updated 1/25/2013 11:17:56 AM ET 2013-01-25T16:17:56

HARDBALL
January 24, 2013

Guests: Neera Tanden, John Feehery, Bob Shrum, Zoe Bedell, Tammy Duckworth, Steve McMahon, Robert Costa

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The jackals attack Hillary!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" with this. Is this the day of the jackals? Is this the
day in January of 2013 that the right decided to go all out attacking
Hillary Clinton? You had a pair of back-bench senators jabbering nonsense
at her yesterday. You`ve got Rush and Hannity barking from the sidelines
at the secretary of state.

Who shot the starting pistol? Who said this person is fair game, that
she`s the new Valerie Wilson, the new target of all their angry venom and
fulminating? Where do they decide this stuff?

Hillary Clinton`s the most popular woman in the world right now. We`ve got
the new numbers to show it. Democrats love her. A lot of Republicans like
her. She`s not running for anything, certainly not now. She`s retiring
from a tough job. People agree she`s done a pretty darn good job. And yet
she`s getting hauled before the firing squad.

Don`t we want any more -- don`t people anymore wait a bit before they start
to say, Ready, aim, fire? Don`t we give a person, even an important
person, a little time-out before we start the attack, loose the dogs, start
ripping at the skin?

Look, I know politics. I don`t know this politics. Obama`s the president.
He will be for four years. He`s the guy who will make the calls
politically until 2016. Is this about just attacking Democrats? Is this
about trying to convince her, Mrs. Clinton, not to run? If so, it might
just be the easiest way to guarantee she runs. Don`t you think?

Neera Tanden`s president of the Center for American Progress and a former
policy director to Hillary Clinton, and Ron Reagan is an MSNBC political
analyst.

Both of you are good people to have on right now. I just want to get a
comment from Neera, and I want a gut reaction. This disgusting attack
that`s so -- the back benchers -- and we`re going to get to each one of
these nuts in a minute here. They are nutty in their behavior, certainly
here -- Hannity, "The New York Post with a disgusting front page today,
Rush Limbaugh with his usual "feminazi" nonsense coming out -- do you think
this all will make Secretary Clinton more likely to run for president or
less likely, that all the jackals are attacking her?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: Less or more?

TANDEN: I don`t think Rush Limbaugh or any of these people are going to
have a dime`s bit of difference effect on Hillary Clinton. I mean, she`s
been dealing with their ilk for 20 years. And she`ll make the decision
she`s going to make about her future...

MATTHEWS: So you don`t think the attack...

TANDEN: ... regardless of what they do.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) I want to get a yes or no. You really don`t believe
that she will have a fighting spirit coming out of this assault on her?

TANDEN: Oh, she has a fighting spirit, but whether Rush Limbaugh has an
affect on what she decides to do with her life -- I`m just telling you I
don`t think so. I think, you know -- I think she showed yesterday she has
a fighting spirit. I think she showed yesterday what people were really
enthusiastic about in her performance, is that she gave as good as she
could get. You know? I mean, they...

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: ... they thought that they were going to yell her down, and they
didn`t. And so my view of that is -- look, she is a superstar. She`s done
a fantastic job, but she doesn`t live her life by the decisions other
people make. She lives her life by the decisions she wants to make for her
and her future.

MATTHEWS: Ron, let me ask you this, then. Let`s switch the question
around to another way of looking at it. Do you think these people were
doing a preemptive attack, thinking she may well decide to run? If they
trash her up front, she might decide not to. Why else they would be going
after her so far ahead of an election -- so far ahead of an election?
What`s the politics here? I don`t get it.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I imagine that the
Republicans, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson on that committee were thinking to
themselves -- thinking ahead to 2016 and thinking, You know, we could -- we
can get -- we can get some footage here that can be used in attack ads
against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

MATTHEWS: Oh!

REAGAN: Now, instead, what happened was that Hillary Clinton ate their
lunch and walked out of that hearing room with a highlight reel of her own.
She can use those in ads.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

REAGAN: Now, I agree that, you know, Rand Paul and Rush Limbaugh and
people like that are not going to make up Hillary Clinton`s mind for her,
but she did look like somebody who was, you know, up for the fight, if you
want to say that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let`s show some of it to remind people how good it
was yesterday. Here`s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a tour de
force at the House and Senate Benghazi hearings, which is probably what has
the right so exercised. As I said yesterday, she showed acuity, eloquence,
humanity and charm. Her Republican questioners, not so much. Senator Ron
Johnson of Wisconsin prompted Secretary Clinton`s most heated defense.
Here`s where Clinton gives the senator no quarter. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: When you`re in these positions, the
last thing you want do is interfere with any other process going...

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, that`s...

CLINTON: ... on, number one.

JOHNSON: I realize that`s...

CLINTON: Number two...

JOHNSON: I realize that`s a good excuse, but...

CLINTON: Number two -- well, no, it`s the fact. Number two, I would
recommend highly you read both what the ARB said about it, and the
classified ARB, because even today there are questions being raised. Now,
we have no doubt they were terrorists. They were militants. They attacked
us. They killed our people. But what was going on and why they were doing
what they were doing...

JOHNSON: No, no, no, no, no.

CLINTON: ... is still -- is still...

JOHNSON: I -- I -- again -- again...

CLINTON: No.

JOHNSON: ... we were misled that there were supposedly protests and then
something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that. And that was
easily obtained...

CLINTON: But...

JOHNSON: ... ascertained that that was not the fact...

CLINTON: But -- but you know...

JOHNSON: ... and the American people could have known that within days,
and they didn`t know that.

CLINTON: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans!

JOHNSON: I understand...

CLINTON: Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a
walk one night who decided they`d go kill some Americans? What difference
at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and
do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well said. On the House side, Secretary Clinton took a
fusillade of criticism from South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan --
somebody I never heard of before -- who accused her of allowing the
Benghazi consulate to become a death trap. Here`s the exchange. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I heard the answer about firing or
removing personnel. I get that. But this was gross negligence. At what
point in time can our administration and can our government fire someone
whose gross negligence left four Americans dead in Benghazi? What does the
word responsibility mean to you, Madam Secretary?

CLINTON: I think I`ve made that very clear, Congressman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And finally, Senator Rand Paul, who posited or posted that if he
were president, he`d have fired her -- as if he ever were. Anyway, after
his showboating criticism of Clinton, he then asked an out-of-left-field
question. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There is a certain amount of culpability to
the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I`m glad you`re accepting this. Now, my
question is, is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer
of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of
Libya?

CLINTON: To Turkey?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I don`t know what that exchange was about, except that
she knows what she`s talking about and I don`t think the member does.

Let me go back to Ron on this. It seems to me that it was a sparring
watch, a warm-up. I mean, I have to tell you, they weren`t the
heavyweights. And by the way, the heavyweights on the committee, like
Corker, who does have some nuance, and certainly the Democratic members,
showed respect for the office.

The back benchers, who were never so lucky as to meet maybe a secretary of
state, acted like the characters in "Gulliver`s Travels," the little people
putting ropes over the person much bigger than them, the Lilliputians.

I got the feeling this was an (ph) amass (ph). It was something that
really made them look bad. I don`t know Rand Paul got any votes out of
yesterday. This guy, Johnson, so far to the right of McConnell, he`s a
joke. And these other people -- we`ll never hear from them again, ever.
We`ll never hear of them again.

REAGAN: Give Rand Paul some credit. He provided the nation with one of
those media moments that we lack so often now, you know, where everybody
has the same reaction, the same emotional experience at the same time.
When Rand Paul said that if he were president, he would have fired Hillary
Clinton, I think everybody in the country in unison, you could almost hear
them saying, President Rand Paul? Oh, dream on!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that was Snoopy thinking he was the Red Baron.

Anyway, here`s some of what the conservative media jackals said following
Secretary Clinton`s powerful testimony yesterday. It was the vast right-
conspiracy gang actually coming to life here. First, Sean Hannity. And I
don`t understand this guy. I don`t know whether he believes this nonsense,
but he keeps doing it. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: As well as I know the Clintons and now the Obamas,
let me just tell you what`s going on behind the scenes here. What you saw
in this answer, this anger, this outrage, I can tell you, was not
spontaneous. I`m telling you it was staged, probably at the direction of
the "ragin` Cajun," James Carville himself, or somebody else. This was all
pre-planned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Do you love the mix-up of words? "Probably," "it was all pre-
planned," "probably, I can tell you for sure. The oracle of Thebes here.

Anyway, Rush Limbaugh said Clinton`s emotions were less than genuine.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And I guess everybody`s favorite
part, she lost her cool at one point. By the way, she opened up crying,
which is part of the script.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The underwater walrus. Anyway, Senator Ron Johnson, who sparred
with Clinton, said she planned -- well, she planned her show of (INAUDIBLE)
she -- said he (ph) planned it -- anyway, quote, "I think she just decided
before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the
heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions. It was
a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me."

And then there was this grotesquerie, the cover of "The New York Post,"
supposedly a newspaper.

Anyway, I go back to Neera Tandem, who`s obviously -- and is, in fact, well
known to be a friend and intimate of the secretary of state. Just for the
record book here, my belief is that she wants to think about this
presidency thing. And if everybody was smart, they`d give her three or six
months to think about it. I don`t think it`s a closed question yet on her
part. I think she certainly could be elected president.

What do you think should be the right media response to her for the next
six months or so?

TANDEN: You know, I think people should just, you know, take a deep breath
and look at what she does. And you know, she`s a person who`s always
committed to public service, and that`ll be what she -- I think she`ll have
some element of service, whether it`s -- I don`t think it`ll be public
service immediately, but it`ll be service of some kind.

And I`d say, you know, what I thought was really interesting about the
hearing yesterday and the treatment by the right wing is, you know, I think
Hillary really demonstrated to people how ridiculous these hearings are.
Republican members, conservative members have spent much more time grilling
American leaders than they have been focused on the people who actually
killed Americans.

You know, they spent much more time trying to treat this as a political
issue of going after Democrats -- Obama, Hillary, Susan Rice -- than
actually finding out who`s responsible and what we should do about it. And
so, you know, I think her outburst is not an outburst, it`s a reflection of
what we all think about this, which is if you were going to be real about
these issues, you would actually asking -- you`d be asking, What can we do
to beef up the security"...

MATTHEWS: Good question.

TANDEN: ... something, by the way...

MATTHEWS: You know...

TANDEN: ... GOP members have already cut, you know, and they have
decisions to cut it now in these days, as we`re speaking. And so, you
know, it`s rank hypocrisy. And that`s what she`s demonstrating, and I
think it`s a fresh breath of air...

MATTHEWS: OK, I agree with you...

TANDEN: ... that people...

MATTHEWS: Neera, I agree with you about hypocrisy because, Ron and Neera,
I remember 9/11 very clearly, like we all do. And I remember how this
country rallied around a president who had limited ability, but we all
rallied around him.

TANDEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: The first reaction was -- he says we`re going to get the people
that knocked down this building, and everybody cheered him. They weren`t
saying, How did you screw it up, buddy? It wasn`t about that, it was about
unity.

And I have to say the left and center are much better at national unity
than the right. The right sees a national tragedy like this one, far off
in Benghazi, by the way, not in New York City -- we`re hit at the outpost
of civilization, basically, at a very exposed position, which could have
happened no matter what was going on or how many troops you had there. And
here we are hitting New York City, and we rallied. But we don`t blame it
on anybody, even though it was New York, right in our heartland.

And I really think there`s a difference in how people react. I do think
the left was much more nationalistic. How`s that for a statement?

Anyway, thank you, Neera Tanden, and thank you, Ron Reagan. It`s funny.
It`s so frickin` true.

Coming up: Shoe on the other foot department. John Boehner says the
president want to, his words "annihilate the GOP and shove it into the
dustbin of history" -- this from a party that spent the last four years
dedicated to one thing, annihilating Barack Obama and his presidency, even
at the cost of the U.S. economy, I must say. Maybe if Republicans weren`t
in a perpetual war with African-Americans, Latinos, women and young people
-- politically, at least -- they wouldn`t have to worry about being
annihilated.

Also, the Pentagon officially lifted the ban on women in combat today. In
reality, women have already been in combat for some time, certainly exposed
to enemy fire, as one of our guests, freshman congressman Tammy Duckworth
can attest to.

Plus, everyone agrees now is the best time in two decades to push for gun
safety laws. And today, Senator Dianne Feinstein courageous introduced an
assault weapons ban. But the more Democrats hear from their rural
constituents, the less likely it seems much can get done. I think we`re
going to do background checks, however.

And Paul Broun, the Republican who sits on the House Science Committee and
last year called evolution, quote, "lies straight from the pit of hell," is
back at it. He now says President Obama is upholding -- wait for this --
the Soviet constitution. Boy, he`s up to date.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator John Kerry`s on his way to becoming the next
secretary of state. Kerry had his confirmation hearing today. It looks
like just one day of that before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
the committee he`s chaired for the past four years.

And his confirmation looks to be right now a foregone conclusion. If
confirmed, Kerry would be the fifth Foreign Relations Committee chair to
become secretary of state, but only the first sitting chair to do so. We
give you these statistics, by the way, all the time.

The committee expects to vote on Kerry`s nomination early next week.

And we`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: We`re expecting here over the
next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to
annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe
that is their goal, to just shove us into the dustbin of history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was House Speaker John Boehner,
of course, here speaking to the Ripon Society, a group of moderate
Republicans. I didn`t know it still existed. He ascribes an awfully
sinister -- he does -- an awfully sinister motive to President Obama these
days, especially considering the fact that the Republican Party hasn`t
needed much help in its recent collapse.

And Boehner`s not alone. House majority whip Kevin McCarthy sees the same
plot by the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: This person`s main goal is to
continue to try to break the Republican Party. He`s out of touch with
where America`s at, with what he`s trying to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Come on, Kevin. Come on the show and explain that thinking.
All of a sudden, the Democrats, who are always in disarray, are sitting
back in the back room conniving cleverly how to take apart the Republican
Party.

Anyway, considering the Republicans made it their mission to stop Obama at
all costs, it`s fairly rich, don`t you think, that they accuse Obama of
using the same tactics against them.

Bob Shrum`s a Democratic strategist and John Feehery`s a Republican
strategist.

Feehery, you`re already laughing because the idea that the Republican
really that think there`s this big cabal of Democrats actually sit around
and meet, and they`re saying, Well, why don`t we get the Republicans to
stay stupid things about black Americans, stupid things about Latinos, come
out against any kind of immigration reform and cleverly get them to screw
up any chance of being a majority party again. And that`s all the
Democrats.

How do you -- how does anybody really believe that? That`s why you lost.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, obviously, the president would
like to see the Republicans lose the majority in the House and lose the
Senate...

MATTHEWS: That`s an annihilation campaign?

FEEHERY: Well, of course -- of course he does. You know, he wants to get
through his agenda, and his agenda is far different than John Boehner`s
agenda. We all know what it is. It`s a lot more spending, it`s a lot more
government...

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a pretty squeamish attack by you. In other words,
what you`re saying is if somebody opposes you politically, they`re out to
annihilate you.

FEEHERY: Well, listen, he wants to break the back of the Republicans.
There`s no doubt about it. But the fact of the matter is he`s not going to
be able to. The House majority`s going to stay the majority for the next
decade, probably. We`re going probably, you know, take the Senate back.
And the president`s got to understand he`s got to deal with Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK...

FEEHERY: That speech on Monday said nothing in any way that he wanted to
work with Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, Geronimo. You got everybody roused up now. But my
question now to Bob Shrum is -- I do see a breaking of the Republican Party
over policy questions. I do see a breakup over the question of the fiscal
cliff. The Northeastern members did not want to go over the cliff with the
rest of the Republican Party. They wanted to help the victims of Hurricane
Sandy, of Tropical Storm Sandy. They wanted to defend their own territory
in terms of politics. But I didn`t see anything particularly
conspiratorial in any of that.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, they`re actually trying to save
themselves. They`ve got a bunch of people from very safe districts. And
John`s right, by the way. It`d be very hard for Democrats to take back the
House until after 2020 because all those districts are gerrymandered. And
you know, if you can`t take back the House, you certainly can`t annihilate
the Republicans.

It was a kind of loopy expression, and I think if John was being honest,
he`d say he wouldn`t have advised the speaker to say it. The second
thing...

MATTHEWS: Is victimhood now a Republican meme? Now Republicans are all
victims, too? I know the Democrats are sometimes truly victims, but are
you guys really now selling the fact, Hey, we`re getting beat up by these
bullies? Is this the new thing, complaining, crying?

FEEHERY: Well, let me tell you one thing...

MATTHEWS: I mean, seriously. Do you think that works politically?

FEEHERY: Well, let me tell you one thing.

I do think the president`s speech on Monday did a wonderful thing for
Republicans. It got them united. It got them fired up. He said nothing
that anything in -- anybody in any red states would say, listen, he`s
trying to reach out to me.

It was a liberal speech for liberal interest groups. And it did nothing
for Republicans, except unite them. And I think that -- from my
perspective, I thought it was a good thing.

MATTHEWS: You mean like when he said some people are justifiably skeptical
about what big government can achieve? Is that one of your real battle
cries?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It sounded to me like it was fairly understanding of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... point of view.

FEEHERY: Listen, everybody understands that that was a very liberal speech
and your guys were very excited about it.

SHRUM: You know, look...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I was, but I was also believing it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Bob.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: John is just wrong about this, and so is Kevin McCarthy. The
mainstream in this country has moved. The president represents it.

Look at the polling. Look at -- the president stood up for tax fairness in
the campaign and people voted for him. He`s standing up to protect Social
Security and Medicare. People want to do that. There will be some
changes, but not fundamental ones.

On climate change, 80 percent of the people in the AP poll agree with the
president that it`s a real problem and that we have to deal with it. The
majority of the country is with him on gay marriage, is with him on issues
like immigration reform.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: Look, in that inaugural address, Barack Obama didn`t just speak to
America, he was speaking for America, no matter how much that pains
Republicans to hear. They`re out of step and out of the mainstream.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it a deliberate effort to break them apart?

Here is conservative Rich Lowry from "The National Review." He writes in
today`s Politico that the real President Obama is now revealing himself.
By the way, I`m with that thought. I think it was real Obama, not covered
up politics, the real thing on Monday.

He writes -- quote -- "Obama settled once and for all the debate over the
place on the political spectrum and his political designs. He`s an
unabashed liberal determined to shift our politics in our country
irrevocably to the left. In other words, Obama`s foes, if you put aside
the birthers and the sundry other lunatics, always had him pegged
correctly."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees. Let`s listen to him. He
agrees with Lowry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: One thing that is pretty
clear from the president`s speech yesterday, the era of liberalism is back.
An unabashedly far-left-of-center inauguration speech certainly brings back
memories of the Democratic Party of ages past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The trouble, Feehery, John, is that the definition of liberal
now includes about 60 percent of the country, because it does include
people who want something done on gun control, it does include people who
do believe the issue of abortion rights is really there for women, and they
do think equality in marriage is there.

So, in other words, you`re past the 50-yard line in terms of where the
liberal causes are right now. You can`t say that and then say far to the
left when you`re on the right side of the conservative side of the 50-yard
line. Liberalism has made its case under this president perhaps more
effectively than it did in the past, so you can`t say it`s outside the
mainstream.

Why do you guys keep saying it`s far left like McConnell, when in fact it`s
now the center argument?

FEEHERY: Let me tell you this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s a good question I think and it ought to be answered.

FEEHERY: I think in 2014 you are going to find a lot of the senators in
red states, in Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, who are going to try to
distance themselves from what President Obama said in this speech because
they`re worried about their elections.

I think that in the center of the country in the red states where these
senators are running, they don`t think that the president`s message works
and they`re going to try to move themselves away from that, because they`re
worried about it. They`re worried about all these...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But we`re talking about the majority of the country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If the majority is with the president, is he too liberal?
That`s what I`m asking. See, you can call the guy too left when he`s right
where the middle is? How can you keep saying that?

It`s the only question I wanted to put to you. Give me the answer. If
more than 50 percent support equality of marriage, if more than 50 percent
support a woman`s right to choose an abortion, if more than 50 percent
agree with him on guns, if more than 50 percent agree with him on foreign
policy, how can you keep calling that the far left?

FEEHERY: Well, let me put it this way.

MATTHEWS: Well, I like to put it my way.

(LAUGHTER)

FEEHERY: Yes, because I want to put it my way.

The fact of the matter is that this is going to be politically very
problematic for Harry Reid, because for the constituency he represents in
the Senate, they`re not going to be able to get a lot of things that the
president wants done because it`s too far to the left of him.

For example, on gun control, it`s going to be very problematic...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Hey, can I get back to Shrummy?

Shrummy, does it bother that your opinions are now generally acceptable, or
would you prefer to be a maverick again?

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM: No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... general.

SHRUM: I have been waiting for the country to come around. I thought it
would. I think Barack Obama has done a brilliant job.

And I would say to John, by the way -- he keeps talking about these
problems in the red states. Look, the red states are becoming a shrinking
part of America. And the one thing Boehner said that was true is that the
Republican Party is annihilating itself in terms of being able to win the
presidency, because they are in a demographic death spiral with women, with
Hispanics, with African-Americans, with young people, with gays.

What happened with Ronald Reagan, Chris -- and you remember this in the
1980s -- he brought young people into the Republican Party, and they
stayed. This generation of young people is moving decisively to the
Democratic Party. And if they stay, it is going to be a long time before
we see a Republican president.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Let me jump in real quick.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, I love those places.

Anyway, your thoughts, John, last thought.

FEEHERY: Let me jump in. Let me jump in. Let me jump in.

I think Bob is right on this thing. I think the Republican Party needs to
evolve. I think it needs to attract younger voters. It has problems with
Hispanic voters, African-American voters, and I think that`s what they`re
trying to do at their RNC meeting. They have got to message better. And
they have got to have better policies to attract those voters.

MATTHEWS: OK, John, John Feehery, now you`re talking.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much, John Feehery, as always, showing intelligence
near the end of the conversation.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, thank you so much.

I`m just kidding.

SHRUM: Thanks, guys.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- I`m just kidding. You`re normally not this good.

Republican Congressman Paul Broun, the guy who called evolution lies from
the pit of hell, now says President Obama is upholding the Soviet Union`s
constitution, new term, of course, same old Republican line, the Soviet
constitution. Is there one? I don`t think there`s a Soviet Union anymore.

Anyway, that`s -- we`re back at HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Global warming is a
total hoax, and I will tell you how I know.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Because it`s cold today where I live.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: That`s just science.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: If anything, there`s a new Ice Age coming today, where I live.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Which we`re totally unprepared for, because it`s been so
unseasonably warm this winter.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Going after climate change may be on President Obama`s second-term agenda,
but what are the odds of Congress doing something when members of the House
Science Committee are known to say things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Whether or not how dramatic this
change will be or is, what it`s caused by, are things that honest people I
think can disagree with. We don`t know what those other cycles were caused
by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence, or who knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Bill Maher took to his "Real Time" blog to describe the
climate debate, this "Planet of the Apes" stuff.

"It`s just another case of not being able to craft a solution or even begin
a discussion because one side is dealing in science and facts and reality,
and the other is stuck in a state of uninformed ideologically based
paranoia. It`s like a city council trying to debate whether or not to put
up a stop sign at a certain intersection to keep the kids safe when some of
the council members deny the existence of cars."

The people Maher is talking about are part of the club President Obama
called out in the campaign. Remember what he said?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If these guys were around
when Columbus set sail, they would be charter members of the Flat Earth
Society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next, another nod to the Soviets. Last week, Mississippi
Governor Phil Bryant said that if people couldn`t get high-capacity gun
magazines, they`d look to places like Brazil or the Soviet Union to get
them, well, the Soviet Union, which hasn`t existed for over 20 years now.

Well, Phil Bryant, meet Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, the guy who thinks
evolution and the Big Bang Theory are -- quote -- "lies straight from the
pit of hell," and a likely member of that Flat Earth Society besides.

Anyway, Broun was asked by a local newspaper about his role in Congress as
a far-right Republican. His answer: "I think my role is to uphold, support
and defend our Constitution. I don`t know what Constitution that other
members of Congress uphold, but it`s not this one. I think the only
Constitution that Barack Obama upholds is the Soviet constitution, not this
one. He has no concept of this one, though he claimed to be a
constitutional lawyer."

OK. Call the Soviet stuff a gaffe on the part of the congressman, but the
president claims to be a constitutional lawyer? Is Broun not convinced
that the president graduated from Harvard Law School and served as
president of "The Harvard Law Review"? Was that just a claim?

Finally, I think President Obama had some unfinished business with the Al
Green song he started singing at the Apollo Theatre. Well, maybe. For
now, we have to settle for the auto-tune version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Reverend Al Green was here.

(singing): I`m so in love with you whatever you.

Whatever you want to do, I will do it for you. Let`s stay together, loving
you whether, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, basically he`s a really good singer.

Up next: The Pentagon officially lifts the ban on women in combat. It`s
going to be a hot issue here. Of course, women are already serving in
combat, as Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth can attest. Congresswoman
Duckworth, she is going to join us next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Stocks gained ground for a fifth straight session, the Dow rising 46
points. The S&P ends flat, the Nasdaq falling 23. Tech stocks were
dragged down by Apple, which slid 12 percent following its weaker-than-
expected earnings report. Meanwhile, jobless claims fell by 5,000 to
330,000, the lowest level in nearly five years.

And after the closing bell, Microsoft posted profits that came in slightly
ahead, but revenue was below estimates.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: In life, as we all know, there are
no guarantees of success. Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat
soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today, as he overturned a 1994 ban
on women serving in combat. The truth is American women have been in
combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but they have been prevented -- it`s
preventing them from advancing to some higher-ranking positions within the
military.

Panetta this afternoon said decisions going forward must not be made based
upon gender, but on qualifications.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PANETTA: I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when
success is based solely on ability, on qualifications, and on performance.

When I have gone to Bethesda to visit wounded warriors and when I have gone
to Arlington to bury our dead, there is no distinction that`s made between
the sacrifices of men and women in uniform. They serve, they`re wounded,
and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that
reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: With me tonight are U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth of
Illinois, who lost both her legs actually when her Black Hawk helicopter
went down in Iraq in 2004. She`s also a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois
Army National Guard. And Captain Zoe Bedell served two deployments in
Afghanistan and is now in the Marine Corps Reserves. She`s one of four
women who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban on women in combat.

Welcome to both of you.

You both have an advantage on me. You served in the military. I did not.
I will bow to your knowledge.

Congresswoman, I want you to tell me -- if you can, delineate before today,
what were the restrictions or limits on what a woman could do, as opposed
to a male serving officer or enlisted person, in the United States
military?

REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: So, Chris, women were not allowed to
serve in specific jobs. In the Army, those combat jobs were infantry,
armor, artillery.

There`s a whole list of them. So, for example, a woman could not become a
field artillery officer. The only combat arms branch in the Army that was
open to women was aviation, which is what I became. It didn`t mean that
women weren`t serving in combat. And, in fact, the Army recognized that
and awards the Combat Action Badge to show that you were engaged in direct
combat.

So there`s two different policies. There`s a little bit of a split between
the old system that says that women can`t serve in these jobs, but then
also recognizing, oh, yes, but you are engaging in combat action.

MATTHEWS: But they weren`t allowed in the military artillery or armor?

DUCKWORTH: Right. So, infantry, artillery, armor, there`s a whole lost of
particular jobs that you couldn`t get into.

MATTHEWS: Captain, thank you for joining us and thank you for your
service, as well as thank you to the congresswoman.

Tell us why you made your suit, what you think was unjust. What do you
think has now been changed?

CAPT. ZOE BEDELL U.S. MARINE CORPS RESERVES: Well, I served for four years
in the Marine Corps. I did two tours in Afghanistan, and I was in charge
of a group of female Marines who were overseas patrolling with infantry
Marines every day and who saw combat, who were in firefights, who are
targeted by roadside bombs.

And I knew that what was happening over there was not in line with what the
policy was saying and that policy gotten our way frankly made it more
difficult for to us accomplish our mission. It also made it harder for my
Marines to get recognition for the work they were doing.

And when the ACLU approached me, it was an easy decision to make.

MATTHEWS: So, in effect, were women actually working in these units that
were apparently banned like artillery, armor, and infantry, or were they
not? Or were they limited to the aerial -- the choppers and the other
aircraft?

What was in effect -- let me go back to the congresswoman -- what in effect
was the reality of a guy or a woman serving in the military that they would
have experienced up until today, the reality?

DUCKWORTH: Sure. The reality is, Chris, for example, we had infantry
units that would have a female medic or supply sergeant attached to them,
but not assigned. So, if you are assigned to a unit, then you belong to
that unit and you`re part of the unit. But they would attack a medic or
supply sergeant and they would go with the infantry men on their door to
door house to house searches, but they needed the women there to search
female civilians that they would come across.

So, the women were engaging in the same firefights, doing the exact same
thing, but they were not seen as being combat troops. And so, women are
already doing these jobs but they were not being recognized as doing it and
these units couldn`t have the women there and would have to go and look and
search for women to volunteer to be attached to them and could not train
them alongside the men in infantry training because the women were not
technically infantry soldiers.

MATTHEWS: Captain, when a woman joins the military today, will it be
different? Will she be exposed to being put into an infantry unit a front
line grunt position where she would have to take that hill -- get out there
and take that hill McGee, it`s your job, take the hill, you got your rifle,
do it? Will they all be put in that position or do you see the law being
enforced a different way like a woman would have the option of going to the
front line service?

I just don`t know the answer. What is the answer?

BEDELL: You know, I don`t know the answer at this point either. I`m not
sure that those details have come out and if they are I haven`t seen them
yet.

MATTHEWS: What`s your position? Having fought the suit, do you think
women should be vulnerable to the same kind of assignments or it should be
an option for them where it may not be an option for men to be assigned to
some really terrible duty like take that hill, you got your rifle?

BEDELL: Well, you know, I think the assignment process should work the
same for men and women. That`s what we`ve been asking for, we`ve been
asking for equality.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BEDELL: And, you know, right now, for officers for example you have to
compete for the position. You don`t get assigned against your choice
necessarily.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEDELL: And we want the opportunity to compete for those positions.

MATTHEWS: You think it`s going to encourage recruitment -- Congresswoman,
will this encouragement recruitment of women into the military? The fact
that it will be equal service, equal opportunity, if you will?

BEDELL: I think it will encourage recruitment and I just want to make a
note that for the infantry -- for the enlisted jobs, when you are enlisting
into the military, whether you`re a man or woman, you`re enlisting into a
specific military occupational specialty. So, you`re choosing on your day
of enlistment as a man whether you want --

MATTHEWS: I see. Well, that wasn`t the way it was in the `60s. That was
not the way it was in the `60s, because you could apply to be a PIO, which
I was thinking of doing, like Al Gore did, and I never believed that you
were guaranteed that PIO job. Could you have just -- I wanted to write
like Ernie Pyle and you`d just be a grunt like everybody else. I never
trusted that.

I`m glad to know you can get assignment right up front. Thank you. I
really appreciate -- well, thank you for your service. I`ll say it the way
I always do.

Congresswoman, it`s great to have you in Congress.

And, Captain, thank you for coming on the show and educating us here. We`d
love to have you back.

Up next, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a ban on assault weapons
today. She did it again. She did it well the first time and succeeded the
first time.

But, will Democrats in big hunting states and gun states like Pennsylvania
and West Virginia, Kentucky, be there to vote for this bill? Big question.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Battleground Texas? Well, that`s the goal of Democrats who want
to turn deep red Texas blue. "Politico" is reporting that national
Democrats are launching a campaign to make the Lone Star State more
competitive politically. Texas hasn`t voted for a Democrat for president
since `76 when it actually voted for Hubert Humphrey.

But the one thing that Democrats have working in their favor now is
demographics. According to the census, Texas is 44 percent white, 38
percent Hispanic, 12 percent black, and 4 percent Asian -- by the way, they
voted for Carter in `76, not Humphrey -- making Texas a majority-minority
state.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, the horror up there, advocates for
stricter gun laws thought they might have finally momentum on their side
but getting any major legislation passed likely to face some obviously
major opposition. Not just from Republicans, of course. The more
Democrats and conservative states hear from their constituents, the more
harder it becomes to pass something new in terms of gun legislation.

Nevertheless, today, several Democrats led by Senator Dianne Feinstein
introduced or reintroduced a bill to reintroduce the ban on military-style
assault weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: We should be outraged by how easy
it is for perpetrators of these horrific crimes to obtain powerful
military-style weapons. Today, my colleagues and I are introducing a bill
to prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of assault
weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices that can accept more
than 10 rounds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, does Feinstein`s bill have a chance of passing? That`s a
good question for our strategists today, our political strategists today.
We`re going to hear about them and the new Republican efforts, of course,
to change the Electoral College by reallocating the votes according to
congressional district.

Let`s talk about that.

Republicans want to do away with the winner-takes-all system in states
we`ve gotten used to for the last couple hundred years who have voted with
Democrats in recent elections.

So, are the Republicans going to monkey around with the Electoral College
in order to win? That`s our second question.

Let`s start with the first one with Steve McMahon, he`s a Democratic
strategist. Robert Costa is Washington editor for the renowned "National
Review."

Steve, let`s talk politics and I hope you can do this honestly. I don`t
know what your constituency is or who you have to work with. But it seems
to me there`s a national consensus -- right, left and center -- at least
right and center on doing something on background checks. People with
mental, emotional problems, with criminal records should not get a gun, at
least in a formal transaction where you can stop it.

I`m not sure we`re ready to go --

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: -- for the assault weapons ban again because of the opposition
by the NRA and the Gun Owners of America or whatever they`re called.

Your thoughts?

MCMAHON: Well, I think this is where the rubber meets the road. If you`re
the Democrat and you`re from one of those purple states, where, you know,
elections are very close all the time, this is a very tough vote for you.
But, frankly, it`s why you`re a Democrat.

I mean, there are -- there is widespread agreement on background checks.
There`s widespread agreement on these magazines that can hold up to a
hundred rounds. And the assault weapons ban is where it gets kind of tough
for Democrats.

But I think those Democrats who don`t want to vote for an assault weapons
ban might find a Tea Party on the left, a primary, somebody who is a little
bit more liberal, who`s a little bit more progressive and willing to do
those things.

It was something that Bill Clinton passed in 1994. And nobody in America
was outraged at the time. No hunters stopped hunting. It wasn`t really
any threat to the Second Amendment.

It isn`t anymore today than it was then.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Robert. Your thoughts? Was he too optimistic for gun
control there?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think so. I was down in Williamsburg,
Virginia, for that House Republican retreat.

And I was talking to a lot of Republican members. They said, look, Sandy
Hook is such a big tragedy. What are Republicans are going to do to
respond to this legislatively? Is there anything Republicans can do? And
they said background checks and enforcement.

So though Senator Feinstein got a lot of attention today for her press
conference, what I`m really watching is Senator Patrick Leahy because he`s
--

MATTHEWS: I agree, he`s the star. He`s the chairman of the Judiciary
Committee in the Senate.

COSTA: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And what is his role?

COSTA: And his role, he has another piece of legislation that`s aligned
with Senator Feinstein. But it`s different, it`s all about enforcement.
And this enforcement issue of making the laws tougher, of helping out cops
to enforce the gun laws, this is something I think Republicans behind the
scenes are privately already working with Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Do you think -- Steve, you sound optimistic about gun control.
Do you believe the United States Senate, which is run by Democrats now, 55,
control, 55 seats are Democrat, will pass a bill that the House will have
to swallow? Will they do something real that they can take the conference
and possibly get signed by the president? Because they`ve got to take a
lead, the House ain`t going to do it.

MCMAHON: I think the president takes the lead and he takes the case to the
country. I think the Senate will pass something. Pat Leahy is a great
example of the challenge here because he`s from a state where people value
their guns. But once hunters understand, and then most hunters do
understand, that this isn`t a threat to their ability to hunt, this is --
this is a threat to those people who hunt other people --

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCMAHON: -- with assault weapons and kill dozens at a time very quickly,
if they want to.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCMAHON: And it will get to the House and the House --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCMAHON: -- is going to have a tough vote.

By the way, Chris, there`s one other thing in this bill. It also bans
rocket launchers and grenade launchers. Now, I don`t want to be --

MATTHEWS: I think that`s fair. I think we agree on that one.

MCMAHON: I don`t know of any Republicans that vote against that bill.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I just think they`ve got to get something done after Newtown for
the parents and the survivors. Just get something done. Don`t talk, talk,
talk. I think the background check is something we can get done this
spring. I don`t know how anybody can vote against that. I don`t know how
far right.

Let`s talk about this Electoral College game. All of our lives, maybe for
the rest of our lives, will elect by state. There were a collection of 50
states, Republicans, conservatives, especially believe state who is the key
for the federal system we have.

And now Republicans are coming along saying don`t do by state anymore, do
it by congressional district. What do you think? Is it going anywhere,
Robert?

COSTA: I think it is going somewhere. Look at states like Maine and
Nebraska. They already have this congressional allocation for Electoral
College votes.

But here`s the problem. A lot of Republicans are getting a lot of heat for
trying to meddle with this system. But in 2000, early 2000, when Al Gore
won the popular vote, there are people talking about rethinking the
Electoral College.

This is not some scandal to think about the Electoral College.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Steve? I think it`s a scandal, but your
thoughts?

MCMAHON: I think it`s a scandal, too. And I think the Republicans who go
near it will get singed. Those Republican Governors who are thinking about
it, everybody is going to understand that this is a way to undo the
election.

It`s a way to take the winner of the popular vote. Barack Obama won by 5
million, he won the congressional -- the Democrats won the congressional
vote by 1.5 million.

This is a way to overturn the election. People will understand that and
Republicans will be punished.

MATTHEWS: OK. I believe a state that votes majority for one guy for
president, either party, and finds out two or three days later that a
majority of their electoral votes went the other way, you`ll have a
revolution. Anyway, I don`t think it`s going to happen. But I understand
what you guys are up because you can`t win the majority voting war.

Thank you, Steve McMahon, and the objective, Robert Costa, from the great
renowned "National Journal."

MCMAHON: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, when we return, let me finish with Republicans Mickey
Mouse club. That`s what I`m talking about, the Mickey Mouse club.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this, this Mickey Mouse club that`s
back. Oh, yes, just look at the Republican Party`s plan to kill the
Electoral College and replace it with a vote by congressional district. No
longer will it be the 50 states. From now on, if the musketeers get their
way, it will be the 435 congressional districts. Not the United States of
America, but the united congressional districts of America.

It`s the latest Mickey Mouse gimmick to win elections without having to win
with the most number of votes. Remember the tricks they tried in 2012, all
those changes on the voting times, all those cuts of the voting booths, all
that effort to make it harder for people to vote, all of that targeting of
the people who tend to vote in ways that Republicans don`t like people
voting? Remember all that?

Well, now they`re trying something new. They don`t like states like
Pennsylvania that regularly vote Democratic. So some political quacks come
up with the idea of breaking up the states` electoral votes so the rural
votes will get more power. They don`t like the urban vote, as they call
it, going so Democratic. So, they decide to kill its power over how the
state goes overall.

But the real fight here is by the Republicans against the country`s
shifting demographics. If they don`t get or can`t get people to vote for
them, they try to kill the power of those who don`t. Will they get away
with it? Not if you stay tuned and keep an eye on these little buggers.
They`ve got their Mickey Mouse ears on. They`re up to their gimmicks
again. Kids, it`s Mickey Mouse time all again.

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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