updated 7/19/2013 10:31:07 AM ET 2013-07-19T14:31:07

HARDBALL
July 18, 2013
Guests: Willie Brown, Nia-Malika Henderson, Sam Stein, Elijah Cummings

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Guns and race in America.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. There are things I didn`t know about
guns and race in this country until just now. If you are white in this
country, you have five times as much chance (ph) shooting yourself on
purpose as you have getting shot by someone else. However, if you are
black in this country, you have five times as much chance getting shot by
someone else as you do doing it to yourself.

Well, these -- and there are other statistics I could give you, but don`t -
- let`s get started right now where there`s no debate about the fact that
street crime in this country -- it exists and it`s committed with guns, and
people living in cities are taking the brunt of it. And that`s one reason
why three out of five people living in urban areas support gun control, or
gun safety, if you will, while only about a third of people in rural areas
do. There are other factors, I know, but crime and violence are part of
it.

And ground zero in the gun debate today, thanks to the Trayvon Martin
shooting, are those words "stand your ground" and the laws a part (ph)
about them. Let`s get to them right now. Michael Steele was chairman of
the RNC and is an MSNBC political analyst, and Mayor Willie Brown of San
Francisco joins me. Thank you very much.

Mayor Brown, thank you for joining us. And let`s take a look at the NRA.
It`s out there already now, attacking the attorney general, Eric Holder,
for what he said Tuesday at the NAACP convention. The attorney general
took issue with "stand your ground" laws that he said often result in
violence. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Separate and apart
from the case that has drawn the nation`s attention, it`s time to question
laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow (ph)
dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.

(APPLAUSE)

HOLDER: These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has
always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the "if" is
important -- if no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws
that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old
requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat outside
their home, if they can do so safely.

We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a
hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the executive director of the NRA`s lobbying arm used
Holder`s comments, the comments of the attorney general, to turn up the
temperature, saying in a statement, "The attorney general fails to
understand that self-defense is not a concept. It`s a fundamental human
right. To send a message that legitimate self-defense is blame is
unconscionable and demonstrates once again that this administration will
exploit tragedies to push their political agenda."

Mayor Brown, I guess that`s what we normally do. If a bus has a bus
accident, we care about bus safety. If a plane crashes, we think about
plane safety. It`s normal human reaction to talk about guns when
somebody`s just been shot and killed by a gun, it seems to me. Your
thoughts.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I think that Eric Holder
said exactly what needed to be said. However, I think his remarks should
have been even stronger on the question.

Chris, it`s clear, in this nation, we have the concept, and we`ve had it
forever, that if you are attacked and you see no other way, you can use
whatever reasonable force there is to defend yourself. That`s a concept
we`ve lived with forever.

That concept does not include getting out of your car on instructions from
someone to say, Don`t get out of you car, following somebody for the
purpose of doing whatever you wish to do. That`s the circumstances that
was available in Florida, and it prompts Eric Holder and all the rest of us
in saying we need to reexamine these laws.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s stay on this and let`s throw in some street smarts,
which I know you`ve got, and I think I`ve got some myself. And I`ll get
Michael in here, too. Would a guy get out of a car pursuing a person he
believed to be a criminal? Let`s face it, put it all together here. He
believed the person he was following was a burglar, someone who was a
felon, someone who had a lot of reason not to get picked up by anybody, and
a person who might be physically dangerous to him.

Would he have done that without that gun in his holster? That`s my
question.

BROWN: Of course not! Of course not. He would not have done that without
that gun in his holster. He did that for the express purpose of carrying
out an act that a person who is incompetent to be a peace officer was
engaging in. He had been instructed, Don`t do that.

But Chris, you know, this guy is strange. Florida is strange. The
prosecutor was strange. The jurors were strange. How can you assert self-
defense and you never testify? That`s crazy.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re a defense attorney -- you`re a lawyer, Mr. Mayor,
and I know a lot of cases where defendants in murder cases don`t want to
testify.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You don`t have to
testify. You`re not required by the law to testify. That`s what the 5th
Amendment is all about. And the testimony that was given by -- by
Zimmerman was introduced via videotape by the prosecution.

And so the fact of the matter is, you know, I agree with a lot of what the
mayor is saying, but we can`t lose sight of the fact that at the end of the
day, you know, one of issues that we`re now revisiting on guns is not a
major part of this conversation necessarily. It certainly wasn`t something
that was taken into account by the prosecution or the defense, for that
matter.

So there`s bootstrapping of this issue...

MATTHEWS: Well...

STEELE: ... onto this case, in my estimation, is a little bit problematic
to make a point. We`ve done the gun debate, Chris, and the Congress and
the president went to sleep on it. And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... before you jump on the president...

STEELE: ... people lost interest in it.

MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me just bring up what I think this bootstrapping
or connecting of the two -- I think there is a connection between "stand
your ground" and this real push for everybody carrying a gun, whether it`s
open carry or concealed carry, this obsession, it seems to me, by the NRA
with everybody having a gun at the ready.

If you are told by the law that you don`t have to run, if somebody gives
you some lip or something and you don`t like him, you can stand right
there, even when you think it`s a threatening situation, and say, I don`t
have any problem, I`m armed -- you don`t think those are connected, or to
use your term, bootstrapped together, this aggressive gun rights push these
days?

STEELE: Well, look, Chris, in terms of the bootstrapping, I`m talking
about in the context of the facts of this case, of which a key elemental
aspect of it was not the gun. It was the defense that the defendant
undertook, and it was the actions of -- unfortunately -- it shouldn`t have
been, but it was, of Trayvon Martin.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

STEELE: So the fact of the matter is, we`re going to have a gun debate.
If you`re going to have it in the context of this case, my caution is...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... that we be careful and not glom on too much...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... because the facts just don`t bear it out.

BROWN: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Well, just...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just remember, Mayor -- before you put your thought here -- it
was the NRA that jumped in on this case. The NRA thinks that "stand your
ground" is one of their concerns. They`re the one that lobbed onto this
thing.

Your thought, Mr. Mayor.

BROWN: I would think that everybody who`s ever talked about the gun issue
really should say if you`re going to have a gun, there have got to be some
interpretation of the responsibility you must exercise with that gun. And
clearly, self-defense and all the components surrounding self-defense and
the experience that people have had with self-defense ought to be a part of
that educational process.

But let me say also, Chris, you know Florida is a real weird state. How in
the name of heavens can you be viewed as objectively prosecuting, when
initially, you didn`t want to charge, you were only forced to charge
because of the incredible amount of public opinion, and then you ineptly do
what you do in the preparation of witnesses and all of the testimony?

It is clear there was no attempt, legitimate attempt, at justice in this
case by the state of Florida...

MATTHEWS: OK...

BROWN: ... and it should be dealt with in that fashion.

STEELE: Well, I disagree...

MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me just...

STEELE: ... with the mayor on that one.

MATTHEWS: ... quarrel with that because Rick Scott, who I don`t like, the
governor, jumped in on this case. He assigned the U.S. attorney, got --
somehow got the attorney in that area to get involved. There was a lot of
push from the conservative Republican side to deal at least with the
politics of this situation when there hadn`t been a prosecution beforehand.
Your thoughts, Michael.

STEELE: Yes, no, I would agree with you on that, Chris. I take a little
bit exception with the mayor`s approach on that aspect of this case simply
because the governor did bring in the U.S. attorney, did bring in the
federal authorities to look at this, because, to your point, Mayor, the
state authorities had decided that there wasn`t enough there to go after
and prosecute, which ultimately was confirmed by a jury of six people.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: ... Michael, it was the same people who didn`t want to touch it
that ended up being the prosecutor. Yes, Rick Scott did everything you
said, but what Rick Scott should have done was reach back and do what you
do at the federal level. You bring in an individual, independent
prosecutor. That`s who should have had this case.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re right about that, gentlemen. If your combined opinion
here is that that team in Sanford didn`t want to prosecute this case, all
the evidence suggests that they did not have their heart in this case, at
least based on the competence they showed.

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, a very good fellow, in a special column
for "Time" magazine this week, wrote that, "Trayvon Martin`s story is only
the latest in our epidemic of violence in our country." He writes, "When
Aurora happened, when Tucson happened, and certainly when Newtown happened,
we as a country launched a heartfelt conversation about gun violence, gun
safety and the use of weapons. We lurch from tragedy to tragedy to
tragedy, trying to figure out what to do along the way."

Michael Steele, what is your party doing about gun violence, the Republican
Party...

STEELE: Well, you know, Chris...

MATTHEWS: No, what is your party doing about gun violence?

STEELE: Chris, look -- well, Chris, it`s not a question about what one
party is doing. You can parse it along those lines, but it`s about what we
as a nation are doing on gun violence because I go back to my original
point at the beginning. You know, we had after Sandy Hook, the nation call
out the action it wanted taken. Democrats and Republicans, we failed to
respond to that action.

But to the mayor`s point, I agree with him about all those incidents that
he cites, but he failed to cite Chicago 2012. He failed to cite the cases
of inner city violence that occurred just this past weekend.

MATTHEWS: I know.

STEELE: So this is a broader question than just laying it at the lap of
the GOP. Yes, we can do more. There`s no doubt about it. We do need to
decouple ourselves a little bit, I think, from some of the harsher aspects
of what the NRA is pushing. But at the end of the day, this is something
all of us as a country has got to solve. We just can`t look to just
Democrats or Republicans to get this done by themselves.

MATTHEWS: One question, though, Michael. Why did every single Republican
U.S. senator vote not to close the gun show loophole?

STEELE: You know, again, it is from the lobbying, the interests and all of
the other aspects of this that go into the strength that the current gun
lobbies have and the hold they have over our...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Not just -- I mean, look, you`ve got -- you`ve got Democrats who
didn`t want to dance on this pinhead, either, Chris. I mean, yes, you have
a bigger number of Republicans, but don`t forget those Democrats in red
states and those -- and those purple states that are slightly conservative
for them (ph). They had -- they had to make that challenge, meet that
challenge as well.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BROWN: Chris, let me say that...

MATTHEWS: Quickly, Mr. Mayor. We`re out of time. Go ahead, sir.

BROWN: The Democratic Party needs to assume additional efforts and
leadership on behalf of dealing with the gun issue. And the way to do that
is move away from where the NRA happens to be. The NRA is doing the
bidding of those whom they say actually have the guns.

When you want to do something about automobile safety, you deal with the
driver, but you primarily deal -- when you`re thinking airbags and
seatbelts and brakes and headlights and taillights and all those things,
you go to the guy who makes that car.

We need to go to the people who make these guns. There`s a better
opportunity as a Democratic Party to deal with the gun issue if we refocus
our attention to those who make the weapons.

MATTHEWS: Unfortunately, the Republican Party has just listening to the
guy who makes the car horn. Anyway, thank you, Mayor Willie Brown. And
thank you, Michael Steele...

STEELE: Oh, Chris!

MATTHEWS: ... speaking for the Republican National Committee once again.

Coming up, the African-American NBC News vice president here, who says, I
could have been Trayvon Martin, is going to speak here right now after this
commercial. Twice this gentleman has found himself looking down the barrel
of a police gun. Well, he`s got a story to tell that I didn`t know until
recently. I`m glad I`ve heard it from my friend.

And now the missing man in the debate over "Obama care" emerges. That`s
the president himself. Not only does he have a strong case to make now --
he made it today -- there`s evidence it`s cutting across prices -- cutting
prices across the country. That`s even better.

And watch Darrell Issa pretend that he`s not accusing the White House of
using the IRS to target Tea Party groups, just as he accuses Washington, as
he calls it, of using the IRS to target Tea Party groups. Speaking with a
forked tongue, he is.

And what got comedian Lewis Black to make this fake ad campaign against
Texas governor Rick Perry?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: Don`t mess with Texas? No, don`t (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) with New York!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Boy, that man gets angry, as well as funny. That`s in the
"Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Dueling polls in the New York City mayor`s race. Let`s check
the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new "New York Times"/Siena College poll, former U.S.
congressman Anthony Weiner trails -- trails city counsel speaker Christine
Quinn by 9 points. It`s Quinn 27, Weiner 18.

But a Quinnipiac poll out earlier in the week had Weiner with a 3-point
lead here, 25 to 22, over Quinn. Looks like some voters in New York think
the digital streaker would be good calling the shots in New York.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The George Zimmerman verdict and the
tragedy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin has brought back memories
for many African-American men who see themselves as Trayvon Martin. Their
stories and their experiences are all too familiar and all too moving,
especially to those of us who don`t know anything about it.

As vice president here at NBC News, Val Nicholas broke his silence today in
an op-ed for MSNBC.com about what he calls, quote, "The long suppressed
memories," close quote, that last week`s verdict ignited, and realizing
that he could have been Trayvon Martin and didn`t even know it. He says,
quote, "Twice as a teen, I ended up looking down the barrel of police guns
for no other reason than I happened to be a black teenager. I had
completely forgotten about those incidents, but the Zimmerman verdict
opened that door again."

Well, Val Nicholas strongly believes that race plays a role in the
decisions that people make every day. And he has his own experiences to
prove it and to show it, both growing up and now as a successful
professional African-American man.

As the Zimmerman verdict sparks a nationwide conversation on race, could
something positive perhaps come from this verdict for all of us, regardless
of race?

Well, joining me right now to discuss this is NBC News vice president Val
Nicholas. Also with us is MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele. I`ve
asked him to stay over and join in this conversation.

Val, you don`t usually do television, you make it possible by being one of
the executives here at NBC News. Tell us, especially white people watching
who don`t know the world as you know it, as fully as you know it, what
happened to you as a teenager and then more subsequently.

VAL NICHOLAS, NBC NEWS VICE PRESIDENT: Interesting. When I was younger --
and I was an A student. I was a student athlete. And I never lived in a
hood. You know, I don`t even know what one is like. I`ve never been
there. But twice I ended up looking down the barrels of guns, which was
completely unexpected.

One time, I was waiting for a bus at a bus stop, waiting to go to my after-
school job. And suddenly two CHP, California Highway Patrol, cars jumped
over the middle island. And both of them screamed up on either side of me.
Guys jumped out with guns, screaming for me to get my hands up and lay down
on the ground.

And eventually, they threw me down to the ground, and they asked me if I
was some person. And I said, No, I`m not. They asked me for ID, which,
fortunately, I had a work ID that had a picture on it, otherwise, I
probably would have gone to jail. And they realized I wasn`t the guy, so
they decided, OK, and they jumped in their car and they took off. They
never said, Hey, sorry about that. They never said, Hey, are you OK?
Nothing. They just took off.

The second time, I was at a convenience store. And, unfortunately, at that
time, I had just cashed my work check, so I had it in my jacket pocket, and
suddenly somebody came up behind me and said, don`t move a muscle. And I
thought, OK, and I glanced back, and I saw the barrel of a shotgun at the
back of my head.

It turned out what it was, was the guy -- the clerk had accidentally
stepped on the switch that calls the police when there`s a robbery, and so
they had responded. And what I was thinking the whole time is, oh, my God,
this is the only money I have. Maybe I should try to sneak it out and
stick it into the snack thing.

And if I would have done that, I would have been dead instantly, because I
turned around and it was a police officer. And what really got me at the
time was, there were a lot of other customers in the store, but I was the
only one with a gun on me.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Steele.

What`s your reaction to hearing that story?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it is a story of a lot
of young African-American males, whether they`re from the hood or from, you
know -- or not. It doesn`t matter.

NICHOLAS: Exactly.

STEELE: What -- what Val, myself and so many other have in common is black
skin and a lot of the perceptions that go along with that. As I tell my
young boys -- my two sons are in their early 20s -- particularly when they
got their driver`s license, Chris, is I said, look, if you ever get pulled
over by a cop -- and you likely will -- this is what you do.

Role down all four down windows. Turn on the dome light. Put your hands
on the steering wheel, and don`t move and just answer yes, sir, no, sir.
That mind-set is something that is passed on. It has to be, because as Val
just, I think very pointedly, said, if he had done what anybody else could
have done, it likely would have led to his arrest or his being killed.

And so there is this dynamic at play here that`s now come to the surface as
a result of the Trayvon Martin case that causes an introspection among a
lot of African-American men, particularly those who are talking to their
sons right now as they are about to go out in the world about what it means
to be a black man in America.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about a practical thing, Val. And you and
I talk once in a while about everything except this.

And I want to ask about speed limits. You drive the Jersey Turnpike, you
drive the Garden State, any -- 95 -- you know, you see a black guy stopped,
I always wonder, what is this about? It happens. I see it all the about.
And I go, what is this about? Is that guy speeding? Is he two miles over
the speed limit rather than five. Most of us drive about five miles over
the speed limit. OK? That`s what we do.

We assume there`s a grace period there. Do you think cops grab people,
African-Americans, when they`re within that five-male grace period that
other people seem to operate by? I have been in traffic when everybody is
going 80, right?

NICHOLAS: I will give you -- I will give you a story, Chris.

When I was a young producer at a local television station in California, I
finally earned enough money to get a decent car, besides that piece of junk
I had. So, I bought a nice BMW. And what I found was during the week,
when I was dressed like this, not a problem. But on the weekend, when I
was wearing a T-shirt and a ball cap, police cars would do what I called
the five-block follow.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLAS: They would sidle up best hind me, and they would follow me for
five blocks while they`re running my plates, and then they would veer off.

STEELE: Yes.

NICHOLAS: And, at first, I didn`t notice it, but I then started -- every
weekend, it was happening. So...

MATTHEWS: So they were tailing you for a while, long enough to do a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... check.

NICHOLAS: To run my plates, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you have -- you`re laughing, Michael. I want to see if there
is common history here. Have you had that experience?

STEELE: Oh, my gosh, yes.

I had -- I was in a suit. I mean, I didn`t have the running suit or the T-
shirt. I was in a suit coming home cutting Rock Creek Park, and this park
police kind of pulled up behind me. And it was at dusk. It was getting
dark. And he followed me all the way out of the park, all the way out of
the park.

And so -- and I`m sitting there and I`m thinking, OK, am I going too fast?
Am I going too slow? What is it? I almost wanted to pull over, and just
ask him, why are you following me? But I knew that would open a can of
worms that I just didn`t need to open. So, I just kept the speed limit and
drove out of the park. And when it got -- he left.

MATTHEWS: OK.

How do you moderate yourself or modulate yourself? This is fascinating,
like, when you go to a store, and I have heard cases where people follow
you if you`re African-American. They just -- they claim like they`re being
attentive, but they`re being attentive in kind of a nasty way.

NICHOLAS: Exactly.

My father, not unlike Michael, when I was young, taught me -- he said, if
you end up in a situation with the police or security or whatever, never
argue. Just capitulate, because, he said, there`s only three results that
can happen from that. One, you go to jail. Two, you go to the hospital.
Three, you go to the morgue. And he told me that when I was about like 9
or 10 years old.

MATTHEWS: We have to continue this conversation, gentlemen, privately and
on television.

I mean, a lot of people out there -- I will just tell you one thing. And
I`m speaking now for all white people, but especially who have had to tried
to change the last 50 or 60 years. And a lot of them have really tried to
change.

And I`m sorry for this stuff. That`s all I`m saying.

Val Nicholas, thank you, and, Michael Steele.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLAS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen, for both being colleagues of mine.

We will be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

Oops. Governor Rick Perry has launched a million-dollar ad campaign to
lure businesses from New York to his home state of Texas. And, as you
might imagine, native New Yorkers resent his meddling, but no one is more
indignant than comedian Lewis Black, who issued a searing rebuttal in an
advertisement of his own on "The Daily Show" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: This is New York, the city that never sleeps.
People come here from all over the world for the freedom to live as they
choose, for the variety of cultures, but, most of all, for the fact that
it`s not Texas.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLACK: You say that everybody is bigger in Texas? We have a 300-feet
green beacon of liberty. And you have a whatever the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
this thing is.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: You say we have got too much regulation? We have got Wall Street.
They break the law for a living and never get punished.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: New Yorkers go to the bathroom anywhere they want.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: We love the smell of urine. It smells like freedom.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLACK: They all come from different places, but we all agree on one thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Perry, you are a schmuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember the Alamo? Neither do we.

BLACK: Don`t mess with Texas? No, don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with New
York.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.

Next: a group that calls itself Hack Marriage is redefining marriage,
literally. It seems that, after the ruling against DOMA, Defense of
Marriage Act, last month, the group of activists is taking matters into
their own hands, updating the entry for marriage in dictionaries in various
bookstores across San Francisco.

And, to boot, these rogue pranksters are filming themselves in the act.
The video that you`re just watching shows them retrofitting the books at
Barnes & Noble, Target, even at the famous left-leaning City Lights
Bookstore, where I spent this afternoon.

So, is this marriage mischief an act of vandalism or just a prank? Weigh
in on our Facebook page.

And, finally, an historic landmark. Netflix`s political thriller, "House
of Cards," which I love, has been nominated for nine Emmys, including top
categories best drama and best lead actor and actress. It`s the first time
a digitally distributed show has made the cut, and it marks a turning point
in the history of TV.

Kevin Spacey plays the Machiavellian U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood. As
no stranger to Washington, you could even say he`s co-starred alongside
Bill Clinton.

Here`s their bit from the 2000 Correspondents Dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the
academy for this tremendous honor. This may be the greatest moment of my
life. I mean, ever since I was a little boy, I have wanted to be a real
actor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Come on. Who`s the better actor?

Anyway, up next, selling Obamacare. It`s about time. It`s lowered costs
in 11 states so far. So, why did it take until today for the president to
get out there in this fight? He did well today. I hope he catches up to
the millions of dollars being spent to attack an historic program for
health care.

This is the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Records marked again on Wall Street, as the Dow hits a new high at 15548,
the S&P climbing eight to hit a record of its own, and the Nasdaq finishing
up a point.

In a huge sign of confidence, Moody`s just upgraded its outlook on the U.S.
credit rating to stable from negative and maintained its AAA rating.

In the meantime, Detroit just became the largest city in U.S. history to
file for bankruptcy after a decade of declining population.

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

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Think about this. If Republicans were really convinced that Obamacare is
going to be as unpopular as they say it will be, would they be trying so
desperately to scuttle it now? Wouldn`t they let the law go into effect
and then watch it implode and chirp, told you so?

Instead, you had the GOP today actively rooting for it to go badly at the
outset. You had them making purely symbolic efforts, in fact, to repeal or
change the law. For example, yesterday marked the 38th and 39th attempt by
the House of Representatives to repeal the measure.

Maybe what they`re really afraid of is the law will succeed and become
popular. As Paul Krugman wrote this week -- quote -- "Conservatives are
right to be hysterical about this. It`s an attack on everything they
believe. And it`s going to make Americans live better. What could be
worse? For them, that is."

The reality is in order for the law to work, the American public, and
especially young people, need to buy into it, literally, and today
President Obama made a strong pro-push, hitting back at Republican efforts
at obstruction. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday, despite all the
evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle-
class Americans,, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for
nearly the 40th time to dismantle it.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Sometimes, I -- I just try to figure out why.

Maybe they think it`s good politics. But part of our job here is not to
always think about politics. Part of our job here is to sometimes think
about getting work done on behalf of the American people, on behalf of the
middle class, and those who are striving to get into the middle class.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the White House says it has a strong message and they see
people are already reaping some benefits from the law, as in New York
State, where costs are set to fall by an average of 50 percent next year.
That`s premiums.

Can they get that message out, though?

Sam Stein is political editor for The Huffington Post, and Nia-Malika
Henderson is a political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Look, I disagree with the president. I can think of three great reasons
why the Republicans are doing what they`re doing. One, they might be able
to discourage young people from participating in the program, meaning only
older, unhealthy people will participate, which is bad economics.

Two, they can just create such a political atmosphere that by next year
they are going to lose a lot of votes, the Democrats. And, third, they can
basically -- what else? I`m not sure, just make life miserable in America.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I`m sure I can think of a third reason.

But, Sam, it is smart politics on the Republican side to just trash this
thing again and again and again, with hopes they will be proven right, I
guess.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Chris, you just had your Rick Perry
moment, where you couldn`t remember the third thing on the list.

MATTHEWS: I know. Don`t ever do that again, Sam.

STEIN: Fair enough.

MATTHEWS: Not again.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

STEIN: I think you`re right about this.

I think part of what the Republican calculation here is that you have to
kill the law now, or you won`t be able to do it lately, in part because
some of the benefits are going to start to accrue starting in this year and
going into 2014. If these exchanges do get off the ground, it will prove
their thesis wrong.

And so this is really sort of the last gasp to make sure that the law
doesn`t work. And if that`s what they want, then that means that they have
go all in right now. So, you`re seeing it in some of these information
campaigns that they`re launching, for instance, convincing the NFL not to
participate in a public relations campaign to make sure that people knew
that the exchanges exist.

That was done strictly so that the law wouldn`t work. There was no other
reason. They want the law repealed. They want it -- they used to say they
want it replaced, but they want it repealed now because they`re worried
about the possibility that it will become so entrenched in the public
conscious that it won`t be able to repeal it later.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I do believe.

By the way, the third reason is they want people to think of terms of bad
ways, how they think it is going to be difficult to deal with, so it will
be. It gets into your head.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But let me get to the one thing I think they`re fearful of and
the reason they`re doing this. The real reason, the real number three on
my list, they`re afraid it`s going to be popular.

And what they`re afraid, the same thing will happen with health care that
happened with Social Security, when everybody came to love it. Nobody
turns it down. And with Medicare, nobody, even the most conservative
Republican, turns it down. They grow to love it in their retirement years.

And I think they`re afraid that this is going to catch on with working
middle-class people, who are going to say, I needed it, I got it, and I`m
happy.

Nia.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
That`s right.

And that`s what really could happen. Congressman 2014, they`re
particularly looking at young males, working-class males, who need to sign
up for this thing to make it work. And Republicans are betting -- they
have spent a lot of money on this. They have won campaigns over it. Let`s
face it. That`s why they were able to win the House in 2010.

So, they badmouth it enough, then it won`t be popular. But also, they`ve
got some leverage here. If you look at some of these states, like
Mississippi, Louisiana, states like that where there isn`t going to be an
expansion of Medicaid, it is going to be difficult for the very poor to
actually get insurance.

So, there are some glitches --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What are states like that -- when you say states
like Louisiana and Mississippi, what do you mean by states like that?

HENDERSON: Well, they`re states with Republican governors. A lot of these
are Southern states. A lot of these are states that have millions of
people --

MATTHEWS: You mean backwater? You mean backwater states that don`t like
any kind of federal role?

HENDERSON: I don`t -- I mean, I`m from a backwater state, from South
Carolina, so I don`t like to refer to them as that. But, you know, I don`t
think Nikki Haley is one of these governors that are going to expand
Medicaid. So you`re going to have a lot of people in my home state of
South Carolina, who aren`t going to be able to take advantage of this new
law.

MATTHEWS: Here`s the president here. By the way, I`m glad this guy isn`t
selling cars, because he wouldn`t get many off the lot. He`s good at
making this stuff, but selling it, he doesn`t spend much time on it.

Here he is finally making the sale on health care. He addressed the
political battle being waged over Medicare today over -- Obamacare,
actually, and efforts by Republicans to sabotage it.

Here he is today in the East Room. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recognize that there`s
still a lot of folks in this town rooting for this law to fail.

Some of them seem to think this law is about me. It`s not. I already have
really good health care.

It`s about the dad in Maryland, who for the first time ever saw the
premiums go down instead of up. It`s about the grandma in Oregon whose
free mammogram caught a breast cancer before it had a chance to spread.
It`s about the mom in Arizona who can afford heart surgery for her little
girl now that the lifetime cap on her coverage has been lifted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sam, I think I have a reason why the president hasn`t been so
great at this. He`s obviously inspirational speaker, I`ve said that a
million times.

It`s this -- the real beneficiaries of this system of Obamacare are going
to be those tens of millions who now rely primarily on the E.R. They don`t
have any health care when they get -- whether it`s something serious or
something not so serious, they race over and spend hours waiting in that
room. Then they finally get treated pretty well, but that`s the way they
rely on it.

He doesn`t want to talk about those people, because politically, they may
not be a strong voting group. He wants to talk about the people, a little
better off than them, not desperately but struggling, people that can
afford maybe this procedure they needed for their mother, or it cost too
much in terms of having a full strength health care program.

Tell me why. Explain what I`m getting at, because I know I`m getting at
something -- to target (INAUDIBLE) --

(CROSSTALK)

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: You`re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: -- group is not a great voting bloc, where is the big voting
bloc is better off, better off. Your thoughts?

STEIN: You`re absolutely right. A lot of the health care debate takes
place in the abstract. For instance, anyone who`s healthy, doesn`t think
they`re going to get sick. They don`t think about the medical cost that
they`re going to incur when they do have to go to the hospital. And so,
when you sell them a bag of goods, it`s very hard to make that sale.

The second reason I think that the president in the White House
underestimated the difficulty is, is that when they looked at the bill,
they said, wow, we`re giving away free money, essentially to all these
states. We will match your Medicaid expansion -- we`ll pay for Medicaid
expansion, and then pay 90 percent of it. That`s free money to the states.
How could anyone possibly turn that down?

Well, in fact, a lot of governors did turn it down. And even the governor
that did accept it are facing tough times in the state legislatures because
the Republicans there want to make a name for themselves and say, we`re
going to have this.

So, I think there`s two miscalculations, one was that it would be easy to
sell, when in fact people think about health care in the abstract, and two
is that they thought the money would be alluring to Republicans, that
eventually, they would drop the opposition, which has not proven to be the
case.

MATTHEWS: Well, Nia, he`s already underestimated the hostility to him as a
person.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And I think he`s overestimated the power of the
bully pulpit. He`s made dozens and dozens and dozens of speeches on health
care. And if you look at the numbers going back to 2010, the poll numbers
have not budged on this. You`ve got a bit more of the public doesn`t like
health care for various reasons than they actually do.

So, I don`t know if a speech like this actually is going to move the
needle. I think the rubber meets the road come 2014 when young people
decide whether or not they`re going to sign up for this thing.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: The needle getting -- Chris, the needle gets moved in this law by
word of mouth. It`s when people start going to the exchanges and say,
"Look, I got this great coverage, it`s cheap" and start their friends.
That`s when the popularity comes on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to go. Saturday radio on this every week for weeks to
use that way as you keep educating people, it`s going to take a while, Sam
and Malika, I know you`re right.

Sam Stein, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you.

Up next, Darrell Issa may want to pretend that he`s not accusing the White
House or Democrats using the IRS to target Tea Party people. But today, he
did it again. The implication is again and again, Obama did it. Obama did
it. And he didn`t.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Be sure to catch our special, final edition of "The Chris
Matthews Show" this weekend. Join me and 17 great journalists as we
address the big question about race in America`s future. And also
celebrate 11 great years on the air. I`ll have some last thoughts as we
close out a great run.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I certainly want to make sure that the
smear stops here today. I want to caution the ladies and gentlemen on both
sides of the aisle here -- we will work with what we know, and we will work
to find out what we do not know. And I, for one, and I hope everyone on
both sides of the dais will reject categorically assumptions for which
there is not evidence. When I say something goes to the office of the
consul of the IRS, that is not to be construed as the office of the
president or to the consul himself.

It is important we understand that words matter, nuances matter, and that
we not go one step beyond what know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s rather unctuous, isn`t it?

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Oversight Committee chairman, Republican Darrell Issa of
California, with some curious words at today`s IRS hearing. Issa has been
the GOP architect of the narrative that the White House ordered the IRS to
target conservative groups, with some of his Republican colleagues have
used to make the more outrageous claim that the White House sent the IRS a
Nixonian enemies list. It`s even more curious if you saw Issa`s op-ed in
"USA Today" which flat out asked the question, "Was the targeting of the
Tea Party applicants directed from the White House?"

Well, the irony in Issa`s statement was not lost on his colleagues,
including Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: It`s a terrible thing when the
narrative we`ve got in our heads just don`t work out because the facts
don`t back them up.

ISSA: Will the gentleman yield?

CONNOLLY: I will in a second, Mr. Chairman. But I -- in fact, before I
yield, I read back a quote from the chairman on national television,
because he just assured us that he never linked the president to this.

And I read this quote, "This was the targeting of the president`s political
enemies effectively, and lies about it during the election year so that it
wasn`t discovered until afterwards."

Now, that`s the narrative. And there is no evidence, including from these
two witnesses today that that`s true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the facts of the case so far have not stopped Issa. He
announced he is expanding the IRS investigation. Issa says the agency`s
chief counsel, whom Obama appointed, was part of the group that reviewed
complex issues involved in Tea Party applications.

We`re joined now by the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee,
Representative Elijah Cummings.

You know, I keep thinking about that phrase bang your way out of a paper
bag. I mean, how do you get out of this endless morass?

This chairman will not stop calling witnesses. He will not ever say it`s
over. It seems like he is going to go on and on and on until people forgot
there was a beginning or there will ever be an end to this thing.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Well, clearly, Chris, he called two
witnesses, IRS witnesses, today out of 16 that we have interviewed. And
every witness, first panel and second panel, including I.G. George, said
that there has been no White House involvement. There has been no
political motivation involved in these decisions.

And Chairman Issa had to admit on the one hand that there was no political
involvement, no White House involvement, but at the same time, he left the
door open, basically saying through the "USA Today" article and some
statements that he made during the hearing that he still blames the
president.

So, you know, it`s sad. We have had 16 interviews so far, Chris. And
every single interview people have said no White House involvement, no
political motivation. But yet and still -- and, by the way, those were
Republicans and Democratic members of the IRS, people who work for the IRS.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CUMMINGS: He didn`t call any Republicans today. He called others, but not
the Republicans, who even one Republican out of Washington, an IRS
employee, a veteran lady said, look, these allegations that was a political
enemies list of the president we were targeting and all this, she says it`s
laughable.

But yet and still he continues to march down that aisle. And I think
basically those are the talking points of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to the seat of this hurricane, that was the
inspector general`s report.

CUMMINGS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The inspector general report I understand under testimony said
that he now realizes that there were progressive groups targeted. And he
never knew that when he issued his report.

CUMMINGS: Well, he knew that they were on the BOLO, be on the lookout for
a form. But he never talked to us about it.

And, Chris, the interesting thing, he claims the Tea Party folks were
treated differently, but he also admitted that he never has investigated
what happened to the progressive groups. And he also, Chris, has stood in
the way of us getting certain information that IRS wants to give us with
regard to this investigation, but he has personally blocked that
information from coming to us.

And that -- the first time in talking to the folks at IRS, they said they
don`t even remember a time that an I.G. actually blocked them from
providing information to Congress.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think is disturbing, that you`re a lone voice
out there, and you know you`re ranking member, it`s your role to play. But
do you think there are a lot of members of the Democratic Caucus who are
afraid to get in the defensive mode with regard to the IRS, because by its
nature an unpopular institution?

CUMMINGS: I think members are -- I think members want to know the truth.
They are learning the truth. They are seeing that there is not one
scintilla of evidence regard to things being with the president and others.

But I think they also know that there are problems within the IRS itself.
The I.G. has already told us that. And that`s what we ought to be about,
Chris, trying to straighten out those problems.

MATTHEWS: OK, thanks so much.

CUMMINGS: And the president, by the way,. has made some giant steps
towards doing that.

MATTHEWS: Well, thanks so much, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of
Maryland --

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- ranking member on the Committee on Reform.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the Martin family.

A lot of defense attorneys over the years have opposed giving rights to the
families of the victims.

I think that`s wrong. I think it`s vital when we speak about murder cases -
- including in capital cases where execution is a possible sentence -- that
we consider the alleged criminal act itself. We need to look at what
happened, the full horror of it, and that includes the horror and loss done
to the families of the person killed.

There is nothing colder than to pretend that the purpose of the law, the
emotions of a jury, for example, should only be swayed by the punishment
facing the accused. The jury should also see before it, in the courtroom,
the price incurred by the crime, the horror inflicted on the victim as seen
in the eyes of the family and others close to the victim.

I know this isn`t a popular notion -- or hasn`t been in this trial of
George Zimmerman -- but perhaps now, seeing the Martins and hearing their
grief, we have a stronger sense that when it comes -- especially to the
sentencing -- the scales of justice must be weighed for the victim as well
as for the defendant.

Just a thought.

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
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