updated 1/19/2011 12:38:59 PM ET 2011-01-19T17:38:59

Guests: Trish Regan, Sam Stein, Jeanne Cummings, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Tom DeLay,

Loretta Sanchez, John Feehery

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Kill bill.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight, the health kick.  It‘s called the job-killing health bill.  Which one would that be?  Well, it‘s the bill passed by the Congress last year and signed by the president, and this coming Wednesday, the Republican majority in the House will vote to repeal it.  Neither Tucson nor rhetoric nor gloom of tragedy will stay these Republicans from the swift completion of their appointed rounds to destroy what President Obama has achieved.  What Obama has joined together, let Republicans tear asunder.  That‘s our top story tonight.

All of this comes at a time when President Obama is suddenly looking more like a national leader, a big one.  His approval rating is up, and he‘s crushing all Republican rivals in a brand-new poll, especially one former governor from Alaska.  Our strategists will get at that and what it means for the fights ahead tonight.

Plus, Tom DeLay, remember him?  Used to be one of the most feared players in politics.  Now he‘s fighting a conviction on money laundering.  He says he‘s the victim of a politically-driven court.  Tom DeLay is here tonight to smash the case against him.

Also, some are talking of getting rid of that aisle in the Congress during the State of the Union—you know, the one that separates Democrats from Republicans down the middle?  Will the aisle stand or fall?

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with the hopes of Dr. King.  He‘d be 82 years old tomorrow.  Do we still get judged by the color of our skin?  Does this president?

Let‘s start with the attempt to undo the president‘s prime achievement of this year.  Sam Stein is White House correspondent for the Huffington Post and Jean Cummings is the assistant managing editor for Politico.

Jeanne, I want you to start with this whole decision.  They called it off for just a week.  They‘re coming back, but they‘re still calling it the job-killing health care bill.  Explain the way that they fine-tuned the tone here, or are they off tone?

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO.COM:  Well, there are some Republicans who would prefer to rename it in light of what happened in Tucson, but apparently, they‘re not willing to go quite that far.  I do think, though, that we will see a change in tone.  It‘s a message that Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants are taking with them to Baltimore this weekend for the Republican House retreat.  And they will be telling their members to raise issues of substance and to explain why policy in the bill is wrong for the country and that that‘s the reason it should be repealed.  So what we‘re going to see is a health care debate that we really haven‘t seen so far—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CUMMINGS:  -- because the most—every other health care debate we‘ve seen has been full of the sort of incendiary accusations and characterizations of it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s almost like whatever he does is no good.  Let‘s kill it because it‘s his.

Here‘s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s spokesperson talking today.  Quote, “It is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end, we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week.”

Sam, it seems to me that it is a big question.  So much of this attack on Obama has been ad hominem, directed at the person of the president, whether it‘s somebody—some cracker out on the right calling him—some birther type who says he‘s not an American, or it‘s somebody a little more sophisticated but basically saying he‘s a socialist.

Will this be on the merits of the bill?  Will they stay off the personal, is it your hunch coming into Wednesday‘s vote?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  I mean, I think it‘s going to be on the merits of the bill.  But you know, we have to consider the fact that this is all theater.  No one actually expects that this is going to go anywhere.  It will pass the House and die in the Senate.  So this is going to be taken care of pretty quickly.  And then I think in a couple months, we‘re actually going to get to the real debate, which is over whether or not they‘re going to fund key measures of this bill.  That‘s the actual substance there.  This is basically Kabuki theater designed to please the Tea Partiers.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at some of these people coming into Congress.  Dan Quayle‘s son is a now member of Congress, and here‘s what he‘s saying about this week.  Quote—his name‘s Ben.  Of course, he‘s a new member of Congress from out in Arizona.  “I think it‘s important that the discourse between one another can be one of ideas.  We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Well, that‘s a rather banal way of putting anything.  It‘s so banal, but you have to question where this guy‘s coming from.  Here‘s where he‘s coming from.  Here‘s his campaign ad that got him into office so he could talk like this.  Let‘s listen to what he has to say here in his ad that got him into office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN QUAYLE (R-AZ), CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS:  Barack Obama is the worst president in history, and my generation will inherit a weakened country.  Someone has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Jeanne, he comes off as a knucklehead.  I mean, I‘m sorry, that‘s an ad of a knucklehead.  The look is zombie-like, weirdly, weird-looking, the way he‘s presenting himself to the camera.  Then he says this total historic statement, like he‘s a student of history.  Who‘s this, Richard Hofstadter?  The worst president in history?  Has he gone through each presidency?  Has he examined the merits and demerits of each president and come to this cosmic solution, or is he just an idiot?

And I‘m serious about that.  Making comments like he‘s the worst president in history when he‘s been in office about a year-and-a-half is not a serious comment by anybody.  Got him elected, though, in probably a right-wing district.  And now he‘s coming off as some sort of, I don‘t know, papal peacemaker, saying I think it‘s important the discourse between one another be one of ideas.  Can we agree without—or disagree without being disagreeable?  Are we to believe this talk?

CUMMINGS:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne Cummings?

CUMMINGS:  -- Chris, the point—

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to believe a guy like this—are we to believe a person who got elected like this is serious about serious discourse and deliberation?

CUMMINGS:  I think none of this is going to last.  We will revert to business as usual.  And I think one of the reasons is we have to look at why the rhetoric got out of control.  And really, it‘s on both sides.  Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, became famous because of the things he said in the well that were controversial.  And that is—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he‘s gone.

CUMMINGS:  He‘s gone.  He got beat.  But—

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) fortunately gone, you might argue.  But he‘s gone.

CUMMINGS:  True, but there are others.  And that‘s the point.  I mean, the reason the rhetoric gets so intense is because it gets attention.  It‘s satisfying—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

CUMMINGS:  -- to get headlines.  You know, it‘s a place of 435 people, how do you stand out?  This is one way that they can.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

CUMMINGS:  And if they have a nice—if they have a nice, thoughtful debate, it may not be very satisfying for them.

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, you‘re a straight reporter.  I have great respect for your reporting, great respect.  But you are suggesting that this is even-handed, that the ferocity of the attack from the right has been equaled by the ferocity from the left.  If that were the case, why are the people all this week saying we ought to be able to be ferocious in our speech?  The republicans on the far right—not even Republicans, the far righters saying, Don‘t get in the way of our ferocious attacks and rhetoric.

Let‘s take a look at the worst breach of etiquette I‘ve come across in years.  Here‘s Joe Wilson‘s famous outburst, from South Carolina, during a presidential address to Congress.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants.  This too is false.  The reforms—the reforms I‘m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  You lie!

OBAMA:  Not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne?  Is there anything commensurate to that from the left?  I can‘t think of anything from the left that‘s been as atrociously improper as that comment during a meeting of the president with the Congress.

CUMMINGS:  I‘ll agree with you that that was way over the top.  But there are plenty of times we could go back and look at footage of President Bush giving his State of the Union, and the Democrats did not sit politely in their seats and clap.  They reacted in ways that were sometimes, you know, over the top.  It showed the fact that they didn‘t agree.

STEIN:  No screamed out, You lie,” though.

CUMMINGS:  No, they did not.  That is—I said from the beginning, that one takes us to a new level, I‘ll grant you that.

MATTHEWS:  What I am surprised by is the overt nature of the defense of ferocious speech by the right this past week.  I mean, not just—I mean, I listen to Fox.  I listen to people arguing.  It seems like they‘re defending atrocious behavior.  Why are they doing that, Jeanne?

CUMMINGS:  Why are they defending it?  Well, with the talk show hosts, I mean, it‘s their livelihood, for heaven‘s sakes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s—

CUMMINGS:  I mean, they want to hang onto the right—

MATTHEWS:  -- an acute comment.

STEIN:  -- to be able to do that.  And you know, it‘s how they get—by being more and more controversial, they get more and more people listening to them.  They get a lot of attention.  Of course, they want to protect that.  But you know, again, you‘re going to accuse me of wishy-washy here, but—

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m accusing you of a straight analysis.  But I think

sometimes, you‘re missing some of the disequilibrium here.  I do think that

well, let me go back to Sam.  I hear a lot of surprisingly harsh language from people like Palin, Governor Palin, saying, Hey, look, we used to have duels.  This is nothing.  What a strange reference point, skipping back 100 -- going back to Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, although she skipped past Zell Miller, who said to me he wished he could have a duel with me, the great Zell Miller.  And I don‘t knock him, but he did do that to me, Sam.

STEIN:  Sure.  Well, they‘re originalists, right?  No, I mean, listen, I think a big part of the conservative ethos is that they constantly feel like they‘re being told what to do, they‘re being told what‘s out of bounds, they‘re being told what‘s PC and what‘s not PC, and they say, Screw it.  They don‘t want to be told that.

And I think they get a lot of—Jeanne‘s right.  You get a lot of fund-raising attention.  You get a lot of publicity if you‘re a little bit out there.  And I think they want to defend their ability to be out there.  I think they feel like the liberal media, for what it‘s worth, has told them that they‘ve been off base with respect to the Arizona shooting, and they‘re—you know, they don‘t want to take it sitting down.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get really smart now in looking ahead, Jeanne.  The Republicans have to get rid of health care.  They need to get a good vote this week to make their case on Wednesday to knock it down in the House just to make the point.  How can they do that and at the same time not seem to revert to the worst kind of ferocity?

CUMMINGS:  Well, I think, Chris, that—as I said earlier, this debate on Wednesday may, indeed, not be very satisfying for some because they have to take the vote.  They promised to take the vote.  They will.  As Sam said, it‘s just—it doesn‘t matter.  It‘s theater.

But it would have been for them, I think, a lot more satisfying

theater if they could have dragged out all of those campaign lines that

they honed so nicely out there when they were before the Tea Party

audiences.  And you know, I think it‘s going to be really—it could be

boring, you know, that they‘re going to say, Well, you know, I‘m opposed to

--

MATTHEWS:  The worst thing you can be!

CUMMINGS:  -- provision blah, blah, blah.

STEIN:  This is the problem, right, that—

MATTHEWS:  Hey, Jeanne, you‘re great.  Thank you so much—Jeanne, so much.  Great for (ph) having you on.  And Sam, of course.

Coming up: President Obama is enjoying a small but real bump in the polls.  If you look at the latest numbers, he‘s well above—well, he‘s significantly above 50 now.  He‘s beating potential rivals, by the way, big time.  Palin‘s down to about 30 against him.  These are huge advantages he‘s getting right now, at least.  So what does it mean for the big battles ahead?  Is it going to help him win battles?  Our strategists, left and right, coming here next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas says she will not run for reelection this year.  That‘s a big development.  Hutchinson, who challenged Governor Rick Perry last year unsuccessfully—lost the Republican nomination—has served four terms in the United States Senate.  That‘s 24 years.  Her decision not to run, coupled with the state‘s burgeoning Hispanic population, is giving Texas Democrats hope that they can actually win a seat down there.  But in the deep red Lone Star State, winning may prove to be a Texas-sized challenge for the Dems.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Back to HARDBALL.  Republicans may have a tough time undoing President Obama‘s agenda now that his poll numbers are improving—may.  Pollster.com‘s average has his approval up by 2 points since November, to 47.5.  Some polls, they Associated Press, for example, has him above—significantly above 50, at 53 percent.  And a new McClatchy Marist poll has him trouncing potential opponents in the 2012 match-ups.  By the way, Bill O‘Reilly went to Marist.  That poll has him at 51 to 38 over Mitt Romney—

51-38 over Romney, the front runner.  It‘s got him beating Mike Huckabee by 12 points.  And it‘s got a real build-up against Governor Palin, beating her by 26, 56 to 30.  What does it all mean for the Republicans‘ plans to dismantle this man‘s achievements?

Let‘s turn to our strategists to get a look at the lay of the land, Steve McMahon, sir, and Todd Harris.  You‘re always smiling, Todd!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I could put numbers up on that board and you‘d just be thinking Marco Rubio!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve always got some little victory you just won.  And you‘re in business for yourself now.  So let me ask you this.  Put it together, the dynamic, connection between his coming back, his good success out there on a nonpartisan basis, but it‘s good politics, how he‘s put together the coalition, the bipartisan deal since election day.  How‘s that advance his ability to deal with Congress in a position of strength?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, I think the president probably got a little bit of a bump out of the lame duck session. 

Certainly, the speech he gave the other night—you know, that showcases

the ability of a president to use their bully pulpit to kind of rally the

nation.  So he may get some bump there.  But I wouldn‘t read too much into

any of these numbers.  The fact is, if you look at this Marist poll,

they‘re polling adults.  When you look at polls leading up to an election -

-

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Think they should poll children, Todd?

HARRIS:  You should be—

MATTHEWS:  Explain that to the people watching.

HARRIS:  Oh, sure.  Sure.  When you poll likely voters, most likely voters, when you have that screen, they tend to be more conservative.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HARRIS:  When you‘re only polling adults, you‘re going to be grabbing

people who can give you their opinion, but they have absolutely no interest

--

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) registered voters—

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Todd‘s now grabbing straws.

HARRIS:  Oh, no!

MATTHEWS:  No, that is B.S.!  You know there‘s—

HARRIS:  For God‘s sakes!

MATTHEWS:  Adults is always a good number for Democrats because it includes people that aren‘t even interested in politics.

MCMAHON:  But Chris, there‘s a preponderance of the evidence that all shows the same thing.  The president—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a lawyer, aren‘t you.

MCMAHON:  No.  Well, I am a lawyer, but I don‘t play one on television.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  But there‘s a whole bunch of evidence.

HARRIS:  This argument is capricious and arbitrary.

MCMAHON:  Every single poll you look at shows the president ticking up.  And I think what you‘re seeing here is the effect of two things.  The first is—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right, by the way.

MCMAHON:  Thank you.  I usually am.

MATTHEWS:  Right on the facts.

MCMAHON:  Well, thank you.  But if you look at every poll, he‘s ticking up.  Directionally, he‘s doing much better.  If you look at every single poll, the Republican competitive set is ticking down and his lead is expanding.  And I think you haven‘t even seen numbers come in from the other night because they haven‘t been reflected yet.  And I believe that he was presidential and I think that he was—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

MCMAHON:  -- inspirational for people.  And I think his numbers are going to go up (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  We have two big events coming up this week, Todd, the big vote on Wednesday, when the Republicans are going to probably in the House vote to repeal, and that‘s going to probably happen.  We agree?

HARRIS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  They‘ll get the—it won‘t go anywhere because the Senate will never agree and president will certainly not sign his own, you know, elimination of his major historic achievement.  The other big night, some night next week, I think it‘s Monday night, Sarah Palin at 9:00 o‘clock is going to go on the home team.  She‘s going to go visit the home court.

HARRIS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s going to Sean Hannity.  It‘s sort of an infomercial.  It‘ll be like Victoria Jackson selling make-up foundations to whoever, you know, Elizabeth Baxter Birney or somebody, one of those ads.  It‘s not going to be a real interview because he‘s not going to be tough on her.  They‘re colleagues at FOX.  Why is she going on television to do this soft landing?  I guess I‘m answering my own question.

HARRIS:  I have no problem with her doing—

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t she cool it for a month?

HARRIS:  I have no problem with her doing the Hannity interview.  The problem is she‘s missing a real opportunity if that‘s all she does.  As we saw in the video—

MATTHEWS:  OK, Sean will ask her about the “blood libel” comment, which drives a lot of Jewish people and people who know history crazy.  The very fact she‘s going to have to answer the question of why she used a phrase like that, she‘ll come up with some contortion of how she used it.  And then Sean will say, Oh, I get it now, or something—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And it‘ll be a headline in all the wires and on all the blogs on Tuesday.  She will have achieved nothing because it won‘t work.  She can‘t get out of those Chinese handcuffs she put herself into.

HARRIS:  I don‘t know what he‘s going to say or what she‘s going to say.  What I have said repeatedly over the last several days is that she‘s missing a real opportunity to speak to a broader American audience.  I thought she missed that opportunity in the video the other day.  And by not expanding who she‘s talking to beyond—

MATTHEWS:  The paranoids.

HARRIS:  Beyond—well, no.  Look, I like Sean Hannity.  I like that show.

MATTHEWS:  No, he‘s not paranoid, but why does she always choose that audience of people who believe they‘re set upon?

HARRIS:  Well, I think it‘s a mistake.

MCMAHON:  Listen, I think—I think she‘s missing an opportunity to speak to a broader segment of the American people for a very, very long time.  And I think she‘s actually going in the opposite direction and she‘s speaking to a narrower and narrower and more and more paranoid group.

I mean, Sarah Palin is the only person on Earth who could put a target on 22 congressional districts, including Gabby Giffords‘, and then—and then watch what happened last weekend, and come on, pop up three days later and claim to be the victim.  I mean, she claimed to be the victim.  It‘s ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, here‘s the question.

Steve Schmidt, who was her campaign manager back—or campaign manager for John McCain back in the last election, 2008, which is not 100 years ago, said she doesn‘t know anything.  That was his great line.  She doesn‘t know anything.  I think that‘s sort of an assumption most people make.  She‘s not well-educated in terms of basics of American history, American life, that you normally would have as part of your sort of backpack when you go into politics. 

You ought to know American history.  You ought to know the history of the presidency, the history of American law, the basic stuff.  There‘s an assumption, which I share, she doesn‘t.  Why hasn‘t she spent the last two years studying, say, an advanced placement course for American history, just getting the basics down, finding out that the language we use like blood libel and things like—or being careful to use only language that she‘s familiar with?  Why is she still popping off was my question, popping off?

HARRIS:  Well, nobody one knows what her end goal is.  Look, if she wants to—

MATTHEWS:  If she wants to be president—

HARRIS:  Well, if she wants to be president, I think she‘s going in the wrong direction.  If she wants to double down on what she‘s already managed to create and continue to hold sway and to make money, she‘s doing exactly the right thing, because she‘s solidifying her position with people who love her. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t she selling yahoo?

HARRIS:  Selling what?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yahoo, like:  I don‘t know anything.  There‘s a lot of well-educated people that live in the country.  There‘s a lot of well-educated conservatives, obviously, in this country, maybe as many as there are liberals.

But the fact is, she doesn‘t want to be one of them.  Why doesn‘t she want to be educated with the basics? 

HARRIS:  I have long since stopped trying to predict or even sometimes to understand what she‘s going to do.  I don‘t think—

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton, with all his education, spends an hour a day studying the world economy, because he talks about it.  He feels that it‘s his responsibility, if he‘s going to be a leader, even without a portfolio, to know what he‘s talking about. 

HARRIS:  Look, I will say this. 

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t she want to know what she‘s talking about? 

HARRIS:  I don‘t know.  I think that she‘s missed a huge—

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  Hold on.  Hold on.  I think she‘s missed a huge opportunity this past week.

But, at the same time, I think it‘s absurd for anyone to point a finger at her and say that you were somehow—that she was somehow culpable or responsible. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Nobody said that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  No one is saying that, Todd.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  She‘s the only person who is saying that people are saying that.  She‘s the only person who is saying that people are saying that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  And she went on and she did the blood libel thing.  No one else did that -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  She‘s the person that is claiming to be the victim here.

HARRIS:  This Eric Fuller guy, who—

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  People were shot and killed, and Sarah Palin is claiming to be a victim. 

HARRIS:  Look, I agree she handled it terribly.

MATTHEWS:  One of the guys who—yes.

HARRIS:  This Eric Fuller, one of the guys who was shot—and it‘s terrible what happened to him—but he went onto a Democratic—

MATTHEWS:  What network does he speak for?

HARRIS:  He went onto a Democratic Web site and said, this is exactly what happens when you have got people like John Boehner in charge.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  My problem with Sarah Palin about this, constantly mentioning bullets and guns and ammo and bullseyes and reload and all that language in this country I don‘t think is helpful.  I don‘t think it‘s a good thing. 

Roosevelt, one of our heroes, and I think yours, too—

HARRIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS: -- said, don‘t mention rope in a family where there‘s been a hanging. 

Why is she still doing it? 

HARRIS:  Well, I don‘t know.  But she certainly doesn‘t have a monopoly on that sort of Marshall imagery in symbolism, in politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ballistic.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  As President Obama—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s not the only one sticking to her guns.  We can‘t get even away from this language. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Steve McMahon.

In all fairness, thank you, Todd Harris.

HARRIS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Congratulations.  You keep doing well.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the Republican National Committee has a new chairman.  It just happened.  His name is Reince Priebus.  He won the balloting this afternoon after seven rounds of voting. 

Priebus, the Wisconsin State Party chair, beat four opponents, including the incumbent, and our favorite, Michael Steele, who we hope to have on this Monday, by the way.

Michael, don‘t let us down.  We need you.  The Republican leadership may not want you, but we like you. 

HARDBALL returns after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First up: an unfortunate slip of the tongue.  Republican Mary Fallin was sworn in this week as the new governor of Oklahoma.  There‘s just one hitch.  Instead of promising in her oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution, she promised to support, obey and offend it. 

Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MARY FALLIN ®, OKLAHOMA:  I, Mary Fallin—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- do solemnly swear—

FALLIN: -- do solemnly swear—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that I will support, obey and defend—

FALLIN: -- that I will support, obey and offend—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the Constitution of the United States. 

FALLIN: -- the Constitution of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she looks nice.  Anyway, Fallin‘s person, her spokesperson, blamed it on the cold weather. 

The Associated Press, by the way, looked up what happened before in this regard.  It turns out that two American presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur, had to do a redo of their oaths because of similar slip-ups.  President Obama, by the way, had to do his oath over again because the chief justice made a stumble himself. 

Moving from Oklahoma to New Jersey, Chris Christie blows the sale.  The Republican rising star told a town hall yesterday that health costs—health care costs—quote—“will bankrupt New Jersey.”  That‘s right, bankrupt his state, a very powerful word, that word, in financial circles. 

Bloomberg News reports that, 20 minutes after Christie made that statement about a bankrupt New Jersey, the state treasury was forced to slash one of its bond offering by more than a half, half its value, a loss of 712 -- well, $712 million.  Christie‘s office denies that there was a connection between the two.

Anyway, finally, Rush Limbaugh misses the moment.  Political voices from both sides called for unity in wake of the Tucson tragedy, not El Rushbo.  He actually stepped up the attacks.  Here he Rush on Tuesday talking about the shooter, Jared Loughner. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country.  He‘s sitting there in jail.  He knows what‘s going on. 

He knows that a Democrat Party, the Democrat Party, is attempting to find anybody but him to blame.  He knows, if he plays his cards right, he‘s just a victim.  He‘s the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Reductio ad nauseam.

Anyway, first, Rush, the correct form of the adjective is Democratic.  Secondly, the Democratic Party isn‘t giving Jared Loughner, the accused killer, any backing, legal, moral or otherwise. 

Reductio ad nauseam.

Up next:  Tom DeLay was convicted of money-laundering and sentenced to

three years in prison.  We will talk to the Hammer, as he was called, Tom -

Tom—there he is—Tom DeLay next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending at multiyear highs on strong earnings news out of JPMorgan, the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 55 points, the S&P adding on nine.  That‘s seven straight winning weeks for the Dow and the S&P.  And the Nasdaq, meantime, gaining 20 points. 

Surprisingly strong earnings from J.P. Morgan boosting all the big banks today slated to report earnings next week.  Financials have really been driving this market recently, especially now that J.P. Morgan is talking about reinstating its dividend.  Investors like the sound of that.

Intel slumping a bit here today, despite those record revenues posted after the closing bell on Thursday.  But take a look at the rest of the semiconductor sector here: solid gains for Novellus, Altera, and a slew of others.  Insurer AIG skidding more than 5 percent after wrapping up its recapitalization, leaving the government with a 92 percent stake. 

And bookseller Borders soaring 30 percent on reports it is close to finding the financing it needs to stay afloat. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On Monday, a Texas judge sentenced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to three years in prison for illegally conspiring to launder corporate political donations to candidates in his state, Texas, of course. 

Mr. DeLay joins us now from Houston. 

Briefly, Mr. DeLay, Congressman, can you tell us what you think was the misapplication of law here? 

TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, first of all, Chris, it‘s great to see you again.  I have been a little busy. 

Well, using the criminal code to enforce the election code has never been done before in the entire United States.  And that‘s what this is.  There‘s no crime here.  They are accusing me of money-laundering.  But you have to have proceeds from criminal activity in order to launder money. 

All we did was elect Republicans.  We created a political action committee legally, raised corporate funds legally, took those corporate funds and sent them to the Republican National Committee legally.  They took them and spent them in states where they could be used legally.  And they took individually raised money, legal, and sent it to elections in Texas.  No corporate funds ever got to elections in Texas. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Texas capable of a fair trial? 

DELAY:  I mean, this is amazing.  What‘s the crime?

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t know about your case and whether you‘re innocent or not of the way—I don‘t—I understand your argument.  It sounds reasonable to me that they misapplied a law that was made to drug dealers, threw it at you, and used a conspiracy angle to get you.  I understand that. 

But my question is, why would the court system operate this way?  Why would a judge, why would a jury believe that you were guilty of a crime, if you aren‘t?  Why would they all be wrong?  All 12 jurors, or whatever, a judge, are they all in this—is there some kind of conspiracy on their part, do you believe? 

DELAY:  No, it‘s not about the jury.  It‘s about the law. 

The prosecution, which is a rogue prosecution that indicted me on laws that didn‘t even exist in Texas, presented their case, and spent nine days and 33 witnesses, and never brought one shred of evidence of wrongdoing or money-laundering. 

They printed—presented their entire case around the corruption of politics, the corruption of raising money, millions of money, politicians flying around in private planes, lobbyists and all the stuff -- 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.    

DELAY: -- and played to the emotion of the jury, that this guy has got to be corrupt, so put him in prison. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you were tied up with people that are not exactly—

Mike Scanlon and Abramoff especially.  I saw the movie.  They—and you were sort of the dupe of these guys.  You were out there playing golf in Scotland on their paycheck.  It was a junket.

You looked like these guys were manipulating you, as a member of Congress.  They look like criminals.  You look like you were being their fool.  That‘s the way it looks in the movie. 

(CROSSTALK)

DELAY:  Chris, you have been around politics long enough to know that that movie is a crock. 

I went to England to meet with Margaret Thatcher and conservatives in England.  And, yes, I went over and played golf in Scotland, all of it legal, all of it within the rules of the House.  And I didn‘t go with Scanlon.

MATTHEWS:  Why were you hanging around with Jack Abramoff?  Why were you hanging around with Jack Abramoff?  He looks like a complete sleazeball.  I don‘t care how inaccurate the movie was.  There‘s nothing good about the guy.  He‘s going to prison.  He served a number of years in prison. 

Was he guilty of a crime, do you think? 

DELAY:  Chris, the FBI investigated me for five years.  I gave them everything that I had.  They found nothing, and I was charged with nothing.  I‘m not going to discuss Abramoff. 

I have been found guilty on not committing a crime.  I have been sentenced to three years, Chris.  This is serious stuff.  Imagine being caught up in a justice system, and you have no chance to win, when decisions are made before you even get to present your case. 

MATTHEWS:  Well—

DELAY:  You have a rogue district attorney that used six grand juries before he could get a grand jury just sworn in to indict me.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that sounds right to me.  Who was that guy that was chasing you around there, the Democratic DA that kept chasing you all over the place down there?  Who was that guy? 

DELAY:  Ronnie Earle. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ronnie Earle.  Well, he seemed like the problem to me. 

Is there a problem in the justice system in Texas, your state?  Is it corrupt?  Is it screwed up?  Is there something wrong with juries and judges in Texas?  Is it all political down there? 

DELAY:  There‘s something wrong when you—when—well, when you have a rogue district attorney that abuses his power, there‘s no accountability for district attorneys.  You can‘t sue them.  They have immunity.

And when you have got a political hack like Ronnie Earle, he‘s done this to Democrats and Republican enemies.  He did it to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

MATTHEWS:  If I were you, I would look up Alan Dershowitz.  I would go to Alan Dershowitz—I don‘t know what his party label is—up in Harvard Law.  He‘s an appellate expert.  I would go to him. 

Let me ask you about some other political things, because you are the expert on political—do you think it makes sense to let members of Congress, like Gohmert, your guy Louie Gohmert from Texas—he may be one of the guys you helped get elected—I don‘t know—but Gohmert believes you should walk around the floor of the House of Representatives with a gun. 

Do you think that‘s appropriate?  He wants to pass a law to change—to have gun-wearing in the House of Representatives.  Is that going to add to our political process? 

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY:  Well, if you feel threatened by being on the floor of the House, you ought to be able to wear a gun.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would you feel threatened without a—there‘s nobody in the galleries.  They all go through metal detectors.  Who would you be afraid of? 

DELAY:  Well, you ought to have the freedom to protect yourself, no matter where you are, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys are amazing. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, what‘s the argument for having a gun on the floor of the House of Representatives, when you are debating the issues of the government and country‘s future and law, and debating what laws we should have, you‘re debating what our foreign policy should be, and someone ought to have a holstered gun next to you debating you—why?

DELAY:  Because you have nuts.  Remember, I had a nut come into my office and shoot up my office and kill one of my best friends who was my security officer.  I would have loved to have had a gun on me at that particular time.  Believe me.

MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re with the gunslingers?

DELAY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You got Chaffetz out of Utah, you got Heath Shuler in North Carolina—both are saying they‘re going to work around carrying guns now when they meet with their constituents.

DELAY:  If I had a town meeting and was still in Congress, I would invite all of the Texans that have a concealed weapons license to come to my town meeting and I‘d advertise it.  Because the person that wanted to come shoot me would have to think once again about committing suicide and walking into my town hall meeting and trying to shoot it up.

MATTHEWS:  You know—

DELAY:  I‘d feel more safe with people there with concealed license.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m very friendly with you and I really do hope you get out of this thing.  But let me tell you something, you know you sound crazy to people that come from where I come from.  You know, we think you‘re all (INAUDIBLE) wearing big hats talking about wearing big guns and we think there‘s something weird about you.

Why would you want to carry a gun into a restaurant, into a bar?  What is this, Dodge City?

DELAY:  This is we and Washington D.C.  Chris, get out of Washington.  Come down to Texas.  You‘ll find people are pretty sharp around here in Texas.

MATTHEWS:  But, you guys—no, but you don‘t understand, Congressman DeLay.  You want to bring guns into the floor of the House and walk around -- would you like to have 435 members of the House and Senate wearing guns?  Would that be a better country?  I‘m serious.

DELAY:  I don‘t care.  I don‘t care.  I wouldn‘t care a bit.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re laughing—you‘re laughing like a car bomber.  I mean, why is this funny?  I don‘t understand.  You guys—there‘s a culture war here.  I admit, it‘s different.  I come from, you know, the suburbs and cities, and we don‘t walk around and carrying guns and we don‘t wear big hats and spurs and—

DELAY:  Come on.  Come down to Texas.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Good luck in your case.  I mean that sincerely, Mr. DeLay.  I hope you get a good honest jury and you got a good appellate situation where you can make your case.

DELAY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: some members of Congress think that finding or ending, rather, the divided seating—see how they look, there‘s a little aisle down the middle.  They want to get rid of the aisle, at least during the State of the Union, so that people can see an intermingling of both Democrats and Republicans.  At least it will feel less partisan.  It‘s a nice idea.

Does it make sense and does have it a chance?

On Monday, by the way, join us for a special edition of HARDBALL.  It‘s a big one.  “Obama‘s America,” sort of a look back over two years at how the president and our country has done with Obama as president and this administration.  That‘s Monday at 7:00 Eastern, right here on HARDBALL.  Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, former President Bill Clinton is going to campaign for his buddy Rahm Emanuel out in Chicago this Tuesday despite calls from some African-American leaders for the former president to stay out of the mayor‘s race because there‘s another candidate there, Carol Moseley Braun.  City leaders including rival mayoralty candidate Braun say Clinton stands to risk the respect of the city‘s African-American community by showing up.  We‘ll see.  I think they‘ll forgive him.

Rahm is running, by the way, for mayor after serving as President Obama‘s White House chief of staff.  I think there‘s a connection people will understand.  He also was a senior adviser in the Clinton administration.

But after the outcry over Clinton‘s endorsement, don‘t expect President Obama to campaign for his former chief of staff.  Well, we‘ll see.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Obama‘s State of the Union address, believe it or not, is only a week and a half away.  It‘s coming up on the 25th.

And one member of Congress has an idea to change the tone in the wake of last week‘s Arizona shooting.  Instead of Democrats sitting on one side of the aisle—you can see them there on the far side or actually this side—and Republicans sitting on the other side of the chamber which has been customary since forever, Colorado Senator Mark Udall, is a Democrat, wants his colleagues to mix it up a little bit as a sign of unity.

California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez supports that idea.  She joins us now from Anaheim.

I want to ask you about this idea before I get to the idea of whether people should have holstered guns walking around the floor and whether you want a hockey rink kind of fiberglass going around the ceiling there, too.

Let‘s talk about a more reasonable idea—mix it up, random seating, rush seating, no more left/right seating.  Your thoughts, Congresswoman?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, right now, you can actually sit wherever you like to.  It‘s traditional that Democrats sit in a particular way actually from the more conservative, which are along the middle of the chamber, to the more liberal towards the very, very left for example.  But, you know, Chris, I walk around that chamber all over.  I have friends all over.  Sometimes, I sit on the Republican side, sometimes on the Democratic side.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  But the State of the Union night, do you think it

would be good for Democrats to mix it up and go join some of their buds

from the other side of the aisle?  Or is this just -

SANCHEZ:  I think that would be fine.  I think it would be nice to see the senators come up and sit in the congressional seats, you know?

MATTHEWS:  Ooh.

SANCHEZ:  Maybe mix up the two chambers because they traditional just hang out in a little spot also.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they got that preferred seating up front.

By the way, isn‘t it fascinating?  You know, back when there were a lot of conservative Democrats, you pointed out about the fact that they tend to sit towards the middle.  These guys are something called, with no derogatory aspect, redneck row.  All the—these are Southern white Democrats, they all sit along the back of the chamber.

And they were quite proud of that.  They sat right near the edge of the aisle.  They‘re sort of like Republicans.  And then, of course—well, they all sat at different places.

But let me go—let me ask you about these other ideas.  Are these screw ball ideas?  Tom DeLay, which was just on, a former member who‘s got problems of his own, he‘s saying it‘s OK by him if members of Congress come into the chamber carrying guns.

SANCHEZ:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Does that add to their firepower politically?  Does that make their point?  I mean, Sarah Palin says taking up arms is a way of saying voting.  Would this be literal now?  You bring your gun to the chamber to make your point with your ID card?

           

SANCHEZ:  Chris, I think, I really believe that guns are not needed in the chamber.

MATTHEWS:  But why are people like screw balls—why are these people screw ball enough to say like this guy, Louie Gohmert, who‘s a birther, by the way, doesn‘t think the president is an American, how would you like to know there‘s a guy out there in the hallway with a gun who doesn‘t think you‘re an American while you give the State of the Union address?  You might keep your eye on that guy, wouldn‘t you?  Just guessing.

SANCHEZ:  Well, listen, when we‘re in the chamber, first of all, remember that—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is what‘s going on in your chamber.  These guys really are saying the president is not an American.  He wasn‘t born here.  And I want to carry a gun when I watch him talk.  This is truth.  This is what‘s going on today in the Congress.

SANCHEZ:  Well, you know, listen, Chris, I have been elected in the same way that each of my colleagues in that chamber have been elected.  You know, you have to have a lot of respect because it is difficult to win an election.  Otherwise, everybody who‘s on a news channel or something would probably be a Congress person.  Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘ve been so generous, Congresswoman.  Walk up to a guy—you walk up to the guy from Texas, he‘s got some 45 in his holster.  Do you ask him to take it out and show it to you?  That‘s a good-looking gun that you got there.  Can I take a look at it?  And you have a little conversation on the floor about his piece?

Is this what goes on now?  Is this what we‘re going to have in Congress?  Discussing each other‘s guns?

SANCHEZ:  I do not believe that you will see guns on the House floor. 

I absolutely do not believe -

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, this is just nonsense.  OK, good.

SANCHEZ:  -- a majority of the people on the floor.

MATTHEWS:  Louie Gohmert, congressman from Texas, anybody wants to write this character, he‘s real.  This isn‘t Festus Haggen, this guy really exists.  He‘s talking about bringing guns to Congress and he wants it to be a law.

So, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, you‘re totally sane and totally normal and a nice person.  I don‘t think that you understand what true insanity is about, but these people are talking about guns on the floor of the House, but I understand why you‘re being gentle.  Thank you for coming on and have a nice weekend.

SANCHEZ:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to John Feehery to get a voice from a staff guy who I respect.  You‘re a strategist.  You work here with Quinn Gillespie right now, and you‘re a top aide to Dennis Hastert the speaker.

Is this for real on your side of the aisle?  Are they really talking gun play, first of all?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I would not recommend bringing guns on the House floor.

MATTHEWS:  Why would they want to?

FEEHERY:  If you remember, right before the Civil War—

MATTHEWS:  See you how—you‘re dodging this.

FEEHERY:  Right before the Civil War, one member caned another—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s what we need, canes on the floor, too.

FEEHERY:  The idea that passions get out of control on the House floor is true, and I would not recommend bringing guns on the House floor.

MATTHEWS:  What are they going to say, smile when you say that, partner?

OK, let‘s talk about the more reasonable, perhaps more—perhaps lighthearted idea of ending the idea that we all grew up, different sides of the aisle.  The R‘s sat at one side.  I do see people walking across and say hello to each other.  I don‘t think it‘s gotten that weird.

But there is a real difference there when you watch the State of the Union and you look to see who applauds so that the president—the president will say something about health care, we‘re going to keep it going.  And you know the D‘s will stand-up and the Republicans will sit with their hands on their lap.  And then you‘ll see—somebody says something about tax cuts, and the Republicans will jump up.

FEEHERY:  Right.  I mean, I think—I think the point I would make is where you sit in the chamber does not change where you stand on issues.

MATTHEWS:  It doesn‘t?

FEEHERY:  So, this idea is a very nice idea.  It‘s not going to make -

lead to major change.  One point I would make, though, is if you do have people interspersed, it might take away some of the political theater which would actually make me—have people focus on the speech itself and not on all of these theatric.  The State of Union has become a cheerleading competition.

           

MATTHEWS:  It sure has.

FEEHERY:  And it‘s become—

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, women members now wear red.  You know all of the games that are played to get more attention for the cameras, different people, different tricks.  They sit in that center aisle, so they got their picture taken shaking hands with the president.  They sit for four hours do that.

FEEHERY:  A lot of members do that.  A lot of members do that.  You know, the fact of the matter is the House floor is a fascinating place to work and we both—

MATTHEWS:  I loved it.

FEEHERY:  And you have members all over.  You used to have the smoker‘s row in the back.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FEEHERY:  You have the Florida folks sitting at one point.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- caucus with the wet hair.

FEEHERY:  The Pennsylvania caucus, and the people sat all over the places, as Loretta Sanchez just said, during the State of the Union.

MATTHEWS:  You know what it‘s like?  It‘s like high school.

FEEHERY:  It‘s like high school and one thing I would say that Loretta Sanchez said, which was interesting to me, as a House person, I would love to have the Senate stop their preferential seating and have them back—have the House guys sit at the front because I love the House.

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you Democratic?

By the way, thank you, John Feehery.  Let the Democrat—let the House members sit at the front the People‘s House.  They should have their own House.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with whether America today has realized something with what Martin Luther King talked about in his great speech about his vision that would be judged not by the color of our skin but by deeper qualities.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with a man who would be 82 tomorrow

that‘s if he had not been gunned downed in the midst of his historic work.

           

Martin Luther King said that he look to the day that a person in this country would be judged not by the color of their skin.  Well, that was an extraordinarily deep call on the American conscience.  It sure was when he made that call.  Back then, we were a country where a person was routinely judged by the color of his or her skin.

So, here we are, living in a century that Martin himself never got to enter.  For him, the 21st century was like one of those lunch counters at which he was not allowed to sit.

When this great young man was killed at just 39 years of age, we were barely into the age of colored television sets.  Today, we live in a world of instant and broad communication among the hundreds of millions, billions of people on this earth—a time of vast economic independence and rivalry, a time when a person‘s education is everything, as far as their chances of landing on the right side of the digital divide, whether they‘re capable of competing economically or not.  And what a divide it is.

Just look at the movies out this year.  One is about the invention of Facebook, the other about boxing.  Talk about two worlds.  The world of the haves in terms of education, and the worlds of have-nots, who‘s best hope in life is to land a lucky punch at the other guy‘s kidneys.

So, are we there yet?  Is the division in America today more about education and therefore about class, than it is ethnic, racial, to use the old word?

Well, there was talk about the election of Barack Obama heralding a new post-racial society here.  Do we see it in two years in?  Do we think that we‘ve gotten past the time when a person, president, or anybody is just judged by—to use King‘s phrase, the color of their skin?

Well, I think for the vast majority of Americans, somewhat stunningly we have.  It was there this week.  I could see.  We could all see it.

This president and his wife in Tucson, we saw a president who is, to use the historic language black, speaking deliberately and prayerfully about the loss of life.  There was no mention of the ethnic aspects—because there was no reason to.  If the killings in Tucson were not about race, that old American subject simply did not get a mention, by anyone, right, left, or anywhere in this very wide, very public conversation.

That is notable.  It is important.  For the simple reason that no one talked about it is at least the beginning of something historic.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

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

           

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