March 27, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Jim McGreevey, Margie Omero, Emily Heil
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Equality.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this: Justice, rights, fairness, equality,
bias. These are the matters argued today in the Supreme Court. Can people
of the same sex be denied the opportunity to marry? Is it just? Is it
constitutional? Is it equal protection of the laws? Or is it unjustified,
unconstitutional, unfair and unequal?
Well, the court must now rule on where the Defense of Marriage Act fits by
these standards. Can it be defended as just, fair and equal when it so
clearly by definition is not? Can it be declared consistent with our
American Constitution that says we cannot be denied life, liberty or
property without due process of law?
Well, tonight we try to discern where the high court is headed, how it will
rule on this sensitive question of American rights, the freedom we enjoy in
this land and recognized and enshrined in its Declaration of Independence,
the inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
I`m joined by NBC`s justice correspondent, Pete Williams, from the Supreme
Court, and the HuffingtonPost`s Howard Fineman.
Pete, you`ve got a very important day in your life, that`s to explain this.
MATTHEWS: Is this going the way court watchers like you thought it would,
that there`s a real challenge now that seems to be showing itself in the
court arguments today to DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, that it`s in
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes and no. I think -- I think DOMA is
in trouble. And I think that was widely predicted here because of the fact
that the court was going to take the case, but that it did seem like there
were at least five votes today to strike DOMA down, although not for the
I think for at least four of the more liberal justices, it`s a matter of
equal treatment, equal protection. And they say that DOMA violates that,
discriminates against same-sex couples for no good reason, depriving them
of a number of benefits, leaving them at a disadvantage.
Justice Ginsberg said these benefits, these 1,100 federal programs and
rules, are so intertwined in people`s lives that depriving them leaves them
with what she called a "skim milk marriage."
WILLIAMS: Justice Kagan read from the House report when the House passed
DOMA in 1996, reading the language that said the House was acting with
"moral disapproval" of homosexuality, and she said that`s improper. So for
them, it`s a question of equal treatment.
But that only gets you to four. The fifth vote, it seems, Justice Kennedy,
sees this a little differently, not as a question of equal protection but
rather as a question of federal power, that Congress, he said, basically,
has always traditionally deferred to the states to define what marriage is,
how old you have to be, all those questions of what it takes to constitute
a legal marriage. And he said Congress does not -- he seemed to indicate
Congress does not have the power to do this. So you know, two different
WILLIAMS: ... but you get to five votes to strike DOMA down. But I
started to say one difference. I think many people looked at these two
cases here coming this week -- yesterday`s Prop 8 case, today DOMA -- as
perhaps expecting that the court would issue some kind of sweeping ruling
on gay rights.
And it doesn`t seem that that`s going to be the case, certainly not from
the Prop 8 argument yesterday, where the court seemed to be searching for
the narrowest possible way to permit marriage to resume only in California
without setting a national precedent, and today, if a majority of -- or if
Justice Kennedy is the controlling vote here and he sees this more as
federalism than discrimination, that could be a very narrow opinion, as
MATTHEWS: Well, Pete, let`s look at this thing. Here`s Justice Kennedy.
It focuses on his concerns about the Defense of Marriage Act -- and I think
he`s going to strike it down -- DOMA -- and how it interferes with state --
with state rights, as you say. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANTHONY KENNEDY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT:
When it has 1,100 laws, which in our society means that the federal
government is intertwined with the citizens` day-to-day life, you are at --
at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be
the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage,
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So how...
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. I want to bring Howard in on this.
WILLIAMS: Well, I was going to say...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
WILLIAMS: It`s a legal term of art, state police power, as distinct -- you
know, the federal government has no police powers. It`s the state that has
the police power to regulate these kind of things. That`s his point.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Howard, the same question we were talking about before.
What happens if the federal government says, You can`t have Social
Security. You can`t have inheritance rights, all these things. You can`t
have spousal -- the general kind of spousal privileges under the tax law.
Isn`t the federal government then regulating marriage, as the justice is
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, if they -- the reason why currently married couples in states that
allow same-sex marriage have a "skim milk" marriage, to quote Justice
Ginsberg, is that because of the way marriage is defined in DOMA, for the
purposes of this law, it says, it`s a marriage of a man and a woman. That
means that those people can`t get those benefits.
But if you -- if you get rid of that portion of it and if you start giving
federal benefits all -- for the full panoply of federal benefits to same-
sex married couples in states that recognize it as such, I think -- and I`d
be interested to hear what Pete thinks about this -- it opens up a whole
new avenue to attack the absence of gay marriage generally because then you
set up a situation where some people have -- to flip Justice Ginsberg
around, they have -- they have rich cream marriages, whereas people who are
same-sex couples in other states don`t get any of those benefits.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Pete...
FINEMAN: And I think that opens up an attack...
FINEMAN: ... in favor of trying to declare a nationwide constitutional
FINEMAN: ... to marriage. What do you think about that, Pete? Do you see
what I`m saying?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think that`s -- yes, it`s an excellent point. And I
think that`s exactly why Justice Kennedy doesn`t want to go there because
if they do go -- as some justices today indicated that they were willing to
say that the federal government can`t make these distinctions -- well, if
the federal government can`t make these distinctions between same-sex and
opposite-sex couples, then how can the states? And I think Justice
Kennedy, frankly, isn`t -- isn`t ready to go there.
One other point that he made today. The -- remember who`s defending DOMA.
It`s the House Republicans. The Obama administration has decided the law`s
unconstitutional. So their lawyer here today, Paul Clement, was defending
it. And he reminded the court of why Congress passed it. It`s because
Hawaii -- this was back in the early `90s. Hawaii`s Supreme Court was
considering it might recognize same-sex marriage. He said Congress did not
want to have a situation where if one state allowed same-sex marriage, then
all the other states would have to.
Well, that`s a separate part of DOMA. It`s not under attack. And what
Justice Kennedy said is the result of the way DOMA stands now is, you`re
punishing the states who do decide they want to allow same-sex marriage
because couples in their states don`t have all the federal benefits.
FINEMAN: Yes. But my point -- my point is if they -- if they -- if they
get rid of this part of DOMA and allow same-sex couples to get federal
benefits in certain states, then don`t they open up an attack on the other
part of DOMA that you`re talking about...
FINEMAN: ... because those other people are going to...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take -- let`s take a look at that dramatic moment.
Pete and Howard, let`s look at what happened today. This is the argument
between Justice Elena Kagan and Paul Clement, the attorney representing the
House of Representatives -- the Republican side, obviously. And here`s
Clement arguing that Congress wasn`t motivated by kind of fear or dislike
of gay people. Rather, they were acting to preserve uniformity, as you
said, among the states and the federal laws. Let`s look at this debate
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PAUL CLEMENT, ATTORNEY FOR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: You have to
understand that 1996, something`s happening that is, in a sense, forcing
Congress to choose between its historic practice of deferring to the states
and its historic practice of preferring uniformity. Up until 1996, it
essentially has it both ways. Every state has the traditional definition.
Congress knows that`s the definition that`s embedded in every federal law.
So fine, we can defer. OK, 1996...
ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Well,
is what happened in 1996 -- and I`m going to quote from the House report
here, is that Congress decided to "reflect and honor the collective moral
judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality." Is that what
happened in 1996?
CLEMENT: Does the House report say that? Of course, the House report says
that. And if that`s enough to invalidate the statute, then you should
invalidate the statute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Where do you go with that, Howard?
FINEMAN: Well, I didn`t think he wanted to question Justice Kagan`s
reading of the record. So what he`s saying is that you would then have to
invalidate it. My point...
WILLIAMS: But he also...
FINEMAN: Yes, go ahead, Pete.
WILLIAMS: He also said that there were -- there were a lot of other
motives for Congress to pass the law...
WILLIAMS: ... and so he wasn`t buying her idea that that was the only
motive that Congress had.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You could really hate somebody who`s a murderer, but also
believe that murderer objectively should be denied the right to murder
somebody, obviously, I mean, to carry the thing to its fruition here.
But I think it`s fascinating, this whole question about DOMA and the way
Howard`s developed it here, Pete -- I want your reaction to it.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a real problem if you strike down -- if you allow
this -- this condition to continue, basically put a situation where a
couple, a gay couple comes from New York, goes down to Mississippi, they
get all the rights of Social Security and all that stuff, but they just
don`t get the title "marriage" in the state they`re living in.
WILLIAMS: Right, but...
MATTHEWS: And does that mean they have to carry through and pull the
thread off the suit so there`s nothing left of the suit, there`s nothing
left of DOMA because you can`t work it if you just take that part of it?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think you both have a point that to some extent, these
cases are at cross purposes with each other because if you -- if you strike
down DOMA -- it depends on how you strike it down. If you say the federal
government cannot discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages,
then you have a hard time saying, But the states can.
However, if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA as a matter of federalism
and says, You know what? Congress has no role here. This is up to the
states, then the states can still decide for themselves whether to allow
FINEMAN: Yes, but Pete -- but Pete...
WILLIAMS: And I think that`s where it`s going to come out.
FINEMAN: I know, but as a practical matter, some same-sex couples are
going to be getting federal benefits and other same-sex couples won`t. And
the only difference...
WILLIAMS: No, but they`ll also be getting state benefits. They`ll also be
WILLIAMS: So I think that`ll be a distinction without a difference.
MATTHEWS: Let`s help the viewer at this point. We need to help the less
sophisticated viewer because I`m one of them. Is there going to be a
significant court ruling on this year? Is the court likely to take steps
to in some way enhance gay rights here?
WILLIAMS: Well, look, if the court strikes down DOMA for whatever reason,
on whatever basis, that`s a significant victory for the advocates of gay
rights. But I don`t think it`s going to be a ruling that is a strong gay
rights ruling that can be applied in other areas, like adoption and a lot
of other questions that may be coming.
MATTHEWS: OK. Back to Prop 8. What about that? Do you think California
will be allowed to continue -- will be allowed to resume having same-sex
WILLIAMS: Yes. Again, that`s my guess, based on the argument, but that
it`ll be a decision good for California only, that will not have any
WILLIAMS: ... no precedents, nothing to bind the other states.
MATTHEWS: OK. So I guess Horace Greeley will be right again. Go west,
young man -- and young woman. (INAUDIBLE) want to go out there. Anyway,
thank you, Pete Williams.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman.
Coming up -- thanks, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: The man who shocked America in 2004 when he announced
he was gay, or is gay, and resigning as governor of New Jersey. If Jim
McGreevey were faced with the same situation today, with our greater
acceptance of gay rights, would he still feel he had to resign? Well,
we`re going to get into all those questions. No more law, personal stuff
coming up here.
Also, why would the Republican governor of North Dakota sign the most
restrictive anti-abortion measure ever if he knows it will never survive a
court challenge? Well, because it`s all about keeping the GOP`s right wing
base quite happy, no matter how flawed the legislation is, you could argue.
And have you heard about the government`s secret plan to use "Obama care"
to register more Democrats? Neither has anyone else, except for a
Republican congressman from Louisiana.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this. When a politician gets into a sex
scandal, what are the rules for taking him back by the voters?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Political news from Kentucky. Activist Ashley Judd will not run
for the U.S. Senate down there. Judd was long rumored, of course, to be
interested in challenging Republican leader Mitch McConnell, but she`s
passing on that chance.
A source close to Judd told "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza that the
timing`s not right and that the interest from Kentucky secretary of state
Alison Grimes (ph) in the race made Judd`s decision easier. Democrats in
Kentucky were worried that a Judd candidacy would hurt down-ballot
Democrats -- in other words, other Democrats running.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: At a point in every person`s life, one
has to look deeply into the mirror of one`s soul and decide one`s unique
truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as
it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s hard to -- it`s hard to
overestimate, by the way, the political earthquake New Jersey governor Jim
McGreevey set off with those words back then. I started the show that
night, August 12th, 2004 -- that`s about nine years ago -- with the words
Well, as the Supreme Court hears two cases on gay marriage this week and
attitudes have certainly changed dramatically, it`s hard to know if
Governor McGreevey`s announcement would have been as stunning today. I
don`t think so. Well, this Gallup poll shows how quickly acceptance of gay
relations -- not gay marriage but gay relations -- has changed in this
country since 2004, when Governor McGreevey came out. Back then, 54
percent found gay relations morally wrong and 42 percent found them
acceptable morally. Well, today, those numbers are flipped. No surprise
there. They`ll continue to flip, obviously.
Joining me right now is former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey. Thank
you, Governor, for coming on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When you made that statement -- and I must -- you must go back
to it every night when you go to sleep and think about how you`ve gotten
where you got -- what did you feel when you were doing that? What did it -
- did you feel that you were being victimized by a society that`s
prejudiced, or that you had done something that you were somehow culpable
for, or what? What was your mix of feelings?
JIM MCGREEVEY (D), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I think, probably, Chris,
all of the above. I mean, I grew up in a wonderful, loving household, but
at that time, you know, my church said that homosexuality was an
abomination. It was worthy of condemnation. I remember when I was 8 or 9,
in the local public library, homosexuality was listed under "psychiatric
MCGREEVEY: So as a young kid, you didn`t want to own this. This was
something awful. And you know, whether I`m playing baseball or church
outings or in school, you were afraid to come out. And so being in the
closet was for me the only rational response at that time in my life.
MATTHEWS: Well, why did you get married? Why did you marry a woman? Why
did you -- were you just so political that even though you were gay, you
figured that this was the only -- you couldn`t just be a bachelor and say,
I`m a bachelor, leave it at that and make your own -- a lot of actors do
that. They just say, you know -- going back to, you know, Noel Coward,
people like that, they`d say, OK, think what you want. I`m not telling
Why couldn`t you just not get married, not even get involved in that kind
of a situation?
MCGREEVEY: Chris, I think it was more basic. I think that I wanted to be
straight. I mean, if you believed, at the time, which was unfortunately so
warped and corrosive, that being gay as a morality is something that`s an
abomination to nature, then you -- then you -- you work hard to be quote,
unquote, "straight." And that`s why the notion of corrective therapy...
MATTHEWS: You mean you wanted to get married? It wasn`t just PR? It
wasn`t just for political reasons.
MCGREEVEY: No. You know, the same way that when you`re 8 or 9 years of
age that you work doubly hard, whether it`s to get that merit badge. You
don`t want to be called a fag. You don`t want to be called a homo.
MCGREEVEY: And it`s -- you know, as a young man, and the images all around
you are of straight America, that becomes your iconic goal.
MATTHEWS: So let me ask you, as you`re watching the court hearings with an
interest now -- well, you`ve always had the interest -- what do you think
we should do? I mean, in a -- in a society that does give people the
opportunity under our Declaration of Independence, our founding document,
to pursue happiness, that does ensure equal protection of the laws, that
does ensure our liberty -- the most basic thing you can have is liberty --
where should we be in a good Supreme Court on gay marriage?
MCGREEVEY: Well, gay marriage is going to happen, Chris. I think it`s
almost an inevitability, not only when you look at poll results you just
put up on the screen, but when you talk to young people, I mean, this is a
no-brainer. I mean, there`s almost universal acceptance on college
I think what you heard from Justice Kennedy was trying to determine or
trying to create a path where he will allow the states to be opportunities
But, ultimately, I think the public and the Constitution will demand it.
And I think this is a difficult time. What I would want as a gay person is
full rights. I mean, the notion, as I think Justice Ginsburg referred to
it, as skim milk, we don`t want a less-than marriage. I mean, when you`re
born, you get a birth certificate. When I die, I will get a death
I don`t want the state to impart a less-than status in a civic -- in a
union between two persons.
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s so amazing, Governor. We`re just learning this
But in the language, Justice Kagan brought it up this afternoon or this
morning, this idea that Congress passed DOMA -- I don`t think Bill Clinton
signed it because of this reason. I think he signed it for political
reasons. He did it because he figured he had to in a very close election,
it looked like, in `96. He was worried about losing potentially.
But here you have the fact. Congress decided to reflect an honor of
collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of
homosexuality. In other words, there in the writing, Congress admitted to
what was acceptable back then.
MCGREEVEY: Up front, they`re -- they`re putting their prejudices, their
biases right up front.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that amazing? How much has time changed in just these
years since `96?
MCGREEVEY: And now the irony is, their frankness, their willingness to put
forth their prejudicial notions right up front is now ironically somewhat
of a liability legally.
MATTHEWS: Yes, because it`s -- as I said, it`s not like saying you hate
murderers because they`re murderers.
MATTHEWS: It`s suggesting that this is the prime reason you don`t want gay
MATTHEWS: Not because there`s something wrong with it, but because it
MCGREEVEY: Because it bothers me, because it invokes a prejudicial
reaction to me. And so we`re going to enshrine our prejudices clearly and
for everyone to see.
And now, ironically, under close inspection, that is the fault line against
which I think a majority of the justices will say that DOMA is
unconstitutional, most probably for the federalist reasons articulated by
Pete, but at some point in constitutional history for the equal protection
arguments that Howard alluded to.
MATTHEWS: I want you to react to something like this in your own way, not
politically, although you`re a politician, I know. And I am too in many
MCGREEVEY: No, no, no, no more.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know, but we have a political mind. I know it`s there.
MCGREEVEY: It`s the product of a Jesuit education, Chris.
MATTHEWS: That`s in both cases.
Anyway, Harvey Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians in the
country, we all know. And he was elected to the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors. That`s their City Council out there -- in 1977.
MATTHEWS: He said that progress for gay rights would only come when gay
people themselves come out of the closet. Listen to him. This is an audio
of the great Harvey Milk back in 1977, the same year he was killed,
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HARVEY MILK, SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: We must continue to speak
out and most importantly, most importantly, every gay person must come out.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you say to the young man or woman who wants to pursue
the kind of ambitions you held and a lot of us have held? Should they come
out? Should they come out or not if they`re gay?
MCGREEVEY: Well, if I can back up for a second, I think Harvey Milk was
very much right.
When you look at people like Evan Wolfson and Andrew Sullivan talking about
gay marriage, you look at a generation ago, people like Larry Kramer, David
Mixner, David Rothenberg, people, if you will, leaders in the gay rights
community, particularly around the AIDS crisis, that the gay community
didn`t have the luxury of silence because silence was implicit with death.
And so the gay community began to become politically empowered. And when
they rose up, people saw their sons, their daughters, their mothers and
fathers. And I think that created a change. And what I would say to young
persons interested in elected office today is to be who you are.
But I don`t want to be presumptuous, because I was talking to a group of
young LGBT students down in Washington, D.C. A young gal, she was in high
school, sophomore, talked about how she came out. And she was kicked down
or pushed down a flight of stairs by a group of guys who taunted her, who
gestured at her. There was no backup from her principal. There was no
backup from her teacher.
And, literally, for two-and-a-half years, she led a pretty horrible life.
So authenticity is a great thing, but I think we have to be mindful that if
adults don`t nurture the ability to be truthful, you know, it can be lonely
out there. Teenagers -- high school is tough enough.
MATTHEWS: High school can be the worst time of your life in so many ways
in this kind of situation for orientation. I salute anybody with the guts
to do it.
MATTHEWS: And I recognize the terrors that go on in high school. It is
Anyway, thank you, Governor Jim McGreevey. Thank you for coming on
HARDBALL. Any time you want.
MCGREEVEY: Thank you.
MCGREEVEY: And if you remember Alexandra Pelosi`s documentary.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It`s about you.
MCGREEVEY: No. It`s about a woman about jail.
MATTHEWS: Oh, that one, the one about jail.
MCGREEVEY: "Fall to Grace."
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
MCGREEVEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Up next: the latest conspiracy theory from the right wing. How Obamacare
is going to force people to register as Democrats? Come on. It`s not
true. Anyway, that`s ahead in the "Sideshow." And this is HARDBALL, the
place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert have some thoughts on the recent Republican
autopsy. Does Reince Priebus have it right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It all goes back
to what our moms used to tell us. It`s not just what you say. It`s how we
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": For instance, the
way I say it is like a drunk Muppet.
They don`t need to change what they are saying, just how they are saying
it. Remember, when you tell a gay person that their love is too unnatural
for society to recognize, smile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The autopsy here says that,
to reach the kids, the GOP should establish a Republican celebrity task
COLBERT: GOP celebrity task force, assemble!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: Jon Voight, Victoria Jackson, Tom Selleck, Kelsey Grammer, Cliff
Clavin, lady from "Northern Exposure."
COLBERT: At least one Baldwin, this guy from that thing.
COLBERT: I`m telling you, folks, the kids will not know what hit them.
COLBERT: Because I`m not sure they know who these people are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as I have been saying, it`s not just the box they brought
the pizza in. What was inside didn`t look so hot either.
Next, the latest right-wing outrage over Obamacare. Here goes. In a draft
application for health care insurance under Obamacare, there`s a line
asking whether people want to register to vote. Well, cue Louisiana
Republican Congressman Charles Boustany with his letter to HHS Secretary
Here`s the letter. "While the health care law requires that government
agencies collect vast information about Americans` personal lives, it does
not give your department an interest in which individual Americans choose
to vote or not."
Well, here`s the thing. The application was following the guidelines of
the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which mandates that all
agencies providing services to people with disabilities, at least, must
offer applicants the opportunity to register to vote.
Well, that didn`t stop others from sounding alarms. From the conservative
"Washington Examiner" -- here goes -- "Boustany said the application raises
two alarming issues. What does this plan -- what does HHS` plan have to do
with all the information it collects on each applicant? And will pro-Obama
groups like AARP, AARP, and Families USA steer them when they get their
names to register as Democrats? Others have indicated that groups like
Planned Parenthood and ACORN could also act as navigators."
Well, here`s the problem. ACORN? ACORN has been defunct since 2010. It
being dead is no excuse not to be right, of course -- 49 percent of
Republicans say ACORN helped steal the 2012 election for President Obama,
even though it didn`t exist.
And a recent GOP budget called for ACORN to be defunded, again, even though
it neither -- well, it never -- it doesn`t exist anymore.
Up next: how women and Democrats are fighting back against Republicans
pushing strict new laws restricting abortion.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC
Worries about Europe sends stocks lower. The Dow ends off 33 after clawing
its way back from a triple-digit decline. The S&P falls one point. The
Nasdaq gains four. As for the economy, pending home sales fell more than
expected in February, according to the National Association of Realtors.
And mortgage applications rose last week as interest rates pulled back for
the first time in three weeks.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
North Dakota yesterday became home to the country`s strictest abortion law
when the Republican governor signed a bill outlawing abortion once a fetal
heartbeat can be found. Well, that`s around six weeks into the pregnancy,
often before a woman even knows she`s pregnant, and well before the Supreme
Court`s standard of viability, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
North Dakota`s the most strict, but it`s not the only state to dial back
that standard. Arkansas just recently banned abortion after just 10 weeks
post-fertilization. Arizona has a law at 18 weeks. And eight more states
have banned abortion after 20 weeks.
North Dakota`s governor knows his law will be challenged in the courts, of
course. In a statement, he actually said: "Although the likelihood of this
measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is
nevertheless a legitimate effort -- attempt by a state legislature to
discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."
So, he signed the bill knowing it could very well be overturned by the high
So, who`s in charge here, the lawmakers or the women who make these
Anyway, Joan Walsh is editor at large for Salon of course and an MSNBC
analyst of course. And Margie Omero is a Democratic pollster for Purple
Margie, I want you up first here.
What`s the challenge here for people who believe in choice, abortion
rights? What is up when a state goes for something like six weeks as
opposed to 22 weeks? They`re not testing the margins here. This isn`t
looking for a close decision. They are radically trying to outlaw abortion
through other means.
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: This is politics. This is a political
If you look at the entire governor`s statement, there are two words that
are missing, women and families. This is not about understanding women or
reaching out to women. This is about a political statement only. And six
weeks is so...
MATTHEWS: Aren`t there any women in these legislatures that make -- that
raise their hand and say this isn`t right?
OMERO: I mean, there must be. But the -- you know, here`s what`s so
extreme about six weeks.
You could be trying to get pregnant and still not know at six weeks.
That`s how early it is. It is deliberately early. And the rest of the
bill is also designed to shut down the one service provider. So what it
MATTHEWS: In North Dakota.
OMERO: In North Dakota.
So, what it does, it puts those bills -- what 10 percent of Americans
support. It basically ends access altogether. And that`s a fringe
position. That`s about 10 percent of Americans who say abortion should be
illegal in all cases. And that`s what this bill...
MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, Joan -- Joan, you and I have talked about
these things. I don`t understand the world these people live in. You can
have all kinds of moral positions about abortion. I may be relatively
conservative on that issue.
But when it comes to the law and it comes to punishment and it comes to a
society that has to live in a secular universe like we do, how in the world
do you outlaw abortion? I have never understood what it means. A woman or
young girl even gets pregnant, she doesn`t want to be pregnant, she doesn`t
want to have a kid, she goes somewhere to get it taken care of.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: To stop that under the law, you have to inflict some incredible
punishment on the woman or the girl, so she won`t do it, or you let it go
underground, because, if you can...
MATTHEWS: If you -- if you don`t punish the woman -- and nobody`s talking
about that -- you can`t stop a person from using their free will, getting
in a car and going where you can do it. So, why do they keep trying to do
You know, what they`re trying to outlaw is safe abortion.
WALSH: Abortion never goes away. We had it before it was legal. We will
have it, God forbid, if it were not legal.
And we have, you know, a rise in unsafe and late abortions because of
access. It`s tragic. But I want to -- I want to just put a little bit of
an optimistic spin on this. This is what losing looks like, actually,
Chris, nationally. These groups, these extremist groups, they were
shellacked in the presidential race.
They handed Senate seats to Democrats in Missouri and Indiana, seats they
should have had, with their extremism. And now what they have done, this
is a grudge match in North Dakota. They had -- there was a wonderful anti-
abortion state senator, Republican, last year who nonetheless defeated
single-handedly almost, defeated the personhood amendment that they tried
to pass because he said it was not legal and he believes in the law.
They defeated him. They -- Personhood USA put money into it. A lot of
other extreme right groups put money to it. And they defeated him. And
they have scared the rest of the legislature.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
WALSH: I want to add one thing. There are Republican women who stood up.
There were historic women`s rights rallies in cities across North Dakota
two days ago.
And some of the leaders were Republican women. So there are people
fighting back. But right now, they`re taking these small states where it`s
easy to make a difference and where the pro-choice forces have not been
organized, and they are winning. And the pro-choice forces are getting
ready to fight back.
Earlier today on MSNBC, the woman who runs that one abortion clinic in
North Dakota blamed this new law on the -- on politics and self-
preservation of these people in the legislature, also fear of right-wing
groups like Personhood USA, which believes life begins at fertilization
itself, who is totally anti-abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAMMI KROMENAKER, DIR., RED RIVER WOMEN`S CLINIC: We had in 2011, another
personhood bill that came forward and a state senator killed the bill with
a procedural move. He then was redistricted, had to run against a more
conservative senator. Personhood USA poured money and resources into that
campaign. Senator Olefson lost his spot.
So, other senators and other representatives are scared. They want to keep
their jobs. They want to keep their seats. And Personhood USA has
basically bullied them and threatened them with losing their seats if they
don`t get in line and vote with these bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Are we getting into a totally polarized political world where if
you are a Republican -- say you`re a moderate Republican, a center right
Republican. You just like lower taxes, less government. And you don`t
want to do any of this stuff. You want to leave it alone. Roe v. Wade is
fine with you.
Do you get pressured people show up at your office and say, we`re going to
primary you, buddy? What`s going on here? Why are they doing? Why are
they going so extreme with this stuff?
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: You know, I can`t answer that. All I
can say is we are polarized in terms of elected officials.
But the American people are not polarized in this. You have two-thirds of
voters who say we need to protect Roe v. Wade. You have folks who -- 90
percent of Americans oppose something as extreme as you have in North
Dakota. So, there is a lot of consensus among people.
It is just some extremists who are worried about even more extreme folks
challenging them on the right. And, you know, despite what`s been coming
out of Washington in terms of Republicans looking inward and trying to
reach out to women and figuring out why they did so poorly with women, you
have a lot of legislative bodies who can`t help themselves.
MATTHEWS: You get into a back room in some state capitol like Albany,
maybe Harrisburg or moving across the country, Indianapolis, and they`re
all hanging around a three-star hotel. They all play cards at night.
They`re all stuck together.
Is that a cloistered world where these Republican caucus members and state
legislatures don`t open the window and listen to what the world`s doing? I
mean, are they only talking to each other?
Because to come up with this stuff, you go, in what room did they think
that was a good idea with five or six people in the room? Why don`t we
make it six days or six weeks?
OMERO: I know, they need more polling. Clearly those are not popular
positions. And maybe it`s because they`re all playing cards together. But
people have been doing that for a long time. You still need to go out and
reach out to your districts in order to get re-elected.
So, there`s something new about a newer crop of folks who -- the way that
districts have been run that have now been -- folks have been getting
pulled to the right. I mean, if you look at the coverage out of North
Dakota, a lot of -- it`s so processed. It`s about -- well, now we have the
money to defend this state from a challenge. It`s not at all about what
they`re trying to do or whether or not people want it.
MATTHEWS: I wonder if there`s a perverse flip side to what`s going on on
the Democratic side. I look Kay Hagan came out today for gay marriage.
Jon Tester came out for it. Claire McCaskill came out for it. Mark Warner
came out for it. All in the last couple of days, Joan.
It seems like on the other side, the Democratic Party said you`re really
off base if you`re not for same-sex marriage. I mean, it`s polarized to
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Right. Well, you know, these are related issues.
These are issues that the right has used. They know they`re in the
minority. They`re increasingly in the minority on gay rights, Chris.
And Democrats are standing firm on it.
MATTHEWS: After they`re re-elected.
WALSH: Yes. There is some of that.
MATTHEWS: A lot of it I`ve noticed. But I`m all for it. But I do notice
the timing here is interesting.
WALSH: We`ll take it any time.
MATTHEWS: You know? So, let`s go --
WALSH: It`s a little safer than it was in October.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to be talking about these things as long as we
live. Anyway, thank you.
Nothing wrong with debating these issues. I think some of this back room
stuff is just completely unconnected to the national debate. And you`re
the expert. Thank you very much.
OMERO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Margie Omero.
Thank you, Joan, as always.
Up next, the comeback kids from New York -- well, Mark Sanford. He`s
coming back. Anthony Weiner -- well, we`ll see. Politicians tainted by
scandal are now on the comeback trail. Believe it or not, these guys are
And this is HARDBALL, the place to talk about them. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: What`s the hottest political contest this year?
And the governor`s race in Virginia is neck and neck. Look at these
numbers. But, first, let`s go to the scoreboard. According to a
Quinnipiac poll, Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia`s conservative, very conservative
attorney general, has a two-point edge on former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe.
It`s Cuccinelli, 40, McAuliffe, 38, with 18 undecided. That`s a lot.
And we`ll see. This is a fight, by the way, to watch in 2013, maybe the
race to watch.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be a wild subject here.
And there`s nothing new about political sex scandals, or scandals or sex.
But what is news is the "get out of jail free" cards that politicians are
now being issued.
Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a case in point, was linked to an escort
service. That`s a nice way to put it -- linked to an escort service.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared from office. He spent
time out of the country in Argentina with his mistress.
Both have emerged -- both of these gentlemen with political careers
Even Anthony Weiner -- well, we`ll see about him -- he`s the Democratic
congressman who`s sexting seemed to net new standards for inappropriate
behavior by a public official. Well, he`s eyeing a comeback, apparently
taking a poll to see if he can come back for something in New York.
Well, what`s different that allows politicians now, I`m asking the
question, to survive scandals that were once fatal? Is it changing times,
the culture? Does it depend on where you live, or political party is?
Gene Robinson is ready for this one. He`s with "The Washington Post".
He`s an MSNBC political expert.
And Emily Heil is also with "The Washington Post."
Emily, what do you make of David Vitter`s durability? Prostitutes in D.C.,
in this city, also in Louisiana, down in New Orleans, somewhere, going to
professional sex workers they are called now, everybody knows about it, all
his voters knew about it. He`s back and they are talking about him for
EMILY HEIL, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s truly amazing. It really is. I
think it shows how much we are willing to forgive.
I mean, David Vitter was put out to the woodshed for a while here in
Washington. You would see him down on the floor, on the Senate, and, you
know, nobody would be standing around him. He looked like lonely and off
to himself and no one stood around him and wanted the cameras near them.
I don`t know what went on behind closed doors. Maybe they were a little
friendlier and warmer and didn`t ostracize him.
But he`s put that behind him and a couple years later he`s A-OK. He`s
everybody`s best pal and he`s really completed his rehabilitation. He`s
out of the woodshed.
So, clearly, there`s a template for this and I think what he did was he
sort of stuck around and kept his head down, which is one strategy, but
there are plenty of others. There are plenty of ways for men -- well, we
don`t really have any women with sex scandals.
MATTHEWS: Well, you got a hot hand here, but hold on for a second.
Gene, you used to edit all of this copy and decide what to put in the
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Especially the style page in "The Post". What about -- I would
have never marked Mark Sanford for a reason so quickly in South Carolina.
ROBINSON: No. I am surprised. First of all, South Carolina is a fairly
conservative state. As far as any state, it`s conservative at this point
and also the way Sanford handled his situation, he disappeared while he`s a
MATTHEWS: Yes, he had a smoking barrel invitation out with the campaign
out in the woods.
ROBINSON: And Jenny Stanford declined to play the loyal wife. So, you put
all of this together and you say, well, how did this happen? And I do
MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this. I think you`re right. Check him out, the
former governor of South Carolina in his campaign ad pleading with voters
to look past -- you can`t look past it. But ignore his infidelity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: More recently, I have
experienced that none of us goes through life without mistakes, but in the
wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the
better for it. In that light, I humbly step forward and ask for your help
in changing Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Nobody is perfect, Emily. And I`m not jumping into this
with both feet as the Angel Gabriel or somebody.
But what is this mistake he`s talking about? Why do politicians say
mistakes when they really wanted to do something? He fell in love with
this woman in Argentina. He`s marrying her.
It`s not a mistake. Does he tell her it`s a mistake? What are they
talking about, this language --
HEIL: It`s all about -- it`s a euphemism.
MATTHEWS: For what?
HEIL: And I think --
MATTHEWS: For what?
HEIL: Well, for any number of things. Well, we know what it means but the
MATTHEWS: It means I want my job back.
HEIL: Exactly. When you heard about David Vitter, all he ever really
admitted to, remember, was a very serious sin, and that`s a quote. He
never said hooker. He never said prostitute. He never said D.C. madam.
MATTHEWS: You just did.
HEIL: He never said infidelity.
That`s our job. His job is to just call it a very serious sin and make us
think that that`s addressing it.
I think it`s interesting, we saw last night, David Petraeus, the CIA
director, former CIA director, who had to resign amid this big scandal that
he was having an affair with his biographer. You know, he talked about
coming back -- didn`t talk about it, but hinted that it might be in his
future. You know, there`s a lot of ways to do it. And everyone -- there`s
no one script for doing it.
MATTHEWS: OK, I have a solution. I gave my example. We used the word
But comeback is a word I`ve always given to Bill -- Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS. Because he`s the -- he`s like one of those things standing in
the bottom, they just come back up, these big dummies, these big plastic
things. He always comes back up. He always says, ask the guy.
I think he`s been able to get through all the problems with the Monica and
all that stuff that was so unpleasant at the time because people thought
that impeachment was way overkill.
MATTHEWS: Way overkill, for one thing.
And number two, he`s so open about himself. He`s so in front of us. He`s
not hiding anything.
ROBINSON: I think there`s another factor. You can go all the way back to
Teddy Kennedy who survived Chappaquiddick.
MATTHEWS: That`s not a scandal.
ROBINSON: But that`s -- it`s different but that was -- it was a scandal.
MATTHEWS: But somebody else didn`t survive.
ROBINSON: Well --
MATTHEWS: That`s right. I put that in a different -- that was an accident
caused probably by drinking or something.
ROBINSON: Exactly. Right.
So what I think is different now is that you don`t have to have the
charisma or family name of a Ted Kennedy.
ROBINSON: The dazzle of a Bill Clinton. You can be Vitter who --
MATTHEWS: OK. Up or down, Emily? And then Gene -- I`ll save Gene for
Weiner, is he going to come back and have an elected office after that -- I
think it`s suicidal behavior but in a way that he exposed (ph) it? I don`t
know if there`s anything wrong with the guy or not, it didn`t hurt anybody,
but it was so weird, his behavior. What do you think? Can he come back?
HEIL: Yes, I think he can. Maybe not now, maybe not, you know, in the
immediate future, but he`s young. He`s got fundraising ability, he`s got
friends and he can always say he never actually had an affair.
You know, he engaged in some pretty inappropriate stuff. There`s some
really embarrassing pictures out there. But, you know, he didn`t actually
have an affair. So I say some day maybe. Sure. Why not?
MATTHEWS: I want her on my jury.
Emily, join my jury if I get in trouble.
Yes, go ahead.
ROBINSON: Rehab. He`s got to do some rehab.
MATTHEWS: I think his wife is going to save him, Hillary`s assistant. I
think Huma is a star and will be his best witness, anyway, character
Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. What a liberal crowd we are.
Emily Heil, thank you for joining our show. Please come back.
And we`ll be back just after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
We see in our politics today why those who are guilty in a matter, any
matter, are wise to choose a jury over a judge. A judge rules on the law
and the facts. Juries usually rule on the all kinds of bases: compassion,
forgiveness, group loyalties, attitude towards authority, toward human
Juries are unpredictable for the very reason that no one, outside the jury
room, knows the basis of its decision.
Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his behavior with a young woman.
The public, the national jury, judged the proposed punishment -- removal
from office -- disproportionate. A censure would have been in tune with
the times. Were the public to rule on his conduct today, Bill Clinton`s?
He wouldn`t even get that punishment.
As in a courtroom drama, it depends, too, where you draw your jury. A
congressman from Massachusetts has sex with a female -- or a male intern
and continues to be re-elected. A colleague of a different party, from
Indiana, is run out of office for having sex with a female intern. It
depends who`s calling the shots.
So, a senator from Louisiana gets involved with prostitutes and gets re-
elected. A colleague from Nevada gets involved with a woman -- the wife of
a staffer -- and he knows he has to quit. What are the rules here?
Mark Sanford is probably headed back to the House. Do people forgive a guy
for falling in love?
Anthony Weiner makes a fool of himself sending pictures of himself to women
he met on-line. Can he get back into politics? Again, what are the rules?
New Yorkers -- are they open to considering him? Well, he`s taking a poll.
I guess we`ll find out and he will, too.
How about this for a standard: do you want this person making governmental
decisions when you`re not watching?
That`s my standard.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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