updated 4/9/2013 10:19:38 AM ET 2013-04-09T14:19:38

HARDBALL
April 5, 2013

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

Guests: Gene Sperling, Willie Brown, Cynthia Tucker, Roger Simon, Ann
Hornaday

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The president sticks his neck out.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with a president who`s doing the right thing. There
was once a congressman from Massachusetts, Jimmy Burke was his name. He
voted against every tax increase. He voted for every benefit increase.
Every time a bill came before the Congress to raise taxes, Burke was a sure
vote against it. Every time somebody wanted to curb the growth in
spending, our guy was right there with a nay. It was simple. People
didn`t want their taxes raised. He didn`t vote to raise them. People ever
-- never did. People didn`t like their benefits cut. He never, ever voted
to cut them.

Somebody asked Burke once, Why do you do that? It doesn`t add up. All
you`re doing is causing the government to go bankrupt. Why do you vote
like that? Why shouldn`t I, he said.

Well, too many politicians do just what Burke did and get away with it.
They never put up, nor do they shut up. They complain about the debt but
vote against all tax hikes, against all attempts to cut back on spending.

Well, today President Obama did something politicians don`t like to do. He
came out and said, We need to do two things. We need to do what we`d (ph)
like (ph), and they don`t like doing it, raise revenues and hold back on
spending. He took the first step himself in the hopes others will follow,
that others will join him in doing the right thing, the gutsy thing.

The president proposed adjusting Social Security cost of living. He
proposed savings in Medicare. He wants Republicans to join him by making
more upward adjustments on the revenue side of the books. In other words,
he`s being a leader. Not a bad way to end the week.

Gene Sperling is the director of the National Economic Council and
assistant to the president for economic policy.

This is a very gutsy thing for the president. As I said, he stuck his neck
out tonight. He`s a leader. He`s saying, Look, I can do some things on
the spending side. I can make some adjustments. We can help reduce the
debt over time significantly. Now I want to be followed by the
Republicans, as well as the Democrats, in doing something on the revenue
side.

There are risks to doing this. Why did the president take the risk?

GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIR.: Well, it`s because our
goal, every day what we do here, is focus on what`s going to strengthen job
creation and help the middle class. And right now, we are weighing down
this economy with a sequester that`s going to cost hundreds of thousands of
jobs and uncertainty about our fiscal future and uncertainty created by
manufactured crisis because we don`t have the ability in Washington right
now to compromise.

Now, the president put forward today not his ideal budget. He put forward
a compromise offer that he had done -- given to Speaker Boehner. And it
included some very tough things, but it asked for sensible entitlement
reforms that strengthen those core benefit programs, Medicare, Social
Security.

It asks for revenue savings in the very way that Speaker Boehner had asked
for it just months ago, not by raising rates more, by tax reform that would
close loopholes and tax expenditures and apply it to deficit reduction.

MATTHEWS: OK, I think you`re right. You`re doing...

SPERLING: And we can do this while we still invest in the future. But
you`re right, just what you said. You know, you`re not going to get this
compromise unless everybody`s willing to give, everybody`s willing to show
a little courage and a little compromise, and the president`s leading by
doing so.

MATTHEWS: I can follow this, Gene, pretty much through, having worked on
the Senate Budget Committee all those years. I see it getting through the
Senate. Budget Committee. I see it getting probably through the Senate,
where you`ve got enough votes to get it through, I think.

And then I can see it getting to the House. And then I see Paul Ryan over
there on the House side, carving up his Ayn Rand theories and ideologies
and objectivism and all that crazy stuff.

How do you ever get a compromise -- if you do the right thing, get it
through the Senate, but in the end, the budget process proceeds through May
and perhaps into June, you end up having a logjam on the other side. What
happens then? What happens then?

SPERLING: Well, let me make a couple of points. Number one, we were very
close with Speaker Boehner last fall. Let`s remember, he had a trillion
dollars of revenues on the table as part of a deal with serious entitlement
savings. He`s pulled that back completely, even though only 60 percent of
that -- of that kind of revenue increase was passed. So we`ve been close.

Unfortunately, they`ve decided to take, as you mentioned, an absolutist
position...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SPERLING: ... which does not help us compromise. Secondly, you know, what
do we teach our kids in government? We teach that when a bill passes the
House and Senate, it can go to a conferee -- conference report...

MATTHEWS: I know.

SPERLING: ... and the -- and that both houses and both parties can work
together. You know, we ought to give that a chance. If we`re serious...

MATTHEWS: That`s what you`re doing.

SPERLING: If we`re serious...

MATTHEWS: I see what you`re doing. You`re going the right road here.
You`re going to try to get a budget. You`re going to try to get a
compromise.

Here`s Boehner`s reaction. Let`s watch Boehner.

Anyway, here`s Boehner`s reaction here. "If the president believes those
modest entitlement savings are needed to shore up these programs, there`s
no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes. That`s no way to
lead and move the country."

So he`s saying, I`ll take what you`re offering -- this is like the
Russians, the Soviets used to be. I`ll take what you`re offering, and then
we`ll negotiate back from there. I mean, he`s not giving anything here.

SPERLING: Yes, let`s think about what that position is, and I think how
few people at home would support that. He`s saying that as part of a
larger deficit reduction plan, which is part of an economic strategy to
strengthen jobs and our economy, that there`s not -- are you ready for
this? There`s not one single penny, not one, that you can get from any tax
expenditure, any special interest tax break, any loophole for the most
well-off American that you can apply for deficit reduction.

You know, I just do believe that there are sensible Republicans and
Democrats who want to be part of what the president said is a common sense
caucus. And they understand that if you`re going to do a sensible
entitlement savings, that that`s tough, and that you need to do it as part
of a broader package that`s good for jobs, good for growth, but also asks
everybody to do their part.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

SPERLING: How can we -- how can we say there`s not a penny when this
speaker himself just months ago said there was a trillion dollars in
savings from the very type of tax reform the president`s calling for that
could be used for deficit reduction? We just need the speaker to remember
his position that he had in November and December.

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m agreeing with you. Here`s the president here. This is
what you must have known, Gene, when you stuck your neck out, as I said.
Criticism from the left, as well. Here`s Jim Dean. He`s the brother of
Howard Dean. No surprise Howard Dean`s people are going to cause trouble.
They`re on the other side sometimes. It`s called democracy in America,
whatever.

Here he says, quote, "Let`s be clear. President Obama, when it comes to
cutting Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits, over 200,000
progressive members of your own party don`t have your back and we`re
prepared to fight you every step of the way."

Well, this is no surprise. You`re going to hear this from AARP. You`re
going to hear it from that committee to save Social Security. When you
decided to do this, did you calculate that these usual voices who have
organized to make these kind of argument -- and they`re fair enough, I
sometimes agree with them -- did you know they were going to come at you?

SPERLING: Look, you know, compromise and deficit reduction, they`re always
difficult. But what I would say to some of our progressive friends is
let`s remember a few things. The president`s doing this in the context of
a budget where he`s protecting Medicaid so that we can have a major
expansion of the Affordable Care Act and help 30 million Americans get
coverage, when -- as opposed to the Republican House budget that would cut
Medicaid by $800 billion. That`s what the president`s fighting for.

Yes, the president has some Medicare savings, but he`s rejecting vouchers,
premium support. He`s doing Medicare savings that are designed to protect
the core benefit of this program.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SPERLING: And he`s trying to do a sensible way of deficit reduction so we
don`t have this sequester that is going to hurt children. It`s going to
hurt veterans. It`s going to hurt civilian military retirees. It`s going
to hurt our research in our future. So I think you have to look at the
whole budget.

This is a president who has fought hard for tax cuts that help low-income,
hard-pressed families. He`s fought hard to protect Medicaid. That`s also
in this budget.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SPERLING: And that`s also what we achieve when we have the type of
compromise the president is calling for.

MATTHEWS: I haven`t read budget yet. I haven`t seen it yet. But so far,
I agree with everything you`re trying to do. Thanks so much, Gene
Sperling...

SPERLING: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) from the White House.

Joy Reid is managing editor of TheGrio and is an MSNBC contributor. Joy,
you and I think like normally. I think this -- I think -- normally, I
think somebody has to lead. And it`s one of those things almost like in a
kidnapping, you have to -- you know, I want the baby back, here`s your
100,000 bucks. You know, you have to do it at exactly the same time.

Well, in this case, the Republicans didn`t want to do it the exact same
time. So the Democrats -- the president has to lead. And I think it has
trickiness involved in it. We`ll see. What do you think?

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, I mean, you know what? I
think they did -- you`re right in the sense that the president is doing,
like you said, like a hostage exchange. He`s saying, We know that
Republicans want something very specific. They would like to cut
entitlements.

And just to set the stage here, Democrats should understand, Republicans
would like to either raise the retirement age or deeply cut entitlements,
either by doing it that way or by privatizing the program, OK? That`s the
stage that we`re working in.

The president is saying, I`m not going to do either of those things, but I
will give some entitlement cuts, meaning going to chained CPI on Social
Security benefits. But I`m only giving you that, Republicans, if you give
me revenues. You have to give me something that I want, which is revenues,
in order to get the thing you really, really want, which is to cut Social
Security.

Democrats, of course, hate this and they take an absolutist position on
cutting Social Security benefits, for a good reason, because of what I just
said. They know what Republicans really want to do and they don`t want to
open the door.

But if you look at the president`s proposal, he`s not talking about
Medicaid and Medicare cuts. He`s talking about going to chained CPI, which
is a slight change. It does cut benefits. Let`s just be clear about that.

But in return, he`s looking for revenue and investments, things like
universal pre-K. And as Gene Sperling said, these tax loophole changes to
how much you can put into your IRA and that kind of thing that would impact
the wealthy. It would be real revenue.

So the president is trying to do a delicate dance here, knowing that
probably Nancy Pelosi could deliver the votes in the House, that probably
Harry Reid could do it in the Senate, but will Republicans give something
that they`ve already offered before...

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s interesting.

REID: ... to get something?

MATTHEWS: Yes. And we don`t have to get even farther down the road here
because as I was running it through, game planning it here, once they put
it up there in the Senate...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... get it through the Democratic Senate, what we`re talking
about, with some revenue enhancement, they`re going to have to go over to
the House side...

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and get a conference agreement. And it`s still going to be
tricky, but at some point -- the danger here is, of course, that the
Congress itself would grab hold of the cuts...

REID: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: ... on the benefits side, put them into a budget, put them into
a reconciliation bill...

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and the president will end up with some of the cuts he`s
agreed to without getting some of revenues he`s wanted. I mean, there`s
always the tricky part of that.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But polling-wise, I think this puts the president on the
political good side of the angels. A recent McClatchey Marist poll shows
who the public thinks is to blame for the budget impasse. When asked who
do they trust more to make the right decision on the budget, half say the
president, compared to 41 percent.

So he has a pretty substantial advantage over them. When asked who`s
responsible that the parties (ph) in gridlock, same response here, 48
percent blame the Republicans, only 33 percent blame the president.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: So he goes into this fight with some street credit. He goes
into it with people saying, You know? Obama is trying to do the right
thing.

I know some people on the very hard left, or maybe professional left to use
a terrible phrase, who aren`t going to go along with anything he does. But
I tell you, sometimes you just got to get off the dime, to put it bluntly.

REID: Well, I mean, the thing is that because the president keeps offering
things that are substantive, he`s really giving something that`s painful to
his side...

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.

REID: ... that`s why the public always sees him as the guy who`s willing
to compromise because he doesn`t give away sort of, you know, penny ante
things. He gives away real...

MATTHEWS: CPI.

REID: Right. Chained CPI is something real. But by the way, the little
secret that some Democrats don`t say is that, look, Center on Budget --
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has said they were OK with it, if
you exempt the very poor by not having supplemental Social Security in
it...

MATTHEWS: They`re the conscience.

REID: Right. And so has the Center for American Progress. Center for
American Progress proposed going to chained CPI back in 2010 in a big paper
they did on Social Security. These are ideas that are not foreign to left.
But Democrats, again, take an absolutist position because they don`t want
to open the door to cutting benefits and cutting entitlements.

MATTHEWS: Bob (INAUDIBLE) Bob Greenstein (ph), by the way, is God on this
stuff, from the Center of Public...

REID: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... priorities. So if he says it`s all right, in a certain
context, I can`t help but be with him. Anyway, Joy, thank you so much.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s great to hear from you. Once again, we are of similar
mind.

REID: We are of same mind, I think, on this one for the most part.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: You saw HARDBALL last night, you heard the all-out
refusal of the gun lobby to accept even a vote, even a vote in the Senate
on background checks. Well, tonight, all the bad cases the gun lobby`s
offered to keep Americans scared, and of course, armed to the teeth.

Also, 2016, simmering new polls, a new Hillary Clinton speech today,
emerging matchups for the next presidential election. It`s all coming for
the junkies now.

And don`t want Democrats to vote? Republicans in North Carolina have
figured out a way to keep students at UNC and other places from casting
ballots in their own state. You know how they`re going to do it? Raise
Mom and Dad`s taxes. Believe it.

MATTHEWS: Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with this week`s bottom line
argument of the National Rifle Association. You won`t believe their worst
argument, and they`re making it.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the good march continues. Two more senators are on board
with marriage equality. North Dakota`s Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana`s Joe
Donnelly announced their support for gay marriage today. Both are freshmen
Democrats from red states who won close races last November. That brings
the total of U.S. senators supporting marriage equality to, guess what, 53.
That`s a big majority.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The gun lobby has been winning the
war over gun restriction, of course, this despite the fact that many of
their arguments couldn`t pass muster in a high school debate. Yesterday,
for example, here on HARDBALL, Larry Pratt of the National Gun Owners
Association had no defense for his opposition to even voting on background
checks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why is it bad for the government of the United States to
maintain information on people that are criminals, wife beaters, addicts or
otherwise threats to society or under some sort of restraining order, so
they don`t get access to firearms? What`s wrong with that?

LARRY PRATT, NATIONAL GUN OWNERS ASSOCIATION: They`re going to get access
to firearms anyway. If they have a criminal intent, they`re going to do
it. They have done it. They do it all along.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Come on! Yet while they oppose background checks, as he just
did, for gun owners, when it comes to making schools safer, they`re all
for background checks.

This week, a National Rifle Association-funded task force came out with
recommendations to allegedly make schools safer. Not surprisingly, arming
school employees, including teachers, is a big part of the plan. But
buried inside their report, the NRA report, is this bit of hypocrisy.
Quote, "It is almost recommended that schools perform a pre-employment
background check and periodic rechecks on all employees, including a
criminal records check."

Yes, they`re calling for a background check, the same thing the NRA fights
so strenuously in its recommendation in the report otherwise.

Anyway, also this week, the NRA opposed a U.N. treaty that restricts arms
sales to governments and groups that commit war crimes. why? Because any
restriction could eventually restrict the U.S. gun owner. And that treaty
has overwhelming world-wide support, passing 154 -- that`s nations -- 154
countries to 3. And the NRA found itself in the esteemed company of those
three countries -- Iran, North Korea and Syria. That`s our new crowd.

Anyway, Ron Reagan is a radio talk show host and MSNBC contributor. Willie
Brown is former mayor of San Francisco.

Mayor Brown, having run a city, you know this issue of safety, public
safety. The strange NRA thinking is you can`t let a teacher or an armed
guard or retiree from the police force, for example, work in a school
protecting the student body unless they`ve had a thorough background check
on their criminal record, any other problems. And you have to have a
regular recheck -- not just the first time they get hired, you got to go
back and recheck and make sure they`ve kept their nose clean.

And yet if you say that about a typical gun purchaser -- Don`t ask nothing,
no questions, give the guy the frickin` gun.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s the way they want to do it, guns on demand, like you`re
buying a Hershey bar. That`s it. It`s a Hershey bar. I think I`d like
one. I`m going to try that. You know, no (INAUDIBLE) background check?
What are you, crazy?

OK, that`s the hideous argument they make, check out the guy that`s going
to guard the kids, but don`t check out the guy who`s buying the gun to go
after the kids.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: That`s typical of what the NRA
has been producing and pushing among politicians for years. And it`s
totally and completely illogical, inconsistent. And frankly, they are out
to lunch on the issue altogether.

MATTHEWS: Have they made a mistake, Ron, to actually expose some critical
thinking here on how you hire school guards, by employing usual logic when
it doesn`t come to guns? They`re exploring the fact that maybe there is
such a thing as common sense here, and they ought to be consistent.

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, your annoyance
is right on the money there. What annoys you, I think, is that you`re
being asked to accept arguments which are fatuous nonsense on their face.
I mean, Wayne LaPierre gives fatuousness a bad name.

This man contradicts himself, like Larry Pratt does, all the time. For
instance, the size of magazines -- he doesn`t want them, you know, being
restricted to 10 bullets per magazine...

MATTHEWS: Right.

REAGAN: ... you know, because it only takes a second to change magazines
anyway. So 10 bullets, 30 bullets, what difference does it make to the
mass murderer? However, if you`re defending your home, then you really
need the bigger magazine all the time...

MATTHEWS: OK, Ron...

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: ... because, you know, you can`t just be switching out magazines
all the time.

MATTHEWS: Well, once again, it`s Megyn Kelly over at FOX who did the hard
work here.

She had NPR -- actually -- I say NPR -- National Rifle Association, Wayne
LaPierre on, attempting to defend his opposition to limiting magazine
capacity, everything you`re talking about.

Now, watch this little strangeness that`s coming up here. Here`s Wayne
against Megyn. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST, "AMERICA`S NEWSROOM": If there`s anything that moves
people in this country or has moved them in one direction or the other
recently, it is that Newtown tragedy.

And you hear the parents and the spouses of those killed, because there
were 20 children and six adults killed, say 11 children had the chance to
escape as that guy reloaded.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION:
Criminals aren`t going to have less. One round in the hand of someone
that`s going to do horror is too many.

KELLY: Because how do you know, Wayne? Because Adam Lanza -- let me just
jump in. I will give you the floor, I promise.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: But Adam Lanza, his mother was a legal gun owner. And how do you
know that this person, that his mother would not have obeyed the law and
limited the magazine clip, and then Adam Lanza would have been limited to
10 rounds, instead of 30?

LAPIERRE: Megyn, you can -- people that know guns, you can change magazine
clips in a second. There`s no evidence that -- you know, that anything
would have changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So you go to the gun salesman, Mayor, and you go to buy a 30-
round clip and he says, oh, don`t waste your money, young man, because you
know you can change those magazines really fast in a matter of seconds.
So, just take the 10-round one.

This is the stupidest argument. They want the 30-round clips because they
want to have access to them for hunters, I guess. I don`t know who. Or
people defending themselves in their homes against the government. But,
you know, but yet they say we can flick this thing out of here in 10
seconds. Well, apparently, up in Newtown, luckily, it`s not that easy for
a nut to change clips.

BROWN: Well, I got tell you, Chris, it`s crazy. All of their arguments
are crazy. And that one in particular is crazy, because that`s wrong.

If you have got to change a clip, that gives a few seconds for somebody to
maybe save their lives or for others to be able to assist in saving their
lives. There`s no question about that, except -- NRA says we want the
maximum opportunity.

I suspect that Dianne Feinstein, the senator from California, is right.
They really want bazookas. They`re not just looking for clips.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you ask them, they would legalize them, I`m sure.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Bring up a vote. Ask Wayne LaPierre if he wants to outlaw tommy
guns. He`d say no.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, last night -- I have to do a little victory lap for last
night. A lot of people liked this. I challenged Larry Pratt. He`s head
of the Gun Owners of America, actually, the Gun Salesmen of America, I
think.

He`s opposing background checks. Let`s watch this kerfuffle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The illogic of this is as follows.

If I walked into a gun store to you and I look like a nut, a crazy person,
would you sell me a gun?

LARRY PRATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: No, and frequently
gun dealers experience that and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So if you could call up and find out in a matter of seconds
whether this person has a mental capacity that`s a problem, and has been
court-ordered not to be operating in any way with a gun, why wouldn`t you
want to take advantage of that information?

PRATT: Chris, even after you have done that, the chap that`s been turned
down can easily go somewhere else...

MATTHEWS: Where?

(CROSSTALK)

PRATT: And they do.

MATTHEWS: Where do they go?

PRATT: They get them on the street.

MATTHEWS: That`s what we`re trying to stop. The new law proposed is you
can`t have private sales, you can`t have Internet sales. You can`t have
gun shows.

PRATT: And you think criminals are going to obey that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So the argument would be, why do we check people, Mayor, before
they get on an airplane to make sure they`re not dangerous, not carrying
something dangerous? They could always get on some other airplane. It`s -
- they will find some guy that isn`t doing his job that day.

I mean, these arguments, we -- why have squad cars last night because they
can`t be in front of every store every minute? No, they occasionally show
up so it sort of discourages crime. I mean, this argument is called in
politics -- I believe you call it loving it to death. It`s not perfect.

But I thought his first argument was absurd. If you morally don`t want to
sell a gun to a dangerous person, how do you make sure you don`t do it,
Mayor? You want somebody you can call up and say -- it`s like this whole
thing with people here in the country without documents. If you really
want to avoid hiring an undocumented person, it`s nice to be able to find
out how to do it.

My question, why don`t they want to do it? Why don`t they want the
information?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: They don`t want to do it because they want zero restrictions on
anything to do with guns.

For an example, Chris, why wouldn`t they agree right out of the box to say
that every gun that`s sold must be insured the same way that an automobile
is insured? That obviously would restrict the number of people who would
be buying guns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWN: But they don`t recommend anything positive on the question of
controlling guns. They`re not at all for any restrictions imposed upon
guns. They want encouragement for the use of guns. They want
encouragement for the availability of guns.

And so their arguments are going to be totally and completely illogical.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

Ron, I think they want the old cowboy movie with Matt Dillon, where
everybody in the saloon, in the Long Branch, including Kitty Russell,
everybody`s armed, and some guys are drunk. And occasionally there`s a
fight and the sober guy kills and shoots the drunks guy and we have a half-
hour episode.

I mean, that`s the world they want to live in.

REAGAN: They want everybody armed because that means everybody would have
to go out and buy a gun or have one bought for them.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: This is a $12 billion industry. This isn`t about ideology. This
is about money.

The NRA`s point that you were just talking about here seems to be that
there`s no purpose in having any law whatsoever, because criminals will
just break the laws anyway.

MATTHEWS: Yes, isn`t that wonderful?

REAGAN: I mean, that`s their rational.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan. Have a nice weekend.

Mayor Brown, sir, thanks for coming on again.

Up next: Republicans are trying to stop young people from voting again by
raising their parents` taxes. This is down in North Carolina.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, a little round of, where are they now? Remember Joe Walsh? He`s
the former Illinois U.S. congressman who lost his bid for reelection to
Democrat Tammy Duckworth last year. Well, Walsh resurfaced at a town hall
this week blaming his 2012 election loss on, you guessed it, Democrats who
promise people free stuff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Maybe this is why I lost. I
traveled the entire district and I said, my name`s Joe Walsh. If you vote
for me, I`m not giving you a darn thing.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: My opponent walked around saying, I will give you this. By way,
you need a new shirt. I will give you...

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: I will give you a new watch. I will take care of you. I will pay
for your haircut tomorrow.

This is how our politicians get paid. Will we ever have a majority of this
country that will vote for me when I say, I`m Joe Walsh, if you vote for
me, I won`t give you a darn thing? I`m trying to cut what Washington takes
from you, so that you can keep more of what`s yours. Now go live your life
and be happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That goes to the 47 percent takers and makers stuff from last
election, of course.

And he`s got company. Former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint kicked off
his first day as president of the conservative Heritage Foundation with a
letter to the staff saying -- quote -- "More people than ever before, 69.5
million Americans, from college students to retirees, to welfare
beneficiaries, depend on the federal government for housing, food, income,
student aid, or other assistance. The United States must reverse the
direction of these trends or face economic and social collapse."

Well, now to former Congressman Allen West. You remember him as the
Florida Republican who said that 78 to 81, very specific, House Democrats
are members of the Communist Party? Anyway, West traveled to L.A. as part
of his new Web series recently and had a tough time adjusting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN WEST (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I had to correct a nice young
lady at a nearby lunch stop who wanted to put sprouts on my turkey and
Swiss sandwich?

I had someone ask me if I wanted to go to a real nice sushi restaurant, but
I had to tell them that I don`t eat bait.

Needless to say, it has, indeed, been interesting being out here in L.A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. Both Allen West and Joe Walsh have
said that another run for office is not off the table. Hmm.

Next, the latest Republican spin on voting restrictions. This time, it`s
about college students from North Carolina who register to vote at their
college address. If it`s up to some Republican lawmakers in the state,
that decision could cost their parents.

According to a new bill -- quote -- "If the voter is a dependent of the
voters` parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older and the voter
has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal
guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the
voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes."

Got it? North Carolina does not want young people voting Democrat in their
state. So, in this bill, parents pay more in taxes if their child votes
near campus.

Really, so you get off on Election Day from class?

Finally, a slip of the tongue from first lady Michelle Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Believe me, as a busy single
mother -- or I shouldn`t say single -- as a busy mother -- sometimes, when
you have got a husband who`s president, it can feel a little single, but
he`s there.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Freudian slip, s`il vous plait?

Well, perhaps a consequence of being on opposite coasts. President Obama
was on his second day of a fund-raising swing when she said that. He was
in California yesterday while Michelle Obama remained here in D.C.

Up next, Hillary`s talking and everyone`s guessing. Will she or won`t she?
What, are you kidding? I think she`s running.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks finish off of lows of the day, the Dow down 40 after falling triple
digits earlier in the session. The S&P 500 was down six. The Nasdaq was
off just over 21.

You may have heard earlier an anemic 88,000 jobs created last month. The
unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent, but it was mainly due to people
leaving the work force.

And worries about North Korea also unnerving investors. It has asked
foreign embassies to consider evacuating staff due to increased tensions.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Of course, the big question now
about Hillary is, what`s next?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The big tease.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, who on this program a
few days endorsed Hillary Clinton, there asking the question on everyone`s
mind: What`s next for Hillary Clinton?

Well, no one knows the answer yet. Well, you can say that. Will she or
won`t she? But we do know one thing. She`s back in the public eye, very
much so, this week. She`s talking about work still needing to be done.
Let`s listen to her today, this morning, in fact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This truly is the
unfinished business of the 21st century, and it is the work we are called
to do.

I look forward to become your partner in all the days and years ahead.
Let`s keep fighting for opportunity and dignity. Let`s keep fighting for
freedom and equality. Let`s keep fighting for full participation. And
let`s keep telling the world over and over again that, yes, women`s rights
are human rights and human rights are women`s rights once and for all.
Thank you, all, so much.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, actually, by the way, this morning we got a copy of
Hillary Clinton`s remarks to The Daily Beast, which had her saying she
would be a partner. And here`s where she changed it in the written version
-- from the written to the spoken -- "and champion in the days and years
ahead."

She left out, as you saw in her read, the word champion, which she had
obviously approved in an earlier draft, and decided that was not the
occasion. So, we just went through a presidential election. Of course, we
know that. And as new polls and the candidates` travel schedules come out,
it`s clear the race for 2016 is simmering already.

I have got two Pulitzer Prize-winning, well, viziers here that can tell the
future, of course, Cynthia Tucker from the University of Georgia and Gene
Robinson of "The Washington Post."

Now, Cynthia, I do this to people who are columnists and have an opinion.
Do you want Hillary Clinton to be the next president?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: I certainly want her to run, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you want her to run. But you`re not willing to commit yet
to her?

TUCKER: I want her to run, yes.

MATTHEWS: But you won`t endorse?

TUCKER: I`m not willing to say -- I don`t know what`s going to happen in
the next four years.

MATTHEWS: No, I just want to know what you think now.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCKER: There could be a little-known state legislator out there somewhere
who springs forward and makes a brilliant candidate.

MATTHEWS: OK.

TUCKER: I doubt it. That`s the reason I want Hillary -- Hillary to run.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

Gene, you can`t commit, can you? Can you commit?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I can`t, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: "The Washington Post" is made of sterner stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Right. I`m not. I`m not going all in.

MATTHEWS: You will get a call from the editor.

ROBINSON: Right. I`m not going all in...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

Well, let me ask you about, what did you make of her -- and I love to do
this. And it drives people at home crazy. They don`t like this show to
start with. I think they do love it.

Here`s Hillary, that apparently approved a script for this morning`s speech
which had her championing the causes of women and all the other great
causes for children in the future and wouldn`t actually say it. Was it
that Tina Brown was a little too gushing here? She figured she had to slow
this train down a mite or what? What happened there? Why is she not a
champion, when she was when she approved the script in the first place,
Cynthia?

TUCKER: People often rethink things that they have written, Chris. I have
certainly done it.

And champion does sound a little bit too much like she`s committing to a
run. There already -- there`s so much pressure on her. There`s already a
PAC that`s started to -- specifically to encourage her to run. And -- and
I think she`s going to find this too much to resist. The -- the odds are
very good that she could be the first woman president of the United States.
I think she will run. But she doesn`t want to commit yet and she wants the
speculation, I think, to ease back just a little bit.

MATTHEWS: I think you might be -- do you agree with that, she wants to
notch it back?

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think she probably does. Why
wouldn`t she?

MATTHEWS: I agree. There`s nothing to be gained at this point.

ROBINSON: We just had happen election.

MATTHEWS: Well, except --

ROBINSON: A little while, except, yes --

MATTHEWS: Except Joe Biden might be getting the information he needs now
that he`s going to have to beat her or get out of the way.

ROBINSON: Everybody is going to have to stay on simmer until she makes up
her mind.

MATTHEWS: But the pilot light is lit.

ROBINSON: Yes, the pilot light is lit.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s what I say.

Anyway, Hillary Clinton also spoke today of the need to carry on the fight
for women`s rights. It`s very universalist what she`s doing here, but also
a rallying cry to the most -- well, the dominant voter in this country,
women. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: If America is going to lead
the way we expect ourselves to lead, we need to empower women here at home
to participate fully in our economy and our society. We need to make equal
pay a reality. We need to extend family and medical leave benefits to more
workers and make them paid. We need to encourage more women and girls to
pursue careers in math and science. We need to invest in our people so
they can live up to their own God-given potential.

That is how America will lead in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think that`s very effective presentation.

Cynthia, I think she`s got it down. That`s the way to do it. Teach
people. Inform them. Make the case logically. Yes.

TUCKER: It is a natural issue for her, first of all. This is something
she believes in deeply. She`s worked on it, as she said, in her four years
as secretary of state, across the developing worlds. She encouraged
education for women, economic advancement for women, equal rights for
women.

And she can do all that while encouraging her supporters without saying so.
You know, more than half the voters in this country are women. So she
doesn`t have to talk about running for president while still encouraging
particularly her women supporters. It`s a very natural issue for her.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at some of these numbers now, guys. Here`s
Hillary Clinton clearly with an advantage over much of the GOP field. She
handedly defeats Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush, matches him in that
McClatchy and Marist poll. Vice President Joe Biden is also ahead with
those same three Republicans.

Now, here it gets interesting. Let`s take a look at Christie, Governor
Christie who this show seems to like. We like his style, I think. The one
Republican that gives Clinton and Biden a run for the money is Chris
Christie of Jersey. Hillary Clinton beats him by 46 percent/43 percent.
Biden actually loses to Christie.

So, there, Gene, is sort of the pivot right there.

ROBINSON: Yes. Look, one thing about that number, though, we know what
Hillary Clinton is like as a national candidate. We don`t know yet know
what Chris Christie is like as a national candidate, how he translates to
rest of the country. We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: Also one other thing. Cynthia, not to prescribe what`s going to
happen in this campaign, Hillary Clinton fits the Democratic Party like a
glove. She is not a hyphenated Democrat. She`s a Democrat Democrat, right
there in the sweet spot, working people, middle class people, men and
women, not too left, not too right. In fact, definitely not too left.
She`s a little nudge to the right of Obama, in fact, right there on the
sweet spot.

The other guy, Chris Christie, probably could win the Democratic nomination
in a certain year because he`s not that right wing. But I think he`s too
liberal for the Republicans. I can`t see him in the Iowa caucuses. I
can`t see him in Florida. I don`t see him winning in these states. I
don`t see it.

TUCKER: I will go right out here and make a prediction for 2016. If Chris
Christie runs for the Republican nomination, he will not win. He simply
does not, he is not the voter that the very conservative base is looking
for. Let`s just remember, it`s only been a month or so that he was
specifically excluded from being one of the speakers at CPAC, this big
gathering of conservative activists in Washington.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: They invited Mitt Romney who just lost the last election, but they
specifically did not invite Chris Christie to speak. So, no, Chris
Christie seems to me, in a general election, he seems appealing.

MATTHEWS: OK.

TUCKER: He seems attractive, but he`s not going to get that far.

MATTHEWS: Do you remember who won the Pennsylvania primary in 2008, the
New York primary, the Connecticut primary, the New Jersey primary, the
Indiana primary and the California primary? Remember who that was?

ROBINSON: Who was that?

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton.

ROBINSON: Yes, Hillary Clinton.

You know, I`m not sure I would be that quick to say Christie has no shot.
I think --

MATTHEWS: You think if they want to win, they might do it?

ROBINSON: If they want to win, imagine that the establishment coalesces
behind them. They`re all united behind him.

You know, they rammed Mitt Romney through. They might be able to ram Chris
Christie through. And, look, there`s going to be some sort of civil war.
There`s going to be some sort of civil war in the Republican Party. Who
knows what it`s going to look like?

MATTHEWS: If they lose to Hillary, they lose four in a row.

ROBINSON: Well --

MATTHEWS: I don`t think they want to lose four in a row.

Thank you, Cynthia Tucker. Have a nice weekend down there. It`s getting
warm down there.

TUCKER: You, too, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Eugene Robinson. We`re having our first day of spring in D.C.

Up next, remembering the great Roger Ebert, who democratized -- we`re going
to talk about how movie reviews were sort of an elite thing in the past.
This guy and Gene Siskel made it to us, they would bring it to us on
television. We`d decide the thumbs up with them. It`s a very interesting
development for the moviegoers like me.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Americans, as polarized as ever, of course, but redistricting
isn`t the only reason why. The Cook Political Report examined all 435
congressional districts in its new partisan voter index and it found that
geographic self-sorting, even more than redistricting, has driven
polarization.

There are now only 90 congressional districts in the whole country that are
considered swing districts. That`s down 45 percent from 1998 when the
country had 164 swing districts. And while redistricting accounts for some
of that change, the study found that in districts that weren`t redrawn, the
electorate was simply more homogenous. Voters are choosing sides with
their feet.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Talking about the movies will never be same. The legendary film critic
Roger Ebert lost his battle with cancer just yesterday at the age of 70.
Ebert spent more than 40 years, of course, at the "Chicago Sun Times" and
was the first movie critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. He earned a star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ebert and fellow Chicago critic Gene Siskel changed the way Americans saw
movies.

Their trademark thumps up/thumbs down system democratized movie criticism.
It made it fun and accessible to the public. We all get into it. And
together, Siskel and Ebert had something of a love-hate relationship
between themselves.

But let`s watch them in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENE SISKEL, MOVIE CRITIC: The question was, do you like or hate each
other? And I said both. And Roger said --

ROGER EBERT, MOVIE CRITIC: Neither.

(LAUGHTER)

EBERT: For 24 years, we were on television together. For more than 30
years, we fought it out. On our newspaper jobs, there was a lot of
competition, a lot of rivalry, but also respect and friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, in recent years, a bout with thyroid cancer took Roger
Ebert`s bottom jaw and ability to speak.

With me now is Roger Simon with "Politico", who worked with Roger Ebert in
"Sun Times". And the great Ann Hornaday, film critic for our own
"Washington Post" here.

Thank you.

Let me just talk about how film criticism sort of came out of the closet
with these guys. It used to be something thoughtful, you sat in the room,
screening room, you write and it takes a couple days to get it right. And
they`re sort of left with it.

These guys said, here`s how I went at this, here`s how I saw it, you know,
here`s my reaction to it. Once other the guy -- thumbs up, thumbs down,
and then you sort of got involved.

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: Yes. Before Ebert and Siskel, movie reviewing was
an art form. It was for intellectuals. It was for cinematists (ph). It
was dominated by French critics and Americans imitating French critics.

These guys engaged you. They gave you the information so you could make
your own choice about the film and people reacted to it in such a way that
within a few years, they were no longer the barbarians at the gates. They
had overtaken movie writing in America.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Let me ask you, though, Ann -- I love your reviews. In fact, I love your
writing and I do like your elegance and eloquence. But let me ask you
about this whole process of two guys sitting in the room, it could be two
women, and there`s like, say, one guy says greatest movie ever, five stars,
but the another says clunker. I love that because it admits the simple
fact of taste and individual reaction.

Your thoughts? Maybe you don`t like it.

ANN HORNADAY, WASHINGTON POST: Exactly. No, exactly. And that`s -- they
were almost channeling -- I think they kind of -- as you said, they brought
out of the closet, what we were all doing anyway.

And I think they gave people a nascent sense that they could be critics,
too, which, of courses, became true in a few decades when technology made
it possible for people to be critics on their own blogs and on Facebook and
Twitter. So, they completely anticipated this democratizing force that`s
happened.

And then, to Roger Ebert`s ever lasting credit, rather than get into a
defensive crouch around that, he embraced that very technology that sort of
threaten to make him obsolete and almost had a second career on social
media. I mean, he mastered that technology --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HORNADAY: -- with such erudition and such -- you know, he was so prolific
on it that it was almost like a second career for him.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s me, I`m a regular moviegoer. I see everything.
Tonight, I can`t wait for my wife to get back to New York, she`s coming
back in 5:00 plane, and I can`t wait to go see the Redford movie. I want
to see the comedy movie (ph) about the weatherman, because I grew up -- you
and I grew up in that era, not Ann, we grew up in an era where people were
bombing schools and library, and the bad guys, we thought they were, but
some people said, well, they were on the left, they`re OK.

I didn`t. I want to know about these guys. So, I`m going to watch a
movie. I`m going to decide if I like it based on that audience around me,
too.

When I watched "Argo" and everybody cheered at the end of it, I said this
movie is going places -- same thing with "Rocky."

SIMON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And that`s why I`m a little bit more democratic that most
critics. I go with my reaction. I`m not saying, well, this isn`t birdman,
this isn`t your foe (ph) -- I`m saying no, this is good.

SIMON: Right, and that`s what Ebert captured and Gene. And --

MATTHEWS: You picked "Argo" as the best movie of the year? You didn`t?

SIMON: It`s the one I haven`t seen yet.

MATTHEWS: What`s the matter with you?

SIMON: I love "Zero Dark Thirty". I haven`t seen that.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to wait for Netflix?

SIMON: But just two nights ago, going through the 300 movies on cable, you
know, I saw a movie I hadn`t seen and I did what I always did. I went to
Ebert`s site --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SIMON: -- and then I shouted out to my wife, there`s a 3 1/2 star by Ebert
on at 8:00 and so we watched it.

But that was duplicated in American`s homes after American homes.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Let me go back to Ann.

SIMON: We looked it up.

MATTHEWS: Ann, there`s nothing more magic that magic four stars.
Sometimes -- I mean -- because that means like Lawrence of Arabia, isn`t
that the greatest thing in the world, how many movies get that, that this
is magic?

HORNADAY: Oh, it`s very rare. And I try to be as stingy as I can because
I`m with you. I think that there`s something so special about that, this
is a masterpiece, this is a home run. Although there`s something to be
said for a triple, too.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HORNADAY: I mean, there`s something to be said for the garden variety,
really good movie.

MATTHEWS: I`ll take a triple tonight. I`ll take a triple (ph) from Robert
Redford tonight.

Thank you, Roger Simon, for being here. And thank you, Ann, for always
being at "The Post." And we`ll be right back after this. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this week`s bottom line argument of
the National Rifle Association.

We can`t have real background checks on who buys a gun. Why? Because we
can.

Why can we? Because we`re going to filibuster, that`s why.

Why are you going to filibuster? Because we don`t want background checks.

Why don`t you want background checks? Because we`re going to have guards
at schools instead.

How do you know those guards don`t have criminal records and mental
problems? Because we`re going to force them to have background checks.

Got it? We`ll give guards -- guns to guards only if they have background
checks. But we won`t make anyone else have a background check. That way,
you see, we make sure everyone has a gun. Got it? Do you? We sell guns.

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.
END

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