updated 9/25/2013 11:13:11 AM ET 2013-09-25T15:13:11

HARDBALL
September 24, 2013

Guest: John Feehery, Rep. Jim Moran, Jason Zengerle, Wayne Slater, Michael
Crowley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The man in the ostrich boots, Ted Cruz.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with Ted Cruz. He reminds me of a pair, actually,
of movie characters. One is the cowboy played by Slim Pickens who rides
the first bomb in the nuclear war in "Dr. Strangelove."

(VIDEO CLIP - "Dr. Strangelove")

MATTHEWS: The second character the senator in the ostrich boots reminds me
of is frightening in a different way. Perhaps in this case, it`s a matter
of downright ignorance. Ted Cruz brags incessantly about the schools he
attended -- Princeton, Harvard law. Yet I think there`s a gap in his
education. He seems not to know the history of demagogues.

They tend to be explosive histories but short ones. I think of Huey Long,
who once predicted that when fascism comes to America, it will be called
anti-fascism.

But most of all, I think of Joe McCarthy. Ted Cruz reminds me of this guy,
the sneer or smirk or whatever you call that thing, that insolent look of
moral condescension, of contempt for all around him, the obvious hostility
toward those whose attention he is so desperate to attract.

He gets it, all right. People pay attention when you strut around with a
band of explosives strapped to your chest. The demagogues` mistake is in
thinking they`re looking at you, not the dynamite.

The only question is who or what has the nerve, the person or the party, to
put this Princeton cowboy in his place. Wouldn`t it be great if it were a
real patriot, a guy like John McCain?

U.S. congressman Jim Moran`s a Virginia Democrat and John Feehery is a
Republican strategist.

Mr. Moran, I haven`t seen anybody like this since the movies of the old
Edward R. Murrow days of Joe McCarthy. He looks like the guy, he acts like
the guy, he sneers like the guy, and he seems to have the same contempt for
American institutions, like deadlines, debts, oh, anything like paying for
the government or respecting your colleagues. Your thoughts.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: He`s a demagogue, Chris. And like a lot of
demagogues, he`s also a phony. You know, he talks of -- he purports to be
representing the lower-middle-class workforce, and yet here`s a guy that
when he was studying at Harvard, he`d only study with the graduates -- at
Harvard law, with the graduates from Harvard, Yale or Princeton, not the
minor Ivies like Penn or Brown or Dartmouth.

You know, this guy is an arrogant elitist who`s doing his best to
manipulate a large swathe of the country who doesn`t know any better. I
think they`re pretty -- they`re going to get onto him pretty fast and
realize what a phony he is and the fact that he`s leading them in a
direction that`s so contrary to their own best interests.

MATTHEWS: You know, John, I`m trying to figure out where this is taking
him. I mean, I -- everybody`s entitled to free speech in this country. If
you get elected to office like -- it`s a great job being senator from Texas
in the United States Senate. It`s an enormously impressive job. He`s
using it a certain way.

I`m just trying to figure out -- he`s not a legislator. He`s not trying to
pass bills. He`s not trying to really change government, the way it`s
formulated and carried out. What is he actually trying to do? Can you
figure it?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he`s trying to disrupt
the political system. And he`s pretty clever about it. I think he`s been
able to use a lot of different techniques, use social media, really disrupt
-- attack other Republicans. The Republicans are not necessarily popular
with their base. He`s very clever in drawing attention to himself.

I think he`s got some elements of demagoguery. But you know, he`s also
stumbled onto the fact that "Obama care" is extraordinarily unpopular. But
in many ways, he`s Don Quixote because he knows that he can`t successfully
get President Obama to repeal his own law. So he`s almost tilting after
windmills. But he does it on purpose because I think he wants to know --
wants people to understand that he -- he has a plan to ultimately become a
leader of a faction, and then use that leadership to end a very unpopular
program with the Republican base.

I think he`s disruptive, and in many ways, very clever, but I can
understand from your perspective why you don`t like him very much.

MATTHEWS: Well, I can imagine as Don Quixote because he`s -- he would be
fighting for the love of Dulcinea, but not for a government shutdown.

MORAN: Oh!

MATTHEWS: What kind of a dream is that? What kind of a (INAUDIBLE) is
that? Mr. Moran, your thoughts.

MORAN: Oh, Chris, that bothers me so much! Don Quixote is my hero!

(LAUGHTER)

MORAN: At least he was genuine. He was an idealist. This guy is not
genuine and he`s not an idealist. Gosh, John, we`re such good friends, but
I`m really disappointed that you`d use Cervantes`s Don Quixote as an
example of what Cruz is doing.

FEEHERY: I didn`t mean to offend you, but I do think that, in many ways,
he`s picking fights that he knows he can`t win. And he`s doing it for
strategic reasons. And I think the reason is because you want to be able
to point to something --

MATTHEWS: OK --

FEEHERY: -- and you want to make enemies out of people that are
unpopular. So I think he`s been pretty clever.

MORAN: I think he`s running for president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, my -- I think you`ve deconstructed me rather
poorly there, John Feehery, because I don`t think I oppose him for
ideological reasons. I oppose him because he is a problem for our
republic.

Anyway, Cruz`s pipe dream of a strategy to get the Senate to go along with
his plan, so-called, to defund the Affordable Care Act is, simply put,
falling apart. He`s tried to pass the continuing resolution to defund the
president`s health law by a voice vote. That failed.

He tried to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to adopt a 60-vote
threshold to pass any amendments, like the one that will inevitably strip
out the "kill Obama care" language itself. Big surprise, that failed, too.

He`s lobbying the Republican leadership to support him in blocking the
continuing resolution from even being considered on the Senate floor. That
failed big-time. And he`s trying to persuade Senate leaders to block a
vote that would end debate and pave the way for a final vote on the very
legislation he supports. Guess what? That`s failed, too.

Well, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican whip John
Cornyn, and the chamber`s most senior Republican, Orrin Hatch, have all
called Cruz`s bluff. In statements delivered over the last 24 hours, they
have all issued forceful rebukes of Cruz`s strategy. The bottom line, it
paves the way for Reid to pass a clean resolution to keep the government
open, and it tries to keep the government from shutting down, of course.

Anyway, John Feehery, I don`t know what your game is here. Are you for or
against this guy? Because in me -- you`re saying that there`s something
wrong with me in not liking the way the guy`s going about his business. Is
this trying to do a little clipping of me on the side there as you go past
me to get him? Who are you after, me or him?

(LAUGHTER)

FEEHERY: I`m just trying to give you analysis. I think he`s clever. I
think you need to fight "Obama care." I think, in many ways, he`s raised
"Obama care" up as an issue. But I think his strategy -- his short-term
strategy is obviously failing. We were never going to defund "Obama care"
through the continuing resolution. I think --

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to the -- let`s go back to where I`m at on
this guy. I watched this guy`s debut. And I know first impressions don`t
tell you everything, but they tell you a hell of a lot. I watched him in
the hearings for Chuck Hagel, who`s a moderate Republican, a patriot who`s
fought for his country, unlike a lot of us. He went out there and fought
in Vietnam for real, just like John McCain did, for real, not chicken hawks
here, real soldiers who fought the country and suffered for it.


And he accused him, in his McCarthy -- Joe McCarthy fashion, of taking
money from the North Koreans. He then said he probably took the money or
could have taken the money from the Saudis, all this loose talk that even
Lindsey Graham -- I should say Lindsey Graham, who is a gentleman, came out
and said, Out of bounds.

That`s why I call him McCarthy, not just because he looks like the guy, he
acts like him. That`s my problem with this guy. He has contempt for the
American political system. He is not a member of any political party that
I can tell. He got elected tot he Senate, fair enough. But his behavior
has been totally and utterly destructive.

You say he`s been educational. I disagree. He`s taught us nothing about
"Obama care." I don`t know a single thing about "Obama care" because of
him. And you haven`t learned a single thing about "Obama care."

I want to go to Jim Moran on this. Congressman, he does not teach. You
teach. Other people teach. Ed Schultz teaches. A lot of people on this
network teach.

I have never learned a thing, and neither have you, John Feehery, from Ted
Cruz. He doesn`t teach. He is a demagogue. Your thoughts, Mr. Moran.

MORAN: Well, obviously, he has no interest in teaching. In fact, I think
he benefits from his base being ignorant of the facts, frankly.

But that`s why I think he`s running for president because he has no future
in the Senate. His colleagues don`t like him, don`t trust him. So he`s
going nowhere. He`s never going to get a piece of legislation passed after
these kinds of antics.

But I think he`s got a greater ambition. He`s a very ambitious guy. I
think we have to be very careful of him, treat him seriously.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MORAN: But we`re certainly not going to learn anything from him.

MATTHEWS: What is he -- what is -- let me get -- I`m not getting two
facial. People have their own secondary characteristics. But his way of
introducing almost every issue is to sneer. He sneers at people, sneers at
the microphone, sneers at the TV camera.

What is he sneering at? What is he looking down his nose at, John? Can
you tell what it is? What is he condescending to all the time? His
fellows, his colleagues, us? Who`s below him?

FEEHERY: Obviously, he`s got a very high opinion of his own intellect.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FEEHERY: I think that, usually, when you into the Senate, you want to
spend a little bit of time, you know, learning the procedures, learning the
people if you want get stuff done. Obviously, he didn`t come to the Senate
to legislate. He didn`t want to cut deals. He wants to disrupt. He wants
to disrupt a political party. He doesn`t have any real -- any kind of
allegiance to the Republican Party. He spends a lot of his time bashing
his fellow Republicans. So in many ways, I think he`s just very
disruptive.

Now, that could be a good thing. I --

MATTHEWS: What`s his role model? Is it Sarah Palin, who took an office or
took the oath of office up in Alaska -- I don`t care if she took the oath
of office, but it should have mattered to her. She took the oath of office
and then walked off the job. She took French leave from the only job --
big job she ever had.

Is he going to be like that and get to the lecture circuit and just become
sort of a vagabond, a troubadour of the right? Is that the goal here?

FEEHERY: I think he`s far brighter than Sarah Palin.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FEEHERY: I think his role model is his father. I don`t think he has a
senatorial role model. And I think that he believes passionately in what
he believes in. I think he believes in himself, and I think that that`s
what`s -- that`s what`s guiding him towards wherever he`s going to.

MATTHEWS: What is -- wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait, wait. You`re
letting him off here. What does he believe that you don`t? John, you`re a
Republican. You`re a conservative. What does he believe you don`t
believe? What are you -- you`re letting him off the hook here as some
idealist. I don`t think that`s true.

FEEHERY: Listen, what I believe is in the Republican Party, and I don`t
think he believes in the Republican Party. I believe in trying to work
through the legislative process. I don`t think he necessarily believes in
that. I don`t necessarily believe in Ted Cruz, but I do think he`s been a
very disruptive and interesting figure in the political scene.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think -- Mr. Moran, I think about the thing he`s
holding, and I use the reference about strapping dynamite to yourself. He
is offering a real threat to our polity, to our American political system.
He is threatening, to the extent he`s able to do it -- and we don`t think
he`s going to pull it off, but he is threatening, basically, to stop the
United States government in its tracks until he gets what he wants, the
destruction of the president`s landmark bill.

He then wants to be able to stop the United States government from paying
its bills. He wants it to default so he can get what he wants. I mean,
that is pretty close to destructive. I don`t want to use the word
"terrorism" because it doesn`t mean killing people, as such. But look what
he`s doing. I mean, this is pretty extreme behavior.

MORAN: Yes, he is. But the Rush Limbaughs of the world love him. And you
know, there are so many extremist commentators out there now on hate radio
and some on Fox.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MORAN: And you know, he`s leading the charge, and they`re giving him
credibility, frankly, in that right-wing echo chamber. I think we have to
be careful, but I don`t think he`s going to derail a continuation of the
government. I think we`ll probably get through this period.

But boy, when we get to the debt ceiling, Chris, and then we have to keep
the government funded again, say, November 15, I think Ted Cruz is going to
play another important role because he`s going to keep hammering away at
the credibility of people who really want this government to function for
the betterment of everyone.

MATTHEWS: OK. Speaking of credibility, I think what defines the
difference between him and regular conservatives, fiscal conservatives,
economic conservatives, is I don`t think he cares about the future of the
U.S. government. We all agree on that. I don`t think he cares about the
future of the Republican Party. John Feehery said that.

I don`t think he cares about the American economy. And "The Wall Street
Journal" editorial page does. To its credit, whatever we argue about with
them in terms of policy, they don`t want the American economy to crumble.
This guy doesn`t seem to care, and that`s what`s really scary to them.

Thank you, U.S. Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia and John Feehery. Thanks
for coming on, as always.

Coming up: So exactly who is this guy Ted Cruz? A reporter for the
Republican-friendly "Weekly Standard" wrote that as he was in the back seat
of a car listening to Cruz, who was sitting next to him, he calculated how
many vertebrae he might break if he jumped out of that speeding car. He
wanted to get away from the guy.

Also, President Obama kicks off a six-month effort to explain the
affordable health care act. About time. And he does it in the best
possible way, with a talk with Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global
Initiative today.

Plus, it looks like we`re about to witness a thaw in relations with Iran
nearly 34 years after American hostages were taken in Tehran.

And President Obama admits the real reason he quit smoking, he`s scared of
his wife, Michelle. I suspect there are a lot of men out there who can
relate.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got new poll numbers out. They`re on the hot governor`s
race in Virginia. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

First our new NBC 4/NBC/Marist poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a
5-point lead among likely voters over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. It`s
McAuliffe 43, Cuccinelli 38. The big reason McAuliffe`s ahead, women.
He`s leading Cuccinelli by 18 points among female women voters. A similar
story in the new ""Washington Post" poll. McAuliffe has a 5-point lead in
that poll, as well, here 49-44.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We saw with his nomination something truly
extraordinary, which is the government of Iran formally and publicly
praising the nomination a defense secretary. I would suggest to you that,
to my knowledge, that is unprecedented, to see a foreign nation like Iran
publicly celebrating a nomination --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joe McCarthy in action there again. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Texas senator Ted Cruz, of course, during his McCarthy-like attack
on Chuck Hagel when Hagel was nominated to be secretary of defense.

So who is this guy Ted Cruz? A new profile in "GQ" magazine entitled "Ted
Cruz, the Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas," reveals a pretentious and a
self-important side to the Texas senator who has built his brand as a
humble street-fighting Tea Party conservative, a regular guy, so to speak.

"GQ`s" Jason Zengerle, who wrote the profile, says, "Cruz has come to the
reluctant but unavoidable conclusion that he is simply more intelligent,
more principled, more right in both senses of the word than pretty much
everyone else in our nation`s capital."

Well, the profile he wrote also paints a portrait of a brazen right-winger
with a surprisingly tight grip on his party and loathed by many of his
Republican Senate colleagues. He is a man in the driver`s seat, but is the
seat big enough for his ego? Well said there.

Jason Zengerle, now a senior write for Politico magazine, joins me, along
with the great "Dallas Morning News" real reporter, senior political writer
Wayne Slater. Thank you, Wayne. I want you to hold your horses for a
second because we got to talk about this new profile piece.

Jason, what was it like riding around, living with the guy? (INAUDIBLE) my
favorite question. It was Jack Kennedy`s, too. What was he like? What is
he like?

JASON ZENGERLE, POLITICO: He`s very practiced. I mean, I think that was
the thing that was most interesting. You would spend a lot of time with
him, riding around. You know, you`d talk for an hour. You`d go back.
You`d type up the transcript. Then you`d read speeches, you`d read other
interviews, and you realize he had said the exact same thing verbatim.

He doesn`t really speak in conversation. He speaks kind of in speeches. I
mean, I think it might be part of his debate practice from when he was in
college. He`s used to giving these speeches and --

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s funny. Did you see the movie "Lives of Others,"
about the East German Stasi?

ZENGERLE: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: When you repeat yourself verbatim, that means you`re not telling
the truth because you have to keep saying it the same exact way -- not that
he`s lying.

ZENGERLE: I don`t know that he`s even a member of the Stasi.

MATTHEWS: No, no, being investigated by the Stasi. Why do you think he is
that way? What does that tell you about his personality, that everything
is robotic and repetitive?

ZENGERLE: I think he`s -- you know, he`s very careful, and that`s what I
think is kind of interesting about right now. He doesn`t make a lot of
unforced errors --

MATTHEWS: Is he selling?

ZENGERLE: Is he selling. Yes, he`s selling.

MATTHEWS: What`s he selling?

ZENGERLE: He`s selling himself.

MATTHEWS: Who does he think (INAUDIBLE) selling? What`s the product of
Ted Cruz for the country? What`s -- what`s the marketing product he`s
putting out there? Guy who`s going to shut the government down, guy who`s
not -- nervy, he`s willing to shut it down. He doesn`t care what anybody
thinks. What`s that product line about?

ZENGERLE: The principled conservative voice. I mean, the guy who is going
to stand up to the sell-out establishment Republicans in Washington and be
a voice for true conservatives. I mean, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan,
that`s the lineage that he`s trying to follow him.

MATTHEWS: What I don`t get here, Wayne -- and we talk a lot -- you know, I
try to go through a little routine with members of the Congress on the
Republican side especially, but (INAUDIBLE) with others. Was Barack Obama
legitimately elected president?

Now, some of them choke on that because they`re still -- they want to play
to the birther crowd. Then I`ve asked, Did the Affordable Care Act get
passed legitimately? Yes. Well, if it was passed legitimately, why are
they refusing to fund it and using the federal governments as hostage to do
that?

I mean, it`s extraordinary to have gone through a legislative process, pass
a bill, as we do in civics class in grade school or high school, do it all
right and then say, Oh, that doesn`t matter. Let`s start all over and
defund it and kill it, kill the baby in its crib.

That`s extraordinary legislative behavior for a guy who`s never passed a
bill. In other words, all he wants to be known as is the guy that killed a
bill after it was passed. Wayne?

WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Well, he didn`t want
to -- it`s not that he just wants to kill a bill.

Jason has got it exactly right. He wants to be known as the guy who stands
up and fights even if it`s the Alamo, even if everybody dies. I`m the guy
who`s principled. I`m smarter, and better, and stronger, and more pure
than everyone else. That has always been his motif.

And I traveled around when he was running for office, running for the
Senate, and the amazing thing to me -- Jason is right. I still hear whole
sections of paragraphs that he was saying then when he said, I`m going to
shake up Washington, when he talks today.

MATTHEWS: What is he, a replicant?

SLATER: So, he doesn`t want to kill a bill. He just wants to represent
that constituency and become president.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s more than a political opponent. He`s a blade
runner.

Anyway, Jason, you reported on your side a side of Cruz in that article
that many might be surprised to learn about. Quote: "The elite academic
circles that Cruz was now traveling in began to run off. As a law student
at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn`t been an undergrad at
Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz`s law-school
roommates, `He said he didn`t want anybody from what he called minor Ivies
like Penn, University of Pennsylvania, or Brown University. He was also
known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one
recipient likened to the cards people send about their families at
Christmas, except Ted`s were only about him and were more frequent."

You know, we get -- I like to get them from people, but they are pretty
extraordinary, letters with everything the family accomplished that year.

But you say he would send out his own about him.

ZENGERLE: Yes, these were updates about --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And they weren`t based on Christmastime either.

ZENGERLE: Yes. No, these were --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But he actually said this is an update on what I have been up
to?

ZENGERLE: Yes. These are my accomplishments.

He had a long list. It was a very distinguished group of people on it.
And I think there were members of the Supreme Court on it, as well --

MATTHEWS: He would let them know what he was doing. So he would call
Chief Justice Roberts telling them his latest achievements?

ZENGERLE: Or maybe Chief Justice Rehnquist. I think Roberts wasn`t there
yet.

MATTHEWS: That`s kind of a horse`s ass thing to do, isn`t it?

ZENGERLE: I think he had people he wanted to keep updated on what --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Without asking.

ZENGERLE: Yes, without asking.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Wayne, have you gotten a -- are you on his list down there? Did
you get the regular who`s-who accomplishments of Ted Cruz? This guy`s
amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I thought we had egos in my business. This breaks all the
records, I think. Your thoughts?

SLATER: Well, look, he -- I hear from the people who are around him. It
was well known in the 2000 Bush campaign, where Ted Cruz was part of the
crew doing the research and doing policy, that if anybody important was
coming to the door, a lot of important people would come, Cruz was gone.

Everybody would look around, Cruz wasn`t at his desk. He obviously was
meeting that important person, a national journalist, or some other
important political person. And the word was that Cruz spent most of the
time not promoting George Bush, but promoting himself, talking about his
credentials, the fact that -- dropping the fact that he was at Harvard Law,
mentioning Rehnquist and all the rest of it.

So this latest revelation about Cruz, where Jason has it so perfectly,
really is something that`s been going on for quite a while and folks here
in Texas who have worked closely with him know it.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I`m sure -- Jim Baker went to -- James A. Baker
went to Princeton. I don`t think he ever told anybody he went there. This
guy seems to tell everybody like within two seconds.

ZENGERLE: Yes. No, it`s part of his -- but it`s a little different for
Baker. Baker was an upper-class kid.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ZENGERLE: I think the thing that I was most surprised by doing this story
was Cruz`s background. I had assumed going in he was a rich Houston kid,
dad was in the oil business. That wasn`t the case.

He grew up very middle-class. When he was in high school, his father`s
business failed, went bankrupt, kind of redoubled Cruz`s idea to do this.
He was the first one in his family to go to Princeton.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ZENGERLE: They had no idea about that world. He did it all himself. So I
think that might be some of it. There`s a certain amount of pride in his
accomplishments because he`s self-created.

MATTHEWS: Well, a reporter from "The Weekly Standard" detailed his
experience spending time with the senator.

This is what happened when they continued the interview in transit from the
back seat of a car en route to an event -- quote -- "He spoke of his father
again. He mentioned the great divide in America again and was quoting
Margaret Thatcher when I realized he was giving a speech again, except this
time at close quarters, only a few feet away in the back seat of a car. I
made a quick calculation of how many vertebrae I would damage if I slipped
the lock, opened the door, and did a tuck and roll into the passing
pavement."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: "The answer was too many."

He couldn`t stand sitting next to the guy listening to the guy give another
speech.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What was your sense about the big-P Question?

You know, I think he`s completely eligible to run for president in terms of
his birth. His mother was an American. He`s an American. He`s natural-
born. He didn`t have to be naturalized. I don`t care what Donald Trump
and the others think about this or speculate. Does he seem like a guy
who`s going for the big one? Or does he want to be Sarah Palin, just
somebody on the outside giving speeches and making noise? What can you
tell?

ZENGERLE: No. He doesn`t want to be Sarah Palin.

I think he wants to ride this wave as long as he can.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you need one other person to like you to be president?

ZENGERLE: He`s got Mike Lee riding -- he`s sitting right next to him.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Sancho Panza.

ZENGERLE: Yes, kind of.

No, and that`s what`s he`s testing. He`s seeing if you really need people
in Washington to like you. He`s made the calculation that you don`t.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think you need to have people that are around you,
because always ask, what`s he like, what`s he like? They like to know.

Anyway, Jason Zengerle, congratulations on the piece for "G.Q."

And, Wayne Slater, thank you for the hometown update, as always, sir, and
analysis.

Up next: the woman who scared President Obama into finally kicking his
nicotine habit, which was good for all of them.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Former President Clinton went on "The Late Show" last night to discuss the
annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which takes place this
week. But take a look at how Letterman asked him the question that`s on
everyone`s mind.

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": If -- if -- and I
know you know. Why wouldn`t you know? Of course you would know. There`s
two people that know, maybe three. I bet Chelsea knows.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: If Hillary is running in 2016 for president -- and recent polls
indicate that people who favor the Democratic Party would favor her as the
candidate. it`s not even -- not even close.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: If she is running, to your knowledge, blink twice.

(LAUGHTER)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I blinked once.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, next up, President Obama`s nicotine habit has been the
subject of curiosity over the years. Back in 2009, he admitted that he was
struggling to quit smoking, and subsequent photographs released by the
White House appeared to show Nicorette gum on his desk in the Oval Office -
- boy, look at that -- as in this one that was taken back in 2011.

Zoom in a little, and there it is, the gum. But yesterday in a private
conversation at the U.N. roundtable event, the president inadvertently
confirmed that he has indeed kicked the habit once and for all. But
there`s more. Check out why he says he`s smoke-free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope you have quit
smoking.

MAINA KIAI, FORMER KENYA NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHT CHAIRMAN:
Sometimes. Have you?

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: No, no, I haven`t had a cigarette in probably six years. That`s
because I`m scared of my wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s scared of his wife. Well, congratulations, nonetheless.
It`s as good a reason as any.

Up next, President Obama kicks off a six-month effort to explain the
Affordable Care Act. And look who`s helping him do it. Mr. Bill, Bill
Clinton, the former president.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I`m Milissa Rehberger.

Today, Kenya`s president said the siege on a Nairobi mall is over, but
troops are still searching through rooms. At least 67 people were killed.

Teams began searching the Costa Concordia for two victims whose bodies have
never been found. Crews are checking underneath the ship and decks damaged
in that wreck.

And the Army approved tough new rules barring soldiers from having tattoos
below the elbow or the knee and above the neckline -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We said to insurance companies you have got to use at least 80
percent of your premium that you`re receiving on actual health care, not on
administrative costs and CEO bonuses. And if you don`t, you have got to
rebate anything that you spent back to the consumer.

So there are millions of Americans who`ve received rebates. They may not
know that they got it because of the Affordable Care Act or -- quote,
unquote -- "Obamacare," but they`re pretty happy to get those rebates back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was of course President Obama appearing with former President Bill
Clinton. And this evening, right now, in fact, at the Clinton Global
Initiative, they`re joining forces to explain and sell -- let`s face it --
the health care law.

This is the second time the former president has made an appearance
promoting the new law. And he`s a potent ally of course for the current
president. One week from today, October 1, people without insurance can
begin signing up for the new health care insurance exchanges. It`s getting
to be crunch time, of course.

Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer, a columnist for "The Washington
Post." And Joan Walsh is editor at large for Salon. Both are MSNBC
contributors.

I want to start with Joan and then go to Jonathan.

We all know what Coca-Cola is. We probably all like it or we all like Diet
Coke or something. But yet Coca-Cola advertises relentlessly. It keeps
telling us the advantages of Coke all the time. That`s how our minds have
to be reeducated and resold all the time.

The president, I sensed, passed health care and thought the job was done.
That I think is the reason he opened the door to the right-wing, to the
Koch brothers -- different spelling -- out there to screw this thing and to
confuse people.

Your thoughts, Joan?

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think he`s done more than
we probably give him credit for and, honestly, more than we know about.

I mean, that one moment where he explained the rebates, it`s true. People
got those and no one knew that they were part of Obamacare. So, I think
that they have not done a perfect job, but he has been out giving speeches.
He did enlist the president -- excuse me -- former President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: That`s now.

WALSH: He did it a year ago at the convention. He did it over a month
ago. President Clinton gave a speech in Arkansas like this.

They have both been on the road doing this. It just -- honestly, Chris, I
think some of it is -- it`s not enough. I`m not going to ever say it was
enough, but it hasn`t cut through the din because there`s so much din.
There`s so much garbage. There are so many lies.

MATTHEWS: Money. So much money.

WALSH: There`s so much money. There`s so much money at stake. So I don`t
entirely fault him on this one.

I think they`re a little late getting to the concrete benefits, but they
have been trying to do it.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: I have seen them try to do it and people just don`t pay attention
because the other side is so fascinating and crazy.

MATTHEWS: OK.

It`s not -- it`s so hard to be on his side, because he`s advocating
something new. And it`s going to help people with preexisting. It`s going
to help the people in the emergency rooms right now, the working poor who
show up and do their job, but don`t have health care.

But the other side has it easy. Scare tactics are easy.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Koch brothers, that big Uncle Sam looking up the girl`s
dress, that is gross as hell, but people are going to remember it.

(CROSSTALK)

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: -- creepy.

Well, here`s the thing, Chris. It`s easy for Republicans and conservatives
to hammer away at Obamacare because it`s not fully implemented. Your Coke
example actually is a very good example. Coca-Cola can hammer away at its
advertising campaign because people can see the commercial, then go to the
store immediately and get a can of Coke.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CAPEHART: It`s tangible.

What`s happening with Obamacare is that a lot of the pieces are being
implemented piece by piece. Some pieces have been delayed. But until it`s
fully implemented, a lot of people aren`t going to know, one, all the
benefits that accrue to them.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: But here`s the other thing that President Obama said in the
speech before we came on.

He said, I have no pride of ownership. I just want it to work.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: And he was telling the story about the Kentucky State Fair where
the guy was signing people up and he was looking at these rates and the guy
says, hey, these rates are better than Obamacare.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s crazy.

I personally -- it`s just my usual idea. I think they ought to call it the
Democrats` health care plan, instead of Obamacare. I think that makes it
sound too much like a pet project.

By the way, the Democrats have been fighting for this, just -- they`re not
good on everything. They`re not great on fiscal responsibility and things
like that necessarily, and sometimes not on wars, but they`re really good
on health care.

Anyway, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced President
Obama and former President Clinton by pointing out a long list of their
similarities. Let`s listen to part of the introduction by Hillary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Both are master
politicians. Each of them has only lost one election.

(LAUGHTER)

H. CLINTON: They are both Democrats. They have fabulous daughters.

(LAUGHTER)

H. CLINTON: They each married far above themselves.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: And they each love our country.

And, so, please join me in welcoming number 42 and number 44, Bill Clinton
and President Barack Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s former Secretary Hillary Clinton at her absolute
best, charming, what are you going to say, debonair, all the good things
there, Joan.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re smiling. I`m smiling. There`s something -- that`s a
nice position to be in, building to the guy who beat you, which is always
charming, and building up your hubby, which works.

WALSH: Right.

You know what else -- you know what else really struck me about that
moment, Chris, is that on a split-screen, you have got Senator Ted Cruz
doing his non-filibuster -- it`s not a filibuster because it has absolutely
no meaning -- standing alone, the least popular man in Congress, the least
popular man among his Republican colleagues, too, destroying his party,
dividing his party, while you have got the three towering symbols of the
Democratic Party allied.

They once did fight. They came back together for the party`s sake, for the
country`s sake. There they are telling the country what`s going to happen
under this health care law. It`s -- it`s -- the symbolism, to me, was so
powerful.

MATTHEWS: OK. What`s an objective answer? First of all, I`m going to
stay with -- go to Jon and then I will get --

CAPEHART: Uh-huh.

MATTHEWS: I will let -- we will warm up with Jon, then go to you.

Now, I want a real objective answer here. Is the reason the Republican
right, the hard right fighting the hardest, is it that they`re afraid like
all other social advances the Democrats have come up with, Social Security,
Medicare, exactly, after they`re in office and once they`re in effect --
people like my dad who`s Republican loved Medicare. He loved it. He loved
going to the doctor because it was free.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.

MATTHEWS: OK? And he earned it. In that sense of having earned it and
make it free at some point in your life, and here we have health care, the
Affordable Care Act.

CAPEHART: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Is that what the Republicans are afraid of? That people are
going to like it, and a year or two from now, it`s going to be part of our
system?

CAPEHART: Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Why do you prove of that objectively?

CAPEHART: Well, we`ll find out, in a year, two years, three years from
now. But remember, this is what, September 23rd, 24th?

MATTHEWS: Twenty-fourth.

CAPEHART: The thing starts enrolling people, you know, or gets off the
ground October 1st. They are fighting like hell now because they want to
discourage people, creepy Uncle Sam commercials and all, to discourage them
from signing up.

MATTHEWS: Can people like the Koch brothers, spell the way they do, not
the nice way --

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- can they actually get people so screwed up in the brain and
thinking that they can make them scared enough to believe they don`t like
something they would normally like? Can they affect people --

CAPEHART: Absolutely, they can affect people. But that`s - now, it`s
incumbent upon --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Joan on that same question. Objectively, are
they afraid it`s going to be workable and likable or are they afraid it
won`t be? What`s the big Republican fear here that they`re hyping on?

WALSH: Absolutely, I have no doubt they`re afraid it`s going to be very
popular. It`s going to help people. It is already bringing the costs
down. And when it starts to do that, Chris, it`ll really be unstoppable.

But more important, it`s really going to help people. They`re going to
like it. People will not lose their health insurance who have it.

And people who want to change jobs will have a little bit more flexibility
in this very tough economy. I think they absolutely fear people growing to
like it, getting used to it, being whatever like the guy in Kentucky,
whatever he thinks he`s getting, he likes it. And that`s why they`ve
started this dramatic push at the last -- they`ve always fought it, but
this incredible push.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s easy for me to say, but I think it would have been
better if he got all the members Congress who are the Democrats, a lot of
them, couple of hundred of them, to send out in their they put out their
daily newsletters, their regular newsletter, these monthly newsletters,
rather, to use those as opportunities to gradually educate people so if
they can, they`d be ready.

Anyway, thank you to (INAUDIBLE), and won award.

Jonathan, thank you so much.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Joan, as always. Thank you both.

WALSH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, nearly 34 years after the hostage standoff in Tehran,
we might be ready to engage with Iran. This could turn into a big win for
President Obama. It`s bigger even on Obama`s. It`s bigger than a lot of
things if we can avoid a war.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Corey Booker`s lead is shrinking in New Jersey, ahead of next
month`s special election. Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, Booker`s lead has tightened, but still
12 points over conservative Steve Lonegan. It`s Booker 53, Lonegan 41
among likely voters. Earlier polls have shown Booker with the lead as big
as 35 points.

Well, that election is coming up Wednesday, October 16th, about three weeks
before the November election featuring Governor Chris Christie going for
his second term.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The U.N. today, some actual diplomatic overtures. Every fall,
world leaders gathered in New York for the general assembly.

And for the past few years, much of the focus has been on often flamboyant
and outrageous performance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He
would use the world gathering to question the Holocaust and make
allegations of an actual U.S. role in the 9/11 attacks.

Ahmadinejad is no longer in office. His successor has taken that ground
(ph) as a moderate, who is trying to improve his country`s standing in the
world. And in turn, President Obama has made it clear he`s willing to take
cautious steps to engage Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States and Iran
have been isolated from one another since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
This mistrust has deep roots. I don`t believe this difficult history can
be overcome overnight. The suspicions run too deep. But I do believe that
if we can resolve the issue of Iran`s nuclear program, that can serve as a
major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on
mutual interests and mutual respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When I listen to him like that, I think of Obama at his best
when he`s really thinking out loud, trying to do best for the world. Much
of the buzz, by the way, leading into today was about a potential for an
historic meeting between the United States and Iranian leader themselves,
didn`t happen that way, no hand shake.

But the headline out of today`s gathering is that President Obama has
directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue engagement with Iran to
resolve the nuclear issue. In other words, we`re giving diplomacy a
chance. The two foreign ministers are going to meet.

Eugene Robinson is a columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC
political analyst, and Michael Crowley is "Time Magazine`s" chief foreign
affairs correspondent.

Gene, you first. You think big about these things and I am so happy that
there is now a chance we`re going to avoid a war. A chance.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think from today`s
performances by Obama and Rouhani, I think on balance, you`d say the only
losers are the writers of "Saturday Night Live." They don`t get to do
Ahmadinejad like they did every year.

MATTHEWS: All the crazy yes.

ROBINSON: But you have to say it was a hopeful day, because, as Churchill
said, always better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. In fact, there`s some
potential jaw-jaw about to take place.

MATTHEWS: The fact that they want to jaw-jaw, the fact that Rouhani comes
in and makes it clear -- he wants to negotiate with the United States. He
knows the terms. They all know the bottom line. They can`t have a nuclear
weapon.

So, all the other stuff is wasted time. And the only question, is he
trying to waste our time while they`re trying to building a weapon?

ROBINSON: Exactly, exactly. So the question becomes continued enrichment
--

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: -- verification, inspection, control and all the questions about
a nuclear program.

MATTEHWS: Michael Crowley, I`m hopeful there could be a deal somewhere
short of them having a weapon. No, you can`t live them having a weapon. I
don`t think -- not in this country`s politics.

But is there a deal here potentially?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, Chris, I think there is potentially
a deal, but I think we`re still a long way from it. So, you know, everyone
is kind of dancing around the courtship has begun, the mating ritual here
and there, kind of, in the sides, they are circling each other.

But substantively, you know, you really haven`t seen anybody change their
fundamental positions. So, for instance, the Iranians among other things,
you know, one has to stop threatening to use force. You know, don`t put a
gun on the table when you begin negotiations.

Well, you know, I don`t think that you`re going to see Obama stop the use
of force. We want to see the Iranians do something tangible like top their
enrichment program, maybe even halt work on a reactor that they`re bringing
online, possibly next year. You know, are they really going to be willing
to do that before sanctions are lifted?

So, who goes first? What are people putting on the table? That is really
complicated stuff, and we have to really --

MATTHEWS: Was there ignorance here? Michael, you`re acting -- you`re
suggesting there`s ignorance.

They know the terms. They can`t build a weapon. We knows terms, we can`t
let them build a weapon.

Why is there question marks? Are they going in that direction of not
building a weapon or going to direction, or continue the direction of
building one?

CROWLEY: Chris, it`s not clear what they`re going to choose to do but
there`s this gray area where they continue to enrich uranium and they have
enough. The problem that we have, the United States has is that they have
enough uranium that if they kicked out the inspectors and decided to make a
sprint for the weapon, we might not have time to do anything about that.

So, American policy is to try to keep them from getting to that point.
It`s actually not so black and white, they`re going to build a weapon or
they`re not. The reason why I think they sort of have the upper hand here
is they can be in this gray area where they can get close to having a
weapon. Have they really crossed a line where we`re going to use military
force? Well, it`s not totally clear and where is the line.

MATTHEWS: That sounds like the Netanyahu line you`re giving me. That is
the government that it gets, we`re already near that red line.

You really think it`s a matter of, what, days -- a matter of days, that
they can go from not having a nuclear weapon to having one?

CROWLEY: Well, what the people who I know who know a lot about the Iranian
program say is that you could be a matter of weeks or couple of months.
So, no --

MATTHEWS: That`s all the time to attack.

CROWLEY: Well, yes. If we wanted to do it unilaterally and didn`t want to
go through -- you see how long the diplomacy is taking in Syria.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: Chris, I`m not arguing we`ve got to start the bombing. I`m just
telling you -- this is what I think not only Israel but a lot of people in
Washington and the Obama administration are worried about. So, it`s not --
it`s not that clear cut where they just say we`re not going to build a bomb
and it`s over. The question is, does the program slow down, is it
dismantled, do we have really thorough inspections that they can`t sneak
around? And so, the devil is really in the details here.

MATTHEWS: Well, one detail I`d like to know, can they move towards nuclear
energy and not toward a nuclear bomb?

ROBINSON: Well, many countries have done that. You know, Japan has
nuclear energy and doesn`t have a nuclear weapons program. Sure, it can be
done.

But we trust Japan, we don`t trust Iran. Iran has been belligerent and the
two cases are nowhere near equivalent. But sure, it can be done.

Here`s something that`s different now, though, or that`s demonstrated now.
Frankly, it`s the American appetite or lack of appetite for war.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ROBINSON: And I think there is -- and in fact the general lack of appetite
for war, I think, it`s conceivable that the Iranians are not only feeling
the pinch of the sanctions, but are looking at Syria, what almost happened,
what might happen, what is happening in Syria, and how the place is being
torn apart --

MATTHEWS: But you and I have a general feeling for Obama of support. But
we can`t predict Obama. He`s sort of dangerous in a way. He might go and
say I`ve got to go against Iran.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: There are certain points that he would if it reaches that
tipping point.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he`s quite ready to bomb them if they go for
weapons.

ROBINSON: I just -- you know, this is a moment.

MATTHEWS: OK.

ROBINSON: I think it`s a moment. And I don`t mean -- the possibility
could evaporate.

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t bet against him if was -- I wouldn`t push the guy.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. I think that`s where it`s at. Don`t
push Obama on this stuff.

Michael Crowley, thank you, sir. Your expertise.

When we return, let me finish with this new chance. Here`s my positive
thinking coming here to avoid a war in Iran because I know it`s going to be
a one-shot affair. We attack them. We`ve got a war on our hands.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Just when you think all is lost.

Until a few days ago, I had the feeling that war with Iran was inevitable.
Not just an American attack on Iran, but war -- a long-term, violent
conflict on several fronts, with Americans and others getting killed in
terrorist attacks all over the place.

I thought this war was coming (a) because I didn`t think Iran would stop
its rush to build nuclear weapons, and (b) because I didn`t believe - and
still don`t -- that a U.S. attack on Iran would end with that -- it would
trigger a war -- with the other side deciding when to end it -- and with
the people of Iran uniting behind their government in opposition to those
they would see as the aggressors. It`s not that we would look it that way,
but they would.

So, for now, there is more than a glimmer of hope that the newly-elected
president of Iran -- Rouhani -- has it in his hands to begin the slow,
careful rapprochement between our two countries.

The good news is the recognition on both sides of what the bottom line has
to be: President Obama has said we cannot permit Iran to build a nuclear
weapon.

And I have to believe, communication being what they are, that Rouhani --
and even the top religious leaders over there, know this.

So, here we go -- on the road to hope, that the United States will not have
to go to war.

I much prefer to be on that road than the other one -- the one we were on
so dangerously and so recently on.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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