updated 3/18/2013 12:07:23 PM ET 2013-03-18T16:07:23

HARDBALL
March 14, 2013

Guests: Cynthia Tucker, Sam Stein, Al Cardenas, Charles Sennott,
Christine Quinn


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Gunsmoke.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. I am rarely startled by political
opinions, but the other day I heard a college student say he believes
people have the right to walk into any bar, restaurant, hockey game, NFL
stadium openly carrying a firearm. They have a right to do this, and he
suggests, a duty to insist on that right.

I think of the world that this would create. Go into a bar around
midnight Friday, people are all over the place carrying, packing. All
have loaded guns handy for use. All can drink all they want. And no
one will take away their drink, and certainly no one will take away
their gun that they have in their holster.

How long would it take for the combination of alcohol and attitude and
the presence of bad drunks to detonate into a gunfight? How long would
it take before someone`s, well, had five or ten drinks and is getting
ticked off at that guy looking at his girlfriend, that guy who said
something about his favorite sports team, that guy who he doesn`t like
the looks of, that guy who`s shooting his mouth off?

Well, this is a concoction of my imagination only because I think that`s
what they want. It`s what a lot of 2nd Amendment people want the
country to come, a place where people walk in and out of bars or banks
or barbershops or churches or movie theaters armed and loaded. They
want this just not as a theoretical right but as their day-to-day
reality.

They look with yearning to a world where most people are armed, most
people have a semiautomatic available, that everyone spends their nights
barging through bar doors sporting the latest, scariest weapons they can
get their hands on, which according to the gun people, is anything they
can imagine.

We begin tonight with the HuffingtonPost`s Sam Stein and Cynthia Tucker
of the University of Georgia.

Today`s hearing is what got me going on this. It was on assault
weapons, a possible ban. And the hearing was in the Judiciary
Committee. It included a dramatic exchange which I`ll never forget
between freshman Tea Partier Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator
Dianne Feinstein, who`s a grown-up.

Cruz challenged Feinstein on the Constitution, and Feinstein hit hard
back. Let`s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The question that I would pose to the senior
senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill
of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are
contemplating doing with the 2nd Amendment in the context of the 1st or
4th Amendment? Namely, would she consider it constitutional for
Congress to specify that the 1st Amendment shall apply only to the
following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has
deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m not a 6th grader. Senator,
I`ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years.
I walked in, I saw people shot. I`ve looked at bodies that have been
shot with these weapons. I`ve seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy
Hook, youngsters were dismembered.

It`s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it.
Just know I`ve been here for a long time. I`ve passed on a number of
bills. I`ve studied the Constitution myself. I`m reasonably well
educated. And I thank you for the lecture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There again -- Cynthia Tucker, I really want your thoughts
and feelings on this. I don`t understand how people can elect somebody
like Ted Cruz. Here`s a guy so far right, so unlimited in this notion
of the 2nd Amendment, that anyone should be able to have any kind of gun
and anybody that says you can`t have any kind of gun is somehow limiting
their rights under his view of the Constitution.

In other words, Matt Dylan, Wyatt Earp, anybody that ever said, Leave
your gun out of town, on the way into town had to be stopped in their
tracks because his view of the Constitution is the bad guys, the guys in
the gangs. They had a right to carry their guns anywhere they wanted
and any kind of gun they could get their hands on.

And then he challenges a grown-up, again, Dianne Feinstein, who I have
enormous respect for, who watched her mayor die right in front of her,
who`s dealt with criminal matters her whole career. She`s an expert on
criminality. And have her lectured to by this far -- out character --
your view on what this has come to, this gun discussion. I think it`s
so polarized between the middle, reasonable middle, and the far right,
it`s hopeless.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, Chris, not only is Ted
Cruz an extremist, he`s also overbearing, arrogant and condescending.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

TUCKER: And I can only imagine how Dianne Feinstein felt. How dare he?
He just got there. How dare he show up and commence to lecture her on
the Constitution? She wasn`t having it. So she just ground him back
into his place with the heel of her high-heeled pump. And good for her.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Sam on this. Sam, maybe you`ll have different
metaphors to use, but I hope you have the same view.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m telling you, this guy is -- I hate to use words like
crazy, but his notion of how America should be, where everybody carrying
a gun of any kind they want, anywhere they want -- and I`ve talked to
people. I opened up with that kid I talked to the other day. This is
being taught to kids now in their late teens. You should have a gun,
you should insist on your rights, you should walk around with one
everywhere you go, and anybody who stops you from having a gun at any
time, any kind of gun, is bad.

That`s what they`re being taught, these kids.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST: Well, I like the metaphors, but I do think
that Ted Cruz is way out of the mainstream even within his own party on
this. I mean, keep in mind, Justice Scalia in the Heller ruling said
you can`t restrict handgun access but you can put regulations on guns,
which does open up the legitimacy for any, you know, constitutional...

MATTHEWS: Have you been following "The Post"...

STEIN: ... legitimacy...

MATTHEWS: ... this week?

STEIN: Yes. Of course.

MATTHEWS: Every single Republican in the Senate on the committee has
voted against even background checks.

STEIN: Well...

MATTHEWS: They`ve voted now against assault weapons.

STEIN: There are...

MATTHEWS: They`re not really doing anything.

STEIN: OK, hold on. There are -- there are little complexities with
the background checks bill. There are expectations in Democratic
leadership that when they adjust the bill, there will be Republican
support. They had to go with the Schumer bill because Tom Coburn pulled
out at the last minute. But they`re expecting the support.

But yes, there`s no Republican support for an assault weapons ban, even
though I think it`s fair to say that an assault weapons ban would be
Constitutional, or was for 10 years without any legal challenges. I
don`t know where Ted Cruz gets this idea that the 2nd Amendment is
absolutist and the 1st Amendment`s absolutist. There are restrictions
on 1st Amendment rights. You can`t, you know, scream fire in a crowded
theater.

But you know, he has this idea of the Constitution that he wants to
impose on every one of his colleagues, and he does come off
condescending in the process of doing so.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, it looks to me like the gun legislation fight, even
despite it`s only three months since the horror of Newtown, has not
moved left, if you will, towards gun safety. I`ll use that term
loosely. It`s moved right.

These people have circled the wagons like an old Western and insisted
the most important thing in the world is to have guns even to fight
their (ph) popular (ph) government. They`re not afraid of a coup or
something or a military government. They`re afraid of a popular
government.

It`s either that, or they want to take on some sort of vigilante justice
because they can`t trust the government -- that`s the latest argument --
to protect them. And now they`re saying any gun, any time.

And by the way, Sam, I don`t see any resistance by this guy to unlimited
gun ownership. Not any.

STEIN: No, I don`t see any either. I mean, the logical question for
Ted Cruz is, Can you own a grenade launcher? How about a tank? I mean,
where is the restriction that he`d be comfortable with, or are there no
restrictions? I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, you respond to this.

TUCKER: Well...

MATTHEWS: Here`s Senator Feinstein raising the very question of
escalation, how far do you go. Here`s -- let`s -- she asked him to
respond to this. His interpretation of the 2nd Amendment seems to be
there is no weapon the government should ever prohibit people from
owning and carrying openly. Let`s watch Senator Feinstein on the very
point that Sam raised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEINSTEIN: You use the word "prohibit." It exempts 2,271 weapons.

CRUZ: Mr....

FEINSTEIN: Isn`t that enough for the people in the United States?

CRUZ: Mr. Chairman...

FEINSTEIN: Do they need a bazooka? Do they need other high-powered
weapons that military people use to kill in close combat? I don`t think
so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, a bazooka. What is the limit for this crowd?

TUCKER: Well, the gun -- the gun lobby...

MATTHEWS: What you can carry?

TUCKER: The gun lobby would say yes, Chris. And if Sam sees that there
are some Republicans who are willing to sign on to reasonable gun
legislation, I`m happy to hear that because I haven`t seen it.

Let`s remember that on the Judiciary Committee, there were no
Republicans who voted for a proposal that would say if you traffic in
guns, if you`re convicted for gun trafficking, you get a very long
prison sentence. I believe one Republican voted for that...

STEIN: There was a Republican, yes.

TUCKER: ... Grassley.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s secondhand sales.

TUCKER: One Republican. So the gun lobby is so extremist -- let`s
remember this, Chris. The National Rifle Association thinks it`s OK
that if you`re on the terror watch list, you can buy a gun. Bloomberg
calls that the terror gap.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: he NRA says, yes, but that`s just fine. Let people who are on
the terror watch list buy guns. Why the Republican Party has signed up
to that kind of extremism is quite beyond me, but most Republicans have.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the boss here, Sam? Is it the NRA bossing the
Republican Party around because they deliver a lot of the votes and
maybe some of the money, but certainly the members? Or is it the
Republican Party simply embracing the NRA because they think it`s like
the evangelicals or any other group or the neocons that they can use and
exploit for electoral victory? Who`s winning here? Who`s bossing?

STEIN: Oh, I think it`s a combo of both. I mean, the NRA`s power has
always been about its membership. Remember, a lot of this goes back to
the lore of the `94 elections, when the assault weapons ban was first
passed. A ton of Democrats who ended up voting for that measure lost
their seats. Since then, it`s been assumed that, you know, you take
tough gun votes at your own political peril.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: At the same time, you know, there`s a new pattern that`s emerged
where Republicans are deeply afraid of being primaried in their own
party. And why, I guess in their mind, would you allow anyone the
opportunity or the opening to run a primary against you on the issue of
guns? It makes no sense to them.

On the issue of background checks, just to clarify one thing -- Tom
Coburn was 95 percent settled with Chuck Schumer on a bill. They`re
disagreeing over records-keeping aspects of it. However, senators like
Mark Kirk are going to likely -- very, very, very likely -- be there
regardless. They`re going to get a different bill for the floor...

MATTHEWS: How many Republicans do you think will vote on the floor for
any kind of background check strengthening, even that? Not the 30-round
limit or the 10-round limit on the magazines, not the assault weapon,
but just that minimal step of a background check enhancement. How many
Republican senators do you be right now, Sam, will vote for it?

STEIN: Well, of course, it depends on how they adjust the record-
keeping language, but I would guess that they could get four to five,
maybe a little bit more...

MATTHEWS: In the whole Senate?

STEIN: Republicans in the Senate, yes.

MATTHEWS: In the whole Senate. OK. Thank you...

STEIN: It`s going to be close.

MATTHEWS: ... that`s 1 in 10 -- 1 in 10 as a high mark. Anyway, that`s
a good statement about the Republican Party, 1 in 10 senators might go
as far as a background check.

Anyway, Senator Feinstein and other Democrats pointed out in the hearing
today that 1st Amendment isn`t absolute, either. For example, it
doesn`t cover child pornography. But Cruz stayed focused on his one
single point he brought in today. Let`s watch him again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Is it the view of the senior senator from California that
Congress should be in the business of specifying particular books, or
for that matter with respect to the 4th Amendment, particular
individuals who are not covered by the Bill of Rights?

FEINSTEIN: Sir, Congress is in the business of making law. The Supreme
Court interprets the law. They strike down the law, they strike down
the law. The tests in Heller with respect to unusual weapons, to other
things, I think do not cover -- in other words, they cover an exemption
for assault weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Is that true, Cynthia?

TUCKER: Well, there -- you know, let`s remember...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Obviously, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of assault
weapons ban. It was pointed out a few moments ago.

TUCKER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I guess it does include that (INAUDIBLE) have the right to
carry in D.C., which I don`t agree with, but you can do it.

TUCKER: There are -- there are -- there are absolutely no rights in the
Bill of Rights that are absolute, as Sam said earlier. And the assault
weapons ban was in effect for a decade. No one said -- at least the
Supreme Court didn`t say it was unconstitutional. Heller has come along
since then, but Heller does not say all assault weapons must be legal.

STEIN: In fact...

TUCKER: It says that authorities may, in fact, pass laws restricting
gun ownership.

STEIN: In fact, that bastion of liberal thinking, Justice Scalia, said
that you can have regulations on guns. I mean, I don`t understand what
the argument`s about. If one of the more conservative members of the
court is saying it`s OK for regulations...

MATTHEWS: This -- this crap sells...

STEIN: ... then what are we talking about?

MATTHEWS: ... down there. I guess the crap will sell down there in
Texas. I guess the people watching tonight from Texas believe you can
walk into any saloon, the Long Branch, the local pub you go to, the
local restaurant you have, the Chinese restaurant -- every one --
anybody who wants to walk in there carrying as much firepower as they
want to and sit down next to you at the restaurant and drink all night
with their guns there. Anybody who`s comfortable in a situation like
that is an idiot.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein. And thank you -- and I...

STEIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Maybe some idiots down there, but why they voted for this
guy, Cruz, is beyond me. He gets worse every night. Cynthia Tucker,
thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up: CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, has
rolled into Washington, D.C., today. Birthers like Donald Trump and
Louie Gohmert will be there. And so will Sarah Palin, but not Governor
Chris Christie. After all, he`s got sky-high approval ratings in deep
blue New Jersey, and he might just actually win the White House next
time. Can`t have him at CPAC.

So what does it say about a party that has room for the characters on
the extreme right fringe, the birthers, but shuns practical
conservatives like Chris Christie?

And in Rome, Pope Francis actually started the first full day of his
papacy by visiting a shrine to the Virgin Mary, an object of particular
devotion, we all know, for Latin American Catholics. His surprise
election as the first Hispanic pope is a testament to the growing power
and importance of Latinos around the world, the same group that helped
put, actually, here in this country, President Obama into office this
past November, kept him there.

And there could be an historic first here in New York. We`re going to
meet mayoral candidate herself, Christine Quinn, who`s hoping to be
something big-time, the first woman to be mayor of New York.

And here`s another Republican in need of a civics lesson. U.S.
Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma says the Supreme Court doesn`t
get to decide what`s constitutional. Oh, really? Well, his flamed --
or rather, flawed reasoning is in the "Sideshow" today. It`s also
flamed.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a telling number about the state of our
government right now. According to a new Gallup poll, the number of
Americans who say they`re dissatisfied with the government is the
highest it`s been since Watergate. Twenty percent of those polled, one
in five, say dissatisfaction with the government is the country`s
biggest problem right now. And that`s up from 16 percent just last
month.

It`s climbing and it trails only the economy as the most frequently
named problem in the poll. And that 20 percent, by the way, as I said a
minute ago, is the highest it`s been since early June 1974, just months
-- actually months before Richard Nixon resigned.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The conservatives have come to
town, to Washington. The annual CPAC conference is under way just
outside Washington. And it`s making news not only for who`s coming --
that`s Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin -- but also for who`s not
coming, popular GOP governors Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell -- he`s
from Virginia. In other words, invite the noise makers, snub the people
who might actually lead the party out of the wilderness. That`s my
view, of course.

Well, Al Cardenas is the chairman of the American Conservative Union,
the group that puts on CPAC. And now we also have the former national
chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele. He`s an MSNBC
analyst.

Mr. Cardenas, it`s great to have you on, by the way. I want to ask you
something very positive and nice to sort of warm you up before we get
started here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: How happy are you that we have an Hispanic pope?

AL CARDENAS, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION CHAIRMAN: Oh, boy, I`m glad
you asked. You know, as a practicing Catholic, I got on my knees
yesterday and I was so happy. I think the world will love this pope.
America will love this pope. But other than Cardinal O`Malley -- he was
my favorite.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CARDENAS: I love to have this pope. I think he`ll make such a big
difference -- 500 million Catholics in Latin America, Chris. And I
think we he can be a great voice of creating better lives for so many
people.

MATTHEWS: Well, there we can agree on something. Now to the issue of
Donald Trump -- Donald Trump. He boosted your ticket sales among
attendees, apparently. But could the conservative message be
overshadowed by his birther talk? Let`s take a listen to Trumpy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I would like to have him show his
birth certificate. And can I be honest with you? I hope he can.
Because if he can`t, if he can`t, and if he wasn`t born in this country,
which is a real possibility -- I`m not saying it -- I`m saying it`s a
real possibility, much greater than I thought two or three weeks ago --
then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A lot of people want to see his college transcripts. They`re
not looking at his marks, his grades, was he a good student? They want
to see, what does he say about place of birth?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And there`s another participant of yours at the CPAC
convention you`re hosting and inviting people to, Texas congressman
Louie Gohmert, who was a co-sponsor of the House birther bill. Here`s
how "The New York Times" described him as saying, "Mr. Gohmert has
compared homosexuality to bestiality, endorsed a column likening Barack
Obama`s presidency to Adolf Hitler`s dictatorship and warned anyone who
will listen that evil doers are making terror babies" -- terror babies
is his term -- "who like human timebombs will be trained abroad only to
return some day to wreak havoc in America."

And then there`s Iowa Congressman Steve King, a potential Senate
candidate who suggested the president`s parents could have telegrammed
in a birth announcement from Kenya.

Let`s listen to this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: It would have been awfully hard to
fraudulently file the birth notice of Barack Obama being born in Hawaii
and get that into our public libraries in that microfiche that they keep
of all the newspapers published.

That doesn`t mean that there aren`t some other explanations on how they
might have announced that by telegram from Kenya. The list goes on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So you have these characters that are OK for your convention,
Al, but not an elected governor who`s very popular in Jersey? Tell me
your rules.

CARDENAS: Well, here`s what we have.

We have got 30 main ballroom speakers. The folks you mentioned,
frankly, most of them are part of a 200-plus-person panel program we
have -- 30 main ballroom speakers. We have got 40 Republican senators,
30 governors, 200-plus House members.

And what we have got to do is select 20. And so what did we do? We
selected three governors, Rick Perry because his state is the number one
state in job creation, and I think it`s a model for America, Bobby
Jindal because he`s a bright, intellectual young leader of the party.
Selected Scott Walker because he`s doing great things in our views in
Wisconsin. And that was it. That`s the list we invited.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But you gave -- all the guys you mentioned are given less
time than Donald Trump. You giving him 14 minutes. You`re giving 13
minutes to the governors.

Why more time for the number one birther in the country?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re laughing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Steele.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... get more time as a conservative than these elected
officials, my question? Because I think he`s nutty on this issue. He`s
obviously a smart guy. He`s nutty on the issue of birtherism. And
that`s what he`s known for now, not building towers into the sky.

Michael Steele.

STEELE: Well, look, first off, I think that that characterization can
be put behind Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump understands...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He won`t put it behind him.

STEELE: I think -- oh, Chris, he hasn`t been talking about that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. He talks about it every time he is asked about
it, almost every time he gets a chance to talk.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Wait a minute. Let`s make the point. Let`s see what the man
says tomorrow, number one. OK? Let`s just -- let`s go -- I think a
couple things.

One, I think Donald Trump is going to reframe the arguments tomorrow
from the economic arguments from the grassroots up to the party.

MATTHEWS: How do you reframe the birther issue? Michael, how do you
reframe the birther issue?

STEELE: You don`t talk about it.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you drop it.

STEELE: Chris, nobody`s talking about it but you.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: You`re the only person bringing it up. You did a 30-second
lead-in on it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know why? Because people that think the president is an
illegal immigrant shouldn`t be talking out loud almost anywhere.

They think he`s an illegal immigrant, that he snuck into the country,
broke our laws and he`s a fraud.

STEELE: Chris, and all of that is now behind us.

MATTHEWS: It is?

STEELE: Let`s see where we go from here, Chris. Let`s move the chart a
little further, number one.

Number two, I would disagree with my friend Al Cardenas on this. I
think the Chris Christies of the world need to be at CPAC. I think that
they represent the power of Republicanism on the East Coast. To be the
governor of a blue state like New Jersey, and you`re not speaking at
this gathering of young conservative activists from around the country
to me is mind-boggling.

So I understand the rules and you wanted three governors. But he`s a
guy that you need to have in this room.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Fair enough. Fair enough. I`m with you on that, obviously.

Let me ask you, Al, as a home guy who decides who`s invited, would you
be happier if Donald Trump didn`t talk about the president`s country of
birth?

CARDENAS: Yes, of course.

But that`s not why I invited him. We don`t censor our speakers. But we
don`t get involved through that issue. We never have at ACU. We
invited him because he`s a successful businessman who`s not afraid as an
entrepreneur to talk about the realities of the economy in America
today.

And, as Michael said, we will see what he says tomorrow. I think he
will be a positive influence on the youngsters here. I know a lot of
kids want to have their picture taken with somebody who`s made $3
billion.

MATTHEWS: I know. I understand the mentality.

CARDENAS: And it will be interesting to see what happens.

I will tell you what I`m mostly proud of. And Michael will relate to
this because he shares that passion with me. We have got 18 African-
American speakers, 17 Hispanics, 71 women, a lot of Republican leaders
under 40. We want to show the new face of the party. And, frankly, we
think we have turned a page.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s show Allen West, one of maybe the most famous. He`s
going to be speaking there. Let`s take a look at him.

He`s the guy that, by the way, said there are 78 to 81 communists in the
Democratic House of Representatives. Let`s hear what he has to say.
Here he is, Allen West, your guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN WEST (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: There`s no shortage of people
telling us what conservatism cannot accomplish, what we can`t do, how we
cannot connect, how we must change our values to fit the times.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that that truly is a
bunch of malarkey. Folks, I`m speaking from experience when I tell you
that there`s nothing on this green earth that a liberal progressive
fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller
government.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael, your case. Is this the scariest thing on the
planet?

STEELE: No, it`s not.

I think -- I think that there`s a lot of truth to that. I mean, as a
former candidate -- black candidate as a Republican for office, I know
exactly.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEELE: I have seen exactly what the congressman was talking about
there.

So he makes a very legitimate point, that, you know, when you have got a
party like the Democrats who have a lock hold on a particular voting
bloc, to see any pieces of that to begin to shrink or break away is not
something they want to do. So they play the card of fear. They play
the card of race from time to time.

I have been a victim of it. Allen West has been a victim of it. And I
thought it was a fair point to make.

MATTHEWS: But African-Americans are allowed to vote for anybody they
want to, right?

STEELE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And they choose to vote for Obama and the Democrats. That`s
fair, isn`t it?

STEELE: And that goes to the broader point that I think the chairman
there was making about how the party now in a forum like this has an
opportunity to broaden its message to reconnect with these voters who
are sitting on the periphery looking at us and wondering what is our
next act going to be.

MATTHEWS: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, in the spirit of comity, I have to say Michael and I
agree on one thing. I voted for him for the Senate for a lot of good
reasons. And one of them, I like him personally. And the other thing
is I really do think diversity in the United States Senate is way
overdue.

Your last thought, Al. And, by the way, we agree on the pope, but your
last thought tonight?

CARDENAS: My last thought is, one of the greatest things we`re doing
here is an immigration panel.

And you would be amazed at the great -- great, not only turnout, but the
great reception we have had on comprehensive reform on immigration in
America, right here at CPAC, the epicenter of the conservative movement.
And I`m very proud of that. I`m proud to be for comprehensive
immigration reform. I`m proud that my movement is embracing the
concept.

And if there`s something I can do to contribute to all of this, Chris,
it will be to bring peace to America on a matter that`s so important to
all of us.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the best thing you can do is get your party to
support it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That would be a help anyway. But thank you.

CARDENAS: We are. We are.

MATTHEWS: I know, but not yet.

Anyway, Al Cardenas, thank you.

STEELE: I think Trump will surprise you tomorrow, Chris. I think Trump
will surprise you tomorrow.

MATTHEWS: You`re a hopeful man, Michael Steele.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He has surprised me negatively so many times. Maybe he will
surprise me positively.

Up next, it`s something we learned in grade school. The Supreme Court,
you know, the highest court in the land, does have the power to decide
what is constitutional. Well, not according to one Republican member of
the Congress. He doesn`t think it`s that way.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The new
segment we have for you tonight, it`s called the House budget chairman
Paul Ryan, well said. Now, let me repeat this.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: House budget chairman, Paul Ryan, well said.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This, to us, is something that we`re not
going to give up on because we`re not going to give up on destroying the
health care system for the American people.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back to HARDBALL.

First, if you had to rattle off a quick summary of the job of the
Supreme Court, you would probably go with something like it determines
whether laws are constitutional, right?

Well, we turn to Oklahoma Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine. He`s
not quite convinced, mostly thanks to a certain health care ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM BRIDENSTINE (R), OKLAHOMA: Just because the Supreme Court
rules on something doesn`t necessarily mean that that`s constitutional.

What that means is that that`s what they decided on that particular day,
given the makeup of the court on that particular day. And the left in
this country has done an extraordinary job of stacking the courts in
their favor.

I hear this all the time from Republicans. You know, they say that the
court is the arbitrator, and after the arbitration is done, that`s the
rules that we have to live under and then we can go forth and make
legislation given those rules.

That`s not the case. A perfect example is Obamacare. Obamacare is not
constitutional, the individual mandate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Where to begin? Of course, there`s the obvious note that if
the Supreme Court rules something constitutional, it is under the
American system. It is constitutional.

The congressman points out the Democrats have stacked the courts in
their favor? Well, of the nine Supreme Court justices, five of the nine
were appointed by Republican presidents. Simple math.

By the way, let`s go out to Utah now. The state`s legislature out there
passed a bill this week that expands protections for victims of domestic
violence, to include cases where the people involved are not necessarily
married or even living together.

Well, a couple of Republican state senators had some bizarre -- wait
until to you hear this -- objections to the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT JENKINS (R), UTAH STATE SENATOR: You make a lot of mistakes in
your first original encounter and dates with this new partner.

A lot of times, you roughhouse. A lot of times, you`re trying to
determine limits on where your limit is and where her limit is and where
you have gone too far. Now, if you feel uncomfortable about something
that happens, you go and you get a court order.

And it`s like, how did this get introduced? I did something that I
thought was in fun and jest and the next thing you know, I have got a
court order against me.

MARGARET DAYTON (R), UTAH STATE SENATOR: Well, the way I read it, it
could be two girls, and one of them thinks they`re just good girlfriends
and the other one thinks it`s a romantic relationship and they`re
dating.

When the first one finds out that they are not dating, she thought it
was girlfriends, all of a sudden one can get angry and all kinds of
concerns can be generated because this is such an ill-defined dating
relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What was that guy talking about? You beat the crap out of
your wife and you didn`t know that was what she liked? What is he
talking about? It`s beyond imagination out in Utah they`re talking like
this.

And you have to ask -- well, I will just say this -- my advice to
Republicans, in triplicate, stop talking up this stuff. Rape and all
this stuff, just stop talking about it. You sound like animals.

Up next: Pope Francis and growing power of Latinos around this country
and around the world, of course.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Dow logs an 83-point gain, its 10th winning session in a row,
topping 14500 for the first time ever. The S&P adds eight points,
closing near an all-time high. The Nasdaq is up 13.

Weekly jobless claims dropped for a third straight week, falling 10,000
to 332,000. And producer prices increases 0.7 percent last month. But
excluding volatile food and energy costs, they rose just 0.2 percent.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): It
appears that my brothers, the cardinals, went to get it all over to the
end of the world.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In his first words to the world, Pope Francis made reference to the
historic selection of a pope from Latin America, from all the way down
in Argentina, joking that his brothers, the cardinals, went to the end
of the world -- if you look at a map, that`s where it is -- to find him.

And in a "New York Times" full-page headline, that significance is
summed up in one line. The selection of a pope from Argentina -- quote -
- "shifts church center of gravity" from Europe down to the Americas.

And the largest share of the world`s Catholics, of course, live in Latin
America. We all know that, and the Caribbean, of course. And just as
Latinos shaped the American political election last time, helping Obama
by voting 71 percent for him, now Latinos are poised to exert their
influence in the church. And the power of being the first of a
particular group to rise to power has enormous galvanizing influence, of
course.

Just like President Obama was the first African-American president,
Francis is the first pope from Latin America, from the Americas. And
pride in the elevation of this guy -- and I`m not Latino -- must be a
big, big source of tremendous pride.

Look at the front pages of these newspapers, "San Antonio," "L.A.
Times." Look at the power of this in terms of the way the media is
treating this.

Anyway, joining us right now is Charles Sennott. He`s executive editor
and co-founder of GlobalPost, which has a special series about the new
pope called "A Global Church." And Raul Reyes is columnist for NBC
Latino.

Raul, I want you to talk about this as a Latino -- Latino.

RAUL REYES, NBC LATINO: Latino.

This -- in our community, this is huge. You know, in the United States,
when we look at the religious affiliations, it`s something like two-
thirds of Hispanics are Catholic, but, yesterday, if you`re Hispanic, if
you`re Latino, everybody was Catholic.

This is something, because he was the first, because it`s historic, we
all share in it. And there was a little gesture that the -- that our
new pope, Pope Francis, made when he was up on the balcony. He
mentioned that he was going to pray to the blessed virgin mother.

For Latinos, that carries such resonance, because the Virgin of
Guadalupe, the virgin mother, that is one of the most powerful, one of
the most venerated symbols throughout Latin America. And you can go in
any Latino home. Somewhere, there`s an icon, there`s a statue of the
Virgin Mary.

Let me tell you, in my volunteer work, sometimes I`ve seen hardcore
gangsters and they have the tattoo of the Virgin Mary. Even in the
culture that we live in, her symbol, her power continues. So for him to
make that gesture, it`s not just that he`s one of us, say, in terms of
the heritage. That`s his gesture that says he gets us.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The way I look at it, if he just in terms of
politics, my specialty, he shows up in L.A., how many people show up
there that day?

REYES: Two million, yes.

MATTHEWS: Two million people show up. He could have that power if he
comes to this country?

REYES: Yes. In New York, Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, all over the
Southwest, absolutely, because also this is as we`re learning more of
the details in his biography, he is the son of immigrants. At the local
level, the Catholic Church in this country has been supportive of
comprehensive reform.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REYES: So, with this forum, he has a global forum. He can bring
attention to an issue that is so personal to us. This is our family,
these are our relatives, our people.

MATTHEWS: I think this is it. Just looking at your face now, I know
what`s going on now, which is pride.

I do think the more Latinos in this country say they belong here,
they`re here, they`re going to make their voices heard. They`re going
to make their politics heard. They`re going to get registered. They`re
going to run for office.

We see it with the mayor and congressman from San Antonio.

REYES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to become much more -- what`s the great word? I
get thrilled thinking about this -- confidence in public life.

REYES: Right, the engagement.

MATTHEWS: We`re not the minority. We`re one of the peoples of America.

Let me ask you, Charles, about the economics. You speak up on the
economics part here. You now have a pope. I was talking about this
last night.

I hope I can make my point clear. Most liberals, most sophisticates
that read "The New York Times," for example, they live in the suburbs.
They`ll always say to you, well, actually, I`m a fiscal conservative,
but I`m very good on social issues.

Well, this pope is the flip side of that.

CHARLES SENNOTT, EXEC. EDITOR, GLOBALPOST: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: He is conservative on social issues like abortion, things
like that. He`s darn good on looking out for poor people and economic
injustice that you find in capitalist countries.

SENNOTT: There`s a reason he chose the name Francis. St. Francis has a
penchant for the poor, as did Jesus. If you look at the gospels as the
historian, and you go through them and it`s called the cue gospels, and
you look at where they all agree, all the different writers of the
gospels, they all agree on one thing that Jesus` message for the poor is
clear.

This cardinal, now pope, has lived that message. He has been the guy
who rides the bus, as it`s been said.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SENNOTT: He`s the guy who is with the poor. He washed the feet of AIDS
--

MATTHEWS: Did he skip the pope mobile today?

REYES: Yes. He rode on the bus with --

SENNOTT: Chris, he washed the feet of AIDS patients at a hospital in
Buenos Aires. He has the touch with the poor that`s consistent. You
know, in the last go-around, in the last papal transition in 2005, he
was runner up, right? So, we were covering --

MATTHEWS: How did we find that out in off the record voting, by the
way? We didn`t have exit -- I want to know how we didn`t know that
until yesterday. We`re all thinking Scola and Scherer. He gets like
(INAUDIBLE) oh, but we always knew he was number two last time. How
come we didn`t know -- nobody`s confirmed that, by the way.

SENNOTT: No, of course.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at Tim Dolan, what the cardinal from this
city did. He`s archbishop from New York and cardinal. He spoke about
the new focus on the poor that`s ushered in by the selection of this new
pope, Francis. Let`s listen to him, local cardinal here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: You can`t sit in the
Sistine Chapel underneath Michelangelo`s last judgment. I mean, the
most renounced setting in the whole world, where Jesus are saying, hey,
all of you who are good to the poor, come to heaven, all of you who turn
your back on the poor, literally go to hell, OK?

And to elect a man who just radiated that sense of loving embrace of the
poor, that was very important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sell it.

REYES: He has something --

MATTHEWS: Tim Dolan would sell it. What is the odd?

REYES: Let me tell you, there`s a word in Spanish, the word carino. It
translates as love. What it means, it means affection, it means warmth.
It`s something you would feel carino toward your grandfather or very
trusted friend or something like that.

He has carino. And, you know, it`s a connection, the little that we
know about him, the way he strikes so many, particularly among
Hispanics, he has that. As pope, with that carino, with connection,
that`s going to make him a superstar.

You know, going to Pope John XXIII, he had carino.

(CROSSTALK)

SENNOTT: John Paul connected with people. He connected --

MATTHEWS: No, I`m talking about John XXIII is our liberal --

REYES: He had it. He had it.

SENNOTT: Even John Paul connected with people deeply. This pope I
think will do that. This pope, let`s flip it now. We`ve done a lot of
praising of this pope for social justice. He`s the first Jesuit. He
really has that mission of social justice but he also has an
extraordinary task ahead of him.

This is a church rocked with scandal. It has stress cracks in the
foundation that are moral and financial. The governance of 1.2 billion
member organization that is global is going to be hard and it needs a
lot of work.

MATTHEWS: And it`s got Bernard Law living in the house.

SENNOTT: And the other thing is, if you think about it, this pope, he
wants to do a penchant for the poor. That`s a way to coalesce a lot of
Catholics who are straying around his papacy.

MATTHEWS: I think this means a lot to us. I wanted to something again
tonight about it because I think it`s a big thing to talk about. We
don`t do it very often here. It`s spiritual but also about social
justice. Both of you got it right I think.

Gardenia? What is it?

REYES: Carino.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Charles Sennott. And thank you, Raul Reyes.

Coming up, perhaps another historic first. We`re going to be joined by
Christine Quinn, who`s sitting there, who`s hoping to become the first
female mayor of New York. New York, New York, the town so nice they
named it twice.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York where I`m at right now
wouldn`t be welcomed down in Mississippi I bet, that`s because state
lawmakers down there overwhelmingly approved what they call the anti-
Bloomberg bill. It bans towns from requiring restaurants to post
calorie counts on menus or to limit portion sizes. Mayor Bloomberg
tried to do with his ban on large sodas.

Well, the Mississippi measure also prohibits any local rule banning toys
from being handed out with kids meals.

By the way, Mississippi is the most obese state in America.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

After three terms, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will leave office at
the end of this year and that may open the door to history because
that`s because New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who`s
right here with me, is hoping to become the first female mayor of the
city -- actually, the country`s largest city, over 8 million people live
here again.

And here is Quinn announcing her candidacy last Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE QUINN, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: New York for my family
was a beacon. A place where they believed that if they came, great,
almost magical things would happen and it did, and that`s what I want
make sure remains the ultimate truth about New York City.

I`m kicking off our walk and talk tour. We are going to walk and talk
our way through every neighborhood in the city. I think it`s a great
way to hear from New Yorkers, what is going on in their homes, what`s
going on with their lives, so I can make sure when I`m mayor, my focus
is their focus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nice pictures there, Christine Quinn, madam speaker.

QUINN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m driving in today. In New York, I drive the cars, and
you`ve got to ask her the question --

QUINN: OK.

MATTHEWS: -- was it good for New York for you to support letting
Michael Bloomberg have three terms with the people of New York voted
twice to limit the mayor`s term to two?

QUINN: You know, we were in the moment, Chris, with the worst economic
crisis since the depression and I feel that it was a right decision to
give voters a chance to keep some elected officials and let others go,
have the opportunity of consistency in face of that economic crisis.
And in the time the mayor and I have had in these extra terms, we`ve
passed more pro tenant laws than any of the time.

MATTHEWS: So it was good for the city?

QUINN: I think so.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the whole idea of changing the
roles during a term, when they change the roles on the presidential
terms and they set up the two-term limit, under Truman, the Congress,
even if it was Republican, the Congress said it shouldn`t affect Truman.
Do you think it should change laws on the person who is in office?
Doesn`t that change the rules, especially after the public twice in New
York voted against it? They voted for term limits.

QUINN: Right. It was an extreme time, hopefully, a time we never have
to face again economically and what we gave voters a right as voters.
And some elected officials that year in 2009 came back and some didn`t.

But you know what? I think this mayor`s race is going to be about the
future. Not what happened in 2009 but what`s going to happen going
forward.

MATTHEWS: No? But if you poll the people, they didn`t like it.

QUINN: You know, but I think that was clearly true.

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t you do it for Mayor Rudy Giuliani? He was the
nation`s mayor, the country loved him. He wasn`t a billionaire. He
didn`t get another third term right after 9/11. That was extraordinary.

QUINN: It was a very different proposal that Rudy Giuliani made. He
wanted to be given more time in office by fiat, as opposed to what the
mayor and I did where we said we would stand before the voters who
didn`t like what we did and they would get to decide yes or no. Rudy
wanted to give in to him without ever having to go back before the
voters.

MATTHEWS: So where is Bloomberg behind you?

QUINN: You`d have to ask Bloomberg. But he had a very good --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the thing that`s really caused him
trouble, I wouldn`t compare to Franklin Roosevelt packing the Supreme
Court but in the same trivial way, this 16-ounce thing really bugs a lot
of people. This is not the mommy state, the daddy state, whatever you
want to call it.

Why should anybody in public office have the right to tell me how large
a Coke I drink?

QUINN: Well, look, I -- the mayor and I --

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with me? My thinking is you`re with Bloomberg -
-

QUINN: The mayor -- I don`t support the soda ban. That said, I want to
congratulate the mayor. He`s done more to fight obesity than anybody
in any city anywhere.

But I worry that if you tell people, you can`t have that, they are going
to get two of them. When we passed the smoking ban, which I was the
lead sponsor of when I was health community chair, that was about your
smoke not getting to hurt me as opposed to this which is a personal
decision.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

In other words, your principle would be stop people from waving guns
around or having guns because they can kill people.

QUINN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: But my question, I really I like Bloomberg.

QUINN: Me, too.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s really smart.

But I think this 16 ounce thing took away some of his credibility with
something far more important, which is guns. Do you agree?

QUINN: No. I mean, I think --

MATTHEWS: People think of him as 16-ounce guy. He`s going to boss us
around about cokes. Of course, he wants to take away our guns.

QUINN: Look, I think the mayor has worked -- mayor has also this been -
- he`s got big ideas that he puts out there. That`s a credit to him.

But the work the mayor has done, not just in New York but across the
country on guns, I don`t think you can touch him on that. It`s
incredibly important. Guns are a plague in our cities and in our parts
of our country as well -- innocent victims walking down the street not
getting to go home at night.

I was with my friend last night, Jackie Adams (ph), two --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Something nice with your city, I love it.

QUINN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think Rudy did a hell of a job of cleaning this city. I
know the cab drivers, I think he`s great. My kids both went to NYU,
they love the city. They can walk around -- as young people do stuff at
night and they never would have done that 20 years ago.

QUINN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: The murder rate is way down and it`s such a good thing to be
in our most popular city, our greatest city. Broadway has never been
better. All the stars here.

Good luck.

QUINN: Thank you. I`m going to make it better.

MATTHEWS: I hope -- I might even endorse you, whatever it`s worth, even
if I`m from out of town.

QUINN: All right. I take it.

MATTHEWS: Christine Quinn, maybe the first lesbian mayor of New York,
maybe the first gay mayor of New York. You decide.

And we`re going to return. Let me finish with the historic election of
the Pope Francis and what it says about the growing power of Latinos.

You`re watching HARDBALL -- and Latinos. You`re watching HARDBALL, the
place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

A sixth of our country is now of a Spanish background, one in six and
growing. Imagine the enhanced dignity they must feel today after what
happened late yesterday in Rome. The election of Pope Francis is
something so new it may take a while to get our heads around it. It
won`t take that long for the people out there who come from Latin
American background however, the Cubans, the Mexican-Americans and
Puerto Ricans, and all the people here in our country from Central
America, and the Caribbean, they must be thrilled.

And the cardinal from Buenos Aires came as a surprise last night, didn`t
he? He wasn`t a front-runner. He wasn`t even mentioned by those who do
it, who gave the names of the possible pope to the newspapers. My sense
is that he will be very offbeat from what we`re used to in politics in
this country.

Usually you hear somebody from the suburb say I`m a liberal on social
issues, but I`m conservative on economic issues. Well, Pope Francis is
just the opposite from you. He`s conservative on issues like marriage
equality, but progressive on matters like poverty and economic justice.
He`s like some old-style Democrats who are pro-life but solid on health
care for the poor, protection of minimum wage, you know, sort of like
Pennsylvania`s former Governor Bob Casey.

So, get ready for a pope who will perfect leader on the old progressive
issues dear to Dorothy Day and Tip O`Neill, and more conservative when
it comes to matters of sex -- maybe it`s the best we can do.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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