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updated 1/27/2011 1:55:41 PM ET 2011-01-27T18:55:41

Guests: Howard Fineman, Jonathan Capehart, Simon Hobbs, Andrea Mitchell, Bob Shrum, Phillip Dennis, John Feehery, Steve McMahon, Susan Page, Jeanne Cummings

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The president and the loony tunes.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, in very snowy Washington. 

That‘s the White House right behind me.  Leading off tonight: Back to the future.  Last night, President Obama grabbed the torch from Jack Kennedy.  He took the majestic dream of a resurgent America and brought it alive.  That speech was about the future, about the American future.  It was a gung-ho, early 1960s type declaration of “Can do.”  We have solved the seemingly unsolvable, we can do it again.

I remember those very words, by the way.  JFK delivered them right across the street from here at the American University.  Well, last night, the spirit was alive again.  With education and research and smart investment, we can drive our country right past our global rivals like China, just as we flew past the Russians on the way to the moon.

Plus, rewriting history.  We want to take another look at Michele Bachmann‘s dangerous and nonsensical claim that the Founding Fathers themselves eradicated slavery.  Yes, we‘re talking about a member of the United States Congress who has no basic grasp of American history. 

But I also think there‘s something here that‘s dangerous, a strain of thought—a strain of thought—in kind of a know-nothing right-wing movement aimed at scrubbing clean the Founding Fathers of any flaws so that they, the right wing, can claim them and the Constitution to be infallible and their cause to be the new absolute truth.

And what was she doing anyway, giving her own response and upstaging the GOP response by Paul Ryan?  Are we looking at a brewing civil war between the Tea Party and the regular Republican Party?

And the president‘s speech last night struck many as kind of Midwestern, kind of “can do” (INAUDIBLE) and I mean this positively—kind of square, as corny as Kansas in August, if you will.  President Obama is in the Midwest today.  That‘s where the Democrats suffered their biggest losses in the House and the Senate last November and where the 2012 elections, I believe and most people believe, is going to decide who wins the presidency in 2012.

“Let Me Finish” tonight with the loony tune we saw last night right after the State of the Union.

Let‘s start with the president‘s speech.  Bob Shrum‘s a Democratic strategist and Howard Fineman, sitting with me, is the Huffington Post‘s senior political editor, and also, of course, our senior MSNBC political analyst.

Shrummy, I want you to look at these numbers.  I‘ve never seen—well, I guess I‘ve seen numbers of all kinds, but these are pretty impressive.  CBS, 91 percent say they approved of the proposals in last night‘s presidential speech.  CNN poll, 84 percent with a positive reaction, 52 percent very positive reaction to the speech last night.

So it reminds me of one of those Clinton speeches, when all the experts said too much detail, the public loved it.  Your thoughts.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes, I heard some of the commentators say too little detail.  And I think they missed what was going on, as we often do.  People out there in the country heard a very powerful narrative, rooted in American history, saying that we could be first to the future, and doing it specifically in terms of innovation and education, a whole series of issues.  The country got it when he said, This is our Sputnik moment—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SHRUM:  -- where we go big things.  And you were absolutely right last night because you got it right away.  This was Kennedy-esque.  It was also Reagan-esque.  It was a sense of what America could become.  People rally to that.  Then when you listen to the Republican response, it was like back to root canal politics.

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM:  It was angry—

MATTHEWS:  It was a little tight, wasn‘t it.

SHRUM:  It was what we couldn‘t do.  How about—how about—here‘s a rallying cry.  Our best century may be the past century.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SHRUM:  That‘s really going to rally people to your party.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Howard, take a like at this.  Howard Fineman‘s with me, of course.  Howard, take a look at this bite.  We picked it out.  We think it‘s one of the biggest ones last night.  What‘s your reaction to this one?  Here he is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re a nation that says, I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.  I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.  I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them and I need to try.  I‘m not sure how we‘ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we‘ll get there.  I know we will.  We do big things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  American exceptionalism right there.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, and

very important, as Bob Shrum said, very uplifting, very positive.  The news of the last couple of years has not been good, and a lot of it still isn‘t good.  Unemployment rate‘s still high, lots of mortgage foreclosures.  Things are pretty bleak with the deficit and the debt.

But the president chose, and I think wisely, to sense that the American people had heard the tough talk.  They know the dismal numbers.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  But they want some inspiration going forward and they want reasons why they should be hopeful for their children and their grandchildren.

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you love the headlines, guys?  You first, Howard, then Bobby.  These headlines were great.  “The New York Times” completely got it, like I did last night.  I think a lot of us got it last night, what it was about, the future, we can make it in this country.  Get off your butt.  This is it.  And the other thing is I thought “The New York Post,” which is generally right wing—it‘s a Murdoch paper—said “King‘s speech.”  I thought it was great!

Another—Shrum, they actually got it, the newspaper headline writers, the headline—the main bar people got it.  This speech was mainlined right into the American psychic system.  The polls show it.  It was mainlined right into the intellectual figures who had to write the headlines.  It delivered, at least in the first instance.

SHRUM:  I think that‘s right, and I think it hit a seam of American feeling.  Look, for the last two years, the president has, in a sense, had to deal with the past.  The biggest economic crisis—

MATTHEWS:  He inherited all that crap!

SHRUM:  -- since the 1930s—right.  The big—

MATTHEWS:  He inherited it!  Did you hear Bachmann last night?  There wasn‘t any financial crisis coming in to—

SHRUM:  No, no, the—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  None of that ever happened!

SHRUM:  The best thing from Bachmann was when she blamed Bush‘s last deficit on Obama.  She just doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about, and I don‘t think she cares.

But secondly, he had another big piece of business from the past, and that was health reform, which was left over from all the way back to the progressive era.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SHRUM:  I think last night, he pivoted, he pivoted toward the future.  And you know, there is nothing more powerful in this country than an optimistic idea and a challenge for us to go win the future, be first in the future, however you want to put it, and I think the president put it powerfully last night.

FINEMAN:  The other thing—the other thing he was doing is saying, We‘re not going to relitigate all that stuff.  The health care bill—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  I‘m going to defend—I‘m going to defend the health care bill.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, that‘s good for—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I‘m going to defend it.  You want to improve it, fine, but you know, we‘re moving on to the next thing.

MATTHEWS:  Now, he looked like “Gulliver‘s Travels” last night, except he wasn‘t tied down, but he was surrounded by Lilliputians.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at President—here he is—by the way, Kennedy, just to remind everybody‘s not quite as old as us, or me at least, this is what it sounded like in 1963, right across the street here at American University.  When I‘m talking about Jack Kennedy, I‘m talking about a particular kind of “can do,” this country can do it, early ‘60s stuff, “Mad Men” era.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants.  No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.  Man‘s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  “And we believe they can do it again.”  Shrum, here‘s the headline, everybody.  It‘s “The New York Post,” not usually a favorable newspaper, but there it is, kicking the country in the butt.  Now, here‘s the question—I want to take a look now at Obama in Wisconsin today following up—this is—one thing I worried about last night, guys, is that he follow up on this.  He doesn‘t just give this barn-burner and say we‘re going to go for it, but push everything in this—education, basic research, infrastructure.  Do it, just don‘t say it.  Here‘s the president in Wisconsin invoking football legend Vince Lombardi.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The words of the man that the Super Bowl trophy is named after has something to say about winning.  He said, “There is no room for second place.  There‘s only one place in my game, and that‘s first place.”  That‘s the kind of determination to win that America needs to show right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Howard, it comes down to this—and I think if you listen to the president, there‘s a recognition.  He‘s done the big tax cut again, the Bush continuation of the upper income, as well.  He didn‘t want to do it, but he wanted some stimulus.  This was the way to get it.  He pushed through a billion-dollar stimulus package.  He‘s done a lot of good things to get the economy going.  I really think he believes now it‘s psychological, that business has to believe in demand.  They have to believe there‘s going to be consumers out there to dump that $2 trillion that big business is sitting on.  Your thoughts.

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t think a State of the Union speech is actually about the state of the union, in the traditional sense.  It‘s about the state of the president and the state of the president‘s thinking about what the people need to hear.  And Yes, I think the president thought, and I know his advisers think, that after a couple years of really hard news and hard slogging and lots of arguing about health care and stimulus and TARP and all the details that we had to focus on, given the mess we were in, it‘s time for some uplift.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  It‘s time to look forward and—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- in the Midwest—he‘s out there in Wisconsin.  We have an auto industry.  Everybody—all three of us knew that a year or two ago, we thought we might not have an auto industry.  We‘d all be buying German and Japanese and Korean cars, and that‘d be the future, right?  Now we‘ve got Ford coming back like gangbusters on its own, GM coming back with federal help.

FINEMAN:  I know, but the interesting thing, Chris, is that he didn‘t talk about any of that.  In other words, he didn‘t really try to defend the stimulus, didn‘t try to defend the auto bail-out, didn‘t try to defend his record—

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

FINEMAN:  Because he‘s moving on.  And also the other shoe dropped today, in the sense that the Congressional Budget Office came out and said we‘re going to have a $1.5 trillion deficit this year.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, we—

FINEMAN:  The president will talk about that.  He‘ll deal with that—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- all along.

FINEMAN:  I know, but he knows that the American people want to think about something great happening in the future.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at Paul Ryan here, responding—I think it was businesslike.  I don‘t think it was inspiring.  I think it was well crafted, sort of like a testimony before a House Budget Committee.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  We are at a moment where if government‘s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America‘s best century will be considered our past century.  This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.  Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness and wise consumer choices has never worked, and it won‘t work now.  We need to chart a new course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I don‘t know what‘s more exciting, that guy or the one at the airport that tells you to take your medicines out and put them in a separate bag.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know if that‘s great speaking, myself.  Your thoughts?

FINEMAN:  Well, listen, it was a total downer.  And what I think has happened is the Republican Party is some extent trapped now by the Tea Party.  They‘re continuing to play the politics of 2010 -- anger, resentment, all of that, the politics of no, as we‘re headed into a 2012 campaign, where the national mood is shifting, the economy is strengthening and the president is challenging us.

You know, there was a Kennedy line when I was listening to that earlier excerpt about—from the president about Lombardi.  You‘ll remember it, Chris.  “I want America to be first, not first if, not first and, not first but.”  That is the seam that I think the president has now tapped into.  And you compare that to what the Republicans are saying and it‘s no contest, frankly.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, “The work goes on, the cause endures and the hope still lives”?  Do you think, Bob?  Do you think that‘s what‘s going on here?

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  Let me tell you, I think the dream lives on, and I think—I think Americans want the dream to live on.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  Yes, he was expressing the national psychology, not just his mood.  And he was expressing it in a way that really reached people.  Those numbers are amazing.

MATTHEWS:  I got to go.

SHRUM:  -- 91 percent, 82 percent.

FINEMAN:  Let me just say—let me just say Barack Obama is learning how to use every symbol of Americanism and American exceptionalism.  Vince Lombardi—a couple years ago, I don‘t think he could have convincingly invoked Vince Lombardi.  Now he just did.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the president of the United States.  Thank you very much, Bob Shrum.  Thank you, Howard Fineman.  Great conclusions here.

Coming up: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her crazy talk.  Well, I don‘t know what to make of it.  It‘s so beyond beyond.  I don‘t know.  Well, you have to judge for yourself.  I‘m just going to report, you decide.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Some personal good news.  Gabrielle Giffords‘s condition has been upgraded today from serious to good.  Now, that is good.  The Arizona congresswoman has been moved to that new facility down in Houston after doctors determined she is ready to start her rehab.  The next step, doctors plan to put a speaking valve in her breathing tube.

This picture shows Giffords‘s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, watching Tuesday night‘s State of the Union—there he is—holding her hand.  There he is.  Good husband.

HARDBALL we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Michele Bachmann took the stage last night to offer the Tea Party rebuttal to the State of the Union just a few days after she spoke in Iowa and said—get this—the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to get rid of slavery in the United States.  Well, she‘s headed back to Iowa next month.  What‘ll she say next?

I‘m joined by Philip Dennis, a Tea Party coordinator in Dallas, and Jonathan Capehart of “The Washington Post.”  Welcome, gentlemen.

I want to thank you, Jonathan, for unearthing that speech from last weekend.  We‘ll talk about that in a minute.  But let‘s talk about the fresh news here.  Here‘s Michele Bachmann last night in her rebuttal to the State of the Union.  Let‘s listen.

Well, I‘m not sure what that is.  It looks like Billy Daley voting in the Chicago municipal elections.  I‘m not sure what that was.

But let me just start here with your reaction generally, Mr. Dennis, to what you heard last night from Michele Bachmann.

PHILLIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY:  Well, I think her message of fiscal responsibility is something that carries very well with the Tea Party movement.  However, we have a big problem with anyone announcing themselves and putting themselves forward as a leader of the movement.  We in the Tea Party movement don‘t follow politicians, we adhere to principles.  And our principles are fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility, limited government.  And so we—you know, I thought it was a little bit patronizing for her to put herself out in front as speaking for the Tea Party.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Jonathan, about her bona fides.  I mean, here‘s (INAUDIBLE) put herself out or been put out by that organization, the Tea Party Express, which is apparently a corporation—put her out there.  As Phillip Dennis said, nobody voted her this job—who seemed to have a profound lack of information about the Founding Fathers, which she hearkens back to.

Just give me what you took to be her message about slavery in this country, which, of course, was, many people believe, left, right and center, is our original sin.  We got rid of it in the Civil War.  She had a different take on how we got rid of it.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  She—well, it was in a speech over the weekend to Iowans for Tax Relief, I believe is the name of the organization.  And she was talking about the greatness of America and now no matter color you were, what your station in life, the immigrants who came out, everyone was equal and everything was fine.

And then she also—she did acknowledge that slavery was, quote, “a scourge” and that our forbears did everything they could to end slavery, people like John Quincy Adams.  Now, everyone has taken her to saying that the Founding Fathers did everything they could to do away with slavery, but you know, it wasn‘t until the Civil War that we were even able to get rid of slavery.

To me, you know, Michele Bachmann, as much as she‘s trying to rah-rah America, if she does not deal honestly with America‘s tortured past, with the original sin, as you called it, America‘s constant curse, as President Clinton called it back in the ‘90s, she, Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, and others who don‘t talk honestly about this aren‘t going to get very far politically.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what she said in Iowa to that—

to that tax-cutting group here.  (INAUDIBLE) off the cuff.  I don‘t know

where it came from.  Here‘s (ph) about history.  I think she doesn‘t

understand where the Republican Party came from, which was founded to stop

the expansion of slavery into the territories.  She acted as if, last night

this past weekend there wasn‘t any slavery to get rid of.  It had already been gotten rid of.  We didn‘t need a Lincoln, didn‘t need a Civil War, didn‘t need 600,000 people dead.  I don‘t get her history.  Let‘s listen to her in her own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began.  We know that was an evil and it was a scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history.  But we also know the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.  And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Phillip Dennis, what do you make of that view of history?  I don‘t know what to make of it, because we all grew up to grade school history.  We know that slavery continued right through until we had the Civil War and we had the Emancipation Proclamation.

And we went through all the hell to get to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which our country was torn in half by.  She said it was all solved well before that.  We didn‘t need a Republican Party.

I don‘t get it.  I call her a balloon head for a reason.  She has absolutely no grasp or knowledge of American history.  And I mean it.  She‘s proving it. 

Your thoughts?

DENNIS:  Well, first of all, that sounds like extremely harsh political rhetoric in this era of now getting along.  And I—first of all, if you remember from your history—

MATTHEWS:  Well, how would you characterize—how would you characterize her knowledge of American history? 

DENNIS:  Well, I can tell you this. 

I remember from my history from North Carolina State is that Edward Rutledge, who was the governor of South Carolina, was against the first draft of the—the Constitution—or the Declaration of Independence, which contained language that banned slavery. 

And he fought against Jefferson.  He fought against Adams, as well as he fought against Benjamin Franklin.  And he encouraged all of the Southern states to vote against the declaration.  So those—those Northern founding fathers acquiesced, and for the better going of having the country, a free country of the United States of America.

So in a lot of ways, I think she misspoke, but she was technically in some way right.  But the founding fathers—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, she wasn‘t.  No, you‘re wrong. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, she did not eradicate—the founding fathers did not eradicate slavery.  If you believe that, say it again. 

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS:  No, I don‘t believe that‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

DENNIS:  We know that slavery was not eradicated until after the Civil War, but we do know the Northern founding fathers were against slavery. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is she talking about?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentleman, sir, sir, why do you cover for this ignorance? 

DENNIS:  I‘m not covering for it at all.  

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is profound ignorance.  Don‘t hedge here.  Do you believe she knows what she‘s talking about or not, yes or no?  Does she know what she‘s talking about?

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS:  Chris, take a breath. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does she know what she‘s talking about?

DENNIS:  Chris—Chris, take a breath.  I don‘t know -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, no, don‘t play that little rhetorical game. 

Does she know what she‘s talking about?

DENNIS:  I don‘t know if she knows what she‘s talking about anymore than Hank Johnson—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you want me to play it again?

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS: -- that Guam was an island floating island around about to sink if we put a military base on there.  People say stupid things all the time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we keep hearing it from her.

Back to you, Jonathan.  Your thoughts.

I don‘t know why—last night, we had Sal Russo, who got tongue-tied.  Four or five times, I asked him, does this woman know what she‘s talking about?  And he kept going off hypnotically in some other direction.

These people have like the code of Omerta when it comes to ignorance that is coming out of the mouth of Michele Bachmann and the rest of these people. 

Your thoughts, Jonathan.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART:  Chris, Congresswoman Bachmann doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about.  She talks about how the founding fathers who wrote those documents worked tireless—tirelessly to end slavery, yet leaving out the fact that they wrote into those documents that a slave was three-fifths of a person when trying to figure out how many representatives should be apportioned to each state. 

These—these are the people who wrote in inequality into our founding documents.  That is the number-one thing that shows that she doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why is she whitewashing our early history, when we had a—we had 250 years of slavery going all the way back to the colonies?  We had 100 years of Jim Crow after the Civil Wars. 

She‘s right we are a self-correcting country, but it takes so long.  Your thoughts.  Why is she whitewashing, why is she scrubbing the founding fathers on this, politically?

CAPEHART:  Are you asking that of me, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Jonathan, what is the game here?

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART:  Politically? 

I can‘t—you know, I don‘t understand the game, because we know that in this country, if she wants to go beyond her Tea Party base, beyond her district here in Minnesota, then she‘s going to have to moderate her views.  Actually, she‘s going to have to go back to school and learn more history, so that she can reach those independents, so that she can have a stronger, better, bigger foundation to launch whatever political career she thinks she has. 

But, right now, I think she‘s too narrow, too ill-informed, and too ignorant of history and facts to actually command the attention and leadership positions that she thinks she has that she actually has.  I mean, she gave that rebuttal last night.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, let‘s go back to—let‘s go back—let‘s go back to the president. 

Phillip Dennis, last night, I watched her speech.  I watched it today.  She skipped the entire financial crisis of 2008, 2009, all the hell we went there, the markets going crazy, people like—everybody in the Bush administration doing their best to kill it, to save our economy, kill that crisis. 

We had the auto industry in trouble.  We had the banks in trouble.  She never mentions that.  She just says, Barack Obama raised the unemployment rate. 

Do you think that is fair?  Is that real history? 

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS:  Well, there‘s no doubt about it, is that the Bush—and when the Republicans had power the last time, that they totally made a mess out of things. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DENNIS:  Like I said, they voted like—they spent money like a bunch of Democrats the last time, and they got us to where we are now.

But nothing was going to put us in the shape to where—when—we see right now with President Obama, Pelosi and Reid, when they were in there.  They spent money like never before.  It‘s absolutely nuts.

And you know something?  I would take both of you a lot more seriously if you had ever criticized a liberal for saying stupid things.  And I would love to hear—did you call Hank Johnson a bubble head or a balloon head when he said that Guam was an island that would sink if we put a military base on it? 

No, you didn‘t even talk about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t even think I have heard about it.  Who is Hank Johnson? 

DENNIS:  He‘s the congressman from Atlanta that replaced Cynthia McKinney.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think we did it in the “Sideshow,” sir.  I will check the records.  I don‘t remember all the things, but we do try to cover all the bases. 

DENNIS:  Please do.

MATTHEWS:  Phillip Dennis, you‘re a good man.  You know I‘m right. 

You know, on this one, you‘re wrong.  And you got—

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS:  Chris, you are so wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  You got to start holding elections in the Tea Party.

DENNIS:  You are so wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  You got to start organizing elections.

You get these people like Palin and Bachmann up there out front.  I think it‘s social promotion, like in some bad public schools.  I think they‘re getting ahead.

DENNIS:  Chris, you—you fear the Tea Party.  You and the Democrats and the Republicans all the fear the Tea Party, because you know we‘re right. 

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART:  Not after last night‘s performance. 

(CROSSTALK)

DENNIS:  Well, I believe, after last night‘s State of the Union, you are exactly right. 

I don‘t know what State of the Union you guys were watching, but all I heard was more stimulus, more spending on green nonexistent jobs that are going to put us further into debt.  How much more money do you want to borrow or print, guys?  Come on. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Good point.  I like it.  You should have been doing it last night. 

Phillip Dennis, who speaks with the volume and excitement—

DENNIS:  Put me on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re on!

DENNIS:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, we talked about that guy Hank Johnson.  I can‘t even remember him, but we had him on.

Anyway, Phillip Dennis, sir, you‘re always welcome here on HARDBALL to express your beliefs and also to cover for some of your weaker allies.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, thanks for exposing ignorance -- 

CAPEHART:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS: -- and the balloon head.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, the Looney Tunes—there they are—it‘s all Looney Tunes to me. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First: man with a chain saw.  Did you ever wonder if Glenn Beck was crazy?  You know, all this talk about shooting himself in the head and shooting other people he doesn‘t like in the head—in the forehead, that is?  He‘s very weirdly focused on the precise desirable point of entry. 

Well, here he was last night venting on the State of the Union. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  You will never guess how many pillars the president is going to going to focus on tonight.  Yes.  Yes, five.  The five—

(LAUGHTER)

BECK:  The five pillars.  I mean, you see?  I mean, you‘re upsetting the bunny, really, really.

Has anybody ever heard of the five pillars of Islam?

Mr. President, I mean, come on.  Now you‘re just poking people, because they know it has nothing to do with that, but you know you‘re just poking people.  It would be like if I came out with a chain saw and a bunny rabbit.  Now, am I going to cut the cute little bunny rabbit in half?  Might. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  God, Howard Beale at work.

Anyway, I think the pillars in this guy‘s head are vibrating like a tuning fork.  That‘s what I think.

Anyway, next:  What happened to good old Southern hospitality?  Georgia Congressman Paul Broun not only deemed last night‘s bipartisan seating a trap by Democrats. 

He posted the following Twitter messages during the president‘s address—quote—“Mr. President, you don‘t believe in the Constitution.  You believe in socialism,” and, “Obama‘s policies kill free enterprise,” and “All children will be poor if we continue with Obama‘s policies.”

Well, today, Broun‘s spokesperson said that, out of respect, the

congressman opted to watch the speech from his office, instead of in the

House chamber itself.  The post also—messages from his desktop computer

all of this out of respect, they said. 

Now to the tonight‘s “Big Number.”  It was the overarching theme of last night‘s address: winning the future. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA:  But to win the future—

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA: -- we will need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making. 

That‘s how our people will prosper.  That‘s how we will win the further. 

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA:  The third step in winning the future—

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA: -- is rebuilding America. 

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  We can‘t win the future—

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA: -- with a government of the past. 

The final critical step in winning the future—

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA: -- in winning the future. 

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA:  If we want to win the future—

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA: -- win the future.

(BELL RINGING)

OBAMA:  The future is ours to win. 

(BELL RINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, repetition is the mother of learning. 

Anyway, in all, 10 mentions of winning the future.  The president issues a call to arms, a call to duty, perhaps -- 10 mentions, tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next, question:  Why is President Obama in Wisconsin today and Vice President Biden out in Indiana?  Answer, it‘s all about the Midwest in 2012.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIMON HOBBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening.  I‘m Simon Hobbs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending the session slightly higher, the Dow Jones industrial average adding eight points finishing just below that 12000 benchmark, the S&P 500 climbing five, the Nasdaq pushing 20 points into the green. 

The Federal Reserve leaving interest rates unchanged, saying the economy is improving, but not fast enough to scrap plans for that massive second round of quantitative easing that‘s currently under way. 

Energy stocks among the best performers today on rising oil prices and growing demand.  Crude prices rebounding above $87 a barrel today, despite a report showing a big rise in inventories. 

And more earnings out today, Boeing shares tumbling on weaker-than-expected revenue and a disappointing outlook.  Meanwhile, strong results from United-Continental and U.S. Airways, United posting a net loss after last year‘s mergers, but industry profits are bouncing back. 

Xerox shares finishing sharply lower on weak profits and word its CFO is retiring next month.  And a major sell-off today for Eastman Kodak on a stunning 95 percent drop in fourth-quarter profits. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. 

That world has changed.  And for many, the change has been painful. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s connecting. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Obama last night on the plight of the blue-collar factory worker.  Today, he visited three factories in Wisconsin, while Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a factory in Indiana.

Here‘s the president again today.  This is from today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  When America is facing tougher competition from countries around the world than ever before, we have got to up our game.  We‘re going to need to go all in.  We‘re going to need to get serious about winning the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s no accident that the president and the vice president visited Wisconsin, and in the vice president‘s case Indiana today.  Democratic support in the Industrial Midwest collapsed last November.  And they need to win it back for 2012.

Jeanne Cummings is assistant managing editor of Politico, and Andrea Mitchell is with NBC.

I want to go to Jeanne on this, because it‘s about what we saw in real estate, location, location, location.  I grew up in Philadelphia, where you used to be able to get a job out of high school without a college education, go work for Boeing (INAUDIBLE) go work for Bud, big jobs, provide for a whole family with one person working, kids go to school.  Everything would be fine. 

Today, the president is talking about it being different. 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, POLITICO.COM:  Absolutely. 

I mean, the world has changed, and that‘s what he was trying to get at. 

And I think that, at the same time, these areas, especially in the Midwest, we have seen the auto companies come back through a combination of new technology and old techniques.  And those things are really—that kind of improvement, I think, is really important to the president, because he now has turned to the message voters have been saying for over a year that they wanted him to focus on, and that is jobs. 

And, so, if he could stay on that message and show some improvement, where the new type—ways of doing things, the electronics and the Internet, they are not the enemy, that they can become part of a rebirth, then he can persuade these folks—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CUMMINGS: -- that he can be—them—they can be there in the future and that there is a future. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at these numbers, Andrea.  And thanks for joining us tonight.  Look at this.

Andrea is an expert on this stuff, covers all these political issues.

Look at this.  In the Midwest, 56 percent now approve of the president.  It was 38 percent.  It‘s gone up in a month 18 points.  I haven‘t seen a—what has he done lately?  Has he won the Super Bowl?  What has this guy done?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  And—and the disapproval has flipped also. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  So, he‘s absolutely flipped the numbers in that part of the country.  And that‘s where they lost—I mean, they lost around the country.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did it happen now, and not happen before November?  What did he do since?

MITCHELL:  The lame—what people have seen is, in the lame-duck session, he‘s working with Republicans.  People want to see less bickering, more progress. 

The tax cuts certainly didn‘t hurt, but just the sense of progress, of things getting done, and talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.  He‘s talking about unemployment so that unemployment number hasn‘t improved appreciably but he wants people to feel better, to feel more hopeful.

And this was an optimistic speech.  This had—this speech had elements of Ronald Reagan in it to the extent that it was America, the can-do spirit.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  Even when America has been trouble.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get to the question of—Jeanne, you‘re a political person.  What does he have to do to follow it up and make it real, besides hit the road?

CUMMINGS:  Well, the number—that job number needs to come down.

MITCHELL:  Right.

CUMMINGS:  I mean, his reelection chances are absolutely tied to the unemployment rate.  And so, they need to do everything they can to bring that number down.

Now, one of the things, Chris, specific to this region is the comeback of the auto industry.  There are new plans opening.  There are new jobs going in there, because the auto industry survived.  The auto bailout nationally may not be popular, but it might be looking pretty good at on those states right now, where some of those jobs are coming up and people can now get back to work.

And to just note how remarkable that turnaround is, Chris, in the

region you speak of, those eight states, the Democrats lost 21 House seats,

one third of all of their losses.  They lost four of the six Senate seats -

two thirds of their Senate seats losses were in the very region you‘re focusing on now.  That‘s how bad it‘s gotten up there.

           

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, wouldn‘t it be a good thing if everybody this weekend went out and went to the car lot and look at the new Fords and look at the new GMs and maybe the Chryslers, too?  I think it would be a good thing to do.  I‘m allowed to promote this country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think buying an American car, taking a look at one, maybe gotten the habit of buying another kind of car.  But I do have a sense they‘re better cars than they‘ve ever been, and I think Alan Mulally has been fabulous at Ford.  And GM‘s comeback, we thought they were gone.

Obama gets.  You said he‘s like Rodney Dangerfield.  Why doesn‘t he get credit at all for this?

MITCHELL:  Well, I this think he is.  He needs to get credit for this.  And what they have to do is frame it this way, that these are American jobs that are coming back and that he has managed to hang on to.

Look at where Joe Biden, the guy from Scranton, is today.  He‘s in Indiana—Indiana, a state that was a Hillary Clinton state; Wisconsin a state that Russ Feingold lost.  I mean, these are the states—these are the swing states that he‘s got to win if he‘s going to win reelection.

MATTHEWS:  They did better than expected in the Indiana primary, and they carried it in general.

MITCHELL:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I‘m looking at this map, guys.  I hope I can show this map.  I‘ve been studying this map right here.

This one, Pennsylvania all the way to Wisconsin and Minnesota, look, there it is.  They have got a—that‘s where they won last time.  We know the South is going Republican.  We know the left coast is going Democrat.  We know the East Coast is going.  So, o it‘s all about right there, isn‘t it?

MITCHELL:  And who is the expert on these states, more than any other part of the country?  Bill Daley.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why they made him chief of staff?

MITCHELL:  Well, it‘s all about the reelection.

MATTHEWS:  Teach me, teacher.

MITCHELL:  You wrote the book, are you kidding?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  I think Bill Daley has a lot to do with this.  He‘s a soothing presence and he‘s a COO type.  (INAUDIBLE) how to do it.  He‘s done it and he‘s doing everything right, right now.

He‘s got to create jobs.  You‘re right, Jeanne, 9.4 isn‘t going to sell.  I think he‘s got to get it down to 8 or lower to get reelected.  Reagan go the it down to 7, 8 at least, because he promised 8, remember Christine Romer?  Remember her?  Eight.  The nail is on the door.

Thank you, Jeanne Cummings.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.

Up next: is Michele Bachmann fomenting a civil war?  She doesn‘t know about the last one, but maybe she‘s trying to start a new one.  And how can the Democrats benefit if the Republicans go between the right and the far-right?  What kind of fight is that?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, yesterday, we talked about Omaha, where angry residents were voting and wanted to recall their elected mayor, Democrat Jim Suttle, after excessive taxes and broken promises.  Whatever the charges were, well, the mayor narrowly survived the recall, despite those charges.  And now, he says he‘s gotten the message and then he plans to do a better job communicating with Omahans and bring the city together.

Democracy at work.  He got scared, he‘s going to be better, he says.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I got the snow behind me that keeps getting deeper here in Washington.

Michele Bachmann last night signaled a potential fracture within the Republican Party and the right overall when she tried to upstage Paul Ryan‘s official Republican response with her own Tea Party rebuttal.  She denied in intraparty rivalry in an interview with NBC‘s Brian Williams.

Let‘s listen to her defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN:  This wasn‘t at all competition with what the GOP official response was.  And I spoke with the leadership.  I‘ve spoken with Paul Ryan.  They all know that this had nothing to do with the competition.  And we all go to the microphones after the State of the Union and speak to people across the country.

And so, the leadership said that they urge everyone to do something like this.  So, this wasn‘t competition at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When we pressed yesterday morning about Bachmann‘s live address, House Speaker John Boehner said it‘s a little unusual.  And here‘s what he said today when asked if he watched her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  No, I did not.  I had other obligations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, that‘s a little grumpy.  Is Republican Party on the verge of a civil war between the establishment and the Tea Partiers?  The one actually helped them win control of the House.

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for “USA Today,” and Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist, and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

John, let me go to you, a certified Republican.

It looks to me like Bachmann‘s going out there on her own, trying to get a lot of noise and making it by saying ridiculous things, not knowing any history.  But she‘s definitely getting PR out of it.  Is this helping your party or hurting it?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I don‘t think it‘s hurting it.  I think she basically said, hey, we got to cut spending.  And that‘s exactly what Paul Ryan said.  That‘s what John Boehner said.  That‘s what Eric Cantor has been saying.

We do have to cut spending.  I think that‘s the big message that really didn‘t come clear through the president‘s message last night.  We got to get our fiscal house in order.  And I don‘t mind her saying that on CNN, although I‘d prefer if she would look directly at the camera.

MATTHEWS:  She was talking to someone besides Brian there a minute ago.

I have this weird theory of her being under hypnosis, Susan, where she‘s sort of answering to a different god or something.  I don‘t know who she‘s paying attention to.  But every time you see her, she‘s looking off.  When I interviewed her one night, during the election night, she‘s off looking somewhere in the distance.

I don‘t know what she‘s looking (ph), more importantly what she‘s saying.  She has no knowledge of history.  She should not be the spokesman of that Tea Party movement, because they do love America, I think.  And why would they have her out there?

My question to you: is this a fight in the party?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY:  This is surely a fight.

MATTHEWS:  Boehner hates it.

PAGE:  John Boehner didn‘t look very happy when he said he didn‘t—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He gets to pick the spokesman.  She ignores him.

PAGE:  Yes.  And, you know, it‘s hard enough for a party to respond in a coherent way to a president who has all the advantages of the bully pulpit.  And they have this little drama going on.  I mean, I think it is a signal of a split that we‘re going to see over and over again this next year.

MATTHEWS:  Well, CNN gave her an airing last night, which is interesting.  Steve McMahon t reminded me of the Joker in Batman, he kept coming on the air, when they‘re trying to do the news, all of a sudden, on comes this strange guy—in this case, a woman, a strange woman.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  It was—it was awfully strange.  And, you know, John Boehner is trying to impose some discipline on his party.  He‘s got a big debt ceiling vote coming up.  He wants—

MATTHEWS:  She‘s voting against that.

MCMAHON:  She‘s voting against it.  The Tea Party is voting against it.  You know, she did say cut spending.  But it‘s clear that the Tea Party is standing up and saying, we will be heard from, we will be counted and we will be loud.

And I also think it‘s interesting to see who‘s going to be the voice -

the female voice of the right.  Is it going to be Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?

           

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go back to the right, because the right, it can be pretty crazy.  They‘re so angry, maybe that‘s why they‘re crazy.

John, explain to me how crazy they are.  Back in the 1992 election, you had Ross Perot, who was certifiable by the time he got on the ballot.  I mean, he was talking about North Vietnamese running across his front lawn, ruining his daughter‘s wedding, insane commentary.  He gets 19 percent because the people in the right are so angry.

Are the people on the right so angry right now that the party—your

party will split the next election?  Somebody like a full mooner will run -

suppose you run Romney, won‘t they run a full mooner as a third party candidate because they can‘t stand Romney?  Because he‘s a health care—he‘s a health care guy?

           

FEEHERY:  You know, you always have a chance for a third party. 

There‘s no question about that.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the full mooners running somebody—somebody like Ross Perot or Palin or Bachmann who maybe be furthest out in orbit.

FEEHERY:  Well, you know, that‘s definitely a possible.  I don‘t think it‘s going to happen.  I do think that the Republican Party and most Tea Party folks are on the same page when it comes to getting our fiscal house in order.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FEEHERY:  I think Republicans—I think establishment Republicans kind of got the message that hey, we got be really cutting the spending this time around.  And I think that that‘s where the party is.  It will be a matter of degree on that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  John, you‘re a good guy.  That‘s not what she talks about. 

She‘s talking about the Founding Fathers and this crazy view of history. 

She‘s trying to teach a new history here and I don‘t know what she‘s up to. 

It‘s not about fiscal responsibility.

FEEHERY:  Chris, Ross Perot—Ross Perot might have been crazy, but he was the first guy to put balanced budgets on the agenda in the country.

MCMAHON:  Oh, come on, John.

FEEHERY:  And, you know, six years later, we did it.  He might have been crazy, but he had the point in the ‘90s.  And, you know, I think the country got that point.

PAGE:  Here‘s the risk for the Republicans, that they‘ll satisfy the Tea Party folks and then lose the voters in the middle that they need during the national.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know, it reminded me of the French, the well-perfumed French officers who would say, oh, the Iroquois scalp all those people?  We didn‘t know (INAUDIBLE).  They‘re our allies of course.

That‘s when you—you like those crazy allies out there, Geronimo and all of this stuff.  They used to answer for—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They really do serve a good purpose.  It was magwa (ph).

MCMAHON:  Michele Bachmann is talking seriously about running for president.  Last night I think was the first step towards trying to coalesce a movement, if you will, that will support her in the presidential campaign.  And she gets bigger politically when she does these kinds of things.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan get smaller politically.

FEEHERY:  No, I don‘t think that‘s true, Steve.

MCMAHON:  The Republican Party is going to have to put forth a budget blueprint and it looks like Michele Bachmann is going to have one that‘s going to compete with Paul Ryan.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You worked for the speaker like I did.  How come the new Speaker Boehner seems like a regular guy, in fact, humble, which is so rare in American politics, among anybody in this town.  He‘s actually humbled by being chosen as leader of his party and House of Representatives.  And he‘s humbled.

And yet she‘s out there dancing as if she deserves it out all, you know, absolute top person in the right wing movement.

What‘s the difference in psychology between the sane person and not sane person?  How do you describe it?

FEEHERY:  Let 1,000 flowers bloom.  Michele Bachmann obviously—

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  -- if she runs for president, you know, let her.  You know, why not?  You know, she‘s got that right to do that.

MATTHEWS:  So, you want a three-ring circus next time.  You like to see—

FEEHERY:  Dennis Kucinich ran for president on the left.  You know, you got some diversity—

MCMAHON:  So, you‘re calling her outside of the mainstream, don‘t you, John?

FEEHERY:  Well, listen, I think that she won‘t win for president, but she‘s got more—she got a right to run if she wants to.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think she‘s taking offers right now.  She needs a speechwriter, by the way, someone who knows basic first grade history.

Anyway, thank you.  John, you know, get in there.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page.  Thank you.  It‘s always great to have you.  And Steve McMahon, you‘re having all the fun at this, expense to right.

John Feehery, what a pro.  He can defend anything.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the crazy talk we saw last night from guess who.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with what we saw last night, millions of us.

You know when we were young, dad would take us to the Lincoln Drive-in in Bucks County.  He‘d bring a six-pack of Pepsi to save money because the refreshment stand was for rich people.  Anyway, sometimes, it was a dollar at car loft, a pretty good deal when you got five brothers packed into a station wagon.  And some nights, we would get dad to turn around the station wagon backwards so we could open up the back and look right at the big movie screen.

Well, I remember those nights, a double feature, and an hour of cartoons.  Sometimes two hours of cartoons.  Dad was a very good dad.

I was thinking all of this after watching last night, the night of the State of the Union.  Think about it.  There was a big double feature, the president gave a big majestic speech about the future, and the Republican Paul Ryan gave a respectable speech on cutting the size of government.

And then there was the big cartoon show, Michele Bachmann.  I speak in all objectivity here.  Anyone who calls on the American media to investigate Congress for anti-Americanism has no knowledge of the Joe McCarthy period, no notion of what McCarthyism was.

Anyone who says as Bachmann did this week that slavery in this country, our original sin, ended with the Founding Fathers is beyond hope.  We fought a Civil War to decided to end slavery, 600,000 men on both sides were killed to end this evil and the Founding Fathers didn‘t end it.  Slavery is written right there in the Constitution, the part that treats slaves as 3/5 of a person.

People know this, you and I know this.  Most Americans know it took the Civil War to end slavery and it hurts in our national memory.  Slavery hurts.

It‘s hard to imagine people accepting it, justifying it, but they did.  And it took almost a century of our history to end it, and another century to end Jim Crow.

I don‘t doubt there are some good, decent and knowledgeable people who‘ve gone to Tea Party events.  What I don‘t get is why they sit there and allow their movement to be represented on national television by a loony tone.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uyghur.

           

           

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