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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/02/15

Guests: John Brabender, Susan Page, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jonathan Allen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The football season is over. The HARDBALL season begins. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington -- the HARDBALL Chris Matthews, by the way, not that brilliant guy on the Seahawks. What a whirlwind right now politically. Before this Super Bowl weekend, which seems a good while ago now, Mitt Romney made his big announcement. It was just Friday that he made the announcement that he`s out of the race for 2016. The reason? Well, it seems to have come down to a combination of rejection by a lot of the money people that Romney was counting on, the prospect of Jeb Bush staring him down, and Mitt`s own family. He didn`t want to spend the next year-and-a-half slogging through hell. Well, now comes a new poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers showing that Jeb Bush is going practically nowhere out there with that crowd, this crowd that has picked people like Mike Huckabee, and most recently, Rick Santorum to be their champion. So what gives? If the money people seem bent on Jeb and the grass roots right seems to be rejecting him, where is the party going to go to find a leader that can unite and excite it enough to give Hillary Clinton a fight? Well, John Brabender is a Republican strategist, and Robert Gibbs is the former White House press secretary and an MSNBC contributor. And as I mentioned, a new poll from "The Des Moines Register" just out and Bloomberg Politics shows that Jeb Bush has some ground to make up with the conservative grass roots of his party. Look at this poll. It shows that the leader of the pack in Iowa is the new kid on the block, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He`s followed by Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee, no surprise there. Jeb Bush is fifth with 9 percent, the guy who everybody calls the front-runner, fifth out there. He also lags behind on favorability compared to other potential candidates. Scott Walker has a net favorable -- that means favorable over unfavorable - - of 48, meaning 60 percent of voters have a favorable view of him. Only 12 percent have a favorable view of -- well, the others, anyway -- unfavorable view, rather. Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and others all have high net favorables among likely Iowa caucus-goers. They all look good out there. For Jeb Bush, his net favorability is low one digit, 3. So for Chris Christie, it`s even worse -- negative. He`s the only big negative out there, 18. We can (ph) get (ph) through that.   John, why don`t they like Christie out in Iowa -- JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all -- MATTHEWS: -- among your party? BRABENDER: First of all, you do have to take some of this in perspective. I mean, everybody was talking about Michele Bachmann when she won the Ames straw poll only to finish last in the Iowa caucuses. But with that said, Iowa is a conservative state. Chris Christie is seen as relatively moderate. Jeb Bush is relatively moderate. The real problem for this in this poll is not where they are in the mix, it`s that they have high unfavorables. So they`ve got to change a lot of minds, which is difficult to do, especially because they`re not the type that`s all of a sudden going to move to the right. So I think they`ve got some problems, issues like Common Core, immigration. Their positions are just not going to play with mainstream Republicans in Iowa. MATTHEWS: What I`m stunned with is how much knowledge they have of these guys. I mean, these are regular voters, guys. They`re not people watching television all night long. They don`t real all the papers all day long. They seem to know all the candidates. They have a personal opinion of all the candidates already, two years out. They`ve had to judge that Chris Christie is not their guy. But they really like this new guy, Scott Walker who`s the governor of Wisconsin. And they know all about him, enough to say he`s a 48 percent net plus. That`s a hell of a lot of information, Robert. ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, one, Iowans take their role exceedingly seriously. MATTHEWS: Yes. GIBBS: And a lot of these guys --   (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: None of these guys are going to seal the deal with any caucus-goer until they`ve literally had a chance to meet them five or six times. Secondly, caucus-goers are the highest-interest primary voter. So if you`re going to participate in a primary, that`s one thing. If you`re going to participate in a caucus, which is a different level of commitment, it`s that probably top 10 or 20 percent of people that would normally participate in a primary, heavy information voters, people that have a lot of information and are following these guys well before they ever come to Iowa to play president. MATTHEWS: It is impressive that people know this much. Anyway, this weekend, Scott Walker sounded very confident. I`ve always thought he was a sleeper, but I wasn`t that sure. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 99 percent chance you`ll run? GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Oh, I don`t know that I`d take the odds. I just would tell you one thing. After three elections for governor in four years in a state that hasn`t gone Republican since 1984 for president, I wouldn`t bet against me on anything. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He also took a jab at both Hillary Clinton, and by implication, Jeb Bush. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WALKER: People want new, fresh leadership with big, bold ideas, and the courage to act on it. And if we`re going to take on a name from the past, which is likely to be former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, I think for the party, we need a name from the future. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. They got rid of Mitt. Now they`re going to -- this is an age war. This is "Logan`s Run" here, Robert. GIBBS: Well, I think, look -- MATTHEWS: Get rid of the old guys. GIBBS: The great thing about that bank shot was the explicit criticism of the ex-secretary of state and the implicit criticism of the -- MATTHEWS: Jeb. GIBBS: -- Jeb Bush. So look, I think -- I think it`s way premature to call anybody the front-runner. I think you have tiers of candidates, and I think clearly, in the top tier of candidates in Iowa, Scott Walker, probably Jeb Bush, and to some degree a social conservative, in that poll probably Mike Huckabee. MATTHEWS: Yes. GIBBS: And truth is, what puts Jeb Bush in the top tier isn`t his standing in Iowa as much as it is his standing writ large and his ability to raise probably the $100 million it`s going to take to win this primary. MATTHEWS: Have you been out talking to enough people to know whether people are just in a mood -- like, most people who vote want to pick the next president, but early going, they want to send a message, too. But do you get a sense this might be one of those years -- the Democrats had it back in `72, a long time ago, with McGovern. McGovern wasn`t going to be elected president against Nixon. Wasn`t going to happen. But it was -- it felt good for the people on the left. They felt great being for McGovern. He was anti-war. He was sort of an intellectual, you know? He was a war hero, but he was also a professor. He was perfect for the Democratic left. Do you think your party might be onto a year that`s just a little bit wackier than most years, they`re just going to pick somebody like Goldwater or McGovern and say, We don`t give a damn about the close election coming next November, we`re going to say what we really feel? And maybe one of these other guys, maybe Ted Cruz, maybe Ben Carson, maybe Rand Paul -- is it that wild a year? Can you tell if that`s out there?   BRABENDER: Here`s the problem. The Republican Party isn`t a single entity anymore. It`s not homogeneous anymore. It`s broken into libertarians, Tea Party, social conservatives, establishment, working class, you know, anti- terrorism. They`re all different types of Republicans, so it`s splintered. The biggest difference you`re going to see this time in, is some sense, we`ve become the Democrats. We don`t have -- MATTHEWS: I agree. And it`s the other way, too. It`s working on the other side. BRABENDER: We get a lot of people out there. But I will say this. I think they`re all quality candidates. And the other thing to watch for this year, no one`s going to win Iowa with 30 percent of the vote. Someone`s going to win it with 20 percent of the vote. And that`s what`s going to happen in state after state. You`re going to see five or six candidates all the way to the end. MATTHEWS: Really? They can afford it? BRABENDER: The way that it`s set up this time, especially with a lot of states proportional, you don`t have to play statewide. You can pick -- MATTHEWS: They are switching. It sounds like your party in `08. GIBBS: Well, it is, and the truth is -- John`s absolutely right. Usually, Democrats have these big personality and issue-driven primaries with 10 or 12 people, and you don`t know what`s going to happen. Republicans are an establishment. They pick the guy that didn`t win the nomination last time. Those roles are completely reversed this time. I think it`s going to be fascinating. MATTHEWS: And you have people in the race, like Sharpton played in the Democratic Party a couple of those times, remember? You`re the most interesting guy in the debate. You`re not going to win necessarily, but you`re definitely going to be the best show. And I just wonder -- you won`t answer my question. Could this be a wacko year and you just go crazy -- we don`t care who`s going to win against Hillary. We`re running a person we really believe in, like a Cruz or a Ben Carson or a Rand Paul. BRABENDER: Well, I will say this. The primary thing is voters are not going to say in the Republican primaries who is the best November candidate. They don`t care about that. MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m asking.   BRABENDER: They care, does the candidate represent their views, because there`s no -- MATTHEWS: That`s the way the Democrats used to be. BRABENDER: -- (INAUDIBLE) a Democrat-lite. And I will tell you, I think we have credible candidates so you can get away with it this year. You can pick any of these -- MATTHEWS: Well -- BRABENDER: -- candidates, and I think they`ll be competitive. MATTHEWS: And you think Ted Cruz would be competitive with Hillary Clinton? BRABENDER: Yes, I absolutely do. MATTHEWS: OK, let me -- you know what that reminds me of? The old days of the left of the Democratic Party in D.C. November doesn`t count. It doesn`t matter. We`re going to vote for the person we believe in. Let me ask you about the Democrats because just -- I didn`t intend to ask about it, but I don`t see any rebellion against Hillary Clinton yet of any significance. I mean, rebellion. GIBBS: No, I don`t think so. MATTHEWS: They`re open to her.   GIBBS: I think, though, she has specific challenges that are apart from who the Republicans nominate. I think, first and foremost, she has to articulate exactly why she wants to run and what she`d do as president in a compelling way. Secondly, I think what`s going to be interesting to watch -- and the Obama campaign felt this in 2011 and 2012 -- without contested caucuses and primaries, it`s not as easy to get people excited as it is if you`re going through that process -- MATTHEWS: Yes. GIBBS: -- of every two weeks having this thing. So there`s a lot that - - I still think there`s a lot that she has to do. I actually think -- and I agree with -- I think this race is going to be super-close in November of 2016. I actually believe -- GIBBS: In November. I don`t think there`s any doubt about that. And I think, quite frankly -- you`ve seen Reince Priebus say this and others. I think Republicans -- I don`t think they`re going to pick (ph) Iowa. They`re not going to look at it and say, Boy, we have to pick the best person in November. But by the time we get into the fall, there`s no doubt that this is not going to be just a "send a message" election. BRABENDER: But if Hillary Clinton has Elizabeth Warren get in the race, does Hillary Clinton -- MATTHEWS: She`s not going to get in. BRABENDER: Does Hillary Clinton -- let`s say, hypothetically, she would. MATTHEWS: Biden has a better chance. BRABENDER: Who wins Iowa -- MATTHEWS: Of getting in.   BRABENDER: Who wins Iowa between Elizabeth Warren -- (CROSSTALK) BRABENDER: -- Elizabeth Warren would win because she`d make the most noise. BRABENDER: Which is the biggest nightmare Hillary Clinton has. MATTHEWS: Anyway -- GIBBS: I wouldn`t necessarily bet on -- MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, look -- see, I disagree with you. I don`t think Hillary should go for a close election. I know you`re not saying that. But I think she should go for a 55 percent victory, 54 percent victory, because then she could bring the House in. She could bring the Senate in. And then she could really rule this country. This country needs somebody to get control of it. Somebody`s got to win this election. I don`t want another split down the middle. And I think -- so I`m more conservative. So I would think she should go more to the center. People that say, Oh, follow Elizabeth off to the left, and I would say, Well, there`s a way not to get 55 percent, go to the hard left. Anyway, we`re already out of time. God -- you`re really good at this. And you`re, of course, always brilliant. Thank you. GIBBS: You played a great game in the Super Bowl. MATTHEWS: Did you like these receptions --   (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: Absolutely -- I didn`t think you had it in you, but wow. (CROSSTALK) BRABENDER: The plug he got during the Super Bowl was better than any of the ads that people paid millions and millions for. I bet viewership triples tonight. MATTHEWS: OK, I`ll say it. Thank you, Al Michaels. Thank you very much, John Brabender. Thank you, Robert Gibbs. It was a thrill to be at the stadium and watching all this. Coming up: Chris Christie steps in a minefield over vaccines. The New Jersey governor says there needs to be balance and parents need a choice about whether to vaccinate their kids. Science, of course, says otherwise. So what`s Christie up to? I think he`s playing to the group we were talking to out in Iowa. Plus, President Obama`s budget just out there today is a bold progressive statement. He wants to raise taxes on the rich and spend money to put people to work. Good stuff -- corporate tax reform, tax reform, infrastructure. It`s everything I`ve been believing in. I don`t think it came from me, but it`s certainly what I think is right. It shows me that he wants to lead with swagger and dare the Republicans to say no to a really good centrist idea. And if you watched the Super Bowl last night, you heard plenty of talk about this guy, Chris Matthews, the Seahawks` Chris Matthews. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with why I think the Democrats need to hold their convention next year, national convention, in Philadelphia. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Well, New England is celebrating its Super Bowl win, and the Patriots are expected to arrive in home in Boston`s Logan Airport in the next few minutes. But they`re arriving home to a midst -- well, in the midst of a huge winter storm, the second in a week. NBC`s Miguel Almaguer is in Boston and joins us with the latest. Are they going to be able to get off the plane? MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: They will, Chris, if they`re wearing jackets. It`s bitterly cold out here. The temperatures are going to plummet over the next 24 hours. I should point out Boston has had some 14 hours of steady snow here, and also those whipping winds, where actually, on Boylston Street -- this is the parade route and this is a problem, the reason why the parade has been delayed until Wednesday. The street is a mess. There are mounds and piles of snow five, six feet high in this area. And it`s only getting worse. We`re going to see steady snow over the next few hours, and then it`s going to turn to bitterly cold temperatures. Roads across this region are a mess. In New York, there were several spinouts. At least two people were killed on the roadways. The conditions here only getting worse as it gets colder. But the good news is the snow will stop overnight. It`s just going to be those frigid temperatures they`re going to have to deal with. School has been canceled tomorrow, as well as, of course, as you know, the parade has been pushed back until Wednesday. When the Patriots do make their way out here, it`s certainly going to be cold, but probably not snowing, Chris. MATTHEWS: Great story. But Boston is strong, Miguel. You know that. Anyway, Miguel Almaguer, thank you, up in Boston, for that report. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today opened a Pandora`s box over public health, suggesting at a press conference in London today that parents should have more of a choice when it comes to vaccinating their kids from infectious diseases like measles. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Do you think Americans should vaccinate their kids? Is the measles vaccine safe? GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: All I can say is that we vaccinate ours. So you know, that`s the best expression I can give you of my opinion. You know, it`s much more important, I think, when you think as a parent, than what you think as a public official. And that`s what we do. But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things, as well. So that`s the balance that the government has to decide. It depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest. And so I didn`t say I`m leaving (ph) people the option. What I`m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns because no parent -- no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child`s health. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a baseball player trying to tag every base at once. Anyway, his statement comes as the country here, our country, is going through the worst measles outbreak in two decades, a disease many thought had been eliminated just 15 years ago. In 2014, the number of reported cases of measles was tripled out of previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with 644 cases across 27 states. Well, that spike is attributed to the growing anti-vaccination movement in this country, those who believe there are dangers associated with childhood vaccinations since the -- despite the scientific evidence that there is not. Well, President Obama was far less ambiguous on the subject when he was asked about it over the weekend. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We`ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated. There aren`t reasons to not get vaccinated.   QUESTION: Are you telling parents you should get your kids vaccinated? OBAMA: You should get your kids vaccinated. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that`s pretty clear. But later this morning, Governor Christie appeared to walk back his comments, such as they were, with a statement from his office. Quote, "The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection, and with a disease like measles, there is no question kids should be vaccinated." "There is no question kids should be vaccinated"! Joining me now is former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who`s a medical doctor, of course, and "USA Today`s" Susan (sic). Dr. Dean, I have to tell you, I don`t understand what game Christie`s playing there because he seemed to be saying everything at once. And the only reason I can think he`s playing that game is for trying to reach the Republican hard right or somebody out there on the yahoo regions that doesn`t like science. I don`t know what he`s up to. What do you think he`s up to? HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think he`s pandering. This is -- you know, this is the second time for him on public health. In general, politicians shouldn`t talk about something they don`t know anything about. He clearly doesn`t know anything about public health. He tried to quarantine some lady who came back from Liberia who was -- who did not need to be quarantined, and she fortunately -- he actually stuck her in a tent outside a hospital in New Jersey, and she finally got to go up to -- got to go up to Maine, which is where she lived, and the governor up there carried on about it. You know, there`s a science associated with medicine, and people probably ought to listen to what it is before they come to these kinds of conclusions, especially people who are running for president. MATTHEWS: Susan, I didn`t understand -- I listened closely. I read what he said before. He was asked about the measles epidemic, and then he ended up saying we ought to have parental choice of some kind. And then his office put back, Well, in cases of measles, they should be vaccinated, which is what he was asked about. So what game is he playing? SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, you know, if he`s -- DEAN: Well, you know, I think you`re -- I`m sorry. Go ahead, Susan.   MATTHEWS: That`s for Susan first. I`m sorry. PAGE: Well, so let`s look at the politics of this. I do not think this makes much sense for Governor Christie because, in the first place, if he`s pandering the way Dr. Dean says and there`s a perception of that, that`s quite at odds with the kind of truth-teller, "I`ll stand up and tell you like it is" image he has. And if he`s pandering, he`s pandering to a group of voters that are not really his voters. I mean, the voters who are alarmed about vaccinations and likely to disbelieve that they`re the right thing to do for their kids and they homeschool their kids, this is not the Christie consolation voters. Those are voters who will go to somebody like Mike Huckabee or Rand Paul. MATTHEWS: Well, another prospective Republican candidate weighed in on the vaccination debate today, suggesting vaccinations can cause mental problems. Here`s Senator Rand Paul on CNBC earlier today -- earlier this evening. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I`m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they`re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn`t own your children. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. PAUL: Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Dr. Dean, Governor Dean, that seems like a pretty loosey-goosey case of causality here. If you heard what he said there, they ended up having problems after they were vaccinated. Well, they -- people have problems after they, you know, do everything, go to New Jersey for the weekend. I don`t know. Everything happens after something else happens. This causality argument I think is pretty weakly explained there. He didn`t explain how vaccination leads to autism or anything else. DEAN: Well, first of all, it doesn`t lead to autism, and that was grossly discredited. I mean, that never should have been put out in the press 15 or 20 years ago, when it happened. Second of all, I actually believe this disqualifies Rand Paul from becoming president of the United States. If you`re a physician and you say what he just said, then you are clearly willing to override any set of facts that you ought to know. It`s one thing for Christie to blunder his way through this and try to pander. For Rand Paul to deny his entire education as a physician -- I assume he went to a good medical school and knows something about medicine -- that is truly appalling. And he -- a guy like that should never be let near the White House. MATTHEWS: Well, he may not be. Anyway, in 2009, in a campaign letter, Governor Christie, himself, also appeared to suggest a link between vaccinations and autism in children -- quote -- "I have met families affected by autism from across the state. Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey`s highest-in-the-nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children." This is so much part of homeschooling, all this sort of, you know, get out of the government, get the government out of the way, the government`s bad, anything the government does is bad. And it`s like this -- DEAN: So, Chris -- MATTHEWS: -- sort of -- anyway, back to you, then back to Susan.   Go ahead, Governor. DEAN: OK. Well, just very quickly, just -- this is -- look, just so I don`t want to be unfair to parents who are legitimately worried and anxious -- well, they`re not legitimately, but they`re anxious and worried, and that matters. But the issue is this. There are 310 million people in this country. A fairly significant number of them are either very small, that is, too young to be vaccinated and, therefore, at risk, or immunocompromised. That is, they have usually cancer or something like that. Those people are at risk of losing their lives. Before vaccines, we used to lose almost 1,000 kids a year to measles. So, this is not something you can just choose for your own kids. This affects every kid in your school that your kid goes to. This affects a great many people besides you. PAGE: And, of course, that goes to real consequences of just having this debate, because it feeds the concerns of parents who maybe have kids at the age that they should be getting vaccinated to worry about whether it`s the right thing to do it. It makes them, perhaps, not vaccinate their kids. That affects, as Governor Dean says, other families who for whatever reason their kids haven`t been vaccinated. That`s why we see the numbers that we have seen in this measles epidemic across this country. So, this is not really just an academic debate that politicians are having. MATTHEWS: Yes. PAGE: And it seems irresponsible, in the absence of being able to cite actual medical evidence that shows what they`re saying has some validity. MATTHEWS: Well, a 2011 study by the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, found out that 40 percent of American parents either delayed or refuse some vaccinations for their children. The data from Pew Research shows a generational shift in thinking on childhood vaccinations; 79 percent of adults over the age of 65 agreed that vaccination should be required, while just 20 percent said parents should decide, while among young adults 18 to 29 years old, just 59 percent said vaccinations should be required, while 40 percent said parents should decide.   So, there you see the impact of all the scare, concern. Governor Dean, this reminds me of something that happened when we were growing up in high school and these debates would happen about fluoridation of water, because to save everybody`s teeth, it was decided that it was healthier for everybody to have some fluoride in our water, so that your teeth would be stronger. And the statistics are there. We have better teeth than a lot of countries do. And we know that. And the question is, is this something like -- and the word went out on the hard right wing, oh, this is something -- it`s a commie plot, a communist plot to sort of, I don`t know what, euthanize us or make us weak or stupid or whatever the plan was. It was supposed to do something to weaken us and it got all over out there on the right wing, the whispers, you know what fluoride does to you. And then we found out that the Soviets fluoride their own people. But I don`t know. Whatever. DEAN: In fairness, it`s not just the right. There`s also some people on the left who believe this often and sort of higher-income groups that -- this sort of an entitlement not to do this. And I understand where it comes from. Look, there are a lot of things we eat that are not good for us, a lot of antibiotics in meat that we shouldn`t have, hormones injected into chickens and meat and things like that. I understand why people are worried about this stuff. But I think part of it, Chris, is I grew up when -- I mean, I knew people who had had polio who were limping around, who were in wheelchairs as a result of that. My step-grandfather had had polio and limped for his entire adult life. So -- but I think, for our age, we have seen what happens when you don`t have vaccines. MATTHEWS: Yes. DEAN: I think that`s something the 18-to-29-year-olds you cited in the poll have never seen. And they don`t understand what the real danger to the public is by not getting vaccinated. MATTHEWS: And a lot of the young people today are not so pro-choice because they don`t know what it was like to live in an environment where you didn`t have a choice. PAGE: And if we go in this direction on vaccinations, maybe we will once again have a situation where people see the consequences of having these diseases come back.   MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I hope not. I hope that`s not the only corrective we have at hand. Anyway, thank you, Dr. and Governor Dean for joining us. It`s great to have your expertise, sir. I mean that. And Susan Page, as always. Up next, had the Seattle Seahawks won last night`s Super Bowl, a guy named Chris Matthews might have been the MVP. That`s a very good bet, by the way, four receptions, big ones. He has got the great name, but he has an even better story personally. We`re going to tell you the story of the other Chris Matthews, maybe the better one. And this is HARDBALL. Well, I`m not that nice -- the other one. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More than 114 million viewers watched the New England Patriots take home the win in Super Bowl XLIX, according to NBC. That`s the largest audience, catch this, for anything in television history. It was a close game, of course, but there was one player with the Seattle Seahawks with a scarily familiar name, at least to me, his name, Chris Matthews, of course. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we were talking about Chris Matthews. Darrell Bevell, the offensive coordinator, nicknamed him Hardball for Chris Matthews of MSNBC, who`s here at the game today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Chris -- this Chris Matthews, the Seahawks` Chris Matthews said, I can`t believe it, every time I Wikipedia myself, it keeps coming up the other guy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Here we go, a little Hardball With Chris Matthews, down the field. This is the one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. What a catch. Wow. Anyway, despite the Seahawks` loss, Matthews had a great night, scoring a touchdown just before halftime. He also had plenty of fans on social media throughout the game. The hashtag #ChrisMatthews has been tweeted out thousands of times since last night. But what`s even more amazing is this other Chris Matthews` backstory. This time last year, the 25-year-old was playing for the Canadian Football League and working two jobs in the off-season, one as a security guard and another at a Foot Locker. Anyway, he got the call from the Seahawks in February to try out, and his response at first, according to "Sports Illustrated," was: "I don`t get out of work until 9:00 p.m. I don`t know if I can make it." Well, a few minutes later, Matthews` agent called, saying, "What are you thinking? Get yourself home, pack up and go. Are you out of your mind?" Well, it turns out Matthews not only made the flight to the tryout, but he also made the Seahawks` practice squad. He was then bumped up to the active roster in December. That`s this past December, a month-and-a-half. And not only even two months later, he`s scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl. That`s a Cinderella story. Up next: President Obama`s still got that swagger. He has laid out his priorities for this year, big spending on infrastructure and a tax hike for the wealthy to pay for it. And he`s daring the Republicans to say no to the deal.   You`re watching HARDBALL, HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in the MSNBC newsroom. Former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder. It`s related to an alleged hit-and-run that killed one man and injured another. His $2 million bail was revoked. NFL Hall of Famer and network announcer Warren Sapp was arrested in Arizona. He allegedly solicited and assaulted a prostitute. And the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots back on home turf. The team`s plane just touched down in Boston. The victory parade, that is Wednesday -- now back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The economy is doing better, but you laid out a bunch of proposals that you know cannot get through this Congress that is run by Republicans now. Isn`t that kind of counterproductive? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No, I disagree with that. I think Republicans that believe that we should be building our infrastructure, the question is, how do we pay for it? That`s a negotiation that we should have. I assume.. GUTHRIE: You`re offering tax hikes, you know, for the healthy. That`s something they couldn`t even get through the Congress when it was run by Democrats. (CROSSTALK)   OBAMA: But, Savannah, my job is to present the right ideas, and if the Republicans think they have got a better idea, they should present them. But my job is not to trim my sails and not tell the American people what we should be doing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, today, President Obama revealed his budget proposal. And it mirrors the goals he laid out in his State of the Union. It`s unabashedly liberal. It`s a political document, of course. And while its chances of getting through a Republican-controlled Congress are slim to none, it does set the tone for the kinds of fights to come. The proposal gets revenue from taxes on the rich and corporations and uses that money for infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges, and mass transit. And it spends money on proposals like free community college aimed at Democratic constituencies, of course. Bloomberg`s Jonathan Allen joins us now. He lays out the challenge Obama has posed to Republicans -- quote -- "The spending blueprint challenges Republicans to make politically thorny choices between defending current tax rates for the rich and Obama`s proposals to boost spending for the middle class, the Pentagon, and companies that build domestic infrastructure. It also plays to the president`s Democratic base with proposals to increase spending for domestic programs such as education and child care and expanding Social Security benefits for some, for same-sex couples." Jonathan Allen joins me right now in the roundtable, along with Huffington Post`s Sabrina Siddiqui -- Siddiqui? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Yes, Siddiqui. MATTHEWS: Pretty good. And "Mother Jones" magazine`s David Corn, a very easy name to remember and to pronounce. (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Sabrina. I want you to go. First of all, you started with this piece. It seems to me that you go where there`s -- where the money is and you go where there might be a chance for a deal. Now, Republicans have always believed in highways. They love it. Construction jobs, companies make money off that, not just workers, but businesses. They love bringing home the bacon. We`re going to get the road fixed in your neighborhood, we`re going to get the bridge fixed, we`re going to get sewers paid for, all kinds water projects. All that stuff has always been immensely popular with Republican members of Congress, and corporate tax reform of some kind to lower the rates. JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Right. MATTHEWS: That`s the door opener for two doors opening here. ALLEN: Yes. The president is daring Republicans to basically vote against taxing corporations that keep profits overseas and taking that money and using it for infrastructure. And what you see today is a twisting in the business community. They want the infrastructure projects. They want the money spent on that. But they obviously don`t want the taxes. And even within the business community, tech companies, pharmaceutical companies, they get hit really hard by this. But there are other companies that make roads, bridges, work on the waterways, and they want to see some of this spending. He`s really trying to divide Republicans here and peel some of them off and bring them over to Democratic constituencies, doing the same thing by offering more money for the Defense Department in exchange for domestic programs. MATTHEWS: So, Sabrina, the question to you is, is the -- where`s the politics in this? I know where the parties stand. But when you go for the middle, is the middle more concerned about income inequality right now? Are they more concerned about protecting the rich so they can invest more? SIDDIQUI: Well, I think the reality is that --   MATTHEWS: Which way? There`s an answer. There`s a question here. Which one is it? Where`s the politics now? Is it fighting the problem of income inequality or is it the old thing of softening the bed of the rich? (CROSSTALK) SIDDIQUI: Fighting income inequality. I think even Republicans, you have heard them acknowledge a lot more in recent months the need to address those Americans who feel left out of this economic recovery, because, as the positive news abounds about the Obama administration`s economic progress, they have to find a new area to go after. And that`s those Americans who aren`t actually feeling the benefits. One of the things that Republicans face in terms of a challenge is that we finally got them to admit that the rich are getting richer. The problem is, the proposals to actually address that issue are ones that face deep divisions within their party or pose deep divisions within their party. MATTHEWS: What are they for? SIDDIQUI: What they`re for? There are some things they are for. Now, Paul Ryan did say he would be open to extending, for example, the earned income tax credit. That`s a low-wage subsidy to childless adults. They also are interested in reforming the corporate tax code in some way. It`s worth noting that the idea of taking money from overseas profits and putting that into spending toward infrastructure is something that Dave Camp, the former chair of the Ways and Means Committee, had also proposed at one point in time. MATTHEWS: Yes? DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: You have to remember, there are also within the Republican coalition the Tea Partiers who really don`t want any new spending. They don`t want -- whether it`s highways, they don`t care. They get voted out of office. They say they don`t care. And if it comes from Obama, they really don`t care for this. And so, you know, the old GOP which used to have some -- the Congress used to have maybe some mayors or governors who had become senators who liked all the shovel-ready projects that we talked about, particularly in states like Pennsylvania and Midwestern states like Michigan and Ohio. They`re going to be up against their right flank. Particularly if it comes with, you know, attached to tax hikes.   Paul Ryan`s already out there talking about envy economics. Any time you talk about taxing the rich, the Republicans start to run away, no matter what it`s for. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s why because they have to pay the piper. Who`s paying for the campaigns? Anyway, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan -- I think the Koch brothers like that, don`t they? Anyway, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee which he is now challenged the president`s plan on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: What I think the president is trying to do here is to, again, exploit envy economics. This top-down redistribution doesn`t work. We`ve been doing it for six years. Look, it may make for good politics. It doesn`t make for good economic growth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK. Who`s smart enough to tell me if we`re getting anything done here or if we`re going to be talking about infrastructure for the next 20 years or actually fix this country? Anybody who gets to travel overseas, whether you go to Switzerland, or Germany, I was there last year, or China, I was there this year with my wife. She`s in the hotel business. She brings me along. CORN: What a deal for you. MATTHEWS: You see the world passing us. America used to be the ones that had the railroad across the continent. CORN: Airports. MATTHEWS: We had the best planes, the best airports. Now, you get the best airport in Johannesburg or anywhere in China. When are we going to catch up?   SIDDIQUI: Realistically speaking, we`re not going to catch up under the Obama administration. As Dave was talking about, there are too many Republicans in Congress who oppose giving him any of those larger -- MATTHEWS: What`s he willing to put on the table? What`s the president willing to cut to pay for infrastructure? Doesn`t he just go up -- doesn`t he have to put up something on the table is. SIDDIQUI: Well, that`s what remains to be seen, what he might be willing to offer them. I think that they -- we have to also see whether now that they have control of both changes of Congress, they feel they have more leverage in some of these showdowns over the death ceiling, over funding the government. They`re already, of course, playing games with DHS funding. So -- (CROSSTALK) CORN: It`s a clash of fundamentals because the things that they want, at least the base of the party, go completely against what Obama wants to do. So, what can he give them? They want low tax cuts and no government. They think government spending is the problem. So, Obama wants to get the infrastructure going, invest in education. There`s a law in this budget, Jonathan, for NIH spending, medical research. You think people can get behind that? Most Republicans -- a lot of Republicans don`t want any of this. So, what do you offer up to get them off the dime? I don`t know. MATTHEWS: They might do chained CPI. We don`t know what they`re going to do. JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money. So, they`re going to have to do something to keep alive just the basic base level. There are a lot of other ideas in this tax plan for overseas. MATTHEWS: Let`s be honest. ALLEN: You might see an increase in the gas tax. The White House isn`t ruling that out right now. You`ve heard some Republicans on Capitol Hill start to say they might do that. They have to find some money to keep road projects going.   MATTHEWS: I know this sounds very traditional, but we`re spending a lot of money we don`t have. Debt, debt, debt. We`re going to add $6 trillion debt right in this document the president came out with today, $6 trillion. The fact there`s a lot of things we`re not even paying for, let alone coughing up a few bucks to pay for something. CORN: We`re doing it less than we were a few years ago. MATTHEWS: That`s a great argument. We owe more money than we make. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, what did Mike Huckabee mean when he appeared to be comparing gay to drinking alcohol or using profanity? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, last week we showed you how John McCain went off some Code Pink protesters who disrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and called for Henry Kissinger to be charged with war crimes. Well, McCain called those protesters "low life scum". Well, over the weekend, he was still fuming. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think they`re terrible people. OK? I think they`re terrible people that would do that to a 91-year-old man with a broken shoulder that to physically threaten him. That is -- that is beyond any normal behavior that I have ever observed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Senator McCain called Kissinger one of the great states me statesmen of the 20th century which is by many people`s standards debatable. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: A lot of Republicans, particularly in the establishment and those who live on the either left coast or those who live up in the bubbles of New York and Washington are convinced that if we don`t capitulate on the same-sex marriage issue, and if we don`t raise the white flag of surrender, and just accept the inevitable, then we`re going to be losers. I tell you, Tim, it is the absolute opposite of that. And if the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue, and while you`re at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn`t matter either, because at that point you lose me, I`m gone. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I`m gone. That`s pretty strong statement by Mike Huckabee. We`re back. That was the governor of Arkansas past. He vowed to leave the Republican Party there if establishment leaders don`t hold fast on their opposition to gay marriage.   Well, this weekend, CNN`s Dana Bash asked Huckabee how he could square those convictions to his openness about having gay friends. He wrote about that in his book. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANA BASH, CNN: You do write very eloquently about it being a religious conviction to oppose -- to oppose gay marriage, but then you also talk about the biblical backings of being heterosexual. So, given that, how do you kind of square that religious conviction with being open to having gay friends? HUCKABEE: People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyle. I don`t shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view. I don`t drink alcohol, but gosh, a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do. You know, I don`t use profanity, but believe me, I got a lot of friends who do. Unless, you know, I get a new version of the Scriptures, it`s really not my place to say, OK, I`m just going to evolve. It`s like asking somebody who`s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Huckabee might have stirred a lot of -- some growling here, many of which sounded like this one from "Chicago Tribune" -- "Mike Huckabee compares being gay to using alcohol, profanity." I`m back with our roundtable, Jonathan, Sabrina and David. I don`t know how diverse we are here. But, David, what do you think about this comment? CORN: I ordered shrimp in delis. I don`t know what he`s talking about. MATTHEWS: Shell fish.   CORN: Yes, I know, some juicy shell fish. Maybe he doesn`t know that. But the thing is about -- what he`s talking -- again, being gay is a lifestyle, it`s a choice -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So, does it make a person a bad person who still believes in nurture not nature? CORN: Well, that (INAUDIBLE). But I think is, I have say, he says he is not evolving and he actually is a little bit. MATTHEWS: Here we go. Sarcasm in the warning here. CORN: No, I`ll telling you, 2007, when he ran last time, I found a book he had written a few years later, in which he compared homosexuality with pedophilia and necrophilia. So, it`s about as bad as you can get. He`s not doing that anymore. He`s just comparing it to drinking. So, that I think is evolution. MATTHEWS: Being gay is like carnal knowledge of a cadaver. CORN: That`s what he used to say, that`s what he used to say. So -- ALLEN: Alcoholism, you know, I`m not a scientist, and neither is Mike Huckabee, but alcoholism has a genetic component. I like to think profanity does too, if you heard my mother talked when she was alive. That gets passed down. But the thing, to be serious about this for a second, he is expressing a view that is not bigoted about policy, per se, but about the people. And he is basically saying they`re making a choice to do something he finds to be reprehensible. And, you know, forgetting the science for a minute, that could turn off a lot of voters and certainly -- maybe not in the Republican primary, but certainly in the general election.   MATTHEWS: Yes. I don`t think we have to decide nature versus nurture. I`m with nature, because every time I talk to someone who is gay, they tell me very early in life, they knew their orientation. They just knew it. It wasn`t an argument or a stuff call on who they were. So I`m sort of with the nature thing, but it could be something that affect you at a very young age, we don`t know, I don`t know, you know? SIDDIQUI: And Huckabee wants to position himself as a values candidate and sort of standard bearer for the socially conservative wing of the party, which is already shaping up to be a crowded space, with Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. He is trying to get out ahead by generating these headlines. But the issue is -- MATTHEWS: Let`s hold on for a second, Sabrina, you`re new here and I want to try something on you. Could it be that he means it. This is what he thinks? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: We always assume those guys are pols. Sometimes, they tell you what they think. SIDDIQUI: If you want to quote previous comments -- referencing those previous comments, he made, this is about as far as Mike Huckabee can go when you look at the turning tide of support for same sex marriage. He said he`s never going to evolve on the issue. He`ll leave the party if they embrace gay marriage. So, the best he can do is find some less, in his mind, demeaning way to explain his view to homosexuality. CORN: I think he is trimming his sails compare to previous position. You know, I`ll go drinking with a gay person, he is essentially saying, which he wouldn`t have said before. I do think because that field is crowded, it gets him attention. He gets talk and radio shows. But in terms of a political strategy, I don`t think this is a winning strategy. He won Iowa in 2008 but he didn`t go anywhere after that and now he has more competition. ALLEN: In a primary, I think it`s a very good strategy for him, and it does as Sabrina points out, had the benefit of being what he believes. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: I think that`s true about him. I think that`s him. I think that`s Huckabee. SIDDIQUI: And one of the thing strategically, though, is that there was a recent poll that showed among likely Republican voters in Iowa, the area where he is boxing himself in, is the top three issues that they identified their priorities where terrorism, the deficit, and jobs and the economy. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage only 7 percent said they care strongly. MATTHEWS: Yes. Anyway, thank you. Nice to have you. Nice to have you, Jon. Nice to have you, David. The shell fish is (INAUDIBLE) -- (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. CORN: He has to get out more. MATTHEWS: When we return, let I will say why I think Philadelphia -- you know why -- I think Philadelphia should be the convention city in 2016 for a lot of good reasons. I`ll give you one, a really good one. It`ll be an exciting convention. It means something. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:   This weekend, "The Washington Post" was kind enough to publish my case for the Democrats to hold their 2016 national convention in Philadelphia. When I was growing up in that city, my mother took my brothers and me to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. She also took us to Carpenters Hall and, of course, Betsy Ross`s House. She wanted her children to know the history of our city which was vital to the beginnings of our country. Well, these historic sites are within quick walking distance of Philadelphia`s convention center. When Democratic delegates from all over the country arrive in July 2016 they could visit much of their country`s revolutionary history without leaving Market Street. But the greater opportunity is what a 2016 Philadelphia convention could do on television. Consider the themes at the heart of the current national debate over voting rights, marriage equality and pay equity. Now consider the opening words of our founding document. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." An African American could speak proudly of the election of Barack Obama and of the continued struggle against voter suppression. A gay couple could talk about marriage equality and their right to the pursuit of happiness. A female delegate could make the case for equal treatment and pay in the workplace. By gathering in iconic Philadelphia, Democrats could lay claim to not just the flag but what it stands for. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.   END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>