September 5, 2013
Guests: David Ignatius, Rep. Barbara Lee, Jeremy Peters, Marsha Blackburn, Jim McDermott, Stephanie Schriock
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad company.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Give me a war, and I`ll give you a
picture. Give me a picture, and there might not be a war. That`s the
power we`re seeing with this morning`s release of this horrid video and
still photo that "The New York Times" acquired from a rebel group this
Across the top of "The New York Times," we see men with rifles -- those men
are on the side we`d be backing -- standing over men with welts on their
back, men kneeling, men knowing they`re about to die, men in the hellish
crosshairs of an ethnic war in Syria, where one side has as its goal the
genocide of another, a war in which hatred and revenge are the reason for
fighting, the justification for the kind of brutality, the beatings, the
death, all carried out in painful hell come to life. And then on one side,
you`ve got the hungry, unquenching cruelty aimed at the other.
And overnight comes the word that we`re getting into this war. The Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, led by John McCain and his partner, Chris
Coons of Delaware, have approved a measure not only backing an attack on
Syria for its use of chemical weapons, but a fresh new declaration that
makes it the policy of the United States to, quote, "change the momentum on
the battlefield" in Syria, committing this country, the United States of
America, to providing lethal, indeed, all forms of assistance to this
So here we are, faced with the horror of certain rebels and what could be
coming in this Senate approval of helping the Syrian rebel groups,
including the revenging executioners we see in today`s pictures.
NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin is in Beirut and David
Ignatius is with "The Washington Post."
Ayman, who -- let`s take a look at this joint resolution right now before
we get started. Most people don`t know about it. It was passed by the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. It may effectively endorse a
coalition of rebels that we know little about, one that`s potentially
comprised of extremists and terrorists.
Those were exacerbated by that "New York Times" photo I showed you, the
footage just released today. It shows a group affiliated with the Syrian
opposition in the process of executing seven prisoners. You`re about to
see a clip from the full video. I should warn you, while we not actually
show the executions themselves, the video is quite graphic.
MATTHEWS: What happens next leaves little to the imagination. Multiple
gunshots ring out in rapid succession on the tape, followed by an
unceremonious burial in an unmarked grave.
This may be war, but it`s the kind of brutality depicted here that raises
questions about the kinds of opposition groups we may soon be supporting in
Ayman, I want to ask you about that, what you saw in that picture. Is that
part of this war, an unusual part of the war, or what comes of any war?
What do you think of when you see seven men being executed after they`ve
been obviously beaten quite well, standing there with their backs bare,
with all those welts, perhaps praying in this long, slow execution process
we`re see hearing by these so-called opposition leaders?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s definitely a lot of
context behind looking at images like that. There`s no doubt about it,
they are very disturbing.
But the underlying issue in all of this is the fact that the Syrian
opposition by no means is respective of human rights even necessarily even
a practitioner of universal human rights.
What I would ultimately say is that when you look at the Syrian opposition
movement in general -- and that is a very loose term -- you have to look at
the political movement which is represented by the Syrian National Council.
You have to look at the Free Syrian Army, which is a loose group of
coalition of various defectors and others who have joined the ranks. And
you have to look at those that are looking at this as an ideological
struggle to advance Islam, and more importantly, to be part of a larger
jihadist movement. And they`re drawing on several others from across the
region and across the world to join that fight.
In making that distinction, you can understand the ideology between each
one of these groups, what they`re trying to achieve inside Syria. And in
that video -- that video, believe it or not, is actually not the first time
we`ve seen these types of images. We`ve seen many disturbing images over
the course of the last two years of summary executions, torture, and some
very horrific pictures and images involving children, soldiers, as well.
So to assume that the rebels that are fighting to topple the regime of
President Bashar al Assad are somehow beholden to universal human rights or
that they`re going to uphold human rights is extremely premature right now
because these are rebels that don`t necessarily have a very strong command
and control structure, and more importantly, don`t necessarily have an
The second thing I would add to that is to keep in mind that religion is an
extremely motivating factor in trying to get people to fight to topple this
regime. This is a secular regime. It is very easy to recruit using
religion to try and fight a secular regime in this part of the world. And
that`s why you`re seeing so many people from around the world being
galvanized to the battle in Syria. And it`s also producing.
What we don`t know about this group particularly is who was behind the
group, their ideological affiliation, and more importantly, their
ideological objectives once and if the regime is ultimately toppled, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, Ayman, thank you. Stay there. I want to talk to David
Ignatius of "The Washington Post." David, why -- how does the United
States find morality in a struggle between these kinds of people,
religiously-driven people willing to do anything, who have no sense of the
Geneva conventions, obviously, which is an understatement, at the same
time, you want to make a statement against chemical weapons being used?
Where do you -- how do we go into this? The president suggests it`ll be
surgical. He asks -- a 90-day resolution for a two-day war. I find that
very inconsistent. Is it a two-day war? Is it a 90-day war?
And secondly, how did this measure, which supported a humanitarian response
to the use of chemical weapons, become this document I`m holding in my
hands, was passed in the middle of the night last night, which supports all
kinds of aid to the rebel groups, like the one we just saw there? It puts
us on the side of regime change, basically. It`s called speeding up the
momentum, new kinds of language, a declaration of support for that.
I mean, we`re getting into this war.
DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": The first thing to say, Chris, is that
the video is horrifying. I`ve traveled with the rebels in Syria, and I can
tell you first that that is not a picture of most of the rebel fighters,
commanders that I met. But there`s no doubt in my mind that those people
I think the dilemma the United States faces now is really an acute moral
one. It`s one that everybody should think through carefully.
For me, the idea of living in a world in which chemical weapons can be used
against civilians and there`s no international response is horrifying. I
don`t want to live in that world.
By the same token, the idea of prisoners being lined up on the ground and
executed summarily, as we see in this video -- I don`t want to live in that
The one thing I would tell you and your viewers is, I talk almost every day
to some of the leaders of the Syrian opposition, and they worry desperately
about how to bring order within their own ranks. And one aspect of U.S.
assistance to them, which you`ve been criticizing, understandably, is it
would give the U.S. more of a chance to help them fight the extremists, who
they admit are in their own ranks.
Absent that kind of assistance, I fear the extremists only get more
powerful and the people you saw in those videos become the dominant ones.
MATTHEWS: Making that point, it`s hard to ignore the timing, by the way,
of these pictures coming out now. Its release comes just on a day after
Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about this very subject in the House.
Here he was in an exchange with Republican representative Michael McCaul of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Who are the rebel forces? Who are they?
I ask that in my briefings all the time. And every time I get briefed on
this, it gets worse and worse because the majority now of these rebel
forces -- and I say majority now -- are radical Islamists.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I just don`t agree that a majority are al
Qaeda and the bad guys. That`s not true. There are about 70,000 to
100,000 oppositionists. About somewhere maybe 15 to 25 percent might be in
one group or another who are what we would be deem to be bad guys. There
are many different groups, al Nusra, al Shamra -- there are different
entities. And sometimes, they`re fighting each other, even now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I guess the question, David, to you, and then Ayman, is, is
there a significant number of good guys, as Secretary of State Kerry said
there, that we -- they might predominate if they do get the weaponry from
us? And secondly, are there so many bad guys, we`re just going to lose
IGNATIUS: If there are tens of thousands of bad guys, as Secretary Kerry
seemed to be saying, that`s a frightening prospect, no matter what we do.
I mean, we have to understand that. This is a terrible situation.
I do think that the chance that the good guys will get stronger relatively
is greater as the U.S. works more closely with them. I talked at some
length yesterday by phone with the commander of the Free Syrian Army in the
southern front. The guy is running, he says, 30,000 good guys. And he
talked about the problem of extremists and how he`s hoping to get control
and stabilize Damascus if they win.
But I have to tell you, I did not come away from that conversation
confident that he has the resources.
MATTHEWS: Ayman, let me ask you about it from your perspective over there
in the Mideast, in Lebanon. It seems to me that there`s a group over there
that wants to destroy, in fact, commit genocide against the ruling sector,
the clan that has been running Syria for all these years, the Alawites.
They want to kill them all. It`s almost like a Rwanda war. How do we
engage with those kinds of people if they`re -- if it`s just such blood,
it`s all about blood and killing the other tribe?
MOHYELDIN: Well, one, you certainly need to have the correct political
representation within the Syrian opposition. And keep in mind, these
groups that we`re talking about, the extremists, the most extreme of the
rebel fighters, they`re not part of the Syrian political opposition.
The Syrian political opposition does incorporate and represent a good
variety, or at least a good cross-section of the Syrian society. It does
not necessarily include a good representation of the Alawite sect, which
have been extremely beholden to President Bashar al Assad, or sometimes too
afraid to break way from him, given the fact that they`re under intense
But keep in mind that going forward -- and this is perhaps lessons that
we`ve learned since the Arab spring -- is that there is still a good part
of the Syrian society that is contested for, that is undecided. They may
not necessarily be with President Bashar al Assad, but they aren`t
necessarily throwing their lot or support behind the Syrian opposition.
And so in the coming months, if, in fact, there is regime change and the
Syrian opposition does come into power, the numbers that we`re seeing today
don`t necessarily represent the numbers we`re going to see in the months or
perhaps even the years ahead.
And also keep in mind that countries that are closely allied to the United
States, including Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, they`re not going
to want to see an extreme country run by groups like Jabhat al Nusra and
other al Qaeda-affiliated organizations come into power in Syria.
The counterforces to them will increase in the coming months, perhaps in
the year, should they ultimately achieve their common objective, which is
at this stage to try and topple the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
There are a lot of variables and a lot of factors right now that are still
uncertain to determine whether or not the opposition should be completely
shunned aside or not.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, David, quickly. The people doing the fighting,
the most ferocious fighters, aren`t they Islamists?
MATTHEWS: That`s the sad story. The ones who will take the capital
probably are the bad guys.
IGNATIUS: No. The capital is different. I should make clear to your
viewers, in the north, the extremists are the dominant force. They were
when I was inside with the rebels in October, and they remain so. In the
south, they`re relatively weak. So if Damascus falls, there`s less chance
that these horrifying groups and leaders will take control.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, David Ignatius of "The Washington
Post" and Ayman Mohyeldin over in Beirut for us on NBC.
Coming up: African-Americans, maybe the group most opposed to intervention
in Syria and most eager to support President Obama. So what side do they
take in this debate? They`re in a crunch here.
Also, mission creep. Have you looked at the resolution senators passed
yesterday? We`re no longer talking about a punitive attack here, we`re now
talking about taking sides in a civil war.
And Mitch McConnell has been silent on Syria, looking over his right
shoulder at a primary challenge and over his left shoulder at Democrat
Allison Lundergan Grimes. She has the best chance of all the country to
pick up a Republican Senate seat and help keep the Senate blue.
Finally, you get to play HARDBALL with me tonight. I`m going to answer
your Twitter questions.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, former defense secretary Robert Gates has broken his
silence on Syria and is urging Congress to back the Obama administration`s
position. Gates told Politico the failure to do so would have profoundly
negative and dangerous consequences for the United States not just in the
Middle East but around the world, both now and in the future. Strong words
Gates, a Republican, served as defense secretary during George W. Bush`s
second term, and of course, was kept on by President Obama.
And a programing note. Coming up next on "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES," a big
get for him. Secretary of State John Kerry makes the administration`s case
for military action against Syria. Coming up now -- 45 minutes from now at
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: We`re not the only country that`s got
young people. And I don`t see any reason that I can explain to my
constituents that their boys and their husbands and their brothers and
their sisters should be going off to fight this monster (ph) for a civil
war and have that as a priority to homelessness, joblessness and all the
other serious problems we face. I can`t sell that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, New York
congressman, the inimitable Charlie Rangel of New York City right here on
HARDBALL earlier this week saying that his people back home in New York
don`t want any part of the war in Syria. Rangel`s constituents, like many
in districts across the country, show little appetite for intervention
abroad these days.
And it is these members of Congress torn between their loyalty to the
president -- these are African-American members of Congress -- and their
opposition -- in fact, the opposition by their constituents to any
involvement in this war who may make or break the president`s request for
congressional approval of the attack on Syria.
According to "Foreign Policy" magazine and "The Hill" magazine, the leader
of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge asked her
members to limit their comments while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
makes the push for the president.
And one of those members who`s breaking her silence a bit right now is
Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat from Oakland and from
Berkeley, and the only member of the United States Congress to vote against
the authorization for use of force in Afghanistan after 9/11. She joins us
now. Also joining us, by the way, is "New York Times" columnist --
congressional reporter Jeremy Peters, who`s covering this debate.
What are your feelings? I mean, you`ve got a mix of things going. I
assume -- I`m guessing, as a Democrat, you`re a loyalist to the president,
but at the same time, other factors. What are the other factors in your
thinking about this resolution that`s coming to the House next week to
authorize the president to go after Assad?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Sure, Chris. Thank you. I continue to
support the president. I have. And actually, I was the first member of
the California delegation to endorse the president.
And I certainly believe that he has moved cautiously. He`s been very
methodical in how he has approached Syria, and in fact, he did the right
thing by coming to Congress, asking for this authorization.
I, however, feel that there are other options. There just -- it`s just not
a military option or no option, Chris. There are other options. I think
what we saw take place in the Senate is really an example of what can
happen when you have a military option as being the only option.
This could end up in a regional conflict. It could end up with more people
getting killed, more retaliation.
And, Chris, I worry so much about the collateral damage that could occur.
And I don`t believe this can be contained to surgical strikes, because we
know that there are unintended consequences when surgical strikes take
And, in fact, my concern is that more harm could be done. Having said
that, we must hold the Assad regime -- and I believe the evidence is very
credible. The intelligence is credible. We have to hold him accountable.
The world has to come together and address the use of chemical weapons in
these horrific crimes.
But your previous segment laid it out. This is a civil war taking place in
Syria. There are so many unknowns that are going on in Syria, Chris. And
so why in the world wouldn`t we look at alternatives, rather than make some
decision to use force, not understanding what the full implications are?
But I have to commend the president for coming to Congress, because now we
see what this debate -- how this debate is taking place, and we see what
the possibilities are. And we see that many of us are very concerned that
a political settlement and a negotiated settlement would be set way back if
in fact the use of force is enacted right away.
Let me go to Jeremy on "The New York Times," Jeremy Peters.
Let me ask you about the whole scope of the Black Caucus, which grows every
year. There`s more members of the caucus, almost 50 members right now. Is
this sort of -- is Congresswoman Lee an example of the -- I mean, Charlie
Rangel the other day came right out against the president. Now, he may
have issues with Obama, period.
JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right.
MATTHEWS: But -- because of going back. Everybody`s got issues one way or
the other. Is this pretty much the theme now? They love Obama, they like
the fact that they get to vote on it, but they are going to vote no?
Well, I think, with members like Charlie Rangel, it`s easier for the White
House to discount that, because there is a feeling that Charlie Rangel is
still upset that the White House didn`t come out and back him when he was
having ethics problems.
MATTHEWS: Well, they were worse than that.
MATTHEWS: They were very discourteous to a senior member of the House.
But go ahead. They were tough.
PETERS: Well, that aside, I do think there are a number of members whom
the White House is watching very carefully. And those are the ones who are
going back home, and they`re having 95 percent of their constituents say
this is a bad idea.
And this is a concern for the president, because these are districts where
Obama is exceedingly popular.
MATTHEWS: I know.
PETERS: So, his problems in the rest of the country don`t matter...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to these numbers. Then I want to go back to the
congresswoman. One last shot from you.
You say 95 percent against this war. The country -- what is the country,
80 percent against the war?
LEE: Chris, let me say...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I will go back to you, Congresswoman. Go ahead.
LEE: Chris, yes. Chris, first of all, this is a democracy.
People have a right and a duty to voice their concern and their -- provide
their input into matters of war and peace. And I think the African-
American community, like every community in our country, has that duty and
responsibility to voice their opinion in this great democracy.
Also, let me just say I`m not speaking on behalf of the Congressional Black
Caucus. And the Congressional Black Caucus has not taken a position. Our
chair is a wonderful, very strong chair. And in fact several members of
the Congressional Black Caucus have spoken out in terms of voice and their
opinion whether or not they believe that the authorization to use force
should be supported or not.
I personally believe that there are other options, and that we need to
exhaust all of the other options, because, as Senator Kerry said, there is
no military solution, and in fact we have got to get to a negotiated
Military action leads us further away from achieving that goal.
MATTHEWS: Well, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus right now
have spoken out about this in your article for "The Times."
Let me quote some of the people from your piece. Freshman Congressman
Hakeem Jeffries of New York said: "There are two major considerations to
take into account, the prestige of an administration we strongly support
vs. an open-ended conflict in the Middle East that risks the lives of the
people we represent if war were to break out, not to mention the diversion
of resources back into our own communities that sorely need it."
And his colleague from New York Congressman Greg Meeks, we know him. He
said: "I wasn`t elected just to go along to get along. I was elected to
utilize my thought process and to determine what I think is in the best
interests of my district."
So, you have got a lot of this. And I guess the reason why we`re talking
with full respect about this caucus, the CBC, is that they are the base of
the Democratic Party.
PETERS: Well, they are not only the base of the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: They`re the heart of the party, you might say.
PETERS: Absolutely. They`re the base of Barack Obama`s support.
But, also, he is not going to be able to lose very many votes in the House
to have this resolution approved. And I think, so, when every vote
Let me go to Congresswoman Lee on this.
You know -- I worked on the Hill, as you know, Congresswoman. And you know
when it gets down to the close vote at the end, and the leadership, whether
it`s Steny or it`s Mrs. Pelosi, they get everybody in that corral. And
they say, we may need your vote. Do you think they`re going to get your
vote if they really, really need it?
LEE: Chris, as you mentioned earlier, I voted against the authorization to
use force as it related to Afghanistan right after the horrific events of
9/11, where over 3,500...
LEE: ... Americans and people in our own country were killed. That was a
blank check. It was a terrible moment.
That was a resolution that authorized the use of force until we repeal
that. That has been used for drone attacks, for surveyance activities, and
for other conflicts in terms of our resources and our troops. And so it is
very difficult for me to figure out a way where I could use -- I could vote
for the use of force, when I understand what is going on in Syria and know
and believe Secretary Kerry and the president that the only way we can
achieve some resolve, hold the Assad regime accountable and stop the
LEE: ... by a negotiated and political settlement. And the use of force
leads us further away from that position. And so too much is at risk.
This could end up in a regional war. Retaliation could occur. And so this
would be very difficult for me.
And, Chris, I am not going to support this effort.
MATTHEWS: You know what? I have to say to the Congresswoman, thank you
for coming on.
And thank you, Jeremy.
Having read the Senate resolution passed by the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee last night, with the full power of John McCain and his new
satellite, I guess, Chris Coons of Delaware, a totally hawkish document, it
goes well beyond retaliation or punishment or any kind of punitive raid for
what happened with regard to chemical weapons.
It`s basically a mandate to get involved in this war and support the
I think you`re right, Congresswoman. I would be careful of the language.
You have got to be careful of the language of these hawks because they love
to sneak it in there.
Up next, it`s your chance to play HARDBALL. I`m going to answer your
Twitter questions. We`re keeping up around here. We`re into Twitter. And
this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re going to continue a new segment we just introduced last week. It`s
my chance to play HARDBALL with you and answer some questions that you have
posted on Twitter.
Let`s kick it off tonight with Elliott Troy (ph) from South Florida. He
asked: "Do you think the Syrian resolution changes the outlook for the 2014
Yes, I do. I think it`s going to anger many people on the left, the
Democratic Party left, who will not like the president`s position. It will
excite the people on the Republican right, perhaps even more so. They`re
very libertarian these days and very isolationist. I think it`s going to
help the right in the next election. I don`t think this war thing is ever
good for people on the left, especially when the leader of the liberal
party in this case, President Obama, is leading the fight.
On to our next question, which comes to us from Allie Lindsey (ph) from
Patterson, Georgia. She asks: "Chris, what are your thoughts on John
McCain playing poker during the serious discussion to Syria" -- I wish it
was serious for him -- "the discussion with Barack Obama?"
I`m less concerned about the attitude he showed in playing poker when he
should be listening than I am about the fact that he stuffed into this
resolution all this stuff about aiding the rebels over there. We have
watched the rebels and what they have done the last 24 hours with these
pictures, horrific pictures. I`m not so sure we should be out there
cheerleading and blowing the bugle for that side.
It`s one thing to punish Assad. It`s another thing to get in this war,
which I`m against.
Our next question comes to us from Kristopher Owens (ph). He spells it
with a K., rather than a C., which I spell it with. "Chris, what is
something I can do to make America better?"
Well, I always say, it depends to some extent. One thing you might do if
you`re in good shape and you have obeyed the law and you have got a decent
record, join the Peace Corps. It`s a wonderful, life-changing thing for
you and the people you help. You can only do good for two years. You can
only have adventure. You can only come back healthier and cleaner and much
more energized about life. You can`t lose if you get in the Peace Corps.
That`s one thing I would do.
The other thing is just go get into a political campaign. Find a candidate
you really believe in, and put your heart into it. It can`t hurt there
either. Peace Corps, think about it.
And we will be right back after this.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De La
Cruz. Here`s what`s happening.
George Zimmerman`s wife, Shellie, is filing for divorce. The decision
comes a week after she pleaded guilty to perjury for lying during a bail
hearing after her husband`s arrest.
The massive wildfire in Yosemite National Park was started by a hunter`s
illegal campfire. No one has been arrested.
And check out the fireworks over the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg,
Russia. Tomorrow, the president meets with world leaders to lobby for
support for action in Syria.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
You could be forgiven for not realizing that yesterday`s resolution on
Syria passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could expand our
potential involvement in that country to a whole new level. It sure did
not dominate the headlines this morning. But here is the sub-headline in
"The Wall Street Journal" piece on the Syria resolution, "Measure Says Goal
Should be Change the Momentum on the Battlefield."
Whoa. Who said anything about changing momentum on the battlefield?
Wasn`t this supposed to be about retaliation for the use of chemical
weapons? "TIME" magazine also tucks it away in the second half of its
headline, "Senate Panel Backs Syria Bombing, Changing War Momentum."
This broad military latitude appears to be the price Senator John McCain
extracted from President Obama for his support. And it reads to us like a
pretty high price.
Here is the text, statement of policy, that is, the words. "It is the
policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in
Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that
ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria."
Well, this language will have to survive a full Senate vote and be
reconciled with a House resolution. And we`re betting that the more people
notice it, the more lawmakers are going to balk at this.
Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington
and Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Congressman, to both of you -- I want to start with Jim McDermott.
But I was stunned when I got this late last night after the committee
voted. Not only does it make us -- declares our policy to be in support of
changing momentum on the battlefield, but it says, the provisional, all
forms of assistance to the Syrian political opposition.
This is like a Gulf of Tonkin thing thrown in here. We`re now taking sides
as an act of -- a statement of belligerence in that civil war over there.
I was struck by it.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: So were we.
I -- when I read that last night, I thought, wow. This has gone much
further than I had thought the Senate resolution would go, which was trying
to define a narrow mission. And, suddenly, we had section five put in,
which seemed very reminiscent to me of the resolution we worked on in 2002
going into the war on terror.
I was very -- I was made very uncomfortable by seeing that, because I don`t
know what it means. There are some vague terms in there about deter and,
you know, sort of deemphasize some of their power. I couldn`t -- I don`t
know what they`re after. And there is going to be a lot of debate, as you
I bet there are 100 amendments on the floor of the House -- on the Senate -
- and you will see the same thing go on in the House. I don`t think that
resolution will ever be voted on in the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congresswoman Blackburn.
By the way, thanks, Congresswoman, for coming on, as always.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: I was stunned to see this new language. I don`t know where you
stand on this. I will just throw this out at you. It also calls for
planning for securing existing chemical, biological, and other weapon
It puts the United States in the business of going in -- of somebody on our
behalf going in and looking for these weapons, all kinds of weapons, not
just WMD. This seems to be a nose in the tent, as they would say in the
Middle East. The camel`s got its nose in the tent. Are we getting into
this civil war?
BLACKBURN: Well, I think that if you were in my district with me, Chris,
what you would hear from the people here -- and many of them are military
retirees -- is, number one, they think that the mission has not been
clearly defined by the president.
And then the resolution that came from the Senate and the findings section
that you just referenced in section five, where it references changing the
momentum, that causes questions there also. You know, who are we trying to
change the momentum toward? What is it that we are seeking to be the exit?
Every military plan, every battle plan should have a clearly defined
mission and execution and a strategy. And the problem is the president has
not come forward in a leadership role. He has tried to pivot on just about
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Let`s take a look at the secretary of state. Here is what he said. Here
is his case for military action against Syria, generally. It`s an
interview with my colleague Chris Hayes. We`re going to have the full
interview coming up after this program at 8:00.
Let`s listen to what he says, because he gets into this issue of our role
helping the rebels, getting into the war, not just punishing Assad for
chemical. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If we don`t do this, Assad will have
a message that he can use these weapons with impunity. We will have turned
our back on the international norm. We will have lost credibility in the
And I guarantee you if we turn our backs today, the picture we all saw in
the paper today and the media of those people being shot, that will take
place more, because more extremists will be attracted to this because they
will be funded as the only alternative in order to take on Assad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Congressman McDermott, there you have the argument.
We have to put cash in the pockets of some of the rebels because the bad
rebels will have cash from other sources.
Here he is making a case not for retaliation or punitive strike because of
the use of chemical weapons, but our involvement on the side of the rebels.
This is a widening of our involvement, I believe.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: It sure felt like it. It feels like
this mission creep. You know, when we went into Iraq, we thought we were
going to be there 60 days. Rumsfeld assured us that we`d be out, and that
people would be there with flowers to put the on the ends of our rifles.
And lo and behold, 10 years later, we`re still struggling.
Well, that`s what you feel as you sit listening to this and watching them
start out with a very narrow, confined, we`re going to -- we want to send
them a message. You cannot use this kind of weapon.
But now it looks like we`re trying to figure out how we can extend that and
help the rebels and decide who is going in next. And I don`t -- I -- it
leaves me with a very uneasy feeling, because we`re in a neighborhood where
you have not only the Russians sitting there, but you also have the
Iranians. And I worry that we are going to slide into something that we
just have not anticipated.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Blackburn, why do you think they need a 90-day
resolution for a two-day war?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think that they`re trying to
figure out a way to get something off the Senate floor and get it over to
the House. But they have some problems. Number one, they have the
inconsistencies that have come from Secretary Kerry and from this
administration. And those are unfortunate for the president and the
You have, number two, the inconsistencies of the president himself. And
having this as immediate action was necessary, then punting it to Congress.
Number three, you have the issue with the military being hit repeatedly
with cuts to their resources. Something this administration has been very
MATTHEWS: I know.
BLACKBURN: But they`re turning around and asking them to do more with
less. And every time I talk to my command team at Ft. Campbell, we talk
about the diligence that they are going through daily to try to do more
with less. But at a point, you have to say, we know we have a crisis, and
it is immoral what has happened in Syria, but requiring our military men
and women to do more with less, and repeatedly cutting their budget is
something that you can say is immoral also.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of morality, Congressman McDermott, you`re a medical
doctor as well. What did you make of "The New York Times" cover today in
the video we just showed earlier about the execution by these hating,
hating, vengeful, revanchists? We`re going to kill all the Alawites and
here we are killing seven of them in cold blood. Obviously after a lot of
hours of letting these guys think about it. There they are, you can`t help
but sympathize with these people about to die. They have already been
beaten on their backs so the welts are all showing.
And now, they`re going to execute them on television for their delight. It
just it seems to me the torture here, the -- what is it -- how do you
describe this stuff? Are these guys going to run a government when they
take over, these people doing this?
MCDERMOTT: We are looking at a civil war, Chris, that I think most of us
don`t understand anywhere near the complexity. If you ask the members of
Congress, gave them a piece of paper and said, tell me what an Alawite is,
there probably aren`t 25 members who could give you a coherent definition
of what an Alawite is.
So, we`re walking into a situation that is very complicated and very
difficult to make a decision. I would disagree with Ms. Blackburn about
one thing. The president was not the one to decide this. The Congress is
the one to decide this.
And the Congress was absolutely right, or the president was absolutely
right in saying to the Congress, I want you to look at this issue and make
your decision, because this is something all Americans are going to take
responsibility for what we decide.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, do you think the Congress should have been given
this vote? You said punt, meaning you didn`t want the vote to happen in
BLACKBURN: No. I think it is fine. I think what we`re looking at is the
way he has approached it, Chris, with Syria was no problem. It was no
problem. Then he was going to make a decision, and he was going to take an
And then Senator Kerry -- Secretary Kerry goes out, he makes a statement,
and then all of the sudden that is pulled back.
MATTHEWS: I agree. I agree with you.
BLACKBURN: And the president says oh, I`m going to send it to Congress.
That is confusing.
MATTHEWS: The first time in a while but I agree, because I think it was
BLACKBURN: It`s good for you to agree with me!
MATTHEWS: And likewise.
And let me just tell you, I did think there was a sign there of several
days of dallying that made it look like the president wasn`t ready to make
up his mind himself.
BLACKBURN: Yes. You`re correct.
MATTHEWS: -- with Denis McDonough and decide to put it to Congress.
But I do think the idea of Congress having a role in foreign policy and war
and peace is essential to the Constitution.
BLACKBURN: Oh, I`m totally in agreement with that.
MATTHEWS: And I agree with Congressman McDermott on that
Thank you both for coming on that.
MATTHEWS: I know we have different attitudes even if we agree in
coincidence. But I think it`s more a coincidence than it is an agreement.
Anyway, thank you, Congressman McDermott of Washington state, and
Congresswoman Blackburn of Tennessee.
Up next, we`ve heard nothing from Mitch McConnell. Isn`t that interesting?
Nada -- nada from the big guy. Mitch McConnell, speak. Could that be
because he`s the one Republican senator who could lose his seat next year
and doesn`t know which way to waddle, right or left?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back with more HARDBALL and the silence. Don`t you love it? Of
Mitch McConnell said nada, nothing about Syria.
Back after this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And that was Mitch McConnell`s spoof if you want to call it that on his
Democratic rival Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
While McConnell has found the time to put out creative web videos like that
one on his opponent, he has yet to take a stand on the most pressing issue
before the United States senate, Syria.
And this week, a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad
Dayspring told "The Hill" newspaper that Grimes is just an empty dress,
implying she wasn`t prepared to be in the United States Senate.
It`s just possible that McConnell and company are firing this spit balls at
Lundergan Grimes because they`re scared of her, scared because right now,
McConnell is the only sitting Republican in danger of losing his seat.
Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican National Committee, back when
it won, and he`s an MSNBC political analyst. And Stephanie Schriock is the
president of Emily`s List, which works to get pro-choice women elected to
STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST: Absolutely. Good to be here.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Stephanie.
I want to ask you about -- this kind of thing. It just seemed to be, dare
I say patronizing. You used the right word. That ad put out by Mitch.
SCHRIOCK: Well, we`ve seen this before. In 2012, we saw historic gender
gap this country for two reasons. One, the Republican Party can`t help
themselves in insulting people and, two, the Democrats continue to put up
really strong women leaders to run for these offices and that`s what we`re
going to see.
MATTHEWS: Has the glass ceiling moved? Has it moved up past the Senate?
In other words, does a woman candidate for the Senate in most states have a
50/50 chance against a male candidate? Is that gone, the advantage of a
male candidate? Maybe not governor yet, but maybe governor, too. Where`s
the glass ceiling right now?
SCHRIOCK: It is moving. We`re seeing it state by state. Think about 2012
when we had Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, (INAUDIBLE) Hirano. They
all broke those glass ceilings in those states. Kentucky, Georgia, we`ve
got another round coming here.
So, we`re still working on a lot of states that have never elected a women
to the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: You`re doing a lot better on the coasts. The coasts are really
good for women.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: You didn`t mention the Republican
women who also got elected and --
MATTHEWS: To the Senate?
STEELE: -- 2010 and 2012. Nikki Haley and Kelly Ayotte and the governor
of New Mexico, Susana Martinez.
Again, to your point, I agree, the party is a little --
MATTHEWS: Do you think the glass ceiling is above the Senate and the
STEELE: I think it`s probably right at it, not clearly broken enough for
women of either party to really --
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Mitch McConnell. We love Mitch McConnell in a
nasty way because he`s just a negative force.
SCHRIOCK: You`re like the Kentucky voters right now.
MATTHEWS: Because he`s decided from day one that he was going to destroy
the hopes of this president. Not do anything positive. Just destroy this
presidency. I don`t like that kind of politics. It`s called sabotage.
SCHRIOCK: I agree. And the voters of Kentucky are seeing that already. I
mean, he`s the most unpopular senator in the country.
MATTHEWS: Do you have the right candidate? Is she the best possible
SCHRIOCK: Absolutely. I mean, Alison Lundergan Grimes is an accomplish
secretary of state. She is a fearless advocate for women and family. And
I`ll tell you what, she`s going to come to Washington, D.C., and she`s
going to help stop this gridlock by getting rid of Mitch McConnell.
MATTHEWS: She`s homegrown.
SCHRIOCK: You better believe it.
STEELE: That`s a nice sentiment. I welcome her to Washington if she gets
past Mitch McConnell. But, you know, a lot of that gridlock --
MATTHEWS: What is that guy`s staying power about?
STEELE: I think his staying power is just his ability to do part of what
you`re saying, to get down in the mud when he needs to.
MATTHEWS: What`s his charisma about?
STEELE: I mean, it`s charisma. I mean, clearly, he has charisma with the
folks of his state that keep electing him.
MATTHEWS: I was being sarcastic.
SCHRIOCK: But now, he`s the most unpopular senator in the country.
MATTHEWS: Help me out here, Stephanie. Why? Let`s put words behind it.
Why is he -- besides being a Republican incumbents, and Republicans don`t
like incumbents, I`m going to talk about that in the end, because they
don`t like Washington. They don`t like anybody who had the job before.
SCHRIOCK: Well, he has a problem in the primary already. So, you`re
seeing Republicans in Kentucky are already out -- it`s about the gridlock.
It`s about the obstruction. It`s about preventing the Senate from doing
anything and it`s about his record on women and families.
And this is a man who has voted against Violence Against Women Act, voted
against equal pay.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do that?
SCHRIOCK: Voted against the Family Medical Leave Act.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do that?
SCHRIOCK: It is a policy of the Republican Party.
STEELE: It`s not a policy of the Republican Party. Look, I mean --
MATTHEWS: Let Mike have a seconds.
STEELE: Let`s keep these things -- really. Let`s keep these things in
perspective. One, we are talking about this general election between a
Democrat and Republican candidate and U.S. senate in Kentucky a year out,
number one. A lot of water will pass under that bridge.
MATTHEWS: What show is this?
STEELE: I know.
MATTHEWS: What`s the name of the show?
STEELE: I know, Chris. It`s called HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: If you keep up, Michael, if you keep up, you`ll understand --
you know why we`re doing it? I don`t do -- this is one -- this guy has a
target on his back.
STEELE: Of course he does. He has a target within his own party and he`s
got a target from the left.
SCHRIOCK: We have a great woman candidate.
MATTHEWS: He`ll be teaching somewhere next year. It doesn`t matter.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. He`s not going to have problems. He
can go home.
MATTHEWS: Stephanie Schriock, thank you for coming on. We`ll be right
back -- we`ll talk about the glass ceiling again and again. I think it`s
going way up. I think Hillary Clinton is a favorite. The favorite.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
This is not a good time for Republicans to seek renomination or re-
election. They are not popular at home for the simple reason they spend
their days in Washington. Washington is a no-no for the Republican right.
To go there is to do bad, to hang out with bad.
This is the atmosphere in today`s conservative party. It`s people back
home that don`t like government, don`t like anything about it, don`t like
the people they elect to it. It`s getting to the point that the only
Republican figures who are popular in Washington are that smaller group who
have recently defeated either incumbent Republicans or Republican front-
runner who endorsed by the Republican establishment -- which makes you
wonder about the viability of a party that only likes those who have
recently gotten rid of one of their own.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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