June 5, 2014
Guest: Sen. Angus King, Rep. Peter King, Pete Perry, Joe Klein, David Von
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No apologies.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with the news that President Obama believed
captured American serviceman Bowe Bergdahl risked death if the U.S. didn`t
accept the deal for his release. The fear, based upon his horrid
appearance in a December video, that he would soon die of malnutrition or
be killed drove Obama to cut the best deal he could get. In any case, the
president said today that we had a chance to free someone wearing the
American uniform from enemy hands and has no apologies for his decision.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows the American people opposed to the deal,
especially to the release of dangerous prisoners to win the American`s
Senator Angus King is an independent from Maine who caucuses with the
Democrats. He was present at last night`s closed Senate briefing about
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl`s release, which took place in a secure basement
room in the Capitol visitor center last night, an unusual setting.
What was it like in that room? Did you get a sense, Senator King,
that you had learned something new last night about the circumstances of
the president`s decision?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Yes, Chris, I`ve been to a lot of these
briefings. Last night was actually one of the most informative. I went in
with a lot of questions, and many of them were answered.
I think probably the most dramatic moment in the briefing was when
they played the 30-second video of Bowe Bergdahl last winter in captivity.
It was -- he looked awful, sounded awful. It was -- it was pretty
dramatic. When that video went off, there was a sort of a stunned silence
in the room. I think they ought to declassify that video. I think it
would be very informative to people to see it.
Now, I can`t -- nobody`s going to be able to diagnose whether he was
sick or malnourished or what it was, but I`ll tell you, he wasn`t in very
good shape. And I think that was an important part.
The other question was, why now? Why this deal? There were -- it was
an hour-and-a-half, two-hour briefing, and we had a lot of those questions.
But the fundamental principle is, we bring our soldiers home, period.
MATTHEWS: Were they going to kill him if we...
A. KING: ... that goes back to George Washington.
MATTHEWS: Were they going to kill him, not just the malnutrition, but
I`m getting reports that people coming to that briefing said they were told
last night that he risked being killed if we -- if the word got out, even
about the deal itself.
A. KING: That was what we were told. I can`t reveal the sources,
Chris. That`s classified. But I specifically asked after this statement
was made, Can we make this public? And the answer was yes. He was at risk
of being killed if the negotiations had leaked out. I don`t think there
was any certainty to it, but it was credible intelligence that this was a
MATTHEWS: You know, the polling -- we`ll be talking to Howard Fineman
in a moment, but the polling is showing that people do have a different
attitude about this deal based upon what they think of his service record
and the status of Bergdahl when he left his post there.
My question -- most politicians, however, officeholders, says, No,
that`s not the issue. And I think you just made that point. The issue is,
do we bring back all our guys, whatever kind of service record they have?
Is that your position, we bring the guy home, period?
A. KING: Hey, Chris, one of the things we fight for around the world
is rule of law and due process. This guy is entitled to due process.
MATTHEWS: OK, fine.
A. KING: He hasn`t had any hearing yet, and that`s what`s important.
Get him back here, get him well, and then we`ll deal with what he did or
MATTHEWS: Well, what`s (INAUDIBLE)
A. KING: And he`ll be dealt with accordingly.
MATTHEWS: What`s -- if he was really in danger of dying through
malnutrition or in danger of being killed because the word leaked out,
where`s the argument anymore? I mean, I`m not thrilled with this deal, as
everybody knows, but when it comes down to it, you sort of have to suck it
up and take it, and you make the best of it you can, like all grown-ups do
A. KING: Well...
MATTHEWS: What`s more to be talked about here?
A. KING: Well...
MATTHEWS: What`s the yelling (ph) about here?
A. KING: Listen, I`m in an institution here, Chris, that`s a lot
better second-guessing than it is actually doing things.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
A. KING: And you know, there`s a lot of second-guessing to be done
around here. But you know, I think you have it right. There are
questions. Was it a good deal? But you know, we don`t know all the
circumstances the president was facing, what the options were, what the
counteroffer and offers were. This is something -- you know, this is a
tough decision that the president had to make, and he brought the guy home.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that. Look, I respect you as a smart, in
fact, fair guy, which is a hell of a statement for a politician.
A. KING: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Why is this such a -- why is this such a pissy partisan
thing? Why do we have people all going to -- to me, it`s been a difficult
issue. I don`t find any partisanship in my heart on this. I`m trying to
figure the darn thing out. I`m not used to making prisoner swaps. It`s
not what I do every day. I show up -- why is all the Democrats sort of
going along with it quietly, all the Republicans sort of generally going
against it? Why is it a partisan issue?
A. KING: I don`t know. I`m so tired of it, Chris. Everything is a
partisan issue. I`ve gotten to the point where -- if President Obama got
up tomorrow morning and walked across the Potomac River, there are people
around here who would say, Look, he can`t swim, you know?
A. KING: I mean, it just -- it`s a reflex and it`s -- I think it`s
wearing people out. And it doesn`t contribute.
My view is, let`s get the facts, let`s take a deep breath, let`s try
to find out exactly what happened and then -- and then move from there.
There are reasons that we can have differences, but you know, don`t --
let`s not be jumping all over these things and turning everything --
everything now, Chris, has turned into a partisan issue, and I think it`s a
real shame because it cheapens the discourse.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think if Lindsey Graham saw him walking across
the Potomac River, he`d want to bring in an exorcist!
MATTHEWS: He`d say he`s possessed by the devil! I mean, I agree with
you, it`s crazy.
Anyway, at a press conference today in the real world over in Belgium,
in Brussels, President Obama was emphatic that he did the right thing, by
his lights, in securing Sergeant Bergdahl`s release.
A. KING: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Here`s the president doubling down. Let`s watch him for a
A. KING: Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not leave anybody
wearing the American uniform behind. We had a prisoner of war whose health
had deteriorated, and we were deeply concerned about it. And we saw an
opportunity and we seized it. And I make no apologies on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "I make no apologies." Where are you on that final line
there? Is this a command decision that only one person can make when it
really comes down to it? You can have Tom Donilon and Susan Rice and
everybody floating around and all kinds of politicians with attitude, but
in the end, doesn`t the president have to make the call? And he made it.
A. KING: He does have to make the call. He made it. We can talk
about whether it was a good call or a bad call, but he had to make it. And
Chris, I think a way to think about this is, what if it were reversed and
Bowe Bergdahl was found beheaded on the streets of Kabul? The people --
you know, a lot of the same people that are complaining now would be
saying, Why didn`t he do more to get this guy back?
I mean, you know, this is a -- this is a very tough decision. And you
know, we can talk about it, but the bottom line is you bring our people
back, then you deal with the due process issues...
A. KING: ... whether or not he was a good soldier. And was it a good
deal? Do you have to release those five guys? We don`t know what other
terms he was offered.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Senator Angus King, independent, but
caucuses with Democrats up in Maine.
We have some early polling, by the way, on the Bergdahl prisoner swap
from the HuffingtonPost. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they approve
of the deal to free Bowe Bergdahl. Thirty-nine percent -- this was --
that`s very close, obviously. But when you get further into the details of
the deal, the numbers diverge widely. A whopping 82 percent say the
government has a responsibility to rescue a soldier who gets lost and is
captured by the enemy. But when asked whether the government has the same
responsibility to rescue a soldier who was captured after deserting his
post, the numbers are quite different -- 50 percent say the government does
not have a responsibility to rescue that soldier.
Well, joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst and
HuffingtonPost editorial director Howard Fineman.
Of course, the irony here is, or the paradox is, although the public
finds a big distinction, what the guy`s status was, his motives -- was he
loyal or not? -- the public officials you talk to say, No, there`s a
principle at stake here. He was wearing our uniform, we bring him back.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes. And as I -- and as I read those numbers, the public supports that
view, basically. I mean, their default setting is bring everybody home.
MATTHEWS: Well, why do they have that discrepancy there?
FINEMAN: Well, that`s because, politically, when you get past the
basic principle, I think there will continue to be a discussion about the
deal itself, about the details of the deal. Another number that we didn`t
show here, Chris, says that about a third of the American people say they
still don`t know enough about the deal to make a decision.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But at some point...
FINEMAN: Initially -- initially, it`s breaking down along partisan
lines. Democrats generally support the president, Republicans generally
support the critics.
MATTHEWS: What more information would you want? I mean, people play
this game of, I don`t know enough information, to the point of ad nauseam.
I don`t know enough about climate change. Well, do some reading, damn it.
Read the newspaper, to start with. You don`t have to read the medical
journals or the environmental journals.
On this one, what more -- if you have a principle -- and I`m one of
the most difficult people to convince on this, and I`m getting there. If
you have to get the guy home and you`re facing his death -- and as the
senator wisely said, suppose his head had showed up in Kabul, or his
headless body, you would have had all kinds of reactions.
What more do you need to know? They offer this deal. They offer
(INAUDIBLE) You want three? They want five. You know, they want 21.
(INAUDIBLE) give you five. But we want to give them five less dangerous
people? They say, No, we want the most dangerous five guys. What do you
do? Do you have any choice? You don`t have a choice. If you have -- as a
principle, you want him out.
FINEMAN: Well, I think the president clearly believes, and I think
he`s got some solid reason to believe so, that by doubling down on the
basic principle of we don`t leave people in the battlefield, that it`s a
core American value. He`s on very strong ground.
The question about whether there will be political consequences later
down the road still matter (ph) based on details we don`t know.
FINEMAN: You don`t know what those five Taliban guys are going to do.
MATTHEWS: If one shows up in the news reports...
FINEMAN: Right. You don`t know whether the Qataris are going to keep
them. You don`t know what the whole story is on Bergdahl. So those are
subsidiary facts to the basic argument about whether the president`s
entitled to make that call, and whether, as a basic matter of moral
justice, he did make the right call. And I think most of the American
people would say, yes, he did.
MATTHEWS: It was a level-headed decision.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, one Republican member of Congress is going after
his GOP colleagues for criticizing the deal. This is Raul Labrador. He`s
a very right-wing guy, of course, but Labrador is from Idaho. And as my
old boss used to say, all politics is local, and Bowe Bergdahl is from
So let`s listen to the man who speaks somewhat out of turn here.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: Obviously, nobody wants to see these
people released. But at the same time, we are winding down the conflict in
Afghanistan. And if you look historically -- I`m a little bit disturbed by
some of the Republicans out there who keep saying that this has never
happened before. That is not entirely true. If you look historically, at
the end of any conflict, you have a swap of prisoners.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So there you have a U.S. congressman defending his
district, which includes the Bergdahl family...
FINEMAN: Yes. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: ... and putting the focus -- I think that`s what he`s doing
(ph), in all fairness to him, although I disagree with him on a lot of
things -- there`s the congressman saying, Look, my interest here is
defending the interests of that family, pure and simple.
FINEMAN: Well, Chris, we are -- we are built differently from any
other country. We`re built from the individual out, from the family out,
from the localities out. At least, we like to think so.
FINEMAN: That`s what America stands for. That`s what makes us
different. And so the president is tapping into that by committing his
decision to get this guy out, to honor the individual.
FINEMAN: And that`s what Labrador is tapping into. And the fact that
he`s a conservative Republican, but he`s from that town...
FINEMAN: ... he`s from that area right next door, the town that
they`re from is right next door -- just shows you how Americans tend to
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see-
FINEMAN: They tend to eschew, you know, the big, sweeping, global
statements. They don`t look at the state first, the interests of the
country first. They look at the interests of the individual and the family
first. That`s how we think in this...
MATTHEWS: I think that`s the way we think, and I`m not sure most
elected politicians know how to think anymore because they think entirely
on partisan lines, except for this fellow.
MATTHEWS: Thank you -- and except for this guy!
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Very wisely stated. Coming up -- I wouldn`t have thought
of it. That`s how I know it`s wise.
By the way, the big story behind the prisoner deal. Was the president
planning to release those Afghan prisoners anyway somewhere down the road?
Was this just a chance to get something for it? This is the big question
Also, she`s got the name, the money, the endorsements, of course, the
policy chops, everything a candidate needs to be nominated for president.
What could stop Hillary`s Clinton? Well, "Time" magazine`s Joe Klein
predicts the only thing could be Hillary`s refusal (ph) to show some
personal spontaneity on the stump.
And go try and figure this one out. What were those three allies of
the Tea Party and Chris McDaniel doing in Mississippi in that county
courthouse where the primary ballots were being kept at 3:45 in the
morning? Well, they weren`t playing tiddlywinks.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my big thoughts on Hillary.
She`s a lot more than likable enough, I can tell you.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, after Iowa and New Hampshire, the third state in line
in the presidential nominating process is, of course, South Carolina, and
it`s often a make-or-break state for a lot of candidates in both parties.
So who`s looking strong with a year-and-a-half to go?
On the Democratic side, no surprise, Hillary Clinton leads Joe Biden
by 38 points, Clinton 50, Biden 12, according to a new Clemson Palmetto
poll. On the Republican side, it`s Jeb Bush with an early lead. This is
surprising. Jeb`s got 22 percent, more than double Chris Christie, Rand
Paul and Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal round out the field at the
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. At the heart of the debate over
the exchange of prisoners to return Bowe Bergdahl is a trickier question.
What do we do with Guantanamo Bay -- Gitmo, as we call it? President Obama
has been saying for six years he`s committed to shutting it down, a goal
which he reiterated when he spoke to students at the West Point military
academy at West Point (sic) just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What makes us
exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of
law, it`s our willingness to affirm them through our actions. And that`s
why I will continue to push to close Gitmo because American values and
legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But Republicans are promising all-out political war if he
tries to empty Gitmo, especially in light of the fallout from the Bergdahl
trade which released five Taliban prisoners from Gitmo.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is warning
publicly, the president, that he could face impeachment if he does it.
Here`s Graham talking to reporters just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s going to be impossible
for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without just a huge backlash.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) why can`t they just not do it (INAUDIBLE)
GRAHAM: There`d be people on our side calling for his impeachment if
he did that. There would be people on their side feeling the political
ramifications of emptying a jail full of hardened, vicious killers. The
politics would make it devastating for the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Emptying a jail full of hardened killers. I mean,
Congressman Peter King, thanks for coming back on the show. You`re a
Republican, of course, from New York, and a member of the House Homeland
This is one of those stark divides I see, and I find it -- personally
find it very difficult to deal with this issue. What do we do with people
we know are our enemies, who clearly have committed their lives for perhaps
their idea of a religious reason to killing us in jihad, and yet we don`t
have a case that we can take to a criminal court in the United States and
put them away for life. What do we do with them? What`s your view?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, I`ve supported Guantanamo all
along. I think it`s wrong when the president said this violates our
values. He may have a different opinion, but somehow, that`s criticizing
us before the world for something which I think is entirely legal.
I`ve been to Guantanamo. It`s probably better than not only most
prisons, probably any Army basic training camp in this country as far as
they have soccer facilities, language skills they`re taught, art classes.
There`s I think one medical personnel for every three detainees.
So listen, it`s not an ideal situation, but the fact is, these people,
many of them, are hardened killers. I mean, the president`s own advisers,
his own experts have said that some of these people are too dangerous to
release. So I think that, again, so long as they are in humanitarian --
held in humanitarian conditions, I don`t see any alternative to it at this
Now, if the war does -- and I say the war -- the war with terrorism
winds down, fine. But we`ve found -- I don`t have the numbers in front of
me now, but a large percentage, like, 25 to 30 percent of the people that
are released go back on the battlefield to kill us. And the most hardened
ones are still in there.
MATTHEWS: I keep hearing from people who are lawyers and people who
are civil liberties people who know the law, who keep telling me we can`t
keep people at that facility, especially the Afghan people, after we pull
out our combat troops. Do you hear that, or do you just ignore it? I
mean, what do you do with the people who say, legally, you can`t just keep
people in permanent stockade conditions unless you have got a case against
them that you can take to a judge?
KING: Well, first of all, I don`t believe that foreign fighters,
these detainee, these terrorists captured on the battlefield are entitled
to the same constitutional rights as an American or anyone else who`s in
These are people captured on the battlefield. And by the very nature
of their being captured, it`s very difficult to get evidence that would
hold up in a federal court. You can`t have the teams out there. You can`t
be getting fingerprints. This is not the type of thing that lends itself -
- but there`s intelligence on them that could not be used in a civilian
KING: And that`s just the nature of it. So I...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take that. Senator -- Congressman, let`s just
take these five fellows.
MATTHEWS: Obviously, they`re big shots. Four of them are real big
shots. We have got another 12 apparently sitting in there. We have more
Afghan prisoners sitting in Gitmo.
When do we release the rest of them? Would it be when we get all our
combat troops out at the end of `15, entirely out, apparently everybody but
a few Marines, I guess, who have the tough duty of standing around our
embassy, by the end of `16? Where -- when do we let those guys out, the
Afghan Taliban, not necessarily al Qaeda, but Afghan people who were on
that side of the politics over there? When do we let them out?
KING: Well, just because we -- most of our troops are coming out, it
doesn`t mean the war is going to be over.
The fact is, this war is going to go on and we do want to maintain
some type of a civil society in Afghanistan after we leave so it`s not used
as a sanctuary by al Qaeda and the Taliban to attack us again. And it`s
going to make it much more difficult to do that.
Think of the Afghans that we have left behind, the police, the army,
the civilians who have pledged to work with us, and we`re sending killers
back there who can kill them, also who would put the troops we do have
there also at risk. So, I -- just because the president says the war is
over doesn`t mean it`s over.
This isn`t like World War II, where you have MacArthur the battleship
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know.
Boy, I have made your argument before, Congressman, but I keep being
hit with this, that we don`t have a British-style system where there`s some
statute out of Parliament that says you have the right to hold people, like
the IRA, forever.
And I don`t know whether the law -- yes, have you gotten an legal
opinion on this from anybody that`s told you we have the right to bring in
these people as foreign troops, as basically POWs and hold them as long as
KING: That argument has been made before the Supreme Court.
Basically, the courts have upheld our right to have Guantanamo.
And so long as the -- to me, there`s engagements going on, certainly
on the part of al Qaeda, I believe we have the right to hold them. And as
far as the Taliban, again, we -- we`re going to have troops in there, even
if it`s a small number. And to send these Taliban back, it puts those men
and women at risk.
MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman, it`s always an honor to have you on.
Congressman Peter King of New York, thanks for coming on.
KING: OK, Chris, thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: So, what do the Taliban really want from this deal?
"TIME" magazine has an incredible story with access behind enemy
lines. And one of the pieces out there in the latest issue, they talked to
actual Taliban commanders. One of those commanders told them -- quote --
"We are fighting a war against each other in which the Americans kill us
and we kill them."
The story goes on to say -- quote -- "They see the exchange as an
unmitigated victory," this deal 5-1. "Asked whether the Taliban would be
inspired by the exchange to kidnap other Americans, a second Taliban
commander laughed. `Definitely,` he says. It has encouraged our people.
Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird," in other
words, grab somebody they can negotiate with.
And to top it all off -- quote -- "Those close to the leadership of
the Taliban and the detainees are feasting on whole goats cooked in rice,
"a special meal usually reserved for celebrations."
Well, David Von Drehle is an editor at large for "TIME." He joins us
with this story.
Let`s talk about this. You just heard Peter King, the congressman
from New York, who is taking the hard line. We will hold these people
until kingdom come. They are the enemy, they are sworn enemy. Whether we
can catch them on a law or nail them before the courts is irrelevant;
they`re coming to get us. We`re going to stop them and keep them in Gitmo.
The president`s view seems to be, tell me if I`m wrong, that,
eventually, as we continue our leaving of Afghanistan over the next two
year, we will have no more legal recourse or excuse to keep them.
DAVID VON DREHLE, "TIME": I think that`s exactly what the president
is driving at, Chris.
And I think that`s -- you have crystallized here in this program, as I
have been sitting and listening in my earpiece, why this is such an
important moment, such a huge symbolic moment, this Bergdahl swap, in the
history of this war, is that we are finally starting to confront the
incredibly difficult endgame issues, which are so difficult because there
really is no endgame.
It`s the United States picking an arbitrary moment in the history of
this struggle to say, oh, we`re done. And there`s no way that either the
Taliban or anyone else in Afghanistan could look at this deal and not feel
that the United States is starting to wash its hands of this story.
So, I think we -- it`s been awkward the way this moment has come up,
but the fact that these conversations are happening is very important for
the American public to understand where we are.
MATTHEWS: When the Vietnam War ended, of course, it was a horrible
controversy in this country. We all went through it and have personal
stories of it. It was terrible.
But in the end, it turned out that the Vietnamese from the North and
South really only cared about their country. They didn`t lead -- they
didn`t lead some jihad for communism. They stayed where they were. They
wanted their country. They were nationalists, as well as communists.
These people we`re letting out now, we just let out the five, are they
nationalists who simply want control of Afghanistan, in which case, we
could probably -- although we have some people exposed over there -- can
generally say, we`re out of the war, you`re out of the war in terms of the
Afghan, the Taliban vs. U.S. war.
VON DREHLE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Or are they basically jihadists who basically are out to
get us, period, wherever they can find us?
VON DREHLE: I wish we could say that this was something that could be
packaged up in Afghanistan and -- but we know these guys. We have been
The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1999. These five men were
all part of it. And not only did they wreak havoc on the people of
Afghanistan, dragging people into soccer stadiums for executions,
oppressing schoolchildren -- we -- you know, the whole story, blowing up
But they also opened up their country to become the central training
base for al Qaeda, which is not a nationalist organization. It`s an
international, global operation that seeks a reign of its own important
part of the world.
So, we know what their agenda is, and whether they will be as
effective in accomplishing it the second time around, I think we will be
finding out some time after 2015.
MATTHEWS: Great reporting, great writing all the time, especially
Mr. Von Drehle, thank you very much, a great writer, a great reporter.
Up next -- by the way, this is why this is such a complicated issue
for people like me. I don`t see this as simply partisan, like some issues,
Anyway, you may have seen this video of President Obama working out in
a hotel gym over in Poland. Somebody snapped this. Now it`s earned him a
fitness challenge from swift boat sugar daddy T. Boone Pickens. I wouldn`t
accept that award.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins with some
Seattle Pacific University is on lockdown at this moment. Multiple
people have been shot on campus. So far, four victims have been found, but
there may be more. There is no word yet on their conditions. Authorities
have one suspect in custody. Police had been searching for a second person
believed to have a handgun. That is no longer the case. The shooting took
place at the university`s Otto Miller Hall. The school advised students to
lock doors and move away from windows.
We`re going to continue to keep you updated on this breaking story out
of the Northwest -- and now we will take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."
A video was released of President Obama working out in a Poland gym
this week. Apparently, the video`s release got the president himself
fuming, since a Polish newspaper boasted that it obtained the clip from a
security breach. Well, the Secret Service maintains there was no such
security breach, but -- quote -- "Hotel guests were not asked to leave the
gym, nor were they asked to refrain from taking pictures" -- close quote.
Well, one American businessman saw this as his opportunity to make a
deal. T. Boone Pickens wants to take the president in what he calls a
workout showdown. The tycoon Pickens, who paid for the swift boat campaign
against John Kerry, tweeted: "I challenge President Barack Obama to a one-
hour workout. My cardio is better. We will work out energy plan for
What a P.R. Stunt.
Anyway, the 86-year-old Pickens accompanied his proposal with a video
of himself running up San Francisco`s Filbert Street. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And, finally, we turn to the latest comments from the
ultimate macho man, Vladimir Putin.
Hillary Clinton recently remarked that Putin was trying to redraw
boundaries in Europe, the same way Hitler was. The Russian president this
week called Clinton weak. That`s his word. He told a French TV station --
quote -- "It`s better not to argue with women. When people push boundaries
too far, it`s not because they`re strong, but because they`re weak. But
maybe weakness isn`t the worst quality for a woman."
Anyway, as "The National Journal" pointed out, coming from a man who
has been photographed shooting a gray whale, hunting shirtless and
tranquilizing a tiger, Putin shouldn`t have taken this shot at Hillary,
don`t you think? I think it was stupid.
Up next, Hillary Clinton is a huge favorite in 2016. Writer Joe Klein
says the one thing that could hang her up is a refusal by her to get
spontaneous out there with the people.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And the upcoming, highly organized release of Hillary Clinton`s second
memoir next Tuesday -- that`s the 10th -- is inevitability fueling a sense
she is clearly running for president in 2016. Her schedule of promotional
TV appearances better resembles a campaign rollout than a typical book
First, there`s a prime-time special with Diane Sawyer this Monday,
then an appearance on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, as well as an
interview with Cynthia McFadden on MSNBC -- actually, on NBC, and then the
following week, a campaign-style town hall with a live audience.
Ready or not, the perception Hillary Clinton as the huge favorite for
2016 has taken hold, and not just among the Democratic Party faithful.
It`s clear many Republicans believe it, too. Operatives like Karl Rove
have been single-handedly fixated on Clinton, waging a preemptive strike to
derail her candidacy before it even gets going.
First, a host with the conservative outlet Newsmax said Chelsea`s
pregnancy was a political decision to help her mother`s campaign. Hmm.
Lynne Cheney said that the Clintons put Monica Lewinsky up to telling her
story to "Vanity Fair." And most recently came Karl Rove`s suggestion that
Hillary had suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Yet, amid the whirlwind of anticipation both sides of the aisle,
there`s a growing sense of a Clinton presidential campaign on the way.
"TIME" magazine`s Joe Klein is a longtime chronicler of Bill and
Hillary Clinton, and he writes that Hillary Clinton`s own sense of
inevitability as a candidate will prevent her from being spontaneous and
may keep her from winning.
Here`s his quote from Joe Klein: "If Hillary Clinton hopes to succeed,
she`s going to have to drop the veil spontaneously, quite possibly in a
crucial moment, like a debate, and trust the public to accept who she
really is. Absent that, there`s no such thing as inevitability."
With us now to explain his beefs is Joe Klein himself, columnist with
"TIME" magazine, also our friend Joan Walsh of Salon.
Joe, you have got a moment or two here to just have a clear shot.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re dead right about Hillary Clinton, by the
way. And I think Joan does, too. If you meet Hillary Clinton in an
airport -- or I have been able to meet her at a couple interviews without
any cameras around -- there`s a charm there. And I don`t mean this in any
gender sense. Just there`s a charm as a human being which is so effusive
and spontaneous and let`s call it wonderful.
On the stump, I have never sense she was able to convey that ability,
Like, Bill Clinton, for example, seems to be the same guy no matter where
you meet him. You say, if she contains that, keeps that veil upon her,
that that could stop her. What`s your thinking? How much more do you want
to go with that thinking?
JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Well, I think that there are a lot of
things that could stop her.
I don`t think that there is such a thing as inevitability in American
politics. I mean, it`s especially hard for -- you know, she`s essentially
running for the third term of Barack Obama`s presidency. And it`s really
hard when politicians are put in that kind of position.
Just look at Al Gore in 2000. He never figured out how to deal with
Clinton. And McCain had trouble dealing with George W. Bush about the --
you know, the guy who was best at it I think was George H.W. Bush, who
promised a kindler, gentler nation than the one under a very popular
President Ronald Reagan, which led Nancy Reagan, if you recall, Chris, to
say kinder, gentler than what?
MATTHEWS: That`s a good question, because he meant him. He meant
KLEIN: Yes. That`s right. That`s exactly what he meant.
This is a hard -- this isn`t an easy lift. And there`s another
problem that she has with this growing sense of populism on the left on the
Democratic Party. And Bill Clinton had very, very Wall Street-friendly
policies in the 1990s.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
KLEIN: And she`s going to have to figure out how to deal with that.
She`s going to have to deal -- she`s going to have to figure out how
to deal with the hawkishness that Bob Gates describes in his memoir, which,
by the way, is exactly what a memoir should be, totally candid. I mean,
he`s not looking for a job anymore.
MATTHEWS: I know.
Well, let me go to -- let me go to Joan for a second here.
Joan, a couple of these points I think that have been raised by Joe
are pretty interesting.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: I guess the one is always the question, can you convey
charm and still keep control of the conversation? I mean, you don`t just
spit it out there when you`re in public. You`re always a little more
formal. I am a little more certainly than I am -- would -- if I met you
for dinner. I mean, you know that.
WALSH: I do.
MATTHEWS: So, it`s not easy to convey that ease when you`re talking
to the world, like she will.
And every time she goes rMD+IT_rMDNM_in the public, she`s talking to a
couple billion people, Hillary Clinton. And she knows it. And, by the
way, Mitt Romney taught us all that, as did the workout picture of the
president the other -- in the earlier segment.
MATTHEWS: You`re always being watched.
MATTHEWS: So, my question to you about her and her. Sure, she has to
deal with Bill. Sure, she has to deal with other things, but, in a sense,
can she come on spontaneously, at the same time protect her lead? Is it
WALSH: It`s tough. It`s doable, but it is tough.
I think Joe has named some real problems for Hillary Clinton. On the
other hand, I think that Martin O`Malley would love to have these problems.
WALSH: And probably Vice President Biden, God bless him, would love
to have these problems.
So, they`re -- but they`re problems nonetheless. I feel a little
sorry for her, because here we are. We have put her in a box and we`re
talking at her all the time, and then we`re saying, stop acting like you`re
in a box being looked at all the time.
But that is the nature of public life today. And that is her
challenge. I just want to give her a little bit more credit than maybe
some of us, including myself, give her credit for on two fronts.
First of all, those of us who covered the Clintons forever might have
a little bit more Clinton fatigue than a younger generation. My daughter`s
friends are very excited -- I`m not speaking for all of them -- to vote for
the first woman president.
WALSH: And I think they see her as charming. She`s a lot more
charming, she`s a lot more funny, you know, she`s a lot -- she`s let
herself loosen up. She learned so much from that 2008 campaign.
WALSH: She became a much better campaigner.
Second, you`re right, Joe, about this rising tide of economic
populism. That`s a challenge for her. She needs to meet it. We all say -
- I don`t say this, but some people say, oh, she`s got to distance herself
from President Obama.
I think she has also got to distance herself, where it`s appropriate,
from some of her own husband`s Wall Street policies. She has really got to
have an economic agenda for the middle of the 21st century that really gets
us back to a sense of economic opportunity that has been lost in this
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to that.
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at politics here. Joan, I agree with your truth
about what you believe.
But, Joe, I watched Al Gore chase Ralph -- Ralph Nader all over the
country to try to get back that six points.
MATTHEWS: He got back that six points all right, but he lost a lot in
the middle. When you start chasing your tail, or start chasing your
party`s tail in November, October politics I`m talking about, you have got
I think Nader ruined the guy, not just in Florida with the 92,000
votes. I think he forced him over to the left in a way that made him look
just too -- he wasn`t authentically populist anyway. He didn`t look right,
Gore, in that campaign. He used to -- that lockbox stuff, none of that
worked. Your thoughts?
Well, I think that economic -- the economic fate of the middle class
is the number one issue in this coming campaign. And you listen to Jeb
Bush, and that`s what he is talking about as well. And so Clinton is going
to have to figure out just exactly, precisely where she`s going to stand.
KLEIN: I believe that the left has some very good points to make,
especially the role of the financial sector in our economy, which has
gotten to be humongous over the last 30 years.
But the left is really proposing things that a lot of people don`t
like when they propose more government and -- and transfer of wealth. I
think that the deal is to bring people -- as many people as you can up,
rather than pulling people down.
What do you think, both of you -- both of you -- we don`t have much
time, but I love this question. What would stop Secretary Clinton from
running for president? What would -- I mean, something we don`t know,
because everything we know is a go.
Joe, you know this. You know the Clintons for 30 years.
KLEIN: I`ll tell you what.
MATTHEWS: Why would she not run? I don`t get the argument of the
people who keep playing that she might not run. Well, why not?
KLEIN: I think she`s going to run.
But I also know that she may wake up one morning thinking about her
adventures in Seattle in 1994, when she was trying to sell Hillarycare, and
people were screaming curses at her and spitting at her, doing all of these
disgraceful things. And she might wake up one day and say, hmm, I got a
pretty good life as it is. Why do I want to go through that crap?
MATTHEWS: You know, I think she`s got the spunk to handle that.
Joan, you wouldn`t mind that. I mean, as you have just pointed out
brilliant, Joe Biden would like to have people yelling at him.
MATTHEWS: I mean -- I mean, really showing some passion about him,
MATTHEWS: And certainly Martin O`Malley.
It`s all right to be hated by a certain group.
MATTHEWS: If you know 50 to 60 percent are behind you. That`s what
television is like these days.
WALSH: She`s one -- she`s the most popular woman in America. I think
that she`s -- and she`s also grown a much thicker skin.
Look, we all think -- we all think she`s running. Everything we hear,
she`s running. It would be a great shock if she didn`t run. But, you
know, Joe is right. We all have those moments in our lives where something
occurs to us and we decide we want -- you know, we want...
MATTHEWS: The betting box is open. My -- I`m easy to find in
Washington. If anybody wants to start betting some money -- well, let`s
start with even money -- that she`s not running, I`m ready for that one,
Joe, and so are you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joe.
Good luck with the writing, great writing for "TIME" magazine, as
always, I mean great writing.
Joan, I love the way you care.
MATTHEWS: And we will be right back after this. Thank you.
HOPKINS: I`m Page Hopkins with breaking news.
Multiple people have been shot on the campus of Seattle Pacific
University. So far, authorities say there are four victims. We can tell
you one man and one woman have life-threatening injuries. One man and
woman are in stable condition.
Authorities have one suspect in custody. Police had been searching
for a second person believed to have a handgun, but, at this point, they
believe there was just one lone gunman. That shooting took place at the
university`s Otto Miller Hall. And the school advised students to lock
doors and move away from windows.
We`re going to keep you -- continue to keep you updated on this
breaking story coming out of Seattle.
Now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome HARDBALL.
Just when you thought things couldn`t get any weirder in that
Mississippi GOP Senate race, think again.
First, there was that arrest of four of Chris McDaniel`s supporters
who took pictures of Senator Thad Cochran`s bedridden wife at a nursing
home. Now three other McDaniel supporters, a senior McDaniel campaign
official, a consultant, and a Tea Party activist, were found locked inside
the county courthouse that stored the primary ballots in the early morning
hours on Wednesday of this week.
The McDaniel campaign official involved, Scott Brewster, was linked,
by the way, to the photo scandal three weeks ago. Why were the McDaniel
supporters locked overnight in Hinds County Courthouse, where ballots were
Well, the Hinds County Sheriff`s Department told "The Clarion-Ledger"
newspaper -- quote -- "There are conflicting stories from the three of
them, which began to raise the red flag, and we`re trying to get to the
bottom of it."
Well, late today, "The Clarion-Ledger" reported that investigators
closed the case legally and said no laws were broken.
But we still don`t know why those three McDaniel supporters were in
that courthouse overnight.
Pete Perry is the Hinds County GOP chairman, and Perry Bacon is a
senior political reporter for NBC News.
Mr. Perry, thank you for joining us.
We`re watching this, and all I`m thinking about are, what are guys
doing in the middle of a courthouse where the ballots are being stored at
3:00 in the morning? What were they doing in there?
PETE PERRY, HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN:
Chris, I could not answer that.
I got the call at 2:00 from one of them saying that they were in the
courthouse. And that was my first question was -- well, it was my second
question. My first, was, how did you get in and then what are you doing
there? I couldn`t figure it out.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think that they were all -- they were all
McDaniel people. They are clearly activists, a Tea Party fellow and of
course a guy with the campaign.
And the ballots are there. Do you think there`s -- they were
interested in anything but the ballots and being in there in the middle of
the night? This is election night.
PERRY: This was election night. It was about 2:00 in the morning on
The voted ballots actually were in a locked room adjacent to where
they got to. They were in the circuit clerk`s office locked.
PERRY: And the results were also in the vault in the circuit court.
But the ballot boxes that had the other materials were in the lobby area
where they were -- where they were and able to get to when they called me.
But I can`t tell you why in the world they would be in the courthouse at
2:00 in the morning.
MATTHEWS: No, that`s OK.
Let me go to Perry Bacon here. Thank you, sir. Hold on there.
Perry, this is a great story to cover in the sense that it`s -- it`s
weird. It`s hijinks. It smacks of -- I`m not going to say Watergate, but
I just did.
MATTHEWS: It`s middle-of-the-night stuff. The only thing missing is
the night watchman who saw the tape on the door, you know, that there was
And it goes on top of sneaking into a hospital, an assisted living
position -- situation -- and taking pictures of the candidate -- of the
senator`s wife, who is in dementia, a state of dementia. It just seems
like the kind of stuff that goes on in college student council races.
Somebody plays with the ballot box. Somebody plays with this. Somebody
does something weird.
It doesn`t seem like real politics to me.
PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the part
of Missouri is -- Mississippi -- is that the case is closed. There`s no
criminal problem here in terms of this -- what happened last night.
That said, totally weird.
MATTHEWS: As Mr. Perry just said, they only got to one room.
MATTHEWS: That`s a good phrase.
BACON: What is going on with this campaign? That`s the core
If McDaniel`s supporters are doing things that we can`t understand,
that are just so weird and out of proportion that anything that`s happening
anywhere else, it raises the question of, what is going on with him?
MATTHEWS: Why are they acting like they are losing?
BACON: Right, because they`re winning.
MATTHEWS: Why aren`t they acting like they`re winning? That`s what I
can`t figure out.
BACON: And they have not given -- they have given three different
stories for what happened on election night, and they are not being
confident about what happened there and why.
This is not just -- the nursing home was not his supporters. This is
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the party chairman.
Mr. Perry, do you think the Republican Party in Mississippi is worried
at the top at least, like you, at the county level that you may be getting
a guy into the Senate who may be hard to defend? Are you going to really
fight for Thad Cochran as a party, do you think, between now and June, the
PERRY: I think, as a party, there are a lot of people on both sides.
There are a lot of people supporting Cochran and there are a lot of people
in the party that are supporting McDaniel.
So the party as a entity itself is not taking sides in it. And a lot
of the leaders are on one side of the other. I think there`s a question
everybody is worried about...
MATTHEWS: Who did you vote for? Who did you vote for in the primary?
Who did you personally vote for, Mr. Perry, in the primary?
PERRY: I am a known and very vocal supporter of Thad Cochran`s.
PERRY: I want to see Senator Cochran reelected.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the national party is going to come in there
and try to prevent what looks to be the crazy car driving through your
state and say, this has just gone too far with this guy McDaniel?
PERRY: I think there are a lot of people worried about the same issue
that the party faced in 2010 and 2012, with all of a sudden having a
nominee that has some real problems with it.
This campaign, that does lead to the question about, if you got
campaign workers and supporters out doing these crazy things, and we don`t
all discover it in July and August to hand the seat over to the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Thank you so much, sir. Thank you, Pete Perry, party
chairman down in Hinds County.
And Perry Bacon, sir, more -- you`re on this case.
We will be right back after this. What a wild one.
MATTHEWS: "Let me Finish" tonight with this.
I`m not an adviser to Hillary Clinton. I do think, though, from the
way things look right now, she will be the next president. I could give
you the reasons, what she`s done, how well America knows and respects her,
the desire of many for a woman president, of course, and the change of
approach that might bring with it.
Anything can happen, of course, between now and November 2016.
Anything. What makes politics exciting is the unexpected thing, that
surprise invasion into the inevitable of something called reality. That
said, I think Joe Klein makes a great point in his "TIME" magazine article.
It`s about the public vs. the private Hillary Clinton. Look, I have
been tough on her, and yet, when I sometimes come in contact with her, I
find her more than likable enough, in that terrible phrase of the
president`s, but really likable. And that`s a fact I have shared with
everyone who has ever asked me.
It is in her interest and in the country`s to convey that private
Hillary to the public audience. People ought to know who they`re electing,
or at least as much as decently appropriate.
All I can say is, should you get the chance, as so many people have,
of getting into close proximity to Hillary Clinton, you will be stunned at
how positive, happy, and, OK, likable a human being she is. Perhaps, as
Joe Klein suggests, she will find a time and place to let us see her as she
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being -- it sounds like
softball. Thanks for being with us.
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