August 7, 2014
Guest: Michael O`Hanlon, Bobby Ghosh, Steve Beshear
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Back to Iraq.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" with the U.S. military action right now over Iraq.
This evening, Washington time, President Obama has sent U.S. planes into
northern Iraq in order to drop water and food supplies to those trapped or
threatened by the relentless onslaught of insurgent forces.
With the militant Islamic group ISIS trapping or threatening many of
the country`s religious minorities right now, including thousands of
Christians in the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq, the United States now
has its military planes ready to strike, should that Islamist group attack
either our relief planes or a nearby American consulate. The White House
released this photo of President Obama and his national security team in
the Situation Room at the White House.
But where is this mission taking us? How long is President Obama
willing to sustain an attack on the ISIS militants if they continue their
advance, the relentless push to convert or kill any Iraqi who comes in
their path? Put another way, is there any reason to believe that ISIS will
relent, will pull back, buckling to the U.S. superior firepower? And if
so, would we Americans need to reenter this country`s combat every time the
insurgent force went on the move?
Those are the big questions tonight. And what are the political
consequences to expect here? Will aggressive action by President Obama
still or encourage the downbeat of criticism his foreign and security
policy has been taking here at home?
Let`s get the latest from NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With ISIS rebels
only days away from seizing Erbil, the president has put U.S. warplanes on
a hair trigger not only to save Erbil, but the U.S. consulate there in the
city, with some 30 to 50 State Department employees and scores of U.S.
military advisers working there with the Iraqi military.
As American surveillance drones scan the battlefield, U.S. fighter
aircraft and bombers are poised to launch air strikes against the ISIS
rebels. If those fighters halt their advance and retreat, American
warplanes will likely be ordered to hold their fire. If not, the
president`s order to strike will be carried out.
At the same time, under a deadly assault from ISIS Islamic militants,
up to 40,000 Yazidis, a small religious sect, were forced to flee Mosul or
face execution if they did not convert to Islam. The Yazidis, mostly women
and children, sought refuge atop the Sinjar mountains, but the rebels
blocked the roads in an effort to starve them out. With no food or water,
many began to die of thirst and starvation.
Faced with a massive humanitarian crisis, U.S. military cargo planes
with combat escorts are expected to begin air drops of food, water and
medicine at daybreak.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski reporting from the
NBC`s Kristen Welker is with us now from the White House, and Michael
O`Hanlon`s a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Kristen, thank you so much for joining us. This is a big development.
The United States is getting back into the war front. Basically, the --
and check me on this. The president`s word now is that will be over there
in sort of an alert position, ready to act if -- what? If our facility,
our consulate is attacked, or if what else? What will spring us into
action and put us on the attack again, into combat mode.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you`re right, that
is the accurate way to view this, Chris. I am told, according to senior
administration officials, that they are monitoring the movements of these
extremist forces who have been moving into the northwestern part of Iraq.
They have been taking over a number of cities. And so the question is,
will they continue those movements? If we see them move toward Erbil,
where there is a U.S. consulate, as you point out, that could be a trigger
for U.S. action.
And you`re absolutely right, military warplanes at the ready to begin
air strikes if President Obama believes that that is what is, in fact,
happening, that these extremist forces are continuing to move north.
Based on my conversations here, Chris, I can tell you that there`s a
real sense of urgency because they do see this as such a dire humanitarian
situation, those 40,000 Christian minorities who are trapped on that
mountain without access to food and without access to water. And of
course, the order has gone out to begin the humanitarian mission, those air
drops that will deliver food and water. We expect that to begin at
But again, the question is, will air strikes begin? As you know, this
president is reluctant to reengage in Iraq. He ran on a platform of
getting out of Iraq, getting out of Afghanistan. The White House insists
there are not going to be boots on the ground. And the way to think about
this, Chris, based on the president`s thinking -- he sees this as very
similar to Libya, that this is a humanitarian crisis, and that is why he is
seriously considering military intervention from the air -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kristen, hold on for a second. I`ve got Mike O`Hanlon
here. I guess the question is, is it possible to do a pinprick -- in other
words, be ready, if anybody makes a move (ph), take a shot across their
bow, they pull back, and then you just wait for them to move again and do
it again? But it seems to me you`re opening the door to a sustained
MICHAEL O`HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You are, and you`re also
telegraphing, of course, on purpose, clearly, what you`re going to do
tomorrow morning, which is presumably done for deterrent purposes. They`re
hoping that ISIS doesn`t want to pick a fight with us. That`s a
MATTHEWS: But they would have to then give up on their plan to take
O`HANLON: Well, you and I know that there`s no way we`re going in
under any American president, certainly not this one, with tens of
thousands of forces. So I`m not sure ISIS is going to lose northwestern
Iraq even if we do start dropping bombs. It could be a prolonged sort of
engagement. Do they want the U.S. as an enemy in that kind of an
engagement? I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the firepower potential. Of course,
we`re the superpower in the world. We know that. But is our firepower
appropriate to any (ph) people who are mixed factions moving across the
ground in their regular -- not moving in regimental form? They`re moving
in almost an infiltration mode, as I understand it. How do you strike that
from the air effectively?
O`HANLON: Well, you`re raising the right question, especially for the
longer term. There`s a short-term humanitarian crisis, getting food and
water to these people on these mountains. I don`t think there are going to
be a lot of innocent civilians around the mountains that we have to worry
about. So if you see people shooting at you, you shoot back.
O`HANLON: Until you get to...
MATTHEWS: ... riding shotgun guard on the food supply, basically.
O`HANLON: Exactly. I think this`ll go OK, although, you know,
obviously, we could lose people, but it`s unlikely, I think. The harder
question is exactly the one you raise, over the longer term. How do you
help the Iraqi state some day take back northwestern Iraq from ISIS? That
has all the challenges...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to a couple of things, Kristen, and these
are this. Once you hear the word "genocide" -- people around here, the
producers have raised, and it`s a wonderful to raise. You hear that word,
and it changes the ballgame. Americans, because of our history in World
War II, have been taught, and what we didn`t do in Rwanda, Move when you
Is that -- is that making the rounds -- that parlance making the
rounds at the White House, that these people are being killed because
they`re the wrong religion, according to ISIS?
WELKER: I think that`s the exact right way to think about it, Chris,
and I can tell you that word, "genocide" was the word that was discussed
over and over again today during the daily briefing with White House press
secretary Josh Earnest. He would not use the word "genocide," but I can
tell you that in my conversations here behind the scenes, that is a big
concern. And that is why there is this sense of urgency, because there`s a
sense that this could escalate and could turn into a genocide and that this
president would have that on his hands. So there certainly is an urgency
to do something.
I asked if Syria -- the president not acting on Syria after saying he
would -- if that is weighing on him at all as he makes this decision. And
the response I got was that this humanitarian crisis raises to such an
intense level that, right now, he`s focused on that and trying to stem the
flow of as many as 40 children who`ve already died and the tens of
thousands whose lives are at risk right now, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, this country is very diverse, you know, Kristen, and
you and I know that there are so many different Christian denominations,
but this country`s overwhelmingly Christian, America. And I wonder whether
the idea that seeped into our news the last couple of days that Christians
per se were under attack for being Christians in northern Iraq hasn`t
aroused the White House in a way that they cannot resist acting.
WELKER: Well, I think that that is a question that they are going to
have to answer. And that question -- that specific question, we haven`t
heard the president or senior administration officials weigh in on yet.
But I can tell you that that certainly is something that has been debated.
Are they taking action now because these are ethnic Christians? That is
certainly something that I anticipate the president will be asked about if
he decides at some point to come out to address this, which I anticipate we
will have to hear from the president within the next 24 hours (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about political self-defense. You and I
know the issue of Benghazi has been all over the place for a year now. Now
that we know that American consulate officials, dozens of them, are within
striking distance by the ISIS forces, why didn`t we pull them out?
WELKER: Is that to me, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Why are they now exposed to -- yes, to you, Kristen. I`m
WELKER: Well, I think that the administration -- and you`re
absolutely right about that, and there has been increased concern and focus
on the consulates around the world in the wake of what happened in
Benghazi. And I think that this is a crisis that escalated relatively
quickly, at least in terms of those ethnic Christians being stranded on the
WELKER: You will recall several -- about a month ago, the U.S. sent
advisers to try to deal with what was a growing crisis, and what has
happened over the past several days is that this crisis has really risen to
such a level that now the U.S. feels as though it has to intervene. And I
think that that is why they didn`t remove the forces from the consulate
yet. They didn`t see these extremists getting as close as they have now
gotten over the past 48 hour to the consulate, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kristen Welker, thanks so much for your great reporting
I want to go back to Mike O`Hanlon, last question to you. And that
is, do you see a successful pinprick operation here as possible, or are we
just deluding ourselves again? Once you go in, you`re in.
O`HANLON: You can successfully relieve the suffering of this group on
the mountain, I think. I hope. And I hope with no...
MATTHEWS: ... food delivery.
O`HANLON: Exactly. The bigger question, however, that you are, I
think, getting at, it`s -- no, it`s too hard to do this. It`s too hard to
take back land that`s now five million people, with this ISIS group that`s
growing in strength -- it`s several tens of thousands -- just with
We need a strategy to help the Iraqi army get its mojo back. And
that`s not going to be possible until the last piece of the politics falls
into place, which is a new prime minister in Iraq because as we speak,
they`re trying to work that one out, if they can it. Then President Obama
has a decision. Does he want to really reengage with advisers, maybe with
some sustained air presence, with some commandos? We`ll have to see.
MATTHEWS: Of course, I want to know what happens -- once you attack a
group like ISIS, you have made them your enemy.
O`HANLON: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And they might have ways of coming back at us.
Anyway, thank you, Kristen Welker -- I did that -- and thank you, Mike
O`Hanlon from Brookings.
Coming up, the political implications of renewed U.S. involvement in
Iraq. Barack Obama ran against the war, of course. It`s the reason he won
the nomination. And Americans say the war wasn`t worth it in Iraq and
they`re glad we got out. So what`s the fallout now of going back in?
Also, you heard it here last night, President Obama hinting strongly
he may take unilateral action on immigration if Congress won`t do it. The
right wing`s already working on its practiced outrage, and a lot of other
Plus, the best kept secret of the 2016 campaign. Health reform is
working. Just ask Kentucky`s governor, Steve Beshear, because we`re going
to do it tonight. Alison Grimes knows it, too. One thing, though. Don`t
call it "Obama care," especially if you`re a Democrat. Call it, like,
Kynect, like K-Y-N-E-C (sic), Kentucky Connect.
Finally, hate to eat and run? Remember this moment a few days ago,
when Rand Paul took one bite of that hamburger and then got out of Dodge?
He didn`t like hearing about immigration from an activist who approached
Congressman Steve King, did he. Wait until you see the campaign ad that`s
already been taken -- already been shot using Paul`s table manners as the
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with the latest on that humanitarian
mission President Obama is launching over Iraq right now, by the way, and
the air strikes against those extremists that he`s considering.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The news today and this evening
that the United States might carry out air strikes in Iraq against ISIS
raises a host of serious strategic and, of course, political questions over
there and back here.
What would actually be required to change the situation on the ground
over there? How long would it take to do it? Could we really guarantee
any military action would be, quote, as the White House said, "limited,
specific and achievable"? Well, the White House -- that`s what they told
"The New York Times."
Anyway, once we get involved, does that hook us into a long-term
commitment? And how do we walk away if ISIS is still rampaging through
Iraq? Well, the reality is, these engagements almost always seem simpler
before the bombs start dropping.
Andrea Mitchell is chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News
and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC, and Howard Fineman`s
editorial director for the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst.
Andrea, and then Howard, it seems to me it`s very hard -- certainly,
we can ride shotgun, as I`ve been saying tonight. We can make sure if
anybody attacks these relief missions, dropping food, attacks our planes,
we`ll fire back. But that`s the first hour or two.
Then what happens? The next time we go in, do we do it again? We
keep doing it. We keep riding shotgun. But what do we do about keeping
ISIS from advancing generally all around that location?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact is that ISIS...
MATTHEWS: And keep them isolated.
MITCHELL: ISIS has encircled these poor refugees. There are anywhere
10,000 to 40,000 people. As Kristen was telling you, 40 children -- at
least 40 children have already died.
MATTHEWS: Of thirst.
MITCHELL: Of thirst, of the heat, of lack of -- you know, lack of
food. The problem now is you can get the food and water to them. And it
is not an easy operation, but we can do that. We can get those pallets out
of the back of a C-130 or a C-17 with fighter jets, with Apaches and
Blackhawks perhaps escorting them.
But what if we`re fired upon? What if something happens? What if
there`s a mechanical problem? And then how do you get these -- how do you
get these ISIS fighters away from encircling them? So they are still
trapped there. Getting them the food is not going to get them out of
there. So that...
MATTHEWS: ... entirely reactive right now.
MITCHELL: And it`s a rescue mission, but it`s temporary. It won`t
really last. And eventually, you`re going to have to strike them. Now,
whether or not they are actually going to do air strikes is still a
decision pending what happens and what the reaction is.
Let me just say one thing about Erbil. I was there a couple of weeks
MATTHEWS: That`s where our consulate is located.
MITCHELL: It`s where the consulate is, but it is a safe place. It is
an elaborate, beautiful city built up. It would remind you of Kuwait City
because it`s oil money. This is the heart, the economic heart of the
northern part of Iraq. There is no way that we`re going to let Erbil be
attacked and not respond.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, my thought, Chris, is that -- is that Barack Obama not that long ago
enunciated what he regarded as a kind of new comprehensive theory of how he
viewed the world and how America would engage in the world, which would --
as you said, limited, specific, no boots on the ground...
FINEMAN: ... achievable, a careful list, almost like a lawyer`s list
of checkmarks before you go somewhere. And it would be nice, I guess, if
the world conformed to what he expected it to be after Iraq, after
Afghanistan, without Vladimir Putin on the rampage.
What`s happening is, the world isn`t following his five-check system.
And I was over at the White House today for the briefing, and Josh Earnest,
the press secretary, was going at that time through all kinds of
convolutions about what the rule is for our engagement. And the fact is,
they are responding to the stories of the people on the mountaintop and the
fact that ISIS is basically moving steadily through the country.
And so you`ve got to throw out those nice, neat rules and respond to
the situation. And when he does that, the whole idea of his new doctrine
and the neat world that he hoped he would find is going to perhaps give him
some problems politically.
MATTHEWS: OK. Somebody the other day said the president`s a realist,
meaning he is for minimal overseas involvement. He`s not a
neoconservative. But he`s also a guy with a conscience that works at him.
And you start hearing the word "genocide" today around the White
House, as Kristen reported, or you hear about a Christian community, which
has a lot of appeal to a lot of people in this country, obviously, you
begin to think, Wait a minute. That`s sort of us over there. People
(INAUDIBLE) Wait a minute. We got to get in there. We got to stop this
MITCHELL: I would have said that until last Labor Day weekend, when
we thought that a chemical attack, a red line, and the devastation in Syria
would have that -- would elicit the same response.
And, in fact, they walked up to the water`s edge and backed off. So,
ever since then, I think we all have to be...
MATTHEWS: That was after the conversation with McDonough on the South
MATTHEWS: So, was there another conversation on the South Lawn with
McDonough? I heard there was a little bit of a skirmish today.
MITCHELL: There was.
We videoed it. It was with...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of it?
MITCHELL: It was with the travel pool.
It was certainly when he was 40 minutes late to leave for the signing
of the veterans bill today. And we saw him come out of what we later
learned was a national security meeting and a very animated conversation
before they got in the car with Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, former
deputy national security adviser and a major voice on national security.
MATTHEWS: Animated meaning agitated?
MITCHELL: I`m not sure. I don`t know how to -- what to interpret
Let me say one other quick thing. We had been hoping to get a real
government in Iraq. And we were making progress on having them get rid of
Maliki, find another Shiite and then you would have an authority that could
order military engagement. That`s just about to happen, but now this.
MATTHEWS: Well, Bobby Ghosh is joining us right now. He`s the
managing editor of Quartz.
Bobby, thanks for joining us.
And I guess the question which comes to most American minds right now
is, it`s their country. We gave it back to them. Iraq should be able to
police a situation where a bunch of militants are circling and driving to
death basically on a mountaintop a lot of Iraqis. But they are apparently
not even engaged in this military situation.
BOBBY GHOSH, MANAGING EDITOR, QUARTZ: No, they are not. The Iraqi
military, as we remember from a couple of months ago, when they were first
confronted by ISIS or ISIL in Mosul, they simply dropped their weapons and
And something similar is now taking place farther north in these areas
where is ISIL is now. The Kurdish militia, known as the Peshmerga, they`re
doing the same thing. Instead of standing and fighting against ISIL, they
are withdrawing into Kurdish areas, and they`re determined to hold and
protect the Kurdish areas.
But they are essentially giving up lots and lots of territory, in
which territory there are small minorities, Christians, Yazidis,
communities, pre-Islamic communities that have existed there since before
the time of the Bible.
They are now under genuine threat of being eliminated. The word
genocide, when it`s used in this context, is very, very real.
MATTHEWS: Well, Bobby, how does the United States prevent genocide,
prevent the elimination, if you will, by mass killing or conversion of
these religious minorities without getting involved militarily if there is
no other force that is able to do it, willing to do it?
GHOSH: By itself -- by itself the United States can do very little.
You can provide humanitarian aid. You can try and knock some heads
together in Baghdad. You can try -- and they have been trying -- to give
some -- to build some backbone into the Iraqi military. By itself the
United States can`t do very much.
It will need a coalition effort that involves -- that involves Turkey,
which is very, very concerned about this, that involves other countries in
the region. But, primarily, it will need the Iraqis to step up to the
plate on this one. And that, as Andrea said, begins with the political
solution in Baghdad.
There was a suggestion today that a post-Maliki government was
beginning to take shape. With what`s happened in the last even two or
three hours, who knows if that`s still a possibility.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, these are incredible "National Geographic"-type
pictures of very amazing looking people. They all look healthy now, but
they are endangered.
And my question is, doesn`t it remind you of General Powell`s comment,
you broke it, you own it?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ Oh, absolutely. We are going all the way back.
MATTHEWS: We own that country now. We are morally responsible. I
know Americans feel this. I feel it. We are morally responsible for
what`s happening there because we somehow took it over and there is no
Saddam Hussein there running the show. It`s a broken government .
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ And some would argue that we are responsible for
ISIL because of the vacuum of leadership in the rebel units in Syria, that
if we had done something a couple of years ago...
MATTHEWS: If we had not de-Baathicized the Iraqi army. It was an
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ But in Syria more recently if we had done something
to help the rebels against Assad, ISIS would not have been created.
FINEMAN: The narrow political problem, Chris, is that the president`s
numbers are already going down as far as leadership concern, especially
foreign policy. You`re risk getting attacked from both the left and right
MATTHEWS: If you go in.
FINEMAN: If you go on. Well, either way, either way.
MATTHEWS: Both ways.
FINEMAN: Both ways.
MATTHEWS: It`s another Baghdad. It`s another Benghazi, I meant, that
we defend our consulate.
FINEMAN: The polls say that even though Americans may feel a moral
responsibility especially with those beautiful kids you see there,
overwhelmingly, the American people don`t want to reengage militarily.
They didn`t think the Iraq war was worth it.
If he goes back in, he gets attacked from the left. If the situation
continues and even if he does go back in a sort of pinprick area, the
Republicans are going to come after him from the right.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go through history and familiar with Shatila -- Sabra
and Shatila. If we let a massacre occur, it`s on us. If we let our
embassy be grabbed and our people taken alive...
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ We are not going to let that happen.
MATTHEWS: See, that`s what I mean. We can`t live with those morning
after headlines, can we, either one?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ No.
And I can`t begin to tell you the difference between -- you think
Benghazi, you think the militias running around. Irbil is a civilized,
well-run place. The Kurds are our allies. The Kurds are the great hope
for the stability of Iraq.
FINEMAN: Andrea, do you think that those Americans are in any danger
over there from what you know of the military situation in Irbil? Should
the president get them out? Should the president get them out?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ That may be the next step. Look at the way we
removed people on a Saturday night out of over Libya.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have watched countries fall when they have nice
hotels, and nice civilized areas.
MATTHEWS: And they fall when the personnel carriers come through
town. Even the most civilized areas fall to the bad guys.
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ I`m just saying that this is an area that`s central
to our aspirations.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to stay with us. We`re going to stay with us.
Andrea and Howard and Bobby Ghosh, please stick with me. We have got
to stick around with this. And we will be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: We are back with Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman and Bobby
I want Andrea to start and then go through the other people here. And
that is with where this is heading. Can it be limited? It sounds like it
can`t be limited to simply riding shotgun on these food deliveries to the
people who have been trapped in Northern Iraq.
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ You have got to get them out of there or you have
get rid of the ISIL forces that are surrounding them, one or the other.
So, it seems to me that either there is going to be Turkish, or Kurdish or
Iraqi or even the French because Hollande was speaking to the Kurdish
leader earlier today -- so, maybe there`s going to be a coalition involved,
not just U.S.
But I think there`s got to be some airstrikes at some point during
MATTHEWS: This is a religious movement of militants who are willing
to kill people who don`t convert.
This is like something out of Mahdi, in the river war back and the
Sudan in the 19th century. This is not a regular war. You ask why would
they do this? Why do they have to take over every person in the country,
not just the country? Why doesn`t ISIS just grab the land of the country
and seize the capital somehow? Why do they take each person and either
convert them or kill them?
MATTHEWS: ... religion?
FINEMAN: Chris, my understanding is this isn`t a war of liberation of
This isn`t about -- this isn`t about a people declaring independence
like the people in America did a couple hundred years ago. This is about a
religious movement that not only wants a place in the sun for its own brand
of Islam, but wants to eradicate other forms of Islam, as well as other
religions, not -- convert or die. And you remember back with al Qaeda in
MATTHEWS: Yes, where they blew up the Buddha.
FINEMAN: They blew up the ancient carving in the mountainside of the
Buddha as an example, a physical example of their attitude. That`s who
these people are.
MATTHEWS: That`s when they grabbed my attention, when they did that.
FINEMAN: Right, me, too, me, too.
MATTHEWS: When they said this is not about land.
FINEMAN: And now they are grabbing attention here now because they`re
expressing their willingness to slaughter people who disagree with them
without -- without -- without mercy, to slaughter them if they won`t
convert to their religion.
MATTHEWS: They are frightening. They must be -- Bobby, get you in
here. They must be frightening to their enemies, whoever is forced to face
them in the field, almost like the Thuggee or something and the mutiny.
These people are -- there must be ferocious enough fighters that the
tendency of the other side is to throw down their weapons and run.
GHOSH: These people are a lot, a lot worse than the Taliban. The
Taliban were actually in their own sort of perverted way fighting for a
country. These people, this is a death cult. This is beyond religion.
These are nihilists. These are people who want -- who don`t just want
to capture people, as you were pointing out. They want to slaughter
people, and not five, 10, 15. They want to slaughter thousands, tens of
thousands of people. They enjoy the act.
And you can see it in videos that they have put out, they have been
putting out, the most gruesome things that you ever saw. They enjoy the
act of slaughter. These aren`t religious people. They are people who are
I happen to come from the part of the world where are the Thuggees
originally came. These are infinitely worse than Thuggees. The Thuggees
just wanted money. They were robbers. These guys aren`t after money.
They are after death, death for their enemies and the if it comes to that
death for themselves, which makes them far, far more dangerous than
anything we have ever seen...
GHOSH: ... because not only do they have the attitude. They have
that attitude. Plus, they have resources. They have got territory. They
have got oil in that territory. They have seized weapons, some of them our
weapons, the weapons we left for the Iraqis. They have seized weapons from
the Iraqis, from the Syrians, from the Lebanese.
These are -- these are a nightmarish vision from hell of the likes we
have not seen.
MATTHEWS: Is the president getting that kind of picture that Bobby
just gave us?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ Oh, of course he is.
MATTHEWS: He knows how bad these people are?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ No, absolutely.
And Howard mentioned the sculptures, the artifacts. They have
attacked mosques. So, these are not purely Islamic warriors. These are,
as you say...
MATTHEWS: They are killing Sunnis, too, people supposedly on their
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ But they have Sunni help from some of the Sunni
chieftains and the former Iraqi Baathist military who Maliki expunged and
kicked out of society and robbed of power.
So if Maliki had been under control, they would not have the command-
and-control and the expertise of some of these former Iraqi...
MATTHEWS: You`re the expert.
There are three factions here. There`s ISIS, which is the militant
group, the zealot group that was just described so horrifically by Bobby.
There`s what`s left of the Iraqi government, which is all Shiite, and it`s
not going anywhere in terms of building a coalition. And then there is us.
Look, it sounds to me in this conversation for the last 30 minutes we
can`t get out of being one of those three forces in that country right now.
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ Well, you have got to it just a few minutes ago,
when you said we broke it and it`s ours. It is the Pottery Barn rule of
The fact is, we had several opportunities, even with the withdrawal
and the creation of the Maliki government. We chose the wrong guys. We
didn`t use the pressure that we could have used even in this administration
to keep Maliki to the commitments that he had made. We didn`t leave any of
our forces there or force that issue. So, look, we are stuck.
MATTHEWS: It`s very hard to unilaterally end a war. We didn`t end
the Vietnam War when we left.
FINEMAN: And the simple problem politically for the president
FINEMAN: ... he said, we`re done with this.
But we aren`t done with this. And he tried to put out a framework out
there to explain how the world would work in the future. And the realities
are intruding on that right now. They are controlling him. He`s not
controlling those events at this point.
MATTHEWS: Will he go on vacation this weekend?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ We expect that he will go on vacation.
MATTHEWS: The president?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ Although I think that that could change. And they
have already announced at the White House today that, strangely, he`s
coming back from his vacation for two days next weekend. No one knows why,
but for meetings...
MATTHEWS: And that could be about immigration.
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ That could be about anything.
MATTHEWS: OK, Bobby, last word. What`s -- what`s going to -- what`s
the future look like in the next couple of days? Can we foresee that far
GHOSH: Well, it looks very bleak, unless the Iraqis step up to this.
I just want to say that that part of Iraq, I have spent a lot of time.
It`s an incredibly beautiful part. It looks and feels biblical. It`s one
of the most diverse places in all of the Arab world.
GHOSH: There are so many little communities, little faiths, little
linguistic groups that have survived all kinds of -- everything the world
has thrown at them for millennia.
If we fail them now, we will live to the regret it ourselves.
MATTHEWS: Howard, domestically, the president looks like, as you said
a few moments ago, he will be hit for inaction, hit for action.
FINEMAN: Well, I -- I think he could do -- the president could do
worse, assuming he`s going to move in, to say what Bobby just did, to
explain the stakes here.
MATTHEWS: The horror of the enemy.
FINEMAN: The horror of the enemy. Explain the stakes, and say that
this is part of core American interests and values. That`s what the
president set out.
He thought that would narrow the scope of things. But the irony is
that seemingly narrow scope is actually the one that`s going to take him in
there sooner rather than later.
MATTHEWS: Who in the region will confront ISIS if we don`t, besides
the Iraq -- they`re not going to do it. Who else is going to do it?
MITCHELL: rMD-BO_ It has to be -- it has to be the United States.
Jordan will step up if a coalition is created.
The Saudis would step up. But this is -- this is made in the U.S. By
the way, speaking of made in the USA, do you know what happened 24 years
ago? George H.W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia because of the
invasion of Kuwait.
Well, that was -- well, bad, anyway, a bad memory.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, although that
was a popular war right through it.
MATTHEWS: Bobby Ghosh, thank you very much, Bobby, for that.
rMD-BO_MATTHEWS: Wonderfully important look at what happened --
what`s happening over there. And we will be right back after this.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s
Residents of Hawaii are bracing for Hurricane Iselle, which is set to
make landfall within hours as a Category 1 storm. Julio is expected to
arrive this weekend. It`s now a Category 2 hurricane.
Theodore Wafer, the man -- the Detroit man charged with fatally
shooting a young woman on his front porch, has been found guilty on all
counts, including a second-degree murder. Nineteen-year-old Renisha
McBride knocked on the man`s door following a car crash the night she was
And the FDA has eased a halt on an experimental Ebola treatment which
could allow for its use in patients with the virus -- and now we`re going
to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Some late-breaking political news tonight.
U.S. Senator John Walsh is exiting the Senate race our in Montana.
Walsh has been facing allegations that parts of his dissertation at the War
College were plagiarized. Walsh was appointed by Montana`s governor to
fill the remainder of Max Baucus` term after Baucus became ambassador to
China. But even though he`s the incumbent senator, Walsh has trailed
Republican challenger Steve Danes by significant margins.
Now, the question is if Democrats could find a candidate who can be
competitive in a race that was already written off.
Former Governor Brian Schweitzer, the highest profiled Democrat in the
state, says tonight he won`t be that guy.
Coming up, health care reform is working. But if you`re a Democrat,
just don`t call it Obamacare.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We`ll make 2014 about Obamacare. And
yes, we will tattoo Obamacare on each of the foreheads. That will be what
2014 is all about. They want it to be about Obamacare. We`ll make it
And this issue is going to be toxic for the Democrats and, believe me,
we will tattoo it to their foreheads in 2014. We will run on it. And they
will lose because of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, last fall as you saw, GOP chairman Reince Priebus joined the Tea
Party "Kill Obamacare" crowd, even cheering from the sidelines when the
party`s whacko birds -- that`s John McCain`s phrase -- tried to defund the
Affordable Care Act by shutting down the U.S.
But that was then, this is now. The law is working especially in
states that want it to work. Yes, the law that Republicans have made it
their mission to smear, defund, weaken, destroy and, of course, repeal has
And in deep red territory like Kentucky, it`s thriving. Thanks in
large part to the state`s Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, the uninsured
rates are plummeting from 20.4 percent last year to just 11.9 percent this
year of people who don`t have insurance.
And more than 4,000 people have signed up under the state`s ACA
exchange called Kentucky Kynect.
If you want a sign of just how well the law is working, look at the
politics. "Politico" reports that Obamacare has been largely elbowed out
of the headlines. And then there`s this remarkable story from Greg Sargent
in "The Washington Post" which reads, "Obamacare fades as a major campaign
But in Kentucky, this issue is magnified. Democrat Alison Lundergan
Grimes has a real shot at a major upset this fall over the GOP`s loudest
"kill Obamacare" carnival barker, Mitch McConnell.
But despite health care reform success, she avoids the subject at all
costs. It`s our pleasure right now to welcome Kentucky Governor Steve
Beshear to the show.
Also with us is MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh, who is editor at
large at "Salon".
Thank you both for joining us.
Governor, give us a sense of how Obamacare or Kynect it`s called there
in Kentucky, is working right now.
GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: You know, Chris, the numbers speak
for themselves. From the time we opened up our health care exchange on
October 1 at 12:01 a.m., Kentuckians started swarming all over the Web
site. And today, nine months later, 521,000 Kentuckians, almost 1 in 10
have signed up for affordable health care coverage.
It`s been amazing to see the interest, the demand for health care and
to see this uninsured rate drop like it did in Kentucky from over 20
percent to less than 12 percent in nine months. Man, that tells me that
our people are going to thrive because of the Affordable Care Act.
MATTHEWS: Do people see this in real functional family kitchen table
terms or in partisan terms? In other words, I said on the show my dad was
a lifelong Republican. But he really loved Medicare. He loved being on
Medicare. He loved every bit of it. He was getting something for once in
his life that he didn`t have to kill for.
And I`m just wondering if people are seeing everything as Obamacare or
not Obamacare, or do they look at it in practical terms, what they can get
for their family from this program?
BESHEAR: Well, people are schizophrenic about it, like they are on
the lot of places. When you mention Obamacare, it`s an immediate negative
reaction because Republicans spent millions of dollars and months of time
demonizing that phrase. When you talk about being able to stay on your
parents` policy until your 26 or pre-existing conditions don`t count
anymore or women can get the same coverage for the same cost, people really
like that. The polls show that here.
You poll Obamacare, it`s negative. When you poll what we have done
with Kynect, it is a big positive. And, of course, the thing I`m thrilled
about most of all is that this is going to make Kentuckians so much more
healthy over the long term, and it`s going to move our state so far up in
the rankings we are going to leave a lot of these states in the dust that
are refusing to face reality.
MATTHEWS: Joan, what do you make of this disconnect, as the governor
points out, between the schizophrenic relationship people have to their own
health care? They want their health care. They love the subsidies. They
love the exchange in Kentucky. But they don`t like what the face of Obama?
His politics, and so, they don`t like the word Obamacare. They just like
WALSH: Well, I think it`s a couple of things. Certainly, it`s an
issue with the president`s popularity in Kentucky and other states. But I
think the governor is also right. Republicans jumped out there first.
They defined it as death panels, they defined it as a government takeover
of health care. They defined it as things that it`s not frankly.
And in Kentucky, people know -- they may not know it`s Obamacare.
Some do, some don`t. But they like what they have.
And I do think -- I really admire Alison Lundergan Grimes. I think
she`s actually running a great campaign, I would as a Democrat and a woman
like to see her be a little bit more out front on this.
You know that Mitch McConnell was running away from this issue. He
tried to say that people could keep Kynect, he would appeal Obamacare but
people could keep Kynect which was an incredible bait and switch, or
somebody might even call it a lie. It`s like saying we`re going to -- I`m
going to steal the money out of your wallet, but you can keep your wallet.
So, he knows he`s vulnerable. I would like to see her take more
leadership on making it an issue, because he wants to take health care away
from 400,000-plus people in Kentucky.
MATTHEWS: Well, as you said, Joan, no one has been louder in
opposition to the Affordable Care Act itself than Mitch McConnell. But
he`s now peddling this idea, that the Kentucky health care exchange,
created under the ACA, has no connection to Obamacare. And now, in May, he
told reporters Obamacare was a big mistake, we ought to pull it out root
and branch and start over. So, reporters asked him, should Kynect be
dismantled, that`s the Kentucky program.
His response? "I think that`s unconnected to my comments about the
overall question here." I don`t know what that sense meant. And then
Senator McConnell`s cohort, Senator Rand Paul, has been caught in a similar
contradiction. In May, he sent out a newsletter which read, "Obamacare is
not good for America, and it certainly is not good for Kentucky."
But look how he dodges this question from the Louisville press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You think the state exchange should be dismantled?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m not sure. There`s going to be --
how we unravel our how we change things. I would rather -- I look at it as
a fork in the road. I was in health care for 20 years, so we had problems
in health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Has the cat got your tongue? I don`t know if you want to
be partisan, Governor. I`m going to leave you to the simple fact of giving
us the fact check. Is Obamacare as implemented in the state of Kentucky
basically called Kynect. K-Y, for the name of the state, Nect -- is that
health care program the president inaugurated as implemented by you in the
state? In other words, you can`t get rid of one without getting rid of the
other. They are one and the same.
BESHEAR: That`s exactly right. You get rid of the Affordable Care
Act and everything else falls apart.
I`ll tell you why they`re tap dancing now, because all at once, there
are 521,000 voters here in Kentucky who have health care, most of them for
the first time ever. And they`re not fixing to really reach out and take
that away from them because they know that`s a big loser.
MATTHEWS: Well, the funny thing is, as you point out, Joan, Alison
Lundergan Grimes is not cozying up to the Obamacare law, either. In May,
"The Associated Press" reported that, quote, "Grimes twice refused to say
whether she would have voted for President Obama`s signature health care
law in the first place."
And when she`s pressured on the issue, this is her response, quote,
"If I had been in the Senate, it would have been a different law."
Well, here`s the key to the politics and the Affordable Care Act in
Kentucky -- 57 percent of the people in state have an unfavorable view of
something called Obamacare. Those numbers plummet to 22 percent, who
disagree when they`re talking about the Obamacare in Kentucky when it goes
by the name of Kynect, Kentucky Kynect.
Governor, this is a word game. I mean, it`s unbelievable, if you call
it by the wrong thing, it`s like if you say a rabbit or bunny. Did you
just run over a rabbit? No, you ran over a bunny rabbit. I mean, I don`t
know if it`s bad. I mean, it`s like, one`s a lot worse than the other.
BESHEAR: Well, I know, and it`s crazy, but that`s the way life is.
And you know what I said to sell this to start with? I looked our people
in the eye and I said, look, you don`t have to like the president. You
don`t have to like me, because it`s not about the president. And it`s not
about me. It`s about you. It`s about your kids. It`s about your family.
So, just do me a favor, it won`t cost you a dime to go online or call
our toll free number and find out for yourself what you can get. I`ll
guarantee you you`ll like what you find. And they sure have, 521,000
MATTHEWS: Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, thank you so much for
joining us and clearing this all up for us.
And Joan Walsh, as always -- thank you. And you`re smiling because
you found somebody who knows what`s going on out there, finally.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a crisis that has not yet begun.
If President Obama decides to issue by his own authority documents
offering legal sanction to those who enter the country illegally, he`s
basically taking it to himself to determine personally who`s allowed to
live and work in this country. He`s setting himself up as the person who
decides who is in effect a legal resident of the United States.
Well, that`s quite a step. Perhaps it`s too late to hold him back,
but I do believe there`s a step he could take before going this far, one
last chance to win action by the Republican leaders in the House of
It strikes me that this whole national discussion of immigration
reform played into the hands of the two opposing sides, the Democrats who
want to portray themselves perhaps appropriately as the friend of the
undocumented worker, the Republicans who are quite happy as being seen,
simply put, as defenders of the border.
Well, both positions taken hard and fast (ph) ignore the obvious
compromise. It`s really quite simple and all contained in the Senate bill
which passed with a decent bipartisan majority. The Senate bill. A, it
gives people who came here illegally to become citizens. B, it kills the
magnet of illegal hiring, which is the chief reason we have so much illegal
Neither the president nor the Republicans ever talk about this second
part of the Senate bill, the part that would put teeth in a new immigration
law. Why don`t they? Politics.
If the president truly wants a compromise, if he wants Republicans to
join him in real immigration reform, why doesn`t he point out the
toughness, the "we mean business" part of the Senate bill? If Republicans
want to stop or slow dramatically the flow of illegal immigrants into the
country, why don`t they jump on the Senate bill?
Certainly, it`s better for the country if both sides get together on
this. The danger in going at this problem the way the president now hints
he might is the death warrant it would seal in getting a real bill through
Congress. Once he does it, no one on either side of the aisle will believe
this country`s immigration laws will be carried out effectively, certainly
not to the letter of the law, because once Barack Obama acts if it`s up to
him which provision to enforce and which not to enforce, why would any
lawmaker on either side of the aisle feel assured he won`t do it again?
All this says to me the smart move for the president right now, before
taking unilateral action, is to make one serious effort, one big push for
the bipartisan bill that`s already been passed in the Senate -- a bill with
bipartisan teeth in it, as well as compassion and hope for the people
who`ve come to this country and do consider themselves American.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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