updated 5/6/2014 12:37:24 PM ET 2014-05-06T16:37:24

May 5, 2014

Guests: Michael Hirsh, Alice Stewart, Steve McMahon, April Ryan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Voodoo politics.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Let me start off the week with this. The enemies of Hillary Clinton -- by
that I mean the partisan enemies -- have got their voodoo doll. It`s
called Benghazi. Every time they put the pin in, they hope it hurts
Hillary. Every time they say the word, they hope it scares her. And now
they`ve got a select committee, an official committee of the Congress
devoted entirely to putting in the pins. It will endure for months and
quite plausibly years as they stick into Benghazi and every time they want
to hurt the person they fear will loom as unbeatable in 2016.

Just listening (ph) to the chanting and incantations as they dwell on the
incident they hope will puncture the political brand of the former
secretary of state. They want her and every voter in the country, when
they hear the word "Benghazi," to think Hillary Clinton. It`s become an
obsession bordering on cultism among Republicans, with even John Boehner
falling under its spell. You can almost smell the incense.

Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi -- they keep chanting the word until it gets
Hillary to fall. Could the cause of this bizarre rite be a secret
Republican fear that while Hillary Clinton may be strongly positioned on
the center-left, they`ve got nobody on center-right to stand up to her now
that Christie`s got stuck on the bridge and Jeb doesn`t know whether he`s
going or coming?

Howard Fineman is the editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC
political analyst and Michael Hirsh is national editor of Politico

Michael, you`re the one in your column that inspired this discussion. In
an article for Politico, you called it the "Benghazi-industrial complex."
Quoting your piece, "it`s already too late for the truth. Benghazi has
taken on a cultural life of its own on the right. It`s become embedded in
the Democratic demonology of the conservative base. It is now shorthand
for a new generation of right wing-conspiracy theorizing about the Clintons
that Republican candidates know will excite conservative voters. Benghazi
has become to the 19 -- or to the 2010s what Vince Foster and Whitewater
were to the 1990s."

You also say it`s partly about trying to make Hillary Clinton so disgusted
with this nonsense, she just decides to stay out of the race. Tell us
about your reporting, Michael, how you`ve gotten into this, I think so
well, but tell me what you know.

MICHAEL HIRSCH, POLITICO: Well, first of all, Chris, I don`t think that
Benghazi as an issue would have much impact on Hillary were she the
Democratic nominee for president. I think the polls show that.

To me, the bigger question is that as my Politico colleagues, Glenn Thrush
and Maggie Haberman, reported in the magazine this week, her principle
ambivalence about running at all is getting back into this ugly political
game that she has been dealing with for 20 years since she was first lady
and the Vince Foster allegations first came up.

You know, it`s no accident that some of the conspiracy theorists around
Benghazi are harking back to Vince Foster, and did he really commit suicide
in Fort Marcy Park, and so forth. And I think that that`s really the
question. The question is, she has not committed herself to getting into
the race yet. Does she really want to jump back into what she knows is
going to be very, very ugly? And I think that`s where all of this Benghazi
conspiracy theorizing could have some impact on her.

MATTHEWS: Yes, this almost near religious thing, Howard, of this Benghazi
thing. And I have the weird sense about this -- and everything`s open to
inquiry, and it should be -- but it`s like they don`t want to inquire.
They just want people to think bad, dark stuff. Things evil happened here.
And they don`t really want to get to the bottom of it, if there is a

Well, Chris, if they got to the bottom of it, they`d find that there wasn`t
much there, and then they would have to have think of something else to run
2014 and 2016 on. They want this to go on forever. They want a long --
they want a list of potential witnesses for this new select committee as
long as the dictionary because they want to keep it going all the way

There`s some other elements here. I think Mike`s piece is absolutely
terrific, but don`t forget, the guy who`s head of this new committee is a
Tea Party guy from South Carolina, Trey Gowdy. He`s all Tea Party. The
Tea Party has loved this from the beginning, as Mike says. It`s a great
fund-raising thing --

MATTHEWS: What does it say --

FINEMAN: It`s a fund-raising thing --

MATTHEWS: I mean, Kissinger said --

FINEMAN: -- for the entire --

MATTHEWS: You and I remember --


MATTHEWS: -- at the end of the -- at the end of the Vietnam war, thank
God, around 1972, right before the election, Kissinger said -- he was
secretary of state -- "Peace is at hand." OK, a little bit early, a little
bit premature, OK? But nobody sits around thinking about this. At worst,
what the Obama people are guilty of, at worst -- and this is taking the
total Republican argument -- they spun it a bit more in one direction than
the other, OK?

FINEMAN: I think so. I mean, having --

MATTHEWS: At worst!

FINEMAN: Having read --

MATTHEWS: If it`s -- if it`s true --


FINEMAN: Having read the documents, that`s all it is so far. They somehow
have to try to prove that there was premeditated intent to mislead based on
actual knowledge of exactly what was going to happen and what happened.
They`re never going to find it. I think they know they`re never going to
find it. But as you say, it`s a matter of faith, especially with the Tea
Party and especially given the sort of demonization of Hillary --


FINEMAN: -- tradition that Mike talks about. I will say this, though.
I don`t think, based on the people I know and the reporting I`ve done, that
it`s going to scare Hillary off in the least. I think her view is she`s
seen the worst of it, she survived the worst of it. What didn`t kill her
made her stronger.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know.

FINEMAN: And she will roll over these people, especially because there`s
every possibility that the Trey Gowdys of the world are going to overplay
their hand big-time.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, Hillary`s a strong person. She ran for the
Senate up in New York. She did a lot of things.


MATTHEWS: Can she walk away and say, I quit because of Benghazi?


MATTHEWS: OK, Benghazi has become a code word of sorts for the right.
They`re setting up a word association. Hear the word "Benghazi," think
Hillary Clinton. This weekend, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz on "MEET THE
PRESS" referenced Clinton multiple times in regards to this so-called -- I
don`t even want to call it a scandal -- this thing. Let`s watch.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I have a document in my hands, an internal
State Department document that goes to Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton`s
chief of staff. And this is on September 12th. The State Department had
told the president of the Libyan congress that it was Ansar al Shariah, a
terrorist organization, that had committed these attacks.

What happened? For instance, as journalists, you do not know the answer as
to why was the ambassador there? What happened, for instance, on April
6th, 2012, when our facility was bombed? It was bombed again on June 6th
of 2012. The British ambassador had an assassination attempt. What did
Secretary Clinton do to secure that facility?


MATTHEWS: Chris Stevens, the ambassador, was there at that facility in
Benghazi because he wanted to be there. It was his call. That`s the way
the world works, Congressman. You ought to figure that one out.
Ambassadors make their own decisions.

Anyway, meanwhile, Fox News host Eric Bolling made this accusation about
why Hillary Clinton didn`t go on the Sunday shows that weekend.


ERIC BOLLING, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": Hillary Clinton was the one who was
supposed to, A, testify, and then B, go on those talk shows and be asked
the question, Why did you put -- what`s the reason for the terror attack?
And she was the one who would have had to have said, Well, it was the video
that caused the attack.

They knew she couldn`t do that because she`s going to -- she was going to
run in 2016 and they could not throw her under the bus at that point. So
she hits her head. She has to spend two weeks out of commission, can`t
testify, can`t go on the talk shows, and they send Susan Rice out to do her
dirty work!


MATTHEWS: Amazing how somebody can talk with all that blabber and no
information. Anyway, for the record, Bolling, this guy, didn`t even get
the timing right. Clinton`s injuries, the head injury occurred months
after the Sunday show appearances by Rice, months after! And by the way,
she did testify before the Congress.

Of course, some on the lunar right, like that guy, go even further. One
Tea Party group recently blogged -- this is how far they go now -- "Hillary
Clinton, the butcher of Benghazi."

I think, Michael, you`re right on point here. This seems to be the only
cartridge they have in their bullet -- in their belt here because I would
go back to this, that Hillary Clinton is a notch or two to the right on
foreign policy from the president, I think we`d all agree, especially on
Middle East politics. She`s very much in the Democratic center, in the
interest group center on things like trade, where she`s not so big for it,
like Bill.

She`s very much positioned right where you want to be, in the sweet spot.
They don`t have a Republican even close to the sweet spot to beat her. The
closest was Christie, and he`s stuck on the bridge.

HIRSH: Yes. I think their best shot, frankly, is to try to knock her out
of the race before she decides to get into it -- in other words, to deter
her from entering because I do think, you know, there`s no Democratic field
that can challenge her. I think everyone is in agreement on that. And you
have other disarray on the Republican side, with no one able to take up the
flag nationally, at least as yet.

So you know, I do think the Benghazi-industrial complex, as we`ve called
it, is largely about smearing her as best they can before any decisions are
even made.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Michael, why would this threat of a poo storm, to use a
terrible phrase, that she`s just going to have to walk through this crap,
basically -- which it is crap because there`s no way to work your way
through it, really. It just is going to be -- if it isn`t the failure to
plan for more security or the incidents that night or the later spin, they
just go on like a -- like a -- you know, they just keep going from one
issue to another no matter what you say and they`re never going to stop.

So I guess she`s just going to have to say to herself -- let me go to
Howard on this. She`s just going to have to say to herself, This is
something I don`t have to deal with.

FINEMAN: Yes, well, she is going to deal with it. Her book, as Mike
points --

MATTHEWS: Oh, by the way, book`s coming much faster than the campaign.

FINEMAN: Yes. All right. As mike points out in his piece, you know, her
book is coming. She`s going to give as detailed an explanation as she ever
has or ever will give. That`s going to be the orthodoxy in that book. I
think she`s prepared for it. I think she --

MATTHEWS: And by the way, her editors and publishers at Simon & Schuster,
which published me -- they`re going to vet it. They`re going to say, This
has to directly hit the public concern here --

FINEMAN: Sure, and --


MATTHEWS: -- right-wing crazy concern, as well.

FINEMAN: And in fact, the investigations -- the special -- the
investigations that have already taken place have said, in fact, there were
administrative problems in the State Department about security.


FINEMAN: And Hillary has owned up to that.


FINEMAN: And she has said that her worst concern -- like, her biggest
regret as secretary of state is the fact that they didn`t do more. But
what the Republicans are going to have to try to prove is that, somehow,
she willfully, deliberately was not on her watch --

MATTHEWS: OK, this --

FINEMAN: -- which is impossible to show. I`m just saying, Chris --

MATTHEWS: I know, you`re saying --


FINEMAN: Chris, it`s for fund-raising ultimately, in my view --

MATTHEWS: Michael --


MATTHEWS: -- appeal to you on this. In overseas situations, especially
in a countries like Libya, which was still at war and had no real
government -- we were getting protected by militias in that area of
Benghazi. We have outposts that have been attacked in ways that we`re not
prepared over in Afghanistan. Months after months it would go with these
terrible situation where GIs were stuck out in the middle of nowhere and
overrun by the Taliban. Nobody`s making -- this is life in a dangerous
world! What do you think Benghazi was like?

It was a dangerous place that the Chris Stevens, who everybody loved, had
the guts to go into, and things broke bad! The militias weren`t there to
help them. They were on the other side. These were judgments made on the
ground. And how many soldiers are we supposed to have following around
diplomats in dangerous areas? You can`t bring soldiers into those areas.
Those situations will not permit it. But anyway, that`s too much common
sense, I guess.

HIRSH: Well, I mean, this -- it`s been, you know, debunked. I mean, even
the House Armed Services Committee, majority Republicans, came to the
conclusion that there was no way to militarily save Stevens and the three
other Americans who died. So you have -- you know, even the Republican
right is divided on this question.

And you`re right, Stevens was in a very unusual situation. He knew a lot
of these people because he had been there before. And so you know, it was
a unique -- it was a unique situation. But you know, she does have to
answer some questions about security procedures. There are legitimate
questions here.


HIRSH: It`s just it just doesn`t have anything to do with a scandal that
the Republicans are trying to gin up.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m always impressed when George Will comes out and says,
basically, the Democrats would be smart not to participate in this so-
called select committee. I found that fascinating. It must have
disheartened some of them. By the way, Charles Krauthammer, another guy,
another huge brain on the right, said, basically, they missed their chance
on this baby the first time through.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Hirsh. And thank you, Howard Fineman, as

HIRSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Howard, especially you.

Coming up: Want to talk about a real scandal? How about the hype that got
us into Iraq? Remember how the smoking gun was going to be a nuclear
mushroom cloud? Well, that trail of deceit still hectors members of the
Bush administration, probably will forever, and it should.

Plus, the great Republican proxy war in North Carolina. Three Senate
candidates, each with his own big-name supporter, Rand Paul for the
libertarian, Mike Huckabee for the Christian conservative, and Jeb Bush for
the establishment choice, of course. And the Democrats? They love this

And what the jokes at the White House correspondents dinner tell us about
some of the people who are thinking seriously of running in 2016. Lots of
knives in those jokes.


miss me when I`m gone.


OBAMA: It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was
born in Kenya.



MATTHEWS: Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my grand experience
yesterday before 60,000 students, parents and grandparents at the Ohio
State University.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: With less than six months to go, Republicans look strong heading
into November`s midterm elections. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new "USA Today"/Pew Research poll, Republicans lead
Democrats on the generic congressional ballot by 4 points. It`s 47 for
Republicans, 43 for Christians. That 4-point margin may not sound like a
lot, but it`s the highest at this point for Republicans in "USA Today`s"
polling in the past 20 years. Well, we`ll see. Four years ago, the
parties were tied at this point, and Republicans went on to win a net gain
of 63 seats in the House.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The shame of the Iraq war remains a
stain on those in the Bush administration who promoted and prosecuted it.
The latest example, the national security adviser at the time, Condoleezza
Rice. She was invited to be the commencement speaker at Rutgers University
in New Jersey, but students and faculty both protested her selection,
citing comments like these from Secretary Rice.


there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire
nuclear weapons. But we don`t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.


MATTHEWS: In a resolution calling for the university to rescind Rice`s
invitation, faculty members wrote, "Condoleezza Rice played a prominent
role in the Bush administration`s efforts to mislead the American people
about the presence of weapons of mass destruction."

And this weekend, Rice backed out of the commencement, writing on her
Facebook page, "Rutgers` invitation for me to speak has become a
distraction for the university community at this very special time. I
understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony, and I am
simply unwilling to distract -- or detract from it in any way."

Well, the stain of the Iraq war has not faded from those in the Bush
administration. You can see it right there. Rutgers is just the latest
landmine, if you will, set off by a former Bush team member. And more of
these landmines lurk in the near future as we await the release of the
Senate Intelligence Committee`s torture report, not to mention the
potential for another Bush presidential campaign.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and
Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington
Post." Both are MSNBC political analysts

David, it seems to me there`s a couple issues here. One is the protocol.
And I`ve been through a lot of commencement addressed I`ve been lucky to be
invited to, and I don`t like people canceling them or pulling back. It
seems like the invitation is sincere and accepted sincerely.

In this case, I think the issue`s different. I think the issue focuses
here on the Iraq war. And you know, maybe if I were a student protester or
a faculty member, I would have said, Show up and explain why we got into
that war.

debate on campus. Show up to be part of --

MATTHEWS: In addition to it, yes.

CORN: Well, or on its own. But to pay someone $35,000 --

MATTHEWS: Oh, they paid her?

CORN: Oh, yes. They were paying her $35,000 to give the speech. They`re
still paying her, even for not doing the speech. And --

MATTHEWS: Why do they pay people to give commencement addresses?

CORN: I don`t know. You can ask Condoleezza Rice why she didn`t do it for

But nevertheless, but the issue here is that she was involved in this
public policy disaster in which she herself was one of the key people who
went out there and said things that either she knew was not true or it was
her job to know was not true.

She kept saying, you know, the aluminum tubes indicated that they were
developing weapons of mass destruction, when she knew there was a debate
about this. So I think you could really hold her responsible for --


CORN: (INAUDIBLE) best case.

MATTHEWS: I like her personally, but I do.

CORN: And there`s no reason --

MATTHEWS: You know why? You`ve missed the big baby, the big elephant in
the room. When she said, We don`t want that smoking gun to become a
nuclear mushroom cloud, she was saying we faced nuclear war --

CORN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: -- with Iraq! Are you crazy?

CORN: And after 10 years, it doesn`t go away, because the people who are
dead are still dead.


It will be interesting to see if there was a statute of limitations.
Clearly, it has not run yet. And people`s feelings are still raw about her
role in selling the Iraq war.


MATTHEWS: Yes, Cheney is still out there holding his little salons for all
these business guys sitting around, talking, oh, of course, we understand
more about --


MATTHEWS: It`s unbelievable.

ROBINSON: Well, exactly.


MATTHEWS: Bush has -- W. has taken sort of a bye here. He`s become a

ROBINSON: Yes, I know.

MATTHEWS: And as I said the other day, it`s hard to hate a painter.

ROBINSON: Yes. And I give Condoleezza credit for being in the public

It would be -- would have been nice if she had agreed to, say, a debate or
to talk about the issue that those people wanted to talk about, which is --


CORN: But, also, she has never -- she, Cheney, Powell, Wolfowitz,
Rumsfeld, Bush himself, they have never come to terms with this. In the
books they have written, in any sort of public appearance, they have never
shown any regret.

They have never really have come to even try to explain. Bill Kristol, all
the pundits, Krauthammer, it`s the same thing.



CORN: They have gotten, all, a free pass on this.

MATTHEWS: And the P.R. on this thing, it wasn`t some impulsive mistake we
all make. This was a deliberate campaign to get us into war.

Watch this -- I call this the alley-oop play. This is Judy Miller working
-- of "The New York Times" -- working with Scooter Libby and then working
with the vice president. And the alley-oop in basketball, for those who
don`t know, the few who don`t, you throw the ball up near the basket and
some guy who is tall puts it in.

Anyway, the coordinated effort to sell the Iraq war to the American people
was on full display on September 8, 2002. A page-one "New York Times"
article by Judith Miller that had been fed to her by the Bush
administration`s Scooter Libby was headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies
Quest for A-Bomb Parts."

And it included this line attributed to hard-liners: "The first sign of a
smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud."

Well, then on "Meet the Press" that very day, Dick Cheney referenced the
"New York Times" story. Guess what? I have a story here in "The New York
Times" here.


MATTHEWS: And the Bush administration planted that very story to make his
point that Saddam Hussein was about to go nuclear. Let`s watch Cheney in


New York Times" this morning. This is -- and I want to attribute "The
Times." I don`t want to talk about obviously specific intelligence

But it`s now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire and we
have been able to intercept him and prevent him from acquiring through this
particular channel the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a
centrifuge. We do know with absolute certainty that he is using his
procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich
uranium to build a nuclear weapon.


CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: See, that`s how it was done. And people who care about this
country watch "Meet the Press" and the other programs Sunday morning to
find out what`s happening.


MATTHEWS: In this case, Judy Miller delivered Scooter Libby`s stuff so
that this guy on Sunday morning could be there to talk about it.


ROBINSON: That`s right.

CORN: And the key thing here is -- and I hate to bring facts into this,
but when he says we know with absolute certainty, at that time, there was a
raging debate between the Energy Department experts and one guy at the CIA
over whether those tubes could be used for nuclear weapons.

And all the real experts said no. Condoleezza Rice was aware of that
debate. She was in charge of coordinating this information. So, that`s
one of the biggest lies that she and Cheney ever told because --


MATTHEWS: Why did they do it?

CORN: Because, if they gave people the real reasons or even a
sophisticated argument for going to war against Iraq --


MATTHEWS: What was the reason for going to war? I never understood the
real reason, because they made up this -- the nuclear thing was never


ROBINSON: I think the real reason was this grand idea of reshaping the
Middle East and creating a -- you know, get rid of Saddam, create an
Athenian democracy.

MATTHEWS: I know. The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad. Knock out
the rejectionist states.

ROBINSON: Exactly.


MATTHEWS: You will have a peace deal.

ROBINSON: Yes, exactly.

And plus --


MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they sell that?


MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they sell that?

ROBINSON: You try to sell that. OK?


ROBINSON: You can`t sell that.

CORN: We think he may have weapons of mass destruction. We`re not sure.
We think this may lead to democracy, but who knows. And we want to help
Israel, by the way. There`s some oil out there, too. The public would not
have gone for that.

ROBINSON: Oh, and, incidentally, in doing this, we`re going to give a huge
boost to Iran. OK? We`re going to really clear the decks for Iran.


MATTHEWS: You`re so geopolitical, because that`s exactly what we left them
with. We left them with a client state. It`s not a buffer.


ROBINSON: Right. Iraq is a client state of Iran, which is now the great
regional power.


MATTHEWS: You wrote the book, but it`s hard to believe that Israel or any
other country is safer now.


CORN: No. Iraq is still about to blow up. Look what`s happening --


MATTHEWS: Anyway -- anyway, I`m sorry about the way this was handled.
Maybe the people at Rutgers should have checked out their faculty before
they went and did this, so they would have avoided this. But it does make
a statement, doesn`t it?

Thank you, David Corn. And thank you, Eugene Robinson.

Up next, "Saturday Night Live" finds that one person to vouch for banned
L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, still in the news, that fellow.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

Well, the death penalty is a difficult enough topic for politicians in this
country, let alone political comedians. That didn`t stop British comedian
John Oliver from tackling it head on. Last night, he pointed out a thing
or two about the history of capital punishment in his native country over
the years.


people so much, we kept coming up with new inventive techniques that looked
like they were designed by the Marquis de Sade and named by Willy Wonka.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the head crusher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These devices have almost childlike names, like penny-


OLIVER: Ooh, that`s right, penny-winkies, a delightful English cousin of
the throaty tug-tug and the joggly-shocky-buzz-buzz-tickly-wickly seats.


OLIVER: Whether you`re boiling people alive or putting them to sleep with
a tiny injection administered by a puppy dressed as Winnie the Pooh --


OLIVER: -- in the end, you are getting the same result.


MATTHEWS: Gallows humor there.

Anyway, disgraced L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling may have been banned
for life from the NBA, but the folks at "Saturday Night Live" have found at
least one former player who might be willing to vouch for his character.
Guess who?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Despite what you heard, I still have plenty of NBA
players that love me, like my dear friend, Mr. Dennis Rodman. Look at him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All right. Hey, listen, this is a good man. He`s
real cool. You all got to stop this.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I know because I`m, above all, a good judge of


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And this is one of the greatest men I have ever met,
right up there with my main man, glorious leader Kim Jong-un.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): I love you, soul brother.


MATTHEWS: Only in America.

Anyway, finally, a Tennessee lawmaker today became the latest Republican
politician, guess what, to compare the president`s health care law to Nazi
Germany. But state Senator Stacey Campfield took it to an unfortunately
new level.

Here`s what he said on his Web site`s blog this morning -- quote --
"Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for Obamacare is
like Germans bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for train
rides for Jews in the `40s."

If Campfield thought he was being funny, his state`s Republican Party
chairman certainly did not. He denounced the comment as ignorant and
repugnant and demanded that Campfield apologized.

Good for him.

But Campfield doubled down, releasing this statement -- quote -- "I regret
that some people missed the point of my post. It was not to offend. It
was to warn. At no point in our history have we ever faced a federal
government and administration with a lower regard for human life. And that
is something that I cannot and will not allow to go unchallenged."

Hmm -- 186,000 people killed in that last war under the Republican

Anyway, up next: a preview of coming attractions? It`s Jeb Bush vs. Rand
Paul vs. Mike Huckabee and something of a proxy war down in the Tar Heel
State. In North Carolina, they`re fighting out the 2016 race already.

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


what`s happening.

The Supreme Court has ruled that prayers said before a town council meeting
in New York State do not violate the Constitution. The courts says the
prayers are legal as long as they`re not used to proselytize insult a non-

A burn ban is in effect in 36 counties in Oklahoma after a wildfire began
there over the weekend.

And a small plane crashed into a house in Northglenn, Colorado. No one was
home at the time, and the pilot plot parachuted to safety -- back to

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The 2014 primary season gets under way tomorrow in North Carolina, where
three Republican Senate candidates, each backed by a different potential
top-tier presidential candidate for 2016, are vying to take on Kay Hagan.
The primary contest in North Carolina tomorrow has become a microcosm of
what the party`s 2016 presidential primaries are shaping up to be.

The establishment faction of the GOP, represented by Jeb Bush and Mitt
Romney, is backing North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, hoping to cut
off another Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock-type candidate. The man they`re
worried about is physician and Tea Partier Greg Brannon, who is backed by
libertarian Rand Paul and who hopes to force Tillis into a runoff if he can
keep him below 40 percent.

And representing social conservatives, Mike Huckabee is backing minister,
fellow Minister Mark Harris.

Alice Stewart is a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Mike
Huckabee, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. And Steve McMahon is a
Democratic strategist.

We have got to go to Alice first.

It`s an inside game for you. My question is, how does this thing work? I
mean, if Tillis wins, does he bring in the Tea Partier wing? Does he bring
in the Christian right? Do they all join him for the general against Kay
Hagan? Or is this going to be a schism in the party that lasts?

them just as he has done as speaker.

And the fact that he`s labelled as the establishment candidate, he thinks
is actually kind of amusing. I spoke with him just a few minutes ago and
he reminds me, and reminds everyone, that he used to be PTA president just
eight years ago. So, he`s certainly not the establishment candidate of the

And he has not only the support and endorsement of Jeb Bush and others,
strong Republicans, but also he`s got Tea Party support, he`s got the NRA,
he`s got the National Right to Life and other social organizations. So, he
has already brought them into the fold as speaker in North Carolina.

And he certainly would plan to do so if he were to win the nomination

MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, to make your point, by the way, from a
different perspective. He`s not a liberal.


MATTHEWS: He`s not a moderate. They`re all pretty hard-right candidates.


MATTHEWS: We`re talking degree here.

MCMAHON: It`s right, far right, and extreme right.

And he may not be an establishment candidate, in the sense that he doesn`t
want to be known as such. But he is running against a Tea Party candidate
and a Christian conservative. And he`s basically picked up the Mitt Romney
kind of coalition of the middle, reasonable Republican.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at some of the points of view here. There`s
not much light between these candidates.

Let`s take a look at Greg Bannon -- Brannon -- and then let`s listen to
Thom Tillis.


does not grant one given right. It declares God-given natural rights and
which the federal government can never infringe upon. The first law of
natural raw is personal security.

So the federal government shouldn`t even be part of that at all. Local
laws, state laws will take care of the violent criminals.

divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.

We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no
choice in her condition that needs help and that we should help. And we
need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into
a condition that makes them dependent on the government, and say at some
point, you`re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but
we`re not going to take care of you.


MATTHEWS: So, that`s a big Republican -- I`m going to get back to you on
this, Alice. This is a big Republican thing, getting people off welfare,
forcing them off welfare, basically treating them, as he did, I think it`s
fair to say, as bums, people that shouldn`t be on public assistance who are
because they`re lazy.

He says, we have got to beat them by getting the people with medical
problems who need public support to attack the people that he, the speaker
of the House of North Carolina, sees as basically the freeloaders, the
bums. I mean, it`s pretty clear what his attitude is towards people on
public assistance here, isn`t it?

STEWART: Well, if you -- if you look at both of those sound bites, what
we`re hearing from the candidates in North Carolina -- and Harris is the
same -- they want smaller government, limited government.

And Speaker Tillis has made it quite clear that sound bite that you played
is in the context of making sure that, if assistance is needed by those,
whether they are the sick or elderly or disabled, the help that is needed
to get to them gets to them, and it`s not being taken away by those who
take advantage of the system.

MATTHEWS: But what did he just say?

STEWART: But his point was --


MATTHEWS: What did he just say?

Alice, what did he just say? That`s not what he just said in the tape.

STEWART: The context --


MATTHEWS: What he said in that tape is, you have got to pay people who are
sick and needy and sic them on the people you see as freeloaders.

I mean, that`s pretty much what he said. We could play it again and again.
I don`t know why you`re denying what he just said.

He said it. We have the tape.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The context of what he`s saying was
making sure that people don`t take advantage of the system. And any
assistance that is provided to people, whether it`s North Carolina or of
this country is the assistance gets to those who need it and not allow
people to take advantage of the system. And that`s the context of what he
was saying.

MATTHEWS: OK, just to repeat myself so it doesn`t seem like I`m hectoring
his wonderful guest. Just so I can quote him again and save time. This is
what Tillis, the moderate in the race, sort of said. "And we need to get
these people to look down at those people who choose to get into a
condition that makes them dependent of the government."

Look down on them. So, you know --

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is a 2014 version of the 47
percent remark. And so, I mean, I`m not surprised in one sense that Mitt
Romney is supporting this guy because after all, these are the people that
he`s going to stand up to because that`s what he`s going to get there to

It`s interesting. I think we`re going to hear this comment a lot more as
the campaign plays on because this is going to become what Tillis is known
for as Kay Hagan begins to define him. Because, you know, this race really
hasn`t started to be engaged on both sides. Kay Hagan has this remark and
I`m sure we`re going to see a lot more of it.

MATTHEWS: It does seem odd, doesn`t it, to have a leader of a state, who
you talked to on the phone a few minutes ago, saying that our goal here is
to get the sick people to attack the poor people.

STEWART: No, Chris, what his point was and the context of what he said was
to make sure we get assistance to those who need it and stop enabling those
who take advantage of the system. That`s his point. And also, if you look
at the numbers --


MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. What`s the role of the people with cerebral
palsy? What was he saying to the people with cerebral palsy? He was
saying, get out there and look down on people on public assistance who you
think shouldn`t be on it. It`s sort of joined an army against the poor

What`s the point of bringing the sick people into a battle with the poor
people? What`s the idea here?

STEWART: The context, Chris, as I said, is to make sure that the
assistance gets to those who need it. And if you want to look at the
numbers, the fact of the matter is that he is doing well in North Carolina.
His numbers are head to head against Kay Hagan. He is doing well.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.

STEWART: And if you look at Kay Hagan -- if you look at Kay Hagan, she has
higher - just as much --

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.

STEWART: -- disapproval ratings as Barack Obama. And what we`re going to
see tomorrow is a clear referendum for someone that they believe can take
on Kay Hagan in November.


Just get somebody on at some opponent, if you care about Tillis to explain
why he wants to recruit an army of the sick to go after an army of the
poor. It`s weird.

Thank you, Steve McMahon. And thank you, Alice Stewart. It`s not your
fault what he said, I don`t know. You`re trying to explain it.

Up next, middle of the nasty jokes at the White House Correspondents`
Dinner. We learned a lot about who`s seriously running for president in
2016. That`s coming up. A little fun, a little bit of noise here, too.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with the nastiness at the Saturday night White
House Correspondents` Dinner and what it tells us about who`s really
running in 2016.

HARDBALL, back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It was pretty rough out there at the weekend`s White House Correspondents`
Dinner. It was Saturday night and the evening featured its barrage of
political punch lines and even a few cheap shots. As much as the evening
was about jokes, so called, it was also about pouring salt into open
political wounds. And some people think that President Obama was
designating Hillary Clinton as his successor while treating his own Vice
President Joe Biden as a punch line. Here he is.


miss me when I`m gone. It will be harder to convince the American people
that Hillary was born in Kenya.


It`s a long time between now and 2016 and anything can happen. You may
have heard the other day, Hillary had to dodge a flying shoe at a press



MATTHEWS: How did he get them to pose for that?

Anyway, comedian Joel McHale didn`t hold back either. His gags were also
about Hillary as president and Biden again as laugh line.


JOEL MCHALE, COMEDIAN: It`s crazy again to think that Joe Biden is only
one heart beat away from no one taking him seriously as president.


Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her as a candidate. She has
experience, she`s a natural leader and as our first female president, we
could pay her 30 percent less.


MATTHEWS: Sick stuff.

Anyway, Biden and Hillary weren`t the only 2016 contenders lampooned. It
was open season for the 2016 field, especially Chris Christie who was there
in attendance, which we`ll get to in a minute.

April Ryan is American Urban Radio`s White House correspondent. And "The
Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza is an MSNBC contributor.

April, it does seem pretty rough for the president. I know he and Joe
Biden are friends dearly personal friends from what we can all figure, to
basically write him off, saying that Hillary was going to be his successor.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO: I don`t think he wrote him off, but
there`s several factors in play. The president and this White House are
trying to be neutral because they are aligned with both sides -- the Biden
side and the Clinton side, which is still that major machine, no matter the

And you have to understand that Joe Biden, I mean, even though, and I said
it before, and I`ll say it again, they tried to get Joe Biden with swag
with that videotape Saturday night. I mean, Joe Biden is this cool guy in
aviator glasses driving a sexy yellow sports car and getting a tattoo.

They`re trying to change his image as well. So, there`s a lot more going
on for Biden trying to bolster up to his presidential guy, not sticking his
foot in his mouth. Whereas Hillary already made, even with the negatives
that were joked about her husband at the dinner, the Hillary machine is
still, I guess, a little bit stronger. There is a truth in these jokes.

MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza, I disagree with April. I thought he just nailed
him. I thought when you -- I`m sorry, you have an opinion. I have one.
My opinion is when he said, my successor, Hillary Clinton, you`re basically
saying that`s who I think could be my successor, it`s a fact of life.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I wrote about it today too, Chris. I
noticed, you know, that joke, that Kenya joke that you play, it`s a joke,
of course, but I always say to people, in politics, there`s nothing
coincidental and accidental and that goes triple when you`re speaking to a
room that`s probably 1,500 to 2,000 political reporters from across the
country as well, as lots of major donors, elected officials.

I just think the Biden as class clown, not class president dynamic is
dangerous for him. That`s always been the question. You read any profile
of the guy, from 2008 onward when he ran a second time. The whole -- can
he be serious enough? Yes, he`s the guy with the Ray-Bans, but is that
what we want in a president? And I think that`s what it keeps coming back


CILLIZZA: If that`s the sort of story out there about him, even though
he`s the sitting vice president of the United States --


MATTHEWS: That wasn`t -- April, when did that start?

CILLIZZA: It wasn`t always. It wasn`t always. Yes.

MATTHEWS: When did it start?

RYAN: Let me say this to you. When we first look at a contender,
presidential contender, it`s his look. And you can say whatever you want
to say, but Barack Obama, many people contend he has, quote/unquote,
"swag". He`s rock star in chief. He looked presidential. Bill Clinton
looked presidential. John Kennedy looked presidential. When you have that
look, people want that.

And then behind that look, they start listening to you. If you stick your
foot in your mouth, there`s a problem.

MATTHEWS: OK. I want you to go at this guy. Here`s Chris Christie, does
he have the look you`re looking for? He was in attendance last night.
Neither President Obama nor Joel McHale could resist.

Here`s McHale ripping into Christie for his response to the bridge scandal.


MCHALE: Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes because I have a
bunch of both, I can go half and half. I know you like a combo platter.
Now, I get that, I`m sorry for that joke, Governor Christie, I didn`t know
I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever
wrote it will be fired.

But the buck stops here, so I will be a man and own up to it, just ads soon
as I get to the bottom of how it happened because I was unaware it happened
until just now. I`m appointing a blue ribbon commission of me to
investigate the joke I just told. If I find any wrongdoing on my part, I
assure you, I will be dealt with.

I just looked into it, it turns out I`m not responsible for it. Justice
has been served.



MATTHEWS: April, that is great satire. That is great -- isn`t it rich?

RYAN: It`s very rich.

MATTHEWS: The whole explanation for the last several months into one big,
fat joke.

RYAN: Exactly. It`s like we`re watching one of these reality crossover TV
White House shows.

Let me tell you something, he was very interesting. He told me before --
we were sitting right next to Joel McHale -- Joel McHale and I were sitting
right next to one another -- I can`t even talk to it -- one another at the
dinner and he basically told me he was going in on Christie. And I said
oh. And I knew in my mind what it was about, it was about the weight.

Now, the issue is, you know, did he go too far? Some people are saying
yes. I mean just for political correctness and politeness, you know, to
talk about someone`s weight is kind of bad and then do it in their face.

MATTHEWS: You are so nice. You`ve been nice to Joe Biden and the
president, to Chris Christie, you are so nice. Thank you for coming on.

RYAN: I try to be.

MATTHEWS: HARDBALL is the name of the show, just remember that.

Chris, I read you, I love you, I learn from you, sir. Thank you so much
for coming on.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with my experience yesterday at the Ohio
State University.

There I was looking out over 60,000 students, parents, grandparents and
friends of the Ohio State graduating class. My message was what you can
learn from the successful leaders of this country. My first example was
the importance of simply showing up is what separates the winners from the
losers. The point is you have to get out there and make the connection. I
spoke of how Ronald Reagan used his radio job covering the Chicago Cubs to
get out to Hollywood and get that first screen test, the one that got his
career going in the movies.

I spoke of how Reagan continued to show up, even after his Hollywood career
faded. How he took whatever jobs he could get, including those in the new
medium of television and ended up with an even bigger career as host of
General Electric Theater which I watched every Sunday night growing up.

I spoke of how even after he had gotten beaten by Gerald Ford in 1976,
Reagan went up on that platform at the Republican convention and gave a
speech that put him right back in the running for 1980.

I spoke of how Bill Clinton, even after getting beaten for re-election as
Arkansas governor went out campaigning the next day and ended up getting
re-elected four times. How another guy got beaten for U.S. Congress in
Chicago and then drove out with nothing but a map sitting in the passenger
seat to parts of Illinois where people had never voted for someone like
him, least of all someone named Barack Obama.

I told the Ohio State graduates that whether it`s a wedding you`re invited
to or a reunion that`s come up or a job you want, you should show it with
all the gusto you can muster. Email has its limits. Life is for people
who are there, not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring or their
e-mail to get a reply.

I told them -- you`ve got to get in the other person`s face, that nobody is
coming door to door to see what you`re like, to see what talents you have,
what dreams you have when you put your head on the pillow at night. Nobody
is coming. You need to get out there and ask and never, ever say no to

There`s nothing I think is more important than giving young people the
right advice about life, and to me, what I have to offer is experience
watching this country`s leaders in action, learning what works for them,
what gets them to where they want to be.

I love being at Ohio State. I appreciate more than you can believe the
generous welcome I received from everyone, even the conservatives in the
crowd. I didn`t go to sell my political philosophy, I went to help those
young people, give them a little bit of an edge in what you and I know is a
challenging world out there.

If I helped just one young woman or one young man get his or her foot in
the door, it was worth the effort.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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