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updated 2/16/2010 9:07:23 AM ET 2010-02-16T14:07:23

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Ron Christie, Bob Shrum, Jim VandeHei, Anne Kornblut.  HOST:  Ten little Democrats.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in snowy again Washington.  Leading off tonight: Losing Indiana.  It‘s like that Agatha Christie murder mystery, where 10 people show up at a house and start dropping off one at a time.  First it was Byron Dorgan of North Dakota who dropped off the reelection list.  Then came Chris Dodd of Connecticut.  Then Beau Biden said he‘s not running in November.  Today, Evan Bayh took his name out.  Oh, yes, and by the way, I forgot the Democrat who was going to fill Ted Kennedy‘s seat up in Massachusetts.  She never even made it to Washington.

Suddenly, the Democrats, who thought they could run the country with 60 senators, find themselves strangely collapsing in numbers.  Could they really be in danger of losing not just the House but the Senate, too?

Plus, that split-screen showdown between Vice President Biden and former vice president Dick Cheney.  Cheney continues to insist that treating a terrorist like a criminal means the Obama administration doesn‘t know we‘re at war, while Biden says the former veep is trying to rewrite history.  We‘ll get to the videotape on that fight and judge who won and who lost.  By the way, that Sunday morning showdown was no accident.  This White House seems to want a big fight with the scowling Cheney.  Could Cheney, though, be dangerous?

Plus, where‘s the gratitude?  “Joe the Plumber” now says he‘s had it with both McCain and Palin, both John McCain and Sarah Palin.  Somebody ought to remind this guy that before they came along and made him famous, he was Joe the nobody.

Let‘s start with Senator Evan Bayh‘s announcement today that he will not seek re-election as United States senator from Indiana.  Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent.  But I must start first with the guy who broke the story.  Chris Cillizza broke the Bayh story today, beating even NBC, I think.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “WASHINGTON POST”:  I—well...

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts.

CILLIZZA:  I beat...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... who always wins.  He‘s the Babe Ruth of all networks.

CILLIZZA:  Chuck is the winner...

MATTHEWS:  I think even he...

CILLIZZA:  ... in life.

MATTHEWS:  ... has to give this to you.

CILLIZZA:  Yes, Chuck is...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CILLIZZA:  ... the winner in life.

MATTHEWS:  All right, enough of the accolades.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I already gave him a big one!  He deserves it.

Why did this young, good-looking, unbeatable senator from Indiana decide to quit?

CILLIZZA:  Well, it‘s never one thing, Chris.  I think it‘s a combination of things.  One, I think he had worn out of the Senate.  He had risen very quickly.  This is a guy who was the secretary of state at 30.  He was the governor of Indiana at 32.  He was in the Senate by his early 40s.

But he kind of hit a ceiling.  He had been twice considered for the vice presidency, by John Kerry and then again by Barack Obama in 2004 and 2008, didn‘t get it, knew he was unlikely, given his centrist politics, to win a Democratic presidential primary and probably not going to get picked for VP, either.  So I think had saw sort of his road ending in the Senate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CILLIZZA:  And for a guy who was born into this—remember, his father was a senator.  His father...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk turkey here.

CILLIZZA:  ... ran for president...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Chuck Todd on the big picture here.  Just a year or so ago, Arlen Specter of my state quit the Republican Party, saying there‘s no room in it for centrist politicians like himself.

CHUCK TODD, NBC CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Is this a sign that there‘s no room in the Democratic Party for centrist politicians like Evan Bayh?  He seemed to be saying that today.

TODD:  No, I think what Evan Bayh is saying is there‘s no room in the Senate for centrist politicians, period.  You know, the fact is he said he doesn‘t love Congress.  It was an amazing, blunt attack on Congress.  You know, frankly, there‘s 70 percent of Americans agree with him on that statement.  Nobody loves Congress right now.  Very few seem to like what‘s going on there.

And he—to put it that way tells you that—look, he had never really had to work hard before for an election.  He was going to have to work a little bit harder, travel the state.  And guess what?  If he didn‘t want to be here another six years, this was his last chance to quit because the filing deadline is literally hours and days away.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s so smart.  I‘ve never heard anybody before say -

not that I don‘t like the Congress, a lot of people say that—I don‘t like being in the Congress.  Let‘s go right now—let‘s take a look to what Senator Bayh said today.  Here he is expressing his displeasure with the world‘s greatest deliberative body, which he doesn‘t think is anymore deliberative or great anymore.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA:  After all of these years, my passion for service to our fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned.  For some time, I‘ve had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should.  There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress, too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving.  Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people‘s business is not getting done.

All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state and our nation than continued service in Congress.  To put it into words I think most people can understand, I love working for the people of Indiana.  I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives.  But I do not love Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That is tough.

CILLIZZA:  Remarkable.  I think Chuck hit it on the head.  That‘s remarkable.  You very rarely hear a politician—he said “I do not love Congress.”  This is somebody who spent more—a decade, more than a decade in Congress.

TODD:  His childhood, though—he was raised in the U.S. Senate!

CILLIZZA:  He has been raised in—the other thing I think that‘s worth noting is this comes about a week before the president is going to convene a bipartisan health care summit.  The president was elected on the promise that he could bring Washington together, he could make Washington work.  Evan Bayh essentially said today, You know what?  I don‘t think so.  Now, he didn‘t say it...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, by the way.

CILLIZZA:  ... about the president, but he took—it‘s a very strong signal.

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, I hear from a source out there, a friend of mine who told me what he could about the—off the record with the guy—not off the record, on background—he thought the one final straw was the failure of this deficit commission to get accepted by the Congress...

TODD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... that he—being from Indiana, and I know from years of working on the Hill, the Indiana—the Hoosier delegation has always been absolutely all the way connected to the idea of deficit reduction, balanced budget amendments.  Even the Democrats for years out there, people like Lee Hamilton, a much respected member, would always vote for the balanced budget amendment, even though the liberals didn‘t like it.  He felt, I guess, that the failure of that commission to get enacted was a real killer for him.

TODD:  Well, it was.  You know, it was interesting today, we had—to sort of to connect everything to three degrees separation here, John McCain right now just started on a campaign tour of Arizona, J.D. Hayworth, former Republican congressman, challenging him from the right.  Earlier today, I interviewed Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and he said had John McCain supported that bipartisan commission, he would not have gotten the support of Grover Norquist and the tax-cutting crowd.

Well, guess what?  McCain voted against it after being a co-sponsor because that was his ticket to political survival, probably, in a Republican primary.  He couldn‘t afford...

MATTHEWS:  OK, explain...

TODD:  ... to alienate, so now...

MATTHEWS:  Explain to regular people, why wouldn‘t a fiscal conservative want to have deficit reduction.

TODD:  Because in Grover Norquist‘s estimation, it means, if you support that commission, you‘re supporting a tax hike because, supposedly, both potential tax hikes and spending cuts would be on the table.  Now, Norquist argues that every time this—that both things have been on the table, well, it‘s never been spending cuts, it‘s always been tax hikes.  And therefore, he made it clear to these Republicans that were thinking about supporting this, If you support it, you‘re supporting a tax hike.  And seven of them flipped.  And that is what seemed to put not just Bayh over the edge...

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that‘s...

TODD:  ... George Voinovich...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We elect the senators, but people like Grover Norquist and unions and the netroots people have more clout across—that is a great demonstration—than any Senate—in other words, senators are not leaders.  They‘re not Edmund Burkes.  They don‘t vote their conscience.  They in many ways are forced to vote because of the activists on the left and right.

CILLIZZA:  Well, Chris, look at health care.  I mean, I think health care is a perfect example.  This is something that looked like it could go.  All of a sudden, we‘re now at an absolute deadlock.  And we‘re at a deadlock in many ways not simply because Republicans want to, but people like Blanche Lincoln, Michael Bennet are nervous.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So in other words, people in college that couldn‘t get elected corridor representative are now telling senators how to vote.  And I‘m serious about this.  Grover Norquist has more power—it‘s scary to hear that he can tell McCain, a war hero, what to do.

Here we got Republicans—well, let‘s take a look at what can happen now.  Here are pick-up opportunities that the Democrats now face losing, basically.  They lose—they could lose Nevada easily.  Everybody looks like they‘re ahead in the polls out there but Harry Reid.  Colorado, Michael Bennet, the appointee, looks like he could lose easily.  North Dakota‘s already gone.  Byron Dorgan‘s quit.  Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln‘s got a tough row to hoe.  Indiana, we‘ve been talking about.  We don‘t even know who the Democratic nominee will be.  Illinois, they got a tough road ahead, the guy whose name I can‘t pronounce, Alexi...

CILLIZZA:  Alexi Giannoulias.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, you just taught me, both you guys—Giannoulias.  You sang it together.

TODD:  That‘s OK.  That‘s what we‘re here today.

MATTHEWS:  Giannoulias I‘ll never forget.  Ahmed Nadinejad (SIC), I know that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter hanging—he‘s about 15 points behind, 14 points behind.  And Delaware, Mike Castle is almost unbeatable, the former governor, now the congressman.  It is really easy to see eight—an eight pick-up.

CILLIZZA:  And to Chuck‘s point, that‘s eight, and you never know.  I think you‘ve got...

MATTHEWS:  Boxer...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  Right.  You have a few hanging out there, and it depends a lot on the environment and whether Republicans can get somebody who‘s a legitimate alternative.  California, you mentioned Boxer...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Boxer‘s almost unbeatable.

CILLIZZA:  ... Feingold in Wisconsin...

MATTHEWS:  But somebody—yes, and...

CILLIZZA:  ... and Patty Murray in Washington state.  If they get two of those...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the biggest danger that—Chuck, you love this.  Some of this is dead serious.  It‘s about running the country.  And some of this is gamesmanship.  The worst fear the Democrats have is that they get 49 regular Democrats and the independent-minded Joe Lieberman...

TODD:  Joe Lieberman (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  ... as number 50.  As number 50.  And he gets to decide which committee he wants to chair.  Oh, I think I‘ll do Foreign Relations this week.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I think I‘ll do finance.  He‘ll be able to pick his chairmanship.  He‘ll be able to be the stud duck, to use an old phrase.

TODD:  I‘ll tell you this.  Look—look, Republicans have their own -

they still have to defend some open seats.  Florida‘s a mess with that primary.  They probably don‘t have the best candidates that they could be finding, frankly, in Indiana or Missouri at this point, possibly not even Ohio.

But you know what in a tidal wave year, right now, it would look like?  They‘re behind in all eight of those states.  All eight of them, they are behind right now.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Wow.

TODD:  And you know, what Evan Bayh could lead to is, what if that‘s -

what if a Patty Murray or a Russ Feingold says, Boy, I don‘t know if I have it in me anymore.  You know, that would be—that would be a very—you know, that‘s what they can‘t afford this Evan Bayh...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... announcement to do, which is to lead to a psychological blow, more retirements or better Republican recruiting.

MATTHEWS:  Sometimes, guys, you lose the bug.  You have the bug, then you lose it.  Anyway, it‘s great being on the place for politics.

CILLIZZA:  We still have it.

MATTHEWS:  Chuck...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the place for politics.  Proving it again, the place for politics.

TODD:  Twenty Senate seats, man!

MATTHEWS:  Nobody does it better than you—hey, by the way, congratulations again...

CILLIZZA:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... Chris Cillizza, for getting this—beating CNN and all the other claimants to the throne.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And you really did break the story.

Coming up: Well, Sunday punches, lots of them.  The fight between Vice President Joe Biden and the guy he replaced, Dick Cheney, went on yesterday.  We‘re going to look at that fight because it‘s still going on.  These two guys like to fight.  Cheney stepped up his attack, saying the Obama administration doesn‘t take the terrorism threat seriously—boy, does he love to say that—while Biden says Cheney‘s trying to rewrite history, and why the White House loves this fight.  They love bringing the troll out from under the bridge.  They love this fight.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Well, Sunday‘s main event on television was Cheney versus Biden.  Former vice president Dick Cheney was back out there, airing his grievances with the Obama administration.  And his successor, Joe Biden, was ready to fight back.  So how many burrs does Cheney have in his saddle?  Let‘s find out.

Ron Christie‘s a Republican strategist who‘s shaking his head.  He worked for Vice President Cheney in the Bush administration.  And Robert Shrum is out in LA, where the weather‘s fine.  He‘s a Democratic administration figure long identified with no Democratic administration, but with Ted Kennedy.

Here‘s Cheney, by the way, on ABC‘s “This Week,” the Sunday show, criticizing what he called the mindset of the Obama administration.  And then you‘re going to hear Vice President Biden reacting on CBS‘s “Face the Nation.”  Let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s the mindset that concerns me, John.  I think it‘s very important to go back and keep in mind the distinction between handling these events as a criminal acts, which is the way we did before 9/11, and then looking at 9/11 and saying, this is not a criminal act, not when you destroy 16 acres of Manhattan, kill 3,000 Americans, blow a big hole in the Pentagon.  That‘s an act of war.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is an act of war, what took place.  The fact of the matter is, the bulk of the people who were tried by any court in this country under the last administration were tried in a federal criminal court.  And they‘re still in jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So Ron, just to put it in sort of regular non-scowling English, what is Cheney‘s rap here?  What does he keep saying over and over again?  What is this mindset issue of his?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY AIDE:  The mindset issue, Chris, is this.  I think prior to 9/11, you look at the way that the Clinton administration tried to bring people to justice from the first World Trade Center bombing.  After 9/11, we realized al Qaeda has been with war with the United States not just before 9/11.  You could go all the way back to 1979.  You could go forward to the Khobar Towers.  The United States needed to wake up and recognize that Islamo-terrorists sought to kill innocent Americans.  9/11 was the big wake-up call.

And now you seem to have a pre-9/11 mindset, where this administration, where President Obama says, Well, this was an isolated incident.  It‘s not an isolated incident, it‘s a continuation...

MATTHEWS:  Who says it‘s an isolated incident?

CHRISTIE:  The president did shortly thereafter the attempted Christmas Day bombing, which, thankfully, was thwarted.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So your basic argument is that the Obama administration doesn‘t know we‘re at war.

CHRISTIE:  My basic argument is that—I agree with the vice president that it seems to me that this administration has shifted to a pre-9/11 mindset...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... where we‘re going to try people in civilian courts, give them constitutional rights, read the Miranda rights, rather than treat them like the enemy combatants that they are.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re enemy combatants, they‘re not criminals.

TODD:  They are enemy combatants.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Bob Shrum.  The argument is that if we treat them like criminals, we‘re not acknowledging the war.  Your reaction.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, the breathtaking quality of what Cheney is saying and what Ron is saying is illustrated by this whole notion that somehow or other, there‘s a different mindset here.  Vice President Biden said quite correctly that the bulk of the terrorists that were tried in the Bush administration and tried successfully were tried in civilian courts.

When the interviewer read Cheney a memo from the Bush Justice Department, which the president accepted, saying, We ought to rely where we can on the federal courts, when he pointed out that, in fact, they had tried the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, in a federal court and he‘s now in a supermax for the rest of his life, Cheney basically threw the Bush Justice Department and President Bush under the bus.  I guess they had the wrong mindset.

Look, what you can‘t do is criticize the president of the United States for being soft on terrorism when he‘s, in essence, following the same policies in this area that the last administration not only followed but mandated in a memo that they left behind.

MATTHEWS:  Well, at ABC, Cheney was confronted with a Bush Justice Department document touting the numerous and successful criminal prosecutions of terror suspects from 2001 through 2005.

And here‘s the former vice president‘s reaction.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But I can remember a meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House where we had a major shoot-out over how this was going to be handled, between the Justice Department, that advocated that approach, and many of the rest of us, who wanted to treat it as an intelligence matter, as an act of war, with military commissions. 

We never thoroughly or totally resolved those issues. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ron?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY:  Well, I‘m glad you brought that clip, Chris, because 2001 to 2005, the United States did not have the full infrastructure in place. 

President Bush, after there were a couple of Supreme Court cases that we took a look at, he went back to the Congress.  He passed the Military Commission Act of 2006, which allows enemy combatants to be tried in a military tribunal...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CHRISTIE:  ... designating those who were aligned and affiliated with al Qaeda. 

So, for Bob to say, well, the Bush administration tried Richard Reid this way—Bob, you have to look at history.  Richard Reid was apprehended right after 9/11.  The Bush administration acted swiftly and responsibly in a bipartisan manner with the Congress to say, we need to recognize we‘re at war.  We need to make sure we have the right tools to prosecute this war and to fight this war. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SHRUM:  Ron, Ron...

CHRISTIE:  And that‘s exactly what they did.

SHRUM:  ... that‘s just a lie.  That‘s a lie. 

CHRISTIE:  How is that a lie?  Bob, I hate to...

SHRUM:  Swiftly?  2001 to 2006 is swift?  Whose definition of swift is that? 

The Bush administration didn‘t do that because they wanted to.  They did it because, in 2006, they had set up these military commissions, and the Supreme Court threw them out as unconstitutional. 

CHRISTIE:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  They used civilian trials.  Those civilian trials worked. 

Some—now, the—the—the Obama administration is now redesigning those military commissions, so that, if they have to be, they can be used.  But why do we insist on making this argument, where some very hard-line people in the Bush administration advocated using civilian courts?  Why do we insist on saying, gee, if somebody agrees with them on that, they must be soft on terrorism?

Dick Cheney lost that shoot-out in the Roosevelt Room.  The president agreed with the Justice Department, President Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CHRISTIE:  Well...

SHRUM:  Are we saying he was soft on terrorism? 

CHRISTIE:  Well, Bob, all I have to say to you is, a lie is a pretty heavy term.  And the facts actually are—bear themselves out. 

SHRUM:  Well, but that‘s not—but it was a lie.  Go back and tell me how it‘s swift between 2001 and 2006.

CHRISTIE:  Excuse me.  Excuse me.  Let‘s not—let‘s not have a little filibuster here. 

SHRUM:  How is that swift?

CHRISTIE:  Actually, between 2001 and 2006...

SHRUM:  Is five years swift? 

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Between 2001 and 2005, the United States did not have the proper infrastructure in place.  After 2006, we did. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

CHRISTIE:  But, again, the reason why this administration...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gentlemen, we have got to go.  I have got to go. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  My final word is, I think—I think—I think terrorism is a crime, as well as an act of war.  It‘s both.  And people who commit terrorism against regular people, and who work in buildings or fly on commercial airlines are criminals, as well as warriors.  I think it‘s giving them too much honor to treat them as enemy combatants.  I think they‘re criminals to engage in terrorism against individual people, and Cheney is wrong on that.

Thank you, Ron Christie.  Thank you, Bob Shrum.

Up next:  Why is Joe the plumber fed up with both John McCain and Sarah Palin?  Check out the “Sideshow.”  It‘s coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

There he is, the Joe—used to be the nobody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

Gentlemen, start your engines. 

Sarah Palin has been living in the fast lane since she quit her job as governor of Alaska.  When she hit the Daytona 500 this weekend, the crowd went wild.  Talk about knowing who your people are.  Sarah was mobbed by screaming fans begging for autographs, for pictures, shouting, we want Sarah.  Said Sarah Palin: “This is awesome.  It‘s an all-American event, a good, patriotic, wonderful event that is bringing a whole lot of people together.  I think it‘s good for America.”

Anyway, pit stops like this might be good for Palin as well.  Remember, the Daytona 500 takes place in what could be an early 2012 primary state, Florida.  And if she decides to enter the presidential race, it could put her on the inside track to the White House. 

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Sarah Palin‘s former running mate, John McCain, the one who lassoed her into big-time, is faced with a tough reelection battle.  Today, former Congressman J.D. Hayworth announced he‘s challenging McCain for his Senate seat.  The conservative radio talk show host announced his candidacy at a rally in Phoenix. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  You could say there are two John McCains, the one who campaigns like a conservative and the one who legislates like a liberal. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HAYWORTH:  In fact, when it comes time to debate, I‘m going to ask for a third chair, in case both John McCains show up. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And it looks like Joe the plumber‘s relationship with Sarah Palin and John McCain is down the pipes. 

At a recent political event, Joe, AKA Samuel Wurzelbacher, told a reporter he doesn‘t support Sarah Palin anymore because she is backing John McCain for reelection out in Arizona, and McCain is, as he put it, no public servant. 

When a reporter brought up the fact that John McCain is the guy who made Joe the plumber famous, he said, “I don‘t owe him ‘bleep.‘  He really screwed my life up.”

Talk about a Frankenstein‘s monster.  McCain created this character. 

Now it‘s time for “Big Number.”

Senator Evan Bayh‘s decision to not seek reelection shocked Democrats.  But even more shocking is, according to the Indiana secretary of state‘s Web site, a hopeful candidate has until tomorrow to get his or her petitions to get on the primary ballot to fill Bayh‘s job tomorrow.

If they don‘t, the state committee has to pick a nominee.  So, that is the “Big Number” tonight.  Senator Bayh‘s abrupt decision to retire gives potential candidates just 24 hours to get on the ballot -- 24, tonight‘s big, scary number, if you want to be the senator from Indiana. 

Up next: back to that fight between Dick Cheney and the White House.  You have got to believe the Obama team loves taking on the least popular member of the Bush crowd—the politics of this fight coming up. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have the great freedom and luxury of speaking out, saying what I want to say, what I believe, and I have not been discouraged from doing so. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was, of course, Dick Cheney on ABC‘s “This Morning”—or, actually, “This Week” on Sunday.  He‘s already ready to fight, obviously.

I love it when he says, “I haven‘t been discouraged from”—who would have discouraged him from saying so?

Is it a fight, however, that the Obama administration wants to have? 

Do they like fighting with Dick Cheney? 

Jim VandeHei is the executive editor of Politico.  And Anne Kornblut is the White House reporter for “The Washington Post.” 

VandeHei, sir, thank you for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, I was surprised by your sourcing this morning.  Who is this source close to Cheney who said that Cheney won the debate with Obama—I mean, with Biden?  I thought it was interesting you have a source close to Cheney, unidentified, who said Cheney won the debate. 

JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITICO:  It wasn‘t my story, but I assume it‘s somebody close to Cheney. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but why are you sourcing somebody that says Cheney won, when it‘s clearly his daughter or his wife talking?

(LAUGHTER)

VANDEHEI:  There‘s other people close to Cheney, still has his advisers...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I don‘t think so.

VANDEHEI:  ... still has friends he talks to about terrorism all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no evidence—there‘s no evidence—there‘s no evidence anybody is close to him. 

Anyway, your thoughts about why is the White House fighting this fight, Jim, as far as can you see?  Why do they seem to want to get the troll out from under the bridge fighting with—with Biden?  What‘s this about?  They seem to want this.

VANDEHEI:  Well, I don‘t know if they necessarily want to be having a weekend debate about terrorism, but, if they have to have one, I think they would like it to be against Dick Cheney, because he‘s so polarizing, because he‘s so unpopular, because he‘s so attached to a lot of policies in the Bush administration that were unpopular.

So, if...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI:  ... have him as the leader of the Republican Party in this debate, they are happy to put Biden out there.  Biden was on two different Sunday shows.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  And they‘re happy to go toe-to-toe, because they feel like they can win that debate.  And I think, if you look at the coverage coming out of yesterday, they feel like at least they held their own and they did pretty well in a head-to-head against Cheney, who is pretty good, I thought, in that forum yesterday in advocating his position. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  He‘s probably one of the most forceful advocates of his position, which is a minority position, I think, for a lot in the country, but it is one that resonates certainly with Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  It resonated in that Massachusetts race. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s interesting.  I think—I think Cheney can be a useful weapon if you‘re on the right, just like Rudy Giuliani is if you‘re on the right, for a particular issue, terrorism. 

ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Just keep him to that one. 

KORNBLUT:  Yes.  Well, it‘s the only issue he‘s talked about since leaving office, I think, which...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  ... is one reason why I Think his book is going to be such a spectacular one when it finally comes out. 

Look, a source close to the White House told me that they feel that they won this debate, in part because—and—and Jim is right—the coverage was—was pretty good for Biden, and, actually for both of them, but the White House feels, and they look at the polling and see that it‘s still one of Obama‘s better issues, remarkably.  Terrorism in general is. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Why do you think he still comes out ahead of his other issues on that? 

KORNBLUT:  It may be because the other issues are doing so badly, health care in particular. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the economy sucks right now, because... 

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  Right.  Exactly. 

But they—they do think that he‘s been consistent.  And people elected him because they wanted a return of the rule of law.  And so they‘re happy.  I mean, I think Jim is right.  They don‘t want to be doing this, but, if they have to, they‘re going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I love the fact—Cheney, it‘s so interesting to watch the figure, because he clearly doesn‘t care what people think about him.  He‘s not in any popularity contest.  He‘s only the politician I have ever met who doesn‘t want to be popular, which is kind of interesting.

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  But—but he‘s more loyal to torture than he is to George W. Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, he‘s absolutely loyal to torture. 

He—he will say enhanced interrogation devices over and over and over and over again.  But then, yesterday, did you notice, he sort of slithered away from Bush, like, “I was in those meetings and they were unresolved, and I remember especially a shoot-out in the Roosevelt Room.”

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody watching that administration thought he was the key player.  Now he‘s acting like he was some sort of insurgent. 

What‘s that about, Jim? 

VANDEHEI:  Well, I do think one of the things that we have learned since Bush left office is that there was certainly a lot more disagreement between the two of them in the final two or three years of the Bush administration than any of us knew at the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  It‘s clear that, if you listen to him when he was asked whether or not he was advocating in meetings for a military response to Iran, and he sort of smirked and said, “Usually,” I assume that that was a debate...

(LAUGHTER)

VANDEHEI:  ... they were having all the time, and one he did not prevail in.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

VANDEHEI:  And I think the same thing was happening when he was talking about water-boarding.  He never wanted to backtrack on any of the interrogation or torture techniques.  And he never wanted to relent on any of the terror policies that Bush was already starting to unwind in some different areas.

And it‘s clear, like a little bit of the fight yesterday, was both with Obama, but it was also with Bush and people inside the White House that he felt didn‘t go far enough on these policies. 

MATTHEWS:  So, if they remake the movie, who do you think he would rather about, Dr. Strangelove, or Mr. Potter in “It‘s a Wonderful Life,” the guy who denies the bank loan?  Who would he rather be?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I have fun with this guy.

Let‘s take a look at a compilation of Joe Biden‘s comments on Cheney on our own “Meet the Press.”  Let‘s listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Dick Cheney‘s a fine fellow.  But he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged.  I don‘t know where he has been.  Where was he the last four years the last administration?

I don‘t think the vice—the former vice president, Dick Cheney, listens.

I‘m not going to guess about his motive.  All I know is he‘s factually, substantively wrong on the major criticisms he is asserting.  Why he‘s insisting on that, he either is misinformed or he is misinforming. 

But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate.

It‘s one thing to be outspoken.  It‘s another thing to be outspoken in a way that misrepresents the facts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Anne Kornblut, I have never seen him so assertive.  It‘s like he had this—this whole indictment down, and he just pronounced it.

KORNBLUT:  This is Joe Biden at his best.  And this is the White House delivering on the pushback they have been advertising for a few weeks on this.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  He‘s getting to stylistically revel, in the way he does, in pushing back at Cheney, but, also, on the substance, to take us back to the couple years before the Bush administration ended, and to remind people of why they wanted to elect Obama, and also to, on the merits, talk about the ways in which the Bush administration behaved on national security in some of the similar ways that the Obama administration is. 

This is—this is—they were very pleased with that performance. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I wonder whether—Jim, whether Cheney—and I don‘t mean this negatively—he‘s a very smart guy and a public servant, but, sometimes, when you listen to him, he‘s almost banking on bad news, isn‘t he?  It‘s like, you know, it‘s going to get worse; something terrible is going to happen. 

I disagree with him about the word strategic, though.  I mean, 9/11 was horrible, horrible, to the victims.  The word strategic, though, has to be carefully used.  He uses it almost in the terms in the way Israel uses existential, like, if Israel were to be hit by a nuclear weapon, it would be existential, if Tel Aviv would be hit.  If we were hit, it would be terrible, it would be horrible. 

He seems to make it almost like this is everything.  I don‘t know how I describe it.  It‘s like he wants the whole foreign policy of the United States, the whole domestic policy, our entire leadership to be dependent on one question, terrorism.  It should the only thing that decides what we do in this country for the rest our future.  That‘s what he wants. 

VANDEHEI:  I don‘t know that he would actually dispute that. 

I mean, we have interviewed him a couple times over the last year-and-a-half, and he has said repeatedly—and he said it Sunday—that he thinks the biggest issue, bar none, is—is the threat of terrorists getting their hands on biological or nuclear weapons, and that that‘s what everybody should be focused on, because the outcome of that would be horrific and would be worse than anything else that the country is grappling with right now.

So, I think he does think that that‘s where the focus should be.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Maybe he‘s right.

VANDEHEI:  And, if you think back to the Bush administration, that‘s where the bulk of that focus was.  It was on the two wars and it was on anti-terror policies.  That‘s what every speech was about.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  That‘s what all the coverage was about.  That‘s all they wanted to be engaged in. 

MATTHEWS:  But if you...

VANDEHEI:  And it wasn‘t until Obama came in and he started to try to move away from terrorism and talk about the economy and health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Here‘s the problem.  Here‘s the problem with that.

The problem with that politically—and it may well be true, and we could face a horrible Armageddon—not Armageddon—but a terrible, terrible attack like we had 9/11 with—obviously, with weapons of mass destruction.

But, if you use that, that will be able to be used for any torture is

justified, any foreign war where there might be an enemy is justified.  He

uses it as a justification for anything horrific on our side, because any -

if that is the ultimate fear...

KORNBLUT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... then we can use an ultimate weapon in any direction and claim it‘s justified. 

KORNBLUT:  And I think that would...

VANDEHEI:  I don‘t think he would argue with you on that. 

KORNBLUT:  Yes, exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s a basic...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  I think that‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  But it is “Dr. Strangelove” talk.  It‘s doomsday talk.  It‘s like, we can do anything we want, you know, enhanced interrogation, he says with that kind of growl and snarl, like he knows damn well he means water-boarding, or worse.  He was going to water-board that kid from Nigeria.  He was going to water-board everybody. 

KORNBLUT:  Look, this was the fundamental disagreement between the Bush administration and to the extent that Obama ran against it at the end of it...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  ... which was Obama saying, no, not any ends justifies any means.  He—I mean—yes, ends justifying the means.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KORNBLUT:  And the Bush administration having said right after 9/11 we‘re going to do whatever we have to do to prevent another attack.

This is a fundamental conflict that‘s not been resolved. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Here‘s a—it‘s a great battle. 

Here he is in December.  The NBC/”Wall Street Journal,” our poll, asked people who they had the least regard and respect for.  Dick Cheney placed second, right up there with George W. Bush.

VandeHei, is this going to stop guy?  I told you, I don‘t think he‘s running for anything. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe he wants his daughter to be a commentator.  He has some goals in the near term.  But I don‘t know what he wants, but, apparently, he just likes to get out there and fight. 

VANDEHEI:  Well, I don‘t—I don‘t think it‘s going to deter him.

And I think what—what we had heard over the weekend, we were trying to figure out, why does Cheney attack, why does he do what he does, and why does he use such sharp rhetoric?  And what we heard is, like, one, he obviously authentically disagrees with the policies, but that he also believes that other Republicans—and I assume that means George Bush—aren‘t doing enough to defend the Bush/Cheney policies and aren‘t doing enough to make sure that terrorism is front and center. 

He knows, if he goes on TV or does an interview with us or does it with somebody else, and he uses sharp rhetoric, that everybody is going to jump on that, the White House is going to respond to that, and he will get the debate over terrorism that he wants. 

And, like you said and...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEHEI:  ... we have all known for a long time, Dick Cheney does not care what we think about him. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you guys—why don‘t you give him a column over there at Politico and save a step?

Anyway, Jim VandeHei, thank you so much. 

VANDEHEI:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, give him a column.  would be great. 

VANDEHEI:  Chris, we would love to give a lot of different people a column, give different people a chance to express their views. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know. 

We will give you a column, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, no.  Well, Cheney would be better. 

Anyway, thank you.  But that‘s a good offer.  I will—we will talk. 

Anne Kornblut, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next: back to our lead story, the stunning news today that Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana won‘t seek reelection.  It‘s a huge pickup opportunity for the Republicans.  They have got an advantage out there now. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I love this story.

It turns out Debra Medina, the Republican, the Texas Republican running for governor out in that state, to the right of both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, apparently, is not only using the language of states-rightsers, but she is a truther and a birther to boot. 

Medina told Glenn Beck that some very good questions have been raised by people who believe the United States government was involved in 9/11.  She later said she didn‘t think America was behind 9/11, but, on Thursday, said this on Texas TV. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA MEDINA ®, TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  The 9/11 Commission report, you know, great sections of that are redacted and they are top-secret.  That makes us all wonder, well, what‘s happening back there?

The same is true with the birth certificate thing.  And I think they‘re—it‘s healthy that people are asking questions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It‘s healthy that people are asking questions about whether our president is a foreigner or that our government helped murder 3,000 people on September 11? 

A lot of Texans seem to think that sort of thing.  Well, Perry still leads, but Medina is surging in the polls.  She‘s running about 20 percent, neck in neck with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. 

There‘s must be a lot of nuts out there—back with HARDBALL after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time for “The Politics Fix.” 

We have got some great pros here tonight.

For Democrats, who got a jolt today—what a jolt—Senator Evan Bayh announced out of nowhere he‘s not running for reelection.  There was a guaranteed seat, pretty much, for the Democrats.  Now it‘s not at all guaranteed. 

What‘s the outlook for 2010 right now?  Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst, of course, and Charlie Cook is an NBC News political analyst and editor of “The Cook Political Report.” 

I was looking at your “Political Report,” which is the best business in town to tell you what‘s going on.  I always tell people that is the way to find out what is going on.  And now you have got it leaning Republican without Bayh there. 

CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes. 

And, frankly, if‘s not leaning, it‘s probably more likely.  I think, if this were in 2006, 2008, an open—open Senate seat in Indiana, and Indiana had been moving away from the Republican Party a little bit, I think Democrats would have a chance to hold on. 

In this political environment, particularly if it‘s a Democratic member of Congress, I mean, what‘s more hated, to be a Democrat or be a member of Congress?  This is a lousy year for one of those Democratic House members to run.  If I were them, I wouldn‘t do it. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the people you—you get to know some people in politics.  You get to know them socially.  Like, Chris Dodd, I know. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And I know Evan Bayh a little less so, but I like the guy.  Regular people you can sort of identify with who are deciding they don‘t want to be in the Senate anymore.

BUCHANAN:  He‘s a very...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And Beau Biden is good guy.  He‘s not running.  Byron Dorgan, I know him a little bit.  He quit. 

People that seem to be normal people are saying, I don‘t want to be in the Senate anymore. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that about? 

BUCHANAN:  I agree with you.  I think he‘s a nice guy, and the same with other fellows you mentioned.  I don‘t know Beau Biden.

But I do think they are sort of—probably are fed up with the partisanship, and they have got to be looking, especially the Democrats, this was the golden opportunity, the 60 votes.  It ain‘t going to get any better next time out. 

MATTHEWS:  Never.

BUCHANAN:  If you think it was gridlock now, you wait until then.  I don‘t care whether we lose the Senate, lose five seats.  It‘s going to be terrible.  Now is the time to go. 

COOK:  You know, and I think the other thing...

MATTHEWS:  In other words, Pat, the point is, because if you don‘t leave now, you have got from now until November putting up with all the negative ads.  Your family has to watch them.  You‘re just going to be smeared, because that is how you beat an incumbent. 

COOK:  And then you‘re stuck there after that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  For six years. 

COOK:  Yes. 

And the thing is, if you think about it, prior to the 2006 election, Republicans had Congress, they had the presidency, and Washington was dysfunctional.  Then, two years, Democrats had Congress, Republicans had the presidency, and it was dysfunctional.  Now the Democrats have everything, and guess what?  It‘s dysfunctional. 

I mean, I think they...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I have a theory where we‘re heading.  I think the country likes us locked together here. 

Let‘s take a look at what‘s going on in the states right now.  Here are the states where Republicans could easily, according to Cook and other people—Charlie is the best—pick up these seats.  Indiana, we know that.  Evan Bayh was the best guy to hold that seat.  He‘s gone. 

North Dakota, Byron Dorgan is leaving because the governor is coming in, apparently.  Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln fighting hard.  Nevada, very tough for Harry Reid, no matter who runs against him.  Arlen Specter is about 14 points down right now to Pat Toomey.  Colorado, the appointed Michael Bennet a tough row to hoe out there.

Delaware, the former Governor Mike Castle is going to run against whoever.  And, in Illinois, you have got, what‘s his name, Mark Kirk running.  You got some strong Republicans they have been able to recruit, Charlie.

COOK:  Absolutely.  And the question is, can Republicans squeeze out -

you know, can they mount a strong challenge to Russ Feingold in Wisconsin?  Can they get some—a good candidate in against Patty Murray in Washington State? 

MATTHEWS:  And, if they do, they can take the Senate. 

COOK:  Then—then, it becomes more than just a mathematical possibility.  But they have got to expand the playing field a little bit more. 

MATTHEWS:  So, right now, you say they have got a decent shot at seven or eight seats?

COOK:  Yes, six, seven, eight seats. 

BUCHANAN:  And take a look at the future after that.  In the next two cycles, you‘ve got 42 Democratic senators up and about 21 Republicans.  And, so—and that should be a pretty good year, frankly, 20 -- what‘s it, 2014...

COOK:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  2014 should be outstanding.

So, Chris, you have got a—the Democrats—you‘ve got a real possibility of the Republicans taking over the Senate in this decade and holding it for the balance of the decade. 

MATTHEWS:  I have a theory about this.  I‘m just—I have to give a speech tomorrow, and I was thinking what I got to think about, like do what you always do, and meet the public.

We have got a country that‘s pretty much, when it goes back to true north, like the polls show right now, pretty much 50/50 country.  You look at the elections we grew up with, ‘60, the Kennedy-Nixon debate, right on the nail, ‘68, right on the nail with Kennedy—Nixon-Humphrey, ‘76, Carter and Ford, right on the nail, 2000, Bush vs. Gore, right on the nail. 

It seems like every—we go apart.  One party gets a little bit of a lead, because the other party blows it because of Watergate or something or a recession, and then it goes back to that true north, about even. 

Everybody got tired of Bush.  Now they have forgotten Bush, sort of forgotten Cheney, back to true north, another 50/50.  Don‘t the voters—they‘re a cartoon in the paper today.  The voters want gridlock, don‘t they? 

COOK:  I think that—I think voters like divided government, but what started breaking down was...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that scary?  Then they bitch about it.

COOK:  When Democrats stopped being willing to try to push for higher taxes, and when Republicans stopped trying to cut government spending, when each of them starting falling down at sort of where they are supposed to go...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COOK:  ... that creative tension fell apart, and you just saw spending going up, revenues not going up, and that‘s where the wheels came off the bus. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That is so smart.  You know, Republicans used to be good at cutting spending.  Democrats were good at raising taxes to pay for things.  Now neither is willing to do the hard lifting. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me tell you...

MATTHEWS:  Smart. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me be very negative. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the voter don‘t want to hear that—doesn‘t want to hear that.

BUCHANAN:  You‘re seeing—you‘re seeing the Tea Party folks, and the populists out there, and the birthers, truthers, but not only them, the town hall folks.  And you‘re seeing this gridlock.

Chris, we got three straight 10-percent-of-GDP deficits coming.  You have got a real danger that people are going to stop buying our bonds, that the United States is going to be a giant California, or a giant Greece, and you have got deadlock. 

You made the point Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, that was what—Bayh raised that issue. 

Nobody wants to do anything about deficit... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, exactly.  Look, look, California—what‘s happening in California is exactly what could happen in America. 

Republicans won‘t raise taxes, and Democrats aren‘t going to cut spending because that cuts their employees who are government workers and their constituents who are government beneficiaries.  You have got a real deadlock here. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, boy, it‘s terrible. 

BUCHANAN:  But you‘ve got the country in a real crisis.

MATTHEWS:  You are so smart, you guys.  We have to come back.  We will come back and pick up on it, because there was once a congressman from Massachusetts who voted against every tax increase and for every spending increase.  And somebody said, how can you do that?  He says, why shouldn‘t I? 

And that‘s what‘s going on.  Politicians are being ruthless.

We will be right back with Pat Buchanan and Charlie Cook for more of “The Fix.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate from the great state of Arizona. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was J.D. Hayworth, the former U.S. congressman who has been on the radio for a long time, announcing he will challenge John McCain for John McCain‘s Senate seat out in that Republican primary in Arizona. 

We‘re back with Pat and Charlie.

This guy is running a very tough campaign.  He is sticking it to McCain.  So the reverence for the old fellow is not there. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, the old fellow went and got him knocked off his radio program. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  What would you do? 

MATTHEWS:  Is that what he did? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure he did.  He ran ads on his radio program attacking him.  And so this guy is ticked off.

MATTHEWS:  You mean this is personal?

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s personal with J.D..

But J.D. is a good guy.  I count him as a friend of mine.  I think he will run a great campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re with J.D. on this one?

BUCHANAN:  If I were out there, I would be with J.D.

MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re with Marco Rubio in Florida against Charlie Crist?

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  And are you with Sestak?  Are you with Sestak? 

MATTHEWS:  I haven‘t said yet. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, you get me to say.  Why don‘t you tell me?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I haven‘t said yet.

(LAUGHTER)

COOK:  J.D. is a hoot.

(LAUGHTER)

COOK:  And J.D.—I don‘t know whether J.D. is going to beat John McCain or not.  But he‘s going to have...

MATTHEWS:  I would still like to moderate one of those debates. 

That‘s why.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know want to take sides.

COOK:  He is going to have—J.D. is going to have a blast with John McCain. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

COOK:  I mean, he is going to pop that balloon, and just have a lot of fun with it. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

COOK:  He‘s a very big, gregarious guy.

MATTHEWS:  Are people willing to dump John McCain?

BUCHANAN:  To Charlie‘s point...

MATTHEWS:  Dump him?

COOK:  They might.

BUCHANAN:  They might be. 

But, look, I think he‘s better off now than he was when he was running immigration.

But, to Charlie‘s point, J.D. may set him off.  McCain is a very explosive guy. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BUCHANAN:  And he keeps—you keep prodding him with that stuff, he‘s a liberal, he‘s a liberal, he‘s a liberal, you could set him off. 

MATTHEWS:  John McCain has to talk himself out of anger, I think, a lot.  He has reason, for what he went through in the POW camps and the hell he went through, and putting up with all the students back in the country who are blasting the war all the time.

COOK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I think he has a lot of reason for anger, and he fights it.

But here‘s part of J.D. Hayworth‘s speech announcing he will challenge John McCain in that Arizona primary.  Let‘s listen.  This is tough stuff. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYWORTH:  Just like the liberals, John opposes water-boarding captured terrorists like the Christmas bomber. 

(BOOING)

HAYWORTH:  Just like the liberals, John wants to close the prison at Gitmo. 

(BOOING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, on.

HAYWORTH:  Just like the liberals, John talks about global warming in apocalyptic terms, sounding for all the world like Al Gore.

(BOOING)

HAYWORTH:  And, just like the liberals, John wrote the campaign finance law just struck down by the Supreme Court. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God, I wouldn‘t want to be in that crowd.  That‘s a lynch mob.  They are going after—they are going after McCain. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  J.D. made a mistake there.

MATTHEWS:  With the torture?

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t hit John McCain on water-boarding or Gitmo.  Stay with global warming. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because?

(CROSSTALK)

COOK:  That‘s a no-fly—that‘s a no-fly zone.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why is it a no-fly? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I mean, McCain can come back and, “I had some experience with this, J.D.,” in a debate.  For heaven‘s sakes...

MATTHEWS:  He was tortured himself for all those years. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, sure, he was tortured himself.

MATTHEWS:  And where was J.D. ?  How many deferments?  You don‘t know about this situation.

COOK:  Remember the speech in New Hampshire?

MATTHEWS:  J.D. served in the country.  I don‘t think he had to serve through the hell that guy went through. 

COOK:  Remember the speech in New Hampshire where John McCain points out that Senator Hillary Clinton had put in an amendment for a million dollars for a Woodstock memorial or museum or something?

He said, I didn‘t go—I was tied up at the time. 

(LAUGHTER)

COOK:  I mean, yes, J.D. needs to watch out. 

BUCHANAN:  J.D. should pass over that stuff, that one.

COOK:  Yes.  Yes, that‘s a no-fly zone. 

BUCHANAN:  Stay with the—stay with the cap and trade, the amnesty. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Otherwise, torture is a good sales pitch out West. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, you don‘t do that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You‘re talking to John McCain, for heaven‘s sakes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But, otherwise, would you be selling torture in Arizona? 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, look, I don‘t think water-boarding is as exciting to the Tea Party folks.

MATTHEWS:  That crowd seemed to like it. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, they didn‘t like that very much.  The Tea—go with the Tea Party issues on spending. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I love these pictures. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You never can tell how many people are there.  Like, you see—one, two, three, four—four heads, but you never know how many people are on the other side. 

BUCHANAN:  Bring the walls in, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  It‘s the old Jerry Bruno technique.

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, the bottom line is, is that guy—is this going to be one of the races we are going to be watching late night in November, when we‘re all sitting around here trying to figure out who is going to win these things?

COOK:  This will be a very—well, this is a primary, not a general. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, a primary.

COOK:  It‘s a primary.

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

COOK:  This is going to be a very high entertainment value.  Now, whether it ends up being...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

You know who is not going to be entertained? John McCain. 

COOK:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Pat Buchanan, Charlie Cook.

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL, tomorrow night. 

By the way, “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. 

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

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