updated 4/30/2013 11:41:47 AM ET 2013-04-30T15:41:47

HARDBALL
April 29, 2013

Guests: Bobby Ghosh, Jon Wertheim, Joe Solmonese, Lizz Winstead, Margaret Carlson


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: War song.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. The hawks sing from the same song sheet. Have
you noticed? The same chorus of neocons and good old-fashioned hawks is
out there now doing it again, just like they did with Iraq and will be
doing again with Iran. They`re all on the same page.

Ready? Here it comes. If we don`t get engaged militarily in Syria --
Syria -- that will lead to a war with North Korea and Iran. Got it? If we
don`t fight Assad in Syria, we`ll be fighting the mullahs in Iran and Kim
Jong Un in North Korea.

Who passes out these lyrics? Is there a clearinghouse somewhere, a
conference call where everyone in the choir gets the cue, gets the tune
right for the next war?

I listened to all this, this last time, heard the same rhapsody played over
and over about how easy it would be, what a cakewalk it was going to be
going into Iraq, how there`d be a mushroom cloud over America if we didn`t
attack and attack then.

Well, here it comes again. If you can tell the difference between what
McCain and Graham and John Bolton are saying this week, it`s only in the
sound of their voice. The message is pure and simple and familiar -- let`s
get in this one. Let`s go to war with another Islamic country because it`s
going to be so easy, just another piece of cake.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and Bobby
Ghosh is editor of "Time" International. By the way, I love you talking to
-- what`s his name? Who`s that guy named -- the guy who tells the
Republicans how to talk?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, Frank Luntz?

MATTHEWS: Yes. You were the guy that broke the story.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- that`s great. Let`s talk about the Iranian argument now.
It came up this weekend by Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Mike
Rogers. If the president doesn`t act, they say, the mullahs in Tehran will
-- well, they`ll not take them seriously. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we keep this hands-off
approach to Syria, this indecisive action towards Syria, kind of not
knowing what we`re going to do next, we`re going to have a war with Iran
because Iran`s going to take our inaction in Syria as meaning we`re not
serious about their nuclear weapons program.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: And the problem is, you know, the
president has laid down the line. He -- you know, can`t be a dotted line.
It can`t be anything other than a red line. And more than just Syria, Iran
is paying attention to this. North Korea is paying attention to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, John Bolton, the hawk`s hawk and President Bush`s former
U.N. ambassador, echoed, or wrote, for example, those lines in a "Wall
Street Journal" column today, an op-ed. He wrote, "If Mr. Obama allows
this red line to be crossed unanswered, is that his latest act of foreign
policy fecklessness? Provide (INAUDIBLE) provided further proof to Iran,
North Korea and other adversaries, whether -- whether states or terrorists,
that he is not a force to be reckoned with."

Well, there it is. Something -- you`re a student of this, David.

CORN: Unfortunately, yes.

MATTHEWS: How does -- who passes out the song sheet? They all say the
same thing. Unless we go to this war, then we can`t go to the next war.
We will go to the next war. They want all these wars!

CORN: It`s a neocon, a hawkish borg. They`re all part of the same unit
here. I don`t think they need to be cued. They`re at this point already.
They`ve never met a foreign policy crisis where a military intervention,
and more of it, wasn`t the right answer.

And the thing that gets me about this particular line of argument is if you
talk to anyone who knows anything about this, all the military options are
really difficult. They may not even be effective. I ran into a Congress -
- a Democratic -- former Democratic --

MATTHEWS: Well, they don`t care, as long as we`re in it.

CORN: No, they don`t care as long as we`re in it. But you ask them -- ask
Lindsey Graham, What is your plan? What do you want to do? It`s always
just, Do something, do something. But we -- but why should we do anything
that won`t work, or that might be ineffective just because Iran will laugh
-- laugh at us if we don`t?

It`s backward logic. And it`s like they`re playing a game with the lives
of the Americans who they will sacrifice to show that they`re tough.

MATTHEWS: Bobby Ghosh, you know, I think it was DeGaulle who said to Henry
Kissinger, Why are you fighting in Vietnam? And he said, For our
credibility. And he said, With whom? Who are you trying to prove that
you`re willing to fight a war you can`t win? And he said, Well, the Middle
East. He said, You think they`re listening to this?

And my question to you, Bobby -- let`s look at the options. David
mentioned them. What can we do over there? If we wanted to make the war
go a slightly different direction, what could we do?

BOBBY GHOSH, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Not a whole lot. And let`s -- let`s be
clear that we`re not the only -- the United States is not the only party
that`s interested. There are plenty of other parties that are already
doing a lot of the things that those senators are asking for. Arming the
rebels? Well, the rebels are getting arms. They`re not just dropping out
of the sky. There are countries in the neighborhood that are giving them
arms.

There`s -- the Obama administration has looked at this very carefully and
they`ve gamed this out, and they do not see any of the many alternatives
leading to a positive outcome.

Now, perhaps the president misspoke when he used the term "red line." I
think if they had to do this all over again, they would not have used that
particular phrase.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

GHOSH: But they were not thinking about this when they used that phrase.
They were thinking of Halabja, like when Saddam Hussein killed hundreds of
Kurds. We had these pictures --

MATTHEWS: Of course.

GHOSH: -- of mothers and childrens lying in the -- lying in the streets
of Halabja dead. That`s what the red line was about. There were -- all
they were worried about, these chemical weapons turning up in the hands of
Hezbollah and being used, let`s say, in Israel. That`s what the red line
was about. This is not the red line that the administration had --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s get both sides of this. I`ll start with David and get
back to you on this, because this is an interesting part. Why do you think
Assad -- do you think Assad agreed to the use, even in a very limited case,
perhaps --

CORN: Well, we --

MATTHEWS: -- if he knew that that was a cause for war?

CORN: We have no idea who gave the order, who used it. Maybe there`s some
classified intelligence out there. The last time around with Iraq -- you
have to be careful when people start citing classified intelligence without
telling what`s in it. Anybody who wants to have a serious conversation
about this has to read "The New York Times" story yesterday, the front
page, about the nature of the opposition in Syria. It lays out --

MATTHEWS: They`re not our guys.

CORN: They`re not our guys. Some of them are, but the ones that are, are
not the ones doing the fighting. And you know, this is the situation.
Like, it seemed like a good idea to arm the mujahedeen at a time. But yet
--

MATTHEWS: Yes, freedom fighters --

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: -- we empowered them to become the Taliban.

And everything`s a little bit different, but if you read that piece, you`ll
see why the Obama people are proceeding slowly, cautiously and deliberately
because there`s not a lot of people to make common cause with.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Charlie Wilson`s war became Osama bin Laden`s war.
Anyway, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others have called on the U.S. to
start arming the rebels, as I said. But that`s easier said than done.

As David mentioned right then, "The New York Times" reported this weekend
that the fighting force is overwhelmingly composed of extremist groups,
including groups linked to al Qaeda. Quote, "Across Syria, rebel-held
areas are dotted with Islamic courts, staffed by lawyers and clerics and by
fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council,
the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would
sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse
Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled
Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of."

Now, on that, Bobby, I want your thoughts. Is there some group over there
we could be helping that would eventually perhaps dominate the new
government, if there`s a post-Assad government? Or is this more likely to
end up like Lebanon, with perhaps Assad and his Alawites form a lager (ph),
if you will, a last stand, where they create a part of the country loyal to
them that they can hold onto indefinitely, and therefore we would just be
arming one of the various groups fighting with each other?

GHOSH: Well, that is now the greatest risk, that you have a Lebanonization
of the situation, where you have different ethnic and religious groups that
are constantly fighting with each other for power, and any kind of
political solution is an unstable one.

This needn`t have come to this place, though. I will say that two years
ago, there were lots of groups in the fight that were -- secular is not the
right word, but that were liberal, shall we say, and that were not linked
to al Qaeda. But those groups were essentially pushed out of the fight.

he al Qaeda-based -- related groups or the al Qaeda-connected groups were
the only ones that were getting active outside help at the time, and they
took to -- and they are also, of course -- they -- many of them are
experienced fighters from other conflicts, so they were taking the sort of
forward position. They led the fight.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

GHOSH: And eventually, they came to dominate it. Right now, there are
relatively few groups available there for whom we can say, Well, these guys
are reliable and we can own (ph) them.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we have very few allies over there. Let me ask you about
this problem we have, military logistics and military strategy. If we
start flying over the country -- they apparently have a tremendously state-
of-the-art Soviet system, actually Russian-backed, more recently, of any
aircraft (INAUDIBLE) capability, missile -- there are SAM missiles. They
can shoot anything that goes overhead.

So if we get in there, we start losing pilots and start losing planes and
start getting captives -- how can you bail out over Damascus?

CORN: Any casual talk of a no-fly zone, or even a sort of a safe haven for
refugees, you know, has to be looked at with a grain of salt because of
this sophisticated air defense system built by the Russians. We, you know,
it`s not Libya. We can`t do this. You will probably have to put some
boots on the ground and have a sort of more extensive operation against
their extensive anti-air operation and have a wider war --

MATTHEWS: So why do you think guys like McCain, who does understand the
military history of our country and who is a patriot -- I know he`s on the
right and he moves further right sometimes. Why is he and Lindsey -- I
know why Bolton is. He`s an ideologue about the Middle East and he just
wants to fight all the time and get involved more deeply militarily all the
time.

But why would McCain -- is it just sticking it to Obama, do you think?
What do you think it is?

CORN: I`m not sure (ph) to suggest that. I hope it`s not. Let`s put it
that way. But they do seem to have this grand world view of this notion
of, you know, We got to be tough here, to be tough there, to be tough
there, to be tough there, regardless of whether being tough here is in our
interests or not.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: And it just keeps playing that way. Now, I`ve talked to people in
the administration, and they raise other options. Like, perhaps there`s a
proof of a chemical weapon used that is more than just minimal, that they
could have a limited military strike.

You remember back before the Iraq war, when we were arguing all this, Bush
was very successful in one thing. He made it seem there were only two
options, nothing -- we do nothing, or a full-scale invasion. The White
House is trying to look at sending a signal, sending a message, if they get
to that point.

But having an extensive military operations, no-fly zones, safe havens and
all that, I think is -- for reasons Bobby mentioned and others, it`s really
difficult to contemplate what the end game is.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to the part of "The Wall Street Journal" we all
trust, the front page, much different than the other side. Now, here`s
what it said about a no-fly zone. Quote, "Damascus has developed a world-
class air defense system. That system, built, installed and maintained
largely in secret by Russia`s military complex, presents a formidable
deterrent, as the White House draws up options for responding to a U.S.
intelligence report released last week concluding that Damascus likely used
chemical weapons on the battlefield."

Bobby, a couple questions to you. The first one is, what do you know about
the anti-aircraft capability over there, if we do send jets over? Or can
we use the Israeli approach of sort of shooting diagonally through missiles
where you go 10 miles away from your target and somehow target the missiles
to your target? That`s one option.

The other larger question is, is this war going to go on and on and on if
we stay out of it?

GHOSH: It is going to go on and on and on. I don`t think sending manned
aircraft into -- we know that -- look, I don`t know the capabilities. I`m
not a military expert. I don`t know the capabilities of people who are
actually on the controls of those systems.

But there`s no question that those systems are very, very advanced. They
spent a lot of money on it. And every expert that I know of respects the
hardware, if not the people running the hardware. So sending manned
missions over Syria is completely out of the question.

And you know, we`re not the only party involved here. Turkey is next door
and has looked very closely. The Turkish army is a quite formidable
fighting force probably compared with Syria`s. They`ve looked very closely
at this and they`ve concluded that there`s no -- that they don`t want to
get involved, although they have a huge refugee crisis at their doorstep.

If the Turks don`t want to get involved in the fight, and it`s right there
next to them in their neighborhood, I`m not sure that anybody in this
country can make a legitimate argument for the United States to send manned
aircraft into Syrian airspace.

MATTHEWS: Who are we going to make friends with if we start using drones
to blow up people within Damascus and all the collateral damage?

CORN: We already see the consequences of using drones in Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Yemen and the resentments it`s causing. And it`s very
problematic. And I`m not even -- but given the extensive nature of the air
defense system and the way their chemical weapons are spread out -- I mean,
we can`t do this with just drones. Drones target individuals, and
hopefully, high-level individuals -- not always, but that`s the theory.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m going with Einstein on this one. Spend 90 percent of
your time figuring out what you`re doing before you do it.

Thank you so much, David Corn, and of course, Bobby Ghosh. Thanks for
joining us, gentlemen.

Coming up: She hasn`t been nominated. She hasn`t won a primary. She
hasn`t even announced. But the Republican right is already trying to take
Hillary down.

Also, for the first time ever, an active player in a major American sport
has come out as gay. It`s Jason Collins. And whether his announcement is
met with a shrug or shunning will go a long way towards telling us just how
far sports, and of course, the public have come in accepting gays.

Also, you probably heard President Obama is getting great reviews for his
performance at Saturday`s White House correspondents` dinner. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks still don`t think
I spend enough time with Congress. Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch
McConnell, they ask. Really?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think that was my favorite. Behind the jokes, or that one,
there`s a lot of truth behind what he was saying. As always, the punch
line carries the message.

"Let Me Finish" tonight with the hawks` two-step dance to sell American on
wars we shouldn`t get into. They`re familiar.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania`s Republican governor Tom Corbett continues to be
on thin political ice. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, former U.S. congressman Joe Sestak
leads Corbett by 14 points right now, 48-34. Current U.S. Congresswoman
Allyson Schwartz beats him by 13 points, 47-34. And even state treasurer
Rob McCord, perhaps the least known of Corbett`s potential rivals, has a 9-
point lead over the governor, 44 to 35.

The election is a year away -- actually a year-and-a-half -- and lots of
time to change. But Corbett looks like he`s in trouble. But don`t bet
against the incumbent governor in Pennsylvania. They`ve never lost.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So how afraid are the Republicans of
Hillary Clinton in 2016? So afraid that some of them have already started
swift-boating her, if you will, trying to blame her for Benghazi.

Leading the charge right now, House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa
of California. Here he describes the report that he says shows Clinton,
quote, "denied," close quote, security for the Benghazi consulate because
her signature appears on a cable to that effect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The secretary of state was just wrong.
She said she did not participate in this. And yet only a few months before
the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in a cable April
2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the charge is outrageous for anybody who knows what
they`re talking about, and he doesn`t. The secretary of state`s signature
-- by the way, her name appears on all sorts of cables that go out, her
name. Just to prove it, here`s the wording from the State Department
handbook. "The Communications Center will place the name of the secretary
on all telegrams to posts."

And in "The Washington Post" today, the fact checker column, Glenn Kessler,
beautifully and hilariously illustrates the range of such cables, really e-
mails, that bear a secretary of state`s name. They include an advisory
about a shortage of hotel rooms in Monrovia, Liberia. That`s January 2009.
That`s also -- that was also signed, if you will, by Secretary Condoleezza
Rice in that case. A listing of new office phone numbers in the
Brazzaville embassy in the Republic of the Congo signed again -- well, here
by Secretary Clinton.

And perhaps the best of all, a cable signed, if you will, by Clinton about
e-mail etiquette, with tips like avoiding using all-cap letters. It`s
perceived as shouting, she said -- or somebody did.

By the way, I know just firsthand that all sorts of cables come signed by
the secretary of state. When I was in the Peace Corps in Swaziland,
Africa, I got one signed by William Rogers, who was then secretary of
state. And I knew it wasn`t coming from him personally. I just didn`t
count that much.

Joining me now is the HuffingtonPost`s Howard Fineman, who enjoys this, and
Salon.com`s Joan Walsh. Both are MSNBC contributors.

Just to state the fact that everybody who knows anything about foreign
policy knows all mail, cables, whatever they`re called these days, but they
are e-mails, coming from Washington bear the name Kerry, just like they`ve
done all the way back to Jefferson when they went by the Pony Express or
whatever.

This is hilarious -- I want to start with you, Joan. This is hilarious
that Darrell Issa, the new whatever, the new investigative genius of the
Republican Party --

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- has nailed onto this, something so stupid as to say Hillary
signed all these things. Your thoughts?

WALSH: Well, these guys, it`s like they have Benghazi fever and it`s
making them really dopey, Chris. But this is really embarrassing because
just the most rudimentary fact check, a low-level staffer could have
figured this out.

It shows that he has really no working knowledge of how the State
Department actually proceeds and doesn`t seem to care to push this. And
you know, his friends on Fox -- Steve Doocy is practically calling
Secretary Clinton a liar. It`s sort of metastasized over there.

It shows that he has really no working knowledge of how the State
Department actually proceeds and doesn`t seem to care to push this. And,
you know, his friends on FOX, Steve Doocy is practically calling Secretary
Clinton a liar. It sort of metastasized over there.

But it`s so easily debunked, it didn`t really enter the mainstream media
bloodstream. But they thought they could do -- they went after the
president with this stuff. They thought they could do something last
November. It never got traction.

And now, you`re right, they are. They`re throwing everything they can at
Secretary Clinton, because they`re scared of 2016.

MATTHEWS: You know, I said, Howard, before we got started, before Joan
came on as well, I talked about how they have got the same exact line on --
on Damascus, on going to war in Syria.

And, of course, you can argue about that issue. We will probably argue
about it here for months, whether we do anything or not. But for some
reason, they`re all singing from the same song sheet. And here, they have
got the Hillary, Benghazi. It`s like word association with these people.

We had a guy on last week, Rick Tyler, here he is. Look what he had to
say. He was on HARDBALL here Friday and he, too, had the same song sheet
that says Benghazi if Hillary`s name comes up. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK TYLER, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH AIDE: I think the country would be
thrilled to nominate a woman. And I think that would be fine.

But Hillary I think has a big problem. I think Benghazi, frankly,
disqualifies her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Disqualifies her, because her -- her name appeared on a document
somewhere that appears on every document coming from the State Department.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two
things going on here, Chris.

The widest lens is that the Republicans are desperate to somehow try to get
back the advantage that they once had on who`s tougher on defense.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: You know, who`s the more aggressive person in terms of projecting
strength and power around the world.

The president has done a pretty darn good job, or this president has done a
very good job of it substantively and politically. So that`s number one.

MATTHEWS: In fact, he`s gotten so far to the right, some of the people on
the left --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: A lot of people on the left are after him for exactly that.

MATTHEWS: The drones and everything else.

FINEMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: So, they have a problem because that`s been a Republican calling
card for more than a generation.

MATTHEWS: Right, all the way through the Cold War.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Yes. And they have lost it under Obama. So, that`s the big
picture.

As far as 2016 is concerned, of course, Hillary Clinton`s incredibly
popular. She has every chance of unifying the Democratic Party, keeping it
together in the way that for the most part the president has done. She`s
very formidable.

MATTHEWS: Do they believe they can stain her with this? Can they stain
her with this?

FINEMAN: I think they`re in the point -- they`re at the position now where
they`re just trying to spread whatever tacks on the highway they can.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: They don`t care what they are. Do they think this is going to be
the killer issue? No, but they`re trying to slow her down. And they`re
trying, also, I think, to look for some cable somewhere within the State
Department that they really can use.

And what they would love to do, what their dream is, to somehow set up some
kind of conflict between Hillary Clinton and the president of the United
States, which hasn`t happened yet and probably won`t happen.

MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s what the Irish call the main chancers.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`re looking for that one --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: They`re looking for that one round, and they`re not going to find
it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Jackie Gleason was always looking for the one big thing that was
going to make him a success, that one big chance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Norton, this is going to make me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And they`re out there saying if we an get her on something
that`s morally wrong, where she did -- she saw some guy in trouble, I think
their dream is she`s sitting there somewhere watching and the call comes
in, do you want to help Chris Stevens? Oh, no, don`t help him, and hang
up. That`s what they want.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts. Why are they going in on her so early? Because
she is beloved by women my age, especially, men my age, in fact, most of
them.

People figure she has earned the right to be taken quite seriously as the
next president.

WALSH: Well, I think they`re terrified.

I mean, she`s a very formidable candidate. We have talked about how she
can`t take anything for granted. And she may still not run, Chris, as we
know.

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

WALSH: But they`re very much afraid of her. They don`t have anybody who
competes in her sphere.

And so I think it`s a lot that. And it`s the old -- you know, they are
going to go back to the old Clinton rules. And they`re going to try to
taint her with anything they can find. And it just -- it doesn`t ever
ultimately stick to her. And, you know, I think they will keep trying with
Benghazi, but I don`t see why they will get anywhere.

I don`t think they`re going to find that cable that shows that she was
culpable or she didn`t care or she didn`t try.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Well, I think they have no doubt that she`s running. And I think
--

MATTHEWS: They got nobody to beat her.

FINEMAN: They don`t have anybody to beat her.

And Roger Ailes, who`s a very shrewd newsman as well as a political guy, is
looking at his audience at FOX and thinking, you know, that`s the -- that`s
the -- she`s the person that people at FOX are concerned about. That`s for
sure.

MATTHEWS: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, I didn`t know that. You mean, you`re assuming or
knowing?

FINEMAN: No, I`m assuming.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s a good assumption.

Here`s why Republicans are focused so intensely on Hillary. A new poll
shows that Hillary Clinton`s favorability numbers in New Hampshire, an
interesting place, are at 88 percent favorable, 5 percent unfavorable.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, they got a long way to drive up her unfavorable.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: They might get her to 10.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know anybody besides Santa Claus that`s in the single
digits.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean --

WALSH: Let`s get her to 10 or 11 and then they will have a fighting
chance.

No, it`s kind of ridiculous. But I really think that what -- what Howard
said is very interesting, because the FOX demographic may be the last
demographic where they think they have a prayer of demonizing her and
bringing back -- you know, she was not liked by that demographic.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: But I think even that demographic has enormous respect for her,
especially the women in that demographic.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I wonder whether Roger, if he`s behind this, as you suggest, he
may well believe that it`s good money for the network. He has the same
attitude toward her, perhaps, former Secretary Clinton, that I have toward
Dick Cheney. And that`s how it`s pronounced.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: It could be.

MATTHEWS: I get a delight in bringing up --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: By the way, that favorability number among Democrats in New
Hampshire, don`t forget New Hampshire has a woman governor, two women
senators.

MATTHEWS: Your point being?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: My point being is, among women of all ages --

MATTHEWS: I know.

FINEMAN: -- that`s Hillary`s base. And it`s demonstrated in New
Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, just to continue my point, briefly, one second.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney really is bad in what he`s done. Hillary Clinton is
really innocent. There`s a difference here.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. And, thank you, Joan Walsh.

Up next, the "Sideshow." All-star double play coming up featuring -- she
wasn`t governor long, but she`s on this -- our target zone for a long time.

And Louie Gohmert, the great birther himself, I don`t know who his
constituents are who keep this guy in office.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And this is the "Sideshow" featuring two of
our "Sideshow" regulars, Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, the
big birther down there in Texas, and Sarah Palin, of course.

First, Congressman Gohmert is back to his favorite topic, the takeover of
the United States by Muslim extremists. And now he`s linking that to the
Boston Marathon attack. Gohmert said President Obama`s not doing enough to
combat American Islamists because he says the Muslim Brotherhood has
infiltrated the Obama administration.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: It`s very clear to everybody but this
administration that radical Islam is at war against us.

And I`m hoping either this administration will wake up or a new one will
come in at the next election before irreparable damage is done. This
administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence
that they just are making wrong decisions for America.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In another interview, Gohmert said that he doesn`t think the
president personally is rooting for radical Islam; it`s just the people
around the president that are the danger.

Here he is -- quote -- "I don`t ascribe any ill motive to Obama. He has
advisers around him that do not have the same goal as he does. He has
people around him giving advice who support the Muslim Brotherhood, who
steer him in wrong directions."

Again, believe it or not, this is a U.S. congressman talking.

Now to Sarah Palin. Palin did not attend the White House Correspondents
Dinner on Saturday night, but tweeted on the subject. "That White House
Correspondents Dinner was pathetic. The rest of America is out there
working our asses off while these D.C. ass-clowns throw themselves a nerd
prom."

Palin, of course, had a job, as we know, as governor of Alaska, but
decided, as we all know, to take French leave. She`s also left FOX News.
I just remember her coming to the MSNBC party two years ago and she had a
great time, I believe. I don`t know. What`s her crankiness all about now?

Finally, here`s a question. If you were the parent of a college freshman,
which of these scenarios is the last thing you would want to hear? That
your child was making fake I.D.s, that they held the record for consuming
the most Jell-O shots or that they were hosting sex ed classes in their
dorm room?

A new "60 Minutes"/"Vanity Fair" poll found a party divide. Let`s go to
the top picks. Among all respondents, 25 percent said they would most fear
their child making fake I.D.s. For Democrats, 30 percent said leading the
pack in Jell-O shot consumption was the worst-case scenario.

Now, the Republicans, 28 percent said their child hosting sex ed class
would be the worst-scenario. Surprised Republicans were more concerned
about sex ed class than fake I.D.s and Jell-O shots. Democrats were not
super keen on sex ed classes either. Both parties said they would prefer
to have their child host a farm animal in their dorm room than host sex ed
classes.

Up next, a big step forward on America`s acceptance of gays, as the first
active athlete in a major American team sport has come out.

That is ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SHACTMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Brian Shactman with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

A solid rally to start the week, despite last Friday`s weaker-than-expected
GDP report, the Dow surging 106 points, the S&P 500 adding 11 to close at
new all-time highs, and the Nasdaq climbing 27 points.

The markets today bolstered by a better-than-expected 1.5 percent jump in
pending home sales, plus reports showing consumer spending and income also
moving slightly higher in the month of March.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With these simple declarative sentences -- quote -- "I`m a 34-year-old NBA
center, I`m black and I`m gay," Jason Collins today became the first openly
gay athlete playing on a major American sports team. In a cover story for
"Sports Illustrated" in this passage, Collins described what he knew he had
to come out -- when he knew he had to come out.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at
Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched
in Boston`s 2012 gay pride parade. I`m seldom jealous of others, but
hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for
participating, but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn`t even cheer
my straight friend on as a spectator. If I had been questioned, I would
have concocted half-truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration
of pride. I wanted to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to
march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand
and say, me, too."

Well, today, U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy put out a statement praising his
friend -- quote -- "For as long as I have known Jason Collins, he has been
defined by three things" -- this is really nice -- "his passion for the
sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will
ever find. Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he`s got to
those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I`m proud to stand with him
today and proud to call him a friend."

Well, joining me right now is "Sports Illustrated" senior writer Jon
Wertheim -- Wertheim -- who worked on the cover story, and Joe Solmonese,
who is former president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Joe, I know you. I don`t know Mr. Wertheim.

But thank you.

I want to get to the sports angle right now before we get to the human
rights angle.

What do you think this means, Jon, about the ability of gay people to
participate in sports at the highest level without any kind of hesitation?

JON WERTHEIM, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Yes,
this was always sort of an artificial -- you know, an artificial division,
but at the same time this is a very significant moment.

Tens of thousands of men have played these major pro sports. Before today,
none while active had come out. And I think in some ways sports is just
mirroring society and growing more comfortable with its issue. At the same
time, this is really going to be -- it`s interesting to see how this plays
out in the next few weeks. But this is really a watershed moment for
sports.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s going to get cheered in the games that follow
right away? Do you think the reaction from the crowds who are always quite
open about saying what they like and don`t like, do you think he will get
cheers when he shows up on rival basketball courts?

WERTHEIM: Overwhelmingly.

And I think rival is an interesting point. I think when he goes on the
road, he`s going to get standing ovations. I think if you follow social
media today, if you sort of listen to the remarks from some of his
colleagues, I think this is going to be the most popular player in the NBA.

I think there will obviously be -- and this is a polarizing issue, but I
think the support will overwhelm any criticism.

MATTHEWS: You know, when he gets in the game, he`s not a starter, Joe.
I`m learning all this because I`m not a big fan of some of these teams.
But, anyway -- I should be.

He`s not a starter. But when he comes off the bench, I think there is
going to be a wow.

JOE SOLMONESE, FORMER PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN TO END
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GAYS: Absolutely.

I mean, that really speaks to the transition we have seen, that this is --
that this is a moment when, you know, it feels like folks just don`t want
to kind of be supportive. They want to express their support. And what`s
the greatest thing that happened today, besides the beautiful remarks by
Joe Kennedy? Boston Red Sox asked him to throw out the first pitch in an
upcoming game.

MATTHEWS: Wow. So, Branch Rickey strikes again, huh? This is another
breakthrough.

Late yesterday, by the way -- or late today, actually, right now, the first
lady just a few minutes ago tweeted these words. Why does she have to
tweet? She has got a whole press conference.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, "So proud of you, Jason Collins. This is a huge step
forward for our country. You have got -- we have got your back" -- I don`t
know to say it -- "M.O." That M.O. sign-off -- off -- means that the tweet
is really from Michelle Obama.

I get it. That`s her -- that is her signature.

Let me ask you about the game. And, you know, I remember back here. Years
ago, we had Dave Kopay on the Redskins who I believe after his career came
out, if you will. Is that something that`s happened before, Jon?

WERTHEIM: Yes, there have been a number of athletes who, after their
playing days, have come out of the closet, I mean, and, you know, really in
all four major sports.

But this is, again, the first active athlete to do this while playing.
And, you know, he`s a free agent. It will be interesting to see where he
ends up. We`re talking about Jason Collins. But I think, you know, this
player is still in the throes of his career and this is really
unprecedented.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think the country is still, you know, Joe Solmonese
has been fighting this fight for 20 years now of marriage equality. But
the country is obviously not unanimous in either direction right now. And
it`s still somewhat of an issue that isn`t quite settled yet. You could
see it in the courts now being decided as well as in the states.

Let`s take a look at a comment that wasn`t so favorable. This is a tweet
from a Miami Dolphin football player named Mike Wallace. He put these
words, pretty strong. "All these beautiful women in the world and guys
want to mess with other guys?"

Anyway, he quickly deleted the tweet and posted this, "Never say that was
right, was so -- was right or wrong I just said I don`t understand. Deeply
worry for anyone that I offended."

The Miami Dolphins put out a statement that reads, in part, "Mike Wallace
has apologized for his comments and we have addressed the matter with him.
Mikes comments do not reflect the views of the Miami dolphins. We believe
in a culture of inclusiveness and respect and any statements to the
contrary are in no way acceptable to our organization."

Jon, it sounds to me like there was a number of steps in that. Like the
first was his impulsive reaction which is what we`ve heard about pro-sports
which is pretty homophobic. And then, of course, the ownership which makes
money on the people coming to these games had a different view.

WERTHEIM: We`re talking about a workforce with thousands. There will be
some homophobic. There will be some ill-considered remarks. But I think
you saw this with the players of Super Bowl. You really want to appear to
be on the fringes, you really want to be marginalized and appear to be
deviant, and make a homophobic remark like that.

And, you know, sure, there`s some commercial element to this and the
ownership telling him to delete it. But I think what we`re going to see is
that Jason Collins will get widespread report and we`ll get widespread
support. I think those few athletes who make tweets like that, who make
comments like that are the ones who are going to realize they`re really the
ones on the margins.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he said that, Mike Wallace -- I mean, maybe he was being
whimsical. I don`t know why, that they came off that (ph). He said,
"Never say anything that was right or wrong about this." Of course he did.

SOLMONESE: Except, if you look at the first tweet, I like to think, you
know, that was more about ignorance than malice. There are all these women
out there.

MATTHEWS: Well, there are.

SOLMONESE: Right, that`s a good point.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- wrote a book. I mean, give me a break.

SOLMONESE: I mean, again, you know, the positive tweets from people like
Kobe Bryant, his teammates.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SOLMONESE: There`s just overwhelming number of positive reactions.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s great.

And, by the way, I think it`s interesting here, and I hope I say this the
right way, he had to say it. There was no incidence. He played like a
pro. It never came up in his work. It never came up in any way socially
or in terms of professional ability. He came out and said something he
didn`t have to say and it has no meaning at all, except it shows freedom
and openness. It didn`t have anything to do and won`t have anything to do
how good of plays and how many baskets he gets.

Thank you, Jon Wertheim for coming on, from "Sports Illustrated."

And Joe Solmonese, thank you so much.

Up next -- keep up the fight. Up next, President Obama got great reviews
Saturday night at the White House Correspondents` Dinner. But behind the
laughs, as always with humor was political truther, at least from the mouth
and the brain of the person talking. This was great because he got shots
off other night of people he didn`t like too much.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Catch this. Senators who voted no on that background check vote
are suffering in the polls. Look at this.

Last week, we told you how New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte has slid
15 points in a new PPP poll. She`s hardly alone now.

Look at this. Arizona`s Jeff Flake has become the most unpopular senator
in the country since voting against background checks. He`s at 32 percent
approval in Arizona, a Republican, versus 51 percent disapproval, again, in
Arizona.

Up in Alaska, Lisa Murkowski`s no vote cost her as well. Back in February,
she was among the most popular senators. Now her approval is under 50
percent with almost as many disapproving as approving.

Now in Ohio, Rob Portman, I couldn`t believe this, has lost a net of 18
points. He`s now at 26 percent approval, 34 percent disapproval. Those
numbers were reversed six months ago.

Hmm. People like background checks, it looks like. Maybe the Senate needs
to start listening to the people and not the gun lobby.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Comedian Conan O`Brien may have been the headliner at Saturday`s White
House Correspondents` Dinner, but it was the president who stole the show
with some biting political commentary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you,
everybody.

How you like my new entrance music?

(LAUGHTER)

Rush Limbaugh warned you about this. Second term, baby.

Look in the mirror and I have to admit, I`m not the strapping young Muslim
socialist that I used to be.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: The president made fun of himself, acknowledging that some
conservatives really can`t stand him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You know that Sheldon Adelson spent $100 million of his own money
last year on negative ads? He`s got to really dislike me to spend that
kind of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And always, there were lots of jokes at the dinner. As always,
there were a lot of truths behind the laughs, of course.

Lizz Winstead is co-creator of "The Daily Show" and Margaret Carlson is a
political columnist with "Bloomberg News."

Lizz, I think it was -- I had to tell you, I`ve been to about 100 of these
things now and I thought this was the best one. I thought the president
was as good as Conan. Conan was great. He did Henny Youngman old-style
snappers than more ironic satiric stuff he does, and he was perfect for the
occasion.

But let`s get to the politics. Obama settled some scores. He went after a
lot of people there and buried in that humor was a lot of punch.

LIZZ WINSTEAD, "THE DAILY SHOW" CO-CREATOR: But I mean -- and I think
that`s what`s great. What I really loved about it was that he was --
America is paying so much attention that he got "A" ratings from everybody
because everybody`s watching. Everybody knows who the people are that are
after Obama. He went for those targets and what I really love about each
and every time he`s done this, that he`s not afraid to go up afraid to go
up to the line. He`s not afraid to drop an F-bomb and get bleeped.

You know, he calls it like he sees it. And I love that.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think he didn`t do that. Let`s make that correction
right now. He did not do that.

WINSTEAD: He didn`t do it this time, but remember he did it about Rahm
Emanuel a couple of years back. So, when he chooses to go, he`ll walk up
to the line. No, you`re correct.

MATTHEWS: I think that was a quotation from him, from Rahm, rather, than
direct quote from him. (INAUDIBLE) we say in line.

Anyway, Margaret, it just seemed to me that when he said that young
strapping Muslim socialist, he captured the image that they have in their
minds, the right wing.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: And that`s perfect. And the essence of
what`s funny about it is either to get a universal truth, as he did when he
said Michelle Obama would take the $100 million that Sheldon Adelson had.
Or to the self-deprecating and kind of realistic way, I thought the Marco
Rubio line was one of the best when he said, you know, what about a first
term senator -- he hasn`t finished his first term and thinks that he can be
president?

MATTHEWS: Yes. And he also took a jab on himself as you say, along with
the GOP. Here he is for his recent, recent outreach to Republicans. Now,
here he is saying you`re trying to remember a minority group, every person
into your side and think with them and join with them and include with
them. Here he is reacting to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I`m taking my charm offensive on the road -- a Texas barbecue with
Ted Cruz, Kentucky Bluegrass Concert with Rand Paul, and a book burning
with Michele Bachmann.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, a lot of people didn`t like that, Lizz. Your
thoughts?

WINSTEAD: Well, you know --

MATTHEWS: They thought it was too much of a jab. It does suggest a
certain historic reference to Goebbels and all of that, with the book
burning.

WINSTEAD: But I think it also suggests -- when you look at the historical
comments that Michele Bachmann has made about the president on and on and
on, I think it`s great. And I think the president did what every comic
does who is on TV doing it, whether it`s an HBO special or you`re the
president doing the White House Correspondents` Dinner, you are not only
playing to that 1,000 people in that room, you`re playing to the viewers,
and he knows that and he did it great, because let me tell you what, the
Twittersphere was loving that joke.

MATTHEWS: I`m amazed how many people watch this, Margaret.

CARLSON: I know.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me, you didn`t get invited to the party but show up
anyway.

CARLSON: But a lot of people are invited to the party, but go to watch it
on C-SPAN and then come to the after parties.

But I disagree. I think book burning was a little jarring. That`s not
where we are.

One of the things the president does is he doesn`t really go after people
in the room. The only time I saw him go after people was when he did
Donald Trump, and Donald Trump was really uncomfortable.

MATTHEWS: He was frozen.

CARLSON: He was frozen. One of the best ones was, you know, he`s aloof
and people don`t like him and a little joke, and he said, then they want me
to go have a drink with Mitch McConnell. You go have a drink with Mitch
McConnell.

MATTHEWS: It`s so great.

(CROSSTALK)

WINSTEAD: That was my favorite joke too.

MATTHEWS: You think so, too, Lizz, because everybody has this sort of feel
for Mitch. It wouldn`t be much of a drink, in terms of it won`t be much of
a moment.

Anyway, the president also talked about Republican`s recent minority
outreach efforts. This was my favorite. But he says they still haven`t
got it right. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I know Republicans are still sorting out what happened in 2012, but
one thing they all agree on is they needed to do a better job of reaching
out to minorities. And, then, look, call me self-centered but I can think
of one minority they could start with. Hello?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Lizz, what did you think of that? I thought it was pretty nice
that he admitted they could have done a little nicer, like say, let`s go --
you know, work out one of these deals, like a grand bargain or something
bargain or something like that.

WINSTEAD: Well, it was great, because it`s also then, right after that, he
also said, now, people say that I don`t reach out enough either. So, he
really covered his bases on his perception of them and then how he knows
that they perceive him.

MATTHEWS: What did you think of Conan? I thought he was great.

WINSTEAD: It was great --

CARLSON: But it was a hard -- this really was a hard act to follow because
this is the president at his best. He`s really got it down now.

MATTHEWS: OK, you know what I thought?

CARLSON: No.

MATTHEWS: Conan adopted brilliantly to that audience. People all had a
few drinks. All right? You can`t get into sophisticated satire like he
engages in. Harvard humor doesn`t work.

Henny Youngman, he did the Henny Youngman, Lizz. He did snappers, one
after another, about 50 of them, and they were almost amazingly successful.
I thought he adapted right to that audience.

WINSTEAD: Firing off like that in that room, in that environment, you
know, it has that old school kind of feel to it and Conan really did. And
when you fire them off that quickly, people will remember your good
zingers. I mean, he had some good ones.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was a great homage to Henny Youngman.

CARLSON: And he adopted to the gavel there.

MATTHEWS: He used that gavel as --

(CROSSTALK)

WINSTEAD: Why was the gavel there?

MATTHEWS: Best he`s ever been in this kind of a setting and it`s a tough
room.

CARLSON: It`s a tough room.

WINSTEAD: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Margaret Carlson, thank you. And, Lizz Winstead.

WINSTEAD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me start with how we got sold getting into
wars, how we still get sold on it and be very careful.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this.

I want to end where I started tonight. I want to go back and remind you
and me both of just how we get into a war. It`s beautifully clear, just a
snap really. What we do is allow ourselves to be sold on two basic step.
Yes, this dance is two-step.

Step one, tell yourselves that we have to get into it. If we don`t fight,
it means bloodshed. Then, of course, get into it, and there`s more
bloodshed.

Why? Because we get into it by shooting and killing people. Not just
military people, all kinds of people that happen to be living next to, for
example, a mobile missile launch or some other defensive weapon. Why?
Because it`s difficult I suspect to carry out a no fly campaign unless
we`re able to command the skies ourselves, and that means to be able to
carry through out an effective campaign to knock out these anti-aircraft
weapons. Before we go in, let`s make sure we`re not going to get our
pilots in danger of getting shot done over Damascus.

We`ve heard before what a cake walk it was to go to war. It isn`t. It
certainly wasn`t in Iraq.

Step-two, here`s the second old trick: put out the word that we absolutely
must go to war. But before you go for that one, remember how you felt last
time when you realize that that absolutely must reason turned out to be
something very different.

We may be able to change this civil war in Iraq -- rather, in Syria. But
we`re not likely to be able to pick the kind of winner we`d like. I fear
these wars because the only sure result is that we, the United States,
would once again be killing thousands of Islamic people on international
television. I don`t believe that`s the way to quell the jihad.

Every war becomes a war poster for the other side. They know it, we know
it. And this time, let`s be smart.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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

Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>