updated 4/26/2013 10:14:36 AM ET 2013-04-26T14:14:36

HARDBALL
April 25, 2013

Guests: Jonathan Martin, Robert Menendez, Wayne Slater

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Presidents` day.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Dallas for the opening of the George
W. Bush presidential library.

Leading off tonight, what could be a bombshell development in the Boston
Marathon case. Police commissioner Ray Kelly of New York said today the
Boston Marathon bombing suspects were talking about going to New York and
exploding their bombs in Times Square. We`ll have that in a moment.

Meanwhile, here in Dallas, Texas, four U.S. presidents teamed up to
dedicate their fellow president`s library. It was a day of emotion and
good will, a day in the sun for George W. Bush.

But the biggest news was made before the dedication even began, with
Barbara Bush making clear her assessment of a presidential run by son Jeb
in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: It`s not just four families or whatever.
There are just -- there are other people out there that are very qualified,
and we`ve had enough Bushes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "We`ve had enough Bushes."

But we start with news in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Pete Williams
joins us from Washington. Pete, this is big news in the sense that it
looks like we can at least understand vaguely what these suspects had
vaguely in mind for their future.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think two "vagues" is correct here,
Chris, because what the authorities say, both the police commissioner in
New York and the mayor and the officials we`ve talked with, is that this is
-- remember, these are two people that the FBI says really had no escape
plan. They really didn`t seem to know what they were going to do after the
pictures were shown on Thursday night.

Friday night, they hijack an SUV. They get some money out of the owner`s
ATMs. And he says while they were driving around, they said that they
suddenly came up with the idea, in the car as they were driving, of perhaps
going to Times Square and detonating some of the six or seven bombs that
they had left in the car. They had one of their pressure cooker bombs and
then a couple of pipe bombs.

And of course, they ended up throwing the pressure cooker bomb out at the
police when the police stopped them in Watertown. And whatever plans they
had, of course, were then completely thrown out the window. One of them
was dead and the other was on the run.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s New York police commissioner Ray Kelly in his news
conference with Mayor Bloomberg this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We learned
through the Joint Terrorist Task Force that the Boston Marathon bombers had
planned to travel to Manhattan to detonate the remaining bombs in Times
Square. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the terror suspect who was captured alive,
initially told investigators that he and his brother decided after the
Boston bombings that they would go to New York City to party. However,
subsequent questioning of Dzhokhar revealed that he and his brother decided
spontaneously on Times Square as a target.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there we have it. It seems like -- Pete, you`re the
expert. It doesn`t just come from the person who was hijacked that had to
give his ATM money across, but also it`s come in the interviews, the
interrogations with Dzhokhar.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s the key to it, is the interview with the bombing
suspect. And he says that -- he says -- the point is they came up with it
on the spot, that this is -- when the -- when the police commissioner says
they planned, you know, the only planning was starting to talk about it
right there in the car.

MATTHEWS: Well, Let`s talk about this, what we know about this Miranda
rights. I`ve never, as a civilian, never -- a non-lawyer, never understood
the importance of Miranda. It seems it wouldn`t turn a person around.

Before we get to Mike Rogers, who`s a critic of this, the way it was
handled, is it your understanding or experience that when a person is given
their Miranda rights, they`re less likely -- given the condition the
suspect is in right now, less likely to talk than before they`re given
them?

WILLIAMS: It happens that way sometimes, but it also happens the other
way. It`s happened in terrorism cases. For example, the underwear bomber,
Umar Abdulmutallab, was given the Miranda warning and initially stopped
talking, but then resumed talking about -- and blurted out the whole thing
about how he was trained, who trained him, names, dates, all of that. And
this has happened in other terrorism cases, as well.

Now, we know that they were talking to him. They had basically two
sessions. We learned some of this from the police commissioner today in
New York. The first session over the weekend didn`t go so well. He was
still coming out of it from his treatment. The second one went better.

And then the judge comes in on Monday and reads him his rights. Now, of
course, he has a lawyer, and of course, he has stopped talking. The
question is, will he resume again? Sometimes in these cases, they do.
Sometimes they don`t. So we have to wait and see whether the lawyer says,
you know, It`s in your best interests to keep talking, you could save
yourself from the death penalty.

MATTHEWS: I see. Well, thank you so much, Pete Williams, for that, as
always.

WILLIAMS: You bet.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jim Cavanaugh is a retired ATF special agent-in-charge
and now an MSNBC analyst. Jim, thank you for -- what do you make of this?
Where are we at on this case? Because, you know, the whole question has
been, were they still on the loose, still out for more bombing, still
terrorists, still active at the time the one was picked up in bad
condition? And that, of course, would then allow the authorities to
question them all they wanted before giving them Miranda rights.

JIM CAVANAUGH, FMR. ATF HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR, NBC ANALYST: Right, Chris. I
mean, exactly. Look, I`ve been giving people Miranda for almost four
decades. I mean, it doesn`t make them all shut up. But there was a public
safety exception here, and the agents used it for two days.

But really, what happened is a United States magistrate or federal district
judge showed up at the hospital, and with him was an assistant U.S.
attorney and federal public defenders.

You know, in Miranda, when we say the right to remain silent, and if you
cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you, the guy who does
that is the judge at your initial appearance. This was an initial
appearance...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: ... in the federal court system. So here`s -- I`m going to
appoint you a lawyer, and here`s the lawyer standing next to me. So it`s
more than Miranda. It`s Miranda, you don`t have to talk, and if you can`t
afford a lawyer, I`ll give you one. He can`t afford a lawyer, here`s your
lawyer. He`s not going to talk after he has a lawyer because the lawyer is
going to advise him not to. So that`s a Miranda issue.

And as far as what Pete says, he`s exactly right. It`s a little vague.
And Ray Kelly can be right, as well. Two things can be right here because,
look, these guys had a pressure cooker bomb. Let`s just take that bomb
that they threw at the Watertown police.

They didn`t buy the components for that bomb, Chris, between the time their
pictures were released on Thursday night at 5:00 o`clock and the time they
killed Brian Collier at the MIT police. They didn`t buy those components
then, acquire them then, and likely didn`t build it then. It was already
built.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: So they already had this pressure cooker bomb, Chris, probably
remote control like the other two. They weren`t going to sell it on eBay.
They were going to detonate it somewhere.

Now, they might not have planned where. They might not have picked New
York or any other location, but they certainly were planning on detonating
that bomb somewhere.

MATTHEWS: It sounds like you agree with this politician here. Let me show
you -- here`s the House Intelligence Committee chair. It`s Mike Rogers, a
Republican. He told Andrea Mitchell this afternoon he`s hearing the
interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still going on when the court
Mirandized him and they may have shut him up. Let`s see if you agree with
this. Here`s his knock, really, on the way this case was handled by the
Obama administration -- Mike Rogers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: We can`t have in a case like this the
judiciary deciding because it`s on TV and it might look bad for them to
allow the public safety exemption that is deemed legal by the United States
Supreme Court -- that they were going to somehow intercede in this is --
it`s confusing. It is horrible, God-awful policy and dangerous to the
greater committee. And we have got to get to the bottom of this and we`ve
got to fix it right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jim, do you -- Jim, do you agree with that, Jim Cavanaugh, that
argument there by the congressman, the chairman of the committee, basically
makes the case, Look, if this guy is a dangerous fugitive, we pick him up,
we know he`s still in the process of committing crimes, we know he`s a
danger to the community, we interview him until we get all we can out of
him, and then we get around to Mirandizing him and giving him a lawyer,
giving him a judge.

Here he says what happened was the judge showed up out of nowhere and
basically stopped the interrogation. Does that sound like (ph) you (ph) to
be bad justice, bad law enforcement?

CAVANAUGH: Well, we get right into, Chris, the greatest things of our
democracy here, the three branches of government. I`ve never had a judge
come to an initial appearance like that. I`ve had him come out at night,
if we needed it for an injured person or if we called them.

But the normal course of business is the law enforcement agents bring the
defendant or ask the judge to come, if the defendant was hospitalized, to
conduct an initial appearance because they`ve arrested the person.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: If the judge decided to call the assistant U.S. attorney and
federal public defender and say, We`re going here because I feel this
person needs counsel -- and it`s more to Miranda, Chris. It`s counsel, as
well, because once you get counsel, now, your attorney is going to shut you
up. So...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: ... that could have happened. We don`t exactly know. I mean,
the U.S. attorney`s office could have asked the judge to go. We don`t have
those facts.

And Miranda doesn`t always shut people up. They can still waive the right.
He can still talk, too, because his lawyer can allow him to talk for some
deal. So it can still happen.

MATTHEWS: Boy, this is getting murky.

It`s -- as simple as I can put it is the fact that we had an investigation,
an interrogation under way. Out of nowhere comes a federal judge with a
lawyer and apparently stopped the interview, stopped the interrogation,
stopped the information gathering.

We will see who had the right to do this, if they still have the right
after this is looked at by the other courts.

Anyway, thank you, Jim Cavanaugh, formerly of the ATF.

CAVANAUGH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, what an amazing day it was down here in Dallas today,
as five living presidents were together to dedicate the George W. Bush
Presidential Library. It`s right here behind me, by the way.

And leave it to former first lady Barbara Bush to make the biggest news.
She says her son Jeb shouldn`t run for president, saying we have had enough
Bushes. Whoa. Mom, you`re taking over this thing.

And, later, Syria -- U.S. intelligence says the Syrian regime used chemical
weapons, something President Obama said would be a game-changer. Now the
hawks are clamoring for action over there. But the White House wants more
time to get the facts straight before acting.

Finally, let me finish with a day where partisanship took a back seat to
pleasantries.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Rhode Island`s on the verge of becoming the 10th state to
recognize marriage equality. The state Senate has approved a measure
legalizing same-sex marriage last night.

And it`s expected to clear the statehouse and be signed into law by
Governor Lincoln Chafee next week. By the way, earlier this week, the
French Parliament approved same-sex marriage, making France the 14th
country to do so.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Supporters come and
go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.

And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is
that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of
freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

G.W. BUSH: I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every
human heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As I said earlier, today was most definitely a day in the sun for George W.
Bush, as he was joined by all of our living presidents at his library
dedication today right behind me here.

It was an emotional day, of course, for the Bush family. Let`s watch
Presidents Bush 41 and 43.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honor our son,
our oldest son, and this is very special for Barbara and me. And thank you
all for coming. And to all those who made this marvelous museum possible,
we thank you especially, and we`re glad to be here. God bless America, and
thank you very much.

G.W. BUSH: I dedicate this library with an unshakeable faith in the future
of our country. It was the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave
and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I
will always believe our nation`s best days lie ahead. God bless.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is NBC News chief White House
correspondent, political director Chuck Todd. He`s also the host of "DAILY
RUNDOWN." Let`s see. We also have Jonathan Martin of Politico.

Gentlemen, thank you.

You know, I have to tell you, as tough as I can be when I want to be, I
thought there were great some moments today about life. I thought
everybody, all of us would love to have our spouse talk about us the way
that Laura Bush talked about her husband. That`s a guy.

(CROSSTALK)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I thought a lot of people met the
moment.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: And President Bush met his -- met the moment. You just felt like
they understood what today meant. You set aside some of the political
debate.

President Obama I thought captured -- I thought they did a -- I thought he
did an excellent job of honoring President Bush. You know, some of the
other speeches, President Carter, President Clinton, they personalized it
and brought themselves into it.

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: Right.

TODD: What made President Obama stood out -- stand out is that he really
did sort of -- 90 percent of his remarks...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Yes. I talked to a senior Bush person after the speech who worked
in the White House and is personally close to the president. And he said
to me he was really struck by President Obama`s graciousness.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: That he thought that President Obama went maybe a notch above what
they expected...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: They had a -- right, they may have even had a low bar. They just
didn`t have a very high bar.

MARTIN: Right.

But he praised President Bush as not just a man, as a leader, too.

TODD: That`s right.

MARTIN: And he used those words. And he saluted him on the very issues,
by the way, that George and Laura Bush want him to be remembered for,
right, AIDS in Africa, response after 9/11, education reform, the
compassionate conservative.

MATTHEWS: Immigration...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Immigration reform.

MATTHEWS: So, all the liberal, progressive things, if you think about it.

MARTIN: Well, all the stuff in the library over there.

TODD: But I will tell you, though, it does -- all of this hand-wringing
that has been going on inside the Republican Party, and the way I have been
thinking about this day and about Bush and his legacy, and, look, there`s
Iraq, and he`s never going to escape Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Not mentioned today, and not mentioned all day.

TODD: Not mentioned, but he`s never going to escape it.

LBJ is never going to escape Vietnam.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: And George W. Bush is never going to escape Iraq.

But when you think about what the Republican Party is in search of, they`re
desperate for the guy that ran for president in 2000, the compassionate
conservative who rounded out the hard edges, who was trying to be -- to
reach out, frankly, downplay social issues, still talk about them, still
have principles about them, but put them in a different place so you look
like you`re reaching out to suburban America.

And that`s what they`re all -- there`s sort of this interesting irony. On
one hand, they don`t want to talk about the Bush brand. And yet they wish
they had a Bush-like candidate from 2000.

MARTIN: Bill Clinton figured out the Bush campaign early on in 1999.

He had this great quote. Bill Clinton said the campaign consisted of
everything you like about the current administration, plus you get a tax
cut. And that was Bill Clinton`s description of what Bush was running on.
Right? So Clinton saw it early.

MATTHEWS: Except he didn`t admit also marital stability. Clinton
didn`t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Every one of these guys, what I liked about how they got along,
they didn`t B.S. the whole day. They only picked out what they did like.
They picked out the truth. They cherry-picked.

But, also, the irony of our two-party system is, let`s face how it works,
despite all the philosophy we talk about and policy analysis. It really
comes down to each party taking eight years to think about how they can
exploit the shortcomings of the other party to come back into power with
it.

So, if the Clintons have sort of marital confusion for a while there, he
runs along and says, me and Laura are really steady and regular.

TODD: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: Jimmy Carter was clean as a whistle, but he didn`t know a lot of
stuff. He ran against Nixon, legacy of Watergate.

Then Reagan comes along and says, Carter is a wuss, I can beat him.

MARTIN: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s always knocking guy that`s in there. So, here they come
out here today, they hold hands. They love each other.

But basically each depended for his personal career and success on bashing
the other guy`s weakness, punching him in his bad eye.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But hat`s politics, though.

TODD: Right. And that has been the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Clinton. Let`s take a look. Here`s Clinton and
Obama. Here they`re paying tribute to the recent president. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like President
Bush. We do a lot of speeches together, and I like it when we have
disagreements. He`s disarmingly direct.

We were having an argument over health care in one of these speeches and I
went on about the German health care system. And he said, I don`t know a
thing about the German health care system.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I think he probably won the argument.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What President Clinton said
is absolutely true. To know the man is to like the man, because he`s
comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn`t put on any
pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn`t take himself too
seriously. He is a good man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There, again, I mean, there`s George W. cracking a joke about
not knowing something as his victory statement. Hey, you like me. I don`t
know anything more than you do know about these things.

And then we elect this genius president, Obama. He has his shortcomings,
too. But it`s always back and forth.

MARTIN: Well, and that`s the story of the country.

MATTHEWS: Do we want an intellectual president? Do we want a wonk? Do we
want a guy who`s intellectually pointy-headed? We got one in Bush sort --
I`m sorry -- not Bush -- we got one in Clinton and Obama.

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

The country I think certainly responded to Bush in 2008, but, look, I think
if there`s going to be a Bush rehabilitation effort, I think President
Obama actually helped the cause tonight.

MATTHEWS: OK. Tell me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I tell you who didn`t help the cause, Barbara. That was an
amazing -- it reminded me of Eisenhower pulling the rug out from under
Nixon when he said, give me two weeks to think about what this guy has done
eight years. She said, we have had enough of the Bushes.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: These events are so scripted and they`re so polite. And in the
midst of all this, real news broke out. Who would have thunk?

TODD: But the quick -- I want to make one quick point and then I want to
get to Barbara, because God love her.

MATTHEWS: She`s a great interview.

TODD: She is an unbelievable interview.

But it was interesting to have President Obama, the one piece of politics
he decided to do was something that is actually in the best interest of the
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Down here in Texas, too.

TODD: ... particularly here in Texas, which is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Immigration.

TODD: This may be the largest pure Republican crowd the president has ever
addressed, President Obama has ever addressed.

MARTIN: Right. Well, that`s a good point.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: And he used it and he said -- he almost said, hey, this immigration
bill, it is not my legacy. It`s this man`s legacy.

MARTIN: Right.

TODD: And I thought, well, there`s a smart way to sell it. We will see if
that works. The politics of this in the House are still a little
complicated. I think they`re going to get it done.

But, anyway, back to Barbara, God love her.

MATTHEWS: You don`t see this crowd, by the way, this crowd here up in the
Northeast.

TODD: A very Republican crowd.

MATTHEWS: Not right-wing, regular, somewhat moneyed Republicans.

MARTIN: These are country club Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Businessmen, country club Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Right.

TODD: This is actually what the Tea Party has also been running against.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They don`t like this...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: The last four years.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, exactly, yes.

MATTHEWS: And these are pretty moderate Republicans compared to the
crazies.

Yet, so, bottom line, is it going to help the immigration bill get through
this year?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Well, look, I think this was going to happen, anyway, because the
incentive on the Republican Party leadership to get this done.

But go back to Barbara Bush.

MATTHEWS: Will he bring him out of retirement? Will he bring him out of
retirement to help?

MARTIN: I was taking about that too. I don`t think Bush will do it.

TODD: I don`t know if -- I would say the Bush brand is still -- it`s still
uneasy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I tell you, I think the president -- and I support him on
this -- I think it`s a good, tough bill. I think Rubio is the hero in this
so far.

TODD: I think you let Rubio sell it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the president should lead from behind on this one.
Rubio`s the winner. He has got the right name, the right...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Rubio has more juice now in the Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think Rubio...

TODD: Well, Rubio has more juice with Tea Party conservatives, to maybe
not win them over, just keep them from killing it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s the essential man right now, Marco Rubio.

Anyway, thank you, Chuck. We all agree on everything, Chuck Todd and
Jonathan Martin.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Is that not good? Should we...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... things up?

MATTHEWS: We will be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Well, stocks end higher thanks to stronger-than-expected economic data and
earnings reports, the Dow finishing up 24 points, the S&P gaining by six,
and the Nasdaq adding 20.

Profits from ExxonMobil exceeded forecasts, helped by chemical product
sales. Earnings from UPS were also better than estimates. Meanwhile,
weekly jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week. And Amazon.com shares
are sharply lower after hours following its latest earnings report.

That is it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide. Now it`s back
over to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, there`s news from the intelligence community today about Syria that
could have major implications. President Obama has said any use of
chemical weapons by that regime in Syria would be a red line as he called
it for U.S. -- for us, rather.

According to the intelligence community, at least, that line has likely
been crossed. That was the regime -- that is, the regime has used chemical
weapons. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who is currently traveling in
the region, briefed reporters on it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The U.S. intelligence community
assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has
used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical
agent sarin.

We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons. But we do believe that any
use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have been originated
with the Assad regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Very likely. That`s not strong enough, perhaps.

France, Britain and Israel have already come to the same conclusion, but
the White House is walking a fine line here. In a letter to senators, it
makes clear the assessment comes from the intelligence community and the
administration is pressing for a U.N. investigation before taking the next
step.

Still, today`s news raises a lot of tough questions. For instance, what
options do we have if the White House decides its red line has been
crossed? That`s a great question.

Richard Engel is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent.

Richard, thank you for this. And I guess the big news question is, where
did we get this information from? Is it hard?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Based on what we have been
hearing from other intelligence agencies, it seems pretty solid, that
particularly the British were able to smuggle out some samples that show
that sarin gas was used in a very small scale more than once, including a
few months ago in Aleppo.

And what I think was interesting about that clip you just showed was that
the defense secretary was reading from that statement. And the White House
and the administration in general is very cautious on this one. They want
everyone to be speaking on the same line. And that line so far coming from
the Obama administration is, we are still in a wait-and-see mode. There
are varying degrees of confidence in these assessments.

They are not going as strongly in condemnation or in any kind of definitive
way as we heard from the Israelis, the French and the Brits.

MATTHEWS: Can we determine -- or can you determine at the right time or now
whether the reason for hesitancy is based upon a lack of surety, that there
is, in fact, a use of chemical weapons, or a concern that once they put
that fact out there and acknowledge it as the administration, not just as
the intelligence community, they then have to move on that green light to
some kind of action?

ENGEL: I think it`s a little bit of both. One, the president painted
himself a little bit in the corner by saying this is a red line and if you
acknowledge then that the red line has been crossed, it begs the question,
well then what? And today, the Syrian opposition was very strongly, saying
the White House must do something otherwise by doing nothing and you
acknowledge them using chemical weapons, you are perhaps even encouraging
them. You are saying that the U.S. won`t react, yes, we accept some
chemical weapons were used, but we`re not going to act.

So that`s one way of looking at it that they may have painted themselves
too much into a corner and don`t want to act because of a minor use or
minor several occasions of use.

MATTHEWS: I get you.

ENGEL: The other way of looking at it is a lot of stuff out of Syria is
very murky and they don`t know exactly who fired these, when, in what
capacity, is this doctored evidence? And there is, having worked in Syria
quite a bit, there is certainly a reason to be skeptical.

MATTHEWS: That someone might have put it in there to get us in the war?

ENGEL: That someone --

MATTHEWS: Is that out of the question?

ENGEL: No, that`s not out of the question that someone tampered tissue
samples to get us into the war or that we just don`t know enough about who
ordered them, was this an accident? Was it a misfire? What was the
intent?

There are still a lot of unanswered questions.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ENGEL: I remember looking into these incidents as they were happening at
the time and sarin gas if it`s used properly, it doesn`t have the reaction
of killing 10 or 15 or 20 people. If you suddenly saw hundreds of people
dead within an hour, that`s a sarin gas attack. You don`t have a sarin gas
attack that kills 15 people.

So there`s certain confusing things about how small amounts of chemical
weapons have been used.

MATTHEWS: I`m learning something here. Thank you so much, Richard Engel,
as always.

We have Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. He`s the chair of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, this is a murky political thing right now. I have always
wondered, what kind of role would we play in the Syrian war right now? The
Syrian civil war? What do we do? Do we try to topple that regime?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, Chris, there`s a couple of
items here. Number one is we obviously are concerned about chemical
weapons, not only obviously being used against Syrian people, but about the
security of those sites. And that`s incredibly important to us. It`s
incredibly important our allies like Jordan and Turkey in the region.

Secondly, if we don`t want to see the greatest humanitarian catastrophe
continue to go on, we have to change the dynamics because right now, there
is no tipping point that Assad believes that he can fall. So for so long
as he has superiority and air power and artillery, he`s going to continue
to try to stay in power.

We have to think about, do we assist the vetted rebels? Those individuals
who we believe share our values? At the end of the day, do we assist them
in a way that changes that dynamics?

And thirdly, we have a growing extremism problem here in al Nusra and also
al Qaeda. They`re growing in strength within Syria. That`s a real
challenge to our national interests as well.

So if we continue to allow what is happening to take place, then we are
only going to manifest the bigger problem at the end of the day.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but if you`re Assad, you`re looking at Mubarak who`s in
jail probably for life if he`s lucky and not executed. You`re looking at
Gadhafi who ended up in a sewer pipe, or Saddam Hussein who ended up in a
spider hole.

What is the future for Assad if he gives up? The people will lynch him.
They`ll torture him and his family and kill him. I mean, why should he
give up?

This is what I`ve never understood about all these demands from Secretary
Clinton and all the secretaries. Why should he quit?

MENENDEZ: He`s had a series of offers made to him clearly that have been
made to him. He can go live in Russia.

MATTHEWS: You think that`s a lot?

MENENDEZ: He can find opportunities and elsewhere. He hasn`t been willing
to do that and the Russians obviously haven`t changed their own equation.
They think that Assad might be able to hang in there. If, in fact, we
harness all of our regional allies in that area, have a defined plan as to
how we help the opposition, the vetted opposition inside of Syria, if we
bring to bear an opportunity to have them change the tipping point, if we
at the same time look at the opportunities to undermine the extremists and,
by the way, undermine Iran which is sending enormous amounts of assistance
to Assad, then Assad is going to look and say, wait a minute, the dynamics
changed for me. Either I can ultimately find myself dead or I can stay
alive in some place, another part of the world.

MATTHEWS: Do you think we have the power and the ingenuity to turn that
war around so that Assad loses?

MENENDEZ: I do. I do believe, you know, we`d have to bring an
international effort.

Look, you know, to believe that the Brits, the French, and the Israelis who
came to this conclusion, and I understand why the administration wants to
nail it down tight, because if you`re going to go to the security council,
you don`t want to have a repeat of some of the history we had, for example,
in the war in Iraq. But by the same token, unless we`re saying others
outside of Assad have control of chemical weapons, then the only entity
that is likely to have used chemical weapons is Assad and the question is,
if he has his warplanes a with greater amounts of those chemical weapons
and sees himself in a moment in which he makes a decision tactically to go
ahead and use it because the world is not responding, then you have a much
greater consequence.

And those are the tough challenges we`re facing in making this decision.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I just think we have to make sure we`re right before we go
in there.

Thank you, Senator Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee.

Up next, let`s go back to Dallas and former First Lady Barbara Bush`s
stunning statement today that she doesn`t want her son to run for
president. No more Jeb, no more Bushes. We`ve had Bushes, she said.
There can`t be stronger than that.

I wonder what Jeb thinks of all that. What he thinks of his mom today.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Former President George W. Bush was the center of attention today at his
library dedication here in Dallas, Big D. And it was just another Bush who
made the biggest headlines. She thumped him. She upstaged her son.
That`s Barbara.


The former first lady was on the "Today" show, and Matt Lauer got himself a
big get today. She had a comment about her son. Let`s see what she says
when asked about whether Jeb should run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He`s by far the best qualified man, but
no, I really don`t. I think it`s a great country, a lot of great families,
and it`s not just four families or whatever. There are just -- there are
other people out there that are very qualified and we`ve had enough Bushes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Best qualified man. Well, that only narrows it down to one
potential of the genders as we know in politics today. You got to look at
Hillary there. Anyway, thanks a lot, mommy, must be saying. One word
reaction.

By the way, what he said to John King of CNN, priceless. That`s one of the
great commercials. It can mean anything, by the way.

Wayne Slater is the senior political writer with the Dallas Morning news
and he`s co-author of "Bush`s Brain". Howard Fineman is the political
director -- editorial director, rather, to Huffington Post Media Group.

Howard, I`ve got to start with you. This Barbara Bush is really like -- I
was trying to think of -- I have to go back all the way to, what`s his
name, Mitchell in the Nixon administration, Martha Mitchell. This woman
had something to say here.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She`s nothing like Martha
Mitchell because everything Barbara Bush says is said deliberately and for
effect.

MATTHEWS: Ooh!

FINEMAN: She is the queen mother of the presidency. And she has been both
the wife and the mother of presidents and the way I view that, Wayne may
disagree, is that she`s -- she knows what she`s doing here. She said
similar things, not quite in the same words but similar things when George
W. was inking of running and two people, including Jeb, thinking of running
back in the late `90s.

So I think she`s -- she`s lowering expectations and she wouldn`t mind at
all if Jeb ran. That`s my view.

MATTHEWS: So you think it was just sort of a cuff, a mother`s cuff on a
cub?

FINEMAN: Yes, right. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It wasn`t to undercut -- how do you read it?

FINEMAN: No, no.

MATTHEWS: Do you read it the same way that Howard reads it, a mother`s
warning, it`s dangerous out there?

WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: I think that`s exactly it. What she
really is the protector, always has been the strong protector, matriarch of
that family.

MATTHEWS: But having said that --

SLATER: But here`s the deal. With George W. Bush, which is what Howard
said, what she said to George W. Bush is, I don`t want you to run for
governor. The reason why is because she didn`t think he could beat Ann
Richards and she was wrong.

MATTHEWS: How about this time? Could her son beat Hillary Clinton if he
runs?

SLATER: You have to think that`s a factor.

MATTHEWS: Yes, she said right there.

SLATER: You know, I talked to Jeb Bush. It`s kind of interesting. I
said, are we going to see one of your libraries in the future? And he very
straight faced said, I don`t know about that. Then he grabbed his son,
George P. and turned him around and said, this is the real candidate.

MATTHEWS: And he`s running for land commissioner.

SLATER: Land commissioner in Texas. Very likely will win.

MATTHEWS: Is he a legitimate Texan?

SLATER: Yes. He will win the race, unless something weird happens. He`s
an odds on favor for governor I would say in about nine years.

MATTHEWS: You`re embracing the mother here, I think, thoughtfully. But I
wonder, do you think she took a round house punch to the Clintons? Why
does she say four families (INAUDIBLE) on the show. I mean, really, let`s
face it.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: No, of course. Of course. Definitely she was cuffing her cub
around as you said and also firing a shot across the bow at the Clintons.
I mean, I`ve dealt with, I`m sure Wayne has to, I`ve dealt with Barbara
Bush a lot over the years.

If there`s a godfather in that family, it`s not H.W., it`s not George, it`s
Barbara. She`s the keeper of the Christmas card list and the enemy`s list.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I love it.

FINEMAN: And she never forgets -- I tell you, she never forgets and she`s
fierce and she`s helped make two men president, as I said, her husband and
her son. And she`s looking out for Jeb.

And, by the way, I saw Jeb in Washington the other day at a dinner.
Similar circumstances to Wayne. It was funny because I was spending all my
time talking to George P. because, you know, is he an up and comer.

He is going to be running in Texas. He`s an obvious future star of the
Republican Party and Jeb`s reaction, if I could read the body language, was
hey, what about me? I`m not chopped liver. I`m still here, too.

MATTHEWS: I know.

FINEMAN: So I think it can go either way and I don`t think Jeb is ready to
leave the stage quite.

MATTHEWS: Last thought, 30 seconds. Didn`t you love the side bar
discussion between Barbara Bush today and the president? I mean, it was
the greatest little thing and such an interesting conversation that
Michelle Obama was dying to get in it. What they`ve been talking about
there?

SLATER: I didn`t see anything as fascinate like that except John Conley`s
(ph) funeral where Richard Nixon and Ann Richards. God help us, what were
they talking about?

MATTHEWS: Bring on David Corn and "Mother Jones".

SLATER: Where are the lip readers?

MATTHEWS: I want lip readers. What are they -- they`re chuckling away
there. It was great. I do want to know. I`m serious.

Anyway, thank you, Wayne Slater.

SLATER: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard. You`re always great. Thank you for coming
in.

I think you`re right about the mother. She couldn`t have been as mean as
it sounded.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this pleasant day in Dallas.

The goal here today was to give a big push-off to George W. Bush`s
presidential library. The great irony -- it would normally have been the
huge difficulty -- lay in the fact that the number one decision of George
W. Bush`s presidency was to take us into the Iraq War. That also was, I
think, the chief reason for the nomination and election of Barack Obama.

Activist Democrats didn`t like the Iraq War; didn`t like the foreign policy
behind it; didn`t like the way the decision to attack, invade, and occupy
was made, was sold, was made to happen. And that explains why the word Iraq
was never mentioned, not once.

And that said, it was a civilized day down here. The words spoken were as
sunny as the weather. You couldn`t tell the parties apart, You couldn`t
tell that Carter won because of Nixon`s Watergate, that the Republicans
beat Carter by calling him weak, that Clinton beat Bush by calling him "too
out of touch," and that the second Bush won by saying he wouldn`t embarrass
us the way his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton had.

Now, getting through all those bramble bushes, you might say, was a feat in
itself -- and that`s what the five presidents did today: they got through
the day without harming each other or themselves; by finding things to
agree about; finding ways to say good, honest things about each other --
and leaving all the rest for the next day on HARDBALL -- well, that was a
good thing to do.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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