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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for March 11, 5 p.m. ET

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Elizabeth Benjamin, Robert Kessler, Ben Smith, James Tedisco, Clarence Page, Roger Simon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Who‘s sorry now?  New York‘s governor hangs in the wind.  New York‘s Geraldine Ferraro says that if Barack Obama were a white guy or any woman, he‘d be nothing.  The beat goes on.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Resignation.  Can the New York governor last another day?  New York Republicans are now calling for his impeachment.  And reports say that Governor Spitzer could resign at any hour now.  Today and tonight, we‘re going to be talking about the top Republican in the New York state Assembly, who is leading the impeachment effort against Spitzer, Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco.  He‘s joining us in just a moment.

Plus: Today is the Mississippi primary, another chance for Barack Obama to add to his lead in states, delegates and popular vote over Senator Clinton.  MSNBC is, of course, the place for politics, and HARDBALL will be back tonight at 7:00.  And we‘ll also have a special election night edition of HARDBALL, as always, tonight at 10:00 o‘clock, with the all the results from Mississippi, and with a special interview right at the top at 10:00 o‘clock with me and Senator Barack Obama.  It‘s going to be great to talk to him about the big developments in the news since the last time we talked.

But we begin tonight with the New York governor‘s prostitution scandal with Elizabeth Benjamin, she‘s a columnist for “The New York Daily News,” and Ben Smith‘s with—he‘s with “The Politico.”  He‘s a senior reporter.

Let me go to both of you right now.  Is this going to reach a peak tonight?  Elizabeth, are we getting close to the end?  Is there a negotiation going on?  Give us what you know about the situation of the scandal involving a prostitute—a prostitution ring, and the governor of the Empire State.

ELIZABETH BENJAMIN, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Well, I think negotiations have been going on since this first started.  And it‘s really sort of changing by the minute, and it‘s anyone‘s guess when it‘s going to end.  This morning, we were hearing reports that there was going to be something happening at noon, and noon came and went and nothing happened.  Now we‘re hearing some quotes from senior aides to the governor that, in fact, he‘s still considering whether or not he‘s going to resign and perhaps not going to make a move today.  And the longer, of course, he waits, the more in limbo the state is, and the budget deadline is April 1.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your deadline at “The Daily News” tomorrow, for the tab tomorrow morning?  How long can you go tonight and still have a big—have wood tomorrow morning with a big headline of him quitting?

BENJAMIN:  Well, for my purposes, you know, I file to the Web and I‘m in charge of the daily politics blog, so I can file all night long.


BENJAMIN:  And if, in fact, he resigns, you know, that‘s big news. 

You‘re going to pull apart the front page as late as you possibly can.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the tabs—that‘s why we call it “wood”—the front page of both tabs today, “The Daily News” and its competitor, of course, “The New York Post.”  (INAUDIBLE) to show you how hot this is.  Look at this stuff.  This is made for the tabs.  “Pay for luv, gov.”  I‘d love to sometime sit down, Elizabeth and meet the guy—I assume it‘s a guy because there‘s a certain roughhouse quality to these—maybe it‘s a woman, who knows—who writes these incredible, incredible headlines.  Have you ever met these people, the guys with the eyeshades or women with the eyeshades?

BENJAMIN:  I have not.  But I have to tell you, it‘s a rare skill.

MATTHEWS:  It is a rare skill.  I try to match it every night, and it‘s tough.

Let me go to Ben Smith.  Ben, can you report any further about this delicious New York tab story here that you‘re putting to print for “The Politico”?

BEN SMITH, POLITICO:  Well, I mean, I think the really important negotiations here aren‘t necessarily political ones.  They‘re between the governor and the prosecutors, and we don‘t know what‘s going on there, but...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I knew that.  Thanks for the obvious.  He‘s trying to stay out of jail.  Excuse me.  He doesn‘t want even a misdemeanor charge and he—he—all right, let me get back to you.

SMITH:  As long as he can hold out...

MATTHEWS:  Is he negotiating away his job to keep himself out of criminal exposure?

SMITH:  You know, we don‘t know, but one reason to hold out is not necessarily to stay governor but to—but because of the chit, that—to stay out—to stay out of legal trouble.  Prosecutors often will give public officials a break if they‘ll step down.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

SMITH:  So that‘s one reason to hold out.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Robert Kessler.  He‘s joining us right now from “Newsday,” the Long Island newspaper.  Robert, I guess that‘s the question on the table.  Is there a deep negotiation going on to save the guy from prosecution?

ROBERT KESSLER, “NEWSDAY”:  Yes.  As we understand, his attorneys are negotiating with federal prosecutors to try to prevent him from possibly being indicted on something that may lead to a jail sentence, or at least the possibility of a jail sentence.

MATTHEWS:  Are these federal prosecutions we‘re talking about, a Mann Act violation, transporting a woman for sexual purposes?

KESSLER:  No.  I think it—once, again, it‘s not exactly clear, but our understanding is the southern district people are playing really hardball, pardon me...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You don‘t have to pardon yourself.

KESSLER:  ... and they‘re talking about more serious charges, could be...

MATTHEWS:  What would it be?

KESSLER:  I‘m sorry?

MATTHEWS:  What would it be, that violation of that—structuring, it‘s called?

KESSLER:  It could be as serious as money laundering or structuring, which is a form of money laundering, in effect, to laymen.  But there‘s a give-and-take, as we understand, because theoretically, anybody who allegedly deals with prostitute would be, in effect, money laundering.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You know...

KESSLER:  ... taking money and using it for illegal purposes.

MATTHEWS:  Elizabeth, let‘s get back to that.  The only thing I know about the way people do this money laundering is if some drug dealer wants to buy a Jeep or a car of any kind, what he‘ll do is he‘ll buy a junker, then flip it, trade it back in, and thereby reduce the cash price of the new car he‘s buying, thereby avoiding the limits, right?  Is that the kind of thing we‘re looking at here, where people are transferring money and keeping it below certain thresholds by $10,000, by putting it in smaller tranchese (SIC), that sort of thing?

BENJAMIN:  That‘s the general idea.  But the problem also was it was supposed to look like a business transaction, sort of your standard operating business transaction, and not necessarily buying sex, which, of course, is illegal.  And it‘s not, as we said here, the buying of the sex and the prostitution issue because that, of course, is a misdemeanor charge in Washington, if the prostitute was a Washington-based prostitute.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Ben...

BENJAMIN:  It‘s the hiding of the money.


BENJAMIN:  It‘s the small, regular charges that tipped off the feds and the IRS that made it look suspicious, and then subsequently from there, became a full-blown public integrity, public corruption case.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at what Eliot Spitzer ran as an advertisement for himself when he ran for governor two years ago.


ELIOT SPITZER (D), NY CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR:  What I‘m most proud of as attorney general is that we were willing to walk into the buzzsaws, some very powerful interests.  I never backed down.  Look, I had a simple rule.  I never asked if a case was popular or unpopular, never asked if it was big or small, hard or easy. I simply asked fit was right or wrong.  In the end, it‘s not a bad rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Spitzer for governor.


MATTHEWS:  Well, words aren‘t everything, as Senator Clinton keeps telling us.  You can‘t just go by a guy‘s words.  You got to go by his performance.  Let me ask you about this question.  It looks to me, Ben Smith of “Politico,” that these things don‘t happen by accident.  Why was the governor of New York—why did he find himself in the crosshairs of a complicated financial investigation by the IRS?

SMITH:  Well, the IRS—the—what‘s been reported is that the IRS was tipped off by—I guess by a bank to these unusual transactions.  They‘re arguing, particularly kind of in the left-wing blogosphere, at the moment, kind of mutterings that, you know, where did—you know, Eliot Spitzer has a lot of enemies, particularly in finance...


SMITH:  ... and this would be the second Democratic governor that the Justice Department has taken down recently.  The first one in Alabama is a huge mess at the moment.  Spitzer can‘t really play that card, though.  He‘s a former prosecutor.

MATTHEWS:  No, I just want to know...

SMITH:  He‘s the guy who never forgave anybody anything.

MATTHEWS:  Ben, I just want to know.

SMITH:  Yes, that‘s what we know.

MATTHEWS:  Was this an accident where they came across it, or were these guys gunning for them?  Do you know, Robert, whether there‘s any evidence that the IRS was sicced on this guy, and therefore they found him, or whether they just happened to catch him through this screen that shows any kind of odd transactions of $3,000 to $5,000 to $10,000?  It seems to me an odd way to catch anybody.  It seems like a lot of people might be caught in that web.

KESSLER:  No, as we quoted one person who was familiar with the investigation today, saying, We got lucky.  What happens, as far as we can determine, is banks flood the IRS with millions of these SAR reports, Suspicious Activity Reports.


KESSLER:  And it just happened to be one analyst sitting there, said, Gee, this is Eliot Spitzer.  And the initial thought was, It couldn‘t be Eliot Spitzer.  It might be an impostor, as we understand it, or else perhaps he was being blackmailed, or a third less likely possibility at that moment was perhaps he was engaged in political corruption of some sort, trying to launder money.


KESSLER:  But originally, as they said, it was just luck of the millions of somebody noticing Eliot Spitzer‘s name on one of these bank reports.  In effect, his bank turned him in...


KESSLER:  ... and somebody at this IRS said, Gee, this is interesting. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I find it—yes.  I find it questionable whether they were looking into a prostitution ring, the Emperors Club, the VIP, it‘s called Emperors Club VIP, or they were looking into tax movements of money that might be suspicious for other reasons of laundering, or they were looking after this guy, Governor Eliot Spitzer.

By the way, there was a picture of B-roll there, an old picture of the governor in a very happy time with his vivacious, very attractive, obviously, first lady there in New York.  It‘s such a sad story that she had to get hauled out before the public—there they are in a moment of unhappiness.  And you just have to wonder, how do people get themselves from that moment of joy and happiness to this picture here?  Well, it‘s humanity.  Even superdelegates can make mistakes.

Anyway, thank you, Elizabeth Benjamin.  Thank you, Ben Smith.  Thank you, Robert Kessler.

Coming up, the top Republican in the New York Assembly.  He‘s a Republican says he‘s going to try to impeach Spitzer if he doesn‘t resign quickly.  I think he‘s given him 48 hours.  We‘re going to talk about what‘s going to happen in the next two days, to see whether the New York leadership of the Assembly in Albany take the guy out of office or they wait and let him do it himself.

And later to Mississippi, where Barack Obama hopes to win over Hillary Clinton tonight, adding to his numbers by the way.  He‘s leading in states, delegates, he‘s leading in popular votes so far.  There‘s estimates that he might add to all three categories tonight.  We‘re going to have to see.  Tonight we‘re coming back at 10:00 o‘clock.  And I‘ll be talking with Barack Obama tonight at 10:00 o‘clock here on MSNBC.  Come back and watch us at 10:00, if you can‘t watch us until then.  We‘ll have latest numbers from our exit polling coming back here in a moment.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Assemblyman James Tedisco is the top Republican in the New York state Assembly, and he wants Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign immediately for his alleged role in a sex scandal or Tedisco will start impeachment proceedings.

Assemblyman, thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Leader.  How much time are you giving the governor to act to leave office, from now?

JAMES TEDISCO ®, NY STATE ASSEMBLY MINORITY LEADER:  Well, we—right now, we‘ve given the governor 24 to 48 hours.  We understand the ramification that he‘s probably negotiating with the law enforcement officials in relationship to his resignation and how it‘s going to impact him legally.  The fact of the matter is, we don‘t know when he‘s going to resign, but we think sooner better than later.  The fact that Hillary Clinton has taken his endorsement off her Web site may mean that it could be imminent and coming through shortly.  But you know, we‘ve got a total distraction here.

We‘ve got deadlock happening at the capital.  It‘s on circus.  We‘ve got a budget we have to get in place within two weeks.  We have a $5 billion deficit.  As you know, this governor came in with extreme optimism, a tremendous mandate.  He was going to be the ethics governor, hold us up to the highest ethical standards, go after those special interests groups.  And really, that just really crashed and burned, and he broke that bond and that contract with the people of New York state with his ethical involvement, potential illegal involvement and the bad decisions he made and the choices in Washington, D.C.

So he no longer can lead this state.  He has lost all the support of the people, the legislators, the leaders.  We need to get the lieutenant governor in place, have him sworn in and follow through with his budget and move forward.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Assemblyman, let me ask you this question  Do you believe he should be prosecuted, as well as kicked out of office or leave office?  Are you happy with the idea that he may be able to negotiate a deal which gives him immunity from prosecution by federal authorities and state authorities?

TEDISCO:  Chris, we don‘t wish him any ill will.  In fact, we‘re saying a lot of prayers for his wife and him and his family.  This is not a political issue.  It‘s not Democrats against Republicans.  It‘s right and wrong and moving this government forward.

I was an educator before I became a public servant, the last 26 years as an Assemblyman, so I‘m not an attorney.  We have a counsel looking at the potential that if in 48 hours, he does not resign, that we would put forth articles of impeachment according to the constitution.  That hasn‘t been done in about 100 years, but the constitution says it has to start in the New York state Assembly with a resolution.  And if it passes by two thirds vote there, it goes over to the Senate for ratification.  And we would potentially have to remove him by legislation.

We‘d hate to do that.  We hope he resigns for the betterment of himself and the family and all New Yorkers.  But we‘re in stagnation mode right now, and we have to move this government forward, and we can‘t do this with this individual right now.  So we don‘t wish him any ill will...

MATTHEWS:  But there is a sense that he‘s not very likable, that you guys don‘t like him.  I mean, I‘ve watched this fight with Bruno and him from the beginning.  He went in there with all this promise of being smart, Ivy League-educated, lots of money in his background.  He was a gifted kid in terms of his background, a lot of good luck growing up in his sort of the gene pool he came from.  He was grown—I mean, he had a father that looked out for him financially.  He had everything going for him.  He didn‘t have to steal any money, and yet you guys don‘t like him much, do you.

TEDISCO:  Well, he‘s bright.  He‘s intelligent.  He‘s hard-working.  The only problem with the governor is it seems to be his way or the highway.  And most prognosticators felt this was just a byway for him.  He was on his way to the White House.  That has crashed and burned right now.  He‘s ruined his political reputation.

But I hold no ill will against him.  I‘m the guy who he called a—said he was going to be an “F-ing” steamroller last January and he was going to roll over me and everybody else.  And ever since then, it‘s kind of been downhill.  Now, you can change your politics, you can change your policies, but you can‘t change your personality.  And Chris, he just may have this personality flaw and may not have a risk aversion here because he has done something which, when he was attorney general, he investigated, he indicted, he convicted, and he put people in jail for exactly the process he has gone through.

So there‘s a question of his stability (ph) and his ability to lead this Empire State.  So we need a new leader.  We have to go forward, and it can‘t be Eliot Spitzer.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Assemblyman James Tedisco, who‘s the leader of the Republicans in the Assembly in Albany.

Still ahead, we‘ll preview tonight‘s Mississippi primary, where Barack Obama is hoping to beat Hillary Clinton.

And up next, President Bush caught on the tube, the YouTube.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is happening in politics?  Well, YouTube.  Once again, it means you are there.  It also means that a moment otherwise lost to time is trapped for relentless viewing.  I‘m talking about the cell phone that caught President Bush‘s performance at a closed-door white-tie dinner here last weekend. 

Here he is, leader of the free world, conqueror of Afghanistan and Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (singing):  Like that big fuss you made over Harriet and Brownie. 


BUSH (singing):  Down the lane, I look and here comes Scooter, finally free of the prosecutor. 


BUSH (singing):  Yes, you‘re all going to miss me, the way you used to quiz me, but soon I will touch the brown, brown grass of home.



MATTHEWS:  Well, that was quite a hoot, all that joking by the president about Brownie, the guy in charge of the New Orleans disaster, and, of course, Scooter Libby, the guy involved in the CIA cover-up. 

If it‘s one thing, I can‘t stand, it‘s reporters, the best of them,

laughing at events and political acts that warrant anything—I mean

anything—but laughter.  There is nothing, nothing funny about Bush‘s

reference to Brownie, that disastrous appointment followed by that

catastrophic handling of the Katrina horror in New Orleans, nothing funny about a bad war fought for bad intelligence, and a top aide, Scooter Libby, who committed perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it up, nothing funny about a president who commuted that sentence to keep the cover-up protected. 

Otherwise, I‘m sure it was an enjoyable get-together between journalists and the people they‘re charged with covering. 

Now there‘s something every American needs to hear.  It‘s what Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said about Illinois Senator Barack Obama the other day.


REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected president of the United States, and, I mean, what does it look like to the rest of the world?  What does it look like to the world of Islam? 

And I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the—the radical Islamists, the—the al Qaeda and the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11, because they will—they will declare victory in this war on terror. 

Additionally, it does matter—his middle name does matter.  It matters because they read meaning that into that.  And the rest of the world, it has a special meaning to them.  They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name.  They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says pull out of the Middle East and pull out of the conflict. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, according to “The Congressional Quarterly,” this is not the first outburst of that kind from Congressman King. 

When the horrors of Abu Ghraib reached us, he said it was no worse than college hazing.  Although it may surprise you that someone who talks like he does would be all that familiar with higher education. 

By now, you have seen that 3:00 a.m. Clinton ad 100 times, which means you are very familiar with this young girl who is playing one of the sleeping children—there she is—when that 3:00 a.m. phone call began to ring.  There she is.  Well, it turns out that the young actress in that ad wasn‘t actually acting for Hillary.  It was taped years ago to serve as stock footage for one of these agencies. 

Anyway, the sleeping girl appeared on “The Today Show” just yesterday with this stunning message for our country. 


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  And, yet, Casey (ph), you‘re here to tell us that you are actually...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  An Obama supporter. 


LAUER:  And, actually, not only a supporter.  You are working for Senator Obama as a precinct worker. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.  During our caucuses in Washington State, I was a precinct captain.  And now I‘m a delegate for my precinct.  And I could progress to my county, my state, and I could even be a national delegate. 


MATTHEWS:  We should leave sleeping girls lie. 


MATTHEWS:  And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

If you drive a car, you heat your home or anything, you know that the energy costs are getting brutal these days.  It‘s certainly not like the old days of the big strike days like in “There Will Be Blood.”  Look at this scene, anyway.


DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, ACTOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, if I say I‘m an oilman, you will agree. 

There‘s a whole ocean of oil under our feet.  No one can get at it, except for me. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, those oil-rich days are apparently long gone. 

And, if you didn‘t realize that already, I offer you tonight‘s big, bad number. 

Today, the price for crude oil in the world approached an all-time high of $110 a barrel.  That‘s tonight‘s big, bad number, thanks to the Cheney energy program. 

Anyway up next: the Mississippi primary.  Barack Obama is hoping to win another state, the last contest, by the way, before my home state of Pennsylvania, which is now six weeks off, six weeks of running around in Pennsylvania for both candidates.  We will get the latest from our Mississippi exit polling tonight and preview where this race stands right now.  In Mississippi, they‘re already counting the votes. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” 

Wall Street enjoying its best day in five years, stocks soaring on action by the Federal Reserve to ease the strains in the credit crisis.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 416 points, its fourth biggest point gain ever.  The Dow surged back over the psychologically important 12000 level, closing at 12156.  The S&P gained 47 points, and the Nasdaq added 86. 

The Fed announced it will lend up to $200 billion in treasuries to big Wall Street investment houses and banks and allow them to use some of their riskier mortgage-backed securities as collateral.  Financial stocks surged on the news.  They led today‘s rally. 

And oil surged to a record, near $110 a barrel, before today‘s Fed announcement.  Crude closed at a record closing high of $108.75 a barrel, up 85 cents a day. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Polls in Mississippi close at 8:00 tonight.  And Barack Obama‘s counting on a victory over Senator Clinton in that big primary. 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women‘s Forum, along with Clarence Page of “The Chicago Tribune,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Let‘s talk politics.  We talked—we have done enough Spitzer, haven‘t we? 



MATTHEWS:  The guy is facing whatever he‘s facing tonight.  He may have to resign.  For those who are watching, the Republicans in the assembly are moving to impeach if he doesn‘t resign.  He‘s apparently involved in some sort of negotiations at this point to save himself from whatever is worse than being kicked out of office. 

Don‘t you love this stuff? 


MATTHEWS:  I thought you did.  Let‘s be honest.

PAGE:  It all happens at once, too.

MATTHEWS:  This is what the Germans call schadenfreude, joy through others‘ tragedy. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about a far more quisling situation.  It‘s the complications of this race. 

Again today, we faced another case of a staffer, supporter, superdelegate, whatever, speaking out in a way that the candidate has had to distance themselves from. 

Here on Saturday, Geraldine Ferraro, who, of course, was the Democratic nominee for vice president back in ‘84, told a local paper in California—quote—“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position, and, if he was a woman, he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who he is, and the country is caught up in the concept.”

So, what‘s this?


MATTHEWS:  And then Senator Clinton separating herself a bit, but not enough to avoid the tackle...


MATTHEWS:  ... as they say in football. 



MATTHEWS:  Not enough separation to avoid the tackle, said: “I do not agree with it.  That is regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides, because” blah, blah, blah, blah.  You know, she didn‘t really deny it. 

Then, of course, we have got the—we have got the other side now jumping, saying—here‘s what Senator Obama told a Pennsylvania newspaper about Ferraro‘s comments—quote—“I don‘t think Geraldine Ferraro‘s comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party.  They‘re divisive.  I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd.  And I would expect that, the same way those comments don‘t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn‘t have a place in Senator Clinton‘s campaign.”

In other words, stop complaining about my people if you can‘t clean up your guys. 


BERNARD:  Well, I mean, I just—she‘s so over the top, I don‘t even know where to begin with this.  It‘s not her...


MATTHEWS:  Geraldine Ferraro being... 

BERNARD:  Yes, Geraldine Ferraro‘s comments are so over the top.  And it‘s at a time, you know, when we‘re looking and we‘re seeing that the Clinton campaign, I think, personally, is trying to woo back African-American voters in Mississippi tonight.  And she goes out and she makes this statement.

And I can tell you, every African-American in the state of Mississippi that reads about this or hears about it is going to be overwhelmingly turned off.  And if one of them had been inclined to maybe change their vote—vote from Obama to Senator Clinton, that—the black vote is gone for good. 

MATTHEWS:  Clarence? 

PAGE:  Well, my reaction initially was that, if Barack Obama was white, he might be John Edwards. 


PAGE:  I mean, he has—you know, doesn‘t he have actually more experience in office than Edwards did when he first ran for president?  I mean, really, this is the absurdity of the statement. 

And my wife, who, of course, is my chief adviser on all things, said it sounded like sour grapes to her.  But that‘s—that‘s her comment.  But...

BERNARD:  Well, it is sour grapes.  I mean, Geraldine Ferraro was on the—there is an argument to be made that she was on the ticket because she was a woman, and only because she was a woman.  And if you dared to deign to say that, you know, the national organization would be holding riots right now.  And for her to imply that someone who is as well educated as Barack Obama and has really captured the nation is only there because he‘s a black man is wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat, we‘re in—we‘re in this territory now of gender and ethnicity, wherein you better be careful what you say, because, if you say something that strikes most people, or many people, or some people as divisive, as being categorical, as dismissive, as in any way belittling a person for who they are, and playing that as if that‘s the only reason they are where they are, that‘s dangerous territory. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I—well, I don‘t think it‘s that dangerous territory.  It certainly isn‘t for me. 


MATTHEWS:  Look, the truth is, Geraldine Ferraro got on that ticket because she was a woman.  She was a six-term congresswoman.  She was not a national figure.  She was unknown. 

And we took it all when I was with Reagan, took it all as a real roll of the dice to try to get the women‘s vote against Reagan, nothing wrong with it. 

I do agree with this.  If Barack Obama were not an African-American, I don‘t think he would be where he is.  He‘s clearly a tremendously articulate individual, an able individual, a great orator who has won his way.  Really, he‘s run a magnificent campaign.  But he got his start off and he‘s winning 90 percent or 85 percent of the African-American vote because he‘s an African-American.  I don‘t have a problem with that at all, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Pat, why don‘t we start talking in that regard about everybody?  Bill Clinton wouldn‘t have been where he was if he weren‘t white, a male white. 

BUCHANAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  George Washington wouldn‘t have been who he was if he were not a white male. 

I mean, how many—why do we have this new delineation that we never had before about white men?


BUCHANAN:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  We never said, the only reason the guy is governor of New York is, he‘s a white male.  We have learned that certainly in the last couple days. 


BUCHANAN:  I think, look, the Democrats themselves, Hillary said, it‘s wonderful, the first black male, the first woman for candidate for president.

For heaven‘s sakes...

MATTHEWS:  But, Pat...

BUCHANAN:  ... the whole country is talking about it. 

Chris, get out of the political correctness, for heaven‘s sake. 


MATTHEWS:  No, I want to tell you something.  But has anybody ever said, the only reason George Washington was our father of our country because he‘s a white male?

BUCHANAN:  It wasn‘t true.  It wasn‘t true. 

MATTHEWS:  I have never heard anybody say that. 


BUCHANAN:  He was a general in the revolution.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, if he was a black female, he would have been...


BUCHANAN:  He was a general in the revolution, for heaven‘s sakes. 

And he was the lead man at the Constitutional Convention. 


BUCHANAN:  He was the greatest...


MATTHEWS:  And he wouldn‘t have been any of those things if he wasn‘t a white male.  Would you stop? 



BERNARD:  For the record, can I please ask, why is it that, whenever we talk about an African-American, like Barack Obama, that we have to use the word articulate, as if he‘s going to go on TV speaking Ebonics?

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s silly.  Look...

BERNARD:  I would love to erase that from of our vernacular. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, John—John Lewis...



BUCHANAN:  ... is a tremendous leader.  You know, John Lewis is a great civil...


PAGE:  Let me just say something about Pat was saying about—about black folks supporting—supporting Obama.  And Pat and I have talked about this before.

When Obama was first running, weren‘t we on this show and others talking about, is he black enough to get black votes? 


PAGE:  He had to earn...

MATTHEWS:  And, obviously, the polls, by the way, showing him losing the black votes. 

PAGE:  Yes.  Thank you. 

BERNARD:  He was.


PAGE:  He had to earn the black vote.  And he did earn it, number one. 


MATTHEWS:  He got a lot of help from the Clintons, didn‘t he? 



PAGE:  Number two, the Abe Lincoln campaign, which I remember well, because I was there. 

MATTHEWS:  Which one? 


MATTHEWS:  First or reelection?

PAGE:  Abraham Lincoln.  The first one, he was endorsed by “The Chicago Tribune.”  He was our candidate.  And he only had one term in Congress, quite lackluster. 

I mean, these arguments are ridiculous. 


BUCHANAN:  All right. 


PAGE:  And the implication is that any black candidate is winning because he‘s black.


BUCHANAN:  All right.  If it‘s a ridiculous argument, explain to me why Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is the wife of our first black president, Bill Clinton...


MATTHEWS:  Why do you guys keep calling her by her middle name? 


MATTHEWS:  What is this Rodham thing? 


BUCHANAN:  Chris, is she only getting 10 percent of the black vote, Hillary Rodham Clinton? 

PAGE:  That wasn‘t true initially, was it, Pat?


PAGE:  Didn‘t she have to earn it?  Wasn‘t she beating Obama initially when he first announced? 


BUCHANAN:  But why is she only getting 10 percent?  You know it as well as I do. 


BERNARD:  Pat, there was a time—there was a point in time when she was overwhelmingly getting the African-American vote. 



BERNARD:  Bill Clinton resorted to race-baiting in Georgia and...


BERNARD:  ... in South Carolina, and that was the end of it. 


BUCHANAN:  You call it race-baiting.


MATTHEWS:  I want to throw some more wood on the fire here, because I agree with this guy.

Orlando Patterson is a sociology professor at Harvard.  He wrote a “New York Times” op-ed piece, which they put in the lead box today.

He said—quote—“I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and I saw—when I saw the Clinton ads, the central image”—this is the 30 -- the middle-of-the-night, 3:00-in-the-morning ad—“the central image, innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger, it brought to my mind scenes from the past.  I couldn‘t help but think of D.W. Griffith‘s ‘Birth of a Nation,‘ the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society.  The danger implicit in the phone ad, as I see it, is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.”

Clarence, your view of what the professor says in that ad? 

PAGE:  Well, I normally am a big fan of Orlando Patterson.  I don‘t agree with him in this instance, maybe because I have been in politics too long.  And you and I have both seen the—the—the Mondale ad that he had back in ‘84. 

MATTHEWS:  But it didn‘t have sleeping children.  It just...


PAGE:  So what?  I mean, it was the same essence of the ad.  I mean, you know, I think that it‘s a bit of a stretch, OK? 

I have seen “Birth of a Nation,” too.

MATTHEWS:  Was this...

PAGE:  And Pat has seen “Birth of a Nation.” 

Pat, you were there, weren‘t you? 


BUCHANAN:  Well, listen...



MATTHEWS:  Michelle, let me ask you a tough question, because I have...


BUCHANAN:  One hundred years ago, for heaven—who is this guy from Harvard?  This is ridiculous.  The phone call is about foreign policy, for heaven‘s sake. 

MATTHEWS:  It is? 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  I think the phone call had more to do with 911 than 9/11. 


MATTHEWS:  I think it was a mother protecting her kids from a prowler outside. 


MATTHEWS:  And I wonder why we‘re seeing an ad like that.  That‘s how it struck me, a mother tucking the kids in because she heard a noise outside, not that she got a call.  It was a 911 message, not a 9/11 message. 

BUCHANAN:  Suppose that‘s true, Chris.


BUCHANAN:  What would be wrong with it? 


BUCHANAN:  What would be wrong with it, if that were true? 

MATTHEWS:  It would be racist. 

Go ahead. 

BERNARD:  I just—I...

BUCHANAN:  Well, why—why would it be racist?  It‘s for ADT. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we have somebody from another perspective answer the question, besides you and me, tribalist Irish guys answer the question.  Go ahead.

BERNARD:  I do not see racism in the ad.  I really don‘t.  I‘ve read the professor‘s quote.  I disagree with him.  When I saw the ad, I really thought that this was Hillary Clinton—I didn‘t say Rodham—but this was Hillary Clinton‘s chance to go out and really appeal to women voters.  Any woman voter, black or white, who took a look at that ad is thinking about her children, and she‘s wondering is Hillary Clinton saying, I will push the button; I will take care of somebody who is trying to take out your children, white or black. 

MATTHEWS:  Really, so saw it as a foreign policy? 

BERNARD:  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  You do Clarence? 

PAGE:  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you said it was a foreign policy issue; it‘s not a 911 call. 

BUCHANAN:  I agree halfway with you, Chris.  I did see it as somebody is breaking into the house first, because it looked like that kind of ad.  But clearly it was also aimed at the idea of who can pick up that phone in a time of crisis.  And so I saw it as both.  What‘s wrong with it? 

MATTHEWS:  It looked to me like one of those ads for the alarm system you get that goes police station. 

BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not about phoning and taking a call.  It‘s about phoning for help.  I‘m telling you, the geniuses behind this ad—and they are bad, mad geniuses, I‘ll bet, know everything we‘re talking about.  Because it is dog-whistle time. 

Anyway, Michelle Bernard, thank you.—for people to listen to.  Anyway, Clarence, it is an honor to have you on, after all these years of working together and looking up to you, and having you join me as a colleague, even if you‘re just a panelist here. 

PAGE:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the politics fix.  We‘re going to count down to the results in the Mississippi primary and have the latest from our exit polling about how that 3:00 a.m. ad played among Mississippi voters.  I love it. 

And at 10:00 Eastern, live coverage tonight of the Mississippi primary.  We‘re going to have a lot for you.  We love Tuesday night around here.  We‘re going to be joined by Senator Barack Obama with me, talking with me at 10:00 tonight.  That‘s HARDBALL.  More of it coming throughout the night, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Polls in Mississippi will be closed at 8:00 Eastern tonight.  Right now, let‘s get a look at out exit polling in terms of what we‘re learning about the voters in Mississippi.  And for that, we turn to one of my favorite people, MSNBC‘s Mika Brzezinski, who‘s up all day.  Wasn‘t I with you this morning in New York at like 8:00?   

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m up when you‘re up.  Good evening.  Today‘s Democratic primary in Mississippi comes one week after Hillary Clinton‘s primary wins in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island.  Key to her victories, the so called kitchen sink strategy.  It was all about attacking to raise doubts about Barack Obama.

That included the famous 3:00 a.m. phone call ad, which questioned his ability to handle a national security crisis.  Well, Obama‘s campaign is returning fire.  What are voters in Mississippi thinking today?  Our NBC News exit poll asked if those casting ballots believed if either side has crossed the line.  As you can see, 60 percent of Mississippi Democratic primary voters think Hillary Clinton has attacked her opponent unfairly; 39 percent think that it‘s true for Barack Obama. 

Now, the percent who think that Clinton has been unfair is the highest since South Carolina, Chris.  Remember that primary back in January?  In that contest, where the Clintons were accused of playing the race card, 70 percent of the primary voters believed Hillary Clinton was guilty of unfair attacks. 

Now, our exit poll asked Mississippi voters how they judged the candidate‘s character; 70 percent find Barack Obama to be honest and trustworthy, while 52 percent feel the same way about Hillary Clinton. 

We also looked at the role of campaign ads in this primary.  Sixty five percent of those voting for Obama say commercials were very or somewhat important in making a choice.  This compares with 61 percent of Clinton voters, who say ads were simply not important. 

And what about that famous 3:00 a.m. phone call ad?  Well, in Mississippi today, most voters don‘t seem to buy that Obama isn‘t ready to keep our nation secure.  By a ten-point margin, they think Obama, not Clinton, would make a better commander in chief.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Wow, thank you very much for that, Mika.  Anyway, we‘re going to get to the politics fix right now.  The round table includes NBC News political director Chuck Todd, Roger Simon of “Politico,” and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. 

I want to start with Chuck, the numbers guy on everything in the world.  You bring quantification to all things accountable.  Anything new in what Mika just told us? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  No.  I mean, it pretty much looks and feels like the Georgia Democratic primary or the Alabama Democratic primary or the South Carolina Democratic primary.  I feel like we‘ve seen this before.  A very large African-American electorate, not responding very well to some of the Clinton attacks.  And I think, you know, that therefore it wouldn‘t be surprising—Louisiana is another one.  It wouldn‘t be surprising to see Obama with another double-digit win, considering how he‘s done in all these other states that have a large African-American population that have not responded very well to these Clinton attacks. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we have any sense—I‘ll start with you and go on to the others—do we have any sense, Chuck, that voters, African-American voters, pro-Obama voters generally are getting a little scared about the super delegates‘ situation, overwhelming the vote of the party in these primaries and caucuses?  Are they getting a little nervous that they might have it taken away from them, a little angry? 

TODD:  I don‘t think it‘s necessarily that per se yet.  I mean, I really don‘t know if this has sort of gotten down to the rank-and-file voter yet.  The more rank-and-file voters are informed about this, then I think you will start seeing this.  I mean, we‘re seeing national polling slowly asking Democratic primary voters how they would feel if somehow the super delegates were the decisive factor over and above what happens in the primaries and caucuses. 

And the fact is, we‘re seeing a very large, almost a third of Democrats, have no opinion on this.  And what this tells me is they‘re not yet really informed about the issue yet.  And I think as this gets more real, as it‘s more possible, if that‘s even a correct turn of phrase there, my apologies to the English teachers out there, then it will—you will see, I think, probably Obama supporters being very unhappy about something like that and Clinton supporters being happy about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be a “Saturday Night Live” cold open, wouldn‘t it?  I mean, we‘ve been watching three weeks of pro-Hillary stuff out of them, which is fair enough.  Everybody has a point of view, I mean everybody has a point of view in this world.  Wouldn‘t it be something if they opened with a cold open on “Saturday Night Live” that showed people, especially African-Americans voters, finding out not only is there a Supreme Court that sticks its head into our voting, not only is there an electoral college, which doesn‘t seem to be very Democratic; we‘ve got these super duper people that get to decide if we get it wrong, sort of like they correct our test. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  We‘ll dash that off to Lorne Michaels.  We‘ll have them put it in the tickler file in case it happens.  But I don‘t think people have focused on it.  And the other thing that‘s just seeping into people‘s consciousness, I think, is Florida and Michigan and what are they going to do?  And just anecdotally, I‘ve talked to a few people who are already saying, well, wait a minute, weren‘t those the rules.  Is there going—a do-over, is that fair?  What‘s the deal? 

So, we‘ll see. 

MATTHEWS:  Especially when the do-over‘s are the direct result of the defiance by those states of the Democratic party rules.  They did it on purpose.  It wasn‘t like they forgot what time the primary was. 

ROBINSON:  No, they did it on purpose but—

ROGER SIMON, “THE POLITICO”:  And if either of those dynamics, either Florida or Michigan, or the use of super delegates snatches the victory away from Barack Obama, it‘s going to look like an escape clause.  They did it to us. 


SIMON:  Here we finally had a candidate.  He won in the pledged delegates.  He won in the caucuses and primaries, but they found an escape clause to rob him of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at former President Clinton in Pennsylvania, where a lot of the actions going to be the next six weeks.  Here he is today. 


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If she wins a big, big, big victory in Pennsylvania, I think it will give her a real big boost going into the next primaries.  We‘re going to have primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico.  So, we‘re heading around the bend there. 

I think—I feel good about it.  But I think, just as I felt she had to win in Texas and Ohio, and she did, and won handily, I think she‘s got to win a big victory in Pennsylvania. 


MATTHEWS:  Now, he‘s talking like it really is Alabama.  Chuck, I‘ve never heard the president use the southern accent so northern, in such a northern clime there.  Pretty folksy stuff there.  And a good memory of all the states, by the way. 

TODD:  I was just going to say, I was very impressed.  I don‘t think he missed one.  He even got South Dakota in there.  was he talking to the Alabama portion of Pennsylvania?  Don‘t forget, there‘s the key there, right?  What‘s interesting, I think we can quantify what two bigs are out of President Clinton.  I think big victory is five points.  Big, big must be ten, because that‘s what Ohio was.  I think we can quantify. 

He used two bigs.  Had he added a third big, then 15 points would have been the ceiling there.  I guess he‘s setting the bar. 

MATTHEWS:  Does Barack have to win one of the three bigs left?  Does he have to win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Florida just to be—to win this sort of argument?  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 

SIMON:  What he‘s got to be careful of is not falling behind in the popular vote.  Popular vote technically doesn‘t matter.  It doesn‘t choose the nominee.  But if he goes into the convention behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, she will use the popular-vote margin to tell the super delegates, look, I am the choice of the party, not Barack Obama, switch to me. 

MATTHEWS:  There will be a national advertising campaign like you‘ve never seen to let everybody know who has the most votes, as there should be.  If they win that—in other words, it matters in—Go ahead Chuck.  Pennsylvania matters not only because of who wins, but who gets the most votes and what the margin is.

TODD:  She needs margins, but the likelihood, frankly, his popular vote leading is becoming close to insurmountable, too.  It‘s at 600,000.  You could put Florida in as-is now and she‘d be at 300,000 behind him, and then, all of a sudden, you need the revote in Michigan.  I mean, to make up the margins, she‘d have to somehow keep it a lot closer in North Carolina.  We‘ll see what happens.  Don‘t forget, he builds on his margin tonight with Mississippi.  He could get a 50,000-vote margin out of there tonight, something like that. 

So, you know, it‘s—it‘s going to be tough for her to do that.  You know, it‘s going to need—she needs both revotes. 


TODD:  Frankly, she actually only needs a revote in Michigan.  She didn‘t want a revote in Florida. 

MATTHEWS:  That Chuck Todd is so unfair.  That Chuck Todd is so unfair.  He keeps bringing up the numbers.  He keeps bringing up the facts.  That‘s so unfair. 

We‘ll be back with the round table and more unfairness, more facts.  I keep forgetting them, too, because I get caught up in the spin on both sides here.  There are such things as numbers and if you can count it, it will decide this election.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table and the politics fix.  I want to go to Gene.  This latest thing of Geraldine Ferraro taking a crack at Barack Obama, saying the only reason he‘s there is because of his, his ethnicity, I should say, and his gender.  If it was any woman of any background, she wouldn‘t be there.  That‘s her charge.  This is the former Democratic nominee for vice president. 

ROBINSON:  She called him an affirmative action baby, I guess, is what she said. 

MATTHEWS:  Clarence Thomas must be saying, this is the problem with affirmative action.  You‘re always assumed to only be there because of a quota. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Well, she kind of demonstrated his argument, I guess.  She was clearly off the reservation.  You know, I think the Clinton campaign has come out with something about it. 

MATTHEWS:  She said that she regrets it.  It‘s regrettable.  Here is what she said.  This is Senator Clinton today; “I do not agree with that.”  Strong words here.  “It is regrettable.”  In other words, “that any supporters on both sides do this kind of thing.” 

SIMON:  Why didn‘t she say that Geraldine Ferraro was wrong on the facts.  It‘s hard to look at American history and see where being an African American has helped someone win state-wide office, let alone nation-wide office.  Only two elected black governors.  Only three elected black senators in history. 

But this is such a big boost?  The fact is if Barack Obama were white and had come from an well connected family, instead of an obscure family, he‘d be John F. Kennedy.  That‘s what they don‘t want to face up to. 

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, are the Clintons going to pay the price of this apology parade.  I‘ve never seen so many apologies in one campaign in my life.  It‘s like medieval Turkoman chamber.  How much recantation and turning upside down of candles are going to go on in this race. 

TODD:  But it‘s been everybody.  We went through, what was it last week --  we counted up eight just apologies just to Clinton or Obama.  I think this is the sort of—you‘ve seen the politically correct nature of the Democratic party on steroids when it comes to a woman running and an African-American. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘ve got to get the incensor out.  We‘ll be right back. 

ROBINSON:  Roger and I are both sorry for anything we‘ve said. 

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me for living, we should all say at the beginning of every program.  Thank you Chuck Todd.  Thank you Roger Simon.  Thank you, Eugene Robinson.



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