updated 2/12/2013 11:32:14 AM ET 2013-02-12T16:32:14

HARDBALL
February 11, 2013

Guests: Melinda Henneberger, Sam Tanenhaus, Willie Brown, Phil Bronstein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: New Pope.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with the stunning news today that the head of the 1.2
billion-person Roman Catholic church is retiring at the end of the month.
This is the first time in many centuries that a pope has done anything like
this.

Well, the question is whether a new pope, to be elected in the next two or
three weeks, can refine church doctrine on matters like birth control, the
role of women. Can he correct and meet certainly head on the scandals that
have besieged and enraged the Catholic church in the U.S. and also in
Ireland and other countries? Well, tonight I`m going to tell you what I
think. In fact, I know who the frontrunner is right now and what we can
expect of him.

And let`s face it, the election of a pope is a political, as well as a
spiritual undertaking. Ambition and humility both play their roles. The
stakes -- who will lead the church for the years ahead, probably for our
lifetimes. It`s going to matter and not just to Catholics.

I`m joined by Melinda Henneberger and E.J. Dionne, both of "The Washington
Post." Thank you both for coming on.

Here`s my pick for the next pope. He`s the front-runner, certainly --
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, formerly of Venice. He`s age 71, just
barely young enough to make it. The biggest thing he`s got going in his
favor, and it`s pretty big -- the pope wants him, and there are a lot of
voting cardinals who owe the pope. Sixty-seven, a majority of the 119
electors deciding who the next pope is, as I said, a majority, were picked
by the fellow right there, his -- rather, His Holiness. That`s about 56
percent, close to the two thirds needed to win.

The other plus for Scola -- he`s Italian. That always helps. Twenty-eight
of the electors are Italian. He`s European. Sixty-two, again a majority,
are from Europe.

You know how political I`m getting here? I`m just starting here, Melinda.
This is a political enterprise. It`s a secular event, and it`s an
election, very democratic. My bet is that this pope wants a quick election
because he has a successor and he wants that successor to be his guy, Scola
from Milan.

Your thoughts?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, "WASHINGTON POST": I agree with you that I think
Scola is the most likely outcome, but I do not see Benedict as trying to
have a big impact on the election because I really think that of the
papabili, the people who are possible to take on this role, there`s very
little difference on them -- among them on policy, on what would come next,
on, as you said, things like contraception, ordination of women, policies
on abortion.

I mean, really, all the people in the running would be quite orthodox,
leading the orthodox Catholic church. So I really don`t think that he`s
going to get very involved in (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: You are so pessimistic here. I mean, I want to go to E.J. now
because there`s two good things that can happen. I`m a progressive on
Catholic issues and all kinds of issues. And you are, too, E.J. You and I
agree on almost anything in this matter. I think Alinda (SIC) does, too --
Melinda.

It seems to me we got two option plays here. One, we get a guy like Scola,
the archbishop -- the cardinal from Milan, who turns out to be more liberal
than the pope thinks. And second, some outrider, some way-out candidate we
never heard of, perhaps, from Italy -- usually, that`s where the liberals
come from -- comes forth and offers himself up, and we pull a big surprise
because this guy Scola can`t put it together.

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the --
first of all, let`s stipulate, Chris, that you and I would probably pick a
nun. But that...

MATTHEWS: No, I would like...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, I spent a lot of time last week with my late aunt
Agnes`s friends in the convent. I`d rather they pick the next pope.

DIONNE: I think it would be a great thing.

MATTHEWS: Because they`re all good people and they have good values, and
they do believe in a vow of poverty and they live by it.

DIONNE: No, exactly.

MATTHEWS: And they`re good people.

DIONNE: But here`s the problem with the Scola theory. One is it`s not 100
percent clear to me that he is the Benedict guy. Number two, this isn`t
like a Chicago committeeman saying, We`re voting for Scola, and all the
hands go up. This is more like the United States Senate, where every
member believes he is entitled to the top job and is as good as the other
guys.

The other thing I think that Scola...

MATTHEWS: So you don`t think the white smoke is going to come up in two or
three weeks, it`s not going to happen fast.

DIONNE: I think it could take a while. And that`s the other advantage for
Scola is also the problem, which is the Italians don`t always stick
together. As you know, in politics, some of the worst fights are within
your own camp.

MATTHEWS: Usually the Irish!

DIONNE: Yes, well, it is often the Irish. But you know, he is a leader of
Comunione e Liberazione. That gives him a power base. It`s an important
group in the church. But they`ve had some trouble with...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...

DIONNE: ... some of their...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk North America. All politics is local. I want to
talk to Melinda. Is there any chance one of us from this continent will be
the next pope? How about Marc Ouellet? He`s from Quebec. He`s a French
Canadian, of course. He`s 68. He`s prefect of the Congregation for
Bishops. That means he gets to be the gatekeeper for who becomes a bishop
around the world.

They say he`s a bit of a chill, he`s kind of a cold personality, but he
does make the top -- the Irish, by the way -- the Irish betting odds, the
bookies over in Ireland, they`ve bet on him for some reason. Ouellet, what
do you think?

HENNEBERGER: He`s my number two choice. I really do think -- he`s very
close to the pope. He is an adviser to the pope. He knows everybody by
virtue of working in Rome, which is very important because some of these
people just don`t know their fellow cardinals that well. And so I do
think...

MATTHEWS: How about his language ability? This guy can speak English,
French, Portuguese...

HENNEBERGER: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... Spanish. He`s got German. I mean, it seems to me like
German would be pretty good...

HENNEBERGER: I think that is...

MATTHEWS: ... when you`re dealing with Ratzinger. Just thought. Just a
thought.

HENNEBERGER: I think that if it`s going to be someone from North America,
it`s most likely to be he. I don`t see -- I know there`s a lot of talk
about Cardinal Dolan and a couple of the other Americans...

MATTHEWS: What do you hear about Tim Dolan? What do you hear about the
archbishop of New York, the head of the Catholic bishops in the United
States? What do you think...

HENNEBERGER: I think...

MATTHEWS: I really like the guy.

HENNEBERGER: I think he`s -- he`s...

MATTHEWS: I think he`s a moderate. Yes?

HENNEBERGER: He`s very well known there. He ran the North American
College there, the place for young American and Canadian seminarians. And
he`s very well liked. But I think that he`s seen as too American an
American, first of all.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

HENNEBERGER: Having a superpower pope really would, I think, bother a lot
of people from Catholic countries around the world...

MATTHEWS: But you know what I think? I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s too American. He`s too regular person.

HENNEBERGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: But let`s talk about the policy here. I believe Humanae Vitae,
where Pope Pious VI came out against birth control, has to be refined. I
believe it has nothing to do with murder or death or anything else. It`s a
simple matter of discipline and sexual relations between husband and wife.
And it seems to me it has to do with more with their relationship than
reproductive rights or reproduction. It`s about the long relationship
between a man and a woman when they`re married. Sex is part of that.
What`s wrong with birth control after you`ve had several kids or five kids
or whatever? What`s wrong with that morally? I can`t find out what`s
wrong with it. I think the church has never explained that. And I don`t
think explaining is going to work...

HENNEBERGER: Well, as you know...

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: The majority on Pope Paul VI`s own commission on that agreed
with what you just said. And I`m sure the three of us completely agree on
it, but I just don`t think that the electors in that room are going to be
thinking about the kind of things that we`re thinking about.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... because every Catholic watching this show, and about a third
of the people watching the show are Catholic, know that they have not heard
a sermon since the 1950s against birth control.

DIONNE: Public Religion Research Institute that I do some work with, 70
percent of church-going, weekly church-going Catholics...

MATTHEWS: Seventy percent.

DIONNE: ... 70 percent disagree with the church`s teaching on this. So
it`s clearly true here. It`s true throughout Western Europe.

Just to go back to the punditry for a second -- on the Ouellet matter...

MATTHEWS: He`s the Quebec guy.

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: He`s the Quebec guy, whom I should be for, an ethnic...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... French Canadian. I know that.

DIONNE: But the -- there`s a great saying among the folks in the Vatican -
- after a fat pope, a thin pope. After a thin pope, a fat pope. He is too
much like Benedict, and he might look like Benedict light. Now, I`m trying
to knock down all the front-runners because I think our best hope for a
pope like John XXIII is to have a deadlock...

MATTHEWS: A chubby pope!

DIONNE: ... and a long conclave that produces...

MATTHEWS: I think a chubby pope would probably be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think Governor Christie is available for this particular
line of work, although he`s a fellow religious.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I want to get back to you because, Melinda, I do read your
column all the time, and I do think your values are...

HENNEBERGER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... maybe a tad to my right, a tad or a half a tad. That`s all
right. I know you`re smiling because it`s true. But let`s talk about
this. A lot of people who aren`t Catholic watching right now are wondering
why we`re talking about this, because there`s 1.2 billion people in the
Catholic church. It is a loud church to be heard from, and it tends to be
a bulwark of belief. It isn`t a PR church. It does what it believes.
That`s the good part of it.

The question is what it believes. Does it have to be refined? The role of
women is not the same as the role of women 2,000 years ago in any society.
Why can`t women be priests?

HENNEBERGER: I would be the first to lead that parade. I`m just saying --
all I`m really saying, I don`t -- there`s no daylight between you and me on
this issue. But I`m just saying that when -- you know, we can impose what
we think they should be thinking about and what we think they should be
discussing, but I`m just telling you the reality in Rome is that that`s not
on the table.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The reason I say that is because of culturally. It`s not a
religious thing. Culturally -- sure, Jesus called the apostles who were
men. But at the time -- I mean, today who are the best chefs? A lot of
them are men. These roles are different.

DIONNE: I always tell my daughters...

MATTHEWS: I mean, the women cooked the meals 2,000 years -- the men cook
the meals -- the best meals today. There`s a lot of different roles we all
play in life.

HENNEBERGER: You know...

MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... priest cannot be a woman.

DIONNE: I always tell my daughters, the good news is the Catholic church
is will have women priests some day. The bad news the Catholic church
takes a long time and it might take us 200 years.

And I think it`s a real shame that these issues get in the way, that they
don`t take a step forward, because when you look at the Catholic church,
including Benedict, they are great on all matters of social justice, and I
wish that were louder...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and most of the New Deal came from the church and Pope
Pious, Leo XIII. I know all that good stuff (INAUDIBLE) on new (ph) things
(ph). They thought liberal was a bad word because they thought it meant
capitalist.

I do want to ask this. The important thing that this pope has done, with
all respect for our holy father, he quit. This is remarkable, Melinda. He
basically...

HENNEBERGER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... admitted that he was becoming fallible. He was becoming a
person who couldn`t make the decisions. I`m not speaking in terms of
spiritual terms as much as just getting up in the morning, dealing with
these crises, dealing with scandals in certain cases, traveling, walking.
These are things he couldn`t do anymore, and he acknowledged -- there`s a
humility there.

HENNEBERGER: It`s an extraordinary and brave thing, and I`m glad that
we`re coming back, before we get on too much to picking -- you know,
thinking who`s going to come next -- who relinquishes power willingly, I
mean, whether it`s in government, whether it`s in your office? I mean, it
just doesn`t happen.

So I think that the irony here, one of them, is that this man who many
people associate with the Middle Ages is going to go down in history as a
modernizer because he really showed this modern reality and was the
first...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HENNEBERGER: You know, even 600 years ago, when it happened, it happened
to heal a schism. I mean, this is happening because he, A, sees that we`re
living longer now, but B, sees that for all the incense and candlelight
around the papacy, it`s also a job. And there are certain requirements of
the job and if you can`t do it, what he`s saying and voting with his feet,
is that you need to leave.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Amen.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: And it really is unprecedented.

MATTHEWS: I think it shows a lot of humility.

HENNEBERGER: It does.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, in April of 2005, when Pope John Paul II died -- not so
long ago -- we broadcast HARDBALL from Rome, and I reflected on that week
and the incredible outpouring from around the world. We saw (ph) it in our
faces as we closed our last show from there.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Look at these people standing for hours, day and night, through
the avenues of Rome, packed together as if they`d been caught and crushed
in an industrial-strength trash compactor. There they stood, seeking no
edge, plotting no photo opportunity, playing none of the games that people
do in politics, in business, in so much of life.

This is no publicity stunt or initial stock offering or inside deal or
anything but the purest, most obvious, most grandly transparent display of
individual devotion, voting with your feet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Melinda Henneberger, thanks for your wise and warm words
tonight. Thanks for coming on, E.J. Dionne...

HENNEBERGER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... Mr. America and French Canadian and all kinds of things.

And coming up: The dead ender, Dick Cheney. Now from the sublime to the
ridiculous, Dick Cheney just can`t stand the fact that his side lost the
election, Dick, that he and his neocons are under assault and in retreat,
thank God. So now he`s saying President Obama is picking what he calls
second-rate people. Actually, second-rate people are the people who go
fight for this country when you`re taking your fifth deferment. Excuse me,
Mr. Hawk. He`s a lot better man than you are.

Anyway, we`ll be right back with the story of Dick Cheney.

Also, the white party. How did the GOP become the home office for
conservative whites? A fascinating new story in "The New Republic" argues
that the cause is not overt racism but is based on the pre-Civil War
Southern interpretation of the Constitution that is shared by modern-day
Republicans -- you know, secession, interpolation, nullification.

Plus, the man who shot Osama bin Laden. We don`t know his name yet and
have never seen his face yet, but the member of the SEAL team who pulled
the trigger three times has told his story to "Esquire." We`ve got the
author here tonight, Phil Bronstein.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with some thoughts on the type of Republican
Dick Cheney leads, the kind that would believe in him.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is pushing for new gun
safety laws. She stars in a new TV ad urging Congress to act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D-AZ), FMR. CONGRESSWOMAN: We have a problem where we
shop, where we pray, where our children go to school. Take it from me,
Congress must act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the ad is airing this the hometowns of the top four
congressional leaders.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Dick Cheney is at it again, telling
Wyoming Republicans over the weekend that President Obama`s national
security appointments don`t live up to the high standards set by the
stellar legacy of the Bush-Cheney years. Cheney`s team, of course, was
filled with the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton.

Well, in Cheney`s words, quote, "The performance now of Barack Obama as he
staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal.
Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people."

Well, agree or disagree with his politics, John Kerry is not a second-rate
choice for secretary of state, certainly. He served as chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he came close to being the president
of the United States.

Senator Kerry, as well as Senator Chuck Hagel, both served honorably in
Vietnam and in combat, while Dick Cheney made sure that he got five
different deferments to avoid fighting a war, Vietnam, that he loved
supporting.

So let`s take a look at the Cheney legacy and see how it stacks up to the
president`s so-called second-rate team. We`ve got an expert -- Howard
Fineman is editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and Joan Walsh is
editor-at-large of Salon. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

By the way, Dick Cheney says the president`s national security team is
second-rate, a great phrase he knew would be coined (ph) quickly. And
that`s rich coming from the man who did more than most anyone to sell the
U.S. on a completely unnecessary war. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know with absolute
certainty that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment
he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.

We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators.

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al
Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the `90s, that it
involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al Qaeda sent personnel
to Baghdad to get trained on the systems. It involved the Iraqis providing
bomb-making expertise and advice to the al Qaeda organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard, where do you learn to be that evil? I mean, that guy
sat there and brilliantly conspired. He had Judy Miller writing the
stories for the week, with Scooter feeding her the stuff, get to
(INAUDIBLE) they get on "MEET THE PRESS," does the alley-oop play, acts so
avuncular, so sure of himself in his presentation that a lot of middle-of-
the-road people bought it.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Just
watching that again, Chris, was both infuriating and upsetting. We lived
through that time. We were lied to, flat-out lied to in that way. And for
him to say that the president is appointing second-raters -- that was
first-rate bilge, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Good choice of words.

FINEMAN: I can`t say more. If -- if -- if that`s -- if that`s what first-
rate is, I`ll take the second rate!

MATTHEWS: You know -- you know, Joan, his avuncular fashion, that "We now
know," that bonding he did with the viewer...

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... I know the trick he -- it was almost criminal. We, we now
know, we now know, talking to whoever he`s talking to at the anchor desk
there, establishing a kind of bond among those reasonable people, all the
time pushing this bilge, all the time pushing stuff that he had conspired
with his chief of staff and his -- whatever his press wing was at the time,
to feed into "The New York Times," feed into the national news so that
after a while, people would say, He can`t be lying all the time, and coming
up with great phrases like weapons of mass destruction and intermingling
those with either chemical or biological, or occasionally throwing in the
fact that they`ve got some balsawood airplane that`s going to fly over here
with a nuclear bomb and drop it in Washington.

Anything that would get that war started, they were willing to say,
including sending out General Powell out there with his mission at the U.N.

WALSH: It`s such an ugly legacy, Chris. But you know, we`ve been talking
about this for four years, five years now.

MATTHEWS: But why is he still talking? Why does he still have an
audience...

FINEMAN: I know why.

MATTHEWS: ... in this country on the right?

FINEMAN: I know why.

WALSH: Well, actually, I want to say -- I want to look on the bright side
here, because it used to be that his every utterance was national news and
he literally faxed a press release to Politico and they printed it a couple
years ago trashing the president.

MATTHEWS: I remember that, how he used to feed Politico that way, yes.

WALSH: He`s done that. He`s done that over and over.

But now there he is. He`s just with his home state Republican Party, where
he kind of belongs, and I also want to point out that his two home state
Republican senators voted for John Kerry. So they don`t agree with him
that he`s a second-rate person. He really doesn`t have the kind of power
that he had before.

He`s been fully discredited, and yet, yes, we are still going to talk about
it when he says things like this because it`s so ridiculous to be trashing
this president all these years later when he`s had a stellar record on
foreign policy and national security.

MATTHEWS: But you know these burgers, these Bergers, these Babbins that
sit in the audience for people like him, these Bergers -- you can just see
them from the rotary club, going, very polite, oh, ho, ho.

I can just hear the audience. Excellent point, well put, Vice President.
This second-rate, of course, they all agree they wouldn`t have approved
these people out there. Wyoming doesn`t deserve this guy. It`s a
beautiful state.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: I think that maybe Dick Cheney has a case of drone envy here.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Really?

FINEMAN: Well, I mean, he...

MATTHEWS: Go on, sir.

FINEMAN: OK. He`s the guy who is used to being attacked by the ACLU.

MATTHEWS: Oh, oh, I see.

FINEMAN: You see what I`m saying? Actually, President Obama has got some
weapons that Dick Cheney wouldn`t mind having had, and the president...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is getting way too sexual here, Howard. Pull back.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: No, no. And the president has been unafraid to use them.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: No, the serious point here...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Wait a minute. The Republicans spent a generation unhorsing
Democrats because Democrats were -- quote -- "weak on defense."

MATTHEWS: They weren`t willing to pull the trigger.

FINEMAN: They weren`t willing to pull the trigger.

Barack Obama, to the dismay of the ACLU, has been perfectly willing to pull
the trigger and he`s done it pretty effectively in terms of decimating al
Qaeda, which was supposedly the original intent of what Dick Cheney was up
to when we invaded Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Well, questions still linger about what role Dick Cheney played
in outing Valerie Plame as the CIA officer.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor, said there is a cloud over him.
That`s what he said back then. And here is why according to "TIME"
magazine -- quote -- "Though his recollection of other events in the same
time frame was lucid and detailed, on at least 20 occasions, Scooter Libby,
Cheney`s chief of staff, could not recall details of his talks with Cheney
about Plame`s place of employment or questions the vice president raised
privately about Wilson`s credibility. Some Bush officials" -- these are
Bush officials -- "wondered whether Libby was covering up for Cheney`s
involvement in the leak of Plame`s identity."

Joan, I have to tell you, I respect Scooter Libby in one regard, loyalty.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: He has kept -- and it is a strange loyalty -- he has never
brought Cheney into this thing. Cheney has been able to use crocodile
tears to pretend he cared about the guy. He referred to him as a soldier
left on the field. Excuse me. There were 4,000 real soldiers left on the
field.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: And somehow he comes off as the sympathetic guy when in fact
this guy wasn`t out robbing gas stations. He was doing what the vice
president of the United States told him to be doing, which was leaking
stories to discredit Valerie Wilson.

Your thoughts.

WALSH: Well, I agree. We never were able to really fully make that
connection, but that connection has seemed implicit. And when your chief
of staff is sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in outing a CIA
officer, you do go down in history...

MATTHEWS: And lying about it.

WALSH: And lying about it -- you do go down in history with a cloud over
your reputation.

But it`s a cloud that is accompanied by all the other things that we have
said here. And, you know, I think Howard is right. And I think that he
also did the president a favor, because those of us who have been upset
about the drone policies, we can`t go around calling Barack Obama Cheney-
lite, because now we are really reminded of the source of evil from the
White House from that administration. So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, we can`t compare anybody to Dick Cheney.

WALSH: No.

MATTHEWS: By the way, that snarl that he has when he talks with the evil
manner of his and it`s this sort of avuncular, as I said, when he snarls,
that thing, it`s hardly Elvis Presley snarling either. It`s a whole new
kind of snarling.

When he does that, I got to say, what -- this is just -- thank God a troll
occasionally looks like a troll, and you can actually -- look at that.
Look at that way he walks, that proud...

FINEMAN: You know, I get uncomfortable with that kind of language
sometimes, Chris, maybe because I`m not strong enough to deal with it.

But I think what`s missing here is that Dick Cheney is the former vice
president, is the guy who propounded his theory of the world, and his
Republican allies on the Hill are not having a serious discussion about
foreign policy in defense during these nomination hearings, whether it`s
Hagel or Brennan or whatever.

They`re just taking cheap shots all over the place, and they`re not having
a serious discussion.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: In other words, if Dick Cheney wants to get in the ball game and
have a really serious discussion about this, fine, fine.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You raised this. I have got to answer the question.

What is the burr in Lindsey Graham`s saddle?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why is he putting a hold on Hagel? What is this smallness?

FINEMAN: He`s not in the end going to put a hold on Hagel. That`s just --
he`s just grabbing his ankles on the way out the door. OK?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Hagel is going to be confirmed. It`s a done deal. John McCain
has blessed it.

John McCain said he gave the committee enough to -- Hagel gave the
committee enough information, I`m not going to hold him up on Benghazi.

It`s just I think that Lindsey Graham is there to be the last annoying guy
to make sure that Hagel keeps whatever promises he made behind the
scenes...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... to Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer and everybody else.

MATTHEWS: The Cisco Kid may have handed an OK here, but Pancho is still
fighting the war.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Joan Walsh -- for
the older viewers.

Coming up: Michele Bachmann has company on the anti-Muslim fringe -- the
latest conspiracy theory from the far right. We bring it to you for sheer
entertainment.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Move over, Michele Bachmann. Remember her witch-hunt against Huma Abedin,
Hillary Clinton`s close aide? Well, Bachmann back then accused Abedin of
helping members of the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate the U.S. government.
Well, enter "former FBI agent turned anti-Islam activist" John Guandolo.

His reason for why John Brennan shouldn`t be CIA director? Of course, he`s
a secret Muslim.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN GUANDOLO, FORMER FBI AGENT: He has interwoven his life,
professionally and personally, with individuals that we know are terrorists
and he has given them access to not only senior leaders inside the
government, but has given them access to the National Security Council,
national security staff.

He has brought known Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood operatives into those
positions of government. Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served
in an official capacity on behalf of the United States in Saudi Arabia.
His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counterintelligence
operation against him, to recruit him."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There you have it. John Brennan secretly converted to Islam
while on the job in Saudi Arabia. He`s been helping terrorists, of course,
that guy says, get federal jobs ever since. Wow.

Anyway, what`s wrong with this picture? Here is a snapshot of the
Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday. Yes, you are looking at the
Confederate Flag right there. So what was that Civil War flashback doing
atop Mississippi`s Supreme Court? Here is the story.

It`s normally a state flag which bears some resemblance to the stars and
bars of old. And apparently it was time to break out a fresh one. A state
official says that the new shipment came in a box labeled Mississippi state
flag and workers didn`t realize it contained Confederate Flags instead.
Anyway, it took about two hours for someone, anyone, to notice and have it
removed.

A professor at Southern University -- the University of Southern
Mississippi scored the punchline with a nod to all those secession that
arrived after the election. "Have we is he seceded already? The execution
is faster than I thought."

Well, now to Texas Republican Steve Stockman and the State of the Union
guest list. A refresher on Congressman Steve Stockman. This was his
reaction to President Obama`s executive orders on gun control: "I will seek
to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to
eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House and even
filing articles of impeachment."

Well, his guest for tomorrow night, Ted Nugent, yes, the pro-gun rocker who
had this to say last April in anticipation of the presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: But I will tell you this right now. If Barack Obama
becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail
by this time next year. If you can`t galvanize and promote and recruit
people to vote for Mitt Romney, we`re done. We will be a suburb of
Indonesia next year. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their
heads off in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, God. Those comments predictably drew the attention of the
Secret Service, thank God, but Steve Stockman, a member of Congress, went
ahead and invited Nugent to the State of the Union address.

Up next, how did the Republican Party become the party of conservative
white people? Well, that`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A down day on Wall Street as the Dow shed 21 points, the S&P and Nasdaq
both lost about a point apiece.

Among the winners, U.S. Airways edged up amid word that an $11 billion
merger with AMR could be days away. If true, U.S. Air becomes the nation`s
largest carrier. And major newspapers gave Apple a bump with reports that
the company is working on a smart watch to add to its artillery of gadgets.

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

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s a bold headline on the cover of "The New Republic" this week, "The
Republicans: The Party of White People," and it`s an art -- by the way, its
art is a clever ode to the Beatles album "The White Album." There it is.

But in this new important article, author Sam Tanenhaus investigates the
root of a phenomenon which he`s been covering on HARDBALL -- we have been
covering, the increasingly white male isolated Republican Party. Tanenhaus
says it`s derived from the political strategy of the pre-Civil War pro-
slavery Vice President John Calhoun of South Carolina.

He writes -- quote -- "This is the politics of nullification, the doctrine
nearly as old as the republic itself which holds that the states, singly or
in concert, can defy federal actions by declaring them invalid or simply
ignoring them. We hear the echoes of nullification in the venting of anti-
government passions and also in campaigns to starve government, curtail
voter registration, repeal legislation, delegitimize presidents. There is
a strong sectionalist bias in these efforts. They flourish in just the
places Kevin Phillips identified as Republican strongholds, Plains,
Mountain states, but mainly Southern states, where change invites
suspicion, especially when it seems invasive, and government is seen as an
intrusive force."

Sam Tanenhaus is with me tonight. He`s editor of "The New York Times" book
review, and Willie Brown is the former San Francisco mayor.

Thank you so much, Sam.

And, Mr. Mayor, thank you as well.

Sam, this is amazing. I love trying to find out our roots politically. I
wish I could do a television show, in fact, where every time there`s a news
story take us back to where it all started, and you did here so
beautifully. We have people like Rick Perry and all across the South
mouthing phrases like secession and nullification and it all goes back to
those fights they had in the House and the Senate in the 1850s.

But you have now pointed out this is now the stripe, sort of the road map
the Republican Party has been taking since way back when.

SAM TANENHAUS, "VANITY FAIR": Well, yes, Chris.

And great to be here, great to be here with the mayor. There`s a terrible
historical tragedy and paradox here. In the 1950s, as I say in the piece
you read, Republicans looked pretty good on civil rights under Eisenhower.
We had the Brown decision, the Central High in Little Rock, where he did
the tough thing and sent the troops in, and we had the first modern civil
rights act.

It wasn`t great, it wasn`t what LBJ gave us, but it was something. Not one
Republican voted against that bill. Think about it, what`s happened.
Well, I will tell you what happened. The conservative movement was born
right then, and they decided the road not taken, they were not going to be
pro-civil rights. They were not going to defend the rights of citizenship
and economic justice and integration of African-Americans in the South.

No, they were going to side with the Southern oppressors, and who was the
great philosopher king of that argument? John C. Calhoun. So, what
happened? Two things. First of all, the party, which could have led the
way on civil rights, the party of Lincoln, turned away from it.

Also, they gave us this legacy of nullification, as you say, this
nullifying government that we see today.

MATTHEWS: You know, I thought -- Willie, Mayor Brown, I thought really the
smart thing in your piece that I had never read before, Mr. Mayor, and I
liked it about the piece in Sam`s article, was the confluence, which is not
necessarily evil, but it was evil with the way it worked out. A lot of
libertarian thinking from Barry Goldwater, leave me alone, I don`t like
government. Fine. That`s neutral to me morally.

But that somehow got tied in with states right. In others, if you`re an
enemy of federal power, then you`re on my side. A weird sick marriage
between natural libertarianism which we all have a piece of, leave me
alone, to -- let`s get together with the other states and nullify civil
rights basically.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: That`s essentially what the
Republican Party stands for even today, as a matter of fact. In Sam`s
piece, however, I think there should be a reference to the fact that during
the Nixon administration, in reality the whole business of set asides, the
whole business of what happens with reference to the Philadelphia plan, all
of that came because a guy named George Shultz working for Nixon put that
together, and the Republicans had a golden opportunity at that moment to
really grab the leadership that Lincoln had provided and by today, Willie
Brown may very well be saying positive things about the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Let`s put that to Sam. Not only that, not only did they create
basically affirmative action with the Philadelphia plan, basically to screw
the Irish, Italians, and their unions, they were up to trouble in some
extent. They`re going after these union leaders and they`re locked out.
Unless you`re nephew of a kid, you`re not getting a job there.

But also, you know, Moynihan gave Nixon credit for ending the dual school
system down South. How could they be going in that direction, which is
progressive, even liberal, and at the same time playing the Southern
Strategy electorally with Strom Thurmond and those boys?

TANENHAUS: Well, that`s why Gary Wills -- the great Gary Wills said
Richard Nixon was the last liberal. Yes, and there is a reference, Willie
Brown is right. There should have been more, in a longer piece there would
be more on that, on the Philadelphia plan. But, yes, affirmative action, a
phrase originated in the Kennedy years, was seized on by the Nixon
administration.

Hey, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said about Nixon, this guy is not trying to
undo the Great Society, he wants to outdo it. And what happened?
Ideologues within the conservative movement turned against Nixon.

MATTHEWS: Well --

TANENHAUS: Yes, you know, William --

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Willie Brown.

TANENHAUS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown, it seems to me. I know Nixon. I`ve studied him a
lot. I`m not necessarily a Nixon hater by any means. Here`s a guy who was
a member of the NAACP in the `50s. Pretty friendly with Whitney Young,
getting to know Martin Luther King way ahead of the Kennedys, who actually
stood up on this floor of the Senate as vice president in 1957, and try to
end the filibuster, but was stopped by the liberal Democrats, who sort of
(INAUDIBLE) for the Southern Democrats and then becomes a totally mean guy
in terms of electoral politics, hooking up with Strom Thurmond, figuring he
was going to grab what was left of the segregationists in the South when
they were disappointed with the Democrats.

I mean, what happened to this guy?

BROWN: I think Sam`s piece clearly indicates that not only would a
politician like Nixon find it convenient to go in that direction for
potential success, but politicians generally, Chris, all of us tend to want
to move in a direction that points to success. In Sam`s piece, he talks
about how Kennedy clearly moved away from where he was as a liberal in
Massachusetts to try to make sure he didn`t get tubed as he had been on the
vice presidential nomination when he sought the presidential nomination.

So we politicians are not like the moral standard on this issue.

MATTHEWS: OK. Sam Tanenhaus, great piece. Boy, you put a lot of work
into these pieces. That is one heck of a piece of work. Sam Tanenhaus, it
should be a book. Why don`t you just blow it up and call it a book?

Anyway, thank you, Sam Tanenhaus.

TANENHAUS: Thanks so much.

MATTHEW: And Willie Brown.

It`s great for reading and we all read it. I think it`s fabulous.

Anyway, up next, the man who shot Osama bin Laden is going to come --
actually his writer is going to be here, the guy who covered this story.
We still don`t know what his name is but we got the whole story from a
great reporter who interviewed him. This is really going to be great
journalism coming up here.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Tomorrow night, President Obama will deliver his State of the
Union, and when he`s done, not one, but two Republicans will deliver their
responses. Senator Marco Rubio, of course, of Florida, will give the
traditional Republican response. Then, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is
responding on behalf of the Tea Party. And even though Rand Paul says
there`s no power struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,
the optics of what we`ll see tomorrow night say otherwise.

And we want to hear from you. Every year the president says the State of
the Union is, dot, dot, dot. We want to know how you would finish the
statement this year. Write down your answer, take a picture of yourself
holding it up and send it to us on Twitter using #SOTUis, like State of the
Union is. Or upload it directly to Facebook.com/MSNBC.

Keep visiting back throughout the day to see all the submissions and then
vote for your favorites.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden has
given his personal account of the raid that night, speaking exclusively to
my old editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and now executive chairman
of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Phil Bronstein.

In the March edition of "Esquire", the former Navy SEAL gives chilling
details of that historic night, from counting back and forth to a thousand
which he did during the 90-minute helicopter ride to Abbottabad and then
thinking about a quote from President George W. Bush`s 9/11 speech over and
over again in his head. And then, storming bin Laden`s compound and
walking through the dark hallway to the third floor, coming face to face
with the most wanted man in the world.

Well, the Navy SEAL says, quote, "He looked confused and way taller than I
was expecting. He`s got a gun within reach. He`s a threat. In that
second I shot two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as
he`s going down. He crumbled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit
him again, bap!"

The former SEAL who retired last year also talks about his uncertain
future, and living in constant fear that his identity could be exposed.
Even telling children don`t ever say the name, Osama bin Laden.

With me now, Phil Bronstein, who broke and wrote the story.

Phil, sir, thank you so much for this.

A couple questions as a journalist and about your trade craft here. How
did you find this Navy SEAL? How did you ID him yourself? And how did you
get him to talk?

PHIL BRONSTEIN, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: Well, Chris, finding him
really happened through more of a social contact. We had some mutual
friends. They talked to me before I ever met him. He and I had a number
of phone conversations where I didn`t -- I still didn`t know who he was. I
knew what he had done.

And then, gradually, our trust developed. You know, we started talking
more and more. I met him face to face, that those kinds of meetings
happened probably dozens of times. And this really took place a year and a
quarter.

MATTHEWS: How long did it take for him to open up and actually give you a
narrative of killing bin Laden?

BRONSTEIN: I would say that that really the first long narrative happened
after he got out of the service, which was the beginning of September --
beginning of September, last year.

MATTHEWS: And you also got confirmation from the point man. There`s only
two men up on that third floor. And other guy told someone else that he
was the guy. In fact, the guy you talked to was in fact the shooter.

BRONSTEIN: Yes. I mean, the point man talked to people. The point hasn`t
really talked publically at all, probably never will, from what I can
understand of the point man. But I also -- I mean, there were dinners,
Chris, a week after the mission, with people -- SEALs who were on the
mission and the shooter talking very openly about what hah had happened.

I talked to a variety of people, civilians and military who were at that
dinner. There`s the mentor I talk about in the story who`s an older,
retired SEAL who went on to Blackwater and then the CIA, got a call from
very high level government official several hours after the raid in
Abbottabad, saying it was your guy.

MATTHEWS: Now, this fella, we`re not going to use his name because you
didn`t know it, you did not put him in the piece, you`re not exposed to him
in any way. This fella, according to your piece, has killed 30 people in
combat.

So, how does this fit into his record in his conscience, doing his duty,
getting the bad guys. I thought it was wonderful what he talked about what
George W. said after 9/11. This was something we have to defend our
country. This has to be dealt with as a very moral obligation our country
is part.

But how does he deal with all of this killing?

BRONSTEIN: Well, I think he deals with it through struggling, as all of
these guys do. I mean, one of the points of this peace and one of the
points of the piece that I agreed would be the context of the piece. It
was not just the raid. It`s what happens to these guys afterwards. Not a
pretty picture oftentimes, abandon somewhat by the government, not absorb
in the private enterprise system in any way that they should be,
considering all the skills that they have.

So that was the kind of context of the piece. And he`s a guy who wanted to
portray the human side of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BRONSTEIN: There`s a story in there about his wife finding him with a
bottle of Ambien pills and his gun, his pistol one night, contemplating
suicide.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, the thing is he wanted to be a sniper. He`s a good shot. Obviously,
he`s very effective.

What is a sniper supposed to do when he leaves the service? What`s the
next -- what does that plan you for in making a living, which you have to
do, because he didn`t get a retirement?

BRONSTEIN: Well, Chris, keep in mind that, you know, snipers -- there are
a lot of snipers in the military. Aside from being a sniper, he`s a Navy
SEAL. And aside from being a Navy SEAL, he`s SEAL Team 6. It`s the
highest level of training, the highest level of classification, the highest
secrecy level there is.

And so, he learns all sorts of things. He`s been doing it for 16 years.
And so, he learns resolve. He learns patience. He learns grace and
decision-making under pressure.

He learns all things, in other words, that many of our CEOs would love to
have.

MATTHEWS: So, you think he could find a way to transition into something
peaceful?

BRONSTEIN: Well, yes, but there has to be a mechanism for transitioning.

So I talked to Dick Costolo, who is the CEO of Twitter and Jeff Clark who
is the chairman of Orbitz in San Francisco, where I live, and basically,
both of them said, we`d love to help these guys. There other CEOs around
the country, I spoke with some in Manhattan and here in the other night.
They want to help these guys. They need a mechanism. They need an
organizing principle.

MATTHEWS: Well, the movie, "Zero Dark Thirty", which I saw, portrayed the
character of Maya, the female CIA agent who was the key to locating Bin
Laden. With your piece, the former Navy SEAL made reference to an agency
woman, he called her, who identified bin Laden`s body for him, saying,
quote, "Back at the Jalalabad base, we pulled bin Laden out of the bag. I
brought the agency woman over. I still had all my stuff on. We looked
down and I asked, `Is this the guy? Is this your guy?" She was crying.
That`s when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a
souvenir."

What a moment.

BRONSTEIN: What a moment. And he said, do you have room in your backpack
for this?

And then he didn`t see her after that because they went on to Bagram for
further inspection of bin Laden`s body.

MATTHEWS: OK. Phil Bronstein, fabulous journalism.

BRONSTEIN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And you must know how piece of work you did. You`ve done it
again, Phil.

BRONSTEIN: We used to do it together, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You were a great editor, when I served you well.

Anyway, when we return, let me finish with Dick Cheney`s on going record of
-- let`s face it -- being wrong.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Dick Cheney leads a certain type of Republican. There are people who trust
his word ignoring what he`s done. He`s made a point to avoid military
service himself, yet relies on the military instinctively.

He likes military action. He offers himself as an oracle, a person who can
see well into the future. Yet, he`s the one more than anyone was intent on
taking us into Iraq, claiming all the time, we`d be treated as liberators,
that there were nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein, weapons
that could be used against us in America.

Well, the question is: when has Dick Cheney been right? This weekend, he
accused the president of making what he called second-rate selections for
our national security team. Hmm.

John Kerry, a second rate? John Kerry who volunteered for combat in
Vietnam and faced the enemy under fire? John Kerry who was nearly elected
president? A contest in which Dick Cheney didn`t dare try for first base?
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? That John Kerry?

Dick Cheney -- called erroneously Cheney by some reminds me of what my hero
Winston Churchill once said of these people who stick around past their
time, these people like Dick Cheney offering their wisdom so freely. We
need fewer peerages and fewer disapeerages (ph).

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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