updated 3/4/2010 11:17:36 AM ET 2010-03-04T16:17:36

Guests: Paul Ryan, Michelle Bernard, Joe Conason, Bart Stupak, Wayne

Slater, Alex Burns.

HOST:  Easter egg or goose egg?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

Do or die.  This is it.  President Obama is making his last best attempt to

reach out to Republicans and win the war over health care.  That means

winning the argument with those in the middle.  He‘ll never win Republican

votes at this point.  The best he can do is turn some Democratic noes into

yesses and to keep some yesses from becoming noes.  Tonight, we‘ve got one

congressman who could help, Bart Stupak of Michigan.

Plus: Incumbents beware.  The Rick Perry wipeout of Kay Bailey

Hutchison in Texas yesterday was good news for the tea party types and bad

news for incumbents everywhere, at least in the primaries.  But this

November, will voters throw out the bums or just go after the Democrats?

And also, Republican congressman Paul Ryan wants to get rid of Social

Security and Medicare as we know it.  What‘s his plan to change them, and

what would that be like?  That‘s my question for him tonight.

And the returns are in from last night‘s Republican comedy primary,

Sarah Palin on Leno versus Mitt Romney on Letterman.  Who won?  We‘ll check

the results in the “Sideshow.”

And finally, in my, “Let me finish” commentary, I‘ll tell you why I

think the president‘s right to push for health care reform now.

Let‘s start with President Obama‘s final push on health care reform

and the man who could make it happen in the House, U.S. Congressman Bart

Stupak of Michigan.  Sir, let‘s watch the president.  Here he was today,

making what looks to be his final push for health care.  Let‘s listen.



say about health care has been said and just about everybody has said it. 

I therefore ask leaders in both houses of Congress to finish their work and

schedule a vote in the next few weeks.  From now until then, I will do

everything in my power to make the case for reform.  And I...



MATTHEWS:  Congressman Stupak, you‘re one of the—in fact, you are

the leader on the issue of being pro-life, as a Democrat, fighting to keep

in a restriction, or a ban, rather, on the use of federal money, the Hyde

amendment, to keep it in effect in regard to this legislation.  How‘s that

fight going now?  Is there any way to reconcile the concerns of other

Democrats with the concerns of the pro-lifers?

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN:  Sure, Chris.  I think we can

reconcile those concerns.  I, like the president, would like to see health

care passed, affordable health care for all Americans.  I voted for it.  I

want to see it again.  The president has stated publicly and addressed the

nation on September 9th that there‘d be no federal funding for abortion, so

I‘m willing to work with the president to see that his words ring true.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at

Blair House last week.  Let‘s listen.  See if you agree.



law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion, and there is no

public funding of abortion in these bills.  And I don‘t want our listeners

or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said.


MATTHEWS:  Is the Speaker correct?


MATTHEWS:  Explain.

STUPAK:  The Speaker is incorrect.  In the Senate bill—in the

Senate bill, and that‘s what they‘re telling us the vehicle we‘re using. 

In the Senate bill, it says you must offer insurance policies that will be

paid for by the federal government that covers abortion.  You must do so. 

Also in that same language, if you come in the Senate version, in the OPM,

Office of Personnel Management, policies they‘ll be putting forth, you must

pay—every enrollee must pay one dollar per month into a fund to help

fund abortions.

It‘s very clear.  I direct the Speaker‘s attention to pages 33 to page

44 of the Senate bill as written in the Senate and passed on Christmas Eve.

MATTHEWS:  So according to your reading of the bill that‘s passed the

Senate, which the House is going to have to vote on in the next couple

weeks, insurance covers abortion services.

STUPAK:  That‘s what it insures.  And we will not vote for that type

of legislation.  The majority of the House has spoken.  We will not support

legislation that has public funding for abortion.

You know, Chris, the president said, OK, here‘s his four or five

proposals he‘s doing today.  So what we‘re voting on can‘t really be the

Senate bill there.  It has to be a conglomeration...


STUPAK:  ... or compromise.  So look, we‘re willing to work with him. 

Let‘s keep current law, which says no public funding for abortion.  There

are at least eight programs, everything from Department of Defense,

children‘s health initiative, Medicare, Medicaid, you name it, it says no

public funding for abortion.  Let‘s keep the current law.  And I‘m



STUPAK:  ... to work with the president and the Speaker to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what I don‘t understand, what I want to understand,

because I want this reconciled, like a lot of people do.  It seems to me

that Hyde is pretty clear, the Hyde amendment that‘s been carried for years

now in the House on every spending bill.  Why can‘t you attach it to

another bill, to any or all of the upcoming appropriations bills this year,

or a continuing resolution, and include in the language on something that

would get a majority because the Republicans would all vote for it in that

case, where you‘d get 218, the required number of majority votes, on any

measure later this year that said—and get Nancy Pelosi to approve that,

guaranteed promise that there‘ll be—there will be a rider attached to

every spending bill henceforth that says the Hyde amendment‘s in effect on

all federal legislation.  Could you do that?

STUPAK:  As long as it (INAUDIBLE) dealt with under this act, this

health care—health care proposal act.  You‘re right, Hyde applies only

to appropriation bills.  This will be a new act that will be creating

health care for Americans.  It has to be in this act.  This act is not

necessarily an appropriation bill.


STUPAK:  It‘s an enacting legislation.  As long as they put the

language in it...

MATTHEWS:  But can you pass it—can you pass it as part of another

bill, so that you could get Republicans?  The problem, you know, is, Mr.

Stupak—you know, Congressman, the problem here is the math.  To get Hyde

passed, you need a lot of Republican votes to get it, to pass it, if you

had an up-or-down vote on Hyde at any moment on any appropriations bill.

STUPAK:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  This time, no Republicans are going to vote for it.  None

are going to vote for this health care bill.  So how can you get Hyde to

pass as a rider, as a separate vote in this case unless you jam it down the

throats of the pro-choicers?

STUPAK:  Right.  It would have be a separate bill.  It would have to

be tie-barred (ph) to the final health care bill.  You could do it that

way, Chris.  You could tie bar it to the final health care bill.  You could

do it that way.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What does that mean in English?

STUPAK:  I mean, you‘re right...

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean?

STUPAK:  One bill doesn‘t pass without the other.  They go jointly

together.  They walk down the aisle together and have that vote...


STUPAK:  Two separate votes, but they‘re tied together.

MATTHEWS:  Have you—would Republicans vote for that, or would they

say that would be helping health care pass?

STUPAK:  Good question.  But the principle for myself and the

Republicans, I think, is greater and they would vote for it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let me ask you this.  Has the Speaker responded

to that proposal, tie barring these?

STUPAK:  No, they have not.

MATTHEWS:  Have you offered it?

STUPAK:  Yes.  I‘ve talked to people—yes.  We have had discussions

and here‘s one way we could do it.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, thank you.  Let me ask you this about Eric

Cantor.  He is definitely trying to fish in troubled waters here.  He‘s the

Republican whip.  He‘s the ramrod on that side of the aisle.  He‘s loving

the fact you‘re in dispute.  And I understand this is an issue of

conscience.  I completely understand, let me tell you.  Here he is,

singling out you and a list of 12 other members, including that Republican

from Louisiana, from New Orleans, who‘s voted—he‘s in Jefferson‘s

district.  It‘s a Democratic district.  He‘s now switching the other way.

Is this an accurate list of people that will vote against the Senate

version if it comes up because it doesn‘t have the restriction on abortion?

STUPAK:  I haven‘t seen the list, Chris, but it‘s accurate to say

there are at least 12 of us who voted for health care who have indicated to

the leadership and others that unless you fix this abortion language, we

can‘t vote for a final version of the bill.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the Speaker meant when she made that

statement, that the law of the land is there‘s no public funding of

abortion in these bills?  What does she mean?  I mean, try and understand

her.  What does she mean?  Does she mean the government doesn‘t buy and pay

doctors for abortion, that it simply pays for insurance premiums that will

then cover abortion?  What jesuitical language are you accusing her of

here, if that‘s what you‘re saying.

STUPAK:  Well, if she‘s talking about the Senate language, again, go

to the pages I cited, page—I believe it‘s 38 to 44.  If you go look at

it, it says every enrollee in the OPM, Office of Personnel Management—

every enrollee in one of those plans must play one dollar per month for

reproductive rights, which include abortion.  So not only are you talking

about abortion coverage in insurance policies, but now you‘re asking

everyone who enrolls in these plans to pay at least $1 per month into a

fund to help pay for abortion.  So you‘re making the insurance companies...


STUPAK:  ... provide it, plus, you‘re making people pay for it.  She‘s


MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the Democratic Party, the majority of the

party you‘re in, is willing to go down to defeat on the major legislative

issue of this presidency because of its pro-choice position?

STUPAK:  No.  No, because...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think they‘re willing to go down to defeat.

STUPAK:  No, because if you look at the pro-choice letter that Diana

Degette and others claim to have 40-some signatures on—if you read that

letter very carefully, it says, We must maintain current law.  Current law. 

That‘s all the Stupak amendment does, maintain current law.  Just take my

name off it.  Call the Hyde amendment.  Just maintain current law...

MATTHEWS:  I know what the law says.

STUPAK:  Put it in the health care act, and we‘re OK.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t understand why they don‘t—let me ask you this. 

Are you willing to bring down the House on the issue of life?

STUPAK:  Well, look, we‘re going to do what we have to do.  We‘re not

compromising on this issue.  We‘ve gone as far as we can.  They know that. 

We‘re not—I want to see health care as much as the president and the

Speaker, but this is a principle and belief that the only bill...


STUPAK:  ... the only amendment ever had a vote was this one.  It‘s

bipartisan.  We want to see it.  We want it passed.


STUPAK:  We want to see health care.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  This is a very hot issue, Congressman.  I much

appreciate you coming on to start HARDBALL tonight.

STUPAK:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  This couldn‘t be—this is the one.  This is the issue, I

think, that could make or break health care reform.  Thank you very much,

Bart Stupak of Michigan, a Democrat.

Coming up: Rick Perry wins the Republican nomination down in Texas

over Kay Bailey Hutchison.  He smashes her!  He gets a majority vote.  No

run-off down there.  He campaigned against Washington.  He‘s the guy that

talks secession like a wild man down there.  So is his victory a wake-up

call to all incumbents?  If you can get elected by talking secession from

Washington, imagine you‘re just running against it.  Or are the only people

really vulnerable are the moderate Republicans in the primaries and

Democrats in November?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  There were a string of victories that

have come along here lately.  There was a victory in New Jersey.  There was

a victory in Virginia.  There was a victory in Massachusetts.


PERRY:  And now there has been a victory in Texas.  And I think the

message is pretty clear.  Conservativism has never been stronger than it is




MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Texas governor

Rick Perry talking about his primary victory, as if it were a general

election victory against Democrats, after his victory over fellow

Republican, believe it or not, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who he just

treated like a Democrat in that primary up there—down there in Texas. 

What does he mean, and what does his win mean to the country?  What‘s it

say about the political mood nationally?

Wayne Slater is senior political writer for “The Dallas Morning News”

and—well, Alex Burns is deputy political editor for “Politico.”

I want you both to watch something from Rick Perry, more of Rick

Perry‘s impassioned victory speech, just to set the mood tonight.  Let‘s

listen, then I‘m going to give you a little—little treat here.  Here‘s,

first of all, Governor Perry.


PERRY:  We‘re taking our country back...


PERRY:  ... one vote at a time, one election at a time.  This election

was about hard-working Texans sending a simple, compelling message to

Washington.  Quit spending all the money!


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was the wrong clip.  Anyway, does that remind

you of anything?  Here‘s what it reminded me of—actually, it does remind

me of (INAUDIBLE) wrong clip in there, but let‘s look at Pat Buchanan




back the streets of Los Angeles block by block, my friends, we must take

back our cities and take back our culture and take back our country!  God

bless you and God bless America!



MATTHEWS:  Well, Perry made the same point elsewhere in the speech

about taking the country back block by block.  Let‘s look at the trouble

spots in the country.  And I want to see, Wayne and Alex, if you think

these people are going to face the same results.

We‘ve got open seats in the country in Delaware, where Joe Biden gave

up that seat, in Illinois, where Barack Obama gave up his seat, in North

Dakota, where Byron Dorgan gave up his seat, in Indiana, where Evan Bayh‘s

giving up his seat.  And then you got four incumbent Democrats in trouble,

Blanche Lincoln in big trouble, being challenged in the primary down there

in Arkansas.  You got Harry Reid.  You got—in Nevada.  You got the

problem in Nebraska.  You‘ve got—no, you‘ve got Harry Reid in Nevada. 

You‘ve got Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Michael Bennet in Colorado. 

So you got serious problems—out in California, even Barbara Boxer is

much closer to her rival than ever before.

Is this thing that‘s going on down there in Texas going to go on

elsewhere, Wayne?

WAYNE SLATER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  Absolutely, it is.  And you

know, there are a couple of messages that came out of Texas last night. 

One is, the message is, It‘s Washington, stupid.  And any politician

running for office, primary or general election, Democrat or Republican,

doesn‘t recognize that now is in for a rude awakening.

The other one is really more subtle, and it‘s, Whoever you are, define

your opponent before your opponent defines you.  The person who can define

your opponent better than you can define—who defines yourself before

you‘re defined by your opponent is a winner.  I think about Rob Portman in

Ohio.  This is a guy—if I were he, I would say, I‘ve never been east of

Marietta, Ohio.  This is...


SLATER:  I mean, even though he was Bush‘s trade representative, and

so forth.  So I think it‘s a message that will resound across the country.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m beginning to think, Alex, if Jimmy Carter was

elected be saying, I‘m not a lawyer.  I‘ve really never been to Washington. 

And that worked back then in ‘76 -- are we going full circle now?  If you

can claim that you are a virgin politically, that you have no knowledge of

any other politician, you‘ve never been to a meeting, never held an office,

you‘re clean as a whistle, you‘re perfect for the voters this year.

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO.COM:  Well, sure.  It certainly helps,

particularly if you—if—if you‘re entirely severed from Washington. 

Now, Governor Perry, the longest-serving governor in the state‘s history—

this is not a political outsider.  But he managed to make even the federal

bail-out an issue in this gubernatorial primary.  That‘s not a Texas-

specific issue.  But by painting Kay Bailey Hutchison as this person who is

out of touch with his state‘s values, who had gone to Washington, supported

these presidents who people were disenchanted with, he managed to just sort

of get to a basic trust issue of whether folks want her in charge of their


MATTHEWS:  I‘m looking now right now—let me go back—Wayne,

you‘ve got incumbent Democrats in trouble nationally.  Let‘s go to the

incumbent Democrats.  You mentioned some Republicans who have to prove

their innocence, basically, of Washington.  You‘ve got Harry Reid coming

out in Nevada.  Any one of his three opponents can beat him right now. 

Arlen Specter, by the way, I just found out last night—or actually,

earlier today—has already for the first time pulled ahead of his

opponent, but I‘m sure Pat Toomey‘s going to give him a hell of a fight. 

Then you‘ve got Michael Bennett, the appointed senator out in Colorado. 

It just seems to me everybody is vulnerable now to anybody who can

come along and say, it wasn‘t me that done it.  I remember Ronald Reagan

used to say, I will admit I‘m irresponsible when they admit they are

responsible, which I thought was a great line, actually. 

SLATER:  Yes, but I think it is going to be real hard for Blanche

Lincoln to say, I don‘t know anything about Washington, DC.  Even for

Democrats like Blanche Lincoln or Harry Reid—my, gosh, he is Washington,

DC—for Democrats to recognize the sensitivity of voters at home, that

they are anxious about the economy, that the Washington—concern over

Washington spending is not a trumped up issue by Republicans alone.  There

is something real about that. 

To try to deal with that, even if you are a Democrat, is important. 

It‘s not going to be a good year for Democrats.  I think we know that. 

This anti-Washington animus is going to contribute to that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s run through the calendar right now.  Alex, you

first.  We‘ve got this fight, Grayson and Rand Paul.  Rand Paul is red hot. 

His father is Ron Paul.  He looks like he can knock—he can really do the

job there out in Kentucky, right?  That is the first big shot.  That‘s

coming up in May.

BURNS:  It certainly does look like Rand Paul has a real shot there. 

Trey Grayson is sort of running as the hand picked candidate of Mitch

McConnell.  A couple of years ago, that might have been a huge asset in

Kentucky, to have the blessing of the machine like that.  This year, not so


Trey Grayson has sort of attacked Rand Paul, saying, look, this guy

is not even from Kentucky.  He‘s not one of us.  He‘s sort of an outsider. 

Rand Paul is sort of saying, you‘re darn right I‘m an outsider. 

MATTHEWS:  Even an outsider of the state is better than being—as

long as you‘re outside Washington.  Let me go to the Florida race.  I

watched this one turn very fast down south, Wayne.  Pat Buchanan loves this

guy, Marco Rubio, Cuban American.  I guess he‘s the former speaker down

there, and it‘s a rotating speakership down there.  Charlie Crist looked

unbeatable a year ago, just like Kay Bailey Hutchison looked like she was a

formidable candidate, with great reviews, great numbers.  Numbers don‘t

seem to mean anything once that Tea Party crowd go after you. 

SLATER:  More than any other race, I think Florida is the one that

mirrors what happened in Texas.  You‘re right, Charlie Crist—I mean, who

would have thought he would be in trouble.  He‘s in horrible trouble. 

Essentially, Marco Rubio emerges, interesting, exciting, gets the Tea Party

crowd behind him, frames Crist, talks about Crist as essentially some

liberal, political liberal who has no business being in the race. 

It is amazing to see the sitting governor like Charlie Crist behind

the eight ball like this, but it is part of this dynamic.  Same thing we

saw in Texas.  And if I were Crist, I would study this Texas primary, say,

what the heck can I do about this? 

MATTHEWS:  He might ask for Florida to secede from the union, too. 

By the way, guys, I don‘t think you can pull—let me try Alex on this.  I

don‘t think you can pull the secession number above the Mason/Dixon line. 

I think that has a peculiar geographic appeal.  I don‘t think Ohio can

secede from the Union.  These guys fought for the Union.  I don‘t think it

is really credible.  Alex, your thoughts on that?  Can you promise to be

that anti-Washington up north? 

BURNS:  You mentioned the Delaware Senate race as a place where

Republicans might have some momentum going forward.  It is kind of hard to

imagine Mike Castle, a veteran congressman, former governor of that state

sort of coming—charging out of the gate, saying we are done with this

whole United States thing. 

But the fact of the matter is there is still this feeling that

Washington is out of touch, even in places like that.  As you mentioned, we

saw that in Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  Lets‘ take a state that is neither north nor south.  It‘s

Arizona. It‘s, of course, the big enchilada in terms of national media. 

This August 24th—John McCain has to trudge through the summer out there

-- and it is very hot in Arizona in the August.  He‘s got to get

renominated out there against J.D. Hayworth, the radio shock jock, former

congressman.  I noticed that the Tea Party organizations out in Arizona has

decided to stay neutral.  What does that mean? 

BURNS:  I think, Chris, the fact of the matter is that J.D.

Hayworth, as much as he is running as this outsider—he wants to align

himself with the Tea Party movement.  He was an appropriator in Washington

himself.  You have folks like Dick Armey, who is generally very sympathetic

to primary challengers, saying this guy was an ear-marker back when he was

in Congress.  So he doesn‘t necessarily fit the mold of a perfect candidate


MATTHEWS:  This is wild stuff.  It‘s a wild fire out there.  Wayne

Slater, I cannot believe Rick Perry, the secessionist, has won such a big

race.  I‘m sure he‘s glad to hear me say that, because I don‘t get him. 

Wayne Slater, sir, thank you for picking up on the trends out there.  Alex

Burns, I love “Politico.”

Up next, a preview of the 2012 race on late night TV.  Mitt Romney

on “Letterman” and I think Sarah beat his butt on Leno.  The highlights

next in the sideshow.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now for the Sideshow.  First, there is

no business like show business.  Sarah Palin did a stand-up routine on Jay

Leno‘s “Tonight Show.”  Here‘s Sarah. 



Olympics, skiing, fighting on the ice, skating, bobsledding.  In Alaska,

that is our morning commute. 

And how about that amazing closing ceremony.  It was beautiful.  The

minute I saw the giant moose, I remembered I hadn‘t cooked anything for the

kids‘ dinner. 

But, Jay, thank you so much for inviting me.  I saw where it has

been a few weeks of unfair non-stop criticism, people who don‘t know the

real story.  I say, Jay, welcome to my world. 

JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  All right, Sarah Palin.  Thank you,



MATTHEWS:  Over on CBS, all Dave and Mitt Romney could talk about

was that guest, Sarah Palin, over on Leno.  Here they are.


DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  It sounds to me like you are

going to run for president again in 2012? 


this point.  I‘ll keep the door open. 

LETTERMAN:  Of course he is running. 

ROMNEY:  Are you available, David. 

LETTERMAN:  I can tell by the cologne.  I—what about that Sarah

Palin.  She‘s not ready to be president, is she? 

ROMNEY:  She‘s terrific.  She really is.  She is terrific.  She has

energy, passion.  By the way, be careful what you say about her, by the


LETTERMAN:  I‘ve had my—I‘ve had mine. 

MATTHEWS:  She has a rifle, you know. 

LETTERMAN:  Got it. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure Romney knew what those two had been through,

Dave and Sarah.  Anyway, did you hear Romney sing out the praises of Sarah

Palin?  That is the name of the game in the Republican party these days. 

Whatever they say about her in private, which is somewhat different, they

are gushing over her in public. 

Why?  Because she may not run, and she would have all the power in

the world to either help or hurt any one of the guys who do run.  Watch the

way they treat her lately. 

Next, a call to arms; Funny or Die is out there with a new video

talking up financial regulatory reform.  This is a riot.  The premise,

ghosts of presidents past invade Barack Obama‘s dreams.  We start off with

George W and Bill Clinton. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You two are the ones who stripped out all the

regulations.  Why would I want advice from you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dude, it was the ‘90s.  People did all kinds of

crazy things. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Besides, when I put the Iraq War on my credit

card, I never dreamed I would pay 28 percent interest rates.  It is


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah.  If you listened to me, you would have

raised taxes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then you would have one term. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, and that second term of yours was a real

victory lapper.  Wasn‘t it, Dubbers? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What you are saying is I should clean up this

mess that you all created, take on the banks and all their trillions of

dollars.  How is this helpful? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a bitch.  It‘s a bitch.  But as George

Washington once said to John Adams, tag, you are it. 


MATTHEWS:  That is one talented group of guys.  Anyway, too true. 

Speaking of presidents past, Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry of

North Carolina has announced new legislation that would have the Treasury

Department replace Ulysses S. Grant‘s face on the 50 dollar bill.  Who

would take his place?  Ronald Reagan. 

I get it.  He would take away the honor from the general who saved

the Union.  Hmm, that‘s a smart move.  Anyway, Congressman McHenry has got

13 co-sponsors.  Reagan faithful want to put Reagan‘s face on the 50 dollar

note.  No more to be said tonight.  Tonight‘s big number.  I happen to like


Up next, lots of politicians talk about cutting spending, balancing

the budget and reigning in the federal deficit.  When we return, one US

Congressman who is really intent on doing it, Republican Paul Ryan of

Wisconsin.  I think he is the president‘s favorite Republican, sort of.  He

has a specific plan to do it, dramatic steps, some say drastic, to change

Social Security, to change Medicare, and really reign in these entitlement

programs, which already costs more money than the government brings in in

taxes.  Congressman Ryan next.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama has made a

point lately of trying to find agreement, at least in principle, with some

Republicans,even when his party line is disagreeable to them.  Back in

January, the president singled out Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan at the

Republicans‘ retreat up in Baltimore.  Let‘s listen to what the president

said then. 


OBAMA:  I think Paul, for example, head of the Budget Committee, has

looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal.  I‘ve read it.  I can

tell you what‘s in it.  And there‘s some ideas in there that I would agree

with, but there‘s some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about,

because I don‘t agree with. 


MATTHEWS:  Last week, Congressman Ryan agreed to disagree at that

Blair House health care meeting with the president.  Let‘s listen to the

congressman this time.  


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  When you take a look at this, it is

really deeper than the deficits or the budget gimmicks or the actuarial

analysis.  There really is a difference between us.  We‘ve been talking

about how much we agree on different issues.  But there really is a

difference between us.  It is basically this: we don‘t think the government

should be in control of all of this. 


MATTHEWS:  Was Congressman Ryan right?  Is that the most important

difference of all?  Paul Ryan joins us now.   He is a top Republican,

ranking member, not chairman of the committee, as the president designated

him a moment ago, on the Budget Committee. 

Thank you so much.  I worked on the Budget Committee for a long time

in the Senate.  I know the problems.  I went looking at the numbers

yesterday.  It is not just that we have a deficit of 1.6 trillion dollars. 

It is that the numbers are completely out of whack.  We have 3.8 in

spending, and 2.1 in receipts.  It is almost two to one now, the government

spending more money than it is bringing in.  If you add up all the taxes,

payroll, income, everything, it doesn‘t touch even, it seems, the cost of

the entitlements.  We are completely out of whack now.  Does it seem odd

now that we have these conversations on television, when they don‘t bare

relationship to that problem? 

RYAN:  Yeah, it does.  And there is so much political demagoguery. 

Both parties do this, mind you.  I‘m not saying, we‘re all good and they‘re

bad.  But the problem is, with all this demagoguery, no one wants to tackle

this problem because they feel that they will lose their next campaign. 

I‘m sick of all of that.  You look at the fact our budget is on an

unsustainable trajectory.  That is not the fault of just Democrats or the

fault of Republicans.  Both parties are at fault for this.  Both parties

have to come together and fix this mess, because our debt is going to

catastrophic levels.  We will have a debt crisis in this country.

Just so you know, the main programs of our government, Medicare,

Medicaid and Social Security, are all going bankrupt.  They are growing

themselves into extinction.  so you have to reform these programs for

future generations if you are going to save these programs.  The sooner we

talk about how to do that, the better off we will be. 

MATTHEWS:  Getting Erskine Bowles, the guy who got defeated for the

Senate a couple times, who was a great chief of staff for Clinton—he

came in and cleaned things up, to a large extent, at the White House.  He

did a good job.  I think he‘s great.  I think Alan Simpson is first rate. 

They are both very courageous guys.  But they don‘t have to—they‘re the

head of this new Deficit Commission.  The president has designated them. 

But they don‘t have constituency at home to worry about.  They can

come up and draw out all kinds of  numbers for higher taxes, later

retirement.  They can do all kinds of wonderful things.  They can have

personal accounts.  They can everything that you might like.  But they

don‘t have to face the voters.  The people you work with do. 

Is there any way you could ever, as long as you serve in Congress,

get somebody reduce the benefits of Social Security, change the formula,

change the retirement age, pay for it? 

RYAN:  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  When are people going to start doing this sort of thing

when they want to run for reelection?  

RYAN:  Chris, I introduced my bill that does these things that you

just more or less mentioned in 2008.  I did this during the Bush

administration.  I ran on this plan for reelection last year, and I won

with 64 percent in a district that went for Dukakis, Clinton, Gore and


MATTHEWS:  What kind of district do you have?  Let‘s talk politics.


MATTHEWS:  You have a very, very high educated—it‘s not a

National Public Radio audience.  It‘s something like that, though, isn‘t


RYAN:  Well, it‘s a district that listens to people when they tell

them the truth, that listens to people.  A lot of people may not agree with

how I propose to fix this problem, but their minds are open to fixing the

problem.  So I spend a lot of time talking to the people I represent about

this fiscal mess that‘s coming down the pike.  And I put together a plan,

that the CBO certified, makes Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

totally solvent, pays off our national debt, and averts the debt crisis. 

You can‘t make this all up by taxing.  The spending is the real

source of the problem.  I think the president—he and I have some really

had good conversations about this.  I hope those continue.  But we are

nowhere near the political landscape we need to be to really tackle this


MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been through this.  I‘m older than you.  I‘ve been

through this, watching this, and being a staffer.  I watched your party. 

Ronald Reagan in ‘86, during his second term, talked about putting caps on

some of these colas and things like that to reduce the automatic growth in

entitlements like Social Security.  He lost.  Paul Hawkins got defeated,

blown away.  Jeremiah Den (ph) got blown away in Alabama.  All the

conservatives got blown away the minute they put—it is called the third

rail for a reason.  

RYAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  If somebody signs on your to your legitimate proposals

for balancing the budget at some point in the future, they will lose

elections because the voters do want something for nothing, don‘t they? 

You say they don‘t. 

RYAN:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  You say they don‘t want something for nothing.  I think

they do. 

RYAN:  We have had this problem.  If it was not what you said, then

we would have fixed this already by now.  What I propose—and if we act

soon—you can say to anybody who is in or near retirement, if you are 55

or over, you are not going to change your benefits.  If you‘re under the

age of 55, these programs are going bankrupt anyway.  They‘re not going to

be there for you as they‘re designed today.  So let‘s reform them, make

them more sustainable, so they work. 

So what I basically say is we want a sturdy and sustainable safety

net in America, for people who are low income, people who are sick.  Let‘s

have that.  But then let‘s have a system on top of it that is sustainable

for future generations.  If you act now, you can make sure that people in

and near retirement, above 55, have no huge disruptions in their lives. 

That‘s my point, do it now, you won‘t hurt people in retirement, and

you‘ll save these programs, make them more sustainable for future

generations.  If you keep delaying entitlement reform, then all bets are

off, and people are going to have huge disruptions in their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me put a liberal hat on for a minute.  It seems to me

that we are trying to match, with President Obama, the social democracy of


RYAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that is a good idea myself.  The problem is, on

top of our costs for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any future

costs, if there are any, that balance out or add to our costs for this new

health care program—we have the biggest military expenditure in the

world.  The Swedes don‘t have to pay for that.  The Germans don‘t have to

pay that. 

RYAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t even like blue helmets over there.  The Brits

really don‘t have to.  The French don‘t have to. 

RYAN:  We pay for it for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody in he world we‘re trying to compete with, in

terms of social programming and safety netting, they don‘t have the world

class military we have.  Every time you watch “Meet the Press,” one of

those shows, they have the latest helicopters, the latest fighter planes. 

We got all that stuff we are paying for.  How can we have all that military

cost and have a self-sustaining social welfare program in this country? 

How can we do it with driving people crazy with higher taxes? 

RYAN:  That‘s another point.  But defense spending is at its

smallest amount as a percentage of GDP as its been in years.  Here is your

problem with your social democracy tact, which I‘ll disagree with you on

whether it‘s a good thing to have or not.  We can‘t afford it with the

demographics we‘ve got.  We‘re going form 40 million retirees to 80 million

in one generation.  Our birthrates are declining, and health care costs are

going up six to eight percent. 

So mathematically, this pay as you go, social welfare state, social

democracy agenda is fiscally unsustainable.  You literally cannot tax your

way out of this problem.  It is a huge debt problem. 

You‘ve got Greece going down.  You‘ve got the PIGS—Portugal,

Italy, Greece, Spain, huge debt crises.  We should not fool ourselves to

think that could not come here. 

MATTHEWS:  You must have a heck of a constituency out there in

Wisconsin.  They must all have PHDs in economics because they do understand

the problem.  I think a lot of people get it, but they don‘t like it.  I

don‘t know anybody who wants their taxes to go up or their benefits to be

cut.  That‘s the nature of the beast.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Paul Ryan.  I see why the president

likes you, or at least in theory. 

Up next, Congressman Charlie Rangel steps down as chairman of the

powerful Ways and Means Committee, at least for a while, until the air gets

cleared, if it does get cleared.  More on that ahead in the politics fix. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Democratic Congressman Charlie

Rangel decided to temporarily step down from his post as chairman of the

Ways and Means Committee today.  It was 9:00 am this morning he did it. 


REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  In order to avoid my colleagues

having to defend me during their elections, I have this morning sent a

letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until

such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work. 


MATTHEWS:  Republicans are ready to vote to strip Rangel of his

chairmanship in any way they could.  The Democratic support of him was

eroding, according to a lot of experts up there.  They were—one after

the other, the Democrats said they did support the idea of him stepping

aside after the Ethics Committee had admonished him last week for accepting

corporate sponsored travel to the Caribbean, which is not a big deal,

compared to some of the other stuff that‘s out there right now.  The Ethics

Committee still looking into a number of other allegations.  They said

there could be more trouble for the chairman.

Michelle Bernard is an MSNBC political analyst.  We‘re glad to have

her here tonight.  Joe Conason, welcome back.  He‘s a political reporter

for the “New York Observer.” 

Joe, it‘s great to have you on.  I‘m going to start with you.  The

news up in New York has been blistering now for months.  What is it that

has lead, for example, the “New York Times”—I‘m always skeptical of

motive.  Excuse me for that.  I don‘t think all journalism is objective. 

Why they have been pounding this guy.  Is it because of what he did or did

he vote wrong on something? 

JOE CONASON, “NEW YORK OBSERVER”:  Well, Chris, I think it was

journalism.  I think they found a legitimate story on Congressman Rangel,

which is that he seemed to have done a favor originally for somebody who

was contributing money to a school named in his honor at City College. 

That was the original story, ran on the front page of the Times.  I think

it was a legitimate story.

It‘s a story that‘s not too different similar types of stories that

have come up over the last few years about Trent Lott, for instance, when

he was Majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Majority

Leader, who has actually taken checks from an outfit named after him at the

University of Louisville. 

MATTHEWS:  So is this vanity behavior?  What would you say if you

had to do a morality play?  Is it money grabbing or is it greed?  Or is it

vanity?  Or is it using your office to get more plaudits? 

CONASON:  It‘s hubris, Chris.  It‘s a common ailment among what we

call the old bulls down there, people who have been in power a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it a firing offense, from your perspective as a


CONASON:  Look, I think it would be if it were treated fairly.  In

other words, if everybody who did this kind of thing that calls into

question their ethics were called on the carpet for it, yes.  I can

imagine, however, Congressman Rangel feeling that there‘s some double

standard here, because Republicans have done the same thing and nobody has

bothered them about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Michelle? 


makes—he looks like a broken man.  The whole thing makes me sad.  It‘s

journalism.  It‘s a valid story.  But just to have to watch this play out -

Charlie Rangel is so beloved in New York.  The Congressional Black Caucus

had been waiting for this moment for many, many years.  But he didn‘t have

a choice.  He had to step aside.  The president, the Democratic party—

and he‘s a member of the Democratic party - have so much at risk.  And

Republicans were calling for his head.  This is the better way of power. 

MATTHEWS:  The problem, it seems to me, watching it as a journalist

I‘ve always liked Charlie Rangel.  I‘ll be honest.  I feel like recusing

myself from this discussion, because I‘ve known him and really loved the

guy for years.  Let me just go this: the problem he faces is the facts

right now.  New information, Joe, keeps coming out—let‘s be brutal here

checking accounts of 500K in each one, had not been disclosed.  Now,

Congress has the unique responsibility, unlike an average person filing on

April 15th, tax return, and having to pay regular returns if you get

different kinds of income—they also have to be completely straight in

terms of what they have, their assets.  Most of us don‘t have to do that. 

You have to list your assets.  He hasn‘t been doing it accurately. 

Your thoughts on that, Joe?  Is that just going to pound away like a

Chinese water torture on this guy, to use a metaphor? 

CONASON:  I think he stepped down and the Speaker encouraged him to

step down, as well as probably other colleagues, as much as I‘m sure they

all love Charlie Rangel, because there was nothing good to look forward to

here for him.  He had big problems and everybody knew it. 

BERNARD:  You know, he had big—

MATTHEWS:  Should he plan to stick around or go become a professor

at NYU or something? 

I‘m serious.  I think a lot of these guys would be better off just

stepping aside at a certain, before you get into these problems that are

not exactly criminal, but they are problems. 

BERNARD:  They are problems.  And, quite frankly, if anyone finds

out that in doing these investigation, that he‘s done anything that reaches

to the level of criminal conduct, he‘s out of there.  The problem with

Democrats is what happen if Stark actually comes in and takes his place. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to talk about Stark.  That‘s a whole other

story.  Pete Stark is a piece of work, which we‘re all going to be

learning.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard.  Thank you, Joe.  Welcome back,

Joe.  It‘s good to have you on.  It‘s always good to have you on. 

When we return, we‘re going to have some thoughts—I‘m going to

have some thoughts about why President Obama is dead right on health care

reform.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight on a topic that‘s dominated this

capital city for months now.  It won‘t surprise anyone who watches this

program regularly that I agree with the president on health care.  He says

we need reform and I believe he‘s right.  We can argue endlessly about how

to do it, how far to go, and may never reach agreement.  The important

thing is to get off the dime.

Look, if you or I get into a car accident, and we‘re lying out there

on the pavement, we still have hope.  We hope and even trust that an

ambulance is coming, and we‘ll get wheeled into a emergency room where the

doctors and nurses will do their best to save us.  The same is true if we

have a heart attack or a stroke.

We have this hope because, with all our cowboy individualism in this

country, we know, when it comes down to it, bad things happen, and no

matter how tough we are, we need a doctor, and need one bad, and we get


But today we use our emergency rooms as clinics for people who can‘t

afford doctors, who sit for hours in our ERs because our hospitals can‘t

turn away a person in need. 

Look, I‘m for national health reform because I believe we need to

grow up as a country.  We need to get adults enrolled in an insurance

program.  We need to begin sharing the cost of health care among the

healthy and the not so healthy, the young and the not so young. 

We need to start acting like Americans, responsible citizens who are

willing to insist on our taking responsibility for our health care to the

full extent of our ability. 

We can make changes as we go along.  We can add a public option at

some point.  The important thing is to grow up and put away the childish

notion that if we‘re really lucky, we‘re never going to need a doctor, and

if anything happen, we can take care of ourself. 

Well, the president says we need health care reform and the

president is right. 

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




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