updated 1/9/2013 11:05:05 AM ET 2013-01-09T16:05:05

January 8, 2013

Guests: Sam Stein, Peter Beinart, Roxanna Green, Dick Armey, Buzz Bissinger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The folks that brought you the Iraq war.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The folks who quack for Iraq have a
knack for bad ideas. They pushed us into war 10 years ago. They made
their case with lies and half-truths and flim-flam. We had to get revenge
for 9/11, so let`s attack Iraq, even though it was al Qaeda that hit the
twin towers and the Pentagon.

We have to attack Iraq because we`ve got evidence they have weapons of mass
destruction, WMD, even if there`s no evidence they have nuclear weapons,
and it would turn out they didn`t have chemical or biological, either. We
have to attack Iraq -- the hawks -- they promised it would bring peace
between Israel and the Palestinians. The road to Jerusalem runs through
Baghdad, it was said. What we`ve got instead is the loss of even a chance
for peace in the Mideast.

Well, tonight the people who sold America the Iraq war are out selling more
warfare in the Middle East. They want military action against Syria. They
want war waged against Syria. And they want Chuck Hagel out of the way.
Why? Because he`s just the kind of guy who will ask what should we have
asked when W took us to war in Iraq, Is this really the smart thing to do
for us?

We`ve got Peter Beinart right now with the DailyBeast and Sam Stein with
the HuffingtonPost. Gentlemen, thank you. I`ve been reading your stuff.


MATTHEWS: Sam, you quoted Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief
of staff to Colin Powell when he was secretary of state. Here`s what he
told you about Republican opposition to Hagel.

Quote, "It`s not all about revenge or retaliation for anti-party stances in
the past, but fear of what Hagel`s advice and counsel might be in the
future. The hard-line GOPers and the neocons have unfulfilled plans, plans
for Syria, Iran and the greater Middle East. These plans which envision
almost endless conflict in the region are in the main opposed by people
such as Hagel."

Well, Sam, you point -- and it may well be true. You`ve done more work on
this than I have -- the sense that the vision is for almost an Orwellian
war in Oceania, as it was in "1984," endless war in the Middle East. Is
that really the prospect that the neocons hold for us?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST: I don`t know if it`s that stated, but it
certainly is underlining a lot of what we`re hearing about Hagel now. A
lot of the media attention has been on some of the past statements
involving the Jewish lobby, as he called it, involving the gay ambassador
to Luxembourg. But those are sort of sideshows.

And what this really comes down to and what Hagel`s critics would even
admit is the future of Obama`s foreign policy. Chuck Hagel in many ways
represents the clearest break yet by this administration from the George W.
Bush-era foreign policy.

Keep in mind, the president continued a lot of these Bush-era programs. We
haven`t really had a substantive, comprehensive conversation about what
went wrong in Iraq. Chuck Hagel`s nomination represents a clean break, and
you know, I think that`s very scary for a lot of these neocons.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Peter. Peter, you and I have argued in the past
and agreed in the past, and I`ve watched your evolution and I`ve always
respected the way your brain works. You think a lot, which is a good thing
for a writer to do occasionally, is to think.


MATTHEWS: You think and you really change your mind, which is very
refreshing. And I think you`ve wrestled with these issues of the Middle
East. And I guess the question is, if you get Hagel in there, aren`t you
basically getting Barack Obama with a war record? What`s the difference
between Barack Obama and Hagel?

BEINART: I think the difference between Barack Obama and Hagel is that
Hagel says publicly some of the things that Barack Obama only thinks


BEINART: And Hagel would be to this administration what Eisenhower was in
the `50s and what Colin Powell was in the 1990s, the guy who`s seen war
really up close and doesn`t allow any of his colleagues to imagine that
once you launch a war, that you can control what happens afterwards.

That`s what Eisenhower used to say again and again. You`re a student of
history, Chris. You know that`s why he kept us out of Vietnam at Dien Bien
Phu. That is exactly what Hagel has said...

MATTHEWS: Kept us out of Suez, too.

BEINART: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Kept us out of Suez.

BEINART: That was Eisenhower`s greatest sense of pride was that at the
height of the cold war for eight years, he kept us out of a ground war. He
ended the war in Korea.

This is the kind of guy that Hagel is. And he will bring the very dark
lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan into the Iran debate, and I think that is
fundamentally what the Republican foreign policy establishment fears.

MATTHEWS: I had a couple Middle Eastern fellows on both sides of that line
over there. Add into that list of people who`ve seen the face of war and
became peace fellows, Yitzhak Rabin, the great martyr in Israel. Throw in
the name Anwar Sadat, another martyr. Throw in the name of the president
of Israel, who`s a great man, I love the guy, Shimon Peres.

They understand what you`re talking about, Peter, and I think we all do.
Anyway, your thought...


BEINART: Not only that, but Meir Dagan. There has been a revolt in Israel
by the security establishment against Bibi Netanyahu...


BEINART: ... talking too casually about war with Iran.

STEIN: And let me -- let me add to this, the White House isn`t exactly
hiding the ball on this one. We quoted an administration official who said
very forthright that one of the reasons they want Chuck Hagel there is that
he articulates the world view that war should be the absolute last resort,
that you must exhaust all options.

Now, for a lot of people, that seems common sense, but for a good part of
the foreign policy establishment in D.C., that`s not exactly something they
want to hear. And so, you know, yes, they are bringing Hagel for that
exact purpose that Peter illustrated.

MATTHEWS: And I agree about -- I`ve been reading today -- I try to read
everything, "The Washington Examiner," everything, and I have to tell you -
- every day -- and I get the feeling that there`s some people pushing for a
much more aggressive stance in Syria right now.

Anyway, for hawks on Iran, Chuck Hagel`s a scary prospect since he`s been
very skeptical of using military options there. Here`s what he said back
in 2010. Let`s listen.


CHUCK HAGEL (R), FMR. NEBRASKA SENATOR: Once you begin a military
operation, and you ask any sergeant -- and it`s the sergeants and the guys
at the bottom, not the policy makers, that have to fight the war, they`re
the ones who have to do all the dying and all the fighting and make the
sacrifices, not the policy makers.

But my point is, once you start that, you better be prepared to find
100,000 troops because it may take that, or eventually where you`re going -
- my earlier point, you don`t know. And you can`t just start out with a
concept of, Well, we`re going to do this, but it`ll be marginalized, it`ll
be limited warfare. I don`t think any nation can ever go into it that way.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at those words themselves. Sam and
Peter in turn, analyze what he means there because I am for a war with
Iran, if we have to. I think all three of us are, if we have to. But we
also realize it isn`t going to stop with a bombing.

There`s a lot of reaction that`s going to come from the other side. And we
don`t know -- Hezbollah could be launched against Israel. They could be
launched against us in our hemisphere. We don`t know what buttons they
have to push over there, and will push if we go to war.

Sam, you first. What did the former senator have to say there?

STEIN: Well, what I take from talking with people who are close to Chuck
Hagel is that he views all of these issues through the mindset and the lens
of people who are literally on the ground because he`s been there before.

And so when you talk to people in the administration, what they say they`re
very excited about is what he can do on things like veterans` affairs and
soldiers that are returning from war zones.

And what my colleague, Josh Hirsch (ph), is reporting today is that Hagel
actually is semi-supportive or has been in the past of the drone program.
And part of the reason he has been supportive of the drone program is
because it involves the minimum amount of soldier casualty. You`re
literally not getting people on the ground fighting the war.

So I think that going forward, if he is confirmed as secretary of defense,
what you`re going to see is a lot policy making done from the vantage point
of, How do you limit suffering, how do you limit the need for soldiers on
the ground, and what do you do when soldiers return from the battlefields?

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Peter?

BEINART: Look, two -- there`s going to be a huge battle in 2013 about
whether we can get serious diplomacy going with Iran. Of course, we don`t
know to what degree Iran is going to play ball. But what we do know is
that there`s going to be a fight in Washington about whether the United
States will be able to compromise at all in order to get a diplomatic deal,
or whether we have expectations that Iran is going to get rid of all its
enriched uranium, even levels that are not necessary for creating a nuclear
weapon, that would make a deal impossible.

STEIN: I agree.

BEINART: And what this is really about is essentially deciding how bad war
would be, so we figure out how much we`re willing to push for a deal. And
I think that`s what a lot of this fight is really about.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s it. I agree with you completely, Peter. I hope
-- I guess, Sam, you agree that it`s about weaponization, and what stage do
you cut off this, at what stage do the Iraqis -- or the Iranians say, OK,
we`re not going to create weapons, and can you live with it? We`re not
going to create weapons. We could, but we`re not going to do it, right?

STEIN: But it`s also -- it`s also about limiting the domestic political
fallout of doing something like that. And you know, the administration
does need cover when they do pursue things like diplomacy with Iran, when
they do hold back on putting forces into Syria or trying to arm the Syrian
opposition, and certainly on the Israel-Palestine question. And Hagel does
give them cover.

And the other thing to add to there is that we will have a drawdown, a
serious drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. There will be a faction of
people in this country who argue that that`s a bad thing. Hagel gives you
cover on that because he has been through that before.

MATTHEWS: But Sam, do you really think he`s a credible Republican at this
point, or is he so outside the party sort of apparatus now, especially with
Lindsey Graham trashing him -- is he still credible bipartisan evidence?

STEIN: It`s a great question. I mean, what is a credible Republican on
this thing? I think we don`t give enough credit to the fact that there`s a
big fissure within the Republican Party over these very questions.

We quoted Dr. Brzezinski in this article talking about how this goes back
to the basic debate over interventionism. And it used to be that
Republicans were very hesitant towards that.

I think there`s going to be a lot of Republicans in this town who end up
speaking out in favor of Chuck Hagel strictly because they don`t like what
happened over the past 12 years with respect to U.S. engagement overseas.

BEINART: Yes, I would add...


MATTHEWS: You beat my optimism on that one, Sam.



BEINART: There`s been an avalanche of ex-Reagan administration people,
Frank Carlucci, Colin Powell, others, who`ve basically come out -- John
Warner -- who`ve come out in favor. And I think what you`re seeing is
there`s a generational split.

And look, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney on foreign policy easily. This is
not a guy who now walks around, in the way that Democrats used to for all
those years, looking over his shoulder at this Republican Party that
America trusts on national security. Those days are gone. So I don`t
think he has the same fears that Democrats did in the past.

STEIN: And let`s be frank. The public is very wary on the two wars we`ve
waged. Look at any poll numbers, they want them to end. I think that
works obviously towards Hagel`s favor.

MATTHEWS: By the way, John Warner saved us from Ollie North. Maybe he can
help Hagel get in there.

Anyway, "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol has been leading the charge,
of course, against Hagel. And exactly -- why is he doing this and why do
so many people listen to his views on foreign policy, considering how wrong
he was on Iraq? Good question, but I think we know the answer. He`s a
charmer. He`s brilliant. He`s a great networker.

Anyway, let`s watch him.


BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Whatever else you can say about this war
-- let me just make one point -- George Bush is not fighting this like
Vietnam. Whatever the -- we don`t need to re-fight the whole history of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam may be. That`s the dangerous (INAUDIBLE)

KRISTOL: But it`s not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me take a call...

KRISTOL: It`s not going to happen.


KRISTOL: This is going to be a two-month war, not an eight-year war.


MATTHEWS: So it`s going to be a two-month war in Iraq. A hell of a
predictor there. It`s like Dick Morris making his predictions, and of
course, Karl Rove -- dead wrong.

What is the genius of Bill Kristol? I swear, he`s Ellsworth Toohey in "The
Fountainhead." He`s got organizations all over the place. He`s
everywhere. And yet he`s wrong a lot.

How does he get away with it, Sam?

STEIN: He`s very good at being part of the media conversation. I mean, he
has a lot of platforms that he can utilize, and as you mention, he`s very
charming. Now, his predictions have been wrong a lot of the times, but it
doesn`t seem to stop him from getting a megaphone or an outlet.

And I think a lot of people like the idea of having a debate over these
things. They like the idea of one side and another battling it out over
the direction of U.S. engagement overseas.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you completely.


BEINART: There`s another point, if I -- if I can -- you know, most of the
time -- we live in a media ecosystem where, by and large, you can usually
go on to discuss the current foreign policy debate and never be called on
your past views.

MATTHEWS: Well, not here. Not on HARDBALL.

BEINART: I know. I think...

MATTHEWS: Not on HARDBALL. We do it here!

BEINART: That`s why I think this conversation is so valuable.


BEINART: But if you look at most of these interviews...


BEINART: ... especially on some other networks, by and large, you don`t
have to do that...


MATTHEWS: We`re going to keep calling them here. You guys are great
guests tonight, Sam Stein and Peter Beinart.

STEIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I respect you both.

Coming up: If you want to know what gun control advocates are up against,
take a look at what happened on CNN last night. What a horror show!


ALEX JONES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And I`m here to tell you, 1776 will
commence again if you try to take our firearms! Doesn`t matter how many
lemmings you get out there on the street begging for them to have their
guns taken! We will not relinquish them! Do you understand?


MATTHEWS: Number one reason we need background checks, that kind of guy.
Keep him away from weapons. Anyway, he`s a radio talk show host and you
heard him. Alex Jones -- he doesn`t want guns for hunting, for protection
-- hunting or personal protection. He wants guns to fight the government
with. That`s what he said last night. We`ll get into that.

The Obama administration finally has the wind at its back on this issue of
gun control. We know just what the opposition looks like. It`s that guy.

Also, red storm rising, the crisis in the Republican Party. Some
Republicans resent the hostile takeover by the Tea Party -- some
Republicans. And the Tea Party is fighting with itself. We have one of
the combatants joining us tonight, Dick Armey. He`s with us tonight.

And the latest outrage involving Penn State. The governor of Pennsylvania,
Tom Corbett, has decided that the real victims of Jerry Sandusky were not
the children that were raped and abused and raped, but the Penn State
football program itself. He`s filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, seeking to
reverse those sanctions and exonerate the school.

Finally, only one of the following four things are less popular than
Congress -- meth labs, NFL replacement refs, used car salesmen, and root
canals. Which is it? Check out the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: The author of perhaps the definitive book on American politics
has died. Richard Ben Cramer wrote "What It Takes," a 1,000-plus-page book
about the 1988 presidential election. The book chronicled the
personalities and idiosyncrasies of candidates like Bob Dole, Joe Biden,
Mike Dukakis and George Herbert Walker Bush. NBC`s "FIRST READ" calls it
the unofficial textbook of Washington and says if you haven`t read it, then
you don`t get it. Richard Ben Cramer was 62.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s been 25 days since now the
horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and two years since the massacre
in Tucson that left six dead and injured U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle

The vice president is spearheading a gun control task force in response,
and outside organizations like the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns are
organized to make sure that this time, gun laws are strengthened.

Well, gun control advocates are up against a vehement, sometimes incoherent
opposition. One example, radio talk show host Alex Jones, who has called
for Piers Morgan to be deported because of his anti-gun positions.

Well, last night, Morgan asked Jones why take a look at the face of --
well, just take a look here at the face of some of the...


ALEX JONES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We did it to point out that this is
globalism, and the mega-banks that control the planet and brag that they`ve
taken over, and Bloomberg, AP, Reuters, you name it, brag that they`re
going to get our guns, as well. They`ve taken everybody`s guns but the
Swiss and the American people.

And when they get our guns, they can have their world tyranny, while the
government buys 1.6 billion bullets, armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters,
Predator drones armed now in U.S. skies, being used to arrest people in
North Dakota. The 2nd Amendment isn`t there for duck hunting. It`s there
to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is Roxanna Green, whose daughter,
Christina Taylor Green, was killed in that Tucson massacre that injured
Gabrielle Giffords, and former governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of
Philadelphia, Ed Rendell. Both of you have had your own experiences.

It`s so nice to have you on, Roxanna. Thank you. What do you do -- what`s
your sort of mental and emotional reaction when you hear someone like Alex
Jones spew that sort of Armageddon language about guns?

really don`t even know what to say. I have no comment. It`s unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: OK. Governor, you`ve experienced -- Pennsylvania is relatively
free of insane people, but you hear of people like Alex -- and this guy`s
talking about the United States government being a tyranny, coming to take
his guns, therefore, he`s well armed and he`s going to take them on.

I want to say to Ms. Green, the commercial you did is wonderful. And I
think we`ll talk about it, but it`s absolutely crucial to keep the
intensity level up for all those who believe we need to do something. So

And Chris, when I saw that clip, it made me happy, and I`ll tell you why.
Because it painted out to average Americans as clearly as anything we can
say how crazy the other side is and how reasonable people, including NRA
members, including gun owners -- reasonable people will agree that there
are things we can do to minimize the risk here, to reduce the harm and the
carnage. And we have to do them.

MATTHEWS: I thought he did a good job. I think Piers did an excellent job
of restraint.

RENDELL: Oh, a great job!

MATTHEWS: I don`t think I would have shown that kind of restraint because
he made a couple of points, Roxanna, which are very important, I thought,
that in England, they have 37 people killed by guns a year. We have over
11,000 killed -- that we have a real problem with guns.

Let me show a bit of ad that the governor mentioned that you were in.
Here`s part of the ad you made for the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Let`s listen.


GREEN: My 9-year-old daughter was murdered in the Tucson shooting. I have
one question for our political leaders. When will you find the courage to
stand up to the gun lobby? Whose child has to die next? To every mother,
we cannot wait. We have to demand a plan.


MATTHEWS: How do you tell a gentleman in the United States Senate or
Congress or a woman that you may lose your career over this issue?

I know we had a great liberal senator from Pennsylvania, Joe Clark, who
lost his career over this. How do you tell them to stand up, man up, woman
up, and do the right thing, even if it means they lose the next election?
How do you make that case, Roxanna?

RENDELL: Chris, are you asking me or Roxanna?

MATTHEWS: Roxanna, please.

GREEN: I really don`t have the answers for that.

All I know is that I`m encouraging people in their communities to call
their congressmen or senators and demand a plan right now. Our little
ones` lives are at stake. It`s something that I`m just going to fight for,
for as long as it takes. I am really confident they`re going to do
something now ever since Newtown.

I don`t know why it keeps on happening, but I think there`s sensible --
there`s got to be a sensible plan, commonsense gun regulation out there. I
just hope and pray that we can have background checks on every single gun
that`s purchased, that, you know, we go back to the ban on military-style
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and we make gun trafficking a
federal offense.

MATTHEWS: Can we do those things, Governor, that she just mentioned?

RENDELL: Sure, we can.

MATTHEWS: They have all been done at some time or another, then discarded.

RENDELL: Sure, we can, Chris.

And Roxanna is part of the answer. And so are the Tucson and Virginia Tech
victims who joined together in an ad. So are the Aurora victims. All of
us have to keep the pressure on. What happens is, when there`s a mass
murder, everyone is outraged. We have wonderful memorial services. There
are tears, and we vow to do something, and then three weeks later, we
forget about it.

But this time, we`re not going to forget, and I think what Roxanna is doing
and what others are doing is going to ensure that. And, Chris, the NRA`s
power to defeat people in elections is absolutely overrated, and you`re
looking at the prime example.

You know that Pennsylvania has the second highest number of NRA members in
the state -- of any state in the union. I won three statewide elections
with the NRA dead-set against me by 10 points, 12 points, and 21-point
margins, and I did it without compromising any of the things that I
believed in on guns.

Reasonable NRA members, in a Frank Luntz poll, 74 percent of them agree
with Roxanna that no one should get a gun without a background check.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

This morning, Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords herself called for an end
to gun violence and announced they have formed an organization to challenge
the NRA up front. Let`s listen.


it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It`s designed to do
that, and that`s what our soldiers ought to carry.

I personally don`t think there`s any need for that kind of weaponry on the
streets and particularly around the schools in America.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s General Stanley McChrystal.

Back to you, Roxanna. This kind of shooting that goes on, it`s usually
with a semiautomatic, the mass shootings, the spree shootings, if you will,
that killed your daughter. And that was at a public event. To me, it was
a crime against democracy, because there you had a public meeting of a U.S.
congressperson meeting with their constituents and a guy comes up and
starts shooting people all over the place.

Is there any way to hide from this gun violence? It seems to me that we`re
all vulnerable to this thing now.

GREEN: I don`t know.

I mean, I think it`s an act of terrorism what he did and several other
criminals that are involved in these mass shootings. And when you can`t go
to your place of worship, a grocery store, like where my daughter was, your
school, a movie theater, I just don`t understand it.

These are supposed to be safe places for our children and for innocent
people. So I just encourage people to visit DemandAPlan.org and get
involved, so we can do something about this.

MATTHEWS: I want to recommend to everybody, as Governor Rendell well said
a minute ago, everybody should watch this thing on YouTube, this crazy guy
Alex Jones going up against Piers Morgan.

That will tell you what the face of the enemy looks like on this issue
better than anything we can say here. This guy is crazy. Anyway, he
thinks that George Walker Bush, the president of the United States, ordered
the destruction of 9/11. He`s the guy that -- with some sort of pumping
action blew up the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. He did it.
That`s what this nutcase believes.

Anyway, thank you, Roxanna Green. And for your family, we can only express
our sympathy again.

And former Governor Ed Rendell, thank you for your guts.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."

First, Jon Stewart tries to grapple with the House Republicans who voted
against Hurricane Sandy relief money. It`s not easy.


ago, America was hit by two major disasters, one of them natural, Hurricane
Sandy, and one of them somewhat manmade, the Republican majority in the
House of Representatives.


STEWART: Now, the second of those disasters is pretty much making it
impossible to clean up the first one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty-seven Republicans voted against $9.7 billion in
aid for victims of superstorm Sandy.

STEWART: What possible reason could you have for voting against aid to
hurricane victims by way of a flood reimbursement fund? What did the
Eastern Seaboard ever do to any of you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Ryan joined 66 other Republicans in voting against

STEWART: OK, well, I know what the Eastern Seaboard did to him.


STEWART: Look, Republicans, I get...


STEWART: I get that you`re the party of limited government. But we`re not
talking about Obamacare here.

This was two paragraphs giving aid to people in need, and you guys still
couldn`t bring yourselves to vote for it because of some stupid principle
that you yourselves only occasionally live by. And here`s the thing. If
you can`t vote for this, then we`re (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for the next two

And I`m not saying you are responsible for all the problems facing our
country, but you sure are making them a lot harder to fix.



Well, yesterday, I told you that Steve Palazzo of Mississippi, one of the
no-votes on Sandy relief, tried to get funding for his own state after
Hurricane Katrina. Well, it turns out he`s got company. ThinkProgress put
together a list of 37 House Republicans who voted against Sandy funding,
but who have in the past supported federal disaster funds for their home

A new PPP poll asked people to compare Congress with some other realities
of American life. Well, the good news is, here are a few things Congress
beat out in terms of popularity, playground bullies, meth labs, and Lindsay


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the bad side, Congress came out less popular than that
stuff: NFL replacement refs, used car salesmen, and root canals.

Oh. Overall favorability for Congress in the new PPP poll stands at 9
percent. That`s out of 100 percent.

Finally, Bill Maher is not quite finished needling Mitt Romney.


us. Mitt Romney is -- what`s going on? The career over for him in

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I don`t think -- you know,
that`s what everybody says. I -- I am not of that opinion. He`s going to
be running again forever.

LENO: No, he won`t run again.

MAHER: Are you kidding? Ever since the Apollo astronauts accidentally
brought his egg back from space...

LENO: Yes. Yes.


MAHER: ... in 1971...

LENO: Right.

MAHER: ... he has been programmed to run for president. Long after you
and I are dead and gone, Jay, when there is nothing but roaches and plastic
bags, there will be Mitt Romney singing "God Bless America" in a hazmat



MATTHEWS: I think Mitt Romney will forever be the candidate the comedians
compare to a Conehead.

And today marks the birthday of Elvis Presley, the king of rock `n` roll.
He`d be 78 today. It`s impossible, I believe, to overestimate this man`s
importance to our country`s history, and I mean it. He is the King.

Up next: The Tea Party took over the Republican Party and now the Tea
Party may be coming apart at its seams.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks couldn`t fight their way out of the red, as the Dow shed 55 points.
The S&P lost five. The Nasdaq dropped seven.

Boeing lagged because of a second incident at Logan International Airport
one day after this plane caught fire. Another Dreamliner returned to the
gate with a fuel leak.

And 2013 may prove to be an expensive year at the pump. GasBuddy.com
predicts prices could jump as high as $4.65 a gallon this summer.

That`s going to be it from MSNBC. I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you
back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Ever since the Republicans lost in November, the party has appeared to be
in kind of a civil war. And traditional party donors are zipping their
wallets because they don`t like the party`s direction. Yet the Tea Party
wing wants to push the party even further right in some cases.

What`s going on with the Republican Party? We have got an expert right
now, the former House Republican majority leader and former FreedomWorks
chairman, Dick Armey.

Mr. Armey, sir, I always call you Mr. Armey. I will henceforth call you
that, sir, because I`m a Hill rat and I always look up to guys who have
been elected.


MATTHEWS: So, now I`m going to ask you through broad questions -- we will
narrow it down to FreedomWorks and the sticky stuff later on -- what`s
going on with your party?

I thought, in that first debate, Romney had the number on the president.
He`s talking about spending. He`s talking about creating jobs. He`s
sticking to economics. He looked like he had a winning line there, and
then he went off to Benghazi and the party went off to rape and all this
rotten apple stuff. What should your party have been this year? What
wasn`t it? Why wasn`t it what it should have been?

there are a lot of foolish mistakes, and that 48 percent of the American
people thing that he did.

Most of the mistake were mistakes made by candidates on the campaign trail.
What the party is struggling with within itself is how, after George W.
Bush and the spendthrift majority of -- that they lost stuff with a few
years ago, trying to rediscover its relationship to constitutional
limitations on big government, fiscal responsibility, limited government
regulation administration, during a period of time when obviously you have
the president, who is hard against that and a great communicator for his
big government point of view.

So there`s an intellectual struggle here, but it is a party that is once
again searching its way back to the kind of party that once held the
affection and the respect and won the votes of the American people. They
just have to struggle along as it moves in that direction.

MATTHEWS: You`re an economics professor. You`re a philosopher of sorts.
You have always said to me, you`re not a politician. But here`s the

If you say you`re the party of limited government, of constitutional
authority, and limited government in the truest sense, why do you have guys
like Rick Santorum running for president to outlaw or to get rid of
contraception? Why does your party want a national law against gay
marriage? Why are you guys so much involved in abortion all the time? Why
do you have candidates talking about rape victims? Why don`t you stay out
of people`s lives if you really want limited government?

ARMEY: Well, once again, you have to understand, first of all, in our
party, and I would hope the same in the Democrat Party, if you fill out the
proper forms, put down the correct registration fees, you can run for
whatever office you want.

You have had a few rather strange people running in the Democrat primaries
on occasions. We have some people in our primaries sometimes. Everybody
has a right to be their own purpose -- person emphasizing that which they
think is most important to them.

What we did in our movement, the -- what is known as the Tea Party
movement, we tried to get everybody focused on the broad economic issues,
the bread-and-butter issues, the job issues. Those are the important
things for the American people. And I, quite frankly, believe...

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, why does your party platform have all this other

Mr. Armey, I respect you. I know you care about your politics. You`re a
true believer, but you`re not making sense. Why does your party fill its
platform with this stuff, creating personhood for somebody a second after
there`s a conception, there`s a fertilized egg, giving that fertilized

ARMEY: Again...

MATTHEWS: ... 14th Amendment rights to property? Why do you keep getting
involved with this nutty stuff in your platform if you say it`s just the
crazy candidates?

ARMEY: Well, this is a problem we have.

And maybe it`s a communication problem. Maybe it`s that you`re so
misguided, you think I`m misguided. But the fact of the matter, the
Democrat Party...

MATTHEWS: No, I read the -- I read your party`s platform. Do you? I read
the platform.


MATTHEWS: It`s not just rotten apples. It`s your point of view.

ARMEY: The Democratic Party has all kind of things in their platform that
I think are unusual, strange, or miss the big points of the nation`s
biggest concerns and interests.

MATTHEWS: Name one. Name one.

ARMEY: Every party`s platform...

MATTHEWS: Well, name one.

ARMEY: Well, what is it, homosexual marriage, all right, abortion on
demand, these issues are in your platform.

You don`t think it`s strange for these issues to be in your platform
pointing in one direction, but you consider it outrageous that the other
party has the same issues pointing in another direction in their platform.

So, issues that are legitimate for one platform...


Well, let me tell you, the Democratic Party generally supports Roe v. Wade.
It does not support abortion on demand. And I got to tell you, the issue
that`s going to be decided state by state, the issue of a marriage, and
it`s not going to be decided by a national point of view, which is, let`s
outlaw gay marriage.

ARMEY: Look, first of all, Chris, let me -- let me just be very clear.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the -- your situation with FreedomWorks.

I have been over the FreedomWorks with you -- I have got to talk about --
yes, go ahead.

ARMEY: I`m happy to have that issue settled wherever it is. I don`t
consider that to be the driving concern, worry, anxiety, anxiousness of the
American people. We`re worried about whether or not our children will have
a job, a safe home, comfort, and warmth and a future retirement.

MATTHEWS: I think your party`s main strength and your ideology main
strength is government spending. I think most Americans, right, center,
except for the far left, think we`re spending too much money by the federal
government and the deficit thing is real and the debt thing is real and
we`re really in trouble on it at some point. I agree with that, and it`s a
great strength. You should play to your strengths.

Let me ask you about FreedomWorks. We`ve had Matt Kibbe sitting in that
chair across my table here so many nights and he`s a good spokesman, it
seems to me, for a conservative point of view, a Tea Party point of view.
Should we keep having him on or not?

ARMEY: Well, I mean, obviously it`s your show, you go ahead. When Matt
stays --

MATTHEWS: What do you recommend?

ARMEY: When Matt stays focused on the issues that are important to the
broad base constituencies of this grassroots movement and the voting
interests and on family concerns of the nation, he can be a good spokesman
for them.

But the question is, is he going to take his work and walk the walk along
the same avenue as he talks the talk? When he gets misguided, when he gets
a sense of misdirection for the activities, the energies, where he`s going
to put places, he probably ends up wasting a lot of opportunity and missing

But that`s a course for him to work out. I`m retired from FreedomWorks.
They will have to work out their business on their own terms.


MATTHEWS: What is the fight within FreedomWorks? What`s the fight? Tell
us -- tell the outsider who is not a Tea Party person, not a FreedomWorks
person, who is all this noise coming out of the Tea Party movement,
especially FreedomWorks.

What is the fight about?

ARMEY: First of all, understand, the Tea Party movement is so much larger
than freedom works. Freedom works has been a very important part. What
I`m anxious for for FreedomWorks to once again be that organization of
activist volunteers working across the country with a clear set of ideas,
principles, policy objectives, and focusing their energy on that so that we
can have a contribution to the kind of results we had in the election year
of 2010.

I believe the organization has gone adrift from that. I`m excited for the
possibility that it will find its way back to the service, the great ideas,
that it did for all those many years.

MATTHEWS: OK. And if I read you right, you`re much better off focusing on
the economic issues on the right than focusing on abortion and
contraception and gay marriage. You don`t think you really have to talk
about those issues much, right? You agree with that?

ARMEY: Again, and, of course, we`ve had people on our side of the aisle
upset with me about saying that. But, you know, I got this years and years
ago from the head of the Texas Right to Work Committee, which was take your
position on this issue and keep your mouth shut about it. Talk on the
campaign trail about those issues that don`t upset people where you can
find agreement and they can share with you their real anxious concerns
about their family and its future.

MATTHEWS: OK, sounds right to me on the right. I`m not on the right but
it sounds right. Thank you very much, Dick Armey, not of FreedomWorks, an
independent person.

ARMEY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, you wouldn`t think it was possible but the governor of
Pennsylvania has made the Penn State scandal worse. He says the real
victims are the football program and the fans. Buzz Bissinger injury has a
few things to say about that baby.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, there will be no rematch in Ohio. Governor John Kasich
has suffered from low approval ratings in most of his administration but he
doesn`t have to worry about his predecessor taking his old job back.
Governor Ted Strickland said today he will not take on Kasich, or beat in a
Republican tide back in 2010. A recent Quinnipiac poll found 36 percent of
Ohio voters believe Kasich deserves other term.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

The college football season has come to an end but in Pennsylvania, the
battle is just beginning. Republican Governor Tom Corbett is suing the
NCAA over the sanctions it handed Penn State following a sex abuse scandal
that rocked that place.

In June, former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts
of child sex abuse involving 10 boys over a 15-year span. Penn State
sanctions included a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, wins from
1998 through 2011 being vacated and a reduction in scholarships.
Punishments the school nor governor objected to at the time. Now, though,
Governor Corbett says the NCAA has piled on and the Penn State community is
suffering unnecessarily.

Let`s watch the governor.


GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I believe the NCAA took actions and
piled on choosing to levy, in their words, unprecedented sanctions against
Penn State and its football program. These sanctions are an attack on the
past, present, and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our
commonwealth and our economy. As governor of this commonwealth, I cannot
and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight.


MATTHEWS: Well, Corbett has been under the spotlight for his role in this
scandal because he was the commonwealth`s attorney general when the state
began investigating Sandusky. The incoming attorney general, Democrat
Kathleen Cane, campaigned on a promise to find out why the case dragged on
for so long.

Michael Smerconish is an expert on this issue. He`s, of course, the
nationally syndicated radio host and an MSNBC political analyst.

And the great Buzz Bissinger is a best-selling author and columnist for
"The Daily Beast". I`m going to have to start with our guest, Michael.
Let`s go to Buzz on this.

What is going on here? I`m looking at all the numbers. We don`t have to
do -- Corbett has been in trouble politically. The state people -- the
voters don`t like the way he`s handled these matters all along. But now,
suddenly, they`re coming to his support saying what a great job he`s doing
in fighting these sanctions against Penn State.

Is this just sheer politics or what?

BUZZ BISSINGER, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, I think it`s total politics. I
mean, I think the suit is absurd. Many legal scholars have said it`s
completely absurd. It has no standing.

If it was fully litigated, the sanctions would be over against Penn State.
Plus, it would cost millions of dollars. I live in Pennsylvania. I don`t
want my money wasted on this thing.

He clearly did this to appeal to the Penn State base and community and
alums which are a huge part of the state, because he may in trouble -- may
be in trouble for re-election. It`s one of the most transparent political
acts I`ve ever seen and really, really despicable. It means he didn`t get

It also means that Penn State didn`t get it. They`re a silent partner in
this thing. I know they can`t fight the suit. But they want the sanctions

This was about the culture of football. It was a hideous criminal act.
But to say it`s not -- football has nothing to do with it, it`s a disgrace.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Michael, in my religion, it`s good to suffer
some penance and some admission of guilt. And then you move on. But when
you tried to cover something up and you don`t confess, you don`t accept
punishment for it or penance for it, it stays with you.

Why doesn`t Penn State want to get this over with, take their punishment,
take penalty and get in the huddle and figure out the future? Why do they
want to go back at this thing when everybody knows they were guilty?

probably does want to continue on and get this behind them. And I think it
needs to be pointed out that this is Governor Corbett acting independent of
Penn State --


SMERCONISH: -- even though he has sat on the board of trustees.

Listen, Chris, I share the skepticism of Buzz Bissinger about Corbett`s
actions because he has taken a thumping in the polls personally. This
litigation might be popular with Pennsylvanians. But I think one of the
reasons he`s taken such a hurt is that people look at him and they wonder
why as attorney general it took him so long for him to move on Sandusky?
Why when he had one credible reporter meaning a child who was then founded
in his complaints, why didn`t they slap the cuffs on Sandusky?

But I have to say, I don`t like that NCAA sanction. I think it was too
stiff of a sanction on the football program, something with which I know
Buzz disagrees.

MATTHEWS: But what, Michael, about this case dealing with rape, rape of a
young boy.

What do you do when you find out that was covered up?

SMERCONISH: Well, you prosecute those who participated. And, Chris, the
criminal process one at a time is dealing with these wrong doers. Sandusky
is away for life. He`ll never come out. Paterno has passed on. And three
more guys are about to have their day in court.

I think that the criminal process is working.

SMERCONISH: Well, Buzz, here`s the problem. Everybody watches. That`s
why we have criminal sanctions. Not just to punish the guilty. Not just
to avenge a victim, although that`s always a part of it, but to teach a

What`s the lesson here if Penn State gets off scot-free and the governor
who was involved as an attorney general not pushing the case hard enough
perhaps -- that`s open to investigation -- is the one that lets them go
scot-free, or wins the case for them? Let them go free. Forget it ever

BISSINGER: Well, I mean, I agree with you. There should be penance.
There should be punishment.

You know, we could argue this all day long. I don`t think there`s any
doubt this went to the heart of the culture of football. This was a 15-
year cover-up that involved a well-respected assistant coach who coached
the defense.

It took forever. They gave him every benefit of the doubt. They worried
much more about him than the actual victims. This is the essence of the
culture of football.

Corbett knows about the culture of football. All he talks about is how
important it is in the suit. If these sanctions are lifted, then this
thing is a mockery.

This is one of the times I think the NCAA acted quickly and responsibly.
And I think Penn State should feel, you know what, we`re lucky we didn`t
get the death penalty. They went 7-5 (ph) this year. Fans could still go
to the games. You know, if they play in a bowl game, State College is not
going to get the money from that.

And to take it away, for Corbett to waste his time, it`s not going
anywhere. Maybe he wants the 60 million bucks to stay in the state. But I
think this was an absolute disgrace.

MATTHEWS: Last thought, Michael. What do you think was going to happen to
this? Is this going to save Corbett or not? I don`t personally think
anybody was going to vote for a guy because of something like this, going
the wrong way on something like this.

Your thoughts?

SMERCONISH: You can`t beat somebody with nobody. It remains to be seen
who emerges to run against him in next year`s election.

I would just respond to Buzz and say, a lot of people got hurt in this
sanction that played absolutely no role whatsoever in the scandal that took
place. I think of the tap room owner who`s got to place off campus and he
relies on the trade. When the football program is diminished, his business
goes down. That`s not right.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, the trouble with that line of thinking is they can
justify a lot

Thank you, I respect the thinking of the little guy there. Thank you so
much. We`re going to be right back.

And thank you, Buzz Bissinger, a great writer.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I don`t know what happened at
Penn State to get that school in so much trouble. Not really. I believe
crime was committed. I believe a horror occurred in that locker room.

What I don`t know what was told through the chain of command, what got to
the president and how. And were there so many euphemisms used about
horsing around and such that it was impossible to grasp what actually
happened in that locker room.

What needs to be established by Penn State and by what is being done to
Penn State is to say rape is not simply another cost factor in maintaining
a big time football program. Hiding hell is not tolerable in a pursuit in
the pursuit of an impressive Big 10 win/loss record. It`s not in the end
about keeping the crowd excited, or the alumni thrilled, or the state

It`s about being truly and genuinely proud of what you`re doing with
football. It`s about having a tradition of athletic excellence, as good as
it looks in the next day sports page.

Penn State can`t reach that goal by exonerating what happened in Happy
Valley when something like this shouldn`t happen anywhere. Penn State is a
great school. If it will ever come to it, if it ever did come to it, it
would be a great school without a football season.

It`s a truly great university today and will be tomorrow if it will face up
to what happened, takes the penalty, gets back in the huddle and makes the
best of a bad situation. Anyone who counsels otherwise, the governor
included, is not a friend of Penn State.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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