updated 2/27/2013 12:50:02 PM ET 2013-02-27T17:50:02

HARDBALL
February 26, 2013
Guests: Peter Beinart, Steve Clemons, Steve LaTourette, Jimmy LaSalvia,
Kathleen Kane, Marjorie Margolies, Jimmy LaSalvia


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hagel`s in.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. We can usually tell when a political
party has gone off the deep end. Republicans did it with Goldwater,
Democrats with McGovern. FDR did it when he tried to pack the Supreme
Court. Republicans did it when they impeached Bill Clinton.

So let`s talk about this grandstanding hula-hooping bonanza of BS the
Republicans have thrown at Chuck Hagel. Just look at the list of GOP
senators who voted today again to continue the filibuster against the
president`s nominee for secretary of defense.


Check these names -- Barrasso and Enzi of Wyoming, Cornyn and Cruz of
Texas, Crapo and Risch of Idaho, Paul and McConnell of Kentucky, Boozman of
Arkansas, Coats of Indiana, Fischer of Nebraska, Grassley of Iowa, Heller
of Nevada, Hoeven of North Dakota, Inhofe of Oklahoma, Isakson of Georgia,
Johnson of Wisconsin, Kirk of Illinois, Lee of Utah, Moran of Kansas,
Portman of Ohio, Roberts of Kansas, Rubio of Florida, Scott of South
Carolina, Toomey of Pennsylvania, Vitter of Louisiana and Wicker of
Mississippi.

Think about it. All these men -- they were all men -- voted against even
having a vote on Hagel. They did so after it was clear there would be a
vote today on Hagel. They did it to put themselves on record for no better
reason than to undermine -- "undermine" is the key word here -- the
successful functioning of our government.

They knew it would hurt Hagel`s prestige, knew it would discredit President
Obama`s leadership on national defense, and did it anyway for that very
reason, I say. Want to know why the government`s grinding to a halt these
days, why people on both sides can`t seem to find a way to work together.
Check this list. They are men bent on division, distrust and disdain
toward the elected presidency of Barack Obama. And I mean it.

I`m joined by "The Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons and Peter Beinart of the
DailyBeast. These people are disreputable! Peter Beinart, why on God`s
earth would a United States senator, whose purpose is to help the republic
work, for this government to work, knowing that this guy is going to be
secretary of defense, knowing there`s going to be a vote on it, vote
publicly to deny him even a vote today? Why would they do that?

PETER BEINART, DAILYBEAST: Well, I think it`s because they wanted to
somehow show that they are more militantly in opposition than anybody else.
But the whole thing is absurd.

MATTHEWS: They already did that!

BEINART: That`s right and...

MATTHEWS: They already did that a week ago or two weeks ago!

BEINART: That`s right. And they...

MATTHEWS: You know, Peter, they did it. They did all that. They made --
they dumped all over this guy`s nomination. They attacked him in the
hearing. They gave all their statements, issued all their press releases.
They made their point. Why would they do it the very day they knew he`d be
confirmed...

BEINART: Well, because...

MATTHEWS: ... knowing they would be dumping on him as secretary of
defense, not as a nominee, but actually as secretary of defense?

BEINART: Because we have so debased the idea of the filibuster that I
honestly think now people think of not voting to allow a vote as simply the
same as voting no. This is how corrupted our political system has become,
that actually, people see voting for a filibuster as simply no different
than simply voting against someone. The whole system is not working the
way it`s supposed to.

MATTHEWS: You know what? Steve, I respect any opinion on this within
bounds. There are problems with this nomination. This is not Superman.

STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY": Right.

MATTHEWS: But they looked, they looked and they looked, and I said Fair
enough. They looked. Had he ever made an anti-Semitic remark in private?
Had anybody ever heard him say anything that was awful, that was
disreputable? And they looked and they looked and they looked, and they
couldn`t find it. And they still voted to deny him a vote!

CLEMONS: Well, I find it interesting that two of the most militant
senators opposed to Hagel nonetheless did the right thing and voted for
cloture...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CLEMONS: ... and that was John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Those were two
of the centerpieces. But when you look at Jim Inhofe, Ted Cruz -- Inhofe
is ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. He has certain
responsibilities...

MATTHEWS: Right.

CLEMONS: ... of respect for the other side and how he`s going to handle
it. And I think they just blew it.

MATTHEWS: And they voted against him again today, of course. But you`re
right, they voted against -- or voted for cloture to stop the debate so we
could actually have a vote today.

Let me ask you about this, Peter. Now, let`s talk about the look looking
forward and what this does to our government. We`ve got a government
closed down in a lot of defense spending in the next couple months. It`s
going to hurt a lot. We have a potential -- we have a war we`re still
fighting. I wish everybody remembered that. We are fighting a war in
Afghanistan. Men and women are out there on the front on post right now,
in some cases, scared to death wherever they`re stuck, fighting the enemy.
And (INAUDIBLE) back here couldn`t even agree on a secretary of defense in
the chain of command.

What`s it do to the active military? What`s it do to our future potential
for saving money in defense and perhaps fighting another war in Iran?

BEINART: Oh, I think it`s terrible. I mean, the fact that Afghanistan,
which you remember Mitt Romney never mentioned in his speech at the
Republican national convention, was barely mentioned by any of the
Republican senators in the seven-and-a-half hour Hagel hearing. I just
think it shows how fundamentally unserious and unreal so much of this
foreign policy debate is.

This hawkish party, this party which claims to be the party of national
security and the military, basically acting as if the United States is no
longer at war, when American soldiers are still dying there.

I think, unfortunately, this very, very nasty campaign against Hagel -- and
let`s be honest, Hagel`s not very stellar performance in front of the
Senate Armed Services Committee -- is going to make it harder for him to
have the political leverage that he`s going to need to make the tough
decisions on cutting the defense budget. He`s going to have to rebuild
some of the political clout that I`m afraid he lost over the past few
weeks.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s go with that, Steve. Same question. What`s this
mean to the republic, to our country, the wars were fighting now, the one
we`re sort of getting out of in Iraq, the one we`re still in in
Afghanistan, the one we may face within months?

CLEMONS: Look, I know Chuck Hagel and I know him well. I know that he is
going to sit down and he is going to do exactly what Peter said. He`s
going to come out with a plan. He`s going to communicate with the soldiers
in the field. He`s going to remind them he was a sergeant, too. And he is
going to implement the president`s policy of shifting out of the wars that
we`re engaged in now and sorting out other priorities.

And I think -- you know, my estimate of this is that he`s going to come out
with a very, very good and confident-looking strategy for the military and
its priorities and how to responsibly handle what likely are to be very
sizable cuts. So he`s going to do it.

But people in the GOP are saying that he`s going to have to reinvent their
relationship with them. I think it`s the other way around. I grew up in
Oklahoma. My parents are in Texas. These places have bases, defense
contractors.

Now, Hagel will be judicious. He`s not going to hold anything against
them, but their constituents are going to want, Can you talk to Chuck Hagel
about our base? Can you talk to him about our -- I don`t know if he`s
going to take their call (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, he may have to because...

CLEMONS: Well, he will take their calls.

MATTHEWS: ... they`re going to find some other way of bullying (ph) him.

CLEMONS: He`s not going to hold -- you know, hold any grudges.

MATTHEWS: So I guess...

CLEMONS: But their grudges are going to cost their constituents.

MATTHEWS: Peter, let`s talk about the republic and how we`re doing as a
country right now. What does this say about the ability of a president to
pick his cabinet, especially the top officers? I know they`re going after
Jack Lew. They gave -- I guess Kerry got in pretty clean, but it looks
like they`re being very tough on these top appointees.

BEINART: That`s right. You know, and this obsession with the Benghazi
thing, it seems to be -- again, it`s a way for the Republicans to still
continue to fight the last election. And just politically, it`s hard to
understand what the Republicans feel that they`re gaining by continually
picking these fights that they know they`re not going to win.

It seems like -- you know, you`re a student of the history, Chris. You
know how this happens. Sometimes, when parties get smaller because they`ve
lost elections, they get more captive for a while by their most extremist
wings. And if you look at the way that Ted Cruz was essentially driving
this whole debate over Chuck Hagel, you see that you have a Republican
Party win (ph) in some ways its most militant factions, the ones who are
furthest away from ever being able to help the Republican Party compete
nationally, are the ones driving the agenda.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think one thing they`d like to do -- let`s talk about
the golden fleece, if you will, what they`re really after here. I think
what the Republicans want to do with Benghazi -- it`s the thing they`re
only -- the only thing they`re interested -- the only -- they`re the only
ones interested in it -- is potentially, in their dream world, that they
can prove that the president of the United States got an emergency call
from Benghazi, from Libya, and heard that our ambassador, Chris Stevens,
was in trouble, was under attack, and went off and played golf or had his
dinner or forgot about it.

They want to be able to show that somehow, the president of the United
States didn`t go to the defense of his own guy over there and that`s why
the guy`s dead. I think that`s what they`re after. I don`t think there`s
any proof, any evidence, any reason to believe it, but that`s the only
thing that can justify this continual refocusing and refocusing and re-
attack.

Peter, what do you think?

BEINART: And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You said (ph) they`re fighting the old battle. I think they`re
still going after Obama personally.

BEINART: It`s also about Hillary Clinton in 2016, right? I mean, it`s
about trying to take away the benefit she`s gotten from what most people
agree has been -- was a pretty successful run as secretary of state and
creating...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: ... a political scandal they can use all the way through until
the next presidential election.

MATTHEWS: And let`s face it, Steve, they`re going to turn on Hillary the
minute she makes a move, right?

CLEMONS: Oh, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... we love her more than Obama.

CLEMONS: They`re waiting and looking. They`re looking already (ph).

MATTHEWS: Only lasts as long as Obama`s (INAUDIBLE)

CLEMONS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the confirmation vote. We just got it in
here late this afternoon. Chuck Hagel`s been confirmed by 58 to 41. So he
got some Republican votes there.

CLEMONS: Well, it`s interesting. You know, John Bolton, when he was up
for undersecretary of state, not the U.N. job, he also had 41 no votes
against him. So they`re tied. So those that were the Bolton crowd can
feel like they got a tie with Chuck Hagel.

MATTHEWS: The symmetry...

(CROSSTALK)

CLEMONS: But Chuck Hagel got confirmed.

MATTHEWS: Your attempt at symmetry disturbs me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think nobody`s in the same league as Bolton. But let me ask
you the same question. Why do they keep bringing up Benghazi? What`s this
bee in their bonnet? Is it the...

(CROSSTALK)

CLEMONS: I think for them, there`s the earnest side, if you want to give
John McCain and the others the benefit of the doubt, where they`re national
heroes and they think that this is a marker for things like the Iraq surge.
And it`s all bundled together...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CLEMONS: ... that if you`re not in the right place on that, you`re not a
true national hero stewarding the interests of the country in the right
way. The deeper thing is this is a time where the other side really just
wants to tear down the president any way he can, and to do it viciously
every day over and over again, and not be about constructive solutions.
Now, I happen to be one who doesn`t think that John McCain and even Lindsey
Graham are really about that, but I think that the Ted Cruzes and Inhofes
are. I think that...

MATTHEWS: Cruz is voting against everybody!

CLEMONS: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask...

(CROSSTALK)

CLEMONS: ... the slander. We got to call it what it is. There is a game
of slander that`s coming out of U.S. Senate offices today in a way that we
haven`t seen in generations. That`s what we should be worried about.

MATTHEWS: Well, we saw the staffer who said, We`re going to prove by the
end of these hearings that he`s an anti-Semite. Remember that one?

CLEMONS: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me talk about something more...

CLEMONS: Friends of Hamas.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... understand. Peter, I know you`re a high-level policy
analyst, but let`s talk really down and dirty politics. I don`t dislike
Lindsey Graham. In fact, I like him. I disagree with him on a lot of -- I
don`t dislike the guy at all. And I got to tell you, I think he`s facing a
potential right-wing challenge for renomination down there in South
Carolina. By some standards on the Republican right down there, he`s a
moderate Republican, I guess.

Was this a way to show that he had some bullets in his gun and he was
willing to play right-wing cowboy on issues like Benghazi, and that would
make up for the fact he was smart and reasonable and even a bit progressive
on issues like immigration?

BEINART: Absolutely. You know -- you know, Lindsey Graham reminds me of
what Al D`Amato used to be like, remember, when he was senator from New
York.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BEINART: You know, in the last couple of years, he would have to race to
his left politically -- D`Amato -- to get in touch with New York. And in
some ways, you know, Graham does the same thing. And he`s actually
relatively moderate the first four years, and the last couple years, he
races to get in line with the Tea Party people because people have seen
what happened to Richard Lugar. I mean, there were people who were
considered reasonable conservative...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: ... credentials who are now no longer conservative enough to win
their own primaries, and that`s what`s driving even big questions like how
you vote on Chuck Hagel.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I remember Pataki in New York also moved to the center.
But that was for general election reasons. And I generally salute that. I
like people that move to the center in general elections. It`s the whackos
that move so far right that they`re incredible when they come to the
general. Of course, they don`t have general elections in South Carolina,
of course. That is a problem.

Anyway, thank you -- not the ones that are close. Steve, thank you much.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Peter Beinart. You always impress me.

Coming up: The fight over those massive automatic job-killing spending cuts
set to take place this week is the fifth -- the fifth fiscal showdown
between Congress and President Obama just since 2011. And now it`s true
gridlock, and it could be taking the country down economically, and that`s
what I fear.

We`ve got two former members of Congress, a Democrat and a Republican,
coming here. I want to know what they`d do if they were president in one
case, House speaker in another. We`ve got to figure out a way to work
together in this country because split government looks like it`s here to
stay for a while.

Another sign, by the way, of how far this country has come on marriage
equality -- some good news here for progressives -- a group of Republicans
has signed onto a brief to the Supreme Court supporting gay marriage.

And the rising stars of the Democratic Party. Tonight, we`re going to
bring you someone I`ve been keeping an eye on, someone I expect big things
from, Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane. She`s one of several
women I`m watching out there who will soon be in the national on-deck
circle.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with my growing concern that things are not
working out so well in this city of Washington.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The annual Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, is
coming to town here next month, and one Republican star won`t be there.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie wasn`t invited. Christie`s a Republican
with sky high-approval ratings at home and a potential presidential
contender for the GOP in 2016. We all know that.

But he committed a cardinal sin, to some conservatives. He lavished
praise, even touched President Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane
Sandy, and now he`s getting snubbed by CPAC. Then again, it might not be
such a bad thing for Governor Christie. Republican strategist Steve
Schmidt, who is smart, called CPAC, quote, "The `Star Wars` bar scene of
the conservative movement." Remember that scene?

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. True gridlock -- and that`s where we
stand tonight, no closer to a deal to avoid those automatic spending cuts
set to take effect this Friday. And just like Democrats and Republicans in
Washington, the public has mixed views on just what to do about the deficit
and the budget.

Let me show you some new numbers from our own NBC/"Wall Street Journal"
poll just out tonight. We asked how Americans feel about the president`s
budget negotiations with Republicans in Congress. Do they make people feel
more or less confident about the economy? Well, a majority, 51 percent,
said it made them less confident. In other words, all this (INAUDIBLE)
rigmarole, failure to get something done, is hurting people`s confidence in
the economy, and it could really have a real impact on our lives.

On the spending cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday, 52 percent said
they are a bad idea, but 53 percent think Congress should deal with the
deficit with either Friday`s scheduled cuts or plan even more cuts. In
other words, they`re complicated on this. The public says they don`t like
the idea of automatic spending cuts, but if they had to choose, they`d say,
I`d rather have these spending cuts plus more spending cuts. So they`re
answering (ph) in a fiscally conservative way, and also concerned about the
way it`s being done.

And when asked which statement is more in line with their thoughts on the
cuts, the country looks pretty evenly divided, 50 percent say the spending
cuts are too severe, 46 percent say it`s time for dramatic measures to
reduce the deficit. By the way, those numbers, if you look at them,
reflect the whole (ph) numbers, 50 percent being roughly Obama`s and 46
percent being roughly Romney. So people are pretty level-headed about
this.

So with numbers like that, what do you do if you`re President Obama or
Speaker John Boehner? I`ve got two former members of the House of
Representatives with me tonight, Democrat Marjorie Margolies of
Pennsylvania, who teaches at Penn, and Republican Steve LaTourette of Ohio.
Thank you.

Congresswoman, thank you so much. And I`m going to put you in a difficult
position, which is to be President Obama right now. He has given so many
speeches. His wife`s all over the place. Mrs. Obama`s on every show now,
including the Academy Awards. They`re getting a lot of popularity, but
it`s kind of thin, I suppose. It`s nice. It`s good. It`s happy.

But what`s that got to do with getting a deal with the Republicans, who are
insistent on no new revenues?

MARJORIE MARGOLIES (D-PA), FMR. CONGRESSWOMAN: You know, I think -- I
think -- actually, let me add onto what you were saying. Twenty-seven
percent of the public says that -- that they`re not even interested in it
anymore.

I don`t know. I don`t know where to go. If I were doing it, I would say,
Let`s look at Bowles-Simpson, Simpson-Bowles, A and B. What are we doing?
I mean, where should the cuts be? I mean, the military says that cuts can
be had with a scalpel, not with a cleaver.

Twenty years ago, when I was in Congress, I said, Let`s talk about
entitlements. We`ve never really dealt with entitlements except on the
margins. And that`s what I would be doing if I were president.

MATTHEWS: OK. So there`s a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Margolies is saying what Obama`s not saying. The president
says he will do it after the Republicans do their thing on tax reform and
raise some revenues. Then he says, I`ll look at reforming Medicare and
Medicaid. So it`s a sequence thing. Sure, I`ll do it.

It`s like I say in this terrible metaphor, it`s like there`s been a
kidnapping and you want the baby back and you have to give the money to the
kidnappers. Where do you do the drop? How do you make it simultaneous
because nobody trusts anybody?

Congressman, your thoughts.

STEVE LATOURETTE (R-OH), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: You`re now Mr. Boehner, nervous Mr. Boehner who cries
occasionally. You have to play him, your friend.

LATOURETTE: He`s a (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Why -- can he cut a deal?

LATOURETTE: Yes, he can cut a deal.

MATTHEWS: What would be the deal he`d cut with the president?

LATOURETTE: Well, he was close to a deal a year ago, August in 2011, on
the debt ceiling limit, and he was pulled back by his folks, more
conservative folks. And the president was pulled off the cliff, too, if
you look at Bob Woodward`s book as to how that thing unraveled.

You got to -- you got -- they both have to channel. He needs to channel Tip
O`Neill, and the president needs to channel Ronald Reagan.

And they have to do things. Everybody talks about that like, oh, that was
wonderful. It was bliss. It was euphoria. But they made tough choices.
They raised the age of Social Security, and they also whacked people that
had public pensions and got the government pension offset. And they raised
revenues.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LATOURETTE: And the only way you solve this problem is through the big
deal. The president needs..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don`t you have to go big to do a big deal?

LATOURETTE: Yes, but you know what? These are the leaders of the country.

MATTHEWS: Is your leader your leader?

LATOURETTE: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think Boehner is your leader?

LATOURETTE: He is my leader. Well, he`s not anymore. I`m retired. I
play a lot of shuffleboard.

MATTHEWS: No, you I don`t think he calls the shots in your party.

LATOURETTE: I don`t agree with that.

He calls the shots. He has 40 or 50 that came in, in 2010 that are going
to vote no matter what. It`s final to forget those guys.

MATTHEWS: Has he done that?

LATOURETTE: Yes, he has. He -- well, I got to tell you he did it at the
end of the year. When they rejected plan B, he broke what everybody calls
the Hastert rule and put it on the floor the deal.

MATTHEWS: I know.

LATOURETTE: Well, he did it.

MATTHEWS: Well, the Hastert rule means you can`t vote unless you get the
majority of your own party first.

LATOURETTE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, we heard some harsh words from Speaker Boehner and
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this morning. Let`s hear what they had to say
in the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t think the
president`s focused on trying to find a solution to the sequester. For 16
months, the president has been traveling all over the country holding
rallies, instead of sitting down with Senate leaders in order to try to
forge an agreement over there in order to move the bill.

We have moved the bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a
third bill before the Senate gets off their (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and begins
to do something.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The Republican leadership
says let the Senate begin.

I remind them that the Constitution says that appropriations and revenue
bills must begin in the House. So we have important work to do. The
American people want us to work together. Most people don`t even know what
the word sequester means. Sequestration equals unemployment.
Sequestration, we don`t want it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know what I think, Marjorie? And this is my big concern,
that both parties are -- neither -- are no longer competitive with each
other. There`s no common group of voters, like there used to be Reagan
Democrats out there, usually conservative people, a lot of Catholics and
conservative Jewish people, that switched back and forth, and Protestants.
I guess some of them switched, although they normally vote Republicans.

And they switched back and forth and therefore you could compete for that
clump of voters. Therefore, a smart politician would say let`s try to get
that center. Today, the Democrats play to the progressives and the
Republicans play to the conservatives and the districts are all
gerrymandered and nobody wants to go to the middle.

And I don`t hear Boehner going to the middle and I don`t hear the
president. And that is a problem, because I like the president.

MARGOLIES: And there`s huge frustration even with members.

Bob Brady, who is children of the City Committee and is head of the House
Administrations Committee, says that he is absolutely -- it`s more than
frustrated. He`s revolted. He can`t believe -- he cannot believe that
nothing -- he said it`s tied up with leadership and members of Congress are
walking around saying, what the hell is going on?

Frustration is all around. The sequestration would almost be comical if it
were not affecting so many people. It would be kind of like "The
Producers." Let`s do it, and nobody will like it, the show will never
open. And it`s there.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARGOLIES: And I think the public is -- has crisis fatigue.

What are we going to do with it? The C.R. is coming in a month. They have
the debt crisis in the wings. People are just frustrated, and I think that
members of Congress, members are extremely frustrated, too.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the president went out there campaigning thinking
that the Republican Party would never go along with defense cuts because
it`s a hawkish party, and what do you know?

You seeing people like Buck McKeon, a real appropriator, saying, no, I will
take the defense cuts if I can get some domestic cuts. Miscalculation by
the president?

LATOURETTE: Miscalculation to put in place sequester.

But they can save it all when you get to the end of the C.R. if this is the
wake-up call and it sobers people up, and you actually got to get up and go
to work. You can make the big deal still and get it done. But to your
point on the districts, in Marjorie`s state, a guy name Tim Holden, 20-year
veteran, a great guy, represented Hershey, Pennsylvania, Democrat, he lost
because he wasn`t a good enough Democrat.

And the same thing happens in my party. The biggest challenge we face now
are primaries on the right or left. It`s not November anymore.

MATTHEWS: That`s a problem.

LATOURETTE: It is.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Congressman.

LATOURETTE: Thank you. A pleasure. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming.

Well, Congresswoman Margolies, I have always respected you. Thank you for
coming on tonight.

Up next: So, how did first lady Michelle Obama end up announcing the
Academy Award winner for best picture? We have got some new details about
how Oscar`s biggest secret stayed that way. Actually, I was surprised at
the very moment of it. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, the late-night comedy recap of the Academy Awards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": From last night`s
Academy Awards, a special segment we call first time applauding?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": For only the sixth time in Oscar
history, there was a tie. The first Oscar for sound editing went to the
editor of "Zero Dark Thirty," Gandalf the Grey.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: And then the second went to the editor of "Skyfall," Saruman the
White.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Both men thanked their mothers, Brazilian blowouts and Vidal
Sassoon.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Michelle Obama announced
the winner for best picture last night from the White House. That came as
a surprise.

But something happened. I thought -- maybe I thought this was a bit rude.
Take a look.

JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: Mrs. Obama, do you have your envelope?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: And the Oscar goes to...

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "Argo."

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the appearance from Michelle Obama was, of course, one of
the night`s surprises. And there`s a reason we didn`t know about it
beforehand.

"The L.A. Times" has chronicled the operation from start to finish. It
turns out the idea for the first lady to appear at the Oscars was hatched
even before the producers knew whether it would be Michelle Obama or Ann
Romney. The idea was brought to the first lady`s team by film mogul and
Obama supporter Harvey Weinstein when he attended President Obama`s second
inauguration last month.

Then the logistics were put in place, some extra precautions that kept the
whole thing under wraps. The few people who were in the know told a crew
last week that they were having an emergency meeting about one of the
show`s musical numbers. In reality, they were helping the first lady
rehearse via satellite.

The winner -- the winner envelope, in fact, was hand-delivered to the White
House over the weekend. So the first lady -- or whoever she showed it to
you actually -- knew who was going to win, I guess.

Anyway, throughout the show, the producers were backstage sending text
messages to the White House staffers making sure everything was good to go.
Even the first lady`s location in the White House was chosen not so much
for the ambiance of the room, but because the room where they did it would
be free all weekend for the setup phase.

Next, the latest state to be toying with nullification, Alaska. The
state`s Republican led House passed a bill yesterday which would exempt
Alaskans from having to follow any federal gun or ammunitions restrictions
and would subject federal agents who try to enforce gun laws up there to
felony charges.

Well, Alaska`s speaker of the House led the charge on this one. Here he is
last month talking about nullifying the president`s executive orders on gun
control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has the power to issue executive orders.
I`m just wondering which...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I also have the ability to not like the authorities
that he`s passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don`t necessarily have the ability to nullify
things that the federal government has...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that`s something that the people in my district are
looking at, is nullification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like that was resolved a long time ago, when
Andrew Jackson was president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we can go back if we want to all the way back to
George Washington if we want to go farther back. So -- well, no, even
before Thomas Jefferson, so -- and how we became a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I have no idea what that guy is talking about.

Anyway, nullification became a thing of the past legally in 1833, which is
why plenty of people are saying the move in Alaska is unconstitutional and
will never, ever be enforced.

Finally, remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We took a concerted effort
to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to
become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women`s groups and said, "Can you help us find
folks?" and they brought us whole binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you thought binders full of women left the scene with
the rest of 2012, you didn`t catch "Jeopardy" yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JEOPARDY")

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": Here are the categories for you. Hugo
awards for science fiction, 1990s music, world place names, funny things
people say, a bunch of stuff, potpourri, really, and a binder full of
women.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A binder full of women for $400.

TREBEK: She`s the 111th justice of the Supreme Court.

Keith?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Sonia Sotomayor?

TREBEK: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight hundred, binder full of women.

TREBEK: In 2012, this Berliner topped "Forbes"` list of the 100 most
powerful women for the second year in a row.

Colby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Merkel?

TREBEK: Angela Merkel, correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Binders full of women lives on, on "Jeopardy."

Up next: A group of high-profile Republicans is urging the Supreme Court
to support marriage equality. It`s yet another sign of how fast this
country is moving on this issue.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow gains 116 points, the S&P adds nine and the Nasdaq finishes up 13.
Comments from Ben Bernanke helped to boost stocks. The Fed chairman
downplaying concerns about the Central Bank`s bond-buying program and low
interest rate policy. Investors also cheering new data on the health of
the housing market. New home sales jumped nearly 16 percent last month.
And a separate report showed home prices rose a stronger-than-expected 0.9
percent in September.

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

MATTHEWS: Well, some good news for progressives in this story. Welcome
back.

Exactly one month from today, on March 25, the United States Supreme Court
will begin hearing arguments on two landmark cases both regarding same-sex
marriage or marriage equality, if you will. And up the to lead-up to that,
the groundswell of support for gay marriage among prominent Republicans is
being showcased like never before. This week, a friend of the court amicus
brief signed by at least 80 Republicans will be filed in the Proposition 8
marriage equality case. That`s out in California supporting same-sex
marriage.

Six former Republican governors have signed on, including former
presidential candidate Jon Huntsman of Utah, former New Jersey Governor
Christine Todd Whitman, and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.

Also signing their names, Mary Cheney, Nicolle Wallace, who was
communications director in the Bush administration, Ben Ginsberg -- that
impressed me -- he`s the counselor to Romney`s campaign and also to George
W. Bush`s in 2000 and 2004 -- and Michael Powell, FCC chairman, Colin
Powell`s son. He`s chairman or was of the Bush administration, the FCC
back then.

And in the biggest turnaround, Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8
barring gay marriage when she ran for governor of California, now supports
gay marriage, big change there.

Joining me right now, is Jimmy LaSalvia, president of GOProud, and MSNBC
contributor Ron Reagan.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

Jimmy, you have been involved in this fight and I think on the Republican
side. When did the turn begin? When did you start meeting people who at
least said privately we got to change on this from what the platform has
been saying?

JIMMY LASALVIA, GOPROUD: Well, I think this issue has been moving faster
than any issue we have seen ever in my lifetime, and it`s been the last few
years.

I think that certainly...

MATTHEWS: Did Ken Mehlman start it?

LASALVIA: I think even before then, we saw a lot of movement.

But I think that especially now that we have had the 2012 elections, where
four states passed the marriage issues, and it`s just the new political
reality, and people are thinking about the issue differently. Everybody
has got gay people in their lives now and they know that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Tell me the importance of that, the importance
of just people coming out.

LASALVIA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the key, when you realize somebody you might have
thought was gay, but they come out and say it and you`re sort of reconciled
to that reality.

LASALVIA: Well, exactly.

And people want -- you know, politics is personal, and people think about
how issues affect their friends and family. And marriage is a good thing
for people, and settling down and being monogamous and getting married is a
good thing. And more and more conservatives are realizing that and wanting
it for their gay friends and family.

MATTHEWS: You know, Ron -- thanks for coming on, Ron.

Unlike the gun issue, for example, where your rights can easily endanger if
not kill somebody else`s existence, the thing about same-sex marriage is
it`s not like it`s an aggressive act. It`s a marriage. It`s between two
people. So somebody -- it might bother somebody conceptually, but there`s
no real danger of anybody else`s marriage being corrupted by same-sex
marriage, it seems to me, but maybe some people disagree.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, no. Well, you`re absolutely right.
And that`s one of the fundamental weakness of the anti-marriage equality
people, is they can`t point to a single actual harm that would occur to
anybody if gay people were allowed to marry.

Their argument fundamentally comes down to, I don`t like it, so you should
make a law. And I should add, too, that I don`t like it is usually based
on pretty explicit religious grounds, which it seems to me you could make a
case violates the First Amendment. If you`re going to pass a law like the
Defense of Marriage Act that is based on an explicitly Judeo-Christian
reading of, you know, what`s OK for, you know, marriage, man, woman and all
that kind of thing, it seems to me you`re in violation or in danger of
violating the First Amendment.

MATTHEWS: So that`s caused some trouble here. I don`t know you, so let`s
cause some trouble.

I want Jimmy to do the dirty work for both of us here.

REAGAN: Oh, all right.

MATTHEWS: The Catholic Church, do you think they`re consistent in the way
they behave in the clerical world? Do you think all the way down from the
papacy, do you think the whole world up there is non-gay? Do you think
there aren`t any gay priests? This whole thing --

JIMMY LASALVIA, GOPROUD: Well, I work in politics, I`m not a preacher but,
you know, gay people were everywhere.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LASALVIA: You know that.

And so, yes, that`s my answer.

MATTHEWS: So, why are they against gay marriage?

LASALVIA: I don`t know. I think that fundamentally marriage is a
conservative thing. It`s what we should want people to do is settle down
and partner up and be happy.

And so, I hope that more and more people see it that way and hopefully some
day religious institutions will see that. But at this point, you know, we
live in a country that`s governed by laws and we should treat everybody the
same under the law.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the friend of the court, the amicus
brief, will promote support for gay marriage as a conservative position.

Quote, "It argues that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing
children of gay couples to grow up in a two-parent home, and that advances
conservative values of limited government and maximizing individual
freedom."

I keep thinking, I`m not a lawyer, Ron, but you and I can agree on this,
because if you just look at the basics, the Fourteenth Amendment, you can`t
be denied equal protections of the law, you can`t be denied life, liberty,
or property.

Well, let`s start with liberty. Liberty, let`s start with the original
document, which is the Declaration, the pursuit of happiness.

REAGAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me you look at those crisp documents that still are
in our hearts and minds, it says it clearer than anything. How can you
deny a person the way they were made, made by God, and feeling the way they
do.

I mean, I just -- it isn`t something you choose like Trent Lott would say
you choose to be gay at some particular age. I don`t know when that idea
comes. But he thought it did.

And you know what I mean. I don`t want to get too ludicrous about it
because it`s a sensitive issue. But the way politicians talk about it and
some church people talk about it as if they aren`t on this planet among our
species. They`re not familiar with human life.

REAGAN: And that`s a huge problem for Jimmy`s party, the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Here we go.

REAGAN: It`s not just that they`re hateful towards gay people, it`s that
they`re ridiculous about this issue. Now, you can be hated and people
might still respect you in some way, shape, or form, but when you`re
absurd, when you`re ridiculous about this kind of issue, people just -- you
lack all credibility.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is part of the bull fight where the matador here Ron Reagan
takes out the cape and the sword and goes in for his opponent.

But you`re the bull, by the way. Here is the question. I`ve read -- I may
be the only guy in the world that reads party platforms. Your Republican
platform again this year --

LASALVIA: I know.

MATTHEWS: I was reading it down in Tampa, in the sweaty town of Tampa.
All this anti-gay rights stuff, (INAUDIBLE) every reference to the issue is
negative. Why don`t you change it?

LASALVIA: Well, we should.

MATTHEWS: Where is GOProud when it comes to writing these things?

LASALVIA: This issue crosses all demographic groups because gay people are
in every single family --

MATTHEWS: But why is your platform stink on the Republican side?

LASALVIA: That`s it. As we look to build a conservative coalition that
can win again, we have to take this into consideration and people need to
recognize --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why don`t you get somebody on the platform committee? Why don`t
get somebody on the platform committee?

LASALVIA: Love to be in the platform committee.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take --

LASALVIA: Chris Matthews appoints me to the platform committee.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think I can.

But last week, an ad, by the way, by the Marriage Equality Coalition, which
has lots to do with HRC, Human Rights Campaign, featured Patrick -- Barack
Obama, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell, that used their public
statements to show their support for gay marriage. Former First Lady Laura
Bush later asked to be removed from the ad. Her spokesman e-mailed us this
afternoon saying why.

I think it`s legitimate. "Mrs. Bush did not approve of her inclusion in
this advertisement nor is she associated with the group that made the ad in
any way. When she became aware of the advertisement last Tuesday night, we
requested that the group remove her from it."

You know what I think is going on there, I think her brother-in-law is
running for president and I think in your party, the Republican Party, it`s
still a problem to be publicly associated with somebody who is more
marriage equality? Is that possible? Do you think that`s why Laura Bush
had her name taken off it?

LASALVIA: I don`t know Mrs. Bush so I don`t know why she did that. But I
think --

MATTHEWS: Well, think. Well, think why she did it.

LASALVIA: This issue is baffling to me that many establishment Republicans
don`t get it, because they`re out of touch. They`re out of touch with
America but they`re also out of touch with their own base.

MATTHEWS: OK. Put this guy on the platform committee.

LASALVIA: Most conservatives --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Jimmy LaSalvia should be on the platform committee.

Ron, you and I will never get on that committee. But thank you, Ron
Reagan, for coming on again. The sword fighter, the matador who saved his
last move for the last two minutes.

Up next, one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party, Pennsylvania
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, there she is.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama met today with two of his biggest rivals,
Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The topic: illegal immigration.

And after the meeting, Senator Graham heaped praise on the president,
telling reporters, "It was one of the best meetings I`ve ever had with the
president and he thinks we will have presidential leadership in a very
productive way on immigration reform. And with that we have a very good
chance of doing it this year."

John McCain echoed his colleague, calling it an excellent meeting.

Wow. McCain and graham are the senior Republicans on the so-called gang of
eight that`s been working on fixing illegal immigration in this country.
What good news for everybody.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

When President Obama won re-election last year, he wasn`t the only one
making history. My home state of Pennsylvania elected the first woman to
serve as the state`s attorney general.

Kathleen Kane was a long-time prosecutor on cases ranging from sex abuse to
murder to corruption and fraud. And she`s the first Democrat ever to hold
the post that`s become an electable office back in 1980. And now, some
Democrats are calling her a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Nationally, Kane worked on Hillary Clinton`s 2008 presidential campaign and
former President Bill Clinton endorsed her for attorney general last year.

Let`s listen to Bill Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you want somebody who`s both
tough and smart, both somebody who`s got a steel spine and a caring heart,
Kathleen Kane is your candidate. She has handled more than 3,000 cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, Kathleen Kane is now with us, attorney general. Should I
call you general? Is general a good title?

KATHLEEN KANE (D), PA ATTORNEY GENERAL: You may call me whatever you like.

MATTHEWS: OK, Kathleen.

KANE: It`s OK, yes.

MATTHEWS: You give the right to do it.

Thank you for coming on. I hear nothing but good things about you. The
reason we`re asking you to come on tonight and you`ve agreed is I`m looking
at people in the country who are in public life right now, in public
service, who I can see a couple notches from now really being national
figures.

So, I`m not going to ask whether you`re going to be a national figure
running for president. So, let`s talk about some matters we always talk
about in this show. What do you think of this Republican plan to change
the use of the Electoral College and basically kill the unit rule, kill
Pennsylvania`s right to vote as a state, basically disassemble the state
into congressional districts and have those votes for president?

KANE: Well, I`m a big believer in the popular vote should continue. I
believe that Pennsylvania is as important as any other state and our vote
should count in electing the next president.

MATTHEWS: And so, we should keep it together as a unit?

KANE: I agree. Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about this attempt and I really was going
after -- I don`t know if you watch the show, but I was going after it
almost every night. This requirement that came into effect last year in
the Republican leadership and Harrisburg was pushing it, to all of a sudden
require even older people who live in the city, your row house people, to
come up with a photo ID card that was issued by the governor, when there
was absolutely no reason for them to have such an ID card ever. They don`t
drive cars. They`re too old for that, but they live if had the city.

And all of a sudden, all these Democrats were basically disenfranchised.
That law`s basically in suspension right now. Where`s that going to end
up? Is that going to be back on the books again?

KANE: That`s right.

And you`re right. Right now, there`s an injunction. The injunction is
going to stand for the May primary, at least. And then it goes before the
court. Trial date is set for July.

So, we`ll see what happens then.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go into a subject we in Pennsylvania hate to talk
about. Gun control. Gun safety. What do you think the people of
Pennsylvania would accept? What do you think the people should accept?

Should there be a ban on assault weapons? Should there be a limit on the
magazine size? Say 30 bullets to a magazine? Should there be new
background checks?

What do you think would get -- should get done here after Newtown,
Connecticut?

KANE: Well, I think the people -- yes. The people of Pennsylvania are
very reasonable people. I mean, we`re hunters. We`re fishermen. We`re
sportsmen. All that kind of thing.

But we`re also very reasonable and practical. I think the people of
Pennsylvania would accept a limit on the amount of clips.

You know, I believe and I think a lot of people feel the same way that you
don`t have a right to go into a classroom and take down a class of children
in under a minute. So, I think they would be OK with limiting the size of
the clips.

Universal background checks, it has nothing to do with your Second
Amendment right or your ability to keep your gun. But I think everyone
agrees that it is a common sense approach that we should be background
checks. If we`re going to have them on some gun sales, we should have them
on all gun sales. What`s the difference?

We also -- last year, our legislature passed a straw purchasing to make the
penalty stronger. I think that now that we have that tool box set, I think
the people of Pennsylvania are ready to say, OK, we don`t mind reporting
our lost and stolen gun. If that is really just the tool for prosecutors
to make sure that straw purchasers who make up 40 percent of all gun crimes
in Pennsylvania are held accountable for their actions. It`s gun
trafficking. No one agrees with gun trafficking.

So there are common sense approaches we can take.

And just two weeks ago, we closed the Florida loophole here in
Pennsylvania. And we received first e-mails saying, we don`t understand.
Why are you infringing on our gun rights?

When we explain to them what the Florida loophole was, is that it allows
people from Pennsylvania who are denied permits to then apply into Florida,
even as non-residents, and get a gun permit. When we explained that to
them, we had every single e-mail come back and said, you know what? We
agree with you. You`re absolutely right. It has nothing to do with the
Second Amendment.

So I think that there`s a groundswell of support. I think that people are
ready to at least start saying the word "gun". I mean, you know, in years
past, you could never get any elected official or any candidate to even
talk about guns because they were so afraid of losing.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KANE: But I think now that -- I mean, I`ve done it. I did it throughout
my campaign. And even now, my first, you know, 25 days in office, we`ve
already tackled one gun issue. And we have a lot of support for it.

MATTHEWS: Kathleen Kane, attorney general of Pennsylvania, thanks so much
for coming. We`re glad we had you on.

When we return, let me finish with our big worry that things are not
working well here in Washington. And I mean it. It isn`t looking good
here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with my growing concern that things are
not working out here in Washington. Washington, as I`ve said many times,
has no factories or even smokestacks.

The only output of this city is effective government and for that to occur,
there must be deals, deals within parties, deals across the aisle, deals
between the president and the Congress -- because without deals there could
be no action. Because only if this Democratic president and this
Republican House of Representatives can reach the accommodation, we are
stuck right where we are today -- not passing budgets, not dealing with the
debt, not ending these endless manufactured crises now coming at us with
disgusting regularity.

Where`s the deal to save us from this? Well, the president said in effect,
no deal on Medicare, Medicaid reform until the Republicans pony up some
revenue-enhancing tax reform. The Republicans under Speaker Boehner say no
tax reform until there`s entitlement reform.

Both sides know their bases. Both sides know they can go on with these
squared off positions as long as their political bases support them.

Well, this could be a long time because Boehner`s biggest worry isn`t the
president. It`s the Tea Party members of his own caucus. It might just
bring him down if he agrees to raise revenues.

The president`s biggest worry isn`t Boehner alone. It`s the Democrats who
will assault him if he cuts a deal with Boehner that doesn`t raise
revenues.

Well, the only question to which I do not know the answer is how in the
world can Boehner and the president cut a deal when they`re so restricted
as to what they can accept?

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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