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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, March 11th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

March 11, 2013

Guests: Bobby Ghosh, Michael Nutter, Val Demings

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Paul Ryan, the health bomber.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Here we go. Right in the middle of all
this "Let`s get together" mood in Washington, the dinner with Republican
senators, the breakfast with Paul Ryan himself and his Democratic
counterpart, Chris van Hollen, out pops the killer rabbit, if you will, the
mad bomber.

Paul Ryan, hardly finished with his breakfast at the White House, is
suddenly out there with the wingnuts calling for the all-out elimination of
the Affordable Care Act, President Obama`s hard-win health care bill. The
measure written into law by a vote of the House and a 60-senator
supermajority Ryan now proposes killing.

He wants to do a pretty good job of Medicare, too, while he`s in the
killing business, calling for an elimination of Medicare as people know it
and replacing it with a voucher system so that people in their late 70s and
80s, and 90s, I suppose, can go out and have a late in life adventure of
shopping for health care insurance. What an ingenious way to, quote, "save

My question is why the newspapers keep acting as if this guy, Paul Ryan, is
some big Republican brain. Is this the person with whom the president
needs to strike a grand bargain? If so, we`ve got problems. Let`s see.
You say health care, Mr. President, I say no health care. You say
Medicare, Mr. President, I say vouchers. Where do you find the middle
ground on those two?

I`m joined by David Corn, who`s with "Mother Jones," of course, and`s the great Joy Reid.

Joy, you can start here. I am -- I have to tell you I`m flabbergasted only
in the sense that everybody keeps telling me that Paul Ryan`s got some
smarts. And here in the middle of this get-together, and let`s find a
middle ground, let`s work together, he pops out with, Let`s kill President
Obama`s place in history to start the conversation. That`ll warm him up.
Your thoughts.

I don`t know if it was about him that Paul Krugman said it`s sort of a dumb
person`s view of what a smart person sounds like because this is a pretense
of seriousness. I mean, Paul Ryan is essentially trying to propose to
balance the budget in 10 years. His previous draconian budget did so in
something like 40.

So in order to meet this new ideological purity test, which is austerity at
all costs, budget balancing, this new sort of fetish on the right, he`s
decided to take a meat axe not only to Medicare, as you said, voucherizing
it again, which he already proposed and was rejected before. But then
there`s this idea which is totally disingenuous, as if -- if there`s a
single Democrat breathing in Washington, they`re not going to repeal the
Affordable Care Act. It is not going to happen, and he knows it. He`s
putting it in there because his numbers don`t add up. And he can`t make
them add up.

And just one other quick thing...


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. There is a Machiavellian reason why he did it.

REID: His numbers don`t add up because...

MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd came up with this. If he says, I`m going to
eliminate health care, the "Obama care" program, affordable health -- if
I`m going to eliminate -- and put that as one of the features in my budget,
then every Republican in the House has to vote for it because if he or she,
Republican, votes against it, they will be accused of being for "Obama


MATTHEWS: This is the ingenious craziness of this. It`s a reverse poison
pill. Let me go to David for a second.

it`d be the equivalent of Barack Obama coming out and saying, I want to cut
a deal on the grand bargain with Republicans, but I insist on a single-
payer Canadian-style health care plan. If you don`t do that, I`m not
talking to you.


CORN: If he said that, would everyone in the Beltway go out and say, What
a smart, intelligent, thoughtful leader that president is?


CORN: He`d be pilloried from everybody -- you know, from the center to the
right here. Yet, you`re right, Paul Ryan can come out and do this. And...

MATTHEWS: How does he get the free ride with the press?

CORN: Maybe the bar is very low for some Republicans, compared to Newt
Gingrich or Herman Cain. I mean, I do like the line that -- you know, that
came out a year or two back when he first proposed this budget, and people
like Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama in a more gentle manner, said, Wait a
second. Tell me how it`s courageous to cut Medicare and Medicaid and not
tax the wealthy.

MATTHEWS: And by the way...


MATTHEWS: ... as was pointed out here later this afternoon, Joy, not just
did he propose these terrible cuts in programs that really affect old
people in this country on health care, who really depend -- and by the way,
they paid into it -- depend on Medicare, people watching this program right
now. Maybe half our viewers either have it or expecting to get it soon.
They`re wondering why does this guy want to cut that?

Meanwhile, huge tax breaks for the rich. He`s Ayn Rand personified here.
He is not a deficit hawk. He believes in taking the savings, if you want
to call them savings, from people who need care from the government, if you
want it, and then give it to rich people.

REID: No, absolutely. And Paul Ryan`s ideology is not about cutting the
deficit. It`s not about reducing the size of government. It`s about
shifting the focus of what government invests in, that Ayn Randian
philosophy that spending money on poor people and old people is a waste of
money. You should spend it on...

MATTHEWS: Looters.

REID: They`re just looters.


MATTHEWS: Ayn Rand called them the looters. Remember that?

REID: Exactly.

CORN: Now we call them -- now we call them the takers.

REID: The takers versus the makers.

CORN: It`s the same argument. It`s a trillion dollars in cuts in his
budget for Medicaid, food stamps and education and job training programs, a
trillion dollars, and not doing anything in terms of the...

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re not alone here in this critique. Even a former OMB
director under President George W. Bush, Jim Nussle, called Ryan`s proposal
to eliminate "Obama care" unrealistic. Here`s what he said on CNBC just
this morning. Let`s listen.


JIM NUSSLE, FORMER BUSH OMB DIRECTOR: Chairman Ryan coming out saying, you
know, One of the marquee issues in the budget is going to be repeal of
Obama care -- well, I mean, I think we fought that battle. I think it`s
over. It`s been over a few times. So I mean, good luck with that one.
That doesn`t make it any more realistic.


MATTHEWS: What about -- Joy, what about this proposal? I mean, he`s got
here -- he`s assuming the $600 billion in new revenues that were decided on
in the fiscal cliff -- he`s opposed to a lot of this stuff. He`s now
acting as if it`s all going to be there.

I mean, he`s really kind of loosey-goosey, I think, in the way he decides
what to buy as current law. Let`s see, health care is not current law.
We`re going to get rid of that. But we`re going to keep this other little
feature, whatever suits his purposes, because I really do think you got
something there, David, which is the IQ level, ability level on the
Republican side is so crazy out there, on the Tea Party side, that anybody
that actually reads books, you know, even Ayn Rand -- I mean, you read any
book, you`re sort of like the smartest kid in the pack. Joy?

REID: And anybody that cites numbers. I mean, the thing is, I think the
reason that the Beltway media is so enamored with Paul Ryan is that he`s
actually willing to be specific. And normally, what you have Republicans
do is just say, Reduce the size of government and they`re very vague about
it. He`s very specific about what he wants to go after...


REID: ... the poor and old people. And he puts numbers there. So people
-- again, it`s a pretense of seriousness.



REID: ... disingenuous thing?

MATTHEWS: Yes, sure, Joy.

REID: He will -- the last budget, he said he wants to get rid of "Obama
care," but he incorporates the savings from the $716 billion...

CORN: Yes.

REID: ... into his own budget, then attacks the president for it.


REID: He does these pirouettes!

MATTHEWS: Let`s recap for a second. We`re really talking about a period
right now, in March of 2013, where we`re supposed to be moving into a
season of negotiation for some kind of grand bargain. I`m very skeptical
because now this.

How can you take this as the Republican starting point? And as you said,
the president didn`t come off as Mr. Socialist at all. He`s somewhere in
the middle, center left slightly. How do you (INAUDIBLE) together with
this guy?

CORN: I mean, there`s an important point here. Too often...

MATTHEWS: Can you make a deal with him?

CORN: Well, I don`t think you can. You know, there`s a sort of moral
equivalency in Washington that if Washington`s not working, then it`s the
president`s fault and the Republicans` fault.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean objective journalism...


CORN: Like Bob Woodward said, Why doesn`t the president lead more...

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know.

CORN: ... and cut a deal? But I see it -- when you come out with these
positions -- I think you can talk to people like Thomas Mann and Norm
Ornstein. They will tell you, these radical centrists, that it`s clear the
president has moved far more towards the middle or in the right`s direction
to cut a deal than these guys have.


CORN: And when Paul Ryan comes out and says, Listen, I want to pretend
that 2012 did not happen, it`s like "Back to the Future"!


CORN: He got in a new time machine to put out this budget which is even
more harsh than the one that was rejected in 2011, 2012, by the voters.

MATTHEWS: And as Joy mentioned just moments ago, while Ryan`s budget calls
for the elimination of Obama`s health care law, it keeps one aspect of it,
that $700 billion in cuts to Medicare. The law created here, by the way --
here`s what`s so shocking about that is vice presidential candidate last
year, Ryan, vigorously campaigned against those cuts, saying -- using them
to bash the president. Let`s take a look at the old Paul Ryan, like, a
year ago.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), FMR. VICE PRES. CANDIDATE: "Obama care" takes $716
billion from Medicare to spend on "Obama care."

They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a
piggy bank for "Obama care." Their own actuary from the administration
came to Congress and said one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are
going to go out of business as a result of this.


MATTHEWS: And there they are, right in his plan, that same $716 billion.

Let me ask you -- final question, Joy. As I said, I want you to take some
time on this. Who does the president negotiate with if he`s going to do
so? And by the way, not every right solution is somewhere between one side
and the other. As somebody pointed out in a column this morning, sometimes
you -- like at a Chinese restaurant, column A sometimes, column B
sometimes. Sometimes one party is right, sometimes the other party is

I would say the Republicans are historically pretty good on fiscal
responsibility -- not lately, but historically pretty good. Democrats
aren`t so great on that issue of cutting spending. But you get benefits
from both sides.

Democrats were a hell of a lot better on health care, hell of a lot better
for old people generally. Republicans have never done anything for the old
people. Democrats created Social Security against Republican opposition,
created Medicare against Republican opposition and created "Obama care"
against Republicans. So it isn`t like getting somewhere in the middle.
They`re nowhere!

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Democrats are somewhere. And that`s -- so you can`t just
split the difference. But I want to go back to how can the president
negotiate if he doesn`t have a negotiating partner of any kind of sort of
common sense here?

REID: No, I totally agree. And because John Boehner has completely
abdicated the role of negotiator, instead kicking it to the Senate...


REID: ... and then you sort of had this outsourcing of all of the policy
ideas to Paul Ryan, it leaves me really dubious that they`re going to make
any grand bargain at all because there is no negotiating partner.

CORN: And look at what Eric Cantor`s saying...

MATTHEWS: Answer the same question.

CORN: Same question. Eric Cantor two weeks ago told Ryan Lizza at "The
New Yorker" that he killed the grand bargain. And he said this with pride.
So you have a guy there saying, I`m opposed to these sort of deals. You
have Boehner without power. You have Paul Ryan in fantasyland and from a
policy perspective. And Mitch McConnell is sort of hiding behind maybe
waiting for a phone call from Joe Biden.

But the president really doesn`t have anyone who wants to move as far as he
himself is willing to move.

MATTHEWS: OK. Another nail in the coffin. Here`s something else that
will remain in the Republican budget this year, $600 billion in tax hikes
agreed to in the fiscal cliff deal. Paul Ryan might have voted in favor of
the fiscal cliff deal, but many Republicans did not.

Take a look at how Congressman Jason Chaffetz -- he`s from Utah --
responded to the contradiction this morning. Let`s watch here, another
little wrinkle.


MATTHEWS: Did you vote against the fiscal cliff deal?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Yes, I did. I did.

MATTHEWS: Is this budget going to assume the $600 billion in new revenue
in that fiscal cliff deal?

CHAFFETZ: Well, we haven`t gotten to the final product. Paul has not yet
released it. The Budget Committee has not yet...

MATTHEWS: Do you think it should?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it potentially will. Potentially...

MATTHEWS: Do you think it should?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I want to look at it in its totality. Look, at the end of
the day, you`ve actually got to put numbers on piece of paper and achieve


MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, and David, you know this as well, this Republican
probably for years, going back, way back to the Reagan administration, of
trying to make it clear that they`re still the party of fiscal
responsibility when they don`t because they -- since the old days of maybe
Eisenhower, and before -- back before them, and Bob Dole and people like
that, when they really were -- Jerry Ford -- when they really did believe
that the main purpose of budgeting was to balance it.

Now they believe in all other (ph) things -- huge defense expenditures,
huge tax cuts, and these other strange things they want to do with
vouchering and things like that. They`ve got so many other ideological
ambitions, I think they`ve lost track of -- what did somebody say? He
said, Paul Ryan said we`re going to balance the budget in 40 years?


MATTHEWS: I mean, I would say that`s a low priority on the back burner.
Your thoughts, Joy. I really think -- that`s why I think they have to come
up with these gimmicks, why they have to keep allowing, Oh, yes, we`ll take
the Democrats on that, we`ll take the people on that we voted against,
because they`ve got to get the numbers to look even realistically fiscally

REID: No, absolutely, Chris. I don`t know if it`s just me, but Paul Ryan
reminds me of kid that cheats off your paper, and then the teacher thinks
they`re the smartest kid in the class, because he keeps cheating off Barack
Obama`s paper. He`s, like, I`ll take his tax cuts, I`ll take his $700
billion in Medicare savings, I`ll add that into my budget because my
numbers just are wrong and don`t add up.

And you`re right, the Republicans have never been for balancing the budget.
They`re the ones who want to spend the most on defense. Medicare part D
was something George Bush did and that they muscled through Congress,
because, you know, extorting congressmen to vote for it.

CORN: Yes, but look what happened...

REID: They believe in spending money on the wealthy, essentially, and on
seniors when it`s good for them politically.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Joseph Gordon Lovette (ph) would play him in the


MATTHEWS: I really do think they`re going to try to make a hero out of
this guy.

CORN: Is it comedy or horror?

MATTHEWS: No, a sad story of a once prominent future. Anyway, thank you,
David Corn, and thank you, Joy. Coming up -- Joy Reid.

Coming up: As if we didn`t have enough reason to be fed up with the war in
Afghanistan, now the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, says the
United States and the Taliban are, in effect, working together to keep the
country unstable and justify a continued American presence. In other
words, we`re killing our own people over there so we can stay. It`s
comments like that that make Americans say, You don`t want us? Fine.
We`re getting out of there. We`re taking our soldiers with us and our
money and we`re going home.

Also, our own Howard Fineman joins us. He`s going to report the rumors are
true that Ashley Judd is planning to take on Mitch McConnell for that
Senate seat in Kentucky next year. McConnell will paint her as a Hollywood
liberal, of course, but she`s Hollywood liberal who can raise a whole lot
of money.

And all this talk about Americans buying more and more guns may be a bit
overblown. We`ve learned this weekend that the percentage of households in
this country with guns is steadily declining. In other words, it`s the
same people out there buying over and over again more and more and more
guns in the same sort of different households. So That`s an issue we`ve
got to look at when we come to gun legislation.

And economist "New York Times" columnist and liberal hero Paul Krugman
files for bankruptcy, and the right wing rejoices. Or not. It`s the
latest satirical story swallowed whole by the right-wing media that just
wishes it were true.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like we know who the next secretary of labor is
going to be. Numerous reports say President Obama will pick Thomas Perez,
who is currently the assistant attorney general for the Justice
Department`s Civil Rights Division. Perez is the son of exiles from the
Dominican Republic and would be the only Latino to date in the president`s
new cabinet.

Perez`s nomination is expected to be welcomed by organized labor, which
sees him as defending worker and civil rights.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Afghanistan`s President Hamid Karzai
yesterday, just a short time before meeting with our new defense secretary,
Chuck Hagel, accused the United States of America of working within the
Taliban on violent acts that are to keep American troops beyond the
scheduled 2014 pullout. In other words, he`s accusing us of killing our
own people, in effect, so that we can stay in that country longer than next

Well, given the cost to the United States in both blood and money, of
course, to prop Karzai up and his government up, the remark is sure to
inflame an American public, including me, that is already saying, Enough.
After suicide bombings this weekend, today two Americans were dead
following a green-on-blue attack -- in other words, an Afghan army on its -
- on blue army, that`s us, attack in the eastern province of Wardak after a
man in an Afghan national security forces uniform opened fire on both
American and Afghan forces.

Mike Taibbi is covering this story for us in Kabul tonight. Put it all
together, Mike. You know what we`re all focused on back here, our
frustration and now alarm that our ally over there, Hamid Karzai, thinks
that we`re engaging in some almost suicidal attempt to keep ourselves
necessary over there.

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, you say your reaction was to say
"Enough." I think a lot of people over here had a reaction of saying, He
said what? I mean, it didn`t make a lot of sense to a lot of people. It
seemed like something out of a Joseph Heller novel, General Greedle (ph)
saying something ridiculous in "Catch 22 ."

But you have to look at a couple of things that happened and didn`t happen
leading up to Karzai`s statements, which he made in a televised national
address Sunday morning. Here`s a couple of things that didn`t happen.

Saturday, there was supposed to be a hand-over from U.S. control to Afghan
control of the prison we have up at Bagram Air Base. Big feather in
Karzai`s cap. It meant authority, and then autonomy, and that he wasn`t
Obama`s poodle in the same way that Tony Blair was Bush`s poodle, et
cetera, all points that he would liked to have made.

But the deal fell apart at the last minute because Karzai objected to one
clause, and what we were told by a highly placed diplomat was an agreed-to
resolution, that is, that the U.S. would have final say on whether certain
prisoners were high-value or high-risk detainees and should stay in prison.

Karzai wanted to have the right to use those prisoners, any prisoners he
wanted for prisoner releases as a way to mollify the Taliban. He thought
that was the way to go forward with the Taliban. And that was one thing
that didn`t happen.

Another thing that didn`t happen. Remember, this is Wardak, where the
shooting happened today. We`ll get to that. But several weeks ago, Karzai
ordered that all special forces from the U.S. and from the coalition
withdraw from Wardak province because of unconfirmed allegations of their
involvement in abusive attacks against civilians in Wardak province.

He put a two-week deadline on it. Well, the two-week deadline had passed.
Those special forces are still there. Something else that didn`t happen.
Then Saturday morning, there were two terrible suicide bombings, one in
Kabul itself that Hagel actually could hear from where he was about a mile
away, 18 people dead, including 8 children, awful thing, all leading up to
Sunday morning.

Karzai gets on television, says what he says, and everybody says, what`s he
talking about? What`s his goal here? I talked to one diplomat, a NATO guy
who asked that we not use his name, who has known Karzai and spoken to him
a number of times, and said, look, this is a guy who has a touch of
paranoia. This is a guy who has got a control reflex that seems more
apparent right now. And he`s worried about being marginalized and that
thought that the endgame is being played out in Afghanistan, he`s not going
to be even second chair, he`s going to be a marginal player has to be
getting to him.

And so he gets on TV, says what he says and hasn`t disavowed it at this
point. And everybody is saying either, enough, as you`re saying, Chris, or
saying, what is he saying? What`s his point? Where`s he going with this?
This diplomat said it`s difficult to see where he`s going because by saying
things like this, he may derail the chances of any prospect of peace talks
with the Taliban, which peace talks, by way, are nowhere in sight at the
moment -- that point made by Secretary Hagel himself and many others. Jay
Carney today said the same thing in his presser, his gaggle at the White


TAIBBI: So who knows what President Karzai is saying or what his
motivation is at this point. It`s really strange here and an awkward
ending to Hagel`s visit.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will be back to you again over time, because I think
this is a real troubling matter for Americans to have an ally we think is
not our ally.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much, Mike Taibbi in Kabul.

Well, Bobby Ghosh is senior -- well, he`s editor at large for "TIME"
magazine. He joins us right now.

Bobby, your sense of this. You know the American view here. It`s, my God,
it`s a tough enough war without having an ally that seems to be dumping on
us pretty roughly.

should a thought for the poor Afghans. Our relationship with Karzai now is
a bit like having that colleague working with you on a project in the
office who is hateful and you dislike him for any number of reasons, but
you need them to get the project done and then you can be on your way.

The poor Afghans, on the other hand, are pretty much stuck with this guy.
Long after the Americans leave, he`s still going to be their president. I
think Matt laid it -- Mike laid is out perfectly. Nobody can make any
sense of the statement. It doesn`t seem to be -- it`s not clear what his
audience is he`s talking to for this.

No one in this country believes this ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Obviously, no one in this country believes it. Who`s he talking to?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, it just seems to me along those lines, Bobby, that
if you ask the average American, right, left, and center, with a few
exceptions perhaps in the neocon world, who always want us to have an
overseas base anywhere in that region, we`d like to not ever have to go
back in there again.

I think that`s one unifying principle. We don`t want to have to go back
into Afghanistan once we leave next year. Why would he argue that our goal
was to prolong our stay?

GHOSH: That`s my point. I think we`re giving his argument far too much
credibility. I don`t think it has any.

It doesn`t make any sense at all. Yes, the Obama administration is in the
process of negotiating what number of soldiers to keep there. It`s
probably a very small footprint anti-terror unit. And, by the way, he
needs that unit as much as anybody else, far more, I would argue, than the
Obama administration needs it, for -- sort of for his personal safety and
the safety of his country.

For him to come out at this point and argue that there`s some kind of
collusion with -- between the Americans and the Taliban is -- frankly, he`s
got so far off the reservation here that it`s hard to see where he`s going.

MATTHEWS: I have got Vietnam syndrome all through my being. So I imagine
2014 being like `74. We leave, the helicopters are pulling out our last
allies there.

Do you think that there`s any strength to the -- to the Afghan army, that
it can actually hold off against for a significant period of time against
the Taliban?

GHOSH: Well, I -- my gut says no. And that would be a terrible shame,
because a lot of American soldiers have put in a lot of really hard work to
train that army.

But it -- all the indications -- and the green-on-blue violence is only the
latest manifestation of it.


GHOSH: Every indication is that they`re not going to be able to hold up
against a really strong Taliban offensive, which will have support probably
from Pakistan and other outside players. And surely Karzai is aware of
that, unless he`s already booked a seat in the last helicopter out of

MATTHEWS: Yes, I wonder what hotel he`s going to be living at in New York.

But, anyway, that`s a crude thing to say. I shouldn`t have said it, but I
do worry that for a guy who depends totally on us right now, why he`s
bashing us is amazing to me.

Anyway, thank you, Bobby Ghosh. You`re as tough as I am on these things.

Up next, the right-wing media reports as fact -- as fact yet another story
that`s only true in its dreams, totally bogus story being passed around
again, and it`s totally untrue.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."

First, has leading economist Paul Krugman fallen on hard financial times?
Well, if you look to conservative Web site for your daily
headlines, this one would be quite the shocker -- quote -- "Krugman Files
For Bankruptcy." The story links to a blog post on and reads in
part -- quote -- "The bankruptcy filing also sheds some fascinating light
on Krugman`s spending habits, which includes an AmEx bill reaching $84,000
in one month and charges for Portuguese wines and a dress from a Victorian
period -- the Victorian period."

Well, red flags started to go up after reading about that. They should
have. Some extra digging leads to the story`s starting point, The Daily
Currant, a satirical Web site that is also running headlines like "Pope
Benedict Leaves Office With Epic Latin Twitter Rant."

So, no, Paul Krugman has not filed for bankruptcy. But according to
Krugman himself, the fake story did achieve a positive purpose. It showed
how easy the wing nuts fall for this stuff -- quote -- this is Krugman --
"On Friday, I started hearing from friends about a fake story making the
rounds about my allegedly filing for personal bankruptcy. I decided not to
post anything about it. Instead, I wanted to wait and see which right-wing
media outlets would fall for the hoax. And came through."

Well, next, a lesson on how to avoid being seen on the losing side of a
universally popular issue, the reauthorization of the Violence Against
Women Act, which President Obama signed last week.

From Iowa Republican Steve King after the legislation passed -- quote -- "I
supported this legislation because I know how important it is to empower
women in difficult situations. I voted in support of the House version to
see that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault -- assault have
access to the resources and protection when they need it most."

Well, here`s the thing. Steve King and about 130 other Republicans
actually voted against final passage of the reauthorization. Instead, he
voted for a more restrictive proposal put together by House Republicans
that ultimately failed.

Well, he`s got company on this. Republican Vicky Hartzler of Missouri also
voted against final passage, but you would never know it from the statement
her office put out -- quote -- "I`m pleased to support efforts to protect
all women in this country from domestic abuse and other forms of violence."

She also voted for the less comprehensive and failed version of the bill.
So, she got away with pretending.

Finally, Bill Maher has a message for people who get caught up in things
that shouldn`t spark a heated debate, like the first lady going on
television or the politics of grocery shopping.


BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": The appropriate response to
seeing Michelle Obama on TV isn`t, who does she think she is? Being on TV
is for people who have done something with their lives, like ice road
truckers or the Amish mafia or swamp people.


MAHER: You think because your husband is the leader of the free world, it
makes you all that? Come back when he runs a pawnshop.


MAHER: Not everything has to be seen through the lens of politics. If you
hate Obamacare, you eat at Papa John`s. If you hate gay marriage, you love


MAHER: Big portions, conservatives. Knowing where your food comes from,

Conservatives like all-American beers like Bud and Miller that are easy to


MAHER: ... or Busch, with its patriotic eagle logo, while liberals prefer
imported beers from Europe, socialism in a bottle.

How is it that a nation that was never even interested in politics that
much has now made everything political? I believe in science didn`t use to
be fighting words.




MATTHEWS: Well, I say keep them guessing when it comes to your personal

Up next, the Kentucky derby, the one at Churchill Downs -- a different kind
of race. It looks like Ashley Judd has decided to take on Mitch McConnell
for the Senate.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


"Market Wrap."

The Dow continues to gain ground, pushing further into record territory, up
for a seventh day in a row. The S&P is up five, closing in on its 2007
peak. And the Nasdaq adds eight points.

Apple shares reversed earlier losses, ending up more than 1 percent amid
rumors about the next iPhone and a possible dividend announcement.

And drivers are getting a break at the pump, according to Lundberg. Gas
prices are down a nickel over the last two weeks.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ashley Judd, there`s news this morning that she wants
to run in Kentucky to challenge Mitch McConnell. She, of course, actually
has residency in Tennessee. How do you handicap her process?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: She is one of my constituents.



BLACKBURN: She is a friend of mine. If she run, she will run hard, and
knowing that family, they are very tenacious and spirited.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn right there was one of many guests
on this weekend`s political shows who was asked about actress Ashley Judd`s
potential challenge to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. And the article
that stoked all that talk was by our own Howard Fineman.

In this weekend`s Huffington Post, Howard writes -- quote -- "Ashley Judd
has told key advisers and political figures she`s planning to announce her
candidacy for United States Senate here this spring."

And here`s some of the evidence. Number one, Judd is working with a
pollster. Number two, Judd has interviewed media consultants, including
Anita Dunn. She`s a heavyweight, an Obama campaign veteran. She`s lining
up allies in field organizations. Number four, she`s had advisers working
on her filing papers and other technical issues.

A Judd bid against the Senate minority leader would instantly become one of
the most watched races in 2014.

Joining me right now is the Howard Fineman, editorial director of The
Huffington Post Media Group and an MSNBC political analyst, and of course
then Alex Wagner, our own colleague here from "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER" which
airs at noon every day and is doing great.

Look, I want to start with Howard because he has got some fresh dig here
from reporting.

It seems to me that, if she runs, if I were her adviser, I would say one
advantage you have over all the other candidates is you get in a debate
with this guy, you beat him in the debate, you win. It will make -- it
will put such a focus on the TV debate that will inevitably occur, that she
like goes -- gets a bye all the way to that debate, it seems.

point is that this is -- if this happens...

MATTHEWS: I thought that was the larger point.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.

FINEMAN: No, it is the larger point. But this would be a new -- in
Kentucky terms, this would be a new-style campaign.

In other words, Kentucky has been a state, one of the most traditional,
where you go courthouse to courthouse, county to county. You rely, if
you`re a Democrat, on the Democratic Party organization. By the way, the
Democratic Party organization in Kentucky -- and I was at their big dinner
this week down in Kentucky -- they don`t want Ashley Judd. They know
politics a different way.

MATTHEWS: Who do they want? They got a heavyweight?

FINEMAN: Well, they don`t have anybody. That`s the thing. They don`t
have anybody else.

MATTHEWS: What about Conway?

FINEMAN: Well, they all want to run for governor in the following year.

But she would -- Ashley Judd would run a new-style 21st-century media-based
campaign. So, you`re right. She would use television, especially free
media. She will get coverage like you won`t believe wherever she goes in
the state.

MATTHEWS: Who would not watch that debate with her and Mitch McConnell?

FINEMAN: Right. And then -- and then the capper of it all -- you`re right
-- after all those months of free media -- would be the debates.

And I know Ashley Judd some. I have watched her in public. She`s sharp.
She`s tough. She`s probably a pretty good debater. She will learn her
brief. And if she makes it that far, I think she could be formidable.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the general question looking at this, Alex. You and
I are political people. And, you know, you have got to wonder, this is the
kind of thing that does lighten up, brighten up politics, if you ask me,
when the outsiders jump in. It`s not the same old/same old, the people who
have been working their way up from the state legislature.

But when the other people pop in at mid-level, and pretty high level here,
it does spice it up. It makes it fascinating, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Ronald Reagan, people like that jumping in, Al Franken from the media
world, where they`re well known. Name I.D., how powerful is just the fact
that everybody will know who Ashley Judd is?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Huge, massive. I mean, Al Franklin
was Stuart Smalley before he was a U.S. senator.

And that at the beginning stages I don`t think was taken very seriously as
far as a candidacy. Ashley Judd is not only a very well-known Hollywood
actress, and beautiful and well-spoken. She`s been a very outspoken
advocate for women`s rights. She`s questioned male patriarchy. She has
questioned traditional gender norms and has done so with an amount of
fluency and passion that is pretty remarkable.

I would say, you know, McConnell`s people and the Republicans writ large in
terms of the state of Kentucky want to make this a cultural war about a
Hollywood liberal, but they also want to take on the issue of gender norms
and traditional gender norms and be defenders of traditional gender norms.

And, as we know, Chris, the Republican Party does not tend to do very well
when they take on the issues of women`s health, women`s rights, and gender
equality in this country.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take at the latest PPP poll. Senator Mitch McConnell`s
approval rating in Kentucky is deep underwater at 37 percent approval.

Usually, if you say under 50, you got a problem. He`s at 37 -- 55 percent
disapproval. Still, a hypothetical matchup in that same poll shows
McConnell ahead of Judd 47 percent, 43 percent. That`s not much ahead, is
it, Howard?

FINEMAN: No. No, it isn`t.

Now, look, traditionally, Kentucky Democrats want to moderates. Bill
Clinton was the last Democrat for president to have won Kentucky in 1996.
Too many of them, the people that I saw in Owensboro, Kentucky, were there
in Wendell Ford and Bill Clinton. Ashley Judd is their worse nightmare,
because she is a social-liberal, because she talks about gender norms,
because she`s against mountaintop removal in strip mining which in eastern
Kentucky is something a lot of people really like or view as a sort of
cultural identifier.

But she was reared in Kentucky. She went to school there. She`s a huge --

MATTHEWS: She went to University of Kentucky.

FINEMAN: University of Kentucky basketball fan. She knows how to touch
the cultural milestones, the cultural touch points.

Mitch McConnell is from Louisville. Mitch McConnell has never been well-
liked out in the state.

And I can tell you, having spent five years in Kentucky that Ashley Judd,
for all of her Hollywood ties, could out-country and out-Kentucky Mitch
McConnell in that state. At least that`s what she could try to do.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is a little bit psychobabble but it`s what we like to
do here occasionally.

Alex Wagner, imagine you`re Mitch McConnell. This guy is not the coolest
in the world. But he is a pro. And he`s very smart politically, very
cagy, if you will.

He`s thinking right now, would he rather run against a no face boring guy
from the locality, worked his way up as a local lawyer, whatever the
typical candidate, or this wildcard?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC`S NOW WITH ALEX WANGER: I think he`d rather run against
the no face boring guy as you say, Chris, if only because, as you pointed
out, she`s going to inject a ton of excitement. She has the eyeballs.
There`s going to be enthusiasm. She`s going to have access to the ground
game if the Obama campaign infrastructure works with her on this.

There are going to be high dollar donors that come into the race. I mean,
it will be a high-profile race. Mitch McConnell would probably do best
running as a guy that`s just won all this time, so you might as well vote
for him again.

Once you begin questioning who he is and what he stands for, and there`s a
candidate on the other side that is exciting and dynamic, it`s a problem
for him, I think.

FINEMAN: Here`s the thing, though, the Obama people don`t want her,
either. No Democrat, no traditional --

MATTHEWS: I heard you got that reporting. Tell that, explain that story.

FINEMAN: My sense of it is, that the Obama people who did a very good job
of winning Virginia -- don`t forget, they won Virginia twice, President
Obama did. They simply think that Ashley Judd has too many downsides.

She`s had mental problems that she`s been very frank about. She recently
got divorced. She`s got, as one Kentucky Democrat said down in Owensboro,
they have a whole drawerful of pictures of her. OK?

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean? This divorce is pretty --

FINEMAN: Not divorce. Not divorce. They`ve got pictures of her from,
shall we say, some of the -- the more of the dramatic aspects of her movie

MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

FINEMAN: Yes. So --

MATTEHWS: I like her in the movies. I`ve seen movies like "Double
Jeopardy." I see every movie. I think she`s great.

FINEMAN: The technical term in Kentucky is naked, OK?


FINEMAN: OK, now, does that matter anymore? Would that matter in her

You throw out all the rules, I think if this happens, you throw out all the
traditional rules in one of the most traditional political states in the
country which is Kentucky.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s watch the Republicans bash another woman. This would
be great. What do you think of that, Alex? They`re pretty good at that,
aren`t they? Let`s bring up all kinds of questions about her background.
That will make them look great.

WAGNER: We`re talking about half of the country here. While naked photos
may be I guess relevant to her past, look, this is someone who had a career
in Hollywood and doesn`t apologize for that. And in some ways, she was an
artist and entertainer and looking to the next chapter of her life, which
is about activism and she`s been an incredibly outspoken and strong
advocate for women`s rights. That balances out whatever photos there may
be. Her career is accepted.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, nobody thought --

FINEMAN: That squares with my reporting in Kentucky. Even though the male
establishment and some of the more traditional women in the establishment
are scared of her, you talk to most women who aren`t so much a part of the
political establishment in Kentucky, they love the idea of Ashley Judd.
They love the idea of mixing it up. They love the idea of turning things

MATTHEWS: OK. By the way, asymmetric warfare here, guys. No chance
anyone`s looking for a naked picture of Mitch McConnell.

Thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Alex Wagner.

Up next, maybe the country isn`t quite as crazy about guns as we`ve been
led to believe. Wait until you see who`s been buying these guns. It`s not
the way you think. It`s really a few special cases.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Want to know why Mr. Smith won`t be going to Washington any time
soon? We`re leaving it to wealthy people like Ashley Judd.

A study by the campaign finance watchdog group found the
winners of Senate seats just last year spent an average of $10,476,000. In
other words, over $10 million. Even the least expensive seat didn`t come
cheap. It went to Angus King up in Maine. But even that one cost nearly
$3 million.

So, if you want to go to the Senate, you either be rich or ready dollar for
dollar, or just settle for watching from the gallery.

We`ll be right back.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In an environment where the law
and order is broken down, hurricane, natural disaster, earthquake,
terrorist attack, a cyber attack, where the power goes down, and the dams
broke, the chemicals have been released into the air, and law enforcement
is really not able to respond and people take advantage of that lawless
environment, I have an AR-15. I`m not going to do anything illegally with
it, but I believe that it is a better defense weapon in that environment
than a double-barreled shotgun.


MATTHEWS: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It was last week he
was speaking there in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on guns
obviously, making his case for why a shotgun, in other words, a gun
preferred by the vice president is not adequate protection if all hell
breaks loose during a natural disaster.

We`ve heard a lot about how gun sales, by the way, have spiked President
Obama`s reelection. But a new study suggests that in recent decades,
looking over time at least, fewer and fewer households are actually buying
more and more guns.

According to the new data from the General Social Survey, the number of
U.S. households owning guns has actually declined over the past four
decades. Take a look at that -- 50 percent of homes had guns in the `70s,
but that percentage has fallen steadily, dropping to 34 percent in 2012.
That suggests that gun sales have risen in recent decades because the same
people are doing all the buying, in other words, people are stocking up on
guns in a few households.

With me now is Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Val Demings, former
Orlando police chief.

Thank you both, Val and Mayor Nutter.


MATTHEWS: Mayor Nutter, first of all, to you.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of Graham? Graham is a smart guy. Why is he
out there saying, get yourself an AK-47 or an AK-15 or an AR-15. What is
he doing? Why is he doing that?

NUTTER: I`m not exactly sure, Chris. I do have respect for Senator
Graham, the work that he`s doing on immigration, a couple other things. I
testified at the Senate Judiciary hearing on Senator Feinstein`s bill, the
great work that she is doing. And the senator and I had a Q&A back and

He`s particularly focused on the rifle issue. I`m not exactly sure what
that`s all about. As I said very respectfully, you know, dead is dead.
Rifle, shotgun, handgun, multi-round clips, it`s weaponry, most of these
weapons shouldn`t be on the streets of America.

So I don`t know exactly what the distinction is about. No citizen has ever
said to me, oh, well, you know, another got hit by a shotgun, I`m glad it
wasn`t a rifle. I mean, you know, what?

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. Let me go to the former police chief. Thank you
for joining me, Val.

DEMINGS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: My question to you is this -- as a law enforcement person, are
you concerned about this rage that some people -- statics show it`s not
everybody -- but some people have to arm up and not just shotguns or
handguns to protect themselves with, but they want to have semiautomatic
weaponry. They want assault rifles in their households.

DEMINGS: We know that guns are not the answer to every problem, to
personal safety. I mean, statistics and real-life situations have
demonstrated that.

When we talk about the ban on assault weapons, I think people need to
consider that assault weapons, the amount of devastations that AR-15s and
AK-47s can do to the body, you don`t need to have one of those weapons to
protect yourself. The vice president is actually right. Shotguns are
absolutely adequate.

And I think, Chris, until we take politics out of the discussion and
Congress starts voting their conscious, we`re not going to get much done,
unfortunately, and you`re going to hear the same kind of rhetoric that the
senator has said this week.

MATTHEWS: You know, Mr. Mayor, you and I are Pennsylvanians. I grew up
there. I sort of haven`t been there in a while, but I have to say, I met
with some kids from Pennsylvania, from a college up there, I won`t name it
because it`s so surprising what the kids were saying.

One of them was saying, and a lot of people in the room agreeing with them,
you know, we ought to be able to carry guns into the bar rooms and have
them all might in the bar. We ought to have barrooms and everybody with
holstered guns. I said, what about hockey games? Sure, bring the guns.
What about the NFL games? Bring the guns.

We know what goes on, the high passion and the drinking that goes on at
these events and they don`t even see how this could be dynamite and with
people would just naturally blow would start shooting at each other.

NUTTER: Yes. Sure. I mean, I don`t know what young people you`re talking
to, Chris. I mean, clearly, they don`t understand the reality of the
situation. They are thinking about the Wild, Wild West, if everybody has
something, then everyone is safe.

That`s not what happens. When you mix folks who shouldn`t have certain
weapons who don`t know how to handle certain weapons, certainly in public
places with alcohol and a bunch of other things going on, that`s just

And so, as the chief said, we have to be willing as Americans to have a
legitimate, serious, non-rhetoric-filled conversation about how do we
protect the Second Amendment while ensuring that the First Amendment, the
right to assemble, the right to peacefully assemble is protected as well.

These rights are not at odds with each other. They work in tandem and in

And with rights comes certain responsibilities. No one has yet to explain
why anyone, any civilian needs military style-assault weapons, magazines
with 30, 50, 100-round capacities. These are about devastation.

Our soldiers, our men and women in the military, need them in, you know,
Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places to serve us and protect
us. But law enforcement needs them but civilians should not have them.

And I`m no gun expert. But, certainly, if you have your shotgun, you know
what to do. One shot often takes care of the business.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Mayor Nutter, of course. And Val Demings,
thanks for joining us tonight.

When we return, let me finish with the American soldier in Afghanistan and
the increasing danger he faces now with Karzai as our ally.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Think right now the American soldier on post right now somewhere in the
wildness of Afghanistan, he faces somewhere beyond his binoculars, a
hostile force, enemies lurk all around them, watching for their chance.

It`s a brutal life far from their own country, far from evidence, the kind
that matters to the people back in America, here, care about the cause
you`re fighting. Then today comes the word from our ally in Kabul,
President Karzai himself, that the United States is getting people, our
people to be suicide bombers or someone to do it, killing Americans in
order to justify our staying in Afghanistan still longer.

Imagine fighting for this guy. Imagine being an American soldier in harm`s
way, worrying that the head of the government you`re risking your life to
defend is headed by a truther, someone who honestly believes Americans have
each other killed in order to justify occupying some place like

I know we don`t get to pick foreign leaders, but we do get to pick our
allies. Betting on this character takes an enormous faith in nationalism,
even the Karzai brand.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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