August 6, 2014
Guest: Clarence Page, Robert Costa, John Fugelsang, Melinda Henneberger
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Test of strength.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Obama has just finished a news conference after completing his
summit with African leaders here in Washington. The president touched on
many issues today, from the war in Gaza to Republican charges that he`s an
imperial president to his relationship with the Congress.
But perhaps the most noteworthy moment came this evening in the exchange
over immigration and Mr. Obama`s frustration with Congress`s inaction.
Joining me right now are NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker
and Perry Bacon, senior NBC News political reporter.
Let`s start with that exchange between President Obama and Jonathan Karl of
ABC News. This is news. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Do you believe you have the power to grant work
permits to those who are here illegally, as some of your supporters have
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I certainly recognize
with respect to immigration reform -- and I`ve said this in past -- is that
we have a broken system. It`s under-resourced, and we`ve got to make
choices in terms of how we allocate personnel and resources.
So if I`m going to, for example, send more immigration judges down to the
border to process some of these unaccompanied children that have arrived at
the border, then that`s coming from someplace else and we`re going to have
to prioritize. That`s well within our authorities and prosecutorial
My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law, and we
already have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kristen Welker at the White House, I was stunned when I heard
him say that because the question from Karl is, Are you going to issue work
permits -- in other words, begin implementing your own immigration policy
saying who gets to stay here and work, left alone by the government, the
INS, and who doesn`t? And his answer was, You know, I`m going to have to
put a lot of people down on the border to deal with these young accompanied
children coming into the country. That`ll leave a lot of opportunity for
me not to be able to do something. I`m going to set the priorities of this
The answer to me was, Yes, I`m going to issue some kind of system whereby
people get relief from deportation, or whatever -- or whatever it is, the
government of the United States is going to, in effect, give work permits
to people who are in this country illegally. That was the answer I heard.
What did you hear?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That is what I heard, that the
president is certainly leaning toward that. We know he`s considering a
number of options, Chris. He hasn`t made a definitive decision yet. But
among the options would be allowing those to stay who don`t have criminal
records, expanding DACA. Of course, that pertains to those students who
are here, who came here illegally, possibly expanding that to their
parents. And ultimately, Chris, this is something that could impact
millions of people who are here illegally.
To pick up on the second point of what the president was saying, though,
you heard him talking about reallocating resources. That relates to that
$3.7 billion that the administration had asked for from Congress. They
didn`t get it. And so one thing that the president is looking into is
reallocating resources possibly within DHS to not only --
WELKER: -- beef up security at the border, but also to have more of
those immigration judges, which is what he alluded to.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. And Perry, it seems to me that the question was, Are
you going to issue work permits? His answer was, Well, you know, because
the Congress didn`t act on dealing with these unaccompanied young people,
I`m going to have to shift some resources down there. Therefore, it`s
going to leave me with the choices, as he called them, the hard choices, of
how to deal and using my priorities in how to deal with the rest of the
matter, in other words, the matter you just raised, which to me is his
backhanded, maybe too cute, way of saying, Yes, I`m going to start
establishing immigration policy in this country because Congress won`t do
PERRY BACON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Not only that, but he basically said, You
Congress, say I have to deport these children, so yes, I will do that. But
in exchange for that, I will allow people who are older who are already
here to stay in the country. That was what he was saying --
MATTHEWS: OK, how much --
BACON: -- sort of a bait and a switch there, yes.
MATTHEWS: How many hours is it going to take tonight, Kristen, before we
hear impeachment? I mean, I just think what the Congress is going to do
is, We`ve been waiting for to you do it, sir, Mr. President.
MATTHEWS: We`ve said -- we`ve waited for you to try to establish policy.
Now, the interesting thing was the president -- we`re going to get to it in
a moment -- the president was very careful tonight to say, I`m delineated,
I`m restricted in what I`m allowed to do under the Constitution. The U.S.
Congress gets to spend money, for example, but -- and has power of the
purse strings. But then he said, Within the limit of those purse strings,
I have the responsibility and the opportunity to move the money the way I
want to. If you tell me to move the money over to help the young children
that came in this country to make sure they are adjudicated expeditiously,
then I`m not going to be able to this other job you told me to do.
WELKER: Right. Well --
MATTHEWS: I`m -- I know that sounds cute, but I think he sounded cute
tonight in the way he answered that question, a tough question. By the
way, let`s watch it again. Here`s -- by the way, this is a broader
question that would set this up. It`s the question of whether the
president has the power that some people have accused him of usurping.
Jonathan Karl, again, at ABC, started off the questioning tonight by asking
him about the challenge of governing with a do-nothing Congress. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: When you were running for president, you said, quote, "The biggest
problems we`re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring
more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress
at all, and that`s what I intend to reverse."
So my question to you -- has Congress`s inability to do anything
significant given you a green light to push the limits of executive power,
even a duty to do so? Or put another way, does it bother you more to be
accused of being an imperial president pushing those limits or to be
accused of being a do-nothing president who couldn`t get anything done
because you faced a dysfunctional Congress?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that -- I never have a green light. I`m
bound by the Constitution.
My preference in all these instances is to work with Congress because not
only can Congress do more, but it`s going to be longer-lasting. And you
know, when you look at, for example, congressional inaction, and in
particular, the inaction on the part of House Republicans when it comes to
immigration reform, here`s an area where, as I`ve said before, not only the
American people want to see action, not only is there 80 percent overlap
between what Republicans say they want and Democrats say they want, we
actually passed a bill out of the Senate that was bipartisan.
In the face of that kind of dysfunction, what I can do is, you know, scour
our authorities to try to make progress. And we`re going to make sure that
every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the
confines of my executive power. But I promise you, the American people
don`t want me just standing around, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for
Congress to get something done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, it was an interesting question, but I guess it was
rhetorical, from Jonathan Karl -- Do you want to be known as a do-nothing
president or a president who exceeded his authority? In other words, gave
himself a green light. But I guess the question the president was
answering his way was, What do you do when the traffic light is broken?
You got to decide whether to go through the -- you know, go through the
intersection or not?
And it seems to me he -- he said he`s going to go looking for legal
authority to basically do what he wants to do, he feels he should do, which
is deal with the situation at the border with the young children down there
we all feel for -- I think we do -- and also use that opportunity, as you
shift resources to deal with that matter, to his executive authority,
decide where you`re going to give relief, where you`re not going to enforce
That seems to be the only way to interpret what he just said, which means,
maybe not in the form of a piece of paper called a work permit, but how
about, Nobody`s going to bother you if you`re working here? Your thoughts.
WELKER: I think that`s -- I think that`s right, Chris. And of course, as
you know, those who are advocates for the unaccompanied minors who are here
are urging the president to do something big when it comes to immigration
reform. Immigration reform advocates are urging the president to do
And I`m told that there are some small ball options and then there are some
WELKER: And he knows that either way, it is going to upset Republicans,
that there is going to be more talk about impeachment. So I wouldn`t be
surprised if, ultimately, he decides to go big on this.
As you point out, we might hear about impeachment within the next few
hours, if not within the next hour. But remember, Democrats see this as
something that they can fund-raise off of. And when it comes to
immigration reform, they know it might pose more challenges for those
Democrats who are facing tough reelection battles in the midterms, but they
think it`s a big win in 2016, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to something the formerly chief of staff, the
(INAUDIBLE) the formerly chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said, Let no -- what -
- no crisis go unexploited, something to that extent. Could the president
being saying, OK, I`m forced (ph) with a situation here, these young people
on the border. Everybody knows I have to address it. That means I have to
use executive discretion. In using that discretion, I`m also going to deal
with this other problem. I`m going to relieve -- relieve some people of
BACON: He is really talking about a big solution. When you talk about
these work permits, they`re -- they -- you`re talking up to five million
MATTHEWS: It`s extraordinary that a president would do that --
MATTHEWS: This is like the Emancipation Proclamation!
BACON: -- really will happen. Steve King has talked about that already.
Congressman (INAUDIBLE) There will be some talk, not actually impeachment.
There will be talk with Republicans (INAUDIBLE) he will be willfully- --
MATTHEWS: This is what they expect him to do --
BACON: -- in a huge wave --
MATTHEWS: This leak, this thing -- you guys were reporters on this.
You`ve -- you`ve seen this leaked slowly, this five million thing, this
work permit thing. The reason Jonathan Karl of ABC asked about it is
because it`s floating out there. Somebody`s floated it out there. It
seems to me it`s very tangibly close that he might take this big step.
BACON: I think so. (INAUDIBLE) considering taking (INAUDIBLE) I thought,
initially, they`d do a small step, expand DACA slightly. They are really
talking about --
BACON: They are talking about something much bigger that will allow a lot
of people to be here and would be kind of -- Obama`s definitely talking
about legacy and thinking about that. You saw him mention his successor in
the press conference about the other question. He wants it take a big move
MATTHEWS: OK --
BACON: His view is Congress won`t do anything and let`s see, this could be
a really big (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to style. As always, I`m impressed by the president`s
cool. I don`t mean Frank Sinatra cool. I don`t mean hip, Kristen. I
don`t mean in any way show business (ph) cool. His ability to be cool out
there in that State Department auditorium today, dropping this bomb out
there, and the way he did it -- does that -- he never gives it away, does
he, what`s in his hand.
WELKER: Well, I think you`re right about that. He`s particularly good in
these formats. And remember, Chris, he`s really been welcoming more
questions from the press as of late. That`s in part --
WELKER: -- because we just got a new approval rating for him, an all-
time low. I think that the White House wants him to be out there, wants
him to be interacting not only with the press, but of course, he`s had more
of these excursions outside of the White House, shaking people`s hands,
visiting different communities across the U.S.
WELKER: And I think that a press conference like this, an open format
where he`s taking a number of questions, allows him to do that. And of
course, he didn`t just talk about immigration reform. He touched on Ebola
and also Putin. And he said the Russian economy has come to a halt, I
believe is the exact word that he said when asked whether those sanctions
were actually having an impact.
So I think you`re right. The president likes this type of format because
it plays into that aspect of his personality which you referenced, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it`s in your face. That`s the message. Your
thoughts -- last thought, a couple seconds.
BACON: I do think immigration dangerous politically. Right now, Hispanic
voters not a big part of the midterms versus (ph) the South (ph) big.
MATTHEWS: Perry Bacon, thank you so much, Kristen Welker, my colleagues
from NBC News. Thank you for joining us.
Coming up, Rand Paul learns he can change his positions, but he can`t
change his own personal history on those positions. With 2016 in his
sights, he`s finding many of his positions a tad inconvenient and says he`s
never said the things we know he said. Guess what? The media`s not
letting him get away with it, and we got the tapes.
Plus, our NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll out today found that 57
percent of Americans say they`re are upset enough to get out there and
carry protest signs. Anyway, we`ll get to one of them for (ph) one (ph).
How about this one? Sue the Congress. The idea continues to take off with
Also, that family drama going on in Virginia. Can former governor Bob
McDonnell beat the rap by blaming his wife, Maureen? That`s his strategy,
and she`s going along with it.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the anger people have at a government that
makes things worse.
This is HARDBALL, place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A mixed bag for the Tea Party in last night`s primary contests
in Kansas. Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts fended off a primary
challenge from Tea Party favorite Milton Wolf. Roberts won by just 7
points, a smaller margin of victory than Tea Party targets Lindsey Graham
and Mitch McConnell.
Moving up to Michigan, Tea Party congressman Justin Amash beating an
establishment Republican challenger in what was a nasty campaign. But
Congressman Kerry Bentivolio, another Tea Partier, is out. He`s the guy
who famously said it would be a dream to impeach President Obama last
summer, and that couldn`t stand even being within 12 feet of the president.
Well, he won`t have to worry about that anymore. He lost to establishment
Republican Dave Trott.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Rand Paul found a shortcut to
political fame, of course, by a way of hard-line libertarian philosophy,
which the Tea Party swallowed whole. But fast forward a few years now, to
now, and Paul is trying to sweep his record from the past under the rug as
he prepares to make a run for the presidency.
It`s one thing to say you`ve evolved on an issue. Most people have. But
it`s another when you try to hide your past. And on major issues like aid
to Israel, Civil Rights, immigration, Senator Paul is making some extremely
dramatic shifts. In some cases, he`s even denying that he`s made those
shifts. What Paul is doing isn`t evolution. "The National Journal" calls
it an evasion strategy. So what will voters going to call it -- what are
they going to call it?
Clarence Page is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The Chicago
Tribune" and Robert Costa`s a national political reporter with "The
By the way, if I ever won a Pulitzer Prize, it would be Chris "Pulitzer
MATTHEWS: I always give credit. Let`s get right to it. Senator Paul`s
isolationist streak part of what launched his political career, of course,
back in 2011. He proposed ending all foreign aid, including to Israel, as
part of a radical budget blueprint to slash a half a trillion in spending
from the budget.
But when Yahoo News asked him on Monday this week about that plan to cut
aid to Israel, Senator Paul went after them with a vengeance, saying,
quote, "We have never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can
mistake my position, but then I`ll answer the question. That has not been
a position, a legislative position, we have introduced to phase out or get
rid of Israel`s aid."
Well, yesterday, he was just as defiant. Quote, "I haven`t proposed
targeting or eliminating any aid to Israel. So when people write that,
they`re not really writing the truth."
Unfortunately for Senator Paul, there`s something called videotape, and his
position when it comes to Israel couldn`t have been much clearer. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so just to be precise, end all
foreign aid, including the foreign aid to Israel as well, is that right?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Yes.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Rand Paul, thanks very much for coming in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Robert Costa, that seemed like a pretty definitive answer.
I mean, he -- it isn`t a million years ago, and yet -- well, let me ask you
this. If the record`s clear that he want wanted to get rid of all foreign
aid -- and Jack Kennedy once wanted to do that. He had that same situation
with Israel one time to explain. Why doesn`t he just say, That was a
blanket effort to get rid of all foreign aid in a radical way to cut down
government spending. It certainly wasn`t targeted against Israel.
Instead, he said, I never legislated in that direction. I never targeted
This is a little cute for a presidential campaign, I think.
ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the simple answer is he
is running for president. Part of the problem for Paul is he comes out of
nowhere in 2010, comes to the Senate in 2011, and he starts to mount an
almost ideological project. He`s trying to make an argument for the
But now, closer to 2016, he`s really starting to shift. He thinks he has a
shot at the White House, so he`s starting to modulate some of his
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. He`s not just modulating. What did you
think of the fact that he`s denied his past position?
COSTA: I think Paul, in many ways, is often haunted by his past, not only
his 2010 campaign but his association with his father, Ron Paul. They`ve
had this view on foreign aid for decades, going back to Ron Paul`s early
presidential campaign. And this has animated the Paul family`s political
thinking for years, and it`s something that still, I think, sits in the
Paul political culture that surrounds him and that base that wants him to
run for president.
MATTHEWS: You know, Clarence, the hard right who are pro-Israeli -- I
mean, the neocons --
MATTHEWS: -- not just people who are Jewish or pro-Israeli, which
everybody is in this country (INAUDIBLE) overwhelmingly pro-Israeli, but
those people in the very hard right are watching this guy.
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Right.
MATTHEWS: They`re watching him. Why does -- and he must know that they are
watching his record. They know where he was two years ago, three years
ago. What is in it for him to deny his past positions?
PAGE: He is -- well, I think that was just naivete on his part and awkward
phrasing and all that.
The way he -- if you take what he said literally, it was --
PAGE: -- well, if I didn`t say it in writing, then I didn`t mean it.
That is what he got into a bit of trouble over. The same thing happened to
him in regards to civil rights as well.
MATTHEWS: But he proposed a budget which included complete erasure of any
Israeli -- aid to Israel.
PAGE: Well, that`s right.
MATTHEWS: It`s on the record.
PAGE: Yes. And when you lie, that`s different than just evolving. And
that`s the thing he`s got to watch out for.
MATTHEWS: That Wolf Blitzer back-and-forth was --
COSTA: He has been evolving for a long time.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, everybody evolves, but you`re supposed to admit you
MATTHEWS: Anyway, during his campaign -- during his campaign in 2010 --
that was when he got elected -- Senator Paul now said he was against parts
oft Civil Rights Act, including the key part we all remember, that it
forced private institutions like restaurants and hotels to serve blacks.
Well, here is Paul during an interview with "The Louisville Courier-
Journal." Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense
that it ended discrimination in all public domains. And I`m all in favor
PAUL: You had to ask me the but.
I don`t like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism.
I think it is a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your
restaurant. But, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, fast-forward to today and you will hear a very different
Rand Paul, who is now actively courting African-American voters. This
Senator Paul just a few days ago at the National Urban League.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Not only do I support the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights
Act. I`m a Republican who wants to restore a federal role for the
government in the Voting Rights Act.
I`m committed and determined. I`m a committed and determined advocate of
the 14th Amendment that states unequivocally no state shall deny equal
protection or due process, no state shall deny the natural rights of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Those white-only signs I used to see driving down for spring
break in college --
PAGE: I saw them too, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You saw them too.
PAGE: I saw them too.
MATTHEWS: He`s saying they should have been -- the businessmen should be
allowed to make that decision themselves.
MATTHEWS: And now he is saying, no, I`m with the law.
PAGE: Well, that was devastating for him to say that businesspeople should
have the right to refuse service.
PAGE: That`s the core of what the Civil Rights Act was all about. And
that affected the lives of -- my life, anybody, any other African-American
who was alive then certainly had to observe it.
Notice the change in tone here, Chris. That first little sound bite where
was talking to the editorial board sounds like a kid in the dormitory
debating some issue in --
PAGE: Yes. Look at the philosophical side of it.
Now at the Urban League now, there is a force to that voice. I`m
unequivocally in favor of the Civil Rights Act. That comes after a year of
visiting black groups, Hispanic groups, people around the country. You are
seeing a real reshaping now of his approach to these issues and the way he
MATTHEWS: Robert, I was there watching this. This is what killed Barry
Goldwater. People did have a fondness for his notion of complete
libertarianism. Make up your own mind. Live your own way.
It was -- Ayn Rand appealed to a lot of young people. But as you get
older, you deal in a more diverse society and you realize that someone`s
freedom is someone else`s loss. Someone else has the door slammed in their
face as that person exercises their freedom to deny anyone they want to go
in their store.
This guy seems to be going through this in public. This isn`t an out-of-
time tryout. This guy Rand Paul`s running for president right now,
correcting all his libertarian positions to clean himself up for the middle
that he never tried to win before.
COSTA: That`s right.
And I think he sees a huge vacuum of power within the Republican Party that
he wants to jump right into, appealing to younger voters, appealing to
minority voters. Is he a flawed messenger based on his past statements and
his past campaigns? Of course he is.
But he doesn`t see anyone at this moment in his party taking the reins and
going to African-Americans and others and trying to really seek their vote
ahead of 2016.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a great example. In 2010, that`s only four years
ago, Senator Paul appeased the immigration red hots by proposing to change
the Constitution of the United States so that kids born here to
undocumented immigrants would not be granted citizenship under the 14th
He said -- quote -- "We need to have the courts review whether or not if
you break the law to come into the United States whether your child would
be a citizen just by being born here. I think we should amend the
Constitution because I don`t think the 14th Amendment, which grants
citizenship to people born in the United States, was meant to apply to
illegal aliens. It was meant to apply to the children of slaves."
MATTHEWS: I think the 14th Amendment has been pretty handy over the years
for liberals. And he`s saying it shouldn`t be.
PAGE: Thank you.
This will come as news to most Americans, but he`s right technically about
the history of that amendment. But it certainly is viewed by most
Americans as meaning if you`re born here, you`re a citizen. And for him to
make that statement otherwise is a radical statement in itself, which
doesn`t help any candidate.
Well, compare that to what he is saying now about this issue of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: For these who are here who are undocumented, should we give them
legal status, should we document them so they can pay taxes and live
legally and come out of the shadows? To that, I say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s a breathtaking 180, from saying people born here
shouldn`t be citizens from saying people who weren`t born here, came to
this country without documents, illegally, if you will, and they should be.
I mean, excuse me, that`s breathtaking.
COSTA: It is in a sense that Rand Paul is shifting in a drastic way
politically from his position.
But as I said, I think he sees an empathy gap within his own party. He
started out in 2011, 2012 in that Ted Cruz wing of the party. And now he
thinks, hey, maybe I could build a coalition for 2016. Maybe it is not out
of this world to think I could do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, Clarence, what do you think? Is this going to work? Is
he going to be able to shroud his past and brighten up his future?
PAGE: A lot of this is going to depend on the numbers.
He is trying to carve out a niche there. And will he survive long enough
as a candidate, if he decides to get in, to be able to impress blacks and
Hispanics that he is at least trying? African-Americans, I know for a
fact, want to have a competition for our vote. We haven`t had that since
MATTHEWS: I hate to be completely ethnic about it, but his problem is with
a large number of groups now, that he has made every one of these cases we
MATTHEWS: There`s a large constituency group that is going to be watching
him and very aware of his past and very suspicious if he truly changed,
PAGE: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Clarence Page. Thank you, Robert Costa of
"The Washington Post."
Up next, Hillary Clinton`s surprise appearance on Steve Colbert`s show last
night. She`s selling those books, I guess.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Here`s my review. This book
is 656 pages of shameless name-dropping.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Tanzanian Prime
Minister Mizengo Pinda and I do some planting at a woman`s cooperative in
COLBERT: Thud. Did you catch that? Did you catch that, TMZ?
COLBERT: She just happened to be hanging out with Mizengo in Mlandizi.
COLBERT: Well, not impressed.
COLBERT: There is no way on earth one woman can be in so many places at
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as can you see, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
did make a surprise appearance on "The Colbert Report" last night, which
brings us to tonight`s "Sideshow."
Well, she couldn`t let Steve Colbert accuse her of name-dropping, as he
did, without responding to the charge. And it wasn`t long before the two
of them got into a protracted back-and-forth over who could drop the bigger
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
COLBERT: Hillary Clinton.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Now who`s a name-dropper, Stephen?
COLBERT: Oh, really? Name-dropper? That`s not what my good friend Tom
Hanks calls me.
COLBERT: When we`re hanging out at George Clooney`s place.
CLINTON: Oh, I love George. I wish he could have joined us when I had
lunch with Meryl Streep and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
COLBERT: Oh, Rafi. He is such a cut-up, especially when we go camping
COLBERT: Oh, does that surprise you?
CLINTON: No, "O" is just what all her real friends call Oprah.
COLBERT: I will have you know, madam, I once did an entire show with
President Bill Clinton.
I hate to break this to you, Stephen, but I have met him, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think that was entirely unrehearsed or surprised.
Any way, next up, antipathy towards Washington might be at an all-time
high, yet despite its dysfunction and obviously sagging approval numbers,
Washington, D.C., might be the ideal place to live, at least according to
"Forbes" magazine, which today ranked Washington, D.C., number one as the
coolest city in the country.
The assessment was based on cost of living, access to amenities, food and
culture activity, as well as population age and growth. I`m not sure what
that means. Anyway, with Washington in the top spot, Seattle, Washington,
in the state of Washington, took second place. Austin, Texas, of course,
was third. What a great city that is. And believe it or not, New York
City, New York, New York, the town so nice they named it twice, didn`t even
make the top 10. It made number 11.
So I guess we here in Washington are moving up in the world.
Up next, our new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows a majority of
Americans they are angry enough to carry a protest sign. Wow. That is a
change. Here is a good place to start. Why don`t you sue Congress for
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
FRANCES RIVERA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Frances Rivera. Here`s what`s
The CDC`s Emergency Operation Center is now at its highest alert level due
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Nigeria. Meanwhile, health officials say the patient in isolation at Mt.
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And Hawaii has declared an emergency ahead of two big storms. Hurricane
Iselle packing 90 mile-per-hour winds is expected to arrive Thursday.
Hurricane Julio is on track to hit the island Sunday night -- let`s take
you now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
I continue to be impressed, by the way, with the idea for the idea I
offered on Monday this week and then expanded on last night, the idea of
suing the Congress, getting even with that suit of the president by the
Congress, that President Obama should turn the tables on the don`t-do-
anything Congress, which last week decided to sue him.
And I think he should -- they should sue them back. He should sue them
Anyway, the American people are in just the mood right now. Catch these
numbers. A NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll found that 57 percent of
American people right now say there is something out there that makes them
so angry they would carry around a protest sign if they could.
Democrats, of course, polled say they protest signs -- their signs would
say stop the war. Raise the minimum wage. Keep Obamacare. Republicans
were who polled said their protest signs would say things like stop
abortion. Close the borders. Impeach Obama.
Well, here is one more for you, I think. Your protest sign, sue Congress.
Joy Reid is my colleague and host of MSNBC`s "THE REID REPORTER" in the
afternoon. And John Fugelsang is a comedian and political commentator.
Joy and John, let me give you a number here. It`s not only that three out
of five people say they are willing to carry a sign. Three out of five
people say the problem with the country economically, which they are so
unhappy with, and feel like they are still in recession, is due to the
inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done to improve
So, even though "Forbes" magazine says this is great place to live, nobody
is saying great work is being done here. And that`s a fact, Joy. And the
fact is, I think, overall, I know Democrats, liberals and conservatives
don`t agree on everything. But there is -- there must be a sense that this
government machinery has seized up, that it doesn`t even -- they don`t have
two different health care plans fighting with each other, two different
That would be healthy. It`s one guy with some ideas, the president. He
doesn`t veto anything. They veto him. They veto everything he -- he`s not
out there saying, well, this isn`t quite right and signing a veto.
It is laughable, Joy. You are laughing because we haven`t seen that in so
many years, a president who doesn`t want to do something. This president
wants to do stuff. And the Congress doesn`t want to do, as he puts it,
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And I think that is grounds for protest, even carrying a sign if
you have never carried one.
REID: And, Chris, what I think is so interesting about your idea --
because the problem with Congress suing the president is that they don`t
have standing. Right? They can`t show some injury to their individual
district if they`re in the House of Representatives.
The president is the one guy who represents the entire country, the one
politician who ostensibly represents the whole country. And if you go back
and look at the Robert Draper book that literally on inauguration eve,
January 20, 2009, senior leaders in the Republican Party plotted on purpose
to do nothing.
You talk about -- this isn`t two clashes of ideology and they can`t
anything done because they don`t agree or they can`t agree. They decided
proactively that they weren`t going to let any legislation through. They
were going to do absolutely nothing.
I would almost think that the president on behalf of the American people
could say you willfully obstructed government. You`re willfully refusing
to seat ambassadors, to make sure agencies have agency heads, even to pay
the government`s bills, letting the government default.
I think, even as a symbolic action, the president is the one with standing,
because the Congress is willfully obstructing not just him, but us.
MATTHEWS: John, it`s pretty blatant. Your thoughts?
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it`s a do-nothing Congress
pretending to do something by suing the president for doing anything.
And you`re both exactly right. John Boehner is holding a sign, too, Chris.
And his sign says, "Will obstruct, will sue a president for Tea Party
That`s what this lawsuit of his is about, trying to keep his job after the
midterms with the Tea Party that hates him. Now, as Joy pointed out, they
did have their all you can obstruct dinner where they decided this he would
block the people`s business every step of the way because of government
works they have no arguments left to sell to their social conservative
So, I think it would be very appropriate for the president or somebody to
sue these guys, even if it is just theater. You know, we don`t need a
Vulcan Obama, we need a Han Solo Obama. We need him to push back and fight
these guys, and I guarantee you, social conservatives who despise Boehner
would respect him because at this point, we all know Congress has a lower
approval rating than Chlamydia.
MATTHEWS: The reason I like to sue is the idea that it is the only way it
make a case against Congress. Not because you disagree with them. That`s
Not because there`s a debate. We are supposed to have debates. Not
because people have different views on how to fix the country`s problems.
That`s normal. That`s healthy.
It does seem to me, Joy, that there is a disconcerted effort to sit on
their hands. And I look at them and I look at the way they left the House
last week. What did they do last week? They sued the president. That`s
all they did.
They passed a meaningless gesture to trash those kids at the border, you
know, whatever that was, take back the president`s authority to give them
some relief and basically -- but all it was, was meaningless. They never
met with Senate. Never had a conference to get the bill to the president`s
hands. As I said, they never put anything in his hand for him to sign or
MATTHEWS: They just do nothing as strategy. And I`d like to see the
American people rear up against that, roar up against that, and say, you
know, the problem with you guys is, exactly what the president says, you`re
REID: Yes, and, Chris, I think when you look at these polls that show this
pox on both their houses attitude, I think a lot of people scratch their
heads when they look at it, because they are blaming in a sense President
Obama, a lot of people, for not being able to bring Congress to heel, not
being able to get and work with him. But if they made a political
decision, no matter what he does, even if he proposes their own bills
verbatim back to them, they`re going to say no because he is the one
If you`re living in a state where your bridges are crumbling for instance,
Congress is now willfully obstructing your representative`s ability to fix
the bridges you have to travel that`s unsafe. If you`re living in a state
where they are refusing to give you the Medicaid expansion, you`re looking
next door at the state`s being able to get the benefits of health care bill
but you also pay taxes, there are so many instances where groups of
Americans should be able to take action it say to Congress, you`re
willfully preventing from getting the benefit of my tax dollars. And
you`re making my life unsafe. Bridges are crumbling. Roads are crumbling.
This country is falling apart and Congress is saying, politically, we ain`t
MATTHEWS: Here`s an example of -- some of many examples of people who
wrote it. I`ve been checking Facebook on this idea to sue the Congress.
And here are some thoughts here from people. Jenny writes, you start the
class action suit and we will join you. Help us get started. Our
government is wasting our time and money.
Zachary says the Congress should be sued for dereliction of duty. That`s
And Lois says, I agree. President Obama along with taxpayers should sue
all the idiots in Congress. They don`t even deserve a paycheck, which, of
course, would be even worse than suing them, saying, sorry, buddy, you
didn`t work this month, did you?
FUGELSANG: Exactly. If you don`t do you job, you don`t get paid. And
that`s how it should be. This Congress works less than a human appendix.
I want to see Obama use them. I want to see Gloria Allred on him. I want
to see him take them before a Judge Judy. I want him to slap the orange
right off of Boehner.
And a lot of social conservatives who don`t respect this Congress would
respect Obama if he did it. They keep trying to blame him for the very
obstruction they are causing, which is like John Wilkes Booth blaming
Lincoln for missing the end of the play.
MATTHEWS: You know, I like the way you talk, by the way. You throw in
Gloria Allred, Judge Judy and what slap the orange of the guy`s face -- my
God, that`s a lot in one welt.
FUGELSANG: Well, he`s earned it, Chris. He`s earned it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid. And thank you, John Fugelsang for
REID: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, is the ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell throwing his
wife under the bus to save both their skins? And is she going along with
this? It looks like she is. And that`s ahead.
This is HARDBALL, a place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Republicans love to argue that voter ID law would cut down on
voter fraud. The reality: they won`t. That`s according to an
investigation by Justin Levitt, a professor and constitutional law expert
at Loyola Law School out in Los Angeles. Levitt analyzed every election in
this country since 2000, that`s over a billion ballots cast. And out of
those billion ballots, there`d been only 31 cases of alleged voter fraud
that photo ID could have stopped, 31 out of a billion.
And when Levitt analyzed the elections in which in those states with
strictest photo ID laws, he found more than 3,000 voters were rejected,
including many he assumes were legitimate voters.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, and to a (INAUDIBLE) place of
politics, the McDonnell trial.
We`ve been checking in on the corruption trial of the former Virginia
governor and his wife, since the McDonnell`s joint legal teams laid out
their soap opera defense, that their broken marriage was proof that they
didn`t work together to squeeze money from a wealthy businessman. You got
Well, here`s what happened since we last covered the trial. We learned
that the former Virginia first lady dogged -- bird dogged Ann Romney at a
campaign to pitch the vitamin supplement made by the businessman, Jonnie
Williams, who had been showering the McDonnell`s with gifts. An aide
described the awkward encounter with Mrs. Romney as a train wreck.
The prosecution presented emails that show Williams offered up his private
jet if Governor McDonnell could set up a dinner with him with John McCain.
And a staffer in the Virginia Health Department who met with Jonnie
Williams, as the business guy, at McDonnell`s behest, derisively called him
the "Tic Tac Man" because his vitamin supplements resembled Tic Tacs. I`ve
said before be with you heard of the Twinkie defense, McDonnell appears to
use the crush defense, basically throwing his wife under the bus to save
both their hides by portraying her, his wife, as having a crush on a slick
businessman. And she seems to be going along with it.
Melinda Henneberger has been covering it from "The Washington Post" and
reporting from inside the courtroom. And her latest column asks, "How does
a crush preclude a conspiracy?"
And Michelle Bernard is president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics
and Public Policy.
I never know what you`re going to say.
So, here, we start with Melinda. I know what you`d say.
Why -- make your case. Just because this woman has some sort of romantic
affinity for this squat business guy, who`s not exactly a romantic lead in
the movies, why does that have anything to do to get them off the hook for
having taken all these gifts from a guy who wants something and got some
services from the government?
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s my question. I think --
MATTHEWS: That`s why I posed it.
HENNEBERGER: I think it`s a diversion, OK? It`s a diversion from any of
the charges, but how does having -- whether or not she really had feelings
for this guy, we can`t know that, but it doesn`t matter. If she had
feelings for him, how does that preclude her from talking to her husband?
In the history of mankind, I`ve never heard of a case where having feelings
outside your marriage kept you from speaking to your husband about
I mean, that`s really their case is, if she had this, you know, what is
this, seventh grade? They`re calling it a crush, she has a crush, thus
they couldn`t have been working together to get money and favors --
MATTHEWS: Whose idea was this?
HENNEBERGER: -- out of this guy.
I don`t know, but both the -- his and hers defense teams are putting it
forward, and they`re putting an enormous amount of energy into it, to the
point that even outside the courtroom, Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell are very
careful never to look in each other`s direction. They`re sitting --
there`s one lawyer sitting between them at the joint defense table --
MATTHEWS: So if they get acquitted, both of them, and they embrace in some
incredible romantic scene out of the end of -- the E-Day kind of thing,
where her legs go up in the back -- are they going to have a scene like
that? And say, what a game we just won?
MICHELLE BERNARD, THE BERNARD CENTER: I don`t think that`s going to
happen. I think it`s a very dangerous defense strategy. Number one,
frankly, I don`t understand why she has agreed to this sort of woman as
victim. It`s the old story, Adam has taken down Eve, and now, you know,
today, it`s Mrs. McDonnell has taken down her husband, and she`s allowing
herself to be the scapegoat. I, frankly think, you know, if I`m sitting
MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s a love, honor, obey thing? Where she`s the
little woman from the 1950s, the image of the woman who just does what
she`s told? Do you think she`s like that?
BERNARD: I don`t think in this day and era, there`s any woman who does
what she`s told. I don`t -- I find it very hard to believe, for whatever
reason, she`s going along with it, obviously, someone`s attorney has said,
this is a really good defense strategy, but I think there`s a potential
it`s going to hurt her more than it hurts her husband. And, frankly, if he
thinks he`s going to get off because people --
MATTHEWS: But they swing together, though.
BERNARD: If he has impunity -- but I think they believe if they impugn her
character enough and people look at her as this awful, greedy woman, who
was influenced by power and money, that somehow it`s going to help him, and
I think it`s going to backfire.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s imagine you`re on the jury, and the point you make is
the jury -- and these are going to be probably pretty smart jurors.
They`re watching this case and they`re probably going, you know what, maybe
she did like the guy, but she took his stuff. Not only did she take his
stuff, but she did favors for him. She used the office of governor and her
position as first lady to do stuff for him. She got stuff for her husband,
the big $6,000 Rolex watch, the ride in the Ferrari, whatever it was, all
this to help him. So, he apparently was in on it, he was taking gifts --
you know, it doesn`t surprise me that you become friends with a lobbyist.
Lobbyists are incredibly charming. That`s why they`re good at it in this
town. You don`t get -- you`re a social being. They were friends.
That`s the part I don`t buy. That they were complete -- you know, they
didn`t know each other. It was just a business thing. I don`t buy this
Jonnie Williams guy for a second. I think he ingratiated himself with the
governor and got what he wanted.
HENNEBERGER: They`re all transactional, all three of the players in this
kind of grubby drama are so transactional.
But I am thinking, I`m sitting there on the jury, I`m thinking a couple of
things. One, McDonnell is so obviously throwing his wife under the bus,
does that make me feel more kindly towards that guy. No, not all.
Also, there`s so much evidence that McDonnell --
MATTHEWS: How about the creep factor?
HENNEBERGER: -- McDonnell himself reached out to Jonnie Williams many
times and made many solicitations so that had nothing to do with Maureen --
MATTHEWS: You`re a lawyer, right?
MATTHEWS: Two questions, which way does it go? If they don`t like these
people, they think this is a big carnie act, a big show business show, and
yet they can`t prove the prosecution that there was a quid pro quo, that
somebody said, if you do this, I`ll do that. They can`t prove that.
BERNARD: Well, I don`t -- in this case, I don`t think that the level of
influence peddling we`ve seen actually raises to a criminal act. I can`t
say I would have used my prosecutorial discretion and ever brought the
case. I think they get off but I also think that on a character level,
they are both shot forever. I don`t know how they come back from it.
MATTHEWS: When I got my first job at the white House, an old friend of
mine said, notice any new friends?
MATTHEWS: What a great question. New friends just arrive.
MATTHEWS: Now, I want to hang out with you.
Anyway, thank you, Melinda Henneberger, that`s what politics is about, the
new friends who arrive.
Thank you, Michelle.
We`ll be right back after this for my final word.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight, this Wednesday night, with the latest
look at what we Americans think of our country`s politicians.
Seven in 10 of us say that the economic problems facing the country are due
to the inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done to
improve the economy. As one pollster put it, the message from the people
is, you are causing the pain.
Four out of five of us, an even bigger chunk, are dissatisfied with the
U.S. political system itself. Three out of five are upset enough to carry
a protest sign for a day.
Now, when most Americans ceased being in the silent majority, but are
they`re ready to hit the street with signs, you know something`s happening
in this country, maybe not at the ballot box yet, but certainly if you go
out and about them about things, which explains why people -- some of them
jumped at the idea of suing Congress. What better way to get someone`s
attention and send the lawyers in the courts after them, make them squirm a
little, know the humiliation of being the defendant in a court of public
Because if you look at the numbers in this new poll by NBC and "The Wall
Street Journal," that`s who they are, the defendants. And while the public
anger is aimed at politicians generally, it might be healthy to note that
it`s not President Obama out there, vetoing bills, a busy Congress has
passed. No, it`s a "don`t do anything" Congress, not doing what the
president keeps asking it to do.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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