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updated 8/20/2009 1:00:15 PM ET 2009-08-20T17:00:15

Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Amanda Drury, John Velleco, Brian Levin, Ken Vogel, Joan Walsh, Tom DeLay

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Time to close the deal.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

The closer.  Barack Obama knows how to win.  He got into Columbia, he went to Harvard law, made president of the “Law Review,” won a seat in the U.S.  Senate, won the Democratic nomination for president and then overtook John McCain to win the job.  He closes well, and now it‘s time to start the kick for health care reform, the make-or-break test of his first-year presidency.

It‘s going to take a strong close for him to win, to claim the kind of breakthrough that will make the history books.  The way I see it, he‘s got three ways to go, at this point.  One, they can challenge the Senate rules and ram through a bill with just 50 votes, with the help of the vice president to break the tie.  That‘s what today‘s lead in “The New York Times” suggested they‘re threatening to do.

Number two, they can go for a moderate bill, politically sellable to a few Republicans, and get the 60 Senate votes need for regular passage.  Three, they can go back and build a dramatic, rock ‘em, sock ‘em liberal bill, stand ready to take the loss and blame the Republicans for the failure.

What all three options require is Democratic unity of some kind.  You can‘t even blame the Republicans if the Democrats don‘t hold together.  Today George Stephanopoulos dropped this little bomblet, that President Obama may deploy the Clintons, Bill and Hillary both, into the country to help him forge the Democrats into a fighting force.  Let‘s get to the Obama big push right up front tonight.

Plus, guns in the president‘s town halls.  I cannot recall a time before this presidency when people felt they had to demonstrate their support for the 2nd Amendment by carrying loaded guns to presidential events.  What are these people really trying to say?  Why do they need to bring loaded firearms to say it?  That‘s our hot debate tonight.

And it‘s “Hammer” time on HARDBALL tonight.  Former house majority leader Tom DeLay will be here to fight the good fight for the right, also to give us the inside skinny on what‘s in his playbook for winning on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Also, a town hall protester learned last night why it‘s not smart to cross Barney Frank.  We‘ll show you why in the “Politics Fix” tonight.

Finally, why B-Rod, Rod Blagojevich, might soon have to find another line of work.  That‘s in the “Sideshow” tonight.

But first we begin with the debate over health care reform.  NBC News Chuck Todd‘s our political director and also the chief White House correspondent for NBC News.  And “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst.

Howard, I want you to start with a couple of these options.  You ram it through, you get 50 votes, you get the vice president to break the tie.  You do what‘s called reconciliation.  That‘s one way to do it.  Are they seriously talking about that option right now?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Senate Democrats are seriously talking about that option.  I think the leadership has always been somewhat distrustful of this bipartisan push that President Obama has sanctioned with the Finance Committee.  They‘re saying, To heck with that, we‘ll do it through reconciliation.  If we do that with 50 votes, we can‘t get the public option per se.  We can put all kinds of other liberal window dressing in there to try to pass a bill that enough House Democrats would then support.

That‘s what Senate leaders are talking to me about.  Now, they may be just be bluffing.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  They may be doing that in order to try to put some fire under that bipartisan thing, but that‘s what they‘re talking about.  I wrote about it on my blog...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Obviously, that‘s one option.  Let‘s go to Chuck on that. 

Chuck, that‘s called the—well, it‘s been a lot of things, but it‘s

certainly called

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Ironically, reconciliation‘s usually when you get back with your wife after a fight.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  This is the opposite of it.

MATTHEWS:  In this case, it‘s the opposite.  It‘s a divorce notice.  What do you make of the probability or plausibility of them saying, To hell with the normal Senate way of doing things, we‘re going to go with a simple majority, or even 50 and use the VP to break the tie?

TODD:  Well, look, this is a hammer that, frankly, the White House has not been hiding that they would think about using this.  The president himself hinted at it in that interview that he did with me in Indiana two weeks ago.  He said, you know, the bottom line is to get the result.  He wants the bipartisanship, but if it‘s going to mean not getting a bill this year, that‘s not acceptable.

I‘ve talked to other people in the White House who think he thinks the whole 60 vote thing seems ridiculous, that if you have 55, 56 votes for something in the Senate, that should be enough.  So he is already, I think, in his own head, has no problems with going a route that isn‘t 60 votes.  I mean, I think he feels that the 60-vote threshold is unfair, particularly when you have a bill like this, which has become so party line or very polarized.  You know, don‘t let the Senate rules...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... tie it up if you have the 55 votes, 56 votes that normally would be enough.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, let‘s go back to the idea—what about going the regular route, trying to get 60 votes and beating a filibuster that way?

FINEMAN:  Well, it doesn‘t seem like that‘s possible.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Enzi—Mike Enzi of Wyoming?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  The problem with doing that—the problem with doing that is that you would then pass a bill in the Senate that was—that is way too conservative to be reconciled with whatever the House would vote for.  Whatever they would come up with in that fashion would just not sell in the House.  And even if they got to a conference committee on it, it would be impossible.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

FINEMAN:  The big problem, though, is if you go the 50-vote route, you can‘t have, I‘m told—in terms of legislative law...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  ... rules, you can‘t have the public option (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK, what about the third option, Chuck?  I haven‘t asked you about this today...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... the idea of saying, OK, we‘re going to go for what we want, public option, all the good liberal things in it, the kind of thing that Anthony Weiner, who was on last night, would like...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... the members of the Black Caucus would like, a real liberal bill, jam it, lose it, and blame it on the Republicans for killing the health care the American people want, and then take it to the election next time.  Any chance they‘ll try that?

TODD:  The problem is, let‘s say the Anthony Weiner—you know, the bill that he would love to see I don‘t think could get more than 40 votes, 37, you know, 40 votes in the Senate.  So that isn‘t what they‘re going to do.  But they may play, you know, another game here, which is, call the bluff of the Republicans.  Do you really want to filibuster this whole thing, and almost force them to do the filibuster and...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, like in the old days, like in the movies.

TODD:  Well, not necessarily that, where you draw it out, but force them to be the ones to stop it.  Then see—you know, and then see if you can go the reconciliation route or go another way...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... find another corner.  So look, the two games here that are being played is I think the White House is going to assess, do they jam it through, do the reconciliation, could be a political cost to some, could really hurt them with some conservative Democrats or some independents, or do they go and call the bluff of all the Republicans and see if they stick together?  They might not stick together on this.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s try the Joan Walsh theory, which I think you‘re getting at here.  And she was on the other day.  In fact, I think she did this on another program.  Why don‘t you go the old route.  Pretend you‘re Jimmy Stewart...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... like in the old “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”—which I recommend everybody see at some time in their life.  It‘s about what maybe what the idealists would like to see the United States Senate be.  Walk onto the Senate floor and say, Here we‘ve got a bill done.  We‘ve put it together.  We think it‘s right for the country.  If the Republicans want to debate it, we‘ll debate it for a couple weeks.  We‘ll give you a lot of debate time.  But at the end of a couple weeks, we want a vote on this.  If you still don‘t want us to vote, then you‘re basically filibustering.  We‘re going to demand you bring the cots in.  You‘re going to have to stay here all night.  You‘re going to have to—and the American people are going to watch you not debate us...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... but basically delay us from doing what the majority wants done.  Force them to put the movie on.  Make them show themselves sleeping, standing up all night, listening to them read the Bible, all those old tricks they do on the floor...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... make them make horses asses out of themselves.  Force them to do it.  But say, Look, you have the right to do it.  Give them the full rights of the minority, let them show that they‘re mossbackers (ph), they‘re basically slowing this thing down.  Why not do that?

FINEMAN:  I can see the 24-hour coverage.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be on!

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Howard, you‘ll be up all night.  We‘ll all be up all night.

FINEMAN:  Have the cot out there, too.

TODD:  Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... good theater and good democracy, wouldn‘t it?

TODD:  But actually...

MATTHEWS:  Well, wouldn‘t it be democracy?

TODD:  There is, but there is another route here.  You know, they‘re -

they do have the 60 votes, the Democrats do.  You could see them cutting a deal where they agree to get some of these Democrats to not vote for the filibuster, you know, to not—you know, to get it onto the floor.  Don‘t forget there are two votes here, right...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... if you would do something like this.  So get it to the floor.

FINEMAN:  To shut off (INAUDIBLE)

TODD:  Yes, and then maybe, you know, Ben Nelson, for instance, the deal they might cut with him, OK, just don‘t—you know, don‘t vote with the Republicans on filibustering it, but—and you can vote against it...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Bernie...

TODD:  ... after we‘ve cleared it...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Bernie Sanders, unfortunately, suggested that the first time, and Bernie Sanders, the socialist from Vermont, the independent from Vermont, may not be...

TODD:  He shouldn‘t be cutting the deal.

MATTHEWS:  ... the best (INAUDIBLE) to have this.  I know, but people tell me that the voters are too smart for that.  The voters will say to a moderate Democrat, You voted to kill the filibuster, you voted to grease the skids for this bill, it‘s your fault, even if you don‘t vote for final passage.

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  What about that?

FINEMAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Chuck makes a good point.  I like it, but the voters may say, Hey, look, you voted against our interests.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I think they‘ll look at the final vote.  There‘s another small, little complication here, which is that Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Robert Byrd are basically too frail and too sick to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Byrd is voting sometimes, but not Senator Kennedy.

FINEMAN:  OK.  But that—I know that sounds—that sounds like...

MATTHEWS:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  ... but it could be a crucial point in terms of getting the votes to shut off the filibuster.

MATTHEWS:  The only way we‘re going to know is if it comes down to a vote, an up or down, and know whether Senator Kennedy can make the vote.  Let me ask you about two other people in our world, that‘s—could he enlist the Obamas—the Clintons, not the Obamas!  That‘s Bill and Hillary, the former president, of course, the secretary of state.  George Stephanopoulos made an amazing statement this morning which everyone‘s been paying attention—let‘s hear him on “Good Morning America.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, “THIS WEEK”:  White House officials have talked privately about whether to use the Clintons more on health care.  You saw President Clinton go out and speak to the left, progressives in that netroots convention last week, where he warned them of the consequences of failure.  There have also been discussions about whether to deploy Secretary of State Clinton.  No final decision on that yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Howard, to bring back the—I always thought that this coalition—and I know Chuck‘s very focused on it—this coalition of the Clintons and Barack Obama is critical not just on foreign policy, the Mideast, et cetera, but it‘s not a patronage job Hillary Clinton‘s got.  This is a political merger.  Will they come out and help?

FINEMAN:  Well, you notice that what George said is that the staff has talked about it.  I‘ve been checking around this afternoon—Chuck may have better information than I—but from what I can tell, they haven‘t—if they‘re going to do it, they haven‘t asked Bill Clinton about it yet.  And I did ask one top White House official what about it, and he said—I said, Are you going to have Clinton involved?  He said, It‘s news to me at this point.

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  Chuck...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you skeptical, as well?

TODD:  I‘m very skeptical.  Feels like a non-starter.  Think about it for a minute.  So this is the headline that the White House would want?  The White House is struggling to sell health care, so they‘re going to tap the two people who failed at it the last time there was a Democratic administration?  I mean, that‘s not the story they want.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  And that‘s the story they would get by tapping—however, this gets at a bigger problem for this administration.  The only person they have to sell health care is the president.  There is no other credible person.  They don‘t have...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... a good surrogate from Capitol Hill.  Ted Kennedy‘s not available to do it, to get out there...

MATTHEWS:  Tom Daschle...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  They need help here to sell this thing.

FINEMAN:  Can I say one other thing?  Barack Obama has a lot of experience at winning, as you said at the top of this segment.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  He doesn‘t have a lot of legislative experience.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  He really doesn‘t.  If it comes down to a few votes, especially if it‘s some Blue Dogs, Bill Clinton could be very, very helpful.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) among those white conservatives...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Hillary‘s going to be busy.  Hillary will turn her nose up at it, but Bill Clinton could get involved.

MATTHEWS:  You know, gentlemen, I think the big thing for the president is to come out and lay out what he thinks is essential to be part of any health care reform, why the country needs it.  Make it clear.  No more pussy-footing about it, or no more—I shouldn‘t say that.  No more dancing around the subject.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  A clear-cut statement as to what the American people need, and he‘ll fight for it, whether he gets it this year or next year or eight years from now.  This is what he‘s going to keep fighting for, what he really believes in.  Ronald Reagan did that with tax cutting...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and with strategic defense.  Other presidents have made clear—Lincoln with emancipation—This is what I‘m here for.  He hasn‘t done that yet, and I think...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Very quickly—you guys brought up this issue of not understanding legislative battles.  You wonder, was health care jinxed from the beginning when they couldn‘t get Tom Daschle confirmed?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  They have not yet found a replacement for Tom Daschle and what his role was to be, which was to get a bill out of...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... the Senate Finance Committee.

FINEMAN:  Yes, especially on the Senate side.

TODD:  That‘s why they were going to tap him.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  Well, by the way, a lot of presidencies need more than the president.  Jimmy Carter needed Burt Lance, didn‘t have him.  Ronald Reagan had Jim Baker, and he was lucky to have him.  Sometimes you need more than the guy that gets elected.  Thank you, Chuck Todd.  Well said.  Thank you, Howard Fineman.

Up next: Why are the protesters bringing loaded guns to rallies and outside Obama town meetings?  I mean, this is really interesting.  They bring the guns.  They bring the bullets.  The guns are loaded.  Why?

This is HARDBALL, not gunplay, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  So why are people carrying loaded guns to presidential events these days, and what message are they sending?  John Velleco is the director of federal affairs for the Gun Owners of America.  He‘s sitting right with me.  And Brian Levin is the director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.  He‘s also author of the book “The Limits of Dissent: The Constitutional Status of Armed Civilian Militias.”

While I assume you gentlemen will disagree, let me ask you the question.  People bring guns.  Right now, they‘ve been doing it a lot.  An AR-15 assault rifle was brought to an event the other day.  At one event, there was a dozen people, armed people, at a presidential event.  I‘ve stated my concerns.  If you‘re the Secret Service, you‘ve got to keep an eye on everybody with a gun because they can use it.  You never know.  They‘re allowed to carry the gun, but you got to look at them when they‘re carrying.  We‘re going to need one hell of a lot of Secret Service agents if people keep doing this.

My question to you, why do they bring loaded guns to presidential events?  Why do they do it?

JOHN VELLECO, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA:  Well, first of all, Chris, these are law-abiding citizens.

MATTHEWS:  No, but why do they do it?

VELLECO:  I think they‘re making a statement.  Gun owners have been demonized and vilified for so long and the target of so many restrictions and legislation to take away their guns, restrict when and where they can carry them, they‘re making the point that, you know, We‘re tired of the government trying to take our rights away.  And it‘s not just about health care when we go to these town hall meetings, it‘s a bigger issue and...

MATTHEWS:  What is the bigger issue?

VELLECO:  That the government wants to take away a lot of our freedoms, and the 2nd Amendment is high on the list.  When this president campaigned last year, he campaigned as a supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  When he came into office, he quickly turned the tables.

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t he back the decision to recognize the individual right to bear arms?

VELLECO:  He said that he did, but as soon as he...

MATTHEWS:  I mean after it happened.

VELLECO:  Yes, but as soon as he took office, he...

MATTHEWS:  But this year he did it.  After the court ruled, he said fine with him.

VELLECO:  Yes, he said that he supports the individual right to keep and bear arms...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

VELLECO:  ... but he also supports legislation that would take that right away by banning so-called assault weapons.

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t think they should be banned.

VELLECO:  No.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Brian Levin.  What do you think, Brian, of people bringing loaded pistols or, well, semiautomatic rifles to presidential events?

BRIAN LEVIN, CENTER FOR STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM:  Well, look, this is not an issue about the 2nd Amendment or gun rights.  And here‘s what I mean.  Antonin Scalia in the opinion D.C. versus Heller last year, which affirmed an individual right to private gun ownership, said, Look, the 2nd Amendment is not unlimited.  It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner and for whatever purpose.

And I think it‘s absurd that we should have guns now as jewelry or as a political sign when we have a fundamental right like gun ownership in the United States as covered by the 2nd Amendment.  The government is still able to make reasonable measures with regard to restricting it.  And I think for presidential protection, it is entirely reasonable to extend the perimeter that guns are not allowed.  And I think we have to do that because it‘s just too risky for our head of state, irrespective whether it‘s George Bush or Barack Obama.

The fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court has held 5 to 4 that private gun ownership is a fundamental right, but by the same token, we can regulate it.  And I think in this regard, we must.  And the Gun Owners of America has always taken extreme positions and used deception.  They said recent measures by the administration were going to ban BB guns or toy guns or ban reloading.  They engage in fear tactics and deception, and I think that should be exposed here, as well.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let‘s focus on the presidential issue.  How close do you think a person should be allowed a gun, John, to a presidential—a president when he‘s coming out in public?  How close should he be allowed to bring one?

VELLECO:  As close as the Secret Service will allow, that...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I‘m asking you.  You said it‘s a fundamental right.  How far should we let it go?  Suppose you got into a big high school gym somewhere and President Obama or president anybody is having a town meeting.  Should they be allowed to walk in the door armed, or should we have metal detectors?

VELLECO:  Well, we support the right of the people to bear arms.

MATTHEWS:  No.  Should they be allowed to come into the president‘s company, sit in the first row with a loaded gun?

VELLECO:  I‘ve been at events where...

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking a question.

VELLECO:  ... former governor of Arizona...

MATTHEWS:  No.  Should...

VELLECO:  ... we had that very situation.

MATTHEWS:  ... people be able—look, suppose the president has a town hall meeting with 10,000 people at some high school gym or college fieldhouse.  Should everybody in the place be allowed to have a gun, everybody in the place that the president...

VELLECO:  If it‘s legal to carry guns in that location, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s fine with you.

VELLECO:  Fine with—yes.

MATTHEWS:  Fine with you if everybody comes in the room with a gun.

VELLECO:  Yes.  And I would actually feel more safe if people—law-abiding citizens who use guns over a million times a year successfully...

MATTHEWS:  How would a Secret Service agent know which of the people who came to a presidential event intended to use the gun?  How would they know?

VELLECO:  Well, it‘s Secret Service responsibility...

MATTHEWS:  How would they know which one?

VELLECO:  Well, they know because they have...

LEVIN:  May I interject?

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.  I want to—and then you can interject.

LEVIN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  How would they know which person intended to use it?  Because most people bring guns with a purpose.  It‘s either self-defense, if somebody fires them, or they feel threatened. 

VELLECO:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  They may feel threatened by a president they don‘t like, because he thinks he‘s after their gun rights. 

VELLECO:  Well, I don‘t think that‘s the—the type of people we‘re dealing with here.  If someone like that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  How do you know? 

VELLECO:  If someone like that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You said...

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  Because these are law-abiding citizens.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re one of those people.  You said the president is trying to take away your gun rights. 

VELLECO:  If a criminal shows up at a—at an event like this... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, no, a law-abiding gun rights advocate, like you...

VELLECO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... shows up with a gun, you don‘t like this president‘s position on guns, do you? 

VELLECO:  No, no. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why would you be particularly trustworthy in a situation carrying a gun with the president present?

VELLECO:  Because guns...

MATTHEWS:  How would we know that you wouldn‘t be a true zealot and take that gun out?

VELLECO:  Because gun owners in this country are the most law-abiding

segment of society that we have 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Just by definition...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By definition, if a person buys a gun, they‘re law-abiding, if they follow the law?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, they will not use it—they will not use it criminally? 

VELLECO:  There are criminals who use guns, and that‘s all the more reason...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you a simple question.  If you were in the Secret Service, would you open the door to a presidential event for people to come in carrying guns?

VELLECO:  Well, I don‘t think those laws are going to change.  But law-abiding...

MATTHEWS:  Would you, if you were head of the Secret Service, let people walk into a presidential meeting carrying guns?  Would you?

VELLECO:  I think it would be fine if... 

MATTHEWS:  Would you? 

You would?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you were in the White House Secret Service, would you let people come...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... into that auditorium, 10,000 people, all carrying guns? 

Would you let them do it?

VELLECO:  Well, the president has armed security...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you, would you do that?

VELLECO:  What are we?  What are the people?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m only asking a question, sir.  I said I will give you all the time in the world.  I am going to put the question to you.  And you can take five minutes to answer it. 

If you were head of the Secret Service, would you let regular people walk into a presidential event armed?

VELLECO:  Well, regular people, sir, are the ones who are supposed to run this country. 

Absolutely. 

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  They do not lose their Second Amendment right because...

MATTHEWS:  So, you would have no problem with that?

VELLECO:  If they‘re abiding by the law. 

MATTHEWS:  You would have no problem.

(CROSSTALK)

LEVIN:  This is amazing.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Mr. Levin—Levin.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  He said it‘s OK, if he were head of the White House Secret Service detail, to let the whole room fill with people carrying guns. 

LEVIN:  This is—this is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to make of that, except it‘s a pretty pure position. 

LEVIN:  It‘s pure and it‘s insane.  As someone who has just lectured federal and state law enforcement on Friday about this, there‘s a real risk of assassination in this country.  And it‘s not just to the president.

You see the anger that‘s out there.  And, yes, most gun owners, including myself, are law-abiding.  But guess what?  We have a fundamental right to interstate travel, but I wouldn‘t allow someone to ram an SUV into an arena. 

We have a fundamental right to freedom of speech, but we don‘t let people with bullhorns shout down the president at these town—town halls either.  The fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court—look, Antonin Scalia—he isn‘t a liberal—he said that, you know, we can regulate this stuff.  This is not, you know, for any purpose whatsoever. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LEVIN:  And these are the—the extremes positions that Gun Owners of America consistently take. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What would—what would be your position on the level of firepower?  Would it be OK for you to—for a person to go to a presidential meeting carrying a semiautomatic rifle?  Would that be OK with you?

VELLECO:  What Brian is talking about is this. 

MATTHEWS:  No, let me ask you the question.  Would it be OK with you if a guy walked into a presidential town meeting or a presidential debate between McCain and Obama or someone else carrying a semiautomatic rifle?  Would that bother you?

VELLECO:  It bothers me when the government tries the restrict right to keep and bear arms from law-abiding citizens. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Even if it‘s restricting it from carrying a semiautomatic weapon into a presidential debate?

VELLECO:  You‘re talking about a hypothetical that will never happen.

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m not.  Look, hypothetical?

VELLECO:  It will never happen.

MATTHEWS:  We got a dozen firearms at the last presidential event in Phoenix. 

VELLECO:  But they‘re not breaking any laws, Chris.

Brian is—is talking about Scalia‘s decision... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not talking about breaking laws.  We‘re talking about common sense. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEVIN:  Thank you. 

VELLECO:  ... that regulations can be in place, but these people are not breaking any laws. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

VELLECO:  That‘s why they‘re allowed to carry them. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why we‘re arguing about it, because we‘re not making...

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  So, there‘s no problem with these people.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not talking about a law.  You say it seems perfectly reasonable—how many people, do you think, think like you, that it‘s reasonable for the president to be surrounded at every public event...

VELLECO:  The majority.

MATTHEWS:  ... by armed people?

VELLECO:  The majority of the American people support concealed carry, the right to keep and bear arms.  The majority of the United States...

MATTHEWS:  These aren‘t concealed.  Oh, it‘s OK to go to a presidential event with a concealed weapon? 

VELLECO:  The majority of the United States Senate, 58 members supported a concealed carry amendment just over a week ago, in the United States Senate.  That‘s Democrats, Republicans alike. 

This is an issue that cuts across party lines.  People have a fundamental right to defend themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Do you fly on airplanes much?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you, you fly on airplanes?

VELLECO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you—does it bother you they have metal detectors?

VELLECO:  Yes, I—I think that the—the—we supported the right of pilots to be armed in defense of terrorism. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no, I‘m talking about—I‘m talking about somebody getting on a plane. 

VELLECO:  And we would support the right of law-abiding citizens, law-abiding citizens...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Somebody ahead of you on a plane—somebody ahead of you on a plane, you don‘t think they should have... 

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  Law-abiding citizens with concealed carry permits should not be disarmed. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, we should have people flying on airplanes carrying guns?

VELLECO:  Yes.  Well, there‘s been so much misinformation and vilification. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking.  You keep saying...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m just asking.  I go on a plane, I have a metal detector.  I think some of this stuff at TSA doesn‘t make sense, because I think taking off your shoes is crazy and all that.  I think there‘s a lot of stupid stuff that goes on.

But I think the metal detector makes sense because I don‘t want anybody getting on a plane with a gun, OK?

VELLECO:  Any time a state or locality makes it easier for citizens to carry guns, the Chicken Littles of the world always say the sky is falling, that blood is going to run in the streets.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I just live in a world where...

VELLECO:  And if law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry guns on airplanes, we would hear the same thing.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me tell how I disagree with you. 

If I get on a subway in New York or a big city, I would like to know there‘s no guns on that subway.  If I go to a movie theater in a big city...

VELLECO:  But you don‘t have that choice if a criminal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... I would like to know there‘s no gun.  I would like to know there‘s no gun.  I would like to have a metal detector.

VELLECO:  It would be nice, but...

MATTHEWS:  I would like to have a metal detector at movie theaters. 

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  But that‘s not up to you.

MATTHEWS:  I would like to know there‘s less guns in the city.

I wouldn‘t mind it if a cop stopped people in the street if they had a gun. 

(CROSSTALK)

VELLECO:  It sounds like you don‘t want to be free. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t want to have my city turn into Dodge City. 

VELLECO:  If you want to go through metal detectors to go to the movies...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you know how many people get murdered in this country every year by guns?

Thank you very much, John Velleco. 

VELLECO:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re perfectly right to your opinion, but I think it‘s insane to fill gyms and field houses with people carrying semiautomatic weapons, and expect the president of the United States to come in.  

The number of assassinations in our history is extraordinary, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley.  Teddy Roosevelt was shot at.  FDR was shot at, and they shot the mayor of Chicago by accident.  Harry Truman was shot at.  They killed the Secret Service agent, Puerto Rican nationalists.  Jack Kennedy was killed.  Jerry Ford was shot at twice.  Ronald Reagan was almost killed.  And had it not been for the Secret Service agent, he would have been dead. 

We live in a dangerous society when it comes to elected officials. 

Let‘s not make it more dangerous. 

Thank you, John Velleco.  It‘s a free country.  Are you armed? 

VELLECO:  This is D.C.  It‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  Are you a birther, by the way?  You‘re not one of those guys, are you?

VELLECO:  I was born. 

MATTHEWS:  No, do you believe the president was born here in this country? 

VELLECO:  I have no opinion one way or the other. 

MATTHEWS:  You have no opinion?  You‘re not part of that crowd, though, are you?

VELLECO:  I‘m a Second Amendment advocate. 

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re not part of that crowd?  Just tell me you‘re not one of that crowd? 

VELLECO:  I‘m not—I‘m part of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not one of those people that doubts he‘s a legitimate...

VELLECO:  I‘m part of a crowd that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you one of those people that doubts he‘s a legitimate American? 

VELLECO:  I‘m not—I‘m not taking the bait, Chris.  I‘m just a Second Amendment advocate... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t—you don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In other words, do you think he‘s a legitimate American? 

VELLECO:  Do I think the president is?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he was born here?

VELLECO:  I‘m here to talk about the right... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you can‘t answer that question?  OK. 

You don‘t have to answer the question.  But I will answer it.  I think he was born in the United States.  I think—I don‘t think he should be picked up as an illegal alien, like you guys seem to think.  You have to keep the question open.

VELLECO:  No.  No, I—we have never said anything close to that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you say?  What do you say? 

VELLECO:  We have never said anything. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you. 

John Velleco not taking a position.  He‘s agnostic on the issue. 

Brian Levin, thank you for being on. 

Up next:  We see what happens when Barney Franks spots a real UFO at a town meeting.  Wait until you catch this conversation.

That‘s in the “Sideshow”—coming up on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”

First up: crazy rhythm.  Last night, Congressman Barney Frank held a town hall meeting on health care in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and had a woman question or compare Obama health care with Hitler. 

Congressman Frank didn‘t like the comparison.  In fact, thought it was Looney Tune. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as

Obama has expressly supported this policy?  Why are you supporting

(CROSSTALK)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Let me...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  When you ask me that question, I‘m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question. 

On what planet do you spend most of your time? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(SHOUTING)

FRANK:  It‘s a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. 

(APPLAUSE)

FRANK:  Ma‘am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.  I have no interest in doing it. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So, what do you say to someone who is zoned into some other universe? 

Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

And it has to do with covering all your bases.  Today, President Obama is calling on support from religious leaders, who see health care reform as a moral issue.  According to “The L.A. Times,” he will address over 1,000 of those religious leaders in conference calls to get their support. 

The president is reaching out to over 1,000 leaders of faith today to preach the gospel of health care—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  the Hammer, former House Majority Leader Tom, well, they‘re calling him twinkle toes, DeLay takes the stage. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rebounded by midday after getting off to a pretty shaky start this morning.  The Dow Jones industrials finished 61 points higher.  The S&P 500 added almost seven, and the Nasdaq gained nearly 13 points. 

A surprise drop in inventories sent oil prices soaring more than 5 percent.  Oil ended the day more than 4 percent higher, at $72.23 a barrel. 

Drug manufacturer Merck was today‘s top gainer, after a court upheld a patent on its allergy drug Singulair—Merck shares gaining 2.5 percent on the day.

And shares in Swiss bank UBS fell almost 3 percent after it agreed to hand over details on more than 4,000 secret accounts to U.S. authorities.  They‘re trying to determine how much of the $18 billion in those accounts is the result of evading U.S. taxes. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to go back to January 20.  And I want to know, why are you people ignoring his birth certificate? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lower your taxes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How dare you? 

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS:  No more lies!  No more lies!

KATY ABRAM, ATTENDED TOWN HALL MEETING OF SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER:  What

are you going to do to restore this country back to what our founders created, according to the Constitution? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sabotage Americans‘ rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not a lobbyist with all kind of money to stuff in your pocket. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy?  Why are you supporting...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  God, rowdy crowds, some carrying guns, are showing up at town meetings all across the country all—in all parts of the countries protesting health care reform, and some protesting the way things are going in this country. 

Are these people mad about health care, or mad about Obama‘s presidency, or mad about what seems to be the nature of the 21st century? 

Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

By the way, I think you missed the boat, Congressman.  The country was turning in your direction.  You just missed it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You have joined the cast of “Dancing With the Stars.”  We have got to talk about that.  Who‘s your partner right now?

By the way, let‘s get some of the scuttle out of the way with—you have a partner.  Her name, sir?

TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Her name is Cheryl Burke.  I have got the best partner one could get. 

MATTHEWS:  There she is.

DELAY:  Can you believe it? 

MATTHEWS:  Well...

DELAY:  Can you believe it?  Cheryl Burke. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m—I‘m impressed. 

Let me ask you now, she‘s a professional dancer, right? 

DELAY:  Yes, correct, yes, even on some dance studios. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get—let me get the set on you.  Are you one of those Texas boys, you know, square-dancers, the old days...

DELAY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... wearing the boots and the tux together and all that stuff?

DELAY:  Black tie and boots, dancing the Texas two-step, polka, waltz. 

I even took disco lessons once. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, can you do the British quick-step, that stuff you have to do to all the songs like Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin, and Gershwin?  Do you do that one?  That‘s the hardest one for me to do. 

DELAY:  No, no, I can‘t do it right now, but I hope to do it.  That‘s one of the reasons I got on here.

My wife and I have always wanted to take ballroom dancing.  Now—now they‘re going to pay me to take ballroom lessons.  So, this is cool.  The only downside, though—I have got to show you, Chris—look at this shoe.  A Texan doesn‘t wear a shoe like this. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a little—that‘s a little pump, isn‘t it?

DELAY:  This is what they‘re making me wear. 

It‘s a little pump with high heels that makes... 

MATTHEWS:  I just—are you going to be a little light in that shoe, I think? 

DELAY:  Well...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No more comment.  Let‘s just drop this conversation. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about what‘s going on in the country. 

You‘re a man of the right, and proudly so.  I wonder whether you‘re even comfortable the way it‘s headed.  We have got people that question whether the president is legitimate or not, whether he was born in the United States or not.  And they mean it viscerally.  It isn‘t just something they want to check his papers.  They don‘t think he is. 

Where are you on that one?

DELAY:  Well, Chris, Chris, you shouldn‘t be surprised about this. 

This has been going on forever.

When I did my town hall meetings, I can‘t—I will never forget one back in the ‘80s—on health care, by the way.  They brought in quadriplegics on gurneys and dumped them on the floor in front of my podium. 

I mean, this—this is not new.  What‘s new is, the people that came into disrupt my town meetings, we just let them go on, because it usually turned off the people that were there. 

What‘s happening here is the American people are on their side, and as evidenced by Barney Frank.  Barney treated them with arrogance.  And that‘s not what you do.  You let them go. 

But the problem is, they‘re making an impact.  And the American people are on their side. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a couple questions where you stand.  You know, we have some people on that are pretty far right, but they say they‘re not birthers.  They don‘t question the president‘s legitimacy.  How far do you go these days, Mr. Leader. 

Are you over there with the birthers?  Are you over there with them?  Are you over there with those who think this is a Hitlerian health care plan, like that woman up in Massachusetts said yesterday.  Do you think it‘s Hitler-like, what he‘s doing, the president? 

DELAY:  I want the president, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid to keep the federal government out of my health care, period. 

MATTHEWS:  When you turn 65, they‘re getting into your health care, whether you like it or not.  Medicare is a government program. 

DELAY:  I want Medicare to be privatized.  It shouldn‘t be a government program.  It‘s the thing that is driving up health care costs, not that we don‘t have a public option.  It‘s Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP, the government run programs that are running up health care costs.  That‘s where the reform ought to be. 

MATTHEWS:  So you want to get rid of what‘s known as Medicare today, HCFA and all that government apparatus?  Get rid of all that, replace it with private sector health care?  With private sector insurance? 

DELAY:  Amen.  I‘d do it in a minute.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  You keep skipping over this birther thing.  A half dozen members of what was your delegation—in fact, you built that delegation.  You built that Republican stronghold down there.  Culberson, people like that, they are birthers.  They raised the question of the president‘s legitimacy.  By the way, the implication they draw is this guy ought to be picked up, because he was never naturalized, and therefore, he‘s in the country illegally.  Where are you on that one? 

DELAY:  I would like the president to produce his birth certificate.  Yes.  I can.  I can.  Most illegal aliens here in America can.  Why can‘t the president of the United States produce a birth certificate. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you actively seeking that paper?  Do you want him to produce—are you Tom Delay, with your political and professional and career history in the United States government, questioning this man‘s bona fide. 

DELAY:  No, no. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re questioning it.  You want to see his paper. 

DELAY:  Chris, the Constitution of the United States specifically says

-- 

MATTHEWS:  I know it. 

DELAY:  -- you have to be a natural born citizen. 

MATTHEWS:  I never asked you for yours. 

DELAY:  Ask me, I‘ll give it to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Has anybody ever said, Mr. Delay, give me your birth certificate?  Of course not, because you‘ve got a Texas accent and you seem home grown. 

DELAY:  Chris, can I speak?  They have asked me if I‘m a resident of Texas.  They even sued me about being a resident of Texas.  How about that?  The Democrats sued me about being a resident of Texas.  That‘s just like asking me for my birth certificate. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not. 

DELAY:  What‘s the difference? 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Delay, did anyone ever ask you if you‘re an American? 

DELAY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Who? 

DELAY:  Democrats have looked through my—are you kidding. 

MATTHEWS:  Have they ever asked whether you‘re an American or not? 

DELAY:  Chris, they have spent 15 years trying to demonize me and to even put me in jail.  Of course, they‘ve asked me if I‘m an American citizen. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me just tell you something.  The problem they have with you is not whether you‘re homegrown or not.  They figure you‘re definitely homegrown.  They‘ve got other problems with you. 

DELAY:  Chris, will you do me a favor. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

DELAY:  Will you do me a favor?  Will you ask the president to show me his gift certificate—I mean his gift certificate—his birth certificate. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m not going to ask him, because I don‘t get to ask him.  You want me to go up to the president and say, can I see your papers, sir, like he‘s an illegal alien?  I want to see if he has a right to be in the country or not.  When I‘ve seen—here‘s what I‘ve seen.  I‘ve seen a Honolulu newspaper announcing his birth in Hawaii.  I‘ve seen that. 

DELAY:  Newspaper?

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they cooked up that newspaper announcement back in 1961?  Do you think they cooked it up so that he could some day be president? 

DELAY:  Is a newspaper article an official document? 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they cooked it up? 

DELAY:  Wait a minute.  Is a newspaper article an official document? 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not.  It‘s just common sense we‘re talking about here.  Common sense. 

DELAY:  There isn‘t anybody in America that‘s been born in America that didn‘t get a birth certificate at Obama‘s age.  Now, maybe at my age, there are people born -- 

MATTHEWS:  All I know is they gave us the document that was made available to anybody in Hawaii who asked for a birth certificate.  That document they give you.  That‘s all I know.  OK?

Let me ask you about this gun thing.  You‘re a gun rights guy.  Can it be carried too far?  If you were the head of the Secret Service, would you let people come into presidential meetings carrying arms. 

DELAY:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of these people who think that‘s a legitimate demand they‘re making?  Use the Second Amendment and stretch it that far. 

DELAY:  That‘s in the a law.  That‘s a security matter.  And the Secret Service has every right to take a meeting where the president is and make sure nobody has a gun on them.  That has nothing to do with passing a law keeping people from carrying a gun. 

In fact, I‘m really mad because I got indicted.  They took my concealed carrier weapon license away from me.  I think that‘s a violation of the Second Amendment. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, sir. 

DELAY:  You bet. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s good to have you on.  I don‘t think I‘ll ask him for his birth certificate. 

DELAY:  How about these shoes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re going through some changes, sir.  Indications that the president may be backing away from the public option has liberals fired up.  What will they do?  What can they do?  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, as you can see, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the politics fix with the “Salon‘s” Joan Walsh and “The Politico‘s” Ken Vogel.

Joan and Ken, watch this.  Here‘s Barney Frank going at that woman who compared Barack Obama‘s health care plan to Hitler.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why would you support a Nazi policy, as Obama has, expressing—Why do you support him? 

FRANK:  When you ask me that question, I‘m going to avert to my ethnic heritage, and answer that question with a question.  On what planet do you spend most of your time? 

This is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. 

Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.  I have no interest in doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t want to argue with a dining room table, Joan. 

Is this the way Democrats should approach their critics on health care? 

JOAN WALSH, “SALON”:  You know, I just have to say, god bless Barney Frank.  I know he lost his temper.  I know he lost his cool.  But he‘s a hero to a lot of liberals, Chris.  We believe in debate.  We believe in dialogue.  You and I have disagreed over the years.  We still come back as friends.  We still come at it.

But what‘s going on is just a kind of thuggishness.  And we‘re supposed to treat these people like they deserve an equal place at the table, when they‘re being organized by right wingers.  William Kostrick, you had him on your show.  He said he wasn‘t a birther.  He‘s a birther.  He belongs to We the People.  Katie Abram, Lawrence O‘Donnell did a great job with her last week.  Everybody is acting like she‘s just a normal American house wife.  She‘s a leader of the 9/12 movement, which is Glenn Beck‘s insane right wing movement. 

So these people are being organized.  There are not normal Americans who are just a little bit scared about what‘s going to happen.  They‘re being whipped up into a frenzy, and I‘m proud of Barney Frank today. 

MATTHEWS:  Ken Vogel, are these people who come to these town meetings misrepresenting themselves as individuals, when, in fact, they‘re part of a faction that‘s been led to say what they say, in fact, been given talking points? 

KEN VOGEL, “POLITICO”:  Whether they‘ve been organized by any outside group or not, the fact remains that they did, in fact, show up, in the dead of summer, to a town hall to talk about a very wonky issue.  So I don‘t think you can discount that. 

That said, clearly they are seeking confrontation.  And they are seeking to use confrontations like the one that Congressman Frank had to sort of manufacturer a show that there‘s opposition, perhaps beyond the numbers, or of a different intensity. 

MATTHEWS:  To what effect?  To engage in debate and to argue the issues?  Or to shut down this move for health care reform just by static? 

VOGEL:  Yes, the latter absolutely.  They‘re not coming there to have a debate.  The folks who do come there with legitimate questions are being drowned out.  So to that extent, kudos to Barney Frank for moving on from someone who is seeking a confrontation, hopefully to someone who has legitimate questions. 

Nonetheless, it doesn‘t look good.  We‘re playing this clip and I think opponents of the health care plan will be rallied by clips like this and clips showing confrontations to sort of be further confrontational. 

WALSH:  I think liberals are being rallied by seeing Barney Frank speak the truth.  The idea that a gay Jewish man is being told that he supports Nazi policies.  I mean, it‘s got to stop. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess you‘ve nailed it, Joan.  Thank you.  We‘ll be right back.  I want to talk about this.  I think the only sheer winners if Barack Obama fails with health care is the Republican party.  I think that‘s the one clear thing we can see through all this murkiness.  There is going to be a winner if he loses.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Joan and Ken.  Let me start with Ken here on this one.  It seems to me the Republican has a clear ambition now, sack the quarterback, humiliate the other team.  They get a double win here if they win.  They defeat the president on health care and claim he was trying to be a socialist. 

VOGEL:  I agree.  This is—There is somewhat of a risk that they could be seen as obstructionist.  Polls do show that a majority of Americans support some version of health care reform, the specifics aside.  But I think risk is vastly outweighed by handing Barack Obama what would surely be perceived as his first major defeat.  And they would try to present it as a repudiation of this big government agenda that they say Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to institute. 

MATTHEWS:  Joan, you talked to a lot of Democrats in your reporting.  Do they realize, especially the moderate Democrats, that if they poo-poo this, if they find problems with the president‘s plan, that they don‘t think is perfect, if they bring down this thing to defeat, they have handed the other party something to hammer them with for years to come? 

WALSH:  I don‘t think they realize that, Chris, because Obama is not saying that to them.  Instead, what you have is Rahm Emanuel confronting progressive Democrats and telling them not to gang up on the Blue Dogs.  The people who have been the president‘s loyalist supporters are being kicked by this White House.  And that‘s where the real risk is. 

You know, to see the public option decried as some left wing plot—I didn‘t know it was left wing to care about waste and fraud in government and in spending.  And Obama himself has said the public option is crucial to hold down costs.  If he passes a bill that doesn‘t hold down costs, and the tax payers are holding the bag, he‘s toast either way.  So this can‘t be a win at any cost thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s finish the show tonight with a real salute to you, Joan.  We don‘t always agree, as you pointed out, but I think you had a fascinating notion the other day.  Don‘t call it the nuclear option.  Don‘t even try it.  Accept the Senate rules and say, look, if the other side wants to filibuster, we‘ll give them all the time in the world to filibuster. 

But at some point it‘s going to be clear to the American people that‘s what they‘re doing; they‘re filibustering.  Call for a vote.  Let them talk and talk.  Bring the bunk beds in.  Stay for a month or two, stay till Christmas, until New Year‘s.  But make them filibuster like in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Make them actually do it.  Accept the rules as they are.  Why not do it?  I think it‘s a great idea. 

WALSH:  I agree. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was your idea. 

WALSH:  It‘s a lot of people‘s idea. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ken.  Why not do that, Ken?  Just do it like the old days.  Let them filibuster, but make them filibuster.  Don‘t just put your hand up and say, we‘re going to filibuster.  Make them do it.

VOGEL:  You‘re counting on people paying attention and people having a strong reaction against this type of tactic.  And I don‘t think we can say that that is a given.  I think, you know, there are a very small number of people who are paying attention now.  A lot of people are not still. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ken.  I think they‘ll watch the guys in the bunk beds.  Thank you, Ken.  Thank you, Joan.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Ed Schultz.  This is “THE ED SHOW.” 

Good evening, Americans.  Live from 30 Rock in New York, it‘s “THE ED SHOW” on MSNBC. 

We‘re about at that time that you say, is it time to fish or cut bait, that moment on health care.  Mr. President, the nice guy stuff with the Republicans is really wearing thin with the left.  The liberal lions are starting to roar.  I spoke with two members of the Congress today.  Both say it‘s time for you, Mr. President, to draw a line in the sand. 

Dr. Howard Dean will weigh in on that in just a moment.  White House officials are now saying that they‘re surprised that the left of the left feels so strongly about this.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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