March 12, 2014
Guests: Josh Gerstein, Kathleen Parker, Nia-Malika Henderson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: What side are you on?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Whose side are you on? Because this is
a nasty business politically. It`s no joke going out there as a Democrat
this year, no joke at all. People are angry. They`re looking for places
to show they`re angry, looking for somewhere to blast away at the way
Well, this election in Florida yesterday was about one word, No, because no
work. It will be worked again from now until November. By all means, no.
That`s the Republican message this year.
And why is it hard for Democrats to fight that? Well, for one thing,
Democrats generally can see the complexity of our times. The polls show
this. They don`t think they have all the answers. They`d like to see deal
making between the parties and across the aisles.
Two, the Democrats know that the health care program, as it`s been put
there, could be improved. They`re thinking about it. They`re watching it.
The Republicans -- well, you don`t really have to think much if you`re just
ticked off, do you. All you have to do is go to your base and go back to
cutting government spending, attacking health care, hating the president
and guarding your values.
Well, the Democrats -- what are they to do to win this November? Well,
they could do one thing. They could focus from now until this year`s
election on the differences between the two parties, how they`re going to
help the working stiff, the Democrats would, to break (ph) in (ph) with a
higher minimum wage hike, which the Republicans are fighting tooth and
They could focus on their attitude toward women and the choices they
believe women should be allowed to make in this society. They could focus
on improving things for Americans, not just banging on the pipes and
yelling, No. They could give themselves a reason for a better life in
America while Republicans are only being given a reason for knocking off
Chuck Todd`s NBC`s chief White House correspondent and political director
and host of "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" on MSNBC, which I always watch. And Howard
Fineman is editorial director for the Huffington Post Media Group and an
MSNBC political analyst .
Well, anyway, David Jolly, a far-right professional lobbyist, beat a very
strong Democratic challenger, Alex Sink, by just under 3,500 votes in that
special election to fill a vacant congressional seat down in Tampa,
Florida. His message was simple -- Jolly`s was. A vote for me is a vote
against President Obama and the health care law. The Democrat meanwhile,
Alex Sink, talked about working with Republicans to fix the problems with
Turnout was a major issue, of course, in Jolly`s favor. Just over 100,000
-- 180,000 people voted yesterday. That`s a little more than half the
turnout in 2012, when Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by a single point in
that same district.
So let`s do the diagnosis right now. Chuck Todd, you`re always good at
this. So looking at the numbers, a modest defeat for the Democrat in the
seat that was what? Where would you have put this historically as a seat,
Democrat or Republican?
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: It`s a pure
swing district. Obama carried it both times in Florida, but about the
exact number that he got statewide in Florida. Alex Sink actually carried
this district when she ran for governor in 2010, what (ph) this district
is, you know, barely, and that was a race that was decided by less than a
It is Florida`s swingingest swing seat that you could have come up with.
It`s always been one that Democrats for years kept saying, Well, when Bill
Young retires, is no longer there, there -- you know, Democrats have a shot
at that district. Bill Young always uniquely had this sort of ability to
be a moderate Republican --
TODD: -- and survive in that district there forever. And so everything
seemed -- I mean, this was -- this is the exact -- and not only that,
Chris, this is the type of seat that Democrats, when they -- when it --
when these seats have come open over the last 10 years, Democrats win most
of them. See upstate New York. Almost time and again, they`ve been
winning these seats that are the 50/50 seats, more often than not. And
that`s why they, and to me, were always the slight favorite, never mind the
candidate advantage that they had going in --
TODD: -- with Alex Sink versus Jolly.
MATTHEWS: Well, David Jolly -- who is he? He`s the -- he`s an ex-
lobbyist, recently a lobbyist. He staked out far-right positions during
the campaign. No moderation for him. He said in one debate, the United
States should have intervened militarily in Syria. Talk about a hawk! He
wants to repeal Roe v Wade outright. He said when it comes to Social
Security for younger workers, everything should be on the table, including
privatizing Social Security. He questions the impact humans have on
climate change. And as "The Tampa Bay Times" put it, while he wants to get
rid of the Affordable Care Act, he has no workable alternative for the
Howard, it seems to me if Democrats want to sit around and play horse race
politics this year and take people`s temperatures from now to November and
think about how we feel, they`re going to lose.
They have to change the subject from, How do you feel, in this sort of
bluesy, gloomy environment the Republicans are helping to create, and say,
What do you believe in? Do you believe in a woman`s right to choose? Do
you believe in minimum wage? Do you have the values of equality in your
mind? Do you want the government run that way, or do you want it to be run
by a bunch of ex-lobbyist right-wingers who are willing to say anything as
long as they`re dumping on Obama? Is that what you want to do, just dump
on Obama this fall, or believe in something?
Seems to me they got to change the question from taking your temperature
and your feelings to, What do you believe in, a little harder question for
people. Your thoughts.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, it`s no doubt going to be a difficult environment for the
Democrats. It`s not just conventional wisdom. I think that`s the truth.
So what do you do? I don`t think it`s just that you say, What do you
believe, as opposed to, What do you resent. I think the Democrats also
need to say, What do you need, because that`s what we, as Democrats, can
provide. That`s why we`re focusing on tangible, concrete things like the
minimum wage, like overtime pay, as the president did, like health care,
and so forth.
I mean, I think in this storm -- and it`s going to be a stormy season for
the Democrats -- I think they have to focus on tangible things. If they
get into an ideological war with the Republicans, I think it`s a loser for
FINEMAN: -- that is, for the Democrats, because the -- as you say, the
American public is in a foul mood. They`re skeptical about what government
can do for them in any way, and the Democrats need to be concrete if
they`re going to survive.
MATTHEWS: Well thought out. When it comes to messaging, by the way, one
side`s as clear and simple, the other not so much. As I said, the
Republicans are black and white. Democrats are trying to learn here.
Here`s a -- here`s Alex Sink`s pitch to voters. Let`s watch the nuance she
tried, which by the way, squares with the new "Wall Street Journal" poll
coming out. People want "Obama care" fixed -- not left alone, fixed.
Here`s her ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX SINK (D), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Every place I go in
Pinellas County, the voters and people here are saying they are sick and
tired of Washington, this bickering and this partisanship. They want
somebody with some common sense. We`ve got big challenges, and we need
people who can work across the aisle to take them on.
Bringing Republicans and Democrats together -- that`s what I`ve always
done, and I`ll do that in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She`s smiling, notice? Her message is that of happiness and we
can work together. She pitched herself as a moderate who could cross the
aisle, as she said there in the ad, and work with Republicans. She talked
about fixing "Obama care," not getting rid of it not or defending it as it
Now take a look at Mr. -- her opponent`s operation, David Jolly`s. Let`s
watch his ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: She supports "Obama
care." I don`t. I`m David Jolly, and I approved this message because
Pinellas needs someone to look out for our interests, not President
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd, boy that simple difference. I love it when you can
learn something in politics -- one trying to be conciliatory --
MATTHEWS: -- saying, We`re not perfect, we got to fix this darn thing,
this health care thing.
MATTHEWS: We got to work across the aisle. And one guys says, No, he`s no
damn good. Get rid of this guy. He`s out for himself.
TODD: Well, by the way --
MATTHEWS: And he`s Obama and she`s Obama.
TODD: Oh, by the way, if you`re talking about health care, you`re talking
about issues the Republicans want to talk about. So already, Alex Sink was
talking -- when you think about it, right --
TODD: -- Alex Sink was already in a defensive crouch. And that is what
you got to look at here is you look at this turnout issue because we show
in our NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll there is a way for Democrats to fight
to a draw on health care, OK? It`s never going to be a winner yet. We may
be years away from it being a political winner, the way, for instance,
Medicare is such a winner now. But if -- you can fight it to a draw with
that message, but that isn`t going to rally the troops and get people to
You know, the big spin today from Democrats has been, Whoa, this wasn`t
really a swing seat because in a special election, it was Republicans plus
12 and all this. Well, of course, that means -- the Democrats still live
there. They still are residents of this district. They just did not vote.
That`s the question.
You`re sitting here trying to -- you -- you were offering a prescription at
the start of your show. But if I were a Democrat, I`d be going, Well, why
didn`t the Democrats come out? Well, that message isn`t getting them to
come out. That message might get independents to not flee the Democratic
Party right now.
MATTHEWS: You know, Howard, that`s a great --
TODD: But the Democrats got to come up with something that gets the
fannies out of the house.
MATTHEWS: Yes, you know, Howard, that`s -- that`s, to me -- some TV shows
people are gung-ho for. I think this is one of them. And there`s other
shows they just sort of watch and there`s no passion.
MATTHEWS: I`m telling you, it`s not -- (INAUDIBLE) since I`ve been on, I
got to tell you. But some people get -- cable is much more exciting and
much more committed, for example, than broadcast. People are much more
invested in these kinds of programs. You got to look for these numbers --
60, 61, 62. You got to look for them.
Those kind of commitments and passions of the people watching right now
matter to me. Who are the people who say they care about health care, say
they care about minimum wage, but as Chuck says, won`t get off their
fannies to go vote? Who are these people?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it`s up to the Democrats to carefully study those
results in, as Chuck said, the swingiest district in the swingiest state.
That`s a perfect laboratory for them. And I would guess that a lot of
different kinds of Democrats -- two types who didn`t up, a lot of working-
class Democrats, blue-collar Democrats for whom the off-year election --
and this was sort of an off of an off --
FINEMAN: -- a special election leading up to the off-year -- they don`t
turn out. They come out in presidential elections.
FINEMAN: Those are low-information -- low-information voters, detached
voters. They don`t take their civic duties as seriously. They don`t show
up in midterms. That`s one group the president and the Democrats have to
And the other, I think, are probably more upscale Democrats, who -- you
know, they`ve lost their enthusiasm for Barack Obama for one reason or
another -- doesn`t have anything to do with health care necessarily,
although the roll-out they didn`t like because they don`t like --
FINEMAN: -- because they don`t -- they don`t like mangled technology.
You know, they may be mad at the president --
MATTHEWS: OK --
FINEMAN: -- over Syria or whatever.
MATTHEWS: Howard -- Howard, diagnosis. It`s not your job, but I`m asking
you to take it in this instance.
FINEMAN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: You`re sitting in the White House. You`re Dan Pfeiffer. You`re
the president. You`re having a meeting tonight. What did we learn that we
got to face up to here? And what are we going to do about it? Do we have
to change or game from, How do you feel, because that`s going to screw us -
MATTHEWS: -- to, What do you believe in? That`s what I think it is.
FINEMAN: Well --
MATTHEWS: You say, What tangible thing do you believe in?
FINEMAN: Yes, and I would also say on the day I think maybe the -- this
election result came in on the day that Wall Street announced, you know, 15
percent bonuses for everybody on Wall Street, an average of $160,000.
FINEMAN: You know, I wouldn`t necessarily advocate a populist -- you know,
a theme of populist resentment, but I would say, Hey, look, if they`re
getting up there -- theirs on Wall Street, we`re the people who are looking
out for the rest of America, and here is exactly how. To me, that`s their
only hope not to get clobbered in November.
MATTHEWS: Give them something to vote against except Obama.
FINEMAN: Yes, with a tangible -- with a tangible way of benefiting, as
MATTHEWS: Chuck, check him on that. What did you think of that? Do you
think it`s going to come down to fighting another enemy for the Democrats
because the Republicans got one? His name is Barack Obama.
TODD: Well, look, if you want to talk tactics, I would say in -- in -- you
know, there -- there was one aspect to this midterm that if the Democrats
could go down, which is, basically scorch-earth it and make it as negative
as possible, drive down turnout, hope it`s low and hope that on the
margins, a base turnout essentially gives you the status quo. You hold
your losses to four or five Senate seats. That is a -- that is one way to
But you know, there`s another part of this story of Florida 13 that I think
Democrats don`t have an answer for right now, and that is the role of
outside money. David Jolly and the Republicans -- the Republican campaign
committee -- was outspent by the -- by Alex Sink and the Democratic
campaign committee something like 3.5 to 1, 2.5 to 1, something like that.
It was the outside groups that made the difference for Jolly. So they took
a campaign which -- frankly, the Jolly campaign wasn`t very sophisticated
on the ground. It was all done by the outside groups or by the RNC and the
NRCC. They had to import that stuff in order for him to do a ground game.
They bailed him out.
So they`re able to -- that tells you how toxic the political environment is
for Democrats --
MATTHEWS: OK --
TODD: -- is that it -- just a little bit of Republican outside money,
and you can bail out a C-plus campaign. That`s -- that`s a problem.
MATTHEWS: OK, I got to go, guys.
FINEMAN: That would mean tying everything into the Koch brothers, which
they`re already trying to do.
MATTHEWS: Now, let me tell you something. This is a funny about the guy`s
name. If you`re not, vote for Jolly.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
TODD: Although the Bob Barker thing was cute.
FINEMAN: And if you want to rise -- and if you want to rise, vote for
MATTHEWS: OK. Very good. You`re so quick! Anyway -- you`re as quick as
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chuck Todd. You ought to go on Zach Galifianakis`s
show. Anyway, Howard Fineman -- gentlemen, thank you.
FINEMAN: Between two pundits.
MATTHEWS: Coming up -- yes! Coming up: Get ready for Hillary. November
may look tough for Democrats, but 2016`s looking a lot brighter. You`re
seeing a genuine -- by the way, actually, today, Mark Halperin`s coming on,
a real expert from the "Double Down" days. He`s going to come on and tell
us how Hillary Clinton`s actually taking shape as a campaign. It`s real.
It`s getting genuine. It`s no longer the outriders. So `16`s now in the
Anyway, also, a closer look at Dianne Feinstein`s charge that the CIA spied
on her Senate committee that was supposedly overseeing the agency. We`ll
see what they`re up to, and what they`re trying to hide. What does the CIA
want to keep from us? That`s my question tonight.
Plus, the conservative freak-out -- you got to call it that -- over
President Obama`s "Between the Ferns" (sic) interview -- it`s not like it`s
the first time a politician has used humor on TV. So what`s different this
time? I get it. It`s Obama.
Finally, why some people, even Republicans, who have seen Mitch McConnell`s
latest campaign ad are being reminded of a very famous chipmunk. Maybe
this isn`t fair, but we`re doing it.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: The George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal continues to
take its toll on Governor Chris Christie. Look at this. For the first
time since taking office back in 2010, Christie`s disapproval rating is
higher than his approval rating. A new Fairleigh Dickinson poll showed 41
percent approve, 44 percent disapprove. That`s within the poll`s margin of
error, but look at it.
And what`s more, our new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows nationally,
Christie`s stock is dropping fast -- 17 percent of Americans say they view
him positively, just 17 percent, versus 32 percent who view him negatively.
Those numbers are essentially reversed from our poll in October before the
bridge scandal hit.we`ll be right back
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While 2014 might not be shaping up
right now as too good for the Democrats, 2016 may look very different as of
now. And we may be seeing Hillary Clinton`s real campaign, the genuine
article, beginning now to emerge.
While the Republican race remains a jumble for 2016, the Democratic side
has an unprecedented shadow presidential campaign that`s consolidating
nearly the entire party around one likely candidate. That`s Hillary
Clinton, of course. What`s more, Hillary supporters, donors and political
talent have united with Barack Obama`s to develop a rare and unmatched
Already Clinton loyalist Craig Smith (ph), who is advising the Ready for
Hillary super-PAC, told Mark Halperin in "Time" magazine that, quote, "Our
goal is to build the Ferrari of grass roots operations. All we need is a
driver ready to hit the gas."
Well, Halperin also reports that first lady Michelle Obama has concluded
that Hillary Clinton, not Joe Biden, the vice president, is the best choice
to defend the Obama legacy.
Mark Halperin`s author, of course, of "Double Down," and he`s an MSNBC
senior political analyst. And Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter
for "The Washington Post." Great people to have on right now.
Mark, it`s great to see this reporting already. Tell us what`s different
now and what you`ve been able to report here about the people who want
Hillary Clinton to be president and who are working on it. What`s
developing here that wasn`t before?
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
there`s is a lot of things involving personality and a lot involving
process. This super-PAC is the first super-PAC in the history of super-
PACS to not have the model of million-dollar fat cat checks for television
ads, mostly negative ads. This is a different model. This is grass roots.
There are some people who say, Come on, they`re really going to build grass
roots? It`s all for show, it`s all a full employment act for people who
want Hillary Clinton to run.
They have lofty goals, as I report in "Time" magazine, for five million
supporters, two million active volunteers. Think about those numbers. At
the end of this year, if they achieve that goal, think about what those
numbers will be like compared to every Republican, every Democrat you can
think of running combined. It will be a formidable grass roots operation,
exactly what she lacked in 2008.
That`s why, as I report in "Time," she is grateful for this. She`s
publicly silent, but she`s told friends she sees what they`re doing, she`s
grateful for it, and she recognizes it`s exactly what she lacked last time
against Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that because I see Bill Clinton in all those
pictures, appropriately so. One thing about Bill Clinton -- I know it
watching him longer than I`ve watched Secretary Clinton -- he really
learns. If somebody doesn`t like him, he tries to make friends with him.
You know that. He`s always reaching out, always growing. He`s very
And the question I have is, is she learning from the way that -- you know,
somewhere before it was clear to them, it seemed like it was clear to Tim
Russert, the expert here, the great guy here at NBC, that it was clear the
numbers were there for Obama and weren`t going to be there for Hillary,
because Obama went out there and didn`t go to the big, big states with all
the electoral delegates.
He went around to states like South Dakota, the states that may not be
ready to vote Democrat in the general, but can deliver delegates to the
convention. And before she knew it -- and Mark Penn, her campaign ramrod
knew it -- it was all over.
HALPERIN: She has learned.
MATTHEWS: Has she learned from that technique of getting the delegates as
the number one goal?
HALPERIN: Absolutely, learning that lesson, which is to not just recruit
in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in all 50 states, because think about it.
If she runs and if some minor candidate runs against her, say she wins a
state 70-30. That could be considered a loss. She needs to dominate this
thing if she runs. And there`s another lesson they learned from Obama from
last time, which is not just you have to play in all 50 states for the
delegates, but use the nomination fight to be ready for the general.
So, sure, they are recruiting in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they`re also
going to recruit in Missouri and Montana and other states they would like
to play in, in the general if she runs and she is the nominee. It is a
very shrewd strategy.
And part of why I report President Obama is fine with it is, even though
he`s afraid it will detract from the midterms, is he recognizes the way he
won was to build the grassroots movement over time. Hillary Clinton can`t
wait until after the midterms to do this, if she`s going to take advantage
of her current edge over the other people.
So he has accepted talking to his aides let`s build this -- let her build
this over time. If she doesn`t run, it can be turned over to another
Democrat, which is what they intend to do. That is a really important
lesson for them to learn and an extraordinary advantage for her if they
pull it off for the nomination and if she`s the nominee of the general.
MATTHEWS: Well, Nia, this is fascinating to get a chance to ask you about
this reporting out of Washington. Michelle Obama, the first lady, is a
sphinx when it comes to political thinking. I don`t know what --
obviously, she`s very likable, attractive. Everybody likes her. She has
got great numbers.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
MATTHEWS: Every time I have ever bumped into her, I find her great and
charming to meet with. I have no idea how she thinks. The idea that she
is some militant and all that isn`t quite clear at all, true at all.
But this idea that she may have basically cast her bet, I want Hillary --
Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the strongest successor to my husband, the
best possible rearguard for his record and his legacy, not Joe Biden, can
you report that? Is that something that you can see and can report on?
HENDERSON: Well, I think it is clear that both President Obama and
Michelle Obama seem to be on the same page with that.
I mean, remember, as soon as Hillary Clinton was finished with the
secretary of state, her -- her first interview was side by side with
President Obama, almost as if he was passing the baton, and giving his OK,
not only in terms of how he felt Secretary of State Clinton did at State,
but looking forward to what she might do after.
I do know in sort of reporting on some of the things that Mark Halperin is
talking about here, one of the things that you`re certainly at is how to
build a black firewall, because, remember, that was really why Barack Obama
in 2008 was able to beat Hillary Clinton, because he was able to get those
African-American supporters, particularly African-American women in states
like South Carolina, to get in board -- get on board with his candidacy.
So, one of the things they have done is very much focus on African-American
women. They have gone to hair shows in Atlanta, Georgia. They have been
down in South Carolina, having events there, where the cost is $20.16.
They have had also events here in -- in Washington. They had an event last
week which was called Her Voice, Her Values, Our Movement. So, they are
very much trying to wrap her within sort of this legacy of feminism.
MATTHEWS: Yes, do you think she -- by the way, what do you get for $20 and
MATTHEWS: You get a haircut. What is that?
HENDERSON: That`s right.
HENDERSON: Well, you get -- it`s entree to an event and you get to rub
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK.
HENDERSON: -- with whoever it is in South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: OK. In other words, it is a general admission thing.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- just last question -- do you think you
could see, based on what you can report, that the first lady, current first
lady, Michelle Obama, might be out there campaigning with Hillary in 2016
among African-American women especially, actually campaigning as a hoofer
out there, somebody, trooper, campaigning for her?
HENDERSON: Yes. I imagine that.
I mean, one of the things, I mean, what a journey this has been, right, for
Michelle Obama in terms of her relationship with Hillary Clinton. Early on
during that primary, she was out on the stump not saying very nice things
about Hillary Clinton and talking about needing to turn the page from the
And here I can certainly imagine come 2016 both of those very powerful
women, should Hillary Clinton decide to run, I can imagine them out there
together and what a powerful scene that will be.
MATTHEWS: Well, if you are near an airport or you are near an a drugstore,
get a copy of "TIME" magazine off the rack for Mark Halperin`s great
Thank you, Mark.
HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I love reporting. I love moving the calendar, ripping those
months off the calendar to get to 2016.
And, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you.
HENDERSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: First, it was Ted Cruz and "Green Eggs and Ham." And
now there`s been another Dr. Seuss sighting on the Senate floor. These
aren`t the most original people in the world, politicians.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": thirty
Democratic senators held an all-night talk-a-thon.
FALLON: That sounds exciting, huh? Yes.
FALLON: An all-night talk-a-thon on the floor of the Senate last night to
highlight the impacts of climate change. That`s 14 hours of climate change
talk, or, as Al Gore calls that, a first date.
FALLON: You look hot, but not as hot as the Earth is getting. Take a look
at these charts.
FALLON: I brought these charts here, and this is where our love can go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s great.
Time for the "Sideshow." That was Jimmy Fallon`s take on the all-nighter
that the Senate Democrats finished yesterday morning. And, believe it or
not, the highlight of that performance was yet another Dr. Seuss reading.
No, it wasn`t "Green Eggs And Ham." This time, it was "The Lorax," read by
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a cautionary tale.
Next up, funnyman Jimmy Kimmel had Governor Rick Perry on his show last
night in Austin, Texas, where he`s taping during this week`s South by
Southwest Festival. But despite being on home turf, Perry`s initial
reception was pretty icy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I thought, maybe here in Austin,
that you would get a favorable response. But what have you done to make
these people dislike you so intensely?
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Well, you know, I tell people, I said, Austin
is kind of the blueberry in the tomato soup in the state, if you will.
PERRY: This is -- it`s a little different than the rest of the place.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KIMMEL: That`s a weird analogy, but --
PERRY: They do -- they do their part at keeping Austin weird, man, let me
Is that why you are not running for governor again?
KIMMEL: You have -- you have had enough of these people?
PERRY: After -- after 14 years of this kind of love, I mean, it`s -- it is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Austin is to Texas what Chapel Hill is to North Carolina.
Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might be in a tough primary
fight in his home state of Kentucky, but his latest campaign ad has got
people wondering what he is up to. The two-minute video features a feel-
good soundtrack, but little else. There`s no narration, no titles, nothing
to indicate it`s making a political point.
It even makes some Republicans uncomfortable. RedState`s Ben Howe
described it as -- quote -- "the worst campaign ad in the history of
politics with the creepiest opening I have ever seen."
It inspired Howe, that man, the expert, to create a parody based on the
famous viral video "Dramatic Chipmunk," the YouTube sensation that has
racked up over 40 million hits since 2007.
So, here now for your viewing pleasure is Ben Howe`s dramatic Mitch video
alongside the legendary dramatic chipmunk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Up next : Dianne Feinstein`s accusation that the CIA spied on the Senate
Intelligence Committee. My big question tonight, what is it that the CIA
doesn`t want us to know? That is a big question that is always going to
And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
The Chinese government has released satellite images reportedly taken
Saturday morning over the South China Sea. The images show large objects
that seem to be floating in the water. They were taken in one of the areas
where search teams are looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The U.S. officials have no information on these images. And NBC News has
no other details about them and cannot confirm they have anything to do
with the missing plane. The Boeing aircraft had 239 people on board when
it disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
We will keep you updated on this developing story.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When Senator Dianne Feinstein of California charged the CIA with spying on
very Intelligence Committee that was investigating the CIA, the most
obvious question is, what does the CIA want to hide from us?
Well, we got an indication of the answer from Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence member Mark Udall, who has been at the forefront of pushing to
get the committee`s report on detention and interrogation. He wants it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK UDALL (D), COLORADO: When I first went on the committee some
three years ago, I went about understanding the CIA`s program of
interrogation and detention, which was brutal, it was ineffective, it was
clumsy, it was filled with flaws.
I call it torture. And we have been pushing ever since to get this report
released and to clear the record, because we know in America, when we
acknowledge our mistakes, we are the stronger for it, we are the better for
it. And there were enormous mistakes made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what is it that the CIA doesn`t want the public or the
Senate to make -- to get across to us, obviously?
Joining me right now is David Corn, MSNBC contributor and Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones" magazine, and Josh Gerstein, who is senior White
House reporter for Politico. He covers intelligence and national security
David Corn, the American people are not proud of torture. They don`t --
they are not very happy on the -- at least on center-left and left, they`re
not very happy about the continued existence of Gitmo. They don`t like
some of the drone stuff, some of it. There are some things they really,
really don`t think America should be doing because it is not what we stand
What is the CIA`s mission here? Is it to keep us from knowing from what it
does? And, if so, how do we make sure the Senate wins this fight?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This has been a battle going on for
If you listen to what Dianne Feinstein said at the very beginning of her
remarks, it`s that back in 2009 or so, they -- the committee learned that
what the CIA told the committee about the intelligence -- about the
interrogation, the torture program was not true, was wrong, and then they
launched this big investigation to start this. It was all started because
they felt they had been misled by the CIA.
And if you listened to what Mark Udall said last night on this network and
what Dianne Feinstein said yesterday on the Senate floor, they are saying
that there was significant wrongdoing in this program, that they have this
in the CIA`s own records that have been sort of stolen back from the
committee by the CIA.
And that`s, I think, what this is all about. The CIA doesn`t want it to
come out that this program went off the rails, and that perhaps one of the
greatest sins that while we were committing torture or whatever it was, it
was ineffective. It didn`t produce the information. Remember, we have had
Dick Cheney and others come out again and again and say, this was
necessary. This worked. That is why we had to put up with it.
Well, it turns out, maybe, from the CIA`s own records, that it didn`t work
and it wasn`t done well, and the CIA seems to be trying very hard to hide
this, not just from the public, but from the committee that`s in charge of
overseeing the CIA.
Josh Gerstein, I have always respected Dianne Feinstein. She is no lefty.
She is a grownup in many ways. She`s a liberal, but she`s very grown up
and very professional. I have watched her over the years. She comes out
of law enforcement. She is for real. She is pro-CIA.
What is the CIA trying to hide from her, hide from her, so it can be hidden
from the public?
JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO: Well, I think David really hit on it.
It is one thing to have people outside the agency criticize this program,
say there was misconduct, say that it didn`t work. But to have people
inside the CIA, people that were conducting this review that`s come to be
MATTHEWS: The Panetta report.
GERSTEIN: -- the Panetta review say that this program didn`t actually
keep America safe. That has been the refuge of those who supported this
aggressive interrogation program.
MATTHEWS: But why would a -- why would a good American care whether there
is a reprimand? Don`t we have oversight for a reason, to spank agencies
now and then? I mean, maybe -- is this just institutional self-defense
here? It doesn`t have anything with the country`s better -- the betterment
GERSTEIN: I think a lot of it is institutional self-defense.
And you also have to think about what an awkward position CIA Director John
Brennan is in here. Remember, he was passed over for the post of CIA
director at the beginning of the Obama administration because he was seen
as too close to this interrogation/torture program, so to speak.
GERSTEIN: And now he is right in the middle of this, having to try to
figure out how to wade a path through between the agency personnel that he
is trying to defend, the White House, Feinstein, and history here.
GERSTEIN: Very, very difficult for him to extract himself from this
MATTHEWS: It`s also tricky, because I hear -- I hear the president loves
this guy Brennan.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Senator Feinstein vowed to make sure her report on CIA
detention and interrogation goes public. And she characterized the program
as un-American. Tough talk here from her.
Here she is yesterday. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: We are
not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions, and
the executive summary of the report sent to the president for
declassification and release to the American people.
The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it
supports declassification and release. If the Senate can declassify this
report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of
detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that is what U.S. senator is supposed to be like.
David, I have complete faith in her. Can she win this fight? Can she get
this stuff that apparently, as you said, took back after they have gotten
their hands on it? They somehow electronically reached back into the
Senate committee`s files and pulled it out again somehow.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, we have -- we have the 6,300-page report
that the Senate Intelligence Committee has completed, has been done for
over a year, that incorporates a lot of what was stolen back by the CIA.
So, if the report comes out, we`ll know what went on. That`s one thing.
But, really, the big issue here and DiFi as they call her on the Hill got
to this at the very end of that long speech, when she says how we resolve
this will determine whether we can do effective oversight of intelligence
And remember, Chris, you know this -- we have an open democratic government
here. The only reason we let people do things secretly to -- you know, for
national security reasons because we have checks and balances.
CORN: And we let the members of Congress represent us peons and have
oversight and review what`s going on.
But she raised the question yesterday whether they can do this. So, if you
can`t have effective oversight, then there`s really no rationale for the
national security state and everything kind of crumbles.
CORN: So, a lot is at stake on this.
MATTHEWS: You know, Tip O`Neill created intelligence committee because he
didn`t want all that stuff floating in his head, Josh. He didn`t want to
be responsible for what he got -- you know, briefed on. These committees
are supposed to be doing what they just get briefed. They`re supposed to
act on what they get briefed on and report what needs to be reported to the
So, Feinstein, who wins this fight, Josh? How do you see it? Feinstein or
JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO: I think ultimately Feinstein will probably win
the fight. But, you know, Press Secretary Jay Carney at the White House
today wouldn`t say who President Obama agrees with. He has seen this
Senate report at least the draft of it. He`s seen the CIA`s response, the
White House says, releasing it will close this chapter in American history.
But the White House won`t say who the president thinks is right in this
fight. It`s just contend to lay these different versions of the truth out
there and hope this question basically goes away, which I don`t think it
MATTHEWS: It`s not going away here, I`ll tell you that. The American
people care about this stuff a lot, because these people are operating in
our name. They are protecting our country, but they`ve got to do it in a
way we agree they should be allowed to do it.
Anyway, thank you, David Corn and Josh Gerstein, for joining us.
CORN: Sure thing.
MATTHEWS: Up next, why are conservatives so upset that President Obama did
that little funny thing in "Between the Ferns" with Zach Galifianakis? Who
gives a rat`s butt? And why are they so excited this? Well, there`s a
long history, of course, of American presidents, even the ones you like
have to, being funny on TV, left or right.
This is a stupid thing to argue about. But we are going to argue about it.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. What`s in, what`s out, when it
comes to funny.
MATTHEWS: Here comes the big dog. Bill Clinton repaying his debt to
Marjorie Margolis. Margolis is running for the United States House seat in
Pennsylvania she lost 20 years ago after she gave the decisive voice to
pass Clinton`s budget. Now, the former president is headlining a
fundraiser next month for her in suburban Philadelphia.
The two aren`t just linked through history, of course. Chelsea Clinton is
married to Marc Mezvinsky, the son of Margolis.
HARDBALL, back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The law means that insurers
can`t discriminate against you if you have a pre-existing condition
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, BETWEEN TWO FERNS: Yes, what about -- what about this,
OBAMA: That`s disgusting. How long have you had that?
GALIFIANAKIS: Just four months.
GALIFIANAKIS: Spider bites. I got attacked by spiders.
OBAMA: Zach, you need to get that checked right away. You need to get on
Healthcare.gov, because that`s one of the most disgusting things I`ve ever
GALIFIANAKIS: Is your plug finally over?
OBAMA: I suppose so.
GALIFIANAKIS: So, which country were you rooting for in the Winter
OBAMA: Seriously? I`m the president of the United States. What do you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s pretty dry and it`s pretty good. If you haven`t seen it by
now, or you have been where have you been in the last 24 hours?
Yesterday, the Web site Funny or Die posted an interview that you just saw
it there, a piece with President Obama conducted by actor/comedian Zach
Galifianakis. It included, of course, a major plug for the Affordable Care
Act. That was the purpose of doing it.
The video ignited instantly, 13 million views online and counting. And the
White House says it has resulted in 54,000 referrals to Healthcare.gov.
Well, the right wing, they just can`t help themselves. Everyone from red
hot in Congress to conservative media titans see it as yet another chance
to poke at the president and hit all the right wing zones in the process.
U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith from Nebraska tweeted, quote, "The president
jokes with Zach Galifianakis about Obamacare but still won`t meet with
Republicans to discuss common sense health care solutions." In other
words, meet to surrender.
Bill O`Reilly, the inimitable one, suggested it would hurt Obama`s standing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Looks like Putin believes the president is a
lightweight. Will a comedy video counter that? Just asking.
All I can tell you is Abe Lincoln would not have done it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And Abe Lincoln would not have worked for FOX.
Anyway, Congressman Randy Weber of Texas said the president should be
spending more time on bingo. That`s, of course, Benghazi. That`s the word
for bingo. Quote, "Instead of wasting time with a parody interview, he
should be focusing on finding answers regarding Benghazi."
Anyway, Kathleen Parker is a Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist
with "The Washington Post". Her column today is titled "President Obama`s
And Ari Melber is co-host of "THE CYCLE" on MSNBC.
Kathleen, my dear friend, and Ari Melber, you young about to be great man,
I refuse to have this as a serious conversation here. If either one of you
get serious, I`m going to get really upset here.
ARI MELBER, THE CYCLE: OK.
KATHLEEN PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: No problem.
MATTHEWS: But make a lighthearted a point. And, by the way, always think,
if this was the other party from which you speak for politically, at least
philosophically, would you be making the same critique? In other words, is
it good for the goose, good for the gander, to use the expression? Or is
this only something you take a shot at if it`s someone on the other side of
the ideological spectrum?
Kathleen, the truth sear rum first for you. Would you be saying the same
thing if this were a Republican who had done the precise same thing?
PARKER: Absolutely, Chris. Come on, you know me better than that, and I
cannot be lined up in the same paragraph with people like Bill O`Reilly or
the far right wing -- come on. And I`m an equal opportunity offender. I
try my best to be critical of everyone.
MATTHEWS: OK, your critique is?
PARKER: My critique is, that he -- actually, you didn`t read my column.
MATTHEWS: I`m in New York. Get a newspaper in New York I can read. I
read all the New York newspapers this morning, and the Kathleen Parker,
brilliantly, 500 newspapered syndicated columnist, does not appear. So,
don`t blame me. Go ahead.
PARKER: OK, sweetie.
The bottom line, I decided he was showing Putin how un-seriously he takes
him, right? So he`s just clearly going to kickback and have a good time.
No, look, I can see where --
MATTHEWS: Do you think Putin pays attention to these kinds of things?
PARKER: Of course not, although they must be paying attention tonight
because everyone in the whole U.S. is talking about it, which is shocking
to me really that we`ve taken all this time. So, that for me was column
MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- yes or no, you say it was a bad thing for the
president to do?
PARKER: I think, you know, there are two -- oh, I`m sorry. Are you
talking to me or Ari?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I still want to get a verdict. Yes or no, bad thing for
him to do?
PARKER: I think whenever there`s the word crisis in the news, and we`re
involved right now with what`s going on in the Ukraine and Crimea, I think
that`s not the best time. If I were on the team advising the president,
I`d say, let`s put this off a few weeks until things calm down a little bit
because you really are setting yourself up for the criticism that he`s
MATTHEW: Good point. I will extend that a little further and interject,
Ari, you don`t know what your lead time is. You do something like this,
it`s held for two weeks, it comes out in the middle of a crisis, really
just at the edge of one. So, maybe that is a risky business.
Is it worth the risk for the president to take the comedic step given the
chance for a crisis to be emerging and him looking lightweight?
MELBER: Well, look, you can argue every time a public official tries to
tell a joke they`re taking a risk. This is a big rolling joke, although
it`s got a serious benefit to the White House, they argue as you mention,
13 million viewers, look, that is more of the top rated comedy shows on TV
all week, OK? They`ve reached a lot of people. And then they`ve got
referrals, that`s tens of thousands more people than would normally be up
I mean, we`ve had these debates throughout history, when Nixon went on
"Laugh-In" and Jack Paar and Johnny Carson and when President Clinton did
boxers or briefs on MTV or played with Arsenio --
MATTHEWS: I know, but here`s the question -- president`s have to write
letters to mothers when their sons and daughters are killed, there needs to
be a certain level of gravity in the office, we all know that, because of
the nature of the commander in chief, if nothing else, the fact he has to
send men and women into the battle.
MATTHEWS: Does the president -- Jimmy Carter gave it the prestige of hail
to the chief and the yacht, especially hail to the chief, I think it was a
bone headed decision. Don`t the presidents have to maintain -- I`ll go
back to Kathleen on this -- don`t they have to maintain a measure of self-
regard because the severity of the decisions they have to make, so there is
a bottom line of how low they can go in terms of comedic -- and was this a
case of that, or was this sophisticated humor that only the young people
got anyway, so it didn`t hurt?
PARKER: I think it is generational, at least the humor part of it. But I
think you hit on an important part, the president does always have to
always be self-aware, and aware of his role in the world. You know, not
only does he represent all of us, every day, with everything he says and
does, but the world still looks to us, and looks to the president of the
United States as the leader of the free world as we like to say, and it`s
true. And you know, when you act a little goofy, have you to kind of weigh
it, I know they must have done that, here are the pros and get these people
to sign up, here are the cons, and I don`t know how that comes out.
MELBER: Sure. But, you know, I hear you on that, Kathleen, but we know
the president was telling jokes at the Annual Correspondents Dinner, the
very weekend that the raid was going in to assassinate Osama bin Laden, and
ultimately the president is able to do light, to do ceremonial, to do the
range of things that a public official does, and then when it`s time to put
on the hard hat and get to work or oversea something, he does that as well.
I just don`t think there`s anything unique about this. I think it`s just
newer to folks who have never seen "Between Two Ferns" before. I`ve seen
these videos with a lot of celebrities, the Natalie Portman one is a
classic. If you recognize them, they`re funny.
MATTHEWS: OK, Kathleen --
PARKER: Right. He is the president, and I`m wondering where my two ferns
are, I would feel much better if I had my --
MATTHEWS: Kathleen, thanks for calling me "sweetie", that`s important.
The rest of this is nonsense --
PARKER: You`re welcome, darling.
MATTHEWS: Ari, good work.
Thank you, Kathleen Parker and Ari Melber.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
I`m up in New York tonight to be inducted into the Irish American Hall of
Fame. It`s quite an honor, one I received today in the presence of all
kinds of great people. And thanks to "Irish American Magazine".
I spoke of having grown up in a family that represents all three sides of
the trinity, the Catholic of my mother`s family, the shields of the Conroys
(INAUDIBLE) which I`ve been said to be one, and the Protestant Irish side
of my grandmother on my father side. Also, an English immigrant
grandfather in my family.
I talk grew up with another beloved grandfather, Charles Patrick Shields,
who never had a drink in his life because he`s seen the damage to our
people and his family as well. I talked to him growing up with a
grandmother, two orange women who would remind of Ms. Doubtfire, an
incredibly impressive, reliant woman.
What I didn`t get to today in my acceptance was how the love of us, the
children of this union, Protestant and Catholic, united all of us, how we
found not just peace but love in a family that came from both Irish
traditions. This -- yes -- this is why I was so happy to cover the Good
Friday agreement that ended the troubles in Ireland. Why I`m still hopeful
for peace in Ireland and yes, in God`s good time, unity.
I can`t thank the folks enough, Niall O`Dowd and Patricia Hardy, who gave
me this honor, of being named to the Irish-American Hall of Fame. The fact
that Bill O`Reilly joined me in receiving it takes away none of that honor.
In his own way, he, Bill O`Reilly, too, deserves recognition.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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