updated 8/14/2013 10:04:03 AM ET 2013-08-14T14:04:03

HARDBALL
August 13, 2013
Guests: Michael Kendall, Maggie Haberman, William Otis, Laura Murphy


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Voter ID laws, a solution in search of a
problem.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight, Carolina on our minds. Yesterday, the governor of
North Carolina, Republican Pat McCrory, signed one of the most sweeping
voting reform bills that we`ve seen on the books yet. Seven weeks after
the Supreme Court crippled parts of the Voting Rights Act, which required
states with a history of discrimination to pre-clearance by the Justice
Department, Governor McCrory and his Republican legislature leaped at the
opportunity to institute strict voting changes.

Now, this bill doesn`t stop at merely requiring a government ID to vote.
It also reduces early voting by a week. It eliminates same-day
registration, ends pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, discontinues a
statewide voter registration drive, and decreases public disclosure for
dark money groups.

Governor McCrory shied away from a traditional public signing ceremony,
instead taking to YouTube to announce his signature and to also take some
swipes at the bill`s opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Photo ID has become a part of our
everyday life. You need a photo ID to board an airplane, to cash a check,
or even apply for most government benefits. In fact, just recently, both
Democrats and Republicans joined together to require a valid government-
issued photo ID to buy Sudafed at your local corner drugstore.

Let me be direct. Many of those from the extreme left who have been
criticizing photo ID are using scare tactics. They`re more interested in
divisive politics than ensuring that no one`s vote is disenfranchised by a
fraudulent ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Indeed, it seems that McCrory himself is doing the
disenfranchising since it`s largely minority voters -- in other words,
Democrats -- who will be disproportionately affected.

Opponents of this bill, and more than 80 other voting reform bills proposes
like it proposed across the country this year, believe this kind of
legislation is designed to reduce voter turnout for key Democratic
constituencies like minorities, the elderly and students.

Hillary Clinton, eager to jump back into the fray, last night delivered the
most political remarks that she`s made since leaving the State Department
and made clear what she believes is behind these new voter laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Legislators in North Carolina
have pushed through a bill that reads like the greatest hits of voter
suppression -- restricted early voting, no more same-day registration or
extending voting hours to accommodate long lines, stricter photo ID
requirements that disqualify those issued by colleges or public assistance
agencies. And it goes on and on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Joining me to discuss this are former Pennsylvania governor Ed
Rendell, who`s an MSNBC political analyst, and Maggie Haberman, senior
political reporter for Politico, who`s an expert on the Clintons.

Governor, I`m sure if I were to ask you, if you were governor and this came
to your desk, what would you do, and you`d tell me veto it. A different
question. Are there any redeeming aspects of what this man has just signed
into law?

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: None that I can
think of, and some are absolutely impossible to explain. Why would you
reduce the time period for early voting? Just to suppress voting.

We should be in this country trying to increase voter participation. In a
presidential election, we have 65 percent turnout. We think that`s great.
But that doesn`t count the unregistered voters. We actually have less than
50 percent who vote for president of the United States.

Look, the bottom line is, as you said in the intro, this is a solution
looking for a problem. There is no problem. In Pennsylvania, our home
state, Michael, when the attorney general was asked in court to produce
evidence of voter fraud by fraudulent voting, someone voting in someone`s
name, they admitted to the court in a consent decree that they could not
find one example --

SMERCONISH: Well, Governor, let me --

RENDELL: -- one example to present to the court.

SMERCONISH: Let me prove what you`re saying with data from North Carolina
because Republicans in North Carolina and many other states are determined
to find a solution to a problem that doesn`t appear to exist.

Consider this. In 2012, 6.9 million ballots were cast in North Carolina in
the general and two primary elections. The state Board of Elections said
that only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were referred to prosecutors,
which means that of the nearly seven million votes cast, alleged voter
fraud accounted for just .00174 percent of the ballots.

Even Governor McCrory conceded that the number of voter fraud cases are
low. This is what he wrote yesterday in "The Raleigh News and Observer."
Quote, "Even if the instances of misidentified people casting votes are
low, that shouldn`t prevent us from putting this non-burdensome safeguard
in place." Quote, "Just because you haven`t been robbed doesn`t mean you
shouldn`t lock your doors at night or when you`re away from home."

Maggie, when I heard that, I said, OK, but neither should you go out and
purchase an expensive security system or live in a bunker if you`re not in
a threatening neighborhood, to fit into his analogy.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Right. I mean, I think that none of these
arguments are surprising. I think that you are seeing Republicans making a
line here that they have for a while. I think that what you heard Senator
Clinton, former secretary Clinton, saying is also not surprising. This is
where Democrats are.

I do think this is going to be an ongoing fight. It is also a fight I
think Democrats believe that they can win and that is mostly on their side,
despite the ruling of the Supreme Court.

SMERCONISH: Well, here`s what I consider to be the miscalculation. You
heard in the setup piece the audio where Governor McCrory refers to the
criticism as coming from the "extreme left." I don`t know what the extreme
left is, but I know I`m not a part of it.

I think people in the middle are offended by this. And Governor, I think
that in 2012, this came back to bite them in the fanny because independents
took a look and they said, Hey, you know, play fair and win honestly, and
don`t go trying to change the rules.

Do you agree with me, Governor, that this impacted voters who are
centrists?

RENDELL: No question. Not only did it impact centrist voters, but the
best way to get someone to vote who isn`t necessarily a regular voter is to
tell them they can`t vote.

And the backlash had two effects. One with independent voters as you say,
Michael, but two, when we were preparing in Pennsylvania -- we eventually
got the voter ID law stayed in court -- but when we were preparing to try
to deal with it, we found people absolutely adamant that they would do
whatever it took to get the necessary identification to vote.

And the turnout was far greater than we expected because I think people
were ticked off. They were angry that someone was trying to take their
votes away.

But when Governor McCrory says it`s non-burdensome, that`s ridiculous.
There were so many accounts published. People don`t have photo ID. If
they don`t have the cars, how are they going to get to motor vehicle
license bureau places to get the photo ID when they`re infirm? It`s
impossible to do in many cases.

There was one 91-year-old woman who`d voted in 71 consecutive elections who
didn`t have voter ID. She went to the center to get it, and they told her
she couldn`t qualify because the only identification she had was her
marriage license, and her marriage license had her listed at her maiden
name. And she didn`t have anything to prove that she was married in her
current married name. Ridiculous.

SMERCONISH: Maggie, in Hillary Clinton`s fiery speech to the American Bar
Association, she said these laws are reviving old demons of discrimination,
insisting that legislation like the North Carolina law is a deliberate and
unnecessary barrier to voting.

HABERMAN: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: In the years since, we`ve seen a sweeping effort across our
country to obstruct (sic) new obstacles to voting, often under cover of
addressing a phantom epidemic of election fraud. Now, not every obstacle
is related to race, but anyone who says that racial discrimination is no
longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Are you surprised by her subject matter? There are a lot of
things she could have used to address the ABA.

HABERMAN: I`m not surprised by her subject matter per se. I am surprised
by something -- you hit it on the head earlier, which, as you said, she is
eager to jump into the fray. That is what is surprising.

She doesn`t need to be out there as early as she is right now. People
around her have said, you know, she wants to take some time, she doesn`t
want to get sucked into every issue in Washington right now. But she is
really putting herself in front of a lot of these issues. She did at the
bar association. She said there she`s going to give a speech on the NSA
debate right now --

SMERCONISH: Right.

HABERMAN: -- which is really --

SMERCONISH: In Philadelphia.

HABERMAN: Correct -- which is really interesting given that in 2008, you
know, the primary was lost in part because of the left`s upset with her
vote for the Iraq war. The NSA is an issue that liberals are very unhappy
about and a lot of the base of her party is very unhappy about. I am
surprised that she is getting out there ahead of things as much as she is.

SMERCONISH: And very forward-looking.

HABERMAN: Correct.

SMERCONISH: I mean, she could easily go in and reminisce about being first
lady or talk about her tenure as the secretary of state.

Hey, Governor, I want to ask you the $64,000 question. Here it is. How
much are these movements across the country by the GOP precipitated by
census data pertaining to what`s to come in this country in 2050, when
whites become a minority as a group of the population?

RENDELL: Oh, I think a lot of it`s being driven by that, Michael. But by
the way, you`re showing your age. No one under 35 knows what the $64,000
question was.

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: But you`re absolutely right. It`s being driven by that. And it
is truly despicable. I mean, I don`t care where you are -- and by the way,
it`s not just presidential elections they`re aiming at in North Carolina.
Kay Hagan is running for reelection as senator in 2014. It`s going to be a
close election. They`re hoping that voter ID can cause Kay Hagan to lose
her reelection bid. Well, I think North Carolina voters have a surprise
coming for them because they ought to be ticked off, really ticked off.

SMERCONISH: Well, look at who gets disproportionately impacted. The North
Carolina law will disproportionately affect non-white voters, who tend to
vote Democratic. The state`s population is 30 percent non-white. But look
at this. According to the North Carolina secretary of state`s office, 33
percent of those who voted early in 2012 were non-white, 46 percent of
voters without a state-issued photo identification, non-white. And among
voters who registered to vote the last day they cast their ballots, 56
percent were non-white.

I think, Maggie, something else that`s telling is that a college ID is not
permissible.

HABERMAN: Right.

SMERCONISH: So I mean, to me, that`s what exposes this for what it really
is. I personally don`t have a problem with saying, Show an ID when you
vote, but you ought to take into consideration what form of identification
the folks in that particular community are most likely to possess. And if
they don`t drive cars because they don`t own cars -- and sorry if I`m
preaching at you -- then it shouldn`t be the voter ID.

HABERMAN: I mean, without getting into motive on either side, there is no
question that there are certain core constituencies that are affected, just
as you said. And in many of those cases -- certainly younger voters, as we
just saw -- those are voters who have been voting, especially in national
elections, Democratic.

And so I think that that is going to be a real issue of exactly whose
constituencies are impacted here. And I think, you know, the question is
what the governor said, is do people get upset about this, feel targeted by
it and turn out because of that?

SMERCONISH: All good points. Thank you Maggie. Thank you, Governor.
Nice to see you both.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

RENDELL: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up: Progressives were thrilled with Attorney General
Eric Holder`s speech against minimum sentencing laws, but not everyone
agrees. They argue the new policy could give criminals more incentive to
deal drugs.

Also, it`s hard to ignore. Birtherism and race are playing a disturbingly
big role in anti-Obama protests this summer.

And there`s no denying Whitey Bulger`s criminality, but guess who may have
been his most faithful partner and protector? The FBI.

And finally, Anthony Weiner is well known for publicly exposing things that
should be kept private. So has he just exposed a secret about Hillary?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Voters in New Jersey are going to the polls today to pick
nominees for the Senate. On the Democratic side, Newark mayor Cory Booker
has a sizable lead in recent polling. For the Republicans, Steve Lonegan
is the prohibitive favorite. Polls close tonight at 8:00 eastern, and
assuming he wins today, Booker will be the heavy favorite in the October
16th general election.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s clear as we come
together today that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too
long and for no truly good law enforcement reason.

These are issues the president and I have been talking about for as long as
I`ve known him, issues he`s felt strongly about ever since his days as a
community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Attorney General Eric Holder left
no doubt that the president was behind him when he announced the reduction
of mandatory minimum drug sentences, but plenty of people are not,
including former special counsel to former president George Herbert Walker
Bush, William Otis, who characterized Holder`s move as a victory for drug
dealers.

Professor Otis, who also teaches at Georgetown Law School, joins me now,
along with Laura Murphy, director of the Washington legislative office of
the ACLU.

Professor, make the argument. Why is this a win for drug dealers?

WILLIAM OTIS, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRES. G.H.W. BUSH: It`s a win for
drug dealers because under the attorney general`s proposed policy, the cost
of doing business has gone down. He has said he is going to allow --
indeed, he`s going to require -- federal prosecutors from now on to omit
the amount of drugs being dealt from the indictment. That in turn will
permit judges to go below the otherwise applicable mandatory minimum
sentence.

When the price of doing business goes down, that`s a win for the person
doing the business. Unfortunately, the business here is selling drugs, and
we`re not talking just about marijuana. The federal mandatory minimums
apply, as well, to child pornography, to selling heroin, methamphetamine,
PCP. These are not harmless drugs, and they`re -- and they lead eventually
to severe injury and in some cases, for an addict, death.

SMERCONISH: But Professor, your argument seems to suggest that no
punishment will be forthcoming. What this program really says is
discretion is going to again be vested in the hands of judges, not that
you`re going to get a free pass or a get out of jail free card.

OTIS: I don`t think I did suggest that no punishment would be forthcoming,
and I don`t think that`s true. I also think the judges ought to have
discretion. I just don`t think they should have 100 percent discretion,
which they will once the mandatory minimum goes away.

Judges right now have considerable discretion in sentencing, but it seems
to me that Congress is well within its rights in saying that there are some
crimes so serious that a judge cannot go below a rock bottom minimum.
Again, I`m all for giving the judge a great deal of discretion, just not
100 percent.

SMERCONISH: Laura Murphy, the statistics that are a part of this argument
that we`ve all heard -- the U.S. has 5 percent of the world population, 25
percent of the prison population. At the same time, we`re told that crime
is at a 40-year low.

Isn`t crime at a 40-year low because so many are incarcerated, and isn`t
that an argument for the continued incarceration of them?

LAURA MURPHY, ACLU: Scholars disagree what the reason is behind the low
rate in crime right now. It`s like me, though, saying, I have an elephant
gun in my office and there are no elephants in my office. You can`t
attribute the war on drugs and mandatory minimums, you know, all this power
that, they alone have stopped the rate of crime. Scholars really
vigorously disagree.

But where the American people are in agreement is that we don`t want
cookie-cutter justice. We don`t want a one-size-fits-all penalty not
allowing judges to take individual factors into account.

And I totally disagree with Mr. Otis. I think the attorney general made it
clear that this is about non-violent low-level offenders. And the question
he asked is, is this in the federal interest for the federal prisons to be
filled up with drug offenders? In 1984, only 25 percent of the prisons
were filled with people with drug convictions. Now it`s 55 percent.

Is this good for society? Is this good for our economy? Is this good for
the American values we hold dear?

SMERCONISH: Mr. Otis --

MURPHY: And the compelling answer --

SMERCONISH: -- respond to that.

MURPHY: -- is no.

SMERCONISH: Professor, go ahead.

OTIS: One interesting thing about the attorney general`s talk is that he
said a good deal about low-level offenders without ever defining what
exactly that means. And I don`t know what it means. I don`t know that he
knows what it means.

MURPHY: Well, if you read his --

OTIS: Excuse me! As to your other answer about, We don`t know what has
been the cause of the reduction in crime -- first, there has been an
enormous reduction in crime, 50 percent over the last 20 years. Secondly,
the subject has been studied by the University of Chicago. And the study
by Professor Levitt (ph) indicates that a quarter or more of the reduction
in crime during that time has come about because of the increase in
incarceration.

MURPHY: But the human cost of incarceration is just extreme, as well as
the financial cost.

In 1984, we -- in 1980, rather, we had about 20,000 people in the federal
prison system for drug offenses. And now we have 500,000 people. And you
can`t tell me that the difference in the rate of drug uses justifies such
an extreme growth in our federal prison population.

And putting people in prison destroys their lives. They can`t vote. It`s
hard for them to find housing. It`s hard for them to get college loans.
It`s just a terrible pox on our society.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Professor Otis -- Professor Otis, allow me to ask you, do you
believe that the Congress should be taking this initiative, given that it
was Congress that put on the books the mandatory minimums, as opposed to
the Justice Department through the attorney general taking this path?

OTIS: It seems to me that present law is what we continue -- is what we
should be continuing to do.

Present law already provides for three methods for defendants to escape
mandatory minimums where they`re deserving. One of them, the most
frequently used, is plea bargaining. It`s very frequently the case that
defendants will plea bargain out of a mandatory minimum offense to a lower-
grade offense in exchange for considerations they give the government.

In addition to that, current federal law already contains a safety valve
proposed, I might add, by then Senator Joe Biden. That safety valve allows
the judge, without any motion from the prosecution, to go below a mandatory
minimum if the defendant comes clean about all that he`s doing, if his
crime does not involve violence, if he has a relatively low criminal
history.

So we have that. And the third current method for getting below a
mandatory minimum sentence is a motion made by the prosecutor in exchange
for the defendant`s giving information about who his suppliers are, who his
customers are, who else is working with him in the drug gang.

SMERCONISH: Professor, thank you.

Laura Murphy, take my final 20 seconds. You get the final word. Go ahead.

MURPHY: Well, 94 percent of the people in prison are there because of plea
bargains. And most of the people who go to prison do so because they have
inadequate counsel.

So the attorney general addressed that too, but the attorney general made a
great change in government policy. The war on drugs is a failure. It
leads to huge racial disparities. It leads to expensive, overburdened
prisons.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

MURPHY: And this is the right move for the federal government.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Laura Murphy and William Otis for the dialogue. We
appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

OTIS: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Up next: Did Anthony Weiner just spill the beans on a Hillary
Clinton campaign for president? That`s ahead.

And, don`t forget, you can listen to my radio program weekdays 9:00 a.m.
Eastern on SiriusXM`s POTUS channel, 124.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."

Political dynasties are all too familiar inside the rMDNM_Beltway. But is
Washington ready for the "Duck Dynasty"? According to "The Washington
Examiner," Republican operatives are reportedly trying to draft "Duck
Dynasty" star Willie Robertson to run for the Louisiana congressional seat
that will be vacated by Representative Rodney Alexander in September.

While the self-described redneck millionaire has not commented on the
speculation, Robertson is not exactly a stranger to Washington. He and his
wife attended the 2013 Correspondents Dinner just last April.

Next up, did Anthony Weiner accidentally confirm that Hillary Clinton plans
to run for president last night? Listen to how he answered this question
about his wife, Huma Abedin, in an interview with BuzzFeed`s Ben Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN SMITH, BUZZFEED: Do you know what her role in Hillary`s 2016 campaign
is going to be?

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I do.

SMITH: And what will it be?

WEINER: I`m not telling you.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: It sounds like a 2016 campaign is in the works. Weiner also
took a shot at BuzzFeed after he was asked about his former roommate Jon
Stewart, yes, the same Jon Stewart that we have come to know on "The Daily
Show."

The two of them shared an apartment together when Weiner was working for
Chuck Schumer in the `80s. Here was that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: Someone else who is hard on you is your old friend, I think
roommate, Jon Stewart. And I wonder -- I wonder kind of what the state of
your relationship with him is these days.

WEINER: What? He`s a comedian.

SMITH: Come on. He`s your friend. Is he still your friend?

WEINER: No, no. You -- I mean, I --

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: I`m going to start asking you about stop and frisk soon.

WEINER: I think -- no, you can do this.

SMITH: But I think this is something that is interesting.

WEINER: You can do this or show videos of cats, whatever it is you do at
BuzzFeed. But --

(BOOING)

SMITH: We do it all.

WEINER: But -- no, no, I mean, Jon, this notion that somehow I was a
victim of late-night comics or a victim of someone else, look, I did these
things.

They were embarrassing. The jokes clearly write themselves. But, as far
as a comedian, I mean, he would get thrown out of the comedians union if he
didn`t do these jokes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Well, his motorcade may be causing traffic, but some on
Martha`s Vineyard seem to be welcoming President Obama with open arms,
retailers, for one, but also several islanders who happened to catch a
glimpse of the president when he was getting lunch today.

Now, if you caught my "Let Me Finish" last night, you know that I don`t
believe in begrudging a president of either party for taking time off to
recuperate from the demands of that office. That said, criticism of
presidential vacations is a routine part of our politics these days.

I guess the haters are going to hate, as they say, but imagine this, a
presidential vacation in a foreign country hosted by a Hollywood celebrity.

Well, it happened back in 1982. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: President and Mrs. Reagan were fully on
vacation in Barbados today, and as presidents do wherever they go, Mr.
Reagan attracted a lot of attention when he went swimming.

John Palmer now in Barbados.

JOHN PALMER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: With the business part of the
president`s working vacation now over, the Reagans went to the beach. The
president was dressed for it. Mrs. Reagan was not.

With Secret Service agents alongside, the 71-year-old president put on an
impressive demonstration of aquatic skill, freestyle, diving, and
backstroke. Later, the president was joined by Mrs. Reagan and their
hostess, longtime friend and former Hollywood actress Claudette Colbert.

The president`s concern about budget battles with Congress and foreign
policy problems seemed a long way off: "I`m very pleased to have a day
off."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I doubt we will be getting that kind of footage from President
Obama at Martha`s Vineyard.

Up next: Birtherism is back, and it`s playing a big role at this summer`s
anti-Obama protests. That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow jumping more than 30 points on the day, the S&P ending up four,
while the Nasdaq gained 14 after Fed President Dennis Lockhart hinted that
the Central Bank may not taper its bond-buying program next month. The
Justice Department is fighting plans for U.S. Air and American Airlines to
merge, saying the end result would be higher fares for consumers.

And billionaire investor Carl Icahn tweeted that he`s taking on a large
position at Apple, prompting a spike in the company`s stock today.

That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what I need from you is to know what you can do,
you and your fellow non-communist colleagues in the lower house, what you
can do to stop these communist, tyrannical executive orders laid down by
this foreign-born, American-hating, communist despot? What can you do for
me?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

If you`re a fan of the program, you might remember that clip. That was
Representative Martha Roby being confronted by a rather energized audience
member at a town hall in Alabama. It`s the kind of anger, vitriol, hatred
and at times racism that`s infused recent conservative events.

And it`s gotten so bad that calling Obama an America-hating communist
despot is hardly the worst of it. Take, for instance, what we saw over the
weekend in Missouri, when a rodeo clown put on an Obama mask, prompting the
announcers to mock and insult the president.

One audience member said it was like something out of a Klan rally.

In Phoenix, protesters were heard shouting things like, "Obama is 47
percent Negro," chanting, "Bye-bye, black sheep." And in Orlando earlier
this month, the president and first lady were recently greeted with signs
that said, "Kenyan, Go Home."

At town halls, Republican congressmen have gotten into the act, too,
renewing calls for impeachment and investigations into the president`s
birth certificate, two issues that some read as veiled attacks on the
president`s race.

This latest episode comes courtesy of Congressman Blake Farenthold from
Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: I think, unfortunately, the horse is
already out of the barn on this, on the whole birth certificate issue.

The original Congress, when his eligibility came up, should have looked
into this. And it didn`t. I`m not -- I`m not sure how we fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: You want more? Representative Ted Yoho, a Republican from
South Florida, said at a recent town hall that he too supports the birther
movement.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: They said, well, if it is truly illegal, he
shouldn`t be there and we can get rid of everything he`s done.

I said, I agree with that. But is that the best way to spend our time?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: At least he admitted the witch-hunt was a waste of time.

It all has Democrats and even some Republicans asking, what in the world is
going on? What on earth happened to the Republican autopsy and rebranding
that we heard so much about?

Michael Steele is a former RNC chair. Joan Walsh is the editor at large of
Salon.com. And both are MSNBC political analysts.

Michael, it`s not emanating from the RNC, but it does impact the brand.
How do you control the bad behavior if you`re the head of the party?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you can`t control the bad
behavior, but you can certainly speak to it and you can speak out against
it.

And I think that that`s something that, as we see coming off the 2012 cycle
and getting ready for 2014, that I think the Republican leadership, not
just the chairman of the party, but the House and Senate leadership will
also, I think, vehemently begin to push back against stupid.

These comments are -- I mean, they`re just beyond the pale, particularly
from members of the House --

SMERCONISH: Right.

STEELE: -- who take these -- these arcane, asinine positions that they
know have no basis in fact or no grounding in reality.

So the fact of the matter is, it draws the party down. It stereotypes us
further into this very, very small chasm of the idiot class who can`t
figure out that America`s changing and how to adapt to this change and
become a part of it, as opposed to resisting it.

SMERCONISH: Joan Walsh, you would think to yourself, as a rational person,
well, at least they will be penalized by the voters, the congressmen who
are involved in this bad behavior.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

SMERCONISH: But, of course, they represent hyper-partisan districts,
which, frankly, will reward this sort of shenanigans.

WALSH: Well, that`s true.

And I think that there`s a core of the Republican base that`s only gotten
more shrill, only gotten more racist or feel free to express their racism.
But I want to go something Michael said about the leadership stepping up on
this, because when Steve King made this idiotic remark about calves the
size of cantaloupes, very character, we all remember it, right, people did,
including John Boehner, step up and say, there`s no place in this party for
that kind of language.

Why doesn`t John Boehner ever say that about the birther movement?
Instead, when he took over, he said, it`s not my business to tell people
what to think. He puts his arm around birther in chief Donald Trump, goes
golfing with him, and then at this outbreak of idiocy in his party at these
town halls, he doesn`t say a word. Where is his conscience on this
question?

SMERCONISH: I thought the same thing when the bad behavior was coming from
the audience in the debates of 2012, Michael, that I wondered, why don`t
some of the presidential candidates from the stage single these folks out?

I`m afraid to say that the answer is because this sort of thing plays well
with a certain constituency in the base, and they don`t want to offend
them.

STEELE: Well, there`s no value in seeking elective office if you`re not
prepared to stand in the town square and really speak truth to power in
moments like that.

And I thought at the time, and still do, that that was a missed opportunity
by those on that stage to really put a different brand, if you will, on the
party --

SMERCONISH: Me, too.

STEELE: -- and to stand up against that kind of ignorance.

SMERCONISH: Well, here`s a question. Could these distractions cost
Republicans the House?

Conservative columnist Byron York says the party is at risk -- quote --
"Behind the scenes in whispered asides, not for public consumption, some
Republicans are now worried that keeping the House is not such a done deal
after all. `The majority is at risk,` says one well-connected Republican
strategist. `It should be a good year, but you need to run like you`re
trying to win, and you need a good, solid strategy.`"

Is that a realistic, Joan Walsh, possibility because of this?

WALSH: I think it`s realistic. I think it`s realistic, because it does
two things. It turns off voters in the middle.

You have seen the decline just since the last election, Michael, in the
number of people who identify as Republicans. They don`t even want to call
themselves Republicans. So, that happens.

The other thing that happens is that -- you know, I`m a Democrat. Our
voters tend to stay home disproportionately in the midterms. But, as we
saw in 2012 with voter suppression, when they get energized, when they get
angry, they -- they are more likely to turn out. And the disrespect with
which they`re treating the president and his agenda and Obamacare think
both turns off moderates but also energizes the Democratic base, which is
always an issue in the midterms.

SMERCONISH: I said the same thing earlier in the program with regard to
these voter identification methods.

WALSH: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Republicans have rallied around their dislike of President
Obama but some are taking it a little too far. This is Congressman
Farenthold in Texas at a town hall meeting about impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: You tie into a question I get a lot.
If everybody`s so unhappy with what the president`s doing, why don`t you
impeach him? And I`ll give you a real frank answer about that. If we were
to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the
House of Representatives to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Michael, that kind of talk is the sort of thing you`re saying
should be singled out by the leadership among others.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: It should be singled out. But I
think the congressman is flat wrong. He wouldn`t get the votes in the
House because I can`t think outside of a small pool of people who would
actually tolerate that the process to the point of a vote in the House.

And if you really want to giveaway the House, go ahead, start impeachment.

WALSH: Right.

STEELE: Because the fact of the matter is, the public as a whole would
repel against that so much that it wouldn`t even be funny going into -- you
wouldn`t bother with the 2014, just skip right to the next election.

SMERCONISH: Michael Steele --

STEELE: So I think the party needs to think beyond where it is right now
and focus on how it can develop a message on the economy, on jobs, health
care, those issues that matter to women, minorities, all Americans, and
talk more inclusively and openly how we grow the country and the economy
and not how we look to make fun of the president or impeach him.

SMERCONISH: Michael Steele, thank you.

Joan Walsh, thanks very much.

And for more on this top pick, check out the story Benjy Sarlin on our Web
site. Just go to TV.MSNBC.com and click on HARDBALL.

Up next, convicted mob boss Whitey Bulger may be the worst case of FBI
corruption in American history.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: President Obama will be taking a bus tour through
Pennsylvania and Upstate New York late next week. He`ll hit the road for a
two-day swing starting next Thursday. It`s part of his push to strengthen
the middle class ahead of the fall budget negotiations with Republican in
Congress.

Don`t forget, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.

More HARDBALL, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Hey, we`re back.

Yesterday, Boston mob boss James Whitey Bulger was convicted on 31 out of
32 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, murder, extortion and other charges.
We know how the story will end, behind bars for the remainder of his days.
But the Bulger case always raised troubling questions about the level of
corruption in the system that allowed Bulger to be a long-time FBI
informant while he was slaying witnesses, rivals and other enemies right
under their noses.

Yesterday, Bulger`s lawyer told reporters the defendant was happy that
some of the corruption had surfaced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.W. CARNEY, JR., BULGER`S ATTORNEY: Jim Bulger was very pleased at how
the trial went and even pleased by the outcome. I don`t think he expected
that nine times the jury would come back and say not guilty or not proven.
It was important to him that the government corruption be exposed and
important to him that people see firsthand the deals that the government
was able to make with certain people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Over a 20-year period, Bulger seems to have gotten a lot more
from the FBI than they did from him, his handler, the agency. John
Connolly is serving a 40-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder. He
tipped Bulger off about witnesses and informants who would testify against
him. They wound up dead.

Michael Kendall is a former federal prosecutor and told "The New York
Times", quote, "This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the
FBI. It was a multigenerational systematic alliance with organized crime
where the FBI was actively participating in the murders of government
witnesses or at least allowing them to occur."

Michael Kendall joins me now, along with MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle,
a long-time columnist in Boston.

Michael Kendall, I`m sure people are just waking up now to the fact, who
didn`t follow it that closely, wait a minute, the FBI was in bed with a guy
who was responsible for the murder of 11 people?

MICHAEL KENDALL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Certainly parts of the FBI
were. We had Boston agents who were giving the names and locations of
people so that organized crime could murder them. Paul Rico who died in
jail before he could reach trial, John Connolly another one, John Morris,
who was immunized -- all played varying levels in that corruption. But we
also had it at the local level, too.

SMERCONISH: What did Washington know and when did they know it?

KENDALL: Washington was happy with the success at these people brought in
for the prosecution of La Cosa Nostra, the Italian organized crime. So,
they didn`t look deeply into the relationship with Bulger.

SMERCONISH: Mike Barnicle, who was -- who is this John Connolly fellow?
Apparently, Whitey Bulger called him "Zip" because they lived in the same
zip when they were growing up.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They grew up in the same housing
project, John Connolly with the Bulgers. John Connolly went to the Boston
College, joined the FBI as a young man, had a couple of postings before he
ended up in Boston. He was in charge of confidential -- he had his own
confidential informants he recruited. James "Whitey" Bulger was one of
them.

Listening to Mike Kendall, Mike Kendall was in the U.S. Attorney`s Office
in Boston. The level of frustration that people like Mike Kendall and
others had had to have been overwhelming because --

SMERCONISH: Why? Did everybody know it in Boston?

BARNICLE: Many, many people knew it. My brother was a Boston police
officer. My cousin was an FBI agent. They were both honest as the day is
long, and they sensed it. And they knew it. And a lot of people knew it.

And Mike Kendall would probably be one of the people who would have a
sense that of as well.

SMERCONISH: Mike Kendall, every Christmas time envelopes would get
distributed by Whitey Bulger. Talk about that.

KENDALL: Well, the testimony was 30 envelopes would go out at Christmas
to law enforcement at varying levels. And it`s just as Mike Barnicle said,
at every level of law enforcement, really, at every place in life you have
good guys and bad guys.

The good guys were suspicious. They were fighting it. They were trying
to deal with it.

And a smaller number of bad guys were able to corrupt the system and get
away with it for at least for a period of time.

SMERCONISH: Mike Barnicle, it was very important to Whitey Bulger during
this trial, in fact, it seems like the only reason he didn`t plead guilty
is that he was trying to convince folks that he didn`t kill women or didn`t
participate in the killing of women, and that he wasn`t a snitch. He still
at least publicly disputes this whole issue that we`re discussing.

BARNICLE: He was absolutely a snitch. I mean, he gave up people all
along the way. He gave up people while he was running his own mob in
Boston. He gave up people in the -- and in the mafia, which was -- the FBI
was obsessed with the mafia for years.


I mean, they thought that Jim Bulger and Steve Flemmi and others of his
crew could help them get into, you know, the La Cosa Nostra. They did.
The FBI were able to actually record a La Cosa Nostra induction ceremony, I
believe in Bedford, Massachusetts. And that was the highlight of the FBI
for two decades. And they didn`t care what Jim Bulger was doing on the
side.

SMERCONISH: So, that`s what they were getting in return, because, Michael
Kendall, that`s what I wanted to know is, what was -- what was in it for
the FBI? And was Connolly just a guy who -- there are people like this,
who wanted to rub shoulders with mobsters. Was he enamored with this
relationship and friendship?

KENDALL: According to Bulger`s lawyer, Connolly was part of the game.
They claimed he got at least $240,000, maybe more in cash payments. He got
other benefits in help. Connolly was taken care of when he left the FBI by
Bulger`s brother, by getting ad job after he left the FBI.

So, Connolly got much out of it, benefitted directly and personally. It
was not just rubbing shoulders. It was making money, getting career
advancement.

SMERCONISH: Mike Barnicle, we have a minute left together. Where does
this go from here? Because it seems like there is a whole other chapter
that ought to unfold to get to the bottom of this, and perhaps some
prosecutions.

BARNICLE: Well, I don`t know what the statute of limitations on several
of the crimes that were committed, obstruction. I don`t know what the
statute is.

Mike Kendall would know better about that than I would. But there are
several FBI agents, former FBI agents that were complicit in allowing James
"Whitey" Bulger to conduct business as usual, killing, murdering people,
drug dealing, extortion. They knew it and they allowed it.

SMERCONISH: Mike Kendall, in 10 seconds or less, will there be
prosecutions of those folks?

KENDALL: For corruption, the statute has probably run. Some of the
murderers that worked with Bulger have not yet been convicted, and there is
no statute of limitations for murder.

SMERCONISH: I appreciate both you have having been here.

Thank you, Mike Barnicle. Nice to see you.

Michael Kendall, we appreciate you as well.

We`ll be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this:

Yesterday`s decision by a federal judge regarding "stop and frisk" has
sparked a national conversation about crime, punishment and race.

In her nearly 200 page opinion, Judge Shira Scheindlin said the NYPD
conduct amounted to indirect racial profiling, violating both the 4th and
14th Amendments.

The key Supreme Court precedent is called Terry versus Ohio. That`s a
1968 ruling that said "stop and frisk" is permissible under certain
circumstances. Importantly, it`s got to be based on more than an officer`s
hunch.

Mostly, in New York, individuals have been stopped for so-called "furtive"
movements. That means a person was fidgety, or changed directions, or
walked in a certain way, maybe grabbed a pocket, or even looked over their
shoulder

Furtive movements were the factor cited in 48.3 percent of the cases where
blacks were stopped, 45.2 percent of Hispanics and 39.9 percent of whites.

Another important stat: about 83 percent of stops between 2004 and 2012
involved blacks and Hispanics even though they comprise just over 50
percent of city`s residents.

So, were the stops successful?

Well, between January of `04 and June of 2012, the NYPD conducted over 4.4
million Terry stops, 52 percent of all stops were followed by a protective
frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5 percent of these frisks.
Said differently, in 98.5 percent of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was
found.

Now, where the number of minorities stopped for furtive movements, and
stopped and frisked for other reasons, far exceeds the rates for whites, it
sounds reasonable for the judge to say this is indirect racial profiling,
especially where few weapons were found.

Still, before we champion this decision as a victory for civil rights, we
need to consider who it will impact. Here`s New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg yesterday:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: We go to where the reports of
crime are. Those unfortunately happen to be poor neighborhoods and
minority neighborhoods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: When he spoke, I thought of what President Obama said in the
aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, this isn`t to say that
the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-
American, young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice
system, that they`re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of
violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Here`s my observation: should crime rise as a result of
limiting "stop and frisk", the most victimized will be from the same
community as those whose civil liberties the judge sought to protect.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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