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updated 5/16/2014 3:02:52 PM ET 2014-05-16T19:02:52

HARDBALL
May 9, 2014

Guests: Michelle Bernard, Michael Tomasky, Dana Milbank, Kathleen Matthews

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Shame game.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with the latest smear of Hillary Clinton. Now it`s
Nigeria. The accusation now flying across the right-wing airwaves, from
Fox to Limbaugh, to all corners of Planet Hate, is that the recent U.S.
secretary of state is guilty of letting those 200 girls get taken prisoner
in Nigeria. That`s right, they say the guy who grabbed those girls and
took them off into the jungle would not have done so if Hillary Clinton had
named him to the foreign terrorist list.

Guess what? Hillary Clinton did name that guy, Abubakar Shekau, to
the terrorist list, also two of his top commanders. She did it two years
ago, after their group attacked and killed 23 United Nations workers in
Nigeria.

The sick fact here is that everything that goes wrong in the world,
that causes horror, is now going to be counted by the hate Hillary crowd on
this country`s recent top diplomat, no matter where. No matter if it`s in
an uncontrolled region of an African country or an ungoverned war-torn
Libya, Hillary Rodham Clinton was on watch and should have kept it from
happening.

Well, this is an absurdly unfair standard. It suggests a world class
dereliction on Clinton`s part wherever anything went wrong anywhere. Has
any Democrat done this to W or Cheney or any of that bunch, said every time
we faced the hell of an ambush in Afghanistan or Iraq or a roadside attack
or a bombing that the blame hung on the shoulders of the country`s top
officers? I must have missed it.

By the lethal standard of the hate Hillary crowd, the one now being
road-tested with Nigeria, the attack on New York and Washington in
September of 2001, the fact that nobody saw that one coming, should have
led to the president, the vice president and the rest of this country`s
security officialdom to be hung up in chains.

With us now is MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of the
HuffingtonPost and Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for women.

Howard, it seems like every day brings, as it does if you read a
quality newspaper, bad news somewhere in the world. Something happens.
Crap happens, whatever (ph) we`re going to phrase it. And now the
automatic machine says Hillary did it.

You know, they should check a couple facts. The fact is, while the
organization wasn`t named, the three top leaders were. And that was
decided upon after a very nuanced decision making about how to go after
this group and not to make every U.S.-owned facility, every U.S.-owned
company in Nigeria an easy, fat target for this group to go after. Your
thoughts.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Chris, I think this is just the beginning of what the right is going to
attempt to do to Hillary. They`re going to back-time and replay backwards
every event in the world today and look for a connection back to the State
Department or back to American policy...

MATTHEWS: Is this six connections of Kevin Bacon?

FINEMAN: ... yes -- when she was -- when she was secretary of state.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: You know, when you`re secretary of state, you deal by
definition in grays. You deal in nuance. That`s why her book is called
"Hard Choices." But when you`re trying to explain the details of a policy,
why you were reluctant to allow full-on with the Nigerian army and the
Nigerian regime, which had committed atrocities, when you try to explain
the nuance and the grays of your time as secretary of state, when you`re up
against the accusatory culture that she is now in, it`s going to be
difficult.

And the Monica thing is easy compared to explaining or trying to
defend everything they`re going to throw at her...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... from her time at State over the -- in -- over the last
years.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think fuels this? Not so much information.
Information is scant. Even the people who say "Benghazi" all day long
don`t know what -- have a lot of information to give you. It`s -- the fuel
is the anger...

MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the free-floating anger at Obama, and now being
gradually shifted to her. The anger is so ferocious that it will power any
attack by itself. In other words, the fire in the eyes of Steve Doocy, of
all people, or Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham, is so ferocious that it
seems to have weight.

Isn`t that funny that hate now has weight? So if you hate somebody
enough, then whatever you say about them seems vaguely material.

(LAUGHTER)

BERNARD: I mean, we have -- we`ve seen it since Barack Obama became
the front-runner in 2008, the hatred that has propelled conservatives and
Republicans to do everything that they can in their power to go after him.
And I agree with you. It`s unfortunate -- they`re going to do it against
Hillary Clinton simply because simply, right now, she is the front-
runner...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BERNARD: ... on the Democratic side in 2016. It`s unfortunate,
though, because it gives us a chance to really sit down as a nation and
really think about what should our foreign policies goals be...

MATTHEWS: Right.

BERNARD: ... and how has the U.S. dealt with Africa...

MATTHEWS: You mean the big picture.

BERNARD: ... as a continent?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at...

BERNARD: The big picture, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s how it started. Citing a Wednesday report in
the DailyBeast titled "Hillary`s State Department refused to brand Boko
Haram as terrorists," several conservative media figures were quick to
blame former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for what`s happened in
Nigeria, even charging her with hypocrisy. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now word is because we did not place them on the
terror list of officially known terrorist groups, it`s going to be harder
to go after them. And who exactly made sure that they were not placed on
the terror list? Hillary Clinton! For Hillary Clinton now to -- you know,
over the last couple of days to talk about how bad they are, given the fact
that she could have done something a couple of years ago and did not, and
the fact that her big initiative last week was to help women and girls,
there`s a little hypocrisy going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Rush Limbaugh went further, also blaming the president for
not personally overriding the State Department`s decision there on Boko
Haram.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My point is, why just blame
Hillary? Certainly, Obama could have overruled her. I just think this is
pathetic! I -- I -- I`m just stunned! We got 300 Nigerian girls
kidnapped by an al Qaeda group. And nobody cared to talk about it for a
while. Hillary wouldn`t call them a terror group. Now all of a sudden,
for some reason, we`re on a big push to get them back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: An "al Qaeda group." He snuck that one in. And last night
on Fox, Laura Ingraham cited a previous attack on Nigerian children, in
this case against young boys, and asked why the administration was so slow
off the mark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This past February, the group
burned 59 young boys to death in northeastern Nigeria. No loud calls to
intervene then. But now, suddenly, political elites want U.S. action.

Where was that powerful drumbeat for justice against those who
slaughtered American citizens in Benghazi?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, there`s -- the concept -- first of all, he did
name all three of the top leaders to the terror list two years ago, when
they`re saying, When did he do it? This idea that somehow, we are
responsible for every acre of property on the planet, and if something goes
wrong, we should be there -- that`s not a conservative argument. That`s
not what they believe, is it, that we should be involved in the internal
politics of a country that`s not been ruled rather well, like Nigeria all
these years.

FINEMAN: Yes, they once had a president who ran for president and got
elected on the idea that we were not into nation-building. Remember that?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: That was George W. Bush. And -- and I -- no, I just think
that it`s -- it`s demonology. Look, there are legitimate questions you can
ask about Hillary`s tenure as secretary of state. But as you pointed out,
they -- they -- they begin at the end. They begin with the demonization.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: By definition, she has to have something extremely wrong.
The president has to have done something extremely wrong. And they will
work their way backwards to that, to whatever facts, ultimately, they think
might prove the case, even -- and throwing stuff out that turns out to be
wrong 24 hours later that they never even apologize for. They`re just
going to move forward in that fashion.

And it`s a psychological thing, Chris, that these -- they -- they take
comfort in their own fears. It`s -- it`s a form of political cocooning,
and it`s going to go on with this and any other issue they can come up
with, as long as Hillary`s around.

MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a select committee on Nigeria now?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: By the way, when has the Republican Party taken this keen
interest in Africa?

BERNARD: I was about to say...

MATTHEWS: I may have missed that one!

BERNARD: ... it was very nice to see all these conservatives, you
know, beating the battle drum for justice for people who look like me.
Truth is, Bush administration, Obama administration, administration after
administration has been ignoring the fact that we have Islamist extremists
creeping up all over Africa.

And it`s time -- rather than put the blame on Hillary Clinton or
Barack Obama, or quite frankly, George Bush, it`s time that we sit down and
we think, Are we really so tired about talking about America post-9/11, and
are we really so war-weary after Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and all the other
conflicts in Libya and elsewhere, that we are willing to continue to ignore
countries like Africa, continents like Africa? Nigeria is the most
populous, important country to the United States...

MATTHEWS: I know. I`ve been there. And it`s filled sharp people,
too.

BERNARD: Yes, so have I. Absolutely. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Incredibly sharp people.

Anyway, on Wednesday night, just to prove this was all about
exploitation and opportunism, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,
who never misses a chance to exploit some horror, called for congressional
hearings. Here he is, tweeting, quote, "Congress should hold hearings on
why Clinton`s State Department refused to tell truth about radical Islamist
Boko Haram in Nigeria."

And yesterday, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,
Peter King of New York, and Congressman Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania,
sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to explain the
decisions the State Department made regarding Boko Haram back in 2011.
Fair enough. I think Pat Meehan`s got his head screwed on.

This thing about Newt Gingrich, here, I got to wonder -- you got to
wonder.

FINEMAN: Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is just the proof of opportunity. By the way, the
reason Newt`s tweeting is because he`s not on the air. He`s not using that
old "Crossfire"...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD: And we`re giving him bully pulpit. I mean, the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... up there with Donald Trump now.

BERNARD: It is shameful politics. And I have to -- I would be remiss
if I didn`t mention the fact that Hillary Clinton, back in Beijing years
ago, was one of the first U.S. leaders to come out and say women`s rights
are human rights. And people pooh-poohed it. They ignored it. We are
talking about the abduction and God knows what else of just slightly under
300 young girls in Nigeria, and we`re playing politics with the lives of
young women. That`s sick on both sides of the aisle.

MATTHEWS: I know.

FINEMAN: The women`s issue is one very important part of the
equation. The other not so sub-subtext here is religion. It`s faith.
These are -- these were -- there was an attack in a Catholic church in
Nigeria, where Boko Haram killed people.

MATTHEWS: Because they`re Catholics.

FINEMAN: Because they`re Catholics. And -- and what the connective
tissue here is for the people attacking Hillary and Barack Obama is that,
somehow, they`re soft on Islamists. They don`t say it in quite those
words, but that`s what they`re...

MATTHEWS: Because Obama is a Muslim.

FINEMAN: There you go. There you go. That`s -- that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD: ... for anyone who doesn`t really understand that you`re
making a joke, we should say that he really is not a Muslim.

(LAUGHTER)

BERNARD: ... people who normally watch Fox might be watching us.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... translating for the clowns in the clown car.

FINEMAN: ... exactly how they`re connecting the dots. That`s what
this is really about. This is as much about religion as it is about
gender. And that`s the connection between Hillary and Barack Obama that
they`re somehow...

MATTHEWS: On the other side.

FINEMAN: ... squishy on this thing.

MATTHEWS: They`re on the other side.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Because they`re traitors, of course, by their definitions.
In (ph) these words they throw out it`s all about trying to demonize, I
think, is (ph) so smart. And I will argue that the fuel again -- as I said
a few moments ago, the fuel of every one of their attacks is not
information because there is no real information about it. There`s a
murkiness about some of these things, like Benghazi. This is murkiness,
what happened that night.

But they use that open vacuum of murkiness and they fill it with
hatred. And hatred says, We hate them so much, they must be guilty. And
that`s it.

BERNARD: And while they`re doing it, we don`t know what`s happening
to these young women in Nigeria or young women all over the world.

MATTHEWS: I`m hopeful they are -- let me just be positive (INAUDIBLE)
leave this topic. I`m hopeful we got SEALS. We have guys with more guts
than we can imagine who are going to go into that jungle and going to find
them.

BERNARD: I hope so.

MATTHEWS: And we`re the best at that.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Michelle Bernard. Let`s hope the courageous
people that fight for this country are going to do the job here, if they
get a chance.

Coming up: That Republican obsession over Benghazi I mentioned. Eight
investigations apparently weren`t enough. They`ve chosen the members of
the latest committee to investigate this supposed scandal. They`ve been
picked. The Democrats haven`t picked anyone, and it`s not clear they will.

Plus, how desperate are Republicans about 2016? Well, they still
can`t find someone to hit that center-right sweet spot in a far-right
party. Surprising there, anyway.

And how do you choose sides in a race between birther Ted Yoho -- I
love that name -- and his Republican challenger, Jake Rush -- I love these
names -- who spends his spare time playing a vampire? Just ask Stephen
Colbert.

Finally, Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president of Marriott
International -- there she is -- and former top news anchor here in
Washington, is coming on to talk about the spiking global interest in
women`s issues, from the horrors of Nigeria to the smashing of the glass
ceiling here at home and everything in between.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, as we head into this Mother`s Day weekend, or NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll has a look at the most admired first ladies
of the past 25 years. This is great stuff. And it`s a tie between Barbara
Bush and Hillary Clinton. They`re both at 27 percent. Michelle Obama is
close behind at 24 percent.

But watch what happens when you break down those numbers. Among
Democrats, Michelle Obama is the narrow winner over Hillary Clinton --
that`s a surprise -- 42 to 39. Republicans picked Barbara Bush over her
daughter-in-law, Laura Bush, 45 to 36. And independents are evenly split
between Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Among African-Americans, Michelle Obama is the overwhelming favorite.
Latinos prefer Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama by 16 points. And among
white voters, it`s Barbara Bush leading Hillary Clinton by 9, with Laura
Bush in third, Michelle Obama in fourth.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Christmas came early for the
seven lucky Republicans picked to be on the select committee on Benghazi,
one of the most coveted tickets, if you will, in Republican politics. John
Boehner tweeted the lineup earlier today. And if it looked to you a little
bit like the announcement for a circus coming to town -- sure does to me --
and not the investigative body looking into a national security tragedy,
you could be forgiven. Looks like the -- where are the elephants in the
street?

Anyway, the group`s a mix of establishment and Tea Party Republicans.
But the fact is, after eight investigations so far, more than a dozen
hearings and thousands of pages of documents, is this really a search for
the truth or a clown show?

Here was Nancy Pelosi today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The fact is that this is a
stunt. This is a political stunt. And the fact that -- I mean, Issa just
is damaged goods. They had to move from him to another venue with another
chairman. That`s what this is. We`ve been there, done this over and over
again. And so the question is, is there at least a level of decency in
terms of respect?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A level of decency? Don`t count it, Madam Chairman.
Anyway, the Democrats have to decide whether they will boycott the
committee or provide their own members to join in. Can their presence on
the committee blunt the Republicans` partisanship?

As Charles Krauthammer wrote today, "All that matters is whether the
committee produces new important facts." I agree with him on that one, by
the way.

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an
MSNBC political analyst and Michael Tomasky`s a special correspondent for
the DailyBeast.

We couldn`t have two better guests right now. And I guess the
question is, why do you guys disagree? Because here we are Friday night.
Who thinks with me -- I`ll tilt the scale here. Who thinks with me and
Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat in that committee, it`s better to
show up, catch them in the act of buffoonery, call them on their crap, or
that it is to stand out of the sunlight and let them get all the attention?

Your thoughts first. You`re out there, David Corn. Should the Dems
show up?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they
should participate, but play this game under protest. You know, I think
Elijah Cummings has already shown, a lot of ways, that he can sort of --
you know, with Darrell Issa, how he got the better of him again and again.
And I don`t -- I think you want to know because they will be putting out
every little memo they can find with any, you know, sentence or phrase.
And I think it`s good for the Democrats to know this.

I think the event, the hearings, the investigations have already been
so politicized that the Republicans are starting in a very bad position.
And it`s not as if the Democrats are being seen as legitimizing this, if
they participate, knowing that, you know, in a way, in which they`re
saying, We`re doing this under protest, we think this is a circus.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: So, I say better to be in the tent.

C. MATTHEWS: You say show.

You say don`t show.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: I say boycott, because history
shows, recent history shows the party that mucks up the process in
Washington, which mostly has been the Republicans these last six years,
doesn`t really pay a price for mucking up the process in Washington.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Well, they did in `98.

TOMASKY: They did in `98.

C. MATTHEWS: That impeachment cost them the Congress for a while.

TOMASKY: Most people got really confused by these questions, though.

I don`t think the Democrats would pay a price for boycotting. And I
think there are other ways that they could handle it. David makes some
good points. Cummings was a good foil to Darrell Issa on that committee.

C. MATTHEWS: He`s dignified.

TOMASKY: Yes, he`s dignified.

I can see that. But the Democrats can handle it in other was. They
can stand right in the hallway outside the hearing room ready access for
reporters, ready to counterpunch.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: You know who told me to show up, guys? You will agree
with this. Michael Dukakis. Be there and defend and attack. Never hide
from it thinking, oh, the people will never fall for this B.S.

They do, because if you don`t challenge it -- I think Hillary Clinton,
by the way, I know she`s not running, but she`s suffering right now from
not having a war room, a bunch of guys like Carville and those guys that
pound back, throw it right back in their face.

Anyway, here`s Charles Krauthammer assuming a sort of referee`s role
here. Of course you know where he stands anyway. He says Gowdy -- that`s
the committee chairman, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina -- "needs to keep the
hearings clean and strictly fact oriented. Questions only. No
speechifying. These hearings are a big political risk for Republicans.
Going into the 2014 election, they stand to benefit from the major issues,
Obamacare."

I love the way he says this.

"The economy, chronic unemployment, from which Benghazi hearings can
only distract. Worse, if botched like previous hearings on the matter,
these hearings could backfire against the GOP," as did the 1998 Clinton
impeachment proceedings."

So, Charles is a smart guy and generally pretty honest, except for
some of this stuff in here. So far, there`s no evidence the Republicans
are taking Charles` advice. Your thoughts, David?

It seems to me that what is a fact, though, my fear is, as much as I
want it to be fact, if they get -- they will come out with something like a
memo and say guess what? We got this incredible memo here, and it`s
nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I think this is really about two things. It`s about creating
background nose that there`s some taint of scandal that involves Hillary
and Barack Obama. They don`t have to sort of prove any details.

And the other thing is they want to set up a situation where at the
end of the day -- because they`re not going to get any real scandal here.
They`re going to say, they didn`t give us all the documents we asked for.
They didn`t send everybody to testify that we wanted, so there`s still
something fishy here.

That`s really what they`re hoping to get. And I think on both fronts,
having a Democrat in the room on both fronts will make that even harder for
them to pull off.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: The big enchilada, will they get the former secretary of
state in the room, where they want her, or could she avoid this somehow?

CORN: I don`t know. I think she has to show up if a committee of
Congress asks her to come in.

C. MATTHEWS: Mike?

TOMASKY: If she is subpoenaed, she has to go. Henry Waxman
subpoenaed Condi Rice in 2007. It did take her several months before she
finally got up there, but she went.

Sure, Hillary would have to go. But she can handle herself. She
handled herself the last time at that Senate committee.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: The idea of self-policing isn`t working anymore in
politics. It used to be shame shopped you from doing certain things.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Now, here is Mitt Romney, who can be a gentleman. He is
well-bred and all that stuff.

But here he is, basically defending the use of the killing of those
four diplomats overseas on watch for us. Their killing is now fair game to
raise money with and here he is saying so on "MORNING JOE."

This is Mitt Romney, the gentleman, talking here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what the
Republicans have every right to say and is appropriate to say is that if
Republicans were not in the Congress, if Republicans did not have a
majority in the Congress, there would not be an investigation into
Benghazi. And so to say, look, elect Republicans so that we can have these
kinds of investigations is appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOMASKY: He doesn`t know what he`s talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: He`s talking about raising money.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: He`s saying, Michael and David, if we go out and raise
money on this horror out there, then it`s fine.

TOMASKY: But he`s factually wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Michael first.

TOMASKY: There have been eight investigations. Two of them were done
by the Senate on a bipartisan basis. The Senate is run by Democrats, last
I checked. So, he doesn`t really know what he`s talking about factually.

C. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true.

CORN: We have all these investigations.

And the other thing is, do you remember after 9/11 Democrats going out
with fund-raising e-mails and solicitation letters saying, George Bush
allowed terrorists to kill 3,000 Americans, so give us money so we can
investigate?

Maybe that happened, but I certainly don`t remember Democrats making
that sort of argument, certainly not the very leaders of the party, the
elder statesmen. He`s really trying to justify something that is
unjustifiable.

And he`s getting his facts wrong. It`s just amazing that you can do
this these days and not have a referee come out and blow the whistle at
you.

C. MATTHEWS: I just think something has changed. I will go back to
what I said in the first segment, guys. You were not here yet.

The hate against the president, which we all know started at the very
fact of people looking at his face in some cases and hearing his name, in
some cases, and that grew of course across the ideological spectrum,
starting at the far right, the fringe right, and has moved over to the
center-right, I agree with that. They hate him.

But now to the point where Laura Ingraham and people like that on the
right, who have brains, know all they have to do is sort of voice that
hate, even though I don`t think they all share it. Some of them are just
doing it professionally. And they just have to play that incredible power
of the hatred to just say, Hillary did this, Obama did this, and that`s
enough. I have never seen anything like it.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Look what they`re willing to do. Lynn Westmoreland, who is on
the committee, called Obama uppity, and he still is considered to be a
Republican leader.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Can you be an uppity white guy? I have never heard
that. Is a white guy capable of being uppity?

CORN: Maybe if you try really hard, you can be uppity, Chris, but we
know what this means. It`s not even code. It`s not even code.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: It`s explicitly racial.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: "Birth of a Nation." "Birth of a Nation." It`s early
20th century talk.

TOMASKY: You should know I had 50 conservatives on my Twitter feed
this afternoon telling me there`s no racial connotation whatsoever to the
word uppity.

C. MATTHEWS: None?

TOMASKY: No, none.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: It`s an adjective.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Excuse me, guys, we`re Americans and we have grown up
with the good, the bad and the ugly of our country. It`s got it all.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Michael Tomasky. Have a
nice weekend, you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Have a nice Mother`s Day, where it`s appropriate.

By the way, you have to rely on the people who are the mothers.

Up next, a part-time vampire and full-time Republican -- that`s the
same guy -- running for the United States Congress makes the mistake of
talking to Stephen Colbert. That`s always a mistake, usually.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

JAKE RUSH (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: There`s an adage in
military and law enforcement that you never want to have to take the same
ground twice. It`s costly.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Like going into war in
Iraq twice.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSH: Right.

COLBERT: Which one of those should we not have done?

(LAUGHTER)

RUSH: Well, Stephen, the problem with -- well, I don`t know. Wars
are complicated.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: OK. Good. That`s good to know.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."

That was of course the great Stephen Colbert sitting down with Florida
congressional Jake Rush. The Republican is challenging Ted Yoho, but has
become more well-known for what he does in his free time. You see, Jake
Rush likes to role-play as a vampire with several alter egos. I`m not
making this up. Here`s Colbert asking him about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: You go by the alter egos Chazz Darling, Staas von Winst, the
Kriessler, and Archbishop Kettering. Who am I speaking to right now?

(LAUGHTER)

RUSH: You`re speaking to Jake Rush.

COLBERT: That is a great character name.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSH: That`s my real name.

COLBERT: Jake Rush woke early one morning. He didn`t know why there
was blood on his sheets. All he knew there was a dead woman in bed with
him.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: What happens next? What happens next?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

RUSH: Hopefully, he gets out the vote, get people motivated to come
out.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. MATTHEWS: What a mismatch of minds there.

Anyway, Rush says being a -- that`s Rush there -- says being open
about his vampire role-playing helps him focus on privacy rights and
personal freedom. I`m sure.

Next up, during an appearance on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," the
great Larry King shared a story about a fender-bender with a political
great down in Florida. It all began with a Sunday morning drive, he said,
through Palm Beach back in 1958, when Mr. King says he became distracted
looking at the mansions in the community.

Listen to what he says happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS")

LARRY KING, FORMER HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I looked up, and suddenly
there`s a guy parked in a car in a convertible. I`m going about 10 miles
an hour. And I hit him. I hit him. We`re the only two people on the
road.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: So he gets out of the car and he goes like this. How could
you? How could you hit me?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Well, I said, gee, you want -- I`m sorry. I was looking up at
houses. I apologize. I said, do you want to exchange licenses or
something? We had two little bumpers.

He says, no, I want all four of you to raise your hand. He said, I`m
Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts. I`m going to run for president in
two years. I want you all to swear you will vote for me.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: We voted for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. MATTHEWS: I don`t think Kennedy talks like this. I`m just
guessing anyway, but it`s a great story, Larry.

Up next, Republicans still can`t find that presidential candidate who
can hit the center-right sweet spot and avoid an Election Day debacle in
2016. And I completely believe in this. They`re still looking for that
Mr. Right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

President Obama praised Wal-Mart`s investment and energy efficiency
and renewables during a visit to a store in Mountain View, California. The
visit was part of a broader energy reform push.

The White House is criticizing a visit by Vladimir Putin to Crimea,
which it says will only serve to fuel tensions there.

And Dick Parsons is the NBA`s pick to serve as interim CEO of the
Clippers. Commissioner Adam Silver says the ex-Citigroup chairman will
bring immediate stability to that organization -- back to HARDBALL.

C. MATTHEWS: Well, the progressives are going to love this topic,
finally.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans have become a far-right party, as everybody knows now, but
in Republican presidential politics, center-right is the sweet spot,
because then you can win. And along the spectrum of potential GOP
aspirants, which includes the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the critical
center-right real estate is up for grabs right now, especially if Jeb Bush
doesn`t run.

Mitt Romney of all people has shown he doesn`t want to be too far away
from the arena in case that center-right slot needs to be filled because
Jeb doesn`t run and Christie is not clean enough to run. In just the past
few months, he`s been very visible on the Sunday shows. He`s endorsed
Republican candidates in the 2014 cycle and given money to others. And
this morning, he popped up on "MORNING JOE."

They have been trying to get him. He tacked very much to the center
on the issue of minimum wage. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I, for instance, part company with many of the conservatives
in my party on the issue of minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it,
because, frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. MATTHEWS: Anyway, he said -- or hopes that Hillary Clinton`s term
as secretary of state will hurt her in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think her record there is a very substantial liability for
her campaign in 2016. And I think it`s going to raise a lot of questions
about her capacity to actually accomplish things of significance,
particularly on foreign soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. MATTHEWS: Well, as former Senator Gene McCarthy, my hero, once
said famously, it`s easier to run for president than to stop.

And based on his frequent TV appearances of late, and political
endorsements, it looks like Mitt Romney wants to stick close to the action.

Beth Fouhy is a senior editor MSNBC.com. And Dana Milbank is a
columnist for "The Washington Post."

Beth, I have heard what you think about this. I think you`re
brilliantly correct. So, go ahead. What is Mr. Romney -- and, by the way,
he still looks like he belongs in the Hall of the Presidents down in
Disneyland or Disney World. But go ahead. Your thoughts.

BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: Well, another thing that Romney
did on the "MORNING JOE" appearance this morning was to say he didn`t want
to run for president again. He said he doesn`t think that the United
States wants to elect anybody who`s already run twice and lost.

And I think he`s probably right. The country clearly has no big
clamor for Mitt Romney. But what he did do was, he sort of signaled who he
thought would fill that center-right space that you like to talk about,
Chris. He talked about Paul Ryan, who was his running mate of course in
2012. He talked about Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio.

He talked about Mike Pence, the governor from Indiana. He talked
about Scott Walker. He laid out a whole list of people that he said would
basically match him in terms of his views and would be electable. And
that`s the major point that he made, that they could actually win. I don`t
think they could, but...

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Why is he hanging around? Why do you keep saying he?
Why is he talking? Why is he in our face? Why is he on television? Just
to promote other people? Or is he trying to keep our eye on him in case
they can`t get Ryan to run, in case Jeb decides not to run, unless Christie
is too tangled, too stuck on the bridge, that they can`t reach deep enough
to go into Pence, imagine, or Walker?

I like Kasich, but they`re pretty far back on the bench. There isn`t
anybody sitting on that front step of the Republican Party right now.

FOUHY: Right. Exactly.

I guess he feels like why should he do the proverbial Shermanesque
statement and say under no circumstances will I run. If all these guys
implode -- it`s unlikely, but we have already seen Chris Christie implode
and Jeb didn`t get off to a great start either. So, he kind of wants to
leave his options open.

C. MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let me just explain my limited role around
here, besides genuinely doing the show, is history.

And Beth is pretty much right, except I know a guy that ran for
presidency three times, ran three times, and won on the third time, Ronald
Reagan. He ran in `68, `70 -- you`re just saying, oh, that doesn`t count.
Oh, that doesn`t count. It`s just Ronald Reagan.

FOUHY: You know why it doesn`t?

C. MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t it count? Because he won?

FOUHY: Because California is out of play for Republicans. Ronald
Reagan, in his era, he was the governor of California, and it was very much
a Republican state.

C. MATTHEWS: But he ran three times.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
Yes.

There`s no doubt that Mitt Romney thinks he would be a terrific
president. And the only thing that cures presidential ambition is
embalming fluid.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Who said that first?

MILBANK: Mo Udall, I think.

C. MATTHEWS: OK.

MILBANK: So, of course he wants to be there on the sidelines in case
everybody is injured on the court.

But it`s not just that he lost twice. All the conservatives and all
the Republicans basically believe he lost an election that was his to won -
- they -- that was his to won win.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: But he won the first debate. He probably goes to bed at
night thinking, if I had won two debates, not one, I would be president.

MILBANK: They blame him...

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: The 47 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: It`s hard to see.

But you are correct. And what Republicans always do is, they exhaust
all other possibilities before going for the most obvious one, the central
-- center-right guy, whether it was Romney, whether it was McCain.

C. MATTHEWS: McCain.

MILBANK: And even George W. Bush was that role. Certainly, his
father was in that role, certainly Dole.

So, they do have a history of doing this after they flirt with all
these other guys. And it`s certainly there for the taking. There`s nobody
above 13 or 14 points in the Republican polls right now. There`s, like,
nine candidates within seven points of each other.

C. MATTHEWS: OK.

Beth, you look at this all the time. Here`s my question. Republicans
have got a make a decision. Can they beat Hillary? I think they`re going
to decide they can. The polls will be close enough to say we can knock her
off, we can take her down. Or decide we can`t beat her, so let`s have fun
and do what we really believe and run somebody on the right.

What do you think they`re going to decide, go for it, which means go
to the center, don`t pick the person that you love, go to the person you
got to live with, which is somebody further to the center? I think the one
closest to the center right now is Hillary. And I think they`re going to
have a hard time beating her if they don`t get that close.

FOUHY: Well, just think about the list of people that you and Dana
just went through. Every single one of them was the center-right
candidate. Every single one of them lost.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Well, George W. won.

FOUHY: Well, OK, we`re going back quite a few years there. And the
country has changed a lot there.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: Well, you`re young. To me, that`s not that many years
ago. That`s only a small part of my life. It may be a big part of yours,
Beth, but not mine.

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

FOUHY: No, I mean, the bigger problem for Republicans this time is
structural.

Democrats have in the last 20 years won 18 state that have produced
248 electoral votes. That is starting with such a huge advantage. And the
rest of the states that aren`t in that category are states like Florida
that are moving more and more towards the Democratic side.

C. MATTHEWS: OK. But what about the tendency of the country to
rotate the stock?

And every eight years they tend to go back and forth, with some
exceptions, like people wanted a third term for Reagan, and Dukakis was a
bad candidate politically. But, generally, there`s a tremendous challenge
to somebody who tries to hold the White House -- you try this, Dana -- for
that last 12 years, because that means 16 years. It`s really hard to sell
that one.

MILBANK: It is.

But I think what we`re missing here is and Beth was getting at there
is, the Republicans are up against this huge demographic problem. Even if
they have the perfect candidate right now, it`s very hard for them to
thread the needle. And of course it will be even worse in 2020 and 2024,
beyond that.

So, they have to thread it just properly. And you`re not going to get
that with a Rand Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: By the way, Hillary and Sherrod Brown owning Ohio, they
win the election. That`s my argument. I`m not in charge. Hillary,
Sherrod Brown, Clinton-Brown ticket wins.

Anyway, Beth Fouhy, a gritty guy that went to Yale, but doesn`t let it
show, Dana Milbank. Thank you.

Up next, who better to talk about Mother`s Day and women`s issues
around this world than somebody who travels around the world all the time,
my wife, Kathleen? And she`s coming here next. The queen, there she is.
Looks like a queen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. MATTHEWS: Mother`s Day is this Sunday, of course.

And I want to remind you about our partnership of the group Born Free,
which is working on the ambitious goal of completely eliminating the
transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from mother to child by
the end of 2015, no children born with HIV. Believe it or not, scientists
say it can be done.

If you want to help this very important mission, you can find more
information on our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

And we will be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Have you noticed the enormous attention to women`s issues around the
world lately? There`s a worldwide focus on women and girls. And we have
seen it through the horrors, of course, in Nigeria recently, where 276
girls were abducted by a militant group, which sparked international
outrage.

In politics, we have seen positive side of attention paid to women in
the fight for equal pay, cracking down on sexual abuse in the military, and
of course the possibility of the first woman president of the United States
in Hillary Clinton.

We have also seen it in business. billionaire, COO of Facebook, an
advocate for women and girls, Sheryl Sandberg created a movement after
releasing her book "Lean In" and started a foundation aimed to help women
achieve their professional and personal goals. From world affairs to
government or business, the challenges facing the world these days are ripe
for leadership from women.

And there`s only one woman I can think of to discuss this for me and
with me ahead of this Mother`s Day weekend, the mother of our three
children, my wife, Kathleen Matthews.

Kathleen, thank you for joining us.

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS: It`s on these special occasions that I ask you to come
on, and you have agreed.

But there is something in the air where centuries have gone by, maybe
back from the beginning of time, where men dominated the conversation, the
conversation, not just the power. And now the conversation is shifting.
It clearly has in my lifetime.

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL:
I think we have seen this conversation ebb and flow.

I mean, I got into the work force in the 1970s. And I remember at
that time, this was going to be the big movement of women into the work
force towards equality and pay and different things. And I would have
imagined I would have seen a lot more CEO -- CEOs that were women by this
point in my lifetime.

And I think what you see is, you see progress and then you see a
couple steps backward. But something like the young women who have been
kidnapped in Nigeria, that`s not a women`s issue. But I think there is
this outrage and this sense of...

C. MATTHEWS: To them, it is,

K. MATTHEWS: ... what about what about the mothers?

C. MATTHEWS: These Islamic terrorists.

K. MATTHEWS: Think about the mothers who have these 300 daughters who
are missing, and the fathers who are worried about those daughters.

And so I think to see the world catalyze around that, whether it is
first lady Michelle Obama talking about it, Hillary Clinton talking about
it, women all over the world, but Nigeria is a country that has a finance
minister who is a woman.

It is a country that`s trying to move into this century. And women`s
rights are going to have to be at the forefront of that. You are going to
have to have the women of Nigeria feel safe, to feel that they have
opportunity.

Otherwise, a country like that, even though it has already eclipsed
South Africa as the number one economy in Africa, is not going to ever
become a world power until women have rights and feel safe in a country
like that.

C. MATTHEWS: What do we do with one of our allies that we get our oil
from, like Saudi Arabia, where women can`t drive a car? They`re basically
subjective to the men.

K. MATTHEWS: I think -- I think these are really tough questions on
the foreign policy front. And how do we move these countries forward?

In Saudi Arabia, women are trying to drive cars. They don`t even have
the right to drive cars. They`re posting their videos on YouTube. They`re
being educated, so you have schools, but it is a segregated education
system. And women cannot have jobs alongside men in that economy.

How can Saudi Arabia move into the leading economies of the world and
sort of the progress of this century, unless they deal with those issues,
which for them they say are religious issues? And I think the U.S. finds
ourselves oftentimes in really difficult positions on how we deal with
these kind of diplomatic issues.

And we have got problems here at home. So, you talked about equal
pay. Well, we are talking about it not because it is a positive issue. We
are talking about it because the studies show there is not necessarily
equal pay.

On our corporate boards, 16 percent of the representatives on
corporate boards are women. They should be closer to 50 percent. CEOs, it
is the same thing. Companies like Marriott have women`s strategies now,
because we are trying to make progress in the...

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: What do you mean? What do think of lean forward, lean
in?

K. MATTHEWS: Well, let me lean in on this a little bit.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: ... lean forward. What`s lean in mean?

K. MATTHEWS: Well, lean in is about the fact that I think Sheryl
Sandberg believes that women have a role in this, too, that women have to
kind of push to take their place.

They have got to be demanding of those opportunities and they have got
to take advantage of those opportunities. So, I think what she`s saying
is, companies -- companies will not flourish unless they have the diversity
of men and women.

You need that diversity of many kinds, diversity in age, in gender, in
racial representation, in order to have a really smart business, I think,
or a smart government. And so she`s saying, companies have to do this.
Governments have to do it. But women also have to lean in to take those
opportunities.

And so that`s why this dialogue is out there. It is out there because
you still see lagging progress. And I think that no company or no country
is going to really flourish unless they take advantage of the intellectual
potential of women, the economic power of women.

C. MATTHEWS: Yes.

K. MATTHEWS: The countries doing the best in the world are ones where
women are leaning in and are out there and being...

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: What about the reaction -- what`s your reaction to what
our friend Sven (ph), Sven Holmes (ph), told us about how, when you go out
to recruit women for top accountant jobs, that some of them say -- men will
immediately say, well, I can fill a couple of those standards and maybe I
can B.S. my way through a couple more; women want to fit every one of the
standards?

When are women going to have that same ability, the self-confidence to
say, OK, I can do this, even if it doesn`t technically mean I can do it, I
will find a way to do it, where guys will generally say, I can do it?

K. MATTHEWS: It is kind of a two-way street.

But this is sort of how girls grow up. So, you have people like
Sheryl Sandberg and Condi Rice and the head of the Girl Scouts saying, you
know what, girls have to sort of embrace being pushy, girls have to embrace
being, what is the word -- they have a word for it that -- where girls are
seen as being pushy if they sort of say, I want to be class president, not
class vice president or secretary.

C. MATTHEWS: Yes.

Do you like that idea?

K. MATTHEWS: I think that it is how you raise your daughters. How do
you think we have raised our daughter? We have two boys and a girl.

C. MATTHEWS: She will be president someday or something.

K. MATTHEWS: And what do you -- but she`s got to get through, number
one, does she want to have a family, and if she has a family, how much does
she leave the work force for that. What are going to be the things in
place to help her raise that family?

C. MATTHEWS: Yes.

K. MATTHEWS: Will she find a husband that will share this load with
her?

We have been very lucky to be able to have a marriage where we both
were full-time in our careers and had the joy of raising children, which we
celebrate on this Mother`s Day coming up, and to be able to sort of pursue
careers, at the same time feeling like we had great quality time with our
kids.

C. MATTHEWS: You know what? Kathleen, I agree with everything you
said.

Thank you, Kathleen. You were great.

K. MATTHEWS: Because you have been a great partner in all of this.

C. MATTHEWS: I have supported -- well, I wish I could be as equal to
greatness as you are.

Anyway, we will be right back.

Kathleen Matthews, I have words to speak about her on my own when
she`s gone.

And we will be right back after this.

K. MATTHEWS: Uh-oh.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. MATTHEWS: Well, "Let Me Finish" tonight with what Kathleen just
told us.

We have been together 36 years. And I have been fortunate to watch
her grow from a local TV producer to a top news anchor here in the nation`s
capital, to a highly placed corporate executive.

I watched her educate herself, as I have tried to do, to the
challenges facing this world, including those challenging women. She has
taken a particular interest in the horror of HIV/AIDS in Africa, being
actively involved on that front, with special focus on the transmission of
the infection from mother to children.

She has gotten our own children as they grew older to get involved
themselves in this work of caring for African kids born with AIDS.

Kathleen has also been a proponent of our encouraging the development
of what is micro-entrepreneurialism, efforts to help women especially --
women especially begin small businesses in places like rural Africa.

I love Kathleen`s big-picture look at the world that she`s gained over
these years as executive vice president of Marriott International. She
just took me on a trip to China as part of a business trip, and gave me a
look at that incredible country as it zooms into the 21st century.

Well, I think there`s no limit to where Kathleen herself is zooming.
I am so lucky, don`t you think? And all the time, she is the best mother
of Michael, Thomas and Caroline. I sometimes think she`s too tough. I`m
the softy.

But when I look into the kids` faces, I know they love every minute
and every ounce of real concern and insistent love that Kathleen gives
them.

She was the one who worked with them on the homework mostly, and the
one who focused on their medical care, and the one who made sure they grew
up enriched with all the cultural sophistication out there.

Happy Mother`s Day to all of you out there, especially to the queen.

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

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

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