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updated 2/8/2011 9:39:27 AM ET 2011-02-08T14:39:27

Guests: David Corn, Chris Cillizza, Sue Herera, David Brock, John Heilemann, Ron Christie, Shushannah Walshe, Eugene Jarecki

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Who‘s beckoning Glenn Beck?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Dancing in the dark.  Glenn Beck—ever wonder where he gets his stuff?  How about the latest, that those protests over in Egypt are really working for the political left?  I‘m sorry, according to his latest, wildest, diatribes, they‘re working with President Bushes, as well, both of them, who protected the world‘s planned headquarters of the “new world order” from American bombing attacks in the last two Iraq wars.  It‘s hard to keep the conspiracy together.  And you have to wonder where he gets this stuff.

“The Weekly Standard‘s” Bill Kristol, a certified conservative, says Beck‘s hysterical blaming of the American left for the protests in Cairo sound like the old John Birch Society.  Well, we‘ve got news for Kristol.  Tonight, we compare what the Birch Society is saying, and see if you can tell it apart from what Beck‘s saying.  Want to predict what Beck‘s going to say tomorrow?  Listen to what the Birchers say today.  He‘s not dancing in the dark, he‘s dancing with the devil.

Plus: President Obama says he‘s the same guy he was, a man of the middle.  Today, he went into the lion‘s den, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Republican-leaning group he‘s done battle with for two years over health care and Wall Street regulations.  Our leader will do anything to get this economy moving and creating jobs.

And Sarah Palin‘s out there preaching journalism.  The politician who couldn‘t tell Katie Couric what she reads is out telling people what to write.  She says she‘s got this journalism degree of hers and she wants to teach us fair and balanced—you know, like where she works, over at Fox.

And on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Ronald Reagan has become that rare transcendent figure in American politics.  I‘ve got some questions for the guy who made the big documentary on him.  Would Reagan, who opposed aggression, have attacked Iraq?

Finally, I know the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” are tough, but couldn‘t Christina Aguilera have nailed them before singing to the world?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINA AQUILERA, SINGER:  (SINGING) --whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, what so proudly we watched at the twilight‘s last gleaming...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ray Charles.  Christine Aguilera star-bangled spanner (ph) is tonight‘s “Sideshow.”

We start with Glenn Beck.  David Brock is the founder and CEO of Media Matters and MSNBC political analyst David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.”

Gentlemen, I want you to take a look at Glenn Beck.  Last Tuesday, last week, we showed you Glenn Beck‘s latest off-the-rail strangeness about what‘s happening in the Middle East.  Here‘s a reminder.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, FOX NEWS “GLENN BECK”:  Iraq is really important, especially to the Shi‘ites, especially to the 12-ers who are in charge of this country right now.  Because what is in Iraq?  There‘s one place that we told our bombers not to bomb.  Does anybody know what it was?  Two wars in Iraq, we said no bombing there.  Ancient Babylon.  Ancient Babylon.  Why?  Because the Bible tells us that that is the seat, right here, of power of a global evil empire.  Well, that‘s also where the 12th imam from Iran is supposedly going to show up.  Everybody on this side wants ancient Babylon for their caliphate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why would George Herbert Walker Bush, our commander-in-chief in the first Gulf war, and George W. Bush, our commander in the second Gulf war, the war with Iraq, have said, Don‘t bomb this place because this is going to be the headquarters of the new caliphate and I‘m working with those guys?

This is really something.  Well, here he is—conservative leader, Fox News commentator and “Weekly Standard” editor and founder Bill Kristol wrote in his issue today, quote, “When Beck—Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines and lists or invents the connections between caliphate promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch of the John Birch Society.  He‘s marginalizing himself just as his predecessors did back in the early ‘60s.”

And here‘s part of Beck‘s reaction to Kristol on the radio today. 

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BECK:  People like Bill Kristol—I don‘t think they actually stand for anything anymore.  All they stand for is power.  You confuse conservative principles now with conservative progressive principles.  And really, times have changed, Bill.  Times have changed.  It‘s time to see the world as it really is and to see how these big government solutions and getting into bed with dictators is really something the left does and not something that the right should do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is he talking about?  Is he on the side of the protesters or against them?  Is he blaming the protesters on the American left, or is he tying the protesters in with the Bushes because they agreed on not bombing the sites of the new caliphate?  It‘s strange—I can‘t call it crazy because I‘m not a diagnostician, but what is it?

DAVID BROCK, MEDIA MATTERS:  Well, it is completely confused.  But basically, what he‘s doing is setting out that there are power players, some of which he‘s identified as the U.S. left, but obscure people, Code Pink, the Tides Foundation, ACORN.  What you have to understand, for people who don‘t watch his show, is that conspiracy theory has been a cornerstone of this show for months and months.  This is a bizarre theory.  There‘s been others on this show for months and months.  And I think this one creates a real problem for Fox because conservatives are finally starting to weigh in in a serious way.  It‘s not just Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry of “The National Review”...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROCK:  ... John Fund from “The Wall Street Journal” over the weekend...

MATTHEWS:  Is this the way that Bill Buckley said back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, You can‘t be anti-Semitic, you can‘t be a Bircher if you want to be a true conservative?

BROCK:  We‘ve been waiting, at least at Media Matters, for a long time for somebody to stand up in the conservative movement and call this out in a serious way.  And I think we‘re at a tipping point now.  The thing will be whether other conservative movement leaders—what‘s Sarah Palin going to say...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROCK:  ... who‘s very close to Glenn Beck...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, mentally—let me ask you this.  What I don‘t understand is why, when you have real dangers out there—we don‘t know what the new government of Egypt‘s going to be.  It‘s a tricky question.  I keep saying to people, It‘s tricky!  We got to figure it out!  You don‘t accuse the old Bolsheviks from Moscow to be behind it or the communists in China, who are getting pretty capitalistic these days.  Why would you do that, except it appeals to an older audience that was more familiar with those enemies and was more willing to believe enemies within than anything else?

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s interesting...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that what it‘s about?

CORN:  David says that he and others have been waiting to see conservatives turn on Glenn Beck.  What‘s happening now is that he‘s putting himself on the wrong side of conservatives who are out there in favor of democracy in Egypt.  And so he‘s created this divide, and he has to...

MATTHEWS:  OK, just...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is he for or against the protesters?

CORN:  He‘s against—well, he says the protests...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s says he‘s against...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  He says it‘s not about the protesters.  He says it‘s not about the people.  It‘s not about democracy.  It‘s about this grand conspiracy...

MATTHEWS:  On the left.

CORN:  ... of the left and...

MATTHEWS:  OK, you know where he gets these ideas?  You never know where anybody gets ideas, but here‘s Art Thompson.  I never heard of this guy before.  But he‘s the current CEO—I love this phrase—chief executive officer, as if they‘ve got this big organization—of the John Birch Society.  Here‘s what he said last week, on January 31st.  See if you can‘t hear Glenn Beck‘s sort of John the Baptist on all this, the guy who told it before.  Here it is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARTHUR THOMPSON, JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY:  And this is the thing that we‘re trying to get our arms around here inside the John Birch Society is what is really happening in Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen and other places that doesn‘t bode well for the future, doesn‘t look good, has all the signs of an upheaval to where, due to United States policies and the State Department, we‘re radicalizing all of Islam.  This is not a good thing.

Now, everybody‘ll think, Oh, it‘s the Quran.  And everybody‘ll think, Oh, it‘s the Muslims.  But no, it‘ll be Moscow and Beijing, and regrettably, ladies and gentlemen, Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That is exactly Beck.  And Beck said it afterwards.  You said (INAUDIBLE) listen to this guy first, then Beck (INAUDIBLE)  It‘s Moscow.  It‘s Beijing.  It‘s Washington.  It‘s Hillary Clinton.  It‘s Barack Obama.  it‘s the American liberals.

BROCK:  Right.  We‘ve got the exact quotes at MediaMatters.org, and it sounds like plagiarism.  And we‘ve been saying for some time—look, here‘s the thing.  This is the John Birch Society...

MATTHEWS:  Does Roger Ailes know that this guy‘s parroting the Birch Society?

BROCK:  This is the John Birch Society.  It‘s just in your living room every night and it‘s on the radio every day, but it‘s a different thing.  It‘s not the standard Republican National Committee talking points from Fox.  It‘s a very peculiar and dangerous thing.  And as I said, it‘s been building up for some time...

(CROSSTALK)

BROCK:  There‘s racism.  There‘s anti-Semitism in here.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Oh, really?  Well, catch this guy Thompson because he‘s doing something here I don‘t think Beck will repeat.  It includes this latest diatribe, which is today‘s—this day, Monday the 7th, is—what is it, the 7th today?  It‘s got the 7th today—it is today.  And he‘s going after, among CNN and all the other networks, Fox.  I don‘t think that‘s in the plan.  Here it is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMPSON:  The world communist apparatus, including the communist organizations in these countries, are very much involved in this process.  But to the extent where (ph) they‘re actually parading with communists, hammer and sickles on red flags, the whole nine yards, but somehow or another, CNN can‘t find these people.  Fox can‘t find these people, and the other five networks that aren‘t very significant anymore in the way of news.  But I find that strange, that we get this one-sided idea that these people are democrats out in the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s a strange guy because I think NBC‘s still doing pretty well.  These other—MSNBC, as well.  And I just think (INAUDIBLE) they don‘t even count anymore.  He‘s only keeping track of CNN and Fox.

CORN:  This is the problem that Glenn Beck and Fox are going to run into.  Glenn Beck has...

MATTHEWS:  Conflict of interest?

CORN:  Well, no, that he‘s going to have to look at Fox and say, Listen, Fox is not reporting what I‘m telling you.

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

CORN:  When Bill O‘Reilly...

MATTHEWS:  Is Fox reporting what Glenn Beck is saying?

CORN:  When Bill O‘Reilly interviewed the president at the Super Bowl, did he ask about any of these global plans?  The real—the real...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  O‘Reilly‘s difficult, but he‘s a grudging (ph) guy, but he‘s not insane.

(CROSSTALK)

BROCK:  ... Bill O‘Reilly look like Walter Cronkite!

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  But then—but then what happens with Glenn Beck is he has to look at O‘Reilly and Fox, say, These guys are in on it, too!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This may be fishing in troubled waters, which we also do here occasionally.  Here‘s Joe Klein of “Time” magazine, one of the real veterans of the mainstream media.  I know we can‘t—here it is.  Here‘s what he wrote on Saturday, so he obviously watched this crazy fight between Kristol and Beck all weekend.  He said, “I‘ve heard from more than a couple of conservative sources that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid messianic rodeo clown may bring up their brand.  The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice.”

I think he was born on thin ice!  But your thoughts?

BROCK:  No, I do think he‘s on thin ice.  And you know, again, these are not the first conservatives—they may be the most prominent conservatives—to criticize Beck.  But when—remember when Beck made that racist attack on Obama...

MATTHEWS:  He called him a racist!

BROCK:  ... said he hated white people?  You had former speech writer from (ph) Beck (ph).  You‘ve had Frum out there, who lost his job over criticizing this thing.  You‘ve had Joe Scarborough out there.  So now it‘s reaching a critical...

MATTHEWS:  David Frum was fired by Fox for criticizing Beck?

BROCK:  He was fired by the American Enterprise Institute...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, really?

(CROSSTALK)

BROCK:  ... after he criticized Beck.  That‘s right.  People have been trying to do this.  Kathleen Parker‘s been trying to do this.  Other people have raised their voices.  And now...

MATTHEWS:  Because these are all...

(CROSSTALK)

BROCK:  And then you have the 400 rabbis in “The Wall Street Journal.” 

You remember that a few weeks ago, conservative rabbis.

CORN:  And the Egyptian...

BROCK:  “Commentary” magazine.

CORN:  The Egyptian uprising has raised the stakes.  When he was just going after the left and the Tides Foundation and ACORN, it didn‘t matter to a lot of people on the right.  But now that he‘s out there saying we have to support Mubarak and that you, Bill Kristol, and others are in on the great conspiracy...

MATTHEWS:  OK, I want to...

CORN:  ... it matters a lot to them.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been studying this going back to (INAUDIBLE)  I love the history of post-World War II America, and I‘m going back, studying McCarthy.  And the problem with McCarthy, as I remember from the old days was, the Republicans liked him when he was attacking Harry Truman and all those people and Acheson and all those guys.  But he kept attacking because if you want to be a demagogue, you have to keep demagoguing.

CORN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And so here‘s this guy not only attacking the left—and the American left is fair game, of course—he‘s going after the old left in the Soviet Union—former Soviet Union.  But then he‘s got to turn and go around and go after the Bushes and say, Oh, they were targeting to make sure that they didn‘t hit any of these targets because that‘s going to be part of some caliphate.  That‘s what happens, isn‘t it, you have to keep going crazy...

BROCK:  He‘s going to have to attack his attackers.  He‘s going to have to attack Bill Kristol, as he said today, not a real conservative, an elitist, calling him “Billy.”  He‘s going to add, I predict, Bill Kristol to his list of the nine enemies of America.

(CROSSTALK)

BROCK:  ... Jews.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, really?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will he make something of that?

BROCK:  Sure.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Keep watching.  Anyway, thank you, David Brock.  Thanks for coming on.  Thank you, David Corn, as always.

Coming up: President Obama‘s trying to make peace with Wall Street, but after staving off a great depression and saving General Motors and Chrysler, what‘s their beef?  Think about the guy‘s record.  What‘s the stock market now?  What was it headed toward when he came in?  Was there an American auto industry when he came in?  Now we got three of them still going there, with Ford and GM and Chrysler‘s still there, and we got a stock market that‘s zooming.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, a place where we notice the facts, only on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, big news in Washington.  Congresswoman Jane Harman will announce tomorrow she‘s quitting the Congress.  The California Democrat surprised colleagues with the news that she‘s leaving to become president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center, succeeding former congressman Lee Hamilton.  What a great post that is.  Harman has been a senior foreign policy and intelligence voice in the Democratic Party, despite a sometimes strange relationship with her fellow Californian—well, it‘s a good old rivalry with Nancy Pelosi.  Her district is reliably Democratic, and a special election will be called to fill that seat.  You have to be elected to sit in Congress.  That‘s one of my favorite parts of the Constitution, no appointments.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So if I‘ve got one message, my message is now is the time to invest in America.  Now‘s the time to invest in America.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Today, American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets.  And I know that many of you have told me that you‘re waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.  We‘re in this together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what our president is willing to do for America.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama today speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Congress in Washington.  They‘ve had their differences, of course.

John Heilemann writes for “New York” magazine, and “The Washington Post‘s” Chris Cillizza is an MSNBC political analyst.

You know what I see when I look at that?  And if this sounds partisan to some people, it is.  And I got to tell you, I see a guy willing to do anything to get the economy rolling, willing to walk into a hornets‘ nest of people that spend billions or millions of dollars to defeat all his candidates last year, who didn‘t like him, don‘t like him.

He went in there and tried to find common ground with them, John Heilemann.  I think it‘s a positive thing to do.  I can see where some people on the left won‘t like it, but if you‘re going to rule this country effectively, meaning bring back the economy, I think you‘ve got to make friends you normally wouldn‘t hang out with.  Your thoughts?

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  Well, I think, certainly, that‘s all true, Chris.  And I think just as a matter purely of politics, it‘s impossible for a Democrat to get elected or reelected president of the United States when most of the business community is adamantly opposed to him and his policies.

And that was the situation, fairly or not, that President Obama found himself in at the end of last year, across—not just on Wall Street, but in Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, medium-sized businesses in the service sector, across the country, again, for either—in some cases for good reasons, in many cases I think for bad reasons, they were hostile to him.  And that is a position you can‘t be in going forward.

Not only can you not get the economy kick started without the private sector on your side, but you can‘t get reelected, especially as a Democrat, without them on your side.  And President Obama realized that at the end of last year and now is trying to make amends and trying to get people on his side both for his political good and for the economic good of the country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not trying to get into their club and they‘re not trying to get into his club.  This is about common interest.  Is there a common interest out there to get—I know corporate America likes to cut costs.  It likes to increase its profits.  That‘s the way it works in free enterprise, in capitalist societies.  But part of that is to keep the capitalist society alive, and isn‘t that hiring some people in this country?  Isn‘t that part of keeping the whole thing working?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Chris, what you saw, I think, in the speech today was some carrot and some stick.  It was, Hey, look, I‘m coming here.  That matters.  We can work together—South Korea trade agreement, some tax incentives for small businesses.  There are places we can work together.

But that clip you played, that was the stick, which was:  Hey, I need

you guys to get on board at some level.  And I would say I don‘t question -

to your initial point, I don‘t question President Obama‘s desire to want this economy to get better and to do anything it can to get better. 

It‘s also in his political interests, though, Chris.  And another thing that‘s in his political interest is looking as though he‘s big.  I always think it‘s important...

MATTHEWS:  I do.

CILLIZZA:  I thought Bill Clinton was not particularly good at this.  Barack Obama is good at it—look big, look magnanimous, embrace those who criticize you.  Go and do an interview with Bill O‘Reilly, for example.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CILLIZZA:  Look presidential. 

Independents, that‘s the group that swings the most.  They like the idea that the president is working or at least trying to work with the other side to solve problems for the country.  And—and that ultimately will matter for him in 2012, to John‘s point.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think it‘s like—like—I‘m not a tennis player, but isn‘t—John Heilemann, you‘re probably a tennis player.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is this just like jumping over the tennis net when you have lost? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the president today, a little more of that, something like that, John.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  But as we work with you to make America a better place to do business, I‘m hoping that all of you are thinking what you can do for America.  Ask yourselves what you can do to hire more American workers, what you can do to support the American economy and invest in this nation.

That‘s what I want to talk about today: the responsibilities we all have, the mutual responsibilities we have to secure the future that we all share. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  John, you‘re a master at the universe in New York.  And put yourself in the shoes of a he master of the universe up on Wall Street, a young guy, maybe 30, 40 years old, 50 years old, a guy doing well, woman doing well.  They hear that speech, do they say malarkey, naivete?  What do they say?  Or say, you know, he‘s got a good point there; American industry ought to put Americans to work?  Or is he being naive?

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK”:  Chris, I can tell you, if I was a master of the universe on Wall Street, I would have better things to do with my time than be talking to you right now. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, a lot of those guys like doing this.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  You would be playing tennis!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, wait a minute.  Mort Zuckerman does this stuff. 

Don‘t be putting it down.

HEILEMANN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  A lot of guys with money come on these shows. 

Go ahead.  Your thoughts? 

HEILEMANN:  No, look, I—look, I think that—I think that there are a lot of businesspeople in the country who have thought that President Obama doesn‘t understand how the free market works, that he‘s been too hostile towards them in the past, and that—and that—and, again, not just on Wall Street, but across the country in terms of business. 

They have felt that the administration painted with too broad a brush with some of its populist rhetoric over the course of the last two years.  I think they are certainly pleased that there is a change in tone and that the president is, I think, evidently acknowledging the fact that he did—yes, he—he feels and the people around him feel that they were—sometimes, they painted them too broad a brush. 

I think that is a start of a better conversation.  I think some of the personnel changes at the White House are the start of a better conversation.  But to get to your point about substance, the other thing that—that makes this possible, that makes moving forward in a more constructive way possible, is that their agendas overlap more now in this second term, on questions like trade, on infrastructure, on education, on promotion of innovation.

These are all things that the—that the business sector wants.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  And they can live with the kinds of policies that the president wants to put forward on those things.  Tax reform is another—is another item. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris, I want you to talk about the—the performance last night on the Super Bowl.  Apparently, according to Bill O‘Reilly, this—you know, he‘s so lacking in ego—he pointed out that this is the most watched interview in the history of mankind. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, let‘s see what we make of it.

CILLIZZA:  Other than this interview.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch—let‘s watch the Super Bowl interview pre-gaming with Bill O‘Reilly and the president.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I haven‘t—I didn‘t move to where people thought I was.

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  You—you—you haven‘t moved anywhere?  You‘re the same guy?

OBAMA:  Well, I‘m the same guy.  And my practical focus, my commonsense focus right now is, how do we out-innovate, out-educate, out-building, out-compete the rest of the world?  How do we create jobs here in the United States of America?  How do we make sure that businesses are thriving?  But how do we also—making sure that ordinary Americans can live out the American dream?

O‘REILLY:  Listen, I hope you can do it.

OBAMA:  Because right now, they don‘t feel like they are.

O‘REILLY:  I hope you can do it.

OBAMA:  I know you do.

O‘REILLY:  Because Americans need to be secure in their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s pretty aggressive body language by Mr. O‘Reilly, I thought, Chris.

CILLIZZA:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you would think...

CILLIZZA:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... the—the Oval Office and that environment would subdue your arm gestures, but not with Bill. 

CILLIZZA:  Well, in the—in the 20-hour NFL pregame before the Super Bowl, Chris...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  ... I did watch the interview. 

What I was struck by more than anything is, it felt to me like two ships passing in the night.  They are sitting close to each other.  Bill O‘Reilly is interviewing President Obama.  And yet O‘Reilly would ask a question.  Obama would kind of answer what he wanted. 

O‘Reilly would no—there was—it was like they were having a conversation in two separate phone booths. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CILLIZZA:  I—here‘s what I would say, though, Chris.  I know I‘m hung up on this, but with that independents message, what were the two big buzz words out of that clip you just played?  Practicality, common sense.

Who loves the idea that the government is focused on practicality, common sense, and make—and creating more jobs?  Independent voters.  Look, 45 first of the country, Democrats, are going to vote for President Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CILLIZZA:  Forty-five percent of Republicans are going to vote against him.  It‘s that 10 percent in the middle that we‘re going to spend the next 18, you know, 20 months talking about. 

I think he‘s already, from the State of the Union, through some of the stuff he‘s done with the Chamber, through hiring Bill Daley as his chief of staff, to John‘s point at the start, he‘s already trying to position himself to appeal to those centrists. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Well, let‘s hope all this kissy-poo gets the engine going.

Thank you very much, John Heilemann.

And thank you, Chris Cillizza.

Up next:  It‘s a big deal to sing the national anthem before the Super Bowl, of course, so what went wrong yesterday with Christina Aguilera?  Apparently, the lyrics weren‘t what she thought they were.  Check out the “Sideshow” next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First:  Talk about starting on the wrong note.  At last night‘s Super Bowl, Christina Aguilera flubbed perhaps the most revered of American tunes, the national anthem.  Here‘s Aguilera‘s rendition—rendition alongside the text of the actual lyrics. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, MUSICIAN (singing):  What so proudly we hailed at the twilight‘s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight.  What so proudly we watched at the twilight‘s last gleaming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

Well, Aguilera later apologized, saying she hoped the true spirit of the anthem still came through. 

Hey, who wouldn‘t get a little nervous with 100 million people watching and listening?

Anyway, next, the Know Nothings make a comeback.  Don Rumsfeld was pressed by ABC‘s Diane Sawyer on whether he would have acted differently in the Iraq war had he known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.  The answer was vintage Rummy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)

DIANE SAWYER, CO-HOST, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”:  If you had known he did not have them...

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I didn‘t know. 

SAWYER:  If you had... 

RUMSFELD:  I didn‘t. 

SAWYER:  If you had...

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD:  I have no idea.  I have no idea. 

What you know today can help you on things you‘re thinking about tomorrow.  It can‘t help you with things you were thinking about back then. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Rumsfeld was also asked whether sending too few troops into Iraq was the biggest mistake of the war.  His response?  “It‘s possible.”

Well, as we showed you last week, when I asked Rumsfeld if President George W. Bush ever asked him if we should go to war with Iraq, he said the president never did.  This is still strange stuff.  They‘re all covering for each other. 

Finally, what‘s in a jelly bean?  Well, here‘s what Congressman Ben Quayle, son of Vice President Dan Quayle, wrote in Politico yesterday—quote—“When I was a child, President Ronald Reagan was the nice man who gave us jelly beans when we visited the White House.  I didn‘t know then, but I know it now, the jelly beans were much more than a sweet treat that he gave out as gifts.  They represented the uniqueness and greatness of America, each one different and special in its own way, but, collectively, they blended in harmony.”

Hmm.  How about dealing with real rights and opportunities for the real people in America in our melting pot here?  How about illegal immigration and immigration reform, and how about rights for gays, not memories of jelly beans?

Up next: Sarah Palin, media critic.  She says she wants to help the mainstream media be more balanced and says the fact she studied journalism in college, I think one of the four or five colleges she went to, makes her qualified to do so.  She‘s also making a wild claim that President Obama knows who‘s taking over Egypt after Mubarak and isn‘t telling us.  That‘s her theory.  Call it a conspiracy.  That‘s what it is.  And that‘s ahead.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks looking strong again today on some solid earnings and a flurry of M&A activity, the Dow Jones industrials climbing 69 points, the S&P 500 adding eight, and the Nasdaq gaining 14 -- 560 stocks hitting new 52-week highs today, including big-name blue chips like Caterpillar, Apple and IBM. 

In earning news, Loews beating estimates on the top and the bottom lines.  Loews owns a hotel chain, CNA Financial and a drilling company. 

And game maker Hasbro moving slightly higher, despite weaker-than-expected revenues on lackluster demand over Christmas. 

But a lot of the buzz today was about some big deals in the works—

AOL buying The Huffington Post for $315 million.  Offshore driller Ensco buying rival Pride International for about $7.3 billion, and industrial company Danaher picking up medical tech supplier Beckman Coulter for about $6.8 billion. 

And Big Lots soaring in the final minutes of trading on a report it‘s working with Goldman Sachs on putting itself up for sale. 

And that‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—and now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

This weekend, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, criticized President Obama‘s handling of the Egypt crisis by recalling that—that famous, of course, 3:00 a.m. phone call that was in the ‘08 campaign ad. 

Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  It‘s a difficult situation. 

This is that 3:00 a.m. White House phone call.

And it seems—for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House, it seems that that call went right to the answering machine, and nobody yet has—nobody yet as explained to the American public what they know.  And, surely, they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The best negative politician in America.

Joining me right now is Republican strategist Ron Christie and The Daily Beast‘s Shushannah Walshe, who is also co-author of “Sarah From Alaska.”

Ron, that is brilliant negative campaigning.  She‘s suggesting a vast conspiracy in the White House to keep us from the truth.  She says it in kind of a pleasant way, you might say, harmless, but she sticks the knife in pretty well there. 

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  She does, Chris, but I think that her point is fundamentally well-taken. 

I think that this was the first major foreign policy crisis of the Obama administration.  And I think, thus far, they have failed to articulate a clear strategy.  First, you had the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, saying, well, he is not a dictator, Hosni Mubarak; he‘s an ally. 

Then you had the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, come out and say something different.  Then the president came out and said that democracy needs to happen and Mubarak needs to go now.

So, I think what Sarah Palin—and I would never presume to speak for the governor—but what I think she‘s trying to say here, Chris, is, we need a little bit more coherency, we need a little bit more of a stronger response from the White House what our regional and international domestic and international security issues are facing our country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ron, fortunately for me, and unfortunately for you, people just heard what she said, and it wasn‘t that at all.

She said they know what‘s going on and is keep—are keeping it from us.  That‘s a charge of deception, not of ignorance, deception.  Do you accuse the White House of deception? 

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  I will say, in this particular case, I think the administration...

MATTHEWS:  Deception.

CHRISTIE:  ... has probably decided upon a course of action and probably decided upon who they want to back.  I just think they‘re not telling the American public.  I don‘t think it‘s a case of deception.  I‘m just not quite sure they know at this point. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what she is charging.

Let me go to Shushannah.

The former governor of Alaska is charging the president and his people with some kind of deception, that:  We know what‘s going on over there. 

I believe that almost every statement, in fact, all the statements Ron just very well stated there, that he is a friend of the United States.  He has been.  He‘s a dictator.  He sure is.  We don‘t know who‘s going to take over. That‘s a fact.  These are all facts.  It‘s a complicated world, I think, and we have to acknowledge there are a lot of pieces to it, and it isn‘t it simple as the manner of the politics we‘re getting from the former governor of Alaska, which is always simple. 

Your thoughts, Shushannah?

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  Well, I thought it was interesting because she‘s held back until this point on making any comments about Egypt.

And I know that she has foreign policy advisers.  They‘re very good.  They brief her.  But I thought that she was pretty unprepared.  Instead of coming out and saying what she would have done differently, what changes she would have made, she just criticized the president.  And I thought that was really a missed opportunity.

She did get headlines with it, which is great, but I think that she really could have gone there and—and had a strong answer about what she would have done differently if she was in power.  And she didn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, suggesting it was answered by the answering machine is just kind of cheap.  Here—you know, I don‘t think Randy Scheunemann and these smart guys around her and the other intellectuals who are backing her were working this week. 

Anyway, here‘s Sarah Palin on the media—her another target.  Let‘s listen to that.  You can respond, Ron.  Go ahead, after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  I want the mainstream media and I‘ve said this for a couple of years now, I want to help them.  I want—I have a journalism degree.  That is what I studied.  I understand that in this cornerstone of sure democracy is a free press, is sound journalism.  I want to help them build back their reputation and allow Americans to be able to trust what it is that they are reporting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a powerful piece of communicating there, Ron.  She has the ability to moderate her voice.  She gets serious when she wants to.  She raises her voice when she wants to be sarcastic.  She‘s very good at it.

But what‘s the point?  What is she saying?  That the American media is doing what now?  What‘s her latest charge?

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think what she‘s saying here, Chris, is the American media here is very far out of the mainstream.  I think that in the years past, when you used to watch the Tom Brokaws and the Walter Cronkites, that Americans felt that they were getting a very straightforward approach to the news.  And I believe, and again, I would never presume to speak for Governor Palin—

MATTHEWS:  How old are you, Ron?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you 22 years old?  Everybody in America liked Cronkite and everybody in America knew it was a liberal.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Everyone in America knew that he was a left winger, but they also respected the integrity of what he had to say.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CHRISTIE:  I dare say, your show, of course, has a fair amount of integrity to it.  But I think there are a lot of folks on these cable outlets that are more opinion pieces than they are trying to give the news.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, she‘s not?

CHRISTIE:  She‘s not what?

MATTHEWS:  She‘s not a point of view?  Beck isn‘t a point of view?

CHRISTIE:  Of course, she‘s a point of view.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s sitting over there in fair and balanced land with Glenn Beck accusing people of things that I have—I am absolutely—I hate to say it, I don‘t get it, which I hate to ever admit.

Let me go Shushannah here.  I want to go back to Beck for a minute and Palin because they‘re on the same label here.  They are patent together, which she‘s trying to get herself patented, Palin and Beck.

This stuff about these conspiracy theories, she‘s got the fact that the president of the United States is sitting on these realities.  I‘ll tell you, I wish I had as much confidence in the State Department as she does, they‘ve got it all figured out who‘s going to win over there.

What‘s with the conspiracy theory all the time?  Can‘t she just admit this is tough and they don‘t seem to know where they‘re going?  That‘s not a bad critique and it‘s a smart one.  I don‘t think they know where they‘re going.

And I think they do change their minds every two or three days over there.  They don‘t know whether Mubarak is going to last three months, six months, or two weeks.  We don‘t know.  And basically, we‘re trying to look it through a glass darkly here.

Your thoughts, Shushannah, why is it always the easiest thing to do is to sell a conspiracy these days on the right?

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  Well, I agree that other potential 2012ers, as I think that she is, have said the president is all over the map.  He should be, you know, take a stand, and she did say that.  But I think because a lot of people, people that are supporters, the media were looking at what her first comments on Egypt could be, that she should have, as I said before, I think that she should have come out not with a conspiracy, not with what she thinks the president is doing, or thinking behind the scenes, but what she would have done if she was in the Oval Office.

And I think a lot of her supports would appreciate that.  And I think that people that like journalists that cover and watch her would interested that.  And, you know, I think that that would have really her different and distinct from the president and it‘s actually—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WALSHE:  -- is actually could come out with a very strong response.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know what I think she‘s doing?  Hey, Ron, think about this—

CHRISTIE:  Yes?

MATTHEWS:  -- because I respect you.  You know what I think she‘s doing.  I don‘t think she is a thoughtful politician.  I think she‘s talking to people who don‘t read newspapers, don‘t pay attention to serious television broadcasts or the later hour or anything like it or even this program, don‘t pay attention to anything that‘s even in the middle, who don‘t have any effort at all to learn anything and believe her when she says they‘re keeping the truth from us when the people who believe her are making absolutely no effort to find out what the truth is.  So, they‘re willing to believe it‘s somebody else‘s fault.

She‘s in an interesting little game she plays with people.

Anyway, thank you, Ron Christie.

CHRISTIE:  Always.

MATTHEWS:  Good luck with everything.

And Shushannah Walshe, thank you.

WALSHE:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: 100 years after his birth, Ronald Reagan has transcended politics.  Let‘s be honest about it.  He‘s become an American icon to people of many political stripes.  But would Reagan‘s practical politics be accepted by today‘s right?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Talk about American exceptionalism.  Here‘s an only an American success story about our friend Arianna Huffington.  AOL just bought “The Huffington Post,” the news Web site she founded, for $315 million.  Here‘s a person, Arianna Huffington, who came to this country as an immigrant to become a major force in new media.

I remember something she said about her experience, and that as an immigrant, you sound different.  She said she tried to get rid of her accent but finally embraced it and made it part of her identity.  America is, after all, a nation of immigrants—and for Arianna, it‘s a true case of the American Dream.

HARDBALL, back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Ronald Reagan‘s 100th birthday would have been yesterday.  And tonight on HBO, a documentary that takes a look at President Reagan‘s life, the good, the bad, and let‘s face it, the unknowable.

Here‘s a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you look at Ronald Reagan‘s life, what you see is a man who from the most ordinary beginnings grew and grew and grew to become one of the most powerful men of the century.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  My father saw himself as a rich child of America, he clearly had a love affair with America, that “shining city on a hill” business that he talked about.  He really meant it and he really felt that.  I think he was a man who saw himself as a quintessentially American kind of guy.  I mean, here‘s a kid who grew up in, you know, not fabulously wealthy circumstances by any stretch of the imagination, his father was a shoe salesman at the time when he wasn‘t drinking.

LOU CANNON, AUTHOR, “PRESIDENT REAGAN”:  The thing that is most interesting is that the successful child of an alcoholic is able to repress all of the tough stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Eugene Jarecki‘s documentary “Reagan” debuts tonight on

HBO.

Thank you, Gene.

It‘s always interesting to get into these character studies and I‘m your classic viewer because I grew up watching Ronald Reagan on “G.E.  Theater” every Sunday night at 9:00.  It was number three.  It was at the top 10 always all the time.

I really liked the guy, and then I disagreed with his politics, and then I liked him again as an historic figure.  I‘m one of your mixed up guys.

What do you make of him in terms of the bad side of him?  I want to talk about the part you didn‘t put in perhaps in the documentary.  He didn‘t really care about the environment.  He seemed to have a hard time figuring out the role that social policy, Social Security, Medicare and those programs, how they helped real people.  Yet, if he confronted a real person in trouble, he would sort of write a check to that person.

How do you put that together?

EUGENE JARECKI, FILMMAKER, “REAGAN”:  Well, as many people in the film told us, especially his family members, talked about a man who, yes, on a personal level, could really have his heart go out to people.  If you had a problem, he‘d give you the shirt off his back.  But he would turn around and engage in policymaking that was deeply hurtful to people, as if when he saw a group of people, he had trouble seeing them as a group of individuals he might care about.

And so, the heartbreaking part about him and it is in the film a little bit, in part of the whole bigger picture that we showed about him, is that Ronald Reagan, in many ways, presented himself as a friend to main street America.  He‘d come from the heartland.  He‘d come from a small town.  And yet, at the end of the day, that “Reader‘s Digest” America, that‘s the very America his policies did the most to hurt.

I think he didn‘t mean to do that.  I agree definitely with the portrait of Ronald Reagan where this is a man of deep care and deep intentions and deep love of his country.  But I think that there were mistakes made.  There were policy ideas he had—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

JARECKI:  -- Reaganomics and others, that just hurt the very people he sought I think to most help.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think he did some really important things historically.  And I think one was dealing with the Soviet Union.  And the early signal, I think, very important was the breaking of the PATCO strike.  It sent a signal.  They had backed him in the election in ‘80.

He broke those guys when they walked out (ph) and that sent a signal.  I got this word through sources.  I mean, it was Dwayne Andrews (ph) who told Tip O‘Neill and I heard it from him that over there in the Soviet Union, they said, well, this guy is for real.  This isn‘t Jimmy Carter we‘re dealing.  This is a strong president we‘re dealing with.  That‘s one story.

How did he get the idea that Gorbachev was somebody different, he wasn‘t this old Molotov type, this communist, that—automaton, that he could actually deal with him as a human being and deal with the end of the Cold War with this guy?

JARECKI:  Well, I think there‘s no question everyone wants to play the sort of “Ronald Reagan ended to the Cold War” game and we‘ve been listening to that myth.  It‘s one of the many myths we hear about him.  And what you then learn, as I did when I got into the footage, was I learned about how deeply taken Ronald Reagan was by Mikhail Gorbachev personally.

And I think by almost movie-esque idea that the leader of one country could make friends with the leader of another country across this extraordinary gap and I think it‘s the friendship between them, i.e., negotiating with our adversaries, that‘s one of the Ronald Reagan‘s real, great, strong suits.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think someone like George Herbert Walker Bush would have gotten a clue.  I think a lot of people around him like (INAUDIBLE) didn‘t understand.  It‘s not all ideology.  There are people out there you can deal with.

Here‘s one of my friends, Nancy Reagan, I think she‘s—I want to talk to you, because I think she got rid of Don Reagan, one of the worst pests that Reagan ever had in the White House.  He almost ruined his presidency.

Tip O‘Neill called up his friend, Lee Iacocca, get a hold of Sinatra, get a hold of Nancy, and get rid of that guy, that bum.  He‘s hurting the president.  It worked, didn‘t it?  They got rid of him.

JARECKI:  Yes.  One of the things we go over in the film was the extent to which Nancy Reagan was such a vital element in her husband‘s success.  And there‘s no question that Stewart Spencer, a longtime friend and advisor of the president, talked about the way in which Nancy watched the president‘s back, and in many ways what he characterized in James Baker that did this as well, is that Ronald Reagan himself is a lot more idealist (ph) in many ways.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

JARECKI:  And Nancy did a necessary job in discovering whether people were working for her husband‘s agenda or their own.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, like Don Reagan.

JARECKI:  You know, we have so many people with their privately held agendas using Ronald Reagan in ways that I don‘t think are fair to who he was or what he cared about.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Let‘s take a look at Nancy Reagan, Eugene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She would have done anything for him, but she ended up having to make an awful lot of the unpleasant decisions that he really wouldn‘t face up to—firing people for example.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ronald Reagan couldn‘t fire people.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I can ask Nancy to verify it for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She watched his back at all times.  She was his personnel director.  She made the basic decisions as to who was around him, who was hired, who was fired, and the criteria she used was: will this person be working with my husband‘s agenda or their own agenda?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Yes or no, will there have been an Iran Contra catastrophe if Jim Baker had stayed as chief of staff for the whole eight years?

JARECKI:  I think there were many voices around Ronald Reagan who thought that what he was doing in the Iran Contra affair was both impeachable and also felonious.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

JARECKI:  And Ronald Reagan was advised about that.  And one of the things we discover in the film are the documents that have now come to light that showed that when told it would break the law, Ronald Reagan forged right on ahead.  So, I don‘t know that even the best advisers would have been able to stop him.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, thank you.  OK.  Eugene Jarecki, thanks for joining us.  “Reagan,” the documentary, airs tonight on HBO.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” will the source—“Let Me Finish” with the source of much Glenn Beck‘s nightly rants, the John Birch Society.  That apparently is his Bible.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with Glenn Beck.  It appears he‘s getting his scripts from the John Birch Society.

Here‘s what editor Bill Kristol just wrote in conservative or neoconservative magazine “The Weekly Standard,” quote, “Hysteria is not a sign of health when Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from the Morocco to the Philippines.  And lists or invents the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one as much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society.  He‘s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.”

Now, the John Birch Society is not a thing of the past, I must say.  It exists and it speaks in the present.  It speaks the words that Glenn Beck then broadcasts.  On January 31st, last week, the CEO of the John Birch Society put out a word that‘s what‘s really happening in Egypt is due to policies of the Obama administration, including the State Department of Secretary Hillary Clinton.

It‘s not just Moscow and Beijing that‘s doing it, it‘s Washington, D.C., the Birch Society says.

Well, here‘s Glenn Beck three days later.  “I plant my flag in this soil.  Groups from the hardcore socialist and communist left and extreme Islam work together.”

Where would he get this notion that the left is behind the protest?  The John Birch Society.  Is anyone else trying to tie together the left in situation in Cairo?  No.

Why are they doing it?  Because it sells to people who lived through the Cold War and want the comfort of seeing things through old glasses, because people who are afraid and are ready to believe their current villains are really their old villains and their old villains are enemy within.

Glenn Beck spends his life denouncing what scientists believe to be true while selling wild theories that appeal to those who suspect science, but might buy what they just heard on the radio, who got a real merchant of fear here whose only defense, only moral defense, is that this guy has himself been dancing a little too close to the cliff.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

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