updated 5/28/2013 12:06:39 PM ET 2013-05-28T16:06:39

HARDBALL
May 24, 2013

Guests: Michael McAuliff, Carole King

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: True commander.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington -- actually, in New York.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. President Obama showed the guts
yesterday to put the terrorism threat in perspective. It is a threat, he
said, it is not a threat to American existence, nor is it a strategic
threat in the way that the Soviet Union once was.

Put more sharply, we Americans don`t have to take an "ends justifies the
means" approach to national security. We can do what works and fits with
our values and international law. We can protect ourselves without denying
the very freedoms that we cherish.

Under Bush-Cheney, especially Cheney, the country was forced into a war
against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed neither a
strategic nor an existential threat to us, a war that Cheney justified as
if it did.

We were on a war footing then because that was the national mindset that
the neocons and fellow hawks knew they could use to justify everything from
torture to war, to propaganda, manufactured, of course, in the vice
president`s office, itself, the Niger yellowcake, the aluminum, the notion
that Saddam Hussein had a mysterious airplane that would deliver nuclear
bombs on America.

Well, Dick Cheney sold the notion of an unending, Orwellian war on
terrorism as if it were a country somewhere, a country called "terrorism,"
when much of what he accomplished, from putting troops in Saudi Arabia to
fighting an unjustified war in Iraq to waterboarding did less to subdue
terrorism than it did to give our enemies pictures and causes for war.

Well, Obama is acting to fix that, putting the terrorism threat where it
belongs, as a serious danger that should keep us on the alert but not
squash either individual freedom or open national debate.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine. Patrick
Murphy is a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania and the first
Iraq war veteran to serve in the United States Congress. Both are MSNBC
contributors.

Well, let`s take a look, gentlemen, at what President Obama said yesterday.
Let`s take a look at this part where he rejects the war on terrorism
nostrum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Neither I nor any president
can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that
lies in the hearts of some human beings nor stamp out every danger to our
open society. But what we can do, what we must do, is dismantle networks
that pose a direct danger to us and make it less likely for new groups to
gain a foothold, all the while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we
defend. And to define that strategy, we have to make decisions based not
on fear but on hard-earned wisdom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: David, I think there was a lot of truth in that report
yesterday. I didn`t realize it until I heard it again. And this element,
a couple of elements -- actually, three of them here -- come to mind. This
idea that terrorism, some country somewhere called "the united states of
terrorism" -- we go to war with it, stamp out like we did Nazi Germany, and
that was the end of the war. Everybody surrenders, it`s all over.

No, it`s in people`s hearts and minds. The desire to blow up an airplane,
the desire to kill yourself, to kill some other people, it`s in your hearts
and minds. The notion you can actually stamp it out, as if, you know, you
can get some sort of insect repellent and take care of it, or the notion
that we`re ever going to get completely gone with it, and if we don`t, then
we can`t stop the war and the war footing.

I thought he put it in perspective in terms of who the enemy is, what the
threat is, what can be done about it. And all -- I think just about every
way, I think he put it in the proper perspective.

Your thoughts.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It might be six to
ten years too late, but I do agree with you that he was trying to address a
new realism when it comes to terrorism. In short term, the message was,
Don`t freak out about this. It is a challenge, but the real targets are
the international networks, which may be different than having some lone
wolves or guys that do terrible things in Boston or London, and that there
-- and I thought what was really interesting was watching him grapple with
the dilemmas that even dealing with terrorism on a less Cheney-like footing
still entails, whether it`s, you know, dealing with detainees or dealing
with drones.

And you know, I think there are still a lot of details to be fleshed out.
There still -- you know, he wants to have more oversight and a less
expansive drone program. Well, what are the details there?

But the fact that he`s putting this out for public discussion and showing
some -- uncertainty is not the word, but the fact that these are issues
that -- to be grappled with, is something we never would have seen under
the Bush-Cheney administration. And I think it`s kind of a mature approach
and a good starting point to fill in some of the details.

MATTHEWS: You know, Pat, you were in the war, and I respect you for that
and thank you for your service over there. But let me ask you about this -
- sort of the mindset of Cheney. This guy -- and he certainly was running
the Bush administration in terms of national security, using his
lieutenant, Rumsfeld, regarding that over at Defense.

This idea that we`re in sort of a 360-degree situation, where everything is
terrorism. Everything dominates our life. This is sort of who we are.
We`re sort of in that world of terrorism. It seemed to be something I
can`t say he enjoyed, but he certainly relished that world that he could
fight.

Your thoughts.

PATRICK MURPHY (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Two
things, Chris. One, terrorism is a tactic. So let`s be very clear, you
can`t have a war against a tactic.

But number two, Chris, you know why he was the mastermind between the past
wars, Dick Cheney? Because if you look up the military-industrial complex
in Webster`s dictionary, you will see Dick Cheney`s picture right next to
it. The guy -- you know, of course when it was his war, when it was his
generation`s war in Vietnam, you know, he got four deferments and he said
he had other things to do, better things to do.

Now, let`s be straight. He took us from focusing on bin Laden in
Afghanistan to an unnecessary war in Iraq. And especially this weekend, on
Memorial Day, when we look at 4,400 American lives killed in Iraq, 58,000
American lives lost in Vietnam, we need to make sure that we`re being tough
and smart when we talk about the true threats to our country.

MATTHEWS: Well, over nearly a decade, Dick Cheney has been incapable of
recalibrating his position on how America deals with the threat of
terrorism. On "MEET THE PRESS" in September 2003, at a time when the
wounds of 9/11 were still relatively fresh and the Iraq war was just months
old, Cheney gave an infinite timeline for the ridiculously named "war on
terror."

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From our perspective
trying to deal with this continuing campaign of terror, if you will, the
war on terror that we`re engaged in, this is a continuing enterprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, in May of 2009, speaking at the American Enterprise
Institute -- this is really bringing coal to Newcastle -- Cheney remained
stuck in his black-and-white view of the terrorist threat and how he faced
it. Incidentally, Cheney began his speech moments after President Obama
finished his own speech defending his anti-terrorism policies.

Let`s listen to Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Here`s the great dividing line in our current debate over national
security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive
strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as
ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was
a one-off event, coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not
sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort.

But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground and half
measures keep you half exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And on the day after President Obama told the country Osama bin
Laden had been captured and killed -- well, actually killed, ABC`s Jonathan
Karl interviewed Cheney.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Are we safer now?

CHENEY: I think so, but it`s a kind of situation where we need to preserve
our sense of vigilance, if you will. We need to stay just as vigilant as
we have been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to David. I mean, we were -- this is an
important transition from Cheneyism to Obamaism. Obama`s fighting the war
because we have to fight it, because it`s something we can handle and also
be Americans at the same time. Cheney saw it as an all-encompassing
reality he stepped into and wasn`t actually upset with being in. He seemed
to be at home in it.

CORN: I...

MATTHEWS: I`m not saying he liked war, just that he seemed to relish the
experience of fighting it. And he seemed to like this notion it would
never end and that it would be an existential threat. He talked about the
terrorism threat from al Qaeda as if it threatened America`s very
existence. And that got into our blood system, where everybody began to
talk like that, the idea there would be bombs dropped with (ph) nuclear
weapons on (ph) them (ph), the idea we would be facing 9/11s every other
weekend.

This thing seemed to be totally out of proportion to what we faced.

CORN: And of course -- of course, it led to such excesses as waterboarding
and torture. You know, I think the comment that you just played from the
AEI speech, which was eight years or so after 9/11, in which he says there
are no half-measures, it`s all or nothing, shows the mindset. The world
doesn`t tend to work in all or nothing terms.

And I think what the president was doing yesterday -- and I liked the word
you used at the beginning, Chris -- was putting this in perspective.
Everything in life is often a balancing act. You could have -- we could go
even further on security measures at airports and elsewhere than we have
gone so far, if you want to try to have more security.

But we have to balance that against freedom and liberties and civil
liberties. And Cheney was basically arguing at AEI that, No, you go all
out, or it doesn`t matter.

And yesterday, I think it was very interesting when Obama started talking
about -- there are different types of terrorism. There are, you know,
these international groups that we have to target, and there are the -- you
know, the small cells we may not really be able to do much about before
they strike. And we have to keep all this in that perspective, something
that Dick Cheney -- and we`re not talking about George Bush, you`ll notice
here -- never really talked honestly to the American public about.

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, President Obama in his speech took a clear-eyed
view, I think, at the terrorist threat ahead of, and the danger, by the
way, to the United States of distorting that threat.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels
themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.
Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be
drawn into more wars we don`t need to fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there we have it, Pat, the question of what we can do
here. I`ve always thought -- and I`m not an expert, but I`ve studied this
story like everybody has -- that the claim and the purpose of al Qaeda was
draw the world into an East-West all-out war, to have the West take the
East, the East take the West, and everybody involved in this, and it would
never end until there`d be some sort of caliphate established, and that was
their goal.

And to the extent that we show discipline and refuse to engage in a war
against Islam, which I think the president and George W. Bush was quite
clear about, I think we got a chance to narrow it down to a number of
people we have to fight.

But we also have to avoid stopping creating war posters. I`m not saying
particular wars lead to other people doing it, but they can be used to
recruit people. They can be used to fire up people in this country. And
we`ve seen this. We just saw it in Boston, people getting fired up by what
we did in Afghanistan and Iraq and using that as a basis for their own
radicalization.

MURPHY: That`s right, Chris. And that`s why you and David are exactly
right when you`re saying put it in the proper perspective.

Let`s be very clear. Barack Obama has been an ass-kicker when it comes to
al Qaeda. He took out bin Laden. He decimated -- took a buzzsaw to al
Qaeda and they are now decimated.

And secondly, he has properly put forward the Obama doctrine, which is a
shift from the counterinsurgency doctrine to the counterterrorism doctrine,
being very specific, not nation building, because we`re now nation -- now
focusing our efforts on nation building here at home.

And Chris, you know why that`s important? Look at what happened last night
in the state of Washington. A bridge collapsed. Look what happened five-
and-a-half years ago in Minnesota. A bridge collapsed, and 13 people were
killed in Minnesota. There are 75,000 bridges that are structurally
deficient in our country. Are we waiting for your kids or my kids to be
killed?

It`s time to start nation building here at home, start bringing the troops
home from Afghanistan, refocus our efforts on the true threats, but most
importantly, on nation building here at home and not continuing this
military-industrial complex that Bush and Cheney started.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thanks for coming on, Patrick Murphy. I couldn`t
agree with you more. David Corn, thank you, sir.

Coming up: Where is the IRS scandal going from here? Big question,
actually, open question. The official overseeing the mess had been removed
from duty. The acting director has been forced to resign. No evidence has
been discovered of any Obama involvement whatever. Are the critics left
now with anything more than their conspiracy theories?

Plus, when Groucho Marx couldn`t sell his tutti-frutti ice cream, he
offered to fight any man in the house for a dollar. Meet Senator Ted Cruz,
the new Groucho Marx, who refuses to join his fellow Republicans, the only
club that would accept him as a member.

Also, why one Republican congressman thinks Barack Obama has Ronald Reagan
thank for him becoming president. He blames him, of course, for that.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with Ted Cruz`s wish for an all-out political
war.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Rand Paul`s looking stronger and stronger as a
presidential candidate, if you can believe it. We`ve got new poll numbers
from Quinnipiac from Ohio -- actually, from Iowa. For that, we check the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In a matchup with Hillary Clinton, catch this, Senator Paul keeps it close.
It`s Hillary in Iowa 46, Rand Paul 42. That`s a 4-point lead for Hillary -
- not much, actually. And look at this. Against Vice President Joe Biden,
Rand Paul`s ahead by 5, 44-39.

Florida senator Marco Rubio doesn`t do as well in Iowa. He trails Hillary
by 9, 48-37. But Rubio does have a 1-point lead over Biden, 40-39. These
are close and exciting.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Fourteen days ago -- seems like a
million years ago -- that`s when IRS official Lois Lerner first disclosed
the IRS had improperly scrutinized conservative groups. Well, that`s also
how long it`s taken the White House to regain some footing on the issue,
and that`s an honest assessment.

Instead of getting out in front of the criticism and playing offense, the
White House crowd made the key mistake -- it`s not immoral, but it was a
mistake -- of thinking what the president didn`t know wouldn`t hurt him.
Well, there`s no doubt that`s cost him.

But let`s take a look at the bigger picture here. We now know they botched
the chance to jump on the wrongdoing when senior staffers first got wind of
the issue. OK. That`s true. But the administration has responded on
multiple levels ever since.

Look at the timeline here. May 10th -- that`s when the president first
learned about the IRS targeting of the Tea Party from news reports. May
15th, the IRS commissioner resigns under pressure, and an unnamed IRS
employee is disciplined and reassigned. A day later, the president names a
new commissioner and instructs him to conduct a top-down agency review.

The next day, the White House holds a pair of PR strategy meetings with
former advisers, all smart people. Monday, White House press secretary Jay
Carney comes clean with a more detailed timeline of what administration
officials knew and when they knew it.

Wednesday, Carney strikes an apologetic tome -- tone, I should say, with
the press, admitting the White House had mishandled the message-sending
(ph) here, which brings us to yesterday. Things came full circle when Lois
Lerner was placed on administrative leave after refusing an order to
resign. She`s off the job for a while.

Anyway, Robert Gibbs is a former White House press secretary. He was part
of that May 17th White House strategy session when the smart guys came in,
and smart women. And Joy Reid, also smart -- she`s with TheGrio.com, still
an independent lady on the outside of this business.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And thank you all. Robert, you`ve been in there. I don`t know
how much you`re privileged to say about that strategy session. But it does
seem to me, based on news report -- I`m like the president here -- based on
news reports -- you folks suggested getting this threat as fast as you
could, whatever was left to put out, and basically clean house as best you
can, and then start focusing on positive efforts, like creating jobs and
don`t just sit there in the water taking heat and taking hits.

Was that roughly what you guys were advising?

ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. W.H. PRESS SEC`Y, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t -- I
wouldn`t dispute that. I think the White House clearly has, as you said,
regained their footing even from just the beginning of this week. I think
they`ve come, as you said, full circle in now dispatching for leave Lois
Lerner. So I think they`re in a much better place certainly than they were
two weeks ago, but probably even, Chris, in a much better place than they
were just two or three days ago.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Joy, from the outside. Maybe he`s being
too kind. I think he`s a bit too kind. I think Lois Lerner should have
been -- somebody should have outlawyered her. And the idea that she`s
getting paid full-time without having to do any work is going to bug some
people. But at least she`s off the job and she`s not there involved in any
way with the mishandling of those files as -- income tax files.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it`s sort of an eternal
irony that Lois Lerner is the person that actually discovered this in the
beginning, told the employees, you know, to change the criteria, not to do
any more.

They stopped for a while, and then they went back and did it. And then she
sort of awkwardly tried to get it out during this Bar Association speech.
So, she`s sort of every bit the picture of the bungling bureaucrat.

But she also probably has some civil service protections. That also is an
issue here. These are career employees, except for the two appointed
people at the top, the general counsel and the general -- sort of the
leader of the IRS. Those were political appointees. These are career
civil servants. It`s not that easy to cashier them whenever you want.

And we want there to be a distance between the White House and IRS, so in a
way, you know what? They`re not like directly right on top of telling them
what to do. So, that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You really think the American people are going to let the
president off the hook because he can`t fire a bunch of people that did
some stuff wrong?

REID: Well, here`s the thing.

MATTHEWS: Because they`re going to say, liberals gave them those work
rules. Liberals looked out for the labor rights of those people and civil
service protections.

REID: Right. Yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s what the voters are going to -- and, by the way, as long
as they`re there, it`s a problem for the president and all Democrats.

REID: But the thing is, is that I think most Americans are still not at
the point where they`re paying, number one, a supreme amount of attention
to this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Three-quarters of the American people think it`s inappropriate.

REID: But people -- in the Pew poll last week, only about a third of
people are actually paying really close attention. And most are mostly
Republicans. It`s a partisan issue. And I think that because the Tea
Party...

MATTHEWS: And 44 percent of Democrats think it was -- so it`s almost
50/50.

REID: Well, just -- one thought, because it`s the Tea Party, number one,
which isn`t popular, right, and then, number two, because this is a matter
not of somebody saying something unpleasant about the president and then
getting audited, which all Americans can kind of relate to, now you have
the question of people seeking tax exemption.

And where this is definitely going if you look at the inspector general`s
report, George has said the next place should look is, well, should people
be getting a tax exemption? I think that`s even why Republicans have
started to say, OK, let`s be bipartisan, because everybody`s ox gets gored
in part two of this story.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can we talk politics here, instead of talking this thing you`re
doing right now?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Half this country`s on the right, by definition. Maybe a third
is on the hard right, right now. They think any -- they mistrust the
federal government.

Now they get wind of the fact that the federal government is targeting
their crowd. You tell me that`s not a problem politically for the
president, to harden up his opposition, to enthuse them, energize them, get
them to hate him, and now having handy evidence? That`s not a problem?

REID: Well, I think that there`s a part of the country that already hated
the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who`s more likely to vote in 2014 now, the people who are really
ticked at him or the people who are mildly still supportive of him?

REID: Well, now you get to a point.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I`m at.

REID: Right, is that Republicans were already at war with this president.

MATTHEWS: Right.

REID: Now, the White House doesn`t always operate like they`re in a war
with their opposition.

MATTHEWS: OK.

REID: They do sometimes operate like they`re in a negotiation.

But the other side smelled blood in the water.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m thinking.

REID: Because this all came out at the same time, they were looking at
Benghazi, looking at AP. Whatever the substance of it, you`re right, the
opposition to the president was geared for war, always are, always have
been.

The White House typically has not been.

MATTHEWS: OK.

REID: And I think they looked flat-footed, because they were never geared
up for a fight.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to the expert here on the inside.

Robert, how can they improve their situation henceforth? Let`s look
positively. If they have begun to come out of the problem, the ditch they
were in -- I think they`re climbing out of the ditch right now. How do
they get all -- is there any way to get all the way out of this ditch
unless there`s some -- a good significant number of removals from people --
removals of people in the IRS, where this problem is?

I think Charlie Rangel or somebody said it`s a cancer, it has to be
removed. He said, unless that`s removed, the whole federal government is
perceived as guilty.

GIBBS: And I think that`s correct.

I think this first administrative leave is just -- and should just be the
beginning. I think the acting commissioner should drill down and figure
out why this happened, who was involved, and get them out of the IRS,
because let`s be clear, Chris.

If you`re a progressive, you`re not -- we`re not going to hold the White
House forever, right? Eventually, there`s going to be a Republican
president, and we don`t want politics to enter into the IRS tax code,
regardless of what party you`re in. I think the...

MATTHEWS: I think especially for Democrats, who really -- you know, if
you`re going to be the government party, the ones who really believe in the
positive nature of federal government activity, then you ought to be the
governing party as well.

GIBBS: Right. Well...

MATTHEWS: You ought to be good at what you believe in. That`s something I
always go back to.

GIBBS: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Democrats have a much bigger stake in making government
clean and effective and useful to people, because they want it to be used.

GIBBS: Right. Well, not to mention -- yes.

MATTHEWS: Republicans don`t mind disasters, because they just tell the
people, hey, you`re right, there are a bunch of clowns back there in
Washington, or worse than that.

GIBBS: Well, not to mention, this is -- you`re going to see this. You
have already seen it enter into the health care debate.

MATTHEWS: Already.

GIBBS: You`re going to see this in virtually every debate.

They`re going to -- the Republican talking point will be, if the
administration can`t control the Cincinnati office of the IRS, how are they
going to do blank? How are they going to secure the border for immigration
reform? How are they going to implement health care reform?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIBBS: So, this is -- this is a dangerous issue that has to be dealt with.
The good news for the president is voters don`t hold him responsible for
having caused this problem, but like in a natural disaster, they expect him
to fix it.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, this gives credence to all the "Looney Tune"
arguments out there. And I`m not going to say people are "Looney Tunes"
themselves.

I will be careful enough to say "Looney Tune" arguments. If you`re
somebody out there like Michele Bachmann, for example, saying, oh, they
have got all these secret health records on you, they`re going to spread
them around and make you a fool to all your neighbors, that kind of stuff
is more credible to people on the right and the center right now because of
this bollixed thing of this problem over at the IRS.

I`m sorry to say these things. I`m not happy to be saying these things the
last two or three weeks.

GIBBS: Right.

MATTHEWS: But they`re true.

REID: Weren`t they going to say that anyway?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s called evidence. People called Nixon a crook before
Watergate. After Watergate, it meant something.

Thank you, Robert Gibbs.

I`m older than you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Joy Reid, thank you. I know you went to Harvard.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next, do we have Ronald Reagan to thank for Barack Obama`s
presidency? Wait until you catch this logic. I think we`re all going to
enjoy this.

Check out the historic logic of Iowa Congressman, yes, Steve King. That`s
coming in the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

President Obama spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He gave the
commencement address, anyway, but he hit a slight snack before taking off
on Marine One. Hint: Here`s what we usually see before the president
boards the helicopter. And here`s what happened today. I like to see that
humility. Anyway, the president backtracked, as you can see, to shake
hands with the Marine he had ignored.

Next, remember when all the GOP primary candidates couldn`t stop praising
all those things that Reagan had done? Well -- well, Republican
Congressman Steve King is a bit to the right of Reagan. He`s still fishing
around for reasons why President Obama got elected and now he thinks it
might actually circle back to Ronald Reagan himself.

It`s all to do with that 1986 -- well, it was the immigration act. He
calls it the amnesty act, which granted amnesty to immigrants who arrived
in the United States before 1982. Here`s Steven King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: There`s something like 15 million people in
this country, not -- discounting deaths and those that might have gone back
-- that were the beneficiaries of the 1986 amnesty act.

So I would just pose this question. Does anybody think that Barack Obama
would be president today if the 1986 amnesty act had not become law?

I don`t believe Barack Obama would be president today if Ronald Reagan
hadn`t made the most colossal mistake of his career in signing the 1986
amnesty act. He let me down that day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, just another comment on history from the guy who thinks
President Obama is an illegal immigrant himself, came here after being born
in Kenya. That`s what he thinks.

Next, when outreach goes awry. At an event put on by a Philadelphia
Spanish-language news organization last week, Pennsylvania Republican
Governor Tom Corbett was asked whether he had any Latino staffers himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have staff members that are Latino?

GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: No, we do not have any staff members
in there. If you can find us one, please let me know.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sure that there are Latinos that...

CORBETT: Either one of you want to come to Harrisburg?

(LAUGHTER)

CORBETT: See?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a great quote: "If you can find us one, let me
know."

Well, the fact is Pennsylvania`s Latino population is on the rise. It
increased by 83 percent between 2000 and 2010. In fact, a spokesman later
said that Corbett does, in fact, have one Latino staffer. And this comes
just a few weeks after Corbett suggested that one reason for Pennsylvania`s
high unemployment rate is that employers can`t find job candidates who are
able to pass a drug test. And this is the governor of the state.

Finally, yesterday marked former Congressman Anthony Weiner`s first day on
the campaign trail as a mayoral candidate. And it was a crazy one. Even
people who couldn`t have cared less about his campaign found themselves in
the brouhaha. He was blocking a subway entrance in New York.

According to "The New York Observer" -- quote -- "The situation got so bad
that at one point, two police officers were forced to intervene, escorting
Mr. Weiner and reporters away from the entrance" -- close quote.

Well, the tweeting scandal that forced his exit from Congress in the first
place was not absent from the situation. After meeting Weiner, one
bystander said -- quote -- "Instead of a hug, I really wanted a text."
Interesting bystander.

Anyway, the madness followed Weiner onto the subway, where one person in
the crowd advised -- quote -- "Stay off Facebook and all of that. Leave
that alone."

Well, this candidacy, as I have said the last couple days, is a disaster
for New York, a disaster for the Democratic Party and for society.

Up next: Progressives love the family feud going on right now in the
Republican Party. John McCain is taking on the Tea Partiers. And Ted
Cruz, well, he`s going after everyone. That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

EAMON JAVERS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Eamon Javers with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Stocks end the week little changed. The Dow manages an eight-point gain.
The S&P and the Nasdaq finish flat. Procter & Gamble was a winner today,
gaining more than 3 percent after it said it was bringing back its former
CEO.

A different story for Sears. Shares slid 13 percent after it posted a
wider-than-expected loss.

And orders for durable goods rebounded last month, rising 3.3 percent,
following a steep slide in March.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After this week, there`s no hiding just how dysfunctional the Republicans
on Capitol Hill have become. The issue was an unusually -- well, a usually
routine vote on the budget, setting up a conference committee to reconcile
the House and Senate versions.

But what played out on the floor of the Senate over several days showcased
a party at war within itself. Led by Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of
Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida, the Tea Party wing
shows no interest in governing. In fact, they win points with the base for
obstructing things, from getting things done in Washington. What an
interesting political party.

John McCain, the most outspoken of the old guard Republicans, couldn`t hide
his frustration and anger. He called Cruz`s objections to a conference
committee on the budget bizarre. On Wednesday, Cruz fired back and he
raised eyebrows with his strong critique of both Democrats and, catch this,
his own party, Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The senior senator from Arizona urged this body
to trust the Republicans.

Let me be clear. I don`t trust the Republicans. And I don`t trust the
Democrats. And I think a whole lot of Americans, likewise, don`t trust the
Republicans and the Democrats, because it is leadership in both parties
that has gotten us in this mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s demagoguery for you. Listen to how Mike Lee
explained his opposition to forming a conference committee. This is just
to get the budget done.

They have attacked the Democrats for three years for not having a budget.
When they do have a budget, they said, you can`t operate. You can`t do it.
Let`s go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The American people do not trust secret backroom
deals. And neither do I. Unless and until the American people are assured
that we will not sneak a debt limit increase into the conference report, I
will happily continue to object.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s objecting to the House and the Senate coming together in an
open meeting covered by C-SPAN and any press that want to go in, any public
that want to go in. There are no backroom meetings. He completely made
that up. Let`s watch. Here`s McCain hitting back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If the senator from Utah wants to get rid
of the -- quote -- "backroom," all of the other adjectives and adverbs that
he used, then what is the process? What is the process? How do we
reconcile legislation that`s passed by one body and the other body?
There`s -- that`s what we have been doing for a couple hundred years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the senator yield for a question?

MCCAIN: So, all I can say is, has the senator from Utah got another way of
reconciling legislation between the House and the Senate? Of course not.
Of course he doesn`t. Of course he doesn`t. Of course he doesn`t.

Maybe the senator from Utah ought to learn a little bit more about how
business has been done in the Congress of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Boy, McCain`s right on that one.

So, how deep is the rift in the Republican Party? You saw it, I think.
And what exactly are Ted Cruz and his friends up to? There`s a question.

Chris Cillizza is managing editor of PostPolitics.com. He`s also an MSNBC
contributor. And Michael McAuliff is a senior congressional reporter for
The Huffington Post.

Gentlemen, I`ll tell you, have been on the Senate Budget Committee for
three years and watched them do it in a bipartisan fashion, especially in
the Senate, and then going to the conference with the House and getting
things done, and actually limiting spending and controlling taxes, they
actually got the job done.

And now for three years, they haven`t gotten the job done. And just as
they start to do it -- starting to do it, this Cruz crowd comes along and
they basically want to screw the whole thing up and not get anything done,
under the false premise that if the people meet between the House and the
Senate, they`re going to somehow raise the debt ceiling, without having to
go back to both houses and getting it approved by the very Republican House
which wouldn`t approve such a deal and even the Democratic Senate would
have a problem with it.

So, Chris Cillizza, we usually think alike in understanding how Washington
works.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: What is Cruz talking about, besides his own demagoguery?

CILLIZZA: Well...

MATTHEWS: He seems to be just blowing a horn for the hard right by saying,
I`m against government, I think.

CILLIZZA: Let me first -- let me first add one point to your points, Chris,
which are right, which is if it went to conference committee, House
Republicans passed a budget bill, they would have people on that conference
committee --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: -- who presumably wouldn`t just vote to allow the debt ceiling
to be raised.

Look, what`s going on here, I was watching all the clips and thinking back,
people say, the Senate, it`s gotten so much more conservative. There have
been many conservatives in the Senate. Jesse Helms was as conservative
from North Carolina, as conservative as most of these guys.

But there`s a belief among Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul to a certain
extent though I don`t know if I`d put him in that group, that the Senate as
an institution has basically failed. It`s the Jim DeMint argument. Jim
DeMint is sort of way the progenitor of this. Senate has failed. It
doesn`t do anything.

The way things have been done in the Senate are by nature, therefore,
wrong. That`s why you hear Ted Cruz say, look, I don`t trust how this is
going to work. I think McCain and others (INAUDIBLE) and say, what`s the
alternative here?

But it`s a rejection of the institution, Chris, I think more than it is
anything about who`s conservative versus who`s a moderate within the
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, I don`t know why they don`t wear uniforms
like the Code Pink people do or other political group. Just show up there
and say, we vote against everything, we`re going to screw things up. All
we`re here to do is heckle.

They look like hecklers. I`m sorry. McCain is right. He knows how the
government works if it wants to work. If it doesn`t want to work, there`s
a lot of ways to screw it up.

These guys are doing it by saying, oh, we can`t meet because we might
agree. Even though it`s on television, it`s a secret meeting, therefore,
we can`t have it.

I mean, they`re just making it up.

MICHAEL MCAULIFF, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, they`re playing to their
base. I mean, they have folks who, as Chris said, really think the Senate
is dysfunctional. And it`s a little bit ironic --

MATTHEWS: But this is the dysfunctional --

MCAULIFF: The temper tantrum is going to make it more dysfunctional.

MATTHEWS: But they want dysfunction. This is what they`re organized to
do. They want to stop the meeting of the government, basically. I tell
you, it`s new. This is new.

MCAULIFF: Well, they`ve got an extraordinary situation now where you have
Republicans bickering on the floor of the U.S. Senate, making great video
clips for the "Huffington Post."

MATTHEWS: Yes, right, for you. Let`s take a look at Reince Priebus, one
of my favorite points of interest here. Sort of like in the pitting zoo.

But anyway, let`s take a look at the guy and what he`s saying. He`s scared
to death to say anything against the Cruz crowd on the hard right because
he`s afraid he might get bumped off and no longer be RNC chair. Here he
is, Priebus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think Ted speaks for a lot of Americans,
are just sick and tired of everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but is Ted helping himself in terms of being
effective in Washington?

PRIEBUS: I think he`s representing a ice out there of people that quite
frankly are tired of everybody. I mean, I think that that`s true. I think
you all can agree with that that there are lots of people outre that get
tired of politics and tired of Washington, D.C., in general. Just saying,
look, I don`t trust anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s the chairman of the national Republican Party, any
political party. I think he`s a disgrace. Your thoughts, Chris Cillizza.
I know you can`t use words like that.

But isn`t it unusual for the chairman of the party to justify this kind of
craziness?

CILLIZZA: Well, look, Cris, if you asked Reince Priebus, is Ted Cruz
making your job harder or easier? The answer is he`s making his job
harder. I don`t think there`s any question about that.

When you have this kind of open fighting within the party, they`re not in
the White House, you have this battling for control of it. What Reince
Priebus is doing in a way, though, is the only thing he can do, Chris,
which is Ted Cruz does represent a significant portion of the Republican
base who is sick not just of President Obama and Democratic leadership but
is sick and doesn`t trust Republican leadership in Washington.

So he, Reince Priebus is exactly right in what he says, which is Ted Cruz
does stand for a lot of people. That is the problem with the Republican
Party right now. They`re not singing off the same songbook and don`t have
a leader. You can agree or disagree with Barack Obama on the Democratic
side but it`s quite clear he`s the leader of the party. There`s nobody on
the Republican side like this.

MATTHEWS: If this is the way they`re going, the Republican Party, over to
the Rand Paul crowd, the Mike Lee crowd, the Ted Cruz crowd, they`re going
over in that direction, rather than what looks like a moderate wing of the
party like Christie and Rubio in terms of immigration like that. If
they`re going to the hard right, they`re going to extend the Democratic
rule of control of the White House for 16 years the way they`re going.

Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza. No matter who runs.

Chris Cillizza and Michael McAuliff, thanks for joining us.

Up next, the one and only Carole King. She`s coming here. The singer-
songwriter was at the White House this week where President Obama presented
her with the Gershwin Award. There they are. We`ll find out what they
were chatting about, too.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE: Build, baby, build! Build, baby, build!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Look at these dramatic pictures from Washington state. That`s
the bridge carrying Interstate 5, the major north/south highway on the
Pacific Coast over the Skagit River. Actually, it collapsed last night
after a truck carrying an oversized road ran into a girder. And as you can
see, cars were dumped right into the river. Three people suffered minor
injuries. That`s lucky.

Sadly, it`s another example of America`s crumbling infrastructure. As I`ve
said before, the president should insist that Congress pass a real jobs
bill to get people back to work, fixing bridges like that, rebuilding our
roads, bridges, everything.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the age of 4, Carole was
already mastering the piano. By 15, she`d already conducted her first
orchestra. By 17, she`d already written her first number one hit, which
you`ve already heard, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" with Gerry Goffin.

So, at this point, all of you are feeling like underachievers. I
understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

There is President Obama there trying to pretend he know all about music.
Maybe he does. We`ll find out from Carole.

The legendary songwriter and singer Carole King is here. She became the
first ever woman to the other night to win the George Gershwin Award,
recognizing her incredible achievements in music, spanning six decades,
including hits we all know, I even know them all.

Here they are. Such hit as "You`ve Got a Friend," that`s with James
Taylor. "I Feel the Earth Move," that`s her, of course. "You Make Me Feel
Like a Natural Woman," I hear Carol there. "The Loco-Motion," I hear
little Eva singing that. "So Far Away," I know that one. She`ll be
performing May 30th at the concert for Boston strong, isn`t that a good
cause.

And tonight, she`s here. And all mine.

Thank you, Carole King.

CAROLE KING, SINGER/SONGWRITER: It`s a pleasure to be here.

MATTHEWS: You know, I listen to `60s on 6 on the way back from HARDBALL
every night. I turn on, depending on the mood, if I want to be -- I want
company, I listen to Cousin Brucie, and I listen to all of the old song.
If I want to be alone, I listen to all of the pops.

You are really played heavily.

KING: I`m glad to hear it.

MATTHEWS: I hope you`re getting royalties.

KING: I hope so, too.

MATTHEWS: What I want to know, this is HARDBALL, by the way. So, I want
to know a couple of things.

Your relationship with President Obama, you were chatting away with him
there. You saw kibitzing there in that little picture along the front row
there.

What does he talk to you about? Can you tell us?

KING: Well, I`d like to say that I was telling him what to say in his
speech that he gave yesterday but that would not be true.

MATTHEWS: Good speech.

KING: It was a great speech and I have actually been telling my friends on
the left exactly those things, put yourself in his place.

But, no, what we were talking about, he whispered to me, what year did you
write, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and knowing his birth date I said,
"1961, Mr. President".

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, "It`s Too Late, Baby" was the big for you. That was
in `71.

Why did after all of those years of songwriting and performing and
recording did all of a sudden, one just hit the top and stay there?

KING: I don`t know. You know, it happens. There are many people more
talented than I am, but I am lucky to be where I am. I`m not saying I
don`t have talent. I`m just saying it could be anybody. So, go for it.

MATTHEWS: You know that humility is off base on cable television, don`t
you?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Not in this party.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president yesterday. Let`s talk
turkey, because I thought the speech was great because I`ve been fighting
with my son and daughter-in-law about this drone thing. I think sometimes
you have to be tough and it`s better than starting a war and it`s certainly
better than just sitting there and getting hit.

But your thoughts?

KING: Well, my thoughts are that the choices he laid out, he has a limited
array of choices. He can`t do nothing. And If I`m in charge of take being
care of the American people, my country, I`m going to do something. And
that was probably the most effective way that he could think of at the
time.

And I know there were a lot of problems, which is what he addressed
yesterday. He`s taking -- he`s actually saying, I`m going to give up some
of the power.

When have you heard a president do that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s going to restrict the use of these drones in cases
involving non-Americans as well as Americans. We`re not just going to be,
you know, free shooting. Let me ask you about the one I didn`t hear fully
addressed yesterday, Gitmo, Guantanamo.

What do you do with those 40 or so people down there? There are men,
committed Islamist terrorists who want to get us, want to get the West,
want to blow up things, kill people. But you don`t have a case against
them. They haven`t committed a crime you can take them to court for a
number of reasons, maybe certain evidence is tainted.

What do you do to those people? You`d just release them or would you come
permanently (ph) without trial? I think that is a real conundrum for a lot
of people.

KING: Well, there is no easy answer. If there was, I would, you know, be
making millions of dollars as a consultant. But the point is that, you
know, even if you have to keep them, there should be a process and Congress
shows no willingness, or at least the Republicans show no willingness to
work with the president on a process. The question of where you put them
is --

MATTHEWS: Not in my backyard.

KING: Yes, exactly. Where you put them is a question. And the other
thing is, you talk about what do you do with people when you don`t have a
case?

In our country, when you don`t have a case, murderers walk and it`s
horrible. And that does put people at risk. So I don`t know -- I`m not
saying that`s the right answer. I`m saying why it`s a conundrum.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, congratulations on your work for Congressman Ed
Markey up in Massachusetts. You`ve been raising money for him, he`s a
great candidate.

He`s been a great -- he agrees with me on all of these things. Not that he
did because of me. He`s great on the environment, great on energy, and
great on all of the issues.

KING: Ed has a record to run on. You know, he likes to make a joke about
everybody pats their pockets to see that they have their device when they
leave home.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KING: Ed was instrumental in getting these laws, breaking up the
monopolies and getting this thing going. He`s not claiming to have
invented the Internet but he`s certainly helped create this technique.

MATTHEWS: I think if you don`t vote your beliefs, don`t expect some
senator to vote them later. You got to vote your beliefs.

KING: And I`m all about turnout in Massachusetts.

MATTHEWS: Well, specials are hard to predict and hard to poll.

Anyway, thank you, Carole King. You know your politics.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

Ted Cruz of Texas is a disaster, not least for the party that ran him for
the Senate. He says he doesn`t trust his fellow Republicans. Neither, he
said, does he trust Democrats. He`s putting himself on the national stage
as the enemy of compromise, of reasonable comity between the parties, a
bipartisan agreement itself.

No, Senator Cruz wants all out political war. He wants to bring down the
budget, forfeit any congressional control on spending or taxation. He
prefers a chaotic order on Capitol Hill where he can stand in the middle of
the legislative traffic yelling stop, where he can derail any budget
control in order to bring attention to himself.

He`s come to Washington to start fight, to disrupt any chance of ending
this dysfunction, because dysfunction is what he dearly hopes to someday
challenge.

Pay attention to Senator Cruz because he is the unsmiling, contentious face
of the wild, nasty, hard right fringe of a party that once competed with
the Democrats to be the country`s governing party.

All Cruz wants to do is prove that self-government is evil, impossible, or
whatever else will justify his existence as a hard right political bomb
thrower.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Have a safe and
happy Memorial Day weekend.

"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.
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