updated 1/16/2013 10:10:56 AM ET 2013-01-16T15:10:56

HARDBALL
January 15, 2013

Guests: Sam Stein, Michael Crowley, Michael Grimm, Steve Israel, Nia-Malika Henderson, Glenn Thrush

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Does GOP mean guns over people?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. This afternoon, two men were wounded in yet
another school shooting, this time in St. Louis. Today`s shooting comes as
the Republican Party is siding with the folks out there who want lots of
semiautomatic firepower to fight this country`s elected government. So has
it become the guns over people party?

Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky talks about the president
usurping the Constitution. Republican Texas Congressman Steve Stockman
talks about impeaching the president if he takes steps to upgrade gun
safety by executive order.

Remember Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican Senate candidate, talking
openly about using 2nd Amendment remedies against public officials? Well,
people used to think she was alone out there, something of an oddity.
What`s becoming clear is that in today`s GOP, she`s more typical than not.

Ed Rendell was governor of Pennsylvania. Michael Steele was chair of the
Republican Party. Gentlemen, thank you.

President Obama will announce his plans for gun safety tomorrow after
hearing Vice President Biden`s task force recommendations, but already
criticism is mounting on the right. Here is Republican senator Rand Paul
of Kentucky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m against having a king. I think having a
monarch is what we fought the American revolution over. And someone who
wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress, that`s someone who wants
to act like a king or a monarch.

I`ve been opposed to executive orders even with Republican presidents, but
one that wants to infringe on the 2nd Amendment we will fight tooth and
nail, and I promise you there`ll be no rock left unturned as far as trying
to stop him from usurping the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, on the House side -- Rand Paul is not alone -- U.S.
Congressman Steve Stockman of East Texas hasn`t ruled out impeachment after
hearing the president may use executive orders for some gun safety
measures.

He released a statement saying, in part, "I will seek to thwart this action
by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding
for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of
impeachment. While the president`s actions are not just an attack on the
Constitution," he says, "and a violation of his sworn oath of office, they
are a direct attack on Americans that place all of us in danger. If the
president is allowed to suspend constitutional rights on his own personal
whims, our free republic has effectively ceased to exist."

Governor, these people talk as if we haven`t elected our government. They
talk about it as if it`s a monarchy from England somewhere, that it`s some
-- this is the crazy talk here in this country, the government treated as a
foreign institution, something way out somewhere controlled by not even
Americans but by the enemies of America. And now they talk about guns that
they need to have in hand in case they have to go to work dealing with that
government basically with firepower.

This language is brand-new to me. It seems to me this used to be posse
comitatus talk somewhere out in Idaho somewhere. Now it`s become the
normal lingua franca of the Republican Party.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris,
first of all, both Senator Paul and Representative Stockman don`t have a
clue what`s in the 18 or 19 things the president is going to do by
executive order. My belief is they`re mostly about collection of data, not
exactly a frontal assault on the 2nd Amendment. So they should wait and
see what they are before they start popping off.

In terms of the major things -- background checks for everybody, ending the
high-capacity magazines, assault weapons ban -- those are things that still
have to go before the Congress for a vote.

But to tell you the truth, although it`s a little scary to hear these
people, I am also not displeased when I hear these wacko comments because
it drives more and more people who are on the fence over to our side,
saying, Look, these guys are nuts. We`ve got to have sensible gun laws.
And we do have to have sensible gun laws.

And let me tell you, for every Representative Stockman, there`s
Representative Dent and Meehan and Fitzpatrick and Gerlach, who...

MATTHEWS: Yes, explain that because you know that better -- that suburban
politics, where you have Republicans representing moderate political
communities.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: ... not just Philadelphia, but in St. Louis, in Chicago, in
Cleveland and places like that. And those Republicans are going to face a
real tough decision. They stay with the NRA and they`re endangering their
reelection because in those districts, 70, 80 percent of the people want
these sensible measures. They want background checks for everyone, no
exceptions. They want high-capacity magazines banned. They want assault
rifles banned. So it`s going to be a real test for the Dents and the
Meehans and the Fitzpatricks and the Gerlachs all over this country.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s review -- Michael Steele`s here. Michael, I want
you -- you`re a reasonable guy, obviously. Let`s look at these numbers.
Here`s "The Washington Post" numbers. On gun show background checks, 88
percent support.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: This is a new "Washington Post" poll here -- overwhelmingly
support these. As I say, 88 percent support gun show background checks,
which we don`t have really today, 76 three quarters -- percent believe --
approve of the gun checks when buying ammo, 71 percent say yes to a federal
gun database. That`s important.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Sixty-five percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines, and
58 percent support a ban on assault weapons.

So it gets tougher there about the assault weapon ban...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and I think that`s why Harry Reid, the head of the
Democratic Party in the Senate, is a little nervous about submitting it to
the Congress because he figures it won`t pass the House.

STEELE: Well, two points there, Chris. One, I think the poll -- and the
irony here is that a lot of the stuff that you just showed, the NRA was
behind. They -- they -- you know, they didn`t have a problem with...

RENDELL: That`s right.

STEELE: ... you know, the gun show checks...

MATTHEWS: In the days of yesteryear.

STEELE: ... in the days of yesteryear, and I think they need to get back
to that. I think they need to get back to that...

MATTHEWS: Why have they gone -- you know the politics.

STEELE: Well...

MATTHEWS: Why have they gone to this rejectionist thing of, We`re not --
we`re against anything?

STEELE: I`ll be -- I`ll be the Washington -- the Washington cynic here,
and the fact is, it`s fund-raising and membership. And you look...

MATTHEWS: Is it gun sales, too?

STEELE: And absolutely gun sales, ammunition -- from ammunition to guns.
So you have -- let`s take that off the table. You still have the slaughter
of 20 innocents here. That`s what`s driving the American people. That`s
the focus of our community right now is, if this can happen in Newtown,
Massachusetts, (SIC) it`s certainly happening in Chicago...

MATTHEWS: Well, respond to what the governor said about the idea of
suburban Republicans who are not right-wingers, or they wouldn`t be elected
in most cases if they were right-wingers. How would you -- if you were
still party chair, what language would you -- how would you position your
party on guns?

STEELE: I would position it where the party has always been, in working
towards common sense solutions that, number one, enforce what`s currently
on the book because there are good, enforceable laws on the book.

And two, let`s look at where the loopholes are, and if that`s the gun
shows, if that`s, you know, with having a database that`s incomplete, let`s
fix those things because, again, that`s where the NRA has been.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to -- Governor, you made the point that a lot of
the things that are being talked about, the president will come out with
tomorrow. We don`t know for sure, but we got a pretty good line on it with
"The New York Times" today.

Look at these. I don`t think these are at all authoritarian...

RENDELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... as you point out -- a tougher prosecution of people who lie
on their background checks. Why would the NRA be for people lying on their
background checks?

RENDELL: They would be -- they should be supportive of that.

MATTHEWS: And this other one, research on gun violence. I don`t know what
research scares anybody. This one -- limits on guns imported from
overseas. I mean, is that something the president can do by executive
order? I don`t know.

RENDELL: I`m not sure, either. I`m not sure.

MATTHEWS: What about this -- this is a good one, sharing of mental health
records. Now, this is an ACLU question. This comes from the other end
politically, right, Michael?

STEELE: Absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: You might find people on the -- what we call the political
left...

STEELE: Left, who have a problem with that.

MATTHEWS: ... who say, We don`t want the word out on everybody with an
emotional...

STEELE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Every time you go to a psychiatrist and you have a problem, do
you really want that to be -- do you really want to be put on a list?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: ... for purposes of checking to see whether you`re gun-eligible,
yes, that becomes an issue.

MATTHEWS: I think these -- are these only court-ordered situations,
Governor, when...

RENDELL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... when they say put a list -- a database -- it`s only people
where there`s some court-ordered action.

RENDELL: And remember...

MATTHEWS: Incarceration...

RENDELL: The one thing -- remember, the one thing that the NRA has said --
other than the guns in schools, the one thing they`ve said they`re for is
tightening up the mental health reporting.

STEELE: Right.

RENDELL: So this is one where the NRA is even for it. So how is that an
assault on anything?

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, well, let`s try to get into the mind of some of these
crazies, these yahoos who are talking like this guy. Yeager`s out there
saying -- he`s taken back, by the way -- this is a so-called apology.
Let`s look at this. Here he is.

You might recall this was last week, this kind of disturbing guy came out
and talked about -- Tactical Response is the name of his organization --
about shooting people in response to White House action on guns. Well, now
he`s sort of recanting. Here`s a bit of his semiautomatic apology.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES YEAGER, TACTICAL RESPONSE: I said some pretty volatile stuff, which
I apologize for. I do not in any way advocate the overthrowing of the
United States government, nor do I condone any violent actions towards any
elected officials. It`s not time to shoot anybody.

It is -- what it is time to do is to organize politically, contact our
elected officials, and help steer the ship the direction that we want it to
go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as my old boss Tip O`Neill would say, timing is
everything. And this guy`s hands, the term "timing" refers to when you
begin firing! I mean, he says, There`s still time to talk to these people
before it`s time -- it`s not time to shoot anybody. Maybe that`s just his
way of speaking, Governor, but to most people, it sounds like English and
it sounds like this guy might be firing when ready, or whatever, when it`s
appropriate.

RENDELL: Yes, it`s...

MATTHEWS: Firing at government officials. Yes.

RENDELL: Right. We don`t need to do it right now, but if things get
worse, we have to do it. Now, look, all those guys do is drive ordinary
responsible people to the conclusion that we`ve got to do something and
we`ve got to do it now.

STEELE: Well, and I agree...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you -- let`s -- again, I hate to put you back
in your pocket...

STEELE: No. No.

MATTHEWS: ... in the Republican Party. But will they allow themselves to
be positioned by the press or by their numbers or by their crazy people
into being the party -- as I said, the party of guns over people?

STEELE: No, I don`t think so, and I don`t think that any self-respecting
Republican is going to take on the moniker of guns over people.

MATTHEWS: How about the unself-respecting, like Steve Stockman out in West
Texas?

STEELE: And I can`t speak for the unself-respecting folks, but I know -- I
do know this, Chris, that, you know, I appreciate both sides of this
argument, which is why it`s timely. Let`s just put it that I think it`s
timely and I think...

MATTHEWS: You appreciate the argument you need a gun to protect yourself
from the government?

STEELE: Well -- I do appreciate that to a certain extent, sure. I mean, I
understand where it comes from. And so that`s -- a lot of this
conversation has now gotten off track. And I think the party has an
opportunity, working with their constituent groups out there, to get it
back on track so that as that gentleman just said, that what our issues
are, they can be addressed in due course.

And right now, a lot of people feel that that`s not where this is going to
go. Let`s see where the president comes out tomorrow with his list, and
that`s when the conversation really begins, I believe.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s make a prediction now. Will the -- Governor Rendell,
will President Obama come out for an assault weapons ban as part of his
package tomorrow?

RENDELL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Will he?

RENDELL: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: You`ve got to go big. And look, even if the assault weapons ban
goes down, he can still get the ban on high-capacity magazines and 100
percent background checks. Those are tremendous victories.

But I`m not so sure the assault weapons ban will go down. I mean, everyone
is acting as if it`s dead in the water. And Harry Reid -- hey, let`s man
up and try to do the right thing. We may surprise ourselves.

MATTHEWS: Don`t be a wuss, right?

RENDELL: Right. Don`t be a wuss.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s a question -- I think they got to go -- my thought, you
can`t have a reaction to what happened up in Connecticut without dealing
with the weapon used, the Bushmaster.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Unless that`s on your hit list of weapons you want to keep from
the crazies, at least, and maybe just keep off the streets, period.

STEELE: Well, and again, I think you`re right there, and that`s going to
be part of where the conversation is going to go from here out.

MATTHEWS: OK. You got to go after the weapon used in the case.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Governor Rendell, and thank you, Michael
Steele.

Coming up: President Obama`s next battle with Congress may have just gotten
a bit easier. That`s because New York senator Chuck Schumer, a real leader
in the Senate, has given his stamp of approval for Chuck Hagel as the next
secretary of defense.

Hagel`s nomination is another example, we think here at HARDBALL, of
Obama`s new-found fighting spirit, and we like it, of course. From the
debt ceiling to the NRA to the neocons, taking them on, the president`s
sticking it to his opponents. And guess what? He`s winning.

And the House of Representatives is voting on a relief package for the
victims of superstorm Sandy tonight. Will Republicans stand up to help
those hardest hit by the storm or stand in the way?

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with this Republican Party that`s beginning to
sound and look like a pack of moonshiners.

This is HARDBALL...

You know, they don`t like those revenuers!

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Next Monday, President Obama will be sworn into office for his
second presidential term, and we continue our look back at great inaugural
moments. Here`s the first president who was born in the 20th century, John
F. Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let the word go forth
from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been
passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by
war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage
and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights
to which this nation has always been committed and to which we are
committed today at home and around the world!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Later in that speech, JFK said another of his most famous
lines, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for
your country." It`s a line he paraphrased from George St. John, the
headmaster at Choate, Kennedy`s prep school. I learned that little nugget
while researching my book, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," which is still on
"The New York Times" best-seller list, 17 -- 19 weeks.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today, President Obama got an
important buy-in, you might say, for his defense secretary nominee, Chuck
Hagel, from the powerful New York senator Chuck Schumer.

This morning, Schumer released a statement that reads, in part, "Based on
several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared
to vote for his nomination -- his confirmation," rather. "I encourage my
Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support
him."

Well, this coupled with Senator Barbara Boxer`s vote of support just
yesterday has made Hagel`s path to confirmation look a lot easier.

Joining me right now is the HuffingtonPost`s Sam Stein and "Time"
magazine`s Michael Crowley.

You guys are both good at analyzing these things. And I thought Schumer
would take more time, Sam, and that`s why I`m impressed, because he did do
lickety-split, had the interview, asked the questions, got it on the
record, maybe got a little more pro -- hawkish than he was to start with
the interview, but he got what he needed.

I was impressed at the speed with which this is being done. Your thoughts?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST: Yes, I`m sort of with you on the one hand. It
looked like Schumer had legitimate concerns about what Hagel`s positions
were with respect to Iran, with respect to Israel.

And then again, I thought about what was behind the Hamlet act? In the
end, it was a Democratic president appointing a cabinet member and a
Democratic senator. So it didn`t totally shock me that Hagel -- that
Schumer was on board. I guess I was surprised by the speed of it. But
this look like it`s shaping up for a relatively more comfortable
confirmation battle for Chuck Hagel now.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Michael, what I think now, it`s not about attitude
(INAUDIBLE) Cardin`s going to go. He expressed concerns at the beginning.
I don`t know where a lot of people from big states -- we have large -- for
example, large Jewish communities that are more sensitive to this kind of
language the -- obviously, the language he`s used in the past.

But it seems to me that what will beat him now is evidence, not argument,
that it comes out that he`s used bad language, ethnic language, we all
know, if he said things or just showed an attitude publicly in a way that
can be verified, he`s still got problems if that happens.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Sure, anything can happen. And Hagel`s
the kind of guy who -- he talks expansively. He`s a little bit like Biden.
I mean, he -- to his credit, and I think something that Obama likes about
him, is he`s not a totally programmed sound bite guy.

MATTHEWS: Biden had a lot to do with pushing this, didn`t he.

CROWLEY: Well, and I think that`s a key thing to understand. Those two
guys are really close. But look, as far as the speed of it, I think that
they drew a lesson from what happened to Susan Rice. She hung out there
twisting on the vine. They didn`t really marshal the forces. She didn`t
have a lot of public defenders.

This is the opposite of that. This is an organized, quick campaign. They
want to, you know, batten down the hatches and basically make him safe for
people to vote for, and move forward with it and get the controversy behind
them.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about another big event that happened this week,
another shoe that dropped. That was General Powell this Sunday. Let`s
take a look at General Powell on our own "MEET THE PRESS" and the way he
went at this very directly. In fact, he was very pointed here in the
middle of what we`re going show you right now, very pointed for a
politician to talk with this kind of exquisiteness. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: A lot of my friends in the
community who are of a more rightist persuasion, ones who`ve been...

(CROSSTALK)

POWELL: Well, the hawks.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Do you think they`re out of line in
their criticism?

POWELL: No, no. It`s -- it`s -- they`re fair criticisms. They can make
all the criticisms they want. When they go over the edge and say because
Chuck said "Jewish lobby," he`s anti-semitic, that`s disgraceful. We
shouldn`t have that kind of language in our dialogue.

But they`re fully entitled to their views. And I didn`t ever think they
would go away and not be heard from again. But they have to remember one
thing. It`s President Obama, not President McCain and not President
Romney. They`ve lost two elections. The American people have made it
clear that they are not particularly interested in finding new conflicts to
get into.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s where I think this might be headed, to those nuances down
the road.

When you get in that hearing room with all the lights on and all the
cameras there, Sam, and a lot of heat with some -- maybe some real
adversarial questions from -- I don`t know who is going to be -- I guess
Cornyn of Texas, people like that, my get a chance, a shot at this guy.

They will be under pressure. If there`s language there about, well, you
said Jewish lobby, OK, we will give you a bye on that. That could mean a
particular thing, rather than the general pro-Israeli lobby you`re talking
about or whatever.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But you start getting into language -- there you have the former
secretary of state, the general, saying you can`t accuse a guy of being
anti-Semitic because he uses a term of art you don`t like. You can`t jump
to the conclusion he`s got an ethnic problem.

But I think we might get into -- my sense is these hearings are going to be
very tough for Hagel already.

STEIN: It could be, but, on the other hand, remember, he was out there as
a rumored nominee for about a couple of weeks in which his opponents
working in the dark mainly were combing through his entire record looking
for that very moment that you`re referencing.

They turned up the Jewish lobby quote. They turned up some other stuff
about negotiations with Iran. They turned up some uncomfortable votes
about sanctions. And that`s largely seemed to do little to actually slow
down the nomination or the confirmation process.

I think in the end there could be something that trips it up, but I think
we`re also understating the war weariness of this country. What Hagel
represents for a lot of people, a lot of lawmakers as well is a real turn
of the page in terms of how we conceive of using armed forces overseas.

I think a lot more people are on his side of that philosophical debate than
they are on the neoconservative side.

MATTHEWS: You`re so smart. That`s the big sweeping change, the 180 from
where we were back in -- after 9/11.

Well, here is Senator Bob Corker raising an issue which is very subjective.
He`s of course a reasonable Republican from Tennessee. Here -- he said --
he`s talking about Hagel`s suitability to be defense secretary. Listen to
the kind of words he uses here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think another thing, George, that`s
going to come up is just his overall temperament, and is he suited to the
run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. This is the kind of thing that will drive
Hagel -- and I don`t know the guy -- I met him a few times -- crazy.

Somebody will say to him in the middle of a hearing, I hear you`re
defensive, you`re always on the defensive You have got a defensive
personality. Then you defend yourself and you`re being defensive. I hear
you have a bad temper. Then he goes, what do you mean I have a bad temper?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This is really getting rough, because all politicians have bad
tempers that I have seen. Your thoughts?

CROWLEY: Yes. But, you know, Chris, I think in a hearing when people are
looking for you to lose your cool...

MATTHEWS: Not all.

CROWLEY: ... it`s a low bar. It`s not that hard to maintain your
composure.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, what do you do when the guy says I hear you yell at people
at the office? What do you say?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, maybe you say -- maybe you say, look, I`m tough,
I`m demanding of my employees, but I expect results. And if somebody`s ego
was bruised, then I apologize, but this is a big boy business.

And also I think I would make the point -- maybe he won`t -- that maybe,
what do you think, 95, 98, maybe 100 members of the U.S. Senate have a
similar rap against them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, but they don`t have -- but they don`t have a button. They
don`t have a nuclear button.

CROWLEY: Well, that`s right, but -- look, but Hagel is not going to be
freelancing starting wars. It runs through the president.

I don`t think anyone is really worried about that anyway. I just don`t
think that that`s going to bring him down. It was interesting. Corker was
intimating that there are these staffers who have come forward and
contacted Republicans. I think we may be hearing -- seeing some more
planted stories.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CROWLEY: But at the end of the day, Chris, I think he`s OK. I think he`s
been -- he`s gotten blessings from Boxer and Schumer on the issues
Democrats are worried about. That was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, quickly. We have done the personnel issue here. He will
probably get through if nothing goes bad in the hearings.

But, Sam, one thing to you. You raised the larger question, the macro
question, dove vs. hawk, to make it simple. Do the neocons, the hawks,
feel that they have got an agenda which will not be met now in terms of
getting more involved with Syria, perhaps taking a faster line in terms of
action or allying ourselves with Israel and taking action on Iran?

STEIN: Yes, that`s the big concern, and I think that`s what`s driving a
lot of this.

We`re sort of obsessed with the sideshow components, which are did he say
something offensive to an openly gay ambassador? Was he using the wrong
terminology with respect to the Israel lobby? But the real concern from
the hawks` vantage point is, what does this mean with respect to the
sanctions regime in Iran? What does this mean with respect to the
Israel/Palestine conflict in terms of support for Israeli settlements?

Those are the main drivers of the opposition for Hagel, and for them it`s
an existential concern in some respects, because they believe in many --
and not totally wrong -- that Obama extended a lot of parts of the Bush
foreign policy. They don`t want to see that end.

CROWLEY: But the issue isn`t Hagel. It`s the president.

STEIN: Correct.

CROWLEY: Hagel is a lagging indicator of the president`s thinking.

And they should argue with Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it`s a leading indicator, myself.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think he`s Obama with a war record.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I think this guy is really the real Obama.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein.

And I like it, of course.

But, anyway, Sam Stein, thank you, and Michael Crowley.

STEIN: Thanks, Chris.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Although I think Hagel is a notch to my left, actually.

Up next: Rush Limbaugh has got a crazy theory about why liberals live the
movie "Lincoln." What else would be crazy from this guy? According to
Rush, it`s got to do with the Civil War and some unfinished business.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Crowley.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Remember the time Mitt Romney strapped his dog Seamus in a kennel on the
roof of his car for a 12-hour family road trip? Well, it was back in the
`80s, but dog lovers were still disturbed by it during this past election,
of course. Anyway, it looks like Florida Governor Rick Scott is having his
Seamus moment.

In 2010, after getting his party`s nomination for governor, a new member of
Scott`s family became part of his campaign, his rescue Labrador retriever.
And voters even helped select the name for the dog, there it is, Reagan, as
in the president. But where is Reagan now?

Reporters from "The Tampa Bay Times" couldn`t get any straight answers from
Scott`s aides and only got to the bottom of it when the governor himself
stepped in. It turns out Reagan the dog was too hyperactive upon arrival
at the governor`s mansion and wasn`t around long, according to "The Tampa
Bay Times."

Quote: "Scott said Reagan never bit anyone, but scared the living daylights
out of the people at the mansion. So the Scotts gave the dog back to its
prior owner. Isn`t that sad?"

Anyway, check out the resulting headline from "The Washington Times":
"Florida`s First Dog Returned By Governor Scott."

No wonder Scott`s people were reluctant to break the news themselves.

Also, take a look at this menu from a Utah smoothie bar, drink prices
according to the party affiliation. And the owner of the place isn`t
kidding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BURNETT, BUSINESS OWNER: I`m very open about it. I`m very public
about it that I`m going to charge them a little bit more. And I have
liberals come in and pay the extra dollar surcharge, and actually all three
liberals have been happy to pay it.

We have a fiscal problem in this country. We have got to deal with it or
we don`t have a country. So to kind of help make that point a little bit,
I charge them just a little bit more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He had three liberal customers, that`s all.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the owner says whatever he collects from his liberal
surcharge, three bucks so far, it goes to Republican causes like the
Heritage Foundation.

Next: Rush Limbaugh has a theory about why so many on the left are fans of
the movie "Lincoln."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Why is Bill Clinton out there at the
Golden Globes last night being brought on stage to thunderous standing
ovations to talk about Lincoln and what he did during the -- what did
Lincoln do?

As far as these people are concerned, he wiped out the South. But he
didn`t finish, so what the left is admitting today that they are doing is
once again trying to just finish it off. Lincoln did not fully finish.
They`re all focused on gods and guns in the South. They love both of them.

And so the South has to be wiped out again. I`m telling you, essentially,
there is an all-out effort being made to marginalize conservatism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He reminds me of Radio Rwanda in the bad old days.

Anyway, in fact, it`s been far-right Republicans obviously doing all the
Civil War talk. They`re the ones who are talking up the Civil War, about
nullification of federal laws and all the secession petitions out there.

Finally, before House Republicans head off for their annual retreat this
week -- I think it`s down in Williamsburg -- the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee offered up some suggestions for planned activities and
classes.

Some examples, how to stop talking about legitimate rape and insulting
women, science 101, creating tax breaks and tax shelters for millionaire
campaign donors. And after that PPP poll showing just how unpopular
Congress really is, there`s how to increase our approval ratings, what root
canals, traffic jams, cockroaches, and head lice are doing to us. And
Republicans are presumably doing wrong, I guess.

Up next: The House of Representatives will be voting tonight on a big aid
package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. But will Republicans go along
with it, especially from the South?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 27 points. The S&P gained about a
point and the Nasdaq slipped about six points, and partly because of the
big story, which continues to be Apple, which tumbled well below the $500
mark, ending the day at about $485 a share, the company still anchored down
by weaker-than-expected iPhone 5 demand.

And Facebook announced a new feature called a graph search that lets users
combine phrases to search for content shared on Facebook. And the stock
also dipped slightly today.

That`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- and now back to
Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When the year 2012 closed out without a House vote on aid for Sandy victims
up in the Northeast, the outrage from both Democrats and Republicans who
represent the region was overwhelming. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There`s only one group to blame for
the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and
their speaker, John Boehner.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We cannot
believe that this cruel knife in the back was delivered to our region.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: It is the most disgraceful action I
have seen in this House in the 20 years I have been here.

KING: The fact is the dismissive attitude that was shown last night toward
New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut typifies, I believe, a strain in the
Republican Party. I can`t imagine that type of indifference, that type of
disregard, that cavalier attitude being shown to any other part of the
country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, now the House of Representatives tonight has a second
chance. On January 3, the House passed a $9.7 billion bill that would help
pay Sandy victims` insurance claims by replenishing the National Flood
Insurance Program. Well, today the House votes, actually tonight, on the
big money, more than $50 billion in Sandy aid.

Joining me right now is New York Congressman Michael Grimm, who represents
areas in Staten Island that were devastated by this storm.

Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.

Let me just show you an ad that was run back in 1964 by the Republicans --
the Democrats, rather, representing the opinion of the Republican Party
voiced by Barry Goldwater. This was a very hot ad way before you were
born. Let`s take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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: Congressman Grimm, is there an anti-New York attitude in the
Republican Party nationally, anti-New York?

(LAUGHTER)

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: I don`t think so.

I mean, there`s always been a little bias against New York. I think that
goes way back. There`s no question. I have seen it and I have felt it.
But I think what we have right now is just, you know, the deep-rooted
concern overall that the country is spending money that it doesn`t have and
the need to be fiscally responsible, which I wholeheartedly agree with and
I respect. It`s just, when things like this happen, natural disasters,
when people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I didn`t hear this during Katrina.

GRIMM: Well...

MATTHEWS: I didn`t hear it during Katrina, when the Southerners were
voting their own pocketbooks, when the Southern Republicans who dominate
your party were helping themselves out in what was really a tragedy, as
well as this one, and it was very vivid, maybe more vivid in terms of
national coverage than New York.

And I got to tell you, I didn`t hear anybody talking about set-asides or
offsets. I heard them saying let`s get the money to people like Haley
Barbour. Let`s get them the money.

GRIMM: Well, I understand that, but, again, let`s look back at history.
The dynamics were a little different. You were in a totally different
political climate then.

All we have been speaking about for the last two years is cutting spending
and so on, the revenue vs. spending, these fights.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GRIMM: So, it has -- it`s more to do about where we are in time right now.

We also didn`t have a deficit and debt crisis the way we do right now. So,
let`s -- let`s be fair about the facts. We are in a debt crisis.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GRIMM: However, when something like this happens, it`s an exception to the
rule. These people are hurting. They need the help of the federal
government. And that`s what we`re going to deliver today.

The bottom line is, we`re going to move forward. We`re going to get this
done.

MATTHEWS: You know, I have been blessed to get to know some of the really
good people up in your borough, people like Teddy Atlas and people like
James Molinaro, your borough president. They`re really doing great work up
there.

Tell us how bad it is. We`re looking at pictures right now, Congressman,
of these people that were underwater during the flood and have just been
devastated. I saw some of that stuff on your own island of Staten Island a
couple weeks ago. It was really rough.

GRIMM: It`s horrendous. This is a war zone. I mean, let me be very
clear, do not -- don`t forget about -- you see homes crushed. You see
people`s personal belongings wiped out to sea. But there`s also emotional
scars that you cannot see.

Just this past weekend, I had a mother tell me her children are deathly
afraid when it rains because they think there`s going to be another flood.
You know, those are the stories that you don`t see every day in the news
but the impact, they are devastated, they`re emotionally a wreck, and
that`s also why we`re fighting so hard to pass this package, to give them a
little normalcy back in their lives.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`ll say you got one thing going for you, community
spirit. I have never seen anything like it at St. Charles Church up there
in Staten, the way those people really held together and Teddy Atlas`
operation. It was so inspiring to see people work so hard for each other.

GRIMM: I have never been more proud of Staten Island. I have never been
more proud of my constituency. Teddy Atlas is a friend.

I have been in the boxing gym when I`ve been corrected. Let me just say
I`m very, very, very proud of Staten Island.

MATTHEWS: You should be.

GRIMM: They are resilient and they are tough but they do need our help.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Let`s hope it works tonight. Thank you, Congressman
Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and other parts of New York.

Perhaps no one has been more vocal in his anger about the slow pace of
federal for Sandy victims than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Let`s
listen to the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: New Jersey does not expect anything
more than what was done for Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi in
Katrina. What was done in Joplin, Missouri, what was done in the floods in
Iowa. We don`t expect anything more than that, but we will not accept
anything less.

And if they want to make new rules about disasters -- well, they picked the
wrong state to make the new rules with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Jersey talking.

Joining me now is New York Congressman Steve Israel. He`s congressman from
New York who represents areas hard hit by superstorm Sandy.

Steve, thank you so much, Congressman, for coming on.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Sure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You`re a partisan Democrat, fair enough.

But let`s talk about this issue as a national thing. Why is New York,
which I`ve always thought got great media coverage, because, you know, when
you have a baseball star in New York, you know, you got Reggie Jackson,
somebody like that, Mickey Mantle, they`re national figures. They`re just
huge.

But yet this time, I do think that the media is undercut. I`m as guilty as
anybody for not seeing what`s right in front of our eyes and for some
reason, it hasn`t gotten the pictures on TV as much as, you know, Katrina
did. I`ve learned on the ground what it`s like. There are some pictures
we`re showing now and it ain`t going away.

This is a horror for many months, Point Pleasant, New Jersey. This is
going on and on for the people in these houses.

ISRAEL: Well, look, I don`t -- I do not believe that this is anti-New
York, Chris. I believe that you now have a group of members of Congress
who are fairly new who are anti-government. They fundamentally and
philosophically do not believe that when a disaster strikes --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ISRAEL: -- that is the obligation of the federal government to help.
Look, I`m consciously optimistic --

MATTHEWS: When does the federal government have an obligation to help?

ISRAEL: Well, they don`t believe that the federal government ever has an
obligation to help and, you know, this Tea Party caucus has become a real
problem.

My constituents are not interested in right or left. They`re not
interested in who is to blame. They just want it fixed.

Now, I think we`re going to get this done. I`m cautiously optimistic. I`m
optimistic because the Democrats will put it over the top. We will provide
the votes to put over the top.

I`m cautious because just a couple hours ago, on a modest bill supported by
the House Republican leadership for $11 billion, nearly one-half of the
Republican caucus voted against even that. We need to put the politics
aside and just get this done and do the right thing.

MATTHEWS: OK. Tell us about the human aspect in your district. You know
the people that come to you for help. What`s it like up there in your
district in New York?

ISRAEL: Well, look, it was devastating. It continues to be very
challenging. And my congressional district, virtually my entire district
looked like North Korea. It was plunged into the darkness, no power, no
lights, very, very difficult.

In the coastal areas of my district, people were just devastated. They
lost everything. We`re now about 80 days since the storm struck. I think
we`re an hour away from finally being able to say to those people, we`ve
put the politics aside, we`re doing the right thing.

It`s bad enough to be devastated by a weather storm. It`s unacceptable to
be devastated by a political storm.

MATTHEWS: We`re looking at pictures of Breezy Point in New York. It`s
unbelievable.

ISRAEL: Breezy point -- I have never seen anything like it and I was in
Louisiana after Katrina. I saw it. The difference was after Katrina,
everybody helped.

For the reasons I just mentioned, after this storm, after superstorm Sandy,
it became a political debate. Just not right.

MATTHEWS: Well, Breezy Point Fund is a good organization. There`s also in
the Rockaways organizations like St. Francis de Sales Church and St.
Camilla`s. On the ground, there`s some really, really good people doing
some wonderful stuff but it`s a macro problem, as you know.

Congressman, good luck tonight on your vote.

ISRAEL: We need Congress to be as good as those people have been tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the standard. Thank you, sir. I`m thrilled at
that standard, by the way, because it`s real.

Coming up: President Obama, he`s fighting and winning these political
battles with all kinds of people -- neoconservatives, gun people, debt
crazies, all kinds of people. The president is in a fighting mood if you
haven`t noticed and he`s been winning.

Come back in a minute. It`s HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: In 1981, Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in an economic
turndown of course and called for an era of national renewal and he had
this message for the role of government in American life and the country`s
new conservative tide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In this present crisis, government
is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Later on in the inaugural luncheon in Statuary Hall,
President Reagan announced after 444 days in captivity, the 52 Americans
held hostage, excuse me, in Iran were on their way home.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Remember "make my day"? Well, that seems to be the mindset of the
president of the United States right now and his administration. They`re
taking on Republicans when it comes to -- catch this list -- gun safety,
cabinet posts, the debt ceiling. And it`s looking like they`re finding
success.

Is this is a preview of a winning second Obama presidential term?

Nia-Malika Henderson is political reporter for "The Washington Post" and
Glenn Thrush is senior White House reporter for "Politico" and co-author of
the e-book, "The End of the Line."

Nia, I`ve missed you, I`ve missed you. But here you are back again. I`ve
seen you on other shows. I`ve seen some sightings. But thank you for
coming back.

I hear from the producers that you`ve got some theories about the
president. But let`s take a look at them now. In his first press
conference -- the last one of the old year, the president warned
Republicans not to play politics when it comes to the debt ceiling. Here`s
the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But they will not collect
ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial
well being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full
faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And that`s yesterday`s last press conference of the presidential
term.

Well, this morning, Newt Gingrich, of all people, reacted by saying the
president was bullying Republicans. That`s a long way from saying he`s
weak. Now, he`s a bully.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think we should
pick fights where we are in a position that we can`t, in fact, in the end
enforce our will, because we have no evidence that Barack Obama`s going to
compromise. I think this president is deliberately seeking confrontation.
I think he`s going out of his way to bully the House Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, we`ll see.

You know, sometimes, Winston Churchill once said when people like Newt just
hung around in politics after they were defeated, we need fewer peerages
and more disappeerages (ph). I just wonder my thought about this guy. Why
he`s still on television.

Anyway, Newt Gingrich says the president`s a bully. I would have a finer
notion. Yours, Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, very different from what
people said before about this president which was that he would fold early
in these negotiations and settle for a half a loaf rather than going for
the whole loaf.

He is basically continuing a campaign. He is going to the American people
and using the bully pulpit much more effectively than he ever has, using
all the levers within his office, considering executive action around gun
control and also going to Vice President Biden, kind of an inside game
there, but also going to the outside game.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HENDRESON: And looking at public opinion.

And he`s finding out what the public wants, trying to lead, I think, the
public opinion parade but also be in the middle of it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me check you on that. Will he come out for an assault
weapons ban tomorrow?

HENDERSON: I think he will. I mean, that`s right. Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go -- let me go to this other question of the -- of
sticking with Hagel. Glenn, I was impressed. I thought there for awhile,
about something around Christmastime, I was thinking Hagel was cooked, that
the attacks on him, on the issue of gay comment he made, the anti-gay
comment, you could say, and the anti-Israeli -- it`s not really anti-
Israeli, but bad language. Let`s put it that way, coining it the Jewish
lobby.

A lot of these things would just strike the wrong cords. I`m glad he`s in.
It looks like he`s got a very good shot at the nomination being confirmed.

GLENN THRUSH, POLITICO: Well, Chris, yes. Obviously, Chuck Schumer came
out today which was big deal for the White House. But, you know, this is
the rule of the schoolyard, right? I mean, you know, Obama sees himself as
being in a brawl with these guys up on the Hill.

And one of the reasons that he`s stuck with Hagel is because of perception
was that he ditched Susan Rice. And there was a sense that you couldn`t
pull the plug on two consecutive nominees. That doesn`t mean he wasn`t
backing Hagel to begin with. But once Hagel`s name was floated out there,
folks in the West Wing thought it would look pretty bad if he pulled the
plug on him.

MATTHEWS: Is that reporting on your part or conjecture? I mean, really,
it`s what you`re hearing?

THRUSH: No, that`s -- I reported that last week, Chris. That`s reporting.

MATTHEWS: Good for you, good for you.

Let me go back to Nia on this issue of the debt. The president was sort
of, as I said last here night, preparing the battlefield, like a late
Norman Schwarzkopf would say.

He was saying, if the government gets shut down in the next couple of
months, if there`s a failure to pay bills, don`t look at the two parties,
none of this -- both sides did it. None of these -- a lot of finger-
pointing on Capitol Hill, none of the old malarkey and tired old cliches,
the Republican Party wants to stop this government, they`ve got the votes
to do it, blame them.

Will that work its way into news coverage? Will people begin to buy the
president`s shaping of the battlefield?

HENDERSON: Well, it seems like that has happened every time. That
Republicans get more of the blame when we have these sorts of, you know,
end of the night deals that have to get made, because they have been doing
a bit of foot dragging. So, he definitely is laying down the rhetoric.

I think one of the things he said in that press conference which I think
people will resonate with, which is this whole idea if you go out and buy
an expensive meal, you can`t when the check comes refuse to pay the bill.
He is a likening that to a refusal to raise the debt ceiling limits.

So, I think in that way, it resonates with people who can kind of
understand the debate in their own language in some ways.

MATTHEWS: Well, I just wanted -- just to check -- Glenn, do you think the
people in the Tea Party think that they are paying the bill or not paying
the bill? Do you think they`re saying yes or no to spending? The way they
look at it.

THRUSH: Oh, yes. Well, no, I think what they think is they`re looking at
a different set of polls that say, you know, a significant portion of the
American electorate cares about deficit reduction. The problem is none of
those polls are taken in isolation, particularly in these incredibly
gerrymandered district, really talk to a larger question.

I think Nia is completely right. The Obama people have continued polling,
polling, polling, polling, and they feel like they`ve got the public on
their side.

And their choice of words -- for instance, yesterday, the president talked
about education. Education polls really well among women. So, they know
what they`re doing when they play the outside game.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Nia-Malika Henderson, welcome
back to HARDBALL.

Glenn, thank you for joining us, Glenn Thrush.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with the Republican Party
beginning to sound like a pack of moon shiners. Remember them, chasing the
revenuers out of town?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Increasingly, the Republican
Party sounds and looks like a pack of moon shiners. They speak openly of
going after federal officials coming around to enforce gun laws. They talk
about in the way the old moon shiners talked about them revenuers.

I mean it when I say the GOP increasingly stands for "guns over people".
No matter how many kids get killed, they stick to their political weapons,
their talk about holding on to their semiautomatics with their cold dead
hands. I think many people now see those cold dead hands connected to cold
dead hearts. People without the slightest feeling about what
semiautomatics rifles on the wrong hands have done.

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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