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updated 3/29/2010 9:59:29 AM ET 2010-03-29T13:59:29

Guest: Douglas Brinkley, Willie Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Melinda Henneberger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Living history.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

President Obama will go down in history as the man who achieved what so

many presidents before him wanted to, tried to but couldn‘t, extend health

care coverage to Americans who didn‘t have it.  That will be the remarkable

first line of accomplishment in all his biographies and schoolbooks.  The

president proved he had the muscle and courage to push through major change

in America.  And we‘ll talk to a presidential historian tonight about this

political and legislative feat and what it means for the Obama presidency

and to both political parties.

Plus, more threats against members on both sides of the aisle.  A

photo of a noose was faxed to a district office of House majority leader—

or House majority whip, rather, James Clyburn.  And Republican

Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida received a voicemail message

threatening her life.  Republicans are accusing Democrats of using these

threats to their political advantage, but who‘s really responsible for

fanning the flames of rage?

Also, Republicans want to campaign on the pledge of repealing health

care reform.  President Obama says, Be my guest.  So can the Republicans

ride that strategy to victory in November, even if it‘s a far-fetched

promise?  Our strategists will battle that one out here tonight.

And reunited.  It‘s the moment some people have been waiting for for a

while.  Sarah Palin campaigned for John McCain today, the man who plucked

her from obscurity.  There they are out there in Arizona today.  We‘ll see

if she can get hard-right conservatives to rally behind a man that they‘ve

often considered suspect.

And I‘ll finish tonight with some thoughts about how the Democrats

proved this week that things here in Washington can get done.

We start with the history made this past week.  Doug Brinkley‘s a

presidential historian.  His latest book is “The Wilderness Warrior” about

Teddy Roosevelt.  And Willie Brown was mayor of San Francisco, and before

that, speaker of the California Assembly.

I want to start with Doug and then go to Mayor Brown for your

thoughts.  But first, I want to show you an interesting montage our

producers have put together.  Here‘s some presidents throughout our modern

American history, in the 20th and then the 21st century, on health care. 

Let‘s listen and let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN D. 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, for women in the 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.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENT OF THE

UNITED STATES:  The fact of the matter is, is that what we are now talking

about doing most of the countries of Europe did years ago.  The British did

it 30 years ago.  We are behind every country, pretty nearly, in Europe in

this matter of medical care for our citizens.

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:  Well, there you have it, Doug Brinkley, that socialist SOB,

Richard Nixon, the far lefty guy, pushing for the employer mandate, which

is even more dramatic than what this president has just accomplished in the

Congress.  But it‘s finally happened.  History‘s been made, I guess.  But

I‘m asking you, the expert.  Will this be the first line on his list of

accomplishments in the history books?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, without question.  I

mean, it‘s—any time you have the largest of something—people remember

big things, Lyndon Johnson signing Medicaid and Medicare, or FDR with

Social Security.  The fact that Barack Obama was able to get this major

reform done, when all these other great political leaders that you just ran

tried to do it, too.  It is a big moment for Obama.  It is the first line,

and it‘ll be—people will have a second and third line on what a fight it

was.  But it also shows, at the end, he‘s victorious.  And you are going to

see an Obama presidency now run on health care in the mid-term election. 

That seemed almost unthinkable a month ago.

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Brown, you‘ve been at the forefront of Democratic

Party politics for what, four decades at least, that I can think of.  How‘s

this place in your—well, your pantheon of historic events you‘ve

observed?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR:  I think this is the

most incredible event, frankly, in my entire history of being associated

with politics.  I arrived in California in 1951 from Texas and began the

quest for the kind of things that I‘m associated with now.  And believe me,

health care for all people—it‘s unbelievable, unimaginable.  Three weeks

ago, I would have said it could not be done.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s the president on Tuesday of this week at the

signing ceremony.  Let‘s listen to his account.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m signing this bill

for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations, from

Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson,

from Bill and Hillary Clinton to one of the deans who‘s been fighting this

so long, John Dingell, to Senator Ted Kennedy.  I remember seeing Ted walk

through that door in a summit in this room, a year ago, one of his last

public appearances.  And it was hard for him to make it, but he was

confident that we would do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he was right to put Hillary Clinton there, as well as

her husband, Bill Clinton, because she was out front in that effort.

Well, let me go to Doug Brinkley on the negative side.  Every time

history is made, I think of the election of Abraham Lincoln that certainly

stirred this trouble in this country.  It caused the Civil War.  When

things like this happen, they do stir bitterness on the losing side.  Your

thoughts about the relatively peaceful reaction to this so far, in terms of

some broken windows, some threats over the phone.

And by the way, in all honesty, anyone in public life is familiar with

the phone calls.  Thank God the phone calls often don‘t mean violence, they

mean somebody is venting their spleen, somebody‘s trying to scare somebody,

you know, spook somebody.  It makes them happy.  Fortunately, it doesn‘t

lead to violence, only to a bit of a stir.

Your thoughts about the reaction so far, Doug, on the negative side?

BRINKLEY:  Well, I mean, the point of American history is to remind us

that our times are not uniquely oppressive.  When you get some hate

literature going on or people being angry, this is nothing new in American

history.  During the Civil War, congressmen were bashing each other with

canes, debating issues.  My friend, Hunter S. Thompson, used to say during

Vietnam—he was against the Vietnam war—that every good American

should throw a bag of dead rats over the White House fence, and meaning

just get out there and make a lot of noise.  So I think it‘s been fairly

mild this week.

I do think, though, that the leadership of the Democratic Party and

the Republican Party might want to do a joint message to the American

people that we‘re going to still—you know, there are going to be appeals

of health care.  There‘s going to be fights.  But we don‘t want the

rhetoric to get out of control.  So I think there needs to be some bit of

bipartisanship.

Right now, it‘s a little too shrill.  And so it‘s—we‘re on a bit of

a red alert, but I think it‘s going to dissipate fairly soon, at least for

that potential violence.

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Brown, you probably heard late this afternoon, there

was word that Jim Clyburn, the great House majority whip, the number three

guy in the leadership with Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, got another one of

those faxes of a picture of a noose, a photograph of a noose.  Obviously,

that carries all kinds of history with it.  Where do you place the violence

level so far, with the broken windows and the threats of death, even?

BROWN:  Well I—I have been in the business long enough to know that

these things do occur.  Seldom, if ever, are they translated into actual

action.  There will be sufficient security provided to everybody who needs

it, on the congressional side and otherwise, whether they‘re Republicans or

Democrats.  And I agree, I think there should be a dialogue uttered for the

whole, all of America, by the leadership of America, both Republicans and

Democrats.

But let me say this, Chris.  I don‘t think the business of health care

is going to generate the same kind of reaction, let‘s say, that even the

war in Vietnam did, or even the Civil Rights passage of the bills and the

Voting Rights Act.  I do think health care is so personal, and as it

unfolds, it will be so personal that there will be a dampening of the

enthusiasm of people to criticize.  And of course, people will praise, just

as they did with Medicare.

MATTHEWS:  And I suppose you‘re saying—well, let me suggest to you

you can follow this.  They‘re going to check and see what impact it has

on them.  If they‘re a senior, they‘ll know they can get prescription drugs

without interruption, depending on how much drugs they need—obviously,

prescription drugs their doctor has prescribed.  They‘re going to discover. 

if they‘re a young family or an empty nest family, have got young adult

kids, like we do, that those young adult kids can stay on your health care

plan.  I think they‘re going—I think they‘re going to look at it

piecemeal, right?  They‘re going to look at it and say, What‘s this do to

me?

BROWN:  Absolutely.  There is a sufficient amount of benefits in this

bill that has now been signed into law that will come on line between now

and November of this year.  And when that happens, the criticism, the

misrepresentation and all the information that has come from the opposition

will go by the wayside, and people will become more focused on their other

needs, jobs and things of that nature.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I especially—Doug, you know, when my parents—my

father‘s a pretty conservative Republican, in many ways, though I think he

is a pragmatist.  He loved Medicare, OK?  I mean, these people that said

they didn‘t like the idea of government getting a little bigger when it

affected their lives positively—I mean, a lot of people—you know,

Doug, the weird comment people make is, I don‘t like the government getting

involved in health care.  I‘m on Social Security and I‘m on Medicare.  Wait

a minute.  You‘re on—you‘re involved with a government program, which

you kicked into in your working years.  You have a certain right to all the

benefits.  It comes with having kicked in all your working years.  But it

is a government program.  It‘s not the enemy.  Your thoughts.

BRINKLEY:  Well, part of the Republican strategy has been to create

fear, fear in senior citizens, and it worked to a degree.  It was able to

get rid of aspects of public option, on and on.  But the truth of the

matter is, what President Obama has going for him is we‘re not going to

know the effects of this historic legislation for three years, maybe not

even the six years.  It‘ll will be really two more election cycles until

historians are going to be able to say, Did it work?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BRINKLEY:  Did it break the back of the economy?  And so while it‘s a

definite giant political and historic victory for Barack Obama now, we

won‘t really know whether this worked for American history for about six to

eight, ten years.

MATTHEWS:  I love the way that kid was, who lost his mother because

she couldn‘t get health treatment, watching the president‘s signature and

watching him signing something.  It‘s amazing to watch that history.

Here‘s President Obama Thursday in Iowa.  That‘s yesterday.  Let‘s

listen to what he said along these lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  When I came here three years ago, I told the story of when

Lyndon Johnson stood with Harry Truman and signed Medicare into law.  That

wasn‘t perfect, either.  I‘m sure there‘s somebody who was dissatisfied

with it at the time.  And as he looked out over the crowd in Independence,

Missouri, that day, he said, History shapes men, but it is necessary—it

is a necessary faith of leadership that men can shape history.  What this

generation has proven today is that we still have the power to shape

history.  In the United States of America, it is still a necessary faith

that our destiny is written by us, not for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, gentlemen, I think one of the heroes of this—

there‘s a couple of heroes.  I want you to talk about them.  It wasn‘t just

the president and the big people like Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, or Harry

Reid.  There were some staff people involved.  Somebody came up with the

idea of using reconciliation not as an alternative to passing this bill

with 60 votes, which they did last December, but to use it to complement

it, to tweak it so that it could correspond to the House bill.  And

somebody figured out, whether it was Rahm Emanuel or somebody, that the

executive order on abortion funding would somehow ameliorate the

differences on that issue.

Mr. Brown, Mayor Brown, sometimes smart politics requires some

technicians along the way who help make this thing work.

BROWN:  I would say at all times, it is technicians who come forward

with the great ideas.  And believe me, this effort demonstrates great

ideas.  Over the last three weeks, there‘s been a dramatic change in the

attitude of the people on the Hill, as well as the people throughout this

country.  When it became clear that it could be achieved, even some of the

Blue Dogs resorted to the whole business of looking at it from their

personal standpoint.  And they got lots of assistance from retired members

of Congress to do that.

So not only was it staff people, it was retired members, some on the

Blue Dog side, who really said, You‘ve got to do it and here‘s the

technique, and don‘t worry about the criticism about the technique.  At the

end, the product will dictate whether or not it‘s acceptable to the general

public.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  Thank you, Mayor Brown.  Thank

you, Doug Brinkley.  Congratulations on your latest book.  You‘re just an

amazing guy.  You keep—you keep putting us all to shame with your—

your historical ability.

Anyway, coming up, much more on the threats against members of

Congress.  With Republican leaders talking about Armageddon and the death

of freedom, to what extent is that kind of rhetoric, over-the-top heated

rhetoric responsible for this violence we‘re hearing, this so far not

horrible violence, just there?  We don‘t know what it‘s going to lead to

this weekend.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The reports and threats of

violence out there against members of Congress keeps growing, although it‘s

not horrific yet.  Someone faxed a picture, as I said, of a noose to South

Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn‘s office.  Of course, he is coming out of the

Civil Rights movement.  That kind of picture carries a lot of sad

information and memory.  And Florida Republican Ginny Brown-Waite received

a death threat in her voicemail.  I heard it‘s pretty rough.  When will

these things calm down?  This weekend may get worse.  And who‘s to blame

for fanning these flames?

I wants to talk to U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  She‘s

chief deputy whip for the House Democrats.  She really gets the vote out. 

Thank you so much.  I want you to watch something.  We won‘t talk a lot

about this because I want to talk about you and your experience with the

health care system in this country.

Here‘s Sarah Palin today, just a few minutes ago, actually, talking

about the threats we‘ve seen this week and her—well, her take on it. 

Let‘s put it that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  We know violence

isn‘t the answer.  When we take up our arms, we‘re talking about our vote. 

We‘re talking about being involved in a contested primary like this—and

picking the right candidate, too, John McCain (INAUDIBLE) But this BS

coming from the “lame-stream” media lately about this—about this

inciting violence...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  Don‘t let—don‘t let the conversation be diverted.  And

don‘t let a distraction like that get you off track.  Keep fighting hard

for these candidates, who are all about the common sense conservative

solutions that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think she took a risk there.  I think, if

something really bad happens this weekend, and she‘s saying this stuff

didn‘t matter, she will be pulled into it.  I don‘t think she should be

pulled into, but she put herself into it. 

Your thoughts about the kind of rhetoric, the noose being sent, the—

the windows being broken, the threats to Stupak?  I would have thought that

the people on the right would be sort of sympathetic to him.  They‘re mad

of him, as an apostate, because he ended up signing the bill.  What do you

make of all this? 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Well, honestly, the

threats to Stupak, the threats to Jean Schmidt, who‘s a Republican, any of

the threats and violence is really just totally out of place, outrageous. 

And what we need to be doing is condemning violence and bullying and

threats at every level, every opportunity we can, because we can—we can

disagree, but, in America, we disagree through civil discourse, not through

bullying and violence. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, my friend, who I really

like, I will now tell you I‘m so impressed with you all these years, and

you faced a lot bigger threat in your life than somebody breaking your

window. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, tell us about what you have learned about health care

and what you have been through and to the extent you want to talk about it,

because it‘s personal, but it‘s also now—you‘re a public figure.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I tried to use my own personal experience with

breast cancer through this health care reform debate as a way to show that

there are many different faces to the need to reform our health care

system, many different faces of who is the uninsurable. 

I, after being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, at 41, hit

with an illness out of the clear blue sky, never thought that I would

become sick for any reason, became a person who, if I lost my job tomorrow,

you know, I‘m essentially uninsurable on the individual market, even though

I have taken all the steps I need to, to avoid a recurrence of breast

cancer in the future. 

And there are thousands of Debbie Wasserman—millions of Debbie

Wasserman Schultzes around the country.  And health care reform was so

essential because we need to put patients and doctors back in the driver‘s

seat and end the abusive insurance company practices. 

And that‘s what we did.  That was—you know, personally, for me,

it‘s just incredible that I know for my—for myself, but also for

millions of children who face illness, it‘s incredibly important. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, compared to me, I really think of you as a very

young person.  And the fact that you have a term—you‘re subject to what

they call a preexisting condition.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Right.  

MATTHEWS:  And, usually, you think of an older man, for example, like

that, you know, very old.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Or a poor person or a homeless person. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But you have a condition which would prevent you from

going on the market and buying—and now—and how does the law affect

you, the Obama law? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Now, the way the law affects me, the way the

health care reform law affects me is that—well, this year, we will

immediately end the preexisting condition exclusions for children. 

Then, by 2014, no one will be able to be denied coverage based on a

preexisting condition, whether they have a job, whether they‘re unemployed,

whether they‘re in between jobs.  If you have a preexisting condition, you

will be covered.  Your insurance will be guarantee-issue.

MATTHEWS:  When you go back home to Florida, you have a middle-class

district, right? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Really middle-upper, but yes.

MATTHEWS:  In some places, better-off people.  Some people are better

off.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Mm-hmm. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When you talk to them about this, it seems to me the

president is trying to address this to voters.  You represent voters,

older, better-off, wealthier, whiter—white people.  They tend to vote

relentlessly, perennially. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  They vote when there‘s no voting going on.  They get out

and vote. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That‘s the favorite pastime in my district, to

vote. 

MATTHEWS:  And kibitzing about the voting, too.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, they have to be reached if you‘re a Democrat this year,

because they will have the votes more so than in a presidential year. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, absolutely.  They...

MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s the president have to say and what do you have

to say to people who are not working poor?  They‘re not the people that are

getting these subsidies, these 32 million people?  These are the people who

are in the mainstream, who have some health insurance. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Right.  What we talk about to those people, those

85 percent of Americans that had health insurance, is that this legislation

will provide you with the security and stability that you need to make sure

that you don‘t face those skyrocketing premiums. 

And I had small-business owners all over my district stop me and say,

you know, I faced last year, 30, 40, 50, 70 -- somewhat told me they had a

172 percent premium increase with 30 employees because one of them is sick. 

Those are the kinds of things that we are—we have stopped as a

result of this bill being signed into law on Tuesday by President Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you confident this bill will look as good as it did

their, week when you passed it, five, 10 years from now? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s going to look better.  I really do. 

I think, as we phase in the really wonderful reforms, and make sure that we

can reduce costs, provide that security and stability and cover the 32

million Americans that this bill covers, we are going to make sure that

people with health care challenges are going to be able to get the coverage

they need, but, more importantly, shift the focus from a sick-care system

it a prevention and wellness system. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have a real person on.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Nice person.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

of Florida...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  ... one of the leaders of the House, probably a bigger

leader in the years to come.

Up next:  Michele Bachmann—different story—takes credit for

seeing the future. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Wait until you hear this.  It‘s—I can‘t write this

stuff.

Back in 2008 here on HARDBALL, she said she was concerned that Barack

Obama was an anti-American.  Well, wait until you hear what she has to say

right now.  She‘s no longer in the apologetic mode.  She‘s back to full,

full Bachmann. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  And now for the “Sideshow.”

Tonight:  The congresswoman says she was right.  Here‘s what

Republican Michele Bachmann said here just over a year ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You believe that Barack Obama may—you‘re suspicious

because of this relationship—may have anti-American views.  Otherwise,

it‘s probably irrelevant to this discussion.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe it brings into...

BACHMANN:  Yes, I absolutely—yes.

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American

view?

BACHMANN:  Absolutely.  I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-

American views. 

What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose

and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take

a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they

pro-America or anti-America?  I think people would be—would love to see

an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Barack Obama has anti-American views?  The media

should do an expose on members of Congress?  Well, those remarks caused

serious concern out in her home state of Minnesota.  At the time, she told

a local newspaper that she regretted using the term “anti-American.”  That

was then. 

But, Wednesday night, at a closed-press—closed-to-the-press fund-

raiser, Congresswoman Bachmann was offering another assessment.  She said

her HARDBALL appearance was in fact prophetic.  That was her word,

prophetic—quote—“I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama

had anti-American views.  And now I look like Nostradamus.”

I can‘t beat that.  Enough said. 

Next: to Russia with love.  This morning, at the White House briefing,

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked—talked up the new arms

reduction agreement with Russia and the United States.  She also offered

some special help in getting the Russian legislature to approve the treaty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Just as we have to

go to our Congress, President Medvedev has to go to the Duma.  And I think

President Obama has said that he would send Rahm Emanuel to Moscow. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  And—and we all immediately endorsed that offer. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  So, if—you know, if President Medvedev wants to take us

up on it, we‘re ready. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, talk about product placement.  I guess Rahm‘s

reputation for getting votes rounded up is going global. 

Finally, a look behind the curtain.  This week, the White House posted

this photo to their online album.  It‘s President Obama on September 9 of

last year with chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, a Holy Cross grad, editing

the health care speech he‘s about to give to a joint session of Congress. 

Take a look at the edits on there.  Look at them all.  You can see the

president doesn‘t just read what‘s put in front of him.  Look at all that

editing.  He may use the teleprompter, but he likes to have his words

printed on it. 

Now for the “Number.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated yet another milestone today. 

You can see there she was signing into law the new package of health care

fixes with her colleagues.  They brought in a birthday cake.  That‘s George

Miller there, her fellow congresswoman—congressman from California. 

It turns out that Nancy Pelosi is 70 years old today, 70.  That‘s

Nancy Pelosi.  Pretty amazing, don‘t you think?  Congratulations to the

speaker.  She‘s 70 today.  Is 70 the new 40?  Tonight‘s not so “Big

Number.” 

Up next:  Republicans are campaigning on the promise to repeal health

care reform if they gain back power.  Well, President Obama says, go for

it.  By the way, is repeal a winning strategy for the Republicans?  We will

ask the strategists next coming here on HARDBALL, both of them, R‘s and

D‘s.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

“Market Wrap.”

And stocks pulling back from early gains again today, as the incident

in South Korea rattled the markets, the Dow Jones industrials up just nine

points, the S&P 500 gaining almost a point, and the Nasdaq falling two

points. 

South Korea now saying it is unlikely that the North had anything to

do with the sinking of one of its navy ships, but that initial report was

enough to trigger a moderate knee-jerk sell-off around midday.  A couple of

economic reports appearing to balance each out—other out, consumer

sentiment came in slightly better than expected, but fourth-quarter gross

domestic product numbers revised a bit lower than originally estimated. 

And, in stocks, RadioShack was the surprise standout on reports it

could be looking for a buyer.  A merger with Best Buy is one option

reportedly being discussed. 

And Pfizer took a hit after a Boston jury found the company guilty of

marketing fraud related to one of its epilepsy drugs.  The company plans to

appeal the verdict. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now that they passed—

now that we passed it, they‘re already promising to repeal it.  They‘re

actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November.  You‘ve been

hearing that.  And my attitude is, go for it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Obama, there he is, telling Republicans that, if they want

to run a—repeal health care reform, that it‘s a good time to go for it.

They would should want to have to do it.  That‘s their plan, go for it. 

Anyway, with health care reform now signed into law, what strategy

should Democrats and Republicans use in the midterm races? 

Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.  And Sweeney Todd Harris is

also with us.  He‘s with the—he‘s a Republican strategist. 

Anyway, Mr. Todd, since it‘s your turn to attack, what do you make of

this repeal and replace?  The replace part sounds pretty namby-pamby to me,

like, gee whiz, I wish we had a health care plan, but we don‘t, so we‘re

going to pretend we do.  And, by the way, it takes 67 votes in the U.S. 

Senate to override a presidential veto.

What‘s this repeal talk?  It‘s unrealistic.  Your thoughts. 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, the—well, we do have a

health care plan that the Republicans have been pushing for all year. 

But the—look, the repeal part of this, there‘s a two-pronged

approach.  The first is repeal.  And the second one is replace it with

something that the country actually wants and that we can afford.  And

whether or not we can repeal the existing trillion-dollar bill this year is

irrelevant. 

Our campaign message is going to be vote Republican this November, and

help us replace this bill that the country doesn‘t want, that the country

can‘t afford, with something that will lower the costs, medical costs, for

every American, but will do it in a way that doesn‘t bankrupt the country

and doesn‘t cost jobs. 

And that‘s a winning message for Republicans.  It‘s a winning message

for independents.  The only people that it probably isn‘t a winning message

for are people who are already voting Democratic anyway. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, Todd, actually, it‘s not

a winning message for Republicans, because what‘s happening right now is

the newspapers and television outlets that people trust are telling people

what‘s in this bill, and they‘re telling them that, if you‘re a child, you

can‘t be denied for a preexisting condition.  You can stay on your parents‘

policy until you‘re 26. 

If you‘re somebody who is worried about an annual or lifetime limit on

health care coverage, you can‘t be capped anymore.  And I‘m wondering what

Republican wants to repeal which pieces of this legislation that people are

now starting to look at and they‘re saying, this is a pretty good idea. 

There are tax breaks for 4,000 small businesses to—that want to

provide health care for their employees to provide it.  And Americans are

sitting there saying, well, now that I‘m getting this information that I

trust from people that I trust, and not hearing these—this noise about

how the government is going to take over the health care system, this is

looking and sounding pretty good. 

“USA Today” yesterday had a poll that showed 49 percent of Americans

thought it was a good thing this was passed.  Only 40 percent thought it

wasn‘t.  So, the numbers have already started to flip.  And I think

President Obama is right.  I hope the Republicans run on a repeal strategy. 

HARRIS:  Well, I think that we will make the president quite happy,

because the plan is not to run on a repeal strategy, but the plan is to run

on a strategy that says we‘re going to shelve this bill that the country

can‘t afford, and we‘re going to replace it with something that will lower

the costs, medical costs, for every American, but do it in a way that we

can afford that doesn‘t expand our government. 

And Steve is right about preexisting conditions for kids.  What he

leaves out is the fact that the bill waits for four more years to do

anything about preexisting conditions for parents. 

MCMAHON:  Todd, it would have waited forever.  It would have waited

forever, if it had been up to Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you lying to the voters when you say you can repeal,

when it takes 67 senators to repeal?  I look at all the races, as you guys

do.  There‘s no way in hell that you guys can win 67 Senate seats this

fall.  No way.  You can win the greatest year in history, you could pick up

maybe ten and take you to 51. 

You‘re at 41 now.  How do you get from 41 to 67?  You‘re promising

something that manifestly you can‘t deliver.  That‘s the repeal of health

care.  So why are you promising it?  Why are you saying something you can‘t

do? 

HARRIS:  There aren‘t going to be 67 Republicans after the fall

election, you are correct about that.  But there are going to be a whole

lot more Republicans in Washington.  And if people want Congress to do

something about this bill, that the country doesn‘t want and the country

can‘t afford, they can vote Republican.  And once Republicans take over

control of Congress, we can sit down with the president and actually hash

out something that we can afford, that will lower the costs—medical

costs of every American. 

MCMAHON:  Todd, the president tried to get Republicans to sit down

with him and have this conversation that you‘re imagining for 13 months,

and they wouldn‘t participate. 

HARRIS:  No, he didn‘t.  No, he didn‘t. 

MCMAHON:  Then, on the day he invited them to the White House, they

said no again.  And he even included two or three of their ideas in the

final health care bill and they still said no.  Not a single Republican in

either chamber voted for this health care bill.  Why in the world would

anyone believe that the Republicans are serious about health care reform? 

(CROSS TALK) 

MATTHEWS:  Your party had power in the White House.  His name is

George W. Bush.  You had control of both houses of Congress from 2002 to

2006.  You had it.  This thing about replace—you keep putting up this

Harvey character of yours, this imaginary character of a Republican health

care bill, when you had all the time in the world to pass it.  You had all

the votes notice world to pass it.  Why does it exist now and it never

existed when you had the power? 

This is bogus, you keep saying, if we had the chance.  You‘ve had the

chance and never pushed a big health care bill.  Why didn‘t you do it

before? 

HARRIS:  We also had the small issues of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan

and the war in Iraq.  But your point is well taken.  Perhaps Republicans

should have—

MATTHEWS:  We still had those wars, if you haven‘t noticed. 

HARRIS:  Perhaps Republicans should have pushed for some of these

market-based solutions when we were in power.  I think what you‘ll see over

the next several months is Republicans across the country talking about

common sense market-based solutions that will lower medical costs for every

American.  And they can be sure that when Republicans take control of

Congress this November, that it‘s something we‘ll be pushing. 

MATTHEWS:  This doesn‘t make—I‘m getting into this fight.  It‘s

your fight to make.  But the leading candidate for the Republican

nomination—forget the fact you had four years to do it and didn‘t do it. 

And, by the way, there‘s about 300,000 to 400,000 troops right now fighting

wars overseas, that we‘ve all overlooked, unfortunately.  They‘re out there

on post right now, facing the enemy.  So there is wars going on right now. 

We‘re just not fighting them personally. 

Secondly, you‘ve got a candidate out there named Mitt Romney.  Mitt

Romney pushed through the biggest health care plan in the world up in

Massachusetts on which this bill was based.  He‘s now leading in the polls

to be your nominee to run against Barack Obama.  How can you run a guy as

your chief spear-carrier, your chief champion who has done already what

Barack Obama has done, and you say he‘s a socialist?  I‘m just asking. 

HARRIS:  I‘ll let—Governor Romney‘s not the nominee of our party. 

But I think if he were on this program right now, the first thing that he

would talk about is the fact that, as Republicans have been saying all

along, there are state-based solutions to these problems.  And Governor

Romney—

MATTHEWS:  State socialism.  So that‘s your fall-back position.  It‘s

socialism, but it‘s local.  Is that—

HARRIS:  All socialism is local, right? 

MATTHEWS:  So feeble.  You‘re stuck with Romney and you‘re stuck with

your record and you can‘t win this argument.  I‘m sorry, I shouldn‘t get in

here.  I should be a ref in these things.  But Steve—

MCMAHON:  Todd is making a valiant effort, and he‘s very good at this. 

But what he‘s talking about simply is fantasy.  The Republicans had a

chance—they had a chance—

MATTHEWS:  Todd, you win some weeks on this show.  You win some weeks

on this show, not this week.  Thank you, Steve McMahon. 

HARRIS:  I thought I just won. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe, in your own mind, in your own heart.  By the way,

your mom thinks you won. 

Up next, together again, Sarah Palin campaigns alongside the man who

made her famous, John McCain.  Politics makes strange bedfellows, ladies

and gentlemen.  Can Palin convince hard-line conservatives to stick with

McCain in his fight against J.D. Hayworth.  This is HARDBALL.  That‘s

HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  It was such a privilege to be asked do run alongside him in

2008.  And it‘s an honor to stand beside him now and ask that you, Arizona,

for the sake of your state and the sake of our country, that you send the

maverick back to the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Senator John McCain launched Sarah Palin‘s

political career on the national stage.  And now she‘s trying to help save

his.  The former running mates reunited for first time today since losing

that presidential election in 2008.  Here‘s Governor Palin stumping for

McCain, who is fending off a tough primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we‘re all part of

that Tea Party movement, because I‘ve had the privilege of traveling around

the U.S. and meeting with everyday Americans who are that great Tea Party

movement.  And folks always ask me about my friend John McCain everywhere I

go.  When you think about that first Tea Party, shoot, some may claim that

John was there at that first Tea Party. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell was at today‘s rally in Tucson,

Arizona, and Melinda Henneberger is editor in chief of PoliticsDaily.com. 

Norah, you‘re laughing.  I just want to know.  We watched the whole

thing today on television.  What couldn‘t we see?  What was the smell of

the crowd?  Were they pro-McCain, pro-Palin?  Did they understand there was

a rift between them or what?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  There was a bit of awkwardness, not

just because of that joke, where she was making fun of John McCain‘s age,

but also because it was clear that Sarah Palin was the main attraction. 

John McCain may have been at the top of the ticket in the last presidential

election, but Sarah Palin is now the star of the Republican party. 

And so while most of the people here were excited that John McCain was

here, they were ebullient that Sarah Palin was here.  They were cheering. 

They wanted their books signed.  They loved Sarah Palin.  I think that‘s

what John McCain wanted, in part, some of that star power to rub off on

him. 

Also, he needed Sarah Palin to vouch for his conservative credentials. 

That‘s why she was talking about the Tea Party.  She said John McCain is

just like someone that‘s in the Tea Party movement because he has been

campaigning against reckless spending in Washington for four decades,

according to her.  Trying to sort of say, yeah, he‘s like one of us.  He,

too, is angry at Washington.  He, too, is going to change Washington.  So

he‘s OK, guys.  He‘s OK to vote for. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Melinda, it must be embarrassing to have to get

an endorsement, if you‘re John McCain, from anybody out of state, but to

have to get it from somebody you pitched—you plucked from obscurity, and

you probably believe belongs there, as someone who has to vouch for you. 

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM:  And somebody who you think

ruined your campaign and may be a major reason you‘re not president of the

United States today. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t carry Florida.  There were a lot of states that

couldn‘t vote for her. 

HENNEBERGER:  A lot of conservatives said they had to be national

security concerns and health concerns about her, so  -- to have voted for

the ticket.  But sure it‘s got to be galling.  Just to see the body of

language like him looking like he‘s in pain, and Cindy McCain was not even

trying.  I mean, she was just standing there looking. 

MATTHEWS:  Norah, you‘re very good with observation, obviously.  Give

us a report on your sense of the McCain reaction, physically, to the

presence of this star. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think there was—it was like he had to do it.  I don‘t

think he was happy about it.  I think he‘s not happy that he is about to be

thrown out of office after 24 years in the U.S. Senate.  I mean, facing

this very tough primary challenge, and that is led by Tea Party supporters. 

It should be pointed out, there are four major Tea Party groups here in

this state.  They‘re not endorsing.  That‘s a big win for John McCain. 

Nevertheless, they‘re a powerful force.  And people don‘t think he‘s

been doing a good job.  They don‘t trust him.  Remember, he voted for the

Tarp, that multi-billion dollar bailout of Wall Street.  Voters remember

that.  They‘re angry about that.

As far as the atmospherics, you‘re right, Cindy McCain gave a very

lukewarm instruction to Sarah Palin, and John McCain didn‘t seem to be

paying attention for many parts of that.  When she was talking about the

Tea Party, he was sort of looking away.  He reached down into his pocket to

grab his notes to go over his own remarks that were going up. 

Nonetheless, this party goes on, if you will, because Sarah Palin is

holding a fund-raiser for John McCain tonight.  She‘s going to be

campaigning again for him tomorrow in Mesa.  This is all part of his

effort.  He brings in a lot of people.  It was Scott Brown just a couple

weeks ago.  He‘s invited Jeb Bush and other people to try and help him win

this Senate race.

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait to hear what you tell me about that race out

there when you get back.  Norah O‘Donnell, thanks for that report.  I want

to get the skinny on this.  Your thoughts on this?  In the end, is he going

to win? 

HENNEBERGER:  I don‘t know.  It‘s a long way until then.  Hayworth,

what does he have even to say to these Tea Party people?  He has ties to

Jack Abramoff.  He spent a lot of money, himself, when he was in Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Melinda Henneberger, thank you.

When we return, we‘re going to have some thoughts about this amazing

week.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The American people saw history made this week.  They saw a

president, a speaker of the House and a Senate majority leader enact a long

promised reform of the country‘s health insurance system.  It happened

because the president had the intense support of both the Speaker and the

Senate leader through grueling months of argument, courage, compromise, and

then more courage. 

It happened because one party, in this case the Democrats, agreed to

carry the ball, to fight off every effort by the other side to cause it to

fumble, to sustain all the attacks that came across the aisle before,

during and after the voting. 

What just happened offers an object lesson in how to have a

functioning government, in other words.  You vote for a candidate and a

party that promises to do something and then they do it.  We just saw

Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid do what

they deeply believe is good for the country. 

So if the country wants government to act it should vote in way that

allows that to happen.  This is true no matter which party we choose.  In

1980, the country voted overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan.  It voted to give

him a partisan majority in the U.S. Senate, and the kind of huge pickup of

seats in the House that allowed him to push through his big changes in

federal tax and spending policies that became the Reagan Revolution. 

Today‘s polls show the public is conflicted on all this.  While it

wants political figures to do what they promised to do, it‘s not at all

sure it wants to give them the power to do this.  Those polls out there

today show that 60 percent of this country, believe it or not, prefers

having government divided between a president of one party and a Congress

of another.  In other words, a prescription for log jam. 

What I think the people most detest is government ground down by

conflict, by finger pointing and blame gaming and inaction.  When Congress

rejects what the president proposes, or when the president refuses to back

what the Congress wants, you get government by standstill.  You get loud

complaints, one side blaming the other, and nothing to show for it. 

So the big question for voters out there watching right now is do you

want government to deal with the challenges of health, of energy

dependence, illegal immigration, bad education, or just keep kicking the

can down the road?  If you do want government to act, pick the party you

trust to do it.  If you don‘t, if you truly think the way things are in

this country are as good as they‘re going to get, split the vote up, divide

up the government, make sure neither party has the power to do anything. 

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

Monday 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.

END   

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