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updated 1/19/2011 12:36:02 PM ET 2011-01-19T17:36:02

Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Trish Regan, David Brock, Ron Reagan, Carolyn McCarthy, Terrance Gainer, Robert Brady, Steve Kornacki, Alex Wagner, Ron Brownstein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Focus on the president.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: The peacemaker.  Like Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City or George Bush after 9/11, President Obama tonight faces a high moment of challenge.  In Tucson, Arizona, he speaks to the country about the mass shootings of last weekend.  What he says, how he says it, will measure his connection with the American people, his ability to lead us as a people.  And someone said it could be for him what standing on the rubble of 9/11 became for his predecessor, a chance to speak for Americans from our gut.  That‘s our top story, of course.

And after days of deafening silence, Sarah Palin sent out a videotape to Facebook, not apologizing for putting Gabrielle Giffords in her crosshairs, or “bulls eye,” as she put it, not for saying you (ph) should reload, but accusing her critics of what she called—brace yourself—a “blood libel.”  Does she know what she‘s talking about?  Does she have any idea what that term means historically?  Well, a lot of people do on both sides of the political aisle, and they‘re not happy with Palin tonight.

Also, Democrat Robert Brady of Pennsylvania wants to make it a federal crime to make a threat against a member of Congress or to incite someone to commit violent crimes against a federal official.  If Palin were to repeat what she said, would she be guilty of that crime?  Congressman Brady will be here tonight to tell us whether Palin would be guilty.

Also, how are—the other—other 2012 presidential candidates reacting to Palin‘s talk of crosshairs and bulls eyes and reloading?  Are any of them defending her words, or as the Congressman Giffords—

Congresswoman Giffords herself said, have consequences?  And don‘t we know they did.

And let us finish with the role of president, the role of our president tonight, what role he must fill, someone speaking for and to our country.

We start with the president‘s role in tonight‘s Arizona memorial tonight.  Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and our chief White House correspondent, of course.  And we also have the Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman, who‘s an MSNBC top political analyst.

Gentlemen, both of you, thank you for coming on.  This is a big night for America.  I don‘t think it‘s a partisan night, but I‘m not sure it doesn‘t have partisan implications.  Your thoughts, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  It could, but look, the president‘s going to focus almost exclusively on the victims here, almost exclusively on the heroes from the events that occurred on Saturday and—

MATTHEWS:  Have you got that as a report?  Can you tell us that?

TODD:  It is very—yes.  I mean, you‘re not going to hear him get into this debate that we‘ve seen play out in the blogosphere and the Twitterverse and apparently with Ms. Palin up—Governor Palin up in Alaska on this back and forth about the tone and civility.

He‘s got a State of the Union in less than two weeks.  That will end up being a better platform for something like that.  Nobody‘s guaranteed that he‘s going to talk about that.  He has talked about this before at a commencement speech at the University of Michigan, about civility.  Tonight, you may hear—for folks that want to hear a reference to it, they might think that they hear a reference to it.  Tonight‘s going to be very much solely focused on the victims.

MATTHEWS:  Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  That‘s what my reporting shows, too.  An e-mail I got from one of the president‘s advisers saying just that.  I said, well, this sounds like you‘re not going to talk about the political culture at all.  And he said, Well, the president‘s still on the plane.  He hasn‘t yet, and he thinks possible (ph) that it‘s unlikely.  And one reason it‘s unlikely is because the connection between the events that we‘re talking about and the political culture is controversial, number one.  The exact factual connections are very, very controversial, and they‘re not there between Jared Loughner and the political culture.

MATTHEWS:  Not until he speaks.

FINEMAN:  OK, per se, not until he speaks, for one.  We don‘t know they‘re there.  That‘s number one.  And as many others have said, the only way for the president to succeed politically in this, if that‘s part of his calculation at all, is to be completely non-political.  He has to be in an almost preacher—secular preacherly role here tonight of healing the nation—

MATTHEWS:  Who will score that?

FINEMAN:  -- and focusing on the pain and suffering—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Howard—

FINEMAN:  -- of the families.

MATTHEWS:  -- you first, then Chuck, because it‘s a tough one.  Who‘s going to score him and say he did that?  Will Fox, for example, or Rush Limbaugh say, You know, he was OK last night.  Is that the scorecard he‘s looking for?  Does the other side of him politically get to decide whether he was nonpartisan?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Who gets to say—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  That‘s a very good question.  And I think you‘re right.  I think in his mind—I‘m guessing here—the president is playing as much to the right here, who have been all over the liberal establishment—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  -- that they‘re making too much out of this, that there‘s no connection between Loughner and Sarah Palin and all that—

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s begging them tonight to triangulate between the president and his usual supporters.

FINEMAN:  Well, I—

MATTHEWS:  I mean, really.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I think he would like everyone to say, from Fox to MS and everybody, you know, all around the spectrum, that he served a civic—important civic healing function tonight, and that‘s it.  And that‘s it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, let‘s take a look at—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  He had a big favor done for him before this speech, and it‘s Sarah Palin.  What she did today almost made it—made his job easier tonight to be above the fray and to look above the fray.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s -- (INAUDIBLE) but I can‘t resist it now.  She said “blood libel,” which has a particular meaning about the Jewish people.  It accuses them of these horrendous—making food out of kids‘ blood and all this.  Why would she use a phrase like that?

TODD:  I don‘t know.  I think—and I think—I—to me, she needs to answer that.  I don‘t understand—

MATTHEWS:  Her only defense is ignorance.

TODD:  How about this.  Let‘s separate the word “libel” from it.  Why invoke the imagery of blood?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  In something like this.  Why invoke dueling pistols?

MATTHEWS:  Obviously—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  There was a lot of parts of this that I have a lot of questions about.

FINEMAN:  She has only one gear, and that‘s forward.  And she has only one mode, and that is attack.  I don‘t think she fully understood the history because if she did understand the history, she would realize that she was comparing herself in this situation to a Jewish martyr during the Middle Ages, or some—or the Cossacks in Russia or whatever, and all of her critics as people who engage in that kind of behavior.  I mean, that isn‘t just over the top—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, she hasn‘t—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  That‘s not over the top, that‘s the other side of the moon.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- where people make mistakes.  I live in a world where people misspeak.  I am not going to attack anybody—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- for the mistake of making a mistake.  But what you do when you make a mistake—I‘ve been there, I know how it feels—you quickly, as quickly as you realize you‘ve made a mistake, fix it.  Why doesn‘t she do that?

FINEMAN:  For the same reason—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is what she said that‘s caused this stir tonight among everyone.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, what is she saying?

TODD:  She‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Try to interpret what she‘s saying.

TODD:  It feels to me as if she has done—and frankly, I think we‘ve all probably been here.  If you‘ve ever felt as if you were in the spotlight and all you‘re doing is hearing criticisms of you—it‘s almost as if she only read the most negative things people were writing and saying about her for the last 72 hours.  And you know what?  If that‘s all she did, then maybe that explains why she feels the way she did and why she decided to do that.  It is almost as if she was in her own bubble on the Twitterverse or—all she did was read the negativity, and that‘s all she focused on—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  You know, we‘re all involved in this Twitter world ourselves, and I got some—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  -- for somebody telling me, you know, Put yourself in her shoes.  This was a conservative.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  The guy said, How dare you?  Put yourself in Sarah Palin‘s shoes.  You‘re accusing her, meaning, you know, the whole of everybody—accusing her of being responsible for these deaths in Arizona—

MATTHEWS:  No one‘s doing that!

FINEMAN:  I know!  I‘m just saying, this is what the conservatives are finding solidarity with Sarah Palin.  I totally agree with Chuck.  Being up there in Alaska—she—you know, and communicating the way she does through the same media that a lot—

MATTHEWS:  Why—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  -- rest of America gets this stuff from.

MATTHEWS:  Why can‘t we just agree on one thing?  Stop talking about guns and bulls eyes and targeting and reloading in a political debate—

FINEMAN:  Yes, I—

MATTHEWS:  -- when it has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment?

FINEMAN:  I couldn‘t agree with you more.  I couldn‘t agree with you more.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t she just say, I shouldn‘t be talking about—she said in that video she brought out, We should stop bringing violence (INAUDIBLE) Well, one step about bringing back violence out of politics—stop talking in violent guns language.

FINEMAN:  Can I tell you, I wrote—I was writing a piece today for The Huffington Post, and I was glibly going to use some kind of gun analogy, and my editors said, Take it out.  And they were right.  They would take—we took it out.  We took it out just for that very reason.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know how many months we‘ve been doing that around here?

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  For months, if not two years, ever since this president‘s been elected.  We have been saying, Don‘t ever use that kind of ballistic language because you never know if there‘s some nut out there that might hear it and give one more inch of ratification of some weird thing we don‘t know.

One thing we know about assassinations.  They‘re committed with guns, whether it‘s a nut case, or a personal grudge like this might well be, or it has political ramifications like John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan.  Most assassinations have a political aspect.  We don‘t know if this one does.  It was at a political event.  It was aimed at a public official of a particular partisan attitude, and the person was killed in the act of doing their job.

FINEMAN:  The charge—the charge—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So the idea that it has nothing to do with politics I think is a hard argument to make.

TODD:  I agree.  Look, I just go back to—

MATTHEWS:  And for Palin to say that it has nothing to do beyond the brain of this person is assuming far more information than any of us have.

TODD:  It just feels like this entire debate over the last 96 hours

has been one where nobody—everybody wants to argue that the other side

is worse at this, that, you know, the right is arguing that the left has

gone over the top in what they‘ve—in how they‘ve attacked Palin, and the

right is saying, Well, you know what—and the left‘s saying, You know

what?  The right‘s gone over the top in their use of language.  No one has

decided to take the high road here in this universe.  But what‘s odd here -

let‘s not forget—let‘s stop focusing—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure that the high road—

TODD:  Well, hang on!

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Hang on!  What I want to say is, let—if you take away the

ideologues that are all over the Internet and the Twitterverse and you

actually look at the elected officials, the elected officials have been

acting like adults, whether it‘s—on either side of the aisle.  And that

what I feel like we‘re seeing is now two political cultures.  You have one—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  -- the ideological screamers—

MATTHEWS:  We have two—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  -- and the actual elected officials.  Both of them are acting -

-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s coming on tonight from Pennsylvania, obviously—we all know Bob Brady—to say we got to outlaw any kind of incitement to commit violence against—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I‘d be very surprised, though, if the president deals with any of this—

TODD:  That‘s right.

FINEMAN:  -- tonight.  It‘s all going to be in the surround (ph) and in the silence—

TODD:  State of the Union feels like the place where he‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Is this most like—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- Oklahoma City for him, Oklahoma City with Bill Clinton?

FINEMAN:  Yes, but in a different way.  In a different way because it‘s a moment for him to surmount the presidency in a good way.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  So well said.  Thank you, Chuck, as well.  It‘s great to have you guys on.  Thank you, Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman - - although I think there‘s a political piece to this that has to be explored, and that is the role of guns in our political discourse and the constant reference to firepower as a way of justifying your political point of view.  I think it shouldn‘t be talked about in that way.

TODD:  Well, let‘s also talk about the public policy—

MATTHEWS:  When we have a history of guns—

TODD:  There‘s a public policy gap between how mentally unstable people can get guns, too.  We‘re not seeming to tackle—

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

TODD:  -- that aspect, as well.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Much more coming up on Sarah Palin‘s video statement, whatever it was, and what we‘re making of that “blood libel” charge.  I think she‘s got to walk this back, but as Howard points—she ain‘t got no reverse gear on her tongue.  It‘s a stark contrast from what we expect to hear from President Obama tonight.  We‘re going to have more on Palin next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL.  More of her coming up next on HARDBALL on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got some new information about the suspected Tucson shooter, of course, and how police stopped him before he went on his rampage.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department says an officer actually stopped Jared Lee Loughner for running a red light just three hours before the shootings.  If you got a good look at that guy, wonder why they didn‘t do more than just stop him.  The officer found no outstanding warrants for Loughner and let him go with a verbal warning.  I think that face is a verbal warning.  Anyway, we‘ll be right back.  God, is he scary looking!  Geez!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Today, as we mentioned, Sarah Palin released an eight-minute video to Facebook regarding the shootings in Tucson.  It‘s almost—it‘s a strange way to put out some news.  But joining me right now is David Brock, founder and CEO of Media Matters, and Ron Reagan, our friend, radio talk show host and author of the upcoming book, which I‘ve had a look at, “My Father at 100”—you‘re smiling!  I‘m not—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait until we talk about that.  And we have you on, sir, as the exclusive on that.

You know, I‘m a Christian, and I wasn‘t that familiar with the term “blood libel” she used.  Can you tell me, David, what it‘s about?  You‘re an expert on these things.

DAVID BROCK, MEDIA MATTERS:  As I—

MATTHEWS:  All things.

BROCK:  -- understand it, it‘s an exact phrase that‘s used to describe anti-Semites blaming Jews for killing Christians.  So here‘s why I think she used it.  She‘s appropriating the self-imagery of a persecuted Jew.  Now, we have the first elected woman Jewish congressman lying—you know, struggling for her life in Arizona, and I think the use of this is perverse by Sarah Palin.  I think blood—

MATTHEWS:  she‘s the first—what do you mean, first elected Jewish congresswoman?

From Arizona.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, from Arizona.  Yes.

BROCK:  Right.  Right.  So I think, one, it‘s perverse.  Number two, let‘s separate the terms—blood.  I think Sarah Palin likes to talk about blood.  She likes to talk about reloading.  There‘s something that she is generating in the base of the Republican Party by using this violent imagery that‘s very disturbing but that works.  And it works for her contributions.  It works for her ratings.

Matt Bai has a column in the “New York Times” the other day.  It was very good.  This is a business for Sarah Palin, doing this.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, OK.

BROCK:  And then the libel you covered in the last section.  What‘s the lie?  There is no lie.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROCK:  She put that up.  She put the crosshairs up, right?  Everyone knows she did it.  And remember what Gabby Giffords said about it.  Can I read it, what she said?  “We‘re on Sarah Palin‘s targeted list, but the thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district.”

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROCK:  “When people do that, they‘ve got to realize there‘s consequences.”

MATTHEWS:  And not only—and Gabrielle Giffords in her indictment of Sarah Palin before she was shot, where she saw this coming, in a sense—

BROCK:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  -- at least the possible consequences, which turned out to be actually true.

BROCK:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  She—she said Sarah Palin said bulls eye, just so you make sure what it meant—

BROCK:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  -- these crosshairs (INAUDIBLE)  Here‘s Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on March 25th, before the horror of this past weekend.  Boy, it‘s rare in history that someone gets to sort of narrate something coming this way.  Here she is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA:  We really do 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 that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district.  When people do that, they‘ve got to realize there‘s consequences to that action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ron, and you come from a family—of course, your beloved father—and I know you love him—and your mom, too, and your family.  You know what it means to have somebody shot.  And the one thing that all assassinations have in common, whether it‘s by someone who‘s deranged or someone with a personal grudge, maybe in this case, or the most common of all assassinations, politically driven ones—guns, the use of guns—

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  Yes.  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  -- not at a metaphor, damn it, but as a realty—guns, ammo, crosshairs, bulls eyes, the whole—

REAGAN:  Metaphor—metaphor becomes reality after a while, as you‘ve been pointing out, all this rhetoric about guns, 2nd Amendment solutions, lock and load, all of that kind of thing, the crosshairs.  Sarah Palin didn‘t put an American flag lapel pin on Gabby Giffords‘s congressional district.  She didn‘t just put a checkmark there.  She put gunsights there.  And this is irresponsible.

You know, Sarah Palin, when she was—released her little video here, she quoted my father as talking about personal responsibility and don‘t blame society for, you know, individuals‘ crimes.  Well, I think it‘s time for Sarah Palin and people like her to take a little bit of personal responsibility themselves.

It‘s not that Sarah Palin is responsible for Gabrielle Giffords‘s shooting or the deaths of the 9-year-old girl or these other innocent people, but there is a context here.  It‘s a context of a violent society with a lot of murders every year, a fetishization of guns and gun use, and a rather cavalier attitude towards mental health, as well.  But that context is what surrounded Mr. Loughner when he committed his crime, or allegedly did.

MATTHEWS:  And let‘s be a little humble here.  I don‘t like being humble all the time, but I think we have to all be.  We don‘t know his full mindset.

REAGAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  And for her to assert, as she did in that weird video, that he had nothing to do with politics—we don‘t know what he watched—

REAGAN:  We don‘t know that.

MATTHEWS:  -- what he listened to, what his influences were, what his confirmations (ph) were.  He didn‘t live in a vacuum or an igloo, like some people do.

Let‘s listen right now to what she had to say in this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  We know violence isn‘t the answer.  When we take up our arms, we‘re talking about our vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why did—let me go back to David, who is an expert on communications. 

I mean, I think we used to say, maybe back in the Churchillian age, your voice was your power, your ability to speak up.

BROCK:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s certainly Norman Rockwell‘s notion, the man standing up at a meeting, at a public meeting, and saying, here‘s what I believe.

But now it‘s standing up with your arms, standing up with your ammo, your gun sights, your bulls eye.  Why do you have—this is a problem I have with the Tea Party.  Why so many guns at these events?  Why constantly referring to guns?  What is it?  Is it a throwback to the Revolutionary age?  They‘re think they‘re in an armed revolution?

BROCK:  Right.  What does the Tea Party moniker stand for?  Armed rebellion, right?  This has been the theme of the Republican candidates and of Sarah Palin all year.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  History lesson.  The Boston Tea Party was a nonviolent economic statement against the Stamp Act, I believe.  They threw the tea in the water.  No guns.  They dressed up like Indians.  It was a demonstration.  It was street theater. 

BROCK:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK?  No guns.

BROCK:  But this is not street theater, as you know.

Glenn Beck himself has been responsible for three thwarted assassination attempts this year.  And Sarah Palin—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How is he responsible for them?

BROCK:  Well, you want to know what they are?

MATTHEWS:  You said it.

BROCK:  Sure.  

So, he burned Nancy Pelosi in effigy on his set.  He tried to poison her with a chalice.  OK.  Some three weeks later, somebody tried to firebomb Nancy Pelosi‘s house.  That guy‘s mother went on television and said he gets all his ideas from FOX News.

Do you know about Senator Patty Murray and the death threat that she got? 

MATTHEWS:  No.  Go ahead.

BROCK:  OK.  It‘s recorded.  The guy says after the health care vote, he says, you have a target on your back and I can accomplish what I want to accomplish with one bullet. 

He‘s tried, convicted, and in the sentencing phase, his cousin writes in for leniency and she describes in a very chilling memo—it‘s on our Web site—that he was slowly drawn into Glenn Beck‘s world.  And she portrays the guy, the attempted assassin, Charlie Wilson, as a victim of Beck. 

And, number three, which you probably do know about, this liberal foundation in San Francisco was targeted by a gunman, Byron Williams, in June.  The shooter gave jailhouse interviews—and we published them—and he says Glenn Beck is a schoolteacher on television and points to specific episodes of the Glenn Becks show that inspired him to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God.

Last word, Ron. 

REAGAN:  Listen, there is this context and David has explained it very well.

You have people like Glenn Beck who repeatedly and constantly refer to political opponents on the left as traitors, treasonous, Marxists, fascists, Nazis, we have to do some about it, we may have to take to the street.

You can see that as entertainment, but some people like Mr. Loughner are not going to see it as entertainment.  They‘re going to take it seriously.  The only thing unsurprising about this whole thing is that it wasn‘t a surprise.  We all expected that something like this, awful like this, was going to happen.  And it did. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, people that talk about blood libel and themselves being victims to it and they talk about bulls eyes shouldn‘t be president of the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And people seriously shouldn‘t be thinking about it. 

Anyway, thank you, David Brock. 

Thank you, Ron Reagan. 

REAGAN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  At least two congressmen say they will be armed.  Boy, there‘s a solution.  They‘re going carry more guns when they meet constituents.

I have got a question for you, Mr. Armed Hombre.  I mean, what kind of world are we living in?  Is that the best members of Congress can do, put a gun on to match the guns on the streets?  We are going to talk about some sensible ideas when we get back. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

The tragedy in Tucson has sparked new debates over gun control, of course.  New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of course wants to—she wants to outlaw high-capacity magazine clips like the one used this Saturday in the tragedy -- 17 years ago, of course, most of us know a gunman killed Carolyn McCarthy‘s husband and severely injured her son. 

Some of her House colleagues, meanwhile, say they plan to carry guns to future public events.  Is this the best way to keep lawmakers safe?  Should we focus instead on strengthening gun laws? 

Congresswoman McCarthy—and Terrance Gainer, by the way, he joins us.  He‘s sergeant at arms of the United States Senate. 

I couldn‘t have two more important people on.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us, because your long crusade for gun control, which has been only partially successful, now meets another example of guns and politics, where people have used guns to solve whatever score they have got politically or whatever you want to call it.  What do you make of this and what will it do to the debate? 

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK:  Well, I‘m hoping—today, we spent we spent the day in Congress basically saying—giving our prayers and our thoughts.  And hopefully the nation will heal on what happened in Arizona.

And the good news is that Gabby is doing much better and off the

respirator.  The problem is—and you know I have been fighting for this -

ever since I came to Congress.  And I can‘t believe it‘s 17 years that I have been doing this. 

So, there are a lot of guns out there.  OK.  We probably can‘t get anything done as far as the guns itself.  I‘m talking about the large clips, the magazine clips that we used in the shooting, not only in Arizona, but certainly on the Long Island railroad train, when my husband was killed and my son was injured, but many, many other incidents through the years. 

All I‘m saying to gun owners, come on, work with me.  I‘m not trying to take away your gun.  I‘m trying to make this country safer.  I‘m trying to save lives.  And I‘m trying to make sure that there aren‘t more injuries out there. 

And what the answer I get is, well, I‘m a sportsman.  I want to use it for target practice. 

You know, you got to have a balance here.  And we need to stop this rhetoric and try to save lives.  That‘s what I‘m here for. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to the sergeant at arms.

Mr. Gainer, thank you, Terrance Gainer, sergeant at arms of the Senate.  I respect you.  You have got a major post there to protect the United States Senate. 

Let me ask you, what do you think of Congressman Peter King‘s idea that we draw a line of 1,000 feet around every member of Congress and say you can‘t knowingly bring a gun within their radius? 

TERRANCE GAINER, U.S. SENATE SERGEANT AT ARMS:  Well, Chris, I guess they all have to be explored. 

Over the years, I have seen a lot of different laws like that, stay away from schools, stay away from this, stay away from that.  Sometimes, I think it‘s not an issue do we have enough laws to charge somebody.  I think it‘s a little bit more complicated than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the proposal that Bob Brady—the congressman from Pennsylvania is coming on to talk about his, which would include Congress in the law you can‘t threaten a president or a vice president.  He would include both members of Congress and congressmen-elect from that.  You couldn‘t threaten them with violence and you couldn‘t—and here‘s a more tricky question.  You can‘t incite someone to commit violence against such people. 

Are those laws practicable?  Do you think they would ever get anywhere? 

GAINER:  Well, I think there should be some equity in what laws apply

to the members of Congress and the executive branch.  So, I think it needs

to be explored

When you get into one end of the continuum where it gets a little sketchy, it sometimes gets a little harder for police officers, but I guess you can figure that out with a good prosecutor. 

I think the other point for me is not one thing causes these homicides and murders, and not one thing will solve them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get back to Carolyn McCarthy about the general culture we live in. 

We all grew up with cowboy and Indians as part of our culture, the idea of people who live out in the country want to have to protect themselves.  I completely understand that.  I don‘t buy the idea you need guns to protect yourself from your government.  That‘s perhaps an ideological issue with some people.

But here we see in Arizona—did you see this, Congresswoman?  In the last few day, the sales of the Glock 19, the model, the very model used in the shootings of last weekend, has jumped up 60 percent in Arizona. 

Down in South Carolina, the Palmetto State Armory is now selling a Joe Wilson special.  It‘s an AR-15.  And on the bottom of the stock or somewhere, it‘s got the initials “You lie”—rather, the words “You lie”: in honor of Joe Wilson saying the president lies.

What is this provocation, I guess could you call it, in terms of that, selling guns that mock a president as part of the hardware? 

MCCARTHY:  Well, Chris, when you think about it, we‘re talking about two different things going on here.   

One, I have never seen such disrespect towards a president, any president.  I certainly have disagreed with presidents in the past, but I certainly wouldn‘t say anything disrespectful toward them.  They are my president.  He was elected. 

On the other, as far as the sale of Glocks, that‘s because there‘s a lot of misinformation out there that I‘m trying to take away their guns.  I‘m not doing that.  All I‘m doing is saying the large-capacity clips that are being sold today, which were banned for 10 years—and we certainly know that those sales went down at that time—that we don‘t need these kind of clips for the civilians. 

Our police officers, our military, yes, they need it.  And one other thing.  With the Glock, you can still have, because we‘re taking the language from the assault weapons ban, a clip with 10 bullets in it and one in the chamber.  So, how many bullets do you need in a gun even if you‘re going use it to protect yourself? 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what sport people engage in that needs 30 rounds.  I know, in shooting pheasant, I hear from Ed Schultz that you use three.  It‘s under the law.  You‘ve got to have a pretty good aim.  You should not be out there shooting if you don‘t. 

Let me go back to the sergeant at arms.  Are you worried about the security of the United States Senate, sir, right now? 

GAINER:  I‘m not.  I think the Capitol Police up here, our cooperation with the other agencies, we have it firmly under control. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, as a former member of the Capitol Police, I‘m confident you‘re right, sir.

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy.

And the sergeant at arms of the United States Senate, an elected position, Terrance Gainer, sir, thank you.

Up next:  U.S. Congressman Bob Brady of Pennsylvania wants to expand the law to prohibit threats and incitements to commit violence against members of Congress, as well as against the president and the vice president.  Would it ban this kind of talk by Sarah Palin about crosshairs and the kinds of stuff that Gabrielle Giffords herself saw as being consequential and dangerous?  He‘s coming here to talk about it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A solid rally easing slightly into the close there, the Dow Jones industrials climbing 83 points, S&P 500 adding 11, and the Nasdaq gaining 20 points to close at a new three-year high. 

Investors focusing on banks and commodities as the latest Beige Book report paints a somewhat brighter picture of the economy.  The Fed reports improving conditions across all 12 districts.  Employment levels, they are rising, the housing market still weak, but mortgage applications, they did rise.  And building contracts, they‘re up. 

Banks getting a big boost today from a sector upgrade by Wells Fargo.  And J.P. Morgan says it‘s aiming to reinstate its dividend in the second quarter of next year.  Agricultural-related stocks also up, after the government lowered its crop outlook.  Bath weather has left U.S. corn supplies at their lowest level in 15 years. 

And ITT Industries surging more than 16 percent after its board approved a plan to split it into three separate publicly traded companies. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In the wake of the shooting rampage in Tucson, lawmakers have been grappling with new ways to protect themselves. 

The Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania Robert Brady of Philadelphia wants to make it a federal crime to threaten violence against a president, a vice president or a member of Congress now or to incite someone to commit an act of violence against a federal official. 

U.S. Congressman Robert Brady joins us now. 

Congressman Brady, I have a lot of respect for you.  Do you think this will actually pass muster with the Supreme Court, this kind of restraint on language?  When you say incite to commit, how do you define that? 

REP. ROBERT BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, what we‘re doing is extending Title 18.  Title 18 already passed the Supreme Court.  It already is constitutional. 

All we‘re saying is that you can‘t right now about put a crosshair or a bulls eye on the White House or on the president or on the vice president.  All I‘m saying is that you can‘t put a crosshair on a member of Congress and you can‘t put a bulls eye on his district.  I‘m just extending it.  That‘s all we‘re trying to do.

MATTHEWS:  What would this have done to Sarah Palin?   

BRADY:  It would have been illegal.  She would not have been—you would not be able to put a crosshair on a member of Congress‘ district. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it would stopped her from doing it, or it would have put her in jail? 

BRADY:  I‘m sure it would have stopped her from doing it. 

Somewhere, there was a table, a conference table, where people were designing this map, and somebody had to say, well, what would have happened if something does happen?  Somebody probably said, don‘t worry about it.

Well, Chris, I am worrying about it.  And we need to worry about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Your experience—you represent an inner city, West Philadelphia, downtown Philadelphia.  You know—some of those neighborhoods have tough crime.  Some don‘t. 

Do you have a sense that the threats on members of Congress in cities out in the country and in the suburbs have increased?  Do you feel it when you go in the cloakroom?  Does anybody talk about it? 

BRADY:  Well, without question, this health care bill ramped it up a little bit.  I have been hollered at and screamed at and called a whole lot of nasty names. 

And we had to walk through a gauntlet, all of us walking through the -

from our offices to the Capitol to vote on it.  That‘s OK.  That‘s freedom of speech.  You‘re allowed to do that.  You‘re allowed to criticize me.  You‘re allowed to do that.

But you can‘t and you should not be able to put a crosshair on my district, and you should not be able to pull a bulls eye on me or any other member of Congress or staff or our families. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make—I mean, you probably are a guns—are you a gun control guy?  Are you against—are you basically on that side of the argument, like Carolyn Maloney, who‘d just on?  Are you in that side of the argument?        

BRADY:  Yes, I believe—I believe there should be some gun control, and I believe without question we should limit the amount of ammunition in a clip.  What do you need 31, 30 bullets in a clip for?  That makes no sense whatsoever.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask, Carolyn McCarthy, I misspoke, I said Carolyn Maloney, she‘s in the city—McCarthy is from upstate.  Let me ask you about this threat, though.  Under the Constitution, it does get tricky when people use language like that SOB, you know, he doesn‘t deserve to be living, you know, where do you draw the line?

I mean, a lot of people would say that guy ought to be able to be alive, he‘s so terrible.  I mean, sometimes, he—rhetoric gets very heated.  Can you put somebody in jail for just blowing off their mouth?  I mean, I agree with you about the ad.

Now, there‘s an interesting question.  You sit down and systematically, deliberately put crosshairs and use the language of guns and shooting and targeting, and you‘re really clearly sort of bringing it into that person.  But what about the general language of that person ought to be dead?  What do you do with that kind of conversation?

BRADY:  Well, it‘s up to the authorities to figure out just what‘s happening there and maybe if you even visit that person, and may be a person like what happened on Saturday, maybe you can get a better handle on who‘s stable or not stable out there, and maybe you can get—maybe you can scare then a little bit by not trying to commit a further act of violence and God forbid what happened on Saturday, to take six people‘s lives and injure 14 others.  That‘s totally ridiculous.

MATTHEWS:  I understand your motive, sir.  Thank you very much, Robert Brady, congressman from Pennsylvania.

BRADY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Now let‘s go to “Salon” news editor, Steve Kornacki.

Steve, there‘s a couple of proposals on the table now and one of them is that this 1,000 feet now by Peter King.  And Peter King, I never thought of as a gun control kind of guy.  I‘m surprised.  He was—you know, he‘s a pretty tough customer.  I‘m surprised he‘s taking the liberal position on this, what sounds like a liberal position.

Is there any constitutional basis to be able to say a member of Congress—or let‘s put it this way, refine it a bit, you can‘t go to a political meeting and carry a gun.  This isn‘t Nazi Germany.  You don‘t bring guns or wear uniforms.  You don‘t bring the paramilitary mentally into a civil discussion.

Is there any way to make that pass muster with the courts?  No guns at meetings.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  Well, first of all, I can‘t resist getting in here when you ask about Peter King‘s motives on this.  You had Carolyn McCarthy on earlier.  New York state is losing two congressional districts next year.  Peter King and Carolyn McCarthy, their districts are next door.  His district is a prime candidate to be merged with her district.

And so, I think, if you‘re looking for the political calculation, a lot of people would suspect that Peter King, who I believe voted against the Brady bill way back when it first came up, may be jumping on to this issue because he may be running against Carolyn McCarthy next year.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that leads me to a greater sense of where the voters stand.  Do you think the voters of that suburban area, on the island there, Long Island, not upstate, they are for gun control?

KORNACKI:  Oh, yes, absolutely.  It‘s an issue that I think polls very well.  You know, New York City in the suburbs, you know, when you look at why the Democratic Party, I think, dropped this from its political agenda over the last 15 years after they had the legislative success with the Brady bill, the legislative success with the assault weapons ban, there was concern about states like West Virginia, not about the suburbs of Long Island.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s because I did the map, too, like I study these maps like you do.  If you go down in the middle of the country right down the center of the Mississippi River, you go to all those congressional districts in the spine of the American people, all pro-gun.  Don‘t mess with guns.  Absolutely anti-Brady, anti-assault weapon ban, totally pro, 100 percent NRA.  I understand.

KORNACKI:  Right.  And so, you‘re talking about will this pass court muster.  I think the more simple question to ask is: will this pass muster with the House of Representatives?  I mean, it‘s controlled by Republicans.  I think that ends it right there.  And even when you look at the Democrat, look at the Democrats from those areas, they‘re not going to be supporting this.

MATTHEWS:  What about the use of language?  Is there any way to control it in our free democracy?

KORNACKI:  You know, I‘m sympathetic to the argument that Congressman Brady is making there, but I honestly, I don‘t think the issue this raising really have anything to do with what happened over the weekend.  I don‘t think if the legislation he‘s proposing, if passed, that it would prevent last weekend from happening, that it would prevent another, you know, massacre like last Saturday from happening.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KORNACKI:  And I have serious constitutional questions about it. 

There are laws right now—you had David Brook on earlier who—

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m waiting to see.

KORNACKI:  Patty Murray‘s, you know—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m waiting to see.  I‘m waiting to see.  For some—I think we‘re getting close to it.  If somebody says go kill that person, I wish somebody—

KORNACKI:  That‘s a direct threat.

MATTHEWS:  If they do, so we are at the edge here.  We are at the edge of possible criminality here, like common sense standards.  Anyway, thank you, Steve Kornacki.  I think we‘re looking at this carefully, which is a right way to do it.

Up next, the responses to the shooting in Tucson.  We‘ve heard from potential Republican presidential contenders offer clues as to what they‘re thinking.  Some of them are taking the Palin view.  This guy is nut.  Nothing we say has anything to do with what he does.

Others are being careful.  Pawlenty, careful-looking guy.

Let‘s take a look at what they‘re saying and what it means to this battle that‘s coming for the nomination.

This is HARDBALL—by the way, it‘s the year before the election. 

They‘re starting to shape up, this team of candidates.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  President Obama is rebounding in the polls.  A new “AP,” “Associated Press” poll finds 53 percent of Americans now approve the job the president‘s doing.  His best numbers since the health care debate 10 months ago and that‘s a six-point jump from where he was just after the midterm elections.  It seems the president‘s benefitting from the climate of compromise—political compromise, which began after it the election and led to major legislative victories during the lame duck session of Congress.  This country changes.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So, how are some of the potential 2012 Republican candidates reacting to the Tucson shooting and what does it mean for their future prospects?

Alex Wagner writes for PoliticsDaily.com, Ron Brownstein writes for “National Journal.”

Lady and gentleman, both of you.  I want you to listen to Tim Pawlenty.  I found him very interesting.  He was on “MORNING JOE” today.  Let‘s listen to him, Governor Pawlenty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR:  I got asked as a follow-up question, well, you know, what did you think of the use of the targets?  I said it wasn‘t my style.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But are you saying you think it‘s OK for other people to do that or are you saying you think it‘s inappropriate?

PAWLENTY:  It‘s irrelevant because it had nothing to do with the incident.  It‘s detached from the incident.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST:  Governor, don‘t you think it‘s kind of an irresponsible thing to do whether the event happened or not?

PAWLENTY:  Well, the premise behind that would be it caused some problem.  It caused some—

BRZEZINSKI:  No, isn‘t it just kind of dangerous, stupid, perhaps not even constructive use of imagery?  How about that?

PAWLENTY:  Well, it‘s also free speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, Mika, a great question, Mike Brzezinski.  Don‘t use causality as part of your cause, just ask simply put.

I want to go to Ron Brownstein on this.

We‘re getting in to the issue here of what‘s appropriate in a country that has history of violence, especially with regard to politicians.  You and I grew up in a country where so many famous people were assassinated, from Huey Long all the way forward in this century, with lots of attempts that were foiled, and yet people continued to talk about guns as if they‘re not relevant to assassinations and they are so relevant.

Your thoughts about Pawlenty‘s, I thought, chicken answer to that question by Mika.  He wouldn‘t say a word against Pawlenty, it sounds like.

RON BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL:  Huey Long was a little bit before our time, Chris, I hope.  The—look, Pawlenty in fact, that was a more weaselly or (INAUDIBLE) answer than he gave earlier when he very clearly said that the gun sights on the districts was not something that he would have done.  And I think that‘s probably a place that he‘s going to be more comfortable.

Look the reaction to this, I think, has been very revealing.  I think

I think that you‘ve seen the Republican 2012 candidates divided to two clear camps.  You‘ve got one group that is aiming primarily at their base in the comments, like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum.  And on the other hand, you have figures like Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, and Pawlenty, by in large, who are, I think, trying to speak to a broader audience and it‘s probably reflective of a broader division than strategy than we‘ll see going forward.

           

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they‘re going from what I call the eastern conference. 

The others are going for the western conference.

Here‘s—I want you, Alex, to talk about this guy.  Mike Pence, hard to read.  He‘s got a game face all the time.  Here he is on talking on—today, on the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  We should always refrain from engaging in personal verbal attacks against those with whom we differ on important questions of the day.  But let me say, we must also resist in these moments of heart ache the temptation to assign blame to those with whom we differ for the acts of others.  No expressed opinion on the left or the right was to blame for Saturday‘s attack.  And we must resist efforts to suggest otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he doesn‘t know and I don‘t know and you don‘t know, Alex, what causes that led to this shooting.  We can assume innocence in terms of Palin‘s role or anything going back, anybody else, but you can‘t exonerate them until we know the truth here.

ALEX WAGNER, POLITICSDAILY.COM:  That‘s true.  I mean, Chris, I was on

I was at the Hill today, and the mood there is incredibly sober.  Today was a day reserved for honoring—

           

MATTHEWS:  What was Pence doing there?  He was siding with the right, wasn‘t he?

WAGNER:  He was effectively siding with the right but in the most none confrontational way as possible.  I mean, he almost puts his hands up, saying, don‘t blame me, you know?  And it was very much of a part of what else is being said on the floor in the House today.

MATTHEWS:  The thing is that every Republican has Palin listeners among their viewers—

WAGNER:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS: -- among their constituents.  They‘re afraid to lose any of these people.

Let‘s take a look at Newt Gingrich who always, always, looks for trouble.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  People who would immediately scream about ethnic profiling.  People who, on the left, have every possible incentive to never allow anyone to draw conclusions suddenly say things that are just factually untrue.  There‘s no evidence that I know of that this person was anything except nuts.  Certainly, the books he had in his library tended to be left wing, much more Marxist and communist.  He was apparently an atheist.  He was—by no standard that I know of—had any connection at all with any Tea Party of any kind.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Hitler, I believe, was an atheist and I‘m pretty sure he wrote “Mein Kampf,” which was also in his guy‘s small library.  I don‘t know what Newt‘s talking about, Ron.  You explicate with what that man‘s comments meant.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, you know, Newt draw—sometimes seems to draw his personal restraint from like Lady Gaga or something.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I mean, he has—he has a long tradition of identifying Democrats and liberals with kind of abhorrent cultural behavior.  I mean, he described Clinton as the enemy of normal America.  He said—he linked the Woody Allen situation 15 years ago to the Democratic Party.  He is engaging here in a kind of—a very clear, kind of, culture populism.  And again, that is kind of the dividing line here.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.

BROWNSTEIN:  You have—you have some Republicans who are essentially trying to use this to say to their base, look, you are being aggrieved.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I got to go.

BROWNSTEIN:  And we should mobilize against it.  Others are trying to speak to a broader range of the country which is what you have to do to win the election.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Alex Wagner.  Thank you, Ron Brownstein for the wisdom, and it was wisdom.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the challenge facing the president tonight.  It‘s a big one.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with what we look forward to tonight.  Every president whether he seeks it or is ready to accept it has a job that rises above politics, which departs from government, even if national defense in a strict sense, because in addition to being the country‘s top elected official, chief executive and commander in chief, the president is also head of state.

In many other modern countries, they separate that role from politics in the running of government.  In Great Britain, it‘s the role of the king or queen.  In Germany and Israel, they have someone fill the ceremonial position of president who‘s apart from the politically elected government.

In America, one person fills all the roles, and that‘s what makes tonight different.  It really calls for only one, the reunifying person of the country, apart from partisan politics, away from the usual issues that we debate.

What originally inspired me, what to be candid, thrilled me about Barack Obama was how he spoke in such a context.  Not as a candidate for office, simply as a spokesman for this country and its broadest-held values.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story.  That I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.

He spoke that night in 2004 of what he called the “genius of America,” that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door, that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe, that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution—without fear of retribution.  It is this faith that can always use a bolstering, and tonight‘s a good night for that.

The matter before us, isn‘t what views we‘re entitled to hold, left, right, or center, or center-right or center-left is the confidence that we have in our public debate, the right to pester member of Congress, to hold up a poster, to scream if you want to, to broadcast what you believe with reasonable confidence that no one will point and fire a gun at you for doing so—without fear of retribution.

We need to get the violence and the talk of violence out of our politics.  I have yet to hear any reasonable argument to the contrary.

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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