updated 3/22/2013 12:30:39 PM ET 2013-03-22T16:30:39

HARDBALL
March 21, 2013

Guests: Sam Stein, Cynthia Tucker, Stephanie Schriock, Willie Brown, Chip Saltsman, Robert Wexler, PeterBeinart

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Gunfight.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" tonight with this. The shooting has begun at the OK
Corral. You want to stop the sale of assault weapons in this country? Go
for it. Joe Biden says there`s still a chance. Good for him. It`s always
a solid move to get out there and keep up the cheering.

But the news from the battle right now is that it`s really down to
background checks, which I hear could go either way. We might end up, even
with the horror of Newtown, with nothing more than something about
trafficking, secondhand purchases.

But for all those who care about gun safety, let me repeat what I said last
night. Get ahold of your senator or member of Congress and say you want a
real background check on people who buy guns. You can get hold of your
senator by calling, as I said last night, 202-224-3121.

If you don`t know your senator or member of Congress, fine, you just go to
www.house.gov -- www.house.gov -- and enter your zip code to find out who
your congressman is and www.senate.gov to find your senator. You can then
click on his or her name when it pops up. It will take you to the member`s
Web site with all their contact information. That`s how you do it.

And look, if the switchboards or the senator`s line is jammed, wait a few
minutes and try again. It means that we`re working out there, this thing`s
working, and it`s a good sign of the impact you`re having.

Cynthia Tucker is with the University of Georgia right now, and Sam Stein
is with the HuffingtonPost.

Sam, I hear you got some news, and I do think the focus now is -- and I
think you`re on there, too -- on background checks. Will the Senate
include background checks in the actual main bill that goes before all the
Senators?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST: So yes, a little bit of breaking news right
now. I`m told reliably that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will move a
bill starting tonight and that it will have background checks in the base
component of it, which means that it won`t be offered as an amendment.

That`s a victory for gun control advocates. They wanted it to be in the
base bill. They thought that without it, reform would be sort of
toothless. Now they`ll get the fight they want, and we`ll see how the
votes play out.

MATTHEWS: So what will the elements be in this bill? It`s going to be
background checks, something on trafficking...

STEIN: A federal trafficking ban...

MATTHEWS: ... secondhand purchases -- yes?

STEIN: Yes. And then the final component will be measures for enhanced
school safety. Everything else, I`m guessing from my reporting, would have
to be added via an amendment, which means that a ban on high-capacity
magazines would also have to be added via an amendment vote. Now, it still
could get there with 60 votes, but obviously, people would have rather had
that in the base bill.

Still, a victory tonight for gun control advocates, if this reporting is
true that they will have background checks in the base bill.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, they still -- I`m still making the push because they
have to vote for the bill, even if it`s in the bill.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: We need to get those votes. Now, let me ask you about the
reporting here. Does this mean that the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid
from Nevada, does believe he can get 60 votes for a bill which includes
tougher background checks, a broader background check program?

STEIN: Yes. That`s exactly what it means. They wouldn`t -- the whole
idea was to put some base piece of legislation on the floor that could
pass. They wouldn`t put a provision into the bill if they thought it could
endanger the entire bill. That was the logic behind making the assault
weapons ban available on via amendment. They didn`t want to endanger the
whole bill, so they said, OK, you can attach it, but you need to show me
you have 60 votes.

By including the background check in the bill, Reid is signaling that he
does believe he has 60 votes for it to pass the Senate. But again, all
this is sort of a sideshow because if John Boehner doesn`t decide to pick
this up in the House, then this is for naught.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not for naught if he can put the pressure on the
House and say...

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the Senate passed it...

STEIN: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: ... the House won`t even vote on it. That`s certainly to me a
pretty tough position to be in. If you`re Boehner, you`re saying, This has
passed the upper house, I don`t think our members even should get a vote on
it.

Cynthia, let`s talk about the politics of this thing. If Sam`s reporting
is right -- and he`s is a first-rate reporter -- and he is right, and we
have a bill which includes background checks, does it include assault
weapons ban? Does it include the magazine limit of 10 rounds or whatever,
but does have something worthwhile in it? Where`s it stand politically, as
you see it, its chances of passage?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, Chris, I would like to know
more about the details of the background check bill, what exactly is in
that bill, because one of the fights between Democrats and Republicans has
been over record-keeping.

Democrats say if you don`t require private sellers to keep any report of a
background check, how do we even know that the background check was done?
Republicans have been saying no records of any kind because, of course, the
gun lobby insists that any record-keeping will lead the government to
confiscation of guns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: That`s never happened, it`s never going to happen, but that`s
where Republicans have stood. So I would like to know what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did they confiscate all our cars, Cynthia? I think there was a
time when we confiscated all the cars in the country, right, because we
registered them?

TUCKER: You know what, Chris? Machine gun ownership has been a matter of
very prohibitive restricted ownership for decades now.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

TUCKER: You may own a machine gun, but you have to have a federal license.
It has to be registered. But those guns have not been confiscated. Those
collectors still have their machine guns at home, I hope locked up safely.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, that`s from the days of Machine Gun Kelly back in the
fights in Chicago. Let me -- you had something. I heard you talking
there, Sam. Can you report something on the actual language of this
background check provision?

STEIN: I still need to get my sources, but Cynthia is right, the devil is
in the details on this one. This has been the problem with the
negotiations between Senator Chuck Schumer and Tom Coburn, what to do with
the sales record.

I think gun control advocates have a legitimate point. You have a
toothless federal trafficking statute if you don`t have a record of sale.
How do you go about prosecuting a straw seller if you can`t prove that a
sale was even made? So that`s been...

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: ... sticking point.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: At the same time, Coburn and others argue, Well, why would you need
a sale for a family-to-family transaction? They`re trying to negotiate
around that. I`m waiting to see, and I`m hoping my reporting can bear out
what they`ve finalized with respect to that. That is the key sticking
point.

MATTHEWS: And we`re talking, Sam, about a vote right after they get back
from their two-week Easter vacation, which is more than two weeks from now,
sometime in April.

STEIN: Yes, I think that is the plan right now. Obviously, things can
change, depending on negotiations. Keep in mind Tom Coburn wasn`t the only
Republican in the game here. They have a number of Republicans that
they`re looking at as co-sponsors. Mark Kirk, who does not have a good NRA
rating, is a co-sponsor or was a co-sponsor for Schumer. He`s looking at
other people to get, other than Coburn.

Coburn was the one they wanted to get because they thought he could bring
15 or more Republicans with him.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: But there are different avenues to getting this through the Senate.

MATTHEWS: OK, today Vice President Biden, as many of us know by now, said
he wasn`t giving up on an assault weapons ban. He joined New York City
mayor Michael Bloomberg and families of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting
victims to call for the ban despite Harry Reid`s decision to not include it
in an overall gun bill. Let`s listen to the VP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For all those who say
we shouldn`t and can`t ban assault weapons, for all those who say the
politics is too hard -- how can they say that when you take a look at those
20 beautiful babies and what happened to them and those six teachers and
administrators?

For all those who say we shouldn`t or couldn`t ban high-capacity magazines,
I just ask them one question. Think about Newtown. Think about Newtown.
Think about what happened out in -- where Gabby Giffords, my good friend,
was shot and mortally wounded. Think about when that young man had to try
to change the clip. Had he only had a 10-round clip when he changed the
clip and fumbled and had it knocked out of his hands, how many more people
would have been alive?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Where`s the progressive side going to come down on this? I
mean, I try to be practical on this show and not just have a values system.
I want Cynthia to pick up here. I mean, it seems to me that a Democratic
majority in the Senate is basically saying they can`t do it. Most
Democrats, in fact, overwhelming numbers of Democrats and progressives
watching this program, believed it would be a minimal reaction to what
happened, which is to restore the assault weapon ban of the 1990s under
Clinton.

Cynthia, no assault weapons ban is likely to pass now because it`s not even
on the bill, no limit on the size of the magazine. You can`t have a 30-
round clip or anything like that anymore -- that`s not even being
considered, really. Of course, they`ll be coming up in amendments for
everybody to get to vote for and against it, but not really as the main --
the main channel here of opportunity.

What do you maybe of this? How`s it going to look in history after
Newtown?

TUCKER: Chris -- Chris, I am so disappointed by this, particularly in
Democrats. Certainly, the reporters in Washington have been saying for
weeks now that the assault weapons ban probably wouldn`t pass. But I don`t
know why Democrats haven`t stood up for it. We had one in this country for
10 years.

Someone please explain to me how a firearms enthusiast`s 2nd Amendment
rights were infringed upon by that? I don`t remember any hunter saying in
that 10-year period, Well, I spotted a 10-point buck, but I couldn`t get
him because I didn`t have an assault rifle at hand.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... rhetoric, and I agree with it. Let`s...

TUCKER: ... I couldn`t protect my family because I didn`t have an assault
weapon.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you on this. I`m passionate, like you.

Let me look at this, though. And I want Sam to look at these states, red
state Democrats up for reelection. That means states carried by Romney,
but they have to win it in 2014. They face pressure from both the right,
and to some extent perhaps as much, but not necessarily, from the left.

The head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee says a vote against
gun restrictions will hurt Democrats. Quote, "With guns, it will be a
major election issue for Democrats opposing strong gun laws that could be
depressing their base." In other words, the real Democrats won`t show,
which in an off year would be a very bad idea. "If there`s a credible
primary challenge, a vote against strong gun laws would absolutely hurt an
incumbent Democrat." That`s Adam Green (ph), who`s co-founder of the
Progressive Change Campaign.

But let`s look at these states now. It looks to me, Sam, that you have
states like out West, you`ve got -- I want to see this list up here. We
had a list of it today. You got Pryor in Arkansas, Begich up in Alaska,
Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Kay Hagen -- there`s a lot of senators out
there who have to run in conservative states, Mitt Romney states.

How do they do it? How do they deal with this issue?

STEIN: Well, you know, it`s funny because the left, the progressive
community, really hasn`t made that much of a stink about the assault
weapons ban. And that might be because they recognize the political
difficulties in passage. But my sense is that they recognize that the
assault weapon is used a very small actual number of violent crimes,
violent gun crimes. They think there`s been studies that suggest it`s down
to about 2 percent.

They recognize that the background check bill would have a much bigger
impact on reducing gun violence than the assault weapons ban. So when I
talk to progressives, they don`t get caught up over the assault weapons
ban. Now, the high-capacity magazine issue is a whole `nother thing. I
haven`t really heard a constructive argument in defense of...

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`ll give you one. How would you like to be a police
officer up against a semiautomatic?

STEIN: I wouldn`t. I don`t know why you`re asking me that question. I
wouldn`t want to be that person at all. My point is this, is that they --
they`re not going to waste their political capital on the assault weapons
ban. They want to -- they want to have a fight on a background checks
bill.

MATTHEWS: OK.

STEIN: And keep in mind, it polls at 90 percent. What else polls at 90
percent? It`s insane to think that this is that complicated.

MATTHEWS: We`re all together on this one. It`s about background checks.
If you care, get ahold of your congressman or senator and say you want a
strong background check requirement, or Newtown means nothing.

Anyway, thank you, Cynthia Tucker, and thank you, Sam Stein.

Coming up: Standing in the school house door. For all the Republicans`
hopeful talk of changes to be made and lessons learned, but when it comes
to the two huge cultural issues, abortion rights and gay marriage, their
tomorrow is looking a lot like their yesterday. Republican state
legislatures across the country are moving backward on abortion rights.
And the GOP leadership is nowhere, anywhere to be heard of on same-sex
marriage. Not a peep.

Also, just months after the election, there`s a fight for the leadership of
the Republican Party between two newcomers. We believe Marco Rubio has got
some juice and the -- he`s the establishment favorite. And of course, the
libertarian hot hand is Rand Paul. Their fight may well, determine who the
GOP nominee is in 2016.

Plus, "You had us at shalom" -- that was the headline in today`s "Jerusalem
Post,"a conservative newspaper in Israel, on President Obama`s trip to
Israel. The president seems to have won over many skeptical Israelis on
this trip, and that may have real political consequences back home here.

And Sarah Palin is back, or was that Tina Fey with that James Lipton
interview "Inside the Actors Studio"?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES LIPTON, HOST: Same-sex marriage, what is your view on that, please?

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: Well, the bible says it`s gross. A lot of the amazing,
wonderful people I met in the audience at "Dancing With the Stars" seem to
go that way.

LIPTON: Right.

FEY: But no.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I love the way she says it. Anyway, that might just be
the best political impression evah! (SIC)

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton`s showing her strength in the country`s largest
swing state, Florida. She`s got double-digit leads in hypothetical
presidential matchups over the -- over each of Florida`s potential
presidential candidates.

Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." According to a new Quinnipiac poll,
Clinton would lead former governor Jeb Bush in Florida by 11 points.
That`s 51 to 40. And against Senator Marco Rubio, Clinton`s lead among
Florida voters is again 11, 52-41. Wow, she`s beating them on their home
turf.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I know what our principles are, and I know
our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. But I
also know that we have a party that`s going to be inclusive and it`s going
to listen to people and it`s going to allow differences of opinion in our
party, and we`re going to move forward and build.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Was that a person or some kind of
taped machine, one of those little puppets with the tape coming out of --
that was RNC chair Reince Priebus yesterday on MSNBC`s "THE DAILY RUNDOWN."
Priebus is saying all the right things, of course, as you just heard him on
that tape coming out of him, about the GOP learning from its mistakes,
about it becoming a more inclusive party, blah, blah, blah. But the
reality is very different.

Republican leaders have nothing new to say on gay marriage or abortion
rights or anything. The party`s actually moving backwards on several
fronts, with states with Republican legislatures routinely enacting more
restrictive abortion laws. In fact, one state`s even banning abortion
after the first six weeks, before many women even know they`re pregnant.

Well, the bottom line right now is that the GOP is changing its message
sounding but not its policies. Michael Steele is the former chair --
actually, her was a very good chair and he won a lot of elections. He`s an
MSNBC analyst right now, and winning here. And Stephanie Schriock...

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST PRESIDENT: Schree-ock.

MATTHEWS: Shree-ock, two syllables...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... I learn things.

SCHRIOCK: This is good!

MATTHEWS: ... the president of Emily`s List. which works to elect
progressive women. Are you partisan or nonpartisan?

SCHRIOCK: We`re partisan.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SCHRIOCK: We`re all Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Well, why do you say progressive? Why don`t you just say
Democrats?

SCHRIOCK: Pro-choice Democratic women.

MATTHEWS: Oh, pro-choice -- a subset. OK, let`s talk...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get serious.

SCHRIOCK: It`s a very small (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Let`s get serious. Your party has had a very bad record this
past election not just with minorities...

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about younger people...

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... of all -- of all backgrounds. In order to perhaps make
people feel better about being Republicans, your chair right now, Mr.
Priebus, is saying, Well, let`s at least start talking about -- more
positively about gays, about more different views on issues like abortion
rights. But he`s really not doing anything.

STEELE: No, and that`s going to be...

MATTHEWS: He`s not telling anybody to change.

STEELE: Well, in one sense, you`re not saying anything new. You didn`t
need to spend $10 million to figure that out. It was very obvious from the
results of the election, just as they were obvious after 2006 and 2008,
that we had a people problem. We had a -- beyond a message. It`s how we
connect to people and how they respond to what we say, number one.

umber two, I think with respect to young people, they are really going to
be the outcome, determinative factor for this party...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: ... because the future`s going to rest in their hands. And their
attitudes are shifting and changing on a lot of these big issues, and how
the national leadership begins to reshape the argument -- I mean, look, we
are a party that believes very firmly in marriage between a man and a
woman. But how do you express that without alienating those who believe
differently is going to be the challenge.

MATTHEWS: You know the wine they serve at gas stations, Night Train (ph),
you know? If put a different label on it and said Pouilly Fuisse, would
that change the wine?

SCHRIOCK: No.

MATTHEWS: OK...

SCHRIOCK: It would not.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder what Priebus is up to.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: It would still be bad wine.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What does he think he`s accomplishing the minute people notice
that the wine tastes like the old stuff or they notice that whatever it is,
it`s still what it was? What are they going to do? They`re not going to
join the Republican Party.

SCHRIOCK: No, they`re absolutely not, particularly -- you talk about young
people, you know, we talk about women -- there`s been a continuing growing
gender gap. And they still are just pushing policy after policy -- the
Ryan budget, devastating to women and families, Violence Against Women Act
-- it took a year-and-a-half to get it reauthorized.

And what`s happening in the state legislature, state by state, rolling back
the clock on women`s rights is going to come back -- it already is
affecting the gender gap, and it`s going to come back in this next election
again.

MATTHEWS: Well, Republicans in Congress are not exactly jumping on the
marriage equality bandwagon.

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss thought Politico -- quote -- "I`m not gay,
so I`m not going to marry one."

I just love that one, because it means absolutely nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: In the same article, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham says:
"I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman" -- at least
he doesn`t say one man and one woman like the party does -- "without
animosity." Figure that one out. "I don`t mind if people are able to
transfer their property, visit their loved ones in hospitals, but marriage,
to me, I have stayed with the concept" -- I love that phrase -- "of
traditional marriage."

These people are so awkward in trying to same saying. First of all, the
party, your party, keeping says marriage is between one man and one woman.
Why do they say it like that?

STEELE: Well, they say it that way because that falls into the argument
that when you open up this Pandora`s box on marriage, that it would lead to
marriage between...

MATTHEWS: Or among.

STEELE: Among more than one person. It`s silly.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: There are some very strong and I think important voices of gay
Republicans within the party.

MATTHEWS: Yes. They always astound me.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Those voices in the Log Cabin Republicans and the GOProud
Republicans need to be expressed to help move the party along in this
argument, because keep this in mind. There are gay members of the
community...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Of course there are up on Capitol Hill. Up on Capitol Hill,
there are a lot of gay staffers. I have known them for years. And they`re
in both parties. And they support members of the Republican Party who vote
regularly against gay rights or work for them.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: But you still have other national Republicans, Governor Chris
Christie this week, who refuses to take a position on a piece of
legislation on gay conversion therapy, which they`re trying to ban.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Let`s get straight. What`s the state`s
involvement? Look, I`m a libertarian when it comes to -- why would the
state ever against involved in something like conversion therapy one way or
the other?

SCHRIOCK: Well, because it has proven very, very damaging to particularly
young lesbians and gays across the country. The state is saying we need to
do that. We should not allow this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, but how do you stop someone who privately wants to do it
and goes to who privately wants...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: We don`t want the state sanctioning such an endeavor either.
But how you are even open to that idea...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We might not agree on this, because I don`t really -- I don`t
believe in it. I don`t think you can convert people. I also think we have
to stop with a little bit is too much 16-ounce living around here.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: True on that.

I don`t know the details behind how and what Chris Christie -- Governor
Christie has been told about this or knows about it, and that`s hence why
he hasn`t taken a position. I would assume that. And having been in that
position as a lieutenant governor, stuff comes across the desk, hey, what`s
your view? Well, I need to know more.

I think there`s more to this than...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s talk about the issue that means a lot to women and
to men, now turning to GOP and abortion -- let`s -- abortion rights,
abortion rights. I always says it that way.

"Mother Jones" pointed out today that of the 16 states with the most
restrictive abortion laws, 14 have Republican governors. Earlier this
month, Arkansas passed a law banning abortions after 12 weeks, which at the
time was the bat -- actually the strictest law in the country.

But earlier this week, North Dakota outdid it. They passed the Heartbeat
Bill, which bans abortions after just six weeks. And all this is happening
while the public increasingly supports broader abortion rights, according
to our polling.

Let me get back to you and the question here, Stephanie, is, why are they
doing this? Why are they pushing back on rights? We don`t have to agree
with abortion. A lot of people don`t like abortion period. I don`t like
it, period, as a practice. I certainly don`t like it as birth control,
certainly don`t like as a first resort by any means.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But when the law changes to squeeze down that window, where a
woman, or a girl, a teenager discovers that she`s pregnant, and only has a
little time to decide this thing.

SCHRIOCK: And in six weeks?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When do you know? When do you normally know?

SCHRIOCK: I have a lot of friends who didn`t know as six weeks. I will
tell you that.

STEELE: Some are two months.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, what are you up to? Give me the politics of this. Why are
these state legislatures like North Dakota doing this?

SCHRIOCK: Well, these legislatures are really controlled by an incredibly
conservative arm of the Republican Party right now that is driving these
policies backwards.

And I can only assume that they want to make the women the problem and put
it on them to fix it. And the truth is, this is about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they pass laws against premarital sex? Start with
that one. Tell the guys not to have sex.

SCHRIOCK: Let`s see how that goes. Let`s see how that goes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How about being there for the takeoff, not the landing?

I`m sorry. It`s serious business. And I don`t even hear it in sermons
anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s always blaming it on the woman.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: These laws are unconstitutional.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: I think that`s the key point.

SCHRIOCK: And they`re trying to change -- they`re trying to get something
to the United States Supreme Court. That`s exactly what they`re trying to
do.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Can I take that point?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: But the precedent has been set.

STEELE: Well, the precedent has been precedent, but it`s precedent. It
has not necessarily been challenged.

And that I think is what you`re seeing here at a certain level for certain
states. They`re devising these bills that go at Roe vs. Wade from a
constitutional angle so that there`s a definitive decision one way or the
other on its constitutionality. That`s why you`re seeing some of these.
They`re also reflective, Chris, of the attitudes of some of the people...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRIOCK: But they`re not the majority of the population.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The preachers, the rabbis, the government, the people who really
care about abortion rights would do a favor to this whole country if they
got on the pulpit this weekend and start issuing statements, try to avoid
unprotected sex, you know what I mean?

Anyway, Michael Steele, Stephanie Schriock -- Schriock.

Up next, the return of Sarah Palin means one thing, the return of Tina Fey
and her fantastic impression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO")

JAMES LIPTON, HOST: I addressed you as governor. You served only half a
term. What`s the right term to address?

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: Well, I will tell you, I don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

FEY: I`m a half governor, or you could call me a maverick at large.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Ready for at least one benefit of having Sarah Palin back in the spotlight
after that speech of hers at CPAC?

Entering Tina Fey in an interview with James Lipton on "Inside the Actors
Studio."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO")

LIPTON: I addressed you as governor. You served only half a term. What`s
the right term to address?

FEY: Well, I will tell you, I don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

FEY: I`m a half governor, or you could call me a maverick at large.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LIPTON: You`re very fond of shooting wolves from a helicopter, which is
understandable enough.

(LAUGHTER)

LIPTON: Have your views on gun laws or wolves changed at all?

FEY: You know, Jimmy, I believe that if everybody had guns, then there
would be fewer guns in the stores.

LIPTON: Same-sex marriage, what is your view on that, please?

FEY: Well, the Bible says it`s gross. A lot of the amazing, wonderful
people I met in the audience at "Dancing With the Stars" seemed to go that
way.

(LAUGHTER)

LIPTON: Right.

FEY: But no.

LIPTON: How does a woman like you make her way through a man`s world?

FEY: I don`t think of it as a man`s world or a woman`s world, unless again
we`re talking about marriage.

(LAUGHTER)

FEY: I think of it as people being mavericks or not being mavericks.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: She started to laugh there. By the way, it never gets old.
She`s the best.

Next, earlier this week, I showed you this picture of the Satan character
from The History Channel miniseries "The Bible." Wow.

Well, during the broadcast, Twitter exploded with comments about how the
character looked like President Obama, though the filmmakers and the
network immediately denied that the odd resemblance was intentional.

Well, Christian conservative radio host Rick Wiles agrees that the
filmmakers did not go out trying to make Satan resemble President Obama,
but still says it was no accident.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RICK WILES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don`t believe they intentionally
portrayed the Lucifer character to look like Mr. Obama. I think God guided
the hands of the makeup artist and blinded the eyes of everybody on the
movie set while it was being recorded. And the spiritual blinders were
removed Sunday night when the program was broadcast nationally on The
History Channel.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How is that for an explanation of free will?

Anyway, that even tops Michele Bachmann saying Hurricane Irene was a sign
from God to cut government spending. Hmm.

Speaking of her, you know how she`s celebrating the third anniversary of
the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which comes this week? By trying to
rid of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Let`s repeal this failure before it
literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let`s not do
that. Let`s love people. Let`s care about people. Let`s repeal it now
while we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So what does she mean by repeal it now while we can? It`s been
three years now and over 30 failed attempts at repeal from House
Republicans. The law was upheld by the Supreme Court. President Obama was
reelected. And even some Republican governors are making plans for Obama`s
-- Obamacare`s Medicaid expansion. What is she talking about?

Up next -- the same old thing -- up next, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, who
has got the juice on the right wing right now? This is going to be fun for
people on the left.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Worries about Cyprus sending stocks lower, the Dow falling 90 points, the
S&P lost 12, while Oracle shares weighed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, sending
the index down 31.

The number of Americans falling for jobless benefits ticked higher last
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And home resales hit a three-year high last month, according to the
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That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and some breaking news right now.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has announced right now he will in
fact bring a bill to the Senate floor to reduce gun violence, and it will
include background checks -- that`s the big one -- it will also school
safety and gun trafficking provisions. Senator Reid says he will allow
votes on amendments, including an assault weapons ban and limits on high-
capacity magazines, but he says that any bill he brings to the floor must
include especially those background checks.

Now to the battle for 2016 already under way. And on the Republican side,
it`s being fought between two relative newcomers who rode the Tea Party
wave into office, Florida`s Marco Rubio and Kentucky`s Rand Paul.

"The New York Times" reported just today -- quote -- "For better or worse,
Senators Rubio and Paul have come to represent this moment`s fork in the
Republican road. Mr. Rubio, who divided the Republican establishment in
2010 with his brash primary challenge to former Governor Charlie Crist`s
Senate run in Florida, looks like the establishment`s man for now. Mr.
Paul, as he tries to expand his appeal beyond the ardent, but limited
libertarian base of his father, Ron Paul, has become the face of radically
smaller government and a more inward-facing, limited foreign policy."

Well, both Rubio and Paul came to Washington with solid Tea Party
credentials, but they represent very different wings of the movement right
now. And one of them might just end up being the Republican nominee in
2016.

Chip Saltsman ran Mike Huckabee`s campaign for 2008 -- in 2008 and his
presidential campaign. And Willie Brown is, of course, the former mayor of
San Francisco.

Chip, you`re the Republican. Let me ask you, I think it comes down to
juice, that sense of life, of protoplasm, of excitement, of -- it has many
different meaning, but charisma, excitement. Do these two guys represent
the exciting candidates in your party?

CHIP SALTSMAN, FORMER MIKE HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, they do today.
And we always talk about, does a candidate have the it factor? And they
certainly both certainly have the it factor right now.

But, Chris, as you well know, the path to the White House is long and
windy. And there`s a lot of next presidents of the United States` bodies
on the road. And it`s a long time between now and then.

MATTHEWS: Let`s not be sheepish about it. Do you sense right now that
they have the juice?

SALTSMAN: Yes, absolutely.

They have got -- they both build great national names. They have got
organizations. They`re going different paths. Certainly, Senator Rubio is
kind of more the establishment route right now, and Senator Paul seems to
be like he`s going to take those anti-establishment creds all the way to
the bank and he`s going to double down on them any chance he gets.

MATTHEWS: Is youth -- I mean youth meaning late 30s, early 40s -- is that
a big thing in the party? Do you think you are unlikely to bring in an
Uncle Tonoose, an older character, an avuncular figure? Or do you think
there`s a real incentive for you guys on your side to go young perhaps
against Hillary Clinton, perhaps Joe Biden, someone like that?

SALTSMAN: I think it certainly helps.

And we can learn from what beat us last time. Barack Obama was the
youthful candidate four years ago. And he rode that pretty well. And I
think you get a lot of excitement, you get more people involved in the
party. You kind of grow that tent.

And I think Senator Rubio and Rand Paul both do that right now.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Willie Brown in California.

Mayor, let me ask you about this. Looking at the prospects, looking at the
horseflesh out there, what do you see? If you were -- who would you
probably least like to go up against if you were Secretary Clinton or you
were Joe Biden next time?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: I think that either Biden
or Clinton would prefer not to have to face Charlie Crist or anybody like
Charlie Crist, in this case, obviously the governor of New Jersey.

MATTHEWS: You mean Crist Christie, Crist Christie.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Yes, I was going to -- I like Charlie Crist better, because that
was a better contrast.

But Chris Christie is in fact the one guy that these two people would not
like to have to face, simply because he can go into the Democratic world
and have some credibility, as he`s proven almost daily in New Jersey.

MATTHEWS: Can he keep up? I want to get back to the two younger guys that
seem like the hot guys. Can a guy like Christie keep up this attitude of
it`s none of your business, that sort of street talk that`s made him
popular? Can you sustain that? Ed Koch did it for like 12 years before he
ran out of that steam.

But can you keep up that way in politics, to just by dismissive and kind of
mouthy? Does it work?

BROWN: Well, I don`t think he would want it to be described as dismissive,
or out of sync. I think what he would like to be is just a common man. He
would like to be the football fan, the guy who yells at the referee.
Everybody identifies with that guy, or at least a majority of people do.

And that`s what this guy has been doing. Now, on the other hand, the two
guys you were talking about at the outset and the two guys at "The New York
Times" talked about in my opinion, they do represent who the Republican
Party really is. They also represent the Republican Party that I guarantee
you both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Biden would like to see in 2016, because for
sure they can defeat that Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you that, Chip, you`re the insider Republican.
What would scare -- well, let`s talk about -- what would attract -- I see
real attraction for these guys. Rubio is a great stump speaker. He`s
Latin American. I mean, his Cuban background. He`s just good a style I
like.

And the other guy is so far to the right, he brings back the Goldwater urge
in your party. That one may not win this election, but we`re going to have
a hell of a good time.

CHIP SALTSMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We`re going to -- we`re going to go
down fighting as long as they believe it`s right. I think they`re two
different types of people even though they started off from the same place
which was anti-establishment, outside, nobody gave a chance to win. But
they fought and clawed every step of the way. And that gives them a lot of
street cred with grassroots Republicans everywhere because they actually
started out fighting Washington, and I think the one who keeps that fight
alive, that doesn`t go Washington, so to speak, is going to really have a
chance.

MATTHEWS: Does he (ph) have any change -- just to get the name in here --
can Jeb run with the war in Iraq so unpopular now? Can he run with his
brother still alive, I mean, still around, I should say, still around,
politically?

SALTSMAN: You know, it`s going to be tough. I think Jeb Bush has kind of
carved out an own segment of himself, especially with education and what
he`s done in Florida. But there`s always going to be the Bush name.
That`s good and bad.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SALTSMAN: But for a lot of grassroots types of people, you know, they`ve
been a Bush in the White House forever, there`s a lot of people that don`t
remember on the Republican side, a Republican president but George Bush.

MATTHEWS: I know. Well, that may not be a positive. Anyway, thank you,
Chip Saltsman. I think he has a problem. If you can`t bring your brother
to the convention with you, you got problems.

Willie Brown, thank you, Mr. Mayor, for coming on again.

BROWN: All right.

MATTHEWS: Up next, President Obama is in the Middle East. We all know
he`s over in Israel. He seems to be winning over many skeptical Israelis,
especially the young who are not skeptical. And that could be good things
for the president back home, don`t you think? This is big positive trip
for him.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, could 2013 be the year of the woman mayor?

Consider this: Democratic Christine Quinn is the likely front-runner in the
mayor`s race in the country`s largest city of New York. She`d be the first
female mayor in New York history.

In Los Angeles it`s a matchup between the controller Wendy Greuel and City
Council Eric Garcetti. If Greuel wins, she`d be the L.A.`s first woman
mayor.

In Houston, the country`s fourth largest city, is set to reelect Annise
Parker, its second female mayor in history. So, that`s three of the
country`s four largest cities that could have a woman mayor.

And the only outlier, of course, is the second city, Chicago, where Rahm
Emanuel is up for reelection in 2014. Bet on Rahm.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who adhere to the
ideology of rejecting Israel`s right to exist, they might as well reject
the Earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going
anywhere.

(APPLAUSE)

So long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd.

(APPLAUSE)

You are not alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was President Obama, of course, speaking earlier today in Jerusalem to
an audience of more than 2,000 Israeli citizens, mostly young people. The
speech was interrupted frequently by applause, as we just saw.

Obama addressed the issue of peace talks with Palestinians and the need for
a Palestinian state. This is very important. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I also believe it`s important to be open and honest, especially
with your friends. Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for
Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this
issue aside, just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides
to do. That would be the easiest political path.

But I want you to know that I speak as a friend who is deeply concerned and
committed to your future.

The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic
state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.

(APPLAUSE)

That is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What is that? A Sister Soulja and "Ich bin ein Berliner" in one
speech?

Anyway, overall, the trip has been seen as a big success for the president,
helping to improve his image to the country where he hasn`t always enjoyed
a lot of popularity in the past. His relationship with the Israeli Prime
Minister Bibi Netanyahu, by the way, the man to the left -- the man of the
right, you might say, has been frosty. Netanyahu more or less endorsed
Obama`s rival, Mitt Romney, in the last campaign.

But on this trip, publicly at least, the two seems -- look at them, like
politician together, they have mended their fences. In that improved
relationship, it may pay political dividends for the president back here at
home.

Of course, Robert Wexler is a great guy. He`s a former congressman,
Democratic congressman from Florida. Great guy. He`s actually now
president of the Center for Middle East Peace.

Ad Peter Beinart is editor of OpenZion.com at "The Daily Beast."

Peter, let me go to Robert because I haven`t heard from you lately. We`re
talking I want you to respond to this -- fascinating comment from Bibi
yesterday, the prime minister of Israel, where he said, first of all, he`s
not sure, he says, if Iran decides to go nuclear with their weaponry, they
could actually turn it into nuclear weapon if they can, and that would take
a year from them to real weaponize it once they made that decision.

I thought that was very flexible and also not at all war-like.

ROBERT WEXLER, CENTER FOR MIDEAST PEACE: You`re right. And what the prime
minister of Israeli essentially did was he bought into the American time
frame. And what he was signaling to both the United States and, more
importantly, to Iran, and what was reciprocated from President Obama was
that the United States and Israel stands shoulder to shoulder in terms of
now the time frame as well as defenses, intelligence, military cooperation
so that the Iranians should understand that there is a common belief
between the United States and Israel in terms of preventing -- not
containing -- preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon.

What President Obama was hoping to receive from Prime Minister Netanyahu,
and in effect he got, was an endorsement of the American plan to prevent
Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS: Peter, do you see the same way, as common ground now?

PETER BEINART, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think what Obama did was buy
himself some time. Remember, there`s a lot of opposition inside the
Israeli security establishment to unilaterally Israeli strike anyway. But
the task will really come if the U.S. gets close to a diplomatic deal with
Iran, would Israel government support any realistic kind of diplomatic deal
that the United States could manage to get with Iran? I think that would
be the real test.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

But why does it matter? If we get a deal with Iran for them not to go
nuclear in terms of weapons, why does it matter if Israel opposes that if
we accomplish our goal?

BEINART: Because I think a lot of Republicans in Congress, frankly, would
stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his opposition to deal, because
remember --

MATTHEWS: How would that hurt the government, our government?

BEINART: Well, I think it would mean that -- remember, a deal -- if
there`s going to be a deal, we would have to give on something. It will
not be a complete capitulation from Iran. There will have to be some at
least gestures toward lifting sanctions by the Europeans and maybe by us
that may take action by Congress. And so --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: -- there will be a political battle in Washington on how Israel,
how Netanyahu respond will have an impact on how that battle plays out.

MATTHEWS: What do you think, Robert?

WEXLER: I think the president bought more than time, he bought time, as
Peter said, but he also bought leverage. What Prime Minister Netanyahu has
been arguing and many people in the United States had been arguing and the
president accepts is that in order to get Iran to the position we hope to
bring them to, which is where they negotiate away their nuclear weapon
capacity, in order to do that, they have to perceive a credible threat, if
that is military. And now with President Obama and Prime Minister
Netanyahu standing together on the question of Iran, arguably in the way
that they had not done before, Iran, if they`re watching and if their
calculation is smart, will understand.

MATTHEWS: Peter, it seems to me that everybody talks every four years
about the Jewish voters, if you will, about how it`s going to go
Republican. And maybe it does under Reagan against -- McGovern against
Nixon, the weird election of `72 or maybe during the Reagan period.

Is this really a problem for Obama at all politically, that he has a
problem with the Jewish community electorally? I don`t think he does.

BEINART: No, it`s nonsense. Even McGovern won two-thirds of the Jewish
vote during his landslide defeat in 1972.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: The Jewish vote has been amongst the most stable in American
politics, basically between two-thirds and three-quarters for the Democrats
really since FDR, even since Al Smith in 1928, and it`s because Americans
use vote to the left on domestic issues. They don`t primarily vote on
Israel and that`s why these things don`t change very much.

I don`t think this has to do with the Jewish vote at all. I think it has
to do with Obama`s views about American national interest in the Middle
East.

MATTHEWS: What about Pollard, the spy? He`s been in jail for 28 years in
the United States, very long, longer than anybody from a friendly country.
He wasn`t spying on us, he was spying on Arabs using our information. He
broke the law. He`s a criminal. But it seems if he makes a statement of
apology, deep belief that he shouldn`t have done it, we should let him out
at this point.

What do you think?

WEXLER: I think that Jonathan pollard is culpable. He`s guilty, as you
said. The only question is, is the sentence, is the punishment
proportionate to the crime? And I think at this point, I think it`s now
disproportionately severe.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Where are you on that, Peter?

I think let him out. And he just think he served -- 28 years is more than
Nelson Mandela. I mean, it`s a long time and I just wonder whether doing
something wrong, he`s got to say something, I think, myself. I want to
hear him say something about, this isn`t what a friendly government should
do to another government.

But your thoughts?

BEINART: Well, I think the only question I would have is I`m not sure we
entirely know the severity of what he did. When Bill Clinton got close to
releasing Jonathan Pollard in the late 1990s, when Benjamin Netanyahu was
first prime minister, his own CIA director basically, virtually threatened
to resign.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: So, that gives you some since of how strongly the intelligence
community feels about this. And they may know things that we don`t know.

Again, I`m not saying I`m against necessarily commuting a sentence, but I
just think there`s some things we don`t know about what in fact he did.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. You may be right. But there`s 12 years
more sentence he`s served since then.

BEINART: Yes.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he gave more (INAUDIBLE) instead. I mean, the way
Clinton handled those things was not the best part of his presidency by any
means.

BEINART: True.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Robert Wexler. Great guy to come. He`s really
working for peace over there.

And, Peter Beinart --

WEXLER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- who improves his image with me every day.

Anyway, we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

There are some good signs from Israel. It looks like the president and the
prime minister are on the same page. Both agree we can`t let Iran get
nuclear weapons. Both agree Iran hasn`t decided yet whether to build them.
Both agree that it will take another year to build nuclear weapons once the
government in Iran decides to go in that direction.

So, I`ve got good hope right now, new hope on a number of grounds. One,
the two countries are in agreement. Two, this agreement means that the
mullahs in Tehran will see the United States ready to strike should they
decide to build a nuclear bomb. Why? Because there`s no reason for this
trip to Israel this week unless Obama was ready to do just that, to pound
out a serious agreement between the two countries, U.S. and Israel, over
this issue.

The people of Israel and the United States are not the only audience for
this trip, of course. The best result in this fight is over the other
side, over in Tehran -- they get to see how serious we are. They see that
if they build a weapon, we come at them. If they know that now, it could
change everything.

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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