updated 5/17/2013 10:49:42 AM ET 2013-05-17T14:49:42

HARDBALL
May 16, 2013

Guests: Jay Carney, Bob Shrum, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Landay, Michael Crowley, Ezekiel Emanuel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Turnaround.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Today was the second day of the Obama
offensive. Yesterday, he fired the head of the IRS, and today he`s tossing
off comparisons to Nixon. He said he`s determined to get things fixed out
there.

Well, a question. Will he be satisfied if there are no more firings at the
Internal Revenue Service? Will he let the people who did the political
targeting keep their jobs? And if so, will he call that fixing things?

Second question. What lessons did the president learn from all this? Is
he going to change the way he runs things? Is he going to insist that he,
the president, is told what`s going on, or does he want inspectors general
and his own attorney general to only let him know what`s happening by what
he reads in the newspaper -- in other words, what is leaked to people who
write what`s in the newspaper?

And finally, what does the president think of the Reince Priebus charge
that he personally, Barack Obama, inspired the people over there at the IRS
to target the Tea Party?

Jay Carney is the White House press secretary. Jay, thanks so much for
coming on. It`s a hot time of the year for everybody, especially you.

What do you make of this IRS thing? I mean, I believe -- I`ll just put my
cards on the table -- if the American people know that the same people that
did this thing, targeting the Tea Party people over there and the patriot
groups, are still there a year from now, they`re not going to believe it`s
been cleaned up.

What`s the president`s view?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Chris, as you heard from
the president both last night and again today, you know, he has taken
direct action in response to the report issued by the inspector general.
Secretary Lew asked for and accepted the resignation of the acting IRS
commissioner.

The president is nominating or putting forward a new acting IRS
commissioner. He is instructing everyone involved in this to make sure we
get all the facts that underlie the IG report. He`s made clear that the
behavior, the conduct documented in that report, is absolutely
inappropriate, it is wrong, and it undermines the confidence that the
American people need to have that the IRS is neutral and fair in the way
that it applies our tax laws.

So you know, he is outraged by this. You`ve heard him say that. And I can
tell you...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARNEY: ... I know it`s true. And you know, he, as he said today, when --
his job as chief executive, as the president of the United States, is to
take action when problems are discovered, to fix those problems. And
that`s what he`s going to do.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but outrage is good. The words are good. Getting rid of
that guy, Miller, is good because it was appropriate for him to retire,
resign. But is he going to be satisfied, this president, with one head, or
doesn`t he -- you know the public relations here. If the American people
are filling out their taxes next year...

CARNEY: Hey, Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... know that the IRS is still packed with the same people, it`s
a problem, isn`t it? Or is it?

CARNEY: Well, Chris, I mean, if you`re suggesting that I should randomly
fire people now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, will he be happy if he doesn`t fire people?

CARNEY: We need to get all of the facts. And he has made clear that
people who are responsible for failures will be held accountable.

MATTHEWS: Well...

CARNEY: He will demand it. But we need all the facts. We have the IG`s
report. We need more facts to...

MATTHEWS: I understood that`s the requirement, but in the end -- we got
some news here Jay. Just turns out, as we`re speaking here -- you may
already know this -- according to congressional sources, the second top IRS
official has announced plans to leave the agency. An internal IRS memo
says that Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency`s tax-exempt and
government entities division, will retire June 3rd. Grant oversaw, by the
way, the IRS division that apparently targeted Tea Party groups for
additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

So the progress continues. Let me ask you -- since this is happening, and
I can`t complain about something that`s happening -- let me ask you about
the president`s way of running the government.

In this case, your legal office was informed generally of some sort of IG
report a couple of weeks ago. You weren`t informed at all what was
happening at the attorney general`s office with regard to his recusal of
himself in this subpoenaing of all the records from the Associated Press.

If this is the way the president operates, getting the news late, or
getting it, as he says, in the newspapers, how can he be an aggressive
chief executive? My question.

CARNEY: Chris, I would turn this around. Imagine what reporters would be
saying and people like you would be saying if the president of the United
States and the folks in the White House were being informed of and engaged
in on a criminal investigation into a leak that presumably, because it`s a
leak of classified information, has to do with a leak that emanated from
somewhere within the federal government?

That would be viewed as absolutely inappropriate, and in past histories of
previous administrations, beyond inappropriate. It is entirely appropriate
that we are not informed of the progress or the methods used by federal
prosecutors in criminal investigations.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARNEY: We should not. But what the president can say, as he did before,
is that he has two dominant interests in issues like these. One, to
protect our national security secrets because the consequences of leaking
national security secrets are real, and they can, in fact, be deadly. They
can endanger the lives of Americans overseas, A.

B, he has an overriding interest, for the sake of our democracy, in the 1st
Amendment, freedom of the press and freedom of speech and ensuring that the
press is able to pursue investigative journalism freely and to pursue the
free flow of information.

In order to provide more protections for the media, he has long supported a
media shield law. He is urging the Senate and glad to see that the Senate
is moving forward on Senator Schumer`s reintroduction of a media shield law
that is exactly the compromise -- or rather, the negotiated agreement that
this administration led back in 2009 that won the support of media
organizations and federal prosecutors. And we need to move forward on
that.

MATTHEWS: Well, the problem with the argument is, we had a recent
administration, the Bush administration, W`s administration, where we all
knew, the president announced there was an investigation of the leaks of --
regarding Scooter Libby and the rest of those people. That was all
conducted in the public light.

And by the way, how could the president or anybody in the White House
imagine this thing was going to be kept secret with AP being subpoenaed for
all those records? So it was only a matter of telling him ahead of time so
he could be...

CARNEY: It wasn`t a question of...

MATTHEWS: ... an effective chief executive.

CARNEY: Chris, I think, again, it`s not a question of keeping it secret.
It is not, in our view, appropriate for the White House to be involved in
an ongoing criminal investigation. And I just...

MATTHEWS: Not even to know what was going on? OK.

CARNEY: I would -- I would -- I would ask you to consider the alternative
to that and to -- as you know because you`ve covered this and been, you
know, around here for a long time, you know what past history here tells us
about...

MATTHEWS: OK.

CARNEY: ... involvement of White Houses in criminal investigations led
by...

MATTHEWS: It just seems the president...

CARNEY: ... the Justice Department.

MATTHEWS: You saw what I saw, Jay, which is -- you know, Jon Stewart the
other night did a wonderful parody of it, and it`s a tragic parody, of the
president time after time after time saying, I heard it in the papers, I
read it in the news, learning things that other people are learning as they
learned it. It seems like...

CARNEY: Chris, you`re talking about...

MATTHEWS: ... to run the United States government, you ought to be ahead
of the game.

CARNEY: Chris, can I please just urge you to realize that, you know, we
have -- so we`re talking about two issues that have to do with
investigations or reviews by, you know, an independent inspector general or
the criminal -- you know, a criminal investigation by the Department of
Justice.

You know, what this president will do is that when he finds problems that
need to be fixed in the federal government, he acts to fix them. And
that`s what the American people expect him to do.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CARNEY: But what he does not do is interfere in criminal investigations.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t ask him to. Let me ask you, Jay, last question.
Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, has accused
the president of inspiring the misdeeds over at the IRS. What do you make
of that?

CARNEY: You know, I think that Mr. Priebus is the head of a political
party. We have seen again and again this week and -- attempts that have
largely failed to turn all of this into a partisan fight. I think that
Republicans have been chagrined by their failure to turn the Benghazi
talking points, again, into some sort of political issue because the facts
just don`t support their accusations.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CARNEY: When it comes to the IRS, nobody has been more forthright and
clear about his outrage over the conduct that`s been reported than the
president. And no one has taken action more than the president has taken
action. And he will continue to do so.

MATTHEWS: Jay, thanks for coming on HARDBALL -- Jay Carney, press
secretary to the president. Thanks for coming here.

CARNEY: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum is Democratic strategist and former RNC chair, of
course, Michael Steele joins us for two points of view. I`m asking the
questions here again. And maybe I`m too tough. You think? I don`t think
so.

Michael Steele, shouldn`t the president know things before he reads them in
the paper?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I
think -- what I took away from that interview -- and it`s something that,
again, I think this administration is tone-deaf on and it`s played itself
out.

There`s a difference between the president being involved in an
investigation and the president being informed of an investigation. No
one`s asking the president to get a blow-by-blow of what the attorney
general is doing and finding out in an ongoing criminal or other type of
investigation.

What we would think, though, is that someone from the Justice Department
would inform someone in the White House to inform the president that this
is going on, and that`s where they seem to get muddled in this thing.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if -- Bob, they seem over-lawyered. They seem --
and I mean that. I mean, the fact that the counsel`s office had some
inkling that something was coming from the IG back in April, the president
didn`t even know about it until he read about it in the papers on Friday.

Over and over again -- remember this -- wasn`t there a recent
administration we used to make fun of for always being surprised? They
never knew what was coming. All of a sudden, they hear something.

I sense a lack of executive span of control by this president, an
uninterest -- not a disinterest, but an uninterest in knowing what`s going
on all through the government agencies so that he can be on top of them
either through cabinet conversations -- I don`t know why Eric Holder, who`s
a fine man, a fine attorney general, can`t call up the president say, I`ve
just recused myself from this investigation, you`re going to hear about it
soon.

Go up, Bob. Your thoughts.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first, in terms of the -- knowing
that the IG was going to come out with this report on the IRS, if they knew
it two weeks in advance, had any idea of its content, it would be
inexplicable to me that that wasn`t communicated to the president of the
United States. There`s nothing inappropriate about that.

I tend to agree with Jay Carney that as you go down these individual cases
in the Justice Department -- and this is just one of many cases. We don`t
know what cases are going on there. Checking in with the White House,
checking in with the White House staff, announcing that the attorney
general`s recusing himself, giving the reason -- I think you begin to get
into the interstices of the investigation.

MATTHEWS: Come on, Bob.

SHRUM: And if you do that, by the way...

MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy couldn`t call Jack Kennedy...

SHRUM: ... the Republicans would be demanding...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... call Jack and say...

SHRUM: The Republicans would...

MATTHEWS: ... I`m pulling myself out of an investigation because it
involves you? He wouldn`t tell him?

SHRUM: Well, I -- first of all, I don`t think there was such an
investigation, number one. Number two...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s just speculate a little bit here.

SHRUM: No, I don`t think it was. Number two, I think in the world we live
in, after Richard Nixon and after Watergate, the Justice Department and the
White House have to be very careful about how they communicate.

MATTHEWS: OK...

SHRUM: They communicate in terms of policy. They can tell the president
about big decisions. But president should not be in the middle of these
cases. The IG case...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Nobody said -- you`re overstating -- by the way, Bob, let me
throw you a minnow.

SHRUM: I don`t even get what they were doing there.

MATTHEWS: Let me throw you a minnow. I think you can handle this. You`re
going to swallow this once and it`s going to be gone. The president has
been accused of using the word "tea bagger," mocking the tea bag
organization -- Tea Party organizations, and that`s being used by Reince
Priebus, the majesty running the RNC, as an example of how the president
inspired the bad behavior at the IRS. Your reaction?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK. I guess that...

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: I think it`s ridiculous. I mean, he tweeted out -- look, Marco
Rubio demanded that the head of the IRS be fired. The guy had already
resigned. He was a Bush appointee. President fires the acting head of the
IRS. Priebus tweets out that it`s a scapegoat. Then he says the president
created the culture that made this happen.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SHRUM: Look, if anybody`s created a sulfurous culture here, it`s the Tea
Party and people who`ve gone after the president in some of the most
despicable ways I`ve ever seen.

STEELE: Hey...

MATTHEWS: Sulfurous.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We got that. Go ahead.

STEELE: I appreciate the talking point...

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think of Reince Priebus...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is Reince Priebus right that the president inspired the
misbehavior?

STEELE: No. I don`t. I don`t think you can make that claim, to be
honest. Look, I`m not a fan of what this president has done on the policy
side and the like, but you know -- again, I think Republicans have to keep
their heads square to the issues in front of them and not do the hyperbole
that puts on the borderline on being ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: OK, you know what? You`ve just cued up our next segment. We`re
going to talk about maybe overdoing it, like the House Republicans did with
Clinton. They tried to impeach him, the ended up losing, the first time in
history, practically, a party out of power has lost a six-year election.

Anyway, thank you, Bob. Shrummy, you`re a loyalist. And thank you,
Michael Steele.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Republicans tried to kill the Obama administration in
its crib. Let`s face it, that`s certainly what McConnell was trying to do.
Now some are calling for impeachment? They just got to come up with an
excuse for impeachment. That`s their problem. They`re calling him
tyrannical. They`re calling him a despot. They`re (INAUDIBLE) to destroy
health care. They are really out to get the guy. They can`t think of what
to get him on yet. This is an interesting group here.

Plus, that sound you hear is the air coming out of the Benghazi balloon.
Tonight, what we`ve really learned about the scandal, which -- it isn`t a
scandal.

Also, Dick Cheeney (ph) -- that`s how you say it -- and Donald Rumsfeld,
his little compadre, have actually accused President Obama of pulling a
fast one. Think of that! They should talk! They had a war under their
belt. Well, Jon Stewart takes on the men who brought you the war in Iraq.
That`s coming up, too.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the two parties we have in this
country. One party`s trying to do some things, and the other party sits
around cheering for its disaster.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: This is great. We`ve got new polling data on the 2016
presidential race from PPP. And one side, well, it`s a tight field. On
the other, it`s a runaway.

Let`s start with the Republicans. It`s virtually a four-way tie there,
Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, at 16 points, Jeb Bush and Chris
Christie at 15, Rand Paul at 14 percent, Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz in single
digits.

By the way, the big mover among those Rs is Rand Paul. His support has
doubled over the past six months. He`s moving up.

Now to the Democrats, where Hillary Clinton is up by 50 points -- 5-0 --
over Vice President Joe Biden, 63 percent to 13 percent for Biden, with
Andrew Cuomo, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren -- she`s showing up -- and
Martin O`Malley of Maryland all in low, very low single digits.

We`re going to look at the general election matchups just later in the
hour. That`s going to be fun, to see how the Republicans do against
Hillary, I guess.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: People may be starting to use the "I"
word before too long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, OK. The "I" word meaning impeachment?

INHOFE: Yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Is that within the realm of possibilities?
And I would say yes. I`m not willing to take that off the table.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: If you add Watergate and Iran-contra together
and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you`re going to get in the zone of
what Benghazi is.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As you saw in that clip of
Republicans there, they`re having a fiesta with all the issues facing the
Obama administration, and some have even become punchlines for comedians
like Jon Stewart. And if you tally up the trio of controversies facing
team Obama, GOP leaders have called for resignations, firings, jail time.
There`s even some nasty talk of impeachment out there. And we`ve heard
comparisons to Nixon, Watergate and Iran-contra.

Well, President Obama was asked today about how he felt about those
comparisons, particularly to the word "Nixon." Here`s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about comparisons by some of your
critics of this week`s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon
administration?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I`ll let you
guys engage in those comparisons, and you can go ahead and read the
history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, could all this wild talk -- and I think it is wild talk --
backfire on the GOP, on the Republicans? Could it? Chris Cillizza writes
in "The Washington Post" that, quote, "There are real concerns within the
Republican establishment that members of their party won`t look before they
leap when it comes to the right`s strategic path forward, taking a major
political opportunity and blowing it, a la the impeachment of president
Bill Clinton in the late 1990s."

Joining me now is Chris Cillizza, an MSNBC political analyst with "The
Washington Post," and Nia-Malika Henderson, also with "The Washington
Post."

Well, you two young folks, I have to say -- you know, when I think about
Clinton -- nobody remembers, Chris, that he was impeached. They remember
how popular he was, how successful.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: He must be the most popular impeached president in history. So
people have almost put an asterisk next to that impeachment because they
think it was purely partisan now.

CILLIZZA: Yes...

MATTHEWS: I mean, maybe a letter of un -- an unpleasant letter would have
been a more appropriate action by the House in those days...

CILLIZZA: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... like, We don`t like your Monica thing, but let`s move on,
would have been better.

But this time, these hard cases like Inhofe and Chaffetz, these are hard
cases, I mean, and Bachmann. No matter what comes up, they go right to 10.
They don`t go one, two, three, four. They go right to 10, impeach. Is
this serious, or is it just them, just that hard group of people that
always go hard right?

CILLIZZA: Look, I think there are people in both parties who if there`s a
certain president in the White House who isn`t your party, anything he or
she does is sort of -- you immediately, as you point out, Chris, sort of go
to 10.

Here`s what I would say. There`s a large group of people, including some
of the people I quote in the story you mentioned, who say the worst thing
that we can do here -- Tom Davis, former Virginia congressman, I know...

MATTHEWS: He`s a smart guy.

CILLIZZA: ... you have had him on the show before. He basically said,
this is a political sort of feast for Republicans, these series of things,
IRS, AP, Benghazi.

What the Republicans shouldn`t do is gorge themselves. They have to pace
themselves. And what that means is don`t turn it -- and I would say
Benghazi, we`re sort of around the bend on this already. Don`t turn it
into a purely political matter. That is, if you`re a Republican, you think
somebody bad -- the administration`s hiding something. If you`re a
Democrat, you think nothing`s wrong -- that the IRS, in particular, is an
issue that does not have to be turned into that black/white, partisan,
Republican vs. Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: The danger lies in the more you say things like impeachment, or
John Boehner saying he wants to see people behind bars, the more it turns
into that, that very familiar thing that we know happens in Washington,
left vs. right, and that`s when you lose in some ways the potency of the
issue.

MATTHEWS: You know, if I were on their side, I would focus on an issue
that matters to people, the IRS.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
Yes. That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Big government. This Benghazi thing seems off the charts for
most people, and they don`t care about the press.

HENDERSON: That`s right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: First Amendment is for us to fight for.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, it`s really...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Yes, it`s true. The media cares the most about the media.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Second Amendment.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But this thing about -- and I was a little tough with Jay
because that`s my job, too. And, OK, they will fire a couple people at the
IRS. They`re going to have to fire a lot more, because the average person
out there who has to fill out his tax form says, those people, they`re
still there?

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: I would think that`s where the mother lode is for the
Republicans.

HENDERSON: That`s right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go after that.

HENDERSON: I think one of the things they can do is just make this an
entire narrative about government overreach and maybe incompetence.

I think the lesson from Benghazi is that they politicized that issue way
too early. You had Mitt Romney coming out and saying that Obama was
sympathizing with the attackers.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did you see the poll on that this week, Nia and Chris?

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS: A quarter of the American people said it`s the greatest scandal
in American history?

HENDERSON: But something like 52 percent aren`t paying any attention at
all.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. But the 23 percent jumped off the page at me.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And that`s the far right. Those are Republicans
who think this president has been up to something no good.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, I just imagine they are the same people that
think he`s a Muslim, he was born somewhere else, all that stuff.

HENDERSON: That`s right.

And I think the Republican Party will do themselves a disservice if they
try to attack this president personally and really...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think that`s true.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And also it has to be on something -- I`m now lecturing.

HENDERSON: It has to be on something real.

MATTHEWS: Something that matters to them, like taxes.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway...

HENDERSON: And they also have to make an argument. They have to make an
argument...

MATTHEWS: They need proof.

HENDERSON: .. for why they would do better.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did you see this guy on this show this week, this guy Turner? I
don`t know. He`s just like a pleasant enough time.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Six times, I said, what are you going after the guy for? He
couldn`t tell me. And then he said, but we have to have an investigation
to find out what I`m mad about.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, he didn`t even know what he was angry about.

Anyway, earlier today, the conservative rhetoric was on full display when
the Tea Party leaders held a press conference after yesterday`s ousting of
the IRS commissioner. Let`s take a look at what they said about what the
president actually did. He went out and fired a guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: That your government`s targeting you, that your
government`s spying on you and that your government is lying to you.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: If the AP story has taught anything, it
should be to the media that when there is a tyrannical despot, the media
will be one of the early victims.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Someone needs to be imprisoned. Someone
needs to be prosecuted.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We also don`t want to jump to
conclusions. We want to go with the facts lead us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: She`s talking about impeachment there. That was, by the way,
just for -- to get dramatis personae right, Chris Cillizza, and Nia, that
was Louie Gohmert, the guy with the Southern accent.

CILLIZZA: Right.

MATTHEWS: Nothing wrong with Southern accents, but I tell you something.
He is a birther. So, it should be written not Republican under his name,
but birther, Texas.

He believes the president was born over in Borneo, or someplace in Africa.
He doesn`t know where. He`s probably never been there. But he`s from over
there. So that -- we should just sort of dismiss I think the first -- a
guy who speaks beyond that.

So, you start with the idea he`s an illegal immigrant or something, and
then you go on to the fact he might have done something wrong. Well, if
you can get past that first charge, you`re with this guy for the ride, I
think.

Go ahead, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I was just going to say, I actually -- and I was looking down at
the monitor because I wanted to make sure it was her. I thought I
recognized the voice.

I actually think that Michele Bachmann is the most right there, which is
this, again, the more...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What a standard.

CILLIZZA: The more -- the more that you -- the more that you say the
despot in chief, you know, tyrannical...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, Michele Bachmann is the voice of reason in the Tea Party
now.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: If you watch -- if you are sort of someone who`s paying loose
attention to this, and you see some of that rhetoric, Chris -- this is what
I`m talking about.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: As soon as you turn it into this is about partisanship, this is
about politics as usual, you -- you take 48 percent of the country and
they`re on one side and you take about 46 percent or 47 percent of the
country and they`re on the other side.

We have learned from the 2012 election that if Republicans split things
down partisan lines, at least in presidential elections, they tend to lose.
The party...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. You made your point.

CILLIZZA: And you`re right about the IRS. You`re right about the IRS.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: It not only touches everybody`s life, but it appeals to
independents and Democrats who say, well, wait a minute, this isn`t right.
This is not a partisan issue. That`s what they should focus on.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, nobody -- nobody likes meter maids to start
with. Nobody likes taxes to begin with.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Yes, it`s not a popular agency.

MATTHEWS: No, let`s take a look at Charles Krauthammer, a very smart guy
of the neocon right. He`s urging the GOP not to overplay its hand right
now, particularly on Benghazi, which isn`t even existent.

But let`s take a listen to Charles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The one advice I give to
Republicans is, is stop calling it a huge scandal. Stop saying it`s a
Watergate. Stop saying it`s Iran-Contra. Let the facts speak for
themselves. Have a special committee, a select committee. The facts will
speak for themselves.

Pile them on. But don`t exaggerate. Don`t run ads about Hillary. It
feeds the narrative of the other side that it`s only a political event. It
is not. Just be quiet and present the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, there`s a possibility, although I have been part of
the huffing and puffing on this thing, that this could be a good week for
the president, for this reason.

John Boehner, another guy who`s pretty smart, not a bad guy obviously, goes
along with his right wing, he made the mistake this week of saying he`s
going to build the rest of his career on Benghazi.

HENDERSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s nothing there, Mr. Speaker.

HENDERSON: There isn`t. This looks like it was a squabble between the CIA
and the State Department, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HENDERSON: And they were trying to tie it obviously to Hillary Clinton. I
don`t think anyone`s going to listen to Charles...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You mean our presidential elections don`t turn on squabbles
between the CIA and the State Department?

HENDERSON: No, they do.

MATTHEWS: I`m kidding. They don`t.

HENDERSON: No, no, no, but I don`t think anybody`s going to listen to
Charles Krauthammer. It looks like he and Bill Kristol are singing from
the same prayer book, cautioning...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, I`m getting a lot of mail from people that wondered
where you have been lately. And they miss you.

HENDERSON: Well, here I am.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming back, Nia-Malika Henderson.

HENDERSON: It`s good to be back.

MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza, you`re greatly valued, sir. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- no, you are.

Up next -- you guys -- you young people think like I do and you know all
this stuff so fast. It took me years to learn it.

Dick Cheney, there`s a name for you, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, those guys
are talking about how this administration is not telling the truth. Excuse
me. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld?

Anyway, Jon Stewart spots the obvious. He`s always good at this.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."

As the White House continues to face Republican blunderbusses over
Benghazi, we have seen the return of a couple of blokes who should best
keep their heads down on the topic of national security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I can`t imagine how a
person could stand up there when everyone involved knew it was a terrorist
attack. It was the anniversary of 9/11. The idea that it was somehow
related to a YouTube video and that that narrative kept being promoted, I
suppose it`s because it fit their hopes and what they wanted to be the
case.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were always
on the staff, locked and loaded ready to go on 9/11. We had -- we have got
specially trained units that practice this sort of thing all the time.
They`re very good at it. And they`re champing at the bit to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Jon Stewart entered the fray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You believe the
Obama administration`s promoting a narrative? Not because it`s real, but
because it fits their hopes and what they want to be the case? You?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Senior WMD McGillicutty Esquire?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: After the lies you told, you don`t get to doubt anyone`s
credibility. If a baseball breaks your window and your grandkid walks to
the door with a baseball bat and tells you that Zack and Cody from "The
Suite Life" did it while they were playing a game with SpongeBob, you just
have to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) choke that down.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Guess what? History didn`t start Friday.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: And Obama administration transgressions don`t wipe away yours,
which are many und grievous.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: It`s like this. That`s Mike Tyson. He doesn`t get to make fun
of someone`s tattoo.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next: The White House release of those e-mails last night
really let the air out of the Republicans` Benghazi balloon, if you will,
and what we know now about the scandal that never was a scandal.

You`re watching HARDBALL,the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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One winner today, Cisco, shares surging thanks to strong earnings and
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That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans have hoped to turn Benghazi into a grade-A scandal the likes of
Watergate and Iran/Contra. Here`s Senator Jim Inhofe with maybe a slight
hyperbole.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Of all the great cover-ups in history,
we`re talking about the Pentagon Papers, the Iran/Contra, Watergate, and
all the rest of them, this, I said back on November 28 on FOX, is going to
go down as the most serious, most egregious cover-up in American history.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, and a man who no one should be listening to when it comes
to national security controversies, Dick Cheney, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I think it`s one of the worst incidences, frankly, that I can
recall in my career. If they told the truth about Benghazi, that it was a
terrorist attack by an al Qaeda-affiliated group, it would have destroyed
the false image of competence that was the basis of his campaign for
reelection.

So, they lied. They claimed it was because of a demonstration video so
they wouldn`t have to admit that it was really all about their
incompetence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, sorry for giving you Cheney, but we have to.

Anyway, the Republicans were hoping to find a massive cover-up there with
Benghazi. The truth is, it seems it`s much -- a very benign issue here.
Last night, the White House released 100 pages of e-mails relating to how
those famous talking points were put together. And far from a nefarious
effort to mislead the public, the e-mails now showcase a bureaucratic back-
and-forth among various agencies.

A CIA e-mail, by the way, offered a great taste of it. Catch this -- quote
-- "Perhaps as a result of the afternoon teleconference, a number of
agencies have been looped into the White House, cleared, cleared quickly,
but State" -- that`s the State Department -- "has major concerns. The
bureau cleared with a few comments, but asked that Justice, which would
handle any criminal prosecution, be brought in."

So, all those government agencies, Justice, State, the CIA, the agency
wanted a piece of this conversation that was going to make it on "Meet the
Press" that Sunday. In other words, everyone wanted a role in crafting
those talking points.

So, the Republican talk of a cover-up is just that. Will they stop saying
it`s a cover-up? What do you think?

Well, Michael Crowley is deputy bureau chief for "TIME." And Jonathan
Landay -- Landay is national security and intelligence correspondent for
the McClatchy papers.

Thank, Jonathan, for joining us.

Let`s start with Michael.

When you look at this from a "TIME" magazine perspective, just looking at
it, what you have to put down for history, what is the Benghazi scandal?
Is there one?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME": No. I think, in historical terms, it`s a flap.
It`s a little bit of a sideshow.

It`s interesting. And, you know, it gets -- the most interesting part to
me is the substantive questions about our intervention in Libya and what`s
happening with al Qaeda in North Africa. But when you look at the things
Washington is talking about this week, at the end of the day, I see mostly
a bureaucratic turf war.

I see CIA and State pointing the finger at each other for who dropped the
ball on the security in that compound. And I just don`t see a White House
cover-up. And, by the way, to the point that former Vice President Cheney
made, you know, if they were trying to tell this lie about the video and
demonstrations, it lasted for about three days. Voters went to the polls
knowing there had been an al Qaeda affiliated attack there. Voters knew
exactly what happened.

So, this --what was covered up? If there was a cover-up, it lasted 72
hours, a pretty inept one. I just don`t see any scandal there.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And, by the way, the harm done was to Romney by a tenth of
a point, maybe. There was even that.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: And Romney had an issue to hit Obama with because he was accusing
him with a cover-up.

MATTHEWS: By the way, we all remember that debate.

What do you think, Jonathan, about the way this thing developed yesterday
with the unloading last night of all those e-mails?

JONATHAN LANDY, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: The e-mails came in the very
beginning of the packet. It was an e-mail from the general counsel of the
CIA who points out to everybody, this is when the consideration and the
editing process is still going on inside the CIA, that there`s a standing
order from the National Security Council, from the Justice Department, from
the FBI, that no one in any assessment should attribute blame to this thing
because it could jeopardize the investigation, even internally within the
government.

So it doesn`t matter what went on, I believe, in the subsequent toing and
froing.

And, by the way, I don`t see any major toing and froing. This is a normal
administrative process.

What came later -- the fact is, that that stuff had to come out. There was
an order to take that stuff out, not to put it out even within the
government. And that`s what happened.

MATTHEWS: The two items that had to go out was the reference to Anshar al
Sharia, and the fact that there have been half dozen attacks beforehand in
that region, right? That`s had to go out.

LANDAY: That`s true, but --

MATTHEWS: And that was a decision by the CIA, not by Hillary Clinton and
not by the White House?

LANDAY: Absolutely. In fact, the first reference to the fact that there
were al Qaeda-linked people in that crowd came out at the orders of the CIA
general counsel.

But even more critical, I believe, look, the heart of the -- the heart of
the Republican charge has been this idea that the administration, the White
House, was going on and on and on, substituted the fact that they knew
there was some kind of organized attack for an attack that came out of a
demonstration that never happened. We know that the CIA office of
terrorism assessment put that into the very first talking point draft that
they put together and that lasted the entire way through the process.

And so the idea that it was the White House that did this just goes up in
smoke.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was well-represented right there by you, sir.

Anyway, even after the release of the e-mails, Senator Lindsey Graham who`s
been a fire eater on this issue, continued to insist there was something
more to the story. They never know what it is, but there`s always
something more.

Here he is keeping it up, Lindsey Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You don`t have to be Sherlock
Holmes to figure this out. The story of Benghazi, if accurately reported,
would undercut the narrative bin Laden`s dead, al Qaeda is on the run, and
they manipulated the evidence to help their political reelection. That`s
pretty obvious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to congratulate, you, Jonathan, you and your colleagues
reported this week that in the month before the attack, Ambassador Chris
Stevens twice said no to military offers of more security in Benghazi. The
offers came from the head of the U.S. Africa Command. Quote, "Army General
Carter Ham phoned Stevens and asked if the embassy needed a special
security team from the U.S. military. Stevens told Ham it did not, the
officials said. Weeks later Ham, again, offered additional military assets
and Stevens, again, said no."

What a story you`ve got there, Jonathan, because that is, to me, the meat
and potatoes. The heart and soul of this question -- did somebody do
something wrong deliberately or not that may have caused the life of a guy
everybody liked and his colleagues?

Your thoughts now given this new information that Chris Stevens, the
ambassador, himself, said I don`t want any more military personnel at this
point.

LANDAY: This is -- this is a really interesting story. We don`t know why
Ambassador Stevens turned it down. It may very well be he wasn`t
authorized to be able to accept this offer from General Ham, that this had
to actually go through the bureaucracy.

And the other thing being that military personnel who are used to protect
embassies are not used to protect the personnel of the embassy, the
ambassador. They`re there to protect classified documents and classified -
- other classified materials. The State Department provides the personnel
for guarding the ambassador. The other thing that this points out --

MATTHEWS: You mean when we see the marines, when we see the marines
stationed in their dressed uniforms many cases at an embassy overseas,
they`re there to protect the documents, not the personnel?

LANDAY: Absolutely. And look, in order for -- Stevens couldn`t accept
this offer. I mean, I don`t think he could, because putting uniformed
military in a foreign country requires the approval of that foreign
country`s government. As messed up as the Libyan government was at that
point, they just couldn`t say, yes, give us more, give us a military
protection.

CROWLEY: In addition, Stevens, one of his calling cards was his
relationships on the ground. His willingness to get out and get to know
people. He wanted --

MATTHEWS: A Peace Corps guy.

CROWLEY: He was there to transform that compound in part to this open
space. They had some name like an American space. There was going to be a
symbol of American/Libyan cooperation.

MATTHEWS: Consulate services.

CROWLEY: That`s right. Sort of educational types of things.

At the end of the day, Chris, the enduring mystery here is why did he go to
a danger zone on the most dangerous day of the year when there were such
concerns about security? I still find that kind of puzzling. It may be
that he just didn`t want to be cowed. But he did walk into a very
dangerous situation. I`ve heard other diplomats they find it puzzling he
took that risk.

MATTHEWS: Maybe he`s a courageous guy.

(CROSSTALK)

LANDAY: There`s another big mystery here. And that is the degree to which
the CIA presence in Benghazi imposed itself on the security decisions that
Chris Stevens was in charge of. Look, there were seven American diplomats
in Benghazi, including the ambassador. There were 30 CIA officers and
contractors.

So, the fact there was this major CIA presence, would have impinged on, I
believe, the ability of the ambassador to call his own security decisions.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Sure. Why did he want to put a flag up over the CIA operation?

Anyway, thank you, Michael Crowley.

And, thank you, great reporting, Jonathan Landay.

LANDAY: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here it is. Let`s look at potential general election
matchups for 2016. This is in the PPP poll.

I would check the HARDBALL scoreboard in a matchup between Hillary Clinton,
the top Democrat in the field, against Marco Rubio, the leading Republican.
It`s Clinton. This isn`t wide, 51-41. That`s an election.

It`s the same score between Hillary and Rand Paul. Believe it or not, Rand
Paul gets 41 percent against Hillary, the most popular politician in the
country, and Rand Paul is getting 41 against. Don`t think this country
ain`t divided.

Again, against Chris Christie, it`s a much closer race, but still Hillary
by three. Now, there`s a nail biter at this point, 47-44. By the way,
Hillary`s name is 100 percent known.

By the way, Joe Biden has a slight lead over Rubio and Paul, but he trails
Christie by nine. Interesting. Both from the Delaware valley.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans are looking to get every bit of political mileage that they can
out of the IRS scandal and, of course, they will never let up on Obamacare.
In fact, today, House Republicans are making their 37th -- that`s 37 times
-- to repeal the health care law.

And like all of the other times before, it`s going to fail.

Well, we have an expert here, Zeke Emanuel, special adviser to the Obama
administration in formulating for the Affordable Health Care Act. Now,
he`s author of the new book, "Brothers Emanuel." It`s about him and his
brother Rahm Emanuel and Ari Emanuel.

Anyway, it talks about them, how they grew up together. What a book.

I really want to read that book because I know both of those people very
well, as you know, both of these guys. One is a great Hollywood agent, Ari
Emanuel, who stars in the movie, "Entourage", in fact it`s about him. And,
of course, Rahm Emanuel is mayor of Chicago.

So, quickly, what`s it like to have brothers like that? Does your mom
think you`re the best because you`re the oldest and most intellectual?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, AUTHOR, "BROTHERS EMANUEL": The doctor in the family,
that`s the key. That`s the key.

MATTHEWS: I know, because that`s a permanent job. And we Irish have the
same thing. I got my first job at the White House, my aunt who is still a
nun, still alive, she said to me, is that a permanent job? That`s the way
old people think.

EMANUEL: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, I smell a rat. I think Republicans would
like to spread the word out there, Obamacare isn`t good for you and
therefore, sort of upchuck it. If it comes to you, do whatever you can.
If you`re a barber, and you`ve got two other guys with seats there and each
guy makes about $25,000 or $30,000 a year, make it difficult on yourself
and the government.

EMANUEL: Well, they are certainly trying to delegitimate the bill and
everything associated with it, like the exchanges. And the key thing is,
the exchanges are going to open in -- or at least enrollment on October
1st. We`re going to have three months there for people to get insurance
subsidized by the government and if people don`t sign up, that`s a big
problem. And I think they are trying to create enough doubt and confusion
to keep those numbers down.

MATTHEWS: Well, now I`m going back to my huff puff this week. Is the
president tough enough chief executive? I know he`s a great policy guy to
make sure this doesn`t happen, that he can push this thing through to
successful implementation?

EMANUEL: I think they are working hard and some of it is going to be on
the states, California, Colorado, and other states that are implementing
their own exchanges and then there`s a big federal exchange --

MATTHEWS: You trust Rick Scott to do a good job in Florida, or Tom Corbett
in Pennsylvania? Those people don`t like --

EMANUEL: Many of them had said no and so, the federal government is going
to do it. HHS has a lot of responsibility for a lot of states. All of
them are working hard to make sure the shopping experience is good, there
are a number of good plans, and I do think the president himself said that
there are going to be hiccups along the way.

MATTHEWS: Who are the beneficiaries of this? Is working people -- would
you describe the group out there watching right now?

EMANUEL: I think --

MATTHEWS: Not ethically or anything, but one group in America,
economically, is going to benefit from this bill?

EMANUEL: Well, it`s not so much economically. It`s people who have
diseases who now have guaranteed issue (ph) and can get insurance even
though they have a pre-existing condition. If you ask me about one group
who`s going to really benefit, it`s those people.

MATTHEWS: Diabetics?

EMANUEL: Diabetics, people with heart failure, people with emphysema,
because now, no matter what happens with unemployment, they have a way to
get insurance at a reasonable rate. So, I think that`s going to be a key
group and we all know that that`s something we greatly fear.

MATTHEWS: People like my dad who was a pretty conservative Republican, not
crazy guy, I shouldn`t even think about being crazy, but he`s pretty
conservative, he loved Medicare.

EMANUEL: Of course.

MATTHEWS: So, isn`t that the biggest fear of the right that people -- once
they see they can actually benefit from something from Washington, they are
going to fall in love with it?

EMANUEL: That`s why I think you see the rhetoric going up, just before
enactment. Once this, as you point out, is in place for a couple of years,
people are used to it, they are going to like it. If you can go on and
shop like it`s Amazon for health insurance and conclude something in 20 or
30 minutes, and you actually like the process, you like your product, I
think people are --

MATTHEWS: I like you and your brothers, so let`s sell the book here.
"Brothers Emanuel", you grew up in a family where education is very
important to your parents, one kid becomes a dancer, right?

EMANUEL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Incredibly, that`s just nobody thinks of him as a ballet dancer,
but he choose to do that. You follow the more traditional aspiring role of
going to a -- becoming a doctor and then the other guy, Ari, becomes this
natural representative talent in Hollywood.

EMANUEL: Right. Right.

And, you know, our parents -- I like to say my mom was really pushy but she
wasn`t controlling. I mean, she always made us work hard.

MATTHEWS: Did you always get to make the choices?

EMANUEL: I had their opinions and as I said, on my father`s 75th birthday
-- it`s good we didn`t listen to him because, you know, he didn`t want me
to go into bioethics. He didn`t want Rahm to go in with Clinton. And Ari
just created his own endeavor agency.

MATTHEWS: That`s great. What a family. The "Brothers Emanuel," by the
book.

Anyway, Zeke Emanuel, the smartest of the three.

We`ll be right back.

EMANUEL: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I love these books.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

Do you know what would be great? It would be having two parties in this
country to do good, to do the things the country needs to do.

We don`t. We have one party. The president is trying to improve our
health care, trying to protect the country, trying to improve and
strengthen the way we let people become part of our country.

And we have another party, most sitting around and cheering for disaster.
A dozen or so of its members are lighting fires, igniting anger at the very
idea of government.

I cannot remember a time when one of our political parties was so
overwhelmed by the negative, nasty news conference, the over-the-top
indictment, the obsession with investigation. The Republican Party of
Washington today is a party of presidential destruction and any means to
achieve it. It doesn`t want powers as much as it wants the other party,
the president`s party to stop having it.

It doesn`t so much want the White House. Try to think of someone they want
to see there as it wants to imagine that Barack Obama isn`t really
president after all. That is their dream -- not doing something but
finding a way to achieve the nirvana. No President Obama. No. No. No.

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.
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