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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Jonathan Dienst, Susan Filan, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Josh Marshall, Cynthia Tucker, Sam Stein, John Feehery

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  2011, the elephants‘ graveyard.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.  Leading off tonight: Saturday night massacre.  Last week, it was Huckabee who announced on Saturday night he was out.  This Saturday, it was Mitch Daniels who said no thanks.  What‘s scaring off all the serious candidates in the Republican Party?  Thune, Trump, Barbour, Pence—all of them have split the scene.  If, as they insist, President Obama is so vulnerable, why will none of them take him on?  The sad GOP field is our top story tonight.

Plus, more evidence now that the Democrats are drawing blood on the Medicare issue.  If the Republicans can‘t hold a Republican district in western New York, it will be for one reason, their plan to kill Medicare as we know it.  Tomorrow‘s election to replace the embarrassed Chris Lee is now a toss-up, and Republicans have reason to be very nervous.  You can bet Republicans wish Chris Lee, the former congressman, had kept his shirt on.

Also, the right wing in Israel and the right wing here in the U.S.  have joined forces to take on President Obama and his Mideast peace plan.  When was the last time Washington lawmakers lined up with a foreign prime minister against their own president?  Imagine the Republican outcry if Democrats did that to a Republican president.

And see how Herman Cain wasn‘t able to—when asked a very basic question about Middle East policy.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” with a Republican Party that can‘t forget its past and can‘t see its future.

We start with the GOP 2012 field, such as it is.  “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin‘s an MSNBC political analyst, and John Heilemann is the national political columnist for “New York” magazine.

Gentlemen, let‘s take a look now at this situation.  What is causing all these people to drop off the field?  People who got out so far—Mitch Daniels this past weekend, Haley Barbour a couple weeks ago, Mike Huckabee the week before this, John Thune several weeks ago, Mike Pence several weeks back, and Donald Trump last week.

Let me go to you, Mark Halperin.  What is it—there‘s some—I‘ve never seen so many names sort of allow themselves to be exposed for a couple of days as possible candidates, and then publicly say, I‘m out of here.

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME,” MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, look, there‘s no clear frontrunner.  That‘s created a vacuum that I think has caused a lot of people to look at it and say, Maybe that is the right year to go, maybe now‘s my time.

I think the top three guys in your graphic, probably the more heavyweight candidates, Barbour and Daniels and Huckabee—I think all passed for personal reasons.  I don‘t think—I don‘t think it was the politics of their situation or their chances of winning so much as personal factors in their lives.  I think those bottom three guys had some ambivalence about whether they could win and then some ambivalence about actually being president, and that kept them out of the race.

That doesn‘t mean that the president can‘t be beaten and it doesn‘t mean that they didn‘t think they could win on some level, but none of them had the fire, obviously, to get into this.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, what do you think‘s missing, John?  Why isn‘t there fire?  I mean, nobody likes to say it, but American politics and any democratic political system is based on ambition.  There must be men or women willing to take a lot of crap, if you will, because they really, really want to be leader of the country.  They‘re not here right now, for some reason, on the Republican side.

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  Yes, and I think it‘s—you know, if think about it, as Mark said, those first three guys all did—the top three—the candidates that (INAUDIBLE) most serious of the ones who decided it take a pass, I think they all did for personal reasons.

And my impression of watching all of them at varying stages over the last six or nine months has been that all of them lacked, on some level, that fundamental fire in the belly.  They all thought that they would be a better president than Barack Obama.  They all think that Barack Obama is bad for the country.  But none of them ever, listening to them talk, sometimes one on one with me and sometimes in other media settings—I never heard them, any of them...


HEILEMANN:  ... really seem to have that kind of driving ambition that Hillary Clinton had in 2008 or that John Edwards had in 2008 or John McCain had in 2008.


HEILEMANN:  You didn‘t hear that from them.  And I think when they got right up to the edge of it, they looked at what our modern presidential political system has become...


HEILEMANN:  ... the campaign is a meat grinder and a flash incinerator all at once, and they said, I‘m just not—I just don‘t have the burning that I need to have to go through that hell.

MATTHEWS:  The funny thing is, though, Mark—I‘ll get back to you in a minute, but I think you made the point that they all had personal reasons.  But nobody had more personal reasons, perhaps, than Bill Clinton, who said, yes, OK, I won‘t go in in ‘88 but I‘m going in ‘92, having thought about it again.  So his judgment was, It‘s worth the hell I‘m going to take out there on the stump.  And these guys say, It‘s not worth the hell I‘m going to take out there on the stump.

Why is it different for them than it was for Clinton?

HALPERIN:  Well, I think that the most important thing any of these guys or women can ask themselves is, Is this my time?  Does what I have to offer match the mood of the country and the needs of the country?  Barack Obama showed that in 2008.


HALPERIN:  He ran against long odds because he just had a burning desire to do it and thought he was the right person.  I don‘t think any of the people who are not running—and frankly, some of the people in the field now—have that same feeling of history and moment...

MATTHEWS:  Gotcha.

HALPERIN:  ... and personal destiny.  And I don‘t know that that‘s anything...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s so telling.

HALPERIN:  ... anything about Obama or the country...


HALPERIN:  ... or the Republicans‘ chances of winning.  I think it‘s just an accident of history that Republicans right now have strong candidates who don‘t feel that burning passion, that mission to do it.

MATTHEWS:  I love that thing of, it‘s not just ambition, it‘s the sense that your ambition synchronizes with the zeitgeist, the sense of the times, and what they might call for that you can ride then the galloping horse of history, that you can ride into the presidency the way Bill Clinton did in ‘92, the way Obama did in 2004, you know, in a narrow way, some of the other presidents.

Let‘s take a look at the latest Suffolk poll.  It shows Romney up there with 20 percent.  This is New Hampshire, I believe—isn‘t it New Hampshire?  National—national—undecided 20, right up there riding with him, Sarah Palin doing OK at 12, Newt down at 9 and Giuliani at 7.  Giuliani‘s not doing really much here.

That is not really a strong shape.


MATTHEWS:  There‘s nothing that that says, that poll.  I mean, it‘s, like (INAUDIBLE) What‘s that tell you?  Nothing.  It tells you the public hasn‘t gotten excited.

HEILEMANN:  Right.  Well, it tells you that all of those guys, if you rank them top to bottom, they‘re basically all the people who have any—any...

MATTHEWS:  That they‘re all bottom.

HEILEMANN:  ... any—any...

MATTHEWS:  They are all the bottom.

HEILEMANN:  Or any scintilla of name recognition on a national level or even in New Hampshire.  You know, of the three who now we think are going to comprise the A tier on the Republican nominating side...


HEILEMANN:  ... you‘ve got Romney, you‘ve got Pawlenty and you‘ve got Jon Huntsman.  Two of those guys, Pawlenty and Huntsman, are just totally unknown.  And so the fact that they‘re not showing up on the polls doesn‘t really tell us very much.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re the anti—they‘re the anti-Romneys, right?

HEILEMANN:  Right, they are—well, they are the alternatives to Romney and...

MATTHEWS:  All right, let‘s take a look—let‘s take a look at this because I think this is an interesting collage put together by our producers.  This is really good.  It puts together all the Sunday commentary into a nice collage you can sort of follow.  Let‘s watch this.  Let‘s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think Governor Christie in New Jersey is going to be pushed to reconsider this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I think there‘s only one last Hamlet question, which is Chris Christie of New Jersey, who‘s a big Republican star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But I think this is going to open it up for Chris Christie of New Jersey.  This is going to open it up for Paul Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was just saying this morning maybe it‘s time to start drafting Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  I‘m not going to get into all those hypotheticals.  I‘m not running for president.  I‘m not planning on running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I actually think that Governor Perry in Texas is probably going to reconsider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And then the third person I would say you have to think about now is Jeb Bush.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here we are, all the way around the circle, Mark Halperin.  The usual suspect is back, a Bush.  I mean, it seems like Chris Christie might have already discounted his experience as a frontrunner, like you‘re hearing these words like, Oh, he‘s not popular in New Jersey.  Those cuts are starting to hurt people.  It‘s a lot of talk.  He‘s a bit of a bully.  You know, you hear the tough talk about him.

Has he already gotten past his excitement moment, where they‘re going to look past him, even to Jeb at this point?

HALPERIN:  No, I think you‘re going to hear a lot of chatter about all the people who were listed in that montage.  But I think there‘s a very, very high probability that the nominee will be Huntsman, Romney or Pawlenty.  And no one else who‘s currently running or thinking of running and no one else on that dream list.

I think getting past Mitt Romney for somebody who starts now is going to be difficult.  He has—he‘s a weak frontrunner (ph), but he has a lot of advantages.  These other guys look great to people now, but when they get in, they have to hire a staff.  They have to raise money.  They have to go through scrutiny.  I think getting over what Mitt Romney has built, in a subterranean fashion for the most part, is going to be too difficult to do with someone getting in in September, and I think all those guys are smart enough to know that.

MATTHEWS:  I just find this is the most boring list I‘ve ever seen in my life.  Pawlenty, the name itself with is like polenta.  It‘s just—yes, where‘s the exciting part of the meal?  And then you get—you get—

Romney is just already yesterday, it seems.  And then this guy, Huntsman—

I don‘t get Huntsman except he doesn‘t like Romney.  I don‘t know what he‘s doing (INAUDIBLE) personal dislikes.

Here‘s Pawlenty—for everybody to get a look at him, here he is on the “TODAY” show just today.  Let‘s listen.


TIM PAWLENTY ®, FMR. MN GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Our country needs new leadership.  We‘ve got to get this economy moving again.  President Obama, unfortunately, doesn‘t have the courage to look the American people in the eye and tell them the tough truth.

I‘m not running for entertainer-in-chief.  These are serious times and they need people with serious solutions.  So if you‘re looking for the loudest or a comedian in the race, vote for somebody else.  But I‘ll bring the solutions forward that‘ll actually fix the country.


MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.  Obama doesn‘t have any guts.  Here‘s Huntsman on Friday on ABC.  Let‘s listen.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CO-HOST, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”:  For a lot of Republican primary voters, the number one question is, Does he have a chance?  He worked for Obama.  What‘s the answer?


worked for the president of the United States.  The president asked me, the president of all the people.  And during a time of war, during a time of economic difficulty for our country, if I‘m asked by my president to serve, I‘ll stand up and do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So you‘d do it again.

HUNTSMAN:  I‘d do it again?  Of course.


MATTHEWS:  What do we make of that, you—John, then Mark—this idea that you serve as personal representative of the president of the United States, it‘s not just a job, you‘re a personal representative on all issues.  That‘s why you take an ambassadorship.  There was no war with China going on, by the way.  He took a job over there.  He did it because he saw an opportunity, and he sees one now.  Does that look opportunistic, to break with the guy you worked for?

HEILEMANN:  I don‘t think so.  And I think, you know, we‘re going to have to see what he—how he evolves his—his argument, his rationale for what he disagrees with Barack Obama on.  He has not made that clear yet, and we‘re still in the very early days with him.

But I think from the standpoint of Republican primary voters and the nomination fight, for him to be able to say, Look, you know, I served the president.  I served the country aboard.  And to make—I know you said that we‘re not at war with China, but the military analogy is not a bad one.  It‘s to say that, you know, when your president calls you to serve the country on the global stage, you answer that call.  I think that‘s not a bad answer.  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you think there‘s not going to be a problem of opportunism and—what‘s it called, transactional politics, where you work for a guy as long as it‘s useful to you, then you run against him when that‘s useful to you.

HEILEMANN:  Well, again, I think that‘s—that‘s going to come down

to what the case is that he articulates eventually against Obama.  And then

and you could imagine him arguing a case that says, Look, I‘ve been on the front line of China.  I can see what the national debt is doing to our foreign policy standing...


HEILEMANN:  ... with one of our biggest potential adversaries in the world.  I‘ve—I‘ve seen that face-to-face now...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I don‘t know...

HEILEMANN:  I‘ve learned that...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know...

HEILEMANN:  I‘ve learned that lesson.  You could—you can hear him making that argument...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.

HEILEMANN:  ... and not being laughed off the stage.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  Mark, this question of whether—you work for a guy as his personal representative, and then at some point, you‘ve got to say, At some point, something changed where I made a decision that this guy was not the right guy to lead the country because in the beginning, I thought he might be.  You can‘t say you never thought he should have been president but you went to work for him because he asked you.

HALPERIN:  Chris, I think...

MATTHEWS:  That makes no sense.

HALPERIN:  I spent Saturday and Sunday covering Huntsman up in New Hampshire, and I will say on that issue and on his general discussion of China, I don‘t think there‘s any doubt on both the merits and on the politics that those will be pluses for him in this contest.

He has the ability to talk about one of our greatest challenges currently and for the next hundred years unlike any presidential candidate I‘ve heard, with the exception maybe of Bill Clinton.  And he showed potential this weekend on a range of issues that if he lives up to it, I think he‘ll be the next president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  OK, you first. You first.  Which one of these fellows, we mentioned three of them, that are regular Republicans, conservative Republicans—I assume—I guess we‘re thinking that perhaps left to right, it‘s probably Huntsman, Pawlenty and then Romney today, but it keeps changing.  Which one of these could excite a big heated room down in Tampa, Florida, next September, when all the people are there, the whole party, left—or rather right to far right, is present?  Which could excite them and turn them on most likely, Mark?

HALPERIN:  All three of them have the potential to do it.  But all of them have challenges.  That is a challenge for all three of them, that particular skill.

HEILEMANN:  Look, I think the one who has the most potential to be able to tap into the Tea Party‘s energy is Tim Pawlenty because, in fact, he is more of a populist.  He‘s more of a working-class guy.  And he‘s more of a social conservative.  And we‘re going to see him run that way.  In Iowa, for instance, he‘s going to run as a strong evangelical Christian.  He could tap into a lot of that grass roots energy in way that the other two might not be able to.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have an advantage over you guys.  I don‘t want an interview with any of these guys.


MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you something, I don‘t think any one of them excites the Tea Party people.  They seem establishment.  They seem like part of the people that are running this country for years.  If there‘s a problem in how this country‘s been running, they‘ve been part of that problem.  I don‘t see how they can go out and become Joan of Arc overnight.  I don‘t see it.

HALPERIN:  Chris, a Tea Party...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m waiting to see it.

HALPERIN:  The Tea Party...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Mark.

HALPERIN:  The Tea Party cares about deficit reduction, and the Tea Party at this point does not have a strong candidate in this race.  Every candidate running is going to be for deficit reduction.  They‘ll probably be against any deal that‘s struck in Washington.

And I don‘t think the Tea Party is going to play that much a bigger role...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, I see one guy...

HALPERIN:  ... in picking the nominee than the establishment in compared to years past.

MATTHEWS:  I see one guy that raised taxes on energy because he agreed with climate change.  I see another guy that basically replicated the Obama health care in Massachusetts and supported it nationally with the Chaffee plan.  And I see a guy who swore allegiance to the president and then broke it.  So I see problems with all three of these fellows.  That‘s my view.  You‘re the experts.  You‘re writing the book.

Thank you—you know where I stand—Mark Halperin.  Thank you, John Heilemann.

HALPERIN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I have you guys here to tell me what you think.  Coming up

you chuckle at me, sir!

HEILEMANN:  That‘s your Michele Bachmann commercial, right?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.  But anyway—I don‘t need a commercial. 

Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  The Republican plan to end Medicare looks like it‘s failing its first real test.  The Democrat in that special election up in New York is now leading in the polls using one issue, Medicare and the Republican plan to get rid of it, giving Democrats hope that this is the issue they can use to perhaps win back the House of Representatives next year.  That‘s ahead.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, President Obama is in Ireland right now, visiting the ancestral homeland of his great, great, great grandfather.  He visited the village of Moneygall, a hamlet of just 350 people, where his great, great, great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney—that‘s how you pronounce it over there—worked as a shoemaker before emigrating to America in 1850, just about the time they all did, the potato famine.  President Obama also met a distant relative, his eighth cousin, while he was there.

Look at that crowd!  I‘ve seen few crowds as excited as this one.

Later, the president got a rousing welcome in Dublin, right outside Trinity—there it is, what a great sight—where he talked about his Irish heritage, reminding me of Kennedy back in ‘63.

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Election day in New York‘s 26th district is tomorrow, voters will fill the seat held by former congressman Chris Lee.  The election‘s been a tough battle focused on the House Republican plan to kill Medicare.  The top three candidates in the race include Democrat Kathy Hochul, Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Partier Jack Davis splitting the vote on the right.

So will voters say no to the Paul Ryan Republican plan passed by the House Republicans to kill Medicare?  And is this a trend that could continue into the 2012 House and Senate races across the country?

Josh Marshall is the founding editor of TalkingPointsMemo and John Feehery is a Republican consultant.

First of all, Josh, just a little Memory Lane from last week—Newt Gingrich was all around the country getting his butt kicked because he went out there and said this Republican plan to basically replace Medicare is right-wing social engineering.  He had to then go through the Cambodian reeducation camp for about three days, and ended up, well, swallowing all the hell he was given on this issue and accepting some sort of penitential experience, but everybody knows what Newt thinks.  This is a killer politically.  Then this week, Scott Brown up in Massachusetts said, I‘m not for it.

Is the message among thinking Republicans to be confirmed tomorrow that this—that this Medicare plan is—is a—well, it‘s death certificate?

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM:  You know, it‘s—it‘s—the signs aren‘t very good.  And in a lot of ways, you know, this shouldn‘t surprise us.  Medicare‘s a really popular program.  And think this is an example of, you know, the Republicans really over-read the mandate that they did get back in 2010.  It‘s clear there was this kind of general sense that we‘ve been spending a lot of money on—you know, on stimulus, kind of all this stuff as a reaction to...


MARSHALL:  ... the 2008 economic crisis.  But again, it shouldn‘t surprise us when the major party gets a party-line vote to get rid of one of the most popular programs in the country, replace it with vouchers, that yes, this is going to be hard to take into an election.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the latest Siena poll up there.  It shows Democrat Kathy Hochul in a Republican district leading the Republican, Jane Corwin, and the Tea Party candidate, obviously splitting the vote over there.  Hochul has 42.  Corwin is 38, and Davis 12.

You know, I wonder if that isn‘t a template for what is coming next year, John Feehery, that if you have a right-wing candidate Tea Partier jumping in just in any race, it hurts the Republican.  But this whole issue of, why do you want to get rid of this program out there, besides Social Security, if you are a Republican? 



FEEHERY:  ... first of all, I think the first issue you raised, Chris, is the right issue.  And that is that Republicans have to call out people who masquerade as Tea Party guys then spend a couple of million dollars in a primary and then are able to take 12 percent of the vote. 

If Davis is not in the race, Republicans win fairly handily.  And I don‘t think the Republican is going to lose this.  I think it is still very close.  The people I talk to say the Republican has a superior ground game.  It‘s going to be close.  But I still think the Republican still has a shot at winning. 

Now, on the bigger issue of Medicare, Medicare is something that is a very popular program.  There is no doubt about it.  If we don‘t reform the program, we‘re—the country is going to go broke.  So, you have to deal with that.  And I think that Paul Ryan has put out a program that—not in a budget, but in a separate program, that is very controversial, that it will actually help reform the program. 

But this is something that is notional coming out of the House.  The Senate is probably not going to take it up.  It‘s not going to become law.


MATTHEWS:  Oh, here we go.  You are backing away, bro.  You are backing away.  I‘m telling you what you‘re doing right now.  You are skirting the issue.  You are saying it doesn‘t matter. 

But let me show you the latest polling up there.  Here is again the Siena poll.  Let me just challenge you on the facts here.  I do have an advantage here, the latest poll in that district.  The voters‘ most important issue when choosing a candidate was Medicare.  Now, they‘re followed closely by jobs. 



MATTHEWS:  Let me just ask you this. 


MATTHEWS:  You say reform. The Republican plan is to get rid of Medicare, which is a guaranteed entitlement program, and give you a voucher, like you get a $10 gift certificate at Barnes & Noble.  It is a gift certificate.

It‘s not health care.  It‘s a check that nowhere covers the cost of medicine if you are in your 70s or 80s.  You know that. 

FEEHERY:  This is the same program that was put out by John Breaux and Bill Thomas last—in the 1990s.  We have to fix Medicare for the long-term.  And there has to be competition involved with it.

Obviously, what Paul Ryan has said is, if you are under 55, this is going to be something you might have to deal with.  If you are over 55, it is not going to touch you.  That is something that polls very well with seniors.  But, you know, this is a beginning of a conversation.



MATTHEWS:  You guys are so desperate. 


MATTHEWS:  You say it doesn‘t matter.  Then you say it doesn‘t matter if you are over...


FEEHERY:  It has to happen.

MATTHEWS:  You say it—you are skirting.  You‘re saying it doesn‘t matter.  Then you are saying it doesn‘t matter if you are over 55.  I mean, you‘re just trying to get away from it.

FEEHERY:  Well, that‘s what the plan says.  If you are over 55, it‘s not going to impact you.  And that‘s an important talking point.

And when all of the members I talk to go back to their constituents,

that is something that sells, that, if you are over 55, it‘s not going to -

now, I don‘t happen to think that‘s fair, because I‘m under 55.  And I think if there‘s going to be reform, that the old guys have to pay as well, but I‘m not running for office, so, you know...


MATTHEWS:  You know my favorite new weather vane is Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  Scott Brown is going to get reelected up there, probably, unless they—the Republicans—Democrats come up with a good candidate next year.  But—they could.  But, right now, he is looking very strong because he is so smart at skirting these issue. 

He‘s just like John Feehery. 


MATTHEWS:  Feehery is a very good stalking horse for Scott Brown, because look at this.  Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said this about the Paul Ryan Medicare plan in Politico this morning—quote—

“While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started”—I love that

“I cannot support his specific plan and therefore will vote no on the budget.”

So, there is Scott Brown, who has got the cosmetics—let‘s put it right, Josh.  This guy has got the cosmetics down good.  He knows this will look very bad to a Republican to be out there to axe Medicare—I know, just for people over—under 55.  I know that part, John. 


MARSHALL:  You know, the thing...


MARSHALL:  John‘s point is—I think you can listen to what he is saying.  Set aside the substance of the plan for the moment. 

I don‘t think John is denying that this is not working politically at all.  And, sure, you can say that you—you get a poll and it works well among seniors.  Again, I think, if you look at what Republicans are doing across the country, it is obvious that they don‘t believe that, that they think this is actually a loser politically, and they are trying to get it off—they‘re saying, well, it wasn‘t even a law.  It was just sort of a kind of a concept. 


MARSHALL:  And, you know, forget about that.  Just forget we ever did it. 

And that‘s a problem for Republicans, because all but six of the Republican Caucus in the House already voted for this. 


MATTHEWS:  I think it is only four. 

But let me tell you something.  Just like those cement fingers down in

out in Hollywood, you know the Walk of Fame, people have their little fingerprints in there and their footprints in there, like Hubert Humphrey and all those stars, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, people like that.

All those people have their fingerprints in that now.  And that‘s your party.  Every one of you guys and women have voted to destroy Medicare.  And you are going to have to run for that—run from that. 

FEEHERY:  Chris, Chris, Chris, the fact of the—the fact of the matter is that we have got to fix Medicare.  If we don‘t, the growth is exponential.


MATTHEWS:  You want to get rid of it.  What do you mean fix it?  Your party wants to get rid of it. 


FEEHERY:  I don‘t want to get rid of it.  They don‘t want to get rid of it. 


MATTHEWS:  You want to pass out these medical food stamps you want to give people.


FEEHERY:  They want to save it so that people in the future can get it. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, good luck. 

FEEHERY:  There‘s a lot of good ways to save it, but you have to save it.  And the way you do it—you can‘t keep on the way it is going.  Otherwise, we all go broke.  Do you want a defense Department?  We can‘t have a Defense Department and an unreformed Medicare system.



MATTHEWS:  The reason you are so agitated is you are in dead trouble on this one. 



MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Josh Marshall. 

Thank you, John Feehery.

FEEHERY:  Thanks, Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  John Feehery would rather talk about anything but this. 

Up next:  Newt Gingrich—Oh, God, do we have to think about it? -- tries to explain his big spending habits at Tiffany‘s.  This guy likes bling, doesn‘t he?  A half-million bucks in liabilities?  What kind of stuff he is buying, for who? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


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

First up: whacking Washington.  Today in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny gave President Obama a hurling stick, a yard-long paddle traditionally used in the ancient game of hurling. 

Our president had another idea. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know, if members of Congress aren‘t behaving...


OBAMA:  ... give them a little paddle, a little hurl. 



MATTHEWS:  They‘re not even going to like that as a metaphor, like they are kids that have to be spanked?

Next up: Newt Gingrich‘s breakfast, lunch and supper at Tiffany.  Yesterday, the self-described fiscal conservative defended reports that he once owed Tiffany up to $500,000. 

Here he is with Bob Schieffer on CBS. 


BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”:  Did you owe a half million dollars to a jewelry company at one point?


SCHIEFFER:  Well, what does that mean?

GINGRICH:  That means that we had a revolving fund.  It was a...


SCHIEFFER:  Who buys a half million dollars worth of jewelry on credit?

GINGRICH:  No.  It‘s a—go talk to Tiffany‘s.  It‘s a standard no-interest account.


MATTHEWS:  Absolutely great by Schieffer. 

Did he or did he not owe that kind of money to Tiffany?  He won‘t answer the question.  Why didn‘t he answer it?  Yes or no, did he owe a half-million dollars to Tiffany?  And if he didn‘t owe the money, why did it get listed on the family financial statement?  What is Newt hiding here?  If he wanted to clear it up, he could done it that second with Bob Schieffer.  He doesn‘t want to clear it up.  And it‘s reasonable to assume he would prefer to keep this thing very murky. 

Finally, a stumble out of the gate.  This weekend, Tea Partier Herman Cain officially announced his 2012 bid and then bashed the president‘s policy speech on Israel.  The big hitch?  Cain doesn‘t know the situation over there. 

Here he is with Chris Wallace on FOX. 


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Where do you stand on the right of return?

HERMAN CAIN, CEO, THE NEW VOICE:  The right of return?  The right of return?

WALLACE:  The Palestinian right of return.

CAIN:  That is something that should be negotiated.  That is something that should be negotiated.

WALLACE:  Do you think the Palestinian refugees, the people who were kicked out of the land in 1948, should be able or should have any right to return to Israeli land?

CAIN:  Yes.  But under—but not under Palestinian conditions. 

Yes, they should have a right to come back if that is a decision that Israel wants to make.  I don‘t think they have a big problem with people returning. 



MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, they do.  Mr. Cain talked of Israel letting

Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war be allowed to return to Israel

itself?   That, as everyone over there knows, is a nonstarter for Israel. 

            If the Palestinians came back in any number, it would threaten the

existence of a Jewish state, and everybody knows it. 

Up next:  Have we ever seen politicians stand behind a foreign leader over their own president?  That‘s what Republicans are doing right now.  They are lining up behind Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over President Obama.  You watch this.  This is unusual.

And that‘s ahead.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

We had another steep sell-off on persistent concerns about whether certain European countries can pay their bills.  The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 130 points.  The S&P 500 fell almost 16, the Nasdaq taking the biggest hit.  It was down 44 points.  That‘s a big decline in terms of percentages. 

Stocks are still following this euro/dollar trade-off today.  The euro was weak on debt ratings downgrades for Greece last week.  We saw Italy over the weekend.  There is now talk of Belgium as well.  And Spain had a key vote over the weekend which suggests they are not too interested in austerity measures.  So, investors were moving out of stocks into the dollar.  The greenback is up about 1 percent today against a basket of currencies. 

In stocks, Boeing and General Dynamics fell, this despite a court ruling in their favor stemming from the cancellation of the Navy‘s new $4.5 billion fighter jet.  Sony shares slipped after the company lowered their full-year outlook from a profit to a loss.  That‘s because of those disasters in Japan. 

And one of the few bright spots today, fertilizer-makers swelling sweet on a ratings upgrade for the company called Mosaic.  It was higher by more than 2 percent.  CF Industries gained more than 6 percent.

That is it from CNBC.  We are first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what 1967 lines with mutually agreed swap means. 

By definition, it means that the parties themselves, Israelis and Palestinians, will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. 


OBAMA:  That‘s what mutually agreed upon swaps means. 


OBAMA:  It is a well known-formula it all who have worked on this issue for a generation. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama on Sunday speaking before AIPAC, the powerful lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and reiterating his support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation based on the ‘67 borders, with land swaps involved, taking some land here, moving it here, taking other land, moving it the other way. 

Prominent Republicans have broken with the president on this position, despite the fact that those ‘67 lines have been the starting point for peace talks for decades, including during the Bush administration, which supported a two-state solution.

Here is a sample of how Republicans are going after the president on this tough issue. 


GINGRICH:  I think it is a disaster.  I think it is extraordinarily dangerous.  I think that it defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  He certainly, I think, made a mistake in this comprehensive speech about the Middle East.  Everybody knows that ‘67 lines are just not tenable. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Cynthia Tucker is a columnist for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”  And, of course, Sam Stein is with the White House as a reporter for the Huffington Post.

So, look, let‘s talk about this thing as the Republican—is it unusual for a bunch of Republican senators to line up with a foreign leader against the president of the United States?  Isn‘t this Logan Act material?  I mean, I‘m just wondering. 




CONSTITUTION”:  The only country in which you see that regularly done here in the United States is Israel.  And it isn‘t just...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

I have never seen this done before. 

TUCKER:  Well, they have been doing it ever since Barack Obama has been president. 


TUCKER:  They have been supporting whatever Netanyahu says. 

And we support Israel.  That doesn‘t mean that we support everything Israel‘s government does.  But Republicans line up against the president on this, and, sometimes, so do Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  But the idea of a two-state solution, which is the only thing anybody has come up with over there, as a possible way of ending this war is bipartisan proposal. 

TUCKER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  George W., who is certainly a friend of Israel, was for it.  I think even people like George Shultz, real heavyweights on the Republican side, are for it, because it is really the only hope of the ending of the fighting at some point. 

STEIN:  Well, yes, I mean, this is basically a show, because we do know the basic outlines of what it‘s possible to do.  It is very hard to do, but it‘s possible. 

What we have here is a routine of Republicans trying to make Israel a wedge for Obama.  And I went back and I looked...

MATTHEWS:  For the evangelical...


STEIN:  Yes, for the evangelicals, for wealthy Jewish Republican donors possibly.

I went back.  I looked at the ‘08 speech that McCain gave at AIPAC.  It was very similar in terms of its denunciation of Obama.  And only, in that case, it was about Obama saying he wanted to talk to his enemies without preconditions.  So, this is...


MATTHEWS:  Very similar.

Basically, the ‘67 line is where they stopped the fighting in—with the ‘49 war and right up to ‘67, Mandelbaum Gate right there, Jaffa Gate, Mandelbaum checkpoint. 

It is a tricky place.  Nobody thinks that line is going to be restored, that exact line, because Israel is going to keep control of most of Jerusalem.  We know that. 

Let‘s take a look.  Check out what the president said yesterday.  He said his position on the ‘67 borders is nothing new.  Let‘s listen to the president here.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There was nothing particularly original in my proposal.  This basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among parties, including previous U.S. administration.  If there is controversy then, it‘s not based in substance.  When what I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.


MATTHEWS:  Well, now, watch what President Bush said, George W.  Bush, in January of 2008, during a trip to Jerusalem.  It was, by the way, in the King David Hotel, he said this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  Achieving an agreement will require painful political concessions by both sides.  While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.


MATTHEWS:  Well, ‘49 armistice lines that he referred to, the president there, President George W. Bush, is the same thing as pre-‘67 borders President Obama is talking about.  So, there‘s really no difference.

If that‘s not enough, here is Secretary of State Clinton, a very strong supporter of Israel.  What she said two years ago, quote, “We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps.”  A very—the same exact language as President Obama used on Thursday.

Here‘s her husband, Bill Clinton, the former president, he had the same idea when he made a last-ditch attempt and a really good one, at Middle East peace back (INAUDIBLE), following the collapse of the Camp David talks.  Here‘s what he said at the Israeli Policy Forum in January of 2001.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  First, I think there could be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign viable Palestinian state that accommodates Israel‘s security requirements and the demographic realities.  That suggests Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank, the incorporation into Israel of settlement blocks.  With the goal of maximizing the number of settlers in Israel, while minimizing the land annex, for Palestinian, to be viable must be a geographically contiguous state.  Now—



MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s complicated language.  But if you go over there, it‘s not complicated.  The Arabs generally live on the West Bank and in Gaza.  They want to have their own.  The peaceful ones do.  But some of them are just terrorists, let‘s face it.  They would love to get rid of Israel tomorrow morning, let‘s face, right?

And that‘s why—


MATTHEWS:  -- Israel is suspicious of any deal because all it takes is one of a thousand Arabs to want to kill you and he‘s got a bomb, and that‘s a fact.

TUCKER:  Let‘s remember that president was very clear that Hamas, all of—any person negotiating on behalf of Palestinian, has to recognize Israel‘s right to exist.  He didn‘t throw Israel under the bus.  He made clear—


MATTHEWS:  That was his phrase.

TUCKER:  Because, of course, they have to disagree with anything Barack Obama says.


MATTHEWS:  You mentioned—you mentioned, well, certainly, there is conservative people in every community.  Conservative Jewish people in this country and liberal Jewish people and people in the middle.  I know all of them.  Mostly liberals I know.

But the fact is you got a lot of evangelicals out there who don‘t see Israel as a state, a real place.  They see it as some sort of biblical thing that has something to do with the rapture and the ending of the world, the end of day stuff.  They see it in very mythical or Christian, theological terms.  And they want to be as big as possible, right?  And that‘s what it‘s all about.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  Sure.  And I think, you know, it‘s funny because the border issue is like the easiest issue to argue about.  It is lines on a mat.  The tough issues are actually Hamas and Fatah and the agreement they made, why Jerusalem is going to be a divided city or whether as (INAUDIBLE) said on “MORNING JOE” this past week, it‘s going to be strictly Israel-Jewish controlled.

And all the other things like right of return—I mean, those are the conceptually difficult issues to understand.  The stuff of borders has been around forever.  So, they are using it as a wedge to get at Obama and to drive support towards their camp.  And it‘s not unreasonable.  That is the Republican candidates who are leading charge.

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s really cheap politics.  But that‘s nothing new.

Anyway, we have it in our country.  Democrats go after them on Medicare.  They go after him on Israel.  I know how this works.  It‘s called opportunism.  It doesn‘t have anything to do with values.

Thank you, Cynthia Tucker.  And thank you, Sam Stein, for that explanation.

Up next: what would the ex-head of the IMF face from a New York jury?  I am absolutely convinced this guy doesn‘t want to face a jury in New York City for what he‘s accused of.  If he is guilty, he doesn‘t want to face those people in that pew there.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, another casualty of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s disclosure he secretly fathered a child with a household employee: his relationship with the White House.  Over the past two years, the Obama administration has worked with Schwarzenegger on issues like energy, education, health care and infrastructure.  We heard about those issues.  They worked together.  The relationship gave both sides the opportunity to claim bipartisanship.  But they won‘t be teaming up any same soon.

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The former IMF chief, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is under arrest in downtown Manhattan, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in a hotel.  So, what‘s next in this case?  And what could the French banker expect from a New York jury?  That‘s my favorite question.

Jonathan Dienst is WNBC investigative reporter, and Susan Filan is a former prosecutor and MSNBC senior legal analyst.  Thank you both for coming.

I want Jonathan and then Susan to basically lay it on the line here.  This is an adult show.  As graphically as you can, what—Jonathan, what is this guy accused of doing in that hotel room?  What did he do?

JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  He is accused of grabbing this maid while naked, dragging her down the hall and forcing her to perform a sex act, an oral sex act.  And the police and investigators today revealed that they have DNA evidence and that there is a DNA match from that‘s maid‘s blouse, from her shirt, that matches the DNA of Strauss-Kahn that he voluntarily offered.  And we‘re told there‘s additional DNA testing now from other liquids, materials, evidence found in that hotel room and that preliminary results are in, but they‘re waiting for some more results.


DIENST:  So, none of this is good news for Dominique Strauss-Kahn as prosecutors have him charged with forcible sex act and attempted rape.

MATTHEWS:  Jon, just to get this as clear as possible, so everybody understands the crime charge here and what the punishment would be, if this was something that was done in grand central station before thousands of people, Jane Doe having done to her by John Doe, what would be the criminal penalty, if this person was clearly guilty?

DIENST:  Maximum on the sex abuse count is 25 years.  Maximum on the attempted rape is 15 years.  And there are other counts that are seven years, and a misdemeanor count as well in there, that‘s one year.

So, the range from one year, if it‘s just the misdemeanor charge—all the way up to 25 years as a maximum.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the misdemeanor piece of this?

DIENST:  The misdemeanor charge is sexual abuse in the third degree, the forcible touching.  There‘s allegations that during this attack, that he forcibly touched parts of her body.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s all additive.  You‘re adding it all up.  You‘re not saying it‘s one or the other.

DIENST:  That‘s right.


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  This adds up to about how many years, about 30-some?

DIENST:  The prosecutors say basically, given this seven, they could add it all up and have it run consecutively.  So, you‘re looking at dozens of years, not just the maximum 25.

MATTHEWS:  Susan, it‘s good to have you back.  Give me any modification you might want to offer?  This is a serious felony action that if it can be proven, this guy faces serious prison.

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  You‘re right.  I mean, this is about as serious as it gets.  It‘s an attempted forcible rape.  That‘s attempted sexual contact by force—or intercourse by force.  It‘s also forcible oral sex.

And that‘s just not pretty any way you look at it.  Jonathan is right about the time, 25 years each, that‘s two counts of forced oral sex.  So, that‘s 50 years if you run that consecutive.  Plus, the attempted rape, that‘s 15.  So, that‘s 65 right there that he‘s looking at, if he were to take it to jury, lose at trial, be convicted of the three top counts and have the maximum sentences run consecutively, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Susan, you first here, knowing what you know of juries and their behavior, wouldn‘t this be seen by a jury of regular people, say, a few maids, perhaps, a few cab drivers, a few regular people, perhaps business people, regular New Yorkers with a New York attitude about this kind of a situation?  Wouldn‘t this guy have a very hard time getting any sympathy?

FILAN:  Well, we don‘t know what his defense is going to be yet.  And we don‘t know—I mean, he‘s tried alibi, he‘s tried conspiracy, he‘s tried consent.  We‘re waiting to hear some results back from DNA to see if there‘s a compilation of both saliva and semen in the same DNA sample.  That would be quite damning for DSK, unless he‘s going to go—

MATTHEWS:  Why would that be damning?  Explain it if you can, why that combination of those two fluids would be damning particularly?

FILAN:  Saliva and semen together is going to prove that there was a mouth on a penis.

MATTHEWS:  OK, got you.  Got you.

FILAN:  And so—

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go back—Jonathan, let me ask you about this thing.  What‘s this word that this arrogant interior minister over in France says we‘ll jail him over here in France?  If the crime is committed here, it‘s a local crime.  What right would they have to grab him back into their world?

DIENST:  They wouldn‘t.

FILAN:  None.

DIENST:  New York officials sort of laughed at that suggestion today, basically saying exactly what you said, Chris, if there‘s a crime in New York, he‘s prosecuted and convicted, he would have to serve time here in New York, if convicted.  And this is, again, the state system.  This is not Club Feb, that you‘re talking Dannemora Upstate, you‘re talking serious jail time if he gets sentenced.

Now, remember, the defense has said, look, we have a defensible case and they have sort of clamped down -- 

MATTHEWS:  They would say that.

DIENST:  -- since floating some initial that it may be consensual.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘ve got to go.  By the way, that‘s what they would say.

Thank you.  I know what you have to do, you deny everything.  But this guy has got problems.

Thank you so much, Jonathan Dienst.  Thank you, Susan Filan, for coming on.

DIENST:  Thank you.

MATTEWS:  When we return, “Let Me Finish” with why the Republican Party can‘t forget its past and can‘t seem to see its future right now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the old story of the elephants‘ graveyard.  I first heard about this wondrous African land in an old Tarzan movie, you know, the ones with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O‘Sullivan as Jane.  I love those movies.

We‘re now seeing the whole thing again just as weirdly with the political party that has the elephant as its symbol.  We‘re watching the old herd sadly trudging into the jungle, to that place only they know.

Elephants have great memories, of course.  It‘s all part of their great mythology.  They never forget.  Its great memory—it explains why the Republican Party tends to keep the old names close at heart, why it‘s once again talking about getting Jeb Bush to run.  Its instinct working here—the love of it for the old familiar name.

Well, you know, when I was growing up, Richard Nixon was on the national Republican ticket for either vice president or president in every election but one—from the time I was in second grade until the time I was working for the U.S. Senate, a span of 20 years.

Yes, the party remembers.  It doesn‘t forget, and it rewards those who have been there in the past.  Perhaps, it prefers the past.

Things don‘t change in the world of the elephant.  Between 1952, just a handful of years after World War II, up until 2004, the election before last, three names appear on every Republican ticket, again but for one, through the entire expanse of more than half a century—Nixon, Bush, or Dole.

It‘s always in the old record book of the elephant party.  Nixon in 1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972.  Bush in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2004.  Dole in 1976, and again an impressive 20 years later, in 1996.  The same three names again and again and again.

This is how the elephant thinks, the way he‘s designed, I guess.  He remembers.  He keeps moving around in a fairly small circle with his trunk tied to the tail in front of him, with the one of the tales somewhere up ahead belonging to the elephant right behind him.

So, 2012 is just another year in the elephant cycle.  They look around for a familiar name, but this time, there‘s no answer—no Nixon, no Dole, only a Bush, Jeb.  But he doesn‘t want to do it.  Too many Bushes, too many elephants named Bush.  The elephants remember the name, but people now do, too, too well.  Too many Bushes, too many elephants named Bush.

And, so, the end has come.  The elephants roam aimlessly now.  They hear the name Romney and they feel nothing.  They linger, hoping for a Bush, for Jeb.  And so, the old tired herd trudges toward a place where old elephants know to go—slowly, sadly—knowing the past is just the past.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.



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