Guests: Richard Engel, David Corn, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Chris Cillizza, Queen Noor, Joan Walsh, Charles Blow, Ron Reagan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Thuggery.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Violence in the streets. The peace of the anti-government demonstrations in Cairo was shattered today when pro-Mubarak thugs, almost certainly with the support of the Mubarak government, attacked protesters today with rocks, sticks—we‘re looking at the pictures—knives and whatever else they could get their hands on. Both sides hurled Molotov cocktails at each other, and more than 600 were hurt. This just one day after President Mubarak‘s refusal to step down immediately all but guaranteed that the protest would continue.
We‘re going to get an update from Cairo and also hear from Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, who‘ll join me right here in Washington.
Plus, the right-wing freak-out over Egypt. Take Glenn Beck—please. Here‘s his delusional analysis. The pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt could lead to a Muslim takeover of the world and the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate. Did you get that? While the rest of the world is trying to figure out a solution to this crisis, Beck is trying to terrify people and ultimately blame—guess who? -- President Obama and the liberals. Beck‘s “Back to the Future” machine hits fifth gear.
Also, some Republicans, governors, are using this week‘s court decision to declare the health care law dead. Others in the Senate are trying to simply kill it by voting it out of existence, even though they don‘t have the votes and they know it. Could this be time for Democrats, perhaps, to make the case of who would get hurt without health care?
And waiting game. Why would any top Republicans announce for president? Think about it. It‘s getting late in the season. They aren‘t announcing. Could it be that President Obama is seen as getting a bit stronger, in fact, strong enough to ward off any threat next year? It‘s interesting. They‘re not fighting as fast as they used to to get these nominations.
Let me finish tonight with America‘s top exporter of fear, Glenn Beck.
We start with the crisis in Egypt. Joining me right now in Cairo is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard, yesterday, King—or President Mubarak said, I‘m going to use the police if this keeps up. What is he actually doing on his behalf against the protesters right now?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There is an ongoing battle behind me in Tahrir Square, and it has been going back and forth, with each side in this conflict—and there are clearly two sides right now—gaining the upper hand. The protesters appear to be somewhat in the advantage right now.
How we got to this—this morning, there were thousands of protesters here, gathered peacefully. Today wasn‘t supposed to be a big day of demonstrations. Many of the protesters were angry after President Mubarak did not leave the country yesterday and they were planning a big march on Friday. The surprise was when thousands, which later became at least 10,000 to 15,000, pro-Mubarak supporters arrived. They arrived on horseback, they arrived with weapons, and made a surprise attack with rocks and stones and bricks, charging the demonstrators in the square, at one stage encircling all of the demonstrators, closing off the main entrance.
Everyone here believes that this was clearly government-orchestrated. The pro-Mubarak demonstrators arrived almost at the same time. They had similar slogans that they were—and banners that they were carrying. They were using at one point military tactics to seal off the key chokepoints. But the protesters, after almost losing this square, have managed to fight back.
And if you look behind me, you can see there‘s a lot of fire. The—
Tahrir Square extends back behind me almost as far as you can see. The pro-Mubarak demonstrators, who are now just in this area by the bridge, at one stage had reached to the middle of Tahrir Square. Then demonstrators brought in reinforcements and pushed them back again. They are using barricades, metal sheets to—that they‘re interlocking, almost like the Roman legions used shields, as they march forward, and then now launch Molotov cocktails back at each other.
MATTHEWS: Richard, it‘s late at night over there. Do you expect this to go through the night for the first time, this conflict in the streets?
ENGEL: It seems that way. The protesters and protest leaders we‘ve spoken to think this is it. They told NBC News they are willing to fight to the death. And they believe if they give up this movement, that Mubarak has effectively won. They are convinced that Mubarak (INAUDIBLE) that this is the crackdown against them by other means, so that the government wouldn‘t have to provoke international repercussions by sending in uniformed soldiers and tanks, instead sent in 10,000 to 15,000 irregulars, the same kind of people that Mubarak has used in the past—and I‘ve seen this done before—to stuff ballot boxes and intimidate political candidates, now fighting to keep Mubarak in office.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the—the political makeup of the crowd. Has there been any signal sent from the organizers of the protest as to their political make-up?
ENGEL: I‘ve met with a lot of the different protest leaders. They do involve the Muslim Brotherhood, and no doubt, the more violent it gets, the more influence you‘re going to see from groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, not necessarily the students and the activists who are the intellectuals and the elites who were initially organizing this. But it has largely been until now a secular movement. I can‘t guarantee it will stay that way, especially if there are a lot of people killed tonight. People could reach down into their faith to keep them going. And we have been hearing a quite a few shouts of “Allah-u Akbar.”
But the protesters, including the Muslim Brotherhood, say they want a new election. They want Mubarak out of the country. And they want a parliamentary system, and whoever emerges on top of that parliamentary system will become the prime minister. They want to reduce the powers of the presidency. They want a normal parliamentary democracy, like almost every European country has.
MATTHEWS: Richard, how long do you think this can continue economically, with the shops closed, with supplies running out? How long can the city of Cairo survive without the army cracking and saying, This can‘t go on another day?
ENGEL: It could go on at least for several more days—don‘t know exactly what that is. That was the loudest explosion we‘ve heard so far. We‘ve been hearing gunfire sporadic throughout this. But it could last a few more days. Protesters say even if they lose tonight—and at this stage, it doesn‘t look like they‘re going to lose—I was just checking the tanks because there are tanks positioned around the perimeter of the square and I thought that (INAUDIBLE) tanks might be mobilized. That is something we are watching for. At this stage, the tanks have not gone in to try and disrupt the situation.
The protesters say even if they lose tonight, they will start again tomorrow. They might not go to Tahrir. They‘re talking about gathering in another place, potentially marching on the presidential palace. And if tomorrow doesn‘t work, they say they have plans to start from mosques once again on Friday.
So what happens here tonight will be a turning point, But even if the protesters lose, it probably will not be over. This city still does have basic supplies. There is food. There is water. Obviously, it‘s been devastating for the economy, which has been—
ENGEL: -- completely paralyzed by all of this. But basic supplies, enough to sustain this, are still in abundance.
MATTHEWS: Richard Engel, you‘re the best. Take care of yourself over there. We‘ve been getting reports about other journalists who‘ve been roughed up. Take care until we see you again.
ENGEL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Joining us right now—the protests in Egypt, of course, have sent Arab leaders scrambling to institute preemptive reforms aimed at pacifying the kind of unrest we‘re seeing in the streets of Cairo. Jordan‘s King Abdullah fired his entire cabinet and replaced his prime minister this week. Yemen‘s president said today he‘d leave office before his term ends in 2013 and he‘d would remove his son as his likely successor.
The Palestinian Authority announced it would schedule long promised municipal elections. Syrian president Bashar Assad said he‘d push through political reforms to establish municipal elections and a new media law. And the government of Sudan announced a dialogue with political parties.
Joining me right now is her majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. She‘s the chairperson of the King Hussein Foundation. Queen Noor, thank you so much for coming over to HARDBALL today.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR, CHAIR, KING HUSSEIN FOUNDATION: Chris.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve known you a while. I‘m very impressed by what—your vision about this part of the world. You were born in America. You were a royal over there. Do you think that this is a true democratic revolt we‘re seeing here, or is this really an Islamic, Islamist move, like we‘ve seen in Iran and other countries?
NOOR: I think, clearly, what we‘re seeing is a popular uprising. And the aspirations of those who are protesting have been made very clear for freedom, for opportunity, for jobs. In other words, they‘re asking for their social, economic and political rights and opportunities. And this is a popular uprising. As Richard Engel just said, and so many others, those people represent many different sectors of society.
MATTHEWS: Well, not to drag you into my fight, but we have a competitor on the air, Glenn Beck, who‘s saying this is the beginning of the caliphate. It‘s going to extend through Europe, all around the world, even in majority Christian countries. They‘re all going to be taken over by the Islamists. Is this—is there a reason for that kind of alarm right now at this point?
NOOR: No, I don‘t think there is. Glenn Beck‘s approach appears to be that kind of zero sum approach to looking at the world that, in a way, we‘re seeing a protest against now. The reason that there is so much tension in the region at large is that, traditionally, most of these regimes have actually not allowed for that political space for political parties, civil society institutions and others—
MATTHEWS: Right. Can you—
NOOR: -- with different points of view to participate.
MATTHEWS: Can you—
MATTHEWS: Are you optimistic?
NOOR: Instead, that leads to extremes.
MATTHEWS: You sound optimistic.
NOOR: I‘m very optimistic because I have faith in the people who have been out there, peacefully asking for their rights. And I have enormous faith that—in countries like Egypt, you have a good example in Turkey and others that we can see a coalition of different parties, different points of view working together in a participatory—
NOOR: -- and consensual form of governance, which is all that these people—
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk—
NOOR: -- are looking for.
MATTHEWS: Take off your Middle East hat, put on your American hat.
You‘re born American.
NOOR: Arab-American, and proud of it.
MATTHEWS: Well, of course. But let me ask you about our president. It seems to me he‘s trying to figure this out. People have criticized Obama for being slow to the party. He never pushed democracy hard, like the neocons did before. I didn‘t like their policy because it meant war over there, but the principle was, as you were suggesting, the Middle East could have some kind of parliamentary democracy. What should we doing to encourage the good guys, from our perspective, the peaceful people, to win this fight once the king—once Mubarak leaves?
NOOR: Well, I think it‘s telling, if you look at where U.S. aid and -
has been targeted in the region at large. Much of the U.S. into countries like Egypt and others is—ends up being military aid. And you don‘t have the same proportion or what should be a greater proportion going into the human security needs of a country—again, building civil society, building those institutions that can help create a space for many different points of view to work together in a participatory decision making—
NOOR: You know, participatory decision making and consensus building is actually an Arab and Islamic tradition that goes back many, many, many hundreds of years to the beginnings of Islam. These are our traditions of governance.
MATTHEWS: OK, give me an example of a good Arab country that knows how to do it. Jordan? Pretty peaceful.
MATTHEWS: Is it democratic? Is more—
NOOR: No, no—
NOOR: -- and we have had, you know, various periods. The king has called for reforms now. He‘s changed the government. These were necessary decisions to take. And we have plans that have been developed in the past for a reform process, a gradual reform process over time. And perhaps they can now start to implement that.
MATTHEWS: Will this kill—will this—will this stir—I went
through the list—Jordan, Yemen, different kinds of country, the West
Bank, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, a Ba‘athist, government, Sudan, I‘m
not sure what you‘d call that. Are these countries watching this, like we
watch it on television, and thinking about things that will really matter -
NOOR: God willing.
MATTHEWS: -- and will keep their countries from going radical?
NOOR: God willing they are. God willing that will be the positive outcome of what we‘re seeing, which is—the status quo was unsustainable for many years.
NOOR: We‘re now seeing all of these countries—
NOOR: -- making similar commitments, or regimes making a variety of
commitments that have long been overdue. You know the Arab Human
Development reports that came out in 2002, 2003 ‘04 and ‘05, which were
drawn together by credible Arab—not officials. These were intellectuals
NOOR: -- and experts in a variety of areas, emphasizing the need in the Arab world for improved education, for improved access—
NOOR: -- to opportunities for women, for freedoms, and for job opportunities.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a blunt question?
MATTHEWS: Should we have been pushing harder 10 years ago for Mubarak to leave?
NOOR: I don‘t want to—I‘m not going to get into that, but you, I think, could have been doing a great deal more to build up civil society institutions throughout the region and laying emphasis there, supporting, not dictating.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re always late to the game. Thank you, your majesty, Queen Noor. Thanks for coming over to HARDBALL.
Coming up: Has the far right just lost its mind over this crisis in Egypt? You know, this is tricky. We‘re trying to figure it out here. This—we don‘t know all the answers. But some people have crazy answers like, This is the caliphate. Look out, Portugal. Look out, Spain. Look out, France. You‘re all going to—well, going to hell. Glenn Beck‘s got that (INAUDIBLE) we‘re going to talk about how the loony right, the loony bins, the loony tunes are using this opportunity to sell.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re coming back with the fear mongering of Glenn Beck.
It‘s unbelievable. Last night‘s performance was even over the edge for him
about what‘s going on in Egypt. Let‘s keep our eyes on the situation and try to understand and perhaps show the right kind of American influence, at least talk about it, instead of this craziness we‘re getting from Fox.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, HOST, FOX NEWS “GLENN BECK”: And you‘re not being told the full truth by the same people that didn‘t tell you the full truth before 9/11. They were nonchalant about the threat of—before 9/11 and they‘re doing it now! The same people are telling you now that the Muslim Brotherhood and the fall of Egypt is all about freedom. It is not! It is not about freedom. It is not about democracy. It is about an Islamic state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
That was Glenn Beck last night on his program, warning his audience about an Islamic state takeover of the world, basically. (INAUDIBLE) describe what he calls the worst-case scenario, which he thinks is somewhat imminent, a caliphate that starts in Egypt and spreads to nearby countries all through Europe. Europe‘s going to be taken over. (INAUDIBLE) actually, to distract us from any kind of serious conversation that might involve thought.
We‘ve got joining us right now David Corn—thank you (INAUDIBLE) joining us from, of course, “Mother Jones,” and Joan Walsh from Salon.com.
I always wonder about motive. Joan, why would someone in the midst of a very tricky—anybody doesn‘t say this is tricky isn‘t thinking.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Right.
MATTHEWS: Not everybody thought it was brilliant to dump (ph) Barak (ph) 10, 20 years ago. I‘m very mixed about the guy. I do remember when he came in and saved our bacon after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, who was godly, as far as I‘m concerned, in terms of taking chances for peace.
MATTHEWS: He stuck with the compromise. He stuck with Israel, a cold peace, but so much better. He allowed Jordan to join and perhaps put a lot of pressure on the West Bank Palestinians to try to join in some kind of peace treaty. He has always done what I thought was, in the big picture, right for the country, although he was not a Democrat. He was not one of us, by any, you know, philosophical—
MATTHEWS: -- standards about democracy. But what is Glenn Beck doing? I really want to focus on this because this is what a lot of people are going to be hearing on the right, that this is some kind of conspiracy. By the way, in my close tonight, I point out Glenn Beck not only says the caliphate coming, he‘s saying that both Barack Obama, and unlikely enough, George W. Bush are in cahoots on this, that they made a point—
WALSH: They are.
MATTHEWS: -- during bombing campaigns of not bombing ancient Babylon, which is to be the seat of the new caliphate, and they were all in on this. This is—
WALSH: We‘re all—
MATTHEWS: This is—I do not use the term lightly—“Looney Tunes,” but that is what he‘s selling.”
WALSH: It‘s “Looney Tunes.”
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
WALSH: It‘s “Looney Tunes.”
MATTHEWS: And what—what is it about? Why are they doing this?
WALSH: You asked—well, I think we know what it‘s about.
It‘s two things. He is definitely losing his audience. He‘s lost it by about a third. And he may be losing his mind. He really may be losing his mind. I mean, this is so crazy, if you really watch that whole thing. And China, I think, is going to take over, and they‘re going to reach down to Australia, and then Russia is going to grab every—I mean, it‘s—it‘s nuttiness, but it—
MATTHEWS: It‘s Captain Queeg stuff. It is Captain Queeg stuff.
WALSH: It‘s—it‘s Captain Queeg stuff.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, the bunny rabbit and the chain saw the other night, I thought he had—I don‘t want to—I don‘t know about a guy‘s psychological or mental or—or even emotional condition. I can only watch.
But when a guy pulls out a chain saw and threatens to cut the rabbit in half, and then says—
MATTHEWS: -- I guess that‘s what you thought I was going to do, you have to wonder, why did you want us to think that was what you were going to do?
WALSH: Well, and what is Roger Ailes thinking? I mean, I just have to ask that. He‘s not a—he‘s not crazy. He‘s got his own values.
WALSH: And, you know, but he‘s a businessman. And—and I feel like we are watching someone kind of fall apart on—on television.
WALSH: And how much longer that‘s going to go on, I—I think, is a question.
CORN: It‘s like a bad version of the movie “Network,” you know—
CORN: -- where this guy is becoming un—
MATTHEWS: We sort of liked Peter Finch.
CORN: Yes. But, yes, he‘s sort of telling—
WALSH: Yes. I mean—
CORN: -- speaking truth to power.
But Glenn Beck is coming up not just with conspiracy theories, but the most ridiculous ones, in which he really says that the—that—that the uber-left and the Islamists around the world are in cahoots together—
CORN: -- to destroy the world.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s—
MATTHEWS: This reminded me, by the way—I grew up with this as a kid. I thought he was trying to be Bishop Sheen here from the 1950s—
MATTHEWS: -- with the blackboards and everything.
MATTHEWS: Here he is, professor Glenn Beck. By the way, I‘m crazy as hell and I‘m not going to take it anymore would be his Howard Beale line.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look. Here he is with what he calls his evidence that the left—by the way, that‘s us, I suppose, around this table or nearby—are causing and plotting the uprising in Egypt. The American left is doing this.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Glenn Beck.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BECK: We have evidence of the uber-left, the anarchists and the communists and the socialists, the radicals, sowing the seeds and helping those in Egypt.
They just—all they want is more pressure on the United States.
This isn‘t about the people there. This is about changing the globe.
The storm that I have talked about for many years is here. The coming insurrection is here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, I‘m not sure what side he is on—thinking people are on. I—I assume he‘s pro-American in some vague sense, but—
Beck is—but was he saying that the left in America is trying to bring down the presidency of Barack Obama and using the caliphate to do it? Or what is—
MATTHEWS: -- Egypt—
MATTHEWS: We have organized—like Oliver Stone, we have organized those crowds out there. We have done this. We who are against him have done this—
MATTHEWS: -- to get them to dump Mubarak, a friend of the United States for 30 years, because he‘s not perfect, and we have done it so we could establish Islamic rule in France, Portugal, Spain. It‘s all part of a plan, so that‘s why we don‘t bomb Babylon in Iraq during our—
MATTHEWS: -- our sorties over there.
WALSH: As though—as though Islamic regimes are kind to the left, as though there‘s a real natural alliance there.
WALSH: No, it‘s completely crazy. And it all gets back to our president, who, you know, a lot of them want to insinuate he‘s either soft on Islam or a Muslim himself.
You know, we have got our friend Frank Gaffney saying that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the Obama administration and the government.
They are going nuts on this question at a time when, let‘s be honest, even
MATTHEWS: I hadn‘t heard that. You‘re ahead of me on that one.
WALSH: Yes. Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: The Irish neocon has struck again.
MATTHEWS: You know, I mean, he is—
WALSH: I know.
MATTHEWS: -- he is—I mean, Gaffney is—he‘s got this whole theory about—
MATTHEWS: -- we‘re all into Sharia law, that Sharia is taking over state.
WALSH: Sharia is coming.
CORN: Yes. Yes, and we‘re going to be—which—which he didn‘t worry about before Barack Obama was president. He worried about many other threats to the United States, but not that one.
CORN: So, you have to wonder why it‘s only come up in the last two years.
MATTHEWS: It‘s the league of Captain Queeg.
Here‘s John Bolton, another one—another one of these guys. He‘s not a full-mooner, but he‘s certainly pretty far out.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a former U.S. ambassador to George W. Bush. He‘s not crazy. The scary thing is, this guy isn‘t. By the way—never mind.
CORN: Well, he‘s a little crazy.
MATTHEWS: He was on Sean Hannity yesterday, on radio, talking about Israel needing to strike now against those Iranian sites.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go—even though I think that the Israelis are so much smarter than Bolton or any of us in terms of figuring out how to screw that system up. I think I know what I‘m talking about here. And we all do.
Let‘s take a listen to what this guy, Bolton, is saying now.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, “HANNITY”: Do you think that the Israelis are going to have to strike, and it‘s got to be a—they are going to have to take action? In other words, the world doesn‘t seem to be supporting them. As you pointed out, ElBaradei, you know, ran cover for the Iranians for all those years that he was with the—the IAEA. And I just don‘t think the Israelis have much longer to wait. I mean, either—we‘re going to either live in a world with a nuclear Iran and a threat to their very existence, or they are going to have to act in fairly short order.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I
think that‘s right. I don‘t think there‘s much time to act, and I think the fall of the—of an Egyptian government committed to the peace agreement will almost certainly speed that timetable up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going to war. Israel is going to war. That‘s a perfect time not to strike.
MATTHEWS: Have you noticed that Bibi Netanyahu—
MATTHEWS: -- who I know him in the sense that I know what he is. He‘s a Philly guy—
CORN: He is, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- who is a man of the right. He is not making a sound, because he knows this one time to cool it.
CORN: Well—well, John Bolton seems to be looking for a silver lining here, which would be war with Iran.
MATTHEWS: If you care about Israel right now—
MATTHEWS: -- what you should care about is, Hezbollah doesn‘t strike now, because it is a time to warm up that—to heat up that fight.
CORN: He wants stability in Egypt. That‘s the best thing.
CORN: And Netanyahu knows that.
And he‘s been playing it very cool.
MATTHEWS: Well, by the way, ElBaradei, whatever his role is in the streets of Egypt, at least he‘s out there trying to build a positive government, from what I can tell.
CORN: Well, these guys—
MATTHEWS: ElBaradei was—
MATTHEWS: -- as you point out, was dead right about there not being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
CORN: And that‘s why they hate him. That‘s why these guys hate him.
MATTHEWS: So, Sean, don‘t bring up ElBaradei. He was right. You guys were wrong.
Thank you, David Corn.
Thank you, Joan Walsh.
Up next—I can‘t get enough of this guy Beck. He is—he is—I think he‘s actually one of those cartoon characters that‘s walked off the edge and doesn‘t know he‘s out there on the cliff.
Anyway, Pete—Mitt Romney is going to show how funny he is. This is really, really sad, his performance on—on “Letterman.” This guy should not try to do comedy.
You‘re watching HARDBALL—look at him—oh, he took his tie off—only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: sabotage on “The Late Show.” I don‘t know what else you can make of sticking Mitt Romney, not exactly Mr. Excitement, with the most pathetic top 10 in “Late Show” history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: Top 10 things you don‘t know about this man.
MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Mitt is short for Mitt-Thew.
ROMNEY: I can‘t begin my day until I have read “The Washington Post” and Kim Kardashian‘s tweets.
ROMNEY: I‘m the guy in the photo that comes with your picture frame.
LETTERMAN: That‘s right.
ROMNEY: I have absolutely no idea where my birth certificate is.
LETTERMAN: That‘s right.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LETTERMAN: And the number-one thing you don‘t know about Mitt Romney:
ROMNEY: Oprah is my half-sister.
LETTERMAN: Yes, there you go.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think the applause sign was in David Letterman‘s face, he was laughing so hard. None of that was funny. Anyway, this man should stick to his strengths, Mitt Romney. Talk about the Olympics. Talk about business. Go on CNBC. Don‘t try to be funny.
Next: Michael Steele meets hits alter ego. Last night, the former RNC chair faced off against his late-night nemesis, the “Daily Show” puppet version of Michael Steele. Watch what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
PUPPET MICHAEL STEELE: Who is this extremely handsome gentleman?
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: This—he says he‘s Michael Steele, but, honestly, I—
STEWART: Oh, my God. I—I don‘t even know who I‘m supposed to interview. I can‘t even tell you guys apart now. What—
PUPPET MICHAEL STEELE: Only one thing to do, Johnny B. Stew. Ask us questions only the real Michael Steele could answer.
STEWART: How do you pronounce the name of the gentleman who replaced one of you as RNC chair?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Oh, that‘s—that‘s easy. Reince Priebus.
PUPPET MICHAEL STEELE: Reince Priebus? Is that a name, or are you taking a final at Hogwarts?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PUPPET MICHAEL STEELE: He‘s just pulling a bunch of scrabibble letters out of a bag.
STEWART: Actually—actually, that‘s the correct answer. That‘s—
I—I got to tell you, I think this might be the real Michael Steele. I think—
PUPPET MICHAEL STEELE: What? Is that something I said, cheddar bread?
STEELE: Wait, wait, wait.
STEELE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. He picked me, so take a hike, Dick Van Dyke.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, at least Michael Steele comes off as likable in this kind of stuff, which is what Mitt Romney doesn‘t know how to do. He doesn‘t do the loopy unscripted stuff, like you just saw.
Anyway, finally, a new take on the right to bear arms. A group of state legislators out in South Dakota have introduced a bill that really does make it mandatory for citizens to own guns. Its wording: “All those who have attained the age of 21 years shall purchase or otherwise acquire a firearm suitable for their temperament, physical capacity and personal preference.”
Well, the sponsor of the bill says that, even though the bill won‘t pass, it serves as a protest against the federal health care mandate. Get it? It‘s a stunt. The difference here is that hospitals, if you have noticed, are required to give treatment to people in need. That makes all of us, whether we like it or not, part of interstate commerce.
Anyway, up next: The Iowa caucuses are a year away. And so far not one major Republican candidate has announced. What is going on? Why don‘t they get out there? Four years ago, the field was filling up fast at this point. So, what are they waiting for? Are they trying to see how strong President Obama will get before they put their money on the table?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks seesawed to a mixed close. The Dow Jones industrial average added nearly two points. The S&P 500 slipped 3.5. The Nasdaq was down about a point.
Turmoil in Egypt taking center stage again today, as investors paused following a two-day rally. Oil prices still rising, topping $102 a barrel, before settling out about a dollar lower at the close. On the earnings front, Time Warner soaring more than 8 percent on solid profits boosted by a 21 percent jump in ad sales. AOL also delivering better-than-expected earnings, but shares weakened on some hefty reorganization costs and a drop in search and advertising revenue.
Video game maker Electronic Arts soaring to the top of the S&P after raising its outlook and announcing a $600 million stock buyback.
And we had New Corp., Visa and Yum! Brands all reporting their profits after the closing bell. All three topped expectations, With News Corp. more than doubling its quarterly earnings.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)
ROMNEY: I don‘t have an answer for you yet, because there are a lot of things you have to consider before you make that final decision. Clearly, I‘m doing the things, like other folks are doing, to keep the option forward and moving forward, in the event that I make a positive decision.
But there are matters of health, of support, of the kind of network you would like to have of individuals behind you. Those are the things you have got to assess before you make a final decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Matters of health?
You know, I think the guy reminds me of one of those figures in the hall of the presidents at Disney World. You know, he‘s not quite a human, but standing up tall.
Anyway, welcome back. That was Mitt Romney, the person, last night on
Why is he so shy to say, yes, I‘m running for president?
President Obama is, meanwhile, steadily going up in the polls, perhaps giving Romney and some of the others a little pause in their plans.
Charles Blow is a columnist for “The New York Times,” and Ron Reagan is author of the—“My Father at 100.”
Ron, I have to give you credit. You got a fantastic review in Charles‘ newspaper the other day.
RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Michiko Kakutani is not often that pleasant or difficult—she‘s often a difficult reviewer and a tough and a good one. You got a good one. It‘s a literary achievement. Congratulations.
REAGAN: Well, thank you for saying so. I appreciate it very much.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank—write a nice note, a little male cologne on it, something nice to Michiko Kakutani.
MATTHEWS: It might help you with your next book, just guessing.
REAGAN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me go—let me go to Charles.
REAGAN: To the divine Ms. K., yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me—well, I will start with you.
I‘m amazed at the fact that there‘s absolutely no—no—it‘s all quiet on the Western front politically in the Republican Party. Perhaps it has to do with the president‘s polling, which is up, but they‘re really squeamish about putting their toes across the line.
CHARLES M. BLOW, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, I think, you know, to a degree, that‘s right.
But you also have to consider the fact that many of the people who may be in the field this time around were also in the field during the last election, so they‘re—not necessarily have to worry about establishing themselves. They have to worry about positioning themselves. When do you position yourself in the field?
The first person out is—is, you know, immediately compared to the president. As you say, that president right now seems to be doing pretty well. He‘s hitting all the right rhetorical notes. And that is showing up in the polls. People—when you poll people, people seem to feel more optimistic about the future.
Now you have to figure out how do you position yourself as the opposite of that that—that politician.
BLOW: And that‘s a hard thing to do right now.
MATTHEWS: But, Ron, and then Charles, but it is going to be—I‘m just a political person. It‘s the one—besides movies, it‘s the one thing I pay attention to. It‘s politics.
And I think it‘s going to be a close election next time. I look at the Electoral College. I look at the difficulty of North Carolina. Of course, the Democrats are going to have their convention in Charlotte. Indiana is going to be a very tough reach again. Ohio is going to be tough. Wisconsin is going to be tough.
They‘re going to have to carry perhaps Florida, and perhaps go for Nevada, Colorado. These are tough states to win. And then the whole Industrial Midwest is tough, because you‘re not going to have—
Republicans are going to do well in the South and out in the Rockies. They just always do.
Ron, it‘s going to be close. Why not go for it? What hold these guys back?
REAGAN,: Well, Charles—Charles brings up an interesting point. You have the people that are well-known now. The Mitt Romneys, the Sarah Palins, even Michele Bachmann—you want to throw her into the mix—Newt Gingrich.
And so, those folks don‘t have to throw their hat in the ring now. They can buy their time a bit and, you know, think about when they want to, you know, take the moment to get in.
But then you‘ve got a whole other class of candidates who should be getting into the race now. The Tim Pawlentys, Jon Huntsman if he‘s going actually to make the run. And those people, I think, are holding back maybe because they don‘t want to be the first one out of the gate to get too much attention, and in a sense be the anti-Palin, the person that all the Palin fans then jump on as somebody who‘s—oh, no way conservative enough, you got to get rid of him.
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is, Huntsman, the guy has been ambassador all these last two years for President Obama. Here he is, President Obama, teasing him at the White House two weeks ago. Let‘s listen. He just retired—resigned, rather, as ambassador to China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As for the rights of states to craft plans—
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Ambassador Huntsman has done an outstanding job as ambassador for the United States to China. So, I couldn‘t be happier with the ambassador‘s service, and I‘m sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future. And I‘m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, there he is, Charles, sticking him with his association. What a strange thing. If you work with me, you can‘t be all good on the right.
BLOW: That‘s fantastic. But as you get to a deeper point, which is:
a lot of these candidates have to figure out, you know, what happened to the Tea Party momentum going into the midterms. The Tea Party does not have the same ability in these couple months following the midterms that it had before. The same hostility is not there.
MATTHEWS: Charles, excuse me. I know you were an eminent journalist for “The New York Times.” But the fact of the matter is Bachmann has been all over the place, flying around like, you know, I don‘t know what, everywhere, every event, going to everything—to Iowa. She clearly wants to get in this thing. Palin—
BLOW: I‘m sorry, Chris, that does not mean that the same kind of energy and the same passion that existed on the verge of the midterms still exists on the Tea Party today. It just had dissipated. That‘s what elections do. They kind of have a way of letting the air out of the balloon a bit. And that is what has happened.
So, now, will they be able to pick back up that momentum? Will people be just as angry two years from now? That‘s a different question. But it is undoubtedly the fact that it is not the same level of anger than it was before.
REAGAN: You‘re both right. You‘re both right.
MATTHEWS: And, Ron, you‘ve been to more Republicans than I have, Ron. But I don‘t think you‘ve always enjoyed them as much as some of the other participants, you‘ve been there. But it seems to me that there‘s going to be two kinds of possible candidates running against Barack Obama, assuming he runs for reelection. One is going to be a full-mooner, a Tea Party person. That could be Bachmann, it could be Sarah Palin, one of the others. Or it could be a pretend full-mooner, someone who will say things just to appeal to the far right, like Pawlenty saying, I‘m going to bring back DADT. What a crazy idea.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t we just have all the old debates again? Let‘s all go back. Let‘s argue about prohibition. Let‘s go back to everything again.
MATTHEWS: So, it seems to me that nobody is willing to say, no, I‘m not a member of the Tea Party. I‘m a regular Republican, a regular conservative. I don‘t want to deal with that crowd at all.
So, they‘re all going to be playing to them. Is that a fair assessment?
REAGAN: Yes, it is a fair assessment.
MATTHEWS: So, I challenge Charles, I think they‘re still the key crowd of the Republican Party.
BLOW: I‘m not saying that they‘re not a component of the party.
REAGAN: There is. You‘re both right.
BLOW: The question is—the question is whether or not the same level of passion is there now. And if the same level of passion is not there now, then you have to figure out how do you position yourself. Do you position yourself as a Tea Party courter, and therefore try to stoke that anger? Or do you position yourself as a more moderate Republican coming out of the gate, particularly if you‘re the first one to declare because you are the first one that is compared to the president.
MATTHEWS: See if we get “The New York Times” (INAUDIBLE) moderate Republican because I think Charles is already going.
Anyway, the idea of a RINO being a Republican nominee—it‘s going to be somebody pretty far over. And that‘s why I don‘t really think they‘re going to win the election, because in the end, I think they‘re going to go full moon this time, just like they did with Gold water and the Democrats did with McGovern.
Your thoughts, Ron—will they go full moon this time or try to go to somewhat center and win this thing?
REAGAN: No, they‘re ultimately going to go to somebody in the center and try to win this thing, but that somebody from the center, you‘re right, is going to have to cater to some of the rhetoric of the Tea Party.
REAGAN: Charles is right that some of the air has gone out of the balloon for the Tea Party, but it is still a sizable chunk of the Republican Party that needs to be dealt with and it will have to be by these candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘ll keep pumping up that air so I can pop it.
Thank you very much, Charles Blow. Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Ron Reagan. Again, congratulations.
MATTHEWS: I wish we got (INAUDIBLE). She‘s a tough critic, a smart one, and you came in first.
Up next: Republicans are trying to kill health care reform at the state level. They‘re vowing not to enforce it. And the U.S. Senate—well, tonight, they‘re going to try to get rid of it. But why aren‘t more Democrats defending what‘s good about the law? Talk about the people who benefit from it, talk about the millions who are getting health care for the first time.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: While Senator John Ensign of Nevada—he‘s had a few problems, he‘s not out of the woods yet. The Senate Ethics Committee has just appointed a special counsel, outside counsel to investigate whether formal charges against Ensign should be brought. The Nevada Republican has been accused of using his influence to try to cover up an affair he had with a wife of top aide. That‘s a nice thing to do.
He‘s already been cleared by the Department of Justice, and the Federal Election Commission. But he‘s not there yet. Ensign will be up for reelection next year.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Well, after a federal judge in Florida ruled the health care law unconstitutional, some Republican state governors say it‘s their cue to simply stop implementing the law. Well, the Senate Republicans are trying to repeal it today anyway, a vote is likely to fail along party lines.
“The Washington Post‘s” Chris Cillizza is an MSNBC political analyst. And Josh Marshall, a smart guy, he‘s editor and founder of “Talking Points Memo.”
Josh—let me ask you, Josh, about this. What is the state of play here? Health care is, without a doubt, the landmark accomplishment of the Barack administration. He will be known for this one way or another throughout history. This is going to go in what we call we used to call Encyclopedia Britannica, now, wikinotes (ph) or whatever it is, Wikipedia.
So, this is it. This is one he has to defend. How does it look—right now?
JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO: I think it looks a little better than people imagine. We‘ve had two court cases, you know, one that‘s overturned it all or in part; two other where they upheld it. You know, I think that it‘s the legal challenges are definitely looking more serious than people thought they would 18 months ago. I think that the danger to the law is probably overstated.
And, you know, there‘s obviously no way that they‘re going to be able to hurt the thing legislatively. Democrats still hold the Senate. And as you pointed out, this is Barack Obama‘s signature accomplishment. He‘s not going to sign a bill that overturns it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Chris Cillizza, I once interviewed Justice Scalia. I think it might have been an off the record thing, with a bunch of students there. It was a college thing.
And he basically said, you know, I‘m a strict constructionist and I‘m tough on what the Constitution means, but I do like laws. If Congress passes law, he just doesn‘t like things like the Supreme Court finding a right, like the right to privacy, regarding a woman‘s right to choose and all. He doesn‘t like. That‘s he—but he does say, if Congress passes a law, knows what he‘s doing, debates it, has a vote and puts it into the law, he respects that.
And he‘s likely—I wouldn‘t immediately assume he‘s going to vote and say unconstitutional if Congress looked at it seriously and said they thought it was unconstitutional.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Right. There‘s a level of the deference that‘s paid, Chris. I don‘t think there‘s any question about that. And I think anytime we‘re talking about this health care debate and Josh touched on it, excuse me, I think what you‘ve got to do is separate out the legal process and the political process.
I do think—I mean, they clearly can join this past—you know, through Congress, it wasn‘t passed by the Supreme Court or anybody else, but the political process, often it‘s a kind of fight over was—is this a good thing for America? Is this a right way to cover people? And that‘s a fight that‘s going to play out in the 2012 presidential race. It‘s a fight that played out in 2010 midterm elections.
The legal one is, I think, where we‘re actually going to find some answers. I can‘t find anyone—and I talk to a lot of political consultants (INAUDIBLE). I can‘t talk to anyone who says, oh, yes, this is going to be repealed or deeply changed by Congress. It‘s just not going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
CILLIZZA: The Supreme Court is going to rule on this one way or the other. And then Congress will react. But Congress isn‘t going to act and then have the Supreme Court then react.
MATTHEWS: Josh, it seems to me one of those clear cases where it‘s the haves versus the have-nots. The Republican Party generally represents the haves. In this case, health insurance. They have it -- 99 percent of Republicans have health insurance. They may not think it‘s the greatest thing in the world, they don‘t like being rejected for claims, but they got it.
A lot of Democratic people, or working people, don‘t have it and don‘t have what they consider a good plan and they‘re trying to get some help in affording one. Isn‘t that as simple as that? Isn‘t that what this is about, haves and have-nots? And the Republicans are quite willing to dump this whole thing because they represent the haves?
MARSHALL: You know, I think there‘s a lot of that, too. And I think, you know, another major component to this is, it‘s not just people who have health care and people who don‘t. A big issue here has always been how secure your health care is—
MARSHALL: -- whether you‘re going to lose it if you get sick, whether
you know, are you stuck in a job because you can‘t leave because you‘re going to lose your health care. I think that as a—you know, for better or worse in our politics, you know, it can‘t just be a haves and have-not issue.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It is.
MARSHALL: You know, to support this health care, President Obama needs to make the case. I think they made it reasonably well, not as well as they might have last year. But this is really about helping a broad cross section of the country—know and be confident their health care is going to be there no matter what happens.
MATTHEWS: Josh Marshall, you‘re great. Thank you so much. Chris Cillizza, as always.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the top purveyor of fear in this country right now: Glenn Beck.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with the exploiters of trouble.
Whenever there is trouble facing in our country, there‘s a predictable clack who pops up like bizarre jacks in the boxes. They scare us, set blame and try as best they can to reap the benefits.
Today‘s number one exploiter of fear is Glenn Beck. Beck thinks he‘s Bishop Sheen without a cape and collar. But, yes, he‘s got blackboards and a kind of odd instructive manner that appeals to people who don‘t have the time to dream up worse-case scenarios but are sometimes ready to give a listen to his brand of conspiracy.
The villain of all his conspiracies are—the villain—to keep the lessons handy—Americans liberals, who don‘t watch him, can‘t stand him and see him quite frankly as a menace to society.
Yesterday, when he was—we were giving you the latest news from
Cairo and the White House, Beck was preaching the coming of the caliphate -
that‘s right—the coming of the caliphate.
Oh, we got trouble in River City—the mad professor is prophesying now that Britain, France, Spain and Portugal are all going to be grabbed up by a second coming of the Ottoman Empire. There he is with his chalk.
Forget the names of the countries, the Fez is familiar. They‘re coming and we‘re goners. Don‘t even bother buying green bananas. The time of the Beckoning or the reckoning is upon us.
Why is Beck selling this fear? Because he doesn‘t want to deal with the problem at hand. It‘s too tricky for him, as it is for most of us.
So, what are Beck and the troublemakers doing? They‘re scaring people into a frenzy over the coming of a global caliphate. And to what effect? To fight for Mubarak? To place blame we don‘t? To encouraged Mubarak to fight the people in the streets?
No, I‘ll bet it‘s to begin a long campaign of fear, something to talk about on the radio, something to scare people with—like Beck‘s claims that Barack Obama is a secret racist and we should shoot our political rivals in the head, the forehead to be exact, he says.
Or do we later something even more malicious in this man‘s new crazed meanderings? Did I really hear him last night say that the past two American presidents made a point of having our bombers avoid targets in Ancient Babylon—located in modern Iraq—so that we, the America government could help make way for what was prophesized to be the seat of the eventual global caliphate? Is he nuts enough to be saying that George W. Bush and Barack Obama are in cahoots with the Islamist mission of world domination? Wonder where they held those meetings, those two, and how did this guy get in there to hear what was up?
Does anybody check this guy‘s copy over there? Is FOX saying that they believe this stuff, this argument, the latest, that we should arm up personally, build our bunkers and vote against Democrats or any Republican that doesn‘t side with Beck and Bachmann and the rest of this band of loony tunes?
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. More politics ahead with Cenk Uyghur.
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