updated 1/24/2014 11:22:39 AM ET 2014-01-24T16:22:39

HARDBALL
January 23, 2014

Guest: Nicholas Confessore, Michelle Goldberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Witnesses for the prosecution?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

Let me open tonight with the latest clatterings in Chris Christie`s
world. If you`re the governor, you should and probably do have two women
on your mind. One is your lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, who must be
on the verge of freaking out today, now that Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer is
lining up witnesses for the prosecution, people who she told at the time
about Guadagno`s message from the governor himself, that he, Chris
Christie, wanted that real estate deal done, or Hoboken wouldn`t get the
hurricane money.

We saw how Guadagno stood up and read that statement the other day,
but how`s the Sergeant Schultz "I know nuttin`" number going to help when
she has to sit down with federal investigators? If I were the governor, I
would be reconsidering my ties to Ms. Guadagno. If she breaks, will he
have to cut her loose, too?

Second woman, Bridget Kelly. The governor has already called her a
liar and stupid. Based on the fact she`s just hired a big-time lawyer who
knows how to protect public office-holders, who do think she`ll be backing
under close questioning, she and her family, or the governor who`s called
her a liar?

Big developments in the Chris Christie case. If is it illegal to hold
up state money to gain a personal advantage, where would that put the
lieutenant governor, if it`s proven that she did what she`s accused of
doing? And where does it put Ms. Kelly if it`s illegal to hold up the
bridge traffic in a political vendetta? And this all leaves the governor
wondering who he fears most, the woman from Hoboken who didn`t get her help
-- or his help, or the woman he called a liar and threw in "stupid" for
good luck?

Well, Steve Kornacki is the host of "UP" weekend mornings on MSNBC,
and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an
MSNBC contributor.

Steve, you were on top of this case from the beginning. Let me ask
you about this big development. It looks like contemporary corroborating
evidence is building that we should be -- most people and perhaps the
courts and the investigators should probably believe Mayor Zimmer that she
did, in fact, get a warning. She heard a warning after a meeting with the
lieutenant governor about not getting any help for hurricane relief and
future relief unless she went along with the real estate deal.

STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, MSNBC "UP": Yes, well, I mean, again, as I said
in the last few days, when we aired the interview with her last Saturday,
it was clear that she understood that this was an interview that was going
to attract attention from the U.S. attorney`s office. This was going to
attract attention from the authorities. She wanted it to attract their
attentions.

This is a woman who`s very confident in the story she`s telling.
She`s very confident in the authenticity of the diary entries that she
shared with us, of the other documents that she shared with us. And I
think she is very confident there are people who will back her up on this.

And so, again, in one way, it`s a matter for the U.S. attorney`s
office to deal with right now. The question is, will there be further
statements from Kim Guadagno, further attempts to sort of clarify, because
she seemed to acknowledge the other day that there was kind of some
conversation between her and Dawn Zimmer? Will there be a further public
attempt to explain exactly what that conversation is, or will the
governor`s office, will Kim Guadagno be content to let this sort of rest
right now in the hands of the U.S. attorney because broadly speaking,
politically, at least for near term, that has been the hope of Chris
Christie`s allies.

If you talk to them in New Jersey, their hope has been this becomes
less public, this becomes less about the legislative committees that are
looking into it now, the super-committee that`s looking into it, and this
becomes a matter that goes into the U.S. attorney`s office, where at least
publicly, it`ll be a lot more -- it`ll quiet down a bit.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, as I mentioned, witnesses are coming forward,
corroborating Ms. Zimmer -- Mayor Zimmer`s side, the story MSNBC News is
reporting today that, quote, "Two Zimmer aides are among at least five
witnesses who Zimmer told the FBI that could confirm what she had
previously told them about the conversation she says she had with
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno last May."

Well, one of those witnesses has gone public now. Here`s more from
that story. "David Mello, a member of the Hoboken City Council, told NBC
News that Zimmer told him about the Guadagno conversation last summer,
either in late July or early August, as they were walking home after an
event." Quote, "`I distinctly remember Zimmer saying that the lieutenant
governor said if this came out, she would deny it.`" Well, she has denied
it, of course.

As any good lawyer will tell you, establishing your star witness`s
credibility testimony and knowing -- and showing that she`s given prior
consistent statements is a critical part of any prosecution.

Let me go to Jonathan Capehart on this. In terms of the politics of
this, this whole argument from Christie, true or false, is getting harder
to believe. Is everybody a liar but him?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you`re
right. I think what we`re seeing here is sort of three rings of hell for
camp Christie. First you had the allegation from Mayor Zimmer. Then you
had her go on Steve`s show and show the material evidence, being her
diaries, that this happened, her contemporaneous notes of what happened in
her conversations with people from the Christie administration.

And now today, we`re finding you`ve got the corroborators. You have
people independent of Mayor Zimmer coming forward and saying, She talked to
me at that time about what happened.

And so you know, the ring, for lack of a better analogy, the noose is
getting tighter around -- around the governor and his inner circle, making
it more and more less believable that the governor himself didn`t have any
clue about what happened on the George Washington Bridge.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back -- let me go back to the second big story
here with Steve Kornacki. The other big story today, Bridget Kelly, of
course. The Christie deputy chief of staff who gave the order to block the
bridge traffic is swapping lawyers from a Christie ally to a hard-charging
defense attorney. Kelly`s hired Michael Critchley, who won acclaim in 2010
when he broke an eight-year streak of corruption convictions by the New
Jersey U.S. attorney. Christie`s (ph) replacing Kelly`s old counsel,
Walter Timpone, who stepped aside citing a conflict. Timpone was a
Christie appointee on the state`s election law enforcement commission.

Steve, how do you read this? I mean, she`s upgrading. She`s going to
the mattresses here with a really big-time lawyer who knows how to beat a
civil abuse case in New Jersey. She knows local, and she knows what might
work local. And she`s no longer trusting somebody who has associations, as
she has had, with Christie.

KORNACKI: Yes, there`s two interesting things. If you talk to people
in Trenton about this, they are -- they find it to be a very curious
development. The first bit of context to keep in mind is that about a week
ago, "The New York Times" ran a story where they talked to a few of Bridget
Kelly`s friends, who made it clear, seemingly on her behalf, that she was
mortified that she had caused, you know, political trouble for Chris
Christie. It signals that she didn`t -- you know, she did want to cause
him further trouble. That was sort of the upshot of that "New York Times"
article. And that coincided with the word that Walter Timpone was going to
be defending her.

Now flash forward to a week later, and Walter Timpone is saying
yesterday, I`m out. What makes that so curious to people in Trenton is the
conflict that he`s citing, that he sits on ELEC, the election law
enforcement commission, the fact that he`s part of that commission. In a
way, that was an obvious conflict from the beginning. If you`re a lawyer
and you`re going to go -- you`re asked by Bridget Kelly to defend her,
you`re going to -- that conflict is going to be in your head right away.

So why is he suddenly citing that conflict now? And then yes, you
look at his ties to Christie world. This is a guy who is intimately
connected to Chris Christie`s world. And she`s switching to Michael
Critchley, as you say, one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the
state. He`s gone head to head with the federal prosecutors before.

It makes you wonder. It makes you think back to that "New York Times"
article and say, Gee, maybe in the last week, Bridget Kelly has changed her
thinking about -- you know, is she -- is she no longer so concerned about
Chris Christie`s image and reputation and maybe a little bit more worried
about her own immediate future?

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the question of legality here. I think that`s
an issue here. I want Jonathan to pick up on this. We`re all looking at
something -- sort of like "The Cave" in Plato`s "Republic." We`re trying
to figure out what`s the law here.

Is there a law that applies to shutting down traffic on a bridge if
it`s part of a political vendetta? Is there a law denying federal funds or
state funds, in the case of Hoboken, the mayor there, in denying it as the
-- she accused the lieutenant governor of carrying a message from the
governor that, You`re not going to get this money, entitled to get --
you`re entitled to get unless you go along with this real estate deal I`m
favoring, if that`s the case.

But is there a law being broken here? And if there is, then these
people, the two women, I would think here involved here, the mayor, and of
course, the former deputy chief of staff, and maybe even the lieutenant
governor, who have to worry -- you don`t want to be incriminated if you`re
just carrying water for the boss here.

So what do you do? Is there a law here, do we know, that could be
broken, or could have been broken?

CAPEHART: You know, Chris, I don`t know the answer to that in terms
of the legality of the two examples that you cited, the closing down of the
lanes and sort of the quid pro quo from the lieutenant governor to Mayor
Zimmer in Hoboken asking for her support of that project in exchange for
Sandy aid.

But I think most people can understand that sort of ethically and
morally, there`s really -- the Christie administration is going to have a
hard time here arguing that what was done was ethical or was even moral.

Now, we know politics. We know that all the time, there is, you know,
give and take, whether it`s articulated or not. That`s part of the game.
You support me, I support you. But when it comes to things like this that
directly impact people`s lives -- and not just people`s lives, people who
are suffering, people sat in traffic for four hours, for more than four
hours for four straight days on the George Washington Bridge, and then the
people in Hoboken who were under water for days because of a natural
disaster.

The idea that someone would play politics with people`s lives like
that, that gets to the ethical and moral question facing the Christie
administration.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at the lieutenant governor`s
statement the other day. I have to tell you, it struck me just watching
these statements all my life and wondering about this person and how they
were prepared for this, how they prepared themselves for this and the
nervousness of the occasion, and what seems to be a lack of confidence in
the wording. Here`s Kim Guadagno, who`s, of course, New Jersey`s
lieutenant governor, denying Mayor Zimmer`s charges earlier this week.

Let`s listen to this and see if we, as viewers, believe it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: Mayor Zimmer`s version of our
conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not
withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. Any suggestion --
any suggestion -- that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project
in New Jersey is completely false. Being a Sandy victim myself makes the
mayor`s allegations particularly offensive to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to make of that, except I`m not impressed
by it, Steve. It reads to me like a carefully written, probably legally
constructed defense that may be safe, but I`m not sure it`s authoritative.
Your view.

KORNACKI: Yes, well, like I said, she also -- she seemed to be
acknowledging that there was a conversation. So Mayor Zimmer`s version of
the conversation is that the lieutenant governor in that conversation
explicitly linked this development project with Sandy aid. Now, if
Guadagno was to tell a fuller version here, you know, I don`t know what
that would be. But it potentially would lead her into sort of messy
directions for herself and for the administration.

If, let`s say, there is some gray area between the two versions here,
as is often the case in politics -- if there is some gray area in between,
and you know, the administration was pushing for the Rockefeller project,
but wasn`t explicitly linking it to Sandy aid, to come out and tell that
story, you would still then be saying that, Yes, as an administration, we
were putting pressure on the mayor of Hoboken on behalf of a project that
the chairman of the Port Authority, the Chris Christie chairman of the Port
Authority -- that his law firm was representing, that he, in his capacity
as the head of that law firm, was seeking to get meetings with the city
officials in Hoboken to try to move that project along and try to talk
about that project.

So it gets -- to even get into this further, beyond that statement
that she made, even without saying, yes, we explicitly linked Sandy aid and
a redevelopment project, it puts you in a messy place potentially.

MATTHEWS: Well, I was very impressed by Madam Zimmer, the Mayor
Zimmer, because she`s been on your program, and you obviously -- she broke
the story with you on Saturday. But I have to tell you, there`s a
confidence that she exudes, as you pointed out a few moments ago, 10
minutes ago, a confidence in her story, an ability to tell it different
ways, an ability to tell it in her own words that certainly excels what we
just saw from the lieutenant governor.

Anyway, NBC News is reporting that the U.S. attorney`s office in
Newark has served subpoenas to Governor Chris Christie`s campaign committee
now and the New Jersey state Republican Party. They`re seeking documents,
the investigators are, on the George Washington Bridge closures, according
to two lawyers for those political organization.

You know, Jonathan, we`re going to be talking about in the next
segment about how people on the side of Christie who are just simply
partisans -- fair enough, that`s what partisans do -- are basically saying
this is a media hype, it`s a liberal hype, it`s a Democratic hype. And yet
the creeping evidence that the legal proceedings are moving ahead, that
witnesses are being interviewed, evidence being taken, subpoenas have been
issued, as we just said there, to the political organizations, and most
importantly, as Wisniewski, the state assemblyman said the other day, this
isn`t about counting on people giving up their 5th Amendment rights. This
is about counting on the documentation trail that they`ve always left in e-
mails, including Gmail and AOL and private accounts, where they -- it`s too
late for them to hide.

Your thoughts.

CAPEHART: Yes. This is -- what comes to mind is, now that the U.S.
attorney is deeply involved in this, this is really serious. This is no
longer a joking matter or a laughing matter, as the governor tried to
slough off the conversation in late fall.

Now people`s careers are on the line. But also, their lives are on
the line. They can no longer joke around or play around or shade the
truth, now that the federal government is involved. And as you say, people
are under oath. But you`ve got these -- you`ve got these e-mail
communications, maybe text messages, where, you know, as we saw with
dramatic effect, Bridget Anne Kelly`s "Time for some traffic problems in
Fort Lee."

If there is another super-clear, definitive e-mail, text message,
whatever you want to call it that emerges from the blizzard of subpoenas
that have come out, it`s going to be very, very difficult for all involved
to get out from under this.

MATTHEWS: OK. Jonathan -- thank you, guys, so much, Steve Kornacki
and Jonathan Capehart tonight.

Coming up, the toll of George Washington Bridge and its scandal is
taking on Chris Christie politically. His favorability among New Jersey
Democrats, for example, has dropped from about 50 percent, 45 percent, down
to 19 percent. That certainly dents the argument, don`t you think, that
Christie is the man, the Republican that can win Democratic votes?

Plus, think this is going to help the Republican Party`s troubles with
women? Mike Huckabee says Democrats favor support for birth control
because they want women to believe they can`t control their libidos -- that
was his word -- without the help of "uncle sugar." By that he means the
United States government.

And Hillary Clinton`s about to get a huge boost from the people who
helped defeat her in 2008, to reelect President Obama in 2012. The liberal
super-PAC Priorities USA has formally joined the fight on Hillary`s behalf.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with why this Huckabee remark could be the
stopper to a Republican sweep.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We may be heading toward another showdown over the debt
ceiling. The Treasury secretary Jack Lew told House Speaker John Boehner
that the debt ceiling needs to be raised by late February. Boehner`s
office responded by saying Republicans would demand something in return
because, in their words, a clean debt ceiling increase simply won`t pass
the House.

Well, what remains to be seen is why Republicans, who have recovered
in the polls since last year`s shutdown and now have some political wind at
their backs, would want another unpopular and unnecessary government
shutdown.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There`s more evidence of how the
scandal is leaving Chris Christie hobbled politically. A new Rutgers
University Eagleton Institute poll of New Jersey voters shows the
governor`s popularity has taken a serious hit -- 46 percent now view him
favorably, but that`s way down from just a few months ago, when two thirds
of voters in New Jersey viewed the governor favorably.

Significantly, Christie has taken the biggest hit among Democrats of
the state. Just months ago, he was touting the fact that a third of
Democrats voted for his reelection. And his popularity with Republicans
nationally had a lot to do with his image as the Republican with cross-
party appeal, who might give Democrats a 2016 run for their money.

Well, that argument is quickly disappearing. And, given the months,
if not years of investigations the governor now faces, it`s unlikely to
change any time soon.

Mark Halperin is the co-author of "Double Down." He`s an MSNBC senior
political analyst. Eugene Robinson is also an MSNBC political analyst and
a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Gene, thank you.

And, thank you, Mark.

Let`s start with Mark on this.

You have done a lot of what you call biographic effort on this guy,
figuring him out for your books, "Double Down," of course, that just came
out on the 2012 election, because he was a player. Knowing him, knowing
his sort of political character, political character, how is he dealing
with the fact he now faces potential witnesses against him if this thing
goes to trial, like the mayor, who seems to be a pretty impressive witness,
from Hoboken, or perhaps Bridget Kelly, who he has called a liar and
stupid, people that may have a real incentive to be pretty self-interested
come trial time?

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is a very
tough time. And the trend lines are all bad.

His numbers are still decent by the standards of a lot of governors
around the country. But, as you said, this is going to go on for a very
long time. He has got to get back to trying to govern the state. The
difficulty is, it`s hard to know what is going on inside that inner circle,
what you talked about in the first segment about the former deputy chief of
staff changing lawyers.

We don`t know how much coordination there is in the Christie camp
right now. What we do know is a lot of people are going to be put under
oath by both the committee and by the U.S. attorney. And there has got to
be nervousness with Governor Christie and with his team that somebody is
going to tell a different story on at least one of these two different
controversies.

MATTHEWS: So he has to be successful with every witness practically.
And the other side simply has to find one credible witness to say he knew
about the bridge closing, he heard a conversation about it, he was in the
room, or he did say -- he was playing kind of tough on the issue of backing
that Rockefeller project in Hoboken.

HALPERIN: He`s got political peril, Chris, but he`s also got the
legal peril.

And one may end up being -- costing him more than the other. We may
never see indictments in this case. This may be just a very careful U.S.
attorney trying to look at things. The committee may never suggest
criminality, the special investigative committee. But the political damage
from even one e-mail or one person telling a slightly different story could
be hugely consequential for Governor Christie, certainly as a national
candidate, certainly as head of the RGA, maybe even as governor of New
Jersey.

He`s got to try to get back to work, though. That`s his only hope of
trying to turn those numbers around, because he is now in a horrible cycle,
bad news coverage, lower poll numbers, bad news coverage, legal
investigation leaks. It`s a very bad cycle for him. His only hope out of
this I think is trying to do his job.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about his political job.

Gene, you watched Watergate, like I did. It seemed like the Nixon
counteroffensive wasn`t so bad for a while. I mean, even your -- your
paper, "The Post," felt some heat obviously from people from like John
Mitchell and all. And there was a concern you might have overdone it. I
know Bradlee was quoted in the movie and the book maybe the whiz kids were
a little too fast for their own good.

But it turns out that the P.R. counteroffensive by Nixon was useless
in the face of testimony and documents.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was useless. And
there were some really perilous moments during Watergate. I don`t think
you can really compare this situation to that one.

But here is what is going to happen. I mean, all the -- everybody`s
lawyering up. And when they go and sit down with prosecutors, they`re
going to all tell self-interested stories. They`re all going to face
potential jeopardy of making false statements under oath. And they`re not
going to want to go to jail for that.

So a picture is going to emerge of what working life at least is like
inside the Christie administration, warts and all. And it will be
interesting to see what that looks like. And one has a feeling, given the
-- all the swagger that we have seen in the e-mails we have seen to this
point, that it`s maybe not such a pretty picture.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s take a look at some of this sort of -- and I
don`t knock this. Partisanship is part of our lives in Washington. And we
love it in a way.

But this is what is going on here. The governor`s allies -- that`s
Christie`s allies -- have called this nothing more than a witch-hunt or
partisan attack by the Democrats. In fact, this week, former Governor
Haley Barbour blamed the liberal media elite.

Let`s watch Haley Barbour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY BARBOUR (R), FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: He can be an
outstanding, will be, in my opinion, an outstanding governor of New Jersey.

And, frankly, when the liberal media elite chase him around like this,
there are some Republicans that it helps him with and make them get
energized to help elect more Republican governors like Christie, who can
run for reelection on his record, rather than having to do, like Obama, who
ran for reelection on what is wrong with Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani said the Democrats leading
the investigation in Jersey were just playing politics. Here is Rudy
Giuliani. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The person conducting
the investigation has now announced the conclusion of the investigation,
that he believes the governor is not telling the truth.

He should be not -- she should not be handling this investigation. It
gives it no sense of credibility, and it clearly is a partisan witch-hunt.
Clearly, this is a very, very well-orchestrated Democratic kind of
organizational effort to try to hurt Governor Christie, who, after all, was
the only Republican -- was the only Republican who was beating Hillary
Clinton in any poll at any time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mark Halperin.

If you`re writing -- I don`t know if you`re writing your third book or
not. I assume you guys have been so lucky, you will be. But it seems to
me like you have got to start writing almost like a two-front war for
Christie now. He has got to be getting up every night looking for the
papers at midnight seeing what is moving.

I have been -- everybody have been there, worried about a story. And
you go -- and he has got to worry about it in his self-interests.
Meanwhile, he has got to talk to smarter money people around the country
and the smarter consultants about putting together the beginnings at least
of a presidential campaign. Can he do both?

HALPERIN: Well, look, the money people, the early indications are
they`re with him unless there is something that comes out.

But he is no longer what I think he was just a couple of months ago,
which is the de facto front-runner, the person who in history, recent
history has always been the Republican nominee. I think that is off the
table for the foreseeable future.

The good news for him is there is nobody out there now who is going to
pull away from him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s true.

HALPERIN: There is not a person talked about as a Republican
candidate who is being the huge Iowa operation or huge New Hampshire
operation, lining up donors.

As long as Jeb Bush isn`t in this race, most of the big money will
wait for Chris Christie and see how this turns out. So he is all right on
that front. And to me, the bigger problem is just, as you suggested also,
is, what is in the papers? What is in these investigations?

There is some serious legal firepower on Chris Christie`s side now.
But just think about the first set of documents. Those were redacted
documents, redacted by the person who turned them over. Those were
released with lots of interesting things in it. They`re going now after
his campaign and the Republican Party of New Jersey.

You think those people in those two entities carefully wrote e-mails
thinking, what if my e-mail showed up on NBC News or MSNBC or the front
page of "The New York Times"? There`s going to be lots of e-mails. Even
if they don`t lead to indictments, even if they don`t cause political
damage directly to Chris Christie, I think there are going to be lots of
communications that are going to be very, very tough for him to deal with.

MATTHEWS: I think we`re going to -- the old rule was, if you can`t
don`t say it -- don`t say it, grunt it.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And now it`s going to be, don`t e-mail it, don`t say it,
grunt it, because then when you might not get convicted.

Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin and Eugene Robinson.

Coming up, it`s been a big week for the far-right fringe. We will
catch up with some of the craziest things they have said next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time now for the "Sideshow."

It takes a lot to earn the dubious far-right title of wing nut, but
those who might possess that rare mix of arrogance and ignorance don`t
actually make news unless they`re audacious enough to say out loud what it
is they`re actually thinking.

And this week, these wacko birds are flying kamikaze.

First up, rocker Ted Nugent, who has concocted a depiction of
President Obama so vitriolic and immodest, it makes you question the mind-
set of a person who can spew filth like this so handily. Quote: "I have
obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be
ever-vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated,
communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer
gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of
authority in the United States of America."

What does that say about a guy who can spew that kind of filth so
easily? To this guy, freedom of speech comes at the expense of his own
dignity.

But freedom of speech might not cover the next wing nut on our list,
Joshua Black, a Republican actually running for state assembly down in
Florida. This guy has so much contempt for the presidency that he has
publicly advocated a solution, if you will, for President Obama that is so
far beyond the pale, it could be a felony.

On Tuesday, this guy Black saw the following tweet. Quote: "I`m past
impeachment. It`s time to arrest and hang him high."

Well, then this guy Black then retweeted that frightening line and
added, "Agreed."

Well, that call for action, for the execution by a sitting president
by hanging, was so serious, it earned Black a visit from the Secret
Service. It is a crime, after all, it is a crime to threaten the life of a
president.

Finally, a congressional president is demagoguing the LGBT community
in Illinois, saying gays are able to blame -- are to blame, rather, for
everything from tornadoes to diseases like dementia.

Susanne Atanus is a Republican running in the Ninth District and she
is as serious as she is delusional. Here is what she had to say in a
recent debate. Quote: "God is angry. We`re provoking him with abortions
and same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex activity is going to
increase AIDS. If it`s in our military, it will weaken our military. We
need to respect God."

Well, let`s hope that that outspoken crackpot like those stay where
they belong, out of elective office and on the periphery of society`s outer
fringe.

Coming up, there is one more bizarre comment by a Republican. This
one deserves its own segment, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas on
birth control and what he calls women`s out-of-control libido. Where do
they come up with this stuff? Stay away from this, Republicans.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, everyone. I`m Alex Witt,
and here is what is happening.

Three people are confirmed dead and 30 are missing after a fire tore
through a seniors complex in Quebec. Authority says some of the residents
were in ill health and had limited mobility.

Virginia`s attorney general says the state`s ban on same-sex marriage
is unconstitutional, and he won`t defend it.

And at least two people are dead in a massive pileup on I-94 in
Eastern Indiana. The death toll could rise because there are cars
underneath the semitrucks that haven`t yet been searched.

I`m Alex Witt -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, you can credit Mike Huckabee with reviving talk of a Republican
war on women, even as he was trying, I guess, to argue it doesn`t even
exist. At the Republican National Committee`s winter meeting in Washington
today, the one-time presidential candidate said that Republicans don`t have
a war on women. As he says, Democrats argue that. But Republicans have a
war for women, the governor says.

And here is his evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If the Democrats want to
insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless
without uncle sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each
month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their
reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.

Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far
more than the Democrats have played them to be, and women across America
need to stand up and say, enough of that nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, to be honest, I have no idea what he is talking
about.

So, joining me right now is former RNC Chair Michael Steele and
Salon`s Joan Walsh. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

My guess is he is trying to make two points awkwardly. One, everybody
is dependent on the government, including young women or any woman who is
sexually active, and, two, women can`t control their sexual libido, as he
calls it. And that`s his word. I`m going to leave that one to him. And
because they can`t control it, they need the government to help them out.

But he threw in that word, the government is going to give you a
prescription for birth control? You don`t get your prescription from the
government. So, what is he talking about? Is he questioning whether there
should be such a prescription? Is he saying we shouldn`t have birth
control?

What is he actually saying here that is relevant to the thinking
American?

Your thoughts, Joan.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Chris, he is saying
that women shouldn`t have sex unless they`re directed to by their husbands,
essentially.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: And I sit here, and I`m so torn about this, because, as a
woman, I sit here and say shut up, Mike Huckabee. Please stop talking
about our libidos. Please stop talking about our sex lives, and please
afford us some privacy and some human dignity.

But, as a Democrat, again, I`m torn, because I want to say, please
keep talking, Mike Huckabee...

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: ... because you are making sure that there will be not a
single woman who votes Republican in the next cycle. Your wives will not
vote for you.

What are you talking about, and why, with all the issues that exist in
the world for men and women, but, for women, why do you keep coming back to
this one relatively small issue? Why are you obsessed with our libidos?

MATTHEWS: Let me -- maybe Michael can help me, because he has
consorted with these people.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Poor Michael.

MATTHEWS: Michael, you go into your medicine cabinet, and you`re a
woman, and you open up the medicine cabinet in a bathroom with all that
illuminated light or whatever you call it, and you look in that, and there
is this little guy from Arkansas.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And he is talking to you about your prescription. And you
go, how did you get in my medicine cabinet? And what are you doing in my
bedroom?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And what is he doing in her bedroom? And what is he doing
even in her medicine cabinet, Michael Steele?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: OK. I don`t -- that
scenario is not what I took away from anything the governor said today.

I think what the governor was doing was using a form of hyperbole.
Now, yes, it was a little bit awkward and probably could have been phrased
better, but I think he was really trying to make the point that the party
needs to fight this idea that we`re in this war against women, and that
it`s in fact the Democrats who have sort of manufactured this war and that
we need to come to the table prepared to make sound arguments to women
about why they --

MATTHEWS: OK. What was his sound argument, Michael?

STEELE: Well, I didn`t hear the rest of the speech. You didn`t play
the rest of the speech. He goes on and he talks what the party stands for.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s show it. Let`s show the whole thing. We`re
going to show a good portion and you`ll get the full context.

Let`s take a look at it right now, Huckabee`s point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s time that
Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a war on
women. Because the fact is the Republicans don`t have a war on women, they
have a war for women, for them to be empowered to be something other than
victims of their gender. Women I know are outraged that the Democrats
think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures
whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth
control medication.

And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making
them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and
providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they
cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help
of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across
America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to
be, and women across America need to stand up and say enough of that
nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. What was his point, Michael?

STEELE: Well, his point is that the argument is bigger than what the
Democrats break it down to. When you`re talking about health care, you
know, the Sandra Fluke episode, all this stuff sort of centers around
contraception, abortion, these other issues.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: No, it doesn`t.

STEELE: Let me finish my point.

WALSH: OK.

STEELE: He is making the broader point that as a party, we need to
talk beyond that. We need to talk about -- he is talking about empowering
women through entrepreneurialism, through their family, through their
businesses, in different ways than just having this conversation that the
Democrats like to have quite honestly about contraception. That`s the
point he was making. He was using hyperbole to make that point.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you know, Michael, the problem is that he raised the
issue of women`s libido.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: That`s not exactly entrepreneurialism.

STEELE: It`s not entrepreneurialism, you`re right. He used the term.
And, yes, maybe he shouldn`t have used that particular term to make the
point about how he wanted to make the argument about the government and the
role the Democrats see the government playing. I give you that.

But, you know, I do take away the broader argument that he is trying
to make that going into this election cycle, we need to be talking about
something other than what the Democrats want us to talk about.

WALSH: But why, then, Michael, to grant your point, why is he the one
who immediately brings up the question of contraception and the question of
our libidos and not being able to control our libidos? That -- he did
that. I didn`t do that. No interviewer did that. Nobody forced him to do
that.

That is the example that he chose personally to lead off this speech
about the war for women. Why?

STEELE: I would agree with you on that. Again, that was the
awkwardness of using that as an example, number one. Number two, I don`t
think that -- at least my take away was he wasn`t saying that`s what his
view was, that was the party`s view that women can`t control their libidos.

He is saying that the way the Democrats approach the argument is to
treat women as if they can`t. And therefore this is the solution to that
problem.

WALSH: Why --

STEELE: And he is saying that there is much more to that than just
this conversation around contraception. We need to have a conversation
about more important things than that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: Why does he want to talk about our libidos in the first place,
though, really?

STEELE: He wasn`t talking about your libidos. He was just using it
as an example.

WALSH: He brought it up. It`s the very definition of --

STEELE: To make the argument. That`s what you want to talk.

WALSH: I don`t want to talk about it. I would love to talk about
minimum wage. I would love to talk about pay equity. I would love to talk
about government helping out with child care.

I would love to talk about a million different things that we don`t
get to talk about because every time Republicans say they`re going to
change the subject, they can`t change it. It`s the very definition of
looking at us as sex objects, Michael.

STEELE: Well, we don`t. We don`t.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Well, somebody does. Maybe you don`t.

STEELE: The Democrats are the one who talked about this war on women
that wasn`t Republicans talking about some war on women and getting into
contraception and all of that. We didn`t rally around and lift up Sandra
Fluke as some icon of contraception in America. That wasn`t us.

WALSH: She was rallied around because she was insulted.

STEELE: The Democrats used her as a sledgehammer, and all he is
saying we`re not going to fall for that anymore. There are bigger and more
important arguments that women want us to have about the economy, about
jobs, their families, communities, raising kids, educating the kids than
talking about the pill or their libidos.

WALSH: Sandra Fluke became a hero because she spoke truth to power --

STEELE: Sandra Fluke is no hero. She`s no hero. Come on.

WALSH: She became a hero because she -- she became a hero --

STEELE: Spare me.

WALSH: -- because she was vilified by Rush Limbaugh who called her a
prostitute, who called her a prostitute.

MATTHEWS: Michael and Joan, you two are my favorite guests on this
program. This has been an exciting conversation.

But I do believe in all fairness to you, Mr. Chairman, we will never
again hear the phrase women`s libido in Republican politics.

STEELE: No, I don`t think you will.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele.

And Joan, you`re fabulous. Thank you, Joan.

STEELE: Good to see you.

WALSH: Good to see you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the biggest liberal super PAC in the country is
now betting the farm on Hillary Rodham Clinton to be our next president.
This is a major development. We`re putting it in at the end of the show,
but wait until you hear this one. It`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Mike Huckabee`s comments about women and their libidos
aside, the Republicans are looking to a woman to deliver their official
response to President Obama`s State of the Union next Tuesday. U.S.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state will give the
response. As the chair of the House Republican Conference, she is the
highest ranking Republican woman in Republican leadership.

As I said last night, U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who was Ted
Cruz`s wingman during last year`s government shutdown, will be responding
on behalf of the Tea Party.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In a bold move, the powerful Democratic super PAC that backed
President Obama`s reelection in 2012, Priorities USA Action, has decided to
throw its weight early behind Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. The
group will be lead by President Obama`s former campaign manager, Jim
Messina, who`s much respected, and, of course, former Michigan Governor
Jennifer Granholm is at the top there.

Well, "The New York Times" said, quote, "The move marks perhaps the
earliest ever start to big dollar fundraising in support of an non-
incumbent presidential candidates, providing a fundraising portal for
wealthy Clinton supporters eager to help her White House prospects, and to
the legions of others eager to ingratiate themselves with Mrs. Clinton and
her circle.

Well, Nicholas Confessore is a reporter for "The New York Times,"
Michelle Goldberg is, of course, with "The Nation".

Let me go to Nicholas on the news here.

It seems to me, that this is the sort of thing that normally would
only happen when you are a president running for re-election and you keep
the same team. Here, it looks like if team is moving on in a way the
Reagan team, for example, did not go on and support George Bush, Sr.

But they are going on as if this is the natural succession.

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I mean, what you`re
seeing here is a major step forward in the Obama political operation
enfolding and joining in with the post-Obama/Clinton focus party. It`s
happening here. You see his key people, moving over, taking important
roles in the pro-Clinton groups that are setting up shop in advance of her
presumed candidacy.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let me go to Michelle on this. It seems to me
there`s always a reason for this kind of thing, even though somebody will
say, don`t get too much out of it. And it does seem to me, it fits with
that the president said the other day with David Remnick of the "New
Yorker", which he said basically, I`m just a swimmer in a relay race, no
more this I`m a transformational president. The Clintons are sort of like
flashes in the pan. I`m equal with them. I`m with them. We`re in the
same party, and we`re in the same faction.

CONFESSORE: That`s right.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NATION: Yes, this is kind of an anointing.
This is a sense that, you know, whatever their rivalry, they are a part of
the same institution. I think it`s not great for the Democratic Party to
have these sorts of annointings.

I mean, even though it`s too early to say this is a done deal. We
could have said the same thing in 2006. The idea that she`s just going to
be kind of chosen by the money mockers in the party --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOLDBERG: By the institutional powers in the party, this is -- I
mean, one result of this analysis is that anyone who was even thinking of
Hillary, of challenging Hillary Clinton in the primaries is going to think
twice.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but the other way, you just opened up an opportunity.
I thought Michelle had the opportunities of a lifetime for Howard Dean or
Elizabeth Warren or somebody on the left, if you will, somebody on the
populist left to say, hey, this isn`t the way we do business, this is the
way Republicans do business. Whose turn is it? Who`s got the money?

CONFESSORE: Yes. I mean, look, there is always a profound
discomfort, I think, among all Americans with dynasties, even though we
keep electing them. You know, we say we don`t necessarily like it.

If Hillary Clinton run, it will be I think the fifth or sixth or
seventh consecutive election where a Clinton or a Bush was on the ticket of
one of the two major parties. It`s kind of amazing when you think about
it.

MATTHEWS: And you think Democrats don`t like that? Republicans don`t
mind that.

CONFESSORE: Well, I think there`s always -- you know, it`s not very
American, but then, of course, its call comes down to the candidate, I
think a lot of grassroots support for Hillary Clinton, as well as support,
obviously, for the big donors and fundraisers.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t it true, Michelle, that a lot of working Democrats,
many white Democrats, to be bought about it, from the Appalachian,
southwestern Pennsylvania and that part of the country, who have been put
off a bit by what they consider sort of differentness of Obama, but they
say, hey, wait a minute, Hillary is like the girl next door, the woman next
door? They see her that way, I think.

GOLDBERG: Yes, there`s -- look, there is no doubt, Hillary Clinton is
a fantastically popular political figure, fantastically popular with the
Democratic Party. I think she`s probably the most popular politician in
the United States.

The thing is you also have a kind of very restive, progressive base
that is not going to want to have somebody kind of voice it on them, that`s
going to want a credible challenger even if she ends up being the nominee,
in order for them to reconcile themselves to the process.

MATTHEWS: Michelle, thank you so much, Michelle Goldberg and Nicholas
Confessore of "The New York Times."

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

History in the current tenor of politics tells me this November could
see a Republican sweep. Taking a wide view, I could see the right wing in
candidates sweep the victory in many Republican primaries. Then, the
Republicans manage even a double digit pick-up of seats in the U.S. Senate.

And then I hear what Mike Huckabee had to say today and I recall a
basic, too often ignore fact of American politics, there are more women
voters than there are male voters. And given that, what is it in the
Republican DNA that makes them talk as if they`ve never talked with women?
Why do they speak as if they are the party of cave dwellers who come out of
their habitats every four years, say, or so, to grunt something so retro,
so awkward, so Cro-Magnon as this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: The Democrats want to insult the women of America by making
them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and
providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they
cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help
of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across
America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to
be, and women across American need to stand up and say, enough of that
nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s translate that for the modern millennium.
Female humans shouldn`t want reproductive planning help with their health
insurance. To want such a benefit is to admit you are, (a), sexually
unstoppable and, (b), you need government, some Uncle Sugar, to keep you
stocked with birth control pills.

Didn`t Mike get the memo? Didn`t he learn from Akin and Mourdock, the
rape rappers, to avoid getting too up close and personal on the boy-girl
front, that when some out of it Republican talks talking about the birds
and the bees, they risk sounding like what John McCain was kind of
christened, "whacko birds".

So, before we make any historic judgments about this November, and how
things will turn out for the Republicans, it might be good to assume that
when the party of Huckabee speaks, women are the ones listening.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" 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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