updated 7/22/2014 9:23:14 AM ET 2014-07-22T13:23:14

HARDBALL
July 21, 2014

Guest: Michael Bociurkiw, Peter Baker, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Michael
Crowley

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Chaos, confusion and charges of cover-up
on the ground.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
Leading off tonight, a scene of horror at the Malaysian Airlines flight 17
crash site descends into a scene of unspeakable chaos. Some of what we`re
about to show you borders on absurdity. Investigators at the scene are
confronting the reality of a truly horrible situation. Imagine you have to
investigate the deaths of nearly 300 people, and your crime scene is in a
war zone that`s controlled by your suspects.

These aren`t just any suspects. These guys are armed, they`re drunk, and
they`re out of control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Drunken, I mean, literally drunken
separatist soldiers are piling bodies into trucks unceremoniously and
disturbing the evidence and disturbing the pattern that is there. Anything
that is removed -- and we understand some aircraft parts have been removed
-- compromises the investigation. So we need full access.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And that`s just the tip of the iceberg. Buzzfeed reporter Max
Seden (ph) told MSNBC earlier today that one separatist showed up drunk in
a bee-keeping suit that reeked of alcohol. Intercepted audio release by
Ukrainian officials over the weekend appears to show pro-Russian rebels
furiously trying to find the flight`s black box and later discussing hiding
evidence that they find at the crash site. That audio has not been
confirmed by NBC News, but previous audio disclosed by the Ukrainian
government has now been authenticated by U.S. officials.

President Obama addressed the situation earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russian-backed
separatists who control the area continue to block the investigation. They
have repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full
access to the wreckage. As investigators approached, they fired their
weapons into the air. The separatists are removing evidence from the crash
site. All of which begs the question, what exactly are they trying to
hide?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And to make matters worse, fighting has now broken out around
the nine-mile-long debris field. This is NBC`s Keir Simmons earlier today
as he was fleeing the area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) demilitarized zone. It
doesn`t feel like a demilitarized zone here, I have to say. We`re driving
-- making some pace because we`re told that further down the road toward
the crash site, fighting has broken out. We watched a convoy of armored
personnel carriers full of pro-Russian militia armed to the teeth driving
in that direction. I`m just watching a tank with a -- I`m just watching a
tank drive by in that direction, two -- two tanks, three tanks, four tanks
-- four tanks heading towards an area in the direction of the crash site.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Joining us now is Michael Bociurkiw. He`s the spokesman for a
team of international monitors who are investigators at the scene from the
Organization for Security and Cooperate in Europe. He joins us by phone
from Ukraine.

So Michael, let`s just start by, what does that scene look like now? We
heard the president speaking out against, you know, just some of these sort
of atrocities that] are being -- taking place at that scene right now. So
what does it look like? Has anything improved?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, OSCE INVESTIGATING TEAM (via telephone): Well, first of
all, we`re not here to investigate the crash. We`re here -- we actually
have been here on the ground for three months, 250 of us throughout
Ukraine. And so we`re -- we`re (INAUDIBLE) observers, and so we know the
lay of the land here quite well. We`ve established relationships with
folks on the ground who hold quite a bit of sway.

And when the crash happened, we were tasked to -- to expand (ph) our team
here and help fill in the huge void of information. So now it`s day four,
more or less, and we had been out there again today. We -- since we came
here, we`ve been accompanied -- it`s not a well-known fact, but by three
experts from the Ukrainian side. These are civil aviation experts.

And also for the first time today, international experts came to Donetsk
from the Netherlands. And of course, this is the country with the highest
number of victims. And they were forensic experts, and of course, their
main interest was in going to where the bodies were stored, which happens
to be in refrigerated train cars not far from the crash site.

So we were able to help facilitate their movement today to see how the
bodies were stored and how the kind of collection of remaining bodies and
body parts was going.

The most significant kind of observation today, if I can, was that there
was a lot of quiet compared to the past three days because yesterday and
the day before, there were a lot of -- there were a lot of emergency
workers out there, collecting debris and looking for body parts, but they
were gone today. And so (INAUDIBLE) couple of big kind of administration
tents. So that`s something we will be including in our observation report
from today.

KORNACKI: So what -- for these investigators who are -- who are either
there or who are trying to gain access, for recovery teams who are there or
are trying to gain access, right now, what are the biggest challenges
facing them?

BOCIURKIW: Well, from day one, a big challenge was actually the lack of
security around the perimeter. We`ve been reporting publicly on that since
we came here, of course, because normally, in a typical tragedy like this,
the first thing one does is secure the area. But that was not done, and we
have not seen that done in the consecutive days that we`ve come here.

Now, they have been -- they did provide access or security for us. Our
kind of journey from Donetsk to the crash area was, you know, quite fast
because normally, you have to negotiate your way through so many
checkpoints.

And yes, it`s an evolving situation there. We observed today that the
Malaysians, a group of Malaysians have shown up, government investigators.
And presumably, they`ll be going out tomorrow.

Now, as we pointed out, it`s a huge area, we estimate nine to ten
kilometers long. There are eight different impact sites. We have now
visited four of those sites. There`s heavy fuselage parts (ph). And today
for the first time, we did see heavy equipment there. I don`t -- we cannot
say until tomorrow whether that heavy equipment was used to move any parts,
but it did appear today.

KORNACKI: All right. Michael Bociurkiw, thank you very much. Appreciate
the insight from the scene.

The world`s attention has now turned to confronting Russian president
Vladimir Putin. European leaders are threatening new sanctions against
Russia, which they say could begin as early as tomorrow. As "The
Washington Post" reports, on Monday, George Osborne, Britain`s chancellor
of the exchequer, or treasury secretary, told the BBC that London was ready
to take an economic hit through sanctions because doing nothing would be
worse.

And the prime minister of the Netherlands scaled up his rhetoric against
Putin, saying if in the coming days, access to the disaster area remains
inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the
table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible.

Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent for "The New York
Times." Howard Fineman is the editorial director at the Huffington Post
Media Group.

So Peter, that question then of, you know, basically, that the message
being delivered by the president today, the message being delivered by
Europe to Vladimir Putin of, Get your act together, we want access, we
want, you know, investigators, we want recovery teams to have the access
they need to this site -- we hear that report from the field right now. Is
there a sense that that message is finally getting through to Putin?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, there is some, you know, cautious
optimism at the White House, but they want to wait and see, for sure, what
happens. It`s not enough for somebody to say it. It`s not enough for, you
know, some part of the field to be given access to. They want to -- they
want a more serious, you know, confirmation that there`s going to be full
and unfettered access at this point.

You know, you`ve got the -- as you point out, the Europeans are going to
meet tomorrow. The Americans are considering what their next options are.
But there`s -- the really important part is how are those going to be
reconciled. How will Washington and Brussels work together, if they will,
in terms of raising the pressure on Putin going forward? That`s a place
where they`ve had a tough time sticking together so far. Does this tragedy
bring them together in a more concerted way?

KORNACKI: Yes, so Howard, so what -- talk about the Europeans, you know,
meeting tomorrow -- what -- what does -- from the United States standpoint,
what does the U.S. want Europe to be doing right now? And from Europe`s
standpoint, what does Europe want the U.S. to be doing?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, the important thing, as Peter was indicating, that the Europeans,
because of the tragedy and the mess in the Ukraine right now, are much more
amped up about Vladimir Putin and Putinism, if you will, than they were
even, you know, a week or two ago.

And I think what the president is going to want and what the Europeans are
going to want are more concerted action, tougher action from the Europeans,
and to really try to confront Vladimir Putin about not only the Ukraine,
but his overall philosophy and idea, which is that it`s up to him and his
responsibility and free duty to protect, quote, "the Russian people"
wherever they happen to be.

So I think this is a big moment. If the United States and the Europeans
can`t get together on a unified program of this to confront Putin, I doubt
that they ever will.

KORNACKI: So Peter, we always talk about the sort of the dilemma the
Europeans have, at least some of the European countries, when it comes to
dealing with Russia, when it comes to dealing with Putin, as sort of the
energy alliance that they have with him, the dependency, in many cases,
from an energy standpoint. So you know, the idea of sanctions from
Europe`s standpoint on Russia comes with a potential cost to them.

At the same time, I wonder, going beyond -- as Howard just said, going
beyond the issue right now of the crash in Ukraine, is there a broader
concern in Europe now about what Putin represents and what his intentions
are, more broadly speaking?

BAKER: Oh, I think there is, sure. They live much closer to him than we
do. And they have seen the implications of the actions he`s taken over the
years, not just in Ukraine. But there`s also a real fear in Europe that`s
harder to understand in America of -- of antagonizing Russia too much at
the same time.

You know, they`ve been through a lot of history in these last number of
decades. You go back to, obviously, two world wars in the last century.
And the idea of being more confrontational to Russia is one that culturally
is tough for Europe, not just economically, nowhere more so than the
Netherlands, which is the real tragedy -- home of tragedy for this flight.

More than half the passengers on board were Dutch. The Dutch happen to be
one of Russia`s largest trading partners. Royal Shell Dutch -- Royal Dutch
Shell has a lot of business there.

You mentioned the prime minister taking a tougher stand in this last couple
days. The question is, where do they fall, I think, in these days to come
on what to do next.

KORNACKI: Right because there could be a price to pay from an economic
standpoint for Europe, as well, when you talk about sanctions against
Russia.

Thank you, Peter Baker, Howard Fineman. Appreciate the time.

BAKER: Thank you.

KORNACKI: And Coming up, another day of violence in Gaza with no sign of
ending soon. A report from the ground and a question. Does either side
want peace, or just to win?

Also, for years, Republicans have charged Democrats unfairly with blaming
America first for all the world`s problems. Now whenever there`s a trouble
spot, no matter the cause, the right blames Obama first.

Plus, to no one`s surprise, Elizabeth Warren was the rock star at the
weekend`s Netroots convention. And if she doesn`t run -- and assuming
Hillary does, it certainly looks as if Warren won`t -- will anyone carry
the left`s message into the primaries?

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with why Hillary Clinton might just decide not
to run after all.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK

KORNACKI: Foreign policy is taking center stage, but more and more
Americans say we should stay out of world affairs. According to a new
Politico poll, only 17 percent of Americans in competitive Senate and
battleground states and House districts say the U.S. should do more to
counter Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thirty-one percent say the current
policy is the right one. Thirty-four percent say we should be less
involved. That poll was taken before the downing of that Malaysian
jetliner over Ukraine.

Overall, two thirds of those polled say U.S. military action should be
limited to direct threats to our national security. Almost 22 percent say
that as the world`s moral leader, the U.S. has a responsibility to use its
military to protect democracy around the globe.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The bloodshed in the Middle East
continued today, with Israel pounding Gaza and Hamas launching a stream of
rockets back into Israel. More than 570 Palestinians have been killed
since fighting began nearly two weeks ago now. Twenty-seven Israelis have
died, including seven soldiers today.

Earlier today, Israeli tank shells hit a hospital in Gaza, killing four
people and wounding 40 others. Meanwhile, Hamas launched nearly 140
rockets targeting Israel.

Against this backdrop, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo to
try to resuscitate diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. President Obama
said the focus now needs to be on bringing about a ceasefire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: As I`ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself
against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its
operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas`s terrorist
infrastructure in Gaza. I`ve also said, however, that we have serious
concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the
loss of Israeli lives.

So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners. I`ve instructed him
to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the
November 2012 ceasefire agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry was forced to explain a "caught on
mike" moment yesterday that raised some eyebrows. He was between
appearances on the Sunday shows, talking to an aide about Israel`s military
operation apparently without realizing the mike was hot. He seems to
express some frustration with the scale of the Israeli offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It`s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It`s
a hell of a pinpoint operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. It`s escalating significantly. And it just
underscores the need for a ceasefire.

KERRY: We`ve got to get over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

KERRY: Thank you, John. I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think
it`s crazy to be sitting around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And here`s how he explained it on "Fox News Sunday" later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I think it`s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously
very difficult, Chris. You have people who`ve come out of tunnels. You
have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support
that. And we support Israel`s right to defend itself against rockets that
are, you know, continuing to come in. Yes, it`s tough. It`s tough to have
this kind of operation. And I reacted, obviously, in a way that, you know,
anybody does with respect to, you know, young children and civilians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Let`s get the latest now from Gaza and NBC News chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel. And also with us, Michael Crowley, "Time"
magazine`s chief foreign affairs correspondent.

So Richard, I guess that`s the question that`s sort of raised by John
Kerry`s comment there when he didn`t know he was -- he was -- he was miked
up, I guess, saying, "That`s a hell of a pinpoint operation." We have the
news today about this hospital and the attack there.

So the question, I guess, is how pinpoint is this? Can we give a
definitive answer on that?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly doesn`t seem very
pinpoint from where I am in Gaza right now. Just a short while ago, for
example, a building, an apartment building, a large building was attacked
by Israeli fire here in Gaza. Several people were killed, including
children whose bodies were thrown from the windows. I`ve seen video of
this. We captured it ourselves.

Then ambulance workers, volunteers arrived to the scene. They picked up
these bodies, put them in ambulances. More aid workers rushed into the
building. And as they were inside, the building collapsed and more than 20
people were killed. We`re hearing the latest number about 28. But it`s
hard to know considering so many people were still inside the building, and
now the building is on top of them.

Earlier in -- overnight, actually, in southern Gaza strip, an entire family
of nearly 30 people was killed when a Hamas militant was targeted. In that
case, a Hamas militant we know specifically was targeted, but he was killed
along with his extended family.

Earlier today, I was in an apartment. And there was a -- supposedly a
Hamas militant in the apartment below. And Israeli missiles went through
two apartments above, on floors above, killing the people inside of them,
to get to the militant two floors down. So, based on what we have been
able to see, no, it certainly doesn`t seem very pinpoint.

KORNACKI: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has said that Hamas
was to blame for all those civilian deaths in Gaza, accusing them of hiding
rockets in hospital and embedding their fighters in civilian populations.
And he said Israel has had no choice but to act in the face of Hamas
rockets.

He spoke with NBC`s Brian Williams earlier today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What would you do? What would
you do if American cities, where you`re sitting now, Brian, would be
rocketed, would absorb hundreds of rockets?

You know what you would say? You would say to your leader, a man`s got to
do what a man`s got to do and you would say a country`s got to do what a
country`s got to do. We have to defend ourselves.

We try to do it with a minimum amount of force or with targeting military
targets as best as we can. But we will act to defend ourselves. No
country can live like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: A spokesperson for Hamas responded to NBC News today, saying no
journalist in Gaza has ever reported seeing a rocket or fighter near any
hospital. And he said -- quote -- "It is Netanyahu and his army of war
criminals that have targeted and continue to target innocent and
defenseless civilians. As for Hamas, every single Israeli killed by its
fighters or its rockets except one have been soldiers in uniform, on duty,
fully armed and on the battlefield."

Well, so, Michael, let`s just talk from a diplomatic standpoint about what
the way out of this is. So, we have got the Netanyahu, we have got the
Israeli position there, which is the rockets have to stop. That`s why they
their endgame is to this, is in this, why they are doing this.

From the Hamas standpoint, inside Gaza, to get them to stop with those
rockets, what are they demanding here? Is there a diplomatic solution that
can be reached?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Well, theoretically, there
is. It doesn`t look very promising right now.

I don`t think even -- even though Kerry is over there, I think White House
officials are acknowledging that it will be tough. They are not saying
that we are on the verge of a breakthrough here.

I think Hamas wants a series of concessions that it seems very unlikely the
Israelis will offer right now, including opening up crossings out of Gaza,
lifting a lot of economic restrictions on economic activity in Gaza, and
releasing Hamas prisoners who were released as part of the Gilad Shalit
deal in 2011.

One problem for Hamas here is that although this operation presents
Netanyahu with many political problems both at home, as casualties mount,
and on the international stage -- at home, as IDF casualties mount, and
internationally, as civilian casualties mount, I do think he feels like
he`s got Hamas in a corner here.

They now have a hostile government in Cairo, whereas they had a friendly
one the last time we went through this process that was allowing them to
resupply. And their relationships with -- their relationship with Iran,
which is a key patron, is somewhat strained. I think the Israelis feel
like Hamas is kind of on the ropes and they don`t want to let up.

So therefore you don`t really have either side right now really having much
of an interest in cutting a deal. And so the knot continues to tighten.
And I just it`s getting harder and harder to loosen it up. And
unfortunately the endgame isn`t clear right now.

KORNACKI: So, that`s interesting.

So, Richard, what Michael seems to be saying there is that there is sort of
the international concerns that have been raised about the civilians,
everything you just described there about the civilian casualties that are
taking place here, that Israel feels it is in a position where it can sort
of absorb the outcry that`s taking place internationally about that.

Let me ask you this, though. From inside Gaza, from the standpoint of
Hamas, all of the civilian casualties that they are absorbing right now, do
they feel, is there some calculation on Hamas` part that they feel within
Gaza this is strengthening their position with the people in Gaza that can
say, oh, this is Israel doing this, this is why you have to join us, this
is why you have to join the fight? Is there an element of that going on
here?

ENGEL: There is an enormous amount of frustration in the Gaza Strip.

People can`t leave here. They feel like prisoners. They can`t do
business. They haven`t been able to go to leave the country to go to
Egypt, let alone Israel. They can`t even go into the water and go fishing
right now.

There is no money in circulation. People can`t feed their families in some
cases. If you need medical care or a relative needs medical care, it is
almost impossible to get them out of the Gaza Strip so they can receive
that care.

And people decided, Hamas included, that they can no longer live like this.
And that`s Hamas` primary demand, to end the blockade. And that demand is
popular even among those who don`t like Hamas. Frankly speaking, a lot of
people on the Gaza Strip don`t support Hamas. They don`t like it`s Islamic
government. They think Hamas is corrupt. They think it has frankly
started too many wars with Israel at too much of a cost.

But on this one principle, that the siege of the Gaza Strip has to end and
people have to at least be allowed to make a living and travel and live in
some degree of freedom, on that point, everyone here agrees.

KORNACKI: All right, thank you to Richard Engel and Michael Crowley.
Appreciate that.

We will be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Israelis have, of course,
had to go into places like Gaza before. Their invasion is called Operation
Protective Edge.

And it is pretty brutal. It involves airstrikes, and shelling, and ground
troops and tanks. And today, the Republicans said to Obama, see, that`s
how you secure a border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow." That was Bill
Maher on Friday night reacting to Israel`s ground offensive in Gaza.

When it comes to the political debate over foreign policy here at home,
Maher made a few more predictions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MAHER: Could I save everyone a little time and tell you how it is going to
go down for the next month? Because our politics are as predictable as the
tides.

First, John McCain is going to go on every Sunday talk show and call for
war. Then Republicans in general are going to say, Obama isn`t leading or
war-mongering enough, and he`s doing this to distract us from Benghazi.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And then you`re going to get a chain e-mail forwarded from your
crazy Republican uncle who says, Obama is in on it.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And then Obama is going to come out and say this is unacceptable
and then do nothing, which turns out to be the right thing to do, because
the only two people in the world who want a war with Russia are John McCain
and his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Lindsey Graham.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: He might be onto something there.

Next up, earlier this month, Chris Matthews spoke about the need for prison
reform with Piper Kerman. She`s the inspiration behind the Emmy-nominated
show "Orange Is the New Black."

With nearly one out of every 100 Americans in jail, the incarceration
problem in this country is now so endemic the children show "Sesame Street"
has even introduced a new character with a father in prison, a puppet named
Alex who is teaching kids how to cope with an absent parent.

That idea seemed to inspire political comedian John Oliver, who introduced
us to some new friends in a segment about prison reform last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": I will be looking
at the prison conditions in America and the whole system is just so
horribly broken.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: My daddy is in jail right now for a low-level drug
offense.

OLIVER: You see, that`s exactly what I`m talking about, Timmy. That`s
crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, my daddy is in jail because he killed four
people.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: Yes, well, OK. He`s actually a dangerous individual who needs to
be in jail.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: So that`s really not the same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: My daddy is in jail and people pay money to see him.

OLIVER: Yes, that`s actually a zoo. That`s different.

(singing): It`s a fact that needs to be spoken. America`s prisons are
broken.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: America`s broken prison system is brought to you by
decades of neglect.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: A lack of political courage.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And a generous donation by The GEO Group.

OLIVER: As well as viewers like you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Up next: Remember how Republicans used to charge Democrats with
blaming America first? Well, look at who`s doing it now.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Separatists have handed over the black boxes from the Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine last week. They are
reportedly in good condition.

President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to a veteran of the Afghan
war. He says Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts embodies the humility and
loyalty that define our armed forces.

And Texas Governor Rick Perry is deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to
the Texas/Mexico border because of the government`s failure to secure it --
back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It`s just been cowardly. It`s a cowardly
administration that we have failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with
which to defend themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: We are back.

It was less than 24 hours after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on
Thursday that Republicans like John McCain started attacking President
Obama`s foreign policy and placing the blame for the nightmare on Ukraine`s
eastern border on the president`s so-called cowardly leadership.

It`s become a familiar pattern. Every time there is an international
crisis, Republicans find a way to blame Obama. When Putin-backed Russian
separatists first moved into Ukraine last March, Senator Lindsey Graham
slammed the president for -- quote -- "inviting the aggression."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Every time the president goes on
national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody`s
eyes roll, including mine.

We have a weak and indecisive president. That invites aggression.
President Obama needs to do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Then, when ISIS forces endangered the stability of Iraq, Dick
Cheney had the nerve to say it was the president`s fault, and not his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Are you really saying it`s all Maliki and Obama?

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s
primarily Maliki and Obama. That`s what I believe and I think that`s what
the history books will show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And when hostilities escalated between Israel and Hamas in Gaza
last week, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton said it was the
administration`s peace initiative that, in fact, led to war.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: John Kerry and Barack Obama reinserted
themselves into the so-called peace process at a time when Israeli and
Palestinian relationships were going fine, once again inflating
expectations and once again giving groups like Hamas an excuse to undermine
any hopes of any kind of peaceful resolution. And now you see the outcome.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: May not be surprising that Republicans habitually point the
finger at the president, especially considering the climate in Washington
these days.

Has the blame game finally gone too far?

In an article titled -- today entitled "Not Every International Crisis Is
About Obama," our MSNBC colleague Steve Benen writes -- quote -- "When
nearly -- when 298 people die needlessly because a civilian airliner was
shot with a missile, there is a fundamental problem when some reflexively
look for ways to blame America`s leaders for the bloodshed. That`s not a
basis for a foreign policy debate. It`s just corrosive nonsense."

Joining me now are MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart of "The
Washington Post" and David Corn of "Mother Jones."

So, Jonathan, I will start with you. We played that clip there from
Lindsey Graham. It actually, I think, summed up the Republican critique of
the Obama presidency and its foreign policy for the last five or so years,
which is, he`s not tough enough, he`s indecisive, he needs to do something.

Does it ever get more specific than that?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No. And you forgot that he`s also
weak. That`s been the critique of the president from the very beginning,
to blame him for anything and everything, even if he has nothing to do with
it.

The president had nothing to do with Russian -- Ukrainian separatists
firing off a missile that killed those 298 souls on that plane. And yet un
-- no matter what happens, you will find Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator
John McCain out in front of the cameras blaming the president, calling him
weak and indecisive and, as he said in that clip, inviting the aggression,
no matter what.

There was a time, Steve -- and you remember this -- and I know David does.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, thank you.

CAPEHART: There was a time...

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: There was a time when politics stopped at the water`s edge.
That disappeared, apparently, on January 20, 2009.

KORNACKI: Well, so, David, there also was a time -- and there`s a history
to this, too, I think, which is the Democratic Party going way back here of
George McGovern, right, during the Vietnam War, the blame America first
party as it was called by Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1984, this idea of the
Democrats as sort of -- Jimmy Carter as president -- this idea of Democrats
as the weak party, any Democratic Party necessarily being weak on foreign
policy.

Republicans had historically a lot of electoral success tapping into that
sense.

CORN: Right.

KORNACKI: Is there something to tap into them -- into for them when they
do this?

CORN: Well, first, I have to say I`m just shocked and shocked that Dick
Cheney would not take some responsibility for the mess in Iraq.

And the -- the criticism that he and McCain and Lindsey Graham and everyone
you just ran through, launched now would be akin to saying, well, we were
attacked on 9/11 because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were indecisive,
because they were weak, because they were feckless.

I don`t remember them making that claim back at that time. But you`re
right, Steve. Historically, ever since the George McGovern campaign, even
a little before that, the Republicans got a lot of political mileage out of
calling the Democrats weak on national security. And they have tried that
again and again with this president but with the bin Laden raid, with
Libya, and with winding down wars that were unpopular, they have gotten no
traction. You know, he beat John McCain, the war hawk in 2008. And he
beat Mitt Romney. He tried to make that issue, too.

But now, they`re going to keep pounding away. And I think last August, to
be longwinded here, when it came to the Syria episode, they saw his
approval ratings drop a little bit because of that mess. I think their
thinking now is, if he can be blamed for the chaos overseas which he may
not be able to control or address directly, that will affect his popularity
rating and will help them in the fall. The Republicans said.

KORNACKI: Well, there is one Republican however who is not piling on Obama
for being too weak on foreign policy. That`s former Congressman Ron Paul,
wrote and op-ed on Sunday, criticizing the president and the media for
being too hard on Vladimir Putin. Quote, "Just days after the tragic crash
of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Eastern Ukraine. Western politicians
and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the
disaster. It had to be Russia. It had to be Putin," they said.

Jonathan, here is the thing I`m wondering --

CORN: With friends like that --

KORNACKI: Well, yes. So, here`s the thing I`m wondering, though, which
is, you know, Rand Paul, you know, Ron Paul`s son clearly going to run for
president in 2016, has been trying so hard to make in-roads with the
neocons in the Republican Party, the neocons who never liked Ron Paul
because they`ll say things like that, this is going to be a real issue for
Rand Paul. He`s going to be going around trying to make friends with the
neocons, and his dad is going to come out and say, you know, we should be
friends with Vladimir Putin.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. It also makes me wonder if
he figured that the hatred of the president is so intense that if he said
something nice about Vladimir Putin, no one would notice, or that no one
would care.

So, what we`re seeing is, one of the many problems from my perspective of a
Senator Rand Paul candidacy for president, is that I think he`s somewhat so
isolationist in their view and with this praising or not praising, but this
sort of, you know, kindness for Vladimir Putin, I`m looking forward to
hearing him explain why he said that and why he felt compelled to say
something nice, come to the defense of Vladimir Putin.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, I mean, I`m just looking for the headlines now in
2015, 2016. Rand Paul distances self from father. I think that`s going to
become a standing header or something.

Anyway, thank you to Jonathan Capehart and David Corn.

Up next, if Elizabeth Warren doesn`t run for president, who will carry the
liberal left`s message in 2016?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Tomorrow is the Republican Senate run-off election in Georgia.
And we`ve got new polling on that race.

For that, we check out the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new poll
from WSBT-TV, U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston leads business leader David
Perdue by seven points. It`s Kingston, 48, Perdue, 41. The winner
tomorrow will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the fall. Poll shows Nunn
leading both Republicans. Against Kingston, it`s Nunn by eight, 49-41.
And against -- Nunn leading Perdue by six, 48-42.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And we believe that corporations
are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn
Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

We will fight for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, lighting up the stage at
last week`s Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of the most liberal and
active voters in the Democratic Party.

When it comes to what they are thinking for 2016, "Politico" may have put
it best. Quote, "Their heads might be with Hillary Clinton, but their
hearts are decidedly with Elizabeth Warren."

Warren has said she`s not running, but the enthusiasm for a Warren
candidacy is driving in part by a yearning among liberals for a candidate
to carry the populist mantle, in a concern that Hillary Clinton is too
close to Wall Street.

"The Washington Post" reported over the weekend, that even as Hillary
Rodham Clinton looms as the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic
nomination, the party`s base is stirring for a primary fight. There is a
pining for someone else and a medley of ambitious Democrats are making
moves.

Perry Bacon is a senior political reporter with NBC News. And Aisha
Moodie-Mills is a senior fellow for the Center for American Progress.

So, Perry, as best you can, if you can put the size of this movement on the
left, the size of this movement in the Democratic Party that thinks Hillary
Clinton is an unacceptable 2016 nominee, that wants Elizabeth Warren, that
wants somebody else, that wants anybody else -- how big is that now
compared to what the movement was in 2006, 2007 and the last time she ran?

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Much, much smaller. I
mean, I think we`re talking about something like 10 -- people who think
Hillary Clinton is unacceptable might be 5 percent or 10 percent. I think
you see a large group of people who want to see somebody else run.

I mean, the key thing to remember is two differences. One is Obama did
well in part because he had a huge claim on the African-American vote.
That really helped drive his wins in some of the primaries. Obviously,
Warren does not have that.

The second thing is, even the activists -- I was at Netroots Nation myself,
and the activists don`t consider -- they want Hillary to be further from
Wall Street. That`s annoying to them. It`s not like the Iraq war which
they consider basically an offense that she cannot apologize for back then.
They were not going to vote for someone who was for the Iraq war.

So, it was a big population, probably 40 percent of Democrats in `08 who
were not going to vote for Hillary. I think it`s a much smaller fraction
of the party right now.

KORNACKI: And, Aisha, I wonder -- I was talking to some people earlier
today. I think back to the 2008 race. The moment that really just sort of
sticks in my mind through all these years is when it was becoming clear
Hillary was going to lose to Obama, she sort of started ridiculing his, you
know, hope and message and she gave this speech, I think she was in Rhode
Island, and she talked about, he talks like the clouds will open when I`m
elected, the celestial choirs will start singing, miracles will happen,
that sort of thing.

I wonder if there`s a sense that the Democratic base -- it`s not that any
of it was Obama`s fault, not that Obama failed, but just everybody in the
Democratic Party in 2008 may be over or underestimated what they`d be up
against politically in terms of the Republicans in Washington, and maybe
they think of that moment and they think of Hillary Clinton now and say,
yes, maybe she was on to something.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I mean, I don`t
think that anybody has any preconceived notions that Hillary Clinton would
even get elected and be able to work well with Republicans in Washington,
because we know that that`s just not going to be the case for any Democrat
just because of how divisive the politics have become.

But I want to go back to a point. I was there, too. Perry said he was
there. I was there at Netroots. And I heard Elizabeth Warren speak. It
was very energizing and exciting.

I think that that is her power with regards to the party, is that she is
able to talk about issues that really pull at the heartstrings and purse
strings of the American public in a way that forces other politicians in
the party to get out of the nebulous center place that they`ve been hanging
out and hiding out, quite frankly, and actually move more to the left on
some of the economic issues that we all care about.

I think that that`s what we`re going to see happen with rhetoric that comes
from Hillary Clinton and the conversation she`s having around the country
now, you`re seeing her talk about income inequality. I think that if she
runs, that`s what she`s going to talk about on the campaign trail and it`s
going to be due largely in part to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

So, we`re seeing her change the tone and the messaging and the issues that
we care about in a real powerful way. And that`s going to be what`s
critical.

I don`t think that the conversation here is about whether or not she can
beat Hillary, because I don`t think that that`s a match right now.

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, I think -- look, if Hillary were to run, I think
then Elizabeth Warren, the idea of her running in 2016 seems likely at that
point.

But, Perry, if Hillary does run, if Elizabeth Warren doesn`t -- can
Elizabeth Warren be happy young term in Senate? She`s a freshman member of
the Senate right now. You know, it takes a long time to build up seniority
there, to have a chairmanship or anything like that. If she`s blocked from
running for president, given the outsized role she has in American politics
right now, can she be happy in the Senate?

BACON: I think she can. Remember, she`s filling Ted Kennedy`s seat. And
it`s easy -- I mean, she doesn`t have any history yet, but it`s easy to see
her being kind of the populist voice in the Senate who remains there, who
becomes head of the Senate Banking Committee, let`s say, who pushes the
party to the left in every way possible, like Aisha said. I think she can
play a role in forming the platform of the Democratic Party, calling the
party when there`s a big bill in the Senate, calling for things like
changing the rules on Wall Street, like breaking up big banks.

She`s more than any politician I can think of has a very clear agenda about
fighting the big guys, big corporations, big business, big money. So, I
think when her politics are so singular that I think as long as people in
America are worried about the powerful, she can have a big influence, and I
would say that there`s talk that Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley might
challenge Hillary Clinton, anyway, and I think they`re going to speak about
the same kind of issues Warren is.

I think Warren can really lead the party and affect the primary, and affect
what Hillary Clinton is saying even if she`s not in the race, herself.

KORNACKI: And, Aisha, just quickly, I mean, couple of names here from
Perry. But do you want Hillary Clinton to face some kind of a challenge in
2016?

MOODIE-MILLS: I mean, we thought the competition is healthy, right? But I
would say, you know, what I want is not necessarily what the Democratic
Party stronghold would want. I mean, at the end of day, there are a lot of
people out there who had been throwing money into a potential Hillary
Clinton race at this point. I think that the thing to remember is that the
coffers are already being staffed for a Hillary Clinton at this time in
point. So, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the fund-
raising apparatus if other people who jumped into it.

KORNACKI: All right. Thank you, Perry -- Perry Bacon and Aisha Moodie-
Mills.

When we return, let me finish with the one thing that could keep Hillary
Clinton from running for president.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Finally, let me finish tonight with the one thing I think could
-- could keep Hillary Clinton out of the 2016 presidential race. She`s run
before, so we know the desire to be president lives within her somewhere.
We all assume her husband still has the drive to get back to the White
House, that he wants her to run, and is probably egging her on in his own
way.

But this is obviously Hillary`s choice and at its heart, it`s not a choice
about politics or policy. It`s a much more personal question.

That`s why what President Obama told "The New Yorker" this week caught my
eye. He was asked about both Hillary and Joe Biden who certainly has his
own interest of being president some day. "For both Joe and Hillary,"
Obama said, "they`ve already accomplished an awful lot in their lives. But
the question is, do they, at this phase in their lives, want to go through
the undignifying process of running all over again?"

Think about that for a minute. 2016 election is still more than two years
away. But already, with her book tour, Hillary is getting a strong taste
of what it`s like to be a candidate again, what it`s like it be the
overwhelming Democratic front-runner -- the kind of target that comes with
that. How wealthy is she, how did she and her husband make their fortune,
how does she talk about it? These are stories that have dominated the
media this summer, that had fed Republican attacks on her. And there was,
before that, Karl Rove making his ridiculous insinuations about her
neurological health.

A lot of this isn`t fair, of course, especially what Rove has been up to.
But it`s what comes with running for president, especially when your name
is Clinton. And it`s nothing compared to what Hillary will face if she
does go ahead and run. And even that is nothing compared to what she`ll
face if she wins.

She remembers what it was like in the 1990s, what it was like to wake up
every day as the number one enemy of the entire Republican Party, to have
that right-wing machine devoting itself to tearing her and her husband
down. She remembers all the awful things they said, all the awful things
that a lot of people believed. There were people, supposedly reputable
people in the 1990s who accused the Clintons of drug-running and of murder.
She remembers impeachment.

For the last few years when she was secretary of state, Hillary stopped
being the right`s number one enemy. They moved on. They started attacking
President Obama every day and they left the Clintons alone. But now,
they`re coming back. Now, the media scrutiny is coming back, too.

So, it`s not that Hillary Clinton will decide she can`t win in 2016. She
definitely can. It`s not that she`ll decide she can`t fight off the
Republican attacks. She and her husband have already shown they can do
that, too.

But my question is more simple, it`s more human. She`s been through this
all before. She`ll be 69 years old in 2016. At some point before she
takes her place at the starting line, she`s going to have ask herself, do I
really want to live through what I lived through the `90s all over again
for another 10 years?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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