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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

February 20, 2013

Guests: Roger Simon, John Brabender, Chad Griffin, Adam Schiff, Jonathan Allen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The roar of the right.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this tonight, with the angriest cries from the right.
Listen to them. They arise from the last row of the latest town meeting of
the Tea Party. Their voices reach up to the highest levels of the GOP.
The Republican Party, a long time ago the party of prudence and fiscal
responsibility, is now the war party of the Mideast, the "stop the
government" party here at home.

Watch tonight here on HARDBALL as someone who`s pandered to those
extremists is attacked openly, irreverently, disgustedly. We start with
that tonight, the loud, angry, bitter, conspiracy-driven Tea Party and what
it does to someone like John McCain. I told you it would come to this, and
now we`ve got the proof on camera. A party that spits at its leaders
listens only to the loudest, angriest person in the back row.

Boehner is nothing to this crowd. It never heard of Cantor. Mitch
McConnell, some Washington nobody. What matters to the Republican far
right now are the few to dare to be even further right. And now it`s come
to this.

Howard Fineman`s HuffingtonPost editorial director and David Corn is
Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," a George Polk winner, of
course. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

The 2013 version of John McCain yesterday took on his constituents, who
looked like a room full of right-wing 2010 McCains with their anti-
immigrant, "build a fence" talk. Here`s a bit of his exchange, if you want
to call it that, with angry right-wing Tea Partiers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t the Army go down there and stop them?
Because the only thing that stops them, I`m afraid to say, and it`s too
damn bad, but is a gun. That`s all that`ll stop them.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The border is 2,000 miles long, sir. I
don`t know how many troops and Army people you think would have been
required. I don`t know how many you think would be required, but I`ll give
you expert information that shows you that probably, maybe you`re talking
about two million soldiers.

There are people who have been here illegally for 50 years or 40 years. Am
I then telling them to become guest workers? No, you can`t do that. Why
can`t you do that? Because we`re a Judeo-Christian principled nation.
That`s why you can`t do that.


MATTHEWS: Well, I guess those people aren`t Judeo-Christians, you guys!


MATTHEWS: I mean, I thought this -- I rarely brag on this show, but I`ve
been saying for a long time what`s really running the Republican Party now
is the angriest guy we just saw in the last row of the latest Tea Party

they`ve have unleashed the hounds and now the hounds are in charge. Or
they created a Frankenstein, whatever metaphor you want to use. You know,


CORN: OK. Sorry.

MATTHEWS: Don`t say Orwellian...


MATTHEWS: ... because that`s what John McCain does here and they don`t
like it. Go ahead.

CORN: No, no. But the Republican Party has mobilized the far right over
the last few years to beat back Obama, to, you know, win the House with the
Tea Party in 2010, and they have sort of -- now they`re kind of stuck with
these people.


CORN: You know, you...

MATTHEWS: You mean to say if you play hopscotch or piggyback with J.D.
Hayworth and you try to go to his right, you may be expected to be to his

of all...

MATTHEWS: ... and there`s John McCain, as somebody put it beautifully
here, the producer, executive producer, John Reese (ph), in fact -- it
deserves a lot of praise. Here`s John McCain -- what is it now, 2013,
trying to disremember he was John McCain 2010. Long ago, he was John
McCain 2000.

FINEMAN: Well, yes. John McCain did what he could to climb aboard the Tea
Party express.

MATTHEWS: To get reelected.

FINEMAN: To get reelected. And now he`s confronting his old self as he
argues with the guy he was a few years ago, as John Reese said.


FINEMAN: And John McCain has never been good at hiding his anger or his
contempt for people he considers to be idiots that are in his way.


MATTHEWS: ... that moment happened to disagree with what...


MATTHEWS: ... because he said to "build that dang fence."

FINEMAN: Chris, he -- John McCain is the perfect expression, the perfect
embodiment of the kind of schizophrenia of the Republican Party today.

MATTHEWS: Explain.

FINEMAN: Well, because he`s both things. He both wants to be the anti-
establishment, "screw the government" kind of guy. He`s the war hawk, as
you said. He`s a Tea Party guy. In certain respects, he is. But he`s
also a guy who wants to get deals done, who believes in the old

MATTHEWS: Who loves the Senate.

FINEMAN: ... who loves the Senate, who was in the Navy, who has -- he`s an
old Republican guy.

CORN: He worked with Kennedy, you know, (INAUDIBLE) on the last
immigration bill.


MATTHEWS: He worked with Lieberman...

MATTHEWS: He believes in government.

CORN: ... on climate change, things that he threw aside...

MATTHEWS: He believes in campaign reform.


CORN: He also likes to get deals done. He`s a guy who likes to get deals


MATTHEWS: He`s in many ways an admirable senator, except when he`s in this
mode. Let`s take a look at Jekyll and Hyde here. Here`s another taste of
that town hall meeting, when more voters remind McCain that he once
committed the crime of working with Ted Kennedy, and bring us, by the way,
to the campaign of three years ago. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I remember when you were in bed with

MCCAIN: In bed with Kennedy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a large group of dependent people that are
going to -- you want to make citizens, that are going to be on Social --
they`re going to be on Medicare. They`re going to be on Welfare. They`re
going to be on food stamps.

MCCAIN: Well, again...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you know it! What`s going to happen is that...


MCCAIN: Again, sir, you`re not telling these people the truth.


MCCAIN: They mow our lawns. They care for our babies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a senator with the federal government and you`re
doing nothing about it! You said "build the dang fence." Where`s the

MCCAIN: In case you missed it, I showed you...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not a fence.

MCCAIN: It`s not a fence? It`s a banana. We`re putting up a banana with
about $600 million worth of appropriations that we have. Sir, you can --
you`re entitled to your opinion. You`re not entitled to your facts. The
facts are that we have made significant improvements on the border...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re stealing from everybody in this audience right

MCCAIN: You know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re taking away from their Social Security to give
it to a dependent class of people!

MCCAIN: This is an Orwellian experience. I`ve had enough, sir. You`ve
had enough.


MATTHEWS: Well, just to refresh your memory on that "dang fence" talk,
this is what McCain said in an ad during that 2010 right-wing campaign,
when he really went to the far right when he was challenged, by the way, by
right-wing former congressman J.D. Hayworth. And as I said, he had to
hopscotch past him to the right. Let`s watch.


MCCAIN: Drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re outmanned. Of all the illegals in America, more
than half come through Arizona.

MCCAIN: Have we got the right plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plan is perfect. You bring troops, state, county
and local law enforcement together.

MCCAIN: And complete the dang fence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`ll work this time. Senator, you`re one of us.


MATTHEWS: Well, one of us is dangerous here because when you refer to
people, you get -- I know we have to get the lingo right in the nicest way
(INAUDIBLE) undocumented workers. Somewhere between undocumented workers
and aliens or illegals is illegal immigrants. And somewhere beyond that is
illegal workers. But when you call them illegals, you`re basically saying
they`re not anything connected to us.

CORN: Well, it`s dehumanizing and...

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s not a person.

CORN: ... if they`re illegals, then they certainly don`t deserve
citizenship, they don`t deserve...

MATTHEWS: They`re not people.

CORN: ... compassion. They`re not people. And so, you know...

MATTHEWS: So he was playing their game.

CORN: He was playing footsie all the way in 2010. It was basically, "Get
off my lawn." He refused to call himself a maverick. He ran from the John
McCain of 2008 and 2000 and 1996. And now he`s kind of in a corner. He`s
-- you know, this is...

MATTHEWS: Is he the guy, "Get off my lawn," Mr. Wilson in "Dennis the

CORN: Exactly.

FINEMAN: There have been -- there have been many John McCains, and I

MATTHEWS: Yes. Which one do you like?

CORN: ... David and I have probably covered most of them.

MATTHEWS: Now, let`s be nice. Which one do you like?

FINEMAN: Well, the one that I liked was...

CORN: 2000 was pretty good!

FINEMAN: ... 2000 -- I liked -- 2000 was McCain at his best.

MATTHEWS: He was up against W.

FINEMAN: And he was up against W, which brought out the best of his...

MATTHEWS: The best of him.

FINEMAN: ... reformist instincts and the best of his -- the best side of
his anti-establishment instincts, and he was terrific.

MATTHEWS: Best town meeting we ever had back in those days, of those
wonderful big town meetings, was Auburn.

FINEMAN: Well, the one that I...


FINEMAN: Chris, I remember one in Exeter, New Hampshire...

CORN: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... a thousand people showed up and they were a thousand
reasonable people...

CORN: Yes!

FINEMAN: ... because Bush was on one extreme and there were other people
around there.


FINEMAN: That was the McCain we liked.

MATTHEWS: OK, you said something usually brilliant by you, which is that
he personifies the schizoid nature of the Republican Party. He tries to be
part of the governing of the United States.


MATTHEWS: That`s why he gets $170,000 a year. He gets paid to be a
senator and to get something done, to pass bills, to legislate, to refine,
to improve the government, the country. And yet the other part of him is
this other guy, this enraged person who wants to at least pretend he
doesn`t believe in government.

FINEMAN: Well, on a simple level, he needed to be that other guy in order
to be able to get back into the room to make deals as this guy.


FINEMAN: And he thinks that people will forget the fact that he was that
other guy. Well, the people at the meeting don`t forget that.

MATTHEWS: Why is he calling these meetings?

CORN: He can`t...

FINEMAN: That`s a very good question.

MATTHEWS: Why is he calling -- I have a theory. I think he`s trying to
ward off a real primary challenge come next time because he wants to be a
senator for life, which is fine with me.

CORN: I don`t think he -- I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: But that`s what he wants to do.

CORN: ... there`s going to be a next time for him.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think he`ll run again?

CORN: I think there are too -- I think there have been too many John
McCains. He will lose to a real right candidate or real reasonable
Democrat, the way Arizona`s trending.

MATTHEWS: Claude Pepper. Some of these guys learn how to change.

CORN: Those are old days. But he can`t change fast enough to keep up with
this crowd.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch how he deals with our crowd. Here he is. He didn`t
take to a reporter`s question after the town meeting about the audience
reception yesterday. Here he is, plowing into, in the same mood we saw him
in with the people, with reporters.


MCCAIN: Oh, sure. People -- there are people that are unhappy. Most of
the people in here are happy. Most of the people in here agree with me.
Most of the people agree that, as was carried (ph) recently, somewhere
around 70-some percent of the American people believe that there should be
a path to citizenship as long as they pay a fine, pay backs taxes, get in
line behind everybody else. Sure.

QUESTION: Would you say 77 percent of the people in the room today agree?

MCCAIN: (INAUDIBLE) majority of them, sure. Absolutely. What`s your

QUESTION: I don`t have a problem.

MCCAIN: Yes, you do because you keep somehow thinking that this was not a
typical town hall meeting. It is.

QUESTION: I`ve been to many of the meetings. This felt like (INAUDIBLE)

MCCAIN: I`m glad to know that you`re an expert. I`m the one who`s going
to the town hall meetings, and we have lots of them and they`re very
vigorous, and that`s what they`re supposed to be.


MATTHEWS: Well, what`s that about?

CORN: I think...

MATTHEWS: What is that -- how do you talk like that? You`re an expert.
You`re a (INAUDIBLE) He didn`t say he was an expert, he just said, I`ve
been coming to these town meetings.

FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I think -- all I can say is that McCain has gone in
and out of love with the press corps, as they have with him.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) talk to you like that? Did you ever put up with
that lip?

CORN: Well, he used to like to...


CORN: ... but in a good-natured way. He used to do this in a good-natured


CORN: But I mean, I think, overall, he`s become a meaner...


CORN: ... person...


CORN: ... than he was...

MATTHEWS: ... let`s talk a bigger question than just the personality
traits of this fellow, which is off and on. Obviously, there are different
people sometimes in the same body. But let`s talk about this situation
with the Republican -- I want you to look at a montage, as we call it.
This isn`t the first time that an audience has shown its real right-wing
features, its anger against, in this case, illegal immigrants. We`ve seen
it before, when all of a sudden, you see, My God, these people really are

Let`s take a look at it. These are from the debates this past year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie
about who I was because I`m a gay soldier and I didn`t want to lose my job.
My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent
the progress that`s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more
than any other governor in modern times. Have you...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that
any one of those might have been innocent?

struggled with that at all.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s what freedom is all
about, taking your own risk.


PAUL: This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But congressman, are you saying that society should
just let him die?


PAUL: No, but...



MATTHEWS: Well, there you have in three different cases, a gay soldier
fighting for this country overseas, and you have the question of people,
lots of -- dozens and dozens, hundreds of people being executed in Texas.

FINEMAN: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: And every time the word is "execute" or to bash a gay soldier

CORN: Or let someone die.

MATTHEWS: ... or let someone die because they don`t have health insurance,
it is so viciously right-wing.

FINEMAN: The trick is, and the trick that -- on both extremes of American
politics, but especially conservatives and the Republicans over the last 50
years, is to turn that resentment and that fear and that anger to
productive purposes...


FINEMAN: ... to channel it into a tax cut program...


FINEMAN: ... or channel it into legislation to drain the swamp, which
Ronald Reagan was supposedly going to do. Reagan had the ability to take
the energy of that resentment and bring it into the mainstream. The
problem that the Republicans have now is that they have this sort of
boiling cauldron down there...

MATTHEWS: Yes. We see it!

FINEMAN: ... and they have nowhere -- they have no people able to channel

CORN: But there`s a difference between resentment and hatred. And it may
be a fine line in politics...


CORN: ... but I think they`ve moved from resentment to hatred.

FINEMAN: Yes, well, without anything to...


MATTHEWS: ... when McCain isn`t right-wing enough for these people, you
know we`ve got problems.

FINEMAN: Without any leaders to tame it and direct it, that`s the way it`s
going to be.

MATTHEWS: OK. Congratulations on your program the other Monday --

CORN: Thanks a lot.

MATTHEWS: ... introduced and explained, that whole story of your book.
It`s an amazing book, "Hubris."

CORN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Also had a huge audience, which we do notice around here, huge
audience for -- people do care about the dishonesty of that war in Iraq.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: They really do care. Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And David Corn.

Up -- coming up next: Guess who has the high ground again in his battle
with Republicans? The latest debate here in Washington is going just the
way the Democrats hoped it would, Republicans defending the wealthy again,
President Obama out there for the middle class. How can it be so good?

Also, how much have we heard from Republicans since the election about how
they know they need to change? Well, don`t worry, we got the message, they
keep telling us. Really? Check out the names of next month`s Conservative
Political Committee conference. Here they are, the new kids on the block -
- Palin, LaPierre, Santorum, Newt. I could go on with all these names.

Later -- it feels a bit like the new, improved Edsel, doesn`t it?

And how the right-wing media machine led by turned a tongue-
in-cheek joke by a reporter into a deliberately misleading story that Chuck
Hagel spoke to a nonexistent group called Friends of Hamas. Never
happened. No such group.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a new bipartisan push for marriage

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s the marquee matchup in this year`s election calendar,
Virginia -- the Virginia governor`s race, and it`s living up to
expectations. We`ve got brand-new polling on the race, and for that we
check our favorite, the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, it`s dead even between former DNC chair
and best friend of Bill Terry McAuliffe, and the state`s conservative
attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, 38-all. Boy, that`s a good one to watch.
If that wasn`t exciting enough, the state`s Republican lieutenant governor
is making noise about running as a third party candidate. If he does, the
race remains within the margin of error. Wow, look at that. Love this
stuff. McAuliffe winning.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The debate over spending and cutting
is going just the way President Obama planned, apparently. He`s out there
every day now making the case that he`s looking out for the middle class
while the Republicans are just as stubbornly looking out for the wealthy.

And as automatic across-the-board cuts loom March 1st, the president is
taking advantage of the power of his office. Watch him do it. Today, the
president`s doing interviews with eight local TV anchors to pitch an
infrastructure plan. Note that most of these markets include a significant
defense presence. They`re near bases, an industry that could be hit hard
if a sequester goes into effect.

Here`s a clip from his interview today with NBC Oklahoma City affiliate
KFOR. Let`s listen.


spending cuts coming up in nine days that will lay off hundreds of
thousands of folks or furlough hundreds of thousands of folks all across
the country. They`re not necessary. They`ll hurt our economy. They`ll
raise the unemployment rate. And the reason is because Congress has not
been able to compromise on a deficit reduction package that`s more


MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, the president insisted sudden across-the-board
spending cuts would be unnecessary and damaging, and he made sure that
first responders were there to punctuate the message. Let`s watch and


OBAMA: Border patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will
be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let
criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see
cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country.
Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.


MATTHEWS: And keeping up the drumbeat, tomorrow House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi will hold hearings on how middle class families could be hurt
by the meat axe approach to spending cuts that could kick in March 1st.

Joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff of California and
Politico`s Jonathan Allen.

Congressman Schiff, you`re up first. You got elected. You speak first
here tonight.

I was so impressed by the way you explained all this, this morning on
MSNBC. I would like you to do it again. Your take on what this fight is
about coming up March 1, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, the fight is largely a fight
within the GOP.

You talked earlier about the schizophrenia within some of the GOP members.
That is most manifest in the House. They really have two minds. You have
got the Tea Party contingent that wants to tear down government that ran on
a platform of tearing down and has never made the transition to being for
anything. And right now they`re driving the train. They want the
sequester to go into effect.

They want it to go into effect because they want to show that they`re
serious about this and they feel that`s their mandate. At the same time,
it`s going to be enormously destructive to the economy. We are poised to
make a recovery, and if just the -- if the Congress could get out of the
way and stop manufacturing these crises month after month, I think we would
have a full recovery.

But what the president has proposed, which is a reasonable compromise,
that`s part spending cuts, part revenues is being rejected by the House of
Representatives` leadership and we are where we are.

MATTHEWS: Two major points I heard there at the beginning by the

Jon, I want you to respond, first of all, the who. It is the hard right.
Every time the president -- you talk to people at the White House and they
say this president, whatever you think of the politics, doesn`t know who to
talk to on the Hill. There is no Boehner. He`s just a front man. Eric
Cantor has got his wet finger in the air trying to figure out which way the
wind is blowing.

Who is the president talking to? Is it just a clack of a bunch of right-
wingers who don`t want to talk to anybody then? How do they -- are they
Hamas? Who are they out there?

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: They are not Hamas. But, look, there`s nobody
who speaks with one voice for the House Republicans.


ALLEN: When there is a deal cut, it`s always Mitch McConnell and Joe
Biden, Senate minority leader and the vice president, on budget deals.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, but who is Obama talking to, the president? Who can
he talk to?

ALLEN: I don`t think he`s...


MATTHEWS: He has to send Joe up to find somebody of like mind to talk to

ALLEN: Yes, because he doesn`t have relationships on the Hill. Whether
that`s his fault or their fault, there`s no relationships.


MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s -- OK, we agree on that, there`s no connection.

Congressman, back to you, the what. What I found profound in what you said
this morning is, it`s not -- sure, we`re going to argue whether one party
won 60/40 or lost 70/30 on who gets blamed. Forget the blame game for a
second. What`s going on with the economy?

I think the American people looking at the polling we got our hands are
have become very demoralized ever since the election. Ever since around
October, they have been seeing shutdown talk, debt ceiling talk, this
stupid name, sequestration, and all they hear is trouble in the nation`s
capital, the inability of our own government which has been elected to do
its job.

I think it`s hurting the economy. Your thoughts.

SCHIFF: Well, it`s absolutely hurting the economy.

And what people want in business and in their family life is they want some
stability. They want the ability to plan. They want to know, what are my
taxes going to be? They want to know, you know, am I going to have a job?
Am I going to be laid off?


SCHIFF: And all they want is some solidity to plan with. And when we go
through these manufactured crises, we deprive the economy and businesses of
that ability to plan. It`s incredibly destructive.


MATTHEWS: I hate to rush you, Congressman. Do you think the right-wing
people know when they`re sitting in their chairs voting no, no, no,
bringing one manufactured crisis to bear after another that they`re just
happy when they pick up the paper and say public confidence going down,
that`s good for our party?

SCHIFF: Oh, they do.

We know that Grover Norquist, starving the beast of resources. Now they`re
starving the beast of credibility. They`re starving the beast of the
federal government with any public confidence that it can actually solve


SCHIFF: And this is part of the destruction of our federal government.
And they would be delighted if people lost confidence in the government and
if they could further tear it down.

A lot of people run for Congress against the government. That`s a tried
tradition in American history.


SCHIFF: But, usually, once they have office and they have a responsibility
to govern, they find they have to be for something as well. But this crowd
has never made the transition to being for something.

MATTHEWS: But they take a salary, don`t they?


SCHIFF: They take a salary and they`re content...

MATTHEWS: Where they work in the United States government, they`re working
for the government to function, at least, even if they vote against it.
They do want a functioning government, but now I get the feeling they

Your thoughts, Jonathan.

ALLEN: Well, I mean, I think there was a little truth serum there from the
congressman. You campaign against the government as though it was the
worst thing in the world and then you get there and you`re supposed to
change the stripes that you showed to the voters.

MATTHEWS: No, but you`re supposed to influence policy to the advantage of
the republic at some point.

ALLEN: Well, in theory, but all these guys...

MATTHEWS: Not shutting it down.

ALLEN: But all these guys are focused on their -- their very narrow
constituencies. And not -- even within their districts, it`s not...


MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think is the result? In Arizona, we just saw a
very right-wing crowd out there on immigration. When they pick up the
paper, "The Arizona Republic," and they see the government is shutting down
again and there`s questions about whether we can move a battle -- an
aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf if we need one, all kinds of
questions like that about security, do you think they`re happy?

ALLEN: I think, for a lot of people, the immediate reaction is great, the
government is shutting down.

And then when they go to get services from the VA or some -- people are
crossing the border or...


MATTHEWS: How about they get in an airplane and...


ALLEN: ... the United States. They care about...


MATTHEWS: How about getting on an airplane and there`s nobody at the
conning tower?

ALLEN: So, it doesn`t take very long for the public to really get this.

MATTHEWS: OK. Great to have you on.

Congressman, I`m so impressed. Thank you so much. We will have you back.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You`re a very -- you`re a very eloquent spokesman for a very
complicating situation, which I think gets worse every day. Thank you so
much for coming on.

ALLEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: how a right-wing smear -- and it was kind of a joke to
begin with -- against Chuck Hagel went viral. This is this "Rashomon"
thing that if you say something today, even sarcastically, then some whack
job will put it on the radio somewhere or on a Web site. Next thing you
know people are reacting to that reaction, and it`s become a Frankenstein`s

We are going to show you how it works in a couple minutes. This is -- this
is stirring and it`s scary. It could involve you some day. This is
HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

First, how a sarcastic joke how a nonexistent terrorist organization morphs
into a right-wing attack on Chuck Hagel and whether we can trust him as
defense secretary. Three easy steps.

Step one, the sarcastic joke from "Daily News" recorder Dan Friedman, who
says -- quote -- "When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees
from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out. On
February 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question.
Did Hagel Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had
addressed? Had Hagel given a speech to, say, the Junior League of
Hezbollah in France, and what about Friends of Hamas? Well, the names were
so over the top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East that I -- it was
clear I was talking hypothetically. No one could take seriously the idea
that organizations with those names existed."

Well, step two, cue popular right-wing Web site one day after
the joke -- quote -- "Secret Hagel donor? White House spokes ducks
question on friends of Hamas." So, Friends of Hamas had spread and taken a
turn for the serious.

Step three, others catch on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem with Hagel is the people who he was giving
the speeches for and the people who he`s been colluding and aligning with
over the years. There was a report that came out last week, not confirmed
yet, but we -- they`re also not denying it very vigorously that one of the
groups behind the speeches may have been an outfit called Friends of Hamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me bring up one piece of information that Ben
Shapiro at Breitbart put out today, which is one of the foreign funders
behind Senator Hagel he has not disclosed formally is something called
Friends of Hamas. If that is in fact true, Senator, would that lead you to
vote against Mr. Hagel?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I saw that information today also,
and that is more and more concerning. With each day, there are new things
coming out.


MATTHEWS: You love this word. They call it information not yet confirmed,
all the while acting on it as if it`s real, making it real.

Well, a small sample of Friends of Hamas-related uproar about Hagel, bogus
on bogus. That`s what I have to say.

Now the sugarplum of it all. Friedman, the columnist for "The Daily news,"
asked Ben Shapiro, the Breitbart reporter behind the headline, about where
his Friends of Hamas information came from. He got this response. "The
story as reported is correct. Whether the information I was given by the
source is correct, I am not sure."

So now we have come full circle. The Breitbart reporter who started the
brouhaha acknowledges that his story was a true report of something false.
Got it? Friends of Hamas has no basis in reality. The whole thing was an
example of the right-wing crazy world.

Finally, there`s someone else to add to Karl Rove`s list of potential
Senate candidates who might just hurt the GOP with moderate voters, I
guess. Failed Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller is back. It`s Miller
time again. Politico reports today that he`s seriously considering another
bid for the Senate up in Alaska, this time in 2014. Miller lost in 2010 to
Lisa Murkowski, who was quite impressive actually, a fellow Republican who
launched a successful write-in campaign after losing in the primary.

In case you forgot what Miller time or Miller brings to the table, let`s
recall his inspiration for border control, East Germany.


very able to reduce the flow. Now, obviously, there are other things that
were involved, but we have the capacity as a great nation obviously to
secure our border. If East Germany can do it, we can do it.


MATTHEWS: The VoPos in East Germany during the Cold War shot people on
sight seeking freedom. So, what do you think of someone who thinks of
communist East Germany as an American role model for the 21st century?
Well, bring on Miller if you like that thinking.

Up next: extreme makeover? Not so much. The big-name speakers at next
month`s conservative CPAC Conference here in Washington are a blast from
the past, Sarah Palin, the new kid on the block, Allen West, Newt Gingrich.
My, they got new people. Guess the Republicans didn`t get the message in
the election.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


"Market Wrap."

The Dow falling 108 points today, finishing below that 14000 mark. The S&P
losing 19, while the Nasdaq shed 49 points. The Fed`s latest minutes
rattling investors. They showed Central Bank officials were concerned
about the effects of the Fed`s bond purchases. Meantime, crude prices
dropped 2 percent amid a broader sell-off in commodities. And Office Depot
and Office Max are merging in an all-stock deal valued at $1.2 billion.

That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
Chris at HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

2012 was a devastating blow to Republicans, of course. And since November,
the GOP has admitted it must broaden its appeal to bring back women,
minorities and younger voters. We all know this. So, in their first big
meeting of conservatives this year coming up, you would expect to see some
fresh faces who could speak for all of America, not just rural white males.
Anyway, not so fast.

The GOP circus is coming to town. The Conservative Political Action
Conference, which is always held here in Washington, the CPAC, as it`s
called, is bringing back the clown show. Their scheduled speakers --
you`re not going to believe this -- Sarah Palin, I know, attractive to
many, but only on the far right, apparently, Rand Paul, who -- I am amazed
by that he exists.

Newt Gingrich, there`s a fresh face. Allen West, Rick Santorum. And don`t
forget Wayne LaPierre. He`s the kid on the block. And even, for some
reason, a curtain call for Mitt Romney. It doesn`t look like the far
right`s grip on the GOP is fading after all.

John Brabender is a senior adviser to the Santorum presidential committee -
- at least he was for the last one -- and Roger Simon is a pro here, a
political columnist for Politico.

John, you`re on to speak your mind. Why the same old song, the same old

everybody is talking about this rebranding and they almost this is like
"Moneyball," where we`re supposed to get rid of all our players and bring
new players in.

The change in marketing terms is not rebranding. It`s actually
repositioning. What the Republicans did wrong, it wasn`t, except with a
few cases, bad messengers. It was that we didn`t resonate with the hard-
working people around this country. We fight too much for taxpayers for
the wealthy. We look like we fight for loopholes for big corporations.

And we have lost our way fighting for average hard-working blue-collar
Americans. And that`s where we have to change, not the players, per se,
although there are new players, like a Tim Scott from South Carolina, which
is a great new player for the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Well, your guy -- your guy I don`t think is off the
contraception bandwagon, though, is he? Doesn`t he still think that`s an
issue that ought to be discussed nationally politically, contraception?


MATTHEWS: I`m serious about this. If you say...


MATTHEWS: You say that he isn`t going to talk about that anymore? If
you`re right, he won`t talk about it again.

BRABENDER: I will tell you this.

If you listen -- what he is talking about more than anything else is that
we have lost our way in fighting for hardworking middle-income Americans.
And if you go back and look at the primaries, where Rick Santorum won 11
states, tied two others, it was by galvanizing blue-collar and lunch bucket
Republicans who felt that the rest of the Republican Party had left them.

And, frankly, they liked the idea of a blue-collar guy from Pittsburgh who
was going to fight for them.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with that part. But that`s not what he was known

Let me go to Roger Simon.

The salience, let`s face it, the show business quality of Sarah Palin, when
she gets up on a stage, I don`t want to get into why it works, but it
works. She`s kinetic, exciting. She will bring the house down when she
shows up there. I don`t know what Mitt Romney -- nobody has asked him to
come back.


MATTHEWS: Nobody has asked for an encore from him. But this regular crowd
of Newt Gingrich...


MATTHEWS: ... who seems to be Freddy Krueger. He will never go away.

SIMON: It`s -- what`s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing
over and over and expecting a different result.


SIMON: This is what we`re seeing at CPAC. CPAC...

MATTHEWS: I think they say that in Alcoholics Anonymous too.

SIMON: Yes. Well...


SIMON: Well, CPAC is the warm, emotional beating heart of the Republican
Party, not necessarily the brains.

I don`t mean they`re stupid. I mean they`re not looking for cool
intellectualism here. They are looking for people who will appeal to the
emotional heartstrings of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Would they rather lose with a Goldwater or win with a Mitt

SIMON: Oh, they would rather lose with a purist than win with a

MATTHEWS: Go with that, John. Would you rather lose if you`re right? A
lot of old liberal Democrats enjoyed Adlai Stevenson because they had the
self awareness, well, he`s a lot smarter than Ike -- although I`m not sure
he was. But go ahead, your thoughts.


MATTHEWS: Would you rather win or be right, far right?

JOHN BRABENDER, FORMER SANTORUM SR. ADVISOR: There`s no reason we can`t be
both. I mean, look at -- look at the governors in 2010 where we ran about
bringing taxes under control, about bringing spending under control. One
of the speakers who will be at CPAC is Scott Walker, who`s a star.


BRABENDER: You know, you can still be right --

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about that. How bad would conditions have to
be in this country for us to elect someone of the far right as our
president? Not a governor of Wisconsin, president of the United States.
How bad would conditions have to be? We know how bad they were in `80 for
Reagan to come in who was right but not hard right.

What would it take for a real hard right guy like Santorum or Palin or the
rest of this crowd who are really part of the Tea Party to get elected
president of the United States?

BRABENDER: But let`s be honest, hard -- hard right is your sort of label
that you`re putting on this. If you look --

MATTHEWS: Well, I studied Nate (ph), what`s his name this morning --

BRABENDER: -- at the states. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, John Kasich in
Ohio. All these people, they ran --

MATTHEWS: Corbett has got a hard time getting re-elected. Come on.

BRABENDER: All these people ran on very hard core principles of less
spending, less taxes and creating jobs and more economic freedom. And
that`s what a lot of people want. That doesn`t have to be considered a
right wing message.

And everybody thinks that we`re only talking about social issues. We do
have to talk more about fiscal issues, but particularly the ones that hit
hard-working Americans.

MATTHEWS: Why when you --


MATTHEWS: You seem like a reasonable guy and I agree with you about the
lunch bucket guy. I root for that guy. I think Joe Biden does too from a
different perspective.

But how can you say that Sarah Palin stands for the working class regular
people? How can you say that they successfully got the message across if
you`re Rick Santorum?

People think of Rick Santorum and they think fantastic, overwhelmingly,
rigid, orthodox, classic, pro-lifer who would like to go back and get rid
of contraception as well. That`s what they think of. When they think of
Sarah Palin, she got elected for a term of office and didn`t know even
complete it. That`s what they think of.

They don`t think of these things you`re talking about.

BRABENDER: Chris, well let`s set the record straight. Rick Santorum in no
way supported getting rid of contraception, number one.

MATTHEWS: He said he wanted that to be a big issue in the campaign. You
want to get the tape out? We`ll show it tomorrow night.


BRABENDER: I`m not going to worry about whether it was contraception.


BRABENDER: The argument that he was making on contraception is that he did
not want this president of the United States telling everybody that they
had to sell it. But to be honest with you, if you look at the economic
policy of Rick Santorum, the number one issue was bringing back
manufacturing to this country. Something that this president said those
jobs are lost forever.

MATTHEWS: John -- John, I wish you were -- I hope you get the job as a
speechwriter because that would be something I`d like to hear too. By the
way, Ed Schultz and a lot of people would like to hear it.

Your thoughts? What`s he talking about? Because he`s talking about a
party that might have a chance to win an election, not a right wing party.

SIMON: He`s talking about an imaginary -- he`s talking about an imaginary
party respectfully. Protecting tax cuts for people who own corporate jets
is not a lunch bucket issue. And that`s where the Republican Party is now.

The Republican Party -- I mean, everything that you just heard was correct,
it just doesn`t happen to be what the Republican Party is pushing.

MATTHEWS: You mean that 47 percent that Romney is putting down is actually
the Republican Party?

SIMON: Exactly, the 47 percent who always want a handout with government
programs because they can`t earn livings otherwise.

You know, the CPAC Convention is like going to the produce department and
thumping the cantaloupes to see who`s ripe. That`s what the Republicans
are looking for.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to something that`s hot right now and I don`t know
where you stand on this, John.

But what about Wayne LaPierre being a featured speaker? Is there an
identity when the pro-gun lobby, the Second Amendment people who really
believe in ideologically that we`ve got to have a gun to protect ourselves
from a tyrannical government someday, is that really part of the
Republican? Because I went back and looked at the Republican platform,
which I maybe the only person that reads them, it`s all pro NRA language.

Is your party, the Republican Party now, identified pretty much uniquely
with the NRA?

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, I would say we`re the pro-liberty, pro-
freedom party which I believe is part of what the NRA platform is.

Second of all, if you look at states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin,
Michigan, where we pick up a lot of Democratic votes is on that issue where
they do feel that Obama and others are coming to take away their gun.
That`s why gun sales are up all across the country.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Obama is coming to take away somebody`s gun?

BRABENDER: Well, you explain to me why gun sales are up in all these
places, where there are very strong Democratic districts.

MATTHEWS: John, I welcome to this show, but I wish you`d answer a simple
question. Do you as an obviously articulate person believe that, John --
that President Obama wants to take away people`s guns? I haven`t seen any
proposal for confiscation. Not a single one. What are we talking about?

BRABENDER: I believe, I believe -- I believe that this president greatly
wants to limit gun rights. And what I also believe is that he is leveraged
terrible tragedies across this country in an emotional way to try to
advance a liberal agenda when it comes to guns and I think that`s

MATTHEWS: I think it`s a gun safety agenda. I think it`s a gun safety
agenda. But thank you, John Brabender. Really thank you. Please come
back. I want to hear from you.

Roger Simon, great to have you on.

Up next, the one issue that brought President Obama and Dick Cheney
together and it`s positive actually.

This is HARDBALL. I don`t say a lot of good things about Dick Cheney but
I`m going to do it and then I`ll try to forget it. Anyway, come back to
HARDBALL in a minute for the place for politics. You`ll be surprised.


MATTHEWS: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has sky-high approval ratings
in his home state but that may not be enough to make New Jersey a red state
if Christie runs for president.

Let`s check out the new HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new Quinnipiac
poll in a hypothetical 2016 matchup between Governor Christie and Hillary
Clinton, the governor comes up just short. It`s Clinton over Christie 49-

That would be a rouser. That`s enough to keep you excited about politics,
Christie against Clinton. Let`s have it!

We`ll be right back.



until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the
law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to
one another must be equal, as well.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In his inaugural, as you just saw it, President Obama made clear that he
intends to make marriage equality a priority in his second term.
Currently, there are nine states and the District of Columbia, there they
are in the map in which same-sex marriage is legal now. And there`s
legislation percolating in state courts that could add to that number and
it`s evidence that this fight for gay marriage is moving forward.

Today, the Respect for Marriage Coalition took out a full page ad, it was
so impressive, in the big papers in the country showing bipartisan support
for freedom to marry.

Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign, a great
organization. He co-chairs the Respect for Marriage Coalition that paid
for that ad. I`d love to know you financing there.

And Joan Walsh is editor at large for "Salon", and an MSNBC contributor.

Chad, first, that ad was very impressive. And we all know why, we ain`t no
(ph) -- if we put it back up again, we`ll know why we`re impressed. What
was Dick Cheney, the man of the hard right, I would sometimes say malicious
right, what`s he doing on such a fine piece of newsprint?

CHAD GRIFFIN, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Look, this is one of those issues --
I know it`s rare in Washington, Chris, but there`s actually bipartisan
agreement on marriage. This ad features Laura Bush and Dick Cheney and
Colin Powell and it ends with President Obama.


GRIFFIN: What else do those three agree on?

MATTHEWS: OK. Now, buddy, we`re going to get into trade craft. You
didn`t go to them and ask if they`d sign on this ad.


MATTHEWS: You`ve found what they said in print, right?

GRIFFIN: No, these were public interviews. These are actually TV
interviews, yes. These are clips.

MATTHEWS: Did they know they were going to be used in these ads?

GRIFFIN: No, these are TV clips that we took. These were obviously public
officials who are very open about their support for marriage equality.


GRIFFIN: And we put them in this ad.

MATTHEWS: Well, just to stay on that one bad penny, where is Cheney on
marriage equality? Exactly?

GRIFFIN: The last time Cheney has talked about this publicly, which had
been sometime now, is the clip I believe it`s here, where he says, you
know, freedom is freedom for everyone. But he has talked about the
importance of states moving forward on this issue. He supported marriage
equality in the states.

MATTHEWS: So he`s where the president was a while back a few months ago.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of this, Joan? You and I usually look at
things in a similar fashion. I did like to see Laura Bush up there. It`s
good independence movement by her. I`m impressed that she got out there,
you know? Didn`t do much of that as first lady, but she`s doing it now.

JOAN WALSH, SALON: Yes, I mean, as a supporter of marriage equality, I
think it`s a great ad. It`s a very smart ad and it reflects where the
country is going, Chris. As a Democrat, I`m forced to say that there`s
only one person in the ad who showed any political courage whatsoever in
taking his stand, and that was Barack Obama.

When he came out for marriage equality, it was very controversial. North
Carolina had just passed an anti-gay marriage referendum. There were
people who said he was risking support in some of the black community where
certain preachers have some mixed feelings about gay marriage. And what he
did, he led opinion and he led public opinion toward greater support for
gay marriage.

You know, Dick Cheney in 2004, Karl Rove used anti-gay marriage initiative
to really rev up the Christian conservative, evangelical vote. It would
have been a really courageous thing for him or Laura Bush for that matter
to have said something in 2004 when Karl Rove was helping them to ride that
issue to victory. So, better late than never.

WALSH: So better than never but it`s late.

MATTHEWS: Well, nine years ago, of course. Everybody is changing on this.
So many people are changing on this.

Tell me how you read it in terms of -- I read the platforms. I said a
while ago. The Republican platform on this issue --

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- sucks. It`s terrible. They have not changed as a party.
The party still has to play to its hard right, like it does on guns,
immigration, everything else.

How are you going to make it truly bipartisan whatever the courts decide
this year?

GRIFFIN: We`re going to continue working with Republicans, like those you
see in those ads. And Republicans like Ted Olson, and Republicans like Ken
Mehlman. You know, more and more folks are evolving towards support for
marriage equality. Some of those people supported marriage equality for
several years now. Some of those were clips from a few years back.

Chris, there`s no question, America is ready for marriage equality. A poll
that this coalition yesterday showed that 77 percent of Americans believe
that marriage equality will be the law of the land within the next two

MATTHEWS: You know politics, don`t you?

GRIFFIN: Indeed.

MATTHEWS: There`s an old theory.

And, Joan, you`ve seen these polls. I`m going to go to you. When people
are asked who`s going to win this election, that`s a secret way of asking
who they`re for.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: It usually shows a preponderance or preference, or prejudice
even, towards the person they say is going to win. What do you make of the
fact that this huge number of people, four out of five now, more than four
out of five say it`s going to be the law of the land?

WALSH: Well, I think it reflects that people know it is going to be the
law of the land. So there are probably people in there who are ambivalent
but want to be on the right side, as they do with politicians, Chris. But
it also reflects what we know, is that young people are overwhelmingly
leading this issue. And they`re leading the grownups and the right
direction, and we know in our families, as people come out, the older
generation accepts it, because they see it. So --

MATTHEWS: Another thing, it`s comfort, too. And I think it used to be the
image of gay pride, of same-sex equality, marriage equality was at the gay
pride parade, with some of the real outrageous performances on a float
somewhere. Now, their image is our state has it and it`s fine. All are
comfortable with it.

GRIFFIN: There`s no question. Finally, we are seeing real Americans,
families, just like the folks next door, telling their stories.

MATTHEWS: It`s not scaring anybody, either. Thank you so much, Chad

GRIFFIN: Of course. Thank you. Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: Joan, as always.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: there`s nothing so powerful,
someone said, as an idea whose time has come.

And that idea today is marriage equality. The numbers roll in as more and
more Americans accept the idea as the younger are seen embracing it,
indeed, wondering why it was an issue to begin with?

And so, tonight, we showed you a full-page newspaper ad with the pictures
of General Powell and Laura Bush and even Dick Cheney, joining President
Obama in the support of equality. Well, we`ll see.

I look at the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and see a Liberty
Clause and think about the Declaration of Independence itself and its
historic protection of the pursuit of happiness and wonder why we didn`t
all see it sooner

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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