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updated 2/25/2010 11:49:15 AM ET 2010-02-25T16:49:15

Guests: Perry Bacon, Alex Burns, Chris Van Hollen, John Shadegg, Joan

HOST:  Blair House or Blair Witch Project? 

Let‘s play midnight HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: the summit of all fears.  Can you imagine—can

you imagine, in a few hours of television, really seeing the difference

between this country‘s two main political parties to see who‘s for what and

who‘s against, and who‘s playing it straight, and who isn‘t?  Then watch

tomorrow‘s health care summit at Blair House. 

Will it be, as President Obama says, the kind of government get-

together we need in this country?  Or will it be, as GOP Congressman Mike

Pence says, a setup?  Both sides are plotting for what could become a make-

or-break moment for President Obama.  The Democrats really want this health

bill.  The Republicans really don‘t. 

I think that‘s a fair assessment.  So, the question is, who‘s going to

win this televised tug-of-war?  Tonight, that‘s our top story. 

Plus, is the GOP becoming the party of South Carolina‘s Jim DeMint and

like-minded right-wingers, where any compromise is considered an act of

treachery?  Two items today—Scott Brown is taking heat for voting for

the jobs bill, and Mitt Romney‘s under attack by Rush Limbaugh just for

backing John McCain‘s reelection to the Senate out in Arizona. 

Also, we learned today from Politico that the president‘s closest

advisers are already planning his reelection strategy.  Here‘s a question. 

Would Obama be better off or worse off if the Democrats kept control of

Congress in 2010, or if he repeated the experience of 1994 and lost, as

Bill Clinton did, the House or the Senate? 

Plus, could we be seeing the beginning of a Bush comeback—not

George W. Bush, Jeb Bush? 

Finally, talk about foxes guarding the henhouse.  Professor—I‘m

just kidding.  Professor Rod Blagojevich is heading a panel out at

Northwestern on the issue of ethics—that story, of course, in the

“Sideshow” tonight, where it belongs. 

We start with tomorrow‘s health care summit. 

With us, two U.S. congressmen, Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from

Maryland, and John Shadegg, Republican from Arizona. 

Well, let me ask you both to respond to a couple of clips and tell me

if you think they‘re on the mark. 

Here‘s some of the leaders talking.  Here‘s Republican Congressman

Mike Pence Sunday on “Meet the Press.” 

Let‘s start with him.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Republicans are ready to work.  But

what we can‘t help but feel like here is, the Democrats spell summit S-E-T-

U-P.  And all this is going to be is some media event used as a preamble to

shove through Obamacare 2.0, and we‘re not going to have any of it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Senator McConnell and Senator Reid on Tuesday. 

Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  It appears as if the

administration has already made up their mind to go forward with a beefed-

up Senate version, and to try to jam it through under a seldom-used process

that we commonly refer to around here as reconciliation. 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Realistically, they should

stop crying about reconciliation, as if it‘s never been done before.  It‘s

done almost every Congress.  And they‘re the ones that used it more than

anyone else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it looks like, Congressman Shadegg, that the—the

whole thing‘s been GPSed out by the Democrats.  It looks like there‘s going

to be a meeting tomorrow, followed by some sort of recognition you that

didn‘t get together as two parties, and a decision by the Democrats to go

it alone and go through the up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate, with a

majority vote being sufficient. 

Is that the way you see it, you Republicans? 

REP. JOHN SHADEGG ®, ARIZONA:  Well, let‘s hope not. 

I hope that what we do tomorrow is make real progress on areas where

we can find agreement.  I think there are areas where we can find

agreement.  I think there are areas, such as preexisting conditions, there

are areas such as increasing competition and bringing down costs where we

can find agreement.  And, hopefully, that‘s what this meeting will be

about.  That‘s what the American people want. 

I hope we can get away from the politics of saying, well, this party

doesn‘t have any ideas, or that party wants it their way or no way at all,

because what the American people want us to do is get this problem solved,

and—and deal with the fact that health care costs are going up faster

than all other costs in our economy. 

And I think that‘s what tomorrow ought to be about. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why should—OK.

My question to you, before I get to Congressman Van Hollen, is, why

should the Democrats modify their bill according to your specifications,

unless you people are willing to vote for it if he does—if they do, do

that? 

SHADEGG:  Well, I think we shouldn‘t really be beginning with any

bill.  I, quite frankly, think it‘s pretty clear the American people don‘t

want the House or Senate bills.  Fifty-six percent of them say they don‘t. 

But there are things on which we can agree, and there are things on

which Republicans ought to be willing to agree with Democrats on. 

Republicans are certainly willing to agree that we should cover everyone

with a preexisting condition, that nobody should be left out. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHADEGG:  I think Republicans are willing to embrace so-called

universal coverage.  I have introduced legislation virtually every year I

have been here to cover every single American. 

So, there are things that we can agree on.  Neither side should start,

I don‘t think, with preexisting conditions—that is, conditions for the

discussions.

MATTHEWS:  OK, preexisting conditions.  I get it.  I know what you

mean.  I know what you mean—in terms of the debate. 

SHADEGG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Congressman Van Hollen on the question.

It seems to me that, if you listen to Pfeiffer down at the White

House, the spokesman for the president, it‘s pretty clear that they see

themselves probably heading towards an up-or-down vote in the Senate based

on majority rule, not on some 60-vote deal.  What do you think they‘re

headed towards down at the White House? 

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Well, first, Chris, look, I

agree with John.  We want to see how this goes tomorrow.  The president has

invited people down to the White House in good faith to have what our

Republican colleagues, our Democratic colleagues, and the American people

have been asking for, which is a big public discussion on health care. 

I think it‘s unfortunate that Mike Pence called it a setup.  I mean,

this is going to be in the full light of day.  People are going to be

watching.  I think it‘s important that we find out exactly what people want

to accomplish and what their different ideas for getting there are. 

And the president has put a proposal on the table.  It will be

interesting to see what our colleagues on the other side have to say, for

example, on what John just raised on—on making...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VAN HOLLEN:  ... sure we prohibit the insurance companies from denying

people care based on preexisting conditions. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

VAN HOLLEN:  That‘s in the president‘s plan. 

MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s the set...

VAN HOLLEN:  That‘s not—that‘s not in the Republican plan. 

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t it a setup in the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it a setup in the sense that your party and the

president are starting with a big plan, which the president released this

Monday, which is a conclusive, almost trillion-dollar plan to provide

health care for the 30 million-plus who aren‘t covered, and that‘s what you

want to start with as your model and then make modifications in it?

Congressman Shadegg and, I believe, the other Republicans‘ view is,

start from scratch and put together a compromise proposal.  Isn‘t that the

big difference, Congressman Van Hollen, in approaching this debate

tomorrow?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, no.  As John said, I mean, they have put plans on

the table.  And the question is whether they measure up to the task that

the American people know we face when it comes to rising health care costs,

trying to bring down the deficit, and...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VAN HOLLEN:  ... trying to bring down the costs, because, no, it—it

is true they have put some things on the table.  But the Congressional

Budget Office has looked at their plan and said, you know, after 20 years,

there...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

VAN HOLLEN:  ... are only three million more Americans covered,

because—no, but, Chris, the point is that the president says, here‘s how

we‘re going to get there.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN:  And he‘s invited our Republican colleagues to say, do you

do we agree on the goals?  And, if so, what‘s your proposal? 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Shadegg, it does seem to me there‘s a

difference.  You want to go in there with a Veg-O-Matic, like Ed McMahon,

and start all over again, chop it up, and decide what pieces you like on

both sides of the aisle.  The president says here‘s basically what I

believe in.  I‘m willing to accept some modifications in it. 

It just seems there‘s a total difference in approach at—sitting at

the table at 10:00 tomorrow morning. 

SHADEGG:  Let‘s—let‘s talk about the difference in approach.  Let‘s

talk about one of the biggest issues confronting the American people on

health care.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHADEGG:  And that‘s preexisting conditions. 

In point of fact, the Congress, in 2006, passed legislation to address

the problem of preexisting conditions.  It passed the House by a voice

vote.  It passed the United States Senate by a U.C.  I happen to have

written the bill. 

It was—it‘s a bill that said every single state should create a

high-risk pool to cover people with preexisting conditions.  I have an

older sister who‘s a breast cancer survivor.

And it said, look, you create a high-risk pool.  The federal

government will help you create that pool and will help fund that pool. 

And, with that, we can then cover every single American with a preexisting

condition. 

If we already passed that once, and the only default was, we didn‘t

force the states to do it, why don‘t we do that now, require the states to

do it, and if any state doesn‘t do it, create a federal high-risk pool, and

solve that one problem?  I don‘t see how that‘s...

VAN HOLLEN:  But—but, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SHADEGG:  I don‘t see how that—I don‘t see how that—

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG:  -- on this issue.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Van Hollen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Van Hollen, respond to that proposal. 

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN:  This is a great example. 

The way they—first of all, the president has included in the bill -

if you look in the thing he put on the Web site, there‘s a provision to

create high-risk pools, exactly what John said.  Many states have already

created those.  We should continue to create incentives. 

SHADEGG:  And—

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN:  But—but the fact of the matter is, the reason the

Congressional Budget Office looked at their plan and said, after 20 years,

you‘re only going to get three million more Americans on it is because,

even with those high-risk pools, two things happen. 

Number one, premiums keep going up.  You can have a high-risk pool,

but if the premiums are through the roof—

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

VAN HOLLEN:  -- you can‘t afford it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

VAN HOLLEN:  And, number two, under their—

SHADEGG:  Chris—

VAN HOLLEN:  -- plan, an insurance company can still tell you no.

MATTHEWS:  Look, this is a good debate.  Let‘s have it...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN:  An insurance company can still tell you no. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, I hope we have this debate tomorrow.

VAN HOLLEN:  This is why we need a debate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to have it tomorrow, from—from 10:00 in the

morning to 4:00 in the afternoon at Blair House.  Then we will be on

tomorrow night, Keith and I, to talk about it. 

But let me ask you this about this question.

SHADEGG:  The premiums in the bill I passed are already capped, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

VAN HOLLEN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Shadegg, are you with the other Republicans who

are putting out the word in negotiations with the White House that the

president of the United States should not have a lectern tomorrow?  Are you

with that effort?

SHADEGG:  Should not have a lectern?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he should sit at the table at the same level as you

guys?  Is that important to you? 

SHADEGG:  Well, I think—I think, quite frankly, this whole

discussion should have been at the table with the same level. 

I think, in part, the reason the president is doing this is because he

left the writing of this bill to the Congress.  I think he may have thought

it was going to be a bipartisan process, but, down at this end of

Pennsylvania Avenue, it was not a bipartisan process. 

We were not allowed, Republicans were not allowed—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SHADEGG:  -- in the room in the Commerce Committee to write any of

this—of this bill.  When it went through markup in the committee, the

Democrats accepted a number of amendments, and then Mrs. Pelosi ripped

those amendments out of the bill before it went to the Rules Committee. 

If this is going to be a discussion, it would be better if he sat at

the table.  But he‘s the president of the United States.  I‘m not going to

dictate to him—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, here‘s what—

VAN HOLLEN:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what I think Republicans are afraid of. 

And then I will let Congressman Van Hollen speak. 

This is—this was about optics, I think, the question whether the

president should look elevated or not on television tomorrow.  Here‘s a

scene from the White House summit held one year ago, an exchange between

President Obama and the man he beat for president, Senator McCain. 

And I think, if you watch it, you will understand why the Republicans

are sensitive about this kind of higher plane for the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m going to start with

with John McCain, because—and—and he and I had some good debates

about these issues.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  But—and I mean what I say here.  I think John has also been

extraordinarily consistent and sincere about these issues.  And I want to

see if—if you—John, you have got some thoughts as well. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Well, Thank you.  Mr. President, thank

you for doing this.  I think it‘s very important. 

Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One.  I

don‘t think that there‘s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas

have—have cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money. 

OBAMA:  The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  Of course, I have never had a helicopter before.  So...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, that format, Congressman Van Hollen, makes the

president of the United States look like the principal of the school, and

John McCain, who lost...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... a pretty good election to him, like a third-grader. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s a fair format, to have the president

standing up there like God, and the—or a principal, at least—and the

Republicans sitting there like pupils? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Look, I think it‘s a—a good exchange for people to

have. 

(LAUGHTER)

VAN HOLLEN:  You had the president appear...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not answering. 

VAN HOLLEN:  ... at the Baltimore—at the conference...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not answering. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, look, I don‘t know if it‘s fair or not, and I don‘t

even know what format they...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you know?  It‘s a reasonable question.  Is

it fair?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN:  No, I don‘t—I think it—is that a—was that a fair

exchange?  Of course.  And the Republicans had the opportunity to focus on

the issues they cared about.  He said to our colleagues, you tell me what

your top priority is. 

And, you know, the—the ball was in their court.  I mean, just

because the president has a good response to it doesn‘t mean it‘s unfair. 

Let me just say, on these hearings, we had a lot of hearings.  The

American people know we had hearings in the House, hearings in the Senate. 

We had markups in the House, three committees in the House, two committees

in the Senate.  We had an extended period over the summer when you had

three Republicans and three Democrats in the Senate.

Senator Grassley changed his mind.  He—he—he took the position

for many, many months that, in order to make health insurance reform work,

you need everybody in the pool.  And then he totally changed on that. 

SHADEGG:  Chris, I thought you were in the House.  I thought we were

talking about the House process. 

VAN HOLLEN:  We‘re talking about the whole process.  That‘s why we‘re

having the process at the White House.

SHADEGG:  We‘re talking about the House process.

VAN HOLLEN:  The House process, you know we had—we had hearings. 

We had markups.  The Senate had a process.

SHADEGG:  And in the markups—you tell me, Chris, how often it

happens that you that go to a market, the Democrats agree to amendments in

the markup, and the speaker then pulls those amendments out between when it

leaves committee at the markup and when it gets to the Rules Committee, and

before it comes to the floor.  How fair is that? 

VAN HOLLEN:  John, look, we—we—we had—we had a number of

amendments, as you know, that were adopted during that amendment process in

the House.  Amendments were adopted in the Republican side.

SHADEGG:  I‘m just explaining to you, we had—not on the floor, we

didn‘t.  We didn‘t have a single amendment on the floor. 

VAN HOLLEN:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG:  And, in committee, she pulled them back out.

MATTHEWS:  We have to do this tomorrow, Congressmen.  I‘m... 

VAN HOLLEN:  So, here‘s—so, here‘s the opportunity to go down to

the White House and talk about all the things you say you didn‘t get that

you want to get in.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s right. 

SHADEGG:  And I think we should.  And we are.

VAN HOLLEN:  So, that‘s good.

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow morning, the opportunity arrives.  OK.  Tomorrow,

on national television, on MSNBC, you will be able to see that debate.

Of course, I think one way to save time tomorrow is everybody,

including the president, don‘t give an opening statement.  And that—that

takes up the whole morning.  I have been through those babies. 

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Chris Von Hollen—Van Hollen—

SHADEGG:  I‘m there.

VAN HOLLEN:  Great.  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  -- who happens to be my congressman, my wife and I‘s

congressman, and my kids‘ congressman.  And he‘s a good one. 

And U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, who I understand is a real

intellectual conservative.  And I have always respected that position.  I

mean it. 

SHADEGG:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And a reminder:  Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, join Keith

Olbermann and myself for a special edition of “COUNTDOWN.”  Keith and I

will have full coverage of the president‘s health care summit for two hours

tomorrow night.  We‘re going to do a job tomorrow night on what happened. 

Coming up:  As Charlie Crist fades in the numbers and Scott Brown gets

pummeled by conservatives for voting for a jobs bill, is the Republican

Party only interested in one way of thinking?  Has it gone hard right?  Has

the tent, the big one, become a pup tent?  That‘s next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Florida Governor Charlie Crist is down 18 points to Marco

Rubio in their primary fight for Senate.  It‘s all but over, but that‘s not

stopping some prominent Republicans from kicking Crist when he‘s down. 

Jeb Bush, who was governor before Crist, said Crist taking stimulus

money was—quote—“unforgivable.”  Talk about a put-away. 

And South Carolina senator Jim DeMint launched this Internet ad,

suggesting Crist may switch parties.  Some Republicans aren‘t pleased with

DeMint‘s attack on Crist.  One Senate aide told Politico that spending

money on a sleazy attack ad like this against a fellow Republican is beyond

the pale, even for DeMint. 

Much more on these efforts to purify the Republican Party—coming up

on HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, is the Republican Party going purist?  Scott Brown, who was the

savior of the party just a couple of weeks ago, is taking a beating right

now on the—on the Web, Web sites, for—from conservatives for voting

for the Democrats‘ jobs bill.  For that, he‘s being thrashed. 

And Mitt Romney‘s under fire as well from Rush Limbaugh for nothing

more than endorsing John McCain‘s reelection bid.  Now that‘s verboten. 

So, is the GOP becoming the small tent party of movement conservatives

only? 

Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst, and Joan Walsh is editor -

she‘s laughing already—editor in chief of Salon.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s in chuckle-worthy mood today, because we‘re going to

talk about how...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  -- the Republican Party has decidedly created a circular

firing squad. 

Pat, just a couple—let‘s take a look at some of the action.  Here‘s

senator Jim DeMint, the ineffable one, at CPAC last week.  This is bringing

coal to Newcastle, bringing DeMint to CPAC.  Here he was last week. 

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I would rather have 30 Marco

Rubios in the Senate...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

DEMINT:  -- than 60 Arlen Specters. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a pretty easy one. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure I would argue with that. 

But go ahead, Pat, your thoughts. 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  Good luck with it.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, Chris, what you‘re seeing

is a very robust party. 

Look, Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald R. Ford when he was president of

the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he wanted the job.  He had a reason to do that. 

What about this push—just two weeks ago, you guys were leaping up

and down, orgasmically, over Paul—what‘s his name, Scott Brown winning

the Senate race. 

BUCHANAN:  Scott Brown.

MATTHEWS:  And now he‘s being pushed out of the party.  Three or four

weeks ago—or a little longer ago—you were jumping up and down about

Chris Christie in New Jersey winning the governorship...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and Bob McDonnell winning the governorship of Virginia. 

Now these guys are being treated as, like, oh, they‘re not really one

of us now. 

BUCHANAN:  Now, no, look, the guys are not purists.  They‘re—

basically, they‘re regular Republicans.  You have got a conservative

Republican in Virginia. 

But look at Sarah Palin.  She endorses McCain in Arizona.  She goes to

Texas and endorsed the governor, because that‘s a buddy of hers.  She

endorses Rand Paul, who is a non-establishment candidate, in an open thing

in Kentucky. 

Chris, you have had these battles in your party.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but why—but why is the..

BUCHANAN:  You guys tried to dump your vice presidential candidate,

Joe Lieberman.

MATTHEWS:  Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.  Why is—why—why do you see

Rush Limbaugh lambasting Mitt Romney, who‘s probably going to be your party

nominee, I think, if you look down the road, probably? 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It looks like it—for backing John McCain, your previous

party nominee?  I mean, how can you be more regular than that? 

And like this—well, here he is.  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  -- going after Mitt.  One thing about Rush, he‘s always on

tape. 

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  And I like Mitt Romney, but I

think he‘s risking his career over—over a guy—endorsing McCain, who

is so out of step with what‘s going on right now.  I—it‘s—it‘s—I

mean, well, McCain—McCain is cons—he‘s always conservative when he‘s

running for reelection in—in Arizona. 

But, you know, the tea parties have produced a wave of conservative

that has swept Republicans-in-name-only aside. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, this reminds me of the old Democratic left.  I

know you might disagree with me, Joan, because you occasionally do. 

November doesn‘t count.  The NDC, the old New Democratic Coalition, all

they cared about was who won the primary, happily nominating people that

couldn‘t win general elections. 

It looks to me like the Republican Party is—is—really is

creating a pup tent. 

WALSH:  Well, they are.  They‘re trying to fit the whole party in—

into a tea bag at this point, Chris. 

And, you know, I want to...

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  I want to talk to my friend Pat, who was sounding very

reasonable a couple weeks ago when we talked.  He was defending Scott

Brown.

MATTHEWS:  You guys will not stop.  It‘s the Tea Party movement.  It‘s

not the tea bag movement. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know the sexual connotation—

WALSH:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  -- that‘s only weird. 

WALSH:  I‘m not—no.

MATTHEWS:  But why do you guys keep calling it the tea bag party? 

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  I didn‘t—I didn‘t call it the tea bag party.  A tea bag is

small.  I‘m just looking for a metaphor—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Right. 

WALSH:  -- for small.  Please, I‘m a Catholic girl.  I‘m not...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WALSH:  There‘s no sexual references here. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.  All right.  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WALSH:  Anyway, continuing with Pat, Pat was very reasonable a couple

weeks ago here with me, Chris, talking about how, yes, Scott Brown is a

Massachusetts Republican, it‘s very good to have these regional strong

candidates, and he was very happy that he was elected.

And now you‘re right.  Scott Brown is being pilloried by conservatives

for his vote on the jobs bill. 

The other interesting thing about the jobs bill, the jobs bill really

deserves attention, because what you saw yesterday was only five

Republicans would vote to send it to the floor for a vote, and then you got

13 votes, because, once it was going to pass, some people wanted their

names on it. 

So, there‘s a tension within the party.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WALSH:  Attack the stimulus, but then—

BUCHANAN:  Right.   

WALSH:  -- ask for the money and brag about getting the money. 

There‘s a lot of hypocrisy there.  But Scott Brown is in a lot of

trouble because of—of serious conservatives like this.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think he‘s in a lot of trouble. 

But let‘s get back to—he‘s not in a lot of trouble.  This is a very

marginal bill. 

WALSH:  He—

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s get back to Mitt Romney. 

1966, Chris, Richard Nixon, at the request of Nelson Rockefeller, went

up and endorsed Rockefeller, who had abandoned Goldwater.  And we needed

the Goldwater people.  It was a very cold, calculated move on Nixon‘s part. 

And this is what Romney‘s doing.  He‘s going out there and endorse

McCain, who is the titular leader of the party, the guy that beat him, who

had a—was very hostile to him.  And he‘s covered his bases.  He had to

do it, also, because Palin did it.  If he had not done that—

WALSH:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  -- he would have been—or he had endorsed J.D. Hayworth,

you would have seen Palin get McCain‘s endorsement, which would mean

something in those primaries. 

Romney is playing for the big prize.  And I think he‘s doing it very -

I disagree with Rush.  This is a strategically smart move on Romney‘s

part. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t Nixon take a lot of heat for that, what was it, that

deal on Madison Avenue, or whatever it was called?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I—that was 1960 --

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  -- with the—the “Pact of Fifth Avenue,” the...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  -- the Munich of the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  But I urged—I said, you‘re not going endorse

Rockefeller, are you? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s—here‘s Limbaugh speaking for himself, again

attacking Scott Brown, the very recent hero of the right. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

LIMBAUGH:  You will not find me being a giant big-time pedal-to-the-

metal supporter of Scott Brown.  We‘re talking about a Massachusetts

Republican. 

Now, I know he‘s opposed to health care, and we ought to continue to

support him on that.  And he‘s opposed to cap and trade, and he hasn‘t

changed his mind.  In fact, there‘s a—there‘s a story, “Scott Brown

Fumes Over the New Health Care Plan.”  He wants no part of it. 

But he did go along with this jobs bill.  And he did say, “I hope my

vote today is a strong step towards restoring bipartisanship in

Washington.”

I—I must tell you, I‘m not surprised by this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He is unbelievable. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s a... 

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  He really is.

MATTHEWS:  Joan, he is unbelievable.  Watching Rushbo, he‘s—the

gestures and everything.  He‘s on radio.  What are all these gestures

about? 

Anyway, he seems to be making his point.

WALSH:  And then we see all this video. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s making the point there...

WALSH:  He‘s making...

MATTHEWS:  ... that there‘s not room in the Republican Party, at least

its reality party, the party that rules the party, he‘s not a leader.  He

says he will be for him, sort of, but he‘s only a Massachusetts Republican. 

In other words, he‘s not a real Republican. 

WALSH:  So, then you‘re not going to get any Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  That seems to be the message.

WALSH:  Right.  So, then you‘re—you‘re going to rule off—out the

Northeast, so you‘re not going to have any Republicans in the Northeast. 

You really do wind up shrinking the party to a Southern and a Southwestern

strategy, which can‘t work. 

I think Pat would agree with that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, but, Jean—Joan, can I talk to you for a

second?

WALSH:  So, you know, Rush is doing something rather—rather

different—Rush is doing something very difficult and dangerous to the

Republican Party. 

Sure, Pat.  You can always talk to me.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me just say that, all right, look, look, look, we

are...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  ... divided on immigration.  We are divided on Iran.  We‘re

divided on abortion.  We‘re divided on gay rights.  We‘re divided on...

MATTHEWS:  On birthers. 

BUCHANAN:  Birth—we‘re divided on everything.  But what they‘re

united on this fall, Chris—and you don‘t seem to understand—is

everybody is out to get Pelosi and Reid and Obama, and every single

Republican...

MATTHEWS:  What is that—what is that for? 

BUCHANAN:  They‘re opposed to them, socialism, whatever you call it,

big government. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you think they‘re socialists? 

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  It‘s not socialism.

BUCHANAN:  I think 38 percent of GDP spent by government approaches

European socialism, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUCHANAN:  And that‘s what unites them.

MATTHEWS:  Why are you guys still...

WALSH:  So, why was there no party...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you got—you got Hayworth out there, by the way,

still bashing away.  He wants to see his birth certificate. 

WALSH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Why can‘t your party just drop that baby, like you dropped

the Birchers years ago? 

BUCHANAN:  Well...

WALSH:  Because they think it will work.  They think it works.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, there are lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you drop them? 

BUCHANAN:  When I went out and campaigned, Chris, people were talking

about the black helicopters.  Fine.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They‘re crazy, though. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t care.  Look, they‘re out there.  Look...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You want the crazy folks? 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s 60 percent of our constituency. 

WALSH:  Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Thank you. 

By the way, you know what Pat does?

WALSH:  You said it.  I didn‘t. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  After he loses an argument, he falls back on his good sense

of humor and says, OK, I have got some wackos behind me. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Pat Buchanan, who doesn‘t...

WALSH:  Got to get the wackos.

MATTHEWS:  ... who won‘t say no to a wacko vote, and, Joan Walsh,

thank you. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next—it‘s just the trouble when the balance becomes

crazies. 

Anyway, Rod Blagojevich, the ex-governor of Illinois, is heading up a

panel at Northwestern, a great university.  He‘s going to be leading the

discussion on ethics.  Don‘t you love it? 

Stick around for professor Rod Blagojevich.  B-Rod is teaching ethics. 

Well, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

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

One of the smart rules of politics is never—repeat—never compare

anything to Hitler and the horror that he wrought on this planet.  Well,

that‘s what Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has just done.  Yesterday, he

compared climate change skeptics to those who downplayed the threat of Nazi

Germany in the 1930s. 

Here he is talking up the need for climate change action at the budget

hearings for the EPA. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  The reason that this debate is so

important is that it reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in

this country and around the world in the late 1930s. 

And, during that period, with Nazism and fascism growing, a real

danger to the United States and democratic countries all over the world,

there were people in this Congress, in the British Parliament, saying: 

Don‘t worry.  Hitler‘s not real.  It will disappear.  We don‘t have to be

prepared to take it on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the people who do oppose action on climate change

right now do so not out of ignorance, but out of two motives, I think.  One

is business, and, two, they‘re anti-intellectualism.  Neither are

defensible, when the victim of their position is the only planet we have. 

Next, talk about foxes guarding the henhouse.  Next week, former

Illinois Governor, as I said, Rod Blagojevich is slated to headline—

headline—a Northwestern University panel on ethics in politics. 

Of course, B-Rod is still facing a federal corruption case on charges

that he tried to sell President Obama‘s old Senate seat. 

Well, what has he got to say, I wonder?  Anyway, certainly, it‘s going

to be an interesting Q&A session out there in Northwestern University. 

Finally, think the birther movement has died down?  Think again. 

Yesterday, an Arizona Statehouse committee approved a state legislative

measure that would require presidential candidates who want to appear on

the ballot in Arizona henceforth to submit documents proving they meet the

requirements of office. 

That means they would have to prove citizenship with a birth

certificate.  Forty of the state‘s 90 legislators have signed on as

sponsors.  All are Republican. 

Up next:  It‘s never too early to think about 2012.  And we have got

the first look here at HARDBALL at President Obama‘s reelection strategy. 

Would the president actually be better off, by the way, if Democrats lost

control of the House or Senate, the way that Bill Clinton did back in ‘94,

and then went on to victory in ‘96?  That‘s next. 

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to hardball.  Politico‘s Mike Allen reports

today that President Obama‘s top advisers are quietly laying the groundwork

for his re-election campaign in 2012.  But before they get to 2012, they‘ve

got to get through 2010. 

Steve Hildebrand is a Democratic Strategist, he‘s a Former National Deputy

Campaign Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign.  And Jonathan Martin, Senior

Political Writer for Politico.  Gentlemen, it‘s a great group to have here,

you two being a group.  And this is the question.  Is it serious business,

by the way, who‘s floating this story that President Obama would be more

likely to get re-elected with some kind of a healthy margin if he loses the

Congress this November?  Who‘s pushing that story?

Steve Hildebrand, OBAMA‘S Former National Deputy Campaign Manager:  I don‘t

know. 

MATTHEWS:  Are republicans pushing it?

Hildebrand:  Yes.  Republicans are pushing it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are they pushing it?

Jonathan Martin, “POLITICO” Senior Political Writer:  Because this is

what one said, Tom Davis, very smart guy, former congressman.  He said, it

is easier for him to get re-elected if you‘ve got a split government.  If

democrats still have both houses of Congress over the course of the next

two years, it makes an easier argument for the republicans to run against

all democrats in 2012, a pox on their house about them.  It‘s a tougher

sell if you have a divided government. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that doesn‘t have depressed the party to loss—that

doesn‘t depress his leadership and say, you‘ve been a lousy president if

you can‘t keep the Congress?  I can see that splitting the other way. 

Hildebrand:  Well, I think it‘s really going to depend on the success we

have, you know. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

Hildebrand:  If he moves forward and provides the change that he campaigned

on, democrats are going to be strong this fall and he‘ll be strong for re-

election. 

MATTHEWS:  Did it help Clinton to get beaten in the house and senate

in ‘94 with Newt Gingrich‘s revolution, his compact with America?

Hildebrand:  I think because Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole went too far.

MATTHEW:  Yes, I think so.

Hildebrand:  They became incredibly strong targets for Clinton to go after. 

MATTHEW:  Don‘t you remember Clinton, after he lost the ‘94 election,

saying I‘m still relevant and then having to give that kissy speech about

the era of big government‘s over and then signing the welfare bill?  He had

to do a lot of crawling to get re-elected.  It wasn‘t too healthy for him. 

Hildebrand:  It was not pretty. 

MATTHEW:  And he didn‘t look that strong a president because of it.  I‘m

just saying, victory is good, defeat is not.  Is that too complicated?

MARTIN:  Well, the long-term argument is this, too.  In ‘94, if they

don‘t have a GOP takeover, he‘s not impeached in the second term. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Can you run the.

MARTIN:  So, bottom line, right?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  You‘re an expert, Steve.  Can you run

the same kind of campaign twice?  Move to Chicago, David Plouffe runs the

campaign, he strategizes the whole thing, tries to replicate it.  Axelrod

goes home with his nice family back to Chicago.  Can you do a campaign the

same way the second time or is there something necessarily that erodes in

the way you run the second time?  You‘ve got to do something different the

second time. 

Hildebrand:  Oh, you‘re nice to say, I‘m an expert, but I don‘t think

I am.  I do believe that you cannot replicate it exactly.  There are some

fundamental reasons to get out of Washington and to headquarter in Chicago

if that‘s the decision of the president.  But the idea of going back and

trying to redo what was created last time, it was a very special

circumstance.  It was a lot about hope and change, but it was also a lot

about doing things differently than George Bush. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a lot of white people, John, the tricky question,

voted for Barack Obama because they wanted to see change in America, they

wanted to prove America was open, open to change and open to an African-

American president who second time around will go, you know, actually I‘m a

republican.

Hildebrand:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And I‘ve had a good look at this guy and I think, he‘s a fine

fellow but I‘m a republican and he‘s a social democrat.

Hildebrand:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s to my left, I‘m not going to vote for him the second time? 

I can see people thinking like that. 

MARTIN:  Well, Chris, the president got a lot of votes two years ago for a

lot of different reasons.  I think that may be one of them.  But look, I

don‘t think when folks look at him in 2012 if they voted for him before, I

don‘t think they‘re going to vote for him or against him because of the

race issue.  If they voted for him the first time around, it‘s obviously

bigger than that issue.  So, I don‘t think that‘s going to be central.  I

do think. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think ideology will be more important the second time

now that he has a track record?

MARTIN:  No, I think it‘s going to be a referendum.  Has he done good

over the course of the past four years?  Do we rehire him for four more

years?  Isn‘t that always the question for.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s more liberal than he looked when he ran?  Has

he turned out to be more liberal than he looked?  Is that a hard question? 

That‘s not a hard question.  Does he look more liberal than he did when he

ran?

MARTIN:  I think Steven and the campaign were very, very skilled in

running against John McCain and avoiding thorny. 

MATTHEWS:  It was easy to vote against John McCain, he was tired, he

was running eight years later than he should have ran, he looked like.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN:  My point is. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll ask you the same question.  Does he look more liberal

now than he looks when he ran?  Yes or no?

MARTIN:  No, he doesn‘t.  He doesn‘t look more liberal. 

Hildebrand:  I think the republicans are trying to paint him as more

liberal. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.

Hildebrand:  I don‘t believe that‘s the kind of.

MATTHEWS:  They haven‘t succeeded, they haven‘t succeeded, you‘re

saying.

Hildebrand:  No.  Chris, this whole idea that supporting health care

reform is a big liberal agenda, a far left liberal agenda, is crazy.  Are

we siding with the big insurance companies?  Are we siding with American

consumers?

MATTHEWS:  We have a new poll, 38-38, people are basically 50-50 now

on whether they want this thing to pass or not. 

Hildebrand:  What‘s this thing do now?

MATTHEWS:  The health care bill as they understand it to be right now. 

That‘s not a big winning ticket right now. 

Hildebrand:  I think our side, the democratic side, has failed to

communicate this in a strong way.  This really is about.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s make it easier.  I‘m pulling teeth here on this

issue.  Because I‘m just asking you open questions trying to get you into

saying something.  Let‘s take a look at something—this is the

intrade.com (ph), this is the scoop where you can actually bet on

elections.  They‘re saying right now, Mitt Romney‘s got a 25 percent

chance.  Sarah Palin—I think this is going to fade for a while here.  A

23 percent chance.  And Thune is the young guy from Out West.  A 10

percent.  Which one of those do you think Barack Obama would like to face

right now, Jonathan?  Just based on your reporting. 

MARTIN:  Oh, Sarah Palin.  Absolutely.  Of course, yes, because she‘s

already defined in the minds of most American people.  Any politician wants

to run against somebody who‘s already defined, somebody whose negatives

outweigh their positives which right now in the polls she is.  So, that‘s

an easy question.  But here‘s the thing.  It‘s February of 2010.  Chris,

there‘s two years to go here.  We don‘t know if any of those folks are

going to run.  Some of them probably will.  Who knows. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to go away and come back in two years or stay

here right now sitting with us. 

MARTIN:  Let‘s keep talking. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  And by the way, people said, everybody say, a young

Jack Germond around here now.  Well, we can‘t wait.  These polls don‘t mean

anything. 

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN:  Time will tell, Chris.  Time will tell. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m taking a wait and see attitude toward that one.  You can‘t

do that anymore, John.  Let me ask you a question.  Do you agree with him

that Sarah Palin‘s the best target to go against?

Hildebrand:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?

Hildebrand:  Again, she‘s defined.  She‘s controversial.  She‘s a

little bit crazy, Chris. 

MATTHEW:  OK.  A little bit crazy. 

Hildebrand:  She‘s very polarizing. 

MATTHEWS:  And you can work at making her a little bit more crazy by

the election. 

Hildebrand:  She can do that on her own. 

(ALL TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

MATTHEWS:  What about Mitt Romney, a public, positive, interesting

personality.  He‘s a straight arrow like AlGore.  Can he overcome that sort

of straight arrow, the smartest kid in the class image and become somebody

you can imagine as the guy you want to watch on television and lead you

politically for the next four years? Can he do that?

MARTIN:  He‘s got the potential.  Their hope Chris is this, that he‘s

going to be the Mr. Fix-it, this country‘s in a ditch.

MATTHEWS:  Right, OK.

MARTIN:  The economy is not doing well.

MATTHEWS:  So, he won‘t be—no charisma, just practical?

MARTIN:  He can do business guy, right. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Middle of the road.  What do you think or far

right?  What are you going to paint him as?

Hildebrand:  Paint him as far right, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re being very careful.  Can you make Mitt Romney a

right-winger?

Hildebrand:  I think Mitt Romney‘s doing a pretty good job of making

himself a right-winger. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, thank you, Steve Hildebrand, on the left.  And in

the middle somewhere Jonathan Martin. 

Up next, what behind Jeb Bush‘s criticism—Jeb Bush, the most attractive

of the Bushes ever, is out there killing this guy Charlie Crist.  He said

backing of the stimulus program was unforgivable?  Is Jeb running for

president?  I think this guy‘s back.  We‘re going to talk about it in a

minute.  Jeb Bush.  You watch.  The republicans need a leader somewhere

between the unexciting Mitt Romney and the too exciting Sarah Palin.  Maybe

this is their guy.  We‘ll be right back on hardball.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Wall Street is shifting its    political

contributions from democrats to republicans.  The “Washington Post” reports   

that banks and investment firms have gone from giving two to one to

democrats at the start of 2009 to roughly 50-50 by year‘s end.  The move

comes as President Obama and the Democratic Party took aim at Wall Street

bonuses and proposed new regulations on    the financial industry. 

Democrats are trying to paint the republicans as being too cozy with Wall

Street, but you‘ve got to believe, republicans are happy to have the cash

from Wall Street.  hardball returns after this.       

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to hardball.  Time now for the “Politics Fix.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has some harsh words for the current

governor, Charlie Crist, and also Charlie Crist of course is running for

senate right now.  Here is Jeb Bush on Charlie Crist.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH ®, Former Florida Governor:  There‘s one thing that he‘s    done

that I just find unforgivable, which is, he is the only, that I‘m aware of,

he‘s the only statewide political leader that embraced the stimulus package

when republicans were fighting to suggest an alternative.  I know, I‘m

supposed to be politically correct and I said I was neutral and all that,

I‘ve got a problem with that.   

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Joining me right now is the Politico‘s Alex Burns and   

“Washington Post‘s” Perry Bacon.  Perry, it seems to me that Jeb Bush is

back, he‘s taking a very strong nasty position against the Former Governor

down there.  His successor in the governor of Florida, blasting lately and

backing the Cuban-American Candidate Marco Rubio.  That surprise me but

boy, this is—the Bush has been strong.  The Bush family with the Cuban-

American community down there.  Boy, this is stuff to bash the guy when

he‘s down 20 points.   

PERRY BACON, WASHINGTON POST:  Yes, there‘s always been some—there‘s a

bit of a rivalry down there in Florida between Crist and Jeb Bush.  If you

remember, when Crist won in 2006 and he started being governor, he kind of

cast    himself as I‘m bipartisan, I‘m a sunny alternative.  He didn‘t

necessarily attack Jeb Bush, but the implication was he‘d be someone

different who was a little better, little more    bipartisan.  And Jeb Bush

is a much more of a conservative republican.  And Jeb Bush also has been a

little bit of a mentor to Rubio.  So, I‘m not surprised.  Jeb has not quite

endorsed him yet but I‘m not surprised that he‘s been more very pro Rubio

because of the conservatism and because of his relationship with Rubio from

before.   

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts, Alex.  It seems to me that‘s pretty strong and

pretty true.  Your thoughts.   

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO.COM:  I think Perry is exactly right.  You know, I do

think here, there‘s not a huge margin for Bush to pick out here in going

out on a limb in endorsing Rubio.  He could have continued to play the

safe, had his son, both his sons endorse Rubio, maybe have other relatives

make donations to the campaign but basically    stay off the board himself

and play it safe.  But he‘s not doing that.  And I think, Chris, that

reflects his sense or the sense among republicans in general that it‘s no

longer a risk to bet on this guy.   

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s see how far he‘s stepping out on a ledge.  Here‘s Jeb

Bush, the Former Governor and Former President Bush‘s brother and the son

of another Former Bush president, taking on President Obama.  Let‘s listen

to him here.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH ®, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR:  If he believes that government

ought to consume 40 percent of the economy, of the economic output, I don‘t

know what you call that, but it‘s not American.  If he believes that

redistributing wealth will create more prosperity for more people, that‘s

been tried, and it‘s failed.   

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Strong stuff.  I know that Jeb‘s always been an ideologue and a

conservative but he‘s never been that—well, that‘s pretty nasty stuff,

calling him what he‘s calling him there.  You know, he‘s not American? 

Excuse me.  What‘s that about?   Perry.   

BACON:  My sense is—I mean, I think if Jeb Bush could run for president,

I think he would.  I think he‘s probably aware that that‘s not a

possibility because of his brother and that record.  But Jeb Bush wants to

be—I read a story about republican    policy and ideas.  I ended up

talking to him about that.  He wants to be in the center of    kind of

republican thought and sort of the movement, where republicans go next. 

And Jeb Bush very much does not want republicans to go in the direction of

Charlie Crist, toward the center.  He wants to sort of preserve a very

strong, conservative party.  I think, he‘s trying to influence that debate. 

And part of that influencing is of course, you know, criticizing Obama,

stressing a more conservative alternative to Obama.   

MATTHEWS:  Let me think about this in personal terms.  Alex, it seems to me

that a common sense person will say that Sarah Palin‘s unprepared to be

president at this point, will probably be unprepared in two years given she

won‘t have any more public government experience in that time.  She quit

the governorship of Alaska.  She‘s very attractive in terms of her

campaigning ability but no strength as a governing record.  And you have

Jeb Bush who may have strength as a governing record but not a great   

campaigner. 

There is an opening in the center right of the Republican Party between

Palin being perhaps on the irresponsible right you might argue.  The center

might argue.  And the other guy, Mitt Romney being too responsible.  You

may want somebody with some racing stripes.  Somebody who looks exciting

out there.  What about Jeb Bush coming back in, seizing the opportunity,

mounting the galloping horse of history here, and running against Barack

Obama next time?  

BURNS:  Well, sure, I think you‘ve heard, Chris, in the last couple days. 

This sort of groundswell of interest in Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who

sort of fits a similar profile to one you‘re talking about with Jeb Bush, a

very conservative, a very    policy-oriented, sort of a friendly happy

face.  But Bush would be just a rocks star in a way that Daniels would not. 

And so, if he.   

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  So, why did you bring up Mitch Daniels?  It‘s boring

me already.  It‘s boring me.  The very name Mitch Daniels sounds boring. 

We‘ll be right back with Alex Burns—I‘m sorry.  Alex Burns sounds fine

to me.  Perry Bacon says, Mitch Daniels.  Give me a break.  You have to

sell him just to listen to him.  Listen to his name.  You‘re watching

hardball only on MSNBC.        

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the Politico‘s Alex Burns and the “Washington

Post‘s” Perry Bacon for more of the “Politics Fix.”  Just a few minutes

left in the    program tonight but we have a big event tomorrow starting at

10:00 Eastern tomorrow    morning and running till 4:00 in the afternoon. 

Perry, you‘re writing this, you‘re covering this, it seems to me that this

has already become a kabuki.  You‘ve got an opening statement from the

president planned, republican statements from the republican leaders,

democratic leaders‘ statements.  You know, we‘ve watched—how many

hearings have you covered where it sounds like opening statements, opening

statements, then they break for lunch, then they go out to the workshops. 

God, we‘re all asleep.  What do you think?  Is this going to have any spark

to it, this thing tomorrow?  

BACON:  I‘m with you, Chris.  I‘m very worried about a snooze fest where we

hear, you know, lots of talking points.  Lots of things we already knew. 

The thing about the thing that what Obama did with the house republicans

last month was it they only was planned for the day before.  Everyone

didn‘t have a lot of time to prepare, and, you know, have these staffers to

write all these memos.  I‘m worried, I mean, unless Obama has some specific

-- President Obama has some specific idea that will really change the

dynamic, I‘m worried this is going to be very much not change much about

what this    process has been like so far.   

MATTHEWS:  You know, it actually seems to me that the reason that bull-

fighting was exciting for all those years, even though it was inhumane, it

was very exciting, is because the bull never saw the bullfighter until the

bullfight started.  Never saw a guy standing in front of him before. 

Didn‘t know what the person was.  That‘s exciting.  But now they know what

Barack Obama looks like.  They know what the matador looks   like.  Is the

bull going to behave the same exact way, the Republican Party, and just

take it and go for the Red Cape again?  

BURNS:  Well, you know, I think it would be stunning.   

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to do it again?  

BURNS:  I think it would be stunning, Chris, if they walked into, you know,

John Boehner‘s been out there warning all week that this is a trap that the

president is setting.    If he just walked right into it, that would be

quite astonishing.  You know, you saw both sides, the White House and the

House Republicans today, trying to throw a curveball.    The White House

reached out to Olympia Snowe to see if she would come on her own initiative

at their invitation rather than the republicans‘ invitation.   

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BURNS:  She declined.  The republicans have invited Bart Stupak, the anti-

abortion House Democrat to see if he‘d come at their invitation not his own

leadership.    Doesn‘t seem like that‘s going to happen.   

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s going a bunch of junior chamber types showing their

stuff.  I mean, a couple—you‘re laughing, Perry, but you know exactly, I

mean, a bunch of guys that look like republicans, act like republicans,

talk like republicans.  Everybody knows what they‘re going to say,

something about tax cutting and less government, and then he    just whisks

them off the stage and has a press conference tomorrow night and says, now

we move on and do reconciliation.  Your thoughts, Perry.  Isn‘t that what‘s

going to happen tomorrow?  Can you write the story now?  

BACON:  I hope not.  But I think that‘s what‘s going to happen.  I mean,

you never know, like if you know, the one thing the republicans have tried

to do is make sure    that doesn‘t happen.  We‘ll see.   

MATTHEW:  Your thoughts on that.  A bunch of junior chamber types, being

young Republicans growing up in the next ten years, but still young

Republicans just doing their thing.  We want less taxes, less government,

blah, blah; the president says, Nice try.   

Anyway, we‘ll be right—Alex, no time for you tonight.  Alex Burns, Perry

Bacon - sorry.

Join Keith Olbermann and me tomorrow - you‘re a little slow - tomorrow

night for special coverage of President Obama‘s Health Care Summit starting

at 9 Eastern.

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.

END   

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