updated 3/29/2013 12:04:58 PM ET 2013-03-29T16:04:58

HARDBALL
March 28, 2013

Guests: Neil Heslin, Lori Haas, Michael Crowley, Sam Stein, John Feehery

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama drama.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. You know that scene in "Casablanca" when
the French police captain shoots the Nazi major, Strasser, and Humphrey
Bogart, the movies does the right thing by Ingrid Bergman, and the anti-
Nazi here, Victor Laszlo, says, Welcome back to the fight, Rick?

Well, I felt that way today watching President Obama get back to the front
in the historic battle for gun safety, not Biden, not Bloomberg but the
twice elected leader of this country out there leading the charge for
America to do the right thing, to measure up morally to the horror of
Newtown, Connecticut. So I say it loudly and proudly, welcome back to the
fight, Mr. President.

Neil Heslin`s here with us today. He lost his son, Jesse, in the Newtown
school shooting. He`s with the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns,
and today in D.C. for their national day to demand action. There they are.
And Lori Haas is a member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. She was
standing just behind the president today when she spoke. Her daughter,
Emily (ph), was shot and injured in that 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

Both of you, thank you so much. Thank you for coming on. What -- this is
an opportunity to talk to a lot of people out there in the country. Let`s
look at the president here first, though, Neil. Today President Obama
urged commitment to strengthening gun safety laws following Newtown. Let`s
listen to him. I`d like your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I read an article in the
news just the other day wondering is Washington -- has Washington missed
its opportunity, because as time goes on, after Newtown, somehow people
start moving on and forgetting?

Let me tell you, the people here, they don`t forget. The notion that two
months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in
Newtown happens, and we`ve moved on to other things? That`s not who we
are. Less than 100 days ago, that happened. And the entire country was
shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and
that this time it would be different.

Shame on us if we`ve forgotten. I haven`t forgotten those kids. Shame on
us if we`ve forgotten.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Neil, I`ve watched this president, actually, for years now, that
sense of drama there, that sense of pausing, dramatic pauses. How did you
feel being with him? Is it convincing?

NEIL HESLIN, SON KILLED IN NEWTOWN SHOOTING: Yes, it is. I feel the
president is very committed to seeing a change and following through with
it and continuously pushing to -- not to forget about what happened in
Newtown.

MATTHEWS: What did he say to you alone backstage? Did he talk to you
separately from the camera?

HESLIN: No. No.

MATTHEWS: No. Let me go -- let me go to Lori about this because when you
saw this happen up there, Connecticut, and you had lived through the
tragedy down in Virginia Tech -- these have become iconic events.

LORI HAAS, DAUGHTER INJURED IN VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING: Absolutely.
They`re hard to stomach. They`re hard to imagine and they`re hard to live
with and deal with. And Americans, and in particular, mothers and fathers,
listened to the news coming out of Newtown and said, Not again, not our
children. And we`re not going to have this happen any longer.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s your reaction when you hear the NRA people, like
Wayne LaPierre out there on television? He`s very skilled at demagoguery.
Whatever you want to call it, he`s able to whip up fear on the part of the
gun owners that somehow, there`s going to be national registration, there`s
going to be national confiscation. Everybody`s coming into your closet,
into your garage, and we`re going to get your gun and take it away. That`s
the way he sells.

HAAS: Yes. But he speaks to a very small percentage of the population.
Americans understand this issue. They understand that background checks
are going to stop criminals, dangerous people, those who have been
adjudicated, mentally ill.

We`re going after the illegal gun market. We are not going after law-
abiding citizens or gun owners. We`re demanding action. There are over
hundreds and hundreds of actions taking place today across America. We`re
going to get this done, and the president is going to help us.

MATTHEWS: Neil, what would be enough?

HESLIN: Well, I feel there needs to be a ban on assault weapons and high-
capacity magazines. Those were the main components that have been used in
the most of the mass killings and mass shootings.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HESLIN: They don`t have a place on the streets. They don`t have a place
in our schools. And I just want to see that this doesn`t happen to another
family or another parent, what I`m going through and what Newtown is going
through.

MATTHEWS: I can see. It doesn`t go away, does it.

HESLIN: It`s never going to go away.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s take a look at the president again today. He
reinforced the point that the time for action on gun safety is now. Let`s
listen to Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Tears aren`t enough. Expressions of sympathy aren`t enough.
Speeches aren`t enough. Now`s the time to turn that heartbreak into
something real. It won`t solve every problem. There will still be gun
deaths. There will still be tragedies. There will still be violence.
There will still be evil. But we can make a difference if not just the
activists here on this stage, but the general public, including responsible
gun owners, say, You know what? We can do better than this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Lori, what do you make of a politician who`s out there basically
saving his butt? They`re voting the cautious way, or planning to, because
they don`t believe in 30-round clips. They don`t believe in semiautomatic
weapons. They don`t use them. They don`t know anybody who does. But they
know that the wackos on the far NRA right will use any slippery slope
argument they can to sell fear.

HAAS: I think they`re pandering to the wrong people in this country. I
think they`re pandering to a very small, narrow group of people, that they
don`t...

MATTHEWS: Why?

HAAS: ... have the numbers we do. I don`t understand...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... every one of these polls is on your side, though...

HAAS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and especially after the tragedy up there. Ninety-some
percent want to have better background checks. They don`t want these gun
shows exceptions. They don`t want this backroom sales. They don`t want
this illegal trafficking and second-hand purchases. None of this sounds or
even smells right to most people.

Why would you want a nut to have a gun? Why would you want a criminal to
have a gun, a wife beater to have a gun?

HAAS: I think our politicians are listening. Whether they`re going to do
the right thing or not remains to be seen. We`re going have a vote and
we`re going to -- it`s going to count. And America is watching, listening
and waiting and learning who is doing the right thing and who is doing the
wrong thing. And moms in particular are angry, upset and demanding action.
They want -- enough is enough in this area.

MATTHEWS: OK...

HAAS: ... and we`re going to talk to our politicians. And we`re not going
away.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re doing it -- you`re doing it right now. President
Obama referenced a new "Washington Post" poll just out that has support for
background checks at 91 percent. Hardly anything gets 91 percent. Apple
pie is probably in the 80s, who knows? To encourage to people hold their
representatives accountable, here`s the president again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything? It never
happens. Many other reforms are supported by clear majorities of
Americans. And I ask every American to find out where your member of
Congress stands on these ideas. If they`re not part of that 90 percent who
agree that we should make it harder for a criminal or somebody with a
severe mental illness to buy a gun, then you should ask them, why not? Why
are you part of the 10 percent?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Neil, whenever we -- when we got through 9/11, I kept
saying to myself -- every time somebody said they`re going to do something,
I said, How would this have stopped this from happening the first time?
People with phony driver`s license, people riding (ph) in packs, people who
plan the trips, nobody would -- a lot of these guys were on the watch list.
They didn`t even enforce the law.

When you think about the horror that happened to your family here, when you
lost your son, do you sense anything that would really work?

HESLIN: Well, it`s not one change that`s going to make a difference. It`s
several things. Society has to change. As I keep saying, it`s not about
the 2nd Amendment. It`s about banning one type of weapon that doesn`t
belong in the hands of civilians. It belongs in the battlefield or the
military. If the magazines that were used in Sandy Hook Elementary held 10
rounds instead of 30, there would have been more survivors. Maybe my son
would have been alive today.

MATTHEWS: Nine magazines were on the ground there.

HESLIN: That`s correct.

MATTHEWS: He shot, what, 258 rounds?

HESLIN: I believe it was 150.

MATTHEWS: A hundred and fifty -- I`m sorry, 158. And that`s like a couple
of seconds.

HESLIN: Less than five minutes.

MATTHEWS: Yes. A normal person with a pistol wouldn`t have...

HESLIN: No.

MATTHEWS: ... done anything like that.

HESLIN: No, they wouldn`t have.

MATTHEWS: Well, today Mayor Bloomberg`s Mayors Against Illegal Guns
released its television ad, featuring family members of those killed up at
Sandy Hook Elementary. It will air in Connecticut, of course. Here`s part
of the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She just wanted to teach little kids. And that was
her goal. And she died doing it.

HESLIN: That was the last I ever saw Jesse alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to prevent any other family from having to go
through what we`re going through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t let the memory of Newtown fade without doing
something real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demand action now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The NRA is running robo-calls, those automatic calls, electronic
calls that come on. You get them sometimes with telemarketing. But
they`re doing it to sell the gun rights crowd. What do you think of that?
In Connecticut, in Newtown, they`re selling them there right now, the robo-
calls.

HESLIN: Well, I respect their right to do that, but I think it`s totally
disrespectable what they`re doing in Newtown. Clearly...

MATTHEWS: Why are they doing it in Newtown when they know they`re not
going to change any minds? I thi8nk they`re -- I hate to use this, a high
school term. Are they rubbing it in? Are they adding insult to injury
here? What is the NRA up to, running ads in the very victimized town with
the parents there, robo-calls, calling up...

HAAS: It`s disgusting. It`s -- some -- many of their tactics are
disgusting. It`s unacceptable. And I don`t -- I don`t quite get what
they`re doing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... like SOBs?

HAAS: Well, I don`t -- I can`t -- that`s the piece I don`t understand.
You know, they consider themselves a political powerhouse, and they`re not.
They`ve made misstep after misstep after misstep in the wake of the Newtown
shootings. And you know, frankly, their numbers are going down. And I
think they`re getting desperate and I think their actions are desperate.
And that is an indication of how they feel.

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t ever say this except on this issue, not on same-
sex or another -- write your congressman.

HAAS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is one that`s not about politics, left/right. Tell the
people why they should write their congressman.

HAAS: Thank you. They need to write their congressman because we are the
moral majority on this. We are the majority on this. There may be -- you
know, purported to be 4 million members of the NRA, but there are 300
million Americans who are with Neil and with me and with other parents who
want to keep our community safe, our schools safe.

So write your congressmen. Let them know how you feel. We need to demand
action.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what they`re asking, Neil. And of course, Lori,
thank you for coming. And I hope people do get on the phone. You have a
phone, right? Call up your senator and congressman. The number is 202-
224-3121 -- 202-224-3121. And if you want to look it up, just call
directory assistance, ask for the United States Capitol and get ahold of
the person who supposedly represents you. And if you`re one of the 91
percent, get him or her to do the job of representing you and stop this
stuff.

Coming up: Want to know why gun safety advocates are so intent on reducing
the size of gun magazines? Because today we learned that Adam Lanza, as I
said, fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes -- 154 in five minutes.
You figure the math. How many more children would be alive today if he
didn`t have those 30-round magazines? Nine of those 30-round magazines
were found at the crime scene.

And however the Supreme Court rules on this week`s gay marriage cases, the
Republican Party is in big trouble here. Either they stand in the doorway
hollering no and say good-bye to an entire generation of young Americans,
or they embrace the inevitable and risk losing their loyal supporters,
their evangelical base.

Also, here`s my take on Ashley Judd not running against Mitch McConnell.
What it says to me -- Democrats think they have a real chance of knocking
off that guy, McConnell, and they don`t want to blow it with a political
amateur. Anyway, McConnell is the Rick Santorum of 2014. In other words,
the Republican I think Democrats most want to knock out of there.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with a real chance to take on Mitch McConnell.
It looks like it`s happening.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I just mentioned now is the time to call that Capitol
switchboard here in Washington, D.C., and demand that your congressman and
senator do something about gun safety. Here`s the number, 202-224-3121.
Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After two days of arguments at the
Supreme Court over gay marriage, the one thing most opponents and
supporters around the country seem to agree on is that marriage equality is
inevitable eventually. And that includes, believe it or not, the Rushbo,
Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Folks, the bottom line is that all of
this is academic. This is going to happen. Whether it happens now at the
Supreme Court or somehow later, it is -- it is going to happen. It`s just
the direction the culture is heading. There is hardly any opposition to
this. The opposition is -- that you would suspect exists is in the process
of crumbling on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure "crumble" is the right word, Rush. But anyway,
while most Democrats have come to embrace the reality of gay marriage,
Republicans remain divided on strategy. Many party leaders are urging a
truce, actually, put up the white flag. But for social conservatives, the
issue is still red hot. And this week, those voices were out with a
vengeance. Pat Robertson made it clear he wasn`t evolving on the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, "700 CLUB": Marriage, ladies and gentlemen, has been the
foundation of our society, and now it`s under attack. A few people want to
have their way of doing sex affirmed by everybody else. And they say it`s
homophobia to believe that a marriage between a man and a woman is
sanctioned by God. God is not a homophobe. God is almighty. He`s in
charge of the world, this is the way he made it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A graduate of Yale law, by the way, right there, Pat Robertson.

Anyway, the conservative blogger Erick Erickson, real man of the right,
tweeted today, quote, "You`re not loving your neighbor when you`re cool
with him staying on the road to hell." That`s pretty vindictive.

Anyway, meanwhile, new casualties hero Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who
has attacked President Obama`s health care law, is getting some attention
as a potential 2016 Republican contender for the White House, of course.
He had this to say about gay marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON, NEUROSURGEON: No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be
they people who believe in bestiality -- it doesn`t matter what they are,
they don`t get to change the definition! So it`s not something that`s
against gays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Dr. Carson is a good guy, but that is way off the bite
(ph). Anyway, the party`s bright new star there is comparing people --
consenting adult relationships to NAMBLA, which is about predatory --
predatory people, an advocating group that pushes for sex with children.
And he`s also talking about bestiality there.

Well, Sam Stein is editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and Michael
Crowley is deputy Washington bureau chief for "Time" magazine. This week`s
cover, by the way, is pretty compelling. There you go. You got two guys
kissing. You got an alternative version of two women, a more attractive, I
think, picture of those two (INAUDIBLE)

What are you doing with this magazine? What is this about? Why this week,
after all the years of being "tame `Time`"?

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, we can -- no, no. I mean, we`ve
had a bunch of cover -- you know, our breast-feeding cover that caused such
a stir about a year ago. I mean, I think our covers have been wonderfully
provocative.

But why now? Because I think the point of the story is, however the court
rules, we have reached -- we`ve crossed a cultural rubicon where gay
marriage...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... think of Dr. Carson there...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But Dr. Carson there, talking -- comparing a gay loving
relationship between two adults with animal sex, with whatever, with
predatory pederasty or whatever?

CROWLEY: Yes, I thought it was pretty unfortunate and foolish. I would
say, actually, of all people, Justice Sotomayor -- I was at the arguments
two days ago. And Justice Sotomayor asked Charles Cooper, the lawyer who
was defending Proposition 8...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Yes, and she was kind of playing devil`s advocate here, a thought
experiment, saying, If we opened marriage to same-sex couples, well, why
not incest, why not polygamy? And -- I`m sorry, Ted Olson -- she was
asking Ted Olson this.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: And Ted Olson says because there is a difference between conduct
that the government can regulate and have opinions about and classes of
people.

And so the point here is that just because of who you are in this country,
you can`t be denied the right to marriage. But the government can say,
there are certain forms of marriage that involve specific conduct that we
have deemed harmful to society that we can sanction.

So, it`s not like he`s come up with this point no one has thought of
before. And it`s a perfectly logical one. And I think the way he presents
it is actually not only offensive to a lot of people, but harmful to his
party, because it perpetuates the idea that this is an intolerant,
prejudiced party.

MATTHEWS: There`s something -- there`s something about the right. And I
have evolved over this. Everybody has evolved, I suppose. But gay people
can`t afford to evolve. They are.

And even the gay groups I worked with 15, 20 years ago would say, let`s not
push the marriage thing right now. It`s pretty far ahead.

CROWLEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You know, they have moved much faster than we thought.

But the awkwardness of the Republican Party, as a political thing, which is
we talk about here, when you say marriage is a relationship between one man
and one woman, why don`t they just say a man and a woman? It`s by
definition singular. They don`t even know how to talk about this.

Why would you be so weird as to say a marriage between one man? No, just
say a man and a woman.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well...

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they just say it that way?

CROWLEY: Maybe for the precise point...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why are they talking so weird?

STEIN: They want to -- I think partially because they want to implant this
image of a polygamist society.

MATTHEWS: Who`s pushing for polygamy?

STEIN: No one. These are rhetorical questions. Of course no one is
pushing for polygamy. But, listen...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s a straw man.

CROWLEY: Conservatives are pushing for the idea of polygamy to scare
people.

STEIN: Yes.

But to your point of the awkwardness in the Republican Party, I was talking
with John Feehery, friend of the show.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: His quote was, "Our best bet is to talk about something else."

(LAUGHTER)

STEIN: Because it is an awkward topic issue for the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: That`s a pretty good line.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: You know, and, obviously, there`s still a big chunk of the party
that feels very strongly about traditional marriage, and they`re going to
have their voices heard.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It sounds like Oscar Wilde. That`s an Oscar Wilde line which
I`m not going to repeat, but that whole idea of just change the subject.

Let`s take a look at this. Republican National Committee chair, the great
-- I`m being sarcastic -- Reince Priebus has urged members of his party to
change their tone, if not their actual policies, when it comes to the gay
community.

In an interview last week with "The National Review," he said when it comes
to issues like abortion and gay marriage -- quote -- "I always tell people
listen to Governor Mike Huckabee. I don`t know anyone that talks about
them -- them any better."

Well, he might want to give a little more thought to that. In an interview
with a right-wing news group Web site, Huckabee had a warning for his
party. Listen to what the former governor said. He says, when asked
whether he would -- could foresee the Republican Party shifting its
position on gay marriage, he had this response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: They might, and if they do,
they`re going to lose a large part of their base, because evangelicals will
take a walk.

I recognize the culture is moving away from the traditional standard. But
it`s almost like saying, well, we have a basketball team, and nobody on the
team, or very few, can actually hit the goal that`s 10 feet off the floor.
So we`re going to lower the goal down to six feet. That way, everybody can
slam-dunk ball.

So the question is, have you improved your basketball game, or have you --
you have actually just changed the standard so it looks like you`re doing
better?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, at least it wasn`t a very offensive metaphor, but I don`t
think it would offend anybody to say the basketball hoop has to be lower.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But he`s really talking about his values, which is fair enough.
You set your own values, you live by them. But Huckabee is talking about a
walkout. That`s where I get interested. I keep thinking back when I hear
walkout to 1948, when Strom Thurmond led all the Dixiecrats out of the
Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, and tried to break the back of the
Democratic Party.

What happened is, the Democratic Party did fine, but the Dixiecrats went
off and did their -- ended up being Republicans.

CROWLEY: Yes.

Well, in this case, I think what would happen is, imagine the evangelicals
out of the process in the 2012 Republican primaries. I think what you wind
up with is Mitt Romney is the nominee.

MATTHEWS: This is good for Christie.

CROWLEY: It`s great for Christie.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go away.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But you wind up with a Mitt Romney who has not pushed to the
right on social issues.

MATTHEWS: And that would be good.

CROWLEY: And they have just taken that pressure out. And that might very
well be good for the Republican Party. It`s bad for evangelicals.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: But aren`t you getting to the point, which is that maybe we`re
overstating the influence, because Mitt Romney was the nominee. Now, yes,
he did get push. But he ended up being the nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A lot of people that listen to religion on the radio and they`re
very evangelical, and they live in towns that are largely Baptist, not a
lot of diversity, they might be quite happy to go away from politics, and
not get in they were not engaged before the `70s and `80s. They weren`t
engaged.

STEIN: That`s fine.

But, listen, I think we also need to understand that there`s a big
libertarian strand taking over the Republican Party. And they`re more
comfortable with states having the right to choose what they do with
marriage.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But let`s talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: You want to talk about the walkout problem.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I agree with you. I`m talking about the evangelical base, which
has been the difference between a losing Republican Party and a victorious
party starting around `80.

STEIN: But I think...

MATTHEWS: They all voted for Carter. Remember `76?

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Then they all shifted over to Reagan.

STEIN: And I understand that. And I do think they still matter. I`m not
downplaying their significance.

What I meant by bringing up libertarians is that I think we`re seeing a
real shift.

MATTHEWS: Who`s bigger right now in the party, libertarians or Christians?

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: It defends how you define big, because the moneyed interest in the
Republican ranks is increasingly pro-gay marriage. Look at what happened
in New York state when they legalized gay marriage. A lot of the funding
came from Republican...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: The core of the party is Wall Street Republicanism and radical
small government Republicanism.

It`s -- the social issues and even the military hawk wings of the party
have been marginalized. And you look at this thing that Priebus and the
RNC put out last week, they were basically throwing the social
conservatives overboard on gay marriage and immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: One thing. I know it`s regular, it`s old-time politics. I
always check the party platforms.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Because everybody says don`t pay -- nobody pays attention to
them. You know who pays attention to them? People that write them.

Look at this now. Republican Party chair Reince Priebus, who is all over
the place, isn`t backing away from his party`s position that there would --
should be a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, affirmatively
banning it.

"The National Review" interviewed Priebus just last week and he said, "Yes,
we still defend our platform on marriage." And according to the magazine,
he emphasized however that Republicans must also sound reasonable to voters
who disagree.

Now, here`s Jon Stewart having some fun with that hypocrisy this week.
Stewart is brilliant. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": RNC chairman Reince
Priebus, what was the cause of death?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The way we
communicate our principles isn`t resonating wide enough. It all goes back
to what our moms used to tell us. It`s not just what you say. It`s how we
say it.

STEWART: So a 100-page report to reassure Republicans 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.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Isn`t that the problem?

(LAUGHTER)

STEIN: I think so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They`re focused on marketing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If they come out with a -- if the Republican Party comes out
with a platform, they -- a plank in it that says we want a constitutional
ban on same-sex marriage, is it going to kill them?

CROWLEY: Well, it ties into a larger problem this party has, which is that
they`re intolerant and out of touch. I mean, immigration...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Immigration...

MATTHEWS: Otherwise, they`re great.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Immigration is a similar issue.

MATTHEWS: Michael, you nailed it.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Intolerant and out of touch.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: I dunked on that -- I slam-dunked on the six-foot-high basket.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That would be a new basketball game right there.

Thank you, Mike Crowley, and thank you, Sam Stein.

Up next: Stephen Colbert and the rest of the big winners from this week`s
action on marriage equality at the Supreme Court.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This week`s oral arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court created
some real winners.

First, the signs out there in front of the court. In the crowd of people
outside the court, it took creativity for a voice to stick out. I like the
young lady with this one. This sign says, "Would you rather I marry your
boyfriend?" Think that one through.

Next, the moment when skim milk became the new broccoli. During the
Supreme Court hearings on health care -- health care, Justice Scalia asked
if the individual mandate was like forcing people to buy broccoli.

Well, yesterday, another healthy option entered the equation. Here`s
Justice Ginsburg responding to an argument she felt downplayed the benefits
of marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: and it affects
every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the state has
said is marriage. You`re saying, no, state said two kinds of marriage; the
full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, the skim milk marriage. Slate.com responded to Ginsburg on
Twitter. "This is probably what Justice Ginsburg had in mind," two sad-
looking cartons of skim milk next to a far more cheerful whole milk
version.

Now the final winner in the court foreign, late-night comedians like Steve
Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": It`s looking more and more
like the Supreme Court may decide that it`s legal for gay people to get
married.

And that`s OK with people.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Sometimes, I feel like I`m the only one holding this country
together.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I used to think I had a life partner in Bill O`Reilly, but, last
night...

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: ... even papa bear let me down.

BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": The compelling argument is on
the side of homosexuals. That`s where the compelling argument is. We`re
Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else. I don`t feel
that strongly about it one way or another.

COLBERT: Bill O`Reilly doesn`t feel strongly about something?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What`s happening?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: These guys are great.

Anyway, next, Nancy Pelosi thinks it`s Paul Clement who is having a very
rough go of it. Clement is the lawyer who defended DOMA, Defense of
Marriage Act, on behalf of the House Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What was really
interesting to me was to hear Clement, the spokesperson for DOMA. What a -
- what a stale role to play in life, but nonetheless...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know. You think? I think Clement -- that`s the
guy making the case for DOMA -- is going to get out of this thing pretty
good, no matter what if he`s on the right side or the wrong, which he`s the
wrong.

Finally, no matter which side of the debate you`re on, some arguments don`t
hold water, like this one from a speaker at the National Organization of
Marriage. It was at that event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON JR., HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: When a man and a woman
are in the house, poverty is lessened. When a man and a woman are in the
house, kids don`t go to prison. When a man and a woman are in the house,
there`s less domestic violence. When a man and a woman are in the house,
sexual abuse doesn`t happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think he`s overselling his case just a bit. None of that bad
stuff ever happens in a straight marriage? Yes, right.

Anyway, up next, can the Democrats take down Mitch McConnell in Kentucky?
This is going to be fun. He`s the guy the Dems, of course, want to beat
more than anyone else. We will see if they can, if the smart moves are
coming their way.

Anyway, HARDBALL, the place for politics, back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Dow gains 52 points to log its strongest quarter in 15 years, up more
than 11 percent. The S&P finishes at an all-time high. And the Nasdaq
notches its fifth straight monthly gain.

The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless benefits rose more
than expected last week, up 16,000 to 357,000 overall.

And the economy expanded at a 0.4 percent annual rate in the fourth
quarter, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2011.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It wouldn`t just be a pickup for Democrats. It would be a huge symbolic
victory, unseating Republican Leader Mitch McConnell next year in that
Kentucky Senate race. Well, Republicans faced a similarly juicy prospect
back in 2010 when trying to defeat Democratic Leader Harry Reid. The
result? Tea Partier Sharron Angle became a mockery of a candidate talking
about Second Amendment remedies against politicians and Sharia law, only to
go down in bad defeat.

Well, actress Ashley Judd has just announced that she won`t challenge
McConnell. Watch Democrats move heaven and earth to unseat the senator
they see now as their chief obstructionist.

Maybe they got a better chance now.

Let`s talk about it. We have got two smart guys here, former Democratic
Governor of Pennsylvania the great Ed Rendell, and Republican consultant
John Feehery.

Governor Rendell, what do you make of this decision down in -- you know the
Clintons pretty well. You`re allied with them. Is this a smart move to
basically make moves to avoid having bad candidates, even if you like them,
like Ashley Judd?

ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I like Ashley Judd, and she
would have been a refreshing presence in the Senate, but I think it`s good
that she`s not running, because what Republicans would have done down in
Kentucky is made her the issue, a Hollywood elite, someone who doesn`t have
any background in government, someone who plays with government.

All of that would have been unfair, but it could have been effective. We
want to make the issue Mitch McConnell, the number one obstructionist to
getting things done in Washington, the guy who said the indefensible
statement that our number one priority is making Barack Obama a one-term
president.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: No, Senator, your number one priority was jobs for the American
people. You got it wrong and you don`t deserve to be reelected.

MATTHEWS: You just -- the governor just anticipated my entire closing
statement tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But that`s the whole question.

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: Sorry.

MATTHEWS: How can you defend McConnell if his number one goal was nemesis?
He wanted to be a nemesis to Obama. That was his goal.

Anyway, let`s go back to the question of politics.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: All right.

MATTHEWS: Is it smart for party leaders to influence, like Bill Clinton
did, influence the direction of the nomination process so you get the best
possible candidate?

FEEHERY: Well, these days, if you`re the Washington candidate in a
primary, it can be very problematic.

So, you might be trying to prop up a candidate, but if you do it, you have
got to be subtle about it, because if you get -- if you get too much
Washington all over it, then it becomes a real problem.

MATTHEWS: How about Bill Clinton`s support? He`s not Washington.

FEEHERY: Well, I`m talking about the Republican primary.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FEEHERY: The Democratic primary might be different. Of course, if you`re
a Bill Clinton person, you`re going to get a lot...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I hate to break it to you.

FEEHERY: You`re going to get a lot of money.

MATTHEWS: But you could have knocked off Harry Reid.

I like Harry Reid.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You could have knocked him off with Sue Lowden.

Sue Lowden was a former TV anchorwoman, very attractive candidate, very
middle-of-the-road or reasonably conservative.

FEEHERY: Well...

MATTHEWS: And Sharron Angle, you let get the nomination.

FEEHERY: Yes. You know who knew that? Harry Reid knew that. And Harry
Reid did everything he could to get Sharron Angle elected.

MATTHEWS: You mean he knocked off Sue Lowden?

FEEHERY: You know he knocked off Sue Lowden. He knew what it was going to
open.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s another way to win.

Anyway, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already at work
now, taking on McConnell. This is part of a new Kentucky radio ad playing
off March Madness, playing off the basketball games.

Let`s listen to the Democrats` argument here.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we`re back. It`s tournament time, but Senator
McConnell is playing for the Washington special interests against Kentucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kentucky`s trying to move up, trying to provide
assistance for workers who lost their jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re blocked by McConnell who scored big for himself
for nearly 30 years, voting for congressional pay raises and special
interest perks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that`s a bracket buster.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s so corny, Governor. That ad is so corny.

Why don`t they run Rick Pitino against this guy, what do you think, from
Louisville?

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Yes, well, Pitino, it
depends if Louisville wins at all. But, no, seriously, Chris, as John
said, it`s very difficult to be a Washingtonian insider these days and run
for office, because you can bring all that stuff up, the pay raises,
increases, the health care. It`s very difficult. Mitch McConnell is going
to be on the defensive. That`s what we wanted this election to be all
about, which is why it`s a good thing that Ashley Judd didn`t run.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what the NRA, Governor, while you`re on. You`ve
been able to -- you`re an independent voice up in Pennsylvania all those
elections. NRA, if you`re a Republican, do you think they should be
married to the NRA or should they at some point do a Sister Soulja like
Bill Clinton did, and said, wait a minute, second-hand purchases,
background checks, whoa, that`s going too far in the rightward direction?

RENDELL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Should they at some point break with the NRA and say, we`re not
the hand of the National Rifle Association?

RENDELL: Absolutely. And the issue they should do it on is background
checks, 90 percent of the American people are for background checks. The
NRA is against it. NRA members, 70 percent, are for it. Republicans
should stand up and say, look, I like the NRA, but they`re wrong on this
one, I`m for background checks.

I think that enhances your standing among voters.

MATTHEWS: You kill them if you`re a Democrat if they don`t it, right? It
hurts them. You can use it against them.

OK, what do you think about that?

RENDELL: Let me tell you --

MATTHEWS: Yes? Go ahead, Governor.

RENDELL: No, I was going to say, if Pat Toomey, take Pat Toomey, good guy,
and you and I both like Pat Toomey personally. If he votes to continue the
-- if he supports a filibuster that stops background checks from getting to
the floor for a vote, it will be at his immense peril, Chris, his immense
peril.

Pat toomey should say, I agree with the president one way, they deserve a
vote and I`m voting against a filibuster, to end the filibuster.

MATTHEWS: Well, I just wish Toomey would support that monument out in
Shanksville where the plane was brought down because the Americans had the
guts to take on the terrorists. I think we American people can support
that. That`s where I disagree with him.

But on this issue, let`s get back to this issue, guns. Is your party smart
to become the gun party?

FEEHERY: I think what the party --

MATTHEWS: Are you smart to be the gun party?

FEEHERY: I think what the party has done is let Harry Reid decide what
he`s going to do and they`re going to play this -- they`re not going to be
either part of it. They`re going to say, listen, we`ll take a look, see
what the Democrats come up with. I think they`ve been skillful, putting my
political hat on, I think in some states --

MATTHEWS: Let me get down to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re so much smarter than you act here sometimes. Look, Pat
Meehan running in the suburbs of Philly, is he ever going to be governor if
he`s a gun guy? Does he have at some point have to break at that point?
Is that the way he`s going?

FEEHERY: I think for Pat Meehan, you know, it`s problematic, look at Mark
Kirk of Illinois --

MATTHEWS: These are tough, aren`t they?

FEEHERY: Well, they are tough. But, you know, I think for state to state,
as a party, the Republican Party has handled it pretty well.

MATTHEWS: How about -- Governor, you`re going to have the gay community
and liberals generally on the issue of marriage moving almost permanently
to the Democratic Party on the issue of same-sex marriage. With the
Republicans, we just watched Reince Priebus, he says they`re going to keep
the platform, they`re going to keep the plank in pushing for a ban on same-
sex.

RENDELL: Yes, I mean, I have no idea what they`re doing, Chris. I`m glad
they`re doing it, but I have no idea why they`re doing it.

They should absolutely say that this is an issue of civil rights, just like
-- remember we used to ban interracial marriage most of the states banned
interracial marriage? It was overturned because it was an equal protection
argument. It`s an equal protection argument.

Get as far away from it as you can, the Republican Party, start having
modern voices, John McCain and others speak out and say, look, we should
put an end to this.

MATTHEWS: Well, Bill O`Reilly is being agnostic about this now and Rush
Limbaugh says the fight`s over. What do you make of that? Still fighting
the good fight, Feehery?

FEEHERY: I think this is what the party is going to do. I think they`re
going to say it`s a state issue.

MATTHEWS: Where are you?

FEEHERY: I`m evolving. You know, I think that we have to take a look. I
think gay marriage is different than traditional marriage.

MATTHEWS: I thought you guys didn`t believe in Evolution.

FEEHERY: I believe in evolution --

MATTHEWS: You`re a moderate Republican.

FEEHERY: I am a moderate.

First of all, I want to say one thing, Rick Pitino is probably going to
vote for Mitch McConnell. I`ll say that. And I think --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Paterno was a Republican, too.

Anyway, thank you very, Ed Rendell, Governor. Thanks for being in.

And thank you, John Feehery. I`m not so sure about Toomey. I guess you
like him.

Up next, we learned today the Newtown gunman fired -- this is terrible, I
cannot stop, this is terrible -- 154 rounds in five minutes. Why does
anybody need that kind of firepower, especially a nut?

And how many kids would be alive if he didn`t have that 30-round magazine?
Nine of them hit the floor. He was shooting all nine rounds, nine times
30.

Anyway, this is the place for politics. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is news. The longest serving mayor in Boston history
is calling it quits. The great Tommy Menino won`t run for a sixth term
when his current term ends this year. What a great mayor.

Menino has been mayor since 1993, the same year Bill Clinton first became
president. He`s the city`s first Italian-American mayor and the first non-
Irish mayor since 1930. That`s kind of funny.

Menino came to power as acting mayor when Ray Flynn became ambassador to
the Vatican and then he quickly proved to be the sharpest Boston pol of his
era. He is a great politician. They call him "mumbles" but everybody
understands him.

Now, 20 years later, Boston will be getting a new mayor, as Menino, the
only mayor generations of Bostonians have every known, says goodbye. He is
a very loved guy up there.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: And we are back.

Today, we learned chilling new details, as I said, about Adam Lanza, that
shooter up there who go -- went on a killing rampage that claimed the lives
of 20 children and six teachers and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary up
in Newtown, Connecticut.

Well, Lanza fired 154 bullets, killing those innocent people in less than
five minutes. That means he fired roughly one bullet every two seconds.
Investigators say he brought nine 30-round magazines with him and three
completely full magazines were found on Lanza after he killed himself and
at the shooter`s home.

Well, investigators found a holiday card from his mother, Nancy Lanza, with
a check in it for her son to buy a gun. There`s a lot more found in this
home.

We`re joined right now by an expert, NBC News national investigative
correspondent Michael Isikoff in Danbury, Connecticut.

Michael, just report all that we`ve learned today.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty
chilling stuff, Chris.

Actually, it was a total of 10 30-round high-capacity rounds at the
magazine. One on him, the nine that were found at the school, three of
them empty, by the way, which means he fired all of those rounds. That`s
how you get up to 154 in less than five minutes.

Then you go to his house. Another vast array of weaponry, two rifles, a
pistol, I didn`t mention the loaded 12-gauge shotgun in the car. In
addition, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition in the house, three
samurai swords, a spear -- just an amazing arsenal of weapons, a lot of gun
paraphernalia, gun magazines, you know, gun literature.

He was clearly much more obsessed and a part of the gun culture than I
think any of us appreciated before.

We put that together with some of the other information that`s in these
search warrants, the FBI witness who describes Lanza being an avid video
gamer who is a shut-in at the house, rarely left the house and at the Sandy
Hook Elementary School where we know he once went was described as his
life. That is a 20-year-old kid still obsessing about his elementary
school, something clearly happened at that school.

One other part of our reporting, which I should mention, it`s not in the
search warrants because they are still very heavily redacted. There`s a
lot of information that they have not made public but we did report on this
morning on the "Today" show that he had been meticulously researching mass
shootings over the years and had compiled this very detailed computer
printout of mass shootings dating back years. One that he was particularly
obsessed with was the Anders Breivik shooting in Norway, the guy who killed
77 people in July of 2011.

So clearly a very disturbed kid, somebody who was, as I said, steeped in
the gun culture.

But the big question: what triggered the rage? Nothing that I`ve seen in
all the documents that have come out yet explains that. That`s still a big
mystery here.

MATTHEWS: Tell us about the mother who was -- he shot in the face and the
gift she gave him and her connection. What do we know now about -- by the
way, that`s a beautiful home and I noticed the Christmas trimmings were up,
even in early December, and yet, she apparently had a gift in mind for him,
a gun.

ISIKOFF: Right. Well, look, we have known for some time that she bought
the guns that he used, that she took him to shooting ranges, some of her
friends have said that she hoped somehow that spending time with guns would
make him more responsible, would give him a sense of responsibility that he
didn`t seem to have.

She was from New Hampshire. She grew up in the gun culture herself.

But I think at some point, given the mental problems that we know he did
have, I think a lot of people have raised questions about why you would
push a son who was having the kind of troubles that he had to use guns --

MATTHEWS: OK.

ISIKOFF: -- to the extent that she did.

She`s not around. We can`t ask her the questions.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ISIKOFF: And we certainly can`t ask him. So we don`t really know.

ISIKOFF: Right.

ISIKOFF: We do know that he got the guns from the vault where she kept the
guns. He apparently knew the combination to the lock. The lock was opened
and then, of course, the mother was the first victim.

MATTHEWS: Michael, thank you, buddy. Great reporting from Danbury,
Connecticut, on the new information of that crime -- NBC`s Michael Isikoff.

When we return, let me finish with a real opportunity to take on Mitch
McConnell.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Mitch McConnell deserves a lot of things for his performance these past
years for setting as his top priority the destruction of a presidency, for
conniving even now to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

And one of the things he does deserve is a tough, hard-charging, credible,
popular opponent next year. This isn`t a contest the Democrats should lose
by default. Therefore, as much as I like her as a performer, I`m glad that
Ashley Judd has decided not to run in Kentucky. I think her candidacy
itself would have become the issue when the real issue here is that
incumbent.

It`s always the incumbent in politics that`s the issue, and I wanted it to
be the negative, nasty performance of one Mitch McConnell. I want the
people of Kentucky to have a real choice, a solid one next November.

And I want the country at large to have a fighting chance of getting an
opposition leader who understanding that opposition doesn`t need to be
mean, dumb-downed, Mickey Mouse obstructionism. Democracy deserves better,
so does our country.

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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