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updated 3/30/2012 1:30:02 PM ET 2012-03-30T17:30:02

Guests: Chuck Todd , Rachel Maddow, Tyler Mathisen, Ron
Allen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Supremes, where did our love go?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Spin cycle. Republicans are crossing their fingers that the Supreme Court
knocks down all or part of the health care law, and they`re already
preparing their general election attacks on the "Obama care." The
Democrats, too, are planning their post-decision strategy, ready to declare
the Supreme Court a partisan tool of the right if the law goes down.

How bad would a loss be to President Obama? Can the Democrats --
could they really turn a loss to their political advantage?

Plus, talk about an image problem. In just the last week, Mitt Romney
has had his Etch-a-Sketch moment, revealed that he`s building a house with
an elevator just for the cars, and yesterday, he joked about when his dad
shut down a factory in Michigan. Can anybody save this guy from himself?

Plus, the tale of the tape. George Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon
Martin after Trayvon broke his nose and repeatedly slammed his head into a
concrete sidewalk. But newly released videotape of Zimmerman arriving at
the police station -- we`re looking at it there -- appears to show no
evidence of a broken nose or obvious wounds to the back of Zimmerman`s
head. It doesn`t prove anything exactly, but it is raising more questions
about what exactly happened that night.

And from our own Rachel Maddow is now -- she`s got a book out, a new
one, a great one, "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power," that
since Vietnam, it has become progressively easier for our country to go to
war, with fewer consequences for fewer people.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with that point, the sharp, important new
book by Rachel about how wars are made painless to the general public, and
therefore dangerously easy to start. I can`t think of a more important
topic.

We begin with the spin from both sides of "Obama care." Chuck Todd is
NBC News`s chief White House correspondent and political director, and
Major Garrett covers the White House for "The National Journal."

Anyway, let`s go to this thing here. I find it easy to be Republican
if "Obama care" is declared unconstitutional. Let`s start with that.
That`s a fairly easy argument, the fact...

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They
already won. They got it in front of the Supreme Court. This is already a
win for the Republican side of the argument. They`ve called it into
question. It is a coin flip. It is the fact that we don`t know what the
decision`s going to be.

And if it`s upheld, they get to then run against it as a piece of
legislation and say, If you reelect -- you know, either way, this is a win
as far as...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... say he`s behaved unconstitutionally.

TODD: No matter what, right.

MATTHEWS: He violated his oath.

TODD: Either way...

MATTHEWS: They can hit them with everything.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: Major, is this -- just to start, before we get into what
everybody`s saying and the flackery going on here, objectively, this is a
win for the Republicans, if it goes down.

MAJOR GARRETT, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": If it goes down. We don`t know
what`s going to happen. Let us just slow down for a moment and say we
don`t know what the Court is going to rule. And we are all practiced in
the art of watching tough questions turn into different results when the
opinion is handed down.

That being said, it was not a good two-and-a-half days for the White
House or for this law. And when the White House said yesterday -- arguing
its constitutional justification in part by saying, Well, this idea
originally came from the Heritage Foundation.

The Supreme Court and the Constitution don`t care that the idea came
from the Heritage Foundation. They don`t care that it passed in
Massachusetts. Actually, states can do things like mandates. The federal
government may not be able to.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GARRETT: The Supreme Court is going to decide that. But neither one
of those two facts, Heritage Foundation or law in Massachusetts...

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The cartoon story is yours. The cartoon story is the
Democrats had Elmer Fudd out there arguing for him, and he blew it. That`s
the story. Or he had no good case to begin with. But I haven`t heard
anybody say he won the argument, that the administration won the argument.

GARRETT: There`s no evidence, listening to those audiotapes of the
Supreme Court proceedings, that they brought a strong case...

MATTHEWS: Right.

GARRETT: ... that wowed the judges.

TODD: But if you talk to...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... watchers, they say the oral arguments don`t always matter
that much.

GARRETT: No.

TODD: It`s more the Justices speaking to -- the questions they`re
asking...

GARRETT: And the underlying...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... actually starting to deliberate.

GARRETT: And the underlying federal lower courts and what they`ve
said, and they have said in greater numbers that the law is constitutional,
as opposed to saying it`s unconstitutional.

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The Republican National Committee wasted no time putting
out a somewhat misleading Web (sic) to pounce on the health care law and
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Let`s take a look at it. Here it is.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Case 11398, the Department of Health and Human
Services versus Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For more than 80 percent of Americans, the
insurance system does provide effective access -- excuse me -- it -- the --
because the -- the -- the -- excuse me...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Verrilli, of course, trying to make the case
for the -- they`re obviously...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the actual Supreme Court audio now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... turns out Verrilli, well, did not get off to a halting
start, but the RNC ad makes the awkward silence about twice as long as it
actually was. They looped it. They increased it. They made him look like
a fool.

TODD: Well, and no, and this is now going to -- they`ve now done
damage to the goal a lot of us in the media would like to have, which is
actually to get audio and video from the Supreme Court...

GARRETT: In real time.

TODD: ... in real time. But by showing how easily that they would
politically distort that, I think you`re going to have a lot of defenders
of the judiciary branch say, You know what?

GARRETT: This is what happens.

TODD: This is what happens...

MATTHEWS: So no more...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: We don`t want this like this because we don`t want to be used
politically. We`re talking -- we`re trying to oversee the other -- we`re
trying to oversee a branch of government here in as non-political a fashion
as we can.

GARRETT: There`s also something...

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: ... that chaps me, calling him Obama`s lawyer. The
solicitor general is not Obama`s lawyer.

TODD: He`s actually America`s lawyer.

GARRETT: He`s the nation`s lawyer, OK?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s take a look at another take. Here`s
Democratic strategist James Carville, who`s really, in all fairness, a
Clinton guy. But here he is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know he is. He`s not an Obama guy, has never been --
arguing that his party, the Democratic Party -- this is the way he says it
-- could benefit if the Supreme Court rejects this law, the president`s
health care law. Let`s hear his argument. I think it`s strained, but
let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that this will be the
best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party because I think
health care costs are going to escalate unbelievably.

You know what the Democrats are going to say? And it`s completely
justified. We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court
majority. The public has these guys figured out. Our poll shows half
think the whole thing is political. They overturned an election.

And just as a professional Democrat, there`s nothing better for me
than to overturn this thing 5-4. And then the Republican Party will own
the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe
that. That is not spin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s not spin, right? It is spin.

GARRETT: Right.

MATTHEWS: He`s going to go out there and make a lot of money. James
is a very smart guy. He`s going to make a case. Is he right? In the near
term, between now and November...

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... he says the Democrats -- will President Obama benefit
from an argument that the Supreme Court screwed them, it was totally
partisan?

TODD: I don`t buy a benefit. I could see them fighting this to a
wash, realistically, a political wash where it could maybe not serve as a -
- I think it`s going to be an ugly...

MATTHEWS: But do you have to attack...

TODD: ... eight to ten days...

MATTHEWS: ... the Court to do that?

TODD: I think they`re going to have to attack the polarization...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... of the Court?

TODD: The polarization of the public and of the Republican Party.
Like, that`s where I think the line -- because the one thing they believe
they have going for them politically, how to survive an overturn on this,
is number one, that it`ll be a 5-4 decision, so that you can immediately...

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president of the United States would ever
attack ad hominem...

TODD: I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: ... the members of the Supreme Court?

TODD: ... so, but there is...

MATTHEWS: You think he never will.

TODD: That doesn`t mean -- that doesn`t mean the party won`t. That
doesn`t mean surrogates won`t.

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: In the State of the Union two years ago, he criticized the
Citizens United case while they were sitting right below the rostrum. So
he has -- has demonstrated at least once before a tendency to criticize the
Court broadly, not by name...

MATTHEWS: Can he attack a decision without attacking the Court?

GARRETT: I don`t think so. But I -- but here -- here`s my takeaway.
Look, if this is overturned -- again, we don`t know, but if it is,
Republicans will say the president of the United States, who took an oath
to uphold the Constitution, who taught constitutional law, foisted on the
country after a 14-month endeavor a law that was rendered (ph)
unconstitutional.

MATTHEWS: Therefore...

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: Therefore, he`s a president who needs to be replaced.
Republicans will say that. They`ll say it...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: They`ll make a competency argument.

MATTHEWS: Oh, that`s the nicer way. How about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Won`t they go further and say he violated his oath?

TODD: Here`s the thing. No because here`s the problem they have.
And this is one of the assets that the White House has in here. And it`s
called Mitt Romney. And the fact is that he was an advocate for the
mandate. Yes, it`s state versus federal, but he has been all over the
place...

MATTHEWS: OK, I got...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: And I think that they believe that that`s going to make it
harder for Republicans...

MATTHEWS: OK, suppose you`re Mitt. If I could write his script, I
think he`d be (ph) a stronger candidate, but I`d say this. You know, for
months now, in fact, years, people have asked me what`s the difference
between my health care plan and the president`s. I`ll tell you.

TODD: The Supreme Court.

MATTHEWS: Mine`s constitutional...

TODD: Well, the Supreme Court just said that right.

MATTHEWS: Mine`s constitutional. His isn`t.

TODD: That`ll be the response that he has.

MATTHEWS: That`s a pretty good response.

TODD: But they also believe other issues are going to overtake this.
Now, I don`t agree. I think this will be a tougher blow to them,
personally for the president, than maybe they...

MATTHEWS: Do you think they...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both questions. It`s the job of political
consultants and I guess it`s the job of the president to think ahead and
recognize there are perils and prospects for defeat. Are they prepared now
to take a beating in June on this if they get an adverse ruling by the
Court? Do they have a plan for taking a loss on this?

TODD: Well, that`s why they went ahead and rushed it. Don`t forget,
it was their decision.

MATTHEWS: Do they have a plan?

TODD: They could have waited until 2013.

MATTHEWS: Do they have a plan?

TODD: Politically, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Politically, yes.

MATTHEWS: Which is to blame the Court.

GARRETT: Which is to blame the Court and to say, We tried. Give us
all the credit in the world for trying.

But remember -- this is an important point. In the House, the House
called it a tax. The Senate called it a penalty.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GARRETT: And to keep the bill alive when they lost their 60th vote, a
filibuster-proof majority, they used the word "penalty." They made a
political decision that opened up a constitutional line of inquiry into
this law. And that is...

MATTHEWS: OK...

GARRETT: ... in part...

MATTHEWS: For the progressive Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: ... the Democrats and the White House have on this
particular constitutional problem they`re in right now.

MATTHEWS: OK. Out of the weeds, into the reality of -- there`s 40
million people out there who aren`t insured, maybe 50 million. For the
progressives watching this show right now, will the president now resort to
single-payer and say, I tried to go down the middle with this Heritage
Foundation moderate course, I`m now going to go the Teddy Kennedy route?

TODD: I think it`s going to be two potential -- I think you`ll see
some call for that, or expansion of Medicare, Medicare for all...

MATTHEWS: Which is the same thing.

TODD: ... or Medicare...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... something like that. But you may see this sort of to do it
the way the highway bill is, which is you basically force states to have
their own mandate and you tie funds that...

MATTHEWS: Oh.

TODD: ... you know, that minimum coverage...

MATTHEWS: You can do that constitutionally?

TODD: Well, sure. It`s -- the highway funding is done that way
and...

MATTHEWS: I know they...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... although with Medicaid right now, that`s being challenged.

GARRETT: It`s the second big...

MATTHEWS: That`s so interesting...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... we have to have a 21-year-old drinking age.

TODD: That`s right.

GARRETT: Right.

MATTHEWS: They just said, No highway funds...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: That was one of the ideas that some of the insurance companies
were...

MATTHEWS: And you think this might pass constitutional muster, to do
it that way?

TODD: Well, we`ll find out what this Medicaid...

GARRETT: We`ll find out what this Medicaid challenge is.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: ... teach us a lot. It`s not going to solve health care, as
I wrote earlier this week in "National Journal," but it`s going to tell us
some constitutional...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: It`s going to tell us whether that -- whether health care can
be done in the market. And not -- they may say, Actually, you`re -- the
only way to do this is single-payer.

GARRETT: Or a more free market approach which...

MATTHEWS: OK...

GARRETT: ... is to step away from...

MATTHEWS: This is huge. Did you see this...

GARRETT: ... the politics and the policy we`ve had in the last 20
years.

MATTHEWS: Would you be still...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... surprised if it`s overturned.

MATTHEWS: ... if they strike it down? Were you surprised that this
was even a prospect? I was totally unprepared because the way people have
talked -- I always thought, intellectually, there might be a problem, but
I`ve never heard it discussed politically as a prospect, that they actually
might get his major achievement just ripped off the books.

GARRETT: I always thought that health care and the push was a huge
risk. It feels like the biggest risk ever taken...

MATTHEWS: Oh, God.

GARRETT: ... since I started covering Washington in 1990.

MATTHEWS: This is an easy one for the Republicans if they get a
beating on this (INAUDIBLE) Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. I think we all
agree. Major Garrett -- despite James Carville, who may be thinking down
the road how this helps Secretary Clinton an her campaign because it seems
to me down the road...

TODD: You mean...

MATTHEWS: ... you could say this thing`s all be trashed by the right-
wing Court...

TODD: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MATTHEWS: ... but that won`t work in the short run.

TODD: If -- if -- if that -- if Mitt Romney`s the godfather of the
mandate, doesn`t that make Hillary Clinton the godmother of the mandate?
It was her idea to begin with.

GARRETT: Bottom line...

MATTHEWS: You`re too smart.

GARRETT: Bottom line...

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to be nice to Hillary, and you`re trying to be
tough.

GARRETT: The problem...

MATTHEWS: Anyway, coming up...

GARRETT: The problem persists.

MATTHEWS: ... Mitt Romney`s latest 1 percent moments. By the way,
they are something else. He`s building a garage with an elevator in the
garage for his cars. Is that for if he loses or if he wins? Is that a
reward or a consolation? Anyway, he joked also talked about how his dad
had to shut down a factory in Michigan and fire a bunch of people. He
thought that was a real yuk. Is there something wrong with this guy?

This is HARDBALL. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New polling shows a couple of incumbent Democratic senators
in good shape heading into November. So let`s check the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard."

In Florida, a new Quinnipiac poll shows two-term senator Bill Nelson
ahead of his Republican challenger, Connie Mack, by 8, 44-36. In Ohio,
Senator Sherrod Brown is up 10 over his Republican challenger, Josh Mandel,
46-36.

But in Nebraska, it`s not looking good for former senator Bob Kerrey.
Kerrey`s a double-digit underdog in a new PPP poll in his race against
Republican John Bruning. And that`s for the seat held by the retiring Ben
Nelson. It looks like a good pickup opportunity for the Republicans.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and to a lighter topic. We`ve got
our HARDBALL strategists here tonight to tackle two issues facing the
Republicans running for president right now. Number one, Mitt Romney needs
an image makeover, don`t you think? He`s becoming the cartoon character
Richie Rich.

This week, it came out that his California home out there that he`s
building will have an elevator in it, which is pretty ritzy to begin with,
but this elevator is for cars. He even has his own lobbyist out there to
allow him to expand massively the footprint of his house.

Plus, Romney`s making jokes about how his dad -- ha, ha, ha, ha --
closed down a factory in Michigan. Isn`t that a hoot? Just how does he
spin, or anybody spin this guy`s image?

Topic number two in this section, Wisconsin may be the last big state
where Rick Santorum can prove he`s still a credible challenger to Romney,
and Gingrich is already scaling back his campaign. One of them seems to be
going to zoos now and then. The other one`s going to bowling alleys. What
is up with these guys?

To answer the question, we have the HARDBALL strategists Democratic
Steve McMahon, who`s waiting somewhere, and John Feehery, the Republican,
is right before me.

To start it off with, we go to McMahon for the easy opportunity, easy
picking. This guy has designed a house...

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Yes. He designed a house which includes an elevator for
cars. Now, I`m not sure what you use an elevator for cars, but he wants
one. Is this going to suggest that he`s either building a giant
consolation prize if he loses, or this is where the Western White House is
going to be housed?

MCMAHON: Well, you remember, Chris, his wife drives a Cadillac,
actually a couple of them, and he drives a pickup truck and something else.
So when you have that many cars, you have to have a place to put them. And
then when you build on the side of a mountain, I presume you need an
elevator, especially if you have that many cars.

So you`re absolutely right. This reinforces a negative image about
Mitt Romney, and every time he opens his mouth to make a joke or even to
say something serious, he seems to be making a laughingstock of himself,
and it`s going to be difficult for him to recover.

And it`s why his numbers in the 12 battleground states are upside
down. He`s got about a net negative-30 rating in favorable/unfavorable.
And no one has ever recovered...

MATTHEWS: OK...

MCMAHON: ... from that.

MATTHEWS: Luckily, we have...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... a spin artist here. We have a spin artist. John, how
do you spin this baby? You got a candidate here who`s a bit of a cartoon,
Richie Rich.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it is right now. You
know, I think that as we get past the primary and into the general
election, he`s going to have to gracefully transition to a more general
election candidate. He`s got to focus on his record and...

MATTHEWS: What about his house with the elevator in it?

FEEHERY: You know...

MATTHEWS: Is he going to dump that plan?

FEEHERY: This is...

MATTHEWS: Would you have him dump that plan?

FEEHERY: I`m shocked that a -- someone running for president would
have wealth. I mean, most of our presidents...

MATTHEWS: Would you tell him...

FEEHERY: ... have had wealth. George Washington...

MATTHEWS: ... to get rid of the -- would you tell him to get rid of
the elevator?

FEEHERY: I don`t think this is the issue...

MCMAHON: Of course he would.

FEEHERY: ... in the campaign. People don`t care...

MCMAHON: Of course he would.

FEEHERY: People don`t care about...

MCMAHON: He would.

FEEHERY: ... it. They care about his record...

MCMAHON: John...

FEEHERY: They care about his record as governor. What did he do?
Did he actually...

MCMAHON: John...

FEEHERY: ... make it more efficient? Did he cut spending? Did he
(INAUDIBLE) Did he bring...

MATTHEWS: Why...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: He`s got to focus on his record.

MATTHEWS: You`re being mocked, by the way, by McMahon, who...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: You know what? John`s a great strategist. John -- John is
a great strategist, and he absolutely would tell him to get rid of the
elevator. He just can`t say it right now, right, John?

MATTHEWS: OK, let -- let -- this is what`s happening. Last night --
this is a guy I do -- I`ve touted this guy, and it wasn`t just Todd Harris.
I have been touting Rubio, too, because I`ve watched him on TV. He is a
smart guy of the future. He has now finally endorsed Romney -- doesn`t
have much choice -- on Fox, but he wasn`t exactly screaming with excitement
or joy. Listen to this somewhat restrained endorsement from the future of
the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I am going to endorse Mitt Romney, and
the reason why is not only because he`s going to be the republican nominee
but he offers at this point such a stark contrast to the president`s
record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So we`re stuck with him and the president stinks.
Therefore, I love this guy. Think that through.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: If you actually watch that whole segment, he actually
endorsed him very heartily. And the fact of the matter is that Marco Rubio
would make a great vice presidential candidate.

MATTHEWS: Here we go. You`re switching the topic.

What do you think of that endorsement, Steve?

MCMAHON: I thought it was tepid, at best. It actually sounded a
little bit like future tense. I am going to endorse Mitt Romney, he is
going to be the next nominee. It didn`t sound as full-throated as you
would expect or hope if you`re Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Republican fight. Is Romney your
nominee?

FEEHERY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What is the role now being played positively by Santorum,
who is very good at bowling? He got three strikes in a row. I didn`t know
you called it a turkey. It is a turkey. He`s good at it. He wants to
challenge Mitt Romney to a bowling match, which is fine with me, but it
isn`t going to prove nothing, because it will just prove the one guy is a
working-class guy and the other guy is an elitist.

But then again, the president comes off that way, too. Would you like
to see a bowling match between these guys?

FEEHERY: I think Gingrich and Santorum have the same role as the
Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters.

They will continue to get beat. I think the fact of the matter is
that Santorum will keep winning Southern states, if there are any left,
which I don`t think there are.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: And at the end of the day, Romney is going to win...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back over this. I love references to the
Washington Generals, because those were the guys that played the
Globetrotters and always lost. In fact, they regularly lost about 15
points. I think that was the deal.

Who`s the Washington Generals here and who`s the Globetrotters?

FEEHERY: Newt Gingrich is the Washington Generals and Mitt Romney
is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But why is he running?

FEEHERY: I don`t know. I think that he ran because he believes in
ideas and he thinks that he could carry on his ideas.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There was a summit meeting recently this week between the
two, between Romney -- is this to keep -- here`s any conspiratorial mind
thinking and speaking because I want Steve to respond to this.

Do you think that Romney is keeping Gingrich in the race just to make
sure there is no chance of a breakout by Santorum, or is that an old
strategy that`s been disbanded?

MCMAHON: I actually think that`s an old strategy.

Here`s what I think is going on. These guys can do the math and Mitt
Romney can do the math. Romney will tell you all day long why Rick
Santorum and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul for that matter can`t possibly get
the delegates by the convention that would secure them the nomination.

But the dirty little secret here, and we have talked about this
before, Chris, is that Mitt Romney can`t either. He`s going to go into the
convention without enough delegates, and Newt Gingrich understands that if
the convention delegates were ever released to vote their conscience, they
wouldn`t vote for the flip-flopping moderate from Massachusetts, the
godfather of health care reform. They would vote for a conservative. They
would vote for a conservative candidate, maybe somebody who is not running.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: My assumption -- no, that`s not going to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That was spin, Steve. Steve, that was spin.

FEEHERY: These types of meetings, Chris, they`re usually about paying
off campaign debt. And I think that that is what -- and they always deny
it, but my guess is...

MATTHEWS: Do you think he will forgive Mitt Romney those attacks on
him, that bombing that went on in Iowa that destroyed him, all that
negative advertising? Machiavelli says that people never forgive in
politics. They always remember.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: You knows what buys a lot of goodwill? Paying off campaign
debt.

MATTHEWS: What about the V.P. thing with Santorum? I want to get to
a couple points with Santorum. Is there a chance Santorum is on the
ticket?

FEEHERY: I don`t think so.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look.

Sheldon Adelson, we have been watching this guy. He is an older
gentleman, and he`s made a lot of money in the casino business. He says
now it`s time for Gingrich to pack it up. Let`s watch him. He`s been the
guy bankrolling in the tens of millions of dollars with super PAC money for
Newt Gingrich. He`s now said time`s up. Vacate the premises. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHELDON ADELSON, CHAIRMAN, LAS VEGAS SANDS CORP.: I`m in favor of
Newt Gingrich because I like people who make decisions. He`s a decision
maker. It appears as though he`s at the end of his line, because,
mathematically, he can`t get anywhere near the numbers and there is
unlikely to be a brokered convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Steve, this guy -- and John -- this guy knows numbers. I
would bet -- he`s beat the Chinese at the casino business. I would say
he`s pretty good at it. In fact, they invite him into Macau to put up
these casinos.

What does it mean that he doesn`t have any more banker, he`s lost
Adelson, Newt?

MCMAHON: I think what it means is this is why Newt Gingrich is now
charging people $50 to have their picture taken with him, because Sheldon
is not there anymore to provide the bankroll that lets the campaign go on.

And I think this is a problem for Gingrich...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, how many pictures does Adelson get? I figured
Adelson has paid for a hell of lot of pictures by now with $15 million.

FEEHERY: That`s not very much. Usually, it`s about $1,000 a picture.
I don`t know. That`s not very much.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think you might want your picture taken with Newt so you
would look good.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, just kidding, just kidding, Newt.

Anyway, good luck. I guess he`s out of the race. We like him in the
race.

Steve McMahon, John Feehery, sporting achievement here, lots of spin
on both sides.

Steve, I must say you were guilty of some of it.

FEEHERY: Some of it?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I would have to say there was some well-rounded spinning
going on here. That`s what you`re here for.

Up next, that Romney Etch A Sketch comment has new life. Stick around
for the "Sideshow." Etch A Sketch ain`t going anywhere.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, the individual broccoli mandate. If the government can
force you to buy health insurance, can it also force you to buy other
things you may not want, like broccoli? The so-called broccoli argument
was at the center of the Supreme Court arguments this Tuesday.

Last night, Stephen Colbert found the issue too juicy, if broccoli is
juicy, to resist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Obamacare is dead. It
was killed by nine people in black robes. I told you there would be death
panels.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: The linchpin of this legislative Obama-nation is the health
care mandate.

ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Everybody has
to buy food sooner or later. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: This case is really about broccoli. Why is the government
trying to make us eat it? Next, they`re going to make us eat the rest of
our vegetables, including the lima beans.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And take a nap when we`re not tired, and give our grandma a
kiss even though she smells like old tupperware.

I`m not going to have my health care decisions made by Barack Obama,
or, should I say, broccoli Obama?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, believe it or not, broccoli was brought up a total
of eight times during Tuesday`s Supreme Court hearing.

Next up, ever wonder what it`s like to be backstage with President
Obama? Well, comedian Aziz Ansari had his own expectations and they were
smashed when he brought up -- actually brought his stand-up routine to an
Obama fund-raiser. Here he is telling Jimmy Fallon about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")

AZIZ ANSARI, COMEDIAN: I am expecting him to come like and us just be
like -- for him to be like, thank you for your time, here`s your photo,
thank you for your time, here`s your photo. That`s what I`m expecting.

He comes back. He`s like, oh snap, it`s the Roots. What`s going on,
you all? You guys are like my house band. You guys are at every event."

He`s like, Aziz, what is going on? You blowing up, man? What are you
up to?

And I was like, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

ANSARI: Why are you talk to go me like my little brother Aniz? Don`t
you have the nuclear codes?

(LAUGHTER)

ANSARI: This dude acts the exact same way I would act if I was the
president.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if that`s true. Anyway, I think Obama comes
across pretty well in those moments.

Anyway, finally, Democrats just can`t resist taking advantage at that
Romney aide`s -- remember the Etch A Sketch comment recently? Well, now
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren -- and she`s a Democrat --
has made it part of her playbook.

Here`s part of her campaign`s new ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: What the
lobbyists want, what Wall Street wants is they want Etch A Sketch senators.
They want the ones who will clear the screen and change their minds to do
whatever big money tells them to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I guess that`s trickle-down politics. Anyway, enough of
that.

Up next, my colleague Rachel Maddow will be here in a moment. She
argues in her brilliant new book, "Drift," that since Vietnam, it`s become
a lot easier for this country to go to war because of the way they make it
nicer to go to war for most people, not for the people fighting it.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow claws its way back from a triple-digit decline to end up 19.
The S&P fell two and the Nasdaq ended lower by nine. Best Buy shares sank
7 percent after earnings came in below expectations. The retailer is also
closing 50 of its big box stores and cutting 400 jobs.

Troubled Research In Motion reported earnings that disappointed and
the resignation of some executives today. And weekly jobless claims were
weaker than expected despite falling to a new four-year new low.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, the day we
have all worked and prayed for has finally come. For the first time in 12
years, no American military forces are in Vietnam. All of our American
POWs are on their way home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Richard Nixon of course on this day 39 years ago announcing
the withdrawal of the last American combat troops from Vietnam. By the
way, he could have given that speech when he took office. It`s now been
more than 10 years since the start of another war, this time in
Afghanistan.

Even though Osama bin Laden is dead and Afghan leaders increasingly
express frustration with our ongoing presence, 90,000 American troops
remain in country.

How we got from Vietnam to this latest military fight is the topic of
Rachel Maddow`s new book, "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military
Power." In it, she makes the case that it`s much easier for presidents to
go to war now for a number of reasons. Among them, they have come to rely
less on congressional approval for military actions and the use of private
contractors have become abundant now. Also, drones have made fighting less
costly to the public. Perhaps, most significantly, fewer and fewer
Americans actually serve in the military these days or are even affected by
the war in terms of their families.

Rachel Maddow joins us now from New York. She`s of course the host of
"The Rachel Maddow Show" here on MSNBC and my beloved colleague.

You know, Rachel, you know, what you have done here is really
something brisk and sharp and important, which is to put it all together in
a way I have never seen done, all these factors that are making it easier
for the average person out there who is non-military in their life to say,
yes, go ahead with this war.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Yes.

Thank you, Chris. That`s very nice of you to say. And thank you for
having me on to talk about it.

I`m not an expert on the military. I`m not an expert on war. I have
never served. My father did, but I didn`t grow up on military bases or
anything like that. This is a book about politics and about our politics
about war and about this feeling that I think a lot of the people in the
country have had, whether you`re left-wing or right-wing or neither, or
even if you don`t care about politics, that it didn`t feel like we were a
country that went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We`re a country that sent the military to war and let them do to work.
And military families` lives have been so different than civilian families`
lives over the past decade. The book is essentially an exploration of why,
about how we got to be a country that feels this way and why it feels so
wrong to us.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Afghanistan, because that`s the case
in point right now. And I know it`s frustrating, especially to Americans
with family members.

I mean, the horror of that guy who has just been arrested for the
killing of all those civilians over there, in for his fourth tour, three in
Afghanistan -- or three Iraq, one in Afghanistan, it does seem -- whatever
the courts decide about his guilt or measure of guilt, it does seem to be
what`s wrong, the overuse of a very small portion of our population, when
the rest of us are not even paying attention.

MADDOW: When Leon Panetta went over to Afghanistan and talked to
troops there after that incident, he said, we will be challenged by the
enemy, we will be challenged by ourselves, and we will be challenged the
hell of war itself.

And I don`t agree with Leon Panetta on everything, but, boy, I do
agree with him on that. And I feel like our reaction to that crime in
Afghanistan is really interesting. A., we`re horrified. B., it makes us
question the war. But, C., it sort of made us see the perpetrator of that
crime almost as if he was one of the casualties.

And you shouldn`t think about crimes that way, but it tells you how
much we`re concerned about how much we have overused our military. It`s
not normal for a country to have 1 percent of its population looking at
three, four, five or more multiple combatant deployments, and the civilian
population is just debating how big our tax cut ought to be.

We have not sacrificed in proportion with what the military has done.
We`re very separate from it. And I don`t think we like it. I think that
it makes us uncomfortable.

MATTHEWS: I know some families who have very high educational
backgrounds themselves and their children do as well, and their children
have gone off and become military officers in the field over there now.
But they`re the exception.

Today, the elite in America, especially the academic elite, and the
people who run for president, whether it`s President -- whether it`s
Governor Romney or it`s President Obama, the fact that they have no
military background doesn`t seem to bother anybody. And I don`t think that
is necessarily bad. It`s just that they`re representative, so
representative of the country, in the way that people in the past who did
serve in military actions were representative of their generations.

So now it`s quite to possible to lead this country, become its
commander in chief, with no one even bringing up the fact that you have
never made the slightest effort to serve this country in the way you`re
asking others to do.

MADDOW: And you hear that in the criticism both from the left and the
right, the sort of the chicken hawk criticism, right?

MATTHEWS: Right.

MADDOW: How dare you debate somebody else`s blood, somebody else`s
life when none of yours has ever been on the line?

But the fact remains that our system is that the military does not
decide when and where it is used, the military takes orders from civilian
leadership that`s elected from our democratic population, and we
democratically-elect people to make -- to put themselves in civilian roles
who get to decide what happens to the military.

And the military wants it that way. The military doesn`t want a
draft, for example. The military doesn`t want to be asked whether or not
we ought to invade Iran. The military wants civilian control and they want
civilians to be paying attention to what we do with our military. They
don`t want the separation, either.

I can`t tell you how much feedback I`ve had from people in the
military. Just since the book has been out a couple of days, telling, "I`m
glad you`re talking to other civilians about this from a civilian
perspective. Sometimes it feels like it`s only us in the military who talk
about military matters."

It shouldn`t feel that way. It`s a fundamental idea about who we
are, that the military doesn`t operate autonomously, that we get to decide
how to choose.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at that we itself.

Look at this recent poll, the "New York Times"/CBS poll. In the war
over there in Afghanistan -- we should not be involved, 69 percent; 23
percent, we`re doing the right thing. So we`re anti-war in Afghanistan.

Now, here`s the tricky part. Let`s look at the Iranian prospects
right now. Fifty-six percent, this in the "Reuters"/Ipsos poll tracked on
attacking on Iran or not -- 56 percent support U.S. military -- U.S.
military, not Israeli -- action if there are evidence of a nuclear weapons
program; 39 percent opposed.

Is it possible that we are in a habit now of getting tired of wars?
There is war fatigue, but not generally. Simply, certain fronts become
tiring -- and yet we`re just as perhaps trip wired, ready to go in the next
fight?

MADDOW: Yes, that`s exactly the right question. And do we think of
our military as being super capable? Well, you think of them as having
super heroic powers, I think, in direct proportion to how far you are from
the military.

I mean, I -- the thing that bugs me about the cavalier political
discussion of war with Iran is this idea that it might be easy, this idea
that it could be something that we could sort of do at the snap of a finger
and none of us are going to pay for it. Military action against Iran
should be debated on its merits, but nobody on either side should be under
any illusion that it wouldn`t be something that should take intense
national sacrifice from everybody in this country.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MADDOW: It will mean things that we can`t spend money on, things we
can`t spend attention on. It will mean lives that end. It will mean
American blood and treasure in significant amount if we do that.

And it gets talked about as if it is frictionless, cost-free, in a
way that I would expect us to be more tired of after this past 10 years.

MATTHEWS: Yes, even the Israeli government now that obviously has
the most stake in this -- people like Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu, that
government over there is just what reading it. They`re beginning to
calculate the consequences of an attack on those installations in Iran.
They expect to have Hezbollah attacking them with heavy rockets into the
city of Tel Aviv.

So, they`ve looked into the consequence. I think when you look at
the Cuban missile crisis, or any of our incidents, the worst people are the
ones who don`t talk consequences or minimize them. It seems like during
the Iraq fight, the debate over that, people said, oh, it`s going to be a
cake walk, it will be over within a week or two, or a couple weeks.

And they also we`ll get cheap oil out of it, we get all kinds of
jobs. Remember that, the arguments?

MADDOW: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s always the cost-benefit analysis that says go to war.

MADDOW: It will pay for itself, that was my favorite.

MATTHEWS: Right.

MADDOW: That we would somehow reap some sort of loop from having
invaded Iraq that will help it pay for itself.

You know, what I think has happened is that we`ve come up way series
of decisions, some them more craven than others. But all of them
understandable, to make going to war less hassle. So if the president
thinks that the national security interest in doing something that the
Congress doesn`t want him to do, we figured out ways that the president can
wage war without Congress.

If the president wants to wage a war as a national security interest
that he can`t persuade the public on, we figured out a way to do it without
debating it before the public, sometimes keeping it entirely secret from
the public. We don`t want the public to get upset about the cost. We tell
him it`s free.

We don`t want the public to get upset about the blood spilled there -
- well, we bolster the number of those deployed with people who work for
private companies. We don`t know what their services cost. We don`t know
who is accountable for them when they do things that are wrong, and we
don`t recognize who they are when they get killed or when they get hurt.

It`s always around hassle. It`s always to make it more visible, more
slick, and now we wage wars in the way that the U.S. public feels totally
disconnected from, we feel like it`s not our decision to make, it just
happens.

And it puts us in a position that I think is both morally and
emotionally unsettling for the country, and I don`t think it`s
irreversible. I think we can -- I think we can change those things and get
back to what I think is a more normal relationship as a country that goes
to war as a whole rather than one that just sends the military off on its
own.

MATTHEWS: I like the way that you demand people to listen as fast as
you can talk and think, and they actually can. And I think you`re going to
prove that people can keep up with you.

The book is called "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power."
A great new book, it won`t kill. You can read it in a few days and learn a
lot that you need to know. Boy, this is not a casual book. This is an
important book.

Thanks a lot, my pal and I --

MADDOW: Chris, you`re welcome. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: No, you are a great colleague to have around here. And,
by the way, when I say you speak fast, there`s an economy to your words
which is striking, and in your recent op-ed piece in the "Washington Post,"
you display it again, the ability to put a lot of thought in a few words.
So, this book will look small, but it`s really big.

Thank you very much for coming on the show.

MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Boy, it`s the opposite of everybody else in this world.

Anyway, up next, newly released police surveillance video seems to
contradict George Zimmerman`s account of the night that, well, he shot and
killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman told police Trayvon attacked him and
punched him in the nose, perhaps broke it. But the video shows no sign,
apparently, as you see him here, of any broken nose or serious injury to
his head.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, former President George Herbert Walker Bush and
former First Lady Barbara Bush are formally now endorsing Mitt Romney,
formally. Here they are, all of them together. But they already
unofficially endorsed him before. After all, Bush has said he`d vote for
Romney before and Barbara Bush even recorded a robocall on Romney`s behalf.

But now, it`s formally official -- the Bushes, the first couple of
the 19 -- well, the `80s.

We`ll be right back. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

New video of George Zimmerman from the night Trayvon Martin was
killed has emerged now, raising questions about Zimmerman`s account, what
actually happened that night.

The police surveillance footage obtained yesterday by ABC News shows
Zimmerman being brought into the Sanford police station in handcuffs.
According to reports, Zimmerman told police Trayvon Martin punched him in
the nose knocking him to the ground. Zimmerman`s lawyer says Zimmerman`s
nose was broken and Zimmerman says Martin repeatedly slammed his head into
a sidewalk.

Police reports describe Zimmerman as bleeding from his nose and from
the back of his head with appeared to be a wet back covered in grass.
Well, however, none of these injuries or stains are clearly visible in any
of this tape right now we`re watching.

NBC`s Ron Allen has been reporting on this story from Sanford,
Florida. And Sari Horwitz is an investigative reporter from "The
Washington Post."

Ron, thank you so much being here and can tell us. Bring us up-to-
date on, first of all, this surveillance camera. It does pack a lot of
apparent information showing very -- well, no damage to this man who
claimed to have been brutally beaten by the man he killed.

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple things, Chris.
First, the tape. What you`re seeing is 40 minutes or so after the gunshot
was fired. So, it`s pretty soon.

And Zimmerman`s defenders are emphasizing that he was treated by
paramedics, given first aid at the scene in the back of a police car, so he
was as they say cleaned up. So that`s why you don`t see blood. They say.

Also, we were able to zoom into the back of his head and there is
some sort of abrasion. I`m not a doctor, but there is some sort of
abrasion or something on the back of his head which seems to suggest --
which seems to give some credibility to his story.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALLEN: But ultimately, the bottom line here is how much bodily harm
do you have to endure before you can legally fire a gun in self-defense in
this state? Remember, there are witnesses who say they did see Martin on
top of Zimmerman. There was some kind of fight, some witnesses say.

So, again, you have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and
a lot of people are saying don`t rush to too many conclusions because of
this six minutes of videotape.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Sari now. The same point -- anything to add
there? Because I guess the question is always what happened? What
happened? I don`t know if we`re going to know.

I mean, did he hold the gun on Trayvon and say, "Stop beating me up,"
or did he just shoot him? We don`t know any of these details obviously at
this point, don`t we?

SARI HORWITZ, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, of course. It`s a complex
case, as all deadly force cases are because there was no one there who
actually saw the shooting. There are people who heard screaming and saw
things afterwards, but nobody actually saw the shooting.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s jump to that question. Let`s jump to that
because we only have a little time.

What about the tape recorded sound of him -- of someone yelling for
help? Will we be able to determine that fairly soon whose voice that was
or not?

HORWITZ: Well, the state special prosecutor Angela Corey has brought
in independent experts to enhance that tape because that`s a critical piece
of evidence, forensic evidence, who is screaming help. People who are
close to George Zimmerman, his family, his father, who gave an interview
last night, and others say that`s clearly George Zimmerman screaming for
help. Trayvon`s mother told me in an interview at "The Washington Post"
that is Trayvon yelling for help.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HORWITZ: So experts are going to have to analyze that piece of
forensic evidence.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me get back to Ron on this one. Tonight`s story,
what is going to be the lead right now of this story? Where are we going
to leave it at midnight, what`s left at this point?

ALLEN: Right now, it`s this videotape, Chris. This is one of the
unique characteristics of this story. Like the audiotapes, people have
been watching this stuff all day, kicking it around, and forming their own
conclusions.

Remember, no one really cared about this indication nationally. Of
course, the family did, but it didn`t get a lot of national attention until
people were able to hear those 911 tapes.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ALLEN: Now, we`re seeing this 6 minutes of videotape. And people --
there`s a lot of emotion here and across the country, a lot of outrage.
And people are making up their minds about this.

And people who support Zimmerman are going to see what they want to
see. People who support Trayvon Martin are going to see what they want to
see.

MATTHEWS: I agree. I hope it doesn`t --

ALLEN: There has to be some sort of public resolution to this
matter.

MATTHEWS: I hope -- resolution, there`s my favorite word on this
whole case. Will we get there?

Thank you so much, Ron Allen, for NBC News.

And thank you, Sari Horwitz for "The Washington Post."

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the important point I believe
Rachel Maddow just made in her new book and that`s that war is made too
painless right now for most of us and too easy to start.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Rachel Maddow, my colleague here on MSNBC, has just published a sharp
argument against the modern American propensity to make war. It makes a
brisk case that this country`s leaders, men of the right, have made it
easier to fight not just bite sized wars like Granada, but even lengthy
grand engagements by manipulating the way we the citizenry are kept from
the pain and therefore, predictively from the interest of war once drove in
a larger population.

In her book, it`s entitled "Drift", she ticks off the pain killers,
if you will, which together create the dilution of peace, even in the
presence of war`s reality. She tells us how we know there are wars going
on abroad, but do not feel that knowledge of the life and death struggles
being carried out by the United States.

Congress doesn`t formally declare war anymore. It manages to
appropriate the money not through the same budgetary rigor, but in so-
called emergency spending, which has long ago become both routine and
untouchable. We fight wars with the help of private contractors who do
work once done by soldiers in uniform. We kill terrorists by drone strikes
rather than in close engagements.

And for years, we kept the TV cameras from the entry point in Dover,
Delaware, for the fall and returning home. We create a volunteer army to
replace conscription. And together each of these steps has separated the
conduct and horror of war from the main population. To subtract even
further, presidents like George W. Bush have offered up war time tax breaks
to ensure that no one gets the idea that wars cost money.

I think Rachel Maddow`s book needs to be read by everyone who watches
HARDBALL because it is exactly the kind of argument that makes this show
work at its best. It takes apart the current argument by opening up
history. It shows the pattern of behavior that keeps people from seeing
the situation four square. We do not see what we`re doing because there
are those who don`t want us to see it, they want us to keep on doing what
they want us to do and thinking too much about it might get in the way.

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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