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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, March 22, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Julia Boorstin, Matt Viser, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Alan Gottlieb, Chris Smith,
James Lankford, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Forget about it.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight: Toy story. Here`s why the Etch-a-Sketch label is likely to stick
to Mitt Romney. It confirms what most people on the left and on the right
think about him.

Here`s the conservative on the comments. Quote, "They
sum up Romney`s history in one image. Whenever he needs to win a
particular political office, he resets the slate and pollinates it with
whatever position he ascertains to be politically expedient." And that`s
from a Web site that is going to support Romney in the fall.

Here`s another question. Why does it seem that every time Romney wins
a big primary, he steps on his own win with an embarrassing revelation of
who he is. He might be able to survive these oopsies in March, but not in

Plus, the case of Trayvon Martin has raised awareness of the so-called
"stand your ground" laws. In Florida, the law was signed by Florida
governor Jeb Bush himself. Since it went into effect, the rate of
justifiable homicides there has tripled, and it may be the defense employed
by George Zimmerman.

And how do you get on the wrong side of both environmentalists and the
"drill, drill, drill" crowd? You say no to the Keystone pipeline, and then
you go to Oklahoma to support quicker construction of just part of the
pipeline. Well, that`s what President Obama did today, and it`s got a lot
of people scratching their heads.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the Romney ad -- the Romney
aide, rather, who tells us that Romney`s word is not his bond.

We begin with Mitt Romney`s Etch-a-Sketch problem. Howard Fineman`s
editorial director for the Huffington Post media empire and is an MSNBC
political analyst. Mike -- Matt Viser`s a newcomer for "The Boston Globe,"
which, of course, is the hub of the universe up there.

Here it is again, by the way, top Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom`s now
infamous line on CNN just yesterday. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, sir. It`s fair to say John McCain
was considerably a more moderate candidate than the ones that Governor
Romney faces now. Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and
Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right, it would
hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It`s almost
like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over


MATTHEWS: In other words, like one of these things. Anyway, an Etch-
a-Sketch gaffe made just as much news in the papers as the Jeb endorsement
yesterday. Here in "The Washington Post," quote, "Romney endorsed by Jeb
Bush, mocked over an aide`s remark." "The New York Times" -- "Romney`s day
to relish is marred by aide`s gaffe." And Matt, you had a -- a front page
story on Romney`s -- in Romney`s hometown paper, "The Boston Globe," with
the headline, "Words boost, bedevil Romney."

What do you make of this? You`re an objective, straight reporter,
you`re not a columnist, right?


MATTHEWS: So? What`s this guy`s frickin` problem?


MATTHEWS: Why does he always have to -- well, we get into the first
thing. It seems like he`s got an aide who`s a truth teller. Maybe he`s on
sodium pentothol, this guy, Fehrnstrom. But he went out and said the one
thing that everybody`s been saying for years about Romney. He is an Etch-

What gets him elected governor for Massachusetts -- pro-gay rights,
pro-choice, pro-health insurance, pro-whatever -- immediately -- about two
or three years into the job he decides he`s going for president. He Etch-
a-Sketches everything he`s been saying to get into that job and says, Now
I`m a right-winger.

VISER: Yes, I think it highlighted sort of all of the criticism of
Romney and brought to light an evocative image of the problems that Romney
has. I mean, even yesterday, Santorum`s aides were coming to Romney
events, handing out Etch-a-Sketches. So you imagine this being a big deal
sort of going forward.

MATTHEWS: Well, after telling a reporter on the rope line yesterday
he wouldn`t answer questions, Romney came back out for a rare media
availability, a rare one, with just one question he`d answer, and you can
guess what that question was about.

Here`s how the candidate tried to explain the Etch-a-Sketch remark, I
would say unsuccessfully.


Organizationally, a general election campaign takes on a different profile.
The issues I`m running on will be exactly the same. I`m running as a
conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I`ll
be running as a conservative Republican nominee.


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a guy with a flop sweat, a rare flop sweat
situation here because he`s now trying to change the topic to
organizational issues and pie charts and organizational charts, and that`s
about -- the great thing about TV, tape, we now know what the question was.
It was about the substance of his positions he`s been taking to appeal to
the right and how he expects to squirm out of them. We have it on record
from his top guy.

Well, there`s been a lot of conversation on the blogs today about maybe
Eric Fehrnstrom being taken out of context. Baloney. He wasn`t taken out
of context. If you watch that, as you just showed, he was asked about
ideological positioning.


FINEMAN: And Fehrnstrom`s answer was obviously about ideological
positioning, which is why Mitt Romney was as uncomfortable as he was today.

MATTHEWS: And to give us, as you point out, Matt, a wonderful image -
- this toy, which now everybody`s going to Toys `R Us, or wherever you buy
these things, Etch-a-Sketch -- and saying, This is one of those things you
can make a design on and then you can make it erase.

VISER: Yes. And you know, in 2004, John Kerry`s people showed up
with flip-flops. You sort of imagine people showing up with Etch-a-
Sketches at Romney events, whether it`s now in the primaries, we`re already
seeing that, or the general election. I mean, there was 18 e-mails from
Democrats yesterday. They`re enjoying this, too.

FINEMAN: What`s made this powerful is a couple things. First of all,
as Matt said, the vividness of the image, the utter appropriateness of the
image. And the other part of it is, it`s not just Democrats who are taking
this up. It`s Republicans.

It`s the fact that even though Mitt Romney has declared the race to be
over on the Republican side, it isn`t quite over, and the people who are
still out there fighting him...


FINEMAN: ... are grasping at this one...


MATTHEWS: ... right now. Let`s see if we can look at those right
now, the video now. Here`s Santorum and Newt on the issue of the Etch-a-
Sketch matchup -- mash-up. It`s Rick Santorum in San Antonio, he did this.
Let`s watch these guys in action on this.


giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country,
not someone who`s just going to be a little different than the person in
there. If they`re going to be a little different, we might as well stay
with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch-a-Sketch
candidate for the future.


MATTHEWS: Well, there you have derisive comment there. Let me take a
look now at something here, Ann Romney, who`s now been brought in, sort of
the relief pitcher for Romney -- in fact, she`s a lot more appealing, I
guess, personally, to most people`s sights. They`re bringing her in right

Here is how she responds on CNN last night, also tried to defend the
remark of her husband. Let`s watch her attempt.


ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: This is exactly what happens in a
campaign, where you get these distractions! And obviously, he was talking
about how we`re going to change focus and we`re going to change, you know,
what we`re going to do, the organizational sense of changing, not Mitt
changing positions.


MATTHEWS: Howard, that`s not what he said. That wasn`t the answer he


MATTHEWS: She`s just flipping it.

FINEMAN: And at first...

MATTHEWS: By the way, those are talking points, her talking points...


FINEMAN: ... talking points. The one mitigating thing here is that
it wasn`t Mitt Romney who said this originally. Unlike John Kerry, who
said famously in 2004, Well, I actually was against that before I was for
it -- or maybe the other way around, I don`t even recall.

So it wasn`t Mitt Romney himself. But it`s so apt, it`s so utterly
apt that it`s going to stick to him from now on. There`s just no --
there`s no way -- there`s way around it, and Ann Romney can cite any
talking point she wants.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Massachusetts. Massachusetts is really
good at politics. I worked for Tip O`Neill all those years. I went to
Holy Cross. I know the place. I know Barnicle and all those guys live it,
and Mark Shields. They come out of there. It`s their blood.

What do people in Massachusetts say in the streets about Mitt Romney?
Is he a moderate Republican of the kind he was as governor and pretending
to be a right-winger to catch up with Santorum and Newt and those guys, or
is he deep down a deep, down right-winger who pretended to be a moderate to
get elected Massachusetts governor?

VISER: Well, I think in Massachusetts...

MATTHEWS: What do they think he is?

VISER: ... people felt like he was more moderate. I mean, that`s how
he won in 2002.

MATTHEWS: So they believed the guy who was governor.

VISER: Yes. And then shortly after that, he started, you know, his
presidential sort of aspirations, in 2004, started making trips out of
state a lot more.

MATTHEWS: So they believe the Etch-a-Sketch that`s important is that
he`s going to erase all this right-wing stuff he`s done the last year or so
to win the nomination, and go back and reset -- to use his aide`s guy,
Fehrnstrom`s word, reset back to moderation.

FINEMAN: Chris, what`s the name of the place in Jamaica Plain,
Doyle`s? Is that...

MATTHEWS: Doyle`s we hang out at, yes.

FINEMAN: OK, Doyle`s...


FINEMAN: OK. I went to Doyle`s back in the day when Mitt Romney was
on the rise, and the sense there that you got was he`s to the right of Bill
Weld, OK, but not that much.


FINEMAN: OK? Bill Weld was a really moderate...

MATTHEWS: He`s somewhere around Scott Brown.

FINEMAN: Yes, OK. And that was the sense, and that was how the
Republicans were...

MATTHEWS: A little to the left of Scott Brown.

FINEMAN: OK, but that`s how the Republicans were going to rise in
Massachusetts, by being moderate Republicans...


FINEMAN: ... in a Democratic...

MATTHEWS: Like Ed Brooke.

FINEMAN: ... in a Democratic...

MATTHEWS: Like Sargent.

FINEMAN: ... in a Democratic state.


FINEMAN: They weren`t talking about Mitt Romney as a red state, red
meat, right-wing Republican. They weren`t talking about him that way.
They weren`t going to build the Republican Party in Massachusetts that way,
and they didn`t.

MATTHEWS: The thing is, this guy has a lot of houses. He`s got one
in Santa Barbara now. He`s got one where his ancestral home is in
Michigan. Somewhere back in Mexico, I guess, you could trace the family...


FINEMAN: Don`t forget Lake Winnipesaukee.

MATTHEWS: And Lake Winnipesaukee. His problem is which house is he
going to come from when he gets elected to the presidency, if he does wins.

VISER: Yes, I don`t...


MATTHEWS: ... question.

VISER: Yes. Yes. Who knows? I mean, there`s -- it`s Simi Valley in


MATTHEWS: Reagan country.

VISER: Yes. So I don`t know. It`s -- but he -- he...

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at one of our colleagues. Joe Klein
writes about the Etch-a-Sketch comments and says, quote, "It makes it much
harder, perhaps impossible, for Romney to begin to tack back to the center
to appeal to the centrist voters, an absolute necessity for the fall
campaign after the free-range extremism of the Republican primary. Every
time Romney makes a move or even a head fake, it becomes an Etch-a-Sketch

FINEMAN: Well, he`s -- he`s screwed either way, according to Joe...


FINEMAN: ... because Joe says, properly, that Romney does have to
tack back to the middle.


FINEMAN: But then Joe`s going to clobber him with an Etch-a-Sketch.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re all watching now!


MATTHEWS: This guy`s giving us the template! This guy`s giving us
the toy to use!

FINEMAN: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: This guy is going to have people waving these things in his
face. The debate moderator, whoever it is, and the reporters who do the
debates will have to bring this up.

FINEMAN: Well, the only good thing for Romney it`s still only -- it`s
still only March. But I...

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a consolation!


FINEMAN: Yes. Right. I asked David Axelrod via e-mail today, What
toy are you? OK? What toy is Barack Obama? And strangely enough, I
didn`t get an answer. I haven`t heard back.

MATTHEWS: Well, now let`s go to the ridiculous. Now, here was Newt
Gingrich campaigning in Louisiana today and responding to a voter`s
suggestion that we have an alligator chomp on an Etch-a-Sketch. No one is
a greater opportunist than the Newtster! Here he goes. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can bite it. Oh, my God!


a Louisiana treatment of an Etch-a-Sketch, all right?



MATTHEWS: Finally, a clown-like moment for Newt to play! We got to


FINEMAN: An intentional clown-like moment.

MATTHEWS: Where is Donald Trump? Where is Donald Trump? He`s got to
come back! Herman`s got to come back. They`re all -- Herman Cain -- they
all ought to come back for this one.

FINEMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: An Etch-a-Sketch opportunity for the guy.

FINEMAN: You know...

MATTHEWS: We told you so!

FINEMAN: OK. Now, today I went down to the tidal basin to look at
the cherry blossoms.

MATTHEWS: Good for you.

FINEMAN: And the thing was, I couldn`t resist being a reporter down
there. And I assumed that nobody would care about the Etch-a-Sketch story.
But the Americans I talked to, as opposed to the Japanese tourists -- I
said, Do you know about this Etch-a-Sketch thing? They said, Of course we
know about it. It`s all about Mitt Romney.

It`s penetrated the public consciousness because of the symbolism of
it, which people know about.

MATTHEWS: Which gives me an opportunity...

FINEMAN: People know about it.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Matt, thanks for coming. Matt Viser`s great --
great reporting. You know, Howard, as always, it just gives me enough room
(ph) and now that you watched -- mentioned the beautiful cherry blossoms...


MATTHEWS: My wife and I drove past there last night. They`re
spectacular again this year. They didn`t get rained on.

Please come and visit Washington. The monuments are all here. The
libraries are all here. The Smithsonian`s all here. Everything`s here and
it`s all free. I always say, Come to Washington, you already paid for it.

Coming up: What is it about Mitt Romney that he and his campaign keep
committing unforced errors? The Etch-a-Sketch comment isn`t the first time
they`ve stepped on a big win. And by the way, they won in Illinois, now
they`re losing it. The HARDBALL "Strategists" will be here. Well, we`ll
see what Steve and Todd have to stay about this.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: New poll numbers from New England, so let`s go to the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard." In Connecticut, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Mitt
Romney with a commanding lead over Rick Santorum for that state`s April
24th primary. It`s Romney 42, Santorum 19. No surprise there.

Romney`s strength in Connecticut doesn`t carry over to the general,
where he`s getting trounced by President Obama right now. The president`s
up 53-37.

And in neighboring Massachusetts, where Romney was governor, of course
-- we were talking about it -- he`s also getting demolished. A new PPP
poll shows the Bay State stays deep blue this November. Obama`s at 58,
Romney down at 35. And that`s where he`s from -- among other places.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Slinkies, too. Welcome back to HARDBALL. Will the Etch-a-
Sketch label stick to Mitt Romney? This is, by the way, the first time
Romney`s team has made -- not the first time, clearly -- an embarrassing
mistake while trying to build momentum after a big win.

Here`s how "The New York Times" put it today. Quote, "For a campaign
run by highly disciplined operatives steeped in the art of opposition
research, Mr. Romney`s team has made a remarkable number of stumbles during
the primary season. Over and over again, Mr. Romney has found a way to rob
himself of a good news cycle, usually by saying something that feeds the
least flattering narratives about him."

Also, did the Jeb Bush enforcement yesterday seem a little
unenthusiastic? And why are some other big-name Republicans still
reluctant to get behind Romney? Those are two good questions. We`re going
to talk about both those things with the HARDBALL "Strategists," these two
smart guys, Steve McMahon, who`s a Democrat, and Todd Harris, who`s a

However, I should clarify something I said last time. He is not a
hawk. He is a reasonable person when it comes to foreign policy.

Anyway, as I said, Mitt Romney has a history of putting his foot in
his mouth at the worst moments. On the eve of his big win in New
Hampshire, for example, Romney gave his opponents a huge opportunity when
he said something that played directly into his image as a turnaround
artist who built a career firing people. Let`s watch.


ROMNEY: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means
the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also
means that if you don`t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being
able to fire people that provide services to me.


MATTHEWS: I like the way it comes -- directly looks at the camera, I
like being able to fire people.


MATTHEWS: The morning after Romney`s important win in Florida, Romney
made the following statement that quickly refocused the attention of
pundits. Let`s watch.


ROMNEY: I`m in this race because I care about Americans. I`m not
concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs
repair, I`ll fix it.


MATTHEWS: Screw the very poor. In the run-up to the South Carolina
primary, Mitt Romney made this memorable remark about the portion of his
wealth, speakers`s fees, which amounted to $374,000 a year. And here`s
what he said about that rather large figure. Let`s watch.


ROMNEY: I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that
all away. And then I get speaker`s fees from time to time, but not very


MATTHEWS: Not very much, about $400,000 a year. Anyway, and just
days before the Michigan primary, Mitt Romney hoped to make headlines with
a big economic speech. Instead, all anyone could talk about was this
remark, which again drew attention to his massive wealth. Let`s watch.


ROMNEY: This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees
are the right height. The streets are just right. I like the fact that
most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and
a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.


MATTHEWS: A couple Cadillacs. And here we have -- well, anyway, what
do you think of this? Now, I would argue these aren`t gaffes, Todd. In
fact, I`m going to really stick it to you now...


MATTHEWS: I don`t think these are gaffes at all. I think these are
confessions. I think everything he said there is what he really thinks.
And only after he said them, when somebody said why did you say that,
Governor, did he realize there was something wrong with it.

But that`s him. All this stuff is him, the couple of Cadillacs, the
trees are the right head, thinking that $340,000 a year is not -- is really
pocket change. That`s who he is.

You can deny that?

HARRIS: Well, I think there are two issues.

The first is, have they stepped on their own story repeatedly? And I
think it`s indisputable that that`s happened. I think the larger issue --
and it`s not fun to talk about, doesn`t make for great television. But the
larger issue is whether it matters. And I would argue that, despite all of
this, it hasn`t really mattered.

It hasn`t slowed his very methodical process towards getting the


MATTHEWS: So the methodical speeches he has prepared for him by his
staff is what we should listen to, not what he says...


HARRIS: No, but what I`m saying is, has any of this disqualified him
-- is President Obama running away in a head-to-head?


MCMAHON: The ads haven`t started. Todd, the ads haven`t started.
You`re an ad maker. You know what`s going to happen to every one of these

HARRIS: The ads against the president haven`t started either.


HARRIS: If he`s as terrible as everyone is saying that he is, then


MATTHEWS: Do you think this toy will play in the some of the ads,
Steve McMahon? Do you think he might use this toy?


MCMAHON: You might see this a few times. Todd, in fact, you might
actually -- you said I think earlier that you never thought about using
this in an ad before, but now you have...


HARRIS: I would write Obamacare on here. Shake it, say, see, it`s

MATTHEWS: So that`s how you get past it?

HARRIS: I think you lean forward into it, sure, why not.

MATTHEWS: Lean forward?


MATTHEWS: That`s been taken.

HARRIS: Yes, right.

MCMAHON: Let me tell you, you can`t lean forward into this many

And what you`re going to see is a systematic dismantling of this guy
using his own words. You`re absolutely right. Chris, what he said in an
unguarded moment is what Mitt Romney really thinks and believes. And it`s
so out of touch with people`s lives and their values and...


MATTHEWS: But when he says I don`t make much on speech-making, and
that year he made $374,000, do you think he didn`t mean -- that didn`t mean
much to him?


HARRIS: No. Look, I have no idea. I think it`s entirely possible
that he has no idea how much he makes in speaking fees. Obviously it`s a
ton of money.

MCMAHON: It`s probably the only money that he paid a full income tax
rate on.


HARRIS: He may not know.

MATTHEWS: What`s he mean when he says things like I don`t care about
the very poor? What`s that mean actually in your translation? I have to
go to the U.N. to get translation...


MCMAHON: You got to go to the Etch A Sketch for that one.

MATTHEWS: Well, what does that mean?

HARRIS: Look, I actually had a problem with that comment for a
totally different reason, but from a conservative standpoint, I think the
best argument for conservatism is not, well, the very poor, that they have
a safety net that will take care of them.

I think the best argument for conservatism is, look, conservative
fiscal policies, this will lift all boats, whether you are the very poor,
middle class...


MATTHEWS: Yes, but he says I don`t care about the very poor.

HARRIS: No, I get it, and that`s...


MATTHEWS: You guys are experts at this, not at telling us the truth,
but how to get out of trouble. Now, how does he get out of trouble here?

Remember when Reagan got in trouble way back when, when you were
pretty young, but Reagan got in huge trouble when his top guy, his OMB
director, his budget director says these numbers don`t make any sense.
What we`re out here to do is get the tax rates lower for the rich. Huge

What did Jim Baker and those smart guys like Deaver and Gergen do?
They said, he committed betrayal. It wasn`t revelation. It was betrayal.
They took him to the woodshed. Brilliant P.R. Guys like Donaldson, Sam
Donaldson, all those people fell for it. It was a good one-day story.
They killed it.

Would you do that? Would you fire Fehrnstrom and make that the issue?
Fire the aide that said it, because he betrayed you, change the story from
revelation and trouble to truth to this sort of the guy misbehaved?



MATTHEWS: What would you do to get out of this mess?

HARRIS: First of all, Eric is a friend of mine. I think he`s very


MATTHEWS: OK. Assume he`s not your friend.

HARRIS: He`s very, very skilled.

MATTHEWS: OK. Assume he`s not your friend.

HARRIS: I think you fire him and you make the problem even worse, you
draw even more attention to it.

MATTHEWS: What would you do here?

HARRIS: Look, I would lean into it and find a way...

MCMAHON: Lean forward.

MATTHEWS: What would you do? What would you do? How do you lean
forward about these admissions that the guy`s a rich guy, out of touch with
reality who is willing to just say anything to get past the yahoos on the
rights so he can get to the middle in the general election? That`s what
this guy is saying here.

HARRIS: It`s two separate questions. How do you get beyond the Etch
A Sketch thing or how do you get beyond...


MATTHEWS: Etch A Sketch.

HARRIS: Obamacare, it`s gone. If I`m elected president...

MATTHEWS: Steve McMahon, can you imagine having a candidate whose top
guy comes out and admits his worst failing, which is the guy is not to be
believed? His word is not his bond.


MATTHEWS: What an amazing statement.

MCMAHON: It is. It is.

And you got to do one of two things. You either fire him immediately,
which he didn`t do, or you put some distance between yourself and him very
clearly, which he also didn`t do. Right now, the question about whether or
not he should be fired at this point you just extend the story if you fire
him now because it`s going to just go on and on and on. This is a metaphor
that will live on for a very long time, not just today, because we`re
talking about it, but in thousands...


MATTHEWS: Let`s turn over the pillow to the cold side. Let`s give
you a break.


MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush, who everybody sort of likes, OK, sort of likes,
everybody sort of likes him, sort of likes him...

MCMAHON: I have a lot of...


MATTHEWS: Well, there you got your chance. And now Rubio, he more
than sort of likes -- he loves Rubio, Marco Rubio. Is Marco Rubio getting
the push now from Jeb Bush important for V.P.? He said he wants him on for
V.P. This is a big development, I thought. Go ahead. Your thought?


HARRIS: I think it`s important to the press.

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think it`s important that Jeb Bush, the most
popular guy in Florida, has endorsed the other most popular guy in Florida
for V.P.?

HARRIS: Not when the other most popular guy has said that he`s not
going to be the V.P.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think?

MCMAHON: Here is the push Jeb Bush is doing. It`s not to push him
up. It`s to push him out of the way, to get him on the ticket, like the
albatross ticket.

MATTHEWS: So that he`s gone?

MCMAHON: So that he`s gone, because both these guys...


MATTHEWS: So next time, in `26, Jeb can take on Hillary Clinton in
the battle of the century.




MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, can we live long enough for that


MCMAHON: He wants Marco Rubio out of the way.

MATTHEWS: I want that roller-coaster ride. That will be a great one.

Anyway, thank you, because it`s tougher for Hillary if she runs
because she has to continue after eight years. That`s always tougher. So
she would naturally be the favorite in that race, but it`s tough to
continue after eight years of a president.

MATTHEWS: Don`t count Joe Biden out either.

HARRIS: I think President Romney will be running for reelection.

MATTHEWS: President Romney.

HARRIS: 2016.

MCMAHON: Don`t count Joe Biden out.

MATTHEWS: He will just Etch A Sketch and get a second term.

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. Thank you, Todd Harris, a man who
doesn`t believe in unnecessary wars.

Up next, the toll this long Republican campaign is taking on the
candidates. The "Sideshow" is coming up.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the "Sideshow."

First up, time for a nap? A new piece in The Huffington Post points
out that the time has come in the campaign season where the string of
debates, primaries and speeches are taking their toll on the candidates.

Mitt Romney had this one to share during a Google Web chat earlier in
the week.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I woke up this morning and
found I did not have any shirts that would be appropriate for a fund-
raiser, so I had to wash my shirt out in the sink. And then I thought how
am I going to get this thing dried fast enough? So I got the iron on it,
and it took me about 20 minutes to iron it dry. And the collar is finally


MATTHEWS: Fascinating.

And while Romney tries to avoid the late nights and iron his shirt
dry, Newt Gingrich has done the opposite. According to the same piece,
late nights mean one thing for Newt -- quote -- "That`s when he`s prone to
loosen up and get a little punchy, producing what reporters call late-night
Newt performances. On one recent evening, Newt" -- well, actually,
"Gingrich tested out possible bumper sticker and T-shirt slogans such as
`With Newt, Drill Here, Pay Less,` and `Barack Obama, Pay More, Pay

I got one for him. Say good night, Newt.

Next up, a throwback to the Reagan days. Vice President Joe Biden
spoke at an event last night to honor former Senators Bob dole and Howard
Baker. During his speech, Biden recalled a day back in 1987 when President
Reagan asked for his opinion on who he should nominate to the Supreme
Court. Let`s watch.


love him, called me down. I sat there in the chair I now sit in as vice
president. President Reagan, who was one of the most charming guys, pulled
out these cards and he said, Joe, you tell me what you think the prospects
of these people are.

He said, Tony Kennedy. I said, well, Mr. President, I know he`s a
straight conservative, but I said I think he passed. He said, you`re for
him then, aren`t you? You remember that?


BIDEN: And I said, no, I didn`t say that. We stood up, he grabbed me
under the arm, walked around the couches to the side door that goes into
the private dining room that is there, opened the door, and who was
standing there but Tony Kennedy.


BIDEN: He said, Tony, Joe`s for you.



MATTHEWS: What a story. Kennedy did make it past the Senate vote, by
the way, in a vote of 97-0. Biden happened to be out sick that day, but
Democrats generally supported the nomination, including apparently Biden.

Up next: the Trayvon Martin case and the debate over those so-called
stand your ground laws, very tricky stuff here.

You`re watching HARDBALL -- and tragic -- you`re watching HARDBALL,
only on MSNBC.


"Market Wrap."

Stocks slid on concern about China`s manufacturing sector and the
broader Eurozone economy. The Dow shed 78, the S&P lost 10, the Nasdaq
fell by 12 points. Weekly jobless claims dropped 5,000 to 348,000, more
than a four-year low.

FedEx shares sank 3 percent. Its latest profit report was better than
expected, but its guidance disappointed.

And mortgage rates rose for a second week, topping 4 percent for the
first time since last fall.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

And the police chief in Sanford, Florida, has been forced now to step
down temporarily because of his handling of the shooting death of Trayvon
Martin. The tragic case has focused attention on stand your ground laws.
These laws in effect in over 20 states according to various sources, allow
people to use deadly force if they believe their lives are threatened.

Florida was the first state to pass such a law in 2005, and it was
fully supported by then Governor Jeb Bush.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It`s common sense to allow people to
defend themselves, and to have to -- when you`re in a position where you`re
being threatened, when there`s a life-threatening situation, to have to
retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position, you know, defies
common sense.


MATTHEWS: Well, we called Governor Bush`s office -- he`s, of course,
out of office now -- for a comment, but we have not been able to receive a
response for tonight`s program.

At issue is whether these stand your ground laws prevent violence or
cause it.

Joining me now are Chris Smith, a Florida state senator who opposes
the laws, and Alan Gottlieb, who supports them. He`s with the Second
Amendment Foundation.

Senator Gottlieb -- or Alan Gottlieb, would you tell us why we need
your stand your grounds laws?

through a period in the country where lots of people were being prosecuted
because they stood their ground and they tried to defend themselves, their
family and their property from criminal attack and were prosecuted for it
or in many cases had to wait a year or two years to find out if they were
going to be prosecuted for ti.

So this allowed them to have a legitimate means of self-defense and we
have seen it around the country, and the areas we have seen it, basically
we have seen violent crime drop and justifiable homicides increase, meaning
the bad guy was the victim and not the good guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- help us here. How does it -- most people
think of self-defense as somebody`s trying to kill me or do real bad bodily
harm to me and I have the chance to prevent them from doing it with a gun,
I`m allowed to use it, if it`s really a chance of no way out.

But apparently under the law you have gotten written in the law up
there, you don`t have to try to get out of the situation. You don`t have
to talk your way out of it or run your way out it. You`re allowed to just
pull the gun and shoot. Is that the difference between the normal notion
of self-defense and stand your ground?

GOTTLIEB: Well, there was the stand your ground concept and a lot of
states had laws on the books that said you had to retreat, you had to find
a window to try and climb out of, you had to find a door, back door to run
out of and you couldn`t stand your ground and protect yourself or your

And we felt that was definitely wrong. In this case, I don`t think we
should be indicting the law. I think maybe we should be indicting the

MATTHEWS: Why do you think this case doesn`t apply for -- we`re not
going to try the case here, but most people think stand your ground is
being used here, will be used to defend Mr. Zimmerman in shooting Trayvon

GOTTLIEB: Well, he may very well use that to defend himself, but the
truth is in this case he was the pursuer. He didn`t stand his ground. He
called 911. And 911 told him to break off and not pursue. He pursued.

When you`re pursuing, you`re not standing your ground. I`m not sure
that defense is going to work for him at all.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Mr. Smith.

Senator Smith, thank you as well for joining us.


MATTHEWS: Give us your sense of the debate here from the other side.
Why do you think -- I understand you don`t like these kinds of laws. Why
do you think they`re dangerous to have on the books?

SMITH: Because they have a big hole in them.

I was in the House in 2005 and argued this very point when I voted
against this bill, is that he can use it because it doesn`t say that you
don`t -- that you can`t be the pursuer. This law has been used by
criminals who take themselves to the fight, and once they get there, use
this non-rebuttable presumption to get away from the courts.

Under what we talked about before, if you have a self-defense claim,
at least that went to a jury and a jury can look at a totality of the
situation. Under this, it`s a non-rebuttable presumption that you had the
ability to stand your ground. So, you don`t even get to a jury. You don`t
even look at the facts. And that`s why Mr. Zimmerman is still walking
free, eager to kill again.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: OK, I don`t -- OK, let me ask you this,


MATTHEWS: If your -- let`s talk about the standard of reason. I
don`t believe in all of this. I`m pretty much a gun control guy. But
people that walk around with rights to carry concealed weapons and they
have this stand your ground law. It seems to me that`s a pretty potent

If you`re carrying a gun that`s concealed and you have the right to
take on anybody you believe threatens your life, it seems to me you`re
going for that gun. The guy can walk up to you, give you some lip, he can
give you -- he can yell at you, he can be threatening to you -- your
thought, you can just gun him down. Is that true in the law?

SMITH: That`s exactly the problem. This happened out of Orlando.
Orlando is the tourist capital of America. If a tourist is at a gas
station, and I as a Floridian go up to him and say, hey, you cut me off at
the light. When that tourist stepped to me to explain themselves, I can
avail myself of this law, pull out my gun and shoot that tourist dead in
the state of Florida.


Alan Gottlieb, you`re shaking your head.

GOTTLIEB: Yes, that`s totally untrue.

MATTHEWS: What is true?

GOTTLIEB: First of all, you have to be threatened. You can`t just
go up to somebody pumping gas and say, you know, I don`t like you, I`m
going to shoot you. You can`t use this to defend yourself. That`s
obviously a criminal act with criminal intent.

MATTHEWS: Define when you`re allowed to use a gun.

SMITH: Well, it`s been used in Florida in that way.


MATTHEWS: Mr. Gottlieb, tell me when you think you have a right to
use your gun under this law.

GOTTLIEB: Wait, if it`s been used that way, the person should be
prosecuted. Under this law, it`s a self-defense situation where somebody
is going to do bodily harm to you. It isn`t a situation where you go out
and pursue somebody and you attack somebody. These are people who just
don`t want anybody to have a firearm for self-defense, period.


GOTTLIEB: You know, Chris, in all honesty, this past weekend, there
are 10 murders and 40 people shot and wounded in Chicago. Chicago doesn`t
have a "Stand Your Ground" law. In fact, gun laws in Chicago are so
difficult it`s next to impossible to protect yourself.

Why not do a segment on that?

MATTHEWS: Well, let me trying to do a segment on the whole -- trying
to get to this very explicit case.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Senator Smith, let`s separate ourselves in
this in terms of the names involved and try to imagine this kind of a
situation. A vigilante guy thinks he`s the Cisco Kid, or whoever he thinks
he is, he`s trying to help in the law -- apparently the guy called in `60s
cases like this. He goes chasing after some guy. He thinks he`s just
going to stop the guy from getting away, keep an eye on him.

I don`t know what the guy was doing but when they confront each
other, it becomes a physical confrontation. This guy had a bloody nose and
he had a bloody back of his head. There was some kind of a prima facie, we
have to assume there`s some kid of physical brawl. At what point does it
become a confrontation even though the other guy pursued him when he`s
basically defending himself?

SMITH: That`s the problem with this law. They are so vague and we
argued that vagueness when they were passing this bill.


SMITH: And this bill has been passed in a lot of other states. It`s
too vague. It doesn`t say that you can`t be the pursuer or that you can`t
initiate the contact. The law is vague and Mr. Gottlieb need to read the
Florida statute as well as the statute that the NRA has passed in other
states. It`s too vague. It doesn`t say you can`t be the pursuer and that
is exactly the case.

Yesterday in Miami, a judge dismissed a case under this law where a
gentleman saw someone breaking into his car, pursued the gentleman down the
street, stabbed him to death and availed himself of this law after he
pursued a car burglar down the street and stabbed him to death. It`s being
used in Florida.


GOTTLIEB: And stabbed him to death, didn`t even use a gun.

MATTHEWS: OK. We don`t know all this case and we`re not trying it
here. I`m going to tell you, I`ll support what Senator Smith said, this
country and the world`s history is full of people who picked a fight with
other people and found themselves on the defensive. Not every guy who
picks a fight ends up the aggressor. The other guy can end up the
aggressor. We don`t know the facts, but this case is causing a lot of

And I`m telling you, sir, Mr. Gottlieb that "Stand Your Ground" is on
trial here. Anyway, it is on trial.

SMITH: And, Chris, if I could say -- this is different from
defending your home. This goes further. This is a perverted version of
the Castle Doctrine where you defend your home. It goes way beyond that.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m trying to avoid words like perverted and all this

Anyway, thank you for coming on, gentlemen.

SMITH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Senator, thanks. I`m honor to have you on. I like
elected officials who represent the people.

Thank you, Mr. Gottlieb.

GOTTLIEB: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And we`ll look at the implications here of the Second
Amendment again and again.

Up next, President Obama was in Oklahoma pushing for construction of
-- boy, this is tricky stuff again, not as tragic of course -- part of the
Keystone Pipeline. Can you be half right with gas prices on the rise, the
president`s stuck between the environmentalists on the left and the "drill,
baby, drill" crowd on the right? Can he come down in the middle of a
pipeline? This is treacherous stuff for him.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: President Obama`s pipeline politics -- can he come down
between the environmentalists on the left, if you will, and a big oil crowd
on the right? That`s ahead, any minute now.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The White House has been feeling a bit defensive on this subject of
rising gas prices. So today, President Obama wrapped up a two-day four-
state tour defending his energy policies. His first stop today -- Cushing,
Oklahoma, where he announced he`s fast tracking construction of the
southern part of the much debated Keystone Pipeline from Cushing to the
Gulf southward.

As he made the announcement, he gave Republicans in Congress a jab
for making the pipeline a political issue. Let`s listen.


we needed a certain amount of time to review the project. Unfortunately,
Congress decided they wanted their own time line. Today, we`re making this
new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of
it, we`re making a priority, and we`re going to go ahead and get that done.
The northern portion of it, we`re going to have to review properly to make
sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected.


MATTHEWS: Well, at nearly the same time the president was speaking
in Oklahoma, House Speaker John Boehner was in Washington, D.C., minimizing
the project`s move.


here in Oklahoma taking credit of the part of the pipeline that`s going to
through the normal process. It`s already gotten its approvals. And this
idea that the president is going to expedite this will have no impact.


MATTHEWS: Well, there you go, the politics continues.

Joining me right now is Republican congressman from Oklahoma, James

Thank you, Congressman.

And MSNBC political analyst and editor-at-large of "Salon", Joan

What is the -- what is the problem with this pipeline? Why is it a
political issue, Congressman? Why is it being built? Why -- if it isn`t
being built, is that an opportunity to slam the president?

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: It`s not being built. And that
is the frustration. When the president said Congress jumped into it, the
previous pipeline that went from Canada into the United States across the
border, same company, same process, took 24 months to permit. This one is
at 44 months and climbing.

And so, the frustration is let`s get on with it. This is just
another pipeline that`s coming in. In fact, we passed a pipeline safety
bill out of the House and the Senate and the president signed last year.
So, it`s supposed to be even more safe in the process.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you make of the charge that -- or the
argument that the reason there`s slowness of getting this approve is
there`s a endangerment of people`s water wells? That people have wells all
along the Northwest pipeline route, and along that route, there are people
who get their water from the ground. And if you start running pipeline
through it, you can -- pipelines, by the way, leak, they do leak, and you
are endangering their water sources.

LANKFORD: Well, here`s the problem with that. If you actually look
at a map of that underground aquifer that runs from Nebraska, all the way
South into Texas, if you look at a map of that aquifer, and then also laid
the pipeline map on top of it, there are thousands of miles of pipeline
that already run through that aquifer.

Now, I`m all for the people of Nebraska being able to determine the
route for it, but it`s difficult to say, we`ve got to make sure this
pipeline doesn`t go through this aquifer when there are thousands and
thousands of miles of pipeline already there.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t this a 10-lane highway of pipeline? Isn`t this
exponentially a greater highway for oil? And therefore more troubling

LANKFORD: No, sir. This is actually will be the safest pipeline
ever. We just put in new safety regulations to the House and the Senate
last year that the president signed on to. So, this has to meet those
excessive new safety regulations on that.

So, it`s a very big deal to get a chance to protect water, but we`re
not in a situation where we`re worried about every pipeline. If you look
at our pipeline map, we have thousands of miles of pipeline.

MATTHEWS: You know, back in the `70s, when I was first doing
investigative reporting, I did a little study before I went to work for
Nader (ph), and there was 125,000 miles of pipeline in the United States,
oil pipeline. And you know how many inspectors there were? One. One.

LANKFORD: Well, I`ll tell you what?


MATTHEWS: So I`m not as confident as you are about pipeline safety.

Let me go to Joan on this.

Joan, you and I are generalist, not experts on this kind of thing.
But politically, I see the president in a problem area here. To be halfway
for something endangers you and makes you enemies on both sides.


MATTHEWS: Take it from a centrist. I know what it`s like.

WALSH: Yes, you get kicked from both sides. And, you know, some
days if we`re centrists, we say, well, we must be doing something right.
We got everybody mad at us. But sometimes, when everybody is mad at you,
maybe you`re a little bit wrong.

And I think the president has a very tricky, tricky position here,
Chris. It`s very classic Barack Obama. He wants to be the man in the
middle. He wants to be the man of moderation. He wants to split the baby,
not literally. And he wants to come up with a compromise that works

I just don`t think it`s possible here, you know? And you have really
covered what safety risks are. Also, in terms of what this does to
consumers, this could even actually raise prices, rather than bring them
down. This oil goes straight to the Gulf, most of it goes, if not all of
it goes, to the international market.

LANKFORD: That`s not true.

WALSH: It doesn`t do anything for domestic gas prices.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s do a fact check here.


MATTHEWS: Joan, I agree with you. I understand it`s all fungibles,
Congressman. It gets to the Gulf, once it`s been refined. It`s open to
international sale, there`s no restriction keeping it here on America.

WALSH: Right.

LANKFORD: But the vast majority of that oil come as refined. In the
Gulf region, it comes right back in the United States -- same with the oil
that`s coming out of Canada. What we`ve got to understand this, we`re at a
new high here, 58 percent --

WALSH: That`s not true.

LANKFORD: -- fifty-eight percent of the oil that we use -- that we
produce in America is being used in America. And so, that 58 percent of
all of the oil we`re not exporting that vast amount, the president is dead
on producing more. If you take Canada, Mexico, and the United States,
three of us together in pipelines, it`s right at 80 percent of all of the
oil we would use. We could finally work towards getting off Middle East

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we have no control of that.


MATTHEWS: I know the facts. We can`t control where the oil goes
once it`s refined. It`s on international market. It may come back here,
it may not.

Thank you, Congressman Lankford, for coming on HARDBALL.

WALSH: Right. It goes to the highest bidder.

MATTHEWS: And -- yes, well, that`s the way our system works, Joan.
And we all love it.

Joan Walsh, and we love the free enterprise system.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a staggering admission that Mitt
Romney`s word according to his top aide, is not his bond.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

The Romney campaign is squirming tonight, trying to slip free of the
staggering admission that it`s word is not its bond. That`s right. In
saying that Mitt Romney`s promises cannot be trusted, his top aide is
making a breath taking confession. He is telling the world that all of the
things his candidate promised to champion, you can no longer count on him
to deliver. He is a human Etch a Sketch. What he said can now be unsaid.

No wonder the Tea Party crowd doesn`t harken to this guy`s every
word. No wonder the passionate right in this country has been shopping for
someone else to carry their flag into November, to do battle with President

On Monday, the Supreme Court takes up the president`s health care
bill -- you know, the one based on the Massachusetts health care plan
pushed through by Mitt Romney. Wouldn`t this be a problem for Romney to be
a leader of the pack attacking Obama`s health care plan?

Well now, we know the solution, thanks to his helpful aide. Sure,
Romney set the standard nationally, sure his was the model for what
President Obama accomplished nationally, but Romney is just an Etch a
Sketch, his guy now tells us.

Presto. He goes from pioneer of Obama health care to leader of the
mutiny. What he was for, he is now against. What he saw on the screen,
what you saw on the screen is now vanish (ph). Listen again to what
Romney`s aide said when asked if Romney`s past commitments might come back
to bite him. Quote, "Well, I think he hit a reset button. It`s almost
like an Etch a Sketch. You shake it up and start all over again."

Hear that? All of these speeches, all those promises, all those
statements and debate, all those TV ad messages, forget about them. They
were just words. When you say what works, tomorrow comes, we forget it --
forget all about it. You got a problem?


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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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