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updated 3/21/2014 10:41:17 AM ET 2014-03-21T14:41:17

HARDBALL
March 20, 2014

Guests: Michael Goldfarb, Bill Richardson, Bobby Ghosh, Anne Gearan, Ryan
Grim

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Vigil.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in San Francisco.

"Let me Start" tonight with the hunt for flight 370. Seven billion
people on this planet, and the focus of global media is on the plane last
seen carrying 239 of us. Well, tonight, the world is watching, which is a
lot of us, holds vigil until the dawn southwest of Australia and he spot
where four days ago, satellite pictures show two objects, one 80 feet long,
the other 15 feet long, floating in the turbulent sea.

Will this lead us to an answer, at least the ultimate fate of this
mysterious tragedy? Will it tell us what went wrong to cause that complete
blackout of information on Saturday, March 8th, between that plane and the
rest of humanity? Why? And why did the pilot or first officer not signal
ground controllers that something was wrong? And kept there from being
even a glimmer of indication of the catastrophe under way? And what can we
learn in the coming morning hours on the other side of the planet that will
give us some minimal comfort that we who fly planes have some reasonable
grasp on the rare but nevertheless mortal dangers we face in the air?

Michael Goldfarb`s a former chief of staff for the FAA, who`s now an
aviation consultant, and Captain John Cox is an MSNBC aviation analyst and
was a commercial pilot for 25 years.

Well, earlier today, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott delivered
the information about a potential break in the Malaysian flight 370 mystery
to parliament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I would like to inform the
House that new and credible information has come to light in relation to
the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370. I should tell the House,
and we must keep this in mind, the task of locating these objects will be
extremely difficult, and it may turn out that they are not related to the
search for flight MH-370.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And these are the satellite pictures that could mean a
break in this investigation, one object, as I said, approximately 80 feet
long, the other approximately 15 feet long. They`re about 14 miles apart
in that photo, and that`s last Sunday. It`s out in the Indian Ocean, 1,500
miles off the coast of Perth.

Let me go to Michael Goldfarb. It seems to me we`ve got a hell of a
search coming up tomorrow morning, in the hours ahead, in fact.

MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I know, Chris,
we`re putting a lot of credence in the fact that the Australian prime
minister was the one to make the announcement, which just simply shows
we`ve -- this investigation has been boggled (ph) from day one.

We`re beating up the Malaysians. Probably, they`re trying to do their
best. But boy, we have blown it time and time again on any kind of valid
information. So let`s say, in fact, at the -- in the worst ocean, the
worst part of the world, we may, in fact, have a sighting if it`s not cargo
debris. Let`s say it is the aircraft. We have assets like the Poseidon,
similar to what the Orion did in Air France flight crash, that are going to
go there.

But boy, we have no -- no knowledge after four days of that satellite
image whether, in fact, the debris field has just gone all over that part
of the world. So it`s a glimmer of hope, but I know a lot of people
really, until we see something out of it, aren`t putting a lot of stock in
it.

MATTHEWS: I`ve never analyzed satellite pictures, but my question is,
why do we know that that`s -- what makes anyone think that that`s the
aircraft parts that -- aren`t there a lot of things floating in the ocean?

GOLDFARB: Yes, a lot of things, and the size of the debris -- you
know, perhaps, I guess the 777 is made of composite material. So if the
fuel tanks were empty, maybe that large piece could float and perhaps it is
a piece of the wing.

But once again, it`s just simply a sighting, plotted against what NTSB
and the authorities have said is a likely scenario. If that plane, in
fact, took the west turn and then plotted the waypoints and landed several
hours later when it apparently may have run out of fuel, and that`s why we
think it perhaps is the debris field. And that`s kind of the only clue we
have going forward.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to John Cox. Does this -- where is this
going to end? We have 16,000 feet of water out there. It`s something
that`s been compared to the -- to the mountains in Europe, the -- the Alps
in Switzerland. The idea is under water, it`s an amazing reality down
there. How do we find something like a black box in that terrain?

CAPTAIN JOHN COX, MSNBC AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think we take a lot
of the lessons from Air France 447. The topography on the ocean floor in
the south Atlantic was characterized as being like Switzerland under three
miles of water. We may be facing a similar type environment here.

But the first and foremost thing -- we need to find the floating
debris field. It`s out there. And once we find that floating debris, we
can utilize experts from the maritime industry, the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institute as an example, to plot wind, wave and current
impact on the debris field. That can lead us back to a small searchable
area for wreckage. Once we find the wreckage, then we can get to those
very, very critical recorders, the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data
recorder. That`s what`s going to tell us the tale of Malaysia 370.

MATTHEWS: Well, here we are -- the plane lost contact with us on
March 8th, with humanity, really, and now it`s March 20th, and tomorrow`s
March 21st. After all these 12 to 13 days, is it possible there really is
a debris field that`s still cohesive enough?

COX: Yes. Yes. Absolutely yes. There are things in their airplane
that are going to float. There are things like seat cushions. There are
things like, once the overheads come open, the baggage oftentimes will
float. And it will float for a long time.

So the question is, where is the field, what remains of it, what is
the distribution of it? And then taking that data and plotting very
carefully back to a narrow search area, where we can employ underwater
assets, side-scanning sonar and others, to locate that wreckage.

MATTHEWS: How do you retrace the steps of the ocean flow? How do you
go back to where the plane went down?

COX: The -- the Woods Hole people are actually amazingly good at
that. They have very complex and detailed computer simulations that take
into account actual meteorological conditions on the surface, as well as
known currents.

From what I understand, we`re fortunate in that the strong currents
are south of the area, and that may end up being an advantage so that we
don`t have the floating debris field, once we find it, that -- having been
distributed quite as far, and it lets us narrow down the search area.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the immediate challenge of tomorrow morning in
Australia, which is several hours from now. Michael Goldfarb, the
airplanes -- they fly off from Perth. Is that where they`ll be launching
from?

GOLDFARB: Right, and...

MATTHEWS: And then have a four-hour flight, at least, to get to the
spot where these pictures were taken on Sunday. And hopefully, there`s
some range which they can reach from there to where the debris is now, at
least those two items, the 80-foot one and the 15-foot objects. But then
they have, what, two hour to fly around before they got to head back to
base.

GOLDFARB: Right. Such a limited ability with the number of assets to
really spend time over that debris field or potential debris field. I
guess the Norwegian commercial ship or merchant ship has offered to become
a platform there. I know the Poseidon can actually track drones when it
gets the -- the P-whatever it is, the 28 or whatever, that is headed for
the area. It can use drones to look at that area.

But Chris, when we say that time is running out -- we missed the whole
first phase of this. In effect, when that plane -- all we know is the
plane took off in Kuala Lumpur. It went missing. And It Took, apparently,
a hard or a curved westward turn. We have -- most airplanes have data that
would be constantly talking to those satellites.

Remember we talked about the satellite getting a handshake from the
aircraft? To me, it`s inexcusable in this time, when a lot of airplanes in
the United States have data packages that would be constantly talking to
that satellite.

So in Air France, we knew right away. We knew within days where that
debris field is. Why? Because that plane was equipped with the package,
so to speak -- it`s like an app. You buy an extra app from the airline to,
in fact, know what was happening with that airplane, and at least we knew
at that point it was mechanical. So we have a mechanical theory here. We
have a criminal theory here. And quite frankly, we have no credible clues
that really tell which it was.

MATTHEWS: So just to retrace our steps, John -- then back to you,
Michael -- are we still at a pitch (ph) situation of complete mystery here?
Do we know that there was some foul play, there wasn`t any foul play? Do
we have any certainty in either direction?

GOLDFARB: No, I don`t think we have a certainty. But I do think that
we have some evidence. And one of the things that is very critical for us
to do as this investigation unfolds is to not overrun the evidence.

We know several things. The airplane departed Kuala Lumpur and it
flew its flight plan track for some period of time. It made a routine
radio call, and shortly there after, the transponder which shows its
position on radar, either failed, it was deprived of electricity or it was
switched off. We don`t know which one of the three that way.

We also then know that the ACARS system, a datalink system, stopped
flowing data but continued to talk to the network, and that`s important.
That`s one of the key elements because it takes specialized knowledge to do
that.

We know the airplane turned west. We know that it flew over a given
series of -- on or near waypoints. So that says that someone with
knowledge programmed the computer. Does that mean conclusively that we
have a deliberate action? No, it doesn`t, but it does means that the
evidence is tending to lead that way. As an accident investigator for
something over three decades, my view is everything`s still on the table.
We don`t have enough information to make a conclusion one way or the other.
But there is hard evidence leading in certain areas, and that`s where the
investigation is focusing.

MATTHEWS: Michael, you go that direction?

COX: Yes, I mean, first of all, there -- you know, every crash is
unique. And fortunately, it doesn`t happen that often. It has its own
DNA. When TWA 800 exploded over Long Island, no one believed a center fuel
tank on its own could explode because it turned out to have this chafing of
wires inside that tank. We all thought it was a bomb. So we have
everything on the table right now.

But one scenario is possibly that the Payne Stewart -- you remember,
Chris, the Payne Stewart...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COX: ... jet. And the crew and passengers in that corporate jet were
rendered unconscious through a slow depressurization of that airfield -- of
that aircraft. And then they -- when they ran out of gas, in effect, they
went down.

So we don`t know if that`s a scenario, but boy, we`ve been all over
the place on planes landing, being repurposed, on -- the pilots have been -
- you know, they`ve gone through the pilots` backgrounds. The cockpit
door, which isn`t as secured as it is in the United States -- was that
open? Was that breached?

We`re just all over the place. And without forensic evidence, without
hard data from the aircraft, we`re just really at square one or maybe
square two.

MATTHEWS: I know. We`re all out in the dark here. And I was
thinking that even when you put together the possibility of a deliberate
action by the pilot or the first officer, you`re still left with the
possibility of things going wrong...

COX: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... that weren`t a part of that person`s plan.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Goldfarb, and thank you, John Cox.

Coming up, much more on the missing Malaysian jetliner, including a
closer look at the pilots` politics and whether what was going on inside
Malaysia may get us closer to finding a motive for what may have happened
in that plane.

Plus, Rand Paul was here in liberal Berkeley, where he bashed the CIA,
the NSA, domestic surveillance, and of course, President Obama. In fact,
this is the guy I think`s going to win the Republican nomination in 2016,
and it didn`t hurt that he was able to energize a young crowd of college
people.

And President Obama orders a new round of sanctions against Russia as
punishment for its incursion into Crimea, but it`s not enough to satisfy
the right-wing bugle brigade back here.

And that`s got Congressman John Lewis so happy? Find out in the
"Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New Jersey senator Cory Booker`s trying to work across the
aisle with Republicans. The last week, actually, he had dinner with Texas
firebrand Ted Cruz. And this morning, Booker shared some of the details of
that dinner on the local New York Fox affiliate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: He`s a Texas, meat-eating cowboy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good old boy!

BOOKER: I`m a Jersey boy, vegetarian...

(LAUGHTER)

BOOKER: So choosing the restaurant alone -- so he and I sat for three
hours, looking for common ground and found some good areas that we agree
on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But did he talk to you, like, so you didn`t even
know what in the world was going on?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You saw birds (ph) flying in front of your eyes?

BOOKER: There was no filibustering going on. He did not -- he did
not read "Green Eggs and Ham" again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Booker says he and Cruz had the best constitutional
law discussion he`s had since got out of law school. He also says he plans
to meet with every Republican in the U.S. Senate in order to make it a more
pragmatic institution. Can`t hurt for (ph) that.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. You can`t fully understand this
investigation into flight 370 until you understand, I think, the politics.
The image say it. All families are inconsolable over there. They want
answers. They`re angry. It`s been 13 days of chaos, confusion and
conflicting statements from the Malaysian government. And as the world
looks on, the botched search for flight 370 has exposed deep political
rifts in that country of Malaysia threatening to ignite a firestorm in a
country where the ruling class`s five-decade reign is showing signs of
deteriorating, let`s say.

Well, last year, Malaysia`s opposition party won the country`s popular
vote for the first time, only to see their leader wrung (ph) up for the
second time on sodomy charges, a law that is rarely enforced over there.
Reports indicate that flight 370`s pilot was in court to witness firsthand
that conviction just seven hours before he took the flight controls.

Critics say the Malaysian government is scrambling to find a
scapegoat. They`ve kept a tight lid on radar data following embarrassing
revelations the plane few clear across the country through military radar
without ever being noticed. The government also has been mum with
satellite data and they`ve yet to disclose a clear timeline of events, but
critics say they were quick to cast suspicion on the pilot by disclosing he
had erased data on his home flight simulator.

Well, the country`s opposition parties have introduced motions in
parliament to force the government to disclose more information, but
they`ve been blocked. Meanwhile, investigators continue to scour for any
possible clue that might reveal important information about the pilot and
co-pilot`s backgrounds, their religion and their politics. Well, here`s
the reality. A political statement has already been made, whether they
intended to make one or not.

And former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson now -- he served as
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He`s joined us now. And Bobby
Ghosh is, of course, world editor for "Time" magazine.

Bobby, thanks for joining us. And I am a political person, and I want
to talk about how this is going to go down in the history books. Without
even getting to causality, it is fascinating that there`s a real attitude
on the part of the pilot about Anwar Ibrahim, who`s the opposition leader,
and the way he`s been screwed around with by the government over there.
And he had attended the trial seven hours before he got on that plane.

Which way is this going to go, if either way? I think it`s going to
be part of the record. What`s your view?

BOBBY GHOSH, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he`s clearly -- he was clearly a
fan of Anwar Ibrahim, and as are, as you pointed out, a majority the
Malaysians who voted in the elections last year. It is the nature of
Malaysian politics that even though the ruling coalition didn`t get the
majority of the popular vote, they won enough seats to get the majority of
seats in parliament. And we`re familiar with that in this country.

Whether -- whether his politics had anything to do with his actions is
something else altogether. Journalists have scoured the pilot`s social
media pages, his Facebook page, his YouTube video channel. There is
nothing there to suggest that this was a man who felt that his political
aspirations were being suppressed, and therefore, there was a sort of huge
rage about it.

The sentencing of Anwar Ibrahim is unpopular among his followers,
naturally. But whether that would -- that would push somebody -- that
alone would push somebody over the edge is something else to be considered.
If -- if, indeed, the pilot was responsible, my suspicion is that there is
more than one reason for his having gone over the edge.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and -- well, Bobby, you know, we deal in the dark
here. For example, the Egyptian pilot who basically brought his plane into
the Atlantic Ocean -- he didn`t leave any indication, either that he was
doing it for zealous religious reasons or Islamist reasons. It does seem
normal that we get these suicidal actions usually are preceded by a letter
to explain the action.

GHOSH: Yes, it`s true...

MATTHEWS: But they aren`t always, and hat`s why I find this is all
within the realm of the circle of possibilities we have to look at.

GHOSH: Yes, we have to allow the possibility. There`s no question.
But if you -- if you do look at this guy`s track record, there is -- there
is no overt sign of it, and it`s important to note that. You look at his -
- his YouTube video channel, for instance, a lot of the videos are actually
about atheism. He seems to enjoy listening to Richard Dawkins, for
instance. That is not the mark of a religious fanatic, for one thing.

MATTHEWS: No, I don`t think that. No, I was thinking politics here.

The other -- the first pilot, what do you make of his background? Any
indications there of zealotry?

GHOSH: No, I was -- the person I was talking about is the pilot,
Zaharie Shah.

His deputy, the younger pilot, is 27 years old. Everything we know
about him suggests that he was a young -- dashing young man, good-looking,
enjoyed flirting apparently with some female passengers. There are
photographs of him inviting female passengers over to the cockpit area, a
happy-go-lucky, somebody who seemed to enjoy life, again, no darkness
that`s immediately possible.

None of this is dispositive, as you know, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I know.

GHOSH: It`s possible that there are things that are hidden that will
emerge later. But there`s no prima facie. At the moment, there is no
clear evidence that either of these two guys were hiding any deep, dark
secrets.

MATTHEWS: I guess the -- before I get to the governor, the thing
that, Bobby, as a journalist here, one thing that keeps -- the wall we
pound our head against here is the fact that from incident that this began,
from the goodbye, when he says his good night, everything is all right, the
first pilot saying goodbye for the night at 1:00 in the morning, not an
indication of any kind from that plane, nothing to suggest there was
disorder or chaos to come.

GHOSH: None at all. And the transponder gets switched off.

If we`re to believe the Malaysian government`s timeline -- they have
changed it a couple of times -- but if we`re to believe the current version
of it, then the transponder gets switched off two minutes after he says
good night and goodbye.

We -- I suppose we can`t rule out the possibility, since we`re talking
about the circle of possibilities, that somebody else enters the cockpit in
that time, somebody with knowledge of where to look for buttons on the
cockpit and how to disable transponders. It`s possible that there`s a
third actor involved, and neither of the pilots. I suppose we have to
allow that possibility as well.

MATTHEWS: Bobby, you`re great.

Let me go to Governor Richardson.

Governor, thank you for joining us.

And let`s talk about government malfeasance here. Whenever we think
our government is unresponsive, I compare it now to the Malaysian
government. They actually issued out a document today to the passengers`
relatives, the loved ones who were crying and desperate on the -- in that
airport there, asking them to fill out a form whether they would like to be
given information on -- information dealing with what happened to the
plane.

They have been asked to fill out of a form...

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... to say whether they would like to know what is going on
or not. At this point, 12, 13 days later, they`re humiliating these
people, mocking them by saying, would you like to know what is going on?
Then fill out this form. They`re treating people like subjects, not
citizens.

RICHARDSON: They are.

They have totally mishandled this with the families, with the
international community, the fact they didn`t ask for more technical help
earlier. They thought they could do it all alone. Their relationship with
China is obviously strained because of their inability to get information
out.

And now Australia has probably said, we`re going to go off on our own.
I don`t know if they ever notified the Malaysians. But if they didn`t,
that`s kind of a breach. but this is domestic politics also in Malaysia.
The opposition has criticized the government intensively, the pilot issue.

But, I think, Chris, we won`t know the finality of the politics here
until we find out what happened to that plane. Was it a terrorist act? My
view is that here is a case where the Malaysian government has totally
mishandled the situation, not just public relations-wise, but
technologically, and their inability to even notify families and notify
other governments, and not ask other governments what they need in terms of
technical assistance.

MATTHEWS: A test of a great pilot, I`m sure, is how well he or she
behaves in an unusual situation. Everybody could probably handle the
automatic pilot situation in great weather.

But when something goes crazy -- and my question about that government
is, what is it that made that government so lucky so far? Was it just that
things have been going pretty well in Malaysia and they have never had to
face a crisis that would show their complete inability to be a government,
Governor?

RICHARDSON: Yes. Yes, Chris, the Malaysian economy is in very good
shape. There`s substantial economic growth. They have reasonable
political stability.

And I think they just -- they got drunk with power with, we`re not
accountable to anybody, just by the way they have handled the passengers
and the families, their relationship with other countries. I think what
you have here is perhaps a real gap between China and Malaysia.

The Malaysians, like many other Asian countries, are concerned about
China`s power in the region. And it could be that the initial rebuffing of
China in terms of information was a little bit of that politics. But the
case here is a country that is heading very much in the right direction is
going to have a very black eye in the international community that it`s
going to affect investment, it`s going to affect tourism, it`s going to
affect a lot of things that they weren`t ready to handle.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Good luck tickets on Malaysia Airline.

Anyway, thank you, Bill Richardson, Governor Richardson.

And thank you, Bobby Ghosh, as always.

Up next: Our new friend Louie Gohmert -- I`m just kidding here --
takes to the House floor in defense of his pal Sarah Palin, to reenact that
Tina Fey skit about Palin seeing Russia from her house. This one is made
for the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time for the "Sideshow."

That was part of the late birthday celebration for Representative John
Lewis, who just -- we just saw dancing with Pharrell Williams` hit single
"Happy." It`s the first day of spring and of course the 74-year-old
congressman is showing the spring in his step.

Also today, President Obama appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to
encourage young people to sign up for health care before the March 31
deadline. Ellen asked him about "House of Cards" and how his job compares
to the hit series.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to tell you,
life in Washington is a little more boring than displayed on the screen.

(LAUGHTER)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": I hope so.

OBAMA: Most of my day is sitting in a room, listening to a bunch of
folks in gray suits talking about a whole bunch of stuff that wouldn`t make
very good television.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGENERES: No. Well, that`s...

OBAMA: Yes.

DEGENERES: Well, that`s what I do, and we make great television.
That`s what...

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I have to -- I have to tell you, though, Ellen, there is not
much dancing in the Situation Room.

DEGENERES: No?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: As a general rule, no.

DEGENERES: That`s what is missing. That`s what you have to do.
Let`s...

OBAMA: That`s the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I am totally with Ellen. He needs a little of her.

Anyway, next up, the president announced new sanctions against Russia
at the White House meeting this morning. It`s the latest development in
the ongoing standoff with Vladimir Putin over Russia`s annexation of
Crimea.

And it comes four days after the president spoke directly with Putin
about a potential diplomatic solution.

And, by the way, talk about an awkward conversation, but here`s how
Jimmy Fallon envisioned that exchange on "The Tonight Show" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You invaded Crimea.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": No, no, you
got it backwards, my friend. Haven`t you heard the `80s comedian Yakov
Smirnoff? Everything in Russia in opposite. So, technically, Crimea
invade us.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Look, bro, I`m just trying to do my thing, and then I`m
watching news. Next thing I know, you`re sending John McCain over to
Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, that`s right.

McCain in the Ukraine.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: McCain in Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: McCain in the Ukraine.

FALLON: McCain`s insane, got no brain.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Finally, with Russia in the news almost daily, Republican
Congressman Louie Gohmert, that birther, took to the House floor this week
to set the record straight on the issue that`s clearly been bothering him
for a while.

And it wasn`t foreign policy or the regional conflict in Ukraine. It
was about Sarah Palin and what she really said he said to Charlie Gibson
about being able to see Russia from her home state of Alaska back in 2008.

Here`s how Gohmert tried to clear up what Palin actually said vs. what
Tina Fey said while playing Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: This is the operative line here.
Sarah Palin said -- quote -- "They`re our next-door neighbors, and you can
actually see Russia from land here in Alaska."

I mean, proximity can be an important matter. But here`s the -- the
text of what "Saturday Night Live" did and Tina Fey acting as Sarah Palin
said: "And I can see Russia from my house." So, that is where the line
came from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And that was helpful.

Anyway, Tina Fey is Sarah Palin`s 3-D version, not different, just
better.

Up next: Rand Paul goes where Republicans seldom go. He was out here
at Berkeley, at the University of California at Berkeley, selling his
libertarianism to a college crowd, and they ate it up, as he gave it to
them anyway. Are we looking at the Republican nominee for 2016? Will
Republicans support a dove for their presidential nominee?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.

President Obama traveled to Florida earlier to speak at Valencia
College in Orlando about equal pay for women. He said, when women make
less than men, it hurt their families.

Starbucks has announced it will begin serving alcohol at thousands of
its stores. The company is hoping to increase sales by expanding its
latest offerings.

And in Afghanistan, four gunmen opened fire at a luxury hotel in
Kabul, killing at least nine people. All four of the attackers are dead.

I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s not often that a prominent Republican shows up on the campus at
Berkeley and let`s get -- and gets a standing-O at the same time. And yet
that`s exactly what happened yesterday to Rand Paul. The libertarian
Republican from Kentucky railed against the NSA and received a very warm
reception at this liberal bastion. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You may be a Republican, or a Democrat,
or a libertarian. I`m not here to tell you what to be.

I`m here to tell you, though, that your rights, especially your right
to privacy, is under assault. I`m here to tell you that if you own a cell
phone, you`re under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone
is none of their damn business.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He also attacked the intelligence community for its abuse
of power, as he put it. Let`s watch here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: When they say, oh, it`s only boring old business records, think
of what information is on your Visa bill.

From you bill, the government can tell whether you drink, whether you
smoke, whether you gamble, what books you read, what magazines you read,
whether you see a psychiatrist, what medications you take. I oppose this
abuse of power with every ounce of energy I have. I believe that you have
a right to privacy and it should be protected.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Paul is reaching out to constituents that other
Republicans have all but conceded. These are young people, not usually the
target of the Republican Party, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans.

At the same time, he`s showing Republican establishment types he`s
willing to do something they want. He`s willing to fight. He frequently
attacks the president. He attacks Bill Clinton. He goes after everybody
on that side. So, he`s doing a couple of things here. He`s even reminding
us of what magazines you read.

At the same time, he`s saying protect people`s privacy rights.
Interesting. And he also goes after Benghazi. And that`s why, last month,
I made this prediction on the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: On the right, it`s clear that Rand Paul is the man to beat.

He is showing the two key faculties for presidential campaign success.

One, he is showing that he wants and is not about to slink back into
his Senate seat between now and 2016.

Two, he is showing that he knows what`s necessary to win the
Republican nomination, and he is doing it. He is not just running to run.
He is running to win control of the Republican Party and turn to it his
direction, into victory.

Right now, my call, February 27, 2014, it`s Clinton vs. Paul, with
Clinton winning within five.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Mark Halperin is the author of "Double Down" and an MSNBC
senior political analyst. And Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-night
columnist for "The Washington Post" and of course an MSNBC political
analyst.

Mark, tell me about the thinking here of going out to this iconic
place, which was of course the hotbed of anti-war activity and pro-civil
rights activity back in the `60s, Berkeley. It sort of symbolizes
everything that has to do with free speech, and Mario Savio, and the whole
works, and getting some kind of applause on a very narrowly defined message
about the NSO -- NSA.

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s a -- it`s a
triple play. The first is to carve out the civil libertarian, libertarian
position, which has broad appeal to people in both parties.
Second is to appeal to young people, which is -- as you said, a
constituency Republicans have not done well in. But the one that I think
is most important and it goes to this broader of his --of some of the other
events he`s done, is going places that most Republicans not only don`t go,
but some are afraid to go, and don`t have the skills to go.

I urged people to watch the whole speech. I tweeted out the link to
the YouTube of the entire speech, because Paul is skilled. You know, your
catalog of why he`s doing well I think was spot on. I just add, if you`ve
made up a list of all the reasons -- of all the qualities the Republicans
are looking for in a nominee, he has as many of them as anybody else.

And I`ll just say, finally, I don`t think in the end he can be the
nominee because the establishment is too afraid of him.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, we`ll see. We`ll see.

But let me ask you, I think the central thing here, Gene, is this
notion of the government as this cold, even nonpartisan menace, this
predator that`s out there that`s gobbling up information about us. It`s
pursuing us in a way that`s almost nonhuman. And that appeals to the crazy
hard right. I think it appeals to what`s left to the crazy left, because
it appeals to sort of paranoia.

And young people only own on thing, most people in college don`t have
any money. They own a cell phone, and they a social life if they`re lucky.
And that`s all they really have to keep private. And he says, your
cellphone, I think it`s so targeted here, about the fear of having somebody
take away the only thing you have, which is your private social existence.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think young people
are more sophisticated than that. I think appealing on the grounds of the
NSA going too far, and being intrusive, you know, I think people get that.
I think it does have wide appeal, not just to students in college campuses,
but to a lot of people who are Democrats and to a lot of people in the
Republican Party. That`s an interesting issue for him to take on.

He`s got some loose ends. If you go to Berkeley and you get an
standing O when you talk about the NSA, if he were to raise his views, for
example, on abortion, or his views on gay marriage, he wouldn`t get a
standing O at Berkeley. So, you know, it`s not that he brings all these
people along.

But, Mark says, he does go places that other Republican candidates
won`t go.

MATTHEWS: Mark, how long can you do this targeted appeal to different
constituencies? For example, obviously, he`s not -- he is -- he probably
could get away with being very dovish at Berkeley. It`s a dovish campus, I
think, still, I guess. It certainly was. He can get away with being a
libertarian because that`s his appeal.

If he were forced to talk about his social policies would sell in
Kentucky, would that put -- throw a monkey wrench to his appeal?

HALPERIN: Well, I don`t think so. I mean, I think, again, I don`t
think he`s a perfect candidate by any means. But, look, George Bush has
pro-life, he`s pro-life. George Bush opposed gay marriage and gay civil
unions, and he spoke in the Philadelphia suburbs and he did just fine. He
opposed a lot of the agenda of the civil rights community, but he was able
to speak to African-American groups.

So, I don`t think individual issue positions will keep him from
continuing to be able to go off and find common ground with people who are
traditionally Democratic constituencies.

Again, he`s so much more skilled, articulate, knowledgeable,
entertaining as a speaker than most of the other people who are talked
about as other candidates. It gives him a real leg up, and he`s not
afraid, also gives him a leg up, on some these other candidates.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s not just limit this to a historically left-wing
campus like Berkeley, well, did the millennials, as a group, do you think
find appeal in the message he gave yesterday, the people 18 to 32?

ROBINSON: You know, I would think so. I think this issue I think
really resonates with millennials, who are skeptical of authority, who are
distrustful of big institutions. I think this is kind of a sweet spot, and
it will be interesting to hearing what Rand Paul has to say, won`t be
converts to his cause. But, you know, as Mark said, he`s a skilled
politician, and they`ll listen to him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, in a Q&A after the speech, Paul, Senator Paul, was
asked if he visits like Berkeley and Howard were an attempt to broaden his
appeal ahead of a presidential run in 2016. Here`s his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Part of it might be that. Part it
might be that the Republican Party is, I`ve said they have to either
evolve, adapt or die. You know, it`s pretty harsh thing. I think I was
telling somebody the other day, remember when Domino`s finally admitted
they had bad crust? Well, the Republicans admitted, OK, bad crust, we need
a different kind of party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, is that an apt metaphor there, Mark, the Republican
Party needs better crust?

HALPERINO: I think maybe also the tomato sauce needs a little bit of
attention.

Look, part of why Paul is getting a lot of attention, even from some
people in the establishment, who again in the end, I don`t believe it went
over, is he is saying the party needs to change. So much of the problem of
the Republican Party now, there are too many of their leaders say let`s win
the midterms by playing to the base. Let`s go hard right, let`s not do
immigration, let`s not find ways to talk and reach these other communities.

A lot of the big donors would like an emissary to some of these other
constituencies and it may not be in the end the person at top of the
ticket, it may be Rand Paul, whether he`s a running mate, or simply a very
prominent part of the Republican Party, they need skilled people who can
reach out to new constituencies, or they will go the way of extinction.

MATTHEWS: Gene, his role here?

ROBINSON: Yes, Rand Paul is the most interesting politician I think
in the Republican Party, and that`s including Ted Cruz, who`s pretty
interesting in and of himself. He really bears watching I think you have
to say. He`s -- you know, maybe he`s ahead going into the sweepstakes. I
agree with Mark --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m holding on to that tape from last month. I`m sticking
to my prediction. I let you know when I change.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think to use an old Norman Mailer line, he`s very
protean. The guy is growing.

Anyway, thank you.

Not many politicians grow. Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin, and
thank you, Gene Robinson.

Up next, Crimea and Punishment. President Obama orders more sanctions
against Russia and Russia retaliates with sanctions of his own. What`s the
best outcome for us at this point -- at this point?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with President Obama`s latest moves against
Russia.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

President Obama continues to engage his Russian counterpart Vladimir
Putin.

Well, today, he spoke outside the White House and announced more
sanctions against Russia which he said will have a significant impact on
the Russian economy. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The basic principles
that govern relations between nations in Europe and around the world must
be upheld in the 21st century, the notion that nations do not simply redraw
borders or make decisions at the expense of their neighbors simply because
they are larger or more powerful. Diplomacy between the United States and
Russia continues. We`ve emphasized that Russia still has a different path
available, one that de-escalates the situation and one that involves Russia
pursuing a diplomatic solution with the government in Kiev.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama warned Russia that further escalation
in Ukraine will only isolate the Russians from the global community, but he
also left the door open to diplomacy, as you just heard.

Russia responded to the sanctions by announcing its own sanctions on
U.S. officials, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, Majority
Leader Harry Reid, Senator John McCain and others.

Anne Gearan is diplomatic correspondent for "The Washington Post", and
Ryan Grim is the Washington bureau chief for "The Huffington Post."

Thank you for joining us.

Ann, what do you make of the whole situation? I get the sense we`re
behind the 8-ball. We were out of the action on this one days ago, and the
president feels he has to at least go through the form of retaliation, if
not the reality.

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the president went a good bit
further today with this round of sanctions than the United States had gone
before. These actually have the potential to do a lit bit of damage and
are intended to send a warning shot to Putin, not to go further than
Crimea. But implicit in all this, is as you say, an acknowledgment that
Crimea is lost.

I mean, they`re punishing him for something he`s already done and
saying don`t do any more bad stuff we don`t want you to do, but it doesn`t
-- it won`t have any further effect than that.

MATTHEWS: Do we have a good reading in Washington, at the State
Department, the NSC, Susan Rice and others, do they have a sense of whether
Putin feels he`s reestablished Russia`s good feeling about itself, its
mother Russia sense, they don`t have to go further to make their point in
that regard?

Or is this his first step towards basically pushing everyone into line
in that region, making them all more subordinate to Russia?

GEARAN: Well, there are a lot of people who think the administration
has misjudged Putin`s motives from the start. "The Post" had an editorial
today, that`s the other side of the House from me, making that point that
the U.S. doesn`t really understand the Russian motivation here and thus the
U.S. attempts to deter Putin hasn`t worked.

I don`t if that`s totally true, but they certainly did not see this
coming the way it came. U.S. tried to head this off weeks and months ago,
and that didn`t work. And then sort of got caught flat-footed when Putin
went ahead and didn`t take any of the olive branches that the U.S. offered
over the last two weeks to try to prevent this from becoming a full crisis
over Crimea.

MATTHEWS: Ryan, let me ask you about this. It seems to me, it shows
once again the strength of nationalism, for better or worse in the world,
it`s not going away. For all the talk of globalism, we do act as members
of a nation. And we feel that way. And the passions arouse clearly the
strong support that Vladimir Putin is engaged, gaining at home is for real.
It`s not something he fabricated.

How are we going to deal with that? It`s real and people like it.

RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: They do. So the White House is
looking for pressure points here. If you`re dealing with an oligarchy, you
go after the oligarchs.

I think, you know, parallel, if Putin wanted to sanction the United
States and try to get the United States political system to move, he might
sanction Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon and those folks pick up phone and
say, OK, look, let`s pick up the chips, leave the table here.

I think what he`s trying to get Putin to do, to say, OK, we lost
Crimea, but that`s it. This ends here.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Anyway, my sense is we have to shorten it here, unfortunately,
tonight, gentlemen, but it looks like we lost this one.

Anyway, thank you, Anne Gearan. And thank you, Ryan Grim.

And we`ll be right back after this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

We are seeing, again, in Russia the strong resilient power of
nationalism. It`s the passion that seizes a people, especially when they
feel wounded as a people -- the deep urge to spring back and insist on your
national birthright. Russia has been made to feel small since the fall of
the Soviet Union in 1991. Communism fell, but so did the national morale
of the Russian people. That was not going to be without consequence.

Whatever else is said of Vladimir Putin, good or bad, selfish or
grand, yesterday or tomorrow, the fact stands that he`s in sync with his
people. They love what he did in taking Crimea back to the Russian bosom.
Mother Russia feel like Mother Russia again.

So, this -- not all the other attitudes and politics we have to abide
is the reality here. Putin will not regret doing this. The people of
Russia will not let him regret it.

So, all our sanctions against his government and his officials and his
oligarchs will fall behind this fateful, historic reality, that Russia
wants to be Mother Russia again.

But there is one undeniable fact that keeps Russia and the West on the
same side of history, and that fact is the 21st century and its dictate
that the real conflict is no longer between east and west, but between
north and south. Both Russia and the West have to confront the dangers of
Islamism. We both need to keep a militant Iran from arming itself with
nuclear weapons. We both need to face down al Qaeda.

And so the fight over Crimea is not the real issue that will define
the America/Russian relationship. It will be how we deal together with our
common enemies.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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

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