May 13, 2013
Guests: Rep. Michael Turner, John Brabender, Willie Brown, Joe Klein, Jenny Beth Martin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Outrageous.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Two big stories tonight, the IRS and Benghazi. The president called one
outrageous, the other a sideshow. Let`s start with the outrageous.
Taxes, if you`re honest and pay them, the best feeling you get after April
15th is, Well, that`s over with. You`ve done what you have to do. So you
try to believe that the system is basically fair, that those progressive
rates really mean something, that those IRS people who go over your returns
really are looking to keep people honest, and they`re fair about it. How
else can you deal with this? This (ph) is if you don`t have some basic
faith in the system, you can`t even do your return.
So this, my progressive, independent and reasonably conservative friends,
is how we live in this country, how we try to be good citizens. And we are
the ones -- we are the ones most furious about this IRS story that`s just
Do those people know what they`ve done to undermine that basic civic faith
that we`ve all got about not being chumps for being honest at tax time? To
they know what they`ve done to the faith about this republic and what it
can do to keep us who we are?
Then there are the right-wing people out there. They love this story, this
baby. They`re always -- they always expect the worst. They get up in the
morning figuring, well, they`re about to be picked up by the FEMA workers
and taken to concentration camps, or the black helicopters of the new world
order, they`re coming to take their guns.
Yes, this "expect the worst" crowd just got an earful of what it goes to
bed at night agitated about. I can only guess what they`re saying about
the news that some in the IRS have decided to target right-wing groups.
Knew it all the time, they`re muttering. This is the government. They`re
telling everyone they can listen (ph) to. And they ought to abolish those
(ph) darned IRS to start with.
Anyway, Mr. President, I`ve got some advice for you. This thing`s going to
demoralize the good people. It`s going to give firepower to the far out.
So don`t just talk about being outraged. I can say that. Do something.
Remember what Reagan did back when the air traffic controllers broke faith
with their oaths and went on strike? He fired the bunch of them. And
guess what? You may not like the rough treatment, but that`s when we
realized he was president. That`s when the bad guys in the soon (ph) to be
Soviet Union knew this country had a leader.
So do something. I can call something outrageous sitting in this chair.
You can act. Find a way to get rid of whoever did this, or your enemies
will ride this baby right through 2014. Find a way to get rid of those
people, or Mitch McConnell himself will ride this right through reelection.
And talk about preparing for the worst.
Howard Fineman is the editorial director for the HuffingtonPost and an
MSNBC political analyst and Joe Klein`s a political columnist for "Time"
Joe, you`ve been writing over the weekend about this, and you`ve been
tough. I want you to say what you think, given what the president said
today. Just start off with that.
JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I thought that what the president said
today was appropriate. But you`re right, people have to get fired over
this. The problem is this. We have civil service laws in this country
that are 150 years or 130 years out of date at this point, and it`s really
hard to fire people down in the bureaucracy who make mistakes. I mean,
that`s why the Veterans Administration is such a mess.
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you call them mistakes?
KLEIN: What do I call a mistake?
MATTHEWS: Why do you think this was a mistake by somebody --
KLEIN: Because -- because --
MATTHEWS: -- something wrong. It looks to me like partisan prejudice.
And you don`t have to be elected to be a partisan person of prejudice.
Somebody went out against the right wing, singled them out by name.
KLEIN: I think what they`re trying to do is this. There are very
complicated tax laws that -- you know, that pertain to partisan policy
advocacy groups. And in this case, they were trying to figure out -- you
know, sometimes policy drifts into politics, and it`s illegal to use those
groups for political purposes. So they had to check it out.
It`s a new rule -- it`s a new law. This was 2010. The most activist
partisan groups were from the right. They took a shortcut. It was -- it
was really mega-stupid wrong.
And you know, this is a problem that`s coming from the bottom up, not the
top down. In other administrations, like Franklin Roosevelt and Richard
Nixon, it came from the top down, the president wanting to investigate his
opponents. In this case, it`s going to turn out --
MATTHEWS: I don`t think you`re right yet, Joe. I don`t think we know it
comes from the bottom up. What I`m hearing is that these orders came --
they have a special situation, where Cincinnati, the office out there, the
big IRS operation that was tasked with this job -- it`s the main facility
of the United States for doing this. It was its job to look around for
these non-profits that were abusing the law, especially on the right, and
they did it. They did it their way, which got them into trouble. But they
were tasked with doing it, right?
KLEIN: That`s absolutely right. And what`s going to happen now, Chris, is
going to be, you know, the same sort of thing we`re seeing with the
Benghazi case. We`re going to look at all the e-mails and we`re going to
see how far up the food chain this went --
KLEIN: -- and whether -- and the big issue, I predict, is going to be
whether the White House had any hand in keeping this silent in 2011, when
it became known to the leadership of the IRS.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama spoke for the first time, as I said,
today, about this story. And most important, perhaps, was when he said he
first learned of it. This is he personally speaking, not his White House
staff, hard statement by the president today, which made me very happy.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first learned about it
from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I
think it was on Friday. And you know, this is pretty straightforward. If,
in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been
reported on, and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then
that`s outrageous and there`s no place for it.
We`ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But
I`ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we`ll make sure
that we find out exactly what happened on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Now, there`s two issues here, whether he was involved in it
personally, Howard -- apparently, not so because he didn`t know about it.
But the larger issue -- he`s head of the United States executive branch.
He is responsible.
And he`s also leader of the Democratic Party. And this is firewater for
his enemies. This is dynamite. They can use this against him through the
next five or six elections. This is going to be a part of our history.
Well, you know, the IRS is out screwing the right wing all the time.
They`re out looking for us all the time.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, the fires on the right are going to be there, regardless --
MATTHEWS: No, but they`ve got an issue --
FINEMAN: -- but there`s no reason to pour gasoline on them by what I
thought was a touch too lawyerly approach here today.
FINEMAN: I wrote that. The White House people were mad at me for saying
so. But -- and I understand what Joe is saying about civil service, and so
on. The president learned about it Friday. He doesn`t necessarily have to
wait for a report to find out who did what down in Cincinnati.
FINEMAN: And I think a little more urgency would have been politically
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he say --
FINEMAN: That`s why --
MATTHEWS: -- Whoever did this is going to get canned?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think he should.
FINEMAN: By the way, remember George Bush, even in the midst of the whole
Scooter Libby thing --
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about --
MATTHEWS: Suppose he doesn`t fire anybody. Five months from now, six
months from now, he will be the head of the IRS, which includes all those
people, Joe. They will still be there, part of Obama`s IRS. You heard of
"Obama care," this will be Obama IRS. It`ll be his then.
KLEIN: -- the supervisor who knew about this in 2011, she should be
writing her resignation letter right now. If not, they should can her.
The inspector general`s report on this is coming in a matter of days, so I
think we should wait for that. But he has to take aggressive action here.
You know, it really is an egregious --
KLEIN: -- act.
MATTHEWS: You know, if he would say something that everybody who`s
progressive would understand -- You know, if I heard a right-wing
administration had done this to my progressive supporters, that our groups,
the Americans for Democratic Action, any one of these new groups was being
targeted for audits or harassment, I`d be furious. So as president, not
just as Democratic or progressive leader, he should speak the same way.
FINEMAN: Well, I think the real audience for him, Chris, is people --
fair-minded people in the middle.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m talking about.
FINEMAN: Yes. Exactly. That`s what I`m responding to. And he did say,
You know, at some point, there`s going to be another Republican
administration. But he put it in a conditional term. He wasn`t saying it
in a personal way. He didn`t sound that personally outraged, at least by
my ears --
MATTHEWS: Who are these headless nails --
MATTHEWS: -- that he can`t get out of the government when they commit
this kind of malfeasance?
MATTHEWS: I don`t buy this idea that civil service protects people who do
this kind of stuff.
FINEMAN: Well, but he said -- and again, one of his top aides e-mailed me
right after I wrote my piece on HuffPost and said, Look, we`ve got to wait
for -- in fairness to the president, this guy said, we have to wait for --
MATTHEWS: Well, I agree with the --
FINEMAN: -- the inspector general`s report and --
MATTHEWS: It`s a matter of a week or so, fine. I`m always ahead of him in
terms of getting agitated, Joe. I agree I`m always more agitated than the
president. That`s why he`s president.
MATTHEWS: But the simple fact is, if he doesn`t get rid of these people,
they`re going to be thinking about getting rid of him.
Anyway, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who`s on fire with
pleasure over this -- he`s up for reelection next year, and this is
probably his ticket to ride. He tipped his hand today regarding just how
he and the Republicans plan to use this baby to club Democrats.
He told Breitbart news, appropriately, the recent IRS revelations were,
quote, "just the beginning of the story. This is no little thing. This is
a big thing. And the good news about it is they finally got caught." They
-- I love those words. "They finally messed with an agency everybody fully
understands. When they try to quiet the critics through (ph) other
agencies, it doesn`t get attention. This does. Everybody understands the
IRS and how powerful they are. This is just one example of an
administration with wide efforts to silence critics."
So Joe, here he is saying that this is an example of the United States
government at its worst, but it`s also a typical example.
KLEIN: Well, yes. I mean, it`s no secret that this hasn`t been the best
managed administration that we`ve seen come down the pike in a while,
although the president really is proud of his record of non-corruption,
which this, you know, kind of destroys.
KLEIN: But I do believe that --
MATTHEWS: He`s not connected to it personally, at least.
KLEIN: I do believe that in the end, the big issue here isn`t going to be
the mistake and the stupidity of the mid-level employees who launched this,
but it`s going to be how much did the White House know and when did it know
it. Was this scandal, you know, submerged for electoral purposes in 2011,
FINEMAN: Right. And that`s what Joe said. I think Joe may have used the
word over the weekend "Nixonian."
FINEMAN: And rightly so. But what -- Joe`s right. The test of whether it
truly is Nixonian is yet to be seen --
MATTHEWS: OK, is it time --
FINEMAN: -- what we know about the White House there -- let me tell you
one other thing, Chris. I was just down in Kentucky again over the
weekend, where Mitch McConnell is running for reelection.
FINEMAN: No Democrat really wants to challenge him. They can`t get
anybody in the ring against Mitch McConnell. If I`m a Democrat, I`m
looking at this IRS story, which plays right into Kentuckians resentment of
FINEMAN: You know, the big G government, they`re taking up the guns, it`s
the evil IRS. It`s the revenuers and all that stuff. You hand that to
Mitch McConnell, it`s an extra 50,000 votes in rural Kentucky. It just is.
MATTHEWS: So the president -- what can the president do, Joe, right now,
to meet this concern? And I think it`s a big one. I think this has got
some legs. What does he do about the fact he`s got perhaps bureaucrats,
perhaps somebody at the high level of bureaucracy in the IRS knew about
this two years ago and then they had to flack it? Remember, they were
denying it a year later, after they knew about it in `12, they knew about
it in `11, they were denying it in `12.
He must figure at some point, the PR person there may have talked to the PR
person in the White House because they`re always circling the wagons, Joe.
You know how it works. We got a stinker coming here, you better be ready
KLEIN: You know, in the military, you`re responsible for everything that
goes on during your watch. And that means that the director of the IRS, at
the very least, is responsible for this.
And I think that the president really has to make a show of force at this
point and just, you know, lop off the head of that agency --
KLEIN: -- and move on it because, I`m telling you, this is going to be
big, even if it doesn`t turn out to be significant. But if it turns out
that there was any degree of White House knowledge of this, that is going
to be a conflagration at a time when we have some serious business to deal
with in this country --
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
KLEIN: -- like the budget.
FINEMAN: We do have more serious things, but on the other hand, if -- go
back to the campaign. In that year, or the year before, when the head of
the IRS is up on the Hill saying, There`s nothing going on here -- all the
Tea Party groups are complaining. They`re all complaining. Conservative
groups are complaining. The guy comes onto the Hill and says, you know,
There`s nothing to this whatsoever. There`s absolutely nothing to this
It`s hard to imagine that that testimony did not pass the radar screens of
the White House and certainly of the Obama campaign. I mean, it`s just
MATTHEWS: They knew it might be -- your tradecraft is showing. This is
what you know as a journalist.
FINEMAN: You know, those guys are watching that, they`re saying, Oh, my
MATTHEWS: Yes. I didn`t think the president was as angry about this as he
should have been, not just his wording but his body language, whereas when
it came up to Benghazi, (INAUDIBLE) right now, he was furious. The
difference between his eye (ph) set (ph) and the way he looked at that AP
reporter today when the issue was this, was totally different than it was
when the issue of Benghazi came up.
So we`re now (INAUDIBLE) now flacking for this show. We`re about to go to
the hottest show you`re going to see tonight, which is what we`re going to
talk about for the next 10 minutes. This president is furious at what he
calls the sideshow of Benghazi. Up in a minute with that.
Thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
KLEIN: And thank you, Joe Klein. Great reporting and great reporting over
KLEIN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, we`re going to talk to someone who says her
conservative group was personally targeted by the IRS.
And then later, the other big story, Benghazi, and what it could mean, what
it could threaten more of, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, or the
Republicans who spend so much time focusing on it? We`ll see who gets
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A jury in Philadelphia has found a doctor who practiced late-
term abortions guilty of the first degree murder of three babies who were
delivered alive. Dr. Kermit Gosnell was also found guilty of the
involuntary manslaughter of a woman patient.
The jury will return one week from tomorrow to decide whether Gosnell gets
the death penalty.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More now on the IRS scandal that has
outraged so many across the country. To recap what we now know, the agency
has admitted to unfairly targeting conservative groups seeking tax
exemptions as non-profits.
Congress, the Treasury Department`s inspector general and the IRS itself
are among those investigating the matter, and those who were unfairly
targeted are weighing legal action.
At issue here is how the IRS looked for groups it thought might be
violating the rules. It did so with an apparent political motive,
essentially hand-picking groups that had terms like "Tea Party" or
"patriot" in their applications.
Of the 300 groups the IRS singled out for heightened review, about 25
percent of them featured those words in their paperwork, according to
agency officials. In the end, none of them were found to have violated any
rules. In fact, not a single one of them have had their applications
turned down to this point, although some reviews are still ongoing.
If the words "Tea Party" and "patriot" are what you`re screening for, it`s
hardly a surprise our next guest was one of those targeted. Joining me now
Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of the non-profit Tea Party Patriots.
Also with us is Joy Reid, MSNBC political analyst with TheGrio.com.
Thank you very much, Jenny Beth for joining us. According to -- well, let
me just get your personal -- how did you know you were targeted for review
by the IRS as a patriot group, as a Tea Party group?
JENNY BETH MARTIN, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: Thanks for having me on again,
Chris. And we saw in -- well, we saw that it was taking months and months
and months to get answers from the IRS, and they`ve been stringing us along
for years. In 2012, the beginning of 2012, we got, like, an eight-page
letter from the IRS -- several other groups did around the country --
asking for things like our Facebook posts and comments on our Facebook
page, all the e-mails we`ve ever sent, the names of congressmen and
senators that any of our supporters from around the country have talked to.
A lot of the information that they were asking for was completely --
completely -- really, none of their business and completely intrusive.
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me about it from your point of view. Are you a
MARTIN: We are a non-profit organization designed to do grass roots
lobbying. That means we do legislative action. And that`s what a 501(c)4
is for. And then we also have applied for 501(c)3 status so that we can
educate on things like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights --
MARTIN: -- which this IRS report --
MATTHEWS: Well, do you -- let me --
MARTIN: They`re saying --
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry --
MARTIN: -- they didn`t even want us to do that.
MATTHEWS: Do you take sides in elections?
MARTIN: We have only stood up for our issues. We`ve never endorsed any
candidates. In the primary, in fact, the vast majority of the work that we
do, the vast majority is related to the issues, like "Obama care," the
debt, the overspending.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. Obamacare --
MARTIN: I`ve been on your show talking about it.
MATTHEWS: In opposing Obamacare do you think that was a political move?
MARTIN: It was about the legislation. It wasn`t about a political move.
It was about what we thought was happening with the bill and the law moving
MATTHEWS: I understand that. Once the bill was passed, did you stop
attacking Obamacare since it was a policy question, it wasn`t political?
If you kept attacking Obamacare after it was the law of the land, then I
would question whether you were doing it as a campaign issue.
MARTIN: No, it wasn`t a campaign issue.
And we were out there in front of the Supreme Court when it was being heard
out in front of the Supreme Court. Again, that`s what we`re allowed to do
as a 501(c)(4). And it wasn`t for campaign purposes. It`s because that is
what -- how you appeal laws if you want to in this country.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But once the law was approved by -- went through and it
was approved by review by the Supreme Court, did you continue to attack
Obamacare on through the November election?
MARTIN: We have focused on Obamacare. And, of course, going into the
elections last year, it was not as large of an issue as we would have liked
it to be.
MATTHEWS: But why did you -- if you`re not political, why did you keep
hitting the issue going into an election, if it had already been approved
by the Supreme Court?
MARTIN: Because we`re legislatively focused, Chris. It`s legislation.
And we`re legislatively focused. And that`s what we do.
We weren`t talking about candidates. And, in fact, when we talked about
the law going into the election, we didn`t even call it Obamacare. We said
the president`s health care law, because our attorneys said that if we used
Obama, and the name Obama, that would cause problems for our pending -- our
MATTHEWS: I got you.
Joy Reid, thank you for joining us tonight.
My concern, I have voiced it loudly, this is catnip for the hard right. It
says the government`s the enemy. The government`s out to get you. The
helicopters are next. We`re going to come get your guns, confiscate what
you have and perhaps take you away to a concentration camp. And it`s not
just paranoia if you have this kind of evidence. I think it is paranoia
most of the time.
But if this thing gets out to be fact, if it`s clear they were going
through returns like this young lady -- this lady`s returns, her
organization`s returns, if they`re going around systemically looking for
the right wing, it could be the left wing next year. That`s my view. I
think the president was right. I think he should have been tougher.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Chris, you know, I think there`s a
couple things here just to impact.
First of all, obviously, the people in that Cincinnati office -- and we`re
not talking about people in Washington. We`re talking about people in
MATTHEWS: No, but Cincinnati was tasked with this nationally.
MATTHEWS: No, they had the national -- you can`t -- you can`t pigeonhole
it in Cincinnati. This was the national effort to go through the review of
these organizations. This is where it was tasked, one place, Cincinnati.
So you can`t say it`s a local operation somewhere. Go ahead.
REID: Right. But these were low-level staffers in Cincinnati.
I think that the problem here is the attempt to immediately go from that to
the White House and say, well, you know what? The White House was going
MATTHEWS: No, I`m not doing that.
MARTIN: No, not you.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you a question. Lois Lerner, head of the whole
operation that looks at all these nonprofits, knew about this a year
before, according to the record now. You knew about this a year before.
They were denying it was happening.
So, why didn`t she fire the people who did it? Why weren`t steps taken to
seriously discipline those who had done it? Why didn`t she simply say,
well, do it a little differently this time?
MATTHEWS: I`m concerned that people weren`t taking responsibility on
behalf of this republic within our government, not being responsible to the
organization of the IRS, but being responsible to the country. And that`s
REID: First of all, we haven`t gotten the final report yet. But the
report that I have read, I think the AP report that was out there was that
Lerner ordered that the criteria and that the review process be changed
immediately when she learned of it. And --
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the people that did it?
REID: Well, that`s the good question. That`s a decent question.
But asking whether Barack Obama was using the IRS to go after his political
enemies, which not you`re doing, but which I`m starting to see on the
right, is -- it doesn`t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not going to go after a straw dog.
MATTHEWS: I`m concerned about the government.
MATTHEWS: In this case, Joy, the president is head of this government. If
there are screwups, if it`s down in Albuquerque at the lowest level of a
government, if somebody there is speaking for Uncle Sam, he`s got to deal
REID: Well, of course.
But Doug Shulman, who was the head of the IRS at the time, I think the idea
that he was engaged in some kind of conspiracy to go after Tea Party groups
on a political basis, when he, himself, is a Republican and a George Bush
appointee, who had already told the president that he was resigning from
one of only two appointed political positions in the IRS, that he was
resigning in November --
REID: So the idea that there`s some conspiracy, Doug Shulman being the
head of doesn`t make sense.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Jenny Beth.
MARTIN: Chris --
MATTHEWS: Your view, because, I believe, what I believe, what I have been
able to understand is that the national effort to review these kinds of
applications like yours, the national effort was tasked to the Cincinnati
office and they were handling all this across the country.
This wasn`t some little pigeonholed operation. This was the effort to do
this fairly. And apparently they weren`t doing it fairly. They were
targeting the right. Your thoughts.
MARTIN: They weren`t doing it fairly.
And is Lois Lerner a low-level employee? Because she knew about it last
year. She knew about it in 2011. And on Friday, she was saying it was
only low-level employees involved. So, is she a low-level employee or not?
MATTHEWS: Well, she was on the Federal Election Commission.
MARTIN: Well, I would say that`s probably not a low-level job.
And it doesn`t -- if it was a Bush appointee, an Obama appointee, I don`t
care who appointed them. Whoever -- the people who were responsible must
be held accountable. This is not Republican. It`s not Democrat. It`s
wrong to do, and it`s about the people who are unelected who have too much
power abusing the power that they have. We cannot have that in this
MATTHEWS: The one good news, Jenny Beth, the good news is the I.G. caught
them. Their own inspector general caught them.
MATTHEWS: And that`s the good thing.
MARTIN: Thanks to Landmark Legal for asking for that investigation to
REID: OK. Actually, three quick things.
MATTHEWS: Quick, Joy.
REID: The idea that the Tea Party Patriots and these other groups are
nonpartisan, that they are social welfare organizations is my other point,
that the 501(c)(4) process has attracted every low-level political
consultant in the country to create the (c)(4) when they saw the Tea Party
They weren`t creating these groups to be nonpartisan and do policy.
Everyone who`s observed the Tea Party knows they`re political. That`s
And, number two, I wonder if the same level of outrage existed back in 2004
when the IRS not went after, looked at applications, but audited the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, audited the
NAACP, and launched a two-year investigation into them simply because the
president of the NAACP, because one person made comments that they thought
were negative toward George W. Bush.
And I think it`s great that we`re going to look at the IRS process. Of
course it should be looked at if people did wrongdoing. And it was clearly
stupid to target groups in this way. They didn`t understand the law.
Then, yes, people should be disciplined. But let`s just try to make sure
that we`re just as outraged when the IRS goes after the NAACP.
And I don`t remember this level of outrage in 2004 before this election.
MARTIN: And did the IRS in 2004 say we`re going after them because of
comments they made toward the president?
REID: Yes, the letter that was sent --
MARTIN: Then it`s just as wrong then. It`s just as wrong then.
REID: -- that Julian Bond`s -- that Julian Bond`s statements about
George W. Bush and his opposition to the war, that was in the IRS letter
that went to the NAACP.
REID: They had disclosed that they were going after them because of --
MATTHEWS: OK. I think one thing. Thank you, Joy. And I think everybody
understands what you said, and Jenny as well. I think people all at home
are going to make a judgment about this. Two wrongs don`t make a right.
Both are wrong.
Thank you very much, Jenny Beth Martin. Thank you for coming on.
Please come on again.
Joy, as always.
REID: Thank you.
MARTIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you, mostly.
MATTHEWS: Up next, turn -- of course you`re right. Up -- turns --
especially about the NAACP. They got a rotten deal there.
Up next: Turns out there are a few things Republicans and Democrats
actually agree on coming up on the "Sideshow."
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and now to the "Sideshow," the real
First, the word from "SNL"`s Seth Meyers on the National Rifle
Association`s plan to appeal to women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
SETH MEYERS, ACTOR: In an effort to appeal to women, the NRA is
highlighting a number of products for women`s self-defense, including
purses with hidden handgun pockets, because if there`s one thing women are
good at, it`s quickly retrieving something from their purse.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s like going through that bag I tote to and from work
with all the homework and stuff in it.
By the way, it was just announced that Seth Meyers will take over NBC`s
"Late Night" when Jimmy Fallon goes to host "The Tonight Show" next year.
Next, it`s pretty clear where most of America stands on background checks
for gun purchases. Several polls out there show that nine out of 10
Americans, as you know, are in favor of those wider checks. So, here`s a
question. What other issues have nine out of 10 of us on the same page?
Well, the Associated Press put together a list. And the results are pretty
basic, things like admire those who get rich by working hard or believe
it`s wrong for married people to have sexual affairs, or consider
preventing terrorism a very important foreign policy goal.
Well, backing wider background checks fits right onto that commonsense
Also, Michele Bachmann`s back in the "Sideshow" today. It seems like she`s
kept a low profile since her presidential run, such as it was. Bachmann
spoke at a prayer event in Washington last week and suggested that the
attacks of 9/11, both in 2001, the big one, and at the diplomatic mission
in Benghazi last year were actually cases of, big surprise here, divine
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: It`s no secret that our nation may
very well be experiencing the hand of judgment. It is no secret that we
all are concerned that our nation may be in a time of decline. Our nation
has seen judgment not once, but twice, on September 11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s our judgment. Seems to be a rather stunning conclusion, I
Anyway, Bachmann had floated the same idea two years ago after Hurricane
Irene, saying that hurricane was a sign of the evils of government
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: I don`t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the
politicians. We got an earthquake. We have had a hurricane. He said, are
you going to start listening to me here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re listening.
Finally, you know the David Bowie song "Space Oddity"? How about a taste
of that song being performed from outer space?
Enter Chris Hadfield. He`s commander of the International Space Station.
And commemorating his last day on the job, here he is before coming back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Hadfield got a treat there from -- actually, a tweet from
David -- quote -- "Chris Hadfield sings Space Oddity in space. Hallo
That`s it for the "Sideshow," a zero gravity rendition of "Space Oddity."
Up next: the other big political controversy of the day, as I promised,
Benghazi. President Obama called the Republican focus on those talking
points about the attack on Libya a sideshow. He stole our title. And
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
The Dow falls 26 points. The S&P 500 finishes flat, and the Nasdaq, which
touched a 12-year high earlier, ends up two.
Worries about the Fed weighing on stocks. According to "The Wall Street
Journal," the Fed is looking to end its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying
And on the economic front, retail sales rose unexpectedly 0.1 percent last
month. Excluding gas and auto, sales were actually up 0.5 percent.
That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After days of taking hits over new disclosures on Benghazi, the president
pushed back hard today. He ridiculed the idea that there was a cover-up
coming from his administration. He called it a political circus, accused
his critics of playing political games and insisted there was no there
Well, on the issue of the talking points, the president was especially
animated. On Friday, we learned that the CIA talking points went through
12 rounds of changes, with the heavier-than-usual previously thought
involvement of the State Department and the White House, that it was
outlined in a series of e-mails.
Here`s what the president had to say about it all today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whole issue of this --
of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.
The ems that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees.
Suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there`s something new to
the story. There`s no there there.
And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to
do with political motivations. We`ve had folks who have challenged Hillary
Clinton`s integrity, Susan Rice`s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom
Pickering`s integrity. It`s a given that mine gets challenged by these
same folks. They`ve used it for fund-raising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, is the president right? Is the issue of how the talking
points were changed a political sideshow?
Well, U.S. Congressman Michael Turner is on the Oversight and Government
Reform Committee, which held last week`s hears on Benghazi.
Congressman, thanks for coming on.
What is your view of this whole thing?
REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R), OHIO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president has been dishonest? He`s saying
basically his integrity has been challenged. Let`s go to the issue of the
talking points. Do you think he was involved in cleaning them up, changing
focus on them, covering up in some way to get reelected? What do you think
his role was? Let`s start with him.
TURNER: Well, first off, the truth is never a sideshow.
And what we learned in the past week with the congressional hearings is
that the narrative that was coming out of the administration from these
talking points has no basis in fact. It is, in fact, a fiction. Mr.
Hicks, who testified before us, said that Susan Rice hadn`t even spoken to
him, the lead diplomat on the ground, after the ambassador was killed.
And, you know, he clearly said that there was no demonstrations, that this
was a terrorist attack. They knew it was a terrorist attack. They knew
who had perpetrated the terrorist attack. They`ve already claimed credit.
And yet the White House and the administration chose to write a narrative
that was based on fiction.
MATTHEWS: So you know the president was involved, or who in the White
House? You said the White House. Let`s nail you down here.
Who told Susan Rice to say what she said that day? Was that the president,
personally, deputizing her to say it was a spontaneous demonstration that
evolved into a terrorist attack of some form? What do you think did it?
Was it the president or one of his people? What do you know?
TURNER: Well, what we know is that Susan Rice --
MATTHEWS: No, do you know if the president was involved? Just tell me.
TURNER: -- created this fiction. And Susan Rice went on national
television and made statements that had no --
MATTHEWS: I watched it.
TURNER: -- no basis in truth.
MATTHEWS: I saw everything you saw. I want you to tell me something I
TURNER: When you have a lead administration official --
MATTHEWS: Tell me something I don`t know. OK. You`re repeating yourself.
TURNER: When you have a lead administration official go on television and
absolutely not tell the truth --
MATTHEWS: This is the third time you`re saying it.
MATTHEWS: I`m asking you, what`s the president`s role -- let me ask you
another question again. The same question again. I`ve asked you three
times. What did the president know to your knowledge in terms of having
her say what she said on "Meet the Press" that Sunday? I watched it. You
Did the president have a role in that or not?
TURNER: I think he has a role today. And that is as you and I both have
said, we know what she said is not true. And the administration insists --
MATTHEWS: I agree with that. The fifth time you`re saying it.
TURNER: -- that it wasn`t true.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you don`t know any more than I do.
TURNER: It`s wrong for the White House to perpetrate this truth. I can
tell you that I know from our hearing that Mr. Hicks wasn`t -- who was on
the ground, was not even consulted as the administration, who knows why,
perpetrated this narrative that was based on fiction.
Let me ask you, do you know if the secretary of state at the time, Hillary
Clinton, was involved in any way in prepping Susan Rice for that appearance
on "Meet the Press"? When you said -- I think appropriately, you said,
didn`t give the full or accurate story. Was the secretary of state
Because what`s going on here, the big names are getting --
TURNER: The story that she gave was fiction.
MATTHEWS: Sixth time you said it. I just want to tell me who did it.
TURNER: The administration official goes on national television and says a
fiction -- well, that`s what obviously we`re trying to get down to. Now,
the president says he has released e-mails only because the Congress asked.
He`s not stepped forward and said, excuse me, I`ve now learned that a lead
administration official on my behalf told a fiction to the nation. That`s
what he should be focusing on. And that`s what we`re trying to find out --
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. In the course of your investigations, Mr. Turner,
have you come up with any e-mail that suggests the president was involved?
Any mail that suggests that the White House through Carney or anybody else
seriously changed the message of that performance by the ambassador to the
TURNER: The -- well, I`m going --
MATTHEWS: Any evidence supporting this discussion?
TURNER: The e-mails show which is why there`s an ongoing investigation
that there was a dialogue that changed this narrative to a fiction. What
we need to find out is who did this, why did they do it?
MATTHEWS: OK, so you don`t know.
TURNER: And why isn`t the White House coming forward and saying they told
the American public a lie? It`s a fiction.
MATTHEWS: No, you just said you didn`t know the White House told the lie.
I`ve been asking you now for five minutes to give me any evidence you have
that the president was involved --
TURNER: We have --
MATTHEWS: No, you have to answer this question. You can`t skip my
questions and end up with an accusation. You just said the president did
this. Tell me how you know this.
TURNER: Chris, what`s great is you get to ask the questions and but I get
to do the answers. You agreed with me that what Susan Rice said was a
fiction. Do we agree there?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agreed with you five times.
MATTHEWS: I continue to ask you a simple question. What role did the
president play here? What role did he play, sir?
TURNER: What`s wonderful about you asking these questions is that`s why
Congress is doing an investigation.
MATTHEWS: So you`re investigating whether what you`re talking about is --
TURNER: -- to make certain we get down to who did this, why did they do
it, and really where did this fiction come from?
MATTHEWS: I think it`s odd to have an investigation to find out if you
know what you`re talking about. That`s what you`re saying.
I, sir, I Congressman Turner am holding a investigation --
TURNER: You try to find out the truth.
MATTHEWS: By the way, watch this show at 7:00 and see yourself saying the
president did it. You said the president did it. You said the White House
did it. You keep saying --
TURNER: I have never, Chris.
TURNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. There is no question that this
administration has told a fiction to this nation.
MATTHEWS: Oh, now, it`s the administration.
TURNER: While the president says it`s a sideshow, he`s never said it`s
MATTHEWS: I know you got your points down. I want to ask you one last
time, in all fairness, Congressman. Do you know if the president had
anything to do with Susan Rice`s performance on "Meet the Press" that
Sunday? Anything? Do you know anything you can tell me about that?
TURNER: He appointed her and he certainly has done nothing since to
correct the fiction and to say there`s a problem in my administration that
someone would go on national TV and tell a fiction.
MATTHEWS: I understand everything you`re saying, by the way, except the
fact you`re bringing the president in, the White House in. You admitted
now you need to hold an investigation to find out if you know what you`re
talking about, which is amazing admission, sir.
TURNER: The president is responsible. It`s his administration. It`s his
appointees. It`s his administration. He`s the one who took out Benghazi,
took down Gadhafi without a post-Gadhafi plan.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Turner, you`re doing your job, but you`re not answering my
TURNER: Chris, I really appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
TURNER: And thank you for your comments on the IRS. You`re absolutely
MATTHEWS: We may agree on some things, but I`m still trying to get, and by
the way, if you --
TURNER: We do.
MATTHEWS: -- if the president has any role in this, let me know, will you?
Thank you, Congressman Turner.
Our apologies to David Corn who`s sitting here idly with much to say.
Up next, how should President Obama navigate the Benghazi and IRS
controversy? We`re pure (ph) politics now, and what effect will they have
in 2014 and 2016?
The HARDBALL strategists join us next.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Coming back to talk to our HARDBALL strategists about how these
two big political controversies can be played by both sides. Benghazi and
the IRS, how are they going to affect the midterms in 2014? And big
question, how are they going to affect Hillary Clinton in 2016?
Back after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
As we`ve been discussing tonight on the show, the IRS and Benghazi stories
are dominating politics right now, and the strategy each side uses to play
these could affect their political positioning in the new elections coming
up next year and two years after that. In Washington, the words cover up
carry particularly residence as you know. And this weekend, with regard to
Benghazi, that grenade was lobbed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We now know any reference to terror, any
reference to al Qaeda, were removed from those talking points and it was
done at a deputy`s meeting just before Susan Rice went on television.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you call this a cover up?
MCCAIN: I`d call it a cover up. I would call it a cover up in the extent
that it was willful removal of information which was obvious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s John McCain.
Now it`s time for the strategists to get into this. Joining me is
Republican strategist John Brabender, and former San Francisco Mayor,
John, I want to tell me right now, is the Benghazi issue something that`s
important -- the Republicans can win seats with in 2014, perhaps mar the
reputation of Secretary Clinton. How big an issue was this? It`s a
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think it`s big for a number
of reasons. One is there is going to be a lot more investigation on this.
You saw the word "cover up." Those are dramatic political terms.
Second of all, I think there`s a lot of suspicion that something
And number three --
MATTHEWS: What? You`ve got to tell me. This guy wouldn`t tell me. You
think the president of the United States sat down and (INAUDIBLE) talking
BRABENDER: No, I don`t. I think there were people in the State
Department, though, that worried that this could be a political nightmare
and were very careful in how they crafted it. So I do think that`s a
problem for him.
MATTHEWS: You think they wrote the script for Susan Rice, Hillary
Clinton`s people did?
BRABENDER: Well, her spokesperson certainly made changes. So, I mean,
that`s far that I go. But number three, the fact that --
MATTHEWS: I think it`s complicated but I don`t think that`s it.
Let me go back to Mayor Brown. I think it`s very complicated. I think it
has to do with turf between the Obama people and the Hillary people, and
the carefulness with which they have to walk on that turf. You can never
be seen as shifting blame. You must always accept blame.
That`s my theory about this. It`s walking on the egg shells kind of thing.
Your thoughts, Mr. Mayor? Is this something that Democrats got to worry
about, Hillary Clinton has to worry about? Benghazi, the word?
WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: No, I don`t think so, Chris.
Simple providing the explanation, whatever it happens to be -- for most of
the American people, they accept that explanation. There is no accusation
that there was any improper conduct that caused the death of Ambassador
Stevens and his other people.
The question about whether or not there was sufficient amount of security,
whether or not reasonable resources were there, all those are just
questions, they don`t go to the competence of individuals seeking public
office in 2014 and it will not even be a spectrum on the whole horizon by
MATTHEWS: I agree with the mayor on `14. I`m not sure about `16. It
depends on how your generation generates this thing.
Do you think it`s a 2014 issue? Next year.
BRABENDER: Well, I think it`s 2014 and 2016, because it`s Hillary Clinton.
If she wasn`t involved, I think it would be off the table.
MATTHEWS: I`m not so sure, because Hillary has got a pretty clean image.
Let me go to the IRS issue, which I do think has legs. You`re first on
this, Mr. Mayor. The IRS issue, if it`s clean now, clear, rather, that
agents of the IRS have been singling out conservative organizations for
special harassment, if you will, or special difficulties or whatever, or
simply or whatever, or simply targeting them for audits or whatever, is
this going to hurt this administration?
BROWN: Excuse me, Chris.
Yes, I do think it will hurt the administration if the administration
doesn`t move very quickly to eliminate those people from any position of
public service, in which they have exercise the horrible judgment that
MATTHEWS: I agree.
BROWN: That`s a terrible thing to have done. If you did it, you shouldn`t
be working for government and I think the administration will say exactly
that and exercise those people very quickly.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. Your thoughts?
I think it`s Jonah and the whale from the Bible. As long as Jonah stays on
that ship, the Obama ship, that ship`s got problems.
BRABENDER: Here`s the problem. You have to look at this in the total
perspective. You have Benghazi. Now, you have the IRS.
MATTHEWS: Stick with the IRS.
BRABENDER: Well, it`s a terrible story.
MATTHEWS: What`s the connection?
BRABENDER: The connection is somebody in that administration thought that
we are going to penalize Obama opponents, and he still is the head of the
MATTHEWS: We don`t even know if it`s a political appointee, though. We
don`t think it is.
BRABENDER: Regardless, it looks bad for the president.
MATTHEWS: So, what does he do about it? Help him out here. Is the mayor
right, fire the bastards?
BRABENDER: Well, yes, absolutely, they should be fired. In fact, they
should to investigate to -- maybe you were polled. I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: We had a guest that said (ph) they have been hit by this and it
looks like it`s happening.
Thank you, Mayor Brown, so much for that incisive thinking, and, John
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
"What difference does it make?" That`s what Secretary Clinton insisted.
"It`s a side show." That`s what the president said about it today.
But it remains, Benghazi.
The speaker of the House says he`s committed to it. He`s going to ride it
as long as he can.
So, what can the president do to protect himself in 2014 when Republicans
are going to use the issue to fight for control of Congress? What can
Secretary Clinton do with it if she runs for president?
My hunch is that Obama has other fish to fry. He can push Benghazi off a
bit to the side, not off the road entirely, but a bit to the side.
The secretary isn`t so lucky. Benghazi happened on her watch. I think
assuming that she did the right thing there, in the wake of the tragedy.
She can grab ahold of the matter and stand out there before the American
people and explain to all of us minute by minute how she dealt with the
I think she can. You know why? Because she really liked Chris Stevens.
You can tell that. And because se really does care about her diplomats in
the State Department, especially those out in the field.
You hear that about her. And because she also is not a callous person.
I know the Clintons had it rough down in Arkansas with their conservative
critics. I know they had a deal, tough deal with Ken Starr and Tom DeLay
and the rest. But she came through it looking pretty good.
I think she can deal with Benghazi because at its bottom line, she didn`t
do a thing wrong.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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