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updated 3/14/2014 12:06:59 PM ET 2014-03-14T16:06:59

HARDBALL
March 13, 2014

Guest: Jonathan Martin, Ron Suskind, Joe Conason, Bob Herbert

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Time to attack.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The best defense is a good offense.
Are you listening, Democratic candidates? If the Republicans are running
an all-out assault on the president, his health care plan and you, you can
sit there and play defense, you can talk reasonably about the values of
compromise or the need to fix "Obama care," not kill it, and you can get
your head chopped off exactly the way Alex Sink got her removed talking
that way two nights ago in Florida.

Or -- or you can give the angry voter out there something really scary
to vote against, a direction to really direct his or her anger. You can
warn people what the Republicans will do if they really clench power, how
they`re hell bent on cutting entitlements. That`s their term for it.
Yours might be Social Security and Medicare because those benefits of yours
under Social Security and Medicare make up $7 in $10 of entitlements.

Republicans are dying to get at those entitlement programs, and if
you`re retired or headed toward it, that Republican goal of cutting them is
definitely something worth voting against.

Want something else to fear? If the Republicans get the upper hand
this fall, women`s health care, Roe v Wade, which that Florida Republican
who just won plans to repeal. Voter suppression? Just wait until the
Republicans get finished with their plans to slam the doors on voting
access for the minorities of this country and some other folks. They`ll
know the price of a lost election. And that minimum wage hike, watch it
die if the Rs get complete control of Congress. They`ve promised to kill
it.

And could it be time for the Democrats to put out word that these
elections in November are not just a chance for angry people to dump all
over Barack Obama, but their a chance to hit you where you`re weakest?

Jonathan Martin is the national political correspondent for "The New
York Times" and Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with
"The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Jonathan, I was struck by the campaign run on defense by Alex Sink
down in Florida two days ago, where she was very reasonable and nice. She
said, Well, maybe there are problems with "Obama care," but let`s try to
fix it, not get rid of it. And oh, maybe we shouldn`t think we`re right on
everything. Maybe the Republicans are right on some things. Maybe we
should compromise.

And that nice approach to this campaign cost a stronger candidate, the
woman we`re looking at right now, to lose to a Washington lobbyist on the
far right. Obviously, it`s not a prescription for victory. She was a
better candidate, better positioned in terms of her career. She only lost
the race for governor by 1 point last time around. Here she gets whacked
by this guy who normally wouldn`t win a nomination.

Is the Democratic Party capable of pivoting and establishing itself as
the aggressive party this fall, or has it already doomed itself to sit
there and just take a licking? Your thoughts.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Oh, I think there is still plenty
of time, Chris, for them to go on the offensive message-wise, and I think
that`s what you`ll see here. I talked to Steve Israel yesterday, who is
the head of the House Democratic campaign arm, and he wants Democrats to
campaign, you know, trying to appeal to their core groups, African-
Americans, Hispanics, young voters, women, with directed appeals towards
those voters, using the kinds of things that you talked about in your
preamble there.

The question, though, that looms over all of this is, can Democrats
get those voters out? Even if they`ve got fodder to turn out their base,
can they get them to show up on election day when Barack Obama`s name is
not on the ballot? They could not in 2010. They had a better time of it
last year in Virginia when Terry McAuliffe won in 2013.

MATTHEWS: Right.

MARTIN: It`s still an open question this year. But I`ll tell you
what the biggest fear among Democrats, Chris, is. It`s not just the
president`s health care law, it`s the president himself. That number, 41
percent, which is what our poll and what The Journal...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: ... and NBC had the president at...

MATTHEWS: Well, they were looking -- I`m not interested in -- I`m
not...

MARTIN: ... 41 percent is what is really causing Democrats to be
scared.

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re taking the temperature. I`m trying to come up
with the prescription for the party that`s probably going to get whacked if
it doesn`t change the -- if it simply says, Gene, how do you feel? Well, I
don`t feel so good.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
yes, the...

MATTHEWS: How do you feel?

ROBINSON: The -- the...

MATTHEWS: And let`s talk about how we`ve all had the blues and we
really don`t like this president, or shift into the normal way Democrats
win elections, protecting old people, because the Republicans keep saying
Entitlements, entitlements. What are they really talking about?

Everybody knows -- look at this. If the Republicans are serious about
really cutting into entitlement spending, which they always say they are,
it`s all we ever hear from them, they could hardly skip over Social
Security and Medicare. Look at this. According to the Brookings
Institute, (sic) Social Security and Medicare make up about 70 percent, 68
percent of all entitlement spending.

Cutting those programs is not something people want. According to the
latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, for example, a whopping 69 percent
said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports cutting
those programs, Social Security and Medicare, to address the budget
deficit. Only 17 percent said they`d be more likely to vote for that
candidate.

It seems to me the Democrats ought to get smart with the numbers and
say, Wait a minute, Republicans keep saying entitlements. This Obama`s a
chicken. He won`t get serious about cutting entitlements. He won`t cut
the -- they use that nice phrase.

ROBINSON: Yes, entitlements, yes, and...

MATTHEWS: And what does entitlement mean?

ROBINSON: ... what is an entitlement...

MATTHEWS: Well, it means at the age of 65, you`re entitled to get
benefits, if you`ve worked.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: At the age of 65, you`re entitled to health care, if you`ve
worked. Right?

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Get rid of those entitlements.

ROBINSON: Yes, right, and...

MATTHEWS: Why -- I don`t understand the Democrats let them get away
with that -- that sort of...

ROBINSON: Right. Be...

MATTHEWS: ... blarney (ph).

ROBINSON: Be specific. Talk about Social Security. Talk about
Medicare. You know, the election will hinge on whether or not Democrats
can get those voters to the polls, as Jonathan said, but...

MATTHEWS: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... concern them.

ROBINSON: You`ve got give them a reason, right.

MATTHEWS: Concern them.

ROBINSON: You`ve got to give them a reason to come out. The
Democrats are better at targeting, identifying their voters. They have all
the high-tech stuff now. But you`ve got give people a reason to vote in a
special election.

MATTHEWS: You know, Jonathan, let me ask you about women voters
because you and I Have been watching these things, reporting on them, and
I`ve been talking about them. Women have tended to be more Democrat than
Republican, normally. I don`t think it`s just a choice issue -- abortion
rights. I think it`s a lot of things, health care, education, taking care
of seniors, their parents. They`re much better at focusing on family
urgencies, and health care especially and child development. But it is an
issue.

Now, look, here`s another one. The Republican Party -- the Democrats
call it the war on women. Look at this. The Republican Party platform in
2012 states in pretty plain language when it comes to women`s rights and
abortion rights. It says, We firmly stand against it. We`ve already seen
one Republican, that`s David Jolly this week down in Florida, run and win
his race after publicly stating his goal is to repeal Roe v Wade.

Simply put, the state level is a coordinated effort by Republicans to
wage an assault on women`s rights. Look at this. According to the
Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group which tracks reproductive issues,
22 percent of states -- 22 states, rather, enacted 70 laws recently
targeting a woman`s reproductive rights in 2013. That`s last year.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: There have been more restrictions enacted by states in just
the last three years than the entire decade before that. And there are now
27 states which Guttmacher, the experts here, classify hostile to women`s
rights. They`re all dominated by Republicans.

So how -- why don`t -- you know, we`re all talking about the
president, his unpopularity. And I think you`re so most (ph) on the mark.
If the Democrats let the people go into the voting booth with one question,
How do you feel about Obama right now, they`re going loose -- killed (ph).
I don`t understand why they don`t focus on issues that matter to women,
issues that matter to seniors. And we get to minorities in a minute
because...

MARTIN: Well, that`s...

MATTHEWS: ... this voter suppression effort...

MARTIN: ... going to be exactly what...

MATTHEWS: ... has been absolutely unbelievably disgusting, and the
Democrats should call the Republicans on it. Your thoughts.

MARTIN: Yes, that`s going to be, Chris, what they`re going try and
do. And that is to make the election less about President Obama and more
about a set of favorable issues, including among women, issues like health
care and abortion rights.

To me, though, the question is, among women in their 20s and 30s and
40s, especially single women -- those groups are the most favorable towards
Democrats -- do they show up in these House races? Do they show up in
these Senate races? To me, it`s very much an open question. That was what
was so pivotal for Terry McAuliffe last year in Virginia and so pivotal for
President Obama in 2012.

MATTHEWS: Well (INAUDIBLE) OK, I`m getting a little excited here.
But (INAUDIBLE) Alex Sink, who I thought was a better candidate, losing to
this guy, Dave Jolly. I think Steve Israel, the campaign chair for the
Democrats, is smart. Run again. You run again with the same issues, the
same two candidates, and you have a totally different electorate come
November. You`re right that the electorate this November won`t be as big
as 2012.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: But it will be a damn sight bigger than the election they
had this week, when nobody showed up because special elections are
notoriously low turnout. People are used to voting in November. Democrats
think it`s patriotic. They do show up.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: And my question is, why not just run it again?

MARTIN: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: On the same issues and say, We`re going to do a lot better.

MARTIN: I think that might actually happen. I mean, Israel told me
yesterday that he`d like to see her run again. I understand that some
Democrats also in the House are already calling her and telling her to run
again.

One interesting note. When she ran for governor of Florida in 2010,
she actually won that district, or what is approximately that district, in
her gubernatorial race in 2010, a really bad year for Democrats nationally.

So to your point, she probably would have a better shot this fall,
when you`ve got a broader-looking electorate coming out to the polls.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about African-Americans, especially,
voting. I grew up in Philadelphia, where the best way to register
Democrats -- African-American Democrats was have Frank Rizzo as mayor
because they said, This guy is the enemy. We`re going get out there and
vote.

It turned out that the African-American registration percentage was
higher than the white registration because they had a reason to vote. Now,
look at this, talk about a reason to vote. Republicans in nearly three
dozen states right now have passed laws last year to suppress the voting
rights of minorities and young people. And some Republicans at the local
level aren`t shy about the political motivations behind their efforts.

Catch this. Before the 2012 election, Pennsylvania`s Republican
leader, Mike Turzai, said their voter ID law would give the election to
Romney. He just came out and said it! Here`s Turzai.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TURZAI (R), PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Voter ID, which
is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania -- done!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Done." And then the state`s Republican Party chairman
gloated about how those laws took away votes from President Obama. Take a
look at this fellow, Gleason. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think all the attention drawn to voter ID
affected last year`s elections?

ROB GLEASON, PENNSYLVANIA GOP CHAIRMAN: Yes, I think a little bit. I
think we probably had a better election. Think about this. We cut Obama
by 5 percent, which is big. You know, a lot of people lost sight of that.
He won -- he beat McCain by 10 percent. He only beat Romney by 5 percent.
I think that probably voter ID helped a bit in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Helped a bit." They just open (ph) and (ph) say this,
Jonathan!

Anyway, then there`s this little sugar plum. North Carolina
Republican precinct chair Don Yelton, who said this to "The Daily Show"
back in this October about his state`s new vote suppression laws. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON YELTON, NORTH CAROLINA GOP PRECINCT CHAIR: The law is going to
kick the Democrats in the butt. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks
(INAUDIBLE) so be it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it just so happens, a lot of those people vote
Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gee!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the guy he is talking to is African...

ROBINSON: Well...

MATTHEWS: He was pretty (INAUDIBLE) I would say pretty -- pretty
unashamed!

ROBINSON: They`re all for honesty, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Just put it all out there. You know, look, here`s --
here`s a way in which President Obama could help Democrats, right, because
he -- he can mobilize African-Americans. He can -- he can...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, this -- this idea, can you get people off their
hammocks, or whatever, off their chairs, or their tuffets (ph) or whatever
they`re sitting on, and get out on a day in November and actually vote, all
voters?

ROBINSON: Presidential elections, like the Rizzo example you gave, in
Ohio, for example, where they`ve tried voter suppression, blacks voted in
higher numbers than whites.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, Jonathan, young fellow, what does work
to get people to vote? What -- wars, depressions, obviously racial issues
in big cities. Where do you get people to really turn out in midterm
elections? I don`t know. The Democrats came out and protected Bill
Clinton back in `98 after all the impeachment stuff. And you know, and I
don`t know, people do react, I suppose.

Will they react to an offensive campaign that says, No more of this,
we`re going after you guys this time on issues like Social Security,
abortion rights and voter suppression?

MARTIN: Yes, I think it depends upon what young person that you`re
talking about. Obviously, younger women are going to be perhaps more
persuadable on issues of women`s health care. I think, you know, men or
women, obviously, are going to be interested in issues regarding the
economy and their prospects in the job market after leaving college.

But again, it`s a matter of engagement. And it`s just historically
very hard to get people in that demographic engaged in non-presidential
elections. It just doesn`t happen that often.

MATTHEWS: Yes, OK, one thing I know isn`t working -- defense.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Defense isn`t working, and -- and you know, promises I
think are dangerous this year because I don`t think people are believing in
promises. So I think you`re on to system in telling people, Look...

MATTHEWS: I think it`s the year of "House of Cards."

ROBINSON: ... if you don`t come out and vote, this bad stuff is going
to happen. I think that -- that...

MATTHEWS: Frank Underwood`s going to take over if you don`t vote.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Martin, thank you, of
"The New York Times."

Coming up: The conservative clown car hits the road again, saying
their progressive opponents are Nazis, that President Obama supports al
Qaeda -- that`s a big one -- that he could be impeached. And the clown
car, boy, it`s in overdrive.

Plus, spy scandal. The real reason the CIA`s worried about that
Senate investigation. They don`t want us to hear about America torturing
prisoners. And that is the bottom line.

And why do conservatives like Paul Ryan argue that the best way to
deal with poor kids who can`t afford school lunch is to deny them food? Do
they really think keeping children hungry is an incentive for success or
for better concentration in class?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with this urgent moral need to know
what our own CIA is up to.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Democrats would love nothing more than to beat Senate
leader Mitch McConnell this November, of course. And while polls show a
tight race out there in Kentucky, "The New York Times" reports today -- or
actually notes today -- it suggested a McConnell defeat would be virtually
unprecedented.

McConnell`s not just an incumbent, after all, who represents the
opposition party during a midterm election. He also comes from a state
that has voted against the president. And since 1956, only seven senators
in that situation have lost their reelection. Last time it happened, 1998
when North Carolina`s Lauch Faircloth lost to John Edwards. But President
Clinton`s approval rating then was about 60 percent, and North Carolina
only narrowly went to Bob Dole two years later -- two years prior.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, another elected official
is hinting that impeachment should be considered against President Obama.
He`s joining a chorus of right-wingers who have used everything from
Benghazi to Fast and Furious to suggest that President Obama is guilty of
high crimes and misdemeanors.

U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California has a new charge
against the president, his handling of immigration. Specifically, it`s
comments the president made at a Univision Telemundo town hall last week
when asked whether families with mixed immigration status -- i.e., the
parents are here illegally, the children are legal -- should they fear that
information be given for the new health care law could be used for
deportation purposes.

Well, here`s how the president answered that tough one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: None of the information
that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is in any way
transferred to immigration services. So that`s something that we`ve been
very clear about.

If you live in a mixed-status family, then the son could potentially
be eligible for the children`s health insurance program or some other
mechanism to get health insurance, he needs to be signed up. And the
mother should not be fearful...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman Rohrabacher told a right-wing radio show
the president`s answer reflected his approach of enforcing the laws he
likes and not the ones he doesn`t. He went on to suggest impeachment could
be an option. Here he is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: The most important thing we
can do is mobilize the American people. We cannot sit back -- the American
people can`t sit back and say, Well, Congress has to handle this, or
somebody else has to. We all have to do it. We`ve got three years to get
this guy out. Hopefully, he -- well, let me put it this way. I think he
probably has been engaged in these unconstitutional approaches that may
make his own ability to stay in office a question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that comment clearly earns Rohrabacher a seat in the
clown car. And this week, he`s joining a crowded vehicle, including a
general saying the president is sending subliminal messages to Muslims, of
course, a potential 2016 presidential candidate comparing the current
political climate to Nazi Germany, and a clown car staple, Michele
Bachmann, concerned that gay people are bullying -- don`t you feel it? --
bullying the rest of us.

Anyway, Michelle Bernard is president and CEO the Bernard Center for
Women, Politics and Public Policy. And Joan Walsh is an editor at large
for Salon and an MSNBC political analyst.

Joan, you`re already laughing. Let`s go to Dana Rohrabacher. It`s
hard to get to his particulars here, except that the president is not
throwing people away from health care who have a right to it...

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right.

MATTHEWS: ... who have a right to it -- they`re legal citizens -- and
not going after their parents because the parents performed at least some
civic duty...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... of bringing those children to the attention of the
health people...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... so the kids could benefit from it, hardly a breaking of
the law there.

WALSH: No.

MATTHEWS: He is saying, why not grab them while they`re trying to do
good -- something good for their kids? And that`s impeachable.

And he also says it`s probably impeachable and it may -- might be. I
mean, I have never heard anybody saying things like that. Well, that guy
might be guilty of murder, I don`t know, maybe, possibly, probably, I don`t
know.

WALSH: Well...

MATTHEWS: You either accuse the guy of -- and take to it the House
Judiciary Committee and you bring it up on -- bring him up on charges and
you stand behind them in that committee or you don`t, it seems to me.

WALSH: Sure.

No, but they throw this around, Chris, because their base loves it.
As long as it seems like they`re doing something to get rid of this usurper
in the White House, their base is really happy.

MATTHEWS: Three years to get him.

WALSH: We have got three years to get him.

MATTHEWS: Three years to get him.

WALSH: We can`t -- we can`t let him sit there for another...

MATTHEWS: How do you talk like that?

WALSH: ... for another three years.

And what is really crazy about this example is that the president is
simply enforcing the law. The president is simply stating the law. If you
are here, if you were born here and you`re a citizen, you have a right to
the affordable care. Now, you don`t have that right if you are here
illegally.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: And he is not suggesting that people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You mean Joe Wilson was wrong?

WALSH: Joe Wilson was absolutely wrong when he said he lied.

This is also a president, we have to state, who has really stepped up
enforcement and deportation, to the point that Democrats, Latino Democrats
in Congress are upset.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: The immigration reform community is stepping up the pressure
on the president. So, this is crazy. But the base loves crazy.

MATTHEWS: What is information doing here? Why are you bringing up
information?

WALSH: I`m sorry, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What is that? You mean, like he killed bin Laden, so he
must be working for the crazies, he must be working for the terrorists?

WALSH: That -- that was wrong of me.

MATTHEWS: Oh, of course. They wanted -- I guess they wanted --
anyway, Michelle, I want you to take a look at this one, moving on to
another passenger in the clown car.

Here it is. Back in 2003, General Jerry Boykin told an audience that
Muslims worshipped an idol and that the United States was battling Satan,
comments that earned him a public rebuke from the president, in that case
George W. Bush. Well, after retiring from the military in 2007, General
Boykin has continued peddling inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric as part of
a Tony Perkins` group, Focus on the Family.

He said Islam should not be protected by the First Amendment and that
the Muslim Brotherhood -- the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the
Pentagon.

Well, last week, General Boykin spoke of it at a conference set up for
conservatives who were not invited. They were too crazy to go to CPAC.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They couldn`t get in the door. It was moderated by Frank
Gaffney, the man who says anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist has ties to the
Muslim Brotherhood.

At Gaffney`s crazy conference, Boykin was caught up in a hot -- caught
on a hot mike discussing President Obama`s 2009 speech in Cairo. Here is
what General Boykin said with the mike on. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LT. GEN. JERRY BOYKIN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: If you understand anything
about Islam, there are subliminal messages. His message, really, I believe
was, and understand you and I support you.

And I think what you see is, as a result of that, you see al Qaeda,
Muslim Brotherhood, everybody else just absolutely taking advantage.
Right. Right. Absolutely.

They`re taking advantage of this opportunity. They see that they have
a president that identifies with them, that has been supportive of them
inside the United States and is unwilling to go against them.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What is this subliminal message when you`re speaking?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, when you`re speaking words and people are listening to
them, would it be subaudible? Is it something that you`re not hearing?

I don`t know what...

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELLE BERNARD, FOUNDER, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS AND
POLICY: It`s an E.T. -- it`s a sort of E.T. message.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What is the subliminal message the president is sending to
al Qaeda that he is really on their side and this is code? I think this is
almost like stuff coming out of your teeth, this kind of talk.

BERNARD: It is.

MATTHEWS: Transmitting.

BERNARD: It really -- it`s a national embarrassment. It is
insidious.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: General Boykin.

BERNARD: And I`m so thankful that we are talking about it, so that
the public...

MATTHEWS: But Frank Gaffney believes in him.

BERNARD: Well, he believes in him. And all we can hope is that the
rest of the American public will listen to these statements and understand
that we are in very serious trouble.

There are people who believe this kind of nonsense. And they believe
in just us, meaning just them. They don`t like Hispanics. They don`t like
immigrants. They don`t like Muslims. They don`t like anyone who is non-
white.

WALSH: Jews.

BERNARD: It is a very, very serious state of affairs. To say the
things that he said about Jews and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What did he say? Spell it out. What did he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joan, you knew that, too. What did he say?

WALSH: Oh, he -- he said horrible things about -- about Jews. He
made jokes even on a hot mike talking to a Jewish reporter that Jews are
the source of all the problems in the world. But that`s not the first
time.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: He...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we just had a white guy saying how he is going to
screw the blacks out of voting talking to an African-American interviewer.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, this is fairly flagrant. It`s not like we`re
digging up these stories.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: No. They`re in plain sight.

MATTHEWS: They`re going to throw them at us.

WALSH: And there are no apologies. Notice, there are no apologies.
There is no, "I made a misstatement."

BERNARD: Never.

WALSH: There is nothing.

MATTHEWS: OK. Take one more item here.

There is more company this week in the clown car, including
conservative rock star -- well, he is a rock star now -- Ben Carson, the
great doctor. The neurosurgeon came in third place at the CPAC convention.
Too bad for him.

Anyway, look at this. In the past, he has compared the Affordable
Care Act to slavery and gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality. Well,
earlier this week, he was asked about another controversial comment he
made. And he didn`t exactly back down. Let`s listen to Dr. Carson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been told that he said we`re living in a
gestapo age. What do you mean by that?

DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: I mean, very much like Nazi
Germany.

And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don`t care
about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its
tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people
are afraid to say what they actually believe.

And it`s because of the P.C. police. It`s because of politicians.
It`s because of news. It`s -- all of these things are combing to stifle
people`s conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joan Walsh, what do you make of Dr. Carson, the new hero?
I mean, he is a good doctor. He`s a good guy. I don`t know...

WALSH: I don`t know if he`s a good guy.

MATTHEWS: I think he should stay in his lane.

WALSH: You can say he`s a good guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, OK. I`m trying to be nice because I know him.

WALSH: I think any time...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And I got to tell you something. If somebody once said to
me jocks don`t make great restauranteurs just because they think they are,
great doctors don`t just make great political leaders on the hard right
either.

Go ahead. Your thoughts.

WALSH: No, that`s incredibly offensive to talk about Nazi Germany
that way.

Does he know what happened? Does he know about the extermination of
six million Jews? Does he know about the systemic wiping out of a
population? Is that what he is saying is happening here? He doesn`t have
one example of a person punished for speech.

Are people criticized? Yes. You and I are criticized. He is
criticized. We have open, free and full debate in this country. And to
elevate -- or really lower the rhetoric, to suggest that people are being
punished by the government, by the gestapo for disagreeing with President
Obama is really lurid. It`s beyond paranoid.

MATTHEWS: By the way, we have already proven in this last five
minutes, Joan and I and you, that you can say anything on the hard right...

WALSH: Anything.

MATTHEWS: ... anything about the president being in the Muslim
Brotherhood, as being a whatever...

WALSH: Nazi.

MATTHEWS: ... gestapo leader. You can -- this is a free country.
It`s especially free in attacking the president.

And for him to say we`re under some kind of gag rule is absurd.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard, thanks so much.

And, Joan Walsh, thank you so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: the right-wing uproar over President Obama`s
interview with Zach Galifianakis. You would have to think anyway the
Republican presidents have done all this kind of stuff before, and never --
they never did comedy? Well, they actually did. And we`re going to prove
it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR")

BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Looks like Putin believes
the president is a lightweight. Will a comedy video counter that? I`m
just asking. All I can tell but is, Abe Lincoln would not have done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time for the "Sideshow."

That was Bill O`Reilly criticizing President Obama for appearing with
Zach Galifianakis in the now famous "Between Two Ferns" video earlier this
week.

But O`Reilly`s conjecture that Lincoln wouldn`t have done it is being
challenged by Jeff Greenfield, among others. He`s on The Daily Beast.
Greenfield points out that Lincoln`s sharp sense of humor was a political
asset, and one that his foes also criticized him for during the Civil War.

But critics of the president`s interview should take a long look
through history. The truth is, many presidents have engaged with pop
culture icons, and sometimes they do and say some wacky things themselves.

Nixon famously posed with Elvis in 1970 after the King -- that`s Elvis
Presley -- asked him to make him a federal agent at large. And, as a
candidate before that, Nixon appeared on "Laugh-In," where he delivered
this famous line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAUGH-IN")

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sock it to me?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In 1992, President Bush hammed it up with Dana Carvey at
the White House after inviting the "SNL" funny man to mimic him in front of
his staffers.

There he was doing it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: The way to do the president is to start out
with Mr. Rogers. It`s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVEY: Then you add a little John Wayne. Here we go. Let`s go over
the ridge.

You put them together, you got George Herbert Walker Bush.

It`s been quite a year. Had a little -- got a little nauseous there
in Tokyo.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVEY: Should have seen the look on the prime minister`s face there.
Ooh, Mr. Bush, you look like you going to blow chunk.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Of course, Ronald Reagan was known for his wisecracks.
But, in one instance, he even posed with a leprechaun in the Cabinet Room
in 1996.

It`s clear the Obamas aren`t embarrassed by this kind of thing. In
fact, we saw first lady Michelle Obama host Kermit the Frog at an event for
military families at the White House just yesterday.

Anyway, up next: Want to know why the CIA was worried about that
Senate investigation? That`s coming up. They got a reason to worry.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANCES RIVERA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Frances Rivera. Here`s
what`s happening.

Government sources tell NBC News there is evidence that Malaysia
Airlines missing jet gave off faint ping up to four hours after it
disappeared from radar. As a result, the search area is expanding to the
Indian Ocean.

Ten senators have reached a deal on extending long-term unemployment
benefits for more than two million Americans. They say there is enough
support for the measure to pass.

And Republican David Jolly was sworn in as the newest member of the
House after winning a special election in Florida -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator Dianne Feinstein`s remarkable rebuke of the CIA from the
Senate floor this week has put the focus again on the issue of torture.
And if you go back to the days just following the 9/11 attacks, you can see
then Vice President Dick Cheney sowing the seeds of what nearly 13 years
later would be Feinstein`s dramatic speech.

This is Cheney on "Meet the Press" September 16, 2001.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS," SEPTEMBER 16, 2001)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have to
work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We have got to spend
time in the shadows in the intelligence world.

A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly,
without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our
intelligence agencies, if we`re going to be successful. That`s the world
these folks operate in.

And so it`s going to be vital for us to use any means at our
disposable -- disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Cheney`s definition of any means at our disposal
included actions that are universally considered torture.

Videotapes of some of those so-called enhanced interrogations existed,
but were destroyed by the CIA, an action that the Senate Intelligence
Committee overseeing the CIA learned from this -- look at this -- 2007 "New
York Times" report. There it is.

Committee members, understandably outraged, were given access to CIA
written reports about the interrogations, which Senator Feinstein said were
chilling and far worse than senators had been told by the CIA. That`s when
the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 14-1 to conduct a comprehensive
review of the CIA`s detention and interrogation program.

And it`s that report, years in the making, that the senator wants
released now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: If
the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an
un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again
be considered or permitted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Ron Suskind. Of course, he`s
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of four books on presidential power,
including the Bush/Cheney administration. His upcoming book life, "Life,
Animated" is about the unique and remarkable way his autistic son has
learned to communicate. And Joe Conason is editor of "The National Memo."

Thank you very much for joining us, Ron. And good luck on the book.
It sounds like a very important book for us all to learn about.

Let me -- let me ask you about this torture thing. Let`s get to the
bottom line for people watching. Why is there a fight here between
Brennan, the CIA director, and Dianne Feinstein? What is the bottom line
of interest to the American people here?

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST: The bottom line is that moving to the
dark side, their world is our world, it deeply compromised the United
States.

It compromised the real source of our power, Chris, our moral
authority. And everyone knows it now as well. The torture was ineffective
in terms of any intelligence gains. That`s what`s clear. What everyone
now is covering up is who did what, who ordered what.

And the fact is every reporter involved here knows something. It was
driven out of the White House. The White House in the presidential daily
briefs was getting daily briefing as to the yield of torture. They were
driving this program. And there has been no accountability.

I mean, look, who is the only person who is serving time for any of
this?

John Kiriakou, who leaked information -- much of it disinformation --
favorable to the Bush administration to a reporter. That`s it. One guy.

That`s an issue of accountability that Dianne finally has been pushed
to the wall, is now pushing back to say time`s up.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, the thing here is, let me go to
John Conason here. It seems to me that Cheney was running the affair. But
the issue is even more elaborate than Ron has pointed out. It`s the
intelligence agency itself in its overview conducted by Leon Panetta said
it wasn`t working.

So it wasn`t just that the ends don`t justify the means. It`s a
question of the ends weren`t achieved by the means, which is even worse, to
do the bad stuff, to go into what Cheney called the dark side and come out
of it with nothing.

Your thoughts, Joe?

JOE CONASON, NATIONAL MEMO: That they`re trying to hide. They`re
trying to hide, Chris.

MATTHEWS: That`s what they`re trying to hide.

CONASON: Yes, that is the secret, although it`s not really a secret,
as Ron pointed out. That`s what they want to hide. That`s what the CIA
wants to hide.

Look, in the past when the CIA has done something that we all think
was wrong, whether it was bringing Nazis here or, you know, other things
that they`ve done in the past that exposed them to criticism, they`ve
always wanted to say we had to do that because communism, because
subversion, because of, you know, nuclear danger.

In this case, what they`re trying to conceal is that they did
something that`s universally condemned that did not work. And, you know,
if that comes out, if that is made clear, then, you know, the game is up as
far as that is concerned. And there will be some kind of accountability.
I don`t think anyone will ever be prosecuted, unfortunately, for these
crimes.

But there will be historical accountability for Cheney and Bush, I
believe.

MATTHEWS: Ron, when we had the Church Committee way back in the `70s
and they began to clean up a lot of this mess. I wonder if we`re going get
back to that level of cleanliness again.

But my bigger question is about Cheney. You said he was getting daily
reports, his crowd around him, Scooter and him and the rest were getting
reports on the yield, as you call it, of the tortures. Oh, he said this or
he agreed to this. If that yield was so plentiful, why is the report
coming from Panetta going to say, we`re told, that it wasn`t plentiful,
they weren`t getting information from all this torture and waterboarding,
et cetera?

SUSKIND: What was happening --

MATTHEWS: Who was feeding the malarkey to Cheney, or was he just
buying stuff he wanted to believe was successful?

SUSKIND: Look, he was seeing what he wanted to see. Some of it said
he all right, if we`re not getting it, go deeper. Do more. And the desire
to push it further and further and further in terms of these extraordinary
extra legal techniques was significantly driven by the White House itself.

And what you`re having now is a very interesting dynamic which again
Joe and other reporters are seeing, is that remember, Bush and Cheney are
kind of not getting along these days. They`re both fighting over legacy.
So, now, you have Bush team and Cheney team both shooting at each other as
to who drove it, who is accountable, who is responsible. And they`re both
going to start pointing at each other. I think they call it a circular
firing squad.

That actually could provide a yield now of some information that leads
to accountability. And I guess the question for Dianne Feinstein, will we
now have a Feinstein commission just like that church commission after
Watergate in the mid-`70s that did clean up CIA. There`s no doubt about
it.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think vice presidents should go operational, as
Ollie North said. Here is the problem. He is not constitutional executive
-- he`s not even an executive branch official. He is a legislative branch
official. He is president of the Senate.

And for him to have the authority to order tortures is unimaginable.
It may not be unconstitutional, but it`s certainly extra-constitutional
that a vice president who is basically there to wait his turn is what the
job is and to preside over the Senate is entitled under our system of
government to order who gets tortured, and as you say, turn the screws a
little further? We`ll get some more information out of the guy.

Jesus, that`s a guy -- well, let`s see if Cheney answers for that.

Anyway, Ron Suskind, as always, very helpful.

Joe Conason, great to have you.

Up next, is taking away school lunches away from school kids a great
way to make them more successful? Well, we`re talking to Paul Ryan about
that one. That`s next. We`re going to talk about his plan to make hungry
kids smarter.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with Paul Ryan`s plan to help poor kids get
ahead. Let them get hungry. That`s the plan.

And HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Paul Ryan has been on a poverty kick lately. Earlier this month, he
released a report which among other things blames government programs for
perpetuating poverty. He says the programs have created what is known as
the poverty trap.

Well, last week, he went after school lunch programs for children of
low-income families, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference
that all Democrats offer people is, quote, "a full stomach and an empty
soul." And yesterday, he appeared on conservative Bill Bennett`s radio
show where he said residents of inner cities have a culture problem and
lack of value for work.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: You know, your buddy Charles Murray or
Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is
we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of
men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working
or learning the value and the culture of work. And so there is a real
culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the reaction from many was swift and sharp. And
today, Ryan told NBC News, the "Today" program, that, quote, "I was
inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating
the culture of one community but society as a whole."

Anyway, Ryan`s solutions, he proposed cutting $3.3 trillion from low-
income programs. Last year, roughly 2/3 of his entire $5 trillion in
budget cuts. The cuts came from Medicaid, food stamps and low-income
housing, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Anyway, Ryan would spend much of that savings by reducing taxes on
wealthy Americans. Does that sound fair? What do you think?

Bob Herbert is a senior fellow at Demos, and Ed Rendell is the former
governor of Pennsylvania.

Bob, you`re laughing, but -- you know, I don`t want to get into this
because Pat Moynihan tried to get into this, figure out what causes cycles
of poverty in the inner city, all that in the African-American family.
These kind of studies have be done and are very helpful at times. It looks
like he`s not using the study to be helpful. He`s using these
conversations which he understands loosely, if at all, about culture to
justify cuts in food stamps, cuts in nutrition programs for school that
have little or nothing relationship really to me to whether somebody gets
up and catches the bus at 7:00 in the morning or has the urge to work or
whatever it is that is there. I don`t see actually the connection between
his policies and what he sees as his prescriptions.

Your thoughts?

BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Well, if you`re really concerned about the poor,
the first thing you need to do is ignore any proposals coming from the
Republicans. The Republicans are hostile to the interest of the poor and
have been for decades.

Paul Ryan`s way of helping the poor is to cut services for the poor
and give more money to the rich in the form of tax cuts. I mean, what
sense does that make? How are you going to help the poor by giving more
money to rich? So, I mean, I just think it`s bizarre.

And this idea that people don`t to work, I mean, that`s just a canard.
You know, a couple years ago, McDonald`s announced they were going to fill
50,000 jobs. These were low-wage jobs. McDonald`s jobs, and most of them
were part time, 50,000. More than 1 million people applied for those
50,000 jobs.

MATTHEWS: Bob, that happens every time a hotel manages to open in a
big city. I`ve seen it. Lines are around the corner. I don`t know how
many times I`ve said on this show when you drive through Washington, north
capitol street which I`ve done a lot, early in the morning when I worked on
the Hill, along Florida Avenue. You know, in the hood these people are all
up catching the bus at 6:30 in the morning, 7:00 in the morning. There are
people working, working at jobs that aren`t paying a lot, but they`re
getting there, and they`re doing their jobs and coming home at 6:00, 7:00
at night, a full day.

So, that`s not it and it`s certainly not proportional to talk about
this.

Governor, let`s talk about this. I know Moynihan tried to do this.
Other people over time have tried to deal with these issues of cycles of
poverty. I don`t know if you do it in a budget. I don`t know what you can
do in social engineering which we do all the time. We all believe in
social engineering. Get all the kids coming out of World War II to go to
college. It`s called the G.I. bill.

Social engineering, Social Security so hold people don`t have to live
with their kids. They can move out on their own, live in their own homes,
keeping their own homes. We do social engineering.

What can government programs do to help people get to work?

And to me, that`s a great question. Get to work. Be self-reliant.
Is there anything in this whole budget process that`s positive besides just
dumping on black people again? Same old, same old.

Go ahead. Your thoughts?

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PA GOVERNOR: There`s something in President
Obama`s budget proposal that`s positive and would affect the ability of
people to get to work and that`s pre-K education. Universal pre-K, quality
pre-K education. It starts there and it builds.

You know, every year, the software industry goes into the Congress and
asks for the approval to bring more foreign workers into the United States
on these special visas so they can fill the software jobs that pay $50,000,
$60,000 a year with benefits. There are people in Philadelphia, in Erie,
in Los Angeles, in Chicago, who are dying to do those jobs. $50,000 a year
and benefits but they don`t have the educational background to fill those
job.

If we`re serious about breaking the chain and cycle of poverty, we
start with giving every American kid the best education they can get. If
we do that, we`ll do more to break the cycle of poverty than any of this
other bull. And, Chris, it`s bull.

Kids who don`t get school lunches, their parents don`t have the money
to give them bag lunches.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: They go hungry. I know teachers in Philadelphia who take
money out of their own pocket to make sure that a kid gets to eat because
kids who are hungry can`t concentrate in school, can`t concentrate in
class. It`s just a bunch of bull.

MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, I wish we had more time. We just got to this
too late tonight.

Bob, we`ll have you back to talk about this. I know you care. You`re
a great guest.

Governor, as always, thank you, sir.

RENDELL: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We got short on time tonight.

HERBERT: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We were talking about torture and stuff like that. We had
pretty heavy stuff tonight.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

Today in the city of Washington, we`re watching an all-out battle over
how this country intends to do business in this fight against terrorism.
Dianne Feinstein who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee wants the
country to know what we`re doing and whether it`s working or not. She
wants to use what the CIA, itself, decided about whether these detention
and interrogation programs are succeeding our not. She wants the American
people to see into those dark areas where we fight the enemy. Places we
don`t like to know even exist.

There`s a prospect here of finding out, what Dick Cheney and his crowd
were saying in the intelligence agencies all those years in the early part
of this century. What he and his people were saying about what was OK,
what he said was justified. The means he decided were justified by the
ends so we can judge those questions ourself.

The only alternative is to trust the CIA to do what`s right, having no
idea really what the CIA has been doing. Anyone who wants to do that is
passing the buck on what kind of country you want to live in. Be protected
by. Be governed by.

Do you really think you can defend taking such a position, do you, to
purposely pass on knowing the methods our intelligence agencies are using?
Is that how you want to practice your citizenship by letting those who work
in the dark keep you in the dark?

I`m for Feinstein. And what she`s doing, (a), because I`ve always
trusted her personally and, (b), because I think in the final analysis, we
the people need to answer morally for what our CIA does. And if we have to
answer for it morally, ignorance cannot be bliss.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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