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updated 3/8/2010 11:04:46 AM ET 2010-03-08T16:04:46

Guests: Roger Cressey, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Anthony Romero, Ron

Christie, Joan Walsh, Bob Shrum

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Don‘t take Manhattan.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Escape from New York.  We learned today that President Obama is close to reversing course and deciding to try the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a military tribunal, not in the New York federal court.  If that strikes you as a common-sense call, given that the mayor of New York says it‘ll cost $200 million to try KSM in that city, a lot of people, civil liberties advocates, disagree and say this decision undermines our justice system itself.  We‘ll hear from both sides at the top of the show.

Plus: What do David Paterson, Charlie Rangel, Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, and now Eric Massa, the congressman who just retired, all have in common?  Well, they‘ve all been caught in scandal.  And all have a D, as in Democrat, next to their names.  Isn‘t this what happened to Republicans four years ago just before they lost both houses of Congress, a string of scandals?

Plus, Dick Cheney‘s daughter is running a Web ad—they‘re more trouble, by the way, than their cost, those Web ads—in which she says any Justice Department employee who ever served as a lawyer for an accused terrorist is, in effect, a member of al Qaeda.  Sound like guilt by association?  Does it sound like—not that I‘m used to throwing the word around—McCarthyism?  Does any American truly believe under our system of justice that a lawyer is guilty of the crimes of his client?

Also, the shooting at the Pentagon yesterday is looking less and less like a criminal act and more like domestic terrorism.  How much more—or how many more people are out there who share this guy‘s extremist anti-government views?

And “Let me finish” tonight, it‘s going to deal with the movies—in fact, the best of them, Sunday‘s Academy Awards coming up.

We start with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and reports that the president may return him to a military tribunal.  Anthony Romero‘s the executive director of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union.  we couldn‘t have a better witness on tonight.  And Ron Christie‘s a former Cheney adviser.  I like—I think he says Chaney, but the correct pronunciation is Cheeney.

Let‘s go right now to Anthony Romero.  What do you make of the buzz out there that the president‘s going to reverse course, accept the admonishment of the mayor of New York and others that it‘s too dangerous, too expensive, too everything to go to New York and try KSM there at Foley Square, that he‘s going to put him in a—in a box in a military tribunal, try him there?  What do you make of that decision, if it comes?

ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU:  It would be a huge mistake, Chris.  The fact that the president would reverse the decision of his own attorney general, cutting the legs out from under him from a decision he made back in November and to capitulate to the fear-mongering and the politics in Washington, and to basically say that our federal criminal courts can‘t handle these cases is just wrong.

We‘ve prosecuted more than 300 terrorism suspects in federal criminal courts.  We‘ve only prosecuted three individuals in military commissions, two of whom are now scot-free.  So the idea that we‘re going to turn away from our established criminal court system and turn to these military commissions created by George Bush is the quintessential flip-flop and the compromise of principle for partisan politics.

MATTHEWS:  Ron Christie, your view of the decision, if it comes?  And it seems like it‘s imminent.

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH/CHENEY ADVISER:  If it comes, Chris, I think it‘s the wise decision.  I think the Military Commissions Act that was passed in 2006 with a bipartisan vote specifically created a military commission and a tribunal system where these alleged terrorists will have their day in court, but we won‘t have them on the United States soil.  We won‘t give them constitutional rights.  We will not allow them to undermine the safety of this country by putting them in the federal court system.

They don‘t belong in the federal court system.  And if, in fact, Mr.  Obama decides to do this, it would be a strong step forward for this country because we have established under the rule of law, Republicans and Democrats working together, a forum for these people to be tried.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the distinction between criminality and simply being at war with the United States.  Your thoughts on that, Anthony, first.  It seems to me that you can be both a criminal and a warrior.  You can commit crimes, you know, war crimes.  And we argue in this country, I think most of the world argues, that terrorism, attacking the World Trade towers, for example, and civilians in the Pentagon, is, in fact, terrorism.  It should be tried—it shouldn‘t be involved with criminality.  A person‘s a criminal who does something like that, as well as being a warrior in their own eyes.

How do you treat people who we believe are criminal as if they were soldiers?  Shouldn‘t we treat soldiers in military tribunals and people who commit crimes in other kinds of courts?  What do you think?  Your view.

ROMERO:  You bet.  I mean, the idea that...

MATTHEWS:  I guess I‘m making your argument.

ROMERO:  I love it!  It seems that we‘ve been hanging out too much together, Chris.  But I think the point is exactly right, that the military commissions established only three years ago, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which goes back a lot longer, the best system in military justice in the world, should be preserved for soldiers, should be preserved for the military.

These individuals, if they are, in fact, guilty of what they‘re accused of, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, don‘t deserve that forum and that status.  If they‘re convicted of committing this mass terrorist attack on United States soil, they‘re criminals.  And so to put them in the military commissions and to buy into the war on terror paradigm is giving up the ghost in the fight against al Qaeda, a real fight.

And we should not give them that forum.  And it‘s not the proper forum.  It‘s not the best forum.  And the military commissions are fundamentally flawed.  For eight years, George Bush tried to get prosecutions in the military commissions.  He got three.  Now, Obama‘s going to have the same trouble...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of my charge...

CHRISTIE:  Chris, I...

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of my argument that a criminal, he may be a warrior, he may fighting for his belief, his religious belief as he understands it.  He may be fighting for his people, as he understands it as a warrior.  But he‘s committing acts we consider criminal.  Going after civilian population centers we consider criminal.

CHRISTIE:  Well, if you look at the law, the Military Commission Act specifically delineates that those individuals who are at war with the United States or taking steps of being at war against the United States should be treated in a military commission.  But this isn‘t a 3-year-old law.  If you look at the law, Chris, in...

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t they criminals in your eyes?

CHRISTIE:  In my eyes, they‘re terrorists and they should be treated...

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t they criminals?

CHRISTIE:  They are terrorists.  They‘re not criminals because criminals—that sounds like you‘re robbing a store or robbing a bank.  We‘re talking about people who...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I hate to use the grade school word.  It means they‘re bad.

CHRISTIE:  They‘re committing acts of war.  Let me say one last thing...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, acts of war are not bad in themselves.  We never said that in our (INAUDIBLE)

CHRISTIE:  Of course acts of war are bad if they‘re committed against innocent Americans...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  That‘s called—that‘s called a criminal act of terrorism.

CHRISTIE:  That is not a criminal act, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CHRISTIE:  That‘s an act of war.  Let me say one other thing, though...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If we pick up a Taliban guy who‘s shooting at us over in his own country because he believes he should be running his own country, that person isn‘t a criminal, they‘re just on the other side from us, right?  What do we do with them?

CHRISTIE:  It depends what they‘re doing.  If it‘s a terrorist that‘s shooting an American soldier on the battlefield...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s shooting at an American military base because he doesn‘t think we should be there.  That‘s an act of war, it‘s not an act of crime.

CHRISTIE:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CHRISTIE:  It‘s an act of war.  And I would say one last thing...

MATTHEWS:  So what do we do with him?

CHRISTIE:  We...

MATTHEWS:  Throw him in the same pen as we do KSM?

CHRISTIE:  No, we put them in a military—yes, we actually should.  We should either put them in a military tribunal, a military commission or a military base.  We dealt with this in 1950.  We dealt with it with the Germans in the Eisentrager case, Johnson v. Eisentrager, when the United States Supreme Court specifically said that aliens, illegal people who are not in this country lawfully do not have to be tried in our court system.  It‘s constitutional.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to the other question.  You were raising it, I think.  Both of you were actually—you raised it, Ron—the idea of this whole reason we have Gitmo.  I—not being an attorney, you guys are—was under the assumption that the reason we have a Gitmo was that so we could keep people offshore, keep them away from U.S. territories so they wouldn‘t apply for U.S. rights, the rights of being here.  Even an alien has their certain rights in this country.

Is that a good argument for keeping Gitmo?  And if so, how do you deal with bringing those people, if we close down Gitmo, to the United States?  Do we allow them then to claim the rights that you would get as a resident of the United States or even someone who happens to be here as a visitor?  You first, Anthony.

ROMERO:  Sorry, Chris.  I thought you were speaking to our colleague.

MATTHEWS:  No, I want to go to your first.

ROMERO:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a special right that comes to you from simply being on U.S. soil, as you at the ACLU understand it?

ROMERO:  Look, the Supreme Court decided that back with the Boumediene case.  The Bush administration was quite clear, as you said.  They tried to Guantanamo to be a legal black hole, where they would be able to deny people rights, either international human rights or domestic constitutional rights.  That case was fought and the Bush administration lost.  So whether they‘re going to be fighting on these issues sitting in Guantanamo, in federal district court, which they‘re doing in Washington, D.C., or whether you move them to a base or to Thompson, Illinois, you still have the same battle.  They‘re still going to be arguing these kind of issues within American courts.  Now, the question...

MATTHEWS:  So you argue the same rights offshore as on-shore?

ROMERO:  It‘s about...

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re picked up by American authorities.

ROMERO:  It depends on where you‘re being held.  If you‘re being held near the theater of war, then the war—the laws of war apply.  But if you‘re picked up in a theater of war and then shipped off to Guantanamo, then the questions around due process...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

ROMERO:  ... do attach because you‘re not...

MATTHEWS:  Do you accept...

ROMERO:  ... any longer in the theater of war.

MATTHEWS:  ... that distinction?

CHRISTIE:  No, I don‘t accept that distinction.  And that was the Eisentrager case that I specifically called out a few moments ago.  We‘re talking about German saboteurs who were captured overseas that were tried in China.  They Supreme Court specifically said that those individuals do not have constitutional rights.  They don‘t have habeas corpus rights because...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  ... because they were captured overseas and they were not in the United States.

MATTHEWS:  So the Court ruled against you on that.

CHRISTIE:  No, the Court didn‘t rule against us.  I‘m talking about—

I‘m talking about the 1950 case specifically dealing with the status of people of what legal rights...

ROMERO:  You might want to read...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  ... they have for being offshore.  The one thing I would say...

ROMERO:  You might want to read the Boumediene case.

CHRISTIE:  I will read that case...

ROMERO:  You should.

CHRISTIE:  ... but the thing I would say to you, Anthony...

ROMERO:  You should.

CHRISTIE:  ... is it is imperative that we not bring down our defenses, we do not bring these people on United States soil, we do not give them habeas corpus and constitutional protections because they are aliens...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ROMERO:  ... the are foreigners and they do not...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me-...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to the theatrical, apart from the law but it‘s related to the law.  And maybe it‘s important to the law.  I‘m not sure it is.  Why would you take people—KSM or anyone else, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed mastermind—and I accept that he‘s probably going to plead guilty, I guess, in all but a formal sense.  He knows he did it, planned the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon back in 2001.

Why would you take him to Foley Square, to New York City, where the biggest media world, the sort of the pinball machine of media, noise, lights and bells going off—why would you give him that theater to express his jihadist views, Anthony?  Why wouldn‘t you try him in some small place in—I don‘t know, some small place in Nowheresville, and not give him that platform?

ROMERO:  You know why?  Because we‘re New Yorkers.  And because as a New Yorker who was born and raised here, who was here on 9/11, if anyone is found guilty of those attacks, as a New Yorker, I say, Bring it on.  We‘re tough enough to stand through all this stuff.  This is just politics...

MATTHEWS:  Well, your mayor isn‘t.

ROMERO:  Well, the mayor is capitulating to some pressures.  These analyses of what the costs of having the trial here...

MATTHEWS:  Two hundred million dollars?

ROMERO:  We have to kick this higher...

MATTHEWS:  ... to conduct a trial?

ROMERO:  Yes.  I mean, I had the same question.  I mean, do you think it‘s going to be any cheaper in some other places?  You have to secure it the same way.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  On a military base, we already have...

ROMERO:  Are you going to let them walk into any ordinary criminal court...

MATTHEWS:  No, a military base is already secure.

ROMERO:  ... in Illinois and not have guards and not have security and not have the military around?  It‘s not going to be cheap anywhere, Chris.  The question is...

CHRISTIE:  Of course, it will!

ROMERO:  ... where do they belong.

CHRISTIE:  Of course, it will.

ROMERO:  And the military commissions—the military commissions are the wrong place.  They‘re flawed.

CHRISTIE:  Anthony—Anthony...

ROMERO:  They‘ll be mired—let me finish.  I listened quite patiently to you.  They‘re flawed.  They‘re going to take years.  This is not going to render justice.  The president‘s going to find himself running for reelection and not having rendered justice for the victims of 9/11.  It‘s going to be up the yin-yang, there are going to be motions in litigation asking questions about the constitutionality of it.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ROMERO:  The military commissions allow hearsay evidence, allow coerced evidence.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

ROMERO:  It‘s a recipe for disaster.  Use the criminal courts.  They work.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, Anthony.  I‘m sorry, I‘ve been saving this question.  It‘s a good question.  Anthony, I have great respect for you as an attorney and as an advocate for civil liberties.  But if you were in a courtroom as an attorney for KSM, wouldn‘t you say, This guy‘s been tortured 183 times to get the truth out of him, or something out of him, how can you claim he‘s getting a fair trial?  It seems to me one of twelve jurors in New York would be sparked to say, You know what?  I can‘t convict a guy on principle—I don‘t care who he is, how evil he is—if he‘s been tortured 183 times on the way to trial.  And you‘re going to get, it seems to me, a hung jury.  That‘s my thought.  What do you think?

ROMERO:  I don‘t know.  I would have to think that our attorney general, Eric Holder, from New York, a prosecutor, who spent nine months on his own reviewing these cases and files, who‘s seen all the evidence—and when he stated in November that he was confident he would be able to secure a conviction and even get the death penalty in a jurisdiction that he knows far better than any of us on this TV show...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ROMERO:  ... I‘d have to think that man, with that education, that intelligence and with that access of information is probably making the right call, and that the White House is now willing to pull the rug out from under him because of politics, because they‘re trying to drag Republicans along on health care reform...

MATTHEWS:  Could you get him off?

ROMERO:  They‘re pandering to the fear-mongering.

MATTHEWS:  Could you get him off, Ron?

CHRISTIE:  Could I get him off?  Could I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... who‘d been tortured 183 times on the way to trial to get evidence out of him?  It seems to me on any television show I‘ve ever seen, it seems anything to do with trials, they‘d say, Wait a minute, how can you claim that guy was—actually had a fair trial if he was tortured 183 times?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMERO:  So what do you think is going to happen in a military commission?

CHRISTIE:  Yes, I think—Anthony, let me answer this question here.  Yes, Chris, I think I could get him off.  I think that the jury pool would have been spoiled.  You had the president of the United States saying, Oh, we‘re going to bring him to justice, he‘s going to be convicted.  There‘s no question in my mind that...

MATTHEWS:  Maybe you ought to take this case.

CHRISTIE:  Oh, I‘m not going to defend a terrorist.

MATTHEWS:  Ron Christie...

CHRISTIE:  Not a chance, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think they deserve a good lawyer?

CHRISTIE:  I think they deserve lawyers.  I‘m not in the business...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re with Liz Cheney.  You think anybody who defends a terrorist is a terrorist.

CHRISTIE:  No, well, they shouldn‘t be here in the United States.  And I wouldn‘t defend a terrorist.  Sorry.

ROMERO:  The military commissions are not going to render that result, I promise you.  It‘ll be years...

MATTHEWS:  OK, public defender—I say name this guy as a public defender.  Give him no choice.  Anthony Romero, thank you, Ron Christie, who says he can get him off but wouldn‘t do it.

Coming up: Democrats are vulnerable heading into the mid-terms, and a string of political scandals is not helping.  It‘s almost like they picked up—well, look at this, Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa, David Paterson, Spitzer.  It just keeps growing, this list of scandal, and they‘re all Ds.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Back in 2006, from Jack Abramoff to Tom DeLay and Mark Foley, a stench of corruption and sleaze helped Democrats knock Republicans out of power in Congress.  Now there‘s a new stench.  This time, it‘s coming from the Democrats.  Just today, New York congressman, a Democrat, Eric Massa, announced that he‘s resigning Monday amid a House ethics probe that reportedly involves charges of alleged sexual harassment of a male staffer.

So how much does 2010 -- we‘re in it now—smell like 2006?  We remember it.  Joan Walsh is the editor-in-chief of Salon.com and Bob Shrum is a Democratic strategist.

Well, you‘ve got the list, the rap sheet of the Democrats right now, and we got the graphics out there, these little town blues, by the way.  Paterson—look a the situation just in New York state.  Paterson, the governor, is facing a possible perjury charge, and he‘s got everything—he‘s like Job up there in Albany.  We already mentioned Congressman Massa‘s problems.  He‘s going out on Monday.  Congressman Charlie Rangel this week -- he‘s facing an ethics probe.  He had to resign as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  That‘s just New York.

There‘s so much coming out of this, Joan, that just smacks of, I don‘t know, rotten boroughs, I said last night, something wrong with it.  We don‘t have anybody elected in New York, and they got Richard Ravich about to be governor.  We‘ve got Gillibrand as the senator.  Nobody knows what an election looks like.  Nobody seems to have the stuff to run for office up there anymore, except a couple rich guys.

What happened to democracy and clean government in New York state? 

Let‘s start with the state of New York.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Well, you know, that‘s my native state.  I was born in Brooklyn.  I think the whole thing is very depressing, you know, so I agree with you there, that there‘s a problem in New York.  And I also—

I don‘t want to be set up as some kind of Democrat defending other Democrats because I—you know, I think Paterson should resign, sadly.  I said that on “MORNING JOE” the other day.

I think it‘s great that Rangel stepped down from his leadership position.  And back in the day, I said that Roland Burris should not be seated because that had a little stench, as well.

OK.  So having gotten that out of the way, I just think that there‘s no comparison, Chris, between the depth and the extent of the corruption in 2006, and also, maybe—

MATTHEWS:  OK, while you‘re on this, you‘ve got to tell me the distinction.  I didn‘t plan to do the segment this way.  But you‘ve said it.  What‘s the difference between this set of characters, Paterson, Rangel and this guy, Massa, and all the rest of these problems up in New York, and the problems that the Republicans had, with Abramoff and Foley?  They were all sort of different.  But what‘s the difference? 

WALSH:  OK, I‘ll tell you the difference.  The difference is that the leadership of the Democratic party has not looked away.  In fact, they‘ve tried to fix it.  Whereas the Republicans—in the Foley scandal, one of the biggest aspects of the scandal—and I think we talked about it at the time—was the notion that lots of Congressional aides and perhaps even Speaker Hastert himself knew there was a problem with Mark Foley.  And Mark Foley didn‘t resign until those terrible IM came out. 

Eric Massa resigned right away.  Charlie Rangel resigned after he was admonished by the Ethics Committee.  Tom Delay refused to resign after he was admonished by the Ethics Committee, the SEC.  The Republicans changed the rules, Chris—they changed the rules so that if their boy, Tom Delay, was indicted, he didn‘t have to step down as majority leader. 

Now, when he was indicted, he did step down shortly thereafter.  He didn‘t resign for another six months.  So you‘ve got a situation where, first of all, the Democrats set up better rules and they are enforcing them.  And they‘re not looking away.  And when they get caught, they mostly do the right thing. 

Why is—so David Vitter is still in the Senate after patronizing prostitutes, whereas Eliot Spitzer had to resign.  I think there‘s a huge double standard here. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what your problem is, Joan?  You‘ve got a big problem.  You know what it is?  You‘ve got a file cabinet.  You can remember stuff.  You‘ve got this memory. 

WALSH:  That‘s not a problem.  That‘s an asset, my friend.   

MATTHEWS:  I‘m teasing. 

WALSH:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a very good accounting of the situation as it differs, I think. 

WALSH:  Thank you. 

SHRUM:  Look, the Ethics Committee was investigating the Speaker of the House in the Mark Foley scandal, and his office, for the fact that this hadn‘t been reported, that they had known about it.  They had known about it for months before it ever reached the Ethics Committee. 

Charlie did step down very early on in this process, I think very painful for him.  In New York, look, David Paterson has decided not to run for re-election.  I think we may—

MATTHEWS:  So you are going to flack for The democrats.  How can you flack for them?  How can you defend the fact that this governor seems so in over his head? 

SHRUM:  I‘m not defending Paterson. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought you were getting ready to -

SHRUM:  No.  He‘s decided not to run for re-election.  There‘s a drip, drip, drip of revelations.  I think he‘s probably in serious legal problems he needs to deal with, and he‘s got a huge budget crisis.  If for no other reason than that, he ought to seriously consider getting out of the way. 

MATTHEWS:  Seriously?  Do you think he should drop out? 

SHRUM:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at President Clinton, who is always—he‘s become sort of the, I don‘t know, the citizen confessor of these guys.  He was with Tiger Woods the other day, making him feel better.  Here he is talking about Governor Paterson with the local Fox station up in New York last night.  It‘s amazing how he—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t know very much about that, except what‘s been in the press.  I think that what the New York Democrats need to do is to come up with some good ideas about what to do about the current economic situation.  We have to not defend the indefensible, defend the defendable, but mostly stand and deliver. 

I think that the—it‘s not a particularly ideological state in many ways.  We want people to produce.  Ironically, New York may be the only state in the country where there‘s more at the state and local level than at the national level.  Most places, it‘s the other way around.  You know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, I think he was saying something to say something, to be fair to him.  He had to say something.  The mic was on. 

Let‘s go to the summer bummers coming up.  We got Blagojevich, who is going to be in “Celebrity Apprentice,” as if he needs more publicity.  He also has a corruption trial coming up in June.  The “National Enquirer,” which can sometimes be believed, has said there‘s an indictment looming for John Edwards, your guy. 

SHRUM:  Not my guy.  

MATTHEWS:  You loved him for a while. 

SHRUM:  Not my guy. 

MATTHEWS:  You loved him.  You were pushing him for everything.  How you forget.  And Eliot Spitzer is a television guy.  He‘s on this network.  He wants to come back.  Is this too much, Joan, too much—as Churchill once said of people, too much peerages and not enough disa-peerages (ph)?  These people keep coming back and coming back for more honors.  Should they take a break? 

WALSH:  I would like them to disappear, but I don‘t have the power to do that, Chris.  But I will say, they‘re all out of power.  It‘s not a situation like Tom Delay clinging to leadership, refusing to walk away. 

So, you know, nobody defends Blagojevich, nobody.  Spitzer was a little bit more of a complicated situation.  I just think it‘s not—and John Edwards is just—he‘s disgraced.  I‘m sorry to say it, but he‘s disgraced as a democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of Spitzer‘s defense the other day, that it‘s morally superior to go to paid sex workers than it is to have an affair?  What do you think of that charge, his claim of defense? 

WALSH:  Man, you know—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s unfair.  Never mind.  This is—I shouldn‘t ask anybody to delineate the morality of that one.  Bobby, you want to answer that one?

SHRUM:  It‘s ridiculous.  First of all, this is a guy who made a specialty out of saying we‘ve got to crack down on prostitution and go after Johns.  Now, he‘s saying I did the morally nice thing by being a John. 

MATTHEWS:  I tell you, his wife still looks great the way she handles this thing.  There she is smiling.  This must be an earlier tape.  Is she in that good a mood now? 

Anyway, it‘s great.  Anyway, you guys are great, with great file cabinets in your brains.  You remember so much.  And by the way, great, excellent delineation between the Rs and Ds.  I‘m glad you didn‘t say the Democrats are morally—individually morally superior to Republicans, because that would be a hard case in any world.  Thank you very much.  Joan, you‘re the best. 

WALSH:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob Shrum, sir, my friend.

Up next, John McCain is seeing red over this gimmick—actually, this sis a little pun—seeing red from his primary opponent, an Oscar themed ad, which shows McCain‘s face painted blue like in the movie “Avatar.”  He‘s saying—they‘re accusing—they‘re using anti-Native American stuff there.  Anyway, I‘m not sure that‘s a good case.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now for the Sideshow.  First up, the R word.  Last night, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart both took on the hysteria surrounding the president‘s push for a reconciliation vote on health care. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It deserves the same kind of up or down vote that was cast on welfare reform, that was cast on the Children‘s Health Insurance Program, all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority. 

STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  How ironic; our first black president admits he hates minorities.  And folks, the word reconciliation itself is deceptive.  We all know what this really is. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If they insist on using this parliamentary trick. 

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  They want to use every parliamentary trick. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re already talking about parliamentary tricks in order to reform health care through. 

COLBERT:  A parliamentary trick.  In other words, magic. 

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  I guess now this is the part where the president displays his tyrannical despotism, and institutes health care reform by fiat. 

OBAMA:  No matter which approach you favor, I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform. 

STEWART:  Slow down, Hitler. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  These guys are bright.  Anyway, simple fact check here, reconciliation votes have been used 22 times in history, including the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.  Sixteen of those times were under a Republican-controlled Senate. 

Next, political theater down in Arizona.  This week, Senator McCain‘s primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth, released an Oscar themed attack ad that reads “John McCain, nominee for best conservative actor.”  McCain‘s face is photo-shopped with paint similar to characters in the film “Avatar.”  After McCain‘s campaign manager, Sheri Verdon (ph), said the ad was insulting to Native Americans, the Hayworth campaign released this, the same ad, but giving McCain an even bluer face. 

Hayworth‘s spokesman said today the ad is going to remain up on the Internet, and encouraged Senator McCain, quote, “to get a sense of humor.”  The battle on the right is getting a little sticky, isn‘t it?

Now for the number tonight.  The Gallup Report averaged together President Obama‘s job approval polling so far in his presidency, broke it down by age.  Among senior citizens, the president gets a 51 percent approval rating, on average, since he took office.  That‘s below his overall average of 57%. 

And to make the point that he becomes more popular as you get younger, what do you think is his backing—well, the backing for President Barack Obama for those between the ages of, say, 18 and 29 among young adults?  The president‘s approval rating among the young is 66 percent, at least nine points higher than any other age group, a big number.  That‘s a lot of food for thought.  I get it.  You probably do, too; 66 percent support for the president among the youngest voters, tonight‘s big number. 

Up next, the gunman who opened fire outside the Pentagon last night was an anti-government zealot, who thought the government was behind 9/11.  He was a Truther.  We have new information on why the number of extremists in this country is growing.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  More details emerge today about that California man who shot and wounded two police officers at the Pentagon Thursday night; 36-year-old John Patrick Bedell died Thursday night, after being shot by the officers during the incident.  Some of Bedell‘s friends told the “Washington Post” today that he, quote, “had gone off the deep end.”

Internet postings show that Bedell had a lot of anger about the government, and that he was a conspiracy theorist.  Is this an act of domestic terrorism?  Let‘s see.  Does he represent a growing number of extremists in this country?  Let‘s see that.

NBC News terrorism analyst Roger Cressey is a security consultant and a former cyber-security and counter-terrorism adviser in the Clinton and Bush administration.  Roger, it‘s great to have you back.  I hate it, because it always means more trouble afoot.  This guy—

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  This is true. 

MATTHEWS:  This guy, who has now passed away, who has been shot dead in the act he was involved with and brought on himself—what is he?  Is he a Truther, as we call it, someone who believes that the United States government was behind blowing up the World Trade Tower, the Building Seven guy? 

CRESSEY:  Well, at the basic level, Chris, he‘s one of these anti-government conspiracy adherents.  The people who believe that the government is behind all ill, if you will, be it political or economic, fall into that broader category. 

One thing to keep in mind, we got very lucky last night.  This guy had a death wish.  Had went right after the police with his semi-automatic weapons.  He could have easily mowed down a number of unarmed civilians, and we would be dealing with a much different set of circumstances today. 

But I think the important thing to keep in mind here with someone like him is, he went off the deep end.  Clearly, he had a mental illness.  There were warning signs.  His parents did the right thing, went to the authorities.  But the challenge for law enforcement, Chris, is, when do you identify somebody who is suffering from all these problems, who has these conspiracy views?  And when do they translate into a violent, operational act of terror?  That is the problem that law enforcement deals with almost on a daily basis. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, if you‘re in public life like me, on television, for example, and we have politics every night, people will come up to me on the street corners—somebody did that in Georgetown a couple of months ago.  He‘s talking to you quite reasonably.  And then they start with that whole thing about, of course, you know—don‘t be naive.  The government did blow up the World Trade Towers, don‘t you know?  And then they start with Building Seven.  You know the whole thing. 

They get completely expert on the subject.  Intellectually, they‘re fine,  They‘ve got all the information.  They‘re quite capable of accumulating information.  But their bottom line thing is what you said, this deep, dark notion that everything‘s explainable by one truth: the government is evil, in this case. 

CRESSEY:  So that‘s right, because people for these very, very traumatic events want simple explanations that explain away why it happened.  And blaming the government is the easiest.  I jokingly tell people when I speak to them that the problem with conspiracy theories is that it gives the government way too much credit.  The government is simply not that good.

But you end up with very smart—very intellectually smart people, who spin these very plausible, elaborate conspiracy theories.  And then if you have a fringe element, be it on the right wing, for example extremism, who see this and see smart people spinning these type of conspiracy theories, they become attracted to them, because, after all, it must explain away what‘s going on.  Because, after all, it must explain away what‘s going on. 

And once that happens, once they become radicalized about it, and then they start buying weapons, it‘s all over. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the three ingredients?  One seems to be a personal experience with the government.  Maybe it‘s a tax problem.  We saw it with Joe Stack.  And I worked in government for years.  I worked in a Senate office.  I know you get people with one problem, with a disability claim they didn‘t get, or they get fired or not promoted, and that one thing becomes a pile of Xeroxes that they carry around all their life and keep growing, and will give to anybody they can find.  That‘s one thing, a personal grievance. 

The other one is, they hear something on cable or radio or something, they buy that.  What‘s the other thing?  What is the mental illness part of it?  Is there a mental illness part?  Or is this pure politics? 

CRESSEY:  No, I think for a lot of these people, there are other things that are troubling them.  It could be their own economic situation.  It could be something to do with their family.  Or it could be, as in the case of Mr. Bedell, a true bipolar disorder, that led him down—that certainly helped him go down this path. 

But those who feel they‘ve been wronged by government, whether at the state, local or federal level, and believe people are either keeping them down or constantly battering them, at some point, the despair that they feel can turn into violence.  That‘s when they act upon it. 

The challenge for, bet it, psychologists, psychiatrists and law enforcement are all the same: how do I identify the warning signs from going form someone who has a grievance to someone who decides to act on that grievance by way of violence? 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Roger Cressey, you‘re the pro.  Thanks so much for coming on and putting it together. 

Up next, Liz Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney‘s daughter, is out there doing her thing, out-doing her father, you might say.  She has a new web ad that essentially says that any Justice Department employee who ever did legal work, ever defended a Gitmo detainee, is himself or herself a member of al Qaeda.  That‘s quite a charge.  It sounds like McCarthyism.  But we‘ll see.  That‘s going too far by many people‘s standards, including a lot of conservatives.  This is HARDBALL, coming up on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the strategists.  Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist, and Todd Harris is a Republican strategist.  The day will come when I will not have to introduce you gentlemen.  Let‘s start with a new ad put out by the organization Keep America Safe.  It‘s a conservative group co-founded by Dick Cheney‘s daughter, Liz. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  The pendulum is starting to swing.  America run by progressives is about to happen.  We‘re going to be looking for people who share our values. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So who did President Obama‘s Attorney General Eric Holder hire?  Nine lawyers who represented or advocated for terrorist detainees.  Who are these government officials?  Eric Holder will only name two.  Why the secrecy behind the other seven?  Whose values do they share?  Tell Eric Holder Americans have a right to know the identity of the al Qaeda Seven. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that? 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I like it.  I think that‘s a pretty effective ad. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the message? 

HARRIS:  The message is, basically, are there people who don‘t support the military tribunal process formulating detainee policy inside the Justice Department.  You‘ve got the administration all over the map now on this issue.  You‘ve got Holder saying one thing.  You‘ve got the white house—

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a person who has played his role as a defense attorney for an accused terrorist, that that person is suspect? 

HARRIS:  I think someone who has argued in court against military tribunals, if they‘re going to be formulating detainee policy within the Justice Department, then the justice administration should just come out and say that. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought these were just people who defended these guys in court.  Now we‘re against the whole system. 

HARRIS:  No, one of them in particular has called military tribunals a kangaroo court.  So if that woman‘s going to be formulating detainee policy, they ought to come out and say that‘s what the policy is. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  The message of that ad is Dick Cheney‘s still out there and he‘s still angry about the way his war is being treated by history, by historians, and frankly—

MATTHEWS:  This is Daughter of Dracula? 

MCMAHON:  Well, it‘s Daughter of Dracula.  It‘s interesting that the person who came to the defense of these eight lawyers—who, by the way, were brought into these cases by the Department of Defense, the Bush Department of Defense, and by other lawyers who were involved, government lawyers who were assigned to defend them—they asked these private lawyers to do a favor by helping understand a Supreme Court decision.  Ted Olsen, of all people, the solicitor general, and fairly conservative man in his own right, someone whose wife died in the 9/11 -- in a plane on 9/11 --

MATTHEWS:  I‘m a big fan of Ted Olson, who is out there fighting for same-sex, by the way.  Here he is, Ted Olsen.  I knew Barbara very well.  She was sitting in my office the Friday before she was killed on 9/11.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s what Ted Olson said about whether you should be allowed to defend these bad guys: “the ethos of the Bar is built on the idea that lawyers will represent both the popular and the unpopular, so that everyone has access to justice.  Despite the horrible September 11th, 2001 attacks, this is still proudly held as a basic tenet of our profession.” 

HARRIS:  No one is saying that if they wanted to do this, they shouldn‘t have been able to do it.  And no one is even saying that the Obama administration can‘t hire these people.  The point of the ad is—

(CROSS TALK) 

MCMAHON:  Guilt by association. 

HARRIS:  The point of the ad is to put pressure on the Obama administration to actually own up to who is formulating detainee policy for Eric Holder. 

MCMAHON:  Guilt by association.  You‘ve got to scare people.  And frankly, it‘s, I think, one of the most deplorable examples of guilt by association.  And the fact that Ted Olsen, who, as we‘ve pointed out, has some reason to feel this deeply, has stepped up and defended these lawyers for doing what a lawyer is sworn to do, is pretty significant.  And if I were Liz Cheney, I‘d be a little concerned, because the Republicans now are starting to denounce what she‘s doing.  It‘s not just people like me. 

HARRIS:  I don‘t know a single Republican who is—

MCMAHON:  Ted Olson is one. 

HARRIS:  -- who is denouncing what she‘s doing.  Liz is certainly not saying that lawyers can‘t represent who they choose to represent.  In this case, these nine people went—

MCMAHON:  Unless those people are unpopular and we‘re going to smear them. 

HARRIS:  No, that‘s absolutely not what it says.  All the ad said is the Department of Justice should come clean on whether these people are formulating detainee policy.

(CROSS TALK)

HARRIS:  And, Steve, the fact that the Department of Justice refuses to say this proves that they understand—

MCMAHON:  It doesn‘t prove anything. 

HARRIS:  It absolutely does. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me put to you an old time case.  John Adams defended the soldiers of the Boston Massacre.  He was criticized for that.  Your party would have black listed him for that. 

HARRIS:  No one is black listing any of these people.  We‘re simply saying that if you‘re going to hire them and have them formulate detainee policy, then say that these are the people who are forming detainee policy. 

MATTHEWS:  That is—you‘re—that ad is much darker and creepier than simply full disclosure. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- is saying that there is something dark and evil about the Justice Department.

(CROSS TALK)

HARRIS:  If that‘s what they wanted, a FOIA request would have been sufficient.  But, of course, that wouldn‘t have got even on HARDBALL, would it?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  A little change of pace here.  Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, is trying to distance herself from Washington.  Here‘s a part of an ad she‘s running.  Let‘s listen.  This is Blanche Lincoln‘s ad, on the air now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  I‘m Blanche Lincoln.  I want to show you what is it s like in Washington these days.  And your tax dollars, this is why I voted against giving more money to Wall Street, against the auto company bailout, against the public option health care plan, and against the cap and trade bill that would have raised energy costs on Arkansans.  None of those were right for Arkansas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will that protect her from a primary challenge or a general election challenger? 

MCMAHON:  The key line in that ad is none of those were right for Arkansas.  It‘s interesting because she‘s vulnerable in a primary challenge for the very same reason that she ought to be able to distinguish herself in a general election. 

She has not walked hand in hand with the Obama administration on some of these more controversial things, including the public option, including cap and trade.  And that actually makes her vulnerable in a primary.  But if she‘s able to distinguish herself, and make it about what‘s best for Arkansas, it will make her stronger in a general election.  It‘s like my grandma used to say, if it doesn‘t kill you, it‘s going to make you stronger.  

MATTHEWS:  I think Nietzsche said that. 

MCMAHON:  Well, my grandma—

(CROSS TALK)

HARRIS:  I don‘t know if it‘s going to be enough to save her, but I think it‘s an effective ad.  The reason why is that I think is because it answers the why question.  Everyone talks about how this is an anti-Washington year, an anti-incumbent year.  That‘s the what.  That‘s what this year is. 

The why reason is because there are all of these policies happening in Washington that a lot of people don‘t like.  What she was saying is she was opposed to all of those things.  All of those things that you—the people in Arkansas and across the country were so upset about, she was fighting against them.  I don‘t know if it‘s going to be enough for her, but that‘s exactly the—

MATTHEWS:  Big question, after Texas this week, is there an American political center, or center right or center left anymore?  Kay Bailey Hutchison is an impressive public official who got blown away in Texas.  I‘m beginning to think there isn‘t a political center anymore.  You have to go hard right, like Marco Rubio, be hard right, or like Rick Perry, or hard left like this guy Halter, the lieutenant governor down in Arkansas.  There is no Blanche Lincoln territory left.  There is no Kay Bailey Hutchison territory left.  Your theory?  Is there a middle in the Republican party, a center? 

HARRIS:  Yes.  The short answer is yes.  As you know, I consulted for Kay Bailey Hutchison. 

MATTHEWS:  Where is it?  Where is that center?  Where does it win? 

HARRIS:  Both on the right and on the left, the fact is that primaries attract the most partisan voters.  That happens in the Republican party.  It happens in the Democratic party.  And Rick Perry—I‘ll give him credit—ran a very, very effective—ironically, as a governor‘s campaign, ran a very effective anti-Washington campaign, and was a able to tie the Washington label—

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s about promise.  Thank you, Steve McMahon.  Thank you, Todd Harris.  When we return, I‘ll have some thoughts about the Academy Awards coming up Sunday night.  I obviously am going to get very much into this, more than you‘ll believe.  I‘m a movie buff.  I‘ll prove it again.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with something that‘s very important to me: movies.  I love them.  I root for them.  I want every movie I go to to be great.  This year, I loved “500 Days of Summer,” which is what it‘s really like to find the right one in life, the hard, scary, sometimes miserable pursuit in this world of someone to love you. 

I also loved and have no idea how they made it “Orson Welles and Me,” a backstage story that is right up there with “My Favorite Year,” and “Almost Famous,” and maybe even “The Jolsen Story.” 

“Invictus” is another wonder, a brief but telling look into the greatness of Nelson Mandela.  Morgan Freeman is terrific, and so is Matt Damon.  The scene between the two of them in the parliament building, the newly elected president and the white rugby captain, cuts to the heart of what great politics is, because it‘s about what a great human being can be. 

Sandra Bullock is wondrous in “The Blind Side,” wondrous.  I‘ve liked her in other movies, starting with “Wrestling Earnest Hemingway.”  I love her in this one.  She plays a rich, white, southern woman, who steps up and out of herself-satisfied world, breaking with her friends, and does something really god. 

“The single man,” it‘s the best, most appealing performing as a gay man that I can think of since Peter Finch in “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” the great John Schlesinger (ph) film. 

One other great actor to get to me this year, Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”  He plays a country singer down in his career, a heavy drinker who has to quit and finally hits bottom.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is great as the woman who knows that the only way to deal with a drunk is to say no.  It‘s a brutal, good story, and the first accurate depiction of this problem that I‘ve seen in a movie. 

It‘s also packed with great music.  And Jeff Bridges does his own singing.  I‘ve loved this guy since he did “Last Picture Show.” 

Look, “Hurt Locker” should probably win best picture just because it does something real about the Iraq War, how horrendous it is for those who must fight each moment, not against other warriors, but against IEDs, those improvised explosive devices that undermine the very road beneath you, and the courage of those who have to diffuse them.  I think  Katherine Bigelow ought to win for this reason alone: she tells it like it is. 

Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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