updated 2/5/2013 12:01:46 PM ET 2013-02-05T17:01:46

HARDBALL
February 4, 2013

Guest:


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Wild "Rover." Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Let me start tonight with this: scared of its own shadow. That`s how
scared the Republican Party is this February. Scared of its own shadow.
The latest, if you can believe it, Karl Rove, the architect of the Bush
debacle, the war of choice in Iraq, the cover-up of the choice in the Iran
-- or actually, the Valerie Wilson affair, last and not least, the man who
carried the moniker "Bush`s brain" with neither honor nor irony.

Well, this same Karl Rove has just declared plans to keep the Republican
Party from doing what he and she wants to do, vote for the most right-wing
candidate in sight. Roving over to the other side, "Bush`s brain" is now
mocking the Republican brain with his announcement that henceforth he, not
those impulsive Republican primary and caucus voters, will select the best
candidates for Senate and other high offices.

He, the architect will design the winning Republican ballot offerings for
2014. He, the co-leaker of the CIA officer Valerie Wilson`s identity will
be the provider of intel as to whom conservative Republicans should cast
their vote next time.

What this says is that the mightiest muse (ph) in the Republican Party just
happens to have lost his faith in the Republican voter, fearful that if
left unattended, he and she will throw up more disasters for the voter to
reject come next November, more Akins and Mourdocks, whose intense
elaboration on badly to treat rape victims has made the Grand Old Party an
odd cotillion of trolls.

But wait, isn`t he Karl Rove the backer of such surefire winners as George
Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, and Josh Mandel in Ohio?
Who dares to trust Rove as a self-styled electoral grand vizier after that
rap sheet of disasters? Would you? Well, I wouldn`t.

Let`s hear from Howard Fineman, political director of The Huffington Post;
and Joy Reid of The Grio.

Howard, I have to ask you, Rove is unbelievable. He is incorrigible. Talk
about political cross-dressing. He has gone from being the master of
disaster to being this guy that`s going to correct all their problems by
making sure henceforth those frisky little voters aren`t going to go vote
right wing, because he is going to come up with better candidates to foist
on them.

HOWARD FINEMAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I`ve been
laboring all afternoon to come up with the best analogy. And the best I
could come up with, this is like Dr. Frankenstein himself starting an anti-
monster crusade in the countryside.

He built this thing.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s the architect.

FINEMAN: He built the thing and now he`s trying to un-build it. And
you`re right, his eye for candidates is not really that terrific to begin
with. The problem that they`ve got is in an earlier generation, with an
earlier structure, the Republicans could take the energy of the people at
the grassroots, of the right wing at the grassroots, and bend it toward the
middle, and use it to elect people like Ronald Reagan and the Bushes,
father and son.

But all of that architecture is gone. So all you`ve got is sort of the
energy at the grassroots that isn`t organized in any way. And Karl Rove
can`t organize it. And neither of the -- can the Chamber of Commerce or
any of the other people who played with that power but who now can`t
control it.

MATTHEWS: So those who rode the tiger are now inside the tiger.

FINEMAN: Exactly, exactly. And that`s true of the Chamber of Commerce.
Don`t forget, the Chamber of Commerce, at various times, made common cause
with the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-everything aspects of the tea
party revolution.

They were willing to get in bed with them at certain points. And now
they`re paying for it. And Karl is trying to unwind what he wound.

MATTHEWS: You know, he`s like a track tout. You know, the guys at the
track, you know, I used to go and they would like -- after the races were
over, they would show you who they were recommending you bet on. And it
always was the winners that passed out the free picks after the race. See,
I would have bet on this guy.

That`s Rove out there saying, you know, I would have had all of these
winners picked, and we would have won all of these general elections, and
now everybody realizes -- well, we`re going to go over it in a minute. But
your thoughts, immediate reaction to this Karl Rove as the reformer in the
Republican Party?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, I totally agree with Howard, Chris, I
mean, with your analogy there. The problem for Karl is that we have all
the betting slips. Look, his two organizations, American Crossroads and
Crossroads GPS, had a 1 percent and a 14 percent success rate in the last
election, respectively. That is not a good track record. It doesn`t
really auger well for the future of his new organization to be successful
with his donors` money.

I`m just amazed people still give him money. This guy, basically, bilked
donors out of more than $200 million and got absolutely no return on
investment. And now he`s coming back and saying, oh, I can fix the party.
Well, good luck with that.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look here. You`re dead right there. In case
you forgot, people watching right now, Karl Rove embarrassed himself on
national television, by the way, on election night. This is another little
problem he had. He doesn`t even accept defeat.

Here he is, refusing to accept, the FOX News called it, Ohio had voted for
Obama this past November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX ANCHOR: Do you believe that Ohio has been settled?

KARL ROVE, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don`t.

It may be that Barack Obama wins the state. But it seems to me that, you
know, you`ve got a lot of votes yet to cast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, in an attempt to convince Rove he was wrong on the Ohio
call, FOX News host Megyn Kelly took an on-camera walk to the FOX Decision
Desk. Let`s watch this fiasco.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX ANCHOR: We`ll do a little interrogation and see if they
stand by their call, notwithstanding the doubts that Karl Rove has
attempted to place.

Keep coming. Here we go. Now here are the guys. This is the Decision
Desk. Now we`re in the heart of the Decision Desk room.

You tell me whether you stand by your call on Ohio given the doubts Karl
Rove just raised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re actually quite comfortable with the call in Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: My God, there you have Karl Rove, who has ridiculously put
himself to the hard right of FOX, saying FOX makes the call, as good news
people were all doing across the country at the time, and he says, I don`t
like that, what`s the matter with you guys?

FINEMAN: Well, other than everything that was on MSNBC and NBC, that was
my favorite moment of the night. But it`s very damaging for Karl. As I
said, I`ve covered him for forever. And he used to.

MATTHEWS: What`s worse, getting all the picks wrong or refusing to accept
reality at the election night?

FINEMAN: Well, they`re both terrible for a guy who, at one point, was
viewed as the kind of savant, you know, the architect.

MATTHEWS: "Bush`s brain," was that ever meant to be ironic or was that
meant to be smart?

FINEMAN: Well, Karl -- the president.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re laughing, Joy.

FINEMAN: George W. Bush thought it was ironic. Don`t forget that George
Bush -- maybe I shouldn`t be crude on the air, but George.

MATTHEWS: Don`t.

FINEMAN: OK, I won`t be. George Bush had another name for Karl Rove.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, I remember that, I remember that.

FINEMAN: . that was much less -- something you would find in a farm field
that was much less favorable. So W. .

MATTHEWS: "Blossom" was part of it.

FINEMAN: "Blossom." W. wasn`t always enamored of Karl Rove, by the way,
and all the advice that he got from Karl Rove. But there was a time when
Karl Rove did, I think, understand it. But I think it has gotten away from
him. I do think it has gotten away from him.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get back to something we were talking about, which I
find fascinating, which is the democratization of the Republican Party. In
this sense, they can no longer be ruled, Joy. They`re so angered up by
what they`ve been fed in terms of propaganda for 20 years, this anger-
festation that has been planted for so many years now about foreigners,
immigrants, minorities, Washington, government, taxes.

They`ve got so many hatreds. They used to just hate communism in the old
days, which was pretty healthy, actually. Now they`ve gotten all this new
flock of hatreds, they`re not going to listen to establishment people like
Dick Lugar. They`re not going to vote for Bob Bennett even again. They`re
looking around for somebody way out in the sagebrush they can get really
angry with, you know.

REID: No, that`s absolutely right. And I think Howard was just about to
get to it, is that Karl Rove was "The Brain," and was a smart guy in the
party back when the far right was allowed in the house but they couldn`t
touch anything, right?

They weren`t allowed to actually run anything. But what happened since
George W. Bush, when they sort of corralled in the far right wing,
convincing them that George W. Bush was a true conservative, which, of
course, he turned out in their minds not to be.

He turned out to be a big spender. He turned out to do Medicare Part D.
He did No Child Left Behind with Teddy Kennedy. He did all of these things
that they consider apostasy. But up until that point, they were able to
get the far right to go with them, believing George W. Bush was a true
conservative.

Now, since 2010, they`ve been allowed to govern. They`ve actually had real
power. They`re not going back into that mode where they don`t get to touch
anything. They want to run the house.

FINEMAN: Yes, but I think -- but, Chris, I think that.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think they liked fighting AIDS in Africa too much,
PEPFAR was a little far of a reach for them, I think.

FINEMAN: Chris, but I also think that the other thing that you said is
very, very important, which is, in the old days, in the Ronald Reagan days,
the enemy was over there. It was communism.

MATTHEWS: The reds.

FINEMAN: It was the reds. And the binding principle of Ronald Reagan`s
conservativism was anti-communism, which had more to do with the world as a
whole than the very power structure of your own political party.

What has happened with the tea party is that they`re constantly running
against their own people, not only in Washington, not only the government,
but their own Republican.

MATTHEWS: Remember the "11th Commandment"?

FINEMAN: Their own Republican leadership. Forget the "11th Commandment,"
that`s way, way.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: They think the enemy is us.

MATTHEWS: It`s now being stampeded over. Look at this. Here`s Rove`s new
organization, by the way, it`s just the latest example of Republicans
turning on each other. Most recently Senator John McCain tried to
humiliate fellow Republican and Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. And
this is just the beginning of this run. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Are you going to answer
the question, Senator Hagel? The question is, were you right or wrong?
That`s a pretty straightforward question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But karma caught up with McCain quickly. About an hour after
that he berated Hagel, Senator Rand Paul berated McCain for his opposition
to a measure that would punish Egypt.

Here`s how Rand Paul reacted to McCain`s comments. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I find the argument spurious and really
frankly absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Absurd, John McCain, he was agreeing with him about 10 minutes
before.

On Laura Ingraham`s radio show last week, Louisiana Senator David Vitter
criticized fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio on the emigration issue.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I love and respect Marco, I think he`s
just amazingly naive on this issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, in other words, he cares about Hispanics.

Anyway, in a colossal put down, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie, who often does things colossally, hung the blame for post-Sandy
suffering up in New York and New Jersey squarely on Republicans. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, this was an old Democratic problem.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it was called "Democrats in disarray." It was boilerplate.
You could put it up on every newspaper, every evening news show, "Democrats
in disarray."

FINEMAN: We used that headline at Newsweek every week for years. "Dems in
disarray."

MATTHEWS: Now, we don`t have alliteration here going for us, but
"Republicans in disarray" doesn`t sound as neat. But it seems like they`ve
picked up the disease from the Ds.

REID: No, they`re absolutely a mess. And now what you have is sort of the
Paul (ph), the people like Rove who are trying to engineer the numbers,
trying to engineer 51 percent by wanting to appeal to Hispanics and do all
of these sort of politically savvy things about finding someone who looks
moderate, who will run to the right in the primary and then go back to the
middle.

And then you have the grassroots, whether it`s the Chris Christie type of
grassroots that`s just about, listen, let me take care of my state, or you
have the far right. And they`re not listening to the Pauls anymore. They
blame them.

Look, the far right doesn`t believe the reason they keep losing
presidential elections or that they`ve lost the last two is because they`re
too far right. They think it`s because the people like Karl Rove keep
forces "moderates" on them.

So they blame people like Karl Rove for their problems.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve got one last thought, it goes -- we`re going to
get to it later in this show, the D block right after the half hour. But
how can you convince minorities, for example, that you really want them,
Hispanics, who are really in play, because they voted for W.?

How can you get them to believe you`re really interested in them being part
of your coalition if you`re spending all of your time trying to rig the
elections with new kind of electoral games?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I mean, they`re just trying to reduce.

FINEMAN: Well, there`s that, too. There`s that too.

But Joy`s point, I think, is that people like Rand Paul, they identified
the enemy as the Republican Party itself. And in the old days the -- and
even under Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party had a little bit of a wait-
in-line, royalist tinge to it. Now, Reagan challenged it, but don`t
forget, he first ran or thought of running in `68 for president.

MATTHEWS: And he put Bush on the ticket.

FINEMAN: He put Bush on it. And then he ran in `76. Then he finally got
in in `80 and put Bush on the ticket, the ultimate example of the
establishment. All of that structure that used to keep the lid on things
is completely gone.

And now you`ve got somebody like Rand Paul who is definitely going to run
for president in 2016. His whole strategy is going to be to run against
the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s radical, right.

REID: If you want to encapsulate the problem with the Republican Party
right now, just look at John McCain and Sarah Palin. That sort of odd
marriage, that is what the Republican Party is right now. They are
Palinites and there are these establishment guys who cannot rein the
Palinites in.

FINEMAN: Yes, and there is also no regard for them, by the way, as the
former standard-bearers. I mean, in the old days, the Republicans would
give some props to the people who...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I mean, the titular head of the Republican Party.

FINEMAN: The titular -- there`s no.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: There is no titular anything.

MATTHEWS: You know, Adlai Stevenson lasted forever in that role. Anyway,
thank you, Howard Fineman. It`s great to have the pros on. And, Joy,
another pro.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, the unmasking of the NRA. The scales have fallen
from our eyes and we can all see what the NRA really is right now, the
national voice of gun manufacturers and the dead-enders in the right-wing
fever swamps who see our personal -- rather their personal arsenals as the
last defense against a tyrannical government out to get them in the black
helicopters. It`s getting worse out there.

Also, Republicans haven`t given up on the idea of rigging elections they
can`t win legitimately. A Republican leader in Pennsylvania, where else
would they come from, has decided, let`s do away with the winner-take-all
system and award Electoral Votes proportionally. Well, that way, Mitt
Romney would have gotten eight of the state`s 20 Electoral Votes instead of
being shut out. And maybe this has something to do with the fact that
Republicans haven`t won Pennsylvania since the `80s.

And "skeet-gate," if you will, the birther crowd reconvenes and proclaims
that this isn`t actually the president really shooting a gun. He isn`t
really skeet-shooting. They are really whacko.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a victory for the president,
actually, Roman Catholics as well on the issue of birth control. They`ve
found a way for a concordat, to use an old term.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats look to be in good shape now to hold on to John
Kerry`s old Senate seat in Massachusetts now that two high profile
Republicans have said they`re not going to run. Former Governor Bill Weld
declined a bid today following former Senator Scott Brown`s decision not to
run this Friday. And that means the winner of the Democratic primary
between Congressman Ed Markey and Stephen will likely be the favorite in
the June special election. I`m with Markey.

And one more bit of news late today, NBC News learned that Tagg Romney,
doesn`t sound like a person`s name, the oldest son of Mitt Romney, also
won`t run. A Boston Herald report this morning suggested Tagg was
interested in the seat.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way we can reduce
gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it`s
important, if you decide it`s important. If parents and teachers, police
officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background
stand up and say, this time it has got to be different, we`ve suffered too
much pain to stand by and do nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today, President Barack Obama took
his argument for gun control outside Washington, telling a Minnesota crowd
that the power was in the hands of all Americans to get something done.
You just heard him there.

And (INAUDIBLE) it`s not to get misguided rhetoric or let that confuse the
issue. Let`s listen to some more from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Tell them there`s no legislation to eliminate all guns, there`s no
legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment. Tell them
specifically what we`re talking about, things that the majority of
Americans, when they`re asked, support. And tell them now is the time for
action. That we`re not going to wait until the next Newtown or the next
Aurora.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the more that the NRA looks like a bunch of dead-enders,
the better the chance that President Obama can rally the country and the
Congress, of course, to get something done on guns.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine; and Joan
Walsh is editor-at-large at Salon. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Joan, do you think Wayne LaPierre has lost it? I mean, here he is, in
trying to defend an NRA video that brought the president`s daughters into
the debate, we all know that video with the two daughters mentioned. He
got a grilling, I think, justifiably, by FOX`s Chris Wallace yesterday on
FOX.

Let`s listen to how he reacted and what Chris said to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The president`s kids are
safe and we`re all thankful for it. The point of that ad.

WALLACE: They also face a threat that most children do not face.

LAPIERRE: Tell that to the people of Newtown. Tell that to the people.

WALLACE: Do you really think that the president`s children are the same
kind of target as every school child in America? That`s ridiculous and you
know it, sir. You talk -- one of the points of that ad that I want to ask
you about is, you made it a class argument. The rich, the elite. They have
bodyguards. They have security.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, PRESIDENT OF NRA: Sure.

WALLACE: And Mayor Bloomberg has it. Mayor Bloomberg has bodyguards.

LAPIERRE: Sure.

WALLACE: I`ll tell you somebody else who has security. You do.

LAPIERRE: Sometimes, yes --

WALLACE: On Capitol Hill you had security. Today you have security.

LAPIERRE: Yes, you talk about hypocrisy right out in the open. We`ve had
all kinds of threats coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, trying to outline those sentences, there`s a lot of
ugh, ugh, ugh, you know. I don`t think there`s a lot of words or verbs in
there. Good for Chris. He caught him, like a good newsman, he caught him.

This guy`s sense of fairness, of logic, is gone. Going after the
president`s daughters, who are protected because they`re the president`s
daughters and can be used as hostages. We all know why. We know why we
protect the president`s widows. We understand why we protect presidents
when they`re retired. We know they can be used against our country.
That`s why they get protection. Not because it`s some sort of plus in
their life.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Class snobbery. Right, no, it`s
ridiculous. What it shows you is, Chris, is that Wayne LaPierre is so used
to being deferred to in certain situations and honestly, particularly on
Fox, I think this is very significant. You know, four years ago, as the
Obama administration was just getting started in its first term, LaPierre
was on with Glen Beck riling people up, talking to Beck`s paranoid audience
about this gun grab that was coming. And all of this -- beyond alarmist --
insane rhetoric and divisive rhetoric --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How much is -- do you think people were just psychological? Is
this a male thing worried about somebody coming to get their appliance? I
mean, what is this about? It seems deeper than just how many guns do you
own? Do they actually believe that the federal government is going to come
door-to-door to law-abiding, middle-class, regular people, working people,
and come looking through their house for guns? Do they actually believe
that`s going to happen?

WALSH: Some of them do, I think. And I think they particularly believe it
when there`s a Democrat in the White House. You know this is -- Wayne
LaPierre is the person who talked about federal agents being jackbooted
(ph) thugs after Oklahoma City. And so, this is a man who`s been allowed
to have a platform on the national stage, even though he is a wingnut.

And, finally, you have someone like Chris Wallace, who is certainly a more
moderate voice of Fox and certainly a newsman even if he is conservative,
telling the truth and calling him out as ridiculous. And Wayne LaPierre is
not prepared for this at all.

MATTHEWS: Guys, why don`t they pay attention to the ACLU, who`s on their
side in a lot -- if you think about it, you can`t do a stop-and-frisk law
without fighting the ACLU. I mean, you can`t go to a tough neighborhood
with kids walking around that look like they might be armed by their manner
and the way they`re holding themselves. You can`t just go out and frisk
them!

And these guys think somebody is coming to their house to take away their
shotgun? There`s no precedent for this. We are so scared to invade
people`s privacy in this country that the only time you get checked -- you
don`t get checked getting on a train. The only time is getting on an
airplane.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, you like American history. You
study history. You read somebody like Richard Hofstetter. He writes out
about the paranoia and extreme American thought. From the very beginning,
this country was born with this conflict between people who thought - who
basically were fearful of big government and those who weren`t.

And people like Wayne LaPierre and others just found these flames. They
make a lot of money doing it. It supports them politically.

MATTHEWS: Why does it work? Why does it work?

CORN: Because I think they are preying on fears and worries and anxieties -
-

MATTHEWS: Is he crazy like a fox?

CORN: Well, I think he`s crazy like millions of the other people --

MATTHEWS: I think he looks as scared as he --

CORN: I don`t know if he believes this stuff.

MATTHEWS: I think he behaves like the people who are scared. I think he
acts like he`s in a frenzy. And that`s what I think works.

By the way, the class thing is so important here. If you can convince the
average guy, just like a guy in Pennsylvania who is a deer hunter who once
a year goes out and shoots deer -- I don`t do it, but fine. That`s my
attitude. Fine, you do it. They go out and do it. And you say it`s the
elite media types. It`s the people in Hollywood that make all the money.
They get their kicks some other way. You`ve got this one little hobby that
once a year - it`s a class thing. I think it`s brilliantly evil. Your
thoughts.

WALSH: It is brilliantly evil, although it`s not as brilliant anymore
because I don`t think it`s working. I mean, David is right, it does work
in riling up some pockets. But I think that`s what he counted on with that
ad that used the president`s daughters. He called him, you know, an elite,
liberal hypocrite. And that`s the kind of thing Spiro Agnew and Richard
Nixon were very successful in pulling away Reagan Democrats - or you know,
later Reagan Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: In all fairness, it`s a good thing to go for. Here`s Chris
Wallace. Let`s give him some credit here. He also shut down LaPierre`s
argument about background checks. Let`s listen to Chris and then Wayne.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAPIERRE: I think what they`ll do is they`ll turn this universal check on
the law-abiding into a universal registry of law-abiding people. And law-
abiding people don`t want that. I mean, my God --

WALLACE: They absolutely do not. I mean, forgive me, sir, but you take
something that is here and you say it`s going to go all the way over there.
There`s nothing that anyone in the administration has said that indicates
they`re going to have a universal registry.

LAPIERRE: And Obamacare wasn`t a tax until they needed it to be a tax.

WALLACE: It was the Supreme Court that said that.

LAPIERRE: I mean, I don`t think you can trust these -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You can`t trust them is the bottom line. It`s fear.

CORN: But they`re not just arguing the policy matters. It`s coming at it
from a sort of political, cultural angle. We don`t trust these people.
They`re the enemy. And it all ties into what we --

MATTHEWS: Why the change? A couple years ago, guys, Wayne LaPierre
personally was there on the issue of background checks.

WALSH: Right.

CORN: Because it`s become more and more extreme. As their base, as the
conservative base has become more extreme. The NRA, 20 years ago, was more
for hunters --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The trouble is they`re better at this game of fearmongering than
the other side, the good guys. Let`s take a look at this Superbowl ad.
These things cost money. This one aired only in the D.C., Washington area.
The group, of course, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns used Wayne LaPierre`s
own words against him. But let`s look at what we think of this ad. Let`s
take a look at part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: The NRA once supported background checks.

LAPIERRE: We think it`s reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal
background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere
for anyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Did you like that ad, Joan? I don`t know if you can match the
NRA with their salaciousness, but your thoughts?

WALSH: I do like the ad. And I think it`s pointing to the fact that Wayne
LaPierre has become much more extreme. And he`s become particularly
extreme under this president.

I really do think that in order to scratch the itch of the most paranoid
people who are invested in the idea that this president is somehow either
illegitimate or somehow much more of a statist and much more of a threat
and much more of a tyrant, in Rand Paul`s words, they`re sort of trying to
team up and channel that resentment against him and that notion that he is
somehow a usurper who`s going farther than other American presidents in his
agenda and in his assault on their freedom.

So it`s a real -- it`s channeling an old fear in American culture, as David
says, but also a newer fear that is more about President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Joan Walsh, behind you - excuse me, Joan Walsh, is that beautiful
Golden Gate Bridge, one of mankind`s few improvements on nature. It really
is.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn and Joan Walsh, of course, out in San
Francisco.

Up next, you`ve heard of the birthers, now get ready for the skeet
birthers. They`re the latest right-wing conspiracy crowd. And their
theory - well, you can`t believe this theory because you can`t believe any
of them. But this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now, "The Sideshow."

First, the White House gives the far right a new target? It started when
the president told "The New Republic" magazine that he goes skeet shooting
at Camp David. In a flash, conservatives questioning whether the president
concocted the hobby in an effort to trick us all into supporting new gun
laws.

Well, enter former Obama advisor David Plouffe with this tweet on Saturday.
Quote, "Attention skeet birthers. Make our day. Let the Photoshop
conspiracies begin." And a link to a photo of the president in the act.
Well, there it is.

And begin they did, from "I have never once seen a smoke pattern like that
one" to "The arms don`t look right, and I don`t recall Obama having a
little pot belly." Others questions whether the president`s angle on this
snapshot lends itself to skeet shooting itself, like he was somehow faking
it again.

Doesn`t this all add up to what President Obama said at the birth
certificate press conference back in 2011?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I know that there`s
going to be a segment of people for which no matter what we put out, this
issue will not be put to rest. We do not have time for this kind of
silliness. We`ve got better stuff to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next, unworthy comparisons. This one comes to us from
Congressman Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Republican
thinks that criminals will get their hands on guns no matter what laws are
in place. The reasoning? Guns are just like spoons, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOU BARLETTA (R), PENNSYLVANIA: When we have people that get into the
mindset that they want to harm people, as a former mayor, I know people
will get guns no matter what laws we pass. Would banning spoons stop
obesity? Of course not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do speed limits slow down traffic a bit? Yes. That`s all you
have to think about. Forget spoons.

Anyway, with that comment, Barletta joined the ranks of other individuals
of going off the deep end with their comparisons. Remember Rick Santorum
on gay marriage?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marriage is what
marriage is. Marriage existed before there was a government. It`s like
handing up this and saying is it a glass of water or a glass of beer?
Well, you can call it a glass of beer, but it`s not a glass of beer. It`s
a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage
is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And how about Steve King on immigration?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: You want a good bird dog? And you want one
that`s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that`s the friskiest, the one
that`s engaged the most, and not the one that`s over there sleeping in the
corner.

So, you get the pick of the litter, and you got yourself a pretty good bird
dog. Well, we`ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet
because it`s hard to get here. They had to be inspired to come. We`ve got
the vigor from the planet to come to America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think that was meant to be a compliment toward immigrants.

Up next, the latest Republican scheme to rig the election. You`re watching
HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s
happening.

The hostage standoff in Alabama is over, and the five-year-old boy held for
a week in an underground bunker is safe. The child, known only as Ethan,
is being treated at a local hospital. His captor, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee
Dykes, is dead. Authorities say negotiation`s with the boy`s abductor
deteriorated over the last 24 hours, and he was seen with a gun Officers
worried the child was in danger, so they stormed the bunker. At this
point, it is not clear how Dykes dies.

Back to HARDBALL.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As we have pointed out in the past few weeks, there are several states
where Republicans have floated the idea of changing how electoral votes of
divvied up. The states all have two things in common.

Republicans control the states legislatures and governor`s mansions and
President Obama won the last two elections in those states. Well, the
schemes seem to have crashed before they even began in most of those
states. In Florida, for example, top Republicans have publicly backed
away.

In Virginia, a bill in the state Senate was killed in committee. In Ohio,
the Republican governor indicated he was opposed. It`s the same in
Michigan and Wisconsin, where even Paul Ryan recently said he was against
the change. That leaves just one state for now, Pennsylvania. And
Republicans there seem intent on going ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he will introduce legislation
this month that would change how the state`s electoral votes are awarded,
changing it from winner take all to a proportional system based on the
popular vote. That would mean, instead of Obama winning all of the state`s
20 electoral votes, he would have gotten only 12.

It`s another example of Republicans trying to fight a demographic war
that`s going against them. Will this latest scheme succeed?

Jim Burn is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania and Eugene
Robinson is a columnist for The Washington Post and an MSNBC political
analyst.

Mr. Burn, thank you so much for joining us.

You have been keeping an eye on the other side up there in Pennsylvania in
Harrisburg. What is it about Harrisburg? When they get to the capital,
they all sit around and play cards or whatever they do. They try to think
of new weird ways to win a state without getting the most votes. It seems
to be an indoor sport up there.

JIM BURN, CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, Chris, thanks
again for allowing me to be on your show.

We pushed back hard last year on the voter I.D. And I don`t know what it
is when they go to Harrisburg. Some of it has to do with where they
started. Some of those folks that are coming up with these crazy ideas
were -- were like that before they got there, but when they get there, they
empower each other or think they do.

The bottom line is we have been right on the issues in Pennsylvania. Our
candidates have been right on the issues in Pennsylvania. We have won the
presidency here since 1988. If the Republicans would do it the easy way,
instead of trying to rig the system, put a moderate candidate up who is
more in touch with the needs of Pennsylvanians, vs. these radical right and
extreme candidates that they continue to bring, maybe they would be more
competitive, but, instead of doing that or choosing to do that, they have
to try to rig the system because the folks they`re serving up in
Pennsylvania continue to get sent back in defeat.

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

You know, Gene, Philadelphia, for example, 85 percent for the Democrat,
Obama.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I grew up in that state. It was all always a 50/50 kind of
state. If it was a reasonable moderate Republican running they could win.

ROBINSON: Yes. But, you know, look at the suburbs around Philadelphia. I
mean, that`s the real battleground now.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they think the Republican Party is a whack job.

ROBINSON: Well --

MATTHEWS: That`s what they think, even on guns and stuff. On abortion
rights and gay marriage, they think these guys are 50 years ago.

ROBINSON: It`s not that kind of hard right state and it`s true. If you
put up those hard right candidates, you`re not going to win the state.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that. Here is what -- by the way, Michael
Smerconish knows that issue very well. He represents those people in the
middle.

Anyway, the plan in Pennsylvania, this is the guy who put it forward,
Dominick Pileggi, he gave us his rationale for the move, the following,
"Anyone who voted for Governor Romney and many Pennsylvanians did, does not
have any reflection of that vote in the Electoral College vote. This is a
proposal that is not party specific or partisan in any way. But just an
attempt to have the popular vote reflected in the Electoral College vote."

Of course, if you believe it`s not partisan in any way, take a look at this
telling comment from RNC chair Reince Priebus. He told a Wisconsin
newspaper recently, quote, "It`s something that a lot of states that have
been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking
at."

Mr. Burn, these guys keep admitting what they`re up to. They keep
admitting that if a state nationally votes for president for a Democrat but
is controlled in the state house by Republicans exploit the power you have,
screw the voter.

BURN: One of the best pieces of evidence we used last years against the
voter ID, at least to push it back, was the statement of the Republican
leadership, specifically leader Turzai who said the voter ID t was all
about allowing Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. Now, we have the head of
the RNC, the top Republican in the nation, admitting what we already now,
specifically that they can`t win on a fair playing field. So, where we
have control of the legislature, where we have control of the governor`s
mansion, let`s rig the rules, let`s pass some legislation, get it passed
the Democrats and be more competitive with weaker candidates.

And what a coincidence that they`re not trying to do this in states that
vote Republican to begin with.

Again, it`s about cheating to win because they can`t win on the merits.
They don`t have candidates that can win on the merits.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I look at it with Latino voters who are in play with
President George W, 40 percent.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Now, it`s up to 70 percent Democrat. I mean, instead of
competing on issues like fair immigration policy, they say, well, let`s
screw --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Let`s find a way to suppress that vote.

You know, Newt Gingrich the day after the election said something really
smart. There`s something we don`t get, we Republicans don`t get about the
electorate and we better figure it out. But instead of trying to figure it
out, they`re kind of trying to figure out how to put a thumb on the scale
here and shave, you know, off the weights there.

And, really, it`s not ultimately going to work. Ultimately, it`s trying to
hold back the sea. It does show one thing, though, how important those
state level elections are.

MATTHEWS: Democrats have let that go the wrong way.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask Mr. Burn about that. Is this a wake-up call for
Democrats who are involved with fights for the governorships, fight for the
legislatures, because they don`t get the pr time and don`t get attention on
this show I have to admit, but that they seem to matter because they decide
on reapportionment, they decide on gerrymandering, they decide election
law. And all of a sudden, you find yourself going into a presidential
election with the rigging already in place.

BURN: And that was a wake-up call for us in Pennsylvania last year. It
allowed myself and other leaders in the party here to remind folks how
important these down ballot elections are. You don`t need a governor`s
race or president race to be focused and paying attention on who your
representatives are going to be at the state and the state Senate level,
the representative levels.

And we have used that as a talking point quite effectively. Last year, we
picked up three state senate seats, the most since 1970. So, we`ve closed
the margins.

We have a governor, a Republican, one of the least popular governors in
America, up for a re-elect next year. If that election were next month
with the right Democrat, we have him.

So this is part of the groundwork and this is the type of behavior that
they continue to exhibit which allows us to enable our base to go out and
recruit Democrats. So, yes, these down level races are as important and
there will be focus on them because of some of these type of attempts by
the Republicans to tilt the playing field.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jim, I think you got a shot at beating Corbett if you get
the right candidate. I think the two-year term guarantee is off for
Corbett, as you and I know. He has not deserved that re-elect.

BURN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.

Anyway, thank you, Jim Burn. And thank you, Eugene Robinson.

BURN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s some news. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not
ruling out a filibuster of President Obama`s nomination of Chuck Hagel as
defense secretary. McConnell, who failed in his infamous vow to make
President Obama one-term president, says Republican opposition to Hagel is
growing in the Senate.

I`m not sure. Like today, John McCain, perhaps the most feisty critic in
Hagel`s confirmation hearing last week, says he`s not on board for a
filibuster and won`t try to block Hagel`s nomination by filibuster.
There`s still some good in John McCain.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It`s no secret President Obama won the endorsements of some very big names
in Hollywood in 2012. People like Eva Longoria, George Clooney, Jay-Z,
Beyonce, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johannsen, Samuel L.
Jackson, Salma Hayek, Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin.

But can Hollywood heavyweights help change votes? That`s my big question
tonight. Politics has been inescapable, even television series slightly,
by the way, shows like "Political Animals," I love that show. "Veep", "The
Good Wife", my favorite show, "House of Cards", "1600 Penn", and, of
course, one of the earliest and best, in fact, maybe the best of them all,
"West Wing."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN AS JOSIAH BARTLET: Apparently I have arranged for an honor
guard for somebody.

RICHARD SCHIFF AS TOBY ZIEGLER: Yes, sir, I`m sorry.

SHEEN: No, no. Just tell me, is there anything else I`ve arranged for?
We`re still in NATO, right?

SCHIFF: Yes, sir.

SHEEN: What`s going on?

SCHIFF: A homeless man died last night, a Korean War veteran who was
wearing the coat I gave to the goodwill. It had my card in it.

SHEEN: Toby, you`re not responsible for --

SCHIFF: An hour and 20 minutes for the ambulance to get there. A lance
corporal, United States Marine Corps, Second of the Seventh. The guy got
better treatment at Panmunjom.

SHEEN: Toby, if we start pulling strings like this, you don`t think every
homeless veteran will come out of the woodwork?

SCHIFF: I can only hope, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s great about "West Wing."

Here he is now from "West Wing," the Emmy Award-winning actor, Richard
Schiff.

The great thing about "West Wing" is that it was romantic, it`s positive
and everybody was loyal to the president. Everybody was trying to do a
good job. And it is that way.

I worked in the White House. You`re all loyal. That`s the way it works.
Everybody thinks everybody is a cynic and a bum, looking for the next job.
Total loyalty to the president -- and it was like that in your show.

Are people waking up to the possibilities of politics in this country, that
some of this show, on politics?

SCHIFF: My experience, I didn`t really catch up to how the "West Wing" was
affecting people in America, until about 2008 when I went around to all of
the debates and actually campaigned for Joe Biden. And everywhere I went,
armies of people, especially Obama`s soldiers and people who worked for
Hillary, would come up to me and say, you`re the reason I`m doing this.

I go, what do you mean? Well, it`s "The West Wing." I was watching "The
West Wing". And that`s why I decided to get into politics. So that`s why
I decided to help out in this campaign.

So, it did have effect, apparently, on a huge number of young people. And
I think that`s affected the last couple of elections.

MATTHEWS: See many Martin Sheens in our business lately?

SCHIFF: In your business?

MATTHEWS: Yes, on politics. Do you find these romantic figures that
really try to do the right thing? They wrestle with it so that they can
get done with it. They have to succeed.

SCHIFF: I believe this president is of that ilk. I really do. I think he
wants to do the right thing.

I`ve certainly run into some people in Congress who feel that way to me.
This is a tough --

MATTHEWS: He`s clean as a whistle, too. I mean, there`s no problems.
There`s no complications in his life.

SCHIFF: No, it seems like he`s dedicated. It seems like his heart is in
the right place, whether you agree with him or not, or whether you think
he`s a socialist or not. You know, his heart seems to be in the right
place, especially did you hear the speech he gave on gun control earlier
today? You can tell just from the behavior that this was coming from his
gut, and it wasn`t to some political --

MATTHEWS: Well, this thing is Newtown happened on his watch.

SCHIFF: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I think it matters to a president. I mean, he was chief
law enforcement official in the country at the time. I mean, it`s part of
his responsibility to make sure things like this can`t easily happen again.
You can`t stop anything from happening.

SCHIFF: Yes, and it`s been happening. And it`s been recurring. And it
scares a lot of us who walk around without guns, you know? So I -- he`s a
father. He`s a husband first. And I think that`s where a lot of this is
coming from.

MATTHEWS: Well, on the wake on the mass shootings, I talk to -- many
people think that Hollywood is partially to blame. Recently, director and
actor Quentin Tarantino got testy with a U.K. reporter who pressed him --

SCHIFF: I saw that.

MATTHEWS: -- to address the violence in the movie "Django Unchained".
Take a listen to this fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUENTIN TARANTINO, FILMMAKER: I don`t want to talk about what you want to
talk about. I don`t want to talk about the implications of violence. I
have one -- the reason I don`t want to talk about it because I`ve said
everything I have to say about it. If anyone cares what I have to say
about it, they can Google me and they can look for 20 years what I have to
say of it. I haven`t changed my opinion one iota.

REPORTER: No, but you haven`t flushed it out.

TARANTINO: It`s not my job to flush it out.

REPORTER: No, it`s my job to try and ask you to.

TARANTINO: And I`m shutting your butt down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why don`t people fight with English accented interviewers like
that, and Piers Morgan? I mean, it`s like -- anyway, here`s the question.
Let me try to post to you, sir, Mr. Schiff.

SCHIFF: Yes, sir?

MATTHEWS: We all grew up with cowboys and Indians. My age. You learned
how to do this with your hand, how to shot the gun, just pretending to
shoot. We all learned that from cowboys and Indians and war movies and
from everything.

Violence is part of our culture. I mean, "Django" I`m sure has an
interesting thing, but it`s got a lot of violence in it. And the latest
"Jack Reacher" with Cruise. These are incredibly violent. Don`t they
influence people?

SCHIFF: I think it influenced my son. I think the video games, probably
more so. And it was a big concern for me.

MATTHEWS: You`re at the Lansburg Theater. We got a second now.

SCHIFF: The Lansburg Theater, the Shakespeare Company, I`m doing a play
called "Hughie" by Eugene O`Neill. You`re going to come, I know.

MATTHEWS: I`ll come down there. I love that theater.

SCHIFF: Yes, please do.

MATTHEWS: Lansburg, it`s a great theater.

Wonderful to see you in action. Anyway, thank you, Richard Schiff, just
come on our show and done a little prep for the play. Not enough probably.

When we return, let me finish with a victory for President Obama and the
Roman Catholic faith on the issue of birth control. They found a way to
work together. This is what I call high-level politics.

The place for politics, right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: The Obama administration has
found a way to offer birth control to women who want it without infringing
on religious belief. It`s a victory for the president and Roman Catholics.

How do we ensure that women get birth control? How do we ensure that
religious organizations are not forced to pay for it? Answer: allow
employees of religious institutions access to stand-alone coverage for
birth control from a third party. Covering the costs with small offsets to
the fees insurance companies have to take part in the new exchanges where
they will put their policies on sale.

Well, he key here is it gets around a pair of goals that were in conflict
are not anymore. One goal is to reduce dramatically the number of unwanted
pregnancies in this country. There are obviously other ways to do that,
regular use of birth control is one that works.

The other goal is to protect religions from having to do something they
believe is morally wrong. In this case, the Catholic Church is protected
from having to pay for birth control insurance.

My own belief is that the solution the Obama administration reached here is
win/win. I say this as someone who believes in the Clinton case, that
abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Getting birth control to women
for free will help to make it rare. To keep the Catholic Church out of
that transaction makes it no less beneficial to the goal of aborting
unwanted pregnancies. And with them, in many cases, the decision to have
an abortion.

This is what good, smart, progressive, morally upright politics is all
about.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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BE UPDATED.
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