updated 3/11/2014 10:56:24 AM ET 2014-03-11T14:56:24

March 10, 2014

Guest: Jim Tilmon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The clown car goes to war.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Philadelphia.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. So look who`s riding shotgun in the
clown car. Is it Dick Cheney, who refuses, despite screeching popular
demand, to just leave Washington? Well, this strange Dr. Strangelove is
now out there this weekend, pushing what he calls military action to get
the Russians out of Crimea.

This is the same Dick Cheney whose last push for military action, the
lamebrain decision to invade, conquer and occupy Iraq, cost at least
186,000 lives. Is he, Dick Cheney, the meistersinger of the clown car? Is
he? Or is it the charismatically clueless Sarah Palin, who called this
weekend for a nuclear confrontation with Moscow.


SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Mr. President, the only
thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke!



MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, it`s hard to get to the right of that thought. Yes,
this is the talk of the American right as of this weekend from seasoned war
hawk to Alaskan half-governor. And this, as scary as it is, makes for
great applause lines in the crazy camp.

When Governor Palin talked of forcing a nuclear standoff there, the peanut
gallery of the hard right went wild with giggling applause. To this crowd
of geeks meeting in Washington this weekend, contemplating nuclear war is
the closest it gets to a social life.

Thank God there are sane people in the Republican world who can`t stand
this babbling, frothy insanity, people like former secretary of state James
Baker and former Pentagon chief Robert Gates, even Henry Kissinger, who
says calling Vladimir Putin names doesn`t constitute a foreign policy.

But calling Barack Obama names is just about all you heard through the
wide-open windows of the clown car this weekend. Tonight, we get to enjoy
the God`s good news that these chickenhawks of the right, who have never
been in anything so wild as a schoolyard fight, can speak as generals, but
don`t -- again, thank God -- get to actually call the shots.

Howard Fineman is editorial director for the Huffington Post Media Group
and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." Both are
MSNBC political analysts.

Over the weekend, as I said, former vice president Dick Cheney gave us his
Dr. Strangelove views toward Russia and attacked President Obama. Let`s


begin address a crisis by the first thing we do is take options off the
table. I don`t think the administration should do that and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they done that?

CHENEY: In a sense, saying no military. He seems to operate that way most
of the time. There are military options that don`t involve putting troops
on the ground in Crimea. We could go back and reinstate the ballistic
missile defense program that was taken out. It was originally going to go
in Poland, Czech Republic. Obama took it out to appease Putin. We could
do training exercises in Poland, joint exercises. We can offer military
assistance in terms of equipment, training, and so forth, to the Ukrainians


MATTHEWS: When you listen to Dick Cheney talking about keeping military
options on the table, it has to be emphasized this is the guy responsible
for the Iraq war, largely, something that caused the deaths of at least
186,000 people, according to the group Iraq Body Count. Altogether, nearly
4,500 Americans were killed in that campaign and more than 32,000 Americans
were wounded.

Howard, Dick Cheney doesn`t seem to want to go away. And when he comes
back, it amazes how he`s invited on Sunday television, to come back with
that avuncular manner, as if he didn`t take us into catastrophe. It`s as
if he`s still fighting the Iraq war as if we were winning and it was a
brilliant idea.

Well, Chris, there are so many marks against him as an expert to be called
in, I almost don`t know where to start.


FINEMAN: Let`s go back even before 9/11. The early Bush/Cheney
administration was asleep at the switch in the months leading up to 9/11,
ignoring warnings all over the place. It`s one thing for George Bush to
ignore them, but the great cold warrior Dick Cheney should have been alive
to them in the months before 9/11.

Then there`s the Iraq war, as you mention, ill-conceived, sold to the
American people on false pretenses. It cost us not only all those lives,
tragically, but trillions of dollars, sapping the military strength that we
might need now, if we wanted to actually follow Cheney`s advice.

And then in 2008, when the former Soviet Union, when Vladimir Putin threw
his weight around in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, basically
carved that country up in 2008, while Bush and Cheney were still in power,
did they do anything? Did they ratchet up military options? Did they put
the squeeze on Vladimir Putin? Absolutely not. They looked the other way.

So this is an amazing combination of incompetence and hypocrisy. That`s
what we`re watching right now out of Dick Cheney.

MATTHEWS: You know, David, it used to be there was a protocol. You left
Washington after you lost the presidency. You have eight years here, then
you get out of town. It`s always been practiced by VP and P alike.

This guy not only stays here, but he stays here after a catastrophe -- the
shamelessness of the guy. And then the way he gets treated on these Sunday
shows drives me crazy, like he`s this brilliant uncle Tunoos (ph) that
comes in and every once in a while tells you the truth of the world. And
he has nothing to stand on. Your thoughts.


MATTHEWS: And by the way, it isn`t much difference listening to him and
listening to Sarah Palin. One may have the vintage, but I see no wisdom
from either of these characters about war.

CORN: Well, you know, Dick Cheney, you know, rising from the crypt to take
a shot at Barack Obama and encourage bellicosity is about as surprising as
the House Republican vote on repealing "Obama care." I mean, it seems
every six months, he gets the call.

And you know, there`s a larger point here, Chris, is whether it`s Dick
Cheney, Bill Kristol or any of the other folks who marched us into war in
Iraq in 2003 -- they end up paying no toll in our political media world.


CORN: They still -- you know, Henry Kissinger, as well. They still get,
you know, called on the shows. They write their op-eds. And they keep
going on.

And I really think Dick Cheney won`t be satisfied until he has shoved
Barack Obama into a war, maybe as disastrous as the one Dick Cheney and
George W. Bush gave us.

But the notion that while the president is involved in a very, you know,
challenging diplomatic position, for him to come out there and say, you
know, We should give troops and support, military support to Ukraine, when
Ukraine hasn`t even asked for it --


CORN: -- you know, strikes me as being completely reckless and

MATTHEWS: I just love that bonding he does. Well, you know, Charles --
or, As we know, Charles, we`re all in this together. We`re all wise men.
We know how these things work, don`t we, young men? I mean, it`s always
that same avuncular fashion. It is oily.

Anyway, this weekend, Ted Cruz blasted the president for his weakness, as
he put it, and he joined Senator Lindsey Graham in linking the events in
Ukraine to, guess what else? We can`t say bingo, so let`s say Benghazi.
It`s all about Benghazi.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: A critical reason for Putin`s aggression has
been President Obama`s weakness, that Putin fears no retribution.

Their policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and to coddle and
appease our enemies. And so Putin -- you better believe Putin sees in
Benghazi, four Americans are murdered and nothing happens. There`s no
retribution. You better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws
a red line and ignores the red line.


MATTHEWS: There we go again. The cold war is back. Howard, it doesn`t
stop. Cruz talks like a guy from the early `50s. I`ve said that a million
times. I won`t say it again. And yet this virulence, this -- I don`t know
what to call it because as somebody pointed out, maybe you just did, Howard
or David, that, you know, during the war with Georgia, the invasion of
Georgia --

FINEMAN: Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, that`s a good point.

FINEMAN: They did nothing. They did nothing. They did absolutely
nothing. Dick Cheney did nothing. He has no credibility talking about
putting the screws to Putin when, basically, first of all, George W. Bush
looked into Putin`s eyes and saw a companionable soul. Don`t forget that.
And then the Bush-Cheney administration looked the other way on Soviet
Georgia. So they don`t have any credibility on that.

But what Ted Cruz is doing is what the Republicans have been trying to do
to Barack Obama from the very beginning. They use the same words over and
over again. They use "feckless" -- you know, that he`s feckless, that he`s
weak, that he wears mom jeans -- you know, as if -- you know, anything they
can get their hands on to try to take him down as a strong leader on
foreign policy.

The fact is that you want to look at Libya. Don`t look at Benghazi, look
at the fact that the United States, essentially, let a group in there that
-- you know, that took Moammar Gadhafi out. I mean, that`s what happened
there, Benghazi notwithstanding.

And Barack Obama, in many respects, in many ways in his administration,
have used drones, have used surveillance, have used economic pressure in a
very shrewd way, which these people would never acknowledge in a million
years because it doesn`t fit into their preconceived narrative of this sort
of macho male thing that, somehow, Barack Obama and every Democrat since
George McGovern has not fit into.

FINEMAN: You know, Chris, none of this tracks. None of this tracks
because here they are saying he was weak on Syria. He wasn`t weak on
Syria. But nevertheless, were Republicans in the House and the Senate
willing to vote on Syria? They ran away from that vote. They ran away
from taking a stand on Libya. They didn`t get involved there.

And to say that because we haven`t bombed anyone over Benghazi yet, when it
took 10 years to track down Osama bin Laden -- it just shows that Ted Cruz
is not being serious. He is pushing buttons. He`s not looking for

And these buttons, unfortunately, do work, and I think even bleeds into
independent voters. They hear Benghazi over and over again -- feckless,
irresponsible, weak.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

CORN: And they start saying, Well, what`s all this I hear about Barack
Obama being weak? So they just know -- it`s the big lie theory. You say
it again and again and again. What -- ask Ted Cruz, what should the
president have done in retribution for Benghazi? You know, have we tracked
the guys down? Has he let them go? He didn`t do that with bin Laden. So
what have -- what should have been done that hasn`t been done yet? I bet
you Ted Cruz doesn`t have an answer.

MATTHEWS: I wish he would go over and arm wrestle Fidel Castro and get it
out of his system.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, it`s important to note that not every conservative is
bashing the president as weak or suggesting our diplomacy should consist of
taunting President Putin. Bob Gates, the former secretary of defense for
both President Bush and President Obama, has called out some of his fellow
Republicans for their over-the-top criticism of the president in the middle
of a major international crisis.

This weekend, he debunked the conservative talking point that the
president`s weakness caused this crisis. Let`s watch Bob Gates here.


BOB GATES, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: My own view is, after all, Putin
invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused
George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force.

So I think Putin is very opportunistic in these arenas. I think that even
if -- even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren`t cutting
our defense budget, I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea, and he
has seized it.


MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, last week, in fact, former secretary of state
Henry Kissinger, as was mentioned earlier, quoted -- here`s what he said.
"For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy, it is an
alibi for the absence of one."

And James Baker, the former secretary of state under George Herbert Walker
Bush, stressed the importance of prudent diplomacy and not letting rhetoric
get overheated. Let`s watch Secretary Baker.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have to give President Putin a way out?

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think in a political
problem like this, that`s what diplomacy is all about, of course, finding a
way where both sides can walk away from the table and not feel totally
shamed and humiliated.


MATTHEWS: Well, now let`s listen to the crazy car. Here`s Bill Kristol,
John Boehner and Lindsey Graham, in order, and then Sarah Palin. Let`s
watch all the whackjobs going at it in this case.


BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": We could life pretty miserable for Putin
in an awful lot of ways. You want him to be humiliated. He needs to be
weakened at home.

President Putin a thug. That`s because he is. And he`s counting on the
United States to sit back and watch him do and take whatever he wants.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He very much cares about
democracy on his borders. I would like to create a democratic noose around
Putin`s Russia.

PALIN: How do you convey to Putin the threat that sounds like, Vladimir,
don`t mess around or you`re going to feel my flexibility --


PALIN: -- because I got a phone and I got a pen, and I can dial real
fast and poke you with my pen.


PALIN: He would gut our arsenal while he allows others, enemies, to enrich
theirs. Man, that`s just like a liberal on gun control. Mr. President,
the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke!




MATTHEWS: Guys, I want a final word on that kind of thinking. I grew up
under -- hiding under a desk as a school kid because of the threat of a
nuclear war between us and the Soviet Union. And for somebody to laugh
about nuclear confrontation, and then to applaud it, I -- what planet do
these people live on, these full mooners at CPAC? Howard?

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I think -- I think everybody knows that Vladimir
Putin is a thug. That`s not the question. The question is, how do you
deal with him? How do you diplomatically wrap him up so that we can move
forward as a planet? That`s the first thing.

The second thing here, I`ll say again, what the Republicans of this stripe
are doing is going after the very manhood of the Democratic president.
It`s been part of their strategy for two generations now. Barack Obama
didn`t fit into it initially, especially after Osama bin Laden was gotten
rid of, and they`re going to do everything they can, call him every name
they can think of to try to humiliate him in that way.

CORN: And that`s the goal here.


CORN: The goal here -- the goal here is not to solve the problem in the


CORN: The goal here is to get political advantage and gain some territory
on Barack Obama, whether it`s for Lindsey Graham to win his primary
challenge in South Carolina or to set up for 2016. That`s what it`s about.
None of this is about trying to help. I mean, look at James Baker.


CORN: He`ll tell you. Diplomacy is hard, and it`s not helped by name-

MATTHEWS: Well, someone should tell Governor Palin that nuclear war is not
a metaphor for manhood. It`s insanity. Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman,
and thank you, David Corn.

Coming up: If you thought the right-wing clown car would be stalled when
CPAC ended, think again. There`s a national battle right now breaking out
on the right between Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. But while Paul is trying to
expand the party, the street fighter Cruz wants to torch it.

Plus, tomorrow, two of Chris Christie`s former top aides are due in court.
Bridget Kelly, who famously e-mailed "Time for some traffic problems in
Fort Lee," and Bill Stepien, the governor`s campaign manager, are both
being called to explain why they`re refusing to turn over potential
evidence to the state committee investigating the lane closures at the
George Washington Bridge.

And the mystery of that missing Malaysian jetliner. How does a plane with
239 passengers aboard simply disappear? Well, tonight there are more
questions than answers.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the people -- what they`d like to know,
what they want to know about what happened in New Jersey in that scandal
and those people who don`t want us to know this.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Rand Paul ran away with the conservative CPAC straw poll
this week, and the hard right loves a dove. Look at this. Paul finished
with 31 percent of the vote, 20 points ahead of Ted Cruz. Cruz only
finished 3 points ahead of what CPACers call the RINO, Chris Christie.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the hard-right CPAC pilgrimage officially ended on Saturday. But if
you thought the far right`s clown car would end with it, think again,
because thanks to Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, it has exploded from the weekend
and into today.

Paul and Cruz, two red-hots angling for the party`s nomination in 2016,
have officially declared war on each other as of today. It began Sunday
with Rand Paul attacking Ted Cruz for tearing into John McCain, Mitt
Romney, and Bob Dole, three recent presidential nominees of the Republican
Party. Here is Rand Paul.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Everybody has their own style. My style is
that I stand for things, and I think people don`t question whether I stand
for principle. But I don`t spend a lot of time trying to drag people down.

I have been very complimentary of Mitt Romney. I met him. I think he is a
great guy. Can we do things different to get the party bigger? There`s
always ways we can get bigger, particularly when we don`t win. But I don`t
spend any time sort of trying to criticize others in the party, because I
realize the party has to be bigger, not smaller.


MATTHEWS: Well, then it was Cruz`s turn. An hour after Rand Paul`s
comments, Cruz attacked Paul for being soft on foreign policy. Here is
Cruz. And notice how he compares himself to, of course, Ronald Reagan.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I don`t agree with him on foreign policy. I
think U.S. leadership is critical in the world.

And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military
force abroad. But I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan
did. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, when he
stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down
this wall," those words changed the course of history. The United States
has a responsibility to defend our values.


MATTHEWS: Which brings us today.

This morning, Rand Paul unloaded on Cruz in the conservative Breitbart
News. Here is what Rand Paul wrote -- quote -- "Every Republican likes to
think he or she is the next Ronald Reagan. Some would say those do so for
their lack of own ideas and agenda. I will remind anyone who thinks we
will win elections by trashing previously Republican nominees or holding
oneself out as a paragon in the mold of Reagan that splintering the party
is not the route to victory."

Well said.

Jonathan Capehart is an MSNBC contributor and an opinion writer with "The
Washington Post," and Joy Reid is the host of "THE REID REPORT" on MSNBC.

Jonathan, let me propose something. I don`t think Ronald Reagan in a
million years would have attacked Iraq. He was not adventurous in foreign
policy. He was an anti-communist, pure and simple. This crowd has made a
bet, this crowd led by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, that the Republican Party
is still in any way proud of what they did in Iraq, their last big foreign
policy adventure.

I don`t think they are proud of it. I think they`re quietly embarrassed by
it or humiliated or morally embarrassed by the horror of 186,000 dead
people because of that policy of invading that country.

If they`re still proud of that war, Ted Cruz has a chance. If they`re
quietly embarrassed by this overseas adventurism, put your money on Rand
Paul, because he is betting -- he doesn`t say it -- they blew it, and they
better not blow it again with another country.

Your thoughts.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that`s actually a very, very
interesting question, taking all those comments from those clips that you
showed and others that we have been seeing from CPAC all weekend and
boiling it down to, what does it mean about when it comes to Iraq?

And, look, what I -- what I think is happening here is, you know, they
don`t like the guy who is in the White House right now. President Obama --
we have seen it before. President Obama will do -- will be doing things
that they say he should be doing, but they don`t realize he is doing it,
because they hate him so much. They can`t stand anything that he does.

And so if the president were doing what Senators Cruz and Paul want him to
do on Ukraine, on Syria, on Libya, Benghazi, fill in the blank, they would
hate him for it. So I think there is a mix of what you say is whether the
party is embarrassed by Iraq or proud of Iraq going into Iraq, or is it
added to the combination just a visceral knee-jerk hatred of the president
that, no matter what he does, they don`t like it?

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you the question again. The Vietnam War did
not go well for the Democrats in the `60s. And they turned against it and
changed their policies and became much less a hawkish party, a Scoop
Jackson, a Hubert Humphrey party.

Will the Republicans make that turn? Are they making it going into the
2016 election? Or are they doubling down think on hawkishness? Which is
it going to be? I think this is a critical question.


CAPEHART: It`s a critical question. And this is going to be, I think, the
critical fight within the -- within the party when it comes to foreign

With Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as you set up, you have got two opposite ends
of the foreign policy spectrum within the Republican Party. And, you know,
Rand Paul doesn`t have -- has the same policy prescriptions as his father,
Ron Paul. But here is the difference.

Rand Paul is actually a plausible 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
And to have him go to battle with Ted Cruz, we will see whether the people
who are proud of the Iraq war win out over the people who aren`t proud of
the Iraq war.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said.

Let me go -- let me go to -- let me go to Joy on that one.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, you know, Chris, I --


MATTHEWS: Joy, we`re glad to have you. I didn`t know I would get you


MATTHEWS: But have I now you, and I`m thrilled. So, go on.

REID: Well, I --


MATTHEWS: Joy Reid, what do you make of -- congratulations on your show`s
success, by the way, in the afternoon.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: But what do you think of this? To me, it`s a pivotal point. If
you`re proud of what -- I have to -- I`m older than you guys. I have got
to tell you, Democrats were very morally chastened by what happened in
Vietnam, most of them.

REID: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And that explains a lot of the foreign policy of the party
today. They don`t believe in wars, adventurous wars anymore. They don`t
think it`s good or fun, certainly, to go launch a war in a Third World

What`s your thinking?

REID: No, and I think the difference between Ted Cruz and Rand Paul is
that Ted Cruz thinks that he is representing the Ronald Reagan wing of the
party. But he is really representing more of the George W. Bush wing.

Ted Cruz is still living in the Republican Party in the two years after
their defeat in 2008, when they were still very defensive of the George W.
Bush sort of legacy and way of doing things, when this idea of the bluster
of a George W. Bush, talking really tough --


REID: -- and then actually using military force and constantly
threatening it, that was the ethos of the Republican Party.

But look at what the actual Republican Party has done in Washington. They
consented to cutting defense, essentially.


REID: If you look at what the sequester was, it included big cuts to
defense. Sure, they tried to go back on it. Yes, they didn`t want to keep
them in place forever.

But this is a party that is starting to lean much more libertarian. And
the thing that people in the party didn`t like about Ron Paul, about Rand
Paul`s father, is they felt he was way too far into libertarian extreme,
such that he made the use of military force off the table completely.

Rand Paul has calibrated his message, so that he has just enough of the
Paul-like "let`s be very reluctant to go to war" stance that I think is
where more Republicans are more than not.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

REID: He is much more in the Reagany mold, where Reagan, look, talked very
tough, but did not use military force, found a peaceful solution to the
issues with the Cold War with the Soviet Union. So, this is not --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with you.

REID: I mean, I think that -- that Ted Cruz has misread the party, and
Rand Paul`s strategy of straddling the establishment, giving the kudos to
the past folks like Bob Dole, but at the same time being libertarian for
the younger people, is much smarter.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will see how angry the Republican Party is. If they`re
haters down to their core, to their bone matter, all they do is hate, they
will go with Ted Cruz. If they`re trying to build a new libertarian party
that is smarter than it had been in the past, they will probably go to Rand
Paul. We will see.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart.

Joy, it`s great having you on again.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And congratulations again on your program at 2:00 in the

Coming up, Dick Cheney finally shows us how to pronounce his name

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: President Obama this week warned Russian President
Vladimir Putin, who has sent warships to Crimea, that he is on the wrong
side of history. Pretty strong words from a guy who still uses a



MATTHEWS: It`s time for the "Sideshow." That was "SNL"`s "Weekend Update"
on the continuing diplomatic standoff with Russia.

Of course, many on right have been critical of President Obama`s handling
of the Ukraine crisis. But some have gone so far as to praise Vladimir
Putin for what they call his strength, while disparaging the president`s
foreign policy as weak.

Well, it`s no secret that Vladimir Putin has gone to great lengths to
cultivate his tough guy image, whether he is diving for sunken treasure, or
taking down an opponent with a new judo technique, or riding his horse
without his shirt. Modesty is not this guy`s strong suit.

But what if President Obama took a page out of Vladimir Putin`s playbook?
Here is what that might look like, courtesy of "Saturday Night Live" and
the star of the movie "Taken," Liam Neeson.


LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: I advised the president on a little video. Vladimir,
watch closely. We`re going to speak to you now in a language you can





MATTHEWS: Next up: Anyone who listens here has learned that the correct
pronunciation of the former vice president`s name is Cheney, not Cheney.

Finally, it`s been verified by the man himself. TMZ caught the former veep
sporting a cowboy hat in downtown Washington on Saturday. When they asked
if he could imagine a hip-hot artist wearing a hat like his, he responded
with this. Listen carefully.


wearing it, it`s probably a little too conservative.


MATTHEWS: Think of it this way. He never cared that so many people were
getting it wrong.

Up next: Tomorrow, for the first time, we will get a look at Bridget Kelly
and Bill Stepien, two of Chris Christie`s top aides at the center of the
lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Kelly and Stepien are due
in court. Their lawyers say they will plead the Fifth. But I want to know
why they won`t tell what`s went on here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


what`s happening.

The Senate voted a short time ago to approve a bill that would change the
military`s protocol for handling sexual assaults. It was approved by a
vote of 97-0. The measure was written by three female senators.

The USS Kidd is joining the USS Pinckney in a search for missing Malaysia
Airlines Flight 370. The ships and its helicopters are design to search-
and-rescue missions -- for search-and-rescue missions, as well as

A meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Vladimir Putin is put
on hold. A potential meeting had been discussed over the weekend. The
State Department says no visit will take place until Russia stops its
military advances and shows it`s ready to engage in serious talks on ending
the crisis in Ukraine.

There was wrenching testimony today in the murder trial of former Olympian
Oscar Pistorius. The runner was overcome while listening to a pathologist
describe injuries to the victim. Pistorius is accused of killing his
girlfriend. He says the shooting was an accident.

And President Obama welcomed NCAA champions to the White House earlier
today. He thanked the athletes for their hard work and for the volunteer
work many of them have done to give back to their communities -- back to

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Two of the main characters in the Chris Christie bridge scandal will be in
court tomorrow, Bridget Kelly, Christie`s former deputy chief of staff, and
Bill Stepien, Christie`s former campaign manager.

But these two central figures in the bridge scandal are not expected to
talk. They`re expected to take the Fifth, despite Bridget Kelly`s clear
knowledge based on this e-mail, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee," which Kelly said to Christie`s point man at the Port Authority, David

NBC News` Mike Isikoff caught up with Bridget Kelly late this afternoon as
she walked with her attorney.


Bridget? Hi. Mike Isikoff with NBC News.

Hi. I wondered if I could ask you a few questions. How are you holding up
during all this?

STAFF: I`m OK. Thank you.

ISIKOFF: How -- can you tell us how difficult an experience this has been
for you?

KELLY: I`m not going to comment.

ISIKOFF: Would you say that there is more to the story that people haven`t


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is NBC News national investigative
correspondent Michael Isikoff, and "The Washington Post"`s Chris Cillizza.

I want that talk about the law and the politics of this case.

First of all, what was your sense of Bridget Kelly? Because she is so much
the emblematic figure, if not the empathetic figure, here in this whole
case, Michael.

ISIKOFF: Well, I got to say, Chris, she looked anguished. She looked
almost traumatized.

We`re two months into this. But you could just tell by looking at her in
that brief encounter and looking at her face that she is dreading this
entire experience.

But what is surprising, Chris, is that she is going to be in that courtroom
tomorrow. She doesn`t have to be. This is a legal argument on whether her
Fifth Amendment assertion covers her e-mails and text messages and

But, by showing up, I think she and her lawyer are trying to make a
statement here that she`s not a punching bag, that she`s very much a
character in this, and is going to assert her rights.

She -- as you could tell, you saw what she looked like and how she is not
at this point eager to talk to the press. But she`s got a very aggressive,
wily defense lawyer, Michael Critchley, who she was meeting with today, and
he is going to pull out all the stops and is going to send the message that
if people go after her, she has a story to tell.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is that story? Has that been turned over to federal
prosecutors? Is there anywhere that that exists besides in her mind? The
e-mails and the rest of it?

ISIKOFF: Look, look, in court papers, she talks about -- her lawyer talks
about how he has been approached by the U.S. attorney`s office that wants
to interview Bridget Kelly. They have declined. They`re invoking her
Fifth Amendment privileges.

But, you know, like I said, you put all this together, and she does not
appear, at least by the posture of her lawyer as somebody who is going to
fall on her sword. She met repeatedly with Kevin O`Dowd, Charles McKenna.
She was questioned by them as part of the governor`s internal review. And
she had conversations there that we haven`t heard. And so, we haven`t
heard her story yet.

A lot of people are still skeptical that she could have come up with that
idea, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee", on her own. Who else
had she discussed it with? Those are the biggest questions looming over
this whole case.

MATTHEWS: Chris Christie, I agree with what Michael said, it gets to the
nub of this, the nut as we say in journalism, the key to the story is who
led her into this path.


MATTHEWS: That there was some sort of reason to get this mayor, perhaps
get that town, send some message, something to do with a development there,
something to do with money, something to do with election politics. But
the idea that she would just on a dime come up with this idea of screwing
the guy with this traffic for a month is what the plan was, four weeks of
this, all entirely on her own meant somebody gave her tremendous authority
in the name of the governor.


MATTHEWS: The governor, somehow she could speak in the name of the
governor. And the question is was the governor involved in any way of
shaping the battlefield for this fight with this mayor?

CILLIZZA: So, I think the question I`ve always had and I think you guys
hit on it, the sort of central question here is she was a deputy chief of
staff. Now, she wasn`t the only deputy chief of staff. But she was a
deputy chief of staff, which is a relatively high level position.

But could she has a deputy chief of staff not only say sort of order this,
but on the other end, have David Wildstein at the Port Authority say, OK,
we`ll do it, on her order alone? Based on the information that we have,
the answer to that, obviously, as mike points out, there is a lot less --
there is more we don`t know than we do know about their actions here.

But based on the information we have, the answer to that is yes. I think
Mike makes a politically important point. Politically for Chris Christie,
Chris, which is they really don`t want Bridget Kelly -- they don`t want to
be -- no one wants to beat her up too much in Christie world politically
speaking because they don`t want a story in which she is sort of looking
out for Bridget Kelly, not Chris Christie. Those two things may not be
different, but if they are, you do not want an angry Bridget Kelly sort of
not on the same playbook as everyone else in the Christie world.

To date, they`ve kept it relatively closed down. You have --


MATTHEWS: Hey, Chris --

CILLIZZA: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: -- to use the Watergate phrase, isn`t that toothpaste out of the
tube? He called her a liar and stupid on national television. I don`t see
how much love she is going to extend back to him.

CILLIZZA: It may be.

MATTHEWS: That`s on the record. That`s who she is, according to him.

CILLIZZA: What we don`t have -- the closest thing we have I think to sort
of news in this was a couple of weeks ago, the evidence exists that Chris
Christie knew about this. But we don`t know who has that evidence. Can it
be presented in a legal format? Does it matter politically?

That`s the issue. She has a story. Is she going to tell it in a way that
we all can consume it or not?

MATTHEWS: Well, we hope for that tomorrow. I want the truth out.

Michael Isikoff, thank you for that reporting, and that attempt to get
something out of the major figure in the case besides the governor, and
that`s Bridget Kelly.

And thank you, Chris Christie.

Up next -- I mean, Chris -- thank you, Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

MATTHWES: Let`s go back and do that again.

Let me do that over again, please, please.


Thank you, Michael Isikoff. Thank you, thank you, Michael Isikoff. And
thank you, Chris -- thank you.


MATTHEWS: That special House election in Florida`s 13th congressional
district is going down to the wire. Democrat Alex Sink is up against
Republican David Jolly to fill out the term of the late Bill Young.

Both sides have pumped a lot of money and energy into the race, and they`re
using it to test their messaging ahead of November`s midterms. Democrats
are trying to accuse Jolly of wanting to repeal the health care law, while
Republicans are trying to turn Sink into a clone of President Obama and
Nancy Pelosi.

Polls will be closed tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

How does an airplane carrying 239 passengers on board including three
Americans vanish? That`s what investigators are trying to figure out right
now as they look into the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

It was traveling from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing on Saturday morning.
There`s still no trace of the airliner whatsoever which abruptly
disappeared from air traffic control systems about an hour after takeoff.
The search is now on its fourth day and no wreckage has been found, there`s
no sign of mechanical or pilot error, no evidence of an explosion, and no
claims of responsibility of terrorism.

There were also no reports of threatening weather or signals of distress
from the aircraft, itself. Investigators have ruled nothing out, but
perhaps most disturbing, the reports that two passengers boarded that
flight with stolen passports. Authorities are working to identify who
those passengers were.

Evan Kohlmann is an NBC News terrorist expert, and Jim Tillman is a former
pilot and aviation expert. First to you, Evan, on the terrorism questions.
What does -- what do you know now that indicates, yes or no, it was an act
of terrorism? Anything?

information that would suggest it`s terrorism. There have been eyebrows
raised, first of all, about the passports, the use of stolen passports
especially because of the fact reportedly the two individuals using stolen
passports were of Iranian origin. That being said, if you count the number
of instances that people travel on stolen passports and you tally them up,
it`s far, far more likely this has something to do with illegal immigration
or narcotics smuggling --


KOHLMANN: -- than it is terrorism. And you really -- it takes a -- it
really takes a strong -- it`s a struggle to explain why a terrorist group
would deliberately target a Malaysian Airline full of Chinese passengers.
It`s very difficult to understand that or rationalize that.

MATTHEWS: What about this guy Ali? We only have a minute. What about
this guy, Ali, who`s come forward and said, "I bought the ticket for the
two guys"?

KOHLMANN: Yes, again, you know, it`s very possible this is passport fraud.
It`s very possible it`s immigration fraud here. Certainly illicit

But was it terrorism? Almost certainly not. There`s no evidence of that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jim Tilmon. A couple questions. Where do we get
this idea the plane may have turned back to Kuala Lumpur and why we not
hear a ping out of the ocean?

I guess there`s so many questions. You go with your questions, maybe ahead
of mine. Your thoughts?

JIM TILMON, FORMER PILOT: No, we`re wondering about the same kinds of
things. First of all, that radar return that gave the impression the
airplane turned back from where it started from, I`ve seen that return and
if it`s not any more clear than what I`ve seen, it doesn`t have to indicate
an absolute turn. It could just as easily be part of an airplane that`s
breaking up.

So, I`m not convinced about that part, just like I wasn`t convinced about
the oil slick being jet fuel. It wasn`t. So, I mean --

MATTHEWS: OK. Where`s the ping? Where`s the ping?

TILMON: The pings we`re not hearing because, one, maybe that device was
damaged to the point that it won`t. And two, because maybe we`re so far
away from it until we`re not able to recognize it.

I mean, the thing is, we don`t know where that airplane went. We just
don`t that it disappeared from radar and did it in such a fashion that it
made it obvious that no one would be able to make a distress call. It was
like one sweep of the radar that was there, then the next sweep of the
radar, it was gone.

MATTHEWS: Wow. What could cause a plane to disappear, I mean, blow up, if
you will, to be really awful about it and a pilot not being able to say, oh
my God, or something coming through the transmission?

TILMON: I got to tell you, you use the right term, the one we hesitated to
use, but it sounds like it blew up. It does sound like some kind of
explosion. It certainly was something spontaneous and something that was
not planned for and certainly something catastrophic. So --

MATTHEWS: Can the air disappear from a plane so fast that a pilot can`t
gulp out some kind of remark of hell? Something that says distress? Can
the air disappear that fast?

TILMON: If you talk about explosive decompression, we`re trained to deal
with that. I mean, that`s why he has an oxygen mask next to his shoulder
so he gets that on before any kind of problem occurs. No, I don`t think it
was explosive decompression.

MATTHEWS: OK. Won`t be that.

So, back to you, evan. What`s left? Where do we go with this?

Do we go to the man, Ali, and say, what was your motive in giving free
tickets to the two guys?

I assume, just as a civilian, why would a guy come forward and say I gave
them the ticket money if he was a terrorist or involved in terrorism in any

KOHLMANN: I think that`s a reasonable point. I think at this point,
unless, there`s a credible group that comes forward, a credible claim of
responsibility, unless there`s wreckage located that shows explosive
residue, and it` definitive, it`s some kind of explosive device, I really
think it`s going to with more mechanical or certainly not terrorism
related. There`s no evidence to point to that right now. It could change.
But right now, there`s really nothing at all.

MATTHEWS: Wow. It`s a horrible mystery.

Anyway, thank you, Jim Tilmon. Thank you so much for your expertise.

And Evan Kohlmann, so much.

KOHLMANN: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

We, all of us, await the prospect of seeing the truth in the New Jersey
bridge caper. The question we all of us want answered is whether Bridget
Kelly, who will be called to testify tomorrow, created by herself the
notion of punishing the mayor of Fort Lee by shutting down traffic from his
area across George Washington Bridge. Did she?

Did she one day imagine the vital importance of hurting this town, Fort
Lee? Did she equally imagine the method of doing so? Did she say to
herself, just as she said in that e-mail, not just that it was time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee, but I thought of a way to hurt the mayor
of Fort Lee. Did she do that? Did she, the deputy chief of staff to
Governor Christie create the mission and the method that led to four days
of traffic hell? Apparently intended to be four weeks?

Was that, all of it her idea, or did she, Bridget Kelly, operate in this
case as a general campaign, part of a Christie campaign effort to kick butt
in that state on the eve of the governor`s re-election? Or she`s simply
the operative whose job it was to pull the trigger when the time came?
Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.

She knows. She knows it all -- where the campaign to punish the mayors
came from, where the push to nail the Fort Lee mayor came from, where the
method of punishment came from, when the George Washington Bridge became
for this battle the field of action.

I want to know what Ms. Kelly knows. Anyone who doesn`t want us to know it
is at the heart of this scandal.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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