updated 3/19/2013 10:56:41 AM ET 2013-03-19T14:56:41

HARDBALL
March 18, 2013

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

Guests: Chad Griffin, Dan Malloy, Shira Toeplitz

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Reince Priebus. What more can I say?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with that bridge being detonated down in Texas.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow! That`s what Reince Priebus himself is doing to the
Republican Party. He talks about building bridges to African-Americans,
but isn`t he the same Reince Priebus who as chairman of the Republican
National Committee presided over a voter suppression effort in three dozen
states aimed at keeping African-Americans from even voting?

And wasn`t the country`s number one birther, Donald Trump, a speaker at the
conservatives` convention? And wasn`t that Sarah Palin letting loose with
the latest crack about the need to check President Obama`s background?

Priebus talks about getting the true nature of the party out to the public.
He says it`s been a communications problem. But wasn`t the most excellent
communication of all during the election year that tape of Mitt Romney
talking to some rich people in Florida about the people, the 47 percent,
who aren`t rich?

Priebus talks about outreach to the young, yet it was his party that
opposed issues important to younger voters -- marriage equality, abortion
rights, gun safety. And he`s still talking -- actually, pushing big tax
cuts for the rich and cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that affect the middle
class and the poor. So what a strange thing it is to hear Reince Priebus
today talking about building bridges when he was the one with his hands on
the detonator.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is with us tonight, along with the
managing editor of TheGrio, Joy Reid. Governor Rendell, I read (INAUDIBLE)
what you had to say about this, and I`m just wondering, why would a
political party believe that a new PR strategy would cover up for its
policies?

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It makes no sense
at all. First of all, their policies are bankrupt. They`re the exact same
-- and they haven`t changed their policies a bit, Chris. You see
Republican state legislators pushing virulent anti-abortion bills that are
just clearly unconstitutional, clearly punitive to women, no exceptions for
incest and rape, things that voters rejected the last time dramatically.

They`re still -- they don`t get it about income inequality in this country.
They`re still pushing for budgets that give huge tax breaks to the rich and
stick it to poor people, people who are vulnerable. They haven`t changed
their policies a bit. No packaging, no marketing can change that.

And then they`ve got the additional problem of the CPAC convention, where
you`ve got the wacko factor at work, where every independent voter,
moderate Republican, conservative Democrat who looks at that sideshow --
and it was a sideshow...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: ... says this party is whacked. We can`t be for them. So
they`ve got problems that outreach isn`t going to fix.

MATTHEWS: Joy, what happens when an NFL team goes 0 and 16? They
generally take a look at the coach and think about getting another coach.
And this time, the coach is saying, What we need is a better public
relations desk, a better public relations office to say we really did win
16 games or 8 or 10. We didn`t lose all the games.

This Priebus guy has got chutzpah like I`ve never seen. I mean, he`s a
disaster! He ran a three-dozen-state effort to screw the black voter out
of voting, especially older voters. He did that on purpose from the top,
including Pennsylvania. And now he comes out and says, We got to outreach.
Well, they had an outreach for the black voters. It was aimed at keeping
them from voting.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely. And
Reince Priebus, of course, comes from the Wisconsin Republican Party, which
he was also the head of before he got his current job. And this is where a
lot of this stuff about the billboards designed to make black voters feel
like, you know, the police are coming up behind them.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the marshals are coming.

REID: All of those -- right. A lot of those ideas were incubated in his
own state Republican Party in Wisconsin. And some of what he said in his
report about the governors being the incubators of good policy, whereas
it`s the congressional Republicans who`ve got problems -- it`s the
governors, the Republican governors, especially in these swing states, that
are initiating some of the most draconian policies, that are saying no to
expanding Medicare (SIC) for their poor. They`re the ones who are saying
yes to these voter ID laws...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: ... that they hope will keep minority voters home. So the idea is
that softening your language on a few social issues and on immigration to
lure more Hispanics is not a cure for their overall policy and stylistic
problems.

MATTHEWS: No, I think what you do is, you do that to make the older white
voter feel better about being a Republican.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: We`re not racist, we`re not anti-Latino, we`re not anti-gay.
You don`t encourage (ph) anybody who`s actually affected actually going to
fall for this.

Anyway, the chairman of the party, Reince Priebus -- he still is the
chairman, unbelievably (ph) -- unveiled the results of what Republicans are
calling -- I love this package -- the Growth and Opportunity Project. He
said focus groups described the Republican Party as, quote, "narrow-minded,
out of touch, stuffy old men and the party of the rich."

Well, take a look at Priebus earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Our message was weak. Our ground game was
insufficient. We weren`t inclusive. We were behind in both data and
digital. And our primary and debate process needed improvement. So
there`s no one solution. There`s a long list of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor, if you were in a choosing-sides situation, would you
ever pick him for your team?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Reince Priebus...

RENDELL: Not unless...

MATTHEWS: I can just see three guys...

RENDELL: Not unless he was...

MATTHEWS: ... playing basketball with three other guys. Give me him. I
want Priebus on my team!

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: The last man standing.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the timing of the news release was interesting, coming
soon after the conclusion of the CPAC conference, where conservative
speaker after speaker told activists there`s nothing wrong with the
conservative message. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VICE PRES. NOMINEE: We`re not here to
re-brand a party. We`re here to rebuild a country!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: For the last three weeks, conservatives have
been winning!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We don`t need a new idea. There is an
idea. The idea is called America. And it still works!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I keep thinking about when the Democrats have been in a
situation like this, because the Clintons won pretty well. They`ll
probably win again, Governor. And Obama won twice. And I`m thinking back
to when they were in really bad shape.

I`m thinking back to maybe McGovern, when they really had a -- Bob Strauss
came along, and -- you know, like you, as a party chair -- and tried to
rebuild out of what -- good will and a little bit of BS, I guess, from Bob.
But the idea was to rebuild.

And sometimes, you just have to say, We`ve to hunker down, admit we`re not
too popular, and just hope time`s going to change? I mean, what can you
change with a political party? Does any party ever say, Let`s do it
different, and get away with it? Clinton?

RENDELL: Well, yes, I think Bill Clinton did that with the DLC and sort of
changed the direction of the party on policy. And they`ve got to do that.
The first thing I would do, were I a Republican chair, is I would promote
Republicans and I`d give exposure to Republicans who were pro-choice, who
believe that a woman has a right to choose. I would try to show that we
were truly a big tent.

I would try to put someone up who -- like Marco Rubio on immigration, and
say, Look, this is the Republican Party position on immigration. If you
House members don`t want to follow it, that`s on you, but this is where we
are. We are -- our policies are going to reflect -- our actions are going
to reflect our words. Right now, the weakness in that party, Chris, is
that they talk all they want about a new image, new style, new this, new
that...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

RENDELL: ... but it`s the same old policy.

REID: But Chris...

MATTHEWS: Joy, you`re going to love this one, Joy. I just got to give you
this one because this -- this is a gopher pitch for you, right down the
middle and over the top. Here. The CPAC convention was a PR nightmare,
obviously, for conservatives. It featured birthers like Donald Trump, who
told the crowd that the problem with the country`s immigration system is
that we don`t let in enough European immigrants.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This is so funny, I guess. Let`s watch him in action here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: When it comes to immigration, you know
that the 11 million illegals, even if given the right to vote -- you know,
you`re going to have to do what`s right, but the fact is, 11 million people
will be voting Democratic. Why aren`t we letting people in from Europe? I
have many friends, many, many friends, and nobody wants to talk this,
nobody wants to say it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why would nobody want to say this?

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Why wouldn`t they?

MATTHEWS: Joy, why wouldn`t anybody want to say, We want to have a country
that`s specifically aimed at white people and we want to keep it white, and
that`s the goal of this place, is to be white? I mean, we all have our
sort of tribal loyalties, but to make it an official policy seems to be a
bit un-American. Just thinking.

REID: That should fix it. Yes, they also had their segment on race, and
it was all about how to trump the race card. It wasn`t how to appeal more
to African-Americans and sound like you don`t dislike them. It was about
how to get them not to call you a racist when you`re saying the things that
you want to say.

Look, the problem with the Republican Party fundamentally -- Reince Priebus
goes out and he does all these focus groups in LA, in San Francisco, in
Seattle. He goes to Austin, Texas, probably the only liberal city in
Texas.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: And he asks these focus groups, How can we sound more friendly? But
the base of the Republican Party, which is mostly in the South -- and I
don`t mean Austin, Texas -- they are more like Donald Trump. At this
point, the core of their party are people whose core value is resentment,
resentment against immigrants, resentment against minorities and holding
onto this economic philosophy that says just give more and more tax breaks
to the rich, and the poor are bums.

If they can`t change that core problem, they can`t add to the Republican
Party...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well...

REID: ... because most Americans don`t think that way.

MATTHEWS: Picking up on what you said...

RENDELL: And Chris, I want to add -- I want to add to what Joy said, is
even if the core isn`t a majority of Republicans, that base dominates their
thinking. Best example, the Senate Judiciary vote on universal background
check, supported by 93 percent of Americans, and all 8 Republican senators
voted against it.

They know better. They`re just afraid of their base. And until they can
stand up to that base, until they can say to that base, Look, we need a
broader look at this, and we`re not going to kowtow to you on every issue -
- until they can do that, they`re going to be a minority party.

MATTHEWS: You mean by the base, people who are basically against
immigration from Mexico or from anywhere in the south, the people who are
against any kind of gun control, people who are against any kind of real
marriage equality for gays. It is pretty much across the board.

Well, anyway, you referenced this -- on Friday -- you just referenced this
-- on Friday, CPAC did feature a breakout session, they called it. And it
was entitled, as you got it right, "Trump the race card." No comma there.
"Are you sick and tired of being called a racist when you`re not one?" It
sounds like the redneck thing.

Anyway, according to a reporter from Web sites TalkingPointsMemo, who was
present at the event, an audience member popped up, took offense at the
moderator`s critical comments about slavery, believe it or not. And then
take a look at what happened when the moderator praised Frederick Douglass.
Listen to this. There is no middle road in this crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Douglass escaped from slavery. I think 10 years or 20
years after he escaped from slavery, he writes a letter to his former slave
master and says, I forgive you for all things you did to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For giving him shelter and food and all those
(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So some of that guy -- that guy, the white guy with the beard,
stands up at that event and openly makes a case for slavery, saying they
got three squares a day, basically, what are they complaining about?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Governor -- you can pick it up, Joy. I mean, I just -- there
should be a little shame here about admitting some sort of fondness or
nostalgia for the antebellum days in the South. I mean, this guy didn`t
see "Django," obviously.

REID: Yes, well, the whole...

MATTHEWS: Just guessing.

RENDELL: ... the whole spectacle of it is it encapsulates what`s wrong
with the Republican Party on race. Black Republicans say, Hey, the way to
make people not call you a racist is to reference Frederick Douglass, who
lived, you know, hundreds of years ago. You know, Go back to the
Republican Party the way it was under Lincoln.

And then you`ve got this other guy who comes out and says, But we really
want to be Booker T. Washington Republicans. You know, one hand, but as
separate as five fingers. Why can`t we go back to segregation?

And then a woman stood up and said, Wait a minute, we shouldn`t be talking
about slavery and referencing that. She`s the one who got booed! Both
people came out of that Tea Party session saying the woman who was arguing
with that segregationist guy -- she was the problem. People didn`t see the
black guy saying, Let`s go back to Frederick Douglass or the white guy
saying, Let`s go back to segregation. They weren`t the problem to most of
the attendees at that event. That is what`s wrong with the Republican
Party.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

RENDELL: And the harm that this does, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Yes?

RENDELL: The harm that this does is not just with African-American voters.
It`s with those independent voters in the Philadelphia suburbs.

REID: Correct.

MATTHEWS: I know.

RENDELL: They listen to this stuff and they say, These guys are nuts.

MATTHEWS: They said, I signed onto the party of Lincoln and these guys
signed off from the party of Lincoln.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Exactly. They`re the opposite now.

MATTHEWS: I know just who you`re talking about. I go back to my point,
white people generally don`t like to be thought of as racists because a lot
of them aren`t. And some are, of course, and are trying to get over it
over the years. But to be in a party that`s happy with somebody standing
up saying things like, Let`s go back to before the Emancipation
Proclamation, is wacky.

Anyway, thank you, Governor Rendell. Thank you, Joy, always. You were
wonderful at the end there. I have to listen to that over again. Coming
up -- I mean it. I`m not always sarcastic.

The big announcement today from Hillary Clinton -- she`s come out in favor
of same-sex marriage. That`s a big boost to the gay rights movement,
obviously, but even a bigger boost, I think, to her run for president in
2016, should she make it. It`s the first real indication, I think, that
she`s thinking about it very seriously and clearing the deck on some of
these issues.

Also, this next story shows just how out there the pro-gun movement in this
country has become -- so-called "Newtown truthers," they`re called.
They`re gun nuts who claim the elementary school massacre in Newtown,
Connecticut, never happened, that it was staged to take away gun rights.
Well, this would be monstrous itself, but the fact is, these truthers are
overwhelming the towns up there with demands for death certificates and
burial sites. The governor of Connecticut joins me to talk about more
important things.

And Sarah Palin proves that she`s the best carnival barker at the right-
wing circus. She`s been forgotten in the national debate lately, but that
hasn`t stopped her from being a big hit among the true believers.

Finally, see if this guy looks familiar to you. This is a picture of Satan
in the History Channel series "The Bible." Look familiar? A lot of people
think so, even though the producers say any similarity between Satan and
any known living person is purely coincidental.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: CPAC is over, but two of its biggest stars were the big winners
on Saturday night`s straw poll. Rand Paul narrowly won the presidential
straw poll, getting 25 percent of the vote down there, and Marco Rubio was
second at 23 percent. Far behind the front-runners were Rick Santorum with
8 percent in the voting. Chris Christie, who wasn`t even invited -- he got
7. And Paul Ryan and Scott Walker finished fifth and sixth.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Former secretary of state Hillary
Clinton ventured back into politics today when she announced her support
for gay marriage in a video for the Human Rights Campaign. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: LGBT Americans are our
colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And
they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship.
That includes marriage. That`s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay
couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law
embedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LGBT
Americans and all Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton`s support came not long after an op-ed
from former president Bill Clinton backing an overturn of the Defense of
Marriage Act. In just a few days, the Supreme Court will look at both
DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, and California`s Prop 8. It also puts her
in line with top Democrats heavily weighing 2016 bids, of course. Could
this mean a move for her already, an eventual candidacy here?

Chad Griffin`s president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Joan Walsh is
editor-at-large for Salon and an MSNBC political analyst -- and laughing,
and joyously already involved with what she knows to be a fascinating
conversation. And it is fascinating.


I watch the Clintons. I am a student of the Clintons. Bill Clinton came
out a while back. He came out -- he`s going to get rid of DOMA. He wrote
a very nice op-ed piece in a major newspaper. Now Hillary Clinton has come
forth in a very well-produced video, very well done. And I listened to it
all today and it`s well done.

So here`s my question. How did it happen? Because this -- we were
talking, the producers and I, when is she going to do it, how is she going
to do it? And now we know.

CHAD GRIFFIN, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN PRESIDENT: You know, you know, Chris,
look, I`ve known the Clintons for a long time. I grew up in Arkansas. And
over the last few years, every chance I had when I was around people in
leadership positions, I`ve urged them to fully evolve and come out in
support of marriage equality. And that includes former secretary Clinton.
Sometime in the last 10 days or so, she reached out and actually offered to
do this video as part of a series that the Human Rights Campaign has called
"Americans for Marriage Equality."

MATTHEWS: How`d she do it? Who`d she call?

GRIFFIN: Me. And then I...

MATTHEWS: Personally. She personally called you?

GRIFFIN: Yes. And then I had the happenstance of getting on the train
this Wednesday, Chris, and walking onto the Amtrak train, and former
secretary Clinton was seated there.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

RENDELL: And she was so excited. We spent time...

MATTHEWS: Was this the fast train or the slow train?

GRIFFIN: This was the fast train.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN: And we were able to -- to talk about how excited she was to do
this.

And she actually did it over the weekend on Saturday. And then we released
it, as you know, to our 1.35 million members and supporters today.

MATTHEWS: So this is kismet, huh? This had to be.

GRIFFIN: Incredible.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you.

Let me go back to Joan.

What I`m fascinated by is sort of the doppelganger here. Laura Bush just a
few days ago, a week or so ago was pictured in a big ad by a group that you
guys support for marriage equality, and she was listed as one of those four
-- there she is in the upper right side -- of one of those major public
figures, along with Colin Powell, as an endorser of marriage equality.

And then later that afternoon around 5:00 Eastern, she withdrew her name
from it and said, you can`t use my image, which you can`t -- it`s a fact,
so they can`t say it wasn`t true.

I find this still a partisan issue. I find it something that`s troubling
for the Republicans and a big plus for the Democrats. I think they have
really chosen sides. Your thoughst on this issue of equality?

WALSH: Oh, oh, I agree. I think this is a foundational issue that will
divide the two parties.

And I think that Secretary Clinton getting out there and doing this now
makes it clear that I don`t think there can be anybody running in that `16
primary who doesn`t support marriage rights. It just feels to me like that
would be a really dangerous place to be.

And so I think it`s significant that Chad says she reached out to him.
This is really her first political act, now that she`s allowed to be
political again. And I think it is saying that we know that we`re the
party that supports marriage rights. Some of us came to it a little bit
later than maybe we should have. But we`re coming to it firmly.

I think her position sounds like she may even be beyond President Obama`s
position, and this is going to be something...

MATTHEWS: How so? How so, Joan?

WALSH: I -- you know, I think he`s left it that he`s comfortable leaving
it at the state level.

And she seems to come out and go beyond it, that it`s just a basic right.
You know, I would want to follow up on that, but it`s a very, very strong
statement with no caveats or quibbles. And, you know, God bless Rob
Portman. He`s come out for it on behalf of his son and other gay people.

But this is an issue where the Republican Party is going to drag its heels.
John Boehner feels like it`s a good idea to come out and say, I wouldn`t
support gay marriage even if I had a gay son, which is so unbelievable.
This is going to be...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get a response to that.

I think that`s interesting.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Is it becoming partisan, meaning that you expect that the
Republicans will not change their platform between now and then, next time,
for president?

GRIFFIN: No.

I actually am optimistic that they will, Chris. In fact, the postmortem
that came out today from the Republican Party mentioned four times that
they have got to start including gay people in the party platform.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wait. What are the words? Oh, the words matter. What do you
mean including them in the platform? What do you mean?

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: They said that they`re...

WALSH: Right. There`s not mention of marriage, Chad.

GRIFFIN: Oh, that`s right. No, the platform actually is terrible as it
relates to LGBT people, but the report that came out today used the
position that they have against LGBT people as one of the reasons why they
did so poorly this past election.

MATTHEWS: Therefore?

GRIFFIN: Now, that has to be followed up with actual actions, with actual
actions, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes. See, I all this with not your concern -- concerned about
it -- you`re obviously concerned about other issues too, but not just
marriage equality as an issue for the gay community, LGBT community.

But when they say things, we want do reach out to African-Americans., and I
saw with all honesty their way of reaching out is to stop them from voting.
And people are not stupid. You can make all the hosannas and full-page ads
and everything else. If your policy is still anti a group, they`re not
going to vote for you.

Anyway, let`s take a look at this, the way Clinton ends this, Secretary
Clinton. This video I thought was very well written, very well put
together. Let`s talk about it as an opening for the 2016 presidential bid.
Let`s listen, because I really did think it was, in the best sense,
political.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: For those of us
who lived through the long years of the civil rights and women`s rights
movements, the speed with which more and more people have come to embrace
the dignity and equality of LGBT Americans has been breathtaking and
inspiring.

We see it all around us every day in major cultural statements and in quiet
family moments. But the journey is far from over, and, therefore, we must
keep working to make our country freer and fairer and to continue to
inspire the faith the world puts in our leadership. In doing so, we will
keep moving closer and closer to that more perfect union promised to us
all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We, Chad, we.

GRIFFIN: Look, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Is she running for president?

GRIFFIN: The other...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did she tell you?

GRIFFIN: The -- she did not tell me. We didn`t talk about that.

But "The Washington Post" came out with a poll today that shows that 58
percent of Americans support marriage equality, 81 percent of people under
the age of 30. Chris, 81 percent of people in this country don`t agree on
anything these days -- 81 percent of people under the age of 30.

WALSH: Yes.

GRIFFIN: I think it`s going to become increasingly difficult for anyone of
either party to run for public office if they`re anti-gay and hold anti-gay
positions and do not embrace freedom and equality.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re making ma push here, but I will make a prediction.
The next presidential election, the Republican Party platform will oppose
gay marriage.

GRIFFIN: I will take that bet.

MATTHEWS: How much?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, I`m just kidding.

GRIFFIN: A great dinner, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I can`t bet. I can`t bet. Anyway, I always like to bet in my
brain, though.

Joan, what do you think? Do you think the Republicans will get on board?
I think they are going to be slow to get on. They may be for civil unions
at some point up to the states kind of thing. I think they will fall back
to the states` rights position, myself. That`s their usual fall position.

WALSH: Yes, I -- they -- they may try to have nicer language.

You know, this RNC report today talked about inclusion and tolerance, but
we`re not talking about tolerance in the Democratic Party anymore. We`re
talking about full partnership and equal rights.

And I have to say, Chris, today, watching that -- watching that video was
the first time that I really felt a twinge in my gut like, I think she`s
going to do this, not a prediction. I have no inside information.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Just my...

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you why you might be right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: When she announced for president, when she ran against Obama,
what, five years ago, six years ago, she opened up with a videotape.

WALSH: With a video. It was like an echo of that.

MATTHEWS: Just like this.

Anyway, thank you.

GRIFFIN: Time will tell.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chad.

WALSH: Time will tell.

MATTHEWS: You`re such a pol. You`re such a pol, Chad. You`re such a
politician.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you for coming on.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: And Joan Walsh, as always.

Up next: Notice anything familiar about this guy? He`s a character who
plays Satan in a new History Channel series "The Bible," of course. A lot
of people think he looks like the president. You decide. A lot of people
around here. I was a little slow on that.

But, anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, a History Channel miniseries called "The Bible" gets overshadowed by
Satan -- actually, the actor that played Satan and unfortunate resemblance,
given the subject matter. Take a look.

Some say the Satan character here resembles President Obama. What do you
think? Well, during the show, Twitter exploded with people taking note of
the resemblance. And the History Channel stepped in with a statement today
-- quote -- "It`s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection.
History`s `The Bible` is meant to enlighten people on its rich histories
and deep stories."

Anyway, Mark Burnett, an Obama supporter and one of the show`s producers,
called the outrage utter nonsense.

Well, intentions aside, it really is tough, by the way, to look at those
side by side and not see some similarity.

Next: What happens when two conspiracy theories end up in close quarters?
Well, conservative Web site Breitbart.com put together a panel of speakers
who didn`t make the cut on last week`s CPAC`s invite list. One of them was
anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, who says that Grover Norquist was
helping the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate the conference.

At one point during the panel, birther queen Orly Taitz tried to steer the
conversation toward the president`s citizenship. Take a look at Geller`s
response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I think there`s enough substance
on this panel.

I mean, how many -- how many topics can you handle, I mean, really? It`s
inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, just imagine the chat there between someone who thinks
the American right has been overtaken by the Muslim Brotherhood and a
birther. Pick your poison there.

Anyway "New York," magazine caught up with Orly Taitz, who was unhappy with
the lack of attention she`s getting from the media these days -- quote --
"The reporters today are similar to, I`m sorry to say, reporters that I
have seen in the former communist Soviet Union, or what was being reported
in Nazi Germany in the 1930s."

That`s Orly Taitz.

Finally, some CPAC takeaways from Bill Maher, starting with a welcome back
for Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Mitt Romney was up there,
and I tell you something, Mitt Romney has not lost any of the warmth and
charm that we have come to know.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: He still sounds like the flight attendant who tells you, you can`t
use the bathroom in first class.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: They had a panel discussion there at CPAC, and I swear to God, this
is the name of the panel discussion they had today. It was called, "Are
You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist When You Know You`re Not One?"

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Let me save you guys a lot of trouble...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: ... and money spending on this seminar. If you get called a racist
often enough to be sick and tired of it...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: ... you might be a redneck. Yes, you just might...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And, as we talked about it earlier, that was the event that
spiraled out of control thanks to a pro-slavery audience member.

Bill Maher, by the way, dubbed the entire conference an open mike from
hell. Can`t beat him.

Up next: the disturbing phenomenon of the Newtown truthers, those
extremists who insist the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School never
happened. It was actually a plot, they say, that the government can take -
- so the government could take away your guns. Well, the governor of
Connecticut joins us next. He will talk about more important things.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

While the world has viewed last December`s massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary School as an unspeakable tragedy, some gun rights dead-enders
have seen it more as an inconvenient truth, an event that could and has
prompted calls for new gun laws.

Enter the online conspiracy theorists who claim the massacre never happened
and it`s a government plot to take away guns. Well, "The New Yorker"
magazine this month describes the so-called Sandy Hook truther movement
this way: "A loose coalition of online conspiracy theorists claimed that
the massacre never happened. It had been staged. Conspiracy theorists, as
well as journalists, overwhelmed the town`s clerk office with so many
requests for birth certificates and burial locations that the clerk is now
working with state representatives to draft a bill that will limit the
public`s access to vital records."

With me now is a man who knows all the truth up there, Connecticut Governor
Dannel Malloy.

And you are so powerful in your feelings about this and your thoughts about
it. What is it that springs it out of our country`s culture that people
won`t -- won`t even accept reality in fights like this?

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: You know, I have looked at some of
those. There`s a lot of videos up. A lot of folks, they`re really sick.

Honestly, these are not well people. And so anyone who ascribes to that
theory really is advertising that they shouldn`t be trusted for any reason.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MALLOY: And, I mean, it`s really wacky stuff. And you can go on YouTube
and you can scroll through those and you can look at some of the -- it`s
interesting, but it`s kind of like going to the -- you know, the fun house
when I was a kid at Playland. You know, it`s not reality.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

But what about the power of the NRA that is real? And I keep thinking
about -- I just read this piece in the paper today about how even wives who
are threatened by their husbands, really frightening cases of armed
husbands saying I`m going to kill you, I`m going to put a gun in your mouth
and blow your head off, and they can`t even get court orders to disarm
these men.

MALLOY: Now, we can do that in Connecticut.

MATTHEWS: You can?

MALLOY: Obviously, we`re I think ahead of the curb on that sort of stuff.

No, there`s a sickness. You have states that weren`t reporting data, I
mean, Pennsylvania not reporting hundreds of thousands of cases that would
have disqualified people to get guns. This is a system that if you had --
NRA has its way, there is no limitation. Everyone can get guns.

We could say they shouldn`t get guns, but we won`t have a system that
prevents them from getting guns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MALLOY: That`s what the NRA now wants. Of course, it`s different than
what they said in 1999. But that`s what they want.

MATTHEWS: Well, then I saw the vote in the Senate last week, we all did,
where all the Republican senators voted against every initiative, whether
it`s limiting the number of magazines -- well, it`s on everything. It was
background checks. It was obviously on assault weapons.

I`m beginning to think nothing really about guns is going to pass the
Senate on partisan lines, Democrats for gun safety, Republicans against.

MALLOY: Yes, these are real profiles in courage, aren`t they?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, they can`t all be sick.

MALLOY: No, they`re not all sick. No, no. I mean, I they have -- you
know, they have reasons. I mean, they`re afraid about their election
prospects.

I mean, when the head of the NRA goes to CPAC and says that the vehicle
they have chosen to develop their policy as the Republican Party, what does
that tell you? It tells you that there`s this gigantic disconnect. The
reality is the vast majority of Americans want universal background checks.
You can`t get on the a plane without somebody doing a background check on
you. But you can go in and buy a gun.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I guess they believe in same-sex marriage between
the NRA and the Republican Party.

Anyway, last week, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun
control or gun safety, things got pretty heated between freshman
Republican, Ted Cruz -- who`s pretty far right on this gun issue. I think
he`s against any gun control -- and committee chair, Dianne Feinstein,
who`s very good on it. Let`s watch.

(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`re contemplating
doing with the Second Amendment in context of the First or Fourth
Amendment? Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to
specify the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and
shall not apply to the books Congress has deemed outside the protection of
the Bill of Rights?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m not a sixth 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: Well, there you have it. This is the face of the new Republican
right. They basically are for everyone having a gun whenever they want it.
In fact, they encourage you have to a gun.

MALLOY: They have no shame --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MALLOY: -- to go back to the McCarthy period. And I think Senator Cruz is
one of hose individuals. I mean, I think he`ll demagogue this issue and it
plays well for his constituency. And he -- you know, I think he might even
believe some of this.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the numbers here because you`re
familiar with this. This is difference between passion and effective
politics. The people with passion on this issue tend to be the gun people.

Look at these numbers, though, if you look at the whole country, now.
Armed guards in schools, pretty close.

What do you think of that 50-48?

MALLOY: You know, I think that it`s an easy solution that people think
about. And there are a lot of schools that have police officers. You
know, that doesn`t --

MATTHEWS: You don`t have a big (INAUDIBLE). I don`t either.

MALLOY: No.

MATTHEWS: What about this assault weapons ban? It`s just about 57
percent, three out of five. What do you make of that? It`s not a strong
endorsement.

MALLOY: I think it is. I think, you know, the country has moved on this
issue. They really now recognize how lethal and how dangerous --

MATTHEWS: But why only 57 percent? If you get --

MALLOY: There`s a lot of people in Texas, I guess.

MATTHEWS: The trouble is of that 41 percent on the minority side there, is
a lot of intent gun owners who will think about nothing else for the rest
of their lives --

MALLOY: Right. Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- except keeping their guns.

MALLOY: You`re right.

Let me go to another one, illegal gun sales. That seems to be doing
better, 82 percent. And, of course, background checks always does well
with 91 percent.

This is, to me, probably the cutting edge. If we can`t get any more
background check coverage, more effective background checking of people,
then I think we will have lost a chance here, even in the tragedy, the
horror of what happened in Connecticut, to get some minimal benefit out of
it.

MALLOY: Forty percent of guns in America change hands without a background
check. That`s the reality. That`s what`s happening in our country. Some
of these sales are in alleys of urban communities. Some of them are taking
place in Florida and Virginia, and guns moving up through straw purchasers.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MALLOY: This stuff is going on. The American people get it. There`s too
much violence.

We`re losing 30,000 people a year.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MALLOY: I mean, you know, a lot of them are suicides. A lot of them are
domestic in nature. There`s a lot of reasons for it, but we`re losing too
many people. The American people get that. People shouldn`t have guns who
have restraining order against them or have a --

MATTHEWS: You`re a reasonable man and a good man. Thank you.

MALLOY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut.

Up next, Sarah Palin proves once again she`s not a serious person, you
might say. She may be out of the national media, but the right wing loves
this person. And she can put on a show. She`s the chief barker at the
circus.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, get yourself ready for another tough confirmation battle.
President Obama`s pick to be labor secretary is assistant secretary,
actually Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. Perez has played a big role
in the Justice Department`s channels to voter ID laws in Texas and South
Carolina, laws passed by Republicans with the hope of curbing minority
voting obviously.

And Republicans already have their knives out for Perez. Senator Jeff
Sessions of Alabama called his pick unfortunate and needlessly divisive.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERS)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Oh, Bloomberg`s not around. Our
Big Gulp`s safe. We`re cool. Shoot, it`s just pop, with low cal ice cubes
in it. I hope that`s OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Sarah Palin found her true fans this weekend when she made her way to an
adoring crowd at CPAC. But that didn`t stop her from delving into the
lowest of the low, birther talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President. Should have
started with yours.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You get the drift. This kind of talk may rile up the base but
doesn`t appeal to mainstream America.

Ron Reagan is radio talk show host and MSNBC political analyst.

And Shira Toeplitz is reporter for "Roll Call."

Shira, what is it about the birther thing that just gets to the giggle with
these people? Why do they love doing this, to talk about the president`s
roots as un-American? What`s the giggle here?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, ROLL CALL: Well, obviously she was speaking to a
conservative convention. A lot of young activists are there, probably the
most conservative, the conservative wing of the Republican Party. They
liked it. They were cheering it on.

MATTHEWS: Why?

TOEPLITZ: Why? Because I think they still believe, for some reason, the
president has more to offer on the topic. Obviously, he`s released his
birth certificate. That is not the case, but they still like to cheer it
on, even though it`s been proven factually accurate that he was born in the
United States of America.

MATTHEWS: So I`m still left, Ron, with the question of why. I mean, you
can disagree with a guy, you can call him a socialist, you can call him all
those things, is there basically judgments you make?

But there is no judgment aspect to whether this guy is an American or not,
whether he was born here or not. I don`t know if anybody had as much
advertising -- maybe you did -- most people don`t get this much advertising
when they`re born, is that big ads in the paper when you`re born in
Honolulu. You were born. That`s what happens when you were born, you get
advertised for it, nobody gets advertised being born who wasn`t born when
they were advertised.

And they just make up -- I think its ethnic. I think they don`t like his
last name, they don`t like the color of the guy. They don`t like his back
-- they don`t like anything about him being black or not white, and it`s
bugging them still. So they make a ha-ha chuckle out of it, a sick, awful,
anti-American chuckle.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You`re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: Yes, if he wasn`t an African-American or mixed race, they wouldn`t
be doing this birther nonsense with him.

But these people live in a different universe, Chris. They believe all
sorts of things that aren`t true. They believe the earth is 6,000 years
old, they believe the global warming isn`t really happening. They believe
that humans rode around on dinosaurs and things. They believe all sorts of
things.

MATTHEWS: I know.

REAGAN: If you want to know -- if you want to find the people who are
ruining the Republican Party, you go to CPAC.

I will leave you with one little observation. They had a seminar on
minority outreach that was dominated by white men defending slavery. That
pretty much tells you all you need to know about CPAC.

MATTHEWS: I like the guy that said they`ve got three squares a day, what
are they complaining about?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, Shira, I want to try it one more time. Why did
Donald Trump call for bringing whites in the country and not dark people or
brown people from the South or brown people? How can you say you`re
basically for racialization of America, that whites should be officially
welcomed, but not other people?

TOEPLITZ: I don`t know --

REAGAN: It`s a mystery -- no, sorry. Go ahead.

TOEPLITZ: It`s OK.

I don`t know how you can say that. I think what`s the story is the
evolution of CPAC. It`s so much the story of the evolution of the
Republican Party, right? CPAC used to be this conference that attracted
all these very, very conservative figures. And now, more and more you`re
seeing mainstream people usually built for characters like Donald Trump to
go speak to the Republican base. That`s not the case anymore.

And I think that`s very scary for Republican Party, especially members and
consultants and operatives who want to win eventually again down the line.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at one last line.

Here`s Sarah Palin talking about something a bit you might say off-color,
but it`s her way of being funny and a little bit of a redneck. Let`s watch
her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Oh, you should have seen what Todd got me for Christmas.

Well, it wasn`t that exciting. It`s a metal rack, a case for hunting rifle
to put on the back of a four-wheeler, and then I had to get something for
him to put in the gun case, right? So this go-around he`s got the rifle.
I got the rack.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So that`s how it`s done, Ron. Liberals can`t talk like that.

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, conservatives or people on the wacko right can talk like
that. I guess they have different P.C. rules over there. What do you
think?

REAGAN: I guess so. Yes, only at CPAC would that sort of sexual innuendo
get that kind of a laugh.

Listen, the central question for the Republicans here, and it`s a question
that Sarah Palin sort of poses by her very presence there, is how do you
drag a 19th century party into the 21st century when it`s hauling this
barge full of people who want to relitigate the Civil War and Sarah Palin,
among other people. I don`t see how you do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, she`s God`s gift to the people who are truly sane, because
they can always check themselves against her.

Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan, by the way. How about finishing your term,
Governor?

Anyway, Shira Toeplitz, thanks for joining us from "Roll Call".

When we return, a very special celebration for St. Patrick`s Day, which
we`re honoring here today. Sunday, it was yesterday.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Yesterday, of course was St. Patrick`s Day here and that`s a big day in our
family, the day mom and dad were married. Actually, I can only assume the
timing had to do with lent, mom wanted to be able to celebrate, truly
celebrate on the big day.

It`s also the day we Irish Americans enjoy celebrating generally, and let`s
face it, brag about where we came from. Nobody has ever kept secret the
fact that they`re Irish.

And this year, actually today, and right this moment I`m about to celebrate
it in a special way. My guest is Senator Mark Daly of the republic of
Ireland.

Welcome, Senator. And to what do I owe this honor?

MARK DALY, IRISH SENATOR: I think it`s great to be here. I`m over here
especially to present you with your certificate of Irish heritage, which is
official Irish government recognition of all those people, the 70 million
globally and 40 million in the United States, who are proud of their Irish
heritage. So we present one to President Obama, Coach Kelly of Notre Dame
University.

MATTHEWS: My gosh.

DALY: And we`ve given one to General Dempsey, Congressman Rooney,
Congressman Neal, and, your great friend, Congressman King got one of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

So, you`ve traced it down through my mom`s side, but my dad`s side, too,
has -- but that`s Northern Ireland --

(CROSSTALK)

DALY: No, we absolutely count it.

MATTHEWS: When I was growing up, I had the Irish accent, my grand mom on
that side had the Mrs. Doubtfire accent.

DALY: We know you`re fair arguments --

(CROSSTALK)

DALY: -- side is where you probably get it your arguments.

MATTHEWS: Ha!

DALY: So pretty much anybody in the United States or globally can get a
certificate of Irish heritage.

MATTHEWS: But you gave it to me. Don`t be narrowing. I want to narrow it
down to just me.

DALY: Today is St. Patrick`s Day, I thought about you and the 40 million
in the United States.

MATTHEWS: Well, there are 40 million of us and I`ll be seeing you tonight
at the American Ireland Fund. And that`s always a great cause.

DALY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What`s the different between St, Patrick`s Day here and St.
Patrick`s Day in Ireland?

DALY: We`ve actually imported a lot of St. Patrick`s Day over.

MATTHEWS: It used to be a religious holiday over there.

DALY: It used to be actually a day -- there was three days in a year in
which there was no drinking in Ireland. Good Friday, Christmas Day and St.
Patrick`s Day. So we`ve kind of changed that.

MATTHEWS: It`s like pizza got big in Italy after it got big here, right?

Anyway, thank you, Senator Mark Daly of the Republic of Ireland.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


END


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