August 27, 2014
Guest: Jonathan Martin, Willie Brown, Paul Helmke, Shannon Watts
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Turncoats.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with those dozens of Americans turning coat and
joining the Islamist murderers in Syria and Iraq. Next, we`ll get to the
Republican strategy for taking over the U.S. Senate, turn every Democratic
opponent into Barack Obama. Then we`ll get to this stinking hamburger plan
to skip U.S. tax laws by heading off to Canada. Finally, the death that
comes of handing a loaded automatic weapon to a 9-year-old and the
deafening silence from the National Rifle Association -- you know, the ones
who say guns don`t kill people, people do? In this case, those of you now
hiding in the corner, it was a gun, an Uzi, that killed.
As I said, we start tonight with this murky change of heart and change of
allegiance that drives a small but ruthless bunch of haters to join the
murderous ranks of ISIS and other anti-American Islamist terror groups
based in Syria. Let`s get a fix, as best we can, on who they are and what
they`re doing screaming for blood in far away lands.
Richard Engel is chief foreign correspondent for NBC News and Evan Kohlmann
is an NBC terrorism analyst.
Richard, these aren`t people that are going away to get a different way of
life, they`re going away to kill Americans. Yesterday, NBC News learned an
American -- that`s Douglas McAuthur McCain -- was killed in Syria fighting
for ISIS. Now a law enforcement official tells NBC News a second American
turncoat was killed in the same incident with McCain.
And today, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told Andrea Mitchell
that the threat from ISIS in the form of Western recruits is serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We know, you know, dozens and
dozens of Americans are potentially becoming radicalized and going over and
fighting with groups like ISIL. And that`s worrisome enough. I -- I --
and it`s mostly a law enforcement issue. They`re working hard to
But when we talk about the potential immediacy of the threat of ISIL,
that`s one of the factors that we`re talking about, this idea that foreign
fighters could go over there, get radicalized, get equipped, get trained,
and then come back it their homelands, whether it is United States or any
other Western nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Richard, we can`t even decide what to call this thing, ISIL or
ISIS, and these young men from America of different backgrounds have gone
over to join it. How do we explain the turning of coat, the turning of
allegiance to lead them not just to leave our country to another culture
but to become American killers?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Because this group, which doesn`t call
itself ISIS or ISIL, calls itself the Islamic State or the caliphate,
doesn`t see the world in terms of American versus Britain versus Syrian or
Iraqi. It sees it as Muslims, particularly their brand of Islam, which is
really a death cult -- it is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims
around the world -- and everybody else.
So they are calling on supporters to come and join this little state that
they have carved out in collapsed parts of Syria and Iraq and to join this
uber-national, ultranational caliphate of theirs, reject their nationality,
burn their American passports and fight against anyone who is determined to
be their enemy.
And this is appealing for people. It`s appealing for a certain group of
people. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, they would have gone off and joined a
religious cult. They would have gone off and joined the Foreign Legion.
People have trouble with the law. They can`t find themselves. They`re
searching for something greater.
And in this case, they are joining a death cult that is advertising itself
on the Internet and has created this little safe zone within Iraq and
MATTHEWS: Well, these dozens of people are real people, Evan, and they`re
watching the beheading on television, basically, of American, someone like
they were. What`s the reaction to being part of a cult that does that?
They are -- they have their hands in this now.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, look to 20-year-old Adam
Dandach, who was arrested by the FBI last month, trying to travel to Syria
to join ISIS. He not only told the FBI that he was attempting to join
ISIS, but when asked whether or not he was willing to kill Americans, he
said openly to the FBI, Yes, I would kill Americans. Yes, that`s part of a
religious duty. Yes, that`s valid. So unfortunately, that`s exactly what
we`re looking at.
And it`s not just ISIS, either. Of course, you had Moner Abu Salha, this
young -- this young guy from Florida who went over and joined al Qaeda`s
official branch in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra. And before he left, he recorded
a message in which he was shown tearing apart his U.S. passport, actually
biting on the passport, and then issuing a message to Barack Obama in which
he threatened to come back and destroy the United States with bombs and
other weapons and said his compatriots would be right behind him.
That`s not even ISIS. That`s Jabhat al Nusra. That`s the organization
that just released an American hostage. So you can imagine what the ISIS
guys are saying.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s good back to the macro questions. Richard, you know
that, too. When`s the United States going to begin bombing Syria, bombing
ENGEL: Well, I think it`s going to be pretty soon, frankly. The U.S. has
now authorized surveillance flights over Syria, looking for targets.
They`re going to find targets. If you ask them to start looking for
things, they`re going to find them.
I think of it, like if you invite a carpenter or a contractor over to your
house and you say, Look, I have some problems in the basement, you know
full well the basement is full of water and you tell him, Go down and look
in there, he`s going to tell you that it needs work.
And now we`re doing surveillance flights over there. We`re asking them to
look for targets. They`re going to find them. So what are we going to do
next? I think they`re going to start bombing them.
And the irony on all of this -- and I know you`re going to -- you`re going
to love this, since you follow Washington in foreign policy -- it`s almost
exactly one year ago to the day we were talking about bombing Syria. But
we were going to be bombing Syria in order to bomb Bashar al Assad and help
rebels push him out of power. Now we`re going to be bombing opposition
fighters, ISIS extremists, in order to help Bashar al Assad. So in one
year, the situation has changed 180 degrees.
MATTHEWS: So when we were right? Are we right now? Were we right then?
Is this like they used to say about the pope, he`s right, and then he
changes his mind, he`s right?
MATTHEWS: I mean, I`m just -- (INAUDIBLE) religious about my religion, but
that was an old joke. And my question to you is, if we were right to spend
all our effort at getting rid of Assad, which I never fully understand -- I
think these old Ba`athists were a pain in the butt, but they were a
predictable pain in the butt and they were local. Now we`ve got ISIS. The
danger we`ve had across the Arab street -- for years now we`ve faced this,
that the government`s always better than the street. And now we have the
street coming at us.
ENGEL: So here`s the situation. Was it right then, or was it right now?
Let`s take the first example because that`s the most pressing one. We
could be doing this in a few days. The situation is untenable. You have
militants, as Evan was saying, not just from ISIS but thousands of
incredibly dangerous people who are very well armed. They are collecting
taxes. They are imposing their own kind of sharia law. They are seizing
weapons from the Iraqi army. They took over an air base. They are a clear
and present danger to anyone, including the United States, right now.
So I can understand why --
MATTHEWS: And Assad never was.
ENGEL: -- the United States would want to attack right now.
MATTHEWS: Assad was never -- but Richard, we have to be somewhat
consistent. Assad never was a threat to the United States.
ENGEL: Then I`m going back to the other example. So a year ago, when we
were talking about bombing the Syrians, it would be to bomb the Syrians in
order to back a moderate opposition and in order to overthrow Assad.
ENGEL: We never did that. So we didn`t do one, which I understand. And
Assad was never a clear and present danger, like these militant groups are,
certainly. But once again, we`re talking about bombing. And what I`m
pointing out is we`re talking about bombing first time against Bashar and
now with Bashar. And it shows how inconsistent our look at Syria has been
as the situation changes.
MATTHEWS: But there is one thing -- there is one consistency, our national
interest. The reason we call it the Defense Department to defend our
country. And here`s an interesting column written today by Council on
Foreign Relations president Richard Haass. He said in Syria, it might be
necessary to choose the lesser evil and work with the regime of Bashar
Assad to defeat ISIS.
He writes, quote, "This would mean accepting for the foreseeable future a
regime that has committed war crimes, that is supported by Iran and Russia,
with which the West has considerable strategic differences and that is
opposed by countries, including Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has more
often than not cooperated. Such a policy change would be costly but not as
costly as a scenario in which ISIS could use Syrian territory from which to
mount attacks on the region and beyond. The Assad government may be evil,
but it is a lesser evil than ISIS, and a local one."
It reminds me -- I`ve been reading a lot about World War II again, Evan and
Richard. We all think about World War II all the time. We joined sides
with Stalin -- Stalin! -- because we thought Hitler was a more immediate
and more frightening threat to the world at that point.
KOHLMANN: Yes, I mean, look, we`re looking at Bismarckian (ph) alliances
here, and I understand the -- look, I`m not exactly a friend of the Assad
regime, and I think what they`ve done to the Syrian people has been
horrific. It`s been awful.
But I do think, at a certain point, U.S. foreign policy has to focus on
certain priorities. One of those priorities is U.S. national security.
Who is the clear and present danger?
KOHLMANN: Hezbollah is not a clear and present danger to the domestic
politics of the United States or to the homeland to the United States.
It`s not an active terrorist threat us to. Bashar al Assad certainly is
not. His air defense network is gone. He`s not even a threat to anyone in
the region right now.
So I -- look, I`m not suggesting we should back the regime of Bashar al
Assad, but I think we do have to understand right now that in terms of the
actors that are in this area of the world that are actually a threat to us,
the one that`s actually a threat to us is ISIS. There`s no doubt about
MATTHEWS: There`s no doubt.
ENGEL: Can -- can I tell you, Chris, how I think this sort of plays out?
And I`ve spoken to analysts --
MATTHEWS: Sure, Richard.
ENGEL: -- how they think this plays out. If the U.S. starts bombing
ISIS in -- in northern -- in Syria, mostly northern Syria and eastern
Syria, but across a part of -- a broad part of Syria that is out of
government`s control -- we start bombing them, what does that mean? It
means Bashar al Assad gets a pass. We are effectively helping Bashar al
Assad because we`re neutralizing an enemy force.
By the way, Bashar al Assad was very happy to have ISIS flourish in his
country for the last several months. He never attacked them because ISIS
was busy fighting other rebels. And now that they`ve become such a
ferocious threat to him and to us, he`s quite happy, it seems, to have the
United States come in and clean up a mess that he was very happy to see
foment in his country.
But aside from that, so if we start doing this, we start bombing ISIS, we
give Assad a pass. He gets to stay, but he gets to control probably a
smaller state. There will be a bombing campaign in this Waziristan area,
an area of no-man`s land in that band outside of Damascus. That is ISIS
stand (ph), if you will. And this continues for a long time. This become
a no-man`s land, a dangerous place, controlled by air strikes while Bashar
al Assad stays, is rehabilitated and gets to keep a somewhat reduced
ENGEL: That`s not a great outlook. That`s not a great --
ENGEL: -- very sustainable long-term plan.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the big picture and that`s the geopolitics. But I
think a lot of Americans are still bleeding emotionally from the sight of
what happened to James Foley and the worries about what will happen to
Steven Sotloff and the rest. We worry about our hostages. We are a very
nationalistic country in these moments, and our focus is on us.
Anyway, thank you, Richard Engel. Thank you, Evan Kohlmann, for your
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Republicans want to put an Obama bowling shirt, if
you will, on the back of every Democrat running in 2014. They`re calling
everybody who runs for the Senate or in the Senate Obama. Can people like
Mitch McConnell and Scott Brown convince voters that their opponents,
whoever they are, male or female, are really the president in some kind of
Plus, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown and others are calling for a boycott of
Burger King after the fast food giant announced it was buying a Canadian
company and relocating its headquarters up north. Critics say it`s a
gimmick to avoid paying American taxes, and it sure looks like it.
And horror at the gun range, a 9-year-old girl firing a Uzi -- that`s an
automatic rifle -- accidentally killed her instructor after she lost
control of the weapon. Wait until you see the pictures. Why was this
little girl allowed to use such a powerful weapon? And where`s the NRA
right now? Can`t you hear they`re not saying anything? I wonder why.
They must be embarrassed in their awful silence.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the smelly, stinking hamburger deal, to skip
out on the U.S. and take away all our money and our hamburger sales while
they skip off to avoid taxes.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama`s lawyers just got a little busier now
that another Republican is filing a lawsuit against the president.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is suing the Obama administration over
implementation of the Common Core education program. In a statement,
Governor Jindal says, "Common Core is the latest effort by big government
disciples to strip away states` rights and put Washington, D.C., in control
Well, Jindal also sued his own school board over the program, which he once
backed enthusiastically. Could be politics at work here.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The GOP strategy to take back the
Senate in 2014 is clear now, turn your Democratic opponent, whoever he or
she is, into President Obama. Republican Senate challengers and incumbents
alike are running to be the un-Obama this year. Will it work?
Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell told "The New York Times`s" Jonathan
Martin in Martin`s upcoming profile piece for the Sunday`s "New York Times"
magazine, quote, "`My favorite year was 1994. I took a cardboard cutout of
Bill Clinton onto the stage and defied the Democrats to come over and have
their picture taken with it.` The one local congressman who accepted
McConnell`s dare later saw the image in a TV ad for his opponent, and he
lost that fall."
Now McConnell`s turning his Democratic rival, Kentucky Secretary of State
Alison Lundergan Grimes, into a caricature of the current Democratic
president, Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: By any standard, Barack
Obama has been a disaster for our country!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MCCONNELL: That`s what you get for electing someone with no experience.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MCCONNELL: He was only two years into his first job when he started
campaigning for the next one. Sound familiar?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Pretty sarcastic. Can Republicans win in November by putting an
Obama bowling shirt, if you will, on the back of every single Democrat?
Jonathan Martin`s a political reporter, of course, for "The New York Times"
and author of this great piece coming up this weekend -- by the way,
Jonathan, I was going to call you this morning when I read it on line.
Fabulous, fabulous reporting.
JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I mean, really. It`s the kind of stuff that makes politics
actually enjoyable to read about.
Anyway, Joy Reid -- speaking of Joy (INAUDIBLE) host of the Joy "REID
Both of you on this -- let`s start with this acerbic character we just
showed a tape of. He reminds me of Crocker Jarman (ph) in that movie, "The
Candidate." He`s the old crusty guy who`s been there. He`s got all the
assets of office, but nobody really likes him.
So is he going to run almost like ISIS and Syria, that he thinks voters
will choose him as the lesser of two evils? Is that his game, Jonathan?
MARTIN: Well --
MATTHEWS: -- Obama.
MARTIN: Well, his strategy has been, basically, get the other person to
dislike -- I`m sorry -- have voters dislike the other candidate more than
they do me. But Chris, that`s not just this year. That`s been McConnell`s
MO now for 30 years, ever since he first came to the Senate. That`s how he
And if you talk to folks that know him well, they will stay candidly that`s
part of the reason why he`s not that popular at home and why he`s facing a
tough race at this point in his career because he`s never established a
positive image because he`s won with a scorched earth strategy every six
Now, McConnell would say, Yes, but I`ve won. And he told me over and over
again, I`m 8-and-0. I`m 8-and-0. I`ve never lost a race. But the way
he`s won has not been pretty, and that`s why he`s partly in the predicament
that he is in today.
But Chris, you`re right, his campaign is a one-note campaign. It`s trying
to equate his opponent with President Obama, who`s a deeply unpopular
figure in Kentucky. And her campaign is to make the race about one thing,
too, Mitch McConnell. So you`ve got two candidates competing (ph) to make
the race about something else and about somebody else.
MATTHEWS: Well, you could argue, Joy, that the only thing worse than being
do-anything Mitch McConnell is to be I-just-lost-Mitch O`Connell (sic).
MATTHEWS: And I watch -- I watched Strom Thurmond become sort of an
acceptable figure in Washington over the years, because he changed on the
issues of race a bit. But, also, he survived.
People like survivors. And at the end of November, election night, when
we`re all covering it -- you will be there -- be covering it -- we will --
if Mitch McConnell wins, he will find himself -- people will be slapping
him on the back and say, good work there, Mitch. You did it again.
If he loses, he is a loser. And I think that`s what drives that guy and a
lot of these people in politics. You win, you win. You lose, you lose.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
And the thing with Mitch McConnell, what struck me about the clip that you
played, is that he said his favorite year is `94. But the really more
appropriate analogy is 1998. And, unfortunately, for the Republican Party,
what happened in that election was that their unpopularity ended up getting
measured against Bill Clinton, and at that time, they were of course trying
to impeach Bill Clinton, which was highly unpopular.
And right now, yes, President Obama is incredibly unpopular in Kentucky.
That is in Mitch McConnell`s favor. And he`s trying to use it to his best
advantage. But partly because of the McConnell strategy, he has made it
really difficult for Republican Senate candidates to run saying that their
opponent would rubber-stamp the Obama agenda, because the Obama agenda has
been dead in the water for two years.
He hasn`t been able to pass anything major. And the last really huge piece
of legislation that Republicans used to be trying to nationalize the
election on was health care. And they have backed of that, in part because
it`s lost its saliency as a hot-button issue and in particular in Kentucky.
The Kentucky version of it actually is popular.
REID: And then the third part is, he is running against a brand, and
Alison Lundergan Grimes has a family brand which in a sense trumps any
attempt to paste Obama onto her. And she has resisted doing it, as have
most of the Southern Democrats who are actually in good shape.
I tried to get Michelle Nunn to say whether she would support health care
and she wouldn`t even tell me. Republicans -- Democrats in the South
aren`t allowing themselves to be attached to President Obama.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you are betting on her?
REID: I think that Alison Lundergan Grimes has a very good chance. I
think the only problem she is going to have is that Democrats in general
are more demoralized and are less likely to turn out, regardless of their
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think -- I think you`re being sophisticated here and I
agree with everything you said.
I think are running against Obama the face, the man.
MATTHEWS: They`re getting past -- they don`t want to talk about Obamacare,
because it is doing well in Kentucky.
Anyway -- as you pointed -- Kentucky isn`t the only Senate race, by the
way, where the GOP, the Republicans are trying to paint all of the
Democratic candidate as Obama. Look what is happening up in New Hampshire.
Scott Brown, who is actually in this race now, is tying New Hampshire
Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who is an incumbent senator, to the president he
says is pro-amnesty. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BROWN (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Folks who come here illegally, they
just walk across the border. That`s wrong.
Thanks to the pro-amnesty policy of President Obama and Senator Shaheen, we
have an immigration crisis on our hands. We respond with compassion. But
it is time for us to secure the border once and for all, and tell people
who try to come here illegally that we intend to enforce the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And this ad against Democrat Mark Pryor down in Arkansas from a
conservative group the American Crossroads mocks what they call his pro-
Obama voting record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your next word is Pryor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I have the definition please?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pryor, a Washington liberal out of touch with
Arkansas, voted for the Obama agenda 90 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I hear it in a sentence?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mark Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pryor, O-B-A-M-A.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Close enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Jonathan, what you saw in Kentucky and have reported
brilliantly on in a long piece coming up on Sunday, which I recommend
everybody who loves politics -- and a lot of progressives are going to love
this too, because it`s a well-written piece, but it does point out the dark
side of Mr. McConnell.
This metastasizing of this, just call him Obama, I`m telling you, the
reason I say this, having done this a million times, come election night
around midnight, when Rachel and the rest of us are trying to figure out
what happened, if it happens this way, everybody will say, around midnight,
if it goes the wrong way for progressives and the Democrats, it was Obama
that sunk this ship. They`re voting against Obama. We will see it in exit
polls, if it happens.
Your thoughts, if it happens.
MARTIN: Well, Chris, forget election night.
Democrats privately are already saying that. If you talk to Democratic
strategists involved in this year`s campaign, they will say that their
biggest challenge is President Obama`s unpopularity in a lot of these
states. And it is not just the deep-red state like Arkansas and Kentucky.
Places like Colorado, Iowa, the president, where he won twice, is not as
popular now as he was.
And so that is the strategy, to tie Democratic candidates to the president.
But to Joy`s point, though, the Republicans have more of a challenge this
time than four years ago, in 2010, because there is dissatisfaction with
the president, but there`s not this urgency by conservatives and by
independents to stop him and stop Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
There`s more of a, I think, Obama fatigue, as one person put it to me
MATTHEWS: I agree.
MARTIN: It`s less anger and more fatigue. And so you don`t see this sort
of boiling 2010-style anger this year.
MARTIN: And that could be the -- the challenge for Republicans is, yes,
people are a little bit unhappy with Obama, but they are not furious and
dying to go to the polls yet.
MATTHEWS: By the way, Joy, I don`t want to agree with you, because you`re
right on this. The impeachment drive, which seems like such overkill -- it
should have been a little censure vote of some kind, at the worst, if
anything. Probably just a censure vote would have done the job.
Because they went to try to knock him out of office, it sort of wound up
the Energizer Bunny.
MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, Bill Clinton is back to 1992.
MATTHEWS: He like picked up eight years. Hey, wow, I`m a kid again. I
can do this one.
And he is always good at that.
REID: Well --
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid. Thank you.
REID: No worries.
MATTHEWS: See you tomorrow on your show. Thank you, Jonathan.
MARTIN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You get a whole hour.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, when Joe met Lucy. The vice president turns on
the charm, as he often can, with the oldest woman veteran in the country.
I think she`s 114 or something, something like that. And he makes quite a
picture with this. You have got to watch this coming up.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and time now for the "Sideshow."
Remember that video montage we showed you of how President Barack Obama has
aged in office, the amount of gray hair he has accumulated?
Well, now David Letterman has got a suggestion for the president. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I think the
president`s hair is actually turning a little gray. But, luckily, there`s
some good news here. Here, take a look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Are you going gray and also leading the free world?
Make an executive decision to try new Just for Men Who Are President --
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: -- the only hair coloring system pH-balanced to
handle the symptoms of the most stressful job in the world.
And you`re just a heartbeat away from tranquility with New Just for Men Who
Are Vice President bubble bath foam, sold exclusively in the U.S. Capitol
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That looked real.
Anyway, next up, the oldest living woman to serve in World War II had one
wish; 108-year-old Lucy Coffey wanted one last trip to Washington, D.C.,
and it was a visit to remember. Let`s watch what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How are you? I got a
younger friend. But when he found out I was going to be seeing you, he
asked if he could come down and see you.
Well, here -- here is my buddy that -- that wanted to say hello.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.
BIDEN: Say hello to Lucy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s nice to meet you.
LUCY COFFEY, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Thank you.
OBAMA: You`re welcome.
BIDEN: It reminds me, every time I had a good-looking date, there would be
some better-looking guy coming along.
BIDEN: You know what I mean?
BIDEN: Yes, I`m vice president, and the president comes in and everybody
drops everything. You know what I mean?
BIDEN: And I`m -- but I`m the guy that loves you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It seems as though the vice president was making everyone`s day.
He also tweeted a note of congratulations to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won
an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her
starring role in "Veep."
Biden wrote: "A fellow veep with a great sense of humor and a good friend."
Isn`t this what presidents are supposed to be doing?
Anyway, up next, if they have it their way, Burger King will grab a big tax
break for moving its headquarters to Canada. It`s leaving a big smell
And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Richard Lui. Here`s what`s
U.S. forces conducted three airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq. The
targets included a Humvee, a supply truck, armored vehicles and a building.
Israel`s prime minister declaring victory earlier in a news conference on
the open-ended cease-fire with Hamas. The militant group has also claimed
And here in the U.S., Hurricane Marie remaining far from shore, but its
effects are being felt along the California coast. Rough surf closed two
terminals at the Port of Long Beach. At least one person has died -- back
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The news of the merger between fast-food giant Burger King and Canadian
doughnut chain Tim Hortons has got people angry this week. When completed,
Burger King, a company based out of Miami, will buy Tim Hortons and
relocate its corporate address, hmm, to Canada, thereby avoiding corporate
taxes here and paying a much lower rate up across the border.
It`s a strategy known as corporate inversion. It`s when a U.S. company
acquires a foreign-based company in order to relocate abroad, reduce its
tax burden, and thereby boost its profits. It is a tax-avoidance tactic
that President Obama himself has spoken out against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you`re doing business here, if you`re basically still an
American company, but you`re simply changing your mailing address in order
to avoid paying taxes, then you`re really not doing right by the country
and by the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s saying it.
Burger King denies -- of course it would -- that lower corporate taxes are
the real motive for the deal.
Joining me right now is David Corn of "Mother Jones," who is also an MSNBC
political analyst. And we also have former Mayor of San Francisco Willie
Mayor Brown, your thoughts on this, this stinking idea to sneak out of the
United States, sell all the hamburgers you can here, and skip your
responsibilities to the American people.
WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: You know, Chris, we have
got to watch ourselves on this one, we have, because there are some
weaknesses in my and your outrage.
I absolutely believe that the tax code needs to be changed so as to avoid
any possibility that this could occur. In this case, however, this is a
Brazilian company. That`s what Burger King is. Several years ago, some
cats from Brazil bought Burger King. And the company in Canada is all
about a merger, but the home court advantage goes to them, because the
merger won`t get approved.
So there are some weaknesses. But we all should be concerned enough to
change the tax code, so we can eliminate this possibility. And the
president ought to lead us on it.
MATTHEWS: Well, it doesn`t excite me that some shyster comes up with the
idea of how to beat a tax law. And I don`t say, oh, boy, congratulations,
you found out a way to skip town without paying any taxes, because when
everybody like me who -- I`m going to talk about this at the end of the
show. I`m a hamburger fan.
I like Burger King. I think it`s the best hamburger there is.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Five Guys is better, but go ahead.
MATTHEWS: They are big. They`re bigger, more expensive.
But hamburger -- you go, and it takes like a hamburger they made outside,
you grilled outside. It doesn`t have all that crap on it people will put
on some of the other brands because it tastes so bad. It`s really a good
product. And now they`re skipping out on their taxes.
CORN: Well, it`s part of a bigger issue too.
Burger King is -- whether they`re doing this for taxation purposes or not -
- they claim not -- a lot of business analysts say or business writers say
that they are getting tax advantages out of this. But it is part of a
MATTHEWS: Who is denying they are getting a break here? They all know
they`re getting a break.
CORN: But the whole inversion issue, which it`s going to cost the U.S.
taxpayers up to $20 billion over the next 10 years. And that`s even part
of a larger trend with corporations, including McDonald`s, Microsoft,
MATTHEWS: They`re all moving out?
CORN: No. They are not moving out.
What they have done is they have set up overseas subsidiaries to keep their
MATTHEWS: I`m just talking about the money they make here.
Let me tell you, doing what they are doing now is making them equivalent to
like Toyota or some other country that gets a tax break by not being
CORN: But the thing is we -- the conservatives love the Citizens United
decision, which says corporations are people, but you and I, Chris, we
can`t decide that we`re going to be based Liechtenstein or buy another
person there to put our tax burdens offshore.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean corporations aren`t people too?
CORN: No, they`re not, but they are getting the breaks.
CORN: And it is a big issue. And I don`t -- the president`s right to be
MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown, let me ask you about the role being played by
Warren Buffett here. Buffett has rather grandly, if you might,
condescendingly say, with all his billions of dollars, I`m willing to pay a
Now it turns out he is underwriting this whole shift of Burger King up to
Canada to avoid paying taxes. Which is he? Is he for lower -- is he for
more progressive taxes of the wealthy or is he for finding ways to get out
of paying taxes, hmm?
BROWN: Well, I have got to believe that he will have to answer that
question frankly himself, because you can`t on one end say, I pay more than
my secretary and on the other hand avoid the possibility of every decision
that has been made on sharing the tax burden with corporations and with
people, and now you`re figuring out a way not to share that burden.
So Warren Buffett has got to explain that. And he should explain it and
anyone else involved should explain it. But keep in mind, Warren Buffett
has been in partnership on other deals with these particular people who own
Burger King. So this is not new for him. This is one that`s been ongoing.
MATTHEWS: You know, back when my dad and I talked politics when he was
alive, he was a moderate Republican, Mayor, and he used to say the thing
they didn`t like about Republicans, they are in bed with big corporations.
It was back during the G.E. price-fixing days, remember? And he said,
those guys betrayed American free enterprise.
And I think this is one of those cases, don`t you, where if you are a
conservative, you should be angry still at these guys and say, look, we
claim that free enterprise is part of our American culture. Then, we find
out what it means is tax avoidance. Just gimmickry.
BROWN: Totally. But let me tell you, as one who has gone through this,
just with relocating and another state. The state of California, currently
and in the last 10 or 15 years have had people threatening to move out of
California because of our taxes, threatening to move out of California
because of our regulation, threatening to move out of California because of
all of the things we require corporations to do about protecting the
environment. We understand that. And it`s a job-costing activity.
But, keep in mind, there ought to be an opportunity for dialogue around all
of these issues in the same simple way and a consensus built out of that
MATTHEWS: OK, let me find one distinction there. The American people
support our military that defends this country. The country is defended
also including its hamburger joints are defended by our military, if you
will. And they say, oh, we`re not going to pay for that, we`re not going
to pay for freedom of everything we have in this country.
You know, we used to call these guys pigs back in the `60s. They only
liked America because it was a good place to make money. And here, we have
a place they make money. But they don`t want to pay tax anyway.
There`s been some (INAUDIBLE) in the court of public opinion, as you might
guess, over the merger. Daniel Gross, the global finance editor of "The
Daily Beast" wrote scathingly of the deal yesterday saying, quote,
"Patriotism may be the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson put
it, but a lack of it may be the last refuge of corporate executives who
have run out of ideas on how to improve their business."
And Senator Sherrod Brown, one of my favorites, of Ohio, was specially
critical, saying in a press release Monday, that`s this week, "Burger
King`s decision to abandon the United States means consumers should turn to
Wendy`s Old-Fashioned Burgers or even White Castle sliders. To help
business grow in America, taxpayers have funded public infrastructure,
workplace training and incentives to encourage R&D and capital investment.
Runaway corporations benefited from those policies, but want U.S. companies
to pay their share of the tab." Well said, Sherrod.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There is legislation pending in
Congress to limit inversions and also to deal with --
MATTHEWS: Why would the Republicans defense this?
CORN: Well, you know why --
MATTHEWS: "The Wall Street Journal" lead editorial today came out against
CORN: You know why, because they are in the pockets of the people --
MATTHEWS: Didn`t mean (ph) "The Wall Street Journal" assiduously, because
the lead editorial today surprisingly attacked this tax scheme.
CORN: Yes. Well, they can do that but at the same time, "The Wall Street
Journal" and others have been bad about the $2 trillion that the American
corporations have on the shelves in the aisle of Jersey and elsewhere.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
Mayor Brown, thanks so much. Just a little too much nuance tonight, sir.
I like the straight ahead attack approach you usually take. Thank you.
With all due respect, thank you, sir.
Thank you, David Corn. I wanted to see a little more anger from you.
You`re not a `60s guy.
CORN: No, I`m not going to Burger King, OK? There you got it.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a deadly shooting at a gun range. This is too sad to
even still be laughing.
A 9-year-old handed an automatic weapon, an Uzi. What were these people
thinking? And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: The jury may begin deliberations as soon as Friday in that
corruption Friday of Bob McDonnell. The former Virginia`s governor defense
team rested their case early today. In his wife defense questioned their
final witness this afternoon. The jury heard from McDonnell`s daughter who
said her mother had, quote, "|a mild obsession" with businessman Jonnie
William. Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This next story as I said is simply awful, with video to amplify the horror
here. Here is what happened. A 9-year-old girl was at a firing range with
an instructor. She was firing a fully automatic Uzi, at first on single
shot mode then automatic mode. The weapon recoiled, the 9-year-old lost
control and the instructor was killed.
In the video you`re about to see, she looks like every bit a child from her
pink shorts to her ponytail. Watch closely at the end to see how the gun
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INSTRUCTOR: We have to keep that held in. Otherwise the gun won`t fire,
OK? Stand right there.
There you go. Just like that. OK, turn this leg forward. There you go.
Just like that.
All right. Go ahead and give me one shot.
INSTRUCTOR: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, the instructor died Monday night after being airlifted to a Las Vegas
area hospital. One can only imagine the horror experienced by the young
girl herself, her family and the family and friends of the instructor. But
the instructor died nearly 48 hours ago and there still no word from the
National Rifle Association.
We saw a comment from the NRA, public affairs director today but have
gotten no replay.
Joining me now is Paul Helmke, the former president of the Brady Campaign
and a gun control advocate. And Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand
Action for Gun Sense in America.
What are your reactions, first of all, Shannon, to what just happened there
and the picture we just showed?
SHANNON WATTS, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE: Well, this is a tragedy.
You know, there are two victims here. Not just the man who was killed but
this poor girl who was given an automatic weapon, when that never should
Guns are not accessories. They`re not toys. And we hope this will start a
national discussion. It would be great if the NRA would join in and say,
it is time to protect children from guns. Two children are shot and killed
in this country unintentionally every single week. And two thirds of those
deaths could be prevented by safe storage.
Let`s use this as a launching board to say, in her honor, to say, let`s
protect children from guns and let`s talk about how we can do that
MATTHEWS: Paul, I thought that we didn`t have automatic weapons available
to people. I thought they`ve been outlawed since the `30s and the Machine
Gun Kelly days.
PAUL HELMKE, FORMER PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN: Well, that`s a
misconception, Chris. Actually, they are available. They`re just tightly
regulated. You are allowed to buy a fully automatic weapon, you just have
to go through certain taxes and certain checks.
One of the things that`s really amazing to me is that a 9-year-old girl
would have access to these. She wouldn`t be able to buy one, when she
wouldn`t be able to possess one, but we don`t have regulations on shooting
ranges. And, you know, one to two people are killed accidentally with a
gun every day, we need some regulations on these guns and these shooting
MATTHEWS: Shannon, what`s it like to hold an automatic Uzi, that`s firing
bullets every second or so, holding it in your hands? Is it like holding a
fire hose, something, is there a real kick to it?
WATTS: Well, as you can see, I mean, the recoil -- this girl was very
small. And so, for her to be given this weapon and to think that it can
somehow be used safely is asinine frankly. And even conservative
commentator Charles Cook with "The National Review" said, this is a bad
idea, I think we can all come together and agree that children should not
have access to automatic weapons.
But again, let`s have a larger discussion about children and guns in this
country. With rights, come responsibility. So, it`s our obligation as
adults to take the onus for safety, not our children.
MATTHEWS: Well, the NRA used to say. I don`t know if they still do it,
that guns don`t kill people, people do. But in this case, the gun did it,
Paul. That gun was out of control, that young person holding the gun
couldn`t control the gun. She wasn`t aiming it at the instructor,
obviously. She was trying to keep control of it physically.
The gun did it. And how that gun got in her hands is the question of
control and gun safety. How it got in her hand.
HELMKE: The gun did it. We need to regulate this. We can`t keep having
this conversation, this position from the NRA, that you can`t do anything
When I was mayor of Fort Wayne, I went to the range, I shot a fully
automatic weapon. It has a huge recoil. There`s no way a 9-year-old
should be having these kind of weapons. I learned how to shoot a .22 in
sixth grade. I went to the firing range. They should not have brought a
weapon like this to a young person --
MATTHEWS: Where`s the NRA? Can they just go silent on this? I mean,
seriously, they have not said a word. We`ve checked it out. When the
producers called up the office of public affairs, we did all the right way
-- nada, silencia.
HELMKE: This is their strategy -- after any shooting, after any high
profile incident, they are going to keep their mouth shut, and they`re
going to count on the American people and the news media to move on to
something else and the next day and the next week, and then the discussion
will be gone.
That is their strategy. They did it after Sandy Hook. They did it after
Tucson. They did it after Virginia Tech.
They do it every time, because they don`t want to have a serious
conversation about what we can do to stop gun violence in this country.
MATTHEWS: Shannon, what do you make of the no comment from the NRA?
WATTS: Well, you know, they`re out of step, even with their own members --
74 percent of whom support things like background checks. They`re out of
step with the American public. It is time for NRA to realize, their
leaders to realize that Americans believe that with rights come
responsibilities, and, you know, we`re not turning back on this, and
they`re going to have to come to the middle and have discussions with us,
and this would be the perfect opportunity to start that conversation.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t believe everybody`s guilty who has a different
opinion than I do. I don`t believe people are sinful or illegal, but I do
think that people are members of the NRA, do have a unique ability because
they`re members and gun owners to call up the head of the NRA or write a
letter, or tweet or whatever the hell you got a way to communicate, and a
send a message -- a little restriction for common sense would not be the
enemy of the gun owner. It would be the friend of the gun owner. A little
bit of restraint for common sense.
And, Paul, do we ever see that anymore? Because I think years ago, I
thought there was more restraint by the NRA than there is now. Your
HELMKE: Well, the NRA used to be all about gun safety, about educating
people. I got my NRA marksmanship badge again when I was in grade school,
my pro marksmanship badge. But then they became political and they are
afraid to concede on any issue, but the only time, they`ll sometimes focus
on mental health issues, like they did after Virginia Tech.
But basically, they want to take an extreme position. They don`t want to
have any compromise, and they need to hear from their members, and they
need to hear from the elected officials who say, come on. You know, this
is not about gun rights any more, this is not about the Second Amendment,
we can have some common sense restrictions, you can still have your guns
but 9-year-olds should not be getting their hands on Uzis. This makes no
sense at all.
MATTHEWS: I have a message to Paul and Shannon, this is the slippery
slope, what we`re watching. This is where you get all the way with gun
rights. All the way is what it looks like. Take a look at that girl.
That`s a slippery slope to hell.
Thank you, Paul Helmke. Thank you, Shannon Watts.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this hamburgers thing.
Experience tells me you just can`t get a good hamburger outside the United
States, certainly not one made by a foreign company. Maybe it`s because
they`re too cheap with the meat, the god meat, too ready to fill the thing
with something else.
Anyway, I love Burger King. It`s my favorite. It tastes like it`s been
grilled out back on a barbeque. They taste great plain because the meat is
great. They don`t have to bury it with a lot of mustard ketchup and
pickles so you can`t taste the burger.
So, when you order one plain, they don`t go nuts like they do at some other
fast food places, like nobody`s ever dared to do that before.
Anyway, let`s get this straight -- I love Burger King. I gave a speech a
long time ago to a group of franchisees who was out in Vegas, 1,500 of
them. I said to stick to burgers, no waffles or pizzas or tamales. Just
sell the burger, don`t go changing it or confusing the customer. You`re a
burger joint, be proud of it.
I wasn`t flying blind here. I knew what the corporate strategy was back
then, back to basics -- you know, dance with the one that brung you.
Just like in politics, I gave the example of two very attractive
politicians. One a Democrat, who became a Republican. That was John
Connally of Texas. The other, a Republican who became a Democrat. That
was John Lindsey of New York.
Both were ambitious, both wanted to be president, neither got anywhere
close to president. People don`t like people who switch parties after
getting elected. Again, dance with the one that brung you.
So, now, we`re hearing that Burger King is going to move its top corporate
address to Canada. If this is a scam to avoid taxes -- fine, good-bye.
Take your chances up in Canada. If we Americans see you do it, however, I
think millions of us will say good-bye with our money.
By the way, it will still be true, if you want a good hamburger, buy an
That`s HARDBALL for now, it really is. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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