updated 1/8/2013 10:45:09 AM ET 2013-01-08T15:45:09

HARDBALL
January 7, 2013

Guests: Rebecca Peters, Bob Kerrey, Steve Clemons, Chris Shays

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hagel for defense chief.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with President Obama, this country`s commander-in-
chief. Start with that fact, will you? It`s his job to defend this
country, and he`s done a pretty good job of doing it, don`t you think?
Well, the commander-in-chief said today he wants a former Vietnam enlisted
guy to be his secretary of defense, a guy who can`t walk through an airport
metal detector and not get reminded of the shrapnel he took in that sad but
heroic American war.

The president wants Chuck Hagel in that post because he thinks like him and
has proven he`s got the brains to protect this country. Hagel long ago
proved he`s got the heart, don`t you think?

I don`t hate the people trying to stop the president from picking this guy
for the job he needs done at the Pentagon, but I do recognize their
tactics. They`re the same ones they used to push the war in Iraq. They
say they don`t like something he said, Hagel did, 14 years ago about a gay
man being put up for ambassador.

Well, I don`t like it either, but A, it was 14 years ago, and B, I don`t
think it`s got anything to do with why the hawks are opposing him. Since
when is the right wing of this country so caring for gay rights? As Bill
Clinton would say, give me a break.

And this isn`t about Israel`s security any more than it`s about ours. The
right wants a hawk at defense, a hawk for all occasions. They want someone
with an itchy trigger finger who`s always -- and I mean always -- got a
country lined up to go to war with -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Libya,
Syria, Iran.

Sorry, the guy you lined up to be president would have picked a person
you`d want as defense chief, a real genuine hawk. But Mitt Romney lost,
didn`t he. He lost. So keep firing off those anti-Hagel columns and
editorials, my right-wing brothers, and don`t worry, you won`t get hurt,
just like you didn`t get hurt for pushing that bloody war with Iraq.
Believe me, it`s why they don`t give you Purple Hearts for writing op-ed
pieces like they did Chuck Hagel for being out there actually defending
this country.

Let`s start tonight with former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey and "The
Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons.

Senator Kerrey, it`s always an honor to speak with you. The president
today said Chuck Hagel is an American patriot when he announced the
nomination of the former senator from your state to head the Pentagon.

Let`s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck Hagel is the leader
that our troops deserve. He is an American patriot. He enlisted in the
Army and volunteered for Vietnam. To this day, Chuck bears the scars and
shrapnel for battles he fought in our name.

In Chuck Hagel, our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and
strength. They see one of their own.

Maybe, most importantly, Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction. He
understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and
mud -- that`s something we only do when it`s absolutely necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Hagel paid tribute to the men and women in uniform
at the announcement today. Let`s listen to the nominee himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FMR. SENATOR: Mr. President, I am grateful for this
opportunity to serve our country again, and especially its men and women in
uniform and their families. These are people that give so much to this
nation every day with such dignity and selflessness. This is particularly
important at a time as we complete our mission in Afghanistan and support
the troops and military families who have sacrificed so much over more than
a decade of war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator Bob Kerrey, I`ve always respected your service to the
country. You lost part of a leg for this. And this guy -- what is it
about Nebraska that keeps naming you guys, real wounded warriors, to
represent them in Washington? And should this guy be secretary of defense?

BOB KERREY (D), FMR. NEBRASKA SENATOR: Well, Nebraska is a great state, I
mean, and the answer is yes. I mean, for the men and women who are serving
in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the -- both active
reserve and the Guard, this is a great appointment. This man will fight to
make certain that our troops get the right equipment, that they get the
right training, that they get the right resources in order to get the job
done.

He will be a great leader for our military, and I`m grateful that the
president picked, in this case a Republican, who can actually get the job
done. So I`m -- it`s a great appointment. If you`re serving in our
military, if you`ve served in our military, if you`re worried about our
nation`s security, this is a terrific appointment.

MATTHEWS: One thing I`ve always liked but is your incredible independence,
Senator Kerrey. I mean, and you`ve really been independent, even against -
- you questioned Clinton`s budget in the beginning, and then you finally
voted for it and all that.

And what do you think about the Senate when you read it right now tonight,
and you look at the -- sort of the weird anger from people like Lindsey
Graham against this nomination, and Cornyn, which is a little more
obviously partisan? What do you make of the 100 senators and how they`re
going to vote on this nomination?

KERREY: Well, you do sort of worry that it`s -- you know, that it could
become another one of those litmus test votes, as opposed to just an honest
judgment about whether or not Chuck Hagel can serve the country, but
particularly given the transition, the difficult transition, the budget
constraints that the Department of Defense is facing.

Rather just answer the question, Is he going to be able to fight and lead
the Pentagon and make certain that our troops get the resources they need,
the training they need, the support that they need -- rather than focusing
on that, they`re off looking at whether or not something he said 15 years
ago, some policy question...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERREY: And unfortunately, it may command an awful lot of attention. But
I do think at the end of the day that enough Republicans and Democrats will
look at Chuck Hagel, will examine his record, will consider what he`s done
and what he`s capable of doing, and they`ll vote to confirm.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the analysis we just heard from a combat
vet himself, you know, a Medal of Honor winner we just talked to there --
and he`s going to be back in a minute.

But let me ask you this about this, Steve -- the gay rights thing. This
country has moved like a blitzkrieg, to use a bad metaphor, for 20 or 30
years now. And we have moved so far. I have moved so far. I`m a pretty
liberal guy, but I moved so far on this, all the...

STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC": What were you saying 14 years ago?

MATTHEWS: well, I wasn`t saying this, but I wasn`t going out to get
Hormel, the ambassador, and I wasn`t calling him, what was the word
"aggressively gay" or stuff about that. What he meant was he`s militant.
But today I think that -- I look at the numbers. A majority of the
American people support actual gay marriage, not just civil unions. This
country`s gone through an incredible transition of acceptance and -- if not
celebration, real acceptance.

CLEMONS: I think that`s absolutely right. I think it`s become a non-issue
for most.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CLEMONS: And I think that even if you poll the GOP party, you find a
majority that supports gay marriage in -- in...

MATTHEWS: Just haven`t gotten around to it in the platform yet.

CLEMONS: Right. Exactly. And I think that, you know, when you come into
this -- and I`ve known Chuck Hagel for years, and I`ve had a relationship,
interaction, and I happen to have been, you know, accidentally, at least,
maybe the only journalist or blogger at the time that talked to him a
couple of years ago about "Don`t ask, don`t tell" and about the purges of
Muslim translators who happened to be gay who were working in intelligence
services.

And he was appalled by it. He made very clear that he stood by...

MATTHEWS: We were losing good people.

CLEMONS: ... LGBT -- yes, we were losing good people and he was there.
And I -- and I think that, you know, he has put out a -- I think, a really
great apology to James Hormel, and Hormel did a very gracious, wonderful,
magnanimous...

MATTHEWS: What was he up for, Norway? What was it...

CLEMONS: He was in Luxembourg.

(CROSSTALK)

CLEMONS: ... gay ambassador.

MATTHEWS: And he was...

CLEMONS: Michael Guest (ph), who was also a gay ambassador who resigned
during the Bush administration, also came out in Politico and issued a very
fervent defense...

MATTHEWS: I saw that today. Let me -- (INAUDIBLE) here`s Chuck Hagel --
he was under criticism from anti-gay groups today for that comment he made
14 years ago about a potential ambassador to Luxembourg. Hagel called the
nominee "openly, aggressively gay."

Well, he recently apologized, and today Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay
U.S. senator, responded to the news of Hagel`s nomination. Take a look.
It was on our network today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: I plan to ask some tough questions, to
give a thorough review and to be fair. But I do want to speak with him
particularly about his comments 14 years ago to see if his apology is
sincere and sufficient. I want to hear how he`s evolved on this issue in
the last 14 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator Kerrey, a lot of the opposition has been by what we call
neoconservatives, or hawks -- let`s just call them hawks, to keep it simple
-- who basically don`t think that he`s got the same juice, the same
instincts for warfare. What do you make of that, that he doesn`t really
want to fight as much as the hawks do, whether it`s Iran or whatever
country?

KERREY: Well, there`s no evidence of that. I mean, first of all, he`s
already fought once. I mean, how much more does he have to do to prove
that he`s willing to fight for his country?

Secondly, I mean, if you look at his record, the big question for Chuck is,
is it worth the cost? And that`s something that our men and women in the
military need to have somebody asking repeatedly because, you know, he
fought in a war that was very popular in the beginning and unpopular at the
end. We tend to get all worked up at the beginning, and then everybody`s,
Oh, my god, people are dying and killing each other and -- you know, and
then we -- - and then we want to get out. And it`s very difficult to get
out once you`ve started it.

So I think you need to have somebody that`s skeptical at the beginning.
But he`s certainly demonstrated very much what used to be mainstream
conservative thinking. I`ve always thought of Chuck as being sort of a
Reagan-style Republican, believing that we achieve peace through strength,
that our military has to remain strong.

It`s just that the policy issue -- you know, he voted for the Iraq war and
was very critical of the way it was conducted, and I think he was an honest
critic. And as it turns out, I think he was right.

MATTHEWS: Turns out you`re right. Many of Hagel`s former Republican
colleagues, as I`ve said, strongly criticized the news of his nomination.
Take a listen to this wrap (ph) of attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I`ve known Chuck Hagel. He`s an honorable
man. He`s had a record of distinguished service. But he`s profoundly
wrong on a number of the most important national security issues that face
our country today, like denying Iran nuclear weapons.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Hagel`s record is very, very troubling on the
nation of Israel. He has not been a friend to Israel, and in my view, the
United States should stand unshakeablely with the nation of Israel. And he
has consistently advocated weakness with respect to our enemies.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be
secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense
toward the state of Israel in our nation`s history. He has long severed
his ties with the Republican Party. This is an "in your face" nomination
by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, John McCain, a fellow Vietnam war vet, obviously, released
-- he`s a vet himself. He released a statement after today`s announcement
saying, quote, "Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam, and I
congratulate him on this nomination. I have serious concerns about
positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security
issues in recent years."

You know, I have to tell you that if you listen to some of this vitriol,
it`s like he`s Charles Lindberg or somebody. I mean, it`s hard -- they`re
Lindberg-ing this guy, when it`s not like, OK -- in Israel -- anybody who`s
ever been there -- I have there so many times. You have doves in the
community over there, you`ve got moderates, you`ve got people like Shimon
Peres, (INAUDIBLE) almost godly in his love for peace. You got Tzippi
Livni. You got all kinds of people over there with different views.

Isn`t an American secretary of defense allowed to have a particular view
which is a little in the middle or even to the slightly left, or does it
have to be Bibi Netanyahu hard right to be acceptable by foreign policy
standards?

CLEMONS: Well, I mean, you just said...

MATTHEWS: What`s the mainstream we`re talking about?

CLEMONS: You said really importantly is that if you -- you know, if you go
to Tel Aviv today and you look at the debate they have there...

MATTHEWS: And it`s wide open.

CLEMONS: It`s wide open. And here, it is much more tightly constrained.
And Chuck Hagel...

MATTHEWS: If you`re not for Bibi, you`re not considered pro-Israeli.

CLEMONS: That`s right. And there are two things Bob Kerrey -- I mean,
just really important (ph). Chuck Hagel is not a pacifist, number one.
He`s not a pacifist. And number two, he`s a "war as last resort" rather
than "war as first resort" guy.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CLEMONS: And I think I think that combined -- you know, Israel is
obviously an important ally of the United States, but unless you`re kicking
the teeth in of Israel`s neighbors, then people are basically (INAUDIBLE)
But I`ll tell you, Chuck Hagel is no different than Bob Gates, no different
than Leon Panetta, no different than other person in the Obama
administration and its views towards...

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Senator Kerrey...

CLEMONS: And that`s the mainstream.

MATTHEWS: Senator Kerrey, you`ve been in politics all these years. You
ran again this time. What is the vehemence about? Is it just the sense
that he`s just too much to the left of the right wing? What is the new
standard for Middle East politics in being secretary of defense for the
United States?

KERREY: Well, that`s a good question. I mean, I think it`s going to be
proven in his testimony that he`s a very strong supporter of the United
States being a strong ally of Israel. I mean, that`s really the bottom
line. Are you willing to be an ally of Israel, yes or no? And he`s going
to answer emphatically yes. His votes and his record actually confirm
that.

Does he have disagreements from time to time with the prime minister of
Israel? The answer is yes. But you know, I have disagreements from time
to time with the president of the United States, but that doesn`t mean I
don`t support the United States of America.

So I mean, I think the representations that he`s going to be terrible for
Israel I just think is wrong. And I think when he gets before the Armed
Services Committee, I think he`s going to impress the American people that
he`s able to do the most important thing, which is to represent the men and
women who are serving in our military and to make certain they get the
equipment, the training necessary to carry out their mission and that he`s
going to be there when the debate is occurring as to whether or not we
ought to go to war and remind people that oftentimes it occurs that we get
all enthusiastic, everybody`s behind a war at the beginning, then all of a
sudden, we find out people are killing and dying and we turn against it.

He has been in an unpopular war, one that was popular in the beginning,
became unpopular at the end. And our men and women in the military need
that kind of voice when it comes time to putting up the balloon.

MATTHEWS: Well said. It`s great to have you on, Senator Bob Kerrey.
Thanks for coming on the show. And Steve Clemons, thank you.

Coming up: Split decision in the wake of President Obama`s reelection. The
Republican Party is divided in two, a dominant religious conservative
Southern majority and a disappearing modern (ph) Northeastern minority part
of the party that`s being isolated and ignored by the right-wingers. And
that`s a problem for the GOP. That Southern dominance may sentence the
entire party to irrelevance.

And conservative ideologues are itching for another fiscal fight, by the
way, big surprise, with President Obama, this time saying they may shut
down the government altogether or risk a credit catastrophe by not raising
the debt ceiling. Could somebody please remind these guys who won the
election again?

Plus, NRA. The NRA`s made its position clear. The answer to gun violence,
more guns. But now we have evidence that posting armed guards everywhere
has the exact opposite effect. We`ll see. Tonight, the latest battle
lines as the Obama administration moves to curb the availability of assault
weapons.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with why this nomination of Chuck Hagel
should be given a solid, solid chance.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary Clinton is back at work at the State Department.
This morning, she chaired the weekly meeting of the department`s leadership
team. And one thing on the agenda will be testifying on Capitol Hill about
the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans.

Secretary Clinton has been sidelined nearly a month after suffering a
stomach bug, dehydration, a concussion, and then a blood clot in recent
weeks. Well, she`s back, and that`s great.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. You might have thought that the North
versus South battles had been fought and won, but in today`s Republican
Party, the rural Southern conservative wing of the party seems to be taking
down the Northeastern Republicans. You saw the fight break out again last
week in the delay over Hurricane Sandy relief funding.

But take a look at how the fiscal cliff vote broke down by region -- the
fiscal cliff vote. John Judis writes about it in "The New Republic." "All
in al" -- I love these numbers! "All in all, 85 Republicans voted for the
Senate resolution and 151 voted against it. The opposition was centered in
the old South. Southern Republicans opposed the measure by 83 to 10 -- 83
to 10 down South. The delegations from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia,
Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina were unanimously opposed."

"In the East" -- the Northeast meaning (ph) that (ph) -- "House Republicans
were 24 to 1 in favor, with New York and Pennsylvania unanimous. Well, the
danger for the GOP is it`s becoming a religious sectional ultra-
conservative party great at winning and holding gerrymandered seats, but
too willing to sacrifice entire regions of the country," meaning where
we`re at right now.

Former Congressman Chris Shays is a Republican from Connecticut and Howard
Fineman is editorial director of the Washington -- of the HuffingtonPost,
as well as -- they don`t have an editorial director, "The Washington Post"
-- HuffingtonPost as well an MSNBC political analyst, and our pal and my
pal.

Look, Chris Shays, it`s great to have you on because you`ve always been my
notion of a reasonable moderate Republican from the moderate reasonable
part of the country, meaning Connecticut. See how I warm you up here?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Now my question is, why have you guys been abandoned by the
Southern crowd? It`s almost like the Civil War went the other way and the
South somehow took over the party of Lincoln, not that there`s anything
wrong with the South, but it`s certainly made your party into a right-
wingish party.

CHRIS SHAYS (R), FMR. CONNECTICUT CONGRESSMAN: Well, we`re not going to be
a national party of -- social conservatives basically destroyed any
possibility of people in the Northeast from getting elected who are
Republicans. It`s just not going to happen. It`s not the fiscal side
that`s of concern to people up North, it`s their social agenda, which has
nothing to do with running the country.

MATTHEWS: Did you ever read the Republican platform this year? You ran
for office this year. Did you take a look at some of the stuff in there
about outright...

SHAYS: Chris, you know that no congressman ever has read the platform,
whether they`re conservative or liberal.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAYS: It`s the most irrelevant document. But ultimately, it can hurt
some people who -- you know, when others read it.

It doesn`t tell us how to vote. It`s useless.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, look, I read it -- I read it once in a while with
great pleasure, because it`s so absurd.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But, Howard -- it is.

Howard Fineman, I don`t know who these turkeys are that write that thing,
totally against gay -- same-sex marriage, even though the country has moved
that direction. I think they`re practically against contraception, they
get so far out.

(CROSSTALK)

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And against abortion
rights.

And I will give you an example of what`s happened. I`m sure Chris knows
about this. In New Hampshire, there was a very staunch, but moderate
Republican family named the McLanes. There was Malcolm and Susan McLane.
They were big supporters of George H.W. Bush.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: The Thornburghs, the Baldridges (ph), the Bushes, you name it,
that old crowd from New England.

MATTHEWS: Christie Whitman.

FINEMAN: That old crowd from New England, specifically New Hampshire,
which is important in presidential politics.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: When President Bush flipped his position on abortion, went the
pro-life route to be on the ticket with Ronald Reagan, they had a falling
out publicly with H.W. They became Democrats.

Their daughter, Susan -- McLane Kuster, was elected to Congress from New
Hampshire this time as a Democrat from an old-line, 100-year-old Republican
family, but as a Democrat, because of abortion rights, because of feminism,
because of gay rights, because of adoption, you name it.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

SHAYS: It`s what Chris says. It`s the social issues in particular that
have really cleaved the party in half geographically.

MATTHEWS: Chris, I want you -- Congressman, I want you to look at this
great old ad. I love the great ads of history.

Talk about regional politics. Well, back in 1964, the Lyndon Johnson
campaign ran this ad against Barry Goldwater, who was openly disdainful of
Easterners. It`s a funny ad. I hope you can imagine it. We`re looking at
it. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: In a "Saturday Evening Post" article dated August 31, 1963,
Barry Goldwater said: "Sometimes, I think this country would be better off
if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea."
Can a man who makes statements like this be expected to serve all the
people justly and fairly?

Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you
to stay home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here we are.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: He was not a social conservative.

MATTHEWS: Here we are. Yes.

But here we are today with the Northeast. I mean, look at the fight over
Hurricane Sandy and all the loud noise we heard from people like Peter King
and all, saying, wait a minute, you guys, we`re part of the party. We`re
getting treated like you guys treated Katrina now.

Excuse me, not that bad.

SHAYS: Let me ask you, though, wasn`t that $60 billion and shouldn`t they
have taken this step by step and not passed $60 billion?

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe that`s a more fiscally conservative argument, but
the message in "The New York Daily News," here it is. New York headlines
called attention to the Sandy funding. We`re talking politics here,
Congressman.

In "The New York Daily News," the headline, there it is, "Stabbed in the
Back: New York Pols Blast Sandy Betrayer Boehner."

SHAYS: Well, you know what? That`s unfortunate.

MATTHEWS: And "The New York Times" had all above the fold...

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: But you know what?

MATTHEWS: Well, look at this. "Stalling of Storm Aid Makes Northeast
Republicans Furious."

You weren`t one of them?

SHAYS: No.

Well, let me put it this way. I was unhappy that Boehner didn`t respond to
the governor. He should have said, you know what? We`re going to deal
with this step by step and in the first week of the new Congress, we will
get it done. But we`re not going to pass a $60 billion bill. That would
have been a responsible way I think to communicate that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, remember Jerry Ford losing a close collection to
Jimmy Carter after the headline ran, "Ford to New York: Drop Dead"?

FINEMAN: "Drop Dead."

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Well, part of this is pure politeness, but politeness relates to
political power and tribal allegiance.

John Boehner didn`t feel on the night of the big fiscal cliff vote either
the energy or the responsibility or the sense of family ties, if you will,
to the Northeast Republicans to make the kind of explanation that Chris
Shays is talking about. He just blew them off.

And that sent a big message. That sent a big message.

SHAYS: Now, that may be more of a story, though.

FINEMAN: Yes. What?

SHAYS: Yes. The more to the story could be that John was concerned that
he wouldn`t even get 85 votes to get this bill passed if he had included
the Northeast aid.

I mean, we just don`t know certain things that were happening behind closed
doors.

FINEMAN: But he didn`t say any -- but he not did say any of that -- he did
not say any of that on that night. That`s my point. My was, he didn`t
care enough...

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: I bet there are a lot of things he would like to say about...

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: ... about conversations he had with the president and so on.

But I happen to think John Boehner is -- deserves more credit than he`s
getting, frankly.

MATTHEWS: I like Boehner, too, but I think he`s been overwhelmed by the
right.

Let me ask you this, Congressman. You and I grew up in a country where
there was Clifford Case from New Jersey. There was Hugh Scott in
Pennsylvania, Schweiker from Pennsylvania.

SHAYS: I know.

MATTHEWS: And you had Weicker from Connecticut and you had Saltonstall
from Connecticut and Ed Brooke from Massachusetts and up and down the
East...

FINEMAN: Warren Rudman in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: Warren Rudman in New Hampshire. All these Republicans from the
Northeast. They`re blown away. The only person left I think is Susan
Collins now.

So what`s wrong? What happened to the Republican Party of the Northeast?
The people watching TV right now, by the way.

SHAYS: Well, if we stay like this, we`re doomed. We have to be a party
that focuses on the issues that bind us together, and they`re not the
social issues.

A national party has got to give a member of Congress or the Senate the
ability to represent their constituency. And a party that denies them that
opportunity, they`re not going to get elected.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

FINEMAN: Chris, you can`t overstate the problem the Republican Party has
with women voters. New Hampshire used to be...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHAYS: I know you can`t.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... four male Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: ... some credit to the senator in Indiana, the candidate, and our
candidate in Missouri. They were just deadly. Our brand is hurting badly.

MATTHEWS: And the worst thing that happened this election was the joke
that said when you say the rape candidate you have to say in that campaign,
which one, the Missouri one or the Indiana one?

Anyway, thank you Chris Shays. It was that bad, sir. You will be back, I
know. Thank you, Chris Shays, once and future congressman.

SHAYS: God bless.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Why does Iowa Congressman Steve King, of all people,
keep pushing a bill to change the Constitution when he`s failed at it each
time he`s tried? He`s trying to get rid of the 14th Amendment.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

The news came Thursday that Michele Bachmann kicked off the new season of
Congress, the new session, by introducing a bill to repeal Obamacare which
made it the 34th such attempt by House Republicans.

Iowa`s Steve King, another campus character of the right, has decided to
champion a cause that he`s tried before. King wants to quash or at least
clarify the 14th Amendment, which protects birthright citizenship. Back in
2010, King said, "The framers didn`t consider the babies of illegals when
they framed the 14th Amendment because we didn`t have immigration law at
the time. So they could not have wanted to confer automatic citizenship on
the babies of people who were unlawfully in the United States."

Well, King has racked up 13 co-sponsors for his latest edition of the
Birthright Citizenship Act, including the great birther Louie Gohmert.

Finally, the GOP clown car is still rolling across the sagebrush.

Next, the 67 Republicans who voted against Hurricane Sandy relief last week
were panned from all sides, and not just by Northeast Republicans like
Chris Christie, but talk about all politics being local. Steve Palazzo,
one of the no-votes, tried in 2005 to get cash for Biloxi, a part of
Mississippi hit hard by Katrina. This nugget from Palazzo showed up in a
pamphlet at the time. "We will rebuild and we will provide homes for those
displaced, but we cannot do that until it`s funded. We`re ready to do the
work, but we simply don`t have the financial resources of our own to handle
a catastrophe like Katrina."

Well, after last week`s vote, Palazzo`s spokesperson explained that he was
opposed to the bill for aid to the north because it did not include
spending cuts.

Finally, if you thought the international enthusiasm for President Obama
had waned since 2008, check out the Irish. The Corrigan Brothers became a
YouTube sensation back in 2008 with "There`s No One as Irish as Barack
O`Bama." And now there`s still no one as Irish as Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Up next, the Obama administration is moving forward with
comprehensive gun control. Critics on the right say the solution to gun
violence is simple: more guns.

But we now have more evidence that more guns equals more killing. Big
surprise. And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mandy Drury with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Well, too good to last. Wall Street`s winning run ended today with across-
the-board losses. The Dow taking the biggest hit, shedding 51 points.
Boeing contributed to the slump after a 787 Dreamliner caught fire at Logan
International Airport. No passengers on board. The FAA is investigating.
Meantime, Bank of America slipped despite reaching an over $10 billion
settlement with Fannie Mae over questionable home loans it sold during the
housing bubble.

And that`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- now it`s
back over to HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a country, we have been
through this too many times, whether it`s an elementary school in Newtown
or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in
Aurora or a street corner in Chicago.

These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our
children. And we`re going to have to come together and take meaningful
action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s been 24 days now since the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut,
and this weekend we got the first bit of information on the size and scope
of recommendations Vice President Biden`s gun control task force may make.

"The Washington Post" reported that they include universal background
checks for gun buyers, a national database to track gun sales,
strengthening mental health checks on gun buyers, and stiffer penalties for
carrying guns in school zones or giving them to minors.

Well, this is in stark contrast to the NRA`s proposed solution, arming the
good guys, as they put it.

Here is the NRA`s Wayne LaPierre a week after the Newtown massacre. Let`s
listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The
only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally
involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I
call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is
necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this
nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joining me is Rebecca Peters. She`s the former director of the
International Action Network on Small Arms. She`s seen evidence worldwide
that arming the good guys doesn`t keep people safe. And Joy Reid, of
course, is managing editor of TheGrio and an MSNBC contributor.
22
Thank you, ladies, for joining us tonight.

I guess -- I want Rebecca to start here, because this is your expertise.

What do we know works? And if you look at the Biden stuff that`s leaked
out from the Biden task force about a database, about background checks,
I`m grabbed by the Australian -- where you`re from originally -- the
Australian method of basically a long background of 20 -- who needs a gun
real fast?

Let people find out who you are when you`re trying to buy that gun. Check
out your mental record, your police record, everything, find out about you
before they decide to let you buy that gun. That looks like something that
might just pass muster in this country, but your thoughts. What do you
think would work? What do you think would pass?

REBECCA PETERS, FORMER DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL ACTION NETWORK ON SMALL
ARMS: Well, in terms of what would work, I`m very encouraged by this
suggestion that the task force is considering a package of reforms, rather
than just one thing or another, because what we see in countries where --
and, in fact, in states, in the U.S. where gun violence has been
significantly reduced is in response to comprehensive reforms.

So, in Australia, in my country, as you mentioned, we have a gun licensing
system that involves a 28-day waiting period. And in that time, there`s
exhaustive checks done not only of your, you know, formal criminal record,
not only whether you have been convicted of violent crimes, because the
fact is most people -- most people who commit homicide, for example, they
don`t have a prior conviction for violent crime like that.

Usually, that`s the first time they commit a really serious violent crime,
and by the time that happens, it`s too late. So what we`re doing in
Australia is comprehensive checks, also safe storage requirements, also
controls on ammunition, controls on -- on -- and taking into account all
the circumstances of the case, recognizing that a gun is a lethal product,
made for killing, and bringing it into your house and into your community
is a very serious decision.

And, you know, that kind of an approach has allowed Australia to reduce by
about 50 percent our rates of gun violence, and yet we still have sport
shooting, we still have hunting. We -- people are still able to have guns
in Australia. It`s just that it`s within the bounds of what`s reasonable
in a democracy.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I love Australian movies, by the way. And I think you have
a lot of our cowboy character.

Joy, your thoughts about our cultural realities in this country, not just
cultural but constitutional. We`ve got a Second Amendment. I don`t know
what other country has anything like the Second Amendment but we darn well
have it. How do we live with it and also live through it?

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Yes, Chris, and we also have this novel
interpretation of the Second Amendment since probably like the `70s and`
80s that it`s about an individual right rather than a militia.

But, you know, moving that aside because it`s been litigated in the Supreme
Court, we -- if you look at the package of reforms that are being offered
by the Obama administration, they are looking at the commerce around guns,
things that the government can go ahead and regulate. In some cases that
the Obama administration could just do because it`s regulating the dealers.
It`s regulating the sellers. And that`s one thing that I think is doable
even if Congress were to resist.

And what I mean by that --

MATTHEWS: They`re going to kill these gun shows? I would love to see
that.

REID: Well, I mean, I don`t think you can do much about that, but you can
at least force these gun shows to abide by the background checks that a gun
dealer, that a licensed dealer has to abide by. Even at a gun show, you
have to be licensed. And since the government is giving you that license
and you do not have a constitutional right to a license to deal guns, the
government can regulate it there.

And I think your other guest is exactly right. You`ve got to look at
things like if you buy five or more guns at a time or in a week, why can`t
you get the same scrutiny or at least have that reported the same way it
would happen if you tried to deposit $10,000 in your bank account and you
would have a red flag with your bank?

So, there are things the government can do to regulate the commerce side,
which I think are common sense.

MATTHEWS: Well, this weekend, the Republicans and Democrats reacted to
plans to strengthen gun laws. First, newly elected Republican Senator Ted
Cruz of Texas followed by newly elected Democratic senator and NRA member
Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Every parent was horrified at what happened
there, to see 20 children, six adults senselessly murdered. It takes your
breath away. But within minutes, we saw politicians run out and try to
exploit this tragedy, try to push their political agenda of gun control.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: You need to put everything on the
table, but what I hear from the administration and if "The Washington Post"
is to be believed, that`s way an extreme of what I think is necessary or
even should be talked about. And it`s not going to pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Rebecca, see the problem in this country. You know it. There
you have Ted Cruz, a well-educated guy, another one of these well-educated
right wingers like Pat Robertson. It`s like they flush out their high
educations when they get out of school for political purposes.

I mean, talking about this being a political -- it`s not anybody`s
political agenda. The only person who what want to have gun control is
somebody who is scared of what the gun has been doing. There`s no
political advantage in this. It`s nothing but trouble to be for gun
control.

You don`t get any votes for that, but there you have a guy talking out of
his whatever about how somehow it`s a political agenda. What do we do in a
country you can`t talk gun control without being accused of advantageous
personal politics, which is ridiculous?

PETERS: Yes, it`s interesting because, you know, nobody stands to make
money either from prevention. I guess in these sort of moments, you think,
well, who stands to benefit -- who stands to benefit from policies that are
going to promote more sales of guns? Who stands to benefit from policies
of prevention?

It`s the general public. Nobody makes money out of people being -- not
being hurt or killed, and I guess if you think about the motivation, it
isn`t -- it isn`t political. It`s about prevention and recognizing that
there isn`t -- you know, in the real world, there are things that can be
done. It`s well-established now in the public health community. We know
that violence can be prevented and that it can be approached in a rational
way just like so many other problems.

I mean, it`s amazing that in the U.S. this method -- this agent of injury
that kills over 30,000 people a year has not been able to be approached a
rational way --

MATTHEWS: OK.

PETERS: -- because of the politicking which is really from the other side.

But I think the point about universal background checks, that is, I think,
the single most important measure that will make a difference.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Thank you so much.

PETERS: But --

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I`ve got to go to Joy for the last word.
Excuse me.

Joy, last word. How much time do we have before this issue gets dull again
because we haven`t had a recent horror?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: How much time do we have to get something done here, do you
think?

REID: I`m always skeptical of waiting because I feel like it goes out of
the news cycle. But, look -- I mean, Chris, look, I know we have one party
that`s averse to the idea of facts and data, but the data shows the more
guns there are in a region or country, the more gun deaths there are.
That`s why the South is a clear outlier in terms of gun deaths versus the
rest of the country.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

REID: That`s why the U.S. is a clear outlier.

The data is clear on this and Rebecca made the very, most important point.
The only people who stand to gain by not doing gun control are people who
sell guns and who represents them? The NRA.

The NRA is trying to find ways to market and sell more guns because that`s
the product their clients sell. That`s all that they`re in this for.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Rebecca Peters. As always, thank you, Joy Reid.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Republicans are threatening to shut down the government
again if they don`t get their way in the upcoming debt ceiling fight. Did
he forget who won the election?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I just saw a great movie, "Silver Linings Playbook". It starts
Bradley Cooper, Robert de Niro, and the best young actor out there in the
movies, Jennifer Lawrence. I hereby select "Silver Linings" as one of the
five great Philadelphia movies of all time.

Yo, there`s "Rocky" the first, although "Rocky III" was pretty darn good.
There`s "The Philadelphia Story" starring Katharine Hepburn and Carey Grant
and Jimmy Stewart. Then two other favorites, "Witness" with young Harrison
Ford as a courageous Philly police detective guarding the young boy in
Amish country. And then, finally, one of the truly great, most haunting
movies I have ever seen "Sixth Sense".

"Silver Linings Playbook" belongs with the all-time great Philadelphia
movies and that`s saying something.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I helped close the government
twice. It actually worked. Bill Clinton came in and said the era of big
government is over after two closures. Not before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, the expert on government closing, Newt Gingrich.

We`re back and we`ve rung in 2013.

But some Republicans are acting like it`s 1995 again. Conservatives are
actually talking about shutting down the government in order to get their
desired spending cuts.

Take a look at Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon on CBS yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT SALMON (R), ARIZONA: I believe that government shutdown gave us
the impetus as we went forward to push toward some serious compromise. I
think it drove Bill Clinton in a different direction, a very bipartisan
direction.

We also balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years, in 1997, 1998,
1999. When I left, we had nearly a $200 billion surplus. This is what the
Democratic president, a Republican --

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: You think it`s a good idea.

SALMON: Yes, I do.

(CROSSTALK)

SALMON: Yes, I think it`s about time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s how you can spot a real bipartisan guy when he uses the
word Democrat as an adjective. It`s a fighting word.

Anyway, any sense to be talking to these right wingers?

"Salon`s" Joan Walsh and "Mother Jones`" David Corn, not of the right.
Either one of them are both MSNBC political analysts.

Thanks. It`s great to be back at work here. I`ve been on vacation as you
know. But something never changes, Joan. Your smiling face reminds me of
it.

The right wing never changes its tactics, screw the government, bring it
down, bring it to a halt, scream, yell, you know, mommy, mommy, I don`t
like it here and do your usual, crazy acrobatics. Meanwhile, we lose our
credit rating. The government once again falls into disrepute and the
world laughs at us. Your thoughts?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, wait, I think there`s one important thing
here. And that is that some of them have moved away from using the debt
ceiling as the big cudgel on the president. Even Newt Gingrich himself
said he doesn`t think that the debt ceiling is the thing.

Everybody has shifted to government shutdown works that helped President
Clinton, it didn`t hurt him. It gives President Obama more leverage. It`s
very hard to see him facing, saying OK, let`s just default. But it is
possible to see him with the example of President Clinton and with the new
strength that he has standing up and saying, OK, we don`t want you to shut
it down. But if we have to, we`re not going to have any hostage to take
anymore.

So, it`s a little bit different, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know, she`s -- once again, Joan has taught me something I
didn`t know, or at least I forgot a long time ago, which is the American
public expects the chief executive or the president to keep the government
going.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They think he has the right to make it keep going. If somebody
gets in his way, they`re screwing it up.

CORN: Well, yes, you know, I think Newt Gingrich is somewhat delusional to
talk about the last time --

MATTHEWS: This is a news show. Can you give me news?

CORN: I was expecting him to say afterwards, and, you know, I won the 2012
presidential nomination.

Well, he`s like an ageing starlet. You remember back when I almost won the
Academy Awards back in 1995? I`m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille (ph).

But it`s delusional for them to think that the politics works for them.
But I think Joan is right. I don`t and the fact that if they move to that,
it`s better for the president., although I don`t think that all the House
Tea Party members, Republicans, have consigned themselves to not fight it
over the debt ceiling.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at if we can, let`s take a look at McConnell.

Mitch McConnell is the Senate leader of the Republican Party. Let`s take a
look at what he said just yesterday. I think this will bring us up-to-date
on state of the art shutting down the government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Would you rule out a government shut down to
achieve your goals?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What I think we ought to do
is to encourage the president to actually be president, address the single
biggest issue --

GREGORY: I understand that`s your view. But my question is, would you
rule out a government shutdown?

MCCONNELL: I know what your question is. What I`m telling you is I
haven`t given up on the president stepping up to the plate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a new way to answer a question. I know what your
question is, David Gregory. I`m just going to answer because -- why isn`t
he answering? It sounds like Mr. McConnell would be the first one to throw
a monkey wrench into this system. What`s his game?

WALSH: Well, I do think he`s ready for a shutdown. I don`t know that he
would be ready to refuse to lift the debt ceiling, but, you know, he sees
himself as having won something in the fiscal cliff go-round, Chris. And
so, you know, I think -- and I think that Boehner sees himself as having
lost something and needing to win back the fealty of those Tea Party
Republicans.

So, I think we`re still in for an ugly few months. But I think if they
won`t do the debt ceiling thing, they have less leverage.

MATTHEWS: What a country. I mean, let`s drop left wing, right ring for a
second. Is there any way to -- I mean, we`re the country of the world.
We`re the role model. We`re the city on the Hill, right? What a joke.
We`re teaching democracy this way?

CORN: I`m not sure the framers of the Constitution envisioned a day when
the members of Congress would hold the president hostage --

MATTHEWS: And not pay their debts.

CORN: -- without paying their own bills. And you don`t just have -- you
have the C.R., the continuing resolution, that funds the government,
running out in March. You have the sequester deadline which I couldn`t
deal with this time, they kicked down the road to March 1st. And you have
the debt ceiling hitting about the same time.

So, you have like three cliffs. This is going to be a three-ring cliff, a
three-cliff circus, whatever you want to call it, coming up very soon. And
if you have this intransigent group that doesn`t believe in compromise,
it`s going to be very hard to get through this without a lot of blood in
the water.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to be back in this. I hope this goes away.

CORN: They won`t go away.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. The tactic ought to get away. Thank you.
It ought to be about building, not destroying.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn. It`s great to be back. Joan Walsh, to see
your smiling face, I know I`m back.

When we return --

WALSH: Welcome back.

MATTHEWS: I got burping on that.

When we return, let me finish with why I think the nomination of Chuck
Hagel for defense chief should be given a solid chance. I`m putting it
that way.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this: the big story tonight is the
president`s nomination of Chuck Hagel. I think the fairest thing to do is
to give this nomination a solid chance. Let`s see how he answers the tough
questions. Let`s see if he`s the kind of person to give this enormous
responsibility.

Personally, I think the attacks on him have been pushed hard by the right
wing. The right wing doesn`t like his approach to military action.
They`re raring to go. He`s restrained, skeptical a war could achieve.

I am to like him for this reason, like Dwight Eisenhower and Anwar Sadat
and Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Rabin. Hagel knows the reality of war, not
from the top but from the mud level, where the dog faces the grunt. The
G.I.s have to do the actual fighting.

So when you watch the hearings, think of the Americans out there on post
tonight all alone in a place far from home, give some thought to the
possibility they`d like to have a Pentagon chief who knows just what that`s
like.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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