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updated 1/7/2011 1:02:14 PM ET 2011-01-07T18:02:14

Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Bertha Coombs, Michael Isikoff, Hansen Clarke, Scott Tipton, Shushannah Walshe, Martin Tolchin, Susan Tolchin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The Daley show.  We‘re talking Bill Daley.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews up in Philadelphia tonight. 

Leading off tonight: A presidency reborn.  The change on Capitol Hill this week has triggered a big change in the White House today.  President Obama named Bill Daley as his chief of staff.  The former Clinton Commerce secretary would mark a new beginning for this administration and send a strong signal to Republicans that this president has a hard-core political veteran, a grown-up, if you will, in his inner circle.  The West Wing shake-up and what it means for his presidency is our top story tonight.

Plus, how will this freshman class make its mark in the new Congress, and when will the battles begin?  We‘re going to talk to two newcomers, a D and an R.

And watch out, Sarah Palin.  Michele Bachmann may try to ride that Tea Party wave all the way to the White House.  She‘s got a brand-new post on the Intelligence Committee, of all places.  She‘s already introduced a bill to repeal the entire Wall Street financial regulatory bill.  She‘s speaking in Iowa soon.  And when asked if she‘s weighing a run for 2012 for president, her people say it‘s entirely possible.

Also, you know how lawmakers have decried the use of earmarks and patronage and all those bad words?  Well, it turns out that that forbidden fruit is secretly quite popular.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with today‘s bright sign that the lights are on at the White House and somebody‘s home.

Let‘s start with the big staff build-up at the White House.  Chuck Todd is NBC‘s chief White House correspondent and political director, as well as co-host of “THE DAILY RUNDOWN,” and Howard Fineman, our friend, is political editor for The Huffington Post and an MSNBC political analyst that had a piece of the breaking story today.

Here, gentlemen, is Bill Daley.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM H. DALEY, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Thank you very much, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.  You have honored me and my family by giving me an opportunity to serve you and to serve our nation.  You, Mr.  President, have proven your strength, your leadership, your vision, during a most difficult time for our nation and for the world.  You have also shown through your example that public service is an honorable calling, and I am pleased to answer your call.  This team will not let you down, nor the nation.  Thank you very much for this extreme honor.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go now to Chuck.  Chuck, let‘s look at this in the usually perverse way I like to look at things, which is from the other side.  Does this disturb the Republicans on Capitol Hill and the hotshots up there thinking they can get the White House back in two years, to see that this kind of rebuilding‘s going on right in front of their eyes?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it should because I think when you see what a guy like Daley‘s been brought in to do—this is a former cabinet secretary.  So number one, this means they‘re actually going to figure out how to use the cabinet.  That has been a big criticism—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  -- among some in the first two years, that they haven‘t figured out how to dispatch their cabinet.  Two, this is a guy that knows how to work with governors and mayors.  Well, why does that matter?  Governors and mayors are a little more important when you‘re worried about a reelection than folks on Congress and on Capitol Hill.

Three, the business community is going to look around and say, You know what?  We‘re going to give this president another chance.  They may have been ready to say, We give up on him, we‘re going to wait and sit back and wait for—see if Republicans can take the White House.  That‘s no longer the case.  They‘re going to feel as if they have somebody they can pick up the phone and talk to in the White House.

So yes, I think, when you look at those folks totally in a strategic way, Chris, if that‘s the way you want to frame it, I think they‘d sit there and say, Well, look, this guy is going to be a pretty formidable guy, meaning President Obama.  He knows—somebody described him to me today as, like, Look, he‘s figured out—he figures out—he may not be a pragmatist—some people say he is—is, and he‘s a pragmatist to his core, but—but he knows how to—evolve‘s not the right word, but he knows how to sort of adapt.  He‘s an adapter.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I love it.

TODD:  He seems to be adapting to what he has to do.

MATTHEWS:  You think in the same—you know, Howard, it reminds me—

remember that guy at 17th and Penn, right near the White House, where the -

well, you‘ve always been working—and it seems me—remember that guy, Ron whatshisname, used to play all the different musical instruments on the corner?  Like, he had a drum and he played the harmonic and he‘s playing all these (INAUDIBLE) That‘s what this administration‘s been too much like, I think.  It hasn‘t leveraged its cabinet.  It hasn‘t leveraged surrogates.  It hasn‘t been a nationally powerful institution, like it could be.

Do you think Billy Daley can do that, can take the president‘s power and bring it all across the cabinet (ph) and build a phalanx of power for this guy?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, to put in slightly different terms what Chuck so neatly summarized, this is Chicago writ large.  And what‘s going to happen now is Bill Daley, in the service of Barack Obama, is going to try to turn the whole country into Chicago, meaning that Chicago is known as the city that works.

And the Democrats in Chicago, going back to Bill Daley‘s father, the original Daley mayor of Chicago, figured out a way to get the unions and the big banks and the business community and traditional progressive Democrats from the North Side, and eventually, yes, even the African-American community in on the deal.  Everybody was in on the deal.  All the aldermen knew what they were doing, to use the analogy that Chuck made about governors and mayors and think of them as the board of aldermen.  And that‘s the way it‘s going to be organized.

Bill Daley is the ultimate inheritor of the big city Irish-American political tradition.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  He really knows how it‘s done.  He cares about loyalty.  He cares about consistency.  And I think it‘s a very—Republicans—to answer your other question, it‘s something the Republicans should be impressed by because, as Chuck said, Barack Obama knows how to adapt.

The funny thing is Barack Obama, when he got elected president, wasn‘t really a big player in Chicago.  When he first ran, he wasn‘t a big player at all.  Now he‘s the ultimate Chicago Daley—player, with a Daley at his side.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to that question—go back to you, Chuck—the old line from Chicago is, “I don‘t want nothing nobody sent.”  Who sent—who sent Billy Daley to the White House?  Where‘d he come from?  Who pushed him on the president, or did the president quietly go out there on cat‘s feet and not tell anybody what he was doing the last couple weeks while he was in Hawaii and come up with this guy?

TODD:  It‘s not quite that he wasn‘t telling anybody what he was doing, but looked, Pete Rouse was charged—even before Rahm Emanuel left, Pete Rouse has always been sort of the long-term planner of this White House.  And he was charged with coming up with sort of, OK, what is Obama 2.0?  That‘s what the younger staffers around here call it.  What is 2.0 going to look like, particularly in the Republican-controlled House, the world that now sits here in Washington?

And so they were bringing in a lot of people to give advice.  Some of them met with the president personally.  Most of them met with Pete Rouse.  They bring in former senators.  They bring in former governors.  They brought in people like Bill Daley.  Well, you know, the first time, it was a get to know you, get his advice.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  The second time, it was a—look, these are—look, David Plouffe‘s been a part of this project for a while, trying to figure out what is 2.0 going to look like.  And so, there are a—the Daley idea was popular among a lot of operatives, some of whom were in the Obama inner circle, like Plouffe, and some of whom are in the cabinet secretary—in the Clinton world, sort of the Clinton Democrats that are not really involved in this White House—

FINEMAN:  Chris?  Chris?

TODD:  -- but certainly enjoy providing advice.

FINEMAN:  Chris?  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Howard?

FINEMAN:  This was—this was—this was essentially—all that‘s true, but this was essentially a David Axelrod-Rahm Emanuel deal.  This is a Chicago deal.  This is Barack Obama realizing—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FINEMAN:  -- that the people in Chicago know how things are done, and he brought him in to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Robert Gibbs explaining it to Chuck.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I don‘t know that it‘s fair to say they didn‘t have any relationship, but I don‘t think you would necessarily put Bill Daley in sort of an inner group or a close group with the president, you know, prior to somewhat recently.

TODD:  So this qualifies as a new, outside voice—your argument would be, This is a new outside voice.  It‘s not like you‘ve been talking with Bill Daley over the last couple of years.

GIBBS:  No.  I think it would qualify as that‘s something new.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  OK, I can hear all the good reasons—by the way, I‘m totally thrilled by this thing myself.  I love the idea of an executive coming in there, somebody who‘s going to be a good COO for this president and make things get done and do everything, Chuck, that you said—get the cabinet involved.  This cabinet is invisible.

TODD:  It is.

MATTHEWS:  Get surrogates out there.  I don‘t understand why these people aren‘t on the Sunday talk shows and out on our kinds of programs all through the week, selling the story like grown-ups!

FINEMAN:  Well, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t seem to do it!

FINEMAN:  Chris, Bill Daley knows everybody—even though he‘s in Chicago, he knows everybody in politics and everybody in journalism.  I, for example, have been dealing with him for the better part of three decades.  I know him going all the way back to the Mondale campaign and all the campaigns since.  He knows everybody.  Has relationships with everybody.  As you said in the opening, he‘s an adult.  He knows—he tells you what he thinks in no uncertain terms.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  But does it with everybody.  There are no enemies—there

are really very few enemies in Bill Daley‘s world.  There‘s almost nobody -

-

TODD:  And that—

FINEMAN:  There‘s almost nobody you can‘t talk to.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I can think of some enemies.  I can think of some enemies, Chuck, and they are the netroots people, the people that are looking for—

TODD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  -a progressive voice.  Will the president now balance his appointment off or urge Daley to balance the appointment off with somebody who is closer to the left, if you will, someone who is very much identified with the progressive movement out in country and in the netroots, of course?

TODD:  You know—

MATTHEWS:  Will he try to do that?

TODD:  -- I could see some symbolic—I don‘t know that he will.  I‘ll be honest—Daley—it‘s funny you say that—I feel like the left, they‘ve been—they‘re not thrilled with this pick.  But even Richard Trumka today, who‘s with—the head of the AFL-CIO—now, he didn‘t name Daley at all in the release, so it‘s kind of interesting—look, they‘re not thrilled with it because Daley, of course, is a guy that got NAFTA passed for Clinton.  So they—this is not something that excites them.  But he didn‘t go negative because—

MATTHEWS:  That was the murkiest statement, Chuck.  That statement was So hard to read.  It was like—

TODD:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  -- one of these—

FINEMAN:  No, it wasn‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  That‘s right.  They want—

FINEMAN:  It wasn‘t hard to read.

TODD:  Richard Trumka wants to make sure he can still get a meeting in the White House.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  If he—if he trashed Daley in a release, guess who was going to have a hard time getting a meeting in the White House?

FINEMAN:  Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK, Howard—

TODD:  But by the way, one other point I want to make here, Chris, very quickly is that the president and Bill Daley—everybody says, Oh, this is Chicago.  And yes, this is obviously part of the Chicago world.  You can‘t have somebody named Daley and not think of the Chicago connection.  Ironically here, the president and Bill Daley didn‘t have much of a relationship.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  They‘re not personally close.  The Daleys professionally got behind Barack Obama basically because they had to because he was the Chicago guy running.  They probably would have been with the Clintons, had it not been for Obama‘s candidacy.  Remember, they were with the Clintons the first time.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, I‘ll bet there‘s another piece of this.  I‘ll bet he‘s hearing from people like Robert Wolf (ph), his friend on Wall Street at UBS, and people like who are saying, You have to have somebody in the White House that when we come to see you, there‘s somebody there‘s who‘s interested in hearing what we have to say and actually transfers that information to you, somebody who really does want to hear from business.

Here‘s Obama today with Daley.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job.  He‘s led major corporations.  He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy.  And needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works.  You might say it is a genetic trait.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  But most of all, I know Bill to be somebody who cares deeply about this country, believes in its promise and considers no calling higher and more important than serving the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will he be a real chief of staff, Chuck, first, and then Howard?  Will he be able to hire and fire in the White House, or will everything have to be approved by the president?

TODD:  Well, no, I mean, I think it‘s—he‘s going to have real power.  This is—this is not to say he has to get everybody approved, but I think there‘s going to be a little more of an inside-outside game.  He‘s not going to be the guy that‘s going to be trying to legislate Congress.  You know, Obama 1.0 was about working with Congress.  Obama 2.0 is about getting this message out in the country and figuring out how to use the presidency and the executive branch without having to deal with Congress as much.  It was sort of the challenge that Clinton had after Republicans took control of Congress.

And that‘s what he‘s going to be.  He‘s going to be more of an outside game, where Pete Rouse, who‘s still staying—he will be there to deal with the inside game.  He‘s the one that knows how the Senate works in and out—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

TODD:  -- and you‘ll have Daley be the outside guy.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, you think he cut a deal where he has real power over the other staff people, or will he have to let the president pick the next press secretary, or will he pick him?  What kind of power is he going to have?

FINEMAN:  Oh, I think he‘s going to have a lot of power.  I agree with Chuck about the division of responsibility.  And Daley knows the whole country, as well as Washington.  But I think he‘s going to have real power, and I think that‘s probably a lot of what he and the president were talking about over the last day or two.  Knowing Daley as I do, he‘s no figurehead.  When he was the chairman of Al Gore‘s campaign in 2000, that was not a figurehead deal.  I mean, he was in every strategy meeting, and what he said had a lot to do with what Al Gore did and didn‘t do.

MATTHEWS:  Fascinating stuff.  Thank you, guys.  Couldn‘t have two better guys than you, Chuck and Howard Fineman.  By the way, Howard, congratulations.  You got the first interview with Daley, I hear.

Coming up: It‘s a huge freshman class in the 112th Congress, and we‘ve got two members of that class, a Democrat and a Republican, to duke it out here coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL—two frosh coming here to MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The number of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats is hitting new lows.  According to new polling analysis by Gallup, just 31 percent say they‘re Democrats last year.  That ties the lowest level of Democratic Party ID since 1988.  Just two years ago, 36 percent of Americans said they were Democrats.  Well, the news isn‘t so great for Republicans, either.  Only 29 percent of Americans—that‘s a lower number—say they‘re with the GOP, a number which has risen somewhat in recent years.  Thirty-eight percent, by the way, the biggest number say, We‘re independents.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Battle lines are already being drawn in the House, where Republicans are ready to deliver on their campaign pledge to basically undo everything Obama ever did.  Joining me right now are two freshmen who rode the anti-incumbent wave in both parties.  Republican congressman Scott Tipton of Colorado defeated John Salazar out there and wants to see health care reform repealed straight away next Wednesday.  And Democratic congressman Hansen Clarke of Michigan, from the Detroit area, defeated long-time congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in the primary.  He‘s the first Bangladeshi-American to serve in Congress.

Gentleman, thank you.  I want you both to look at something that happened that‘s kind of disturbing.  Here‘s U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone.  He was heckled by a birther today as he read the Constitution on the House floor.  The a woman created a commotion when Pallone came to that section in the Constitution that said only natural-born citizens may become president.

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY:  No person except a natural-born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution shall be eligible to be the office of president.  Neither shall—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) Obama!  (INAUDIBLE) Obama! 

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you hear it.  And there was—after that, NBC‘s Brian Williams asked the House Speaker, John Boehner, if he‘s willing to speak out against those birthers.  Here‘s what the new Speaker of the House said.  Let‘s listen and parse it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there.  That‘s good enough for me.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Would you be willing to say that message to the 12 members in your caucus who seem to either believe otherwise or are willing to express doubt and have co-sponsored legislation along those lines?

BOEHNER:  Well, Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States—there are 435 of us.  We‘re nothing more than a slice of America.  And people come regardless of party labels and they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas.  It‘s the melting pot of America.  It‘s not up to me to tell them what to think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, more of Brian‘s interview with Speaker Boehner on the “NIGHTLY NEWS” tonight.

Let me go to Congressman Hansen Clarke.  You‘re a Democrat from Michigan.  What do you think of the leader of the other party not willing to basically tell his party to knock it off with this questioning of the president‘s Americanness?

REP. HANSEN CLARKE (D), MICHIGAN:  You know, Chris, look, first of all, I represent metro Detroit.  You know, our people are struggling.  We need to get back to work and get out of debt.  This whole issue about the president‘s citizenship is really a distraction, literally today in the House chamber and just nationally.  Look, it‘s proven.  The president was born in the United States.  We have seen the birth certificates.  Let‘s move on to how we can put people back to work and bring them financial stability.  That‘s the real focus right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Mr. Clarke.  Why do people in the Republican Party keep raising this issue?  Why do you have people out in the galleries raising the issue, echoing members of Congress who have raised it? 

CLARKE:  You know, I choose not to focus on why people are not addressing the key issues. 

See, my job being here, even as a Democrat, is not to make the Republicans wrong, but actually help put people back to work and get them in a stronger financial position, and give them peace of mind.  That‘s all people want.

Now, I represent metro Detroit.  We‘re really hard-hit economically, but there are many areas around the country right now where people are feeling financially insecure.  All they want is this.

They want government to work for them, not campaigning on these idea ideological platforms just to make the opponents look wrong.  This is not about making people look wrong or being right.  It‘s about serving and helping the taxpayer that funds us right here in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that the issue, Congressman Tipton, or is it this continued talk about birthers and all that keep being—nobody creates it in the media.  People yelling out in the Congress and congresspeople backing them up is the problem. 

TIPTON:  Well, I don‘t think that we can actually take into consideration one person yelling from the gallery as any kind of general opinion. 

Congressman Clarke and I happen to agree.  This is going to be about jobs.  It‘s going to be about the economy.  It‘s about getting people back to work in this country and government off the backs of the American people, so that we can get that entrepreneurial spirit moving once again. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about your party?  Aren‘t you pushing issues like if people have a child in this country and they‘re not documented, they‘re not here legally, that that child should not be an American?  Aren‘t you raising this birther issue in another way?

TIPTON:  I think, for many of us, Chris, it‘s actually prioritization. 

First of all, we do need to be able to secure the borders of this country.  We need to stand up for the citizens that are born here to be able to provide for their education, to be able to create jobs for those families, to be able to provide for their future as well.  But there‘s going to be an order and a process that we will go through. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  Wait a minute here.  Are you for this taking away a person‘s citizenship if they‘re born here? 

TIPTON:  Taking away if they‘re born here? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TIPTON:  Obviously, no.  That‘s a settled question.  They‘re American citizens. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So you‘re not against birth citizenship?  You‘re not against—you‘re not going to change the 14th Amendment?  You‘re not one of those guys?

TIPTON:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about this whole thing about immigration, where I don‘t trust the Republicans.  Do you believe in punishing people who hire people illegally? 

TIPTON:  You know, I think that we‘re going to have to hold a lot of the business community accountable.  We‘re going to have to make sure that they have the tools to be able to verify that people are here legally.

MATTHEWS:  Good.  I‘m with you on that. 

OK.  Let‘s go to Detroit and the problem of unemployment.  It seems to me you‘ve got—I was talking to Jesse Jackson recently, Congressman, and he points out something pretty scary.  In the entire city of Detroit, apparently, there are no supermarkets.  Now, you talk about ghettoization, where the economy is basically cut off from people. 

Is it that bad, that you don‘t even have like a regular system of supermarkets in Detroit? 

CLARKE:  No, that‘s true.  A lot of people in the city of Detroit have to go to supermarkets and drugstores to get their food. 

And that‘s one reason why we have chronic health conditions.  It would be a low-cost way—and this is what I‘m going to do as a member of Congress.  Instead of using taxpayers‘ dollars to buy myself some big vehicle, like a luxury vehicle, to drive around the district, I‘m going to rent a van and take the senior citizens who really can‘t get out of their apartments and take them to a great supermarket, where they can get fresh fruits and vegetables a couple of times a month. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s unbelievable.

CLARKE:  That‘s going to help reduce health care costs, because people are going to have a decent diet.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a strange thing.  There are—a lot of people outside the inner circle don‘t realize how bad it‘s gotten in the big city.

Let‘s take a look at this.  Here‘s Speaker Boehner today.  He couldn‘t name a program he‘d like to cut.  Now, this is kind of interesting for a veteran leader.  Let‘s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Do you consider the defense budget sacred? 

(CROSSTALK)

BOEHNER:  Absolutely not. 

WILLIAMS:  Do you consider the homeland security budget sacred?

BOEHNER:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  Name a program right now that we could do without. 

BOEHNER:  I don‘t think I have one off the top of my head.  But there is no part of this government that should be sacred. 

I believe there‘s room to find savings in the Department of Defense.  There are a lot of needs at the Department of Defense.  And I think Secretary Gates has a reasonable plan, to allow the service chiefs to go in there and root out the wasteful spending, so that they can find the money they‘re going to need to make sure that we have the weapons of the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congressman Tipton, let me ask you about that.  Can we cut out some of the agricultural spending out there?  Can we cut out other programs, get rid of them?

TIPTON:  You know, I think that we‘re going to have to look at every program. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can we save money on agriculture? 

TIPTON:  You bet, where they design for the big corporate entities, where they design to make sure that the family farmer and the small elements are going to be able to survive. 

Those are some of the prioritization decisions that we‘re going to make.  And it is, Chris.  It‘s going to be across the board.  We‘re going to have to have some shared challenges, but it‘s going to be prioritization.  And that‘s going to take some leadership and—and aggressive acts by Congress to make sure that they‘re standing up for the American people, not continuing to build on a $14.3 trillion debt in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  Let‘s go.

Thank you very much, Congressman Scott Tipton of Durango.  I have been to Lake Mancos Ranch out there.  I love that place out there in Colorado.  Thank you, sir, for coming here.

TIPTON:  Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS:  And Congressman Hansen Clarke, what a story you have, sir. 

It‘s so great to meet you.  What a story.  Thank you for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

CLARKE:  It‘s great being on your show.

And I just want to send a message out.  We have got to stop foreclosures.  That‘s the best way to help save our neighborhoods and strengthen our economy.  We‘re going to have another wave coming, and the Congress has got to take decisive action to keep people in their homes. 

MATTHEWS:  I hear you. 

Up next: Vice President Biden‘s number-one piece of advice to all the daughters and granddaughters of the new members of Congress.  This is really Biden territory.  Check out the “Sideshow” coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Yesterday‘s opening session of Congress welcomed all those new faces to Capitol Hill, as well as those who have been serving for decades.  Some of the old-timers might not be as happy and excited as they used to be.

Last night, Jon Stewart zeroed in on a longtime Arizona Republican, John McCain.  And, well, Stewart had a little fun with him.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  McCain‘s old man crankiness has gone off the charts. 

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  On the scale, he‘s clearly gone from a man of wisdom all the way to full “Gran Torino.” 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  But, tonight, on “Let‘s All Stand on John McCain‘s Lawn,”

we welcome a new member of the “Daily Show” team, and quite surprising

that he‘d be willing to play ball with us after all we have talked about him here. 

Please welcome to the program, puppet Senator John McCain. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Ah, phooey, the lights are too bright.  They burn my skin.  You‘re going to make me look like a Mexican.  Build the dang fence. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Build it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just guessing that the real John McCain won‘t be a guest on “The Daily Show,” because he won‘t want to be, any time soon.

Next, Joe Biden caught himself in a bind yesterday while swearing in members of the Senate.  Oregon Senator Ron Wyden‘s 3-year-old got a hold of Biden‘s script and wouldn‘t give it back to him.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I need to borrow that back.  No.  William won‘t give that back to me?  Hey, I will trade you.  Here‘s the deal.  You see this?  If you can tell me which hand it‘s in, you can have it. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Which hand?  Look at that. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Hey, you got it.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  It‘s a mint. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that poor kid never had a chance. 

Anyway, that brings us to the “Big Number.”  As you just saw, Joe Biden met a lot of Senate family members at the swearing-in yesterday.  And the always charming V.P. had a little advice for the young women in the receiving line.  Let‘s listen and watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  All of you women under the age of 30, no dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

Remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  You‘re not allowed to have any dates until you‘re 30 years old. 

Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30 years old. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Do you remember that? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Smile.

BIDEN:  No, not smile.  No dates until you‘re 30. 

Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

All right, just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  No guys until you‘re 30.

Girls, remember, no dates until you‘re 30 years old. 

No dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Just remember, no dates until you‘re 30. 

No dates or boys until you‘re 30 years old. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, as they say in show business, it‘s easier to find a new audience than new material.

By our count, that‘s 18 times the vice president repeated that same advice, no dating until you‘re 30, to all the young women -- 18, our number tonight. 

Anyway, up next, Michele Bachmann—well, we‘re in the humorous category here—may be thinking about running for president, but she is playing coy on that subject.  But she has a much bigger role in Congress, introducing a bill to repeal last year‘s financial regulatory bill in toto. 

And she has also landed a seat—now, this is great irony here—on the Intelligence Committee.  Wonder what the rules are for getting on that committee?  I guess they‘re pretty lenient.  What‘s Bachmann up to?  We want to know. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending mixed after trading in a narrow range all day, the Dow Jones industrials giving up 25 points, S&P 500 slipping two, but the Nasdaq tacked on seven.  Pockets of strength in the tech sector based on buzz coming out of Las Vegas CES.  The focus is squarely on tablets and smartphones, and just about everything up and down that food chain was doing well today.

Chip and hardware makers Nvidia, NetLogic, Trident, just newly created Motorola Mobility all advanced.  And British chipmaker ARM jumped after Microsoft said—confirming that it‘s going to use its chip design in the newest version of Windows for portable devices. 

Defense stocks rose, despite the Pentagon announcing plans for about $78 billion in budget cuts, but a mixed bag for retailers on weaker-than-expected December sales results, cautious spending, and that huge Northeast blizzard putting a minor dent in holiday spending at the end of the month.

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  How seriously are you considering a run for president? 

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, I‘m very serious about going to Iowa and going to various states and having this discussion about how we can become better again as a country, because, right now, we have 9.8 percent unemployment.  And, quite frankly, we can‘t continue to tolerate gas going up to $5 a gallon. 

(CROSSTALK)

VIEIRA:  But how serious are you about a run for the presidency in 2012? 

BACHMANN:  What I‘m serious about is focusing on the issues.  I think it‘s mistake—I‘m not concerned about my own personal ambition. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was of course Meredith Vieira trying to get information from Michele Bachmann.  It‘s always a tricky matter.  That‘s not exactly a no, by the way, from the congresswoman from Minnesota.  Raising her profile and expanding her influence in the new Congress, today, she introduced a bill to basically wipe out the entire financial regulatory reform bill of last year.

And, by the way, she‘s been tapped by the speaker, Boehner, for whatever reason, to be on the Intelligence Committee.  You have got to wonder about that.  And, as you just saw, she‘s being asked about her presidential ambitions because she‘s heading off to Iowa to do some sort of trouble out there. 

Michael Isikoff is an NBC News—in fact, he‘s our investigative reporter. 

And Shushannah Walshe—I want to start with her—writes for The Daily Beast.

Shushannah, here‘s the question.  What—is this all just a brilliant sort of phantasmagoric publicity machine?  To announce that you‘re going to get rid of the entire financial regulatory bill, which you can‘t do, of course, because it will never get through the Senate, never get signed by the president, what is it all about? 

Heading off to Iowa, getting on Intelligence Committee, heading up the Tea Party, what‘s the game here for Michele Bachmann, who seemed to have started on this network, on this program one night, when she said:  I want to investigate all the Democrats in Congress for anti-American activities, like we‘re going to back to HUAC or something.  Go ahead.

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  I think you said it, that really she is a publicity machine. 

She‘s very good at raising money, and she‘s very good at raising publicity for herself.  And this is what this is all about, her visits to Iowa, which I think there will be more than this one trip.  She will make a few.  Is she really going to run for president?  I don‘t think so.

But being part of that conversation, does she want that?  Absolutely.  And same with trying to repeal this financial reform.  It‘s keeping her name attached to it.  And, also, she wants to be the leader—she clearly wants to be one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement. 

She founded the Tea Party Caucus.  So, attaching her name to this is also good for her.  It shows Tea Party members that are just coming in, freshmen, that she‘s going to be the leader that they should turn to. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WALSHE:  I mean, I think it‘s absolutely—it‘s all about keeping her name in the headlines every single day.  That‘s why we‘re here talking about her also. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a—there seems to be an element of appeasement here by the leadership with the Republicans.  John Boehner already coming in here as Mr. Clean, and the first thing he does is basically give away the store and put this person on intelligence.

Michael, I want you to watch something she said on this show a couple of years ago and tell me if you think this is the kind of person who belongs on the intelligence committee—if you‘re just objective about it.  Let‘s watch her in action saying what she thinks our job in the media is to do.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  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:  An expose.  I mean, that‘s where her head was at.  I don‘t know if she‘s gotten more developed or not, Michael.  But why would they put her on the intelligence committee?  To catch her like a mouse trap so she‘ll start talking and Boehner can get rid of her that way?  Or what‘s he up to?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  Well, that‘s exactly the question a lot of people are asking.  You know, it‘s not just, Chris.  I mean, she‘s got, you know, a pretty long history of saying some pretty provocative, “out there” things that have not always been completely substantiated during—remember when President Obama last November flew off to India after the election and there were all those stories about that was going to cost taxpayers $100 million, $200 million a day.  All of which were bogus taken from some account on some obscure Indian newspaper.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ISIKOFF:  Michele Bachmann was one of those who was feeding that and saying, well, I heard it from a newspaper.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ISIKOFF:  So, therefore, it was justified in saying it.

So, do you—the question that‘s being asked, including by some intelligence committee members, is: is this the kind of person you want to have on the intelligence committee, the guardian of the nation‘s secrets?  Somebody who really can‘t talk about anything in that committee because most of it is highly classified.  Shushannah called her a publicity machine.  You know, a publicity machine doesn‘t quite mesh with the profile of somebody you‘d normally be looking for to serve on a committee like that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me get back to Shushannah.  Well, put it all together, what is her purpose?  Is it publicity?

Is it—there‘s something about the way she presents herself.  I got to be careful here, but I don‘t get it.  Is it—is it—I don‘t know what is it.  There‘s so much an odd look you get when you talk to her on television.  I don‘t know.

What do you make of her sort of persona?  What you can tell us about her that we don‘t know?

WALSHE:  Well, I think that the question what is it all about is an important question.  I think that her ideals, what she believes in, she does very much want to be passed on to the rest of the country to believe in as well.  But I think that a lot of it is also being the center of attention.

And, you know, I had spoken to a lot of former staffers.  She‘s had a problem with keeping staffers.  She got a lot of turnover.  And even ones that still like her talk and hold her on high seat, talk about how much she needs to be the center of attention.

And you‘re talking about somebody who‘s gone from six years of complete obscurity, to somebody who is a huge national celebrity.  Somebody who‘s we can—she‘s talking about running for president.  I mean, that‘s incredible.  And so—

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is the religious piece?  Because I don‘t want to push it too hard.  But is there kind of a Joan of Arc thing going on here.  The way you write that piece makes it sounds like she‘s on a kind of crusade.  I‘m serious.  What was a (INAUDIBLE) which goes beyond what we normally consider politics in America.

WALSHE:  Well, I mean, I wouldn‘t say Joan of Arc, but I think that her religion is a very important part of her.  And it‘s definitely driving her.  It is one of the reasons she said publicly several times that she turned to God when she decided to run for Congress.  She—you know, when she‘s trying to either pass legislation, when she‘s praying, thinking about legislation, she does turn to prayer and she‘s been open about that.

When I was running a profile about her and I spoke to close associates and friends, they said that she often turns to prayer in moments like this, and I think that that is what is very much propelling her in all ways, whether it‘s pushing legislation or higher political goals.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I pray, too and I think prayer is wonderful myself and I believe in it.  So, I‘m going to knock her.  I‘m just wondering whether her ambitions are a bit enlarged here beyond just political office.  Does she see herself—final question here—leading some kind of crusade to change America in—this thing about having us investigate Democratic members of Congress for any American activities is the kind of extreme stuff we grew up reading about in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s.

ISIKOFF:  Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Michael.

ISIKOFF:  Chris, if I get—yes, I just—look, this really does, the intelligence, if we can just go back to the intelligence committee—

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

ISIKOFF:  -- component of this.  This has the added benefit, if she is interested in higher national office, of burnishing her national security credentials.  She hasn‘t served on any international affairs committee, anything—any committee that deals with national security issues.  So, by getting on intelligence, she‘s able to at least make some claim or have some credibility in national security issues.

And I think—I think you‘ve got to look at this assignment, which is raising a lot of eyebrows in the House in that context.  And I should say, although she didn‘t go far on the “Today Show” with Meredith this morning, her spokesman was quite blunt about that today when I spoke to—

MATTHEWS:  Everything‘s on the table.  Yes.

ISIKOFF:  She‘s not taking anything off the table.  Clearly leaving the prospect out there that she might well be running and that‘s the reason for her trip to Iowa.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we started her here.  Intentionally or not, I think we started Michelle Obama on her projectile from this show.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Isikoff.  And thank you, Shushannah, thank you very much.

WALSHE:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  And up next, why do earmarks get such a bad rap?  Well, maybe they deserve it, maybe they don‘t.  A new book out on earmarks and patronage and all that stuff, when we come back.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  NBC News has confirmed that President Obama will name Gene Sperling to the head of the National Economic Council, replacing Larry Summers.  Sperling is a veteran of the Clinton administration.  The president will make the announcement tomorrow.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

Earmarks and patronage, talk about—talk about savory words—unsavory words.  Late last week, I spoke to a couple of authors of a new book making the case that only are they good, but we need them for the government to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Susan and Martin Tolchin, the authors of “Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse to the White House and Beyond” thank you for joining us tonight on HARDBALL.

Let me ask you—Susan, first.  I know from my pre-investigation of your interview here tonight that you were going to talk about earmarks as well as patronage.  Are earmarks good or bad?  Because they get a very bad press where senators and Congress people can simply say, spend this money in my district, whether it passes muster anywhere else or not.

SUSAN TOLCHIN, CO-AUTHOR, “PINSTRIPE PATRONAGE”:  Earmarks are both

good and bad.  I mean, it depends on how you‘re looking at them.  They are

they‘ve been with us for a long time.  They were called “pork barrel.” 

They have lots of different definitions.

But earmarks are form of congressional patronage and they‘re going to be with us for a very long time.

MATTHEWS:  But they—Marty, you covered for “The Times” all of those years, I know that.  And you—these guys are now promising on their word, we‘re going to get rid of it.  Maybe the top guys aren‘t, but everybody else is saying, “No more earmark.  No more special pork barrel.  It‘s just going to be clean living by senators from now on.”

MARTIN TOLCHIN, CO-AUTHOR, “PINSTRIPE PATRONAGE”:  Right.  Well, you know, John Boehner has never taken an earmark in his entire career in the House.  He‘s never had an earmark.  And he‘s determined to end earmarks in the House.

In the Senate, the Senate‘s taken a vote to continue earmarks.  So, it will be quite interesting to see what happens when that—the Senate passes earmarks and the House wants to ban them.

MATTHEWS:  Susan, a lot of Republicans are scared to death they‘re going to be the Tea-Partied.  In other word, they‘re going to get primary by somebody to their right who‘s running against earmarks.  Isn‘t that going to scare them?

S. TOLCHIN:  I think it‘s going to scare them but it really shouldn‘t because they‘re going to use different words for it.  They‘re already using words like “letter-marking” and, you know, other kinds of words.  Soon, they‘re going to be called “liberty projects” so we‘re going to see earmarks for a long time.

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to you about patronage because that‘s really the heart of your book.

M. TOLCHIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And, Marty, start in here, because we all grew up—I was talking earlier in this show over the years, I have talked about Tip O‘Neill, my old boss, would do things like—

M. TOLCHIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- they‘d give away snow buttons to people, if you work for the party, then you would get a job when the snow fell, you‘d get 8 bucks an hour, 5 bucks an hour to go out and shovel snow.  You got first in line.

M. TOLCHIN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Is that ever going to go away or is it already gone away, that kind of patronage?

M. TOLCHIN:  It will never go away, but now, it has expanded.  Now, the recipients, the political supporters want big bucks.  So, in addition to the snow buttons and the low-level jobs, blue-collar jobs, pinstripe patronage goes to people who are more at home on the boardroom than on the assembly line, and it includes huge contracts for a Halliburton, and—

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that Dick Cheney helped them get that job?

M. TOLCHIN:  He didn‘t have to do a thing.  He didn‘t have to raise an eyebrow.  He didn‘t have to say anything.  They knew that Dick Cheney was Halliburton.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me talk about a famous case, infamous, however.  I think it was during Katrina, Susan, that we saw the disaster of federal aid not getting to Louisiana, to New Orleans, during the flood down there, and we saw the president of the United States, George W. Bush, go up and a slap on the back with a guy named Michael Brown, saying, “You‘re doing a great job, Brownie.”  It turned out that he ran the Arabian Horserace Association as his justification of being hired as head of federal relief services, FEMA.

Is that notorious enough, or is that something that‘s more common than we think, hiring dunces, people who are clearly unqualified to do important jobs?

S. TOLCHIN:  Well, that—you‘ve just given a very good example of how easily patronage can morph into corruption and cronyism.  And it‘s OK if your cronies are good.  But in this case, cronyism was very bad and Bush‘s polls went right down right after that.  So, it shows you that patronage can be—can be really—can be very dangerous as well as—

MATTHEWS:  Martin Tolchin, to sell your book—this is what people want to know—give meet worst case of patronage you‘ve come across in your years of tutelage on the subject and study.

(LAUGHTER)

M. TOLCHIN:  Well, it‘s hard to choose, but one of the worst was John Murtha who was the chairman of the Defense Sub-committee of the Appropriations Committee, sent tens of millions of dollars to the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which was used by about 30 people a day.  That—that is sort of egregious.  But I had a wealth of material to choose from.

MATTHEWS:  What was the—do you know the “bridge to nowhere” was?

M. TOLCHIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What was the “bridge to nowhere”?

S. TOLCHIN:  Well, the “bridge to nowhere” cost $443 million, and would it take—if built, it would take 200 people from a little island off of Alaska onto the mainland.  So, it would had been very nice for those 200 people, but many people question whether it was worth $443 million.  And that‘s really what made—that‘s one of the things that made earmarks famous.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

S. TOLCHIN:  Because it was an earmark.

MATTHEWS:  Susan and Martin Tolchin, experts of the question and it drive you crazy if you read the book.  And maybe you should for that reason.  The title of the book is “Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse and to the White House and”—as we know now -- “Beyond.”  Thank you very much for joining us.

S. TOLCHIN:  Thank you.

M. TOLCHIN:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the president‘s smart move today bringing in a top flight, COO, a chief operating officer.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with a very bright sign from the White House.

President Obama‘s appointment today of William Daley as his chief of staff is solid evidence that the lights are on at the White House and somebody‘s home.

He‘s needed a good rep with the business world, now he‘s got one.

He‘s needed a chief operating officer, a ramrod to carry out his orders to get the cabinet cracking for once.  Now he‘s got one.

He‘s needed a clear chain on command on the domestic orders, parallel to the one he‘s got on defense and foreign policy.  Now, he‘s got one.

He‘s a Democratic president who needs to show that Democrats are as good at the government as they are committed to.  He needs to show that he‘s got more than press secretaries, communications‘ people, and speechwriters, that the presidency is an executive operation.  Now, he has and he‘s got himself a top kick to do it.

This brings us to the key to the Daley appointment.  President Obama no longer controls the Congress.  To dominate politically in the next two years, he will need to do his heaviest lifting from the executive branch.

This is a good day for the Obama administration.  It‘s good—always good, to show that you‘re a live, thinking, growing, surprising your opponents and embracing your believers.

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

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

           

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