Guests: Jonathan Turley, David Corn, Joe Cirincione.
HOST: The teed-off party.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Who‘s in charge? Are we witnessing a hostile takeover of the GOP? Mitt
Romney managed to win this weekend‘s Republican straw vote by just one vote
over the man who essentially inspired the tea party movement, Ron Paul.
And right behind Paul was that other tea party lucky charm, Sarah Palin.
Can the Republicans be a party of opposition and still nominate a problem-
solving mainstreamer like Romney? Will they?
Also, Supreme Court sweepstakes. Should President Obama break with
the recent tradition of nominating judges and go with a politician, someone
with real-life experience? We‘ll look at the president‘s the short list
and my short list, which I have to tell you are all people who‘ve been
elected to something.
Plus: Eating up the whoppers. The government is creating death
panels. Global warming‘s a hoax. There were no terror attacks under
President Bush. There were no racial criticisms of those who voted for
health care. It‘s bad enough that people on the right and their allies in
the media repeat this kind of nonsense. What‘s a lot more troubling is
that millions of Americans are eating it up. We‘re going to get into the
world that never wonders, it just eats the stuff up.
Also, in case you missed it, Tina Frey is back as Sarah Palin, and
we‘ve got her in the “Sideshow.”
And speaking of Palin, “Let Me Finish” tonight by commenting on that
cover story on this week‘s “National Journal” that makes the case that
Sarah Palin may not know much but at least knows what she wants to say.
Well, let‘s start with the GOP. “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an
MSNBC political analyst. He spent the weekend in New Orleans covering the
Southern Republican Leadership Conference...
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Somebody had to
MATTHEWS: ... and Eugene Robinson‘s a Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist for “The Washington Post.” Gentlemen, the Republican Party—
I‘m amazed by this party. It‘s almost a wonderful sort of YAFer
convention, Young Americans for Freedom now...
MATTHEWS: ... a lot of young people having fun, no real grown-ups
around, no boring people like Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, no elected
MATTHEWS: ... just these fun people having fun.
FINEMAN: Well, first of all, it was New Orleans.
FINEMAN: It was New Orleans. Somebody had to go there...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a great place to go.
FINEMAN: ... so it was difficult, but I...
MATTHEWS: You were in the corner.
FINEMAN: ... I had to go.
MATTHEWS: Did you get your beignets?
FINEMAN: I had to go.
FINEMAN: But these are the YAFers grown up. These are—this is a
generation ago, literally so, kids who liked William F. Buckley and read
“The National Review” down in the South, when all the white voters,
conservative white voters were still in the Democratic Party. They moved
en mass in one of the great political migrations of modern times from the
Democratic Party to the Republican Party. They‘re now the establishment in
the South and in any—in a way, they are the core...
MATTHEWS: Who are their heroes? I am stunned at Ron Paul being
bashed around—well, let‘s look now. You‘re looking now, by the way, at
the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., as the president
welcomes heads of the delegations to the nuclear security summit. There he
is. The question is, who‘s leading? Because Ron Paul was bashed apart.
Remember how Rudy Giuliani would smack him—smack him down every time he
said something about 9/11...
MATTHEWS: ... last time around?
MATTHEWS: Now he‘s tied with Mitt Romney.
FINEMAN: Well, just briefly, the grass roots of the Republican Party
has moved in Ron Paul‘s direction since the last election. They view
Barack Obama as Mr. Big Government or worse, and so therefore, Ron Paul‘s
anti-government “party of no” philosophy fits the mood at the grass roots
of the Republican Party right now. It really does.
MATTHEWS: Gene, it‘s amazing. The party‘s not the party of the
elected Capitol Hill boring crowd.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and
this must be terrifying to the elected Capitol Hill boring crowd and to
establishment candidates like Mitt Romney, who thought it was all teed up
for him the next time. And you have this base that has drunk an awful lot
of the Kool-Aid, basically.
MATTHEWS: Well, what are they going to do when they have to pick a—
they‘re going to have a lot of fun this November because it‘s all going to
be about watching concession speeches from the Democrats they manage to
beat, right? That‘s fun. That‘s just like the beheadings, I should say,
in the French revolution. They‘ll just watch that.
MATTHEWS: But at some point, that‘ll be over and they have to pick a
leader. And I have a sense they don‘t have a leader.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think Sarah Palin‘s their real leader. I think
they like the idea of the Libertarian movement, no government, no grown-ups
around, a lot of freedom. But they don‘t really think she‘s president.
FINEMAN: Well, couple things. First of all, in talking to delegates
there, even though—and especially the women, conservative women, really
idolize Sarah Palin. A lot of them told me they don‘t really want her to
be the nominee, if she runs, because then they‘re afraid the election will
be about Sarah Palin and not what they think it should be about, which is
Barack Obama, so...
MATTHEWS: And that‘s their winner.
ROBINSON: Duh! I guess it would be about Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s the unifying...
FINEMAN: And they all—that‘s what the delegates—these people
are very smart, experienced people...
MATTHEWS: Do they know what they‘re saying?
MATTHEWS: They‘re united about negative.
FINEMAN: Yes. They...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t have a leader.
FINEMAN: Yes. That‘s what they‘re saying, but they want—I think
that, strategically, they prefer a bland negative than a negative who
becomes the whole story of the campaign, which is what Sarah Palin...
MATTHEWS: What do they think...
MATTHEWS: What do they say are Sarah Palin‘s negatives? Do they see
them, or just that the media doesn‘t like her?
FINEMAN: No, they think that the liberal—to quote one of them that
I talked to, a woman from Texas, she said, The liberal media will
annihilate Sarah Palin and the election will be about Sarah Palin and not
about Barack Obama.
ROBINSON: But Howard, you were there. So if you really believe in
Ron Paul or in Sarah Palin, why would you trust Mitt Romney? Why would you
MATTHEWS: See, that‘s what I don‘t get.
ROBINSON: ... Governor Pawlenty?
FINEMAN: Well, I‘m not...
MATTHEWS: These are government guys. You can‘t keep saying what
happens in Massachusetts stays in Massachusetts. He was pro-life—or
pro-choice in Massachusetts, for abortion rights. He was for a health care
system in Massachusetts, which I was just reading today was able to ensure
all but 100,000 people. That‘s 500,000 more people have insurance up
there. The 600,000 didn‘t have it. Now 500,000 do have it. He has done
an incredible job of insuring that state. How could he now call it
FINEMAN: Well, you called—you called him a problem-solving
FINEMAN: That‘s fighting words. Those are fighting words in...
FINEMAN: ... in this meeting I was just at.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a guy that may be able to thread the needle. And
I‘m going to watch this guy. He‘s a tough customer. But I get (INAUDIBLE)
this is an office holder at the highest level who is able to turn on the
troops, excite them. Here he is, is Mike Pence of Indiana, a U.S.
congressman in the leadership, turning them on. Let‘s listen—down in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: Democrats may have had their way on the
third Sunday in March, but the American people are going to have their say
on the first Tuesday in November.
The president actually said to advocates of repeal, Go for it. Well,
Mr. President, count on it!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, was that a George W. impression or what?
ROBINSON: No, but he‘s pretty good. I mean, you—again, you were
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, that‘s understated, but they love it.
ROBINSON: But to—but to—but to hear that speech, I thought it
was very strong.
FINEMAN: Yes, they were all performing well. Like Rick Perry, the
governor of Texas, not known as a great speech giver. In front of this
crowd, it was all like call-and-response. I mean, they were all jacked up,
the politicians were, to speak to this crowd with the anti-government
MATTHEWS: Did he try any of that secessionist stuff there?
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, sort of. He said there‘s, you know, limited
government. There‘s only a few things the government should do and we
should send the rest back to Washington and leave Texas alone...
FINEMAN: ... all that stuff, all that stuff.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s have some fun. It‘s not too early to look at who‘s
winning. Let‘s take a look at the straw vote down there at the Southern
Republican Leadership Conference. Here is Mitt Romney in the lead with a
strong organization but basically tying Ron Paul, the guy who‘s just the
little engine that could, Sarah Palin behind him. This is like watching
the Masters, isn‘t it! Sarah Palin—there‘s Newt Gingrich at 18. And
way back in the pack is—oh, poor Mike Huckabee. I guess—I guess Fox
News hasn‘t been that good for him, 4, and then Pawlenty, who just can‘t
seem to get out of the basement there, Gene.
ROBINSON: Yes, Pawlenty can‘t get out of the basement. Huckabee
needs a better time slot, apparently.
ROBINSON: Like, on Saturday night!
MATTHEWS: It is so (INAUDIBLE)
ROBINSON: It‘s not working.
MATTHEWS: OK, I‘m going back to the central question...
FINEMAN: Those numbers mean nothing.
MATTHEWS: ... of this conversation between—how‘d you—did they
like you down there, Howard? Did they see you as the liberal enemy, or
how‘d they treat you?
FINEMAN: Well, I was...
MATTHEWS: Did they treat you as an independent?
FINEMAN: All the reporters were in the back, you know, at the tables
in the back. And I made it my business to get up and stay away from those
FINEMAN: ... and wander the crowd. I said, Oh, that liberal media.
I don‘t know what (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Did you turn your back on the media? Did you separate
FINEMAN: Well, when necessary, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the central question. Can a party
based upon—as I called it, the teed-off party, not the tea party—
based on anger and negativity, which that woman was very kind to give you
that interview and say, We‘d rather run against than run for because
running for is a narrower base, and also we have to play defense. Maybe
this time around, they just do burn the house down. They just say, We‘re
going to burn down that Democratic house and we‘re going to enjoy the
concession speeches and we‘re just going to beat the hell out of them. We
don‘t need a leader. Is that possible?
FINEMAN: Well, that may work in the mid-terms because if you look at
the Gallup polls, Republican voters are really enthusiastic. And there‘s,
like, a 20-point enthusiasm gap on...
MATTHEWS: To burn the house down.
FINEMAN: No, on “Are you likely to vote.”
MATTHEWS: And they want to vote to vote against.
FINEMAN: Yes. And so the Republicans have a 20-point edge in
enthusiasm for definitely voting in the fall, and that‘s because of their
anti-Obama, anti-government, anti-health care, anti-stimulus, anti-
everything rhetoric. I don‘t think it works in a presidential election. A
MATTHEWS: But we‘re not talking that yet.
FINEMAN: ... is different kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: OK, right now, Gene...
FINEMAN: But in the mid-term, I think it does.
MATTHEWS: This year looks like they‘re going to knock off the
Speaker, knock off—even win the Senate, if this rage continues, this
ROBINSON: I think they have a good shot at the House. I don‘t think
that‘s written in stone yet. I think it‘s very difficult for them to get
the Senate just because of the way the races...
MATTHEWS: They have to win 10 seats.
ROBINSON: Yes. But...
MATTHEWS: But it seems to me...
MATTHEWS: You know what I don‘t see is a sympathy party. We‘ve got
the tea party, but I don‘t see much sympathy party for—to use the old
MATTHEWS: ... tea and sympathy. Where is this movement for Obama out
there? Where are these meetings? Where are these rallies? Where are
their Southern Democratic Leadership Conference? Where is this event going
on of active Democratic Party politics this year? Is there any locus for
FINEMAN: Well, I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: Do you see it anywhere?
FINEMAN: I don‘t see it. At least I...
MATTHEWS: Where‘s the...
FINEMAN: Obviously, I wasn‘t going to see it in New Orleans this
weekend because all the Republicans are there. But if you talk to
Democrats around the country and you go to places where Democrats should be
enthusiastic, they‘re a little muted. I think they still very much like
Obama. They want him to succeed. But I think they‘re muted right now, and
a lot of them are not that enthusiastic about...
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘ll tell you...
ROBINSON: ... but I think—I think—I think...
FINEMAN: Give them time. Give them time.
ROBINSON: ... they‘re a bit less muted than they were before the
health care bill happened.
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s my concern in what we might see here. What we
might see is so much anger this time around that the Democrats‘ chances of
winning the states that they won last time, the surprise states, North
MATTHEWS: How‘d they do in Florida eventually? Who won?
ROBINSON: They won. Democrats won.
MATTHEWS: Three states. They could get the—they have a Southern
strategy. I was talking to Dan Rather this weekend. He thinks there‘s a
Southern strategy afoot in the Republican Party. They‘re going to begin
their campaign for 2012 by locking up the solid South again on the right.
ROBINSON: First thing...
MATTHEWS: Lock it up!
ROBINSON: ... declare Confederate Heritage Month.
ROBINSON: That‘s the first thing you do.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is all part of it.
FINEMAN: And don‘t mention slavery when you do it.
ROBINSON: Oh, of course not!
MATTHEWS: But all part of this. But all part of this is an effort to
just solidify the South as your beginning block to bring down Obama. Take
away Florida. Take away North Carolina. Take away Virginia. And move
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s been the Republican strategy for a generation,
and it began with this group, by the way, that first met in 1969, the
Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
FINEMAN: Yes, that‘s really where it began, with a guy named Clark
Reed (ph) in Mississippi. And there‘s a wonderful guy still there...
FINEMAN: ... is still there and very enthusiastic, by the way, about
the Republicans‘ chances this year.
MATTHEWS: And he‘s still there.
FINEMAN: Oh, yes, very much so.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a young party, that Dixiecrat-turned-Republican party,
but they seem to be the heart of the Republican Party right now.
ROBINSON: Oh, definitely.
MATTHEWS: And you throw in Ron Paul and the—and the—what do you
MATTHEWS: ... not the secessionists, the Libertarian—what a group.
Anyway, thank you, guys...
ROBINSON: That‘s all (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: ... for joining us. Good reporting down there. And I want
to know how they—did they like you?
FINEMAN: I don‘t know, Chris. I really...
FINEMAN: I don‘t factor that in. Just so they...
FINEMAN: ... just so they don‘t throw me out.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a love business. It‘s not the love.
FINEMAN: It‘s not.
MATTHEWS: “The Love Boat.” Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank
you, Gene Robinson.
Coming up, a battle is brewing over the Supreme Court, the new
opening, of course, John Paul Stevens leaving. Are Republicans spoiling
for a fight? Do they want to filibuster? In a minute during the break,
Senate majority leader Harry Reid is on track to set a new record, by the
way. Don‘t miss it. He‘s going to beat perhaps another filibuster.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Senate Republicans are gearing
up for a showdown over President Obama‘s Supreme Court pick, which is
coming. Should he go against convention, the president, and nominate a
politician with real world experience? He talks about it. Will he do it?
Professor Jonathan Turley‘s a law professor at George Washington
University. I am an amateur, not a lawyer. I mention that occasionally.
MATTHEWS: But I do have an interest in the Supreme Court because it
seems to make huge decisions in our life, maybe more important than
Congress, which drives conservatives especially crazy. I‘m going to turn
this over to you, the thoughts. Is it possible—is it good that the
president look beyond the usual list of appellate judges and pick somebody
like—oh, like, Janet Napolitano, like Jennifer Granholm, like Hillary
Clinton? They say they‘re not going to pick Clinton today, but somebody
like that, a politician.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, there‘s
certainly some track record for that. You‘ve got Earl Warren, who proved
to be a brilliant Chief Justice. He was able to craft sweeping decisions
during his time. He was not particularly an intellectual leader in that
sense, but he was a great leader of the Court. You also had people like
Hugo Black, who would be listed by anyone as one of the top Justices of all
time. He was a senator, just as Warren was a governor.
MATTHEWS: Tennessee, right?
TURLEY: I believe so, yes. And he was fantastic. He was brilliant.
TURLEY: And so you do have a track record for that. The question,
however, is there anything in the history of these potential nominees that
would indicate that they would have the intellectual depth to help—to
push the Court? There‘s a difference with being a Justice and Chief
Justice. Warren was Chief Justice. That gives you a lot of control. With
an associate Justice, you‘re looking for someone who can make a
contribution beyond collegiality to moving the Court intellectually.
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking at big cases coming down the road, the Boies-
Ted Olson case, the same-sex challenge to the Prop 8 in California coming
down the road. I commented on this Friday night, the idea that somebody
could lead five judges, that could take Anthony Kennedy and have him join a
liberal to centrist coalition and really make a major ruling like that.
Which of the nominees do you think could do that, be a leader not just of
four liberals but a leader of five judges?
TURLEY: Well, that‘s a very good question. I actually think Diane
Wood of the 7th circuit...
MATTHEWS: Tell us about her. How could she lead?
TURLEY: Well, she‘s—she‘s blazingly bright. She‘s very, very
smart. She‘s very collegial. She‘s respected by judges on both sides of
the political—ends of the political spectrum. And she does have that
ability. And I have to say, even though Kagan, Elena Kagan, the solicitor
general, is not very popular with civil libertarians, she has proven that
she is a very significant leader. At Harvard law school, she combined a
TURLEY: Now, with her, however, she‘s viewed by civil libertarians
much like the president is, embracing many of the Bush policies. Some of
the key cases where Stevens is the fifth vote could well flip with Kagan,
and that has civil libertarians very concerned.
MATTHEWS: Like what? Where could it go to the right?
TURLEY: Well, you‘ve got a number of questions on the tribunals
decision in Hamdan in 2006. You‘ve got Rasul in 2004. Stevens played a
very critical role.
TURLEY: And Kagan is viewed with suspicion by—probably...
TURLEY: ... more than suspicion...
MATTHEWS: What happened to liberal judges? I mean, I grew up with—
you and I grew up with...
MATTHEWS: ... grew up with Earl Warren and that Court was pretty
liberal. It did things like the Brown. You couldn‘t have separate but
equal education. Gideon, you had a right to a public counsel—you had a
right to a lawyer. Loving, you couldn‘t outlaw interracial marriage.
MATTHEWS: You could have prayer in public school. I mean, these
things have rocked (ph) our society for 50 years, all liberal landmark
MATTHEWS: And yet, recently, you haven‘t seen that kind of—except
now corporations can give money to campaigns, not exactly a liberal
decision. Are we ever going to have a liberal Court again that does
TURLEY: Not the way the Democrats are going. You know...
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they do that? Because somebody said—Stevens
said the other day, every judge that‘s been picked to replace any judge in
the last 30 years has been more conservative than the judge leaving.
TURLEY: Well, I think—I think that‘s—that‘s true, and you know,
Stevens—one of the reasons it‘s a sad departure for Stevens is there‘s a
“greatest generation” of the Court that you‘ve just described, just like
the World War II veterans.
TURLEY: He was part of that greatest generation. He served with
giants. And the question is—for liberals, they often look back with
some sadness of where did that time go. And the Democrats simply are not
selecting people that can move that intellectual ball. They‘re not
selecting people who can be the types of leaders that see a legal horizon
that we may not see as—as a citizenry.
And we‘re just not getting that. We‘re—they—they—the
confirmation process makes it very difficult to select a Louis Brandeis.
It makes it very difficult to be confirmed if you ever had an interesting
thought in your life.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m trying to having an interesting thought, liberty,
substance due process, pursuit happiness, words that we find in our
founding documents or in the 14th Amendment.
And I wonder whether this court will use those words to take us to
guaranteeing the right to a same-sex marriage, to choosing your marital
MATTHEWS: You have a right to choose your marital partner, under our
Constitution. Do you think there‘s a chance that could happen, the Supreme
Court could rule?
TURLEY: Oh, I think there is a chance, but it depends a lot on these
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I mean, yes.
TURLEY: And we have had people—we had a name come out today, Judge
Thomas in Montana. You know, he has a very strong opinion involving T-
shirts where he joined a decision saying that a school could prohibit the
wearing of anti-homosexual T-shirt. It‘s a very interesting opinion.
It may also prove to be a lightning rod for him. But there are some
liberals on this list. But I think that liberals and civil libertarians
are a little bit cautious. There was some lack of support for Sonia
Sotomayor because she didn‘t have a consistently liberal voting thing.
TURLEY: The question is, is Obama willing to go to the mat to replace
a liberal icon with a true liberal? And there‘s a certain degree of
concern, bordering on mistrust, in the liberal community.
MATTHEWS: What about Elena Kagan, the one that everybody says is the
safest bet for him? She‘s solicitor general. She did stand up against the
ROTC coming to—and I don‘t agree with it, but I think the military
should always be able to recruit. It‘s up to students how they respond to
the recruitment and let them make the choice.
But she apparently said, as long as the Army had don‘t ask, don‘t
tell, she wasn‘t going to let them recruit up at Cambridge.
MATTHEWS: That sounds like it‘s going to—that is going to make a
lot of noise.
TURLEY: It is. She‘s going to get a lot of opposition from that
side. Also, on the left, she‘s viewed, as I mentioned, a real threat in
terms of these civil liberties opinions.
TURLEY: She could flip the court. Diane Wood is more liberal, and
she could very well keep the position of John Paul Stevens.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go where we started here, a politician.
Jennifer Granholm, she got reelected as governor of Michigan, a huge state
in the middle of the country. Could she possibly—what, she is Yale Law?
I mean, she has a good degree, a first-rate degree. I guess it‘s the
number-one degree you could have.
Is she a possible? Is Janet Napolitano a possible?
TURLEY: Well, I think they are possible because they are politically
plausible. The question is, why? From the perspective...
MATTHEWS: Because he wants someone who has had experience in
executing the law, in dealing across the aisle with Republicans and
Democrats, someone who is used to being a grownup, if you will, not just a
theoretician or an academic, someone who really knows what it is like to be
an executive and to have to carry out the law.
TURLEY: I have got to tell you, I think that‘s been the criteria for
the Democrats. And that‘s why they haven‘t seen a greatest generation.
They keep on selecting people with these sound bite resumes, to say,
you know, look at the success she had as senator, look at the success she
has had as a Cabinet member.
Those successes don‘t translate well in terms of being a justice. But
if you want to transform the court, if you want to...
MATTHEWS: Give me your name.
TURLEY: Oh, I would take Harold Koh. If the president wants the
Louis Brandeis, he can walk down the hall. He‘s serving in his own
MATTHEWS: He‘s legal adviser to the State Department. And what—
why would he be a great leader on the court?
TURLEY: He‘s considered really of the quality of Louis Brandeis. You
know, he‘s one of the great, great academics of the world. He helped
articulate human rights law.
MATTHEWS: One of the top five academic lawyers?
TURLEY: Oh, I think that he—that most people put him in that
Now, he‘s very strongly against torture. He‘s very strongly against
the Bush policies. And that may prove somewhat of a negative, strangely
enough, not only among some Republicans, but Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe it‘s time for the president to unite the left
again and get the people in the netroots out on his side by picking someone
who really believes that torture is wrong, who really is willing to take a
a ramrod position out there and say, I‘m going to lead the court against
stuff I think is unconstitutional. Maybe that would excite the left and
bring it together with the center.
TURLEY: Well, it would...
MATTHEWS: I think torture does unite the center and the left.
TURLEY: I think it does. And if the president fought the way he did
on health care for a true, true voice like Harold Koh...
MATTHEWS: Will Jonathan Turley be behind it?
MATTHEWS: Will you support this man when he tries to do greatness?
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Professor Jonathan Turley of George
MATTHEWS: Up next, we‘re going to show you some clips from the newly
launched Sarah Palin network. Well, it‘s not a real network, but it‘s
better than that. It‘s in the “Sideshow,” only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and to the “Sideshow.”
First up: baking Alaska.
This weekend, Tina Fey returned with her wondrous parity of Sarah
Palin on “Saturday Night Live,” a send-up that‘s downright eerie. Here‘s
the ex-governor of Alaska debuting her own TV channel, the Sarah Palin
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
TINA FEY, ACTRESS: If you like fun, you‘re just going to love our
afternoon block of game shows. At 2:00 p.m., it‘s “Tea Party Wheel of
FEY: And, at 2:30, catch me in “Are You Smarter Than a Half-Term
Governor?” I think you will be surprised by the answer. I know I was.
FEY: And at 4:00, don‘t miss “Elites,” the show that takes C-SPAN
footage of a bunch of smarty-pants professors talking about who knows what
and re-dubs it with the teacher‘s voice from Charlie Brown.
FEY: Do you hate gotcha journalism? Well, get ready for “Hey,
Journalist, I Gotcha,” where I re-edit my interviews with journalists to
make them look like they were the ones that were woefully unprepared.
FEY: So, Katie, what newspapers do you read?
FEY: It‘s an easy question, Katie.
FEY: Well, better luck next time. Gotcha.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: As I got to in my commentary the other tonight, I‘m afraid
this attempt to relaunch Palin isn‘t just a joke.
Anyway, next, the power of prayer.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been at odds with state‘s
teachers union over plans to cut education funding, a conflict which
prompted Bergen Education Association leaders last week to issue this memo
containing a mock prayer.
Here it is, their prayer—quote—“Dear lord, this year, you have
taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah
Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman,
Billy Mays. I just want you to know that Chris Christie is my favorite
governor,” which, of course, could be interpreted as a death wish against
The teachers union president defended the memo, saying it was a joke
never intended to be made public.
Well, Governor Christie, however, isn‘t laughing. He called the
prayer beyond the pale.
Well, I have a memo to the teachers union. When you said something to
17,000 people, you‘re making it public.
Finally, out of proportion. The White House press corps was left
behind Saturday when the president earlier than expected to attend his
daughter‘s soccer game in Northwest Washington. The Associated Press had a
scathing writeup of the incident, writing that—quote—“President Obama
quietly breached years of protocol on Saturday morning in leaving the White
House without the press,” who generally follow the president wherever he
My take, no harm, no foul.
Now for the “Number.” Tonight, it shows the power of tea parties over
Florida Governor Charlie Crist just announced he‘s raised $1.1 million
this quarter to run for the Senate. It sounds like a lot, until you
consider that his primary opponent, Marco Rubio, has raised $3.6 million in
the same quarter, which means the real “Big Number” is—and it‘s a big
one -- $2.5 million, that‘s how much less Crist, who has been known for his
money-raising prowess, raised than Rubio this quarter. Things go from bad
to worse for Florida‘s governor.
He‘s trailing Rubio this quarter by $2.5 million in fund-raising. And
that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.” And it tells you which way things are going
in the Republican Party.
Up next: from health care reform to terrorism to climate change,
Republicans let loose with whoppers. We‘re going to get into the
opposition‘s trouble with the truth next.
And starting today, catch all MSNBC programs, including HARDBALL,
simulcast live on satellite radio. Find us on Sirius Channel 90 and XM
channel 120. You can catch us in the car.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
Stocks climbing to close above 11000 for the first time since
September of 2008. The Dow Jones industrials ticking up 8.5 points, the
S&P adding two points, and the Nasdaq tacking on almost four points.
Aluminum maker Alcoa posting profits of 10 cents a share, in line with
expectations. Sales were slightly better than expected, but the stock is
trading flat after-hours.
And it was rMDNM_a true M&A Monday, with firms finalizing plans and
deals. Hewlett-Packard hit a nine-and-a-half-year high, after completing
an acquisition of 3Com. Power producer Mirant agreeing to take over rival
RRI Energy to create one of America‘s largest independent power
And there was a huge drop in the federal budget deficit for March,
after the White House lowered the projected costs to bail out the nation‘s
banks by $115 billion.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be wild. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Lately, it sounds like politicians and some big-name Republicans in
particular are getting away with some major whoppers. Climate change
deniers and even birthers have found friends on Capitol Hill and in state
capitals across the country.
I have to wonder, what is this fish story thing that is going to on
around the country? Make up a big story and stick with it, you can get
away with anything.
David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and
columnist for Politics Daily. And MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe
is the author of “Renegade.”
Gentlemen, I want to start with one of the big whoppers. This is from
a man everyone has respected over the years, the number one Republican, the
candidate for president last time around.
Last week, John McCain told “Newsweek” magazine, “In all seriousness I
never considered myself a maverick.” Well, that‘s in print. And he hasn‘t
denied it. Here‘s some of the tape that suggests otherwise.
Let‘s listen. This is the big whopper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: What maverick really means, what this
team of maverick really means is we understand who we work for.
When two mavericks join up, we don‘t agree on everything, but that‘s a
lot of fun.
And you have got a team of mavericks, a team of mavericks.
Send a team of mavericks.
I have been called a maverick.
Called a maverick.
My old friend and green room pal Chris Matthews, he used to like me,
but he found somebody new, somebody who opened up his eyes. We have talked
about it. I told him, maverick, I can do, but messiah is above my pay
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “Maverick, I can do.”
Gentlemen, he‘s even called—a book called “The Education of a
Maverick.” And now he‘s out saying, “I have never considered myself a
This may be the first of many examples of Republicans—the party
seems to be using a lot of these.
Richard Wolffe, doesn‘t it matter now to be completely wrong? Is it
OK to just make something—“I have never been a maverick.” Just say it?
MATTHEWS: Because your people are going to be with you, no matter
what you say.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, clearly, there‘s
political pressure on these guys, because they are playing to this really
extremist vocal base. And the technology is there that pushes stuff from
rumor-maker to lawmaker really quickly.
On the other hand, the technology also allows us to play the tape over
and over again. So...
MATTHEWS: Yes. And we will.
WOLFFE: You are caught by it, but you are seduced by it. You know,
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s a person out in Arizona right now who is sort
of a middle- to right-wing Republican who thinks McCain is a straight
shooter, right, and they watch us do this right now...
WOLFFE: The brand, maverick brand, has just been deflated somewhat.
MATTHEWS: And, Corn, David—I mean, David, what does a true
believer think when they hear that their messiah—well, I‘m sorry—in
this case, maverick, just tells them something that‘s such a whopper of a
fish story, “I have never considered myself a maverick”?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: I think the
brand is now bankrupt, Richard.
Either he‘s absurd or he has amnesia. And I think it goes to—it
shows that he‘s nothing more but—than a desperate politician who will
say whatever pops into his head at the moment for political gain. It‘s
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. You‘re on to a favorite topic.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Rudy Giuliani on “Good Morning America” in January
after the attempted Christmas plane bombing in Detroit. Let‘s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: What he should be
doing is following the right things that Bush did. One of the right things
he did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under
Bush. We have had one on Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “We had no domestic attacks under Bush.” Under Bush, we had
9/11, the worst attack on our country in its history on its homeland.
Under Barack Obama, we had an attempted guy on an airplane that got caught
David Corn, how do you say we were never struck under Bush? How does
somebody say something like that who is a New York mayor?
CORN: Well, you simply can‘t. George Orwell said that political
language is designed to make lies sound like truth and murder respectable.
And—and, as long as there‘s no real payback, other than being poked
fun at by Chris Matthews, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin and
the others will keep saying these things. If voters don‘t care about some
fundamentals, like just getting it right, then they—there is a gain for
them to say things that aren‘t true, because it sounds good.
You guys keep bringing up magic name, Sarah Palin. She‘s talking
again this week about death panels. All they had was a provision that one
congressman suggested, which is you can get payment if you want to get
counseling on those issues like, you know, deciding what you‘re going to do
at the end of your life, what kind of treatment you want at the end to keep
you alive. It happens all the time. It‘s not a death panel. She just
made that up.
WOLFFE: Right, and propagate—this stuff just doesn‘t get—it
isn‘t a misstatement.
MATTHEWS: Living wills, things like that.
WOLFFE: Death panels got repeated over and over. We are seeing the
same thing again about the 16,000 IRS agents. It has gone through—
MATTHEWS: What‘s that whopper? Tell me the whopper?
WOLFFE: The idea is that the IRS is hiring all these thousands of
people to enforce the mandate. But, in fact, the IRS‘ responsibility is to
put out tax credits, not to collect revenue. This is one of the big
government takeover --
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the governor of Texas. Guys, I have to keep moving
because this doesn‘t end. Here‘s Rick Perry last April talking to a Tea
Party crowd in Austin, which I thought was a smart town, about how Texas
has the right to secede under its terms of entry into the Union. Let‘s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: Texas is a unique place. When we came in
the Union in 1845, one of the issues was we would be able to leave if we
decided to do that.
My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pays attention.
We got a great Union. There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if
Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know,
who knows what may come out of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s the comment of a mad man. I mean, David Corn,
there‘s never been a provision in any state‘s entry into the Union that you
could split when you felt like it. That‘s what the Civil War was about.
There was a provision which would allow the state of Texas to devolve into
a number of states, six I believe, at the time it chose to do so, but
wanted more senators. But never leave the Union. How did he make that up
and get away with it?
CORN: Chris, it‘s not just a matter of getting things wrong. There‘s
an intent here. It‘s demagoguery. It‘s saying things to whip up your
base, your followers, to gain political advantage. We saw back in the
2000s, the early part of the decade, a whole campaign on the Bush
administration, you know better than anyone else, to use assertions that
weren‘t true to get the country into war. Unfortunately, it works over and
MATTHEWS: Now for a refreshing change of tone. Here‘s Tom Coburn,
who I come to respect tremendously for what he‘s done. Here‘s Senator Tom
Coburn of Oklahoma talking to a woman in a town hall meeting in Oklahoma
City, on March 21st—not too long ago. Let‘s listen to this refreshing
departure from this big whopperdom (ph). Here it is. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they can put us in prison, take away our
prison—take away our liberty, are they not trampling on our Fifth
Amendment rights by putting it under the IRS, because the IRS thinks you‘re
guilty until proven innocent.
SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: I want everyone else to ask a
question. The intention is not to put anyone in jail. That makes for good
TV news on Fox. But that isn‘t the intention.
There is the intention, though, to use the Internal Revenue Service to
hold you accountable, and you have to prove that you have bought health
insurance. I want to tell you, I do a lot of reading every day, and I‘m
disturbed that we get things like what this lady said and others have said
on other issues that are so disconnected to what I know to be the facts.
And that comes from somebody that has an agenda that‘s other than the best
interest of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Full credit to Tom Colburn.
WOLFFE: Let me just contrast that, though, with another conservative
senator, no less conservative, Richard Shelby. Town hall meeting last
year, someone says the president isn‘t born in America. He goes, well,
they say he‘s born in Hawaii, but I haven‘t seen the birth certificate.
When you‘re in these town hall meetings, it‘s not just about
pandering. It‘s about setting the record straight and being a leader, a
political leader. I think Tom Coburn takes the award. He did it. But not
everyone—it‘s not about being conservative or not. It‘s about being
true to principles. He showed he is. Others have not been that honorable.
MATTHEWS: You know, it seems, David, you have to beat up some people
to admit the truth. They just keep playing these games. They waffle.
They pander. They let the person believe the worst. They‘re standing in
there. They‘re getting paid by the public to tell them what‘s going on.
And they let the dishonesty just feed on itself and they keep it going.
David, your thoughts? Don‘t they have some responsibility to the court of
public opinion to tell them what they know?
CORN: You would think they would. You think everybody does. I don‘t
have as much—I don‘t think that Glenn Beck has as much an obligation to
tell the truth as an elected member of our legislature. Anyone who is
elected to office, who wants to be a true leader, has to be able to make
their case, for a conservative, liberal policies, whatever they want, on
Why do people lie? Because it gives them the upper hand in a
political debate. It‘s harder to win a debate against somebody who is
lying. That‘s why they do it.
MATTHEWS: The other problem is there‘s no penalty box. Thank you
very much, David Corn. Thank you, Richard Wolffe. Up next, the president
is hosting a nuclear summit with one thing in mind: keeping arms—nuclear
arms away from bad people who are dangerous. Will he succeed? This could
be the most important topic of our time.
But in one minute, Senator Scott Brown says no to Sarah Palin. This
is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts turned down
an invitation to attend a Sarah Palin headlined Tea Party rally this week.
Well, some suspect that Brown may be seeking to distant himself from the
Tea Party members who, in some ways, helped him to win election. His
office says the senator was too busy in Washington and could not leave to
attend that rally on Wednesday. Interesting things going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term,
medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist
organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That‘s President Obama on
the seriousness of the threat we face in this world from nuclear weapons.
And to lessen this threat, he has 47 world leaders in Washington right now,
as we speak, for a nuclear security summit that started today.
Joe Cirincione is president of the Ploughshares Fund and a member of
the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you very much, sir. I watched you
this morning on MSNBC early today. You were excellent. That‘s why I
really wanted to get you back tonight.
I think most us grew up like I did in my age. We grew up hiding under
JOE CIRINCIONE, THE PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Duck and cover.
MATTHEWS: It was very real. The nuns had us hide.
CIRINCIONE: Me too.
MATTHEWS: I appreciate the fact we were ready for that. Now we have
to be ready, it seems—and you‘re the expert—on not an attack from
Moscow, but an attack from some group that gets ahold of nuclear weapon.
Now, tell me how real is that prospect over the next 20 years, for example.
CIRINCIONE: Most experts believe that if we just keep doing what
we‘re doing, this is going to happen. One of the capitals represented at
the summit today is going to disappear in a mushroom cloud. It is just a
question of time. Al Qaeda has declared it the sacred duty of its
followers to get a nuclear weapon. They‘ve had several attempts to do so.
They haven‘t yet succeed.
MATTHEWS: Where are they shopping?
CIRINCIONE: Well, one of the places they‘re shopping is Pakistan.
Right before 9/11, Osama bin Laden had a meeting with several Pakistani
nuclear scientists to get a briefing on nuclear weapons technology. For my
money, that‘s the most dangerous country in the world. Osama bin Laden is
about 60 kilometers away from nuclear weapons material. If something
happens to that government, if it destabilizes, he‘s going to make a run
for those weapons.
MATTHEWS: Could he manage to get ahold of a weapon and launch it? Or
would he carry it by some other means to some place and blow it up there?
CIRINCIONE: Not launch. Terrorists don‘t have missiles. Terrorists
don‘t have planes.
MATTHEWS: You can get a nuclear weapon and truck it somewhere.
CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. You put it in one of the 16 million
containers that comes into U.S. Ports every day. You put it in a Fedex
MATTHEWS: What triggers it? What ignites it? What‘s the—
CIRINCIONE: There‘s no shortage of individuals who would do this. Or
MATTHEWS: How do you detonate a nuclear weapon?
CIRINCIONE: There‘s a fuse and there‘s—and/or timers to do it. We
have very secure fuses that would be very difficult to break. The
Russians, too. But lots of countries, India, Pakistan, don‘t have those
kinds of sophisticated mechanisms.
MATTHEWS: So, as you said this morning—I just want to save time
tonight for everybody watching for the first time—once you get ahold—
you have to get it from a country. People don‘t build nuclear weapons.
CIRINCIONE: Right. Terrorists can‘t build --
MATTHEWS: They have to grab it from somebody. Why don‘t they put a
market, like on eBay, and say we‘ll pay a billion dollars for a nuclear
weapon, and hope that some Russian desperate engineer will deliver it to
them? What stops that from happening.
CIRINCIONE: Nothing stops that from happening.
MATTHEWS: It hasn‘t happened. Why not?
CIRINCIONE: It hasn‘t happened yet.
MATTHEWS: Have the Soviets and the Russians been better at that? And
the republics formerly in the Soviet Union, have they been better at
harboring and keeping that stuff away from the market?
CIRINCIONE: Yes. This has been a bipartisan. Effort under Bush I,
Clinton, Bush II, we‘ve been securing the materials. We have about 60
percent of the materials in the former Soviet Republic secured. But we
don‘t have the rest of it secured. That‘s the purpose of this summit.
This should be a completely non-partisan agenda.
What‘s different is Obama‘s raising it to a high-profile issue,
accelerating the time schedule. Let‘s get it done in four years.
MATTHEWS: What good will this summit accomplish? You‘ve got 47
nations—Israel didn‘t come because they didn‘t want to be pounded on by
the Arab and other countries. South Africa‘s there. Other countries are
there. Pakistan‘s not there, right?
CIRINCIONE: Pakistan is there.
MATTHEWS: Are they going to get something done, then, with the
CIRINCIONE: Yes, so what you need is political will. We know what to
do. We have the programs. We secure about seven reactors a year, for
example, that use highly enriched uranium as a fuel. Just did a deal in
Chile. They handed over a bomb‘s worth of bomb material. We have
commitments from Ukraine today.
We‘re only doing seven a year. There are about 100 such civilian
research facilities. You‘ve got to accelerate that pace. You‘ve got to
get the individuals. Some of these countries don‘t believe the threat is
this serious. Some of them don‘t want to spend the money to secure
materials. You got to get them all to step up.
What I‘m looking for from this summit is individual commitments, an
action plan with real deadlines, and a commitment to come back, say, in two
years and hold the group accountable. Are they doing what they said they
were going to do?
MATTHEWS: Does the president‘s efforts to reduce arms by reducing
arms between us and the Soviet Union, the new Start talks, is that going to
MATTHEWS: How‘s it help?
CIRINCIONE: Historically, there‘s a very strong correlation between
what the big guys are doing with their weapons --
MATTHEWS: What‘s the connection? Some people are cynical about this.
CIRINCIONE: If you see an arms race going out of control—this was
the case in the ‘60s—other countries think, this is the way the trend is
going. We have to get some of these weapons. When you see the nuclear
powers get serious about disarmament, you see countries giving up their
MATTHEWS: Where are you—where are you on an Israeli attack on
Iran? Where would you be on that? Do we have to do it? Do we have to
support something like that?
CIRINCIONE: No. I‘m with the secretary of defense. I‘m with Bob
Gates. At most, this would buy us maybe a year, a year and a half. What
Admiral Mullen says, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, unintended
consequences. We don‘t need a third war in the Middle East. It would be
the beginning of a war, not the end of one.
MATTHEWS: Joe Cirincione, thank you. Very impressive guy.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you. My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: I need people like you around. Thank you.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Sarah Palin and
the latest headline claiming, quote, she‘s no dummy. You‘re watching
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this week‘s issue of “National
Journal,” usually a fine and valuable magazine. It‘s got a picture of
Sarah Palin on the cover, and below it the words “No Dummy.”
Here it goes, “notwithstanding her deficiencies in knowledge,” the
author tells us, “when Palin says something, it‘s from her thoughts
Well, how did the author learn that Palin is not getting her hawkish
ideas these days from some right wing adviser? Well, he cites a
conversation he had with, guess what, a Palin adviser. What a scoop.
Remember what John McCain‘s campaign manager said? Quote, “she
doesn‘t know anything.” But today, Sarah Palin is speaking about Iran and
the Middle East and all sorts of things.
How has this knowledge grown in someone who couldn‘t tell Katie Couric
what she even reads? Well, she just knows these things, according to the
What is her basis for taking positions on NATO membership for Georgia
and Ukraine, for the difficult U.S. challenges in finding a peace deal in
the Middle East, for dealing with Iran? The author in “the National
Journal” says that Palin doesn‘t get her conviction from books, but from
The scary prospect is that there are people, like this writer, in this
country eager to propel Sarah Palin, eager to use her, eager see her in a
position where the matters of grave concern about which she speaks now with
such authority could one day be matters on which she exercises real
authority, where it‘s not just her words alone that matter, but her
People are free to build her up all they want. Just don‘t tell me we
haven‘t paid a price for George W. Bush‘s rise to a position for beyond his
level of preparation, and the preparation that merited—the position that
preparation merited—and his dreaded lack of curiosity, it should have
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Catch us tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00
Eastern. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2010 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.
Watch Hardball each weeknight