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updated 2/21/2011 9:50:43 AM ET 2011-02-21T14:50:43

Guests: Ed Rendell, Howard Fineman, David Corn, Diana DeGette, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Robin Vos, Spencer Coggs

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  On, Wisconsin!

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York.  Leading off tonight: state of chaos.  Depending on whom you ask, one of two things is happening in Wisconsin this week.  Either the Republican governor out there is trying to get his arms around the budget and make public employees merely pay their fair share of benefits, or that same Republican governor is out manufacturing a budget crisis in order to break the unions, especially one he particularly doesn‘t like.  We‘ve got people on both sides of this issue.  It‘s our top story tonight.

Also, who wins if the Republican force the federal government to shut down?  I think a shutdown is coming, and maybe sooner than you think.  Whichever side wins this battle, will have a leg up in 2012.

Plus, the GOP is back at it again—you wouldn‘t be surprised—focusing on culture issues and abortion rights.  The House just passed a bill, for example, to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.  Whatever happened to all the Republican talk about jobs?

And what‘s the worst bill in American history?  Catch this.  The fugitive slave law, many would say, or the Alien and Sedition Act.  No, according to Phil Gingrey of Georgia, it‘s the health care bill.  But then again, he‘s the one that said the Iraq war was the greatest war in history.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with a really a big news story about someone everyone seems to have missed lately, Bill Clinton.

We begin with Wisconsin.  Republican Robin Vos is a state assemblyman out there.  Assemblyman, thank you very much for this fight (ph).  Is there going to be a deal out there?  We‘re hearing about a deal with—the head of the public employee union is out talking about possibly conceding on the benefit concessions, like pensions and health care, having employees kick in on those the way the governor wants, as long as they can keep their bargaining rights.  Where are you on that one?

ROBIN VOS ®, WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY:  Well, first of all, thanks for having me on today because the issues that we‘re facing definitely are important for the future of not just Wisconsin but all across the country.

We have seen that in Wisconsin, we have a massive deficit, and there‘s no way that we can solve it without asking our employees to be part of the solution.  Unfortunately, last September, they left the bargaining table hoping that they‘d get a better deal from a Democrat who got elected.  The people of Wisconsin spoke loud and clear.  They want somebody who‘s going to fix this budget once and for all.  Having people give a modest amount toward their pension and their health insurance is very easily done.  What we need to do, though, is to also give tools to local governments in order to deal with this.

MATTHEWS:  Are they trying to shout you down right now?  Is that what‘s going on?

VOS:  It‘s been what‘s going on all day long.  This is not the opportunity to have a good discussion.  We‘ve seen my Democratic senate colleagues flee the state, not doing their job.  I‘d be happy to stand and debate as long as they want to, but they‘ve gone to Illinois with the hopes of stopping our progress.  But I can guarantee you that when they return, we‘re going to pass this bill, get it moving forward, and show that we can balance our budget with modest contributions from the public employees.

MATTHEWS:  What about this proposed deal by the big labor leader for public employees?  He‘s talking about conceding the issue of pension and health benefits if you let them stay a union that can negotiate with your government.  Are you against the negotiation per se?  You want to kill the union or what?

VOS:  No.  First of all, they‘ve already got to keep the union. 

That‘s in this bill.  They get to keep the union and bargain over wages.  And we‘ve also expanded those rights to also allow them to have a grievance process.  On top of that, though, we also still have the civil servant protections.  We‘re the strongest in the country.

We need to have the flexibility.  Unfortunately, over the course of the past 20 years, they have shown that until we got to this point, they have never been willing to have any meaningful compromise that help us with work rules and a lot of our expanded costs.  The time is now.  Nineteen states already do not allow public employees to bargain, and yet they still have vacations, they have pensions, they have good health care.  There‘s no doubt about it.  We can do that here, but we don‘t necessarily need the union with every several bargaining right in order to do it.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to another side of the argument.  Spencer Coggs is a state senator out there, a Democrat.  He left the capitol to prevent that vote.  He‘s somewhere, I guess, in Illinois.  First of all, Senator, where are you?  What state are you in right now?

SPENCER COGGS (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR (via telephone):  I am traveling the wonderful roadways of Illinois.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is that against the rules?  Are you breaking the law

by leaving the state when there‘s a vote on?

COGGS:  No, it‘s not against the law.  It is unorthodox, and it seems like a desperate time, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about a thing—we just got a news report late this afternoon, which is Friday on the East Coast, that there‘s an idea out there being proposed by the head of the public employees union that if the governor would go along with keeping the employee unions recognized, still organize the state, still able to negotiate work rules and other issues, that the union will concede on these pension and health care issues.  What do you think of that proposal?

COGGS:  Well, I think that‘s a good olive branch, and I hope that the governor listens.  And the reason that we took off so that the Republicans didn‘t have a quorum is because the governor and the Republican Party were not listening to us.  We didn‘t have any way to stop this bill that is fast-tracked as an effective (ph) union busting for the state of Wisconsin.  And so what we did was, we made sure that they wouldn‘t have a quorum by leaving the state.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s going on in your state?  Why is everybody voting so heavily Republican?  Why did Russ Feingold get blown out of office so badly?  He lost by, what, double digits.  You‘ve got a Republican governor now.  What happened to good, old moderate, politically progressive Wisconsin, the state of LaFollette (ph).  What happened?

COGGS:  Well (INAUDIBLE) What basically happened was they outpoliticked us.  And so now we‘re mad and we‘re not going to take it anymore because the state of Wisconsin is one third Democrat, one third Republican and one third independent.  We lost the independents this last time.  We‘re gaining them back.  And with the help of Governor Walker, we believe that we can get the independents back because this issue of the workers is an issue of fairness, and Governor Walker fails that test.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at him.  Here he is at a meeting (ph).  He talked on the radio this morning.  Here‘s Governor Walker describing how the bill would change the way unions operate in your state of Wisconsin.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN:  What changes is the fact that no

longer can our unions have a stranglehold not only on the state government

but local government, to force them to not alter benefit packages that are

that are like a virus eating up our budget!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Assemblyman Vos, is it a stranglehold?  Do you feel that stranglehold of the unions out there?

VOS:  Yes, there‘s no doubt about it.  We‘re seeing it just from the people around me, who are trying to even drown out the opportunity to have the discussion.

When we go forward, there is no doubt that we‘ve got to come together and figure out an opportunity to make this state go forward.  The people of Wisconsin last year spoke loud and clear.  They‘ve seen business as usual.  They saw what happened when we had a process that could not work, where spending went up, taxes went up, and jobs left.  We can‘t afford to have that anymore in Wisconsin, and I am confident that once we‘re able to move forward, once Senator Coggs and his colleagues return to the state capitol for the debate, let democracy here happen.  We‘re going to be able to get this moving forward.

And the people who are here will realize our proposal is modest.  Having a small contribution towards your health insurance and a small contribution towards your pension is something that everybody in the private sector is already doing.  They‘re not able to be here protesting because they‘re out working!

MATTHEWS:  OK...

VOS:  They don‘t have the right to take off today!

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Senator Coggs.  Last point here, Senator.  Is this a manufactured crisis?  Some people on the opposition, on the Democratic side of this fight, the union side, are saying that the governor could have balanced the budget other ways.  He chose to create an imbalance so that he could do this stuff to the unions.  Is this manufactured or what?  Where do you stand on that simple question?  Do we have to go through what we‘re watching and this craziness out in Wisconsin?

COGGS:  Let me make it clear.  Absolutely not.  If you look at the legislative fiscal (ph) bureau, which is a nonpartisan bureau that works for both Democrats and Republicans, they say in our current year that we have a surplus.  The only imbalance that we would have...

VOS:  That‘s not true!

COGGS:  ... is because the last three weeks, the governor has issued three bills that help (INAUDIBLE) so this is a manufactured crisis (INAUDIBLE)

VOS:  Senator, you know that‘s not true!  First of all, the money that we allocated toward the savings that we‘re finding are going toward creating jobs.  They don‘t even take effect until after the sixth of—or until after June—July 1st.  So this has nothing to do with what‘s going on.

COGGS:  (INAUDIBLE) legislative bureau says that (INAUDIBLE) surplus.

VOS:  No, we do not have a surplus.  You have no idea!  That is absolutely untrue.

COGGS:  (INAUDIBLE) we do have a surplus.

VOS:  We‘re in a massive deficit.  No, we don‘t because we have $140 million deficit just in Medicaid—just in Medicaid!  Look at the fiscal bureau memo that came out after January 19th.  We do—we have a serious fiscal crisis.  Your party for too long just kicked the can down the road.  We are going fix it once and for all because the people of Wisconsin demanded change in November...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

VOS:  ... and it is going to happen because we cannot wait anymore!

MATTHEWS:  Senator Coggs, in all fairness, I have not heard anyone say your state doesn‘t have a surplus (SIC).  I‘ve seen figures in the current budget something of $135 million.  I‘ve seen $3 billion if you look two or three (INAUDIBLE) down the road.  You‘re saying those deficits don‘t occur?

COGGS:  No, no, no.  We‘re saying, in effect, that the current state of affairs is now that we do not have to balance any budget, whether we have a surplus or a deficit, on the backs of workers because...

MATTHEWS:  Oh.

COGGS:  ... let‘s be honest, the workers are willing to give on the pension, on their pension, and they‘re willing to give on their health benefits.  But what they will not give up on...

VOS:  Then why did they leave...

(CROSSTALK)

COGGS:  ... is the fact that (INAUDIBLE) do not take away a person‘s collective bargaining right...

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s right.  By the way, I think that‘s where this compromise is going, gentlemen.  Would you both accept a compromise like that?  You, first of all, Assemblyman Vos.  Would you accept a compromise where the workers retain their bargaining rights on all issues but would accept these (ph) compromise with regard to pension and health care?  Assemblyman Vos?

VOS:  The bill that we have is already a compromise.  It‘s already a compromise because we allow unions to exist.  They get to operate under—or they get to negotiate...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what we‘re looking at is not unions happy with that.  But the unions are not happy with that, sir.  They want to have complete bargaining rights.

VOS:  Well, but don‘t you think in the bill, we also say that every single state worker has a right to join the union, if they choose, but they can‘t be mandated to do that.  That‘s something that‘s supported by the vast majority of Wisconsinites.

MATTHEWS:  Well...

VOS:  Many things in this bill...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m with you on that one.

VOS:  ... are supported by the public.  That‘s why (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not a hard one.  Do you think, Senator Coggs, should people who work for your state be forced to join a union?

COGGS:  They shouldn‘t be forced to join a union.  But Representative Vos didn‘t answer the question.  The question that you asked was, is this a good compromise, where you still keep collective bargaining rights and give back (ph) on the pensions and give back on the health care (INAUDIBLE) The answer is yes, OK.

MATTHEWS:  You accept it, he doesn‘t.  But I did notice—so just to get the facts straight, do you have to join the union, Senator, if you work for the state of Wisconsin?

COGGS:  If you work for a public—no.  But you will (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  So we have a disagreement in facts here.  Assemblyman Vos, you say you—I‘ve been reading you have to join the union if you work for the state of Wisconsin.  Is that true, Mr. Vos?

VOS:  Yes, that‘s part of the—that—that is part of the problem. 

There‘s a fair share agreement, where you pay the dues either way.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you pay the dues either way.

VOS:  This is not about democracy.  We want to make sure people have an opportunity.  So thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I think everybody understands the issues.  Thank you very much, State Senator Spencer Coggs.  Thanks for joining us by car.  And State Assemblyman Robin Vos, the Republican.

Coming up: The Tea Partiers are pushing John Boehner to make big spending cuts right now.  Right now.  This fight is on!  They may shut down the government over this.  And now Boehner is raising the stakes that could lead, I think very quickly, to a government shutdown, like with Newt Gingrich and President Clinton.  We know who won that baby.  Who wins if the government shuts down, Boehner or the president?  I‘m betting on the president.

You‘re watching HARDBALL here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator of Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico—once again—here‘s another guy.  He‘s just announced he‘s not running for reelection.  What is going on?  Kyl‘s not running again.  Jim Webb‘s not running again.  Anyway, the five-term Democrat‘s the sixth senator to announce his retirement this year.  He follows Democrats Jim Webb and Kent Conrad, independent Joe Lieberman, Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison, and as I said, Jon Kyl.  Everybody‘s leaving the Senate!

Also today, Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano

announced that she won‘t be a candidate for Kyl‘s seat—she will not be -

out in Arizona.  Boy, that‘s a hot seat.  Napolitano was elected governor of Arizona twice and is one of the Democrats‘ top recruits as they look to defend their majority in the Senate, but she‘s not running.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  House Republicans are keeping our word to the American people.  We said if you gave us a second chance to lead this Congress, we‘d find at least $100 billion in savings this year.  And House Republicans will do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This across-the-board amendment cut is an example of the majority‘s reckless rush to slash without regard to the impact on the economy, the businesses that create jobs or middle class working people who are doing their best for their families and educating their kids for the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That‘s just about the action on the House floor today, and the Republican-controlled House is on course to pass a budget with cuts so severe that it‘s nearly certain to be rejected by the Senate, led by Harry Reid.  This could tee off another government shutdown, just like 1995, if the two chambers, the House and the Senate, can‘t agree by March 4th.  So what are the political stakes of a government shutdown, just like in ‘95?

Howard Fineman, senior political reporter at Huffington Post and MSNBC political analyst, and David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC political analyst.

Gentlemen, you know the score here.  And here we go again, Howard.  This fight last time we had, where the government shut down because they couldn‘t agree on the spending levels, so nothing got done, the president wouldn‘t sign what the sent him, veto, veto, veto, continuing resolution after another.  Nothing gets done.  It looks to me like they‘re both ready for this fight, the president and John Boehner.  Is that right?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I think so.  I think the president on Tuesday, through the Office of Management and Budget, basically said, If you send me a bill that‘s anything like what they‘re talking about on the floor of the House, I‘m going veto it, and I want you to know that now.  And I think that was the president, in essence, saying, If we shut down, don‘t blame me because I warned these people this is what I would do.

Then yesterday, John Boehner came out and said, Hey, you know, we‘re not going to pass one of these two-week extensions, a plain vanilla extension of spending as is.  We want these cuts.  So he went on record saying, You know what?  If there‘s a shutdown, don‘t blame me because I told you in advance what‘s going to happen.

So the president and the speaker are sort of like the pilot and the co-pilot preparing for a crash that hasn‘t happened yet, and saying—blaming the other person for the catastrophe that might come about.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God!

FINEMAN:  That means...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take at—let‘s take a look at Boehner, guys, first of all.  We‘ll get to (INAUDIBLE) in a minute.  Let‘s (INAUDIBLE) Boehner talking about his angle here.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I am not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels.  When we say we‘re going to cut spending, read my lips.  We‘re going to cut spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know why he went back to George, Sr., there, David, but George, Sr.—“Read my lips,” not exactly one of the greatest, felicitous comments.  “Read my lips” cost him his job.  This guy doesn‘t seem to have the same stuff as Newt Gingrich.  I‘m no fan of Gingrich on many levels, but Gingrich was ice cold.  This guy doesn‘t look ice cold to me.  He doesn‘t look like Michael Corleone, you know, lighting the guy‘s cigarette out in front of the hospital.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Gingrich was a bomb thrower.  It‘s how he got to be Speaker of the House.  It‘s what he did as Speaker of the House.  John Boehner has a couple of different constituencies here.  He has independent voters to whom he‘s supposed to look rational and reasonable, like he‘s—like he can run the government jointly with the president of the United States.  But he also has all these Tea Partiers, who actually want him to blow up the government.  They want to sort of burn the village to save the village.

And right now, he‘s on record of saying, If you don‘t give me what I want—and he‘s really talking to the U.S. Senate even moreso than the president, the Democrats in the Senate—If you don‘t give me what I want, I won‘t let the government continue on.  And so it‘s this showdown, and it‘s different than in 1995, where it was really Newt Gingrich fighting with the White House.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CORN:  Before we get to that, we have Harry Reid fighting with John Boehner.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about how will these guys stand up under the TV lights. 

Howard, let‘s—let‘s take a look at Boehner.  I‘m going to give David the second shot on this.

Let‘s make it Don Knotts is a zero, Matt Dillon is a 10. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Where do you put John Boehner?  A five?

FINEMAN:  Well, I—no, I would put him a five or a six.  But I think it‘s not necessarily...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s not—is that good enough to stand up to Mr.

Cool, the president?  I‘m not sure it is. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  All right, but it‘s not necessarily a bad thing that he‘s not Newt Gingrich, because Newt Gingrich, as you recall, vastly overplayed his hand, because of his ego, made the whole shutdown in ‘95 seem like it was a matter of personal pique, you know, involving about Newt Gingrich. 

It was all about Newt

The one good thing you can say about Boehner in playing this game out

over the next couple weeks is that it doesn‘t seem to be about him.  That‘s

that‘s probably the big positive. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.

FINEMAN:  The downside—the downside of it is, you know, he‘s not as good, he‘s not as adept in public as the president is.  He‘s just not, as he‘s shown in the last few days with comments like, so be it, you know, as he talked about the federal workers.  So be it. 

He eventually had to walk that back a little bit yesterday.  So, he‘s

and I think—I agree with David—he‘s caught between his sort of moderate instincts in certain ways, at least personally, in the fact that he‘s got to try to stay out these 80 Tea Party people, who really do want to burn the House down. 

And when it comes to the—if the government shuts down and it comes to a blame game, there are going to be all these Republican Tea Party people cheering the fact that the government is shut down. 

CORN:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  I‘m convinced that they are going to be out there cheering, maybe on—maybe on the floor of the House cheering about it.

MATTHEWS:  Will anybody notice, David Corn?

CORN:  Well, I think so.

MATTHEWS:  Will anybody notice if the government gets shut down?  I mean, who‘s going to—just be blunt here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to know?  The libraries get closed.  I mean, if the post office stops...

FINEMAN:  No, no, Social Security, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The checks don‘t go out, huh?

CORN:  Yes, the checks don‘t go out. 

I don‘t know what happens at the VA hospitals, all those families who have vacations planned at national parks.  There‘s a lot that won‘t happen if this...

FINEMAN:  Right. 

CORN:  And if you have the Tea Party cheering on, as Howard predicts, it‘s going to be very hard for John Boehner to look like a reasonable adult if all these other folks are saying, goody, goody, goody.  It‘s going to be like kindergartners have taken over. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, I—Chris, I got to say, I looked into this...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well...

FINEMAN:  I looked into the Social Security thing a little bit.  The first wave of Social Security checks in March goes out on March 3.  The shutdown, if it happened, would be March 10. 

The next wave of Social Security checks—and, by the way, it‘s not checks anymore -- 80 percent of people, of seniors get direct deposit. 

CORN:  Direct deposit.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  The next—the next date is March 10.  So if the Social Security deposits are not made on March 10, ironically, the people who are going to get most noticeably directly affected are senior citizens, who, by the way, in the last two elections, have voted Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean somebody can‘t come in and push the button?

FINEMAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  They know who is going to get the checks.  Why is this so complicated?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I think, legally...

CORN:  It can‘t happen. 

FINEMAN:  I think, legally, it‘s not a matter of having the person to press the button.  I think it‘s a matter of, by law, you‘re not allowed to obligate funds if there are no funds. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, in all seriousness, let‘s try to figure out how do they get out of this.  Can Boehner cut an amount of government money below what the president wants where the president will say, OK, I can take that? 

Your question, David Corn.  Can he take the compromise, the president, no matter what he says? 

CORN:  Can the president take a compromise?

MATTHEWS:  Harry Reid and the president together. 

CORN:  Well, I think they demonstrated with the tax cut deal that they are willing to take a compromise, if they get stuff that they can turn to their people and say look what we got out of this deal.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CORN:  And they are going to need that here. 

The question I have is whether John Boehner, who has been known in the past as being a dealer, a deal-maker, can take the compromise.  He‘s kind of like the guy on a ship who leads a bunch of mutineers against the captain, maybe the president, and then, once you win, you have to worry about the guys you‘re leading, because you‘re next in line. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CORN:  If he doesn‘t sort of come on with a sword and thrust it and try to take over the ship, the way the guys want him to, they are going to come after him. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CORN:  He‘s in a very—he‘s in a tough position. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he‘s not Fletcher Christian here?

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  Let me ask you, Howard, this again.  Is it possible that what -

what John Boehner is doing here very cleverly having his fight now, when he has the Tea Party behind him, on their side, rather than waiting a couple of weeks, when the issue is debt ceiling, when he has the Tea Party coming at him?

He would rather the fight, the big explosion of the Spring, on this issue, where at least he‘s on the side of the right-wing, which is—you always want to be on the side of your base?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think that might be. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m assuming he‘s smart here by this calculation.

FINEMAN:  I think you might be right, Chris.  I think you might be right, because you want the emotion—you want to sort of pop the emotional balloon here...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  ... on the first thing...

MATTHEWS:  My point.

FINEMAN:  ... to keep it from—to keep it from being on the debt ceiling. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

FINEMAN:  I think—I think you might be right.  I think you might be right. 

MATTHEWS:  Corn, can I be right?  David, can I be brilliant? 

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  I will go with that, Chris, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I like to be brilliant.  It‘s Friday. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  It makes me feel good all weekend. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard Fineman, David Corn.

CORN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  You guys are great. 

Up next:  What‘s the worst bill ever passed by Congress?  Well, wait until you hear.  Was it the Sedition Act of 19 -- of—the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Missouri Compromise?  I hope I have my dates right.  I will hear if it wasn‘t. 

Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia says that, no, the worst bill in history was the Obamacare bill.  Wow—this guy‘s perspective.  Check us out in the “Sideshow” coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL and back to the “Sideshow.” 

First:  What‘s the worst piece of legislation in American history?  Well, in talking of our entire 235 years as a country, if you ask Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia, it‘s the health care bill passed this year—or last year. 

Here is Gingrey—Gingrich—or Gingrey—speaking today in support of an amendment that would defund the health care bill. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PHIL GINGREY ®, GEORGIA:  What this—this amendment does is -

is eliminate, stop the funding, the $100 billion worth of funding that was automatically put in this bill to—to prevent, if we took over the majority of this House, Mr. Chairman, as we have done, try to stop us from stopping the worst bill that‘s ever been passed in the history of the Congress.  And we have to do this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The worst bill in history.  Whatever floats your boat. 

Who would say that, the worst bill in history?  Oh, I get it, the same congressman, that guy right there, Phil Gingrey, who says the best war in history, the greatest war in the history of mankind was the war in Iraq—the one that was the least honest. 

Next, who is the boss?  At a Federalist Society event yesterday, Tea

Party Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a quote—here‘s what he said

“This whole idea that the president is the leader of our country is a mistake.”

“This whole idea that the president is the leader of our country is a mistake”—how do you make that make any sense, unless you‘re a birther?  And that‘s what he sounds like. 

By the way, I have a question for the Federalist Society, which Senator DeMint spoke to.  Justice Clarence Thomas said in an official report in 2009 that he spoke to you at the Federalist Society in Palm Springs in January of 2008 -- Palm Springs, January 2008.  Real simple, right?

Did you have a meeting there or not?  Did he meet with you there or not?  I want to know.  It came up on this show this week.  I want your answer, Federalist Society.  Help me out there.  Let‘s get the facts straight.

Finally, I think Republicans are serious about spending, maybe.  Consider the latest stunt from Republican Congressman Steve Womack of Arkansas.  Well, this week, proposed an amendment that would eliminate—this is serious business—for the president‘s teleprompter.  His reasoning—quote—“We‘re asking people to do more with less, and I think the president ought to lead by example.  He is already a very gifted speaker, and I think that‘s one platform he could do without.”

Boy.  Womack actually ended up pulling the amendment not long after he proposed it, saying he couldn‘t find an estimate as to how much it would save. 

It wouldn‘t save anything, of course, Mr. Womack.  This is Mickey Mouse stuff.  You got it?  It wouldn‘t save a nickel, and you know it.  What a waste of time.

Up next:  House Republicans pass a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.  I thought they were going to focus on jobs this year.  Instead, they are bringing back the old culture wars they love so much.  That‘s ahead. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Well, stocks drifting higher on surprisingly light volume, the Dow gaining 73 points, the S&P and the Nasdaq each adding about 2.5. 

And no big economic reports, a little bit of mixed earnings making for a very quiet end to a positive week.  We did have gold and silver prices spiking, silver hitting a 31-year high on rumors the European Central Bank is thinking about hiking interest rates.  Shares of NYSE Euronext continue to climb, as rival exchanges try to decide whether to launch competing bids ahead of its merger with the Deutsche Boerse, the German Boerse.

Well, Campbell‘s Soup shares tumbling nearly 5 percent on week quarterly sales and a disappointing forecast.  Time Warner shares, meantime, up a bit after ousting the head of its magazine publishing unit less than six months into the job. 

And financial software maker Intuit soaring 7 percent on rising revenue.  Profits were lower, but that‘s the result of having shed its real estate solutions business earlier on this year.

And that‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide.  Let‘s go now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today, the House of Representatives passed a measure to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.  Indiana Republican Mike Pence led the charge, arguing that it would end Planned Parenthood‘s ability to provide abortion services, even though federal dollars so far were not directly funding abortion services. 

Here‘s New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith speaking in support of Pence‘s amendment last night on the House floor.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRIS SMITH ®, NEW JERSEY:  There is nothing whatsoever benign or caring or generous or just or compassionate or nurturing about abortion.  Earlier, one of our—one of our colleagues called abortion healthy for the child. 

Abortion dismembers children piece to piece. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California with a very personal response.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA:  And that procedure that you just talked about was a procedure that I endured.  I lost a baby. 

But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow, this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette is the chief deputy whip of the House.  She‘s one of the leaders of the House.  And Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of Susan B. Anthony List.

Let‘s try to focus on exactly what‘s going on here.  We saw that very emotional response from Congresswoman Speier, because she had an abortion late term apparently because there was a real health need for it.  That was what happened in that case.  Let‘s talk about Planned Parenthood and the Pence amendment. 

Congresswoman DeGette, it seems to me that Pence is going after something that is a real question mark.  And the question mark is, is the federal government actually financing in any way abortions under Planned Parenthood, or is that money fenced off just to be used for counseling, birth control and things like that? 

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO:  Well, the first thing is, Chris, is that there is no federal funding of abortion.  That‘s the Hyde amendment.  That‘s still law.  And that law remains.  I don‘t like it, but it‘s the law of the land. 

When the Pence—when Mike Pence does an amendment to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, he‘s cutting off funding for almost a million Pap smears, for over 800,000 breast exams, and for family planning and birth control.  And that‘s what he‘s cutting off. 

You know, Planned Parenthood provides services.  In some states like Montana, they are the only family planning and women‘s health clinic for hundreds of miles.  So, what he‘s doing, really, under the guise of taking away money for abortion, he‘s really taking away...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

DEGETTE:  ... women‘s health care services. 

MATTHEWS:  Marjorie Dannenfelser, thank you for joining us. 

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, PRESIDENT, SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s not accurate about that? 

DANNENFELSER:  What is not accurate is that Planned Parenthood is the number-one abortion provider in the nation. 

MATTHEWS:  No, that‘s not what—no, that‘s not what—no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s not accurate about what she just said?

DANNENFELSER:  Are you going to let me answer?  Are you going to let me answer?  What—I‘m going to answer the question. 

MATTHEWS:  No, answer it now. 

DANNENFELSER:  Last year—last year, Planned Parenthood required all of its clinics to provide abortion services, or it could be in the Planned Parenthood umbrella. 

OK, I don‘t know about you want, but I have got teenagers, and I know that money is fungible.  I know that when you give a lot of money to a corporation, it can shift its money around and do whatever it wants to with it, just like our teenagers.

DEGETTE:  No.

DANNENFELSER:  And that is exactly what is going on.

DEGETTE:  No.

DANNENFELSER:  But the issue that‘s happening now is, we have found out—we have known for very long that Planned Parenthood is not safe for women.  And now videos coming out have shown that it is a willing partner with sex traffickers. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Right. 

DANNENFELSER:  And that‘s why now it‘s a viable—that‘s why it‘s viable now, Chris.  We wouldn‘t have been talking about this a year ago. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the problem with your argument is that, you know, I have heard for years the case for aid to transportation for kids to go to parochial school, and they are only paying for the bus trip.  And people who have been opposed to that would say, oh, but it‘s fungible.  If you pay for the bus trip, that‘s money that would have gone for schoolbooks. 

DANNENFELSER:  Chris, let me ask you...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re really helping Catholic education. 

DANNENFELSER:  ... have you seen the videos? 

MATTHEWS:  So, this thing works both ways.

DANNENFELSER:  No, you haven‘t seen the videos.  And I you know have kids. 

I want to ask, Diana, if you‘re really for women -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  This is why I don‘t want to go here.  What I want to do is stick to the facts.  Here‘s the factual question here—let‘s go to the fact.  Let‘s go back to this question of the Hyde Amendment.  The Hyde amendment says federal money can‘t be spent for abortion.

You don‘t like it but you support the law, right, Congresswoman?  We have a law.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  What Mr. Spencer (ph) has done here, in fact, with the backing of people like Chris Smith, is to go beyond that and say, here‘s a way to kill Planned Parenthood.  My problem with people like this and I completely support the law here, like you‘re supposed to in America, and the law says no federal funding.

And my question, I‘ll try one more time with Mrs. Dannenfelser.  What about the issue of if you don‘t support birth control aren‘t you in effect—and Planned Parenthood does a lot of work on birth control—aren‘t you, in effect, creating situations where women will choose abortion because they have unwanted pregnancies?

DANNENFELSER:  The reason we had a vote today -- 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t answer that.  What is this about?

DANNENFELSER:  I‘m going to answer your question.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, answer it in a fact.  I know what an answer sounds like.

DANNENFELSER:  I‘m going to answer the question.  And if you are a trustworthy provider of these services, then we would have no argument.  Planned Parenthood has proved itself to be an untrustworthy, unsafe place for women.  And if you would look at those videos, you would know what I was talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you a question, just back to—one more last try and this is why I can‘t always deal with advocates.  You don‘t try to help understand something.  I want to understand this issue.

Doesn‘t Planned Parenthood give you birth control advice?  Doesn‘t it help you avoid having an unwanted pregnancy, Mrs. Dannenfelser?  Isn‘t that one of the roles it provides?

DANNENFELSER:  It provides services and, you know, it provides—it is a woman-focused, purportedly women-focused organization.  It has proved itself to be.  And if you really want to know, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  I asked you.  That‘s how I let you I want to know, I asked.

DANNENFELSER:  -- about the facts, you should be looking—you should be looking at these videos and finding out what they are willing to do to put young girls back out on street.  You don‘t want to know.  You don‘t want to know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking you a question.  Does the Planned Parenthood—

DANNENFELSER:  You don‘t want to know the facts.

MATTHEWS:  Can I saw question one more last time?  Does Planned Parenthood provide birth control advice?

DANNENFELSER:  Yes, it does.

MATTHEWS:  To avoid unwanted pregnancies.

DANNENFELSER:  That‘s not a problem.  Yes, it does.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

Congresswoman DeGette, let‘s watch more of Congresswoman Speier because she‘s had a personal experience for this.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA:  To think that we‘re here tonight debating this issue when the American people, if they are listening are scratching their heads and wondering what does this have to do with me getting a job?  What does this have to do with reducing the deficit?  And the answer is: nothing at all.  There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think that‘s true, Congresswoman?

DEGETTE:  Well, I think that—first of all, they‘ve been trying to cut the funding for Planned Parenthood for years.  So, these videos are disturbing and we‘ve told Planned Parenthood they need to take care of any practices like this.

But the truth is that Jackie Speier is exactly right.  Right now, we have about 9 percent unemployment in this country and many low-income and unemployed women are going Planned Parenthood because they can get accurate and good-priced health care and pregnancy prevention information and pap smears and everything else that women does need.  And so, when you cut that, you‘re not cutting abortions—what you‘re cutting is health care for women who are unemployed and I guess that is the perfect question.

When we have so many unemployed women in this country, why are we once again debating these culture wars?  There‘s no federal funding that goes to abortion either through Planned Parenthood or anybody else.

MATTHEWS:  Last word to you, Marjorie Dannenfelser.

DANNENFELSER:  The number one provider of abortion in America is Planned Parenthood.  There‘s no question that this federal funding supports that service.  And the one area of bipartisan consensus in the health care bill that was the last hold out was that taxpayers do not want to fund abortion services or be connected in any way.

On top of this, we should only be funding organizations that truly serve women, and if you take the time to actually look at what‘s going on, you would see they are not serving women by putting young girls back out on the street after getting their services which are abortion or any other contraception or anything.  There‘s a corporate culture that‘s the problem.  That‘s why they are a target.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you for coming on.  I wish we weren‘t fighting about this.  I think it‘s too important.

But, anyway, thank you very much, Marjorie Dannenfelser, for coming on.

DANNENFELSER:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you very much, Diana DeGette.

I tried to get both points of view but I like to narrow the discussion a little bit sometimes in the show, and not get back to the old arguments.

Up next: the preview of my new documentary about Bill Clinton.  It airs Monday night at 10:00 Eastern.  It‘s a hell of a thing to watch.  I think you‘ll be surprised, in fact, you‘ll be thrilled, I think, by watching this for an hour.  I called “President of the World.”  That‘s our title, because no other former president of any country has ever been able to go out and have global reach and the historic mission of that man we‘re looking at.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  President Obama met last night with some of the giants of Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs like Apple‘s Steve Jobs and Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg, as well as heads of Google and Yahoo! and Oracle.

Take a look at the scene.  The White House released a photo of the dinner last night.  There‘s the president sitting between Jobs and Zuckerberg.

White House officials the meeting is part of the president‘s strategy to strength the economy and get people jobs.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

Well, we have a brand new documentary we‘ve been talking about on this network about former President Bill Clinton.  It‘s called “President of the World,” for good reason.  It‘s coming up on Monday night 10:00 Eastern.  Here‘s some of what you‘ll see if you stick around until 10:00 Monday night, after Rachel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS (voice-over):  Following the former president is a little like going on a concert tour—different cities, different countries, exuberant crowds—always the same feeling, that wherever Bill Clinton arrives, it‘s an event, a happening to be experienced and remembered.

CHERIE BLAIR, CHERIE BLAIR FOUNDATION FOR WOMEN:  He‘s a superstar, isn‘t he?  He is the magnet that attracts all the rest iron fillings towards him.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  If you can do it here, I can figure out how to put it everywhere and get (INAUDIBLE).

MARY STEENBURGEN, ACTRESS:  There is this combination of both of enormous intellectual capacity, combined with an enormous heart.

CLINTON:  There‘s no housing program?

STEENBURGEN:  There‘s one phrase people have said to me and that‘s that “he‘s president of the world.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  NBC News analyst Ed Rendell is the former Democratic mayor of Pennsylvania and a guy who knows Bill Clinton better than anybody I know.  The biggest—well, the biggest Clintonite I know.  Let‘s put it that way.

You were joined at the hip with this guy.  You have similar personalities.  Although, I must even you must envy Bill Clinton.  His world ability—I got a chance to get a good look at it.  But you know the guy much better than I know him.

What is it that keeps this clock ticking?  This guy has had health problems.  He‘s not getting old.  He‘s younger than me I think right now, a few months.  I don‘t think he‘s going to get any older.

And this guy does everything.  He‘s all around the world.  They love him.  It‘s like he‘s bigger than any president when he goes out there.

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Well, he really is.  I mean, I thought Bill Clinton was a very good president.  I thought it was tragic that we lost a year and a—almost a year and a half of the presidency because of the Monica Lewinsky thing.  But I thought he did great things for the country.

But as good of a president as he was, Chris, he‘s been a better ex-president, because he feeds off people.  And what he brings to people is the most important thing.  And you got a chance to see it up front.

He brings a message of hopes.  He brings a message of possibilities. 

He talks about our problems intelligently.

He never talks down to people, but he tells people that we can do this.  If we put our hearts and our minds together, we can get things done.  We can make this a better place, a better world, a fairer world.  And it‘s a great message.  It‘s a message of hope and, boy, do people respond to it.  I‘ve never seen anyone like him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait until you see this full doc.  I should get you a copy if you‘re not going to be around.

RENDELL:  No, I‘m going to be around.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take—well, let‘s take a look more of the doc that‘s coming at 10:00 Monday night.  Here‘s more of Bill.  It‘s called “President of the World.”  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS (voice-over):  Clinton‘s energy, wide-ranging friendships and rock star status come together in 2005 in the creation of the Clinton Global Initiative.  The idea was advanced by his chief of staff, Doug Band.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO:  The post-presidential years, Doug Band has helped Bill Clinton sort of organize almost a corporate enterprise that takes advantage of Bill Clinton‘s global brand.

MATTHEWS (on camera):  What has been the key to keeping your leverage?  Because you seem to have more now than you had, say, 10 years ago.

CLINTON:  I think the secret is two things.  I think, first of all, like the global initiative, you have to make it interesting.  You have to not only make it possible for them to meet people who might help them, but to learn things.

Secondly, I think you‘ve got to do something.

You don‘t have to change the world.  If you change one life or 100 or 1,000 or 10,000, you‘ve done something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Governor, you know that word “leverage.”  This guy charges people thousands of dollars just to come into the room with him.  I think it‘s 20k per individual just to get into the door.  And then you have to promise and lay out a plan to do something big.  You can‘t just go for the celebrity touch.

You got to go—and it‘s amazing leverage.  He forces other celebrities to commit to doing big stuff in order to spend any time with him.

RENDELL:  Well, he just—he knows he‘s a great deal maker.  He was a great politician.  I think Tony Blair—and I was with Tony Blair last night.  He said on your promo that he‘s the best politician he‘s ever seen.  And I think that‘s true, because he knows how to get things done.

He‘s extraordinarily pragmatic, but at the same time, Chris, he can lift a room like nobody I‘ve ever seen opinion.  That‘s the beauty of it.

In your promo, Kevin Spacey is talking about the time when the crowd started chanting spontaneously, “Peacemaker, peacemaker, peacemaker.”  Can you think of any better praise for a human being, for a former president than to have people in other countries call you peacemaker?

MATTHEWS:  It works in most of the (INAUDIBLE) Joe I know.

RENDELL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you very much, Governor Ed Rendell, a great guy.

By the way, “President of the World” airs Monday night at 10:00 Eastern, and there‘s much more about the documentary on our Web site if you want to check it out.  Check out Hardball.MSNBC.com.  And I‘m going to have more on it when we return—a little thought about it as we leave this weekend.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with this big documentary coming Monday night.  Normally on HARDBALL, we look at passing news and try to make a judgment.  We get people on to talk about what just happened that day and then get to what the fight is all about.  Often as not, you can figure where I‘m coming from.

Sometimes I‘m trying to get more information like you are before bottom-lining the issue.  But on Monday night, we‘re going to move beyond the daily or weekly or even current news to what I‘m convinced is a really big news story that just about everyone seemed to have missed.  I‘m talking about a phenomenon, some really big story that‘s been allowed to pass us by.

Bill Clinton has been out of the presidency now for more than a decade—a decade, a longer stretch of time that he served as president.  He‘s become, during this time, something bigger than we‘ve ever seen in human history, a world leader who is bigger than the leaders of the countries he visits in the world.

Just watch what happens when this guy shows up somewhere.  The reasons he‘s become this global figure, this “President of the World,” if you will, are interesting to compute.  We had a good economy when he was president.  That‘s a good memory.

We didn‘t have the wars back in the ‘90s that we had during George W. Bush.  That‘s one reason he‘s a popular president.  The people are not going to forget quickly the dishonestly sold war in Iraq.

And then there‘s what Clinton has been doing with his time.  The Clinton Global Initiative is a global historic wonder.  It is doing good work in the world, on a big scale, improving lives, saving lives, building forces for good in the world.

This is the story I‘ve gone out and gotten with the help of some first-rate producers.  It‘s the story of a former American president doing good in the world, making friends for us in the world—and what a good, happy story it is.  So, come with me on the ride—the ride I get to take with Bill Clinton, where I got to see right up front, as you will, a man we‘ve never known before, a “President of the World.”

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

More politics ahead with Chris Hayes.

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