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updated 3/17/2010 10:47:05 AM ET 2010-03-17T14:47:05

Guest: John Kiriakou, Melinda Henneberger, Michael Smerconish, Andy Stern, Rep. Chris Van Hollen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Go for broke.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

A tricky operation.  President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress

here are in a last-week push to convince wavering Democrats to vote for

health care reform and trust the voters to learn its benefits by November. 

Let‘s start tonight with the Democrats‘ number one election leader and a

big-time labor leader helping to win this for the team.

And look at this, tea party protesters out on the lawn of the U.S. 

Capitol today, making their case with some very ugly images.  We‘ll get to

that.

And as we head toward a big vote at week‘s end, are we seeing a bump

in public support for health care reform?  We‘ll have the results from a

new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll tonight.

Plus, the question we‘ve asked before—does torture work?  We‘ll

talk to a CIA officer involved in the capture of a top al Qaeda leader.  He

says torture is immoral, but sometimes is necessary.

Also, should groups who blame gay sex for causing wars be allowed to

protest at the funerals of dead American service people?  An appeals court

says yes.  Our guest tonight says no.

And I‘ll finish tonight with a word about General David Petraeus and

his declaration today that it‘s time to reconsider “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

We begin tonight with Andy Stern, the president of SEIU, the Service

Employees International Union.  Andy, thank you for joining us.  You‘re a

big guy in labor, and you‘re possibly the future of the movement, right? 

You‘re the future of big labor.

ANDY STERN, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION:  The members are

the future of the movement.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let me ask you about this bill.  This would be a

time, it seems to me, where progressive legislation, however refined or

unrefined it is, will change history.

STERN:  Yes, I think this is a total history-making moment that very

few of us get to see in our lifetime and participate.  It‘s time to get it

done.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at some of history itself.  I‘d

like to start this week every night with this because I think it‘s very

important to do what you just said and show it with the help of television. 

Let‘s start with a little history.

Here are the presidents that we have known so well from growing up.  I

think I just missed Roosevelt, but Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman,

Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.  By the way, we‘re going to get Jack

Kennedy to join this list as we get the tape in.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to what they said about health care over the

years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have

accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of

security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station

or race or creed.  Among these are the right to adequate medical care and

the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

HARRY S. TRUMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We must also act

promptly to improve the health of our nation.  The women of our country

particularly know that in many areas, there are not enough doctors or

hospitals and that many families cannot afford the medical care they need.

RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will establish a

new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American

in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today I am

announcing the formation of the president‘s task force on national health

reform, chaired by the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, every time I see that picture, Andy, I think

about how young Clinton was when he was president.

STERN:  He was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and so was Hillary Clinton when she was first lady. 

Let me ask you about this, the way it looks historically.  I mean, it‘s

hard—you know, it‘s sausage factory time.  We argue about different

pieces of the bill, but in the end, my argument is once you get it, it

never goes away.  I‘ve never seen a country have a national health care

plan that got rid of it.

STERN:  That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  They improve it, they enhance it, they figure out how to

make it better.

STERN:  And I think we saw that in Civil Rights.  You know, we passed

the Civil Rights bill of 1957.  No one remembers it, but it was what we

built the 1964 bill on and we‘ve built ever since.  And I think this bill

is a huge step forward, and it is totally a foundation to keep building.

MATTHEWS:  What do you tell your rank and file that have decent

contracts that they‘ve been able to work out, where they do have health

care already?  What do you tell the guy or the woman who already has it, We

need this bill?

STERN:  I think we tell them, one, Aren‘t you tired of paying for

health care and not getting a raise in your paycheck?  Two, Aren‘t you

worried that you‘re paying $1,000, $1,500 for someone else‘s health care

because they‘re not insured...

MATTHEWS:  You mean at the emergency room.

STERN:  Yes because they‘re shifting the costs onto the people that

are insured.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

STERN:  And finally, we say to them, Something can happen to everyone

in America, and we all should be secure.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about this happening this weekend?  I

figure, knowing Nancy Pelosi, she is so smart about her party and her House

of Representatives—I‘d bet the vote‘ll be Saturday night around 8:00...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... one of those crazy—when Jackie Gleason used to be

on, some strange time of the week where everybody‘s antsy and has that

weird early Saturday night feel you get in your stomach, you know what I

mean, before you go out, that weird upset you get.  What does tonight

yield?  What‘s going to happen?

STERN:  I don‘t know.  Whatever it is, it‘s going to be a great night

for this country.  It really is.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) do you think Saturday night makes sense?

STERN:  I think “Saturday Night Live” would be great.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about the vote.  You think 216 is in?

STERN:  I don‘t think it‘s in yet, but I think it‘s getting closer.

MATTHEWS:  What are the elements of it?  Does he needs more liberal,

more progressive members or conservative Democrats?  Who are the ones that

are the ones he has to bring in, Jim Clyburn and the others?

STERN:  I think it‘s really more of a question of...

MATTHEWS:  You mentioned Jason Altmire‘s got to decide.

STERN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  From Pennsylvania.

STERN:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And there are some others.

STERN:  Kissell in North Carolina.  I think they all are in

difficult...

MATTHEWS:  How about Kucinich?  He‘s a man on the progressive side of

things.  Is he really going to hold out on this thing?

STERN:  I hope not.  Dennis has fought his whole life for improvements

in health care.  This would be criminal...

MATTHEWS:  And Gale Kildee came out, pro-life Catholic came out—

pro-life—pro-life Democrat came out.  He‘s for it.

STERN:  Yes, and Maffei up in upstate New York.  So you‘re starting to

see a trend in the right direction, but we‘re not there yet.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at the shots being taken at your

position on this.  Here‘s—well, here‘s President Obama Monday.  This is

a positive statement.  I‘m going to get to what Mike Pence, the top

Republican, is saying and Boehner is saying, as well.  But first of all,

here‘s the president making a case for a bill that‘ll probably come to a

head this Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They want us to look

and see what is the best thing for America and then do what‘s right.  And

as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership!  And I

know these members of Congress are going to provide that leadership!  I

don‘t know about the politics, but I know what‘s the right thing to do! 

And so I‘m calling on Congress to pass these reforms, and I‘m going to sign

them into law!  I want some courage!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is he peaking right?

STERN:  Yes, I think he‘s right—hitting the right note in the right

issue.

MATTHEWS:  The shirtsleeves out there, yelling...

STERN:  It is...

(CROSSTALK)

STERN:  And it‘s time.  And it‘s about people.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

STERN:  It‘s not about policy or process, it‘s about people.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Andy.

STERN:  Thank you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great.  A major leader in labor, by the way.

Let‘s turn now to U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen in Maryland.  He‘s

chairman of the DCCC, meaning he‘s the one who‘s supposed to get Democrats

here elected.  You must be the one, Congressman, that worried Democrats,

the waverers, are coming to you and talking to you about what this will do

to them in November.  What is your pulse right now among the X many

Democrats you need to bring in by Saturday?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIRMAN:  Well, Chris, I am

talking to a lot of members, and what I‘m hearing from them is as they go

home, they‘re hearing more and more from people who have seem those

premiums going through the roof, whether they‘re families or whether

they‘re small businesses.

And I‘ve got to tell you, when the insurance industry starts running

ads in the districts of these people, the people watching those ads are

beginning to ask themselves, Now, why is it that the insurance industry is

against this bill?  And they‘re coming to the right conclusion, which is

they‘re against this bill because when this bill passes, they‘re not going

to be able to discriminate based on preexisting conditions.  They‘re not

going to be able to find the fine print in the insurance policy and say

when you‘re sick, Sorry, too late.  They‘re not going to be able to run up

these huge bills.

And so there‘s a reason the insurance industry is running all these

ads, and people are waking up to it.  People are pretty smart.  They know

why the insurance companies are fighting these things so hard, and that‘s

actually saying, Hey, do I really want to spend another eight years like

the last eight years, where the premiums doubled?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What do you think of this full-page ad that some

group is running in “Politico,” the political newspaper of the day?  I got

up this morning, I‘m reading it, drinking my coffee, and there is two full-

page ads of supposedly the casualties, the Democratic casualties of the

health care fight.  They‘ve got people like—everybody who‘s retiring

this year supposedly has been defeated.  Everybody who says, This is the

end of my career, has been defeated because of health care.  What do you

think of the honesty or dishonesty of that ad?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, Chris, here‘s the thing.  The Republicans—I

think they‘re making a big mistake.  They‘ve made this debate all about

politics.  They‘ve made it all about taking back the House for Republicans,

and they‘re measuring the curtains.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

VAN HOLLEN:  But that‘s not what it‘s about for the American people. 

The American people don‘t really care how this is going to affect whether

the Republicans are measuring the curtains or not.  What they care about is

how this is going to affect their insurance policies and their health care. 

And the more the Republicans focus just on the politics of it, the less

they want to focus on the substance of the bill, the more the American

people are scratching their heads and saying, Hey, what‘s going on here?

So I think by putting this in purely calculated political terms, as

they‘ve been doing, they‘re making a big mistake because it‘s become all

about them and whether they take back the Congress, not about the American

people.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a roll-out planned right now between now and

November, if the bill passes this weekend, that‘s going to tell people like

seniors, retired people, that the doughnut hole is going to be filled, that

they‘re going to get their prescription benefits that they haven‘t been

getting before, people that really need drugs to survive, that working

people that don‘t have health insurance are going to get it with some

subsidy help?  When are you going to start bragging a little bit to the

people that benefit from this bill?  I hasn‘t seemed to start yet.

VAN HOLLEN:  Yes, we do, Chris.  Well, right now, there are a number

of groups like Families USA that are running ads, many of them beginning

today, to talk about the positive aspects of this bill.  But you‘re right,

what‘s very important is once we get this passed, to really hammer down on

some of the very important provisions in here, provisions that have gotten

lost, frankly, in the back-and-forth discussion on process and in all the

disinformation that‘s been out there.

So it‘s very important because as you know, when you ask Americans

about the components in this bill, they‘re all thumbs-up.  They‘re for it. 

So we need to keep pushing that.  It‘s very important.

And you know, if the Republicans want to make November about repealing

health care reform—about saying to insurance companies, OK, go ahead and

discriminate again based on preexisting conditions, or, OK, it‘s OK to jack

up the premiums and we‘re not going to have anybody minding the store, I

think that they‘re making a big mistake.  I mean it‘s almost—if they

decide to make that focus, bring it on.

MATTHEWS:  Dennis Kucinich has called a press conference tomorrow

morning at 10:00 o‘clock to announce his decision.  Do you know what it is?

VAN HOLLEN:  I do not know what it is.  I‘m hoping that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Republican congressman Mike Pence.  I think we

know what his vote‘s going to be this week.  Here he is, lashing out at you

guys over procedure.  I‘m not sure procedure‘s a big selling point, but

here he is.  Let‘s listen, Mike Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Liberals in Washington, D.C., are so

desperate to pass this government takeover of health care, they‘re willing

to trample the historic role and rules of the Senate to do it in the form

of reconciliation!  And if reconciliation tramples the rules of the Senate,

the “Slaughter house” rule insults the intelligence of the American people

and tramples on the Constitution of the United States of America, and it

must be rejected!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a strange—you just missed this,

Congressman.  There was Mike Pence, who‘s a smart guy, but he‘s reading

notes as he‘s giving this sort of Huey Long stemwinder.  I think if you‘re

going to show passion, don‘t keep looking at your notes to know what the

next line is.

But what do you think about him out there, railing against you on

procedure and this “deemed to have passed” approach you‘re taking?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, first, the fact that they‘re talking about process

and procedure instead of substance, I think, again, is not answering the

questions that the American people have out there about their health care. 

I mean, they‘re not talking about the procedures that the health industry

uses to deny you health care, or to say, Sorry, we‘re not going to cover

what was in your health care bill.

But here‘s the important point, Chris.  They‘re trying to create the

impression that what we‘re doing in the House is passing the Senate bill

without the changes to the Senate bill.  For example, we‘re getting rid of

the Nebraska deal.  And that is why we‘re using a procedure that our

Republican colleagues have used and others have used, because we want to

make it very clear that we‘re talking about an amended version of the

Senate bill, amended with some of the provisions the White House has put

in...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

VAN HOLLEN:  ... including some from our Republican colleagues that

have been added recently.

MATTHEWS:  How‘s my congressman going to vote on this bill this

weekend, do you know?

VAN HOLLEN:  I think your congressman is a big thumbs-up.  We just

need another—we just need another 215, and we‘ll be there!

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

VAN HOLLEN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, brand-new numbers from our NBC News poll, “The

Wall Street Journal” poll, as well.  We‘ve got something to talk about

here.  It‘s an interesting mix of numbers here.  It‘s not the bad news

you‘ve been getting before.  It‘s about health care reform.  If you‘re for

it, this news is pretty positive.  Chuck Todd joins us to talk about it.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We have a brand-new NBC

News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, as I said.  It‘s out tonight with some

good news and some bad news for President Obama on health care.  Thirty-six

percent now say his plan is a good idea.  That‘s 5 points better than

January.  But 48 percent still say it‘s a bad idea.  So not that good, the

news.  And the president‘s approval rating in the same category, it‘s up a

bit at 41 percent.  That‘s 3 points better than it was January.  But still,

it‘s on the down side, 57 percent still disapprove of his performance.

NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck

Todd joins us right now—it‘s on the health care issue—joins us now

with more.  I like getting up and watching the show of yours in the

morning.

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.:  Oh, good. 

Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great on the treadmill.

TODD:  There it is.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s good for people.

TODD:  Good (INAUDIBLE) treadmill.

MATTHEWS:  Lose a couple of pounds every couple days and get to see

you and Savannah.  And I want to talk about—because we just got these

numbers in now.  If you‘re setting in the White House and you‘re David

Axelrod or one of the smart guys there, are you happy with these numbers?

TODD:  You‘re not...

MATTHEWS:  Have they begun to move in your direction or not?

TODD:  ... but they do feel as if these are improved numbers.  They

know that they‘ve done a poor job selling this thing.  Whether you want to

talk about Congress getting involved in process stories—you know, this

whole...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... the latest being how they‘re doing—how they‘re going to

the House is going to pass the Senate bill, or the fact that it seems as

if the president himself was stuck figuring out how to sell...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... health care, and now of course, it‘s all about health

insurance.  And ever since he kicked it into campaign mode, you have seen

evidence, little upticks in at least Democrats rallying around their

president.  And that‘s perhaps the most important part of this movement.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You know—you know, on this network—on this

network, if you listen to this network, there‘s a lot of debate on MSNBC

about this health care bill, left versus center left, whatever...

TODD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... for or against it, all points.  Same with CNN.  But

there‘s another network, Fox, out there, where there‘s absolutely no

debate.  It‘s just trashed every single day.  Has there ever been a bill in

history before the Congress where an entire network on television has

blasted it every day for more than a year, this kind of negative, negative

I just wonder whether we‘ve ever seen anything like this.

TODD:  Well, I‘ll say this.  You know...

MATTHEWS:  Forget if it‘s Fox.  Has it...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  No, I mean, I think that what‘s been different about this bill

and I think that the lessons learned here for Congress is going to be—

there is a greater engagement on the process of how bills...

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t it a lot of it just...

TODD:  ... become law.

MATTHEWS:  ... negative?

TODD:  Some of it‘s negative.  I‘m not saying it‘s—I‘m just saying

some of it‘s negative.  But I look at this—we asked about the

filibuster.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  First of all, we were stunned that some 40 percent were

following this filibuster aspect...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... of the story very closely.  That‘s a huge chunk of the

electorate.  And guess what?  Of the people following the most closely,

they were evenly divided about whether to go reconciliation or not go

reconciliation.  So there‘s a lot of focus on saying, OK, well, this side

here...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... has been negative the whole time.  But guess what?  The

public is hearing two messages.  As much as I think we get stuck in here

and think, Geez, he‘s only getting pounded on this, on health care, he‘s

clearly having some effect on getting his side of this message out...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... because we‘re seeing a more evenly divided electorate in

this poll...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... than we had seen, for instance, three months ago.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at some more health numbers here now.

No matter which way a House member votes—this is trouble—it‘s a

net negative to—in our poll here.  If a House member votes yes, for

example, on President Obama‘s plan, then 28 percent say they‘re more likely

to vote for that member in November, 36 percent less likely to vote for

him.  So, that‘s a losing proposition. 

TODD:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Now here‘s...

TODD:  Look at the next one.

MATTHEWS:  ... a member who votes no on Obama‘s plan.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... another losing proposition.  It‘s still bad.  Thirty-

one percent say they‘re more likely to vote for that person, 34 percent

less likely. 

So, you look at these numbers, it says, I‘m damned if I do, damned if

I don‘t. 

TODD:  You cannot finger in—you can‘t finger in the wind this one. 

You can‘t sit here and say, well, boy, my constituents say X, or the polls

are telling me X. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does that mean, if you‘re going to vote against

the person no matter how they vote?

TODD:  Well, it shows that what you have in this health care debate

is, we have polarized the electorate. 

And the fact is this.  Democrats are going to punish Democrats for not

voting for this thing, and Republicans are going to punish Republicans for

crossing the aisle. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you.

TODD:  That‘s what we have here.  This has become, whatever you want

to call it, red vs. blue.  But this is polarized argument.  It‘s no longer

about policy. 

It‘s about—the president has made the argument himself behind the

scenes, right?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  You want my presidency to succeed?  You want us to have a shot

at taking up the next issue?  You better not—because the only person

that can defeat him in this are Democrats.  This would be Democrats

defeating Democrats, if this thing goes down. 

And, so, that‘s where you‘re seeing this rallying around the flag a

little bit in the poll numbers and that we‘re seeing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TODD:  And Peter Hart, our—he said, if he was putting his

Democratic consultant hat on, he would say, that‘s the argument he would

make, which is, hey, guess what?  You will get punished more by the base of

the party for voting against this thing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at these numbers.  There these

numbers are dreadful.  Seventeen percent of the American people, according

to the “Wall Street Journal”/NBC News poll, approve of the work Congress is

doing. 

Of course, you would have to ask, who are they? 

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  Right.  Who are the 17 percent? 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s happy? 

TODD:  You would assume it‘s the members of Congress themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And their families, and their immediate families. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  You‘re right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, 77 percent, four out of five dentists don‘t like this.

This is like the old commercial. 

Let‘s take this -- 38 percent say their own member of Congress should

get reelected.  That‘s not bad, three out of five.  But 51 percent say give

somebody else a chance. 

Now, I would think that number would be really tough, but it‘s not

that bad.  If you think 38 percent, but the reelection rate of Congress is

about 95 percent. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Except, if you look at it over this five-year trend, Congress

started tanking right after, right in that Katrina, you know, when it was

the Republican control and you saw this tanking. 

And, ever since, we have had an electorate that‘s been very upset with

Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  Congress isn‘t popular in general. 

MATTHEWS:  But when are they going to dump a member?  They don‘t. 

They vote 90...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... percent for incumbents.

TODD:  Well, right now, this is more of a split on this one. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  And the fact is, we‘re seeing some evidence that it may not be

the usual 95 percent this time. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it is, because all the districts are gerrymandered,

and people end up voting ethnic, or they vote for the guy or the woman who

seems like them.  And it‘s all been gerrymandered.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  I will say this.  The one loser in this entire health care

debate...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  ... not the insurance company—we could sit here—not the

Republicans, not the Democrats.  It‘s been the institution of Congress. 

This spotlight that has been put on them has put them in the worst

possible light, because it‘s arcane, in many ways.  And you know what?  The

public doesn‘t like the way Congress...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why is the public like this one?  Thirty-one percent

say it‘s good for one party to control both the Congress and the White

House.  But 60 percent, twice as many, say it‘s better to split, to have

the Democrats control the White House, for example, and the Republicans

control the Congress.

TODD:  Well, you have got to go inside the numbers.  Number one is

that 31 percent is mostly Democrats.  So, Democrats want Democrats in

charge. 

What you have is that what makes up the other portion of it is

obviously Republicans don‘t like that they‘re not involved.  And so they

know they can‘t get the White House right now.

MATTHEWS:  Ah.

TODD:  So, they look at that.

The other chunk of these voters, though, are independents.  And the

fact is, they are the folks that, when you ask them deep down inside, the

correct answer is divided government.  They don‘t always vote that way. 

This is one of those polls where I think you get a correct answer.  Well,

of course I—I like this idea of one party checking the other. 

And the fact is, our election results show no one party has controlled

all three, House, Senate and the presidency, for more than, I think,

something like a four-year period at a time.  Every time one tries to do

it, it seems as if the public upends it, whether it‘s, you know, they—

they flip the Senate or they flip the presidency.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Are people who say they want divided government

really saying they don‘t want any more government? 

TODD:  No, when people say divided government, I think they say they

want a—those are the folks, when they say that, they want a slowing down

of some things...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  ... because it—I think they truly do believe that they want

some government to work.  But they want this idea that it—they don‘t

want an extreme move in one direction or the other. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re very mild-mannered. 

TODD:  No, I just think that they...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think that there‘s an attitude that, if you

divide the government, you weaken it, and that‘s what they want, the

weakened government, so it won‘t do anything to them that hurts them, like

raise taxes? 

TODD:  No.  No, no, no, no, no. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... programs?

TODD:  No, I think that those folks are—that is—there is a

conservative Republican...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I like the way you broke this down to show the fact that a

lot of people who say they like divided government really want a piece of

the action back, meaning conservatives.  They want something back.

TODD:  Yes.  This is a case of right now.  They look at the political

realities. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I like the way you analyze this stuff.  Thank you, Chuck

Todd. 

TODD:  Thank you, sir.

Up next:  Senator Lindsey Graham compares Speaker Nancy Pelosi and

other House Democrats to Japanese kamikaze pilots, complete with sake. 

Well, I‘m waiting to hear from the Japanese Embassy on this one.

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

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

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

First:  Bring on the clowns.

Kentucky Republican Trey Grayson has a Web ad against his opponent in

the May Senate primary.  Rand Paul happens to be a Duke University alumna -

alumnus, rather. 

Talk about wasting our time and lowering our collective I.Q.s.  Here‘s

what voters are supposed to be thinking about in that race. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TREY GRAYSON CAMPAIGN AD)

TREY GRAYSON ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Trey Grayson.

There are big differences between Rand Paul and me.  But, in Kentucky,

during March, there‘s one really big difference.

RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Rand Paul, and I‘m

a Duke Blue Devil.

GRAYSON:  I‘m proud to say that I‘m a University of Kentucky Wildcat. 

I‘m Trey Grayson, and I approve this message, because I will always

cheer for the Big Blue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Does Grayson have any pride at all?  Rand Paul got into

Duke Medical School, Duke being one of the top schools in the country.  Is

that something to make fun of? 

Grayson, who comes across here as an idiot, is out there hawking

bumper stickers, meanwhile, that say, “Beat Duke.  Vote Grayson.”  How

about this one, “Grayson Thinks You‘re Stupid”? 

Remember that the job of United States Senate is the job where you get

to decide whether we go to war or not.  It‘s an important job.

Stop screwing around, buddy. 

Next: Senator Inhofe, the gas man.

He was on the Senate floor yesterday railing about his favorite issue,

the need to ignore scientific warnings about what we‘re doing to this

planet.  In his speech, Inhofe compares climate activist Al Gore to an

ostrich, trying to hide from reality. 

You‘ve got to see this one to before it.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  When it comes to—to practicing

good science, Gore stands alone.  He wants the world to put its head in the

sand and pretend nothing is happening. 

It kind of reminds me of the story of the two boy ostriches chasing

the two girl ostriches through the woods.  And they‘re catching them.  And

the one girl ostrich said to the other one as they came up to a clearing,

what do we do?  And they said, well, let‘s hide.

And, so, each of the girl ostriches stuck their heads in a respective

hole, and the boy ostriches came galloping up to the clearing and one

looked at the other and said, where did the girls go? 

Well, this is what we‘re looking at here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think what we‘re looking at here is a real problem. 

Anyway, if I were Senator Inhofe, I would try to avoid ostrich

references.  Talk about sticking your head in the sand. 

By the way, Senator Lindsey Graham came up with a really colorful

analogy of his own yesterday.  He compared House Democrats to Japanese

kamikaze pilots. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  They‘re scrambling to round

up the votes.  And Nancy Pelosi, I think, has got them all liquored up on

sake, and, you know, they‘re making a suicide run here.  This makes no

political sense. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  For the record, it would be a suicide run for Democrats to

come this far and not pass the health bill. 

Anyway, I like Senator Graham.  At least his metaphors show a little

panache. 

Anyway, that said, I wonder if he has heard from the Japanese Embassy

yet—which brings us to tonight‘s “Number.”

What are the chances that the Democratic health care bill will be

signed into law by June?  Well, according to the online traders, the

bookies over at Intrade.com, wow, 70 percent, pretty high.  The online

bookies book Democrats‘ high hope of passing health care reform at 70

percent probability right now.  That‘s tonight‘s very bullish “Big Number.” 

Up next, we are going to talk to a former CIA interrogator who says

water-boarding is at times both necessary and immoral.  How does that

square in our fight against al Qaeda, against the terrorists?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SHACTMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Brian Shactman with your

CNBC “Market Wrap.”

The Federal Reserve‘s mildly optimistic take on the economy giving

stocks a lift today, the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 43 points,

the S&P 500 up nine, and the Nasdaq moving 15 points to the up side. 

The Federal Reserve keeping interest rates near zero, but highlighting

the increased economic momentum, citing a firmer job market and an upbeat

reading on business spending. 

Investors also pleased with smaller-than-expected drop in new housing

starts, this despite February‘s crippling snowstorms. 

When it comes to individual stocks, chip-makers Intel and AMD were two

of the top gainers, after Intel released a new line of powerful energy-

efficient chips for servers.  Also, Harley-Davidson shares revving up

almost 7 percent on unsubstantiated rumors that the company is the target

of a takeover. 

And General Electric soaring 4.5 percent, after the company‘s CFO said

he expects increased earning and a higher dividend next year—GE, of

course, the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou, who helped capture the first

big al Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, in 2002 -- that‘s eight years ago—he

talked about the capture and subsequent torture in a 2007 interview with

ABC‘s Brian Ross.  Let me recount it to you. 

Brian Ross—quote—“So, in your view, water-boarding broke him?”

John Kiriakou: “I think it did, yes.”

Ross: “And did it make a difference in terms of...” 

Kiriakou: “It did.  The threat information that he provided disrupted

a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”

Ross: “No doubt about that?  No doubt about that?”

Kiriakou: “No doubt.” 

Well, in those words, people who support the use of torture found

their validation.  But former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou says it‘s not

that black and white.  His new book is “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life

in the CIA‘s War on Terror.”

John, thank you.

How long were you in the CIA? 

JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Almost 15 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Undercover most of it, right? 

KIRIAKOU:  Undercover most of it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What was your personal experience watching torture, or

knowing about it? 

KIRIAKOU:  I never actually saw Abu Zubaydah or anybody else being

water-boarded. 

But, when the reports were coming in, a lot of us in the agency were

conflicted, morally, politically.  We weren‘t sure if it was legal.  Of

course, we were told it was legal in the end.  And once intelligence

started coming in, we assumed, after Abu Zubaydah had been water-boarded

once time, because that‘s what the reporting indicated, we thought it was

worth it. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of water-boarding? 

KIRIAKOU:  I think it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, 83 times, Zubaydah...

KIRIAKOU:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  At what point after you‘re tortured and you believe you‘re

going to drown do you know you‘re not going to drown?  Or is it a non-

intellectual thing, that you know you‘re—you may know intellectually

you‘re not going to drown, because they have done it to you 82 times so

far.

KIRIAKOU:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  The 83rd time, they‘re probably not going to drown you. 

But what does it do?  So, does it just—your whole body rails against it? 

What makes you start talking? 

KIRIAKOU:  It‘s extremely painful, especially in the abdominal

muscles, because you‘re tensing your muscles trying to get out of the way

of the flow of the water.  And you end up pulling those muscles. 

And, so, it‘s very, very painful, very uncomfortable. 

MATTHEWS:  And, in this case, Zubaydah, he spoke, he talked, he gave

us valuable information?

KIRIAKOU:  He did. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you know this?  Tell me how you know this.

KIRIAKOU:  Well, from the reporting that we got from the fields. 

Now, we didn‘t know that he had been water-boarded 83 times.  Last

year, the CIA inspector-general‘s report came out from 2004, heavily

redacted.  But it still confirmed that Abu Zubaydah had been water-boarded

before the CIA actually received written permission to do it. 

So, my view now, in retrospect, is that he had been water-boarded 83

times, but the people in the field actually carrying out the water-boarding

did not report it.  So, those of us at headquarters, seeing the one report

that finally did come in, believed it had happened once, and that he had

cracked and provided... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if a person in this country were guilty of a

murder would admit it under water-boarding? 

KIRIAKOU:  Oh, I think... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would they admit it under water-boarding, knowing—

knowing that they were going to get the gas chamber or whatever?

KIRIAKOU:  Oh, I think so.  I think somebody would admit to kidnapping

the Lindbergh baby under water-boarding. 

MATTHEWS:  If they did it.

KIRIAKOU:  Even if they didn‘t do it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then, if they didn‘t do it, what good is the

information? 

KIRIAKOU:  Well, that‘s the thing, is you have to vet the information.

And in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the third prisoner who

was water-boarded, Nashiri, it turned out that the information they

provided was not true.  They—they simply provided what they thought the

interrogator wanted to hear to stop the water-boarding. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the classic case.  Dershowitz  --

what‘s his name, Dershowitz, Alan Dershowitz, a very smart lawyer up at

Harvard, has made the case—he‘s very tough on terrorism.

And he‘s made the case that in these—sort of 10-minutes-to-midnight

situation, like in “24” or something like that, where you know somebody‘s

got some information about a bomb that‘s about to go off and blow up the

Empire State Building or whatever, that it would work. 

Do you believe it would work?  Would you get the information from

somebody that would allow you to make the phone call, get somebody to stop

that from happening? 

KIRIAKOU:  I think the chance it would work is—was worth it in 2002. 

For example, Osama bin Laden told us after September 11th that al Qaeda was

planning another attack that would be so spectacular, it would dwarf what

they did on September 11th.  We had to take the man at his word.  So when

we caught up with Zubaydah, we really believed he had that information. 

The decision was made to water-board him, in order to save additional

American lives. 

MATTHEWS:  What did we get out of the agency?  What did we get out

of him?  Did we find out there wasn‘t such a plot? 

KIRIAKOU:  It turned out that there was not such a plot. 

MATTHEWS:  It took 83 times to find out there wasn‘t such a plot? 

KIRIAKOU:  Well, who knows?  Did the information come after the

first time—

MATTHEWS:  Why would you keep doing the torture if you got

information that you thought was—

KIRIAKOU:  Because I think people were panicked at the time, and

they just couldn‘t bring themselves to stop in case that information came

out. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at your book here, you‘ve got right

now.  You write about Brian Ross, that interview you did back several years

ago.  Quote, “what I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple of

counts.  In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the

arts of deception even among its own.” 

KIRIAKOU:  I think that‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  Meaning they didn‘t tell you. 

KIRIAKOU:  Meaning they didn‘t tell anybody at headquarters who

wasn‘t specifically read into a compartment, indicating they were water-

boarding him 83 times. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk morality here.  It may not be relevant here,

but it is to a lot of us citizens.  It may not be to agency people.  First

of all, is it relevant to agency people?  Do they make moral decisions? 

KIRIAKOU:  They have to make moral decisions every single day. 

Agency people are trained to lie for a living.  They lie to everybody. 

They lie to convince people that those people are their best friends, to

the point where targets are willing to commit treason for a CIA case

officer.  It‘s a part of the job. 

So there‘s a certain morality to it.  You have to be able to

separate lying for work, for the betterment of the country, and lying just

for the sake of lying. 

MATTHEWS:  How about the morality of torture? 

KIRIAKOU:  Absolutely.  When I was—

MATTHEWS:  What is the bottom line for most officers in the CIA?  Do

they think it‘s wrong? 

KIRIAKOU:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Do they think it‘s expedient? 

KIRIAKOU:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  You sound like you think it was expedient. 

KIRIAKOU:  I think in 2002, it was useful. 

MATTHEWS:  And you also say it would be useful in a ten minutes to

midnight situation. 

KIRIAKOU:  It could be.  This is the thing though, Chris, this is a

very gray issue.  It‘s not black or white.  Its an issue that intelligent,

well-informed people disagree on. 

MATTHEWS:  Should the president of United States authorize the use

of torture in fighting terrorism? 

KIRIAKOU:  I think no. 

MATTHEWS:  But you say it was necessary. 

KIRIAKOU:  I say in 2002 it was necessary. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not unique in this contest against the bad guys. 

Similar situations, Zubaydahs in the future will be picked up. 

KIRIAKOU:  Listen, we‘ve had eight years, though, to improve

relations with foreign governments, who have sources inside al Qaeda or

other terrorist groups.  We‘ve presumably had eight years to improve our

own capabilities against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. 

It‘s not 2002 any more.  We had our chance in 2002.  It‘s over. 

We‘re supposed to be better at our jobs now. 

MATTHEWS:  Bottom line, was the intelligence service, especially the

CIA, pushed around by Dick Cheney to make the case for the war with Iraq? 

KIRIAKOU:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I come to that conclusion in

the book, too.  Dick Cheney, the Office of the Vice President, the Office

of the Secretary of Defense, pushed faulty intelligence, fraudulent

intelligence, produced by Ahmed Chalabi and his -- 

MATTHEWS:  Chalabi, that guy, that crook?  He may be the next prime

minister.  He‘s over there still trying to take over the country. 

KIRIAKOU:  He very well could.  He sold the White House and the

Defense Department a bill of goods and it took us to war. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way that Cheney goosed everybody over there

into saying stuff that isn‘t true, and then started using him as a source. 

Kiriakou, thank you, John.  It made my day.  Anyway, thank you.  Cheney,

again the problem.

Up next, free speech or hate speech; the Supreme Court will rule on

whether a group that says gay sex is the cause of war should be permitted

to protest out the funerals of America‘s fallen soldiers.  In other words,

when your kid gets killed in a war, you have the special treat of having

one of these characters show up at the funeral. 

Well it‘s a free society.  But boy does this test it.  This is

HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you think that was a tough fight over torture? 

Wait until you get this one: should an anti-gay group, a group that

believes we have wars because of gay sex in this country, be allowed to

protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers?  That‘s the question at the

heart of a Supreme Court case. 

A father of a fallen Marine sued an anti-gay Kansas church group for

protesting at his son‘s funeral.  The church group says that the deaths of

soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are God‘s punishment for America‘s

tolerance of homosexuality.  And a federal appeals court dismissed the suit

against the group on First Amendment grounds. 

Radio talk show host Michael Smerconish wrote about this case in his

column this week, and Melinda Henneberger is an editor in chief of

PoliticsDaily.com. 

Michael, I usually read you as the man of common sense.  You‘re a

lawyer, a trained lawyer.  You practiced for many years.  What do you make

of the reading of the Constitution which is so—what‘s the right word—

absolutist here. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, first let me tell

you that the father that you just referenced, coincidentally, called me

while I was in the green room five minutes ago.  And he said, be sure you

tell Chris Matthews just how ugly it was on the day that I buried my son. 

Not 30 feet from the vehicle entrance of the church, they were holding a

placard that showed two guys involved in anal intercourse, having nothing

to do with my son giving his life in service to his country. 

To answer your question, that same Constitution allows us to

regulate speech in certain cases.  Think about obscenity, think about

fighting words, yelling “fire” in a movie theater, think about defamation,

Chris.  So the First Amendment right is not absolute.  And I would argue—

and I hope they‘re successful.  I think it‘s a tough case.  But I would

argue that they‘ve got the right to peaceably assemble to bury their son in

a private service. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the issue of free speech and what constitutes

protected speech—I know when you talk about burning the flag, for

example, I think Clarence Thomas, a man of the right, doesn‘t think that

should be protected, because it‘s inciteful.  It has a whole history.  Not

burning the flag.  I‘m sorry, burning crosses, which is the whole historic

way of white southerners, when they used to really repress black people. 

They used that as a tool.  And he argued that isn‘t speech.  It‘s something

else.  It‘s much more violent.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM:  Well, this is so far

outside the bounds of human decency.  I won‘t claim to be a First Amendment

scholar.  I think probably they do have the right to assemble somewhere

nearby.  But the political effect has got to be that this is so despicable

a thing to do, to disrespect the family at the time of loss, the family of

our war dead, that I think that is only going to create even more sympathy

for gay rights groups, by showing people who oppose that to look like

haters, to look like people with no compassion or empathy at all, with no

fellow feelings. 

So I don‘t know the law.  I would suspect that they both have

protections.  The family has the right to worship and to have this funeral

in private.  But I think the protesters probably somewhere nearby have the

right to express themselves as well.  

MATTHEWS:  Who are these people, Michael?  I mean, you saw the sign,

“Fag-Nation” there.  You see the hatred behind that sign.  You see these

people.  I mean, I don‘t want to jump to conclusions.  But it seems to me

they have their own problems, I mean real problems.  That they would travel

any distance to hurt a family that has just lost someone who has fought and

died for their country, in a manner that has nothing to do with your

attitudes about sexuality or tolerance or anything else—nothing to do

with it.  Here the young man whose funeral it was.  I just wonder, who are

these people? 

SMERCONISH:  It‘s Rod Surling kind of stuff.  Chris, it‘s Rod

Surling kind of stuff.  I mean, this is off the charts.  These are people -

according to the father—he just said to me, you know, another point

that needs to be made is the connection that they draw between September

11th and our society, in their view, becoming too permissive of same-sex

relationships and homosexual rights. 

In other words, by the illogic of this group, bin Laden orchestrated

the flying of the airplanes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon and

Shanksville, Pennsylvania, because God had somehow intervened, because the

United States is too permissive of homosexual rights.  What else do I need

to tell you? 

MATTHEWS:  So OK.  I actually have to tell you, I‘m usually able to

say something about everything.  I don‘t know what to say about these

people.  Michael, I congratulate you on your column and the fact that you

come out against this.  I sympathize with the father of the fallen.  The

gold-star mothers that have to put up with this in addition to losing—

it‘s unimaginable to lose a child.  It‘s unimaginable to lose a child. 

It‘s unimaginable to have them—I guess if they‘re going to die young and

die for their country, it‘s unimaginable, the whole thing, in terms of

dealing with it ahead of time, and dealing with it afterwards, and worrying

with them when they‘re in service overseeing and sweating that out, and

then getting the bad news, and then finding out they have to go through all

this, and live with it all their lives. 

Then to have these evil people claim that God‘s on their side when

they show up.  I don‘t know what to say.  Do they hate gay lifestyle or gay

behavior that much they would hurt someone else? 

HENNEBERGER:  It‘s such a minority view among Christians.  It‘s such

a fringe group that it can only hurt other groups that oppose gay rights. 

I mean, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m not—Let‘s think about this on terms of law

enforcement, Michael, without using anything we can be blamed for.  I think

you have to be, if you‘re one of those group—somebody has to look upon

this as something that‘s simply endangering the public peace.  Forget the

speech part of it.  This is endangering the peace.  This is not going to go

peaceably, this kind of behavior.  

SMERCONISH:  It‘s hate speech.  Chris, we differentiate in this

country between someone who is a graffiti artist and someone who spray

paints a Swastika on the side of a temple.  We recognize hate speech in

this case.  

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Melinda Henneberger, thank you, as always. 

It‘s a difficult topic.  Michael, congratulations on knowing the right

side. 

When we return, I‘ll have some thoughts about General David

Petraeus, who today said it‘s time to reconsider—to really consider

repealing the military‘s Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell rule.  You‘re watching

HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with evidence that things change in

this country and in the progressive direction.  Today, General David

Petraeus said the time has come to consider a change to Don‘t Ask, Don‘t

Tell in the US military.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has previously

told us on the Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon is already taking

the first steps toward repealing the rule, allowing men and women to serve

in the armed services without having to mask sexual orientation. 

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, has

endorsed repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, as has General Colin Powell, who

could well be the most respected leader in the country. 

I like the way Admiral Mullen puts it.  He said the issue comes down

to one of integrity.  People shouldn‘t be ask to say, as a condition for

serving their country, something about themselves they know is not true. 

That‘s no way to start your service, especially in standing up to our

country‘s enemies. 

So times change.  As I said, as is so often the case, in the

progressive direction.  This question of whether a gay person can serve his

or her country in harm‘s way has, to those who know the military life

firsthand, never really been the issue.  People have served in the

military, been in combat, know that gay people have served with them, know

that they chose to risk their lives, know they faced the same tests of

courage that all fighting people must. 

The issue has never been whether to allow this service, this

courage, this sacrifice to be openly accepted.  That is the issue.  To be

recognized as just as valuable to our country as in other.  It‘s powerful

to watch how minds and hearts change on such a matter. 

It could be that we‘re watching common sense come to bear, or the 

human experience of seeing that sexual orientation is no guide to guts.  Or

it could be that there is in this country a growing empathy for people who

are born different in one way, but who love our country just the same, and

want to serve exactly as much as those gallant others we have recognized

over the past two centuries as our greatest heroes, the best of our

patriots. 

As I said before, one of the great things about America has been

this consistent pattern of ours to become a better America, ever more ready

to extend freedom and respect and, in this sensitive matter, our shared

patriotism. 

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Catch us again

tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.  It‘s St. Patrick‘s day tomorrow. 

Right now, it‘s 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.

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