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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Charlie Cook, Perry Bacon, David Corn, John Feehery, Karen Finney, Andrew Ross Sorkin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Working my way back to you.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

Jobs, jobs, jobs.  No matter what President Obama does on any subject, Republicans in Congress keep asking, Where are the jobs?  Today they got their answer.  The economy added 162,000 new jobs last month, the biggest increase in three years.  While the unemployment rate stayed at 9.7 percent, to no one‘s surprise, Republicans said it wasn‘t enough.  What was a surprise was President Obama calling out Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh by name in a televised interview.

What the new jobs numbers mean for the economy and the president at the top of the show.  More jobs in the economy may mean more jobs for Democrats in November.  Could we be seeing the first signs today of a political recovery, as well?

Plus, here‘s the latest example of the right gone mad.  The FBI says some three dozen governors in this country have received nearly identical letters telling them to resign in three days or face some sort of action to remove them.  There was no specific threat, but some are seeing it as just that, a threat.  What is going on here?

Finally, I‘ve got one of those DNC T-shirts saluting Joe Biden‘s “BFD” comment on the passage of health care.  I‘ll show it to you in the “Sideshow.”

And on this Good Friday, “Let Me Finish” tonight with the news concerning 20th century hero Raoul Wallenberg.

We start with today‘s jobless report and what the news means for President Obama.  NBC News political director Chuck Todd is also our chief White House correspondent, and Andrew Ross Sorkin is financial columnist for “The New York Times.”

Let me go to Chuck and get the sense here—unemployment remained at 9.7 percent in March.  The economy gained 162,000 jobs.  I told you that.  How‘s that being received at the White House, Chuck?

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.:  Well, look, they‘re very—have—this is the first time they‘ve had something tangible to point to to be able to say, Look, see?  Not only have we hit bottom, which they‘ve been trying to say for months, but they have a piece of evidence that says, Look, see?  We are gaining jobs.  This whole thing is working.

And you heard it in the president today.  He linked it all together.  He took the Recovery Act, he took the stimulus, he took the bail-outs, he took health care, and he put it all into one and said, Look, we—we were doing all of this framework, all of these things, and now we‘re starting to see these—he didn‘t use the phrase “green shoots,” but that‘s what this is, is you could call it a “green shoot.”

Now, the question is, can they string this together for months and months and months?  And can the number be more than 160,000-odd?  Because you need at least growth of 250,000 to 300,000 to 350,000 a month just to start seeing that...


TODD:  ... actual number go down.

MATTHEWS:  We now know what it takes to stay even, 160,000 new jobs a month just to stay even with the unemployment rate.

Let‘s listen to what the president did say today, as you alluded to. 

Here he is in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Let‘s listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As I said, just one year ago, we were losing an average of more than 700,000 jobs each month.  But the tough measures that we took, measures that were necessary, even though sometimes they were unpopular, have broken the slot (ph) and are helping us to climb out of this recession.  We‘ve now added an average of more than 50,000 jobs each month over the first quarter of this year, and this month‘s increase of 162,000 jobs was the best news we‘ve seen on the job front in more than two years.


MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to the ground game, the reality out there.  Here‘s a chart from the Labor Department on the monthly job losses and gains.  You can see those plunging numbers down there over the last couple of years since 2008, and then only recently, in the recent monthly reports, the last four months, up one, down one, up one, slightly, now up substantially.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, you‘re the smartest guy I know, writing for “The New York Times.”  Tell me this.  Is this a trend?  Are we going to see these kind of increases in jobs continue?

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  OK, so the good news is, this is an important moment because it does feel like things are getting better.  The bad news is, I can‘t tell you this is a sustainable proposition.  And let me tell you what‘s behind the numbers, and this is what people are not talking about.

So you had 162,000 new jobs.  A third of those jobs came from what are called Census jobs.  They‘ve hired all these people, 54,000 people across the country, to do this Census job on a temporary basis, to go out and do the Census for the next two or three months.  So that is actually a temporary but unsustainable push.

You also had another issue that people aren‘t paying attention to—

9.7 percent unemployment is the current number, but then there‘s this underemployment number.  These are the people who aren‘t necessarily looking for jobs.  The entire total number has gone from 16.8 actually upticked to 16.9.  So I can‘t tell you that this is a complete turnaround, though the signal seems to be in the right direction.

MATTHEWS:  Well, over 100,000 of those jobs are real jobs, which are a trend line, suggesting...


MATTHEWS:  ... debunking here.  Let‘s go to the debunking part of this.  Are you saying that the 54,000 increase in the Census jobs all of a sudden came this month, they‘re all part of this 162,000?

SORKIN:  Oh, they‘re absolutely all part of this month.  I mean, you‘ve got two issues here.  You had the Census because the Census started hiring all thee temporary workers for the next two or three months.  You also had an issue which was in February, given the weather.  A lot of temporary workers were out of work because they couldn‘t do construction jobs and other things.  March got a little bit better.  And again, you probably should see an uptick in April and then May.

So you can see the trend line, but there‘s a weather issue.  There‘s a Census issue.  There‘s all sorts of ancillary issues that make the question of sustainability really, frankly, a question mark.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to the politics pure and simple here, Chuck.  Here‘s the president—I want you to respond to this.  Here he is with Harry Smith this morning on CBS “Morning News” going over his enemies list, basically.  I‘ve never seen a president—well, not since Nixon fought with Dan Rather have we really seen kind of rivalry where the president cites by names his critics.  And they are his critics, in all fairness.  Let‘s listen.


HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS:  Are you aware of the level of enmity that crosses the airwaves and that people have made part of their daily conversation about you?

OBAMA:  Well, I mean, I think that when you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck...

SMITH:  It‘s beyond that.

OBAMA:  ... it‘s pretty apparent, and it‘s troublesome.


MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ve got the response to that.  Here‘s—here‘s—you know, this guy is no frail flower, if you will.  He doesn‘t hide.  Here‘s what Rush Limbaugh said to “The D.C. Examiner” today.  Quote, “Never in my life have I seen a regime like this, governing against the will of the people purposely—purposely.  I have never seen the media so supportive of a regime amassing so much power, and I‘ve never known so many people who literally fear for the future.”

This is to me—I‘ll just give you a little editorial (INAUDIBLE) I‘ve never seen language like this in the American press, referring to an elected representative government, elected in a totally fair, democratic, American election—we will have another one in November, we‘ll have another one for president in a couple years—fair, free, and wonderful democracy we have in this country.  And this guy, this walrus under water, makes fun of this administration, calling it a “regime.”  We know that word, “regime.”  It was used by recent presidents (INAUDIBLE) by George Bush, “regime change.”  You go to war with regimes.  Regimes are tyrannies.  They‘re juntas.  They‘re military coups.  The use of the word “regime” in American political parlance is unacceptable, and someone should tell the walrus to stop using it.

Your thoughts, Chuck.

TODD:  Well, I‘ll say this.  You know, which has come first, though, in this?

MATTHEWS:  “Regime.”

TODD:  Are we seeing more of this out there, or does more—do the—or does this get more attention?  I mean, if you go back in history, whether it was FDR, whether it was Kennedy, whether it was Reagan, you know, there‘s been plenty of this, you know, overhyped attacks either from the left or the right...

MATTHEWS:  I never heard the word “regime”...

TODD:  ... in going after a president...

MATTHEWS:  ... before, have you?

TODD:  No, the point is, it‘s out there.  It just didn‘t get the attention.  And the question is, does this stuff just have more of a platform than it ever has before?  But I want to get to another point on this, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  You mean the John Birch Society now has a voice of radio, is what you‘re saying.  I mean, we‘re now hearing...

TODD:  That‘s the point...

MATTHEWS:  ... the kind of language...


MATTHEWS:  ... used to hear when those right-wingers would call Eisenhower a communist and his brother a communist, the Johns Hopkins—all of a sudden...


MATTHEWS:  ... that kind of loony-toon talk...

TODD:  Or Father Coughlin.

MATTHEWS:  ... has found its way onto the airwaves—Father Coughlin.


TODD:  ... beyond AM radio anymore, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t even think Joe McCarthy ever called this government a “regime.”

TODD:  But let me get to this other point about the president, which is—I thought you pointed out something very interesting at the beginning, how he calls out his media enemies, essentially, like Nixon.


TODD:  Unlike a lot of presidents, this president brings this issue with the media up constantly, to the point of where, you know, on one had, you could look at it and said, Jeez, he‘s being a little thin-skinned.  On the other hand, he‘s clearly trying to send a message of his frustration, I think, with the way that the collective media—and when he‘s talking there, he‘s not just talking about journalists...


TODD:  ... he‘s talking about opinion media—that the entire noise that he sees here in Washington—and so you wonder how much of it—you know, is he bringing more attention to it than it deserves, as well?

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s the president again on that interview.  And I want Andrew to respond to this part.  Here he is talking to Harry Smith again on CBS this morning.  Here‘s the president.  Let‘s listen.


OBAMA:  Nobody can really give you a good answer, much less when they, you know, make...

SMITH:  They would say mandating that people have to buy insurance or something like that.

OBAMA:  The sort of plan proposed by current Republican nominee Mitt Romney.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about the economy again with Andrew.  You‘re the expert in following it.  And I—and I do have a sense this is a very slow recovery.  We had the Reagan, you know, 11 percent unemployment rate back in (INAUDIBLE) went way up real fast, then real fast downward.  It got down to 7 percent by ‘84 and got Reagan reelected with “Morning in America.”

This economy—what I keep waiting for is some big explosion of real jobs, whether it‘s the—you know, the dot-com sector...

SORKIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... or something where people want to buy a new car, they want to buy a new appliance.  I don‘t sense there‘s any place where people are wanting to buy something new and get it in their home.

SORKIN:  You know, with the exception of the iPad, you really have a real problem, which is called innovation.  And you know, every time we‘ve gotten out of a—and we needed to recover out—of a real recession, there has been some form of innovation, technology or something else.  And we haven‘t had that.

And so it‘s really hard to sort of look down the tunnel and see a light there that really shows enormous growth.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, me, too.

SORKIN:  I mean, I think—frankly, I don‘t mean to rain on the parade, but I think that is fundamentally the issue right now.  And why, by the way—I‘m actually curious what your view is on this—why the president is engaging, by the way, again on health care and again on TV, on Glenn Beck and everything else, at a time when he‘s just scored on health care, where he‘s scoring on the economy, where he‘s probably going to put up some points on this financial regulatory bill soon, is beyond me because I don‘t understand where he‘s going to score political points by engaging in this way.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think they have a theory they can identify the far right and separate it from the mainstream.  They‘re fighting for the center, not for the Limbaugh crowd.  I think that‘s the answer.  They want to put the right on the right and grab the center.

Chuck, but more interesting is—along the lines of what Andrew just asked, why is he naming—sort of crowning, if you will, Mit Romney as the nominee to run against him?  Is there an interest there in undermining as the potential nominee so he won‘t be the nominee, putting so much heat on him?  This is an old Nixon trick, by the way, speaking of Nixon.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  You put a lot of heat on Romney‘s father—that was

Nixon‘s strategy back in ‘67 and ‘68.  I‘m a student of this.  I mean, he -

the whole strategy was get the press focusing on George Romney‘s father. 

Now it seems like the president‘s following the Nixon strategy of put the pressure and the heat on Romney.  He can‘t take it.  He‘s above his level.  He won‘t be able to handle it because he had a health plan very much like Obama‘s.

So what‘s the strategy, dump him, get him dumped, or annoy him? 

What‘s the goal?

TODD:  It‘s funny.  Look, I‘ve talked to some White House officials and those close to this White House privately, and they obsess on Romney.  You do hear it in their voice.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Are they afraid of him or they want him?

TODD:  I‘ll be honest, I can‘t figure it out.  On one hand, I think they think it‘s fascinating to watch Romney have to do this dance on health care because when you look at this issue for him and how many times that not just you hear the president himself compare his health care plan to the Romney health care plan in Massachusetts, but you hear some, quote, unquote, “experts”...


TODD:  ... compare the two and talk about at them as—that they‘re, at a minimum, first cousins in their relationship of how one works versus the other.

And I think they want to see how this splinters the Republican primary process because it does have this feel that—in how John McCain got hurt early on with immigration in 2007, before eventually coming back after everybody else destroyed themselves—could health care be that to Mitt Romney and cause all sorts of consternation inside the Republican Party and make them fight with each other?  You know, it‘s hard not to look at this and wonder, yes, maybe they‘re playing a little bit of a game here.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe the game will yield Mitt Romney saying he was brainwashed into supporting health care up in Massachusetts.  Then we‘ll know the Nixon plan is working for Barack Obama.

TODD:  Oh, gee!

MATTHEWS:  Thank you—I think this through.  I‘ve been reading it all again.


TODD:  Go Google George Romney and they‘ll get it, right?


MATTHEWS:  Oh, they‘ll get it.  Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.

TODD:  All right.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back on that topic again, how the old Romney may be a leading indicator of the new Romney.  Anyway, Andrew Ross Sorkin, thanks for the bad news...


SORKIN:  ... good weekend.

MATTHEWS:  ... raining on the parade -- 162,000 new jobs, and this guy tells us, Well, a third of them are Census jobs, but that‘s the facts we want to hear.

SORKIN:  I‘m hoping things get better!

MATTHEWS:  No, I know.  Andrew, I‘m just teasing.  I want the facts from “The New York Times.”


MATTHEWS:  Coming up: President Obama himself concedes the mid-terms could be tough for Democrats, but with seven months to go, does the president and his party have enough time to regroup and minimize their losses had hope—they just can‘t lose 41 seats in the House or 10 seats in the Senate.  Otherwise, they can (SIC) hold power.  Let‘s talk about it when the pros come on to talk about the numbers in one minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



OBAMA:  Can you imagine if some of the reporters were working on a farm?  You know, you‘d some seeds, and they came out next day and they looked and—Nothing‘s happened!


OBAMA:  There‘s no crops!  We‘re going to starve!

It‘s been a week, folks.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama up in Maine on Thursday this week, mocking news coverage that says his poll numbers have not improved since the health care bill became law last week.  Seven months from now, voters will have a say in how the rest of President Obama‘s term goes.  Most presidents expect the opposition party to do well in the first mid-term election—in fact, very well.  But this year could be more intense than normal.  Could 2010 be like 1994, back when President Clinton saw Republicans take over both houses of Congress?

Ron Brownstein and Charlie Cook are both columnists for “The National Journal,” and proud of it.


+MATTHEWS:  Charlie, let‘s go right now to some interesting comparisons.  Well, let‘s start with the fact, seven months from now, the elections.  Has the president got enough time to shift from this focus on health, to shift on the bad economic news, to being America‘s president, to really getting back in charge of issues like Afghanistan, like oil drilling, things like that?

CHARLIE COOK, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT,” NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The president might be able to shift, Chris, but the question is, Can Congress?  Because this is—we‘ve seen a separation, where the president‘s numbers have leveled off, but Congress‘s numbers and its leaders‘ numbers...


COOK:  ... are—continue to drop.  And there‘s an old saying that history never repeats itself.  It only appears to for those who don‘t follow the—or don‘t know the details.  And the thing is, all these elections are different.  They all are.  But the thing about it is—you know, for example, in 1994, you know unemployment was?  It was a little under 6 percent.  In 2006, when Republicans got wiped out, it was a little under 5 percent.  And with this economy, it‘s there and unemployment is not going to get significantly better. That 9.7 number, it‘s projected to basically stay there through the end of this year by the... 


MATTHEWS:  So, you have a disquiet about the politics of the government, the administration in power, plus bad economic situations, right? 

COOK:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  What happened to Reagan—we will compare it to Reagan back in ‘81-‘82.  Back then, there was concern about the economy.  Are you saying it wasn‘t as bad a concern about the politics? 

COOK:  Well, I think what happened in 1982 -- and you and I were both on the Hill at that point—is that Democrats didn‘t have a full team of candidates on the field, because six months before the election, we were talking about whether the Democratic Party would even survive the Reagan—the Reagan revolution.  And suddenly it turned good for them, and they only had half a team on the field. 

This is one where you have got a full year of 9-plus percent unemployment.  Republicans have...


MATTHEWS:  So, the Republicans had a chance to suit up?

COOK:  They have a full team on the field. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you buy that argument?  The Republicans are much better at recruitment now than the Democrats back when they fought Reagan? 

BROWNSTEIN:  Because the trouble the Democrats were in was apparent earlier in the cycle. 

There are some broad similarities to the ‘93-‘94 period.  But I think there are two big differences.  The broad similarity is the basic alignment of the electorate, where you have an energized opposition—Republicans and conservatives are energized under Obama, as they were under Clinton—you have got a question about whether Democrats can get energized.  And, certainly, in ‘93-‘94, Democrats faced that question.

And then you have independents who have moving in a way from the administration in a kind of Perot-esque direction.  That‘s the similarity. 

The difference is twofold, I think.  First, Democrats in Congress are responding differently this time than they did in ‘93-‘94 -- ‘93-‘94, they splintered.  The key elements of the president‘s agenda, particularly health care, collapsed.  They went into the election facing an ideological backlash and a competency threat. 

This time, by and large, they are holding together.  And the other big difference is that Obama‘s approval has the potential to be six or seven or eight points higher than not only Clinton‘s in ‘93-‘94, but Reagan‘s in ‘82. 

And, at the margin, particularly the districts that he won, that can be an asset, less so in the districts that McCain won. 


BROWNSTEIN:  That‘s the principal vulnerability.  But I believe that the heart—if the Democrats are going to avoid disaster, it‘s going to be by minimizing their losses in the districts that Obama carried in 2008.  There‘s about 209 Democrats in districts that he carried. 

That, to me, in many ways, is the key for them if they‘re going to avoid the loss. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this big question.

Back in ‘94, the Democrats faced a Republican Party that had—this is the Newt Gingrich party, the Republicans back then—who had this big Contract With America.  Now, I have always been suspicious if people even knew about that contract before the election. 

But, this time around, they have nothing positive to say.  I have had people on this who, good Republican members.  I keep saying, what‘s your plan on health care?  And they give you some namby-pamby thing.  They don‘t have a plan.  They don‘t think they need an alternative.

Can they beat the Democrats this fall with a big no? 


COOK:  I never have seen a midterm election that was about the party that had no power. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they don‘t need to have a plan?

COOK:  No, I don‘t think so. 

But they do have one thing.  They have—in 1994, the speaker was Tom Foley, the majority leader was George Mitchell, two totally non-controversial people.  I would submit to you that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are much more polarizing figures.  They‘re people that are galvanizing Republicans and conservative in a way that you never saw. 


MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you have the bank, the House bank problem back then?


BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.  That was ‘92.


BROWNSTEIN:  I would disagree a little bit, in the sense that I think the evidence is that the standing of the president is more important than the standing of the Congress or the congressional leaders in driving that midterm election.  If Obama is still in the mid-40 range at the end of the summer, then Democrats are in deep trouble.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s your call.  “The Washington Post” has got him around 53.

BROWNSTEIN:  Right, exactly.

COOK:  They are the outlier.  No other poll has...


BROWNSTEIN:  But Gallup has him about 50.  And I think that...


MATTHEWS:  Yes, you say—what do you think he is?


COOK:  Well, CBS had that at 44. 


COOK:  I think he‘s like—he has been 49 or 50, give or take...


COOK:  ... for four months.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think.


MATTHEWS:  Look at me.  Like, I think this country is teetering like this. 



MATTHEWS:  And what changes that are conditions.  If they get better, he will be better off.


MATTHEWS:  And if he shows signs of weakness.  But the ideological thing in this country is right about in the middle, isn‘t it?


COOK:  Who is going to show up?


COOK:  Who is going to vote?

BROWNSTEIN:  There is also a differential.  If he is right around 50, then he is presumably below 50 in those districts that he did not carry in 2008.


BROWNSTEIN:  That‘s where the Democratic vulnerability is the highest... 


BROWNSTEIN:  ... 46 Democrats in McCain districts.  But in the district that he carried, he may still be an asset.  And you may see a very different—a sharp differential.

By the way, in the Senate as well, he can be more help to Democrats in states where he was strong.  And those where they were dubious of him to begin with and have probably moved—certainly have moved away further since 2008, particularly with a lot of white non-college voters, who are very down on conditions and on him. 


COOK:  Democrats can carry every single district this fall...


COOK:  ... that Barack Obama carried, and lose the House with nine seats to spare. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.  Right.  Right.  That‘s right. 

And that‘s why...

MATTHEWS:  Well, then you are wrong then. 

BROWNSTEIN:  No, no.  I‘m saying they have to minimize their losses in those seats, because if you look at the—if you look at... 


MATTHEWS:  But he said if they carry every state where they have carried... 

BROWNSTEIN:  Right.  But that would be carrying all 48 McCain Democrat seats, which would be a sweep that would include many entrenched members. 

Democrats are going to lose a lot of the seats that McCain carried, because it was unlikely for them to win them in the first place.  They tend to be more rural, more conservative.  They won them in ‘06 and ‘08 because...


MATTHEWS:  Is this going to be an old white person‘s election, like they usually are in midterms? 

COOK:  I think it‘s going to be an all old people‘s election.  

MATTHEWS:  How about minorities?


COOK:  It will be an overwhelmingly majority election.  But the thing is, a lot of the newer, younger people that came in, in 2008, they‘re going to be nowhere to be seen. 


MATTHEWS:  Why?  Why won‘t they vote? 

COOK:  Their loyalty is to President Obama.  Their excitement is for him.  It doesn‘t convey over...


MATTHEWS:  There is a fertile area for this president to do some work between now and November, get young people to vote. 


BROWNSTEIN:  Right.  They have a little bit—Democrats now have a little bit of a boom-and-bust coalition...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... because they depend on minorities and young people, who vote more in presidential than non-presidential. 

But the basic demography of the country has changed.  Even if the minority share of the vote drops from ‘08 to 2010, it will still be substantially larger than it was in 1994.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re more optimistic for the Democrats than you are.

BROWNSTEIN:  No.  No.  I...


BROWNSTEIN:  Charlie thinks it‘s gone.  I think they‘re going to have a difficult election, but I think it is still within their range to avoid.

MATTHEWS:  You say the Democrats hold the House and hold the Senate? 

BROWNSTEIN:  No, I—well, I think they hold the Senate.

COOK:  Hold the Senate.

BROWNSTEIN:  I think the House is still a tossup.  But they—you can see a pathway to holding the Senate and holding the House if they minimize their losses in the places where Obama was strong. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, that‘s murky...


MATTHEWS:  ... but it sounds like a little bit between worried and hopeless. 

Anyway, thank you, Ron Brownstein.

Thank you, Charlie Cook. 

Up next:  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, boy, says that Speaker Pelosi is responsible for that hateful behavior.  How do you twist this one?  Wait until you hear this one.  You know all that spitting and N-words that were used against members of Congress a week or two ago?  Well, Michele Bachmann has found a way of saying that‘s the Democrats‘ fault.  Blame the victim in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

Isn‘t that a conservative argument?  Don‘t blame the victim? 


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now for the “Sideshow.” 

First, I guess the heat has gotten too much for those on the right who have had to defend that obnoxious behavior of protesters at the U.S.  Capitol during the vote two weeks ago on the Obama health care bill. 

Remember that particular sight Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri appears to get spit on by a brutally angry demonstrator.  You can see the hate the guy‘s face, that contorted look that continued as the congressman couldn‘t believe what had happened.  There he is. 

Well, a lot of us saw an image of hatred there not seen since the days of the civil rights struggle back in the ‘60s. 

But Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann—no surprise here—had a different take on the events that disturbed so many of us.  Here she was last night on FOX. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Remember when Speaker Pelosi walked arm in arm in a civil rights march across Independence Avenue from the House buildings over to the Capitol?

In three years, I have never seen Nancy Pelosi cross the street the way that you saw in that picture.  They deliberately went through that crowd, perhaps to try and incite something. 

There were so many cameras there, Sean, no one recorded any racial motivation.  And everything we have heard in the last week has had a racial tinge coming out of the Democrats‘ mouth.  And there has been any racial activity. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, you all saw what we saw.  That was that person‘s behavior to Emanuel Cleaver.

So, why would she change, the congresswoman, try and change the subject from what we all actually saw on television?  And why would she deny the personal experience of her much-admired colleague U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who reported having that N-word thrown at him that weekend?

Is she really saying that Mr. Lewis made it all up?  Is she really trying to get reasonable people to believe what we saw was all Nancy Pelosi‘s fault?  That man spit in the public at that U.S. congressman because of what Nancy Pelosi did?

Next: conservatives eating their own. 

Here‘s Stephen Colbert taking on David Frum, who recently called out Republicans for health care obstruction and, in return, got himself fired from his position at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. 



I have to correct you on something you said right off the bat, which is, I am not a conservative apostate.  I am a conservative and a Republican, and I remain one. 


You have been cast into the darkness...


COLBERT:  ... where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 


FRUM:  Well, I don‘t accept the verdict of the membership committee. 


COLBERT:  Mm-hmm.  That‘s why you are tossed out. 


COLBERT:  You have to accept what the members say.  That‘s conservatism.  There is an authority.  There is a—everyone thinks one thing at a time.  That‘s how you stop health care. 


FRUM:  Well, we didn‘t, did we?  We are facing...

COLBERT:  No thanks to you, sir.



MATTHEWS:  Well, as the saying goes, Democrats fall in love. 

Conservatives fall in line. 

Now for the “Number.”  It‘s the expletive heard round the world. 

Catch President Obama yesterday in Boston talking up health care. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As Joe Biden said, who has a way with words, this is...


OBAMA:  What? 


OBAMA:  He—he said it‘s a big deal. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, the vice president‘s exact phrasing included an additional word, as you remember. 

And what do you know?  The Democratic National Committee has turned a lemon into lemonade.  They have taken the catchphrase, slapped it on a T-shirt, and are now selling it online.  You, too, can get your BFD shirt with a donation of $25.  It reads, “Health Reform, a BFD,” just $25 for a piece of delightfully unscripted history—tonight‘s “Big Number.”

And, by the way, the shirts have temporarily sold out, but I have got my own right here, if you had to ask, extra large.  There it is, “Health Care Reform, BFD.”  There it is. 

Up next: the latest example of the far right gone mad.  Three dozen governors across the country have received identical threatening letters urging them to resign.  What is going on in this country with governors getting threatening letters?  And why have so many right-wing extremists come out of the woodwork?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s wacky season.  Let‘s hope it doesn‘t get any worse than that.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

At least three dozen U.S. governors have received letters urging them

to resign within three days or face some kind of action to remove them from

office.  The FBI now believes the letters to be mainly a publicity stunt by

an anti-tax group called Guardians of the Free Republicans—or the Free -

I think it‘s the Free Republics. 


MATTHEWS:  I think they got that wrong.  That doesn‘t recognize the legitimacy of the federal government, this group, but the bureau, the FBI, is still concerned that this could provoke people to take action, like, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” back in Henry II‘s days. 

Anyway, how are so many right-wing extremist groups crawling out of the woodwork at once? 

Perry Bacon is the national political reporter for “The Washington Post” and David Brooks is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine. 

Gentlemen, we only have history to look at.  But these things tend to escalate.  Somebody once spat on the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Adlai Stevenson, down in Dallas, Texas, and then worse happened a few weeks later.

You know, there is something in the Zeitgeist right now where somebody can—some whack job group can send out a letter to governors and say you have got three days to get out of there. 

I would take that as a threat.  The FBI says it‘s a group with no actual violence in its record.  What do we make of all this?

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  The health care seems to be extended beyond health care now.  We kind of thought, in August—during August, there was all this intensity.  You went to these town hall meetings and there was people like yelling about, here‘s the bill.  Have you read the bill, Congressman?

I thought that would sort of dissipate, but it seems to have only gotten more aggressive in the last few weeks.  So, I think—I don‘t know what—I don‘t know where we are headed next, but it seems to have gotten more intense these last few weeks. 

MATTHEWS:  Nazi, Nazi, Nazi, they were yelling a while back. 



In November of 2009, during—there was a health care rally on Capitol Hill that was sponsored by the House Republican leadership who all appeared there, Boehner, Cantor, Michele Bachmann, and others.  And people in the audience, some Tea Party types, were shouting Nazi, Nazi, Nazi. 

Now, the problem is, extreme rhetoric can create a comfort zone for people who want to take extreme action. 

MATTHEWS:  A license.  Socialistic health care. 

CORN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just—there is the picture of the president, that kind of white-faced president of him as the Joker. 


CORN:  If you are out there calling someone a Nazi, what‘s the next logical step?  It‘s like Brad Pitt in “Inglourious Basterds.”  We‘re going to kill those Nazis. 


CORN:  So, if you—and the Republican leadership has been at least abetting it to a certain degree. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the walrus, walrus underwater, Rush Limbaugh?  What do you make of a guy calling this a regime today to the D.C.  newspaper?  He calls this government a regime.

I have never heard that language.  This is not Stalin.  This isn‘t some junta.  He was elected the same way, and a Republican would be elected.  And next time, if a Republican is elected, it will be a Republican administration.  It won‘t be a regime. We don‘t have regimes in this country.  We have Franklin Roosevelt.  We have Truman.  We have Ronald Reagan.  We have administrations. 

To use that word regime suggests to me, just kill the Nazis, regime change.  More part of this neo-con lingo.

BACON:  It certainly does.  I disagree with David slightly here.  I‘m not sure the Republican leadership could stop these things if they wanted to.  John Boehner -- 

MATTHEWS:  What about waiving the flag, the “don‘t tread on me” flag, the Gadsden Flag, that was rabble-rousing. 

CORN:  They appeared before an audience that was shouting Nazis, referring to the Democrats and Obama, and they didn‘t stop it.  They didn‘t say don‘t do that.  So they actually got the permit for the crowd to appear and do that.  It seems at least it‘s implied acceptance.

BACON:  They should condemn the rhetoric.  I‘m not sure John Boehner is the leader of the Tea—if John Boehner condemned it tomorrow, do you think these things would stop?

MATTHEWS:  Let me follow you up there, Perry, follow you up on the post.  Why do you think the president—let‘s spread this around a bit—do  you think he is—we had this Michele Bachmann, who is a figure on the right.  She was saying that Nancy Pelosi, by walking past all the protesters during the vote over health care, was stirring them up, by creating kind of a civil rights rally look to it, that would trigger them.  Do you buy that?  Did that trigger the crowd up?

BACON:  I don‘t think that triggered the crowd up.  The imagery with her and John Lewis was, I think, a design, in some ways, to say we are standing together. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it meant to be provocative? 

BACON:  I don‘t think it was meant to be provocative.  I wouldn‘t agree with that at all.  Yes.  

MATTHEWS:  What are about the president zeroing in—the new phrase is calling out, going after Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, the fact that he is using the names of basically personalities, not office holders?  Is that something you think is to provoke more trouble?  Does he want them to hate him?  Does he want them to be the chief haters?  I‘m trying to be open minded here.  You‘re on the liberal side.  Why is the president naming names? 

CORN:  Listen, because we all know who the 80 pound gorillas or elephants are in the room.  He was acknowledging reality. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s walrus in this case. 

CORN:  You can pick whatever you want.  I think the president was acknowledging it.  He was doing it in a calm way. 

MATTHEWS:  I think his professorial manner, his very eloquent way of speaking drives them crazy. 

CORN:  Of course it does.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to go right.  Please all come back.  Perry, it‘s great to see you here.  Thank you, Perry Bacon of “The Washington Post,” David Corn of “Mother Jones.”

Up next, the Republican party is divided right now on whether to campaign on a strategy of repealing health care as a slogan.  Some in the party are pushing for it; others say it will never happen, just admit that.  Should Republicans push the repeal button right now and take it seriously or not?  Or do they know better? 

Today, I‘m wearing this pin, by the way, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.  It‘s a disorder that affects tens of millions of adults and children.  For more information on autism, what you can do, go to  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We are back.  Republicans have been talking a big game about running on the pledge of repealing health care.  You hear that line, we‘re going to repeal it.  Now some are actually distancing themselves from that promise.  Senator Bob Corker, for example, said just last week, “I think that‘s probably not going to be practical.” 

Earlier this week, the senator told a group of people at Vanderbilt, quote, “the fact is that‘s not going to happen, OK?” 

So both Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk is out there, and North Carolina Senator Richard Burr recently backed away from the idea of repeal.  Let‘s listen. 


REP. MARK KIRK ®, ILLINOIS:  It is not at this point within our capability.  We do not have the votes.  We lost.  We absolutely lost.  The question that I have before me is, how do I help my constituents understand the tremendous tax burden that is about to hit? 

SEN. RICHARD BURR ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  It may not be total repeal at the end of the day.  It may be a series of fixes over the course of this bill getting enacted that enable us to possibly change. 


MATTHEWS:  So if Republicans plan to campaign on repeal and replace, shouldn‘t they stop members from saying it won‘t work?  John Feehery‘s a Republican strategist, and Karen Finney is a Democratic strategist and a former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.  John  worked for the speaker of the House. 

Let me ask you, John, first, is this smart ball to say we‘re going to repeal? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  There is some precedent for repeal.  In ‘88 and ‘89 with the catastrophic bill, they repealed the legislation in whole cloth. 

MATTHEWS:  The same people that passed it. 

FEEHERY:  The same people that passed it.  In 2004, Nancy Pelosi promised to repeal the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, and she largely got a lot of her repeal done in this legislation.  So I don‘t know if you‘re going to be able to repeal the whole thing.  Obviously the president is there.  You need a two thirds vote. 

But you might be able to do a piece meal thing.  The fact of the matter is that 2014 is when most of this bill takes place.  So you can ultimately repeal it.  Is it practical?  Is it politically viable?  I think that it is one rallying cry for the Republican base who will not like this legislation.  From that perspective, I think it could be good. 


MATTHEWS:  It seems to me there‘s going to be a lot of beneficiaries to health care reform.  Some people won‘t like it, but there‘s going to be a lot of beneficiaries.  I have watched history, as we all have.  I don‘t care if it‘s the British, the French, any government that puts through a national health care plan has never had to get rid of it, because once people get used to this—it is the reason why your party is afraid of it.  You‘re afraid people will get hooked on this kind of government role, and they‘ll never want to say goodbye to it.  Your thoughts, Karen?

I never heard of a government—Winston Churchill, the great man, couldn‘t get rid of British health care when he came in ‘51.  Right?  You know this stuff.

FEEHERY:  That‘s why I mention catastrophic.  With catastrophic was—why is it similar?  Because the benefits came last and the pain came first, just like this legislation.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘m going to be nice to you. 

You had a tough week.  I won‘t talk about strippers. 


FINNEY:  Strippers.

MATTHEWS:  That was fairly cheap.  OK, go?


FINNEY:  How do you possibly, though, run on a message where you go to people and say we‘re going to take something away?  You know your kids that you you‘ve been able to sign up, who are 26 years old, and not able to get a job right now, and you‘ve been able to put them on your health care, we want to take that away because we want to repeal.  That‘s not exactly a message that I think is going to resonate with the American people.

I think Chris is right.  Once you‘ve been able to do that, I don‘t think you‘re going to want to have that taken away from you.  The other piece of this is, when are the Republicans going to realize you lost.  You lost the election.  We won the election.  President Obama campaigned for two years on the idea he was going to pass health care reform.  He won by a significant majority. 

What did he do?  He did exactly what he said he was going to do.  If you don‘t like it, you got to get out there and you got to win, or put some ideas on table. 

MATTHEWS:  You know those people they hire, the doctors, ex-doctors, whose specialty is finding ways the person didn‘t have the contract right, didn‘t sign the right form or whatever, and yank it away from them, some big coverage at the last minute before an operation.  I saw it on “The Good Wife” the other night, for example.  It happens.  Michael Moore pointed out.  Do you want to be the one that says we‘re bringing back those people that screw you out of coverage?  Do you want to bring them back? 

FEEHERY:  I certainly do not.  That‘s why most Republicans are talking about repeal and replace with something.  You can have significant insurance regulation—


FINNEY:  Your own people don‘t have the votes to do it. 

FEEHERY:  We‘re talking about—people are going to want to take away those tax increases.  They don‘t want the tax increases. 

MATTHEWS:  Nobody wants tax increases. 

FEEHERY:  The fact of the matter is this—

FINNEY:  We‘re talking about taking away benefits, John. 

FEEHERY:  There‘s some sort of perception that this legislation is bad for the insurance industry.  Why has their stock gone up like 40 percent in the last four months?  Because it‘s not bad for the insurance industry.  It‘s actually very good for the insurance industry. 

If you really want to regulate the insurance industry, you can do that without giving them this huge, massive thing that‘s going to give them a big, big—

FINNEY:  Getting back to the point, you saying that your message in the fall is not going to be repeal and replace? 

FEEHERY:  I think we should repeal this legislation. 

FINNEY:  That‘s going to be the message.  That‘s what you‘re going to run on. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House.  Here he is, John Boehner, trying to have it both ways.  One day, he said repeal will be difficult.  The next day he said—well, he‘s talking it up.  Let‘s listen. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  With a Democrat president for the next two and a half years, even if we gained the majority, it‘s going to be very difficult to repeal this bill outright. 

The tax hikes, the Medicare cuts, the job-killing mandates, the accounting gimmicks, the back-room deals, we‘re going to fight to repeal them at every single turn.  The fact is this should be repealed and should be replaced with common sense steps that will help reduce the cost of insurance in America. 


MATTHEWS:  Which of these two interesting guys do you believe, the first John Boehner or the second John Boehner?  He‘s amazingly interesting, this guy.  Which one do you believe? 

FEEHERY:  I‘m a big fan of John Boehner.

MATTHEWS:  Which one?  The one that says repeal or the one that says you can‘t do it? 

FEEHERY:  I think you can do it, probably not until after the Republicans have both houses and you have the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Does tanning get covered under this bill? 

FEEHERY:  Actually, they do get—


FINNEY:  Republicans have a hard time getting those tanning beds paid for. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Great to have you here, guys.  Happy Friday—you don‘t say Happy Good Friday.  But we‘re all—thank you for coming. 

FINNEY:  Good to see you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Feehery.

When we return, a potential bombshell about the fate of one of the heroes of humanity.  This is a serious topic coming up.  Raoul Wallenberg, one of the real heroes of a terrible time.  He was a hero during World War II, when he saved thousands of Jewish lives.  We‘re watching HARDBALL.  We‘re going to be back in just a minute on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish this Good Friday with new information about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, one of the heroes of humanity.  Ever since World War II, during which he saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jewish people, all we knew was that the Soviet Union said the greatly admired Wallenberg had died in July of 1947, two years after the end of the war. 

Apart from this claim by the Soviet government, which can hardly be trusted, the fate of Wallenberg has been one of the great mysteries of the Second World War.  The reason is deep and powerful.  At a time when six million people were being put to death because of their religious and cultural background, this man and his colleagues managed to save countless numbers of Hungarian Jews. 

Yesterday, based upon information from the archives of the Russian Federal Security Service, heir to the KGB, came word that a certain prisoner number seven was interrogated six days after Wallenberg had officially been reported dead.  The information was given to members of an investigation team that had been working on this case for years. 

Raoul Wallenberg is one of the true heroes in resisting the Holocaust.  When he was stationed in Budapest in the last year of World War II, the Swedish diplomat prevented the deportation of at least 20,000 Jews who would otherwise have ended up in Nazi death camps.  He took the additional step of stopping German officers from attacking the city‘s Jewish ghetto that held another 70,000 people.

Wallenberg‘s method was to issue protective passports which identified people as Swedish subjects.  They weren‘t legal, but they looked real and were accepted by Hungarian and German authorities, some of whom had to be bribed to believe it.  As part of his effort, Wallenberg rented over 30 buildings in Budapest and declared them to be Swedish territory, and therefore covered by diplomatic immunity.  He put up signs like the Swedish Library and the Swedish Research Institute, and hung Swedish flags out front.  Those buildings eventually held 10,000 people he was saving. 

Wallenberg once jumped on the roof of a troop train heading for death camps and, ignoring orders from the German soldiers, began handing out phony passports to people on the train, people were desperately reaching for them.  He then led those people he had saved to a caravan of waiting cars and they all drove off to safety. 

This news that Wallenberg was being interrogated in Libyanka (ph) Prison in Moscow on July 23rd of 1947, a week after his previously reported death, opens up the whole question of what happened to this good and courageous man.  We need to learn more.  We need to remember him, and how a good man, even in the midst of the worst, can do his best. 

That‘s the show this Good Friday.  Thanks for watching.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 



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