1. Headline
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updated 3/25/2010 1:44:18 PM ET 2010-03-25T17:44:18

Guests: James Clyburn, Joan Walsh, Mark Halperin, Robert Wexler, Chris Van

Hollen.

HOST:  Targeting Democrats.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Base politics.  It‘s getting even uglier out there.  Angry opponents of

health care reform are targeting Democratic House members with death

threats.  Some Democrats have had their office windows smashed.  National -

Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine said today the Republicans

have stoked that anger and now he‘s going to make them own the bad

behavior.

Plus, Senate Republicans are not giving up on killing the actual

health care bill itself.  They‘re offering up amendment after amendment,

hoping to pass at least one of them and send the bill back to the House and

then out of existence.  One proposal, no Viagra for sex offenders.  Now,

who could be against that one?  Republicans want to force Democrats to vote

against this kind of common sense measure, then attack them for it in

November.  A great example, I‘d say, of politics for the purpose of

politics.

Next, the spoils of victory.  America loves a winner, and President

Obama just got a big “W” on the board.  Let‘s see what happens when he

tries to reform No Child Left Behind on education or he goes after the big

banks with financial regulation.  Do Republicans look forward to being Wall

Street champions?

And Rudy Giuliani says just give Republicans a chance to reform health

care.  Oh?  You mean the way they did when they were in charge all those

years?  That story‘s coming up in the “Sideshow,” where it belongs.

I‘ll finish tonight, by the way, with some thoughts about Vice

President Joe Biden.

We start, however, with the big story, health care politics.  It‘s

getting dangerous.  Joining me now is U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen,

Democrat of Maryland, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign

Committee.

Congressman Van Hollen, these stories are growing.  We‘ve got a lot of

them out there now.  Congresswoman Slaughter had her office windows

smashed.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford‘s office, the same deal.  Windows

were smashed at DNC or Democratic headquarters in Rochester, New York, in

Pleasant Ridge (ph), Ohio, in Wichita, death threats to Congresswoman

Slaughter and to Congressman Bart Stupak, vandalism at other lawmakers‘

homes.

This doesn‘t look like it‘s going to stop, and it looks to me like

there‘s going to be more copycats as we get to the weekend, and then we

have booze on top of this craziness coming Friday and Saturday night.  I

would expect more trouble from the red-hots on the right.  Your thoughts?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIR:  Yes, these are not isolated

incidents, Chris.  You‘re seeing patterns.  You‘re seeing this happen

across the country.  You know, during the protests over the health care

bill up here on Capitol Hill, we heard a lot of ugly slurs.  We heard a lot

of homophobic epithets thrown around.  And that was outside the Capitol.

But unfortunately, some of that also took place on the floor of the

House, with the Republican member shouting out, “Baby killer.”  And what‘s

happened here is the Republican leadership, instead of saying to its

supporters around the country, Calm down, that this is a time to try and

put down the flames, they‘re pouring more and more gasoline on the flames. 

And that is irresponsible.

It‘s time that there be some adult supervision within the Republican

Party, that some Republican leader say this is not acceptable, that we can

disagree with one another without this kind of outrageous conduct.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s what your leader, your party, Democratic

National Committee chair Tim Kaine—he‘s, of course, the outgoing

governor of Virginia—he told The Huffingtonpost, quote, “They‘re going

to—they‘re going to own part of the slurs cast at members of Congress,

people vandalizing members of Congress‘s offices.  Twice Republican members

of Congress sitting in the well of the House have behaved in rude and

outrageous ways.  When it‘s OK for leaders to do the rude, outrageous stuff

like that, it sure sends a signal that the followers should do it, too.”

I get a sense that there‘s real license out there, Congressman, and it

began with that guy in the House who yelled, “You lie,” the guy from South

Carolina, and—you know, Wilson.  And I just wonder whether—can you

smell it on the floor?  Do you sense this derision, this contempt for the

president of the United States and the Democratic Party, that‘s gotten

almost to the point of this sort of, I don‘t know what the word,

primordial, it‘s so deep?

VAN HOLLEN:  Yes, no, this is the same kind of thing that happened

after the “You lie” comment.  There was a brief apology and then people

went out and tried to raise a whole lot of money off it.  Just like the

“Baby killer” comment, the guy says he‘s sorry, and then he goes and put

the a YouTube video together to try and raise money off it.

The fact of the matter is, they‘re playing a very difficult double

game, or at least they were.  They were trying to say, Look, we want to be

able to use this energy that‘s being fueled by some of the—on the far

right here, and yet we want to be able to try and distance ourselves when

we can.

They‘ve lost all pretense.  These guys are united together.  This is

now the face of the Republican Party.  They have not taken responsibility. 

They‘ve not led by example.  In fact, they‘re doing the opposite.  I mean,

they‘re becoming examples of irresponsible behavior themselves.  And when

they do that, I think most Americans, whether you‘re a Democrat or an

independent or a Republican, say, Wait a minute.  This is out of bounds. 

There‘s a time for people to disagree in a civil manner, but this kind of

behavior‘s gotten out of control.

And I think the danger is the Republican Party has been so kidnapped

and hijacked by the right that they‘re afraid that if they criticize this

outrageous behavior, they‘re going to lose the support that they‘re now

banking on.  But I think it will boomerang on them because the price of

getting the support...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

VAN HOLLEN:  ... from the far extreme right is to lose the sensible

center.

MATTHEWS:  You have people—Congressman Neugebauer from—he‘s a

real birther from down in—down in Texas.  He‘s one of these guys doesn‘t

believe Barack Obama was born her, not one of us.  He‘s gone all the way to

that extreme.  He‘s the one that yelled the other day “Baby killer” on the

floor against Bart Stupak.  Bart Stupak has gotten death threats.

Would you say that this incitement from the Republican leadership is

criminal?  I mean, seriously.  If people are going to have windows thrown

bricks at, if they‘re going to get their lives threatened, if we‘re getting

criminal behavior resulting from their incitement, is the incitement itself

criminal?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, it‘s a very dangerous game, Chris.  I mean, I don‘t

know whether—look, people have to draw their conclusions as they want. 

But I think the big giveaway here is that they are not coming out and

forcefully condemning these statements, and through them...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

VAN HOLLEN:  Not just—they‘re not just being silent, they‘re also

making highly heated remarks that, obviously, in the case of “Baby killer,”

crossed that line.  And so they have, in fact, joined in this kind of

activity.  So people can characterize it how they want, but there‘s no

denying the fact that they are stoking the flames here and they are not

trying to separate themselves.  In fact, they‘ve embraced the benefits—

what they consider to be the political benefits from these activities.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.  I don‘t

know whether you put her on the fringe.  I think she‘s close to it.  She

certainly appeals to those people on the fringe.  I don‘t know if she‘s or

not.  But she‘s put out a map targeting Democrats with these crosshairs

over it, these red crosshairs, I mean, the kind you do with target

practice, I guess, where they, you know, a mounted—what do you call

those things, sight on the top of your gun.  She‘s put these things out. 

There‘s a picture of it out there.  What do you make of that, her putting

out this picture of Democratic seats and where you got to target them?

VAN HOLLEN:  You know, I really think that in this environment, that

that is crossing the line because it‘s not the folksy sort of, “You betcha”

kind of thing that, you know, she‘s trying to portray, at least she tried

to when she was running for vice president.

In this particular environment, I think it‘s really dangerous to try

and make your point in that particular way because there are people who are

taking that kind of thing seriously.  We‘ve heard from a whole lot of

members who‘ve received death threats not just to themselves but to their

families.  We had to have a meeting today with the Capitol Police to go

over security procedures.

And again, we should be able to disagree on the floor of the House and

we should be able to have emotional debates, but when it crosses the line

into threats to the lives of people and their families, this has gotten out

of control.  And this is why someone—someone needs to step up on the

Republican side and say, Enough is enough, rather than trying to play this

double game.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe this violent language and violent behavior is

the result of the fact that the polls seem to be switching against the

right, at least temporarily.  Let‘s take a look.  I know that you know

these polls.  The new CBS poll has a 7-point swing under way right now in

favor of health care—it‘s still not the most popular game in town,

obviously, but the approval number‘s gone up dramatically, from 37 percent

to 42 percent, and disapproval‘s come down a bit.

Do you sense that out in your Maryland district, which I‘m quite

familiar with, since I live in there—do you have a sense that the

president has made his case this week, or is there a lot more selling to do

down the road for health care reform?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I think both.  I think the president has made his

case and I think he needs to continue to sell it and get that information

out there.  But our members are sensing a big turnaround and boost on this. 

It‘s reflected in the poll you mentioned.  It‘s also reflected in the “USA

Today” poll.  And people are beginning to feel it.  I can tell you that the

morale and energy on the Democratic side has gotten an incredible boost. 

There‘s a lot of invigoration going on as a result of this.

And here‘s the question I would have, Chris, for our Republican

colleagues, because they stopped debating the merits of health care a

little while ago and they began to focus on two things—one process, and

then the second one was polls.  They kept saying, How can you be ramming

this thing down the throats of the American people?

Well, I have a simple question for them.  Now that the polls seem to

show that the American people like this idea, if this trend and these polls

continue, we have to ask them, Are you supporting this bill now?  Because

that became their whole argument.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

VAN HOLLEN:  Again, it wasn‘t on the merits because we know that when

you devote—when you debate the pieces of this legislation, they were

very popular.  And now that they‘re being implemented, people are going to

begin to like it.  So they doubled down on this argument that we were

somehow ramming something through against the will of the American people,

when, in fact, the polling now suggests the American people like what we

see.  So I hope our colleagues will—will come around and say they made a

mistake.

MATTHEWS:  Is it harder to recruit members to run for Congress now

that they‘re facing death threats, even though the polls may be slightly

turning into your direction?  How‘s recruitment going?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, recruitment‘s going very well.  And in fact, this

kind of new energy will give us a boost.  As you know, there was a fair

amount of uneasiness that we weren‘t going to be able to implement

important parts of the agenda that we‘d all run on.  Especially after the

Massachusetts Senate race, a lot of people were, you know, feeling

dispirited.  There were some people who wanted to throw in the towel on

health care reform or just take little baby steps.  And the fact that we

were able to regroup, get this together and have the president sign into

law...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

VAN HOLLEN:  ... an historic piece of legislation has given everybody

a big boost.

MATTHEWS:  Are you glad Scott Brown won that race?  He seems like he

woke up the Democratic Party from a long sleep.  Would you say, all things

considered, that was a help?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I‘m not saying I‘m glad he won it, but there was

that silver lining that everyone got an early wake-up call in time to rally

the troops, and also in time to send the message to the Senate that we

don‘t need to try and get 60 votes on every single piece of legislation...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

VAN HOLLEN:  ... that a majority can get stuff done.  And that was a

very important lesson, and I hope they will continue to recognize that

lesson as we go through other issues this year.

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

head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Coming up, much more on the anger on the right we‘re seeing out there,

lots more evidence.  It‘s not talk, it‘s actions, and they seem to be

intensifying as this health care reform bill heads towards reality. 

Democratic members of Congress have received death threats, as I said. 

They‘ve had their offices vandalized.  And the brother of one congressman

has had his gas line on his home barbecue severed.  What a strange way to

scare people.  I don‘t know what this is, scary stuff.  We‘ll talk to

Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the leaders of the House, about whether

Republicans will own this behavior by their supporters.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER:  The incidences of threats,

either in person or over telephones or through other communications devices

(INAUDIBLE) great concern to members for the safety of themselves and their

families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  House Majority Leader Steny

Hoyer—you just saw him there—he says he‘s concerned that at least 10

House members have received threats, serious threats—some of the ones

that you know about already, death threats to members, smashed windows in

members‘ offices and at local Democratic headquarters around the country,

vandalism at the homes of members‘ relatives.

Well, James Clyburn is the House majority whip, the top man. 

Congratulations.  I‘ve never seen you so happy.  I‘m watching you there a

minute ago there, Mr. Clyburn, and you haven‘t seemed this happy since I

met you.  So congratulations.  You‘ve won.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And in America, winning counts.  Let me ask you about the

dangers of winning.  You‘ve incited some anger out there on the floor of

the House, lines like “Baby killer,” “You lie,” is inciting people out in

the streets to get violent.

CLYBURN:  Well, thank you so much for having me, Chris.  And yes, I am

pretty happy right now.  You know, I think that one of the things we have

to be very, very careful of in our society is that we don‘t ruin the

possibilities of us operating the civil manner.  I think that when you see

people on the floor, as we saw, cheering those people who are up in the

balcony jeering, there‘s something wrong with that.  It violates the

decorum of the House, but it also helps to incite people.

And I think that what we saw on Sunday and Saturday is a throwback to

a time that all of us thought we had behind us.  All of this is not about

health care.  These people were ginned up in such a way, and had posters

that went far beyond whether or not this bill ought to not pass.  Those

kinds of things we have got to stop, and they are being egged on by people

who ought to know better.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, there‘s a lot of talk about whether tea

partiers are a separate partier or they‘re just Republicans at a meeting. 

Let‘s take a look at these latest numbers.  The Quinnipiac poll,

Congressman, shows that 74 percent of tea partiers are self-described

Republicans.  Well, that‘s three quarters,  Only 1 in 6 -- 16 -- say

they‘re Democrats.  They must be conservative Democrats, I guess.

What do you make of that?  I mean, are they—is this just another

name for Republican, tea party?

CLYBURN:  Oh, I think so.  Oh, there‘s no question about it.  They are

an arm of the Republican Party.  No question about that.  And I think that

people should understand that more than anything else.  If 75 percent of

them identify themselves as Republicans, I suspect that in that other 25

percent or 26 percent, whatever it is, you‘ll find a few Republican

leanings in there, as well.

So I believe we know that they came here to try to intimidate, try to

stop this vote.  They had to know that we were not going to be intimidated. 

I hope they know that.  So there‘s something else going on here that‘s

churning up people for other activities down the road.

Look, we‘re going to soon get to deal with this issue of immigration,

and I‘m afraid that if we don‘t tamp this down now, that controversial

issue could very well...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CLYBURN:  ... generate something that could lead to some catastrophic

events.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk to a case in point.  Here‘s the brick thrown

through the window of that Rochester, New York, Democratic headquarters. 

The note attached says “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” 

That‘s, of course, the Barry Goldwater slogan from way back in ‘64 in a

different, more frightening context.

Now, the person who‘s apparently egged that person on, the person who

took credit for encouraging people to smash windows, said this in a radio

interview. 

Let‘s listen to this fellow.  Has name is Vanderboegh. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MIKE VANDERBOEGH, FORMER MILITIA LEADER:  There are rifles being

cleaned right now.  Do you folks understand that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Being what?  Claimed, from where?

VANDERBOEGH:  There are rifles being taken out of the closet and

cleaned.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it. 

CLYBURN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s talking about people, you know, locking and loading

and all that sort of stuff, and getting their rifles cleaned for action. 

And he‘s encouraging it, this blogger.  He‘s apparently the guy who got

behind this brick-throwing. 

People are coming out of the closet, if you will.  And they‘re saying

that they‘re dangerous people and they want to make other people dangerous. 

CLYBURN:  Well, you know, when you hear that kind of talk, and then—

and you look on Sarah Palin‘s Web site and see that she‘s got crosshairs

there targeting people who voted for this bill...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  ... now, why not put a star there or a check mark?  To put

the crosshairs there of a rifle tends to give credence to this sort of

thing. 

And then we heard the head of the Republican Party, Mr. Steele, saying

something about shooting the speaker down.  I forgot what it was, but it

implied a violent action. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

CLYBURN:  This stuff is beyond the pale. 

And they need to stop this, because, I can tell you, I have seen how

these things escalate.  People out there in the streets get their signals

or what they think are their signals from the people in positions like we

hold.  And, so, if we don‘t disown that and go get our people to move

beyond that, if we participate in it, either from the balcony or on the

floor of the House, you are aiding and abetting this kind of terrorism,

really. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, you‘re getting language from Bill McCollum,

the former member now running for governor of Florida.  You know, he‘s

referring to the health care bill that you got passed, helped to get

passed, as an invasion of the sovereignty of Florida.

They‘re using secessionist language.  I thought the Gadsden flag from

South Carolina flying over the balcony of the Capitol being waved by

members of Congress.  The Gadsden flag was the “Don‘t tread on me” flag of

the republic...

CLYBURN:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  ... that we used to fight the British with.  They‘re

treating our central government in Washington as the enemy, as if it‘s a

foreign government.  And that‘s the way Bill McCollum‘s talking.  They‘re

using the language of—of nullification and even of secession in Texas.

CLYBURN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And now Bill McCollum‘s using it.  There it is, the Gadsden

flag.  That was the flag we used to form our republic when we were fighting

the British.  That‘s the way the—what‘s the—what‘s going on here? 

This is real symbolism of—of a—almost a mutiny. 

CLYBURN:  Yes. 

And, as you know, Bill McCollum is a former member of this body.  And,

so, that, in and of itself, signals something to me.  Let me tell you, I

think that the attorneys general that have been filing these lawsuits, it‘s

somewhat reminiscent, you know, of those people who resisted the

fundamental rights like voting. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  All we‘re trying to do here is get rid of discrimination

against people with preexisting conditions, stop discriminating against

women, who are paying twice for their premiums that men pay for them, stop

discriminating against people who get catastrophic illnesses. 

That‘s all we‘re doing, trying to say, let‘s put health care on an

equal footing for everybody, make it accessible, make it affordable, make

it accountable.  This is not about anything that‘s foreign to what a

democracy ought to be. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m just amazed.  I‘m like you.  I study history. 

And I realize that Richard Nixon, who was hardly a left-winger,

advocated an employer mandate back in the ‘70s.  You know, it—I—and

Mitt Romney up in Massachusetts signed a bill that requires people to have

health insurance. 

Out in California, Schwarzenegger‘s done it.  I mean, this isn‘t left-

wing politics.  This is—well, at most, it‘s center-left, if not center. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do they get away with this socialist thing they keep

throwing at you guys? 

CLYBURN:  You know what‘s so interesting?  I have had my staff chart

Bob Dole‘s plan back in 1994 that he offered up in alternative—as an

alternative...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  ... to the plan being pushed by President Clinton.  We

tracked it.  Except for Medicaid expansion in our plan and the absence

of...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  ... of medical malpractice, there are exactly the same

things. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  This plan is so close to Bob Dole‘s plan, it ain‘t funny.

And, so, this is nothing that‘s not been put on the table by

Republicans time and time again.  It‘s just that these people have

decided...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLYBURN:  ... to try to deny this president. 

MATTHEWS:  And now they have resorted to rock-throwing. 

Anyway, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn.

CLYBURN:  Thank you so much for having me.

MATTHEWS:  Again—again, I know you are happy and proud because...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... this is history that was made this week.  And if you

are opposed to it, you still have to recognize it as history. 

Anyway, thank you, sir, for coming on. 

Up next...

CLYBURN:  Thank you so much for having me. 

MATTHEWS:  ... another whopper from Rudy Giuliani.  He said

Republicans are ready to reform health care if they can just get control of

the White House and Congress again.  Of course, the former mayor may want

to ask why the party that he‘s from now has never done anything on health

care when they were in control under President Bush and, before that, under

President Clinton, when Newt Gingrich was calling the shots on Capitol

Hill?

How come the Republicans never do health care when they get the

chance?  The “Sideshow,” where Rudy gets to be—coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

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

First: Rudy‘s revisionism. 

Yesterday, on FOX, Rudy Giuliani took a whack at Democratic health

care reforms.  His point?  That Americans should give Republicans a chance

at governing and doing things like that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO”)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR:  You‘ve got nothing

to lose.  You give us a chance.  Let us do the things that we wanted to do

that Obama completely stopped us from doing and Pelosi stopped us from

doing. 

They keep accusing us of being the party of no.  Put us in power, give

us a chance, and we will pass a major tax deduction for health insurance,

$15,000 for an individual—for a family, $7,500 for an individual.

We will pass the ability to buy insurance in every state, so you drive

down the price of insurance.  We will pass tort reform. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wait a second.  Republicans had control of the White House

and both houses of Congress for four years, between 2003 and 2007.  Why

didn‘t they try any of these reforms Rudy‘s talking about now? 

Oh, by the way, here‘s some the things Republicans have given us in

recent years.  Bush Sr. gave us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. 

Speaker Newt Gingrich gave us a government shutdown.  Bush Jr. gave us the

war in Iraq and eight years of deficit spending and nearly doubling the

national debt. 

Next: making amends.  Though the Republican—though the president

delayed his months—this month‘s trip to Indonesia to work on health

care, he did take time to do an interview with Indonesian TV. 

Here our president is talking about the four years he spent growing up

in Indonesia. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is it true you wrote a poem stating that your

dream is to become a president? 

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That‘s not true.  I

think that I—I remember reading one of my teachers saying that I was

planning to be president when I was 6.  You know when I was 6, I wanted to,

I think, to be a fireman. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A fireman? 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you, all boys wanted to be a fireman when

they grew up.  I certainly did. 

Finally, power to the people—that‘s apparently not the slogan

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, a big states‘ rights guy,

was trumpeting on the House floor yesterday.  It looks like the congressman

is nostalgic for the old days, the time before the 17th Amendment.  That‘s

right, before the popular election of U.S. senators, back when they were

picked by state legislatures. 

Here he is, Louie Gohmert. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS:  Since the 17th Amendment took out the

last check and balance on usurpation of states‘ rights, it‘s time to get

the balance back in place. 

We have 39 states upset, wanting to do something, and not have another

unfunded federal mandate coming down their throats.  This will do it. 

Let‘s get an amendment that gets the balance back into the country and the

Constitution, before this Congress destroys what‘s left. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Louie, I know just what you‘re talking about.  I remember

when the Texas State legislature threw Sam Houston out of the U.S. Senate

because he believed in the Union. 

Now for the “Number.” 

Statistician Nate Silver, the guy who predicted the 2008 popular vote,

is out with a new model about the midterm elections coming up this

November.  Per his calculation, what are Republicans‘ chances of winning

back the U.S. Senate?  Ten percent.  Republicans have a 1-in-10 shot at

taking back the U.S. Senate, according to our expert, tonight‘s not-so-“Big

Number.”

Up next:  How does President Obama‘s big victory on health care reform

help him going forward, and what lessons can he bring to the looming fights

coming up ahead on other issues?

You‘re watching HARDBALL now, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC

“Market Wrap.”

And stocks slipping today, as a downgrade on Portugal‘s credit rating

sent the dollar higher and commodities lower—the Dow Jones industrial

average falling 52 points, the S&P 500 down six points, and the Nasdaq

sliding 16 points. 

Fitch Ratings cutting Portugal‘s credit rating one notch and warning

that another downgrade could be on the way.  That sent the dollar higher

against the euro, while oil prices fell and gold slid to a six-week low. 

Here in the United States, new home sales falling to a record low in

February.  Investors are increasingly concerned about the still struggling

housing market, with the Fed about to end its purchases of mortgage-related

securities. 

And another report showing durable goods orders—in other words, big

stuff that‘s made to last a long time—ticked up half-a-point in

February, with January‘s numbers revised sharply higher.

And, in stocks, options broker M.F. Global soaring more than 10

percent today—its stock, that is—after naming former New Jersey

Governor, Senator and Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine as the new

chairman and CEO.

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

President Obama got a health care bill signed into law, so now what? 

What can he do with his win and his party for the next issue?  What will be

his issue, in fact? 

Well, today, “The New York Times” reported—quote—here is the

line from “The Times” today—“Buoyed by passage of landmark health care

legislation, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress said

Wednesday that an overhaul of financial regulations was the next

legislative priority.”

Financial regulation reform, is that what the people want, what voters

want?  Are they going to hear it as getting close to them and their

pocketbooks as we get closer to November?  And what about the Republicans? 

Will we hear them?  Well, we will hear a lot more nos from them, perhaps. 

Joan Walsh is editor in chief of Salon.com.  And “TIME” magazine‘s

Mark Halperin is the co-author of the bestseller “Game Change.”

Here is the question.  How do you put bite into financial reform, so

it sounds like tough on Wall Street, something like the old Teddy Roosevelt

trust-busting, where the American people feel that the politicians, at

least some of them, are out there fighting for them against the guys who

screw around with their money on Wall Street and always end up rich, while

people end up poor. 

Joan Walsh.

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  Well, I think, you know,

Timothy Geithner came out today and has begun to sound—to sound a little

bit tougher on the issue of really having a specific agency that looks out

for consumers. 

There‘s a lot of pressure to collapse it.  Why can‘t the Fed do it,

FDIC?  There are all these different agencies.  And he‘s sounding—he‘s

sounding a little bit more populist.  You know, he doesn‘t like that.  He

doesn‘t like that word.  He doesn‘t like to be a populist.  But he‘s really

making the case in terms of consumer protection, protecting the little guy,

protecting the—protecting American families. 

That—that can sell.  You know, I—I think that—I think people

are waiting for them to get back to jobs.  That‘s what I would like to see

them tackle.  They did that jobs bill, and they actually got some

Republican support. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WALSH:  That was because it was mainly a Republican bill.  It was

mainly tax credits.  And liberals would have liked to see more direct

spending for jobs.

But I—I think that‘s going to come up again, and—and we will see

if they get any Republican help.  I doubt they will. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mark, there‘s a lot of retired people, people with

401(k)s, not rich people, but people with—with some money in the bank,

some money in stocks, and they do get the word, if they don‘t get it

officially. 

I got it from a wealthy friend of mine once, who said, you know, all

the money is made before somebody gets on the stock market.  You don‘t

really make money in the stock market.  And that seems to be increasingly

the theory people have.  They‘re not making money out there.  They don‘t

trust the system to protect their money and they—when they do invest it. 

Is there political pay dirt in this president going after financial

regulation? 

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, “TIME”:  I think there‘s

three ways this could be political pay dirt for him. 

One is to be more populist, to get not just people on the left, but

some people in the center, and even some people on the right, to frame the

the attack on Wall Street or the critique of Wall Street in a way that

gets people to think Obama understands their everyday problems. 

And then, three, he was got to make this part of talking about jobs. 

Joan‘s right, that‘s where they should be.  There‘s obvious ways to connect

doing this with jobs, not just investments.  I think if they do those three

things, they‘re in a much stronger position and can take advantage of the

momentum off health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s gets to jobs.  I‘m with Joan.  I think we‘ve got big

construction jobs, people working out there, lots and lots of jobs.  I

don‘t understand why he hasn‘t done this.  I think Republicans, who love to

appropriate for these kind of things, would jump their claim.  They‘d love

to be part of this. 

Here‘s President Obama, by the way, on Tuesday with a larger point. 

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There‘s still the work to do to rebuild this economy.  There‘s

still work to do to spur on hiring.  There‘s work to do to improve our

schools and make sure every child has a decent education.  There‘s still

work to do to reduce our dependences on foreign oil.  There‘s more work to

do to provide greater economic security to a middle class that has been

struggling for a decade. 

So this victory does not erase the many serious challenges we face as

a nation.  Those challenges have been allowed to linger for years, even

decades.  And we‘re not going to solve them all overnight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Joan, what do you think, in your reporting, tells you why

they haven‘t gone for some big WPA jobs bill, you know accelerate public

works?  Take all the bridges that need to be fixed in this country, all the

potholes that need to be filled, roads that need to be redone.  They‘re all

out there.  These roads have gotten in terrible shape because of this

winter.  And fix them. 

WALSH:  Yes.  There‘s all of the infrastructure spending.  The other

thing they could have done with the stimulus bill, Chris—they did a

little bit, but they didn‘t do it enough, in my opinion—is go to the

cities, go to the states, and prevent these awful layoffs of firefighters,

policemen, police officers, teachers.  You know, really, really losing not

make work jobs, but jobs that are the backbone of our small societies, our

cities. 

They put out the stimulus at the same time that certainly California

was laying off teachers, furloughing people.  I didn‘t understand why they

didn‘t do that either.  But I think they didn‘t do it because they didn‘t

think they had the votes, and that was very early in his presidency, when

he believed in bipartisanship.  And he cut that stimulus back, remember, to

hope to get some votes.  And he didn‘t—you know, he got none in the

House and two in the Senate from the Republicans.  So that‘s why he didn‘t

do it. 

Now what I‘m hoping as a Democrat—I‘m going to say that right out

front.  I‘m hoping that success breeds success.  They‘ve learned what they

can do with a simple majority.  They‘ve learned what they can do with an

up-and-down vote. 

They‘ve also learned how to message better.  The messaging in the last

weekend of that health care reform was better than any messaging that you

and I had watched in the last two years.  It was really about how does this

help you now?  I think they‘ve learned to how to sell themselves better. 

And I‘m a little bit optimistic that success will build on itself. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that the real message was from Massachusetts a few

weeks ago, when the voters up there said, it‘s not working.  And they voted

for a Republican.  Here‘s an interesting little fight along your lines.  I

want Mark to respond to this.  There‘s a really good talent in the White

House these days for dealing with John McCain, the guy they beat in the

last election. 

Here he is, John McCain, telling an Arizona radio station about the

health care vote and saying “there will be no cooperation for the rest of

the year, that they have poisoned”—the Democrats have.  “Poisoned the

well because of how they‘ve done this.” 

Let‘s listen to Senator McCain.  Oh here‘s—I‘m sorry, here‘s White

House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reacting to McCain.  Let‘s listen to

him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I find it curious that the

that the—that not getting your way on one thing means you‘ve decided

to take your toys and go home.  I don‘t think—it didn‘t work well for my

six-year-old.  I doubt it works well in the United States Senate because we

have—we have issues that—that are important for his constituents and

for all of America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Mark, you‘re an expert at games and game change.  Your book

is unbelievable.  Let me ask you this, what game is being played here? 

Twice now in a row, White House staffers, starting with Axelrod and now

Gibbs, are referring to John McCain, the man who ran against their

candidate, the president of the United States, as a child.  The other day,

Axelrod referred to him as being in the sandbox.  Now they‘re referring to

him as a six-year-old.  Are they systematically trying to drive John McCain

into being Mr. Wilson next door, trying to get him so mad that he starts

cranking around? 

What are they up to with these patronizing comments about the senator

from Arizona, from the White House?

HALPERIN:  Well, first, Chris, thank you about the book.  Look, with

John McCain, he‘s a special case because they have practice from the

campaign of painting him as petulant and erratic.  And the more they can do

that to any Republican leader—they‘ll do it to Rush Limbaugh and others,

as well—they want to do that because they want the public to see the

Republican party led by people who uncooperative and emotional and

petulant. 

I think, Chris, the biggest story in politics right now, in the wake

of health care, is the White House calculation for the rest of the year. 

Do they things, substantively and politically, to try to build bipartisan

cooperation or do they do what I think Joan was suggesting, which is to

learn that they can ram things through with Democratic-only majorities. 

On education, on financial reform, on economic development, they could

make the choice, rerunning the choice they faced in the beginning of the

administration, and they went the other way.   they went with the all-

Democratic—to go for Republicans.  I think they will.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, to correct you, Joan didn‘t say totally

partisan.  She knows that big works projects, jobs bills, are very hard for

Republicans not to join onto. 

HALPERIN:  No, but she also said -- 

MATTHEWS:  -- love to appropriate just as much as the Democrats. 

HALPERIN:  She also said they learned how to ram things through. 

MATTHEWS:  Joan? 

WALSH:  Ram things through—I shouldn‘t have said that because

that‘s really a Republican talking point, Mark.  I don‘t think that they

rammed things through.  They worked and they worked and they worked to try

to get Republican support.  Obama turned the whole caboodle over to the

Senate Finance Committee with those three Republicans.  He really believed

that he was going to get some support, and then he didn‘t. 

So I don‘t say ram it through.  I think he had no cooperation, not

even from Olympia Snowe, in the end, which shocked me. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSS TALK) 

HALPERIN:  Joan, would you like to see him work with Republicans on

education, on financial reform, and economic development or not?

WALSH:  You know what?  You know what, Mark?  Actually not for the

sake of working with Republicans.  I would like to see some Republicans

walk forward and work with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to go. 

HALPERIN:  I‘d like to see Scott Brown make good on his campaign

promises, but not Obama working with Republicans just to do did. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to go.  Out of time.  Thank you, Joan.  Thank you,

Mark. 

Up next, President Obama holds not one, but two closed-door meetings

with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.  What‘s going on between Bibi and

Barack?  We‘re going to find out in the thick of this biggest-ever diplomat

fight between the two countries.  Can they get together and find common

ground.  We‘ll be right back with that one.  This is HARDBALL, only on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  President Obama held two face to face sessions

with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last

night, without cameras or public reception.  Late today, the president‘s

special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, met with the Israeli

head of state to try to get—actually the head of government—to get

the peace talks back on track. 

Robert Wexler is a former democratic Congressman from Florida.  He‘s

now the president of Center for Mid-East Peace and Economic Cooperation. 

I‘ve got a faith in you, sir.  I want to know, what‘s the best interests of

Israel, best interest of the United States?  Can we get together? 

ROBERT WEXLER, CENTER FOR MIDEAST PEACE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION:  I

think we can get together.  We can get together because the bond between

the United States and Israel remains secure, unshakeable.  We here in

America understand that in order to get to peace, the security interests of

the state of Israel must be secured.

But what it requires is both the Palestinians and the Israelis, also

the broader Arab world, to take risks for peace.  The Palestinians can‘t

continue to name squares after terrorists.  They can‘t complain about

synagogues being rebuilt when it‘s appropriate to do so.  The Israeli

government cannot continue to build in the face of Palestinian complaints,

if they want to go to proximity talks or negotiations and create that kind

of dynamic that is required: trust and confidence. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it in the interest of Israel—forget the politics,

left wing, right wing, Likud labor, Khadima—for Israel to have a country

living next door to it called Palestine?  Is that in the interests of

Israel? 

WEXLER:  It is not only in the interests of Israel.  I would argue

it‘s essential.  It‘s essential if you believe, as I do, in a Jewish state

of Israel, that there be a Palestinian state. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Explain that to the non-Jewish person, the person who

doesn‘t study this issue. 

WEXLER:  Because if there‘s no Palestinian state, then demographically

the numbers of people who are not Jewish within what would become the

broader Israeli state will begin to balance so that Jews are no longer the

majority.  If you believe in a Jewish state of Israel, there must be a

Palestinian state, demilitarized one, created. 

MATTHEWS:  If that‘s obvious to you, why isn‘t it obvious to Bibi

Netanyahu, the prime minister? 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know that it isn‘t yet.  He did come out for a two-

state solution.  It was obvious Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister.  It

became obvious to Prime Minister Sharon.  It was obvious to the previous

Israeli prime ministers.  Even those that started way strident on the

right, when you look at the demographics, it‘s a requirement.  That‘s why

Sharon got out of Gaza.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  We‘ll have you back again with more time. 

Robert Wexler, former congressman from Florida, knows his stuff. 

When we come back, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Vice

President Joe Biden.  He‘s in the news.  He may not want to be, but he is. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a serious comment on Vice

President Joe Biden, a serious one.  Last week at the annual dinner of TV

and radio correspondents he joked that, quote, “at least when I get caught

with my foot in my mouth, it‘s my own foot.”  It was a wonderful shot at

one of his critics, who was discovered several years back to have purchased

a somewhat unusual service from a Washington, D.C., sex worker. 

It was, of course, also an admission by the vice president of his own

past embarrassments, that have tended to land more in the area of simply

that, personal embarrassments.  You see, the great thing about Joe Biden‘s

gaffe is their lack of malice.  If no harm, no foul were rule of the day,

the fellow would not have suffered so much grief. 

There was, of course, that time when he singled out a certain African-

American candidate for president as, quote, “articulate and bright and

clean and a nice looking guy.  I mean, that‘s a storybook, man.” 

Well, the man whose story that was, Barack Obama, got him off the hook

on that one, saying he had no problem with Biden, even though it was not

accurate to say he, alone, Barack Obama, met that positive description for

African-Americans that Biden had given him.  By the way, he picked that

fellow as his vice president and running mate. 

Then there was when Biden said he told members of his family during

the Swine Flu threat that he didn‘t want them going into confined spaces. 

When he kidded Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court about getting the

presidential oath a bit it off on that day, Inaugural Day, or yesterday

when he used a locker room idiom, he just wanted the president to know and

feel, obviously, what an historic moment they were sharing, one that this

president had achieved so downright remarkably. 

It was a classic Biden, innocent embarrassment with no malice

intended.  Indeed, the opposite.  With all the chuckles about the VP‘s bad

language, nobody pointed out the most obvious, how when the president came

out yesterday to sign the health care bill, he had Vice President Biden at

his side, just as he did when the bill passed Sunday. 

Other presidents didn‘t do that.  They were somewhat touchy about

having their vice president so close, so visibly their official deputies. 

Eisenhower never even had Nixon upstairs to the White House to visit. 

Kennedy was simply uncomfortable in Johnson‘s distance.  Nixon kept Agnew

at a distance, which was smart.  Carter and Mondale got along alright, but

were certainly cut from different cloth.

The Reagans and the Bushes were oil and water.  Clinton and Gore

hardly ended as a duet.  And Dick Cheney looked like he was young Bush‘s

disapproving headmaster. 

This team makes sense.  For all Joe Biden‘s over-enthusiasms, for all

his “wish I hadn‘t said thats,” he balances well the president‘s coolness,

and they both know it.  He‘s Barack Obama‘s liaison with regular people,

people like Joe Biden. 

At that moment in the sun, when he picked Biden out there in

Springfield, Illinois that summer day, I was taken with the fact that a

regular guy with his heart on his sleeve had risen so high.  Joe Biden,

bless his heart, hasn‘t changed a bit. 

I was fortunate to travel with the vice president on that difficult

trip to Israel.  I can say, having interviewed him on the record there and

chatted with him off the record on the way home, there‘s no more loyal

partner to this president, no more stalwart defender abroad, no better

representative to his fellow Americans.  He‘s as loyal a number two as any

president could have.  For my money, as good an American as they come along

these days. 

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

tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.  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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