘re trying to turn Rush Limbaugh into the bogeyman that George W. Bush was for the party in 2006, 2008, that person that people went to the ballot box, Democrats I‘m talking about, to vote against.

MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s interesting, Evan, when you walk down the street and your see a couple with a dog and you see another couple with a dog, the dog barks at the other dog. It does seem like the fringes notice each other. If you want to drive out the fringe of your party, wave the fringe of the other party in their face.

EVAN THOMAS, “NEWSWEEK”: That‘s an old tactic. It‘s not just upstate New York Democrats. Rahm Emanuel did this very thing, what, about a month ago, when he said that Rush Limbaugh is the head of the Republican party. That set up this fury on cable TV and the cover of “Newsweek.” He suckered us into it, too, by putting Rush on the cover of “Newsweek.”

It was a clever political trick, make a villain out of Rush Limbaugh to rally the Democratic base.

MATTHEWS: OK, now we‘re talking about the base. I want to get back to the center of the country politically, if we still have one. Chris Cillizza, you start with you, the fact that Arlen Specter basically said yesterday that he‘s not going to vote for Card Check, the labor backed bill, it does signal that he‘s going to go with the Republican party on future bills, future issues, which means there you have a good sign that the Democrats are not going to be able to pick up moderate Republicans as they build their coalition.

So if the Democrats have to rely on Democratic votes alone, how do they get through the budget, the health care bill, which they‘re going to have to pass, the energy—the climate change, the education, all this stuff the president keep talking about the last couple of weeks?

CILLIZZA: Chris, --

MATTHEWS: How do they do it without Republicans?

CILLIZZA: If you‘re in favor of passing the things you just mentioned, Pat Toomey is your worst nightmare. The truth of the matter is Pat Toomey, former Congressman from Pennsylvania, he looked like he wasn‘t going to challenge Arlen Specter in the primary, the Republican primary, until about two or three weeks ago. He decided after Specter voted for the economic stimulus package, one of only three Republicans to do it—he decided, I am going to run.

That‘s pulled Specter over on Employee Free Choice Act, Card Check. It‘s probably going to pull him over to the right on other issues. You‘re exactly right, even if Al Franken is seated, they‘re sitting at 59. Can they possibly get an Olympia Snowe or a Susan Collins from Maine? Yes.

But remember, they also have to worry about losing people like Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad. There are people who sit—Democrats who sit in Republican leaning states, some of whom are up for reelection in 2010. They can‘t bank of having that 58 or 59 votes on a lot of these more controversial pieces of legislation.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of controversy, Evan, I don‘t see this president talking bipartisan anymore. He may want those Republicans, but he doesn‘t talk that way.

THOMAS: No, he‘s sort of given up on it, as far as I can tell. He‘s

got problems in his own party. As Chris was saying, these centrist

Democrat—You know, the maneuvering on the Hill and everybody is kicking

the ball down the hill. But the sense you get is that health care, which

is something that Obama really, really wants—he wants health care reform

is fading away on him a little bit. The Senate Budget Committee refused to put the down payment into their budget plan. This is all very technical.

That‘s a bad sign for the Obama White House. They‘ve got to have the money to pay for it. I think you can give up on big environment thing, cap and trade. Forget about it. I think that‘s toast.

MATTHEWS: I think you‘re a little tough on the Hill. I think John Sprout on the House side is keeping it in there. He‘s also keeping in the weapon of reconciliation. He may be able to still jam it in. You‘re right, once they get to that compromise between the House and the Senate, there‘s not going to be 600 billion dollars in there. There‘s going to be a lot less, right?

THOMAS: They are going to need every cent. If they want to do universal, they are going to need every cent. I‘m not saying it‘s bad. He‘s going to make a big push for it, clearly. There are some ominous signs on the Hill that are not good for his hope for health care.

MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk about what the president can get done, what he talked about last night. The simple question now is will he be like Jimmy Carter, like Harry Truman, like all the presidents since the 1940s who have been promising this stuff like health care reform? Is he going to be able to deliver or not? My feeling is, if he doesn‘t deliver it, he‘s a loser. He‘s got to deliver. He‘s got to put all the chips on the table and go for it, even if it means making a lot of Republicans angry.

We‘ll be right back with Chris Cillizza and Evan Thomas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Evan Thomas and Chris Cillizza. Evan, I‘ve got to ask you about how this presidency is doing right now. You‘re good at these violin questions. The big question, is he getting done or is it still preview what he‘s about to do?

THOMAS: He‘s done—he‘s done a lot, because in that stimulus he had all sorts of spending that furthers his agenda. He‘s still popular. You know, the public is still with him. But he is now in the miserable business of dealing with Congress. It‘s going to be a long, difficult, messy road. He was up there today, being—making nice with Senate Democrats. And they got their own ideas about how to do things.

And he‘s had these warning shots on things he really cares about, health care and the environment. As you say, he‘s going to roll the dice on health care. Maybe he‘ll get it. He‘s got a lot of momentum. But it is tough dealing with these committee chairmen and these conservative Democrats or centrist Democrats don‘t want to pay—reforming health care is going to cost—universal health care is going to cost a ton of money.

MATTHEWS: You know too that we have seen the models of Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, everybody we can think of, even George W. Bush, could only get done what they most wanted to get done in their first year. After that, they were neuterized.

THOMAS: I agree. There are a lot of vulnerable Congressional Democrats who swept in with him. They‘re vulnerable. They could go down the next election. I agree, he‘s got to get it done now. I think that‘s the right thing. I‘m just saying it‘s hard, because it‘s going to be so—you know, when was the last time Congress was really good about asking, one, for sacrifice or raising taxes? Now, those two things are going to have to happen if you have health care reform. There‘s no way you can get from here to there, especially if it‘s universal, if people are not giving something up and paying more. I just think that‘s hard to do.

MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza, do you think that the president has to go for it? My hunch is he does, just based on history. You can‘t get nothing done your second year. If he doesn‘t deliver on health care, how does he hold the party together, if he doesn‘t do what he said he‘d do?

CILLIZZA: Chris, I agree with you. I think you do—people decry the permanent campaign, but the truth is it‘s with us, whether you like it or not. To Evan‘s point, once you get into any year, any even year, a 2010 or a 2012, you start—the politics calculation goes up and the policy calculation goes down, especially given that, you know, look it, Democrats picked up 50 plus seats in the House, 14 or 15 Senate seats. There are a lot of those folks sitting in districts and sitting in states where these policies, as Evan pointed out, raising taxes, bigger government, might not go over all that well.

I think Obama has to move as quickly as he can to—I‘m borrowing a phrase here from George W. Bush—spend that political capital. He‘s clearly doing that. Whether or not he can push it through between now and when that political capital starts spending a little less well, I think is an open question. Because once we get to 2010, the political consideration is really going to trump—to my mind, is really going to trump the policy considerations.

MATTHEWS: Were you surprised that he gave us the bit of didactic

information last night about himself? I guess that‘s the right word. He

taught us how he thinks and how we should think. He used the word

persistence. I talked about that being—I never thought of it that way -

as a philosophy. Persistence, what does that tell you?

CILLIZZA: One real quick thought, Chris, I had is it‘s hard because we don‘t know that much about the way he thinks, because he hasn‘t been in the public eye for the years that most people who have been elected president are. Look at the campaign. I always go back to the campaign, because that‘s the formative experience, I think, or certainly one of the big ones of Barack Obama‘s political life.

What did that tell you? Persistence. People said, why isn‘t he moving in Iowa? He‘s a one-shot deal. He‘s not that big a deal. He persisted. I think that‘s the lesson he‘s learned.

MATTHEWS: Evan Thomas, thank you sir for being on. Thank you, Chris Cillizza, as always. 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.

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