August 16, 2013
Guests: Jonathan Allen, Mo Elleithee, Philip Rucker, Peggy Shannon, Gloria Allred
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Eve of destruction.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.
Leading off tonight: Hope or hopeless? Despite a litany of challenges
facing Republicans, party leaders put on a brave face at this week`s
summers meetings in Boston. Their mission is a clear one -- rally the
party around the theme that worked well for Democrats in 2008. That would
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What
we have to do, in a sense, is be a party of optimism and a party of hope.
I think part of what we have to do in the era of Obama`s disaster is we
have to get beyond being anti-Obama and we have to re-convince people you
can have hope in America, that we can have a better future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hope for Republicans nationally is what the party clings to
because, at the moment, it`s all they`ve got. That much was evident if you
read Politico this morning, which reported that the Republican
establishment sees the party on the national level as veering toward
They report that, quote, "It`s almost impossible to find an establishment
Republican in town who`s not downright morose about the 2013 that has been
and is about to be. They see this year as a disaster in the making. Even
if most elected Republicans don`t know the it or admit it, the party`s
wounds are many, and they`re all self-inflicted."
Politico says, "Threats of government shutdown and debt default have ended
all hopes of proving that Republicans are not insane when it comes to
governing. Thanks to out-of-mainstream reactions on issues like
immigration, voting rights, marriage equality and women`s rights,
Republicans have done an excellent job of alienating an array of voting
blocs they promised to court after the 2012 elections, Hispanics, blacks,
gays and women. And thanks to hyper-partisan districts, Republicans have
less to fear locally, especially when it comes to their control of the
House. Nationally, however, it`s a different story."
Jonathan Allen is the senior Washington correspondent with Politico. Sam
Stein is an MSNBC contributor with HuffingtonPost.
Jonathan, that piece created quite a buzz today. As I read it, I said to
myself what`s on the verge of extinction really is the establishment of the
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: That`s right, Michael. My colleagues, Jim
VandeHei and Mike Allen, did a very good job, I think, today of reporting
the, really, as they put it, morose mood among the establishment in
You`ve got a couple of factors here. Number one, you`ve got sort of the
social issue set in which the Republican Party has essentially alienated a
lot of voters, whether you`re talking about Hispanics, black voters, female
voters. And then on the sort of basic issues of governance, you`ve got a
party threatening to shut down the government so that it can defund "Obama
The establishment doesn`t like that, but certainly, a lot of voices in the
party want to see that, or just shut down the government for the purpose of
shutting down the government or let the nation default on its debt. Any of
those outcomes are sort of horror for the governance model that I think
your traditional establishment Republican...
SMERCONISH: But you know what...
ALLEN: ... would want to see.
SMERCONISH: ... Sam? This might not be evident in 2014 because all
politics are local and in those hyper-partisan districts, both for Rs and
for Ds, the Republicans could have a very good year and give them a false
sense of bravado in 2014.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, those are the
dueling tensions inside the Republican Party, right? I mean, you have a
bunch of House Republicans who are very attuned to the political winds of
their own districts, and those whims are very much different than what the
Republican Party probably needs on the national level. And what might be a
good strategy for 2014, or a status quo strategy for 2014, could end up
really blowing in the Republican Party`s face in 2016.
SMERCONISH: Chris Christie had the strong words for his Republican
colleagues yesterday at the RNC`s summer meeting in Boston. In direct
reference to Louisiana`s Republican governor Bobby Jindal, who called the
party "stupid," Christie said, "I am not going to come and call you the
stupid party. The election is over, and we need to move on."
And then he added, "See, I`m in this business to win. I don`t know why
you`re in it. I`m in this to win. For our ideas to matter, we have to win
because if we don`t win, we don`t govern. And if we don`t govern, all we
do is shout into the wind."
Jonathan, he`s absolutely right. This has gotten lost over the last
several years, I think, on both sides of the aisle, but the sole purpose of
political parties is to deliver election victories, not to be ideological
ALLEN: Right. He`s saying, Look, go have an argument, have an ideological
debate, write about it in journals, talk about it in schools. That`s fine.
But let`s put together a winning coalition to put Republicans back in power
so they can implement some of the policies that they want to.
This is very much an echo of what Bill Clinton was saying to the Democrats
in the early 1990s after a couple of decades of liberal excess, of fighting
in the party on the fringes of that ideology. It`s something that was
successful for him. And Hey, if you`re Chris Christie, this is your only
option, is to make the argument that you`re best suited to win and that
it`s about winning, not about ideology.
SMERCONISH: Well, but Sam...
ALLEN: But of course, Chris Christie is not where the rest of the
Republican Party is ideologically.
SMERCONISH: Sam, I think he`s trying to define the race already in these
terms. The question is, is that a message that will get outside that room
of national committee people? Because his chief impediment to capturing
the GOP nomination is the nature of the primary process. And we all know
the type of candidates who are being nominated these days in GOP primaries.
STEIN: Well, you know, I think the issue`s a bit more complex than Chris
Christie gives it credit for. You know, in many respects, ideologically,
the Republican Party has one. They turned a debate over how to stimulate
the economy in 2009 and 2010 into what the proper role of deficit reduction
The problem the Republican Party has and has faced is, when do you claim
victory? So back in 2011, there was a broad deficit and debt reduction
plan presented to them that they could have said yes to and claimed
victory. They just couldn`t get to yes.
And I think what Chris Christie misses is that, in many respects, the
conversation has changed because of the 2010 elections. It`s just the
Republican Party is not willing to claim victory yet.
SMERCONISH: Well, let me give you an illustration what I`m talking about
because it`s from the Garden State. There seems to be a lack of quality
control in the Republican Party when it comes to candidates.
And just look at New Jersey, a state that Republicans have eyed for a long
time. This is the candidate that primary voters have chosen to run against
Cory Booker in the state`s special election for Senate.
SMERCONISH: His name is Steve Lonegan. And here`s what he stands for. He
opposes marriage equality. If you couldn`t tell from that photograph we
just showed, he`s against gun control. He`s anti-abortion even in cases of
rape and incest. He wants to dismantle the IRS. He`s a hard-liner on
immigration and he wants to make English the official language and he
rejects climate change.
As a matter of fact, a recent Buzzfeed profile of Lonegan summarized it
like this. He calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme, advocates for the
destruction of Medicare and Medicaid, denounces Spanish language
advertisements as racial profiling marketing and describes Cory Booker, his
new opponent in the New Jersey Senate election, as a socialist who just
can`t wait to pull the race card."
Now, you know, many people may agree with those positions, but they`re
unlikely to get you elected in very blue New Jersey. So Sam, how can the
Republican Party take control of this primary process and stop the
Christine O`Donnells and the Akins and the Mourdocks and the Lonegans from
blowing otherwise respectable opportunities?
STEIN: First of all, that photo wasn`t subtle, as you probably pointed
out, surrounded by guns. Secondly, this is the sort of existential
question right now for people at least working on the Senate race, which is
how do you weigh in on these primaries in a way that gets you electable
And the irony here is that the more that the national party weighs in to
push more electable candidates, the more likely that it`ll be used against
them and Tea Party candidates will say, Look, these are the people in
Washington trying to come down and choose your candidates. If we just run
a pure conservative, we`ll win.
Well, that doesn`t always work. And there is an argument to be made that
the Republican Party could have very close if not a majority in the Senate
right now had they just, you know, ran more electable candidates.
SMERCONISH: Well, Jonathan, I couldn`t help but think of the race going on
in his home state when I read what Chris Christie had said because the
Lonegan race is exhibit A of a race that they`re not going to win. I don`t
know how credible a candidate they could have fielded against Cory Booker
anyway. I mean, Christie didn`t himself want his name appearing on the
same ballot as Cory Booker and spent state money just to make sure that
wasn`t going to happen.
ALLEN: That`s right. And I think you may be able to see behind me here in
Washington Cory Booker scouting out property...
ALLEN: ... either an apartment or perhaps a house to live in for the next
Look, yes, Chris Christie doesn`t want to be involved in these kind of
fights either at the national level or at the state level in terms of
appearing at the same time with some of the Republican candidates that
might push him to the right, and certainly could have been difficult for
him to take on Cory Booker in the state.
But he`s got much bigger ambitions and certainly a much bigger possibility
or prospect. I don`t think Cory Booker, you know, going from Newark mayor
was going to be able to run for president, whereas Chris Christie already
has that kind of platform where he could credibly do that.
SMERCONISH: Reince Priebus knows of what we`re speaking. The RNC chair
has acknowledged the schism in the party identity. As a matter of fact, he
did it this week. This is Priebus speaking to crowds in Boston at the
RNC`s summer meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: What does it mean to be a Republican? Not
just, Oh, I`m not a Republican, I`m a conservative. I`m a not a
Republican, I`m a (INAUDIBLE) I`m not a -- I`m not, I`m not, I`m not.
Except here`s the problem. The word under your name on the ballot says
Republican. And it`s about time we as a party started fighting for what
the meaning of that word is. And we`re going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Sam, does that square with Chris Christie saying, But wait a
minute, the role of a party is to win? How do you do both?
STEIN: Well, you`ve got to find a certain party platform that works. And
I don`t think at this juncture the Republican Party has done that.
Certainly, Newt Gingrich, when he suggested they put forward something
proactive on health care, was suggesting that they needed to have a hopeful
platform, in some respects.
But if you look back from the end of the 2012 election to today, the
Republican Party, including the RNC under Chairman Priebus, has done
everything to alienate the groups they most need to court. So they`ve done
these draconian voter suppression laws in different states that is going to
alienate minorities. They`ve balked comprehensive immigration reform.
That`s going to alienate Hispanic voters.
Now they`re canceling debates both on NBC and CNN, but also, it turns out,
on Telemundo and CNN Espanol. That will also alienate Hispanic voters.
So if you`re going to build a party and if you`re going to build a brand,
they`re doing it wrong. You`ve got to be more inclusive. You have to have
a policy platform that draws people in. And I`ve yet to something from the
Republican Party that does any of that.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Sam Stein. Thank you, Jonathan Allen.
ALLEN: Take care.
SMERCONISH: Coming up: The Republican National Committee voters NBC and
CNN out of the 2016 primary debates because of their Hillary Clinton
projects. It turns out that the RNC has never approved primary debates, so
it`s really promising to not do something that it doesn`t do anyway. So
what`s the point?
Also, we all saw the picture this week of the rodeo clown with an Obama
mask. Disrespectful? Racist? Not according to a lot of people on the
right who say Democrats just can`t take a joke.
And there certainly are enough Bob Filner accusers to choose from, and
we`ve got the latest, a 67-year-old great grandmother. She`ll be here
tonight to tell us what happened between her and the San Diego mayor.
And finally, it turns out, yes, all you alien conspiracy theorists, the
government admits there is, after all, an area 51. And no, it`s not what
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Hillary Clinton`s getting a little love from the Bush family.
Yesterday, Barbara Bush, the daughter of former president George W. Bush,
said she hopes Hillary runs for president in 2016. The younger Bush says
the former secretary of state is, quote, "unbelievably accomplished." But
she`s not sure she`d vote for her.
Back in 2007, George W. Bush himself singled out Hillary Clinton as the
Democratic candidate he liked best, saying, quote, "I think she`s a very
formidable candidate, and one of the interesting things that she brings is
that she`s been under pressure. She understands the klieg lights."
At the same time, Bush also said that he thought the GOP nominee, who
turned out to be John McCain, would beat Clinton.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRIEBUS: It`s time that we do what`s right for our party and our
candidates. And by the way, it`s the right thing to do for our voters.
They`re not going to get a real debate of substance if it`s run by a
network who wants to help out Hillary Clinton.
We`re done putting up with this nonsense! There are plenty of other news
outlets. We`ll still reach voters, maybe more voters, but CNN and NBC
anchors will just have to watch on their competitors` networks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was RNC chair Reince Priebus
earlier today at the RNC`s summer meeting in Boston delivering a spirited
indictment on the liberal bias he says the media shows his Republican
donors and friends.
Now, today, the Republican National Committee unanimously passed a
resolution preventing itself from partnering with NBC or CNN for debates if
the networks move forward with planned Hillary Clinton productions ahead of
what they say is a likely 2016 Clinton presidential run.
But is this a smart move by Priebus and the RNC? After all, hardly none of
the tough questions in 2012 came from CNN or NBC. And beyond that, many of
the candidates` worst performances, like Rick Perry and his "oops" moment,
were self-inflicted wounds. It`d be a stretch to blame CNBC`s John Harwood
for having asked that question.
Joining me to discuss today`s RNC resolution is Abby Huntsman, co-host of
"THE CYCLE" on MSNBC, and DNC communications director Mo Elleithee. Thank
you both for being here.
According to the RNC`s 2012 autopsy report, which conducted a thorough
review of the party`s performance and problems from GOP insiders, the
report said this. "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself.
We`ve become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-
minded people, but devastatingly, we`ve lost the ability to be persuasive
with or welcoming to those who do not agree with us on every issue."
Mo, I`ve got to believe you would love it if the debates in 2016 featured
Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity as the sole interrogators.
MO ELLEITHEE, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: No, look, this is -- I don`t
understand what they`re doing strategically, but man, am I glad they`re
doing it. It`s -- this is a party that has pledged and said that it needs
to expand its reach. But if you look at every single group that they --
that they lost so badly with in 2012, they keep poking them in the eye.
And I think what`s really going on here -- I`m not inside Reince Priebus`s
head, but I think what`s going on here is two things. One, this is great
for their, I think, short-term fund-raising. There`s few things that
conservative activists like more than to beat up on the liberal media, so
this is going to be great for their...
SMERCONISH: Plays well for the base.
ELLEITHEE: ... e-mail program. Right. But it also limits debates. And
by putting them on with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as the hosts, I
actually think what they`re doing is creating more opportunity for them to
highlight some of the more fringe positions of the party, which is not
really what they ought to be doing.
SMERCONISH: Well, Abby, I thought that the autopsy made a lot of sense.
And one of the things -- I`m paraphrasing, but one of the things in the
autopsy, it said, We need to get out of the echo chamber.
I remember -- and I`ve said this before -- that on Wednesday morning after
the election, there were folks who were just mystified by how Obama had won
because they were solely dependent on Drudge, talk radio and Fox News. And
it seems like in contrast to the autopsy finding from the RNC, they`re
going right back into that direction.
ABBY HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON, CO-HOST, MSNBC`S "THE CYCLE": So that`s the
answer, right? Let`s -- let`s get Rush Limbaugh, let`s get Sean Hannity to
monitor debates. That -- that is our way forward.
You know, in all honesty, I actually kind of want that to happen. I think
for many Republicans out there for -- that want the party to change, to
move forward in a different direction, it has to hit rock bottom first.
And maybe having Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh host the debates, we`ve
actually hit rock bottom and we`d be able to be move forward.
But look -- Mo would know this -- the RNC actually doesn`t have the
authority to approve or to fund the debate. So they can say that all they
want. They do have -- they can encourage candidates, obviously, to boycott
the debates, which would be effective.
But you know, I keep saying, look, if it is the -- if it is Hillary
Clinton`s mini-series that`s really going to put her over the edge in 2016,
we really have no business being in the race to begin with.
They have their annual summer meeting. How much time have they wasted
talking about this when we have bigger fish to fry? Why are we not
focusing, as you were saying, on our message? Why don`t we don`t -- why
don`t we have the courage to talk about things that we need to do to move
forward, as Chris Christie said yesterday?
SMERCONISH: Let me give you an illustration. Let us give us -- let me
give everyone a reminder. Last cycle, Republican candidates faced tough
questions from moderators of all networks. And here`s one exchange between
Mitt Romney and ABC`s George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS, MODERATOR: Governor Romney, do you
believe that states have the right to ban contraception, or is that trumped
by a constitutional right to privacy?
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: George, this is an
unusual topic that you raise...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, you went to Harvard law school. You know very
ROMNEY: This -- this...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... based on...
ROMNEY: Has the -- has the Supreme Court decided that states do not (ph)
have the right to provide contraception?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, they have.
ROMNEY: If -- look, I believe...
STEPHANOPOULOS: 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut.
You`ve given two answers to the question. Do you believe that the Supreme
Court should overturn it or not?
ROMNEY: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn -- do I...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Sometimes, the wounds were self-inflicted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: And I will tell you, it is three agencies of
government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education, and the --
what`s the third one there? Let`s see.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You need five.
PERRY: Oh, five, OK.
PERRY: So Commerce, Education, and the...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: EPA?
PERRY: EPA, there you go. No.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Seriously, is the EPA the one you were talking about?
PERRY: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the agencies of
government -- the EPA needs to be rebuilt. There`s no doubt about that.
HARWOOD: But you can`t -- but you can`t name the third one?
PERRY: The third agency of government, I would -- I would do away with the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commerce.
PERRY: Commerce. And let`s see. I can`t. The third one, I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Abby, for reasons I think are obvious, you paid particularly
close attention to all those debates back in that cycle.
And what I`m thinking is that some of the high points for candidates came
when they faced tough questions. I remember specifically when John King at
the outset of one particular debate hammered Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich
had a great response that brought the house down. It was about domestic
issues. What would have happened to Gingrich at that moment in the
campaign had King not provided him that opportunity?
HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: I also think what would have happened to Rick Perry
had that moment not happened? My stomach still cringes.
SMERCONISH: What would have happened to us as voters?
HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: Exactly. You know what? My stomach still cringes
when I watch some of those clips.
I just remember going to those debates with my dad. And, as you know,
there was not a lot of substance at those debates. It was really a battle
between who could be the most conservative, who could throw out the most
And I remember my dad kind of looking at me always on the end there with
his hands up like, I don`t know what to do. Here`s a guy that just left as
ambassador to China. You get 30 seconds to talk about something
substantial. So I understand Reince Priebus`s point.
And you know what? Let`s have a little bit more control over the debates
and let`s have less of those debates. It really makes us only look bad.
But there`s a different way to go about that. Let`s not use Hillary
Clinton as our way to fight this battle.
SMERCONISH: I think -- and, Mo, you obviously paid close attention as well
-- that some of the worst moments for the GOP in that debate cycle came
from audience reaction.
And none of what we`re addressing right now reins in that bad behavior.
And I`m making specific reference to when there was a soldier who was booed
for having been gay and posing a question.
And I got to believe that having the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world
isn`t going to do anything to stem that. Look, we all know what the
Republicans need to do. I hope they don`t do it, but we all know what they
need to do. They need to expand their outreach and try to speak to more
people and stop being so hostile.
They have got policies and an agenda that are openly hostile to huge
segments of the population. Rather than try to limit the number of debates
and call that outreach, they need to actually kind of change their message
and change their agenda and their policies to make them a little bit more
inclusive. Instead, what people heard today was, we`re not going to talk
to you because we don`t like what you`re doing.
And that I don`t think is what they ought to be doing.
SMERCONISH: Mo Elleithee, thank you. Abby Huntsman, good to see you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: The CIA acknowledges a secret they kept for decades
about Area 51 and UFOs.
And a programming note: You can listen to my radio program weekday
mornings at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on SiriusXM`s POTUS channel, 124.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."
The secret is out. A newly declassified document on the CIA`s history has
publicly revealed the story behind the infamous Nevada test site known as
Area 51. No, it doesn`t mention Roswell or the existence of
extraterrestrial life, but it does confirm that the location has been used
since the 1950s to test and develop the military`s most discreet aerial
hardware, including the U-2 spy plane and the A-12 OXCART.
Next up, the Obama administration has been installing solar panels on the
roof of the White House this week, making good on a 2010 promise to make
the building more energy-independent. Now, this marks the second time that
the White House has been retrofit with the energy-saving devices. The
first was 34 years ago, when under then President Jimmy Carter, who hoped
to inspire an alternative energy revolution during the oil embargo of the
His message, however, fell upon deaf ears and the solar panels were removed
just seven years later by the Reagan administration in 1986. Here was
President Carter describing his reaction to that from the documentary "A
Road Not Taken."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was disappointed,
somewhat angry when I saw that -- that President Reagan had taken this
symbolic step of retreating from the commitment to renewable energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But the story didn`t end there. The film follows those very
solar panels -- 32 in all -- after they were salvaged by Unity College in
Maine, where they helped power the school cafeteria , and when they reached
the end of their useful life there, some of them went on a road trip with
the filmmakers to Atlanta.
The filmmakers even used them to heat the water in their own makeshift
bathtub before donating them to the Carter Presidential Library. Who knew?
And, finally, Jennifer Garner has hinted to "Allure" magazine that her
husband, actor and director Ben Affleck, may be interested in seeking
elective office. The "Argo" star is no stranger to politics. He
campaigned for John Kerry back in 2004. But he`s always been coy when it
comes to his own political ambitions.
Listen to what Affleck had to say about that back in 2004 at the Democratic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: As a person, I`m much more interested in what an actor
has to say about something substantial and important than who they`re
dating or what clothes they`re wearing or some other asinine, insignificant
aspect of their life.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Have you ever thought of crossing the line yourself?
AFFLECK: I would like to -- I would like to -- I would like your job,
frankly. So I`m waiting for you to move on.
MATTHEWS: You`re waiting for me. Oh, thank you very much, Ben. Now I
will be nice to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Sorry, Ben, I don`t think anybody`s going to replace Chris
Up next, a lot of big names on the right are rushing to the defense of that
rodeo clown, the one who wore an Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
Stocks ended a tough week on a down note today. The Dow Jones industrials
slipping to 30 points, finishing up its worst week of 2013. The S&P 500
losing five, and the Nasdaq giving up three points. Ten-year treasury
bonds jumped to 2.83 percent, a high since July of 2011, on speculation
that the Fed will begin tapering its monthly bond purchases.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence fell unexpectedly this month from its six-
year high in July.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Earlier this week, we showed you some shocking video from the Missouri
State Fair. A clown dressed in an Obama mask got jeered by the crowd as
the rodeo announcer gleefully taunted, "We`re going to stomp Obama now."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, let me tell these people who we got helping.
Obama is going to have to just stay there. Obama, watch out for those
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I know I`m a clown. He just runs around acting
like one, doesn`t know he is one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama, they`re coming for you this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as this bull comes out, don`t you move. He`s
going to get you, get you, get you!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: One person in the crowd compared it to an effigy at a Klan
Very quickly, there was bipartisan condemnation, and the ringleader clown
who talked about -- quote -- "getting Obama" was permanently banned by fair
officials. While both those things are to be expected given the offensive
display, what you might be surprised by is the strong reaction from the
Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have all rallied to the defense
of the clown. A support group on Facebook popped up. And even some
members of Congress chimed in. Texas Republican Steve Stockman released a
statement saying -- quote -- "Liberals want to crush dissent by isolating
and polarizing anyone who questions Obama, even if it`s a rodeo clown with
a harmless gag, the idea to create a state of fear and make people afraid
to trivialize Obama. No one tried to personally destroy the rodeo clown
who wore a George Herbert Walker Bush mask."
And Steve King of Iowa seemingly brushed off anyone who might have been
offended, tweeting: "Mr. President, invite the rodeo clown to the White
House for a beer summit. Take the temperature down. Have a laugh. Relax.
It`s not about race."
Jonathan Capehart is an MSNBC political analyst and opinion writer at "The
Washington Post." Philip Rucker is White House correspondent for "The
Post." He just returned from the Missouri State Fair.
Philip, I know you were there on Wednesday. What did you find?
PHILIP RUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, I went there hoping to
kind of hear what people thought about what happened at the fair, at that
rodeo. And I wasn`t sure what I would find.
But I ended up talking to about a dozen people there at the fair. And all
of them were in agreement that they felt the media had overblown this.
They didn`t see anything racist or even disrespectful about the act at the
rodeo. And I started talking to some of these people and they really had
very strong feelings about President Obama.
SMERCONISH: Well, by way of example, you interviewed one farmer who said -
- quote -- "I have got no respect for him. Why, he`s destroyed this
country. How much freedom have we lost? I don`t care whether it`s a black
man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he`s
Muslim and trying to destroy the country, catering to the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt."
SMERCONISH: He went on to tell you that he goes to a Web site that
compares Michelle Obama to a monkey. He said -- quote -- "They have the
same expression. The media makes it all hate. I don`t hate a black
person. It`s just funny."
I think there are probably 25 Internet, you know, falsehoods in that one
RUCKER: Yes. It was really startling to hear him say all of that. And he
really believes that.
And not only does he believe those falsehoods about the president, but he
doesn`t see anything racist in what he`s saying or anything even
disrespectful or inappropriate about what he feels about the president.
SMERCONISH: OK, Jonathan, it`s August. It`s end of summer. I could go to
many a boardwalk tonight, I think, and buy an Obama mask. It`s not the
mask itself that makes this racially tinged. Am I right?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. It`s not the mask. It`s
what`s -- it`s what is being said and it`s how the mask is being used.
I mean, the guy was wearing a mask. The clown was wearing a mask. But the
clown was also being propped up or it looked like he had a broomstick or a
broom handle and he was leaning on it or it was coming from behind him. I
can`t see if you can see that in the video.
You put all that together, what was being said, how the president`s being
portrayed, you do have a racially tinged moment there. And, look, it`s not
just me and other people saying that it was -- other African-Americans
saying it was racially tinged. The person who took the video is a white
man who has been on our air and who said -- I think you said in the intro
he felt like he was at a Klan rally.
And when someone who is sitting there feels so strongly about this that he
took out his camera phone to videotape it to make sure that he had evidence
that this happened and to share it with the world, then you know you have a
And, Philip, I just want to congratulate you and commend you on a fantastic
RUCKER: Well, thank you.
CAPEHART: Because I think, sometimes, when people hear charges of racism
or the president being viewed in a racist light, that there are a lot of
people, particularly on the right, who dismiss it, saying, oh, you`re
playing the race card just by bringing it up.
But that quote that Michael read just puts out there for all to see just
how problematic this is.
SMERCONISH: Well, there`s an element of in that swayed me, because when I
heard the story that there was someone working in this capacity wearing an
Obama mask, that didn`t sound inherently racist to me.
But, Philip, your coverage does discuss this. The guy who shot the video
says that someone came out and played with the lips of the clown. Right?
RUCKER: That`s right. And, you know, this portion was not on the piece of
video that he had. But he said that this happened during the rodeo, and he
saw that as a clearly kind of plainly racist act there. And...
SMERCONISH: All right.
Well, Rush Limbaugh -- maybe no surprise -- threw his support behind the
clown. He even blamed President Obama for diminishing the office by going
on "The Tonight Show" and, of course, he bashed the so-called liberal media
response to what had happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is no different than those
countries reacting freakishly when there were cartoons of the Prophet
Mohammed. That is exactly what this is.
You know, you people on the left, who the hell do you think you are? You
can`t laugh. You can`t take a joke. You can`t take a punch. You can`t
take anything. One little thing that you don`t like, and this -- this
clown can never work?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jonathan, I used the reference to "The Tonight Show"
because he also talked about the president going on "The Tonight Show."
What distinguishes the rodeo incident from a late night comedian poking fun
at the president?
CAPEHART: Yes, it`s all about context here. Rush Limbaugh rails against
the liberal media, rails against the president all the time. He even rails
against me from time to time, if I say something that offends him which is
usually every time.
The issue here is that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck so
have the right and the Republican Party under its spell, that anytime they
will saw something, you know, they hurl down thunderbolts against
something, the rest of the party it either rallies conservatives to their
side and makes people feel like what they feel and what they think is
appropriate, but it also makes people in the building behind me when
they`re here cower in fear so that when you need leaders to step up and say
what has happened is wrong, what has happened should not happen again, they
don`t say anything.
SMERCONISH: Well, meanwhile you mentioned Glenn Beck. He stood up for the
brave artistry of rodeo clowns everywhere. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: It shows how afraid this administration is. They
are afraid literally of a rodeo clown.
They can`t afford to have anybody critical of the president. You know,
people burn books and we had the McCarthy era where you were silenced
because you were a communist.
I got news for you, you may not see rodeo clowns as art or entertainment,
but it is. This is an artist. A very brave artist, believe it or not,
rodeo clowns, they could get mauled by a bull at any time.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Jonathan, I didn`t like the disrespect shown to George W.
Bush. I thought all that sickness and hatred was beneath the dignity of
the office at a minimum. And I feel the same way about this.
CAPEHART: Yes, I mean, look, again, it`s about the context. And when you
make fun of George Bush, when people made fun of George Bush, it was about
his intelligence or what-have-you. When you make fun of President Obama,
and sure we`re not saying that you can`t -- no one can criticize the
president or that every criticism against the president is racist or
But when you do what the rodeo clown did and what they did at that event,
there`s a whole other historical context that must be paid attention to,
and that must be taken into account.
SMERCONISH: I`ll make it easy for you. If you play with the lips and put
a broom up its butt, you got a problem.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Philip Rucker (ph). Thank you, Jonathan Capehart.
Up next, another woman has come forward accusing San Diego`s mayor of
unwanted sexual advances. She`s the 16th woman to do so, and she joins us
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: That voter photo ID law in Pennsylvania won`t be going into
effect for this year`s election either. A judge has barred enforcing the
tough new law until a court battle is resolved over its constitutionality.
The law was passed last year but hasn`t been put into effect thanks to a
series of temporary court orders.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PATTI ROSCOE, BUSINESSWOMAN: Come in and try and kiss me on the lips and
I`d have to squirm to get away.
REAR ADM. RONNE FROMAN, U.S. NAVY (RET.): He got very chose to me. And he
ran his finger up my cheek like this. And he whispered to me, do you have
a man in your life?
IRENE MCCORMICK JACKSON, FORMER FILNER COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: I was placed
in the Filner headlock and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered
sexual comments in my ear.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SMERCONISH: We`re back.
Those are just some of the 16 women who have accused San Diego Mayor Bob
Filner of inappropriate contact and sexual harassment. Calls for him to
step down from local and national leaders continue.
Yesterday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted, "Mayor Filner is
out of rehab. He should be out of the mayor`s office. Should not subject
San Diegans to pain and expense of a recall."
California Senator Barbara Boxer made a personal appeal to the mayor in an
open letter that reads in part, "We`ve known each other for a long time.
So I`m speaking to you now on a personal and professional level and asking
you to step down as mayor and get the help you need as a private citizen."
The latest woman to come forward, Peggy Shannon, a great grandmother who
works at the senior citizens service desk at the San Diego City Hall and
has accused of Mayor Filner of sexual harassment. She joins me with her
attorney, Gloria Allred.
Mrs. Shannon, give us the context in which the mayor told you he could,
quote-unquote, "go eight hours"?
PEGGY SHANNON, MAYOR FILNERACCUSER: Well, I came up to the desk and leaned
over the desk and took my hands and says, "I think I could go eight hours."
And I looked at him and said, "Are you kidding?" And he says, "No. I`m
sure I can go eight hours."
I was appalled. It was very shocking to me that will he would think that
he could say something like that to me.
SMERCONISH: And there have been bad behavior on his part prior to this?
SHANNON: Correct, he had --
SMERCONISH: I`m sorry.
SHANNON: He had come up to me many times and taken my hand and asked when
we could get together on the weekend, whether Saturday or Sunday, and this
went on for months.
SMERCONISH: After the eight-hour comment, I know that you told your
supervisor and a co-worker what he had had done, what he had said. Was
there any response from them? Did the system begin at least to work when
you made the report?
SHANNON: Well, they were kind of surprised that he had said that. I
didn`t go on about how many times he had done it until a little while
SMERCONISH: As far as you knew, were other women in the loop? Was it
commonly known this guy is handsy or worse?
SHANNON: No. At that time I didn`t know anything about it. I didn`t know
that there were other women that had gone through what I was going through.
SMERCONISH: And why -- for those who would want to know, well, why didn`t
you immediately come forward or make a bigger deal of it? What was going
through your mind?
SHANNON: I was kind of humiliated. And I have to say that I -- I didn`t
know what to do. I really didn`t know what to do. I just wanted to come
to work and do my job.
And it took a while until these other women came forward for me to finally
come forward and validate what they were saying.
SMERCONISH: Gloria Allred, this guy would seem to be a serial offender at
this point. I`m almost losing track of the number of individuals who have
come forward. How far will this go?
GLORIA ALLRED, WOMEN`S RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, we have also filed the only
sexual harassment lawsuit, Michael, against Mayor Filner, now, on behalf of
our client, Irene McCormick Jackson, who was the first to come forward and
publicly identify herself as a victim of Mayor Filner. Since then, that
has inspired others who allege they are victims of Mayor Filner to also
come forward, with the total today up to 15, maybe even 16, who publicly
And that doesn`t include those who have contacted me but who for whatever
reason have decided not to come forward, or at least not to come forward
yet. So the point is that Mayor Filner appears to think that women are
fair game. It`s particularly serious where the women are employees in city
hall, because as to Peggy Shannon who I might add I give so much credit to
because she has demonstrated enormous courage in coming forward, that she
also alleges that the mayor as she was coming out of city hall one day and
he was com in grabbed her, hugged her and kissed her right on the lips.
Now, women who will work and all women are entitled to respect. They`re
entitled to dignity. They`re not there to be the mayor`s play things.
And the city of San Diego, the city hall of San Diego should not be used as
the mayor`s sexual playground to have women any time he wants do whatever
SMERCONISH: Mrs. Shannon, what did you do when he kissed you on the lips?
SHANNON: I walked away from him. I didn`t say anything. I was in shock.
I just went and got in my car and went home and cried for two hours.
ALLRED: And, Michael, he says that he can go eight hours. We just want
him to go. We don`t care how long he can go. He we just want him to go,
as soon as possible.
And that means resigning as mayor of San Diego.
SMERCONISH: You know, I`m --
ALLRED: He is a disgrace and he has brought shame upon this city hall and
the people of San Diego.
SMERCONISH: You know, I`m not a shrink, obviously. I`m not qualified to
say this. But there is a part of me what wonders if he is at home watching
HARDBALL right now and just loving this there are some Weiner-like
characteristics it seems like to this guy where he would rather be in the
spotlight getting horrific publicity than not be in the spotlight at all.
Gloria, just a 10-second response.
ALLRED: He needs to put the people first. He needs to put the people of
San Diego first, and they have shown in every single poll that they want
him out. The entire city council of San Diego City wants him out, as well
as both of our United States senators, Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer.
SMERCONISH: Gloria Allred, thank you, as always.
ALLRED: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Peggy Shannon, thank you as well.
SHANNON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: We`ll be back right after this.
SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with a question: Are you ready for some
I`m not talking NFL. I mean EPL, as in English Premier League. See,
tomorrow, English football, soccer to us in the States, is finally coming
to the States.
NBC has made a significant investment to bring top flight soccer to the
United States for the next three years. A match tomorrow between Liverpool
and Stoke City will commence the first of 380 regular season games that the
NBC Sports group will offer on a multitude of platforms.
We`re talking more than 1,600 hours of annual programming. Maybe you`ve
seen Jason Sudeikis starring in a hilarious video promoting this launch,
which already has more than 4 million YouTube views.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Ted Lasso (ph). I`m the new head coach for
Tottenham Hotspur. I`ve been brought over here to implement my coaching
Football is football no matter where you play it. You got grass, you got
cleats and you got helmets with masks on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: There have been occasions in the past where some have argued
that the U.S. was at a tipping point and about to be smitten with soccer.
I can remember the hype about Pele`s arrival when I was a kid, but it
This time I think it`s going to happen. Friendly matches between Premier
League teams have drawn huge crowds in the United States. Wherever I go in
the States, I see merchandise being worn by Premier League fans of all
ages, and, of course, more kids are playing soccer here than ever before.
Another factor might be the shifting demographics of the country, which
make us more like fans who have made this the most popular sport in the
world. So, here are a couple of the basics to get you started. The
Premier League features 20 teams who play each other twice in a season,
once at home and once away.
So there is parody in scheduling in the season that runs from August to
May. Teams get three points for a win, one for a tie, there is no Super
Bowl. And whichever has the most points at the end of the year wins the
The top finishing teams get to go on and compete in the European Champions
League, and the bottom three teams, they`re essentially sent to the Minor
Leagues. Get used to hearing names like Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and
Robin van Persie. They`ve also got some colorful owners. Their Jerry
Jones, he`s called Roman Abramovich, and he owns Chelsea.
In no time I predict will you will be loving or loathing Manchester United.
Either way, I hope you enjoy the season.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us. And thank you,
Chris, for allowing me this privilege this week.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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