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updated 3/25/2014 3:44:59 PM ET 2014-03-25T19:44:59

HARDBALL
March 14, 2014

Guest: Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Making trouble for Republicans.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Have you noticed that the liberals
usually win the argument, eventually? It`s been true from the beginning of
our country. Back in the 18th century, the Tories opposed independence.
Thanks to Thomas Paine, an immigrant, the once radical case for separation
from England emerged to win the day.

The case for abolition of slavery was so fiery, it led to war, as well
as argument, but with it all came emancipation. Women wanted the right to
vote and won it. Jim Crow lost his fight with Dr. King, and Civil Rights
became law. Gays were once shunted aside. Today, they`re winning the
battle for full acceptance and even marriage quality.

Well, the same is true of the social safety net. Conservatives fought
Social Security. Ronald Reagan championed the fight against Medicare. The
Republicans voted as a block against affordable care. And in each case,
the liberals won, eventually.

Even as the struggle heads to another test this November with the GOP
rear guard sniping away at health care, promising to chop away at the
social safety net that the progressives have built in this country, and
every voter obviously has a stake.

John Heilemann is the co-author of "Double Down" and Jonathan Capehart
is a columnist with "The Washington Post." Both are proud and needed MSNBC
political analysts.

Gentlemen, I want you to look at a couple things. Here`s a
congressman, a Republican, out in Arizona going after the social safety
net. If you want to see, by the way, how hell bent some Republicans are,
take a look at this. Buzzfeed is reporting this Arizona Republican
congressional candidate -- his name is Jim Brown -- went on a racially
charged rant earlier this week by comparing social safety net programs to
slavery.

Here`s what he wrote. Quote, "I want folks to think seriously about
how slavery really works. Back in the day of slavery, slaves were kept in
slavery by denying them education and opportunity while providing them with
their basic needs. And it`s my sincere belief that over (ph) entitlements
are means of enslaving the people by robbing opportunity while taking care
of basic needs. Think about it."

Well, we are. Brown apologized yesterday for those remarks.

There`s still this sympathy, John Heilemann. You constantly hear
Republicans say, We`ve got to cut entitlements. Entitlements, if you look
at them, are Social Security and Medicare mainly, and yet they keep saying,
We got to cut back on government. We got to cut back on all this safety
net entitlement stuff. And yet they don`t pay a price for it politically.

I`m determined that they pay a price for their words, like every
politician should. Your thoughts. Because it seems to me the Democrats
better be focusing on what Republicans are promising to do on issues like
choice, on issues like voter -- voter suppression, or they`re going to get
their asses handed to them this November. Your thoughts.

JOHN HEILEMANN, AUTHOR, "DOUBLE DOWN," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
boy, there`s a lot to say there, Chris. I mean, you know...

MATTHEWS: Well, I have a lot to say.

HEILEMANN: I know you do. You know, there`s no doubt that Democrats
need to rally their troops if they`re going to hold the line. It`s very
unlikely they`re going to advance much in the midterm elections this
November. And there`s no doubt they have to rally the troops because the
Republicans -- the Republican electorate in an off year is already fired
up. It`s going to be more than fired up. They have a very pointed
message, specifically on health care, but more broadly on entitlements, as
you say.

And so Democrats need to get their forces out there and get them
rallied around something, whether that`s around opposition to the
Republican Party or also a positive vision like increasing the minimum
wage. Democrats have got to get up off the ground, or they`re going the
face even worse losses that they`re already looking like they`re going to
face kind of inevitably in this off-year election.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I think the Republicans benefit from a lot of
vague talk. They go after entitlements. People think minorities. They
think welfare. They somebody in an urban area, in a rowhouse somewhere.
They don`t think about the massive nature of entitlements that are being
threatened by Republicans.

Every time they get to do a budget, they always go after them, and
they`re constantly talking about chained CPI, whatever they can go after,
cutting CPI, cost of living adjustments. They`re constantly looking for
ways to chop away what they don`t like, which was the New Deal and the
Great Society. Your thoughts.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
look, I think, you know, Democrats have to force Republicans to answer some
questions. So they want to cut Social Security and they want to cut
Medicaid and Medicare. Democrats need to ask Republicans, So what are you
going to do about the people whose benefits are cut? When will they be
cut? Whose benefits will be cut? When will this take place?

You know, the Affordable Care Act -- how many votes have we gone
through now, 50 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: And yet no one has pushed Republicans into the position of
answering the question, for instance, What happens when you repeal "Obama
care" and all those people who have gotten insurance, even with a
preexisting condition -- what happens to those folks? Republicans need to
answer some questions because I think when it comes down to all the issues
that you were just talking about, health care, entitlements, equality...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... on their parents` health care.

CAPEHART: ... equality under the law, Democrats and progressives have
an answer to the questions. Republicans don`t. And they need to be called
out on that.

MATTHEWS: Well, John, my main point is I think a lot of the voters,
because of the atmospherics right now, the blues that are out there -- and
there are blues in this country because the economy hasn`t perked up the
way it should or people believe it should, certainly, and are feeling it.
But it`s like all they have to do is go into the voting booth in November
and vote no, and the only consequence will be it`ll feel bad for the
president that night.

But in fact, the consequences of elections are always bigger than
that. They impact who`s going to get reapportioned, who`s going to get
gerrymandered, who`s going to lose the right to vote, or the access to
voting? Who`s going to lose the programs they believe in? Because the
other party isn`t just a no to Obama, it`s a yes to what they want.

And what I`m afraid of, it`s going to be a free ride this November.
People are going to vote for some -- Oh, my God, did we vote for that? I
thought I was just showing my anger against the president.

HEILEMANN: Right. Well, there`s -- look, there`s no doubt about it,
Chris, that the Republican Party in both 201, and now what they`re trying
do again in 2014, is to nationalize the elections and to raise the stakes
and to get their voters out in that way.

Democrats kind of have to meet that, I think, head on and say OK, this
is going to be a nationalized election. Let`s have another big fight over
big values and big vision issues.

But you know, the one thing that makes it more complicated for
Democrats, I think, is that, you know, you have a president of the United
States in Barack Obama who is in principle and has in practice been in
favor of reforming entitlements. He`s put...

MATTHEWS: I know.

HEILEMANN: ... significant...

MATTHEWS: He`s been reasonable...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: At different times of the course of his administration,
he`s been on record for proposing relatively large cuts to Medicare. He`s
in principle for this idea of trying to reform Social Security. And
frankly, for the long-run fiscal health of the country, those things
probably actually need to be happened (ph).

The question is how they get done. And that`s where the real argument
that Democrats...

MATTHEWS: OK, good point...

HEILEMANN: ... should want to have is...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: Republicans just want to say cut everything.

MATTHEWS: John, I`m with you. I think, in the end, you have to
compromise, in the end. But when you go into an election with a posture --
Jonathan, Alex Sink in that election in Florida, this week, the big test
election, she went into it with an idea of compromise, Let`s work across
the aisle. Let`s try to get things -- we saw her commercials. We showed
them.

She also said "Obama care" isn`t perfect. It`s got to be fixed. I`m
not going to stay -- hold the line and say everything`s great. But that
point of view, which was so darn reasonable and good for the country`s long
haul, is exploited on the other side because they come in like -- I mean,
like, demolition derby. They say, We`re getting rid of everything. You
people are all weak. We got a strong view. Back to religious values. Get
rid of all government. And we hate Obama.

That simple, black and white -- what people -- a black and white
Manichean view of the world seems to beat the softer, more reasonable view
of the world that you got from Alex Sink. I think she can win the general.
I wish she -- I`m with Steve Israel. I think she should try again in
November with a bigger electorate.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: You can`t get a smaller one than you get in a by-election,
or these sort of specials. But I do think it`s a problem that I`m trying
to look at here. Your thoughts.

CAPEHART: Well, that`s the thing. Alex Sink lost the election in a
special election, which just by definition gets a fewer number of people
vote than, say, in a presidential election or even in an off-year midterm
election in November. And you know, perhaps she should jump back in the
race and run for the general in November because lots of analysts say that
if the election had happened in November, she would have won.

But you know what? One thing that I think -- we all know that the
Democratic Party base just doesn`t typically show up during a midterm
election. And that has to change. And one of the things that people
always say is that, Well, midterm elections are -- the turnout is lower
because the president`s not on the ballot.

Well, the Democratic Party faithful have to realize that while
President Obama is not on the ballot and won`t be on the ballot ever again,
he indeed is on the ballot in November 2014 because everything he has been
working for, everything that he`s been pushing for is on the line.

If Republicans hang onto the House and take the Senate, the Obama
presidency basically is done. You think he can`t get anything done now...

MATTHEWS: It might even literally be done because they may be going
for impeachment. Anyway...

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... I`ve been saying all week, Jonathan, that Democrats are
better off going on the offense, not getting into a defensive crouch.
That`s what some of them are.

On Tuesday, we saw (INAUDIBLE) a Canadian doctor showed how many
Republicans are not just against "Obama care," but any health care system
whatsoever. Here`s an exchange between Republican senator Richard Burr
from North Carolina attacking a doctor from Canada at Tuesday`s hearings
here in Washington.

This is getting a lot of attention today, and let`s watch this.
Senator Burr tries to box the witness into a corner, but it doesn`t work
out that way. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Why, are doctors exiting the
public system in Canada?

DR. DANIELLE MARTIN, CANADIAN PHYSICIAN: Thank you for your question,
Senator. If I didn`t express myself in a way to make myself understood, I
apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada. And
in fact, we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the
Canadian system over the last number of years.

BURR: How many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year, do
you know?

MARTIN: I don`t, sir. But I know that there are 45,000 in America
who die waiting because they don`t have insurance at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hey, John, isn`t there a rule in the courtroom, Never ask a
question unless you know what the answer is going to be? This guy got
cold-cocked by this woman! She just nailed him on his two main points.
The Canadian system is no damn good and ours is great. Your thoughts.

HEILEMANN: Chris...

MATTHEWS: The old system was great.

HEILEMANN: There`s a television show I`m familiar with called
HARDBALL. That was hardball right there.

MATTHEWS: What she (INAUDIBLE)

HEILEMANN: And he got knocked out of the park. I mean, look, the
debate over health care has always been filled with canards and a lot of
know-nothingism. And there`s no doubt that, you know, a lot of Republicans
look at (INAUDIBLE) refused to acknowledge the fact that almost every
industrialized country in the world, including Canada, have better health
care systems than ours, and better by the measures that matter, in terms of
mortality rates, in terms of the cost per capita, in terms of life
expectancy.

All those things are true, and they`ve always been true. It`s why
there`s always been an imperative one way or the other for us to have a
better health care system. And the Affordable Care Act may have flaws, but
it`s trying to move us in the direction of where every other rich country
in the world is. And Canada is a convenient scapegoat, but the truth is,
it is by almost every metric a better health care system than ours.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, your thought on that.

CAPEHART: And you know...

MATTHEWS: I want your reaction to what we just saw there because a
lot of people watch this, they say, you know, That`s how you argue.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: You get the facts and you fight the fiction. You fight the
fiction.

CAPEHART: And that`s what I was going to say. You push back with
facts and against hyperbole. And she did it very calmly. And I think
you`re absolutely right, Democrats have to stop being in the defensive
crouch. They have a lot to defend and defend in a good way, and have a lot
of facts on their side. And so now it`s time to, you know, break free, use
those facts and push Republicans into answering questions they don`t want
to answer.

MATTHEWS: Well, the great irony, gentlemen, is we may end up with a
Canadian system because the Republicans are so confused in their fighting
and so confused in their motives, they`ve attacked the very plan they
advocated ideologically, which was the Heritage family plan, and which is
basically a Republican, a market-driven plan. And you know, by pounding
into it and pounding into it -- I wonder sometimes -- and I`m not that far
left on a lot of issues, but I have to say, I think the Canadian system is
beginning to look better and better because of its simplicity and the clear
understanding there`s nobody grabbing any profits out of it.

Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann, sir, as always. You were great
tonight.

HEILEMANN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan...

CAPEHART: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... you`re getting better all the time.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Happy St. Patrick`s Day to both of you, and may you
celebrate it with all the joy you can find.

Coming up: When will the nation`s leading chickenhawk, the tireless
Dick Cheney -- by the way, he told us how to pronounce his name this week -
- who got five deferments from a war he fully supported -- when`s he going
to exit the stage and stop his war whooping?

Also, look where Republicans are now, eliminating weekend voting, the
time when many African-Americans typically go to the polls. Wisconsin
Republicans -- they`re saying they just want to be fair. Well, think
what`s really being the motive here. You think they might be out to get
the blacks to stop voting?

Anyway, plus, the Senate versus the CIA. Late night TV is now
focusing on Senator Dianne Feinstein, who`s right in her battle with the
agency.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the Irish, like me.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: This is great. When you hear conservatives say they`re
losing the culture wars, they`re right. And no issue is moving quicker
toward widespread acceptance than same-sex marriage, even among
Republicans.

Look at this Pew poll. Overall, 39 percent of Republican Party
support marriage equality, when you break it down by age, you can clearly
see the generational split among Republicans on the issue -- 61 percent of
Republicans between the ages of 18 and 29 say marriage equality should be
the law. Support declines a bit among older groups, 43 of Republicans
between 30 and 49 support marriage equality. Among 50 to 64-year-olds, the
number drops to 30 percent. And only 22 percent of Republicans over 65
support it.

Well, does any of this surprise you? The younger you are, the more
you`re for it.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When presidents and vice
presidents leave office, there`s a protocol here in Washington, D.C.,
that`s been followed for as long as I can remember, certainly. You leave
the stage. You don`t publicly second guess your successor, and you
certainly don`t stick around Washington.

But former vice president Dick Cheney is writing his own rules. He`s
repeatedly criticized President Obama, most recently this Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have
created an image around the world, not just for the Russians, of weakness
and indecisive. The Syrian situation`s a classic. We got all ready to do
something. A lot of the allies signed on. At the last minute, Obama
backed off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, the way he leans his head sideways and he gets
avuncular and he bonds with you, especially with the anchor -- he calls the
anchor by his first name, whoever it is.

Anyway, Cheney criticized the president`s Ukraine strategy for not
using the military options available. Well, he had a military option! He
could have fought in the Vietnam war. He didn`t like that option!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s watch now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: There are military options that don`t involve putting troops
on the ground in Crimea. We could go back and reinstate the ballistic
missile defense program that was taken out. It was originally going to go
in Poland, Czech Republic. Obama took it out to appease Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a far cry from former George W. Bush, who in
his first speech after leaving the White House said of President Obama, I`m
not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in
the arena. He deserves my silence. Well said.

Joining me right now is David Corn, MSNBC contributor Washington
bureau chief for "Mother Jones," and Dana Milbank. He`s a columnist for
"The Washington Post."

Gentlemen, I know I`m on this Cheney case because part of it is this
chickenhawk thing...

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

MATTHEWS: ... five deferments, but gung-ho, we got to fight the war
in Vietnam. You know, that was a military option available to him.

CORN: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: He said, At the time, I had other priorities. And now
every time a war comes along...

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": He`s saving his butt.

MATTHEWS: ... he wants to push further. Well, you don`t know the
motive. I just go by the conduct -- pushing, pushing, pushing, war, war,
war. He`s now talking options in Ukraine, about building the anti-
ballistic missiles. We`re not worried about missiles! We`re not fighting
the Soviets over nuclear weapons. I don`t want to talk about it. He wants
to talk about it. He wants to talk about -- he`s basically pushing the
Iron Curtain further and further east, see if he really can get the -- the
Russians -- former Soviets crazy.

CORN: See, I have a theory. I think he is obsessed with his legacy,
and I think he has good reason to be. This is a guy...

MATTHEWS: What does he want his legacy to be?

CORN: I think he wants it to be that he saved America, not that he
led us into a war with lies and misrepresentations, not that he started
torture and got -- you know, got...

MATTHEWS: That war killed 186,000 people.

CORN: So he can`t leave the arena because he is unsettled. You know,
he left, you know, things kind of...

MATTHEWS: No, no, no! I think he think he`s never wrong.

CORN: No, no, but also -- I think that`s true. But I think Bush
doesn`t think he`s wrong, either, but Bush is willing to lay low.

MATTHEWS: No.

CORN: This guy...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think Bush thinks he was led around like a bull with a --
with a hook in his nose, with his little ring.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I don`t know about that.

MILBANK: I agree -- I agree that Cheney is unsettled.

But I think it gives him a little bit too much credit to say it`s a
strategy. I think the man is driven by anger and animus, as it has been.
I mean, it`s been 10 now years since Brent Scowcroft, his old friend, said,
I don`t know this Dick Cheney anymore.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You hear that, by the way, by the good Bush crowd,
like George -- and Jim Baker and those guys.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: If he had any sense, he would do what Bush did.

Look, Bush`s favorable ratings are now above 50 percent.

CORN: Yes.

MILBANK: Cheney -- they don`t even poll Cheney, but he has got like
the popularity of Spiro Agnew.

He`s just -- because he is the angry man. He is against Cheney. He
has offended his old friends in Wyoming with his daughter.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: He is just antagonizing everybody.

MATTHEWS: I think he led Scooter Libby, his guy, right into hell, and
then he let him sit there.

Anyway, the former vice president couldn`t even give President Obama
unqualified praise for capturing and killing Osama bin Laden. This is
Cheney on Hugh Hewitt`s radio show last fall. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don`t go
out and broadcast the fact that you got the guy. You want to take that
intelligence and be able to exploit it over the next few nights and wrap up
large parts of the network.

They were in such a hurry to go out there -- not Benghazi, but with
bin Laden -- such a hurry to go out and announce victory, that I`m
convinced that they probably did not get maximum advantage out of the intel
that they -- they had captured.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, excuse me, who was it that put on a flyer`s uniform
and declared mission accomplished a bit early, about 10 years prematurely?
Your thoughts.

CORN: Well -- well, also, what he says doesn`t make sense.

There was a firefight at the compound that was covered on national TV
in Pakistan. I mean, people knew what had happened. It was like, oh,
let`s keep this quiet. So they exploited the intelligence as fast as they
could. And so, I mean, this is what he always complained about when he was
in power, people second-guessing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We have man who -- we have man who covered all this. You
covered, because it was you and Dana -- and Dana.

MILBANK: Covered the White House.

MATTHEWS: I get it mixed up, and, who was it, Walter Pincus. You
guys covered that fight over who screwed up the Iraq war. You got the
fight. It was going on for months, all that issue of -- what is Cheney up
to in that regard?

He was trying to blame the intelligence community. They were trying
to blame him for all the lousy information we were getting about the WMD
over there.

MILBANK: Right.

And he was the force who was always taking things one step further,
who was saying that these -- these people in Iraq are the ones who attacked
us on 9/11.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MILBANK: He is saying, we believe that Iraq -- that Iraq has
reconstituted a nuclear weapon.

So he wasn`t operating in -- even by Bush standards, he wasn`t
operating in the same realm of facts. And, eventually, you saw in the
second term, Bush finally said, look, I have had enough of this. Cheney
became more marginalized, and, of course, they had the big rift over
Scooter Libby.

CORN: He also was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well said. That was very important, that even the
president, who he was supposedly serving, realized he had been misserved.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Yes, but he was also saying in that same time that the CIA was
too soft, that only -- that only Cheney...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They set up the special unit at the Defense Department.

CORN: ... that only Cheney himself and a few acolytes...

MILBANK: Right.

CORN: ... had the true wisdom and truth about 9/11...

MILBANK: Right.

CORN: ... and terrorism and what to do about it. The CIA, they were
pantywaists.

MILBANK: Right.

CORN: Said they didn`t have any real conviction.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How do you explain the guy`s brain soup, a phrase I hear
once in a while, brain soup? What makes the guy such a Dr. Strangelove?
Why is he so ferociously for war, for partisan combat, in a kind of way
that is really not aimed at any positive purpose?

MILBANK: Well, it is a world view in a sense. But it`s more -- I
don`t think -- I think it gives too much credit to say it`s a philosophy.
Cheney sees himself in a bunker, sees himself besieged on all sides.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

MILBANK: He had Scooter in...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s that way when he was in Congress. Everybody in the
Congress covering him on Capitol Hill, good reporters, thought he was like
Leon Panetta, a regular, button-down -- he wore button-down shirts. He was
sort of a moderate-speaking guy. They thought he was a moderate.

I said, no, he was always the biggest partisan in the business I ever
came across.

Anyway, thank you.

Hi, Dick.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Corn and thank...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Dana Milbank.

Up next: The late-night comedians have a little fun with Dianne
Feinstein`s fight with the CIA. By the way, she is right. They`re wrong.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Yesterday in
Washington, I didn`t realize this until today, they had a big power outage.
It was so dark down there in Washington when the power went out, the only
thing that was glowing was John Boehner`s face, honestly.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: Ah.

LETTERMAN: Do we see that -- there, look at that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time for the "Sideshow."

David Letterman is clearly following the latest news out of the --
Washington these days. Just look at his take on Senator Dianne Feinstein`s
charge the CIA stole documents from the computers of her Senate
Intelligence Committee.

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

LETTERMAN: This is Dianne Feinstein yesterday talking about the CIA
sticking their nose in the secret business of the United States Senate.
Did you see this?

Take a look at this.

SHAFFER: No, no.

LETTERMAN: I saw it on the TV.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR:
There are thousands of such documents in the committee`s secure spaces at
the CIA facility. Now prior removal of documents by CIA.

(LAUGHTER)

FEINSTEIN: In early...

LETTERMAN: See?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next, California`s former governor is back again. In
January, Arnold Schwarzenegger wore a disguise to prank customers at Gold`s
Gym. Now he is holding a raffle for a chance to ride around L.A. with him
in a tank. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: I finally
have achieved my lifelong dream. And it is not to do "Terminator" or to do
"Conan the Barbarian" or anything like that. No, not at all. It`s to
finally possess my own (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tank.

Look at this. Come to L.A. and crush things in my tank. Let`s crush
a taxicab. Let`s crush a piano. There`s a weight bench with 501 pounds.
I`m going to crush my own record. I`m 66 years old, and I save every one
of my birthday cakes. Why? Because I wanted to crush them.

I`m going to crush a copy of "Million Dollar Baby" because it makes me
cry.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don`t cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That is really something. Anyway, the action-hero-turned-
governor is doing it to raise money for his charity, After School All-
Stars, which is a great charity.

Finally, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado took questions
at a press conference for the National Cannabis Association Industry
yesterday. Take a look at how he answered this one about his colleagues in
the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without naming any names, how many members of
Congress do you think use marijuana?

(LAUGHTER)

REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Used or use? I don`t think more than
five or 10, I would guess.

But I really wouldn`t know, because I haven`t, like, seen them use it.
I just would be completely guessing.

(LAUGHTER)

POLIS: I don`t know what percentage of 60-year-olds use marijuana,
but it`s probably similar in Congress. So, if it`s 5 percent of 60-year-
olds, then it`s probably 5 percent in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Smart answer.

Up next: Republicans in Wisconsin are eliminating weekend voting.
Guess what? That`s when many African-Americans go to the polls. It`s an
effort, or the latest one, to punish voters who tend to vote Democrat.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
happening.

Government sources tell NBC News missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
did make a left turn back toward the mainland, then a right turn up the
Strait of Malacca. Malaysian officials believe the plane then went north,
while U.S. investigators believe it is more likely to have flown south.
Investigators are looking at pings sent by the plane to calculate where it
might have traveled.

John Kerry and his Russian counterpart met for talks about the crisis
in Ukraine. Russia`s foreign minister says the U.S. and Moscow have no
common vision of the situation. A vote on the future of Crimea is set for
Sunday. Vice President Biden will travel to Poland and Lithuania next week
for talks on that matter.

President Obama met with immigration advocates today. The meeting
focused on the White House`s review of the U.S. deportation system.

And now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Another state this week moved to make it harder for people to vote.
Do you believe it? Republicans in Wisconsin passed a new law drastically
reducing early voting in that state. It would eliminate weekend voting
entirely and restrict voting on weekdays to no later than 7:00 p.m. The
bill would limit the total hours of early voting a week to 45.

The goal, the bill sponsor`s say, is to make -- to make statewide
standards uniform. But critics say the goal is to help Republicans by
limiting the ability of poor minority voters to cast ballots.

State Senator Lena Taylor -- Lena Taylor passionately rebuked her
colleagues on the Senate floor out there in Madison, telling them they
should be ashamed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENA TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: I feel like I`m in 1906
fighting the fight that people who came long before me had to fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s great.

One of the sponsors of this new effort doesn`t have much sympathy for
anyone prevented from voting thanks to the new rules. State Senator Glenn
Grothman told MSNBC back in November -- quote -- "Between early voting,
mail absentee and voting the day of the election, you know, I mean, anybody
who can`t vote with all those options, they have really got a problem. I
really don`t think they care that much about voting in the first place,
right?"

That`s how he talks.

Anyway, Judith Browne-Dianis is the co-director of The Advancement
Project, and Dale Ho is the director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

I want both of you to have an unusual amount of freedom to talk now,
because I don`t quite get what is going on here. It just seems to me that
the Republicans figure out when black people vote and shut it down. It
just seems that`s what they do.

Your thoughts. Is it -- it`s more complicated?

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, Chris,
I mean, this is still out of the same playbook.

That`s about making it harder to vote for partisan reasons. They`re
trying to manipulate the outcome of elections. They know that there are
certain groups that, you know, use early voting, that use Sunday voting
with souls to polls, where black churches use -- go and caravan down to the
polls with their congregations to vote in unison.

And what they have done is that they have gone after those voters.
It`s strategically crafted bills in order to hit those who are African-
American, Latino, younger voters, who typically vote Democratic.

MATTHEWS: Why now? Why in 2014, after we have had at least on the
books voting rights since the `60s for minorities especially? Why now the
crackdown, the attempt to shut the door?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, you know, we continue to see this crackdown and
this making it harder to vote. Voter suppression has come back, and it`s
come back aggressively.

And the reason that that is happening is because we`re seeing changing
demographics in America. So the more people that you have of color in the
country, we`re seeing more people registering Democrat. And so this is a
way to control the outcome of elections, not only this year, because they
have a gubernatorial election, but for 2016.

MATTHEWS: Dale, you go at it, because I see it the same way. I just
keep looking at the pattern. It`s like there is a cookie-cutter. Somebody
is going around from state to state saying, here`s what you have to do.
Your thoughts. Your experience.

DALE HO, DIRECTOR, ACLU VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: It`s really amazing.
I mean, they could pick any day that they want to get rid of.

But, for some reason, every one of these states, including Wisconsin,
always wants to get rid of Sunday, which, as Judith pointed out, is a day
in which you have particularly high African-American turnout.

And I have to tell you, one of the things that really upsets me when I
hear some of these comments from legislators claiming that they need to do
this in the service of uniformity is kind of crazy to me. If there are
problems with some people not having enough access in other parts of the
state, the solution is not to shut down early voting on the weekends in the
places that have it, but to expand access for everyone.

And it`s also kind of crazy to me this idea that every community is
exactly the same. It`s not that every place should have exactly the same
hours and exactly the same number of polling locations. Milwaukee has
600,000 people. There are townships in Wisconsin that have only 10,000
people. Should they have the same number of voting machines now?

MATTHEWS: Well, we will see.

Anyway, Republicans say these new law likes this are needed because
rural voters might feel shortchanged.

Well, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald out there in Madison
defended the measure by saying -- quote -- "It`s difficult for people to
turn on Channel 6 in Milwaukee and there is a shot of someone voting during
a time when it`s not available to people in rural areas."

He went on. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT FITZGERALD (R), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: They turn to us for
the answer, like, why is this going on? I mean, why is -- why are there
people voting in Milwaukee on a Saturday afternoon, when I couldn`t go to
the town of Clyman and vote right now? There is nobody there. The town
hall is closed and the lights are off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I have got to wonder whether -- you have big
states, and you have minorities often grouped in big cities and liberals in
big cities who are white and all kinds of ethnic groups. They tend to be
in the liberal areas.

They like wishes -- it seems they wished those areas weren`t in the
states.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWNE-DIANIS: Right.

MATTHEWS: They could elect just Republicans outside the city limits.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Right.

This is looking at rural areas and comparing them to the cities. The
bottom line, as Dale said, is, let`s increase access for everyone. We
shouldn`t be restricting the vote.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes. What about 7:00? A lot of people -- we were talking
about it. All the producers agreed about this today. We thought, look, if
you go work, if you`re a working person, you often work far from home.

BROWNE-DIANIS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: It`s not your office nearby or your factory.

So you get on a bus, public transportation. You may take two or three
buses to get home, certainly a couple. And by the time you do get home,
you got get to the voting station; 7:00 can be a pretty tough deadline.

BROWNE-DIANIS: That`s right. I mean, can you imagine even the D.C.,
area?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWNE-DIANIS: In Virginia, 7:00 closing? I mean, we surely...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... highway?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNE-DIANIS: We know -- right. That`s right. We know our traffic
takes an hour-and-a-half to get home.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWNE-DIANIS: And so cutting it off at 7:00 really was about
hitting...

MATTHEWS: Why would somebody want to do that?

BROWNE-DIANIS: It`s about hitting working Americans who they are
afraid will not vote for the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had some strong words
for Republicans pushing this bill. Here is what he had to say what`s
really behind it. Here is his thought. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR TOM BARRETT (D), MILWAUKEE: You can see what the goal is here.
The goal is to just jam up the city of Milwaukee and other large
municipalities. Let`s just jam it up. Let`s have people frustrated and
wait and leave the polls. That`s what`s going on here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Is that it, Dale? Is that the bottom line?

DALE HO, ACLU VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: I really think it is, actually,
Chris. You look at Florida, which got rid of six days of early voting
before the 2012 election. And they experienced the longest wait times of
any state in the country during that election.

Some people casting ballots after the president`s acceptance speech,
there was one estimate from an engineer at Ohio State University who
calculated that 200,000 people gave up because the lines were too long in
Florida. I don`t know why any state would think that that would be a model
that they would want to emulate in future elections. It makes absolutely
no sense.

Everyone ought to be able to participate in our democracy. It
shouldn`t matter whether or not you work hourly wage jobs that make it hard
for you to vote on Election Day.

MATTHEWS: Well, Judith, in South Africa back this the bad old days,
they worried about an ultimate race war. We`ll be in the lager. The
whites will be in the lager, fighting all the blacks majority. Is this the
lager for the Republicans?

DIANIS: I think so. I mean --

MATTHEWS: Is this the demographic change?

DIANIS: Its last stand. If we can control the vote, especially in
Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker wants to control not only -- he
wants to control the vote for a reason.

MATTHEWS: To get reelected.

DIANIS: Because it`s about the policies. To get reelected so that he
can push through his conservative right wing agenda.

MATTHEWS: And maybe to run for president.

DIANIS: Oh, maybe.

MATTHEWS: Dale, how is this going to end? Is this going to stop or
keep going? Is this battle going to go on to try to stop people from being
able to vote, even though they`re American citizens?

HO: You know, it`s really a shame that some people think instead of
trying to convince more people to vote for you, that we should try too
prevent people who might think differently from voting at all. And this
fight is going to go on, unfortunately, until we start changing people`s
minds and reminding everyone that your choice matters. It`s not about
whether or not you can pass some state imposed obstacle course, that every
person matters in our democracy.

We have to get back to that basic principle of one person, one vote.
We`re litigating these kinds of cases right now alongside the Advancement
Project, which Judith is the head of in places like North Carolina. And
you can bet that we`re going to take this fight to other states that
continue to cut back voting opportunities.

MATTHEWS: Well, I could say as a lover of politics, the great
political leaders of our country in both parties over the years have
trusted the voter. They`re not afraid of the voters. That`s how you can
tell a great leader.

Anyway, thank you, Dale Ho. And thank you, Judith Browne Dianis.

Up next, everything is going green as Washington celebrates St.
Patrick`s Day, or St. Paddy`s Day, as we always called it.

We`re going to talk about why so many Irish in this country have
gotten into politics.

This is HARDBALL, the place for it. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this week marks one year since Pope Francis was
elected to lead the Catholic Church. In our new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll finds Americans are giving him high marks.

Take a look at this -- 60 percent of American Catholics say Pope
Francis has renewed and strengthened their own religious faith and
commitment to the church. And 55 percent of the Americans overall, not
just Catholics, say they have a very positive or somewhat positive
impression of the new pope. And we learned today that House Speaker John
Boehner has issued an open invitation to Pope Francis to speak to a joint
meeting of Congress.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It`s an early St. Patrick`s Day here in Washington. This morning,
Vice President Biden hosted Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny for the annual
St. Patrick`s Day breakfast he held, which I was happy to attend. Then,
Kenny, the taoiseach, went to the White House to be with President Obama
and exchanged shamrocks there, a tradition that began under President
Truman.

After that, House Speaker John Boehner hosted the president, the vice
president and the prime minister from Ireland at the speaker`s annual
Friends of Ireland Luncheon, which was started by my old boss, Tip O`Neill.
In fact, it was O`Neill and Ronald Reagan shared Irish heritage that helped
spark, break the ice, in fact, in many cases back in the `80s between them,
even though they fought most of the time, they were able to cut some deals
that wouldn`t have been possible if it wasn`t for that personal bond.

If you look back through history, you could say the Irish rose in this
country through politics. It was a way to get ahead professionally and
socially and politically as well. And just look at the Daleys in Chicago,
the Greens of Philly, the Buckleys, Charles Buckley of New York, of course,
James Michael Curly of Washington.

But it wasn`t an easy road. Case in point: Al Smith, the Democratic
nominee for president back in `28. As the first Catholic of a major
political party for president, he may have overcome his humble beginnings,
but his national campaign sparked virulent anti-Catholic backlash that was
as overt as it was ugly, a vote for Smith`s critics said was a vote against
the Protestant faith. And cartoons like this one suggested that the pope
himself would be the one at the helm of an Al Smith administration
announcement. You can see him surrounded there by cardinals there at the
center of the cabinet room, with Smith serving him -- well, the cardinal as
a waiter.

Well, just as a reminder of how far we`ve come as a country, I think.

And with us to talk about the Irish influence in American politics,
the two great exemplars, especially my old classmate, Congressman James
Moran, emeritus, congressman about to be. And Republican Feehery, who I
really like who is on the other side of that aisle.

Moran, you are a great tribute. There you are with that incredible
green tie. I think that`s Kelly green. I have a more modest one with
shamrocks on it.

Tell me why you intuitively knew you were a politician. You were a
soft-spoken guy back in college. But you are intuitively a politician.
What is it about the Irish that make them good? Clinton`s a good one and
certainly Tip O`Neill.

What makes you guys, us, good at politics?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I don`t know. I can`t talk so much
about myself, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, generally then.

MORAN: Well, the Kennedys, for example, they love people. I mean,
you knew Ted Kennedy. He just loved to be around people, and it`s
important, and I think this is something that`s particularly applies to the
Irish.

They don`t take themselves too seriously. They always have a joke to,
you know, to break the tension.

MATTHEWS: What about Bill O`Reilly? What about Bill O`Reilly? They
don`t take it seriously, Bill O`Reilly.

MORAN: Well, I`m talking about -- he never ran for office. And I do
think --

MATTHEWS: OK.

MORAN: -- there`s been a turn to the right. And, you know, we got a
whole lot of Irish Catholics who would cause some of our forbearers to turn
over in their grave given their conservative leanings.

MATTHEWS: Why is Peter King -- why is Peter King a Republican? He`s
not a right winger but a Republican.

MORAN: No.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Feehery. Excuse me, Jim.

I want to go --

MORAN: John can answer that.

MATTHEWS: Our family`s Republican. The bosses of the Philadelphia
Republican machine, the Meehan family, all Irish, all Catholic.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s not -- Boston it may be a new thing.

FEEHERY: Well, for me, it was Ronald Reagan. I thought he was the --
I became Republican because Ronald Reagan -- my dad was a Republican. He
voted against Kennedy for Nixon, though he`s an Irish American.

And I think part of it is because --

MATTHEWS: Made a few bucks.

FEEHERY: Well, yes. If you make a few bucks -- that`s not
surprising. If you`re part of the American dream, there is this political
diversity that a lot of Republicans have migrated like a Paul Ryan,
migrated to the -- Irish migrated to the Republican Party.

That`s a healthy part of this debate. Now, the interesting thing is
Republicans now are the swing vote. I mean, Irish are the swing vote.
That`s been an interesting thing.

MATTHEWS: Well, if the Republicans ever back immigration reform,
congressman, that`s because they must be betting that eventually if enough
Hispanic people, Latinos, become middle class, they`ll Republicans
otherwise they`re screwed. They have to believe that, right?

If they ever supported immigration reform.

MORAN: They`re affluent now, but I also think it`s the church and the
church has turned much more conservative, much more orthodox. I do think
Pope Francis may turn that around a bit.

But, boy, the taoiseach was wonderful today. He told the story about
so many young Irish boys coming across the pond to the parish where they
wanted to visit their dear mother. And then they didn`t want to break her
heart by going back across to the island, and now they`re undocumented.

And so, he made a pretty compelling case for immigration. But the
fact is, you`ve got the -- the Irish have a lot at stake with immigration.
We have a lot of undocumented folk here.

Boy, he hammered away but he did it in a way that didn`t offend
anybody. He didn`t take himself too seriously. He told jokes about it,
but he was insistent.

I love the taoiseach today and the message was delivered to both sides
of the aisle.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s to the guy you talked about, the one who`s a
hero to all of us, even Mr. Feehery, and that, of course, is John F.
Kennedy. Here he is. One of the lasting Irish traditions in politics is
the annual Al Smith dinner, I love to go, especially during election years,
it`s been the tradition for presidential candidates of both parties to drop
the campaign rhetoric in favor of some good humor ribbing.

Here`s how Jack Kennedy took on Dick Nixon at the Al Smith dinner back
in `60.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Cardinal Spellman is the only man
so widely respected in American politics that he could bring together
amicably, at the same banquet table, for the first time in this campaign,
two political leaders who have long eyed each other suspiciously and who
have disagreed so strongly both publicly and privately, Vice President
Nixon and Governor Rockefeller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, Mr. Moran, Kennedy had the gall to show up not in
white tie but with a regular tux looking like a million bucks. Nixon shows
up like he`s supposed to and Kennedy looks better.

Your thoughts about the sense of humor of the Irish. This is an easy
one. What is it that makes most Irish, with the exception of Bill
O`Reilly, not take themselves seriously?

MORAN: You know, they -- I think their parents keep them in check.
They usually come from large families.

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.

MORGAN: So they can`t take themselves too seriously. But I also
think that you figure out that if you want what you need, you got to make
people feel relaxed and you got to like people. When you go into a crowd,
you got to want to embrace them. I do think there is that spirit among
Irish politicians.

Now, there are exceptions and O`Reilly may be an exception and so on.
But I think that is the way that the Irish endear themselves to the
American public. You know, and we`ve gone a long ways from Al Smith. That
was just pure anti-Catholic bigotry. Otherwise he would have been
president of the United States.

But Jack Kennedy had it, and I think he`s taught a whole lot of Irish
politicians how to get ahead and get the things you care about done by
wanting to be with people and having a sense of humor and not taking
something too seriously.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jim, I`m proud to say -- I`m proud to say you`re my
classmate from Holy Cross, Jim. It`s great. Jim Moran, U.S. congressman
from Virginia, thanks.

John Feehery, a great regular on this show.

We`ll be right back after this.

MORAN: John`s a great guy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

The Irish have taken over the calendar, certainly mine. I was in New
York on Wednesday for "Irish American Magazine". Last night, it was the
American Ireland fun gala here in Washington, with the big tribute to Vice
President Joe Biden.

Earlier today, it was a breakfast at the vice president`s residence
and this evening, it`s President Obama`s reception for the Irish at the
White House followed by a party given by the Irish embassy.

You can see, I`ve got on my green shamrock tie now and I`ve been
thinking of those years in the distant past when I first discovered this
Irish thing I could lay claim to.

And one of the great advantages of the Catholic school system, I never
once doubted how fortunate we are to be born exactly who we are. I love
being Irish. I took incredible claim to it.

Anyway, it means something. It doesn`t mean everything, but it means
a lot. We have a clear sense of where we came from. And while it`s not
something especially posh, it is something to be proud of. Make that very
proud.

Let`s hope that the old sense of being an underdog carries those of us
who grew up, like me, to care about people who are underdogs today. To not
fall into the complacency that the way things are is the way they have to
be or even should be.

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.
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