updated 4/15/2013 8:51:33 AM ET 2013-04-15T12:51:33

HARDBALL
April 10, 2013

Guests: Sen. Jon Tester, Erica Lafferty, Jay Carney, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Van Meter, Margie Omero


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Posse.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. There`s a new posse out there in the
country. They aren`t the big city boys. No, they come from the smaller
towns, from Allentown and out there in West Virginny (SIC). And they`re
trying to stop crazy people and outlaws from getting their hands on rapid-
firing guns.

Pat Toomey, Joe Manchin -- nothing big city liberal about either of these
guys. They don`t care if you drink giant 16-ounce Cokes. But they don`t
want their kids being shot at by nuts waving semiautomatic assault rifles,
the kind our soldiers use in Afghanistan and on some other war fronts. Pat
Toomey and Joe Manchin are now in the posse, as I said. Maybe the posse
will grow to the 60 senators we need to get the deal they struck the deal
on, voted on. And that`s the idea because without a vote in the Senate,
John Boehner at the House will be sure to keep the House from voting on gun
safety.

So tonight, let`s find out if our democracy is going to have a chance of
working. Think about it, 92 percent of the country wants background
checks. That means 92 senators out of the 100 senators in that body should
be ready to at least vote on the matter. Well, Senator John Tester`s a
Democrat from Montana. He joins us right now from the Capitol.

I want to show this first of all, Senator. Senators Joe Manchin and Pat
Toomey are your colleagues. Their proposal would close the gun show
loophole. It would require background checks be performed on all
commercial gun sales, exempting only, under their proposal, individual,
non-commercial sales -- for example, if you sold a gun to a friend.

Well, today Manchin invoked the tragedy in Newtown to explain why something
needs to be done. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Truly the events at Newtown changed
us all. It changed our country, our communities, our towns, and it changed
our hearts and minds. This amendment won`t ease the pain. It will not
ease the pain of the families who lost their children on that horrible day.
But nobody here -- and I mean not one of us in this great, great capital of
ours -- with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day
like that from happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Toomey from Pennsylvania made an important point
that could help sway other Republicans. He said, for him, the issue of
criminal background checks was not a matter of gun control. That`s the way
he thinks about it now. It`s not actually gun control to check on people`s
backgrounds. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I`m a gun owner and the rights that are
enshrined in the 2nd Amendment are very, very important to me personally,
as I know they are to so many people across Pennsylvania. My record shows
this. But I`ve got to tell you, candidly, I don`t consider criminal
background checks to be gun control. I think it`s just common sense. If
you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun. It`s no
problem. It`s the people who fail a criminal or a mental health background
check that we don`t want having guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon the president praised the compromise. In a
statement he said, quote, "This is not my bill and there are aspects of the
agreement that I might prefer to be stronger. But the agreement does
represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress. It recognizes that
there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don`t have to
agree on everything to know that we`ve got to do something to stem the tide
of gun violence."

Well, let me go to Senator Tester. Senator, you`ve had interesting races
out there in Montana. It`s a red state, and you`ve always prevailed, or so
far. People like you.

What is your concern? What concerns do you have about, for example, this
new compromise? Could it be something you would vote for?

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Well, I`ve got to look at it, Chris. And
I`m going to tell you, I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey. I work
with both those guys, and common sense is the key to this. We need to
protect our 2nd Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens, and we need to
make sure guns don`t end up in the hands of violently mentally ill folks or
folks who have a long history of violence.

And I think that`s really the bottom line, making sure that this allows our
people who are -- who play by the rules, who are honest folks, to be able
to go out there and buy guns, but yet keep the guns out of the hands of
people who use them in inappropriate ways, that, like I said, have a
history of violence or are violently mentally ill.

And so I appreciate them coming forth with a bill. I hope we can debate it
on the floor. I think it`s critically important that we do. And if
there`s changes that need to be made to the bill, let`s make them and let`s
move forward.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about moving forward. It seems to me we`ve got
three hoops to get through. First of all, 60 votes tomorrow to proceed
with the debate. Will you be one of the 60?

TESTER: I will vote -- I will vote to debate this on the floor. It`s why
I came to Washington, D.C., Chris. The Senate is supposed to be the
biggest deliberative body in the world. We need to deliberate on this
issue. We need to have a good debate, have a good conversation, and figure
out what can work for this country, protect our 2nd Amendment rights while
keeping weapons out of the hands of those who don`t use them in a proper
fashion.

MATTHEWS: Will you then vote among the 60 necessary to proceed to voting
on the measures, such as this Manchin vote, the Manchin-Toomey proposal?

TESTER: Absolutely, I will be voting in favor of moving to debate.

MATTHEWS: OK. And yet -- and just to get your vote clarified, will you be
among the 50 that`s necessary to pass some gun safety regulations?

TESTER: I`ve got -- I mean, look, like I said, you heard what I said about
law-abiding citizens plus folks who have a history of violence. I think
that if we can make some inroads into that, it`s a positive thing to do.

I`ve got to look at the bill, truthfully, Chris. I say this about every
issue that comes down the pike. But if I can look at the bill, we can
figure out how to make it work, meet the parameters that I have in mind,
yes, I`ll support it. If it doesn`t, of course, then I won`t be able to.

MATTHEWS: What are you concerns? Let`s break it up. Are you concerned
about any aspect of the criminal -- if a person has a felony record? I
mean, where would you draw the line on who gets to have a gun? Just spell
out what you think.

TESTER: It`s got to be court-adjudicated. But here`s one of my concerns.
We`ve got a lot of folks coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that have
mental health issues through no fault of their own, through the action
they`ve seen in the theater. And we`ve got to make sure that, number one,
if they go in to get help, that it doesn`t put them on a list, that, in
fact, it actually encourages them to go get help for their -- because we
got to break the stigma and they`ve got to be able to get the treatment
they need to get cured.

On the other hand, let`s say a person ends up on a list. There`s got to be
a way to get off of that list. And I think that`s also critically
important. You know, mental health issues can be treated and they can be
cured. And we need to make sure that those problems are addressed in the
bill as we move forward.

Look, Patrick Toomey said you got to apply common sense, and that`s really
what it`s about. If we apply common sense measures to this background
check bill, I think it`s something that gun owners and folks who are
concerned about gun violence alike will be in support of. If we don`t and
we don`t thoroughly debate this bill, then we`ve got problems.

MATTHEWS: Well, today, Senator Toomey responded to critics on the right
who say background checks could be the first step toward gun confiscation,
the slippery slope argument. Here he is responding to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOOMEY: The fact is, the national law that we have had and Pennsylvania`s
experience have done nothing to restrict the lawful ownership of guns by
law-abiding citizens. And neither will our amendment. The worries that we
hear sometimes about background checks leading to an erosion of our 2nd
Amendment rights -- it simply hasn`t happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you know, Senator Tester, whether the NRA is going to make
this record vote, one of the votes that matters to them, the Toomey
proposal?

TESTER: Yes. I don`t know, Chris. I haven`t heard whether they`re going
to score it or not. The point is, is he is -- Patrick Toomey is spot on
when he talks about the background checks, if, in fact, in the past they
haven`t restricted law-abiding citizens from being able to have guns and in
the future they should be -- should be applied the same way. But I have
not heard whether the NRA is going to score it or not.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. It`s great having you on, especially
tonight...

TESTER: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Senator Tester of Montana.

Well, today first lady Michelle Obama gave an emotional speech about gun
violence out in Chicago, where they live. She invoked the memory of Hadiya
Pendleton -- of course, that was teenager who was shot in January in a park
near the Obamas` Chicago home just a few days after attending the
president`s inauguration here in Washington.

Mrs. Obama said the difference between the Chicago teenager and herself was
that she got to grow up. And then she choked up while remembering meeting
with friends of the teenager before her funeral. Let`s watch the first
lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: And let me tell you, oh, it is hard to know
what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best
friend. But I started by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way
to doing something truly worthy with her life. I told them that there is a
reason that we`re here on this earth, that each of us has a mission in this
world. And I urged them to use their lives to give meaning to Hadiya`s
life. I urged them to dream as big as she did and work as hard as she did
and live a life that honors every last bit of her God-given promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a great first lady. Anyway, in another emotional address
today, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut -- actually, it was his first-
ever speech on the floor. He said the country might be getting
desensitized to everyday gun violence out there, there`s so much of it.
It`s his first speech. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: The worst reality is this. If we
don`t do something right now, it`s going to happen again. But really, Mr.
President, it`s happening every day. And this country has just gotten so
callously used to gun violence that it`s just raindrops. It`s just
background noise. And so the question is, are we going to do anything
about it, or are we just going to sit on our hands like we have for 20
years and accept the status quo?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, someone who is not sitting on her hands is Erica
Lafferty, of course. Her mother, Dawn Hochsprung was the principal at
Sandy Hook Elementary School. She was killed on the morning of December
14th defending her kids.

Erica, thank you for joining us. And whenever someone like yourself, who I
consider, you know, a regular person, comes on this show, I just basically
ask you to tell you (SIC) what you feel and why you want to come on. What
did you want to say to the senators in the last couple of days?

ERICA LAFFERTY, MOTHER KILLED AT SANDY HOOK: Call me back, was definitely
my first message. And I mean, really, this all just began because I was
making phone calls and sending e-mails and trying to contact them on social
media, and I just heard nothing back. I mean, at this point, it`s been,
you know, a full two days, and I`ve heard back from 2 of 14 senators that
I`ve tried to contact.

MATTHEWS: Two of fourteen. You told the person when you called these
Senate offices -- by the way, I keep telling people, the number is 202-224-
3121. You get any senator you want by that number, 202-224-3121.

When you, Erica, made the phone calls and got somebody, maybe a legislative
assistant, maybe an executive assistant, maybe -- we used to call an AA or
chief of staff, and you told them who you were, you told them who your
mother was and what role she played in trying to prevent this horror, and
they said the senator will get back to you, or what did they actually say?

LAFFERTY: A couple of them actually sounded like they had no idea who I
was even talking about. A couple of them said to e-mail their scheduler or
I got transferred to a scheduler, or a lot of times I just had to leave
voicemails. But it absolutely was not the reaction that I was
anticipating, trying to -- I don`t know, I guess just talk to a senator.

MATTHEWS: You didn`t get the music you get sometimes on those calls.
Well, thank you for the classical music.

Let me ask you about when you got through to Senator Cruz. Now, I`m not a
big fan of his. I think he`s too hard right for me even to figure out.
But he did call you back. What was that like? And what did you say to
him? How aggressive were you with Senator Cruz from Texas, who refuses
even to have a vote on the Senate floor. He wants to filibuster this
thing.

LAFFERTY: My first question to him was I guess just to explain to me why
he was choosing to not do his job. The purpose of Congress, the purpose of
the senators, is to debate and then to vote. And they`re elected
officials. They`re brought in by the people. If over 90 percent of
Americans are in support of the universal background checks, then how does
he just opt to not do his job? And I asked him straight up, you know, What
would have happened if my mom chose to not do her job on December 14th?
What would have happened at that school? And you know...

MATTHEWS: What did he say?

LAFFERTY: It really just got kicked back to, Well, you know, maybe
Connecticut needs to have stricter laws, you know, for involuntary
institutionalization, and things like that. And that`s absolutely not the
case. It`s not if you have a mental illness, we`re going to lock you in a
room and pretend that it`s not happening. It`s about helping people and
working through their problems and it`s -- I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Do you think anything you would have said would have worked with
that guy?

LAFFERTY: No. No, I don`t. It was almost like, you know, there was,
like, a delay, and OK, is she done talking yet? Can I say my next piece?

MATTHEWS: I know what you mean. Perfect bureaucrat. Anyway, Erica, good
luck. You`re doing the right thing, if you just keep this up. I think
you`re making a difference with these people. And I saw Toomey come out.
I wasn`t hopeful he would, and he came out. He`s joining the posse, as I`m
putting it. He`s one of the good guys now. And I do think you`re making -
- you`re reaching these people in human terms, those who are reachable that
way. You`ve just got to keep calling.

LAFFERTY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I would actually work the phone all night and just keep calling
these guys.

LAFFERTY: Oh, I`m not stopping.

MATTHEWS: By the way, always call after 6:00 because they`re always --
call all important people -- it`s one of my tricks in life. Call big shots
after 6:00. They don`t have five or six secretaries between you and them.
You know what I mean? They get a little available all of a sudden at the
end of the day. Bother them at 5 after 6:00. You`ll probably get a few of
them.

Thank you, Erica Lafferty.

LAFFERTY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re doing the right thing for the country, too, not just for
your mom.

LAFFERTY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Obama tells Republicans, Let`s make a deal.
He says he`s already cut the deficit and has more than met the Republicans
halfway. He`s doing his job. The question for Republicans, how do they
agree to higher taxes and a grand bargain? It`s a tough one for them, but
they got to do it or nothing`s going to get done. They keep saying, If
Obama proposes, we oppose it. That`s helpful.

Plus, look who`s trying to make a comeback. Well, make up your own mind.
Anthony Weiner. Two years after humiliating himself with that Twitter
scandal, Weiner`s eying, believe it or not, the mayor`s office in New York
this year.

And spin along with Mitch -- how Mitch McConnell has spun that campaign
strategy tape about Ashley Judd being emotionally unbalanced into a story
in which, oh, poor Mitch, he`s the victim! And worse yet, the press is
buying it. Look at the papers today. We`re going to show you these
terrible headlines. They fell for Mitch.

Anyway, finally, you can watch as Rand Paul attempts to convince the
African-American students at the great Howard University today that he`s
really on their side.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I want to give you that number to the U.S. Capitol again. It`s
good for Congress or Senate. It`s the switchboard number, and boy, does
it work. They`re great over there. You and get either one of them this
way. Just dial 202 -- D.C. -- 224-3121. That`s 202-224-3121. It really
works. Just keep calling until you get somebody on the phone and talk to
them.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today we saw an essential leadership
quality in our president, guts. And I think this is bipartisan, if you
think about it. He offered a big compromise to the Republicans in the
fight over taxes and spending. And while he`s taken heat from some on the
left, some of the usual suspects, for his proposals, he`s still hoping, I
guess, to get the GOP on board with a big bargain.

Let`s listen to him today. Here`s the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My budget does also contain
the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including
reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don`t believe
that all these ideas are optimal, but I`m willing to accept them as part of
a compromise if, and only if, they contain protections for the most
vulnerable Americans.

When it comes to deficit reduction, I`ve already met Republicans more than
halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will
come forward and demonstrate that they`re really as serious -- as serious
about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Look, I think 5-year-olds understand this fight. And I don`t
think -- if you`d watch television ever, you get it. The Democrats want
tax fairness. They want some of the rich people to pay a higher rate or at
least get rid of some of the loopholes. The Democrats, at least a lot of
them, are willing to make compromises, the president is, at least to do
something on entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, in terms of the CPI,
to at least get the ball rolling so we do reduce the debt over time because
we have to do that. And the question is, will the Republicans ever give on
taxes?

Jay Cah-ney (ph) is the White House press secretary. I pay him the tribute
of pronouncing his name properly.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Jay Cah-ney. No, Jay, thank you for coming on. It`s great to
have you on because you know this fight is so basic now. Explain it from
what it`s like on the inside with the president. How does he see the guts
which he showed in coming forth with his end of the deal?

I mean, you know, the baby hasn`t been delivered, and he`s offering up the
ransom money. I mean, he`s offering a deal -- his half of the deal before
the other side comes to the table. That`s pretty daring stuff. How does
it work?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Chris, the president is
serious about trying to tackle our budget challenges.

But the budget he produced today, that he announced today, has as its
primary goal economic growth and job creation. And within the context of a
budget that invests in education and in our middle class and in innovation
and in infrastructure, he is willing to reduce our deficit further in
addition to the $2.5 trillion he`s already signed into law, as long as it`s
balanced and fair.

His budget proves the basic premise that you can take action to grow the
economy and create jobs and secure the middle class, even as you reduce the
deficit. You do not have to do the extremes that the House Republican
budget suggests you have to do, which is to eviscerate programs that invest
in education and innovation and science and technology, voucherize
Medicare, shifting costs, thousands of dollars per year in costs to
seniors, while giving a massive tax cut to the wealthy in the name of
deficit reduction.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARNEY: And one of the ironies about the House Republican budget, Chris,
as you know, is that it claims to balance, but they won`t tell you how.
And they won`t tell you how because it can only balance if you raise taxes
on the middle class while voucherizing Medicare and the like.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know these things. These elements are important to us.

But let`s talk the politics of this. Remember how they used to say about
the Russians -- you`re younger than me. They used to say, the Russians
would say, what`s mine is mine and what`s yours is negotiable.

CARNEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: Suppose Boehner and his buddies like Paul Ryan on the Budget
Committee say, well, thank you, Mr. President, for giving us your ideas on
budget reduction in terms of entitlements and CPI, the chained CPI, and the
cuts on the management costs of Medicare. We will take all that. Of
course, we`re not going to raise revenues in the budget we`re going to get
through conference. It`s going to have some of the stuff, but it`s not
going to have your tax proposals in it.

How can the president then deal? It`s already done. The Congress puts
through the budget resolution. They don`t raise revenues. They don`t
reform revenues. They just take his cuts in the entitlements and stick it
to him. How does the president stop that once it`s begun?

CARNEY: Well, that`s not going to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How does he stop it from happening?

CARNEY: A threshold here is, there is no deal if Republicans won`t
accept...

MATTHEWS: Well, who says?

CARNEY: ... the basic premise -- because he`s the president, he has to
sign it into law.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Not the budget resolution. The president never gets to sign the
budget resolution.

CARNEY: Well, the president -- but the president will not agree to a broad
budget deal that does not include balance, Chris.

And you know that Democrats in the Senate won`t support a la carte approach
to this.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CARNEY: Republicans from Mitch McConnell on down said at the end of last
year, they put on the table, in public, that they wanted certain things in
return for revenue as part of a balanced deficit reduction deal.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARNEY: That included so called chained CPI and means-testing Medicare.

The president has agreed to those in this comprehensive budget proposal.
But it`s not an a la carte. Just as you said, you can`t say I will take
what I want and we won`t talk about a broader deal. That`s not acceptable
to the president.

MATTHEWS: Well...

CARNEY: He will not accept an approach that asks only seniors and the
middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction. That will not
happen. The American people made clear last year in the election that they
reject that approach.

MATTHEWS: OK, Jay, it`s great to have you on. Thanks for coming on and
explaining that, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.

Dana Milbank, a bit more acerbic than Jay Carney, he`s here. He`s the
columnist for "The Washington Post."

Let`s talk about the president`s challenge for the left. He`s got to take
on the right, the center -- Boehner is to the center-right, the crazy right
behind him who won`t let him deal. But the president, is he hamstrung at
all by the Bernie Sanders of this world, people on the left?

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I don`t
think he is. They`re hopping mad. They have been triangulated.

MATTHEWS: Explain.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: Well, the president took a position in between the congressional
Democrats and the congressional Republicans.

Bernie Sanders, a couple of congressmen and all the usual suspects, the
alphabet soup of the left, were all out in Lafayette Park across from the
White House having a protest, as if George W. Bush was still in there.
They`re going nuts about it.

But you know what? This is exactly what President Obama needs to have
happen because he can say to John Boehner, you know what? You have got
nuts on your side. Well, guess what?

MATTHEWS: You know what this looks like? Old-timers night for the `60s,
when they bring back the players from 50 years ago. You know what I mean?
They don`t fit the uniform.

That Bernie, by the way, every time I see him in action, I say that reminds
me about 1968, `69. That`s him.

MILBANK: Yes. No, he`s the finest Vermont senator to be -- ever to be
born in Brooklyn.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, but he`s just one of us in a way, too.

But let me ask you about the left. I don`t want to put them down because I
agree with them a lot of times. Back when I was in politics, I was one of
them. I just want to say, does the president have a fighting chance here?
Beyond the sarcasm and everything, if Boehner isn`t really the speaker, and
I don`t think he really is the speaker -- he doesn`t speak for those
people.

He`s got a bunch of people behind him far to his right. Why -- if you`re
facing reelection next year as Mr. Smith Republican or Mrs. Smith
Republican, why would you raise revenues in any fashion for fear of the
economic equivalent of the NRA?

MILBANK: Well, maybe they won`t. But it`s still a good move by the
president to do this, because, look, the last several years he came up with
a budget nobody took seriously, dead on arrival.

Now he has to be taken seriously. He can say to America, look, I have made
people in my own party uncomfortable. If Republicans can`t even budge on
this now, they`re the ones who look unreasonable.

MATTHEWS: OK. He`s pointed the direction.

So next November and October and September, when he`s running for --
helping to bring back the Congress and Pelosi be speaker again, he gets out
there and says, look, we were the middle.

MILBANK: Mm-hmm.

MATTHEWS: We went to the middle. These other guys won`t do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: And maybe he`s got a balanced budget to show for it. And that`s
a nice way to run.

MATTHEWS: A balanced budget?

MILBANK: No, a long-term balanced budget. Miracles...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s still a trillion. Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Dana
Milbank.

Until you said that, I thought you were right there.

Up next, better late than never. Rand Paul finally says he`s on board with
the Civil Rights Act 49 years later. Hmm.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

First, the five president...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The George W.
Bush Presidential Library is opening the first week in May. It`s
unbelievable. Watch this.

NARRATOR: The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is a premier
destination for researchers, students and families alike. The museum
features over 100,000 artifacts and dozens of interactive activities that
let you pretend to be the president.

Trip. Bump your head. Trip again. Dodge a shoe. Drop a dog. And spit
on the White House lawn.

(LAUGHTER)

NARRATOR: The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And we`re going there.

Anyway, back to HARDBALL.

First, the five presidential mascots of the great Washington Nationals make
room for a guest from an alternative political reality.

A traditional -- at the traditional mid-game presidents race last night,
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln and
William Howard Taft, were joined by a larger than life version of Selina
Meyer, the vice president on TV`s "Veep" played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Here`s a look at final leg of the relay race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George is running second and goes down. George takes
out Abe! Here comes Selina Meyer! She goes to the right field corner.
She takes the lead. Selina on the outside, George is on the inside. The
winner`s going to be George.

George and Tom take the win. And Selina and Teddy finish a close second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think she gave it to him.

Anyway, it looks like they`re out for novelty, since Teddy Roosevelt`s
streak of over 100 losses in a row ended in October.

Finally, Rand Paul took on the Republican effort to reach out to minority
voters today in his speech at the great Howard University here in town.
It`s a historically black university. And here`s a line that sparked a few
questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I have never wavered in my support for civil
rights or the Civil Rights Act. The dispute, if there is one, has always
been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or
private purview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hmm. As one attendee pointed out later, the senator has spoken
out against the part of the Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination in
private institutions like restaurants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have spoken out against the -- against the Civil
Rights Act, against the Voting Rights Act. And you have done it as a chap
of individual liberties and states` rights.

Aside from the moral reasons not to discriminate, of which there are many,
what -- when is it OK legally to discriminate, according to you?

PAUL: Well, I think it`s a mischaracterization of my position, a
mischaracterization. I have never been against the Civil Rights Act.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: There was a long -- one interview that had a long, extended
conversation about the ramifications beyond race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s likely that that was the long interview he had -- it
was with MSNBC`s Rachel Maddow in 2010. He should remember it better than
he did there. We do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": If there was a private
business, say, in Louisville, say, somewhere in your home state that wanted
to not serve black patrons, do you think that they have a legal right to do
so, to put up a "blacks not served here" sign?

PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is, is, you know, you look back to the
1950s and 1960s at the problems we faced. There were incredible problems.
You know, the problems had to do mostly with voting. They had to do with
schools. They had to do with public housing.

And so this is what the civil rights largely addressed and all things that
I largely agree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: No. It largely addressed public accommodations exactly,
restaurants, hotels exactly, gas stations, men`s and ladies room, exactly
what Rachel was talking about.

Anyway, Paul later said that he would have voted in favor of the Civil
Rights Act had he been in Congress when it passed. But it`s pretty clear
in that tape you can see he had a real problem there with government
overreach, as he saw it.

Up next, first Mark Sanford, now Anthony Weiner is looking to make an
unlikely political comeback, we will see, two years after resigning from
Congress after admitting to sending these lewd tweets out will.

Well, you`re watching HARDBALL. This isn`t going to be my favorite
subject, but we`re getting to it. It is the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Another day, another record. The Dow surges 128 points to another record
high. The S&P goes along as well, up 19 points, while the Nasdaq gained 59
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That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY WEINER (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Today, I`m announcing my
resignation from Congress.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye-bye, pervert.

WEINER: So my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a
new representative, and, most importantly, that my wife and I can continue
to heal from the damage I have caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So what was worse, the hanging of Saddam Hussein or that scene?
Pretty rough, somebody yelling pervert. The poor guy was just trying to
get out of politics. He had a four-minute press conference and look how he
was treated.

Anyway, we all remember that moment, of course. And we saw the lewd photo,
I don`t think we`re going to show it, that got him in trouble. That`s New
York Congressman, former Congressman Anthony Weiner. He tweeted to a woman
in Seattle this picture of himself. It was a lewd picture.

And somehow, this has got to be Freudian, sent out 45,000 tweet copies of
it to everybody he says by accident. Then he followed that escapade with
denials, lies, finally an admission of guilt. And eventually there you saw
him resigning.

Well, since then, the former congressman has stayed out of the news, of
course. And now Weiner is stepping out of the shadows and plotting some
kind of comeback, maybe running for mayor of New York this time, this year.
And his wife, Huma Abedin, is with him. She`s of course a very famous and
well-respected longtime aide to Secretary Clinton.

Anyway, the interview is going to be on the cover of "The New York Times"
magazine. There it is. And for the first time, Weiner is speaking openly
about the scandal, the pain, the embarrassment, all of it, all happening
while his wife was pregnant, anyway telling the magazine -- quote -- "She"
-- that`s his wife -- "was devastated. It was brutal. It was completely
out of control. There was the crime, there was the cover-up, there was
harm that I had done to her, and there`s no one who deserves this less than
Huma."

Well, the question people are asking, I suppose, if they`re interested, is,
does New York need Anthony Weiner as its next major?

With me now is Jonathan Van Meter. He interviewed Weiner, wrote this big
piece, well-done piece for "The Times." And Margie Omero, she`s a
Democratic strategist. And she knows her stuff. I have just been talking
to her.

Let me go right now to the writer.

Jonathan, this piece is pretty nice.

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN VAN METER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thank you.

MATTHEWS: No, I have had cover stories on me by Mark Leibovich, who knows
how to cut your heart out.

They just did it to Ted Kennedy. You were very even-handed and skillful
with your knife. Do you think this guy has any chance of being the next
mayor of New York, in fact, elected this year? I know he`s got a lot of
money left over from his Senate -- or his House campaign. But can he --
and you treat him like he might actually run and he might actually win.

Is that what you believe?

VAN METER: No, you know, I actually think that we should back up and say
that in -- the guy that I met seemed really ambivalent about whether he
even wants to get back into politics or not. And he`s trying...

MATTHEWS: But you said he settled the issue right there, it`s in your
piece. He`s running.

VAN METER: No, no, I don`t think -- it doesn`t say that.

MATTHEWS: You said he`s eyeing the mayor`s race.

VAN METER: He`s eyeing the mayor`s race. I think he`s actually trying to
figure out by talking to a writer like me for hours and hours and then
seeing the reaction to this piece whether -- whether he should run or not,
whether he should get back into politics.

MATTHEWS: And he`s using you to find out. Then he`s going to use the
people at some sort of public bath he`s going to walk through, because
after everybody -- as you said, he wants to go through it, not around it.
So, in other words, by running for office, it becomes some sort of
cleansing ritual. That`s the way I think you wrote it.

VAN METER: Right. That`s one of the -- one of the many theories is that
he could be, you know, running a race right now that he could very unlikely
to lose -- very likely lose to cleanse himself for another -- another race
of some kind. Again, it`s all speculation.

MATTHEWS: But I`m not sure it`s all speculation, because you sat there and
sort of tested this. He was testing himself with you. You were watching
him as a reporter.

VAN METER: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think there`s something -- by the way, what he might be doing,
I think we`ve been talking about it with the producers here, his game, it`s
a serious life game for him. It`s serious as hell, the stakes. He could
run, come in third or even second. Have a good showing. And he`ll be the
guy that almost got elected mayor of New York. He will no longer be the
guy that tweeted.

VAN METER: Right, right.

MATTHEWS: He will have changed the story, right?

VAN METER: Yes. No question. But, see, there`s a part of me that still
actually, like, you know, the questions that were -- there were so many
awkward questions that I had to ask him. What`s strange to me is that the
most awkward questions are how will you know whether you`re going to run
for mayor or not? He literally, like, the pauses were so long and so
uncomfortable that it made me think that he doesn`t actually know in his
heart.

MATTHEWS: OK.

VAN METER: Whether he --

MATTHEWS: I think he knows more. He`ll know more after the reaction. It
runs Sunday, right?

VAN METER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, these pieces are brutal. I`ve been through this. You
get a "New York Times" cover, everybody I mean, Jonathan knows this. You
spent a lot of time writing these pieces, getting them right, extremely
well-written and reported. And everybody sees it, who gets "The Times".

And here`s the question. He paid $100,000 to a pollster like you. So,
he`s already testing the water. People don`t throw 100k away unless
they`re thinking about doing something with it. He hired a pollster. What
does that tell you? He gave them $100,000 to test him in New York.

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I guess he wanted to see where voters
were, and how the story -- how people remember the story a few years later.
It doesn`t mean he`s automatically going to do it. And I got the same --

MATTHEWS: Why is he spending $100,000? Just to twiddle his thumbs?

OMERO: No, but just to gauge where before -- that`s the first step. You
can do an exploratory set of research. It`s the first step before you
decide to commit.

MATTHEWS: Well, if he ain`t running for mayor -- I think he`s doing what
he said he`s doing in this piece with Jonathan. He`s testing whether
people like him, like sending out these signals on tweets. Do they like
me? In the middle of the night, he`s tweeting to see if people like him at
all.

Is this polling another way to see if people like him?

OMERO: It is. But I also say in that piece, which was, I agree, a great
piece, someone who`s still figuring out how he`s talking about this
publicly. He hasn`t been going to big events, he says. He hasn`t been
talking this personally with reporters. I mean, it was very personal. He
got very emotional. In a way showed some contrition.

MATTHEWS: A great question here to Jonathan, the wife, Huma. Everybody
likes Huma, immensely respected. Is she some sort of -- comes from a
religion that believes in permanent marriage no matter what the guy does?

I have never seen, I`m dead serious here, the loyalty of this woman.
Instant loyalty and the way you wrote it, she came right back to him after
all this hell and sort of slapped his wrist and said why`d you screw this
up, buddy, I love you? It was amazing the way it comes across. Your
thoughts, Jon? What is holding them together besides just basic human
loyalty?

VAN METER: You know, somebody that knows Huma really well said something
interesting to me, which is that the very thing that makes her so good at
her job with Hillary Clinton for 17 years is the ability to sort of like
filter everything out that doesn`t matter and only focus on what really
matters and make sure that Hillary knows what really matters.

And in a weird way, that`s actually the skill that saved her marriage.
That she somehow was able to filter out all the noise and chaos.

MATTHEWS: You`re a good guy. You are a good guy. No, you are a good guy.
That`s what Harry Hopkins was called -- root of the matter by Churchill
because he would get to the root of the matter and let everything else go
away.

Very insightful. Thank you and actually very generous.

And you both are. Very generous to this guy.

We`ll see if New York is (INAUDIBLE) -- New York has always liked a good
show. Maybe this guy`s the answer.

VAN METER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan Van Meter from "The New York Times." It`s coming out
Sunday.

And Margie Omero, thanks for coming on. Please come back.

Up next --

OMERO: OK.

VAN METER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- Mitch McConnell is trying to spin his way out of the
embarrassing campaign strategy tape and a cynical attempt, I think, to make
himself the victim. This is scary how a guy who`s really on the wrong side
of everything can make himself look like he`s the victim.

It`s scary to see the press this morning, by the way. He won. Can you
believe it? Look at the mainstream press. I`m attempted to say lame
stream press right now.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be getting mail after all on Saturdays. The U.S. Postal
Service has backed off its decision to scrap Saturday delivery -- great --
saying Congress gave it no choice.

Anyway, the Postal Service was looking for ways to save money and they
planned to end Saturday delivery this summer. But Congress pushed back,
passing legislation requiring six-day delivery. And today, the Postal
Service gave in.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Yesterday, we brought you the recordings that unmasked the thuggish
inclination of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as he readies for re-
election. In case you need a reminder, here`s how his campaign team was
preparing to eviscerate potential rival Ashley Judd.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PRESENTER: She`s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally
unbalanced.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Emotionally unbalanced.

Thanks to some calculating spin, McConnell has cleverly shifted the
storyline from himself to the FBI. Here`s how major papers across the
country play the story. Look at "The New York Times", "FBI Looking
Allegations". Look at "The Washington Post", "McConnell wants FBI probe."
"USA Today," "FBI probes Ashley Judd Tape."

You know, there`s something here I always -- I`m not a media critic,
Howard. I`m not a media critic.

We got Howard here and we got David Corn here, two real pros.

Why would the media go for the second game of the double header? The big
story here is what it`s going to say for the future of Mitch McConnell.
But everyone went after the red herring here, which was, oh, the FBI has
been called to investigate. By whom? Mitch McConnell.

HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right, Mitch McConnell.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the story here is what was going on in that room. And he
turned it into who told you.

FINEMAN: Well, he did it in two ways, and the media went for it, by and
large, because the magic letters FBI.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: OK, they carry a whole lot of weight. That`s number one.

The other thing he did and his aides did is scream about the vast left-wing
conspiracy --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- today. That`s the new one.

FINEMAN: Yesterday was the left wing. The key thing there is and I wrote
a piece for "Huff Post" about this just now, talking about my sources in
Kentucky, Mitch McConnell still even to this day has a problem with the
conservative base --

MATTHEWS: Losing the primary.

FINEMAN: -- of the Republican Party in Kentucky. At the very bottom of
the transcript that David got, there`s a throw away line where the aides
say and, by the way, don`t worry, boss, we`re going to look at the primary
challengers, too, and that`s something --

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s go with that. Is this whole -- I`m bringing the FBI
in. By the way, I`m doing my comments at the end of the show.

These hard-assed conservatives, you know? We don`t like the big government
coming in and intruding. First thing he does, he has a little spat and he
calls in the FBI, not the local cops.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And all of a sudden the FBI. What is this? They must love big
government, don`t they?

CORN: I can -- I can tell you because we at "Mother Jones" broke the
story.

MATTHEWS: By the way, congratulations.

CORN: We send it out --

MATTHEWS: And who`s the guy that gave it to you? Just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: We send it out at 7:00 in the morning.

MATTHEWS: We? Who are these other people involved?

CORN: People who work for me.

MATTHEWS: So, it came in overnight?

CORN: Well, we had it for a week or so. You have lawyers vetted and all
that stuff. We put it out and send it out to the bloggers and tweeters and
all that, and we see some interest and people are saying, oh, this is
great, maybe you can come and talk about it later. But at 10:00 in the
morning, McConnell said FBI, everything exploded. You know, the requests
come in, the media people, and it was all about making him the victim
because of political reasons so he can be the victim of the left wing and
make good with the conservatives who don`t like him and it`s still, I
think, a memorable moment and spin to watch him --

MATTHEWS: OK, explain it to me, maybe I`m missing something here.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You`re a lawyer.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Somebody leaves their cell phone on because they want to make a
good record of the meeting. And somewhere, two, three months later, they
taped somebody. It happens all the time in our business, unfortunately.

Is it a federal crime to replay your tape recording of a meeting?

FINEMAN: Well, that`s a --

MATTHEWS: A federal crime?

FINEMAN: That`s a close question because in -- the letter of the law is,
if you -- if you tape someone without their knowing that you`re doing it --

MATTHEWS: Even if the room with them?

FINEMAN: I don`t think so. I think if it`s in the room, it`s a different
thing. And I also -- and I also think that McConnell`s spin here is really
as important for what it says about his political fears in the state.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: He`s very -- not only the transcript itself --

MATTHEWS: You don`t think he will lose the general election?

FINEMAN: Look, hits approval rating is 36 percent in the state.

MATTHEWS: Against nobody.

FINEMAN: Against nobody.

MATTHEWS: But what about the lefty?

FINEMAN: The test match up against -- the really obscure secretary of
state, McConnell is only ahead by 4 points. He`s ahead by 5 points against
some guy who -- Ben Chandler who got kicked out of his house seat. He`s
not exactly running against Henry Clay, you know.

CORN: You can usually measure -- you can measure political desperation by
the excess of rhetoric that goes along with it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: And so, yesterday, it was Watergate. Today, it`s --

MATTHEWS: The Holocaust. It`s the Gestapo.

CORN: It`s Gestapo. He`s comparing what happened to Mitch McConnell to
what happened to millions of Jews.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what I think. I don`t know what to do with Louisville,
of course. By the way, Chris Dodd went to Louisville.

FINEMAN: As did I.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- back down there and run. But what you do is solidify your
base quickly. So, he didn`t have to convince his 36 percent that he was
the victim. That`s what he was doing.

CORN: They are predisposed to believe that.

FINEMAN: One of the Republicans that I interviewed today for this piece
says, you know, there`s a lot of unhappiness in McConnell land here in
Kentucky, among the Republicans. He`s basically had an iron grip on the
Kentucky Republican Party for most of 30 years which Rand Paul broke in --

MATTHEWS: So, he`s basically Hugo Chavez here. He`s holding together his
party.

FINEMAN: He`s holding together his party.

MATTHEWS: By the way, the three of us together, I`m convinced, can figure
out the world some day.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There`s probably a park bench somewhere.

FINEMAN: As long as the facts don`t intervene. OK.

MATTHEWS: You don`t have to do that. Confidence, Howard.

Howard Fineman and David Corn -- by the way, congratulations, again. I
want to know who this guy was. Was it a male?

We`ll be right back.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me start with this or end with this tonight:

How about getting the story straight? How about not burying lead? How
about showing the discernment about what`s news here and what the same old
tired and true political spin is here?

When the tape got out yesterday of Senator Mitch McConnell listening to a
campaign staffer trash some potential opponent as emotionally unbalanced,
people around here at HARDBALL figured -- well, this guy has been caught,
the nasty fellow trying to do in President Obama from the start is up to
the same snuff politics he`s known for. There he was saying it was his and
his people`s job to hammer down any opponent who stuck his or her head up.

So I pick up the newspapers today and I read not about what McConnell did
or what he`s up to but he`s the man at the FBI investigate who taped him at
that meeting, the frickin` FBI.

What`s with these Republicans? I thought they were against big, bad
government intrusion. I thought they wanted people to solve their own
spats, wanted the local fellas to step in when there`s a problem. The FBI
and peace and war now has to figure out who left their cell phone on record
and Mitch McConnell`s jungle book meeting on how he hopes to match his
opponents.

Look, the story here isn`t the FBI, it`s not the fire department, or the
rescue squad. It`s desperate, politically unbalanced senator big shot who
figured the best way to spin this story was to call in a false alarm.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


END

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