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updated 2/28/2011 12:45:49 PM ET 2011-02-28T17:45:49

Guests: David Corn, Richard Engel, Trish Regan, Brian Levin, Brian Schweitzer, Sue Lowden, Abderrahim Foukara, David Edelstein

           

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Dangerous talk.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews out in Las Vegas.  I‘m here to speak at an Alzheimer‘s event.  I lost my mother to that disease.

Leading off tonight: Silence is consent.  What do you say when you hear talk of someone shooting the president, nothing?  Well, this week, when Georgia Republican Paul Broun was asked at a town meeting, “Who‘s going to shoot Obama?”—well, on hearing that, without objecting to what he just heard, the next words heard from the congressman were, “I know there‘s a lot of frustration with this president.”

Only when it became a national story today did Broun condemn such talk of shooting the president.  So one month after Gabby Giffords‘s shooting, Broun‘s initial silence is another example of Republicans refusing to take on their supporters, no matter how violent or crazed their words.  It‘s our top story tonight.

Plus, Wisconsin.  Regardless of who wins the union fight out there, both parties see big advantages for their sides.  The Democrats hope it will reenergize their base.  Republicans are banking that getting tough with the demands of public employees is a good political move.  Who‘s right?

Also, out of Africa.  A ferry carrying more than 300 Americans arrived in Malta just this afternoon after being stranded in Libya for two days because of high seas.  Once the ferry was safely away from Libya, the United States suspended embassy operations in Tripoli and announced that it would impose unilateral sanctions on Libya.  We‘re going to get a report from Richard Engel in Libya.

And I‘m here in Las Vegas, where John Ensign has just come out with a strong statement supporting legalized prostitution.  Go figure.

Finally, it‘s the biggest TV night since—this side of the Super Bowl, the Oscars this Sunday night.  We‘re going to look at a top critic and who he thinks is going to win and who he thinks should win the big prizes.

We begin with Republican congressman Paul Broun‘s response to a man asked, “Who‘s going to shoot Obama?” at a town hall meeting.  Brian Levin is the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, and David Corn, our friend at the Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC political analyst.

Brian, just off the top—just off the top—what do you make of a congressman who hears somebody say, “Who‘s going to shoot the president?” and basically, then just continues on as if nothing‘s been said, and a minute later or so says, “I understand there‘s a lot of frustration with this guy,” as if to sort of suggest, I understand where you‘re coming from?  That‘s the way it‘s come across in the media.  What do you make of this?

BRIAN LEVIN, CTR. FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM:  You know, this

comes during a week where we had a plot to possibly assassinate President

Bush, just weeks after the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords.  It is

astounding to me that someone who‘s in a position of political leadership -

we‘re not talking about a pundit here, we‘re not talking about someone who makes their living by being extreme.  We‘re talking about someone who‘s an elected official.

And it seems to me they abrogate their ability for civil discourse and they are supporting the undermining of the institutions of our pluralistic democracy, and indeed, you know, of our president, when they just allow with a wink and a nod or a chuckle to have that kind of outrageous, violent statement go forward.  And it shows what‘s wrong today with the political discourse in the United States, when people in a position of elected authority refuse to stand up and use this teachable moment for the right thing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it wasn‘t a teachable moment for the congressman.  Here‘s a recap of what happened.  At a town hall this Tuesday, just three days ago with Congressman Paul Broun, someone asked, “Who‘s going to shoot Obama?”  Apparently, it was the first question out of the box.  The local newspaper reports that the crowd laughed.

Broun didn‘t answer the question, and according to his own office,

moved on to another question, with, quote, the following response.  “The

thing is, I know there‘s a lot of frustration with this president.  We‘re

going to have an election next year.  Hopefully, we‘ll elect somebody

that‘s going to be a conservative, limited government president that will

take a smaller—will take us (ph) smaller—who will sign a bill to

repeal and replace ‘Obama care.‘”

That‘s his response.  Broun‘s spokeswoman later told “The Athens Banner-Herald,” “Obviously, the question was inappropriate, so Congressman Broun moved on.”

Well, today, Politico picked up on the Athens paper‘s story and it started a lot of national discussion.  And then today, Broun released this statement, “Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, an elderly man”—as if that‘s important—“asked the abhorrent question, ‘Who‘s going to shoot Obama?‘  I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response.  Therefore at that moment, I moved on to the next person with a question.  After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities.  I deeply regret that this incident happened at all.  Furthermore, I condemn all statements made in sincerity or jest”—jest? -- “that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the president of the United States or any other public official.  Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.”

So David Corn, there you get on Friday what happened in Tuesday.  It takes three days for this guy to get his act together, after a lot of warning from his staff, a lot of kerfuffle in the press.  He finally is told, You know, you shouldn‘t have just stood there as a public official of the United States and let somebody talk about the president getting shot, as if that‘s one of the options on the table here.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  Well, you know, he says in this statement released today, three days later, that he was stunned by the question.  The eyewitness to the event who got this whole story going, who was there, says that everybody laughed, including U.S. Congressman Broun.  So we have an eyewitness account saying that he wasn‘t stunned, that he laughed.  But he certainly didn‘t say anything against this.

Now, in some ways—I hate to say this—it‘s not surprising.  Congressman Broun, during the State of the Union speech—not afterwards, but during it—he was tweeting, while he was there, and he tweeted, “Mr.  President, you don‘t believe in the Constitution, you believe in socialism.”

Now, this is partly what‘s wrong with the political discourse, too.  He wasn‘t—you know, he wasn‘t just disagreeing with the president, he was saying that our president is against the Constitution and actively doesn‘t believe in it.  So therefore, it‘s really quite plausible to me that when a wacko makes this sort of remark at a town hall meeting that Congressman Broun—this congressman, who‘s elected to lead all of us—would not take him on and would just sort of laugh it off.  That‘s apparently what happened.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I want to get to Brian.  I agree with you completely, and I want to go to Brian, who‘s an expert on this.  What is this new connection between gunplay and politics?  Why are guns talked about as political solutions, like, Who‘s going to shoot this guy, Glenn Beck talking about shooting somebody in the head, or the forehead in particular, what‘s her name up in Alaska talking about crosshairs and reloading?  What‘s this new—not the right to bear arms, to go hunting or sportsman or whatever else reason you want to have a gun, or even to protect yourself against a rampaging government, should that ever occur—but to use guns as political solutions.  What‘s that?  That‘s in the air now with these people.

LEVIN:  Yes.  You made a very important point, Chris.  Look, what we‘re seeing right now is the politics of demonization.  You‘re not going to attack the president on the merits or the deficits of his policies or his plans.  What you do is you demonize him and you make him illegitimate.  You say he‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Well, you make him a target.

LEVIN:  Yes, make—exactly, you make him a target.  And how?  You say he‘s not American, he‘s not Christian.  You compare him to Hitler, the Nazis, the communists, instead of hitting head-on, Hey, what‘s with the deficit?  What‘s with health care?  It‘s much more convenient to opt out—

MATTHEWS:  OK, help me out—you‘re hesitating here, Brian.  I thought you‘d get more to the point.  It isn‘t about just demonization, it‘s about targeting, the language of guns in a political discussion, not about the 2nd Amendment.  It‘s in the Constitution.  Nobody‘s fighting about that.

LEVIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s about talking about guns as a political solution. 

Glenn Beck says shooting a guy in the head—

LEVIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- what‘s her name in Alaska—I‘m not going to use her name for a few days—she‘s talking about reloading and putting people in target zones and crosshairs.  What‘s it about using gun language as a political solution?  What‘s that about?

LEVIN:  It‘s about defining someone in a demonizing way.  And how do you get rid of a demon?  You take them out.  You shoot them.  You kill them.  You hang them out to dry.  You don‘t run them out of office through an election, you kill them.  And that is the problem with the use of this kind of terminology and the use of this symbology.  And it‘s not—it‘s not political.  What I‘m saying is there are people of good will who are conservative who completely reject this kind of stuff, and I think you‘re exactly right, the use of crosshairs, the use of 2nd Amendment solutions and remedies—this is something that says, If we don‘t get what we want through the electoral and political process, we‘ll do our own thing by shooting people and—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m in Nevada right now (INAUDIBLE) I happen to be in Nevada right now, not because Sharron Angle ran here, but she was the one who talked about, If you don‘t like the way Congress is behaving, we‘ve got our 2nd Amendment solutions, which means gunplay.

CORN:  You know, this is—

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the House speaker—I‘m sorry.  go ahead, David.

CORN:  No, I was going to say this is a way that elected leaders, politicians, Republicans, mainly conservatives, are trying to exploit this deep-seated anger out there and also trying to look tough.  I mean, there‘s this whole attitude of, you know, I love my guns and that‘s a primary issue for me, and I‘m going to show how strong I am.  Barack Obama doesn‘t like guns, so he‘s weak.  And if we can portray him of being anti the Constitution, weakening our country, it‘s basically saying that we have to get rid of him, and it‘s a way of talking tough, of making him seem not just like a political opponent, but like an enemy.  And in war, you use any means possible.

MATTHEWS:  Brian, it seems to me we‘ve got a real problem in this country.  It‘s not that people on the right feel that they are the real majority and they need guns to protect themselves against the minority in Washington or New York, or whoever else they don‘t like.  It‘s that they believe they are the minority, and they‘re afraid the government is popular.

We‘re looking at the Middle East.  What a strange place to notice this.  But here we have these people in the streets of Cairo and now Tripoli, unarmed, bringing down governments.  It‘s the governments—in this case, Tripoli, the Libyan government of Gadhafi, that‘s using guns to fight the majority.

I have a sense now that when people on the right in this country talk about their rights to bear arms, to defend themselves against the government, they believe they need their guns to defend themselves against a popular government, an elected government, that they‘re the ones in the minority and that‘s why they need their guns.  It‘s not that they‘ve been overwhelmed by a minority, they are the minority, and that‘s why they want their guns.  What do you think?

LEVIN:  I think you‘re right with regard to the fringe.  There are conservative people of good will, but what we‘re seeing here is a spectrum, and what we have at the fringe of this are exhortations to violence, demonization, and the injection of tactical (ph) falsehoods.

And what do you do with these people who are enemies, who you demonize and you make false things up about them, and you make it such that violence is acceptable, guns are the easiest kind of symbol to use against these kind of figures.  And the problem is, while it might be politically expedient, what it does, it creates a situation where you‘ll not only maybe get your base riled up a little bit, but you‘ll green light an extremist.

And that‘s what I wrote about in The HuffingtonPost today.  And I encourage people to read it because this is not something where I‘m attacking conservatives.  I‘m attacking the use of violence and symbology that demonizes pop and says that violence is a way—

CORN:  Well, if you say—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- got to go now, but I want to ask this question.  When are the people in the Republican Party in leadership positions, who are as good as we are—we may disagree with them on some issues, but it comes down to—this isn‘t about partisan politics.  Why don‘t the leaders, the elected leaders who are totally legitimate in their leadership, say, We will win on the arguments.  We don‘t need guns.  We don‘t need to villainize our opponents.

CORN:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t need to call them un-American.  We will win the argument on taxes and big government.  Those are winning issues.  Shut up!

CORN:  You know—

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they do it?  They‘re afraid that they need that 10 or 20 percent of the loony—the loony right in this case—there‘s also a loony left—to back them up.  And that‘s what they need to win the majority and that‘s why they don‘t want to shut them down.  Last word, David, quickly.

CORN:  The anger is the gas in their engine.  Without it, they can‘t make it across the finish line.  When the Tea Party were calling Democrats Nazis at a Capitol Hill rally, John Boehner and Eric Cantor and all the rest just smiled and accepted that.  So again and again and again, they‘ve had the chance to tell their followers, Hey, wait a second, that‘s going too far.  But instead, they‘re—

MATTHEWS:  OK, you know, you and I—

CORN:  -- following the pack and accepting its anger and resentment.

MATTHEWS:  -- disagree on this.  A rare disagreement, David, you and I, because I think the argument against big government and taxes and overspending—it‘s a good argument to make at this particular time with this kind of deficit and this kind of debt.  They could win on the arguments on the merits—

LEVIN:  They could win without it.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  They obviously disagree with you, Chris, because they‘re kowtowing to this and they‘re not calling it out.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I agree with you on that one.

LEVIN:  They could win without it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I knew I‘d end up agreeing with you anyway, David.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir, as always, David Corn, who I tend to agree with most of the time.  Brian Levin, thanks so much for coming on with your expertise.  I wish we didn‘t need you, but we do.

LEVIN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: The battle against unions we‘re watching in Wisconsin has both sides hoping for a big win out there.  They both can‘t win, however.  Democrats hope it will reenergize their base, especially the labor base, while Republicans are betting that getting tough with public employee unions and their demands is going to help them with the majority of middle class voters.  So which side‘s right?  We got a great debate coming up.  That‘s ahead.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We told you yesterday that John McCain is tied for first among the most conservative members of the Senate.  So who‘s the most liberal?  Well, it‘s a nine-way tie among Ohio‘s Sherrod Brown, Maryland‘s Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Vermont‘s Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahy, Michigan‘s Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Harry Reid, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  They‘re all tied for most liberal.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!  Shame!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, when a story has legs, it looks like that.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was the scene just last night in Madison, Wisconsin, after the state assembly passed a bill that does cut collective bargaining rights for state workers, and they don‘t like it.  You saw them there in the T-shirts.

But the bill stops right there because now Democratic state senators have fled the state and say they‘re not coming back to Wisconsin until the union cuts are out of business.  The fight highlights the larger political shift going on among the unions, the Democrats, the Republicans.  Who‘s going to win it?  Who‘s got the upper hand right now, the Democratic left or the Republican right?

Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana met with the president today, and Sue Lowden‘s a former Nevada state senator and chair of the state‘s Republican Party.  OK, thank you both for joining us, Sue, and thank you very much, Governor.

This is an interesting fight, and we‘re going to do a pure political analysis right now.  And I know I‘ve got two advocates, strong advocates, on right now.  How does the Democratic Party come out on top in a battle which involves state spending, which nobody likes?  The middle class doesn‘t like paying more taxes.  Nobody‘s volunteered to go up a point on this.  How do you win the fight politically down the road?

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA:  Well, I don‘t think the debate is even about money right now because I think that the public employee unions have said, Look, we‘ll agree to cut our salary and our benefits.  The question now is, do you even have the right to collectively bargain?  And so I think it‘s an overstep in some of these states to say you can‘t collectively bargain even if you‘re willing to give concessions.

In Montana, our public employees agreed two-and-a-half years ago to a two-year freeze on increasing their salaries.  And I praised them for their work, and I cut my own salary by $11,000.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

SCHWEITZER:  That‘s the way management works with labor.

Senator Lowden—

SUE LOWDEN ®, FMR. NEVADA STATE SENATOR:  Hey, it‘s not as simple—

MATTHEWS:  -- how do Republicans win this thing?

LOWDEN:  It‘s not as simple as wages.  It‘s also part of the collective bargaining is with health care issues, for instance.  Can you bid out health care and find cheaper prices?  It‘s with days off, with sick leave.  Those kinds of issues are very important.  It‘s not just wages.

MATTHEWS:  And that drives up state deficits?

LOWDEN:  Yes, it does.  Yes, it does.  And you have to be able to get into those contracts and make it public.  How about opening those bargaining sessions so that the public can see it, so the taxpayers who are paying it can see what‘s going on?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

LOWDEN:  And I think that‘s an important issue, as well.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Governor—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- you have to balance the budget (INAUDIBLE).  We had Governor Rendell on before this thing got hot, before it got into the skillet, if you will.  And he said he was left with a big pension deficit problem by the previous governor, Ridge, who‘s a Republican, on his way out the door signed a bill that left him with a big, big pension bill he can‘t pay.  And that‘s been the reason for the deficits out there in Pennsylvania.  What do you make of that, that these contracts do drive up the debt?

SCHWEITZER:  Well, in the case of Montana, we have statutes so that if you start even working one day, whatever your benefits are, all the way to retirement, that‘s what you get.  And so what we‘ve done, when I took office, is we changed the benefit package for anybody knew who comes on board.  And we‘ve negotiated with the public employee unions.  We‘ve negotiated health care benefits.  We‘ve negotiated their wages.  We‘ve negotiated the number of days they worked.  They‘re willing to negotiate all these things. 

But you can‘t simply say to them, we will not negotiate with public unions.  They have a right to collective bargaining.  And I think it‘s an overreach for some of these chief executives to turn back the clock by 50 years and not negotiate in good faith with public unions. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let‘s talk about the game here, the political game. 

Senator Lowden and Governor Schweitzer, it seems to me the fight here in the end is going to be who gets the people in the middle, the people politically in the middle and economically in the middle, the family that makes $30,000 or $50,000 or even $70,000 with two paychecks or whatever.  They‘re watching this thing.  They don‘t work for the state government. 

They work in private sector jobs, which are much less secure. 

And they‘re looking at this fight.  The Republicans are betting that those people, if they don‘t envy the federal employees, the state employees, they think they‘re getting in too good a deal, because they‘re getting it from the taxpayer.

On the other hand, the Democrats are saying, labor‘s got to unite here.  And labor guys and labor women are going to look to those public employees and say, if they get nailed, I‘m next. 

Governor, I want you to start this.  How do the Democrats see this?  Do they see labor across the board uniting behind the public employees?  Is that how they see it politically? 

SCHWEITZER:  I think they‘re trying to change the subject. 

What got us into this recession is greed on Wall Street and bankers in the mortgage crisis.  So now you have the working people who have homes that are worth less than their mortgage.  You have got working people that are getting laid off, whether they‘re public sector or whether they‘re private sector.  And we want to shift the blame to the workers themselves. 

It wasn‘t the working people that created this crisis.  The crisis was created on Wall Street.  It was created by bankers.  It was created by greed.  People that make $35,000 or $40,000 teaching our children, taking care of the disabled, taking care of our streets to make sure they‘re safe to get to and from work, I don‘t know why we would demagogue them. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, do you think that people who work in the private sector and have more—less job security, do they resent the public employees and the contracts they get?  Because I think that‘s what the Republican Party is working on here. 

LOWDEN:  Well, yes.

MATTHEWS:  I may be wrong. 

LOWDEN:  No, I don‘t—I think that they do resent the fact that—if they even have jobs.  Just remember, here in Nevada, we have record unemployment, the highest unemployment for the last couple of years here.

So they‘re looking at public employees, who are making pretty good salaries, great benefits, great pension plans, and they don‘t have jobs.  So, they‘re looking at that.  And those who have jobs are paying for those who have all these great benefits.  I think there‘s a lot of resentment there. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you like this fight, Senator?  Do you like this fight in Wisconsin? 

LOWDEN:  I think it‘s a great dialogue, and I think that it—we probably had to get to this point in this country and in our individual states to be having this conversation.  I think it‘s overdue. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Governor, do you like this fight? 

SCHWEITZER:  Well, I don‘t know why you have to have the fight.  In a state like Montana, we‘re running a balanced budget.  We have a surplus.  We continue to fund the programs that are necessary.  We challenge every expense.  And we don‘t demagogue the people that do the work that matters. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s because you have a great governor. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCHWEITZER:  That‘s part of the reason.

MATTHEWS:  Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana.

I think you do.  I think you‘re a popular governor.  Thank you, sir.

Senator Sue Lowden, thanks so much for joining us—

LOWDEN:  Thank you, Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  -- the chair of this Republican Party of this great state of Nevada, which is going to be one of the hottest primaries next spring—

LOWDEN:  Yes, it is.

MATTHEWS:  -- when it‘s going to be so hot out here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  How did Rand Paul get Al Franken as a mentor, a kind of reverse mentor?  You know, far-right, liberal, back and forth?  Why do they get along so well?  I guess they just look at the other guy and know how not to vote.  I‘m serious.  Rand Paul‘s very funny appearance on “Letterman” next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Last night, at the White House concert honoring Motown, Jamie Foxx ribbed the event‘s highest-profile guest. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR:  Stay here on the scene, a presidential machine. 

You ready to dance for me?  Wait, wait, wait.  Give me a little bit of the—you are not going to dance for me just a little bit? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOXX:  Come on, man.  I saw you on “Ellen.”

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOXX:  That definitely wasn‘t the black side in you right there. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Come a long way. 

Next up: freshman rules.  Last night on “Letterman,” Rand Paul shared some advice he‘s gotten as a new senator.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  You know, when I was first elected, John McCain said—he said, the first six months that you‘re here, you will pinch yourselves and you will say, well, how did I get here?

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  Mm-hmm.

PAUL:  And then the next six months, you will pinch yourself and say, how the hell did the rest of these guys get here?

LETTERMAN:  I found out earlier this week you and I have a friend in common.  You know who I‘m talking about? 

PAUL:  No. 

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Senator Al Franken from Minnesota. 

PAUL:  Absolutely.

LETTERMAN:  Yes. 

PAUL:  You know, he‘s my mentor. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes.  Now, explain that process. 

PAUL:  Well, I‘m not sure if he got stuck or I got stuck, but we‘re in this thing together.  We‘re going to try to set a record, though.  We‘re going to try to set a record by seeing how many times we can vote on opposite sides of an issue. 

LETTERMAN:  Wow.  Did he have any advice for you about coming on this show? 

PAUL:  Yes.  He said, don‘t. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That didn‘t seem very spontaneous. 

Anyway, you say neither.  I say neither. 

Finally, a curious stand in Nevada this week, Senator Harry Reid calling his state to outlaw prostitution finally.  Well, how did Nevada‘s junior senator, Republican John Ensign, respond?  Well, he was consistent.  He defended the practice.  Ensign told reporters, “You know, that‘s a county-by-county issue, and I think—and it should be left to the counties.”

Well, remember, this is the same senator who, two years ago, endured a high-profile sex scandal, where he admitted to an affair with his staffer‘s wife.  For Senator Ensign, this is one case where silence might have been golden.

Anyway, up next:  More Americans are evacuating Libya, where militiamen and mercenaries loyal to Gadhafi are opening up fire on crowds of Libyan protesters.  What a horror show.  And now the White House has announced sanctions against the government. 

The latest from NBC‘s the great Richard Engel coming up on the ground in Libya in a minute. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks breaking a three-day losing streak with some solid gains today.  Take a look at these numbers, the Dow adding 62 points, the S&P up 13, and the Nasdaq climbing 43, today‘s gains not enough, however, to put a positive cap on the week.  It‘s the market‘s worst weekly decline since the month of August. 

But Boeing led the Dow higher after winning that $35 billion contract to build the military‘s next aerial refueler.  Tech stocks, they bounced back strongly on solid earnings out of cloud computing giant Salesforce and business software maker Autodesk.  

Chipmakers Intel, Micron, and AMD surging as well, as the battle for the booming mobile space kicks into high gear.  We had Wells Fargo leading financials higher after Goldman Sachs predicted a dividend bump and a stock buyback. 

Deep spending cuts by state and local governments slowed fourth-quarter growth to a weaker-than-expected 2.8 percent.  And oil prices stabilizing today on news that the Saudis would increase production.  U.S.  crude settling out under $100 a barrel, still up 13 percent, however, this week. 

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide.  I‘m Trish Regan—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced sanctions on Libya today in response to the growing violence there.  The announcement came just as hundreds of Americans arrived safely in Malta, after being stranded in Libya due to bad weather and high seas. 

Back in Tripoli, supporters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi used gunfire against hundreds of protests—you can hear it right there—who marched through the city. 

For the latest on the ground, let‘s go to NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Libya. 

How‘s the evacuation going, Richard? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s been much more complicated in Tripoli. 

Here in Benghazi, it‘s been relatively smooth.  There have been many ferryboats that have come into the port here and Chinese workers have been leaving, Turkish workers have been leaving the country.  Egyptians (AUDIO GAP) has been much more complicated. 

That latest news about sanctions being put on Libya, some (AUDIO GAP) protesters here were telling me today that they were looking forward to.  I was in the headquarters of this rebel movement in Benghazi, which is sort of the unofficial capital of the rebels, and, on the wall, written in graffiti, was a sign that says, “President Obama, you must decide, Gadhafi or Libya,” and they have been looking—

MATTHEWS:  Is there a sense that sanctions could crush this government? 

ENGEL:  Not really. 

I think the—the—what the government is facing right now is a much more local revolt.  It is more worried about the tribes turning on the people.  It is more worried about defections within the government itself. 

The oil industry isn‘t functioning right now as it is, so, in this state of crisis right now, it seems unlikely that sanctions are going to have an immediate impact. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at pictures right now joining you on the screen with these incredible rally pictures, hanging Gadhafi in effigy, a very loud crowd, like we saw, and confident crowd, like we saw in Cairo. 

How do you square that on the ground with the shootings by these SUVs, these mercenaries driving around shooting people?  These people don‘t look afraid. 

ENGEL:  I think that was the (AUDIO GAP) a demonstration in Benghazi, because I saw one today where they were hanging pictures.  I was at that demonstration today, very joyous, very defiant.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ENGEL:  People were out on the streets. 

And there‘s absolutely no Gadhafi presence here in Benghazi.  People are worried that there could be an airstrike, that there could be some sort of retaliation.  But, here in the city, they feel totally confident.

It is a much more dangerous (AUDIO GAP) demonstration in Tripoli itself, especially on (AUDIO GAP) --

MATTHEWS:  Is there a—

ENGEL:  (AUDIO GAP) brought in the foreign media and was organizing several thousand people to—to stand out there and cheer his name. 

MATTHEWS:  You said that American sanctions alone will not crush this government of Gadhafi.  Could the world unite and bring him down, or is it all going end to up being a local verdict by the people against the power of his military and his mercenaries? 

ENGEL:  It seems like, at this stage, what‘s going to dislodge (AUDIO GAP) certainly helps.  International pressure fueled (AUDIO GAP) movement, so they‘re not disconnected. 

The protesters look to (AUDIO GAP) for the international community—community to give them moral support.  So, they—they‘re interlinked.  But I think, right now, Gadhafi‘s bigger concerns are the protesters, are the defections in his army units.  That‘s what‘s going to keep him alive. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Richard Engel, it‘s great to have you—

ENGEL:  The more he becomes a pariah (AUDIO GAP) the more that the protesters feel they have him on the ropes. 

MATTHEWS:  They sure do.

Thank you very much, Richard Engel.  What reporting you have done. 

Thank you, sir, from Benghazi, Libya. 

For more on what the sanctions mean for Libya and the region as a hold, we turn to Abed (ph) Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al-Jazeera. 

Abed, your sense of the international role here?  Is there one, or will this be decided locally? 

ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA, AL-JAZEERA:  I think, ultimately, it would have to be decided locally, because the measures that have been announced, such as the sanctions, for example, I mean, at the present time and in the present conditions in Libya, there‘s very little to sanction.  There‘s very little that international sanctions can bring to bear on the Libyan leader, in terms of his supporters trying to crush the protests. 

And I think there are also similar fears concerning the talk about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.  While many Libyans think that that would provide shelter and protection for the protesters, the fear also is that it may give him a card to say, look, the international community, led by the West, whether it‘s the United States or NATO, are trying to meddle in our politics—

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FOUKARA:  -- and help him consolidate his power. 

So I think, eventually, the work will have to be done locally, although these international measures give moral support to Libyans inside Libya. 

MATTHEWS:  Last question:  Is there any talk of letting Gadhafi leave the country, give him safe passage, so that this will end, or they do all, both sides, want a fight to the death? 

FOUKARA:  Well, everything that we have heard from Gadhafi over the last few days suggests that he does not even want to consider the idea of leaving—leaving Libya.  He says that his ancestors were born in Libya, he was born in Libya, and he plans to die in Libya, whether a natural death or if he‘s killed fighting to the death, as he said. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FOUKARA:  But the other question is, what countries would be willing to take somebody like Gadhafi at this particular point in time?  I think the choices are pretty limited. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Abed Foukara of Al-Jazeera.

Up next:  Here at home, it‘s Oscar time, a little fun right now.  We‘re going to bring in a real expert who‘s going to tell us who‘s going to win—and he‘s putting his money on it—and who should win.  He‘s got his favorites.  This is going to be fun, because I have got some thoughts on this subject.  I am the biggest movie buff I think there is. 

Anyway, HARDBALL coming back in a minute with some fun, against the backdrop of the bad stuff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Congress is more polarized than ever.  According to the “National Journal,” for the first time since 1982, every Senate Democrat last year compiled a voting record more liberal than every single Senate Republican.  And likewise, every Republican was more conservative than every Democrat.  So, there‘s a clear division of the aisle there on ideology.

The House is equally polarized with just five Republicans more liberal than most.  The most conservative Democrat and only four Democrats more conservative than the most liberal Republican.  It‘s bound to get worse.  Of those nine outliers in the House, only one remains in Congress today.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Popcorn time.  We‘re back this Sunday.

Hollywood takes center stage for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.  So, what‘s going to be taking home the Oscar—the king or the king of Facebook, “The Social Network”?

Here to help me pick the winners and those who should win is my fellow movie buff and expert actual, David Edelstein, the film critic of “New York Magazine,” as Cary Grant (ph) would say.  He‘s also with the “CBS Sunday Morning,” which is a hell of a show.

Let‘s start, David, with the nominees for Best Supporting Actress, Amy Adams—Love her—in “The Fighter,” Helena Bonham Carter in “The King‘s Speech,” Melissa Leo also in “The Fighter,” the young 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who was fabulous in “True Grit,” and Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”

Who should win?  Who will win?

DAVID EDELSTEIN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  They‘re all great.  I happen to be partial to Amy Adams myself, just because, you know, she put on a little wife to the role, and she got the accent down.  And, you know, she always has her Irish and she looks like she‘s been like slinging around pitchers of ale for hours or days or weeks.  I mean, I love her mouthiness.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at her right now.  Let‘s take a look at “The Fighter,” featuring both her and Melissa Leo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The problems -- 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What problems?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What problems?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Like what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Like maybe you not showing up on time to train, like maybe him having to come find you in a crack house when you‘re supposed to be at the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t know who you are, why you‘re talking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Charlene.  We just met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, let‘s take a look now at the list for Best Supporting Actor now.  Christian Bale, who seems to be the favorite.  He‘s also in “The Fighter” with.  John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner who is unbelievably tough in “The Town.”  Mark Ruffalo.  Geoffrey Rush was fabulous.

Who should win?  Who will win?

EDELSTEIN:  Look, these are fabulous performances.  Who should win?  I happen to be very partial to both Jeremy Renner and John Hawkes in “Winter‘s Bone,” which is also my favorite movie of the year.

But no chance, Christian Bale will win.  He‘ll win because actors, actors win awards when you can see the acting.  And in this case, he lost the weight.  He‘s got the accent perfectly.  He really looks like a crack addict.  He really looks—

MATTHEWS:  I believed him, I‘m sorry.  You say he looked like he was acting.  I thought he was like an early Robert De Niro, you know, in one of those De Niro movies in the very beginning.  I thought he had that craziness.

EDELSTEIN:  Well, but that‘s interesting, though, because is that acting?  Is that—you know, when Robert De Niro sort of screwed up his features by gaining all that weight for “Raging Bull”—was that acting or was that, as a colleague of mine, Tom Shaun (ph), has said, morphing, you know?  I mean—I mean, it‘s actors who morph tend to get awarded.

MATTHEWS:  Now, I‘m going way back to “Mean Streets.”  I‘m talking about when he was the crazy guy in “Mean Streets” with Harvey Keitel.

Anyway, let‘s go now to the nominees for Best Actress, Annette Bening

everyone loves her.  Warren Beatty‘s wife, of course, and great people, in “The Kids are All Right,” a great movie.  Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”; Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter‘s Bone”—your movie.  Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” fabulous film, just saw it.  And Michelle Williams.

           

Who should win and who will win?

EDELSTEIN:  Well, I think that Natalie Portman is going to win because she lost all that weight.  She looks like she‘s suffering, like she‘s made enormous sacrifices for the part.  And that is very, very appealing to a large body of actors, when you suffer that much for your art.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

EDELSTEIN:  I happen to prefer Annette Bening.  I love Annette Bening. 

Actually, I love all four of the other actresses.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- know that you wanted to be in the food services industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What happened to your tongue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know.  I mean, I lost all the feeling in my face and my tongue, and then, you know, I got really nervous, because I thought that I was going to gag, and you know, maybe like, it‘s like—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Choke, die?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Exactly, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘d you do to help her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I gave her a valium and I told her to relax and tried to get her to talk, you know, move her tongue around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Actually, she started teasing me and that really helped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was trying to distract you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know, and it worked, you were really funny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You were really pretty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then, you know, my tongue started working again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  God, mom, easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think—I agree about Annette Bening.  I think she goes back to the age of great actors and women actors, Ida Lupino.

EDELSTEIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  When you go way back, she‘s just one of the real pros.  And

I think she‘s going to be around a long time.  Let‘s look at the nominees -

-

           

(CROSSTALK)

EDELSTEIN:  Chris, I‘d say how could you watch that and not think, why isn‘t Julianne Moore nominated?

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EDELSTEIN:  They are so charming.  They are so sweet.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The only thing is, I absolutely love “Black Swan.”

Let‘s talk a look, here‘s the nominees for Best Actor.  We only have a little bit of time here on the show.  Javier Bardem in “Biutiful,” spelled weirdly, I guess the Spanish way.  Just kidding.  Jeff Bridges in “True Grit,” which was great. Jesse Eisenberg, you can‘t be better than him in “The Social Network.”  Colin Firth, break your heart in “The King‘s Speech.”  James Franco, the kid, in “127 hours.”

Who should win?  Who will win?

EDELSTEIN:  Well, Colin Firth isn‘t a lock, he‘s a lock locked in a lock.  He will win and he should win.  I think as a performer, you can recognize, there is nothing like that moment of existential terror when you‘re up in front of an audience and you open your mouth and the words do not come!  And he captures that like no one I‘ve ever seen.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at him.  I think everybody will see this movie eventually.  Let‘s encourage them.  Here it is, “The King‘s Speech,” one of the great movies.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What will I call you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your royal highness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And sir, after that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How about Bertie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Only my family uses that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, in here, it‘s better if we‘re equals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If we were equals, I wouldn‘t be here.  I would be

at home with my wife, and no one would give a damn.

           

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, please don‘t do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My physicians say it relaxes the throat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re idiots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘ all been knighted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It makes it official then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think everybody in the planet fell in love with that guy, Colin Firth in “Love Actually.”  Fell in love with him again in “The Single Man.”

EDELSTEIN:  He deserved it last year in “The Single Man” actually.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t see how he loses.  I agree.

We‘re going to back and talk about Best Picture after the break.  There‘s theories my son Michael, who‘s a film guy, filmmaker, he said look out for “Black Swan” in a weird move at the very end.  We‘ll see.

We‘ll come with the expert, David Edelstein.  I know you‘re wincing. 

I love winces.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “New York Magazine” film critic, David Edelstein.

Thank you, David, so much.  You picked Colin Firth to be Best Actor.  Natalie Portman to be Best Actress.  You picked Christian Bale to be Best Supporting Actor.  And who have you picked—

EDELSTEIN:  Melissa Leo.  Melissa Leo.

MATTHEWS:  Melissa—wow.  And she plays the tough mama in “The Fighter.”  Boy, she is tough.  Not likable but very impressive.  We‘re going to ask you—looking up.  By the way, on the screen right now, you can see the full list of the top 10 movies for best picture.

David, again, your pick is to who should win Best Picture at the end of the night?  And who will win Best at the end of the night?

EDELSTEIN:  Well, look—look, I love “Winter‘s Bone.”  I love “Toy Story 3.”  I would be delighted if “The Fighter” won.

I think it‘s going to be “The King Speech,” though.  You know, Harvey Weinstein, one of the producers, is kind of working the old farts on the Academy and he‘s saying, ah, this dang Internet thing, this billionaire punk, you know, that‘s really not—you know, who needs that, you know?  Whereas “The King Speech” is a good old fashioned royalist, uplifting movie about therapy, which is lot of the Jewish voters love.  I mean, even though Geoffrey Rush isn‘t—

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) because it‘s about therapy?

EDELSTEIN:  Look, it‘s my tribe, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I never heard that before.  Go ahead.

EDELSTEIN:  No, no.  He comes in, OK?  And there‘s this kind of anal retentive waspy king.  And the Jew—he‘s not a Jew.  He‘s sort of an honorable Jew, comes in and he gets him to like, to spew four-letter words and let out all his rage against his dad and suddenly he can speak again.

Now—you know, it‘s true, people don‘t see it as a movie about psychotherapy.  But it has the same kind of uplift if you just dramatize and if you just spew, you‘re going to—and I think that‘s going to resonate with a lot of shouters and yellers and stammerers out there.

And I got a question for you.

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

EDELSTEIN:  What do you think the—who do you think the first actor up on the stage who is going to identify and commit himself to solidarity with the Wisconsin union workers is going to be?  Is Sean Penn going to be there this year?  I promise you, one of these guys is going to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Where‘s Marlon Brando when we need him.

Let‘s look at Geoffrey Rush, who you say is the Jewish shrink here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- old-timer her for the Best Movie.  I don‘t see it this way.  But I accept from somebody who‘s a member of that tribe.  I guess you‘re allowed to say it.  Here it is, “The King‘s Speech.”  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get up, you can‘t sit there.  Get up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why not?  It‘s a chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is not a chair.  That—that is St. Edward‘s chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  People carved their names on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Listen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Listen to you by what right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I have a right to be!  I have a voice!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, you do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Who is the guy who always does play the Jewish psychiatrist in movies?  The guy for years has played that guy?

EDELSTEIN:  Who, like Judd Hirsch?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, exactly, Judd Hirsch.

(CROSSTALK)

EDELSTEIN:  This is ordinary people, sort of, with a crown.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Now for your generational dispute between those on the

different sides of the digital divide.  You claim, you call them old farts

nice language, by the way—are the ones that don‘t like the digital divide go in the other way.  But here‘s “The Social Network,” which I thought was going to walk away with this thing because Sorkin is a genus.  But here it is, “The Social Network.”

           

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I need you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m here for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I need the algorithm used to rank chess players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re ranking girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You mean other students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think this is such a good idea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I need the algorithm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give each base rating of 1,400.  At any given time, girl A has a rating RA (ph), B has a rating RB.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When any of the girls are matched up, there‘s an expectation of which will win based on their current rate, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Those expectations were expressed this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that acting, David?  He does this sort of thing with the top, like a thing with the top of his lip.  I keep it in like this.  Is that acting or what is that?

EDELSTEIN:  Well, I would say that that is a kind of an impersonation.  He‘s actually anti-acting in a way because he‘s a very expressive actor who is actually using fewer of his resources to play someone who‘s very bottled up.  I want to say that is so brilliantly shot, that scene.  You can tell that David Fincher, the director, may well, in fact, win the Oscar, even though his movie does not win for Best Picture.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you, it doesn‘t make Harvard look that good.  By the way, the best line of the movie was when he says to the beautiful girl in the bar, “Why do you have to study?  You go to B.U.”  Remember that line?

EDELSTEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The most hateful disgusting line.  I think she says something, you are one and you always will be one after that, right?

EDELSTEIN:  Yes, I believe so.

MATTHEWS:  So, who‘s going to win Best Picture?

EDELSTEIN:  “The King‘s Speech” by a mile.

MATTHEWS:  By a mile, because as you pointed, the old people are going to be riled into what this because they don‘t like a billionaire kid who made all this money on something they don‘t understand.

EDELSTEIN:  They don‘t know how—they don‘t know how they‘re supposed to feel about this character, which is really one of the—one of the strengths of the movie.  But I think it can be confusing to other people who are perhaps are not of this generation and don‘t identify with him.

MATTHEWS:  And you stick to the movie you think should win which is?

EDELSTEIN:  Oh, I don‘t—what I think is going to—should win isn‘t going to win.  “Winter‘s Bone,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Fighter.”

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You got me there.

Here‘s what I think.  I think people really like Colin Firth.  They really like him.  He captures a sense of, as you put it, of fear.  It was like he was going to of face the hangman‘s noose.

EDELSTEIN:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And that we‘ve all got it, whether it‘s acting, it‘s appearance in stage, sometimes for people that they say that people would rather be in the box at a funeral than having to read a speech.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on, David, you‘re very cool.

EDELSTEIN:  I totally identify with it.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t get nervous for this stuff, but I get nervous for stuff you probably don‘t get nervous for.  Thank you, David—like facing a deadline.  David Edelstein of the “New York Magazine”—

EDELSTEIN:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: -- a great critic, thanks for coming on.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Watch the Oscars, I guess.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur, coming up.

           

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