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updated 2/19/2014 12:09:06 PM ET 2014-02-19T17:09:06

HARDBALL
February 18, 2014

Guests: Loretta Weinberg, Brian Murphy, Michelle Bernard, Dana Milbank,
Matt Bennett, Josh Green

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bullying the witnesses?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. At New Year`s, he was the top Republican
in the country, the favorite, actually, to take on Hillary Clinton for the
next American presidency. Well, last night, we discussed reports that New
York Port Authority police themselves told drivers back in that September
jam-up to blame the Fort Lee mayor for the severe traffic problem.

In the midst of these reports, Governor Christie pretends to probe the
scandal himself that has bumped him from the front-runner spot. He poses
as someone urgently seeking the truth, desperately trying to determine who
it was that led his people in his office, his appointees on the bridge
authority itself, to do all that they apparently agreed to do, take out
their anger on thousands of commuters, who would then take out their anger
on a local mayor.

Well, believing that Governor Chris Christie, who mocked this investigation
from day one, has morphed into some kind of Dick Tracy keenly interested in
the truth, the whole truth and nothing but requires a level of gullibility
we haven`t seen since O.J. Simpson told us of his single-minded
determination to find the real killer, or when Richard Nixon assigned John
Dean to figure out why someone broke into the Democratic Party headquarters
at the Watergate.

It`s all pretty hard to swallow, which explains, at least to me, why first
the mayor of Hoboken and now the mayor of Fort Lee have refused to let
Christie`s lawyer dig into their documents and possible testimony down the
road. Why would they, of all people, fall for the ridiculous argument that
Governor Christie`s out there trying to find the real culprit, when he
himself is the appointer-in-chief to every one of the people involved in
the deliberate bridge jam-up itself?

Don`t forget, what ties Wildstein and Baroni and Stepien and Bridget Kelly
together is that they`re all people picked by Chris Christie. Does anyone
really believe he still doesn`t know what they were up to? In fact, what
exactly is he investigating here? Or is he simply trying to bully the
potential witnesses against him?

Loretta Weinberg is New Jersey state senate majority leader and co-chair of
the Select Committee on Investigation. Brian Murphy is a former political
reporter in New Jersey who now teaches U.S. history at Baruch College in
New York.

Let me go to Senator Weinberg on this. What did you make of the fact that
the mayor of Fort Lee does not want to turn over his documents or offer
testimony to the governor`s lawyer, the guy purportedly leading the
governor`s internal investigation of what happened on the bridge last
September?

LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NJ STATE SENATOR: You know, Chris, what I`ll tell
you is that this is almost five months old, if not exactly five months old,
since those four days of gridlock, of traffic problems beyond comprehension
happened.

Any time during those first couple of -- one or two or maybe even three
months, the governor had plenty of time to try to get to the bottom of
this. So he waited, apparently, to hire a very, very high-priced lawyer to
suddenly start asking questions.

Well, my question is, where is has the governor been for the last five
months? He had plenty of time without an intermediary lawyer that they`re
paying $650 an hour for -- he had plenty of time to just find out on his
own. And he apparently, as recently as January, was still clinging to the
traffic study story, when, as I said, I`ve been involved with this
certainly since late September, early October. Any time the governor
wanted to know what was going on, all he had to do was ask.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think the governor -- this isn`t so much a legal
question as a political question -- maybe a legal question, may well be.
But to me, it`s interesting. He made a point in that January 9th press
conference, after all this came out about the e-mails and Bridget Kelly`s
involvement and Wildstein`s involvement, and Baroni and Stepien, and they
all had to go, apparently, by then. They all were -- half of them were
already gone by then.

He came out and said, I only talked to two people in my office. They`re
the only people I talked to. That`s O`Dowd and McKenna, my lawyer and my
chief of staff. Why do you think he`s segregated, to use an old term,
maybe the wrong term here, but to segregate himself away from all the
people he might have dealt with, talked with, met?

Why does he act like he has nothing to do with his own governorship, that
he only talks to two people on this planet? What`s that about? Is that
legal protection, political protection? What`s the game here? Because it
is a game.

WEINBERG: Well --

MATTHEWS: He obviously talks to other people.

WEINBERG: I think it`s better put to the governor himself. He`s got an
inner office staff. And certainly, some of these people are deputy chiefs
of staff. So I don`t know why he only talks to two people in his office.

But he seems to be very good at big press conferences, at town hall
meetings, and so on. So I don`t know why he chooses to only speak to two
staff members. I think that`s a question that`s much better put directly
to the governor.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Brian, let me put it to you in studying this operation
because we`re going to look at this guy. By the time we`re done in this
case in the next few months, maybe six months or more, we`re going know how
he operates. We`re going to know -- we`ll have a design of his office.
We`re going know who he talks to, all the people who testify. They`re
going to be coming up.

But this guy has sort of cauterized himself, isolated himself and say,
Don`t blame me for what Bridget Kelly did. Don`t blame me for Stepien.
Don`t blame me for Wildstein. I may have appointed all these people.
Don`t (INAUDIBLE) for Baroni. I picked him. But I don`t talk to these
people. I don`t know Wildstein. I haven`t met him since high school. He
was a geek in high school, and I was a big shot.

This constant effort to say, I don`t know anybody, talk to anybody, be with
anybody, and now he`s sending his lawyer around to these people, basically
waking them up in bed or whatever, Give us all your papers, give me
everything you`re going to say in court.

Well, that seems to be playing offense. What do you make of it, Brian?

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE: That`s right. It does. And it`s curious
from the standpoint of -- this lawyer was hired and is being -- is
currently being paid by the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey --

MATTHEWS: Good. Isn`t that great?

MURPHY: -- to conduct an internal -- an internal investigation into what
went wrong in the governor`s office. And so far, from what we can tell on
the outside, they`re looking into what went -- what happened after all of
these events that led up to whatever went wrong. They`re going -- they`re
looking into the two mayors.

And I think -- I mean, my own view is that this is -- I mean, this looks
like witness intimidation to me because this has been a very mayor-driven
story. It`s been the mayor of Hoboken came out after the mayor of Fort Lee
had a story to tell.

And maybe, you know, the concern is that there are other mayors who might
have a story to tell, and we want to find out what the contacts with
journalists have been like, which seems completely irrelevant to me, you
know, as someone who -- I`m trying to figure out what happened here,
looking at the -- filing open public records requests on contacts with
journalists would be like the last thing that I would be looking at if I
actually wanted to find out what happened.

MATTHEWS: Well, they -- they`re out looking at that stuff? You mean
Christie`s guys.

MURPHY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to this question. As I said earlier, Fort Lee
mayor Mark Sokolich -- Sokolich, rather -- will not cooperate with
Christie`s lawyer, as I just said. That`s the news tonight. You could see
the mayor`s spine stiffening actually earlier in this story, when he was
the target of disparaging comments from Christie appointee David Wildstein.

Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": We have David Wildstein, who`s
since resigned, saying, It will be a tough November for this little
Serbian. Got a response to that?

MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE: David Wildstein deserves an ass-
kicking, OK? Sorry. There, I said it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go -- let me go to Senator Weinberg. I know you
don`t use that language. Let`s go to this question here.

WEINBERG: How do you know that? You didn`t ask me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just being a gentleman, and you`re a lady, so let`s go
on. So it seems to me that there`s three or four people that are trying to
find out what`s going on, probably the U.S. attorney in Jersey, maybe the
U.S. attorney in New York. You`ve certainly got your investigating team.
And then you had this, I would say, probably, questionable operation of a
self-investigation by Christie.

Now, my question to you is, are going to be -- are you getting cooperation
from these people, from the mayor of Fort Lee, the mayor of Hoboken, the
people that are holding out against Christie? Are they holding out for the
benefit of you guys on the investigative committee so you get the stuff
before Christie`s people get at it?

WEINBERG: Well, I can`t speak for the mayor of Hoboken because I have not
been in contact with her, nor to my knowledge has our committee reached out
to her. But certainly "bridge-gate," which is slightly different from the
issues brought up in Hoboken -- the bridge issue directly affects the mayor
of Fort Lee, and I`ve been in touch with him for a very long time on the
phone, having discussions about what took place here.

The fact that they would reach out to the mayor of Fort Lee five months
after this happened -- the governor had plenty of time when this was first
publicized. If he didn`t know about it in early September, it was -- I
mean, in mid to late September, it was certainly in the press often enough.
But by October 1st, that infamous e-mail from the executive director of the
Port Authority, Patrick Foye, who called this whole lane closure "almost
illegal" in his e-mail -- what has the governor done since October 1st? He
had to hire a high-priced lawyer? He fired somebody from his office and
publicly claimed he never asked her what happened.

I find that a little difficult to believe. If I just put my own
intuitiveness, would I fire somebody from my office over some alleged
incident and not ask them what their side of the story is? This whole
thing is the governor evading --

MATTHEWS: OK --

WEINBERG: -- his responsibility, and to have hired an attorney to go and
ask these questions when he could have asked them four months ago, or three
months ago or two months ago --

MATTHEWS: Here`s my --

WEINBERG: -- I find it very inappropriate.

MATTHEWS: Here`s my -- Senator, I have a -- I got to stop here, but my
blockbuster question is, When`s Governor Cuomo going to come out and tell
what`s happened in that conversation with Governor Christie?

WEINBERG: Well, that`s another interesting question --

MATTHEWS: No, it`s a fascinating --

WEINBERG: -- actually.

MATTHEWS: -- thing. You`re right, Senator. Because if he called up and
said, Call off the dogs, call off Patrick Foye, stop the investigation in
its tracks, immediately, in its beginnings, then he wasn`t interested in
getting the truth. He was interested in making sure nobody got it.

Why would he call the governor of New York and say, Tell your guy, Patrick
Foye, to lay off and stop trying to investigate this thing? And now he
comes out with his lawyer and says, I`m trying to investigate it. I think
the implication here is he didn`t want the truth. Now he wants something
else. I don`t think it`s the truth.

Anyway, Senator Weinberg, it`s great having you on the program, Loretta
Weinberg, who`s very much a part of this investigation. Brian Murphy,
thank you for your expertise, from Baruch College.

MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Republicans criticize President Obama`s record on the
economy, but who is out there every day talking down the economy? They
shut down the government. They`re out there playing Debbie Downer on
health care. These Republicans aren`t the do-nothing Congress, they`re the
"do worse" Congress. It`s about time the Democrats called them on it
instead of crying.

Plus, the Democratic Party is moving left, but not as much as the
Republican Party has already moved right. But they`re ready to nominate,
the Democrats are, a classic centrist. My question tonight, is Hillary
Clinton the last great uniter of the Democratic Party?

Also, the party of the super-rich, how the big money Republican masters of
the universe plan to use their money to create super-PACs and bend the
country`s politics to their will. Talk about economic inequality. Talk
about the Koch brothers. There`s a lot of them out there now. Talking
about political inequality.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a future where money talks, Democracy
walks.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, 2014 is likely to be a very tough year for Democrats. But
they`ve regained a small lead in what`s called the "generic ballot." Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to the HuffingtonPost`s pollster trend line, when you combine all
the recent polls, Democrats lead Republicans by 3 points, 44 to 41. And
look back at this. Back in October, after the government shutdown,
Democrats had a 7-point lead. Then came the health care web site roll-out,
which put Republicans on top by about a point in December. And now the
Democrats are back with a small lead. They`ll need a bigger one to keep
Congress -- or to keep the Senate.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Remember what the Republicans in
Congress proposed to combat the economic freefall the United States faced
just five years ago, freezing domestic spending, austerity. That was their
plan. Well, even conservative columnist David Brooks called that plan
insane because it hasn`t worked anywhere else in the world.

Well, today, the same guys whose policy got us into the economic mess of
five years ago in the first place, and then offered nothing to help us get
out of it except austerity, now are giving their verdicts on the
president`s economic actions of the last five years.

John Boehner said, quote, "The stimulus has turned out to be a classic case
of big promises and big spending with little results," except the stock
market`s up 10,000 points.

Marco Rubio said it clearly failed. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Five years later, underemployment is still
too high. The number of people that have dropped out of the workforce is
astounding. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. And our economy isn`t
growing fast enough, proof that massive government spending, particularly
debt spending, is not the solution to our economic growth problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Ted Cruz tweeted, quote, "Well, five years in, it looks
like President Obama`s stimulus did actually create jobs. Unfortunately,
they`re all in the IRS and NSA." What a cute guy he is.

And Mitch McConnell wrote, "Five years later, the stimulus is no success to
celebrate. It`s a tragedy to lament." A tragedy -- 40 straight months of
job growth. The stock market has gone from 6,000 to 16,000. And the
economy has grown 11 straight quarters.

Well, the stimulus didn`t hurt the economy. The real political drain in
the economy has come from Republicans on Capitol Hill shutting down the
government, threatening to default on our debt. That cost billions.
They`re worse than do-nothing, they`re a "do worse" Congress.

Joining me right now is Dana Milbank who`s a columnist for "The Washington
Post" -- it`s hard to satirize these people -- and Michelle Bernard,
president of the Bernard Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy.

Michelle, I want to start with you because I have no idea what you`re going
to say.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But I just want to say what I don`t understand is this. If we
had had an explosion in wealth, which isn`t necessarily well distributed,
we know that, like we`ve had in the last five years with the stock market,
the Dow, which is good for everybody with a 401(k) who`s watching, has gone
from 6,000, roughly, up to over 16,000 and may well will -- and still be
climbing, the Republicans would be Jubilation P. Cornpone! They`d be going
crazy!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They`d say, This is proof of everything we`ve ever said! And
yet they sit there and say, This has been a terrible five years.
Unemployment is down to 6.6. I know things aren`t swell, but they`re
trashing Obama -- what was the Republican plan to deal with the fiscal and
financial crisis that he inherited as president, that he walked into?

MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Well, that was the big
question. In 2008, the economy was a in a massive free-for-all. (sic) It
was absolutely pathetic. Most of the people who were running for president
on the Republican side in 2008 all had a big stimulus plan. I think Mitt
Romney`s was actually larger than what President Obama signed into office
(sic) in 2009.

But since that time period, we haven`t heard anything other than, No no,
no, no, no, and let`s vote against "Obama care" -- no real jobs bill, no
real anything that`s going to stimulate the economy. I think part of the
problem is calling it the American Recovery Act or the stimulus package.
It should have been looked at as a massive investment bill, a massive
investment package.

(CROSSTALK)

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They had a stimulus plan, and it`s
called Europe. So if you look at --

MATTHEWS: What`s been going on? Give us a comparison.

MILBANK: Well, the Republicans were saying you got to clamp down on the
debt and rein in --

MATTHEWS: That`s what they did in Greece.

MILBANK: That is what --

BERNARD: Exactly!

MILBANK: -- happened in Europe. Now, look, growth is not spectacular in
the United States. It`s a heck of a lot --

MATTHEWS: It`s better than Germany!

MILBANK: It`s a heck of a lot better than it is in Europe.

MATTHEWS: Germany`s less than 1 percent. We`re up to 3.

MILBANK: We`ve seen what the Republicans were suggesting at the time, and
now they`re suggesting, Well, if only the president had come and spoken to
us about it. Well, actually, he did come and speak to them about it, and
John Boehner got up before the president even arrived on Capitol Hill and
said, I want you Republicans --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you --

MILBANK: -- against this.

MATTHEWS: -- a political question.

Why don`t the Democrats attack the Republicans as a do-worse Congress?
They`re benefiting right now, the Democrats. They have got a 72 percent
negative approval rating for the Republicans in the Congress. Why do they
run scared? Why do they act like, oh, my God, the Republicans are coming
at us?

The Republicans are laughed at. They`re jokes. And yet the Democrats, oh,
we have got to hold on to the Senate. We have to hold on to the House.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They`re playing completely different -- defensive.

BERNARD: I don`t understand it, because you have got midterm elections
coming literally right around the corner.

And there is so much good to be said about what has happened over the last
-- over the last two years. In so many districts around the country,
unemployment in the African-American community was skyrocketing. It`s not
where it should be, but it has gone down. People are going back to work.

We saw this epidemic of --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Despite the fact the Republican bankers out there and
businessmen sitting on $2 trillion still waiting for their time to come.

MILBANK: Yes. Yes.

BERNARD: Well, they should be beating the drum on Dodd-Frank. More needs
to be done on Dodd-Frank.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s my theory. Let`s take a look at this.

Mitch McConnell also hit the president`s stimulus, big surprise there. Get
this. Mr. Obama didn`t work with Republicans. That`s his charge. They
didn`t play ball with them on their no plan.

Anyway, the real tragedy that Mitch McConnell here is saying is that: "None
of this was necessary. Republicans have always been willing to work with
the president on reforms. That would have broad -- that would have been
broad bipartisan support and we believe a far better impact on the lives
and livelihoods of ordinary Americans, things like paring back regulations,
tapping into vast domestic energy resources through projects like the
Keystone pipeline, and putting the nation`s finances on a more solid
footing, just to name a few."

So, he is basically saying if President Obama would sign up for the
Republican Party, become a taxpaying dues member of the Republican Party
somewhere in Chicago, he would be OK.

MILBANK: Right.

Even by the low standards for honesty in Washington, that op-ed by
McConnell was extraordinary.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Because I remember, because when the president was trying to do
a bipartisan health care bill.

BERNARD: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And they were struggling to keep like Mike Enzi on the team and
Orrin Hatch on the team and Baucus was doing his best, trying to make this
bipartisan, one by one, they jumped off it because they were afraid that
what was going to happen to them what happened to Bob Bennett out there.
Or they were afraid that the right wing would knock them off if they did
anything with the president.

That`s the history.

MILBANK: And on the stimulus, the president was there saying, what do you
guys want? I will give it you. What do you want?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He begged Arlen Specter on the team.

MILBANK: And they lined up and said it was blind opposition before they
could even --

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD: Every bipartisan, everything they have tried to do has failed.
It`s what got us the sequester. Remember the grand bargain,
Simpson/Bowles?

MATTHEWS: Guess who made that decision? Who made that decision?

BERNARD: Eric Cantor and Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS: Michelle, Michelle Bernard --

BERNARD: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: -- who made the decision the day the president was inaugurated
that they would do no business with him ever and that their number one
ambition would be to destroy his presidency? Who was that guy? Was that
Mitch McConnell who said that, that guy right there who said we didn`t play
ball? Wasn`t that the same guy?

(LAUGHTER)

BERNARD: I think it was Rush -- I think it was Rush Limbaugh also.

MATTHEWS: The very same guy that says, if he had only cooperated with us.

BERNARD: Absolutely.

MILBANK: But, Chris, part of the problem is the president is not hitting
them with the sort of things you`re talking about.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t talk about like a pol.

MILBANK: He steps back and says well, we have created X-million job years,
as if people are going to understand what that is.

The Democrats seem to like --

MATTHEWS: You know, I have tried to talk him into being me.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: This would solve all the problems --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m sure he is watching. Do it like I do it!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He has a different style. There`s no doubt about it.

MILBANK: It`s not just the president. The Democrats seem to play by these
Marquis of Queensbury rules.

MATTHEWS: No, they play defense.

MILBANK: While -- exactly. If you`re explaining in politics, you`re
losing.

Why are they not going on the offense and saying these guys drove us into
the ditch, they want to drive us back into the ditch?

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD: And it was the Bush economy. It was the Bush economy that he
walked into. The economy was in free-for-all. And we should be calling
this the long slump, rather than anything else.

MATTHEWS: No, I don`t believe in whining and complaining about the other
party. I just believe in attacking.

BERNARD: Well, and telling the truth.

MILBANK: That`s politics. That`s how it works.

MATTHEWS: And having fun doing it. I think you have a lot more fun
attacking than playing defense.

Anyway, they should win this fall, instead of losing. And they`re going to
lose if they play defense.

Thank you, Dana Milbank.

MILBANK: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Your satire is rich and pertinent.

Michelle, it`s great having you on, Michelle Bernard.

Up next -- I now know what you think as of today.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What happens when you bet against Jimmy Fallon? Well, I think
you lose.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": I can`t believe this
is happening. I`m really sitting here. I want to say thanks to all the
fans for all their support.

And to my buddy who said that I would never be the host of "The Tonight
Show," and you know who you are, you owe me $100, buddy.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: You do. We do have a great show tonight.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time for the "Sideshow."

It was Jimmy Fallon`s first night with "The Tonight Show" last night. And
you saw Robert De Niro there. But there were many other celebrities who
purportedly had to pay off their bet because they lost it, everyone from
Rudy Giuliani to Joan Rivers, Mike Tyson, there they are, and others who
could say they all paid tribute to the new host, even if they didn`t --
well, they did it begrudgingly.

Anyway, the best cameo, however, was Steve Colbert, who had a more passive-
aggressive way of paying Fallon the $100.

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

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Welcome to 11:30 (EXPLETIVE
DELETED)!

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s right. They`re on at the same time. It look like a new
rivalry.

Next up, Kevin Spacey may play a politician on "House of Cards," but he is
no stranger to real-life politics either. In fact, as he revealed to David
Letterman last night, he is close friends with former President Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": You`re still
buddies with President Clinton, aren`t you?

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Now, do you do that when you`re around him?

SPACEY: Oh, he loves it.

LETTERMAN: In terms of just a guy, casual exchange of conversation, what
is that? What do you do?

SPACEY: Oh, he absolutely -- look, if you get into a serious conversation
about an issue that he cares about, then, yes, absolutely, he can be quite
serious. But he also -- he loves to play cards.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: And --

SPACEY: You want to play hearts?

LETTERMAN: Hearts, like -- oh, hearts.

SPACEY: Oh, yes.

LETTERMAN: Yes.

SPACEY: And I think somewhere, along the way, he must have taken a pill
that says, I don`t go to bed until there is no one left to talk to.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s pretty good.

Up next: why Hillary Clinton needs to be a uniter, and she sure can be, not
a divider.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
breaking news.

You`re looking at live pictures of violent clashes in the Ukrainian capital
of Kiev. So far, at least 18 people are reported dead. Hundreds more are
injured. Riot police moved into the city`s main square, where protesters
were staging fiery anti-government demonstrations. Protesters responded by
hurling makeshift bombs.

Vice President Joe Biden has called the country`s president and urged him
to pull back government forces. Today`s violence is the bloodiest display
since protests began in November -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In the post-Barack Obama era, that`s coming next, the next leader of the
Democratic Party faces the challenge of blending a newly energized populist
swing of the party, that`s on the left, with the more traditional
establishment party closer to the center.

Well, Democrats are already united on social and cultural issues like gay
marriage pretty much. But policy differences exist on how populism in the
party should move when it comes to economic issues like income inequality,
trade issues like NAFTA, taxing, how much to tax the rich.

Well, co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Committee, Adam Green, told
"The Washington Post" the other day -- quote -- The Elizabeth Warren wing
really believes in challenging the current state of who has power and who
has influence."

But Andrew Stern, the former president of the Service Employees
International Union, the SEIU, cautioned liberals, saying -- quote -- "I
think it`s really not helpful for the Democrats to turn this into an attack
on the 1 percent. I don`t think it`s in the American spirit or at least
the Democratic Party`s future spirit. As Republicans attack immigration,
we attack rich people? If you learned anything from the president, selling
hope is better than selling hate."

Anyway, one-trick ponies who represent the far left or the political center
won`t cut it. Hillary Clinton is the only 2016 candidate I think who can
unite liberals and moderates and Main Street and Wall Street under one big
roof.

Well, Joan Walsh is with Salon and an MSNBC contributor. And Matt Bennett
is the vice president and co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way.

Joan, I want you to use your imagination, because I know you have got one,
and think about how Ronald Reagan, who was a man, when he came into the
presidency, seen as a man of the right clearly. He moved. He was a bit
more center-right. But key thing was when he left office, for whatever
reason, the suburban moderate Republican, the hard-right, far-out West guy
and the Deep South Dixiecrat type, they all like Reagan.

So his leadership somehow got them all subsumed under one tent.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think Hillary Clinton can do the same with the Democratic
populist wing that is more associated now with issues like Elizabeth
Warren`s issues and maybe Howard Dean`s in the past, but will follow her
because she is credible and trustworthy, even if she is a bit more to the
center than they are.

Your thoughts.

WALSH: Well, look, I think it`s too early to anoint her, but I basically
agree with you, Chris.

And I think that some writers, both in the center and on the left, have
exaggerated the extent to which Hillary Clinton is out of step with the
populist wing. I supported her in 2008, and I personally thought she was a
tiny bit, just a little, a smidge, more progressive than Senator Obama.

She supported a mortgage foreclosure moratorium, for example, which was
controversial. I thought her health plan was more progressive. So, we
still need to see where candidate Clinton, if she runs, comes out and what
kind of -- how she addresses this changed Democratic Party.

I do want to say, though, I was really -- I like Andy Stern, but I was
really disappointed to hear that quote. It sounds like Tom Perkins. You
can say that the top 1 percent has maybe a little too much wealth, a little
too much power, and maybe they could pay higher taxes without hating them
or demonizing them.

And I think that`s a caricature of Elizabeth Warren, of Bill de Blasio, of
Mayor de Blasio, of people like myself. And I don`t think it`s helpful for
Democrats to engage in that.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

MATT BENNETT, CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: I couldn`t agree more that it isn`t
helpful for Democrats to engage in that kind of name-calling.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But are you agreeing with her, with Joan?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joan says Joan disagrees with what you say. She disagrees with
what Andy Stern said. She thinks it`s important to be populist and to talk
about income inequality and to go after the vast difference between the top
and the bottom and the middle. Do you agree with her on that?

BENNETT: So, look, I --

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with her on that?

BENNETT: No. I agreed with Andy Stern.

I think, fundamentally, politics has got to be about the future and it has
got to be optimistic. And that`s what Andy Stern was talking about in that
quote. Every time Democrats have offered up candidates that are truly
about the future, offering a hopeful, optimistic, growth-oriented set of
messages, we win. When we don`t, we tend to lose. And so I think if
Hillary goes that direction, or whoever the nominee --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take something that is easy for everybody to
understand. Back in the `90s, Bill Clinton I thought had the guts to come
out for NAFTA. It wasn`t popular with labor, but he thought a global
market made more sense, that we could compete with -- we could certainly
compete with Mexico.

We`d be benefiting with trade with them. And now it looks like there may
be a different -- is Hillary Clinton more to the left than the president,
the former president on trade issues? Will she come out against NAFTA,
Joan? Let`s get particular.

I think she is going to stay closer to the center and not be that radically
anti-trade. Your thoughts.

WALSH: Well, during the -- now it`s ancient history, right? During the
2008 campaign, she was open to talking about modifications to NAFTA.

You know, she was very close to labor unions. So I really -- I don`t know
what she said about the new agreements. I don`t know where she stands yet.
But I think, you know, in terms of Matt, I want to say one nice thing about
the Democratic Leadership Council and the third way style of politics.

I do think that in the `80s and `90s, they brought an approach to the
Democratic Party that said, look, you guys, you have to be about growth.
You have to be about economic growth. You can`t only be about
distribution. You can`t only be about raising taxes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: I think that was actually positive.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: But that was then, and this is now.

And we really do need a new -- our future-looking people are going to be
people who are dealing with income inequality and are wondering whether our
tax code is really -- can really do the things we need to it do when we
need things like universal pre-K. That`s what the future is about.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about -- everybody is for universal pre-K. It`s
about how do you pay for it, of course. That is the issue.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: But here is my question.

Do you think Elizabeth Warren could be elected president of the United
States, Joan? Let`s talk politics for a second here.

WALSH: I think --

MATTHEWS: Do you think Howard Dean could? Do you think people -- de
Blasio could be running statewide in New York? Do you think de Blasio
could win statewide in New York?

WALSH: I don`t know. It`s too early. It`s too early to say that about --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don`t know? How come you don`t know about something?
Because you don`t -- what do you mean you don`t know? What do you think?
Do you think he could win statewide in New York, de Blasio?

WALSH: I think he could conceivably win statewide, yes.

MATTHEWS: Conceivably.

WALSH: I think he could conceivably win.

MATTHEWS: See, I don`t think so. I don`t think so.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: I`m from Syracuse, New York.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to talk practical politics here. And I`m trying to
say that Hillary Clinton -- let`s look at these numbers to put this in
perspective.

WALSH: We have never seen -- we have never seen an Elizabeth Warren or a
Bill de Blasio have to deal with -- have to deal with more moderate or even
conservative segments.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WALSH: I would like to see them up to the challenge. I can`t say for sure
that they are.

But you guys can`t say for sure that they`re not.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let me just tell you this. Let me tell you my history of
this.

WALSH: OK.

MATTHEWS: Massachusetts is a terrible place to call a laboratory for the
country. Dukakis can do swimmingly in Massachusetts, Teddy Kennedy
swimmingly.

You get outside of that state, you get into another world. New York City
has never produced --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a minute -- has never produced presidential figures.
Nobody has ever been mayor of New York and then president of the United
States that I know of. It`s a very different place.

WALSH: Maybe we just haven`t had the right -- maybe we haven`t had the
right person yet. I`m not saying it`s Bill de Blasio either.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s possible. But let`s look at these numbers. I`m
trying to be positive here.

WALSH: All right.

MATTHEWS: Look at this.

The Gallup poll reported that 43 percent of Democrats identify as liberal
today, which is up 14 points from where it was in 2000. So the party is
certainly moving a bit to the left, because -- put this in perspective
compared to the Republican Party, which is 70 percent that self-identify as
a conservative.

But the recent "Washington Post" poll also said that Hillary Clinton has a
surplus of trust from liberals that far exceeds her natural base. Look at
this. Among Democrats, 74 percent of liberals, men, non-whites, those with
college degrees, all back Hillary.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Look at this same poll among Democrats: 73 percent of Democrats,
women, slightly interesting. Men are one point above women in supporting
Hillary, whites, those without college degrees, also support Hillary.

So what I`m trying to do here is not argue with you, Joan. But to make a
case which is that Hillary Clinton has the unique ability in this history
right now -- I`m going to let Matt do this -- to unite the moderates and
the liberals of the Democratic Party and present a united front in
November.

MATT BENNETT, CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: Look, I don`t know if it`s unique.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know who else can do it.

BENNETT: Right. There may be somebody else. But you never know. We
didn`t know that Barack Obama would emerge in that cycle in 2008 either.
There may well be some leader that steps forward if she doesn`t run or she
stumbles.

But I think you`re exactly right. If she does run, she can unite all the
wings of the party. The great thing about Democrats is that we argue, we
don`t go to war like Republicans have.

But let me go back to the point you were making. I do not think people --
I don`t think that message plays nationally.

MATTHEWS: What is that? What message?

BENNETT: The populist message.

MATTHEWS: Define it? Is it "screw the rich" or we`re concerned about
income inequality? How would you call it?

BENNETT: It`s us against you. It`s not positive, forward looking,
optimistic, growth-oriented. It`s victim-oriented and us against you --

MATTHEWS: How do you pass a progressive income tax -- no, is it
progressive income tax in your definition populist?

BENNETT: No.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to have to have one. We don`t have one now.

BENNETT: We absolutely -- hold on a second. We absolutely do need to
raise taxes on the wealthy. Every Democrat agrees with that.

The question is, how are we framing it? And that`s what Andy Stern was
talking about that and he was right about that.

When we tried populism in 1972, every 15 years or so, we try this. `72,
`84, I was there in 2000 with Gore when it was the people against the
powerful.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Actually, Al Gore won. Al Gore won.

BENNETT: Yes, I was aware of that, Joan. I was there.

But in the end, he didn`t become president. If we try it again 15 years
later, we`re going to have the same result.

WALSH: We`re not trying it again, Matt. You know, it`s a really updated
message for a changed time. No one is saying we should run George McGovern
again. No one is saying we would resort to slogans of the `60s or `70s or
even `80s.

But we are saying we need a different approach to politics to really deal
with the problems that we have in our country. And, you know, the fact
that the Democratic Party got so close to Wall Street means that we`re not
having debates about the carried interest rule.

We`re not talking even the Buffett Rule anymore. I can`t believe how much
we have reneged from where we were maybe a year and a half ago. The
president still talks a populist line, but he has taken income tax rates
off the table. We`re still not at the Clinton tax rates. You guys love
Bill Clinton. We don`t even have his tax rates back.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s find the unity. One thing the Democratic Party has
gotten united on, Joan and I agree on this I`m pretty sure, this aversion
to stupid wars.

BENNETT: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The Republican Party is still the hawk party. It just is. And
the Democratic Party has really diminished the influence of the hawks in
this party, the Democratic Party, I believe. Do you agree?

BENNETT: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You agree. You`re fighting this? You`re fighting it, aren`t
you?

BENNETT: Well, look, Hillary --

MATTHEWS: Are we -- as a Democratic Party a less hawkish party than it was
10 years ago?

BENNETT: I agree these are stupid wars, but I think they`re very
internationalist. I don`t think --

MATTHEWS: Nothing wrong with being internationalist. The question of why
did we go to Iraq?

BENNETT: Iraq was idiotic. And every Democrat agrees with that.

MATTHEWS: They didn`t at the time. I think Joan and I and Barack Obama
were the ones that didn`t. Anyway, thank you.

WALSH: We were right.

MATTHEWS: And we were right. And I worry we`re not making the best
possible effort to avoid one in Iran. And I wonder about people that don`t
make the best possible effort.

Anyway, Joan, thank you. It`s always great, because I know where you
stand.

WALSH: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And I often stand with you.

Matt Bennett, thank you, sir, for coming on. A noble fight here. We`ll
have more of the moderate versus the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Up next, Moneyball-Republican style.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Democrats say raising the minimum wage will help the economy.
Republicans say it will hurt. And today, both got some ammunition from the
nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO reported that raising the
minimum wage to $10.10 would cost jobs, roughly 500,000 jobs by 2016. But
the CBO also said it would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

Raising the minimum wage is widely popular, and Democrats hope to use that
to their advantage in the 2014 midterm elections.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

In the four years since the Citizens United decision, we`ve seen how
unlimited political spending, cash can empower the few over the many,
allowing some 400-plus billionaires in this country to leverage their
enormous wealth to boost or destroy any candidate who stands in the way of
their own political agenda.

Well, it`s hard to overstate just how growing income inequality today
translates into a political clout for the mega rich. And now, some of them
are mobilizing in advance of the 2014 midterm elections this November.
Republican billionaire Paul Singer is discreetly organizing a group of
well-known GOP donors behind his new group the American Opportunity
Alliance, which according to "Politico" appears to represent a new center
of gravity in the world of GOP money.

Singer`s cohorts include power players like Charles Schwab and Joe
Ricketts, the former TD Ameritrade CEO who infamously supported using
Reverend Jeremiah Wright as a centerpiece of a proposed anti-Obama attack
campaign ad in 19 -- or actually 2012.

Well, as the November midterms approach, we`re sure to see this group and
others flex some political muscle in states with vulnerable candidates.

With us now is Josh Green, the senior political editor of "Bloomberg
Businessweek" and Chris Cillizza from the WashingtonPost.com. He`s also is
an MSNBC contributor.

Gentlemen, thank you.

What I watched in the newspapers as I looked at it is wait a minute, we
talk about income inequality, the billionaires, the difference between the
guy making billions, so much extra money, can`t even give it to his kids,
and then you`ve got people struggling at $40,000 a year and barely able to
pay -- they don`t even think about paying off college until they`re 40
years old.

So, these people, this difference, now it gets translated according to the
stories today by this guy Paul Singer into taking that huge amount of money
and turning it into political clout.

Now, are we going to see this now where anybody like a Kay Hagan or a, oh,
a Mark Pryor in Arkansas, two weeks before an election or a month before
the election, a zillion dollars comes in and tips the scale? Because some
fat cat somewhere thought, I`d like to have one more Republican senator.

JOSH GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Yes, I think that`s exactly right.

MATTHEWS: Is that`s what`s going to happen?

GREEN: What these are, are rich pro-business -- Singer`s a hedge fund guy
-- trying to organize their giving, get on the same page and focus on a
handful of races I think that they feel can tip the Senate to Republicans.

And one way you do that as we learned from the 2012 election is not to have
each one of these billionaires out there firing off his own messages. It`s
to be consistent with their message and their aim and try to organize ahead
of time, and that`s what they`re doing at this conference they`re going to
have in Colorado.

MATTHEWS: You know, this reminds me what that fellow, Chris, Tom Perkins
said, should have a vote for every one of your dollars basically. If
you`re a billionaire, you should have a billion votes. I mean, in fact,
they`re going around, tipping the scale, putting their numb on the scale in
races where nobody knew they came. Pick anywhere in the country they can
strike. Under Citizens United, they can throw any amount of money they can
into this thing.

This is becoming, I will argue, like the country communists accused of us
being back in the Cold War, run by the Rockefellers. It will get there.
Your thoughts.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Well, look, we cover super PACs as a
huge deal in 2012. All the spending happened in the Republican primary.
It also happened in the general election.

I would argue that they are more influential and a bigger story in a
midterm election and here`s why -- $50 million is a vast sum of money,
right? But in a presidential election in which Barack Obama spent $1.2
million, Mitt Romney raised and spent $1.1 billion, billion -- excuse me,
billion with a "B" -- $50 million, not all that much. $50 million in a
House race, you are by far the biggest spender; $50 million in a Senate
race, you`re likely the biggest spender.

I would just point out -- in the interest of fairness -- Tom Steyer, a
wealthy guy, is out doing environmental around climate change. He has a
plant, he wants to seed $50 million and raise from like-minded friends, to
Josh`s point, sort of directed giving. Raise another $50 million to spend
it on Senate races in 2014 on the sort of climate change side of things. I
think you`re going to see more own more of it.

You asked, are we going to see this in last two weeks? I would say we`re
seeing it now. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers group, has
spent millions of dollars against Kay Hagan already. We`re just going to
keep seeing it.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s that sound I mentioned from Tom Perkins. He`s the
guy that suggested maybe the power of your vote should be proportionate to
the amount of money you make. This is the kind of attitude I think voters
are up against in reality. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PERKINS, VENTURE CAPITALIST: The Tom Perkins system is you don`t get
to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is it
should be like a corporation. You pay $1 million in taxes. You should get
1 million votes. How`s that?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, that guy`s sober minded. He`s of sound mind and body.

GREEN: You don`t know that.

MATTHEWS: He`s saying he thinks -- oh, come on.

He`s at least honest about this. He thinks the more billions you have, the
more votes you should have which is a very unbelievable view of things.

GREEN: This is one reason why the power of the rich billionaires I think
tends to get exaggerated, right?

MATTHEWS: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN: Look at that guy`s view of reality, right? If you give him $20
million to spend on a Senate race, the message he`s going to put into his
ads probably isn`t going to resonate with ordinary working class people.

MATTHEWS: You think he`s stupid?

GREEN: I don`t think he`s stupid. He`s living on a planet of the 1
percent where, you know, people -- the government is going to bang down his
door and take away his millions. I don`t think that connects with ordinary
people. I think he and his ilk have a very warped view of the world that
doesn`t necessarily translate into electoral strength.

Maybe in the hands of a good consultant who can --

CILLIZZA: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I always wonder if they can find a good lawyer, they can find a
good PR guy.

Your thoughts, Chris, about how -- I`m looking at the Senate race like
we`ll be doing now until November, Chris, and I`m looking at the very
fragile people up in Alaska, for example, the chance of Walsh maybe pulling
an upset and holding on to that seat in Montana. These elections are going
to be down to 1 percent, 2 percent if the Democrat wins.

CILLIZZA: And, Chris, just to bolster the point, look at Arkansas,
Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota. Let`s just -- put West Virginia
in there if you want. Those are five very vulnerable Democratic seats.
None of those five -- you could probably take a week`s worth of saturation
television in all five of those places and it would be roughly equivalent,
maybe, might even be less, than spending a week`s worth of TV in the
Philadelphia media market.

MATTHEWS: I agree with the fourth market.

CILLIZZA: They`re cheap states, too, which means your money goes further
which I think, again, I think we focus so much on super PACs and how much
money they spend in the presidential.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ve got to go. Chris, you`re so smart.

CILLIZZA: But, again, it`s more important, I think, down-ballot where
money goes further.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you. You`re smart. I really appreciate it. Everybody
watching knows what you meant. These elections are going to be turned by
the millionaires maybe, unless people get out and vote big-time.

Thank you, Josh Green. Thank you, Chris Cillizza.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I recall the line of the congressman caught up in Abscam. The gist of it
was that money talks. Well, now hear this -- what happens when the vast
economic inequality in this country gets money transferred into political
power? What happens when the top end of the 1 percent form themselves into
super PACs and start knocking off senators, governors and congressmen they
don`t like? What happens when the billionaires learn to leverage their
economic advantage in the political dominance?

Well, the fact is we haven`t seen nothing yet. Remember how Mitt Romney
used his cash edge to finish off his rivals in 2012. Watch how that kind
of brazen money, billionaire`s money, begins to target those troublesome
senators now fighting for their survival in states like North Carolina this
November, and Arkansas. All the big boys have to do, as I said, by them I
mean the Koch brothers and their copycats is check the state polls, look to
see who`s in trouble, where they are, and throw a huge pile of money into
the hands of the challengers, the right wing challengers.

This is not democracy. No, it reminds me of what the communists used to
say about us in the old days, behind all the pretense of democracy and free
elections was the power of the Rockefellers pulling the strings, working
the puppets, getting everything the way they wanted it.

We can laugh at the character who said the other day that the rich should
get as many votes as they have money. But ask yourself, do you doubt
that`s precisely the way these billionaires think and are right now trying
to get their way?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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