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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Hampton Pearson, David Corn, Eugene Robinson, Joan Walsh, John Heilemann, Naill O‘Dowd, Jack O‘Reilly, Steve McMahon, Ron Christie

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The African scheme.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Trash talk.  We‘re hearing a lot of trash talk from Republican presidential hopefuls these days.  The latest comes from Newt Gingrich, the original source of that Kenya Mau Mau garbage, who said his work ethic—catch this -- - and more important, his patriotic passion for his country was the real cause of that marital infidelity during the time of the Clinton impeachment push.  How can Gingrich and Huckabee really consider themselves serious 2012 contenders when they get caught selling this cockamamie?

Then, before Congressman Peter King was a vocal crusader against Islamic terrorism, he was an unabashed supporter of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist group.  And critics of tomorrow‘s hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims can‘t understand how he went from sympathizing with a demonized group, Catholics in Northern Ireland, to demonizing American Muslims.  One of King‘s friends who worked with him on the Irish—Northern Irish peace process has now publicly broken with him over what he called King‘s “strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.  We‘re going to talk to him about that.

Also, time to do battle?  Some Democrats—some—are calling on the president to take the lead in the budget fight and to take a more hawkish role in Libya.  Are they right, or is he right?  Our strategists will get to that one tonight.

And just when it looks like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is ready to compromise on collective bargaining rights, good old Karl Rove‘s American Crossroads group is talking dirty about the unions.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with Huckabee and Newt, the duke and the dauphin of the back country.

Let‘s start with Newt Gingrich and his explanation for his infidelity.  Let‘s start with—oh, let‘s bring in “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann and Salon‘s Joan—well, Joan, you are—I can see with bated breath.  I have never—of all the things I‘ve heard in politics, nothing compares to this one.  Here‘s Gingrich talking to David Brody (ph) on, of course, the Christian Broadcasting Network, about his past.



And I‘m not going to ask it the way everybody else‘ll ask it, but as it

relates to the past and some of those the personal issues that you‘ve had -

you‘ve talked about how God is a forgiving God, and I‘d like you to expand about—upon that, as you went through some of those difficulties, how you saw God‘s forgiving nature in all of that.

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Well, I mean, first of all, there‘s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt by this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.  And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn‘t trapped in situation ethics.  I was doing things that were wrong, and yet I was doing them.  I found that I was—felt compelled to seek God‘s forgiveness.


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t care how far right a person listening now is.  I don‘t care how far they are in the tank for people like Gingrich and Huckabee, how deep in the tank, at the bottom of the ocean of the tank, they can buy this garbage.  We‘ve been listening to this Kenya talk that came from both these guys‘ mouths.  It started with Newt and it got virally over to Huckabee.  And now we‘re hearing him say not the old canard of “mistakes were made,” but somehow, he felt into the sack with somebody because he was so patriotic in his passion, is the craziest, looniest talk.  Just don‘t talk about your private life if you don‘t want to, but don‘t use the flag!


MATTHEWS:  The flag as somehow the cause of your problems and somehow

I don‘t even know where to begin!  I don‘t know why this guy, David Brody, even said—he should have vomited at that point.  He says (ph) and this is not on my air, I‘m going to throw away the tape.  Nobody thinks like this!  Nobody‘s going to believe this garbage!  Why are we putting it on the air?  Just put it away and start over again.

Your thoughts, Joan.  I have—this is crazy talk!  I‘m going to play it again in a minute here!


MATTHEWS:  I‘m so passionately in love with my country that I got involved and mistakes were made.  In the middle of the Clinton impeachment, he‘s messing around with somebody on the House Ag Committee.  Fine.  I‘m not saying fine, but that‘s his business.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But to bring it up now in some sort of toilet-cleaning exercise—

WALSH:  It‘s hypocrisy.

MATTHEWS:  -- so he can run for president—go ahead.  Your thoughts.

WALSH:  It‘s just—it‘s just such rank hypocrisy.  It‘s unbelievable.  And I mean, how—how does that fly at home?  Honey, I thought so—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hypocrisy?  It‘s garbage!  What he‘s talking about? 

Joan explicate this—

WALSH:  I felt so passionately—


MATTHEWS:  Explain this in poem.  We‘re doing English lit right now. 

Explain what this man is saying?

WALSH:  He‘s saying that he took his love for his country so seriously that he transferred it to a woman that wasn‘t his wife—


WALSH:  -- but God will forgive him because he believes—

MATTHEWS:  Of course!

WALSH:  He believes in a forgiving God.  Thank God he believes in a forgiving God.  He‘s got so much so forgive.  But the other thing I want to point out here is, is there any evidence at all that Newt Gingrich believes in a forgiving God for anybody but Newt Gingrich?  I mean, this is—this man—

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll get to that part of his spread of thought—

WALSH:  He‘s such an unbelievable hypocrite.  He‘s such a judgmental -



WALSH:  -- medieval kind of guy.

MATTHEWS:  You are so right.  He‘s the one of God, and everyone else is—

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- a, quote, “secular, atheist”—

WALSH:  Atheist.

MATTHEWS:  -- “elitist” because you can‘t just disagree with him, you have to be (INAUDIBLE) John Heilemann, my cousin, I have to tell you I am thrilled by this because it‘s the everlasting proof of nonsense.  Newt Gingrich could have just left his embarrassment behind him.  Maybe we would have left it alone after a while.  We would have gotten tired talking about it.  But here he is, bringing it back in this new light of—it had something to do with the flag and patriotism.

Here he is again, talking about why he got involved with somebody during his marriage during the Clinton embarrassment.  And here he is.  It had something to do with the flag that‘s behind him right now, by the way.  He think he‘s Patton.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go.


GINGRICH:  In a sense, our Judeo-Christian civilization is under attack from two fronts.  On one front, you have a secular atheist elitism, and on the other front you have radical Islamists.  And both groups would like to eliminate our civilization, if they could, for different reasons but with equal passion.


MATTHEWS:  OK, he‘s fighting a two-front war.  On one front is Barack Obama.  That‘s by the way—all the other references, when he says “secular atheist elitism”—when he‘s not accusing Obama of being a Mau Mau-ist, somebody over in Africa killing Brits, he‘s accusing him of being a “secular atheist elitist.”  You got to be one or the other, don‘t you, maybe?  I don‘t know.  Are Mau Mau people elitists?


MATTHEWS:  It‘s insane, the way he talks.  Go ahead.

HEILEMANN:  Apparently, “secular atheist elitists” are the ones who are faithful to their wives and are in—

WALSH:  Yes, really!


HEILEMANN:  -- happy families and happy marriages.  That sounds like a pretty good argument for the far left, as far as I‘m concerned.  But look, I mean—

MATTHEWS:  What scorecard is this guy using, by the way, that makes himself godly, and Barack Obama, who‘s had one marriage, has never done one thing wrong, has never reprimanded by the House of Representatives, has never had ethical problems up the kazoo, whose kids are perfect, whose marriage is wondrous—and this guy, with all his background and baggage, has the nerve to call Barack Obama an “atheist secularist.”  Where‘s he get that from?

HEILEMANN:  Look, it‘s almost painful to talk about these things because the hypocrisy is so obvious and—you know, but also, I think that the political strategy is equally obvious.  Look, I mean, he knows that the opening on the Republican side that he‘s going to try to fill, especially if Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin don‘t run, is he‘s going to try to fill the Tea Party and the Christian evangelical part of the party.  He‘s going to try to grab that piece of the primary and caucus electorate.

And in order to do that, he has got to put some of this stuff behind him.  And I think there is—there is a calculated strategy to doing this.  He wants to try to get all of this out on the table as early as possible, and then try to move on from it and get people to forget about it because he knows there‘s this thing that could dog him throughout his entire candidacy.

MATTHEWS:  But how can he—


HEILEMANN:  So he‘s trying to get it—he‘s trying to get it behind him.  I agree with you about everything you said about the ham-handedness and the ridiculousness by which he‘s doing it, but that is the strategy here.

WALSH:  Right.

HEILEMANN:  Vomit it all up right now and then move on.

MATTHEWS:  Before we move on from Newt, just one last thought before we get to Huckabee here.  Huckabee‘s still at it on this front.  How does he work his way into the church tent?  How does he, a guy I‘ve never thought of Mr. Religious—how does he work into the church tent and grab the what I call the western conference of the Republican Party, the religious side?

HEILEMANN:  Well, he—

MATTHEWS:  I mean, how does—what are his bona fide—Joan first. 

I‘m sorry.

HEILEMANN:  That‘s all right.

MATTHEWS:  What are his bona fides here?  What does he claim here as his greatness?

WALSH:  He claims that he has had—he has had a conversion to Catholicism, Chris.  You know, God bless him.  He‘s entitled to do that.  He also—this is really tricky.  Not even yet a Catholic, he got the Catholic church to annul his last marriage, to declare it null and void so he could have a third marriage, this time in the Catholic church—which my church has a few things to answer for there.  That is the kind of hypocrisy.  He‘s pulling strings to have his marriage annulled so he can be a Catholic and he can become the candidate of the Christian right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s—


WALSH:  -- that unbelievable.

HEILEMANN:  You know what that‘s about, guys.  He‘s also having the adultery annulled.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let‘s take a look—

WALSH:  Can you do that?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s move on.

WALSH:  Wow!

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think he can say—

WALSH:  Things I didn‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I don‘t—what I don‘t like is he joins a new religion and uses it to be exclusionary and put down everybody else again.

WALSH:  To other people who are also religious.  Tell—


WALSH:  Does Joe Biden know that he‘s an atheist?  Has anyone called him that?

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think anybody knows that Joe‘s an elitist, either.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at this, Huckabee on Sirius XM radio yesterday—actually, this was on Tuesday, which is yesterday.  Let‘s listen.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR GOV., HOST, “HUCKABEE”:  The interesting thing, the reaction ranged from, This guy is so dumb, he doesn‘t know that Barack Obama grew up in Indonesia, not Kenya, all the way to the other extreme—I saw people like Andrea Mitchell saying, Oh, no, he did this on purpose.  He is very smart and shrewd.  He did this in a calculating way.  Well, Tim, I can‘t be both.  I can‘t be the dumbest guy in the room and the smartest guy in the room at the same time.  I have to be one or the other.  Or maybe it was just that I made a mistake.  I corrected it, which is exactly what it was.


MATTHEWS:  First of all, that‘s not a mistake.  You don‘t give a whole definition and history book of a guy‘s role with his grandfather and his father and the Mau Maus and the revolution against British colonial rule and that whole story and say—and first of all, he didn‘t grow up in Indonesia.  He keeps lying.  I‘m sorry.  He keeps saying things that aren‘t true.

Here‘s what Huckabee actually said on Monday, by the way, just to get it clear what he said.  And if this is a mistake, it was my marmalade joke.  Let‘s go back to Steve Malzberg here.  You know the old joke about the marmalade?  I meant to say, Dear, pass the marmalade, and I accidentally say, You‘ve ruined my life.

I‘m sorry, here‘s Steve Malzberg.


HUCKABEE:  His perspective, as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.


MATTHEWS:  Slip of the tongue, eh?

WALSH:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  You‘ll—you‘ll note, Chris, that his response today when he said that it was either—that people said—some people reacted, he claimed—some people reacted saying he was so dumb, he don‘t know where Obama was raised, and other people said that he was so smart that he was using it in a calculated way.  That‘s just the ultimate straw man argument because I don‘t think I heard anybody who claimed that he was so dumb that he didn‘t know.  I think, actually, it was pretty much universal.  People looked at this and said, Well, that was a calculated thing to do, to either try to sell books or to try to court a certain kind of part of the Republican electorate to run for president.

WALSH:  To get to use the term “Mau Mau.”  That‘s always fun.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you, Joan.  This is ethnic.  It was an attempt to remind everybody this guy‘s African-American.  He has a somewhat exotic name, so he‘s one of those people, one of those foreign people over there in the bush who like to kill white people.  There‘s no doubt what he was doing.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And he got caught doing it on AM radio.  And Thank God—or maybe to all of our misfortunes, when you say something in the world today, it‘s an echo chamber.  We all hear it.  Thank you, echo chamber.  John Heilemann, sir, I know I talked too much too much today.  I gave you about three seconds.


MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh, I think about five seconds.  This guy—these are—these are the duke and the dauphin of the back country, these two guys, and they‘re working, as you said, the outer elements of the right wing.

Coming up: Pressure is mounting against Congressman Peter King.  This is sort of my line of (INAUDIBLE) the Irish here.  His hearings are tomorrow.  He‘s going after the “radicalization of American Muslims,” he calls it.  This guy‘s got a bee in his bonnet.  We‘ll try to figure it out.  When we return, one of his colleagues, by the way, from the Northern Ireland peace process, a great man, Niall O‘Dowd, is going to come here and talk about what he thinks is going on with our friend, Peter.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  David Broder, the longtime political reporter and columnist for “The Washington Post,” died today.  Broder was known as the dean, of course, of the Washington press corps.  He covered every presidential convention since 1956.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1973 for his coverage and analysis, which was great, of Watergate.  And in 2008, he made his 400th appearance on “MEET THE PRESS,” more than any other guest. David Broder was 81.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Republican congressman Peter King of New York will take center stage tomorrow when he holds hearings on what he calls the “radicalization of American Muslims,” but not without facing a barrage of criticism.  “The New York Times” led their front page today with an expose on King‘s past, exposing the fact that he was once a defender of the IRA, and now wants to basically indict the entire American Muslim community.

Niall O‘Dowd‘s a close friend of King‘s, still is, worked with him on the Northern Ireland peace accord, which was great work for everybody, but he‘s publicly has broken with him on his position right now on his decision to hold these hearings, saying he‘s demonizing a group of people, which I agree with him on.  And Jack O‘Reilly‘s mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, a city that‘s 30 percent Arab-American and home of the largest mosque in North America.

Gentlemen, it‘s an honor to have both of you on, even though it‘s a strange time to do it.  Niall, thank you for joining us.


MATTHEWS:  I sometimes think our community‘s always going to be driven in half between the devilairs (ph) and the Collins crowd.  I‘m a Collins guy.  I‘m sorry.  I was with the treaty.  It‘s the way it is.  I grew up that way.  I‘m a moderate in my soul.  People may not believe it.

Here‘s Congressman King and what he said at a pro-IRA rally back in ‘82.  Now, this is a long time ago, but it‘s illustrative.  “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”  And three years later, he said, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it‘s certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it.”

So there he is not passing blame, saying that they‘re just casualties to what is basically a military campaign.  I know all these arguments.  You know them, Niall.

O‘DOWD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  As long as you‘re going after guys in uniform, all‘s fair in war.  And it is a war.  What did you make of his decision to do something which I find appalling, to cast this giant net—it is Joe McCarthy.  It‘s  everybody in the State Department is corrupt.  Every intellectual at every Ivy League school‘s corrupt.  My mother used to talk like this occasionally, I know how it goes.  Your thoughts.

O‘DOWD:  Oh, I think it‘s a huge mistake.  I mean, the one thing Pete learned from Northern Ireland, that I learned from Northern Ireland—you cannot demonize an entire group of people.  Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland were often called a terrorist community, and people took an extreme view of them.  In fact, within that nationalist community, there were 90 percent of the people who wanted a peaceful path.  And when that path presented itself, they went and they took it and they created one of the great peace processes of the 20th century (INAUDIBLE) success of the Irish peace process.

Pete knew that.  Pete was on the ground.  He worked with people who were demonized.  Now, unfortunately, he seems to have turned back on himself and began to demonize people who he should know from his own experience do not deserve that kind of coverage.  With any community, there are certain radical groups, but obviously, with any group, too, 90 percent, in my opinion, of people are not portraying themselves as in favor of terrorism or fascism or anything else.

And I think the lesson of what‘s been happening in the Middle East is very clear.  We should be encouraging these people to look at Egypt, to help in the countries that they come from, and to basically try and bring people to a democratic understanding, rather than continue to portray them as al Qaeda types.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Mr. Mayor, what do you think will be the reaction of the communities that you represent in Dearborn to this kind of—well, it‘s almost a grand character assassination.  “We assume they‘re all guilty.  Let‘s talk about it.”

MAYOR JACK O‘REILLY, DEARBORN, MICHIGAN:  Well, that‘s a great concern because, you know, we‘ve been working through this since 9/11 in terms of our community, our response, and how we come together to deal with the real issues.  And there‘s been a lot of progress made, but none of the people involved in the progress we‘ve had were invited to these hearings because there was a narrow view taken, and it was—I believe the outcome was determined before the fact-finding began.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I mean, there‘s so many general examples, Niall. 

You could go to the Italian community 30 or 40 years ago and say, We‘re

going to go to every high school in America and see if there‘s any talk

about whether you got any Mafia there or something.  It‘s like one of these


O‘DOWD:  That‘s the point.


MATTHEWS:  And the irony is—

O‘DOWD:  You can go back to the Irish—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking—yes.

O‘DOWD:  -- in the last century.  You know, “No Irish need apply,” the Catholic Church portrayed as voracious and—


O‘DOWD:  -- sort of hypnotizing people.  It‘s every community.  And now, unfortunately, Pete, who is an Irish-American and is a great working-class hero in Queens, where he grew, became a really good congressman—

MATTHEWS:  Well, why is he doing this? 

O‘DOWD:  I don‘t know. 

But any time I have talked to him, I think, after 2001, he just lost the—he just lost the plot.  I think he became way too extreme.  I think he began to play to the peanut gallery, and realizing he could get easy headlines by screaming about Muslims.

And it‘s not the Pete King that I remember.  And it‘s certainly not the Pete King that I respect and I still call a friend.  I think this is Pete King at his worst.  And I think what he‘s trying to do here is create a template for himself where he becomes a major player in the Congress, but unfortunately he‘s doing it on the back of people who can least afford it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s his case.  Let‘s hear his side.  Here‘s Peter King.  We would love to get him on the show again on this, but here he is talking about Muslim leaders.  Here‘s Peter King‘s case for having these show trials or whatever you‘re going to call them.  Let‘s listen. 


REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  I also want to encourage people in the Muslim community I think to be more aggressive in choosing their leaders.  I don‘t think the leadership right now, groups such as CAIR, are doing an adequate job.  I think, in some ways, they‘re doing a very poor job of representing the Muslim-American community.

There are people in the community who are not fully cooperating, and I‘m saying that the victims of that are not just the American community at large, but also Muslim-Americans in particular. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s entitled to say that.  That makes a good strong case.  Anybody can complain about anybody else‘s leaders.

Mayor, what do you make of his charge that the leaders of the Muslim-American communities are not helpful in getting the bad guys? 

O‘DOWD:  It‘s misinformed. 

Quite frankly, we began years ago in Dearborn, but for the whole region, convening all of the leaders and representatives of the Arab-American community, along with all of the law enforcement community, to have open dialogue. 

There was actually a meeting today.  Meetings are scheduled regularly, almost monthly.  And the groups come together, and there‘s frank and honest dialogue.  So the things he‘s saying aren‘t occurring are occurring. 

And CAIR is at the table and ABC is at the table, FBI, CIA.  Everyone is at the table.  And this was such a great model that formed in our area that it‘s been replicated.  It‘s called Bridges, and it‘s replicated now in all the major communities that have an Arab-American population.  This dialogue, this synergy, this effort to come together and make sense of this and find workable solutions is going on, but none of these people were invited to the table to testify. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you think of his—let me go back to Niall.

What do you think of his strange decision to go after Islamic people from Pakistan, from Indonesia, potentially, from all parts of the world and exempting Arab Christians?  I don‘t know what the whole theory is of where he segmented this group, but he did it in an interesting way.

And he said the religion is what needs to be investigated, the religious community, not even nationalist roots or anything like that, or national roots, any of that, just the religious area.  There are a billion Muslims in the world.  I keep telling people this isn‘t a small crowd.  It‘s a billion people in Bosnia, all over the world, that isn‘t even part of the Middle East. 


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Your thoughts.

O‘DOWD:  Yes, but there‘s no votes in the Republican Party going after Christians of any kind. 

Soon after Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, a group of Irish-Americans met with her, and we talked about the idea of talking to Pakistani-Americans, Afghan-Americans about how the Irish-American community had helped bring about the Irish peace process and how it would be very influential—


O‘DOWD:  -- for Pakistani-Americans, Afghan-Americans, Iraqi-Americans to talk to their own people back home and create the kind of dialogue that the mayor is talking about, not just within America, but right across the world, and create these kind of groups that would have—would begin a dialogue.

That‘s what Pete should be doing.  He shouldn‘t be demonizing.  He should be going to these communities and saying, how can we help?  How can we show American democracy can do?  We have already seen what happened in Tahrir Square with Egyptians and their great embrace of the fundamentals of democracy.  This is what Americans should be doing.  This is what we should be exporting, not fear and Muslims under the bed, which is the kind of thing that Pete is doing right now.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Mayor, last thought from you, sir.  What are you telling your constituents who are—that almost third of your people who are from that community?  Are you telling it‘s not a—we know that you‘re none, we know we have a country based upon innocence until proven guilty, even in criminal cases?

This isn‘t a criminal—this is a grand social kind of thing, an indictment almost of a society.  How do you tell people not to feel that this guy Peter King is calling the shots? 

O‘REILLY:  Well, we take comfort in the fact that there‘s pushback.  Our own congressman, Congressman John Dingell, will now be testifying.  And he‘s represented Dearborn since 1964.  And we have had a mosque in Dearborn for 80 years. 

We have fourth-, fifth-, sixth-generation of Muslims living with us. 

They‘re modern American kids.  These are—you couldn‘t pick them out. 


O‘REILLY:  If you get go in a school, you couldn‘t pick them out.

So this whole fiction that‘s been created and the whole thing about Sharia law—you talked about Mau Mau in the last segment.  Our big thing that‘s a buzzword to get everything pumped up in Sharia law.

MATTHEWS:  I know all about them.


MATTHEWS:  We got have the wackies around here, too.  I know these guys.  I know.  They‘re of the neoconservative bent, some of them, not all of them.  They are really, truly crazy.


MATTHEWS:  Hey, look, guys, it‘s nice to have you all on because I like both of you.  

I have just met you, Jack.  And I know Niall a little.  I think you‘re great guys.  It‘s great to have you together for St. Patrick‘s—


O‘REILLY:  Well, I‘m Irish, too, so—

MATTHEWS:  I know what you are.  Look, I think you‘re great. 



O‘DOWD:  And, Chris, I remember—


O‘DOWD:  -- drinking pints with you and President Clinton in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin a few months ago.

MATTHEWS:  That was a wonderful time.  You know what?  You know what? 

I loved that time with Bill Clinton over there in Ireland. 


MATTHEWS:  And I still think he could be elected president of Ireland if he put together a campaign together over there. 

O‘DOWD:  It wouldn‘t be hard right now, I‘ll tell you. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Niall, Niall O‘Dowd.


MATTHEWS:  No, he could get Taoiseach right now.

O‘DOWD:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mayor, and thank you, Niall. 

O‘DOWD:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Not to be outdone by Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum is proving he can‘t be taken seriously with a crazy call to bomb Libya.  Oh, let‘s start bombing and killing a bunch of Arabs in another country.  Haven‘t we done enough, Santorum?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL and time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up, don‘t cry out loud.  Conservative activist James O‘Keefe made his named ambushing ACORN and Planned Parenthood with hidden camera videos.  Hit latest target, National Public Radio.  Yesterday, O‘Keefe released tapes showing NPR‘s chief fund-raiser executive, Ron Schiller, making unflattering remarks about the Tea Party.

Schiller had—was led to believe he was meeting with two members of a Muslim organization.  Here‘s the edited video posted on O‘Keefe‘s Web site, Project VERITAS. 


RON SCHILLER, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO:  The current Republican Party,

particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people‘s personal

lives, and very fundamentally Christian.  And I wouldn‘t even call it

Christian.  It‘s this weird evangelical kind of movie.  I think that the

current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party

It‘s been hijacked by this group that—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?

SCHILLER:  And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic.  I mean, basically, they are—they are—they believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting—I mean, it‘s pretty scary.  They‘re seriously racist. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, in the video, Schiller repeatedly says that these are his personal opinions.  Nevertheless, amid the video‘s release, both Schiller and NPR‘s CEO resigned from their positions. 

Republicans are using the incident apparently to renew their efforts to cut NPR‘s federal funding. 

Next: Santorum delirium?  Well, Rick Santorum, what are you going to make of it?  Once again, he has proven why he‘s not a serious candidate for president.  Here he is yesterday, Santorum, outlining his strategy on Libya. 


RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Ronald Reagan bombed Libya. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, and tried to take him out. 

SANTORUM:  Right.  So, this is—if you want to be Reaganesque here, it seems like the path is clear. 


MATTHEWS:  The path is clear.  Anyone who says the path for us is clear in Libya has forgotten the mistake of Iraq, has forgotten the well-intentioned intervention in Somalia.

When the Arab League asks us to intervene, that‘s when we should start thinking about going in there, and not a nanosecond sooner.  That‘s clear.

Finally, doublespeak from Joe Manchin.  If you‘re a Democrat in Congress voting for President Obama, you think it would be a no-brainer, right?  Well, not to the senator from West Virginia.  When asked if he would support the president‘s reelection, Manchin hedged—quote—

“Whoever the president is, I support.  That‘s my president, Democrat, Republican, George Bush, Obama.  And every American should take that approach.”

When pressed again, Manchin deflected again, saying: “I support this country.  Whoever the president is, that‘s who I support.”

I have got to wonder why he‘s not willing to at least say he hopes to vote for President Obama.  He is after all a member of the president‘s party.  I would think that guts ought to count for something in West Virginia.  Maybe not. 

Up next, there‘s been a lot of calls from both sides of the aisle for President Obama to take stronger action in Libya and on the budget.  We will get to that.  Why is the president holding back?  I think he‘s smart, but—on the Libya part, at least—is he being too cautious?  Good political question.  Is he being too cautious on the budget and on Libya?  The strategists fight that one out in about a minute here on HARDBALL.

You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC. 


HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks bobbing around, finishing slightly in the red, the Dow Jones industrials slipping a point, the S&P 500 down close to two points, and the Nasdaq sinking 14. 

No big economic news or earnings driving the markets today.  Oil prices eased by about a dollar, closing at $104 a barrel, retailers advancing after Bon-Ton posted solid profits, and Aeropostale signed a deal to open about two dozen stores in Asia.

The tech sector was under a bit of pressure after Texas Instruments narrowed its first-quarter guidance, despite solid demand from carmakers and industries.  But IBM jumped more than 2 percent after a half-dozen brokerages raised their price targets on that tech giant.  Overall, chipmakers had been seeing sporadic gains in the past few weeks.  One analyst says we could be working at a short and shallow reversal—the Philly Semiconductor Index down 3 percent on the session.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to



SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations, our president, has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?


MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s an interesting development right there. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, of course just got elected over in West Virginia, criticizing the president for not getting more involved in the budget fight.  And today both budget bills were voted down by the Senate.  Other Democrats have also called for the president to get into the fray. 

So what‘s the best strategy for the president and for those Democrats and Republicans, especially those up for reelection in 2012?

Steve McMahon is a smart Democratic strategist, and Ron Christie is a Republican strategist. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  You both have something to offer here.  So, let‘s go to it.

Ron, I will give you the first dib, because I think this might be your best night ever here.


MATTHEWS:  The president, let‘s take something a little boring, the budget, budget cuts.  The president has held back with the theory, I guess, the strategy is, let the Republicans take it on the chin for Social Security and Medicare, the unpopular budget cuts. I will join them at the right time.  Theirs is first move.  They have the first move. 

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, I think you‘re right.  But I think president right now—

MATTHEWS:  Is that a bad strategy? 

CHRISTIE:  I think it‘s a terrible strategy.  It‘s a great political strategy, but it‘s one that is bereft of leadership. 

I think the American people are recognizing right now we have serious economic problems.  We‘re spending a lot of money.  We can‘t afford a lot of these programs.  No one wants to touch the third rail in politics, which is entitlement spending.  The president didn‘t touch it in his budget.  I only hope the Republicans do so in their budget.

MATTHEWS:  Does the public want us to do it? 

CHRISTIE:  Yes, they do. 

MATTHEWS:  But what poll are you looking on? 


CHRISTIE:  No, no, no, hang on a second, guys.

I think people realize—if you look—I looked at a Gallup poll today.  And 62 percent of the people surveyed said that they think that the government is spending too much.


CHRISTIE:  But they didn‘t get to entitlements.  I think they recognize that we cannot sustain the amount of money for Medicare, Social Security and the interest on the debt.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Every time I look at polls, they say that generally.  And the minute you ask them about their mother‘s Social Security, which is their main income for most people—most people do not have savings—most people don‘t—they live on Social Security.  They certainly live on Medicare. 

You say you‘re going to cut.  Which programs are you going to cut?


MATTHEWS:  Education?  You‘re going to cut—which one of my mother‘s treatments are you going to deny her?  This gets real. 


MCMAHON:  Exactly.  And when it gets real is when the problem starts.  And right now the conversation doesn‘t include entitlements, and the White House is doing that by design.  There‘s discretionary spending.  And the Republicans want to cut $61 billion.  The Democrats in the Senate want to cut about $8 billion or $9 billion.


MATTHEWS:  Four-point-seven. 


MCMAHON:  I‘m sorry? 

MATTHEWS:  Four-point-seven. 


MATTHEWS:  So, there‘s a discrepancy. 




MCMAHON:  There‘s a discrepancy.

MATTHEWS:  Sixty billion and $4.7 billion.

MCMAHON:  There‘s a big discrepancy.

MATTHEWS:  Why can‘t they meet around $25 billion or $30 billion?

MCMAHON:  Well, I think they probably will.

I actually think what the White House should do is, the president should invite the Republican leaders to the White House.  And he should bring in the C-SPAN cameras.  And he should have them sit down and explain why they want to cut the programs that they want to cut.

And then he should demonstrate leadership.  And I think at the end of the day, that‘s what‘s going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why—what‘s Ron‘s—why wouldn‘t you say, if you had a Republican president, that he ought to stick his neck out or she should stick her neck out?  Why shouldn‘t the president lead? 

He presents a budget every year.  Isn‘t his job to argue for what he thinks the government ought to be spending?

MCMAHON:  Yes, he presents a budget, and he will argue for the—for the budget.

MATTHEWS:  Shouldn‘t he—does he believe that that‘s the right number? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think what he believes is that—

MATTHEWS:  Does he believe that that‘s the right number?

MCMAHON:  Well, I think what he believes is that

MATTHEWS:  Does he believe what he says?  Does he believe the president and the numbers he‘s proposing should be the bottom line or just the opening bid?

MCMAHON:  Well, I think—I think there‘s a little bit of—there‘s a little bit of gamesmanship on both sides.  He knows -- 


MATTHEWS:  Are we going to get something done for the country after all this is over?  It doesn‘t matter when we‘ll do it.


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll do it in three or four weeks, or two months, fine.  It‘s always is the bottom line we end up doing the best job we can in Congress, meeting the needs of the American people for a budget and makes - - that builds some kind of business confidence.  That‘s what we need, is it?  Confidence-building?

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  But let me says that—let me agree with Steve on this.  I think the president should bring the leadership in.  I think he should have the CSPAN cameras in so people can see what the difficult decisions are.

MATTHEWS:  This is disturbing to Obama people.  This is a poll that shows the American people think we‘re on the wrong track.  I have long argued like for about two days now, I have long believed that despite the president‘s relative personal popularity, which is very high, around three-quarters, people like him personally, a majority—a thin majority who sort of agree with him, that there‘s a huge objective problem out there he faces.  This sense of average Americans, people watching this show, no matter what their sense about the guy, no matter what their sentiment is toward him, which is general for him, for people who watch the show, I think, they worry about the objective reality of this country—are we going down?

And that‘s a question that‘s going to haunt this country for the next two years before the election.  My theory to you.  My question to you—look at these numbers, among independent voters in just the last month, he‘s dropped from 47 to 37.  That‘s quite a drop.  What‘s happened in the last month?

CHRISTIE:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I think Ruth Marcus had it right in her column in “the Washington Post” the other week, where she said this is the “Where‘s Waldo?” presidency?  President Obama has not come out and led.  He hasn‘t come out and led strongly on Libya.  He hasn‘t come out and led strongly on the budget fight.  He hasn‘t come out and really articulated his sense of principles in what he believes in domestic and foreign policy.

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

CHRISTIE:  Why not?  Because I think he‘s trying to of it both ways.  He wants to be personally popular with American people but from a political standpoint.

MATTHEWS:  But this isn‘t working.

CHRISTIE:  It‘s not working.  And that‘s exactly why.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to something that will light up the charts right now.  Libya, where I do have a strong opinion.  Here‘s McCain, Kerry and McConnell, pretty balanced group there, in the middle, roughly, middle right perhaps—all urging a stronger U.S. response to Libya.

Let‘s watch these guys who are the heavyweights in foreign policy. 

Let‘s take a look at them.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS:  You have called for some kind of intervention, a no-fly zone.  Do you still maintain that position to have a no-fly zone over Libya?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Yes, I do.  Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman and I and others have called for that.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I think we need to do several things.  One, prepare a no-fly zone in conjunction with our allies, not implement it.  I would only consider its implementation if Gadhafi himself were using it as a means of terror, as a means of massacring large number of civilians.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  The other option that John Kerry alluded to in passing that I think we used frequently during the Cold War period is simply aiding and arming the insurgents.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Everybody says to go in to every war, I‘ve ever heard discussed in my life.  It‘s just like the beginning of “Gone with the Wind,” all these Southern rebel boys going let‘s go in, it‘s a lot of fun, the music play, let‘s go to war.  At the end of the war, they‘re dragging their butts back for the worst battle in of the history, 600,000 people dead.

That‘s the history of every war.  Nobody, not the majority of this country, thinks the Iraq war is a great war.  I think Afghanistan still wins the majority, people say we‘ll have to go after bin Laden.

But the idea of going into Libya and start shooting down Libyan planes, collateral damage, killing people on the ground, it looks to me like Somalia again, good cause, terrible results.  Your thoughts.

CHRISTIE:  I think you‘re absolutely right.


CHRISTIE:  The United States, in my opinion, should not go into Libya.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  Why is the president being pushed by the so-called middle?  And I think Kerry represents the middle.  Why is John Kerry talking this up?

MCMAHON:  There‘s a difference between preparing a no-fly zone.


MCMAHON:  What he‘s saying is let‘s be ready in case he turns out to be is a Saddam.  He‘s not saying let‘s go in there and do a no-fly zone, let‘s the insurgents.  Let‘s create—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, you guys both agree, do not go in.  I say this, don‘t go in until the Arab League says go in, unless we‘re invited by the region.

CHRISTIE:  I agree with that.  But no-fly zones don‘t necessarily work.  I mean, if you look at the survey in the war—

MATTHEWS:  You got to knock out the—


MATTHEWS:  You got to knock out the anti-aircraft.

CHRISTIE:  Chris, it‘s not even that.  You had thousands of Muslims who were slaughtered by the Bosnians, it doesn‘t work.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re shaking hands.

CHRISTIE:  You shake hands.

MATTHEWS:  No no-fly.  Anyway, thank you—mass slaughter going on. 

Thank you.  And even then, I want the Arab League to say go in.


CHRISTIE:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  You got to be invited.  Thank you, Ron Christie.  Thank you, Steve McMahon.  A wonderful show of American unity.

Coming up: is Wisconsin‘s Republican governor ready to compromise?  Well, maybe.  Newly released e-mails suggest he might be willing to deal around the edge with collective bargaining.  But Karl Rove wants to go to total war.

This is HARDBALL, coming up on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has abolished the death penalty in his state, signing into law a historic ban on capital punishment.  That moves Illinois or makes it the 15th state to do away with any executions.  And it comes 11 years after Republican Governor George Ryan suspended the death penalty in that state.  Well, Quinn also commuted the sentencing of 15 death row inmates life without parole.

We‘ll be right back.



Crossroads GPS, a division of the group Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie started, is releasing a TV ad on cable this week attacking unions, and the relationships with Democrats, in an attempt to defame, well—reframe I guess is the right word, the debate in Wisconsin.

But in that state, e-mails released by the governor own office show he appears to be ready to negotiate with the Democrats in the legislature.  So, is progress being made?  Or we‘ll continue to see more of the same arguments?

Eugene Robinson is a columnist for “The Washington Post,” and David Corn writes for “Mother Jones.”  Both are MSNBC analysts.

Gentlemen, we have the heavyweights here. So, let‘s take a look.  This looks—I‘ve heard this is a really good, I haven‘t seen it yet.  It‘s a portion of a Crossroads ad put up by Rove and Gillespie, apparently, really sticks it to the Democrats.

Let‘s watch for the enjoyment of some.


NARRATOR:  Why did a Democrat spokesman say—

REP. MIKE CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  You got to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.

NARRATOR:  Why are Democrats shutting down state capitals?  To protect the system that pays unionized government governors 42 percent more than non-union workers.  A system that collects hundreds of millions in mandatory dues to back liberals who support government unions.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They knocked doors for me.  They made phone calls for me.  They turned out the vote for me.


MATTHEWS:  All right.  There‘s a part of that which was pretty effective, Capuano from Massachusetts saying blood in the streets.  I mean, that reminded of the old labor wars, you know?”  I don‘t know.  I mean, they‘re getting edgy.

Is that going to work among middle class voters who matter?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, what they‘re trying to evoke this image of union goons and thugs.

MATTHEWS:  Goons, yes.

ROBINSON:  And it may work with some people.  I think the evidence on the ground in Wisconsin suggests that the tide isn‘t exactly going—

MATTHEWS:  I think they should show the cash room in “Casino” where all the Teamster money went in Kansas City.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  “Good Fellows” or whatever, “Casino.”


CORN:  But the issue here is that unionized workers as they demonize them in this ad are not the Teamster corrupt dockworkers of the movie.  They‘re nurses.  They‘re firefighters, schoolteachers that people tend to like.  The polling now shows that Scott Walker is in a terrible position.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  They‘re not (INAUDIBLE) from water front.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at Capuano because he‘s apparently backtracked.  The next day in a statement he said, quote, “I strongly”—let‘s look at this—“I strong believe in standing up if for worker rights and my passion for preserving those rights may have gotten the best of me yesterday in an unscripted speech.  I wish I had used a different language to express my passion and I regret my choice of words.”  Whether he got away from that, but it‘s still on the tape.

And in Wisconsin, they don‘t know who Capuano is, but they see these words and they say—


CORN:  And the accent helps, too, in an ad like that.

ROBINSON:  Yes, in the statement, David mentioned, the polls do indicate that public sentiment in Wisconsin and I think more broadly is not running with Governor Walker right now.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Walker is down from 43 from 53.


MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s an interesting thing about unions.  And I think—I worked with a union crew yesterday with Spike Lee.  We‘re doing the ads for this show, you know.  And I notice there‘s some really good things about unions.  First of all, you get a lunch break.


MATTHEWS:  And you got a decent time off at lunch break.  And I realized, I said, how come we‘re having this great lunch right in the middle of the shooting?  We‘re doing commercials for the show.  And somebody said, well, they‘ve got a union here.


CORN:  In the ad, it says unionized workers, 42 percent more pay.  Well, a lot of that pay is benefits.  It means health care, dental, vacation—the stuff that most people want.  And they don‘t get because they‘re not unionized.


MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you this, I‘m familiar with this.  A lot of people get union pay who aren‘t unions because there‘s unions setting the marker.

CORN:  Exactly.

ROBINSON:  That‘s true.  So, why do unions think this is an important battle?  Because they get 42 percent more than nonunionized workers.  I mean, that comparison—

MATTHEWS:  OK, politically, let‘s talk about the politics.  The president suffered a drop in the last month, 10 points among independents.  I‘m wondering if there‘s peripheral or casually, collateral damage here.  Do you think it‘s possible that despite the fact that people root for the idea of collective bargaining as a principle, they do worry about the downstream, down the road costs of big pension deals?

Eddie Rendell was talking about that before as governor.  And I talk to mayors.  People tell you the big problem of being a mayor is most of your money goes to paying for the pension or health care of maybe the widow of somebody who worked for the city 20 years ago.  And that‘s where your money gets, just take it and it‘s fair.  But it isn‘t always accountable in terms of what they have to pay.  They don‘t have the money.

CORN:  But in Wisconsin, the unions were willing to discuss that.  It was just giving up the right to have negotiations that was the breaking point.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back—you speak for the Democrats, are they coming back from somewhere down stage?  This seems ludicrous.  This is something that only happens in a banana republic.  When are we going to have a legislature meeting in Wisconsin deciding this?

CORN:  The news today is that Scott Walker leaked e-mails making it look like he was reasonable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they did make him look that way.

CORN:  Well, listen, if he‘s reasonable, then he can say, listen, I‘m willing to negotiate.  I‘m not going to rush this bill through.  Come back and let‘s negotiate.


MATTHEWS:  Is this going to get resolved next week?  This craziness?

ROBINSON:  I think those e-mails indicate the governor wants to settle this.


MATTHEWS:  -- raises above the consumer price index.  He‘s letting them argue about mandatory overtime and things like that.

ROBINSON:  This is stuff that was not negotiable as far as the governor said a couple of weeks ago.  Now, it‘s negotiable.


CORN:  He‘s in trouble.

MATTHEWS:  The PR is working against the governor.

Thank you, Eugene Robinson.  And thank you, David Corn.  And somebody, I‘m going to announce (ph) who that guy looks like, the governor out there.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with a nasty talking points coming from the right wing wannabes, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, “The Duke and the Dauphin” of the back country.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with this horrible ongoing relentless nastiness we‘re getting from Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.

Newt started this Kenya talk, this Mau Mau-ing of the president, this insidious charge he‘s not an American, not one of us, but a product of the 1950s bush war against the British, that he‘s an African killer of white people, ambushing them in their homes and offices without mercy or sympathy.

This is what Newt calls the predictive model of Barack Obama‘s conduct.  If you want to know what the president will do on any issue, he says think “Mau Mau,” think killer of white people, think savage.

And it‘s this notorious calumny that Huckabee picked up on like you

would pick up an old cigarette butt left on the street looking for a few

more drags on it; it‘s this behavior of thought—if you can call it that

which delves down to the lowest charge you can make about Obama, picking it up from the gutter and doing it again and again until you‘re caught and have to say oops.  I didn‘t mean to throw the words they called him.  No, it was—I have to say something here—a mistake.


These dreadful corruptions of our politics are talking this way because it will talk them into the national debates—and the Republicans Party will wish they didn‘t have them as their company.  Imagine sharing the stage with this troupe of mountebanks, this latter day duet of disharmony—this “Duke and the Dauphin” now working the cable circuit the way the charlatans of the anti-bellum period worked the riverboats.

They know Obama was born here.  They know he was never met a Mau Mau.  They know he never lived in Kenya, never met his father, had his father abandoned him at age 2.  They know all this.  But they spout their predictive models and they cover for their mistakes because it‘s what sells in that element of the right that feeds on anything that can be thrown at the president.

I wonder where they got these ideas—Newt and Huckabee?  Where did they get the idea that a guy they disagree with on policy must be attacked at his very American nature, that he has to be slain in the public eye before they can win what they want.

Maybe that‘s something they learned.  Maybe it was something they learned when they were 2 -- something deep in their infant‘s memory that they can‘t quite say where they got it.  I guess that something of an excuse.

Before we go tonight, it‘s Ash Wednesday, of course.  A solemn day that marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a time of penance and reflection for Christians everywhere.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.




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