April 24, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Rep. William Keating, John Feehery, Wayne Slater
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Body snatchers.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" --
that`s what this is like. We try to fathom who is with us and who is one
of them. We can`t tell, can we. How do we tell when someone has gone over
to the other side?
When does it happen, this radicalization process? Where does it happen,
over in Russia somewhere, back in Cambridge when some guy`s surfing the
Internet? No wonder we`re trying to figure out these two brothers. The
living one says it all happened on the Internet, that it was all about
religion, and nobody was helping them, no one was helping them in their
radicalization or in their bomb building and their getting together with
(ph) other weapons.
My question is how they crossed the line between having an attitude and
deciding to go kill as many people as they could. What makes an innocent
person into a cold-blooded killer, a young militant into a murder? You`d
think it`d take some very bad experiences, something bad enough to declare
war on your fellow humanity.
Ask yourself, what would have to happen to you to let you go out on a
Monday and kill a bunch of Americans, then head back to the dormitory
Tuesday night to hang out with another bunch of Americans?
Pete Williams is NBC`s chief (sic) correspondent. Pete, thank you for
joining us. I used a movie reference there to try to figure out this
radicalization thing. And of course, we`re learning now a bit about our
surveillance. What have we learned in the last day about what we knew in
our agencies that we didn`t know before?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has raised a question, and I
think there`s a couple of ways to look at this, Chris. One is what the FBI
and the CIA and the government did. And then the second question is,
should they have done more? Do they have enough legal authority to do
But in terms of what they did, here`s the way it`s described to us. The
Russians come to the FBI in early 2011 and say, We think that Tamerlan
Tsarnaev, the older one, and his mother are becoming radicalized. They`re
coming to Russia. We want to know more about them.
So the FBI looks through its terrorism databases, doesn`t find anything,
looks to see if the phone numbers that he has are being called by other
terrorists, looks for terrorism connections, finds nothing, goes to the
house, interviews Tamerlan and the family, comes up with nothing, goes back
to the Russians and says, you know, We got nothing here. What else do you
have? And the Russians don`t respond. The FBI a second time asks them for
Then in September of 2011, the Russians make exactly the same request, but
this time they go to the CIA, perhaps thinking they`ll get a different
response. The CIA sends that over to the FBI. The FBI says, We`ve already
looked into this. There isn`t anything. But again, they say, they asked
the Russians, What more do you have? Give us more, we`ll chase it down.
And again, they say, the Russians don`t respond.
Now, as a result of these two requests to the FBI and CIA, his name did go
into a terrorism database, the sort of master terrorism tip database, so
that when he did fly to Moscow last January, the government knew about
that. But it didn`t take any action, either when he left or when he came
back, because the case was considered closed. So that`s what they did.
Now, here`s the policy question. Many members of Congress are saying,
Well, should there have been some ways to follow up? For example, some way
to sort of yellow-flag him and maybe look -- continue to look at what he`s
posting on his social media site, which when he returns from Russia, takes
a very strong turn toward radicalization with, you know, violent jihadist
material on his Web site. Should that have required another look? That`s
what they`re asking.
You know, it`s a reasonable question. It`s a good question. It`s also a
difficult one because the FBI gets something like 20,000 of these tips a
year from foreign governments to check out people in the U.S. The average
agent who`s assigned to these cases gets 100 of these a week. So how do
you prioritize and decide which ones are the right ones?
But it does seem to me these are the questions that members of Congress are
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go through it again. The FBI said they didn`t know
that Tamerlan left the country in 2012, but Secretary of Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano yesterday told U.S. senators that her department did.
Let`s watch her testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Was your department aware of his travels to
Russia? And if you weren`t, the reason?
JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes, the system pinged
when he was leaving the United States. By the time he returned, all
investigations had been -- the matter had been closed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And that discrepancy raised an issue for some Republicans,
including Congressman Michael McCaul, the chairman of the Homeland Security
Committee. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: When I was briefed by the FBI, they told
me they had no knowledge of his overseas trip to the Chechen region, when,
in fact, the secretary then testifies and says that they got pinged, that
there was a flag that went up that did indicate that he was traveling to
Russia and to the Chechen region.
You know, we talked a lot about connecting the dots and stovepipes after
9/11. And here we are 12 years later, and the fact remains that it`s still
not -- it`s not working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Pete, this is so difficult because we`re looking for
institutional blame here. And I understand how the political game is
played, if you will. Even when the stakes are this high, it`s still
somewhat of a contest.
But I am fascinated -- maybe this isn`t your can (ph), or maybe you`re not
covering this (INAUDIBLE) how could the FBI or the Department of Homeland
Security determine when a person transited, crossed the rubicon, if you
will, from someone with very hot ideas, very jihadist views, into someone
who was building bombs?
WILLIAMS: Well --
MATTHEWS: There`s no evidence of anything to do with that in terms of
their traffic back and forth to Russia. They weren`t carrying any
contraband. There was no evidence of them attempting to get help --
apparently not, was there? -- of them trying to get help to build a bomb.
The violence that they caused, the killing is why we`re talking about them,
not their attitudes. And I guess it`s hard to figure out the genesis of
those decisions to switch from an attitude to a killing plot.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, that`s exactly what Senator Angus King was
saying this morning, which is you`re looking for tip-offs based on, in
essence, material that`s covered by the 1st Amendment. There`s nothing
criminal about posting on your Web site distasteful things that glorify
WILLIAMS: But here is an issue, though, I guess that the -- that some
members are asking about. If you have a person who`s in this -- in your
database, you know, is there -- should there be some way to, for example --
forget Tamerlan for a second and look at -- instead, think about this from
the Anwar al Awlaki model, where the United States --
WILLIAMS: -- began to focus on him as a person who was influential to
terrorists in this country. So should there be a broader list of people
like him, some of whom are, you know, espousers of these radical, violent
He -- Tamerlan was posting some of this material on his Web site. Should
they have been looking at it from the other end? Here`s a list of people
that we think are -- are, you know, dangerous out there on the Internet.
Let`s watch and see who comes and downloads that.
But again, that is a very difficult thing to do and it is protected speech.
And the other thing is --
MATTHEWS: Yes, how -- yes.
WILLIAMS: -- these are U.S. persons. So it does to some extent limit
legally what the government can do to watch what they`re reading.
MATTHEWS: And still, it would come down to an interview. And as you were
pointing out and others have pointed out in the last few days, just the
process of going around, the FBI, asking to interview someone is an
aggressive step, and it can be considered to be a violation of their
rights, right? You can`t just keep interviewing people. Isn`t that what
the FBI was saying?
WILLIAMS: Well, look, anybody can knock on your door and -- and want to
talk to you. You don`t have to talk to them. But there`s -- I don`t think
it`s a violation -- I don`t think anyone would say it`s a violation of your
rights if the IRS knocks on your door and says, Chris, let`s have a chat.
You can say no. You can say no to the police, if they just want to chat
with you. They don`t need a warrant to do that. So you know, the -- they
can certainly have said no. They did talk to the FBI. It was entirely
So I think more is the question of follow-up. The more -- the more
troubling things in his record seem to be when he comes back from Russia
and he starts to post these more aggressively violent things on his social
WILLIAMS: Should that have raised a red flag? Is there any way to legally
look at that? And how do you sort of focus in on the ones that are
potentially the troublemakers? Hard questions.
MATTHEWS: And it gets right into your mind. It`s not even your behavior.
WILLIAMS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Pete Williams, as always.
MATTHEWS: U.S. Congressman William Keating represents parts of Boston.
He`s a member of the Homeland Security Committee.
Mr. Keating, thanks for joining us. As a political figure watching this
whole thing, and with your oversight, what have you come up with, and what
we`re looking at here, the role of the FBI, the role of the Homeland
Security Department and their stovepiping, perhaps, keeping information
separate from each other. What do you think you see here so far?
REP. WILLIAM KEATING (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, there`s been nothing in any
briefing and nothing in any conversation that hasn`t said the FBI hasn`t
done their job. They played -- they played it by the book. There`s no
doubt about that.
The question we`re going to have as we develop more information on this
incident and look at the broader picture here in Congress is, Do we change
the book? And that remains an open question. How far can we go in some of
And we`re going to be looking at that. We`re going to be -- as they deal
with the trace evidence at the scene and processing investigation, look at
his computer records, look at his associates, maybe travel, and see what
happened in the six months he`s away, the investigators will do their job.
But in Congress, we want to see what can be done on the broader scale to
make sure that the communication is there and to make sure that we`re doing
all we can. That`s why one of my staff people on the Foreign Affairs
Committee is going to Russia the end of this week, and we`re going to talk
to Russian staff people there, Russian officials, so that we can determine
if we can use their knowledge better because one of the things that`s clear
that you just described was the lack of communication between Russia and
the U.S.. And that`s the one thing that is clear, wasn`t as full as it
should have been.
So we`re going to go there and see if there`s -- check their pulse and
assess the -- a country that`s very close-vested about information can,
indeed, begin to share things with us.
Now, that region, the Caucasus region, is one where terrorists are trained,
where they`re recruited, where they`re educated. And that`s a real area.
Russia is concerned about that area, as well. So we have that common
interest that we can build on.
And certainly, that was an issue with our committee before because --
MATTHEWS: OK --
KEATING: -- we`re going to be withdrawing from Afghanistan, going
through some of that region, which might incite more terrorist activities.
MATTHEWS: OK, you`re a Democrat. Here`s what the Republicans are saying
today. They`re also -- some of them are trying to pin the blame on the
Obama administration here. Here`s Senator Lindsey Graham trying to --
well, as usual, tying it to Benghazi, to make the point the administration
is letting its guard down. He`s always talking about Benghazi. Now he`s
tying together Boston with Benghazi. This has become almost an MO with
him. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Something`s not right here. I
don`t want to be judgmental, but I want to make sure that we`re safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
GRAHAM: Between Benghazi and Boston, we`re going backward in national
security. This administration is letting -- letting its guard down, and it
is beginning to show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, more aggressive and more partisan still is Republican
congressman Tom Cotton today. He went further. He compared the record of
the last four years under President Obama negatively to that of President
George W. Bush. Interesting choice there. Let`s listen to his conclusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: In barely four years in office, five
jihadists have reached their targets in the United States under Barack
Obama, the Boston Marathon bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square
bomber, the Ft. Hood shooter, and in my own state, the Little Rock
recruiting office shooter.
In over seven years after 9/11 under George W. Bush, how many terrorists
reached their target in the United States? Zero! We need to ask why is
the Obama administration failing in its mission to stop terrorism before it
reaches its targets in the United States!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the strangest presentation I`ve ever heard on this
show in all the years I`ve been doing it. We had no terrorists reach our
shores under the George W. Bush administration. Check back to 9/11.
And even in the craziest world, how can you compare what happened to us on
9/11 with four airplanes being hijacked and all those thousands of people
being killed, to all these -- almost all these other cases he mentioned,
this guy, Cotton, who I hope I never hear of again because he`s not worth
This guy is talking about, basically, homegrown people, not got to the
United States. He`s acting like they snuck in the border. They`re here.
And that`s one thing we have to focus on.
That`s my question to you, Congressman Keating. This tricky part here --
it`s one thing to uncover a sleeper cell which is somewhat connected to,
say, al Qaeda. How do you uncover a mindset that`s picked up over the
Internet? How do you find the danger in the individual lone wolf?
KEATING: Oh, I think we can go in that regard, but I`m not going to not
address another issue. A few minutes -- it was actually a short period of
time after the bombing, my phone rang. And it was the White House staff
calling me, saying, as they did other Boston officials, the full assets of
the United States of America are there to help you.
You just came from Boston, Chris. This is not a Democratic-Republican
issue. To bring the president into this is really -- this isn`t the right
time to do it.
MATTHEWS: I know.
KEATING: And it`s really disingenuous. And you know, back to your
question. We will learn a lot. It`s been a progression. We have made
such progress in the last 10 years. I had a field hearing in Homeland with
my chair, Mr. McCaul, in Boston looking at where we`ve been in the last 10
years. It`s one of the best centers, anti-terrorist centers in the
country. They do their job every day. We have improved dramatically.
What we have to address is, it`s harder. We`re under greater risk from
these homegrown and domestic terrorists.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It`s common sense.
KEATING: So it`s improved, but the risk has gotten worse. That`s what we
have to acknowledge. We still face risks living in this country. We have
to do our best to minimize it. And we don`t do that by playing politics or
MATTHEWS: I agree.
KEATING: We do it by working together, just the way the law enforcement
officials did in Boston last week.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you there. People like Nidal Hasan are very hard
to detect. Not everybody goes around shouting from a rooftop that they`ve
become a jihadist. It`s not the way it works.
Thank you so much. It`s great to have you on the show, Congressman William
Keating of Massachusetts.
KEATING: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Gun safety advocates were furious when the Senate
voted against better background checks, but can they turn their anger into
votes? That`s the key question. Do they have the clout? And should they,
can they punish those senators who went the other way on the issue when the
voting comes around next November?
And look who`s talking. Today, it`s Hillary Clinton`s first day on the big
money lecture circuit. There she is. And everyone will be listening for
clues as to whether she`s running for president in 2016. I think she is,
but only she knows.
Plus, on the eve of the opening of the George W. Bush presidential library
in Dallas -- isn`t there an irony in having him have a library? -- the
former president says his relationship with Dick Cheney is "cordial." You
think it`s got something to do with Dick Cheney manipulating him into a
hard, unnecessary war? You think?
And President Obama`s failsafe method of making sure his daughters don`t
get tattoos. This is really funny. And that`s where it belongs, in the
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Americans don`t seem to like the congressional leadership
up there. A new Gallup poll finds all four leaders in Congress are
Start with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, 34 percent have a
negative opinion of him, only 26 percent give him a thumbs-up. He`s on the
wrong side of history there. As for the Senate majority leader, Harry
Reid, he`s 38 percent negative, just 27 percent positive.
On the House side, House Speaker John Boehner is up -- well, he`s disliked
by 41 percent, liked by just 31 percent. But the least liked leader in
Congress, unfortunately I think, is Nancy Pelosi. The minority leader has
a 48 percent negative rating compared to a 31 percent positive.
It`s really no surprise when polls consistently show the favorability of
Congress as a whole is somewhere around 12 percent. So they`re all leading
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. If there was any question senators
who voted against background checks would be held accountable in 2014, new
radio ads now from Gabrielle Giffords`s gun safety group should erase any
doubt. Here`s part of the ad they`re using against Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell -- love this one -- who`s up for reelection in 2014.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We watched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He fired 154 shots.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We listened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gunned down 20 children in under five minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We felt it, Newtown. But Senator McConnell won`t
listen to us. Eighty-two percent of Kentuckians support universal
background checks, but Senator McConnell voted against them. McConnell
opposed common sense checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,
written by a Republican and a Democrat, supported by law enforcement
officers. It was a common sense plan (INAUDIBLE), but Senator McConnell
ignored the will of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And Democrats who voted against background checks or better
background checks for gun buyers are hardly off the hook.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee ran this ad in seven newspapers
across Montana on Sunday, this Sunday, featuring local gun owners angry
about Senator Max Baucus` vote. And Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark
Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will get the same
treatment soon from that group.
Joining me right now is David Axelrod, former Obama senior adviser MSNBC
political analyst and Republican strategist John Feehery.
Somehow, I have a different attitude towards the Republicans and the
Democrats who voted on this thing.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know why it is, because I`m not always partisan. But I
really do have a problem with Mitch McConnell. I would like to see him get
stung hard on this one. So, why do I think like that?
MATTHEWS: Because he tends to be an SOB generally? Does anybody like that
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You don`t like Mitch McConnell, but I
MATTHEWS: You like Mitch McConnell?
FEEHERY: And I don`t think this is going to hurt him.
DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You`re in the minority,
MATTHEWS: Nobody likes him.
FEEHERY: They like him enough in Kentucky.
AXELROD: He`s the least popular incumbent running for reelection right
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
AXELROD: But I will say this, Chris.
His concern right now is not about a general election. It`s about a
primary. And until the primary filing is done --
AXELROD: Well, we will see what happens after.
But until the primary filing is done, he`s looking over his right shoulder.
And he doesn`t really care about these ads. Now, I applaud what they`re
doing, because I think until people believe that they may lose their seats
because of these votes, they`re going to continue to knuckle under to the
AXELROD: So, for example, they`re running ads against Kelly Ayotte in New
Hampshire, where I think it can be terribly damaging to her. She`s lost 10
points or more in her favorable rating since --
MATTHEWS: Is that a pro-gun or a middle-of-the-road gun state?
AXELROD: Think about it. The southern half of that state is in the Boston
MATTHEWS: I know.
AXELROD: So, I think it`s more and more becoming --
MATTHEWS: Is that a live free or die state really in terms of guns?
FEEHERY: I think it is, especially in a Republican primary.
AXELROD: But a general election --
FEEHERY: And the other thing about this, 2016 that she`s up again, a lot
of water could be under the bridge.
MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t it the smart move if you`re going to shoot at
somebody, politically kill them, pick people who really are in trouble?
Then if you knock them off by pushing them a couple inches over, you can
Why go after people like Max Baucus, who`s not running again? Isn`t that a
waste of money?
AXELROD: I`m sure they would like to get their money back.
MATTHEWS: Why would you go after somebody on the other side you don`t
really like who can`t be beat?
FEEHERY: And everyone knows that vote helped Max Baucus if he was going to
MATTHEWS: You know the politics of this. Heidi Heitkamp is taking a lot
of heat. I heard it from a lot of -- from leaders.
My view is, and looking it just from her polls, you`re virginal
politically. You just get in office. And you`re a Democrat winning in a
red state. Don`t make your first big vote against what seems to be the
local attitude. I can understand exactly why she --
AXELROD: I understand her thinking.
I think, you know, politicians act like politicians, and then we`re shocked
about that. They`re politicians. They want to win.
MATTHEWS: But they`re also supposed to represent their states.
AXELROD: They are supposed to represent their states.
But as you can see from that Kentucky poll on background checks, there`s a
-- you know, but there`s just abject fear of the NRA. So people have to
begin to feel --
FEEHERY: For Heidi Heitkamp, it`s going to be awfully hard to beat her
now, because she`s with the NRA. And it`s North Dakota.
MATTHEWS: So, you thought it was a smart vote for her?
FEEHERY: I think a very smart vote.
MATTHEWS: OK. On immigration, this is tricky for a lot of reasons, ethnic
and all kinds of reasons. Immigration -- this ad by Americans for a
Conservative Direction, it`s led by -- it`s not what it sounds like. This
is a moderate push. This is Haley Barbour.
People, they think -- they`re pushing seriously for immigration reform,
pushing the Rubio approach. As NBC`s "First Read" put it, "If you wanted
another example of how the GOP establishment is fully behind immigration
reform, it`s this ad."
Let`s watch it. This is pro-immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Anyone who thinks that what we have now on
immigration is not a problem is fooling themselves. What we have in place
today is de facto amnesty.
NARRATOR: Conservative leaders have a plan, the toughest enforcement
measure in the history of the United States.
RUBIO: They have to pass the background check. They have to be able to
pay a registration fee. They have to pay a fine.
NARRATOR: Border security on steroids, tough border triggers, and no
giveaways for lawbreakers.
RUBIO: No federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare.
They have to prove that they`re gainfully employed.
NARRATOR: Bold, very conservative, a tough line on immigration.
RUBIO: It puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history
of the United States, potentially in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So they`re going to deny people something he wanted to deny the
whole country. Anyway, I think it`s really nervy.
AXELROD: Well, I think --
MATTHEWS: What do you think --
AXELROD: The ad was immediately denounced by Erick Erickson and the right
in the Republican Party, because they think --
MATTHEWS: But that`s the right-wing zoo.
AXELROD: Yes, but they can have a bit of a civil war here.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it is.
Let`s talk about that civil war. What happens if you have a good, tough
bill which has got teeth in it, no easy rides, no amnesty, just a tough
thing? If you want to become an American, you got to sweat it, right?
What`s wrong with that politically for your party?
FEEHERY: Well, nothing except for the fact it`s going to be hard to get it
out of the House. We have to get 70, 75 votes for it out of the Senate to
get enough momentum to get it through the House.
You`re going to have 80 people voting against any comprehensive immigration
bill, no matter what it did, who are Republicans.
MATTHEWS: They like what we got?
FEEHERY: Well, they like what they got and they want to be --
MATTHEWS: Because that`s the alternative.
FEEHERY: They`re worried about their primaries. So, this is the big
So, for Republicans, they have got to find a bipartisan path through the
House and have the majority of Republicans vote for it. That`s going to be
hard. But Rubio --
MATTHEWS: Could I ask you a question? Would it be good for America if the
11 million people that are here and have been here building families and
building lives and law-abiding, 90 percent of them, is it better for
America that they find some hope of becoming one of us officially?
AXELROD: -- a rhetorical question.
MATTHEWS: I`m not getting an answer.
FEEHERY: It`s also better for Republicans.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good.
FEEHERY: The quicker they get up to the middle class, they start voting
MATTHEWS: And is it also good -- I will go to you on the left side.
Is it also good we have a real border we enforce?
AXELROD: Without question.
MATTHEWS: OK. All right.
AXELROD: And the president feels that way as well. And we have seen him
MATTHEWS: And you can`t hire somebody illegally?
MATTHEWS: And you both agree with that? Businesses shouldn`t be able to
hire people legally -- in the country illegally -- illegally?
AXELROD: This is a microcosm, though.
MATTHEWS: Business want the cheap labor, don`t they?
AXELROD: Chris, the Republican Party --
MATTHEWS: Don`t they want the cheap labor?
FEEHERY: I think what business wants -- good business wants good workers
to work hard. That`s what business really wants.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, we`re going to get an immigration bill, yes or no,
AXELROD: Well, I think Paul Ryan coming out this weekend I thought was a
MATTHEWS: That`s positive. Ryan/Rubio is a big push.
FEEHERY: It`s going to be messy, but I think Marco Rubio has done a
MATTHEWS: Is Boehner going to respond to the American people on this?
FEEHERY: I think he`s going to respond to his own constituents. The
business community wants this, as does the Christian conservatives. They
want it. So, this --
MATTHEWS: Is it better for Obama to hang back on this or go forward?
FEEHERY: Hang back.
AXELROD: Yes, I agree with that. But this is a microcosm of the --
AXELROD: This is a microcosm --
MATTHEWS: So, lead from behind.
AXELROD: This is a microcosm of the problem for the Republican Party.
They have to decide whether they want to be a regional, ideological party.
AXELROD: Anglo, old white party, or whether they want to be a national
FEEHERY: What we want to be is we want to be a winning party. And I think
that this helps us.
MATTHEWS: You`re the new breed, aren`t you?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod. Thank you, John Feehery, a
reasonable man this week. We never know which guy we`re going to get.
MATTHEWS: Up next, President Obama`s foolproof way to ensure his daughters
don`t get tattoos. By the way, every father should watch this. It might
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: And back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."
When it was discovered that the two suspects in the attacks on the Boston
Marathon were from Chechnya, some unexpected confusion ensued. It turns
out that some people were mixing up Chechnya with the Czech Republic, you
know, where Czechs come from, a vastly different country, almost 2,000
miles away from Chechnya.
Well, I have no idea how someone could make that error. But the Czech
Republic`s ambassador to these United States stepped in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Czech Republic is a European country. It`s a
different thing than Chechnya. Obviously, we have been seeing things on
the social media that people are mixing the Czech Republic and Chechnya. I
wish to stress that this is the Czech Republic, a country of Central
Europe, and a Europe, NATO ally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Just goes to show, never Google thyself.
And take a look at the headline from a Polish news Web site featuring a
shot of Sarah Palin. Well, the headline translates to "Let`s Burn Prague:
Sarah Palin Calls for the Invasion of the Czech Republic."
And before you think the worst, here`s the source for that report, The
Daily Currant, a satirical news Web site here in the U.S. So, no, Palin
didn`t say that. But for a brief period, some people in Poland thought she
did. Shows what they think of her.
Next, parenting tips from President Obama. Here he is with NBC`s Savannah
Guthrie on a plan to get his daughters thinking twice before getting any
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we have said to the
girls is, if you guys ever decide you`re going to get a tattoo, then mommy
and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we will go on
YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo.
And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow
that`s a good way to rebel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Sounds promising. I`m not that~ optimistic.
Next, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets fact-checked after something
he said to a 4-year-old at a town hall. Let`s look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What`s your favorite TV show?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What`s my favorite TV show? OK.
I like to watch sports on TV. So that`s what I watch most of the time. So
how about my favorite station is ESPN? What`s your favorite TV show?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: "Scooby-Doo."
CHRISTIE: And how old are you?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Four.
CHRISTIE: Four. Excellent.
Well, when I was 4, my favorite show was "Scooby-Doo," too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, ridiculously, I think, watchdog group PolitiFact did some
diligent digging there.
Here`s Stephen Colbert with the result.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": It turns out Christie was
full of Scooby doo-doo.
COLBERT: And he was exposed by Pulitzer Prize-winning watchdog group
PolitiFact, who reported: "Given the governor`s birth date and the official
premiere date of `Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" Christie would have been 7
years old, not 4, if he had watched the show`s first episode."
COLBERT: Christie was clearly lying about watching "Scooby-Doo" when he
COLBERT: And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren`t for
those meddling kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I will give Christie far more than a free pass for that one.
Finally, as I said yesterday, this congressional race down in South
Carolina between Mark Sanford and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth
Colbert Busch, is a piece of work. The action today, Sanford took to the
streets to protest his opponent`s decision to only participate in one
debate by putting on a debate of his own. Sanford stood on a street corner
debating, if you will, this cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi.
In response to the one-sided face-off, a spokesman for Colbert Busch said:
"Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support
Well, a recent PPP poll showed Sanford trailing Colbert Busch by 9
percentage points. This is not serious.
Up next, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush hit the lecture circuit in
Dallas. They`re going to do it tomorrow. Are we watching a preview of
coming attractions politically? There they are.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC "Market
Stocks nap a three-day winning streak. The Dow falls 43 points, the S&P
and the Nasdaq ending flat. Ford`s revenue and profits came in better than
expected thanks to strength in the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, earnings
from Boeing also exceeded estimates, sending shares up by 3 percent.
However, orders for long-lasting durable goods plunged by 5.7 percent last
month. Economists had expected orders to fall just 2.8 percent.
And that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide. Now it`s back over
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completed step one of her
new life, rest. Now she`s into step two, speeches. Tonight, she makes her
debut in the speaking world with a private event in Dallas. And while no
one thinks she will tackle the 2016 question yet, it will be on the minds
of everyone in that room and certainly during the Q&A.
I have got two MSNBC political analysts with me tonight. Of course, the
great Howard Fineman is editorial director for The Huffington Post. And
that`s just the beginning.
MATTHEWS: And Joan Walsh is Salon`s editor at large. Her book "What`s the
Matter with White People" personally offends me, but that`s all right.
That`s now in paperback, much cheaper, but you get a smaller piece of that.
MATTHEWS: Joan, a worthy addition, I`m sure.
Let me go to this question of Hillary Clinton. It seems to me if you pay -
- these people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hear these people
speak, the question period is always part of the money. That`s part of the
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: Won`t those people in the audiences, whoever they are, they`re
in the real estate business or housing business, I guess, today, aren`t
they going to ask what are you up to? What are you doing?
WALSH: Absolutely, Chris. They`re going to want to know. There are going
to be people in the audience, even though we`re not allowed to be there,
who are going to be pressing that question.
And she`s always got a deft answer. So, I don`t think her being out there
really means anything about her intentions. She always said she intended
to speak, she intended to write. She didn`t decide to join a cloister or
go away, you know, on a long trip.
WALSH: This is part of what she said she`d be doing.
But, you know, I`m sure she`s going to be grilled by the people there.
It`s the top -- it`s the top-of-mind question.
MATTHEWS: What would be your question as a craftsman and as -- and a --
someone who has the tradecraft? Would it be, what would stop you from
running? How would you frame it if you were in the audience and were
allowed in tonight?
WALSH: I would -- if I were allowed in, I would probably say, you know,
millions of American women want to see the first woman president. You have
the best chance of making their dream come true. And how do you feel about
that? How will you resist the pressure and the call of history to make
that run again and make it happen?
MATTHEWS: Hmm. That`s an advocacy position we just heard. Ha!
MATTHEWS: But that`s` a strong one. I would ask, what would stop you?
Because I can`t think of what the answer would be.
You have all the marbles. You have all the tickets as politicians say,
Howard. You have the name ID, the popularity approval.
Look at this number. This is our latest favorability in the new Gallup
poll. Look at this.
She`s at 64 percent. Nobody is at 64 percent. Nearly two in three
Americans see her favorably -- not surprisingly, nine in 10 Democrats give
her a favorable rating.
That`s a lot higher than Vice President Joe Biden who`s nearly split at
45/42. That`s sort of -- you know, that`s a pretty good number to be at.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well --
MATTHEWS: It`ll come down a bit when she runs.
FINEMAN: I`m sure it wouldn`t work, but I would try what Joan would try,
which is the sort of guilt route.
In other words, as I said the other week when I was here talking about
Hillary, I saw Hillary at the Vital Voices annual event here which is to
promote the role of women around the world, women in leadership roles.
And I would -- I would ask her, how could you not? Given those people,
given that you spent your whole life trying to make sure that women have
equal opportunity to lead and you with such a high favorable rating, you
with such a base in the country, you with a husband who was a president,
you who have seen things so up close, you who have been senator, how could
you not do it?
MATTHEWS: And if you can stand up there in front of 2,000 people or some
huge crowd, you know, we`ve all had a shot at this. When you get a big
crowd out there, it takes such guts to walk on that stage and give a
powerful speech about what you think of the world, if you can do that you
can run for president. That`s what`s hardest about running.
FINEMAN: And I also think she`s learned a lot of lessons about 2008, which
is not to run as an incumbent. Not to sit in your sunroom and say I`ll
MATTHEWS: The sunroom line was interesting. I read that today.
FINEMAN: But to get out there, get out there and earn it. And she`s going
to travel the country, make a lot of money, but also see a lot of people.
MATTHEWS: Well, just last question to Ms. Joan. Do you think it`s
important for her to be visible? I think you mentioned that a minute ago,
because some people have said, I`ve been reading it all today getting
ready, they think if she does fade, becomes a bit of a -- you know,
cloistered life, if she does become a reader or stays out in the sunroom or
whatever it is, that people like Martin O`Malley of Maryland will get a
couple steps toward her. They`ll never catch her, probably, and maybe
Andrew Cuomo or someone or the vice president.
The vice president is running every day of the week by nature of his job.
MATTHEWS: Do you think she really ran a risk in not going public giving
WALSH: Well, you know, I think she`s got such a high profile, Chris. But
she`s going to have to get out there. And she will be out there making
much more public speeches. We will see her. We will hear from her.
It`s also a -- there`s a weird interval here where we have a president.
He`s doing mostly a great job. For her to be running for his position, I
don`t know, there`s something a little bit unseemly for her to just come
right out and take her political place right now. So --
MATTHEWS: I agree.
By the way, I know one way she can guarantee to win the nomination as if
there`s any doubt. Have the opponents attack her on the Republican side.
The minute they attack Hillary Clinton, she is the nominee.
Anyway, now to another possible 2016 contender, Jeb Bush. He, too, was in
Dallas today with a speaking event in advance of his brother`s library
In an interview with C-Span`s Steve Scully, former President George W. Bush
said what his advice would be to his brother Jeb if he chooses to enter the
Quote, "My first advice is run. My advice would be surround yourself with
good people, create an environment in which they don`t feel like they need
to walk in and pander with you, but they can walk in and give you their
frank opinions. I tell people and audiences a key component of a leader is
someone who understands what he doesn`t know and then finds people and
places them on a team who do know what he doesn`t know."
Now, all I can think of is the danger in that recommendation, Howard.
Because he was surrounded by well-read intellectual -- what we used to call
egghead people. The neocons who knew so much more about foreign policy
than him but had an agenda.
FINEMAN: Well, on the topic of George W. Bush for a minute, the problem
with that formulation is that he didn`t know what he didn`t know. George
W. was a profoundly incurious guy. He was almost proud of his lack of
curiosity. So he couldn`t balance and evaluate the expertise that was
thrown at him by those people that he had around him. That was the
fundamental -- that was the fundamental flaw of George W. Bush`s
I know Jeb also. And I think Jeb is not that kind of guy. I think Jeb is
much more on the -- on the muscle to use a horse racing term.
MATTHEWS: He knows what he knows.
FINEMAN: He knows what he knows.
FINEMAN: Yes. And he is curious. And he`s broad gauged.
I`ll tell you what, if Mario -- if Marco Rubio does not run, Jeb almost has
to run, because he`s the only other major figure in the party who can reach
out to Hispanics.
WALSH: Wouldn`t it be a sad thing to recycle a Bush? I mean, for the
Republican Party, the one silver lining of last year, we were told, was
that they had such a deep bench. Whether it was Chris Christie or Paul
Ryan or Marco Rubio or Rand Paul. To recycle a Bush just seems like a
backwards losing --
MATTHEWS: All I want them to do is run somebody I can imagine voting for.
Anyway, thank you very much, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Joan Walsh.
Up next, on the eve of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential
Library, we`re going to be down there tomorrow. Bush says his relationship
with Dick Cheney is cordial. What do you see in that? What a strange
thing to say about a guy you worked with for eight years, cordial? What
went wrong between these two?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: So what`s behind George Bush and Dick Cheney`s cordial
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
It`s no secret that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had a strained
relationship during W.`s second term, especially after Bush filed Cheney`s
longtime pal and mentor, Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. Now, on
the eve of the Bush Presidential Library opening, the Bush-Cheney
relationship is still frosty.
Here`s what the former president about his relationship with Cheney with C-
Span`s Steve Scully. "It`s been cordial but he lives in Washington and we
live in Dallas. You know, I just I don`t see many of the people I worked
with much and it`s kind of sad."
Well, David Corn is the bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and MSNBC political
analyst, and Wayne Slater is the senior political writer at "The Dallas
Morning News" and co-author of "Bush`s Brain".
Wayne, is the phone system broken down there in Dallas? Where you can`t
get a hook-up with somebody in the eastern shore here?
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: He`s never heard of Skype.
MATTHEWS: Is there a real technical reason that you live like in Borneo,
otherwise known as Texas? I mean, what`s this excuse about I don`t see
this guy because we`re separated geographically. What do you make of this
WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: I make of it exactly what you`ve
already said. He`s got three problems here. Cheney didn`t give him good
advice, and you can get through all that.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
SLATER: The second thing is, that Cheney -- Bush has always been
sensitive, even though he claims he`s not been, sensitive of the idea that
someone around him has run in the works, that he always needs adult
supervision. I remember one day on the lawn at the governor`s mansion when
George Bush was governor for an event and we were a couple of us were
talking to Karl Rove, Bush came out, looked at us, scowled and said, you
know, when the Rove news conference is over, maybe I`ll do mine.
He was very sensitive, very sensitive to the idea that there was a Bush`s
brain, that there was a Dick Cheney running the White House and so forth.
I don`t know if he believed that. I know that David has written
extensively about that. But it`s something that`s always really bothered
him. Of course, at the very end there, Cheney`s hard push on Scooter
Libby, that just ruined things.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I have a theory that it`s more a bigger picture, that it
began much earlier after he realized he had been snookered on Iraq.
CORN: You know, I don`t -- the thing about Bush is, it`s hard to know how
self-reflective he is even when you look at his paintings, and whether he
would ever allow himself to believe that he was snookered.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s try this space, let`s do this with paint by numbers.
You hire Dick Cheney to run your special presidential team.
MATTHEWS: And somehow you end up at the bottom of the pile with nobody
else qualified and you end up with Dick Cheney. Do you, somewhere during
the time, we thought about that. That was 12 years ago. Do you think
during the past 12 years, he thought -- well, wait a minute, maybe that was
CORN: Well, I wonder, I mean, when he gave the interview last week --
MATTHEWS: The "Angler".
CORN: He said again and again that he`s comfortable with who he is, he has
no regrets. The bottom line here is, as cordial as the relationship may
be, which I think means frosty, no matter how much Bush distances himself
from Dick Cheney, the two forever share a co-byline on the Iraq war and all
the other sort of misdeeds.
So, all the -- whatever is happening with them now, they are tied together
unlike any president and vice president in our history.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the Scooter Libby job. Look, I respect one
thing about Scooter Libby. His incredible loyalty. I mean, he has never
come out and said the boss told me to do all this.
But the boss, in this case, Dick Cheney, Wayne, set out and said it. He
said, we`re leaving a soldier on the field. He was out there fighting our
battle for us.
Scooter Libby gave up his law practice, his white shoe law firm and
everything to serve Cheney and the country in his way. And he was doing
stuff for Cheney. He was talking to Judith Miller, he`s talking to
everybody for Cheney. But at the time, Cheney stepped back and acted like
he had nothing to do with it. Now, Cheney is saying, he`s a soldier for
Which is it, is he a soldier or an outlaw?
CORN: Don`t forget, he lied for Dick Cheney. He lied --
MATTHEWS: I know he did. Well, he did. That`s what I`m getting it.
How can he say it both ways, he wasn`t doing our job for us and yet he died
as a soldier on the field? Your thoughts, Wayne, because you brought it
up. I don`t know much about this relationship. Why is he keeping a
secret, what Cheney told him to do?
SLATER: Part of the key here is to look at it from Cheney`s point of view
and Bush`s point of view. Cheney is convinced that Scooter Libby deserved
the pardon because he was a soldier on the field.
But to George Bush`s point of view, what he saw at the end of his eighth
year tenure who is elbowing him saying, come on, the law be damned, let`s
give this guy a pardon -- it was exactly the kind of thing that Bush
himself found repulsive in the case of other presidents, including Bill
Clinton, he gave some pardons.
MATTHEWS: I know. Thank you, Wayne.
SLATER: Bush thought to himself as a matter of principle, this is
something I don`t like. It was the clash where only one guy had the final
-- was the decider and it was George Bush.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know why.
I got the explanation because the vice president never told honestly what
Scooter did under orders from the vice president. That`s why. You might
have considered him a soldier and a not a felon (ph) in the case.
Anyway, thank you, Wayne Slater. Thank you, David Corn. I know I`m being
Anyway, a reminder, I`ll be anchoring MSNBC`s coverage of the opening of
the George W. Bush Presidential Library tomorrow, all day from Dallas. It
all begins tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. That will be 10:00
Central. We`ll be up early.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish here:
George W. Bush, you know when your parents told you to spend your time with
the right people, don`t go hanging out with the bad ones, they will get you
in trouble? Remember that?
Well, someone should have told this to George W. Bush. As a candidate for
president, he said something good about foreign policy. He said he wanted
to see more humility on our foreign policy. You know, know your limits,
don`t push people around. I thought he was on to something.
And then he let Dick Cheney unto his team. Cheney`s job was supposed to be
finding a vice president for him. Cheney saw his chance and got himself
Didn`t Bush see this happening or, better yet, how many times must he have
looked backwards over these years, these 12 years and said, how did I let
him get that one over on me?
Well, this was his father`s pr predicament after he picked Dan Quayle as
vice president. He wrote in his diary what a terrible mistake it was but
said he couldn`t admit it.
Is this a problem specific to the Bush family? Is coming to the presidency
through their highborn status, some American version of divine right, where
the gimmick is to really believe in it, make it come true through force of
will and then damn it, you really do believe it? Therefore, you can never
admit you`re wrong because that would mean advocating the whole divine
right thing, the whole notion you were born to the ruling class in the
It`s the best I could come up with. Why on Earth, using commonsense, has
George W. Bush not come to the basic reckoning that Dick Cheney pulled the
wool over him time after time, picking Rumsfeld, picking Wolfowitz, moving
him into a war that bore no relation whatsoever to 911, making him to do
whatever Cheney would have done were he formally in charge.
Look, I have a healthy suspicion that the president is precisely what I`m
talking about right now and yet to dick Cheney was, yes, the joker in the
deck would bring down his whole house of cards.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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