August 6, 2013
Guests: Michael Crowley, Brad Stone
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Reince Priebus declares war again.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Reince Priebus is on the warpath again.
The RNC chairman, who`s made his bones trying to suppress African-American
votes, now has a plan to suppress a free media. Having waged war on the
15th Amendment, the one that gave African-Americans the right to vote, he`s
now batting (sic) down the hatches on a free press.
Priebus`s plan, which he described last night, is to take control of the
Republican nominating process, deciding who will be the moderators of the
debates, which debates will be authorized and which networks will be
allowed to sponsor them. He, Reince Priebus, will henceforth decide who
gets to moderate the debates, where they will be permitted and which
networks will be given the privilege of sponsoring them.
Well, this big push for personal control is consistent with Reince
Priebus`s oversight of a major Republican plan to make it harder for
minorities, the elderly and young voters to cast ballots. Having loaded
people down with more document requirements, voter photo ID cards and the
rest, and few opportunities to vote, he now is lowering the boom on the
If NBC dares to run a planned mini-series on Hillary, Reince Priebus has
decreed it will have no role in Republican debates. Same for CNN. If it
does a documentary on Hillary, it`s dead as far as Priebus`s concerned. It
will be pushed out in the cold while Republicans stick to Fox and other
platforms that meet their terms.
Well, if Reince Priebus has his way, as I said, the only voters who
actually vote will be Republicans, the only networks on which Republicans
will appear will be the ones answering to him, Reince Priebus.
Michael Steele, who knows Reince Priebus --
MATTHEWS: -- was chairman of the Republican national party before Reince
Priebus. And Joan Walsh will never be chair of the Republican National
Committee but only works for Salon.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What?
MATTHEWS: I don`t think so.
Here`s Priebus on Fox last night, his chosen platform, describing how
Republican debates in the 2016 presidential election will be governed by
his rules. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: For the first time in the history of our
party, the Republican National Committee has rule-making authority now.
And we can tie the debate calendar, we can tie who the moderators are going
to be to the nomination for president.
In our rulebook, we couldn`t do that before. And so now we can say, here`s
going to be the debate calendar. Here is who the moderators are going to
be. Here are the debate partners. And to the candidates, you can
participate in these debates. But if you participate in debates other than
the ones that are on the calendar, well, then, there`s going to be
Part of our problem before is that when you have, you know, 12, 20 people
running for president, if 11 people raise their hand to any two-hour debate
offered, then guess what? You`ve got a debate every two weeks. And that`s
an unhealthy thing for our party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, this guy has a Napoleonic notion of his power.
MATTHEWS: I mean, this notion that he can keep people from voting he
doesn`t want voting --
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: I understand. I don`t think it`s racism necessarily to say, I
think these people are probably going to vote Democrats, so let`s make it a
little more difficult, make them (INAUDIBLE) piles of ID cards and only
vote when he says there`s a time to vote and all -- I get all that.
But now he`s basically saying, Not only do I want to get rid of that pesky
15th Amendment --
MATTHEWS: -- I`m going to go after the 1st Amendment. Well, what is --
is he just --
STEELE: Well, look --
MATTHEWS: Is this a power grab? I`m going to pick the moderators.
STEELE: It`s --
MATTHEWS: Now, that`s rich. He`s going to say it`s not going to be Brian,
it`s not going to be Diane, it`s not going to be George --
STEELE: Well, I don`t know --
MATTHEWS: -- it`s going to be his person?
STEELE: I don`t know who the moderators are going to be left to pick from,
to be honest with you. But you know, let`s start with some basic facts
here. Number one, by the time we get into the presidential cycle, Reince
Priebus may not even be chairman of the RNC. There`s an election that will
happen before the --
MATTHEWS: You wish!
STEELE: Well, I`m just saying. Let`s keep it real. The second thing is,
though, this is part of the RNC`s --
MATTHEWS: Didn`t he just get reelected?
STEELE: He did. But this is -- it`s a two-year job. But this is the
response to what happened in 2012, where you had all these candidates in
these back-to-back debates. Now, I personally didn`t have a problem with
that, although I got the -- I understood -- I understood the idea --
MATTHEWS: You mean they embarrassed themselves by being on television, so
he`s going to shut down the number of times --
STEELE: Limit the amount of exposure.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a great (INAUDIBLE) He`s going to suppress the
candidates, the way he suppress the African-American voter!
STEELE: But this is --
MATTHEWS: This is outrageous!
STEELE: I don`t get what the penalty is going to be because if I`m a
presidential candidate and NBC is offering a debate and I want to
participate in that debate, I`m going to participate in it. I don`t know
how you penalize that candidate, particularly if he winds up eventually
being the nominee of the party. What are you going to do?
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you going to do if some big guy like Chris
Christie, who`s got a lot of appeal in the country -- he says, You know
what? I got no problem with NBC. I got no problem with CNN. I`m showing
up. What`s Reince Priebus going to do?
STEELE: He`s not going to do much.
MATTHEWS: He`s going to keep Scott Walker from showing up?
STEELE: Look -- right!
MATTHEWS: Is that what he`s going to do?
STEELE: Let`s get to the politics of this. This is -- this is just a
political shot across the bow for the networks, number one.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no (INAUDIBLE) That`s where I disagree because I`ll tell you
STEELE: But no --
MATTHEWS: I`m not defending NBC. I`m not their representative here. But
I`ll tell you this. No network, once threatened by a political party --
STEELE: That`s my point!
MATTHEWS: -- can remove a documentary or move a documentary --
MATTHEWS: -- would ever do it.
STEELE: But that`s what (INAUDIBLE) I said the political shot is not so
much for the networks as it is for the base and to draw some lines out
there and to --
MATTHEWS: OK, so --
STEELE: -- be relevant in the conversation --
MATTHEWS: Joan, how do you see this? I see it -- he knows the networks
are not going to buckle because of pride, institutional integrity, no
matter whether --
WALSH: Of course. Of course.
MATTHEWS: -- they`re right or wrong when they made the decision. They
can`t let him decide what`s right and wrong. And therefore, he`s saying,
basically, I`m going to cull the herd. I`m not going to have any -- I`m
going to have Fox. We`ll 20 debates. And then I`ll have a few on some
other networks who play by our rules, pick our -- let us pick the
moderators, let us pick the format. In other words, it`s an inside job.
WALSH: Well, yes. I mean, he`s playing the refs and he`s saying that NBC
and CNN won`t be fair and that they`re in the tank for Hillary Clinton,
which is ridiculous. She`s had her own problems with the media over the
years, Chris, as you know. But even more, I mean, listen to --
MATTHEWS: Thank you for that.
WALSH: -- what he said to his friend, Sean Hannity. Listen to what he
said to his friend, Sean Hannity. I mean, it would be unhealthy -- it was
unhealthy to have all that exposure for our candidates.
Well, yes, it was because you had a bunch of crackpots running for
president, and they did wound themselves every time they got out there.
And there were enough debates for Rick Perry to forget exactly which
agencies he was going to abolish in the federal government, right?
So yes, I can see from his perspective, you want to go to the friendly
confines of Fox News. You want to have loving moderators like a Sean
Hannity. You want to tell your story there.
But the problem for them is that that did not work in 2012. In fact,
living in the friendly confines of Fox News made those Republicans think
they were going to win, that they could --
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s --
WALSH: -- that he wasn`t a popular president.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to reality, Joan, with this. Here`s -- as your
point here is made, there`s a long tradition, as you say, of news anchors
moderating debates. I moderated the Republican debate at the Reagan
library last election, 2008.
MATTHEWS: Despite that history, Reince Priebus defended his threat to shut
out NBC and CNN, saying he wants to be in business with participating
outlets. "Participating." Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRIEBUS: I think it`s just about time that our party stands up and
protects the party and our candidates from networks that are not in the
business of promoting our party. They`re not in the business of promoting
our candidates. They`re not in the business of doing anything but
promoting the Democratic Party, and I`m not going to sit around and watch
this happen anymore!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s kind of a (INAUDIBLE)
STEELE: Well, wait a minute --
MATTHEWS: -- comment, to say he only wants to do business with those
(INAUDIBLE) who are in the business of promoting their candidates!
STEELE: Well --
MATTHEWS: Admit it -- I admit we`re not in that business.
STEELE: You`re not in that -- right.
STEELE: This is the question I have, based on what the chairman just said.
So where do you go?
STEELE: If the only place -- so Fox is going to have every debate?
STEELE: That`s just not -- that`s not credible, number one.
WALSH: Comedy Central.
STEELE: Fox is -- Fox is --
STEELE: -- not going to do it, number two.
MATTHEWS: He might be open to --
STEELE: And so, you know, I just think that you`re painting a little bit
broad -- with a brush here. This is more about the political play to the
base and sort of, We`re going to fight this --
STEELE: -- and we`re going to --
MATTHEWS: OK, what would you have done?
STEELE: -- with the Hillary documentary coming up --
MATTHEWS: What would you have done? Let`s get open-minded here. I know I
work for an NBC company and all, and I can`t --
MATTHEWS: -- you know, get involved in this debate very much. But I
want to ask you the question. I can ask Joan it, too. You`re all outsider
here. You`re guests on the show, although you`re both analysts, I suppose.
MATTHEWS: What do you do when you are Reince Priebus and you see they`re
going to do a documentary on Hillary? Well, a documentary can be tough --
documentaries can be tough, negative (ph), too.
MATTHEWS: It can be all of those things.
MATTHEWS: What would you have done if you`d seen this happened, said they
might be on the -- on the road to doing a puff? What do I do? What`s the
STEELE: The smart -- to be honest, the smart political move is what he`s
doing, is to get out in front --
MATTHEWS: Is that the smart move?
STEELE: Yes, I mean --
MATTHEWS: To threaten you`re going to control your debates, you`re going
to make it all an in-house operation?
STEELE: Look, Chris --
STEELE: -- it is the late summer of 2013. It`s noise into an echo that
has no one on the other end to hear it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but doesn`t this make it look like he`s weak --
MATTHEWS: -- if he doesn`t deliver? He has to deliver now. He has to
shut everybody out of the debates.
STEELE: But what can he deliver?
MATTHEWS: Joan, I don`t think he should have threatened something he
didn`t intend to do.
WALSH: He doesn`t have to. Well, you know, there`s no loss in playing to
the base. This is red meat for the base. Saying that the mainstream media
is the lamestream liberal media pleases everybody. He doesn`t -- you know,
when he doesn`t get his way from CNN or NBC, which he will not, that will
just prove that they`re biased against him. So he`s within this echo
chamber where all this stuff works.
The problem is, as Michael well knows, is that when you take it out of the
echo chamber and you have to talk to real voters and real people who may
like Hillary Clinton, or may find this fascinating and don`t hate NBC or
CNN, then you`re making your argument to people --
MATTHEWS: OK --
WALSH: -- who you`re not used to talking to. And that`s the problem.
MATTHEWS: Let`s assume -- let`s assume the production company that`s doing
the Hillary story does it the way they do TV.
MATTHEWS: It`s got some sex in it. It`s got some excitement in it, some,
you know, tabloid-type stuff.
MATTHEWS: They go through the whole relationship between Hillary and Bill
and his philandering. They do the whole thing.
MATTHEWS: They do the whole thing with Monica, do the whole thing. They
do Gennifer Flowers, do the whole thing with her press conference, all the
public records stuff, nothing new, just public records stuff. Then they do
the whole thing about how she was angry about and should have been about
his unfaithfulness, all that. Then they do about how the fact that she was
on the wrong side of the Iraq war in the 2008 election, how she lost to an
upset victory to a guy, African-American guy that nobody (sic) had a
How does all that necessarily help her be elected president?
STEELE: Well --
MATTHEWS: I`m just asking.
STEELE: No. From a -- from a --
WALSH: Right, it doesn`t.
STEELE: -- certain standpoint, it doesn`t. And so that`s the problem
with coming out before the thing -- the video, the documentary, the film is
even produced --
STEELE: -- or the script written. We don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Who wants --
MATTHEWS: By the way, Joanie, after hearing that whole story I just told -
- I didn`t mean to sell it that bad, but that whole Clinton story, who
wants the sequel? You might just say, This is enough.
WALSH: It could work that way.
STEELE: It could work that way. If you --
STEELE: -- again of making the noise before you actually know what the
noise should be made about. And this is more to the politics of it.
MATTHEWS: So the smart move would be to ask for a preview copy of the
STEELE: Absolutely. That`s the smart move. You get the preview copy it,
you take a look at it. And then you have --
MATTHEWS: OK -- OK, now --
MATTHEWS: Now, this is an even harder one. I go to another network,
easier for me, CNN. So Jeff Zucker`s commissioned -- apparently
commissioned a documentary. A documentary can be on anybody, and there`s
no reason to believe it`s going to be favorable, Joan.
MATTHEWS: Why would they attack CNN?
MATTHEWS: Everybody will do a documentary! I`m sure Fox has probably
thought of doing one. How does that suggest unfairness or a heavy thumb on
WALSH: It doesn`t. If you`re really an honest person, it doesn`t. But if
you`re playing to your base, if you`re playing to that paranoid segment of
GOP voters who believe that the media are against them, Chris, then it
always works. It always works to bash CNN. It always works to bash NBC.
It always works to bash "The New York Times." And that`s what he`s doing.
He has no idea what they`re going to do. As we`ve all laid out, there`s
plenty of fodder for this to be negative. There are people who are critics
of hers. I would be nervous if I were her, a little bit.
MATTHEWS: I`m sure she is.
WALSH: You know, who knows how it could go. But this is a play -- this is
a play for the base.
MATTHEWS: Yes. By the way --
MATTHEWS: -- the tight relationship between MSNBC and Barack Obama, for
MATTHEWS: Count the number of times he`s been on this network. Zero!
STEELE: But that`s --
MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Well, he agrees with us and we agree with him sometimes. I
actually have my views and he tends to coincide with them.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. I was right on the Iraq war, and so was
he. And your side was dead wrong. Anyway, Joan Walsh, thank you. You
were right, too.
Coming up -- well, you were for the Iraq war, weren`t you?
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, you`re covered.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, some of the right are excited by the latest terror
threat, in a weird way, because they insist it proves that President Obama
is losing the fight with al Qaeda. As it turns out, they could not be more
wrong, as we know.
Also, if you love newspapers, as I do, the sale of "The Washington Post" to
Jeff Bezos came as a stunner. My question -- are we about to see
billionaires of all kinds, like the Koch brothers, buying up papers to
promote their right-wing views? That could be coming next.
And if you thought the last Congress was unproductive, and it was, the
current one`s even worse. And what`s more, the Republicans are running the
place -- well, they`re downright proud of it.
Finally, it turns out old birthers don`t die and they don`t just fade away,
either. They just keep coming back with more. We keep coming up with a
new one every day here, and they`re all alive, birthers.
This is HARDBALL, the place for birthers! We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, former president Bill Clinton finally broke his silence on
Anthony Weiner. The former president told CNN that he and former secretary
of state Hillary Clinton are maintaining a healthy distance from the New
York mayor`s race. Quote -- this is great Clinton -- "We are 100 miles
from that race," he says, "and everyone understands that we are not going
to be involved as long as our personal friends and people we feel
obligations to are involved." Beautifully stated.
And Mr. Clinton said that even though Weiner`s wife, Huma Abdin, is a close
confidante of the former first lady, and is now, they`re not involved in
the Weiner campaign at all. Clinton said, "There are too many people
running for mayor who have been my supporters, who supported her for
Senate, her for president."
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re learning more about that terror
alert that has caused massive embassy closures in the Middle East and in
northern Africa. The focus is Yemen, where the United States evacuated 100
government personnel and is urging all Americans to leave the country
Well, the intelligence that sparked all this was a communication from Osama
bin Laden`s replacement, Ayman al Zawahiri, to the head of the al Qaeda arm
in Yemen. Well, the terrorist leaders discussed plotting an attack to
coincide with a Muslim holy day this week.
And this afternoon, NBC News is reporting that one reason the U.S. reacted
so aggressively is because al Qaeda operatives said they wanted an attack
that, quote, "would change the balance of power in the region."
Well, as American counterterrorist officials are dealing with this threat,
some on the right are using it to hit the president as weak on national
security. Big surprise there. Take a look at what Bill Kristol, the
neocon, and former senator Jim DeMint said this weekend on Fox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD," FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Four years ago,
President Obama gave a much heralded speech, his outreach to the Muslim
world. And now four years later, we`re closing embassies throughout the
Muslim world. A year ago, the president said al Qaeda is on the run. And
now we seem to be on the run.
I`m not criticizing the decision to close the embassies. That`s probably
the right thing to do for the sake of trying to save American lives and
others. But it`s a terrible thing that -- you know, just a year ago,
boasting al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead. And now an
unprecedented closure of 22 embassies.
JIM DEMINT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT: I`m not questioning what he`s
doing. I think what Bill is saying is true, is our attempt to placate
parts of the world, reset to, whether it`s Russia or somewhere else, are
clearly not working. And the perception of weakness in this administration
is encouraging this kind of behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, those are extreme hawks. But someone needs to tell
Jim DeMint al Qaeda doesn`t care what our relationship is with Russia.
And for more on how Washington reacted to the latest terror threat, I`m
joined here by "Time" magazine senior correspondent Michael Crowley, who`s
with me, and "The Washington Post" opinion writer Jonathan Capehart.
Gentlemen, thank you for this.
I guess what`s interesting here -- Jonathan, you start -- is the quick
almost rabble-rousing political hysteria it is. Instead of sort of joining
in -- which was the initial impulse of people like Peter King and others
and Lindsey Graham, who care about national security, was to join force and
say, You know what? We`ve got a unique threat here coming out of Yemen.
We got some orders been passed from Pakistan. We better get serious about
this and deal with the issue at hand.
Instead, they reverted immediately to their political battle stations,
said, Here`s your chance to shoot at the president from behind.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: What`s
interesting here, Chris -- and especially in the clips you just showed with
Jim DeMint, where one minute, Republicans are claiming that President Obama
is just a continuation of President George W. Bush in the foreign policy
realm, where the president, this president, is just continuing the hawkish
policies of the Bush administration.
And then the next minute, they`re claiming that the president is weak in
foreign policy, showing weakness to our enemies, and yet completely
forgetting about all the drone strikes that the president is doing.
And the other thing about what Jim DeMint is doing, which I find rather
callous, is, would he rather the president of the United States not close
the embassies and make our -- and make American personnel targets for a
terrorist attack? I wonder what they would be saying if the president
followed through on the advice that they`re giving him.
MATTHEWS: You mean another Benghazi.
CAPEHART: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: They`d be saying, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.
Anyway, right on cue, Rick Santorum -- not a foreign policy expert -- this
weekend accused the president of being timid. I love these
personifications, timid, muscular foreign policy. They turn it on to some
schoolyard kind of event. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I think it`s really a consequence
of the policies of this administration.
I mean, if you look at Benghazi and what happened there, we had an attack
on our embassy. We have seen really nothing other than cover-ups. We
haven`t seen anything from this administration really go after the people
who were responsible or the network behind it.
And there -- I`m sure if you`re looking at it from a terrorist perspective,
you say, well, here`s an administration that`s pulling back, that`s timid,
and an opportunity to go after additional embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: These are the same people, Michael, who took us into Iraq. We
have got to be to be unafraid to use our strength. They`re all chicken
hawks. They`re al G.I. Joe pretend types and they all want us to go to the
next where war.
Timid means we`re not fighting with someone right now. That`s what they
MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": But the idea of timidity on
the part of this administration is very strange to me. Santorum`s
complaints seem to be --
MATTHEWS: What is this, stand your ground writ large?
CROWLEY: Well -- yes, well, I hadn`t thought of it that way.
MATTHEWS: Is that what it is, stand your ground?
CROWLEY: But, actually, he seems to be talking about a rhetorical thing,
that they`re afraid to use the word terrorism, Islamic -- Islamofascism.
CROWLEY: There are some people who are very worked up about that kind of
But the fact is, this president has overseen drone strikes that have killed
thousands of people. And, if anything, I think the complaint that you
could make, the better complaint would be that we are over-reliant on
drones. We have had problems. The reason we still have a problem with al
Qaeda in Yemen, according to some people, is that there`s a backlash on the
number of drone strikes we have carried out, that the president has been
using too much violence.
CROWLEY: And the idea that al Qaeda really cares what your rhetoric is I
think is -- doesn`t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think somebody -- do you think somebody in Pakistan
gives a rat`s butt how our relations are doing with Moscow?
CROWLEY: No, they`re not --
MATTHEWS: That`s an absurd charge.
CROWLEY: It`s a non sequitur. It`s a non sequitur. It`s very strange.
And the reality is that this president has stepped up this drone campaign
around the world. Again, I think what will people care about in Pakistan
is America is blowing people up from the sky. They`re not showing their
faces. They see it as cowardly. And it alienates the population. So, I
think there`s a real debate to be had about the blowback of drone strikes.
But our rhetoric has nothing to do with it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Jonathan, elections are imprecise. You choose one
party or the other, one general approach or the other.
The general approach of the Bush administration, George W., was a freedom
agenda, certainly, the idea of the road through Jerusalem is through
Baghdad, all this sort of neocon theorizing, that if we go over there and
go into Iraq, somehow the front-line states in the Middle East will loosen
up, there will be some democratizing, and somehow it will lead to a peace
treaty. Life will be better in the Middle East.
That`s sort of the -- that means war generally. It means war, I mean,
twice into Iraq, once into Afghanistan. Obama came in there saying I`m
sort of a `60s guy, even though I`m a young guy. I don`t really think big
war is the answer to all big problems. And I think a more isolated
approach, a more surgical approach, let`s get the bad guys and narrow it to
that. Let`s not go against peoples. Let`s not go against nations if we
can avoid it.
And that`s what the public wanted in `08, what they wanted again in `12. I
know it`s not perfect. But I think that`s where I disagree with your
colleague Gene Robinson today in the paper when he was saying there is
something wrong with drones. Yes, but if the alternative is going to war
with yet another Islamic country, I will go with drones.
CAPEHART: Exactly. Exactly.
It seems that there are some Republicans who want the president, any
president, frankly, but this president in particular, to just go headlong
into any conflict that happens around the world.
CAPEHART: And it seems that all the conflicts that have been happening
have been in the Middle East.
When the Arab spring rose up in Egypt, send troops -- like, send troops to
Egypt. When it happened in Libya, send troops to Libya. The United States
MATTHEWS: Send troops to Syria.
CAPEHART: Yes, that was the other one. Send troops to Syria.
One minute, they`re complaining that we don`t have enough money, we`re
going broke, we can`t do all these things that the president wants to do.
But the moment there`s an international conflict, they want the United
States to go there. And if anything, this -- President Obama`s foreign
policy is cautious.
And it`s a little too cautious for a whole lot of people, including us on
"The Washington Post" editorial page, but I think it befits a president who
sees what`s happening in the world, doesn`t exactly know, because we have
never been down this road before, sort of the freedom and people rising up
in these countries that you`re showing on the map here.
This is what you want from a president, someone who sees things happening
that takes very considered steps. And the other thing we have to keep in
mind, it might not look like the United States is doing a whole lot overtly
in this region, in this region of the world, but you got to know that the
United States is doing a whole lot of things covertly, behind the scenes,
out of the public view, to gain intelligence, but to also help friends and
MATTHEWS: I agree.
Just by the way, gentlemen, can you imagine what the right-wing challenge
would be, the attack on the president had 9/11 occurred on President
CAPEHART: On President Obama`s watch? Yes.
CROWLEY: Well, of course. This was --
MATTHEWS: The Democrats gave George W. a free ride. They said it
happened, nobody knew it was going to happen. We`re not going to butcher
you politically over this. It was the first time it has ever been done.
As the secretary of state said, no one imagined them using planes, although
they did. If had happened under Obama`s watch, I`m telling you, it would
have been impeachment time.
CAPEHART: By the way --
CAPEHART: -- today this is the anniversary of the day Bush got the memo
saying bin Laden is trying to plan attack inside the United States.
MATTHEWS: U.S. to attack within the United States. Yes.
I remember the way that the secretary of state had to read it with no
affect that time at a hearing. Do you remember, Jonathan?
CAPEHART: Oh, I remember.
MATTHEWS: As if it really didn`t have any punch.
CAPEHART: I know. It was a standout moment. Oh, yes, Osama bin Laden
determined to attack in the United States.
Well, my eyes popped out of my head when that happened.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know.
CROWLEY: Remember, this is the president who escalated the war in
Afghanistan. And we are now drawing down. But it just doesn`t make sense
to say that he has totally recoiled, that he is afraid of conflict.
CROWLEY: He has blown these guys up with drones. He doubled down in
Afghanistan. If anything, I think the critique to make is from the left.
MATTHEWS: By the way, talk to some of the -- you get the good reporting.
Talk to some of the guys who are in the Sit Room, close in. He is pretty
darn tough when he`s in there. This guy is not some Jimmy Carter on this
stuff, not on this stuff.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Crowley.
Not that there`s anything wrong with Jimmy Carter, but he wasn`t exactly a
fighter in that sense.
Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, thank you, Jonathan. We always agree now,
Jonathan, I have noticed. That`s very dangerous.
MATTHEWS: Up next, it`s August and Congress is out of session, as you know
if you -- hard to know. It`s like, Calvin Coolidge, he died, how did you
tell? Anyway, the birthers are back.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."
They`re at it again. Florida Representative Ted Yoho is the latest
Republican to stir the birther pot. Here`s some of what he had to say at a
town hall event a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the great cons in the history of politics.
REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: A guy says, Steve Stockman`s got a bill that`s
going to look into the birth certificate again. Would you be willing to
So, I called Steve up. I says -- when I got back, he said, yes, we`re
doing that. Do you want to get on it? I says, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes. But as "The Daily Show" pointed out about Ted Cruz last
night, two can play that game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were born in Canada. Could you -- are you even
eligible to be president of the United States?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: My mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware.
She`s a U.S. citizen, so I`m a U.S. citizen by birth.
JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": OK. Well, that
shouldn`t be a problem then, because, as we know, Republicans are nothing
if not understanding on that particular issue.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLIVER: As long as your mother was born in the United States, you could be
born anywhere on Earth and be completely accepted as a viable presidential
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, finally, they get it right. Natural-born means you don`t
have to be naturalized. You`re born an American. So, all those birther
charges were wrong about the Constitution, just as they were totally wrong
about where Obama was actually born.
Well, The Washington Post may be a Washington institution, but its
influence extends well beyond the capital. Since 1933, when Donald
Graham`s grandfather Eugene Meyer bought The Post at auction for $825,000,
it`s been the standard bearer of exemplary political coverage, obviously.
It`s a testament to the management of the Graham family over the last 80
years. But, before that, in the early days, The Washington Post had
something of a mixed record, which included the dubious distinction of
printing one of the most infamous newspaper typos in American history.
It was a 1915 article about Woodrow Wilson`s love life. Yes, he had one.
The paper reported that Wilson had been entering his bride to be. Edith
Galt. Well, they had obviously meant to say entertaining his bride to be.
Well, now we went further here at HARDBALL and dug up the original. Here`s
how they printed at the time -- quote -- this is "The Washington Post" --
"The president gave himself up for the time being to entering his fiancee."
MATTHEWS: Well, needless to say, it was a source of amusement in
Next up, this one definitely belongs in the "Sideshow." Things got ugly
when Anthony Weiner encountered a heckler on the stump yesterday up in New
York. Take a look how the altercation unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: You`re very passionate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m passionate.
WEINER: I appreciate your view.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More passionate than you on Twitter. I`m a social
medial expert. OK? Get someone to handle your (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disgusting.
WEINER: You have had your say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you all for --
WEINER: Whoa. Whoa. You have got little kids here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little kids?
WEINER: You have got little kids here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little kids?
WEINER: You have got little kids.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no right to talk about anything. You have
no right to talk about little kids.
WEINER: OK. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re talking about little kids? Social media? You
want to see some Twitter action?
WEINER: Oh, take it easy. Lighten up. You put your show on. Why don`t
you beat it? Beat it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Beat it.
MATTHEWS: That`s a way to get a vote. That campaign isn`t making anyone
look good at this point.
Anyway, up next, why did Amazon`s Jeff Bezos buy personally "The Washington
Post"? Are billionaires everywhere going to start buying up newspapers to
promote their views, right, left and whatever?
Well, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jackie DeAngelis with your CNBC
Stocks dropping on word that the Federal Reserve may reduce its economic
stimulus as early as September. The Dow lost 93 points, the S&P 500 sank
nine, the Nasdaq falling 27.
Meantime, a surge in U.S. exports shrank the trade deficit by 22 percent in
June to $34.2 billion. And "Washington Post" stock is up after it was
announced that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is buying the paper.
Finally, Chevy is looking to charge up sales of its 2014 Volt. It`s
cutting its price starting at just under $35,000.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A foreboding front page of "The Washington Post" today: "Grahams to sell
`The Washington Post.`" There it is. It hit our driveway this morning.
The Graham family has owned "The Post" for generations. They fought to the
hilt to defend its independence through the Watergate investigation, when
editor Ben Bradlee and reporters Bob Woodward -- there they are -- and Carl
Bernstein took down President Nixon`s administration.
Well, like so many of the old money media moguls, like the Sulzbergers, who
control "The New York Times," the Grahams had the guts to stand up for
their paper and defend that special brand of investigative journalism which
can make you a lot of enemies.
But now "The Washington Post" has a new owner, Silicon Valley billionaire
and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos isn`t alone. Over the last
several years, billionaires have been gobbling up newspapers across the
country from "The Wall Street Journal" to "The Boston Globe."
In some cases, like Murdoch`s purchase of "The Journal," those interested
in these media outlets have outwardly pushed a right-wing agenda. The
conservative Koch brothers are on the prowl right now to buy up newspapers
as well. And while Bezos` political leanings aren`t as clear-cut, the
question is a pressing one. Will the new money have the same guts and
drive as the old money or will the papers they buy become political
mouthpieces in some cases far to the far right?
Anyway, Eugene Robinson is an expert. He`s an NBC political analyst, and
most importantly in this case a great star columnist for "The Washington
Post." And Brad Stone is a columnist with "Businessweek" and the author of
the upcoming book "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon."
So, I`m going right to you, Brad, to the horse`s mouth. Will Bezos
maintain the independence of the newspaper? Will he be like the old money
Sulzbergers and Grahams and say, I`m willing to bleed economically so this
paper will live?
BRAD STONE, "BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK": Absolutely.
I really don`t see him as having an overt political agenda. I think his
idealism will be a sort of business idealism about disrupting the
newspaper`s old revenue models, building new ones, experimenting digitally.
Does he have an agenda? I think -- I think it`s no accident that he`s
buying "The Washington Post" at a time when Amazon increasingly has
regulatory and legislative issues. But I don`t see him wielding that
influence in an overt way.
MATTHEWS: What about his libertarianism? Is he -- is he possibly in the
mood to have "The Washington Post" endorse Rand Paul for president? Is
that within the realm of possibility for a libertarian, his first shot with
a newspaper, to endorse a libertarian candidate?
STONE: I`m going to go out on a limb and say he won`t be meddling with the
decisions of the "Washington Post" editorial board.
Look, I think --
MATTHEWS: He won`t. Well, who will be? Well, who will "The Post" speak
for, if not him?
STONE: Well, you know, he said he wants to keep the current management in
MATTHEWS: Does management decide who to endorse for president? I thought
the owners do?
STONE: You know, we`ll have to see.
MATTHEWS: It`s a tough one, is it?
STONE: Bezos has been -- it`s a tough one -- and he has sort of been
apolitical. I mean, only recently has he become sort of involved in the
sales tax debate. He gave some money for a proposition supporting gay
marriage in the state of Washington. But these are, you know, kind of, you
know, individual instances and he really hasn`t gotten involved.
MATTHEWS: You know, I read "The Post" every morning, Gene, I try to figure
out the editorial policy. I mean, Fred Hiatt`s editorial (INAUDIBLE), he`s
a bit of a neocon, a hawk. Fair enough. He`s clear and honest about it.
You come in there, I think you have some influence, I`m not sure. It has a
domestic policy moderation to liberals. It`s somewhere between moderate
and liberal. It is not the liberal icon people thought it was, if it ever
That`s what I think.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, I`m on the op-ed page. We let
100 flowers bloom on the op-ed page. I`m a columnist. I`m not a member of
the editorial board which, means to debate and to hash out the editorials
that speak in the voice of the newspaper, which, by the way, is the voice
of the editorial page editor and the publisher.
Remember, Katharine Weymouth of the Graham family, is the publisher. I
presume the arrangement will continue, you know, if it`s an important
endorsement or something like that, Fred and Katharine will have to be on
the same page.
I don`t -- I don`t know if Jeff Bezos would want to be involved.
MATTHEWS: But if it`s his only newspaper, why wouldn`t he want to have an
influence on who you endorse?
ROBINSON: Well, maybe that`s not the point of his getting a newspaper.
Maybe it`s -- maybe the point is just as Brad said. Maybe it`s to disrupt
newspapering the way he disrupted retail, the way he disrupted bookselling,
and to find --
MATTHEWS: Do you think he has a business model, a way to make the paper
ROBINSON: You know, my guess -- I don`t know the man. My guess is he`s
got the germ of an idea. He`s not a fully-fledged idea yet. He`s got --
he`s got to come and spend some time at "The Post" and figure out exactly
how things work out.
MATTHEWS: Brad, is there a workable, known way to make money with
newspapers in metropolitan areas? Suburban newspapers can deal with
offset. I don`t know how they do it. The traffic is different.
But can you make money in a big city newspaper with traffic concerns, where
you get to get the paper out physically and way ahead of time? How do you
make money with a paper these days, up against everything else?
STONE: I think -- right. I think Bezos is betting that you can`t. The
first thing that you do is slay the old business. You let the traditional
sources of revenue, the subscriber base, you know, the ad revenue, print ad
revenue gracefully sunset and build a new business online. I think, you
know, that`s the opportunity he`ll go after.
STONE: He`s -- yes, he`s got -- this is $250 million, for him is a drop in
the bucket. He brings us long-term operating philosophy, willing to
sustain a lot of losses sometimes to the consternation of Amazon
shareholders. And I think we`re going to see him bring that operating
philosophy to "The Washington Post."
MATTHEWS: Well, you said the wrong word for me "online", because that`s
not newspaper. I`m worried here.
ROBINSON: No, but look, 20 years from now, do you think we`re going to be
dealing with physical newspapers delivered on your doorstep? Twenty years
from now, I`m not sure we are. Right now, that`s what, 70 percent, maybe
80 percent of "The Washington Post" revenue, most print newspapers`
So what I think Bezos does is not to slay or get rid of that legacy
business. It generates the cash. It generates a lot of money and he`s not
averse to cash.
But the advantage of having somebody like Bezos owning the paper is number
one, it`s going to be private. So, we`re not going to have Wall Street
analysts, you know, anxious about next quarter`s figures. Number two, he`s
got pockets deep enough for use to do the experimentation and the
innovation that we need to do on the online side --
ROBINSON: -- so that when the economics move there --
ROBINSON: -- we`ll be there first.
MATTHEWS: I`m worried about the Koch brothers. They`re coming for "The
Chicago Tribune" and "The L.A. Times." They`re moving. If they get a
deal, God help us.
Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. And thank you, Brad Stone.
Up next, Congress is on a five-week vacation. Couldn`t you tell? Anybody
miss them? Did they do anything when they were here? No. Will they do
anything when they come back? Probably cause more trouble.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A programming note. We mentioned this earlier. Tonight on the
"Tonight Show", on "The LAST WORD", Jay Leno joins Lawrence O`Donnell to
review his interview with President Obama. So, he`s going to be on that
and the president is going to be on Jay.
More HARDBALL after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Any way you cut it and whoever`s fault it is, you
have presided over what is perhaps the least productive and certainly one
of the least popular congresses in history. How do you feel about that?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, Bob, we should not
be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how
many laws that we repeal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And that was, of course, a rehearsed line from John Boehner bragging not
about what he`s done but about the things he`s tried to undo. Forty times
they tried to undo Obamacare.
No real accomplishments in this Congress under Boehner`s leadership. He`s
on the way to becoming the least productive in terms of bills passed that`s
ever existed. Boehner leads a conference of Republicans who are averse to
being led or legislating in the first place.
So, why would we expect any cooperation or progress henceforth?
According to "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza in a great column
yesterday, here`s what we learned as Congress heads off on its 5-week
vacation. Boehner has become speaker in name only. The goal of reaching a
grand bargain on the budget and a debt ceiling is a pipe dream.
Republicans continue to slow down progress that yields any tangible result.
Gun control is not happening. Senators are retiring at a historic pace.
And Tea Party firebrand Rand Paul has become the Republican Party`s most
powerful spokesman and non-negotiator.
Chris Cillizza joins us right now, along with former Pennsylvania Governor
Chris, great column --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: -- because it was so conclusive.
This Congress has done nothing. No appropriations passed, no budget
resolution passed, no continuing resolution ready to go October 1st. The
government is fast approaching when they get back from Labor Day, they`re
going to go to a shutdown. Three weeks of talking about doing nothing,
then doing nothing. Then, the prospect as we get closer to the holidays of
an actual default on the federal debt with our perhaps our credit rating
dropping. All this before Christmas and the holidays.
What a horrendous performance. And the Tea Party types led by -- and I do
believe he is on his way to getting the nomination next time -- Rand Paul,
is enjoying it all, because getting nothing done proves nothing can get
done. And doing nothing is what his philosophy. He wins twice.
CILLIZZA: Well, you know, Chris, I`ve done a lot of writing and using
vital statistics on Congress, great resource on productivity and the sort
of how you measure it. This Congress, this House has passed 22 bills in
its first eight months, roughly that have gone to the president for
signing. The previous low ever before was 28 bills. You`ve seen 81 bills,
100 bills in the past -- in past congresses.
The argument that -- and I want to get it out there, because lots of
Republicans, and you heard John Boehner talk about it, lots of Republicans
say this is -- you`re missing the point. The point here is that Democrats
control the White House. Democrats control the Senate. The only thing we
can do here is we disagree philosophically and fundamentally with the ideas
that they`re pushing.
The only thing we can do is to say we`re not doing these things, and
thereby we are preserving sort of the smaller government principles that
our voters elected us for.
MATTHEWS: So, Obama is characterizing that. They`re all in the same page.
You hear him saying that voting 40 times to repeal or defund Obamacare is
their idea, the Republicans` idea of an economic jobs program.
How can you defend -- I want to go to the governor on this. How can you
say doing nothing, voting against everything, trying to repeal everything
in a sort of feckless way, how can you say that`s a jobs program or even a
Republican economic program?
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PA GOVERNOR: Well, you can`t, Chris. And you make
the point. The point is the economy, the recovery is slow. We still have
significant joblessness. And they`re taking pride in doing nothing.
I believe if they continue this, and if they shut down the government and
screw up the debt limit, I believe they`re going to lose control of the
Congress. And the reason is take suburban Philadelphia. You and I talk
about that a lot.
We`ve got four Republican congressmen. They`re all pretty good guys,
Charlie Dent, Patrick Meehan, et cetera. Well, if I`m running the campaign
against them next time, I`m going to say hey, Pat Meehan is a good guy.
But we`re never going to get anything done in Congress as long as Pat
Meehan is in Congress because he is going to vote for John Boehner and he
is going to make sure that nothing gets done and we have this Congress
So, the only way to change things is to get rid of Pat Meehan and Charlie
Dent and Fitzpatrick and those moderate Republicans that are left. And
there are enough of them that if they lose them in the suburbs all over
this country, they`re going to lose control of the Congress. So I think
they`re going down a path that`s idiotic for them.
MATTHEWS: You know, that sounds like Harry Truman in `48, going after the
do-nothing Congress between `46 and `48. He blew those guys out of the
saddle because all they wanted to do is hold hearings like Darrell Issa all
day and investigate for communists.
Let me go back to Chris Cillizza on this. When you go up there and cover
them, not just in numbers, in history, but the way they are today, do they
really believe that they can sell this, or is this just to avoid having
CILLIZZA: Well, I think it`s a little of both. I mean, Chris, I don`t
think there is any question, the governor knows this, you know this well.
This -- they look around, all politicians look around. And when they see
their colleagues lose. When they see a Dick Lugar lose, when they see a
Bob Bennett in Utah lose, it has a real and lasting impact on them.
I think the danger here is that -- I guess I disagree a little bit with the
governor in that. I think redistricting -- the line-drawing process has
created it so you have so few competitive seats that I don`t know that
there are enough seats to flip.
What I think is dangerous is the mentality that they`re adopting, for
example, on immigration, which is immigration is a huge issue for the
national Republican Party. But in congressional districts that are
controlled by Republicans, there is a relatively small number of districts
that are heavily Hispanic. They can hold the House if they don`t pass a
comprehensive immigration bill.
The bigger problem is, are they cutting off their nose to spite their face
in 2016? Can Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, can any of
those guys win with the Republican Party that if polling is to be believed,
is going to bear the lion`s share of blame for not getting comprehensive
MATTHEWS: I`m not sure the suburban. I think the governor may be right
about Philly suburbs. I`m not sure they`re going to like a do-nothing
Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor, for coming on. Ed Rendell, it`s always
And we`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
You know, we never value something as much as when it is taken away from
us. Like so many of you, I`m a newspaper reader. I love the papers. When
I`m in another country, I love getting a copy of "The International Herald
Tribune" or "USA Today" or both. I love reading about America from Europe.
And every day you see me here at this desk, I`ve spent a good part of the
morning loving "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" and
"Politico", the political trade paper, and sometimes "The Wall Street
Journal" as well. I love the feel of the broadsheet, the excitement of a
tab, the turning of the pages, the checking of the sports section, and the
scores. The celebrity news, just enough that is, and the opinions on the
I want to know what people like me and also not like me are thinking.
Newspapers are great for one great reason. They throw it at you. You
don`t go looking for a piece on Pakistan, but there it is, staring at you
when you go to jump (ph) on the story you are looking for.
Newspapers not only tell you what is new and what you know about, but also
what is new on what you should know about. They alert you, tickle you,
taunt you, until you have caught up and know what the story is.
The sale of "The Washington Post" is a tricky matter for the single region
that it is an original source of knowing what you and I should know about.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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