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updated 11/11/2013 4:44:12 PM ET 2013-11-11T21:44:12

HARDBALL
November 8, 2013
Guest: Michael Crowley, Neera Tanden, Susan Muskett, Nancy Giles


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Sorry seems to be the hardest word --
for Republicans.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Who deserves the real apology here? Agreement in
Washington is a rare thing, but there`s widespread recognition that the
rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been a mess. President Obama
himself has acknowledged that his baby, what he`s been fighting for these
last four years, is sick. He`s owned up to the failures of his team, which
botched the Web site`s launch.

And last night, in an interview with NBC`s Chuck Todd, he owned up to
a failure of his own, that people feel betrayed by a promise he made them
but couldn`t keep, a promise that they could keep their insurance if they
liked it.

Let`s listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I
meant what I said, and we worked hard to try to make sure that we
implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn`t do a good enough job,
and I regret that.

I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this
situation, based on assurances they got from me.

We`ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and
that we`re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find
themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: The facts are that many of the same people that feel
betrayed now will be thanking the president later. These are people in so-
called junk plans that could bankrupt them and their families if they ever
got sick. The new plans may cost a little more than they`re used to, but
ask anyone who`s been bankrupted by getting cancer or couldn`t afford
treatment, they`ll tell you in no uncertain terms the plans are worth it.

The Republican response to President Obama has been a predictable
cocktail of distraction and politics. Republican House Speaker John
Boehner had this response. Quote, "An apology is certainly in order, but
what Americans want to hear is that the president is going to keep his
promise. That`s why the House will vote next week to allow anyone with a
health care plan they like to keep it."

Now, let`s not forget this is the party that has peddled some of the
most wild and ludicrous lies to its constituents about the president`s
health care law. This is the party that did everything it could to
sabotage the law, and then cried crocodile tears when its rollout ran
aground. This is the party that nearly sent the country into an economic
tailspin in an attempt to kill the law, all the while knowing they`d lose.
And it`s the party whose governors have turned down the law`s expansion of
Medicaid, which would have given five million poor people insurance at
virtually no cost to their states.

As Republicans revel in the president`s comments, we should ask who
should offer the real apology here?

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones."
Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post." Both
are MSNBC contributors.

Jonathan, it`s not every day that you hear a president say, "I am
sorry." Evaluate the weight of that apology and its effectiveness.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I
mean, it was something that the president felt he needed to say for that
narrow sliver of Americans who are in the individual insurance market, in
terms of the overall insurance market. Those are folks who, you know, felt
a little betrayed by the president`s over -- constant (ph) insurances (ph)
that they`d be able to keep their plans if they liked their plans.

But it also bespeaks a president who probably feels weary that this
big thing that they did, the Affordable Care Act, has boiled down to, you
know, criticisms over how Healthcare.gov works, when "Obama care," as we`re
all calling it, is a whole lot more than a Web site, a whole lot more than
the six million Americans who are -- who are losing their health insurance
plans now, but as you said, will get better plans later.

And so what I think he`s trying to do is trying to just stop the
bleeding, stop the political bleeding and try to move the conversation
forward.

SMERCONISH: Well, to your point -- and David Corn, this is how
twisted I think the whole situation has become -- when there is a vote in
the House next week, the Republican-controlled House, it will be an
advocacy vote for underinsurance.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes!

SMERCONISH: I mean, what happened to the notion of personal
responsibility? They will be advocating for the right for someone to carry
no hospitalization, by way of illustration, if that`s what their current
plan calls for, and therefore to become a burden to everyone else if they
should have catastrophe.

CORN: Or they`ll be voting in favor of junk plans that were sold to
people with false promises, giving them the unfounded assurance that
they`ll be covered in the case of a medical emergency.

So the Republicans, after voting 40-odd times to repeal "Obama care"
without replacing it, without giving us any substitute, they`re finally
going to vote in favor of plans that don`t provide decent insurance.

It is kind of crazy, and it shows you, Michael, just how far the
debate has gone off the rails. You know, we`re not talking -- the
Republicans certainly aren`t talking about -- if they don`t like "Obama
care," what to do about those 45 million Americans who have no insurance or
the tens of millions of Americans who couldn`t get good insurance because
of preexisting conditions and insurance industry scam jobs.

SMERCONISH: All right, so...

CORN: That`s the big picture. Instead, we`re focusing on what
Jonathan rightly called a slice of the issue, which is a problem. It`s a
small problem. But we`re not talking about the big issue, which is how do
we have a decent health insurance system for all Americans.

SMERCONISH: To your point, and speaking of crazy, Republicans have
denounced President Obama for his lack of clarity when it comes to a small
piece of the insurance market. And yet they have advanced some of the most
wild, outright lies about the law. And here`s just a sampling from this
year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You said it`s the most dangerous piece of
legislation in the history of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think so.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: Let`s repeal
this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior
citizens! Let`s not do that!

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It`s killing health benefits! It`s
shattering the economy all across the country, in all 50 states!

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Of course there are
death panels in there. But the important thing to remember is that`s just
one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil
policy of Obama`s, and that is "Obama care."

DR. BEN CARSON, FMR. NEUROSURGEON: "Obama care" is really, I think,
the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is
-- in a way, it is slavery, in a way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Jonathan Capehart, one of the concerns that I have about
the current climate is that with all of this misinformation that`s being
circulated and against the backdrop of the debacle of the rollout of the
Affordable Care Act, the people who are most needed to buy in, the so-
called young invincibles, are going to have a lack of confidence in
becoming a part of this whole process.

CAPEHART: Right. And let`s -- you know, even before the debacle of
the Healthcare.gov rollout, you had those ads that were being done by
organizations trying to convince young people not to enroll, actively
telling them, Don`t get health care. Remember the creepy Uncle Sam ads?

So this all part of an ongoing effort to make sure that the Affordable
Care Act fails, so that when it does fail, they can all say, See? We told
you it would fail.

It`s unbelievably cynical, and you know, it`s something that -- I
think it was Michele Bachmann who said that "Obama care" kills seniors,
kills children. What they`re doing by trying to deny people health care is
putting people`s health at risk.

SMERCONISH: David Corn, take a look at this map. It`s from the
Republican senator Mitch McConnell`s office, and it`s being circulated
among conservatives. Now, it shows the states where people have reported
receiving insurance cancellation notices. And that`s significant.

But let`s remember Republicans led the effort to deprive people of
insurance under the law. And now let`s look at this map from the White
House. It shows the Republican-controlled states that rejected the law`s
expansion of Medicaid. And it would have cost these states virtually
nothing to implement and it would have extended insurance to more than five
million poor Americans -- 1.2 million people in Texas alone could be
covered right now, and yet they`re not because of the Ted Cruz wing of the
Republican Party, which has been hellbent on destroying the Affordable Care
Act in any way that it could.

Is that message getting through to the American people? Is the
president being successful in this regard in explaining this?

CORN: I don`t think the White House still, after all this time, has
fully figured out how to deal with this blanket opposition and
obstructionism they get, which is often fueled by statements that are not
true and hyperbolic.

Very simple fact. Right now, the Republicans are -- their hair is on
fire because a couple of million Americans are getting cancellation
notices, a lot of them for junk plans. If you repealed "Obama care," about
137 million Americans would get some form of cancellation notice in terms
of being kicked off their plan. There`s kids being kicked off their plans,
pre-existing conditions.

So if they`re really concerned about who`s going to lose benefits,
then they would not be advocating repeal, they`d be talking about how to
make this system work.

You know, we`ve talked about this before, Michael. Their real fear is
that eventually, when all the dust settles and the cranky Web site starts
to work and people start sorting through this, they`re going to realize --
people are going to -- enough people are going to realize that this ain`t -
- this ain`t slavery, this ain`t a bad deal. In fact, might be a good
deal, and they`re going to look stupid.

And more importantly, they`re going to lose. Republicans are going to
lose their key message, which is that government is the problem, not the
solution, and can`t do anything for you. This is what this is all about.

SMERCONISH: But Jonathan...

CORN: This is the big fight.

SMERCONISH: But Jonathan, the longer that this goes on, the
difficulties with the rollout -- and I`ve personally on a day-to-day basis
tried to gain access to see what would it cost for my family and haven`t
been successful in doing so.

You think about the political consequence of what`s to come in 2014
because that`s next on the horizon.

CAPEHART: Right. Look, I think, to answer your question to David,
what the White House should do -- because the message isn`t getting
through. They have to have the same moxie, the president and the
administration and Democrats, not just the president -- they have to show
the same moxie that they showed during the debt ceiling fight, going toe-
to-toe with Republicans.

Republicans are saying repeal, defund, all of these things about the
Affordable Care act. The pushback should be, Let`s show you that map of
the number of 5-point-something million Americans who can`t get health
insurance because the Republican governors won`t take the money from --
won`t take the money. They won`t take the deal.

SMERCONISH: See, I would handle it a little differently. I don`t
know why the White House is afraid to use the words "personal
responsibility," but I would turn this right back around and I would say,
You are advocating for individuals to show up at an ER without insurance
and for all of you to then bear the cost.

CAPEHART: And Michael, I would add that I think the White House and
the administration and Democrats should push back and say, You want to
repeal this? What you got? What are you going to do to replace the kids
who are on their parents` insurance, the no caps on -- on -- on health care
expenses, preexisting conditions, all the things that David talked about
before. There`s been no pushback on, What`s your plan?

SMERCONISH: Well, Jonathan, to your point, after a game of partisan
sabotage, Republicans have now suddenly rushed in with cynical offers to
help the president. Here are some.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I`ve worked as much on health care issues
around here in the last 37 years as any number of people, and frankly,
better than most. I have a desire to have things work.

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: I think the only
way he can rebuild credibility is to work with Republicans and Democrats
and try and rebuild a foundation.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans are willing
to help. Let`s work together to undo the harm of "Obama care" and start
over with real bipartisan cost-saving reforms, reforms that will actually
allow Americans to keep the health plans that they like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: David Corn, quick reaction. Can`t we all just get along?

CORN: This is so frustrating. If all Mitch McConnell cares about is
helping Americans to keep their junk plans, then that should -- that`s a
softball to the president and to the White House that politically, they
should knock out of the park because if that`s the best the Republicans can
do, that`s not doing as much, and it really should give the Democrats a
political advantage and a policy advantage.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you, David Correspondent.
Thank you, Jonathan Capehart.

Coming up: The Republicans` circular firing squad is at it again. The
guardians of the right take their shots at Chris Christie, and Mitch
McConnell is now firing back. This is a fight progressives obviously are
loving.

Plus, Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill to ban abortion
after 20 weeks citing fetal pain. It`s not clear that he`s correct on the
science or the law, but he may have the politics just right.

And oh, Canada -- Toronto mayor Rob Ford`s latest public
embarrassment. And with his second star turn, he`s become an international
celebrity for all the wrong reasons.

Finally, Congressman Steve King has done it again, and this time, he`s
concluded that President Bush was right after all about Iraq trying to get
yellow cake uranium from Africa. Bush just didn`t know it.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Some good news on the economic front. The economy added
204,000 jobs during the month of October. That`s a lot more than
economists expected, and especially considering the federal government was
shut down for 16 days. Still, the jobless rate ticked up to 7.3 percent,
likely because furloughed federal workers were counted as the unemployed.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: What we`re looking for
can be found in the record of governors like Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez,
Rick Scott, Terry Branstad, conservative governors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Win or lose, Tuesday night`s
elections have only hardened and deepened the divisions within the
Republican Party. Ken Cuccinelli`s loss in Virginia unleashed a bloodbath
of party infighting, including shouts of betrayal and sabotage. And
despite Chris Christie`s landslide victory, he has been quickly decried as
a RINO, "Republican In Name Only."

As you saw in that clip, Texas governor Rick Perry, a Tea Partier
himself, conveniently left Chris Christie off the list of what he was
calling conservative governors. It`s not the first time that Christie
hasn`t been invited to the party.

The mainstream wing of the GOP is firing back, led by the Senate`s top
Republican Mitch McConnell, who opened fire on the Ted Cruz wing of the
party in "The Wall Street Journal." In an interview with columnist Peggy
Noonan, McConnell blasts the extremists in his party for both their views
and tactics.

And he says, quote, "The most important election Tuesday wasn`t the
governor of New Jersey and it wasn`t the governor of Virginia, it was the
special election for Congress in south Alabama, where a candidate who said
the shutdown was a great idea, the president was born in Kenya and that he
opposed Speaker Boehner came in second."

Ron Reagan is an MSNBC political analyst and former talk radio host.
Michael Crowley is the Deputy D.C. bureau chief at "Time" magazine, which
features Governor Christie on its cover this week as the so-called
"Elephant in the room."

Michael, a naive question. Why didn`t Rick Perry reference Chris
Christie? What`s going on there?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He doesn`t like him. He doesn`t
like that brand of politics. He thinks that he`s a squishy moderate, as do
a lot of conservative Republicans. I think that Chris Christie has a big
problem with the base of his party.

SMERCONISH: With regard to Tuesday, Ron, is it clear that, as between
purity and pragmatism, pragmatism had a good day?

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Pragmatism did have a pretty
good day. Chris Christie`s ascension, if you will -- it`s not like he was
getting reelected, of course -- but his ascension into the mainstream of
being mentioned as a frontrunner for the presidential race coming up
highlights the division in the Republican Party.

We really do have two parties now, and they`re taking shots at each
other. It`s on in the Republican Party now. And as long as Chris Christie
keeps that position as a putative frontrunner, that division is going to
continue to be highlighted. And the only people that win in that are the
Democrats.

SMERCONISH: So Ron, here`s the question I`d like to know. The Iowan
who voted for Rick Santorum in the 2012 cycle -- and let`s not forget that
Santorum won the Iowa caucus. When that same individual goes to vote in
2016, are they thinking, Well, geez, you know, Christie is not as pure as
I`d like, but hell, this time I want to win?

REAGAN: Well, they might be thinking that. And Chris Christie
certainly hopes they`re going to be thinking that. But my guess is that if
they voted for Santorum, they`re going to be looking at somebody like Ted
Cruz or someone like that. And again, you`re going to have this division
highlighted...

SMERCONISH: But they lose.

REAGAN: ... the whole way through.

SMERCONISH: But then you lose...

REAGAN: Yes!

SMERCONISH: ... because Ted Cruz can`t be...

REAGAN: Yes, you do!

SMERCONISH: ... elected president.

REAGAN: I know. I know that. You do lose. And ergo, the Democrats
win.

SMERCONISH: To this point, Christie`s big win has made one thing
pretty clear, and that is that Republicans are still obsessed with purity.
The day after Christie`s landslide victory, Sean Hannity let loose on the
New Jersey governor.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": If you want to look at a liberal
record on issues like guns, gay marriage, controversial appointments, this
governor has no idea what`s going to hit him.

If you can`t beat Hillary Clinton in the exit polls in New Jersey on
the day you are the most popular in your state, don`t think it`s going to
get better. It`s likely going to get worse. He`s not in the mainstream of
conservatism.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Michael Crowley, Chris Christie standing up to that mind-
set will do him a world of good in a general election. The question of
course is, can he sustain the primary process if he`s got the likes of
Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity against him?

CROWLEY: It`s going to be really hard.

Mitt Romney tried to do this, but Romney fled from all his positions
on those issues in a way that we`re not seeing Christie beginning to do.
And by the end of the process, Romney looked a little bit ridiculous to a
lot of conservatives.

So I think that it`s going to be extremely hard for Christie to get
past the sort of firewall of the Republican base for exactly those reasons.
And he faces this choice that Romney faced, which is, do you try to retreat
from those positions and look like you`re a flip-flopper, look like you`re
a changeling, or do you try to own it and fight your way through the
firewall? But it`s a hard fight.

SMERCONISH: But, Ron, let`s not forget that Mitt Romney was aided by
the fact that there was a cannibalization going on to the right of him on
the political spectrum within the primary process. He had Michele Bachmann
and he had Herman Cain and he had Newt Gingrich, et cetera, all fighting
for that same pie. That`s really what Chris Christie needs, isn`t it?

REAGAN: Yes, and he`s probably going to get it. He will probably
have a whole gaggle of Tea Partiers off to his right.

Now, he`s probably going to have a challenge, I`m guessing, a
challenge also from his center kind of position, because there`s
opportunity there. And Chris Christie has problems besides not being a Tea
Partier. When you really dig into Chris Christie`s record, he`s not the
perfect presidential candidate, all of the divisions within the party
aside.

My guess is, he`s going to get a challenge from the center also. But,
yes, you`re right. The rest of the party`s going to be divided between
five people on the Tea Party wing that are going to give him a lot of room
to seem reasonable.

SMERCONISH: Michael, to Ron`s point, I have written on this subject
noting that that -- that which makes him immensely popular in New Jersey,
those everyman characteristics and qualities and outbursts, if you string
them together in a two-minute reel, people might start to question his
temperance to be commander in chief.

CROWLEY: They absolutely will, and not just string them in a two-
minute reel, but put it out on the campaign trail surrounded by packs of
reporters, hecklers.

When you`re out in Iowa, New Hampshire, those early states, you don`t
have a huge bubble around you. People can shout in your face. They can
stand up and try to provoke you, and they will. So the question is, can he
-- does he have the discipline to go out there and campaign and show that
he has an even temperament? And that is a big test people are going to be
waiting to see whether he can pass. I think it`s an open question.

SMERCONISH: In that interview with "The Wall Street Journal," Mitch
McConnell basically told part of his party that they were living in an
evangelical fantasy if they buy into the Ted Cruz version of a true
conservative.

Quote: "It`s irresponsible for some people to characterize themselves
as sort of true conservatives, to mislead their followers into believing
you can get an outcome that you can`t possibly get. They have been told
the reason we can`t get to better outcomes than we have gotten is not
because the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, but because
Republicans have been insufficiently feisty. Well, that`s just not true
and I think the folks that I have difficulty with are the leaders of some
of these groups who basically misled them for profit. They raise money,
take their cut, and spend it."

What`s he talking about, Ron Reagan?

REAGAN: Well, he`s talking about people who take advantage of Tea
Partiers and their presumed goodwill merely to raise money.

He may have been discussing two different things. One is the sort of
magical thinking on the political side where they only read their own polls
and imagine that the rest of the country is really also part of the Tea
Party. And the other may be that he`s identified the reality, which is
that the Tea Party today is really what the moral majority, we used to call
them couple and 20 years ago, was the religious right.

These are the same people now wearing tricornered hats and carrying
muskets. They`re old, they`re white, they`re Southern, and they`re fading
into the sunset.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Ron Reagan, Michael Crowley, we
appreciate your being here.

Up next: the latest from the parallel universe of Congressman Steve
King.

And don`t forget, if you want to follow me on Twitter, all you need do
is figure out how to spell Smerconish.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."

"TIME" magazine`s latest cover featuring New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie has caused some controversy this week. Critics say that the idiom
they used, the elephant in the room, unfairly pokes fun at Christie`s
weight.

Whether you think it`s offensive or not, "The Tonight Show"`s Jay Leno
proved last night that it could have been a lot worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": But, in their
defense, I think they chose the least offensive title. Here`s the other
ones they had. Take a look.

"Chris Christie having a whale of a time."

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: I didn`t like that one. "Between a rock and a lard place."
Yes, that`s not good. And "Hail to the chef." Yes, I don`t think any of
those -- so I don`t think any of those are appropriate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Next up, it was a single page in the latest issue of
"Guns & Ammo," and it ignited a firestorm among the magazine`s readers.

In an op-ed titled "Let`s Talk Limits," editor Dick Metcalf made a
seemingly innocuous case for some basic gun regulations. The outcry,
however, was swifter and more severe than anyone could have anticipated.
Threats of cancellation and boycott flooded the magazine`s Facebook page
with comments like this -- quote -- "`Guns & Ammo` printing articles
supporting gun control is like `Penthouse` printing articles on the hazards
of pornography and the immorality of masturbation."

Just days after publication, the magazine gave into the pressure and
fired Metcalf. The editor in chief, Jim Bequette, issued this apology --
quote -- "I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun
rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. And I was wrong. I ask for
your forgiveness."

So much for opening a dialogue.

Finally, Iowa Congressman Steve King may be known best for comparing
Mexicans to cantaloupes and wanting to build an electric fence on our
southern border. But his latest may be his craziest yet, and it`s on a
subject you won`t believe.

It was one of the arguments for going to war with Iraq over 10 years
ago, President Bush`s State of the Union claim that Saddam Hussein was
seeking yellow cake uranium to build nuclear weapons. The problem, of
course, is that it wasn`t true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British
government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: President Bush did include bogus material in
his State of the Union speech describing how Iraq was attempting to get
nuclear materials from Africa. This week, the White House admitted that
claim wasn`t true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Well, now Congressman King says that President Bush`s
debunked claim, which Bush himself admitted was incorrect, was actually
true.

Speaking on an Iowa radio program yesterday, the congressman made this
stunning assertion.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: W. Bush, he was accused of 16 words in the
State of the Union address that they said was a lie, and they`re still
attacking him for that.

And, Jan, I will tell you I have had hands-on evidence that George
Bush -- what George Bush said in that State of the Union address was the
truth, and he was still punished for it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: If you`re wondering what evidence King has to prove that
Bush was right all along, you`re probably not alone. The question is if he
really possessed information that could have proven Iraq was indeed seeking
uranium, why wouldn`t he have spoken up?

Up next: Republicans are pushing for a strict new measure against
abortion. Here`s a hint for the GOP. If you want women to vote for you,
you have got to stop alienating them.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

Secretary of State Kerry will continue efforts tomorrow in Geneva to
push talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program and possibly easing
sanctions.

At least four people dead in the Philippines after a powerful typhoon
slammed the central region; 750,000 people were forced out of their homes.

President Obama is backing legislation that raises the minimum wage
from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is our belief that
science and medicine has advanced tremendously since 1973. And it`s now
time to have a discussion, in light of medicine and what we know about the
unborn child, in 2013, is it time to do more and can we form a consensus as
to when we should act and how we should act?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Just when you thought Republicans might learn their lesson from Ken
Cuccinelli`s loss in Virginia, the culture wars are back. Republican
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has introduced a bill in the
Senate to impose a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks or the point at
which he says -- quote -- "some scientific evidence proves fetuses may feel
pain."

Why is Graham reigniting the culture wars now? Well, he`s up for
reelection next year, and he`s facing a primary challenge from the right.
His poll numbers in South Carolina are tanking, and the Tea Party smells
blood.

Graham`s move appears to be more about wrapping his arms around the
right-wing extremists for his own political survival.

Neera Tanden is president of the Center for American Progress. Susan
Muskett is legislative counsel for the National Right to Life Committee.

Susan, isn`t this all theater? And, by that, I mean isn`t this bill
on its face unconstitutional?

SUSAN MUSKETT, LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE:
No, it`s not.

When the other side talks about the latest decision, they talk about
the Roe decision. But they don`t want to talk about the 2007 Supreme Court
decision which upheld the nationwide ban on partial-birth abortions. And
this bill is consistent with that 2007 decision.

So we feel confident that the court will uphold the bill. And the
other side is raising the same arguments against this bill that they did
against the partial-birth abortion ban. And they just don`t want to talk
about the 2007 Supreme Court decision.

SMERCONISH: But isn`t the impart of Roe that this is a -- that this
is a question in the eyes of the law of viability, and not of pain?

MUSKETT: No, the court has said in the 2007 decision that states have
a constitutional role to play in defining the interests in terms of
abortion.

And there is clear medical evidence that unborn children at 20 weeks,
the beginning of the sixth month, are capable of feeling pain. And, in
fact, these babies in the sixth month or later, you know, of course they
feel pain, as their little arms and legs are pulled off. We wouldn`t even
be having this debate if it didn`t touch on abortion.

SMERCONISH: Neera, you would argue that, as medical advances are made
and as the point of viability is reduced from 23 or 24 weeks to something
else, that the standards will have to change across the country?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. If we want to talk
about viability, that`s perfectly fine.

But what we`re actually talking about here is junk science.
Everything that people assert about the science and fetal pain is
inaccurate here. That`s -- what was just stated was totally wrong. We
have a landmark study by "The Journal of American Medical" -- "Medical
Association" -- excuse me -- "The Journal of American Medical Association."

MUSKETT: Written by pro-abortion advocates.

TANDEN: Yes, you can say Harvard is inaccurate, Stanford, UCSF, these
are all inaccurate studies. They`re not inaccurate.

They were written by people who don`t have a bone to pick here. And
they`re simply saying that the science doesn`t exist, there`s no fetal pain
until 24 or...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Susan, if I could just interject. Hang on, Susan.

I did note that there were qualifiers in even Senator Lindsey Graham`s
articulation of how he viewed the pain issue.

MUSKETT: I don`t know what you`re talking about, but I can tell you
that...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Well, he said may, may.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: He said it may, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MUSKETT: The JAMA study said there was no credible evidence --
evidence until 29 weeks.

Your viewers, I`m sure, know babies in neonatal units around the
country who are alive today weeks before the 29-week period. They have
seen these babies grimace and cry when they`re stuck by painful stimuli.

So to argue, in the JAMA study, that these babies can`t feel pain
until 29 weeks, that`s just not believable to the average viewers.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: I think the issue here...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Hang on.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: It would seem that public sentiment is on Susan`s side.

And I say that because, in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 55
percent did say that they support a 20-week limit, compared to the 30
percent who prefer to keep it at 24 weeks.

TANDEN: You know, I think that there`s really two issues here,
questions about these particular limits. I think the right has been
successful in arguing sets of facts that don`t exist.

We`re not talking about an evidence-based conversation. And I think,
as more people see the evidence, that will change. But I do think that we
have a lot of experience of running races on the issue of abortion. And I
appreciate that Senator Graham has a very tough election, very tough
primary election.

And partially because he`s moderated on some issues like immigration,
he has to go to the far right on an issue like this.

MUSKETT: May I...

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: And I think people will say that, if you look at the races
recently, the Senate races we have had recently and the governor`s race in
Virginia, when you`re talking about abortion, you`re alienating women
voters.

SMERCONISH: Well, on that issue...

MUSKETT: Senator Graham...

SMERCONISH: Well, on that issue, here`s Senator Graham last week on
"FOX News Sunday" being challenged about the timing and his motivations for
introducing the bill now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Now, some of your critics in South Carolina
say, hey, look. Graham is up for re-election in 2014. He`s worried about
a Tea Party challenger. And you have ticked off a lot of conservatives
with votes on immigration reform to confirm liberal Supreme Court justice.
This is your way to get back in their good graces.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`ve been a pro-life member
of Congress since day one. I was author of the Unborn Victims of Violence
Act that we passed several years ago, making it a crime to attack a woman
and if she loses her baby, you can be charged with two crimes not one --
crime against the mother and the unborn child.

My record on being a pro-life senator or member of Congress is clear.
I`m proud to lead this charge. This is a debate worthy of a great
democracy. When do you become you at 20 weeks of a pregnancy, what is the
proper role of the government in protecting that child?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Susan, I just have a minute left with the two of you and
I want to ask you this question, I completely understand and respect the
fact that he`s articulating a principle that you believe in, but where the
votes don`t appear to be there and where there`s not a president currently
at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who would sign this into law, do you ever reach
a point who says there`s a guy using us for a fundraising capability.

SUSAN MUSKETT, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE: No, we don`t view, that is
absolutely false. He is not using us. I worked with him on the Unborn
Victims of Violence Act. He was the original author on that. That was one
of the most important pro-life bills to be enacted into law.

And for anyone to suggest he is some kind of a Johnny come lightly on
this issue is just as ignorant as the history. In fact, if he gets some
political credit for this, good for him because he deserves it. He has
been pro-life since he came into the Congress. And I worked with him on
the Unborn Victims, and I can tell you, he`s been pro-life many, many
years.

SMERCONISH: Well, thank you both for being here. Neera Tanden, Susan
Muskett, we appreciate you.

Up next, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford caught on tape again? Here`s a guy
who needs some help and fast.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Fresh off his landslide re-election victory in New Jersey
Tuesday night, Governor Chris Christie isn`t shying away from claiming
front runner status for the 2016 Republican nomination. Christie is doing
all the Sunday morning shows, including "Meet the Press" with David
Gregory.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: Rob Ford was riding high as mayor of
Toronto. But how high, no one had any idea.

What`s going to test his ability to stay in public office today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A brand new video the crack-smoking mayor of
Toronto, Rob Ford.

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: I`m going to kill (EXPLETIVE DELETED) guy.
I`m telling you, it`s first degree murder.

No holds barred, brother. He dies or I die, brother.

But when he`s down, I`ll rip his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) throat out. I`ll
poke his eyes out.

I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when he`s dead. I`ll make sure that mother
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: It`s clear to me now that he smokes crack to calm himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: We`re back.

That was Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show", musing over Toronto Mayor
Rob Ford`s latest caught on camera moment. Shortly after "The Toronto
Star" released the video, Ford called a meeting with reporters outside his
office to apologize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD: Extremely embarrassing. The whole world`s going to see it.
You know what? I don`t have a problem with that, but it is extremely
embarrassing. I was extremely, extremely angry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: This tirade against someone -- we have no idea who
surfaced just days after the mayor admitted to smoking crack cocaine, which
is reportedly also on videotape.

Nancy Giles is a social commentator for "CBS Sunday Morning".

Nancy, thanks for being here.

Everything I know about crack, I learned from watching "Breaking Bad,"
OK? But I look at this guy and he seems so fundamentally unhealthy.

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: I agree.

SMERCONISH: One of the things I`ve learned about crack is if you`re a
crack smoker, chances are you`re ingesting other drugs trying to offset the
effects of the crack. Carrying all that weight on his frame and doing
crack, I hope he gets help.

GILES: Exactly. You want to talk about the elephant in the room,
there we go again with all of that. My worry is that he`s making decisions
for the city of Toronto in an altered state. How can you trust that kind
of person to serious policy decisions to protect the citizens? I just
don`t -- I don`t get it.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I`m a believer that we`ve gone too far in intruding
on the personal lives of those who wish to come forward and run for office,
but not in this case. This speaks to someone whose competency to carry out
their job, you have to worry about.

GILES: Well, what gets me again is these are people who are public
servants, right? They`ve been elected to office by constituents. And
they`re supposed to be representing their people`s needs.

I really think something has happened with politicians. There`s a
melding of politics and celebrity. And I think enough limousines and VIP
treatment makes these guys think they`re above the law.

SMERCONISH: For months, there had been rumors that Mayor Ford smoked
crack. And for months, he denied it. Here`s his admission this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But no -- do I? Am I an
addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: You know, from the outside looking in, we look at this
from the states and we say, well, my God, why aren`t they calling for his
ouster? He could never stand for reelection. The more I read and
understand the political dynamics, this frailty of his might not be all
lost on a political spectrum if you follow what I`m saying.

GILES: I actually read that his popularity, his numbers went up,
which makes me worry about Canada. I`ve been to Toronto, it`s a beautiful
city. I love it. But, look, you know, when you think of it, you think of
people like Bob Filner. He was the San Diego mayor who was fondling women,
another one who wouldn`t resign.

I mean, these guys hang on to these offices with you know, with
everything they have in them. Not necessarily to do a good job, but I
think it`s more about the power, and the celebrity.

SMERCONISH: To this issue, Steven Marche, who`s an editor at
"Esquire", writing in "The Times" -- and you may have seen this earlier in
the week -- said despite his racist slurs and his sister`s connection with
the Ku Klux Klan, Mr. Ford support exists principally in the immigrant
heavy neighborhoods on the outer edges of the city and he has built his
support on the basis of their alienation." So, you know, maybe this guy
smoking crack placed somehow well with the constituency that has voted for
him.

GILES: Oh, my God. What is that even outlaw or is that crack
smoking, gives him street cred, is that what it is?

SMERCONISH: Right.

GILES: I don`t know what to say expect that he`s out of his mind.
And the apologies are lame. And if there -- you know, I thought when
people break the law, that they have to actually, you know, go to jail or
something like that. In my world, they do. So, why doesn`t it apply to
more politicians? Help.

SMERCONISH: Let`s take a look at that tirade by Mayor Ford which was
captured on video and published by "The Toronto Star." This is the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD: He dies or I die, brother. Brother, you`ve never seen me
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) go. You think so, brother?

But when he`s down, I`ll rip his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) throat out. I`ll
poke his eyes out.

I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when he`s dead. I`ll make sure that mother
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead.

I need (EXPLETIVE DELETED) 10 minutes to make sure he`s dead. It`ll
be over in five minute, brother. It`ll be a bad scene. I`m a sick mother
(EXPLETIVE DELETED), dude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I don`t know what to say. That`s like a ticking time
bomb. I enjoy a cocktail, but I don`t think that`s alcohol induced.

GILES: No, I think that that guy`s got a lot of anger in him. And
I`m not a psychologist or anything like that. He`s either really, really
angry and God knows who he`s talking about, all right? We don`t even know
that. Or he`s just obsessed with something like "The Sopranos" and he`s
doing lines from one of Tony`s raging scenes.

I don`t know, but the more I see of him, I can`t believe -- this is a
confident mayor. He`s also made some dicey mayoral decisions if I`m
correct. Hasn`t he made some strange enacted some odd laws and stuff? The
guy is just not all there.

SMERCONISH: It`s a great city. I mean, that`s --

GILES: It`s a great city.

SMERCONISH: I`ve had a pleasure of being there. I think one of the
reasons that he`s been able to hang on is his own brother is on the council
and provides him with some sort of political protection. And now, his
mother, I don`t know if you`re aware of this issue, but his mother has
gotten in on the act and she`s offered her two cents at what should happen
with her Rob.

In fact, here it is. This is what the mayor`s mother had to say --

GILES: Oh, no.

SMERCONISH: -- about her son and his problems. Watch this.

GILES: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, five steps, get yourself a driver.
Then after that, you do something about your weight. And thirdly, what was
the other thing I told him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About the car, the thing --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The alcohol detector?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, alcohol detector in the car and that will
prove you can`t drive your car if you`re drinking, so you`re just not going
to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I don`t think my mom`s advice to me would be to get one
of those alcohol detectors in the car.

GILES: None of that made any sense. Getting a driver, he`s still
going to be drunk or doing drunks. I mean, alcohol detector shows us what
we can obviously see. He`s got problems.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I don`t want to make light of it. The man needs
help and on that, we agree.

GILES: No, seriously. Yes.

SMERCONISH: Nancy, thank you for that. We appreciate you`re being
here.

GILES: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: All right. We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this:

The divide between purists and pragmatists within the Republican Party
is only more accentuated now given Chris Christie`s enormous victory in New
Jersey Tuesday night. With an eye toward 2016, factions within the GOP are
now arm-wrestling as to the party`s best path.

Well, here`s my unsolicited suggestion. They should all take the time
to study a speech given recently by a former secretary and governor Tom
Ridge. He was speaking to an LGBT group.

Ridge told a Washington gathering of Log Cabin Republicans that he
sees the GOP of the 21st century as a non-judgmental conservative party, a
winning party. And then he took aim at litmus test. He said, quote, "I`ll
start here. Two Republicans presidents changed my life in a very personal
and meaningful way. One called on me to serve my country in Vietnam. The
other asked me to serve after the attacks of 9/11. Neither president asked
me about my position on social issues."

Ridge then applauded Ronald Reagan`s respectful civil approach to
confronting his liberal opponents and highlighted how a shrinking base has
allowed the likes of Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Orrin
Hatch, John McCain and Lindsey Graham to have even their conservative
questioned.

The man who`s run eight campaigns as a Republican made a very direct
pitch for the party to be more inviting and he`s probably uniquely
qualified to offer that view. Remember, John McCain favored Ridge or Joe
Lieberman as his vice presidential pick in 2008, but avoided the former
only because he`s pro-choice.

Perhaps the paragraph with his keenest insight was this. He said, "In
order to govern, we must win national elections. To do so, the narcissists
and ideologues within our party need to understand that Americans are more
conservative than liberal, but are more practical than ideological, and
more tolerant and open-minded than judgmental. They`re also looking for
real, no rhetorical solutions."

That sounded like a rebuttal to the Cruzification of the GOP. And so,
too, did his use of the C-word, which Ridge used when referencing, quote,
"Our Founders who drafted the most significant compromise known to mankind,
the Constitution of the United States."

A couple of days after the speech, I sought confirmation from Governor
Ridge that this was no ordinary speech. He obliged. The man who grew up
in veterans public housing, went to Harvard, fought in Vietnam, served six
terms in Congress and two as governor and then became the nation`s first
secretary of Homeland Security told me there were things he, quote, "wanted
to get off his chest about his party." Well, I`m glad that he did.

Google and read the speech. It will have you wondering his age. And
the answer is: he`s a very spry 68.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" 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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