updated 4/4/2014 9:42:44 AM ET 2014-04-04T13:42:44

April 3, 2014

Guests: Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Steve Israel, Adam Smith


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" tonight with this supreme fiction that money is
speech. If I`m one of the Koch brothers and I spend a couple million
dollars, say, out of my billions of dollars, running TV ads and radio ads
all over the country for various candidates, throwing in the name, but
saying the same old slogan, George Smith or whoever, in the world of
phonies, he`s one regular guy. George Smith, he`s the genuine article. He
gets things done. He`s one leader you can trust.

Well, how is this different than running a Coca-Cola ad that says
things go better with Coke or Coke, it`s the real thing? It`s not about
speech. Everything knows what they think of Coca-Cola. The slogans don`t
tell you anything. They don`t make a case, really. They just imprint in
your mind the existence of Coke. They create an impression using a slogan
that could mean anything or nothing. It simply reminds you and gets that
name back into your head again.

So much of political advertising is this kind of sloganeering, either
that or smearing of the other candidate. How much of it is actual argument
and actual speech the candidate himself or herself would actually say on
the stump? Well, most often, they don`t even repeat the ads when they get
on television, they`re so embarrassed to even say this pap themselves.

Speech, 1st Amendment? To repeat again and again to saturate an Iowa
caucus or a South Carolina primary, to smother the airwaves with puffery of
yourself and smearing of your rival -- is that really speech. Is it really
protected by the 1st Amendment?

Because if you really believe this, let me put to you a simple
question. Who wins a campaign between the candidate who has some sugar
daddy paying for ads saying these simplistic things about him or her, about
being the real thing or how great he connects with real people or how he is
the genuine article in a world of phonies, or the candidate doesn`t have a
-- against a candidate who, say, doesn`t have a red cent to pay for the
same kind of ads? Who wins that race?

And what is this difference between the having the money and not
having the money, even to put on the air the most meaningless slogans about
someone, not have to do with money itself? And what does it have to do
with free speech? To paraphrase a guy nailed by Abscam back in 1980, money
talks, but why in the world should the Supreme Court of the United States
give it the right to dominate and diminish our democracy?

U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a Democrat from Maryland. And
John Heilemann is an MSNBC political analyst and co-author of "Double
Down," the great new book on the 2012 race.

John Heilemann, you know politics, its culture. What`s this going to
do now that some -- you know, some old Ebenezer Scrooge or Charles Koch can
simply dig into his wallet -- and it`s a big wallet -- and just spread
money all around the country like it`s a big roulette table, put money on
every one of the numbers? There`s no limit.

Well, we`re going to see a lot more of that, Chris. There`s no doubt about
it. We have seen over the course of the last 40 years in American politics
an increasing deregulation of money in politics and the privatization of
politics, big money getting -- creeping further and further in on the back
of an escalating series of Supreme Court decisions that have allowed that
to happen. This one just is the next step in that sequence.

And you know, there are 646 -- only 646 out of 300-and-some-odd
million Americans last year who hit -- who ran up against the aggregate
caps that were imposed on campaign spending, 646 people. Those are the
people who are now effectively going to be allowed to just spend that much
more money.

This is a relatively narrow slice of people, and whatever you think
about it, whether you think it`s speech or not, there`s no doubt that the
power of that 646 people to be able to influence the course of American
elections and to have access to the politicians that they elect is going to
go up even more than it already has over the course of these past couple of

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, you represent a Democratic district,
largely. And I think that`s good for you. But what about people living in
very swing districts in South -- in North Carolina, for example, Kay Hagan
is senator in that state, where somebody can pour in a bucketful of money
from all over the country? Say all 600 of these Republicans decide they`re
going to give money to some candidate named Tillis or somebody they don`t
know, really, down in North Carolina, and just blow away the election in
terms of advertising.

What happens then? What kind of democracy do you have?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, we don`t have any. And I
have to tell you, if the Roberts court is going to leave a legacy, it`s
going to be a legacy of one that has really destroyed our democracy and our
elections. I mean, if you look from Citizens United now to this McCutcheon
decision -- you know, Justice Breyer said it opened up a floodgate. I
don`t think so. It blew the doors off.

The fact is that when you have only a handful of people out of
millions of people in this country whoever even get to that limit, they`ve
got all of the power and all of the control. And it is true, he who pays
the piper plays the tune. In this case, 646 people are going to be playing
the tune, and the rest of us are just there for the ride.

MATTHEWS: Chuck Schumer, a top Democrat, launched the party`s
counterattack against yesterday`s court ruling in the Supreme Court. Let`s


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: They wish to dismantle all limits
on giving, piece by piece, until we are back to the days of the robber
barons, when anyone or anything could give unlimited money, undisclosed,
and make our political system seem so rigged that everyone will lose
interest in our democracy.

It seems to logical to every American that a limitation should be on
the wealthiest of donors rigging our political system. But somehow, the
Supreme Court -- five of them, anyway -- cling to this idea that putting
the same dishonest commercial on television for the 4,111th time is a vital
part of free speech.


MATTHEWS: The same commercial over and over again that may well be

Anyway, Republicans meanwhile are taking a victory lap. They are
chuck -- they are chuckling over this. Here is what the -- RNC chair
Reince Priebus, who financed bringing this case to the Supreme Court, and
Speaker John Boehner, had to say yesterday following the court`s ruling.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think that we should all be free and
exercise our 1st Amendment rights. But this is a victory today for people
who want to see political parties and candidates on the same playing field,
or a little bit closer to the same playing field, as the 1st Amendment was
intended to allow us to be.

means is that freedom of speech is being upheld. You all have the freedom
to write what you want to write. Donors ought to have the freedom to give
what they want to give. I`m all for freedom. Congratulations.


MATTHEWS: Well, even Ted Cruz praised the ruling, saying, quote, "The
Supreme Court decision`s a victory for the 1st Amendment. The restriction
that the court struck down benefited incumbent politicians by limiting the
ability of Americans to support as many candidates as they choose."

By the way, here`s a reason Republicans might be celebrating. Among
donors who hit the federal spending limits in 2012, 57 percent of their
contributions went to Republicans. That`s according to the Center for
responsive Politics.

But it`s not just the conservative Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson
that stand to benefit. It`s progressives, too. For example, there`s
billionaire Tom Steyer, who vowed to spend $100 million in the 2014
midterms, and of course, George Soros, who spent millions in 2012.

John Heilemann, this tilt towards the Republicans -- 57 percent of the
money goes to the Rs, to their candidates. That may not seem like a lot,
but it`s against 43 percent. That`s quite a spread, quite a gap.

HEILEMANN: Yes, it`s quite a gap, Chris. And there`s no doubt that
when it comes to, you know, the realm of plutocrats in America that there
are more Republicans than Democrats. But it is true, as you mentioned,
both Soros and Steyer, and there are plenty others on Wall Street. We`ve
seen Democrats get really good at playing this game. The plutocracy may be
tilted towards the Republicans, but it`s a bipartisan class, the donor
class, and Democrats, starting with the president of the United States,
who`s raised more money more successfully at the presidential level than
any candidate in either party from private interests -- Democrats have
played this game well pretty well.

This is a systemic problem. If you think it`s a problem, it`s a
problem that right now benefits Republicans, but it is a problem that --
both parties have nursed at this trough for a long time, and it`s been a
problem that`s been building for a long time.

MATTHEWS: Well, Congresswoman, here`s the problem, and it`s again
like issues like minimum wage here, very -- quite familiar with and
passionate about. Overwhelmingly, the American people, 8 out of 10, do not
like this big money in politics. They`d like to see limits placed on it.
Unfortunately, as John pointed out, 5 out of 9 -- that means the Supreme
Court -- that was Chuck Schumer who pointed that out -- as long as 5 out of
9 Supreme Court justices say it`s OK to spend unlimited amounts of money --
we have politicians in both parties going around to fundraisers -- the
president does it all the time -- speaking only to fat cats.

The only people allowed in the room are ones who spend a lot of money
to get in the door. He talks to what they want to hear. And that means
that interest group, if you will, of the fattest oligarchs in the country
get the president to talk to them in their terms, and he has to listen to

What does that do our democracy, the fact that the rich get to pay the
piper, as you said?

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, look, the fact is, though, that Democrats at
least -- even though we may play the game, we don`t want to play this game.
It`s actually not good for democracy. It`s not good for the little guy.
When only less than 1 percent of the population even makes any political
contribution at all that`s even reportable, this is not really -- this
isn`t good for us.

And Chris, you know, what we`ve seen here is that the Supreme Court
has ratcheted down and ratcheted down. They`re going after the individual
limit. It`s why I proposed a constitutional amendment. I don`t think
there`s another way to do this.

We have to turn this back because, you know, the little guy who`s at
home goes, Why can`t we get minimum wage? Because we have to fight an
industry that`s fighting minimum wage. Why can`t we get a focus on jobs?
Because all of our Republicans and Democrats spending all their time
raising money on the phone instead of legislating.

I mean, this really does impact democracy. And the American public
actually gets it. We don`t like this system. We want it -- the money
that`s in there to be disclosed. But more than that, we want that money
out of there because we know that there`s only a handful of people -- and
you know, 646...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

EDWARDS: ... if that`s the number, who really play this game. And
it`s not good for the American people.

MATTHEWS: Well, you make the point that Democrats don`t like to play
the game, but that`s the game.

Anyway, after yesterday`s ruling, Democrats like Chuck Schumer and
Harry Reid, the Senate leader, opened fire on the conservative billionaire
Koch brothers, who`ve made their face, actually -- they`ve become the face
of the Republican mega-donors, the oligarchs out there. Let`s watch them
in action.


SCHUMER: The Koch brothers and other wealthy donors have already
wreaked havoc on our political system. This decision and those that will
follow, it seems, by the narrowest of margins, 5 to 4, will make the Koch
brothers` lives easier and Americans` lives harder.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The Supreme Court today just
accentuated what they did on Citizens United, which is a decision that is
one of the worst decisions in the history of that court. All it does is
take away people`s rights because, as you know, the Koch brothers are
trying to buy America.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, of course, Charles Koch had someone write an
op-ed for him in "The Wall Street Journal." He`s no writer. It`s well
written, of course, but not by him. Here`s his quote from his ghost
writer. "The central belief and fatal conceit of the current
administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but
those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of
big government and collectivism."

John Heilemann -- collectivism. I guess if you disagree with the Koch
brothers` wide open cowboy oil and gas industry decisions, you`re a

HEILEMANN: Well, that`s, you know -- I have to say...

MATTHEWS: At least according to their ghost writer.

HEILEMANN: It`s the least -- I mean, it`s kind of basically
conservative boilerplate of this era. I mean, that`s nothing that we don`t
hear all the time from conservatives on the -- among elected officials and
among the conservative donor class. And I don`t actually have that big a
problem with it. We can have that fight over the ideas in play here.

But I do think that, you know, we are headed in a direction that is
really uncharted. You know, you think the Supreme Court -- this is --
again, this is not just a problem with Citizens United and this most recent
decision in McCutcheon. It goes back for 40 years. The court has trended
in this direction.

And now the Roberts court -- it looks like, and a lot of Supreme Court
watchers thinks, that what we`re going to have is going to have all limits
to contributions blown away, corporate donations, union donations across --
we`ve already seen a flood of money, but we could easily see a series of
Supreme Court over the course of the next decade in the Roberts court that
would even further deregulate the situation.

So this is a big structural problem that we have to, like, try to get
our heads around...


HEILEMANN: ... and maybe a constitutional amendment is the only way
for those who think there`s a problem here to deal with that.

MATTHEWS: OK, just -- just to put the whole -- Congresswoman, thank
you for joining me. You know, just put the whole joke in context. Here we
have "The Wall Street Journal," owned by Rupert Murdoch, Mr. Republican.
Here we have a full-page op-ed piece, practically, half the page, just
happens to come out right after the court decision, ghost-written for
Charles Cook -- Charles Koch, rather -- who knows who writes this stuff for
him. He pays for it as if he`s literate. I`d like to put that guy in a
room for an hour and see if he could actually write an op-ed piece.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland and
the great John Heilemann. Thank you, sir.

Coming up, that spending blueprint that Paul Ryan put out this week --
Senator Dick Durbin said it best. "Thank you, thank you, Congressman Paul
Ryan for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control."

Plus, the health care law truthers. They`re the right-wingers who
loved the enrollment figures when they were low. Now that they`re up, the
truthers are saying the numbers are cooked. It`s all a conspiracy. For
instance, listen.


GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Everyone in the press -- you rat
bastards! Every single one of you know what he`s saying isn`t true.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, also, the dog whistle that always gets
conservatives barking and howling, Benghazi! Don`t believe me? Well,
check out the show trial they put on yesterday.

And I`m going to finish tonight on a national story, but close to
home. Yesterday, Kathleen led our family in interring our World War II
father-in-law at Arlington cemetery. It`s my father-in-law, her father,
Bob Cunningham. It was a dramatic, and yes, glorious honor. Here she is
receiving the flag from one of the impressive young Marines.


MATTHEWS: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s approval ratings may
have stabilized, but it`s not because of that internal review he
commissioned. According to a new Monmouth University/Asbury Park poll, 51
percent of Jersey residents approve Christie`s job performance, 41 percent
disapprove. Well, that`s in line with what the poll found in February.
But a majority of those polled say that report released last week by the
lawfirm Christie hired was intended to help the governor`s reputation.
Only 3 in 10 New Jerseyans say it was a fair and unbiased investigation.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. If you need a reminder, as I
said, of what the future with a Republican-controlled Congress would
actually look like, look no further than Paul Ryan`s bleak blueprint with
the deceptively benign title "The path to prosperity."

Well, to echo Ted Kennedy when he predicted what Robert Bork`s America
would look like, Paul Ryan`s America is a land in which millions who now
have the security of affordable, reliable health insurance would lose it
when he repeals the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare is no longer a financial and medical bedrock for the elderly
under his plan, as he shifts to it a premium support model for future
retirees. That`s basically a voucher system that puts Medicare on the path
to privatization.

Paul Ryan`s America is a land that cuts Medicaid for the needy and
cuts food stamps for the hungry and raises military spending. As I
mentioned earlier, Democratic senator Dick Durbin thanked Ryan
sarcastically for reminding voters what Republicans would do if they had
the power to do it. And Democrats will make that harsh Republican future,
of course, a centerpiece of the fall campaign this November.

Joining me right now to prove it is the chair of the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel of New
York, and also, my friend here, U.S. -- actually, not U.S. anything...


MATTHEWS: ... MSNBC political analyst David Corn.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) U.S. citizen. I get -- that`s better than

Let me go to Congressman Israel. Your thoughts about this. Because
Ryan -- he`s for real. He puts it out there, doesn`t he. He says what
they stand for, and you`re smiling because you want the country to know
exactly what Paul Ryan, his future, looks like for us.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, you know, the defining issue
in any campaign, Chris, is who`s got your back. And with this Republican
budget, House Republicans are turning their backs on the middle class in
order to stack the deck for the special interests.

Let me give you one very specific example. Under this budget, if
you`re a college student, you begin paying interest on your student loan
while you`re in your classroom. That raises $40 billion for the treasury
in this Republican budget. You know what they do with that $40 billion?
They transfer it to big oil companies in the form of subsidies.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute.

ISRAEL: Those are the wrong priorities.

MATTHEWS: If you`re a sophomore...

ISRAEL: And we`re going to run on that.

MATTHEWS: ... you`re paying -- you`re paying your principal and
interest on -- while you`re still borrowing more money for sophomore year,
whichever your parents or you can`t afford, you`re borrowing that, and at
the same time you`re paying it back? How does that work?

ISRAEL: You`re borrowing it, you`re paying it back. And this
Republican budget pays the oil companies that $40 billion that they raise
from that one line item in the budget. This is line item after line item
after line item of special giveaways and handouts to the special interests
and taking it from the middle class.


Congressman, let`s talk to the retired person Washington this right
now. My dad was a Republican all his life, but he loved Medicare from the
moment he met it. He fell in love with Medicare. He liked somebody
besides himself footing the bill for his medical costs when he got older.

And my question is, how in the world can young Paul Ryan at his tender
age of 40-something, how can he say that an 80-year-old person, a woman,
perhaps a woman, they tend to live longer -- suppose you`re 80-some years
old. You`re elderly. You`re not older. You`re elderly. And you`re out
there trying to find a health insurance policy for you, not for your kids,
but for you.

And you have to go on the market to get it. So you`re handed a
voucher. Where is this person going to go find this? And I`m making your
case, but make it better. How does an older person find some insurance
company to pick up their health costs at the time in their life when health
costs are the highest, and we all know it?

ISRAEL: Well, this is Paul Ryan`s sequel to the House Republican plan
to make Medicare wither on a vine.

Here is what he does. He gives you a voucher. That is going to be
more costly. If you decide that you want to stay in traditional Medicare,
your premiums go up 50 percent, 50 percent. And at the same time, under
this budget, they reopen the doughnut hole, which means you get hit with a
$1,200 additional bill for your prescription drugs.

So, once again, this budget is -- takes from seniors, takes from
students, raises taxes on the middle class, raises out-of-pocket costs for
seniors. And for what? To make the special interests more powerful.


ISRAEL: To reward the special interests.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the catch-22 here.


MATTHEWS: They`re going to take this to the House floor?

CORN: Oh, yes.


MATTHEWS: So, they`re going to get every Republican up for
reelection. And they`re all up for reelection in the House to put their
name on this.

CORN: Yes. Yes. A few probably won`t, but they should have enough
to pass it. And...

MATTHEWS: Will the 50 that are in tricky districts that Mr. Israel is
trying to knock them off, are they going to vote for it?

CORN: I`m not sure there are 50, maybe 25, 15.

MATTHEWS: Well, whatever.

CORN: Well, some of them may not, because of the reasons that he just
put out.

Now, the Republicans think that they have fought back to a draw on
Medicare, because they made the charge that Obamacare squeezed $716 billion
out of Medicare. It did in terms of payments to hospitals and providers,
not in terms of benefits.

But they have kind of -- they have kind of been misleading on that.
So they think they can fight back. But what Ryan does is so cynical. This
budget is not just wrong -- it`s incredibly cynical -- is that he calls for
repealing Obamacare, but he still takes the $716 billion in Medicare

MATTHEWS: He did that last year, too.

CORN: ... that he attacked Obama for...

MATTHEWS: It`s an old trick.


CORN: ... and he still puts it through here.

And this is a guy who over the last two years has been going around
saying, I`m this anti-poverty, trying to be the Jack Kemp. Remember, how
Jack Kemp used to do this? And he is just going to whack away at food
stamps. He`s not just going to cut back. He`s going to change the

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me get to the bottom line here. This show is
about politics, not always about substance, but always about politics,
Congressman. How do you win with a legitimate fear of what the Republicans
would do if they got control of the Congress and both houses and the
presidency, of course, they get it all, or as much as they can?

How do you build the fire of voters turning out against what they`re
offering, and right here in black and white, against the anger people have
at just -- you know what it, sort of the way things are right now? How do
you build that case, the future against the present discontent, which is

ISRAEL: You do it -- you do it with this budget, Chris. You do it by
reminding people who are sitting in more traffic and deeper potholes that
the reason for that is that this budget cuts over $50 billion from
transportation, road improvement funding in order, again, to give tax cuts
to people who are making over a million dollars.

You do it by simply reminding people that, in this budget, if you`re
in the middle class, your taxes go up $2,000. If you`re making over a
million dollars anywhere, your taxes go down $200,000. Those are animating
and defining issues.


ISRAEL: And that`s what this election is going to be about, who`s got
your back.

MATTHEWS: I love the way you say you got a salary cut because
somebody else got a raise. Focus that, because I`m telling you, not that -
- you don`t need my advice. But I`ll tell you, people get that. Skim one
crowd, the poor people, the food stamp people, give the money to people
that have a lot.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, running the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this fall, and David Corn, as

ISRAEL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: the one thing that could bring Bill Clinton and
Bill O`Reilly together?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

Vice President Joe Biden has received a lot of attention this week
after an exchange he had with Rachael Ray about skin care, of all things.
Here is part of what he said Monday, followed by David Letterman`s reaction
to it on his show last night.



RACHAEL RAY, TALK SHOW HOST: I love moisturizers. My husband is a
moisturizer as well. Would you tell me what moisturizer you use?

instructions, about five years ago, she said I should use Clinique.

president says, you know what? I love moisturizing. My wife, Jill, got me
to moisturize. And you`re thinking, right. You`re not -- he is just
playing along.

Well, here is the vice president`s weekly speech. Take a look at
this. You think he was lying about moisturizing? Watch.

BIDEN: As you all know, nearly one-third of humankind is online
today, something we would have never thought possible 20 years ago...


BIDEN: ... more than two billion people and counting. The Internet
has -- the Internet has become the public space of the 21st century.



MATTHEWS: Imagine if we didn`t know how they do that stuff.

Anyway, we just heard that Letterman himself has announced he plans to
retire in 2015 -- that`s a shocker -- after more than 32 years on the air.

Well, good for David.

Next up: former President Bill Clinton dropped by "Jimmy Kimmel," the
other night -- late-night show. And what did he talk about? Aliens.
Check this out.


two years, more than 20 planets have been identified outside our solar
system. So it makes it increasingly less likely that we`re alone.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Oh, you`re trying to give me
a hint that there are aliens.



CLINTON: No, I`m trying to tell you I don`t know.



CLINTON: But, if we were visited some day, I wouldn`t be surprised.


CLINTON: I just hope that it`s not like "Independence Day."


KIMMEL: Yes, right.

CLINTON: Think of how all the differences among people on Earth would
seem small if we felt threatened by a space invader. That`s the whole
theory of "Independence Day."

KIMMEL: You`re right. You and Bill O`Reilly would be hiding in a
bunker together.


CLINTON: Yes. Well, Bill, he would be -- every mean thing he ever
said about me, that, I don`t care. Look at that.




MATTHEWS: That is funny.

But did you hear what he said? The former president said, if we were
invaded by aliens one day, I wouldn`t be surprised.

Well, I would. Wouldn`t we all? Anyway, that`s a way to end the
partisanship in Washington, wasn`t it?.

And, finally, Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana made a very
public mistake today at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.
After questioning Undersecretary of the Treasury David Cohen, Coats
realized he was at the wrong hearing room.

Take a look at how that played out.


REP. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: Undersecretary Cohen, I just wanted

SEN. DAN COATS (R), INDIANA: I just got a note saying I`m at the
wrong hearing.



COATS: This is -- this -- I have got the right room number, but the
wrong hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that would explain why I didn`t know
anything about this letter.


COATS: Well, this is the first time this has ever happened to me.
But I hope it`s not a precursor of what...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re always welcome in our committee.


MATTHEWS: That`s what happens when you pop around from one hearing to
the next.

Up next: We have seen the birthers and the 9/11 truthers. Remember
them? Now meet the health care truthers, those creatures of the far right
who say the Obama administration is cooking the enrollment numbers on the
Affordable Care Act. That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


Here`s what`s happening.

Foreign gunman Ivan Lopez purchased -- purchased the gun used in
Wednesday`s mass shooting at Guns Galore, the same shop that supplied a
weapon to Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at that same base in 2009.

President Obama says his thoughts are with the families at Fort Hood.
And he made those comments during a ceremony welcoming U.S. Olympic and
Paralympic team members to the White House.

And David Letterman is retiring in 2015. He made the announcement
during the taping of tonight`s show -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For months, conservative critics have predicted the total failure of
the president`s health care law. So when the president announced this week
the law had enrolled over seven million people into the health care
exchanges, did they react with some humility or at least some acceptance?
Not quite.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, "ON THE RECORD": You have said cooking the
books, the administration. Do you stand by that?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: I do. The -- we still don`t know
how many people who have gone to the Web site to sign up actually paid.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We don`t even know what those
numbers mean. We don`t know how many of those folks actually paid the

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, look, the numbers are a bit of funny
math, because they`re giving you numbers of who signed up. Those numbers
don`t reflect, number one, who actually bought insurance and paid their
first month`s premium.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: And now there are more lies coming out
today. Seven million, which they clearly haven`t hit, because we`re
hearing that maybe 25 percent, if that, have actually paid for their

It won`t end up being seven million today, when we get the truth. And
it may be like Benghazi. It may be another year-and-a-half before we
actually get the truth.


MATTHEWS: Benghazi, what did that have to do with anything?


MATTHEWS: Anyway, of course, they knew they were going to throw a
Benghazi in there for good reason, just for the heck of it. And that`s
just what elected Republicans are saying.

Others in the right-wing clown car flat-out accuse the White House of
toying with the numbers, of lying. Here they are.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And then today and last night,
the regime is out. And they have hit their seven million Obamacare sign-up

And I guarantee you, a lot of it is not possible. You can`t -- you
can`t tell me that this is real. You can`t tell me -- and just -- and
these people have been known to doctor the numbers.



SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": With millions of Obamacare applicants
appearing out of thin air now in the last few days, Kathleen Sebelius is
fighting off allegations that they`re cooking the books.



complete bogus. This is a complete bogus fairy tale. This is completely
made-up. This is nonsensical. The emperor has no clothes. And everyone
in the press, you rat bastards, every single one of you know what he is
saying isn`t true.


MATTHEWS: Well, the clown car had some more good company here.
Remember Dean Chambers? He is the conservative activist who founded Askew
-- or UnSkewedPolls back in 2012 to correct the scientific polls that
showed President Obama in the lead.

Well, that math wizard has some criticism for the White House`s
enrollment numbers now. Quote: "Does this sound familiar? Of course.
It`s just the last time -- the last time of several that the regime has
fabricated numbers to meet a goal it has set. The magic seven million
Obamacare sign-ups is no different than anything else reported by the
regime, completely fraudulent, fake, and phony."

What can you say about these guys, besides they are health care
enrollment truthers right now?

Joan Walsh is editor at large at Salon and an MSNBC political analyst,
and Michelle Bernard is the president of the Bernard Center for Women.

Thank you, Joan.

First of all, the lingo, regime.


MATTHEWS: Whatever else you say about President Obama`s politics, his
ideology, whatever you can figure about him, he was elected president of
the United States in a democratic vote. He carried the Electoral College
twice. He is the only president I think since Ike who has gotten two plus-
50 percent...

WALSH: Fifty percent.

MATTHEWS: ... of plurality votes. He is a legitimate president of
the United States. This is not a regime.

People who talk like that are trying to do something, I think, is
ugly. I think they`re trying to create in the minds of the rattled brain
people on the far right something that is really disturbed, that somehow
you can disagree with somebody and then leap over the fence to, it`s a
regime of liars.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s a coup. It`s somehow brought in illegitimately.

They`re finding a new way to say what they have been trying to say
since the president was elected the first time by majority vote.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: This guy isn`t president. That`s what they`re trying do,

WALSH: That`s exactly it. This is a -- this is a new firm of
birtherism. It`s a new way to say he is not legitimate, he doesn`t belong
there, we should get him out by any means necessary.

They are -- they`re sore losers. It`s sour grapes politics. And it`s
crazy. It`s Joe Wilson times 1,000, right? Joe Wilson screams, "You lie."
This is just another, many, many, many more versions of "You lie."

And the thing that is so hilarious -- I mean, if it wasn`t sad, it
would be hilarious -- is that these guys, you know, they loved the numbers
when the administration was admitting that, in October and November, those
numbers were low.

MATTHEWS: Oh, they were real numbers.

WALSH: They were real numbers.



WALSH: Those numbers were real numbers. But now the numbers can`t be
trusted. They`re liars. They`re cooking the books.

We have seen it over and over and over again. And, you know, to
underscore it, we have got Dean Chambers. He was absolutely right about
those Romney polls, that Romney was going to win in 2012, because we`re
here talking about President Romney.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you...

WALSH: So we know he knows what he is talking about.

MATTHEWS: What is it about these people like Karl Rove running around
election night with Megyn Kelly saying oh, no, Iowa has been won -- like
Baghdad Bob over there when we were invading. I didn`t like the war. But
Baghdad Bob wasn`t exactly good on the facts on the ground.

These people what is it -- what is it, Michelle? This I don`t

MICHELLE BERNARD, THE BERNARD CENTER: I said it off air and I`ll say
it again right now. They are angry because this is an African American man
rand he is succeeding. They didn`t like him being elected the first time.
They didn`t like him being elected the second time. He stands for so much
that a marginalized Republican Party does not like.

And here is the dirty little secret, I think, why we continue to see
them on this mega phone that it`s a lie, it`s a lie, it`s a lie -- a lot of
the people who are going to benefit from, quote/unquote, "Obamacare" are
probably low income, red state Republican whites who are going to look up
ten years from now and who are going to say this has made my life better.

So, maybe the mantra that I have grown up hearing about "big
government is bad" might not be truthful. And maybe the Democratic Party
is more appealing because it has made my life better. My wife can get
treatment for breast cancer. I can get treatment.

MATTHEWS: That`s what they said about the new deal. By the way, the
southern whites and people living in the country love meals on wheels.
They love Social Security. It`s their life.

BERNARD: It will be the Holy Grail like Social Security.

MATTHEWS: The poverty program in history, Social Security.

BERNARD: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Because old people used to be just left alone. Anyway, as
I said now, for months, conservatives have been predicting total failure
for the Affordable Care Act.

And here is some examples.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: This thing was destined to fail. This
thing is fundamentally flawed, Bill. So, yes, I do think we ought to
delay. I think it`s very clear that they`re not ready for prime time.

weeks left, two and a half weeks. At the pace they got this the last two
weeks, they`ll probably be a little bit under 4.5 million. So they`ll be
short two and a half million. It`s not working. It`s destroyed the best
health care system in the country, and the president still thinks he has
done something.

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: There is no way they`re going to get
anywhere close to enrolling 7 million new people who have paid for their
plans. It ain`t going to happen.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Obamacare is failing and will
fail. And I`m very much looking forward to being on the show in January
2017 when finally all of Obamacare is repealed.


MATTHEWS: The smirking, the devil talk, the future will be hell.
We`re going off the cliff.

What is this? I mean, I accept this ethnic part of it to an extent.
I never know where to put it because you never know where to put it and
what piece is in people`s heads and the fact that they cannot just handle
this guy, Barack Obama, being president of the United States. But this is
other thing. I think they believe if on FOX and other places, on "The Wall
Street" internal pages and the op-ed pages, if they say it over and over
and over again, if they get out there the idea of word of mouth over and
over and over and over and over again, it`s failed -- you know how people
when they hear a commercial jingle?

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: And they`re asked in an interview and they repeat the
jingle? If they do enough, they`ll get enough bad-mouthing of this health
care that maybe that will bring it down in November and win one more

BERNARD: Or maybe people won`t sign up for it. It`s not just the
ethnic piece. I think the real danger is if Republicans are never going to
get the minority vote, or at least no time soon, they`re not going to get
the majority of women voting for them. They cannot afford to lose --

MATTHEWS: The 47 percent.

BERNARD: They cannot afford to lose the white voters that they do
have now. And if those people like it and start to either self identify as
independents or as Democrats, the Republican Party is the losing party for
a long time.

MATTHEWS: Louie Gohmert, by the way is my go-to guy on birtherism
itself. When he comes down with that nice beautiful southern drawl of his
and he starts talking about the way -- just remember, he is the guy that
for years pushed the argument that Obama was born in some other country to
somebody else and he wasn`t really an American.

Joan, you`re great, as always.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And I got to go. But, Joan Walsh, thank you. I mean that
with high honor.

Michelle Bernard, thank you for coming. You are moving left. You are
moving left.

I detected you over the years. Look at her smiling. She knows that.
You`re coming into the corner.

Up next, leave it to the hard right, leave to it the hard right to
keep beating the Benghazi drum. They just say the word as we said earlier,
just mention it, like bingo. They put on another show trial yesterday in
the United States Congress. And the CIA official they tried to tear down
fought back with the facts that should help.

And that`s ahead. And that`s -- well, this is HARDBALL, the place for


MATTHEWS: Michele Bachmann`s latest Benghazi theory. Bachmann and
the rest of the right wing clown car can`t stop blowing the Benghazi dog

HARDBALL after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the conservative clown car, or the clown show, if you will, was
at it again yesterday. They held another hearing on Benghazi, determined
to chase the story, an issue that doesn`t exist, simply to poison the well
for the Democrats` likely 2016 presidential nominee former Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton.

Well, the House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday was not an
effort to get fax, but instead an opportunity to get yet again accuse a
former administration in this case and by extension President Obama and
Hillary Clinton of covering up the response to the attacks on that U.S.
facility in Benghazi ahead of the 2012 election.

Well, here is Republican Michele Bachmann, of course, accusing former
CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, of lying to the American people.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What`s really odd here is that
the false narrative that was given on Sunday morning on the Sunday morning
shows somehow strangely added up with a view of the White House six weeks
before the presidential election. That was the narrative of the White
House in the run-up to the presidential election. How weird that that
ultimately was reflected in the talking points against all knowledge from
people on the ground and knowledge this committee had.

That`s why we`re upset, because the American people from my
perspective were intentionally misled by this administration as to what
happened in Benghazi.


MATTHEWS: I done think people like Bachmann even keep up with
stories. And that`s evidence of it. She doesn`t know what she`s talking
about. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee completely cleared the
behavior by the administration. There was no B.S. involved in the

Anyway, Bachmann was just one of many on the committee to take a swipe
at Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA and the Obama
administration generally, continuing their witch hunt in front of the
cameras, all to muddy the waters for Hillary Clinton.

U.S. Congressman Adam Smith is a Democrat from Washington.

And "Time" magazine`s Mark Halperin is MSNBC`s senior political

I want to start with the congressman.

You know, I don`t understand it, because it was like, don`t these
people read the reports that come out? We know what happened in Benghazi.
It was a copycat from Cairo, which itself was ignited by that stupid video,
that anti-Islamic video. We know they used the word extremist rather than
terrorist because that came out of the intelligence community. And we know
they didn`t use the world al Qaeda because that was a decision by General
Petraeus, himself as DCI.

So, I don`t get it. I do not get why they keep acting like we don`t
know anything when we know pretty much everything.

Your thoughts.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Well, first of all, the right-wing
conspiracy, the clown car as you`re calling it today, they don`t live in
the fact-based world. They haven`t heard anything you just said or any of
the numerous reports that made it clear what Representative Bachmann is
saying is completely totally untrue, has no basis in reality whatsoever.
So they simply keep repeating it over and over and over again.

MATTHEWS: What`s their goal? Bottom line, what`s their home run

SMITH: They keep throwing mud up -- two goals. One, they throw mud
up the same wall and hope it sticks. They are desperate to find some sort
of conspiracy. I mean, keep in mind, some people were muttering about
impeachment when this first happened. They want to stick something on the
president, first of all.

Second of all, they`re playing to their right-wing base that loves
this stuff. But, look, the day after the attack President Obama said it
was a terrorist attack and yet they keep accusing him that it wasn`t.


SMITH: There`s no facts here. There`s just the right wing trying to
tarnish the president and pander to their increasingly unrealistic base, a
base that`s completely lost touch with reality.

MATTHEWS: OK. There are some scandals that are real. We know that,
Mark. They do exist in history. Watergate, for example. Teapot dome, I
don`t think whitewater was one of them.

Is this one that`s just going to be -- you hear it so many times, you
figure there must have been something there? Where there`s smoke, there`s
fire? Is that the theory?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME: It is largely driven by the imperative demands
of the right, that they keep asking about it. And for fund-raising and all
the normal incentives we see in politics today.

We`ve seen show hearings on a bunch of topics by both parties
throughout our careers. The Republicans keep doing it on the same issue
with very little tactics or strategy, with no new information of any

MATTHEWS: What`s the home run, Mark? We don`t have much time. Is
the home run that Hillary let her friend die? It seems like somehow they
go, the P.R. was played around with, the reporting was played around with,
the statements on "Meet the Press." Somehow that led to the death several
days before of Chris Stevens.

I mean, what`s the causality they`re looking at here?

HALPERIN: Chris, there are various schools of Benghazi scandal mania.
There`s what happened before, failure to defend the embassy, the consulate.
There`s what happened during, whether there was enough attempts made to
protect the people who were there and tragic loss of life. And there`s
people who want to talk about the spin after.

Look, in all three of the areas, there are legitimate policy
questions. If Republicans were smart, I think, they would simply focus on
the legitimate public policy questions rather than this attempt to just
inflame and cater to the right wing of the party.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Smith, yes or no. You take a few words to say
this. Is there any way to end this conversation, or their dribble right
through the `16 election?

SMITH: Well, I don`t see any way to end it on the right wing. I hope
that Congress will end it. I worked very hard with the armed services
committee to get us to stop asking about it. I hope this is the last time
any committee in Congress will officially waste time and look at it.

But there`s no way to stop the right wing noise machine. You know
that. They`ll keep babbling about it. Hopefully, you know, this will make
them look as incoherent as they are and wind up hurting them. I think it
is at that point where they`re so unhinged on this issue the American
people have left them on it.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is how Harry Truman got reelected in `48. The
Congress had a chance to do stuff, and all they did was probe and probe and
probe, and they got nothing.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Adam Smith of Washington state and
the great Mark Halperin. Thank you, sir.

And we`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with where I was yesterday. I was
across the Potomac River in Arlington National Cemetery with Kathleen,
interring her World War II and Korean War father along with her mother,
Mary Lou, where he, Robert Emmett Cunningham, wanted very much to end up.

Like Mt. Rushmore and the Liberty Bell and a few other iconic American
places, I supposed we have to throw in the U.S. Capitol and the White
House, Arlington is this country`s sacred ground, it`s where we honor those
who served this country and so many cases died doing it. In the words of
the Marine Corps hymn, fighting our country`s battles in the air, on land
and sea, from the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.

And, boy, do those words get to your heart when you stand out there as
we did yesterday with all those young Marines marching in slow drill, the
band playing, the Cason (ph), pulled along by the white horses, the music
of the Navy and Marine Corps filling the spring air.

I was so very proud of Kathleen for how she led her family out there
at Arlington Cemetery and so grateful to the young men in the Marine unit
who performed the honors with such excellence and precision and deep
respect. I`ll never forget the words spoken to Kathleen as she sat there
with her brothers and sisters, her being the oldest. Semper Fidelis, the
young man said, as he knelt before her taking off his white glove to
express his personal commitment held true through all the years.

Bob Cunningham was saluted with the three guns yesterday. His real
salute was the good memories he carried with him with real pride from his
days as a young enlisted sailor based in places like New Caledonia and
Leyte Gulf. He went up into the hills of an enemy held island to call in
gunfire from the ships.

"Were you ever scared?" I once asked him. "No," my father-in-law said
without a beat, "I had a hell of a time."

Well, we and our children visited him on his last weekend. He was in
good spirits. Our kids, Michael, Thomas and Caroline, were wonderful with
him, and he with them cracking jokes right to the end.

Robert Emmett Cunningham of Las Altos, California, the New Caledonia
and Leyte Gulf, now with his beloved Mary Lou at Arlington National


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