Guests: Pat Buchanan, Jonathan Alter, Trish Regan, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Mark Penn, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, David Corn, Candice DeLong
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Peace power.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: The peace haters. A lot of people like what they heard last night. We heard a president of the United States speak not as a partisan but as leader of our country. One Republican leader actually e-mailed, quote, “Changes everything. Reagan after the Challenger. He finally employed the symbolic power of the presidency, and he did it perfectly.”
Well, not everyone, mind, you agreed. Rushbo hated it. But for many, it was this president‘s moment to stand before us as true national leader. And that‘s our top story tonight.
Compare that with the beautifully staged but strangely self-referential video sent out by Sarah Palin yesterday. She made the case that when she‘s talking about bearing arms, she‘s really talking about citizenship. What‘s that again? The armed citizen better than the unarmed?
Well, the unemotional—or rather, the emotional high point of last night for those not ready for the gun toters‘ talk came when the president revealed that Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes for the first time. Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz were by her bedside at that very moment, and they‘ll give us a firsthand account tonight of that event.
Also, what makes someone decide to become a political assassin? What connects the dots among anger and guns and targeting a politician?
“Let Me Finish” tonight with this strange rule (ph), by the way, of thought which requires guns and relentless talk of them, endless reference to them to make your political point. You know who I‘m talking about there, the former governor of Alaska.
Let‘s start with the president‘s speech in Arizona. Patrick Buchanan is the MSNBC political analyst and Mark Penn is a Democratic strategist and a former Hillary Clinton campaign manager nonpareil, I should say.
let‘s start with the president. You‘re an expert on this. You once said on this program—and I want to get the context right—that every president looks forward at some point in their presidency to be president of the people, of all the people, not to be a partisan leader, no to be a government leader.
MARK PENN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I think the president rose to the occasion of last night. He connected with the American people. And did it in an extremely sensitive, nonpartisan way. He really reconnected, I think, to the American people. I think he underscored the reason why America elected him as president.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There‘s no doubt he connected with the American people. It was not a grandiloquent speech, but it was a speech by the leader of a family that suffered a tragic loss and he‘s talking about the decency and the goodness of those who died and the bravery of those who participated. It was outstanding. But Chris, he took us to a very higher level when he said, Look, let‘s get up, away from this partisanship, this pettiness, this politics, and stand on common ground where we can all agree. And frankly, it was an admonition to both sides in this quarrel we‘ve been having for five days to cool it and let‘s come together in the memory of these folks.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s got his job, and I‘ve got mine, OK?
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what the president said about finger pointing. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.
OBAMA: That, we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let‘s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I want to talk about the president. I think to a large extent—and Mark, you‘re an expert on this, positioning and politics and what you try to do (INAUDIBLE) messaging. I think the president had a job to do for himself last night, in his own defense. He started off his presidency somewhere around 65 percent in inaugural day, so a lot of people had hope about him. They—and before we get into the thicket health care and stimulus packages and financial regulation, where it became ideological. I think he was jammed into that position by the Republican leaders, but he went in there. He‘s a leader.
And then I think last night, he regained the footing he had when he
started, which is the good will of the American people. I think he had to
do that. Let‘s face it, the birthers are never going get the top hand or
the high ground, but they had a ground. They had a case, the constant
reference to him as being somewhat illegitimate, not really our national
leader. Yes, he‘s a Democrat leader, a progressive, liberal leader, but he‘s not really leader of our country. I think he pushed that back a lot last night.
PENN: Well, I think he certainly did. Look, I think this president‘s been on a roll since the shellacking and since his trip to Korea. He came back. He had some quick political wins. He put the tax thing to bed, agreed to kind of keep taxes low for all Americans. Then I think he‘s going about changing his staff. Look, he‘s making a lot of the changes that President Clinton made. Even though people thought he wasn‘t, I think he absolutely was.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right. Pat, if he hadn‘t of done those preliminary things, moving to the center—
MATTHEWS: -- could he have done what he did last night? Would he have had the legitimacy?
BUCHANAN: (INAUDIBLE) still have done it, but it is a continuation. But Chris, you‘ve got to take a look at politically what the president‘s doing when he made those ammunition—admonitions. You said, Look, I‘ve got my job, he‘s got his.
MATTHEWS: My job is different.
BUCHANAN: He‘s winning by moving up and away from the left wing of his party and moving above it and working with the Republicans on the tax deal, bringing in Bill Daley, who‘s a—can work with Republicans, reaching out. And last night, he said, We‘re all in this together. And frankly, the left wing of the Democratic Party, he has said, Good-bye and good luck. I‘m going to get reelected and I‘m going to get back the luster. He‘s back up to 52, 53 percent, and it is working. Transparently, it is working.
MATTHEWS: The people that do think he‘s illegitimate, the birthers out there that believe he‘s not even an American, that he somehow snuck into the country and somehow snuck into the presidency, the real whack jobs, are out there now saying they want to carry guns on Capitol Hill, in the chamber of the House of Representatives. So Pat, he hasn‘t relieved himself of that weird kind of right-wing threat.
My position is try to keep people honest about that stuff. He didn‘t want to take them down last night, but somebody has to. Why did Congressman Gohmert last night, out of nowhere, say, We got to bring guns on the floor of the House? Now, here‘s a birther, a real live one, a full mooner, saying, Bring guns on the House floor. By the way, I‘m a guy that thinks this guy shouldn‘t be president because he snuck in the country illegitimately. I mean, this is kind of a weird overlay here.
PENN: Look, I think—
MATTHEWS: Of right-wing thinking, right-wing—
PENN: This incident and the way the president‘s handled it, quite the opposite, is bringing back bills such as the assault weapons ban. I would not be surprised if the State of the Union does not have, after this incident, something like the assault weapons ban. I think the president—
MATTHEWS: Well, that won‘t go anywhere.
PENN: You don‘t know about that. I think that the mood of the country here in terms of the gun that he had—
PENN: -- and how many bullets he shot off—
BUCHANAN: You mentioned the birthers and the truthers and the others
MATTHEWS: No, I mentioned the birthers.
MATTHEWS: They‘re just as bad.
BUCHANAN: All right, the birthers. You mentioned the birthers. But I‘ll tell you, Chris, on the right, guys who go out and say somehow, because Sarah Palin put out some silly map, that this guy could not conceivably have seen, she is morally complicit—they think guys like you are like the birthers (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: They‘re not saying complicit.
BUCHANAN: Morally complicit.
MATTHEWS: They‘re saying that it should be wrong, that you should not be using target ranges. You should not turn a politician into a target in a shooting gallery.
BUCHANAN: But Chris—
MATTHEWS: You shouldn‘t say “reload.” You shouldn‘t say “reload.”
BUCHANAN: Well, let me tell you—
MATTHEWS: You shouldn‘t put targets—
BUCHANAN: You shouldn‘t say 2nd Amendment remedies. I agree with that. But let me ask you, Who has said 2nd Amendment remedies one thousand times on the air?
MATTHEWS: Sharron Angle.
BUCHANAN: Sharron Angle said it once!
MATTHEWS: Why‘s she using it?
BUCHANAN: Chris—I agree with you. You would say, Look, Sharron, don‘t use it.
MATTHEWS: Because I want it to stop.
BUCHANAN: Why are—but are you inflaming or informing—
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t why a person wants to repeat it because I tell them to stop doing it.
BUCHANAN: But you keep repeating it!
MATTHEWS: You mean I have the power to do this?
BUCHANAN: You keep repeating it!
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, she yesterday said to bear arms means to vote. Do you believe that‘s an appropriate way of saying you vote, you bear arms?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think to keep and bear arms—
MATTHEWS: She said it yesterday!
BUCHANAN: Well, yes, but I think it means you got a right to be armed and—
MATTHEWS: This is like “precious bodily fluids” in “Dr. Strangelove”! You keep bringing up guns! What do guns have to do with the discussion of free speech or free voting?
BUCHANAN: What do guns have to do—
BUCHANAN: Guns are a constitutional right—
MATTHEWS: Of course—
MATTHEWS: Why bring it up when you‘re talking about voting?
BUCHANAN: But look, Chris, we have used military metaphors—
MATTHEWS: These are particular to do with—
BUCHANAN: What is a campaign about if not—
MATTHEWS: I‘ve heard that argument. No, there‘s a particularly—we used to use all kind of sports metaphors about politics, which are harmless, baseball, hardball, horse race. Everybody did that for fun going back to your buddy (INAUDIBLE) all the way back. Then all of a sudden, lately, it‘s gunplay. It‘s all of a sudden reload. Lock and load. Who did that all the time?
BUCHANAN: Well, let me—
MATTHEWS: Everybody‘s doing that.
BUCHANAN: I said 1996 --
MATTHEWS: What did “lock and load” mean?
BUCHANAN: All right, what I said in New Hampshire is, “Mount up and
ride to the sound of the gun.” Do you think I meant we‘re going to be
shooting each other? I said, Come on, you guys, we‘re going to lose this -
MATTHEWS: What did you mean?
BUCHANAN: I said, Come and join the campaign—
MATTHEWS: That‘s a warfare reference. That‘s not—
BUCHANAN: -- because the establishment‘s—
MATTHEWS: -- a ballistic reference.
BUCHANAN: -- coming (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: You‘re an expert on this. I don‘t know what Frank Luntz is telling the right to use. I know that Sarah Palin, as of yesterday, will not pull away from the gun reference. Why doesn‘t she just say, A little less talk about guns at this point would be nice?
PENN: Well, let‘s remember that—
MATTHEWS: That‘s all she has to say.
PENN: Let‘s remember the Republicans—
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going talk about guns!
BUCHANAN: I‘ll tell you why doesn‘t say it.
BUCHANAN: Because she thinks her adversaries are not acting in good faith. They want an apology so they can rub her name in the dirt, when she did nothing wrong, Chris. She did nothing wrong.
MATTHEWS: OK, why did she put the president—why did she put Gabrielle Giffords in the bullseye?
BUCHANAN: It was a—put the district in the—
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know!
MATTHEWS: OK, well, that‘s—
PENN: Let‘s get to the—look, there are two issues here. Number one, the Republicans on the right get a lot of support from people that own guns, which is why they use—
MATTHEWS: It‘s not about—
PENN: -- those metaphors.
MATTHEWS: -- gun ownership, it‘s about voting in our democracy.
PENN: But second, the real thing here is that Sarah Palin put out an awful video that was way out of step with the country and really did herself a lot of damage.
BUCHANAN: I think Sarah Palin was winning this battle before the video came out. I don‘t—I think the whole video is fine, but I do think they used selected excerpts and—
BUCHANAN: -- against Obama.
MATTHEWS: Juxtaposed up against Obama. Let‘s take a look at the president talking about something that has nothing to do with guns. It has to do with the future of the country. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it! I want America to be as good as she imagined it! All of us, we should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children‘s expectations!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s, of course, his tribute to the loss, really, of—honoring the loss of Christina Taylor Green. Of course, I identify only because Dallas Green, her grandfather, was our pitcher and our manager in Philadelphia for all those years. I mean, he has some public recognition, but that is relevant—irrelevant to the situation here.
What do you think about that? Rush Limbaugh trashed him completely for that today.
PENN: Oh, I wouldn‘t say that at all. I mean, she came to that to kind of see how government works. And I think that he really encapsulated both the child‘s feelings—and I think made it almost heroic in nature, and I think really did—you know, I think did a wonderful thing in that particular (INAUDIBLE)
BUCHANAN: As you said, he‘s got his job. He did it well. That was a beautiful thing. That is a statement that everybody, even the birthers, truthers, and you and me could stand and say, That‘s well done. It‘s a wonderful thing he said about that little girl.
PENN: He did.
BUCHANAN: He did his job.
PENN: Well above politics.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, thank you, gentlemen. Thank you. You and I will disagree—
MATTHEWS: -- as we should or we won‘t be working here anymore!
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Pat Buchanan and Mark Penn.
Coming up: President Obama broke the news last night of a miracle moment when Congresswoman Giffords had opened her eyes. There is hope here for recovery. We‘ll see how much. Everybody wants 100 percent. When we return, we‘re going to talk to Nancy Pelosi, who was there at the bedside the other night, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, our other good friend—very good friend, I should say. They were in the hospital room. They‘ll tell us what happened here on HARDBALL coming up next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, reality. Today in Tucson, the first of six funerals for those killed in Saturday‘s shooting rampage. Family, friends and loved ones gathered for a funeral mass for 9-year-old Christina Green. Christina was at Congresswoman Giffords‘s event Saturday we were talking about because of her budding interest in politics. Look at that little casket. She was born on September 11, 2001 -- 9/11. And in her honor, the largest flag recovered from the World Trade Center site was brought to the funeral, unfurled and flown outside the church. There it is.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes for the first time!
She knows we are here. She knows we love her. And she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When Congresswoman Giffords opened her eyes in the hospital yesterday for the first time, two of her House colleagues were in the room with her, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic leader, of course, Nancy Pelosi. I spoke with both of those congresswomen just a bit earlier, earlier in the day. Let‘s watch.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, you were in with your colleague last night in that hospital room with Gabrielle Giffords. What are you—what are your feelings and memories of that moment and what you saw?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Chris, my heart, our hearts, myself, Speaker Pelosi, Kirsten Gillibrand—our hearts were just bursting with the joy of being able to be with our friend, Gabby, you know, to see her, to be with Mark and her parents, and then to be able to talk to her and have our—her hearing our voice, help her to make progress, you know, just in talking to her and encouraging her to get back on her feet as soon as possible, and you know, come share the good times that we‘ve enjoyed with her. That‘s when she started to open her eyes and respond to us, and it was just absolutely incredible.
I mean, you know, she—Mark started to, you know, tell her, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the—give me the thumbs-up sign. And he encouraged her and pushed her to do that. She kept opening her eyes a little bit more and a little bit more. And then, suddenly, her arm went up when he asked her to give him the thumbs-up and she touched his arm and his ring, as he asked her. It was just—Chris, I—I was—we were all just overcome with emotion. It was incredible.
MATTHEWS: Well, Democratic leader, Madam Speaker—Madam Leader, thank you for joining us. Nancy Pelosi‘s with us, as well. Give us your memories of last night.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MAJORITY LEADER (via telephone): Well, I think that Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has said it so well. It was a thrill just to be in the room to see our Gabby just fighting the way she was, to bring love and prayers from members of the Congress and people throughout the country. We were telling her what an inspiration she was, that people throughout the world were by her bedside, and we had the privilege of actually being there.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz described what happened. I would just say that what a joy it was for me to see, you know, the power of prayer, the excellent care she had. The girl power—you know, I was there with her parents and watching, like Mark, urge her on and the rest. And Gabby and Kirsten—well, they‘re all girlfriends. You know, to see the girl power of this new generation of young women members of Congress, young leaders talking about what they were going to do when she got back to D.C. and the rest. It really, really was fabulous.
We each took turns holding her hand and expressing our love and prayers to her. But she really rallied. And I really think that the president‘s visit earlier probably contributed to her strength and her enthusiasm because President Obama and Mrs. Obama were in the room shortly before we were in there.
PELOSI: But I would say that I think Debbie and Kirsten, Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, would agree that very few things in our life will ever compare to being in that room—
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It‘s true.
PELOSI: -- when our Gabby opened her eyes.
And, you know, they‘re blue, blue eyes, so there‘s no mistaking that they were open.
PELOSI: They‘re beautiful. And—and it was thrilling.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.
And I know you as individuals. I can only imagine—only imagine what you‘re like when you‘re all together, but—and we‘re not around, guys aren‘t around.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about the tone.
MATTHEWS: I know.
I—I sense a tonal change. And I have watched it from Speaker Boehner and others, not that tragedy is in any way good, but is there a possible positive reaction to it? Based upon what I heard from the president last night, what we all heard, what we‘re hearing from the Republican side—not everybody—is there a positive note here that‘s coming out of this, Congresswoman?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I—I know that Gabby would hope with all her heart that, if there was any good that could come out of a tragedy like this, it would be that we adopt a more civil tone, and that, even though we disagree and will continue to disagree vigorously, that we lead by example, and hopefully—hopefully encourage people, by leading by example, to dial back the rhetoric, to use vigorous—we could use vigorous language without treating our opponents like the enemy.
And, if that‘s the result of this, then what President Obama said in his speech last night about making our democracy live up to the expectations of the next generation and of Christina Green, that would just be amazing.
MATTHEWS: Well, Madam Speaker, you—Madam Leader—I keep calling you Madam Speaker. Maybe I will again in the near feature.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s fine with me.
PELOSI: Don‘t put it too far back on the shelf. There you go.
MATTHEWS: But, you know, you grew up in a political family. And I—
I worked in politics. There was a time when people like Reagan and Tip could actually be friends after work at night, even if they disagreed 100 degrees -- 180 degrees.
Are we ever going to get back to that again?
PELOSI: Well, I just don‘t know how good of friends they were. But if you say so, then I accept that.
I don‘t think it‘s a question of being friends. Of course we‘re friends. And we respect each other, because we respect the people who sent each of us here.
PELOSI: But I do think that what Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz was saying about tone is very important. I think the president‘s speech was transformational.
I think he was inspired by Gabby. And he in turn had her success and Christina and the others be a source of strength in his message. He said it best. I don‘t have his exact words here, but we honor them, the sacrifices of those families, those who were lost, the fight that Debbie is making by raising the level of debate to make it worthy of them.
And this is an opportunity for that to happen. It doesn‘t mean that we will not—you know, we will change our views on issues, and it doesn‘t mean that we won‘t fight to make the distinctions between us very clear. It‘s just that that other step of vitriol, of that, really, we have an obligation to reduce.
And I think Gabby as an example, those families with their suffering, the president with his leadership and inspiration, I think, again, it was a transformational evening. And let‘s see where we go from here, but I think it can really be the turning of a corner. I really do believe that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Madam Leader. Thanks for coming on.
PELOSI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, of course, as always, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, our good friend on this show.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you so much, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, again, Leader Pelosi.
PELOSI: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We will be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: Rudy Giuliani stirs the pot. America‘s mayor took on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a political ally, for staying on family vacation last month while a major storm, snowstorm, walloped his state.
Well, here‘s Rudy on “MORNING JOE.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Chris should have come back. I mean, if he asked me my advice, I would have said, they elect you governor. They got an emergency. They expect you to be there. There‘s—you have got to be there if you‘re a governor, a mayor, or even a president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a sweetheart.
Chris Christie, no shrinking violet himself, hit back on FOX yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have taken a little bit of heat from Rudy Giuliani, who said you did it wrong.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: Well, he‘s wrong. I mean, he‘s wrong. And it‘s easy when you‘re out of office to be shooting from the peanut gallery and you no longer have any responsibility. But I had a responsibility to my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Peanut gallery, Rudy Giuliani, one of the “Howdy Doody” kids in the Peanut Gallery. Give this round to Christie.
Next: Tom DeLay cries foul. The former House majority leader was sentenced this week to three years in prison, after a jury convicted him on charges of using soft money as hard money. If you don‘t know what that means, you may wonder why it‘s a crime.
Well, DeLay certainly does wonder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I was tried in the most liberal county in the state of Texas, and indeed in the United States. Getting—getting a jury—the foreman of the jury was a Green Peace activist.
So, I‘m not criticizing the jury. The point is, is that this is a political campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m not sure about this case. They used a charge designed for drug dealers and hit him with a conspiracy charge. Has any other politician ever been prosecuted under this particular law?
Finally, a rush to judgment. Some folks hit Republican Leader John Boehner for missing last night‘s memorial service out in Tucson and attending instead a Republican fund-raiser. Well, what no one reported is that Boehner was at a bipartisan House vigil yesterday. He couldn‘t have been at the vigil at—back in Washington and also caught that plane out to Arizona. Good point in his favor.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
We have got a 2012 milestone. Herman Cain, Tea Partier, radio host, and former CEO of Godfather‘s Pizza, has just announced he‘s forming a presidential exploratory committee. That makes Mr. Cain 2012‘s first official presidential candidate, one case, I suspect, where the early bird will not catch the worm.
Herman Cain, number one, number one out of the gate—tonight‘s family-sized, pizza-sized “Big Number.”
Up next: Sarah Palin sticking to her guns, literally. She‘s kept up her loose talk about guns, but is she talking to anyone other than her base?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks slumping in the final hour of trading today, the Dow Jones industrial average falling 23 points, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both giving up two points.
Drugmakers, they were in the spotlight today, with Merck leading blue chips lower on disappointing clinical trials of its new anti-blood-clotting drug. And Eli Lilly also lower, after an FDA panel rejected its new enzyme-replacement drug.
Intel, some good news here, reporting after the closing bell, topping expectations with a 48 percent jump in revenue year-over-year. It‘s actually the best quarter in the company‘s history.
And in economic news, jobs recovery is still pretty patchy these days, with new jobless claims jumping to their highest level that they have been at since the month of October. And food and energy prices, they are rising faster than the underlying rate of inflation. And that‘s going to complicate the Fed‘s handling of monetary policy.
But, on the bright side here, we have got strong exports helping lower the trade deficit, which analysts say should help boost growth in the fourth quarter.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Late today, “The New York Times” reports that Sarah Palin will sit down for a real live interview with, guess who, FOX‘s Sean Hannity on Monday night. That‘s going to be a tough one. The big question remains, will she put an end to her ballistic messaging, which is the way she talks about guns, about everything?
David Corn is with “Mother Jones” and Politics Daily. And “Newsweek”‘s Jonathan Alter is an MSNBC political analyst and author of “The Promise,” which is now out in paperback.
Gentlemen, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the two questions, sort of act one and act two of Nancy Pelosi.
Her endless referencing to guns, gunplay, ballistics, bullseyes and everything like that in every way she presents herself, and doing it again yesterday in that crazy thing of hers where she talked about how to arm—to bear arms is another way of saying voting.
She can‘t talk without a gun in the sentence, like Rudy Giuliani couldn‘t talk without 9/11 in a sentence. What‘s her problem?
Here‘s her video, the piece of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We know violence isn‘t the answer. When we take up our arms, we‘re talking about our vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We take up arms? Why does she talk like that—talk like that?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: She is talking to a very tightly confined and defined base. She‘s in a bubble. She‘s in a bunker. People who—
MATTHEWS: Is some guy sitting in an igloo somewhere holding a shotgun listening to her on television?
CORN: Well, no, no. No, but there are 10 million, 20 million, 30 million Americans who define themselves almost foremost as being gun rights activists.
MATTHEWS: And, therefore, citizens.
CORN: And, therefore, citizens. And she‘s working that—
MATTHEWS: Well, this is something we‘re learning.
CORN: She is working that crowd.
And the amazing thing is that, in the week that we have had, and we see compared to what the president did, when she had a chance to get beyond, to take an inch of a step beyond her natural political base, she couldn‘t do it.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: And we had Pat on there. Nobody can explain the bullseye language, relentless, relentless.
Jon Alter, it‘s great to have you on.
Let‘s just stick to that point and her sort of past coming into this. We‘re looking at the target range here, the 20 Democrats she targeted. By the way, 18 of them. Two are alive still.
But here‘s what‘s going on here, obviously. What is going on is this strange situation—well, alive—actually, alive. Here‘s a strange thing about her, bullseyes, targets, the whole thing, crosshairs, and then coming out and having her people—Glenn Beck, I guess, is one of her people—denying that, saying these are surveyors‘ messages or something.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: Surveyors‘ messages.
MATTHEWS: And then it comes out that she used the word bullseye.
MATTHEWS: Is she ready to backtrack at all on this, this sort of ballistic language all the time?
ALTER: I don‘t think so. And, from her perspective, I can see why she wouldn‘t.
I don‘t think she‘s in a bunker. I think she‘s pursuing a very clear strategy to win the Republican nomination for president, if she decides to run. And then she can worry about getting independent voters in the general election later.
Look, Chris, where we are right now in our politics is, it‘s almost impossible to be too far right for Republican primary voters in presidential elections, for those Iowa caucuses.
I mean, I can remember being out there in 1988 when Pat Robertson nearly won the Iowa caucuses.
ALTER: They are extremely conservative. So, when people say, oh, well, this is an indication she‘s not really running for president, because she would have appealed more broadly, I don‘t think that‘s right.
I think there‘s a very decent shot that she‘s going to through her hat in the ring.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. You say conservative. I would say right-wing. Is there a difference?
ALTER: Well, no, I would say reactionary, actually, which is a word that has fallen out of fashion.
ALTER: It was used a lot in the ‘50s and ‘60s. But I think it fits that part of the Republican Party.
I don‘t agree with some of my colleagues, who call them conservative populists. I don‘t really think there‘s much that is populist about it in a classic sense.
ALTER: They‘re not angry at banks.
MATTHEWS: No, I think a conservative populist would believe in civilization.
Let‘s take a look at the blood libel comment, because I think it‘s part of this grievance culture where she appeals to people who feel aggrieved and then she throws her own firepower into it.
Here‘s from last night‘s or yesterday‘s eight-minute video. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: -- of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits shouldn‘t manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I think—I‘m trying to think of a metaphor for this to understand. If you had a fire like the Chicago Fire—and Jon is from Chicago—the San Francisco fire, the earthquake, you would probably come out of it not sure what caused the fire, whether it‘s Mrs. O‘Leary‘s cow or whatever, but you would probably be careful about fire regs from then on.
There‘s nothing unusual about the tendency of Americans after the shooting and killing of those people to be a little careful about the use of language about guns. It‘s not like you‘re saying she‘s guilty from somehow putting the trigger or somehow putting a contract out on this congresswoman. Nobody is saying that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s this environment of constantly talking about hostility and guns together.
CORN: Especially the rhetoric of violence—
CORN: -- and using violent rhetoric, when you had House Republicans have a rally with Tea Party people and they‘re shouting “Nazis, Nazis” at Democrats.
It doesn‘t mean that they really think that the House leaders think they‘re Nazis, but they‘re creating an environment in which, you know, stupid people might do stupid things. That doesn‘t mean that Jared Loughner did anything because of anything Sarah Palin did, but --
MATTHEWS: We don‘t know yet.
CORN: We don‘t know.
But when there‘s an act of violence, it does give us a moment to reflect on our culture.
MATTHEWS: Before we get into this exoneration of everybody on the air, all we know, Jon Alter, is that this guy stalked a U.S. member of Congress, went to a meeting, got into a little argument with her, then went back to the meeting again, was keeping up obviously on her Web site or whatever, knew when her meetings were, knew where they were, was very attuned to her political role.
He didn‘t just walk into a supermarket and start shooting people. He went to a political event with a political target in mind. It‘s an assassination attempt. You‘ve got to stop walking away from this and say this has nothing to do with politics.
Maybe the guy is deranged. We‘ll find how much. Clearly, he is to some degree, nuts. But the question of his political motivation is unclear right now. Let‘s leave it there.
But now, “blood libel”—why would she say a word like that? I thought she had some people around her with some sophistication about the history of anti-Semitism, some knowledge of what that term might mean in history and wouldn‘t use it. But she did.
ALTER: I mean, what it means historically is accusing Jews of killing Christians and using their blood to make matzo. That‘s literally where it comes from. And, you know, it‘s been—it‘s been one of the worst things that you can possibly do to a Jew anywhere in the world for hundreds of years.
So, this is a—going nuclear in terms of language.
MATTHEWS: But do you think Sean Hannity is going to help her get out of this tomorrow night? I think they‘re already going to wire this somehow.
ALTER: Of course, he is. All of these guys have been closing rank. She‘s even found some Jewish conservatives to say, oh, it‘s not that bad what she said.
Look, Sarah Palin is right that it was unfair to directly connect her to this terrible incident. There‘s just no evidence to connect her. But when she gets all hot under the collar about people mentioning her role in contributing to this political climate, she is ignoring the fact that Gabby Giffords, who has more credibility on these issues than anybody right now, went on MSNBC in March of last year and specifically called out Palin.
MATTHEWS: Here she is. Let‘s watch. Let‘s watch this connecting rod here. Here it is. Here‘s Gabrielle Giffords on March 25th of last year. Let‘s listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: We need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up and, you know, even things—for example, we‘re on Sarah Palin‘s targeted list. But the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, and when people do that, they‘ve got to realize there‘s consequences to that action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALTER: So, Palin is saying this is like out of bounds for those of us in the media to be connecting her in any way to this story. Well, Giffords herself brought Palin into the story. So, Palin‘s just trying to get her supporters to hate the media and blame the liberal media and all the—
CORN: The other side—the blood libel insult, was that it was used precisely to incite and justify violence. It wasn‘t just a charge that people made. It was used t justify pogroms against the Jews.
So, I mean, you ask: why did her advisers not stop her from using it? My question is: why did she not? Even if she didn‘t know what it meant historically, to use the word “blood,” which is, you know, which comes out of a ballistic language, why did she not say, wait a second, guys, why don‘t we dial back a little bit?
MATTHEWS: Let me just suggest something to you. This candidate for president, perhaps, has a lot of attractive features. She‘s very well-spoken and the way she speaks, she knows how to turn on a crowd. She knows how to speak, give a speech. And most politicians I live with all my life like Walter Mondale and McGovern and all, they can‘t do what she can do on a stump. I assumed she has some talent.
But when she says the president of the United States pals around with terrorists—
MATTHEWS: -- when she says he‘s got death panels ready to get old people to knock them off, she knows what she‘s doing. When she uses terms like “blood libel,” don‘t tell me she would be offended if she knew—she likes to get into that dangerous area far right to sow the seeds of true anger. She knows how to take grievance and turn into true antipathy and anger.
Your thought, last word, Jon. I think she knows what she‘s doing.
ALTER: Oh, absolutely. And I think she‘s also quite brilliant at playing the victim.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
ALTER: Look, all of this is helping her with her base. This is not taking any credibility at all away from Sarah Palin with the people that she‘s focused on right now. So, we can all say, oh, you know, wring our hands about Sarah Palin. She is the kind of laughing all the way to the political bank on this one.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
Thank you, David Corn. Although we have to wonder what that bank is, it could be the presidency of the United States. At least the Republican victory in places like Iowa.
Jonathan Alter, as always, thank you.
ALTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: David Corn, thank you.
Up next: what makes someone become—now, this is serious business. This is beyond politics. This is into lethal behavior. What causes a person to become an assassin? What is that about?
We‘re going to try to get a little bit of information we have been able to get so far about reality of this case.
HARDBALL back in a minute, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama‘s State of the Union message is set for January 25th. And in the interest of unity, one U.S. senator wants to end the tradition of members of Congress sitting on their various political parties‘ side of the aisle during the address at least. Colorado Democrat Mark Udall says that the partisan seating arrangement, Democrats on one side, Republicans on the other, has become a negative symbol of the divisions of Congress. And to television viewers, it looks like Congress is, quote, “bitterly divided” by party. Udall made his proposal on a letter to colleagues in both houses of Congress.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Jared Lee Loughner‘s fixation with U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords dates back to 2007 when he asked her a nonsensical question and was unhappy with her answer. He saved a letter from her office thanking him for attending that 2007 event and a safe in his home contained an envelope with handwritten notes that read, quote, “My assassination,” close quote, “I planned ahead,” and then Gifford‘ name.
What makes someone become a political assassin? It‘s a big question and it‘s very appropriate to find out if what we can. And what role does the political messaging on the airwaves perhaps play in it in terms of atmospherics?
Candice DeLong is a former FBI criminal profiler and a former psychiatric nurse; and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, of course, is an NBC News chief medical editor. In fact, she is the chief medical editor.
Let‘s go to both. First of all, let me get to Candice, first of all. What do you make of this? Is there—is there any sign or any—what are the three points, there‘s somebody who‘s mentally disturbed. They go to a gun. They take the gun and they shoot a politician. How do you—what is that all about, that connection?
CANDICE DELONG, FMR. FBI CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, in this case, based on what we know about his writings and his behavior and the troubles he‘s had the last five years at college, it appears that he may be suffering from what we call a thought disorder, a primary thought disorder, schizophrenia. And what that means is, he is guided by—he hears voices and he believes in a delusion—very strongly he believes in something that has no basis in fact.
And he targeted this particular woman, this woman who has a certain amount of power, and he really wasn‘t that secret about his craziness. He found it difficult to keep it under wraps. And I‘m guessing that he believed in his delusion that she was a danger to him. And that he needed to destroy her.
MATTHEWS: Any way of knowing, or could we—he gets interrogated to what extent ideology into his demented mind played?
DELONG: If he is as sick as I think he probably is, schizophrenia, and he is not taking medication, he probably would not be able to verbalize very well beyond a few words at a time before his sentence or his thought breaks off into something else—
DELONG: -- what was going on. He was dangerous Saturday. He—when he approached her two years ago, as you just mentioned, that might had been what we call a nonlethal approach. He approached her. He might have been armed. He probably was, to see how close that he could get to her.
Seventy-five percent of political assassins that are successful are not delusional, 25 percent are.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you.
Let‘s go to Dr. Nancy Snyderman for a more, perhaps, a universal look at this.
Last night, Doctor, I got a call from a guy who‘s very sound in his argument. He said, I‘m bipolar.
DR. NANCY SYNDERMAN, NBC NEWS CHIEF MEDICAL EDITOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: I‘m under treatment. I take the medicines. Someone said I should never be allowed to buy a weapon at a weapon store, a gun store. I shouldn‘t be allowed to do that.
He was very sound and very helpful to me in understanding this. But he said, you know, we don‘t pay enough attention to people who are mentally ill. And, of course, you and I know that you—when you pass someone who seems to be schizophrenic, let‘s say the New York Port Authority, the old joke with somebody be standing there talking to nobody, people just walked pass it as an oddity.
SYNDERMAN: We walk right by them. We walk right by them. You‘re absolutely right, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes, as an oddity.
SYNDERMAN: You know, if someone‘s creepy, we walk by them. We don‘t stop and try to engage them in conversation. And there‘s no doubt if you look at the pattern of his interactions with his schoolmates and sort of separate family members, there is this unbelievably striking and horrific pattern of a downhill spiral. And when we haven‘t heard is from many health care professionals so far—I assume he‘s been seen by a psychiatrist now in prison. But the idea that he‘s delusional, the idea they might be schizophrenic, the idea that he‘s paranoid, they all make sense to us, but we really don‘t have a firm diagnoses yet.
But what we do know is that during the Reagan administration, we slashed mental health in this country and we have not given as much attention to mental health as we have to every other cancer, every other problem that might affect the body. We‘ve almost disassociated the brain from the rest of the body.
And there‘s a hell of a stigma with mental health. People don‘t talk about their mentally ill sibling or their crazy aunt or uncle.
SYNDERMAN: And therein lies the problem. And then you have the legal black hole of a school not being able to do anything, parents who are probably trying to deal with an adult kid who may or may not have taken his medications and, you know, we‘ve had the same conversation with Virginia Tech, we‘re having it now.
SYNDERMAN: I think what concerns us all of is, we‘re going to have it again.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about atmospherics, Candice, real quick. I only have 30 seconds. Atmospherics, there are periods of our times in the ‘40 and ‘50s, we didn‘t have this sort of crazy political polarization. We had the ‘30s which were very polarized.
These assassinations seem to follow in a period. The ‘60s were brutal, going into the early ‘70s. So many people were shot and killed in political situations.
Is the atmospherics somehow discernible, its role?
DELONG: I think it is. What people need to understand about the mental ill—about this kind of mentally ill kind of person is that their brain can be a very fertile ground for suggestion. And they—part of the characteristic of schizophrenia is that everything seems to be negative. The voices don‘t tell the nice things. They don‘t say, you look great today. The voices say, go polish your gun and kill someone.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Sound thinking here.
Thank you so much, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, as always, my colleague.
SYNDERMAN: You bet, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Candice DeLong for giving us that inside into this special category of danger.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with why I think Sarah Palin isn‘t giving up her talk of guns. We‘ll get into that point. We just did.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with a remembrance.
Before we forget, let‘s get a clear why Sarah Palin has placed herself in the problem area. Her tendency is to pose each of her political stands as a grievance. There‘s nothing new this of course. It worked before.
Richard Nixon and an unknown Nixon hater was very, very good at it. He knew that millions of Americans feel they‘ve been cut out of the action, especially by the elite. They go to Harvard and those people and they look down on those who don‘t. They write for the elite newspapers and report on the big networks. They live in elite neighborhood. They read the elite books. They watch public television and look down on those as they view as the little people, living out there in flyover country, clinging to their guns and religion, watching regular television shows.
Well, I get all of that. And sometimes I feel it myself, more than you think, for someone who has had my advantages.
Now, Governor Palin is selling something else, however, besides grievance—something quite exact. She speaks of death panels and accuses the president of palling around with terrorists. She paints the other side as evil. She did it again in that eight-minute tape she sent out.
She defends her use of gun talk, targets, crosshairs, bull‘s eyes, and telling her people to reload is somehow essential to getting the message across. When we take up arms, she said in that tape, we‘re talking about our votes.
Well, that‘s quite a statement. Let‘s hear that again. Firearms are a way of saying political power. Citizenship and gun ownership carry the same meaning, she says. A musket is a way of expressing your citizenship.
We have to wonder why she can‘t get away from guns as way of speaking politically and why not? Why not talk about something else? Could it be that there‘s something about armed force and guns that is actually central to this Tea Party movement? All those people wearing guns to rallies.
There‘s talk about wearing guns on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by that congressman from Texas yesterday. Why would a politician want to wear a gun on a political discussion on the floor of the U.S. Congress? Think about it.
I think before we all say such talk is harmless, all this talk about guns and politics, which is what Sarah Palin wants us to do, we ought to get a grip on exactly why people are talking about guns every time we talk politics—and Palin does it.
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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