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updated 5/5/2014 11:28:49 AM ET 2014-05-05T15:28:49

HARDBALL
May 2, 2014

Guests: Lizz Winstead, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Some very good news.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with the very good news, the jobless rate down to
6.3 percent, the number of new jobs created -- catch this -- 288,000, way
more than a quarter million. And this is just in the one month of April.
The stock market this week -- this week -- hit its highest level in
American history, more than doubling since President Obama`s inauguration.

And what was the Republican reply to all this news? To rain on the parade.
And you have to wonder if this relentless Debbie Downer numbers of theirs
isn`t without a purpose, that being to discourage the consumer from
spending, encourage business leaders to horde their cash, put off
investing, sit on the money they had all ready to invest if Mitt Romney had
won.

But you don`t have to wonder how loudly the Republicans would be
celebrating had they held these bragging rights over numbers like these, a
solid drop in the unemployment, well more than a quarter million new jobs
in just a month, the highest ever point in the history of the stock market.

What do you think Reince Priebus, John Boehner and Eric Cantor would be
saying about those apples? They`d be doing the Republican equivalent of
high-fiving each other, whatever that is. They`d also be doing cartwheels
on Fox, telling Sean Hannity that they were, in fact, in heaven.

Anyway, Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Alex Wagner is the
host of "NOW" on MSNBC. Two great people to join me on this!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: The absolute hilarity, if you have to look at it, when
everything`s turning up roses...

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... Reince Priebus -- and I just love that name, comes out and
just dumps all over it, and Cantor does his...

ROBINSON: Blah, blah, blah.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, we`re talking Republican stuff here. Maybe the unemployment
rate doesn`t sort of get to their erogenous zone, the way it does the
Democrats. But certainly, the stock market through the roof. Wouldn`t
they be saying, Good, fine work by this man, good work?

ROBINSON: They would be -- you know, everything would be coming up roses.
Happy days would be here again, except that`s a Democratic song, so they
wouldn`t think of that one. But no, it would be morning again in America.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ROBINSON: And you know, now -- why don`t Democrats tell the story, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, this is a problem with the Democratic Party maybe for a
while now. They don`t know how to win.

ALEX WAGNER, HOST, "NOW": They don`t know how to tout their
accomplishments! I mean, Chris, we got mugs with the president`s birth
certificate? Where are the mugs that show the job creation numbers pulling
the country out of the great recession? Where are the -- where are
those...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that, too, because he started on the (INAUDIBLE) Anyway,
today, before he began his press conference with German chancellor Merkel,
the president did take a moment to tout somewhat April`s exciting jobs
numbers, and repeat there`s more to do. Well, let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to keep a relentless
focus on job creation and creating more opportunities for working families.
There`s plenty more that Congress should be doing, from raising the minimum
wage to creating good construction jobs rebuilding America. And I want to
work with them wherever I can, but I keep acting on my own wherever I must
to make sure every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Explain that. Why is he like that today? Is he caught up in
something else...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Maybe he`s thinking about Ukraine and -- and the -- and -- which
is a general downer, and so maybe that`s why that was such a dour
recitation of what one would think he would be clicking his heels about and
kind of strutting around the Rose Garden saying, Look, I told you these
were the right economic policies. I told you if we would all just be
patient-...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... for a while, things were getting better. Things were
getting better. And look, things are better -- 6.3 percent...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... or you know, 288,000 jobs.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re doing it well. I like the way you`re doing it, Gene!

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: This is just...

MATTHEWS: It is funny because I guess -- I guess we`ll get on to this, but
let`s move on to the Republicans because they`re doing the opposite of
glee. And they`re doing what you know Republicans would be thrilled with
these numbers.

WAGNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, the market has always been their -- their -- their
(INAUDIBLE) Anyway, Republicans had to acknowledge the good numbers. Then,
of course, they proceeded to damn the whole thing with faint praise.
Here`s the inimitable RNC chair, Reince Priebus. Quote, "We`re happy that
more Americans were able to find work last month, but more and more people
are dropping out of our work force." Well, then Priebus adds this jab.
"Obama care is to blame for slashing workers` hours."

Well, Speaker John Boehner joined the jobs numbers welcome news, then put
on the -- actually, put in the shift. Quote, "President Obama ought to
call on his Democrat-led Senate to take up the stacks of jobs measures so
we can get this economy moving again." There aren`t any jobs measures!
All this stuff in infrastructure is Democrat stuff. They won`t lift it up
an inch.

Anyway, the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, followed Boehner`s lead,
issuing a statement that reads, in part, "It`s time Senate Democrats stop
ignoring these stacks of bills so that we can help hard-working Americans
deal with their stacks of bills." Very cleverly put by some staffer up
there.

And I got to tell you, they weren`t even showing for work today. They
issued these statements on paper.

ROBINSON: I know.

MATTHEWS: They didn`t even phone them in. They probably...

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: ... unconscionable! I mean, it`s unconscionable that John
Boehner, of all the people to say, Stop sitting on your hands, start
passing some legislation -- here`s a dude who`s basically a dead end for
any kind of bipartisan effort at anything at all times, and then has the
audacity two weeks ago to go back home in Ohio say, Oh, whoa, it`s so hard
passing legislation, telling members of his own party to buck up! I mean,
it`s outrageous!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about the strategy behind this. I don`t know the
president`s strategy for being somewhat hesitant here. I don`t know why he
didn`t want to -- because there are certainly poor people and there will
always be poor people.

ROBINSON: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: There`ll be reasons to not say things are getting better for
most people. But I don`t quite get this. But there`s one logic to this on
the Republican side. We`ve got a poll out that says that people who are
absolutely certain -- looking at people who are going to vote this
November, which is a lot of politics, and "The Washington Post`s" Chris
Cillizza isolates some of this from the paper`s poll -- it showed that an
improving economy could boost Democratic turnout in November.

Among those Democrats -- who are thinking well -- three quarters of those
who rate the economy positively say they`re absolutely certain to vote in
November. Just 58 percent of those who rate the economy negatively --
they`re absolutely certain to vote. So if you can get most Americans to
think it`s not happy, it`s nothing going well, if you can work them down to
say, yes, it`s OK, but it`s not so great, you can get them not to vote.

ROBINSON: Get them not to vote...

MATTHEWS: So there`s an argument here for the Republicans to keep...

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: ... Republican playbook!

ROBINSON: Exactly.

WAGNER: Keep them from the polls.

MATTHEWS: Well, why is the president acting like this? That`s what I`m...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does he know the playbook?

WAGNER: Well...

ROBINSON: You know, it -- then it becomes a base election, and Republicans
fire up their base with "Obama care" and Benghazi, whatever.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And you know, so Democrats just sit home (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: In the pits of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt kept the
people`s spirits up and hearts up.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Because he said, We`re getting there. Things are getting
better.

ROBINSON: Right.

WAGNER: Well, I feel like the president...

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t that work generally?

WAGNER: You know, well, I think the president has had huge -- oceans of
patience in terms of not getting credit for humongous programs that he`s
enacted and great change. He`s created...

MATTHEWS: Well...

WAGNER: But you know, I think, to some degree, his spirit is -- I mean,
when he talks about working with Congress in whatever way he can, Chris, I
mean, those ways have been exhausted. And he knows very well the next
three years of his administration are going to be executive actions, and
that`s basically it.

ROBINSON: And it`s fair to say there have been many moments in the past
few years when he has gone out on the hustings and he has forceful and he
has been optimistic and he has -- he has delivered that message. It`s just
that today would have also been a good day.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me -- let`s talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... playbook.

MATTHEWS: I know you can be accused of being a Marxist for saying this,
but I do think economics drives politics. And I do believe that if you
look at all the great moments of our lives -- you know, you and Gene and I
especially -- if you look at Watergate, Nixon`s big problem was
"stagflation" all around that, the whole context of it was bad economic
news. The country had, you know, gas lines. Everything was (INAUDIBLE)
got to blame somebody for this crap.

Clinton, on the other hand, swam through his problems the economy was
really good (INAUDIBLE)

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Right?

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: So the context of most of the politics we talk about,
personality and all, oftentimes is in the -- comes in that package, that
box that says, How`re you doing?

ROBINSON: That`s the whole atmosphere, you know?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And so -- and so you take on the characteristics of the
atmosphere. Your term in office does. And you know, so change the
atmospherics. I mean, you know...

WAGNER: Well, but...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: The atmospherics should be getting better.

WAGNER: That`s what they`re doing to do, though. I mean, the Democrats...

MATTHEWS: Republicans are doing...

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: ... message, you know, if the news is bad, they`re going to be the
ones that are going to give the middle class and the working class a chance
at fighting back. I mean, that is the sort of elegant and overarching
Democratic strategy here -- we know it`s kind of not...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WAGNER: ... gotten that much better, so we`re going to keep telling you
guys that we`re the ones fighting on your behalf.

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m a little concerned about the president I think he should
take some -- I mean, everybody says you shouldn`t brag, and I know the Bush
family would never brag, but the fact is, that`s old money talking. Old
money doesn`t have to brag.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: New money does.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And I -- and I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And I look at -- I`ve watched the defeat of some good Democratic
candidates because they didn`t know how to do it. And I watched Bob -- I
watched Al Gore, who should have won the Electoral College, as well as the
numbers. He shouldn`t (INAUDIBLE) worry about the Supreme Court because he
wouldn`t say, We`ve just came off of eight great years of the Clinton era.

WAGNER: Well, the...

MATTHEWS: He wouldn`t do it. HE just wouldn`t do it. All he talked about
was the "lockbox" and all this stuff about deficits and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You got to sell your own story.

WAGNER: Democrats wants...

MATTHEWS: You got to blow your own horn.

WAGNER: ... consensus and intellectual honesty. And it`s harder for them
to just have no compunction about celebrating -- winning! It`s hard thing
for the left sometimes.

ROBINSON: Yes, but you know, there`s nothing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... a great psychiatrist.

WAGNER: Yes!

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

ROBINSON: (INAUDIBLE) dishonest about being cheery about...

MATTHEWS: I think you got to sell it, get out there and sell it.

ROBINSON: Get out there and sell it.

WAGNER: Sell it!

ROBINSON: If you`ve got a good product, sell it.

MATTHEWS: Remember "The Producers"? Remember Zero Mostel -- Flaunt it!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Eugene Robinson, Alex Wagner.

Coming up -- by the way, coming up, today`s latest on the right`s
Benghazi`s obsession. They know how to brag! First, Darrell Issa`s
committee subpoenas John Kerry, the secretary of state. Then John Boehner,
the speaker, moves to create a new select -- a formal select committee to
investigate, apparently -- apparently, the other four committees already
investigating this non-scandal weren`t enough to do the job.

Also, the news keeps getting worse for Chris Christie. Today, we learned
that many of Christie`s wealthiest and best-connected donors are preparing
to jump ship if Jeb Bush gets into the presidential race. And I guess he`s
getting in.

And President Obama`s sharp elbows at tomorrow`s White House correspondents
dinner. Look for the president to use his humor as a weapon. Are you
listening, Donald Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate
matter to rest than the Donald. And that`s because he can finally get back
to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a great cause in my home
town of Philadelphia.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania`s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, is one of the
most vulnerable sitting governors in the country, especially this year.
And the primary to pick his Democratic challenger is coming up in about two
weeks. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new poll from Muhlenberg College and "The Morning Call"
newspaper, businessman Tom Wolf continues to run away, way ahead of U.S.
congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and state treasurer Rob McCord. It`s Wolf
28, Schwartz 13, McCord 11. Wolf has spent a lot of money on television
advertising, and it seems to have worked.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A dramatic escalation in the hard
right`s -- and it is the hard right`s -- Benghazi investigations.
Yesterday, we told you about a newly disclosed e-mail that Republicans were
heralding as the smoking gun in this investigation. Well, it set off a
chain reaction inside the Republican Party, starting with Senator Lindsey
Graham calling the White House "scumbags."

But as we noted on yesterday`s show, that e-mail sent by White House deputy
national security adviser Ben Rhodes, squares with the reality of what
actually happened in Benghazi. That hardly matters to some Republicans
today. Their right is out there going nuclear.

House Speaker John Boehner`s announced that the House will create a new
select committee -- that means a permanent committee, practically -- to
investigate Benghazi. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee,
Foreign Affairs Committee, Oversight and the Intelligence Committee, have
all conducted their own investigations.

But for some Republicans, there`s no such thing as enough. In his
statement today, the speaker says, quote, "It`s clear that questions
remain, and the administration still does not respect the authority of
Congress to provide proper oversight." Well, "This dismissiveness and
evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level." That`s
Boehner.

Well, Boehner`s announcement came just hours after House Oversight
chairman, the inimitable Darrell Issa, disclosed that he had subpoenaed
Secretary of State John Kerry to testify in front of the committee later
this month. Issa is accusing the State Department of, quote, "failing to
meet its legal obligations," saying that the new subpoena will compel Kerry
to, quote, "answer questions about your agency`s response to a
congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack."

Well, David Corn has been following this in depth. He`s an MSNBC political
analyst. He`s also Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." And
Michael Tomasky is a special correspondent for the DailyBeast.

Gentlemen, you know your stuff here. Is there anything here? I mean, I`ve
been arguing that watching this thing -- I do have a file cabinet in my
head. I can follow this thing. It`s not like every day is a brand-new
thing.

Consistently, we`ve gotten the reports that what happened was there was a
copycat kind of thing. There was terrorists -- I mean, there was protests
all over the Middle East at that time. Cairo, obviously, was all over the
media. That became -- led into kind of a copycat operation in this
Benghazi facility out there.

And of course, the whole thing seems to have come out of anger in the
Islamic and Arab world about this crazy, obnoxious video that went out. We
all know that! That`s in the news. That`s in this new e-mail that came
out. That was in the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence
Committee.

What`s new, Pussycat? Why do they keep making this into a big deal?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Because there`s
nothing else. I mean, you go back -- their theory of the case has always
been that the White House deceived the public because they were so scared
that the public would look at Obama`s counterterrorism credentials with
suspicion going into the reelection -- you know, election two months after
the Benghazi attack.

And so we have all these e-mails that have come out that showed, actually,
it wasn`t the White House that created the talking points that described
what happened there as being related to the video or somehow related to the
video. And the talking points tell us that it was the CIA, the State
Department, not the White House, that put that language together. And now
they`re talking about a cover-up of a cover-up that didn`t exist.

I went back -- and people can go to Motherjones.com because I literally
just put this up an hour ago. If you look at what the White House said
originally, that there was a protest related to the video that then turned
into a more complicated terrorist attack, at the time, reports from Libya,
media reports, said the same thing. And investigations by the Senate
Intelligence Committee and "The New York Times" both come up with the same
conclusion.

So even what Susan Rice said, if not entirely accurate, was kind of close
to what other people found. So if there`s a difference of opinion here, it
wasn`t...

MATTHEWS: I think it`s incredibly close to what we know months and years
later now...

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... which developed by a bipartisan -- my question is, is this
something in the Republican brain soup? Did they somehow get the idea that
something bad happened here? If you got Boehner under sodium pentothol --
imagine the thought...

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: Or two bottles of Merlot.

MATTHEWS: ... and asked him, What`s your worst case scenario here about
what happened -- not what press releases were issued, but what happened --
did anybody deserve blame for a beloved ambassador getting killed?

MICHAEL TOMASKY, DAILYBEAST: I don`t have any idea what they believe. I
guess some of them probably believe that, but I think...

MATTHEWS: Believe what, Hillary was out doing something else, or what?

TOMASKY: Something like that, or that it had to be some kind of
misfeasance or lack of preparedness on the Obama administration`s part that
this happened. I guess some of them believe that.

But I think a lot of them don`t even believe it, Chris. This is just not -
- they`re really drinking crazy juice over there at that committee now.
And they`re really ratcheting this up to an insane -- the Rhodes e-mail, as
you said, is exactly like the CIA talking points that Susan Rice got.

And there`s just nothing new here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Krauthammer, who has a different -- smart guy here.

Charles Krauthammer, who writes a big syndicated column, he said: "They`re
making far-reaching comparisons when it comes to the newly disclosed Ben
Rhodes e-mail. Here`s Krauthammer himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: To me, the equivalent of what
was discovered with the Nixon tapes. The point is that Republicans have
done a terrible job in building the case. If they had appointed a special
committee a long time ago, the way it was done in Watergate, we would have
had answers on this and the country wouldn`t be tired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s changing his story a little bit. Originally, he just
said they blew it.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Now he`s saying if they had done it right, they could have done
it. Well, that`s about the same thing.

But he seems to -- he`s not even saying there`s something there.

CORN: Well, here`s my...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you listen to Charles there?

CORN: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Does he say there`s something there?

CORN: Well, he says it`s Watergate. He says it`s worse -- it`s like Nixon
days.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, he`s not. He`s saying they should have used the same
investigative effort they did with Watergate.

CORN: But, for 40 years -- this is what I think the big picture here -- 40
years, Republicans and conservatives have wanted their Watergate.

In the `90s, they tried to get Clinton on Whitewater, Travelgate, FBI,
Filegate, and all those things. They all went...

TOMASKY: Whitewater.

CORN: And now they`re trying with Obama, whether it`s Benghazi, IRS, Fast
and Furious, just keep throwing the spaghetti at the wall, seeing if
anything sticks.

And Benghazi is too good for them. Why? It gives them the weak on
national defense tag. They always...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But here`s the problem. And you know the problem. You have to
have a kernel idea, like a break-in of a headquarters.

CORN: You used to.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Not anymore. That`s old school, Chris.

TOMASKY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, what are -- if you get a Republican out there having a few
drinks at a Republican meeting tonight somewhere, anywhere in the country,
you say to the guy after a few drinks, what do you think was the bad thing
done by Hillary Clinton or however the night that guy got killed?

TOMASKY: They don`t care. They want to keep Hillary Clinton out of the
White House. They want to keep their base revved up for the vote this
fall, this November, and they just want to keep the headlines coming.
Subpoena John Kerry.

They didn`t -- they played no preparation for them. Issa just subpoenaed
him out of the blue. They don`t care what comes of it.

CORN: He wasn`t there then.

TOMASKY: They`re just going to have the headline. John Kerry has to
testify. Then Kerry will go and testify. Then there will be more hanging
testifies when Kerry testifies, and they can just make it go on forever.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, the White House is taking heat for not disclosing
the e-mail sooner, sooner.

Now, here`s Carney, Jay Carney, facing off with ABC`s JONATHAN KARL, who`s
actually quite good in his questioning here. That`s earlier this week.
Let`s listen to Karl going after Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Why were you
holding back this information? Why was this e-mail not turned over to the
Congress? Why was it not released when you released all the other e-mails?
This is directly relevant. Why did you hold it back?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jon, again...

KARL: Why did it take a court case for you to release this e-mail? Why
was it classified?

CARNEY: Jon, I can say it again and again, and I know you can keep asking
again and again -- this document wasn`t about Benghazi.

KARL: It was her prep for the Sunday shows.

CARNEY: It wasn`t her only prep, Jon. She relied on, for her answers on
Benghazi, on the document prepared by the CIA, as did members of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is just kind of -- this not the thing I want to argue
about in my life, how people screw things up, because internally they have
a problem at the White House.

They probably -- my rule is always rolling disclosure is the worst thing in
the world. Get it out. It`s like fish, as Jody Powell used to say. The
longer you keep it, the more it rots, the more it smells. Get it out if
you have it. Move it.

CORN: And they waited for a while to get out that initial batch that we
were talking about a year ago. It took them a while to do that. And these
come out. And so now the Republicans are saying, that`s the issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is about bad management. I`m not going to defend the White
House on this, because I don`t think it was Jay Carney`s decision.

CORN: No. No, it wasn`t.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It was somebody in communications, or it was a lawyer dealing
with this. It could have been an archivist for all we know.

TOMASKY: It may take a while to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The question is, is there a character problem here with the
former secretary of state or not? And nobody has pointed to anything
that`s real here.

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: Of course not.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: What`s real was that the State Department, CIA, and Defense
Department had a situation in which somebody and three others got killed.
There`s a lot to look at. There`s a lot of blame to go around for that
event.

But what the Republicans are looking at has nothing to do with that. They
don`t care about protecting people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can anybody here get back to life? A courageous, really
courageous ambassador goes out, takes a trip.

He knew there were some risks. He thought the local militia was going to
be OK. He made a calculated decision. It went bad. This happens in life.
It happens in war all the time. It happens in diplomacy. We have had
diplomats knocked off all the time. It`s a horrible world sometimes, and
they`re trying to exploit this into some stupid, damn political thing.

It`s rotten.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I have got to go.

TOMASKY: OK.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. It`s great to have you on, but I got to get rid of
you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Corn, Michael Tomasky.

Up next, have we finally seen the last of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford? God,
this poor guy`s got problems.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."

It might finally be game over for Toronto`s Mayor Rob Ford. Skills from a
video taken over the weekend surfaced in the press on Wednesday. They
allegedly show the embattled mayor smoking crack again.

NBC News has not verified the authenticity of the video, but now Ford is
going into rehab, not for his drug problem, he says, but he says for
alcoholism.

Well, the news inspired David Letterman and the folks at "The Late Show" to
create a video about Ford`s problems and it`s got a pretty overt subtext.

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

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has accepted that he has a
drinking problem, so he`s entering rehab.

Managing alcoholism is never easy, but Mayor Ford is ready to take a crack
at it and determine to crack down on his drinking. He pledges to get up at
the crack of dawn...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... and get cracking with his crack team of addiction
specialists. And why alcoholism is a tough nut to crack and sobriety isn`t
everything it`s cracked up to me, Mayor Ford is not to fall between the
cracks.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So, for all the wisecracking critics out there, put
that in your pipe and smoke it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Rob Ford, crack, crack, crackity, crack, crack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s not really that funny, is it?

Anyway, finally, tomorrow is the White House Correspondents Dinner. We
will be talking more about that later in the show.

But, in the meantime, let`s take a look at some comedic highlights of the
past courtesy of C-SPAN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People walk around under all kinds of delusions.
There are men walking around thinking they`re Jesus. There are men walking
around thinking they`re Napoleon. They`re men walking around thinking
Congress is going to pass their budget in the first 100 days.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Finally, I have an announcement for those of
you watching tonight`s event live on C-SPAN. For God`s sake, it`s Saturday
night.

(LAUGHTER)

JAY LENO, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I thought
President Clinton had some wonderful, wonderful international triumphs,
such as bringing the Arabs and the Israelis together. Remember that day in
the Rose Garden? Remember when they were all in step?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: River dancing.

Anyway, up next, the sinking Chris Christie ship is rapidly losing happy
passengers.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the White House
to discuss the rising violence in Ukraine. The president warned of
increasing rising costs for Russia if it doesn`t change course. Merkel
says she hopes for stabilization in the region. In the Ukrainian city of
Odessa, a fire left 31 people dead. It started amid violent clashes.

And the U.S. has its first confirmed of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory
Syndrome. The patient, who traveled to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, is
hospitalized in Indiana -- we take you now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Chris Christie wants to run in 2016 for president, of course. And he says
the bridge scandal of his won`t stop him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Any voters, if they consider this
issue at all, in considering my candidacy, if there ever is one, I have got
a feeling it will be a very small element, if any element at all.

There`s certainly nothing that`s happened in the last, you know, number of
months since we talked about this the last time that would make me think
any differently about my ability to be able to pursue that job or to
perform it.

I am who I am. And for some people, they love it. And I will tell you,
when I travel around New Jersey, I hear from most people that`s the thing
they love the most.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: And what about Iowa?

CHRISTIE: Oh, well, I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane. I have been
there a lot. I think they love me there, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Speaking of earlier key primary vote, or voting states like
Iowa, Christie will be making an appearance there, out in Iowa, and in
South Carolina in the next few months. He`s already been to Florida. He
made a pit stop, of course, out in Las Vegas in March, a couple months ago,
to court GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

And he cozied up to the red hots in the Republican Party`s base at this
year`s CPAC Conference. So, he`s gone all around here. It might be his
fantasy to sit in the big office up in the White House, but here`s the
reality that`s crashing down all around him. The U.S. attorney`s criminal
investigation into Christie`s office is accelerating. Christie`s allies
will be taking the witness stand in a new round of legislative hearings
starting next weekend in Trenton. His support has plummeted in national
and local polls in New Jersey.

And today, we have learned that some of his donors are running in exodus
from him for Jeb Bush. Well, "The New York Times" reports that -- quote --
"In private conversations that are now seeping into public view, some
donors are signaling to Christie`s camp that should Mr. Bush enter the
race, their first loyalty would be to him, not to Mr. Christie."

This is according to interviews with more than two dozen of those fat cats.

Anyway, Steve Kornacki is the host of "UP" on MSNBC.

Did I say that right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And Beth Fouhy is the senior political director at MSNBC.com,
both great guests.

You, sir, have been the star of the story. So, report. Is Christie off on
some cloud nine on this thing? And if so, he`s the only one there, because
these other Republicans, who are very conscious of money and winning,
that`s what they are into, these big guys, they think he`s not their guy
right now. They`re looking at Bush.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

Well, they`re smart, because they know there`s uncertainty. And they know
that no matter what Chris Christie says publicly right now -- what Christie
is doing and saying publicly is what he has to do and say. And what he has
to hope is that there`s some kind of exoneration that comes out of this
that`s more than just the internal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But isn`t that his problem, that he won`t get a clearance early,
that if there`s going to be a clearance, it will be at the end of all these
traps he has to go through?

KORNACKI: Well, there`s -- yes. This week is a perfect demonstration --
is a perfect illustration of it actually, because here we are talking about
Christie, here we are talking about 2016, and here he`s saying, oh, nothing
is going to hold me back.

But at the same time this week, we learned that one of his closest
confidants, a guy he tried to put on the state Supreme Court in New Jersey,
a guy who ended up getting as his consolation prize a top legal gig at the
Port Authority, has now been subpoenaed or is about to be subpoenaed by the
U.S. attorney.

MATTHEWS: David Samson.

KORNACKI: No, no, no. This is Phillip Kwon.

MATTHEWS: Well, Phillip Kwon.

KORNACKI: So, it`s another name. It`s another name. That`s a new story
this week.

As long as this goes on -- and all indications are this is something that`s
going to play out, not over days, but over weeks, over months -- as long as
this goes on, there`s going to be uncertainty there. And no donor in his
or her right mind is going to sit down right now and say, Chris Christie is
my guy. I`m sticking with him, because they don`t know where this is going
to. Nobody knows where this is going.

So, what donor is going to commit right now?

MATTHEWS: That`s the good thing about Republican money people. They`re
focused on money.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And, therefore -- and they`re good at it. That`s how they got
to be rich. So, they`re thinking, where do I put my quarter or my buck or
my 10 thousand bucks or my hundred thousand bucks? I`m not going putting
it on a number that is not going to come up.

BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: Yes, but guess what number is not
going to come up? Jeb Bush.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FOUHY: The fact that...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, Kathleen Parker last night said she`s done her reporting,
and he`s running.

FOUHY: He may be running. He`s not winning.

And for these GOP mega-donors to be looking so seriously at him just shows
the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Where are they going? Where should -- OK, grand vizier, where
should they be going?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Where should they be going?

FOUHY: I don`t know. Where should they be going?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, who else is there in the center of the party? I see one
name. I see Scott Walker.

FOUHY: Scott Walker.

MATTHEWS: I see one guy who is a -- who is somewhere in the center-right.
He`s a governor, which is really important. He`s got a job.

FOUHY: He`s got to win reelection.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FOUHY: And he`s got a pretty good Democratic opponent.

But you`re right. He does fit the bill. But look at this. This week,
NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Jeb Bush has a 21 percent approval rating.
And you can`t blame that on lack of name recognition. The Bush name is the
most famous name in politics.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the poll, and Steve too. Let`s take a look
at this poll.

This is how far Christie has fallen. He was consistently on top of the
polls for the -- on the top for the 2016 nomination before this scandal
hit. But in this week`s "Washington Post," this week`s "Post" and ABC
poll, Christie is trailing Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, and Rand
Paul.

Christie has also lost his coveted crossover appeal. In November, a
Rutgers/Eagleton poll had Christie with an impressive 45 percent approval
rating among New Jersey Democrats. In their latest poll, that number has
plummeted down to 25 percent.

And, as we mentioned, "The New York Times" is reporting that many of
Christie`s donors may abandon him if Jeb Bush runs. Well, Christie`s
donors make up a group that, according to the book "Double Down," Christie
is extremely protective of.

This is their account of a meeting between Romney and Christie in the lead-
up to the 2012 election -- quote -- "Christie also told Romney something
else, that until Christie made up his mind about endorsing Romney, he
wanted none of the candidates including Mitt to raise money in New Jersey.
`Let`s just be clear,` Christie said, `if you jump the gun and start
raising money here, you can almost certainly kiss my support goodbye.`
Romney left the meeting incredulous at Christie`s dictate and backroom
delivery. It was like something out of `The Sopranos`. `Are you kidding
me?` Mitt thought. `He`s going to do that.`"

Well, this rhymes with what we`ve also seen about Christie`s behavior.

STEVE KORNACKI, UP: Yes. But this is also -- I mean, this -- financially,
this was -- do you remember when there was the whole clamoring in the fall
of 2011 for Chris Christie to make like a last-minute entry into the 2012
race. A lot of that clamoring was coming from the Wall Street types. It
was coming from these big money people who had ties to New Jersey in many
cases, or they`re right across the river in New York and this is the same
crew right now, if you read that article, this is the same crew right now
that in a lot of cases expressing doubt about --

MATTHEWS: Beth, we`ve got to finish with you. So, Christie is too hot to
handle, we agree? Too hot to handle, that`s what the --

BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Too moderate for the GOP.

MATTHEWS: And Jeb Bush is too dull?

FOUHY: And too moderate for the GOP.

MATTHEWS: OK, So, this leaves them in big trouble. I thought they` been
in big trouble for a long time.

FOUHY: Well, and exactly, these folks do not want Rand Paul to bubble up
as the GOP standard bearer, and they`re terrifies that that`s exactly
what`s happening. So, they`re casting about for other people.

Christie doesn`t have a chance. Jeb Bush doesn`t have a chance. They`re
both too moderate --

MATTHEWS: Let me give you a Republican horror story. Rand Paul is the
nominee, right? If you`re concerned about Israel, if you`re concerned
about foreign policy getting to mushy, and you`re going to decide between
Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton.

Now, your wife is going crazy for Hillary Clinton. You may also be, but
your wife definitely is. She`s about your age. And all the pressure is on
you. You`re going to push Rand Paul on me? These guys are going to step
back and say, I`m stepping out of this one.

FOUHY: They`ll support Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And they may be more aggressive. Isn`t that something?
Rich guys for Hillary.

Thank you, Steve Kornacki.

Of course, that`s when Elizabeth Warren comes in.

Thank you, Steve Kornacki and Beth Fouhy.

Up next, opponents of President Obama, beware. He`ll be using humor
tomorrow night here in Washington as a dangerous weapon. He`s also looking
at you. And that`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a great story about Lyndon Johnson in a new
"Politico" magazine that comes from John Norris who`s writing a book about
long-time Washington columnist Mary McGrory. Quote, "On a quiet summer
evening in 1964, McGrory`s phone rang. The caller identified himself as a
Secret Service agent and said that President Johnson wanted to stop by her
apartment in 15 minutes. "Oh, really?" McGrory replied drolly, sure that
it was a fellow reporter pulling her leg. But the man on the line insisted
he was serious.

She went out into the hall way of her apartment building, a drab modern
brick affair a few miles up Connecticut Avenue from the White House and
found several Secret Service agents standing near the elevator. Realizing
that the leader of the free world was indeed on his way, she ran back
inside and frantically tidied up.

Several minutes later, the president himself appeared at her door. McGrory
invited LBJ in and offer the president a drink and engaged in some friendly
small talk until Johnson, tumblers of scotch in his large hand, finally put
his cards on the table.

Quote, "Mary, I am crazy about you," he confessed. He wanted to sleep with
her. Johnson tried to make the case that since McGrory had always admired
Kennedy, she should now transfer her affections to him. McGrory took a
deep breath and said, "I admire you, Mr. President, I always will, and I
think you`re doing a terrific job and that is where it stops, right there."

President Johnson finished his drink and said, "I just wanted you to know"
-- and with that, president and his secret service detail left. What a
story.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Washington is gearing up right now for the annual White House correspondent
dinner. That`s tomorrow night, Saturday, a decades old tradition that
brings the president, the press and Beltway politicians together to folk
fun at each other. And while it`s a nonpartisan evening, a column today in
"The Daily Beast" pointed out how President Obama has used comedy
differently from his predecessors as a weapon to embarrass and disarm his
opponents.

Franklin Roosevelt proved long that ridicule is the most effective form of
political attack.

So, let`s take a look at how President Obama has done the same.

First up, here is the president hitting Congressman Paul Ryan and Michelle
Bachmann back in 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, the deficit is a
serious issue. That`s why Paul Ryan couldn`t be here tonight. His budget
has no room for laughter.

(LAUGHTER)

Michelle Bachmann is here, though, I understand, and she is thinking about
running for president, which is weird because I hear she was born in
Canada.

(LAUGHTER)

Yes, Michelle, this is how it starts.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And of course, he had this to say about Mitch McConnell last
year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Some folks don`t think I spend enough time in Congress. "Why don`t
you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?" they ask. Really? Why don`t you
get a drink with Mitch McConnell?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And who would forget how the president made an attack ad against
himself parodying Mitt Romney for strapping his dog to the roof of his car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

NARRATOR: America`s dogs can`t afford four more years of Obama. For them,
that`s 28 more years. Our dogs need leadership now.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who let the dogs out?
Who? Who?

NARRATOR: This guy. And that`s why we need to join Mitt Romney in sending
a message this November. I`m an American. And doggone it, I ride outside.

Paid for by the WoofPAC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: With us now is Lizz Winstead, co-creator of "The Daily Show" and
Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post."

Yes, it just seems to me, Lizz, that Obama does have some skill in this
area of the stiletto attack on people`s he`s had a urging to go after for a
long time, but saved for the comedy night to do it.

LIZZ WINSTEAD, COMEDIAN: Well, I think that -- I think that he has an
advantage where he`s got some great writers. And I think you really can
hit hard when you make a point with humor, you disarm somebody because you
can`t --

(EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM)

WINSTEAD: I think the high wire act really is being super aware of how the
public views you. You know, when you look at the polls and Congress is
polling in single digits, you have to make sure that it`s not really about
Democrats, or about Republicans, you know, you can jab a little bit but
it`s really about, wow, we are broken. And what are the parts of the
brokenness that America can laugh at and then go in for your joke there?

MATTHEWS: Well said, you`re good at this. I always wondered, you have to
go to the truth and find it first. It would be remiss not to mention this
classic which I love. Also from 2011 when President Obama went after
Donald Trump in the room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For
example, seriously, just recently in an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice,"
at the steakhouse, the men`s cooking team did not impress the judges from
Omaha steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around, but you, Mr.
Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership and so
ultimately you didn`t blame Little John or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey.
And these are the kind of decisions that will keep me up at night.

(LAUGHTER)

Well-handled, sir. Well-handled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was rich.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: And it was devastating. I mean if
Donald Trump weren`t already seen as a buffoon completely, that completely
finished him off there. My prediction, he better hope that Darrell Issa is
in the audience. He`s certainly ready.

MATTHEWS: Oh, good. It`s a ripe target. That`s like them going after
cantaloupes.

Thank you, Lizz Winstead.

WINSTEAD: You`re welcome.

MATTHEWS: You`re a genius.

WINSTEAD: Oh, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Dana Milbank, thank you.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

I was in Philadelphia, my hometown, last night, helping with a big event
for the Fairmount Park Conservancy. This is what every big city should
have. This effort to bring back and build up a city`s greatest assets, its
public parks, places for kids to get out of the house and have some real
fun. Places for young couples to wander, for the old to enjoy, nature in
the full.

I grew up alongside one of Philadelphia`s finest. That was hunting park.
I remember going there with my parents on summer nights to ride the merry-
go-round and at one amazing point to see the Barnum & Bailey greatest show
on earth when it came to town.

Those days and evenings in the park are now one of the very good things in
neighborhoods where life can be tough for kids. Where there`s a lot of
unemployment and other challenges.

My old neighborhood may have changed in some ways but the need for outdoor
fun and yes a few hours of beauty is more vital than ever, more of a human
need. So, three cheers for the Fairmount Park Conservancy, an effort I`ve
been so happy to be a small part of. The people who run it and Mayor
Michael Nutter who supports it so strongly are doing just the right thing.

I love being there last night near the site where the Philadelphia actually
hosted the National Centennial Exposition back in 1876 and all that
beautiful park remains.

If you want to help go to myphillypark.com, myphillypark.com. And that`s
why I`m wearing this button, "I love Philly parks." And I do.

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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