updated 1/29/2013 9:57:10 AM ET 2013-01-29T14:57:10

HARDBALL
January 28, 2013

Guests: Linda Sanchez, Stephanie Cutter, Cynthia Tucker, Lauren Ashburn, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tea for two.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Barack and Hillary: Good-bye or hello?
Was last night`s dual appearance on "60 Minutes" a fond good-bye or a
statement? Was it the president`s way of saying, I know which way the wind
is blowing? Was it Barack Obama saying, I want a Democrat to replace me,
Hillary Clinton is the best bet to do it, I`m ready for this to happen?
Well, it`s powerful stuff, any way you listen to it.

I think Secretary Clinton will run for president. I don`t see how she can
walk away from it. She`s the one woman right now in the picture who could
win the president next time. Not only that, I think she`s the favorite of
either gender and either party to win the presidency in 2016.

How does she tell the women of this country, in fact, all her backers
across the country, that she doesn`t want to run? Well, this is the big
story in politics right now. It will be until she announces she`s running.
It`s a story of suspense only because it`s about when she signals her move,
not whether.

Eugene McCarthy once told me it`s easier to run for president than to stop.
Once someone gets out there, puts their very being on the platform for the
presidency, it doesn`t go away. It stays with you. In Secretary Hillary
Clinton`s case, she carries with her not just her first name, but her
husband`s. He clearly wants her to run, and that means he will lobby her
like mad. I don`t know of a more persuasive person in the country, and I
can only assume he holds special influence with his wife.

Anyway, I think the real decision will be made by Hillary Rodham Clinton
herself, of course. I believe she made that decision back at Wellesley,
when she was a super student leader even before she even met William
Jefferson Clinton. And that decision I believe holds. So get ready for a
real doozy next time around. In fact, it`s all right starting. Exciting
politics in this young century has only just begun.

I`m joined right now by the HuffingtonPost`s Howard Fineman, a pro, and a
future superstar already on the way to greatness, Joy -- I always say this
about her. I feel like I`m the biggest booster on the planet --

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: ...
now, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I am -- she is there now. Aren`t you the smart gentleman!
Anyway, he says you`re already -- you`re already there and...

REID: Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: ... been there. Anyway, let`s watch this right now. They got a
"get" last night. Looks like the president boosted this interview. They
wanted it. "60 Minutes`s" Steve Kroft prefaced his key question by saying
it was his understanding that the joint interview last night was President
Obama`s idea. He then asked the question on everyone`s mind, Why? Let`s
listen to Steve and then the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the main thing is I
just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you because I think
Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we`ve had.

I want the country to appreciate just what an extraordinary role she`s
played during the course of my administration. And a lot of the successes
we`ve had internationally have been because of her hard work.

STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": There`s no political tea leaves to be read
here?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don`t have any tea. We`ve got
some water here, the best I can tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joy, that was a fairly lame response, "We don`t have any tea
here" by the secretary of state. Look, this is the biggest set of jobs in
the world, first lady, United States senator from New York, secretary of
state, the greatest appointive position on the planet.

She`s given it up. As he said last night, very importantly, I thought, I
would like you to stay. So it was her decision to walk after four years.
She could have stayed for eight, apparently, or at least a lot more than
she stayed.

What`s it mean to you that the president gave her -- I don`t think that was
a gold watch ceremony last night. I think that was a portent, a statement.
Your thoughts.

REID: No, I agree. I think it was an attempt by the president to bestow a
little favor on Hillary Clinton. Look, Joe Biden, the vice president, who
a lot of people also believe really wants to run -- I believe he wants to
run, and I think he`s been sending a lot of signals out there that he`s
very much interested and getting really excited. He`s gotten a lot of big
assignments and has gotten a lot of favor from the president of the United
States.

And I think this was an attempt by Obama to even the playing field a little
bit, if not tip it a little bit in Hillary`s favor. Look, the job she
ended up taking was a lot higher-profile, in the end, than vice president,
which a lot of Hillary-land really wanted him to make her his running mate
and he didn`t.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: He gave her an even higher-profile position in a lot of ways, and
now he`s given her a huge boost toward 2016.

MATTHEWS: Well, my question to you -- since you raised it, I always like
to ask the question you raise, Joy -- will Joe Biden quit if she runs?
Will he pull out of the race, no matter how -- if he`s in the race for a
year or two, will he pull out if she says, I`m going?

REID: I think -- you know, Chris, I think the game between Biden and
Hillary has been this. I don`t think they would primary each other, but I
think each of them has been trying to put facts on the ground, especially
Biden...

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

REID: ... the last few weeks. He`s trying to put those...

MATTHEWS: But will he pull out if she comes in?

REID: ... facts out there -- I think if she makes a strong move to run, I
do think Biden would back down because I think the president is going to
have to have a conversation with one of these two and say, I got to back
one of you, I can`t back you both, and I`m not going to be neutral. The
president really wants his legacy to be another Democratic president.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, you answered my question well. Howard, can you answer
it? I mean, if you don`t know, you don`t know. But my question is, you
and I lived through McCarthy/Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Gene McCarthy. That
was terrible for the Democratic Party, two great candidates, heroic
candidates forced to run against each other because Bobby got in late.

FINEMAN: Well, first of all, I think part of this was about the next four
years of President Obama. It`s not just about...

MATTHEWS: How does he need Hillary? Because he didn`t put any women in
top positions?

FINEMAN: Well, Hillary is a major figure in the Democratic Party, was a
major figure before he ever came on the scene. Her husband, Bill Clinton,
is still a major figure in the party, even though that galls Barack Obama.
And it wouldn`t do to have this other royal family in the Democratic tent
out there, undermining Obama`s candidacy or -- I mean, excuse me, Obama`s
presidency in any way. So this was a good will gesture on the way out the
door, I think in part.

MATTHEWS: To keep her on base.

FINEMAN: To keep her on base, absolutely, to keep her close, keep your
friends -- you know, your enemies close and your friends closer...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you back the question I put to Joy, and she answered
rather forthrightly. Will Joe Biden bow out if it`s clear Hillary`s
running?

FINEMAN: I think so. And I think so because Hillary has a much deeper,
broader base in the party. I know Joe Biden well. I`ve covered him for a
long time. He`s nothing if not a political realist. And if he assesses
the situation a couple years down the road and sees that the Clinton
machine is still out there -- and by the way, Hillary took the whole
Clinton machine to the State Department. That was Hillary-land over there.
That wasn`t Obama-land.

MATTHEWS: I understand that completely.

FINEMAN: OK. If that`s still going on, if that`s still strong, I think
Joe Biden will look at it and will say, I`m not sure I`ve got the
organization to do it. And also, he might not want to call the president
out on it and take the gamble with the president because I`m not sure he
would necessarily get the answer that he`d want to hear.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that. Anyway, Steve Kroft, by the way, tried to
get at the political meaning of the interview itself. This is rare, by the
way. Usually, in our business, as you know, Joy and Howard, if you get an
interview of this incredible quality, the president and the secretary of
state, the two most important people, with Bill Clinton in the Democratic
Party, you don`t ask why you got it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But here he is, apparently again trying to figure out why the
two showed up together. Here he is, Steve Kroft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KROFT: I have to ask you, what`s the date of expiration on this
endorsement?

CLINTON: Oh, Steve! You know -- you know...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

KROFT: I have to ask that question. I mean, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

KROFT: I mean, you`re sitting here together. Everybody in town is talking
about it already. And this is -- it`s taking place.

OBAMA: You know, Steve, I got to tell you, the -- you guys in the press
are incorrigible.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And I was literally inaugurated four days ago...

KROFT: Right.

OBAMA: ... and you`re talking about elections four years from now.

CLINTON: Yes, and I am -- as you know, Steve, I am still secretary of
state, so I`m out of politics...

KROFT: Right.

CLINTON: ... and I`m forbidden from even hearing these questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: As Steve Martin would famously say, "Excuse me!" They asked to
come on "60 Minutes."

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: They like the press coverage they got today and last night.
They love the fact we`re talking about it, or they would not have done the
show, Joy.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It just seems to me, for him to mock the very message when they
are the message is a little weird on the part of the president.

REID: Yes. Oh, please, Steve. I mean, did you see the body language on
Hillary? That is a woman who knows that the presidency is basically hers
for the taking, if she wants it. Who could stop her? And she knows that.
She is as relaxed as I`ve ever seen her.

And the best thing for her to do is to step back, get out of this job right
now, and spend the next three years preparing herself to run for president,
if she wants it.

MATTHEWS: Was this a move that was to -- so many things in politics follow
other things that wouldn`t have happened if they didn`t have that thing
before them. Do you think this was to give her a really nice send-off
after the rather unpleasant experience with Ron Johnson and Rand Paul and
those hearings this week?

FINEMAN: Well, there are a couple things. First of all, it is true that
Hillary`s last sort of public performance in an official capacity was
defending herself on the Hill -- well, but under attack.

MATTHEWS: On Benghazi.

FINEMAN: Yes, on Benghazi. So that`s number one. I think the president
and Hillary have a mutual interest in having Benghazi go away and go away
with a nice ribbon tied around it. So that`s number one.

Another thing was something you mentioned to me earlier, which is -- which
is that the president has gotten a lot of criticism lately for not having
picked a lot of new nominees who aren`t white males.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: And to remind people that one of the most important picks in his
first term was a woman, and not just any woman, but Hillary Rodham Clinton,
I think was a big deal. So he was kind of reminding everybody, especially
reminding women, especially reminding Hillary supporters, reminding
activists, reminding feminists, Hey, look who`s sitting next to me. I made
this person secretary of state.

Has the additional benefit of editing Bill Clinton completely out of the
picture.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: That`s the real tension here.

MATTHEWS: I want to go...

FINEMAN: The real tension here is Bill Clinton...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I know!

FINEMAN: ... and Barack Obama. It`s like "The Big Chill" turned into the
deep freeze.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Before -- hold that thought because your idea of
putting (INAUDIBLE) Clinton aside, which is unimaginable -- let me go back
to Joy. Remember, he was still...

FINEMAN: At least for a few minutes.

MATTHEWS: He was on TV when George W. was elected president, giving his
inaugural address, Bill was speaking out at Andrews on a separate screen.

Let me ask you -- because I thought of this, and Howard did give me credit
for it. In the Green Room before we came in here, I said, You know what?
One reason why...

FINEMAN: Where all the important work is done.

MATTHEWS: ... he put the secretary of state on television with him as an
equal, a peer, and they talked about each other being partners, almost --
was it ameliorated, softened the lack of any woman of the top positions the
president has named for the second term, and it did shut everybody up in a
very nice way. It`s smart, cosmetic politics, I thought. Your thoughts,
Joy.

REID: No, definitely. It puts her in the buddy act because you`ve seen a
lot of him and Joe Biden together. You`ve seen him and his new chief of
staff. And there is a sort of buddy act that he`s got going on with all
these guys that he`s putting in his cabinet. But one of the things you
haven`t seen a lot...

MATTHEWS: Boy-girl buddy act.

REID: Right. But you haven`t...

MATTHEWS: That`s new.

REID: ... seen a lot. If you think about it, one of the pairings you
haven`t seen a lot of over the last four years is Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton next to each other, together. I think it`s important not just for
the cosmetics because of the cabinet picks, but because you`ve got to at
some point mesh Hillary-land and Obama-world. They`re two very different
camps still. There are still two camps in Washington...

MATTHEWS: What happens...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does 40 or 50 or whatever number of people working in the State
Department, whose jobs will cease to exist the day she leaves because
they`re all appointments by her -- what will they all do for a living while
she decides whether she`s running or not?

REID: Well, I think a lot of them will become the sort of staff on the
ground that`s in the Hillary Clinton campaign-in-waiting. A lot of them
will become policy advisers. I`m sure that some will remain, and you`ll
see some people that`ll stay on because it`s also a good will gesture from
Kerry-land, which also doesn`t have a huge, deep base.

FINEMAN: Yes.

REID: So it`s to his benefit to keep some of these Hillary people on.

FINEMAN: I agree with Joy. I agree with Joy. I think John Kerry is going
to do Hillary Clinton the favor of keeping those people around.

MATTHEWS: Some.

FINEMAN: At least -- at least for a while.

MATTHEWS: Who knows? I don`t know.

FINEMAN: At least -- at least for -- at least for a decent interval.

MATTHEWS: So it`s a fascinating discussion. We love it because as long as
Hillary is in the news, the news is exciting. I think Hillary Clinton is
going to run for president (INAUDIBLE) and I think Joy agrees with me. I
think Howard probably agrees with me, but his keeping his powder dry. He`s
just smiling now.

I don`t see why anybody walks away from the presidency. But then again...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... I also say I don`t think we can predict the future or this
wouldn`t be a great thing to cover.

FINEMAN: I also think it`s also about Obama managing the next few years on
his own. He wants to keep her in view and on a friendly basis.

MATTHEWS: And therefore, keep your enemies in front of you.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Even if they`re not enemies. Thank you. Either way, either it
was a great acting performance by both last night, or it was something
really important. It was probably a combination.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman, my friend, who shares in the skepticism
which makes this a wonderful business, journalism. And we should always be
skeptical. Joy Reid, you`re great.

REID: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I`m known for saying that, you`re great.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re great, and it`s true in your case.

On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is Andrea Mitchell`s guest, by the way.
There`s another big get for our colleague, 1:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday on
this network, MSNBC.

Coming up: Deal or no deal? A bipartisan group of senators has reached
agreement on an immigration reform bill. Wow! It could create a pathway
for illegal immigrants to become citizens. It sounds great, but will
Republicans vote for it? Will it have teeth? Will it work when so many
past efforts at immigration policy have failed?

Also, President Obama has said he hoped his reelection would break the
Republican fever of endless obstructions, but even he admits that it hasn`t
happened yet. And now we have Paul Ryan saying the president is ignoring
the country`s problems in order to focus on destroying the GOP. Give me a
break! Paul Ryan, you`re the biggest disappointment right, left, or center
in this country.

Oh, speaking of which, Sarah Palin lost her biggest megaphone when Fox News
dropped her the other day. Her contract is gone. No thanks (ph) to keep
her on the payroll. I guess a lot of Republicans say the GOP has to stop
being the stupid party. Maybe getting rid of her is part of that. Who
knows, maybe CNN will pick her up.

And leave it to our friends on the right to find new conspiracies when old
ones die. First they questioned whether Hillary Clinton really had a
concussion. New they want to know whether she was pushed. Sickos!

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama`s losing another key Senate ally. Iowa senator
Tom Harkin announced over the weekend that he won`t run for a sixth term
next year. That opens up a jump-ball situation in the Hawkeye state. On
the Democrat side, U.S. congressman Bruce Braley is the early favorite,
along with former governor Tom Vilsack, also, his wife, Christie, and
former governor Chet Culver.

But the Republicans may be in for another soul-searching primary crisis as
moderate Republican congressman Tom Latham and extreme conservative Steve
King may both have their eyes on that Senate seat.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A group of eight senators -- four
Democrats, four Republicans -- unveiled today what they say is a major
breakthrough in the immigration debate. The plan would offer a path to
citizenship for the millions of people, about 12 million of them, here
illegally. It also promises to put some teeth into enforcement.

Chuck Schumer of New York and John McCain of Arizona were two of the
senators. Here`s what they said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Other bipartisan groups of senators have
stood in the same spot before, trumpeting similar proposals. But we
believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done. The politics
on this issue have been turned upside-down. For the first time ever,
there`s more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in
supporting it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What`s going on now is unacceptable. In
reality, what`s been created is a de facto amnesty. We have been too
content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food,
clean our homes, and even watch our children, while not affording them any
of the benefits that make our country so great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s what the plan includes -- the creation of what the
senators call a tough but fair path to citizenship, strengthening border
security with new tools, including the use of drones at the border,
establishing an effective employment verification system to prevent
employers from hiring illegal workers. Most of the people here illegally
will be given a provisional status to remain after paying back taxes and
passing a background check. They would have to go to the back of the line,
however, in order to get their Green Card.

Will it work? And just as important, will Republicans in the House be
willing to go along with the plan?

Linda Sanchez is a Democratic congresswoman from California. Thank you for
joining us. And Stephanie Cutter is the former deputy campaign manager for
President Obama`s reelection.

You know, Congresswoman, as you know, like most Americans, I`ve always
thought it idiotic on the part of the Republicans to even talk about
sending home over 10 million people who`ve been living here in this country
for years. It`s not going to ever happen. It would be a hideous pogrom,
almost, to watch it in effect, people being ripped from their families.

But I also believe that no true reform is ever going to work nor should it
be approved that doesn`t have enforcement behind it, that isn`t going to
stop the people racing across the border tomorrow night as we watch it on
NBC News (INAUDIBLE) pictures look like. Unless that stops, the other
thing isn`t going to be effective, either.

Do you think this bill has both teeth and a good thing for the people
living here -- both?

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it`s important to remember that
what the "gang of eight" today unveiled is sort of an outline. It`s
actually not a written bill yet. So there are details that still need to
be worked out.

But the very fact that there is agreement and the very fact that it`s a
bipartisan effort and the very fact that Republican senators are now
supporting this earned pathway to citizenship, or legalization, is a
tremendous, tremendous aboutface from where our immigration policy has
been. So I`m very hopeful...

MATTHEWS: But we`ve seen all this before. Look, I`ve been around long
enough. We`ve done immigration before. We passed a big, comprehensive,
bipartisan bill with all the signatures and everything and everybody
smiling, and it was a joke. It was called Simpson-Mazzoli. Alan Simpson
still thinks he was screwed by it because it never had any teeth in it.

It looked nice. It got some people here legally, but it never solved the
problem of illegal immigration. So, just because it`s bipartisan,
Congresswoman, do you believe that means it`s going to work?

SANCHEZ: Well, I think that it`s definitely a sign of positive things to
come.

I mean, the devil is always in the details. And, yes, enforcement is being
tied in this bill to the pathway to citizenship, but you have to remember,
too, there are a lot of moving parts to immigration. And you touch one
piece of it, and you have to work and tinker with other parts of it.

And I think, ultimately, with the stepped-up enforcement -- we have seen
stepped-up enforcement in the last four years. We have seen much tighter
border security. We have seen fewer people coming into the country
illegally, and I think if we can separate out those who want to come for
legitimate reasons and those who come for criminal reasons and alleviate
that pressure at the border, I think that we are well on our way to an
effective immigration solution.

MATTHEWS: Stephanie, you`re in politics. And I cover politics. And you
know the politics of this. It needs to have both sides to it. If people
can still come in the country tomorrow and there`s no real work permit
that`s really effective, like you have in every other country in the world,
including Mexico, where you have to have a right to work somewhere, you
have to have permission to work in the country -- we don`t seem to have a
way of doing it.

We know our country is filled with people working in every kind of job,
whether it`s restaurants or it`s working on people`s houses or it`s cutting
their lawns or working at golf courses or in hotels. We know it`s all over
the place, people here who have come in the country illegally.

Nobody, I think, has confidence -- I certainly don`t -- that any bill
passed by Congress that we have seen before will stop that. You can bring
everybody in here into our system. You can give them the opportunity for
full citizenship, but if we have to do this again in 23 or 25 years again,
we have gotten nowhere. We have to be a country that`s organized enough to
say who comes in and who doesn`t, it seems to me. Your thoughts?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Chris,
I agree with you. And I don`t think that there`s anybody that would
disagree with you.

And the congresswoman is right. The devil is in the details, but it seems
like what the Senate -- the bipartisan group of senators put out today does
have some real teeth in it. And what the president has put out previously
also has some real teeth in it.

Let`s not forget that the president has made historic increases in border
security, that net migration with Mexico right now is basically zero. And,
you know, let`s remember all the criticism that he got over the last couple
of years on the increase in the number of deportations. So everybody
understands that this bill has to have balance, that as the congresswoman
said, once you start tinkering with one part, you have got to look at
everything all together, and it all works together.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That sounds like -- people that believe in border protection,
who believe you can stop somebody from coming into this country by higher
towers or more drones or more people working there I think are right-
wingers or idiots. If you want to work and you`re looking for a job,
you`re going to come to America, Congresswoman. You`re going to come in
here and you`re going to find a way in, whether you have to take a boat, an
airplane or swim or whatever you have to do. You`re going to get here.

And my question is, are we going to have a work permit situation that`s
truly enforced so there will be no incentive to do that, because you can`t
work in the United States unless you`re here legally? If we ever have a
system like that, we won`t be having this debate 20 or 30 years from now
all over again.

Your thoughts, because we never stop talking about it.

SANCHEZ: Well, if you let me get a word in edgewise, I will tell you
that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You got all the time in the world to answer my question.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Do you have confidence this bill will work?

SANCHEZ: Part -- I am confident, because part of some of the discussion
that`s been going on with the House group that`s been working on this issue
as well as the Senate group has been a stronger E-Verify system.

And, now, E-Verify has not been a perfect system. There are some problems
with that, but strengthening that system will also allow employers to
verify whether workers in this country are here legally or not, and that`s
a key part of enforcement as well.

And I think, you know, 10 years down the line, 20 years down the line
possibly, because our birthrate has fallen dramatically, the birthrate in
Mexico has fallen dramatically, we`re going to need workers from somewhere.
So I think we will have a much different immigration debate in the future
as there is this demand for workers, and perhaps we won`t view immigrants
so hostilely when we actually need them here contributing to our economy.

So I`m confident that with this sort of renewed effort on both sides of the
aisle to work out something that is doable, that will have the proper
enforcement mechanisms, but the proper pathway for people to come in out of
the shadows and be fully participating members of our society, I`m very
confident that we can get there. I really -- for the first time in the 10
years that I have served in Congress, really see this as a very real
possibility.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

My concern is -- I agree with everything you said in terms of economics and
social issues, fine. My concern is a government that cannot enforce its
laws begins to crumble, and our failure to have an honest, open,
progressive immigration policy has been a disaster. And it`s not good for
the future of our government that it can`t do the job of enforcing its own
borders, which is essential to any country on this planet.

Stephanie, last thought. Are we going to do this, this time?

CUTTER: Well, Chris, we have to try.

I think that there`s a reason why we`re talking about immigration reform,
because the current system isn`t working. I think we have done what we can
under existing authority in terms of increasing border security, increasing
enforcement, holding employers accountable for these workers that are
coming in and overstaying their visas.

And, look, we have to try. We have to try comprehensive immigration reform
to finally fix the problem. The business community wants it. The labor
community wants it. Now a bipartisan group in the Senate wants it. So we
have got to try to get it done.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. My answer is, I don`t believe any of those groups want
it. I don`t think business wants it.

CUTTER: You`re such a pessimist this evening, Chris.

MATTHEWS: They want cheap, free labor. They want cheap, free labor. They
want cheap, free labor. Democrats want support by not offending anybody in
the Latino community.

CUTTER: Well, they want skilled laborers to come in.

MATTHEWS: Nobody really wants to get this done. I think John McCain does
because he`d like to get reelected again.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, and Stephanie Cutter.

Up next: How did Joe Biden celebrate the inaugural? Not well. He got
licked again on "Saturday Night Live." He`s getting nailed by Jason
Sudeikis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR: Hey, everybody. It`s me, your V.P., Joe Biden.
I`m inviting you all to join me this Monday at the Dover Motor Speedway in
Dover, Delaware, for a little party I like to call the Biden bash. As the
saying goes, what happens in Delaware...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Much more of that next in the "Sideshow." This is HARDBALL, the
place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The "SNL" factor. I have been saying for a while that one person who could
really have an affect on the future of Joe Biden comes in the form of
parody. His name is Jason Sudeikis. Take this is weekend`s Biden bash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This past Monday, millions of Americans watched as
Barack Obama took the oath of office for a second term. This coming
Monday, the party really starts.

SUDEIKIS: It`s me, your V.P., Joe Biden. I`m inviting you all to join me
this Monday at the Dover Motor Speedway in Dover, Delaware, for a little
party I like to call the Biden bash.

Forget the pageantry. Forget the inspirational speeches. This one is
about fun. We`re going to have cotton candy, an amateur dog show. Be sure
to join me for my kung fu exhibition.

Biden time. Almost got it.

As the saying goes, what happens in Delaware...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All proceeds...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... Biden 2016 presidential exploratory committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Don`t think that will matter if Biden launches a 2016
presidential campaign? Well, just remember what Chevy Chase on "SNL" did
to Jerry Ford. He killed him.

Also, the intrigue about Hillary Clinton`s recent concussion continues at
FOX News. Here is what they found to be missing from the Obama/Clinton "60
Minutes" interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think for some reason, they just didn`t dig into
anything at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty minutes? Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was -- one thing, I would like to know how -- did
she pass out and hit her head. Was she pushed? How did she hit her head
and get a concussion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said -- quote -- "I still have some lingering
effects from falling on my head." That`s all she said. There was no
follow-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let`s -- she was injured. She had a concussion.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but that`s one of the questions I have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you fall on your head? Where did you fall on
your...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She passed -- she passed out I think was the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the questions have morphed there -- you just saw them --
from, did she really have a concussion to, was she pushed?

Finally, move over, Teddy Roosevelt, or the mascot version of him. For the
past few years, we have watched the four presidential mascots of the
Washington Nationals compete in a midgame race. Teddy lost every game
until this past October, over 500 losses in row, but now things are getting
interesting again.

A new competitor was introduced over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the newest racing
president, William Howard Taft.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Taft was much bigger than that, actually.

Well, there you have it. The famously complicated history of Roosevelt and
Taft means there`s a lot to work with here, between Roosevelt helping Taft
get elected back in `08, 1908, then running against him just four years
later. Taft has his own tie to baseball, though, as the first president to
ever throw out the ceremonial first pitch, meaning he started a long
history of good, bad, and awkward.

The subject was even the topic of an NBC Sports special back in the `60s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is that man in the picture?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better not let your history teacher hear you ask
that question. That`s President Taft, Bobby. He`s the first of our
presidents to throw out the first ball on opening day. Since then, they
have all done it. That`s Woodrow Wilson. That`s Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Bobby. And he threw a lot of these pitches.

That`s President Eisenhower. You know, just before he came home from
Europe, he said the first thing he wanted to do was see a ball game, and he
did. And that`s Mr. Kennedy, Bobby. But I know that you knew that. He
used to go to the ballpark and eat hotdogs and drink soda pop and cheer for
the home run.s

And this year, President Johnson will take his turn at pitching from that
pitch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gee, Joe, after all these things, I guess my book at
home is right when they say baseball is the national game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, up next, President Obama said he hoped his reelection
would break the Republican fever of obstructionism, but even he admits that
hasn`t happened. And now Paul Ryan says the president wants to destroy the
Republican Party.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, modest moves for stocks today, with the Dow falling 14 points, the
S&P is off by two, and the Nasdaq gained 4. Well, Yahoo! shares have been
up as much as 4 percent in after-hours trade following a better-than-
expected earnings report. Revenue was in line with estimates.

On the economic front, durable goods orders rose 4.6 percent last month,
much more than forecast. However, pending home sales slid by 4.3 percent
in December. Economists were expecting a gain.

And that is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back over to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I decided to not comment between the
election and the inauguration because I wanted to see what kind of
president we were looking at here, what kind of path and trajectory he was
putting his administration on. And all of the statements and all of the
comments lead me to believe that he`s thinking more of a political conquest
than political compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This weekend, Congressman Paul Ryan -- you just saw him there -- he kept up
the Republican claim of victimhood, that President Obama is more interested
in defeating them than he is in getting something done for the country.

Well, last week, House Speaker John Boehner started that drumbeat, saying
President Obama was out to annihilate the Republican Party. And Ryan
amplified it when he spoke at a future of conservatism summit this
Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: The president will bait us. He will portray us as cruel and
unyielding. We can`t get rattled. We won`t play the villain in his
morality plays. We have to stay united. We have to show that if given the
chance, we can govern, that we have better ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: President Obama has said he hoped his reelection would break
that Republican fever of total opposition, but in an interview with "The
New Republic" magazine, their new -- brand-new magazine, he said obviously
that hadn`t happened yet.

Joining me now is a columnist and professor at the University of Georgia,
Cynthia Tucker.

Thank you, Cynthia.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Good to be here, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And "The Washington Post" great Eugene Robinson. Both are
Pulitzer Prize winners, actually.

Thank you both for coming on.

I want to start with Gene up here.

It just seems to me they have got this new sort of, gee, whiz, we`re
getting beat up, but they were the party that for four years shut the door
on a new president. He won the election, and they shut the door on him.

(CROSSTALK)

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And said, you know, our number
one goal is to make him a one-term president.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And they said, no, no, no, no, no.

They said no to measures they had proposed in the past.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: But as long as he proposed them, they said no.

To turn around and then say, oh, he`s hitting us, he`s beating us up is --
is kind of silly. And I don`t know if -- I mean, are they just trying to
rally the troops --

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Wasn`t this the macho party a couple weeks ago?
They`re now becoming the beat up party?

ROBINSON: Used to be. Now they`re victims.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, what is the psychology to tell people who have been
predatory towards the president that they`re somehow now being bullied?
What is in the psycho war or psywar here that tells them they will unite if
we`re all victims, we`re getting beat up? I mean, Mitch McConnell, DeMint
--

CYNTHIA TURNER, UNIV. OF GEORGIA: Chris, psychiatry has a term for this.
It`s called projection. Projection is what the patient does when he is
believing that other people are doing to him what he has done to other
people, and that is exactly what Republicans are doing.

And it`s not just John Boehner and Paul Ryan. This is the narrative that`s
taken hold throughout all facets of the Republican Party at the moment.
It`s repeated ad nauseam on FOX News. And you even hear it from some
moderate conservative thinkers who ought to know better.

Obama is out to kill the wounded now that Republicans are down.

He`s not going to make any proposals that Republicans might actually sign
onto. Instead, he`s going to make them look bad on things like
immigration. But it`s interesting --

MATTHEWS: But that`s not working, Cynthia.

TURNER: It`s supposed to be the party of personal responsibility.

MATTHEWS: But that narrative, Gene, isn`t working because quite clearly
there`s a bipartisan plan on immigration as we see today. Anytime that
Boehner, the speaker of the House, who I don`t dislike, would come out for
a background check on guns, just push one measure.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: If he could get that through the House, he`d be a leader on
dealing with the Newtown, Connecticut, horror. He could be the leader.
And then it would force Harry Reid to do the same. But why isn`t he doing
it? He doesn`t have to be a victim.

ROBINSON: Look, I think Dr. Tucker`s diagnosis was absolutely right.

And I think, you know, this is the party`s way of trying to deal with its
own internal contradictions and issues. The Republican Party has issues.

And the number one issue which they don`t want to deal with is that most of
the American people don`t support their positions on the issues that are
important. They don`t agree with them on immigration. They don`t agree
with them on abortion. They don`t agree with them on --

MATTHEWS: Is this the old Avis commercial, Cynthia, we try harder, we`re
not as big as Hertz? We`re the little guy that`s overcome the other party.
Maybe they recognize they just did a count and realize there aren`t as many
Republicans as there are Democrats. Could that be it? Does that make them
the --

TUCKER: Well --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s the president on that subject in an interview
with "The New Republic," which has got a whole new outlook. It`s a great
new look at the magazine. The president was asked about establishing
working relationships with Republicans and he said, quote, "One of the
biggest factors in forging bipartisan legislation is going to be how the
media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished
on FOX News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of
common interest, then you`ll see more of them doing it."

Boy, the president is really putting up FOX and Rush there. He`s saying
these are the known men that scare these guys into doing nothing.

ROBINSON: Well, it`s kind of -- I don`t know if you saw the Harry Potter
movie but Lord Voldemort, you couldn`t say the name, now he can say the
name, right?

MATTHEWS: He`s naming them. You`re not supposed to name your opponent.

ROBINSON: Well, he`s just laying it out there, you know?

MATTHEWS: Do you think Rush still has the veto on a Republican member? He
can chase them into the bushes if they say something he doesn`t like?

ROBINSON: Well, he says he`s going to try on immigration reform. I mean,
he announced today that he understand that he`s going to try to block it.
Only he can save us from immigration reform. So we`ll see --

MATTHEWS: Ooh. Cynthia, I do believe that Rush has more power than any
individual member of Congress. Meaning if he attacks all of them I don`t
think he would beat them but if he says to somebody in Georgia, your
country, that guy has got to go, he`s a bum, he`s a sellout, those guys are
petrified of Rush doing that to them.

TUCKER: Exactly.

And we`re already seeing yet another Republican who has been Limbaughed and
Tea Partied right out of the Senate. Saxby Chambliss has decided he will
not -- he will resign rather than face a challenge from a Tea Partier.

And let me be very clear here. Saxby Chambliss, senator from Georgia, is
very conservative, but what was his sin? He actually worked with the gang
of six to try to come up with a grand bargain to reduce the deficit. He
wanted to actually compromise with Democrats, and for the Rush Limbaugh
wing of the Republican Party, that is a big no, no.

MATTHEWS: OK.

TUCKER: So they have been gunning for Saxby for about two years now, and
he said never mind.

MATTHEWS: I am so shocked at party politics some days. Look, Corker in
Tennessee ran a rotten -- I thought a racist campaign against Harold Ford,
with the little girl, a woman saying, call me later. It was awful.

And running the way Saxby Chambliss ran against Max Cleland, a war hero --

TUCKER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: -- a guy who had been maimed in the war -- was horrible, and yet
I give them forgiveness in both have ended up being people who tried to
work as legitimate Congress people and senators. They really tried to make
up.

TUCKER: Tried to get something done.

MATTHEWS: I don`t like the way they started it. But they did try to get
something done and I give them credit for the way they ended if not the way
they started. In fact, Corker is still in the business but I wish Saxby
Chambliss well in his decision.

Coming up -- by the way, thank you, Cynthia, as always for your wisdom, and
Eugene Robinson, of course. Two Pulitzer Prize winners in one show.

Up next, FOX News and Sarah Palin call it quits. And with a lot of
Republicans saying the GOP has to stop being the stupid party, this can`t
hurt, getting rid of her. But we`ll see.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. Did I say that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Virginia`s plan to rig the electoral system and award electoral
votes by congressional district looks to be dead in the water. Republican
Governor Bob McDonnell and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, the
commonwealth`s attorney general, have both come out against the Republican
plan which would have made it easier for Republicans to win that
battleground state. That`s good news for anyone who cares about fairness
in elections and proves that not everyone is in the Mickey Mouse club in
this issue.

Still, Republicans in four other swing states, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Wisconsin, and Michigan, are considering similar measures to rig the vote.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: It`s the end of an era in sorts. Late Friday, FOX News
announced it was parting ways with one of its star political pundits, Sarah
Palin.

Palin spent the last few years giving such an astute political observation
as these.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Well, first off, Nancy Pelosi is
a ding bat. She`s a perfect spokesperson for President Obama`s Democrat
Party.

With all due respect to the office of the presidency, when I hear Barack
Obama speak at this point, especially when he lectures about ethics and
civility, it`s nauseating to me.

That`s a very scary thought because Barack Obama is a socialist. He
believes in redistributing wealth in confiscating hard-earned dollars.

Independent, patriotic Americans who desire fiscal sanity in our beloved
nation are being called terrorists. Heck, Sean, if we were real domestic
terrorists, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us,
wouldn`t he?

"Time Magazine", you know, I think there`s some irrelevancy there to tell
you the truth. I mean, consider their list of most influential people in
the country and in the world, some who have made that list, yours truly.
That ought to tell you something right there regarding the credence that we
should give "Time Magazine" and their list of people.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t want to join a club that would accept me as a member.
Those remarks there that she said something (INAUDIBLE).

What`s going on here? It could be that Palin is out of step with the
Republican Party as it wants to be in step coming up as it attempts to
rebrand itself, it seems. Well, it could be that her extreme views just
don`t cut it anymore or it could be that she`s just not box office anymore,
and Roger Ailes doesn`t think she`s worth the money.

Anyway, Lauren Ashburn is editor in chief of the Web site, "The Daily-
Download," and a contributor to "The Daily Beast."

And Dana Milbank is a brilliant political columnist for "The Washington
Post."

You`re probably brilliant, too.

LAUREN ASHBURN, THE DAILY BEAST: Hey!

MATTHEWS: I thought that was an interesting gag reel. But that`s her
best. And I don`t think you have to make fun of her like I sort of did
coming out of the last segment. But the stupid party has to make some
changes and maybe FOX has to, too.

Why did she cut the mustard with FOX? They were giving her a ton of money.
Now, she`s in there anymore. What happened?

ASHBURN: Her star has fallen. She`s not as relevant as she used to be.
But, Chris, put it in terms that you can understand. She didn`t rate,
right? So, when someone doesn`t rate, you don`t --

MATTHEWS: She`s only on for like a minute at a time. How do we know
whether she`s rating or not?

ASHBURN: You have minute-by-minute ratings. You know that. What are your
minute-by-minute ratings?

MATTHEWS: I`m just curious. You know what I thought -- I thought she had
something when she ran for V.P. And like a lot of people, when she went
out in that stage, it was announced, with McCain.

I thought there was some star quality there. I know it`s theatrical and
there`s nothing wrong with that in politics, you either had the pizzazz or
you don`t. Bill Clinton has it. Some people, the Congress didn`t have it.

But something faded. I think it was the way they used her on FOX. That
little booth she was in up in Wasilla, it didn`t show her dash, her
excitement, her finesse sitting in that little booth. That`s what I
thought.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s part of it. You know,
she did fade away. But I don`t think it`s just the mechanics.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s the kinetics.

MILBANK: It`s better to burn out than to fade away, but Sarah Palin faded
away here over a long period of time. You know that FOX would be
interested in keeping her here if she was still having a following she once
had.

MATTHEWS: What about the charges she made? Just, you know, you say I
think it`s a little more nuanced. I do think Obama is the man of the
center left. But they call him a socialist? I think I`m where he is.

But the idea that being a socialist, meaning he wants the government to run
all business. What are you talking about?

ASHBURN: She said he was a socialist and she said that we were the
lamestream media. Those were her two points. And that was it.

What did she think, what did she add to the conversation? She wasn`t
adding to the conversation.

Now, that said, conservative women love her. They love her.

MATTHEWS: Katie Couric once asked her a pivotal question. What do you
read?

I do believe, that I don`t care how original you are in the world, that you
have to read. You have to keep up. You have to know what the discussion
is about. You`ve got to get into it.

MILBANK: She said she`s been in all of them.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it`s a problem being cut off. And you could read
the paper anywhere in the world today. You can read Alaska wherever you
went. That`s not (INAUDIBLE).

MILBANK: Her stock and trade was being a bomb thrower. And the truth is,
bomb throwers are a dime a dozen now. You have, you know, 435 of them in
the House of Representatives.

MATTHEWS: Ann Coulter.

MILBANK: So they didn`t really need that particular demographic
represented there.

MATTHEWS: Steve King.

MILBANK: So if they had her firing off of this, they could also listen to
Allen West or Michele Bachmann or somebody else. And I think it says a lot
about the decline --

MATTHEWS: They`re fading, too. Michelle Bachmann has faded --

MILBANK: The whole Tea Party has faded to some extent. I think economic
times are better. The demagogue doesn`t work as well when the stock market
is at a five-year high.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Tina Fey brought her down a little bit?

ASHBURN: Totally. Just as you were talking about Biden here being
imitated on "SNL." I think Tina Fey and "Game Change," the movie --

MATTHEWS: The joy of war.

ASHBURN: -- completely toppled her.

MILBANK: I still think a couple of those clips were Tina Fey, you just
played.

MATTHEWS: You can`t topple Julianne Moore, who just won another award, the
SAG, Screen Actors Guild, she won again.

She`s good for something. And I wish her well wherever she goes.

Anyway, Laura Ashburn, thanks for join us. Dana, you`re unbelievable.

When we return, let me finish with what -- you`re unbelievable, too -- what
the Republicans need to avoid being a perennial second place party.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I think the Republican Party
got the message. Not all Republicans, but a decent number of them. They
ran a candidate who didn`t believe in what he was saying. They have
elements in the party they`re doing it in, people who don`t want to agree
with the middle of this country. People would rather be right, even far
right, than having a hand in picking a president.

Someone in that party has to come along and offer themselves as a true
center right candidate, someone who`s solid on fiscal matters, strong on
defense, but plays down their social issues, someone with charisma who can
win the support of people on the other side of 50-yard line. I`m talking
about a Ronald Reagan for the 21st century. I know the party is unlikely
to find such a candidate, male or female.

But unless they do, they`re stuck in second place, nationally. They can`t
beat Hillary Clinton, that`s for sure. Not with the rogue elements they`ve
got joining them in their huddle. Not with the candidate who only reads
the words like Romney did, well enough to get the nomination. But not well
enough -- did you notice -- to actually be picked as a president.

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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