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updated 5/6/2011 3:24:38 PM ET 2011-05-06T19:24:38

Guests: Howard Fineman, Mark Halperin, Hampton Pearson, Richard Wolffe, Talat Hamdani, Alice Hoagland, Peter King, Charlie Rangel, Errol Louis

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Scene of the crime.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight, the president at Ground Zero.  The last time we saw a president at Ground Zero was George W. Bush‘s strong leadership that Friday afterwards.  Today‘s appearance by President Obama was very different.  This was a more sober, more reflective visit in the wake not of tragedy but success. 

But like Bush‘s visit, this one came at a transformative moment for the president, a wrinkle, if you will, in time when we reassess our view of our president—in this case, from a cold college professor to a leader capable of making, let‘s face it, a cold-blooded decision.  President Obama at Ground Zero—it tops our show tonight.

Plus, 10 years later, doing what the country said it would, catching the bad guy.  We‘ll talk to some of the 9/11 family members who met with the president today quietly and see what they think about it all.

Also, isn‘t it time we rethink our relationship—duh! -- with Pakistan?  Did they harbor bin Laden, or were they just too incompetent to know they were harboring him?  Either way, how can we possibly trust that country?  Let‘s learn from this.

And it‘s what we‘re calling it, the “replacements debate.”  Remember the NFL when they ran their replacements onto the field?  Yes, you‘re forgiven if you don‘t know the first Republican debate is tonight.  How exactly are tonight‘s no-name candidates going to attack a president who just did something like, well, catch Osama bin Laden?

And Will Ferrell has rediscovered his inner George W. just in time for bin Laden‘s demise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR:  I‘ve personally overseen a strategic and covert operation that killed the gopher who‘s been tearing up my back yard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the “Sideshow”—there it is—returns tonight. 

We‘re in the mood again.

We start with President Obama‘s visit to Ground Zero today.  “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin joins us.  He‘s MSNBC‘s political—senior political analyst.  And the Huffington Post‘s senior political editor, Howard Fineman, is an MSNBC political analyst, as well.

Gentlemen, it‘s great to have you on.  I want you to watch the president.  Here he is today with New York—wow, the firefighters.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What happened on Sunday because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence sent a message around the world but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.  And our commitment to making sure that justice was done is something that transcended politics, transcended party.  It didn‘t matter which administration was (INAUDIBLE) didn‘t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act—that they would see justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a great day, Mark Halperin, to pay tribute to public servants, people that don‘t have—you know, they don‘t carry their politics on their sleeves, people like those firefighters that ran up the steps when everybody else was running down that day 10 years ago, and now people who ran up another set of steps way over in Pakistan in the dark with goggles on, not knowing what they were going to face.  What do you think?  What a day.

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME,” MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, the president in his remarks today at the firehouse connected quite explicitly the two things you just connected, the people who keep us safe here at home and sacrificed not just on September 11, but as the president said, every day since then, not just in New York but around the country, and then, of course, the military overseas.

And it shows from the point of view of someone like the president, who believes in an activist government, that there are certain problems that only the government can do, and in the case of the American military, American intelligence, a world-class organizations that can get things done on behalf of all the American people.  It‘s great for the president in terms of performance and it‘s great for him in terms of his vision, of the country and America‘s role in the world.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, I know, I spoke at the Friendly Sons (ph) dinner that month—that March afterwards.  You know, some of those guys were Irish guys, but they came from every background in New York, 250-some guys were killed.  I mean, that would be a holocaust in itself, almost, 250 firefighters killed in a couple of hours.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  And I think this is a chance, more than the politics, more than the vision of government, for the president to try to connect on an emotional level with those people.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes.  They look happy there.

FINEMAN:  I think they were happy to see him.  I think they were happy to see him not only as a president but as a person because this was a moment where everybody‘s emotions were unpacked again.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

FINEMAN:  And for him to share that moment with them emotionally I think meant a lot to them, and therefore, to millions of people around the country, who identify not so much with Barack Obama necessarily, but with those guys who ran up the stairs.

MATTHEWS:  So much so.  Let‘s look at the numbers.  I‘m a believer in numbers, although I think we‘re still a little shell-shocked by the good news, guys.  But Mark, you know the numbers pretty well, and Howard, as well.  Fifty percent of this country says bin Laden‘s killing brings them some closure on 9/11.  That‘s ephemeral.  Hard to read that one.  “The New York Times”/CBS poll also found that 62 percent think that the killing of bin Laden increases short-term terror threats to the U.S.  Boy, I love that thinking.  And the country is split when it comes to long-term terror threats, whether it does it or not.  I think that‘s a hard one to read.

Howard, you first.  It‘s got to make us—because we‘re now in a Middle East environment, whether we like it or not—

FINEMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  -- where a lot of revenge, tribalism, You got us, we‘ll get you back, symbolism—people are thinking like that as American—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I think that number, Chris, is the sad product of a decade of experience.  I think our role in the world, our view of the world, our place in the world changed after 9/11.  And you‘re right, it is sort of a Middle East environment, an almost biblical, Old Testament environment.

MATTHEWS:  You killed my father.  Eye for an eye.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  And I think the American people understand that.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  They‘re more realistic now.  Even if you leave the Middle East out of the equation, the American people are much more aware than they were a decade ago of all the dangers, of all the decisions that have been made about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about Libya, about the calculations of terrorism, and so forth.  We‘re a much more sadly sophisticated people about this than we were a decade ago.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think, Mark, that‘s—I mean, Israel‘s stuck over there in the Middle East.  They have to think like this.  We have to think like this now.  What do you make of that number?  I‘m always impressed, as we all are, I think, by poll numbers that are stark, 62 to 5 we‘re facing short-term danger here.

HALPERIN:  Well, I‘m not sure that the people in the 62 percent are

right, but I think, as Howard suggested, Americans are now being reminded -

it‘s almost like—it‘s almost like—between September 11, 2001, and Sunday night, it‘s almost like people were kind of in a stunned state of suspended animation, and this cathartic experience, I think, has gotten people pleased and in some sense happy, but also now, we‘re being reminded of the events of September 11, 2001, and what could happen next.

But again, I think—I think—I‘m not sure that that‘s the right analysis of where we are in the world right now because I don‘t think bin Laden necessarily had a place at the time of his death that‘s going to inspire—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HALPERIN:  -- the kind of attacks that people worry about.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if we‘re thinking about, you know, mad dogs, individuals, mavericks maybe.  You know, I have to tell you, this whole week, it reminds me the sun‘ll come out tomorrow, you know, Oliver. (SIC)  And I‘m thinking this week, the weather‘s been great.  It‘s been gorgeous weather, 70-some degrees.  It seems perfect here in the East.

Here‘s President Obama with—and by the way, those young girls today, the three of them, weren‘t they great, the one that wrote the president and her friends and sister?  Let‘s look at the president.  Here he is at the police station.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And I know I speak for the military teams and intelligence teams that helped get bin Laden in saying that you know the sacrifices and courage that you show, as well, and that you are a part of the team that helped us achieve our goal but also help us keep our citizens safe each and every day.  So I couldn‘t be prouder of all of you.  I couldn‘t be more grateful to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Such a New York moment, but a national moment.  Mark, do you live up in New York or down here?  You live in New York, right?

HALPERIN:  I do, five miles from Ground Zero.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about Rudy Giuliani and his prominence back then and his sort of fate (ph) sense.  And what‘s that about?  Is that because he‘s in the wrong political party, to put it bluntly?  What would you say is the reason?  There he was in the background.  We were—Howard reminded me of him there.

HALPERIN:  Well, he‘s a great figure, a great mayor in many ways before 9/11, and 9/11 became “America‘s mayor.”  And as I used to say when he was running for president, as one of his aides said to me when he was running for president, he could walk in any bar in America and get a standing ovation.  And that made him seem like a powerful figure.

And it turned out that on other issues untethered from 9/11, at least within the Republican Party, he was not seen as a great savior, although he was the front-runner for a long time.

Chris, can I say something about the young girls you mentioned?

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

HALPERIN:  And this goes back to New York.  You know, in New York, we see a lot more, through personal connections and our local media, of the families of the victims.  They‘re just a huge part of New York and New Jersey and Connecticut life now.

I‘d say that the president—this is not great insight into him for most people, but he loves his daughters.  And when there‘s an emotional event that involves young girls around his daughters‘ age, it‘s clear it brings out the best in him as a performer and it‘s clear it affects him and impacts him.  You saw it in his speech in Tucson—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HALPERIN:  -- with Christina Taylor-Green and his focus on her as much as—more than Gabby Giffords in his remarks there.  And you saw it in him today.  I mean, the body language was manifest.  When he was with those young girls, he clearly was touched and moved and shows that—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

HALPERIN:  -- and really makes him a better evincer (ph) in chief when he has that kind of inspiration.

MATTHEWS:  Mark, that‘s great.  I‘m so glad you said it.  Howard and I

are friends, so I was talking before (INAUDIBLE) about our kids.  And my

daughter called from Penn, and It‘s a big deal for kids in their early 20s

--

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  This is something I realize because 10 years ago, my daughter was 20- 13 years old, in middle school here in D.C., and my son was in lower school.  And they were physically afraid.  Don‘t forget the Pentagon was attacked, too.  And I raced down to the office in time to be able to see the smoke rising from the Pentagon.

The kids were hustled off the playgrounds.  They were told to stay inside.  The windows were drawn.  They were put behind closed doors in classrooms.  And I think they—that was a formative experience for that generation of kids who are around college age now, in college, just out of college.

So that‘s why you saw here in Washington kids from George Washington University and American University and Georgetown here in the city, racing down to Lafayette Park in joy to express some kind of—

MATTHEWS:  Next to the White House.

FINEMAN:  -- next to the White House—some sense of liberation about this, even though other kids, whether they went or not, were thinking to themselves—this is according to my daughter, who‘s a journalist now—you know, Do we really want to be jumping up and down and cheering here?

MATTHEWS:  She was very—

FINEMAN:  Do we want to do that?

MATTHEWS:  -- circumspect.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Are we lowering ourselves to the level of the people we were fighting?  We need to be careful.

HALPERIN:  Chris—

FINEMAN:  So it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  So well said.

FINEMAN:  -- a very deep emotional thing for that generation—

MATTHEWS:  Just remember—

FINEMAN:  -- that generation of kids.

MATTHEWS:  So circumspect for your smart daughter, Meredith (ph), because just remember how we watched kids in the Middle East when 9/11 was hit—

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- different reactions in different countries.

FINEMAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  We were very aware, and we had an attitude towards that.

HALPERIN:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Thank God.  So—thank you—Mark, last thought. 

Quickly.  I‘m sorry.

HALPERIN:  For generations, we studied what the cold war did to the mentality particularly of young people growing up.  We don‘t have enough studies now of what it‘s done, but it‘s clear all of us see anecdotally in our lives young people were really affected by this.  We were attacked here at home.  That never happened during the cold war.  It‘s got to have a big impact—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HALPERIN:  -- we need to keep teasing that out.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad we weren‘t attacked because all I was hiding under was a balsawood desk—

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN:  “Duck and cover.”

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think that would have helped too much.  Anyway—she did her best.  Anyway, thank you.  It‘s great to have daddies around here.  Thank you, Mark Halperin, and thank you, Howard Fineman.

Coming up: The president met with families of 9/11 victims today up in New York.  There was a quite meeting inside, but we do have someone who was there, the family of Salman Hamdani, a police cadet killed in the World Trade Center and remembered so emotionally by U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA:  Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans!  His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mr. Hamdani‘s mother is going to join us here, the police cadets‘ mother, when we return, along with the mother of a passenger who died in that, well, courageous flight 93 over Pennsylvania.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow, President Obama is going to go to Ft. Campbell down in Kentucky to address the troops and actually meet the members of the SEAL team, the ones that killed Osama bin Laden.  That‘s going to be a big story.  That‘s going to be on Sunday.  The president will also pay tribute to the 1st Brigade combat team from the 101st Airborne.  They‘re returning from Afghanistan after a one-year deployment there.  Great people.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As we said before, today President Obama met family members of those who died on September 11 10 years ago.  Talat Hamdani lost her son that day, and earlier she met with the president.  As she showed—as we showed you before the break, her son was praised in emotional congressional testimonial back in March of this year.  Here‘s more of Congressman Keith Ellison at a hearing about the possible radicalization of American Muslims, a hearing whose premise—whose very premise—he opposed.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLISON:  Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try to help others on 9/11.  After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith.  Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers because he was a Muslim.  But it was only when his remains were identified that these lies were exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Boy, you don‘t see that much in Congress.  Anyway, Talat Hamdani is a member of the September 11 Families for Peace Tomorrows—

Peaceful Tomorrows.  Also joining us is Alice Hoagland, whose son, Mark Bingham, was a passenger on United Airlines 93.  He and fellow passengers stormed the cockpit and tried to take that plane down, kept it—get it back from the hijackers before it crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Many believe that that action kept it from reaching the Capitol.

I want to go to Talat and talk about your feelings about today, this week, the last 10 years.  Your feelings, Talat.

TALAT HAMDANI, SON DIED ON 9/11:  Today was a fitting tribute for President Obama to come down and visit the memorial and invite 9/11 family members who had lost their loved ones.  I lost my son.  And it was a very emotional moment, a very healing moment, I should say, to know that my country, my president is there for me.  It took 10 years, but I was very—you know, it was a very healing moment.

And the past 10 years have been a very uphill battle.  Salman was—there was a malignment against his character when it happened, 9/11 happened, and we had to fight to clear his name.  And at the testimony, Keith Ellison testified on behalf of my son.  I was so proud, vindicated.

And today, after meeting President Obama, my hope is as a member of September 11 Peaceful Tomorrows that now we need to look to the future.  We need to bring in peace, usher in a peaceful era and get out of revenge and violence.  We need to restore our rule of law.  We need to close down Guantanamo Bay.  And I hope the anti-Muslim sentiment that has overtaken our nation comes to an end.  We are one nation, and need to come together and heal as a nation and move forward in unity.

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that‘s well said.  Thank you.  Let me go to Alice.  Alice, thank you for joining us.  I‘m a little caught up in this.  Alice, thank you so much.  Your son—

ALICE HOAGLAND, SON DIED ON 9/11:  You‘re welcome, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, that was the one thing that day that everybody said, you know, when the plane that got the word in time to react, the only people that knew what was going on in time to do anything about it, and your son was one of them.  What‘s today mean to you?  What‘s this week mean to you?

HOAGLAND:  Oh, it means a great deal, Chris. 

It‘s such a joy to be able to watch President Obama reach out and touch and look into the faces of those beautiful New Yorkers and share their grief with them. 

My heart goes out to Mrs. Hamdani.  I know how it is to lose a son.  And it‘s—it‘s dreadful and it‘s tragic and nothing can stop it, although I have to say that I do support Representative Pete King in his effort to deal with the radical Islamization in America.  And I am delighted—

HAMDANI:  We need to talk about that. 

HOAGLAND:  I‘m delighted that President Obama points out that this day and this act transcends—transcends political party, absolutely. 

Our dogmas can be set aside, because we can rejoice, as Americans, that an ugly, vicious terrorist has been put to rest. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to Talat. 

Talat, you know, this whole thing has really ripped a scab off a lot of ethnic problems in this country.  And I just want you to know I think our two presidents have done a very good job of distinguishing between a religion that is shared by a billion people in this world and evil. 

Do you think so, both presidents, W. and Obama?  What‘s your feeling about that, your experience about that?

HAMDANI:  Yes, I agree.  President Bush also said on the day that, you know, we are not against Islam.  And so does President Obama.

And we do need—there are evil people in all faiths, all religions, all ethnicities.  And it‘s not right to hold American Muslims responsible.  We did not kill.  Our people died there on the—my son died there.  He went to rescue Americans.  They did not ask for the race, faith or ethnicity. 

And what Peter King tried to do is wrong.  He‘s trying to divide the nation, segregate the nation along a racist divide.  There are Timothy McVeighs.  There are people who are of all different religions who are committing crimes.  I‘m not going to hold responsible all the other Christians for Timothy McVeigh‘s actions.  So—

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of the—can you—did the president seemed to know you today, Talat?  Did he talk to you personally, or just as a group? 

HAMDANI:  Yes.  He—no, he went to everybody personally.  That was so good.  That was the healing moment.  He came.  He was there to share our pain. 

I said, “Salaam alaikum.”  He responded, “Alaikum salaam.”  I was so happy.  And he asked me, who did you lose?  I said my son Salman.  I told him about Salman, that he was 23 years old.  He was a “Star Wars” fan.  He‘s got (INAUDIBLE) young Jedi. 

And my son—younger son Dishal (ph) was with me.  And there were tears, you know, but it was—he exudes calmness.  He—it was a very emotional moment, but it was a moment of happiness.  And the celebration was that we are a resilient nation.  We are rebounding back.  All—me and my two boys, we are moving again in life. 

MATTHEWS:  Alice, your feelings about this, because they seem to be different.

And I—I wonder, do you know something about Islamic people in the United States that concerns you, people who live here or have immigrated here over the years? 

HOAGLAND:  Well, first—

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  I have not met anybody.  I have been to many mosques.  I have been—I know—I‘m a member of many different organizations, Islamic organizations. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HAMDANI:  If there was a single person who was really radicalized in a mosque, Peter King would have him—you know, he would have identified him. 

There is nobody there.  There is nobody there.  And I‘m very—you know, I‘m going to say it.  Peter King is using this for his political agenda to pander to his base, at the cost of American Muslims.  And this is immoral. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let me ask you, Alice, do you have any reason to disagree with that or to agree that there ‘s—believe there‘s a problem that she didn‘t recognize there? 

HOAGLAND:  Well, much as I do not want to offend or disagree with Mrs.

Hamdani, because we have so much in common, yes, clearly.

I support Representative King.  And I—I echo President Obama‘s point that this action transcends political party.  But I do believe that what we need to do is continue to focus on the specter of radical terrorism in the United States especially, but also abroad.  And we—

MATTHEWS:  Where do you see it?  Where—I mean, I‘m looking for evidence as—as—you know, Talat just said, if he knew of a person who was an American or lives in America with a green card who‘s really become an American or is becoming one who has been radicalized, he didn‘t know one.  That‘s why they had to hold a hearing. 

HOAGLAND:  Well, all right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you know one?  Do you know one? 

HOAGLAND:  Yes, I do.  I was—I was told that there was a mosque in Connecticut that was cheering on the afternoon of 9/11.  These are things that I do not enjoy hearing or that I support.

MATTHEWS:  Who told you that?  Who told you that?  I‘m sorry.  Where did you hear that?

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  Another 9/11 family member when we were in Washington, D.C., recently. 

To—to walk Capitol Hill—

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  The question is, do you know anyone who was a terrorist trained over—in a mosque in here?  That was the question, not what happened 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, when you only—Alice, in all fairness, if you only heard one story, and it‘s hearsay, if that‘s all—

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  That is not true.

MATTHEWS:  Well, go ahead.  You have heard more?

HOAGLAND:  Yes. 

There are.  Here in California, there are radicalized people who have

who take to the Internet and attack 9/11 family members.  I have been a victim of that myself. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  -- they attack Muslims also. 

HOAGLAND:  I didn‘t expect this—

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  I got very bad e-mails, nasty e-mails, hatred e-mails, you know?

HOAGLAND:  So do I.  So do I. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  -- Muslims.

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  So do I.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  My heart goes out to you, Mrs. Hamdani.  This is—I feel

--

HAMDANI:  And in—you know, in California, there was—in county, you know, (INAUDIBLE) county, Muslims are told, go home, and they were raising funds for the poor. 

HOAGLAND:  I wish that Muslims would be more vocal and more vociferous in their—in their—in their complete renunciation of terrorism.

HAMDANI:  We are.  We‘re on the front lines.  We are.

(CROSSTALK)

HAMDANI:  It‘s been 10 years.  How long do you want us to go on?

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  I don‘t see it. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  I am astounded by the deafening silence that I hear from the Muslim community in the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOAGLAND:  The fact that you are a member of a religion who has—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, one at a time.  One at a time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Just a second. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Just a second.  Thank you.  Just a minute. 

I heard both of your views.  Thank you so much for being on tonight. 

I‘m sorry about this loss to both of you. 

HOAGLAND:  Thank you. 

HAMDANI:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And you do share it.  And you do share the loss. 

HOAGLAND:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Talat Hamdani, thank you for coming on.

And, Alice Hoagland, thank you. 

HAMDANI:  Thank you. 

HOAGLAND:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Remember the picture of Hillary Clinton inside the Situation Room as the president and his team watched the operation that killed bin Laden?  Well, coming up, her description of what was going on then. 

We will be right back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.

Now for the “Sideshow.” 

First up: a dramatic retelling.  This Situation Room photo is perhaps the most iconic image, I think, of the mission to kill bin Laden so far.  But is it what it seems?

Hillary Clinton said today the look on her face, most people assume was shock, could have been something else altogether.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Those were the -- 38 of the most intense minutes.  I have no idea what any of us were looking at, at that particular millisecond, when the picture was taken. 

I‘m somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs.  So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, anyway, look, I guess I understand why the secretary said what she just said there.  But my guess and, my God, what‘s wrong with having a decent reaction to a horrific picture?  People are killing people.  I prefer humanity.  And that‘s all I‘m going to say on this.

Next, George W. can‘t catch a break.  First President Obama got the guy he would get.  Then Will Ferrell rubbed it pretty hard with this—rubbed it in pretty hard with this send-up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR:  Good evening.  Tonight, as of 1400 hours military time, I can report to America, the world, and the folks here at this Sizzler steak house on Canyon Ranch Road right outside of my gate-guarded community here in Dallas, Texas, where I also frequently eat lunch, that I have personally oversee a strategic and covert operation that killed the gopher who has been tearing up my backyard. 

A reliable source, my gardener, Helberto Dimendio, identified a head gopher, who I named Ardilla.  Today, at my direction, Helberto Dimendio, my gardener/guy who helps me get down from my horse Chocolate Thunder went in and rooted out the gopher while I watched through the blinds of my second kitchen. 

So, I repeat, Ardilla the gopher is dead. 

God bless America, and God bless this Sizzler, although it would be better if this Sizzler had a taco bar.  Some of them do. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sir, they have killed Osama bin Laden. 

FERRELL:  They got bin Laden?  Well, that‘s two good things. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  There also is a taco bar here. 

FERRELL:  There‘s a taco bar here?  That‘s three good things.  This is a great day for America.  How did I miss it?  Show me where it is. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s right this way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will Ferrell has got something about Bush, doesn‘t he?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is it the swagger?  Is it being out of it?  I think it‘s a combination, the swaggering out-of-it-guy.  He‘s got him. 

Anyway, up next, is it time to reconsider our relationship with Pakistan?  Well, maybe.  Bin Laden was living among their retired generals, and they either kept his whereabouts from us or were too incompetent to even notice he was there.  Can we trust them.  Well, you decide.  We will report. 

You watch—well, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A dramatic sell-off, with commodities still in freefall.  The Dow Jones industrials tumbled 139 points.  The S&P 500 fell 12, the Nasdaq down 13 points. 

This was a broad-based sell-off amid an avalanche of business news.  Investors were unwinding commodities as the dollar rallied.  We had mixed retail results and, of course, more corporate earnings, all of this ahead of tomorrow‘s crucial April jobs report.  Take a look at hard commodities.  Silver prices down another 11 percent today, gold prices plunging nearly $42 an ounce, and oil prices falling more than 10 bucks a barrel.  That was bad news for producers, like U.S. Steel and Freeport McMoRan, but a plunging oil price fed big gains for corporate consumers like airlines and cruise lines. 

And of course we‘re still in the thick of earnings season.  Today was GM, Visa, Electronic Arts, CVS, Priceline, Kraft, and the telecoms, JDS Uniphase, all beating expectations. 

That‘s it from CNBC—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Obama administration and members of Congress are questioning whether Pakistan was playing a double game with U.S., the United States, protecting bin Laden while taking billions in U.S. military aid.  But Pakistani officials themselves don‘t seem to be too concerned that the most wanted terrorist on the planet was living openly in their country.  They‘re more outraged, believe it or not, that the U.S. carried out this mission without notifying them. 

Is it time we rethink our relationship with Pakistan? 

I spoke to Republican Congressman Pete King earlier today.  I should point out that was before we did the interview with the 9/11 families.  King chairs, as we all know, the Homeland Security Committee and was at Ground Zero with the president today. 

I began by asking him about the president‘s decision not to release the photos of the deceased bin Laden. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Mr. King, thanks for joining us. 

I guess there are so many hot issues coming out of this I guess you would have to call it event in American history, the capture—or, actually, the killing of Osama bin Laden. 

Do you think, after a couple of days‘ reflection, we should release those pictures of him after he‘s been shot dead? 

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Chris, I thought we should.  It was a close call. 

I have not seen the picture.  People who have seen it have told me that it‘s not that ghoulish.  And to put down conspiracy theories and also to make the point emphatically that he‘s dead, I thought we should. 

But I‘m not going to disagree with the president.  He has an awful lot to consider here.  My understanding is, a number of his military advisers asked him not to, because they thought it could have repercussions. 

So, while I think we should, he‘s the president.  I‘m not.  And this is certainly a very reasonable call on his part, so I‘m not going to object or oppose it in any way. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is the potential for actually reckless people out there, not a member of Congress, but a reckless person out there to take that picture, create some sort of virtual, you know, desecration, something that would arouse people around the billion world—billion-person Arab world, Islamic world?  Are you concerned about that? 

KING:  Yes.  You mean if the photo is released?  That could happen, surely.  I understand that. 

And that‘s why I said I—on balance, I thought it should have been released, but I fully understand why the president is not doing it.  And, really, as far as I‘m concerned, you know, the issue is over.  I‘m not going to say anything more about it.  I have no reason to oppose the president. 

And, again, he‘s handled this perfectly up until now.  And of all the aspects of the killing of bin Laden, to me, this is probably the least.  So, I give the president, you know, full credit for how he‘s handled this entire matter. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the danger we face in this country.  You always have to be worried about retaliation at each step.  It is tit for tat, as you know. 

Have you gotten any word from Homeland Security, or can you—or do you have any questions yourself about the possible retaliations that might be coming in the days ahead to show that there‘s still, you know, life to al Qaeda, for example?

KING:  Yes.  Chris, you know, that is a real concern.  But here‘s the thing—Al Qaeda, it‘s is very difficult for them to order a quick attack from overseas.  They usually take a lot of time for al Qaeda to prepare something from overseas.

What we‘re more concerned would be a homegrown terrorist, a lone wolf, someone who‘s already here in this country.  But I can tell you, as soon as the president let it be known that bin Laden was killed, the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces all over the country, Homeland Security—I can tell you, here in New York, Commissioner Kelly with the NYPD, out of Nassau County where I‘m from, they started ramping up immediately and they‘re looking at any possible area of trouble.  Security‘s definitely been heightened.

And right as of this moment, as far as I know and I try to stay in constant contact with this by the hour, there are no credible threats right now.

MATTHEWS:  You know, there‘s a great old New York term, it‘s a Yiddish term—chutzpah.  And I think it was exploded again the other day when the Pakistanis complained, the generals, that we had captured Osama bin Laden, you know?  And they did, in fact—they didn‘t look like we were trying too hard.

What is your sense of Pakistan now as a quasi-ally?  How would you square their behavior, or lack of action on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and their claim to being our ally against terrorism?

KING:  Yes, Chris.  It‘s very difficult for them to have any credibility.  Over the years, my position has been that Pakistan is strategically located.  That even though our relationship was far from perfect, it was more positive than negative for us, that it was more to our advantage to keep the relationship than not.

But I tell you, after the events of this past weekend, when we found out that bin Laden was there in this outsized—oversized mansion so close to their military academy, so close to their intelligence agency, living amongst retired military and intelligence officials, that that‘s basically who populates that area, it‘s impossible for me to believe that somebody in the Pakistani government was not aware or didn‘t facilitate it.

So, I actually met with the Pakistani chief of mission the other day and made it clear, saying as a person who wants to be a friend, that this is real crossroads.  How can they keep coming to the U.S. and asking for $3 billion a year when the most wanted terrorist in the world was living right amongst them?  It‘s impossible.  It‘s impossible for me to believe that.

So, right now, I say we‘re at a crossroads.  I don‘t want to end that relationship, but having said that, this is really the time for the president and his administration and Secretary Clinton to really put it to the Pakistanis, because I can tell you, in Congress, among very sober-minded people, serious questions are being raised.  And just by coincidence, the president has scheduled a dinner at the White House last Monday for committee chairmen and their spouses, and the whole tone around that dinner, again, from very serious players, was a real concern, a real doubt about Pakistan.

So, you know, they‘re very important strategically because of their location, because of the nuclear weapons they have and the past.  But, anyway, right now, we‘re at a crossroads.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s great to have you back on HARDBALL.

And on a lighter note, it‘s great to have you here for personal reasons because I want to remind you that we were at the little saloon in Jersey.  Remember the little saloon you started your worldwide career in?  HARDBALL.  It‘s good to have you back for the old saloon in New Jersey.

KING:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming back on.

KING:  It‘s great to be here.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee—thank you, sir.

KING:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  With us now is Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York City.  He was also at Ground Zero today, I saw him on the crowd.

Mr. Rangel, thanks for joining us

You‘re stuck with the question of dealing with Pakistan.  Are they our friend?  Do we they harbor our enemies?  Or what?

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  I really want to believe they‘re just incompetent (ph), because it doesn‘t make any sense for us to put trust and billions of dollars in a country that can‘t explain why in the devil they had no indication in all of these years that the guy was located within a stone‘s throw of their military installations.

And do, I think we have what former President Bush has said, trust but verify.  We just got to have to monitor them as we would.  You know, I‘ve been in law enforcement as a prosecutor, and sometimes, we get involved in hiring informants that can‘t be trusted.  But you‘ve got to use them, you need them, and you just have to monitor them.  That‘s all.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this controversy about releasing the photo.  I‘ve expressed my view, which is don‘t release them.  What‘s yours?  The photo of the deceased killer, Osama bin Laden.

RANGEL:  I cannot see—I don‘t see any good reason why the president should have released it.  And I have problems with people who really just want to see the gory picture.

MATTHEWS:  Me, too.

RANGEL:  And wondering what is going to make them feel good about seeing a picture where a man‘s face is half blown up.  For those people who doubt that this actually the guy, I‘m convinced that there‘s enough evidence with DNA and so many other things and witnesses, that they don‘t have to worry about whether they got the right guy.  But looking at pictures like that and having it exposed to your kids and your grandkids, I don‘t see where any good can come out of it.

MATTHEWS:   I‘m with you, sir.  Thank you so much.

RANGEL:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Charles Rangel, it‘s great to have you on, sir, as always—Congressman Charles Rangel of New York.

Up next, today‘s—well, tonight is the first Republican presidential debate.  Can you believe it?  A lot of excitement out there, is there?

Well, the reason there‘s no excitement really is the replacements‘ debate, if you will.  A lot of nobodies are getting together.  You‘re going to need a program, don‘t forget who they are.

But these are the guys who are actually running for president right now.  We‘ll see.  Can they beat the president who just got bin Laden?

We‘ll be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  For weeks before bin Laden was killed, the fringe right hounded the president about where he was born, culminating in the president releasing his long-form birth certificate, of course.  Well, it seems to have been that whatever false controversy was left. 

A new “Washington Post” poll shows the number of people who think the president was born in another country has been cut in half.  Eighty-six percent now say, these are all Americans now say the president was born here.  He‘s an American, natural born.  That‘s up over 30 points from a year ago.  Only one in 10 people now say he wasn‘t born here, down from one in five a year ago.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  What a strange show tonight.  We‘re back.

Republican candidates, at least a few of them, are lining up to take part in a debate tonight in South Carolina.  But how does the GOP take on the president who has just gotten Osama bin Laden.

Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst, and Errol Louis is host of “Inside City Hall” in New York.

Let‘s take a look at the five participating tonight.  That‘s right, five candidates who will take part tonight.  Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota; Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas; Rick Santorum, the senator from Pennsylvania; Herman Cain, the businessman and father, I should say, of Godfather Pizza; and Gary Johnson, the guy who I guess believes in legalizing marijuana.  He‘s from New Mexico, the former governor.

That is, Errol Louis, that is a strange group.  I‘m calling them the replacement teams, like in the NFL that year, the late great year when Doug Williams actually ended up winning when they all came back to play.  But these are the replacements.  They‘re not really candidates for president, are they?

ERROL LOUIS, NY1 POLITICAL ANCHOR:  Well, yes, sure they are.  I mean, they tend a little bit more ideological.  It‘s not that many times when it‘s socially acceptable to sit around and talk about the Federal Reserve or some of these other issues that they care about, but for somebody like a Ron Paul or a Rick Santorum, this is exactly the best time for them to try and influence the thinking of the Republican Party, no question about it.

MATTHEWS:  Are these like the clowns that come out in the rodeo and run around to sort of distract the horses and the bulls?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t think they‘re that popular.  The combined polling is 12 points.  All of them put together.  And Ron Paul is the frontrunner in this pack.

You know, if the idea here is for the serious candidates to sort of hold on to that gun powder and wait for the moment, they‘re actually letting the Republican brand get polluted by this stuff, because—yes, there‘s sort of clownish element to it and extremist element to it.  They are going to get some publicity, but what does it do to Republicans in general?  It will get some attention.  South Carolina is a critical state.

MATTHEW:  Here are the holdouts.  These are guys waiting their turn apparently here.  The possible candidates who won‘t be there tonight in South Carolina—here they are: Mitt Romney, clearly he‘s coming in.  Newt Gingrich, I hear he‘s coming and he‘s leaving FOX next week.  Michele Bachmann, I don‘t know.  Donald Trump, I don‘t know.  Mike Huckabee, I don‘t know.  Sarah Palin, I don‘t think so.  And Mitch Daniels, I don‘t know.

Errol, there‘s a lot of “I don‘t knows” here, not a lot of definites.

LOUIS:  That‘s right.  I mean, look, but, you know, the thing to keep in mind with this debate in particular—no Republican has gotten the nomination since 1980 who didn‘t win in South Carolina.  And so, this is—they‘re going to all be watching and they‘re going to see who gets the applause.  They might seem like fringe ideas or strange sentiments or second-tier candidates, but the ones who actually move this crowd a little bit—believe me: those front-runners you just listed, they will be taking note.

MATTHEWS:  You just said that before the show, so you and Errol agree

South Carolina is the winning ticket.

           

WOLFFE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Errol, you‘re probably a boxing fan, I am definitely a boxing fan from the old days.  A rubber match is the third match.  So, for somebody who wins in Iowa, somebody wins in New Hampshire, they‘re different people usually, right?

LOUIS:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  The deciding bout is the third bout, like a Johansson-Patterson.  Remember those fights?

LOUIS:  Yes, exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  A hundred years ago, the rubber match decides it, right?

WOLFFE:  I think in this case, yes.  I think in this case -- 

MATTHEWS:  Why does South Carolina become the kingmaker, the king of this whole thing?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s timing.  It‘s where—you know, how you‘re going to play in the Republican field for Super Tuesday.  But most of all, you can just—these people are tested against expectations.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFFE:  So, look, those of us who are there in 2000 remember how Bush took McCain down there.  And it was brutal.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Charleston is such a charming city, I don‘t know how it gets to be rough at its politics.

Thank you, Richard Wolffe.  Thank you, Errol Louis.  Short show

tonight, at this end of it.  What a great show it‘s been

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with this Republican replacement squad on display tonight.  I have some thoughts and they‘re rough.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the Republicans.  They‘re having a debate tonight—not too exciting really.

The candidates are: former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a legalize marijuana advocate; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; former senator defeated by 20 points in the last election, Rick Santorum;

Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who runs until his filing deadlines reaches him for the House; and businessman Herman Cain, the creator of Godfather Pizza.

OK.  Remember the year of the NFL players went on strike?  Recall the replacements, you know, the guys they brought in to take the place of the actual players?  Is that what‘s happening right now to the Republican this year?  They‘re fielding replacements?

Well, they got a few more on the bench that normally don‘t make the professional grade—not in this profession.

Newt Gingrich—you‘ve been to be kidding that he‘s still in public life, let along casting himself for a candidate for president.  Just remind yourself how come this guy isn‘t speaker of the House anymore.  Do yourself a favor—Google the guy.  Maybe he should Google himself before he gets in this thing.

Donald Trump—let‘s watch and see.  He‘s the guy that says he deserves credit for the birther craze.  Well, he reports, you decide.

Four years ago this year—this week, rather, I moderated a debate at the Reagan Library.  Look at the candidates back then, some real name brands in that room: America‘s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Governor Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain.

A couple things impressed me about this year‘s list, no office holders, really.  Only one hopeful in tonight‘s debate is, even serving in public office.  That‘s Ron Paul, who I‘m convinced is running to get out his message, not to actually become president.

I think I know why the real candidates may not be out there in the field right now, they‘re wary of getting into the buzz saw that separates the wackos in the Republican Party for the serious candidates to lead America.

Here are a set of questions I would put to them tonight if I were in the debate moderating it.  Call them the buzz saw, but they tell you precisely why the Republican Party has a problem right now.

Question to Mr. Candidate—do you believe in evolution?  Are you a fundamentalist who believes in the bible as written?  Has man been around millions of years or, say, just about 6,000?  It‘s a key question, because it raises the matter of whether you believe in science or not.

A question for the fundamentalists who give that answer: why do we conduct health experiments for people on animals if there‘s no relation?

Do you believe man affects climate change?  There‘s a good one.

Do you wish to outlaw abortion?  And if so, what should be the punishment?  If having an abortion doesn‘t deserve punishment, why are you pushing to outlaw it?

Do you support a return to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”?  There‘s a good one.

Do you support removing Medicare from existence and replacing it with a subsidy?

I‘m just guessing but you probably know the Tea Party approved answers to all those questions.  And if you‘re not prepared to give those Tea Party answers, if you‘re one of those Republican moderates out there, don‘t bother to bring your toothbrush.  You won‘t be at this jamboree for long.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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