updated 9/16/2014 12:07:57 PM ET 2014-09-16T16:07:57

HARDBALL
September 15, 2014

Guest: Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Ron Johnson, Shaunna Thomas, Michael McCann,
Shaunna Thomas, Clarence Page, Jonathan Martin, Jonathan Martin, Clarence
Page, Allison Janney, Melissa Fitzgerald, Nick Stefanovic

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Conflict.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with what`s on all of our minds right now, this
wild, angry push for war, another one in the land of Islam. Here we go
again, going in with all the field marshals of the op-ed pages urging us
on, all the tongues wagging, demanding that the United States get itself
right back in the middle of the latest outrage from Mesopotamia -- I`m
sorry, for Mesopotamia and the Levant, or ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic
State, or whatever we`re calling what`s been taken from Syria and Iraq
today and is being held by the beheaders.

So we go in with our planes bombing. It`s not exactly shock and awe.
And not a single Arab country is saying publicly it will be with us,
certainly not in the air over Syria. And the United States not even daring
to ask them, the Arabs, to do the dirty work on the ground.

And yes, the bombs will work. People will die. There will be
pictures in the world press of mothers holding babies and the wounded in
hospital beds, and there will be an outcry against us. And the young of
the Islamic and Arab world will begin slowly to choose sides with their
people, who they really don`t like but will quietly cheer as they stand up
to the great United States.

And while I see it all happening again, see us getting drawn in again
into the quicksand of Arabia, see us being blamed and hated, I recall again
the feeling of anger I myself felt when I saw those two brave Americans
face their executioners in the desert. And I want to hit the enemy so
hard, they`ll wish they`d never even dared humiliate us this way.

So I understand President Obama`s resistance to the bugles of war, to
those who yell "Charge" from the comfort and safety of their word
processors, their cubicles in the Heritage Foundation or the American
Enterprise Institute, or whatever lillypad available to people with the
time and the complacence to pine for wars that others must fight.

And this much I know. As Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York recently
wrote, "The number one cause of World War II was World War I." And just as
assuredly, the war we`re about to fight will lead not to peace but to
another war. It happened when we ignited al Qaeda by putting tens of
thousands of American troops into the holy land of Saudi Arabia, thereby
desecrating Islam`s holiest sites. It happened when we banished the Sunnis
from leadership in Iraq, kicking their generals and other officers to the
curb, only to have them rise up and join ISIS.

Nothing is easier than to join with enthusiasm into the latest war,
and nothing is harder than to think of how to avoid starting the next one.
But that`s what presidents are for, and what I believe I know this one is
trying mightily to do, amid all the cries for blood and a far scarier
entanglement in the endless wars of the Mideast.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia joins me now. He`s on the Armed
Services Committee. Senator Manchin, I know you must feel this conflict
between the visceral want (ph) to get even with what they did to our guys
and are probably going to do to more of our guys and the quicksand we walk
right back into when he get into another war. I don`t want to speak for
you. Your thoughts.

SEN. JOHN MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Chris, I agree. Everything
you`ve said, I agree with. The bottom line is, is that I come from West
Virginia, and you hit us and embarrass us the way you have and attack our
people, we`re going to come after you. And that`s exactly -- we all feel
that right now in my state of West Virginia and all over this country, the
barbaric actions they`ve taken against Americans and other Westerners.

But here`s the facts, Chris. We have spent eight years training a
280,000-person army in Iraq at a cost of $20 billion. And we see what we
got for that investment.

With that being said, what makes you think this will be any different?
How do we choose who the friendlies are? How do we know that they won`t be
turned against us? How do we know, since they`re all really in there
trying to fight against Assad and there`s hundreds of different factions of
groups fighting the Assad regime, if you will, and ISIS would say, Hey, why
don`t you join with us, and we`ll fight Assad for you and with you?

There`s no guarantee whatsoever. It makes no sense to me that if we
haven`t learned anything, we`ve learned that until those people are
willing, the people that live in that region, the Arab world -- that should
be a ground war for them. They should basically take back their homeland.
They should clean up the mess that they have over there, the atrocities
that are being committed.

We, as the United States of America, have said and should simply say
this. We will use our air power, our tactical power, our technicians,
everything possible that we can to rid of that horrible evil, but it`s
going to have to be a ground assault by the people that live there, not by
American troops coming back in.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the problem. We`ve got some new poll numbers,
Senator. If you want to know just how confounding this problem is with
ISIS, if you will, take a look at this new poll from NBC and "The Wall
Street Journal." Sixty-two percent of Americans say they support the
president`s plan to take action against ISIS. That`s nearly two thirds who
want to attack ISIS by air, by us doing it. But at the same time, 68
percent of Americans also said they have little confidence the plan will
work. That`s more than two thirds -- more than two thirds who don`t think
attacking ISIS, which they support, will do any good. Talk about a
confounding situation!

MANCHIN: Well, in West Virginia, we understand the definition of
insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different
result. And that`s exactly what we seem to be doing here. Think of all
the blood and treasure that we`ve spent. If money or military might would
change that part of the world, we`d have done it by now, Chris, and it
hasn`t happened.

To think now that we`re supposed to be sucked back in -- we`ve got
what, close to 1,600 or 1,700 troops, our people in uniform over there. I
understand that we need to support and basically protect our embassy there
in Baghdad, the airport there that we need strategically. But basically,
moving out now and trying to fight this war for them -- and make no mistake
about it, if we get an American killed, if we get an atrocity such as what
we`ve seen on TV happen to an American soldier, we`ll send 170,000, if we
had to, to protect them.

We will get pulled into this thing one way or another, and it`s
ridiculous for us to put ourself in that type of harm`s way right now. Hit
them as hard as you can. I agree with the air strikes. I support the
president. I thought he gave a good speech. I respectfully disagree --
disagree spending $500 million trying to arm and find out who the
friendlies that we can trust or count on.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s someone who disagrees with you. On Fox this
weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina...

MANCHIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... took issue with the White House laying down a red line,
as he put it, about no combat troops or boots on the ground, the way it`s
said now. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We`re fighting a terrorist
army, not an organization. It`s going to take an army to beat an army.
And this idea we`ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in
Syria is fantasy.

To destroy ISIL -- what I was told, or what I heard in your interview,
won`t even come close to destroy ISIL. It`s delusional in the way they
approach this!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the senator, who I do respect, although I
often disagree with him -- I mean, Lindsey Graham there saying we got to --
he`s basically saying we can`t avoid bringing a combat force into Syria,
not just to Iraq.

MANCHIN: Well, I would just say to that -- I mean, Lindsey`s a dear
friend of mine and I respect him, and he really -- he works at this very
hard and he is serving in the military, still does serve in the reserves.
But with all that being said -- I thank for him his services -- I just
disagree.

If he believes that, basically, now we can do it, we can train people
and they`re going to have a different result -- we can go in there with
boots on the ground and we`ll have a different result, why didn`t we have
it before?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MANCHIN: Al Qaeda`s still out there. Have we forgotten about al
Qaeda? Have we forgotten about all the terrorist groups that want to do us
harm? They`re still there. And if ISIS -- there`ll be something else, and
it continues over there.

And the bottom line is, until the moderate people, the moderates in
that part of the world that want to clean up their neighborhoods, they want
to clean up their borders -- until they`re willing to fight and die for
their own country, for the freedoms and the quality of life they want, we
cannot go over there and do it for them. We`ve tried. We`ve given it our
all.

And the bottom line is, we`re not going to let them come here. We`re
going to hit them wherever they may be with our air strikes and all of our
special -- special ops, as we have, but going back in -- here`s the thing.
We`re going to give -- we`re going to have no choice at all. They`re going
to give us a CR with this vote in the CR. That`s wrong, Chris. We should
not. Those should be separated. They should not be put together. And
that doesn`t -- that CR we have until...

MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have -- should your body, the United
States Senate, vote on whether we continue these air strikes?

MANCHIN: Absolutely. We should be voting on the air strikes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MANCHIN: I think he`ll get total support for that.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MANCHIN: And then you know what? Vote on the ground. If you were to
vote on ground support, knowing that we`re going to be in there -- vote on
the training. Vote on the $500 million of trying to pick who the
friendlies are. Vote on that one, too.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MANCHIN: Don`t put them all together and say, Well, you know, Joe, if
you vote against the CR, you`re voting to shut the government down. I`m
not voting for that. I`ll stay here until the end of September and I`ll do
my job, but we`ll separate the two. And it`s worthy of that. It`s that
important for the United States of America.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Senator Joe Manchin...

MANCHIN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... of West Virginia. And joining me right now is Senator
Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin.

Senator Johnson, I don`t know if you`ve been watching this, but where
do you stand on the air strikes? Where do you stand on boots on the
ground, on special ops? What do you -- and I`m talking about Syria,
obviously, here as well as Iraq, sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, I was listening to you
earlier, Chris, and let me tell you, I`m in no rush for war. There`s no
blood lust in my heart. I`m just trying to recognize the reality of the
situation. And understand that I take my responsibilities as a United
States senator very seriously, first and foremost to protect Americans.

And if you look at the reality of the situation -- I was asking Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State Bret McGurk in a Foreign Relations Committee
hearing to describe the threat that ISIS poses to America. He did a pretty
good job. He said, Listen, ISIS is funneling 30 to 50 suicide bombers into
Iraq per month. They`re recruiting off the Internet, very effectively.

That same week that he testified, there was an Australian and a German
suicide bomber set themselves off in Baghdad. We`ve seen the first
American suicide bomber in Syria, traveled back to Florida before he blew
up himself back up -- you know, returned to Syria and blew himself up in
Syria in May.

And so what Mr. McGurk was talking about is ISIS can easily funnel
those 30 to 50 suicide bombers back into the West, back into America. And
so that`s a threat.

I agree with the president that we face a threat. And now we have to
take a look at, you know, what is the stated objective? What`s the goal?
And is President Obama putting together a strategy to achieve that goal?
And I`ve got some real serious concerns across the board. I need more
information. But again, there`s no blood lust or rush to war from my
standpoint.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about...

JOHNSON: I take the responsibility very seriously.

MATTHEWS: ... strategy. What would -- if attacking ISIS led to the
first beheadings, and I assume, if you say they`re going to send some
people over here, if you have intelligence to that effect, we`ll hit them
even harder over there. Let`s face it, they will -- there will be
reactions and reactions back and forth.

Where does -- how do we end it? I mean, certainly, they can hit us
here with suicide bombings. No one can ever stop a suicide bomb. Even the
Israelis can`t do it. They continue with that -- if they do that, that
would be to ignite our further military attack on them in Syria, wouldn`t
it? Wouldn`t that be the purpose of it? Why else would they hit us here,
except to get us to hit them back?

JOHNSON: Chris, one of my concerns is if we don`t destroy them -- if
-- it`s like...

MATTHEWS: How do we do that?

JOHNSON: It`s like having a hornets` nest in your back yard,
recognize...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

JOHNSON: ... Hey, that`s a danger to my kids. I got to get rid of
it. But instead, what we`re going to do is poke them with a stick for
three years.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m asking about!

JOHNSON: That -- that concerns me.

MATTHEWS: That`s what bugs me. That...

JOHNSON: That concerns me.

MATTHEWS: So what do we do to kill the nest?

JOHNSON: Well, you have to be realistic. So President Obama`s
already got us into that war. Now -- but tell you what. It`s not his
fault, though. These are evil, despicable -- they`re just -- and you can`t
imagine what they`re doing to people.

You know, we sanitize the situation. We talk about the fact they
enslave women. The fighters who took over Mosul dam found two women bound,
naked. They had been repeatedly raped, OK? That is a spoil of war. So
these are barbarians. I don`t see how you contain them, how you can
negotiate with them. And when they represent a threat -- and I agree with
the president they represent a to Americans and America, you`ve got to deal
with that situation. So I don`t disagree with what President Obama`s
trying to do here. In terms of...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: ... getting a coalition of the willing -- go ahead.

MATTHEWS: OK. I don`t want to interrupt you, but should we vote?
Should the United States Senate vote on the air attack, the part you
support?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. We should have a robust discussion, debate. We
need a lot more information. We need to be realistic. We got to be
forthright to the American public. And that`s right now my concern about
President Obama`s...

MATTHEWS: My view about voting. Let`s vote.

JOHNSON: ... speech. We`ve got to have a debate on this thing. And
President Obama and Congress has got to be honest with the American public.
If the objective is to destroy ISIS, I don`t think we have a strategy in
place that`ll accomplish that goal. And again, I`m just concerned about
poking that hornet`s nest with a stick for three years.

MATTHEWS: By the way, the public agrees with you. Two thirds of our
poll, an NBC/"Wall Street Journal," says they roughly support the president
with his air campaign, et cetera, et cetera, and training the Free Syrian
Army, but they don`t think it`ll going to work. And that is one heck of a
conflict. Why support something you can`t -- you don`t believe is going to
work? Anyway, it`s a conflict we`re all involved in, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: ... robust debate. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Please come on again, Senator Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin.

Coming up: The NFL has a big problem, and so far, it`s not going away
at all, especially among women, who are speaking out. What`s the league
going to do to get tough on players who commit violence against women?
Sportscaster Hannah Storm asked that question on a lot of people`s minds
right now. What exactly does the NFL stand for?

Plus, look who`s back in Iowa for what`s being called the unofficial
kickoff of the 2016 presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Hello, Iowa!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I`m back!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Just ask yourself, if she`s not running for president, what
is she doing there? Obviously, Hillary Clinton in Iowa -- she looks like
she`s running.

And the award-winning actress Allison Janney joins us, sits right here
tonight, one of the stars of "The West Wing." She`ll join us tonight to
talk about what she`s doing to help America`s veterans with their drug
problems.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with political reality for Democrats in 2016.
I think we just saw a piece of it. In fact, we saw the big piece.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got some sharp new polls to show how close this
battle for the Senate is going to be. Let`s check the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard."

First to Colorado, where incumbent Democrat Mark Udall holds a 4-point
lead over Republican challenger Cory Gardner among likely voters in a new
"Denver Post" poll. Udall 46, Gardner 42, and that`s in keeping with the
last several recent polls of that race. Looks good for Udall.

Next to Iowa. Too tight -- this one`s really tight. Democrat Bruce
Braley has a 1-point lead over Republican Joni Ernst, the castrator, among
likely voters in a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, Braley 49, Ernst 48. How
tight can it get?

In New Hampshire, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Republican challenger
Scott Brown again back to 48 apiece, totally tied up among likely voters.
Look at that! Four haven`t decided -- 4 percent. That`s according to a
new CNN/Opinion Research poll, as well.

And finally, to North Carolina, another close one, Elon College, and
that poll shows Senator Kay Hagen up by 4 over Republican Thom Tillis among
likely voters. It`s Hagen 45-41, and that`s about the bet I make right
there, just about 4 points. It`s that close, but she`d probably win if it
was held today. But it won`t be held today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the storm continues to
build, actually, around NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. While the Ray Rice
saga continues to generate headlines, the league`s now facing multiple
incidents connected to child abuse, as well as domestic violence. In some
cases, the players involved, however, are headed right back into the line-
up that Sunday.

The anger and frustration from columnists, analysts and especially
women`s groups has fallen squarely on commissioner Roger Goodell, as I
said. And one activist group called Ultraviolet is even flying banners
over stadiums which read, "Goodell must go." There`s one.

Yesterday, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm recounted in passionate terms a
discussion with her daughter about the league`s handling of these kinds of
incidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNAH STORM, ESPN: I spent this weekend answering seemingly
questions about the league`s biggest stars. Mom, why did he do that? Why
isn`t he in jail? Why didn`t he get fired? And yesterday, Why don`t they
even have control of their own players?

Our fans and our families -- are we as parents supposed to
compartmentalize everything that`s happening? Are we supposed to simply
separate a violent game on the field from violent acts off the field? And
if we do, what message does that send?

In the NFL, apparently, seeing is believing. If the NFL and the
Ravens had to see that video to be moved to significant action, then
shouldn`t those who support the league demand the same, to see action, to
see change before believing, as we all wait on the answer to this central
question, what exactly does the NFL stand for?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Michael McCann is a writer with "Sports Illustrated."
He`s also a sports attorney. And Shaunna Thomas is the co-founder of the
women`s rights group UltraViolet, which I just mentioned.

I have got to start with you, Shaunna. And what do you make? That
was an emotional -- really emotional comment there by Hannah Storm.

SHAUNNA THOMAS, ULTRAVIOLET: It was.

And I think it`s pretty reflective of the way a lot of people in this
country feel about the NFL`s handling of this case around Ray Rice since
the beginning. And it`s one of the central reasons why we`re asking for
Roger Goodell to resign. What we knew a couple weeks ago was that Ray Rice
had done -- had committed some sort of violent action against his partner.

What we came to understand just a few days ago was that Roger Goodell
not only got a verbal confirmation, right, an admission from Ray Rice, but
also probably had in his possession this video. I mean, this -- it`s
outrageous that the NFL...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don`t know that for a fact, though, do you, about the
video we have all gotten to see in the last week or so? He had the other
video where he`s dragging his girl -- his fiancee out of the elevator.

THOMAS: We don`t know for sure that he watched the video. What we do
know for sure is that the NFL at some point was in possession...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Somebody had it. Yes.

Let me go to Michael McCann.

This whole question about -- to me, it`s institutional politics. The
Roman Catholic Church, its instinct when the altar boys were being molested
by their priests, protect the priests. Penn State, protect Sandusky,
protect JoPo, protect the university.

The instinct isn`t -- well, just be blunt about it. The instinct is
rarely to help the little guy or to help the woman in this case, the
victim. That`s not the instinct. It`s to protect the institution first
time around.

MICHAEL MCCANN, LEGAL ANALYST, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Yes, Chris, I
think there`s certainly evidence of that, where we look at, like you
mentioned earlier on in the summer, why was Ray Rice only suspended two
games? Even if the elevator video didn`t exist, the hallway video itself
was horrible.

And that fact that the commissioner had broad latitude, even at that
moment, forget the other video and whether the league had it, we can
exclude that and still criticize the commissioner for only suspending him
two games. And I think there is something to be said for protecting the
shield, as is said in the NFL, where the owners maybe are focused on their
financial interest.

But that -- that strategy doesn`t always work, especially in a context
like this, where there`s real criticism coming down at the league.

MATTHEWS: This goes on at universities. I don`t want to name them,
because they`re going to get mad at me again, because I mentioned them
already, schools that have had had a problem, where they protect accused
rapists, you know, because they need them in their program the next year.

THOMAS: It happens all the time.

In fact, when I was at school at the University of Colorado, it was
happening. It`s -- it`s, look, one of the central things that we know to
be true. And if there`s anything good that can come out of the situation,
it`s this, is that we understand that sexual assault, domestic violence is
not an NFL problem specifically, although it`s certainly a problem inside
the NFL.

This is an American problem. One in four women will experience
violence or sexual assault at some point in her lifetime.

MATTHEWS: Really?

THOMAS: It`s a shocking fact and one that not enough people
understand.

So, again, if more people are aware of it...

MATTHEWS: You mean actual physical violence?

THOMAS: Actual physical violence.

If more people are aware of that and are taking action to prevent the
next generation of men becoming another Ray Rice, that`s a really important
outcome of this situation.

MATTHEWS: Well, Goodell, Roger Goodell say she won`t resign, of
course. His team -- his support from owners appears to be ironclad. He
makes $44 million a year.

And "Sports Illustrated" reporter Peter King writes: "Goodell has so
much goodwill in the bank in the owners` eye that there`s no way without
definitive proof that the commissioner lied they throw him out and his $44
million annual compensation to the wolves. The goodwill includes a
collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association through 2020
and lucrative TV contracts that pay each team about $150 million per year."

So he`s the golden goose, right, Michael?

MCCANN: Well, Chris, I think Peter King is right that it`s very
unlikely that we`re going to see Roger Goodell replaced.

I think the more likely outcome is that there would be a restructuring
of the commissioner`s office, where perhaps some of Goodell`s powers over
investigatory and legal matters -- and he`s not a lawyer, it should be
worth noting -- perhaps go to somebody else. Maybe the league brings in
other assistants.

Today, the league hired on four advisers on issues of domestic
violence. I think we will see the commissioner`s office be restructured
following an investigation -- an internal investigation by former FBI
Director Robert Mueller.

I don`t think we are going to see Roger Goodell fired, and I don`t
think he`s going to quit.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCCANN: But I do think he may lose some authority, and that could
have significance.

MATTHEWS: Look at the way this thing`s going, though.

Anybody who thinks this issue is over, just think about this. Adrian
Peterson, the whole guy involved with the child beating thing here, that --
that is -- this guy`s playing again. He`s not even stopping the play.

And Ray Rice is already suing the league, appealing, saying, I want to
play in the next game. He wants immediate reinstatement. They want to go
back to business as usual, Michael, within hours. They want to go back.
In fact, they`re already back to business as usual right now.

The notion that this has somehow chilled the NFL, and they`re being
good boys now is not true. They`re playing any money player that Sunday.
And here is -- here`s Ray Rice with the stuff, the stones to come back and
sue basically to be reinstated immediately, right now.

He must think that the coast is clear. What kind of an appeal is
that, your thinking, Michael? Why would he have the nerve to do this right
now in the middle of this firestorm?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCANN: His appeal is going to be based on the argument that the NFL
is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, and, specifically,
he`s going to argue the league has punished him twice, that he was
suspended once over the summer.

And he`s going to say, you had that other video that Shaunna talked
about earlier, the elevator video. Now, whether they had it or not, we
don`t know. But let`s assume they did--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So he`s arguing that too?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCANN: He`s going to argue that NFL essentially gave up the right to
punish him twice for something they already had.

Now, and I understand people are going to say it`s unfair. What he
did to his wife, then fiancee, is reprehensible. But his legal argument is
that the league essentially went around the collective bargaining
agreement. So, that`s going to be the focus of the argument.

MATTHEWS: Well, legally, it`s aggravated assault. If it weren`t his
wife, it would be aggravated assault. I guess, if it`s wife, what, is that
not aggravated assault? Put him away for a couple years in jail. Maybe
that is the answer and stop talking about it. But it`s definitely assault
and battery.

Anyway, thank you, Michael McCann, and thank you, Shaunna. Keep up
the cause. I`m sure you will.

Up next -- I like that old-style thing of flying over stadiums.

Up next, the latest twist in the saga of Mark Sanford. He`s called
off his engagement with the woman he once called his soul mate. She said
it`s all about his career in politics. Different -- different stories
coming here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. And it`s time for the
"Sideshow."

Former South Carolina Governor, now Congressman Mark Sanford said on
Friday that he`s hiring a lawyer to represent him in an ongoing custody
battle with his former wife, Jenny. He says he`s calling off his
engagement, meanwhile, to his fiancee, Belen Chapur, whom he flew to
Argentina to see in 2009, leaving word behind that he was hiking of course
on the Appalachian Trail.

Here is Sanford -- quote -- "No relationship can stand forever this
tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son
or daughter. And for this reason, Belen and I have decided to call off the
engagement. Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with
Jenny, but at this point, the environment is not conducive to building
anything, given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what`s now
happening."

Meanwhile, Ms. Chapur told "The New York Times" over the weekend: "I
think that I was not useful to him anymore. This is about his career and
his ambitions."

Hmm.

Up next, Hillary Clinton heads to Iowa for what sure looked like the
kickoff of her campaign for president. And it`s obvious she is running.
Could that be why no one else in the Democratic side is seriously running
against her?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

U.S. forces conducted more airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq,
including one southwest of Baghdad, where militants were attacking Iraqi
security forces. It was the first strike near the capital since the
campaign began in August. Meanwhile, French fighter jets carried out their
reconnaissance flights over Iraq. The planes took off from a base in Abu
Dhabi.

And Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris, where he met with
representatives from 30 countries to talk about a strategy for taking on
ISIS -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Hello, Iowa.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I`m back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This week, Hillary Clinton left no doubt, if any existed, that she`s
running for president, although she didn`t come out and actually say it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Now, when Tom Harkin called and asked me to come, I have to
admit, I wasn`t sure what to say. I have got a few things on my mind these
days.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: First and most importantly, Bill and I are on constant
grandchild watch.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And then, of course, there`s that other thing.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Well, it is true, I am thinking about it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: But, for today, that is not why I`m here.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I`m here for the steak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Clinton`s moves have already had an effect on the
Democratic field, keeping what would be high-profile candidates like Vice
President Joe Biden mostly sidelined, and the certainty of Hillary running
also influences the Republican field itself.

Joining me right now to talk about, "Chicago Tribune" columnist
Clarence Page, whose new book published today is "Culture Worrier,"
"Culture Worrier," and "New York Times" national political correspondent
Jonathan Martin joins as well.

Jonathan, let`s move on from the question mark to the implications.
It looks to me like, you know, when you have a battleship put in the water,
it displaces all the water, you know what is being displace, you know how
big the ship is. She`s so big that really nobody else really is running
against her. To me, other -- if this were not her running, is there was
still a doubt, you would be -- people putting their toe in the water,
trying to get in this thing.

I don`t see anybody else seriously trying to become the Democratic
nominee for president in 2016; do you?

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: Well, yes. I
think Martin O`Malley, the governor of Maryland, would love to be the
nominee.

MATTHEWS: Seriously trying to beat Hillary Clinton? No. Is he
seriously trying to beat Hillary Clinton and believes he can do it?

MARTIN: I think his intentions as to a Democratic primary with
Hillary Clinton in it remain to be seen.

That`s a fair point. And I will grant you that. Besides that, I
think you have to look at Bernie Sanders from Vermont. You may think he`s
a protest candidate, but, still, member of the U.S. Senate, a longtime
member of Congress, at that. So I think you have to include him too.

But there`s no question that this is uncharted territory and that
she`s a very formidable, nonpresidential, non-vice presidential candidate,
the equal of which, Chris, is really hard to find in history. As you know,
even General Eisenhower, who came back from being the conquering hero of
World War II, still had a tough primary against Robert Taft in `52.

So it`s hard to figure out, looking at American history, what other
non-president or V.P. was this formidable.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he had to take it all the way to the convention.

Let me ask you, Clarence, is anybody else really running? John Kerry,
I know, would like to be president still. I know Joe Biden would like to
be president. There are people coming along like Amy Klobuchar of
Minnesota, who would be great, who would be great candidates. Of course,
you know, where do you stop?

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Elizabeth warren would like to be president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: These are all serious presidential candidates, if -- and
none of them are running.

PAGE: That`s right.

And I think -- well, a number of reasons. For one thing, it takes a
lot of money now to run for president. And we`re talking about a billion-
dollar campaign. We`re talking about getting some momentum going. Hillary
Clinton has got the momentum. She`s also got a lot of people champing at
the bit for the last eight years who have been waiting for her to run.

MATTHEWS: I know.

PAGE: And there`s -- there`s what I call the Ralph Nader effect. You
have got to be careful inside the party to challenge a strong front-runner,
because if that front-runner then stumbles, you get blamed for it. You
will run that risk.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, he ran outside the party. He ran third-party.

PAGE: Well, yes, but people still blamed him for...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: ... George W.

MATTHEWS: I know. He lets me know that now and then.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what it means to the Republicans,
Jonathan Martin, because you`re out there.

The near certitude, let`s be fair -- anything can happen -- but near
certitude that Hillary Clinton will run, win the nomination of the
Democratic Party, be the nominee going into the fall of `16, what will that
do to the Republicans? Do they believe that she can grab the center, and
they got to be real careful about running somebody on the hard right,
because she will beat out that male candidate, probably male, in the
center, and win this thing rather comfortably if they run somebody on the
hard right, like Rand Paul?

MARTIN: I think -- I think you have to make a distinction between the
party strategists and the party rank and file when it comes to that
question.

I think a lot of party strategists look at it and are concerned about
the middle of the country when it comes to running against Secretary
Clinton. Party rank and file obviously are inclined toward sort of
ideological sort of feelings.

That said, I think that they have two options here. You can do more
of a generational play against Secretary Clinton and run a ticket of two
younger candidates...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: ... folks in their early 40s, for example. There are some
options out there.

I think the other play, Chris, would be more of a sort of
regional/ideological play. And that would be to try to run a populace mid-
Westerner against Secretary Clinton, and try to frame her as more of a
candidate of Wall Street, candidate of the sort of East.

Those to me are the two options out there. Neither of which perhaps
would ultimately be successful for the GOP, but that seems to be the sort
of two paths they could pick.

MATTHEWS: I can`t wait for the Koch brothers to bankroll that
campaign. Can you see that, Jonathan? Here are the Koch brothers, David
and Charles, joining in a populist campaign against the evils of big
business.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Right, I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But the flip side of that, if the Republicans do nominate
somebody from the more ideological wing of their party, you know what`s
going to happen on Wall Street. A lot of that Wall Street money will go to
Hillary Clinton --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: -- because she`s a known commodity. She was a senator from
New York.

I can see her raising a lot of cash on Wall Street if the Republicans
go more towards the hard right.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with you.

Quick question: does she have the guts -- this is guts -- to just go
to the center and say, to hell with the populace cause, let Elizabeth
Warren sit out there. I`m going to go to the middle and talk growth, not
populism. I want to talk growth.

PAGE: I think where she`s heading on foreign policy already, testing
the waters of coming across more hawkish than the base of the party. And
she`s gone -- Elizabeth Warren is a good foil for her right now.

MATTHEWS: I think she`s going to run a general election campaign in
the spring.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think she`s going to go left and go center, I
think. That would be the first person in history to do that.

You`re the best guy to know on this, Jonathan, thank your coming on.
I mean, I know you got to be careful and you got to protect your brand,
which is going to be a lot of candidates out there that are all are just
waiting on the wings to come rushing to Hillary, but I think -- I think
she`s not going to face a really strong opponent in the primaries.

Anyway, thank you so much, Jonathan Martin, for great reporting.

Clarence, we`re going t o talk about that book next time.

PAGE: Great.

MATTHEWS: What`s it called? Culture --

PAGE: "Culture Worrier".

MATTHEWS: Worrier. I like that nuance.

Up next, "West Wing" star Allison Janney joins us right here to talk
about how she`s helping American veterans deal with drug problems, in fact,
legal problems because of drugs. Serious business here.

This is HARDBALL, a place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes is trying to distance
herself from President Obama. Unlike other Democrats who have been in the
same situation, she`s firing a gun, really. And here`s part of her new ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m not Barack
Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal, and the EPA.

And, Mitch, that`s not how you hold a gun.

I`m Alison Lundergan Grimes and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Real Clear average of polls in that race shows
Mitch McConnell up by five points.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLISON JANNEY, "MASTERS OF SEX": What is this Justice for Vets memo
doing in the briefing pile?

MELISSA FITZGERALD, JUSTICE FOR VETS: I put it there.

JANNEY: Right. Justic. Justice is misspelled to the cover page,
Carol, really?

FITZGERALD: I really am an excellent speller of. It`s the typing I
have trouble with.

JANNEY: Right, why did you slip this memo in here?

FITZGERALD: I was hoping you`d take it to the president?

JANNEY: Which one, Bartlett, Santos, Pitts (ph), Underwood?

FITZGERALD: The one who has the most power.

JANNEY: OK, I`ll put in a call to Olivia Pope.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back.

And that was a Washington audience last night. You just saw Allison
Janney and Melissa Fitzgerald both in their roles from "West Wing". They
reunited last night along with fellow cast member Janel Moloney for a
concert here in Washington to benefit Justice for Vets, a great cause.

Justice for Vets has kept over 10,000 veterans, real veterans, out of
prison through veteran treatment course, which address the cause of
addiction and helps restore their lives to normal.

So, joining me right now is Allison Janney, Emmy Award winner from
Showtime`s hit series "Master of Sex" and, of course, "The West Wing."
And, Melissa Fitzgerald, also of "The West Wing", who`s now senior director
of Justice for Vets. And the star of our show, Nick Stefanovic, who`s a
combat veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

I want to get to Nick in one second, you are the star.

First, the supporting cast. Allison, tell us about why you got
involved in this effort to help, because we`re not only talking about boots
on the ground, there are people in those boots. And they go to war, this
fellow, two tours in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. They come back different
than how they went.

JANNEY: Yes, I`m here to support Nick and all of your veterans who
have sacrificed so much for us. Sometimes they have trouble coming back
home and reintegrating. And I believe what Melissa is doing with Justice
for Vets is an incredibly important thing to do, it makes a lot of sense,
and I believe in here and I`m here to support her and everything that her
organization is doing for our veterans who are coming home.

MATTHEWS: How did you find out -- we all knew about my generation,
the drug problem guys got into, mostly guys in Vietnam. They were given
drugs for medicinal purposes, to help them through wounds, you know,
painkiller, they got addicted to that stuff, they got addicted to other
stuff, what`s it like this time in Afghanistan and Iraq?

FITZGERALD: Well, I think we have a lot of men and women coming home
changed by the experience of war, obviously. And many are struggling on
the home front and some are dealing with post-traumatic stress, traumatic
brain injury and using drugs and alcohol to cope, and interacting with
criminal justice. And unless we intervene at that critical moment of
crisis, they`ll be lost to the system forever.

MATTHEWS: When they get arrested for dealing or buying or whatever,
how do you help them at that point?

FITZGERALD: Well, if they get arrested, if there`s a veterans
treatment court where they live and they qualify, they will be assessed by
a team, which is a judge, probation officer, a representative from the
V.A., a mental health care provider, if they have either a mental health, a
clinical diagnosis of a mental health disorder and/or a substance abuse
disorder, stemming from their service, then they may qualify to be part of
this veterans treatment court program where they`ll receive treatment and
they`ll receive like access to the services and the benefits that they`ve
earned, so that they can return back to the community as healthy citizens,
and the healthy citizens they were prior to their service.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m a friend of yours --

FITZGERALD: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And I`m a huge friend of yours.

FITZGERALD: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But this guy is the star.

Nick, tell me -- I have told you before we came on, tell your personal
feelings when you were stuck for two tours in Afghanistan and a tour in
Iraq, what were the feelings you had over there?

NICK STEFANOVIC, MARINE COMBAT VETERAN: So, when I got over there, I
remember the first few incidents that happened where I was actually in
combat were terrifying. And, after that, it`s not so much that I got used
to the combat, but I kind of went into a mode where the terrifying part,
the nervous breakdowns and stuff, they stop happening. And you get used to
the fact that in any second, there could be it`s no controlling it. No
matter how good of a marine that you are, there`s that chance that it could
happen to you.

So I lived with that throughout all of my deployments. And the actual
trauma of it didn`t really hit until I came home and was no longer in a
combat zone.

MATTHEWS: So, were you waking up in the middle of the night?

STEFANOVIC: Yes, so when I came home, the first traumatic piece that
it me was I had this feeling of being completely alone. I was cut off for
my family, I was cut off from all of my friends, and I just wanted to sit
in my apartment. I didn`t want any phone calls. I didn`t want to talk to
anybody, just the complete feeling of being alone.

And there was also nightmares were a significant part for me. The
panic was a significant part for me. Just the neurotic, I`m driving down
the road and I see a garbage can sitting on the side of the road, I either
stop or swerve around it, and it`s not until a mile passed it that I
realize that I`m not there anymore.

MATTHEWS: That there`s not a bomb in that trash can.

STEFANOVIC: Right.

MATTHEWS: So what drugs did you go to?

STEFANOVIC: So, the first drug that I got involved was OxyContin, a
prescription drug. And, you know, when I found that drug, I had quickly
realized, you know, drugs are bad, right? But there`s a reason why people
do drugs. They`re very, very effective at temporarily killing the symptoms
of mental illness, like PTSD. So, my nightmares went away. There`s no
more panic.

As long as I stayed on that drug, I was fine. And I didn`t really
much care about it. I didn`t even think what`s going to happen 20 years
down the road if I`m hooked on OxyContin and heroin.

MATTHEWS: What got you in trouble with the law?

STEFANOVIC: Well, so, I switched from OxyContin to heroin because I
couldn`t afford OxyContin anymore.

MATTHEWS: It`s cheaper.

STEFANOVIC: Yes, very much and it`s more potent. It`s very common.

MATTHEWS: Did you shoot yourself up?

STEFANOVIC: Yes, I would.

MATTHEWS: How did you get to that level? Of strapping the vein on
and putting the needle in. How did you get to that level?

STEFANOVIC: Honestly, it was all a side effect of me not caring about
my future anymore. You know, I tell this story -- I spoke to a Vietnam
veteran at the V.A. one day and he had told me, I was trying to tell him
that I was going to recover, I was going to get better, I was going to go
to therapy.

And he had said to me, you don`t understand it. There is no recovery.
There is no getting better. You made a sacrifice. You had to live with
that sacrifice. I didn`t know it at that time, but it was true for his
generation.

Vietnam veterans didn`t have things like veterans treatment course.
It`s not true --

MATTHEWS: So, tell me how you got arrested and everything.

STEFANOVIC: So, I -- you know, I was broke, I didn`t have money to
support myself anymore. And I ended up cashing a stolen check. And I was
in the hotel room one night and the police were called to the hotel room
and they found a check on the floor. And that was a miracle that day.
That was the day that my entire life turned around. If that wouldn`t have
happened, I would probably be dead.

MATTHEWS: And how did the veterans treatment court helped you there,
what these ladies are working on?

STEFANOVIC: So, my -- at that time, my parents had found this
veteran`s treatment corps. A judge named Patricia Marks put me on her
calendar and, in May of 2009, I had my first date in veteran`s treatment
court. That day was the last day that I ever touched a drug.

And that was where she offered me an ultimatum. That you`re going to
stop using drugs for at least a year and if you don`t, I`m going to put you
in jail. So, you have two options, you can be in jail, or you can be
sober. And at that point, I said, for right now, I just don`t want to be
in jail. I`ll stop using drugs. I`ll do whatever you want me to do.

MATTHEWS: What would you have faced in terms of time if there hadn`t
been a veterans treatment court?

STEFANOVIC: I believe my -- I believe it was 2-3 years because it was
a federal crime.

MATTHEWS: And you would have gone cold turkey in some prison without
heroin?

STEFANOVIC: Or, I mean, there`s drugs or prison, you know. So it
would have either been that or got back out on to the street --

MATTHEWS: How long have you been clean now?

STEFANOVIC: I have been clean since May of 2009, so five years.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations. And thank you for your service. Thank
you.

JANNEY: Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: We talk about military. We talk about going to war. We
argue about going to war and we don`t talk about the people enough and what
they face.

Anyway, we thank you, Nick.

STEFANOVIC: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Stefanovic, anyway.

And thank you, Allison Janney, a huge fan, a huge friend, and Melissa
Fitzgerald.

And if you`d like to donate to Justice for Vets, we`d like you to, you
can head to the Web Site on the screen. Right now, justiceforvets.org,
justiceforvets.org. Pretty simple and pretty important.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the fact made clear in Iowa
yesterday that Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president. If you
doubt this is the fact, please consult any of the Democrats who have set
their hearts on being president and have not moved a muscle in that
direction. Oh, they may move in 2024 if the coast is clear, but not now.

It is this displacement of all the other Democrats that states the
fact that the one Democrat who matters in 2016 is readying to run and we`ll
overwhelm anyone who dares offer a challenge. Why start a fight when
there`s no way of winning? When all the fight offers is a chance to make
trouble for yourself in the coming eight years and in the rivalry to grab
the Democratic banner thereafter?

The fact that there is no positive answer to this question is the best
ratifier out there that Secretary Clinton is merely counting the months
before she jumps in with all the partisan and popular clout at her
disposal, which is pretty much the power of Democratic Party in the 21st
century and then some.

Well, 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
BE UPDATED.
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