updated 5/13/2011 1:46:40 PM ET 2011-05-13T17:46:40

Guests: Roger Cressey, Sue Herera, Steve McMahon, Josh Marshall, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Susan Milligan, Mark Thompson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Neutron bomber.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington, where I just gave the commencement address at a rousing Temple University graduation day.  What a great place.

Leading off tonight: Nasty Newt.  Newt Gingrich just can‘t stay away.  The phantom of the Republican opera revved up his nasty machine last night on Fox News and aimed it straight at President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  President Obama should be ashamed of himself.  For the president of the United States, a year-and-a-half before an election, to deliberately use dishonest scare tactics, it demeans the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This from the Grinch of menacing scare tactics himself.  We‘ve got a long list of nasty Newtisms tonight, from comparing the fight against the president with the fight against the Nazis to warning against the alleged threat of gay and secular fascism, whatever that means.  Newt using the tactics that make him what he is, our top story tonight.

Plus: He can run, but he can‘t hide.  Remember the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Arc” when Harrison Ford is running for his life from a rolling boulder that‘s about to crush him?  Well, today Mitt Romney is Indiana Jones and that bolder is Massachusetts health care plan.  No matter how hard he runs away from it, and he did again today, it will always chase him because his campaign message essentially has become, Don‘t vote for President Obama, he did exactly what I did.

Also, we all know oil companies are making record profits these days.  Is it, as they say, un-American to question their tax breaks?  Well, that‘s what ConocoPhillips says.  Try defending that in front of the people you‘re hitting for four bucks a gallon.  Plus, oil company executives argued on Capitol Hill for tax breaks today.

And the more we learn from bin Laden‘s diaries, the more we learn that bin Laden spent much of his time obsessed with attacking the U.S.  So much for George W.‘s notion that he‘d become irrelevant.

Finally, here‘s the brainwash of the day, Mike Huckabee‘s so-called unbiased cartoon version of American history.  Wait‘ll you see this joke, a “Sideshow” that can‘t be missed.

We start with the scare tactics of Newt Gingrich.  Josh Marshall is the editor and founder of TalkingPointsMemo and Jeanne Cummings is with Politico.  Thank you for joining us, Jeanne and Josh.

Let‘s take a look at this—well, it‘s a reel.  First of all, you heard Newt Gingrich say President Obama should be ashamed for his dishonest scare tactics.  Well, here‘s some of Newt‘s most recent observations.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH:  The most radical president in American history has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people.

Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment.

The Nazis don‘t have the  right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

The secular socialist agenda clearly if for an America fundamentally different than America has been for the last 400 years.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, “TODAY”:  But when you hear that term “Nazi” that‘s one of those inflammatory words that can turn people off of any message you might have.

GINGRICH:  Well, look, the fact is that if you look at the threat they represented to the American way of life—I‘m not talking about the moral equivalence, I‘m talking about the finality of losing—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is the story here, Josh?  Here‘s a fellow who‘s come into politics in the 1980s really, ran for speaker, became speaker, using sort of very rough language—in fact, he advocated the use of nasty approaches to politics.  He‘s never been exactly a positive figure in American politics—now using this kind of language, which would really suit an attack on him, against the president?

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM:  You know, I think the thing with Newt Gingrich has always been Newt is about angry hyperbole.  And it rouses and exhilarates his supporters, and it‘s the kind of thing that it‘s supposed to—I think—and he still has the capacity to do it—catch off guard opponents and sort of shock them with the level of—you know, just the extremity that he‘ll go to.

So he‘s not against gay rights activists, he‘s against gay fascism.  And he talks about the president of the United States being an alien radical who‘s thrown down the gauntlet against the American people.  These are—these are these, again, hyperbolic statements that reminds me of—you know, if you think about the way that, you know, prize fighters, when they do that—when they do that thing at—you know, sort of at the weigh-in—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MARSHALL:  -- where they look at each other—

MATTHEWS:  The trash talk.

MARSHALL:  -- and they psych each other out—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MARSHALL:  You know, Newt‘s thing is, you‘re looking at the other guy,

and all of a sudden, he just smacks the other guy over the head.  You‘re

trying to—you know, it‘s a—it‘s a—it‘s a sort of intimidation that

that you think he‘ll go this far, and Newt will always go twice as far to keep the other side guessing—

MATTHEWS:  Of course, he‘s a notorious—

MARSHALL:  It‘s part of his personality.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a notorious chicken hawk, of course, let‘s get that straight in terms of his behavior in real life.  Let‘s take a look at Newt last night with Hannity.  Here he is on home court with Hannity.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH:  First of all, he‘s going to say whatever he needs to to win.  Second, he‘s going to have all the advantage of the mainstream media.  He‘s going to have all the advantages of left-wing billionaires like George Soros.  He‘s going to have all the advantages of the Hollywood crowd.  And they‘re going to go out and they‘re going to have all the advantages of the unions.  And so they‘re going to try to raise a billion dollars for a very practical reason.  He can‘t afford to run in a fair election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, fair election—you know, I‘ve watched this guy for years.  Opponents are always corrupt, they‘re fascist.  And here he is saying the president is unfair and a crook because he has support of a lot of different people in this country.  That makes him an unfair election?  What is he talking about?  What is his use of the—is this all Frank Luntz stuff?  Who writes his vocabulary for him?

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO.COM:  Well, I think Frank Luntz was—the Republican wordsmith, was very close to Newt in the mid-1990s, but I believe Gingrich now has mastered the art on his own, likely doesn‘t need an associate like Frank Luntz to help him along.  He‘s done this his whole career, as you say.  He loves the adjective.  He loves the eye-popping adjective.  And he loves the telling adjective.

And so there you have the “fair election.”  So in other words, if Obama wins, it‘s unfair.  That kind of language gets salted through all of his speeches.  I mean, the secular socialists that are running government right now, the inverse of that are conservative Christians.  These words—this rather—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s what he is now.  Yes.

CUMMINGS:  And that—exactly.  These are codes, to some degree. to followers who know his code.  And in other cases, you know, he wants to be a grown-up intellectual out on the field.  And so you know, big language, flowery language—you know, it can be impressive to people even if they don‘t know what in the world he‘s talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s bring in—let‘s bring in Steve McMahon.  Steve, let me—he uses—I mean, to me, he‘s another version, without the sort of the New York charm, of Donald Trump.  Here he—he is doing things like he accuses the president of the United States, who‘s come up through the Ivy League, done incredibly academically all his life, done very well—he calls him a con artist, basically, a street corner hustler, basically.  He‘s played a “con” on us, same exact term, “con,” that Donald Trump uses.  It‘s New York.  It‘s street corner.  And Newt Gingrich has sort of picked up on it because it conveys the notion of ghetto hustler.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I know what he‘s doing here and you know what he‘s doing.

MCMAHON:  That‘s exactly what—that‘s exactly what I was just going to suggest, Chris, is there‘s a racial code here that‘s being expressed when he uses these kinds of words, just as it was for Donald Trump.  And I actually think that he might have accelerated his announcement because Donald Trump was getting so much attention by doing the very kinds of things that Newt has done so effectively for such a long time.

It‘s the verbal equivalent of shock and awe.  He says these things—

MARSHALL:  Exactly right.

MCMAHON:  -- because he knows that people cannot—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

MCMAHON:  -- believe what he‘s saying and he knows that it‘s edgy enough that it‘s going to get a lot of coverage—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

MCMAHON:  -- and it‘s going to get a lot of people on the right excited.

MATTHEWS:  This is the worst we‘re going to show right now since maybe the Welfare queen stuff that Reagan would pull, the young buck waiting in line to use his food stamps for booze or something.  This is the most—to me, the most graphic use of language.  Watch this.  Anybody watching tonight, tell me you don‘t know what he‘s saying.  Here‘s Newt last night on home court on Hannity comparing—well, let‘s watch the language.  Let him speak for himself.  No filter from me.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH:  If you look at the collapse of Detroit and the rise of Texas, and you say to yourself, Which would you like better, the state that had the most job creation in America for the last 10 years or a city which has collapsed?  You know, I know—talking with Governor Rick Perry and others, I know how to get the whole couple to resemble Texas.  President Obama knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne Cummings, how do you read that, Detroit?

CUMMINGS:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Write large.

CUMMINGS:  Well, first, I want to push back for a little bit.  I‘ve known Gingrich for a long time, and I need—I personally would need a lot more evidence to accuse him of being racist or salting in racist marks.  I think what he‘s doing is typically where he goes, and that is this is liberal versus conservative.  And so you have, you know, the liberal urban areas and they‘re collapsed, and then, you know, pastoral, you know, free market system in the South being, you know, the standard by which he would embrace—

MARSHALL:  I think there‘s—if you‘re talking about—

CUMMINGS:  -- and try to take the country.

MARSHALL:  -- liberal cities, there‘s—

CUMMINGS:  I really think that‘s more where he is.

MARSHALL:  -- New York, there‘s San Francisco.

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.

MARSHALL:  There‘s a lot of—you know, Detroit is—is—

CUMMINGS:  But Detroit has collapsed.

MARSHALL:  -- unique in its of collapse.  It‘s a very—

CUMMINGS:  New York hasn‘t.

MARSHALL:  -- black city.  I think—you know, I don‘t—whether Newt Gingrich is a racist, I—it doesn‘t even—it doesn‘t even cross my mind.  He frequently—particularly with President Obama, he traffics in highly-raced language that—

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.

MARSHALL:  -- I don‘t think there‘s any—there‘s any getting away from that.  He‘s the—Obama is the avatar of Detroit.  He‘s the con artist and hustler.  He‘s the Kenyan anti-colonialist.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go back—

MARSHALL:  You know, Mau-Mau—these are all—these—these—I think these things speak for themselves.  And you know—

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to what he said about the president.  Let‘s go back to that quote about how he‘s really a Mau-Mau.  Here‘s a great one for him.  This is to “The National Review.”  What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions?  That,” he says, “is an accurate predictive model for this president,” for his behavior.  “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works who happened to have played a wonderful con as a result of which he‘s now president.”

So calling a guy having the mindset of a Mau-Mau, Jeanne, what do you make of that?

MCMAHON:  Well, I think in that—in that case, what—he is trying to foster the notion that—that Obama is exotic and foreign and not a real American.  I think he definitely is trying to hit those veins in people and to stir up that sense of concern about the president‘s credibility.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s a Kenyan anti-colonial behavior?  What is that for an American born here in America?  Why would an American have an anti-colonial Kenyan mind-set?  That‘s Mau-Mau talk.  What is he—I know the history of Africa.  You do, too.  He‘s talking about the blacks in Africa that killed white people to get their independence.  What is he talking about in using that language about an American politician who grew up the way Barack Obama, who had never really as a kid ever been to Kenya?  What‘s he talking about?

CUMMINGS:  Well, again, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t raised by his father.  Wasn‘t raised by his father.  Was raised by his white American mother from Kansas and his white American grandparents.  Where would this Kenyan, Mau-Mau, anti-colonial mentality come from except ethnically, through his body?  Where would it come from?

CUMMINGS:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  If this isn‘t race, I don‘t know what it is, what he‘s talking about.

CUMMINGS:  Well, again, I push back on the race thing.  I think it‘s foreign.  I think it‘s exotic.  I think not one of us.  And so I think that‘s where he‘s trying to go, that he‘s got a mindset that‘s not an American mindset and that—

MATTHEWS:  Well, how would he have that?  Why would he have such a—why would he have a non-American mindset?

CUMMINGS:  Well, I think—

MATTHEWS:  What would be his—what would be his premise here, Newt‘s premise here?

CUMMINGS:  Well, that he did—he was raised—his father, of course, was foreign, but—

MATTHEWS:  He wasn‘t raised by his father.  He was raised by his white American mother from Kansas and her parents.  How would he have a Kenyan mindset, an anti-colonial mindset?  Where would that come from?

CUMMINGS:  OK, I can‘t defend it, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  It‘s indefensible.

CUMMINGS:  I can‘t take on—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  I‘m glad you agree with you.  Josh, your thoughts here.

MARSHALL:  Well, you know, the one thing I think everybody forgets about with Newt—go back to his signature election, the huge blowout in 1994.  Just before the election, there was this horrible crime, down—I believe, it was in South Carolina, Susan Smith—

MCMAHON:  Yes.

MARSHALL:  -- this mentally deranged woman who killed her kids, accused—falsely accused some black man of having stolen her car and done it.  Turned out she killed her own children.  Newt finished the election on blaming this crime on the Democrats.  That is—that‘s Newt‘s style.  This goes back 20, 30 years.  And it‘s just his—it‘s his signature.  It‘s how he exists in politics.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Dave Bing is trying to clean up Detroit.  He‘s

doing a great job.  And this old epithet here about Detroit being a city

that‘s had real problems, Motown.  I think that‘s a racist charge.  Anyway

I don‘t know what Newt‘s heart says, I know he‘s willing to play this game.  And it is the San Andreas fault of American politics, and anybody who plays racial politics is doing bad things for this country.

Thank you, Jeanne Comings.  I know you have to be objective.  I think this is objective fact this guy‘s doing wrong things here.  Thank you, Steve McMahon.  Thank you, Josh Marshall.

Coming up: Gasoline‘s nearing 4 bucks—well, it is 4 bucks a gallon, really.  High test is more.  Big oil is making record profits.  Just read the market.  So why do Republicans want to protect tax breaks for oil companies?  The oil companies, by the way, think if you‘re against their tax status, you‘re un-American.  Wait‘ll you catch that coming up.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is a story we‘re covering.  The Senate Ethics Committee has now referred the case of former senator John Ensign to the Justice Department and to the Federal Elections Commission.  The committee‘s report finds that Ensign, a Nevada Republican, violated campaign finance laws, conspired with a former aide and destroyed evidence.  The Ensign investigation began after he admitted having an extramarital affair with the wife of his top aide and the disclosure that Ensign‘s parents paid the aide‘s family $96,000.  Well, Ensign resigned from the Senate last week.  We‘ll be right back.  More to that story later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), FINANCE COMMITTEE:  I think you‘re out of touch, deeply, profoundly out of touch and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing.

JOHN WATSON, CHEVRON CEO:  I don‘t think the American people want shared sacrifice.  I think they want shared prosperity.  And what we have to offer—

ROCKEFELLER:  Oh, just—

(CROSSTALK)

ROCKEFELLER:  -- lovely statement.  But do you understand how out of touch that is?  We don‘t get to shared prosperity until we get to shared sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back.  That was a big exchange between Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and the CEO and chairman of Chevron, and it highlights the anger on display today in the Senate hearings.  Oil company executives testified before the Senate Finance Committee today that they need big tax breaks.  But in a year with record profits for oil companies that everybody knows about and rising gas prices everybody has to pay, their timing is pretty bad.

Joining me right now (INAUDIBLE) Finance Committee members, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Senator Schumer, what‘s going on with the oil companies?  They seem to benefit—every time there‘s any kind of kerfuffle in the Middle East, all oil goes up, even though a lot of it—most of it we get doesn‘t come from over there.  Why do oil prices always go up when anything happens in the Middle East, even though we don‘t really rely on them for all the oil?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), FINANCE COMMITTEE:  It‘s called lack of competition.  One of the worst moves that was made—and this was made by Democratic and Republican administrations alike—was to let them all merge.  Imagine ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, BPAmoco.  When you only have four or five big companies, they control it all and they don‘t compete on price.  So when the price of a barrel of oil goes up, the price at the gas pump goes up very fast.  When the price of the barrel of oil goes down, it‘s very sticky and goes down slowly because they don‘t compete.  Plain and simple.

And probably the best thing we could do is break them up, go back to the days when there were 10 or 15 world competitors, not just four or five.  But that‘s not going to happen.

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think there‘s price leadership?  do you think there‘s price leadership?  Do you think—

SCHUMER:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  -- there‘s restraint of trade here?

SCHUMER:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a restraint of trade here?

SCHUMER:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Can you prove it?  Can you prove it? 

SCHUMER:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you prove collusion? 

SCHUMER:  I think, if it could be proven, they wouldn‘t do it.  It‘s very hard to prove, because they don‘t get in a room and conspire.  Just one of them raises the price, and the next day, everyone else magically comes up with the same idea -- 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCHUMER: -- and raises the price the same amount.  That‘s not illegal, at least at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s price leadership.  It‘s the—well, it‘s industrialization organization.

Let‘s take a look.  Senator Stabenow, let‘s take a look at this comment.  Here‘s a press release formally put out by Conoco, the big oil company.  Now, this is amazingly destructive language.

“ConocoPhillips highlights solid results and raises concerns over un-American tax proposals at an annual meeting of shareholders.”

What‘s that about, where they‘re attacking anybody who questions their tax status as un-American? 

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, it‘s really shocking, Chris. 

And, at the hearing today, my good friend Chuck Schumer asked them specifically about that.  Other colleagues as well asked them—asked him to apologize for that, the idea that it‘s un-American to say that, with huge deficits that we have in this country, where we‘re trying to figure out what needs to be cut in order to move forward that we wouldn‘t look at, in some cases, 100-year-old tax breaks that have been given to the oil companies, back when a barrel of oil was $17?

Now it‘s over $100.  Highest profits of any corporation in the world, and then they have the audacity to not only sock it to us at the pump and hold us hostage because they—there is no competition, but then taxpayers have to pay on top of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STABENOW:  So, when we look at how we‘re going to bring down the deficit, what should go, this is definitely something that should go.  And let me just add one other thing. 

If folks want to go out and buy one of these great new American-made electric vehicles that we‘re making in Detroit and in Michigan, as well as other vehicles, that‘s a great way to get off of foreign oil. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Senator Schumer. 

Here you are, sir, today taking on the chairman of ConocoPhillips. 

Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER:  Do you think anyone who advocates cutting these subsidies is un-American?  Yes or no? 

JAMES MULVA, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, CONOCOPHILLIPS:  Well—

SCHUMER:  Yes or no, sir.  That one, we deserve a yes-or-no answer on. 

It was your release that said un-American. 

Do you apologize for it? 

Do any of you others consider it un-American to be against the subsidy that you‘re for?  If you do, raise your hand. 

All right, thank you.  I appreciate the other four of you not labeling those who are different from you un-American. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you make of this, Senator, that the Republicans in the Congress do defend these tax breaks?  They obviously benefit from them for financial support. 

But this is such an old argument.  You probably grew up on it, like I did.  The oil companies control the Senate.  How does that happen?  Why do they get the tax breaks from the Congress? 

SCHUMER:  Well, they got the tax breaks because of lobbyists and political muscle.  But, you know, we‘re in a different era in two ways. 

One, oil is $100 a barrel, not $30, not $40, not $50.  Their profits are greater than they have ever been.  But, second, we have a huge deficit.  And everyone is supposed to sacrifice.  I mean, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are saying, let‘s cut cancer research, let‘s cut loans to middle-class families to help them pay for tuition.

Do—does anyone, does anyone, except these five executives, think that those should be cut—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCHUMER: -- before we take back these tax breaks that they don‘t need? 

STABENOW:  Right. 

SCHUMER:  I mean, it‘s—it‘s just—you know, I sat at that hearing and I said, the five of them are in their own little world.  They probably go to something called the Petroleum Club in Houston and they just talk to one another.  They don‘t even understand the world that they‘re in. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the Petroleum Club is in Tulsa, actually, but there is one. 

SCHUMER:  OK.  Well, I—theoretically, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And they all get together there.  You‘re right, though.  It does exist. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER:  Whatever its name is.

MATTHEWS:  It exists.

STABENOW:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator Stabenow, why do they—

SCHUMER:  It‘s not—it‘s not called the shared sacrifice club, I assure you. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not.

STABENOW:  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t think so.

Let me ask you, Senator Stabenow, about the question of power. 

STABENOW:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Do the auto companies that you have to represent geographically and economically, do they want this?  Why do they want—why aren‘t they fighting the oil companies? 

It seems to me it‘s—it‘s almost a contradiction that they wouldn‘t be opposed to—they would want cheaper gas, so they can get people to buy their cars and travel with them.

STABENOW:  Well, they‘re not advocating for these subsidies.  They‘re not advocating for higher prices.  That‘s for sure. 

I mean, right now, they‘re out rushing—I will be with GM tomorrow.  They‘re announcing 4,200 new jobs coming in Michigan related to the Chevy Volt, because it‘s doing so well.  Ford has announced 7,000 new jobs.  Chrysler put a second shift in Detroit at the Jefferson plant for their great new vehicles.

I mean, we‘re coming back because they‘re making great new advanced-technology vehicles.  And, you know, Chris, I think there‘s one more really important thing.  And that is the undertone today of the hearing was that somehow, if we took away these taxpayer subsidies, they were going to raise our prices again. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STABENOW:  These billions of dollars in subsidies amount to about 1 percent -- 1 percent of their profits.  So, it‘s absolutely ridiculous on the face of it. 

And today, I said to them, does that mean that if we added more tax dollars, you would bring down our gas prices?  I asked each of them, how much would it take for us to give you as taxpayers to bring down our prices?  And none of them would—would answer that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s time to play hardball with these guys. 

Thank you very much, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Debbie Stabenow, the senator from Michigan.

STABENOW:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: amazing video of the Tea Party candidate Jack Davis, who is running for Congress in a three-way up in that New York District 26, attacking a Republican Party volunteer and then laughing about it. 

Stay tuned for this on the “Sideshow.” 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.”  Wait until this one hits you.

First up: when politicians go wild.  Jack Davis is the Tea Party candidate running in that New York special congressional race against a Democrat and a Republican. 

A tracker from the Republican candidate‘s campaign confronted Davis on why he withdrew from a debate this week. 

Watch what happened. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jack, why did you back out of the debate? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you want—punched out? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why—why did you—

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir, why did you back out of the debate. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why did you back out of the debate?  Why did you back out of the debate? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, as a general rule, it‘s not advisable to assault a rival campaign worker while they‘re holding a video camera.  This tight three-way race heads for the ballot box.  Can‘t wait for this one, May 24. 

Next up: through the looking{ glass.  2012 contender Mike Huckabee is producing animated history lessons for children. 

What was America like before Ronald Reagan?  Here‘s a bit of conservative spin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  The downturn in the economy is killing us. 

People are out of work, and some of their morals are just gone. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Give me your money. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  And, in Iran, Islamic fundamentalists stormed the U.S. Embassy and took 52 American diplomats hostage. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  No, that‘s bad, really bad. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  That guy‘s got a gun.  Come on. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  (INAUDIBLE) do something.

(SCREAMING)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Why is everybody so excited? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Because they see hope. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  God had a plan for America.  I see it as a shining city on a hill.  If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I don‘t know whether that‘s right from a Cambodian reeducation camp or its Chairman MATTHEWS:  OK. ‘s little red book.  What propaganda. 

Up next:  Mitt Romney just can‘t shake his past.  He‘s been forced by his party to disown the health care plan he himself put in place in Massachusetts and also one that Obama used as a model for national health care.  He is really in trouble.  Let‘s see him try to get out.  He will have to be Houdini to get out of this one. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks clawed about back half of Wednesday‘s declines, with a 65-point jump for the Dow, a six-point bump for the S&P 500 and an 18-point gain on the Nasdaq. 

Investors continued a de-risking trend today, as the dollar weakened and oil prices staged a mild rebound.  And we had at least a half-dozen defensive consumer staple stocks hitting new highs on the trading session.

Talk about defensive.  The utilities have been outpacing the energy stocks on the S&P 500, as investors rotate out of the more economically sensitive sectors. 

And retailers were looking strong after Kohl‘s raised its profit forecast and Macy‘s delivered terrific earnings earlier this week. 

Looking back at April, however, only a modest uptick in sales, the smallest in nine months.  Still, that makes 10 straight months of growth on the retail side.

And on the earnings front, computer security firm Symantec delivered slightly better-than-expected results on solid growth in licensing activity.

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide—and now back to HARDBALL and Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Mitt Romney, of course, will be running, and he was running for the Senate back against Ted Kennedy in 1994.  And at that time, he backed a national plan to require individual health care mandates, just like President Obama did last year.  He then passed a law as governor of Massachusetts with the individual mandate for health care.

And, then, today, he played defense on his record.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  There were some similarities.  And one similarity that I know bothers people a lot is the fact that there‘s a mandate in the Massachusetts plan that I put in place. 

And let me tell you why there is a mandate in our plan.  What we found in my state was that we had a number of citizens who recognized that they could get care—coverage, health care, even though they didn‘t have insurance. 

That‘s actually true in most states.  And, so, we chose the last alternative, which is to insist on personal responsibility, and to say to folks who could afford to buy insurance, either buy insurance yourself or pay your own way.  This, again, under the 10th Amendment, was a state decision.  Other states can take a different choice.  But the state decision we took was to insist upon personal responsibility. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is now chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Thank you for joining us, Congresswoman.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, just in terms of voice sounds, I‘m overwhelmed by what he sounds like.  He sounds like Dr. Bob Arnot, in the same way that Newt Gingrich sounds like Orson Bean.  They have strange voices.

But let‘s move on to the facts here.

This guy backed, in 1994, when he was running against Ted Kennedy, exactly what Barack Obama got passed into law, with the Democrats‘ help.  How can he run against exactly what he was for nationally and statewide when he was governor up there? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s really mind-boggling.

What his speech reminded me of today is—you remember at the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” Chris, when—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- Toto runs over and pulls the curtain back to reveal who the wizard really is—

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- and Dorothy and the Scarecrow see, and what the wizard has been trying to do the whole—the whole movie is prevent people from seeing who he really is?  That‘s what this speech reminded me of today. 

I mean—

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- Mitt Romney can‘t run from the fact that he supported and—and proposed an almost identical plan to the Affordable Care Act.  It was the right thing to do.  It made sense.

It insured people who didn‘t have insurance.  And it made sure that it spread risk, spread costs so that you could bring down the cost of health care.  Made sense.  And that‘s why he‘s having a difficult time saying that he wants to repeal and replace, which he really prefers to repeal and erase his own record—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- vs. trying to continue to defend what he actually proposed and passed in Massachusetts.  It‘s—it really boggles the mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you remember what the wizard said? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Exactly. 

Here‘s Governor Mitt Romney praising his own work with Democrats on health care reform.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2008)

ROMNEY:  What‘s remarkable to me is that such a disparate group of people could come together on a workable consensus.

My son said that having Senator Kennedy and me together like this on this stage, behind the same piece of landmark legislation, will help slow global warming. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY:  That‘s because hell has frozen over. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he jumped on his own line there. 

But, you know, he was a moderate governor of Massachusetts, as you would have to be as a Republican.  He—he sort of trimmed his sails, if he has any sails.  Do you have any idea what Mitt Romney believes, Congresswoman? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No.  No, I mean, that‘s the—I don‘t think Mitt Romney know what he believes.  He seems to believe whatever he needs to say he believes, depending on the electorate that he‘s asking to support him.

And right now, he‘s planning to put himself in front of a very conservative, Tea Party-leaning Republican electorate, and his past record is haunting him.  And he‘s definitely trying to twist himself into a pretzel to run from it.  And it‘s—it‘s impossible.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the Republican Party?  One last question, Congresswoman.  I know you‘re a Democrat and a leader of the party now, the leader. 

And I‘m wondering what you‘re up against, because I get a sense you‘re not just up against an opposition this year.  You‘re up against a—sort of a coalition of an opposition party led by Boehner, the speaker, who is a reasonable Republican.  He‘s a Republican. 

And then you have this protest element in the party that is not really an opposition party.  They want to say no to everything.  They don‘t like government.  How are they ever going to get a candidate who fits both ports -- parts of that coalition? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, what‘s worse for America, Chris, is that we‘re up against a party who has allowed themselves to be strangled by a right-wing fringe of the party which has made it absolutely impossible to come around the table like President Obama has asked us to and commit to shared sacrifice, really address creating jobs and turning the economy around, and take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit.

Unfortunately, the stranglehold that the Tea Party has on the Republicans is not allowing them to do that and unfortunately, Speaker Boehner is allowing that to happen, which is unacceptable.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks so much.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, congresswoman from Florida and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Joining me right now is Susan Milligan with “U.S. News and World Report.”  But she‘s going to call on her capitol tonight as a former “Boston Globe” reporter.

And I appreciate that so much as you covered the governor when he was running against Ted Kennedy and all that.  He ran a very formidable race against Ted Kennedy, had him scared there, more than any candidate ever, of course.  And then he became a moderate governor and he pushed through health care.

Who is Mitt Romney?

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT:  Well, that‘s Mitt Romney, the governor, not the Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate.  And, you know, he‘s in a real awkward position right now because he was one of the architects of this health care plan, and had it failed spectacularly, he might have been able to just apologize and say it was a huge mistake and he got pushed into it.

But actually, it‘s working out very well.  I mean, more than 98 percent of the people in Massachusetts are insured.  Virtually, every child is insured.  Costs have been a little higher than anticipated, but, frankly, health care costs were going up, you know, under the old plan anyway.

So, he can‘t even do that.  So, he‘s kind of come up with this “do as a say, not necessarily what I do” argument to appease the wing of the party that just can‘t stand the idea of a mandate whether—even if it ends up bringing down health care costs.

So, he‘s just in a really tough position as a primary candidate.

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s really screwed here because he‘s not just a guy who has a measure to support or defend up in Massachusetts, but I think, the research of our producers here, and you knew this, back when he was debating Ted Kennedy, he had supported the John Chaffee plan which basically was a national eventual mandate, just like President Obama.  It‘s exactly what President Obama has done and now, he‘s caught in his defense as something like, well, not everything I support I‘m wild (ph) about.  What?

MILLIGAN:  Yes.  And I think he also even after that made a comment on “Meet the Press,” endorsing the idea of a national plan as well.  So, I‘m sure his opponents are going to dredge that up.  And he‘s just—he can‘t come out and say, I guess, or he feels he can‘t, to that wing of the party and, look, this worked.  And, you know, you might not like the idea of a mandate, but ultimately, it‘s going to bring things down.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m not sure whether President Obama is the luckiest man in the history and the Republican Party is the most desperate party in history.  But the fact that Newt is running, even in contention here.  But let me ask you—how does Mitt Romney win in South Carolina with all those conservatives?  How does he win in Iowa with all the culture right there?

He switched from pro-choice—I don‘t like these terms here—pro-choice to pro-life.  That‘s a pretty dramatic shift when you just say it like that.  And then he shifted on being on this from being for individual mandate nationally, to being completely against it, in fact, running against it.

MILLIGAN:  I don‘t think he does win those states.  I think he‘s obviously well-positioned in New Hampshire and even in Nevada.  I think the way he wins a nomination is to basically kind of get through the process, have the money to go state to state and say, you know, I‘m the guy who can actually beat Barack Obama.  I‘m the one who can win independents over because, clearly, some of these other candidates—

MATTHEWS:  You sound like—you‘re trying to talk to pragmatists here.

MILLIGAN:  Well, I mean, that‘s his only argument, right?

MATTHEWS:  I guess it is.  I can win.  That‘s the old Dick Nixon argument, it worked once.

Anyway, thank you as always.  Susan Milligan, formerly of “Boston Globe,” now proudly of “U.S. News”—I‘m sorry, “U.S. News and World Report.”

Coming up, Osama bin Laden‘s handwritten journals the Navy SEALs took them out of his compound and now, we‘re learning just how intent he was on coming after us.  This man had a mission: killing us.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, House Speaker John Boehner is a practicing Roman Catholic.  He‘s giving the commencement address, what an honor, this week at a Catholic university in Washington.  But, now, he‘s being criticized by some Catholic academics for supporting policies that violate church‘s teaching, according to them.

More than 75 Catholic professors have now written to Boehner a letter saying the Republican budget Boehner supports will hurt the poor and the elderly.

Here‘s a part of that letter, quote, “From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally to oblige to preference the needs of the poor.  Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress.”

Whoa, an interesting mix of church and state here.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

U.S. officials say that bin Laden‘s personal journals and the intelligence cache taken from his compound prove that the al Qaeda leader maintained command and control of the terrorist group al Qaeda.  He was obsessed with outdoing 9/11, believe it or not, and wanting to strike the United States again on the 10th anniversary of those attacks.  The intelligence picture on bin Laden runs counter to what President Bush said about the terrorist‘s mastermind seven months after 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I don‘t know if he‘s hiding in some cave or not.  We haven‘t heard from him in a long time.  And the idea of focusing on one person is really—indicates to me people don‘t understand the scope of the mission.  And he‘s just—he‘s a person who‘s now been marginalized.

So, I don‘t know where he is.  You know, I don‘t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.  I wouldn‘t necessarily say he‘s at the center of any command structure.  And, you know, again, I don‘t know where he is.  I repeat what I said, I truly—I‘m not that concerned about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Roger Cressey is an NBC News terrorism analyst.  He knows what he‘s talking about.  And Mark Thompson also knows what he‘s talking about.  He‘s national security correspondent for “Time.”

Gentlemen, I don‘t want to get partisan on this.  I think the speech that the president just gave speaks for itself.

But let‘s go to this bin Laden treasure.  Is the CIA and those putting this stuff out about him—are they doing a little psy-ops here, sort of diminish him, showing him as the old grandfather figure with white hair watching himself on television, sort of yesterday‘s man, and at the same time, portraying him as the continued overseer and director of the worst kind of planning in the world?

Roger, they don‘t seem to mesh, those two.  Is there psy-ops going on there?  Are they sending out different messages off the same facts?

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, Chris, there is a psy-op, and the psy-op is aimed at the al Qaeda network and his followers.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CRESSEY:  It‘s to demonstrate he is a crazy old man and that he was not the strong, virile, charismatic figure that was the myth that was put out.  But the agency is also trying to replace the narrative, the conventional wisdom that was out there, that bin Laden was not attached, was not actively engaged.  He clearly was, although he took a little bit of that crazy uncle upstairs approach, as he was going through what he wanted to do.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CRESSEY:  So, yes, there‘s two narratives here, and they‘re not necessarily in conflict with each other.

MATTHEWS:  Mark, can you bring together the sort of uncle (INAUDIBLE) character here, sort of a Teddy Roosevelt character, running up and down stairs with his sword drawn and this guy who really is sort of planning actual, spectacular events for next September?

MARK THOMPSON, TIME:  Well, actions, Chris, obviously speak louder than words.  I mean, people I talked to at the Pentagon referred to him as Osama bin has-been.  I mean, indeed, on Saturday, you did get the conflicting videos, you know?  Was he in charge or was he really the crazy guy in the attic?

But the fact of the matter is, since 9/11, he‘s had a couple minor league successes, but nothing really big.  Plainly, I sit at home every night and wish, and write, I wish I had $1 million.  That doesn‘t give me $1 million.

And I think in the same way, Osama bin Laden in his final years was concocting all of these schemes, not that they‘d ever really come to fruition.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to a couple points here and speculate here.  You‘re the experts, maybe you can project what you know here.  The fact that he wanted another spectacular operation to match 9/11, did that sort of take him out of the action, because that‘s so hard to orchestrate?  Roger?

CRESSEY:  You know, Chris, I think you‘re right.  It did.  To try and duplicate or surpass 9/11 was impossible for a number of reasons.  But that was where he was focused, because he believed if he could do that type of event again, that had the greatest chance the United States changing its policy.  It was all about affecting the change in the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  But did he have—did he have the apparatus, the organization, the finances to do another—well, the finances isn‘t that big an issue. It would only cost about $150,000.

CRESSEY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But—can he—did he have the organization—ability, organizational ability to put together another one?

CRESSEY:  No.  And that‘s the lesson.  You and I have talked for years about intent versus capability when it comes to al Qaeda.  And this is a perfect example.

Bin Laden had the intent.  And over and over again, he wanted to do it.  He lacked the capability.  And that‘s in large part because we‘ve been pounding them relentlessly for several years now.

The destruction we have wrought on al Qaeda‘s ability to do these mass casualties, spectacular attacks is the main reason why bin Laden failed to achieve his objective.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is.  President Obama said that the U.S. may now be able to actually shut down al Qaeda.  This is optimistic.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve got the opportunity, I think, to really finally defeat at least al Qaeda in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  That doesn‘t mean we will defeat terrorism.  It doesn‘t mean that al Qaeda has metastasized to other parts of the world where we‘ve got to, you know, address operatives there.  But it does mean we‘ve got a chance to, I think, really deliver a fatal blow to this organization, if we follow through aggressively in the months to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, did you think there was some psy-ops going on with the CIA releasing the fact that there was a dispute within the organization, al Qaeda, between his operational goal for big spectacular events and the sort of metastasized elements of al Qaeda which the president addressed there, wanting to do their own national thing?  Is the CIA there trying to cause trouble within the organization, Mark?

THOMPSON:  Well, no.  I think al Qaeda has splintered, and I think they do have these franchises all over the place.  The fact of the matter is that they couldn‘t do another 9/11, because number one, as Roger has said, we have been pounding them.

But more importantly, in a typical American way, we underestimated bin Laden before 9/11, a lot of things happened.  We dealt with it in a rinky-dink way.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

THOMPSON:  When 9/11 happened, we went, not overboard, we certainly went in very heavy, and, you know, blasted them to smithereens.  So, you‘ve got that sort of element that‘s made it very difficult for him to do any sort of big or for him to have done in a sort of big follow-on attack.

MATTHEWS:  OK, now, a question to you, Roger.  What the—do we have enough information in that cache to do a Munich-style—Munich like in the movie, Spielberg movie, where we‘re like (INAUDIBLE) can track down the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan based on the cache we have from that trove?

CRESSEY:  We don‘t know—we don‘t know the answer to that yet, Chris.  We hope so.  So, there are three priorities in the exploitation of the information.  One is current threats, what is in there about current plots and operatives.  Second is: other high-value targets, like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ilyas Kashmiri, some of the other potential successes.  Will there be any links to their locations?

By the way, if I‘m those people right now, I am moving.  I am not staying where I was, when bin Laden was still alive.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  I got to go.  Roger, thank you.

CRESSEY:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you both.  Thank you very much to Roger.  Thank you.  And thank you, Mark, as always.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with a frightening of Newt Gingrich actually being in this thing—even the idea of being in this kind of insulted Republicans.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the desperation of the Republican field.  How desperate is it?  Any field in which Newt Gingrich thinks he‘s a serious candidate—that‘s how desperate it is.

Newt—Nasty Newt—has got Tricky Dick beaten as a nickname.  As historian Jon Alter said last night here, his running even after trying to get back into politics after what he pulled is like Nixon running again, daring to, after Watergate.

Shameless.  That‘s the word for this entry.  Newt is the guy who brought nastiness to the U.S. Congress in the 1980s.

Newt is a downward influence on American politics.  He not only behaves nasty; he sells nasty.  It‘s always about character—the other side is always corrupt or scaring people.  It‘s always this scourge of righteous-pretending negativity.  He robs the political arena of joy and humanity and screeches anger and menace.

I cannot believe there are young Republican idealists out there, young people with hope who want our country to be good and have good politics to want to resurrect this element of Freddie Krueger/”Nightmare on Elm Street” politics.  What kind of a dream for America would a person have that would see this weird political element somehow seep under the door of our political process into America‘s highest office?

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

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