February 21, 2013
Guests: Wayne Slater, John Feehery, Tom Davis, Ryan Haygood, Julie Fernandes
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Sabotage.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. It`s a down and dirty world when you
decide chopping down the government and hurting the economy is the smart
move. But "Bring it all down" is now the hard-right battle cry -- slash
spending, short the Pentagon, screw up traffic control, whatever raises the
noise level, bashes the Democrats and lowers hope.
Is this the Tea Party dream, the GOP`s Goetterdaemmerung? Is this what
satisfies the boys in the back row? Is this John Boehner`s version of
feeding time at the zoo, giving the crazies what they want so they`ll sit
in their seats and behave? Is this final payment to insanity the last
vestige of what calm Republicanism is ready to cough up?
But how else can you explain the readiness of the GOP leadership to let
this Frankenstein`s monster, this doomsday machine, this sequestration go
all-out berserk? How else can we understand the party of Lincoln doing
such economic damage to the republic, such damage in morale to the people?
Two former chairmen are with me tonight, Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican
Michael Steele. Gentlemen, I want to start with you, Michael because I
know you`ll disagree with me, and that`s what this is about.
MATTHEWS: I read a lot of good reporting today, not analysis, but good
reporting from your side of the aisle, further right than you, I believe,
that says, Great, let`s have sequestration. Let`s short the Pentagon.
Let`s cut $85 billion out of the hide of the economy. Let`s remove hope
from the country, maybe risk a second dip, because it all helps the
Republican Party and the ideology of lower government -- less government.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I doubt
that you read that they said, Well, you know, let`s, you know, take hope
out of the country, and you know, ruin the economy. But I get your point.
What I find interesting in your argument, Chris, is that you seem to
overlook the fact that you have just as many Democrats out there screaming
the same thing on the left, starting with someone like Howard Dean. You
also overlook the fact that this whole idea of sequestration emanated out
of the economic team of the White House.
MATTHEWS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! What office does Howard Dean own? What
office does he hold right now?
STEELE: I`m saying -- I mean, you`re pointing -- you`re pointing and
saying, Well, you know, this is just Republicans talking about this. You
have Democrats in the Senate and the House, you have Democrats outside of
the Senate and the House who feel the same way, that maybe this is the
moment that pushes both of these folks, the White House and the Congress,
to actually begin to face the -- the harsh reality.
MATTHEWS: Which Democrats want to -- I`m sorry, I just want to check your
facts, Michael. I respect you. What Democrats holding office in the
Congress want to see sequestration?
STEELE: You`re saying that they`re absolutely -- well, the one who voted
for it, starting with them!
MATTHEWS: They don`t...
STEELE: The ones that voted for it.
MATTHEWS: They did it to force themselves to do something better. You
don`t really believe...
STEELE: All right -- so wait a minute!
MATTHEWS: ... that right now...
STEELE: Hold up! Wait a minute, Chris. You mean this whole thing got
passed just on Republican votes? What are you kidding me?
MATTHEWS: I`m going to ask you again. Do you believe right now there are
any Democrats in the House or Senate who want to see sequestration?
MATTHEWS: Want to see it happen.
STEELE: I mean, there are some...
MATTHEWS: Name one.
STEELE: There have been -- there have been folks on the record, Chris. I
can`t -- I can`t name one off the top of my head at the moment...
MATTHEWS: Just one.
STEELE: ... but there are -- check the records. There are -- there are
STEELE: ... on the record, just as there are Republicans now...
MATTHEWS: ... a lifeline out there. I hope they call in right now because
you need a name. Anyway...
MATTHEWS: ... let me go to Governor Rendell...
STEELE: Chris, wait a minute! No, Chris, you`re not going to...
MATTHEWS: Name a name! Name a name.
STEELE: Give me a second. Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
MATTHEWS: Governor Rendell, your thoughts. I think I know a lot of
Democrats who don`t like sequestration because they`re afraid it will not
only cut the government, cut government spending, which is already a
problem with reduced government jobs out there, but it`s actually going to
really hurt the economy, certainly morale of the country. We`re already
seeing that in polls. Your thoughts.
ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There`s
no question. I mean, think of it. It`s "Alice in Wonderland." Democrats
are fighting to make sure we don`t have willy-nilly cuts that harm the
military strength of this country, and Republicans are advocating for cuts
that would severely diminish the military capability of our country. It`s
nuts. It`s absolutely nuts. It is politics over what`s good for the
Look, the president, Chris, put a balanced solution of cuts, significant
cuts, including entitlement cuts, and raising revenue by making sure that
everyone who makes a million dollars pays a tax rate higher than the
ordinary working person. What`s wrong with that?
MATTHEWS: That`s what the polls say.
RENDELL: Yes, that`s wrong with that?
MATTHEWS: That`s what the polls say. Well, anyway, "The New York Times"
suggested, as I said a moment ago, today that congressional Republicans are
not concerned about how this fight will pan out for their party.
They report, quote, "House Republicans say they are feeling invulnerable to
the current clash. Redistricting has made most of them immune to political
threats and entreaties for many representing conservative districts where
the president holds little sway. An attack by President Obama is a badge
of honor for those people, senior Republican House aides say."
And here`s some of the Tea Party types we found today -- just today,
Michael -- who are backing the cuts. Ohio congressman Jim Jordan said back
in October, quote, "I would say the only thing that`s worse than cutting
national defense is not having any scheduled cuts in place at all."
Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise told Dow Jones Business News, quote,
"The consensus is we want the sequester numbers to come in and to finally
see reduced spending in Washington."
South Carolina congressman Mike Mulvaney told the same outlet, "We want to
keep the sequester in place and take the cuts we can get." Georgia
congressman Paul Broun told the Associated Press, "I want to see it go into
place." And Rand Paul, in his Tea Party response to the State of the
Union, said, "Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the
sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another
downgrade on America`s credit rating."
So there you have a lot of people on the record, Michael, on the Republican
MATTHEWS: ... saying they want the sequester. I`m just curious why you
contend this is not a partisan issue. The Republicans...
STEELE: Because it isn`t, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... especially on the far right, want the sequester.
STEELE: Chris, it passed on a bipartisan vote! So unless you`re telling
me that those Democrats, including those in the White House who supported -
- who originated this idea of sequestration, are now saying that that vote
didn`t matter -- that`s just ludicrous. That`s my only point.
MATTHEWS: Well, don`t you think...
STEELE: Yes, Republicans have come to a point where Republicans are now
saying, yes, OK, let`s see what...
MATTHEWS: I think a fair analysis of this is that the Democrats who voted
for the sequestration, those who did, thought that the Republicans would
never put up with a big cut in defense, that this would be a way of
blocking (INAUDIBLE) the way they wanted to get. I think...
STEELE: Oh, so they didn`t mean it. So they were just...
STEELE: They were just toying around with the economy.
MATTHEWS: Well, you could call it toying around.
STEELE: I can -- oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: I`m not defending everybody that votes on Capitol Hill.
STEELE: But look, you`re not getting the Democrats off. You`re not
getting your side off the hook on this and just dropping it all on the
Republicans` lap because that`s the mantra and the spin you want to put on
STEELE: Both sides are equally responsible...
RENDELL: But Michael...
MATTHEWS: I got to examine that phrase, Michael, my fat off the hook.
MATTHEWS: But any...
RENDELL: Chris, can I ask Michael a question?
MATTHEWS: I just found that incredible as a metaphor. I`m not sure what
you mean, but it must be an old-time expression from the farm lands...
STEELE: Yes, you`re trying to get your fat off the hook here. You`re not
going to do it with me sitting here, that`s for sure.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know. That`s a barnyard expression I guess. But your
thoughts -- Governor Rendell, are you trying to get your fat -- you`ve lost
so much weight, I don`t think that counts, the fat off the hook.
RENDELL: I think it means getting the meat off the grill so the fat
doesn`t burn away, am I right, Michael? (INAUDIBLE)
STEELE: Yes, that works, too, Governor!
RENDELL: Well, I want to ask Michael one question, though, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead. Take over.
STEELE: Yes, sir?
RENDELL: And I agree with you, Democrats did vote and support the
sequester, although I don`t think very many Democrats, if any, would be for
the sequester going into effect. But what is wrong with significant cuts
in entitlements, more cuts than raised revenue, when the only revenue we`re
raising is on millionaires to make sure that they pay the same tax rate or
slightly higher than ordinary working people pay?
STEELE: OK, I`m with you...
RENDELL: What`s wrong with that?
STEELE: Didn`t we just do that? Wait a minute! Hey, Governor, didn`t we
just do that last month?
RENDELL: No. No.
RENDELL: Let me respond to that. Let me respond to that. What we did the
last time is we raised the rates, but we didn`t stop rich people from
having their accountants and tax lawyers...
STEELE: Oh, Lord!
RENDELL: ... rip asunder that and wind up paying 15 percent...
RENDELL: ... while a secretary pays 28 percent.
STEELE: You guys are just greedy. You`re just greedy.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go -- let me go to...
STEELE: You want to spend, you want to spend, you want to spend. You
don`t want to deal with the debt...
MATTHEWS: OK, Michael...
STEELE: ... you don`t want to deal with this deficit and you don`t want to
RENDELL: But his plan does deal with the debt!
MATTHEWS: Two guys fighting, two chairman fighting. Look, let`s look at
the HARDBALL "Scoreboard" because I love that "Scoreboard." Let`s take a
look at the latest poll numbers from Bloomberg. President Obama is at 55
percent approval rating, I think the highest he`s been since the first
couple weeks of his administration...
MATTHEWS: ... way back in `09 -- 55 percent, Michael. Let that sink in,
55 percent job approval.
MATTHEWS: I want it to sink in here.
STEELE: What`s your point?
MATTHEWS: Republican Party -- that`s a point in itself. The Republican
Party, which you still represent, vaguely, is at 35 percent job approval --
35 percent for a political party that needs 50 percent to stay in the
MATTHEWS: Now, look at this other number, up to date. Who`s to blame for
what`s going wrong in D.C. right now? Forty-three percent say
congressional Republicans -- and by the way, they`re the ones you have to
defend here -- and 34 percent say Obama and the Democrats. Well, I think
these numbers are pretty scary if you have (ph) Mr. Boehner.
STEELE: I`m not going to -- Chris, I`m not going to argue the politics on
that. You`re absolutely right. The messaging of the GOP has, quite
frankly, sucked on this issue. There`s no doubt about that. But it still
doesn`t change the underlying facts that Democrats, including the newly
elected -- reelected president, are on the hook for this just as much as
the Republicans are.
Neither side have effectively dealt with this.
RENDELL: But Michael...
STEELE: We`ve left Simpson-Bowles sitting on the sidelines. We`ve now had
Simpson-Bowles 2. No one is talking about that.
STEELE: Sequester is something that both Democrats and Republicans put on
the table. And now everyone`s acting like, Oh, my God, we`re going to do
this? Come on!
MATTHEWS: OK, so the Republicans are losing the fight over public opinion,
Governor. That`s usually important in politics, public opinion.
STEELE: It`s not important until it`s time for an election.
MATTHEWS: OK. And the Republicans are losing the fight and Democrats are
winning it, and the question is who`s playing fair here? I don`t think
Boehner`s at fault. I think Boehner`s problem -- and I used the phrase
feeding time at the zoo very accurately.
I think he`s keeping the right wing of his party now satisfied. They want
the sequestration. They don`t mind if government takes a big hit. That`s
what they have been trying to do for years. And so don`t they benefit from
this? If you`re in a far right-wing district, aren`t you better off now to
say, Look, we wanted this and we got it, a big cut in government?
RENDELL: Sure. That`s true for the people in far-right districts, but is
it true for Patrick Meehan and Fitzpatrick and Gerlach and Dent in suburban
Philadelphia? I`m not so sure. I think they`re risking losing the House.
But more importantly, I think you`re dead right, Chris, because if John
Boehner had his druthers, he and the president back in August of 2011 would
have entered into a "grand bargain" which would have had plenty of
entitlement cuts, significantly raised revenue. We would have done almost
$5 trillion of debt reduction, and we wouldn`t be facing these problems.
RENDELL: But Boehner took it back to the caucus and the caucus said no.
MATTHEWS: Is that fair, Michael, what he just said?
STEELE: I think some of that is fair, yes. I`m not going to -- I`m not
going to play the whole partisan card here and just jump up and down
screaming because I`m on your show. No, I think some of that is fair.
MATTHEWS: You don`t have to do that. You never do that.
STEELE: I never do that. But I think some of it, Chris -- I mean, and
look, you know, just to bring it -- bring it back into the real -- I mean,
I get the whole partisan game of wanting to put the blame on one side.
But you know, at the end of the day, that poll notwithstanding, the
president also risks coming out of this thing on the 2nd of March a little
bit more bloodied than he is today...
STEELE: ... as do the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: I hear they`re all going to get hurt...
MATTHEWS: ... if the Republican Party were a united party today of the
slightly or somewhat center-right, a bit to the right, maybe a couple
notches, it could come to terms...
STEELE: Oh, you`re just going to give us just a couple notches? That`s
MATTHEWS: No, I`m saying...
STEELE: That`s all we get is a couple of notches?
MATTHEWS: How far right do you want to go? That`s the problem.
STEELE: Until I`m comfortable. Until I`m comfortable.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just think that it isn`t a bargaining party. That`s the
problem. And the president needs somebody to bargain with, like the
Israelis when they have a good government can`t find somebody on the other
side of the river to deal with...
MATTHEWS: ... green line.
STEELE: Chris, it`s like I said to you last week. When I come into the
room to bargain with you, I want you to still be in the room.
STEELE: And the president has oftentimes left the room, too. So don`t
RENDELL: I just want to say, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Governor.
RENDELL: I want to say, Chris, that the president has no fat on the grill.
He has no fat on his body at all.
MATTHEWS: What is it, fat on the hook? Michael, let`s get the metaphor
here. Fat on the hook?
STEELE: Yes, fat on the hook.
RENDELL: What in God`s name does it mean?
MATTHEWS: I think it`s "On the Waterfront." I think it`s how Rod Steiger
ended up with that movie. Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you,
STEELE: You got it!
MATTHEWS: Coming up, the Karl Rove Schadenfreude express, all aboard! He
was Bush`s brain, the architect, the evil genius. Then came 2012, Now the
GOP money men are sore. The Tea Parties have declared war. And
progressives are as happy as -- well, as happy as hell, munching on popcorn
and watching this whole spectacle. Karl Rove is in the middle of trouble.
Also, here`s the latest critique of the GOP appearing in today`s
"Washington Post." "The party has become too extreme, too ideological.
Its position is irresponsible." You might expect it from Nancy Pelosi, but
it`s from Virginia`s lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling. It`s Republican
lieutenant governor, by the way. And things are pretty bad when
Republicans are talking that way about their party.
And are prisoners at Guantanamo really getting federal benefits? No. It`s
another one of these on-line jokes that some Republicans just fell for
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with what happened to the Republican Party
of the 1960s. It was all about Civil Rights, all for voting for Civil
Rights and voting rights. You should see the numbers! Today it`s the
party of Reince Priebus and all that voter suppression. I`m going into
that at the end of the show. What a division, the good Republican Party on
Civil Rights and today`s party.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the "National Journal" is out with its ideological
rankings of every member of Congress, and in the Senate no Republicans
further to the left of the most conservative Democrat, totally polarized
Joe Manchin of West Virginia is the most conservative Democrat, but he`s to
the left of the most liberal Republican, Scott Brown of Massachusetts,
who`s no longer in the Senate. The most liberal senators, New Mexico`s Tom
Udall and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Jim Risch of Idaho is the
most conservative. There he is all by himself.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Politics, of course, can be a blood
sport and Karl Rove`s critics must smell blood in the water right now
because of the feeding frenzy around him. Democrats never liked W`s brain,
or the so-called architect or Bush`s brain, but now it`s conservatives who
are on the attack.
This week, a popular Tea Party group doctored up a photo -- look at that! -
- a photo of Rove in a Nazi uniform. Of course, they later apologized, but
that picture`s out there. And on "Fox News Sunday," journalist Bob
Woodward slammed Rove`s new venture to broaden the base by selecting more
winnable candidates for office. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: You`re going to set yourself up as a kind of
Politburo vetting these candidates. I mean...
KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SR. ADVISER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: No, no, no. I think...
WOODWARD: I mean, the whole...
ROVE: No, no, no, no.
WOODWARD: ... theory of Republicanism is to let the local state or
ROVE: I think Rand Paul had it right. Everybody`s got a chance. We
believe in markets. Let people go in and participate. We should -- it`s
just the opposite of a Politburo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was sort of a mild-mannered back-and-forth. But here
Rove waited three days to jab back at Woodward last night, where else, but
on Fox. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE: Now, the last time I checked, the Politburo was the ruling body of
the Soviet Communist Party, which enslaved hundreds of millions of people,
oversaw the extermination of tens of millions of people, and during the
cold war threatened the United States with nuclear annihilation. Now, just
because Woodward is a sort of center-left journalist, he can get away with
calling me a communist and nobody`s bothered by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the source for Rove`s troubles with the right are the
result of spending hundreds of millions on losing candidacies and then
lecturing the Tea Party on how to win.
John Feehery is a Republican strategist and Wayne Slater is the co-author
of that great book, "Bush`s Brain." He`s the senior political writer for
"The Dallas Morning News."
Let`s go to this -- I want to go to an expert, Wayne, about this guy, Karl
Rove. I don`t know much about Karl Rove, believe it or not. But you know,
it seems for me for him to wait three days and to make a big -- have a big
bee in his bonnet about the word "Politburo," as if Bob Woodward really
meant to call him a commie -- I mean, victimology used to be -- or
victimhood used to be a Democrat specialty.
What`s he doing this for? Gee, whiz, he`s calling me a communist. He only
thought of it three days later, too, by the way. No problem at the time.
Go ahead. Your thoughts.
WAYNE SLATER, CO-AUTHOR, "BUSH`S BRAIN": That`s the surprise. He really
is usually much faster than this in his response. But no, no, he`s quick
to call something a victim. I mean, basically, he finds himself as a
victim of his own making. The making here is that he created or was part
of the creation of a coalition bringing on social conservatives and proto-
Tea Party types who have now turned on him because they feel used after the
And now the millionaire/billionaires who gave him all this, what, $328,000
million feel used.
SLATER: So he`s basically fallen into a trap. And when somebody says, I`m
like a Politburo, he`s really more like a 19th century monopolist. I want
to be the guy who decides everything.
MATTHEWS: Do you think people were madder at him, John Feehery, or madder
at Bernie Madoff? Who are they maddest at?
MATTHEWS: His percent return -- Wayne, his return on $100 investment -- as
if anybody only gave him 100 bucks -- was a dollar!
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Karl...
MATTHEWS: That`s a $1. That`s $99 lost. OK? You got it?
FEEHERY: Karl Rove is a very smart political strategist.
MATTHEWS: What happened?
FEEHERY: He was right on the immigration debate well before a lot of
MATTHEWS: Well, how about in this past election?
FEEHERY: He helped design a governing coalition for George Bush that won
The problem is, is the Republican Party, the Republican establishment, but
the whole party apparatus...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s not change the subject. I want to enjoy this for a
moment. Allow me to enjoy this.
MATTHEWS: Here he was with Megyn Kelly, making Megyn Kelly look even
better than she is, in fact. Here he is. I remember how he embarrassed
himself election -- let`s get a little look at this, please, if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Do you believe that Ohio has been
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don`t.
It may be that Barack Obama wins the state, but it seems to me that, you
know, you got a lot of votes yet to cast.
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: You tell me whether you stand by
your call on Ohio, given the doubts Karl Rove just raised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re actually quite comfortable with the call in Ohio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have Megyn Kelly winning her Polk Award,
basically, because of him.
FEEHERY: Well, he wasn`t the only one.
Almost every conservative, including me, thought we were going to win this
election, and we were all surprised when...
MATTHEWS: Did you go in and question the returns? Did you question the
analysis of the returns, like he did?
FEEHERY: I didn`t, but I didn`t have the data. You know, Karl Rove...
MATTHEWS: Did he?
FEEHERY: Karl Rove is a smart guy. I usually -- I think that his...
MATTHEWS: Did he think he could bully them out of their prediction?
FEEHERY: I thought he was stunned. I think we were all stunned. And then
you know what?
MATTHEWS: You know, Wayne, you know the guy`s personality. I thought he
went into that room thinking he could talk all the analysts out of the
results. Like, his willpower would somehow overwhelm them, you know, Megyn
and the other guys.
Basically, I remember sitting at a table in 1990 in New Hampshire talking
about -- filling out a napkin about why with great sets of numbers George
Bush was going to win the New Hampshire primary. He lost the New Hampshire
SLATER: Karl wins some and Karl loses some.
FEEHERY: No question.
SLATER: And you`re right. The force of his personality, the force of sort
of the intellect, and the reputation allows him a lot of times to bully
folks. He`s certainly tried to bully me.
MATTHEWS: Well, bullies are almost like, you know, Sonny Liston. They
can`t lose until they can`t win, you know what I mean? Liston couldn`t be
beaten as a boxer until he couldn`t win again, but all of a sudden Muhammad
knocked him out.
FEEHERY: Right. Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at a guy who went up against him, Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich isn`t more likable -- who is more likable, do you think, he
or Karl Rove?
Anyway, Newt Gingrich slammed Karl Rove`s latest attempt to purge the GOP
of its fringe GOP candidates who lose, so that he could make winnable
elections winnable. Anyway, here he is in an op-ed piece in "Human
Gingrich is reduced to writing there. "He was simply wrong last year."
He`s talking about Rove. "He was wrong about the presidential race. Watch
a video of his blowup on FOX election night about FOX News calling Ohio for
President Obama. He was also wrong about Senate races. Republicans lost
winnable Senate races in Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida."
So what`s this Karl Rove getting attacked by all sides, the establishment,
people like -- well, I don`t know if they have an establishment, but
getting hit by everybody now.
FEEHERY: Yes, he`s getting blamed for everything and it`s not his fault.
He had a lot of money and there was lot of things that he could have done
The big problem for the Republicans is they spend so much money on campaign
ads and not enough money on organization. The one thing about Barack Obama
that Republicans attacked was the fact that he was a community organizer.
Well, you know what? We can use a community organizer in the Republican
FEEHERY: ... because we need to get people out to vote.
MATTHEWS: I think your problem is you don`t know whether to go with your
base, which can cause real problems in the general, or fight your base and
Isn`t that the problem, Wayne?
MATTHEWS: That, on the right, they don`t know if they fight the wacko
right and say we don`t want you, they say we will go third party somewhere.
SLATER: Well, not only do they not want to fight the wacko right.
What they want to do, Karl has over the years, cultivated the far right of
the party for particular gain. But now, after a time, they realize it`s
really a -- it`s really a problem.
I mean, John is right. Look, Karl, as you know, is a very, very, very
smart guy. But when I see him attacking Ashley Judd, trying to make fun of
Ashley Judd as a potential candidate in Kentucky, then I have to ask, has
the mighty fallen here? Is this really what it`s all about?
MATTHEWS: Yes. And she was good in, what`s that is called, "Double
Indemnity." That was a hell of a -- was it "Double Indemnity"?
FEEHERY: That could be a mistake.
SLATER: She was actually -- yes. No, she was actually great in the
MATTHEWS: "Double Jeopardy." "Double Jeopardy."
SLATER: No, no. Yes, "Double Jeopardy."
In the movie "Bug," where she walled herself into a room and was fearing
that something terrible was going to come in and get her. And now we know
it was Karl Rove.
MATTHEWS: Well done. I like the way you wove that together with Rove.
Anyway, thank you, John Feehery. Thank you, Wayne Slater.
We have much more on Karl Rove vs. the right wing on our Web site. And be
sure to check us out on Facebook as well.
Up next: Republicans fall for another fake news story. They keep falling
for these. I think they want to. Could it be that they really want to
believe this nonsense? That`s coming up in the "Sideshow." You won`t
believe what they believe.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
Earlier this week, I told you that the state of Mississippi only just got
around to officially ratifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,
which bans slavery.
Well, a professor went to see the movie "Lincoln" and did some research
afterwards, and it was discovered that even though lawmakers voted to
ratify in 1995, the paperwork was never filed.
Well, Jon Stewart went back to where it all began, 1865.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Hello.
STEWART: Greetings and salutations. My name is Jon Stewart, and given the
times, I`m obviously neither Jewish nor on television.
STEWART: The state of Georgia has voted to ratify the 13th Amendment. Oh,
delightful. Being the 27th state to so vote, the amendment is nationally
adopted and slavery is abolished in these United States. There still
remain a few stragglers who have yet to ratify the amendment.
I`m looking at you, Magnolia State.
STEWART: I mean, those square leaders in Georgia ratified it. How much
longer are you going to wait? One hundred and forty-eight years? I mean,
that would be ridiculous, wouldn`t it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After 148 years, the state of Mississippi has finally
ratified the 13th Amendment.
STEWART: So, Mississippi, two things on the recent ratification.
First, better late than never.
And, second, this is pretty (EXPLETIVE DELETED) late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s unbelievable. Anyway, a late start and a very late finish,
but at least it got done, didn`t it?
Anyway, next, Conan O`Brien will be hosting this year`s White House
Correspondents Dinner here in D.C. in late April. He headlined the event
back in `95 for Bill Clinton and according to the "Washington Post" review
at the time scored hurricanes of laughter.
Well, you might need to get in your own way-back machine to recognize the
setup material then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: I am very honored, honored to be a part of this
event, though, when I got the invitation, I was thrilled that I would be
speaking in the same room with the most powerful man in the country.
And, well, then I heard Judge Ito canceled.
O`BRIEN: But you move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Judge Ito, for those who forgot, was the judge in the O.J.
Simpson murder case.
Anyway, here is one from the political scene at a time when many Democrats
were becoming Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`BRIEN: The first announcement is for the Democratic congressmen present.
Please refrain from switching parties during the dinner.
O`BRIEN: It`s very confusing to your waiter, all right?
O`BRIEN: I understand Nathan Deal got the same dessert twice. We got to
work that out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God. Nathan Deal, he was one of the Democrats who switched from
Democrat to Republican after the `94 midterm election, a loss for the blue
And, by the way, the danger right there is the danger of using topical
material. It goes away.
Finally, check out the headline from this military news blog: "Guantanamo
Prisoners to Receive G.I. Benefits." Well, hopefully, red flags are going
up, right? This is in fact a military news parody, however, a Web site
called The Duffel Blog. Same idea, by the way, as The Onion, but all the
fake stories are military-related.
Unfortunately, one Kentucky resident fell victim to the joke and sent a
letter to his senator, Mitch McConnell, noting that his information came
from the blog. Was the issue put to rest by McConnell`s office? Not
quite. The senator bucked the question to the Pentagon, and here is a look
at the letter, courtesy of "Wired" magazine.
"I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding
Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. I would
appreciate your review and response to my constituent`s concern."
Well, in some alternate reality where the whole thing were true, wouldn`t
it be more than a single constituent`s concern that G.I. benefits were
going to terrorists?
Anyway, somebody in McConnell`s office called it a humorous
misunderstanding. You think? Another headline on Duffel Blog`s site
reads, "Syria to Host Iraq War Reenactors." Wow, what people will believe,
the gullible out there.
Up next: The Republican Party has lurched too far to the right, it`s one
thing to hear a Democrat say it, but a Republican? And that`s ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
The Dow closed below the psychologically important 14000 mark again. The
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the numbers of home for sale dropped to a 13-year low, but buyers are still
on the prowl.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s not unusual to hear someone say the Republican Party has become too
extreme and unwilling to compromise. In fact, millions of voters said that
on Election Day. But when an elected Republican officeholder says it, it`s
news. Enter Virginia`s lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling.
Bolling told "The Washington Post"`s Robert McCartney today -- it ran in
the paper -- "Not every government program is bad and not everyone who
receives a public benefit is a freeloader. It`s just a challenging time
for the Republican Party, when a conservative mainstream guy like me
doesn`t really feel comfortable with his party. The party has moved too
far and it`s become too extreme and too ideological."
That`s from the lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Well, these comments don`t seem quite as surprising when you learn Bill
Bolling is considering a run for Virginia`s governorship as an independent.
Right now, former Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe is tied with Virginia
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli at 38 percent even. If Bolling runs as an
independent, he starts out with 13 percent to start with, and could go
higher, of course, much higher.
But what makes this -- his remarks so important is that he`s saying the
Republican Party is becoming too extreme for even a lot of conservative
Tom Davis is a former U.S. congressman from Virginia who also ran the
Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, and Chris Cillizza is managing
editor of PostPolitics.com, a well as an MSNBC political analyst.
I want to go to Chris for the tight political analysis right now.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
MATTHEWS: This guy Bolling gave a great interview to "The Post" today.
And just to put it in context, he slam-banged his Republican Party as
everything you hear on this show a lot of times, too far over, too un --
intransigent, everything bad, won`t negotiate, won`t do anything for the
Is that to set himself up as a centrist or slightly center-right candidate
as a general election independent candidate, or is that just what he
believes and he`s angry?
CILLIZZA: Well, look, I take him at his word, Chris. I`m not going to
question his motives. I think...
MATTHEWS: That`s all we do here.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
CILLIZZA: I think it is what he probably believes. He`s a more
establishment guy, but context matters.
Look, this is a guy who in 2009 got pushed out of the race for governor by
Bob McDonnell because Bob McDonnell was more conservative and better
positioned to win the race. He stepped aside with the expectation from
everyone in the Republican Party that, in 2013, he`d be the guy.
Well, along comes Ken Cuccinelli, and the reality is that it`s a convention
there. A very small group of people, activists, conservatives, by and
large, pick the nominee. But even in a primary, I`m not sure Bill Bolling
beats Ken Cuccinelli.
So I think some of it is that he`s kind of angry at the way in which his
political fortunes have played themselves out. But I think part of it,
too, is an expression of the kind of establishment, for lack of a better
word, within the Republican Party, who looks at some of the folks in the
more conservative wing and says these folks are pushing us to a place that
is going to get us losing elections, never getting the Hispanic vote, and
going to relegate us to minority party status nationally for the future,
and we got to speak out.
So I think it`s a little bit of what he believes and a little bit of his
own circumstances that have made him more willing to speak out.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Tom Davis.
Tom, I always see you as a sort of a middle-of-the-road Republican. And
the question is, what happened to your state? And you may lose an easy
one, it seems. You could beat -- you can beat Terry McAuliffe. He`s a
FMR REP. TOM DAVIS, R-VIRGINIA: Should beat him. Nine straight times, our
governor has come from the opposite party of the president. Right now,
it`s a close race, but if history is any judge, Republicans should win it.
MATTHEWS: So, they tend to reverse what happened in the presidential.
DAVIS: These are nationalized elections for governor, if you look at it.
And McDonnell had problems with his thesis, if you remember. It just
didn`t take. Voters were more interested in sending a message to
Washington. That`s been the repeated theme in Virginia gubernatorial
MATTHEWS: I`m looking at it from across the Potomac up here in Washington,
in Maryland, and I keep thinking, you know, it`s the old question in
Do you go to your intensive hard-line base that will listen to anything on
the hard right, risking losing some of the people, softer Republicans in
the middle and independents, but knowing your crowd will show up, or you
bring on a guy that`s considered too watery a Republican or Democrat and
risking the fact your base won`t show up.
DAVIS: I think the calculation this time is the fact that this is an off-
year election and you want to intensify your base and bring it out in
MATTHEWS: Because it`s not the general electorate.
DAVIS: Yes. We know -- if everybody shows up, we know there are more
Democrats than Republicans. Obama has proven that twice. But if you look
at the off-year turnout models, it`s been much more Republican.
MATTHEWS: So work your base hard makes sense. So Cuccinelli makes more
sense. For you, that`s an odd thing to say.
DAVIS: Well, but I`m just talking about the raw political calculation.
Now, you still need to hold your party together. The last poll only showed
3 percent of Republicans defecting. But it`s going to be a long campaign.
It will be nationalized, there will be so much money going back and forth.
MATTHEWS: How does this vaginal thing, that crazy thing about requiring
things before you choose to have abortion, how is that working in this
state? Women that I work with hate it talking like that.
DAVIS: Oh, I`m sure it`s going to be in a lot of TV ads before the year
over. But Cuccinelli didn`t vote on that. He was the attorney general.
But a lot of legislators who voted for it I`m sure are going to have to
MATTHEWS: Well, Bill Bolling also told "The Post", this is the lieutenant
governor of Virginia, who says he`s not going to run in the primary. "It
seems these days that compromise is a four-letter word in many people`s
eyes. They view it as a signs of weakness but in reality, it`s the essence
of a workable democracy."
Chris Cillizza, you and I cover this all the time. He`s talking the way
most middle of the road journalists would call it, not knocking the right
but saying you got to be able to negotiate. You got to be to -- that comes
with being a member of Congress, a member of the legislature, or even in
politics. If you don`t compromise on a lot of middle of the road things,
how are you going to get anything done? Obviously, there are some things
you`ll never compromise on.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And, Chris, I would say -- I
actually think -- take immigration and Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio is not a
guy I think most people would describe as a centrist moderate, but this is
a guy who on immigration is saying, look, I understand that there`s a part
of the party that`s never going to be happy with any kind of path to
citizenship, but we have to come together at some point on some of these
big issues if we`re going to move forward as a country.
So I actually think it`s beyond just kind of the Jon Huntsmans and Michael
Bloombergs of the world. I think Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi
governor and former Republican National Committee chairman, has said, look,
we`re going to have to find some common ground. You may not like Obama,
you may not like where we stand on this issue, but we`re going to have to
find some common ground, particularly one the economy and fiscal matters,
just to move the country forward and keep us sort of viable in the world of
MATTHEWS: Chris, I think you`re more hopeful than me. I think the hard
right being hard right, I watch that scene out there in Arizona the other
day, I think those people standing up to a very conservative guy like John
McCain showed the Republican Party is definitely ruled almost by its
hardest right, the hardest right seems to scare everybody else out. I have
yet to hear an elected official in any part of the country take on Rush
Limbaugh ever on any issue. It`s still the hard right that makes the
Thank you, Tom Davis.
DAVIS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Not a member of the hard right. Thank you.
Up next, Republicans have been trying to make it harder for minorities to
vote and now, the Supreme Court of the United States is considering whether
a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be struck down. That`s
Section 5. That`s the one that makes every state check out any changes in
its election law with the Justice Department.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: The Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is set to retire next
year. Newark Mayor Corey Booker is in good shape to win that seat.
And, Geraldo Rivera, who may want to think twice before getting in the
Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.
According to the new Quinnipiac poll, Booker would trounce Rivera, if the
talk show host decided to run, 59 percent to 23 percent, almost 3-1.
Rivera has started to make some noise about running as a Republican but
these numbers may give him pause.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One of the most significant cases the Supreme Court hear this is term will
be argued next Wednesday and it involves protecting the most sacred right
Americans possess, the right to vote.
Well, today in a radio interview with Joe Madison, President Obama himself
reflected on its significance.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By passing the Voting Rights
Act, what you did was to ensure that those regions of the country, those
areas that had a history of preventing African-Americans or Latinos knows
or other ethnic groups from voting, they would have to be cleared by the
Justice Department in any changes they had to their voting practices.
If Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is struck down, then that
preclearance process would go away, and, you know, there`s some parts of
the country where, obviously, folks have been trying to make it harder for
people to vote.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there are nine states covered by Section 5 of the Voting
Rights Act. There they are, mostly Southern -- which the president talking
about -- the states in yellow. It`s also affected some counties in these
additional states in green, for example. You can see that for a total of
Well, in the 2012 election, Section 5 protections played a crucial role in
preventing minority voters from being disenfranchised in Texas, where a
photo ID requirement was ruled intentionally discriminatory. And in
Florida, where it protected early voting.
Ryan Haygood is director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He
represents parties involved in next Wednesday` Supreme Court hearing.
And, Julie Fernandes is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the
Department of Justice`s civil rights division. She`s now a senior policy
analyst at the Hope and Society Foundation.
Let me start with, Ryan, Mr. Haygood on this thing.
Put it together. We`ve talked a lot about on this show, which I have
talked about in the last year, is what I didn`t like being done in my home
state of Pennsylvania where I came from and other states like Florida where
I could see what looked like clearly discriminatory efforts where you had
the head of the Pennsylvania legislature, the Republican guy, coming out
and basically saying if we get this voter photo ID law, we`re going to win
the state. In other words, it`s going to discriminate against
superficially just Democrats but we all know he meant urban minorities.
Number, two you see the same thing in Florida, where Bill Clinton said it
was the most flagrant case of voter suppression, because African-Americans
have for years are going to church on Sunday and then going off and voted
together, together as a kind of a ritual or a way to spend that day before
the -- two days before an election. He says by blocking that, ending that,
was clearly aimed at blacks.
Bluntly, is there a connection with voting rights Section 5 and what Reince
Priebus and his party did last year?
RYAN HAYGOOD, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATION FUND: Chris, thanks for
having on the show. You raised a great question and it`s one that we
grappled with pretty substantially at the Legal Defense Fund where I am an
What Congress did in 2006 when it considered whether to reauthorize the
Voting rights act was to look at the whole country and it focused on areas
where voting discrimination was most concentrated, where it was most
intense and most persistent and most adaptive. And it recognized that
those jurisdictions that are all or part of 16 states that are covered by
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are those places where voting
discrimination has overtime been most intense and most persistent and most
So, in the past election, we saw Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act strike
discriminatory changes in the state of Texas, in the state of South
Carolina and in Florida. This is not to say that states like Pennsylvania,
as you mentioned, Chris, or Wisconsin or Ohio, states that are not covered
by the Voting Rights Act, don`t also experience voting discrimination. But
what Congress realized very keenly in 2006 is that the type of
discrimination that we see in the coverage jurisdictions, those sections
covered by Section 5 are those places where discrimination is most intense
and where Congress needed to have the strongest antibiotic to cure the
racist discrimination in those -- in those coverage jurisdictions.
MATTHEWS: Let me bring this in here. Since 2010, not long ago, state
legislatures have made it harder to vote in these 17 states whether by
requiring photo ID, cutting back early voting, or imposing new restrictions
on voter registration drives.
Julie, I thought -- I`m not a lawyer like you guys, but I thought the idea
of voting rights was a remedy. As Ryan just said a moment ago --
JULIE FERNANDES, DEPT. OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS DIV.: Yes.
MATTHEWS: -- we`re talking about people that have done bad things in the
past we`re going to stop from doing again. And that`s why there`s a
justification for federal intervention in what is normally a state matter.
But I think there`s some new culprits out there. They aren`t cover by
Is it fair under due process or equal protection to point out to certain
states that maybe doing bad, because they`ve done bad, but excluding out to
other states that have done bad, like Pennsylvania.
FERNANDES: Well, first of all, the Voting Rights Act in general applies to
the whole country. So, the Voting Rights Act outlaws voting discrimination
based on race everywhere.
FERNANDES: Section 5 is a very particular remedy to remedy a particular
type and kind of discrimination that we saw most intensely, as Ryan said,
in the states that are part of the geographic reach of Section 5.
So, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in `65, they said, OK, we
have to stop, we have to get a sword to people to be able to stop voter
discrimination. But there are places where it is entrenched, recalcitrant,
where it keeps coming back, where it -- once you push down, it`s like a
whack-a-mole. You push one, pops up somewhere else. So they need to have
a remedy that was going to ensure that that stop.
And Section 5 does that.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, there`s two different goals to discrimination goals to
discrimination. One is local. Whites want to run the show. There`s a
majority of whites that used that -- you know better than I do how the game
is played, maybe widening the voting district, or any other trick in the
world to make sure the whites run the show.
But what I also noticed, besides that kind of what you call racial
discrimination is political discrimination, where you see the state like
Pennsylvania, this isn`t about to screw the blacks, necessarily, this is
just to make sure that their candidate wins the state, the statewide
election for president.
It`s not that old Southern thing. It`s just pure, raw, political
The distinction in your eyes, I don`t know.
HAYGOOD: Well, what we`ve often seen is this is old poison in a new
bottle. And we see that the effect of these voter changes, for example,
the state of Pennsylvania with the photo ID measure, people of color are
disproportionately less likely or more likely to have the type of ID that
the commonwealth was requiring there.
But what we also saw in the past presidential election is that where there
was a proliferation of voter suppression tactics outside of the states
covered by Section 5. So in Pennsylvania or Ohio or Wisconsin, there we
saw the state level remedies and, to Julie`s point, a different provision
of Voting Rights Act, Section 2, was enough to cure the discriminatory
change at issue.
HAYGOOD: But in the jurisdictions covered by Section 5, Congress
recognized that those places were the one that discrimination, over time,
had been the most resistant to change and required the strongest
MATTHEWS: Julie, quickly, one answer --
MATTHEWS: One answer, Julie, are you going to win or not?
FERNANDES: We are going to win.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, are you going to win? Are you going to keep the Voting
HAYGOOD: Chris, we`ll actually win in this because four times, the Supreme
Court has recognized the Constitution under Voting Rights Act, Congress
developed a 15,000 page record in support of the Voting Rights Act.
MATTHEWS: OK. Got to go.
HAYGOOD: And, Chris, the experience of our clients and millions of voters
on the ground in the coverage jurisdictions all point to where the Supreme
Court uphold Section 5 in this challenge.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir. Great to have you on.
Ryan Haygood of the NAACP and Julie Fernandes, thank you both for coming
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: What happened to the Republican
Party of the 1960s? You know, all those GOP senators who voted for the
Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act? What happened to them? What
happened to that Republican Party?
For the Civil Rights Act, the Republican vote in the U.S. Senate was 27-6.
In the House, it was 136-35. Four out of five Republican members in both
houses for civil rights.
For the Voting Rights Act the following year, the Republican vote in the
Senate was 30-2. In the House, the Republican vote was 112-24.
Overwhelming in all cases.
I`m watching this debate over the Voting Rights Act and the need for it
today and I`m struck with the reality that the reason for today is the
Republican Party. Not the party of the 1960s, but the one of Reince
Priebus` parties, that one, the one that`s backed voter suppression efforts
in dozens of states and keeps on doing.
Every time, a state run by a Republican legislature and governor passes
another bill making it harder to vote, cutting down on voter days,
expanding voter ID requirements, you have to wonder -- are they doing
precisely what the Voter Rights Act was designed to stop? Are they
deliberating making it harder for minority voters to get into the voting
booth and cast their ballots? The Republican Party can be proud of its
heritage in certain regards, certainly Abraham Lincoln pushing through the
Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery, certainly the backing of men like
Senator Edward Dirksen of Illinois for the Civil Rights Act.
The question going into the history books today, for this young century, is
whether the Republican Party will be as proud in the future for the
positions it`s taking now?
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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