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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, February 18th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

February 18, 2013

Guest: Judith Dianis Browne, James Moore, David Maraniss

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It`s Presidents` Day. Going to the mattresses.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this big one. Is Barack Obama going for it?
Is he set on becoming one of the great presidents in history? I`m not
talking about Mt. Rushmore, but perhaps the level right below it. I`m
talking, to use his word, transformational.

And is he using the country`s historic demographic shift to do it? Can he
combine the new American power of Hispanics and other minorities with the
immediate aspirations of women to lob himself into the highest level of
presidential greatness? Can he bring on an era of Democratic, even liberal
dominance for years to come?

This is what his adversaries fear. They look at his working of the gun
safety crusade, his positioning on immigration reform, his distancing
himself from the triumph -- triumphing over the -- even triumphing over the
hard, often bizarre right wing of this country to do it. Are they on to
something? Could this president be the president of our time?

Tonight, we examine on Presidents` Day just where Barack Obama intends to
go, where he intends to be once he, too, joins the pages of history and the
lists of American presidents.

I`ve got two MSNBC political analysts with me to answer the question.
Howard Fineman`s editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and Joy Reid is
managing editor of TheGrio.

First of all, I want to ask you both about these numbers here. These are
numbers affected (ph) the next election, 2014. Right now, the Democrats
are about 17 votes shy of taking over the House of Representatives.
They`re about 5 votes ahead of where they have to be to hold the Senate.

Can they do it? Can Barack Obama leave office having won back the United
States Congress, and then, of course, aiming toward the second goal of his
greatness, getting a Democrat to replace him, Hillary or Joe Biden?

congressional side, Chris, history generally tends to be against
presidents, right, in mid-term elections. They don`t tend to do so well.
They actually tend to lose seats historically, but I think...

MATTHEWS: Clinton didn`t.

REID: Well, Clinton didn`t. I think there are exceptions. And I think
that what Barack Obama is counting on not is a combination of sort of
wearing down the Republican Party -- there is a sense of demoralization on
the right, and if you can tamp down that turnout because, essentially,
you`re throwing so many issues at the Republican base...


REID: ... that they almost can`t resist it. And at the same time, you`re
hiking up the excitement and keeping the level of excitement among minority
voters high. I think the stuff they`re doing on immigration is in part
designed to do both of those things at once.

MATTHEWS: Explain that again. Unpack that bag. What does his throwing
out that thing over the weekend -- whoever threw it out...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... it was thrown out, his plan on immigration reform...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: How does that bring out, spook out, whatever you want to call it
the Republican right, so that they make exactly the presentation he wants
them to make so the Hispanics, for example, will say, I`m not joining that

REID: Well, they did it to themselves. Look at the reflexive reaction,
even of a Marco Rubio, of leaders in that party. The reflexive reaction to
that leak of those ideas was, Absolutely no. This is dead on arrival,
rather than a more thoughtful response...


MATTHEWS: We`ll push the cheese out. The mouse comes out and goes for it,
and snap, he nails them.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, here it is...

REID: But if they went the other way...

MATTHEWS: Let`s go...

REID: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: For the people who didn`t catch this story over the weekend,
"USA Today" got hold of a White House draft proposal on immigration this
weekend and reported, in part, quote, "It would allow illegal immigrants to
become legal permanent residents within eight years. The plan would also
provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the
immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the
nation`s 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created
lawful prospective immigrant visa under the draft bill being written by the
White House. If approved, they could apply then for some provisional legal
status, the same for their spouse or children living outside the country,
according to the draft."

Well, in response, as you said, Joy, Florida senator Marco Rubio issued the
following statement. It reads, in part, "This legislation is half-baked
and seriously flawed. It would actually make our immigration problems
worse and would further undermine the American people`s confidence in
Washington`s ability to enforce our immigration laws and reform our broken
immigration system."

And then yesterday, on the Sunday talk shows, Republicans were also quick
to criticize.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Leaks don`t happen in Washington by
accident. This raises the question that many of us continue to wonder
about. Does the president really want a result, or does he want another
cudgel to beat up Republicans so that he can get political advantage in the
next election?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Leaking this out does set things in the
wrong direction. Look, the question that we always have to ask ourselves,
particularly with this White House, is the president looking for a partisan
advantage, or is he looking for a bipartisan law?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This is the president torpedoing his own
plan and shows me that he`s really not serious. There are many people who
think Democrats bring up these ideas as wedge issues. They don`t really
ever want to pass them because then they would no longer have the
Republicans to blame.


MATTHEWS: You know, not -- I can`t bring up the geek factor because it`s
not fair, but the Republican young breed aren`t exactly even as cool as
John McCain. McCain`s pretty cool as a personality. These guys, this new
crowd -- anyway, it seems to me that the key word in what John McCain said
there was "another," another cudgel.


MATTHEWS: And there`s been -- in other words, the Democrats have had the
upper hand now for weeks now, if not months, and he`s just saying -- when
he said they`ve got another cudgel here to beat us up with, that told me

FINEMAN: It`s even better because the president, to some extent, stands on
the sidelines while they self-cudgel.


FINEMAN: They`re beating themselves up.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the sixth...


MATTHEWS: The sixth...


FINEMAN: The president, I`m perhaps belatedly coming to realize, is really
deft at using the outside game, which is, after all, how he started...


FINEMAN: ... social media, et cetera, using public sentiment and the
outside game to pressure the Congress without doing it himself directly in
a way that divides the other party and forces them to come to him. He
makes them come to him because he`s...



FINEMAN: ... the most part, hands off. We keep saying, Why isn`t he LBJ?
Why isn`t he Abe Lincoln? Look at the Lincoln movie, et cetera. That`s
not how this president operates. He operates with public sentiment from
the outside. He deftly puts that stuff out there. The Republicans tear
themselves to pieces, and then just enough of them come along with him to
get the jobs done.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of that?


MATTHEWS: I think it`s damn good analysis because...

REID: No, I think...

MATTHEWS: ... I think it does cause them -- it`s also part of what you
said before, is that just hit them with so many things at once. It
flusters them.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: And then they just sort of break into a thousand pieces, and
they come back at it...

FINEMAN: And all they say is no. All they say is no.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, the Sunday talk shows are no friend of the
Republican Party because the people that desperately want to get on those
shows are not the ones they should want desperately to be on those shows.

REID: Right. Well, I mean, the thing is -- I think what Howard is

MATTHEWS: The Tea Party is always ready for Sunday.


REID: Exactly. No, I think you`re right. But it just goes to show you
that this president has learned from his first term because this is not the
way that he started out. If you look at the first term, he was, like, one
singular issue, health care. This is what I want to do. He turned it
largely over to the Senate. He said, Listen, we want this to be in
Congress, because he wanted buy-in. And he kept trying to get buy-in, and
really he left the public sentiment part alone, which is why the Tea Party
was able to rise.


REID: He did, indeed. But I mean, he wanted that one big thing. That was
his big move for history, was health care. And he left a lot of the deal
making and the sausage making to Congress...

MATTHEWS: Is it enough for him?

REID: ... and it didn`t work.


REID: I think now he feels -- now...


FINEMAN: He`s been doing it that way. He`s still doing it that way, only
now he`s added the public opinion part.

REID: He didn`t do the public opinion part.

FINEMAN: The public sentiment part.


MATTHEWS: OK, you talk about a method here, which is go to the public,
shake up the other side, constant pummeling until they finally come apart.
I agree. And they have not shown a great solidarity around...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... McConnell and the rest of them. They`re all going the wrong
way because of the Sunday talk shows.

FINEMAN: By the way, he also -- just parenthetically, the president also
has the advantage of a united Democratic Party.

REID: Right.

FINEMAN: They are united behind him.

MATTHEWS: You know, you and I didn`t grow up with that.

FINEMAN: No, it was the other way around a generation ago.

MATTHEWS: "Democrats in disarray" was the boilerplate line.

FINEMAN: He has a united...


MATTHEWS: How`d that happen? Was that Hillary?

FINEMAN: This strategy would not work -- Hillary helped. The fact that he
brought them in helped...


FINEMAN: ... the fact that he has a solid base among the very most loyal
Democratic voters in the country, African-Americans.

REID: And don`t forget that Republicans helped him do that. I think the

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. But you know...

REID: ... to Barack Obama`s presidency...


MATTHEWS: Joy, do you remember the fact that there was always the
Humphrey-Hawkins approach? Every time there was a budget, there was always
a different black approach to the mainstream Democratic approach and...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and they always had different approaches. You don`t hear
that anymore.


REID: There have been some differences, but they`ve been subsumed because
of people...

MATTHEWS: OK, this is...

REID: ... protecting him from the other side.

MATTHEWS: ... the key one. Has Barack -- you`re smiling at me! Has
Barack Obama in his own lights and the lights of history -- let`s start
with his own lights -- has he done enough to make the history books? When
you go back and look at Reagan, like I`ve been studying him lately, you can
point to immigration, you can point to tax reform, you can talk to some
other things, the end the cold war. That`s a biggie.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: Obviously, a huge one. You can say he got stuff done. There
are points on the board. Does Barack Obama, with health care and the
initial stimulus package and getting reelected, being the first African-
American president -- somebody who`s one of our producers was saying even
the first American -- first American black president is enough to make him
(INAUDIBLE) But is it enough for him?

REID: Not enough for -- I -- that was the point you just made that I was
going to make.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking.

REID: This is a guy who I think did not want to be known as just being the
first black president. He wanted a lot more. Health care was his first...

MATTHEWS: To complete the metaphor...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... he wants to be Jackie Robinson.

REID: He wants to do more than just be...

MATTHEWS: He wants to be an All-American -- he wants to be a Hall of
Famer, too.

REID: And getting re-elected was key to that. That`s why he did whatever

MATTHEWS: I agree.

REID: He wanted to get re-elected because he has other...

MATTHEWS: OK, what...


MATTHEWS: ... to make the big time?

REID: Immigration reform I think he wants, gun control. I think if he got
those two big things -- he`s already done a lot on gay rights.


REID: If you combine that with health care...

MATTHEWS: A lot on equality.

REID: ... saving the economy, I think that would be big...


FINEMAN: Yes, and also...

MATTHEWS: Well,he`s done equality, DOMA, getting rid of that, getting rid
of the "Don`t ask, don`t tell"...

REID: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... pushing towards pretty much equality in marriage all the
way, almost there, and then health care, of course, historic because every
Democrat since -- well, since Truman -- since Roosevelt has been trying to
do it.

FINEMAN: Chris, he grades himself on a tough curve. I remember when I
visited him in his Senate office years ago. I mean, the pictures he had on
the wall were Gandhi, Lincoln, Muhammad Ali and Thurgood Marshall, OK?

MATTHEWS: Where was Hannibal?


FINEMAN: Hannibal wasn`t there. No, but Thurgood Marshall was there, Ali
was there, Gandhi was there, Lincoln was there. That`s the way he thinks
of himself, and I think he`s going to strive very hard to reach those goals
that Joy talked about. Also, more prosaically, he`s got to make sure that
health care gets properly implemented...


FINEMAN: ... because if it doesn`t -- and it`s moving in his direction.

REID: Right.

FINEMAN: And it`s -- he plays -- you know, he`s patient. One of the
things about this president he`ll always be known for in the history books
is patience. He`s patiently worked this.


REID: He put the federal money out there. The Republican red states are
going to come to him on Medicare and health care. It`s going to end up
being in their interest to implement it in the long run.

MATTHEWS: Patience is a great word because I believe he`s riding the
course of history. The country is getting browner. It`s getting less
white. It`s getting more open towards same-sex marriage, certainly. Women
are getting -- are going to be much bigger 20, 30 years from now than they
are now.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: All the causes that he seems to have basically mounted are going
to be stronger, so that those people who are going to be calling the shots
on who was the greatest president 20 years from now will be his allies.

REID: Will be his -- and then not only that, but...


MATTHEWS: ... said it before I did. I want to check the tape.


MATTHEWS: How did you know I was going to say that? Go ahead.

FINEMAN: That`s a good point because the victors write the history.


FINEMAN: The victors write the history.

REID: And right now, if you look at where black and brown voters are
going, they are becoming more liberal, more progressive. They`re coming to
him on issues. And let`s not underestimate getting Republicans to vote for
a tax increase is so demoralizing that it has undermined them with their
own base.


REID: He has them at an incredibly vulnerable point, and it`s his base
that`s moving forward in terms of where the country is.


FINEMAN: Yes, the first reaction was, Oh, Obama gave away -- now, on
certain parts of the left, the reaction was, Obama gave away the store.

REID: Right.

FINEMAN: Actually, strategically and psychologically, as Joy says, it was
a huge victory.

MATTHEWS: The minute he heard -- if he were watching tonight -- I know
he`s playing golf with some rich guys this weekend in Florida...


FINEMAN: I`m going to Disneyland!


MATTHEWS: Howard and I are `60s guys. She`s not a `60s guy.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. If he were hearing us talk about him maybe
mounting Mt. Rushmore, getting up there with the great presidents,
secretly, not (INAUDIBLE)...

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... but what would he be thinking, That`s exactly what I`m

REID: You know what? I don`t think he`d ever admit to that, but you`ve
got to believe that whenever any of these guys run for president...

MATTHEWS: I know they...


REID: They all think about it. They never admit it.

MATTHEWS: And this has nothing to do with it.

REID: No. Of course not.

MATTHEWS: It`s about our children.


MATTHEWS: It`s about the other people. I`m sorry. I`m sarcastic
sometimes. Presidents` Day, I should not be sarcastic.

Anyway, Howard Fineman, Joy Reid, thank you so much.

Coming up: Selling the war in Iraq. New information on how the Bush
administration decided from the very start to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11
to justify a U.S. invasion of that country. Ten years later, the
administration`s shameless deceit remains as disturbing as ever.

Also, is it time to get rid of the Voting Rights Act? I wonder. I doubt
it. An Alabama county has filed a suit that has reached the Supreme Court
saying with a black man in the White House, there`s no need for federal
protection of minority votes. Yes, tell that to Reince Priebus. But as
you might imagine, not everyone agrees. I don`t.

Plus, teams of rivals, the rivalries between presidents, Obama versus
Clinton, Bush versus Bush. Our different take on presidents this
Presidents` Day.

And this just in. Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment, the one ending
slavery. What took so long? What do you think? Details coming up.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Having failed once to rig the Electoral College for Republicans,
the Republican president of Pennsylvania`s state senate is trying a new
scheme. In 2011, Dominic Pileggi proposed to distribute electoral votes
based on results in congressional districts, which would have given Mitt
Romney a majority of votes of that state despite winning only 47 percent of
the vote.

Well, now Pileggi`s proposing to divide the electoral votes proportionally
to each candidate`s share of the statewide vote, which would have given
President Obama 12 of the state`s 20. That`s not a majority. And the
Obama -- the president -- Republicans have lost Pennsylvania and all of its
electoral votes for six straight presidential elections. And that, of
course, is the reason they`re doing all this rigmarole.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Next month will mark 10 years since
the Iraq war was launched amid a flood of misinformation, obfuscation and
fear that flowed from the White House out to the American people.

As we get further away from the event, however, new evidence is emerging
that there was far more dissent within the administration and the military
than was previously known. Plus, we`re getting more details on just how
this war was sold to the American people.

It`s all laid out in a new brilliant MSNBC documentary airing tonight on
this network, "Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War" hosted by Rachel Maddow
and based on the book of the same name by the two people here, NBC News`s
Mike Isikoff and "Mother Jones`s" Washington bureau chief, David Corn.

By the way, congratulations, David. You`ve won the George Polk Award.
That`s the biggest one in the industry. Can we call this an industry?


MATTHEWS: Incredible reporting on Mitt Romney`s "47 percent" comments,
which you broke.


MATTHEWS: And your magazine.

Vice President Dick Cheney sold the Iraq war with conviction and certitude,
we all know -- I wouldn`t call it conviction -- that wasn`t necessarily
shared by others in the administration and military types. That includes
former CENTCOM commander-in-chief Anthony Zinni.

Let`s listen to Zinni being overwhelmed by the deceit of Cheney.


no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is
no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our
allies, and against us.

stage next to the lectern where he was speaking, and I literally bolted at

CHENEY: With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once again.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST (voice-over): Vice President Dick Cheney`s speech to
the Veterans of Foreign Wars is the opening salvo of the Bush
administration`s effort to sell to the American people what White House
insiders call "the product."

CHENEY: Thank you very much.


ZINNI: It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn`t believe the vice
president was saying this. And doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD,
through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of
credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.


MATTHEWS: This is what`s so stunning about your report tonight, your book
and everything. It just documents the fact that the people who knew more
than the big shots in the White House, including Cheney, knew it wasn`t
there, that he`d just BS`d his way into that war.

CORN: Cheney said there was no doubt in that opening...

MATTHEWS: That`s his avuncular manner.

CORN: (INAUDIBLE) but no doubt that they were amassing weapons to attack
the United States with. Zinni and many others within the intelligence and
national security establishment, which we write about in the book, others
as well, knew there was plenty of doubt, that in all the major factors that
they would bring to bear, aluminum tubes and yellowcake, there was always
dissent, always someone saying, Hey, we`re not so sure about this
intelligence. It`s rather iffy. And nevertheless...

MATTHEWS: So why`d Cheney say otherwise?


MATTHEWS: ... Michael, why`d Cheney do it?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Look, first of all, Zinni, just to
underscore how significant this is -- Zinni was CENTCOM commander from `97
to 2000. He had access to all the most sensitive intelligence about Iraq.
And his view, and his view of the intelligence was what the U.S. military`s
view was right up to 2001, which is that Saddam`s much less of a threat
today than he had been 10 years earlier. His military is crumbling. The
weight of sanctions are closing in on him. He is...

MATTHEWS: Everything...


ISIKOFF: His ability to...


MATTHEWS: ... CENTCOM -- that`s the chief military guy in fighting the
war, the chief guy.


MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at another example. Here`s Vice President
Cheney in a pattern repeated over and over again as he sold the Iraq war.
He would ignore all evidence that didn`t make his, Cheney`s, case. He
tried to draw the connection between Saddam Hussein and the ringleader of
the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta -- of course, you remember his face --
despite the fact that this link had been debunked totally by the FBI
counterterrorism agent, Mark Rossini (ph), who was then detailed to the
CIA. Here`s more from the documentary, "Hubris."


NARRATOR: From Prague comes a Czech intelligence report of a photograph
allegedly showing Mohamed Atta meeting with a high-ranking Iraqi
intelligence officer. The photograph of the supposed meeting is never made
publicly available.

MARK ROSSINI, FBI: Mohamed Atta was a slight guy barely, what, 5`5``,
5`6`` and skinny. The guy in the photograph was muscular and thick and had
a neck the size of two of my necks. That`s not Mohamed Atta in the
photograph. Send it to the lab anyway. And in my mind, the matter was put
to bed.

NARRATOR: But even without definitive evidence, the vice president goes
public with it.

well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior
official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April.

ROSSINI: I was sitting in my den in my home in Washington, D.C., and I
remember looking at the TV screen saying, what did I just hear? And I --
the first time in my life I actually threw something at the television,
because I couldn`t believe what I had just heard.


MATTHEWS: It`s history. You guys are real pros at this as reporters. I
want to get to the final one, the nail in the coffin for Cheney.

You guys know almost everything there is to know about this. What was the
motive for Cheney to take us into this war, among the others. I mean, it
wasn`t the evidence.

CORN: Well, it certainly wasn`t the fact that Iraq was a major WMD threat
working with al Qaeda against us.

I think maybe some regrets over what happened with the first Gulf War, I
think, but after 9/11, you know, sort of a fuse kind of popped for him and
he said we have to go out against these guys again and again. He bought
the neocon line that Saddam Hussein...


MATTHEWS: Yes. Did he buy, or did they sell, or were they both put on the
same track?

CORN: I think they were of a similar mind-set.


ISIKOFF: Cheney doesn`t -- didn`t consent to an interview, but Doug Feith
is in this film, and he says some very revealing things.

The purpose after 9/11 was to shock the sponsors of state terrorism to get
them to change their policies. That`s his quote in this film. Now...


CORN: Which isn`t what they told the public.

ISIKOFF: It was not what they told the public and it was not about
changing policy, as I think your last bite here will show, because it`s
very clear this was never about getting -- changing policies. It was about
regime change, overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

MATTHEWS: When people remember this show and watch tonight, this is what
they will want to watch tonight, Michael. Here it is.

The documentary which you really were behind includes the talking points
from a November 2001 meeting held by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
On the agenda was, "How Start?" Those were the notes. "How start?"
meaning the Iraq war, with bullet points that included these potential
pretexts: "U.S. discover Saddam connection to 9/11 attack or anthrax
attacks. Dispute over WMD inspections. Start now thinking about
inspection demands."

In other words, start putting together the pretext. In other words, we
didn`t have a war. We didn`t have a reason for a war. We were looking for
a reason for a war.

CORN: We didn`t have a bona fide threat.

At any time, they were free to go to the public and say, you know what?
This is what Doug Feith thinks, this is what we think, we`re not so sure,
but we still think there`s -- we ought to do something. They never did
that. They were looking for a pretext, as you say.

They were phonying up the case. In another part of the film, Lawrence
Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the time, said that he
and Colin Powell participated in what he called a hoax, unintentionally,
but he called it a hoax. I think that`s a pretty good way of summing this

MATTHEWS: One of the things I could never understand, was -- at the time,
I didn`t either -- one of the things, the hawks in the Middle East believe
that somehow if you could break apart one of the Arab front-line states,
which were rejectionist, you could -- you know the whole -- the road
through Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.

The idea, if you broke one of them, then they would all break and you would
be able to get a treaty, you would be able to get peace in the Middle East,
which would be a dream of everybody.


MATTHEWS: Was that ever the driving force or not?


ISIKOFF: That was the sort of ideological preconception of where all the
people who were driving this were coming from, Cheney, Wolfowitz...


ISIKOFF: Rumsfeld.

MATTHEWS: Where did they lose that train? Because we did go into Iraq, we
did what they wanted us to do. And why didn`t it lead to that sort of
nirvana, that sense of, oh, it`s all going to be different...


ISIKOFF: Can I just say one -- one final thing on this point?

Chuck Hagel in his confirmation hearing the other day said history -- when
he was pressed by McCain, history will make the judgment on the Iraq war
and whether it was a good thing or a bad thing or what the end product --
but the verdict of history is already in on the selling of the war. That`s
the focus of this film, and I think that`s what people...


CORN: Another key point. You asked a good question. Why didn`t it work?

And one reason is, they weren`t prepared. We go into this in the book.
It`s not part of the documentary as much, but what would happen after the
invasion? They thought it would all happen by magic. It was what you
might call hubris and arrogance that the world would fall into place
according to the neocon vision, and they put no -- they put no thought

MATTHEWS: Freedom.

CORN: ... actually what it would mean for Iraqis, 100,000 more killed.



CORN: And that`s why.

MATTHEWS: What we mean by freedom, they mean a chance for Shias to fight
Sunnis. That`s their freedom.

CORN: That was part of it.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, guys. You`re the best, David Corn, Michael
Isikoff, the brains behind this great documentary tonight that Rachel
Maddow is going to present to you.

It`s called "Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War." You got nothing better
to do tonight. There is no better thing to do tonight than to watch this

Up next: It only took 148 years, but Mississippi, remember every molehill
in Mississippi, has officially come out against slavery. Boy, they`re up
to date.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

First "SNL," that`s "Saturday Night Live," takes on Marco Rubio`s State of
the Union response -- well, actually really just his big gulp.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We have all been there. You`re about to give an
important policy speech. And you get a little nervous in the green room
and you eat a whole bag of dry roasted peanuts and some beef jerky. You`re
wearing your lucky burlap unitard under your suit, so you do what anyone
would do.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You suddenly lunge to the side, all the while holding
awkward eye contact with the camera and then you take a drink from the
tiniest bottle of water anyone has ever seen. And then, for no reason, you
set the bottle down even farther away.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Would you like to give it another try tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Seth, I would really appreciate it.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: For much of human history, people were trapped in
(INAUDIBLE) society.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Where is the water?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s right here.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Where is the water?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Can you not see? It`s never that far away.




ISIKOFF: Oh, it`s so good. I just want to put that back.



MATTHEWS: As I said last week, Marco Rubio is going to have a tough time
shaking his new title, the thirsty one.

Next, the old news. It was President Lincoln who ultimately pushed the
states to ratify the 13th Amendment and to end slavery with it. Well, the
update now in Mississippi`s case. It was the movie "Lincoln" that got the
job done, yes, the Steven Spielberg that is up for several Oscars this

Here is the story. A University of Mississippi professor went to see the
movie "Lincoln" and did some post-movie research. Here is what he found.
Mississippi lawmakers initially rejected ratification in 1865. Years
later, in 1995, lawmakers had a symbolic vote to officially ratify the
amendment and it passed. That was in 1995.

End of story? Well, it would be if they had submitted all the paperwork to
the Office of the Federal Register. That part didn`t happen until two
weeks ago. Get it? Well, now it has. Thanks to that, one moviegoer and
his friend, the Mississippi secretary of state`s office finally got it all
squared away; 148 years later, better late than never, they have ratified
amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery.

And even though today`s federal holiday is officially Washington`s
birthday, it`s really become a day when we look back on all the presidents.
We have heard it time and again. You can never really understand what it`s
like to be president unless you are one of the few who have actually been

Well, over the years , we have gotten some pretty inventive descriptions of
that. Here goes -- quote -- "Being president is like running a cemetery.
You have got a lot of people under you and nobody is listening." Well,
that`s slightly morbid. The description came to us from Bill Clinton in

Next: "Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There`s
nothing to do but to stand there and take it." Known for unfiltered sense
of humor, that -- that`s pure LBJ, of course.

Here is another on the same suggest: "If I were two-faced, would I be
wearing this one?"


MATTHEWS: No stranger to self-deprecating jokes about his appearance, that
was of course Honest Abe.

Finally: "I discovered that being president is like riding a tiger. A man
has to keep on riding or be swallowed."

Well, that`s from the great "Give `em hell" Harry Truman.

Up next: why some -- well, why some people -- this is the time to get rid
of the Voting Rights Act. I`m not one of them. You`re watching HARDBALL,
the place for politics.


what`s happening.

Gas prices are at a four-month high due to rising demand and changes at
refineries. AAA says prices have been rising since mid-January and now top
$4 per gallon in some states.

Venezuela`s fiery President Hugo Chavez is back in his home country after
two months in Cuba for cancer treatment. He hasn`t been seen since

And authorities say country singer Mindy McCready was found dead Sunday in
the same spot where her boyfriend tragically died last month -- back to


of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her
polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as
time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but
whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a
throng of people stayed in line in support of her, because Desiline is 102
years old.

And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, "I



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It was at that moment in Barack Obama`s State of the Union message that the
efforts of voter disenfranchisement that took place in the 2012 got a face,
a 102-year-old`s face. A citizen`s right to vote is protected by the
Voting Rights Act these days.

And in the nine states highlighted here -- you can see them on the map --
in dozens of counties and municipalities in many states, a part of the
Voting Rights Act called Section 5 requires that any changes that will
affect voting in those places must first be cleared by the U.S. Department
of Justice.

But as this headline in today`s "New York Times" shows, this part of the
Voting Rights Act is being challenged today as -- quote -- "a cure the
South has outgrown."

But given the efforts at voter disenfranchisement in this past election,
it`s not clear that the patient is cured. I don`t think it is. And this
map shows the states that have made it harder to vote since 2010, a lot of
Northern states, by the way, either by cutting back early voting, requiring
photo I.D. cards, or restricting voter registration drives.

Joining me right now is an expert. Well, first of all, we have a
generalist, MSNBC contributor Joan Walsh. She`s like me. And Judith
Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project.

I want to start, Joan. Welcome, Joan, and happy mattress day. I`m not sure
what we celebrate today besides selling mattresses.


MATTHEWS: But let me -- I don`t know how that ever happened, by the way.
But let`s talk about this very serious topic with Judith.

By the way, congratulations, Judith, on bringing that wonderful woman of
102 up to Washington. She waited in line how many hours?


She waited in line three hours, standing. It was a six-hour wait and she
was told to come back after the three-hour wait.

MATTHEWS: OK. One of the great things that LBJ did after the death of
Kennedy in the mid-`60s was the Voting Rights Act, first of all, the Civil
Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

One was public accommodations, which is a big deal, because it meant all
the stores and all the gas stations and all the hotels were open nationwide
to anybody, regardless of color, no matter what the owner thought. OK?

And then the Voting Rights Act was an attempt to give real power to black
people by saying, look, if you want power down the road in any area, you
got to vote.


MATTHEWS: And you couldn`t vote in the South.


MATTHEWS: Because? What was the reason most people were kept from voting,
the reason for the Voting Rights Act? What were the tricks used?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, it was the poll taxes, where you had to pay to vote.
You had grandfather clauses that said that certain people could vote if
they had done something, they had land at a particular time.

And then you had literacy tests, where you had to read and pass a test in
order to vote. And the Voting Rights Act outlawed that. It really was --
the Voting Rights Act really is our statute that ensures that the 15th
Amendment to the Constitution is guaranteed, but also guarantees the fact
that we are all equal in this country.

MATTHEWS: And now today, just to continue with your expertise, so many
states, including my own where I grew up in Pennsylvania, have pulled these
numbers where let`s come up with a real I.D. card or something that is
going to be so hard to come up with, people in their 70s or 80s are not
going to be able to get one. Court struck that down.

How does that play into these, these efforts in places like Florida to do
these kind of tricks?


Well, it clearly shows that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still
needed, because in fact we saw states making it harder for particular
groups of people, like African-Americans and Latinos, to vote in this
election. And so those laws -- for example, in Texas and South Carolina,
those laws, those voter I.D. Laws were put on hold specifically because
Section 5 came in to act and actually the Department of Justice objected to
those laws.

MATTHEWS: Joan, you and I talk generally about politics.

And one we -- the thing we talk about a lot, you and I, is this new sort of
civil war -- or rather continual civil war in this country where a lot of
people on the right would like to keep it going. You know, they want to
fight what they call it the cause still. You hear it.


MATTHEWS: They want to fight the federal government. They like states`
rights. They like secession. They like nullification. They like setting
their own voting rules, because they want to have the same thing they had
once before, which is mainly a more -- higher proportion of whites making
the calls.

WALSH: Well, right. And what we`ve seen now is it`s not restricted to the
South. It`s going on a lot in the South. That list of states you showed,
Chris, that showed, you know, people who made it harder to vote.

There were a lot of Southern states that are still covered by Section 5.
But we know that were also Northern states as well. And in a better world
I suppose you`d extend Section 5, you certainly wouldn`t cut it back.

So, you know, Alabama has a point in one sense when it says, "Hey, we`re
not the only ones." We -- I don`t know if they`re the worst. This is
something -- and sadly, it is something that`s become really a partisan
thing because we all remember that while LBJ and JFK were Democrats, they
were new Democrats. The Democratic Party had a shameful history in terms
of voting rights suppression and they were fighting Democratic governors in
the South, and they also relied on the votes of Republican senators and
Congress people in the North.

So, the party sort of switched sides. Now, you have North and South
Republican governors, not Democratic governors, Republican state
legislators working hard to disenfranchise black voters but also sort of
the Obama coalition.

So not only African-Americans, but Latinos, younger voters, poorer voters,
and in states like Florida where older people vote Democratic, you know,
older people, too. It`s really a pervasive and pernicious new crusade.

MATTHEWS: Well, Joan, to make your point, here is Mike Turzai, the
Republican leader in Pennsylvania, the legislature, admitting basically --

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- that the reason they`re making the laws tougher setting up
the voting ID system, the photo voter ID, is to win the election. Let`s


which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,



MATTHEWS: You know, Judith, I was thinking that -- I mean, there`s a lot
of polarization on both sides, left and right, black and white, in this
election. Obviously, the first African-American president is going to do
incredibly well among African-Americans first time ever. It always is the
first one that gets all the votes frankly. But I was thinking in Alabama
and Mississippi, Alabama, Mississippi is like 85 percent of the white vote
went for Romney, 89 percent of Alabama.

So, if you can repress the black vote down there and make it irrelevant.

why we have to have the Voting Rights Act because we know that racially
polarized voting still happens. Black people will actually have always had
a history of voting for black and white candidates, right?

White people and especially in the South still vote for white candidates.
And so, we have to have these laws in place that get us to free, fair, and
accessible elections, and Section 5 is one of those. The Voting Rights Act
has been key to breaking down and making sure that these laws that would
take away the right to vote actually don`t get implemented.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what I`m thinking again about the demographic
fight I`m going to talk about at the end of the show. You know, if
President Obama does have a political strategy to rebuild the Democratic
Party as the dominant political party in the country, and his plan is to
use demographic shifts as part of that, of Hispanics especially and young
people and the issues of marriage equality and things like that, that
really shift the demographics in this country to his advantage (ph), this
issue is the heart of it, isn`t it, Joan? I mean, they`re fighting and
they see what he`s doing, and they`re going to try to fight it by getting
rid of the Voting Rights Act.

WALSH: He knows that this issue is the heart of it and they know it maybe
even better. And that`s why we`ve seen such a backlash, especially just
since 2008, really, Chris, where these tactics have moved North and you
have states like Ohio and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania doing it, too. So, we
need to be more vigilant, and not less.

MATTHEWS: The funny thing, the whole country is on the same page. They
know exactly what`s -- both sides know exactly the stakes. They know
exactly the trend of history and both are dealing with, one is riding the
trend of history, Obama, the others are fighting it. And we all know what
we`re doing.

DIANIS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Joan Walsh.

Thank you very much, Judith Browne Dianis. Great get the other night,
bringing that -- as we say in our business, great get.

DIANIS: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Up next on the Presidents Day agenda tonight: presidential
rivals. This is going to be fun. Bush versus his father, W. versus H.W.,
for their place in history. And, of course, the old question we always
ask, are Bill Clinton and Barack Obama on the same side?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Call it the revenge of Obamacare. For years, Republicans have
relentlessly tried to hang Obamacare around the president`s neck and use it
to destroy his popularity. But on ABC`s "This Week" yesterday, Romney
campaign manager Stuart Stevens said it was the popularity of the Obamacare
among Hispanic voters that helped the president drive up his numbers in
that increasingly critical demographic group.

Let`s listen to Stuart.


the Obama campaign had for Hispanic voters turned out to be Obamacare, and
they ran a tremendous amount of their advertising appealing to Hispanic
voters. It was the only place in their advertising where they talked about
Obamacare was to the Hispanic community, because an extraordinary
percentage of Hispanic voters are uninsured.


MATTHEWS: Wow. President Obama beat Romney among Hispanics, as we all
know, 71 percent to 27 percent.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Today`s Presidents Day, a holiday for most Americans. It`s a day we honor
our presidents and we shop for mattresses for some reason and lots of
books, of course, have been written about the exclusive club now. The
exclusive club among presidents, relationships forged through the powerful
singular experience of being elected president of United States.

But that`s not to say that these brethren aren`t always rivals or
occasionally are rivals. Amateur psychologists might have a field day
teasing out whether W., that`s George W. Bush, was trying to compete with
dad in his unfinished business by invading Iraq and going after Saddam.
And the so-called "First Black President", he was called that, Bill Clinton
was accused by some of racism for comments he made while Barack Obama was
beating Hillary Clinton to the Democratic nomination in 2008.

By the way, all of these presidents and Jimmy Carter will gather in two
months at the dedication of George W. Bush`s library at Southern Methodist.
That`s down in Dallas.

Anyway, David Maraniss won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 of his coverage of
Bill Clinton. He`s the author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Barack
Obama: The Story," a great book.

James Moore is our other guest, has covered the Bushes for decades. He`s
the co-author of "Bush`s Brain."

James, I want to start with you. I mean, when you look at all of this, you
look at everything W. did as president, going into Iraq, making best
friends with the religious right, being a hawk in the Middle East, cutting
taxes -- everything he did seemed to be a 180 from the old man. Is that a
fair thing to look at in personal terms?

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, "BUSH`S BRAIN": I think in the case of Bush,
Chris, you almost had an in-house rivalry. The accomplishments and the
interests of every father inform the sort of life that unfolds for his son.
But Bush was always trying to out do his dad whether it was in oil or
baseball or being governor instead of congressman.

And I think what happened in Iraq, as you suggested earlier, was that W.
didn`t think it was enough to kick Saddam out of Kuwait, he wanted to un --
upstage his father and chase Saddam all the way to Iraq and capture him and
ultimately be responsible for his execution. He has his gun on his wall
when he`s president.

I think that that was his way of saying, "I`m a bigger, tougher guy than
you." And, ultimately, it`s going to be his legacy, that it costs a lot of
livings and a lot of treasure for more than one country to make that
happen. And that was an important part of the psychology between two men
that drove that point.

MATTHEWS: Well, I agree with this. I see all the points and I add them
up, I can connect them, but you`re basically saying here and anybody agrees
with you, and maybe I`m one of them -- you`re accusing this guy of the
worst case of narcissism. Like this presidency, this planet, life as a
human, it`s all about what I want to do for my own personal reason that has
nothing to do with anyone else. Just me. I want to beat dad.

MOORE: I don`t --

MATTHEWS: That`s a hell of an accusation, if you think about it.

MOORE: Listen, understand. That is a significant part of what drove this

But beyond that, you have to also remember -- there were economic forces,
there were geopolitical forces and there were political forces within the
Republican Party that had decided W. was the guy. That just happened to
coincide with this thing that he had going on with his father forever and


MOORE: And I think we see this over and over, sort of convergence of
historical and political forces that end up taking us places that we
otherwise might not go.

MATTHEWS: Now, I don`t believe any other president would have taken us
into Iraq. I mean, that was dumbest thing in history.

MOORE: I don`t, either.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, that`s a hell of statement. That that`s a dumbest thing
in history, you can`t even think of that.

Anyway, we all remember that bitter rivalry back in 2008, only five years
ago, between then-candidate Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
But it was when Obama praised former President Ronald Reagan that Clinton
really took offense. Let`s listen to this point in history.


the trajectory of America, in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not.
And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.


MATTHEWS: I`m sure Bill Clinton didn`t hear that, ha-ha.

Anyway, President Clinton landed in hot water after he compared then-
candidate Obama`s primary victory down in South Carolina to that in Jesse
Jackson`s years earlier. Some accused Clinton of marginalizing Obama as
the black candidate. Let`s watch.


Carolina twice, in `84 and `88. And he ran a good campaign. Senator
Obama`s run a good campaign here. He`s run a good campaign everywhere.
He`s a good candidate.


MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it.

Let me ask you about a deeper question, not the cheap shots and the obvious
analysis based on either side`s point of view, David. You know this better
than anybody -- but the natural rivalry, the stuff that just happens
because you have to be a rival. If Barack Obama is a transformational
president, meaning he`s the guy that did health care. The Clintons do it.
He`s the guy that perhaps has the successor elected -- Democratic successor
elected. He`s the guy that starts a real era?

Can he win and the Clintons not win? I mean, can the Clintons -- can they
both win? Or is there a natural rivalry here between the two of them, on

DAVID MARANISS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there is a natural rivalry.
But, right now, that I they`re inextricably linked. I think that`s what`s
interesting about this moment in history for the first time, really,
starting with the last campaign.

Bill Clinton was needed by Barack Obama and Clinton loves to be needed.
And I think that carries forward. I don`t think that dynamic will change
now. That for both of them to establish what they want in history, they
need each other.

But it`s also true, and the reason Bill Clinton reacted so strongly to that
comment about Ronald Reagan, is because Bill Clinton understood some of the
truth of that. He always realized that he was just sort of a transitional
presidency, that he didn`t -- and he regretted that he didn`t have the
opportunity he felt to be a great president because no crisis arose that
allow them shot.

And for that reason, for the fact that Barack Obama truly is the first
black president, whereas Bill Clinton was sort of symbolically and loved --
you know, the better part of his nature was his idealism about race. For
those reasons, it created some problems between them. But, in politics,
both of these men realized there are no permanent friends and no permanent


MARANISS: And they need each other right now.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of that, quickly, yes or no, did Clinton like your
book, "First in His Class"?

MARANISS: Well, at the time, he kept complaining about it, but then
reading it a lot to his staff. So, he liked 50 percent of the book.

MATTHEWS: Does Obama like your book? Does Obama like your book?

MARANISS: I have no clue and that`s not really that important to me. I
know that most of President Obama`s -- most of President Obama`s cabinet
has read the book. So, there must be some --

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, guys.

James Moore, thank you much, author of "Bush`s Brain," down in Austin.
Thank you, sir.

And David Maraniss, author of "Barack Obama: The Story."

We`ll be right back. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this, Bush Sr. versus Bush Jr.

The older Bush stood aloof from the neocons, the war hawks, especially in
the Mideast, and was hated for it. The younger Bush was beloved by the
neocons because he did just what they wanted him to do.

The older Bush raised taxes to cut the deficit and thereby brought on a
period of solid economic growth. The younger Bush cut taxes without reason
and ushered in a financial disaster.

Could we be watching an even fiercer right now, fiercer rivalry between the
presidents today? It`s not personal again, just historical.

If Obama turns into a big success, as discussed earlier tonight, can he
out-pace Bill Clinton in the history books? Can he be truly
transformational, the word he used, in saying what Bill Clinton was not?
And that is the question. I don`t think the two of them aren`t keeping a
close watch on the scoreboard.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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