updated 9/13/2013 1:37:20 PM ET 2013-09-13T17:37:20

HARDBALL
September 12, 2013

Guests: Michael Crowley, Peter Beinart, Peter Baker, John Feehery, Matt Kibbe, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Rootin` for Putin.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. When I began reading Vladimir
Putin`s article in today`s "New York Times," I first thought of Tokyo Rose,
the World War II propagandist who broadcasted soothing messages to U.S.
GIs, hoping to undermine their will to fight. Then reading further, I
thought of Dag Hammarskjold, the great United Nations secretary general who
led worldwide peace efforts back in the `50s.

Let`s assume here that Putin`s article in America`s most important
newspaper today carries a bit of both, propaganda and peacemaking. The
most important element it carried, I believe, is the commitment to a role
for Russia in the current conflict within and about Syria. This has the
capacity for good because putting Putin`s prestige in line, Putin is
telling the world to watch him, watch what he can deliver in Syria, watch
him as he demonstrates his control over the government in Damascus.

If he fails, it`s because he, Vladimir Putin, stuck his head into this
thing. If Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons henceforth, it is on Putin`s
head. He is the one out there guy saying he`s got things under control.
He`s the guy calling himself the go-to guy to get this chemical weapons
thing under control.

So it`s not that Putin has gone and gotten himself an article written
in the "New York Times" under his name, it`s that Putin now has to help
find a way through this. In fact, he`s now put his name to doing it.

Michael Crowley is senior correspondent for "Time" magazine and Peter
Beinart is senior political writer for the DailyBeast and the editor of the
OpenZion blog. Thank you.

First, let me start with Michael, who`s with me. What do you think is
a fair look at this thing? Let me read further here. Vladimir Putin`s op-
ed in the "New York Times" today is certainly raising eyebrows around the
world. Besides backing the plan to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons,
the Russian leader also took the opportunity, according to some, to lecture
America.

Quote, "It is alarming that military intervention into internal
conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United
States. Is it in America`s long-term interests? I doubt it. Millions
around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but
as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the
slogan, You`re either with us or against us."

Putin also chided President Obama`s "exceptional nation" comment this
week. According to Putin, quote, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage
people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

Your thoughts, Michael. He certainly knows -- whoever helped him with
this bit of agitprop knew what they were doing.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Yes, and I gather he did have a
Washington PR firm helping to place this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the name of the company.

CROWLEY: Any good foreign leader would. Chris, I see, I think, three
key things going on here. One is he wants to undermine the support --
there`s not much of it to begin with, but the support for military action
in Syria within the United States. He doesn`t like Western, U.S.-led
meddling in other countries. He sees us as going around the world, trying
to change regimes. He hates that.

He wants to further weaken Obama`s case for war, for instance, by
throwing up a little smoke around the question of who did the chemical
attack. He says it was the rebels. Doesn`t really seem very likely.

MATTHEWS: You know (INAUDIBLE) growing up, it was the wars of
national liberation that the Soviets were all pushing.

CROWLEY: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: And we didn`t like it.

CROWLEY: Well, they...

MATTHEWS: Now they don`t like it, and we`re involved.

CROWLEY: Well, and -- but he does still have -- you know, he was a
former KGB guy. It`s an oversimplification to say that`s his whole
worldview, but he does still have a lingering cold war mentality.

You know, number two, very quickly, he wants to take charge of the
situation. He likes performing on the world stage, showing people he`s...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CROWLEY: ... a big man and...

MATTHEWS: But to my question...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... tweaking the president.

MATTHEWS: Does this put him in Chinese handcuffs? I mean, reaching
into this thing, does he get stuck because he now has to show that he can
deliver, doesn`t he? Isn`t that good for us?

CROWLEY: Yes, and that is the line, interestingly, that you`re
hearing from the White House now. He`s invested in it, it`s on him, it`s
his credibility. So they kind of love this. It takes the -- it deflects a
little bit from how is Obama managing it, can he deliver on his threats and
promises and win the Congress, to what can Putin deliver.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m an optimist. I`m a liberal. Let me go to Peter
Beinart. I can never figure you out, Peter, because I think you`re
somewhere around the middle line here politically. But I`ve been reading
your stuff today, and I think you`re pessimistic about Mr. Putin`s ability
to be the middleman here and to get Assad to stop using chemical -- in
fact, to turn them over, his chemical weapons.

PETER BEINART, DAILYBEAST: If the question is him not using chemical
weapons again, I think you make a good point, Chris. I think at this
point, that`s pretty unlikely. But if the question is him giving them over
-- first of all, the logistics are just overwhelming, even if Assad and
Putin really did want this. I mean, remember how much trouble we had with
this in Iraq? And there wasn`t a civil war going on. The Pentagon
estimated you`d need 75,000 troops to protect the inspectors who were
trying to walk around in the...

MATTHEWS: OK, OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How critical is it that we collect all these weapons if
they`re not going to be used?

BEINART: Look, I think this whole thing is a complete red herring.
What matters is not how the people of Syria are killed, it is the fact they
are continuing to be killed at horrifying rates...

MATTHEWS: So?

BEINART: ... (INAUDIBLE) their neighbors. The chemical weapons...

MATTHEWS: What should we do?

BEINART: We should be working with Iran and Russia, with whom we`re
in various stages of cold war, to try to cobble together a political
solution in Syria, and that`s going to require compromises on America`s
side.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BEINART: That`s the bigger issue here, much bigger than the chemical
weapons per se.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s stick with the chemical thing just for a minute
here. The reaction in Washington today was swift, critical and bipartisan
about Putin`s big article today. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I was insulted.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I think it`s the height of
hypocrisy for Putin at this point to lecture the United States of America.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: President Putin should be the
last person to lecture the United States about our human values and our
human rights and what we stand for.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I
got an e-mail with what President Putin had to say, and I have to be
honest. I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit. The reality is I
worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our
national interest and what is not.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: It sickened me that we would have to
sit there and read that. But let`s look at it through Putin`s eyes. He
now knows that we had to come to him to get out of a hole. And so I think
he`s enjoying it a lot more than Menendez and I are enjoying it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know about everybody personifying all this stuff,
or this personalizing it. John McCain also tweeted today, "Putin`s `New
York Times` op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American."

You know, I think sometimes presidents and secretaries of state have
to find their way through people. You know, you don`t negotiate with your
best friends, you negotiate with your enemies. And sometimes, people that
are sometimes your best friends. And Russia and the United States did get
together on the most important issue of the 20th century. So it is
possible to get together, even when you never agree on anything else.

And my question is whether we can still use Putin. And I`m going to
go back to Michael Crowley in a minute, but I -- I mean to Peter in a
moment. But Michael, is there a way we can get through this thing?
Because it seems to me that Putin now has stuck (ph) his head. He`s the
big fish now. He has to -- I said in my opening statement, and I think
Peter agreed, if Assad uses chemical weapons now, it looks like the man in
Russia has no power.

CROWLEY: That`s right. And that would lead to an outcome that Putin
doesn`t want because I think if Assad uses chemical weapons again, the
calculus changes. The use of force becomes much more -- a much more viable
option for Obama. We`ll have more international support. You could see
sentiment change in Europe, for instance. And I think you`re really likely
to see a swift reaction from the West if he does it again.

And Putin -- that`s the thing Putin wants least here. He does not
want the West using its military, intervening, trying to effect regime
change. One of his key goals here is to stop what he sees as this sort of
Western-led regime change around the world. And so that`s one of his key
priorities.

And we do have common ground with Putin on the question of...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... securing chemical weapons and trying to thwart radical
Islamists in Syria. They threaten his regime, as well. We saw that in the
Boston bombing. We saw it with the Boston Marathon bombing. We saw the
radicalism in the caucuses in Russia. He`s very nervous about that.

MATTHEWS: I think so.

CROWLEY: He doesn`t want any spillover. So that`s where we have some
common ground.

MATTHEWS: I think we have a north-south fight going on in the world
right now, and it`s including the countries of the old -- old Europe, and
Moscow`s still part of old Europe and its capital, and I think they`re
afraid of what`s going on to their south.

Anyway, in Geneva today, Secretary of State John Kerry began several
days of meetings with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and he
stressed the common ground between the two countries on Syria, but he also
had a warning. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States and Russia have had
and continue to have our share of disagreements.

But what`s important as we come here is that there`s much that we
agree on.

We agree that no one anywhere at any time should employ chemical
weapons. And we agree that our joining together with the international
community to eliminate stockpiles of these weapons in Syria would be an
historic moment for the multilateral non-proliferation efforts.

This is not a game. And I said that to my friend Sergei when we
talked about it initially. It has to be real. It has to be comprehensive.
It has to be verifiable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: All that`s true, but let`s look at Russia`s motives.
According to "The Washington Post," "Putin really does want to avoid a U.S.
attack that would have made it look weak, Russia look weak. There`s a
question of pride. Russia poses as the counterweight to the United States.
Its diplomatic initiative helps maintain that image. To be a relatively
passive bystander to a U.S. attack would be a moment of uncomfortable
truth. Until this week, any attempt to find common ground with the West on
Syria would have made Russia appear to be dancing to the U.S. tune. Now,
of course, they caught us in our weakness."

I just want to go back -- Peter, you and I may not be on the exact
same page here, but I want to get to the page I`m on here just for a
minute. It does seem to me the president had no cards to play. The
Congress, I think we agree, was not going to give him the authority to act.

BEINART: Right.

MATTHEWS: And that was going to be a terrible defeat, and perhaps
even in the Senate.

BEINART: Right.

MATTHEWS: And most certainly in the House. And that, I think, would
have left him empty of any, with no weapons in his hand and no options. I
mean, what would have happened if we didn`t have the Russian card to play?

BEINART: No, that`s exactly right. I mean, regardless of what you
think about the likely effectiveness of this Russian plan in terms of
getting rid of the chemical weapons in Syria, it`s very understandable why
Obama took that off-ramp from the congressional vote because it was heading
towards disaster.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: I think the question for the administration is now, though -
- I mean, this is going to be -- would take a year, at best. And it`s
going to be hard for us to keep this cudgel of military force hanging over
during this entire time.

So I think for them, as a political matter, the question is how are
they going to be able to make the case to the American people...

MATTHEWS: OK...

BEINART: ... that this is actually a meaningful process when once the
threat of military force recedes, which I think it almost inevitably will
over time...

MATTHEWS: Well, it receded by this week. Didn`t it recede when
anybody watching American -- any Moscow watcher of America knew the
president didn`t have the votes on the Hill?

BEINART: Right, that...

MATTHEWS: Didn`t they know that earlier this week when they gave it -
- when they grabbed that -- the gave us the lifeline that the secretary of
state threw out to them?

BEINART: Right.

MATTHEWS: They jumped on it because they thought they could do
something. You think they did it because they were afraid we were going to
attack? I thought they already knew we couldn`t. That`s what I think.

BEINART: No, I think -- I mean, I think you`re -- what shifted the
balance of power here -- and I think Mike`s exactly right -- for Putin,
it`s all about reasserting Russia as a great power...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

BEINART: ... in the world and restoring the cold war -- even said in
his op-ed, you know, We defeated the Nazis together, we were adversaries in
the cold war -- he wants that leverage again, and he got that moment
because the president of the United States happened to be at a particularly
weak moment because he had mis-gambled in terms of what he thought the vote
would be in Congress.

CROWLEY: By the way...

MATTHEWS: Do you guys buy into this? Do you -- this is a tough
question for journalists, both of you. I want to start with you, Peter,
because it`s hard to read you sometimes. Do you buy this neocon argument
that Russians are bad people? Forget communism, they`re somehow
imperialist, there`s something wrong with them.

BEINART: I don`t know if that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I hear that from people, and I go, Are you guys still
fighting the cold war? What is it about the Russians you don`t like now?

BEINART: No, I think that`s nonsensical. I mean, there may be
certain reasons that democracy is harder to make work in a country of
Russia`s size and political traditions than in some of the Eastern European
countries.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BEINART: But when everyone starts talking about the nature of
different kinds of people, I get very nervous.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I think it`s important people understand the Russian
experience over the last century has been horrible at times. I mean, they
were invaded by the Germans. You had the sieges of Stalingrad and
Leningrad. You had...

MATTHEWS: Stalin.

CROWLEY: You had Stalin and the millions...

MATTHEWS: And the czars before that.

CROWLEY: So this country who perhaps as a result, the leadership of
this country may be cynical, may be very hardened, may think that the world
is a brutal and awful place. And chemical weapons in the general scheme of
things, if they threaten us, that`s bad, but you know, we actually don`t
care that much about some of these other conflicts because we`ve seen a lot
of bloodshed.

And I just don`t think you see quite the same moral outrage about some
of these issues you see in the United States because it`s -- they have a
much -- they`ve had a much more brutal recent history.

MATTHEWS: The interesting thing is from 1945 right until `91 at the
fall of the Moscow coup, the two countries never fought with each other.
That is one of the great moments -- realities of history. So there is some
rationality on their side. I think Khrushchev was incredibly rational
during the Cuban missile crisis, to the credit -- and to the benefit of the
world.

CROWLEY: And lost his job because of it.

MATTHEWS: I know. He was lopped off for being what he was. Anyway,
thank you, Michael Crowley. Thank you, Peter Beinart, as always.

Coming up: The commander-in-chief. To some, President Obama`s
changing positions on whether it strike Syria or not has been a sign of
weakness on his part. But others see the president as the anti-Bush,
unwilling to rush unilaterally into military conflict.

And with a strike on Syria looking increasingly less likely right now,
the focus turns to a big battle here at home on whether to shut down the
United States government in order to kill "Obama care" in its crib. And
that`s the fight we`re in right here. And once again, it`s the Republican
leadership, unfortunately or not, out of step with the Tea Party crowd.

And with Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer going down to defeat Tuesday
night, why do some politicians survive sex scandals while others don`t?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the family on whom New York voters, or
at least the Democrats, have set their heart.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Cory Booker`s certainly on track to become the next
U.S. senator from New Jersey. The Newark mayor has a bigger than 2-to-1
lead in the latest polling in New Jersey. Let`s check the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard."

According to a new poll from Rutgers University, it`s Booker with 64
percent -- that`s about two thirds -- versus just 29 percent for Republican
Steve Lonegan. The special election for Senate in New Jersey`s coming up
in just about a month right now, on Wednesday, October 16th.

Down to Virginia, a new Purple Poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe
holding a 5-point lead over Ken Cuccinelli in the governor`s race with lots
of undecideds. Look at that.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This act will not
stand. We will find those who did it. We will smoke `em out of their
holes.

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such
that they can attack us there. My answer is, Bring `em on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ah, the old days. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. The
Texas macho President -- that was President Bush -- brought to foreign
policy. stands in stark contrast, we`ve learned, to President Obama`s
approach, most visibly on display in the past weeks as he`s considered and
reconsidered action in Syria.

As Peter Baker writes in today`s "New York Times," "To aides and
allies, Mr. Obama`s willingness to hit the pause button twice now reflects
a refreshing open-mindedness and a reluctance to use force that they
considered all too missing under his predecessor with the Texas swagger.
But to Mr. Obama`s detractors, including many in his own party, he has
shown a certain fecklessness with his decisions. Instead of displaying
decisive leadership, he has appeared reactive, defensive and profoundly
challenged in standing up to a dangerous world."

Like I often like to say, where you sit is where you stand. Peter
Baker is White House reporter for "The New York Times" and author of the
upcoming book "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney," or it should be said Cheney
in the White House. David Gregory is moderator, of course, of "MEET THE
PRESS."

I want both of you gentlemen -- and this is an objective assessment.
Neither one of you guys take sides. So I want to start with you, Peter,
and the way you set this thing up.

If you look at it, the way it`s getting set up is at its worst, the
other guy was shoot first, ask questions later -- that was Bush -- and at
his worst, Obama`s being compared to people -- like me, who`ve been around
a long time -- to Adlai Stevenson, bright mind, considers all the factors
and considers so many factors, he can`t get back to making a decision.

Is that the way you set it up? Or say it your way.

PETER BAKER, "NEW YORK TIMES": No, that`s a fair summation. I mean,
obviously, that oversimplifies, as any newspaper article or news show can
do a complicated individual, in either Bush`s case or Obama`s case.

But that`s -- you do sort of see this very stark contrast on display
these last few weeks, this sense from Bush that once you make a decision,
boom, you`re full on (ph) as you (ph) go on, you never look back and keep
pushing forward.

Obama, on the other hand, is sort of, at this point, kind of reacting,
changing his mind, thinking through what he wants to do...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BAKER: ... and under very different political circumstances, as well,
for that matter.

MATTHEWS: You know, David, I was thinking, it`s not just the war in
Iraq we all talk about. It`s the tax cut that Bush came in with back in
2001. He was going to do a tax cut no matter what the economic conditions
were, no matter what the economists told him -- I`m going to cut taxes.
Maybe because his father raised him, but I`m going to cut taxes. And don`t
confuse me with the facts.

And it was almost like that with the war. Don`t give me the new
information, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A moral battle. You`ve been there.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": No, no. But I mean, I
think there is -- there was a philosophical difference on taxes in terms of
the impact it would have on the economy. Here`s the important thing to
remember. Without Bush, you don`t have Obama because a lot of what people
disliked about Bush is ultimately what made the public have an appetite...

MATTHEWS: Define that.

GREGORY: Because there was swagger, because there was certitude,
because they were wrong about key facts like weapons of mass destruction,
because there was a view of them being kind of impervious to outside
information that could help guide decision-making, the American electorate
wanted a more deliberative president.

But you only have Obama...

MATTHEWS: I agree with it.

GREGORY: ... struggling with this issue because of what happened
under Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: Let`s also not forget, after 9/11, 67 percent support for
going to war in Iraq in October of 2002. The strength of Bush after 9/11
was what made him so politically successful and so popular in the country
at that time. We were in a much different place as a country.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. I think David is right. You think
of the picture of President Bush on the World Trade Center site that
Friday, afterwards, and when he put his arm around the firefighter and he
said we`re going to get the people that knocked down these buildings.

I had never seen a president so brilliantly reach into the heart, and
gut, and mind of America and be that being, that thing. The trouble for
Obama seemed to be that he was out of sync, that when he went to go to the
Hill this week to get support in the United States Senate and the House for
a war, any active war, he was not in sync with the country.

Peter.

BAKER: Yes. That`s I think exactly right. And I think David makes
the very good point that Bush was in a different political environment. He
had the support of the country. The country was angry because of 9/11.
They wanted Bush to do something. They wanted a guy who was going to get
up there and say, bring them on, dead or alive, with us or against us.

That was the mood of the country. And President Bush reflected that.
As David said, I think President Obama reflects the mood of a different
country at a different time, a country that`s tired of that, a country that
doesn`t really want to go to war anywhere, even just with a few missiles,
the way...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: But here`s part of the problem, Peter. And I think just if
we look at this analytically, this president, with such war-weariness, who
goes out of his way to say that we`re so war-weary, is basically saying
here`s a guy who`s like Adolf Hitler, who`s like Saddam Hussein, who`s
committed an unspeakable act, and America, because we`re exceptional and
because we`re the anchor of global security, we must act.

You know who that sounds like? It sounds a lot like Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But he didn`t say that in 2008. He never said we had -- my
definition of American exceptionalism is different. It has to do with how
we can make it in this country, no matter where you come from or who you
are.

GREGORY: Right.

MATTHEWS: But his idea seemed to be like Bush`s, which is that we
have a special right in the world to do certain things.

GREGORY: Right.

But what I`m saying is that he`s saying that now, but at the same time
this president is also saying, well, but let`s also -- let`s leave some
room to be deliberative. And I think people do celebrate this. Some
people do. Some people say he seems a bit confused, he seems disorganized
in terms of the organization of it, the leadership of it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Do you think, Peter, when you look at the two national security teams,
the ones in between one and eight of this century, and the new team that`s
in there now under Rice and the others, Kerry, are they different in
quality? Is there a difference in their studied ability to look at things,
understand the situations, and advise accordingly? Or are they just
different in ideology, but the same quality?

BAKER: Yes, that`s a very good question. Hard to judge.

I think that it depends on how much your president wants to listen to
and lean on and involve the staff. And what we saw really...

MATTHEWS: But did he involve them? No, that gets out to your
reporting today.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You state as a fact, an established fact that this
president walked on the back lawn almost like a road to Damascus. He`s on
the back lawn with his -- Denis McDonough, his young chief of staff, who
was deputy national security adviser, and comes back with a decision to go
to Congress, not involving in consultation -- or in consultation with the
secretary of state, with any of the congressional relations people.

That`s a profound way to behave. I`m here -- like Bush would have
done something like that, I think.

GREGORY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BAKER: Because it`s so unlike the way Obama had handled a lot of
other big decisions in his presidency, where we didn`t have -- in fact, not
only consult with aides and his staff, but have an extended process of
study, evaluation, examination. The process of deciding to send the troop
surge to Afghanistan in his first year went on for months.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: And even people who respected his level of deliberation also
thought he was going on too long...

MATTHEWS: This time.

GREGORY: ... and he should have made a decision.

In this...

MATTHEWS: There was some dallying there. It seemed like dallying
last week.

GREGORY: In this particular case, the people I have talked to in the
White House say that this issue of congressional authorization was always
on the table, that Obama and his counsel were always concerned about a
legal justification for doing this and they felt more politically isolated.

So it`s not like it came out of nowhere, but they did buck the system.

MATTHEWS: OK. One thing they did here is set a precedent, you first,
Peter, and then again, David, quickly.

It seems like by saying when it comes to a matter that doesn`t
directly affect an imminent assault or attack in the United States, you
need congressional approval for something that involves a norm, an
international norm like chemical weapons use. It seems to me that sets up
the premise for six months or a year from now when we have to make a
decision about what to do if -- if the mullahs decide to nuclearize --
weaponize their nuclear program over in Tehran.

Doesn`t that set up a predicate now where he has to go to Congress?
Hasn`t he done it already?

(CROSSTALK)

BAKER: Yes. I think that`s a very good point. He says, I reserve
the authority to do this without Congress. I don`t need to go to Congress
for this. But I`m going to anyway.

And it`s going to be hard to say why a future scenario like the one
you just outlined would be different, that somehow that he didn`t have to
go to Congress in that other scenario. He has set a precedent that`s going
to be hard to explain if he decides not to follow it.

GREGORY: Here`s where I disagree. Couldn`t he make the argument if
all of a sudden we faced a threat from Iran that America faces an imminent
threat at any point because Iran`s nuclear arsenal would be capable of
hitting us or could pose an existential threat to Israel?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, but that wouldn`t be -- it wouldn`t be what he called
-- the standard he set was pretty high. He said it had to be an imminent
threat to us, not a potential.

GREGORY: Right. That`s what he said in 2007, right. But,
presumably, a nuclear-armed Iran could be a...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: ... threat to us.

MATTHEWS: Yes, at some point, at some point.

(CROSSTALK)

BAKER: It depends on the level of information you got and when you
got it.

GREGORY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is a war-weary country, as you said, David. This is a
time where you have got to make your case, I think.

GREGORY: I do.

And I just think the important thing to take away is that we cannot
forget the environment the country was in post-9/11, 12th anniversary
yesterday. So much different. And 12 years later, the isolationist streak
is back, as it was in other times of our history.

MATTHEWS: I remember back then with the freedom fries and the country
western music, remember how you felt. Everything was emotional. Our
culture was headed to war.

GREGORY: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I wasn`t, of course.

Thank you, David Gregory.

But you guys were -- objective journalism, covered it as it was.

Anyway, thank you, Peter Baker. Thank you.

BAKER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Good luck with your book, by the way. I can`t wait for
this book about Cheney and -- and when is it coming out? Cheney and Bush.

BAKER: It comes out next month, October 22.

MATTHEWS: Good. I got a 22-day jump on you.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Gregory, my colleague here. We live
just next to each other here. Thank you, David.

GREGORY: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, Ted Cruz pays tribute to one of his idols, Jesse
Helms. He says, I wish we had 100 of these guys. Well, if you had 100 of
them, you couldn`t have a Ted Cruz. Do the math.

We will be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."

Bill de Blasio may have won the Democratic primary for mayor of New
York, but it`s his family who`s getting all the attention. It`s certainly
clear that they have won the heart of at least one New York voter, Jon
Stewart. Check this out from "The Daily Show" last night.

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

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Photogenic
doesn`t even go anywhere near what these folks -- check out this victory
party move they pulled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, and now the smackdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then the entire de Blasio family, including son
Dante and daughter Chiara, did a weird gymnastic move that brought huge
cheers from the crowd.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Adopt me?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Yes, somehow, after 12 years of Captain Soda Narc...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ... I think New York City might be ready for a charismatic
biracial family with their own signature synchronized dance moves...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ... that appear to have been beamed here from their very own
1970s musical variety special.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Who is better than this family?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Nobody`s better than this family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wonderful.

And on the other side of the aisle, the Republican candidate, Joe
Lhota, has asked Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez for permission to use the
name J.Lho for himself. Lopez has not yet responded.

Diplomatic negotiations with Russia over Syria continued in Geneva
today, a day after Bashar al-Assad`s birthday. Those guys have birthdays
too, yesterday. Well, David Letterman summed up the feelings of many about
that last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Do you know
whose birthday it is? Evil Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, 48 years old
today, 48 years old. Yes.

PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: Nice.

LETTERMAN: Yes, he got his present a day early. Vladimir Putin saved
his ass.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAFFER: Right.

LETTERMAN: It would be nice if he had a surprise birthday party from
SEAL Team Six. That would be good.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And speaking of Putin, take a look at him beside actor
Daniel Craig. Were these two guys separated at birth? I always thought
they could play either -- the other guy could play the other guy.
Definitely bearing a striking resemblance to each other. Hollywood, take
note.

Finally, Senator Ted Cruz spoke a lot about former Senator Jesse Helms
in his foreign policy speech yesterday. Helms, who was notorious for
opposing integration, civil rights, and HIV/AIDS research, was
controversial enough in his own day, but he`d be considered even more crazy
by today`s standards. Nevertheless, here`s what Ted Cruz had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The willingness to say all those crazy
things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town. And you know what?
It`s every bit as true now as it was then. We need 100 more like Jesse
Helms in the U.S. Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Anyway, 100 more crazies like
Jesse Helms. Unbelievable. The problem with the math there, Senator, is
if there`s 100 of him, there isn`t a Senator Cruz. There`s only 100
senators.

Up next, it`s the Republican establishment vs. the Tea Party over
shutting down the government and defunding the affordable care health law.

Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz.Cruz and we`re following breaking news right now.

A massive fire is still burning out of control on the boardwalk in
Seaside Heights, New Jersey. At least 20 businesses have burned.
Firefighters tore up 20 feet of the boardwalk to stop the fire from
spreading. Much of this boardwalk was just rebuilt after it was destroyed
by superstorm Sandy.

At least three people were killed by severe flooding in Colorado. At
much as 10 inches of rain fell in parts, washing out roads and forcing
towns to evacuate -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We also will have a
vote on the continuing resolution this week, and along with that vote, we
will send to the Senate the provision which says, up or down, are you for
defunding Obamacare or not? The House has taken a stand numerous times on
its opinion of Obamacare. It`s time for the Senate to stand up and tell
their constituents where they stand on this atrocity of a law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Atrocity? The law of the land called the Affordable Care
Act, he calls an atrocity, Eric Cantor there.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

The establishment Republican Party and the Tea Party wing of the
Republican Party are waging an all-out war between each other over the
Affordable Care Act, as the government veers toward a shutdown come October
1.

And as you heard there from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the
Republican leadership`s strategy, as they drew it up, was to pass a short-
term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. That bill would
include a provision to defund the president`s health care law, which the
Senate and the president would be free to basically ignore.

On the face of it, everybody wins. Conservatives would get a vote to
defund a law they hate and House Republicans wouldn`t get blamed for a
government shutdown. Problem solved, right? Not if Tea Party leaders like
Ted Cruz have anything to say about it. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Some House Republicans are considering procedural tricks to let
them vote on defunding Obamacare...

(BOOING)

CRUZ: ... and then to let Harry Reid strip it out and fund Obamacare.

(BOOING)

CRUZ: Let me ask you all a question. Is an empty symbolic vote
enough?

CROWD: No!

CRUZ: Are tricks and games acceptable?

CROWD: No!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Right-wing groups like FreedomWorks and Club for Growth and
Tea Party Patriots have exploded in opposition to the plan of the House
leaders. They`re calling their own party`s plan "a grand betrayal, a bad
joke, a trick and lie."

Well, the insurrection got so bad that the GOP leadership pulled a
vote on the bill originally planned for today due to lack of support from
its members, so no vote today.

It`s far from clear what their next move`s going to be or how they
will appease an increasingly powerful wing of the party that`s willing to
destroy the government and even the economy in their quest to demolish the
law.

Matt Kibbe is the president of the conservative group FreedomWorks,
and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

I want to talk with John here.

John, it seems to me what the leadership is up to, and you heard it in
the side comment the other day from Boehner, that no matter what he puts
up, it`s going to be trashed, because what`s up here is an effort to
basically bring down the U.S. government so that you can kill Obamacare,
the Affordable Care Act, in its crib , and anything that doesn`t kill
Obamacare, which has already been enacted into law, passed by both houses
by 60 votes in the Senate, is a matter of U.S. law, like any other law,
unless that is defunded and basically killed, they want the government to
come down around us and fail.

This is serious revolutionary business. How is the House leadership
going to handle it?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That`s a good question.

This is, I think, going to be a big Kabuki dance. We all know what
the end result is going to be. We have to keep the government open. Now,
Matt might think that it`s a good idea to shut down the government. I
worked for the leadership in `94, `95, `96, when we shut down the
government.

Republicans will get blamed if they shut the government down. There`s
no doubt about that. The fact of the matter is, Obamacare is a bad law,
and it`s going to collapse at some point in time. Labor hates out.

The one thing Matt and I agree on is we both hate Obamacare. But I
think that trying to shut the government down as a tactic is a huge
mistake.

MATTHEWS: What do you think, Matt? I`m going to show you the polls
here in a minute, but I`m not sure polls affect your thinking.

But what do you think about whether you should bring the government to
a halt for two weeks, three weeks, four months, five months? How long are
you willing to shut down the U.S. government to make your point?

And then what do you want to do? Are you going to say we can`t have a
government if it includes Obamacare? Is that the bottom line here? You
cannot live with Obamacare?

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, of course, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and
the advocates in the House, they never, ever, ever supported shutting down
the government. What they said was that Obamacare wasn`t ready for prime
time. The president himself has acknowledged that it`s not ready for prime
time, sort of arbitrarily delaying the pieces that he doesn`t like. Every
Republican said they would repeal Obamacare. A lot Democrats have
described it as a train wreck.

So, what Mike Lee and his House counterparts have suggested is let`s
fully fund every part of the government except this one piece that`s not
ready for prime time. There`s nothing about a government shutdown in that
strategy. Everybody`s freaking out so much I`ve got to believe we`re on to
something here.

MATTHEWS: Why would the United States Senate, which is governed by
the Democrats, and the president of the United States, who is a Democrat
and the one who put this bill into action, who got it through the Congress,
why would he sign legislation which would kill his program after it`s
already been enacted into law? Why would he ever sign such a bill? Why
would the Senate Democrats ever agree to something like that?

In other words, what are you talking about? The House Republicans
don`t rule the world. They simply rule the House.

KIBBE: Well of course, attaching it to a C.R. doesn`t ultimately
repeal Obamacare. It delays it for a year, it delays it until we get
right, or until we actually take the majority and repeal it ourselves.

But you have to understand here -- only in Washington, D.C. does it
make sense to go forward with something that everybody says isn`t working.
I don`t understand D.C. logic here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard of a law that was totally ignored by
the Congress and the president? Where they had a law, they passed it, they
signed it, it became the law of the land, the program became part of the
government just like Social Security or Medicare, but then said, no, we`re
going to kill it. And that`s what you propose doing, killing it.

KIBBE: Isn`t that what President Obama just did when he delayed the
employer mandate?

MATTHEWS: No. He`s delaying one portion of it. You want to kill the
program itself.

KIBBE: But you said it`s the law of the land. How can he arbitrarily
delay things --

MATTHEWS: Because it`s his job to implement and to execute. That`s
his job.

KIBBE: It`s not his job. It`s the Congress`s job.

MATTHEWS: The Congress has passed this program. It`s part of the
law. And you`re saying kill it in its crib.

(CROSSTALK)

KIBBE: I`m saying it`s not ready for primetime.

MATTHEWS: No, you never will.

KIBBE: I would love to repeal this law but that`s not what we`re
proposing here. You can`t do that.

MATTHEWS: Matt, you are proposing shutting down the U.S. government.

John, take over here because I think what we`re talking about is a
reality here that Matt doesn`t want to face which is come October 1st,
either the government has a continuing resolution to continue functioning
or it doesn`t. It will not have a continuing resolution if the requirement
is that includes killing Obamacare. It will not exist. There won`t be
such a bill.

It will never get to the president. It will never get to the
president`s desk.

FEEHERY: Listen, Chris, I agree with you, but I also agree with Matt.
This law is not ready for primetime. Using the C.R., a short-term C.R., to
try to come up with some language that`s agreeable to delay it for a year,
I think is something that could happen within the context of a negotiation.

What will not happen is jamming a defunding legislation down the
president`s throat. It`s just not going to work.

The problem we have here, Matt, is that the president won the
election. It`s something that I didn`t like. I didn`t want that to
happen. But we`ve got to deal with that reality.

And if we can find a way to reach agreement to delay it, I`m all for
it. But shutting down the government is a huge mistake. It will take all
the attention away from Obamacare and put it on House Republicans and the
government shutdown.

I`ve been through this. And it`s a disaster.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the polling on that, how it`s been
shifting in what direction right now, who gets blamed if the government
shuts down. Republicans apparently, a new CNN/ORC poll shows that the
majority of Americans, 51 percent, would blame Republicans if the
government shut down, only 33 percent would blame President Obama. More
importantly, blame shifting toward Republicans.

In March, only 40 percent said they`d blame Republicans, 38 percent
said they`d blame the president.

Matt?

KIBBE: Well, I think you should look at the numbers on where
Americans are on Obamacare. I think all Americans are righteously
frustrated with the lack of basic budget regular order in Washington, D.C.
Why are we debating a C.R.? Why didn`t they pass a budget resolution?

MATTHEWS: Because, I`ll tell you why --

KIBBE: Why don`t they --

(CROSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s a rhetorical question. Let me give the actual
answer.

The Senate passed a budget resolution. The House passed a budge
resolution. But the minority in the Senate, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, said
we don`t want to meet together. There will be no meeting of the House and
Senate Budget Committees to work out a compromise in conference. There
will be no meeting because it has to include in it some commitment by the
House and Senate conferees that will be no discussion of a debt ceiling
extension.

So, in other words, he stopped it. He stopped the meeting, Matt. You
say why was there no budget? Because Ted Cruz led the effort to kill it.

So, you can`t kill something and then say too bad somebody killed it.

FEEHERY: Chris, in all fairness, actually, it was Harry Reid`s
scheduling. He did not schedule the appropriation bills. Refused --

MATTHEWS: We`re talking about the budget.

FEEHERY: They could have marked them up and they didn`t do that.

MATTHEWS: But I thought he just said budget. Matt, you just said
budget. The reason there`s no budget is because the right wing in the
Senate is what the reason is. And you know that.

KIBBE: Here`s what we`re asking for. We would like to skip the
trickery. We would like to know where all House members, all Senate
members stand on this bill that the president himself says is not ready for
primetime. That`s what we`re asking for.

MATTHEWS: Well, I believe --

(CROSSTALK)

KIBBE: They want to know where these guys are.

MATTHEWS: But the speaker of the House has called for a vote on those
very questions as part of this procedure. Right, John? An up or down vote
in the House and the Senate on this question.

FEEHERY: You know, listen, any way you skin this cat, there`s going
to be a C.R. sent over. Either way, it`s either going to be bounced back
with higher spending levels from the Democrats or it`s going to bounce back
with the same thing that the Republicans want.

The fact of the matter is you`ve got to keep the government open.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FEEHERY: Two, three, four months, and we`ll deal with Obamacare.
Obamacare`s going to collapse under its own weight.

The fact of the matter is labor hates it, the American people hate it,
it`s going to collapse. Do not try to close the government as --

MATTHEWS: Yes, except there`s 30 million people waiting in the
emergency room now that would like to get health care.

Anyway, thank you, Matt Kibbe. Thank you, John Feehery for coming on
to debate the right versus the center right.

Up next, why some politicians survive sex scandals and others
certainly don`t, like that fella.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Why can some politicians get passed sex scandals while
others certainly can`t?

More HARDBALL, coming next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

And 2013 was shaping up to be the year of political comebacks, but as
it turns out, only one of three public redemption seekers was victorious.
Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford won back an old congressional
seat by appealing directly to voters for forgiveness and it worked.

Tuesday night, however, this week, former Congressman Anthony Weiner
and former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, failed to replicate
Sanford`s success.

Are there reasons to be learned here?

"Politico`s" Maggie Haberman wrote a great piece this morning, "The
so-called dance of the honest man is necessary, even if you have to fake
it." A great line, a little cynical.

Joy Reid is managing editor "The Grio" and an MSNBC contributor. And
Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.

So, we have a male and that female commentator here. Perhaps that
evens it out. I may have a totally different view than both of you.

Let`s start with Joy-Ann.

Joy, it seems to me that -- I was stunned by two things this week.
One, the absolute humiliating defeat of Weiner, where he went down below
where he belonged, where I always thought he belonged, and New York finally
agreed, below five. I don`t know who that was.

I was looking at the people in his concession crowd there, who are
these people? But they do exist and he got blown away.

On the other hand, Sanford comes back in, admittedly a conservative in
a conservative district, but he got through the primaries and he won and
he`s a U.S. congressman now.

Your view about these two opposite cases?

JOY REID, THE GRIO: Chris, I think, first of all, when you`re a hole,
stop digging. And Anthony Weiner continued to behave erratically and
strangely and make matters worse, because after his scandal broke and he
was sort of on his road to forgiveness, it turns out he was still doing the
behavior that got him in trouble. Whereas with Sanford, he sort of
followed the classic way you get out of a scandal. Which is that, if in
the aggregate, you are offering the voters who are evaluating you what they
overall want -- in his case, it was fiscal conservatism -- you can survive,
because they want that more than they care about your personal life.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and let me ask you, as a guy, Steve.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: As a guy?

MATTHEWS: As a guy. When you think about the questions of a guy who
texts or sexts, which is ridiculous to me, it`s throwing -- I don`t know
what it is -- your affections out the window, your person, your body, out
the window, it`s weird.

MCMAHON: It`s odd.

MATTHEWS: Another guy does something in our religion you`re not
supposed to do, in society you`re not supposed to do, he fell in love with
someone besides his spouse. He clearly fell in love. They`re going to get
married.

It`s different, I know what he wants to hear, but to me there`s a
difference of nature here, on who you are. What`s your thoughts?

MCMAHON: I thought Sanford was a great example of something people
could understand and to some degree perhaps even relate to, even though
they may disagree with it entirely. A guy goes and falls in love with a
different woman and leaves his wife. It`s embarrassing and everything but
you can apologize your way through it.

What happened with Eliot Spitzer and the hookers --

MATTHEWS: But it wasn`t something he wanted to take back. He`s going
to marry her, apparently, the woman from Argentina. He`s in love with her,
he says, and it seems like it`s not like saying, I made a mistake.

He`s not saying, "I made a mistake." He said, I did something that I
shouldn`t have done, but it`s real and it`s there and you live with it.
Live with it.

MCMAHON: Something you`ve done, most people would interpret it as a
mistake. You can say I`m not taking it back, but he demonstrated
contrition and he indicated remorse.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take the middle case, which I am very mixed on
myself. Eliot Spitzer, when I`m with him, I like him. I don`t -- I see
the charm, believe it or not. I do see it. I understand why people like
him.

But apparently, people -- this guy who ran against him, Stringer, did
a really good job of saying, hey, you were against sex trafficking, you
were the toughest guy in the world against sex trafficking, and now you
want to hire sex workers for you.

REID: You know, absolutely. This is a case -- this is directly
analogous to David Vitter, the senator from Louisiana, who survived the
same thing, which is a prostitution scandal. And in the case of Eliot
Spitzer, he`s a brilliant guy, probably no more qualified for the job he
was going for.

But there was a certain amount of, I don`t know if you want to call it
arrogance, a certain amount of lack of contrition, there`s an in-your-face
quality to him, didn`t play well. And in Vitter`s case, he fits in state.
He fits the state.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Look, I can`t explain Vitter. Maybe it`s Louisiana,
anyway, New Orleans.

Let me -- by the way, Joy, thanks for being on. And Steve Martin --
McMahon, not Steve Martin.

MCMAHON: You got it.

MATTHEWS: Anyway. We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

What I like about elections is when they agree with me! I do believe
-- not in polls -- but in real elections, when people get up and get there,
get themselves into that booth and vote their minds, and their guts and
their hearts. It`s really quite a combination when you put it all together
-- our minds, our guts, our hearts.

And when they voted for de Blasio, Bill de Blasio, up in New York this
week, I think they were voting with it all -- especially their hearts.

You know, like everywhere else in the world, we have battles here
among our people -- our ethnic groups. We have them and they are fought in
so different ways but the fact of the matter is that we want them over with
-- especially the fight that`s been at the center of so many of our fights
in this country, the one between white and black.

I really believe that picture of Bill de Blasio and his wife and young
son at the breakfast table won the hearts of New York. Why? Because that
picture of a loving, fun-loving family that is real, not some reality show,
but truly get-up-in-the-morning, have breakfast together, argue about
things, watch television together, live together makes us happy.

New Yorkers want to be happy. That`s why they voted for De Blasio.
They don`t want fights about stop and frisk and all the rest. They want
peace. More than that, they want some love.

I hope Bill and his family go on showing New York and the country how
to live together. I`m for that picture. I`m for what New York has set its
heart on.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Maybe softball. Thanks for being with
us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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