August 22, 2014
Guest: Joe Watkins, Steve McMahon, Robert McCartney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama`s war.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with the killers, the thousands of them who
have joined up to maraud their way across borders, murdering anyone who
refuses to share their fanatic creed. The only question is how we
eradicate this ISIS bunch. Experts say we can`t do it by these air strikes
we`ve been training on them. We can`t be sure the president will even keep
those forces in the air over Iraq.
So the dilemma is here. It stares us in the face. Do we escalate
this war on ISIS, or do we take it -- or do we let it continue to the
death, or do we hit a little more and let them continue on their murderous
path? Do we do a little or do we do everything? Because there`s one
lesson we learn again and again in this world. When we leave a country,
the land is controlled by those who stay there.
Richard Engel is NBC News chief foreign correspondent and has more
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, they`re certainly dropping
hints. For two days in a row, White House officials, military officials
suggesting quite overtly that the United States may have to start preparing
for the fact that the U.S. mission will be expanding significantly, that it
won`t be just about air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, but across the border
into Syria, as well. It seems quite possible, maybe even likely, that
those could be happening, according to officials we`ve been speaking to.
The reason is the current policy isn`t working. ISIS operates on both
sides of the border. It is in Syria, it`s in Iraq. So if the military is
just attacking it in Iraq, clearly, that is leaving a very large part of
the organization untouched.
Things changed just last month with that raid, that secret commando
raid that is only now coming out. A few details are emerging. What was
significant about that is Defense Secretary Hagel said although the raid
didn`t succeed in recovering any of the hostages, that it went perfectly,
that it went smoothly.
That means when U.S. fighter jets, U.S. attack helicopters entered
Syrian air space, they weren`t attacked. The Syrian air defenses, which
we`ve long been talking about as being quite sophisticated, didn`t target
in, didn`t lock in on American jets, and seemed to acquiesce to their
presence as long as they were going toward Raqqa, going toward the ISIS
It could have been interpreted as a green light that if the U.S. wants
to carry out operations against ISIS in Syria, the Syrian government
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Richard Engel.
For more on the threat from ISIS, I`m joined by MSNBC political (sic)
analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs and Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism
Gentlemen, the same question I`ve been having in my head for days now.
How do we win a limited war? How do we go from limited air strikes to
crushing the enemy, as Secretary of State John Kerry put it the other day?
I`m going to start with Jack Jacobs. How do we do both, keep it limited
and win all-out war to eradicate ISIS?
COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. MILITARY (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well,
the irony is that our ally in the whole thing is going to have to be Syria.
MATTHEWS: I know.
JACOBS: You know, just a couple of months ago, people were talking
about how we needed to -- needed to squash Assad, we need to be on the side
of the rebels. Exactly the opposite is probably going to be the case if we
want to go after ISIS. Our ally, oddly enough, has to be Assad.
Otherwise, we`re going to be able to do it. It`s going to require not only
air assets but assets on the ground. That means Assad.
MATTHEWS: Who fights from the Iraqi side -- if we got Assad with us
on the -- at least by implication, on the Syrian side, who takes on ISIS
besides us on the Iraqi side?
JACOBS: The only people -- our only allies there -- I mean, it`s not
going to Baghdad. We`ve been relying on Baghdad for quite some time, to no
avail. It`s going to have to be the Kurds, which means that we`re going to
have to have more advisers on the ground, more special forces and special
operations forces inside Iraq in order to train the -- train the Peshmerga
to make sure that they take care of ISIS in their own territory.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Evan Kohlmann on that. Sir, give us a picture
of this country -- I`m just showing a picture of it right now which shows
how much territory in Iraq and in Syria that ISIS has taken over. Look at
the before and after pictures here. You have Syria and Iraq the way they
were before ISIS took the ground. And now look at the big splotch.
They`ve got as much territory as either the Syrians or the Iraqis have.
And my question is, how do we eradicate that splotch from the world
map with limited air strikes? Your thoughts.
EVEN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I`ll tell you how you
don`t do it. You don`t do it by simply focusing ISIS`s forces in Iraq,
which is the most ridiculous strategy I`ve ever even heard of. It would be
like trying to fight World War II by only fighting the Germans in France
and avoiding Belgium and Germany.
KOHLMANN: Their headquarters in al Raqqa. That`s not a secret.
We`ve known that for some long period of time. And yet for some reason,
there have been people that have been suggesting that we don`t know enough
to strike where they`re located in Syria or we don`t enough about whether
or not they`re trying to strike the United States.
It`s quite clear that the U.S. government has been aware for some time
that these individuals were torturing a U.S. hostage, that they were making
ridiculous demands and apparently intended to execute this man. They have
been attempting to carry out terrorist attacks in Western countries,
including the both United States and various different locations in Europe.
Why it is that it has taken to this point for us to decide to launch
air strikes in Syria is really difficult to understand. This is a very,
very serious problem that we have. And to let it metastasize to this point
before taking real action -- this is not the way that foreign policy is
MATTHEWS: Anyway, today, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes
refused to rule out the possibility of air strikes on ISIS forces in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don`t want to get
ahead of decisions the president hasn`t, you know, been presented with
specific military options, outside of those that are carrying out the
current missions in Iraq. But we would certainly look at what is necessary
in the long term to make sure we`re protecting Americans.
You heard the president say we will be relentless against ISIL, and we
will do what`s necessary to protect Americans and see that justice is done
for what we saw with the barbaric killing of Jim Foley. So we`re actively
considering what`s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and
we`re not going to be restricted by borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here`s a holistic question for you, Colonel Jacobs. Nobody
ever asks you the big picture question. I`m going to ask it to you. Would
we be better off in the world right now if we had that clown Gadhafi, if we
had Assad, we still have him, the son, at least, if we still had Saddam
Hussein, if we had Mubarak? Wouldn`t we be better off if we hadn`t screwed
up this whole thing, or had our hand in screwing it up, and left it as it
JACOBS: Yes, the short answer is absolutely yes. The most surprised
guy in the world when we showed up in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was
Saddam Hussein. I mean, he`s there saying, Hey, wait a minute, I`m on your
side, I`m trying to get rid of these guys in Iran, and you`re coming to get
rid of me? It doesn`t make sense.
You know, it`s easy to be sanctimonious and say everybody has to have
a republican form of democracy, and we see what happens when we try to
force it on people who don`t want it. It turns out that the enemy of our
enemy is our friend, and vice versa.
It was a very bad thing. The original sin was going into Iraq, and
this has not helped. It may have been that the Arab spring and all the
nonsense that`s happened since that time would have happened anyway, but
unlikely to have happened as quickly as it did, or when it did, if we
hadn`t bothered to -- if we hadn`t bothered to topple Saddam Hussein and
been on what a lot of people think is the wrong side in Egypt.
MATTHEWS: Well, I still consider Mubarak a friend of the United
States, even if our government doesn`t.
Let me ask you, Evan, this question. The Pottery Barn rules, which
was Colin Powell saying, If you break it, you bought it. I think W broke
it, but I don`t think Obama ever bought it. And therefore, I think if he
goes into Iraq, it`s not to save Iraq, no matter how many times he says
he`s there to save Iraq and bring all those three sides together -- Sunni,
Shia and the Kurds.
He`s -- I think there`s an Obama war growing here right now. They
killed an American because he was a Christian, because he was an American.
They did it to get us. That was a national attack on our country, even
though it was done over there.
And my question to you is, do you think Obama`s got the blood in him
to fight an Obama war over there against ISIS now, a real war?
KOHLMANN: Well, look, I hope so. Again, I really -- I find it
difficult that it`s gotten to this point so quickly. But look, these folks
have wanted to strike at us from some time. This is no revelation. We
should have come to this realization a long time ago.
In order to fight against these folks, we`re going to have to get
serious. I understand when people say, Look, we don`t want to get involved
in Iraq again. It was such a mistake the last time. This is not the same
conflict. There are distinct U.S. national security interests in play
here. There are people, Westerners, who are being trained in Syria right
now and in Iraq to come back here and launch terrorist attacks targeting us
here in the U.S. homeland...
KOHLMANN: ... and in Europe. This happened long before we ever
launched air strikes. This was something that they`ve planned for a long
period of time. This involves essential U.S. national security interests.
I hope that President Obama realizes that. I hope the White House
realizes it because what we`ve seen so far has been an insufficient
response. It has not been a serious enough response.
KOHLMANN: They need to change that tempo right now.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Jack on this. Colonel, it seems to me
that the neocons, the intellectuals who worked in the Justice -- in the
Defense Department and the vice president`s office and who write on the op-
ed pages of "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" relentlessly --
they know a lot more about the Middle East than I do. They do in many
cases -- are hawks about Israel, and I accept that. But if they really
cared about the future of Israel, just that one country, why did they allow
all this stuff to come apart?
It seems like Israel was much more secure before this re-jumbling, the
re -- whatever you -- what (INAUDIBLE) 52-card pick-up, throw everything in
the air and see what comes down, you know? It was much better off.
JACOBS: I thought...
MATTHEWS: Why did they go after these -- these secular governments
that were no threat to us, or really deep down, to Israel`s -- certainly to
its existence? They were never an existential threat.
JACOBS: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: None of these countries.
JACOBS: ... you`ve raised a very significant -- very significant
issue here because, in fact, the only people we`ve heard from on our side
in all of this is Israel. All the people who were really a threat in the
region, the other people, the Arab countries, nothing.
JACOBS: All the people who were also a threat -- Europe, nothing.
And in fact, we did it all wrong. We did it all wrong, and now we`re going
to pay for it.
And I agree with Evan that we`re supposed to do something. We have to
do something. We have to think strategically and not just tactically.
JACOBS: Trust me. I think the political imperatives are going to
drive the president to do little or nothing.
MATTHEWS: Evan, your thoughts about the grand (ph) thing (ph).
George Bush, Sr., was very -- he and Jim Baker were fantastic at putting
together the Arab League. They were able to put together all the Arab
countries. They brought -- they got the war, the first Gulf war, paid for
by the Japanese and the Germans. The "checkbook powers," they were called.
They got everybody together against Saddam Hussein. So in terms of waging
a war, politically, they knew how to do it.
Is there any way we can gather the forces of not just Israel but the
Arab states to go after ISIS?
KOHLMANN: The most important thing we can do, the single most
important thing we can do, aside from any kind of military action, is to
galvanize Sunni resistance within Syria and Iraq -- in other words,
galvanize individuals who may be Sunni insurgents, who may not have liked
the al Maliki government, but who don`t like ISIS, either...
KOHLMANN: ... and who realize that ISIS is a fanatical movement that
is opposed to their interests as much as it is opposed to our interests.
We have to galvanize those folks. We have to make sure they`re properly
armed. And we have to make that they`re ready to confront ISIS.
And unfortunately, when you see incidents like what happened in Iraq
today, where you see 50 Sunni individuals who were at a mosque being
massacred by Shi`ite militiamen, that`s exactly what we don`t need. That`s
exactly what`s going to prevent us from galvanizing Sunni support...
MATTHEWS: So well said.
KOHLMANN: ... for fighting against ISIS. And without that, no amount
of military power, no amount of military strikes is going to make the
MATTHEWS: Well, the persons who can do that, who can bring the Sunnis
to the side in the war against ISIS are going to be the greatest people of
our time. It seems like one hell of challenge, given, as you said, the
atrocity that happened again, with the Shias killing 50-some Sunnis.
Anyway, thank you, Colonel Jacobs. I`m afraid we`re going to be back
to you a lot in the next couple of weeks and months. Evan Kohlmann, it`s a
great treat to have you on.
JACOBS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, the week on Ferguson -- or in Ferguson began
with scenes that looked -- well, it looked like a war zone over there. But
after a heartfelt visit -- and that`s what it was -- from the attorney
general, Eric Holder, and the beginning of a grand jury investigation into
Michael Brown`s shooting, things look very different, at least for now.
Plus, on Wednesday, President Obama called the killers of James Foley
unfit for the 21st century. Then he played a happy round of golf. His
critics say the president simply doesn`t care how he looks.
And scenes from a marriage. The melodrama unfolding in a courthouse
down in Richmond is the stuff of soap opera. Today, former Virginia
governor Bob McDonnell testified there was no quid for the quo he got from
businessman Jonnie Williams. Is the jury buying that?
And finally, remember how the Blues Brothers got back together? Well,
it`s feeling a lot like 2012, now that Paul Ryan is pushing former running
mate Mitt Romney make another go of it in 2016.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: New polling in that Senate race up in New Hampshire. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
According to a new poll from WMUR and the University of New Hampshire,
incumbent Democrat Jean Shaheen leads Republican challenger Scott Brown by
just 2 points. It`s Shaheen 46 and the former Massachusetts senator Brown
at 44. And if Brown wins, by the way, in New Hampshire, expect a
Republican sweep on election night.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s been actually 13 days now
since that August 9th shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The
past seven days in particular have some delivered brutal images. We`ve
seen local police carrying semi-automatic rifles, flash bombs going off in
the streets, protesters writhing from tear gas and throwing Molotov
cocktails at the police.
Attorney General Eric Holder was on the ground during the height of
the tensions to assure the community out there that their voices will be
heard. Well, right now, there is calm on the streets -- right now. The
National Guard is leaving. The question is, how do things stay calm, and
what happens now?
NBC`s Craig Melvin`s been out there and he`s delivered some truly
exceptional coverage for us all week long. He joins us now on the ground.
Craig, thank you once again, and congratulations on great reporting.
But your sense of it, as an observer -- put it all together. Is there a
trend line here, or is it in cycles? How do you see it in terms of the
CRAIG MELVIN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I think that, Chris, we`re
finally at a point where those violent images that you were just talking
about, those clashes with police -- I think -- I think we`ve seen the end
of those. I honestly -- I believe that.
Right now, behind me on the street, there`s not so many protesters,
maybe 10, 12 protesters. But there seems to -- a small block party seems
to have popped up behind me over the past 30 minutes or an hour or so,
playing some music across the street, serving some barbecue over there. I
can tell you that there is not a single police officer that`s visible right
now, for me at least, in terms of my -- my eyesight. And I`ve got -- you
know, I can see about a block in either direction.
There have also been a number of community meetings over the past 24
hours, two community meetings last night. There`s a -- there`s a
"peacefest" that`s scheduled for this weekend. The parents of Trayvon
Martin are going to be in town.
You really get the sense now that the community is sort of past the
angry stage and that they`re now in that grief stage and trying to figure
out, How do we make sure that something like this does not happen anytime
ever again in an American city to a young black boy, or any boy, for that
MATTHEWS: Well said.
MATTHEWS: Any young person, for that matter.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`ve got a couple heroes myself, Captain Johnson of
the police force out there, and of course, Eric Holder. I think they are
real people. That`s my view. Can you analyze very quickly what their
impact was, the two gentlemen I mentioned?
MELVIN: You know, I think -- I think when we look back on this thing,
I think that the Eric Holder visit -- that`s going to be seen as a real
pivotal moment, Chris. If you remember, before the attorney general was
here earlier this week, that`s really when we saw things at their worst
here, the tear gas, the 70 arrests on Monday, the nearly 50 arrests on
And talking to folks after the attorney general left town, they really
started to feel like -- at least they told me they felt that the federal
government`s involvement in what has happened here, that really assured
that there was not going to be a railroading of any sort.
As you know, as we have been talking about, there is a genuine, deep
distrust here of not just the folks who make the rules, but the folks who
enforce the rules as well. So, I think when the attorney general came and
he talked about the parallel investigation and how it was going to be
independent and how it was going to be being fair, that did a great deal to
assuage a lot of the fears and a lot of the concerns here.
And you mentioned Captain Johnson. Captain Johnson really does walk
on water. I spent some time with him earlier this week and seeing folks
come up to him and thank him.
MELVIN: A lot of folks in these neighborhoods a block away, folks
would come up and thank him, business owners thanking him.
You just got to wonder what would have happened had they tapped
Captain Johnson four or five days sooner.
MATTHEWS: So true. Moral authority is a great thing, Craig.
And thank you so much for reporting on it.
Well, last night on "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes, of course, Missouri
Governor Jay Nixon addressed calls for him to appoint a special prosecutor
to take over for elected Saint Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch out
there. McCulloch has taken heat from activists and local leaders,
primarily due to his extensive family ties with the police out there. Here
is Governor Nixon giving his verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: We have a local elected prosecutor who
-- no, I`m not going to take him off the case. He`s going to -- he said
he`s going to...
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES": So, you`re saying that
now; you are not going to appoint a special prosecutor?
NIXON: Right. No, I`m not.
Plus, you -- in this situation, you have the secondary advantage here
of having the attorney general of the United States and the Justice
Department doing a parallel, dual investigation. So -- and a significant
amount of public attention on what`s going on.
My sense is, if we trust all those processes, that the public is going
to get what they need, which is transparency and, ultimately, justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining us now for more on Ferguson is MSNBC
political analyst and former Pennsylvania Governor and Philadelphia DA and
former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.
Governor Rendell, you have had all these positions. What`s your view
of the way this case is being handled? Is it adequate for the community
out there? We don`t know how they are feeling exactly day to day. But is
it adequate to them to know, as the governor said, you are getting dual
investigations here, one locally from the elected officials and one from
Washington? Is that adequate?
ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is adequate in one
And I think the people of Ferguson have confidence in Eric Holder and
the FBI and their impartiality. And they will give a fair investigation.
But they can`t lodge murder charges against the policeman. The only thing
they can prosecute is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.
And although that carries a significant punishment, it`s not exactly
the same. Usually, in these cases, the federal investigation is a backstop
that waits until the local, state investigation is completed and finished.
And I have no doubt that Mr. McCulloch is a good prosecutor. He was
head of the Missouri DAs association, head of the national DAs association.
But there is an inherent, real problem for him, because of his ties to the
police, not the fact that he has a brother, a uncle, and an cousin
policemen right now. His mother used to work for the police department.
But more importantly, it`s almost eerie. His father was shot by a
felon who grabbed a gun out of the police officer`s holster and used it to
shoot his father, who was a policeman. You know there are allegations that
Mr. Brown was trying to get the gun from the officer`s possession here in
So, it`s eerily similar. And that creates a strong appearance of
impropriety or appearance of a potential conflict. And even if the
evidence dictates -- and the problem with a grand jury, Chris, is, as you
know, the evidence is closed. The evidence is not made available to the
public. The testimony is not -- to cross-examine it -- and there`s no
cross-examination of witnesses. So there are real problems.
And I think it would be better for him to recuse himself, not because
he didn`t believe he would be fair, but because, whatever he does, it won`t
have the appearance of impartiality.
MATTHEWS: Here`s one concern on this. And I`m not going to get into
the thing. But if you bring in another prosecutor, doesn`t that person,
that man or woman who comes in, have a mission to prosecute?
I have never heard of a special prosecutor not prosecuting. They
don`t walk away from a case and say there is not a crime there, do they?
It seems like they are dedicated from the outset to indict, aren`t there?
RENDELL: I think you`re thinking mostly of corruption cases.
Look, the law of justifiable homicide, particularly when it involves a
police officer, is clear. If the police officer had a reasonable belief
that his life could be in danger or he could be in danger of having severe
bodily injury occur to him, then he has the right to use deadly force.
RENDELL: And I believe, had I been tapped or any other prosecutor
been tapped, we would take our responsibility very seriously.
And I don`t think a special prosecutor would indict just for the sake
of indicting. It is easier in some ways for special prosecutors to clear
the policeman and say it was justifiable, because he`s not going to be
around in the community. He is going to go back to Topeka, Kansas, or to
Little Rock, Arkansas, or wherever he`s called from.
MATTHEWS: OK. Get into a grand jury situation.
Suppose you have two or three witnesses who say the victim here had
his hands in the air. He was basically, you know, giving up to the police,
he was doing what you do in any movie. We know what it is. You put your
hands in the air, nobody shoots you anymore, OK? And the other people say
I didn`t see his hands in the air. I saw him lunging toward the policeman.
You got the policeman`s physical damage on his face. You have other
officers -- the other officer with him. I assume he will back him up.
What do you do in a grand jury when there is just downright
conflicting evidence? Do you -- is the rule of reasonable doubt there or
do you go with probable cause because some people say this happened in a
way that criminalizes the defendant here?
RENDELL: The grand jury should not use a standard of reasonable
The grand jury should try to assess the evidence. And if the factual
and testimonial evidence is clear one way or the other, then it`s an easy
decision for the grand jury. But if there are conflicts here -- and there
appear, just from the accounts I have read, to be some significant
conflicts about what happened, about what happened in the police car, about
what happened when he, Mr. Brown, ran away, when he turned around, all
sorts of conflicting testimony from witnesses -- then, if there is no
physical evidence that shows that one account is true and one account is
not true -- for example, in this case, if one of the bullets had struck Mr.
Brown in the back, the entry level had been in the back, that would be
clear physical evidence that would indicate the officer used deadly force
at a time when his life wasn`t threatened.
But absent that physical evidence, then the proper result should be
for the grand jury to indict and send it to trial, where a jury, using the
standard of reasonable doubt, would be the final arbiter.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be a challenge, because I think a
lot of people are making judgments before all this evidence is put all
together. It`s really a community issue now.
RENDELL: It puts Mr. McCulloch in a terrible spot.
RENDELL: He almost in some ways has to fight from leaning over
backwards to indict the policeman to prove that he`s fair. That`s a
problem, too. That`s a potential conflict, too.
MATTHEWS: If you were the defendant here, what would you like? Would
you like a special prosecutor or would you like the local guy?
RENDELL: Local guy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
RENDELL: No ifs, ands and buts about it.
MATTHEWS: I love candor. I love candor. Thank you, Governor
Up next, Paul Ryan wants to bring back the good old days of being on
the campaign trail with Mr. Excitement, Mitt Romney.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."
Paul Ryan voiced his support this week for his former running mate
Mitt Romney as a potential 2016 presidential candidate. He even offered
his services once again for the campaign. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": In a new
interview, Paul Ryan gave a big endorsement to the idea of Mitt Romney
running for president in 2016, saying that he`d even drive Romney`s
FALLON: He said, I will drive the bus.
But then this also caught people`s eye. Ryan wrote on his Facebook
page, "The Packers are looking so good, I would drive their bus."
FALLON: We know that he`s a Packers fan. But then he posted on the
Partridge Family`s page, he said, hey, Partridge Family, are you guys still
FALLON: If you`re not, I guess that bus ain`t being used. Let me
take it for a spin. I don`t know.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FALLON: And more -- finally, there was this. Scooby-Doo, did his
gang have a van or a bus? Oh, it was a van? Oh, close enough. Let`s call
it a bus. Me drivey-drivey.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But before Paul Ryan puts on his driving shoes, if you
will, he managed to help out Romney with another challenge. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I offer my thanks to
Meg Whitman and Rob Portman and Creighton Rider of Salt Lake City.
Creighton has been diagnosed with this dread disease. They all made the
challenge for me to get dumped with ice. Tonight, I have a little help
from one of my friends
Hey, buddy. How you doing?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: How are you doing?
That is cold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s first time I have seen that hair mussed.
Anyway, still wearing his suit, of course. And, of course, that`s the
charity movement where you dump a bucket of ice water over your head and
then challenge other people to do the same. As silly as it sounds, it`s
raised more than $53 million to benefit ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig`s
Up next, it started with airstrikes in Iraq, and it`s ending with
chaos in Ferguson and the gruesome death of an American journalist at the
hands of ISIS. It`s not exactly the best time to be photographed on the
golf course. And that`s what a front-page piece in "The New York Times" is
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
Israel says Hamas fired a mortar, killing a 4-year-old Israeli boy
living near the Gaza border. More than 2,000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis
have died since the fighting began.
Heavy rains triggered widespread flooding in Illinois and Indiana,
shutting down sections of two major interstates and forcing several schools
to close. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the economy is
improving, but cautioned that more job market indicators are needed before
raising interest rates -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss. We
will do everything that we can to protect our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We are back.
That was President Obama, of course, probably taking time from his
vacation up in Martha`s Vineyard to speak about the heartbreak over the
execution of journalist James Foley by the Islamic terrorist group ISIL.
But upon leaving the podium there, according to the White House press
poll report, the president`s motorcade drove straight to the Vineyard golf
course. As "New York Times" reporter Peter Baker illustrates on the front
page this morning, that: "As soon as the cameras went off, Mr. Obama headed
to his favorite golf course on Martha`s Vineyard, where he was, on
vacation, seemingly able to get the savagery out of his mind instantly. He
spent the rest of the afternoon on the links even as a firestorm of
criticism erupted there over what many saw as a callous indifference to the
slaughter he had just condemned."
Seeing the president on the golf course so soon after -- it was 32
minutes after delivering such a sobering statement on world affairs
reminded me of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Let`s watch that incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must stop the
terror. I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these
terrorist killers. Thank you.
Now watch this drive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to say about that. I don`t know what to
say about that.
For Obama, the next day`s front-page "Daily News," "New York Daily
News" cover was unforgiving. It showed him laughing from a golf cart as
James Foley`s parents cry there at the bottom. The headline read, "Bam`s
And inside the paper was another picture of the president fist-bumping
his golf partners on the green. The headline, "Hole Lot of Nerve" --
that`s "H-O-L-E" lot of nerve.
Well, some Democrats didn`t like it. Strategist Jim Manley told "The
New York Times": "In this particular instance, I think a lot of Democrats
flinched a little bit. It was just so shocking that the idea that he was
going to immediately run to the golf course was just a little too much for
folks. It was tone-deaf."
That`s what he said.
Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist as well. And Joe Watkins is
a Republican strategist.
I don`t know what you two guys are going to say.
I will start with Joe.
And all I can do is compare it to W.`s horse`s ass behavior, which I
would call it not even a -- I would call that intentionally making a joke
in a situation, but here a president of the United States talking with
grief, and I thought with real passion, and, we`re going to get those sons
of bitches. That attitude came out.
And then, 32 seconds later, he`s yakking it up. Which was the real
Obama? The guy who`s having a good time or the guy who`s mad?
Your thoughts, Joe. It`s your podium.
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the president can
multitask. I think he can speak sincerely and from the heart about the
savagery that took place in the Middle East with the killing of Mr. Foley.
And at the same time, I think he has the capacity to enjoy himself, to
spend time as every president has done in recent memory.
MATTHEWS: Within 32 minutes, within a half hour.
WATKINS: He deserves the opportunity to relax. Actually, even being
on the golf course is work for the president because while he may be
laughing, business is still being transacted. The apparatus of the
presidency travels with the president wherever that --
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know that. He also learned the game as president,
which is pretty impressive. He learned the game of golf as president.
Have you learned games in your latest jobs, Joe?
MATTHEWS: Can you picked up any hole sports? I like the guy but that
picture is a problem.
WATKINS: Doesn`t mean he`s a good golfer, Chris. I mean, I picked up
the game of golf working in the Senate. I still golf but I`m not good
I know he`s picked up the game as president. I don`t know what his
MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, at least you can count the score with him
and believe it, right? How about with Clinton? What do you think? The
numbers are within 10?
Just a thought. He had a mulligan a minute. Anyway, just a thought.
What do you think, Steve?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I agree with everything Joe
said. The presidency travels with the president.
MATTHEWS: If you were the president`s chief flack standing behind
him, would you have the nerve and walk up and say, I know you like Alonzo
Mourning, he`s one of your heroes, you`ve been following him for years,
this is your chance to play golf with him, not today, because you can`t
have grief with the family and pray with them, and say, we`re going to get
even for what happened -- and then a half hour later be in a golf cart
having the time of your life?
MCMAHON: Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. What`s
frustrating for some Democrats and I`m not necessarily one of them, but I
talked to them, is that it`s an unforced error. The White House political
team should have seen this coming.
MATTHEWS: Could they have stopped him from doing what he wanted to
MCMAHON: We don`t know if you could have stopped him from doing.
He`s the president. He does what he wants to do. But they should have
probably had a conversation with him about the optics of it. And
substantively, I have no problem with it.
MATTHEWS: Generally, the optics are great. I love to see him having
a good time. He`s a debonair fellow. It`s just the half hour difference.
Let me go back --
MCMAHON: The difference, Chris, between the Republicans and -- you
know, the machine is being critical of the president now. The difference
between going into an election with the 46 approval rating and a 36
MATTHEWS: Is he going down to 36?
MCMAHON: Well, in a lot -- in the states that are most competitive,
his numbers are not very good. And this just gives fodder to those people
MATTHEWS: And you`re talking about the polling we just saw in New
MCMAHON: And, you know, it`s people like Jeanne Shaheen and Senator
Udall in Colorado, and races that probably shouldn`t be in play come into
play if the president is the subject of ridicule. Now, I`m not suggesting
this will last. It`s August. It`s a tempest in a teapot. Washington,
MATTHEWS: OK. When -- excuse me -- when people go to vote, do they
look at the names or do they say, what kind of a mood I`m in right now, and
how much am I going to either like the president in my vote, or dislike him
in my vote?
MCMAHON: In an off-year election, the president`s approval rating
going into election day is very, very important in terms of how the party
fares. You see it historically, not just this year.
If I were political advisers, I`d very be mindful of that because they
don`t really care. I mean, the president doesn`t really care what folks
think, and I think that`s fine. But there are a lot of Democrats whose
races will be impacted by the difference between a 46 and a 36.
MATTHEWS: Joe, let`s try the nonpartisan from your side, the
Republican side. Do you think Republican senators out there, candidates,
say, well, that`s going to help me down in Arkansas, I got a shot now? You
know, I got a shot in Louisiana now because the president looks like he`s
having too much fun in this job?
WATKINS: It`s a one or two-day story, you know? I mean, the story --
MATTHEWS: Do you think?
WATKINS: -- will have life for a couple of days.
MATTHEWS: You won`t bring this back in the ads?
WATKINS: No, I don`t think so. At the end of the day, all politics
are local. What matters in critical states for both Democrats and
Republicans is what the candidates have to say in those states.
Republicans have a great chance, of course, in this cycle, in this midterm
election cycle to wait the -- of course, to retain the House and win the
MCMAHON: Why is that?
MATTHEWS: Joe, you don`t want this to be a local election. You want
a national sweep of the Republicans. Come on. Who are you kidding?
You`re quoting Tip O`Neill. And you`re hoping you`re talking Ronald
WATKINS: No, no. I know the president`s approval rate -- everything
Steve and you are saying is correct. I mean, the president`s approval
rating does not help those candidates in some of those tougher races. So,
there`s no doubt about it.
MATTHEWS: We agree. So, we all agree it was a terrible thing to do.
MCMAHON: No, no, I don`t think it`s a terrible thing.
MATTHEWS: I think Joe is right. I think you`re all right. It`s
probably one or the other. If you already hate Obama, this is an excuse to
hate him more. If you like him, you`ll defend him and say, why you do that
stupid thing. You`re not going to change your mind of whether you like him
Thank you, Steve McMahon. And thank you, Joe Watkins.
MATTHEWS: The defense team -- the defense team for former Governor
Bob McDonnell is airing all of his marital problems. Usually people keep
this stuff to themselves -- anyway, apparently under the belief it`s his
best shot of keeping him and his wife out of jail.
So, is the jury buying that she`s so unhappy that she does stuff that
gets him into trouble?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A new poll in the Georgia Senate race shows Michelle Nunn
gaining on her Republican opponent. Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.
A poll by WSB-TV shows the Democrat with a seven-point lead over David
The same poll also shows a tight race for Georgia governor. Democrat
Jason Carter, he`s the former president`s grandson, now has a four-point
lead over incumbent Republican Governor Nathan Deal, down from a seven-
point difference last month.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I`m blessed with five
really amazing kids. I talked to all five of them last night. They do
give me a lot of strength, my children. I`m really proud that despite the
hardships my wife and I are going through, they have lived their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s day 20 of the McDonnell corruption trial down in Richmond, a
third day of testimony for the former governor himself. And his time on
the stand can be only described as brutal.
Here`s today`s front page of "The Washington Post." "McDonnell
depicts a sinking marriage." And no detail of this unraveling marriage was
spared. A wrenching e-mail from the governor to his wife in which he pours
out his heart in an effort to save his marriage was entered into evidence.
McDonnell described being spiritually and mentally exhausted by being
yelled at by his wife.
And in perhaps the final knife twist, McDonnell testified, he said the
Rolex watch his wife gave him with money supplied by businessmen at the
heart of this case was gaudy. He said, "It was big, it was gaudy, it was
not my kind of watch." Wow.
The biggest takeaway from today`s testimony was that the former
governor did not think it was wrong to take money from businessman Jonnie
Williams. McDonnell testified that Williams, quote, "never asked me for
anything, only to call his father on his 80th birthday."
Well, joining me right now is senior editor at MSNBC.com, Beth Fouhy,
and "The Washington Post`s" Robert McCartney who was in the courtroom
Beth, hold on to your thoughts until I get to Robert McCartney.
You just drove up here from Richmond, about 90 --
ROBERT MCCARTNEY, THE WASHINGTON POST: I did.
MATTHEWS: An hour and a half from here. What was it like sitting in
the room watching these two married couples, longtime married couple with
the one guy, the one spouse, has to destroy the other spouse so they both
can walk out of this courtroom free?
MCCARTNEY: Well, it was chilling because they really interact very
little in the courtroom. They sort of walk by each other at the beginning
and the end, and he`s up there on the stand, very poised, very cool, just
relating all these terrible things about his wife. I mean, he said that
she deceived him about things, he said she lied about things, he said she
yelled at him, she showed hate toward him.
And she just sits there and sort of stares ahead, looks at him, looks
at the judge, doesn`t really react very much.
MATTHEWS: Well, this isn`t divorce court.
MATTHEWS: And yet, it begins to sound like divorce court on TV.
Beth, it seems to me -- and all right, I`m pro-politician, clearly I
am. But I kept thinking, what was the damage to the state? What was the
harm, the foul that hurt the state here?
In all this hanky-panky and craziness and unhappiness, did anything go
wrong that hurt the state or any citizen of it? Were tax laws changed,
were regulatory laws changed, was anything stolen? Was anything really
except giving a guy a low number license plate or let him come sleep in the
Lincoln bedroom? It looks like the thing we give ambassadorships away for.
You give me something, I give you something.
What`s -- where is the evil here? The true evil? I just -- I`m
waiting for it, besides the marital wreckage here.
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Well, you know, Chris, that`s something that
the jury is going to have to decide, and I think, you know, despite this
kind of tawdry affair that we`re seeing rolling out there in that
courtroom, it`s very likely that the governor will be acquitted.
I mean, it does seem like the state was not hurt. There were no
national secrets compromised, what-have-you. Plus, Virginia as we know is
a very loose set of rules around what kind of gifts a politician can take.
So, the jury --
MATTHEWS: Are there any?
FOUHY: There`s really none.
MATTHEWS: Not many rules.
FOUHY: The jury may let him off.
What I will say is what was hurt is the dignity of the office. I
mean, that sounds very old-fashioned, what-have-you, but he was willing to
sort of just hang out with this rather shady businessman, and fly around
with him and ride in his Ferrari and wear his big, gaudy watch, for what?
It seems like it was a very cheap sort of trade of his office to live a
slightly better life, and to then roll it all out there in the courtroom,
whether he`s convicted or not, he stills look very unseemly.
MATTHEWS: What about Motel 6 and the Clinton administration, Beth,
where night after night, some fat cat got to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom,
as part of a fund-raising effort?
FOUHY: Sure, but that`s a thing --
MATTHEWS: It wasn`t illegal. It wasn`t illegal, clearly. But was
FOUHY: No, that`s the problem. That politicians seem to be doing
this over and over and over again. They don`t -- they don`t respect the
office that they`re in on some fundamental way, and they trade it away and
that`s why we see so much cynicism about politics -- one of the many
MATTHEWS: That`s really true. I like the way you said that.
Robert? When you`re -- the only thing is we wouldn`t have known about
all this unseemliness unless they hadn`t gone to trial, now we all know
MATTHEWS: Unseemliness is the problem. This trial is creating it. I
didn`t know he had this marital problem. I didn`t know she was --
MCCARTNEY: No, the prosecutors and my colleague, Ross Haulderman
(ph), basically uncovered this. It was all started with the chef, you
know? The -- basically, she treated the chef so badly in the mansion, the
executive mansion, the wife, that he got annoyed and there was a big legal
fight over him, and basically to save his own skin, he`s, you know, stuff
started coming out about her and about them.
MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, I agree with everything Beth said, but
during the time before this happened, this trial, my wife, Kathleen and I,
she was on the Mt. Vernon board down there, and we went down there and
McDonnell gave a nice speech about history. His wife was there looking
very pleasant and normal and everything seemed fine. Until this cracker
barrel opened up and all of a sudden, we`re watching bug life under the
Anyway, thank you, Beth, as always, you`re a great guest.
Beth Fouhy, and Robert McCartney, thank you for covering this thing.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me end tonight with the pair of good things to come out
of this week. Both tell the same story, if you care, if you really do,
I think it`s great that Pope Francis got on the phone this week with
the parents of James Foley. It`s a Catholic family. James had gone to
Marquette University. They`re very much the people I grew up with, the
kind who are at church every week, who raised their children with all the
right values and in James` case, with an extra dose of caring about the
world`s less fortunate and, of course, an extra dose of courage to get out
there and tell their story.
Quote, "Jim was proud to be a journalist, his mother Diane said. He
had deep courage and he always cared about people who were suffering."
As for the guts and faith and personal constitution it took to face up
to that horror, he knew full well was facing him in the desert, his father
said this, "I`m sure he didn`t shrink from the situation."
Well, that`s what I saw. What we all saw. The sheer human courage of
James Foley as he faced his martyrdom, killed for his religion and his
Quote, "He understood Jim`s heart", Diane Foley said, after that long
and intense conversation with the pope. Good and love and all that`s free
in the world must be together to fight the evil and the hatred.
Meanwhile, out in Ferguson, Missouri, the Show Me State, Eric Holder
was meeting with the parents of Michael Brown. That was the other good
thing this week.
If you care, if you really care, you show it.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>