updated 2/9/2011 7:18:08 PM ET 2011-02-10T00:18:08

Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Joan Walsh, David Corn, Ben Smith, Deroy Murdock, Sam Stein, Ben Nelson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Right versus far right.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Fight on the right.  For the first time in decades, we‘re looking at a real split in the conservative movement, this time over foreign policy.  On one side are conservatives like “The Weekly Standard‘s” Bill Kristol, who support the democracy movement in the streets of Egypt and see the GOP as the “freedom agenda” party.  On the other side is the Tea Party right—

Beck and Palin, to name two—who are pushing conspiracy theories involving collaboration by the two President Bushes and President Obama, or all three, in fact, in a new Muslim world order.  This weird fight is our gripping top story tonight.

Next, the rearguard action by Donald Rumsfeld.  The former defense secretary has been promoting a book in which he says, contrary to the facts, that it was President Bush who first pushed fighting the war in Iraq after 9/11 when, in fact, it was the neocons, and it was, yes, Mr. Rumsfeld yourself, sir.

Plus, you want to know what‘s behind the sudden pressure to get Jeb Bush to run for president?  Hopelessness.  It has less to do with Bush himself than with fears over the Republican field of next-turners out there and second-raters who pose a weak challenge to President Obama next year.

            Also, who would have thought the latest challenge to the “Obama care”

bill—health care bill—would come from Senate Democrats?  Tonight, the

four moderates out there in the Senate who may have more to say about

killing the key individual mandate in the bill than all the Republicans put


And “Let Me Finish” tonight with that big announcement up in Philly today that the country‘s going to actually build—really build—a fast national train system.

Let‘s start with the conservative split, first time I‘ve seen one in years.  Richard Wolffe‘s an MSNBC political analyst and Ben Smith is national political reporter for Politico.

Richard, I want you to take a look at some of these clips.  We got Gingrich.  We got Beck.  We got Kristol.  We got Palin.  And we got Lindsey Graham.  Let‘s take a look at, first of all, Newt Gingrich.  He says he doesn‘t support—he said the United States shouldn‘t support the Muslim Brotherhood or talking with them, in fact.  Here‘s what he told CNN.  Let‘s listen.



Secretary Clinton apparently said that we wanted to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood.  I think this is absolute total misreading of history.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a mortal enemy of our civilization.  They say so openly.  Their slogan says so openly.  Their way is jihad.  Their method is death.  For us to encourage in any way the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood is fundamentally wrong.


MATTHEWS:  I think if you look closely at Newt Gingrich, you see a mortal enemy to our civilization.  Here‘s Glenn Beck last Thursday on the radio.  Let‘s listen to his thoughts.


GLENN BECK, HOST, FOX NEWS “GLENN BECK”:  I want the left to know I plant my flag in this soil.  Groups from the hard-core socialist and communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are both a common enemy of Israel and the Jew.  Islam wants caliphate.  Communists want a communist new world order.  They‘ll work together and they‘ll destabilize because they both want chaos.


MATTHEWS:  And he‘s the same person out there saying that the two President Bushes, in the way they directed our bombing campaigns in the two Iraq wars, were really working with this new Muslim world order.  Bill Kristol, by the way, knocked conservatives who are supporting Mubarak.  Here‘s what he said on “MORNING JOE” today.  Let‘s listen.


BILL KRISTOL, “WEEKLY STANDARD”:  I don‘t think conservatives or Americans in general should be on the side of dictators against what seems to be a genuine democratic protest.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look.  Here‘s Sarah Palin, to get the full look at this.  She took a swipe at President Obama‘s handling of Egypt.  Let‘s listen to her, Palin.


SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FOX CONTRIBUTOR:  It‘s a difficult situation.  This is that 3:00 AM White House phone call, and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House—it seems that that call went right to the answering machine.  And nobody yet has—nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know.  And surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak.


MATTHEWS:  She talks like a cuckoo clock.  In fact, I think when she gets that Sarah Palin named patented, that‘s what she should sell, cuckoo clocks with her coming out every hour or half hour.  Here‘s Senator Lindsey Graham openly disagreeing with Palin‘s take on how the president has handled the crisis in Egypt.  Let‘s listen to Senator Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Quite frankly, President Obama has handled it well.  Mubarak is going to go.  He‘s announced he‘s not going to seek reelection.  So I disagree with Governor Palin over this particular issue.


MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Richard Wolffe.  Richard, you know, if there ever was a time for dealing with tricky business, it‘s dealing with this transition of power in Egypt.  It‘s not easy.  We‘ve had an alliance.  We also know he‘s a dictator.  We also may know or are learning that he may be a klepto, having taken a lot of money out of that country.  At the same time, we‘ve got to make a transition to, hopefully, something not as bad or something better.  It‘s not easy.

But it‘s interesting to watch this schism on the right between the crazy talk radio crowd, including Palin, who are against the people in the streets, it seems, and people like Kristol, who are at least consistent on this, as a neo-conservative, pushing the argument we have to have democracy in the Middle East, ultimately, even with its risks.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  And Chris, there‘s a third came here, which I think Senator Graham kind of represents here, which is conservative opinion, which is more realpolitik, more realistic in saying, Let‘s deal with the world as it is out there.  And there‘s that tension that played out between the conservatives and the neo-cons through the Bush years.

What‘s remarkable is seeing the sort of conspiracy side of this take ahold, newt Gingrich, who is a self-styled historian or student of history, making some of the same kind of mistakes.  You cannot see this region, never mind the rest of the world, purely in terms of the post-9/11...


WOLFFE:  ... American political framework.  You cannot just project out everything from the Bush era.  And if you are, at least going to study the Bush era properly.  I mean, the experiment of democracy, of untrammeled democracy inside the Middle East is most clearly demonstrated by the Palestinian authority with Hamas taking power in the Gaza strip.

So how does that fit into the Glenn Beck conspiracy of people who are anti-Israel and the communists working together?  This was helped, facilitated by the Bush administration.  If you don‘t have an orderly transition, you have a very disorderly position for allies, for American national interests.


WOLFFE:  But even beyond that, Islamists and communists working together?  I mean, it‘s as if they don‘t know what Mubarak or Saddam Hussein ever stood for.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go—of course, the Ba‘athists were incredibly secular.  They were the closest to the left.  Let me go—let me go to Ben here.  I‘m not sure how you look at this, but let‘s talk about this as sort of a competency test.  Glenn Beck, would he pass one?  If somebody were to come and run for office and say there was a conspiracy—and (INAUDIBLE) the guy—you can actually catch him by just watching the way he behaves.

Here‘s somebody saying that the two wars we fought in Iraq were directed in the bombing campaign so as to avoid targeting what he calls “ancient Babylon,” which he says is to be the seat of world power under this new caliphate.  What would he mean by saying that our presidents, our commanders-in-chief, were somehow coordinating our bombing campaigns with the caliphate-wanters (ph)?  What—I mean, is this what‘s going on, that Bill Kristol, Lindsey Graham and people like that are finally saying, We have to upchuck...


MATTHEWS:  ... these people on the right?

SMITH:  I think that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, They‘re just causing us trouble.

SMITH:  That‘s exactly what it is.  I mean, this was an opportunity for Kristol, above all, to say publicly (INAUDIBLE) about Beck what a lot of that kind of conservative elite has quietly said to each other, which is, We‘ve got to distance ourselves from this guy.  He doesn‘t stand for us.  He says crazy things.  And so when you say Kristol say that, immediately, the editor of “National Review,” Rich Lowry, sort of jumped on and kind of agreed with him.


SMITH:  I think it was really an opportunity for them to distance themselves from somebody who had become to them a bit of an embarrassment.

MATTHEWS:  Is this like the fact that—I think it was one of the great moments of the conservative movement—I‘m not a conservative.  When I was a kid, I liked a lot of the Libertarian arguments, like Hillary did, a lot of us did, and saw some of the conflicts in that thought.  But one great thing that happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s was that Bill Buckley said, You cannot be a conservative and anti-Semite, for example.  And you cannot be a crazy person.

Richard Wolffe, on this point, it seems to me that there is some housecleaning going on here.

WOLFFE:  Well, there is a positioning that‘s going on, clearly, in front of the 2012 primaries here.  But I think the real competition is not going to be won by someone saying, You‘re out of the mainstream or inside the mainstream.  This is a party that is looking for more change, that is anti-establishment in feeling (ph), and above all gets prizes, gets points for criticizing Obama, no matter how outlandish that is.

And yes, the Bushes are part of this now because they‘re seen as a tainted legacy because they promoted bigger government...


WOLFFE:  ... or too much foreign intervention.  So I don‘t know that the sort of sanity, competence, electability arguments are going to hold the line or win the day here.

MATTHEWS:  But Richard—Richard, just—would the average conservative say they thought that W was targeting our airplanes to avoid hitting a Muslim new world order site because he didn‘t want to offend the purposes of this movement?

WOLFFE:  No, I‘m not saying it makes...

MATTHEWS:  What could it possibly mean?

WOLFFE:  I‘m not saying it makes any sense at all, but there has been a concerted effort to denigrate the Bush presidency...


WOLFFE:  ... not because of actually foreign policy side of things at all, but because of his expansion of government.  So I don‘t know what the down side is for Beck or anyone else to go after any of the Bushes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go back to ‘92.  Ben, the Republicans back in ‘92

a lot of people believe that our colleague, Pat Buchanan‘s, speech—not him personally, but the speech he gave at that convention in Houston hurt their chances in ‘92, about bringing back the streets block by block.  It hit people pretty tough.  They thought it was ethnic.  They thought it was outrageous.  They thought it was trouble making.

My question to you—are the Republicans already afraid they have to clean up their act or they cannot be seen as a credible alternative to Obama?

SMITH:  I mean, I think there‘s certainly a desire to be seen as a responsible alternative, and this is an opportunity for a lot of Republicans, you know, who probably do agree with him and maybe are being responsible.  But also, it‘s an opportunity to say, You know what?  I agree with the president on this—this is not a hot domestic political issue, although it‘s certainly a riveting story—and then to take their responsible criticism elsewhere, but to position themselves, really, as responsible critics.  And I think that‘s why you saw Lindsey Graham raising his eyebrows at Sarah Palin, who criticized Obama without really explaining, you know, what it was that she objecting to.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m just curious about this.  Do you think Beck will get to speak at the Republican convention next time?


SMITH:  No, I don‘t think he will.  But I think if he wants to hold a his own convention twice the size across the street, he can do that, too.


SMITH:  I mean, there‘s certainly an appetite for what he‘s selling.

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts, Richard.  Will he be one of the crowd pleasers at the convention?

WOLFFE:  It depends who the nominee is.  I mean, you can‘t keep the guy out of the big tent here because he causes so many problems if he‘s really excluded.  And who knows whether we‘re going to get a third party challenge out of all of this, as well.  So there are too many imponderables in that one.

MATTHEWS:  So your thought is that any mud ball that‘s thrown at Barack Obama from any direction—zany, competent, incompetent, crazy or not—is applauded by the right.


WOLFFE:  There is a narrative there that is designed to say he‘s un-American, he doesn‘t share America‘s values, and therefore, pretty much anything goes if it fits into that.  It doesn‘t really matter whether it has any basis in reality or fact...


MATTHEWS:  Palin‘s part of that craziness, saying he‘s got a secret plan over there, that somehow, our president‘s working with the people in the streets with some secret plan to bring in our enemies so that they can hurt us more.

Thank you, Richard Wolffe.  Thank you, Ben Smith.  Great having you on the show.

Coming up: Donald Rumsfeld‘s out there trying to reshape or shape his legacy.  He‘s a hard guy to read, but what he doesn‘t want to do is take the blame.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, we can add Georgia and Tennessee to the list of Republican-leaning states that President Obama would win—if Sarah Palin wins the Republican nomination, that is.  In Tennessee, a poll by Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions shows Obama ahead there, Palin 42 -- he‘s ahead of Palin 42-37.  Remember, that‘s the state that Obama lost by 15 points, Tennessee, in the last election.

In Georgia, an Inside poll found Obama with a 4-point lead over Palin, 47-43.  That‘s not much.  And if Palin doesn‘t capture the Republican nomination, the polls—all these polls show Obama would lose in both states to Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.  So you get the message—Palin easy to beat.

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here we go again with the Iraq war issue and the legacy of that.  HARDBALL former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld‘s, making the rounds, selling his new book, “Unknown and Unknown.” (SIC)  Today he joined Rush Limbaugh.  What a meeting of minds that was.  Let‘s listen.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  We are up against a vicious enemy.  The radical Islamists are there.  They intend to try to create a caliphate in this world and fundamentally alter the nature of nation states.  And we‘re reluctant to engage in the competition of ideas and point out what they really are and how vicious they are.  You know, even the current administration is even afraid to say the word “Islamist.”


MATTHEWS:  Well, that had Rush Limbaugh making sure to see if his fingernails were clear (ph) and scratching his head.  I don‘t know what to make of that.  That was Rumsfeld‘s take on what‘s happening right now in Egypt.

But wait until you see what he says about his time on the job.  Is he trying to rewrite history?

Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for Salon.com and an MSNBC political analyst.  David Corn joins us.  He‘s Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.”

Gentleman and lady, thank you both, pals of mine.  Let‘s go through a couple of these things here.  First of all, Rumsfeld.  Rumsfeld is one of the hardest people to read, and in a weird way, Joan, to dislike because if you ever meet him, he‘s so opaque and strange.


MATTHEWS:  I went over there at the Pentagon one time to interview him back—oh, it was four years ago, five years ago.  And I said, This is the first time I‘ve been here since the march on the Pentagon, you know?  And he thought that was pretty funny.  And I thought it was pretty funny.


MATTHEWS:  But he‘s a strange guy.  He doesn‘t seem to have the normal human emotions.  But here he is out there backtracking.  And the book, by the way—he‘s giving the money to charity.

WALSH:  That‘s good.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s given him credit to that.  But—to veterans‘ groups, and that‘s a good cause.  But why is he being weird about the Iraq war?  Why doesn‘t he just say, You know, I think it was a great campaign.  I was with them.  It‘s all about how it was Bush‘s idea.  He had nothing to do with it, when we know he and Wolfowitz and a bunch of them over at the Defense Department—remember that Office of Special Services?  They were all the war crackpots...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... from day one.

WALSH:  Right.  I—you know, I don‘t understand—I guess one thing I don‘t understand, Chris, is why people expect him to, you know, be more straightforward about it or have some kind of mea culpa.  People keep saying, We‘re waiting for the Robert McNamara moment.  Well, I‘m not.  I never expected anything like that from him.

I do think it‘s a little bit extreme, the way he‘s dumping on Secretary Powell.  I expected it, but still, when you read it, it‘s a little bit petty.  And finally, the really interesting thing—you played that clip with Rush Limbaugh.  At the very end of the clip, he thanks Rush for being one of the few people who will use the word “Islamist.”

I mean, he has now cast his lot, as far as I‘m concerned, with the Glenn Beck contingent.  You want to talk about the caliphate, you know, you‘re going out there.  And you know, that‘s what he did in the book to some extent because he protects President Bush largely.  He didn‘t make clear decisions.  But you know, he dumps on the people that the right wants to hate.

MATTHEWS:  Why, Joan?  Why is he out there with the wacky right?  Why is he doing things like—because once you get in that company with Beck and Palin, you‘ve got to go further, which is there are other people involved, the president, according to Palin, is hiding that story.  According to Beck, the Bushes were involved in helping the caliphate.  You get crazier and crazier.

WALSH:  You get crazier...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like Jim Garrison stuff.  It‘s further and further out there.

WALSH:  I honestly was surprised to see him jump that way.  I wasn‘t surprised to see him kiss Rush‘s ego.


WALSH:  Let‘s say “ego.”  But I was surprised that he would use that word at a time when things are so charged.  And you know, as you‘ve shown, you‘ve got some conservatives really out there doing the responsible thing, and he jumped on the caliphate bandwagon.  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Just to make a point I made a minute ago, let‘s take a look at him with Diane Sawyer. 

Diane Sawyer is trying to get him to admit that the Iraq war didn‘t turn out the way the big war cheerleaders thought it would.  It was certainly deadly.  They didn‘t think there would be any casualties.  It was going to be a light war, low footprint, cakewalk and all that. 

WALSH:  Cakewalk.

MATTHEWS:  It turned out costing the lives of 4,000 Americans and many, many multiples of that on the other side...

WALSH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and civilians. 

Let‘s listen to his not mea culpa. 


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  That was such a stain on our country to think that people in our custody were treated in that disgusting and perverted and ghastly way, unacceptable way. 

It wasn‘t an easy target.  And, so, I stepped up and—and told the president I thought I should resign.  And I think probably he and the—and the military and the Pentagon and the country would have been better off if I had. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, we have also got him admitting to—or not admitting to Diane Sawyer that the war in Iraq was a disaster. 

Let me go to David Corn on this whole question of this whole thing.

You know, one reason why he‘s not—or most people aren‘t saying Islam, Islam, Islamist over and over again, a fellow stopped me who was working at the airport this morning, at Reagan Airport, said to me—he was an Islamic guy, and he said, you know, there‘s a lot of Islamic people like me who love this country, a real—an immigrant guy who loves America, came here to be here, loves America like all immigrants tend to do. 

And he says, don‘t let this become a war against us and those people in the streets over there, David.  Don‘t let it become...


MATTHEWS:  Don‘t let these guys do this. 

CORN:  Well, listen, Chris, that was one of the few things in eight years that I probably—you, too—agreed with George W. Bush.  He said, this is not a war against Islam.  Let‘s not go that—that direction. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CORN:  I‘m not sure he did enough.  The rest of the world maybe didn‘t see it that way, that—in terms of America‘s crusade against Iraq, but nevertheless he tried. 

And there‘s a good reason not to say it‘s Islamicist.  It‘s extreme radical jihadis.  You can call—there are lots of names you can call them.  But, listen, the problem with this book is not what he‘s saying now.


MATTHEWS:  Well, why do they want to say Islam?  Why do they want to say—like, Rudy Giuliani wants to turn it into a police case, Islamofascist.  Why do they always have to come up with Islam, Islam, Islam? 


MATTHEWS:  Why do they love to do a religious thing out of this?


CORN:  Because I think they believe crusading is good politics. 

WALSH:  Right. 

CORN:  It‘s a way to rally the—rally the troops, so to speak.  And it covers up, it‘s a distraction from everything they have gotten wrong.  This book should be called “Known and Unknown and Made Up,” because again and again...


MATTHEWS:  But don‘t they know?

CORN:  ... again and again, he is rewriting the history of the Iraq war. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t they know that India has millions and tens of millions of Islamic people, that Europe has...

CORN:  Indonesia, yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... tens of millions of Islamic people, and Bosnia, and Indonesia?  There‘s a billion Islamic people in the world.

CORN:  They don‘t care.

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to war with them? 

CORN:  No, they don‘t care.  They—they—they are being inflammatory for a reason.  They are looking for any way they can dig at Barack Obama. 

WALSH:  Right. 

CORN:  And they also are raising the issue of maybe he‘s one of them, too...

WALSH:  Right. 

CORN:  ... which is why he doesn‘t use that word.  That‘s what this really boils down to. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I agree with you.

WALSH:  That‘s what that was, yes.

CORN:  You know, I mean...


MATTHEWS:  Joan, your thoughts.  Is that what they are doing; they‘re trying to tie him in ethnically to them because he has got that name? 


WALSH:  I think so.  You know, I can‘t believe that I‘m sitting here surprised by something that Donald Rumsfeld said or did, but I am. 


WALSH:  I really was.  I really—I—I think it‘s awful.  I think he knows better. 

And I think, when you get that little Islamist dig, you know, Chris, you and David are both right.  It‘s crazy to turn this into a war against the fastest growing religion. 


WALSH:  It‘s crazy to turn it against people in our country who are immigrants and want to be Americans, fight for us, be with us. 

MATTHEWS:  Mubarak is Islamic. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, what are we talking about? 

WALSH:  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He prays, I mean, every day. 

CORN:  It‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  How can you be—how do you choose which Islamic guy you don‘t like and then call the other Islamic?

WALSH:  You can have one ally.  You get smart about it.

CORN:  Right.  It‘s not rational.  The people in the streets are Islamic.  The guy—the guy in the palace is Islamic.  That‘s not the issue here. 

WALSH:  Right. 

CORN:  The issue is democracy and political reforms. 

WALSH:  But I...

CORN:  And they don‘t want to recognize that. 

And Donald Rumsfeld is happy to get on this bandwagon because it lets him duck the past.  The issue should not be with his book what‘s happening now.  It should be how he‘s rewriting history again and again in this book and not taking responsibility...

WALSH:  At all.

CORN:  ... for his own decisions at the time. 

WALSH:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I really believed in the Cold War, certainly in its early days.  I believe the communist, the Soviet world was really tied...

CORN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I have seen the evidence.  They really had a plan. 

And now the more I watch the way these people exploit this one, I—I have got to go back and look and wonder how many years we put up with people who were building a case that wasn‘t there. 

WALSH:  Right. 

CORN:  It‘s demagoguery. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, I—I—it‘s demagoguery.

There‘s one thing about truth and objective fear out there and real reason to be afraid, and then this other thing.


CORN:  There‘s a lot of stuff to worry about. 

WALSH:  And then there‘s fear-mongering.  Then there‘s fear-mongering. 

MATTHEWS:  This radio crap.

WALSH:  And that‘s what they are doing. 

CORN:  There is a lot of stuff to worry about. 

MATTHEWS:  You know...

CORN:  The—what‘s happening in Egypt is very—does have concerns.  As, yet, as you have said earlier, Chris, on other shows, getting it right is not easy. 


CORN:  This doesn‘t help.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s time for the conservative side—and they may win the next election.  I think it‘s going to be—we all know it‘s going to be a very close presidential election. 

But I hope, on the way to the election next year, the way to Tampa, they take out the trash. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joan Walsh.

WALSH:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And, thank you, David Corn. 

CORN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: potential presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty wants to turn the clock back and reinstate—boy, you wonder about motive here—he wants to bring back DADT.  We went through that argument.  Why bring it back, except for politics?  Pawlenty is trying to prove he‘s a right-winger.  I don‘t think he is.  But he didn‘t look too good on this one. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


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

First: not my job.

When you don‘t know something, say so.  That‘s the standard M.O. of President Obama‘s press secretary, Robert Gibbs.  Here‘s Politico‘s collection of his statements to that effect. 



I‘m—I‘m not in editorial meetings at CNN. 

I‘m not an expert in the classification process. 

I‘m not a scientist on this. 

I‘m not a spokesperson for BP. 

Look, I‘m not a lawyer. 

QUESTION:  And neither am I.


GIBBS:  I‘m not so good at math. 

I don‘t—I‘m not good at math.  That‘s why I‘m here. 

I‘m not at like the Department of Math. 

I‘m not a journalist, and I play the spokesman on TV. 


MATTHEWS:  That goes on for a long time.  That‘s the short version.  Gibbs leaves the lectern at the press secretary‘s room, the Briefing Room, next week.  He will working in the reelection campaign. 

Now to Iowa and a turn to the hard right.  Yesterday, Tim Pawlenty took opposition to don‘t ask, don‘t tell, his opposition to the repeal, rather, one step further. 


GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  We have to take great deference, I think, to those combat units, their sentiments and their leaders.  And that‘s why—one of the reasons I think it‘s—I said we shouldn‘t have repealed don‘t ask, don‘t tell and I would support reinstatement. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And rescinding the funds for implementation—for implementation of repeal?

PAWLENTY:  Yes, I think that would be a reasonable step as well. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s right.  Pawlenty wants to keep on don‘t asking, don‘t telling.  Talking about backing up into a ditch.  Can‘t we just move on, Governor? 

Finally, a shocking display of classlessness—classlessness.  Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg of Montana just announced he‘s challenging Democratic Senator Jon Tester.  On Monday, Rehberg took issue with a federal judge‘s ruling that keeps the gray wolf on the endangered species list. 

Here is his solution. 


REP. DENNY REHBERG ®, MONTANA:  When I first heard that decision, like many of you, I wanted to take action immediately.  I asked, how can we put some of these judicial activists on the Endangered Species Act? 



REHBERG:  I‘m still working on that. 



MATTHEWS:  Hah, hah, hah, hah.  Put judges on the endangered species list.  That‘s more of what we need in this country in the United States Senate, this coming just one month after a federal judge was shot to death in Tucson. 

When asked for comment, Rehberg‘s said the hand-wringing was nothing but an attempt to detract from the substance of the guy‘s speech.  Put judges on the endangered species list, that‘s great talk.

Now, hear this.  Stop talking about killing or not killing politicians and judges, good move for you before you run for the Senate, buddy.

Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Federal tax rates, we‘re not talking state and local here, of course, but they‘re at an historic low, the federal rates are.  If you measure taxes as a share the economy, when was the last time federal taxes were this low?  1950.  That‘s right.  Americans are paying less in federal taxes now as a percentage of the economy than in 19 -- oh, in 1950, 60 years ago. 

That‘s tonight‘s historic “Big Number,” although nobody seems to be feeling it. 

Up next:  Some Republicans are not happy with what they consider a weak field of GOP candidates for 2012.  Does that mean it‘s time for another Bush to run for office?  What‘s wrong with the field of candidates running for the presidency?  Why won‘t they even announce? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks extending their winning streak to seven in a row—the Dow Jones industrial surging 71 points, the S&P 500 climbing 5.5, the Nasdaq adding 13 points. 

Investors shrugging off some mixed earnings and interest rate hikes out of China, focusing instead on upbeat forecasts, Monday‘s merger activity, and a second day of quiet in Egypt. 

McDonald‘s leading the Dow on higher sales in every region.  Demand in Europe, which accounts for about 40 percent of revenue, was much stronger than Wall Street was expecting.  Toyota shares climbing 4 percent, despite a 39 percent drop in quarterly profit.  It‘s predicting it will turn things around, as cost-cutting kicks in. 

The World‘s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, is up after forecasting a faster-than-expected recovery in prices and demand.  And Disney reporting after closing the bell, delivering blockbuster profit on revenue growth at its parks and studios and a hefty jump in sales at ESPN. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

It‘s actually less than a year now before the Iowa caucuses are upon us, and Republicans haven‘t exactly been lining up to run for president, at least publicly.  Why are they waiting for?  And why isn‘t the GOP excited about the expected list of candidates?  Should the younger generation of politicians step up and run, like Bill Clinton did back in ‘92, or former Governor Jeb Bush, who has just said he isn‘t running again?

And joining me to talk about is “The National Review”‘s Deroy Murdock and Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.

Deroy, thank you, and Sam.

A couple thoughts, because I love this poll.  This is a poll that has been taken among Republicans.  And it says they want a winner this time next year.  Take a look at it.  It‘s a CNN/Opinion Research poll -- 68 percent, seven out of 10 Republicans, prefer a candidate who can beat Barack Obama, even if that candidate doesn‘t exactly meet up to all their issues.  Only 29 percent, three in 10, say they want the candidate who squares with them ideologically, but may not be a great candidate. 

Deroy, it seems to me that is saying, I want a Romney, or someone like him, executive, business experience, with some appeal to the right, but they can‘t find that Mitt Romney yet, whoever it is. 


DEROY MURDOCK, “NATIONAL REVIEW”:  It seems as if the actual Mitt Romney won‘t work as a Mitt Romney.  How about that?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it does.  That‘s my view.


MURDOCK:  Isn‘t that interesting?  Yes. 

Well, I think, in Mitt Romney, you have got a very interesting character.  I mean, I think I have—I have seen mannequins in less empty suits. 


MURDOCK:  I think the thing about Mitt Romney, he looks like the president of the United States.  I mean, this guys looks like—if there were a movie about the president of the United States, we should cast Mitt Romney and have him play that role. 

The trouble with a guy like Mitt Romney is, I don‘t think he knows what he believes on any issue.  Pick almost any topic and he‘s on at least two, if not three or four, sides thereof.  And that‘s very, very frustrating to me. 

I—I do think he has one very strong attribute, which is blind ambition.  And that‘s not nothing.  I think he wants the job more than anybody else, and he also has money.  And those two things might propel him forward. 

But in terms of somebody who actually will get into the White House and have any idea what he wants to do, other than just wait for the phone to ring or wait for the inbox to be filled, I think there‘s nothing else there beyond that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the fact is, Deroy, we live in the country, thank God, where the president of the United States looks more like you than Mitt Romney looks like him. 


MATTHEWS:  So, we are changing, thank God.  Our notion...

MURDOCK:  I guess that‘s a plus.


MATTHEWS:  ... of what a president ought to look like is changing, thank God.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—let me go to that same question with Sam.

And that‘s the question.  My feeling is, the first thing you do when you try to pick a president is pick their—where you want him to look—what you want, and then try to find the who that fits that.  They seem to want a solid, experienced executive who can take on a president, who is still seen as a little bit shaky in terms of experience. 

And—and they want somebody with a business horse sense.  They don‘t seem to have one in Mitt Romney because he‘s boring. 


MATTHEWS:  I think that—I think Deroy is right.  I think he doesn‘t have the spontaneity, the novelty you want in a candidate.  And that‘s still really important to people. 

STEIN:  Well, I—it‘s tough to beat the mannequin line, so I won‘t even go there. 


STEIN:  But I think that the—I think that the—those poll numbers are really troubling for people like Sarah Palin, who, in state poll after state poll that we‘re seeing, doesn‘t fare well against even Barack Obama in even Tennessee.

And I think the Republican primary voters are cognizant—cognizant of that.  They don‘t want to put someone up who is just going to get defeated by Obama.  And keep in mind, they need to put someone up who can raise a ton of money... 


STEIN:  .. because everyone knows that Obama is going to be raising over $700 million, which he did last cycle.  He‘s going to be raising more than that.  So, yes, they need someone who can raise money...


STEIN:  ... probably a businessperson. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gentlemen, look at the starting gate here.

We have got the new poll here.  It‘s again a CNN poll.  It‘s got the five top Republicans.  And there they are, Huckabee, Palin, Romney, and then, who else, and then Gingrich, and then Rand Paul—I mean Ron Paul. 

Again to you, Deroy, first.  That list adds up to about 75 percent support right now.  It‘s not exactly overwhelming.  I don‘t think people are thrilled with that list. 

MURDOCK:  I don‘t know.  I—I guess they are really not. 

And unlike previous years, where we had one or two people sort of as front-runners, and people lined up in one camp or the other, I think it‘s really quite open, wide-open. 

And there‘s this discussion about Jeb Bush.


MURDOCK:  I mean, this whole talk about Jeb Bush to me sounds like a—it‘s like watching “The King‘s Speech” where you‘ve got the King George there and two brothers trying to decide which one is going to take over.

The GOP, after a lot of effort, finally moved away from the destruction of the Bush family and this whole effort where people come in as Republicans, spend like crazy, grow government more rapidly since anything since LBJ.  And now, here comes another Bush to step and ruin the progress we‘ve made since George W. Bush went to ranch.  I really want to pour lots of cold water—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think you‘re a Margaret Thatcher conservative. 

You‘re not a wet tourie, that‘s for sure.

MURDOCK:  Not wet at all now.  Not at all.  Very dry.

MATTHEWS:  The British, sort of Oxonians that all end up being moderates when they get in there.

Let‘s take a look at what Rich Lowry said in “The National Review.”  He‘s the editor, of course.  He wants Bush to run for the following reasons.  He says the field is wide open.  He says 2016 would be too late for Jeb if he waits another four years.  And by the way, waiting doesn‘t seem to work for people.

He also says he‘ll still be a Bush in 2016 and still have that on his shoulders, which is a negative.  And, by the way, he‘ll be able to unite the Republicans.

Since Deroy has already said no.  What do you say, Sam?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST:  Well, you know, Deroy is bringing the one-liners tonight.  And I hate to disagree with him on Jeb.

But, you know, I did a report on this about a couple months of ago, and it was shocking to me, but most Democrats are very fearful of Jeb among everyone else.  They think that is more tolerant stance on immigration, for instance, is something that can appeal to the Hispanic population and a wider swath of moderate voters.

The problem I think is that Jeb can‘t get by the Republican primary in part because of his last name, in part because of the immigration issue.  And, you know, that‘s the main problem, is that you‘re not talking about a wider electorate.  You‘re talking about a primary electorate.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know what I think he‘s going on?  Can I say one thing in his favor?  I think he‘s really interested in education.

STEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And, Deroy, your thoughts.  I really think there‘s one thing the country does agree on, we don‘t succeed right now on education.  We got to figure it out somehow, whether it‘s vouchers or something.

MURDOCK:  I think you‘re right about that.  I think he did some good things in terms of school choice in Florida.  Maybe if we still have a Department of Education under the next president, perhaps he should be secretary of education.  I think that would be a good thing.

But I don‘t want to see him in the Oval Office as president of the United States.  Two Bushes within a few years of each other is more than enough as far as that goes.


MATTHEWS:  Deroy, you look more like the president than that guy, that Romney guy.  So, we got that going for us.

Anyway, thank you, Deroy Murdock from “The National Review,” and Sam Stein from the ever growing, ever more important “Huffington Post.”  I hope you had some stock, Sam.

STEIN:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  As I mentioned earlier, one candidate who doesn‘t want to run for president was a young governor named Bill Clinton.  You can see my special interview with Bill Clinton.  And by the way, it‘s a big documentary coming up on Presidents Day, the 21st of February.  That‘s Monday after next at 10:00 p.m.  It is one heck of a documentary.  If you like or dislike Clinton, you‘re going to be fascinated by this.  In fact, if you like him, you‘re going to even like him more.

Up next: four Senate Democrats want to undo parts of the Obama health care bill.  What do those four have in common?  Well, we‘ll see.  They want to get re-elected.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, some consider him a rising star in the Republican Party, but today, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams announced he‘s quitting.  He says he‘s, quote, “He‘s tired of the nuts who have no grasp from what the state party‘s role is.”  Wadhams managed many successful campaigns in the past for Senators Wayne Allard of Colorado, Conrad Burns in Montana, and John Thune in South Dakota, just to mention a few.

Well, last fall, Wadhams has a chance at winning the gubernatorial or Senate race in Colorado, but the party nominated Tea Party people instead, Dan Mays and Ken Buck who both lost.

HARDBALL will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The president will host Republican leaders for lunch in the White House tomorrow, Wednesday.  But it may be moderate Democrats he needs to coral.  A handful of Democrats led by Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson are challenging what some people believe is the heart of the health care bill of President Obama, the individual mandate.

Senator Ben Nelson joins us from Capitol Hill.

You know, Senator, it reminds me of one of those old time married jokes, can‘t live with them, can‘t live without them.  How do you do—how do you have a health care bill if you don‘t really force people to join up and share the risk?

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA:  Well, this is a government-mandated approach.  But you can also look for market-based approaches as well.  Take a look at the Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit.  That is a market-based approach.  It‘s not mandated.

So, consequently, we‘re looking—I‘m looking at finding solutions that are much more market-based to get rid of the individual mandate.  It isn‘t—it isn‘t the only way to do it.  It‘s the way that the insurance industry suggested and it was followed through on.  But it‘s attracted questions about constitutionality.  It‘s not publicly or politically accepted by most people.


NELSON:  So, we need to find an alternative to that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have diabetes, for example.  And if I waited until I had diabetes to get health care, it would probably cost me more money.

NELSON:  Well, it‘s worse than that.

MATTHEWS:  What do you do to a guy or the woman who doesn‘t—who doesn‘t subscribe to the Obama health care bill does decide or does get diagnosed with a disease and then wants to get health care?  What happens to them under your idea?

NELSON:  Well, under my idea, you‘re not going to have people able to buy health insurance in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  What we are going to have is we‘re going to have market-based approaches if we can come up with something through the General Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office.  I think what we create is a belt and suspenders approach here.  We don‘t know whether this mandate will hold up constitutionally.

MATTHEWS:  What are you betting on?

NELSON:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Are you betting it will pass?

NELSON:  I‘m betting it‘s two-to-two right now in the courts.  So, I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

NELSON:  But what I—regardless, even if it‘s constitutional, if we can find a market-based solution to this, it‘s still going to be more palatable to the public.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

NELSON:  People do not like mandates.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But what happens to that person when they get to the hospital in the ambulance and they don‘t have a health care plan, under your idea?

NELSON:  Well, look, that happens right now.  I‘m not suggesting that it will be perfect.  But I can tell you that if we come up with the right kind of market-based approach rather than a mandate, you‘re not—the number of cases you‘re identifying will be limited.  Even with a mandate, not everybody is going to join.


NELSON:  There are going to be some people pay the penalty rather than follow the mandate.

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t a lot of people wish we could have voluntary Social Security but the problem with that find themselves penniless at 65 and want welfare?

NELSON:  Well, look, I‘m in favor of getting everybody into the system.  It‘s a question of how do we do it and what will work.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

NELSON:  So, I don‘t want to see more people outside the system than inside the system.  I just want to make sure that we do it in the way that‘s constitutional, as well as a way that is palatable politically for the people.

MATTHEWS:  Well, best of luck, Senator Nelson.  Thanks for being the show.

NELSON:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You have a lot of courageous votes over the years.  I appreciate you coming on.  I know.  I appreciate you coming on the show.

NELSON:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman is our senior political editor of the ever burgeoning “Huffington Post,” a major figure over there.

I think you got in on the ground floor there, my buddy.  I‘m serious.  I‘m so impressed with all that.  We paid tribute to her last night here, the amazing new merger with AOL, what an operation.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about this tricky thing.  Isn‘t one of these things like, I told the old marriage joke, I probably should repeat it.  You can‘t live with them, you can‘t live without them.

How do you get a healthy health care program where people cannot join it until they‘re sick unless you force them to join it?

FINEMAN:  Well, on the substance of it, I think what Senator Nelson is talking about is some kind of thing where people who decline to get health care, health care policy, an insurance policy, would some kind—sign some kind of agreement that they would be responsible for paying for their own health care.


FINEMAN:  But that could be unrealistic because a lot of people who wouldn‘t sign up for insurance, who would sign some kind of piece of paper saying that, don‘t worry, I‘ll pay for my health care in the emergency room, that‘s thousands of dollars that they‘re not going to have.

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.

FINEMAN:  So, it‘s probably—it‘s probably pretty unrealistic.  But your phrase about “can‘t live with them, can‘t live without them” applies to the politics of this in the Senate, because Ben nelson is one of several Democrats from red states who are scrambling for reelection in 2012.  They‘re looking for ways to distance themselves from the Democratic establishment.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at them right now.  We‘re looking at them. 

It‘s Tester, McCaskill, Mr. Nelson, who‘s just on, and Joe Manchin.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Manchin has been never voted for this, but he did vote against repeal last week or so.  It is a problem, can‘t live them, can‘t leave without them.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  How do you have a Democratic Party that‘s only progressives?  The argument we have here every night.

FINEMAN:  Well, you can‘t, and I‘ve just been talking to Democrats on the Hill this afternoon about this.  This is a different situation from what it was like last Congress, Chris, where the Obama administration was trying to pass massive legislation for health care, financial services, auto bailouts, TARP, you name it, where they needed 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition and Republican filibusters, to put these massive pieces of legislation on the books.

Now that that legislation is on the books, the Democrats are in a different position.  They‘re in more of a defensive position.


FINEMAN:  And they don‘t have near 60.  They don‘t really need 60 for most of this stuff to defend it.  They just need 50 plus one.  So, Harry Reid is still the Democratic leader, is telling people like Ben Nelson, go off, do your own thing, you know, we‘ll hold it with just enough votes.  You know, so, selectively—

MATTHEWS:  But, Howard, you and I know that doesn‘t work.  What the national Democratic Party has to do as a national party is defend health care and win the argument nationally.

FINEMAN:  Right.  Well, they‘re going to try to do that.


MATTHEWS:  These fellows can win in their states.  You can‘t, you know, either hang together or you hang separately.  Wasn‘t that from the revolution?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, what they‘re trying—what I‘m saying is that Harry Reid thinks that he can let individuals such as the ones you showed pictures of go off the reservation here and there, and even actively oppose the Democratic leadership.  As a matter of fact, the Democratic leadership is going to be proposing some things that they know full well will be opposed by people like Nelson or Tester or McCaskill.  And they want them to oppose it to build their credibility with voters back home.  It‘s a tricky strategy but that‘s what‘s they‘re doing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the best thing Harry Reid can do is find four Sharron Angles and unleash them in these four states, bankroll them and get them nominated on the Republican ticket, and then you‘ll have four Democrats coming back next year.

I‘m just kidding, Howard.


FINEMAN:  Let me tell you what.  Can I just tell you something?  I get—I get more press releases about Tea Party grassroots candidates from the Democrats than I do from the Republicans.


FINEMAN:  For just that reason.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about when we come back to you next time. 

Thanks as always, Howard Fineman.

FINEMAN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, let me tell you why I‘m so excited about that announcement up at 30th Street station in Philadelphia with the vice president today.  They‘re really doing it.  They‘re really building a railroad system like Abe Lincoln started back in the 1860s.  We really might be a united country by rail.

We‘ll be right back on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the event in Philadelphia today, right up there in wonderful 30th Street station, Vice President Joe Biden announced this country is going to get started on a real fast national train system.

How I wish I had it today.  I would love to get on a train to Chicago like the old 20th century.  I‘d love to ride that train as fast as it could go.

I love nothing better than the fast-moving train like the one Kathy

and I just rode from Rome to Florence—so fast, so smooth, you don‘t even

know you‘re moving.  You get on the train, you read the paper, you get off

you‘re in another city.  This is how the modern world lives today in France and England.


My daughter told me what it was like to get on a train in London, just a local train station and get off in Paris two hours later.  You zoom under the English Channel and what, 20 minutes?  A little bit of dark and you‘re on the continent.  That‘s the modern world for you.

In Japan, they go 200 miles an hour from city to city, doing the same in China, in Korea.  This has been going on for generation.  We‘re late as heck catching this train.

But here‘s the good news.  Think of what Lincoln did connecting this country by rail, think of what Ike did by building the interstate highway system, 95 up and down the East Coast, 70 and 80.  I spent my life traveling those highways.  I want a train system to bop across the country, get out to Chicago, and then ride like in north by northwest out further than Mt. Rushmore.  I want to see and feel America like in the old days, only faster—as fast as those trains in other countries.

What have we been doing with our money?  The wars?  What?

What I know is this: you build train lines, you got to build trains, you got to lay track and ballasts and get right away.  You‘ve got to lay some money out there and create jobs.  You‘ve got to make steel.  You‘ve got to put strong people to work.

Got to be the plants fired up and build new ones.  It‘s got to be American about this thing, got to get moving.  Good idea, right?  Well, let‘s get behind this.

I know people around here agree with me.  Put those steel workers to work.  Get those people working, build a modern America for this new century in which we‘re just a bit late getting started.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.



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