Guests: David Corn, Hampton Pearson, Mark Halperin, Michael Sheehan>
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Scandal in Vegas.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Notes on a scandal. Yesterday‘s headline on the John Ensign sex scandal was the conclusion by the Senate Ethics Committee that Ensign may have broken the law. Now more details come to light about possibly coercive behavior and the efforts of Senator Tom Coburn of the religious C Street House to negotiate a settlement—that‘s the polite word for it—between Ensign and the cuckolded husband. The unfolding Ensign scandal is our top story tonight.
Plus, how‘s this for a presidential pickle? The guy Republicans want doesn‘t want the job and they guy they don‘t want really wants it. The Mitch Daniels-Mitt Romney dilemma. But really, can either of these guys actually beat President Obama?
Speaking of Republican candidates, Ron Paul made it official today for the third time. He wants to be the GOP nominee for president, and he‘ll defend his position on heroin use when he joins us tonight.
And Ron Paul‘s son, Senator Rand Paul, insists that if you believe in universal health care, then you must believe in slavery. Wow.
Finally, we‘ll talk to a member of Congress who has seen the bin Laden photos and says, Don‘t ever release them. That‘s going to be fascinating, with our friend, Bob Brady.
We begin with Ensign scandal. MSNBC political analyst David Corn is with us. He‘s the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine. And our guest is Karoun Demirjian. Demirjian is with the “Las Vegas Sun.”
Now, what happens in Vegas, in this case, means they‘re staying in Vegas. This guy‘s out of the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about this. In human terms, explain this weird three-way or four-way relationship between a senator, his staffer and the staffer‘s wife. What happened?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, “LAS VEGAS SUN”: Well, you‘re talking about starting off is that you‘ve got these two couples who are the best of friends, and they go through the worst of possible betrayals. On the one hand, you‘ve got the Ensigns, right, where you have the senator, who‘s the son of a very wealthy casino executive and his wife, and then the Hamptons, who are of lesser means. But the Ensigns basically say, Come along, come to Las Vegas. Live our life with us. We will help you out. We will pay for you to go on vacation with us. We‘ll pay for your kids to go to the same private school as our kids go to.
And then one day when the Hamptons‘ house gets robbed, Senator John Ensign has this great idea, and he says, No, I insist that you come and that you move in with me until you get back up on your feet, until everything‘s back in order again. And it doesn‘t take very long after that before the affair between Ensign and his best friend‘s wife starts.
MATTHEWS: And where‘s the illegality come into this? Why is the Senate Ethics Committee pushing this guy out of the Senate and then saying -- turning this over to the feds for prosecution? Why‘d they get so tough on this guy?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, that comes down the line because, basically, this affair goes on again, off again, on again, off again for months. And then by the end of that time, Ensign decides that he needs to get the Hamptons out of his office.
They‘re his employees. Mrs. Hampton works for his campaign staff.
Mr. Hampton is kind of one of his two chiefs of staff in his Senate office. In order to do that, they arrange to have—to pay them off, basically, about $96,000, which it‘s—he says is a gift. Ensign says it‘s a gift, you know, that—
MATTHEWS: You messed with my wife. You had sex with my wife, even though you‘re my best friend and I work for you. If you give me this money, we‘re all cool?
MATTHEWS: Who said this was a good deal? Who thought of this, in other words?
MATTHEWS: David, help me—who put this deal together?
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But other than the—
MATTHEWS: Coburn did it?
CORN: Well, he was part of the ongoing conversation. Part of the deal was also, Hey, we‘re going to set you up as a lobbyist, Mr. Hampton, the aide. And—
MATTHEWS: So we‘re going to sell influence.
CORN: And we‘re going to go to people we know and have them hire you. And in fact, when people said, no, there was this great phrase they used in Ensign‘s office. They said, We‘re going to jack him up to high heaven if they cross us this way. So they set Hampton up as a lobbyist. It doesn‘t go that well. He‘s making some money but—
MATTHEWS: So they‘re selling out the public interest to cover up their puddle of mess here.
CORN: And they‘re breaking the law that prohibits staffers from
becoming lobbyists right after they leave. And when this all sort of falls
apart, enter Coburn. Now Doug Hampton wants $8 million, and he‘s trying to
MATTHEWS: To shut up.
CORN: He has a lawyer. Presumably. He‘s—you know, because he goes public after that very quickly. And Coburn becomes the go-between, Hampton and John Ensign‘s office, on how much to—
MATTHEWS: Is that illegal?
CORN: Well, you know, it depends on what you think is happening. If he‘s trying to get someone to shut up about unethical behavior—
CORN: -- in a senator‘s office—
MATTHEWS: Explain this to me—
CORN: -- that‘s not right.
MATTHEWS: You‘re explaining almost what sounds like bondage. Why would a guy—first of all, why didn‘t the wife of Hampton, the staffer, go right to her husband and say, This guy‘s predatory, this guy you work for. This has got to stop. We move out tomorrow morning.
DEMIRJIAN: What the report keeps saying is that they just believed so much, that they trusted Ensign wouldn‘t really try to hurt their family.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait. Don‘t get complicated here. When he‘s trying to have sex with her and she said, No, no, no, and she‘s figured that wasn‘t going to work anymore, why didn‘t she tell her husband, This guy is after me, we got to get out of here?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean—
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t they just get out of there?
DEMIRJIAN: They didn‘t do it in many rounds (ph) and basically, they were dependent on the Ensigns. They had—
MATTHEWS: No, he‘s making a buck-and-a-half from federal salary—
DEMIRJIAN: For his boss who‘s also—yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about this? Do you think they were completely victimized, or there‘s some strange enabling going on here?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, the line between victim and villain is a real thin one in this one, so it‘s a little bit, you know, difficult to—
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t she tell her husband this guy was after her?
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that—you don‘t know the answer.
DEMIRJIAN: She—well, you know—
CORN: She says that she continually said no to him and, Stop calling me, stop—
MATTHEWS: Well, when did she tell her husband about this?
DEMIRJIAN: Hampton found out.
CORN: He found out—
DEMIRJIAN: He found out by accident.
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t she tell him?
CORN: She didn‘t—she—
DEMIRJIAN: There was a text message on her phone from Ensign. He finds out. He ends up chasing—
MATTHEWS: -- no evidence that she ever told her husband what was going on.
CORN: No, we know—
DEMIRJIAN: Well, we know that the families came together, actually, on several occasions—
DEMIRJIAN: No, no. She didn‘t proactively go to her husband and say
CORN: But Chris—
DEMIRJIAN: -- this is a problem, which is why Ensign‘s saying, No, I
didn‘t—I wasn‘t—you know, I haven‘t done anything wrong on that front
DEMIRJIAN: -- because it was mutual.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just trying to figure out how these things—it‘s almost—the way he set it up, almost like they brought one of these—you hear about these ambassadors bringing slaves into their houses from other countries that become legally, basically, dependent because they‘ll deport them or whatever. But Americans have a certain sense of independence, don‘t they?
CORN: But she claims—
MATTHEWS: About their bosses?
CORN: She claims she was always worried that if she didn‘t do what the boss asked for, that both of them would lose their livelihood.
DEMIRJIAN: And remember, this is—
CORN: That‘s what she—you know, that‘s what she‘s saying. And you can judge to what degree that‘s a real fear, but that‘s often a definition of whether someone‘s working in a hostile workplace, whether there‘s—
MATTHEWS: I understand the law on this. I understand the issue. But I just wonder about this strange relationship of—if you think there‘s a predatory relationship going on here, you move out.
CORN: Well, she didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: You‘re still making money, but you move out of the house.
DEMIRJIAN: But this relationship didn‘t start off like a normal employer-employee relationship. It started off back in high school, when Darlene Ensign and Cynthia, not yet Hampton—Darlene not yet Ensign yet - - were best friends in high school. This went so far back and it was so many decades, really, of them kind of growing up together—
MATTHEWS: So you‘re suggesting—
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what I‘m looking at here. I‘m looking at a guy named Ensign who invited this couple into the house so he could have a relationship with one of them.
DEMIRJIAN: It seems that way—
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t seems like there‘s any other way of—
CORN: That‘s a pretty damn good theory because, I mean, they‘d been together for a long time. And you know—and he kept—he was confronted again and again—
MATTHEWS: And the husband didn‘t know that the other guy had eyes on his wife.
DEMIRJIAN: Or he was willfully not paying attention.
CORN: Or he was his boss and—
MATTHEWS: -- droit de seigneur. This isn‘t the Middle Ages here. I don‘t know the case. I‘m getting too rough on this. I just don‘t get it. This case bothers me because I hate to think of people being so supine that they become victims of something that is very much to me—this guy has an IQ. He can go out there and be a croupier. He can make a buck. Who says you can go make a living with somebody else besides this guy—
MATTHEWS: -- indentured to?
DEMIRJIAN: No one, but he‘s also got a meal ticket in Senator Ensign
MATTHEWS: Well, yes.
DEMIRJIAN: -- all the way through the—
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Senator Ensign told Ms. Hampton on more than one occasion that he wanted to marry her. Wow. Well, Senator Ensign told Ms. Hampton that he wanted to marry her while they attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Well, there‘s a—
CORN: -- a big romantic event. You know, it happens every year.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) stuff here.
CORN: But other than just sort of the gripping personal tale here, we see what happens in a Senate office where it seems to be routine business to use your connections to help out—oh, whatever jam you have. We see Tom Coburn getting drawn in, not going to the Ethics Committee and saying, There‘s a problem here. I‘m going to try fix this myself. We always see this weird—
MATTHEWS: OK. I think there‘s another—I‘m sorry. I think there‘s another piece to this. Having worked in the Senate and understood—I don‘t know anything about this crazy whatever this is—
MATTHEWS: But here‘s Senator Boxer, who I do respect, and she really is upset about this. And I get feeling it has to do with this guy obstructed their investigation. Something went on here, or else she doesn‘t like what we‘ve been discussing, what looks like coercive behavior by a boss. Here‘s Senator Boxer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), ETHICS COMMITTEE CHAIR: And in my view, if I could say my own personal view, it shows something else. And that is, when you are in a position of trust and power, don‘t abuse it. Don‘t misuse it because people can get hurt, very, very hurt. We cannot violate the laws or rules that we set for others, including our own staffs. We must always lead by example, not by words alone. This Ensign case was a sad chapter for the Senate, but a far sadder chapter for those whose lives were affected and destroyed by his actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have a lot of respect for that lady about this whole issue of women‘s rights and the way men could affect something different than rights. Here, let‘s take a look at Ensign‘s good-bye speech here because maybe this tells you something. Let‘s listen to his fare well address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA: My caution to all of my colleagues is to surround yourself with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming and then make them promise to not hold back, no matter how much you may try to prevent them from telling you the truth. I wish that I had done this sooner. But this is one of the hardest lessons that I‘ve had to learn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So he‘s playing Nancy Reagan here. He‘s saying, Just say no.
MATTHEWS: All you have to do is say no to me.
DEMIRJIAN: It‘s actually pretty ironic listening to that now because, you know, it‘s clear in this report that the C Street crowd that he was even talking to, the ones who were staging the intervention, they said, after a while, it was pretty clear that he was lying, he wasn‘t doing this in good faith and that‘s when—
MATTHEWS: He wasn‘t doing what?
DEMIRJIAN: He wasn‘t participating in these letters he wrote saying, I‘m sorry, to everybody, that he wasn‘t doing it in good faith—
MATTHEWS: Where‘s his wife in all this?
MATTHEWS: --watching this whole thing?
CORN: But what he called for, he had. He had lots of people around him at the time saying, Hey, stop this. Write this letter. Break it off now. And again and again and again, he lied to them.
MATTHEWS: OK, you know what—
CORN: So that was—that was a complete—
MATTHEWS: -- I don‘t like about this story?
CORN: -- falsehood—
MATTHEWS: There‘s too many people in that house that have common sense, that can see what‘s going on.
MATTHEWS: This “only obeying orders” crap is just not acceptable. I don‘t like this kind of awful behavior by this guy. And he‘s guilty as hell. But the other people, I wonder if they‘re not going to walk right into another situation like this the next time. This is really bizarre stuff, living together—
MATTHEWS: -- this communal stuff. They weren‘t ready for that stuff. Anyway, thank you, David Corn. Thank you for the reporting. I think we got it right here. It ain‘t pretty. Thank you, Karoun Demirjian.
Coming up, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Here we got a real kerfuffle coming up here, a great guest coming up here. Wait until you catch my—well, it‘s really going to be wild here. We just taped it a few minutes ago, so I know it‘s going to be wild! He‘s going to defend his position on heroin use. Not his, other people‘s.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, get ready for a very competitive Senate race over in Wisconsin. This is a crucial presidential battleground state. Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin announced today he‘s retiring when this term ends. Democrats in Wisconsin say they‘ll be able to run a top-flight candidate in that state next fall, possible former senator Russ Feingold. We‘ll see. And the state party has been energized by Republican governor Scott Walker‘s assault on union rights in that state. We all know that story. We‘ve been covering it. Kohl, by the way, is sixth Senate Democrat this cycle to call it quits.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul of Texas has spent decades espousing his views, and once again, he‘ll do so on the national stage. This morning, today, he announced he‘s running for president for the third time. He joins us now from New Hampshire. Welcome, Congressman.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ronald Reagan ran three times. Maybe this will be the one for you. But here, this has been a sticking point, about how far you go with your libertarianism, sir. Here you were talking about heroin use last week on Fox News. Let‘s watch your question and answer to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS, DEBATE MODERATOR: Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?
PAUL: Well, you know, I probably never used those words. You put those words someplace. But yes, in essence, if I leave it to the states, it‘s going to be up to the states. Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years they were legal. What you‘re inferring is, You know what? If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody‘s going to use heroin. How many people here would use heroin if it was legal? I bet nobody would put their hand up, Oh, yes, I need the government to take care of me. I don‘t want to use heroin, so I need these laws!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, your people out there in the crowd certainly agree with that. But let me ask you, as a citizen of Texas, if that came up for a vote, if you had to vote on the issue as a citizen supporting a candidate or whatever, do you think the state of Texas should legalize heroin and prostitution?
PAUL: I think that under the right circumstances, we should legalize freedom, and that is part of it. As long as people don‘t force things on other people, I don‘t feel threatened by that. It‘s sort of like legalizing gambling. I don‘t gamble and I don‘t get involved, but I‘m not going to take that right away from you. So all these things are things that you can do in a free society.
But today, I gave a long talk about this very issue and I emphasized the fact that the reason I argue for freedom of choice is I want people to decide what medications they can take and whether they want alternative medicine, whether they can drink raw milk, whether they can use marijuana when they‘re sick, and that we shouldn‘t depend on the government for that guidance. But if you do need guidance with children, if a law is the there to try to protect children, that‘s a different story.
But it‘s the concept of legalizing freedom, making choices by individuals and assuming responsibility for themselves. And even though that was a special statement about how many people would do it if it were legalized, you know, most people aren‘t going to use heroin. More people use heroin because it‘s illegal. So making it illegal doesn‘t help that much. Kids can go out and get marijuana easier than they can get beer, so beer can be regulated in a way to prevent the kids from getting it. Most of our history, our early history, there were no laws against this—
MATTHEWS: I guess I have to get down to the question—you think—you‘re saying—I‘m not sure what you‘re saying. If a mother who has children to be responsible for, a husband, a father, should they be allowed to be heroin addicts? Because this is how far you‘re going with your libertarianism, it seems, even now.
PAUL: Well, the whole thing is addictions are a disease. We don‘t put alcoholics in prison. So I‘m just against the war on drugs the way it‘s happening. There‘s other ways you can handle it. But if you treat it like a crime and throw these kids, like we have for decades, in prison because they smoked a little bit of marijuana, and they come out violent criminals, that war on drugs has failed. And believe me—
MATTHEWS: OK. You want—
PAUL: -- the people know that. And so I‘m against the federal war on drugs. I‘m not pro-drug usage. As a matter of fact, I‘m very critical of the carelessness of doctors who give way too many pain pills. There‘s more people addicted to prescription drugs than they are to illegal drugs.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just to finish this conversation on this point—you have complete freedom to answer this question, yes or no. Should we legalize—legalize heroin?
PAUL: I want to legalize freedom and let—
PAUL: -- and the states deal with the regulations.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about how far you would go in terms of the Constitution because I understand libertarianism—most of us as young people were very much were enraptured with it as kids, in our teens, I think.
PAUL: Why did you lose it?
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton was a—
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘ll tell you, because the idea of total freedom doesn‘t seem to work.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. The ‘64 civil rights bill—
MATTHEWS: The ‘64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, if you‘re black, you don‘t come in my store?
PAUL: Well, I believe—
MATTHEWS: That was the right under—that was the libertarian right before ‘64. Was it the better society?
PAUL: I believe—I believe that property rights should be protected.
Your—your right to be on TV is protected by property rights, because somebody owns that station. I can‘t walk into your station. So, right of freedom of speech is protected by property. The right of your church is protected by property.
So, people should honor and protect it. This gimmick, Chris, it‘s just—it‘s off the wall when you, I‘m for property rights and states‘ rights; therefore, I‘m a racist. I mean, that‘s just outlandish.
MATTHEWS: No. I‘m just asking you—
PAUL: Wait. Wait, Chris. Wait, Chris.
People who—let‘s say that law was there, and you could do that.
Who‘s going to do it? What idiot would do that? What idiot would do that?
MATTHEWS: Everybody was in the South. I saw the white—I saw the “white only” signs driving through the South in college. Of course they did it. You remember them doing it.
PAUL: Oh, yes, yes. Yes, but I also know that the Jim Crow laws were illegal, and we got rid of them under that same law. And that‘s all good.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, you would have voted against that law.
PAUL: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: You would have voted against that law. You wouldn‘t have voted for the ‘64 civil rights bill.
PAUL: Yes, but not in—I wouldn‘t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.
MATTHEWS: But you would have voted for the—you know you—oh, come on. Honestly, Congressman, you were not for the ‘64 civil rights bill.
PAUL: Because—because of the property rights element, not because it got rid of the Jim Crow law.
MATTHEWS: Right. The guy who owns a bar says, no blacks allowed, you say that‘s fine.
PAUL: No, Chris, you‘re demagoguing it now. You know that isn‘t what I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking a question.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s the answer? What‘s your answer?
PAUL: You know, segregation was created by government laws. Slavery was created by government laws. Segregation—
PAUL: Let me go.
Let me—segregation in the military by government laws. So, what we want to do, as libertarians, is repeal all of those laws and honor and respect people with—
MATTHEWS: OK. Look, I have seen this.
PAUL: But for you to imply—for you to imply that a property rights‘ person is endorsing that stuff, you don‘t understand that there would be zero signs up today saying something like that.
And, if they did, they would be an idiot and they would out of business. So, I think you‘re just getting overboard in order to try to turn it around and—
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not. I‘m asking it. I‘m talking about facts.
PAUL: -- try to accuse somebody of being a racist.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not calling anybody a racist. I‘m saying the laws are racist.
PAUL: Yes. That‘s what you‘re implying. That‘s what you‘re implying, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, “whites only” on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines.
This was a local shop saying no blacks allowed. You say that should be legal.
PAUL: That‘s—that‘s ancient history. That‘s ancient history.
That‘s over and done with.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s been outlawed.
PAUL: Segregation on buses and all was done by law. So it was a culture. That‘s over and done with, Chris.
Why do you want to go back to ancient days and ancient history? It‘s past.
MATTHEWS: Because you want to come back --
PAUL: It‘s past. And nobody is advocating it.
MATTHEWS: You‘re running for president—because you‘re running for president as a libertarian. Believe me, we don‘t need laws to protect people.
PAUL: Well, look, you are concocting and you‘re reading much more into it, and you‘re trying to imply certain beliefs that I don‘t have. And I think you‘re wrong. I think you‘re wrong.
MATTHEWS: No. I think you‘re a libertarian. I think you‘re a total libertarian. I think you‘re a total libertarian. I think that is what is appealing about you. And I think people like you.
PAUL: And you‘re doing it deliberately.
MATTHEWS: You know why they like you? They want to live in a simpler society.
PAUL: The comparison to being a total libertarian is believing in liberty vs. being a totalitarian.
PAUL: So, if you want the opposite, just look around. That‘s what we have. We have a totalitarian world. That‘s what most of history has been about, totalitarianism, dictatorship.
MATTHEWS: I know.
PAUL: We have only had a small taste of freedom of choice and the principle of private property—
PAUL: -- and contract rights. And we‘re blowing it.
PAUL: So, this—this whole thing that we‘re going to give up on that, what we‘re doing is trying to emphasize that something good and wonderful comes from freedom --
MATTHEWS: Right. OK.
PAUL: -- and freedom of choice, and that we should not say this, that
that liberty is disgusting, as you imply, and totalitarian should be the way we run our country.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not. I‘m asking—you‘re answering your own questions.
PAUL: I think that‘s absurd.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
We have had a long history of government involvement with Medicare, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. And I think you are saying we would have been better off without all that.
PAUL: I think we would be better off if we had freedom, and not government control of our lives, our personal lives, and our—and policing the world --
PAUL: -- and running the economy, because we‘re facing—
MATTHEWS: Well, that is what I like.
PAUL: Hey, Chris. Let me finish.
We are facing a calamity because of that. We have a financial crisis.
We have a crisis in the foreign policy. We‘re losing thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of people coming back sick because of our foreign policy.
PAUL: And we‘re at a point where we cannot sustain this, and we‘re on the verge of runaway inflation, because there‘s too much acceptance of big government.
That is the problem.
PAUL: No matter how noble you try to make it, your good intentions will not compensate for the mistakes that people make that want to run our lives and run the economy, and reject the principle of private property and making up our own decisions for ourselves.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman. I love your foreign policy. Don‘t be—get me wrong. I love your foreign policy.
Thank you very much, Congressman.
PAUL: Well, you will come around, Chris. You‘re coming along. You will, once you will see. And you will put it altogether. It is all one package. Personal liberty and foreign policy—
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you‘re a very—
PAUL: -- and economic liberty is one package.
MATTHEWS: You have a great following out there. Good luck in the campaigning for president.
PAUL: It is growing.
MATTHEWS: I know it is growing. And you may well win this thing.
Just remember, Ronald Reagan got it on the third try.
Thank you, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.
PAUL: All right.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what HARDBALL is all about. I‘ll tell you, that‘s what we do here.
Up next: from Ron Paul to his son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Wait until you hear what he has to say. He says, if you believe in universal health care, then you believe in slavery. That twist of logic coming up in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up: What‘s the biggest problem at Guantanamo Bay? Well, according to Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, it‘s obesity. Here he is on Fox today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we allow Gitmo detainees to get family visits?
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: No. No, we shouldn‘t, Brian. Let‘s keep in mind, these detainees, they have things they have never had before.
You know the biggest problem at Gitmo is right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
INHOFE: It‘s obesity. They‘re eating better than they have ever eaten before. They have better medical care. They have better—they have legal counsel. I mean, you know, you have got to draw the line somewhere. That‘s—let‘s draw it here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s he suggesting here, no conjugal visits for terrorists? Well, there‘s a politically safe position.
Next up: Rand Paul goes off the deep end. This is what the Tea Party senator from Kentucky said: If you believe in universal health care, you then believe in slavery, too. Got to hear it to believe it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY: With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to health care, you have to realize what that implies.
It‘s not an abstraction. I‘m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you‘re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.
Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone‘s services, do you have a right to plumbing, do you have a right to water, do you have a right to food, you‘re basically saying that you believe in slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the problem with that connection, even if you believe there‘s a general right to health care in this country, you‘re not saying we require any individual doctor to come provide you with that service.
It‘s interesting stuff, though. I know the philosophy behind this guy.
Coming up: What does it say about the Republican presidential field when the candidate the party likes, Mitch Daniels, doesn‘t seem to be ready to go for the job, and the candidate they don‘t like, Mitt Romney, is dying to get the job? What is going on here? That‘s ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
The end of a busy, at times baffling, week on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials falling 100 points, the S&P 500 down 10, the Nasdaq shedding 34 points. Much of the weakness in stocks today due to a stronger dollar vs. the euro. Heading into the weekend, there‘s a lot of uncertainty surrounding that currency.
There are indications that bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal could end up being much larger than originally thought. Plus, the dollar was stronger on its own after a jump in U.S. consumer sentiment.
Growing confidence in the jobs market is offsetting concerns about rising food and gasoline prices. Oil prices settle higher after a bumpy day and a roller-coaster week that saw prices bouncing around in a $20 range. Overall, the week was defined by some major sector rotations. Investors were moving out of the volatile energy and financial sectors and into more defensive consumer staples and utilities.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
The Grand Old Party is in a bit of pickle. Have you noticed? They usually like to go with the establishment names for president over the years, like Nixon, Ford, oh, Bush, oh, Dole. But, right now, they have got an establishment guy, certainly, Mitt Romney, who really wants it that not even the establishment seems to like.
And they have got another guy, Mitch Daniels, that the establishment loves, but nobody else has ever heard of the guy, and he has problems about running.
Here‘s Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a man fairly familiar with the establishment, who just called off running for president himself today with Andrea Mitchell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: I‘m not going to critique the candidates. They‘re all friends of mine. As I say, Mitch and I worked together. Mitt Romney and I were governors together. Tim Pawlenty and I were governors together. Jon Huntsman and I were governors together. Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House when I was chairman of the party, and we worked together every day for four years.
All these people are very capable people. There is some others I don‘t know as well who are also capable people. I haven‘t decided what I‘m going to do about the race other than the decision I‘m not going to run, and I don‘t feel any time pressure to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He seems like a normal guy. That‘s what‘s missing. You may not like whatever about him, but, I‘ll tell you, Haley Barbour is a regular person.
Here is—Governor Barbour says—by the way, he says he doesn‘t feel any pressure to get behind anybody personally, but his party is feeling a lot of pressure, with just 90 days to go before the straw vote in Iowa, when they usually have the lineup put together, and just eight months to go before the caucuses actually start out in Iowa.
Mark Halperin is a senior political analyst for “TIME” magazine and MSNBC, and Susan Page is Washington Bureau chief for “USA Today.”
Just before we start with anything, Mark, you‘re an expert on this. And I just get the sense that what this is all really about, this bottom-feeding they‘re doing, out dredging the ocean to try to find a candidate, is all about the fact that the guy whose turn it is, Mitt Romney, isn‘t ringing the bell.
MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That‘s a big part of what is driving the dynamics.
Chris, it‘s a hard race to analyze because there are so many variables that are missing that we normally have, first and foremost, a big, strong front-runner. Romney is stronger than people realize. He is in the best position to win this nomination.
But there‘s a number of Republicans in the establishment and at the grassroots who will never be for him. They‘re not open to it. They‘re looking for another candidate very aggressively. And Romney‘s never going to be able to consolidate support, the way every Republican nominee in the modern era has. He‘s still the most likely to win, but he‘s not going to do it the way it‘s normally been done.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at your odds.
I want Susan to vet your odds here. I notice the neat thing about your odds is that you add them all up, and it adds up to about 40 percent.
MATTHEWS: And I keep wondering, who‘s the other 60 percent that might have a shot at this? Romney, you got him at 3-1, 1-in-4 chance. You got Huckabee at 9-1. That‘s one in 10 chances.
Daniels at 10-1, 1-in-11 chance. Then you got the next tier of candidates, Pawlenty 18-1, Huntsman 20-1, further down, Newt 40-1, Palin 60-1. And then, there‘s of course Bachmann, you got nowhere, at about 1,000-1.
But, you know, Susan, I think it‘s fairly obvious they don‘t add up to 100 percent, because there‘s obviously—he doesn‘t even think any of them are going to win. So, what do you think?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: Well, and if Huckabee announces tomorrow nation that he‘s not going to run, which is what we now think, I think that makes the field a little easier for Mitt Romney.
You know, he‘s out there raising money. He‘s run before.
PAGE: I agree with Mark that he‘s being undervalued as a candidate right now. I think his—I think his—it‘s more—we‘re looking at his flaws. He has got some strengths, too.
And if he can get through this primary process, there are ways in which he has the potential to be a relatively strong competitor with Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: He just seems like somebody from the hall of the presidents, Mark.
MATTHEWS: You know, mechanical. He does the right things. He has the right voice, a well-educated guy, looks great.
Well, here he is. Here‘s his speech on Thursday. “The Wall Street Journal”‘s—let‘s take a look at this. Here‘s—“The Wall Street Journal”‘s editorial board blared—blared at him.
They said “Mitt Romney‘s Obamacare problem.” And then they concluded
quote—“If he doesn‘t change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.”
And, today, they whacked at him again, calling it a daredevil act, trying to bridge the unbridgeable. “These are unbridgeable policy and philosophical differences, though Mr. Romney is nonetheless trying to leap over them, like Evel Knievel heading for the Snake River Canyon.”
They‘re saying, basically, that if you support an individual mandate, which you have to have insurance, health insurance, in Massachusetts, then you have a history of having endorsed the Chafee, John Chafee, plan for an individual mandate, just like Obama nationwide, and you don‘t walk away from it, you‘re basically not in a position to attack Obama‘s central legislative achievement.
HALPERIN: The problem for Mitt Romney is a problem all struggling presidential candidates have. And he‘s a struggling front-runner. He‘s lost control of his public image. He‘s lost control of the narrative.
He doesn‘t want to be talking about the Massachusetts health care plan. And what he did, by giving this speech yesterday, the way he did it, is only brought the issue back front and center at a pretty critical time in the race. He needs to be talking about jobs and the economy, which is what he‘s like to focus on.
But more, he needs to go and have people like you thinking new about him, think that he‘s a nice, interesting, likable, accessible guy. If he can‘t convince people like you, Chris, that that‘s what he is, he‘s going to have a hard time winning the nomination. And even if he does, he can‘t win the general election against Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: But he has—but he has—and I‘m not knocking these guys. They‘re fine people. Dukakis has it, Gore had it. These guys in public life, but when you meet them in the room, in the green room backstage, they‘re just like us here.
They have regular conversations. They can be charming. They can be funny. They have a sense of wit and irony. They‘re like normal people.
And yet the minute they get before the camera, they do this Dudley Do-Right number.
Yes, Susan? You know what I‘m talking—you interview them with a pencil. You know what they‘re like off camera. I mean, a pen.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: He‘s not—he‘s got flaws as a candidate. And one is that he doesn‘t come across as authentic and genuine and that‘s especially true when he‘s giving a speech. But he‘s—clearly, he‘s been working on it. You know, he wasn‘t wearing a tie when he gave that speech.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on! It‘s superficial.
PAGE: He wasn‘t reading from a text. He was—he‘s trying to become more --
MATTHEWS: That‘s being trained. He‘s been coached to do that.
PAGE: Well, he‘s not unique in having been trained.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. Let‘s take a look at—CBS News reports that Daniels has been assured backing from big-money donors, the moneymen for the Republican Party, who supported George W, in addition to former Governor Jeb Bush. Sources now tell CBS that Chris Christie has told Daniels he would back him, the governor of New Jersey—and Haley Barbour and also Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
So, he does seem like, call it the white boys club rather irreverently. But are they behind, a group of governors that got behind George W.—Mark, is that your reporting now, they‘re getting behind Mitch Daniels?
HALPERIN: A lot of the governors will get behind him. A lot of the money people, a lot of Bush people would get behind him. Jon Huntsman is somewhat of a threat (ph), he‘s already out there working, particularly those bundlers very hard. And I think it‘s an open question of whether if both Huntsman and Daniels are in the race, do they—does one of them get clear supremacy in the short term, which is what‘s going to matter as the Romney alternative with those governors and those bundlers and those members of Congress?
HALPERIN: Members of Congress are desperate for an alternative to Mitt Romney. Desperate.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that interesting?
HALPERIN: And they‘re attracted to—a lot of them are attracted to Daniels, too—some pretty senior members of the Republican Party in Congress.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the Daniels problem. I‘ll do the undainty. I‘ll talk about Mitch Daniels‘ problem. His wife left. It‘s all over the newspapers this week. I‘m no expert.
But all the big papers, “The Post,” “The Times,” “The Journal”—everybody had the story this week. We all read it with interest because it‘s never been in print before.
It‘s a sad story. It is not fun to read about it, a marriage sort of broke up. The wife went off with another guy, married the guy. Left the four kids with Mitch Daniels—Very much like Happy Murphy, Happy Rockefeller did years ago, left the kids behind, ran off with another guy.
It‘s lethal politically I think for her. I think the fact that she eventually came back, probably for the kids which is normal, doesn‘t help the situation.
He‘s a cuckold, the guy running for president. He doesn‘t look strong. He looks like now he‘s letting the wife decide whether he runs for president or not. He doesn‘t look like a leader. I‘m sorry. She does. She looks like the leader.
PAGE: But, you know, he‘s got two problems. One is this very personal story is going to be hashed and rehashed if he runs for president.
MATTHEWS: Well, they put it out this week.
PAGE: The other thing is, he‘s got to convey that he really wants to run. I mean, you can‘t have George Bush and a bunch of governors behind you if you don‘t yourself want to run and it doesn‘t look like he wants to run. Now, maybe he‘ll end up deciding to run.
PAGE: He‘s not conveying that now.
MATTHEWS: Mark, what do you think is going to happen? Is he going to move her and they agree to go?
HALPERIN: You know, I spent a little bit of time watching him last week and I have no idea. My head says he‘s going to go. My gut says he‘s not.
I respectfully disagree with you, Chris. If he gets in the race and it‘s hearts in it, and he says if he does run, he‘ll be all in, and handle well this very delicate and tough personal situation, I don‘t think it keeps him from being the nominee. Something else might. But I think if you handle that well, it is not a huge reflection. It‘s not going to be a huge reflection for most—
MATTHEWS: I think it just puts her in a terrible situation to have to explain her heart and how she feel all these years and, human understanding aside which often gets pushed aside and you‘re forced to say stupid things like “I still love him, I did love him,” all these stupid conversations we shouldn‘t have on politics.
Anyway, here‘s the question for you: will Huckabee on Saturday night on FOX go or not go for president? Mark?
HALPERIN: Every indication from the people around him who don‘t know the answer is that he‘s not going to go. You know, I don‘t rule out that he‘s going to place hold a little bit and say he‘s going to look at it and not necessarily get in the race. But if you‘re listening to the people around him and based on the activities engaged in and not engaged in, you‘d say he‘s going to announce he‘s not running.
MATTHEWS: Susan, he‘s not going?
PAGE: Talked to Ed Rollins this afternoon, who his campaign chairman in 2008 and has been working with him this time and he says he thinks he‘s not going to go.
PAGE: But Huckabee hasn‘t told him.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think—I don‘t think he‘d announce on FOX Saturday night you‘re running for president. I think he‘d tell Roger Ailes, I‘m sticking with you. Thanks for the raise by the way, Roger.
And thank you, Mark Halperin. And thank you, Susan Page.
HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I am right on this one, I think.
Up next, those bin Laden death photos. We‘re going to talk to a member of the United States Congress who‘s seen the pictures and says, “Don‘t show them to the public, don‘t get them around the world.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s confirmation that the Israelis and the Arabs are miles apart in the Middle East peace process. The Obama administration special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine, is stepping down from his post. This is bad news. Mitchell has spent two largely fruitless years trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to the table, to the bargaining table. But the two sides have just been further apart.
When I was over there recently and I agree, that‘s the state of it.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
More intelligence on bin Laden is coming to life from that trove of files and journals taken from his compound over there. The al Qaeda leader wrote about assassination plots against our president, against our defense secretary and our chairman of the joint chiefs. Wow!
And get this—a stash of porn videos was also retrieved from the compound. That‘s an interesting find, at the home of someone who claimed to be a religious leader of sorts.
Anyway, as the CIA continues to pore over all the information, members of the Congress, of the armed services and intelligence committees of the Congress have been visiting the agency to look at those bin Laden photos.
Democratic congressman from Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, Bob Brady, checked out the photos. He‘s all here, along with NBC News terrorism analyst, Michael Sheehan.
Congressman Brady, thank you so much for coming on and offering to do this.
Overall, give us a broad sense of what you saw and why you think—what you think should be done with those pictures.
REP. BOB BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, overall, I was taken in early Thursday morning to look at the photos, and we saw about five photos of him alive, and right beside them dead, and it had facial characteristics and had graphic—arrows pointing that it was an identification positive. And, again, with the DNA, it was identification positive. So, that was him and he‘s gone. No question about it, he‘s dead.
Why I wanted to see them was because of this controversy about whether or not we should release them. And after I saw those pictures, I don‘t think they should not—I agree with the president, we should not release them. I don‘t want my mother, my wife, my son, my daughter, my four grandchildren to see those pictures.
There‘s no need to it. It proves positive that he is dead.
MATTHEWS: I accept that judgment. It makes perfect sense.
Let me ask you, Congressman, do you think there might be a problem of releasing them and worldwide—would they cause more death in the world, more people get crazed by them and saying that we‘re insulting his body after his death by putting them out?
BRADY: Well, I don‘t care too much about the insulting. But they‘re pretty graphic and they‘re horrific, and they‘re gruesome. You know, the bullet went in his eye and out his ear. The eye cavities overflowing with brain mass and bits of bone mass. And his forehead is blown up.
I mean, what do you gain by that? I mean, are you trying to prove that he‘s dead? He‘s dead. It‘s over. He‘s gone, and let‘s just go forward.
And, you know, the best part about it is the information we received. We learned more in the last 10 days about that operation than we have in the last 10 years. So, it was extremely effective.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Sheehan on that. Do you agree with the congressman and his assessment having seen these photos?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: A hundred percent, Chris. Absolutely. You have to understand, again, underscore the fact that al Qaeda is an organization that motivates its people as much by the Internet as any other way. And to put photos like that and have them on every hack al Qaeda Web site is just going to irritate people and it‘s going to inflame them. It serves U.S. policy no purpose. And I hope they keep those photos locked up.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what they have released. What‘s this going on with the porn stuff? You know, I get the feeling, and I‘m as patriotic as anybody. But I get a sense that the CIA is doing some psy-ops here, putting out these little kernels of information like the guy—had somebody—some underling soldier that it was passing time had some porn videos. First, we don‘t know what kind of porn, whatever, how bad it was.
But why are they putting out that information except to humiliate that whole operation? And I understand why—but isn‘t that what they‘re doing?
SHEEHAN: I think so, Chris. I think they‘re managing this masterfully, letting out pieces of information to try to discredit bin Laden. Look at this old, dithering man there on the footage you have there watching the TV and then putting little information that continue to discredit him, while at the same time we‘re learning he did try to manage his organization from that safe house, but also had differences with his subordinates. So, it‘s a very mixed picture that‘s coming out and fascinating.
But as congressman said, the key is names, locations, phone numbers of operatives, and we‘re coming after them, and they know it.
MATTHEWS: How does your district respond to this down there in Philadelphia, Congressman? This thing, the whole—do they agree with you about the whole thing? It was great we got him and the way we kill him, the whole thing?
BRADY: Yes, they think it was a masterful plan, and my hats off to the men and women in the military, especially the SEAL team, the SEAL Team Six.
And, ironically, the average age of that team is 37 years old. So, they‘re not—you know, they‘re pretty intelligent, and they‘re not the young kids. God bless the young kids, but they did a great job. They didn‘t drop a bomb, and they didn‘t blow up a whole lot things, and blow up all that information.
BRADY: They‘re in 40 minutes—nine minutes of fire fighting , 31 minutes of grabbing all the information in and out.
And, you know, the other interesting thing, in the pictures, his beard was dark. So, he dyed it again, which the assistant director was with me and I asked him, and he said they kind of think he was ready to make another video and do something else.
MATTHEWS: OK, great. Grecian formula.
By the way, Chase (ph) suddenly has hope, five more years, what do you think, Congressman? It‘s good news for him.
BRADY: Real good news. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman Bob Brady. I‘m just kidding for the weekend.
Michael Sheehan, it‘s great always to have you on.
When we return, let me finish with a message to all the graduating seniors this spring.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with the thrill of yesterday‘s commencement exercise at Temple University up in Philadelphia.
Thanks to President Ann Hart of this fine booming university, each student left with a plastic wallet-size card with my advice.
This is what I told the graduates today and I want you all to hear it once here on HARDBALL, for your children, for your hopes for them, and also for yourselves and your ambitions in life. They are based on watching politicians close up for decades. Watching, I said, paying sharp attention to how they get where they get, into high positions of power and leadership.
Number one: show up. Woody Allen was right. It‘s 90 percent of getting there. When you want something, go there. Don‘t e-mail, don‘t phone, put yourself in their face. If you want a job, show up for it. Nobody is going door to door asking what you‘re good at, what your dreams are. Nobody.
Number two: ask. It comes down to looking somebody in the face and telling them what you can do for them. You‘ve got to get them to invest in you. You—you‘ve got to ask to do it. It‘s like asking for a date. That‘s the easiest way to get a “no.”
Ask yourself what‘s the easiest way to say—to get a “no” to? E-mail. Second easiest? Over the phone. Hardest to say “no” to? You are with someone and say, hey, there‘s a great movie Friday night, want to go? That‘s hard to say “no” to.
Yes. It‘s hard to take rejection in the face, but it‘s also harder to give rejection. Make it harder. If you want a yes, ask for the yes. After the job interview, the second at least, don‘t ask for the verdict, ask for the job.
Number three: don‘t do it yourself. Keep your friends close. Stay in touch with your classmates. One of them might strike gold and bring you into it. One might hear of a job that‘s not good for them, but perfect for you.
Network like a bandit. You‘re not in this alone unless you want to be alone.
Upbeat, stay upbeat. That‘s the big one. Upbeat beats downbeat. Yes, this is 2011, the economy sucks, nobody is going to ask you why you‘re looking for a job. Who ain‘t?
So, make them say no. You keep saying “yes.” So, grab the job, and get yourself in the door.
Those are the big five rules I gave to Temple University this week.
They work, I‘ve seen them work. Go put them to use.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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