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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, June 27, 2011

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Hampton Pearson, Michael Steele, David Corn, Jim Warren, James Alesi, John Heilemann, Mark Meckler, Matt Kibbe

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bachmann goes to Iowa.  Blagojevich goes to jail.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

The second battle of Waterloo.  Everyone has their Waterloo, even Napoleon.  It‘s a nickname for when people of high ambition, huge ambition, face reality, where they get their comeuppance.

Well, today in Waterloo, Iowa, Michele Bachmann signaled the real battle for the right in this country.  She became famous right here on HARDBALL when she call for investigations of Democrats in Congress for anti-Americanism.  Now she‘s in the race for president, and in a brand-new poll, running neck and neck with Mitt Romney.  The seven-month campaign has begun for Iowa and the Republican heart.

Also, guilty, guilty, guilty.  It took a second jury to do it, but former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted this afternoon of 17 of 20 counts, most important, trying to auction off Barack Obama‘s old Senate seat.  Why has Illinois sent so many governors to prison—Kerner, Walker, Ryan, and now Blago.  Forget term limits.  In Illinois, they can just throw away the keys.

Plus, the decision to legalize gay marriage in New York is about much more than just one state.  While it‘s becoming acceptable to millions of American, will the Republicans try to exploit it one last time?  Will they threaten Obama if he signs on?

And the Tea Party‘s ABM treaty—anyone but Mitt.  Mitt Romney‘s got a big lead in the national polls, the perfect candidate to take on President Obama, right?  Then why is the Tea Party looking for somebody, anybody, else?

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with that very point, the heavyweight battle between one candidate, who‘s trying to be something he‘s not—I think I just mentioned his name—and another who is, for better or worse, exactly who she is.

We start with her, Michele Bachmann.  Michael Steele‘s the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, now an MSNBC political analyst, and David Corn is “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief and MSNBC political analyst.

Gentlemen, I want show you right now—here she, Michele Bachmann, the congressman (SIC), in her announcement speech this morning in Waterloo, Iowa.  Let‘s listen.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I want my candidacy for the presidency of the United States to stand for a moment when we, the people, stand once again for the independence from a government that has gotten too big and spends too much and has taken away too much of our liberties.

Government thinks it knows better.  Government thinks it knows better how to spend our money.  Government thinks they know better how to make a better life for us.  They think they create jobs.  They even think they can make us healthier.  But that‘s not the case.  We have to recapture the Founders‘ vision of a constitutionally conservative government if we are to secure the promise for the future.


MATTHEWS:  What is this, Michael, the Protestant reformation?


MATTHEWS:  I mean, somehow we‘re going back to the purity of the original Christian church...


MATTHEWS:  ... we‘re going to back to the original perfection of slaveholders and how perfect they were.  And government is the enemy.  She speaks pure Tea Party lingo.

STEELE:  Well, she—well, she is like the Council of Trent...


STEELE:  ... for the Catholic church.


MATTHEWS:  What is this?  She‘s going back...

STEELE:  Well, no, no, she‘s...

MATTHEWS:  ... to the purity of the old days?

STEELE:  She‘s not going back to the...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, she is!

STEELE:  It‘s not going back to the purity of the old days.  It‘s reminding us of some of those foundational principles.  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  What, slavery?

STEELE:  Please, Chris.  Come on.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was in the original founding principles.

STEELE:  Stop—stop talking.  Stop jumping in.  You know that‘s not what this is about.  And the reality of it is, when I became chairman of the RNC in 2009, I inherited a party that was lost.  It was—its moorings were not as anchored as they once were.  And so you have these candidates now who‘ve emerged out of the last two years who understand by going around the country and listening to people what some of those foundational issues are for them.



MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take Michael at his word.  The foundational issues. 

Government is bad.


MATTHEWS:  Government is bad.

CORN:  That...

MATTHEWS:  She‘s in the government, by the way.

CORN:  Well, that—and she...

MATTHEWS:  She‘s paid by the government.

STEELE:  Well, who better to talk about...

MATTHEWS:  She‘s paid by the government.


CORN:  And she was also a tax lawyer when she represented the IRS against people who had tax issues...


MATTHEWS:  ... farm subsidies for the family, too, I guess.

CORN:  Listen, this is a foundational battle.  We have it in the debt talks here.  We‘ve had it with HR-1, the Republican bill to slash government.  She wants to get up there and say government‘s bad.  We shouldn‘t have food safety programs.  We shouldn‘t have environmental enforcement.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, she...


CORN:  I mean, all that stuff.  But let her get up there and say this.  Today what we saw was—we didn‘t see the full Bachmann.  This is where Ed -- this is where Ed Rollins is making his money, is earning his money, because she got up there—she didn‘t say that gays are ruining America.  She didn‘t attack anything specifically.  She didn‘t say anything wrong about American history.

STEELE:  Has he ever?

CORN:  Has she ever?  She‘s said this over and over again...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here she...


MATTHEWS:  ... show her right now.  Let me give you some late-breaking history.  It‘s only three years old...


MATTHEWS:  ... but it‘s fresh enough.


MATTHEWS:  ... back in October of 2008.  This is really the seed of the hurricane here, ladies and gentlemen.  Congresswoman Bachmann appeared on this program as a surrogate for the McCain campaign, and her comments soon made her famous, or something.  Let‘s listen.


MATTHEWS:  So this is a character issue?  You believe that Barack Obama may—you‘re suspicious because of this relationship—may have anti-American views.  Otherwise, it‘s probably irrelevant to this discussion.  Do you believe...

BACHMANN:  Absolutely!  I absolutely...

MATTHEWS:  So you believe that Barack Obama...


MATTHEWS:  ... may have anti-American views?

BACHMANN:  Absolutely.  I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.  And what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?  I think people would be—would love to see an expose like that.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Congressman (SIC) Bachmann.  Now we have a chance...


MATTHEWS:  Now we have a chance to hear what she said.  Let‘s start with you, Mr. Chairman of the Republican Party...

STEELE:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  ... erstwhile chairman.

STEELE:  Erstwhile!

MATTHEWS:  Erstwhile.  It‘s a good word.  I always wanted...


MATTHEWS:  I used to know what it meant.  Now I know he‘s former.  OK.  She says we should investigate the members of the United States Congress, all elected, started with the Democrats, for anti-American views.  Who should we start with?  Who‘s a good suspect for an anti-American person, a traitor in our midst?  What kind of talk is this?

STEELE:  Look, I...

MATTHEWS:  The president‘s anti-American and Democrats in Congress are anti-American.

STEELE:  At the time—at the time, I think Michele Bachmann, like a lot of folks were saying at the time that then Senator Obama was running, we did not know much about the man.  We were learning—we were learning through third parties about his...


CORN:  Wait a second!  You are guilty...

STEELE:  And to this day...

CORN:  You are...

STEELE:  And to this day, David, for all...

CORN:  ... guilty of...

STEELE:  ... for all your progressiveness, you still don‘t know Barack Obama because if you did, then you would understand exactly why his policies are what they are right now!

CORN:  You are changing the subject.

STEELE:  I‘m not changing the subject!


MATTHEWS:  Anti-American.

CORN:  No, the issue at hand is the charge that he‘s anti-American. 

Saying we don‘t know enough about him is a totally...


STEELE:  Excuse me, sir.  (INAUDIBLE) anti-American.  And she‘s using the same rhetoric that Nancy Pelosi used to describe those who didn‘t support...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look...


MATTHEWS:  Bob Schieffer joined this discussion yesterday.

STEELE:  I mean, you guys can‘t have it both ways!


MATTHEWS:  Maybe one of these guys you‘re after is Bob Schieffer, an absolutely down-the-middle journalist.  Here he is on CBS asking Congresswoman Bachmann about those comments she made here on HARDBALL.  He follows up the exchange, I think well, yesterday.  Here‘s a bit of that exchange on CBS‘s “Face the Nation” yesterday.


BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”:  So what does that mean, Congresswoman?  Did you mean he was unpatriotic, that he didn‘t love this country?

BACHMANN:  No, I don‘t believe that at all.  I don‘t...

SCHIEFFER:  Well, what does that mean...

BACHMANN:  I don‘t question the president‘s...

SCHIEFFER:  ... “anti-American views”?

BACHMANN:  I don‘t—I don‘t question the president‘s patriotism at all.  I—I think what people are concerned about right now is that the president doesn‘t seem have an understanding of how the economy works.  It doesn‘t seem that he has a basic understanding of how to do the job of president of the United States.  And I share that view.

SCHIEFFER:  There‘s a long way between that and saying he‘s anti-American.

BACHMANN:  Well, you know, all of that has been dealt with in the past.  But again, as I said, I don‘t question his patriotism.  I think what‘s most important is, how has the president performed?  I think, quite simply, the president has been wrong in his policy prescriptions for the country.  That‘s really what is important right now because we‘re in serious times, and we‘re in trouble.

SCHIEFFER:  Well, do you wish you‘d put it a different way when you said he had anti-American views?

BACHMANN:  Oh, sure.  There‘s a lot of things I wish I would have said differently, of course.


MATTHEWS:  Which Bachmann was right, the one who thought we ought to have a Joe McCarthy-style investigation of all the Democrats for being anti-American, accusing the president on twice—two occasions you heard her—tape is great, isn‘t it?


CORN:  It doesn‘t lie!


MATTHEWS:  But now she is talking as if she doesn‘t...


MATTHEWS:  Bob Schieffer is getting so hot.  He is so good at this basic question of documentation.  He asked a simple question...

STEELE:  Well, I wish—I wish he would do—I wish he would do that when he has the president sitting in front of him.  I wish he would do that when he has some of the Democrat leadership sitting in front of him, like Nancy Pelosi, and be as penetrating and as serious...

CORN:  There is nobody...

STEELE:  ... in getting to the point...


MATTHEWS:  You think Schieffer‘s a liberal?  Ha!

STEELE:  I‘m not saying --  I‘m not saying he‘s a liberal...


CORN:  There is nobody—no, no, no, no...


STEELE:  And you know what?  Enough‘s enough.  The reality of it is you‘re not going to...


MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s try Chris Wallace here because I‘m not sure where you think he stands politically.  You got Bob Schieffer off on the left, way over there with Bella Abzug.  Let‘s take a look at Chris Wallace.

Here is yesterday on “Fox News Sunday,” a well-known retreat for lefties.  He ended the interview with Bachmann—she was also on there—by asking here if she was flake.  Interesting question.  I‘m not sure I would have put that question that way.  Let‘s listen to the question and the answer.



BACHMANN:  Well, I think that would be insulting, to say something like that, because I‘m a serious person.

WALLACE:  But you understand, when I say that, that that‘s what the rap on you is?

BACHMANN:  Well, what I would say is that I am 55 years old.  I‘ve been married 33 years.  I‘m not only a lawyer, I have a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law from William & Mary.  I‘ve worked in serious scholarship and work in the United States federal tax court.

WALLACE:  But do you recognize that now that you‘re in the spotlight in a way that you weren‘t before that you have to be careful and not say what some regard as flaky things?

BACHMANN:  Well, of course, a person has to be careful with statements that they make.  I think that‘s true.  And I think now there will be an opportunity to be able to speak fully on the issues.  I look forward to that.


MATTHEWS:  I think he hurt her feelings there, a very human moment there.


MATTHEWS:  I know Michele Bachmann a little bit as a human being.  Forget the arguments we have here.  Let‘s go on because I think Chris Wallace, in his favor, was trying to use the language other people were using.  It wasn‘t his thought.  But it came across as his thought, and that‘s why after the show ended, Wallace apologized for the question he put.  And I know how you get in these situations—not exactly this way—but he got in it this way.  Let‘s listen.


WALLACE:  A lot of you were more than perturbed, you were upset and felt that I had been rude to her.  And since, in the end, it‘s really all about the answers, not about the questions, I messed up.  I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t mean any disrespect.  I simply was trying to put an issue that‘s out there directly to her because some people do dismiss her as a flake.


MATTHEWS:  He was speaking for the crowds...


MATTHEWS:  Wait!  Let‘s go on here.

CORN:  OK.  He made a mistake by using that term, but she has said a lot of flaky things.  She believes global warming is a hoax.  She‘s not...

STEELE:  A lot of people do.

CORN:  No, no, no, no, no!  Most...

STEELE:  A lot of people do.

CORN:  Well, don‘t—don‘t go down this road.  You are so...


STEELE:  I‘m just saying...

CORN:  George W. Bush even believed that global...

STEELE:  A lot of people do!

CORN:  No, no!

STEELE:  I‘m sorry.

CORN:  Mitt Romney...

STEELE:  I‘m sorry, it doesn‘t fit your definition...


MATTHEWS:  The sea route‘s open across the ice cap.


MATTHEWS:  When we start going to Norway across the top, will you say we have global heating then?


STEELE:  I‘m just saying...

CORN:  No, no!


STEELE:  My position doesn‘t matter.

CORN:  Listen, let me...

STEELE:  What I‘m saying is a lot of people do.

CORN:  It‘s not just that.  She called...


CORN:  She called for investigations of members of Congress.  She believes that people...

STEELE:  And Democrats haven‘t?

CORN:  Listen—not for being anti-American!  She believes...

STEELE:  Well, that doesn‘t...

CORN:  Here‘s another one.  Take this one on.  She believes that people become gay and lesbian only because they‘re abused as children.  Do you buy that, too?

STEELE:  No, I don‘t buy that.

CORN:  OK, then...


CORN:  ... a few things here that a lot of people would say are flaky remarks...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to reality.  I accept your visceral attitude to some of the things she said, which I do think—we‘ve got to be careful with these words, “flaky,” though...

STEELE:  Right!

MATTHEWS:  ... because they sound ad hominem, because they intend to be ad hominem...


MATTHEWS:  No, the Democrats shouldn‘t take that personally.

STEELE:  Can we stipulate that “anti-American” has been thrown around by both the right and the left over the past...


STEELE:  ... Nancy Pelosi and the whole—during the whole debate on health care in 2009, 2010, talked about...


STEELE:  ... the Tea Party people as being anti-American.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s look at...

STEELE:  Please.  Come on!

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the world that we cover really well.  We can cover philosophy as well, like we‘re doing it now, but also real hard-core politics.  Michele Bachmann, whatever you think of the statements she‘s made, they have rung with some people.  They have rung the bells of voters.


MATTHEWS:  She‘s now tied...


MATTHEWS:  ... 23-22 out there in “The Des Moines Register” poll.  And look at that, they‘re leaving behind the other candidates.  Herman Cain, who‘s probably not going to win, Gingrich, who‘s problem not going to win, Ron Paul, Pawlenty I think still has a chance to get in this race, and maybe Rick Perry gets in it.  So there‘s still other candidates in the field.

But are you surprised it‘s so quickly narrowing to that bracket...

STEELE:  No, I‘m not.

MATTHEWS:  ... Bachmann and Romney?

STEELE:  No, I‘m not.  And I think—I think it will be some further narrowing as we get into...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how can it get narrower than two candidates?

STEELE:  No, what I‘m saying—I‘m—it‘s more than—like you just said, it‘s possibly more than just two candidates.  That‘s my point.  So it‘s going to narrow down a little bit more.  Probably at the end, you‘re looking at four individuals who are going to contest heavily, beginning with...

MATTHEWS:  Who are the best bets right now?

STEELE:  I would say probably the best bets right now, just taking—taking Rick Perry out of it, it‘s going to be Huntsman, Perry—I mean, Huntsman, Bachmann...

MATTHEWS:  Romney.

STEELE:  ... Romney and Pawlenty.  I think Pawlenty...

CORN:  Well...

STEELE:  To your point, I think Pawlenty can still have a legitimate...


MATTHEWS:  Let him do this.  He can do it better than you.  Thank you, Michele—not Michele.  I‘ve got Michele on my brain!  By the way, good luck, Michele Bachmann.  She‘s a good person.


MATTHEWS:  And by the way, whatever she says, she believes.  That separates her from Romney and some of these other guys who just want to look good.  They dress for success.  She is what she is inside.  Good luck, as human being.  As a politician, we‘ll see.


MATTHEWS:  David Corn, thank you.

Coming up: It took two trails but—two trials, I should say, but ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has had his day in court, and he has lost.  He‘s been convicted probably for life now, 17 counts and they all add up.  The jury says he‘s guilty of trying to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama when he was elected president.  What a show trial that was.  He testified in his own defense unsuccessfully.  He‘s gone down.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  President Obama‘s getting into the big deficit debate.  He‘s meeting today with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.  The president wants to raise the debt ceiling to avoid economic catastrophe, of course.  Republicans say they won‘t raise it without budget cuts and no tax increases.  McConnell wants any tax increase taken off the table.  Democrats want to cut oil subsidies and have the option of raising taxes on the very rich, the people who really got us into trouble.

Last week, House Republican leader Eric Cantor walked out of the talks with Vice President Biden over the tax issue.  He‘s not budging.

We‘ll be right back.



ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FMR. ILLINOIS GOVERNOR:  Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome.  I frankly am stunned.  There‘s not much left to say, other than we want too get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Today former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich—you just saw him there—was found guilty on 17 of 20 charges against him, including all the charges related to his attempt to sell the president‘s empty Senate seat when the president was elected.

Joining me now is “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and a columnist for the Chicago News Cooperative, Jim Warren.

Jim, I want you to start.  Were you surprised by the strength of this verdict?

JIM WARREN, CHICAGO NEWS COOPERATIVE:  No, not at all.  When I listened to the jury instructions to the 12 jurors, particularly, Chris, on conspiracy and wire fraud counts, it was open and shut.

Now, we can argue and have a good discussion about whether or not these were real, true crimes and whether or not this was essentially criminalizing political behavior that one sees at all levels of government.  But when one listened to how the federal conspiracy statutes are written, I mean, the two of us can have a private discussion about, you know, some hanky-panky with Eugene, and we don‘t even have to transmit that information to Eugene—if the FBI wiretap catches us discussing the swap of some governmental action for personal gain, we are screwed under the law.

So no, absolutely not.  I‘m not surprised.

MATTHEWS:  So, in other words, just to teach this lesson to everybody who is watching, including young people who want to go into politics—I will bring Gene here in a minute—basically, the jury obeyed the instruction, which said, if a person—two people get together, and one of them says, how about I give this job to somebody, and then, in exchange for that, I get a job with a union, or in exchange for this, somewhere down the line, they give money to my causes.  Even though those causes aren‘t personally for me, those are both criminal acts? 

WARREN:  Right. 

And in this case, also, Chris, we did have examples when it came to discussing putting Valerie Jarrett in the Obama seat, when it came to discussing putting his political enemy, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., in that seat, in each case, there was evidence of personal political benefit. 

He wanted a nonprofit set up for him in the case of Jarrett, so that he could make $750,000 to $1 million running that nonprofit, in exchange for getting Jarrett the job.

And in the case of Jesse Jackson Jr., whom he hates—everybody knew he hated him—he seriously considered putting him in the seat for a period of time if some contributor would fork over $1.5 million. 

MATTHEWS:  So, Gene, here we have a lesson in—in—in big crimes.  This guy‘s going to serve a long time.  He looks great there, but he‘s going to end up in prison, a miserable life. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  Actually, my first question was, do they give you a buzz cut when you check into prison?  I‘m starting a Twitter campaign. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s got real hair, though, unless... 


ROBINSON:  Spare the hair is my Twitter campaign.


MATTHEWS:  But did you know these were crimes? 


MATTHEWS:  Did you know these were crimes, as a top journalist? 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, there‘s a matter of degree.  When you look at the Blagojevich stuff, you could—in one sense, it‘s just politics.  In another sense, it‘s very specific things he wanted. 

He wanted money.  He wanted a job.  It—it was too blatant, I think. 

It did cross a line.  And, you know, has it happened before? 

MATTHEWS:  But it involved in the end cash in his pocket.  In the end, that was it. 

Was that it, Jim?  Just before we get to the tapes, we‘re going to talk to the—listen to the jurors here.  Just to get the point, the criminality here was that he benefited personally in terms of his own income.  Is that what did it? 

WARREN:  In fact, Chris, he never benefited by one penny, given the evidence that was here. 

The scary part about the way the conspiracy statutes are written was that the mere discussion of deals in which, for instance, he would hold up legislation to benefit a racetrack in exchange for campaign contributions, in exchange—and he would hold up reimbursement of Medicaid dollars to a hospital in return for campaign contributions, the fact that he tried to hold up a construction executive for $50,000 in return for signing a state highway bill, all of that.

Even though there is no proof that any of those acts were completed, he did not get a penny out of all this, Chris, he‘s going to jail. 

MATTHEWS:  And even though the money wasn‘t intended to be personal income, but campaign contributions. 

Let‘s take a look at what the jury thought.  We got a couple juror here who have spoke on camera since the late-afternoon verdict.  Here they are talking about the effect of the governor‘s, the ex-governor‘s testimony. 


QUESTION:  What was your reaction to former Governor Blagojevich‘s testimony?  How did it make an impression on you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it made it—I wouldn‘t say it made it a bit harder, but, because he was personable, it made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors.  We had to put aside the fact that whether we liked him or didn‘t like him and just go by the evidence that was presented to us. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was being tried on attempting and not committing a crime.  And when you say that you‘re going to float an idea, as opposed to asking someone to do it, that‘s where it changed, and there were several times where he said, you know, do it.  Push that.  Get this done. 

And I think that‘s where you cross the line of just floating an idea and actually doing it. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, there they are obeying the instructions of the court...


MATTHEWS:  ... which is, if—any step taken in the direction of carrying out a conspiracy, it‘s a crime. 

ROBINSON:  Well, yes.

I mean, look, what we‘re talking about is a federal—the federal conspiracy statutes, right?  So, if there‘s a quarrel, if—it‘s with the way those laws are written and the way they—the instructions were given by the judge.

But I think the jurors didn‘t think they had a lot of choice in this -

in this matter. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I just—I guess I‘m—I‘m learning all the time about what is crime. 

You have got to help me here, Jim.  Separate this crime.  Teach a lesson here.  Here‘s a teaching lesson for a journalist.  Does this mean, if you want to give to a political—presidential campaign, but you would like to be ambassador to Sweden or somewhere, one of the major countries, not the major, but you want to—and you are talking to a guy, and you say, look, I‘m going to raise you a million bucks, but I do expect to get an ambassadorship out of that, according to the way this jury was instructed, would that be criminal conspiracy? 

WARREN:  Oh, yes. 

The lesson of this is that, don‘t say in exchange for the million bucks, I want to be at the, you know, the Court of Saint James within two months of your being sworn in on January 20.  No, I think the lesson here is don‘t be quite so crude.  Don‘t be quite so overt, as Rod Blagojevich was, who was so obsessed with horse-trading and with money, and had so clearly little interest in the actual act of governing. 

But, yes, the lesson is, give the million bucks, and then maybe through other means over the course of a period of time, let it be known to certain folks that you might be interested in an ambassadorship.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes. 

WARREN:  But don‘t get on the darn telephone with a guy and say, here‘s what I would like. 


WARREN:  Check‘s in the mail, buddy. 

MATTHEWS:  And not when the U.S. attorney has got you bugged. 

Anyway, thank you. 

We‘re not teaching crime here.  I‘m telling you, you have got to be really careful about what is criminality, what used to be considered politics. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Gene Robinson.

Thank you, Jim Warren. 

Up next:  Chris Christie has repeatedly said no to a presidential run. 

But what if he were asked to be somebody‘s vice presidential running mate?  This guy is different.  Good question.  Christie‘s answer coming up.  A typical Christie answer is not, none of your business, but it‘s close and it‘s in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


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

First, remember this barn-burner from the great—well, Chris Christie, let‘s just call him that, governor of New Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You don‘t send your children to public schools.  You send them to private schools.  So I was wondering why you think it‘s fair to be cutting school funding to public schools. 

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  Hey, Gail (ph), you know what?  First off, it‘s none of your business.  I don‘t ask you where you send your kids to school.  Don‘t bother me about when I send mine. 



MATTHEWS:  The Republican governor pointed to the—pointed to that when asked on “Meet the Press” whether he would be on the national ticket this year. 


DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  If they came to you and said, hey, be on the ticket—I know you have said in the past you‘re not a V.P. kind of guy, but you still feel that way? 

CHRISTIE:  David, can you imagine?  I mean, the person who picks me as vice president would have to be sedated.  Seriously, forget it. 

GREGORY:  Well, what role—well, yes, right. 


GREGORY:  I thought you were huggable and lovable... 


CHRISTIE:  I am.  But, you know, I think I am.  But you also saw the answer I gave to Gail.  I mean, that‘s who I am, and I don‘t think that‘s vice presidential material. 


MATTHEWS:  I think Romney is sedated, so I wouldn‘t bet on it. 

Next:  Bachmann plays fast and loose with the facts again.  Here she in Iowa talking up the state‘s favorite son, the man known as the Duke, John Wayne. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, what I want them to know is, just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that‘s the kind of spirit that I have, too.  It‘s really about not being ashamed of America.  It‘s embracing America. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, she almost got it right.  Actor John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, about three hours away, though his parents briefly did live in Waterloo, before he was born. 

Speaking of Bachmann, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Despite that John Wayne gaffe, the congresswoman today left no doubt as to the focus of her campaign. 


BACHMANN:  It is so great to be here in Iowa. 

I grew up here in Iowa. 

This part of Iowa. 

My Iowa roots. 

Iowa values. 

Iowa roots. 








Thank you, Iowa. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow, well, all in all, 14 mentions of Iowa in a short speech, the kickoff -- 14 mentions, tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  All politics is local.  Up next:  New York approved same-sex marriage, the biggest state by far to do so.  And now gay rights activists are hoping, hoping that many more states will follow what New York has already put on the books.  We have got a Republican state senator, a Republican from New York State who changed his vote to support gay marriage, coming up—interesting discussion. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

A nice little rally to kick off the week—the Dow Jones industrials jumps 108 points, the S&P 500 climbing 11, the Nasdaq surging 35 points.  Investors feeling cautiously optimistic today about this week‘s cruel vote in the Greek Parliament no that new austerity package. 

Banks saw some gains after regulators proposed a series of reforms that were in line with expectations.  And Dick Bove said Bank of America‘s shares are massively undervalued.  Microsoft soaring more than 3.5 percent ahead of tomorrow‘s release of its new version of Office.  Most video game companies rose after the Supreme Court said banning the sale of violent games to minors is a violation of free speech. 

Meanwhile, Facebook was the golden touch for GSV Capital, its shares spiking more than 40 percent on word it had taken a small stake in the firm.  And Nike shares are off and running after-hours on blockbuster and on revenue posted closing after the bell. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Gay rights advocates won a major victory on Friday when New York State became the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage.  Governor Andrew Cuomo managed to get a Republican-majority Senate to bring the bill to the floor, and four Republican state senators broke ranks with their party to pass the measure. 

Now gay rights groups are looking to replicate this win across the country, of course. 

State Senator James Alesi was the first Republican to support gay marriage up in New York. 

Senator, and thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL. 

This must be a very interesting weekend in your life.  What did you learn about American life and attitudes about sexual orientation in the last three days, since you cast this vote? 

JAMES ALESI ®, NEW YORK STATE SENATOR:  I think that the main message, and what I learned, what I have known for a long time, is that equality doesn‘t know political boundaries.  Equality doesn‘t apply just to Republicans and just to Democrats, any more than it should apply to heterosexual couples, straight couples, or gay couples. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of your party platform?  I know nobody talks about party platforms, but the Republican national party, in your last convention, said that they want a constitutional amendment that protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman. 

Do you—could you ever support a party platform like that? 

ALESI:  I can‘t now, obviously, because I have taken a vote that is totally contrary to that kind of a platform offering. 

I believe that equality between a man and a woman and the equality between someone of the same sex is still equality.  You can have a marriage between a man and a woman over in Afghanistan, but that‘s an adult man and a 12-year-old girl.  That‘s man and a woman. 

But those are extreme arguments.  I think the Republican Party needs to understand that it is the party of Abraham Lincoln, and that was based on freedom and based on equality.  And we need to apply that to all members of our society.  They are our sons and daughters and our brothers and sisters.  And equality needs to apply to everybody. 

MATTHEWS:  How much do you think that fact that you just gave us played a part here, the fact that people that now who are gay, who are born gay, and come out and tell their parents that maybe in their teen years, how important was that simple statement—not simple, but direct statement by young people to their relatives, their aunts and uncles, as well as their parents?  How important was that coming out, if you will, in this development? 

ALESI:  It‘s vitally important, because if you see the younger generations, there‘s a generational gap here that society starts to evolve on this issue and on other issues. 

I mean, if you look back at the issue of abortion many, many years ago, it‘s not in the same place that it was then.  We evolved socially.  And what drives this evolution as far as a social movement is concerned is a young group of people that look at things differently.  They know that they have brothers and sisters, they know that they have co-workers, they know that they have people that they went to school with that are gay. 

They see them as just everyday people.  And they put themselves in a place where, if they were deprived of that kind of equality, they would be uncomfortable.  And so the younger people that are moving this social evolvement are the ones that I think will eventually spread this kind of message of equality across the country. 

It‘s up to someone like me, who‘s not as young as I would like to be, to listen to that, and to listen to both sides and understand that we have to make this an opportunity for America to be what America was designed to be, and that is the freest land in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Thank you so much, Senator. 

It reminds me, by the way, of one of those great changes of mind.  Barry Goldwater, back in the ‘60s or ‘70s, voted to let people at 18 vote, after being argued with that, if you have to fight for your country with the old draft system, you ought to be able to vote to decide who runs it.

Thank you so much, Senator James Alesi, from Upstate New York, from Rochester, for joining us. 

ALESI:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  John Heilemann is the national affairs editor for “New York Magazine.”

John, this is obviously a very important guy here because he‘s a swing guy, a guy who makes as decision.  It‘s so rare in politics.  Two years ago, he voted against same sex, now he voted for it.  He said in the readings we‘ve done with him, in conversations with him, our producers, he said two years ago, he really didn‘t vote his conscious.  Now, he has.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  Yes.  And that was exactly how, you know, part of the way that Governor Cuomo and the supporters of this, were able to get it done in New York, was by going to people like that senator and saying that we could tell that you were torn when you made this vote a couple years ago.

MATTHEWS:  And who did they bring into their offices?  Big backers.

HEILEMANN:  Big backers.  And it‘s one of the biggest differences between New York and a lot of other places in the country, where the money in New York is consummate of Wall Street and although there are Republicans, there are a lot of gay Republicans in New York.

MATTHEWS:  With kids.

HEILEMANN:  With kids—straight Republicans with gay children and gay Republicans themselves who came in and were able to say we‘re going to be there financially for you and that made a lot of—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s translate what you‘re writing a book about, again, written so well “Game Change.”  When you go into the states that are going to decide the next presidential election, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio—is this going to cut against the movement for equality?  Because there will be people who will be resisting it?

HEILEMANN:  Well, look, I think, you know, you got to—already you‘re starting to see a lot of stories about what‘s going to happen now.  Are they—is the movement for gay marriage going to be able to spread state-by-state across the country?

And as you look state-by-state, you know, New York is New York. 

It‘s not the way a lot of swing states are.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not Utah.

HEILEMANN:  It‘s not Utah and it‘s not Ohio and it‘s North Carolina, it‘s not Virginia.  The margins are much closer and it‘s a 50/50 proposition now.  And in the long march of history we know inexorably, I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  Could there be a backlash against what we‘re looking at?

HEILEMANN:  I think there‘s not—I think the backlash potential is not that high.  For some of the same culture and social reason that you saw that actually happened in New York and also because I think the Republican Party is likely to nominate someone who is not wanting to make an issue out of this.  And if you look—

MATTHEWS:  Well, put on their platform, again, will they do this again?  We want a constitutional amendment to guarantee that marriage is only male-female.

HEILEMANN:  I think that is going to be one of the most interesting questions.  You get to Florida, to Tampa this summer, and you‘re going to see this real—there are going to be real division because there are a lot of people in the Tea Party who are, in fact, also very strong cultural conservatives.  There‘s going to be a strong movement in this direction.

And if you have someone like a Romney or someone like a Jon Huntsman, who‘s the nominee, who knows that the way to win, their path to winning is the state focus, like a laser beam, on the economy.  Are they going to want - are they going to want to engage this?

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you.

HEILEMANN:  You could easily see a situation like we‘ve seen in many Republican conventions past where you see a very extreme platform on something like abortion but then the nominee, whether it‘s George W. Bush or Bob Dole—

MATTHEWS:  Or Ronald Reagan.

HEILEMANN:  -- goes out, doesn‘t talk about it at all, the fall elections.

MATTHEWS:  Exhibit A.

HEILEMANN:  Tries to say, fine, it‘s in the platform, but don‘t talk anything that.

MATTHEWS:  This is a red hot issue.  I‘ll be surprise they can put it to sleep so well.

But, anyway, thank you, John Heilemann.  We‘ll be watching it.

Up next—good luck with the book.  Up next, the trouble with Mitt Romney apparently—I was going to say tea baggers—Tea Party people don‘t like this guy.  The guy looks like a president, of course, by traditional standards not current, obviously.

So, here‘s the question: why don‘t they like this guy?  They really don‘t like Romney.  It has to do with a lot of things.  We‘re going it find out what‘s wrong with Romney.  That‘s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Early this month when Mitt Romney announced he was running for president in New Hampshire, Sarah Palin stole some of his thunder.  Her bus tour rolled through the Granite State the same day.

Well, Palin may be at it again tomorrow.  She‘s off to Iowa, one day after Michele Bachmann‘s big announcements there today.  It‘s Palin‘s first trip to the first in the country caucus state.  She‘ll be there for the premiere of that new movie about her.  It‘s called “The Undefeated.”

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Is the fight for the Republican nomination shaping up now to be Mitt Romney versus the Tea Party?  The new “Des Moines Register” poll of Iowa voters makes it look like that.  Romney‘s neck and neck with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who‘s head of the Tea Party in the Congress.

Mark Meckler is the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks.

Let me just leave this wide open with no pushy liberal questions of all.  I want you guys to have a complete free forum here on the math here right now.

Mark, when you look at the presidential field that‘s emerging right now in these polls, what do you feel about it as a Tea Party leader?

MARK MECKLER, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:  Well, first of all, I‘m not a Tea Party leader.  I appreciate that.  But I‘m just trying to reflect the millions who are out there in the movement.  And what they see is a slate of qualified candidates.  They‘re going through doing a mature analysis.

What they‘re not getting to do is get pumped up and enthusiastic about any one candidate.  We already saw what enthusiasm and excitement bring to the White House.  He‘s sitting there now and they‘re looking for something completely different than that.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not looking for charisma, then?

MECKLER:  Definitely not.  We‘re looking for record.  And I think if I had to choose one word—what we‘re looking for is principle.  We‘re looking for somebody who says what they‘re going to do and then does what they said.

MATTHEWS:  So, you hate Romney?

MECKLER:  No.  There‘s no personal vitriol there or anything.  The reality—

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  The point, I can hear you, sir.  Romney was pro-choice in Massachusetts.  He created the health care model for Barack Obama.  He ran as a moderate, liberal, I guess you‘d say, Republican up there.  Now, he‘s a pro-life, hard as nails pro-lifer, and he‘s a Mr. Anti-Obama Health Care and he wants to get rid of Obama.

That‘s a pretty much a 180, isn‘t it?  About principle?

MECKLER:  It is.  And I think those kind of flip-flops don‘t bode well for him in the Tea Party movement.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go—let me go to Matt Kibbe.

Matt, what do you see when you look at this field?

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS:  Well, we‘re trying to measure all the candidates based on some objective criteria laid out by the Tea Party, the contract from America.  And the one reason we‘ve been critical of Mitt Romney is if you look at some of those core principles, particularly on health care and the individual mandate, he just doesn‘t measure up and he‘s so entrenched on that issue in particular.  It‘s hard to imagine him being able to debate the president of the United States on the question of health care freedom, on the question of government health care, because the president himself has celebrated Romneycare.

MATTHEWS:  And not only that, but even before that when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate.  You know better than I this guy‘s record.

And I go back to Mark on this.  Romney supported national individual mandate just exactly like the presence of the Chafee Bill.  So, he was—you could argue that he was a pioneer in the terms of individual mandate, which at the time was argued by the Heritage Foundation, another conservative force, as an alternative to the Kennedy-style, you know, Canada plan?

MECKLER:  I think you‘re right -- 

KIBBE:  That‘s not how Tea Partiers rule.

MECKER:  And his record is long and I think it speaks for himself and I think that‘s how people are going to judge him.  They‘re going to look at what he‘s done.  Not just what he said.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about this other fellow, Pawlenty, who seems to be fading like an old battery here.  What happened to him?  He‘s for cap and trade.  Is that as lethal as for being for health care in the eyes of Tea Party people?

KIBBE:  Well, he flirted with cap and trade.  He‘s not nearly entrenched on -- 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go Huntsman who supported it.

KIBBE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Is he in trouble with you guys, too?

KIBBE:  I don‘t actually take Governor Huntsman all that seriously as candidate.


KIBBE:  He doesn‘t seem to measure up on economics.  But to go back to your question, I think Pawlenty had an opportunity on health care in the last debate and he whiffed.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he whiffed.  That‘s the word.  He didn‘t take him on that issue.  He called it Obamneycare and then didn‘t use the word again.

Let me go back to Mark on that same question.  I‘m looking at the three candidates who have been called the frontrunners, going left to right, Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman.  Are any of them on your screen a possible candidates as enthusiastic of champions for what you believe?

MECKLER:  You know, I don‘t think we are seeing a lot of strength or leadership from any of those candidates.  I don‘t think they are the front-runner candidates according to the Tea Party movement.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go right now to your field, without picking a leader yet.  You‘re not a leader, you told me that.  But you do speak for the people in the party.

Let me ask you—on the Tea Party people, who are you looking at as potential nominees you can get excited about?

MECKLER:  Again, I don‘t think it‘s about excitement.  I think it‘s about analyzing record.  I think generally speaking, if you look at Michele Bachmann, I know you admire her as a politician and she is -- 

MATTHEWS:  No, as a human being.  Let me make this clear to people left, right and center, what I like about here is—I like people who are what they are.  I‘m tired of fraud.  What I like about her is she and her husband—he seems like a good guy, too, raised 25 foster kids.  There is in way not to respect that in our society.

MECKLER:  I agree with you.


MECKLER:  And I think that‘s what a lot of people—that‘s what resonates with people.  She is who she is, like her or hate her.  You get what you get.  What you see on camera is the same thing you‘re going to see off camera.

And I think that‘s refreshing to people.  I think people see a similar character in Herman Cain.  So, people are interested in that.  Obviously, there are some interests in the fact that he doesn‘t have the political resume.  So, those are two of the people that I hear those two names regularly.

MATTHEWS:  Matt, who do you look to as possible people who you could vet favorably?

KIBBE:  Well, I do think Romney has created sort of a vacuum.  And Michele Bachmann—

MATTHEWS:  Who do want to come in the race that isn‘t in it?

KIBBE:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Based on record?

KIBBE:  It‘s early.  And—

MATTHEWS:  Not by normal standards, it‘s not early.

KIBBE:  Well, by decentralized democratization of politics standards that was created by the Tea Party, it‘s still pretty early.


KIBBE:  But someone like Perry is thinking about coming in, and I think if you can pierce of armor of the Romney myth, and allow some of these other candidates to step up into that vacuum, I think we might have a real debate about the issues the Tea Partiers really care about.

MATTHEWS:  Are you guys—and I want to ask you both to speak for your party now really, I want—this is important.  Are you guy as appalled as I am as the fact that the press reports are nothing but how much money is being raised from big donors and the attempt to freeze out people in this campaign because they don‘t have enough bucks up front?  Mark?  That seems to be what‘s being covered.

MECKLER:  I‘m absolutely appalled by that, but that seems to be the nature of media nowadays.  It‘s literally all about the money.  They‘re going to follow the candidates that are raising the money.  That‘s a problem in our system.


KIBBE:  You know, I‘ve said that Mitt Romney -- 

MATTHEWS:  You have seen the kind of money Romney is raising.

KIBBE:  Right.  I said that Mitt Romney may be the Charlie Crist of this cycle.  He‘s raising all the money.  He‘s got all the big donors.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not an accolade, is it?

KIBBE:  It‘s not from me, it is not.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, guys.  I think we‘re shaping up the thing.  It‘s an interesting battle coming up between the populists people like you and the inside people.

Mark Meckler, thank you so much.  Please come back, Matt.  Keep us up to date on this fight.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with a tale of two front runners, Romney and Bachmann.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

More of this division coming here.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the strange pair of frontrunners on the right.  one is not really a right winger but pretending to be, courting the votes of Tea Party people he wouldn‘t share a thought with, much less an evening.

Mitt Romney is a moderate business Republican, the kind of person who reads “The Wall Street Journal,” not for its right wing political nostrums, but for the skinny on how to make more money.  He reads the news pages, not the clatter on the editorial page.

The truth is Romney is a lot more at home with the first George Bush than the second.  He wants you to read his lips, just like the older Bush, not his mind.  Please.

His mind is thinking o constantly, how in the world can I convince these robes that I‘m one of them.  How can I learn to imitate these crazed Tea Party types I hope to never meet at real party.  My God, this is difficult.

That‘s Mitt Romney, the moderate governor of Massachusetts, who was elected up there in the Bay State as a defender of abortion rights, who made a record up there in Boston as a divisor of that health care plan, complete with individual mandate that was the very role model for Obama.  That‘s Mitt Romney out there today, by the way, pretending with all his might that he‘s not that Mitt Romney, that Massachusetts politician, the only one with a public record in actual government.

Well, today, he is joined at ramparts with Michele Bachmann, who believes every word she says whose heart rides with every applause line.  Democrats are traitors, anti-American to the core, George Washington worked tirelessly to end slavery and oh, yes, Lexington and Concord is there in New Hampshire—which just happens to be the place where she, Michele Bachmann, wants her shot heard around the world when she knocks off Mitt Romney right there in his own New England backyard.

This is the fight card for the Republican presidential nomination right now.  One candidate to pretend, pretending to be a right-winger, the other the genuine article as we say in politics.  The one who is right down to her core what she seems to be, but who says things she truly believes that unfortunately are not true.

So, welcome to the battle of the talking points, the hypnotic trance, that both these candidates will enter and maintain for the simple reason that one fears to venture forth into the realm of his own moderate practical real world thinking and the other so unaware of the country‘s real history, that she must paint and repaint the myth as if she were earnestly at work on paint by numbers.

Romney and Bachmann, both now announced candidates for president.  Ladies and gentlemen, as the bartender says in the old westerns, pick your poison.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.



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