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updated 4/14/2011 1:35:26 PM ET 2011-04-14T17:35:26

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Chris Cillizza, Marcy Kaptur, Tom Cole, Jonathan Landay, Steve Clemons, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Throw mama from the train.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Kill Medicare or raise taxes?  The next battle‘s in plain sight now.  Paul Ryan wants to demolish Medicare.  That‘s how he wants to cut the deficit, give seniors less and let them make up for the difference.  President Obama tomorrow lays out his plan, which includes, we hear, tax increases for upper-income Americans. 

That‘s the question, killing Medicare versus raising taxes, and that‘s the fight.  And the battleground, as always, will be the suburbs, where elections are won and lost in this country.  And it‘s our top story tonight.

Plus, look who bounced Sarah Palin as the bright, shiny object dazzling Republicans, the person who will get more attention, we think, than votes.  Donald Trump just finished tied for first nationally with a new—with Huckabee, Mike Huckabee, in a new CNN national poll of Republicans.  Apparently, all you need to do in the GOP these days is repeat the birther line and the suckers will love you.  As P.T. Barnum once said, there‘s one born every minute.

Also, we learned today that Pakistan is kicking out lots of CIA operatives and special ops forces.  Wasn‘t Pakistan our key ally in the fight with al Qaeda?

And some on the left are upset with President Obama for not fighting harder against the budget cuts.  To hear some tell it, Obama is making too many concessions to Republicans.  Do they have a case?

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with the 150th anniversary of the greatest of all American tragedies, the Civil War, and the great good that came of it.

We start with killing Medicare versus raising taxes.  What a choice.  Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur‘s a Democrat from Ohio and Congressman Tom Cole‘s a Republican from Oklahoma.  They both are on the Budget Committee, which wouldn‘t be more important these days.

Congressman Cole, since you‘re here, I‘m going to ask you the first question.  What—it seems to me that Paul Ryan is talking about replacing Medicare as it was created back in the ‘60s with some kind of a subsidy program.  And the criticism of this idea is nobody in the private sector‘s going to create a health care plan for somebody in their 70s and 80s.  The government has to provide health care under Medicare, or they won‘t get it, the seniors.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK), BUDGET COMMITTEE:  Well, it‘ll be a premium support program.  It‘ll be similar to, frankly, what every member of Congress has and what federal workers have.  Frankly, we think it actually puts Medicare on a sustainable path.  Right now, it‘s simply not supportable.  We‘re not going to be able to finance it, so we‘re going to have to make some pretty dramatic changes.  Paul at least has had the courage to put some out there and start the discussion.

MATTHEWS:  Would you back it right now as it is?

COLE:  I certainly would.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘d take the heat.

COLE:  Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

COLE:  I think you got—

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Mary Kaptur.  Congresswoman, what do you—how did you—did I describe it right?  Aren‘t they getting rid of Medicare as we know it, where the government writes the check for your health care, including medicine, and give you a check that may not cover the cost of your health insurance, if you can find a company to sell it to you?

REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH), BUDGET COMMITTEE:  That is exactly right.  They make seniors pay more, and in regions like mine—in fact, the whole country—the amount seniors would have to pay per month will nearly double.  It will be unaffordable, and it‘s going to throw seniors into the insurance marketplace.  And most of them—I mean, gosh, over 65, over 70, 75 years old, they‘re not going to be able to negotiate.

So they want to voucher out the Medicare program while at the same time giving over a trillion dollars of tax breaks over the next 10 years to the wealthiest people in our country, corporations like General Electric, ExxonMobil paying no taxes, Wall Street paying an 11 percent tax.  And they say the seniors of America, You have to pay more.  I as a Democrat say not on my watch.

MATTHEWS:  Well, is that fair?  There you just saw the tradeoff.

COLE:  No, it‘s not remotely fair.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the taxes for the rich versus cutting Medicare.

COLE:  Nobody on Medicare right now would be affected at all.  Nobody within 10 years of being on Medicare would be affected under Paul‘s plan.  So talking about what‘s going to happen to seniors is they‘ll continue to get exactly the same program they have.  What we‘re doing is adjusting for people living a lot longer and giving them plenty of time to change directions.

But what we know can‘t happen is we can‘t keep the plan going as it is.  The numbers don‘t work.  The math doesn‘t work.

KAPTUR:  May I say this?  If people go back to work, which should be the key focus of this economy, we will repair what‘s wrong.  We will be getting revenues that we need to support all programs.  And we don‘t have to voucher out Medicare.

Tom, you can‘t be correct about what you‘re saying because what you‘re going to do is, you‘re going to force seniors to pay more for their premiums and throw them at the mercy of the insurance marketplace.  The reason we have Medicare is because it was not insuring those citizens.

COLE:  Marcy—

KAPTUR:  So I don‘t really understand what you‘re talking about.

COLE:  Again, no current seniors are going to be affected.  Nobody close—

KAPTUR:  Oh, that‘s a very important adjective.

COLE:  -- to retirement‘s going to be affected.

KAPTUR:  At what point will they become, then?  You know, what you‘re doing is—

COLE:  They won‘t be.

KAPTUR:  -- you‘re going to transform—

COLE:  They won‘t be.  If you‘re on the program now—

KAPTUR:  -- the program—

COLE:  No, if you‘re on the program now, you‘ll be fine all the way through.  But you can‘t—

KAPTUR:  What about people who are 55?

COLE:  -- sustain it.

KAPTUR:  What about people—

(CROSSTALK)

KAPTUR:  -- senior citizens, 55?

COLE:  Well, I think—

KAPTUR:  Or 54?

COLE:  -- those people—people have plenty of time to adjust, and we can make some changes.  But what‘s the cruelest joke of all—

KAPTUR:  How can they adjust when—

COLE:  -- is to offer people a program—

KAPTUR:  -- the market won‘t offer them an affordable plan?

COLE:  -- that simply will not be allowed to continue financially.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Congressman Cole, if it‘s a good program, why not introduce it?  Why say, We‘re not going to inflict this pain on older people, we‘re going to save it for the younger people?  If it‘s a fair program, why not just inform (ph) it and bring it into effect right now?

COLE:  Well, because, frankly, people have spent a whole lifetime planning to operate under a certain system—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

COLE:  -- and they ought to have that opportunity.  It shouldn‘t change.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So is there somebody today who‘s 55 years old that‘s looking forward to Medicare?

COLE:  Well, 55 --

MATTHEWS:  I bet there‘s a lot of people looking forward to—

COLE:  At 55, they‘ll be fine.  You know—

MATTHEWS:  All right, 54-and-a-half.  They‘re looking forward to Medicare.

COLE:  Well, we‘ve got a master plan—

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to get a check that says, Go out and try to find some insurance company when you‘re 75 years old that‘s—

COLE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  -- going to give you health insurance.

COLE:  What‘s not going to work is what we have now, and I‘d like to -

-

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s fair enough.  Fair enough.

COLE:  And I‘d love to see the Democrats—

MATTHEWS:  The system is—

COLE:  -- finally—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

COLE:  -- propose something.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s see what the president says tomorrow.  Here‘s Obama‘s senior adviser, David Plouffe, who‘s really a political guy, not a policy guy, talking about the Ryan plan on “MEET THE PRESS” the other day.  Let‘s watch Plouffe, and you can respond, Congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is this plan, Congressman Ryan‘s plan, dead on arrival?

DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER:  Well, listen, certainly,

the president is not going to support a lot of what‘s in that plan.  Again

--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Any chance that this gets passed?

PLOUFFE:  It may pass the House.  It‘s not going to become law.  And I don‘t think the American people are going to sign up for something that puts most of the burden on the middle class, people trying to go to college, on senior citizens, while not just asking nothing of the wealthy, giving them at least a $200,000 tax—so that‘s a choice you‘re making.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the point of view from the White House.  Fair enough, a political assessment from his political guy.  But watch Newt Gingrich say the same thing.  Here‘s “The New York Times” the other day being quoted, “I think it is a dangerous political exercise.”  He‘s talking about the Ryan plan.  “This is not something the Republicans can afford to handle lightly.”

There you have your sharpshooter there, Newt Gingrich, who‘s pure politician, agreeing with David Plouffe of the White House this is bad politics for you guys.

COLE:  It‘s not.  First of all, this is Medicare part D.

MATTHEWS:  So Newt‘s wrong.

COLE:  It‘s the same—

MATTHEWS:  The former Speaker‘s wrong.

COLE:  You know, in fact, this is Medicare part D, which has been enormously popular.  It‘s not a new concept.  That‘s exactly what we do on prescription drug coverage for seniors right now.  Came in 40 percent less than anybody estimated it would cost.  It‘s affordable.  It‘s been cheaper than the CBO estimated it would be.  We think you can do—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

COLE:  -- the same thing with the entire Medicare program.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at our poll, Congressman.  I‘m sorry to interrupt.  Here‘s the poll now.  This is our NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.  I think the public‘s very divided.  When independent voters out there polled—Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, were polled about Medicare in our latest NBC poll, which just came out a few days ago, 20 percent say it needs a complete overhaul, 26 percent say it needs major changes—sounds like the same thing -- 35 percent say it needs minor modifications, 16 percent say leave it alone.

Congresswoman Kaptur, what do seniors want changed?  I thought they liked Medicare.  If you‘re a consumer of Medicare, you have a health cost, you take it to the government, they pay for it.  What‘s better than that?  I thought seniors liked Medicare the way it is.

KAPTUR:  Seniors love Medicare and their families love Medicare.  And I would disagree with my colleague in saying that if you‘re 54 years old and you‘re an ironworker in Toledo, Ohio, the chances are by age 65, you‘re going to be ready to retire.  Some even have to retire at age 62.

So I think that Social Security and Medicare are compacts of trust between generations.  I would not want the next generation to have any less than our generation has had.  So I would disagree with your proposal because the system works because we all pull together.  We‘re not all in separate boats.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me—

KAPTUR:  And we‘ve raised a whole generation of seniors out of poverty because of Social Security and Medicare.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me play hardball with you, Congresswoman Kaptur.  Here‘s a question for you.  Of all the domestic programs we have in our government—and we do have a $1.6 trillion deficit right now.  Of all the domestic programs we have right now, name some big-ticket items you‘d like to cut.

KAPTUR:  All right.  In terms of the discretionary programs and the mandatory programs, I would look at agricultural subsidies as an area that‘s very rich for change.  I would also look at our defense bases around the world.  Defense is not on the table, in fact.

MATTHEWS:  No, domestic.

KAPTUR:  Mr. Cole‘s party‘s actually raising—oh, we have a lot of bases in this country, as well.  Finally, the president‘s bipartisan commission talks about both spending cuts, as well as revenues.  I would look at the Americans who have done extraordinarily well.

MATTHEWS:  So raise taxes.

KAPTUR:  I would go after oil royalties.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

KAPTUR:  I would also go after—

MATTHEWS:  OK, so the only—

KAPTUR:  -- those individuals who haven‘t paid their taxes.

MATTHEWS:  The only—do you represent a farm district?

KAPTUR:  Parts of my district are, but we don‘t sort of load up in our district, like people in other parts—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

KAPTUR:  -- of the country who are farmers.  The average farmer in our district maybe that farms—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

KAPTUR:  -- gets $11,000 from the program.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

KAPTUR:  Out in Iowa, they get $140,000.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the problem the Democrats have, to be fair to you because you came in tonight.  The fact is, the Democrats have a hard time identifying programs they‘d be willing to cut.

COLE:  Well, they have no plan.  Look, the Democratic Congress last year—

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s the president going to do—

COLE:  -- never presented a budget.

MATTHEWS:  -- tomorrow night?

COLE:  Who knows because he‘s just showing up to the debate.  He didn‘t say anything at the State of the Union about his own—

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s apparently—let me just ask you both.

(CROSSTALK)

COLE:  -- budget with no—

MATTHEWS:  Go right down the middle in this.  The president is apparently going to get out behind the bipartisan commission—

COLE:  Well, we‘ll—

MATTHEWS:  Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson—he was here last night, Alan Simpson, on our show last night.  Are you for the bipartisan commission report?

COLE:  Well, I think it‘s worth looking at, but I think the president has got to lead in this case.  Right now, the only guy leading is Paul Ryan.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

COLE:  We‘ve got a 41-year-old congressman who leads.  We‘ve got a president of the United States—

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to get 218 votes in the House for his position?

COLE:  -- who‘s absent without—we absolutely will.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s very important.  Congresswoman, are you going to back the president tomorrow if he backs the commission?

KAPTUR:  I think that there are many worthy proposals in that commission report.  I think we ought to take them up one at a time.  The most important thing to me is to get people back to work because then you have revenues move up inside—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

KAPTUR:  -- the system and you can help balance all the accounts.  But you can‘t balance the budget when you‘ve spent $1.4 trillion on wars and you‘re going to give away another trillion dollars in tax breaks to the very wealthiest in our country, many of whom aren‘t paying taxes and try to balance the budget.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you on the wars.  I‘m with you on the wars.  We cannot afford to be the world‘s arsenal and policemen and expect to have a quiet little country that has low taxes.  Anyway, thank you very much, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Ohio and U.S. Congressman John Cole of Oklahoma, sir.  Thanks for joining us.

COLE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: Goodbye Sarah Palin, hello the Trump man.  How the birther talk is helping Trump to climb up the ladder of potential GOP candidates.  He‘s number one in the brand-new CNN national poll, which is a very respected poll.  Look what he‘s done.  This is showmanship at its best.  I don‘t know what else it is.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  In an interview set for air tonight, President Obama‘s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, says CNN‘s—I‘m sorry.  Let‘s do it right.  I‘m sorry.  Tells Piers Morgan it‘s time for the birther talk to stop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYA SOETORO-NG, OBAMA‘S HALF-SISTER:  I think it‘s unfortunate.  He was born in Hawaii.  There is a tremendous amount of proof that has already been presented.  I think that it is time for people to put that to bed, put it to rest completely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I thought that was a tape.  Anyway, we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  Obviously, I hit a nerve because they‘re fighting me.  I don‘t hear them talking about Mr. Pawlenty or anybody else, they‘re talking only about Trump.  And I can tell you, I‘m their worst nightmare.  I am not the person that they want to run against.  And they know it and I know it, and I know it for a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.  That‘s, of course, Donald Trump on Monday on Fox in the morning there.  He‘s right that everyone is talking about him.  He‘s singing all the right notes, you might say, in the Republican primary world.  He‘s a birther.  He says he‘s pro-life now.  He‘s against gay marriage now.  And he‘s openly critical of Muslims.  And guess what?  It‘s working for him.

A brand-new national CNN poll just out has Trump now tied nationally with Mike Huckabee for the lead in a Republican presidential primary fight.  In that poll, it looks like Mitt Romney is the one that‘s been hurt the most by Trump‘s rise.  But Trump is stealing the spotlight from both the serious, like Romney, and the not-so-serious, like Palin, so he‘s poaching across the board.

We‘re joined right now by “The Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson and Huffington Post editorial director Howard Fineman.  They‘re both MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, this may be, what do you call it—what do you want to call it—quicksilver, but it‘s working.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, he‘s Donald Trump.  He knows how to get an audience.

MATTHEWS:  But this is national—

ROBINSON:  He knows how to get people going.

MATTHEWS:  He hasn‘t spent a nickel to do this.

ROBINSON:  Because everybody—

MATTHEWS:  Free advertising.

ROBINSON:  Everybody knows Donald Trump.  And there is this image that he projects on “The Apprentice,” his show, of being a tough business guy.  And you know, we‘ve got a bad economy, and so there must be some people—

MATTHEWS:  What percentage of his appeal—

ROBINSON:  -- who say, Well, maybe this guy can straighten it out.

MATTHEWS:  -- is purely business—I‘m a business tycoon and I know

how to make money, I know how—I‘m the master of the deal, and all that -

and how much of its playing to the ethnic card, the going after the Muslims, going after Obama‘s birth, all that stuff?  What percentage of it is just dirtball?

ROBINSON:  Could be half and half.  I have no idea.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, where do you see it?  Is he getting business people to back him because they—people represent his business acumen and background and money—let‘s face it, the gold of those towers—or because he‘s playing to the dirtball politics of, This guy‘s not really an American and we hate Muslims, which I hope they don‘t hear in the Muslim world.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think it‘s more—

MATTHEWS:  That causes trouble.

FINEMAN:  I think it‘s more the latter, but I also think it‘s a third thing.  It‘s a comment on the weakness of the rest of the field.  Donald Trump is a big “none of the above” with great hair.  I mean, he‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Is it a shot or a serious claim they like him?  Or are they just—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- I hate these guys so much, I‘m going to vote for Trump?

FINEMAN:  If I‘m Mitt Romney and I‘m reading this—you know, Mitt Romney went down in this poll here, for example—to pick one example.  Perfectly nice guy, everybody says, you know, had that little plan up in Massachusetts.  He‘s not lighting any fires anywhere out there.  And for Donald Trump to come waltzing in out of the heaven of “The Apprentice” and to post this kind of number against Mitt Romney, I think, you know, has got to put pause in the minds of all those insiders—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FINEMAN:  -- down that the clubs who are backing Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you go into—you go into—you go into Starbucks and you look at the big counter there, and you can have a slice of white bread or a gigantic, sugary apple fritter!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Which one are you going to buy?  Let‘s go.  Here‘s Trump with Christian Broadcasting Network—I say that as a diabetic.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen.  I shouldn‘t (INAUDIBLE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are some concerns about the teachings of the Koran.  You have problems with some of those teachings.

TRUMP:  Well, I‘m certainly not an expert, to put it mildly.  But there‘s something there that teaches some very negative vibe.  There‘s a lot of hatred there someplace.  Now, I don‘t know if that‘s from the Koran.  I don‘t know if that‘s from, you know, someplace else.  But this tremendous hatred out there that I‘ve never seen anything like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  He goes right for the erogenous zone.  Now, then, here‘s Romney.  Let‘s compare them.  Here‘s Romney on Monday.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  I believe in America.  I believe in the freedom and opportunity and the principles of our Constitution that have led us to become the greatest nation in the history of the earth.  This effort isn‘t about a person, it‘s about the cause of American freedom and greatness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, he talks with that wonderful St. Paul‘s accent of Dr. Bob Arnot and John Kerry a few others, a wonderful upper-class accent.  I recognize the breed.  And the other guy comes on like a street hustler who‘s really good at it.  He‘s selling apples on the corner.  He‘s selling whatever.

ROBINSON:  It is about the person, contrary to what Mitt Romney said. 

And who has more star power in that race than Donald Trump—

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t think that—

ROBINSON:  -- with the exception of Sarah Palin?

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t think Mitt Romney could do “The Apprentice” on

TV.

ROBINSON:  I just don‘t see it.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I don‘t see it.

MATTHEWS:  Howard?

FINEMAN:  They‘re fired?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me. 

FINEMAN:  Excuse me.  You‘re fired? 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the Republican Party.  It is one of our two major parties. 

The president is only at 50 percent.  And that‘s sort of at the upper part of his bounce. 

Howard, if the president bounces up to 50, there‘s a 50 percent opportunity out there for a decent political party.  I‘m thinking back.  The last time they had a great opportunity, a great opportunity, and no candidate, they had Bob Taft, they went to Ike.  Henry Cabot Lodge went over to France and got him, brought him back as head of NATO, and said, let‘s win the election.  Let‘s not throw an easy one. 

So, here‘s the question.  This is a fairly good shot for the Republicans to win this election.  Why are they sitting around?  Where‘s the boys club?  What‘s Haley Barbour doing?  What‘s Jeb Bush doing?  What‘s Corbett in Pennsylvania—they‘re all sitting around thinking, hey, we have got a shot and we‘re blowing it with this—this carnie operation that‘s going on here. 

FINEMAN:  Well, yes, I mean, I do think there is a pervasive feeling out there just beneath the surface that this can‘t be all there is by way of Republican candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but Trump is sucking the air out of the room. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s sucking it out of Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And he‘s blown Palin back to Wasilla.  She‘s gone.  Look at this, Mason-Dixon‘s new Florida poll.  This gives you a lot.  Here‘s Florida, a key state in the country.  Has Palin at just 5.  She—it seems like there‘s only enough room in the air for either Palin, Bachmann or Trump.  And not only that, if he takes the air out of the room, it takes it away from Mitt Romney as well. 

ROBINSON:  Yes.  I think the big loser from both these polls is Romney. 

MATTHEWS:  How so? 

ROBINSON:  Well, because he is perceived, even if not by the numbers, as the front-runner, as the leading guy in this race.  And these numbers show that he isn‘t. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s test—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is Donald Trump willing to become a Mormon?  He‘s become pro-life.  He‘s anti-gay. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  He doesn‘t want to be a Mormon. 

MATTHEWS:  What does he want to be?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Even some Mormons don‘t think a Mormon can get elected.  He wants to become whatever he needs to be. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  The fact—he—that was such a softball on CBN, on the Christian Broadcasting Network. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s why he was there.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Don‘t you worry about the Muslims?  Yes, I do worry about the Muslims. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  I mean, he will—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what happens over in Karachi or somewhere when they hear this guy, one of the richest people in America, now trashing their religion? 

FINEMAN:  He has to be one of the ultimate shape-shifters in business, because he‘s been in and out of bankruptcy and bankruptcy proceedings a million times. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch the fate of Palin.  Palin is paling.  Let‘s watch her.  I do those things, like clever plays on words, here.

Here‘s Palin, vintage Palin at the 2008 Convention.  Here she is at her best, you might say.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2008)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  I might add that, in small towns, we don‘t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they‘re listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren‘t listening. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there she was with the A-material in the last election. 

Here she is without it.  Here she is riding the FOX—actually, on FOX, riding the Trump wave.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

PALIN:  I appreciate that the Donald wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that so interests him and many Americans.  You know, more power to him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That strange staccato voice maybe has worn on us.  I‘m not sure, the staccato way she did that thing.  I think it‘s because she‘s on television too much.  And I think she‘s up there in Alaska and these little two-minute bites aren‘t working.  

FINEMAN:  Well, having watched that convention speech of hers live, I mean, she exceeded expectations—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, sure.

FINEMAN: -- because expectations were so low.  OK.  Now, when you put her up against the Donald, she is—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you really going to say “the Donald”? 

FINEMAN:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Against Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  Please don‘t say that.

FINEMAN:  I‘m sorry.  All right. 

She‘s—she‘s really cool and charismatic for Wasilla, OK?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  He‘s cool and charismatic for New York City, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  It‘s the difference between Wasilla and New York City. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God.

FINEMAN:  He‘s the Sarah Palin of New York City. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

ROBINSON:  She‘s got sparkle.  I think she‘s being too reticent, too shy.  If she‘s really serious about this, she needs to—

MATTHEWS:  She‘s not in this race, though. 

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think she is. 

MATTHEWS:  Is she in the race? 

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think so. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think so either.

I think she‘s doing what she wants to do. 

Anyway, thank you. 

I think Donald might be in the race. 

Do you think he‘s in the race for real?  Will he show up at a first debate?  Will he make a debate? 

FINEMAN:  Why not? 

ROBINSON:  Oh, yes.  Oh, he will make a debate.

MATTHEWS:  Will he make a debate?  Will he make a debate? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, I think he might make the big one in the Reagan Library this fall.

Anyway, Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman say Palin is out, Trump is in. 

Up next:  Michele Bachmann says President Obama did not do enough to save Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  Let‘s bring the United States Army into Cairo and fight the people.  Well, that is a great American idea.  Is that what the Tea Party did back in the 1700s?  Fight the people?  I thought they were on the side of the rebels.  Remember history, Michele Bachmann?  Oh, I forgot.  You don‘t know history. 

The “Sideshow” is next, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First up:  Long live Mubarak?  That‘s the rallying cry of the one and only Congressman—Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.  Yesterday, she told a crowd in Iowa—quote—“He wasn‘t perfect, but former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was one of the best friends that we had in the Middle East region.  When Mubarak was in trouble, where was the president?  He was sitting on his hands and let Mubarak fall.”

Well, the president let Mubarak fall?  Should we have sent in the American Army in to fight the people of Egypt?  Is this the Tea Party foreign policy?  Wasn‘t our Tea Party on the side of the rebels?  Remember when in the 1700s?  Wasn‘t our Tea Party fighting tyranny? 

Study some history. 

Next up:  Has Sarah Palin shown she‘s presidential material?  One of Palin‘s biggest boosters, Glenn Beck himself, doesn‘t seem to think so. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”)

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”:  You know how I like Sarah Palin. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, yes, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BECK:  I love her.  I think she‘s great.  I mean, I would love to be a neighbor with Sarah Palin. 

However, there are some things that Sarah Palin, she—I mean, Sarah, she should have come out with that first book, and it should have been deep policy.  It should have shown that, yes, she—she knows where Russia is.  So, she didn‘t help herself by doing some things that would have been really good to shore herself up to say, really?  You think I‘m a dummy, really?  Boom, here it is. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  As I once heard the great historian Arthur Schlesinger put it, politics is essentially a learning profession.  You have to keep studying the country, its history, its needs, its strengths, its dreams.

Finally, Charlie Crist can‘t catch a break.  The good news, Crist just settled with talking heads front man David Byrne for using the song “Road to Nowhere” in his failed Senate bid the other day—or last year.  The bad news, one of the terms of the settlement was a YouTube apology he had to give.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE CRIST (I), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR:  I sincerely apologize to David Byrne for using his famous song and his unique voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission. 

I pledge that, should there be any future election campaigns for me, I will respect and uphold the rights of artists and obtain permission or a license for the use of any copyrighted work. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I like Charlie Crist.  He‘s not—he‘s not on the road to nowhere.  He may still have some cache, by the way, with rock fans.  As governor, when it really mattered, he pardoned the great Jim Morrison of The Doors for doing something he shouldn‘t have back in 1969. 

Up next:  As the new Middle East continues to take shape over there, can we rely on Pakistan anymore to help us fight al Qaeda?  Remember, they‘re our big allies?  We are going to take a closer look at the three wars we‘re fighting over there right now.  And they‘re all scary.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ended sharply lower on falling oil prices and disappointing revenue from aluminum giant Alcoa.  The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 117 points, the S&P 500 down 10.  The Nasdaq gave up 26. 

Alcoa led materials lower on weaker-than-expected sales.  Profits were solid, though, as aluminum prices spiked and demand remained strong in all of its major markets. 

Oil prices falling again, down now about 6 percent over the past two days, Goldman Sachs warning to its investors that they think the oil market is due for—quote—“a substantial pullback.”

Networking giant Cisco traded flat on news that it‘s overhauling its consumer products division and cutting 550 jobs. 

Apple got a boost from rumors that it‘s working on a cloud-based video service to take on Netflix and its rivals. 

And in economic news, the trade deficit shrank in March, as import prices rose more than 2.5 percent, a lot of that from the spiking food and oil prices. 

That‘s it from CNBC.  We are first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The CIA‘s covert war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan may now be in jeopardy.  Pakistani leaders are demanding the expulsion of more than 300 CIA officers, contractors, and special ops forces, and they‘re asking that the United States scale back its drone campaign on the border. 

Is Pakistan really an adversary that pretends to be our ally?  That‘s our big question in the next 10 minutes?  And what do we—what do we deal with, and what happened to the United States‘ relations to Pakistan and what do they mean to the mission over there right now in Afghanistan?

Jonathan Landay is the national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy.  And Steve Clemons is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Gentlemen, I want your thoughts right now.  Just—the American people care mainly about this region because we went in there, and we forged an alliance under President Bush with the Pakistani government to go after al Qaeda.  What‘s this new development that the PG-ing, the persona non grata-ing, of all these people, what does that mean to our front against al Qaeda, Jonathan?

JONATHAN LANDAY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT,

MCCLATCHY:  Well, actually, this is the culmination of a whole lot of setbacks. 

And a lot of people that I have talked to believe that relations with the Pakistani, at least as far as security goes, are probably as bad as they have ever been since before 9/11.  And, actually, it goes to this question when you come to—to Afghanistan. 

The United States and Pakistan have two different goals, two different strategic goals in Afghanistan.  Pakistan wants to limit the influence of its big rival, India.  The United States wants to stabilize Afghanistan and try and turn it into at least a place where al Qaeda can‘t operate out of anymore.  And those are two incongruent goals. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it true that Pakistan does not see the Taliban as its enemy, where we do? 

LANDAY:  The fact is that, no, I don‘t think that the Pakistanis see the Taliban as their enemy.  They see the Taliban as being an instrument by which they can accomplish their strategic goal, which is to limit India‘s influence in Afghanistan. 

The Pakistanis see India as being their big boogeyman. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

LANDAY:  They see India and be—as being the center of some kind of amorphous conspiracy, a plot that involves the United States, and you can throw the Mossad in there and Britain and France—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LANDAY: -- that—that all of these countries want to get—and Afghanistan under Karzai—want to get together, surround Pakistan, and destabilize it, so that the United States can go in and steal Pakistan‘s nuclear weapons, which is about as far from the truth as you can get—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

LANDAY: -- because the United States really doesn‘t know where all of Pakistan‘s nuclear weapons are to begin with. 

But, on the other hand, the United States doesn‘t want to destabilize Pakistan.  Neither does India, because that would create a failed state awash in conventional weapons—

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LANDAY: -- where there are fundamentalists, and where their nuclear arsenal would no longer be secure. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Steve on that, two points that you raise there, Jonathan. 

One is the question of al Qaeda and the Taliban.  We went over there.  We cut the deal.  General Powell went over there as secretary of state, got the Pakistanis help us go to war with the Taliban, get rid of that whole situation in Afghanistan.  That was the whole foundation of Bush policy.  And it seemed to be working to some extent, and it was popular in our country. 

Is that now gone asunder?  Is the whole strategy of using Pakistan to basically trap al Qaeda and destroy Taliban worthless now? 

STEVEN CLEMONS, SENIOR FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION:  I think it‘s ending. 

I think—you know, Chris, I interviewed a former ISI intelligence chief in Pakistan, who said, “Steve, it‘s very hard for me to overstate the enthusiasm for which Pakistani generals have for the Taliban,” for exactly the reason Jonathan said. 

They believe that this gives them strategic depth.  So, we have the weird position where we are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are Pakistan‘s allies, at least a substantial portion of Pakistan‘s allies. 

Now, I have met General Kayani and others that are very responsible military leaders inside Pakistan, and they have fought a hard fight, but not as hard as we‘d like them to, against the Pakistan Taliban, and not closed down safe havens and pockets where insurgents are moving between these two borders. 

But what we see now is Pakistan that knows we can‘t abandon it.  We know—he knows—they—they know that we‘re stuck with this situation. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

CLEMONS:  And what I think they‘re trying to do is basically extract more resources from us and find a choke hold with us to threaten us with what we really—we can‘t conduct this war without those CIA operatives there. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, let‘s talk about General Petraeus over there, nobly over there fighting, leading our forces in Afghanistan right now in what looks like a very intractable war.  It looks like war of attrition at some point. 

Can he win this war, gentlemen, starting with you, Jon?  This is my main point tonight.  Can we win the war in Afghanistan if our ally over there in that region, Pakistan, is really on the other side, and is more afraid of Karzai, as an Indian agent, than they are afraid of the Taliban or al Qaeda?  Are we in the wrong league over there?

LANDAY:  Two things, Chris.  Militarily, there‘s no way the Taliban can win as long as we are there.  But what this administration is suffering from and what the Bush administration was suffering from is they have absolutely—as far as I can tell—no political plan to resolve the situation in Afghanistan.

What I want to know, we keep hearing this administration, we heard the last administration talking about there‘s no military solution in Afghanistan.  Well, if there‘s a political solution, we haven‘t heard what it is.  How are you going to reconcile the Taliban who don‘t believe in democracy, who believe in having this spiritual leader that runs the country, how are you going to integrate that with the idea of this sort of quasi-democracy, which is a quasi-parliamentary democracy?

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LANDAY:  How do you get the Taliban to participate in elections, for instance?

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got 90,000 American troops, men and women, and their parents back at home and loved ones back at home rooting for them to get out of there at some point alive and not dismembered.  Steve, that‘s the question.  What kind of a front are we on when it‘s that soft that, no matter what we do, the country that we‘re using as our ally over there is really on the other side?

CLEMONS:  We‘re in a quagmire.  We‘re in a place where we‘ve become stuck, and this has become a constraint on American power.  This is not an example where we‘re leveraging American power.

The neighborhood of Turkey, Iran, China, see America as a constrained militarily overstretched player in this, and this is only contributing to the sense that America is more impotent in the rest of the world than I think we otherwise could be.  So, I think it‘s a big problem.

MATTHEWS:  On that point, I only have a couple of minutes.

CLEMONS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  On that point, President Obama—for whatever reason a couple of weeks back, it‘s stretching now to a couple of months back, it seems, -- said we‘re going to get rid of Gadhafi.  It looks to me like we‘ve given Gadhafi nowhere to go.  This isn‘t like Hitler in 1945 where you say unconditional surrender and take the red army from one side and our side on the western front and going in and finally getting to the bunker.

Do we have any plan of getting that guy out of that country or getting him killed or what is our strategy?  I can‘t figure it out.  You first, Steve.

CLEMONS:  Well, I think, right now, as long as this goes on, if we basically settle down with a stalemate or something that looks like an enduring civil war, then you will see other countries do what we did with China after Tiananmen.  Brent Scowcroft went over and begin to pivot the U.S./China relationship after that nightmare in a different direction.  Brazil, Turkey, India are all going to be countries that go back to Gadhafi and say, you know, let‘s begin doing deals again.

So, we‘re not going to be able to maintain an international consensus in my view against Gadhafi.  And when President Obama said this would be days, not weeks.  Now, it‘s looking like weeks.  Maybe he can say, we hope it‘s not months.  But I bet it begins to look like months, if not years if something doesn‘t happen.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Jon, I still don‘t know where he‘s supposed to go.  I mean, are we out to kill this guy?  Is that we‘re going to do?  We expect Saif, his son to kill?  What are we talking about?  We don‘t have a plan.

I‘m sorry, out of time.  Somebody has got to come back and show me our plan to get rid of this guy.

Thank you, Jonathan Landay of “McClatchy,” and Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation.

Up next: The left considers President Obama, some of them, to be a conceder-in-chief.  They don‘t like the deals he struck.  Maybe they don‘t like (ph) deals.

Well, this is HARDBALL.  We‘re going to talk about HARDBALL deals.

Coming back, some on the left are ticked at the president for some of these comprises that he made this week again—only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, today is April 12th, but it‘s a big day in history.  Just to mention a few events that happened on April 12th, it was 150 years ago the Civil War started at Fort Sumter.  FDR died in 1945 on this day.  Bill Haley recorded “Rock Around the Clock” back in ‘54 on this day.  And Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight in 1961 today.  And the first shuttle was launched into space on, you guessed it, April 12th, 1981.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There are some angry people out there on the left.  You don‘t hear always from them but they‘re there, who consider President Obama‘s latest budget deal this weekend another in a string of disappointments.  They‘re mad that he didn‘t close Gitmo—sorry—that he didn‘t end the Bush tax cuts, that health reform didn‘t have a public option.

Here are a couple of reactions to the budget deal this weekend.  “New York Times” columnist Paul Krugman wrote, quote, “Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn‘t seem to stand for anything in particular?”  And former labor secretary for President Clinton, Robert Reich, wrote, “The right held the U.S. hostage and O—that‘s Obama—paid most of the ransom—inviting more hostage-taking.  Next is raising debt ceiling.”

Well, Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics.com and MSNBC contributor as well, and Joan Walsh is editor at large of “Salon.”

Thank you both for joining us.  It‘s great to have you.

Joan, you start.  Is this a loud noise on the left?  I mean, I consider it the most progressive president I‘ve ever had in my lifetime, maybe the most progressive we‘ll ever have, but I understand the particulars.  Is there a drum roll out there against him, a name where the fighting is coming from?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I don‘t think there‘s a drum roll against him. 

I think that there‘s concern, as you say, that he concedes too early and

often, Chris.  But, you know, if you look at the poll numbers and we should

--

           

MATTHEWS:  It was 11:00 Friday night he conceded.

WALSH:  Well, he set himself up to concede a little bit more than some people would have liked.  But, you know, I just want to say in terms of the base, you can‘t talk about a base, you have to break it down.  African-Americans still tend to be very happy with him.  His numbers dipped a little bit this week, but not much.  Latinos are happy.  Liberal white Democrats tend to be happy.

So, there‘s an amplified—a lot of people who make noise, myself included, who have criticism, and it‘s kind of our job to be critical and to look at what he‘s getting for these deals, et cetera.  But I don‘t feel that there‘s some big revolt against the president.  I think that, in some ways, there‘s too much focus on the president.

What I would like to see the left do is organize outside of presidential politics, focus on Wisconsin, focus on Ohio, focus on local races, and maybe build a constituency that the president then has to answer to—that there are votes on the left, there‘s noise on the left, there are proposals on the left.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Well said.  Let‘s see some demonstrations on the left like Martin Luther King and the civil rights demonstration—

WALSH:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  -- which pulled Kennedy and Johnson in the right direction.

Chris, I want you to respond because you know this stuff as well.  You like the numbers.  Here‘s the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.  It shows 21 percent of respondents consider themselves liberal in this country, 40 percent considers themselves moderate, 37 percent consider themselves conservatives.

So, the country doesn‘t have a huge liberal crowd or a progressive crowd.  It‘s got, I think, a pretty smart crowd of people that are very politically attentive, but they don‘t outnumber the other side.  In fact, they don‘t really match them in numbers.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Chris, one quick caveat for that.  I would say, look, liberal has become a dirty word for a lot of people.  Liberals don‘t like to use it because it has a pejorative context.  So, I actually think there‘s probably more people who would align with that way of thinking than actually say they are liberals.  Let me just—

MATTHEWS:  Really?

CILLIZZA:  Yes, I don‘t think

MATTHEWS:  Do you know any liberals that like being—do you know any liberals that don‘t like being liberals?  I don‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  I would say they don‘t often like—they will say progressive because they believe the Republican Party has taken the word liberal and turned it—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, OK.  Here we go.  Here we go.  You‘re going to give me a chance for one of my well-known Jackie Gleason imitation—and they criticize the president for giving away what they believe in.  They are ashamed to say what they are and they criticize him.  Call yourself a liberal and then start other people to hold the line.  Don‘t say I‘m giving away my identity, and then, of course, I want to fight hard for it.

Joan, you don‘t mind calling yourself a liberal?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  No, I call myself a liberal, I‘m a proud liberal.  I come at this a little bit—let me try to help Chris say that a little bit differently.  I think there are people who are proud to consider themselves independent or moderate, but, you know, what you see when you look at polls, Chris, and you and I have sat here for years now looking at these polls, people tend to support Democratic liberal positions.  People wanted those tax cuts for the wealthy repealed, 60 percent to 70 percent of people—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WALSH:  -- wanted that position.  That‘s liberal position.  Whether you frame it that way or identify yourself as that.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re so right.

Chris, follow that point.  I think Joan‘s made a brilliant point here. 

If you say you‘re for equal rights for gay couples—

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- you might also say you consider yourself a moderate.  If you believe in gun control, you might say I‘m a moderate, I‘m for gun control, I‘m for equal rights for other people.  But, you know, I may take those position and I think NPR is a pretty good option to listen to on the radio when I‘m driving around.

But if you‘re a conservative, you don‘t like any of the things I just mentioned, and you‘re proud to say conservative.  Maybe the moderate does include people who think they are mainstream, reasonable people who happen to think they don‘t like conservatives.

CILLIZZA:  That would be—that would be my broad point, Chris, just to get back to Joan‘s original point, which I totally agree with about the drumbeat.  It is—it is a political truism that you don‘t beat something with nothing.  Chris, you know this better than I do.  I think part of the problem here is even if there was a bigger drumbeat, I‘m not sure there is because polling suggests most people who do identify as liberals still support the president, there‘s no person for them to rally around.

You know, we heard talk a—

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

CILLIZZA:  -- few months, is the president going to get primaried. 

He‘s not going to get any primaried.  There‘s not anyone who was kind of—

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no Ted Kennedy.

CILLIZZA:  -- to pour their hopes and dream into.  You know, right, the Kennedy figure.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  To make your point, Chris, exactly, you know these numbers well.  Here it is: 83 percent of Democrats approve of the president‘s behavior.

But let‘s not let him off the hook completely.  Joan, what bothers you as a progressive, as a liberal, that he‘s really let you down on—maybe it was the public option, but more recently, let‘s get this year.  What bothers you?  Was it Gitmo, they finally gave away and said we‘re going to have criminal—we‘re going to have military tribunals or what?  What bothers you?

WALSH:  I would say waiting and waiting on the tax cuts, and in the end, being forced, in his words, to break that campaign promise.

Chris, you know, the issue to me right now is that the top 1 percent in our country have 40 percent of the wealth.  They are seceding from our country.  They go to—they go to private schools.  They live in gated communities.

MATTHEWS:  Cashing out.

WALSH:  And you can‘t have that.  And there has not been—you said it best: we were not handed the Great Society.  We were not handed the New Deal.  We had strikes, we had protests, we had civil disobedience to get those things.  And without more of that, we‘re not going to make Obama be the liberal that I believe he is.

CILLIZZA:  And, Chris, I would—Chris, I would point out -- 

MATTHEWS:  Jon Stewart and Colbert put together a pretty good rally and Ed Schultz did.  But there aren‘t a whole lot of rallies lately on the left.

WALSH:  I‘m not sure they hold rallies, either.  I think what people are doing in Wisconsin to recall folks.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We got to go.

WALSH:  OK.

CILLIZZA:  Chris, watch that speech tomorrow, I would say.  See what he says about taxes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be covering it.

CILLIZZA:  That‘s absolutely critical.

MATTHEWS:  Chris, thank you.  We will be covering it.

CILLIZZA:  I know we got to go.

MATTHEWS:  Chris Cillizza, thank you, buddy.  Thank you, Joan Walsh.

When we return, the significance of the events that changed this country 150 years ago today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the civil war that started 150 years ago today.

It must have been something for those officers who fought in that war.

Ulysses S. Grant had been drummed out of the army several years before Fort Sumter.  He‘d been stationed out in the far west, away from his family, where he had developed a bad drinking problem.  His father, who had some political pull, tried getting him reinstated.  Well, the secretary of war at the time refused the appeal.  The secretary of war‘s name was Jefferson Davis.

When Grant got to New York—on his way back home from the West Coast

he had to go around the horn, of course, he called up an old classmate, Simon Buckner, who stood up for him at his wedding and pleaded with him for some money to get a hotel room and then eventually get home to Illinois.

           

Well, Buckner was—turned out to be—the commanding officer who he defeated—General Grant did—in the first big northern victory in the civil war, at Fort Donelson.

Those officers were so entangled back then, personally.  They‘d all gone to school together at West Point.  They knew each other as people, as individual classmates—you know, with all the things that we remember from classmates.

And then, they had to fight each other.  Some went south to fight, some went north.  Buckner had been working in Illinois.  General Sherman had been teaching at a military institute in Louisiana just before the war.

In 1861, starting today, 150 years ago, they went to war with each other—in a war where men stood within plain sight of each other across open fields and shot at each other‘s hearts.  They didn‘t have to be good shots in those days because without penicillin and with tetanus, a bullet wound of any kind was often lethal.

In 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse, when the war began to end, Grant spotted another classmate, James Longstreet across the room.

Imagine what those days were like—these American officers fighting each other, then attempting to rebuild relationships after the horror.  Well, the result of that war was one real fact: the end of American slavery.

There were 4 million human beings held in slavery at war‘s end.  Four million people.  That‘s a lot of human tragedy when you think about it, fathers having to watch as their daughters got treated the way the owners felt like treating them.  Parents having their children, you know, up for sale by their owners the minute they were born.

It was not—it was claimed, a war about slavery but, of course, it was.  Before the war was constitutional to have slavery in this country; afterward, it wasn‘t.

A significant result—but at what a price, a war when even classmates went to war with each other.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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