updated 2/25/2013 1:21:08 PM ET 2013-02-25T18:21:08

HARDBALL
February 22, 2013


Guests: Steve McMahon, Charlie Crist, James Lipton

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tea Party wars.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this strange business on the right. One thing
you could say in the old days about this country`s right-of-center politics
is that it was tightly organized. There were no huge wars separating the
north from the south, the center right from the hard right.

Well, tonight as we end this week, the chasm today is deep, dark and
alarming. Look at Karl Rove out there barking orders like someone`s
elected him ringmaster. Look at Newt Gingrich out there blasting away at
Rove.

Consider the mayhem now afoot. The center-right wants to bring discipline
to the party. They`re tired of losing elections they figured they were
going to win. The hard right wants none of this proctoring. They want to
run free, wherever they want for whatever office they want.

So now you`re got the GOP big shots running the little people around, and
the little people in the party fragging the big shots. It`s quite a show,
and that`s why we`re starting there tonight.

Joy Reid is managing editor of TheGrio and David Corn is Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones." Both are MSNBC political analysts, and glad for
that.

Let`s take a look at Michael Gerson, who`s a pretty smart guy, used to
write speeches for W. The self-diagnosis he did is going on and we`ll see
what`s wrong as the GOP continues -- former GOP speech writer, as I said,
Michael Gerson, wrote, today, quote, "The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney,
lost by five million votes to a beatable incumbent presiding over an anemic
economy. The explanation is not purely technical or personality-oriented
at the national level. Republicans have a winning message for a nation
that no longer exists."

You got to start with this, Joy. "A winning" -- it`s a well-crafted
sentence. They have "a winning message for a nation that no longer
exists." And by the way, in all fairness, they didn`t know it existed, the
new (INAUDIBLE) existed until the day after the election, sometime, as I
said, around 9:00 o`clock at night, when we all saw Virginia looking close.
Whoa! What`s going on? It looks like a new country is voting here.
They`re still playing to the old country.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely. It`s
like they didn`t get the message in 2008. I think a lot of people on the
right thought that 2008 was basically a fluke, but what they have missed is
that the minority...

MATTHEWS: Didn`t you worry that it was?

REID: Actually, no. I thought that Barack Obama was going to win, to be
honest with you.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: I didn`t. Because the thing is, if you look at the trajectory of
the minority share of the electorate, it`s been growing by a pretty
consistent 2 percent every four years. So if you look at the electorate
when Bill Clinton got elected versus when Ronald Reagan got elected, the
electorate has been changing for a very long time. But the right didn`t
notice because they`ve been able to use these various tricks to gin up
their base and to maximize their vote, and they`ve always used the far
right to do it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: They get them all excited over cultural issues or...

MATTHEWS: So what went wrong this time? Well, it used to be that...

REID: There`s just not enough of them.

MATTHEWS: ... it was a zero-sum game...

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... that if you -- for every African-American vote, for example,
or Latino vote probably better put...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... you were going to lose a more conservative white person
from, say, the Southwest. But that isn`t exactly happening. The white
vote`s sort of been up a bit for Obama, and then the African-American and
the other minority votes zoomed.

REID: Yes, and then part of the problem is, number one, they`ve lost the
cities. You know, they`re losing -- including the urban white vote --
they`re losing more educated white voters along with minority voters.

MATTHEWS: OK.

REID: And they`re losing young voters. And part of the problem is them.
The messaging that they use to gin up their base turns off, obviously,
younger people. It turns off women. It turns off minorities. And this
time, they really got minorities excited about voting. There was already
loyalty to Barack Obama among African-Americans...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: ... but when you started doing voter ID and things to try to prevent
people from voting, that really made that vote solidified and determined to
come out as if it was 2008.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the problem
they have. The leadership, the Michael Gersons of the world, God bless
them, as Joe Biden would say...

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: ... are alienated from the people who support the party, the people
who vote for the party. We talked about this earlier this week with...

MATTHEWS: The angry guy out in Arizona.

CORN: ... with John McCain, you know, the town hall meetings. I mean,
there`s a reason why a lot of more centrist or less yahoo Republicans did
not run for president last time. There was all the crazies and Mitt
Romney, and if you saw the people turning out -- as we keep playing those
clips from the Republican debates, the audience was one that they don`t
care what Michael Gerson says about Republicans need new poverty programs
or new ways to structure the government to make it...

MATTHEWS: Environmental programs.

CORN: ... work better. Environmental. They don`t care. A lot of this
for them is cultural. They want to go back to whatever they think the good
old days were. They don`t like the influx...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...

CORN: ... and the rising influence...

MATTHEWS: So you give advice to a guy like John McCain, you say, yes, you
got to become a little more today, a little more open to the Hispanic
population in your own state, which he is aware of.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But the minute he does it, this happens. Here he was at the
town meeting. This is what happens when the Republican Party follows the
advice of the thoughtful people like Michael Gerson. here he is taking on
-- well, he`s a former maverick taking on the current mavericks. Let`s go.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t the Army go down there and stop them?
Because the only thing that stops them, I`m afraid to say and it`s too damn
bad, but is a gun. That`s all that will stop them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember when you were in bed with Kennedy...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: In bed with Kennedy? Thank you!

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the people that come across the border are
illiterate. They don`t speak English. And they`re a dependent class. We
have a large group of dependent people that are going -- you want to make
citizens that are going to be on Social -- they`re going to be on Medicare.
They`re going to be on welfare. They`re going to be on food stamps.

MCCAIN: Again...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you know it. (INAUDIBLE)

MCCAIN: Again, sir, you`re not telling these people the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said build the dang fence. Where`s the fence?

MCCAIN: In case you missed it, I showed you...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not a fence!

MCCAIN: That`s not a fence? It`s a banana. We`re putting up a banana
with about $600 million worth of appropriations we have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

MCCAIN: Sir, you can -- you`re entitled to your opinion, you`re not
entitled to your facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is, Joy and David, using words like bananas, an
old joke, to put this guy down. I don`t think irony works with this crowd.
And number two, quoting the great Pat Moynihan of New York about you`re
entitled to your opinion, not your own facts. I don`t think that works
with this crowed, either.

They have a gut -- Joy, they have a gut attitude that we`re being overrun
by illegal immigrants. They`re changing the culture of the South. They
don`t like it. That`s their point of view. And they don`t want to hear
all this quibbling about, Well, we`re going to let them stay here and all
this.

They really seem to think -- I wish there was somebody out there to talk
like I talk, which just says, Look, we got an illegal immigrant problem.
You want to deal with it? Put it on paper. Make it official. Make it
like every other country in the world does. You want to come in this
country, you got to go through the reasonable channels. You want to work
here, you go to go through the reasonable channels. That`s the way it is.
And we`ll give you a document and you`ll get Social Security, you`ll get --
but you have to have a work permit to go with it.

They don`t want to talk like that because they know that offends business,
I think. So they talk about building walls (INAUDIBLE) electrifying fences
20 feet high and they -- you shall be killed if you touch this wire, the
crazy kind of fascisto talk they get into because they can`t deal in
reality.

You may not be as conservative as I, but I think there`s a middle of the
road position, Joy, on immigration, which is what every other country,
including Mexico, does. You can`t come in the country without permission.
That`s the way countries are. It`s the world we live in. But they don`t
seem to want to approach it that way.

REID: Right. And you know what? The thing is -- I love the clip that you
played, Chris, because (INAUDIBLE) couple of things. First of all, if you
listen to that crowd and the audience, that`s "Savage Nation." That`s
Limbaugh. That`s Beck. This is 30-something years of these guys being fed
by the entertainment complex on the right.

MATTHEWS: You think so?

REID: This idea that minorities -- look, I get...

MATTHEWS: Do you think they were educated to those opinions?

REID: Oh -- no, I mean, I think it plays into already a feeling of sort of
victimhood, that the country is somehow being stolen out from under them.

MATTHEWS: That`s Rush.

CORN: That`s Rush.

REID: That`s been stoked by Rush. That`s been stoked by these guys on
talk radio that are saying, These people are taking your country, whether
it`s black people or brown people. I get e-mails from these people!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When you`re driving around and you`re listening to Rush and you
hear him talk about "feminazis," you hear him talk about minorities like
they`re all stomping on the white man`s grave and all that nonsense, what
is your reaction? Do you think these people are crazy, they`re showmen,
they`re manipulators, or they really believe it? What`s your reaction when
you hear that?

REID: No, I think they`re using these people because that`s the way they
make money. And they stoke these people`s sense of victimhood. They`re
way out in the hinterlands listening to this. They already feel that their
economic situation is worse than their parents`. They need somebody to
blame.

And then you`ve got Rush and Beck and Savage on this thing. You know who`s
fault it is? It`s "those people" that are getting in your schools and
taking over your neighborhoods. They`ve been telling this for 30 years! I
get e-mails from these people saying, yes, well, all of you people, all you
minorities are on welfare.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: And we saw -- we saw this...

REID: And then the thing is -- you played this piece of it, Chris, real
quick, where the guy threw back in John McCain`s face the "Build the dang
fence" because he did it, too.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re right.

REID: When he needed to get reelected, he was willing to play that game,
and now it`s coming back to bite him.

CORN: I mean, we...

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re a sweetheart, but why do you read these e-mails?

(LAUGHTER)

REID: I can`t resist!

MATTHEWS: You`re such a nice person that you actually think you owe these
crazy people that attack you racially -- you don`t respond to them, do you,
give them an answer?

REID: No, I don`t respond to them. But I mean, sometimes you got to know
what these people are thinking. And the thing is, they authentically think
that they`re making an argument to me about why I`m wrong about policy by
saying all minorities are on Welfare. They`ve been fed this for some 30
years. This is their excuse for everything wrong in their lives.

CORN: Well, this -- it goes back to Nixon`s Southern strategy that our
friend Pat Buchanan tried to put in place. You know, for eight years, you
know, 12 years now, this is -- these are Karl Rove`s people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But the difference between Pat -- let me defend Pat, who`s not
here. The difference between Pat and Limbaugh -- he`s not selling it, he
believes it.

CORN: OK, well...

MATTHEWS: He believes everything he says.

CORN: But the thing is...

MATTHEWS: Whether you like it or not.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I don`t care whether Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh believe what they
say or not. I mean, it`s an interesting academic...

MATTHEWS: I do. I do.

CORN: It`s an interesting academic discussion. The outcome is the same.
And you get these people riled up, and now Karl Rove wants to try to put
this angry genie back into the bottle, and they`re saying no...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don`t focus on integrity? I do. Anyway -- I know you do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It wasn`t just John McCain who was the target. Newt Gingrich
went after "the architect" himself, Karl Rove, in his efforts to recruit
and back electable Republicans, as he put it. And Gingrich wrote this this
week. This is Gingrich, by the way, of all people, saying "I am
unalterably opposed to a bunch of billionaires financing a boss to pick
candidates in 50 states. This is the opposite of the Republican tradition
of freedom and grass roots small town conservativism. No one person is
smart enough nor do they have the moral right to buy nominations" -- this
is Adelson`s best friend here!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... "the system of Tammany Hall and the Chicago machine. It
should be repugnant to every conservative and every Republican."

You know what`s interesting, Joy? This man is a walking Etch-a-Sketch.
Newt can`t remember who Newt was yesterday. Wasn`t he the guy with the
bank roller...

REID: Yes!

MATTHEWS: ... from Macao pouring in the millions of dollars to him so he
could win the nomination?

REID: The only reason he stayed in the Republican primary as long as he
did was because of a billionaire trying to pull a Tammany Hall with him.
It`s absolutely absurd. But without irony, he just changes positions on
this stuff because that`s why he`s Newt Gingrich, I guess.

CORN: But this is...

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Let`s talk about what we really want to
focus on tonight, which is almost different than all the other nights this
week. There is -- I know, it sounds like seder...

CORN: Like Passover.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) but you know, it`s almost like the first time I`ve
seen turmoil on the right, where you have a lot of almost literally kind of
finger -- pointing, where Karl Rove is being attacked by Newt Gingrich and
they`re all -- the sort of the establishment crowd, the people that really
like to win every year (INAUDIBLE) don`t really care if they win, as long
as they make a lot of noise. They`re fighting with each other.

CORN: Well...

MATTHEWS: This is the first time I`ve seen -- and John Boehner is almost
irrelevant to this.

CORN: In the `90s, we had the -- some House Republicans turn on Newt
Gingrich and that was -- got very bloody. There was almost a coup there.

MATTHEWS: They kicked him out.

CORN: Yes. So these...

MATTHEWS: He forgot that, too.

CORN: He forgot that. These things happen. But they`re the party on the
outs, and they have this tremendous division within the party
ideologically, culturally, and that`s the thing. They can`t all get
together and say, OK, let`s get Marco Rubio out there on immigration and it
will solve our problems, because you got the guys in Arizona.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: They can`t get out there and say, OK, let`s do something reasonable
on sequester, because you have Ted Cruz and the Tea Party people saying,
No, we actually want to shut government down. Rand Paul wants to cut
government by 20 percent, 30 percent...

MATTHEWS: I think we -- you know what I saw last year at the convention
down in Tampa? I think we saw, like, the rock on top of the bug life. It
covered it up. It was a boring convention. The Democratic convention was
really thrilling, actually. But the Republican convention was kind of
deadbeat and soggy and hot...

CORN: It was about papering over all this stuff.

MATTHEWS: Papered over. They papered over with Romney, who was just some
shill, some guy, some ringer they wanted to run. They didn`t love him,
they didn`t know him, they didn`t care. They just wanted to hold it
together to beat the guy they could beat because he was easy to beat.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: Having not beaten the guy that was easy to beat, they just fight
with each other.

REID: They just -- and the people is, too, is that the -- the people like
Karl Rove have been telling, you know, like you say, the bug life in the
party for decades, Listen, eventually, we`re going to implement your
beliefs. Just vote for us one more time. We`re going to outlaw abortion.
We`re going to deport all these illegal aliens. We`re going to do all
these things. And then they never actually follow through.

George W. Bush was a tremendous disappointment in that regard. He didn`t
implement any of this stuff.

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: And I think that the base is fed up. They want their policies
implemented. They`re sick of being in the background, and they`re not
going to shove them back in a closet, as much as they probably want to at
this point.

MATTHEWS: It`s great having you on, Joy. Always is. Thank you, David
Corn, as well. Congratulations on "Hubris" Monday night. What a great
success that was...

CORN: Yes. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: ... here on MSNBC.

Coming up: Look who`s becoming the administration`s face for gun safety,
Joe Biden. I love the way he does it. He wants to teach Jill how to use a
shotgun. It`s almost that funny. Anyway, it`s serious business here. To
fight guns -- guns -- for gun safety, you have to be for guns, I guess.
Anyway, he`s laying the groundwork perhaps for 2016. He`s the regular guy
with a shotgun.

Also, the triumph of "Obama care." Republican governors -- catch this --
are quietly buying into the "Obama care" plan to increase Medicaid
coverage. Many have loudly opposed the plan in the past, especially
Florida`s Rick Scott. Well, he`s on board tonight, and tonight the man
Scott replaced and who might replace him, Charlie Crist, is coming on, on
board HARDBALL.

And what are you doing Sunday night? Well, probably what everyone else is
doing, watching the Oscars, the Academy Awards. This year`s movies are
filled with political overtones, and who better to tee up the big night
than the iconic host of "Inside the Actor`s Studio" James Lipton? He`s
coming here.

Finally, it`s a right-winger`s dream. U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert has
figured out a way for Americans to keep their guns and to prevent the
establishment of an Islamic caliphate right here in the old US of A, all at
the same time. This guy`s got it all figured, a unitary theory for all
problems.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Chuck Hagel, President Obama`s pick for defense secretary, looks
like he`s got the votes he needs for confirmation. It`s been a long haul,
though. It`s been a week since the Republican filibuster slowed Hagel`s
march to confirmation, but Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is now the
third Republican expected to vote in Hagel`s favor. That`s coming up to 60
now, and that means there are 60 votes to beat back any attempt at
filibuster. I don`t think there`ll be one anymore.

Meanwhile, 15 other Republican senators are asking the White House --
aren`t they sweet! -- to withdraw Hagel`s nomination, a last ditch-effort
or attempt that they may show they just don`t have the votes to stop him.
What is wrong with these people?

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to protect
yourself, get a double-barreled shotgun, have the shells of a 12-gauge
shotgun. And I promise you -- as I told my wife -- we live in an area
that`s wooded and somewhat secluded. I said, Jill, if there`s ever a
problem, just walk out on the balcony here, or walk out, put that double-
barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.

I promise you, who`s ever coming in is not going to -- you don`t need an
AR-15. It`s harder to aim. It`s harder to use. And in fact, you don`t
need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun. That
was Vice President Biden`s (INAUDIBLE) for gun control this week in an on-
line town meeting, a town hall, and that response came to a question about
whether an assault weapons ban would prevent citizens from defending
themselves.

Well, then yesterday, the vice president was up in Connecticut making an
emotional push -- a good place to make it, obviously, for stricter gun
laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: If the shooter in Tucson had a 10-round magazine instead of a 30-
round magazine, the little granddaughter of a friend of mine from
Wilmington, Delaware, who used to manage the Philadelphia Phillies -- she`d
be alive today because when he -- when changing his magazine, a woman
leaned over in the crowd and knocked his arm, and that`s how they subdued
him.

It makes the difference. Wouldn`t have saved everybody -- wouldn`t have
saved everybody -- but the last two people shot would be alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Steve McMahon to try to disentangle this strange
role he`s playing. First of all, what role is he legitimately playing for
the president by being such a -- you know, Shotgun Willy here? He`s
talking about, Get yourself a shotgun. He said it twice. I`m going to
teach my wife to use it. Get up on the balcony in our leafy neighborhood,
let off a couple of shots. I mean, this is what he`s saying, not just have
a gun but let off a couple shots in the direction or somewhere around the
guy you think is trying to get in your house.

It`s pretty weird for a -- this isn`t liberal talk. This isn`t big city,
We`re against guns talk, at all.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it`s not, and it`s talk
because...

MATTHEWS: What is it?

MCMAHON: It`s talk like this -- it`s regular Joe talking to Joe Six-Pack
about commonsense gun control laws.

And he`s doing it because it`s the middle, if you will, the people who
could go either way on this who respect the First Amendment -- or, sorry --
the Second Amendment, who are hunters, who may own guns themselves. It`s
the Obama administration and Joe Biden -- through Joe Biden -- sending a
message that we get the importance of Second Amendment. We understand the
value of owning a gun. We understand what it can do for people who want to
protect their families.

But there are limits to what you need to protect your family. And a
shotgun is enough. And, I mean, I think this notion that, you know, if you
fire two shots at somebody coming at you with a shotgun and you hit him in
the chest, they`re not going to come at you anymore. You don`t need an
assault weapon to hit them and you don`t need an assault weapon to protect
your family or to hunt.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, but doesn`t that sound like odd for the -- if you
look at the Democratic platform even most recently it`s all about gun
safety, gun control.

And here is a guy saying, go buy a gun.

MCMAHON: Right.

MATTHEWS: And just let me tell you. Let me ask you, don`t give me the
politically correct answer here, which you`re giving me.

What are they up to? Is this to move beyond the cities, beyond the suburbs
even to try to make sure the Democrats have somebody...

MCMAHON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... that can talk to the rural guy -- rural guy?

MCMAHON: Well, it`s -- Chris, I think it`s that. It`s moving beyond the
cities and even beyond the suburbs and into more rural America.

But that`s where the votes are to make the difference on something like a
magazine clip limit, because everybody in the big cities already supports
whatever gun control Democrats bring forward.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCMAHON: And it`s in rural America and in the suburbs where they resist
it.

And so Joe Biden is out there basically saying, buy a gun, own a gun,
protect your family, respect the Second Amendment, but you don`t need a
clip, you don`t need an assault weapon. And so it`s a smart play.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let`s be totally political about this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Suppose we don`t get gun control. Where does that leave Biden?
Where does that leave the president? Say this year is a good year to get
it if we`re ever going to get it. If we don`t even get the magazine limit
on the number of bullets in a magazine, if we don`t even get that this year
because it doesn`t clear the Senate and therefore it doesn`t have to come
up in the House, it doesn`t happen, politically, where does that leave the
president and then secondly where does that leave the vice president going
towards 2016?

MCMAHON: Well, I think the president is in a good position because he
tried, and I think the vice president is in a good position because he`s
out there making the case.

And you have to wonder, as you look at 2016 and what the field looks like,
let`s assume for a second Hillary doesn`t run.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCMAHON: You have got two governors who are moving, Andrew Cuomo and
Martin O`Malley of Maryland, both very progressive, and I think Joe Biden
is trying to check them on gun control, but demonstrate to Democratic
primary voters for 2016 -- and we know he`s going to run because he`s
already indicated he wants to run -- that he`s somebody who can go into
Pennsylvania, who can go into Ohio, who can go into some of these
communities where Democrats, particularly Northeastern liberal Democrats,
have a tough time winning a general election.

He can speak to those people, he can get their votes, he can earn their
trust, and Democrats can win in 2016 with Joe Biden. I think it`s a
really, really smart play for the administration all the way around. And,
by the way, you know, the other thing here is, from the president`s
perspective, you put Biden out there, and if it doesn`t go well and he
doesn`t get everything he wants, then the president isn`t quite as
personally and politically invested as he might otherwise be, because he`s
got a lot of different things he`s got to do, a lot of balls in the air.

This is really important to the administration, but it`s something that
Biden can do very effectively for the president, and it can do everyone at
the administration a world of good.

MATTHEWS: Do you think -- Steve, you know the Democratic Party politics
man to man, person to person. You talk to people.

Do you think there`s any way that a successful effort by Joe Biden on this
or any other issue would forestall even an inch or two Secretary Clinton`s
decision whether to run or not? Would this in any way chill her wanting to
run, the fact that he`s out there, because everybody thinks he will pull
out if she goes in?

MCMAHON: I don`t think it will -- I think Hillary Clinton gets to make a
decision and then the field gets to react to that decision.

I think what it does do, though, Chris, and let`s assume for a second -- if
she runs, she`s the prohibitive front-runner. Vice President Biden may
still run, but it`s a different race. If she does not run, that`s where
this kind of activity does the vice president so much good, because what
he`s trying to do is he`s trying to take all the oxygen out of the room.

He`s trying to basically suffocate those who might run against him, which
includes those two governors that I mentioned and also probably some other
members of the Senate who are looking at it. What Joe Biden does not want
is a multi-candidate field in 2016.

He wants to have a clear shot, get the nomination, probably put a great big
super PAC together, of course, completely within the rules, and get started
on the general election as soon as possible. What he doesn`t want is to go
through what Mitt Romney went through this last year and come through a
long primary process weakened, drained, and financially hurting.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Steve, you have taught me a lot here in a couple minutes. And,
by the way, if he wins -- if he even gets in the running and gets the
nomination, I think it`s because, well, Secretary Clinton decides not to
run, but also he did a hell of a job shaking up the campaign last fall.

That campaign was not in good shape after the president had that problem in
the first debate, and then Biden came in there very unevenly and a little
bit crassly knocked the hell out of Paul Ryan. I think people really
needed that.

MCMAHON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And I think it made him look pretty damn good.

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. It`s great to have you.

Where are you at, by the way? You look nice down there.

MCMAHON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up -- you don`t have to answer.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You don`t have to tell me.

MCMAHON: It`s warm. It`s warm.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It looks like it. It looks beautiful up there.

We have heard a lot of crazy things over the years from Texas Congressman
Louie Gohmert, but his latest takes it a whole new level. Wait until you
hear this guy. This guy is something. He`s funny, he`s so crazy, and this
is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."

Earlier this week, we found out why some Republicans were asking whether
Chuck Hagel had ties to a secretive group called Friends of Hamas. What
started as a sarcastic joke by a "Daily News" reporter snowballed into a
serious feature on a right-wing Web site and then caught on from there.

Here is Steve Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Friends of Hamas is even
worse than it sounds because this organization is so sinister that it
doesn`t even exist.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: The fact that these organizations don`t exist only makes it is
more suspicious that Chuck Hagel has been tied to them.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: What else is he hiding that hasn`t happened?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Is he a member of the al Qaeda Kids Club?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: What about the Muslim Brotherhood or the Muslim Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: What are his ties to the Dead Poets Society? And why are they
dead? Did they know too much about Benghazi?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: President Obama, you must withdraw Hagel`s nomination, or you
will lose the support of every moderate Republican, another group that
doesn`t exist.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Now, after all that brouhaha, it looks like Hagel now has enough
votes in the Senate to actually get confirmed next week.

Next, we welcome back Texas Republican Louie Gohmert. The congressman is
yet again sounding the conspiracy -- conspiracy alarm bell. So take a
guess. Is it about the government coming to take your guns away or another
warning that Sharia law is taking over right here in the U.S. of A.?

Well, no need to pick. Here is Gohmert on the Second Amendment and Sharia.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: It is for our protection, and the founders`
quotes make that very, very clear, and including against a government that
would run amuck. You know, we have -- we have got some people that think
Sharia law ought to be the law of the land, and forget the Constitution.

But the guns are there, that Second Amendment is there to make sure all of
the rest of the amendments are followed.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s parse that. Who have you ever heard of on any medium
or in person thinks Sharia law ought to be the law of the land? Who is he
talking about? Nobody.

Secondly, is it really true that the Second Amendment, the right to bear
arms, ensures our freedom of speech and religion and all the rest? I don`t
think so. I think the American people ensure those rights.

Anyway, next, nullification with a twist? A Montana gun lobbyist is
proposing a new sheriffs-first bill, which would allow county sheriffs to
pick and choose which federal laws they wanted to enforce in their state.
If a federal agent arrests someone without stopping in at the sheriff`s
office first, that agent would then be arrested and charged with kidnapping
the person they arrested.

As Gary Marbut told "Mother Jones," the Alcohol and Tobacco Federation,
which is really ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, might say that "we
have probable cause to believe that we have this person in our county who
is making firearms without a license. And the sheriff might say, well,
gosh, under the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, that`s protected activity in
Montana, so you don`t have my permission for this bust."

Well, this nullification-type proposal was cleared by a vote by the state`s
Republican-led House Judiciary Committee just this week.

Finally, who do you think really has got the short end of the stick when it
comes to the looming spending cuts that are set to hit on March 1? Well,
consider the guy who is coordinating 800,000 Defense Department layoffs
that will happen as a result. And that would be Pentagon Controller --
Comptroller Robert Hale.

Taking it in stride, he told "The Washington Post," "Look, when I walk down
the hall, people still wave, but with fewer fingers."

Isn`t he nice?

Up next: Republican governors are reversing course, embracing the
Obamacare plan, do you believe it, to increase Medicare coverage. The
latest to do was one of Obamacare`s biggest critics, that sweetheart down
in -- I say that sarcastically -- down in Florida, Governor Rick Scott, who
nobody likes. And the man Scott replaced as governor joins us next,
Charlie Crist.

You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jane Wells with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow gains 120 points, reclaiming 14000. The S&P adds 13 and the Nasdaq
rises 30.

Hewlett-Packard was a winner today. Its earnings and revenues beat
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Abercrombie & Fitch shares moved in the opposite direction. The teen
retailer`s sales fell short and guidance disappointed and now all those
models will be pouting.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: While the federal government is
committed to paying 100 percent of the cost, I cannot in good conscience
deny Floridians that needed access to health care.

We will support a three-year expansion of our Medicaid program under the
new health care law. Even though I believe that the right approach is
different than the president`s approach, we have a Supreme Court decision,
and we have an election that says this is the law of the land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This is certainly a new tune for Florida Governor Rick Scott to be
whistling. He was the leader of the Republican pack of governors who vowed
to reject implementation of the president`s health care plan at all costs.

And here is Governor Rick Scott less than a year ago following the Supreme
Court decision that said health care reform was constitutional.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT: This is going to be devastating for parts, devastating for
taxpayers. It`s going to be the biggest job-killer ever. We`re not going
to implement Obamacare in Florida. We`re not going to expand Medicaid,
because we`re going to do the right thing. We`re not going to do the
exchange, because what this does is raise the cost of health care for all
Floridians. It just doesn`t work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Also, during Governor Scott`s tenure, he pushed to
disenfranchise some of his state`s voters by limiting early voting. Thanks
to the Voting Rights Act, the limits were less extreme than he had planned.

And before he was governor, the health care business Rick Scott founded,
HCA, was involved in a Medicaid fraud for which it paid $1.7 billion in a
settlement. Scott was not personally accused of wrongdoing. Nevertheless,
the company`s board removed him as CEO.

It`s all with this in mind that we look at Governor Scott`s current change
of heart on President Obama`s Affordable Care Act.

Charlie Crist is the former governor of Florida who left the Republican
Party and joined the Democrats. He`s also frequently mentioned as a
candidate for Florida governor next time. And Jonathan Alter is a
columnist for Bloomberg View and an MSNBC analyst.

Governor, thanks so much for joining me.

You`re a favorite of this show, as you know. And I want to ask you,
explain the 180 here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This guy was one of those people. Was it just campaign talk
last summer?

CHARLIE CRIST (I), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Well, it must have been.

I mean, I don`t know how else you can analyze it, Chris. I mean, it`s
obvious to me. You have got a reelection that he`s coming up on next year.
You have this dramatic change of heart that is a metamorphosis the likes of
which is hard to compare. And the only rationale I can apply to it is that
it`s a reelection, and that it will benefit a million Floridians.

And I`m glad it`s happening for that reason, frankly. But it`s just a
stunning reversal, which is pretty amazing to watch and witness.

MATTHEWS: You know, I can`t help remember, as you and I probably agree on
this, the wonderful echoes of politics and the ironies thereof.

There you were accused by your opponent in that Senate race of accepting
federal money out of the stimulus package, as if this was a stupid thing to
do, when, in fact, it was a sound decision, later ratified by Mr. Christie,
Governor Christie of New Jersey, who said, of course you take federal help
when you`re getting it, right? And it seems to me...

CRIST: Well, it`s the right -- it was the right thing to do.

MATTHEWS: ... that doubled down on common sense, yes.

And now this guy is saying, yes, if...

CRIST: Exactly. We...

MATTHEWS: ... you`re going to get some federal -- do it, do it. Yes.

CRIST: Yes. Well, the way I looked at it back then and the way we should
look at these Medicaid dollars is in the same light. A lot of Floridians`
money went to Washington, D.C. It`s going to end up going somewhere. Why
not accept it, take it back to benefit your fellow Floridians.

That was my philosophy was on the stimulus money back in 2009 in supporting
the president. That`s what my philosophy would be about the Medicaid money
and making sure you help, you know, those lesser income Floridians who need
this in order to get health care, for them and their families.

MATTHEWS: Jon, it`s hard not to argue with the analysis that we just got
from the governor. I certainly prompted it to some extent because I
believe it. Election time B.S. went on last summer. I`m not going to take
any Obamacare. I`m going to do slow burning nullification. I`m not going
to let this guy become legitimized by history.

And now, what do you know? Common sense, this Obamacare is going to be
popular I guess with the governors.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and they`re paying 100
percent of the Medicaid expansion. I mean, it is just cruel to the people
in your state if you`re Nikki Haley in South Carolina or Rick Perry in
Texas who are still saying they don`t want to take this money.

They`re not only screwing poor people, they`re screwing what`s called the
sandwich generation -- you know, the people who have kids living at home,
and also elderly parents because what`s happening is so much of Medicaid
money is used for the elderly, not just for the poor, that a lot of those
elderly will now move in with their children into rec room, the den,
wherever they might be able to live because these Medicaid funds are being
cut in these states where governors idiotically don`t want to take the
money.

MATTHEWS: Well, Florida Governor Rick Scott joins Republican governors
from six other states who are vocal opponents of the president`s health
care plan and are now getting on board. People like Arizona`s Governor Jan
Brewer, of course, and Michigan`s Governor Rick Snyder among others.

So, Governor Crist, it looks like the flow is in the direction of
cooperation with the president.

CRIST: Well, and that`s a positive sign. I mean, you know, obviously the
president got re-elected. He got re-elected handily. I think that should
send a message to people all across the country and clearly here in
Florida, he took Florida, too, and that was in doubt for quite some time as
you know, but he did take Florida. He did well in the Sunshine State.

And I think the message is very clear that, you know, the people want
common sense. They want those in Washington to work together. They also
want them to coordinate with governors around the country to do what`s
right for the people at large. Not necessarily what somebody may think is
hard right or hard left but what`s right for most of the people, what is
common sense, and what the people deserve from their elected leaders.

MATTHEWS: Let`s do some math here. Florida Governor Rick Scott, I`m no
fan of that guy. His approval numbers are in the tank. I guess a lot of
people in Florida agree with me. I agree with them, 33 percent of
Floridians approve of the job he`s doing. That`s Rick Scott. Fifty-seven
percent disapprove. That`s a high number of disapproval, according to this
automated PPP poll in January.

Here is a good one, Governor Crist in a hypothetical matchup against
current governor, you up against the current governor, you win handily,
according to that poll. Look at this number. It looks pretty good. It`s
an early number obviously.

What do you make of that number, 53 percent to 39 percent, you being 53
percent, Governor. Rick Scott against you.

CRIST: Well, you know, it`s nice to see, but you`re right, it`s awfully
early for something like that. I mean, you know, we`re just under two
years away from the election itself, and so a lot of things can happen.

MATTHEWS: It`s hardly discouraging.

CRIST: But I think it clearly indicates -- no, you`re right, it`s no the
discouraging. Well, not for me.

But at any rate, it`s the kind of thing that, you know, you look at those
numbers and you see what`s happening, and obviously there`s been a shift in
the feelings of people across the country. I have seen -- you know, they
have seen the Republican Party, at least the leadership of the party I
should say, kind of go off the deep end. I mean, they see it in
Washington. They saw it here initially with the election of 2010.

And after a while they`re like scratching their heads, is this really the
kind of governance that we want? Don`t we want more common sense, more
mainstream? Instead of, you know, sort of an intolerant party that doesn`t
really care about people who need some help once in a while, and have a
compassionate heart about them. And I think they`ve come around to the
view that they don`t like that hard line stuff.

MATTHEWS: You ought to read Michael Gerson today. He talks like you.
Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for George W. He talks like you,
Governor. Thanks for coming on.

Jonathan, last thought from you about this change of heart from chief
executives in states who are not dealing with talk or rhetoric but reality.
They`re coming aboard for Obamacare.

ALTER: Right. Well, look, the big picture here was there was an attempt
to wrench the country to the right and the center held.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALTER: So people are now saying, no, we are -- we are at centrist nation,
and these ideologues who hate Obama and want to twist their state`s
policies to do anything to get the president, they`re really out of fashion
now and we`re returning to some common sense, which is very, very good
news.

MATTHEWS: And you`re quoting Yates. Thank you very much.

Charlie Crist, thank you. And Jonathan Alter, both of you gentlemen, have
a nice weekend.

ALTER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, it`s Oscar time even here. The Academy Awards are
Sunday night. We`ve got the great James Lipton to preview the big night.
He`s coming here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: It`s Oscar time as you can see with me. James Lipton comes to
HARDBALL with his picks for the big night. And that`s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

And it`s Oscar time. The 85th Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday night
and it`s sure to deliver shocking surprises, hopefully, and maybe a few
snubs.

There are great movies up for best picture. "Argo" and "Lincoln", two of
the great political movies of the year, you might say. I`m rooting, of
course, for the underdog, as I always. "Silver Lining Playbooks" and then,
of course, there`s "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Les Mis." And the best actor
and actress category, usually we have a pretty good idea who`s going to
win.

But this year, it feels we`re looking at a couple nail biters.

Who best to talk about all of this, the envelope please? Joining us right
now, the legendary James Lipton -- I didn`t write legendary -- writer,
executive producer and host of "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo.

James, it`s an honor to have you on.

Bradley Cooper, one of your student, he`s come out all right, huh?

JAMES LIPTON, BRAVO`S "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO": He has come out
brilliantly. We are very proud, needless to say. He is a graduate of the
Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University and I am too happy to say,
I`m proud to say that I was his dean.

MATTHEWS: Did you, as a dean, see him coming to be, in fact, one of the
serious contenders for actors?

LIPTON: His parents haunted us when he was getting his master`s degree and
I was finally approached by them one day after he had done one of his
projects. They said, what do you think? This is when he was in his first
or second year, and I said, he is going all away. And they have attested
to that since then.

So I`m not making it up. I`m not precious (ph) or prescient. I really
knew.

MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, he had a lot of nerve playing a despicable
character in "Wedding Crashers," and he still managed to get through that,
a guy that everybody hated. Remember the football game?

LIPTON: Of course. But people often achieve glory by playing nasty
characters. They are actors, for heaven`s sake.

MATTHEWS: I know, I know. You don`t have to tell -- I don`t need to go to
actors studio to know they`re actors.

Anyway, let`s talk about this. This is what he said about auditioning in
front -- keep going -- in front of you, the first time. Let`s take a
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR: Remember when you said, are you prepared to spend
the next three years of your life dedicated to this program. And I said,
yes. And then I -- then that was it, that was all he said. And then for
the next -- until I found out that I got in, we deconstructed that
sentence.

LIPTON: Want know what it meant?

COOPER: Yes.

LIPTON: I never said it unless the person was that good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, God.

Let me ask you about tonight. I think -- Sunday night, rather -- it seems
to me, my heart is with "Silver Linings." Your thoughts? Will an -- is an
upset possible or is this possibly going to "Argo" or "Lincoln"?

LIPTON: My heart, of course, is with Bradley Cooper. It goes without
saying. Why wouldn`t it be? I also had Hugh Jackman on my show and I
think Hugh is one of the most versatile actors we have ever seen on the
screen and he also is very deserving.

Do I think it`ll go to "Argo" or "Lincoln"? I think "Lincoln" is going to
squeak past "Argo," to be perfectly honest.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me talk about best actor though in the women`s --
actresses are now called actors, female actors. I`ve never seen a person
of her generation as good as Jennifer Lawrence ever. For the first time I
saw her, I said, this is something so unique. Either she is that person or
she is the greatest actor I`ve seen in her age.

LIPTON: She is remarkable. She`s 22 years old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Anything you want to know, I`ll just tell you in a letter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re just watching a clip of this.

LIPTON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: She plays somebody who is bipolar and yet loveable and yet
driven to succeed, all together. And it`s just an amazing combination.
And wise guy, too. You know, when she says crazy to him out in the street,
you know, that`s the girl you want it hang with.

She reminds me of my cousin, to be honest with you. I don`t know. This
South Jersey thing.

When you watch the Academy Award, James, you sit there and watching, and a
lot of us say, this evening gets pretty long. They are doing the sound.
They are editing.

Is anybody paying attention to that stuff? Who cares except the people
actually running for those wins?

LIPTON: You mean the people who actually there in house, watching, the --

MATTHEWS: Yes, do they care about the editing, and sound, and all of that
stuff?

LIPTON: Chris, as you know, I`ve had 15 Emmy nominations for "Inside the
Actors Studio." That means 15 times I have sat there and lost graciously.
It is the longest evening of one`s life. Whether one loses or wins, it
goes on and on and on. But it`s worth it. But it`s worth.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the big and little. We`ve -- I`ve been
thinking about the little pictures, "Marty," for example, Paddy Chayefsky`s
movie, or "Rocky", which was probably done pretty cheaply. And these
movies "Million Dollar Baby" or "Slumdog," some of these are big studio
pictures, and some are little pictures about little people. What is it? I
used to think it was the more people employed, it sounds like Ed Schultz
here -- the more people they employed in these movies, the more they want
to root for them and vote for them because that means more jobs.

But sometimes Hollywood crowd has a big heart and they root for the little
picture. What do you see is the pattern?

LIPTON: I don`t know if there is a pattern. I do know this -- Bradley
Cooper told me how long they shot on "Silver Linings Playbook." Do you
know how long the shoot was?

MATTHEWS: No.

LIPTON: Thirty-two days, 32 days. That`s a television shoot. And they
shot is in 32 days. They got together, they did it and they did it
remarkably well.

MATTHEWS: That`s a credit to David Russell. Wow.

LIPTON: Of course it is. Of course it is.

MATTHEWS: And I think he might be getting director. He might get -- now,
here is another thing. How can "Argo" win if the director, Ben Affleck,
gets snubbed? He`s not even on the list. How can it win the best picture?

LIPTON: It happens very seldom. It`s always an anomaly when it does. I
don`t think David Russell will win. And I`m not sure that his picture will
win.

But it`s not impossible. It has happened in the past.

MATTHEWS: Why do they snub Affleck? Is it jealousy?

LIPTON: I don`t know. I can`t read their minds. But I do know he was
snubbed. He wasn`t the only one snubbed. If you look at the directors
list --

MATTHEWS: They put nine movies up and they don`t put him among the top
five for director, you`ve got to wonder what`s going on, because his
picture could win easily.

LIPTON: How about Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty"? How about Paul Thomas
Anderson?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LIPTON: How about Hooper for "Les Mis"? I mean, they -- the people who
are ignored this year were themselves, all by themselves, make a perfect
list in any other year.

MATTHEWS: OK. I saw this movie, "Amour". It is an amazing movie. It all
takes place in a pretty upscale Parisian apartment.

LIPTON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s about two people approaching death. One very close to it,
obviously. Part of the story.

LIPTON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Who has dementia, and the husband trying to take care of her.

LIPTON: Right.

MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t think of that as a Hollywood type movie but it is a
great world movie. What do you think of it, the fact that it`s in the
running?

LIPTON: Well, remember, it`s running in two categories, which is very well
thing indeed. It will win for foreign film.

MATTHEWS: OK, I agree. Thank you so much, James Lipton. It`s an honor to
have you on as always. I learn so much. I enjoy your company, sir. Thank
you for coming on.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: This Sunday is, of course, the
occasion for my other interest in life, the first is politics and how this
country should be run and what it should be in the world, actually. My
other interest is movies. I really try to see the good one answers root
for them on Academy Award night. And I`m going to be doing it this Sunday.

I think the great thing about the Academy Awards is watching talent win
out. And I`m talking about the writers, directors, and actors that stick
their neck out on a movie project sometimes that no other study wants to
make.

Well, this year, my heart is going to be riding heavily on "Silver Linings
Playbook." It`s a bit of a long shot, I guess, against movies like
"Lincoln," which is really good, and "Argo," which is great. But it`s got
a lot of people rooting for it, "Silver Linings Playbook", and I`m one of
them.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. It`s a great week
here, a lot of fun with the right wing tonight.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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