updated 4/17/2009 1:39:23 PM ET 2009-04-17T17:39:23

Guest: Tom DeLay, Tom Tancredo, Charles Gonzalez, Maria Teresa Petersen, Roger Simon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Talk of secession.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  We‘re waiting for President Obama‘s news conference in Mexico City with Mexican president Felipe Calderon.  We‘re keeping an eye on it, and we‘ll bring it to you live when it happens.

Other stories we‘re watching tonight: Will Texas secede from the union?  I‘m sorry, I thought I‘d heard most of the kooky stuff—the black helicopters are killing, Johnson killed Kennedy, 9/11 was an inside job, the dollar‘s being replaced by some Chinese-approved currency.  But here comes—and it has come—the big bopper of them all, the governor of Texas, the twice-elected governor of the Lone Star state, is talking secession—you know, quitting the union, leaving the United States, just like in 1861, just like when those 11 states pulled out of the U.S. to form the Confederacy.

Here he goes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  We got a great union.  There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Who knows what might come out of it.  Well, it wasn‘t the first time the Texas governor has talked this week of his state pulling up stakes.  Here he was on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY:  We‘re still part of the union down here in Texas, and our folks would like to keep it that way, but we see some things going on that are peculiar.  They‘re frustrating, and I think Texans are—we‘re an independent lot, and we‘d just as soon Washington not be mortgaging our kids‘ futures and ours, for that matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘d like to keep it that way.  Are those the words of a responsible, patriotic governor?  Is he serving his state well, or is he talking about leaving the U.S. simply as a play to the nut country?  Or is local politics afoot?  Is Governor Perry positioning himself on the hard right to take on a primary challenge from U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison?  In a minute, I‘ll ask one of Perry‘s fellow Texans, former House majority leader Tom DeLay.

And what about that other country to our south, Mexico—assuming Texas becomes the other one.  With President Obama down there tonight, how is he going to play the Hillary comment that we‘re the ones causing a lot of that country‘s woes?  I‘ll ask former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, who was kept from speaking earlier this week by protesters at the University of North Carolina.

Plus, New York governor David Paterson stepped into the gay marriage debate today and announced that he‘s introducing a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire state.  So with four states recognizing gay marriage and with New York now taking up the issue, who‘s right?  That‘s our topic tonight in a hot debate.

And where‘s Governor Sarah Palin these days?  Well, she‘s speaking at anti-abortion fund-raiser up in Indiana tonight.  Are these kinds of things setting her up to be the candidate of the right against Obama‘s reelection?  That and more in the “Politics Fix.”

And I have a coveted HARDBALL Award tonight to bestow.  I‘m presenting it to someone who could soon emerge as a major voice in the U.S. Senate.

But first, the talk by Texas governor Rick Perry that his state could secede from the union.  Tom DeLay‘s the former majority leader of the United States House of Representatives.  Mr. DeLay what do you make of Rick Perry?  Is this local BS?  Is this to sell him to the right so he can beat Kay Bailey Hutchison?  Is it a play to nut country?  Twice this week, he‘s talked about Texans maybe seceding from the union.

TOM DELAY (R-TX), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Oh, come on, Chris.  This is a governor standing up for the sovereignty of his state.  And I wish 50 governors were standing up right now for the sovereignty of their state.  Somebody needs to speak up about the incredible usurpation of power that‘s going on in Washington, D.C., right now, taking over everything, including businesses.  People are outraged by it.  We saw it at the tea parties yesterday.  The governor is standing up and fighting for what he believes in, and certainly fighting like a Texan.

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t secede from the union.

DELAY:  We—Texas, as a republic, joined the union by treaty.  There‘s a process in the treaty by which Texas could divide into five states.  If we invoke that—and the last time it was voted on was 1985.  If we invoke that, the United States Senate would kick us out and nullify the treaty because they‘re not going to allow 10 new Texas senators into the Senate.  That‘s how you secede.

MATTHEWS:  But you can‘t—can we straighten this out?  Can Texas secede from the union?

DELAY:  No, they can‘t secede.

MATTHEWS:  Then why is he talking about it?  Twice this week, he‘s talked about seceding from the union as a threat if he doesn‘t like the policies coming out of Washington.  That‘s the kind of talk we heard in 1861.

DELAY:  No, that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what killed 600,000 Americans.  Why is he talking like this?

DELAY:  Chris, Chris, we have a treaty, as I explained, and it would be the United States that would nullify that treaty because they would not allow 10 Texas senators.  That‘s how it happened.  And that‘s in the treaty.

MATTHEWS:  So we would—so we would kick them out of the union? 

That‘s nut talk.

DELAY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s nutty.  Why are you talking like this, Tom?  Mr.  DeLay, you know this isn‘t a real conversation.  This is not serious business.

DELAY:  You‘re the one who brought it up.

MATTHEWS:  Why are you—because the governor of your state is still talking about it.  I‘m asking you, is he out to lunch here or what?  What is it?  What‘s going on?

DELAY:  No.  No.  He‘s standing up for the sovereignty of the state of Texas.  He‘s claiming—and they just passed a resolution in the state legislature invoking the 10 Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, claiming that the federal government has so overblown its power and so—grasped all kinds of—and now talking about grasping private enterprise and businesses and going up to anywhere from 50 percent to 60 percent tax rates on American citizens.  And all the things that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress is doing, he‘s standing up and saying, Enough is enough, and he‘s speaking for the people of Texas.  We all feel that way.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s fair enough, but you‘re not saying what he‘s saying.  Here he is.  Listen to what he said again, Mr. DeLay.  This is what the governor of your state said yesterday.  It‘s on the record.  It‘s on the tape.  He‘s talking secession.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY:  Texas is a unique place.  When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pays attention.  We got a great union.  There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.  But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  In 1861, Texas seceded from the union.  We had the Civil War.  It was forced back into the union at gunpoint by federal troops.  It seems insane to begin this conversation all over again.

DELAY:  Chris, Chris, Chris, this is so typical of you.  He was talking about and—talking to reporters about defending the sovereignty of the state of Texas.  He was responding to a question by a reporter, a gotcha question about, Should Texas secede, and that‘s all this was.  You took one sound bite out of a very long interview by the governor on this subject of sovereignty for Texas.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Not to make your point, but to challenge the point, here he is responding to Larry Kudlow, no voice of the left here, Larry Kudlow on CNBC.  He‘s the one bringing this thing up.  Here he is, Larry Kudlow, talking to the governor of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY:  We‘re still part of the union down here in Texas, and our folks would like to keep it that way, but we see some things going on that are peculiar.  They‘re frustrating.  And I think Texans are—you know, we‘re an independent lot, and we‘d just as soon Washington not be mortgaging our kids‘ futures and ours, for that matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Look, everybody else watching him right now, Tom, is saying all hat and no head.  People shouldn‘t be talking like this, no matter where they‘re from.  And you‘re out here trying to say those words were put in his mouth.  They‘re not.  He‘s talking like this all week.

DELAY:  Chris, that whole statement you just played had nothing to do with seceding from the union.  That whole statement that you just played was talking about the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, standing up for the sovereignty of Texas, saying that the federal government has gone too far.  And certainly, this administration, Democrat Congress, are planning to go even further to be more of an unconstitutional federal government.  And he‘s just speaking for the people of Texas.  Enough is enough, and we ain‘t going to take it no more.

MATTHEWS:  So when he says, Mr. DeLay, that he‘d like to stay in the union, what does he mean by that?  He‘d like to stay in the union, but.  Those were his words.  We‘d like to stay in the union, but.  What does that mean?

MATTHEWS:  What that means is we‘d like to stay in the union, but we‘re going to stand up for the sovereignty of Texas.

MATTHEWS:  But we‘d like to stay...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAY:  And we‘re going to fight for our rights...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DELAY:  We‘re going to fight—we‘re going to fight for the rights of Texas as a state and the rights of Texans as United States citizens.

MATTHEWS:  I spent the last—I guess I spent the whole night last night on an airplane from Denver reading about the Civil War and the terrible war that went on that cost us 600,000 dead people, and I‘m reading about how tough it was after those states in your part of the country seceded.  And to have a guy loosely talking about leaving the union, about invoking some old Texas treaty, about causing this to happen, and you going along with him and saying, yes, that‘s what would happen because then we‘d be somehow kicked out of the union for invoking the treaty of 1845 -- it just seems like loony talk.

By the way, speaking of, here‘s Rush Limbaugh celebrating what Governor Perry‘s been saying.  And you‘re sort of trying to polish up, gussy up a bit with a constitutional finery here.  But here he is, loving this guy to death.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Now, what this is about, Texas and all the other states are being forced to take a percentage of all the stimulus, the “porkulus” package money, and a number of governors have said they don‘t want it.  Bobby Jindal says, I don‘t want it because this is going to end up costing us money, unemployment demands they‘re putting here, the way we run the system.  Mark Sanford, South Carolina, doesn‘t want it, and Governor Perry in Texas doesn‘t want it.  They do not like the idea that the federal government under Obama is now telling the states what they have to do.  It‘s unconstitutional, and that‘s why Perry is speaking up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Mr. DeLay, all through the Bush administration, the government money, the debt, went rising and rising and rising, went from something like $4 trillion to $7 trillion, almost doubled, and there wasn‘t this talk of secession or leaving the union or this incredible radical talk.  Why is it coming now because we have a Democratic president?

DELAY:  It comes all the time in the state of Texas.  Texans are Texans and they fight for their sovereignty and fight for the Constitution of the United States.  And every time the federal government mandates things on the state of Texas—state of Texas is a huge donor state.  We only get about 70 cents back for every dollar we send to the federal government.  We‘re paying for a lot of this, and the American—and Texans are fed up with the government growing like it‘s growing.

I tell you what, the biggest skunk at the party is for somebody from the federal government to come into Austin.  We are absolutely fed up with what is going on, as I think hundreds, if not millions of people yesterday were expressing the exact same sentiment in these tea parties.

MATTHEWS:  You know, that sounds like—you sound like some rebel leader in the ‘60s in the Congo, in Tatanga (ph) province, that produced all the mineral wealth for the country and wanted to secede from the Congo.  I mean, this idea that suppose—maybe Texas does produce a lot of the wealth.  A lot of states are wealthier than other states.  They just are.  Does that mean that...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAY:  Chris, Texas is wealthy because it works hard.  It‘s a pro-business state.  It doesn‘t overtax its businesses and its citizens.  It‘s nowhere near what California or New York or New Jersey, that‘s losing businesses left and right, losing jobs left and right—it isn‘t even close to what the Rust Belt is.  We are a pro-business state.  We love jobs.  We love businesses to come to Texas.  We will not overtax you.  We don‘t have an income tax.

We‘re—we‘re—that‘s where—people are coming to Texas because of our ability and our penchant to fight for what we believe in, and we‘re going to use every means possible legally to fight for our position and fight the Obama administration and the Democrats, liberals, Pelosi and Harry Reid, in what they‘re attempting to do to this country and to the state of Texas.

MATTHEWS:  When you talk about the sovereignty of the state of Texas, are you talking about nullification?  What are you talking about, the right of the state to deny the role of the federal government?  What right are you...

DELAY:  I‘m talking...

MATTHEWS:  ... insisting on when you say sovereignty, like it‘s an independent country again?

DELAY:  It‘s an independent state...

MATTHEWS:  It is?

DELAY:  ... and given many powers by the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, the 10th Amendment that is violated every day in Washington, D.C.  And we‘re standing up and reminding the American people that the 10th Amendment is strong, and we‘re going to defend it and we‘re going to fight for it.

MATTHEWS:  So all powers not delegated to the federal government reside in the states, right?

DELAY:  That‘s exactly right, and we ought to return to that Constitution.

MATTHEWS:  Tom DeLay, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Before I go any further tonight, I want to say what a great time I had all day yesterday out at the University of Wyoming.  What a great bunch of students out there.

Coming up: President Obama‘s in Mexico right now.  Can he do anything to control the drug wars along the border?  And will he run afoul of his critics here at home if he blames American guns for fueling the violence down there?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama named a border czar and imposed financial sanctions on three Mexican drug cartels in advance of his meeting with Mexican president Felipe Calderon today.  But can he do more to control the drug wars on the border?

Tom Tancredo‘s a former Republican congressman from Colorado and Democratic congressman Charles Gonzalez of Texas is a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

First of all, Tom Tancredo, what happened at Chapel Hill the other day?  Why were you—were you shouted down, shut up or what?

TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  Yes, sure.  I didn‘t even get a chance to speak.  I mean, the liberal—the open-minded liberals, the 1st Amendment advocates at Chapel Hill would not allow me to speak.  And it was—the worst part about it, Chris, is it wasn‘t just a bunch of those goofball kids who oftentimes clamor around on campuses, but it was—these were teachers and professors in that room who were egging them on, participating in it themselves.

I mean, I can only imagine what goes on in those classrooms when the kids are in there alone with them.  I mean, no wonder.  If Janet Napolitano wants to see extremists, if she‘s worried about extremists, have her take a look at the videos!

MATTHEWS:  Well, those young kids...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They were badly instructed about rights in this country.  They were badly taught, and the teachers involved in that escapade were bad teachers.  That‘s my view.

Let‘s argue the issue here now.  What do you think‘s going on right now with this country?  Are we to blame for the guns and the market for drugs that‘s causing the Mexican mayhem right now?

TANCREDO:  Well, we‘re certainly—I guarantee you that we have—there‘s plenty of blame to go around, especially in terms of the drug usage in the United States of America.  But to then go on to the next part and say, This is really our fault, it‘s the guns that are produced here and then shipped over there, we wouldn‘t have the problem if we didn‘t have the guns—baloney!

First of all, there are undeniably guns moving from north to south.  I don‘t deny that.  I‘m just telling you it isn‘t anywhere near the numbers that we‘re talking about that are actually fueling the wars down there, and the kinds of guns.  These guns are coming from a lot of places, including the Mexican military.  Over 100,000 Mexican military have deserted in the last seven years.  They took their guns with them.  A lot of these guns have ended up with the cartels.  A lot of guns are coming from South and Central America.  There are some from the United States.

But if we really want to stop this, Chris, if—honest to God, if there‘s a true concern about guns going south and drugs coming north, then militarize the darn border!  That is what will stop both of those things from happening.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Congressman Gonzalez of Texas, sir.  What is your view about the situation?  Let‘s take it from where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left us a couple of days ago—in fact, last week—where she said we deserve a lot of blame because there‘s a huge market, probably the richest market in the world, for just all kinds of drugs in this country, and also that a lot of the guns come from up here, the automatic weapons especially, semi-automatics.

REP. CHARLES GONZALEZ (D), TEXAS:  Well, first of all, Chris, you just had Tom DeLay and Governor Perry. 

I am also a Texan.  So, to all the viewers, we‘re very proud, as Texans, but we also understand that we‘re part of a bigger picture.  And the bigger picture is referred to as the United States of America.  So, I want to leave the viewers with that thought. 

When it comes to this particular subject, the question is, are we the source of the problem?  Well, of course not.  We‘re part of a solution.  And that‘s the way I think this administration is approaching this particular issue. 

What is it that we can do, within our control, on our side of the border, to assist the Mexican authorities in controlling what‘s going on out there with the drug cartels? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state, was right? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Was she right? 

GONZALEZ:  Was she right...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GONZALEZ:  ... that part of the problem resides on our part of the border? 

I think even Tom agrees that we have an insatiable appetite for the drugs, and we do a very poor, poor job of policing the use and distribution of drugs in the United States.  We are the market.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Is—is—OK.

GONZALEZ:  ... of course, that is fundamental.

But, also, as far as the weapons, there is no doubt that you have tremendous amounts of weapons and ammunition going from the north into the southern—past the southern border.  There are many things that we can do to assist the Mexican authorities.  Why wouldn‘t we do that?  It is in our own self best interests. 

TANCREDO:  That‘s what I‘m saying.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why has Mexico had such a hard time over—over 200 years or 300 years governing itself?  Why can‘t it be a stable—it has the resources we do.  It has the—it‘s on the same continent we‘re on.  Why does it have such a terrible time being a modern government? 

Why does it always seem to have this tendency towards you never know when something is going to slip down there and you‘re going to have insurrection? 

I want to start with Tom Tancredo. 

Now, why don‘t Mexico work, politically and economically? 

TANCREDO:  There‘s two problems...

MATTHEWS:  Why do they have to come up here for jobs?

Yes. 

TANCREDO:  OK.

I think there‘s two problems that have plagued Mexico for a long, long time.  I told this to—to President Fox when I met with him down there several years ago.  It‘s got both a socialistic mentality—that is to say, it believes it should own Pemex, for instance, much like I guess Obama believes he should probably be able to run General Motors. 

But when you think about the fact that—that Mexico...

MATTHEWS:  The PAN didn‘t believe in that.  The PAN party didn‘t believe in that.

PRI believes that.  PAN doesn‘t believe that.

(CROSSTALK)

TANCREDO:  Hey, they still own—they still own Pemex.  They still own Pemex. 

MATTHEWS:  All right. 

TANCREDO:  And that‘s the—when you consider the fact that that is the primary source of income in the country, they—they still have the socialistic mentality, and they still, unfortunately—this is a very difficult thing to say, but it‘s undeniably true—and, as I say, I told this to President Fox—you have got this socialistic mentality, and you have got a corruption problem that runs from the cop on the beat to the highest level of government.

And, when you have got those two things in combination, which—with each other, you can never have a viable economy.  It‘s—it‘s never going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Gonzalez, is that a fair assessment? 

TANCREDO:  And you know what?  I don‘t know what we can do about that.

MATTHEWS:  Is that a—is that a fair assessment, that they have got a problem with ideology down there for history, all through their history, two socialistic, not free enough, their economy, and a corrupt government?  Is that a fair shot? 

GONZALEZ:  I think what Tom is describing is that—that, somehow, systemically, they have a problem that can never be overcome. 

I do believe that are elements of what Tom is saying that would hold true.  And I think the Mexican government needs to do a better job of making sure that there‘s opportunity within their own borders.  And that is to do a better job with the economic riches that actually are there. 

If you look at natural resources, it is underutilized.  And they do need to have a—a better approach about bringing in the United States or anybody else to assist and maximize the potential that they have. 

So, I‘m not going to argue that point.  I think Mexico can do a much better job.  The question is, how can we assist them?  And, right now, we have a crisis.  And I think we can be a great neighbor.  And, again, in time, this is really about our own self-interests. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, gentlemen.  I think we have a different view on...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... immigration than everybody in the world.  I just think we ought to have a liberal policy towards immigration from the south, that we have a lot of need from workers.  A lot of people down there want to come north, and they‘re good people.  And that‘s the general rule.  I think it‘s the general reality.

But the question I have is, why can‘t we have a regular immigration policy, where we know who comes in the country, they have an I.D. card, just like everybody else in this country, they have got to be who they say they are, or they can‘t work and live here?

Why doesn‘t any of the groups that support the rights of the people to come across the border fight for that?  Why doesn‘t business insist on it?  Why doesn‘t labor go along with it?  Why don‘t we, as a country, go for some liberal enforced immigration policy that‘s legal? 

I don‘t know anybody who says they‘re for that, because everybody is afraid of I.D. cards, afraid of something else, afraid we won‘t have cheap labor. 

Mr. Tancredo, why don‘t we have I.D. cards in this country for people who live here and work there?  What‘s wrong with that?  I have to have one. 

TANCREDO:  Well—well, we do.  We do.  We do have an I.D...

MATTHEWS:  We do? 

TANCREDO:  We do have I.D. cards.

MATTHEWS:  Well, doesn‘t Maryland give out...

TANCREDO:  Sure.  It‘s called the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Maryland gives out its driver‘s license to everybody who can show up. 

TANCREDO:  It‘s called a Social Security card. 

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s—it‘s not—it‘s not a real card for most people. 

TANCREDO:  It‘s called a Social Security card. 

MATTHEWS:  Come on. 

TANCREDO:  Well, it should be.  Why—why isn‘t it a good card? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.

TANCREDO:  Why isn‘t it something that we can actually truly identify?

It‘s fine with me.  Make a Social Security card that is verifiable, hard to actually reproduce fraudulently.  I‘m all for it. 

And, in terms of—of labor, let me tell you, every country has the right to determine who is coming into the country and for what purpose.  And, right now, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think. 

TANCREDO:  ... it‘s hard for me to believe that we need—but it is difficult for me to believe that we need more workers. 

I keep looking every day at 10 percent, 11 percent, 12 percent unemployment rates. 

(CROSSTALK) 

TANCREDO:  How many more workers do we need to take jobs that aren‘t there? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the question, who is going to work at the jobs that are available? 

Let me go to Congressman Gonzalez.  Last question. 

Do you think we should have a verifiable—verifiable I.D. card, so a guy or woman hiring somebody knows they‘re hiring somebody legally in this country?  What‘s wrong with that?

GONZALEZ:  Well, I‘m not—I don‘t know if you‘re espousing a national I.D. card...

TANCREDO:  Nothing.

GONZALEZ:  ... which I think, fundamentally, is going to be opposed by many Americans, just on...

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

GONZALEZ:  ... some principle about privacy, individual rights, and so on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, as long as oppose it...

GONZALEZ:  But, absent that, absent that, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... we‘re not getting anywhere.

See, you‘re changing the subject. 

GONZALEZ:  No, Chris, what I‘m saying is, of course, you‘re going to have something that...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re changing the subject. 

GONZALEZ:  ... verifiable...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

GONZALEZ:  ... for the employer to make sure that they don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GONZALEZ:  ... occasion some sort of penalty for hiring someone that is not here legally. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.

GONZALEZ:  We‘re all for that kind of verification.  So, we need to get there. 

TANCREDO:  But how about...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you. 

TANCREDO:  You are?

MATTHEWS:  I have accomplished something.

TANCREDO:  Honest to goodness, now, I‘m—no, wait a minute.  He said they are.  I am really happy about this.  He said they are...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s an accomplishment tonight.  Let‘s leave it there, while we all agree.  Hey, look, a rare moment of agreement.  Let‘s stop talking.

TANCREDO:  You bet, you bet.  E-Verify.  E-Verify.  E-Verify. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Tom Tancredo, U.S. Congressman Charles Gonzalez.

GONZALEZ:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Gonzalez, I love your dad.  He was a great guy. 

I worked with him for years on the Hill.

Up next...

GONZALEZ:  Oh, thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I think—oh, back 30 years ago. 

Up next:  The HARDBALL Award goes to a very funny man who has become a very serious man, his reward perhaps coming soon, a seat in the world‘s greatest deliberative body. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are about to hold a joint press conference down in Mexico City. 

Let‘s go live right now. 

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  Ladies and gentlemen of the press, of the media, I would like to give the warmest welcome to Mexico to President Barack Obama and to the delegation accompanying him. 

This is a historic event that will inaugurate a new era, a new relationship between our two countries.  Today, in the meetings that we have held, we have confirmed the determination of both governments to consolidate the very, very close contacts and links that join and bring together Mexico and the United States. 

We have new projects in important affairs such as security, migration, competitiveness, and global affairs.  As never before, we have decided that the fight against multinational organized crime must be—must be based on cooperation, shared responsibility, and, in trust, a mutual trust. 

Both governments recognize that the Merida Initiative is a very good starting point in order to strengthen cooperation in security.  But we want to go beyond.  We want to go further in order to liberate, to free our societies from the criminal activities that affect the lives of millions of people. 

We have also agreed to expedite the times, so that we can have available the resources for this Merida Initiative.  And we have also decided to launch other activities that are in the hands of our government. 

For example, we can adopt new measures for preventing illicit flows at the border, particularly the flow of weapons and of cash.  We will also be strengthening our cooperation in information and intelligence in order to more efficiently fight against money-laundering. 

On the other hand, we have also agreed that both governments should produce a—propositions, proposals for our cooperation, so that we can eventually have reform in the United States, with full respect to the sovereign decisions of both congresses—of both nations, that is. 

Our governments will work in this sense to make migration, migration an orderly, respectful process of human rights, a process in which human rights will be respected.

In energy and climate change, we have agreed to work together in order to guarantee a legal framework of certainty, transparency for the future, better use of cross-border resources, such as gas and energy.

And I have given to President Obama concrete proposals on climate change.  One of them has to do with the integration of a bilateral market of carbon emissions, which coincides a lot with proposals that he has made to the U.S. audience, and other cooperation, ways of cooperation in climate change, such as something that Mexico has proposed called the Green Fund. 

We have also said that, in addition to discussing our goals for carbon emissions that are linked in the fight against climate change globally, we must also act very soon in the design of new instruments, of new tools in order to fight against climate change. 

That‘s really the essential proposal of the Green Fund.  And in a gesture of recognition, of acknowledgement on this topic, we know that President Obama and his government have made considerable efforts to provide new arguments to the discussion of this topic. 

We would also like to thank—to welcome the possibility that Mexico might be the seat of the 16th U.N. conference on climate change that will be taking place in 2010. 

We have recognized and acknowledged, ladies and gentlemen, that Mexico and the United States do not have to compete among themselves, but, rather, they must be able to take advantage of the complementary nature of their economies, in order to compete as partners with regard to other parts of the world. 

We have the chance to make our region more competitive and to have a greater, more agile production.  And we will be working in three areas, first, in the strengthening of the border infrastructure.  I have also given to President Obama a proposal to facilitate the economic flows between both countries, to improve the quality of life of the residents in the border areas, and to foster the development of our two nations through very specific projects of—with—on infrastructure at the Mexico/U.S.  border. 

Secondly, we believe it is essential to increase our cooperation in customs, so that we can have a more efficient trade.  And, thirdly, we have also proposed to improve our cooperation in regulatory matters regarding tariffs or non-tariffs issues that very often make difficult our trade between two countries. 

We have agreed with President Obama that we seek agreements to truly improve the economic situation, not only of the United States, but of the entire region and the world.  We have stated our cooperation to strengthen the democracy of the market and of regional security in relation to President Obama‘s recent security to lift the restrictions for people from the U.S. to travel to Cuba and to be able to send remittances. 

Mexico acknowledges that this is a very constructive, positive step for the hemispheric relations, particularly for the region. 

And, finally, my friends, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that I am absolutely convinced that President Obama‘s visit is just an initial step, the beginning of a relationship between two countries that are friends, neighbors, and must also be partners and allies. 

Thank you so much.  Thank you so much, President Obama, for your visit. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  The president, Barack Obama, now has the floor. 

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... President Calderon for the hospitality that he has shown us as hosts. 

You know, this is my first trip to Mexico as president.  And I see this visit, as I know President Calderon does, as an opportunity to launch a new era of cooperation and partnership between our two countries, an era built on an even firmer foundation of mutual responsibility and mutual respect and mutual interests. 

We had a productive and wide-ranging conversation.  And I think we have taken some very important steps down that path. 

It‘s difficult to overstate the depth of the ties between our two nations or the extraordinary importance of our relationship.  It‘s obviously a simple fact of geography that we share a border.  And we have always been bound together because of that geography.

But it‘s not just that shared border that links us together.  It‘s not only geography, but it‘s also culture.  It‘s also the migration patterns that have taken place that have become so important. 

Our deep economic ties mean that whenever—whatever steps that we‘re going to take moving forward have to be taken together.  And that‘s why we worked hard, hand in hand, at the G-20 summit.  And that‘s what we will continue to do at the Summit of the Americas and beyond, so that we can jump-start job creation, promote free and fair trade, and develop a coordinated response to this economic crisis. 

We also discussed our shared interest in meeting an immigration challenge that has serious implications for both the United States and for Mexico.  My country has been greatly enriched by migration from Mexico.  Mexican Americans form a critical and enduring link between our nations.

And I am committed to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that upholds our traditions as a nation of laws, but also as a nation of immigrants.  And I‘m committed to working with President Calderon to promote the kind of bottom-up economic growth here in Mexico that will allow people to live out their dreams here, and, as a consequence, will relieve some of the pressures that we have seen along the borders. 

But we also discussed what our nations can do to help bring a clean energy future to both countries.  This is a priority for the United States.  I know it‘s a priority for President Calderon.  And I want to commend him for the work that he‘s already made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the commitment that he‘s made, even though Mexico is not required to do so the Kyoto protocol. 

And, together, we‘re establishing a new bilateral—bilateral framework on clean energy and climate change that will focus on creating green jobs, promoting renewable energy, and enhancing energy efficiency. 

I look forward to strengthening our partnership in the upcoming Major Economies Forum on energy and climate and in next year‘s U.N. climate negotiations, which I hope will be held here in Mexico. 

Now, as essential as it is that we work together to overcome each of these common challenges, there‘s one particular area that requires our urgent and coordinated—coordinated action, and that is the battle that‘s taking place with respect—with respect to the drug cartels that are fueling kidnappings and sowing chaos in our communities, and robbing so many of a future, both here in Mexico and in the United States. 

I have said this before.  I will repeat it.  I have the greatest admiration and courage for President Calderon and his entire cabinet, his rank-and-file police officers and soldiers, as they take on these cartels. 

I commend Mexico for the successes that have already been achieved.  But I will not pretend that this is Mexico‘s responsibility alone.  The—a demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business. 

This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States.  More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border. 

So, we have responsibilities as well.  We have to do our part.  We have to crack down on drug use in our cities and towns.  We have to stem the southbound flow of guns and cash.  And we are absolutely committed to working in a partnership with Mexico to make sure that we are dealing with this scourge on both sides of the border.

And that‘s why we‘re ramping up the number of law enforcement personnel on our border.  That‘s why, for the first time, we are inspecting trains leaving our country, not just those entering it.  That‘s why our Department of Homeland Security is making up to $59 million available to defend our common border from this threat to both of our countries. 

Now, as we discussed in our meeting, destroying and disrupting the cartels will require more than aggressive efforts from each of our nations. 

And that‘s why the United States is taking the following steps.  We have begun to accelerate efforts to implement the Merida Initiative, so we can provide Mexico with the military aircraft and inspection equipment they need when they need it. 

Yesterday, I designated three cartels as significant foreign narcotics drug-traffickers under U.S. law, clearing the way for our Treasury Department, working together with Mexico, to freeze their assets and subject them to sanctions. 

My national homeland security adviser, who is here, General Jim Jones, as well as my homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and my top adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan, are all meeting with their Mexican counterparts to develop new ways to cooperate and coordinate their efforts more effectively. 

In addition, as President Calderon and I discussed, I am urging the Senate in the United States to ratify an inter-American treaty known as CIFTA, to curb small arms trafficking that is a source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war. 

Now, there are some of the common challenges that President Calderon and I discussed in our meeting and that we‘re going to be working on to overcome in the months and years ahead. 

It will not be easy, but I am confident that if we continue to act as we have today, in the spirit of mutual responsibility and friendship, we will prevail on behalf of our common security and our common prosperity. 

So I think that this is building on previous meetings that we‘ve had. 

In each interaction the bond between our governments is growing stronger. 

I am confident that we‘re going to make tremendous progress in the future. 

Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  The two questions from the U.S. media.  First please, and then two questions from the Mexican media. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ben Feller (ph) with AP. 

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. President, as well. 

President Obama, as a candidate you said you wanted to see the assault ban—the ban on assault weapons reinstated.  Your attorney general has spoken in favor of this.  Mexican officials have also spoken in favor of it.  But we haven‘t heard you say that since you took office. 

Do you plan to keep your promise and if not, how do you explain that to the American people? 

And, President Calderon, sorry, if I may, would you like to see this ban reinstated and have you raised that today with President Obama?  Thank you. 

OBAMA:  Well, first of all, we did discuss this extensively in our meetings.  I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun—the assault weapons ban made sense and I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms while dealing with assault weapons that, as we now know here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence, violence in our own country as well. 

Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy, and so what we have focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across the border, is illegal. 

That‘s something that we can stop, and so our focus is to work with Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, our entire homeland security team, ATF, border security, everybody who is involved in this, to coordinate with our counterparts in Mexico to significantly ramp up our enforcement of existing laws.

And, in fact, I‘ve asked Eric Holder to do a complete review of how our enforcement operations are currently working and make sure that we‘re cutting down on the loopholes that are resulting in some of these drug trafficking problems. 

Last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus.  I‘ll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing, the tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes. 

That‘s information that we are still not giving to law enforcement as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress.  And those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early. 

That doesn‘t mean that we‘re steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency promptly now, and I think we can make significant progress. 

FELIPE CALDERON HINOJOSA, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): 

Thank you for your question. 

I want to say that in effect on this topic—not only on this topic but in many of the other thorny topics of relations between the U.S. and Mexico, we have had an open, frank, trusting conversation between President Obama and myself. 

We have spoken of assault weapons.  He is well-aware of our problems, and we have described it as it is from the moment that the prohibition on the sale of assault weapons a few years ago, we have seen an increase in the power of organized crime in Mexico. 

Only in my administration, in the two years and four months we have been able to see—or rather we have seized more than 16,000 assault weapons, and in the efforts we have made to track their origin, and President Obama has referred to that, we have seen that nearly 90 percent of those arms comes from the United States, those weapons come from the United States, are about 10,000 sales points in the U.S.-Mexico border, only at the border. 

On the other hand, I do believe that our relationship, the new era we must build in our relationship between Mexico and the United States must be one with trust and respect.

And we definitely respect the decision of the U.S. Congress and of the U.S. people in this regard because they are very well aware of President Obama and his government‘s willingness to move forward on these issues. 

We know that it is a politically delicate topic because Americans truly appreciate their constitutional rights and particularly those that are part of the Second Amendment.  I personally believe that as long as we are able to explain clearly what our problems in Mexico are, then we might also be able to seek a solution that is respecting the constitutional rights of the Americans, at the same time will prevent—or rather avoid that organized crime becomes better armed in our country.

But we have to work on it.  We have to work on it.  But we fully respect the opinion of the U.S. Congress and we know that there‘s a great deal of sensitivity regarding this topic. 

But there are many, many things that we can definitely move forward.  And for example, in armament, it is not only a matter of seeing whether we can change the legislation on assault weapons, we have already said what our position is, but we might also be able to see whether they can apply existing legislation in Mexico and the United States on armament. 

For example, in Mexico it‘s a matter of enforcement.  With the Export Control Act, for example, the Export Control Act—this is in the United States, I‘m sorry, prohibits the export of weapons to those countries where those weapons are prohibited, and that is the case of Mexico. 

If we actually comply with the U.S. law—or rather if everybody complies with the U.S. law that prohibits the sale of these weapons and their export to Mexico, we can move a great deal forward. 

President Obama has made recent decisions in the last few weeks, and we value them and appreciate them.  For example, to reinforce the operational capability of U.S. border agencies in order to comply with this legislation and with other laws in order to review the flows of entry not only into the United States but also the outgoing flows, outgoing from the U.S., to make sure there is no illicit money in strict compliance with U.S.  legislation.  I think these are very important steps. 

But there is a problem and only as long as we build on this trust and we clearly explain to citizens of both countries how we must find a solution, we will be able to achieve when we do so respectfully presenting our position, knowing full well how the U.S. people feel about this and being fully respectful of the sovereign decisions that the United States might make or that any other country might make. 

One more thing, one more thing I forgot to mention.  One other thing we can do is to track the weapons that we have in Mexico.  If we manage to detect weapons sold illegally in the United States in violation of this law on the control of weapons exports, or if, in the United States, they can have—probably move forward on a good registry of armament, or on the prohibition of certain massive sales of weapons, for example, to a hunter or to a common citizen, we know that these people do not usually buy hundreds of rifles or assault weapons or grenades. 

If we can move forward in those areas, I do believe that security, both of Mexico and—both of the United States and Mexico, will improve, because those weapons are pointing against Mexican people and Mexican officials today.  But crime is not only acting in Mexico, it is also acting in the United States. 

Organized crime is acting in both countries, and I do hope that those weapons that are sold today in the United States, and are being used in Mexico, I hope the day will never come in which they will also be used against the North American societies or U.S. officials, just like they are now being used in Mexico. 

QUESTION (through translator):  Good afternoon, presidents.  You are going to share four years of an administration, and there can be an in-depth change in this fight against organized crime in these four years.  As of today, how can we establish the concrete objectives that in 2012 will allow us to say, fine, a new era began between Mexico and the United States back then, particularly I‘m addressing this to you, President Obama. 

In addition to the chance that you will invest your political capital in being able to stop the flow of these weapons to Mexico, what can we hope for?  How—what can we expect to see in terms of arresting the drug lords, the kingpins in the U.S.?  Because there are laws against corruption, but this is enabling now—in other words, the U.S. market is now the biggest for drugs.

And a former president of Mexico, ex-President Fox, said that in the back they have only gotten little pats on the back from his predecessors.  Can we hope for more from your administration? 

And to you, President Calderon, with this new era, how can you measure the detention, the arrest of drug lords in the United States and also putting a stop to the flow of weapons, how can you measure this? 

OBAMA:  Well, I think we can measure this in terms of the reduction in violence, in the interdiction of drugs, in the interdiction of weapons coming south, in the dismantling of the financial structures that facilitate these drug cartels, in the arrest of major drug kingpins. 

So I think we know how to measure progress.  You know, the challenge is maintaining a sustained effort, and as I said, something that President Calderon and myself absolutely recognize is that you can‘t fight this war with just one hand. 

You can‘t just have Mexico making an effort, but the United States not making an effort, and the same is true on the other side.  I think both our efforts have to be coordinated, both of our efforts have to be strengthened. 

I‘ve made some very concrete commitments, already sending additional resources, already making additional investments.  These are measurable in millions and ultimately billions of dollars over several years. 

And I believe that President Calderon has used enormous political capital to deal with this issue.  Obviously the Mexican people, particularly along the borders, have suffered great hardship, and as a consequence, if we partner effectively—and that‘s why I brought many of my top officials on this trip, to interact with their counterparts, I‘m confident that we‘re going to make progress. 

Now, are we going to eliminate all drug flows?  Are we going to eliminate all guns coming over the border?  That‘s not a realistic objective.  What is a realistic objective is to reduce it so significantly, so drastically, that it becomes once again a localized, criminal problem, as opposed to a major structural problem that threatens stability in communities along those borders. 

And that increases corruption and threatens the rule of law.  That‘s the kind of progress that I think can be made.  And so we‘re going to work as hard as we can and as diligently as we can on these issues. 

Always mindful, though, that the relationship between Mexico and the United States cannot just be defined by drugs.  You know, sometimes there‘s a tendency for the media to only report on drug interdiction or immigration whether can comes to U.S.-Mexican relations. 

And one of the things we talked about is the extraordinary opportunities for us to work together on our commercial ties, on strengthening border infrastructure to improve the flow of goods, on working on clean energy, which can produce jobs on both sides of the border. 

So we‘re going to stay very focused on this.  We‘re going to make this a top priority.  But we just always want to remember that our relationship is not simply defined by these problems.  It‘s also defined by opportunities.  And that‘s what we want to take advantage of as well. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s President Obama with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a joint news conference down in Mexico City.  Joining me right now are Voto Latino‘s Maria Teresa Petersen and Politico‘s Roger Simon. 

Maria Teresa, it seems like the big story tonight is he is not pushing seriously for re-enactment of the assault weapons ban.  He‘s not going to do it. 

MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO:  No.  I think you‘re—Chris, he‘s hedging, and I think he‘s hedging his bets, because he realizes that he has much bigger fights with immigration reform and national security issues. 

The problem, though, by not addressing it is that you have currently 12,000 arms sellers on the border between Mexico and the United States.  That‘s 12,000.  And yes, we have laws, but we haven‘t enforced them in several years.  And you have 10,000 deaths in the last three years all related to drug trafficking in Mexico.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he did say, Roger, that we have a lot of laws we could enforce.  It may be legal to own an assault rifle in this country, but it‘s not legal to ship one across the border.

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO:  Right.  But clearly the Democrats and the president are still snake-bit on the subject of guns. 

MATTHEWS:  The NRA.

SIMON:  The NRA.  Remember, he famously said small town Americans cling to their guns.  He‘s worried about that.  They look at the 2000 election.  They see Al Gore losing three critical states and the presidency because of the gun issue.

MATTHEWS:  Tennessee, Ohio, and West Virginia. 

SIMON:  Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia, if he had won any of those three, he wouldn‘t have needed Florida.  And the—he could have won all three, and the gun vote was powerful in all three. 

It will have probably a greater effect on the U.S. than it will on Mexico.  It‘s a minor inconvenience, or at least an inconvenience for the cartels not to buy the guns on the border.  It‘s like, you know, going to Costco instead of driving downtown.  You can buy guns on the world market.  It‘s almost as easy to buy guns as it is to buy drugs. 

MATTHEWS:  But if 90 percent are bought across the border on this side, doesn‘t that tell you that we are an easy access for them?

SIMON:  Absolutely.  And we can make it more difficult.  But it isn‘t going to end the drug wars in Mexico.  It will make it slightly more expensive for them to get guns. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about the other big turkey question.  I mean, it‘s called turkey, because there is like no way we can see it changing in our lifetime.  People in this country like drugs.  Some people like crack cocaine, some like the powder, I don‘t, we may not here, but there‘s a market in this country for people who can get it, and they get it and they don‘t go to jail for it, they—most people get away with using it. 

PETERSEN:  Look, and I think you hit the nail on the head, Chris, for a long time Colombia was the one that was supplying the majority drugs, Plan Colombia came around and all of a sudden Mexico.  We‘re trying to catch a rabbit.  Until we actually look and address the issues internally which, as a president, he‘s the very first one.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But we‘re a free country.  You can only go so far in outlawing behavior, whether it‘s abortion or anything else.  I mean, you can say something is outlawed, you can make all of the laws you want, but in this case, you can‘t stop people from using cocaine, can you?  Or marijuana?  It doesn‘t work.  As long as you have private homes, private places, people are going to find ways to use it. 

PETERSEN:  But I think it‘s addressing the issue of, you buy cocaine, you‘re killing somebody, not just yourself, but you‘re literally—you‘re inciting violence in Mexico... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You think that‘s going to work with an addict, what you just said? 

PETERSEN:  I think—I mean, it will pause, if anything, but you‘re right, it‘s not going to... 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

PETERSEN:  Fair point. 

SIMON:  Has there been any greater failure of American policy than the war on drugs?  I mean, how long have we been talking.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I hate blaming things that will never go away.

SIMON:  . about a war on drugs in this country? 

MATTHEWS:  If we say Mexico will never get its act together until we stop buying drugs, Mexico will never get its act together until we stop selling guns... 

PETERSEN:  Well, and it will go to somebody else, it will go someplace else.

MATTHEWS:  . they‘ll never get their act together.

PETERSEN:  Or go to another country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Maria Teresa Petersen, we‘ll see you soon. 

And Roger Simon, we‘ll see you soon. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our special guest tomorrow night Friday, Ben Affleck. 

Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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