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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

March 6, 2013

Guests: Mark Potok, Brian Levin, Kim Ghattas, John Feehery, Willie Brown, Nia-Malika Henderson, Mark Potok

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Beating around the Bush.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Bush! How long have we heard that name
in Republican politics? Bush! Grandpop was senator from Connecticut.
Father ran for the Senate seat in Texas, lost and got elected to the
Congress in Houston, then went on to be ambassador to the U.N., got stuck
doing duty as chairman of the Republican National Committee during
Watergate, became ambassador to China and then director of the CIA. George
Herbert Walker Bush waited even longer than the name, his long name, for
the big job, lost in 1980, then got named to run as vice president with
Ronald Reagan, ran again with Reagan, then won for president at `88 and
actually ran for president himself (INAUDIBLE) ran in `92 and lost.

Then came his sons, young George and Jeb Bush. They ran in 1994. George
won in Texas. Jeb lost in Florida. Four years later, George won his
second term and Jeb won his first. Two years after that, George won the
presidency -- the Supreme Court helped with that one. Jeb, after helping
him win that down in Florida, won a second term in Florida in 2002, then
took a breather.

And now he`s back. Can he -- the so-called smart one in the family -- get
the top job? Can the Republicans go through the trough -- go to the trough
one more time and drink another Bush? Well, six of the last nine
presidential elections, we`ve heard that name Bush right there on the
Republican ticket, six out of nine.

Bush! Does it grab you? Does it scare Hillary? Would it unite the
Republican Party and save it from oblivion? Does it scare Hillary --
that`s my favorite question -- or should it?

I`m joined tonight by two experts, David Corn of "Mother Jones" and
Republican strategist John Feehery. First of all, your thoughts when you
first heard what`s been going on. Bush is running around, and he calls
(ph) Laura back. She can`t back same-sex marriage -- you know, Get off the


MATTHEWS: And now he`s out there pushing a right-of-center -- far right-
of-center immigration proposal, which he`s sort of notched back from. But
he`s running for it. What`s happening?

CORN: Well, he`s certainly (ph) putting himself out there. You know, for
the past, you know, few months, after the Republicans lost, people kept
saying, Bush is the answer. Bush can help us to get (INAUDIBLE) how you
put it. Bush can lead us out of the wilderness with Latino voters. And
that was what (ph) they kept looking to. He`s an adult. He`s --

MATTHEWS: And what was -- give me the timeline on this. When was this?
When was Bush hot?

CORN: Well, I think starting with the -- with the -- with the election,
when --

MATTHEWS: When they got blown away.

CORN: Yes, blown away. But the thing is, here he comes out, and I think
he`s completely botched what he was supposed to be good at.


MATTHEWS: That`s a bad -- made a bad move.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: People have all made bad moves in the beginning.


MATTHEWS: -- about positioning. Is he positioned somewhere between now,
if he sticks with this tougher position on immigration -- is he positioned
to the right of Rubio and Christie and to the left of the crazies out there
like Santorum? Is he in the right place?

CORN: I think he`s -- he`s in the right place, but it`s really a narrow
niche. I think -- John can talk to this --

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

CORN: I think the Republicans are going to have a civil war about
immigration between the Rubios who want a path to citizenship and the Ted
Cruzes and others --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think --

CORN: -- who don`t want to. He`s kind of stuck in between.

MATTHEWS: I think (INAUDIBLE) by the way, let`s talk about the combination
of Republicans and Democrats because I think in the combination, they`ll
get something, but they`re not going to get the full ride.

Anyway, your thoughts about your party -- and you used to work to the top
of the Republican world. We were at that thing for Bob Michael. It was a
nice event.


MATTHEWS: The former Republican leader. What do you see -- I mean, I
don`t know whether you like to do this, but we`d love to do it here,
position people. Is Bush staking it out, like his dad did when he moved to
being pro-life and they all make these adjustments, the Bushes? Is he
putting himself in a position where he can deflect or perhaps jump ahead of
Rubio, jump ahead of Christie, at the same time grab enough of the right to
grab the party?

FEEHERY: Listen, David said something important. Jeb Bush is an adult,
and what the party needs is an adult. And I don`t think he was hot at the
election. He was hot before that. There were a lot of people that wanted
Jeb Bush to run in the last election because we didn`t have an adult. And
a lot of conservatives did not feel that Mitt Romney could handle it. And
I think that --

MATTHEWS: They define (ph) -- it`s my favorite word. I say grown up. I
do it about Dianne Feinstein and some other people (INAUDIBLE) just seem
like --

FEEHERY: Someone who has --

MATTHEWS: What you mean by grown up?

FEEHERY: Someone who has the gravitas to say to the wings that, You guys
are nuts, and we`re not going to go that way. We`re going to govern. And
governing`s important. The Republican Party has to prove that it can
govern. And when it can prove that -- and I think Jeb Bush is someone who
can govern. He did a fine job as governor of Florida. He actually put
conservative ideas into action.

And think that that`s why a lot of Republicans -- now, let`s be clear. The
revolutionary wing of the party does not like Bush. The royalist wing of
the party does like Bush.


FEEHERY: And I think, for Bush, he`s got to, you know, beat the
revolutionary wing.

MATTHEWS: OK, one indication of a possible run -- I think it`s more than
possible, I think it`s probable right now -- might be a rightward shift on
immigration by the former governor of Florida.

Back in June -- that`s last year, or actually this year -- last year -- he
told Charlie Rose that he supported a path to citizenship, which is the key
issue about this whole immigration comprehensive policy. Will you or will
you not let people who came here illegally become legal citizens? Well,
let`s watch his response then.


JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: You have to deal with this issue.
You can`t ignore it. And so either a path to citizenship -- which I would
support, and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most
conservatives -- or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some


MATTHEWS: Well, listen to that, a little quibbling there. Does he mean
full citizenship or something that allows you to get away with just staying
in the country and being not a voting member of the country but safely
here? On his new book, however, which has a lead time -- tricky thing
about books -- however, he had a different take.

He wrote, quote, "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our
immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that
those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished
fruits of citizenship. To do otherwise would signal once again that people
who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American

And this week, the governor walked back from that position, that newfound
opposition. Take a look at what he told Chuck Todd. And let`s listen to


BUSH: Remember, this is a proposal that we attempted to put out prior to
the election to create a consensus for conservatives to actually get in the
game because in November, prior to the election, we weren`t even in the

it`s possible, actually, though, that the path to citizenship may be
included in the eventual bill. And are you going to be OK with that?

BUSH: I`m -- I`m -- look, I -- I think we need comprehensive reform. And
if there is a path to citizenship that has enough of a realization that we
have to respect the rule of law --


BUSH: -- pay real fines and a longer period of time --


MATTHEWS: You know, my problem with the Bushes that -- I think, in many
ways, as family people and all, and citizens, they`re fine. What they do
is they charm you. They`ve always charmed us. George, Sr., was very
likable. He is very likable. W, when he was running, everybody in
Hollywood (ph) thought he was OK. I thought he was OK. I didn`t know he
was going to be this newfound neocon crazy Archduke of Cheney!


MATTHEWS: I didn`t know he was going to play that part. And now this guy
comes along, and I just wonder -- it`s one thing to play ball and footsie
with the right wing, but if you`re in office, you don`t want -- I don`t
want them in office. Is Bush going to end up a neocon, or like his dad, a
reasonable realist on foreign policy, a guy like Scowcroft and Jim Baker,
or will he go with the Cheney and the neon crowd?

FEEHERY: Well --

MATTHEWS: What would be your bet?

BUSH: My bet is he would go with the -- not the Cheney crowd, the other
crowd. I think that he would be a realist.

MATTHEWS: So we won`t have another war every time a Bush gets elected.

FEEHERY: I don`t -- I don`t think that we would --


FEEHERY: I don`t think we`d invade Iran right away.


CORN: We`re two for two, so far. Now, you know, I think that he looked
very Romneyesque in his explanation --

MATTHEWS: No, Bush had -- both Bushes had two apiece.

CORN: Yes. But I think he looked pretty Romneyesque in his explanation on
his policy. But look at this. If he -- you know, if -- if the primary in
Florida was next year, could he beat Marco Rubio? I think given this past
week --

MATTHEWS: That`s not how we run for president.

CORN: No, no, that`s -- you got to get the nomination before you run for

MATTHEWS: Yes, but it`s not about your home state primary.

CORN: But I don`t think he could beat Marco Rubio in his own state. And
if that`s the case --

MATTHEWS: What does that prove?

CORN: Well, what that proves is that he -- I don`t think he has the claim.
I know people like, you who want an adult leader for your party, love him.
I don`t see how he plays with the base of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) that point. Go with that point. Is he too moderate
for your far-out wing?

BUSH: I think he would -- I don`t think he`d run against Marco Rubio. I
think they`re friends and --

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) still have a Florida --


BUSH: I don`t think that`s going to be a problem. I do think that he does
have a problem with the wing of the party that is still virulently against
the war in Iraq, and he`s got to figure out a way -- because there is a
wing. There is that libertarian wing that did not like Iraq and did not
like getting into it, and he`s got to figure out how to --


BUSH: And he`s got to -- and he`s got to answer those questions about the
Iraq war.

CORN: But also (INAUDIBLE) foreign policy. I think the whole yahoo wing
of the party, people who cheered when they talked about self-deportation --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to something --


MATTHEWS: -- something non-ideological. You`re left, he`s right. OK,
let`s do something that just requires a little analysis here. When a party
gets beaten in an election it thought it was going to win -- because they
had a very good shot last November. We all agree on that.


MATTHEWS: Nobody really knew, except Nate Silver and a few others other


MATTHEWS: And Plouffe -- does it tend to go lurching off to its natural
pole, like left or right, like -- or does it naturally go, Wait a minute,
we lost a close one. What`s your tendency in that part (ph)? What do
people normally do in both parties, go to their hard wings or go to the
center when they lose a close one?

CORN: Well, look at -- after Goldwater got --


CORN: After Reagan lost in `76 to Ford and Ford lost to Carter, then you
know, they -- the party went back to Reagan and he won with -- so I think
it can go both ways. But I think it really depends, again, on the people
who select the nominees, which are the grass roots of the party. And I
think right now, you`ve seen them move to the right --


MATTHEWS: I don`t know who`s running to his right to compete (ph) him.

CORN: To whose right?

MATTHEWS: To George -- to -- to Jeb Bush`s right.

CORN: Oh, there will be people --

MATTHEWS: Who? Name one serious candidate that can run to Bush`s right!


MATTHEWS: This is the key point.

FEEHERY: That`s the point. Who`s the serious --

MATTHEWS: Santorum`s not getting elected to anything ever again as long as
he lives. He`s never going to be elected to any office, certainly not in
Pennsylvania. Newt Gingrich is never getting elected again to any office
anywhere in the country again. These guys can run and be in the clown car
all they want. They don`t count. Bush may count. If Hillary doesn`t run


MATTHEWS: If Hillary doesn`t run, I think he`s a player.

FEEHERY: -- talk about Republicans. There are three top candidates, I
think (INAUDIBLE) Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Chris Christie of New Jersey
and Jeb Bush.

CORN: And McDonnell`s to his right, isn`t he?

FEEHERY: And McDonnell`s to his right, but I think they`re all --


FEEHERY: I think they`re all governors and I think they all --


FEEHERY: -- (INAUDIBLE) fine choices.

MATTHEWS: OK, put your -- put your Hillary head on for a minute because
this is the thing we do focus on this show more than anything else.

CORN: Yes! We`ve noticed!

MATTHEWS: You do this. This is your field. This is your wheelhouse. In
Hillary Clinton`s head -- and she`s been through one loss and a couple wins
with her husband and she certainly did well in New York politics, very
well, and did a -- had a great -- we`re going to talk about it later in the
show -- had a great run as secretary of state.

What`s she thinking about? Is she afraid of the unknown or the known,
acceptable, establishment candidate like Bush, or is she less afraid of him
than she would be of a guy like Christie, who just might grab the Reagan

CORN: You know, my bet is that right now, she is not worrying about who`s
going to be the Republican nominee. She still has to get into her own head
whether she`s going to run. A good friend of hers told me just a couple
weeks ago that, you know, she`d like to be president, but she doesn`t want
to run to be president because it`s really going through hell and she --


MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t one of the things you think is do you want to run
against this guy or that guy?


CORN: I still think there is so much for the Republican Party to work out.
They have so many issues --

FEEHERY: The one candidate that she`d be most afraid of, I think, would be
a Chris Christie because he would -- he would go after the middle class,
the blue collar --


FEEHERY: And he`d also win and do very well in north -- the Northeast,
which I think would --


MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you one thing. In that election -- I`m just guessing
here. This always gets me in trouble. There`ll be a lot of men and
husbands and wives going into the voting booth thinking they`re voting for
the same person!


MATTHEWS: And I have the sense the guy may vote for Christie and woman may
definitely vote for Hillary, especially the guys my age.

CORN: I still --

MATTHEWS: But you don`t know. I mean, if Christie runs a good -- he`s a
wiseguy, he loses. If he comes off as a serious moderate Republican from a
big state, Eastern guy, I don`t know.

CORN: Christie`s the type of personality, too, that if he can stay
disciplined, he`ll do good. But there`s a possibility he can`t.

Jeb Bush, I wonder, though -- we were talking about boxers before we come
on --


CORN: -- whether he still has the timing. The last time he ran --


CORN: -- was 2002. That`s an age ago --


FEEHERY: Hillary Clinton has not been in the game for a while, either.
It`s going to be interesting to see if she`s actually going to run.

MATTHEWS: Yes. By the way, he -- I like one big thing about Bush, Jeb
Bush. I`ll narrow it to this. He`s really serious about education, which
I think is the key issue, not immigration, but the long-term assimilation
of people who come into this country, developing American civics, American
language, American culture. Assimilation is going to be our biggest
challenge in the next 100 years.

FEEHERY: He`s serious about almost everything.

MATTHEWS: And I really think everybody who loves America wants it to
happen. Anyway, thank you. And Bush believes in that. He`s got a family
that`s assimilating. Anyway, I hope I didn`t offend anybody, but I think
it`s what it`s about. I do believe in a united culture, ultimately. We
can all have our homelands, but we got to have this land as our key to what
we love.

Anyway, thank you both, David Corn -- I just danced on nails there!


MATTHEWS: Coming up -- and thank you, John Feehery.

Coming up: Guess who`s coming to dinner? I`ve been saying for months it`s
time for President Obama to stoop -- well, actually, stop being so aloof --
I guess stoop -- and start wooing members of Congress one on one. Well,
tonight, what an interesting -- they`re going to have a bunch of -- they`re
not going to meet with the Republican leaders, not McConnell and not
Boehner. They`re not in the business (ph) anymore. The president`s trying
to get behind enemy lines, having dinner with Republican senators, 12 of
them, who just might be open to making deals and getting past this
perpetual gridlock. It`s kind of like the first supper, not the last
supper, those 12 guys meeting with him.

Anyway, also, remember when the word "patriot" meant something good? Well,
now so-called patriots tend to be racists who want to overthrow the
government. And a new report says the number of paranoid hate groups
reached an all-time high last year, up an astonishing 813 percent in the
four years of the Obama presidency.

By the way, we`re going to look at what Obama`s presidency itself has done
to create all this right-wing hatred towards the government.

And cutting indiscriminately was just fine for congressional Republicans,
but no money for White House tours? Yes, cut the whole bunch but not White
House tours! Call in the cavalry! The faux outrage is coming up in the

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with that hatred of Obama. If it`s not ethnic,
racial, then what is it?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, this guy is interesting, I guess. Republican senator Rand
Paul of Kentucky spent the whole day filibustering President Obama`s
nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. Senator Paul took to the floor
objecting to the Obama administration`s drone policy and vowed to speak,
quote, "Until I can no longer speak." And sometime around midday, the
senator made this ill-advised reference, I think, to Adolf Hitler. Why do
they do this?


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Out of that chaos, Hitler was elected,
democratically. They elected him out of this chaos. The point isn`t that
anybody in our country is Hitler. I`m not accusing anybody of being that
evil. I think it`s an overplayed and a misused analogy. But what I am
saying is that in a democracy, you could some day elect someone who is very
evil. That`s why we don`t give the power to the government.


MATTHEWS: If he`s not talking about Hitler, what is he talking about
Hitler? Anyway, Paul went on to say he wasn`t talking about the president,
not Obama or anyone else in the world. He was just talking about Hitler.
As a reference point to what? I don`t know.

By the way, Brennan`s confirmation is expected to actually pass once Rand
Paul stops talking.

We`ll be right back.



sense up on Capitol Hill. It`s just it`s a silent group right now, and we
want to make sure that their voices start getting heard. In the coming
days and the coming weeks, I`m going to keep on reaching out to them.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tonight, as we`ve advertised,
President Obama attempts to forge that common sense caucus when he sits
down for dinner with 12 Republican senators at a neutral location. I don`t
know why they did this, but it`s the Jefferson Hotel, which is pretty
swanky here in Washington.

And here are the faces of the 12 senators. You see them up there. It`s
all part of an effort by the president to work around Mitch McConnell, the
Senate Republican leader, and John Boehner, the speaker, who are committed,
and have said so, to not making any deal that involves raising revenue.
Well, the president tried working with the Republican leadership in his
first term, of course, but to no avail. And this time, he`ll sidestep the
leaders, skip them out of the whole thing and reach into the rank and file
for compromise. At least, that`s what it looks like.

Earlier today, Senator Lindsey Graham commented on putting the group
together. Let`s listen to Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: How do you say no to the
president of the United States who would like to have dinner with some of
your colleagues? You don`t. When the president asked that I get together
a group, I willingly and I was honored to try to do that. Where this goes,
I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: See (ph) he had to explain the whole thing, almost apologizing
for meeting with the president. Next week, the president will travel to
Capitol Hill itself and meet, we`re told, separately with the Democratic
and Republican caucuses in both the House and the Senate.

And joining me right now, the "Washington Post`s" Nia-Malika Henderson, who
covers all this, and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. Thank you
both for joining us.

Mayor Brown, I just want to talk to you about the appearance of this and
the reality of this. Which is more important?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: It is the appearance of it.
For all reasons, far beyond anything we could ever fathom, this is the kind
of thing that should have been done from the first day that Mr. President
was elected. He should have been able to develop a relationship with every
person holding office one on one by first name.

Many times, you get better results out of those relationships than you do
out of substantive merit. He`s attempting to do that, and that`s proper.

the kind of thing that should have been done from the first day that Mr.
President was elected. He should have been able to develop a relationship
with every person holding office one on one by first name.

Many times, you get better results out of those relationships than you do
out of substantive merit. He`s attempting to do that, and that`s proper.

MATTHEWS: Nia, I think there`s a part of this that bugs me a little bit,
which is the -- sort of the staging of it.

If you want to make friends with somebody, you say, let`s go meet for a
drink after work or whatever is done. I don`t do this anymore. But let`s
meet and let`s have a dinner, maybe have some hamburger somewhere.


MATTHEWS: Do you stage it with such pretense, such ruffles and flourishes?
It reminds me of the Henry Gates beer time with Joe Biden and the cop up
there in Boston. It was so formal and so choreographed, you wonder how
these people can speak without being ratted out.

Don`t they want to talk off the record? It seems to me they would.

No, that`s true.

And the White House says that the sort of background, off-the-record
conversations the president has been having with people behind the scenes,
not necessarily the press getting readouts of those meetings.


HENDERSON: But this is much more formal and certainly a throwback to I
think the kinds of things that he did in the first months of his
administration. He would have people over. It would be much more formal.

This isn`t something the president has been good at. Let`s just face it.
I mean, he isn`t good at it in terms of reaching out to members of his own
party, let alone Republicans. I think this group, it`s significant that he
left Graham take the lead on this, and he has taken people that I think
represent this sort of commonsense caucus.


HENDERSON: And, also, these are people who were left over from that gang
of six in 2011 who really wanted to move towards a grand bargain.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Before we start doing the -- what do you call it, the
Pollyanna gifts, to start exchanging gifts here, let me get a couple things
straight, Mayor.

First of all, one of the people on this list is somebody you would not
include among the commonsense caucus on Pluto. Here`s President Obama, who
may have a tough time dealing with this guy tonight. He`s Wisconsin
Senator Ron Johnson. You will recall Johnson voted to filibuster Chuck

And when speaking before a group of fellow Republicans in Wisconsin last
month, he called the president`s reelection "a body blow to Americans, a
body blow to freedom."

And in a FOX interview, this same guy, Johnson, said Speaker Boehner is in
trouble if he agrees to any deal with the president involving revenues.
Let`s listen to this diatribe.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I don`t quite honestly believe that
Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that happens. I think he would lose
the speakership.


MATTHEWS: So, my question to you, does that guy, Mayor, belong in the
commonsense caucus, when he basically threatened the speaker of the House
with his job if he dared sit down with the president and talk about the
very thing he`s getting fed for tonight, to sit at a nice restaurant -- you
know the Jefferson probably pretty well, Mayor.

It`s a nice restaurant. It`s a nice dining room. And he`s going to -- I
don`t know who`s paying the bill tonight, but do you expect anything to
come out of this guy, Ron Johnson?

BROWN: Not at all.

As a matter of fact, if you`re going to deal with somebody as far away from
the president as this Ron Johnson, you do so literally one on one and you
do so in the darkness of night, because let me tell you, in that meeting,
in that dinner, he is going to be the guy who becomes the leak.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you got it.

BROWN: He`s going to be the guy that leads the identification of the so-
called traitors. He`s going to be the guy that places bad blood among

MATTHEWS: Thank you. You are great. You are good. This is why I love
you. You are so good.

Nia, this is what`s going to happen tonight. You and the other street
reporters, the beat reporters have already nailed out the people you think
you can get a call from or get an answer from at 10:15 tonight whenever
they walk out of that room. You have probably got Dan Coats ready and Bob
Corker ready and you know Lindsey Graham`s ready.

And they`re all ready to chat with you. And then you, well, who was the
friendliest of the president? Who said the most interesting treasonous
things. Who talked revenues, right?

BROWN: Absolutely.


HENDERSON: That`s right.


MATTHEWS: But, Nia, you`re going to try to catch somebody.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. I will be staking it out. I got to leave in a
couple minutes, as a matter of fact, to start staking out the territory.

But, yes, I mean, I think people like Johnson -- in some ways, I think
that`s why this group in some ways has credibility, because it does
represent all of the wings of the party, somebody like Johnson, somebody
like Kelly Ayotte, who is more of a moderate, somebody like Coburn, who`s
got I think both moderate tendencies, but he`s also go some leverage on the
right side of the party.


HENDERSON: So, you know, maybe it`s because I`m a good Southern Baptist.
Hope springs eternal. I`m someone with some faith.


MATTHEWS: Is that you?

HENDERSON: Maybe something will come out of this.

MATTHEWS: You`re the good -- you`re the Southern Baptist. You`re the
hopeful one.


MATTHEWS: Let me go to the more secular fellow here, Mayor.


MATTHEWS: Let me go to the mayor here.

Let me go to a couple names here. I think I know why some of these guys
are showing up. Pat Toomey represents a purple state. He will have a
tough reelection in 2016, no matter who runs against him. Lindsey Graham
has got nobody -- he`s got only a primary. Bob Corker has a serious race.
He will have one. Kelly Ayotte is from a real state which is always
purple. That`s New Hampshire. So, there are some people here -- Dan Coats
-- there are some people that actually want to know what a general election
looks like. It`ll be good for them, right, to sit down with the president?

BROWN: It will be very good for them to sit down with the president,

But let me tell you, the environment, the Jefferson is not the place where
you want to develop relationships. He should have take them to the White
House, take them on a tour of the White House. Let them meet his children.

MATTHEWS: You are so right.

HENDERSON: But I think they want neutral territory. I think that`s

MATTHEWS: Why neutral?

What is this? Here`s we`re going to modern youth. This is the youth.
This is the way you look at things, the new journalists today. What in the
world besides metaphor does neutral territory mean, besides metaphor? It`s
a metaphor.


MATTHEWS: But what does it mean, neutral? How is a hotel any more neutral
than meeting at the White House or meeting on the Hill?

HENDERSON: I think there are a lot of neutral things going on here.

One, that Graham is the one who assembled this group, and the other being
that the White House extended these invitations. And I think it`s
important. It`s away from the White House. It`s in D.C. Obviously, this
is a really swanky hotel.


MATTHEWS: I would invite a guy -- I would invite another member of
Congress or a member of the Senate if I were the president. I would invite
them to go bowling in the Executive Office Building. You can bowl. It`s
free there. You can bowl all night. You can have some fun.

He`s not that great at the game. He could probably make it with an ethnic
type guy who is better at the game. All right? No, he`d have some fun.
And at the end of the night they would have, they would able to laugh about
their bowling scores for the rest of their lives. This thing looks like a
setup. It looks like that Henry Gates beer outside with Joe Biden. That`s
what it looks like.

Your thoughts?

BROWN: It`s a -- Chris, it`s a total setup. There`s no way you call
Lindsey Graham up and said put together a caucus and bring some friends


BROWN: I`m going to try to create inside of the Republican operation a
sell group that`s going to be able to be helpful to me, the president.


BROWN: You`re out to lunch on this.

HENDERSON: But these are people who have been helpful.


HENDERSON: Somebody like Corker is somebody who`s reached across the
aisle. Somebody like Corker was on the gang of six trying to make a grand
bargain. That`s what the president wants to do. These are the people who
can possibly push forward a grand bargain.


MATTHEWS: Hope springs eternal from the Southern Baptist lady. Thank you
for joining us.


MATTHEWS: I wish you well tonight. I hope you get a story out of this,
Malika -- Nia-Malika Henderson, and Willie Brown, who thinks like I do.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, congressional Republicans who just -- are just finding
about this indiscriminate -- they`re -- actually, they`re just fine with
these indiscriminate defending spending cuts, unless they`re the ones who
have to explain to their constituents like they can`t put you on tour at
the White House anymore. Those are all canceled.

Well, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

First, the blame game continues now that the massive overhaul of spending
cuts has kicked in. But Republicans seem to be incensed about one specific
target of the cuts.

Here`s FOX News weighing in on the consequences.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they`re going to do is they`re going to shut off
White House tours. They`re going to stop them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re all free. You need a request from a
congressman or a congresswoman to get in there or senator. And then you
walk around the White House and that`s it.

But they want to put in maximum pain. So they are saying, OK, let`s cut
that off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s so childish.


MATTHEWS: Oh, there you are, "FOX & Friends."

Well, I have a suspicion. If they had kept the White House tour off the
hit list of those cuts, those people would have hit the president hardest
on that. But the alligator tears continue to flow in the Congress.

Here`s Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, remember him, the birther, offering
a solution.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: None of the funds made available by a
division of this act may be used to transport the president to or from a
golf course until public tours of the White House resume.


MATTHEWS: You can put that in the Gohmert pile.

Anyway, I detect actually some wit in that demand. But Gohmert is not
alone. His colleague from -- actually, Tom Graves of Georgia called
cutting off the White House tours an extreme consequence of the situation.

Well, no doubt there`s a political element to all this. You see, people
have to get a request of the tour through their member of Congress, meaning
Gohmert and other congresspeople actually have to turn down their own
constituents from back home. And they don`t like doing that when they come
asking for a tour of the White House.

Next, we all know that even amid all the infighting, Republicans still
agree that spending cuts should be a top priority. So it`s no surprise
that a proposed short-term budget release by the House GOP this week is
chockful of them, including this one -- quote -- "None of the funds made
available in this act may be distributed to the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now."

That group`s also known as ACORN. But here`s why it won`t make much of an
impact. It won`t have anything to do with budget woes. ACORN hasn`t
existed for three years. And the fact that it got chopped out of their
budget, the Republicans` so-called budget, is yet another sign of the
Republicans` lingering obsession with hating ACORN.

A PPP poll after the 2012 election -- never forget this number -- showed
that 49 percent of Republicans across the country, half the Republicans,
believe that the defunct group ACORN is the reason President Obama won the
election. He won the election they believe in their hearts and heads
because he somehow was helped by a group called ACORN that doesn`t exist.

Is that insanity?

Finally, here`s one thing that Shaquille O`Neal, Shaq, and John Kerry are
in complete agreement on. The hint comes in the form of this snapshot,
Dennis Rodman pretending to play the role of diplomat over in North Korea.
There he is with the president of North Korea.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Dennis Rodman was a great basketball
player. And as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player.


KERRY: And that`s where we will leave it.

SHAQUILLE O`NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I think we as people should
understand our roles in life. And I think people -- certain people should
leave the diplomacy to diplomats.


O`NEAL: That`s a very, very risky move, what he did.


MATTHEWS: I always liked Shaq. There`s always something about that guy I
have liked, I have always liked and respected. And I see why now.

Up next, a new report says that the number of right-wing extremists, anti-
government groups hit an all-time high just last year, up eightfold over
the past four years of the Obama presidency. Wonder if there`s a
connection between having the first African-American president and the nuts
going wild and growing?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market

The Dow builds on yesterday`s gains, ending 42 points higher after briefly
rising above the 14300 level. The S&P eked out a gain of one. The Nasdaq
fell one point.

The Fed`s latest regional survey on economic conditions showed growth
continued to improve in January and also in early February. And according
to the payroll firm ADP, the private sector added 198,000 jobs in February.
Economists expected a gain of 170,000.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The crazies are still on the rise. A study by the Southern Poverty Law
Center finds that the number of anti-government patriot groups has exploded
over the last four years. According to the study, these groups typically
believe that the federal government is conspiring to take Americans` guns
away from them and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global
one-world government.

Look, these are groups like the Constitution Party, We Are Change, Tyranny
Response Team, and Americans For a Free Republic. And these anti-
government patriot groups have skyrocketed in number during President
Obama`s time in office. There were only 149 groups back in 2008. In 2012,
there are more than 1,300. And that`s an increase of over 800 percent.
Look at the chart there.

Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to Homeland
Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder,
warning that the gun control debate may lead to even more such groups being

Mark Potok is a respected guy by us. He`s with the Southern Poverty Law
Center. And Brian Levin is with the Center for the Study of Hate and
Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Gentlemen, I want you to start tonight.

It`s your report, Mark, so lead the way here.

Let me ask you this. I`m going to get into this in my close tonight on the
show, which I feel a lot. I look at Obama as a perfect American. I don`t
mean politically. We can disagree left and right on him. You can argue
about the drones, argue about the fiscal policy, all that stuff. But, as a
citizen, the guy went to school, he never broke a law, he did everything
right, he raised a wonderful family, he`s a good husband, a good family.

My God, I don`t think he`s ever got a speeding ticket. The guy does
everything right. And these right-wing -- and he`s really been pretty
moderate on guns until the horror of Newtown. And I don`t know what
they`re so afraid of him for, except he happens to be black.

Is there some reason why he has sparked this explosion in right-wing

Chris, I mean, it has to do with his color.

What I would say is that, with a lot of these groups, it`s not visceral,
Klan-like racism. It`s not, you know, we want to send black people back to
Africa or something along those lines. It`s more like, I look at the White
House, I see a black man there, I feel the culture is changing around me.
By the way, the economy is terrible. I can`t get a job or I`m afraid I`m
going to lose the one I do have. And it melds together in a feeling I`ve
lost my country. Somehow this is not the country that my forefathers

So I think there`s real racism in there.


MATTHEWS: Let me argue that -- let me argue that. There`s so much of
America that remains traditional. Small town American life is very much
small town American life. Our religions are still our religions.

I mean, movies can be racy but you don`t have to go to movies. You can
ignore their existence. Television`s pretty tame.

What is it that really -- that really rocks them? That really makes them
go my God it`s not my life. What is it? I`m still looking for it.

Communities change ethnically. That`s always been a concern of people
who`ve lived there a long time, with something new, it`s hard to accept
sometimes. But these people live out in the Rocky Mountain areas. They
live out in the Northwest. There`s not much ethnic change going on in
their lives, is it? Is there?

POTOK: Well, there`s ethnic change going on in more places than you think,
first of all. I lived in Alabama which used to be a state essentially of
white people and black people and there`s now very substantial Hispanic,
Latino population.

So, there`s that, but there`s also discomfort with cultural changes like
for instance same-sex marriage, obviously increasing majorities of
Americans are in favor. Don`t oppose same sex marriage. But for a lot of
people, something like that is a very tough pill to swallow. It makes them
feel that they live in a kind of brave, new world.


POTOK: So, certainly it`s true. I mean, you don`t have to watch racy TV.
You don`t have to sort of see Madonna on MTV or whatever it is. And yet, I
think there`s a feeling that things are changing and changing very quickly.

MATTHEWS: Well, luckily for us, our marriages are really involved the
relationship between two people. Me and somebody else, my wife, my queen,
you know? It has very little to do with anybody else luckily.

Let me go to you, Brian. I mean, the way I`m chalking this up, this right
wing hysteria if you will, maybe it`s logical in their point of view the
way they`re thinking of demographic change. But guns, immigration, and
gays -- is that your reading that those are the stimuli to these people
when they decide to organize these hate groups?

BRIAN LEVIN, CTR. FOR STUDY OF HATE & EXTREMISM: I think it`s a lot of it,
but I think we have to put it into context. The folklore of the far right
and I`m not talking about Mitt Romney supporters. I`m talking about people
who have opted out of our political process. And that`s what problematic.

These people see the terra firma under them shifting. Something that
anchored them before, they no longer see them as anchoring them.

MATTHEWS: Who do they root for? Who they root for?

LEVIN: They don`t root for anybody now.

MATTHEWS: They don`t root for Rand Paul? Pat Buchanan? I mean, they must
love this new guy, Ted Cruz. They must love Ted Cruz. Come on.

LEVIN: Look, I think you hit a nerve. And what that is, is there is now a
part of mainstream politics which aligns with these kind of conspiracy
theories and they are getting away with what are traditional conservative
Republican anchors. That is small government, personal responsibility, the
idea that we are part of a political process and if we didn`t win this
time, we`ll try again. Now, we`re hearing secession.

MATTHEWS: I like the way you talk. That makes sense.

But what happened to the guys, the crazy -- I call them crazy because they
have so much evidence to the contrary. Why is Louie Gohmert of Texas over
and over again talking about birtherism?

Why is Donald Trump with the sophistication of New York City around him --
I`m going to get back to you on this, Mark -- why does he pander to these
haters? Every time a guy with the money and the background and all the
advantages of like the beautiful wife that show, he has everything going
for them and they can point to a guy like that and say, he`s not facing
financial problems. He`s not facing marital problems. He`s got it made
and he believes all the nutty stuff I believe. He panders to them.

What is that -- how does that fit into this stuff?

POTOK: Well, I mean, who in the world is to say what Donald Trump really
believes? I mean, I think the reason people act the way they do in large
part is because there`s a base out there. You know, I also think that
there`s a kind of reverse part of this equation which is that characters
like Donald Trump, like a Lou Dobbs formerly on TV. There are a number of
people out there who are essentially acting as transmitters, who are
bringing ideas from the very, very far fringes of the society into the



POTOK: So we`ve got birtherism, we`ve got birthers. We`ve got all kinds
of conspiracies.

MATTHEWS: I`m hearing the same music from the more sophisticated and least
sophisticated. But it`s the same music. The government is no good. It`s
out to get you. It`s out to grab your guns.

The country`s turning brown and black and you got nothing -- you`re
becoming irrelevant and gay. And you`ve got nothing to deal with it.

You know, it`s not all the messages of Trump. He just sells the fact that
our president is from another country and basically snuck into this
country, somehow pretended to be who he is, and it`s all a fraud. I think
that`s dangerous talk to.

Your thoughts, Brian.

POTOK: I think it`s worth adding how --

LEVIN: One of the things we`re seeing here on both sides of the political
spectrum and I think it`s important to recognize that. Now, we certainly
have a risk of violence towards more so of the extreme right wing.

MATTHEWS: Who on the left is talking nutty right now?

LEVIN: Charles Barron (ph) is talking nutty from the left. The truthers
are talking nutty from the left. So, we have Alex Jones (ph) in the right.
We have Charles Barron the left. We have the people with anonymous, with
all kinds of conspiracy theories.


LEVIN: One thing I think is important and that is conspiracy theories and
the decoupling from the institution and processes of our pluralistic
democracy occurring on both sides of the political spectrum. So, we`re
hearing almost an equal number of people say Bush was the antichrist as is
Obama possibly.

MATTHEWS: OK, I don`t buy that it`s symmetric here. There are more
birthers than there are truthers.


LEVIN: Public Policy Polling --

POTOK: That`s right. The idea there`s an equivalency of the far left and
far right I think is ridiculous. I agree with Brian on that there are
conspiracy theories on both sides.

MATTHEWS: This argument will continue --

LEVIN: The Internet --

POTOK: Brian, perhaps I could talk a little too, huh?

LEVIN: We have conspiracists on the left. Look at the truthers. Look at
all this kind of stuff on the left. We have it on the right as well.

What I agree with Mark is, is that it is much more mainstream with regard
to the institutions of the mainstream conservative movement.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the Republicans put in their platform, that`s the

Mark, your last thoughts quickly.

LEVIN: I agree with you both on that.

POTOK: Just that. Look. It`s the Republican Party that has adopted, for
instance, the agenda 21 conspiracy, the idea that there`s a U.N. plot to
strip away private property rights. It`s just ridiculous to describe the
extreme left at this point in our history as equivalent to the extreme


MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. We`re going to have more on this as the year
goes on.

Mark Potok --

LEVIN: Not an equivalency --


MATTHEWS: OK, Brian. Brian, we`ll have you back too. Brian Levin, thank
you so much, gentlemen.

LEVIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Up next, if Hillary Clinton runs for president, she`s got to run
on her record, of course, as secretary of state. What`s her biggest
diplomatic achievements?

I`m going to get to the hardcore of the Hillary achievement in the last
four years. We`ve got an expert coming here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton`s top achievements as secretary of state.

Stick around. HARDBALL is back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

They say if you really want to know someone, travel with them. In that
case, my next guest, she`s sitting here, has extraordinary knowledge of the
former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

As foreign correspondent for the BBC, Kim Ghattas spent four years
traveling and covering Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she went
around the world, including 18 one-on-one interviews. She writes about the
experience in her book "The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from
Beirut to the Heart of American Power."

Wow. So you know her, Hillary Clinton. You like her?

KIM GHATTAS, AUTHOR, "THE SECRETARY": I would like to think I do.

MATTHEWS: You like her and you admire her.

GHATTAS: I`m a journalist. I give a fair and balanced assessment in my
book of her tenure.

MATTHEWS: OK, what are her strengths? Let me put it this way. Hard copy.
You have to write the Encyclopedia Britannica on her tenure as secretary of
state that stands the test of time. What did she do that secretaries
before her didn`t do? How is she unique?

GHATTAS: Well, first and foremost, she restored her on political portions
going from, defeated political candidate in 2008, to one of the most
popular politicians in the United States with ratings close to 70 percent.
You know, popular with Republicans, as well -- although, of course, if she
decides to go back into politics, those ratings will go down again.

But also, she has found new ways of getting business done for the United
States in the diplomatic field around the world, at the time when the U.S.
doesn`t have all the money that it wants to get things done around the
world. That falls under the --

MATTHEWS: So, what`s the Hillary difference? What does she accomplish in
these new ways?

GHATTAS: Smart power. Look at Libya. You can`t do it all. You can`t do
all the heavy lifting on your own. You get allies on board, like the
French, the British, but also the Arabs, the key difference. And you go to
war --

MATTHEWS: Did she help bring about the overthrow of Gadhafi, could you

GHATTAS: Indirectly, yes. I don`t think that was the stated goal
initially. But certainly, that was the result.

MATTHEWS: What about -- what about the Middle East generally? Has she
made any progress, has anybody in the last four years, the president
included, any progress towards getting Netanyahu at the table with the

GHATTAS: Well, there was no progress during the Bush administration
either. So you have to look at the big picture, also keep in mind that
parties on the ground don`t always play ball with the United States. And
it`s easy to blame the United States for not doing enough. But the parties
on the ground weren`t necessarily interested, jumping up and down ready to
make the concessions that were needed to get to --

MATTHEWS: Where was Hillary Clinton on the issues I care about, war and
peace? Iraq, did she support the decision to basically get out of there?
Which is what we`ve done, end the war, leave.

GHATTAS: I think that she probably would have liked to see, just like the
president, more troops stay behind, a more forceful presence. But at the
end of the day, it involved negotiations with the Iraqi.

MATTHEWS: I know, they didn`t want us to do that.

GHATTAS: They didn`t want to stay.

MATTHEWS: They wouldn`t protect our troops from litigation, federal

GHATTAS: Absolutely. And it`s the same problem you`re facing in

MATTHEWS: And where is she in Afghanistan? Does she want us to get out at
the end of the next year? Is she with the president on that?

GHATTAS: She`s very loyal. And she has not indicated that she`s not with
the president on that. At the end of the day, that is what defined her
relationship with the president -- loyalty.

If she decides to run for 2016 and it`s a big "if", she will have to show
how she was different from President Obama and some of those key decisions,
whether it`s Afghanistan or whether it`s Syria.

MATTHEWS: If she were calling the shots on Iran, a little speculation
right now, where should she be on Iran and its nuclear program? Would she
more (INAUDIBLE) to the hawkish side of the president?

GHATTAS: Perhaps a little bit. But I think this administration very much
was on the same page when it comes to dealing with Iran. A tough diplomacy
with an effort to reach out to the Iranians. But, again, it requires the
Iranians to want to reach out to the United States.

It doesn`t always -- it`s not always enough for the United States to want
something. Look at Burma.


GHATTAS: The Burmese decided that they wanted to reach out. That`s why
that effort worked.

MATTHEWS: Did you ever get to ask on your 18 interviews if she thought she
made a mistake or was right, one way or the other, open question, on Iraq,
which she supported the resolution allowing us to go to war? Did she ever
say that was a smart or a bad decision or she wanted to rethink it?
Because it was a big issue in her election with Obama.

GHATTAS: I didn`t actually ask her about that during my 19 interviews, as
you mentioned. We`re very much looking forward. But she did, you know,
address that herself in many of her statements. I think that what she does
very much is keep looking forward and trying to figure out a way of moving
forward for the United States.

MATTHEWS: I would ask that question first.

Anyway, thank you, Kim Ghattas. I`m sure it`s a great book. It`s called
"The Secretary". I`m sure everybody watching this show loves Hillary and
wants to read.

Good luck with the book.

GHATTAS: It`s fair and accurate assessment of her tenure.

MATTHEWS: Just like us. We`ll be right back.

GHATTAS: Absolutely.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. I think about these hate
groups. What did Obama do to earn the hatred? Is he some kind of
dangerous criminal, the kind they say they need to protect themselves and
their families from?

Not exactly, Obama came up as a community organizer, a soft sell guy, a
stabilizer in the community. In fact, he`s done just about everything
right in his life. Didn`t have a father around, but did a great job in
school himself. Got into Columbia, and later, Harvard Law. Didn`t become
a money grubber anyway. He just decided to work helping people in his own
community. A peaceful kind of guy.

Is he some bounder who doesn`t take responsibility for his manhood? I`d
say just the opposite. One marriage, faithful husband, good kids. From
all appearances, a really caring father, goes to games with the kids.

So what is it that the haters fear about this guy? What do they hate?
That he`s black? Is that it? Is it the gun issue? He didn`t push gun
issues until Newtown.

Is it the immigration issue? He`s got a bill that`s practically the same
as the gang of eight right there in the middle.

So, what is it they hate in this guy? They should be applauding him as a
role model, because if this country is going to be a united country a
hundred years from now, white, black and brown, this is just the guy you`d
want out there standing there as our role model.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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