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updated 2/6/2012 10:05:37 AM ET 2012-02-06T15:05:37

Guests: David Corn, Sue Herera, Andrea Mitchell, Richard Engel, Sue Lowden, Bob Ehrlich, Joe Williams, Barbara Boxer, Zbigniew Brzezinski

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The economy picks up. Will it last?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Digging deeper. Mitt Romney now insists he misspoke when he said he`s not
concerned about the very poor. But if that`s the case, why did he defend
the statement when he got challenged? And to use a Las Vegas term, why did
he double down? So maybe Mitt said precisely what he meant, that he
doesn`t intend to think about the worst off in this country. And isn`t
that a bigger political problem?

Plus, you can just imagine how Republicans` hopes dropped when they
heard this morning that 20 -- well, actually, 243,000 new jobs were created
last month -- 243,000 -- well, last month -- and that the unemployment rate
dropped 2 tenths of 1 point, down to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three
years. It`s good for American workers, that 8.3 percent, and for President
Obama.

But the president`s still facing some headwinds from Europe, perhaps,
from a shutdown of Mideast oil perhaps, and also perhaps from a logjamming
Congress on the jobs front.

Also, another big news item today, the Susan G. Komen Foundation
decided to stop the bleeding fast. Today the group reversed itself and
decided not to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. It`s another big
example of what a hot button issue abortion remains in this country.

And here`s something that could have a huge effect on the election, an
Israeli air strike on Iran`s nuclear bomb-making facilities. The whispers
are getting louder now that it could happen, a strike, as early as this
spring.

And John McCain lived through that 2008 election. How much does he
want to relive it by seeing the movie "Game Change"? Not so much. Check
out the "Sideshow."

We start with the race for Nevada and Mitt Romney now saying he
misspoke when he told CNN he wasn`t concerned about the very poor. Sue
Lowden is a former Senate candidate in Nevada and a Gingrich supporter and
Bob Ehrlich is the former governor of Maryland and now the Maryland
campaign chairman for Mitt Romney.

Sue, thanks for joining us again. We`ve got a new "Las Vegas Review-
Journal" poll out now of likely caucus goers tomorrow. Governor Romney
leads challenger Newt Gingrich by 20 points. There you see it, with
Santorum Ron Paul trailing well, behind. The lead`s even wider in the new
PPP poll of Nevada Republicans. Romney there is up to 50 percent -- first
time he`s been near that -- while Gingrich is at 25.

Sue, everybody that I talk to, the experts on this election, and no
more than me, some of them, that this is all about Speaker Gingrich getting
through February. It`s going to be a tough month for him. But come March,
he can start ringing up big scores, perhaps big victories across the South,
where he did so well in the panhandle of Florida. Is that the game plan,
get through February and have a March madness a month later?

SUE LOWDEN (R), FMR. NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I would think that that
would be the game plan. You know, here in Nevada, the delegates are
proportionate. So if you win, place or show, you`re going to walk away
with delegates. It`s nice to win, but if you come in second or third, you
will walk away with a pocket full of delegates.

MATTHEWS: And so how do you think he`ll do, your candidate, at least
looking like 25 percent right now? You`ve got a large LDS population out
there in Nevada that helps, obviously, Governor Romney, fellow Mormons.
That`s understandable. He`s got an organization out there. How is the
Newt Gingrich organization in Nevada tomorrow?

LOWDEN: It`s we`re a grass roots organization, to tell you the truth,
Chris. You know, Governor Romney and Congressman Paul have been
campaigning here for five years, and they are very organized. I am
pleasantly surprised and happy that the speaker is coming in second in the
polls because I would have thought it would have been Ron Paul.

MATTHEWS: Me, too.

Here`s Romney -- Governor Romney`s original statement about the poor,
by the way, yesterday -- it was Wednesday morning in an interview on CNN.
This is what caused him to have a pretty bad end of week. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m in this
race because I care about Americans. I`m not concerned about the very
poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I`ll fix it. I`m
not concerned about the very rich. They`re doing just fine. I`m concerned
about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right
now are struggling.

SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: I think there are lots of very poor Americans
who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I`m
not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has
holes in it, I will repair them.

We will hear from the Democrat -- Democrat Party the plight of the
poor. And there`s no question, it`s not good being poor. And we have a
safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on
middle-income Americans. My campaign -- I mean, you can choose where to
focus. You can focus on the rich. That`s not my focus. You can focus on
the very poor. That`s not my focus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Did you ever watch a man in quicksand? There`s Romney
defending the comment later that same day. Here he is explaining it again.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: You`ve got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed
to saying -- and then change it just a little bit because then it sounds
very different. I`ve said throughout my campaign my focus, my concern, my
energy is going to be devoted to helping middle-income people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is last night, by the way, in an interview
with Jon Ralston, who`s a reporter from out in Nevada. Romney called the
gaffe a "misstatement." Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Jon, it was a misstatement. I misspoke. I`ve said something
that is similar to that, but quite acceptable for a long time. And you
know, when you do I don`t know how many thousands of interviews, now and
then, you may get it wrong. And I misspoke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor Ehrlich, thanks for joining us on HARDBALL. Let
me read you...

BOB EHRLICH (R), FMR. MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Thank you, Chris. How`re
you doing?

MATTHEWS: ... these original -- original statements, so we know he --
context is important. I understand that. I don`t want to, you know, be
unfair.

EHRLICH: And Chris...

MATTHEWS: But here he is. He said -- no, listen to what he had to
say. "I`m in this race because I care about Americans." Americans.

EHRLICH: All Americans.

MATTHEWS: "I`m not concerned about the very poor." I`m concerned
about Americans, not the very poor. What does that mean?

EHRLICH: Chris, listen to the man`s words! He made a mistake.
People make mistakes. This middle school game -- the president has
misspoken...

MATTHEWS: What did he mean?

EHRLICH: You heard what he had to say! He meant all Americans,
obviously. People make mistakes. This middle school game that people play
-- "He said, she said" -- it`s why people get turned off on politics! It`s
why people turn their TV off. You`ve made mistakes. The president with
his 57 states, Speaker Gingrich with the Paul Ryan comment -- people make
mistakes. As you heard, he`s a very human guy. These guys are tired.
You`ve been through this, Chris. You know it.

MATTHEWS: Right, except...

EHRLICH: It`s hour to hour, comment to comment...

MATTHEWS: So you want to see the full context.

EHRLICH: ... interview to interview!

MATTHEWS: So you want to see the full context.

EHRLICH: I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the comment in context. Here it is in
the context of the kind of statements this candidate has been making off
the cuff. When he`s not scripted, when you don`t see the teleprompter,
this is the kind of comments he`s made and have gotten him into trouble.
You want the full context, Governor Ehrlich? Let`s look at a few of them.
Let`s look at how he talks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I should also tell my story. I`m also unemployed.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: We could raise taxes on people. That`s not the way...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.

Rick, I`ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks? A $10,000 bet?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRES. CANDIDATE: I`m not in the betting
business, but...

ROMNEY: Oh, OK.

I know what it`s like to worry whether you`re going to get fired.
There were a couple times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink
slip.

It also means that if you don`t like what they do, you can fire them.
I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.

I`m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.
If it needs repair, I`ll fix it. I`m not concerned about the very rich.
They`re doing just fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Were all those misspoken?

EHRLICH: Chris, in context...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Tell me the context.

EHRLICH: Chris, you have to complete the context! You`re worried
about the really rich people. We fix the safety net when it`s broken.
He`s really worried about the working poor and the middle class, the people
who have really been hit by Obama policies over the past four years. I
think -- I suspect Speaker Gingrich would agree with those comments, as
well.

The very poor have that safety net. The working poor do not. With
regard to the very poor, if the safety net is broken, he said we would fix
it. Chris, again, you just can`t do this gotcha game. And I know
everybody does it right and left, but I just don`t think it`s very fair,
particularly...

MATTHEWS: But is it a pattern...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, Governor -- Governor Ehrlich, would you go around
saying on television, I bet you 10,000 bucks? Would you go around saying
corporations are people, too? Would you make comments like this over and
over again...

(CROSSTALK)

EHRLICH: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Yes?

EHRLICH: ... corporations hire people! We want healthy corporations
in this country...

MATTHEWS: And they fire people, according to your guy.

(CROSSTALK)

EHRLICH: ... do is degrade corporations! I want more corporations to
exist in this country! I want entrepreneurs to start corporations. Of
course that`s what he meant! That has defined his entire life!

MATTHEWS: OK. You know, he didn`t say, I like being able to hire
people. He never said, I like being able to hire people. He said, I like
people being able to fire people. Have you ever said...

EHRLICH: People who are not...

(CROSSTALK)

EHRLICH: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Have you ever said that in your life, I like being able to
fire people?

EHRLICH: Finish the con -- finish sentence, people who are not
serving his needs, the consumers` needs, his needs. That`s, of course --
look, I remember when Speaker Gingrich, and you talked about Medicare dying
on the vine when I was in Congress, Chris. I was on your show. You just
can`t take these...

MATTHEWS: OK...

EHRLICH: ... simple phrases out of context. You have to complete the
sentence.

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

EHRLICH: ... it`s about the health of corporations and job creation
and entrepreneurs!

MATTHEWS: But Governor, this is a guy who`s got money buried over in
the Cayman Islands, over in Swiss banks. It is contextual. It does fit
the man. The words fit the man. The way he talks about being able to fire
people, corporations being people too...

EHRLICH: Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... betting $10,000 at the drop of a hand...

EHRLICH: Hey, Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... he does come off as an elitist.

EHRLICH: Chris, what about the charitable contributions? Does that
count? Is that a countervailing...

MATTHEWS: Well, he makes $20 million a year.

(CROSSTALK)

EHRLICH: Joe Biden makes a lot of money! You don`t see those dollars
from them, do you?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think Biden makes about 10 percent of what the other guy
makes. Anyway, let me go back to Sue Lowden. This issue -- what does --
what does Newt Gingrich have that -- as a candidate for president? I was
kind of surprised to hear you because you`re sort of a moderate Republican.
I don`t want to get you in trouble out there. How about mainstream
Republican, Sue Lowden? And when you back up Newt Gingrich, I thought,
Well, he`s a little wild for you.

Why do you like Gingrich over Mitt Romney?

LOWDEN: You know, I remember, Chris, in the `90s, when the speaker
led the charge for the Republican revolution, when the speaker was an
integral part of balancing the budget, which we haven`t had since he was
there, when the speaker was a big part of Welfare reform.

I don`t forget those things. I know he can obviously reach across the
aisle and work with Democrats. He`s already proven himself as a leader in
that regard, and I think he can do it again.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much, Sue Lowden, the person who could
have beaten Harry Reid had she gotten the nomination last time, Sue Lowden
of California -- I`m sorry, of Nevada. And Bob Ehrlich. Thank you,
Governor Ehrlich.

EHRLICH: My pleasure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) with you. And by the way, you are not an
elitist.

Coming up...

EHRLICH: Thank you!

MATTHEWS: ... a very strong jobs report gives President Obama a big
boost. Unemployment dropped to its lowest point in three years today. And
look at the Dow! I think the Dow`s at its highest point since before we
got into big trouble under President Bush.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Nate Silver of "The New York Times" "538" blog has laid
down the odds in the next presidential nominating contests. Here they are,
and here`s the score. For Nevada, Silver says Romney has 100 percent
chance of winning. That`s pretty definite. Not much left to chance. What
are we doing tomorrow night here? We`re covering this thing! He`s got it
already figured. He also gives Romney a 91 percent chance of winning
Arizona, an 89 percent chance -- boy, he`s fine-tuning it -- of winning
Michigan.

And in on Ohio, which votes on super-Tuesday, things get interesting.
Silver`s got it labeled a toss-up. I love it! He gives Newt Gingrich a 40
percent chance of victory versus 36 percent chance for Romney. Silver`s
forecasting model will sharpen up as more polling is done in each state.

We`ll be right back. Fascinating! Newt`s got some power in the
Midwest and in the South.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to send a clear
message to Congress. Do not slow down the recovery that we`re on. Don`t
muck it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Boy, that is a telling comment from the president, a
warning to the Republicans on the Hill, "Don`t muck it up," from the
president. That was President Obama earlier today responding to a stronger
than expected jobs report. Look, as mentioned earlier, the Labor
Department reported today that 243,000 jobs were created in just January
this year, the most in nine months. And the unemployment rate dropped 2
tenths of a point down to 8.3, its lowest point in three years. The jobs
report spurred the Dow. Look at this. It went up 157 points today. It`s
now at its highest level since before the Bush disaster of 2008, the
financial crisis.

This is all good news for the president in this reelection year, but
he still faces some serious political headwinds. We`ll go through them in
a moment.

First, let`s go through the good news. Joining me right now is
Politico White House reporter Joe Williams and MSNBC political analyst
David Corn, who`s Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones."

Gentlemen, quickly -- you`re both political analysts. You first, Joe.
Is this all good news, or is it quicksilver? Is it too good too soon and
it`ll get worse, then he`ll be in worse shape?

JOE WILLIAMS, POLITICO: Well, the good news is that...

MATTHEWS: I hate to be Irish about it, but...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: My mother always figured the worst is going to happen, no
matter how good the news is! And then she was always either right or...

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was
Jewish and Italian...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Whatever!

CORN: It`s not WASP!

MATTHEWS: The WASPs assume the better, and it always comes out that
way.

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, there`s a reason for that.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WILLIAMS: But certainly, there`s a dark cloud around the silver
lining. I mean, sure, unemployment is down. Sure, things look good.
Lifetime between now and November. Anything can happen. Already, we`ve
seen signs in the Middle East where the Strait of Hormuz situation could
tick oil prices up, slide the economy back down.

MATTHEWS: That`s what screwed Carter.

WILLIAMS: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: The CBO report indicates that it`s going to be about 8.8 by
the end of the year. It looks like they may finish ahead of that. It may
still maintain around 8.3, mid-8s, give or take...

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re fearful of a second dip.

WILLIAMS: Well, second dip is inevitable, and nobody can control
whether or not that happens or not. I mean, it certainly is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk the politics, Joe, before we go to you,
David. The president -- let`s not -- let`s hope they don`t muck it up. Is
he already laying down the predicate that if they don`t pass a jobs bill,
if they don`t pass something to put back the guys coming back from the war,
from Afghanistan and Iraq, put them to work doing CCC kind of work -- if
they don`t do what he tells them to do, is he laying down the predicate, as
people say, for, You guys blew it?

WILLIAMS: Well, it seems obvious. I mean, he`s trying to make sure
that Congress is on notice, something needs to get done, something needs to
shift this unemployment rate for the good of everybody, not necessarily
just for the good of the president`s prospects. But certainly, it`s a
marker and he intends on (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Boy, this is clarity, isn`t it?

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: 8.3. If he can keep it down that low, he probably gets
reelected. If it goes back up, he`s got to blame it on somebody else, the
president, right?

CORN: Well, what...

MATTHEWS: He can`t take the hit.

CORN: What`s the big fight coming up? The payroll tax holiday
extension and unemployment insurance.

MATTHEWS: Is there a chance that they`ll deny that to him?

CORN: Well, listen, the Tea...

MATTHEWS: They`ll let the rate go up again?

CORN: The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has been
whipping the leader, House Speaker Boehner, doesn`t want to extend this
stuff. They don`t like it.

MATTHEWS: Why, they want to screw the economy?

CORN: Well, no. They don`t believe that if you give...

WILLIAMS: (INAUDIBLE) principle fight.

CORN: They don`t believe if you give tax breaks to the middle class
it helps the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... tax cuts...

CORN: For the rich, for what they call it the "job creators." They
don`t...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But it`s true!

MATTHEWS: ... slanted.

CORN: No, it`s not slanted!

MATTHEWS: How can they not believe in tax cuts for jobs?

CORN: They`ve said this! They have said this. Jon Kyl over in the
Senate has said the same thing...

MATTHEWS: Is this your reading, Joe?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They don`t think helping the -- the employer have a lower
cost of labor, right, which is what we`re really talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... is healthy for hiring people.

CORN: But that -- so that`s what the president`s talking about. He
says, "Don`t muck it up." This is the fight coming up.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: And if you look at the CBO report, it did not -- it assumed
that there wasn`t an extension of the payroll tax cut.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: So if you extend it, you bring the unemployment rate down...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: ... glide slope towards...

MATTHEWS: OK, so there`s -- so we`re still looking at an 8.3 percent
unemployment rate for January, fabulous news, the Dow-Jones through the
roof, back to where it was before Bush screwed things up.

Let`s look at a reminder here that Obama inherited a troubled economy.
Take a look at this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows
steep job losses under President George W. Bush right there, look at in the
red, and shown here in the red. Once Barack Obama became president,
however, the chart turns blue. Look at it. See? It begins to show
reverse. And eventually, the job loss has become job gains. See? Above
that line there. We all learned to play -- to read those graphs in school.

The stuff above means it`s shooting up positive. And underscoring the
point that the economy has steadily improved under Obama, a Bloomberg
report released earlier this week shows the economies of Michigan, there
they are, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have improved faster than the
rest of the country since the recession began in April of 2009 until the
end of 2011.

By the way, some of those states are in the what I call the Scranton
to Oshkosh corridor, that very sensitive blue-collar part of the country,
Joe, where people depend on what we call the accordion industry. It`s when
they go in and out. They hire and then they lay off people, then they
hire, lay off. Everybody is very sensitive where there are layoffs and
where people are hiring.

WILLIAMS: But there are two things that come to mind when I see that
graph.

The first is David is right. They are going to go toe to toe and try
to get something passed for the payroll tax extension. What bothers me --
or what sort of is interesting politically about that graph is Ohio,
Indiana, certainly right-to-work states now or certainly having fights with
labor. Wisconsin, same thing.

What that fight is going to have, and whether or not the governor wins
and whether or not there`s going to be a right-to-work legislation that
will limit union bargaining and that will restrict the ability to get a
wage that they believe is fair could have an impact on hiring as well. It
just depends.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Which way does it go, though? Ironically, does a tougher,
a better, a stronger situation for organized labor mean less hiring or more
hiring?

WILLIAMS: Well, in theory, a stronger situation for organized labor
means more hiring in broad theory. That is you get organized people,
manufacturing takes off, wages go up, everybody wins.

But in a situation where you have restricted labor ability, the
manufacturers and the producers tend to want to hire more, but the wage
sort of tops out.

CORN: But also remember in Wisconsin, there`s the recall fight that
will be going on over the next few months. You see -- a lot of this is
driven by steel, which pays good bucks.

MATTHEWS: Great irony, guys. And everybody watching this show, learn
this.

Despite all the conservative and right-wing argument that the
government is hiring and hiring and hiring and there`s more and more panic
and more featherbedding and more jobs in the government, the fact is
private-sector jobs have been going up and up and up as we saw in that
chart President Obama. And the decline has been state and local, Joe.

And that`s a killer, because at the very time our business -- and
everybody hopes business can create jobs, the local and state governments
are so starved, that they are laying people off.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: And that`s a big problem, because early on the president
had called for aid to states, the spending-lax Congress, the Congress that
didn`t want to do any spending, did not want to go along with that. And
the states are hurting. The choices are cut or tax. Cut usually wins.

CORN: And also who are they cutting? A lot of states they have to
cut teachers. You cut teachers, what happens? You don`t have kids
learning as well. It hurts future prospects.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is the short run stuff. Nobody knows this. It`s the
local and state that are firing people, laying them off. That`s what`s
causing this continued lag in the economy and the recovery.

CORN: Part of the jobs plan was to try to prevent that from happening
and put money into the states and the Republicans have said no.

MATTHEWS: And that money has run out now, the money they poured into
places like Scranton and localities back in `09.

Anyway, thank you, Joe Williams. Great to have you on.

And, thank you, David Corn. Have a happy weekend.

Good economics news for this weekend, by the way, good economic news
for retirees out there.

Coming up, we will talk about "Game Change," the movie and who doesn`t
want to watch this movie because he`s already been through the pain. His
name is McCain. Stick around for the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up: marking the calendar? Earlier this week we got a peek at
the new HBO movie "Game Change," which is based on the book about the 2008
presidential election. It`s no secret that Sarah Palin is at the center of
the story, but what do you think the real-life subjects think about the
impending premier?

It depends who you ask. Let`s get the lowdown from John McCain, who
was asked about the movie yesterday by CNBC`s Andrew Ross Sorkin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, CNBC: I was curious if you had an opportunity to
see Ed Harris playing you and your views.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It will be a cold day in Gila Bend,
Arizona, when I watch that movie.

SORKIN: Fair enough.

MCCAIN: Thanks.

SORKIN: Fair enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I guess. Was the joyride with Sarah Palin something he
would rather experience just once?

Next up, time to make a move? For many conservatives, it would be a
dream come true to have Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels jump in the
Republican presidential race. Well, the ship sailed on that one, but an
endorsement from Daniels could provide some much-needed backing for any of
the candidates.

Think he is starting to lean towards one of the candidates? Let`s
hear how he took on the question yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you endorsing for president on the GOP
side?

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: Well, I`m for all of them. I`m
rooting for them all to do a good job and continue a spirited competition.
I don`t think anybody would care too much who I was for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding? Everybody wanted you to run.
They want your endorsement.

DANIEL: Well, now that Donald Trump has spoken, I guess it`s over
anyway, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Good point.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`s one way to dodge the question.

What do you think? Would Romney trade Trump for Mitch Daniels at this
point? You betcha.

But speaking of that, here`s a no-brainer. Who do you think was
clapping the loudest when Mitt Romney and Donald Trump took to the podium
yesterday? That`s right. The Obama campaign. Here`s a portion of an e-
mail sent out to Obama supporters earlier today -- quote -- "Yesterday Mitt
Romney said he was humbled to accept Donald Trump`s endorsement.
Seriously, yes, Donald Trump, birth certificate conspiracy leader, has
decided that Mitt Romney is his guy. And Romney has embraced him without
reservation."

Well, as if we needed a reminder of which topic it was that dominated
Trump`s almost candidacy.

And, finally, game on. There are a few Super Bowl bets going on in
Congress. But here`s one that involves the senators. This one is between
New Yorker Chuck Schumer and fellow Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New
Hampshire. What is at stake? A round of beer for the entire Senate. It`s
just a question of what type.

Let`s hear the two of them discussing the wager earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: We think we brew a lot of
really wonderful beer in New Hampshire. And so we`re delighted with the
idea that Senator Schumer is going to pay for that beer to treat all of the
senators when the Patriots win on Sunday.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We have Brooklyn beer. We have
Blue Point on Long Island. We have Brown`s in Troy, Saranac up in Utica.

When the Giants beat the Patriots, Jeanne is going to be nice enough
to serve those beers to all the Senate and they will start buying them and
it will help jobs in New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Look, I don`t know who it was who thought these cornball
bets between politicians, but I think it`s time to please retire them.

Up next, the Susan G. Komen Foundation reverses its decision about
funding for Planned Parenthood. What a big turnaround this has been these
last few hours.

That`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

A big market day today. The Dow gained 157 points to close at a 3.5-
year high. And the S&P rose 19 points. The Nasdaq added 46. That puts it
at an 11-year high. The big story, as Chris mentioned, the jobs report --
234,000 non-farm jobs were created last month, 100,000 more than Wall
Street expected.

But on another note, a very sad day over at Micron Technology. Its
chairman and CEO, Steve Appleton, was killed in a small plane crash.
Appleton survived a previous crash in 2004. It`s expected that one of his
directors will remain on the board.

That`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- now back
to Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After a firestorm erupted this week, the Susan G. Komen Foundation,
the group behind Race for the Cure, has apologized and backed off their
plans to drop funding for Planned Parenthood -- actually Planned
Parenthood`s breast cancer screenings.

In a statement, Komen Foundation head Nancy Brinker said -- quote --
"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast
doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women`s lives. Our
original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not
funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We
will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations
must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. We will
continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood,
and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while
maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that
meet the needs of our communities."

So, what exactly was the motivation behind those words, to drop the
funding to begin with? Were there politics at play here?

Andrea Mitchell is right on this story, has been. She`s NBC`s chief
foreign affairs correspondent and the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" on
MSNBC. We also have joining us right now Senator Barbara Boxer, who is a
Democrat from California and very much involved in this dispute.

Let me start with Andrea, my colleague.

It seems to me that they were under some pressure, I don`t know where
it came from, to make this decision to no longer fund Planned Parenthood`s
screenings for breast cancer, which are extremely popular with women,
especially women of limited means. It`s a very comfortable place to go to
Planned Parenthood. It`s like a clinic. It`s a real public service.

For them to drop their support for that because some right-wing
congressman is messing around with them with some kind of hearings was a
pretty thin reed on which to build their case.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They didn`t
make the case that this was a real investigation. It seemed to be a sham.
That`s what critics said.

There were also some suggestions from people close to the Komen
organization that there were other state investigations. They never made
that case either. And then when Ambassador Nancy Brinker came and talked
to me yesterday on the program, she came with another explanation, which
was they wanted direct referrals.

They had a credibility problem with their constituency. And I think
it`s wise that they apologized and reversed themselves so quickly.

MATTHEWS: Well, Nancy Brinker told you yesterday that she was upset
by the questions of whether this was a political decision by them. Let`s
listen to her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY BRINKER, KOMEN FOR THE CURE: I`m troubled that it`s been
labeled as political. This is not a political decision. We operate from
one set of standards every day.

And it is to our mission. And if we don`t advance and revise and make
grants that meet the mission and bring real care to vulnerable populations,
we won`t be doing our job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator Boxer, it`s great to have you on, as always.

What were the pressures coming from the pro-choice people that really
seemed to reverse this decision lickety-split overnight?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Can I just say, pro-choice, not
pro-choice, this is about screenings for breast cancer. There`s no room
for politics in this at all.

And we all know we face attacks on a woman`s right to choose. This
has nothing to do with that. And I had the privilege of being on Andrea`s
show yesterday and today. And I made the point that this is the just tip
of the iceberg of the right wing going after women`s health.

They are even going after birth control. And I thought that all was
resolved in the `60s. So we -- we are very happy. We in the United States
Senate who sent the letter -- there were about 25 or 26 of us, men and
women, who said to the Komen people, please reconsider this. And they did,
and I`m very pleased that they did.

MATTHEWS: Well, the question still -- we don`t really know what
pressures or what politics or whatever played the hand in letting Nancy
Brinker out of nowhere say we`re not going to do business anymore on these
critical issues of breast cancer screening with Planned Parenthood. We
don`t know though -- nobody knows yet.

MITCHELL: I personally do not know. I do know that Planned
Parenthood had a target on their back.

BOXER: We don`t know, but we can guess.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, you want to guess? Go ahead, Senator. Make you
speculation. What do you think is behind this decision that caused this
uproar?

BOXER: Well, I think we can surmise that there was far-right pressure
on Komen to drop all support for Planned Parenthood and stop those grants.

There`s no other explanation. They did say that very first day under
investigation. And anyone who knows, these -- quote, unquote --
"investigations" are really political in nature. We know that there are
members of the House and the Senate who tried very hard to destroy Planned
Parenthood.

In the last budget, we were able to stop it in the Senate. So, I
think we know that it is political. But the people out there who looked at
this got really disturbed about it. They rose up on all the social media,
men and women of goodwill, different political parties, and they just said,
stop it.

You have to separate your politics from the need to find a cure for
breast cancer and prevent it.

MATTHEWS: Well, Andrea, yesterday, you interviewed Michael Bloomberg
-- earlier today. I love the way he handled this. He offered a matching
gift donation of up to $250,000 to Planned Parenthood to make up for what
it looked like they were going to lose. He said politics should not be at
play in these organizations.

Let`s watch Mayor Bloomberg here for a minute.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think health care is at
the top on the list of things we have to worry about. I don`t think
politics should enter it.

I don`t know what got the Komen Foundation to make their decision.
I`m glad they reversed it. But the bottom line is, Planned Parenthood is
an organization that was providing a great service in terms of screening
for breast cancer. And they do a lot of other things as well.

I have no idea why the Susan Komen Foundation did what they did or why
they reversed it. I`m just glad that in the end, they came to the right
decision. They will continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

I will continue to support both organizations. And I would urge
everybody else to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Race for the Cure is one of the most dazzling
things that goes on every year. You`ve been involved.

I mean, I saw it down in Florida. All these people out there, they
painted one of the bridges down there in Palm Beach pink to honor the day.

Tell us about -- is that going to revive and come back after all
this?

MITCHELL: I think that there`s some damage that has to be repaired,
but I think that the institution decades of participation by men, women,
children, survivors and supporters alike just has to go on.

This is a global organization now. And we have seen the first Susan
G. Komen Race for the Cure around the old city of Jerusalem with Arab and
Israeli women running together in a cause. And the mayor of Jerusalem
running in the race and Nancy Brinker as well.

So, there`s a vibrant community here. And the social network media
certainly proved that that is instantaneous. It`s passionate.

And one of the reasons it`s so passionate is, as Senator Boxer can
tell you, when you run in one of these races and when you were thinking
about people you`ve lost, and -- I mean, now I`m thinking about myself, but
more about the community and about children.

MATTHEWS: You`ve been through this. My friend, you`ve been through
this.

MITCHELL: And --

MATTHEWS: You`re allowed to have emotion.

Your last thought on this, Barbara Boxer. Is this going to be OK for
the Race for the Cure, which we`re watching a picture of right now?

BOXER: I think everyone is going to come together after this. It
was a lesson for everyone. And we have to take politics and take it out of
this, because, you know, Republicans and Democrats and independents, every
one of us whether we vote, we don`t vote, whether we`re pro-choice or not,
we know someone who`s been touched deeply by this.

I sit here and I think about Andrea, and I think about the wife of my
friend Harry Reid who is going through this now. And I can say, we have to
work together, period.

And I think what happened with this apology was a recognition that we
won`t find a cure if we start fighting over things. Let`s just work
together. Let`s get this done.

MATTHEWS: Great strong words there from Senator Barbara Boxer of
California.

Thank you, Senator.

Thank you, my friend, Andrea Mitchell -- who knows of what she
speaks.

Up next: is Israel planning to attack Iran -- now for something
really frightening -- as early as this spring? We`ll get the latest
reporting and find out what it means to us here in the United States, and
what role we might play, if any, before or after this happens, if it
happens.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we saw how Mitt Romney is backpedaling from his
universally bad comment that he`s not concerned about the very poor. A lot
of lower-income Republicans probably didn`t appreciate his comment.

According to a recent Pew poll, nearly six in 10 Republicans whose
family incomes are below $30,000 a year say the government doesn`t do
enough to help the poor. They want the government to do more and they are
Republicans. Compare that with Republicans who make over 75,000 a year.
Only a fifth of them say the government doesn`t do enough for the poor.
Big surprises there, aren`t there?

Anyway, we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Perhaps ending the show with the most important question
of the night: Is Israel planning to strike Iran`s nuclear facilities in the
near future?

U.S. officials now believe the chances are greater than they were or
have been some time. According to "The Washington Post`s" David Ignatius,
who is really on top of the situation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
believes there is a strong likelihood Israel will launch an attack as soon
as this spring. The news comes as Israeli leaders and some of their
bluntest language so far said the window of opportunity to stop or slow
down Iran`s nuclear program is narrowing -- in other words, getting short.

And what would a strike on Iran mean for the U.S. and the rest of the
world? And how concerned our leaders here in America about the possibility
of Israel attacking Iran?

Richard Engel is the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News. He`s
in Tel Aviv.

And Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski is the former national security adviser
to President Carter. He has a new fascinating book called "Strategic
Vision." There it is. It`s about the United States role in the world and
whether our power and our influences on the decline or not. We`re going to
talk to him about that.

Let`s start with the situation out there.

What`s new, Richard, about the prospects for an attack by Israel on
the Iranian nuclear program, their facilities?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: What`s new is
that the Israelis do feel that their window to operate is shrinking. That
the Iranians are working on their program, making progress every month, and
that they could reach a point of no return -- a point at which it is no
longer possible for an Israeli air strike, missile strike, to slow down the
program in any kind of effective way.

And according to what is playing out right now, it seems that
Washington, particularly Defense Secretary Panetta, saw this as a real
possibility and took this very unusual step of making public statements
through David Ignatius to try and signal to the Israelis don`t do this.
Allow the sanctions more time to play out. Don`t break up a consensus
around the world that has been formed against Iran and give this more time.

And we`re seeing some pushback from the Israelis saying, "Yes, fine,
we will give it a little more time. But we can`t wait forever."

MATTHEWS: Second question to you. Is Israel concerned not that they
are going to build a launching platform or missile system, but then they
are just afraid that they can build a bomb itself and can deliver it by all
kinds of means?

ENGEL: Israel thinks, according to officials we`ve been spoken --
officials we`ve interviewed here, that it would take Iran a year to have
some sort of weapon, two to three years to have an arsenal. And they are
worried that once Israel -- once Iran has a weapon, that calculations, even
domestic calculations in this country will be significantly different.

Will Israel be able to operate as freely in Gaza? Will it be limited
by Hezbollah, knowing that Iran has even a rudimentary-style weapon, one
that is no longer able to -- it is able to reach?

So Israel doesn`t want to get to that point where it is always have
to worry about Iran having a weapon, this threat hanging over it. Iran, of
course, says that its weapons program is peaceful, that no decision has
been taken to actually create a weapon and points out that Israel, in fact,
does have nuclear weapons.

MATTHEWS: We know that, yes.

Let me go to Dr. Brzezinski about this strategic question. Is there
something that could be worse than Iran having a weapon? In other words,
when you make the calculations on consequences, is there any way you would
decide, well, all right, we can live with a nuclear weapon in the hands of
the Iranians because it`s better than what?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The answer is
very simple, war -- because it`s very easy to start a war. It`s very
difficult to end it on your own terms and it tends to produce unforeseen
consequences.

Look, the Israelis have a so-called nuclear deterrent. We have an
enormous nuclear deterrent. The notion that somehow or other the Iranians
who have existed for 3,000 years are going to commit public suicide the
first moment they have a bomb is really ludicrous.

Gary Sick who is a major significant expert on Iran has produced a
list since 1994 of annual Israeli predictions that next year Iran will have
the bomb. So I think we can take their predictions with a little bit of
caution. Moreover, their public opinion is not for a strike.

MATTHEWS: I know.

BRZEZINKSI: Majority of American Jews are not for a strike.

They are being sensible. I think we`re dealing here with a right
wing government with rather one-sided notions of what security is and
perhaps with a somewhat irresponsible attitude about the consequences of
their actions for us because the Iranians if attacked, are not going to
retaliate effectively against Israel because they cannot. They`ll
retaliate against us because they`ll see us as the sponsors.

So our troops in Afghanistan would pay the price. And our
disengagement may become very difficult to pursue.

We`ll have a mess in Iraq again. There could be difficulties in the
Persian Gulf. The price of oil could go up. The global economy could be
hurt. American taxpayers would pay 5 bucks per gallon.

The consequences for us would be extremely serious.

MATTHEWS: But Dr. Brzezinski, can Israel survive if it`s known by
its own people and perhaps future immigrants to Israel that they are going
into a country that`s under a basically a firing zone from Iran, that any
moment, one of the mullahs could decide to attack, maybe irrationally?

BRZEZINSKI: Look, we live that situation --

MATTHEWS: No, but irrationally?

BRZEZINSKI: Wait, we live in that situation for several decades.
With an enemy who could wipe out much of America in a few minutes.

They don`t have the bomb yet. We`re negotiating with them.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BRZEZINSKI: I think part of the Israeli concerns is that we may make
an arrangement with the Iranians that doesn`t humiliate them and doesn`t
force them to capitulate totally.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that when we come back.

Richard Engel, hang on there. Dr. Brzezinski is staying with us.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back. Let`s go over back to Tel Aviv and NBC`s
foreign correspondent -- chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. We
have joining us, of course, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who`s author of the new
book "Strategic Vision."

Richard, this question we were just talking to Dr. Brzezinski -- what
is Israeli public opinion? Where is it on whether to strike or not to
strike Iran and its nuclear facilities?

ENGEL: Israelis are divided on this. It`s not that everyone in this
country is clamoring for a military action. I was in an Israeli home
today. People were cleaning out their bomb shelter, making sure that it`s
ready, that the gas masks are available and in working order.

And I spoke to the owner of the house. He was there with his
children. He doesn`t think it`s a good idea that there are too many
unknown consequences, and that even if Israel or Iran were to get a new
clear weapon, what is it going to do with it? Would it fire on to Israel?
Iran would cease to exist a short while later.

There`s also a big debate within the Israeli intelligence community
about whether the -- this threat is really as high as people think it is.
With the top political leaders focused on Iran, but the cadre in the
Israeli intelligence services, the rank-and, file saying the real threat
comes from the neighbors -- specifically Egypt and potential future
problems in Jordan.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk U.S. policy. We`re talking Israeli
policy. What`s in the U.S. interest?

BRZEZINSKI: I think in the U.S. interest, it is absolutely
imperative that Israel be secure, but in a Middle East which is not at war.
And we can accomplish that. We can, first of all, issue a public statement
that any threat by Iran against any state in the Middle East will be viewed
as a threat against us. That in itself would be a very major deterrent.

And I think we can at the same time continue negotiating with
Iranians, perhaps about some arrangement in which they`ll continue their
nuclear program but under effective international inspection. And some
progress is moving in that direction.

MATTHEWS: How do you save their pride?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, by agreeing to them having a nuclear program and
perhaps --

MATTHEWS: It`s not weaponized?

BRZEZINSKI: It`s not weaponized. Enrichment is not up to a certain
level that it really represents a danger. But it is --

MATTHEWS: OK. What does Israel get out of that deal? Do they get a
year or two or three years of safety?

BRZEZINSKI: Look, if they have a --

MATTHEWS: Safety margin?

BRZEZINSKI: If they have a guarantee from the United States, they
have as much safety as Western Europe or as Japan or as South Korea. I
think we can do it, but we have to be forthright and our president and our
secretary of defense also have to speak forthrightly about this and make it
clear. We don`t want that war. It`s in nobody`s interest.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Richard Engel, over in Tel Aviv, as
always. One of the great correspondents of our time.

And Dr. Brzezinski, so much, your book is called "Strategic Vision."

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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