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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guessts: Amanda Drury, Jonathan Alter, Michael Bolton, Glenn Grothman, Tom Rooney, Joshua Micah Marshall, John Feehery, Susan Milligan, Peter Canellos


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  What side are you on?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: The whole world‘s watching.  This is a battle that‘s been brewing and it‘s right here in the USA.  For the second straight day, teachers are out of the classroom in Madison, Wisconsin.  They‘ve just shut down the schools.  It‘s the first battle in a huge war between Republicans and the labor movement in this country.  It‘s a battle to break the back politically of the most relentless unions, the public employees.  Howard Fineman said it here yesterday, the anti-union push by Republican governors is also about cracking down on the most enthusiastic foot soldiers for Democratic candidates.  Their first shot, shrink the employees‘ collective bargaining rights.  Break the unions today and you hurt Democrats in 2012.

Also, a remarkable thing happened yesterday.  A coalition of Tea Partiers and Democratic liberals voted down a jet fighter engine to be built in Ohio in the district of Speaker John Boehner.  Bad day for pork and the pork bellies who back it.  Not only does this mean the Pentagon is no longer untouchable, it‘s a clear sign that Boehner cannot control the Tea Partiers who gave him his job.

Plus: He‘s the new GOP rock star, we hear, the only man a lot of Republicans think could lead them back to the White House.  Chris Christie talks the talk the Republicans love to hear, but really, what has he actually done so far to deserve all this chatter?  Is it really just that he‘s got a personality and the other guys don‘t?

And the remarkable revelations by Senator Scott Brown of the sexual and physical abuse he took as a child.  We‘re going to talk to two Boston reporters.  This is a big story up in Massachusetts.

Finally, proof again that no theory is too strange for conspiracy theorists.  The latest from Karl Rove—you know, “the architect”—that the White House, Barack Obama, is engineering the birther stuff because it makes Republicans look silly.  It‘s Obama‘s fault.  Excuse me, Karl.  It‘s Republicans who are afraid to mess with the birthers.  Every time I have one on or talk to them, they‘re afraid to say it‘s nonsense.

We begin with what has become a huge national story, the wild sensation (ph) out in Wisconsin, centered in Madison.  For a second straight day, Madison school teachers and other public employees have called in sick or done some other kind of job action.  Meanwhile, all 14 of the Democratic state senators in the legislature have blocked passage of the anti-union bill by simply, apparently, splitting from the state.  They‘re out of the state.  The scene in Wisconsin looks to be a long-awaited confrontation between Republican statehouses and the power of Democratic-leaning public employee unions.

Let‘s go to the fight.  Let‘s turn to Michael Bolton.  He‘s a union director for the United Steel Workers.  Also joining us, by phone, is Republican state senator Glenn Grothman.  Thank you.  Michael Bolton, sir, thank you for joining us from the Steel Workers.  Tell me, if you have to explain this from somebody from Norway or somebody not out there in the strike or in the job action, what‘s this about?

MICHAEL BOLTON, UNITED STEEL WORKERS:  This is so-called “budget repair bill” has nothing to do with repairing the budget, has nothing to do with creating 250,000 jobs.  This is to break the unions, to destroy the middle class so that the rich get richer and the corporations have more power.  We need to stand up and fight back against this action, and that‘s what we‘ve been doing in Wisconsin.  We started out with 2,000 people on Monday, 15,000 people on Tuesday, 30,000 on Wednesday, and we had more than that today.  And we‘re going to keep this up until we win this battle.

MATTHEWS:  What happens if you lose?  Give me your worst case.  What are you telling your workers if they lose this fight, if the Republicans win this fight?  What‘s it do to all the people we‘re looking at there out in Madison, Wisconsin?

BOLTON:  Governor Walker has no idea what he has done.  He has woken a sleeping giant.  We‘re having calls from people in Ohio, California, Michigan standing up and protesting against anti-worker legislation.  And if we lose this battle, we will continue to fight.  We‘re going to fight back against every bit of anti-union legislation that‘s introduced in this state.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Senator Grothman, Republican member of the state legislature, sir, why is the governor doing what he‘s doing?  Why are you supporting it with regard to reducing the collective bargaining rights of state employees?

STATE SEN. GLENN GROTHMAN ®, WISCONSIN (via telephone):  The state of Wisconsin is in a fiscal crisis, as are many other states around the country.  In the state of Wisconsin, we have the most generous state employee pensions in the country.  We have very, very generous health insurance.  We are asking the unions to pay for about half of their pension and 12 percent of their health insurance.

In addition, one of the things that makes government inefficient is we have work rules we have to negotiate over.  In other words, if the boss tells you you have to do something, you have to go to the union to see whether or not you can do it.  Obviously, in today‘s economic climate, we cannot have that.  We‘ve heard enough of this corporate bashing that we got from the other person on the line.  Wisconsin, until recently, was perceived to be one of the worst states in the country for business and that‘s because, quite frankly, the unions do endorse very strong anti-business candidates in the state legislature, which is one of the reasons why we have a fiscal crisis here in Madison.  So I strongly support Governor Walker and his desire to have state employees, including myself—

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re basically admitting that this is political, sir. 


GROTHMAN:  No, it‘s not political!

MATTHEWS:  -- you‘re saying that one of your—well, you just said you don‘t like these unions because they back Democrats.

GROTHMAN:  No, no.  I‘m saying these—I am saying we have an anti-business climate in Wisconsin.  We have a budget deficit that is $3 billion in the hole.  We have a—you know, for the size of the state, I wouldn‘t be surprised if our deficit, you know, is New York or California size, almost.  And a huge portion of the—a huge portion of our budget goes to public employees.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go back to Michael Bolton, who is with the Steel Workers and with the strike here, and labor unions.  You‘re all united.  What would you do if you were governor of this state about the deficit, Mr.  Bolton, and your unions?  What would you do to shorten this deficit that‘s up to $3 billion?

BOLTON:  If the governor really wants to fix this deficit, why doesn‘t he do something like the governor of Minnesota has proposed, taxing the rich and people that make over $500,000?  This is nothing to do about fixing the budget.  What this has to do about with breaking unions and trying to make us servants.  And we‘re not going to stand for that here in Wisconsin.

MATTHEWS:  Let me show you something.  This is Ed Rendell, who‘s a good, pro-labor Democratic governor, just left office in Pennsylvania, my home state.  Mr. Bolton, I want you to listen—both you gentlemen—to what Ed Rendell said on “MORNING JOE” this morning.  He said the state pension deals struck with the unions back as late as 2000 -- well, 11 years ago, the year 2000 -- he said that is what‘s killing Pennsylvania fiscally.  This is a Democrat talking.  Let‘s listen.


ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR:  Every governor and every state legislature is going to have to come to grips with the problem and going to have to make cuts.  And it‘s especially difficult because since the recession took hold, virtually every state‘s been making cuts.  It‘s the excesses of the past, the pension liabilities, et cetera.  In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett, my successor, is going to deal with over half a billion dollars of increased pension liabilities from last year because of a pension bill that was passed by the legislature back in the year 2000.  They‘re paying for the past abuses.


MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have a Democratic governor, Mr. Bolton.  You‘re speaking for labor.  He‘s saying that these big pension deals are breaking the states.  Your reaction.

BOLTON:  My reaction is then we should sit down and negotiate.  That‘s how we solve problems in this state.  We don‘t solve problems by writing bills that take away our rights to negotiate.  We‘re more than willing to negotiate.  We negotiate contracts every day and we bargain hard issues every day and we resolve issues every day.  This has nothing to do with these budget issues or these pension issues.  They‘re refusing to talk to the public sector workers, and they‘re legislating them out of being unions.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Senator Grothman, your final response here?  What is—do you oppose—

GROTHMAN:  Well, first of all—

MATTHEWS:  -- collective bargaining?  If you could get rid of the unions, would you do it?

GROTHMAN:  I think Franklin Roosevelt was very opposed to public employee unions, and I personally—not necessarily Governor Walker or all Republicans—do feel that public employee unions are a huge problem, certainly in the state of Wisconsin (INAUDIBLE) they‘re the reason we‘re in this budget crisis that we are.

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to get rid of—

GROTHMAN:  I just want to—

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to get rid of, sir, Senator—would you like to get rid of the public unions altogether, just get rid of them?

GROTHMAN:  Personally?


GROTHMAN:  I cannot (INAUDIBLE) Walker.  Personally, I would, yes.

MATTHEWS:  You‘d like to get rid of the unions.  So you don‘t believe in collective bargaining for public employees, period.

GROTHMAN:  No, I don‘t think public employees need collective bargaining.  That—that‘s (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we understand the issue.  Senator, we have explained the issue.  Mr. Bolton, we have explained the issue.  One side believes in collective bargaining for workers who work for state government.  The other side believes you‘ve got a fiscal crisis and one way to solve it is to crack the unions, break them.  We know what the fight is.  Thank you, all.

Here‘s what the president, by the way, had to say about this and what‘s going on up there.  Last word, here it comes, from the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I would say as a general proposition that everybody‘s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities.  On the other hand, some of what I‘ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you‘re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. 

And I think it‘s very important for us to understand that public employees

they‘re our neighbors.  They‘re our friends.  They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution, and I think it‘s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.


MATTHEWS:  My thanks, Senator Grothman.  Thank you very much, Michael Bolton.  You both were great spokesmen for your point of view.  This is one hell of a situation for those public employees out there in your state.  Thank you, Mr. Bolton.  Thank you, Senator.

Coming up: Can John Boehner control the House Republican caucus?  He just got beaten on a pork issue in his home district, beaten by a combination of liberal Democrat, East and West Coast and the big cities, combined with the Tea Partiers.  Beat the—beat the hell out of John Boehner.  What a story.  And they took away his jet fighter engine deal.  We‘re going to talk to one of those Tea Partiers next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  What a story.


MATTHEWS:  This is going to be great!  Coming up Monday, catch the premier of my new documentary.  This is the biggest one ever, Bill Clinton.  It‘s called “President of the World.”  And we mean it because no other politician‘s ever had Bill Clinton‘s worldwide reach, well, let‘s face it, rock star appeal—they still call him Elvis out there—and historic mission.


MATTHEWS (voice-over):  Bill Clinton is renowned for the breadth and depth of his knowledge.  Just name the subject.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. DNC CHAIR:  While he was president in the last term, we went up to the U.S. Open up in New York, the tennis tournament.  John McEnroe came over and sat with the president for a little bit of time.  And all of a sudden, I see the president‘s over there using his hands and talking to John McEnroe about how he should grip the tennis racket.  So McEnroe and the daughters (ph) leave.  And I said, Mr. President, why were you giving John McEnroe tips on how to hold—you don‘t even play tennis.  Here you are telling one of the, you know, greatest stars of all time in tennis how to hold the racquet.  Without missing a beat, Oh, Mac, I really thought I could help him with it.

MATTHEWS:  Since leaving office, Clinton‘s intellectual curiosity has blossomed.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m still learning things.  I‘m interested in learning things.  I hope I can finally understand physics before I leave the earth.  But I also, you know, have a little more time now.  I still spend about an hour a day thinking about the economy.  I think that you‘re supposed to keep learning until you don‘t have any more time left.


MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re going to find this irresistible if you love the political life of this country.  It‘s called “President of the World.”  It premiers next Monday night 10:00 PM, an hour.  I said get your popcorn out.

HARDBALL back after this.



A pretty incredible vote went down in the House yesterday, House of Representatives.  It shows a lot about who‘s got power and who doesn‘t.  A coalition of Tea Partiers and Democratic liberals teamed up to vote down Speaker Boehner‘s pet project.  Politico touted it with the headline “How a sophomore beat Speaker John Boehner,” but it‘s bigger than that.

Joining me is Congressman—the congressman who spearheaded the coalition, Republican Tom Rooney of Florida.  Congressman Rooney, a famous family of (INAUDIBLE) Rooney of Pittsburgh and the Steelers.  You had a tough week there a couple weeks ago, but you won yesterday.

What I found interesting is, occasionally, there‘s common ground in Congress.  And in your case, you were for deficit reduction, spending cuts, and you managed to attract a lot of people from the left coast and from the East Coast and from the big cities to join you.  I have never seen a coalition which included Tea Partiers and John Conyers, for example, people like that, and Bob Brady from Billy and Gary Ackerman from New York state and—tell me what it was like putting that together, or if you didn‘t put it together, it just fell together.  What happened?

REP. TOM ROONEY ®, FLORIDA:  No, it‘s been a long time in coming.  I mean, this has been an issue that we‘ve been dealing with for, you know, years and years and years.  And last year, Representative Larson on the Democratic side and myself worked on this and got beat.  We thought we were going to be close.

So going into this vote yesterday, I really thought it was going to be close, and to be honest with you, I thought we were going to lose because of the way that Washington works.  And this issue has just kind of been part of the paint around here.  And we got Republican freshmen, though, geared up.  And Representative Larson did a good job switching some Democrats to vote yes.  And we came out on top by 233 votes.  It was great.

MATTHEWS:  You know, John Kasich years ago cooked up something in the gym with Ron Dellums from Berkeley on this, where they were able to put together a right-left coalition to save money by cutting out a system.

Let me ask you about the cost of the—now, there‘s two arguments.  Michele Bachmann put out a story—and I accept it as an argument in this case—that there was money to be saved if you had a dual system, a duplicative system, an engine built by GE in Boehner‘s district, a Pratt and Whitney product made, the primary product made near your district.  That saves money.

Explain what their argument is, since there‘s nobody here to make such a crazy argument.  Why is it better to duplicate a product that you only buy from one—why would you buy two loaves of bread when you only need one, since you might not like the first one or what?

ROONEY:  Yes, I didn‘t buy the argument.  It‘s basically saying that, you know, the government is fully funding two things, and somehow, that‘s competition.  And you know, if you take the time to explain that to people, they get it, that, you know, it‘s speculation to think that 20, 30, 40 years from now, that somehow drive down the costs.

And what I was telling Republican freshman is just like, Look, let‘s keep it simple.  We can cut $450 million today from a program that I consider wasteful and one that you can go back to your constituents this weekend and say, I cut $450 million from the budget today.  And that‘s—you know, that was really what we tried to do, just keep it simple, take out the parochial arguments of what jobs are in what districts and GE versus Pratt.  Forget all that stuff.  This is something that we can live without.  Every other aircraft we have, whether it‘s fixed-wing or helicopter, only uses one engine.  Why is this different?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I know why.  Because it‘s pork.  But let me ask you this.  It seems to me that every time—

ROONEY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- somebody gets on appropriations up there—I worked up there for years, not as long as you, but I worked—maybe I did work up there longer than you, but I wasn‘t an elected official.  I worked for the Speaker.  And one thing I learned was once you‘re on Appropriations, it didn‘t matter your party label was, you like to appropriate because you had the power to say where to appropriate.  Explain that culture, because you‘ve been exposed to it now.  What goes on with a member, male or female, from wherever they come from with either party, they get on the Appropriations Committee, they start porking it up.

ROONEY:  Well, you know, I—we—I‘ve only been in Congress now for a little over two years.  In the first year, we were still doing earmarks.  By the second part of my first term, the Republican side stopped.  Now, you know, we‘re all not taking earmarks, so—but in that first year, we had a very strict standard that we only, you know, would try to get earmarks for our counties and municipalities, whereas some people can go and try to slip in an earmark, like, for a GE to have a second engine, even though they lost the bid.  So this is the kind of stuff that, hopefully—it really was, Chris, I got to be honest with you—I thought we were going to lose this vote because it‘s very complicated.  But the fact that we won this shows that we might have a chance to change the culture in Washington—


ROONEY:  -- and it was a good victory.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a big noise.  It‘s great to see something new on the Hill, strange bedfellows but good strange bedfellows.  You cut some—you saved a half-billion dollars in federal spending, sir. 


ROONEY:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Congressman Rooney, from Florida.

Josh Marshall is a smart guy.  He‘s editor and founder of Talking Points Memo.

You know, we‘re always looking for something new under the sun here.  Interesting coalition here between—I looked at the list of liberals, all the big cities, guys I have known and women I have known forever, classic liberals.

But here‘s Marcy Kaptur, who is a moderate Democrat from Ohio.  Here‘s what she said.  She predicted an alliance on HARDBALL like this one, Tea Partiers who want to cut spending and liberals who think, for example, wasteful spending goes on in the Defense Department. 

Let‘s listen.


REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO:  I was just going to say, if I might mention it, I look forward to alliances with some of the Tea Party Republicans that have just been elected, because when NAFTA passed in 1993, we only had a 12-vote margin that would have made the difference.

And look at the terrible hemorrhage of jobs that occurred because of that.  I will tell you, I think that there is a real Democratic/Tea Party Republican alliance to be born in this new Congress.  And if it doesn‘t happen, the people who don‘t support jobs in this country won‘t be reelected two years from now. 


MATTHEWS:  I have always liked Marcy Kaptur. 

Let me ask you this, Josh, this question.  Is this something to look at?  Will this affect the debt ceiling?  Will this affect a lot of things, this coalition of the left and liberal coasts, the East Coast, West Coast, where you have a lot of liberals in the big cities lining up with some of these—these people from the country, basically, from the rural parts of the country, these Tea Partiers? 

JOSHUA MICAH MARSHALL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  You know, I certainly don‘t think it‘s going to be a dominant coalition in this Congress.  And I sort of suspect that, on the—


MATTHEWS:  But what about on debt ceiling, something that‘s really hot?

MARSHALL:  You know, possibly.  I—I suspect it will come up more with—with other issues like this, but, you know, you—you certainly could have a situation where you have got, you know, the less establishment Democrats, more populist Democrats, who—who—


MARSHALL:  -- you know, you have got that—you have got that kind of thing happening.  And I—I—you know, not—not a common thing, but I think this is something we have to look out for, because you see that basic division in the Republican Party up there between people like Boehner and Cantor, who may be conservative, but they‘re basically establishment people.  They want to keep everything—


MATTHEWS:  They‘re—they‘re appropriators.

MARSHALL:  Yes.  They want—


MATTHEWS:  They love to—they love to appropriate for their district.  That‘s what power means to these guys.

MARSHALL:  Yes, exactly.  Exactly.  And they want to keep everything going.  They want people to get reelected.  They want the—the money to keep flowing, like—like the people on the other side of the aisle do.

And a lot of these Tea Partiers are coming in, and, you know, some of them I think will—will decide pretty quickly they would like to stay and they will want to be—be part of that club.  But some of them don‘t really seem to care that much whether they‘re—whether they‘re still going to be in Congress, you know, four or six years out. 

So, I think you will have some of this cross-cutting establishment vs.  populist stuff -- 


MARSHALL:  -- that crosses the party lines.

MATTHEWS:  You could really say these are hypocrites, because they want to raise and spend a lot of money, but not take it from the rich people.  In other words, tax—don‘t tax too much, but spend a lot in your own district.  But that would be hypocrisy, wouldn‘t it?

Let‘s go take a look at Boehner.  He‘s getting a little strange lately.  Here‘s John Boehner, speaker of the House, trying to clean up his mess the other day where he said when we talked about it—somebody asked him about losing a lot of public employee jobs, maybe up to 100,000, 200,000, or up to maybe a million at one point the estimate, and he said, so be it, like he was the pharaoh. 

Well, here he is putting back a comment to try to clean that up. 

Let‘s listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I don‘t want anyone to lose their job, whether they‘re a federal employee or not.  But come on.  We‘re broke.  We have got to make tough decisions.  And when we say we‘re going to cut spending, read my lips, we‘re going cut spending. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, why is he quoting the first George Bush in his worst quote in history? 


MATTHEWS:  Is that to cover up the so be it, sort of pharaonic comment he made the other day? 

MARSHALL:  You know, I—I know that there are a lot of Democratic ad-makers who have already taken that come on line, and they have got it cued up for ads that are going to be running a year, 18 months from now.

You know, he‘s—John Boehner is having a little problem getting up to speed and not making these kind of snarky comments, which in a climate where you still have upwards of 10 percent unemployment, that‘s just lethal.  And you can see that, even though he tried to walk it back a little, he‘s still basically saying the same thing. 

And, you know, this is what happens when you are—when you are the king of the hill.  You know, the—


MARSHALL:  -- problem with no jobs is yours.

MATTHEWS:  Tom Dewey lost an election—Tom Dewey lost an election for president because he made fun of an engineer working on a train.  He said, it must be an idiot as an engineer on this train.

And every labor guy in the country, every working person in the country, said, this guy looks down on us?  Great, I‘m voting for the other guy.  I‘m voting for Harry Truman.

MARSHALL:  Yes.  It‘s—it‘s lethal stuff.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Josh Marshall.  It‘s always great to get deep understanding of deep issues, sir.  Thank you.  It‘s great.

MARSHALL:  Thanks so much.

MATTHEWS:  And I think you‘re pretty straight on all this stuff. 

Up next:  Michele Bachmann keeps the birther lie alive.  And Karl Rove says the whole birther issue is a strategy of the White House. 

Oh, yes?  Watch people like Michele Bachmann in action.  You know where this is coming from.  Check out what they‘re saying about President Obama next in the “Sideshow.”  They won‘t quit this line. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

First up:  Conspiracies abound.  Last night on “The O‘Reilly Factor,” Karl Rove said the birther movement is not only a distraction, but—catch this—it‘s one being engineered by the Obama White House. 


BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  It‘s divide.  Let‘s divide the Republican Party. 

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  This is the White House strategy.  They—they—they love this. 

O‘REILLY:  But how do you know it‘s the White House strategy? 

ROVE:  Well, look, look, the president could come out and say, here are the documents.  But they‘re happy to have this controversy continue, because every moment that conservatives talk about this, they marginalize themselves and diminish themselves in the minds of independent voters. 



Anyway, here‘s the thing.  What Rove‘s theory doesn‘t explain is the continued unwillingness of Republican lawmakers, from Boehner to McConnell, anybody to denounce this stuff.  It‘s simple.  Say the president is a native-born American and a Christian, and be done with it, not, I think he is or I take him at his word. 

Case in point, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  Listen to her deliberate and calculated language the other day—she used actually this morning on ABC‘s “Good Morning America.” 


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  Can you state very clearly that President Obama is a Christian and he is a citizen of the United States? 

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, that isn‘t for me to state.  That is for the president to state.  And I think that when the president states—

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Do you believe it? 

BACHMANN:  When the president makes his statements, I think they need to stand for their own. 


MATTHEWS:  There you got it right there, right there.  Good for George.  Viewers of the show—on this show—know that Michele Bachmann certainly doesn‘t shy away from taking a stand if she wants to.  She knows exactly what she‘s doing there, playing it, well, cute. 

Next: an idiot‘s guide to politics dedicated to John Kasich.

The Ohio governor was pulled over last month for a traffic violation.  Like many of us, he wasn‘t happy about it.  The problem? Governor Kasich at an official event told his story—catch this—to a group of state workers, state employees, and called the policeman who had pulled him over an idiot three different times. 


GOV. JOHN KASICH ®, OHIO:  Think about this.  Have you ever been stopped by a policeman who was an idiot?  I have this idiot pull me over on 315.  Listen to this story.  He‘s an idiot. 

We just can‘t act that way.  And what people resent are people who are in the government who don‘t treat the client with respect. 


MATTHEWS:  Whoa.  After that video went viral, the governor arranged a meeting today with the police officer to apologize to—apologize to him in person, which he accepted. 

Up next:  New Jersey Chris Christie blew into Washington, and Republicans swooned.  Christie keeps saying he‘s not running for president in 2012, but some Republicans say he‘s the only candidate—there he is—who could actually beat President Obama.  What is it about this guy that so many people just love? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks pushing modestly higher on an avalanche of earnings and economic news today, all the major indices finishing at multiyear highs, the Dow gaining 30 points, the S&P adding four, and the Nasdaq tacking on six. 

On the economic front, manufacturing in the Philadelphia area surging to its highest level in six years in January.  The consumer price index, the CPI, meantime, which measures inflation outside the volatile food and energy sectors, gained fourth-tenths of a percent, one investor saying today that a little bit of inflation is actually a good thing for the economy.

In stocks, the energy sector was in focus again on lingering concerns about Middle Eastern stability.  Williams Companies led the sector on word that it will split into two companies focusing on exploration and production.

Dr Pepper Snapple, meantime, surging more than 5 percent on strong earnings and an upbeat forecast, and Weight Watchers soaring 45 percent after doubling quarterly sales thanks to booming business online. 

And that‘s it from CNBC for now.  We are first in business worldwide -

it is back to HARDBALL now. 


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  I threatened to commit suicide. 


I said, what do I have to do, short of suicide, to convince people I‘m not running?

And I‘m not stupid.  I see the opportunity.  I see it.  That‘s not the reason to run. 

You have to believe in your heart and in your soul and in your mind that you are ready.  And I don‘t believe that about myself right now.  And, third, my wife will kill me. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  That of course is the newly exciting governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie yesterday—actually, it was Wednesday—that is yesterday—at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.  He skipped past CPAC‘s jamboree last week, but he‘s still on the tip of a lot of tongues.

There—this is the hot flavor right now.  Let‘s watch. 


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Chris Christie has shown us that responsible spending cuts—


BARBOUR:  -- spending cuts can be achieved and popular even in an unusually—in a usually blue state like New Jersey. 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM”:  Well, I will put it in a nutshell.  If you don‘t run, Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee, and we will lose.



MATTHEWS:  Will be the what?  Christie—what did she say? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: “Romney will be the nominee, and we will lose.”

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God, that‘s pretty drastic. 

Anyway, Christie ended up placing—placing up—placing in the distant tie for third in that CPAC straw poll, behind Romney and—and the winner, Ron Paul.  But he still did a lot better than big conservative name brands like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

So, what is it all about, this, New Jersey‘s tough-talking governor, who has been in office just a year? 

“Newsweek”‘s Jonathan Alter—we have got two smart people here of different points of view, perhaps—and John Feehery.

Alter, you‘re always smart about these things.  And you can put on your clear analytic hat with no ideological touch whatever—


MATTHEWS:  -- and tell me, who would be the strongest Republican next November to face the president?

ALTER:  Well, I actually think Chris Christie would be.  I‘m a constituent in New Jersey.  I have watched him operate in my state. 

And he‘s smart, straight-talking, appealing, funny, from a blue state.  And his weight is an advantage.  It makes him seem like more of a regular guy.  It‘s—


ALTER:  It heightens the contrast.

But I take him at his word that he‘s not running.  You know, in 2005, when Jon Corzine—


MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  I have got to—you have made a very interesting comment. 

ALTER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I cannot let you go further.


MATTHEWS:  Now, everybody has weight problems.  I have got it, too, so no knock.  And I think you made a very interesting point. 

Somebody said to me today, just physically, he has a commanding presence. 

ALTER:  He does.

MATTHEWS:  I worked for a guy named Tip O‘Neill, commanding presence.  He looks like he‘s well over six feet.  He looks like he‘s a big guy.  He is clearly a big guy.  He walks on to that set against the president when you have those debates, say two or three debates.  President Obama is thin, in fantastic shape, a thin guy, thin features, the whole thing. 

This guy is big.  Do you think that bigness is a plus on the TV screen? 

ALTER:  I think it actually could be. 

You know, it reminds me of when there was this debate years ago in the Nixon administration over G. Harrold Carswell‘s nomination to the Supreme Court. 


MATTHEWS:  I remember it.

ALTER:  And he was described as mediocre.  And Senator Hruska from Nebraska said, well, mediocre people deserve some representation on the Supreme Court.


ALTER:  You know?  There are a lot of overweight people out there. 


ALTER:  They don‘t consider it to be a negative, you know, despite our obsession with looks in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Michelle Obama is going to say, this is what I‘m talking about, though.  She‘s going after obesity problems.

Look, here we go.  It‘s interesting.  He makes a sound point.  I mean, you—you play your strengths.  It‘s what you do with what you got.  If he‘s just the way he is right now, can he take on Obama and beat him? 

FEEHERY:  You know what? 

MATTHEWS:  Is he a great candidate?

FEEHERY:  You know what Christie is?  He‘s authentic.  He‘s a real person.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You make the same point.

FEEHERY:  I think Alter‘s right.  I think he‘s right.  I don‘t—and I never agree with this guy.  But I agree with him now.


FEEHERY:  You know what?  Chris Christie is a real guy.  He‘s a regular guy. 


MATTHEWS:  You mean, in a country where people are told to eat their carrots and eat their string beans—

FEEHERY:  People are sick and tired of blow-dried politicians. 


FEEHERY:  They‘re sick of it.  They want real people. 

And I think that, the last election, that‘s why we nominated McCain, because he was authentic.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me stick it to you.  You‘re being too nice here.


MATTHEWS:  Let me stick—I want to stick it to John for a second here.

ALTER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he is a statement, the fact that a guy with only a year‘s experience who says over and over again, I‘m not ready, which is a very appealing thing to say, by the way, in a country of big shots, to say, I‘m not ready, which is probably true in his heart—they have boring candidates, the Republican Party, right now. 

Mitt Romney may be qualified for many things, like making money and running Olympics.  I can‘t see him turning on the country.  I can‘t see people saying, I got to be a Mitt Romney guy.

FEEHERY:  Well, we don‘t know who all our candidates are.


FEEHERY:  Romney might be boring, but Sarah Palin certainly isn‘t boring.  And I‘ll tell you what.  Chris Christie—

MATTHEWS:  You have got to have some—


MATTHEWS:  -- though.  You can‘t be all sale.


FEEHERY:  Chris Christie—Chris Christie—Chris Christie is not boring.  There‘s no doubt.


MATTHEWS:  No, wait a minute.  Did you just say Sarah Palin could be the Republican nominee for president? 

FEEHERY:  No.  She could run for president. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Right.  OK.

FEEHERY:  She could run for president. 

MATTHEWS:  So, is there—is there—let me—answer my question.  Is it a personality deficit we‘re looking at, and that‘s why he can fill it? 

FEEHERY:  I don‘t think—I don‘t think Haley Barbour is boring.  I don‘t think Mitch Daniels is boring. 


FEEHERY:  I think we have got plenty of excitement.

You know, what Chris Christie‘s got is, he‘s got a record.  He‘s cut spending.  And people understand—


FEEHERY:  .. especially in the states, maybe not in Washington, but in the states, that we are going broke, and someone has got to—


MATTHEWS:  Is budget cutting the hot hand right now?  The guy who has the budget-cutting knife, is he the hot hand politically right now?  Not saving Social Security, not creating jobs, not light rail, heavy rail, whatever, but a guy who says, “I‘ve got the knife and I‘m cutting”?  Is the cool thing right now?

I don‘t think it is.  But it might be.  You think?

ALTER:  No, I do think it‘s very, very appealing.  Look, he puts a stick in people‘s eye and that‘s not necessarily that appealing over time.  That might not wear well when he beats up on—


MATTHEWS:  You‘re in Jersey.  Is he a good governor?

ALTER:  So far, I disagree with him on some things, but I think generally, he is.  You know, yesterday, his education chief, Chris Cerf, gave a terrific speech on reforming tenure in the state of New Jersey.  It‘s critically important thing to do.  So, in a number of areas, he‘s doing things that appeal to independents and even some Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Do your property taxes going up -


ALTER:  -- which was a terrible mistake.

MATTHEWS:  John, have your property taxes gone up because he‘s cut the state‘s income tax—the money from the states and distribute it to the school districts.

ALTER:  Not yet.  Not yet.  That‘s one of the other issues with Christie, we don‘t know yet how well these things are going to play out politically within New Jersey.  It‘s very early.  He‘s only been in there for, you know, less than two years.

MATTHEWS:  Have you gotten your latest assessment?


ALTER:  No, I haven‘t yet.  Maybe they will go up.


ALTER:  But the point, I think he‘s got the people right now, Chris.  He‘s got the people of New Jersey.  The problem is that if he—he has to be very careful when you take this tough guy approach because over time, if you alienate too many people, then you end up like Governor Walker in Wisconsin where suddenly, everybody is in revolt.  He‘s right on that kind of line.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You know what he reminds me of physically?  He

reminds me of Raymond Burr.  He got that Raymond Burr look.  Raymond Burr

is an enormously popular guy—years and years of Perry Mason and the guy

a wheelchair guy.


FEEHERY:  Listen, Chris Christie is no Perry Mason.  What he is, he‘s a reformer.  What he‘s trying to do is he‘s trying to get the fiscal house in order.  (INAUDIBLE), for a guy like me from Chicago, Illinois‘s going bankrupt.  So, he must his place on all these other states that are going bankrupt.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s cut to the quick here.  Jon Alter, you‘re one of the smartest guys in television, I understand, and also print, in understanding what‘s going on.  Will this guy be among the possible Republican nominees against the president?

ALTER:  I don‘t think so, and here‘s why.  In 2005, everybody in the New Jersey Republican establishment wanted him to run against Jon Corzine.  He might well have won.  He didn‘t think he was ready and he listens to himself.  He doesn‘t listen to all the people gabbing about how he should run.


ALTER:  So, I‘m actually right now taking him at his word that he‘s looking to 2016.

MATTHEWS:  Same to you?

FEEHERY:  I think that‘s probably right.  I would say that the guy—he‘s an evangelist for fiscal austerity and the guy who‘s going to come in his wake is going to be Mitch Daniels.  So, I think he‘s got the same message, but a better touch.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s your party is all about now.  Fiscal responsibility?

FEEHERY:  Well, that‘s right (ph).  I mean, I think—

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I‘m curious.  It used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, then the supply side and all that stuff.

FEEHERY:  We got to get back to fiscal austerity.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.


MATTHEWS:  Voodoo economics was very big in your party for years to go.

Anyway, thank you, Alter.  Two smart guys.

ALTER:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  John Feehery, actually, a very good sport John Feehery.

Up next: Senator Scott Brown‘s remarkable revelation.  This is something we don‘t usually talk about.  Here‘s a guy talking about what he went through as a kid.  This is serious stuff, how he was molested by camp counselor, was badly beaten, not spunk, badly beaten by his stepfather.  He was definitely (INAUDIBLE) control.

We‘re going talk to two Boston reporters about an interesting story about a guy we wondered was going to get re-elected.  I think he can‘t be beaten right now.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  We told you at the top of the show that Democratic state senators out there in Wisconsin fled the capitol, the building, like they fled the state rather than allow a vote on the proposal that would strip public employee unions‘ collective bargaining power to go forward.

Well, according to an NBC station WTMJ in Milwaukee, those lawmakers have been found.  They‘re in Rockford, Illinois, outside the state.  Law enforcement had been searching for those state senators and that they‘ll be brought back to the capital in Madison to allow that vote to take.  I guess the sergeant-of-arms found these guys.



In a new book coming out next week called “Against All Odds,” Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown details of his childhood, including—all kinds details of this book including sexual and physical abuse of him.

For more on the book and Senator Brown‘s upcoming reelection coming in a year, I‘m joined by journalist Susan Milligan and Peter Canellos, who both of whom worked on that great book, “The Last Lion,” “The Boston Globe” biography of Ted Kennedy, the late Ted Kennedy.

Susan, you know, let‘s take a look at this.  Here‘s Senator Brown talking about his past with the great Lesley Stahl, in an interview that‘s going to run Sunday on “60 Minutes.”  Let‘s listen.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  You tell us that you were actually sexually abused, more than once?

SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  Yes.  He said, if you tell anybody, you know, I‘ll kill you, you know?  I will make sure that no one believes you.

STAHL:  So you never reported it?

BROWN:  No, my mom will read about it for the first time.  My wife hasn‘t read about it.  No, no one, I didn‘t tell anybody.


MATTHEWS:  Well, reading these accounts, they‘re fleeting accounts of an encounter he had with a camp counselor where someone molested him, we have to go to too much detail.  And another case for another kid came at him with a knife and tried to do something with him, and then, of course, the parts about his stepfather beating the heck out of him.  That to me—

I don‘t know what‘s more horrific—but interesting disclosures.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, FMR. BOSTON GLOBE REPORTER:  Yes, very much so.  And you know, when he first said he was going to do this book, our first thought was, oh, you know, this is—getting ready for the campaign, defining himself because it‘s not still really clear who he is.  He‘s not really an ideological guy.

But this is just an incredible disclosure, and I think the first thing we all have to feel is just compassion—


MILLIGAN:  -- that somebody who went through something so horrific.  And it does give us some insight into him.  And, maybe, hopefully, it‘s giving him some insight into himself.  I mean, clearly, he didn‘t—he didn‘t talk about this with anyone for so long.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Peter, the first thing that comes to my mind in

Boston, especially if you‘re Catholic or been through all the hell that‘s

going on up there with the priest and the diocese and all the mess with

that Bernard Law person who‘s now out of the picture—he‘s over in Rome -

that this is something that will resonate, you know?  He‘s not an altar boy.  He‘s not a Catholic, but religion is going through that.



MATTHEWS:  And this is Boston, ground zero for a lot of that bad reality up there.

CANELLOS:  Yes, I think it does resonate and I think precisely the

priest scandal prepared people for this kind of revelation.  But I think it

you know, it still was an admirable thing for him to come forward in this way and will have a positive effect on other men, you know, it‘s a taboo.  We have statistic showing that maybe 17 percent of men when they were under 18 had unwanted advances.  So, I think it will resonate with a lot of people.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s push this a little further.  Unwanted advances

I mean, anybody has ever a teenager and hitchhiked got unwanted advances.  I mean, I know all about it.  That‘s hitchhiking, you know, you get picked up some strange people.  These were cases where you knew.  So, it‘s not like it happens with women I‘m sure.  I‘m sure it does.


But here, it happened, Peter, is what happened was this one guy really did threaten him with a knife.  This other guy really did touch him, a guy, he was local, who was supposed to be looking out for him, a camp counselor.  This moves beyond approaches or advancements to abuse, I think.

CANELLOS:  No, it clearly does and it also implicates his parents.  I mean, during the campaign up here, a lot of people were surprised at how tough he was on his parents.  He said his mom and dad were troubled people, each one, you know, married and divorced three times. And a lot of people thought he was being too tough.

But now that this book is out, I think, you know, maybe he was being too easy on his parents.  You know, a lot of this happened because he was unsupervised, because he lacked support—

MATTHEWS:  You know, the shoplifting stuff.


MATTHEWS:  Very open about picking up a three-piece suit somewhere and stealing some steaks and some music albums.

What struck me, having—we‘re all students, all three of us students of biography of politicians.  We love biography, we all do.

Bill Clinton‘s great book by David Maraniss about how when he was a kid, his father was—one of his stepfathers was a drunk and was beating the heck out of his mom.  And he had to go protect his mom.  And stand—at 15, he was a big kid, Bill.  And he had to stand up to this menace and take him down basically and become the father figure in the family, the real man in the house, if you will.

MILLIGAN:  You know, it‘s interesting because we all like to be sort of an armchair psychologist and you can look at Bill Clinton‘s personality.  And he has the classic behavior of the adult child of an alcoholic and trying to mend fences even when they can‘t be mended.

MATTHEWS:  Cover up problems.

MILLIGAN:  And cover problems.  Scott Brown was just a shock to me because it adds this layer to him that I hadn‘t anticipated.  He‘s not—you know, as much as a lot of Democrats are upset about his election in Massachusetts, he‘s an admirable guy.  It‘s really hard not to like him.  I mean, and he‘s not ideological guy.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s Mumbles, the great mayor.  And I mean it positively, Mr. Mayor.  Tommy Menino, the great Tommy Menino of Boston, reelected 1 million times by the last count.


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what he said, he only—people like him because he tells the truth.  “There‘s nobody that can beat him.”  Peter, what do you think of that line?  “There‘s nobody that can beat him.”

CANELLOS:  Well, first of all, I think—

MATTHEWS:  How‘s that for a great statement from Tommy Menino, the mayor of Boston?

CANELLOS:  I think—I think Tom Menino really, really knows politics.  So, I would not contradict anything Menino said.  But I will say that my humble opinion is there‘s a long way to the next election and this is still a Democratic state.


MATTHEWS:  Lynch, Capuano, who‘s your favorite?  Who‘s going to run against him?


MATTHEWS:  To you first, Peter, you‘re up there in the bureau, you‘re the editorial writer now.  Who‘s going to run?  Is it Lynch?  I think I talked to my friend Jasser (ph), you know, up there.  You know, I hear Lynch, pro-lifer against the field, you never know.  Capuano, some feel like he could have won last time.  Of course, I got a feel from Jasser today, my expert up there.

What do you think, Peter?  Strongest Democrat?

CANELLOS:  I think one of the relative unknowns like Newton Mayor Setti Warren, or Bob Massey is an environmental activist.  Somebody like that—somebody who can be the Scott Brown of the Democrats to come out and beat Scott Brown will do it.

MATTHEWS:  How about my friend Markey?  How about Ed Markey?  Is he going to take him on?

MILLIGAN:  You know, I don‘t think so.  Ed Markey really loves being in the House.  He‘s a real creature of the House.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s nothing like Massachusetts politics.  Nothing.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s wall to wall.

Thank you, Peter.  It‘s great (INAUDIBLE).

Susan Milligan, thank you for coming on.

MILLIGAN:  Thanks so much.

MATTHEWS:  And, Peter Canellos—thank you, guys.  It‘s great to have pros on.  I don‘t have to do any work when you‘re on.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the strange bedfellows of this week: the Tea Partiers, these are Massachusetts expression, and the Libs.  They broke the pork bellies—that‘s my phrase.  The pork bellies got beaten this week.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with some good news.  What makes politics fascinating and what makes government work actually is the unexpected common ground, when two different points of view merge.  Like when the Tea Party folks get together with the liberals.  I was going over the roll call of late yesterday‘s votes on those fighter engines, the ones that are made near John Boehner‘s congressional district, the ones the Pentagon says it doesn‘t need.

It‘s fascinating.  You got liberals from the east and left coast all over the list of those who voted to kill the spending, people like Gary Ackerman of New York, Bob Brady of Philly, John Conyers of Detroit, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut—liberals I‘ve known for year, solid Democrats—on that same side of the vote are a bunch of Republican Tea Party people who just came to the House.

The vote to kill the aircraft engine won 233 to 198.  The speaker was on the losing side of the bill.  So were his top lieutenants and leadership wannabes like Michele Bachmann, the so-called champion of the Tea Parties.  She voted with the pork bellies.


Well, nothing is simple in this business, of course.  One person‘s waste is somebody else‘s fiscal genius.  Bachmann‘s office, for example, told us that today that a GAO report pointed out that having the engines made near Boehner‘s district duplicate the engines made near somebody else‘s district would save billions of dollars.  Well, you go figure about that duplication.

The point here is that there‘s common ground here, for the people who think the government spends too much money and those who think it spends too much of its money on the Pentagon.

So, now, the question is to find other areas where this happens.  If they‘ve saved half a billion here, maybe they can save billions or tens of billions or hundreds of billions somewhere else.

If you expect people to agree on everything before they agree on anything, you‘re not going to see much get done.  You‘re not going to see much cutting out there.

The good thing here is that liberals joined Tea Parties and beat the old boys establishment, the old mentality, if you save my pork, then I‘ll save yours.

Well, it‘s a bad week for the pork bellies, pretty good start for the Tea Parties and progressives.  As Charles Dudley Warner once put it, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”  And this is one time when people sleeping together gave John Boehner a bad night, but saved the country a half billon bucks.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.




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