April 4, 2013
Guest: Donald Williams, Larry Pratt, Mark Potok, Tom Davis, Martin Luther
King III, Andrew Young
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Guns on demand.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. In Connecticut, at least, they know the
value of human life. Today the governor of that stricken state signed a
law dealing with assault weapons, magazine capacities and background
checks, all matters that should be dealt with countrywide.
Sadly, the power of guns continues to power our politics. Tonight, we talk
to the head of Gun Owners of America and ask him what`s wrong with banning
gun sales to criminals, addicts, spouse abusers and people with dangerous
mental or emotional problems? Better question, why would anyone want
anyone selling guns to such customers?
Cutting to the heart of the gun debate tonight -- let`s get at it -- Donald
Williams is the president of the Connecticut state Senate, where today some
of the strongest gun control legislation in the country was signed into
Sir, what is the message from Connecticut to the country, Senator?
DONALD WILLIAMS (D), CONNECTICUT STATE SENATE PRESIDENT: Well, we can
certainly get it done here, and we can get it done in a way that`s never
been done before, with Democrats and Republicans working together. Believe
it or not, this was a bipartisan effort, and we were able to work with
Democrats and Republicans and pass the strongest and most comprehensive
bill in the country dealing with gun violence prevention.
MATTHEWS: What do you think is the importance of background checks? It`s
one of the features of your legislation.
WILLIAMS: You know, it`s critical. Recent research by the Johns Hopkins
School of Public Health indicates that background checks and permitting
processes that tap into a criminal background check keeps guns out of the
hands of criminals.
And you know, even the gun advocates, even some of those folks on the far
extreme of the NRA, claim that that is their goal, to protect the law-
abiding citizen and to keep the guns out of the hands of the criminals. If
that`s where they stand, why won`t they support these essential checks?
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at one of your colleagues, a Republican
colleague in the senate, the Connecticut senate. It`s one of the most
stirring moments, many think, today in the debate. It occurred when
Republican senate minority leader John McKinney, whose district includes
Newtown, recalled those killed in the December massacre. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCKINNEY (R), CONNECTICUT STATE SENATE MINORITY LEADER: And so today,
in making this vote, I want to be the voice for Charlotte Bacon and Daniel
Barden and Olivia Engel and Josephine Gay and Ana Marquez-Greene and Dylan
Hockley and Madeleine Hsu and Catherine Hubbard and Chase Kowalski and
Jesse Lewis and James Mattioli and Grace McDonnell and Emilie Parker and
Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner and Caroline Previdi and Jessica Rekos and
Avielle Richman and Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt and their siblings
and their moms and their dads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator, this has been a good bipartisan day up there in
Connecticut, hasn`t it, in regards to this bill.
WILLIAMS: It sure has been. Senator McKinney is a good friend and
colleague of mine. I sit next to him in the state senate. And he read the
names of all of the children, the elementary school children, their
teachers and administrators, 26 in all, who lost their lives. That was a
tipping point in Connecticut. It should be a tipping point for the entire
country to take action.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to that. Thank you so much, Senator Williams,
for getting that bill through, getting it signed and setting an example for
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Larry Pratt. He comes from a different
side of this argument. He`s executive director of the Gun Owners of
Where are you on background checks?
LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA EXECUTIVE DIR.: We`ve opposed
background checks from the very beginning. The "Journal of the American
Medical Association," which is no friend of ours, had published a study
several years after background checks were imposed and they found that they
hadn`t had any impact on reducing crime. So we have a system in place
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. How do you know that a person -- let`s talk
logic here. If a criminal or a nut or an addict or a wife beater shows up
at a gun store and wants to buy a gun and the guy says no, how does that
not prevent violence? How is that not a good thing to happen?
PRATT: Well, obviously, criminals...
MATTHEWS: Would you sell a gun to one of these people?
PRATT: Criminals have other places...
MATTHEWS: Would you sell a gun?
PRATT: Of course not.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, why should a gun store sell it?
PRATT: You listen to the answer, please. Don`t be so impolite.
MATTHEWS: I`m being polite. You said no.
PRATT: And I was following on with an explanation of why we are opposed to
it. "The Journal of the American Medical Association" said these
background check had not lowered crime in this first several years it had
MATTHEWS: Well, crime...
PRATT: ... the ACLU has raised valid concerns even today that we`re
constructing a national gun registry, and that raises serious privacy
MATTHEWS: OK. The law right now is you can`t sell guns knowingly to any
of those categories of people, criminals, wife beaters...
PRATT: Of course.
PRATT: Of course.
MATTHEWS: You want to get rid of that law?
PRATT: That`s not the...
MATTHEWS: No, would you like to get rid of that law?
PRATT: Of course not. No, that...
MATTHEWS: You want to leave that law in effect?
PRATT: That would apply to anybody, but you don`t need a background
MATTHEWS: No, no.
PRATT: ... to follow through on it.
MATTHEWS: So you don`t want a background check, even the one (INAUDIBLE)
PRATT: Period. Period.
MATTHEWS: You want to get rid of the background check.
MATTHEWS: So your response to Newtown is to get rid of what we have now?
PRATT: Well, it`s not our response. We`ve had that since the very
beginning. We objected to it.
PRATT: We said this will become a gun registry.
MATTHEWS: The illogic of this -- and I...
PRATT: It has become a gun registry.
MATTHEWS: The illogic of this is as follows. If I walked into a gun store
to you, and I looked like a nut, a crazy person, would you sell me a gun?
PRATT: No. And frequently, gun dealers experience that and...
MATTHEWS: So if you could call up and find out in a matter of seconds
whether this person has a mental capacity, has a problem, and has been
court-ordered not to be operating in any way with a gun, why wouldn`t you
want to take advantage of that information?
PRATT: Chris, even after you done that, the chap who`s been turned down
can easily go somewhere else...
MATTHEWS: Where? Where do they go?
PRATT: They get them on the street...
MATTHEWS: That`s what we`re trying to stop. The new law proposed...
PRATT: You`re not going to stop it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... is you can`t have private sales, you can`t have Internet
sales, you can`t have gun shows.
PRATT: And you think criminals are going to obey that? And private sales,
by the way, means you`re going to outlaw private sales. People will have
to now go through dealers...
PRATT: ... and will have to have...
MATTHEWS: I don`t know how to argue with it except this. We have a 65-
mile-an-hour speed limit because most people obey the law, all right? Why
don`t we just get rid of the speed limits because not everybody is going to
PRATT: As a matter of fact, Chris, we think the country would be just fine
without the background check...
MATTHEWS: Without any speed limits, too.
PRATT: Well, I didn`t say that. You`re making...
MATTHEWS: No, but you`re arguing...
PRATT: ... an argument for me...
MATTHEWS: I`m arguing from your argument.
MATTHEWS: Your argument says because some people can get around this,
therefore, don`t try to stop it.
PRATT: Because they do, and then the risk to the good guys of the gun
registry and the abuse of the data that can be...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s start with this.
PRATT: And we have...
MATTHEWS: Why is there an abuse -- why is it bad for the government of the
United States to maintain information on people that are criminals, wife
beaters, addicts, or otherwise threats to the society, or under some sort
of restraining order, so they don`t get access to firearms? What`s wrong
PRATT: They`re going to get access to firearms anyway. If they have a
criminal intent, they`re going to do it. They have done it. They do it
all along. And do what you`re saying is you`re OK with a national gun
MATTHEWS: No, I`m not. I never said that.
PRATT: Well, that`s what we`re doing with this national background instant
check, which, by the way, isn`t always that instant. A lot of times...
MATTHEWS: Do we have a national registry right now?
PRATT: We have a substantial part of it because we know that when a dealer
enters a portal through his Internet access to get a background check, he
gets an information sheet that says "This data is the property of the
United States government."
MATTHEWS: OK. So let me ask you this.
PRATT: And we can do with it what we want. That violates federal law,
MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- let`s go down...
MATTHEWS: This is all slippery slope argument.
PRATT: ... violate the law when they get it.
MATTHEWS: You walk into a store and somebody says to you, I want to see an
ID card to see if you`re 21. Is that all right with you?
PRATT: I don`t have a problem with that.
MATTHEWS: OK. So somebody walks in the store, in order to protect the
store owner, so he doesn`t sell to a criminal, he wants to know, a store
owner, whether I`m selling to a criminal or not. Isn`t it helpful to have
him access to check and see if this person is a felon or not? What`s wrong
with that information?
PRATT: And you know, if you stop there, he`ll go somewhere else to get it,
or he`ll do what the GAO (ph) did...
MATTHEWS: Well, what`s the...
PRATT: ... a number of years ago, he`ll get a false ID.
MATTHEWS: This makes no sense.
PRATT: And he will...
MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve had you on, but I -- there`s something really
ideological about this because it doesn`t make any sense to me. If I`m a
good guy, I go to church on Sunday, or synagogue, and I want to be a good
person, I don`t want to sell a gun to a nut, a criminal, a wife beater,
somebody on a restraining order. How can I avoid doing that if Joe Smith
walks in the door, eyes wide open, I want a Bushmaster? What am I supposed
to do, just sell it to him?
PRATT: Chris, you`re assuming that if you stop him at one point, he`s
MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t say that.
PRATT: It`s not -- oh, yes, you are.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s why -- no, police officer...
PRATT: Because he`s going to go elsewhere and get the gun. That`s what
criminals have done. That`s what they are doing.
MATTHEWS: Why do we have squad cars in big cities where we have tough
crime neighborhoods some places when they can`t be anywhere? Because they
help to deter. You would say, don`t have any squad cars, any police
because you can`t stop all crime. What kind of argument is that?
PRATT: As a matter of fact, what deters even more is when you have an
armed person that`s the potential victim. We have found that in -- for
instance, in northern Virginia, where Gun Owners of America is...
PRATT: ... we have a murder rate of .3 per 100,000.
MATTHEWS: There`s all kinds of reasons why murder rates differ, all kinds
PRATT: We can carry conceal. But you come over here to the District of
Columbia, it`s 30 times higher.
MATTHEWS: And you think they make the guns here in Washington?
PRATT: And it`s...
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Where`s the...
MATTHEWS: Give me the name and address of...
PRATT: Why did the guns...
MATTHEWS: Because people have criminal intent and they want a gun and they
get a gun.
PRATT: Oh, I see. I thought the guns were just waiting to get over here.
MATTHEWS: Now, let me ask you this. Where are the gun manufacturers in
Washington, D.C.? Just name the place where it`s made here.
MATTHEWS: They`re not made here.
PRATT: Of course.
MATTHEWS: They come in here.
PRATT: Doesn`t that show you how foolish the bans are?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- I want to go back to my moral question, which
may work with you or not. If you`re a moral gun salesman, do you want to
sell to criminals?
PRATT: I don`t think anybody wants to sell...
MATTHEWS: Well, then, how do you help a person not sell to a criminal?
PRATT: We`re not helping...
MATTHEWS: No! How do you help a gun...
PRATT: We are not...
MATTHEWS: ... merchant...
PRATT: ... helping, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... from not selling to criminals?
PRATT: Because the criminals are not being thwarted.
MATTHEWS: So in other words...
PRATT: The tradeoff...
MATTHEWS: ... guns on demand.
PRATT: ... a national gun registry...
PRATT: ... and that`s unacceptable.
MATTHEWS: So your argument is guns on demand. You walk into a store, I`m
a citizen, you got to sell me that gun. I don`t care how crazy I look, you
got to sell me that gun.
PRATT: That will actually not impair the ability...
MATTHEWS: You don`t have a good argument. You know -- let me tell you how
your argument is doing.
PRATT: As a matter of fact, you don`t have...
PRATT: All you want is control. You want to know who the gun owners
MATTHEWS: I`m a pretty libertarian guy on this.
PRATT: ... and then you`re going to do what they did after Katrina...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me give you some numbers here.
PRATT: ... and you`ll come and collect the guns. See, we don`t trust
people like you.
MATTHEWS: Do you trust -- (INAUDIBLE) this is a Quinnipiac poll, just came
out, to see how well your argument`s working in this country, except with
congressmen and senators you can intimidate. "Do you support or oppose
requiring background checks for all people who buy guns?" Ninety-one
percent of people support background checks, 88 percent of Republicans, 96
percent of Democrats, 90 percent of independents, 88 percent of men, 94
percent of women, 91 percent of white Americans, 94 percent of black
Americans, 90 percent of Hispanics. You`re not wining the argument.
PRATT: As a matter of fact...
MATTHEWS: They all want background checks.
PRATT: ... that poll is about as valid as a $3 bill.
MATTHEWS: Oh, why is that?
PRATT: They had said that something like 85, 90 percent of NRA members and
Gun Owners of America members wanted the background checks. We polled our
MATTHEWS: Well, we just took the -- you say this poll is no good?
PRATT: ... 4 percent -- I`m saying it`s no good.
MATTHEWS: OK, you`re...
PRATT: I`m saying it`s as good as a $3 bill because the same people that
are telling us 90 percent, we found it`s 4 percent. NRA found it`s 5
percent among their members.
MATTHEWS: All right. So people keep -- every poll we get keeps saying the
same thing, but those people are lying.
PRATT: If you set the poll up so that you get a certain outcome, then
you`re going to get a certain outcome.
MATTHEWS: I go back to my question. Would you like to sell a gun to a
PRATT: I wouldn`t like that.
MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t -- you hedged there. Would you do it?
PRATT: Not knowingly.
MATTHEWS: Well, how would you know otherwise?
PRATT: You don`t. And as a matter of fact, Chris...
MATTHEWS: So in other words, a guy...
PRATT: ... we`re right back to where we were...
MATTHEWS: A guy can card a kid for...
MATTHEWS: ... a can of beer, you got to show an ID card. You got to prove
you`re 21, but you don`t have to prove you`re sane or innocent to buy a
PRATT: And you certainly don`t have to make that proof when you`re buying
the gun illegally, which is what criminals do. And that`s where your
system breaks down and we`re left with your national gun registry.
MATTHEWS: I`m left with the idea we live in an imperfect society with some
people who are violent and the people who are known to be violent shouldn`t
PRATT: And as long as...
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that?
PRATT: ... you don`t take my guns...
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that?
PRATT: Yes. And as long as you don`t take my guns away from me...
MATTHEWS: You do agree with that!
PRATT: ... I can handle the guy with the gun.
MATTHEWS: See, this is -- this is pure rhetoric. I`m sticking to one
PRATT: Oh, I see. My linear logic is pure rhetoric and you`re jumping
MATTHEWS: No, you`re changing the topic. I`m talking about do we want
background checks? You don`t want them.
PRATT: The ACLU tells me...
MATTHEWS: You don`t want them.
PRATT: ... this is a dangerous proposition.
MATTHEWS: You, Larry.
PRATT: The ACLU...
MATTHEWS: Can we speak for ourselves here?
PRATT: Can you take an answer other than forcing one?
MATTHEWS: No, I want to know, Larry Pratt, where do you stand on
PRATT: I told you where I stand!
MATTHEWS: Are you against background checks?
PRATT: From the very beginning, Chris...
MATTHEWS: OK, and you`re against...
PRATT: ... we were against it.
MATTHEWS: ... the ones we have now.
PRATT: Because we don`t trust people like you.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Actually, a lot of people do. They`re
watching. Anyway, thank you, Larry Pratt. You explained yourself
perfectly. You`re against all background checks.
Coming up: The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas -- they probably don`t like them,
either -- the district attorney and the assistant DA who prosecuted them in
Kaufman County, Texas, and the DA`s wife have all been murdered. And now
another prosecutor has withdrawn from the case citing security concerns.
Wonder why. Tonight, we`re going to talk to an African-American who spent
time in prison with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and got to know and fear
Plus, life seems normal for most of us, despite the big sequestration
budget cuts. And Republicans feel like they`ve got the high ground
politically on this one. But the more we learn, the more we find that real
people are getting really hurt by sequestration. How about cancer clinics
turning people away?
And it was 45 years ago today that Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated
down in Memphis. Andrew Young and Dr. King`s grandson, Martin Luther King
III, join us here tonight to talk about voting rights and violence today,
"Let Me Finish" tonight with this. Nine out of ten Americans support
background checks. Why doesn`t Congress?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Would Ronald Reagan support marriage equality? Well, his
daughter thinks so. Patti Davis says that Reagan likely would have
supported marriage for gay couples. And while she never discussed it with
her dad, she says he probably would have bucked his party on the issue for
three reasons, his Hollywood acting career, his close friendship with a
lesbian couple who once cared for Patti and Ron, and his general opposition
to government intrusion into people`s private lives.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, today Governor Rick Perry of
Texas announced $100,000 reward to help find the killers of a Texas
district attorney, his wife and also his deputy. Officials didn`t say
whether they were close to discovering the facts of the case, but there`s
been a hell of a lot of attention paid to the possible role of an ultra-
violent white supremacist prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland`s office was part of the team involved in
bringing indictments against 34 members of that group in November.
Late last year, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning to
law enforcement people about retribution from the group. And this week, a
federal prosecutor involved in prosecuting that case sent e-mails to
defense attorneys of the Aryan Brothers announcing he was withdrawing from
the case for, quote, "security reasons."
So what do we know about the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas? And how much of a
threat do they pose? Mark Potok is our expert here. He`s a senior fellow
at the Southern Poverty Law Center. We`re also joined by phone tonight by
someone who wishes to remain anonymous. And we understand that. He served
in prison with members of the Aryan Brotherhood, which is separate from the
Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Let me go to Mark. You`re our expert. How dangerous is the Aryan
Brotherhood of Texas?
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: I think the Aryan Brotherhood of
Texas is arguably the most violent and scary prison gang out there right
now. Its members have been blamed for more than 100 murders and at least
10 kidnappings since they were formed in the early 1980s.
You know, they run a huge methamphetamine racket in Texas and surrounding
states. And they`re incredibly violent. They`re known for torture
murders. They are known for such things as -- they at one point ordered
someone they thought was snitching killed. The killer was told to bring
back the severed finger of his victim as a trophy.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So a lot of it is discipline...
POTOK: A lot of it is discipline.
MATTHEWS: ... brutal, bloody discipline of its own members.
POTOK: That`s right. A lot of those...
MATTHEWS: And how much of it`s inside and how much outside? How much in
prison? How many people are killed in prison out of that 100 or so, and
how many outside on the streets and homes?
POTOK: Well, we don`t know the exact numbers, but the majority, for sure,
were people in prison or members of rival gangs. So you know, what`s not
true is that the majority of victims are just innocents who are out there.
They`re in some way in that world that is shared by the Aryan Brotherhood
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about that world. We have a person -- we`re
just going to call him "anonymous." He`s going to talk to us now by phone.
Anonymous, I`m going to call you, sir. Tell you (SIC) what we need to know
as Americans, as citizens, about the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and
ANONYMOUS (via telephone): Well, I think that we -- Mark hit it on the
head. We need to be very afraid because they are a very, very dangerous
violent gang. And they`re hard to infiltrate because they`re kind of self-
selecting from prison. You know, you could join a militia just by going on
the Internet, but they know who their members are...
ANONYMOUS: ... because you had to be a member -- you had to be in prison
to be able to get into the gang. You just can`t join.
So they kind of know who each other is very well. And they enforce a very
strong sense of discipline.
MATTHEWS: I understand why they might unite themselves in prison just for
self-protection or whatever. What is their mission outside of prison?
What do they want to -- do they want to take over the country as white
Or what`s their -- what is it that...
ANONYMOUS: No, I don`t...
MATTHEWS: ... when they`re getting together, what do they talk about?
ANONYMOUS: I don`t think so.
I think it`s more, if you get out of prison, you have got a felony
conviction, it`s hard to get a job.
ANONYMOUS: They offer you a way to earn a living, drug dealing,
methamphetamine-making. You can go and get in the unemployment line or you
can ride around on a Harley-Davidson, because these guys are making money.
They offer basically a family structure.
It`s a sick family, to be sure, but they consider each other family members
that they will die for. And that`s kind of -- for people living who are on
the margins, that`s kind of -- that`s an attractive offer.
MATTHEWS: But the killing part of it, the ruthlessness of it, what makes
them so cold-blooded? Were they killers when they went to prison or did
they develop that cold mentality, the willingness to take lives of, say,
people they consider traitors or prosecutors -- who are prosecutors, who
are dangerous to them?
ANONYMOUS: Well, it comes from the culture in prison.
They -- their attitude was to make sure that we`re not preyed upon, we have
to be as dangerous or more dangerous than the other guys, that the
retribution will be swift, it will be sure, and it will be violent and,
therefore, you get a standoff. So some groups will -- well, we`re not
going to mess with these guys because we know what they`re willing to do,
because there are other prison gangs that are just about as dangerous,
maybe not as well-organized on the outside, but there are Mexican and black
ANONYMOUS: That`s the reason they formed the Aryan Brotherhood, to protect
themselves against these other gangs.
MATTHEWS: I get that part.
Let me go outside, Mark, and the prosecutors. We have grown up in a
country -- I have talked to lawyers, judges, prosecutors who don`t feel
that prisoners spend much -- they go to prison, they know whey did
something wrong, no matter what they say to their cell mates. They know
they`re guilty. They know somebody was going to put them away.
They don`t carry this vendetta against the process people. Is this new to
think about who puts you away, who might put you away and start killing
these people? This is what must make this whole job of prosecution just
POTOK: It`s new in this country, I think, for sure. I think we have seen
something like 20 murders of prosecutors in America in the last 100 years.
In other words, it`s incredibly rare.
You know, I think it`s a very surprising, in fact, if ABT is behind these
killings, and I say that simply because they will obviously, if that`s true
-- it will obviously bring the full weight of the whole criminal justice
establishment down on the heads of these people.
So, you know, as "Anonymous" I think rightly said, these -- you know, we`re
really talking about an organization that is fundamentally a criminal
enterprise. It`s about making money, particularly in the methamphetamine
world. Aryan Brotherhood, as well as Aryan Brotherhood of Texas people are
perfectly fine with making alliances with the Mexican mafia, with the Black
Guerrilla Family, or whatever it may be. If they feel that they can make
more money, deal.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this, of the high-ranking members involved
and issuing orders to -- quote -- "inflict mass casualties or death to law
enforcement officials who were involved in cases where Aryan Brotherhood of
Texas people were facing sentences?"
I mean, they are making these threats. What to you make of them, Mark?
POTOK: Well, it`s hard to know what to make of them, because, of course,
this, what you`re reading from is, of course, a memo put out by the
Department of Public Safety in December warning prosecutors that they had
intelligence that this was in fact the case.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have lost two prosecutors already now. We have lost
the wife of a prosecutor in their homes, two of them.
POTOK: Oh, yes, I`m not making light of it at all. I`m just saying I
don`t know the quality of the intelligence. I think there`s a lot about
these killings that makes you wonder.
You know, it certainly does seem to suggest, the circumstances, that ABT
might well have been behind it.
Let me end tonight by going to Anonymous.
Sir, and you have to answer this, but does your experience tell you that
these guys might be involved in going after prosecutors, without knowing
any details? Don`t tell me you know details, but is this an M.O. they
ANONYMOUS: I think it is something that you will -- can see develop.
Yes, it would be new. But I can -- yes, it could be very true.
MATTHEWS: Back to you, Mark. Is this something that we ought to be aware
of? And how do you deal with it?
Are we in a situation like in Mexico or some country that has real systemic
challenges to it, like drug cartels, where they say, you know, you
prosecute one of these guys, you`re gone? And they have the firepower to
do it up against the federal government down there.
Do we have a situation developing here? Are you still keeping your powder
dry on the possibilities they may not be the villains here?
POTOK: Well, I think it`s possible, because I think what`s really
happening is that prison gangs that a few years ago were really largely
confined to the prisons are more and more spilling out into the streets.
MATTHEWS: That`s what we`re seeing.
Thank you so much, Mark Potok. Please come back.
And, Mr. Anonymous, thank you for coming on and help enlightening us about
the general situation. I think you gave us a nice mixed view of the
Up next, Rick Santorum may have said it first. And we heard it -- well, we
heard Louie Gohmert say it yesterday. And now Jon Stewart has a rather
blunt question for the Republican Party. Wait until you get to this. I
love it when Jon mixes it up with the far right.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
Yesterday, I told you the latest from Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a
frequent star of the "Sideshow." During a conference call in February,
Gohmert suggested putting limits on gun magazines would be similar to
allowing same-sex marriage and the slippery slope that follows.
Well, let`s get a quick recap of his comments, followed by reaction from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: The problem is once you draw that limit,
it`s kind of like marriage. When you say it`s not a man and a woman
anymore, then why not have three men and one woman or four women and one
man? And -- or why not, you know, if somebody has a love for an animal.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Aside from the fact
that you`re justifying not limiting one thing by pointing to the need to
limit another thing, what is it with you people and the animal (EXPLETIVE
STEWART: I don`t understand how your minds always go there. Is that the
only thing that`s been holding you back?
STEWART: Because I don`t have -- oh, wow, look at that goat. If only I
wouldn`t get in trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Republican outreach isn`t having a banner week
when warnings about bestiality have entered the mix.
Next, another blow for the birthers. Brooklyn birther fanatic Christopher
Earl Strunk lost his battle to have President Obama removed from the New
York 2012 ballot. No surprise there. But a New York Supreme Court justice
just ordered him to pick up a tab of about $170,000 to pay the attorneys
who had to do the job of opposing him, plus another $10,000 fine for him.
According to the judge -- quote -- "If the complaint in this action was a
movie script, it would be entitled `The Manchurian Candidate Meets the Da
Vinci Code,` fanciful, delusional and irrational."
Well, that is one of over 20 lawsuits Mr. Strunk has filed, not just
targeting President Obama, but also House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and
several government agencies. Strunk said they were all part of a
conspiracy to get President Obama elected. A conspiracy. Well, hmm.
Finally, on Monday, I showed you the White House nod to April Fools` Day, a
special message from the president. Turned out to be from YouTube star Kid
President. Turns out the third grader, Robby Novak, got a meeting in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you should try to
sit behind the desk so you look a little more official.
ROBBY NOVAK, KID PRESIDENT: Hello.
OBAMA: Is anybody on there?
OBAMA: OK. Well, just -- make sure not to cause an international
Any advice for me as just an ordinary president, as opposed to Kid
NOVAK: I have one.
NOVAK: Well, not -- it`s not really...
NOVAK: How you`re doing? You`re doing awesome.
OBAMA: You think I`m doing awesome?
OBAMA: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I think you`re doing awesome.
So, both of us, we have a lot of responsibilities. But we`re handling our
Between the two of us, maybe we can kind of get things going in a good
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, man.
NOVAK: You`re welcome.
OBAMA: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, where we you that age? Probably not in the Oval Office. I
think that kid is going places.
Up next, another big sign that Hillary Clinton is definitely running.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC
Stocks finished higher, despite weaker-than-expected jobless data. The Dow
gains 55. The S&P and Nasdaq both end up, up six points.
Filing for weekly jobless benefits jumped by 28,000, hitting the highest
level in four months.
And outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says planned layoffs fell
in March, but they remain 30 percent higher than a year ago. Both reports
come ahead of tomorrow`s closely watched employment data.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Remember when Republicans championed those $85 billion worth of automatic
spending cuts otherwise known as the sequester? Well, now they`re saying,
where`s the problem? No one even cares.
Well, actually, the indiscriminate budget cuts are causing real problems
for real people. Catch this headline on the front page of "The Washington
Post" just today: "Cancer Clinics Turn Away Patients, Citing Sequester."
Well, "The Post" reports cancer clinics across the country have begun
turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget
cuts. "Oncologists say the reduced funding which took effect for Medicare
on April 1 makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs
while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would seek to
-- would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might
not have the capacity to accommodate them."
Well, The Huffington Post this week found 100 stories of how the cuts have
hit local economies from coast to coast. Just to give you an example,
Sacramento schools will see special education cuts. Utah felt cuts in
their emergency unemployment benefits. A West Virginia program to end
poverty has stopped all new projects until September. And down in Chapel
Hill, where I went to school, they could lose a bunch of work study
opportunities for students down there.
So until now, at least, Republicans feel they have had the high ground on
this issue of sequestration. It may take more reporting on the effects the
cuts have been having to even the score.
Joining me right now are two HARDBALL strategists on how this party --
their own party is jockeying for position on the issue and how it should
Robert Gibbs, of course, a genius, he`s served as White House press
secretary under President Obama and is now an MSNBC political analyst. And
Tom Davis served as Republican congressman from Northern Virginia.
I think you went to Williams, right?
TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Amherst.
MATTHEWS: Amherst, same thing, same thing.
MATTHEWS: You`re one of those smart guys anyway, and "Jeopardy" winner
So, here`s the thing. Here`s the thing. You guys are winning on this
issue. I think the public would much rather have sequestration, because it
hurts some people, than have a tax increase, or a so-called revenue
enhancer, which really is a tax increase that your own party has to defend.
And that`s why you guys in the Republican Party have said better sequester
than having to raise taxes.
DAVIS: That`s right. In fact, raising taxes right now would just kill the
party with its base. Off-years, as you know, are driven by turnout.
MATTHEWS: So, it`s the smart move that you have been doing. You would say
it`s the smart move.
DAVIS: It`s the right political move.
And, look, it`s not the cuts that I think they would prefer. They would
prefer to get into entitlements because that`s the fastest growing part of
MATTHEWS: But then they`d be blamed for cutting Medicare and Social
DAVIS: Well, you know, they got blamed for it anyway last election. And
they carried the senior vote by 12 points.
MATTHEWS: OK, both parties are playing games here, it seems to me.
His party is opposing tax increases of any kind, even so-called reform
increases. And your party doesn`t want to go after those people and say,
let`s mess with Medicare. So, is sequestration the smart move for Obama?
No matter how much he complains, is it the smart move?
ROBERT GIBBS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think I agree that there
are no off-ramps to this.
I think this is much more politically about posturing for the endgame now,
which is the debt ceiling increase and the last possibility for a grand
bargain. So I think, you know, local stories like this -- and these will
get much more attention.
MATTHEWS: Does this help Obama, this stuff?
GIBBS: I think it helps position him for an endgame where we decide
cutting aid to students and cutting chemotherapy to Medicare patients is
not the way we want to go out about getting our fiscal house...
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s this powerful picture, we think, of the sequester
cuts, a father in Indiana listening to a lottery of names drawn of families
who would be cut from their local Head Start program due to budget cuts.
The Associated Press reports this man was shared -- spared, rather, but was
upset about the others being eliminated. So, now we`re getting to the
programs where not everybody -- not everybody gets in, Tom.
DAVIS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: But your party can handle this politically? You`re better off
not raising taxes? You`re better off with this stuff?
DAVIS: Well, Chris, we are, but more important, aside from that, we`re
borrowing 40 cents on the dollar. It`s unsustainable.
There are no good options out there, whether you`re raising taxes, cutting
spending. There are no good options here.
MATTHEWS: Well, can your president, our president, your political leader,
can he get out there and say, we have to get rid of the sequester, it`s
hurting too many poor people, I`m willing to commit a cut in Medicare?
GIBBS: I think he will.
MATTHEWS: He will do that?
GIBBS: I think he will because -- but it has to be met with, as he`s
talked about the whole time...
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not going to be met. They`re not going to help.
GIBBS: Well -- well, look, if all...
MATTHEWS: Stop counting on the other party to do the right thing. No
Republican is going to raise taxes.
GIBBS: This is a race to see what part of the bone we can cut to.
MATTHEWS: No, it`s the race between who`s the good guy.
GIBBS: I wish that were what Washington was about.
MATTHEWS: You think he`s the good guy.
GIBBS: I think that the president -- is the president willing to take a
step forward and do something about the long-term entitlement picture in
order to make sure we`re making the investments and doing this in a
balanced way? Absolutely. The question is whether we`ll get anybody to
take that step.
MATTHEWS: You can win the 2014 elections right just winning on the sixth
year, right? The sixth year of the presidency --
TOM DAVIS (R-PA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, look at the senate
MATTHEWS: You have a lot of vacancies now. Can the Democratic Party put
all its eggs on the idea of winning in 2014, picking up the House? Is that
a smart move?
GIBBS: Well, I think it`s tough politically because we`ve had three way
(ph) elections and redistricting. There is not a lot, there aren`t a huge
number of seats --
MATTHEWS: Why do I get this feeling? You`re so smart. I get the feeling
the president -- I`m not saying he`s playing the issues. He`s a man of
values. He believes in stuff.
But I`m looking at immigration, I`m looking at guns, I`m looking at the
sequester, and I`m saying, what I think he wants to do is win in November
of 2014. That`s his crowning achievement.
GIBBS: No, I mean --
MATTHEWS: You don`t think that`s true?
GIBBS: Well, I don`t think anybody -- I can`t think of the legacy of a
former president being how they left the House of Representatives --
MATTHEWS: Have you told them that? I agree with you. I`m with you.
GIBBS: Look, I think -- you -- as a president you want a legacy. You want
to burnish a credential of having --
MATTHEWS: OK. So, better to do immigration, better to do something on
guns than to win the House?
MATTHEWS: I like the way, clarity.
Hillary Clinton, she`s doing a lot. I figured she`d go off to some ranch
somewhere, everybody talks about doing. Nobody I know ever does it. Just
go relax, you know. She does have the opportunity -- she`s been the great
secretary of state. She`s got tremendous qualities (ph). People love her,
Why doesn`t she take a break right now? What`s this about going right into
these big speeches? Is she trying to ward off Joe, warn him, I like you,
Joe, but don`t be stupid enough to run against me? Is that what she`s
GIBBS: I think she is taking advantage of lucrative speaking offers.
MATTHEWS: OK. Yes, but she wasn`t going to do that.
GIBBS: Look, I -- she should and she should --
MATTHEWS: OK. What about Biden? Joe, I like you, don`t run against me?
GIBBS: I believe, honestly, she has no idea what she wants to do.
MATTHEWS: You guys are like robots. You all talk the same way. You think
she might not run for president?
GIBBS: I do because I think it`s 2013 and it`s not --
MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t she run?
GIBBS: Why would she?
MATTHEWS: Because all her life, she and her husband, this has been a
political life. It`s a political life they`ve led.
GIBBS: She may -- I think these are intensely personal --
MATTHEWS: This is the problem with this guy, and everybody close to the
Clintons. You`re not that close to the Clintons.
GIBBS: I was going to say, as the first person --
MATTHEWS: Why do you guys all say you don`t know when every step she takes
is to run?
DAVIS: She has to get in front. Just out in front now, send the warning
to everybody else, I`m there and that forecloses -- everything else is
stopped until she makes a decision. And she`s making --
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s put money on the table right now. What odds would
you want -- would you put - would you put 100,000 bucks right now on the
table? You`d probably get it with speaking fees.
GIBBS: You had me confused with Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: Would you bet that money, even money, she won`t run?
GIBBS: I would bet even money that --
MATTHEWS: That she won`t run?
GIBBS: Yes, look, she`s --
MATTHEWS: Are you laughing at him? I`m laughing at him.
GIBBS: She`s been through the process before so she knows the good and the
bad. She`ll be 69 years old. She may decide she doesn`t want to do it.
GIBBS: But I would say this --
GIBBS: One thing I disagree with --
DAVIS: Let`s put some money up on this one.
MATTHEWS: I think there`s money on the table here.
GIBBS: I think she could wait until 10 minutes before the New Hampshire
primary filing closes to decide to run for president and still be the
nominee. She doesn`t have to --
MATTHEWS: All right. Hillary land is still out there. They have officers
all over downtown. There`s people out there waiting for their meal tickets
to be punched. There are so many people who believe she`s running and
invested their lives into running for president.
You`re smiling. You`re a good guy.
GIBBS: She may do it, she may not.
MATTHEWS: OK, 50/50. Give me a break.
Thank you, Robert Gibbs, the strategist, he calls himself.
Anyway, thank you, Tom Davis.
Up next, this guy (INAUDIBLE), up next, see the guy she`s coming at him,
knows she`s coming at him. Forty-five years ago today, we lost the
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. of course. I`ll tell you where I was. I
bet you know where you were when you heard.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Here comes another. Another Senate Democrat who`s come forward
to support marriage equality, Florida`s Bill Nelson who just got re-
elected, of course, reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage telling
"The Tampa Bay Times" that we`re all endowed by our Creator with
unalienable rights, the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those
right should apply to all Americans, he says, regardless of sexual
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Today marks 45 years since civil rights pioneer, Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr., was shot and killed at the Lorraine Hotel or motel in Memphis,
Tennessee, back on April 4th, 1968.
Take a look at this photo of Dr. King the day before his assassination. He
was gunned down, by the way, on that same hotel balcony that very next day.
I was down there. It`s amazing to visit that room, in fact.
The night of Dr. King`s assassination, then-presidential candidate Robert
Kennedy broke the news actually to a mostly African-American crowd at the
airport in Indianapolis where he was campaigning for president. RFK
pleaded at the time to try to deal with this horrible development.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those of you who are
black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust of the
injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I
can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of
my feeling killed, but he was killed by a white man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: With me now is the son of Dr. King, Martin Luther King III, and
civil rights activist and former ambassador to the U.N., Andrew Young, who
was with Dr. King when he was assassinated in Memphis.
Thank you. Thank you very much, Martin, for coming on.
Thank you, Ambassador Young. Thank you.
I guess I`ll start with a family member.
And, Martin, you carry the legacy and name of your dad. How`s this country
doing? How can you imagine him looking down and seeing us today? And how
does he feel about what we`re doing?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Well, I think dad would
always characterize things positive but he would say we have some real
challenges. He would certainly be very pleased about the fact that we
elected an African-American president but he would be very concerned about
the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism and violence that we
have not eradicated yet.
With 60 million almost people living in poverty today, 22 million when he
was alive, with militarism and -- militarism on the rise in terms -- you
know, we still spend more money than the next 10 nations and then, of
course, in our communities we are killing people more than we ever have.
We can`t even get a gun bill it seems --
KING: -- at least an assault-weapons ban in this nation.
So, I think there are still challenges but I think he would find a way to
make it positive.
MATTHEWS: You`re right, though, Martin. Of course, you`ve see these
numbers. We just have a big fight with the guy on that tonight. Seventy-
eight percent of African-Americans in this country want to see tougher gun
laws, stricter gun laws.
Ambassador, thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador. And you`ve had such a wide
experience in public life since with the Carter administration, as mayor of
Atlanta, you`ve been through it all. And how are we doing?
ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: Well, I think we really are doing
well. Now, I say that because we have by and large made racism illegal and
we -- I disagree with Martin a little bit because I remember 66 million
people being killed in the Second World War. So 10,000 or less in Iraq is
progress to me. Not nirvana.
But the thing we have to deal with is the economy and poverty. And we
cannot deal with the poverty unless we look at a global economy. We have
more money in tax havens almost than we have in circulation. And that`s
why we have deficits. Economists say $20 trillion tax haven. "Forbes" was
saying from $21 trillion to 35 trillion.
Somehow we`ve got to get that money into circulation. And --
MATTHEWS: What --
MATTHEWS: That`s great thinking. I haven`t thought about that power of
YOUNG: That`s the answer to poverty. And it`s not just poverty but it`s
national security. And let`s put it on the Saudis for a minute. That
instead of putting their money in hiding, let`s help them run a little risk
and invest in Egypt.
The answer to Egypt`s problems is not whoever`s running it. It`s the
economy. The economy works for 40 million people and you`ve got 90
Nigeria has grad -- Nigeria`s got a million college graduates a year with
no jobs. That`s trouble.
And we`ve got to think -- only America -- I mean, all of the foolishness
with Korea and that kind of stuff to distract us, the real problems are the
problems of unemployed intelligent youth who have access to your
information and the technology of -- that I don`t even understand and --
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. I`ve seen that in the third world. You`ve
got to (INAUDIBLE) some place like that, with huge populations with nothing
Let me go to Martin on this. I don`t know your politics exactly. But I do
think this, I`ve had a big standing argument with some Republicans. I
think these three dozen states that have been out there suppressing the
vote, killing voting hours, reducing voting hours, lengthening the lines,
getting rid of Sunday voting, Souls to the Polls, I think a lot of that is
prejudicial. I think people have been are trying to reduce the black vote.
MARTIN: Well, I would characterize it a different way. It`s just one
party trying to win and using tactics.
MATTHEWS: OK, you`re being benign. Yes, OK.
MARTIN: You know, sure, we can characterize it as race. Everything is not
race. However, that is partially race.
I just think it`s tragic in 2013 that the vote is trying to be suppressed
for anybody. Nobody says that people should not have an ID. But the fact
that you create new provisions, new kinds of IDs that cost money and people
are on fixed income and you say you got to pay $75 for a new ID, that`s
almost like a new poll tax.
So, yes, this is wrong. It`s got to be addressed. Congress may have to do
And also, the Supreme Court talking about eliminating Section 5 of the
preclearance provision in the Voting Rights Act, these are very serious --
MATTHEWS: You`re a benign man. You`re a generous man, Martin. You say
they don`t hate people because they are blacks. They hate them because
they are Democrats.
Ha! That`s your pitch. That`s a very nice way of putting it.
Andrew Young, my question is about violence. This thing in the black
community is serious business -- victimhood, people getting killed, drive-
bys, the whole works, the drug thing. It seems to me, I`ve never seen such
a divide. Black Americans want gun control.
YOUNG: Yes, they do and need gun control. And, by and large, though, we
need self-esteem. The kind of violence and insanity that black on black
crime really has killed more people than the Ku Klux Klan did.
YOUNG: But Martin is absolutely right about the vote. It`s not just
suppression of blacks. I don`t like to racialize things very much.
They are doing it to senior citizens, too. And it is an attempt to win
when they don`t have rational, reasonable, workable programs.
MATTHEWS: OK. I agree with you. I agree with you in a different way than
that, but I think these people don`t care who they are hurting.
Anyway, thank you, Martin. You`re the king. Thank you very much for
And thank you, Ambassador Andrew Young.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me conclude tonight with this:
Nine out of 10 Americans, nine out of 10 Republicans want background checks
for all gun buyers. More than nine out of 10 Democrats, 96 percent, want
background checks for all buyers. Nine out of 10 independents want
background checks for all gun buyers.
Nine out of 10 men want background checks for all Americans. Nine out of
10 women want background checks for all gun buyers.
ine out of 10 white Americans want background checks on all guy buyers.
And nine out of 10 black Americans want background checks on all Americans.
And finally, nine out of 10 Latino-Americans want background checks on all
Americans, all gun buyers.
Well, the number to call if you want to make this happened really in the
Congress is 202-224-3121, the United States Congress, 202-224-3121. Do it.
Do it for those lost kids up in Newtown.
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