updated 2/26/2013 11:02:14 AM ET 2013-02-26T16:02:14

HARDBALL
February 25, 2013

Guests: Jim Burn, Judith Browne-Dianis, Ann Hornaday


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: No country for old men.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" tonight with today`s Democratic Party. If you want to be
president, you`d better be young because you`ve got some waiting to do. If
Hillary Clinton runs in 2016 and runs again in 2020, that means the job is
not open for you until 2024.

It gets worse. If there`s a President Hillary Clinton, that means 16 years
of Democrats in the White House, the longest run since FDR and Truman.
That means an almost impossible Democratic chance to win again in 2024, if
anyone now in politics can wait that long.

So the big question looming as Democratic governors meet in Washington
right now, what other career goal makes sense if there`s no real shot at
the presidency? Or is there a lingering hope that Secretary Clinton won`t
make the run, or if she does, that she could be beaten? Is that what`s got
Governor Cuomo and Governor O`Malley and Governor Patrick and Vice
President Biden dreaming of sitting behind that presidential desk, the
outside thought of what might be?

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

Let`s take a look at this story leading Politico today, which got our minds
going. The headline reads "Dems 2016, will Hillary Clinton clear the
field?" Now let`s take a look at the Democratic contenders we see as being
in the waiting room, if you will -- you know, the people who all have signs
or have shown signs that point to them running if Hillary Clinton doesn`t -
- Vice President Joe Biden, of course, New York governor Andrew Cuomo,
Maryland governor Martin O`Malley, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and
perhaps Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Let me go to David Corn on this question. Are these people all moving
around, having little cocktail parties like O`Malley had the other day --

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: -- little snacks, little munchies for people at the governor`s
mansion -- or the governor -- at the Marriott the other day, in Westchester
last night -- are they all doing this because they think Hillary is
beatable, she`s not running, or what? Or they think what? I don`t know
what they`re thinking because we`re all thinking she`s probably going to
run.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, these guys,
I don`t know, maybe a couple senators, when they look in the mirror, they
all see a potential president. Now, they`re not going to start acting on
this. They want to make sure they`re going to, first off, do no harm, not
do anything that would prevent them from running down the road. I still
remain --

MATTHEWS: But there is no down the road if Hillary runs and wins.

CORN: Well, that`s right, but that`s why I`m convinced -- why I`m not
convinced yet that Hillary is going to run because she`ll be 69. The last
three presidents we`ve had have been 46, 54 and 47 when they took office.
America has turned to younger, more vigorous people and -- but you know,
politics is a game for risk takers.

There will be somebody, if you look at those numbers you put up beginning
of the show -- they`ll do the math and they`ll say, It`s now or never, and
they -- you know, she will have competition from either those people on the
screen or somebody else who won`t want to wait and who will wonder if
America is ready again to elect somebody that old.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Joan Walsh and try to talk about how gentlemen
used to behave.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, there was a time when men would not ask a woman her
age. Now we have what we just heard, actually giving her age and making a
knock about it. I mean, what happened to decent standards? I`m serious
here, Corn. I`m serious about this.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Boy --

MATTHEWS: And here`s my question.

CORN: Oh, boy.

MATTHEWS: It`s same one to you, Joan, as a pro. Why are those other
professionals who do this for a living -- they`re politicians -- begin
planning for a race that may never happen for them unless they`re just
going to shoot the moon and go up against a very difficult challenge?

WALSH: Well, first of all, David is a friend of mine, so I`m not going to
really rap him for that. I`m just going to stick to this.

I would match Hillary Clinton`s sense of being capable of keeping a very
vigorous schedule against anyone`s. The pace she`s kept in the last four
years, in the last eight years, would tire any of us, including you and me,
David. So let`s just leave it there and leave aside questions of age.

Look, I don`t think anybody has the -- either the resume or the star power
that Hillary Clinton brings to this. What I think these guys are doing,
though, Chris, is what David says. You know, she`s not decided. I kind of
think she will, but none of us are sure. And so if they want to be
president, they`ve got to be active. They`ve got to be out there. They
can`t be too obvious at this point.

The gentlemanly thing, or the smart political thing, whichever you want to
call it, is to wait and give her a little space and respect and see what
she does. But if she decides to run, I don`t think you see any of those
guys that you mentioned in the race.

MATTHEWS: You don`t see -- let me go back to you on that same question,
David. I think some people really are born to be president from the time
they run for student council in high school, and they run again in college,
and they`re sort of born to be campus politicos. They never stop running.

CORN: There will be --

MATTHEWS: Do you think Cuomo will step aside, do you think the vice
president -- let`s get to the vice president. If he heard Hillary -- she
called him up one night and said, Joe, I`m going for it, would he stay in
the race?

CORN: My guess is that he won`t because, you know, I`ll keep coming back
to the age issue, despite what my good friend Joan says -- he`s five years
older than she is. I don`t think he would. He doesn`t have, I think, the
same --

MATTHEWS: Are you the Grim Reaper? Is that your new role here?

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: I don`t think he says the same raison d`etre to run that she does --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: -- at that point, or the same claim on the Democratic base. But
there will be others. You`re right, these are all very ambitious people.
I don`t say that as a knock on them. They`ll be there in case -- listen,
last time around, she didn`t run a good campaign. She`s been very --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me get to that. Give me two minutes on that.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: She`s been impressive as secretary of state and she`s in a different
place now.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at Hillary`s ratings right now. The
public really is on Hillary`s side to run, obviously. The latest
Quinnipiac poll here has her at 61 percent favorable.

You know, I just wonder whether that in itself isn`t going to be a nudge,
Joan, when she looks at those numbers and says, you know, I could be the
first woman, I could maybe be on the Supreme Court if I really wanted it,
but I could actually be first ever woman president of the United States.

And there aren`t many waiting behind me that would get it fairly soon,
either, so it`s either me or nobody, perhaps, for a number of cycles,
perhaps. And so she may feel the responsibility.

As a woman, what do you think? Do you think she feels the responsibility
to take that opportunity, not just out of personal ambition but gender
equality reasons?

WALSH: Yes, I do. I think, you know, first and foremost, she is a very
dutiful person. She`s a very disciplined person. She has both a sense of
her own history but a sense of her own obligations. And I think if she
starts to feel -- you know, to get her rest in, to read some good books, to
spend some time with her family, she may look at those numbers, she may
look at the history, she may look at the bench and say, you know, I ought
to do this.

She`s going to be hearing from a lot of women around the country and around
the world, frankly, who are going to say, You can do this. You are the
front-runner, male or female.

And you know, David and I, we`ve all looked at the fact that she ran a
terrible campaign, and so I`m really reluctant to say she`s the front-
runner again because --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: -- she was the front-runner in 2007 and we saw what happened.
But this is different. I`m not saying anything is certain, but I think --
to go to the question you asked me, Chris, I think she`s got to look at
those numbers and she`s got to look at the chance and say, I will make
history and I will make a lot of women --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: -- and little girls very, very proud.

MATTHEWS: You can always learn from the other side, guys. We always try
to learn from both sides in this business of analysis. And Ronald Reagan
ran a pretty good campaign in `76 and almost knocked off an incumbent
president, Jerry Ford, with the idea of being a traditional conservative.

He came back as a supply-sider with a totally different approach and fired
his campaign manager, John Sears, after winning in New Hampshire. So you
can make radical changes in strategy and really prove yourself up to the
game.

By the way, last month on "60 Minutes," Steve Kroft, who`s good at this,
asked the president about Secretary`s Clinton`s prospects four years hence.
Let`s listen to the president`s response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": I have to ask you, what`s the date of
expiration on this endorsement?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, Steve, you know, I know --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KROFT: I have to ask that question. I mean, come on. I mean, you`re
sitting here together. Everybody in town is talking about it already, and
this is -- it`s taking place.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Steve, I got to
tell you, you guys in the press are incorrigible.

(LAUGHTER)

KROFT: I know.

OBAMA: I was literally inaugurated four days ago --

KROFT: Right.

OBAMA: -- and you`re talking about elections four years from now.

CLINTON: Yes. And I am -- as you know, Steve, I am still secretary of
state, so I`m out of politics --

KROFT: Right.

CLINTON: -- and I`m forbidden from even hearing these questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s already out of date. She`s no longer secretary of
state, by the way (INAUDIBLE)

I want to go back to this question because I really do think we are not
ahead of the calendar here right now. You two guys know, and I know, the
decision about whether Hillary Clinton runs for president is several months
off, it`s not several years off.


And these decisions have to be made for the simple reason of courtesy. If
she doesn`t make the move, these other guys are going to start making it,
and then she jumps in and it`s going to cause all kinds of mayhem. My
thought to you is -- let`s ask -- I`ll leave it open.

David and then Joan, when does she really have to make a move to signal
that she`s going to run for president?

CORN: I think she has at least a good year here --

MATTHEWS: A year.

CORN: -- to do that. I think, you know -- you know, she -- she can rest
up. You know, I spoke to a real good friend of hers about --

MATTHEWS: Rest for a year?

CORN: Yes, well, I think she needs it after the last four!

MATTHEWS: Other people have hard jobs, too, you know. They don`t get a
year to rest.

CORN: We`ll see how vigorous she is in the next year. But I talked to a
good friend of hers about a month ago, and I asked her about --

MATTHEWS: Have you ever rested for a year?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you do that. How about two days in a row and
eight hours a night.

CORN: Chris, let me just tell you this. I spoke to a good friend of hers
about a month ago, and she said Hillary would like to be president, thinks
-- you know, thinks she obviously can do a good job and would like to give
it a run, but she is, indeed, worried about the process and all the hatred
that will be thrust at her once again. We know it`s coming. And she
doesn`t relish the idea of campaigning for two years straight for the job.

MATTHEWS: Joan? Could she make an adjustment like Reagan did and run a
different kind of campaign that deals with the knowledge she gained from
the first try effectively?

WALSH: That`s a really good question. I think she can. I agree with
David. I`m not saying she`s going to rest for a year. She`s not going to
a spa, Chris, or a cloister. But I think she can afford to give speeches,
read, talk -- she wants to write another book -- for a year.

But I think by early next year, she probably has to be, out of courtesy,
out of a sense of decency to the party and to other people who want to
start assembling a team and run, she probably has to give a pretty serious
indication of her intent.

Now, I think if she runs again, she really can`t run as that front-runner.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

WALSH: It cannot be that inevitability campaign that she ran in 2007, and
she knows that. She`s got to be --

MATTHEWS: Well, if you`re watching --

WALSH: -- about the future.

MATTHEWS: If you`re watching, Madam Secretary, all three of us have
brilliant ideas.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: All of us have brilliant ideas.

WALSH: We do.

MATTHEWS: And I especially put myself in that group, and Joan and David.
We know how to do this. We`ll get you in there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, David, and thank you, Joan.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Did President Obama miscalculate? Do Republicans
prefer defense cuts -- now, this is a big whammy on the president -- or
more national debt? Apparently, they`re quite happy to take these whacks
at the Pentagon in the interest of cutting spending overall and (INAUDIBLE)
some of the social programs? Who would have expected this? Apparently,
the president didn`t.

And can the Republicans get away with it? Republicans in two key states
are up to something now, giving up -- they`re not giving up on schemes to
rejigger the Electoral College. They`re out to help their candidates next
time. Republicans figure if they can`t win in this system, they`re just
out to change it. They`re flagrant about it.

And last night`s Oscars wasn`t just about Hollywood, it was about us, all
of us. And "Argo," the winner for Best Picture, is proof. America`s back
in a winning mood.

Finally, in case you didn`t realize it, Michelle Obama`s got moves. Well,
that cross-dresser there on the left, of course, is Jimmy Fallon. The
first lady`s evolution (ph) of "mom dancing" -- you just saw it, "mom
dancing" with Jimmy Fallon. That`s tonight in the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Another scandal in the Roman Catholic church. Cardinal Keith
O`Brien, the highest-ranking church official in Great Britain, has been
accused of improper conduct with priests. Cardinal O`Brien, who`s retiring
this year, says he`ll skip the conclave in Rome to elect the next pope
because he doesn`t want to be the center of the media`s attention. But as
the church gets back to -- or actually, out there to pick someone to lead
it into the future, it now has another reminder of the worst part of its
recent past. It`s terrible news.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s showdown time, of course. The
clock`s ticking down to Friday as Republicans and Democrats face off over
that massive automatic job-killing spending cut that`s scheduled to take
place March 1st. Well, the president is taking his case to the American
people, as we`ve seen, warning the public about the impact of those cuts.
Well, today he made an appeal to the governors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, these impacts will not
all be felt on day one, but rest assured, the uncertainty is already having
an effect. Companies are preparing layoff notices. Families are preparing
to cut back on expenses. And the longer these cuts are in place, the
bigger the impact will become.

I know that sometimes folks in Congress think that compromise is a bad word
and they figure they`ll pay a higher price at the polls for working with
the other side than they will for standing pat or engaging in
obstructionism. But as governors, some of you with legislatures controlled
by the other party, you know that compromise is essential to getting things
done, and so is prioritizing, making smart choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So the question tonight, what is it the president`s campaigning
for? What`s he getting done here?

Joy Reid`s managing editor of TheGrio and Howard Fineman`s the editorial
director for the HuffingtonPost. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Howard, I keep thinking the president`s campaigning -- the first lady was
on the Oscars last night, she was on Jimmy Fallon. I think she`s
delightful. It`s all nice and soft. What has it got to do with winning
the American people`s confidence that we can get the government running on
a steady course and no more shutdown fears that seem to be hobbling us in
terms of building self-confidence for this country?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, I think the president, the Obamas, are masters of all they
survey in terms of the culture and in terms, really, of public opinion
right now. If you look at the polls, the public is on the president`s side
in terms of his priorities and they`re on his side in terms of whom they
will blame if there is a sequestration shutdown or limitation of the
government come the end of the week.

I think the president`s theory here is to build as much outside pressure on
the Republicans in the House as he possibly can to get them to cry uncle
again on taxes, so he can then move onto entitlements and modifications
there to make the grand bargain.


MATTHEWS: Any evidence it`s working?

FINEMAN: No.

It`s a long way around at this point, and he runs the risk, I think, of
painting into a corner, cornering sort of the people that he needs in the
end. So neither side at this point, both -- neither the president nor the
Republicans are really making anything easier.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the old question. You know, bullies usually get
somebody in the corner and the guy ends up killing the guy or fighting back
at least.

If you bully a person into a corner and you say you have got no alternative
but to deal with me, what do they do? They will fight. I`m not sure they
are going to say uncle.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, I`m not sure either.

And the problem, too, is that the Republican Party at this point, the
Calvin Coolidge wing of the party, is pretty much the only one that has an
ideology they can all rally around.

MATTHEWS: Which is don`t spend money.

REID: Don`t spend money and don`t raise taxes no matter what. They would
rather have the sequester, even if means defense cuts.

MATTHEWS: Did you know that two months ago? I didn`t.

REID: You know what? No. I didn`t know that that wing of the party could
actually stomach the defense part of the cuts. What they wanted was to
replace the defense cuts with entitlement cuts.

And once they realized they were not going to get the president to go out
front and say, OK, I will cut Medicare instead, they will actually will
take the defense cuts with it if they can get austerity.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s stunning to me. The hawkish party that was fighting in
Iraq, fighting in Afghanistan, a lot of neocon influence, now basically
says screw you to people like Bill Kristol and the neocons, we`re not going
to -- we`re not -- we`re out of the wars now. We don`t need the spending.

Buck McKeon, of all people, a classic appropriator from California, said in
"The New York Times," they had a great piece, a great reporting piece, that
this is something that they have basically miscalculated, the Obama people.
They didn`t understand that the Democrats -- that Republicans cared less
about defense spending than they do about spending cuts.

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I don`t know if I can prove it because I don`t know
if I went on record in The Huff Post on it two months ago, but I think
after the last time around, when, as Joy calls them, the Coolidge wing of
the Republican Party felt that they had been taken to the -- taken
advantage of, if you will, by the president on the tax negotiations in the
fiscal cliff, they were vowing and they were saying pretty clearly that
they weren`t going to let it happen again on taxes.

And I also think that the Coolidge wing of the party is a little less
neocon and a little more isolationist --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: -- little more isolationist, if you will --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: -- than the previous crowd of 10, 15 years ago that was around
George W. Bush and before that.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

FINEMAN: This is a different group, and they are --

MATTHEWS: How do you fight them?

FINEMAN: -- they are almost like -- Chris, they are almost like `60s
protesters who are getting ready to take over the Ag building, and Speaker
Boehner kind of is in the role of Dean Wormer there at Faber College. He`s
helpless.

MATTHEWS: I think this will be called the raspberry statement, not the
strawberry statement.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I got you to laugh, Howard. That`s great.

FINEMAN: Yes. It`s easy.

MATTHEWS: No, the whole idea of the raspberry statement just to screw you
guys. We don`t care if the government shuts down. We don`t care if the
spending gets cut. That`s what we`re here for.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: They want it. They want it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Remember we watched that scene in John McCain`s -- John McCain`s
town meeting a couple weeks ago that had to do with immigration.

But I will bet that same guy in the back row is probably jumping up right
now saying -- as much as he doesn`t like Mexican immigrants coming in the
country, he hates government spending, too.

REID: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And it`s the same guy.

REID: And in a way the president is sort of now being victimized by his
own success. He stripped them of everything else they had. They`re being
told they got to do immigration even though their base hates it. They
raised taxes. They voted to raise taxes, which was a central plank of
Republicanism for like my entire life. They raised taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: For 1 percent.

REID: Right. He stripped them to like their boxers.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You are really overdoing this joke. The Republicans gave away
the tax increase --

REID: They gave it away.

MATTHEWS: -- for the top 1 percent.

REID: They`re not going to give on spending.

They`re like, look, all we have got left is that we`re for austerity. We
want the spending cuts, come what may. We will do it even if --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Chris, I`m told by a lot of Democrats on the Hill that I saw over
the weekend that if the president moves an inch on entitlements, in other
words, if he resurfaces that topic, that there is room for a deal here.

But right now, the president isn`t doing that. The president is only
emphasizing the tax side of this because he wants, I think, to get cover
with his own party --

MATTHEWS: I agree.

FINEMAN: -- for when he comes along with the revenue plus entitlements
deal.

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you get the baby back from the kidnappers and get
the hostage money for them?

FINEMAN: Right. That`s the problem. That`s the problem.

MATTHEWS: That`s the old -- the whole question is how you get
simultaneity. It`s a terrible metaphor.

FINEMAN: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: But I can`t think of a better one. How you do the transfer?
How do they agree to do the same --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How does Nancy Pelosi say I know we`re going to get the tax
reform and the spending and the revenue increase and that`s why I`m willing
to go with the reform on the entitlements?

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Well, I don`t see what the incentive. I don`t get what the
incentive is for Democrats to now cut Medicare.

If they win on loopholes, if they`re able to get tax increases, if they get
defense cuts --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I will tell you why. Because if this government goes down and
we continue to have this craziness, public confidence in the economy is
going to drop and we`re going to have a second recession, and this
president`s second term ain`t going to be worth claiming. And that`s the
danger.

REID: But there`s no reason for Barack Obama to put his name on it.
Republicans are the ones who really want to cut Medicare. They are going
to have to go out front. They keep trying to push him to do it. And he`s
not going to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know why?

Let me give you my speech.

REID: OK.

MATTHEWS: All right? It`s not left or right. Somebody has got to drive
the fricking car, and the kids in the back seat can complain.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But sooner or later, you have got to drive the car , and it`s
Obama`s car. OK?

Thank you, Howard Fineman. And thank you, Joy, who I normally agree with,
but you can`t keep sitting in the back seat. Daddy, I`m hungry. She
touched me. He touched me. He`s on my side. You got to stop.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next -- car sick -- it`s the greatest thing I have seen in a
long time.

Michelle Obama`s -- it was really great -- on Jimmy -- and he was great,
too. Actually, I thought he was a mom there for a while.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Friday night on Jimmy Fallon`s show, first lady Michelle Obama joined with
a partner to demonstrate how mom dancing has progressed over the years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Just name another first lady in the history of this country to
do something like that on television. Anyway, fabulous skit. I mean it.
And Michelle Obama was truly a good sport there.

By the way, Ms. Obama`s fun times with Jimmy Fallon got a nod at
yesterday`s National Governors Association dinner here in Washington -- or
down in Washington.

Here is Delaware Governor Jack Markell speaking directly to President
Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JACK MARKELL (D), DELAWARE: You`re probably jealous of the first
lady. She`s Jimmy Fallon`s trainer.

(LAUGHTER)

MARKELL: While you on the other hand deal with Leader Reid and Speaker
Boehner.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, during an appointment at the White House last year, the
first lady gave Fallon some fitness tips.

Well, in his address to the governors earlier today, the president did some
social towel snapping, if you will.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to say thanks to
you for being on your best behavior last night. I`m told nothing was
broken, no silverware is missing. I didn`t get any calls from the
neighbors about the noise, although I can`t speak for Joe`s after-party at
the observatory. I hear that was wild.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, next the "Sideshow" meets the Oscars.

It comes as no surprise that the Iranian government is not jazzed about the
movie "Argo." The movie is all about how they were duped into believing
that their country was being used for a Hollywood movie, when the whole
thing was really a CIA operation to free six American hostages.

All the same, the results of the Academy Awards last night were reported by
the Iranian news agency Fars, including that "Argo" had won best picture.
But do you notice anything off about the snapshot they posted of Michelle
Obama presenting the award? Turns out they added some extra fabric and
sleeves to her dress. Here`s what she was really wearing.

The style apparently didn`t pass muster under the country`s strict dress
code for women, so they turned to Photoshop and got this as a result. I
guess no harm done. Wish we could always fight wars like that.

Anyway, up next, Republicans in some key blue states are doubling down on
their plans to rig or rejigger the political -- the Electoral College so
their candidates would win. If you can`t win fair and square, just change
the rules.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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JON FORTT, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jon Fortt with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Concerns about Italy`s election sent the Dow down 216 points. The S&P 500
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ended lower along with the broader market. And rental car chain Hertz was
a bright spot. The company`s latest results exceeded expectations and its
2013 guidance was bullish.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

You can`t take your eye off the Republican these days because when you do,
they`re plotting new ways to disenfranchise some voters. Just this weekend
in Michigan, for example, a move to rig the electoral vote system to hurt
urban voters got a big boost at the state`s Republican Convention in
Lansing. Republicans want to junk the winner-take-all system and allocate
votes by congressional district in the Electoral College.

What this means is the voters in cities, Detroit, for example, who tend to
be Democrats, would have their voting strength minimized because they`re
geographically bunched together.

Here`s what the disenfranchisement looks like . The real electoral vote
count in Michigan in this election last November was 16, Romney zero -- 16
Obama, of course, zero for Romney. But under the new rigged or rejiggered
system, Obama would have won seven electoral votes and Romney, who lost the
popular vote by nearly 10 percent, would get nine electoral votes. Is that
fair?

In Pennsylvania, Republicans are attempting a similar stunt. In Virginia,
stricter voter I.D. laws limiting the numbers of -- types, rather, of
acceptable I.D. required to vote have been passed by Virginia lawmakers and
now head to the governor for his signature. That`s up to Bob McDonnell
now.

And on top of all this is a section of the Voting Rights Act that is going
to be challenged this week before the Supreme Court. This is no time to
lessen protection of the right to vote.

Joining me right now is Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn and
the co-director of the Advancement Project, an organization that works to
protect voting rights, Judith Browne-Dianis.

Judith, I want to talk to you about this thing in Michigan. It`s so
obviously intended to zap the importance of Detroit. It`s so obvious
because you have a lot of minority voters living there and this just
basically says, OK, you get one C.D. We`re going to take the state.

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: That`s right.

You know, we have to understand that this wasn`t just one act, right?
First, you take over state legislatures in 2010. The GOP does that. Then
what they do is they try and make it harder to vote by passing voter I.D.
laws, and then the third part of their plan is then to change the way the
Electoral College votes are allocated so that people in communities of
color have less power, and so this is the trifecta of the GOP plan.

And we have to understand that, yes, it is not an election year in many
places, but, God bless them, the GOP has a long-term plan on how to win the
game.

MATTHEWS: Jim, in Pennsylvania, we know all about the photo voter I.D.
card. When is that going to come back into play after the court order?

And, secondly, I want to ask you about what are the Pennsylvania
Republicans up to in terms of rejiggering the Electoral College up there so
they can get a big bulk of electoral votes even if they lose the state
every time?

JIM BURN, CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, Chris --

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, you know, Advancement Project is involved in the
Pennsylvania case, and we expect that that will be -- that that I.D. law
will not be implemented for a little while because the state is moving back
off of the idea.

Every time we went to court, they would lessen the requirements. So, we
think that that`s going to -- that will play out in a bit.

MATTHEWS: Jim Burn, thank you. You`re chairman of the Democratic Party up
there.

Tell me about the whole outlook of what you see coming out of Harrisburg,
what the Republicans are up to with their majority there?

BURN: Absolutely.

The first part of your question is that there`s a court date I believe in
July, but they say it`s not -- the voter I.D., that is. They say it`s not
about cheating to win.

Well, Chris, we talked last October about how they were running around with
misrepresentations, creating the impression falsely that you needed
identification to vote in the November elections. Funny how this primary
in May of 2013, they`re not doing anything remotely close to that.

That hearing will be in July. On the second part of your question, with
respect to the Electoral College issue, how is it fair that in Pennsylvania
-- how is it fair that we would award Mitt Romney eight votes, when the
president got 20 electoral votes under our current system? Why would we
reward him eight votes when he lost by 300,000?

They started to push that in the legislature. This is a very unpopular
governor with a Republican-controlled Senate hanging on by its fingernails.
This is not a popular idea here. They`re going to push it but I don`t know
if they`re going to be successful.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Do you think Corbett would dare hang it on himself?
It seems to me it`s going to be one heck of a thing to carry across the
finish line if he`s got this on top of his unpopularity.

BURN: That`s my point, Chris. Exactly. This is not a popular governor.
In fact, he is probably the least popular governor in America right now.
No governor has been this abysmal in the ratings this close to a re-
election for Tom Corbett, that`s next year.

So, no, he`s trying to stay over the plate right now and trying to get his
ratings up. He`s failing miserably.

MATTHEWS: Yes

BURN: I just don`t see him wanting this type of political baggage when he
has enough problems as it is.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Judith.

On the couple of days, they`re running around the bases right now,
basically Virginia has got a new -- they`re pushing something now on voter
ID. You`ve got a tough -- very close, I think Cuccinelli against
McAuliffe. It could be a close race if it comes to that this fall.

If they can nick a few minority votes like 5 percent even or 3 percent or 4
percent away from McAuliffe in that general, they could take it.

DIANIS BROWNE, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I`m just wondering how much they`re getting eager to do that
right now.

BROWNE: Well, I`m sure they`re pretty eager. We`ll have a gubernatorial
election.

You know, McDonnell actually they just passed a law last year. Governor
McDonnell did not want a strict ID law. But, now, here we are, getting
close to another election and the Republicans are lining up to make it
harder to vote.

And so, I think the governor is in a tough position. He`s got to think
about what`s really fair and where he stood last time, or does he stand
with his party so that they can win? And so I think he`s in a difficult
position.

We know that they`re lining up in every state. I mean, Missouri, Arkansas,
we see that these voter ID laws are still in play because this wasn`t just
about 2012. This is a long-term plan to make sure that it`s harder for
Americans to participate in our democracy.

MATTHEWS: I want to go back to Jim about fair play here in a nonpartisan
sense. When you talk to voters, it seems to me they understand the rules
get changed in baseball. You don`t have enough home runs, you basically
what do you do? Widen the strikes or narrow the strike zone.

I mean, they do that in baseball. But it`s always jiggered for a purpose.
People say why are you doing that? Why are you changing the strike zone?
Oh, we want the game to be more exciting, you know?

In this case, you want the Republicans to win. It just seems like that.

BURN: It is. The difference is, you know, we`re talking about baseball
versus the failure of the Republican Party to be able to field an adequate
candidate. At the end of the day, they have the hard way, which is to
reinvent themselves into a fashion that is more consistent and more in line
with what Pennsylvania voters are looking for, it`s a moderate state. You
know that.

MATTHEWS: I know about that. It`s a purple. By the way, if Bill Scranton
were running, again, or Tom Ridge, they wouldn`t have to play games.

BURN: That`s exactly -- find a Bill Scranton, find a Tom Ridge, find a
John Hines. Those folks couldn`t get out of a Republican primary like now.
But if they found a candidate like, they would appeal to Pennsylvanians.
It`s easier for them to try to cheat than to do that.

And, look, I mean this is the argument. Look at Pennsylvania. Look at
Michigan. These are the type of states that justify, justify the need for
act five of the Voting Rights Act.

MATTHEWS: Do you think you would grow old to believe Eisenhower
Republicanism looked pretty good? Ha! Who would have believed it?

Thanks, Jim.

Thank you very much, Judith, it`s always good to have your expertise.

BURN: Thank you.

BROWNE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, if presidential elections are a mood ring for the
country, Oscar night is a close second. A great way to read it. So, what
did we learn ourselves in last night`s Oscar Awards?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back. If the presidential election is the best mood ring
in the country, the Academy Awards are a close second. Perhaps the biggest
surprise at last night`s Oscars was when First Lady Michelle Obama joined
the ceremony via satellite from the to announce "Argo" had won best
picture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: A now for the moment we have all been waiting
for. And the Oscar goes to -- "Argo."

BEN AFFLECK, DIRECTOR: I was here 15 years ago or something, and, you
know, I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all
really just a kid, and I went out, you know, and I never thought that I
would be back here. And I am, and it doesn`t matter how you get knocked
down in life because that`s going to happen. All that matters is that you
got to get up.

Violet, Sam and Sera, I love you. This is for you.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: I think "Argo" won last night because it reflects the mood of
this country. It`s about a successful nonviolent multinational effort to
get people out of Iran and other places we ought not to be and it`s about
America winning for example and for once.

Here now with me to discuss the politics of the Oscars, Alex Wagner, host
of "NOW" on MSNBC, and Ann Hornaday, film critic for "The Washington Post."

Ann, thank you for joining us. You`re the expert.

Every time when I think about it a decade, I try to think about what was
going on at the time. The South in the late `30s was sort of vaguely
English to make the English look good, I think before the Second World War.
The 1950s movies about biblical times and the way we treated slaves as
white people. It`s really about the way we treat black people in America
in those days.

It`s always about the present, your view. I think "Argo" is about the need
of this country to win one of these damn things overseas for once.

ANN HORNADAY, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s a point very well taken.
Movies are always allegories. But you and I have talked about this before,
too. This is an amazing year for Washington process being the star of
these movies.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HORNADAY: We had "Argo." We had "Lincoln". And we had "Zero Dark Thirty"
-- all of which really lifted the veil on these processes. And in the case
of "Lincoln", a process that we`re mired in right now, in a very
dysfunctional way, showing them working.

So, I think what -- we`ve always been interested in these looks behind the
curtain. What`s different with last year`s movies is that there was this
lack of cynicism in all of them, even though they were tough. You know,
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a tough movie, but it is not a cynical film. And I
think that`s what really sets these apart.

MATTHEWS: I agree (ph).

I was thinking, Alex, you know, I thought when "Recount" came out, the HBO
film --

ALEX WAGNER, "NOW" HOST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- this is the first time I said to people, you know what
government looks like? That`s what it is like. It is messy.

You know, Al Gore`s side takes one. We`ll count those three counties. The
other guys count other counties. It`s the games that go on behind the
scenes that really is government, democracy in action.

WAGNER: Yes, you know, I will say this, though, Chris.

One of the things about "Argo" that I think offered audiences, as you
pointed out, a conclusion. It`s been so long since we`ve had any sort of
clear cut foreign policy, quote-unquote, "win".

And that was a messy situation. I mean, eight servicemen died and ended
Jimmy Carter`s presidency or his re-election bid, but it`s presented in
this kind of digestible package. It is a clear feel good movie.

"Zero Dark Thirty" on the other hand is an incredibly gray movie. I mean,
the filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal said as much. And I think it
left people either angry that the questions weren`t answered or that there
wasn`t more of a clear cut viewpoint on torture.

And even "Lincoln" was, I think, a feel good movie because America -- it
sort of showed America coming together to end slavery and close a very
ugly, bloody chapter in our nation`s history. But at the same time, you
know, speaks of dysfunction in Washington which makes us all I think a
little queasy.

MATTHEWS: You know what I liked about last night? I liked Seth MacFarlane
for the reason he was more like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. He was
respectful in his own irrespectful way.

I don`t know how to explain. He was a wise guy. I can say worse things
about him, because he said things he shouldn`t have said about getting into
Lincoln`s head, these terrible lines. But I get the sense he set it up so
you could have Shirley Bassey come back and give that wonderful rendition
of reprise of "Goldfinger." Got old finger, I mean, it`s just great stuff.

And then to have Barbara Streisand sing for the guy she loved, cared so
much about, Marvin Hamlisch who I got to know as well.

I thought there was some great stuff. I thought the "Les Mis" production
number was great. It was old school.

Your thoughts about the homage of the past. I think it was great when
America loves the best parts of its past.

HORNADAY: Well, I take your point. And I love the Shirley Bassey moment.
And I love the set. It did have that old school glamour that opening
number which Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron. It really did -- was a
throwback.

I do think at some points in the actual show, it looked like they were
trying to be the Tony`s or win a Tony, as our TV critics said today. So, I
could have gone -- and I always think it`s sad when people win an award and
might even be there one and only time up on that stage and they -- their
acceptance speech gets cut off because they need to have room for yet
another production number.

So I do think that sometimes we lose sight of what this means to the people
who are actually there. But I do take your point. I mean, I think that
it`s always nice to have a good old fashioned song and dance man in that
position.

MATTHEWS: I think the guy is great.

Anyway, let me ask you about the Obamas. This is the second time
politicians have got involved in these awards. Bill Clinton was involved
with the Golden Globes. I think it`s the bicoastal America. I mean, if
you look at a map of this country after a presidential election, it`s
pretty clear the way it works. You got New York and the New England states
and Northeast and then around Michigan it stops, you know? Or Illinois.

WAGNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And then you have this vast amount of flyover country, and then
there`s L.A. and then there`s San Francisco. And here it seems to me
another one of the marriages of the bicoastal, the left coast against the
East Coast. Republicans don`t do this.

WAGNER: Chris, there are two things. One, could Laura Bush have done it?
No. If she`d appear at the Oscars, I don`t think she wouldn`t have been
greeted with the same amount of warmth.

But, two, the first lady`s message was about American entrepreneurism. It
was about children believing their dreams. It`s what we can do when we
believe in ourselves and believe in love, which is a fairly benign first
lady message.

MATTHEWS: She was thought (ph) to be Jack Nicholson.

WAGNER: But, Chris, I mean, in terms of a map, there are a lot of states
in the middle of the country that the Obamas are putting in play, whether
that`s, you know, the Southwest, the middle West. I mean we`re not talking
just a bicoastal marriage.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re fighting my point but maybe you`re right. I
don`t think so.

Let me get back to you, Ann Hornaday. This cultural connection between
left coast and the Democrats, it` s getting pretty pronounced. Come on,
Jack Nicholson, the ultimately irreverent Hollywood guy.

HORNADAY: Oh, I thought it was shocking, actually. I just written a story
that day about the degree to which the campaigning that the studios were
doing for the Oscars was overlapping with political gamesmanship in
Washington.

MATTHEWS: Who got Michelle? Who got that get?

HORNADAY: It was Harvey Weinstein.

MATTHEWS: He pulled her in.

HORNADAY: It was what the reporting was telling us.

WAGNER: It was Harvey Weinstein`s daughter.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

HORDAY: I wish, you know, if I had a wish for that moment, I think I
really -- especially in the light of Newtown and the discussions that we`re
having about gun violence and the media, I think she`s in the prime
position to be a leader on media literacy, you know? And she did come out
for arts education. I think even to make it more pointed in terms of media
literacy and the importance of that, that would have been a perfect podium.
I hope if she continues in this vein, I hope that she`ll think about.


MATTHEWS: OK. Ann Hornaday, I hate to say this, you`re always right. You
are always right.

Thank you, Alex Wagner. You`re sometimes right as well.

We`ll be right back, of course.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with why I really like last night`s
Oscars.

I like the way it respected both the past and the present. "Argo" won
because people that went to see it at the movies applauded like mad at its
ending. And that never happens. It happened this time.

I believe it`s because it showed the kind of foreign policy event we miss
today. It`s about winning. It was about doing it nonviolently. It was
about cooperating with another country.

It`s about getting the heck out of one of those countries, at least, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. We get stuck and can`t seem to ever get out of.

Look, I believe the Academy Awards are America`s other mood ring.
Presidential election is the first.

The beauty of last night`s awards show is it tells you so much and in so
many different ways us about. And one thing it told me is America is
hungry for a winner.

Movies are always about today. It can be a period piece, but it`s really
about the times we`re living in. Look at "MASH" from the old days on
television. It was supposed to be about Korea. And we all know it was
about Vietnam.

And all those sword-and-sandals movies about the biblical times. They were
really about Jim Crow and the need for civil rights in this country.

And "Lincoln" wasn`t about what happened in 1865. It`s how politics
practiced for a good purpose can really get something done, even today,
something historic, even glorious. And we ought to take a lesson from
that.

And, by the way, put me down as a Seth MacFarlane fan. I know there were
some things I would have cut from his lines last night. But this guy
reminds me of the good old days of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. He brought
back show business to the Academy Awards and in a good way, set up the
really powerful moments like Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" 50 years
later and that great production number from "Les Mis", and, of course, my
friend Barbara Streisand paying lovely and poignant tribute to our mutual
friend and her great friend, Marvin Hamlisch.

Finally, you now I like Jennifer Lawrence winning for best actress, because
she really is.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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