August 20, 2014
Guest: Paul Henderson, Karen Bass, Robert McCartney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Horror in the desert.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
We are headed to Ferguson tonight, but I`m compelled with start tonight
with the president`s powerful reaction to the beheading of American James
Foley by ISIL, that murderous Islamist group now torturing and killing its
way through Syria and Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s be clear about ISIL.
They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent unarmed
civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and
subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims,
both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and
religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when
they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.
So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim.
And no faith teaches people to massacre innocence. No just god would stand
for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So the die is cast. The United States of America will not allow
its citizens to be dragged into the desert for an execution. We will (ph)
make war against this barbarous band of killers until we have eliminated
Is there any other way to hear the president`s words today, to read his
passion? Do people say what Barack Obama said today and then pull back and
allow the killers to run free? And we just learned that earlier this
summer, the president authorized -- he did -- an operation to attempt to
rescue American citizens kidnapped by ISIL.
Joining me right now is Howard Fineman, editorial director of the
HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst .
Howard, many people have said today they`d never heard Obama like this, the
president, personally. And I don`t know how -- he may have seen the actual
execution pictures. We don`t know. We`re not showing them. We don`t have
them. I don`t want to show them. A lot of Americans don`t want it look at
This guy was decapitated for no reason except they want to hurt our
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Chris, somebody close to the president e-mailed me and said from the
inside, they`ve never seen him like that. I certainly have never, from the
outside, seen him like that, and I`ve been covering him ever since he ran
for the Senate in the United States.
That is a Barack Obama who is not only shocked, but angry and determined.
The question, of course, now is, since we were already slowly but surely
beginning to ramp up in that region once again --
FINEMAN: -- how that anger, how that focus, which none of us, I don`t
think, has seen before in public -- how that translates into the reality of
American involvement, of the American military, and in America itself,
weary of war, yet faced with something more gruesome and more vivid than
we`ve ever seen on television, and an enemy that knows social media, that
knows propaganda in the modern way, that by some government estimates has
$2 billion at its disposal, that has real territory and a real proto-
government in the heart of the Middle East, not in the mountains of
Afghanistan, but in the heart of the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think a lot of Americans` reaction to watching that
execution set-up we just were witness to -- they`d to push a button, have
all these people killed. They can`t stand what they just saw. This is --
this is going to cause rage in this country, to see the way they did this.
Anyway, here`s more from the president today. See how you hear him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim
Foley by the terrorist group ISIL. Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother,
and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing
witness to the lives of people a world away. He was taken hostage nearly
two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on
the conflict there. Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that
shocks the conscience of the entire world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: No matter how we got into this, it is Obama`s war now. I think
he`s saying that himself right there. They decapitated this guy on tape to
get even with him for starting the war on ISIS. He`s now coming back. And
we also have another -- at least one other person who`s been kidnapped,
Steven Sotloff, another journalist. They`re just going to toy with that
situation for a while.
FINEMAN: No, they`re -- they basically said, in so many words, that he`s
next if the president doesn`t call off the very limited, really, offensive
that we have mostly from the air in Iraq to prevent them from taking
control of rivers and dams and water facilities, which is one of the
methods that these people use to try to gain control of territory.
What`s happened here, Chris, is I think that the war that we fought a
decade ago has produced a more virulent strain of the very thing we were
trying to destroy. And now the president, having rightly, I think,
criticized our first war, now has to deal with the consequences that may
result in some kind of second one, the definition of which --
MATTHEWS: You know --
FINEMAN: -- the definition of which we don`t know yet.
MATTHEWS: We went into knock off a pain-in-the-butt secular government,
which was no real threat to the world.
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: We`re now fighting an Islamist terrorist group --
FINEMAN: Right. That`s what I`m saying.
MATTHEWS: -- which somehow fed out of this situation.
FINEMAN: No, that`s what -- that`s what I`m saying. I think -- I think
the -- I happen to think the president -- and I think history will show
that President Obama was right to oppose the first war --
FINEMAN: -- as a candidate, coming up and as presidential candidate.
But now, as president, in the last two years of his second term --
FINEMAN: -- he`s going to have to deal with much more virulent
consequences than, frankly, he or anybody, including our own intelligence
MATTHEWS: I agree.
FINEMAN: The president himself has said, I was -- he basically said, I was
blind-sided by my intel people on this. They didn`t tell me how bad this
was getting this fast. If that`s true, that`s a problem in and of itself
because when we went in on this mission, when the -- when the -- when the
president authorized the mission in Syria to try to rescue American
citizens, it turns out that the intelligence was bad, that the people were
not where -- the Americans were not where -- where the Pentagon was told
FINEMAN: So that`s the situation we`re dealing with right now.
MATTHEWS: He couldn`t save them. Anyway, President Obama projected
forward in today`s speech, saying Americans will be protected. Let`s
listen to this defensive step he`s taking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to
protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will relentless. When
people harm Americans anywhere, we do what`s necessary to see that justice
is done, and we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know why he used the word "justice." It`s not
appropriate here. This is an attack on our country. We have to react to
it. This is a national -- our country versus this group that`s declared
war on us.
FINEMAN: Well, Chris --
MATTHEWS: What`s "justice" mean in this kind of -- I don`t know why the
word`s used, like we`re going to the World Court with this?
FINEMAN: Well, and especially since he had previously in that same
statement basically depicted them as a -- as a -- as killers who -- cold-
blooded killers who -- who deserve on quarter.
MATTHEWS: They`re all in this!
FINEMAN: I think he also said they don`t belong in the 21st century, which
FINEMAN: -- belong in any century. But the question, Chris, is, the
president, and not this vehement a way, has drawn lines in the sand and
made verbal commitments before.
FINEMAN: If this -- this president acting this way has to follow through -
MATTHEWS: He has to.
FINEMAN: -- in tangible ways --
MATTHEWS: It`s his war.
FINEMAN: -- or the consequences for him politically, and for the United
States, frankly, are probably going to be dire. And that`s the problem
that he faces. This is not what he wanted.
MATTHEWS: No, but he --
FINEMAN: He had to do it, and I thought he did it very forcefully today.
The question is now what comes next.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring in Andrea Mitchell. She joins us now. She`s,
of course, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News and the host of
MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS."
Andrea, you`re so schooled in foreign affairs in this. This does seem like
a new situation. The president of the United States has basically been
called out by the enemy, ISIL here, saying, Look, unless you stand back,
stand down, stop attacking us, we`ll keep beheading Americans. This is
very personal stuff right now.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: And to show you how committed he was
to try to rescue James Foley and the other Americans, what the Pentagon
released just about a half hour ago is that there was a rescue mission
earlier this summer, with shades of what happened all the way back in the
Carter years --
MATTHEWS: Right, Desert One.
MITCHELL: -- the with failed rescue, and that they did send in fighter
jets and helicopters that landed in northern Syria, thinking that they
could rescue these Westerners. And of course, we know that there were
several Americans involved, and that it failed, that they weren`t there,
that there was heavy fighting with ISIS fighters, and that one American
pilot was injured in the rescue -- the failed rescue mission. This shows
just how much the U.S. intelligence and U.S. military and the White House
have been focusing on this.
MATTHEWS: Can we decapitate ISIS? Can we get to their leadership, or do
we have to kill all of them? I mean, it`s serious now because this is such
an Islamist group. It`s so zealot -- so -- so zealous. It`s going out to
kill Christians, anyone in their way, Yazidis, Jews, obviously, anybody
they can get their hands on that`s not the kind of Sunni they like.
They`re killing them.
How do you stop them without killing these people we`re looking at marching
around with the masks on? And why are they wearing masks if they think
they`re going to win? That`s another question I always have with these
people. Your thoughts.
MITCHELL: Well, the fear has been that ISIS is different from al Qaeda,
that ISIS actually wants to control territory, wants to rule, that they`ve
even been trading some small amounts of oil. They`ve been dealing as a
But we`ve seen with the effective U.S. air power in Iraq in the last couple
of weeks that they have been pushed back from Erbil. They have been pushed
back from Mosul. They did lose control of the dam. So with more defeats
like that, they can be potentially put back on their heels.
There is another school of thought that they are not nearly as powerful and
not as fearful as has been suggested by what they do to be terrorists.
They do these horrific things on video, and that is partly how they inspire
fear in people.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, one of the arguments was made historically is the only
way to get rid of one of these groups, these murderous, barbarous groups,
is it has to be done by Islamic people themselves. At some point along the
road here, are we going to have people who are willing to eliminate ISIS,
go in there and get rid of these people, the Sunnis, the larger Sunni
community, for example, perhaps in coalition with the Kurds and reasonable
-- reasonable Shi`ites, go after them?
MITCHELL: Well, that has been the hope, and that`s what the president
alluded to today, that the Middle Eastern communities have to rise up, or
otherwise, Jordan, Lebanon, the whole region could be threatened. And of
course, the criticism has been of the Qataris and others, who were funding
them when they were the best fighters against Assad in Syria, that, Be
careful what you wish for, because now they have become the cancer that
President Obama was describing today.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Howard Fineman and the president here. The
president has been a dove. I`m a dove. And here you go to a case where
they declare war on us. They`re killing our guys. They`re beheading them.
This is a public -- not just an insult, this is a desecration. And you --
and the president of the United States knows they`re doing it to him
because he went after them.
How do you stop what`s going to be, to me, a mano-a-mano struggle between
this president -- an Obama war against ISIL? I don`t see it stopping.
FINEMAN: Well, I think the president doesn`t think in mano-a-mano terms.
He likes to think of himself -- and I know he thinks of himself as a broad-
gauged, deep guy who plays a long-term game, has allies, has a plan,
doesn`t take it personally. This is the first time I`ve ever seen him sort
of take something personally. Now, there`s also a school of thought --
MATTHEWS: It`s aimed at him!
MITCHELL: Chris, there`s also a school of thought, I have to say -- and I
-- and some of our people at the HuffingtonPost have been looking into
this. There`s a school of thought that says, obviously, this is exactly
what ISIL wants. They want to engage him. They want us to attack. Their
whole strategy, their whole theory is to push our buttons in a way that --
MATTHEWS: Well, they want --
FINEMAN: Well, that`s -- that`s -- that`s the concern and that`s -- that`s
the conundrum --
FINEMAN: -- conundrum that the president has right now.
MATTHEWS: It`s what I`ve been saying to Andrea for a long time now. No
American president can survive if he lets Iran get nuclear weapons and no
American president can survive if he lets Americans be beheaded on
international television with impunity. Impunity! He has to strike back -
MITCHELL: Well --
MATTHEWS: -- as an American! It`s in our soul! Your thoughts. We got
to stop here in a minute.
MITCHELL: And he -- and he -- that`s exactly what he was saying today,
that we will -- I mean, he has proved in the past that we do go after
terrorists -- bin Laden, of course, case in point. There have been other
big successes. So the failed rescue mission is certainly not the last.
We had assumed incorrectly that they wouldn`t go into Syria, they wouldn`t
go onto Syrian territory, and that was incorrect. They were under
operational security, doing exactly that. And they didn`t know where these
guys were. They thought they knew because they had been debriefing the
French hostages who were released in April.
And they, by the way, were released by being ransomed, according to all
reports. They`ve denied it, but -- their government has denied it, but
they were intermediaries. And all those Westerners, everyone but the Brits
and the Americans, were released starting in April. The trickle of others,
the Danes, the Spanish -- they all got out except for our people, and
that`s because we don`t pay ransom.
MATTHEWS: Well, may God take the soul of James Foley. And I mean it.
This is serious, personal stuff. It`s about killing good people. Thank
you, Andrea Mitchell, and thank you, Howard Fineman.
When we return, we`re going to get the latest from Ferguson, Missouri.
Today, General -- Attorney General Eric Holder, who we all respect, came to
Ferguson the same day a grand jury started hearing evidence in the shooting
death of Michael Brown. Can Attorney General Holder assure an angry
community that Brown`s death will be investigated fairly and justly?
That`s the name of the game here.
Plus, how do you break the vicious cycle of hopelessness, crime and fear
that we`re seeing in the streets of Ferguson and so many other places?
Here`s one solution -- jobs, good jobs, and the dignity and respect that
comes with a job. Isn`t it time President Obama insists the government of
the United States put people to work in this country?
And one of the most melodramatic political stories in the country`s
unfolding in a Virginia courtroom, where former governor Bob McDonnell,
once a Republican rising star, has taken the stand in his corruption trial.
His strategy? Make his wife the culprit.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a reminder of what the goal needs to
be in Ferguson, true justice.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Protests have begun again on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.
So far, they`ve been small and peaceful, but authorities are bracing for
another tense night. They`ve beefed up security in the main thoroughfare
through the town. Attorney General Eric Holder just finished a meeting
with the family of Michael Brown at the courthouse in St. Louis. Holder is
also taking part in a meeting with local elected officials, including both
United States senators, the governor of Missouri and the congressional
HARDBALL continues with much more from Ferguson right after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived
in Ferguson, Missouri, today, meeting with community leaders and the family
of Michael Brown. He got an update on the case from FBI agents and federal
prosecutors. According to the Associated Press, while meeting with
students at a community college in the area, the attorney general told the
group change is coming. He was talking about relations, general relations
between the community and the local police.
Attorney General Holder spoke briefly with Captain Ron Johnson, the Highway
Patrol officer is in charge of security in Ferguson. Holder told him,
quote, "You are the man."
Well, this afternoon, Captain Johnson said Holder`s visit is important for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: I think it will have a great
impact. I think it`ll show the people of Ferguson, the people of St.
Louis, the people of our nation that their voices are heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, a grand jury began hearing evidence in the case.
Prosecutors caution it could be months before there`s any decision on
whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson.
Some good news today. Last night, saw relative calm on the streets of
Ferguson. There was no tear gas used, no Molotov cocktails thrown, no
shootings. There were 51 arrests, however, though they were mostly for
failure to disperse. In other words, people were told to keep moving and
didn`t. That number is also down from the 78 people arrested the night
Well, NBC News Craig Melvin is there, as he has been so well for all these
Craig, give us a sense of tonight vs. the last two nights. If you go by
the numbers, it`s 778 down to 47. It sounds like things are improving, at
least over the last 24 hours.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you know what, Chris?
If right now is any indication of what we`re in for tonight, we should see
another night of relative peace, relative calm. I think we have got
another vantage point I can show you right now, the scene along this main
drag in Ferguson.
There have been times over the past few days -- and you have seen that shot
-- where these streets have been pretty full already. This is the smallest
crowd. This is the quietest crowd we have seen so far.
In addition to that, the police presence also the smallest we have seen so
far. And, again, now, obviously, it is still relatively early. The sun is
still up, so things could change. But based on what we saw last night, it
looks like we are in for another peaceful night.
In fact, it has been eerily quiet over the past, I would say, hour or two.
So, we will see whether that remains the case. There had been some talk
that Attorney General Holder might head to this area after the meeting that
you just mentioned with the congressional delegation and the meeting with
Michael Brown`s family.
At this point, though, no word on whether the attorney general is going to
make his way here.
MATTHEWS: Well, there would be a great move, I think.
Anyway, there was some shocking video caught by protesters last night.
Take a look at this. You can see a police officer here pointing his
semiautomatic assault rifle at protesters. And then he yells at one
protester: "I will kill you. Get back. I will kill you," he said.
The protesters asked for his name of the officer. He refused to give it.
And ultimately another officer came by and got him to put his gun down.
And today the Saint Louis County Police Department said the officer
involved right there with the automatic -- semiautomatic weapon has been
removed from duty and suspended indefinitely.
What`s the impact of that story as it makes the round, Craig, makes the
MELVIN: And here`s the thing. You just cleaned that up, too.
There was an expletive or two used in there that we can`t say on cable.
That happened shortly before cable. It was a semiautomatic rifle. And
that officer, we should note, was from Saint Ann. It was a neighboring
We have been talking about the relative peace, relative calm over the past
few days, but if you get out in the crowd and you start talking to some of
these individual protesters, and some of them, they don`t have stories that
are that extreme, but they will tell that you they have, the folks who have
been out here night after night, they will tell you that they have been
talked to by police, by law enforcement in ways that aren`t nice,
especially when the sun goes down.
MELVIN: What was shocking about that of course is that it was caught on
camera. That is not the first time something like that has likely happened
here in Ferguson over the past few days. That`s just the first time we
have seen it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you, very much, Craig. It`s great. We will be
back with you regularly. You`re a great reporter out there to have. Thank
you so much for being on site.
Paul Henderson is a veteran prosecutor in San Francisco. He wants to joins
us right now.
Paul, let me ask you about this role. It is very hard to read everyone`s
mind out there who is coming out of their houses after having dinner and
maybe going out to see what is going on. It`s a hell of an attraction in
your community to see all this action, even if you are just sort of
dispassionate. And everybody is passionate out there.
What do you think will be the combination of the -- people want to be
noticed. I mean in the good sense. They want to be recognized as
individual human beings, and not be dismissed and ignored. And when a
guy`s body is lying there on the street for five hours, they are getting
the impression we aren`t taken as human beings out here.
So, when you get the word that there is a grand jury that has been
impaneled, that is going to be talked to about the evidence, and you hear
the attorney general of the United States is in town thinking about whether
he is going to substitute for the local prosecutor, some new form of
prosecution, special prosecutor perhaps, does that get into the minds of
people generally, do you think?
PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It does generally. But it doesn`t
answer all of the questions and all of the concerns the community is
feeling and having, the lack of representation with elected official, with
law enforcement, and even, quite frankly, their representation with this
grand jury, which is notoriously underrepresentative of disenfranchised
This is a real issue.
MATTHEWS: Well, how does that happen? Explain how that happens. If a
county is 70 percent white or 30 percent minority, however, isn`t it done
by lot? How do you pick a grand jury?
HENDERSON: Well, they can be done in different ways in different cities.
A lot of times, those people are volunteers. I know here in California, I
speak to many community groups getting people to volunteer and stressing
the need to have more minority representation and more representation from
the disenfranchised community.
I don`t know what this grand jury looks like, but I know that this -- these
are some of the concerns that we are hearing on the streets as we`re
talking to people about why they are distrustful or not confident that the
justice system is going to represent them well, in spite of what is going
on. Now, we know Eric Holder is out there.
And I think that`s great. And he has shown outstanding leadership here.
And that actually is helping people to feel a -- some sense of relief that
there is a federal review that`s going on to address some of their
concerns, because what Holder is doing and what the federal jurisdiction is
doing is reviewing the police department to see if possibly there are some
civil rights violations in association with that specific police
And also there`s an independent investigation that is going on to determine
whether or not criminal charges can be brought against officer Wilson. So,
yes, that does help and it does speak to the concerns that the community is
expressing an outrage over, over this entire process as it`s unfolding in
front of us.
MATTHEWS: Well, Paul, according to "The New York Times" today, one
challenge for investigators, witnesses have given very different accounts
of what happened.
Some of the witnesses agree on how it all started, with a struggle between
the officer and teenager himself, Michael Brown. Law enforcement officials
then say officer Wilson fired his weapon as Michael Brown was running away.
But there are multiple versions of what happened after that.
According to "The New York Times" again -- quote -- "Witnesses have given
investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing. Some witnesses
say that Mr. Brown, who is 18 at the time, moved toward officer Wilson at
the time of the incident, and possibly in a threatening manner, when the
officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving and
may even have had his hands up when he was killed."
Tell me what it is like in a grand jury when witnesses come in with very
different views. And people may notice what their ethnic group is. People
may judge based on whether they`re close to the police or not. They may
have different attitudes about the police as opposed to civilians. How
does a grand juror know the difference between one person`s statement of
the truth as they present it and someone else`s? How do they dissemble it
-- or disassemble it?
HENDERSON: Well, oftentimes they evaluate evidence and testimony just like
a jury evaluates evidence and testimony.
And one of the interesting things about a grand jury is that they hear
hearsay evidence. Oftentimes, they are unable to see the actual witnesses.
I would presume that in a case like this, the prosecutors would like to get
those actual witnesses in front of that grand jury, so that they can see
and hear them to estimate and judge their demeanor, because they are going
to get conflicting stories.
HENDERSON: We have heard the conflicting stories.
One of the interesting things that I think is really interesting in this
process here that is unfolding in Missouri is that a defendant and officer
Wilson is allowed to come and testimony in front of them. And that can be
very influential in front of a panel that going to be making a
determination about an indictment.
And so this is going to be really interesting to see what prosecutors are
going to put in front of that grand jury. And that`s also part of the
reason why this process is taking so long, because they do have so many
conflicting reports. And we also, keep in mind, have these separate
investigations that are going on concurrently.
So while police are canvassing and collecting this information, they are
also talking to separate witnesses that saw and/or heard things about this
incident, and they want to present as much of that information as possible
to this grand jury, so that they have evaluated all of the information that
prosecutors have on hand before they make a decision.
MATTHEWS: Paul, this is HARDBALL, so I am going to cut through this a bit.
MATTHEWS: How often do grand juries change the direction of a prosecutor?
If he says there`s a case here, don`t they always pretty much go along and
say, OK, we go to court? If he says there`s no case here, do they ever
say, oh, no, we see criminality here, we want a case, we want a trial in
HENDERSON: Oftentimes, they do have conflicts.
They don`t have a lot of conflicts. What I think is particularly of note
in this situation and actually in every situation where you have a grand
jury, this is not the final step, because even if this grand jury comes
back and they tell us that there is no indictment, there are no
constitutional protections for double jeopardy.
So there still could be charges and an indictment by the federal government
as well. And that actually does change things. But that grand jury isn`t
necessarily just going to follow as a knee-jerk reaction what prosecutors
present to them, although it obviously is very influential.
MATTHEWS: I think somebody once said you can get a grand jury to indict a
baloney sandwich. Anyway --
HENDERSON: I have heard that. But let me tell you, not all grand juries
want to indict a ham sandwich or a baloney sandwich. And you still have to
do your due diligence.
You still have to present a case. You still have to present them with
evidence, because they do ask questions oftentimes. And they can come back
and say that there`s nothing there, that they don`t think a crime has been
And in this case, I believe that the grand jury will be very much
influenced by hearing that officer talking to them and telling his version
of the story, especially when it`s compared against conflicting stories
that are coming from the community. We just don`t know exactly if we are
going to have live witnesses or summations of report.
And like I said, because we can accept hearsay evidence, we`re not sure
what prosecutors are going to present to this grand jury specifically.
MATTHEWS: You, you, sir, are a great guest to have on HARDBALL tonight.
Thank you so much. We needed that richness of background. Thank you, Paul
HENDERSON: Thank you for having me.
MATTHEWS: Up next, much more from Ferguson. The protests have begun again
tonight. They`re peaceful so far, as Craig Melvin said. But the big
question, will it get violent again later tonight, as it has in the past?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The hope also is that through the trip
that I`m making up here today and by stressing the importance and the way
in which this investigation is going, that hopefully will have a calming
influence on the area, if people know that a federal, thorough
investigation is being done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s, of course, Attorney General Eric Holder just moments
Anyway, the protests have started again on the streets of Ferguson out
there in Missouri.
And still ahead on HARDBALL: The one way we can break the cycle of
hopelessness that is infecting communities like Ferguson is to do something
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
Airstrikes between Israel and Hamas have resumed one day after talks to end
the fighting failed. Palestinian officials say at least 20 people have
died in the latest raids. No casualties are reported in Israel.
The Supreme Court has blocked same-sex couples from marriage -- from
marrying in Virginia, this while the issue is being appealed to the high
court. An appeals court struck down the state`s ban on gay marriages last
month -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Now more on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown`s death has
ignited a fire which has raged for 12 days now, at times violently, of
course. As Eugene Washington writes in "The Washington Post," for the
black community in Ferguson, there is a -- quote -- "sense of being left
The poverty rate in Ferguson has more than doubled since the year 2000 as
the community has gone from three-quarters white to two-thirds black.
We`re seeing a dramatic growth in economic disadvantage all across the
country, in inner suburban areas like Ferguson. More than half of the 46
million Americans living in poverty right now live in the inner suburbs.
Poverty and economic inequality have bred a deep-seated sense of unfairness
and injustice in many of these communities. We are seeing that in
Ferguson. It`s no wonder that racial tensions can set them ablaze, as we
have seen there too.
As Eugene Robinson wrote in "The Washington Post": "The fire this time is
about invisibility. Brown had no police record. He had graduated from
high school. He was about to enter a technical college. Given where he
had come from, it is hard to do a whole lot better and easy to do a whole
lot worse. And now that the streets are filled with incoherent rage, and
the rioting must be strongly condemned, we can see Brown`s struggle
momentarily at least. After the smokes clear, we will be blind once
again." So much for that.
So, how can we fix the problem? Well, how about jobs?
Eugene Robinson joins us now, along with Congresswoman Karen Bass, a
Democrat from California, whose district is at the site of the 1992 Rodney
King riots in Los Angeles.
And I want to start with Eugene, Congresswoman, just because he has been
writing about this so well.
REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Sure.
MATTHEWS: Give us a sense, and then respond to that, Congresswoman, if you
were president of the United States, if you had a Congress that believed in
action and creating jobs and taking these kids who are 18 years old, these
regular kids, regular kids, maybe troubled, but regular, how do you help
them find a career in this country?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there`s no one
sort of magic remedy or one thing you could do to have -- guarantee
It really takes a more holistic approach, because there are lots of factors
involved. There`s education. There`s employment. There`s transportation.
There`s housing. There`s health. There`s a lot of things.
You know, one idea I had actually is -- you know, you`ve got to have jobs.
Where are the blue collar jobs that generations use?
MATTHEWS: Before we were going tonight, we were comparing notes about
people who live in big cities. Two generations ago for sure, maybe one.
You could come out of high school with a C or B average, go get a job at
the plant and provide for a family.
ROBINSON: Right, exactly.
And you have job security and good wage, so you can send your kids to
college. And you`d have a pension when you retire.
MATTHEWS: And now?
ROBINSON: And now, those jobs don`t exist. That`s a fairy tale. It just
doesn`t happen. It especially doesn`t happen in impoverished and
increasingly forgotten neighborhoods.
So, you know, let`s have an infusion of capital. Where is it going to come
from? One idea I have was, you`ve got these hundreds of billions of
dollars corporations are keeping overseas. Why not a tax holiday for
bringing that money back if you invest it in communities like these that
need that investment.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, your thoughts. I know you people on Hill,
especially the Caucus, which is the nickname for the Black Caucus, of
course, worry about this stuff. But yet, either the Humphrey Hawkins bill
every year comes out, a different budget bill coming out for the Black
Caucus, obviously, the inner city is the reality that Gene talks about.
Kids -- the only business plan is the drug dealer coming down the street
saying, here, I`ve got a neighborhood for you to cover. I mean, that`s
sort of an awful way to put it. But who else is coming down the street for
a plan for you if you`re a young kid?
BASS: I mean, actually, you`re right in terms of the Congressional Black
Caucus has a jobs plan that they`ve put forward every year. Every year, we
put forward an alternative to the budget. But if we had that dream world
where both houses of Congress being with Democrats, first thing we would do
is to pass the president`s jobs plan. Of which he had that would have
directly impacted the inner city.
There were proposals in there for job training. There were proposals to
rehab houses. So, if we look at it, we know that infrastructure is one of
the first places to go.
But there`s other things that have to happen too. And all the years that
we incarcerated so many people, you know, we`ve blocked people from
employment by banning employment if you have a felony or record. If you
look at the arrest record in Ferguson, you know that a lot of those kids,
not only are there not jobs right now, but a lot might be prohibited from
working if they were jobs.
MATTHEWS: Look, Marion Barry, most people have mixed feelings with the
guy, I have a mixed feeling, I like him but I have a mixed feeling.
But one thing he did in this town of D.C. was give kids summer jobs.
MATTHEWS: And you wouldn`t hang around convenient stores shoplifting if
you have an income coming every week and you`re proud of yourself.
ROBINSON: Yes, no. It had a huge impact, the summer jobs program here in
D.C. And I mean, a lot of people to this day who say, you know, that was
my first job. Marion Barry, exactly, Marion Barry gave me my first job.
BASS: It`s my first job.
MATTHEWS: Really? Tell us about it. I like, when this is? Tell us about
BASS: Absolutely, it was in the early `70s. I got a job with CETA,
Comprehensive Employment Training Act, I believe. And that was my first
And you know what, it was interesting because on the anniversary of the war
on poverty, we went around and talked to members of Congress and there were
an awful lot of us that got our first jobs through those programs. And
that`s a perfect example of what we could be doing now.
MATTHEWS: What happens if you go on the floor tomorrow -- or when the
Congress comes back and actually give an impassioned speech, which I`m sure
you can do, about this case. Let`s not talk about the police. That`s part
of the problem.
Let`s not talk about the justice in this case. That`s up to the jury
ultimately. But let`s talk about the justice in society economically.
The kids who grow up in the wrong neighborhoods, I mean, economically wrong
MATTHEWS: -- do not have a break coming to them.
BASS: Right. Absolutely.
Well, you know what? I have no problem making that impassioned speech.
And one thing that I believe we will do is that we will have a special
order hour where you know we can speak on the floor after votes on the
Monday when we get back. The Congressional Black Caucus does that fairly
But there really is a lot that we can do. And as you know, Los Angeles
went through this 22 years ago, you have that underlying bent up rage that
happens in these cities and then have you a spark that ignites it and you
have Ferguson today.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to the president. The congresswoman says the
bill has a bill. I`ve never been impressed by it. It doesn`t seem to be
macro economic, big time enough.
You`ve got to be -- to me, you`ve got to ask for what you want. I was
telling young kids, ask for what you want. They`ll give you what they`re
willing to give you.
MATTHEWS: But ask for what you really want. I don`t think there`s enough
ROBINSON: I`m with you on the theory -- you don`t ask for nothing, you
don`t get nothing, right? That`s the way of the world.
MATTHEWS: You ask for a penny, nobody`s going to give you two pennies.
ROBINSON: I think you should always go big and, you know, you get what you
can get, but you`ll never get it if you don`t ask for it.
MATTHEWS: You know, look in the 1930s when a lot of white people got a lot
of jobs from the government, but the CCC and a lot of that stuff, and the
NRA, and a lot of people who had high unemployment then compared to the
minority community today really. And they got jobs. And nobody complained
that these make-work projects. Everybody wanted those jobs.
BASS: And, you know, the sad thing is that we all know our infrastructure
is crumbling all across the country. In Los Angeles, we just had a major
water break at UCLA.
So, there is so much that we could be doing if the political will was
MATTHEWS: Well, you ought to ride the roads of Washington more often, like
I do, even here in the nation`s capital, it is rugged. It feels like
you`re on a bug board.
Anyway, thank you, Congresswoman, so much for coming on. Karen Bass of Los
Angeles, in California.
And thank you, Gene, for writing so well -- so well for us.
Up next, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell from the divine -- sublime
to the ridiculous. We`re getting to his corruption trial. He is blaming
his wife, as part of the soap opera defense with McDonnell, in order to
defend himself exposing the personal details of what he claims to be,
claims to be a troubled marriage.
This is HARDBALL, a place for politics.
MATTHEWS: The top Republican in the U.S. laid out his plan to stimy
President Obama. In an interview with "Politico," Mitch McConnell says if
the Republicans win the Senate this November, they will attach riders to
spending bills, limiting the president`s policies on everything from the
environment to health care. And if the president vetoes these bills, he`ll
risk a government shutdown.
McConnell tells "Politico", "We`re going to pass spending bills and they`re
going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of bureaucracy.
That`s something he won`t like. But that will be done, I guarantee it."
Well, Mr. Nice Guy speaks again. The guy has always wanted to croak this
administration, is promising to do it worse.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And, of course, today, in what defense attorneys said would be a
centerpiece of their case, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell took the
stand in his own defense in his corruption trial down in Richmond,
Virginia. The last time we checked with the trial, of course, prosecutors
tried to convince the jurors that McDonnell and his wife Maureen conspired
to lend the prestige of the governor`s office in exchange for gifts from a
wheeling and dealing corporate executive.
If convicted of those charges, the couple could face a minimum of 30 years
in prison. But in today`s crucial move by the defense, to put the former
governor in the stand, the defense strategy appears to be this: show that
his wife unhappiness and their broken marriage itself was proof that the
former Virginia governor and his first lady didn`t work together to squeeze
money from a wealthy businessman.
Kathy Adams from "The Virginia Pilot" tweeted that McDonnell testified his
wife wasn`t so happy when he was elected governor, was tense about being
first lady and yelled at him the very next morning after winning the
And Ryan Nobles of Richmond`s NBC 12 tweeted the McDonald testified on the,
quote, "hardships of running for office and the emotional and financial it
can take on a family."
For more of what happened in court today, let`s turn to Robert McCartney,
the reporter and columnist, who`s covering this trial for "The Washington
Robert, first of all, the defense was -- no, this wasn`t bribery, or
anything like it. We weren`t taking these watches and all these trips and
these rides and Ferrari and all that stuff. We weren`t doing all that
because we wanted to. We were doing that because my wife had a crush on
this guy. And she just wanted to spend time with him, so she was just
spending time so she could spend time. Now, it seems to me my wife`s
What is the defense?
ROBERT MCCARTNEY, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a little bit of both. I think
the idea is, she starts out hysterical, and she`s not ready for primetime.
She`s not ready to be the first lady of Virginia. She`s worried about what
she`s going to wear. And she just doesn`t feel like she`s up to it.
And I think, later, I think we`ll probably hear this tomorrow, when he
talks more about the marriage, McDonnell on the stand talks more about the
marriage, tomorrow, we`ll hear about how they grew apart and that she was
supposedly doing all this wheeling and dealing behind the scenes with this
businessman and he supposedly didn`t know anything about it.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m trying to cut through this from the rational to
the irrational, there is a rational explanation of why a woman who`s just
become first lady would worry that when she has the big inaugural ball and
every TV camera and every society camera and commentators watching her,
especially the women reporters perhaps, and she shows up in a dress she`s
been wearing for 10 years, there is that concern that she had something
special for the occasion and that something special costs lots of money.
MCCARTNEY: And they didn`t have the money.
MATTHEWS: They didn`t have money.
MCCARTNEY: They had $70,000 I think, or something like that, worth of
credit card debt. They`ve maxed out all their credit cards at the time
that they were elected --
MATTHEWS: So, he gets elected governor and he`s destitute, except for the
MCCARTNEY: Well, they worry about money.
And she was disappointed that his salary in public service hadn`t been so
high, and they had these debts that we now learned about from the real
estate investments that had gone bad, and I think she was worried, clearly
about cutting the right figure and dressing right, and acting right, on the
big stage in the executive mansion.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s cut to the chase in terms of how this case will be
decided. Will it not be decided by a jury that`s watching all of this
stuff? The hogwash and the reality and everything else? Was this guy paid
MCCARTNEY: Yes, I think --
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think -- did he do something because they were giving him
money and watches or did he just say fine I`ll take that stuff from you,
but I`m still going to be a good governor?
MCCARTNEY: Well that`s certainly what he`s emphasizing. He`s emphasizing
that he didn`t give anything out of the ordinary to Jonnie Williams. I
think that this whole strategy is a really big gamble, because he`s
basically trying to come across as Mr. Upright, Mr. Straight Shooter.
He had a priest testify today who had been his college roommate at Notre
Dame, came in and testified about what an upright guy he was, that`s half
the case. But then the other half, they`re systematically tearing down the
reputation of his wife. And that doesn`t look good, and I think those two
things are sort of intentioned with each other, and I wonder how the jury`s
going to make sense out of it.
MATTHEWS: Well, then again, you can argue, what else was he going to say?
MCCARTNEY: This is it.
MATTHEWS: I mean, he couldn`t say, "I didn`t take the watch", they have to
picture him with the watch. He can`t say, "I didn`t ride the Ferrari," I
got a picture of me riding the Ferrari. The clothes and all this stuff was
all accepted, stipulated at will.
MCCARTNEY: Right, exactly.
This may be -- I mean, clearly, they think this is the best defense they`ve
got. But I don`t feel like the two halves hang together.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?
MCCARTNEY: There you go.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Robert McCartney. We can`t try it here.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: if you`re waiting for me to act
the role of D.A., defense attorney or possible judge or jury in the case
involving the death of Michael Brown -- keep waiting. I don`t have the
authority. It will be difficult enough, we can see now, finding the truth
through what it appears will be conflicting testimony as to the final
actions of Mr. Brown, or the official actions of Officer Darren Wilson.
And finding the facts of the case, what actually happened is the central
matter for the district attorney and the grand jury to decide.
What I will insist on is that every human life be treated as a human life,
valued as one of God`s children. I don`t know why a man, whatever the
circumstances of his death, should have his body lying in the public street
for five hours. That strikes me as a kind of desecration, it`s the kind of
public exhibition we see in barbarous areas of the world, that we prayed to
God we don`t have to live in, nor do I accept the fact that a police
officer, no matter how scared, can resort to anger if that was the case,
not when he`s got a gun in his hand.
We will have to learn as best we can the truth of this tragedy in Ferguson.
But let`s remember, this country began, I like to remind myself at times
like this, when a future president, John Adams, served as a brave defense
attorney for those hated British soldiers accused in the Boston massacre.
That`s the ideal, isn`t it? That appeal back then, at our country`s
beginnings for true justice, which is not always well-received.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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