updated 2/11/2013 12:37:46 PM ET 2013-02-11T17:37:46

HARDBALL
February 7, 2013

Guests: Robin Wright, Dan Klaidman, Matt Kibbe, Willie Brown, Aaron David Miller, Joe Klein, Susan Milligan

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Defending the drones.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight, secrets and spies. The man who`s at the center of the
national debate over the targeted killing of Americans overseas has been in
the hot seat on Capitol Hill. Among other things, John Brennan coordinates
the kill list, and so his confirmation hearing to become head of the CIA is
drawing an unusual amount of interest and attention. We`ll get to what he
said and the reaction at the top of the show.

Also, more and more people on the right are asking, Who is Karl Rove, and
why should we listen to him anymore? Rove wants electable Republicans
nominated. The Tea Partiers want their people in, real right-wingers, and
they`re trashing Rove and establishment Republicans in the process.

Plus, you`ve probably heard that Chuck Hagel once said the following,
quote, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I`m not an
Israeli senator. I`m a United States senator." But what you probably
haven`t heard is the rest of that interview and why some people who know
what Hagel really said aren`t angry with him at all.

And why is Chris Christie talking so much about his weight? Maybe because
he wants to talk about it on his terms. And why might that be? Because
perhaps he`s running for president.

Finally, the recently fired Dick Morris admits he was wrong at the top of
his lungs last November. That`s fine. But was he really wrong in
predicting a Romney landslide, or did he know what was coming and decide
that`s what Fox viewers wanted to hear?

We begin with the debate over the drones. Robin Wright is a scholar at the
Woodrow Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace. "Newsweek`s" Dan
Klaidman is the author of "Kill or Capture."

John Brennan`s confirmation hearing this afternoon started out with some
fireworks. Anti-war protesters interrupted the proceedings five times,
accusing the CIA of causing huge amounts of collateral damage with its
drone strikes. The committee`s chair, Dianne Feinstein, eventually cleared
the room.

Later, Brennan cited the protesters when he addressed what he called a
misperception about the goal of the drone strikes. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I think there is a misimpression on
the part of some American people who believe that we take strikes to punish
terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the
truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when
there`s no other alternative to taking an action that`s going to mitigate
that threat.

So we need to make sure that there is an understanding. And the people
that were standing up here today, I think they really have a
misunderstanding of what we do as a government and the care that we take
and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any
collateral injuries or deaths.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Robin, when he described this as a last resort to save lives,
one reaction I had is that among the lives we save when we use drones are
those of troops who otherwise would be going into harm`s way.

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Absolutely. I lived in Beirut when
Jesse Jackson had to hold his nose and go to Damascus to beg for the
release of an American pilot who`d been shot down by the Syrians.

And drones are clearly the wave of the future because they save American
lives, but they`re also very effective for surveillance. So they have far
greater use than simply the kind of fighters we`ve used.

And we actually also use them for domestic purposes. They were reportedly
used in the case of the 5-year-old who was held in Alabama. They`re been
used for weather. There are an estimated 8,000 drones now, so that
although it`s part of the most secret program, military program, we have,
there are also other uses for them, as well.

SMERCONISH: Which starts to frighten folks domestically. And you know,
good thing with the outcome of that Alabama case, but I know that some
folks think their civil liberties are about to be infringed upon here at
home.

Dan, I know from your reporting and the book that you wrote that there was
more debate within this administration about the transparency aspect of it
than there was whether they would engage in a drone program. Explain that.

DAN KLAIDMAN, "NEWSWEEK": Well, that`s exactly right, and that comes up
significantly in the case of Anwar al Awlaki, the American citizen and
Yemeni member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen who we killed,
the United States government killed. In that particular case, the
president really didn`t have any qualms about going after him. He thought
that Awlaki was a senior member of an enemy force who was bent on attacking
America and this it would be a lawful act of war.

The real debate inside the administration surrounded this question of
whether they ought to talk publicly about the legal rationale, the
justification for going after an American citizen. And there was a lot of
debate about it.

Ultimately, the decision was not to release the Justice Department legal
opinion -- that`s obviously been in the news a lot this week -- and
instead, to send out the attorney general to give a speech laying out some
of that.

But the actual underlying act itself of killing an American citizen was not
something that this president lost a lot of sleep over.

SMERCONISH: All right. Well, there might not have been debate within the
White House, but let`s run through some of the criticisms that the drones
have received. Here`s what Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of
forces in Afghanistan, told Reuters last month. Quote, "The resentment
created by American use of unmanned strikes is much greater than the
average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by
people who`ve never seen one or seen the effects of one."

Another point, in "The LA Times" today, columnist Carol Williams (ph)
wrote, quote, "Imagine if North Korea or Iran or Venezuela deployed
thousands of unmanned surveillance aircraft in search of earthbound
enemies, a swarm of robotic hunters armed with lethal weaponry and their
government`s go-ahead to exterminate targets."

Are either of those, Robin, a convincing argument for you?

WRIGHT: Well, the fact is, there are supposedly 70 countries now that have
some kind of drone technology, not all of them the ability to fire
missiles. But the drone is the instrument of the 21st century when it
comes to air power, and that`s a reality.

The problem comes down to really the morality. And the White House has put
out three criteria, including is it an imminent threat. If it were
delayed, would it cause greater risk? And is there no other alternative?
And the problem is those always involve subjective judgments. And it`s the
same thing as firing a gun. It`s in the eyes of the person who holds the
weapon and it isn`t always a balanced perception.

And the truth is that the drones have generated enormous backlash in
Pakistan, particularly, where the United States has used them the most, as
well as in Yemen, the second highest number of targets.

SMERCONISH: Dan, Robin mentions the morality of it. I hear often from
radio listeners who sense a hypocrisy in what they see, the Obama
administration being critical of harsh interrogation methods but going
along with the drone program. Is there some inherent hypocrisy in that?

KLAIDMAN: Well, there was an interesting statistic in the first year of
the Obama administration, I think -- or perhaps over the first couple of
years in the administration. He authorized more drone strikes and more
people were killed in drone strikes that he authorized than the total
number of people that had ever passed through Guantanamo Bay. So that kind
of crystallizes that hypocrisy that people talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: You could also argue that we know drone strikes work. I mean,
you know, the jury still seems like it`s out with regard to harsh
interrogation methods...

KLAIDMAN: And there`s another -- right.

SMERCONISH: ... but drone strikes are -- they work.

KLAIDMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And another point, which is that in
terms of the morality, you know, when you -- if you determine that there
are threats out there, there are bad guys that you need to take off the
battlefield, but you can`t go there, you can`t go to Pakistan, you can`t go
to certain places, then what alternative do you have if you can`t capture
them?

On the other hand, once you have detained suspected terrorists, there are
all sorts of international laws, the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions
that say you can`t touch the person, you can`t, you know, punch the person
in the nose, let alone kill the person...

SMERCONISH: Well, let me get into this a bit further...

KLAIDMAN: ... and so...

SMERCONISH: ... on this subject of torture, if I might, because John
Brennan was a top official at the CIA when the agency was involved with
waterboarding detainees. And here`s what he told senators today when he
was asked about his role in the program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENNAN: I was aware of the program. I was cc`d on some of those
documents, but I had no oversight of it. I wasn`t involved in its
creation. I had expressed my personal objections and views to my -- some
agency colleagues about certain of those EITs, such as waterboarding,
nudity, and others, where I were professed my personal objections to it.
But I did not try to stop it because it was, you know, something that was
being done in a different part of the agency under the authority of others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Interestingly, later Brennan refused to label waterboarding
torture under questioning from Senator Carl Levin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ILLINOIS: My question is this. In your opinion, does
waterboarding constitute torture?

BRENNAN: The attorney general has referred to waterboarding as torture.
Many people refer to it as torture -- the attorney general, the premiere
law enforcement officer and lawyer of this country. And as you well know
and as we`ve had the discussion, Senator, the term "torture" has a lot of
legal and political implications.

LEVIN: Do you have a personal opinion as to whether waterboarding is
torture?

BRENNAN: I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and
it`s something that should not be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: On more clip. Back in 2007, he told CBS that the
interrogation program had provided some useful information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENNAN: There have been a lot of information that has come out from these
interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against real
hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Inconsistencies, Robin, in what you just heard? Is that a
consistent narrative from Mr. Brennan?

WRIGHT: Not completely, obviously, saying sometimes it produces
information and sometimes it isn`t and...

SMERCONISH: But not enough to derail this nomination.

WRIGHT: I don`t think so. I think Brennan probably, compared with Hagel,
is going to be a breeze to get through.

But these are issues -- and this is what this testimony actually
illustrates -- that really tug at the heartstrings of Americans. We`ve had
a traumatic decade.

We`ve all come away questioning tactics of torture, the use of Guantanamo
Bay. A lot of questions haven`t been answered, the legal justification not
fully understood, the drone issue still not fully explained because it`s so
secret. So there`s still a lot the American public is struggling to
understand.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Dan, one reaction that I have relative to the whole
standard of when we could take out even an American is, you know, be
careful before you make your decision based on the occupant of the White
House because precedent is being set here. And whatever the drill might be
for today could apply to President Clinton in 2016. It could apply to
President Rubio in -- 2017, I guess I should say.

KLAIDMAN: You`re exactly right, Michael. And I think this president
actually is fairly sensitive to precedent. You know, it`s interesting, he
has sort of supreme confidence in his own ability to handle power well and
responsibility. He`s less confident about those who would come after him.
And that`s part of the reason that he has sort of tasked John Brennan to
put together what Brennan has called a playbook to kind of codify and
institutionalize the...

SMERCONISH: A set of standards, right.

KLAIDMAN: ... sort of standards and procedures for targeted killing.
It`ll be interesting to see how he does that when he`s then at the helm of
the CIA.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Dan Klaidman. Thank you, Robin Wright. We
appreciate you being here.

Coming up, the Republican civil war. It`s Karl Rove against the Tea Party.
And Democrats, they couldn`t be happier.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Here`s a big problem for the Republican Party. Just 36
percent of Republicans say they like leaders who are willing to compromise,
55 percent of Republicans prefer leaders who stick to their positions.
That`s according to a new Pew poll. And it goes a long way in explaining
the gridlock and obstructionism that we`ve seen from the GOP over the last
four years.

Now, by contrast, the poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Democrats like leaders
who compromise.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SR. ADVISER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, our
object is not to be for the establishment. It`s to be for the most
conservative candidate who can win. This is not Tea Party versus
establishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. At his peak, he was called "Bush`s
brain" and "the architect." But today, our own Howard Fineman wrote "Karl
Rove is done." Rove`s new effort to back conservative candidates who he
thinks can win has incited a civil war among establishment and Tea Party
Republicans.

GOP bigwigs like Rove would like to move past primaries that brought them
losses and the likes of O`Donnell, Angle, Akin and Mourdock. Tea Party
types are outraged that Rove, who didn`t have a great win-loss record
himself in 2012, would try to insert himself into the democratic process.

Matt Kibbe is president of the Tea Party group Freedomworks. Matt, thanks
for being here. Would you remember win primaries or general elections?
And isn`t that what this is all about?

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, I think I want to win both. And the
definition of a competitive candidate, the conservative that can win, is
very much up for reinterpretation when Rove gets involved because,
remember, he thought Arlen Specter was the most conservative man for the
job in Pennsylvania. He thought Charlie Crist was in Florida. He thought
David Dewhurst was in Texas.

And our view is that if you can bind a candidate with a core set of fiscal
conservative values that are authentic with the practical skills to
communicate and to run a statewide campaign, that`s how we repopulate the
Republican Party. That`s how we get to a majority. And I think Karl Rove
is just headed in the wrong direction on this.

SMERCONISH: But to use a basketball analogy, couldn`t one argue that Karl
Rove`s losses were 3-pointers, they were tough shots, and that the Tea
Party losses were layups? I mean, Christine O`Donnell in Delaware, that
was a layup for Mike Castle had he captured the GOP nomination.

KIBBE: Well, I mean, that`s -- you`re cherry-picking because nobody bats a
thousand, to use another sports analogy. And certainly, the Tea Party
hasn`t batted a thousand, but if you look at who the young, vibrant,
authentic rock stars of the Republican Party are today, they`re guys like
Tim Scott.

Tim Scott wouldn`t have won his first congressional election if we`d have
applied this status quo litmus test. We would have gone with the
establishment guy. We wouldn`t have Marco Rubio to run in 2016. We
wouldn`t have Rand Paul. We wouldn`t have Mike Lee.

If you look at who Republicans get excited about, who`s actually putting
ideas on the table and who is the most credible challenger to Hillary
Clinton in 2016, it`s our guys, it`s not Karl Rove`s guys.

SMERCONISH: Matt, let me give you a tangible example of the future from
just today`s newspaper, a candidate that perhaps Karl Rove will steer away
from, Paul Broun, the Georgia congressman running to replace the retiring
senator Saxby Chambliss. And "The Times" pointed out today, quote, "Mr.
Broun, a physician on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee,
attracted attention last fall for saying that, quote, `Evolution,
embryology and the big bang theory, all of that is lies straight from the
pit of hell.`"

I`ll bet that plays well in his congressional district, but my hunch is
that`s not playing well even in a conservative state like Georgia when
you`re talking statewide in the general. What do you say?

KIBBE: Well, of course, Paul`s going to get a lot of competition in that
primary fight. You`re going to be looking at guys like Tom Price and Tom
Graves, who have an incredibly strong record of fiscal conservatism.

I think the core of the Tea Party, remember, is not social issues, it`s not
abortion, it`s not immigration, it`s not these other things. It`s whether
or not we should spend money we don`t have. It`s whether or not the
government should live within its means.

That`s how the candidates that have been successful have won. And I do
think there`s a message discipline that needs to be encouraged in our
primary system, but you don`t get that by choosing from the top down. You
have to let the process work itself out.

We believe in competition. We believe in open-ended, bottom-up democratic
processes, and that`s what you`re going to see in Georgia, and we`re going
to find the right candidate.

SMERCONISH: I take it it`s not Broun, that you`re not yet making the
commitment one way or the other to him.

KIBBE: No, we`re not making a commitment to anyone. In fact, we`re doing
a candidate forum in just a couple weeks to see what all of the candidates
have to say, with no preconditions, and let grass roots activists in
Georgia give us the feedback to tell us whether or not we should get
involved, how we should get involved and who they think the best guy for
that job is.

SMERCONISH: Karl Rove claimed on FOX earlier this week that he wasn`t just
about protecting incumbent candidates. He was about winning.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Our job is
not to protect incumbents. It`s to win races by stopping the practice of
giving away some of these seats like we did in Missouri and in Indiana this
past year, and that may mean telling the incumbent Republican that if he`s
going to be in the race, he shouldn`t expect any funds from Crossroads in
the general election.

If people -- some people think the best we can do is Todd Mourdock -- or --
excuse me -- Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, they`re wrong. We need to do
better if we hope to take over the United States Senate. We need to get
better conservative candidates and win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: When I saw that tape, I said to myself it reminded me of a
lecture first year of college in a government class. In fact, I will give
a shout-out -- Dr. Frank Colin (ph) was the one who said this.

He said parties exist for one purpose, to win. And I think that`s true
when you think about it for both the Republican or Democratic Party.
That`s not necessarily the case for Tea Party activists. You`re there to
assert an ideology. The GOP is not there for that purpose. Do you agree
with that?

KIBBE: I agree with that.

Both political parties are all about winning, and, sometimes, they put
ideas aside to pursue political expediency. That`s not what we`re about.
But I would argue that standing for something and being authentic on those
issues works both for Republicans on our sets of issues and for Democrats
on their sets of issues.

And the progressives have done a very impressive job of taking over the
Democratic Party. We`re just trying to put some ideas back in the
Republican Party.

SMERCONISH: Right. But you can stand for things that don`t necessarily
line neatly up in some faux ideological box as being liberal or progressive
or conservative. Isn`t that the problem, that everything has become a
litmus test at both ends?

KIBBE: I don`t know. There`s practicality on tactics, but we`re not going
to negotiate on whether or not we should balance the budget.

And to go back to Rove`s basic point, he was the guy that tried to convince
all of us that Mitt Romney was the most electable. How did that turn out?

SMERCONISH: Rush Limbaugh sided -- you will be happy to know this , if you
don`t already -- with the Tea Party this week, arguing that Rove`s plan
will bring in moderate candidates. Here is what he said.

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

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The establishment Republicans, the
inside-the-Beltway establishment types, remember, these are the people,
they supported Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio. These are the brains.
These are the guys that are going to protect the Republican Party from you.

They also opposed Rand Paul. And, remember, they supported Arlen Specter
over Pat Toomey and on and on. There are countless examples. The bottom
line is, they don`t have any better record at picking winners than the --
quote, unquote -- "amateur Tea Party types" do. And even when they pick
winners, what do we end up winning? We get squishy Republican moderates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Also with us is Willie Brown, the former mayor of San
Francisco.

Mayor, weigh in on this. And I`m going to ask you to do something that
won`t come naturally to you. Put on a hat for the different side of the
isle and be the politician and advise them on which path should they now
travel.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: They really should travel
the path of selecting quality candidates, period, without reference to
their base philosophy.

Do not require candidates to pledge a certain kind of commitment on taxes.
Do not require candidates to pledge a certain kind of commitment on
something that`s inconsistent with good judgment. Leave candidates with
the ability to do what`s right. Urge them to do what`s right. You will
select people who have those kind of qualities, and you will end up
winning. If not, you`re going to end up losing, just as the Republicans
did the last time around.

SMERCONISH: You would think this is good news for Democrats who are
watching what`s taking place on the GOP side of the aisle, this now notion
that Karl Rove could fund and field slates of candidates that would have a
different philosophy than Mr. Kibbe and the Tea Party folks.

BROWN: Well, I don`t think that Karl Rove is going to be able to be
successful independent of other kinds of relationships.

You literally cannot start a third-party movement within a party and think
you can be successful. He`s already proven that he can blow a whole lot of
dough on a whole lot of people and lose elections. That`s not good. It
would be just as bad if Democrats suddenly decided they wanted to all be
progressive, they wanted to all sign on to certain kinds of things.

Mr. Obama has been consistent. He has not owned by the left wing of the
Democratic Party. He`s not owned by the conservative wing of the
Democratic Party. He`s not owned by the moderate wing of the Democratic
Party. He`s not owned by organized labor. He`s not owned by the -- by all
of those who are into conservation activities.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: It really has presented an opportunity for the public to see
someone who says, I`m going to represent the best interests of everybody,
and he...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Matt Kibbe, thank you for being here.

Mayor, I`m sorry. We`re cut short. But thank you, Mayor Willie Brown.
We`re glad that we got you in here.

BROWN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Up next: FOX News lets go of another reality-challenged
pundit. Dick Morris now admits he was wrong -- quote -- at the top of his
lungs when he predicted a Romney landslide.

Remember, if you want to follow me on Twitter, you just need to figure out
how to spell Smerconish.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, it was Sarah Palin and now Dick Morris. Both have had a parting of
the ways with FOX News in the form of their contracts not being renewed. A
quick refresher of where Dick Morris was one day before the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK MORRIS, FORMER CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Romney will win by a
very large margin, a landslide, if you will. I believe he will win by more
than five points in the popular vote. I think he will get 325 electoral
votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Now, at CNN last night, Morris addressed his off-target
predictions and the end of his self-described marriage with FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORRIS: I think I was wrong at the top of my lungs. Maybe I`m being made
a poster child for that. But...

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": And do you resent the
decision?

MORRIS: Look, FOX has given me the opportunity of a lifetime, 15 years,
3,000 interviews, and at some point the great marriage has to come to an
end. The divorce isn`t final, but I am seeing other people.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Poster child for being wrong at the top of your lungs, there`s
something to add to the resume.

Also, what have Arizona Republicans not learned since the election? The
2010 analysis showed that almost 10 percent of the state`s residents speaks
limited English, but that`s not stop state Representative Steve Smith from
pushing his new proposal, ban state agencies from sending out mailings in
any language except English. Smith calls it a cost-cutting measure, but
others say it`s a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

One exception, voting materials can still be mailed out in other languages,
though Smith`s own Maricopa County doesn`t have the best track record
there. The Spanish version of an election notice last year listed November
8 as Election Day. That`s two days after the election really occurred.

Finally, Stephen Colbert kind of, sort of avoids any conflict of interest
issues while letting us know that his sister is running for Congress in
South Carolina. And he offers advice to her potential opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": As a broadcast journalist,
I`m obligated to maintain pure objectivity.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: It doesn`t matter that my sister is intelligent, hardworking,
compassionate, and dedicated to the people of South Carolina.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Besides, I`m not sure I can support her because she is running as
a Democrat.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: A., I take that as a personal affront, and, two, there are so
many great choices on the Republican side. I am leaning toward actual
candidate and former governor of the Appalachian Trail, Mark Sanford.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: You see I`m a family values conservative, and, Mark, he just
seems so steady.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Quick advice for any of you Republicans out there who might end
up in a debate with my big sister. This is how I used to win a lot of
arguments with her when I was a kid.

Right after she makes a good point, repeat it back to her in a dumb voice,
like this.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: "Ooh, Social Security is a public trust to those who paid into it
for their entire working lives."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Stephen Colbert has made a name for himself in South Carolina
politics. He was the top pick to take over Jim DeMint`s Senate seat in a
December PPP poll.

Now an interesting conundrum about Mark Sanford. There`s no shortage of
material for Sanford-centric attack ads, starting with his pretend hike in
the Appalachians while he was really having an affair with a woman in
Argentina. Here is the question from a local news site: "How much higher
can his negatives be driven? Do people already know everything there is
loath about him, rendering future negative ads less effective than they
otherwise might be?"

Sanford`s unfavorability among South Carolina voters was at 53 percent in
that December PPP poll, not the best way to kick off a campaign.

Up next: the truth about Chuck Hagel and his inartful comments about the
Jewish lobby.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Dow closes well off its lows, but still lower by 42 points, the S&P off
two, the Nasdaq falling three points.

Apple shares gained about 3 percent despite a lawsuit by David Einhorn`s
Greenlight Capital. Einhorn wants Apple to unlock more value for
shareholders. Meanwhile, jobless claims fell by 5,000 last week, less than
expected. And a trade group says retail sales rose just over 5 percent
last month, more than forecast.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Were you correct or incorrect when you said
that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this
country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect, yes or no?

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: My reference to the surge being
the most dangerous...

MCCAIN: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel? The question
is, were you right or wrong? That`s a pretty straightforward question. I
would like to you answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are
free to elaborate.

HAGEL: Well, I`m not going to give you a yes or no answer.

MCCAIN: Well, let the record show that you refused to answer that
question. Now please go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Senator John McCain grilling his old friend Chuck Hagel last week
at Hagel`s confirmation hearing. The Senate Armed Services Committee was
supposed to vote today on Hagel`s nomination to head the Pentagon, but that
vote has been postponed after Republicans said they hadn`t received
sufficient information about Hagel`s financial records and specifically
about any payments he`s received from foreign sources.

That`s an odd hurdle, given that Republicans never seemed concerned about
foreign revenue sources when it came to nominees from George W. Bush. One
Democratic official working on the Hagel nomination told Politico -- quote
-- "What they`re asking is unprecedented, and it`s clear that it`s
information that he`s unable to provide." Hagel says he can`t provide it
because it would violate confidentiality of the boards that he serves on.

Of course, critics say this is about more than incomplete financial
records.

So why are Republicans really holding up Hagel`s nomination?

Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow
Wilson Center. He has served as an adviser on the Middle East to both
Democratic and Republican secretaries of state. And Joe Klein is a
columnist for "TIME" magazine.

Gentlemen, BuzzFeed pointed out that there seems to be a new and unfair
standard being placed on Chuck Hagel, as Bush era nominees weren`t pressed
on their foreign ties -- quote -- "Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul
O`Neill and Henry Paulson all had connections to foreign entities that paid
them. Chevron, on whose board Rice sat, even named an oil tanker after
her. Yet these nominees weren`t asked to make the same kind of disclosures
that are being demanded of Hagel."

Joe Klein, what`s going on?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Well, I think it`s about two I`s, Israel and
Iran.

And the Republicans -- the Republican base is not very happy with Hagel`s
moderate, realistic positions on those issues, and so the senators are
reacting to that.

SMERCONISH: The hearing wasn`t pretty, but nor was it really effective in
torpedoing his nomination. Do you agree?

KLEIN: I thought it was dreadful on all sides. It was just an
embarrassment.

SMERCONISH: When we talk about the Jewish lobby and the quote, we have the
individual here to whom he actually said those words.

Aaron, what was the context?

AARON DAVID MILLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL
CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Well, I`m sure Chuck Hagel thinks that no good deed
goes unpunished.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: And I only -- I only met him once. He was kind enough to give me
an interview.

I think he regrets using that term, Jewish lobby. I don`t use it because
it`s inexact to a degree and it, frankly -- politics is about addition, not
subtraction, and people stop listening when you use those kinds of terms.

But the reality is Chuck Hagel simply acknowledged something that few
senators and representatives are prepared to acknowledge. That the pro-
Israeli community has a powerful voice in the United States. Not a veto.
He just expressed himself in a way that few senators and representatives
do, and I admire that clarity and that honesty.

I think he may not be a defense intellectual. He may not have the broad
management experience of some of our previous secretaries of defense but
he`s not an ideologue. He`ll give the president sober and wise advice
about when, how, and why America should project its military abroad. I
think that`s really important these days.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Michael --

MICHAEL SMEROCONISH, GUEST HOST: I`m sorry, Joe. Go ahead.

KLEIN: And as a former enlisted man, he will be able to relate to the tens
of thousands of young troops who are being demobilized over the next few
years and are coming home with some real problems and with a need for jobs
and housing and other things like that.

SMERCONISH: From the very start, Republicans warned they would try to make
Hagel seem like an anti-Semite. Look at what one Republican aide told "The
Weekly Standard." This was back in December. Quote, "Send us Hagel, and
we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite." He we was
referring to this quote which we`ve started to discuss and it`s gotten
outsized attention since Hagel was floated as the nominee.

And it comes from the interview, Aaron, that you did back in 2006 for your
book "The Much Too Promised Land." Of course, most people only highlight a
couple words. "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."

Here is the quote in context from the audio of your interview.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

THEN-SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: The political reality is that you
intimidate -- well, not you -- but the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of
people up here, and, again, I have always argued against some of the dumb
things they do because I don`t think it`s in the interest of Israel. I
just don`t think it`s smart for Israel.

Now, everyone has a right to lobby. That`s as it should be. And come see
your senator, your congressman. If you can get the guy to sign your
letter, great. Wonderful.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Aaron, was that an ah-ha moment for you. When he said those
words to you, did you say, holy smokes, listen to what this guy just told
me and he`s in the U.S. Senate?

MILLER: Michael, I have heard a lot, been a negotiator, I have heard a
lot. I try to put things in context and I put that in context as well.
This man is not an anti-Semite. He`s not an enemy of the state of Israel.
He believes I think in a special relationship with Israel. He told me so.

He just doesn`t believe in exclusive -- in an exclusive relationship.
That`s to say he`s prepared to acknowledge that there are issues on which
close allies, and we are very close to the Israelis, may have disagreements
and maybe even fundamental agreements. That, frankly, is common sense.

MILLER: The terms of this conversation are being set by a group of
extremists in this country. Aaron just called it the pro-Israel lobby.
I`m pro-Israel but I`m not in favor of the positions that these extreme
Likud supporters take.

SMERCONISH: Did Lindsey Graham make his point for him in the way he
browbeat him?

KLEIN: Yes, of course he did. I mean, you know, the fact is that among
the stupid things that the Israel lobby has wanted senators to do is to
these expressions of anger at Iran or the Palestinians or whomever. That
all should go through the president.

SMERCONSH: I wish we had more time.

Thank you, Joe Klein. And thank you, Aaron Miller. We appreciate you
both.

Up next, why is Chris Christie talking so much about his weight. Here`s a
hint: perhaps he`s thinking hard about running for president. We`ll deal
with that next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Consider this -- when Florida Senator Marco Rubio deliver it`s
the Republican response to President Obama`s State of Union address Tuesday
night, he`ll be the fourth potential GOP presidential candidate to do so in
five years. Last year, it was then-Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who
is now president of Purdue University. But in 2011, it was Paul Ryan,
2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and in 2009, Louisiana Governor
Bobby Jindal.

And you can expect Rubio, Ryan, McDonnell, and Jindal all to start showing
up in Iowa before long ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: We`re back.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can`t seem to stop talking about his
weight and maybe he wants it that way. First, Christie poked fun at his
weight this week with David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`m like basically the healthiest fat
guy you have ever seen in your life.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: President Clinton`s former White House doctor, Connie Mariano,
didn`t find his joke funny. She told CNN she`s worried Christie could die
in office because he`s so overweight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DOCTOR: I worry that he may have a
heart attack, he may have a stroke. It`s almost like a time bomb waiting
to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Dr. Mariano`s comment didn`t sit well with the tough talking
New Jersey governor. He pounded her for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who has never met
me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows
nothing about my family history could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles
away. She must be a genius. It`s completely irresponsible, completely
irresponsible.

My children saw that last night. And she sat there on TV and said, I`m
afraid he`s going to die in office.

My 12-year-old son comes to me last night and says, "Dad, are you going to
die?"

She should shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So why is Governor Christie talking about his weight now? Is
Christie trying to own his weight issue because he thinks it might be a
huge obstacle if he decides to run in 2016?

With me now, Steve Kornacki, co-host of "THE CYCLE" here on MSNBC, and
Susan Milligan, a contributor for "U.S. News and World Report".

Did the doctor cross the line? Did she do him a favor somehow by focusing
this attention?

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: How is she doing him a favor?
Do you think the man doesn`t know he`s fat? He knows he`s fat. I mean, he
has a mirror. I`m sure he has a scale.

It was out of line. She hasn`t examined him. And I don`t -- again, I
don`t think this has anything to do with health. I think this has to do
with the idea that people think that very overweight people are somehow
undisciplined or lazy. And anyone who has seen Governor Christie performed
during hurricane Sandy and also during hurricane Irene realizes that that`s
not the case.

I have no idea why people think it`s OK to just make these comments about
someone`s size, and particularly making a medical judgment when she`s never
examined him.

SMERCONISH: Steve, it was in my view totally inappropriate for her to
reference the possibility of him dying in office. But who among us- -- I
certainly have -- has not taken a look at him and said, you know, I hope
he`s well. That`s a lot of weight to carry on that frame.

STEVE KORNACKI, THE CYCLE: Yes, no. I mean, that`s true -- but I think
what Susan said there is true. Look, everybody -- it`s obvious to anybody
who looks at him. It`s one of the first things that anybody who looks at
him obviously is going to notice. So, it`s going to be on everyone`s mind.

The risk for whether it`s this doctor, if you want to talk about his
political opponents -- I saw this in New Jersey when he ran for governor in
2009 -- the risk of drawing attention to it is it`s just always going to
backfire on you, because when he jokes about it himself, he`s coming across
as self deprecating. He`s sort of joking about the obvious. People -- you
know, people I think understand and appreciate that. When anybody else
draws attention to it, it always looks like a coy or a sneaky way, a too-
cute way of trying to score a cheap shot against him.

Remember, the Democrats, when he ran for governor in 2009, they put this ad
on that was very unflattering.

SMERCONISH: Oh, I remember.

KORNACKI: They talked about how he was throwing his weight around.

I remember talking to him, you know, privately, sort of the off-record, and
there was a lot of snickering, oh, it`s really cute. Look at what we did
here. I really think that stuff backfired on them when he ran against him,
you know, three years ago, four years ago.

SMERCONISH: Well, Susan, I would attest to what Steve said because I can
remember when Jon Corzine ran ads that in slow motion showed Chris Christie
both getting out of the car and also moving around a desk and a chair to
accentuate that issue.

I think it`s an attribute -- at least it has been in New Jersey -- because
it establishes the bona fides as every man. He`s not the blow dried
politician.

MILLIGAN: Right. Well, listen, public humiliation can certainly be a
motivating factor. I can say what gets me to the gym every day is I live
in fear of being an anonymous butt, you know, on national TV and an obesity
story. And you say, hey, I have an outfit like that and you realize it`s
you kind of waddling down the street.

So, maybe that can have an effect and, you know, he can sort of think about
this and think about how it comes across. But at the same time, we all I
think have that sense of just self-consciousness and the idea that just
because you`re in public life and people are going to be making these
really rude and very hurtful comments about his weight. I mean, this is
not -- you know, this is human being we`re talking about here. I think
absolutely that it works well for him and at least in the state of New
Jersey.

SMERCONISH: Steve, anything to the timing of this? Is there anything to
that school of thought that says he wants this publicly litigated now so
that as he makes up his mind with regard to 2016, he`s dealt with it?

KORNACKI: Yes, I don`t know if it`s that as much as if you say hey, you go
on Letterman, you`re going to joke around and this is the thing that you`re
going to joke around about, and then the doctor comes out and she does her
thing. I think it`s more sort of a preview for him of what he`s in store
for. I know he went through this in New Jersey in 2009. But, obviously,
that`s a smaller scale in terms of the media scrutiny.

So, maybe it`s a preview for him in terms of what he`d be in for, because
we`d have these episodes a lot I think if he did get into a national race.
So maybe it`s for him to sort of sit there and say, do I want to go through
this? Do I want this -- do I want doctors going on TV and talking about my
weight? Because I don`t think this is going to be the first one if he runs
for president and --

SMERCONISH: I agree with both of you. I agree with Susan, in particular,
that there`s blowback to those who try to use this as some kind of an
issue.

Thank you, Steve Kornacki.

Thank you, Susan Milligan. It`s nice to have you here.

MILLIGAN: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: When we return, allow me to finish with the case for drones.
It all comes down to keeping Americans safe.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this: the debate over whether to
use deadly force against an American who is on foreign soil and tied to al
Qaeda. That sounds like it`s out of my constitutional law class. I can
just picture us going back and forth over whether killing an American in
these circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment`s protection against
unlawful seizure or the Fifth Amendment`s due process clause.

But this is no academic exercise. This is hardball on a world stage. And
the safety of Americans is at stake.

I read the 16-page undated and unsigned Justice Department white paper with
great interest, especially where it said that, quote, "targeting a member
of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the
United States is not unlawful. It is a lawful act of national self-
defense."

National defense would seem to describe the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a
citizen by virtue of his birth in New Mexico in 1971. Al-Awlaki has been
linked through emails with Major Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist who
allegedly killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. He was also linked to
the so-called "underwear bombing" who tried to blow up an airplane bound
for Detroit back on Christmas in 2010, and Faisal Shahzad, the guy who
tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in the spring of 2010.
Moreover, al-Awlaki had ties to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.

So what`s a commander-in-chief to do when someone American by birth
inspires others to kill innocent Americans? We know that this commander-
in-chief gave the order to take him out, which was done with a drone in
Yemen on September 30, 2011.

President Obama`s decision reminds me of this story. In 1955, the Israel
philosopher Yesha Leibovitch (ph) wrote a letter to David Ben-Gurion,
Israel`s first prime minister in which he complained about innocent
Palestinians killed during Israeli operations.

Ben-Gurion then replied, quote, "I received your letter and I do not agree
with you. Were all the human ideals to be given to me on the one hand, and
Israeli security on the other, I would choose Israeli security, because
while it is good that there be a world full of peace, fraternity, justice
and honesty, it is even more important that we be in it."

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you 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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