updated 9/16/2013 1:18:57 PM ET 2013-09-16T17:18:57

HARDBALL
September 13, 2013

Guests: Clarence Page, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Sergei Khruschchev, Simon Marks, Caitlin Dickson, Margie Omero, Rick Tyler

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama strong.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And "Let Me Start" tonight with this. Politics makes strange
bedfellows, and tonight America`s in bed with Vladimir Putin. Is this
thing going to work? Can we count on this guy to help us in Syria? Is it
in Russia`s interests to keep Assad under control, to end the use of
chemical weapons?

Do our own two countries have a common interest in fighting the
Islamists? Isn`t that obvious, after what Chechen nationalism did to us up
in the Boston Marathon?

Has it come to this in history, that the Americans and Russians see a
common enemy, just as we did in World War II? Could Obama`s failure to win
American support for an attack on Syria be the way to get America and
Russia fighting alongside each other, instead of against each other? Could
this be the inflection point in history we need?

Big question. That`s coming up in the show. But first, the political
fight here at home. President Obama`s base support remains strong. The
latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows 78 percent of Democrats, 4 out
of 5, approve of the job he`s doing right now, as opposed to 16 percent who
disapprove. That`s stronger than the 45 percent approval nationally, 50
percent disapproval, that President Obama gets in the full poll. But the
Democrats are holding strong.

Congressman Gregory Meeks is a Democrat from New York, and of course,
Clarence Page, sitting with me, is a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune."

I want to start with the congressman up in New York. You know, I`m
amazed because I know this -- part of this, I think, may have to do with
this hesitancy about going to war in Syria. I just think the president is
very much in sync with most Democrats, which is, yes, we might have to do
something, but I feel very bad about going to war again.

I wonder whether his hesitancy isn`t perfectly in sync with the way
that most Democrats are thinking. Your thoughts, sir.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, yes. I think that the
president is acting deliberately, and he`s also understanding and learning
the lessons of what took place in Iraq. He knows and I think most
Democrats know that, previously, there was a -- when we went into Iraq, it
was a hyped war, where we were given misinformation.

So he`s been trying to give the Americans the truth, that this is not
-- there`s no imminent threat or imminent danger, as it was hyped in Iraq.
I think Democrats understand that. Democrats also understand that if you
were to go in to take out Assad that you would own Syria in the same way
that we had the war in Iraq. And he`s not doing that, and that the best
way to do it is to try to ultimately have dialogue and conversation, and
that`s what he`s doing.

Democrats wanted him to come to Congress. He`s come to Congress. So
those kinds of things, which I think were the right things to do for the
country that`s going to prevent this from happening, the kind of
catastrophic problems we had back in Iraq, and now has driven us to the
table, where we`re talking with the Russians, is a positive, that we have
an opportunity, a window of opportunity...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MEEKS: ... to do something that won`t cause us to have to go to war.

MATTHEWS: I think we look at Syria, a lot of us, when we turn on the
television with nothing else to do, we see one of these extreme wrestling
matches going on or something. I don`t like either of these guys.

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: You know? I`m not rooting for either guy.

PAGE: Remember Kissinger`s line about the Iraq-Iran war, that the
pity is that one of them has to win?

MATTHEWS: Iraq-Iran.

PAGE: Right. That`s the kind of situation you`ve got...

MATTHEWS: Especially watching...

PAGE: ... between Assad...

MATTHEWS: ... the papers this week, when you get this on-line stuff
from "Time" magazine of the guy getting his head cut off.

PAGE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Or you`re watching the seven guys getting executed.

PAGE: That`s right. And this is -- we are dealing with, you know,
what`s the alternative to Assad? It`s riddled with al Qaeda and other
Islamic extremists that aren`t guaranteed to bring in democracy, either.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I like -- I like -- first I`ve ever liked anything
that -- that fellow down in Texas ever said.

PAGE: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: Ted Cruz...

PAGE: Oh, yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: ... when he said, We`re going to be al Qaeda`s air force.

PAGE: Right. Right.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: You know, that`s not unlike Vietnam in a lot of -- a lot of
people saw it, that the Saigon government wasn`t that stable, either. And
here we were defending them.

MATTHEWS: Or clean. Anyway, President Obama receives unwavering,
solid support right now from his base of voters, often referred to as the
coalition of the ascendant, that brought him into office. Among African-
Americans here, no surprise, 85 percent approval still, 11 percent
disapproval. Among Hispanics, about the same as the election last
November, 60 percent approve, 32 disapprove, about 2 to 1. Another solid
support for the president, college-educated women, 57 percent, about three
out of five, support the president, 37 percent disapprove.

Congressman Meeks, when you go around your district -- and I don`t
know whether it`s the same as everywhere else in the country because left -
- in a weird way, left has been catching up to right or right`s been
catching up to left. Both ends don`t seem to like this idea of going into
war. What`s it like at home in New York?

MEEKS: Well, I think no one really wanted to go to war. I think that
they also were concerned about doing something unilaterally. They wanted
more of an international coalition as to whatever was going to be done.
And they wanted to make sure that it was deliberate.

I know in my district, my individuals are asking me to get as much
information as I can, to make a deliberate and a well-thought-through
decision as to what I should do.

But they definitely would not -- do not want to go to war. But at the
same token, they want to make sure that chemical weapons are not utilized.
They understand that line that might have been crossed, if you want to use
that expression, but they say it`s an international line that was crossed,
so the international community should come together to do whatever needs to
be done.

MATTHEWS: And the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, often called
"the caucus" on the Hill, they were -- I -- can you tell me where they were
going to vote, actually, in the end, on this issue of whether to support a
strike by our forces against the Syrian government? Were they going to do
it or not?

MEEKS: I think, by and large, most members were still undecided
because what they wanted to do was to watch and get all of the facts, get
all of the evidence in -- that`s what we did, actually, with Iraq even --
and try to make sure that we understood what was going to take place, what
would happen after a strike, how large a strike, so that you can make that
decision.

And so the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are not
monolithic, and so individuals were going to do different things, I
believe, as they process the information for themselves...

MATTHEWS: But sir...

MEEKS: ... and the votes would have been all over the place.

MATTHEWS: ... isn`t it fair -- isn`t it fair to say that you didn`t
want to come out against the president, and that was part of the hesitancy,
that even though it didn`t look like you wanted to do it, you didn`t feel
like doing it, your people back home didn`t want to do it, you were
hesitant to put down a mark of nay?

MEEKS: Well, look, I`m going to tell you, when you decide or when you
have a vote to decide whether or not you utilize the United States
military, it`s not about who`s your friend, who`s not your friend. That`s
the hardest vote. In my 15 years in Congress, the hardest votes I`ve ever
had to take is whether or not we use our military or not. So that`s a vote
of conscience.

And so I think that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus were
going to utilize their conscience not -- one way or the other, but not just
based upon the friendship with the president. They wanted to make sure to
do the right thing.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but I -- what do you think, Clarence? As an objective
journalist, was there a lot of fear there that people said, You know, I
really don`t want to put a big nay vote down?

PAGE: Yes...

MATTHEWS: This wasn`t just the black caucus. This was a lot of
Democrats (INAUDIBLE)

PAGE: Well, it is a vote of conscience. That`s why this issue has
crossed party lines.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: I mean, you`ve got libertarian Republicans that are just as
anti-war as the left-wing Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: It`s the kind of issue that also stands out by itself, too, I
think. I don`t know if anybody`s election prospects are going to rise or
fall on this, except Obama`s and he hasn`t got to worry about reelection.
He`s got to worry about-

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about his election. Clarence, you first.
We all know, watching this thing last summer, that probably the one thing
that really got people energized to vote in the black community, and the
liberals generally, was the fact they saw this voter suppression stuff
going on. They saw it in Pennsylvania. They saw it down South. They saw
it all over the country, 36 states.

PAGE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And so that galvanized the electorate. The people
(INAUDIBLE) and said, Damn it, I`m not going to get screwed out of my vote.
So people showed up.

Today, I don`t know whether people -- I want to ask you this open --
are people paying attention enough to what`s going on on the right, the
tremendous effort by people like Ted Cruz and those -- to basically make
President Obama`s presidency an asterisk, he really wasn`t president?
We`ll talk impeachment, we`ll talk secession, we`ll repeal "Obama care,"
we`ll do everything we can to get the guy off the record books, we`ll even
whispering about birtherism, anything so that when it`s over, they can say,
Well, he really wasn`t on the list of presidents. That face -- that`s not
one of the faces that belongs on the list of presidents. That`s what -- am
I being -- maybe I`m paranoid!

PAGE: We`ve already...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think they`re up to!

PAGE: We`ve already seen the right refashion history to suit their
tastes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: But facts are facts and...

MATTHEWS: What I`m talking about, this attempt to try to discount
him.

PAGE: I think we -- if you talk about legacy, his legacy stands. We
can see what he`s done. And the durability of "Obama care" is right there.
You know, these quixotic votes against it we know aren`t...

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re going to shut down the government over it.
They`re trying to.

PAGE: Well, you know, right now, it looks like that would backlash
against them, just like it backlashed against Newt Gingrich and his regime
back in the `90s.

I think the thing we`ve got to talk about is -- are we talking about
the midterms or the general elections...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: ... because in the midterms, I think African-Americans and a
lot of other voters who tend to vote Democrat are much less likely to show
up, and it`s harder to generate that same kind energy. And you`ve also got
a lot of safe districts, so people are a lot more...

MATTHEWS: I know.

PAGE: ... apathetic about turning out.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Meeks, when you go home, do you hear people
talking about these characters? I mean, I grew up watching American
politics. I`ve never seen this right wing so virulent, basically trying to
erase Obama, kill the baby in its crib with "Obama care," make sure -- it`s
like he`s like Barry Bonds. He really didn`t hit all those homers. You
know, he didn`t do it. There`s something wrong with this. It seems like
that`s what they`re trying to do.

MEEKS: Well, that`s absolutely right. But history is going to
reflect that because when you look -- when history looks back, they`re
going to show the kind of individuals that were in Congress that he had to
deal with, yet his accomplishments. You know, they`re going to show that
when he came into office, he had three major catastrophic events taking
place, the worst financial crisis, which he got us out of, a war in Iraq
and a war in Afghanistan, which he`s got us out of.

He passed a health care bill that had trying to be passed for decades.
So the -- and he did a lot of this against the opposition of individuals
who wanted to wipe him off the map. That`s going to just make his legacy
that much stronger and that much better, I think, in the eyes of history.

MATTHEWS: That`s the best I`ve heard it. Thank you so much, U.S.
Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. Thank you for joining us, Clarence
Page of "The Chicago Tribune."

And coming up: Now that Russian president Vladimir Putin stuck his
neck out on Syria, he`s the go-to guy to get those chemical weapons. We`re
going to talk to the son of Nikita Khrushchev about whether Russia can get
control of the mess over there.

Plus, add Maryland to the growing list of states where right-wingers
are pushing secession. What happened to respecting election results and
the will of the people?

And a little Democratic payback. Harry Reid says he`ll hold a fund-
raiser for Mitch McConnell`s Democratic opponent. Senate leaders don`t
usually get involved in the campaigns of their counterparts, but Republican
Bill Frist did to Tom Daschle in `04, and now Reid`s doing it to McConnell.

Finally, you get to play HARDBALL with me. I`m going to answer your
Twitter questions tonight.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton alert! Hillary Clinton showing strength in
the key battleground state of Virginia. Let`s check the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard."

According to a new Purple Poll, Clinton leads Kentucky senator Rand
Paul in a hypothetical 2016 presidential match-up by 7 points, Clinton 48,
Paul 41. But look at this. Against Chris Christie, the race is much
closer, as you might expect. It`s Clinton by just 2, 42-40, with a lot of
undecideds there.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. America is waiting and watching
right now. Like it or not, Russian president Vladimir Putin is President
Obama`s best hope to peacefully disarm Syria. Saddled with a war-weary
public at home and a war-weary Congress at home, Obama has pinned his hopes
on a diplomatic resolution whose outcome rests on a man who`s lately made
his reputation at America`s expense.

And now NBC News is reporting that a senior administration official
here in Washington suggests the United States would agree to a key Russian
demand, that the U.N. resolution will not include the use of military force
or the threat of military force against Syria as a consequence for
noncompliance.

Well, politics makes strange bedfellows, but as cold war history has
shown, our relationship with Russia is complicated, to say the least.
Putin`s Russia may no longer be our adversary, but it would be an
overstatement to call it a friend. But it`s no overstatement to say that
President Obama and his team need to deliver on this one in Syria, which
won`t be an easy task considering Russia`s temperament.

Anyway, as Winston Churchill famously said, I cannot forecast to you
the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an
enigma. But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national
interest. And now that we`re playing the game on their turf, it`s worth
asking what makes Putin`s Russia tick.

With us now is Simon Marks, the president and chief correspondent of
Feature Story News, and Sergei Khrushchev, the son of Nikita Khrushchev,
the leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964. And this is a picture of
father and son, by the way, going back to 1959. Sergei is now a senior
fellow at the great Brown University`s Watson Institute for International
Studies.

Professor, thank you for joining us. I guess the first question is,
what are Russia`s interests in Syria?

SERGEI KHRUSCHCHEV, SON OF NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV: Stability. Russia
don`t want to have all this fighting on their borders. They are now very
feared about the (INAUDIBLE) Taliban in Afghanistan and now to have the
Syria near the Caucuses. It will be nightmare for Russia. They need the
stability and predictability, and they think that the President Assad is
giving this stability, and all this (INAUDIBLE) creating uncertainty
because nobody know who are they and who will be in power, would they win.

MATTHEWS: Do you think, Professor, that the United States and the
West now have -- faces a common enemy alongside Russia of Islamism, the
danger of the Chechnyans (sic) and the danger of the people in al Qaeda?
Do we see the same enemy across the frontier?

KHRUSHCHEV: I would not say that Islam is the enemy to West or to
Russia. But Russia live with the Islam peacefully for last 400 years and
they had no problems. But of course, all the extremists are very dangerous
there. And then the U.S. started (ph) fighting there, especially when you
have this fighting in Syria, where it`s fighting between different
religious groups, the Islamists from one side and other side. Also they`re
fighting against Armenians and against Christians.

It`s becoming very different because there, you just concentrated the
strongly motivated people who know nothing against, We want to kill you.
And this is very dangerous for both side.

MATTHEWS: You know -- you know, Simon, you know, a lot of Americans
don`t put things together very quickly because we`re not helped by the
media. When Bobby Kennedy was shot by a Palestinian, you know, by Sirhan
Sirhan, nobody said, Wait a minute, this might have something to do with
the Middle East and our position supporting Israel against the Palestinian
people. And maybe this has something to do with world politics. No, it
was just a tragedy (INAUDIBLE) conspiracy theories.

And here when we had the Boston Marathon -- the bomber, the
Chechnyans, nobody puts together, Wait a minute, the Chechnyans are Islamic
terrorists. And the Russians face Islamic terrorists, Chechnya versus
Moscow. Common enemy.

SIMON MARKS, FEATURE STORY NEWS: Well...

MATTHEWS: Putting it together and possibly a route to the opportunity
for Putin in his own Russian interests to try to help us with Syria.

MARKS: Look, there`s a whole raft of self-interests that are guiding
Vladimir Putin in all of this, and certainly concern about Islamic
extremism at home is one of those self-interests that are driving him.

But there`s more to it, I think, with great respect to the professor,
than simply a desire for stability. There`s also a desire to project an
image of Russia as a major player on the global stage.

That is what has been driving Vladimir Putin from the very moment that
he became Russian president. It is a desire to be seen as sharing
equivalence with the United States, both in terms of refusing to accept
that will American democracy is a superior political system to the way in
which democracy is carried out at home...

MATTHEWS: Well, is that a bad thing -- is that a bad thing for the
world or for us?

(CROSSTALK)

MARKS: It`s certainly a bad thing for the United States...

(CROSSTALK)

MARKS: ... no question about that because you see a United States
that is embarrassed on the global stage after the events of the past 10
days, a United States whose government appears substantially weaker on the
world stage than it was before and...

MATTHEWS: But we were weak before the Russians came along.

MARKS: But your -- your...

MATTHEWS: We were weak -- we were weak because the American people
were not interested in a war in Syria, not because of anything to do with
the Russians.

MARKS: But you`re weak because you`re being consistently
outmaneuvered. It`s not just by the Russians on this issue. The Russians
outmaneuvered you on the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Professor Khrushchev. Do you accept the
fact that Simon Marks just made, the argument, that a lot of this has to do
with ego and the desire of the Russian leader to reestablish equality,
global equality with the United States?

KHRUSHCHEV: I think that the Putin are realistic and he understand
that Russia no more the great power. It is not the superior power. It`s
not a regional power. And the Putin interest is just to reestablish his
position inside the former Soviet Union, creating the custom (ph) union,
economical union and many other thing.

But of course, he want to represented in the world and the leading
member of the G-20, as any of these countries wanted to be on the stage and
play some role and present their point of view.

But they will -- not interested on challenging the United States like
it was during the Cold War and when my father was in power. It was only
two powers in the world who tried to deal with each other.

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure. It was simpler back then.

Anyway, for his part, Vladimir Putin has relied heavily on the U.N.
Security Council as a place to exert his control in the world on the world
stage. And he stressed its important role in that "New York Times" op-ed
that ran yesterday.

Nikita Khrushchev, of course, your -- professor`s father, knew the
iconic value of using the U.N. in a very different way, for theater,
whether it was pounding the table in protest or disrupting a speech in
protest. He used confrontations as a way to command attention. Take a
look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us particularly will welcome in our
countries a large number of officials, a large number of officials from
abroad, a large number -- I would like it translated, if you would send
me...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Perhaps the most well-known disruption was the legendary
shoe incident, when Khrushchev removed his shoe and pounded it on the
table. The only photographic record that exists of that episode is this
"New York Times" photograph which shows the shoe right there in front of
him.

Needless to say, Putin and Khrushchev had two very different
leadership styles.

Professor Khrushchev, I have always admired the way the Khrushchev did
one thing in history which saved his planet. And it may have cost him his
job. And I would like to refer to that now and have your thoughts on it.
In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when there was a secret trade
between Kennedy and Khrushchev, the United States agreeing to remove its
Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Russians removing their
missiles from Cuba, that deal I believe saved the world from a real
frightening situation.

Russian interests there, American interests there, had nothing to do
with ideology, but everything to do with common humanity. Your thoughts
about that today?

KHRUSHCHEV: Yes, of course, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was
two leaders in the world rational, with not idea that first shoot, then
think. And they prefer negotiations. It was very different culture at
that time.

We had the adversaries, not friends. And we negotiate with each
other. And through this crisis, it was very important to this negotiation,
because both leaders understood that they can influence each other and
better understand each other. And then, after the crisis, exactly 50 years
ago, they created the direct line to easier negotiate with each other.

Unfortunately, we lost this culture. Now we`re -- not negotiate with
our adversary. We only negotiate our friends. It mean not negotiations,
but the party. We don`t negotiate with Iran directly. We don`t negotiate
with Assad.

You cannot imagine that the President Obama will call to the President
Assad and told, Mr. President, I want to talk with you and we will try to
resolve this crisis.

I think it will work, and it will be maybe much less problems, because
when you`re imposing sanction, and have the conditions on conditionally
surrender, it will never work. And we had the same (INAUDIBLE) story in
the Soviet history, because when Khrushchev inherited power from Stalin,
they have the same bitter enemy, Josip Tito.

And he was in Yugoslavia. And Stalin tried to assassinate him, kill
them, and then Khrushchev told, we have to do in different way. And he
told, let`s talk with him.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KHRUSHCHEV: And his colleagues told, let`s talk with him. Let`s
invite Tito in Moscow. and Khrushchev told, no, I am the leader of the
great power. And for me, it is easy to go to him, but for him, it will be
difficult to go to here, because he have to apologize for me, because he`s
a leader of the small country.

And Khrushchev drove to the -- went to the Belgrade. They spoke
there. They resolved these problems. Still, there remained tensions
between Tito and Khrushchev personally and political, but it was no such
crisis. Now we lost this culture of negotiation with our enemies.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

KHRUSHCHEV: And I think it`s created our world much safer.

MATTHEWS: I think if the United States were willing to negotiate with
-- honestly with Assad by, Bashar al-Assad, we`d get this thing done.
Unfortunately, our negotiating position is, you die. And that`s not a very
good negotiating position.

Thank you, Professor Khrushchev from Brown University, and thank you,
Simon Marks, for joining us.

Up next, it`s your chance to play HARDBALL. I`m going to answer your
Twitter questions up in a minute.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s time for our special
segment, "Let`s play HARDBALL," where you, the audience, get to turn the
tables and ask me anything on Twitter.

Let`s kick it off with a question he from Jim McDowell (ph) of
Morgantown, West Virginia. He asks, "Chris, has Congress always worked 3.5
days a week and taken so many vacations and not accomplished a thing?"

Well, let`s go to this. First of all, I do believe congress men and
women do some good work at home in their districts when they`re actually
there. So, it`s not just D.C. But here`s the answer, big answer to their
question. They used to do stuff like get the budget resolution done in the
spring by May 15, when it`s supposed to get done. They used to get the
appropriations done all through the summer.

They used to actually meet the deadline for keeping the government
going without any crapping around like they`re doing this coming month.
Yes, they used to get their work done and they don`t now.

The next question comes to us from John G. Ryan (ph), who is currently
serving in the Peace Corps over in Kenya. What a great assignment. He
asked, "What did Chris learn in the Peace Corps that he continues to use in
his work today? I`m an RPCV from Kenya."

So, he`s back -- you`re back here with us. Look, let me tell you, the
best thing I ever did in the Peace Corps was join it. The second thing was
riding around in a Suzuki-120 motorcycle out in the middle of nowhere
speaking Zulu with people that I looked nothing like. I was the only white
guy they`d ever seen, a lot of these people.

I was out there teaching business with these people in small little
trading shops all by myself out there. Once you have done something like
that, it`s not like going in the military. I`m not saying that, but it was
a growing-up experience. It was a great thing for me. I hope I helped
that country.

Next up is Audrey Davis (ph) from Dallas, Texas. She asks, "Who will
cave in in the showdown over the debt limit extension? What other country
would risk its economy like this?"

By the way, this used to be no other country. This is all brand-new.
This stuff about the debt ceiling and people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul
trying to destroy Obama`s program, it`s called the affordable health care
bill, that`s part of the United States government right now. It`s our law.
They`re trying to kill it. They`re using this debt ceiling to try to do
that. That`s al brand-new radical revolutionary politics it.

It may work for them and the Tea Party but it has never worked in our
government, that you`re willing to basically offer to detonate the
government basically in order to get your way. It`s not exactly playing by
any reasonable rules of democracy. And it is new, and it`s bad.

And, finally, this comes from Mike Gallagher (ph). Everybody is Irish
tonight, who asks, "Will history see this Syria event more positively for
Obama? After all, when he sent ships, things changed."

Look, I think things changed when he realized, the president, that his
own Democratic Party and his real loyalists did not support him on going
into military action in Syria. That is what changed everything. And then,
oddly enough, the secretary of state said, maybe if they get rid of all
their chemical weapons, we won`t have to do this.

And the Russians saw that -- they were quick-witted enough to see
their opportunity. And now the president has to be just as quick-witted in
seeing how to exploit the Russian involvement in this thing. I think it`s
very smart today that we decided we`re not going to set as a rule we go to
the Security Council in New York and say we`re threatening them. Don`t
start throwing threats around until we have got a partner. And that
partner has to be Russia.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

A fourth person has been killed by the severe flooding in Boulder,
Colorado. Crews are rescuing hundreds of people in remote towns cut off by
floodwaters.

New Jersey firefighters are still putting out hot spots in the rubble
of the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Investigators will start looking for the
cause of this massive fire once the scene has cooled.

And United Airlines says it will honor the tickets it accidentally
sold for $10 or less on Thursday -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: When we came into the nation in 1845, we
were a republic. We were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was,
we can leave any time we want. So we`re kind of thinking about that again.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Where did he go to high school?

Anyway, we can leave at any time we want? That caused the Civil War.

Anyway, the secession obsession. In 1863, the northwest portion of
Virginia broke off away and became West Virginia. It`s been the only
successful secession of the last 150 years. But if a growing faction of
conservatives get their way, it won`t be the last.

As you heard from the clip, Take Republican Rick Perry famously made
headlines with his oops back in 2009 when he told a group of bloggers that
Texas could secede any time he wanted to -- it wanted to. While Perry has
since distanced himself from those comments a bit, we have seen a recent
flood of secession movements take root across the country in just the last
few weeks.

These are all Republican counties -- no surprise -- who are mad as
hell that Democrats were elected and now control their state legislatures.
Instead of dealing with the realities of being the minority party, they`re
eyeing ways to make themselves the majority any way they can.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC
political analyst. And Caitlin Dickson, thanks for joining us, a reporter
with The Daily Beast and the author of a great article about secession
fever.

Let`s look at the secession fever as it`s happening. Maryland, right
near here, a conservative grassroots movement is gaining traction way out
in the western part of the state out there in Western Maryland to secede
from the rest. It`s going to form its own state, they say.

In Colorado, at least four Republican counties have actually put
secession movements on the ballot. In California, a Republican county
passed a vote to support leaving the state as part of a broader plan to
join up with counties in Oregon to form the 51st state of Jefferson. They
even have a name.

And don`t forget Texas, where the state`s energy commissioner recently
boasted the state has made great progress in becoming an independent
nation. Well, taken together, they`re being described as the largest wave
of secession movements since the Civil War.

Caitlin, you`re on this story. You start.

What is this about, besides the sort of like the dressed-up version,
the gussied-up version of putting a rebel bumper sticker on your car or a
rebel license plate or flying the flag out your window from your dorm room?
Is this just part of that?

CAITLIN DICKSON, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, to be honest with you,
Chris, it`s not really much more than that.

These movements, you know, while they do seem extreme, they don`t
really seem that realistic, given what it takes to actually secede. I
think that they are, you know, in most cases kind of just a symbolic
gesture, you know, a protest against the party in power to say that they
disagree and, you know, to try to prove that they can break away.

MATTHEWS: Well, give me the gut. Come on, you can do -- tell me the
gut reason why this makes them feel good to do this, letting off steam,
whatever you call it. But their gut seems to say, I want to shout out now
I`m not part of the state of Maryland, I`m not part of the state of -- the
United States. What`s that about, that gut?

DICKSON: Well, I think it`s a lot about, you know, showing your
independence. If you live in rural Maryland -- rural western Maryland and,
you know, the people from the urban parts of your state are making
legislation and regulations that you don`t agree with that aren`t
benefiting you, it`s just, you know, a kind of protest to say, I don`t --
I`m not a part of this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If it`s just independence -- let me go to you on this,
David -- how come no liberals are doing this? There`s a lot of liberals in
Austin, Salt Lake City, and those places that don`t really -- in sync with
the rest of their states.

I know that. You know that.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Atlanta. There are a lot
pockets.

MATTHEWS: Chapel Hill.

CORN: Even Oxford, Mississippi, perhaps.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: Listen...

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they rebel?

CORN: There`s been a lot of political science and psychological
studies done on the differences between liberals and conservatives.

And I know conservatives don`t want to hear this, but one thing that
comes through is that liberals tend to be a little more tolerant of having
debate and different sources of opinion. And conservatives want to be just
around themselves. One easy way...

MATTHEWS: You`re so right.

CORN: One easy way of showing that is, liberals listen to NPR, which
tries to give you both sides of the issue.

MATTHEWS: It`s a little more liberal. Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But whether or not -- but they do give both sides.

MATTHEWS: You`re saying it doesn`t lean liberal?

CORN: No, it...

MATTHEWS: You`re saying NPR doesn`t lean liberal?

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: I have heard -- Bill Kristol was on NPR this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Oh, he`s on there, sure.

CORN: But, listen, but the conservatives, do they listen to that?

MATTHEWS: No.

CORN: No, they listen to Rush Limbaugh.

MATTHEWS: Let me make your point another way. For 30 years, the guy
who started this whole business of talk politics on television, John
McLaughlin, every liberal I knew used to watch that show.

CORN: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: So, you`re right. Liberals don`t mind watching the other
side.

CORN: It seems to me there`s something about conservatives in this
political cultural divide that we fight every day here that really says, we
want to be by ourselves. If we can`t have our game, we`re going to take
the ball and go elsewhere and we want to go back to a different type of
America than the one we`re living in today.

And secession just sort of is one irrational way of expressing that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Caitlin on this. I was quick with you
before.

Does the fact we have an African-American president, a liberal or a
progressive president have something to do with this angst to get apart
from him?

DICKSON: I mean, absolutely.

I think the fact that we have a liberal president is a lot -- has a
lot to do with this. These movements are largely conservative. And, like
David said, it`s this idea that I`m not going to debate or I`m not going to
just sit back and, you know, let the president that I didn`t elect, you
know, be in charge.

It`s kind of wanting to distance yourself from that and say, I`m going
to break away and start something new.

MATTHEWS: Let me read both of you something. Put it up on the
prompter again because I love it. It`s from "The Washington Post"
editorial board. This is something really brilliant. Somebody wrote over
there. It`s about the Maryland secession movement.

"There is a mechanism short of secession through which the alienated
may seek access overtime to the mainstream and to power, though the path
may be long, uncharted and uncertain. It`s called elections."

CORN: Voting, yes. Voting.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they do that, David?

CORN: Listen, the reason why, if you look at Maryland, and a lot of
these places, these people are in a pretty zing minority. And you know,
listen, the last thing they want is secession, because if you look at the
flow of money in these states, it`s the tax base is in the urban areas.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. How could a little state out there in
western Maryland, the Garrett County, Washington County, become a state?

CORN: Yes, how could they fund anything? It`s really -- it`s about a
real practical way of dealing with it. It`s basically saying, we don`t
recognize the legitimacy of the current political order. So, we`re going
do something different.

And in Texas, you know, the guy you just quoted thinks the United
States is about to collapse and Texas will go off on its own.

MATTHEWS: Well, Goodloe Byron used to be the conservative congressman
from that part of Maryland, way out there, used to say it was a nice part
of the state. He visited a picnic once for a picnic and they loved him.
Whereas in Montgomery County, the people were so litigious and so
bothersome, they`d be filling out petitions all day long.

Anyway, thank you, Caitlin, so much for joining us.

DICKSON: Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS: Caitlin Dickson and David Corn, thank you.

CORN: Chris, thanks.

MATTHEWS: Up next, payback`s a Mitch. Oh, Harry Reid is holding a
fund-raiser for Mitch McConnell`s Democratic opponent. And a nasty
campaign just got nastier. These guys are the top two guys. They`re going
at each other`s territories.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Take a look at this new number from our brand new NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" poll.

When asked who represents the middle class of this country fairly
well, Bill Clinton gets the most support. It doesn`t surprise me a bit, 48
percent. President Obama is next at 39 percent followed by the Democratic
Party itself by 37.

Further down the list, it`s former President George W. Bush at 28,
Republican Party at 23, and the Tea Party 22.

Bottom line, every Democratic group or leader is seen as doing better
by the middle class than the Republican counterparts. I`ll give you a
bottom line: Bill Clinton seen as that guy right there in the middle.
That`s the great place to be.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

In one of the most fascinating questions for 2014, those midterms
coming up is what the fate of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell going
to be? The Kentucky Republican faces an aggressive Tea Party-backed
challenger in the primary, which has pushed him to the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz
extreme wing of the party. If he does win the primaries, he`ll face a
Democratic opponent who polls show could be formidable, Kentucky Secretary
of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

And this week, Harry Reid sent a clear message to his colleague, in an
unusual though not entirely unprecedented move, Reid said he plans on
hosting a big fundraiser for Grimes, the Democratic opponent of McConnell,
out in Vegas next month. It`s rare that majority leaders do campaign for
the challengers of minority leaders, but Reid`s involvement helps Grimes
catch up in terms of fundraising perhaps, or will it help Mitch McConnell
drive home the point that his opponent is tied to the Democratic
establishment nationally?

Rick Tyler is a Republican strategist and Margie Omero is a Democratic
strategist.

Rick, I`m going to give you a first bite at the apple. I would worry,
I would worry, it`s always good to raise money -- but I would worry that
what McConnell is going to be able to do is put himself in the victim role.
Even Republicans like to play victim. Oh, they`re coming at me from all
over the country, the big lefties, they`re coming from Hollywood, they`re
coming from Vegas, they`re coming after me, little old Mitch. I`m just a
Kentuckian like you.

I can hear it.

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Senator McConnell`s a smart
guy. You know, this is the best thing that could happen to McConnell. You
know, he`s a prolific fund-raiser. He`s got a great organization.

And, you now, bring Reid on. Remember Harry "I hate coal" Reid is not
a popular message in Kentucky. He can bring all the leftist wackos (ph)
into the Kentucky, it`s just not going to play.

McConnell is going to raise so much money off the fact now Grimes is
attached to Obama, Obamacare, anti-coal, Harry Reid, the whole thing.
McConnell will use this to his advantage. He`ll raise loads of money on
it.

So, I`d encourage Reid to have more fund-raisers.

MATTHEWS: Margie, why is he doing it? Why is Harry Reid who is a
smart politician, whether you like him or not, he gets reelected no matter
what`s going on, he finds a way to survive. Why is he going into this race
by raising money out in Vegas for the -- for Lundergan?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Because it`s a tight race.
Clearly, Mitch McConnell is in trouble. Polls show he`s unpopular. Polls
show the race is neck and neck. Sometimes he`s up, sometimes she`s up.
He`s worried about a primary challenge. Clearly, he is in trouble.

So, she has a lot of Democratic support because they see this as a
real race. And I would argue if the best thing that happened to Mitch
McConnell is that his opponent has a big fund-raiser with big Democratic
support, it`s no wonder that his obvious sign that he`s really in trouble.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. McConnell has going after
Grimes as a tool of Barack Obama and Reid. Here he is last month at Fancy
Farm, the famous nearly Kentucky political picnic that attracts noisy
audience, patronizingly he implies that her dad, a well-known Democrat, is
running her campaign.

Here he is taking on his female, his woman opponent who I think that`s
going to be a fact too, gender. But let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I want to say how nice
it is, how nice it is to see Jerry Lundergan back in the game.

Like the loyal Democrat he is, he`s taking orders from the Obama
campaign on how to run his daughter`s campaign. Is the Senate going to be
run by a Nevada yes man for Barack Obama who believes coal makes you sick,
or the guy you`re looking at?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s like feeding time in the lion cage when they throw a
red meat in, one line after another.

Rick, let me go to you. That was feeding time. He was throwing
everything, the coal thing, he was throwing Harry Reid, Vegas, Obama, and
then this thing about daddy`s running his daughter`s campaign, like she`s
not really up for this job. Daddy`s running it. It was gender, it was
geography, it was ideology, and throw in Obama. He got it all out there
and they all ate it up.

TYLER: Look, McConnell`s --

MATTHEWS: And you`re happy --

TYLER: Mistakes on the campaign. He`s known for that. He has to
throw that in because she just doesn`t fit Kentucky. Her values don`t fit
Kentucky.

MATTHEWS: Here we go.

TYLER: Being anti-coal is just a dead loser, because coal means jobs
in Kentucky. People want jobs. People like coal.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who says -- you`re saying she`s against -- so, she`s
against coal. Where did you get that?

TYLER: Well, what I`m saying -- I`m saying --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, wait, a minute, where did you get that?

You just said, no. Oh, no, this is HARDBALL, Rick Tyler, you just
said something I don`t think that substantiate it. She`s anti-coal as a
Kentuckian. She`s anti-coal.

You want to retract the statement? You want to retract that while you
got a chance? Fix it.

TYLER: I know, you didn`t give me a chance. What I`m going to say is
that she`s aligned herself with people who are anti-coal and she`s
fundraising off of them, and she thinks that somehow that`s going to
translate into Kentucky vote. Look, I`m just reporting. It`s a good
topic.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a minute. Just a minute. Rick, I think you`re
dealing in prop here, unfortunate propaganda because she has said she`s
opposed to Obama`s coal policy.

TYLER: The whole set up is (INAUDIBLE) propaganda.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t people want to correct the record when they have
a chance? You`ve got a perfect chance to correct the record, Rick Tyler.

TYLER: She has a chance to go out and say, you know what? Rick Tyler
was wrong. And I`m pro-coal. She could say that.

OMERO: Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell`s own campaign manager said, I`m
going to hold my nose. I mean, that`s somebody he`s aligned with. It`s
his campaign manager, so I`m going to hold my nose while I work for him.
Folks who are close to him sometimes have obstacles with him.

Look, every campaign has to deal with, do I take money from this
person, do I get hit at home? Ultimately, that`s not how swing voters
vote. They don`t vote based on the views of people in a fund-raiser.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go at it quickly. I want to go to Rick Tyler,
Virginia. Can Ken Cuccinelli still win despite this talk about the gifts
and governor and all his problems and the problems that he gave back the
gifts and all? Is this, it seems to have given Terry McAuliffe, Obama --
Clinton`s good friend a lead of about five points. Will that five-point
hold when the tough conservatives shell in November? Rick?

TYLER: Well, I find it ironic that Terry McAuliffe, who made a living
and fortune by hustling donors, leftist donors, to put liberals in office,
is accusing Cuccinelli of anything. I mean, this guy is a self-described
hustler. He`s a hustler. He promised all these jobs with green tech to
come to Virginia. Not one of them materialized.

And he`s an actor. Look, this is not Hollywood. I mean, just Google
fast Terry and you find out everything you want to know about Terry
McAuliffe. Terry McAuliffe, he`s a political hack. And --

MATTHEWS: OK. Now, we`re getting to name-calling. Cuccinelli wants
a woman not to be able to get a divorce in Virginia unless her husband
gives her approval.

OMERO: I mean, in that poll that we just released yesterday,
McAuliffe has a five-point advantage. He has an advantage in who cares
about people like me, who`s going make Virginia a better place to live,
who`s going to improve the economy?

MATTHEWS: Who`s got an edge.

OMERO: He`s clearly got an edge.

Cuccinelli waited until after McDonnell gave back the money to then
say, well, maybe, I should also give back the money. He waited so long.

MATTHEWS: Cuch may be a little too far right, but I think it`s going
to be close as hell.

Anyway, Rick Tyler, it`s good to know where you stand.

TYLER: McAuliffe will destroy, he`ll Detroit Virginia.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you for that. That is so ludicrous and such a
Hail Mary, like all Hail Marys, it was in the recession. Thank you, Rick
Tyler.

TYLER: It`s HARDBALL stuff.

MATTHEWS: Margie Omero, it`s a Friday night.

You can say what you want, but I think you`re going to eat those words
you gave before. She is not anti-coal. She`s specifically separated from
the president.

Coming up, let me finish with a time when politics worked. Be right
back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

A bit over two weeks from now, on October 1st, Simon & Shuster is
presenting my big book, "Tip and The Gipper."

It is my first-hand account of the six-year political rivalry between
these two giants, the liberal speaker of the House and the conservative
president.

It`s a colorful, inside look of what it was like back then, back when
the left and right knew how to fight -- fight strong for conviction -- but
in a way that got things done for the country. It was when politics
worked.

I know. I was there all the way standing in Tip O`Neill`s side,
sitting in the backroom when the fighting got hot.

There`s been a legend over the years of how these two leaders, the
liberal Tip O`Neill and the conservative Ronald Reagan fought during the
day but were friends "after six o`clock."

I first heard of that 6:00 rule directly from President Reagan himself
the night he came to deliver his first State of the Union.

But even legends need tweaking. What made things work back then
wasn`t two older Irish guys sitting around over drinks. It was a set of
solid American values we could powerfully use today:

Respect the American voter even when they vote the other way; respect
institutions like budget deadlines and debt limits; look for compromise
when necessary; and be alert to common ground, to those areas where all
Americans can agree; and always be able to talk to each other, keep the
lines open to keep the government working for the people.

Things were different in those days of Tip O`Neill and Ronald Reagan.
They were different.

"Tip & The Gipper" hits the stores October 1st. It`s an important
look for the ages, but truly for right now.

You can pre-order right now and get the book as soon as possible.

With the threats of government shutdown and default on the debt and
all kinds of hell breaking loose right now, the timing and value of this
great story of these two leaders and how they did business together
couldn`t be greater.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 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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