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updated 5/9/2011 10:15:06 AM ET 2011-05-09T14:15:06

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Simon Hobbs, Chris Cillizza, David Corn, Greg Miller, Eric Greitens, John McGuire, Roger Simon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Cool hand Barack.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: What a difference a week makes.  President Obama showed this week he was as cool in the terrorist hunt as he was—as president as he was delegate hunt as a candidate back in 2008 by getting Osama bin Laden.  He has transformed his image and perhaps his presidency.

Today in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, the president met the Navy SEALs who carried out the mission, speaking to them as a commander-in-chief who was very much involved in an actual military operation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals—intelligence, military—over many years, the terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  President Obama 2.0 at the top of the show tonight.

Plus, the cloak-and-dagger story itself.  New details are emerging about how we got bin Laden.  Today we learned the CIA tracked him for months from a rented safe house in his neighborhood before the SEALs went in.

And about those SEALs—they‘re the elite of the elite, but what does it really take to become a SEAL?  We‘ll meet two of them tonight.  That‘s going to be exciting, actually, for me.

And were it not for the news about bin Laden, the big story this week may have been Republicans running away from their own plan to kill Medicare.  They‘re getting a dose of political reality these days, and it may cost them big-time.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” with what a sane person would take away from the monumental events of this week.

We start with the week that was for the president.  David Corn is “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief an Eugene Robinson is, of course, a columnist for “The Washington Post.”  They‘re both MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, let me ask you about this whole week and what it says about the authority of the president.  I‘m one of those who believes that power comes from the office, but authority has to be earned almost separately, that sense of power that comes through the way people look at you.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think a president, you know, first gets the job by winning an election, but then still has to prove himself by the way he performs.  Barack Obama has been making tough calls from the get-go, a lot of it about economic matters and health care, and so on.  But this was really a tough national security call and it was a gutsy call because can you imagine what would have happened from a political perspective—

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) wasn‘t there.

CORN:  -- if this did not—if this did not go well, if this was Desert One again?  It‘d be Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter for the next 18 months.  You remember those days.  I know you‘re old enough to—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know all about it!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I was there as a speech writer.  I remember the hell of Desert One.

CORN:  And he had a lot of other choices.  He could have tried to bomb.  And then you don‘t get the intelligence bonanza that they‘re now working off of.  So all in all, I think this was a big week for him in terms of performance, and that probably should have political ramifications.

MATTHEWS:  Sixty-eight percent, he was told going in, reporting tell us.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, 68 percent.  That‘s not—you know, that‘s not 90 percent.  That‘s not a slam dunk.  You know, I‘ve thought all along that—obviously, President Obama is really smart.  He‘s really competent.  But in the political sense, I‘ve said he‘s really good and he‘s also lucky, you know, and he—

MATTHEWS:  You noticed what I‘ve noticed!

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  You want him to be—you want him to be—

MATTHEWS:  I want a lucky president!

ROBINSON:  -- good, but you want a lucky president, too.  Bin Laden was there.  They got him.  No Americans were—not another American life was wasted on this guy.

MATTHEWS:  Who was the president, or was it Napoleon, that said, What kind of generals do you like?  And he said, I like lucky generals, because he doesn‘t want to hear the excuses afterwards.

Let‘s take a look at the president.  As this really incredible week began Sunday night, let‘s listen to the president as he addressed us -- 56 million Americans watched him late Sunday night.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried that out with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, we all like to watch polls in this business and watch in the (INAUDIBLE) I want you to all—everybody at home watch this poll here.  This is a series of what, five polls now, showing before and after, almost.  On the left is the current poll in red.  On the right is the one that was around before.

Now, they‘re interesting because they all give him the natural, we call, a bump, which makes perfect sense.  You never know how long these things are going to last, if they do.  But look at the one at the bottom, “Newsweek.”  Has “Newsweek” got problems?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is that—is that—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- broken scale or what?

CORN:  Beyond the polls, I mean—

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Why does “Newsweek” say no change this week?

CORN:  Who knows!

ROBINSON:  It‘s an outlier poll.  It‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  This is statistics.  You know, there‘s always an outlier.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CORN:  But the important thing is, beyond the polls, what Barack Obama did this week—and this isn‘t why he did it, but he took that old Republican playing card, the “weak on defense” card.  They played it in the 2008 campaign.  They were going to play it all the way to 2012 campaign, the GOP.  And they can‘t do that anymore.  Are you week on defense?  I don‘t know.  Go ask—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, where‘d that start because we had three—I was going back through my brain on this today, thinking.  Franklin Roosevelt was a great war president.  I mean, a great war president.  He picked the great generals.  He picked the right front.  He went in Europe first, then in Asia.  He made the tough calls.

Truman comes in, drops two atom bombs on the Japanese, ends the war, saves the lives of a lot of American servicemen.  It was a brutal call, but he called it.  Then he went into Korea, which a lot of people wouldn‘t have done.  He was tough.  Johnson fought maybe not a brilliant war but he fought a tough war in Vietnam.

Where‘s this idea that the Democrats in history haven‘t been willing to fight and try to be at least great patriotic leaders, Gene?

ROBINSON:  Well, but, you know, it‘s not grounded in history or fact, but in the political sense, it has scored points for Republican candidates for the last several elections.  And David is right, it won‘t score points in the next election.

What fascinates me—I think there‘s another political dimension, that sort of steeliness that you saw—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  -- in that clip just now, as he announced bin Laden‘s demise.  That takes away this sort of Republican narrative that there‘s something sort of—

MATTHEWS:  Like he‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  -- wussy, sort of effete and—and—

MATTHEWS:  Who was the—who was the—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I got you.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  -- that he wrings his hands, he can‘t be decisive.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Right.  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the president today, and this is really a keeper, I think, for people that care about what we have to do in this world.  Here‘s the president at Ft. Campbell today.  Let‘s watch the president.  That‘s, of course, New York.  But here‘s the president just now, just a few minutes ago this afternoon.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I came here for a simple reason, to say thank you on behalf of America.  This has been an historic week in the life of our nation.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals—intelligence, military—over many years, the terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was thinking that this idea of cool—and I was thinking back on—people that watch this program really follow politics, and they have different—a lot of liberals watch the show, some conservatives.  I have to say that they do watch the politics.

Remember all during the fight, the intramural fight between President Obama, when he was a candidate, a one-term senator from Illinois, Hillary Clinton, with all the power of the Clinton organization behind her—she was running 20 points ahead.  And people like me were saying, Senator, get in the fight, will you?  You‘re not in the fight.  Throw some punches.

ROBINSON:  You‘re right.

MATTHEWS:  Get in the fight.  And weeks and months passed, and he was

20 points behind.  It was almost like that thing with Muhammad Ali (ph) and

--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He was letting it go and taking the punches.  And I kept saying—and then we realized that he and Plouffe—David Plouffe—had this plan.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Tell this story.

ROBINSON:  (INAUDIBLE) plan.  They knew the caucus states.  They knew

the primary states.  They had chosen where they would do well and where

they wouldn‘t and how they would do well.  And they had it all laid out and

--

MATTHEWS:  Tim Russert was following this, the late Tim Russert.

ROBINSON:  And he had that piece of paper—

MATTHEWS:  And he knew how much—

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  It was uncannily accurate.

CORN:  It was about—it was—yes, their mantra was, It‘s about the delegates.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Don‘t get distracted by polls—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- bring the movie forward to the last couple weeks.  There we had people running around.  And I don‘t—I do think there‘s an ethnic piece to this.  Now, I know there‘s an ethnic piece looking at these latest numbers of people who still think he wasn‘t—listen to this number about “born inside the United States.”  There are still people in this country, 14 percent Republicans, 16 percent conservatives, who say he‘s not born here based upon all the facts.  This is “driving while black.”  This is racist.  This is—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is awful.

ROBINSON:  You‘re absolutely right.  (INAUDIBLE) all along that there was a racial component.  But you saw that decline, you know, then to now, of people who actually believe that nonsense.  And I think those are the people—you know, among their complaints about President Obama is they didn‘t quite get him as commander-in-chief, you know, as—as—

MATTHEWS:  Well, they got him now.

ROBINSON:  -- as a military leader.  They got him now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what are they saying in the saloons—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Friday night at midnight now at some truck stop along the road, some state highway, and this—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What are they saying?

ROBINSON:  He got Osama bin Laden.

MATTHEWS:  You think these guys are saying that?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, not the 14 percent, OK, but the rest of them—

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  I think 14 percent is a really good number for the president. 

If you get it that low on the Republican—

MATTHEWS:  But you realize what they‘re saying?  I don‘t think he‘s an American, and I don‘t believe that he caught that guy.  The other guys got him.

CORN:  Yes, but that whole birther line is done with.  It was—I mean, it was killed by the birth certificate.  But after getting Osama bin Laden, you have people—

MATTHEWS:  You think so?

CORN:  Oh, I think so.  I don‘t think it will get any traction—among the crazies, who you can‘t get anyway.  There are people who are beyond rational thought.  You can‘t worry about them.  Maybe that‘s 14 percent.  Maybe that‘s what this poll shows.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- they‘re still asking for his driver‘s license, these guys.

ROBINSON:  For those people—for those people, you know—

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Before, he was an Islamic terrorist.

MATTHEWS:  OK, look, we got a crazy job number today.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Every time we get a jobless number, there‘s two ways to look at it, number of new jobs created or the rate.  Now, the rate went up to 9 again.  But look at this, 244,000 new jobs last month.  That means people are going back, looking for jobs, people who had given up, unemployment back at 9.  But there‘s a more robust labor market out there.  They‘re not sitting at home, giving up.

CORN:  It‘s not robust enough.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I know.

CORN:  Because you need 150,000 --

MATTHEWS:  I know.

CORN:  -- to keep even with population.  We lost 8 million jobs in the Bush-Cheney recession, so 100,000 a month will take a long time to get that back.  But it‘s better—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Cheeney.

CORN:  It‘s—Cheeney.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CORN:  But it‘s better than it was last fall.  And if it continues that way—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  If you just look at progress (ph) at your (ph) job, there‘s 268,000.

MATTHEWS:  Does he still need to get below 8?

ROBINSON:  The best number in five years.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Gene, is my parameter still right?  The benchmark is he‘s got to get below 8 and dropping to win reelection?

ROBINSON:  Oh, I‘d say below 9.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘d say he‘s got to get below 8 still.

ROBINSON:  Get it in the 8s.

CORN:  A little 8.4.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s a good week for America.  I think those soldiers, thank you for your service, guys, if you‘re watching right now.  I mean it.  And women.  And let‘s go (ph), David Corn—thank you guys.  You can tell by the mood around here what side everybody seems to be on in this group.

Anyway, coming up—the American side.  Anyway, how that we got bin Laden.  We‘re going to have the facts coming up.  The CIA actually tracked him inside his—they were watching him outside.  It was almost like “The Conversation” with Gene Hackman.  They sit in the truck, practically across the street, watching this guy and seeing where he went and (INAUDIBLE) They were looking at him through the binoculars.  Let‘s take a look at the cloak-and-dagger stuff.  We‘re getting the fill here, as we say.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The White House has released its behind-the-scenes footage now of the night the world learned bin Laden had been killed.  Here it is.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This was him.  The reason I‘m calling you is to tell you we‘ve killed (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA:  Good job, national security team.  Your guys did a great job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, that‘s—“I‘m proud of you” to Leon Panetta there. 

Wow.  HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Today we learned fascinating new details about the plot that led to bin Laden and the CIA safe house from which agents spied on him for months.  This is going to be exciting for me, as well as I hope all of you.

Greg Miller‘s national intelligence reporter for “The Washington Post.”  Greg, congratulations.  Really, this is storytelling time.  It‘s good to have good news on how it was done.  Tell me the story of the safe house, about how our guys—it reminded me of Gene Hackman in the movie “The Conversation,” just sitting there for days, hours, weeks.  This guy under surveillance, they thought it was Osama bin Laden.

GREG MILLER, “WASHINGTON POST”:  That‘s right.  I mean, they learned about this compound in August, and then they bring everything they‘ve got to try to figure out is it him inside.  And so one of the things you have to do is you‘ve got have people on the ground.  So the agency rents a house near this compound, one that‘s able to peer inside of this place to keep eyes on that thing.  And they‘re watching it for probably six, seven months.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  And did they get a bead on him with binoculars, with telescopic—I heard they had a mirrored they looked through?

MILLER:  Well, that‘s the amazing thing.  I mean here—here they are, they‘re not only watching him from the ground, but they‘re watching with satellites, they‘re using eavesdropping equipment, trying to get his voice, and they never get a clear shot at him.  I mean, this is—the CIA people I talked to about this say that the discipline that bin Laden demonstrated inside this compound was remarkable in itself.

MATTHEWS:  They saw his silhouette, though, right?  They saw his figure?

MILLER:  There was a figure.  There was a tall figure that would take

that would go pacing back and forth.  They even started calling him “the pacer.”  And so they were—they thought perhaps this is him, but they could never get a clear photograph—

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t he the only guy of his height, to be blunt about it, in that part of the world?

MILLER:  Well, you know, one of the things was it was the difficult for them to figure out if—what his height was, based on their inability to get a clear look at him from anywhere.

MATTHEWS:  Now, what did they figure he was doing all day in terms of his role? Some of us thought he was like emeritus.  He was like the Uncle Tanus (ph).  He used to be in al Qaeda but he was no longer operative.  But now we‘re getting information that he was playing a role.  What was it?

MILLER:  He was playing a role, and we‘re still learning more about what that role was.  But it looks like it was more extensive than we thought.  I mean, for years, people thought, Well, maybe he‘s just in a cave and maybe he‘s just not communicating, except very, very rarely to get these audiotapes out.  But they found so many disks, DVDs, they found so many flash drives in there that those appear to be the way he was communicating with his network, sending messages, direct—

MATTHEWS:  Thumb drives.

MILLER:  Thumb drives.

MATTHEWS:  Those little things you take around like a disk used to be.

MILLER:  Right.  And those were the things that would come out of the compound, and somehow, they make their way through the network and get signals and directions off to others.

MATTHEWS:  Now, do we know—let‘s talk about us because we are always concerned about what‘s next, not just anger about him being caught, but what he was planning.  This idea that he was going to strike a number of American railroads, passenger trains perhaps, at the same time in one of these dramatic -- 9/11/11.  It would be this 11, so it‘d be 9/11/11 kind of thing.  Do we know if that was his idea?

MILLER:  Don‘t know if it was his idea.  It appears to be something that was recorded on some papers that were found in that bedroom where he was killed.  And this was clearly either a plan that he was involved in putting together or was reviewing in a very personal and direct way.

MATTHEWS:  So you know, I was thinking of a paradigm.  It‘s almost like an organized—an underworld figure who gets put away in hard time.  And he‘s in prison and he‘s still calling the shots for a family, a mob organization.

MILLER:  And he‘s got all of that time.  I mean, he‘s got nothing else to distract him, right?  He‘s been spending all of his time just thinking about those things.

MATTHEWS:  And no evidence at all, it seems, because they caught him in the dark, basically asleep—they roused him, right?  They rousted him. 

MILLER:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  In other words, they were able to stay there, have him under surveillance from that safe house, and he never detected he was in trouble. 

MILLER:  That was one of the biggest worries about this operation.  This is a very delicate thing for the CIA to do, to put people on the ground. 

MATTHEWS:  Were they Americans, or are they people that looked like the local people, the Pakistani people? 

MILLER:  I think what you would have found, most likely, is, if you looked inside the safe house, is you‘re going to find Americans.  You‘re going to find CIA case -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, they stayed undercover then? 

MILLER: -- who were staying undercover, staying inside, not venturing outside much, and monitor—and using all their equipment to monitor this compound.  But they‘re also running networks of Pakistanis who may be Pakistani-Americans, may be Pakistanis—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, sure. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of people—

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: -- who are being used to blend into this—into this neighborhood, into this city. 

MATTHEWS:  So, we have really—well, let me ask you the question, open-ended.  Have we advanced in human intelligence since 9/11? 

MILLER:  Oh, I think—I think there‘s no doubt about that.  I think that the—you know, the agency has learned so much.  As much as the military has changed, the experiences of the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, the agency has changed. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If we get rid of don‘t ask, don‘t tell completely, it‘s going to help, too, right?  A lot of the linguists were gay people that were being harassed. 

MILLER:  That, I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I follow everything.  And that‘s one.

Let me ask you.  When you close your eyes and you imagine being the reporter that covers intelligence, what does al Qaeda look like to you globally right now?  Is it a bunch of broken-up pieces?  Is it still a network that communicates? 

MILLER:  Look, the al Qaeda of today for the first time acknowledges bin Laden‘s death in a message that they put up online.  And there‘s sort of an appeal built in there:  Can we hold this thing together, guys?  Stay committed to the cause?

MATTHEWS:  Is it despondent?

MILLER:  But the biggest question is going to be, does this thing just sort of spiral out into a bunch—

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MILLER: -- a bunch of lesser, smaller, less connected organizations, because you don‘t have that inspirational figure there tying it all together. 

MATTHEWS:  If you were in—if you were working with TSA or something in this country, working with our Homeland Security, would you fear they would go ahead with that railroad attempt on the 11th of this September?

MILLER:  I think that you—you have to be prepared for all of these things. 

I don‘t—I think that—I‘m sure that the agencies are concerned that there are people in place, and they‘re scrubbing all these computers and drives looking for other plots that are just—who knows whether they are in the planning stages.  Who knows how far along they are toward execution.  And if we have learned anything, it‘s that you can‘t be too fast. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got a fascinating role.  Thank you for that. 

Thanks for coming on, Greg.

MILLER:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  Good to have you, Greg Miller of “The Washington Post,” which still covers agencies of the government better than anybody. 

Up next:  Last night‘s Republican presidential debate, such as it was, wasn‘t must-see TV, of course, for the most powerful Republican in the country.  Wait until you hear who didn‘t watch.  It tells you a lot.  The “Sideshow” is coming up.  Wait until you hear who was doing something else, like having dinner?  Don‘t even to ask for a TV set to watch it on.  He wasn‘t even asking for FOX.  He didn‘t care. 

Wait until you hear who it was. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: whiplash specialist.  Just one year ago, Charlie Crist was, of course, governor of Florida and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.  Now Crist has turned from public service to public pitchman. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

CHARLIE CRIST (I), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR:  I‘m Charlie Crist.  If you need help sorting out your legal issues as a result of an accident or insurance dispute, visit me at Charlie@ForThePeople.com. 

Morgan & Morgan, for the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I thought trial lawyers were all Democrats. 

Anyway, next:  Did you miss the Republican debate last night?  Well, you weren‘t the only one.  Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, was spotted at Morton‘s Steakhouse last night enjoying a nice dinner. 

When asked about the debate that night, last night, Boehner said he‘d read it—about it in the paper tomorrow. 

Well, there were five debaters last night in the FOX/Republican Party-sponsored debate.  Something tells me that they didn‘t have a winner in the bunch, which brings us to tonight‘s “Big Number.”  This is fascinating.

Both the moderators and the candidates last night spent much of their time talking about the candidates who did not show up.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS:  A man who may join you at some point in the GOP primary, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is not here. 

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR:  Governor Romney is not here to defend himself. 

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS:  If you had a reality TV show, like Donald Trump does -- 

RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  And so I would say to Newt Gingrich—

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: -- Gingrich‘s past personal behavior. 

BAIER:  You supported Governor Romney in 2008. 

PAWLENTY:  I love the Huck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mike Huckabee. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah Palin‘s show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Newt Gingrich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Donald Trump‘s show.

BREAM:  Michele Bachmann. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The replacements there. 

Fifteen mentions of Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann, Trump, Palin, Huckabee, and Daniels, 15 mentions of the no-shows.  What a debate—tonight‘s missing-in-action “Big Number.” 

Up next: inside the Navy SEALs, the elite commandos who took down bin Laden.  We‘re going to meet a couple of them.  We have got two former SEALs joining us to tell us how it works.  What courageous people they are. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIMON HOBBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello.  I‘m Simon Hobbs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A stronger-than-expected jobs report today helping to snap a four-day losing streak.  The Dow Jones industrial added 54 points, the S&P up five, and the Nasdaq gained 12. 

Stocks were moving steadily lower all week, before stabilizing on those jobs numbers.  Employers added 244,000 jobs in April, well above estimates. 

The dollar stronger again today, as the euro weakens.  Of course, the dollar was a big drag on stocks all week.  And we saw investors unwinding commodity holdings like crazy as a result, silver prices falling another 3 percent today, down 27 percent over the past five sessions. 

And take a look at oil prices this week, down another 2 percent today to finish below $98 a barrel.  That‘s the biggest five-day slide since 1983. 

And Kraft Food was the standout on the earnings front on better-than-expected top- and bottom-line results delivered after the closing bell on Thursday. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re learning new details even today about just what happened when two dozen members of the super elite SEAL Team 6 stormed the bin Laden compound.  According to NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, the SEALs came under fire right away.  Bin Laden‘s courier shot at them when they first raided the compound.  And the SEALs returned fire, killing him. 

As they raced up the stairs, they shot and killed bin Laden‘s 19-year-old son on the second floor.  The commandos looked up to discover bin Laden himself peering down over the railing above.  They fired on him, but missed as he ran back into his bedroom. 

Two young girls suddenly ran from that room.  And one SEAL grabbed and pulled them out of the line of fire.  That‘s when two other SEALs rushed the bedroom.  One shot bin Laden‘s wife in the leg as she approached.  The other shot bin Laden twice at close range, killing him. 

President Obama watched the whole operation in real time from the Situation Room in the White House.  And just hours ago, he met privately with members of that team, the SEAL Team 6. 

Here is what the president said just moments ago, after meeting those commandos who pulled off the most high-profile operation in the history of the SEALs. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm‘s way.  They trained for years.  They are battle-hardened.  They practiced tirelessly for this mission. 

And when I gave the order, they were ready.  And, in recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were.  These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation‘s history. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here to give us some insight on what it‘s like to be a SEAL on a daring mission, something like this, are John McGuire, who is with me, who was a SEAL for 10 years.  He operated in Europe, Asia and South Central America and he served on SEAL Team 4.  And Eric Greitens, who was a SEAL from 2001 to 2007, he served as commander of an al Qaeda targeting cell, as well as a Joint Special Operations task unit.  He‘s now a reservist and author of the book “The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.”

Gentlemen, so much an honor to have you on this program, and not just because of this amazing—well, it‘s an historic week. 

I want to start with John McGuire, who is with me.  We have gotten to know him a little bit here. 

When you get the call, as the president talked about, what was in the heart of a SEAL?

JOHN MCGUIRE, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL:  It‘s on.  Let‘s do it.  It‘s an honor. 

I think a lot of weight or thoughts of the American country and all the people that have affected by the terrorist, all the terror he‘s done around the world, just an honor.  Ready to go. 

MATTHEWS:  This sense that you‘re going in basically for the kill, that you‘re going after the ultimate world‘s bad guy, who is probably going to fight to the death, either way, it‘s going to be dangerous.  It‘s going to be to get him.  Is there a special fear about the fact of the firepower turned—it out to not be a lot here, but you‘re not going to get him easy?

MCGUIRE:  That‘s right.  Well, there‘s a lot of unknowns, but you have a job to do.  The one thing is the mission.  You follow orders, and you get the mission done, and you‘re going to protect your teammates. 

MATTHEWS:  Protect your teammates.

Let me go—let me go to Eric. 

Eric, thank you for joining us.  And you‘re still in the service.  And thank you for your service. 

ERIC GREITENS, AUTHOR, “THE HEART AND THE FIST: THE EDUCATION OF A

HUMANITARIAN, THE MAKING OF A NAVY SEAL”:  You‘re welcome, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about what you can tell us about what‘s in the

heart and mind and guts of a—somebody who can swim like a fish, can air

he can be an air trooper.  You‘re a—you‘re paratroopers.  You swim. 

You can drop.  You guys can—what can‘t you do?

They can drop you in deepwater in the ocean from an airplane.  You can swim for hours.  You can fight—fight crocodiles.  What can‘t you guys do? 

GREITENS:  Well, SEALs are sea, air and land commandos. 

And the whole idea is that SEALs are able to come from the sea, come over land, or, in this case, as we saw on Sunday night, come from the air.  And in order to develop that kind of capability, they go through the hardest military training in the world.  It‘s called BUDS, Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training. 

And it‘s a training that‘s designed to push people to their mental, physical and emotional limits, to really push people and see how they can coalesce as a team when they come together under pressure.  And we saw last Sunday night the great results of that training. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it that keep your blood pressure down, that keeps you cool, that you know—is it in your brain soup or do you get trained for that? 

MCGUIRE:  You get trained for them.  It‘s the focus.  It‘s rehearsal.  We may spent—I think they said on the news they spent four months preparing for this, every contingency.  You know, a lot of things didn‘t go exactly right, such as the helicopter going down.  But with all the planning that they have, they didn‘t miss a beat. 

MATTHEWS:  What about understanding the politics of what you‘re doing?  How much do you need to know in an operation like this?  You have got to know who—everybody knows who Osama bin Laden is.  You know what al Qaeda is.  Do you have to get that sort of context?

MCGUIRE:  You know, you have that context, but you follow orders and you do your job. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to you, Eric, about this mission.

The dangers here, what were they, do you see, when you look into this operation?  Being dropped in there by helicopter—helicopters are the nicest things to fly in, but my experience with them is they‘re the least reliable of any aircraft.  They—they don‘t have a great track record.  They do let you down.  I remember Desert One.  We all do. 

GREITENS:  Yes, absolutely.  It was—it was—the lessons of Desert One really helped to create the modern special operations community. 

And, of course, here, the helicopters presented a danger, but there‘s all sorts of things that can go wrong in any operation.  And that‘s why teams like this prepare relentlessly.  They practice time and time and time again, in order to be prepared for any contingency that‘s going to happen on the target, so that they can react. 

Lots of dangers here at the tactical level, and even, of course, at the strategic level, but that‘s why this group of warriors was chosen to go in and execute what was obviously an incredibly high-profile operation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Obama told Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” what his—his biggest concern was when it came to sending in those commandos. 

Here is the exchange between Kroft and the president.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)

STEVE KROFT, CBS CORRESPONDENT:  What was the most difficult part? 

You had to decide.  This was your decision—

OBAMA:  Yes. 

KROFT: -- whether to proceed or not and how to proceed. 

What was the most difficult part of that decision? 

OBAMA:  My number-one concern was, if I send them in, can I get them out?  And a lot of the discussion we had during the course of planning was, how do we make sure there‘s backup?  How do we make sure that there‘s redundancy built into the plan, so that we have the best chance of getting our guys out?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  When you fight in these kinds of situations—we don‘t know what our relationship with the Pakistanis is.  One village probably differs from the other, you know, in terms of friendliness, lack of friendliness. 

Do people think about “Black Hawk Down”?  Do they think about Desert One, John?  What do you—what do you got as your worst-case situations?  Where the people turn on you, or what? 

MCGUIRE:  Well, you have to cover all your bases.  In the plan, they have every contingency, backup helicopters, fire supports.  But it‘s all about teamwork, it‘s all about leadership, and it‘s all about confidence. 

When you‘re on a team, it takes everyone to succeed.  When you‘re on a team, everyone counts on everyone to do their job.  And these guys, like he said, put so many hours in to make sure they get it done. 

MATTHEWS:  How did the SEALs get this?  This wasn‘t a Marine operation.  This wasn‘t coming in from the water.  Why do you think the SEALs got this call? 

MCGUIRE:  Well, I have got to tell you, these particular SEALs are seasoned.  They‘re a little bit older, and a lot of missions and experience behind them.  And they are very good.  They‘re the best. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of these simulations?  They good? 

MCGUIRE:  You know, I wasn‘t there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCGUIRE:  I wasn‘t there.  And I‘m not much of a computer guy. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s amazing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCGUIRE:  It is amazing. 

MATTHEWS:  Eric, what do you think of these simulations we have been watching?  I‘m always amazed at NBC‘s ability to do these things.  But is that about right? 

GREITENS:  You know, of course, I wasn‘t there.  I wasn‘t on the ground.  It would be hard for me to say, you know, how—how accurate they actually are.  But they—they certainly look good, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about contingency.  And again, redundancy seems to be a big part of this, to have more soldiers than you absolutely need, more choppers than you absolutely need.  The idea you had, what was it, two went in, one went down, right?  You had a third that went in and replaced one of the first two.  You had another one as a back-up.

So, basically doubling the helicopters you need to get the job done.  It seems like we‘re really, as you said, Eric, we‘re living in the days after Desert One.  No more sending in just enough helicopters to do the job because Carter was, what, short one, couldn‘t go through with the operation?

GREITENS:  Exactly.  What they want to do is relentlessly plan and think about anything that might go wrong, so that they can then react to the situation and keep that focus on achieving that mission, which was obviously eliminating bin Laden and then pulling intelligence off the targets.

And as you practice, one of the things that you‘re going to do is step back each time and figure out what the lessons learned were so you get better every single time that you‘re practicing.  And one of the things that we have to recognize, of course, is that it was that tremendous dedication to practice, that tremendous dedication to service.  A lot of these guys have been at this for almost a decade that actually led to the successful operation on Sunday night.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you guys are great explainers, in addition to what you do.  You‘re good physically and orally.  This is a really good presentation today.  I don‘t know where we got you guys from.  But thank you, John.  And thank you for your service.  Both of you fellows—Eric, John.  Eric Greitens and John McGuire.

Up next: ideology meets reality.  Republicans are already running away from their—remember their plan to kill Medicare?  Not as popular as three weeks ago.  We‘ll take a look at that.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Mitt Romney is the runaway leader among Republican contenders in New Hampshire at least.  Romney is the mid-30s among Republican primary voters in two new polls, from Suffolk and University of New Hampshire.  Romney showing isn‘t a surprise considering he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts and has a house in New Hampshire, in Lake Winnipesaukee, in fact.

The only other Republican candidate registering in the double digit is Donald Trump.  He‘s at 11 percent on the UNH poll.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Paul Ryan has an idea that‘s certainly worthy of consideration in terms of how do we—how do we do this in a more efficient way?

I‘m for it.  It‘s our idea, right?  It‘s Paul‘s idea.  Other people

have other ideas.  I‘m not committed to one single idea.  But I think it‘s

we have a plan.

           

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow!

We‘re back.

That was House Speaker John Boehner in late April talking about—that was only a few days ago talking about the Republican plan to end Medicare.  The GOP leadership seems to be blaming the Democratic Senate and president for not wanting to go forward with the Ryan plan.

But is this just Republicans whipping out for a tough fight ahead, or do they realize this was a losing issue with Republicans?

For more on this and Republican debate last night, wow, I‘m joined by Chris Cillizza, who‘s managing editor of Post.com—Postpolitics.com and a great—and Roger Simon, of course, chief political columnist.

Roger, you know, you can tell, can‘t you?  Slip sliding away.

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, you know the difference between a definite article and indefinite article instead of the plan, it‘s not a plan.

SIMON:  A plan.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Paul‘s plan.

SIMON:  The Republicans—you know, Boehner is not going to swallow the suicide pill along with Paul.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, this happened rather quickly.  So, what happened?  Two weeks ago, they all voted for it, but four Republicans.  What happened?

SIMON:  Well, what happened was the realization is that there‘s no constituency for this plan.  Nobody wants it, except a few people in think tanks.  And the House just got rolled because they were on this high.

It‘s just like President Bush‘s desire to privatize Social Security. 

We talked about it for months.  Nobody in the country wanted it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s the disconnect, I want to go right to the Frank Luntz thing afterward, because this is so instructive.  Let‘s hold this moment watching.  This is more important than anything you do.  It‘s to understand what words mean.

Americans like Social Security.  My dad was as Republican as you can get, and he liked Medicare, because for the first time in his life, something was being paid for that he had paid into.  He was getting something back for all the years of working since he was 18.

OK.  Americans like it.  They don‘t think of it as welfare.  They think you paid it and you get it back.  It‘s a very middle class attitude.  I paid for it, it‘s my right, OK.

And then they go along on this Luntz thing, or this Frank Luntz thing.  Why we call it Fluntz.  This Frank Luntz thing last night, and everybody is calling Obama socialist.  Well, what did they—if one the one hand they say, Chris, I want this for America.  Roosevelt did this.  Johnson did this.  But it‘s mine, it‘s America.

And then they throw out the word every one of those people in that focus group said he‘s a socialist.  What is it?  Are they socialists?  Are these Republican socialists?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think that we expect that there‘s logic to everyone‘s thought, that, well, if I‘m for Social Security and Medicare—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not socialism.

CILLIZZA:  Right.  But there isn‘t, Chris.  Look, the truth of the matter is that people—and we‘ve seen this over the last couple of elections, people have a patchwork electoral approach, political philosophy.  Independents go for Democrats by 18 points in 2006.  They go for Republicans by 19 points in 2010.  Not that much change in those four years.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CILLIZZA:  Can I just—

MATTHEWS:  What do they mean when they say socialism -- 

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  Well, because they are picking up on the buzzwords I would say.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  One person‘s weed is another‘s flour.

MATTHEWS:  Speaking weed, because you hear that the Republican Party last night is the dope party.  What do you make of that, legalize (INAUDIBLE) horse?

SIMON:  Libertarians just don‘t care what general public thinks of them.  They are not going to get elected president.  They can go into these debates and be terrific.  They can be strong.  They can be decisive because they don‘t care.

If you‘re Tim Pawlenty, poor Tim Pawlenty who really wants to be president, you‘ve got to be careful, you got to watch every word.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We argue about storage (INAUDIBLE) and he‘s legalizing heroin and the other guy, the former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, he wants to legalize marijuana—which is not exactly, that controversial.  But this is the conservative party.

CILLIZZA:  Well, this is—here‘s the problem, Chris.  This is why—to Roger‘s point.  This is why it‘s an odd thing that Tim Pawlenty participated.  I get why he participated.  He figures FOX News Channel, a lot of Republican viewers.  This will expose me.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CILLIZZA:  But you‘re playing with different rules and other people. 

Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, they‘re not—they‘re not on the same page.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s two Republican parties.  There‘s the establishment group of the Republican Party that wants to hold office.  And then there‘s the Tea Party-led party that would just as soon yell and have fun.

Here‘s, by the way, an interesting guy.  Here‘s Frank Luntz‘s focus group and it showed that Herman Cain, the businessman from Atlanta who heads up Godfather‘s Pizza, he created it, he‘s the pick of the ground watching.  Here it is.  This is an amazing result.  Here was his favorite line from Cain in the FOX News Channel debate last night.

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  One of the biggest problems we have with this country right now today is too much government intervention in trying to tell businesses how to do what they do best, which is create jobs.  Government doesn‘t create jobs.  Businesses create jobs.  We need to get government out of the way, including trying to tell a company where they should build a new plant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is Ronald Reagan stuff.  This is motivational -- 

SIMON:  Classic Republican talking point.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does he mean, governments have been telling businesses where to put their factories since zoning began.  What is new?

SIMON:  He doesn‘t care what‘s new.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You want to put a factory in somebody‘s nice neighborhood? 

You can‘t do it in a second.

SIMON:  As smart as he is, I would listen to him about whether to choose deep dish over New York style.  I don‘t think I would listen to him about economics, and how to build jobs and put people back to work.

CILLIZZA:  I would say I think that clip and there was one other clip, Chris, in which he said, somebody asked, well, you‘ve only been a businessman.  You‘ve never been in office.  And he said basically, well, we‘ve elected a lot of politicians, how is that working for you?  People went crazy because look—

MATTHEWS:  What does it mean?

CILLIZZA:  What it means is this: the Republican Party of today, we learned this in the 2010 election, all those Senate primaries where the establishment lost to the Tea Party, the Republican Party of today wants someone to say politicians do not know what is going on, we need government out of the people‘s lives.  Herman Cain is an effective messenger for that kind of message.

And I think that‘s why you saw him do well in this focus group.  Look, that message is what the bulk of the Republican Party‘s message is currently.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me get back to an earlier poll we showed tonight.  We asked—the poll, “The Washington Post” Poll, your poll over there, asked people about whether he‘s an American or not, a pretty simple question, that the president showed every ID card in the world is, birth certificate long-form.  Still among Republicans, it‘s about one in seven, 14 percent.  But they‘re the kinds of people I would bet show up in these caucuses and primaries.

Your though.  Are they that crazy?

CILLIZZA:  I would say, in my opinion, Chris, this is—what Herman Cain is trying to tap into is different than that.  I don‘t think you‘re ever going to disprove to people, the birth thing, the people who just don‘t want to believe the evidence.  It‘s been—it‘s been true long before President Obama—

MATTHEWS:  Are they the voters?

CILLIZZA:  I think there are some of them that are Republican voters.  But I do think Herman Cain is tapping into something different, which is a desire for a business—bring business principles.

I will tell you this, Mitt Romney is going to talk like that.  I bet Tim Pawlenty talks like that.  What Herman Cain said yesterday, that‘s not the last time you‘re going to hear that and not just from him.

SIMON:  I agree with everything, Chris, said.  But I‘ve got to say one thing about focus groups because people are confused about them.  Focus groups are not mini-polls.  They should not be used to ask afterwards who won?  They reflect only the opinions of the people in the room.

A legitimate focus group to answer is, tell me the good points and bad points of everyone you saw tonight.  Give me a word that you associate with this candidate or that candidate.  They are not meant to be—if 78 percent of the focus group likes Cain, 78 percent of the voters do, absolutely false.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SIMON:  And the media—not just people—are confused on that point.

MATTHEWS:  You know what consultants call them?  Peasants under glass.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Roger Simon.  It‘s great to see you. 

Chris, have a nice weekend.  Mother‘s Day, by the way, is coming up.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with some of the things a sane person could take away from the news of this weeks.  I‘m just saying a sane person.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with what sane people learned this week.  By sane I mean people able to pay attention to what they see, aren‘t afraid to see, and don‘t get it confused with something they‘re convinced of, but didn‘t happen this week.

Here we go: I learned that people on the right want the picture of dead Osama bin Laden plastered all over the universe.  They don‘t care if it incites anger, insults whole nations, get teenage Muslim kids to become radicalized.  In fact, I think they‘d like to stick it to them and see how loud they squeal, see how many bees leave the hornet‘s nest.

Normal people are put off by violence and death.  Hillary Clinton in that picture in the Situation Room should be sent around the world to show that although the United States did what it had to do with bin Laden, it doesn‘t particularly enjoy the killing of people, and certainly not as a spectator sport.

What is it with the Republican right?  Sarah Palin wants that picture out everywhere.  She says it‘s part of the mission.  What mission?  To encourage easier recruitment of Arab youth by the terrorists?  You know, teenagers who grow to, say, age 20, and kill themselves as suicide bombers.

You got to wonder where the Palins on the world, those on the right, who want to get that picture of a dead bin Laden out there, really want to keep stirring up this war on terrorism because it‘s something they can really get their heads into—can rouse their right-wing brigades with.

What else did we learn this week?  We learned that clear-thinking people, those not bound up in prejudice and tunnel vision, give credit where it‘s due.  They‘re not afraid to see what they see.  They see Obama gets credit for the success in catching the bad guy, and the intelligence and military services, solid admiration as well.

They don‘t crouch down in the fetal position because they don‘t like what‘s going on around them this week and just snap back at pollsters and say, George Bush deserves the praise and Obama doesn‘t.  How deep is the hole these people live in?

And, most of all, we saw this week that America is protected by some very good and very competent people.  They don‘t get on television.  They don‘t say crazy things to get attention.  They don‘t say, hey, look at me.  They just roll out of the bed in the morning, sometimes very early, show up to do their job and consider themselves lucky to be serving a country like ours.

This week, much like the terrible week in September a decade ago, we remember men and women like this, sometimes so close we can touch them, who are like those dutiful firefighters who went running up the stairs when everyone else was running down.

They are still there., we know, of course, grander in their exploits this week, so often just courageous just in showing up for work each day.  That‘s the big thing we saw this week, that we are as lucky to have these gutsy countrymen and women, as we all are, to be Americans.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for watching.  And a Happy Mother‘s Day to all the mothers out there.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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