updated 5/6/2013 11:37:18 AM ET 2013-05-06T15:37:18

HARDBALL
May 3, 2013

Guest: Jon Retzlaff, Robin Wright, Amy Walter, Michael Feldman, Ed
Rendell, Joy Reid

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Houston, we have a problem.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Let me begin tonight with this, glee. It`s a TV show, it`s also what we`re
seeing happening on stage down in Houston tonight. We`re looking at the
triumph of gun power over the will of the people. Ninety percent of the
American people, we know, want better background checks on who buys a gun.
They want a way to stop felons, the criminally insane and wife beaters, if
you will, from getting more firepower.

Well, forget about all that. The National Rifle Association is now engaged
in some same-politics marriage with the Republican National Committee.
Wayne LaPierre loves Reince Priebus, and Reince Priebus loves Wayne
LaPierre. And together, those two joy boys of the gun world have put the
kibosh on anyone that threatens their deal.

Well, tonight, we look at the celebration down in Houston tonight of the
marriage between lethal hardware and the hard right. And yes, Houston, we
do have a problem.

Joy Reid is managing editor of TheGrio, and Ed Rendell, of course, was
former governor of Pennsylvania -- or he is former governor of
Pennsylvania.

Anyway, the NRA convention taking place this weekend in Houston shows just
how far right the far right has gone. The once independent and once
bipartisan group known as the NRA has gone so far right. Look at the
speakers list. It`s almost exclusively composed of hard-right figures,
people like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Ted Nugent,
and of course, the inimitable Glenn Beck. Well, it looks like the roster
from a CPAC convention. In fact, it`s the same list.

Well, this afternoon, Ted Cruz, well, took an end zone dance, if you will,
for helping defeat the background checks bill in the Senate. Let`s watch
his dance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: A month ago, you had the president holding, it
seemed, press conference after press conference after press conference, and
his package of legislation that would have underminded (sic) the 2nd
Amendment in Washington looked like an unstoppable freight train. Well,
I`ll tell you, I was proud to join with my friends, Senator Rand Paul and
Senator Mike Lee...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: ... in writing a short and simple letter to Harry Reid that said, We
will filibuster any legislation that undermines the Bill of Rights or the
2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And because each of you spoke out and because millions of Americans
spoke out, two weeks ago, when the proposals came to a vote, every vote
that would have undermined the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms
was voted down!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: While he was engaged in that one-man kissing booth, former
Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum also celebrated the bill`s defeat.
Let`s watch him in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: You stood up when
freedom was under assault and you stood in the gap, and you made a
difference. You can point to what you just accomplished over these last
few months, when the entire tide of the national media and the popular
culture was trying to erode a fundamental freedom. You didn`t let all of
the smoke and mirrors of trying to hide behind a horrible tragedy deter you
from the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor, I think these guys are giving tribute as if they`re
talking about the boys at Pointe du Hoc who took the clips at Normandy.
And these are the guys who took the easiest vote in American political
history. They backed the NRA. And yet it was almost a religious
experience for these clowns.

Your thoughts, Governor. I don`t know. I`ve seen -- I guess there`s been
things on the center left and the left like that, but what -- what a smooch
contest that was.

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and it`s
particularly disturbing, Chris, because there`s the undertone of not only
defeating a bill that made abundant common sense to 90 percent of America,
but more importantly, defeating President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: And that seems to be the main thrust here. We`re not going to
give the president a victory. We`re going to defeat the president. We`re
going to defeat the president`s attempt to take our guns.

They lie to people. The bill, in fact, made a federal registry impossible
because it made creation of it a felony. It actually strengthened their
position that there should be no federal registry, but they lied because
they didn`t want to give a common sense victory and they didn`t want to
give President Obama a victory. And frankly, that`s disgusting.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You were actually repeating what your colleague, I guess, from
Pennsylvania, Mr. Toomey, had said on the record.

RENDELL: I mean, no question. And it`s disgusting. This isn`t about the
president. This isn`t about him winning or losing. It`s about what`s
right for America. And what`s wrong with Washington, D.C., is exactly what
these guys are saying, Chris, and they`re going to pay for it because
people are getting fed up. And as I said when we talked about this earlier
this week, the people who care about this issue are not going away this
time.

MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, Churchill, my hero -- and our hero, I think, a
lot of us -- said that in victory, magnanimity. This crowd, in victory,
they believe, rub the guy`s face in it.

I mean, this is the -- I know the NBA -- or not the NBA, the NFL has sort
of limited the end -- the end -- end zone dances to something minimally
triumphant now. You can`t put on an entire, you know, performance art
there. But these guys, there seems to be no limit. I hear it`s going to
go on all afternoon. Sarah Palin`s going to do one of these things. It`s
just going to go on and on. Just -- I think it might be a dance of death
over the president`s political grave, is what it really is. I think the
governor`s right.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, it...

MATTHEWS: It can`t just be about less invasive background checks. Is this
that -- is this the holy grail for these people?

REID: I think so. And I used to like when the NFL used to do back flips.
I kind of miss that in the NFL, at least. But yes, I mean, I was just here
thinking I almost feel like the right is suffering from, like, a political
version of body dysmorphic disorder, right? They have this inability to
see themselves the way others see them.

They`re there dancing in the end zone and thinking, This is awesome, we
defeated the most hated president, the guy we hate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: But the rest the country is looking at them and thinking, Wow, these
guys are nuts.

And the problem that the NRA has now is that their power used to be in that
they were a bipartisan organization, such that an Ed Rendell would also
simpatico with them...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: ... or somebody like a Harry Reid was simpatico with them. That
bipartisan power allowed them to say that, What we`re asking for isn`t
partisan, it is something that is a broad position in the middle. But now
they`re associating themselves with the far, far right, the people that
independents look at and think they are insane. And the fact that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You really think that`s going to hurt them? I think of the
other strong lobbies -- and they`re all legitimate, Israeli lobby, of
course, the AARP -- they`re all legitimate big-time -- but they play both
sides, Governor. They say, Anybody can play this game. You help us, back
our positions, and we`re going to play ball with you.

But these NRA guys have basically said, No, we like one side of this fight.
We`re going to go with the conservatives. It may work. It`s working now.

RENDELL: Well, it`s working in the short run. I think it`s going to fail
in the long run, Chris. But think about this. This is an issue that a
decade ago, the NRA supported, universal background checks...

MATTHEWS: Right.

RENDELL: ... they supported. There`s been no difference in those 10
years. This bill is actually a better bill from their perspective than the
legislation they supported 10 years ago.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: So they`re on very, very shaky grounds and aligning themselves
with one party. And Joy`s right, the biggest problem the Republican Party
has -- forget the NRA -- is that they took positions all last year that
were totally out of the mainstream America. And here`s an issue where the
Republican Party is doing a victory dance, as you said, on an issue that 90
percent of Americans disagree with.

It`s absolutely stunning how myopic they are and how they don`t see what`s
happening around them. They are -- they are absolutely spiralling towards
crushing defeat, even more crushing than they -- than they...

MATTHEWS: And they bought a ticket here, guys. They bought a ticket here
on the next -- a bad ticket -- on the next time a person who`s mentally
deranged or has a criminal record...

RENDELL: Absolutely.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... or has -- is a wife beater, whatever you`re going to call
them -- whenever anybody in the category that would have been kept from
getting a gun, gets a gun next time, does something horrendous, heinous,
and they`re the ones that gave them the permission slip.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: And even more than that, Chris, I think the big risk is, for the
NRA, is that if I`m a Democrat, even a moderate Democrat or a conservative
Democrat or a Republican that`s running in a purple or blue state, I`m now
thinking to myself, Well, if they`re going to be that far to the right,
then maybe I can have some space to buck the NRA because, number one,
there`s other money out there. There`s Michael Bloomberg`s money.

There`s support that I can get without them. And I don`t need to be
associated with them, especially if I`m a Pat Toomey or a Ron Johnson in
Wisconsin or even Kelly Ayotte, who seems really shaken by the response
that she`s gotten...

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: ... in a purple state.

MATTHEWS: Joy, on that point, here`s Senator -- here`s Senator Kelly
Ayotte, of course, from New Hampshire, has had a rough couple of days
facing constituents, of course, after voting down, against background
checks. Well, earlier in the week, she was confronted by the daughter of a
Newtown -- the Newtown principal, who was killed in that massacre defending
her students.

Well, yesterday, at another town hall, she faced more heated backlash.
Let`s watch this again. This is a new one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don`t understand. It doesn`t make sense to
me. What is wrong with universal background checks?

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you, John.

I will tell you in terms of a universal background check, as it`s been
framed, I have a lot of concerns about that leading to a registry that will
create a privacy situation for lawful firearms owners. However, I do
believe that our current system should be fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it was an entirely different story for John McCain, of
course, who was applauded yesterday for his support of the background
checks legislation. Take a look at this. This is Pam Simon, a former
staffer to Congresswoman Giffords, of course. And she, too, was shot that
day in 2011 by Jared Loughner. She had something she wanted to tell
McCain. Let`s watch this interplay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAM SIMON, TUCSON SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I would like to thank you so much for
your vote on the Manchin-Toomey...

(APPLAUSE)

SIMON: ... background check...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, after the event, Simon -- and she and the other survivors
of the 2011 shooting gave Senator McCain 19 roses, 13 for people -- there
she is -- for the people who were injured that day and six for the people
who died.

You know, Governor, I want to get to you and give you a chance to talk the
politics of this. I think there are, of course -- I`ve been saying this
last night -- the United States Senate doesn`t represent the people. It
was designed to represent the states. And therefore, you had a lot of wide
open spaces states, like Montana, Utah, Wyoming, which is just filled with
beautiful country, obviously, and two senators. And then you have New York
and California, each have two senators each. So a lot of our people are
only getting very thin representation in the United States Senate.

And when those senators get to like -- people like Baucus, they vote their
ground and their people and the gun owners. And how do you -- how do you -
- how do you reapply the principles of democracy in the Senate when it`s
not really built for that?

RENDELL: Well, interestingly, Chris -- first, Kelly Ayotte -- that`s the
typical BS. Read the bill, Senator Ayotte.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re right on that point.

RENDELL: The bill does not go towards a federal registry. In fact, it
creates criminal penalty to anybody who tries to establish a registry.
Don`t lie to people. You either haven`t read the bill or you`re lying to
people. That`s number one.

Number two, Chris, it`s inconceivable -- it`s inconceivable that we`re
going to go down this -- this -- this road. I mean, it is absolutely clear
what has to happen now, absolutely clear to me. And the Republican
Party...

MATTHEWS: Which way are we going?

RENDELL: I think the Republican Party is headed towards disaster. And
it`s not too late -- I think the Kelly Ayottes of the world should change
their vote. We should try to get a re-vote here and we should try to get
this thing passed because as you said, imagine the next tragedy...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: ... but imagine if that person got their gun at a gun show, and
that person wouldn`t have gotten it had they applied through a universal
background check. Imagine the blood on the hands of the people who voted
against this common sense bill.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: And the odd thing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, just a point you`re making, just to follow-up before
you (INAUDIBLE) they are -- the NRA is implicitly telling people who have a
problem with their background and know it, Go to a gun show.

RENDELL: Go to a gun show.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: If you`ve got a problem, it`s like a credit rating. We`ll sell
you the car without the credit rating.

RENDELL: Exactly right.

MATTHEWS: We`ll sell you the gun without a rating. Go ahead, Joy.

RENDELL: Exactly right.

REID: No, you`re absolutely right. And the worst case scenario for Kelly
Ayotte, Jeff Flake, for Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is to have this come up
over and over again.

RENDELL: Rob Portman.

REID: They think they`re safe because it`s in 2016. That`s a presidential
year. They`re in jeopardy anyway, those 2010 senators, because you have a
lot of Democrats that want payback. That`s going to be a presidential
year. And if this vote comes up again, how much you want to bet, Begich,
Ayotte, some of these guys, Jeff Flake blink and say, You know what? I
don`t want this coming up...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: ... get it over with. Vote it yes and send it to the House. Let it
be their problem.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s pay tribute right now to people who show up at town
meetings...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and then finally people from the middle and the left and
everywhere else on the spectrum...

REID: Amen.

MATTHEWS: ... but the far right, are showing up and making their voices
heard. There will be people growling at you in some of these places.
You`ve got to get up. You got to walk through the doors of the saloon and
say, I`m here, I`m sane.

REID: Amen.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Joy Reid...

RENDELL: We`re not going to away!

MATTHEWS: ... thank you.

REID: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Right. And Joy Reid and Ed Rendell -- by the way, Toomey may
get reelected on this baby because he did the right thing, and you know
that.

REID: Yes, he will.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Coming up...

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... we continue our series, "The Unkindest Cut." It`s a series
we`re doing on the real pain being caused by the sequester cuts. Tonight -
- well, you won`t believe this -- promising heart attack research in peril
for lack of money. That`s close to home for a lot of people.

Also, just about everybody wants to help the rebels in Syria, but which
ones? This is the tricky question. Some are allied with al Qaeda. Do you
want to help them? Others want to establish an Islamist state. Do you
want to help them? A reality check tonight from our own Richard Engel.

And we learned today that job creation has been better than we ever thought
for the past few months. The unemployment rate down to 7.5. Could that be
a boost for Democrats in 2014? That`s our angle tonight.

And we`ve already heard a lot from the NRA today, but now this. Its new
president refers to the American Civil War as the war -- not between the
states, OK, "the war of Northern aggression." And that`s -- that`s talk of
"the cause," the lost cause, if you remember it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got the first polling on that Massachusetts U.S. Senate
race. Tuesday`s primary -- let`s take a check there in the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard."

According to a new PPP poll, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey starts out with a
4-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez in that race to replace John
Kerry. It`s Markey 44, Gomez 40. That`s 16 percent undecided. And in a
poll by Emerson College up on Boston, U.S. Congressman Markey has a 6-point
lead over Gomez. In this race, in that poll, it`s Markey 42, Gomez 36, a
lot more undecideds. So it`s a race for Markey.

The Democrats are taking it seriously. First lady Michelle Obama headlines
a fund-raiser for Markey later in this month.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, the sequestration cut $5 million out of the FEMA
emergency food and shelter program, the main source of federal cash for
soup kitchens, food pantries, food banks and homeless prevention
organizations around the country. Here in New York City, because of the
other cuts, two thirds of the soup kitchens and food pantries in New York
City already have to ration food.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This week, we`ve brought you reports
-- you`re seeing one there -- how the arbitrary across-the-board spending
cuts called the sequester are hurting the poor and vulnerable. There was
Joel (ph), by the way, you just saw there from the New York City Coalition
Against Hunger. Before that, we told you about cuts in Meals on Wheels.

Well, tonight, we`re talking about reports all week, by the way, of the --
we`re calling it "The Unkindest Cut." And we asked for your input, and now
we want to share your responses, how the sequester is affecting you.

From Megan -- Megan W. actually, "My federal work study is being cut by
seven hours a week, looking for a second job, full-time student workload."
Judith tweets, "$695 total and no food stamps. I live on peanut butter and
oatmeal, $250 utility bill, no help now. In two days, no way (ph) for
oatmeal."

And we want to hear more of you about how the cuts are affecting you
personally. Tweet us at the hashtag #unkindestcut. Join the conversation
on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/hardball. And then go to TV.MSNBC.com
and click on HARDBALL. I`ll have that information again before the end of
the show.

Well, today, we bring you another story of how these arbitrary cuts are
rippling through American society and affecting lives. These are cuts to
medical research primarily administered through the NIH, National
Institutes of Health. And if you think these can`t affect you, listen up.

The HuffingtonPost`s Sam Stein reports today that doctors at Philadelphia`s
Temple University were doing promising research on repairing the heart
after a cardiac trauma (ph), after a heart attack, will have to cut back
their work significantly because of these cuts.

The lead doctor sums up this way his dilemma. "It is much more likely that
we will miss something important now. We have so many wonderful things we
can do right now, but we end up in this political climate."

Well, that`s the doctor. Think about that the next time someone you know
has a heart attack.

Well, Jon Retzlaff, who is with us now, he led a rally here in Washington
to protest those cuts to scientific research that this misbegotten
sequester is causing.

And two of the many speakers calling for the Congress to end the sequester
cuts to medical research were ABC news` Cokie Roberts and the actress Maura
Tierney, both cancer survivors. Let`s watch them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Not only was I treated for cancer at NIH and was
the direct beneficiary of that research, and it could not be a stupider
time to cut back on funding for medical research.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MAURA TIERNEY, ACTRESS: I have a good sense of what`s at stake in this
debate about federal funding for medical research, and the very short
answer is, a lot.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Jon Retzlaff is managing director of science policy at the
American Association for Cancer Research. And David Corn is Washington
bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and an MSNBC contributor.

Look, everybody loves research, because we know that means a better future.

JON RETZLAFF, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR CANCER RESEARCH: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And it means a healthier future. It means people can live to 90
healthy.

RETZLAFF: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And if we don`t do that, we`re just going to fall back. Right?

RETZLAFF: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Because we got a lot of stress in our society. And if you don`t
have research keeping up with stress, which we all live through, we`re
going to fall back.

RETZLAFF: That`s right, probably the most important investment that our
company can make. And that`s what`s so discouraging right now when you`re
talking about the sequestration is, it`s a $1.6 billion cut for the
National Institutes of Health. And it`s not just sequestration.

We`re talking 10 years, the past 10 years, a decade, we have had cuts at
the NIH and going on $6 billion when you account for inflation. So, we`re
at a time...

MATTHEWS: What`s it mean in anecdotal terms? You can`t do certain tests
or what are you hearing?

RETZLAFF: Well, probably the most discouraging thing right now is you`re
talking about researchers have about a one in 10 chance to get funded, so
all of the grants that go to the National Institutes of Health, or the
proposals, only one out of 10 doors are we able to open to actually fund
the research.

MATTHEWS: What was...

(CROSSTALK)

RETZLAFF: The most ideal situation is between 25 and 30 percent.
Actually, when Congress decided...

MATTHEWS: So, you`re turning down good proposals.

RETZLAFF: We`re turning down great proposals. They`re on the cutting room
floor right now.

And it`s actually affecting young investigators who are deciding why should
I stay in this area of a career when in fact the chances of my getting
funding is so small right now? So, it`s affecting labs across the country
that are laying off people and, right now, all of the -- we have 435,000
people who are either directly and indirectly funded through the
National...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Cancer survivor is a term we`re used to now. Isn`t that great?

RETZLAFF: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: We`re used to the term.

RETZLAFF: Fourteen million survivors.

MATTHEWS: Cokie Roberts. We know the term. It used to be cancer meant
the end and now it means cancer survivor for so many people because of
research.

RETZLAFF: That`s exactly right, absolutely -- 14 million survivors are...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You guys just amaze me what you can do.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This gets to some issues in terms of
the values we have as a society.

MATTHEWS: You mean the tax cut issue?

CORN: Tax cut issue, what the Republicans are doing.

Before the show, one of your producers, Connie (ph), asked me, about wasn`t
this -- wasn`t cancer research, medical research, Meals on Wheels, all
these things, didn`t they used to be bipartisan issues? Indeed, they were.

Years ago, Bob Dole led the effort against hunger in America and overseas.
Working -- remember George McGovern. but the Republicans now have this
view of government which is just cut, cut, cut. They really don`t -- I
really hate to say this, but they don`t care institutionally, collectively
about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what they`re thinking. Don`t play dumb. You
know what they`re thinking, the poor minorities. They`re cutting the
welfare plan. That`s what they think.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: That`s what they think.

But the thing is, when you cut -- and you know this better than I do, but
when you cut this research, it means you`re going to have more medical
costs at the end if you don`t do stuff about diabetes, Alzheimer`s and
cancer. We as a society end up paying more.

MATTHEWS: I know.

CORN: So these guys who talk about fiscal sanity and doing this, they`re
really adding more...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what the problem is? People think when they`re cutting
-- and I think reasonable people, but not all -- everybody in the right of
center is certainly not a bad person.

I know what they`re thinking in the burbs. They`re thinking we`re cutting
the money going to the drones in city hall sitting around cutting paper,
wasting time. We`re cutting the money that go into the ward leaders that
can pass out the money. That`s what they`re thinking.

And, by the way, waste, fraud and abuse, you don`t get rid of waste, fraud
and abuse by cutting spending. You just -- you cut spending. And they
think, oh, we will get rid of the waste. Why do they think that way?

RETZLAFF: Well, what is so interesting is 85 percent of the dollars that
NIH has are going across the country.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RETZLAFF: And every university across our country is doing this research.
And that is NIH dollars. It`s not money being spent in Washington, D.C.
It`s all over the country.

MATTHEWS: So, when we cut spending, we`re cutting real stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And the person out there, the middle-class person who there who
is saying, great, they`re cutting spending, oh, getting rid of all that
waste, right? You know how it works.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Well, it`s easy for -- and then the right`s done this for decades --
to denigrate government as just faceless bureaucrats.

But what you have done on this series, Chris, is to show Meals on Wheel,
treatment for cancer patients, Head Start -- I don`t know if you have done
that yet.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to.

CORN: But there are kids who are being thrown out who are already in Head
Start, which doesn`t serve everyone who needs it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Tell me about Head Start. Explain Head Start, what it does.

CORN: Head Start is a preschool program for low-income kids.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Disadvantaged kids.

CORN: It works for kids.

And, listen, having volunteered in my own kid`s school, I know the
difference between a kid who comes into kindergarten with some schooling
and some institutional support vs. a kid who doesn`t.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: It`s really unfair. And yet, here they are, throwing kids out.
Parents are crying because they`re holding lotteries not about who gets in,
but about who gets thrown out. And where is the -- we know what happens
with the FAA. Where is the outcry on the Republican side?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, look, I think we got to sell government the best programs.
And don`t sell waste, fraud and abuse because there`s no reason to have any
of that. But it`s the good stuff that often gets cut.

A friend of mine years ago said people don`t do their best work when
they`re being peed on.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, really. You keep dumping on government employees, keep
saying they`re no good, you`re not exactly going to make them any better.

RETZLAFF: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And you`re not going to make the good programs work by cutting
them.

You have got to look -- you need inspector generals looking for...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Well, sure.

MATTHEWS: That`s what you need.

Thank you, Pete Retzlaff. And you`re not related to Pete Retzlaff that
everybody in Philadelphia watched. Remember the great...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and those guys.

Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But you`re still an OK guy, because you`re doing good work.

David Corn, as always.

And there`s the information again. I want to tell you so you can really
get involved. If you know one of these programs that`s getting cut, you
can tweet us at the hashtag unkindestcut. That`s all one word,
unkindestcut.

You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page at
Facebook.com/HARDBALL. Or go to your Web site on TV.MSNBC.com and click on
HARDBALL.

Up next, we have got hard -- we have heard a lot about already about the
NRA, but we haven`t heard this, the group`s new president referring to the
Civil War as -- I love this -- this is a real civil, orderly question --
the war of Northern aggression. That`s going to unite the country. We`re
in a tyranny. Haven`t you noticed? Let`s go back to Jefferson Davis. He
will save us.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and now the "Sideshow."

Some people live in a political isolation booth, don`t you think? Latest
example, Republican Congressman Billy Long of Louisiana here talking to a
local reporter about the effect of the sequester -- quote -- "The people
that I have talked to seem to be doing well. In fact, when I go out in
restaurants here in town, people come up to me, they want to see more
sequestration, not less, so I think that`s different than it could be in
some parts of the country. But we haven`t seen any measurable effect here
at all."

Well, in reality, Long`s state -- that is Missouri -- and his own district
are getting hit with cuts, just like the rest of the country. A nonprofit
in charge of Head Start programs in several Missouri counties plans to
close five classrooms and reduce enrollment by about 200 children. The
head of that group responded to Long`s remarks this way: "It`s been in the
news. It`s been all over the place down here. I don`t know how he could
have missed it. We are facing cuts in all our programs."

Well, food assistance and education programs are also facing slashed
funding in Long`s district itself.

Next, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi`s hoping for an answer to her
prayers concerning the White House in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I pray that Hillary
Clinton decides to run for president of the United States.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PELOSI: Let`s set aside for a moment the fact that she is a woman. As a
person, she will be the most qualified person to enter the White House in
modern history.

(APPLAUSE)

PELOSI: Now, I have no knowledge of anything except my prayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s been a big week for nudging Hillary toward a run.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, pro-choice Democratic group
EMILY`s List and now Nancy Pelosi are all urging, run, Hillary, run.

Next, when ever someone runs for office, we can expect their opponents and
others to do a lot of digging into their past. And it`s not different with
Republican Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia`s attorney general and now a candidate
for governor of that state. BuzzFeed featured this nugget today.

Back in 2006, there was a debate going on in Virginia`s office -- official
state song. What should it be? Well, Cuccinelli filed an amendment with
his own idea of what the song of Virginia should be, "Taxman." Cuccinelli
thought the anti-big-government song would be perfect because -- quote --
"Virginians feel like all they get from Richmond is more taxes."

Well, if you haven`t guessed, Cuccinelli did not prevail on that one.
"Taxman" didn`t become the state song. The state remains, by the way,
without an official song.

Finally, a preview of what`s in store when Alabama`s Jim Porter officially
becomes president of the National Rifle Association next week. At an event
last year last year, Porter talked about the NRA`s roots going back to the
Civil War, except he doesn`t call it the Civil War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM PORTER, INCOMING PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The NRA was
started 1871 here in New York State. It was started by some Yankee
generals who didn`t like the way my Southern boys didn`t had the ability to
shoot in what we call the war of Northern Aggression. Now, you all might
call it the Civil War, but we call it the war of Northern Aggression down
South.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, he`s still a believer in civil wars.

Yesterday, I showed you a Fairleigh Dickinson poll showing that three in 10
Americans think armed revolt here in this country might be necessary in the
next few years to protect our civil liberties. Well, Porter has his
thoughts on that very matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PORTER: I am one who still feel very strongly that that is one of our most
-- greatest charges that we can have today, is to train the civilian in the
use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their
country, they`re ready to do it.

Also, when they`re ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and
the weapons to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, it`s not about hunting. It`s not about defending yourself
against criminals. You need a gun to fight the elected government of the
United States.

Well, he`s soon to be head of the NRA. He`s sounding off about tyrannical
government and a possible takeover by a tyranny. I don`t know who he`s
talking about.

Up next, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the administration is
reconsidering arming the rebels over in Syria. But who are the rebels that
we like? Our own Richard Engel has been talking to rebel leaders and joins
us next to sort it out.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A banner day on Wall Street, the Dow closing up 142 points at a historic
high after briefly trading above 15000, the S&P also hitting one for the
record books today, finishing above 1600, and the Nasdaq adding 38 points.

The catalyst for today`s gains, jobs, employers adding 165,000 positions to
payrolls in April, more than expected, the unemployment rate unexpectedly
falling to 7.5 percent. That`s a four-year low.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As pressure mounts for a worldwide response to the bloodshed in Syria,
there`s renewed focus on the rebels who are there. And who -- can we work
with them?

Anyway, "The New York Times" reported over the weekend that many of the
rebel groups are either allied with al Qaeda or Islamists and determined to
establish an Islamist state, in other words, bad bets for the United
States.

Well, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel interviewed a key
player, the rebel military leader the White House is counting on to defeat
the Assad regime and prevail over radical rebel groups. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The regime in Syria used chemical weapons more than
four times against the civilians.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama has talked
about red lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ENGEL: Do you think Bashar Assad has crossed a red line?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just for one time. Many, many times, he crossed
the red line.

ENGEL: What do you hope the United States does?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like them to help us to have no fly-zone for the
whole country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Richard Engel joins us right now from Turkey. Robin Wright is
here in Washington. She`s with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Richard, thanks for joining us so late at night over there.

Let me -- give us your appraisal of the possibility we can find somebody
over there that we can agree with, that we can help on the rebel side.

ENGEL: Well, that is what the U.S. thinks they have found or U.S.
officials are hoping they have found with Salim Idris, the person you just
heard from right now.

He is the overall commander of the Free Syrian Army. He`s German-educated.
He was an engineering professor inside Syria. He defected about a year
ago. And the United States wants to support him. He`s a moderate. He`s
the kind of consensus candidate, if you will, to use some Washington
terminology, that U.S. officials are hoping Syrians will latch on to if
Americans give him enough support, the theory being, if they give him
money, they give -- what they`re giving him so far, he says, have been flak
jackets, MREs, night-vision goggles and some medical supplies -- that the
more he is -- the more his stock is rising, the worse it will be for other
groups you talked about that are espousing a more radical Islamic ideology.

MATTHEWS: Do we know now if he`s a contender to actually be a leader of
the groups that eventually march into Damascus?

ENGEL: I think it`s too early to tell if he will be accepted. Will he be
able to emerge as such a galvanizing figure. The problem with the FSA, the
Free Syrian Army, is that it is really not a single group. It`s a mosaic.
It`s made of lots of different groups and that has been one of its main
weaknesses.

The other groups like the Nusra front (ph) and other more Islamically-
motivated fighting elements inside Syria, are small, they are cohesive.
They have a clear leadership and generally, they have been fighting very
well. The FSA has had mixed performance and it`s still too early to tell
if with the new leadership, with more at least at this stage, nonlethal
support, the FSA will emerge as the go to Syrian rebel group. But we don`t
know if that`s going the happen yet.

MATTHEWS: Hold on there, Richard. Thank you. Just hold on a minute. I
got Robin here.

Robin, I don`t sense watching this fight from here that this is slipping
away for the Assad regime. It`s not like Libya it`s not moving that fast.
It looks like it`s going to be a while before one side wins.

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: And clearly, the regime in Syria is
much better armed, much better trained. It`s had some of its forces
decimated particularly, its air defense capabilities. But the fact is,
it`s superiority is many times those of the rebels.

The rebels disadvantage is that there is no single commander of all the
different units and they conflict within each other and the real quandary
for the United States is if it provides arms to any of them, can it
guarantee that those arms will be kept by the people it likes? General
Idris and the people who work with him. Or will they be sold, stolen,
borrowed by some of the extremist groups?

Our experience in Afghanistan makes us very wary of who we give arms to and
what they might be used for down to road, not just in this conflict.

MATTHEWS: Well, the countries that have influence in Syria, obviously
include Iran and Russia. Is there any chance Iran`s going to help us? No.
Is there any chance Russia is going to help us?

WRIGHT: Well, Syria has really become a proxy war between the United
States and Iran and Russia has, for the time being, sided far more with
Iran, in forms a kind of axis along with China in terms of galvanizing
support for the Assad regime, continuing to provide arms, and most
importantly, political clout that limit international community`s ability
to act with greater sanctions.

MATTHEWS: Is that for old time`s sake? Or they really think they benefit
with identifying themselves with a sort of disruptive regime at this point?

WRIGHT: The irony of all this is, is that for Russians, it is a domestic
issue because it has a huge, very restive Muslim population, and it
particularly doesn`t like the idea of the international community being
able to say if there were protests, that they back the protests because
Russia facing its own.

MATTHEWS: So, the Muslims in Russia are pro-rebel?

WRIGHT: Well, some of them, but they`re anti-Putin. They want autonomy,
or independence or whatever.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- this is a hard thing for me to sort out from this
end, Richard. Maybe you can. I assume you can.

What side is the Arab world on? What side is the Islamic world or is it a
Sunni versus Shia fight over whole rules Syria now?

ENGEL: It is very much a sectarian fight and you`ll see lined up
Hezbollah, Iran and the Bashar al-Assad regime and many elements of the
Iraqi government fighting on the Shia side. But the Arab world is
overwhelming a Sunni world. And if you watch al Jazeera or you watch Arab
television, or you follow what`s going on in social media, the people are
overwhelmingly with the uprising going on in Syria.

They are seeing reports daily of massacres. One just recently with dozens,
if not many more people killed. Sunnis who were butchered in the town
called Bayda (ph) in Syria by Shiite militias. That`s what they claim, the
government says it was the other way around, that it was terrorists who
killed their own people.

But the massacres happening all the time are certainly getting a lot of
public sympathy. In the United States, we`ve been focusing a lot recently
on chemical weapons, on red lines, and, wow, how, when -- by whom were
chemical weapons used. In this part of the world, people watch every day
and they see the massacres carried out by firing squads and by knives and
blunt instruments on a daily basis in villages and that certainly impacts
people.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, Richard Engel, out in Turkey. He`s in
Turkey.

Thank you, Robin Wright, with me.

Up next, the unemployment rate`s falling, believe it or not. It is really
falling. Job creation is strong. We have a Dow almost at 15,000.

Is that going to help Democrats running in 2014? Certainly wouldn`t help
if things were going the other way. That`s one way to (INAUDIBLE) I saw in
Groucho Marx. Good news is good news.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The Democrats right now are hoping to change history in the next
election. Will the improving economy, and it`s improving, help them to win
the next midterms? It`s usually the party in the power, losses the sixth
year. This is next, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

If history`s any guide, 2014 should be a tough year for Democrats. Not
only for defending the many seats in the House for Republicans in the
Senate, for example, but the sixth year of any presidency tends to be a
down year for the party in the White House or maybe not. It is possible,
of course, the Democrats may have an ally they didn`t count on, the U.S.
economy.

As you heard earlier, the Labor Department reported today, 165,000 jobs
were added in April, a pretty decent number. And it sharply revised job
gains over the past two months. In addition, the unemployment dropped to
7.5. That`s the lowest level it`s been in four years. It`s not great but
it`s better.

Wall Street loved the news with the Down finish. Look at it. We watched
it almost get to 15,000. It may get there next week, some time. At one
point, even breaking that level, that the economy is about to achieve lift
off.

This is the question, not is this good, is it getting good better later is
a big question. It could possibly help Democrats buck history many people
believe and actually gain seats in Congress. I`m not so sure.

Amy Walter knows more than I. She`s with -- that`s a set up -- the "Cook
Political Report". And Michael Feldman, another Democratic -- he`s a
Democratic strategist.

So, you`re nonpartisan, you`re partisan.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me get this sixth year, even when it`s Franklin Roosevelt,
gods would have (ph) as president, or Eisenhower, pretty close, taken a
Nazi surrender -- these people got blown away in their sixth year.

WALTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: How is Obama going to avoid that? Except for Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And he survived because the public got mad at him.

WALTER: Here`s the good news for Democrats, the silver lining is, they
lost so many seats in 2010 there`s no more seats to lose.

MATTHEWS: Who you`re talking today?

WALTER: The Democrats. When you say how do they avoid getting blown up?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- rocks on them.

WALTER: So they are kind of -- right.

MATTHEWS: Hardcore.

WALTER: The question is, can they expand it?

Now, a good economy is better as you said than a terrible economy. But
structurally, when you look at just how few seats are in play, both by
redistricting and the way that these --

MATTHEWS: By the way, incumbency is a pretty good deal.

WALTER: It`s a great deal. Even in a bad year --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I look at Fitzpatrick, I think it then (ph), how are they going
to get knocked off? They got the name ID of serving four or six years.
It`s tough to become an incumbent Republican in the burbs. They don`t have
to do a vote on guns. They`ve been protected from that.

WALTER: But they need to talk about the economy. This has been the
problem for Republicans, is that they are very good at saying we don`t want
to do whatever President Obama does. They don`t have a message for, what
are we going to do.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they do.

You know what the message is, Michael? It`s pretty good, right? It would
be a hell of a lot better if we cut taxes.

MICHAEL FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, and their strategy is, let`s
not give the president any credit. One of the issues litigated in this
cycle is, are you a part of the solution? Are you helping improve the
economy or you`re just trying to score political points.

The sequester is a great example of this. It`s an unnecessary drag on the
economy right now.

MATTHEWS: How does it drag the economy?

FELDMAN: Well, CBO says it could be 800,000 jobs. That`s a third of the
job growth right now that`s like --

MATTHEWS: So, we should be spending that money, not cutting it?

FELDMAN: Right. We should be working on a balanced plan to solve the
deficit problem and not just try to score political points.

MATTHEWS: OK, I think the Republican Party exists today -- I mean, it
started because they were against slavery. That was a good cause, in
1850s. I think they survived through thick and thin because they simply
say to the average person who pays taxes, if you vote for us, you got a
chance to paying less income taxes.

You`ve got to pay parking tickets, you`ve got to pay property taxes, you`ve
got to pay every license in the world. But with us, you`ve got a better
chance of paying a lower tax rate. So, stick with us. You`ll get a little
break from us. The Democrats will spend your money.

That`s how they survive. Isn`t it? What else -- give me another case of
being a Republican?

FELDMAN: No. That is their message. That is their message.

The problem is, that`s not helping grow the economy and people are very
sensitive to the fact that we`re in a struggling economic recovery right
now. Are you helping improve the economy or are you just trying to score
political points for the next cycle? Are you getting in the way of the
president`s credit? Is the whole strategy about whether or not the
president is getting credit or you`re actually trying to solve the problem?

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s true that if you vote like a Republican, you
can live like a Republican?

FELDMAN: I do.

(LAUGHTER)

WALTER: There are two potential issues here for Democrats, because it`s
tied to the economy, which is the health care law that gets implemented
started on January 1st, right? It connects to how people feel about the
economy. The most direct way that you feel the economy, a lot of people
feel the economy is how much they are paying out in health care, whether
it`s their own personal checkbook or whether your employer comes to you and
says, hey, guess what, our rates went up 120 percent. I can`t offer this
to you anymore at the same rate.

That`s how people start to feel this.

The one thing I will say about the sequester, and this is where I think
Republicans were smart, was they made it not about priorities but they made
it about budgeting, which was they said, look, the reason government
doesn`t work is that we throw all of this money in there and we don`t give
them any ability to put it into the right categories. So let`s -- it`s not
about spending more. It`s about spending it smartly.

That was the argument that I think won on the FAA issue where they said you
can take this money and put it --

MATTHEWS: Who won that argument?

WALTER: Oh, I think Republicans absolutely won that argument. And the
question is --

MATTHEWS: You`ve heard what I said before. When Republicans hear
government, they hear waste, fraud, and abuse.

WALTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: And if they hear a government cut, they think, now, we get rid
waste, fraud, and abuse.

WALTER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: The waste, fraud and abuse people are experts. The drones in
government who live -- don`t do any work, they are surviving just like
cockroaches. But the people that actually -- these doctor, the people
doing help for the poor people, they are the ones getting hurt.

But thank you for coming on.

And, Michael, thank you. And thank you very much, Amy Walter, an expert.

WALTER: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with why our real enemies would
welcome an American war with Syria.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this tonight.

I am against jihad and for the same reason I`m against the counter jihad.

I believe there is a direct connection, by the way, between killing Islamic
people on international television -- night after night -- and since the
first war with Iraq -- has played into the hands of those selling jihad.
Every night of war becomes a recruiting poster for the next suicide bomber.

I don`t want an east-west war. In fact, the people behind Jihad do. They
wanted it when they bombed the World Trade Center. They want the United
States to declare war on the Islamic World.

We didn`t. We didn`t blame all Islamic people after that. We blamed Al
Qaeda.

And this must be our watchword: attack only our enemy.

If we become a belligerent in Syria, killing Arabs on global television
again, don`t expect the people of Arabia to see us as the liberators.
Don`t except them to cheer us. Don`t expect the youth of the Islamic world
to sit watching Al Jazeera clapping their hands when we begin the bombing.

Once again, we will be seen as the neo-colonial force invading Arabia for
oil, for Israel, for Western influence. Again, we will be the infidel
doing what we do, attack the land is Islam.

I believe that zealotry, by the way, is by its nature episodic. The Mahdi
rose up in the late 19th century, and then there are decades of peace. The
one sure way to keep the zealotry alive is to stoke the fire. Heading into
Syria with guns blazing is one sure way to keep the fire white hot for
another decade -- if we`re lucky.

Starting a war is not a very sure way to end a war. It is a good way to
make enemies.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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