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updated 3/10/2010 9:51:02 AM ET 2010-03-10T14:51:02

Guest: Vice President Joe Biden, Todd Harris, Robert Baer, Mark Halperin,

John Heilemann

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Biden to Israel, We‘re with you.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Jerusalem, traveling with Vice

President Joe Biden.  The vice president met with Israeli leaders today. 

The two big subjects, getting the peace talks with the Palestinians going

again, and the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.  I sat down with Vice

President Biden for an exclusive interview, and that‘s coming up in a

minute.

Back at home, President Obama looked more line candidate Obama on

Monday in his push to get health care past the finish line.  The opponent

this time, the insurance companies.  Can the president gain traction at the

11th hour by villainizing the insurance industry?  Let‘s check that one

with the strategists.

The strange story of Congressman Eric Massa got much, much stranger

today, and we‘ll get to that, too.

And the other story dominating the headlines here in Israel, and

throughout the Middle East, is the role of Israeli intelligence, Mossad, in

the assassination of a senior Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel room.  It‘s

a story filled with intrigue, and best of all, lots of videotape.  We‘re

going to talk to former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Let‘s start first with my interview with Vice President Joe Biden.

The hot story here is about Iran‘s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons

and what we, the United States, is ready to do to stop it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Mr. Vice President, should the United States be worried about Iran and

its nuclear program worried—worried?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, when you say

worried—we are concerned about it.  We‘re doing everything in our power

to prevent Iran from being able to acquire a nuclear weapon.  We think

we‘re going about it the right way.  That‘s why we‘re seeking very strong

sanctions at the U.N. right now.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they would use one if they had one?  Would

Ahmadinejad have the whatever, whatever that thing is, to actually launch a

nuclear weapon, knowing what you know about him?

BIDEN:  Well, I think that‘s unknowable.  I don‘t think you can wait

around and wonder whether he‘d do it.  That‘s why you cannot take a chance

to let that occur.  By the way, beyond whether or not it would ever be

used, the mere fact of the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by the Iranians

would, I think, kick off an arms race in the region that would be

incredibly destabilizing for generations to come.  So there‘s a lot at

stake, whether or not Ahmadinejad would, quote, “use it.”  The question is,

we‘re not even sure what he controls.

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean?

BIDEN:  Well, what I mean by that is, you know, you have—the

question is, how much of the security apparatus does he control day to day? 

There‘s a lot we don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s the boss?

BIDEN:  Well, it‘s hard to tell, to tell you the truth.  I think that

he is the—there is some concern that the—that the Republican—that

the—that this is becoming more of a military dictatorship...

MATTHEWS:  The Revolutionary Guard.

BIDEN:  The Revolutionary Guard.  But the truth is, no one knows for

certain.  But the bottom line with regard to Iran and nuclear weapons is

it‘s in no one‘s interest—no one‘s interest—for Iran to have a

nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Saudi Arabians—it‘s not just the

Israelis you‘re visiting with right now, other Arab countries, particularly

the—do you think they‘re worried that Ahmadinejad or someone in Iran

could actually use a weapon like that, or use it to taunt them?

BIDEN:  Well, look, I think they‘re worried on multiple levels.  And

it‘s not just the Israelis.  You point out it‘s the Saudis.  I think the

entire Middle East, I think from the Egyptians to the Turks, everybody‘s

worried about what it would mean.

When you have a nuclear weapon, it allows—the thought is that it

allows a lot of pressure to be placed upon neighboring countries to refrain

from objecting to things that are unacceptable, actually unacceptable

conduct.  And so whether or not it would be used or not used, the one thing

it would be, would put a great deal of pressure on those very countries

we‘re talking about to acquire a nuclear capability themselves.  And that‘s

in nobody‘s interest.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk geography.  The United States is a long way from

Iran, and we‘re lucky for that.  We don‘t have to worry about a regional

threat.  We don‘t have to worry about an intermediate strike perhaps or a

short-range missile.  But the Israelis do have to worry about that.  That

difference in geography, what does that do to our difference in policy

towards—are they more sensitive to Iran than we are in their nuclear

threat?

BIDEN:  Well, I—the answer is yes, I think they are, and the

proximity is the reason.  But they‘re also concerned about what kind of—

what kind of neighborhood they‘d be living in with Iran with nuclear

weapons.  It‘s a tough neighborhood to begin with.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BIDEN:  But it‘d be even a tougher neighborhood to live in if you had

the Egyptians and the Saudis or anyone else feeling compelled to acquire a

nuclear weapon themselves.  So there‘s nothing positive about it.  And from

the point of view of the Israelis, it‘s an existential threat.  Their very

existence, they think, is at stake.

MATTHEWS:  At what point, when Iran has the capability to build such a

weapon or when they actually had one they could launch, when would they

become an existential threat to Israel?

BIDEN:  Well, first of all, that‘s a decision that I don‘t think

Israel had made...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BIDEN:  ... and I don‘t think there‘s any bright line been drawn.  I

don‘t think that‘s—and that‘s a decision that to speculate on I think is

not very helpful.  The question...

MATTHEWS:  You and the president, when you talked, maybe you can‘t

tell me now what that trip wire is, but is there one in your head?  Is

there one in the president‘s head, a trip wire?

BIDEN:  We are doing everything that is within our power and we will

do everything to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, having the

capability to use a nuclear weapon.  And you know, there‘s a lot at play

here.  There‘s a lot going on, a lot going on internally within Iraq (SIC),

the timeframe in which they could acquire that, what action we could take

to slow that up or prevent that.  All of that‘s in play.

That‘s why we think the best course of action to take now is to

declare, A, we are not going to allow them to acquire a nuclear weapon, and

B, to continue down the course we‘re on, which is to get international

sanctions that have teeth in it that cause them to change their mind.

MATTHEWS:  Are we building a bigger bunker buster, so that we can

knock out what they have with a larger...

BIDEN:  Oh, I‘m not—I can‘t comment on anything like that.  Look,

we—the president of the United States is in a position that he can

guarantee America‘s security as is, so I‘m—but I‘m not speculating on

anything like that.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think that he is, Ahmadinejad, or whoever‘s

calling the shots, the mullahs in charge, the clerics—why are they sort

of talking about moving their weapons system, their facilities, and making

them more available to attack, like putting them on the surface?  We‘re

hearing stories like that.  Are they teasing the Israelis?  What are they

doing?

BIDEN:  Look, I think that Ahmadinejad would do anything to take the

focus on Iran off of Iran, what‘s happening internally within Iran.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The politics?

BIDEN:  The politics.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the people of Iran are turning against this—

this—this leader of theirs?

BIDEN:  Well, it‘s clear a significant number of people do not think

this leader, quote, Ahmadinejad, is a legitimate leader.  They don‘t think

he won the election.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think (INAUDIBLE)

BIDEN:  And it‘s clear the action that he‘s taken, the action that the

Israeli—excuse me—the Iranian government has taken has been brutal

and has caused, I think, even greater disregard on the part of the people

in Iran for their government.  So I think they‘ve got a real internal

problem.

MATTHEWS:  Does the United States take the position that the election

was illegitimate?

BIDEN:  Well, the United States takes the position that the action,

the way in which the election was conducted, was not in keeping with

international norms, and that the way in which all those who protested were

treated was outrageous.  It was beyond the norms of any nation that calls

itself a democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about America and American politics.  A lot of

our viewers are Jewish Americans.  They‘re very concerned about the state

of Israel and its long-term existence.  When you think about it—and

you‘re a great friend of Israel.  Everybody knows that.  Let me ask you

about this question.  It‘s not just they have the weapon.  Is there a fear

and did you hear it today when you talked to the president and to the

prime minister—is there a fear that if they have a weapon, or they‘re

close to getting one, even if they never use it, that that will discourage

immigration to Israel, that will encourage people leaving, young people in

the future not to live here?  Is there concern it‘ll ruin the neighborhood?

BIDEN:  There was no discussion specifically on that point with the

president or with the prime minister, but there clearly is that concern. 

That concern exists.  It exists on the part not only of Israelis but a lot

of other people.  It will—it will drastically affect the neighborhood.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the president, our president, Barack

Obama.  Do they have any sort of skepticism about his roots?

BIDEN:  I‘ve not heard anything.  As a matter of fact...

MATTHEWS:  Really?

BIDEN:  ... here‘s what I heard today.  When we came out of—I was

at a private meeting with the prime minister for over an hour.  We walked

out.  We made a joint statement.  He started off pointing out that under

Barack Obama, there‘s been significant cooperation on military matters, the

qualitative edge for the Israeli forces, cooperation on missile defense,

cooperation—I mean, he went through this whole litany.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BIDEN:  And it‘s true.  This president—President Obama has been

aggressive in his support of Israel and the commitment that Israel‘s

security is closely tied to ours.  We, in fact, are committed to Israel‘s

security.  Nothing has changed.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you feel that you—I saw what you wrote in the

book at the president‘s house today.  And we all love Shimon Peres, but you

felt the need to write, “We have an unshakable bond with Israel.”  Did you

feel the need to say that?

BIDEN:  No, it‘s just a reaffirmation.  Look, it‘s always—what I

learned a long time ago is just because you told your wife you loved her

when you got married, if you fail to repeat it—you know, all these

relationships...

MATTHEWS:  What a politician!

BIDEN:  All these relationships have to be worked at.

MATTHEWS:  I got you.  You (ph) have to keep asking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Tomorrow, we‘ll bring you part two of my interview with Vice President

Biden.  We talked about health care, the economy and why President Obama

hasn‘t yet made the sale on either to the American public.

oming up: President Obama‘s back in campaign mode for the

final push on health care reform, and his new strategy seems to be to

demonize the insurance industry.  Will this help him get Congress and the

country behind his plan at this intense 11th hour?  The strategists join us

next.

HARDBALL returns from Jerusalem right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama was back in

campaign hype as he talked about health care yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t know how

passing health care will play politically, but I do know that it‘s the

right thing to do!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  It‘s right for our families, it‘s right for our businesses,

it‘s right for the United States of America.  And if you share that belief,

I want you to stand with me and fight with me and I ask you to help us get

over the finish line these next two weeks.  The need is great!  The

opportunity‘s here!  Let‘s seize reform!  It‘s within our grasp!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was the president up in Philly yesterday.  Will

this shift in tone get health care reform done?  That‘s a question for the

strategists.  Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist and Todd Harris is a

Republican strategist.

Let‘s go to Steve first of all.  Steve—I want you both, by the way,

to look at this amazing picture on the front page of “The New York Times.” 

And as you appreciate that huge picture, and I want Steve to tell us, is

this hype is smart?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, listen, I think there are

two things going on here, and I think they‘re both smart.  The first is to

get out of the weeds and to talk about health care not as, It‘s going to do

this and this and this and this and this, but talk about it as a great, big

moral issue and talk about it as something that should be above politics. 

The key line, the money line there is, I don‘t know how this is going to

play politically, but it‘s the right thing to do.

And the second thing I think is going on is he‘s trying to set a

deadline.  He wants Congress to vote on this before they go home for two

weeks.  We don‘t want to see two more weeks of town meetings that are—

that are—that are contentious and that make it more difficult to pass

this.  He wants this thing done before he leaves town and before they leave

town.  I think both things are very smart.

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, ironically, the

reason why he...

MATTHEWS:  Todd for the opposition.  Go ahead.

HARRIS:  Ironically, the reason why he said, I don‘t know how this is

going to play politically, is actually because he knows exactly how this is

going to play politically, and it‘s a dud.  I mean, not only in terms of

national numbers, but you look at targeted swing states for Senate races,

for example.  Look at Arkansas, where voters by 30 points are opposed to

this bill.  Florida, by 20 points they‘re opposed to it.  In Pennsylvania

even, by 15 points, voters are opposed to this bill.

So no one has ever suggested that the president can‘t give a great

speech.  He certainly can.  But by and large, the public has made up their

mind.  They don‘t like this massive government takeover of the health care

system, and they want to put a stop to it.

MCMAHON:  But Todd, the question here wasn‘t whether or not the

Republican talking points have been successful.  I‘ll concede that they

have been over the past several months.  The question really is, is

President Obama, by taking it to a new and different level here—and I

think we both would agree that he is—doing the right thing

strategically?  And I think he absolutely is because there‘s been enough

talk about the details of the plan.  We all know that 70 percent of this

plan are things that 70 percent of Americans agree with and want.  We also

know that it‘s been fairly well demonized, so let‘s just start there.

But it is a moral issue.  It‘s something that—you know, I came to

this town a long time ago to work for Ted Kennedy, whose life‘s passion was

this.  And you know, we‘re this close to getting it done.  This president

promised Ted Kennedy he would do it.  He‘s stepping it up.  He‘s going to

get it done.  And I think he‘s doing the right thing here.

HARRIS:  Well, he—clearly, this is his last—sort of last best

effort at getting this thing passed.  But Steve, I think in terms of the

strategy of this, where they really screwed up was, after the Scott Brown

victory in Massachusetts, I think that the White House should have said,

OK, we‘ve heard the message.  Let‘s break this bill up.  There are certain

pieces of this bill that have bipartisan support.  We‘re going to pass

those so we can start getting something done.

Instead, they dug their head in the sand.  They didn‘t listen to the

message that independent voters were sending about this bill.  And I think

if they jam this through, the Democrats are going to pay a very heavy price

this November.

MCMAHON:  Todd, maybe you were—and Chris, I apologize for doing

this.  But maybe you weren‘t paying attention last week when the president

had the Republican leadership up and said, What are you going to do about

health care reform?  And do you know what their answer was?  Their answer

was, We‘re going to start over.  Their answer was, Let‘s talk about

process.  Their answer wasn‘t, Here are 15 things we want to do.

And then when the president came back two days later and said, There

were four specific things you mentioned in this meeting that I want to

include in my bill, they still said no.  It‘s the party of no.  They want

to do nothing, and they want to—and they don‘t want to be held

accountable for it.  And I think this November, they will be.

MATTHEWS:  Todd, I want to ask you about the strategy of the

Republican Party, and you are in a way evincing it right now, which is to

basically say, OK, you‘re going to get away with this probably, but we‘re

going to get you later.  We‘re going to repeal the bill.  Well, I‘m just

going to ask you a technical point.  Do you in a million years think that

Barack Obama would sign a bill vetoing—I‘m sorry—in a million years,

do you think Barack Obama would sign a bill that repeals health care after

having gotten it passed?

HARRIS:  Well, I don‘t think anyone expects him to do that.  I think

that the Republican strategy, when it comes to this bill, is quite simple. 

It‘s continuing to do exactly what we‘ve been doing, which is communicating

the contents of this bill to the American people.  Independent voters by

huge margins are opposed to it.  Republicans absolutely detest it.  And not

enough Democrats, frankly, support it to get it done.

And so whatever—in terms of the process of this, whatever direction

that the White House chooses to go in, ultimately, of course, that‘s going

to be their decision, but I‘m telling you, Chris, if they pass this bill,

we‘re going to hang it around their necks come November.

MCMAHON:  There are two things that I would say in response to that. 

The first is that even though there are a lot of details to this bill that

are not popular—and frankly, they‘re not popular with the right, many of

them, and there are a lot of aspects that aren‘t very popular with the

left, either, which to my way of thinking means you might have a pretty

good bill.

Most people still believe, in spite of that, that we need to do

something and we need to do it now, and the Republicans don‘t want to do

anything.  And you know, the politics of this are complicated and there are

going to be some Democrats who probably lose because they cast this vote. 

But you know what?  That‘s what leadership is all about.  These are the

same people who vote to send young people to die for their country, and if

a few of them have to cast a really tough vote and it means they have to go

home for a couple years, you know, the fact of the matter is, it‘s not very

often that you get to do something historic in this town, and this town is

on the verge of doing it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me—let me just ask you both now—and I want

to run the tape now—we‘re going to keep this tape.  This is totally

unfair, but I‘m going to do it, because this is HARDBALL. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to ask both of you right now for the record

books, not whether the bill is good or bad, does it take a high tone or

not, is it better than what we have.  I‘m going to ask you a simple

political calculation, first Steve and then Todd. 

Will the president‘s health care bill, will what we‘re talking about

get through the House, and then get reconciled and then signed?  What‘s the

best bet?  Will it happen or not? 

First Steve, then Todd. 

MCMAHON:  Chris, I don‘t want to bum you out here, but I think Nancy

Pelosi, not Tip O‘Neill, is the best speaker in the history of the United

States Congress.  I think this is maybe the toughest vote she‘s ever had to

round up votes for and probably will be.  She‘s going to get this bill

passed, and they‘re going to fix it in the Senate, and—and we‘re going

to move on. 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I actually—I don‘t agree

with...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It will happen.  That‘s your bet? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, that‘s my bet. 

HARRIS:  I certainly don‘t agree with him about Speaker Pelosi.  But I

do agree that—that I think the bill is going to pass out of Congress. 

A lot of conservative swing state Democrats are going to vote against

it, but there won‘t be enough.  I think, ultimately, it will pass.  And I

think Democrats will pay a price for it this November. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you one last question, now that we have

made history now with the prediction of both of you that it will pass. 

This national security question, what is going on here now?  I know

the Republicans have always benefited marginally on the question of

national security.  But here we have a new poll out now that has, on

national security, Democrats 33 percent, we trust them, and 50 percent of

the country trusts Republicans. 

What do you make of that—about that advantage, which is growing now

in the last couple days—or weeks, rather—with Republicans? 

First you, Steve, then Todd. 

MCMAHON:  Well, what I make of it is, it is still easier to scare

people than it is to lead people. 

And I think, you know, not withstanding the fact that Republican

scholars and Republican members of George Bush‘s Justice Department have

denounced tactics like Liz Cheney‘s, calling the al Qaeda seven—lawyers

the al Qaeda seven simply for doing their job, in spite of that, those

kinds of things have traction. 

And, so, that‘s what you‘re seeing here.  Republicans have always had

an advantage on national security issues.  This president has actually done

more to break up al Qaeda than was done in the last four or eight years. 

But the fact is, the scare tactics work.  And you‘re seeing a lot of that

right now. 

HARRIS:  Well, Steve can call them scare tactics all day long...

MATTHEWS:  Steve.

HARRIS:  ... but the fact is, Liz Cheney and—and her organization

tapped into a very real concern that a lot of Americans have.

Voters, especially independent voters, are looking at this

administration that is waffling on some of the commitments that they made

when it comes to national security, whether it‘s where these trials are

going to be held, whether it‘s closing Guantanamo, and the administration

just doesn‘t look strong.  And I think that‘s being reflected in the

polling. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Thank you very much, Steve McMahon.

And, thank you, Todd Harris—the strategists. 

MCMAHON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: strange new revelations from Sarah Palin and that

writing on her hand. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL from Jerusalem.  Time for the

“Sideshow.” 

The Florida Senate primary race is getting really hairy.  Check out

what governor Charlie Crist said about his Republican opponent, Marco

Rubio, in an interview with Greta Van Susteren. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN”)

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST ®, FLORIDA:  About two weeks ago, it‘s come out

in news accounts, that he had a Republican Party of Florida credit card

that he charged a $130 haircut—or maybe it was a back wax—we‘re not

really sure what all he got at that place. 

Initially, we were told it was a haircut.  And then he said, well, no,

it wasn‘t a haircut.  And then he had the gall to go on Neil Cavuto‘s show

and say it was his money.  It was a credit card from the Republican Party. 

It was party donors‘ money. 

I don‘t know what you do at a salon when you‘re a guy.  I get my hair

cut for $11 from a guy named Carl (ph) the barber in Saint Petersburg,

Florida, where I grew up.  And, you know, to me, that‘s real fiscal

conservatism. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s really turning into a strange mess down there in

Florida. 

Up next:  We all know Sarah Palin has come under a lot of criticism

for putting those crib notes on her hand down in Nashville.  But now she‘s

saying God made her do it—or something.  Listen to what she said on an -

at an Ohio right-to-life fund-raiser. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  I didn‘t have a good answer

to that criticism, because I thought it was ridiculous. 

But then somebody sent me the other day Isaiah 49:16.  And you need to

go home tonight and look it up.  Before you look it up, I will tell you

what it says, though. 

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN:  It says, hey, if it was good enough for God scribbling on the

palm of his hand, it‘s good enough for—for me, for us. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

PALIN:  He says...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

PALIN:  In that passage, he says, I wrote your name on the palm of my

hand to remember you. 

And I thought, OK, I‘m in good company. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, if she isn‘t bothered about being caught cribbing,

why does she keep going back to it?

Now it‘s time for the “Big Number.”

New York Congressman Eric Massa‘s resignation brings the number to

pass health care for Democrats down to 216 -- so, tonight‘s “Big Number,”

216. 

Up next:  All the intrigue here in Israel is about the Mossad‘s role

in the assassination of a top Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel room.  That‘s

the charge from the Dubai police, who say closed-circuit cameras captured               

the assassination teams before and after the hit.  We will get into that

next.

HARDBALL returns from Jerusalem after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC

“Market Wrap.”

Stocks clawing out a modest gain on the one-year anniversary of those

March 2009 lows, the Dow industrials adding almost 12 points.  It‘s up

nearly 60 percent from the year-ago low, the S&P 500 up two points today,

up about 67 percent from last March.  And the Nasdaq up eight points today,

gaining more than 80 percent since March of 2009. 

So, if you‘re keeping score, the biggest overall winners on the Dow

since the March lows were financials, Bank of America up nearly 350

percent, American Express and J.P. Morgan also seeing triple-digit gains. 

On the S&P, Office Depot is sitting pretty, up more than 1000 percent

since last March, shares climbing more than 3 percent today.  And on the

Nasdaq, Apple shares have added more than 260 percent over the past year. 

They‘re up about 2 percent today, as hype is building around the upcoming

release of the company‘s new iPad. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL from Jerusalem. 

A story that‘s loaded with intrigue over here in—is Israel‘s role

in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel room. 

Israel has been taking a lot of heat in the world press for the killing. 

And Dubai police released videotapes from closed-circuit cameras that

allegedly show the hit squad staking out the hotel and preparing to take

out their target. 

Does this hit bear the hallmarks of a Mossad hit?  And was it a

botched operation?

Former CIA field officer Bob Baer wrote about the assassination as an

intelligence columnist for TIME.com. 

Take your time, Robert.  You‘re the expert.  I have read your column. 

But start off by telling me, are we sure that Mossad did this? 

ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TIME.COM:  Oh, I think almost

certainly they did it.  Everybody suspects they did. 

One is, Israel has not denied it formally.  Two is, you know, just the

whole modus operandi is Mossad, numerous assassins, Western European

passports, the fact that identities were stolen inside Israel.  It was a

fairly professional operation.  A pistol wasn‘t used.  The man was

smothered. 

They got away cleanly.  They traced credit cards to the United States,

to an Israeli-connected company.  I just don‘t think anybody seriously

doubts that it‘s Israel.  But I think the interesting thing about this is

that the Israelis apparently intended to make this look like a heart

attack. 

The man‘s clothes were—were put over a chair neatly.  He was put in

bed undressed.  The room was locked from the inside.  They didn‘t want to

get caught at all.  They wanted the Dubai police to show up and think he

died of a heart attack. 

But the autopsy clearly shows that he had been drugged, paralyzed, and

then smothered.  And there was heart medicine by the side of his bed.  So,

I think that they are very much surprised now that these pictures of 26

Mossad operatives are out everywhere. 

I mean, these people can never work again.  You know, with biometrics,

you can see features, even when they‘re in disguise.  I would never risk

sending these people overseas ever again. 

And then you have to look at the fallout of this.  It‘s not only

Britain and France and Ireland and every other country that had its

identities stolen, but remember that—that—that the Israelis are

desperately trying to start a coalition against Iran, including the United

Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai. 

Seventy-five percent of refined gasoline going through Iran comes

through Dubai and the Emirates.  I mean, this not the way to start a

diplomatic offensive.  This operation was botched.  It was a failure.  And

the head of Mossad should lose its job. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, we‘re all used to the fact of assuming that

Israel is a really smart country and it does things incredibly efficiently. 

You can argue about whether they do the right thing or not in any

situation.  But they‘re usually very smart about it. 

The two questions you raised, first question, why didn‘t they—well,

did they assume that the Dubai police would not do an autopsy and find out

there were the chemicals in there that would—suggested foul play?  And,

number two, didn‘t they coordinate within Mossad and the Israeli government

about the political consequences of the UAE not wanting to play ball on

really tough energy sanctions? 

Because, you know, as you have suggested here, the only way Israel can

really strangle, if you want to use that term here, the Ahmadinejad nuclear

plant is to cut off their gasoline and cut off their market for selling

crude oil.  And, if you‘re not going to do that, you‘re not really going to

get serious about nailing Ahmadinejad and putting him down, basically,

politically. 

So, why didn‘t they look at, one, was there going to be an autopsy,

and, two, the political consequences? 

BAER:  I think that they‘re behind on the science, forensic science. 

I don‘t think that they ever thought the Dubai authorities would link

all the cell phones, that there‘s this technology called walk-back, that

you can look at the CCT cameras, closed-circuit ones, you can connect the

dots in an operation, I think, and—and the fact that there‘s—there‘s

a—there‘s a—what‘s called isotopic analysis. 

You can pretty much see the toxins inside the blood and the rest of

it.  And I just didn‘t think they—they understood that the Dubai

authority are using the best consultants in the world to investigate this. 

So, you add up all those things, and the political, you know, blowback

on this, and I think that the prime minister, who undoubtedly approved this

operation, is starting to regret it.  Fine, the man, Hamas militant, he

killed two Israeli soldiers.  He was an arms dealer.  He—he needed to be

eliminated, but not at this price. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the difference between tactics and strategy is how

big a picture do you look at when you plan something.  I think you‘ve got a

hell of a critique going here, Bob.  You‘re a great resource. 

Thanks for joining us, Bob Baer.

Up next:  Democratic Congressman Eric Massa resigns and admits bad

behavior, but then goes out and blames the House leadership for his fall

from grace.  How big a problem is Massa?  I have never seen anything quite

like this character.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m back from Jerusalem.  Let‘s listen now to former New York

Congressman Eric Massa on the radio Sunday, describing an incident that may

have played some part in his resignation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC MASSA, FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  I danced with the bride and I

danced with the bridesmaid.  Absolutely nothing occurred.  I said good

night to the bridesmaid.  I sat down at the table where my whole staff was,

all of them, by the way, bachelors. 

One of them looked at me as they would do after—I don‘t know—

15 gin and tonics and goodness knows how many bottles of champaign—a

staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after

the bridesmaid.  His points were clear and his words were far more colorful

than that. 

And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, well,

what I really ought to be doing is fracking you, and then tossed—tossled

the guy‘s hair and left. 

Now, was that inappropriate of me?  Absolutely.  Am I guilty?  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Massa‘s on a media blitz, bashing his former colleagues

and the White House.  He says they squeezed him out because he wouldn‘t

vote with them—or with them on health care.  And he has some choice

words for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  Is this just the kind

of circus the Democrats don‘t need, as they try to get health care across

the goal line. 

“Time Magazine‘s” Mark Halperin and “New York Magazine‘s” John

Heilemann are the co-authors of the smashing new book, the best-seller,

“Game Change.”

Mark, you first.  I don‘t know what to make of this.  Let me start

something more interesting.  Here‘s Massa talking about an exchange he had

with the chief of staff.  It‘s on the radio show.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSA:  Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil‘s spawn.  He is an

individual who would sell his mother to get a vote.  He would strap his

children to the front end of a steam locomotive.  If he doesn‘t like that,

he can come after me personally. 

I was a congressman in my first eight weeks.  And I was in the

congressional gym.  I went down and worked out.  I went into the showers,

which—by the way, I, for the life of me, can‘t figure out why they took

the shower curtains off the shower stalls in the Congressional shower.  The

last thing I want to look at is my fellow colleagues naked. 

But they don‘t have any shower curtains down there in the gym.  I‘m

sitting there showering, naked as a jay bird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel,

not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my

chest, yelling at me because I wasn‘t going to vote for the president‘s

budget.  Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a

naked man? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Get the picture?  Mark? 

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  Chris, I—

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to make of this story.  Let‘s start

with the scene in the shower of the House gym, where he‘s taking a shower -

by the way, complaining the shower curtains aren‘t there—and Rahm

Emanuel comes along, he says, and points a finger on him, and said

something about the health care bill in a rough way.  What do you make of

this guy bringing all this out in the public?  It‘s a lot to handle here. 

HALPERIN:  There is a lot.  I think there‘s no reason to necessarily

believe it‘s true.  This guy has changed his story regarding a lot of the

stuff he‘s talked about.  He‘s getting a lot of attention. 

But Chris, today, he denounced by both Robert Gibbs and Rush

Limbaugh.  There aren‘t too many things those two guys agree on, except

they both like to eat.  So I think Mr. Massa‘s 15 minutes of fame is maybe

down to seven and a half, and he‘s probably out of the picture. 

Look, the substance here is, he‘s right about one thing.  The White

House does need one fewer vote in the House now to pass health care.  And

so they‘ll wave good-bye to him pretty happily. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this, John?  This is an equal

opportunity commentary here.  Here is a guy who has just left—is leaving

the House.  He‘s not going to vote on health care.  He says he was jammed

out of his position.  He said he was accosted nakedly by a naked White

House chief of staff.  Lots of description about his own admitted

misbehavior with a male staffer.  I mean, it‘s all on the record.  I don‘t

know what he gains from all this—maybe he sometimes should just leave

quietly, but he‘s not leaving quietly. 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”:  Chris, he mentioned something

in one of those quotes about a locomotive.  I think he may be bidding for

the job of the conductor of the crazy train. 

He is gone, as Mark said.  He‘s changed his story quite a few times. 

He‘s gone from saying that he was retiring because of a recurrence of his

Non-Hodgkin‘s Lymphoma, to admitting the ethics charges against him.  He‘s

basically said he is guilty of those charges. 

He then starts talking about Rahm Emanuel in the nude.  Now he‘s on

Glenn Beck‘s show for the full hour today in the United States.  You know,

I think that the 15 minutes of fame may be what he‘s after.  And he‘s not a

guy who I think defines the notion of reliable narrator, at least on the

basis of his behavior over the course of last week. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at Robert Gibbs, because the White House press

secretary felt the need to respond to this development.  And so this is now

a national story, as strange as it is.  Here‘s Robert Gibbs, a normally

dignified fellow, getting into the weeds, if you will, of this story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think this whole story

is ridiculous.  I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous. 

George, let‘s go through what we‘ve heard from Congressman Massa. 

Last week, he, on Wednesday, was having a recurrence of cancer.  On

Thursday, he was guilty of using salty language.  On Friday, we learned

he‘s before the Ethics Committee to be investigated on charges of sexual

harassment. 

So, look, I think clearly his actions appear to be in the

appropriate venue in the Ethics Committee to look at.  But we‘re focused

not on crazy allegations, but instead on making this system work for the

American people, rather than work for insurance companies. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the story here.  We started off during

the night talking about this 216 votes.  You guys are the superstar

political authors of our generation right now.  I‘m going to test you guys. 

What are we learning about politics in America, the next two weeks, as this

health care fight goes down to the very finish?  And whether it‘s going to

be 216 or 217 or 214, this is going to be a nail-biter.  What do you guys

make of it? 

You first, mark.  It looks to me like this is going to be the real

test of Nancy Pelosi and the president. 

HALPERIN:  Well, it‘s going to be a test of both of them, Chris.  As

you know—you‘ve seen votes like this—this is going to be one of those

votes where they have to take it to the floor without the votes in hand,

something you never like to do.  It‘s like being a lawyer and asking a

question you don‘t know the answer to. 

That‘s just the nature of these votes.  They have got the votes

probably in their back pocket.  I think they‘re closer to getting there

than most people do because I think they know where the votes are.  And

they are going to have to make some tough calls.  They‘re going to have to

say to a few people, we know this could hurt you; we know this could cost

you your seat in November, but we need you to vote for this.  I think all

signs are that, while it will be tough, that they are going to get it. 

MATTHEWS:  You think so too?  By the way, Steve McMahon, earlier,

and Todd Harris both thought so as well, on the record.  Your thoughts

about its probability and what it is going to tell us about politics?  It‘s

almost like a short-term political campaign, John. 

HEILEMANN:  It is.  I think the one unpredictable element, of

course, Chris, as you know—you‘ve been harping on this for—correctly,

for the better part of six months—is that abortion is at the center of a

lot of those votes. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that an anti-Irish comment, “harping”?  Is that a

comment about my heritage, this “harping” word?  I‘m just kidding.  I‘m

kidding completely.  I‘m sorry.

HEILEMANN:  You know how I love the Irish.  Look, whenever abortion

is in the mix, things become unpredictable.  Bart Stupak and some his—

some of the people in the coalition that he supports are still upset about

that abortion language.  It makes it a little bit more unpredictable. 

I think I agree with Mark that it‘s likely to pass.  But I think the

ultimate test here is not just of Nancy Pelosi and not just of Barack

Obama.  It‘s the same test that the Democratic party has been faced with

ever since this health care bill came up, which is are they a plausible

governing party?  Can they pull it together when they have large majority

in the House and a large majority in the Senate, even though they have one

less than before, after Scott Brown, and actually legislate one of the most

Democratic priorities of the past half-century. 

They‘re on the line right now.  This is up to them.  As much as the

Republicans have succeed in demagoging this issue and painting—

caricaturing this bill in ways that have hurt the president‘s health care

plan, this is ultimately in the hands of Democrats.  And if they can pull

it together, they‘ll pass the bill.  I think they probably will.  But

that‘s what it‘s a test of, in the end, is this party capable of

legislating? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, people really do disagree on the moral question and

the political question of whether the government should fund abortion

rights—or they do—most people support abortion rights, period.  But

the question of whether the government should fund it is still an issue. 

By the way, in my interview tomorrow—we‘re going to show it tomorrow—

with Vice President Biden, he promises basically the voters out their that

this bill will not pay for abortion, that it will honor the Hyde Amendment. 

Mark, do they have to make further efforts to convince people that is the

case? 

HALPERIN:  Chris, I think one of the things that‘s going on behind

the scenes is if they can‘t get the votes with the existing legislation,

the way it is, they‘ll promise they‘ll try to do another piece of

legislation, not in the reconciliation bill that‘s going to be required to

make some of the fixes between the House and the Senate bill, but a third

piece of legislation.  I predict that if that‘s what it takes, if those are

the only votes they can use to get to that majority, they‘ll do it.  They

can‘t make a guarantee that it can pass, but I think they‘ll at least say

we‘ll try a third piece of legislation to set a slightly different course. 

Look, we‘re going to learn, as we‘ve all said now, a lot about Nancy

Pelosi, but also the people working with her to whip this vote.  There is a

lot of cross-cutting tensions here and pressures, but it is really going to

be up to the president and Nancy Pelosi and Pelosi‘s deputies to make this

work.  And the aforementioned Rahm Emanuel, of course, was a leader in the

House and knows how to count votes pretty darn well. 

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of Rahm Emanuel, we have to show you, before

leaving that topic of Eric Massa and Rahm Emanuel.  Here‘s a olden goldie -

a golden oldie, rather, a couple years ago, of four years ago, a clip of

Massa and Rahm Emanuel in sweeter times.  They‘re talking about veterans

running for Congress.  Of course, Eric Massa is a long-time  Navy veteran,

an Annapolis guy, actually.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Can I grab Eric for one

second?  Do you mind?  You got to raise 200,000 per month for the next four

months. 

MASSA:  I know. 

EMANUEL:  OK?  There‘s no—otherwise it ain‘t going to happen. 

MASSA:  I agree. 

EMANUEL:  Don‘t let your family down.  Second, you‘ve got to smile. 

Have fun.  If all people see is anger, they‘ll see anger.  You ever

remember a person not likable winning?  OK.  Be likable. 

MASSA:  All right.  Got it. 

MATTHEWS:  Rahm Emanuel told me I was too uptight.  (EXPLETIVE

DELETED) him.  Of course now, for him to say I‘m too uptight—he‘s a

pretty serious guy.  I‘ve never seen him smile once in all the times I‘ve

watched him on TV.  But I took his advice.  We—like you said, I try to

put it in there when I came. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I love that from Rahm Emanuel, be more likable.  I love

it!  Anyway, thank you, guys.  Mark Halperin, thank you.  John Heilemann,

continued luck—rather greatness with your great book, “Game Change.”

When we return from Jerusalem, I‘m going to have some final thoughts

about this amazing city.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with something unusually spiritual

for this program.  This trip to Jerusalem, like so many you take later in

life, is for me a return to long ago, perhaps too long ago to truly recall. 

We spent so much of our lives, let‘s face it, acting as if we remember what

we experienced years, decades ago, when what we‘re really doing is re-

savoring a memory we‘ve been keeping pretty much in tact, treasuring,

really. 

I‘ve long treasured my first time in Jerusalem, mostly because of

when I came here and where I came from.  It was in December, 1970, 30 years

ago.  I‘d come in the night from Africa.  For a month in this wildly

religious city of Jerusalem, I lived in a dollar a night Arab hotel above

Damascus Gate.  I‘d walk each evening to visit the Church of the Holy

Sepulchre on the site it‘s supposed where Christ died. 

Then I‘d have dinner with the other young travelers and Uncle

Mustaches in the Old City, chicken or shish kabob.  Then I‘d be off to the

western part of the city, the Jewish part, to see the latest movie just in

from Hollywood. 

What I kept in my heart and heard all these years—or head all

these years was the combination, the Arab, the Christian, the Jewish, the

deeply spiritual experience of coming to this holy city, of living and

working—after living and working among the third world people of black

Africa in the Peace Corps for those two years. 

I think it was deeply spiritual to come to this city, the holy city,

by that route, from being among the poor and humble of this Earth. 

Tomorrow, I‘ll wander through this wondrous city again, trying to relive

that great feeling of being in this holy city and having this great

privilege to bask in this city, where Jesus walked, that God knows

firsthand. 

Before we leave, we have this late breaking development; the White

House has sharply criticized Israel‘s approval of 1,600 new housing units

in Jerusalem. 

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us from Jerusalem. 

Catch us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for the second part

of my interview with Vice President Joe Biden.  Right now, it is time for

“THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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