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updated 2/10/2010 11:02:28 AM ET 2010-02-10T16:02:28

Guests: Mike Huckman, Scott Garrett, Jim Moran, James Moore, Wayne Slater, Anne Kornblut,

Mark Halperin, Howard Fineman, Clarence Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Democrats can‘t do it alone.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington, where you can see behind me it‘s snowing once again, maybe another foot here.  Leading off tonight: What do Republicans want?  Do they really want to be part of governing the country, or are they more interested in sitting in the back seat and yelling “socialist” at the guy driving the car?  They say the Democrats are in charge of running the country, but they keep them from doing it by denying Democrats the 60 necessary votes in the U.S. Senate.  Have we reached the point where it would be smart for the Democrats to simply say the don‘t have the votes to run the country and they need Republicans to join them in running this country?

By the way, you know that Texas crowd which roared when Sarah Palin mentioned the word “secession” on Monday?  Rather, it was Sunday.  Just who are those people who cheer for the break-up of the country?  What makes these people think that the more right-wing you are, the more patriotic you are?

Next: It‘s one thing for a regular person not to know a whole lot about the country‘s history or even current events, but should a person like Sarah Palin, who aspires to influence others and be seen as a national leader, know a bit more than average, things like who attacked us on 9/11?  And the weirdness of wanting to, quote, “declare war on Iran”?  Isn‘t it a little scary to have someone like Sarah Palin speaking words put in their mouth by ideologues?

Plus: Arizona uprising.  Meghan McCain takes on Tom Tancredo.  He said illiterate foreigners elected a committed socialist ideologue as our president.  Is she out to protect her father against the far right?

Finally, let‘s hear what the late-night comics did to Governor Palin the other day.  They should pay her royalties.  It‘s all coming to you free tonight in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Let‘s begin with Republican obstructionism.  Democratic congressman Jim Moran of Virginia‘s a member of the Appropriations Committee, and Republican congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey‘s a member of the Financial Services Committee.

Congressman Garrett, thanks so much for joining us on snowy Tuesday here in Washington.

REP. SCOTT GARRETT (R-NJ), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  So let me get this straight about the election last year.  In 2008, the Democrats won the presidency.  They won the House.  They won the Senate.  Shouldn‘t the Republicans let them govern?

GARRETT:  Oh, absolutely.  They have—you know, elections have consequences, and we saw what those consequences were.  They had the majority.  They had the White House.  They had the Congress and they had the Senate.  They had a whole year to get this done.  So it is a little bit strange when the president comes out this past week and talks about we have to put all this bickering, these inside deals, these back room negotiations, these closed-doors deliberations—well, that was not with the Republicans, that was all with the Democrats for the last year.  They could not get the job done.

So the president‘s right, we got to get all the stuff that the Democrats have been doing all that time past us and now truly, truly work in a bipartisan manner.  And I‘m optimistic...

MATTHEWS:  So your argument is the Democrats have got to use every single vote they‘ve got, they got to vote 100 percent, because the Republicans won‘t throw them a single vote in the Senate.

GARRETT:  No, my argument is...

MATTHEWS:  And they won‘t even throw it—and by the way, that new guy, Scott Brown up in Massachusetts, advertises the fact that he‘s number one obstructionist.  He calls himself 41.  He‘s bragging about his ability to stop the Democrats from governing.  Is that good for America?

GARRETT:  It‘s good for America if both parties can work together.  And look, Chris, you know my record.  Well, you know my record, and I‘ve been able to work with people like Barney Frank, Paul Kanjorski, John Adler in New Jersey, people from the other side of the aisle working on financial service issues, what I‘ve been working on for the last year or so.  So it is possible to do it.  It is possible to get Republicans and Democrats together.

The president says he wants to.  Republicans say we want to.  So this is the opportunity right now to go forward with that agenda, and I hope it happens.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Moran, looks to me like we don‘t have enough Democrats‘ votes to pass a bill, to pass—is that fair enough?  You need Republicans or not?  Is that a fair assumption, you can‘t govern without them?

REP. JIM MORAN (D-VA), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  We can pass bills that matter in the House without Republicans.  And Scott and every one of his Republican colleagues have voted no on every major piece of legislation that‘s gotten to the floor.  In the Senate, it‘s a different matter.  As you know, the Senate is not really representative of this country.  You have just as many people representing states that have fewer people in population than I represent in the Congress having just as much influence as New York and California.  It‘s overweighted to the more conservative, more rural areas.  And...

MATTHEWS:  So what are we going to do, change the Constitution?

MORAN:  No, of course we can‘t change the Constitution.  But we need to understand that it‘s very difficult getting things through the Senate.  I think with the House bill, we‘re going to just have to...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MORAN:  ... challenge the filibuster rule or we‘re going to have to go to reconciliation.

MATTHEWS:  Well, fair enough.  But here‘s the president today talking bipartisanship.  And I just want to try in the next 10 minutes to find the route.  I want somebody to GPS me to how we see the country working again instead of just having a logjam here.  Here‘s the president talking bipartisanship today.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Bipartisanship depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country.  I won‘t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party, but I also won‘t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that‘s rooted not in substantive disagreements but in political expedience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So Congressman Garrett, wouldn‘t it be smart, I mean, if this were somebody in a real world, not in politics, to say the Republicans go meet for a week and they take a look at the Democratic bill, they try to get a consensus on what they can live with, whether it‘s preexisting conditions or it‘s portability, or throw in something like interstate competition or something on tort reform and say, Here‘s what we can go with.  We can go with half your bill.  We‘re going to throw in another half as our version, or two thirds of what—since you won the election, and a third of our stuff.  And then we‘re going to pass it because it‘s better than what we‘ve got.

What‘s wrong with—why don‘t people think like that?

GARRETT:  I don‘t know.  I like just about everything you just said right now.  So maybe if you get the administration on after us and say if they would present a proposal like that when we all get together, I think you would actually get the Republicans all on board because those are—if you would ask me what would be some of the things that the administration‘s talked about in the past, that we‘ve talked about, that we‘re on the same page there, I think you just about ran down a whole slew of them.  So that would be something that we could actually get done.

MORAN:  Well, then, Scott, why don‘t you talk to your leadership about that?

GARRETT:  Well, we have, and...

MORAN:  The leadership won‘t come up with any kind of bipartisan bill, like Chris was supporting.

GARRETT:  Well, who—who...

MORAN:  You‘re just saying no to everything.

GARRETT:  Oh!  See?  There you go.

MORAN:  Well?

GARRETT:  And that‘s what the president was—and (INAUDIBLE) exactly what the president was saying right up until the Republican retreat.

MORAN:  Well, look at all the House floor votes, Scott.  They‘ve all -

zero Republicans have supported anything that we‘ve put on the House floor.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to what John Boehner, your leader, the Republican leader, did say about the health care bill.  Let‘s listen, John Boehner from Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  It‘s going to be very difficult to have a bipartisan conversation with regard to a 2,700-page health care bill that the Democrat majority in the House and the Democrat majority in the Senate can‘t pass.  So why are we going to talk about a bill that can‘t pass?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Congressman, you‘re a Northeastern Republican, and my brother‘s one, too, and I respect you guys.  They‘re sort of—you‘re a moderate—well, I know that‘s a bad word.  I won‘t even say “moderate” because it‘ll kill you at home.

GARRETT:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  But it seems like there‘s—thank you?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for not calling you a moderate.  I just love this!  Here‘s a guy, John Boehner, who just came out and used the word “Democrat” Party.  You know, why do you use the fighting words if you‘re going to talk bipartisanship?  It‘s the Democratic Party.

GARRETT:  OK.  OK.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s what the call themselves.  Don‘t people let each other in this country call themselves by the name they want to be called?

GARRETT:  (INAUDIBLE) yes, I know.

MATTHEWS:   Why do people take that cheap shot and then say, But we really want to negotiate?

GARRETT:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  You know that Boehner‘s loving this thing.  He doesn‘t want to negotiate, he wants a down-and-out fight that makes Barack Obama look terrible and he picks up 30 or 40 seats.

GARRETT:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Then he wins, then next year, nothing gets done again. 

That‘s my thought.  Your thought, Congressman.

GARRETT:  I don‘t think that‘s true.  And I got to admit, on the floor sometimes, I have a slip of the tongue, no ill intent intended, when I said the “Democrat” Party, as opposed to the Democratic Party.  Somebody will crest me on it and I will say, OK, let‘s go forward on that.

But look, I‘ve been in GOP conferences when Leader Boehner and other folks from our side, other members of our leadership, said, Here‘s what we believe in, here‘s where they are.  These are some of the things, some of the points you raised before.  We would like to try to sit down with them and come to agreement.  It is not all politics that you‘re talking about.  Yes, that‘s out there.  That‘s what the NRCC is all about.  They‘re trying to get Republicans reelected and that sort of thing.  And there is a political element of all this stuff.

But I got to tell you, when we get into the back rooms, when we‘re having—sitting down and having dinner and we‘re just getting together, talking about this stuff, we look at it as just like you are here, saying that there are some things that need to get done and they need to get done right now for the good of the country.  We‘re talking about health care—jobs—I mean, didn‘t the president say that his issue was jobs one right now?  I think most Americans would say let‘s focus on job creation right now.  I know the president‘s reached out to the Republicans on that.  Good for him.  Now let‘s see whether we can come to a couple agreements on that.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

GARRETT:  And I think both parties want to do it.

MATTHEWS:  You changed the subject...

(CROSSTALK)

MORAN:  But even on jobs, Scott...

GARRETT:  OK.

MORAN:  ... you all voted no when we brought the jobs bill up to the floor, to extend unemployment insurance, health benefits, and so on.  You know, think back to the Bush years, when you controlled all three branches of government.  And the Democratic leadership allowed Democrats to vote with the Republicans.  You passed two deep tax cuts that were never paid for.  We went into two wars, one of which we never should have gone into, and passed the Medicare prescription drug bill, got all of that done in what was really a bipartisan manner.

But now you‘ve got a leadership that is saying, Vote no on everything so President Obama has nothing to show for his presidential leadership, and that‘s—regardless of the consequences to the country.

GARRETT:  Yes.  You know, all good intentions here, the American public is really tired of the partisan bickering and looking backwards to where we came from, the pointing finger and blame.  What they really want to do right now is for us to be able to sit down together and say, This is how we can come together.

So we can, you know, point and look back and say whether Bush was responsible for this, Republican responsible for this—I can look back in a positive way and say, you know, Bill Clinton was able to get some things done in a bipartisan manner when you had him in the White House and Republicans in the House.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

GARRETT:  So I think it‘s going to be done.  But pointing fingers is not getting it done, nor is blaming our leadership, when you have the majority in the Senate and the House, for not getting it done.  We have a number of proposals.  The president was saying we didn‘t for months.  He finally realized and he‘s finally stood up and said, Yes, Republicans have proposals on jobs, on health care, on energy.  And now that he‘s recognized that we‘ve actually laid out plans for the last year that he has not recognized in the past, I think that he‘s now maybe willing to go forward...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

GARRETT:  ... in listening to some of the ideas.  And Chris, I hope you will reach out to the White House and throw out your ideas to them because...

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let me just...

GARRETT:  ... I think you can do that.

MATTHEWS:  ... try it by you.  Let‘s look forward to what‘s really going to happen.  I‘m not going to run this thing, the president‘s going to run it.

GARRETT:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s going to be a meeting.  According to the latest “Washington Post” poll just came out tonight, 63 percent of the American people want the two parties to keep working together in trying to fashion some kind of compromise on health care.

So let me ask you, Congressman Garrett, and then Congressman Moran...

GARRETT:  Sure.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... when the president convenes that meeting of the leadership of the two parties—and I think it may be a bigger meeting than just leadership—will there be progress made, Congressman?  Will your party participate in a quid pro—a back-and-forth—what they call ping-pong, where you try an idea, they try an idea?  They say, I‘ll give you interstate competition.  You say, OK, give us a break on that individual mandate—back and forth.  Will there be something like that, like—look, we negotiated with the communists all those years.  We negotiate with our enemies.  Can‘t we negotiate with each other?

GARRETT:  Yes.  If it‘s done exactly the way that you‘re suggesting, which is, basically, with them in those negotiations, you start from a blank slate, so to speak.  Somebody throws out this, interstate agreement.  I agree with that.  Administration has a version on that.  OK, let‘s come to agreement on that.  The health care mandate—boy, I‘m totally opposed to that for constitutional grounds.  If they throw to that, we‘re going to throw up an alternative to that.  If we start from a blank slate and move forward, I think, yes, we can come to agreement on...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

GARRETT:  ... a whole bunch of...

MATTHEWS:  ... has to be a blank slate.  Blank slate.

MORAN:  A blank slate, after we‘ve spent nine months in working all this out through the committee.  The problem, Chris, is the Republicans are scared of Obama.  They went...

MATTHEWS:  Will they show up?  Are you saying they won‘t show up?

MORAN:  I don‘t think they‘ll show up.  The go to the—he goes to the Republican caucus.  It‘s 140 members to one, and the one won because he outsmarted them.  He knew the issues better.  And the fact is, they had no way to come back.  All they had were their scripts, their talking points.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, I think it‘s great.  Congressman Garrett, you are a great guest, sir.

GARRETT:  I appreciate (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  I appreciate you coming on.  You‘re my kind of Northeastern Republican.  There‘s a few wackies out there in your party, but you‘re not one of them.  Thank you very much—there‘s a few wackies in the Democratic Party.  Thank you, Scott Garrett, congressman from the great state of New Jersey.  Jim Moran, the congressman from northern Virginia, right near here in Alexandria.

Coming up: Sarah Palin got a Texas-sized cheer this weekend when she said the word—now, this has got to scare everybody, right, left and center—“secession.”  We lost 600,000 guys in a war, died on battlefields on both sides over that war.  Why would you bring that word up in America if you have any sense of history?  And then we heard the word “nullification” in that Texas debate the other night, “interposition.”  These are the words that got us into the Civil War!  Andrew Jackson shot these words down.  And these crazy people are bringing up these words.  Anyway, we‘re coming back and talking about Palinism.  I don‘t know what else you‘re calling it.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  And then I started hearing—up there in Alaska, I started to hear all this news coverage about, Oh, Texas is seceding from the union, the governor...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  And I said—and I said, I think they got that wrong.  Texas today, I don‘t think they‘re seceding, they are succeeding.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she got a bigger applause when she said “seceding,” not “succeeding.”  Anyway, nice try, Governor.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Sarah Palin at a rally down in Texas for Governor Rick Perry on Sunday.  He‘s in a big primary fight down there.  What‘s the deal with all the cheers at the mere mention of the word “secession” from that crowd?  What‘s going on in Texas?

Wayne Slater covers politics for “The Dallas Morning News.”  And author James Moore is also with us today.  They wrote “Bush‘s Brain” between them.  Let‘s go first of all to Wayne.  Why would there be an instantaneous, instinctive cheer with enthusiasm and glee for the word “secession” in Texas?

WAYNE SLATER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS,” CO-AUTHOR “BUSH‘S BRAIN”: 

Absolutely.  And it‘s amazing.  As you say, it got a bigger cheer than the word “success.”  Look, there are some birthers, Birchers, militia types and some fringies, some—the marginalia of the right that‘s involved in this.

But most of the people who applauded are conservative Republicans who hear the word “secession” as a code.  The code word says, I‘m disaffected with Washington.  I don‘t like spending.  And so when you hear “secession,” what they really hear here in Texas is, Washington, take your money and your programs and shove it.

MATTHEWS:  Oh!  Let me hear, Jim—is that how you read it, your co-author, same view, that it‘s really a milder version of insurrection they‘re talking about, it‘s not war?

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  No, I don‘t think so, Chris.  I think it‘s—I think there‘s more to this than it being just a rhetorical flourish.  You have to remember, we have a more contemporary example of the dangers of what happens when you start saying these kinds of things in Texas.  About 15 years ago, there was a guy running around saying this, convinced people to take up arms.  They went to the mountains in west Texas.  He demanded that Texas secede, and there was a gun fight.  People were injured.

And when somebody like Sarah Palin or the governor starts saying these kinds of things, there‘s a risk to whipping up a danger and a risk and a frenzy that might end up with something irresponsible.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m not a big fan of Rick Perry.  I can‘t believe he‘s getting reelected again, if he is.  But let me take a look.  Here‘s Rick Perry last April with CNBC‘s Larry Kudlow, who‘s pretty much of a conservative.  Listen to him and Lawrence as he makes this first sort of intimation about the word “secession” from the union.

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  We‘re still part of the union down here in Texas, and our folks would like to keep it that way, but we see some things going on that are peculiar.  They‘re frustrating.  And I think the Texans are—you know, we‘re an independent lot, and we‘d just as soon Washington not be mortgaging our kids‘ futures, and ours, for that matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Did he go to grade school?  Here‘s a radio tape.  Here‘s an audio of what he said the final day, tax day, at a tea party rally.  And I‘m all for people mad about taxes.  That‘s very American.  But here he is on April 15th, saying something that‘s just maliciously not true historically.  Let‘s listen to him, Governor Perry. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  Texas is a unique place.  When we came in the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to—to leave if we decided to do that. 

My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. 

We have got a great union.  There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.  But, if Washington continues to thumb their nose at—at the American people, you know, who knows what may came—may come out of that. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this craziness is catchy.  Here‘s Republican candidate, another candidate for the Republican nomination, Debra Medina, last Friday in a debate with Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to make sure we have this clear.  So, you don‘t want secession? 

DEBRA MEDINA ®, TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I absolutely don‘t want secession. 

I have said that we need to aggressively use nullification in our position, aggressively.  Ultimately, if that does not work, we have got to recognize that the Constitution left that right to the states. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Who is this, John Calhoun?  Here‘s she—here‘s Martin Luther King, by the way, reminding all of us what interposition means and what nullification means. 

These are fighting words before civil rights.  Here it is, from his “I Have a Dream” speech.  Oh, there it is—quote—I know we have rights to read—here it is: “Down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words interposition and nullification.  One day down—so, there he is talking about it. 

I‘m not going to read the whole thing.  But there he is.  Wait.  Oh, I have to read the whole thing.  “We will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls.”

This whole thing—and that‘s a “I Have a Dream” today.  I‘m reading the whole thing.

OK.  The point, though, was the interposition and nullification, or the words of Jim Crow. 

And—and, Wayne, here‘s this candidate for governor down in Texas in 2010 doing that. 

WAYNE SLATER, AUTHOR, “THE ARCHITECT: KARL ROVE AND THE MASTER PLAN

FOR ABSOLUTE POWER”:  Yes. 

And I think you—you have to watch—when I watch Rick Perry on the stump talk about the 10th Amendment and say states‘ rights, states‘ rights, states‘ rights, and the crowd cheers, it kind of gives you a shiver, because that phrase is obviously freighted from the civil rights movement with some rather negative aspects. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SLATER:  But that‘s what he‘s talking about. 

Look, these people who cheer this are not all racists.  I think this is not—but to suggest—to ignore the racial aspect of this, the nativist, racial aspect of this, I think, is to ignore the reality of the success and appeal of this pitch to a conservative Republican primary voting constituency. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, you think that she knew what she was saying when she said nullification in her position, and that Rick Perry knows what he means when he says secession? 

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  I don‘t—I don‘t think that there‘s any question about it, Chris. 

I don‘t think they‘re—they‘re doing a very good job of hiding it.  And, if you look at the crowds, those are not exactly diverse crowds out there.  And I take exception when the governor says we‘re part of the union.  If we are, then why is he saying no to stimulus funds to help our schools, to help every—everybody else in this state?

And I would also like to ask people, if there were people from the Democratic Party representing Barack Obama or even Bill Clinton running around the country saying secession, they would be called the most vile anti-American...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, here‘s my point.

MOORE:  ... types of individuals you could ever come across. 

MATTHEWS:  We have gotten used to—Wayne, first—we have gotten used in our public discourse recently to allow people to go as far right as they want to go and somehow claim they‘re more American than anybody else. 

Somehow, the notion that, if you‘re for secession, if you‘re for interposition, you‘re for nullification, you‘re more American than for someone who abides by the Constitution.  I mean, this has really gotten crazy—I mean, not crazy.  It‘s gotten distorted. 

SLATER:  Well, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that‘s not conservative, to talk like that.  That‘s not conservativism. 

SLATER:  Well, I think it‘s a tough-guy conservatism...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SLATER:  ... that appeals to a particular constituent. 

Remember, going into a primary in Texas, where a million people are going to vote, they‘re very conservative.  It‘s a constituency, one-third of which considers themselves born-again Christians, who go to church twice a week.  We know from our metrics that‘s a very conservative group. 

The other day, a guy had a gun on the capitol steps, was shooting.  Nobody was hurt.  He was taken down by security.  But the answer from the governor, when asked whether we needed to put metal detectors in the capitol and beef up security was, no, what we need to do is have more people carrying guns on the lawn.  That will take care of these kind of problems. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of this, Jim? 

SLATER:  True.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I just don‘t know what to say what‘s happening in Texas. 

MOORE:  Well, I think a part of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know it‘s being moving conservative over the years, but this isn‘t conservative.  This is right-wing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE:  Well, I think a part of what—well, a part of what Perry is doing right now is, obviously, he‘s got to whip the base up into a frenzy, Chris, because we haven‘t had a Republican primary in this state since the Civil War. 

So, he‘s got to get the people who are generally marginalized in the -

in the general election...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

MOORE:  ... he‘s got to get them out.  That‘s part of what he‘s doing.  But, remember, there is a germ of truth, and more than a germ of truth, in the things that he‘s saying and the things that he believes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we will keep looking for that germ. 

Thank you, Wayne Slater.

Thank you, James Moore. 

SLATER:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  The late-night comedians go to town with Sarah Palin‘s crib notes.  They‘re loving this one.  Check out the “Sideshow.”  It‘s coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

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

The reviews are in.  Last night, after HARDBALL, the comics went after Sarah Palin‘s palm readings. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  We‘re going to freeze a couple programs here.  That doesn‘t do us any good, really.  We have got to start reining in the spending.  We have got to jump-start these energy projects. 

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Big deal. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”) 

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Oh, big deal.  Writing notes on your hand shows she‘s an average Jane, not like those elites and their memory. 

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  So...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”:  But, you know, those weren‘t notes from her speech, to be fair.  Those were notes from something she had earlier in the day, had nothing to do with the speech.  Show this.  Take a look. 

Can we go in close on her hand?  Can you see what it says on her hand? 

Look, see, it says, lather, rinse, repeat, left hand. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LENO:  Now, show the other hand.  Show the other hand. 

(APPLAUSE)

LENO:  You see, right—you see, that had nothing...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LENO:  So...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s lightening it up.

Anyway, remember, it‘s not that she needed notes.  It‘s that she believed she needed to hide the notes by sneaking them on to her hand, not on to a note card.  That‘s the big issue here.

Next, talk about stirring the pot.  Catch this, a larger-than-life picture of George W. Bush with the text, “Miss Me Yet?”  The billboard popped up on I-35 near Wyoming, Minnesota.  The ad was paid for by a group of anonymous small business owners, who say they feel Washington wasn‘t listening.  Guess what?  Guess that is what is coming, now that the Supreme Court‘s legalizing corporate political advertising. 

By the way, the answer to the question and to that poster, the answer is no. 

Finally, touching the third rail.  We know Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a vocal critic of Obama‘s health care push.  This weekend, in Saint Louis, however, she went after Social Security and Medicare.  She said that old people need those programs right now, but they have to start weaning younger people from them. 

We heard Texas Republican Congressman Hensarling say the same thing here last week, getting rid of Social Security and Medicare.  Do you like that idea?  It‘s the Republican idea. 

Now for the “Number.”

Sarah Palin told FOX News this weekend it would be absurd not to consider a presidential run for her.  Well, she might be right.  According to the bookies at Intrade.com over in Dublin, what are Palin‘s chances of getting the 2012 Republican nomination?  And, by the way, I think this is smart money, 25 percent, one chance in four, 3-1 against.  She‘s leading the pack.  The oddsmakers put Mitt Romney, John Thune, and Tim Pawlenty all behind her now.  Palin‘s 25 percent shot, that‘s one in four bucks, 2012 gold—tonight‘s “Big Number.”  You betcha. 

Up next:  Never mind whether Sarah Palin could ever be elected president.  My question is, a candidate needs notes on her hands even qualified to be president, when she‘s sneaking those notes in?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

And it was turnaround Tuesday for the stock markets.  The Dow Jones industrial average finished back over 10000, gaining 150 points, to close at 10058.  Today‘s surge comes on the heels of yesterday‘s first sub-10000 closing since last November—the Dow gaining on indications that the European Union will help Greece manage through its growing debt problem.  The S&P 500 also rose by almost 14 points, to close at 1070, and the Nasdaq picking up 25 points, ending up a 2150. 

Meantime, more Toyota troubles.  The carmaker today is recalling 437,000 more cars.  Most of them are Priuses that are suspected of having brake trouble in cold conditions and on bumpy roads.  Meanwhile, Toyota acknowledges that it first received reports of brake problems with the Prius back in August, but that an investigation turned up no abnormalities.  The latest recall raises the total number of recalled Toyotas to 8.5 million. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

PALIN:  I would, if I believe that that is the right thing to do for our country and for the Palin family.  Certainly, I would do so.  I think that it would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country.  I won‘t close the door that perhaps could be open for me in the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Sarah Palin telling FOX News‘ Chris Wallace how she might decide to run for president. 

If she really does decide to run, will she come off the same as she did in 2008, when she ran for veep, or will she do something different to make more people think that she‘s qualified for national office?

“Washington Post” political reporter Anne Kornblut joins us.  She‘s the author of “Notes from the Cracked Ceiling.”  And, also, “TIME” magazine‘s Mark Halperin, who is the co-author of the bestseller, number one three weeks in a row, “Game Change.”

Mark, we have got a new poll out that shows that, basically—it‘s not new—it‘s been around for a while—that only 28 percent of the people think that Sarah Palin is qualified.  Seventy percent think she is not. 

What would be the assessment you would come up with after all your reporting for “Game Change”?

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, “TIME”:  That unless she makes some radical changes and has stuff inside of her that we have not seen, that that number who thinks she‘s unqualified is going to go up, and should. 

MATTHEWS:  Anne Kornblut, the latest performance—the latest performance...

ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I...

MATTHEWS:  ... was this weekend, talking about whether Barack Obama should declare war in Iran and get himself reelected automatically—some wild statements, I thought. 

KORNBLUT:  Look, Mark is exactly right. 

She had a gravitas, a credibility problem in 2008.  And if she‘s going to run a serious campaign by herself, a campaign that would be much longer than the one she saw in 2008, she‘s going to have to have more to talk about.  She has mastered the art of the sound bite, as my colleague Chris Cillizza wrote today in “The Fix.” 

And she‘s very good at it.  And she gives us a lot to talk about and a lot to replay.  But when she finally submits to some real questioning, some follow-up questions about what she‘s talking about, she hasn‘t rolled out any kind of a platform to be the underpinnings of an agenda that you could actually run for president on. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a quote from “Game Change.”

“In the days since the pick, Schmidt”—he was the campaign manager

for John McCain—“had spent enough time with Governor Palin to get a

sense of how much instruction she would need to get ready for the debates -

quote -- ‘You guys have a lot of work to do,‘ he warned Randy

Scheunemann.  ‘She doesn‘t know anything.‘”

Apparently, according to your reporting—you‘re laughing Mark, but your—it‘s not funny—your reporting said that this guy, Randy Scheunemann, who is her neocon adviser on foreign policy now, had to go all the way back through the 20th century and teach her basically the 20th century in broad strokes, what almost anybody who went to a pretty good public school knows about, which is what happened in the 20th century, First World War, Second World War, Korea. 

She had no idea what the Korean War was.  She didn‘t know anything. 

HALPERIN:  Look, Chris, the initial pick of Palin, you have got to put the responsibility on John McCain and his advisers, who picked somebody who they felt did not know anything, and who did not know basic things that you would like the vice president of the United States to know—to know. 

My view is, now the responsibility is on her.  For her to show up at this event without any specifics, without any plan, to travel around the country giving a version of the same speech over and over again, if she has any aspiration—forget running for president—just to be a credible figure in American life, to continue along the path she‘s on, I think, is just phenomenal. 

And you are one of the few people on the public square who are calling her on it.  Most people just seem to be satisfied listening to her sound bites. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, one of the tricks of public life is taking questions from people.  It‘s the hard part, because you never know what the question‘s going to be.  And it‘s in public with a camera on you. 

She had pre-screened questions, and even though she had to write in the palm of her hand to fake that she knew the answer.  I mean, I don‘t mind somebody having crib notes.  But why did you need crib notes for questions she already knew the questions—she already knew the answers, really? 

KORNBLUT:  Look, I don‘t know.  But I—all of us have taken notes into interviews.  We come on your show.  We bring notes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but there‘s nothing wrong with notes.  You put them right in front of you.

You see these notes? 

KORNBLUT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not hiding them.  But when you start writing them on your hand, it means you‘re hiding the fact that—she said, here‘s my basic beliefs, energy, tax cuts, lift America‘s spirits. 

Well, why do you have to—if they‘re your basic beliefs, they should be in here, not in the palm of your hand. 

KORNBLUT:  Look it, who knows if this is some kind of performance trick of hers from back in the day.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you think she‘s going to spin this positively? 

KORNBLUT:  Who—who knows what it is. 

I think the biggest problem for her is not that the notes were written on her hand, but that the questions haven‘t actually been challenging so far, and that none of them have been in a freewheeling setting. 

Now, maybe the onus isn‘t on McCain or on her, but it‘s on voters to decide if they actually want this.   We‘ll see in the polls that are up-coming if that‘s the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Chris Wallace asked her how hard President Obama would be to defeat in 2012.  Here‘s what the governor said.  Let‘s listen.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Say he played the war card.  Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do.  But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three—I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be reelected.  

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You‘re not suggesting he would cynically play the war card.  

PALIN:  I‘m not suggesting that.  I‘m saying, if he did, things would dramatically change, if he decided to tough it up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s frightening.  Mark, that is frightening stuff.  Frightening.  First of all, presidents do not declare war.  Anybody knows that in high school.  Congress has to declare war. 

To declare war in Iran—I don‘t think the most far right Middle East hawk would talk about declaring war on Iran, a country of 70-some million people, with an advanced air force.  A war like that, between the United States and Iran, would be so costly, an actual all out war.  Why does she talk like that?  Is that coming—where do people get talk—I mean, I was kidding last night.  Is Michael Ledean (ph), a real hawk, writing this stuff for her?   I don‘t know anybody as far right as that, besides him.

HALPERIN:  She is out there free-lancing and flailing and relying on what‘s gotten her this far.  I don‘t think you can overstate the extent to which she is the dominant figure in the Republican party today, for 2010 and 2012.  I also don‘t think you can overstate the extent to which answers like that, she‘s lucky they‘re not worse because she‘s obviously flailing. 

She‘s spending time traveling, making money, giving speeches, going on Fox.  She‘s not spending time doing what she should do.  Again, I would say even if she‘s not running for president, be a serious person.  Learn what you need to learn.  She said in the interview with Chris Wallace, she knows more now than she did when she was governor of Alaska.  Answers like that do not manifest that that is true.  

MATTHEWS:  Great example, Greta Van Susteren was interviewing her on Fox.  Greta‘s a serious person.  She‘s asking serious questions as if—and they‘re very friendly to Governor Palin—asking her a serious question with the idea she might be able to give serious answers.  Nothing comes out.  Nothing—she says nothing spontaneously when you ask her a serious question.  

KORNBLUT:  What‘s more interesting—that may be the case.  I didn‘t actually see that interview.  

MATTHEWS:  It was stunning.  If I was Roger Ailes watching, the head of Fox, I would say this is a mistake on my part to pay her any money, except for show business purposes.   She has nothing going on mentally.

KORNBLUT:  Yet, Chris, what‘s happened, as Mark said, accurately, she is the leading figure in the—if she were to run tomorrow, who would challenge her for this kind of attention?  

MATTHEWS:  These guys are so boring.  Isn‘t there any—just a minute, Mark.  You‘re a reporter and you‘re a reporter.  Is there anybody in the Republican party who could debate her right now and out-shine her?  

KORNBLUT:  I think Mitt Romney -- 

MATTHEWS:  He could outshine her?  

KORNBLUT:  I think it‘s possible.   I think it hasn‘t happened yet.

MATTHEWS:  Mark, your thoughts?  Who could out-shine her right now? 

She‘s got nothing going on right now mentally.  

HALPERIN:  Hailey Barbour and John Kasich both could.  But neither of them—no one in the party has shown the courage to take her on and say, Governor Palin, we like how you excite the base, but tell us one specific thing you‘re for, even in the area of energy, her supposed area of expertise.  Just tell us one thing you‘re for specifically that would make America better.  

MATTHEWS:  I wouldn‘t be afraid if either of those guys were president.  I might not vote for them, but I wouldn‘t be afraid of them.  I‘d be afraid of her because I think she‘s an empty vessel, ready to be filled by ideology she doesn‘t even understand.  That is really scary.  We saw that with Dan Quayle.  We saw that with W.  Nothing is more frightening than an empty vessel in power. 

Thank you, Ann Kornblut and Mark Halperin.  

Up next, while Senator John McCain shifts right to fend off a primary challenge out there from J.D. Hayworth, his out-spoken daughter is out there taking on the Tea Party crowd.  That‘s ahead in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Time for the politics fix.  Here‘s part of Tom Tancredo—remember the former congressman, ran for president, not big on immigration?  Here he is at this week‘s Tea Party convention, talking about the voters who elected President Obama.  Let‘s listen closely to his lingo.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM TANCREDO, FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  We do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.  People who could not even spell the word vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House.  His name is Barack Hussein Obama.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s not much of a dog whistle there.  You can figure out that point of view.  Yesterday on “The View,” Meghan McCain, daughter of the senator from Arizona, reacted to Tom Tancredo‘s comments.  Here she is.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN:  Congressman Tancredo went on TV.  He was the first opening speaker.  He said that people “who could not even spell the word vote or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House whose name is Barack Hussein Obama.” 

He went on to say people at the convention should have to pass literacy tests in order to be able to vote in this country, which is the same thing that happened in the ‘50s to prevent African-Americans from voting.  It‘s inate racism.  I think it‘s why young people are turned off by this movement.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  With J.D. Hayworth expected to announce in a primary fight out there in Arizona against Senator McCain next week, what do comments like that mean to this race.  I‘m talking about comments like Tancredo‘s and the response from Meghan McCain.

Joining me is “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman and the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page. 

Clarence, when you hear it, I think Tancredo was taking a shot at blacks and also Hispanics and everybody else he doesn‘t like, and also against Muslim people.  He had a lot in his force attack there.  He was going after everybody in that one.  

CLARENCE PAGE, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  I thought it was a veiled attack against illegal immigrants, and usual code wording that goes along with that.  I think he think he either forgot or didn‘t know about literacy tests.  Hard for me to believe he didn‘t know about them at his age. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are you defending him?  You think he didn‘t want to be too insensitive?  

PAGE:  It was so blatantly—actually—actually, it‘s because, you know, it was so blatantly anti-black, taking up the literacy reference.  That‘s not chic these days in conservative circles or liberal circles.  The Tea Party folks have been trying—the folks I‘ve talked to have said we‘re not racists.  We‘re not nativists.  We‘re not far right.  We‘re independent. 

If you want to put that image forth, don‘t have Tom Tancredo at your pulpit.  

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right about the sensitivity.  Remember when Spiro Agnew said squishy soft on communism back in the ‘60s, and somebody said he didn‘t know there was like 20 or 30 years of calling people soft on communism.  You had to be careful of that one.  That was called red baiting.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Perhaps.  I talked to J.D. Hayworth just a little while ago.  I called him up.

MATTHEWS:  That must have been pleasant.

FINEMAN:  I said, J.D., first of all, what do you think about what Meghan McCain said?  He said, I‘m not getting anywhere near anybody‘s family.  So he totally took a pass on that.  About the Tea Party people, he embraces the Tea Party people.  

MATTHEWS:  The birther, too.  

FINEMAN:  The whole—he embraces the movement.  He says that‘s very much an opportunity for Republicans and for conservatives.  So as he runs against John McCain, he‘s not going to distance himself from those people.  He said he wished he could have gone to the convention in Nashville, was not able to do it, but there are plenty of other Tea Party people in Arizona. 

So semantics matter here.  J.D., who is challenging McCain from the right, is not going to do so by distancing himself from those people, even though McCain has been endorsed by Scott Brown, by Sarah Palin, and by Dick Armey, who‘s really one of the masterminds of what‘s going on.  

MATTHEWS:  Is your sense that the Arizona Republican primary voter is that far right, that they would like the birther thing, the whole far right?  Not conservative, Barry Goldwater conservative, but all the way.   

PAGE:  There are a lot of them who are out there.  Exactly.  Right now, McCain is fairly comfortably ahead in the polls.  But I don‘t think any Republican office holder can be comfortable in this anti-incumbent mood right now.  There is a lot of that in Arizona.  Hayworth sees his opportunity and he‘s taken it.  He‘s got some ground to cover to close that gap, but he is posing a real threat.  

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t there a respect level toward McCain,in even if you think he is a bit to the center?  Isn‘t there a sense of his role in history, his patriotism, his service?  He also seems to fit neatly into the role of successor to Barry Goldwater, much more than J.D. Hayworth.  

FINEMAN:  Well, that is the challenge that Hayworth has.  He‘s trying the gold watch strategy for McCain, you know, give him the gold watch for retirement.  You‘re a hero, John.  We all respect John McCain, but it is time for a new generation of conservatives.  I don‘t know that it is going to work. 

What‘s interesting to me is Hayworth, who is a pretty shrewd politician—he was in Congress.  He knows his way around. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not lovable.  

FINEMAN:  I make no comment on the lovability of any of those people.  

PAGE:  I like J.D.  He‘s a very charming guy when he wants to be.  

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t sell lovability.  

FINEMAN:  The fact that he‘s not saying don‘t judge me by those people in Nashville, the fact that he‘s saying sort of the opposite is interesting.  

MATTHEWS:  It is an interesting right versus hard right.  

FINEMAN:  Exactly.

HAYWORTH:  Remember, J.D. is also a broadcast commentator.  You broadcast commentators have a lot of charm.  

MATTHEWS:  I would discriminate amongst us.  I wouldn‘t be so generalizing of that, if you want to be my friend, Clarence.  We‘ll be right back with Howard Fineman and Clarence Page with more of the fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  We‘ll talk about Sarah when we come back.  We‘ll get back to that rich topic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the first team here, Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, and the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page. 

Gentlemen, you are—we really do have the heavy-weights.  You are the starting pitchers.  This is great to have you on tonight.  The Sarah Palin thing, I really want to distinguish—I can‘t stand elitism.  I don‘t want to ever be accused of it.  So I don‘t think it is about not having a good memory.  My short-term memory has faded lately.  Sometimes I go, what happened?  I can remember ten years ago, but the last minute is the tricky part. 

Putting things on your wrist—on your palm is so cheating.  I mean, look it, we use notes in this business.  We use teleprompters.  When you put it there—she was cupping it, too.  What is that about?  

PAGE:  Oh, gosh.  

MATTHEWS:  These are my deepest beliefs.  

PAGE:  She doesn‘t like index cards, all I can figure.  

MATTHEWS:  We were told growing up, you‘d get blood poisoning.  

PAGE:  I‘m doing it the next show I do here, though.  

MATTHEWS:  These things you‘re going to remember.  You are going to forget a million things about her, and you can remember that she had cheat sheets on her arm.  

FINEMAN:  You make a really good point about the whole IQ business.  Last night on TV, I quoted a conservative making a disparaging remark about her intelligence.  I got a lot of e-mails right after that, because it treats right up on to the Barack Obama thing about having the best and the brightest, about how they know everything -- 

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re wrong.  

FINEMAN:  -- that everything they can do for the country because they went to Harvard and Columbia, et cetera et cetera.  People will defend Sarah Palin—and they‘ll even defend her irrationally—to get back at what they see as the elites who think that because they have a -- 

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s how Bush won.  

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  That was the great trick of the George W. Bush campaign.  Here‘s a guy who had gone to Andover, Yale and Harvard.  And he made Al look like the suit. 

That‘s the way American politics work.  Everybody in the White House is making fun of Sarah Palin.  All the people on TV like me are making fun of her, and making the mistake of saying that it is about intellectual.  The people who are so obnoxious to the Tea Party movement out there --  

MATTHEWS:  It‘s about two things.  It‘s about being too sneaky.  It‘s also about not knowing things that if you‘re in the field.  A doctor ought to know medicine.  A football quarterback ought to have a few moves.  You don‘t say, he‘s a great guy, he just can‘t throw the ball.  That doesn‘t work.  A doctor, great guy but he shakes.  I don‘t want to hear that.  Or he didn‘t know that procedure.  I don‘t know a lot of things, like I couldn‘t tell you the names of the Flyers right now, Philadelphia Flyers.  I know, but I‘m not a hockey guy.  I grew up a little later than they showed up in the town.  So I just don‘t know some things.  But I know the Phillies.  

FINEMAN:  In fairness to her, she said the other day I think on Chris

Wallace‘s show—she said I hope I‘m learning things.  I mean she did say

-- 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be great.  Arthur Schlesinger once said, politics is about education of yourself.  You‘ve got to keep learning, as we all do. 

Howard Fineman, Clarence Page, the pros, first team.  Join me again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it is time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

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