updated 3/3/2015 11:08:47 AM ET 2015-03-03T16:08:47

Show: HARDBALL
Date: March 2, 2015
Guest: Rep. Steve Israel, Erel Margalit, Nathan Diament, Jeremy Ben-Ami,
Marc Ginsburg, Paul Singer, Connie Schultz, Kathleen Parker, Lauren
Victoria Burke

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bibi or not Bibi? That`s the question.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Ground zero in an historic challenge now set for 11:00 o`clock tomorrow
morning to President Obama`s leadership of this country. In an act of back
room partisanship, Speaker John Boehner made an under-the-table deal to
bring Israel`s right-wing head of government into the American foreign
policy debate.

Whatever one thinks of Bibi Netanyahu, he is not here to bring unity to
American policy making. He will use charm and references to wartime
Churchill, but beneath the charm and beyond -- beyond the charm and the
Churchill will be his purpose here tomorrow in the Capitol tomorrow
morning. He wants to kill the 11th-hour effort by President Obama and his
State Department to bring Iran -- or stop it from building nuclear weapons
and the United States from another war in the Middle East.

Speaking to AIPAC at its conference today, Prime Minister Netanyahu
defended his speech before Congress tomorrow. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: My speech is not intended to
show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he
holds. I have great respect for both!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, many American lawmakers disagree with that. They believe
Netanyahu`s speech is meant to be essentially disrespectful. That feeling
is strong especially among members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congressman John Lewis, said, "I think it`s an affront to the president and
the State Department, what the speaker did," meaning inviting Netanyahu to
speak behind the back of the president.

Here`s what some other lawmakers have said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it`s inappropriate, number one -- let me
just say that -- for Mr. Netanyahu to be speaking before Congress on
Tuesday. I won`t be there because it`s a political game that the speaker -
- and unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu is letting himself be used in.

REP. MARSHA FUDGE (D), OHIO: I think that it was just a bad calculated
move on the part of Bibi, as well as, obviously, on the part of John
Boehner to do this at a time when we are negotiating a deal that we think
is going to be good not just for Israel but for our country and the other
countries involved.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I am offended as an American. I cannot
think of any reason as to why someone who differs with my president should
be coming to my country, my Congress, in order to attack my president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, according to the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll,
many Americans also take issue with the speech. By a margin of 5 to 3,
Americans say Republican leaders should not have invited the Israeli prime
minister without first notifying the White House.

Most Israelis also stand opposed. According to "Newsweek," a recent poll
found that 54 percent of Israelis believe Netanyahu should not speak to
Congress at this time.

Well, many former senior security officials in Israel have also spoken out
against the speech. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY YATOM, FORMER CHIEF OF MOSSAD: Cynically, Netanyahu is doing it not
in order to talk to the Congress because he knows that talking to the
Congress now will change nothing. He`s doing it in order to speak to the
people in Israel, in order to gain one or two more mandates. So Netanyahu
is ready to sacrifice the special relations between Israel and the U.S. for
gaining more few votes before elections in Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that gentleman was the former head of Mossad.

Others have criticized Netanyahu for how he has chosen to represent
himself. Here`s Senator Dianne Feinstein over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN: When Netanyahu says he`s coming to speak, he says he
speaks for all Jews. Does he speak for you?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: No, he doesn`t speak for me on
this. He doesn`t at all speak for me on this.

BASH: Does that bother you, when he says he speaks for all Jews?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. I think it`s a rather arrogant statement. I think the
Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points
of view. So I -- I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s Di-Fi, Dianne Feinstein, always the grown-up in the
conversation.

Joining me right now to discuss all of this, Congressman Steve Israel, a
Democrat from New York state, Marc Ginsburg, the former U.S. ambassador to
Morocco, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, which describes itself
as a pro-Israel and pro-peace organization, Nathan Diament -- he`s
executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, and Erel
Margalit, a member of the Israeli Knesset from the Labor Party.

It`s quite a group we have right now. I don`t know where to begin, so I`m
going to start with Steve Israel because you are the best -- well, you`re
the top Democrat here. What do you think? Is this good for America, good
for Israel, this speech and the way it was put together by Boehner? I
really don`t know who came up with this idea. I have theories about it,
but what are yours? Who came up with the idea of sneaking this invitation
past our president?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Boehner. The issue for me is not Bibi,
the issue is Boehner. Look, let`s be blunt. This was a trap that John
Boehner tried to spring on Democrats in order to create the perception of
daylight between Democrats and the state of Israel.

And Chris, you`ve been in politics. I`m in politics. I know one thing
about politics. When you know that your opponent is setting a trap, avoid
the trap. I`m not going to fall into that trap. I`m going to the speech.
I have been to Israel more times than John Boehner has been to a golf
course, and I will not allow him to define my relationship with Israel or
the perception of my relationship with Israel!

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Erel Margalit (INAUDIBLE) sits right here. What do
you think about this speech?

EREL MARGALIT, ISRAELI LABOR PARTY: Well, I think it`s a mistake because I
think that instead of bringing people together, it splits between the U.S.
administration and the Israeli government. It creates a split between the
Republicans and the Democrats in Congress. And I think that just because
we want to fight the notion of a threshold nuclear state of Iran, we need
to bring people together instead of setting them apart at this moment.

MATTHEWS: Was this purpose in setting this speech for a political goal of
Bibi Netanyahu to get reelected on March 17th? I mean, this is right --
two weeks before the election. This is right on the edge of the election.
Is this to get him the votes he needs to get the governing majority in the
Knesset?

MARGALIT: I think so because, you know, we`re in the lead right now. The
Labor Party is in the lead. And in three weeks, we want to present a new
Israeli government that would have a very different vision for the country.
And right now, Netanyahu is losing on the housing issues. He`s losing on
the economy issues. He`s losing on a lot of fronts in Israel. And this is
one front that he claims to be in the lead.

But I think that a lot of Israelis are calling his bluff and are thinking
that this is not the right manner in which a national security issue should
be dealt with. We should unify people together in Israel. We should unify
people together in the United States, which is our closest ally, which we
rely on if we want to move things forward. Even if we have some
disagreements, we need to discuss them in a manner of partnerships.

MATTHEWS: Let`s do it right now. Nathan Diament, your view., of the
speech and the way it was put together and the issue of Iran and the arms
debate right now.

NATHAN DIAMENT, EXECUTIVE DIR., PUBLIC POLICY, ORTHODOX UNION: Right.
Well, look, the way the speech was put together is clearly regrettable. It
should have been done much more carefully and should have been done in
consultation, ideally, with the White House.

The sad thing here is that we have a really serious issue on the table
right now, which is Iran`s drive to become a nuclear weapons power, and
we`re all getting distracted by a political circus around this debate --
around the speech, how it was set up, a debate about the speech, is it
about the Israeli elections, and so on and so forth. And what`s happening
is we`re getting distracted from the negotiations that are going on and
whether we`re, in fact, going to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons
capacity.

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t that what the administration is trying to do?

DIAMENT: Some definitely think that the administration is more than happy
to have this distraction because if they had to answer questions about --

MATTHEWS: No, but isn`t their ambition to stop Iran from getting a nuclear
weapon? Isn`t that what this whole talk is about?

DIAMENT: Yes. However, the administration has clearly shifted the
goalposts. It used to be that the administration talked about, We`re going
to have Iran dismantle its nuclear capacity. And now we`re talking about
how many centrifuges can they keep and what`s our monitoring going to be?

MATTHEWS: Yes. I don`t -- Marc Ginsburg, ambassador to Morocco under
President Clinton -- you and I have known each other. I don`t think any
American president, left, right or center, including this president of
center-left, would ever be able to survive in office if there were nuclear
weapons in the hands of the ayatollah. I think everybody agrees. It`s
just how you avoid that happening.

MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Absolutely, Chris.
Look, the ghost of Ahmadinejad hangs over this entire trip. The Israeli
public genuinely has legitimate concerns about Iran`s nuclear ambitions.
There`s great reasons --

MATTHEWS: We had them about Cuba.

GINSBURG: Of course.

MATTHEWS: When they had nuclear weapons (INAUDIBLE)

GINSBURG: The fact of the matter is, is that Iran is a country that is
constantly threatening Israel not only with nuclear -- potential nuclear
weapons, but also with Hamas and Hezbollah. The problem is, is that Mr.
Netanyahu has done precisely what everyone who`s just come before me said.
He is obfuscated this entire issue and has turned it into a political
circus.

And when he speaks to Congress tomorrow, the issue to me is not what he
says tomorrow, but has he in any way, shape or form managed to do anything
that would make Israel safer as a result? And I have serious doubts, and
you heard General Degan (ph), who is the former head of Mossad, declare, as
did 180 other generals in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu has elections on his mind
more than he has Iran on his mind.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Jeremy Ben-Ami, sir -- I haven`t met you
before, but you know your stuff. Isn`t the goal of Netanyahu to get
reelected? Everybody wants to get reelected in politics. He will get a
scorecard handed to him on March 17th. If he wins that day, then all this
argument we`re having here about the inappropriateness of this speech, all
the arguments about Iran, which is probably more important than any of
this, he wins if he gets elected. Isn`t that what the game here is
politically?

BEN-AMI: Well, clearly, the fact that the speech is taking place two weeks
before the election would indicate that the timing of the election is more
important than the timing of the speech. You have to think that he could
have put this speech off for 2-and-a-half, 3 weeks and come here and made
the exact same case if it wasn`t important to do it right before the
election.

And similarly, I think, for the Republicans, it would have been easy to get
a bipartisan invitation and actually include --

MATTHEWS: OK --

BEN-AMI: -- the administration in it, if they had wanted to.

MATTHEWS: Here`s the president in an interview (INAUDIBLE) Here`s the
president with an interview with Reuters late today. He downplayed talk of
a rift between the two countries. In contrast to what his national
security adviser said just last week, President Obama called the speech a
distraction, rather than permanently destructive to the relationship.
Let`s watch him today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a matter of policy, we
think it`s a mistake for the prime minister of any country to come to speak
before Congress a few weeks before they`re about to have an election. It
makes it look like we are taking sides.

The concern is that not only does it look like it politicizes the
relationship, but what`s also a problem is when the topic of the prime
minister`s speech is an area where the executive branch, the U.S. president
and his team, have a disagreement with the other side.

I don`t think it`s permanently destructive. I think that it is a
distraction from what should be our focus. And our focus should be how do
we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nathan?

DIAMENT: I think it`s important to realize there are three clocks that are
running here, only one of which we`ve talked about. One is the Israeli
election clock. The second clock is the negotiation clock, and the
negotiations are at a critical phase right now and people are looking to
see what`s going to happen in this month of March. And that could argue
for why the prime minister felt he needed to come sooner rather than later.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, good for the clock. But what can he -- there`s a shot clock
here. I agree. But once -- what can he do about the talks between us and
the Iranians and the Europeans between now and them cutting a deal? Why
does he want to put a kibosh on it now? Let`s look at the deal, see if
it`s good for Israel, good for America, and then move on.

Why does he want to screw it up now? I mean, really. Everybody knows
that`s what he`s doing here. He can wait.

DIAMENT: The prime minister clearly thinks that the goalposts have been
moved to a place where --

MATTHEWS: So he`s trying to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So you admit he`s out there to screw the talks up.

DIAMENT: He said at AIPAC this morning that there is a clear disagreement
--

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want there to be any more negotiation between the
United States and Iran.

DIAMENT: No, the prime minister has still said he believes a diplomatic
solution is a better solution than the alternative, obviously, military
action.

GINSBURG: No, he has not said that.

DIAMENT: Yes, he has.

GINSBURG: No, he hasn`t. Look, we know that the prime minister`s view is
that he has not tabled any alternative to negotiations. He had threatened
to use military force against the nuclear program of Iran several years
ago. He decided not to do that.


In the absence of him offering an alternative of constructive
recommendations to the administration, what is he doing here, Chris? He`s
trying to kill the deal. He`s trying to empower the congressional
Republicans to pass legislation that would require the president to submit
a deal that the administration may not want to submit to congressional
approval.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GINSBURG: That`s what this is about.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Steve Israel on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Steve, Congressman, I`m impressed when things happen I don`t
think are going to happen. I tell you, I got the feeling, to use a street
term of some recent currency, that the president was dissed by this whole
thing. When I see members of the Black Caucus, who`ve been around a few
(ph) for years, more senior to you (INAUDIBLE) believe been around for a
long time, coming out with such passion, I believe that the members of the
Black Caucus, who are the most reliable supporters of this president,
believe that their president, our president, has been disrespected by this
act. You can see it in their faces.

ISRAEL: Well, it was a disrespectful act, and it badly backfired. And
here`s why. First of all, nobody`s talking, as your other panelists have
said, about the substance of an Iran deal, a deal that I`m very skeptical
about. They`re talking about an invitation to a speech as if we invited
the person with -- you know, the bad uncle, you know, to a wedding that
nobody wanted invited.

And secondly, if the strategy was to try and pressure members of Congress
to oppose the deal, in many respects, it`s had the opposite effect. I`m
skeptical about the deal. I talk to my colleagues. I suggest to them that
they should be skeptical. And now many of those colleagues who were
skeptical, or at least undecided, have taken the optics of this and the
invitation and the disrespect, and they`re now saying, Well, you know, I
may be for this deal because of how partisan this process was.

So if the strategic objective was to move people into the "against the Iran
deal" column, it actually has had the opposite effect, and that`s the true
tragedy and irony of this botched partisan invitation by Speaker Boehner.

MATTHEWS: You`re always nuanced and smart. Thank you, Steve Israel, for
that. Ambassador Marc Ginsburg, my friend, thank you. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J
Street, Nathan Diament, thank you for joining us, and Erel Margalit. I
wish we had more time, but you`re all on the screen right now.

Coming up -- it`s President Obama versus Bibi Netanyahu. We`re going to
get to the human politics of Netanyahu and his speech tomorrow versus the
president. The prime minister is coming here to Congress tomorrow,
sounding like Churchill -- you can bet he`s going to quote Churchill --
while the president`s calling him -- well, a distraction. No worse than
that. I think he thinks it`s worse. I think the president is getting
softer on this kind of thing politically and rhetorically, but I don`t
think he looks this guy showing up. I don`t think he likes this guy.
Who`s winning this thing?

Plus, here`s one thing we learned about Jeb Bush and Chris Christie from
this weekend`s CPAC conference. The dog doesn`t like the dog food. Bush
and Christie don`t stand a chance with this crowd. But Scott Walker, he
may be the Republican to watch right now. Watch him. He`s the sleeper.

And how will House Speaker John Boehner get out of the straitjacket he`s in
right now? He can`t even fund the Department of Homeland Security, thanks
to the redhots on the right of his party.

Finally, let me finish with a big question. Will the redhots walk out of
the Republican Party or take it over? Take it over.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a busy week at the U.S. Supreme Court. Today the
court heard oral arguments about redistricting and whether it`s
constitutional for a state -- in this case Arizona -- to take its
legislature out of the redistricting process and give it to an independent
commission. I`d do that.

Then on Wednesday, it`s the big one, oral arguments in the case of King
versus Burwell which could possibly gut President Obama`s health care law.
The question there is whether the IRS can expand tax credit subsidies,
subsidies to cover insurance purchased through federal exchanges. And if
the court rules against the law, millions of Americans will likely lose
their health insurance.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NETANYAHU: The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of
threats to annihilate us -- those days are over!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

NETANYAHU: Today, we are no longer silent. Today we have a voice.

(APPLAUSE)

NETANYAHU: And tomorrow -- tomorrow, as prime minister of the one and only
Jewish state -- I plan to use that voice!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s pretty strong.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. More now on the hottest political fight in the
country right now, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu vs. President
Obama.

Bibi is taking the fight to the president`s home turf tomorrow, when he
addresses a joint meeting of the Congress that was organized behind the
president`s back. It`s a snub to the White House that the president`s
national security adviser, Susan Rice, warned would have dire consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There has now been injected a
degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it`s
destructive of the fabric of the relationship, and it`s something that --

CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, "THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW": It`s destructive of the
fabric of the relationship?

RICE: Well, Charlie, take my point. It`s always been bipartisan. We need
to keep it that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: President Obama appeared to back off that rhetoric today,
telling Reuters that the address is a mistake, but not permanently
destructive.

Well, my question, who will win this fight?

I`m joined right now by three Pulitzer Prize winners as part of MSNBC`s 7
Days of Genius Festival.

Unfortunately, we have to call you people geniuses this week.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But you don`t have to say a word.

We`re exploring the people, ideas and innovations that are changing today`s
world.

Anyway, the genius panel tonight, Eugene Robinson and Kathleen Parker of
"The Washington Post," both columnists and nationally syndicated as well,
and also nationally syndicated columnist Connie Schultz. As I mentioned,
all three are Pulitzer Prize winners.

Connie, you`re the newbie here tonight, so let me ask you about this thing.

Is this going to be a typical prize fight politically, where if Bibi gets
reelected on the 17th of March, that`s it, that`s the -- it`s big casino,
he`s won, he`s won his argument, he`s won the argument having come here,
he`s won his argument about the fault lines in this Iranian peace deal?

CONNIE SCHULTZ, COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, I don`t think we know that
he`s going to win it all. In fact, this could really backfire on him.

What I think we`re watching right now are two men, the prime minister of
Israel and the speaker of the House, who let their political ambitions
trump the best interests of their countries. This should not be happening
right now. I don`t think there`s any guarantee that the prime minister is
going to win, having done this. And I think that --

MATTHEWS: But what could Obama have done to avoid this tussle? What he
could have done?

SCHULTZ: What he could have --

MATTHEWS: He didn`t even know about it. It was being scheduled without
him.

SCHULTZ: He could -- that`s exactly right.

Everything`s changed. We had the lowest voter turnout since 1944, as you
will recall, in the midterm elections. And this is what happens when you
have that, that it looks like the Republican leadership feels absolutely no
pressure to do the right thing, period, and feels no reticence in turning
this into a partisan issue, when it wasn`t.

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess I`m partisan here because I think it was all
Boehner`s decision, along with Dermer, the ambassador from Israel.

Kathleen, do you disagree? Go ahead.

KATHLEEN PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, no. I just -- I know that the
Republican argument would be that they feel like they need to hear from
Netanyahu.

And as far as all this concern with protocol, first of all, when did we
start caring so much? But, secondly -- and I understand why the White
House is upset about it, because it does come at a time when they`re trying
to do something very serious, which is negotiate with Iran.

But the -- the speaker has asked before for Netanyahu to come and invited
him before. In 2011, he did go to the White House because he was worried
about messing up the then negotiations with Iran. And the White House did
not respond for a month, according to the speaker`s office. And when they
did, they basically said, it`s your call.

So he might have felt that it was not necessary to give the -- to consult
with the White House this time. But I do know that he did give him a
heads-up. The White House was notified before this went public, now,
albeit, only an hour before.

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER: But there was some time to shuffle the papers.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ: That`s not notice, Kathleen. You know that`s not notice.

(LAUGHTER)

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the Japanese model.

PARKER: I`m just reporting.

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t be looking at that --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: No.

PARKER: I`m doing the genius --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Bibi knew from the day he got the invite and found out the
president did not know about it that he was in a situation that was
partisan.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And not -- not one moment since then has he thought, you know
what? I better put this off until after my election, I better put it off
until we see this paper, this document, this deal with Iran on controlling
their nuclear weapons program from happening. But I`m not going to walk
into a situation which is totally partisan.

He hasn`t done that. He`s had plenty of time to consider, which makes me
think --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- part of the deal.

ROBINSON: Whatever he knew beforehand going into the deal, he obviously
decided just to keep moving forward, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: That he wasn`t going to back, that that would be a bad idea.

Now, you know, the question, this is actually a big gamble for Netanyahu
because of the political situation back home in Israel, because of the
sensitivity of the relationship between Israel and the United States, that
special relationship.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: It is the -- you know, the number two job of any Israeli prime
minister is to protect that relationship. The number one job is to keep --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. So, what`s Boehner`s game? There`s one Jewish member of
the Republican Caucus, and there are a lot of evangelical Christian
conservatives.

I think this has always been aimed, the Republican Party`s moving towards
their big love of Israel, for the evangelicals, the right-wing people who
look upon Israel in biblical terms, not in the current terms, and they are
just completely gung-ho for this issue. They want a way --

PARKER: Oh, no, I don`t --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They want to take Israel`s side against the United States`
Democratic government.

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER: Are you -- you`re not talking about the end-timers, I hope?

MATTHEWS: No, no, I`m talking like the people who -- like -- like
Huckabee. They`re not nuts. They see a political ambition there. They
look at that as a political opportunity.

PARKER: Well, they also see that Israel is -- you know, that we need to be
their ally. We need to support them in what they do.

MATTHEWS: Well, we are.

PARKER: And I was relieved to hear our U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power,
earlier today talking at AIPAC about the fact that that is an eternal
relationship that`s not going to be muddled by current politics.

ROBINSON: Of course it`s --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Connie, let me bring you in.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Connie, come in here. What -- go ahead.

SCHULTZ: The word relieved -- I wasn`t relieved to her say that, because
of course we know that we`re going to protect Israel. This is not going to
damage the long-term relationship between the United States and Israel.

And I don`t think it serves anybody to pretend otherwise. This is so
political, it`s so heated right now and it`s such a distraction from what
we should be focusing on right now, which is negotiations with Iran.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me go back to that one point.

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER: Let me just say, I`m relieved for the public to hear this. You
understand?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does any one of you three recognized geniuses --

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Sarcasm -- sarcasm is on alert here -- believe that any
president, left, right, or center, could live with Iran having nuclear
weapons?

So, my point is all parties agree they have to prevent this from happening.
Obama is trying an 11th-hour effort to try to do it without going to war.

ROBINSON: Right. Well, I agree.

But there`s a distinction here between his position and Netanyahu`s
position. The president has always said, Iran will not get a nuclear bomb
on his watch.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: Netanyahu wants Iran rolled back from nuclear capability.

MATTHEWS: How does he do that? Well, how would you do that?

ROBINSON: Well, that`s the question.

MATTHEWS: Except bombing them?

ROBINSON: I don`t know the answer to that. I don`t know the answer to
that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And even bombing sets them back, what, two years. Nobody thinks
it`s going to do it permanently.

If Israel bombs, or we bomb them together, or we do it alone, aren`t we in
a situation we have just ignited total unity on the part of the Iranian
people, Rouhani, all the secular people?

ROBINSON: Well, of course.

MATTHEWS: Everybody says, they have insulted us, we`re going to go with a
nuclear weapons program.

PARKER: I think the negotiations are valuable and they should -- and if we
get to where we need to get, then that`s -- why isn`t that a great thing?
Except for the fact that there are these timetables, and then we are not
even approaching the ICBM program.

MATTHEWS: I know.

PARKER: And so what good is it?

MATTHEWS: That`s a good point. That`s a good point.

PARKER: Yes.

SCHULTZ: You have to have timetables. If you don`t have timetables, you
don`t have any motivation to reach agreements, right? We can`t just be
arguing in thin air and negotiating in thin air.

They do have to have the timetables. They have to force the deadlines.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let`s do a little predictions here, because I hate it when the media -- and
you guys are the commentators on the media -- acts like they`re surprised,
when they know it`s coming. There`s an old rule of warfare, which is the
best position to be in is to attack from a defensive position. Bibi goes
into that speech tomorrow pretending to be playing defense, which he will
be because of all the criticism.

He knows exactly where it`s coming from, the left and the center-left, the
newspapers, editorials, "Washington" -- "The New York Times," not "The
Washington Post" anymore. And he knows where it`s coming from. So he just
directly says, jokes a little bit about the controversy, and then he says
something about, you know what, another guy was here once defending his
country. His name was Winston Churchill or something like that.

And then he gets to the issues. And while he`s got everybody`s interest,
he says, now let`s talk about this deal that`s afoot.

I don`t see how he loses tomorrow. It`s like Reagan saying, "There you go
again" to Jimmy Carter, knowing what Carter was going to do in attacking
him. He knows the attack line against him tomorrow, Kathleen. You first.
How does he lose tomorrow?

PARKER: Well, he was charming today and he will be charming, equally
charming, tomorrow.

I would like to hear what he has to say before I judge his speech. But at
the moment, 54 percent of Israelis think he should not have accepted this -
-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think he will surprise you tomorrow?

PARKER: No. No.

MATTHEWS: OK.

PARKER: I don`t think the content of his comments will surprise me. It
depends on how his tone goes.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: He loses in what context? The context that really matters to
him right now is back home in Israel, right, because --

MATTHEWS: March 17.

ROBINSON: -- March 17 is the election. Does he win or lose there?

And the polls, as Kathleen says, do suggest that people there think this is
not the greatest idea.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Connie, is your senator husband going to go tomorrow?

SCHULTZ: Well, I don`t speak for my husband, but I will tell you that I
know he`s going to be in attendance.

As for me, I will be surprised if I hear any humility coming out from the
prime minister. I think the question is, what -- what does he lose? I
think what we ask is, what could he possibly win by doing this?

MATTHEWS: Would Sherrod Brown make a good vice presidential running mate
with Hillary Clinton?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ: I knew you were going to do this.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: And I need to reprimand you and ask you to behave.

MATTHEWS: Of course. I`m as predictable as Bibi Netanyahu. I`m as
predictable as Bibi Netanyahu, because he`s a Philly guy.

SCHULTZ: Yes, you were.

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

SCHULTZ: I wish that you were not quite so predictable.

And he`s not running for vice president, Chris, no matter how many times
you champion him to do so.

MATTHEWS: OK. You don`t have to.

All you have to do is say yes.

Anyway, I think he will be a great balancing act for the Elizabeth Warren
people. It would be great, a little bit to the left of Hillary. But
that`s good.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Eugene.

SCHULTZ: He`s great even now.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you would -- you would say that.

SCHULTZ: Yes, thanks for reducing me to a spouse, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You would say that.

Anyway, congratulations on all you geniuses. A Pulitzer Prize is something
that you should wear as a part of your middle name, like a Cardinal. It
should Eugene "Pulitzer Prize-winning" Robinson.

SCHULTZ: Yes, that would make us popular.

MATTHEWS: Kathleen "Pulitzer Prize-winning" Parker, and Connie "Pulitzer
Prize-winning" Schultz.

Anyway, thank you all for coming on, in all seriousness.

And all this week, by the way, MSNBC will feature more of this special
project, 7 Days of Genius.

For more information, log on to MSNBC.com/genius. Why not?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: When we come back, no love for Jeb Bush from that clown car
convention that is CPAC. The straw poll results are in, and Jeb didn`t
make the top four. He didn`t finish in the money at all.

Plus, how the energized red hots on the right wing of the Republican Party
are making it impossible for John Boehner to do the job he promised to,
which is govern. It`s all ahead with our roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
what`s happening.

President Obama says he hopes the U.S. will be able to open an embassy in
Cuba before an April 10 summit in Panama. He spoke about the matter in an
interview with Reuters a short while ago.

Nurse Nina Pham is suing Texas Health Resources, which owns the hospital
where she contracted Ebola last year.

And gas prices are moving higher, according to AAA. They have risen 39
cents a gallon in 35 days, the longest streak of rising prices since 2013 -
- back to HARDBALL.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

If CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is any indication of
who the GOP wants to take on Hillary Clinton in 2016, then the right wing
is on fire these days and the establishment choices are looking pretty
weak.

Just take a look at the results of the annual CPAC straw poll over the
weekend. Rand Paul won the straw poll for the third year in a row with 25
percent of the vote, third year in a row. Scott Walker -- he`s the comer
here -- he came in second. Ted Cruz came in third. Jeb Bush came in a
distant fifth with 8 percent. That`s one in 12. And New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie, who Republicans begged to run in 2012, came in 10th. That
was a pretty bad performance. He got 2 percent, one in 50.

And the dismal support for the moderate wing of the Republican Party was
reflected by the reception for Jeb Bush. Hear the noise. Hear the noise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": By the way, Jeb Bush, any supporters?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

HANNITY: You supported in-state tuition prices for those children of
illegal immigrants that weren`t citizens.

(BOOING)

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Hang on.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We should give them a path to legal
status, where they work and where they make a contribution to our society.
That`s what we need to be focused on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: A lot of reaction.

(BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining the roundtable right now is "The Washington Post"
opinion writer Jonathan Capehart, Lauren Victoria Burke, who is managing
editor or Politic365, and Paul Singer is the Washington correspondent for
"USA Today."

We haven`t had you on before, Lauren, so what I want to know your views.

I`ll tell you, I know it`s just CPAC --

LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, POLITIC365: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- but I sell another `64, another Goldwater year, where they
don`t care about winning. They want to show their gutsy attitude of anger
against illegal immigrants or immigrants generally --

BURKE: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- and their anger against the Republican establishment. They
don`t like people like Bush or Boehner.

Your thoughts.

BURKE: Well, I think the Scott Walker, even though he`s the little star,
sort of the it guy right now, frankly, the person who won the straw poll is
the person who has been doing some compromising with Democrats, which would
be Rand Paul.

That`s the thing that people sort of forget in this. The straw poll does
matter. I think it does matter that Rand Paul is the only person there who
has reached out actually to Democrats. And, yes, sure, Scott Walker is
ahead now. He`s the it guy now. But he`s kind of the Jeremy Lin of the
moment, the guy that`s the star now. But everybody has --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is kind of the what?

BURKE: The Jeremy Lin of the moment.

(LAUGHTER)

BURKE: He`s kind of the star right now. But my thing is that, yes -- my
thing is that it will be somebody else next week.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re talking to someone who believes he`s the sleeper that`s
going to win this thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I will put an asterisk next to the
Rand Paul win. The Pauls always win straw polls.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because libertarians show up?

CAPEHART: Right, and college kids. And so of course Rand Paul is going to
win.

It`s no surprise that Jeb Bush, Chris Christie --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s the reason why Hillary and I both, in our own separate
ways, were for Goldwater as kids, because there`s something unbelievably
attractive about libertarianism when you have no responsibilities, no
needs, you`re healthy and young, and everything looks like blue skies. I
want to be a libertarian.

CAPEHART: Well, remember, though, that the C in CPAC stands for
Conservative.

So, it`s no surprise that Chris Christie is way back, that Jeb Bush is way
back or that he was even booed.

MATTHEWS: Is this Richie Havens --

CAPEHART: We can`t --

MATTHEWS: I get you. Is there another Republican party besides CPAC?
Where is this moderate Republican Party?

PAUL SINGER, USA TODAY WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The money party. There`s
a money party and the money party is not the CPAC party. I mean, the folks
who are lining up their money to give to either Jeb Bush or the more
serious I guess we`d call them establishment candidates, those guys aren`t
at CPAC ranting and raving. They`re sitting at Wall Street. They`re
sitting in a lot of places around the country, on golf courses, talking
quietly and writing large checks.

LAUREN BURKE, MANAGING EDITOR, POLITIC365: Don`t you think it`s
interesting the thing Jeb Bush gets beat up for which is being too
moderate, Rand Paul is actually the person who`s reached out, who`s joined
on legislation with Cory Booker, who`s doing criminal justice reform. He`s
the person --

MATTHEWS: Where is he on immigration? The red hot --

BURKE: He`s doing red meat. I think he`s doing red meat on immigration.
You have substantive issues.

MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush, she`s married to a woman from Mexico. His kids are
basically Hispanic kids. They look Hispanic. He speaks when he speaks
about states in the Union, he refers to Latinos with a Spanish accent.

He is so in your face in terms of his appreciation and assimilation and
Spanish role in our society to the point of practice, you know, using the
accent. I mean, he`s like a local anchor person who does that. No
politician I know, so-called Anglo, does this except him.

CAPEHART: Well, this is the thing I think will be beat for Jeb Bush if he
can make it through the primaries and win the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Where does he win the primary? Which primary does he win with
that very pro-immigration --

CAPEHART: That`s a very good question. I don`t think -- he has to win
something before he gets the --

SINGER: He could win in Iowa, I think, certainly could win in New
Hampshire, right?

CAPEHART: Right.

SINGER: If Rick Santorum or someone else, or Huckabee takes the religious
conservatives in Iowa --

MATTHEWS: There`s money to be made here. You`re new to this show.
There`s money to be made.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think even coming in, and the money is good for him in Iowa,
let alone coming in first.

Anyway, yesterday on "Fox News Sunday", Scott Walker was put on the spot
over his evolving position on the hot topic of immigration. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Over the years, you have supported
comprehensive immigration reform and a right to citizenship for people who
pay penalties, this for the 11 million people who are in this country
illegally.

INTERVIEWER: Can you envision a world where with the right penalties and
waiting periods and meet the requirements, where those people could get
citizenship?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Sure. Yes. I mean, I think it makes
sense.

WALLACE: Question, isn`t that amnesty?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Walker says, of course, he opposes amnesty, but his position on
immigration has changed. He said it`s changed in the last couple years.
Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: My view has changed, I`m flat-out saying it. Candidates can say
that. Sometimes they don`t.

WALLACE: So, you`ve changed from 2013?

WALKER: Absolutely. I look at the problems we`ve experienced over the
last few years. I`ve talked to governors on the border and others out
there. I`ve talked to people all across America. The concerns I have is
we need to secure the border, we ultimately need to put a system in place
that works, legal immigration system that works. And part of doing this is
put the onus on employers, getting them E-verify and tools to do that. But
I don`t think you do it through amnesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think of this?

BURKE: That`s a loser for them. They`ve got to get the Hispanic vote. At
some point, that outreach thing that Reince Priebus has been talking about,
that`s kind of get real in terms of policy.

MATTHEWS: But they don`t want black people voting. Why would they go for
Hispanics.

BURKE: How about that? How about that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re saying this so logically. They spend more time on voter
suppression and voter ID laws than you can imagine, 36 states. Reince
Priebus is leading the band on this. You say, welcome in, by the way, you
can`t vote.

SINGER: This is sort of thing where politicians, Obama evolved on gay
marriage, right?

MATTHEWS: People do evolve. Let`s not be cynical.

SINGER: I`m cynical for a living.

MATTHEWS: You`ve been living out there carrying the banner for equality
30, 40 years ago?

SINGER: This is the thing. You know, somebody -- he has --

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton went from a Goldwater conservative to being an
anti-war liberal under Gene McCarthy. Guess who else did that? Me.
People do change their politics as they grow up.

CAPEHART: Sure, you can change your policies as you grow up, but I`m
getting shades of Mitt Romney here.

BURKE: Right.

CAPEHART: You`re for something then you`re against something because you
need it politically.

MATTHEWS: You mean, it`s too quick?

CAPEHART: Yes. And then you`re going to change it back because suddenly
you realize the party needs Latino voters, need to make the party open and
welcoming to Hispanic voters?

MATTHEWS: Is he saying he`s against a path to citizenship, or wanted other
components to be part of it? Because if he wants the other components,
he`s right in the American mainstream. If he wants it all, path to
citizenship, stop the illegal hiring of people, that make sense. That`s my
position. I`m not sure he`s excluded the path to citizenship, has he?

CAPEHART: I`m not sure. I don`t know. That`s part of the problem.

SINGER: Stay here and work in some way.

MATTHEWS: I think the word comprehensive should still be our guide. Do it
all. Do it all. The roundtable is staying with us.

Up next, John Boehner is in a bind and it`s going to be hard for him to get
out of it. He`s in trouble. He`s in real trouble.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, just when you think you can predict the future, you can`t.
Senator Barbara Mikulski, longest serving woman in the history of Congress,
is retiring. The five-term Democrat from Baltimore first took office in
1987. Before that, she served ten years in the House of Representatives as
a congressperson. Mikulski has been a reliable progressive voice and 1 of
11 senators to vote against boht the `91 and 2002 war resolutions against
Iraq. Good for her.

Her retirement could open up the door for Maryland`s former Governor Martin
O`Malley, members of Congress, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, or
former lieutenant governor, our own Michael Steele. Don`t do it, Michael.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Republican discord in the House of Representatives was on full display
Friday when Speaker Boehner and his fellow leaders failed to corral enough
Republican votes to pass a three-week funding extension for the Department
of Homeland Security. Just three weeks, 52 hardcore Republicans, including
members of the so-called Freedom Caucus turned on Boehner because the bill
did not block President Obama`s executive orders on immigration. Instead,
the House passed a one-week funding bill with the blessing of House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Despite the embracing defeat, Republican leaders Boehner, McCarthy and
Scalise tried to downplay their differences with the hard line members of
their conference. Here they are:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY ELADER: We have difference of opinion
on hard line strategy and tactics. But in principle, we are united.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We get an argument over
tactics from time to time. The goals are all the same.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY WHIP: So, obviously, our members have
a lot of differences on how we want to go about tactics, but our goal is
the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The keyword here is tactics. Anyway, it sounds like a Woody
Allen.

Now, it`s just four days to go, Boehner must find a way to placate it or
bypass the hard liners in his own party, and again risk shutting down the
government and the department responsible for keeping American`s safe,
especially.

We`re back with the roundtable, Jonathan, Lauren, Paul.

In your order across the table here, how does Boehner get out of this, it
seems to me he is in a straitjacket as I said. Either he goes with the
crazies and shuts down the government, shuts down the Department of
Homeland Security, which they created, the Republicans, after 9/11, or he
buckles and has his whole party hate him.

CAPEHART: Well, they already, it seems like, hate him.

But look, there`s something --

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: Something interesting happened on Friday night. Nancy Pelosi,
the House minority leader, sent out a leader to her caucus saying, vote for
this one week deal because we`ll get a shot at voting on a clean bill next
week.

MATTHEWS: No more on anti-immigration stuff.

CAPEHART: Right. Speaker Boehner`s office when asked by reporters said,
no, no. There`s no deal. We`re not doing that. Now, it turns out because
of the story in "Roll Call" and other places that there`s this miraculous
rule -- House Rule 22 that is sitting there that says if Senate resolution
is defeated, then some -- then anyone in the House can bring it up.

MATTHEWS: Privilege motion.

CAPEHART: Privilege motion, and then you can vote on that Senate
resolution which is a free bill.

MATTHEWS: And a Democrat can bring it up.

CAPEHART: Democrat can bring it up, Boehner can say I didn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Immaculate Conception, is this going to work?

BURKE: No. It`s not going to work.

MATTHEWS: Somehow Boehner gets the vote against him without having to
bring it up.

BURKE: He`s got to put the clean bill on the floor. I mean, this guy got
221 Republicans on January 6th when he was elected speaker. I don`t know
what he was afraid of.

MATTHEWS: He is afraid of a Democratic majority ruling his House.

BURKE: He`s got the votes. He can just put on the floor.

SINGER: But he`d better be afraid.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think he won`t be dump?

BURKE: No, I don`t think he will be dumped. No.

SINGER: Something like that emasculates his speaker ship. If he goes to
one of those back door rule things, he basically says, or he`s a path to
just get around me whenever you want to. Never would he leave with
something like that. He has to either face up and say, look, this is what
we will do and I will twist some arms and get the votes or I`m not your
speaker. You make the decision, people. He has to go to his caucus and
bust some heads. That`s the way it works.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, Reagan got through the 1986 tax reform bill, which
is really good. It got rid of all the hopefuls, got the top rate down to
28 percent, made everybody happy by going around the house. He went right
to conference. You can do it with little gimmicks.

SINGER: They`re out there, but they`re dangerous.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Reagan was powerful. Anyway, "The Wall Street Journal"
issued a scathing critique of the Republican-led Congress today, quote,
"Republicans need to do some soul searching about the purpose of a
congressional majority, including whether they even want one. If they
really Mr. Boehner is the problem, then find someone else to do this
thankless job. If not, then start to impose some order and discipline and
advance the conservative cause rather than self-defeating rebellion.
That`s the right speaking.

SINGER: Yes. Well, I think, honestly anybody who in the Republican Party
wants to show like Mitch McConnell said, we`re going to be responsible
leadership, this is driving them nuts. They look like they can`t run a
two-car train.

MATTHEWS: Well, they promise they got 50 members who don`t want to ride in
the train.

CAPEHART: Right. This is supposed to be the non-scare -- remember, Mitch
McConnell said, Senator McConnell said, we have to show that we`re not
scary compared to the 213th Congress.

BURKE: And that we can govern.

MATTHEWS: You know what? Harry Truman pulled the biggest upset in
American political history in 1948. He had a Republican Congress just like
the one we`re watching, the do-nothing Congress. They got into office in
`46. They blew it by `48 because they didn`t do anything except hold
investigations. Every night they said this Congress is behaving just like
that. All they do is Benghazi and crap like that. They`re not doing
anything for the people. Hillary will be able to exploit this like Harry
Truman. She`s like Harry Truman.

Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, Lauren Burke, Paul Singer.

When we return, let me finish with a big question: will the red hots walk
out of the Republican Party or take it over?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the clear signs that the right wing
of American politics is not happy with the established Republican Party.
The Grand Old Party is its house politically, it is not its home.

Ask yourself the obvious questions: is John Boehner part of the
conservative base or apart from it? Is Jeb Bush part of the Republican
base or apart of it?

And, finally, were it not for history, 19th century history, would anyone
call the conservative dominated GOP the party of Lincoln? The facts are
right there in front of us. The strength of what constitutes the
Republican majority in Congress is centered now in the south, center in the
very geography that opposed Lincoln`s candidacy, believed that his election
was reason itself for civil war.

Where is it weak? Where is it lost in space of belief? It is no longer
the party that vote overwhelmingly for civil rights and voting rights for
the mid-`60s. In fact, its most consistent ambition these recent years has
been a relentless push to limit voting rights, especially for minorities by
the imposition of new voter ID requirements. And with it, it is doing what
the Jim Crow enforces it with poll taxes, and outlandish literacy test.

The question is how will this movement is going to end up? Will the right
wing bolt the Republican establishment, the Bush-Boehner club, or will they
the establishment one more time put the right in its place, taking their
votes while bouncing their slate of candidates, the Cruzes, Huckabee, and
Carsons, well into the back seats.

Everything we see, the spectacle from CPAC, the speaker`s defeat on
homeland security, the weakness of Bush in the polls all point to a coming
division. For the first time in a half century, I can see the right doing
the bouncing and overthrowing the Bushes and the Boehners and heading for
the wild political horizon. I`m concerned about the usual notions of
political advantage, not caring whether they lose it all to honor the
single dazzling prospect, that given all the anger in the land, it could
just win (ph) it all.

So what will it be? A walk out by the right? Or a takeover not seen since
Goldwater days?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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