updated 3/16/2015 10:44:02 AM ET 2015-03-16T14:44:02

Show: HARDBALL
Date: March 13, 2015
Guest: Michael Tomasky, Matt Katz, A.B. Stoddard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bibi`s delicate condition.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The bullying e-mail (sic) to the ayatollah that was meant to hurt
President Obama has apparently hurt the right-wing heartthrob, Bibi
Netanyahu. Polls show the GOP prom date sliding downwards in the polls
back home, with the opposition gaining. The issue driving Netanyahu down
is the man`s personal behavior, of course, but his one-night stand with the
House GOP hasn`t helped.

Unfortunately for the hawks, the neocons and their bomb-throwing or
bombs away soulmates in this country`s right-wing hinterlands, that
perfumed letter of theirs to the ayatollahs has outed them for all to see.
Nobody likes people who send little nasty notes to people to hurt other
people, and this is the stuff of high school bullies, the kid who wants
someone to feel lousy by dumping on them in a letter that accidentally gets
shown around school.

Well, this pathetic pattern is taking Bibi Netanyahu to where he
should never want to go, to a bad relationship with people whose interest
in Israel is grounded on the hot but loose sand of right-wing ideology.
That invite to Bibi and that letter from the Tom "Bates Motel" Cotton could
well be the worst set of Republican ideas since Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

Michael Tomasky`s a columnist for the DailyBeast, and Daniel Levy is
with the European Council on Foreign Affairs -- or Foreign Relations. He
was a special adviser to the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak,
which means he was a centrist and a reasonable person.

In a newly released interview with Vice News, by the way, the
president, our president had some strong words for those 47 senators who
signed that letter to the Iranian leaders, including the ayatollahs. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m embarrassed for
them. For them to address a letter to the ayatollah, who they claim is our
mortal enemy, and their basic argument to them is, Don`t deal with our
president because you can`t trust him to follow through on an agreement --
it`s close to unprecedented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, today, one of those senators, Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin, said the letter got one thing wrong -- just one thing wrong, he
told Bloomberg. "I suppose the only regret is who it`s addressed to."
Well, that`s a biggie. But the content of the letter, the fact that it was
an open letter, none whatsoever.

Well, anyway, yesterday, John McCain conceded the letter was a bit of
a rush job. He said, "It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was
looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm. I think
we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback
that there is."

Isn`t it interesting how people come up with things (INAUDIBLE) it was
the convenience for Secretary Clinton and this guy`s the snowstorm. It is
like high school -- the dog ate my homework!

MICHAEL TOMASKY, DAILYBEAST: Yes, the snowstorm, and then Lindsey
Graham, it was -- you know, it was a little bit of a joke or something
like...

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: You know, I mean, you know, these guys -- they obviously
didn`t anticipate this kind of blowback, and this blowback is really huge
and they`re paying a big price for it. And you know, the question is, are
they going to pay the ultimate price of this letter actually making a deal
more likely than less likely?

MATTHEWS: Because?

TOMASKY: Well, because it depends on whether the mullahs, whether
Khamenei and the mullahs, really, really want a deal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... snap the Democrats out of it.

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: They lost the Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Daniel, I thought -- just as a political watcher, I thought
that the invitation to Netanyahu was wrong, but I thought his performance
was strong and I thought that day, as it ended, the Republicans were glad
they did it. That was my (INAUDIBLE) was their verdict.

But I think this letter, the verdict is not that way. They don`t
think they should have done it now. I think that -- and they know the
price they`re paying. Your thoughts?

(CROSSTALK)

DANIEL LEVY, EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yes, there`s two
ways of looking at this. One is, how does this play at home. And I think
they`ve taken a cold shower politically here, and rightly so, especially
over the letter, less the invitation to Netanyahu. You see editorials
across the country, also in quite conservative papers, attacking the...

MATTHEWS: "Wall Street Journal."

LEVY: It`s done terrible things for America`s international standing
and reputation, not only with adversaries, but with allies. You have the
most important European foreign minister, the German foreign minister here,
saying, you know, You got to be reliable, you got to be taken seriously.

However, there`s another audience that this letter was targeting, and
that`s the Iranians. And here I worry that for all the buffoonery, what
this letter was designed to achieve, which was to torpedo the negotiations,
to torpedo reaching a good deal that can verify that Iran will not become a
nuclear power -- it could help torpedo that deal and take America to war!
Because...

MATTHEWS: How (INAUDIBLE) Tell me the mechanics of that. How -- will
it tell the ayatollah, You can`t trust this piece of paper, this deal once
Obama`s gone? Because that seems to be the thrust of it.

LEVY: And what that does -- and I think the architects of this letter
knew this to be the case. What that does in an Iran that is, of course,
very suspicious of the United States -- that`s mutual, obviously -- it
tells them, You better build more assurances into these negotiations. You
better get more clarity that the deliverables will sustain beyond one
presidency. And that is going to be difficult to build into a negotiation.

This is intentionally making the negotiations more difficult. I don`t
know if they`ll succeed...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LEVY: ... but while we heap derision on this letter, we should also
acknowledge that this is designed to achieve sabotage and war and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... what did you make -- and then to get back to you,
Daniel -- what did you make of the ayatollah`s rather sophisticated comment
of saying -- I don`t like the guy, of course, but politically (INAUDIBLE)
geopolitically -- what he said -- you know, this shows there`s something
degrading in the American political process, in the ethics, that you`re
going to (ph) send a letter like this under the hand of -- under the eye of
the president.

TOMASKY: It was very shrewd. It was very shrewd. And you know, the
big question here, guys, is, you know, the extent to which Iran wants this
deal. Because you`re right, it was obviously designed to torpedo any kind
of decent deal. But Iran wants these sanctions lifted, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TOMASKY: I mean, the economic situation in Iran is bad. They have a
motivation here to get...

MATTHEWS: So the status quo...

TOMASKY: ... these sanctions lifted...

MATTHEWS: ... isn`t good for them.

TOMASKY: The status quo is no good for them. And then they know --
they know, too, if a Republican president comes in, the drums are going to
start pounding, war, war, war. They know that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. What do you think? Did you think -- what did you
make of the -- of the -- somebody said today -- it was Kristol -- oh, yes,
he`s a smart guy, but he`s propagandist, too. And he said -- your eyes
went up on that because (INAUDIBLE) he`s a good propagandist, and he finds
partners like this guy Tom Cotton, or Sarah Palin (INAUDIBLE) found her on
a beach somewhere up in Alaska, or he found Dan Quayle and -- you know, he
looked good, they put him up, you know?

But what do you think of his saying that -- you know, this is -- that
if we bomb Iran, blow up everything we got to blow up with bunker busters -
- if we do the job, we`ll do it right. And that`s not an act of war. I
don`t know what he`s -- the Japanese -- they knew it was an act of war when
they attacked us! I mean, what else do you call a bombing raid?

LEVY: Well, I think it makes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What does he mean it`s not an act of war?

LEVY: I think for Americans to put their faith in people like Bill
Kristol, and also, by the way, Benjamin Netanyahu, after their fantastic
track record on Iraq...

MATTHEWS: On Iraq!

LEVY: ... I think that`s a fantastic idea...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I wish people had a little -- like, you know, some kind of
rap sheet you had to wear.

LEVY: The fact that these guys are still listened to...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Well, they have a magazine, and he has a
fund-raising operation. He has a fund-raising group he put together, and
he has a magazine, which is -- 20 articles, positive articles about this
guy Tom Cotton, to warm him up before he was even a congressman!

TOMASKY: I`m also not sure that -- you know, he said, We`re going to
do this right. Yes, I mean, our military`s great. But there`s 9,400
operational centrifuges in Iran right now -- 9,400. Can we hit...

MATTHEWS: 94 bombs.

TOMASKY: Well, you know, that`s -- that`s an act of war.

MATTHEWS: That is a frightening prospect. You`re right, it will (ph)
probably miss.

LEVY: The assessment of all the intelligence agencies, Israel`s
included, is that the Iranians have not made a decision to pursue a nuclear
weapon. And the other assessment is that a military strike would only set
back a program for a very limited number of years...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

LEVY: ... and would encourage the Iranians!

MATTHEWS: And by the way (INAUDIBLE) Rouhani and all the secular
people and all the moderate people, Zarif, all -- that country will be
united 100 percent for nuclear.

TOMASKY: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Because it`s a matter of real pride then and no way of ever
getting (INAUDIBLE) and then the Saudis will be constructing.

LEVY: The important point that you raised is follow the money trail
because I think you can look at this and you can say the Israelis were
using the Republicans in order to try and sabotage a deal, and the
Republican were using the Israelis...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What was the money? What was the money involved?

LEVY: Well, the money involved is if you look at someone like Sheldon
Adelson or...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Americans don`t -- yes, but...

(CROSSTALK)

LEVY: Well, no. These are Americans tied into the deep right wing of
the Republican Party and to the deep right on the Israeli side. It`s
actually interesting, costing Netanyahu a little at home because the
newspaper that Adelson funds in Israel has all the rest of the media up in
arms against Netanyahu, which is not helping him in the election.

MATTHEWS: What`s the name of the paper?

LEVY: "Israel Today"...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... ahead of Israel`s election on Tuesday. That`s coming
up this Tuesday. The momentum seems to be with the opponents of Bibi
Netanyahu. A new poll by "The Jerusalem Post" shows Bibi`s party four
seats behind its center-left competitors. That`s double the deficit from
the week before. And a whopping 72 percent of Israelis say they want
change in this election. Well, we know what that means here. That means
vote for the opposition, usually.

But Tzipi Livni -- right? She gets to be prime minister for two
years, and the other guy, Herzog, gets too years. Is that going to sell?

LEVY: Here`s the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... go back and forth to Israel, so you know.

LEVY: It`s unclear that they can pull this off. The leader of the
party is the Labor leader. It`s Mr. Herzog. He would have first chance at
being prime minister, if they can form a coalition.

This is the issue, Chris, because in Israel, it`s not just about how
many seats your party gets, it`s whether you can form a coalition. This
election didn`t have to happen today -- next week. Netanyahu brought the
election forward. He thought he was a shoo-in. You now have a genuinely
competitive election. Herzog could win, but he`s going to have to be able
to pull together...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be watching. It`s fascinating politics. It`s a real
democracy. It`s always fascinating to hear the movements. And (INAUDIBLE)
they keep changing over there. And everybody`s a prime minister in Israel,
right?

TOMASKY: Kulanu is a party to watch, don`t you think? Kulanu is
going to be a party to watch.

LEVY: I think -- I think there are a number of parties that could
swing (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, you just lost me there. Anyway, thank you, Daniel Levy
-- is it Leevy (ph) or Levvy (ph)?

LEVY: Leevy (ph).

MATTHEWS: Leevy (ph)? I got it right. Now we got it right. Daniel
Levy, thank you. You`ve been a great guest. Michael Tomasky -- I can
pronounce that.

Coming up -- Chris Christie`s trying to launch his political operation
ahead of a presidential campaign, but right now, his party`s just not that
into him. Wait`ll you see these numbers. He`s still being dogged by what
happened on the George Washington Bridge. You can say we`ll cross that
bridge when we come to it. We`ve come to it, Governor!

Plus, fixing Ferguson -- as the city struggles to correct its police
department, we`re talking to leaders from around the country about what
they can do to make things better in that community.

And Scott Walker grabs the title of -- here it is -- front-runner.
That`s what he`s calling himself, and he`s up in New Hampshire hitting Jeb
Bush as a name from the past. This fight`s getting hot. I sort of like
it.

Finally, you`ll want to stick around for the end of the show because
the president turns the tables on the birthers. Love it!

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: His holiness Pope Francis is celebrating two years as
leader of the Roman Catholic church. And in an interview today with
Mexican television, he said he doesn`t expect to be pope for long. He said
he thinks his pontificate will be brief, maybe four or five years, and then
he`d like to follow his predecessor, Pope Benedict, into retirement. When
asked if he liked being pope, Francis said the only thing he`d change would
be being able to go out and get a pizza once in a while.

Anyway, we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, "The New York Daily News"
recently ran this damning headline, "Free-falling Governor Chris Christie`s
approval ratings in New Jersey are at lowest point ever." A mere 35
percent of Garden State registered voters said they approved of the job
Christie`s doing as governor, the survey found, comparing to a whopping 51
percent who said they disapproved of the job that he`s doing.

Well, it comes on the heels of an NBC poll which does not bode well
for the governor, either. It finds that only 32 percent of Republican
voters nationally say they can even see themselves voting for Christie,
versus 57 percent who they can`t see themselves voting for him. Christie
ranks 11th in the Republican field by that measure. He`s also trailing the
field in all key primary states -- all of them. He barely registers in
Iowa. Get this -- 4 percent. He`s trailing Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and
Rand Paul in New Hampshire, which is a must-win state if he, Christie, has
any hope. And he`s seventh in South Carolina with just 6 percent.

Meanwhile, we`re expecting those "bridge-gate" indictments any day
now. Steve Kornacki is the host of "UP" on MSNBC on the weekends, and Matt
Katz is a reporter covering the Christie beat with WNYC.

We`ll start with Steve because you are my lead guy on this. You`re
the top reporter I can think of. What`s it look like for him? And if
there are indictments and they do come, how close do they bite to him?

STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": Yes, so I mean,
that`s the question we`ve been looking at for a long time here. And
obviously, we seem to be in something of a holding pattern. When you talk
to people who are -- who are fairly close to this -- I don`t want to
oversell my sources on this -- but I think the thing you keep hearing is
basically a question of, Why hasn`t it happened right now? I think the
expectation of people close to this is, as you say, it`s any day now and
that probably, these indictments should have come a month ago, maybe two
months ago.

There`s a lot of talk, a lot of chatter that what the delay is, is
that one particular player here, David Samson, the former chairman of the
Port Authority, Christie`s close confident and friend -- that there`s a lot
of sort of extra stuff that has come up in the investigation about him that
seems to be prolonging this.

But when you talk about all of the other principal players, I think
there`s reason to suspect that the federal investigation has -- it`s pretty
much reached its end point there, and that`s why we`re sort of anticipating
these indictments, and maybe, you know, five, six, seven, eight of them
really coming any day now.

The expectation, too -- the people I talk to, the expectation is, No,
it will not -- the indictment will not reach Chris Christie, will not
implicate Chris Christie. But that does not preclude the possibility of a
lot of these people maybe pointing at...

MATTHEWS: Well...

KORNACKI: ... -Chris Christie and saying this guy knew more than he`s
ever said.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe that`s about political knowledge and
perspective on the part of voters, not prosecutors -- I want to stay with
you on (ph) Steve -- because if you`ve got Bridget Kelly working across the
reception room from your right there, you pass her every day, you put her
in charge of intergovernment relations, she`s in charge of dealing with the
mayors, and this kind of thing goes on. Or you got the guy that you put on
the bridge commission itself, the Port Authority. He put him there. And
the other guy put him.

It`s all connected to his personal appointments or people working
personally with him. Nixon said, you know, it was just a few bad apples,
Haldeman and Ehrlichmann, you know, and Colson, the guys closest to him.

How close do you have to be to the governor for people to say he`s
connected?

KORNACKI: Yes. And here`s the other thing, I think, to keep in mind.
We`ve heard Chris Christie on this. Chris Christie`s had his press
conferences. Chris Christie had his report that he put out. Chris
Christie has called Bridget Kelly every name in the book. Chris Christie`s
called David Wildstein every name in the book.

We have not heard from Bridget Kelly. We have not heard from David
Wildstein. If and when these indictments that everybody`s sitting and
waiting for come out -- you know how these indictments are usually written
by federal prosecutors -- we will presumably hear from them through that
indictment.

And then there`s the possibility that we`ll hear from them publicly.
And if you have them, if you have others like them who are out there
saying, Hey, look -- you know, you have Christie up there saying, This was
all me. Well, there`s more to this story than that. That`s adds a whole
new layer to it that we haven`t even begun to dealt with yet.

MATTHEWS: Matt, give us your output (ph). What are you able to
report on this tonight?

MATT KATZ, WNYC: Well, we`re learning more about David Wildstein.
He`s the guy at the Port Authority who got the famous e-mail, "Time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee." And he responded, "Got it." So he is
widely believed to be the guy who actually shut down the lanes.

And we did some investigating over the last few weeks. We actually
got ahold of his calendars. And we learned that he was very much embedded
within the political operation of the Christie administration.

Remember, after this happened, Christie said that he really had very
little to do with Wildstein. He couldn`t remember one meeting he had with
Wildstein in his office. Turns out, we`ve confirmed at least two meetings.
We know -- in the office. We know that they were together at five public
events together. And we also know that he met almost monthly with
Christie`s political team.

Now, that does not mean that Christie ordered the lane closures via
David Wildstein, but it means that he was a much more significant player
and that if and when indictments come, they could -- they could get a
little bit closer to the governor than he`d like.

I will say, though, I`ve been traveling to some of these early primary
states with the governor, and Republicans do not care about this. I mean,
the loyal caucus-going Iowa Republicans -- they tell you what they don`t
like about Christie is that he supposedly hugged Obama after Sandy. That`s
their beef with Christie. The bridge thing just doesn`t register.

So when these indictments happen, it`s going to cause a major storm
for him, for sure, but I don`t know how much it will immediately have an
impact within the Republican voting base.

MATTHEWS: I think it`ll get to them. Anyway, what about that "CC" he
had on his calendar on a Sunday to meet with, apparently, Chris Christie?
How does Christie deny that the guy had him penciled in for a meeting?

KATZ: Yes, this was as "bridge-gate" was breaking, Wildstein put on
his calendar a Sunday afternoon meeting in the town where Christie lives
(INAUDIBLE) across the street from the church where Christie goes.
Christie says this -- Christie`s spokesman said this meeting definitely did
not happen. But there`s all kinds of just strange notations in these
calendars that you don`t know what is true or not. And we were able to
line up some things to confirm, and we were able to line up some things in
the calenders to confirm that they did not happen. So, it`s unclear what a
lot of these are. There`s also...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. You can check on that restaurant.

KATZ: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That restaurant would certainly remember whether Chris
Christie came pounding in the room. They would know he was meeting there
if he did -- if that meeting really took place as it was scheduled,
according to Wildstein. He would have been observed. He`s a hard guy to
hide.

KATZ: That`s true. We`re unable to track that down. Maybe you will
have better luck than we have.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, I just -- I love doing that stuff.

KATZ: It`s the Black Horse Tavern in Mendham, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, call him up right now and find out if they remember
an interesting-looking guy showing up with a guy named Wildstein.

Anyway, we will be right back.

Here it is, another question. Christie has gone to great lengths to
distance himself from David Wildstein, the guy who is going to prosecute
against -- or testify. Let`s take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We didn`t travel in the same
circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete.
I don`t know what David was doing during that period of time. I have had
no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before
the election.

I don`t even remember in the last four years even having a meeting in
my office with David Wildstein. I may have, but I don`t remember it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: See, doesn`t that make you love this guy? To say, I was a
jock and I was class president, I was a -- and this guy was on the chess
team.

I mean, it was a direct shot. It`s like a late hit for high school.
High school`s bad enough without putting up with this crap 20 or 30 years
later. And we all know that. Your thoughts. What a way to ingratiate
yourself with someone who is going to testify against you. He was a nerd,
and I was cool.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: In some ways -- in some ways, I guess we never grow out of
high school.

But it also gets to the very human element of all this. And that`s
what I was saying a minute ago, when, again, you look at a statement like
that. There was also a statement that was put out somewhat mysteriously
through Chris Christie`s office that blasted David Wildstein over his
conduct as a student in high school going back 30 years.

You look at all the things that Chris Christie has said about Bridget
Kelly, calling her a liar, questioning her integrity in every possible way.
These are human beings ultimately who he`s saying these things about, and
people who were part of his administration who were loyal to him
politically before all of this.

And, again, we have not heard from them publicly through all of this.
I would imagine that if and when we finally do hear from them, the way they
have been treated is going to affect the way they talk about Chris
Christie. And that in turn is going to affect the way Chris Christie is
perceived in all of this.

MATTHEWS: I like the way you tell that story. I hope it`s as good as
you said it. You`re selling it, Steve.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re selling a good story. I hope -- hey, Matt, we will
have more time for you next time.

Thanks so much for coming on, Matt Katz.

Up next, well, what the troubled city of Ferguson needs to do to
correct its problems. Can they correct them? It seems like there are ways
to do it, because experts have been talking about what they have to do.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, remained calm last night in
the wake of the shooting earlier Thursday -- or actually Thursday morning -
- that wounded two police officers. Whoever did that is still at large
today, as the manhunt continues. Police say they have leads, but an arrest
is not imminent.

It`s been a turbulent time for the city of Ferguson, of course, over
the last seven months. The small Missouri city has brought long-simmering
grievances about race inequity to the forefront of the national
conversation.

How does Ferguson move forward? That`s my question.

Last night, Lieutenant Jerry Lohr of the Saint Louis police started
that conversation. He spoke with reporters about repairing the
relationship between the police and the community. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. JERRY LOHR, SAINT LOUIS COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: You can`t snap
your fingers and make it all go away. So it`s going to take time. And
both sides have to be willing to take steps forward. And both steps --
both sides have to be willing to compromise and be understanding. And
that`s something that is built over time. It does not happen overnight.

QUESTION: We`re not at that point yet?

LOHR: No, I think we`re getting there, slowly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a report in "USA Today" titled "Nine Solutions to Fix
Ferguson" asked public officials and law enforcement experts from around
the country to weigh in on this conversation.

I`m joined right now by one of the officials featured in the article,
and appropriately so, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, as well
as state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal of Missouri, and professor Eugene
O`Donnell with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former officer
with the New York Police Department.

Tonight will be unusual.

Madam Mayor, thank you.

I want each of you to take a couple minutes and give me your best
advice for Ferguson.

You first, Madam, Madam Mayor.

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), MAYOR OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: I think
the officer that spoke has it right.

You have to be willing to have the tough conversations. We have done
it in Baltimore. I spoke to community leaders, who said that they were
very concerned about the police looking at them as perpetrators and not
partners. We had to broach that conversation with the community. We had
nine meetings throughout each police district in the city to hear from
community members.

It wasn`t easy. They were tough conversations. Sometimes, it got
rough. But if you want to be in real relationship, you have to get that
done. And then after you hear from people, you have to make changes. So
even after we made reforms, I stepped even further and recruited the
Department of Justice COPS program to come help us with our community
policing reforms and hold us accountable.

So, people have to see that you`re not only listening, but you hear
enough to make the appropriate changes.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who is a state senator.

You`re an elected official. So, you know what it`s like to get votes,
and you talk to people all the time. What are they willing to hear and
believe of that change?

MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), MISSOURI STATE SENATOR: Well, first of all
-- first of all, here`s what I would say.

When possible, police officers need to live in the communities in
which they serve. Secondly, for any police department that looks anything
like Ferguson, there should be sociologists who are on staff to serve as
interpreters between the police officers and the community.

And, thirdly, one of the things that we should be focusing on is
having training not only for elected leaders, but also police officers,
when it comes to cultural competency. There has been a lot of excessive
silence while excessive force has been used and exercised in Ferguson.

And, furthermore, I would say it is important for people to,
obviously, have representative policing, but that`s a no-brainer. That`s
low-hanging fruit.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: If you have police officers who look like the
community without the proper training, it means absolutely nothing. So I
would start in those places.

MATTHEWS: I want to quickly -- I want to -- give me an example where
there`s bad communication, where a decent cop is trying to do his or her
job and a community person, an individual somehow gets a different message.
Tell me about the miscommunication, if there is one.

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Well, I can tell you, the first five days, Chris,
there was total miscommunication, when you have tanks and you have
excessive force that`s used against your community that has been wounded
for generations at a time.

These are people who have been injured. What should have happened, at
the very beginning, there should have been psychologists and sociologists,
counselors who were on the ground when Michael Brown was laying on that
ground for four-and-a-half-hours. It is inexcusable. When there are
instances of school shootings, you have school counselors who are there on
the ground. There are children and family who had to endure four-and-a-
half-hours of looking at a dead body.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: And this is just an additional injury.

MATTHEWS: That`s a good point. I hope we all remember what that
looked like and what signal that sent.

Anyway, Marc Morial of the National Urban League has another approach
to fixing the problems of Ferguson. Here`s what he told "USA Today."

"I believe the Ferguson Police Department should be disbanded. Fixing
a police department is not rocket science, but it requires fresh leadership
and a commitment to reform."

Well, that`s pretty dramatic.

Let me go to Eugene O`Donnell, professor, on this.

What do we do? And I`m not an expert, but I`m a generalist, but L.A.,
I think, is a lot better than it was at the time of the O.J. Simpson
situation, where you had all that suspicion, which of course Johnnie
Cochran was able to use in the defense, because it was -- it made people
believe -- people already believed what he was saying about the behavior of
the cops.

So, now I think they have fixed a lot of their problems. Is it
fixable in Ferguson in the same way?

EUGENE O`DONNELL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I mean, it
may be a question about what legislators -- legislatures should be
disbanded also.

But putting that aside, obviously, we have too many police departments
in the country. Too many police departments are walled off, not only from
the community, but even from themselves. Ferguson is definitely a case for
perhaps looking at it -- for sunsetting that agency.

Two things in right Justice Department that are just totally
unconscionable. Jaywalking enforcement, 95 percent of people were African-
Americans. And they were not only making illegal stops, but they were
documenting illegal stops.

And it does kind of remind you of like a RadioShack management
mentality, where you walk in and you talk to the chief, and he`s -- some of
the chiefs, they are saying, problem? What problem? We`re getting along
well with the community.

So, I think you definitely need to get some drastic reforms that might
include closing down police departments.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, everybody.

Mayor, thank you very much.

By the way, what would be a better position to hold to help America,
senator or governor for you, for example?

(LAUGHTER)

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I like the job I have.

MATTHEWS: What would be a stronger position for you?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I like the job that I have.

MATTHEWS: You`re not going to stay there long. I don`t believe that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But thank you for coming on.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: A very popular mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, from
Baltimore, as we pronounce it.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, thank you for your
thoughts.

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And Eugene O`Donnell.

Up next, while Chris Christie struggles, Scott Walker is taking off.
He`s -- he and Jeb Bush have taken their heavyweight fight to New
Hampshire. I like they`re duking that out. We like that here. And now
Walker is claiming the title. You never do this. He`s calling himself the
front-runner. That`s like Bill O`Reilly calling himself a celebrity.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

An American health care worker infected with the Ebola virus is in
serious condition at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. The
patient arrived from Sierra Leone earlier today.

President Obama was in Phoenix, where he met with the parents of Kayla
Mueller, the aid worker who died last month while being held by ISIS in
Syria.

And Omar Gonzalez, the man who jumped the White House fence and made
it all the way into the Executive Mansion, has pleaded guilty to two
federal charges. He will be sentenced in June and could face up to 18
months in prison -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the dogfight for the Republican nomination heads to New
Hampshire now. Rick Perry hits the Granite State for a two-day swing up
there. Ted Cruz is on his way. But the heavyweight clash everyone will be
watching is the matchup between Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Both are
visiting New Hampshire now for the first time in years.

Our NBC News poll from last month had Bush with a three-point lead
over Walker, and Rand Paul within striking distance. But since then,
Walker has been rising in the national polls. Walker wasn`t afraid to put
the target on his back this week when he declared himself -- nobody does
this -- the front-runner in the Republican race.

And he went after Bush in an interview published today, calling Jeb
old news. Well, that`s a knock. "We had Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt
Romney. If it`s just another whoever`s next up, that hasn`t worked so well
for the Republican Party in the past. I just think voters are going to
look at it and say, if we`re running against Hillary Clinton, we will need
a name from the future, not a name from the past, to win."

Well, it`s getting nasty out there. One of Walker`s key -- one of
Walker`s key supporters in New Hampshire, the former state Senator Jim
Luther, said these fighting words about Jeb. "I wish he`d listened to his
mommy, who said we have had enough Bushes in the White House."

Well, that`s fairly nasty.

James Pindell is political reporter for "The Boston Globe." He joins
us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Thank you, James.

What does it look like? I just have a real thinking that if Bush
doesn`t win up there next year, he`s not winning anywhere. He`s not going
anywhere. He`s got the most on the line up there.

JAMES PINDELL, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": That`s right.

Absolutely. This is a must-win state for him. But it`s also of
course a must-win state for Chris Christie, possibly even Rand Paul. And
what Scott Walker is trying to do here, right, is to put himself in a
position to win the New Hampshire primary if he wins Iowa. And, of course,
if you win Iowa and then with that momentum win New Hampshire, it`s game
over.

MATTHEWS: Really? Doesn`t he have to still win down where it`s more
hawkish in South Carolina and prove he`s the hawkish guy?

PINDELL: Yes, sure, but, I mean, he is going to have the money, he is
going to have the momentum. A number of these other candidates will be
dropping out.

Obviously, this is a different path because Jeb Bush is going to have
a lot of money, he`s going to be able to be in South Carolina. But if Jeb
Bush, as you just said, loses New Hampshire, loses Iowa, it`s going to be
pretty tough for him to come back in South Carolina.

MATTHEWS: Boy, is it tough? You just nailed winning the daily double
is pretty tough, because it`s really hard. I`m trying to think back. Help
me. Who is last candidate on the Republican side to win Iowa and New
Hampshire in a row, both?

PINDELL: Yes. No one -- no one has ever done that.

(LAUGHTER)

PINDELL: We thought Mitt Romney had done that, pulled that off last
time. But no one has ever pulled that off. Of course, on the Democratic
side, it`s a bit different.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, James Pindell of "The Globe."

Let me begin tonight`s roundtable. Here they are, Perry Bacon, MSNBC
-- or NBC News senior political reporter. Sam Stein, he`s with the senior
politics editor -- he actually is -- for Huffington Post. And A.B.
Stoddard is columnist with "The Hill." That`s a newspaper on Capitol Hill.

Anyway, this thing, let me get into this, Walker, front-runner.

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Who calls
himself the front-runner? That`s so bizarre.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Bill O`Reilly calls himself a celebrity.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, I`m just saying. I`m just saying.

I think he is. I don`t think he should have said it. But I think
there`s something. He`s got the specs, governor. Obama wasn`t a governor,
so they want a governor. As David -- as Axelrod, David Axelrod, said, if
you want to pick a candidate, pick the guy who is not like the one who is
in office, because that`s who everybody wants.

He`s an evangelical. He`s Baptist. He`s a taxpayer kind of guy,
cutting taxes, taking on the unions, but mainly cutting taxes, or defending
the tax. I think he`s got the specs.

What do you think?

BACON: It`s hard to call him the front-runner, when Bush is going to
have $60 million in three weeks.

MATTHEWS: Yes?

BACON: So, you got -- you got that factor going with you.

And also, Bush`s father and brother were president. I mean, a lot of
Republicans are voting with Bushes a long time. I still think Bush and
Walker are the co-leaders and Rubio after that, but I wouldn`t say Walker
is the front-runner.

MATTHEWS: Ah, I think -- (INAUDIBLE) I don`t think the grassroots of
Republican Party particularly is fond to the establishment in either party.

STEIN: No, obviously not. You`ve seen that with Jeb`s difficulty in
launching himself in these early polls. I think Jeb/Walker battle is
interesting, to the extent that Walker has been very willing to, let`s say,
evolve on his positions. Immigration reform, for instance, one of these
things where he just essentially moved away from his embrace of a
comprehensive immigration plan.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: But that`s why I disagree (ph) because Jeb has said, you know,
I`m going to try to stick to my principles and see if I can sell them in
the primary. We`ll see if that works.

MATTHEWS: OK. The only thing you know about Bush is his last name
and what they disagree on. They don`t like Common Core. They don`t like
immigration.

STEIN: Sure, yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s not complicated. So what they know about him, they
don`t like. What do they like about him?

STEIN: Well, they probably mean -- this goes back to having a
winnable, electable Republican, right?

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Romney won the nomination essentially because -- they didn`t
like Mitt Romney, but they thought he was electable. So, they went with
him.

MATTHEWS: Who was he running against?

STEIN: The great Herman Cain.

MATTHEWS: Santorum and Newt Gingrich, they couldn`t be president.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL COLUMNIST: The party has picked the candidate
for 30 years or more. And so, it is true, he has not convinced the voters
yet and not energized the grassroots. But when you sweep up all the best
staff and you sweep up all the money, it`s because people think you`re the
best shot.

So, he`s working on retail. I think it`s good that he`s invested in
that. You see him staying in rooms until the last person leave, taking all
the questions, not being afraid, not being elitist, not being Hillary
Clinton. I think that works for him.

Scott Walker is the only guy right now that unites the party, but he
should never say bad things about Bush this early. He has a long time to
become front-runner. The best thing for him to do is excite audiences,
stand in the background, he`s running against a juggernaut. That puts the
spotlight on him, and he`s already made mistakes, Bush hasn`t. Scott
Walker should save his words for later.

MATTHEWS: I guess I`ve seen guys that are unbeatable and front
runners, like Ed Muskie could not be beaten in `72, could not be beaten.
Every single person in Washington want to work for him, all the money was
going his way. Along came George McGovern with a point of view, somebody
he believed in and blew him right away.

STEIN: Let me ask you something, what is the biggest upset in
Republican presidential primary history that you can think of?

MATTHEWS: Well, the late entry of Eisenhower came from out of
nowhere. He won the war in Europe, but he came out of nowhere.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Goldwater. Goldwater was way back behind Rockefeller the
year before and Rockefeller had the divorce and the wife left the kids.

STEIN: But in recent times there have not been sort of --

MATTHEWS: Well, for me it is recent times.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: While touring New Hampshire today, Bush was asked to
respond to -- I`m talking about present experience -- Walker`s comments
that he`s the front-runner, let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Scott Walker is also here in New Hampshire today. And he
called himself a possible front-runner. Do you think that`s a premature
assessment? How do you judge it?

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Well, I`m not a candidate, I
don`t -- maybe he is, I don`t know. But I`m not -- you can`t be a front-
runner until you start running. So --

REPORTER: And how would you evaluate your strengths going into this?

BUSH: I don`t evaluate it. I`m joyfully pursuing the possibility of
this, and I will do so at some point and then I`ll go at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: One advantage of being joyfully interested and not running
is you can raise all the super PAC money you want because you don`t a
campaign, right, A.B.? That`s a great advantage.

STODDARD: And also he doesn`t handicap his own chances. When he`s on
the phone with donors and telling staffers, if you go with another
campaign, try to call back to me later, he`s actually handicapping his
chances.

MATTHEWS: So, make your bet, who is the nominee? Ruin your life.

BACON: Jeb Bush is the favorite.

STEIN: I have no idea. No idea.

MATTHEWS: That`s a generational answer, by the way. Ten years ago
nobody said I have no idea. I have no idea. I have no idea.

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: We have some idea. It`s not going to be Ted Cruz.

STODDARD: I think it`s probably between Bush and Walker. I think
Rand Paul`s going to mass in delegates and make a lot of trouble. I think
there will be a lot of ups and downs.

MATTHEWS: I think if Bush gets the nomination, he`s Hillary Clinton`s
insurance policy because you can`t run against the oldie yesterday --

STODDARD: She wants him.

BACON: That`s what Scott Walker said. That`s going to be a big part
of the campaign Scott Walker say, I`m not Bush, and the Bush-Clinton --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s really complicated. People got to do a lot of
thinking before they vote. All this strategizing.

The roundtable is staying with us.

Coming up, our next president -- actually next, President Obama laughs
at the birthers with Jimmy Kimmel, who`s getting really good, Kimmel.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, it turns the liberals may be happier than
conservatives. For decades, more conservatives than liberals told
researchers they`re happy. But a new study in the journal "Science" finds
the opposite may be true. Researchers examined 18 years and 340 million
words entered into the congressional record. And they found that liberal
politicians were more likely to use positive language.

What`s more -- they examined photographs of more than 500 members of
Congress. They found that conservative politicians were less likely to
smile.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: You ever drive?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cannot drive. I mean
--

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I`m able to drive.

KIMMEL: Is that because you didn`t have a birth certificate?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: In Kenya, we drive on the other side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That is really funny.

That was a clip of President Obama appearing on Jimmy Kimmel`s late
night show yesterday.

In fact, over the years, the president has shown a comfort level with
pop culture. He slowed jam the news with Jimmy Fallon, he appeared
multiple times on Jay Leno`s "Tonight Show", and then he took over Stephen
Colbert`s anchor chair one night, held his own with Jon Stewart. He`s also
appeared on humorous skits for "Funny or Die" and BuzzFeed, of course.

Last night, President Obama played along with one of Kimmel`s favorite
bit, reading mean tweets about himself. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: "Is there any way we can fly Obama to some golf course halfway
around the world and just leave him there?" Well, rwsurfergirl, I think
that is a good idea.

"A 30 rack of Coors Light is $23 now at Sun Stop. Thanks, Obama."

"Somebody send Obama some like hacks on how to be a good president.
Haha. Like I bet that would help. LOL." You know, the LOL is redundant
when you have the haha.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Pretty cool.

We`re back now with our roundtable, Perry, Sam and A.B.

He can do that really well, and how come he can`t do some other
things? I mean, that`s really good. I mean, that back and forth and with
Kimmel said, that was brilliant -- you`re a foreigner in other words, and
that is why you are not having a driver`s license.

BACON: And I like having a president who can make fun of himself a
little bit. You know, Bush is like that, too. I`m a little worried so
far, maybe Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are not that funniest of guys in the
world, and Hillary Clinton only on Tuesdays. But I like it that Obama has.

I also like the fact they`re talking to different kinds of media. He
shocked "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", NBC News, obviously.
But it`s good that he reaches out to the other people. He talks to ESPN a
lot. That`s good, I think that is good.

MATTHEWS: The quick wit. It`s still a quick wit, the ability to come
back on that things, like Kimmel did, like he did, back and forth, shows
you about truth and self-knowledge, because you don`t need prep, you don`t
need somebody to help, you don`t need spin. He has that amazing --
somebody, a Canadian pollster one said, passion, motive (ph) and the
spontaneity is what is key to politic. Spontaneity is rare. Reagan has
some of it before, and he actually did have, and Kennedy, a lot of it, very
rare in politics.

STEIN: It also takes an incredible amount of confidence to not doubt
that you`re going to bomb when you give that quick wit answer and I think
this president --

MATTHEWS: They`re called gaffes usually.

STEIN: Yes, exactly, right? I think this president doesn`t lack
confidence.

MATTHEWS: But he`s so smart, I know if you`re going to say, Matthews
says how smart the president. I`m not saying that he is brilliant on
everything or competent on everything, but there`s a quick brain there.
Your thought?

STODDARD: You know, any American who has watched him at the American
correspondence dinner, his comedic dinner is unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but somebody writes that stuff.

STODDARD: It doesn`t matter. It`s really hard to deliver it. It`s
really hard to deliver it. And it`s true, going and having a spontaneous
conversation on a show like that with a comedian where you can be caught
looking dorky is really risky. And I think any president of ours going
forward in this day and age where most Americans watch these shows should
do it only if they`re funny. And if they`re not, they --

STEIN: But how will you know unless you try?

STODDARD: I think Hillary Clinton shouldn`t do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Michelle Obama -- here is Michelle Obama, who I wish we saw
more of her, and I wish I knew I could have an interview with her. I wish
I know her more. I think she looks great and attractive person, very
smart, very capable, does great honor to the office, but doesn`t do much of
this. But here she is, she taped an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres, her
show, to promote her Let`s Move Campaign, get kids moving campaign, and
yes, it included some dancing. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: I have tried to learn the dance, and that
is the challenge, and you have learned I assume?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Yes, I`ve been -- you know, I am busy,
too, you know?

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Pretty impressive, and the first lady`s dance was good, but
it wasn`t the best way, back in 2008, Ellen told me, I gave her the best
dance ever. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEGENERES: And please welcome, Chris Matthews.

(CHEERS)

(MUSIC)

DEGENERES: That was the best dance ever.

MATTHEWS: That is too physical.

DEGENERES: Wow, that was the best dance I`ve ever had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I would call that a clutch play.

STEIN: What is that dance move?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s silly dog (ph). It was very big before you were
born, before you were a conception, that dance was very hot.

(CROSSTALK)

STODDARD: I`m glad that you played because I was going to bring it
up.

MATTHEWS: Actually, she has played it a number of times, and no hard
feelings. Thank you, by the way, it`s a great show, and she is fantastic.

Anyway, thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, Sam Stein. Thank you,
A.B. Stoddard.

And up next, actually, next Tuesday, St. Patrick`s Day, catch this? I
am getting ready early with my St. Patrick`s Day tie, of course.

When we return, let me finish with Bill Kristol and the neocons.
You`re going to like this. Best of the Irish to you, Bill.

Anyway, we`re watching HARDBALL altogether here, the place for
politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this tonight: President Obama has said
that he is embarrassed for 47 Republican senators, most of whom got
snookered into the letter to the ayatollahs. Well, I would be embarrassed,
too, when it emerged that the man behind the letter was the country`s
number one cheerleader for the Iraq war.

Here they are pretending to be independent-minded American
conservatives caught being ready acolytes of Mr. Neocon. Don`t they have
any pride? Don`t Republicans want to be known as thinking Americans,
people who care about this country, protecting itself? Why would they want
to be suckers for the latest propaganda move by the neoconservatives?

Is this Mitch McConnell`s way of leading from behind?

I`m sorry, that`s Bill Kristol, his fundraising group, and his
magazine doing the leading from behind. First, he does 20 articles
promoting an unknown congressman from Arkansas, much as he once pushed a
nice-looking senator from Indiana, and once pushed a politician from Alaska
to sing his song for him. He then, quote, "consults", close-quote, his
rural buddy into circulating a letter to 46 other Republican senators, then
has him called for regime change.

If I wasn`t watching or paying attention, I`d be thinking this was W.
all over again, and thinly aware (ph) of recruit that Kristol`s op-ed
writing, letter writing, cotillion. This is the neoconservatives M.O. to a
T, with yet another rural personality to join the team of Quayle, Palin and
W.

He may not have a war coming, but Kristol certainly got the
cheerleaders lined up.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>