September 17, 2014
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The vote for war.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
So we`re off to war. For the third time in a decade, the United
States will be bombing people in the Islamic world, killing Muslims and
wondering as we dump yet another payload into the sands of Afghanistan,
Iraq, or coming soon, Syria, why those people down there hate us so.
The U.S. Congress has voted to do this, sort of. What they agreed to
vote on was the arming of the Free Syrian Army, the people we hope will be
fighting on our side. They refused to vote, at least until after the
election, on the air strikes we are already delivering over Iraq and will
soon be delivering over Syria.
Before we get to this big next war, we also talk tonight about the
latest Republican sortie against Hillary over Benghazi. Also, the whole
question of how well the former secretary of state is doing in her rollout
that really got rolling this Sunday in Iowa. Anyone who still thinks she`s
not running, by the way, could make a lot of money betting that way. I
mean, a lot of money.
Other hot topics tonight, the wild fears being pushed out there that
ISIS is at our southern frontier, champing to get across the border. Wow.
Also, the reverse field running by the NFL last night that overnight
decided that money talks. It`s the advertisers against the child beater,
if you will, and the advertisers are winning.
Finally tonight, the color and excitement of a real, live race for the
U.S. Senate and what it really looks like on the inside.
But let`s get to the next new war. As I said, the House voted to
authorize arming and training Syrian rebels by a vote of 273 to 156. It
passed with a majority of Democrats, although narrowly, and a 2-to-1 vote
As the U.S. effort to go after ISIS ramps up, the group has released -
- ISIS has -- a new propaganda video. The 52-second clip has the feel,
many people say, of a real movie preview in the United States. It shows
footage of what appears to be attacks against our troops, though it`s not
clear when or where those pictures were actually taken. It warns the
United States that fighting has just begun.
Well, today President Obama said he would not commit more American
troops to fight another ground war in Iraq, but he also vowed to defeat
ISIS. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether in Iraq or in
Syria, these terrorists will learn the same thing that the leaders of al
Qaeda already know, we mean what we say. Our reach is long. If you
threaten America, you will find no safe haven. We will find you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: U.S. congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut --
he`s on the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congressman Himes,
I`ve been reading your stuff, reading your quotes. You voted no today.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: I did. Well, Chris, two big things.
One, we just gave up our leverage on Constitution Day to do something that
the Constitution demands that we do, which is to authorize this kind of
activity. Now we`re off to war without a congressional authorization, and
that`s not a good thing.
Number two, Chris, it`s bad enough to be on one side of a civil war.
We`re now on two sides of the same civil war with a group of people that
we`ll be arming and training, that we do not control, we won`t really know
who they are, and we really won`t predict the outcome until we`re under way
and we are getting in, all likelihood, blamed for the activities that this
group will undertake.
MATTHEWS: When we train and arm these people, we think they`re going
to be fighting ISIS. They could be fighting Assad. They could be
fighting, through al Nusra, us! How do we -- what kind of guarantees do
you hear we`re getting that the arms and the training we give to this group
in Syria will be used against ISIS and not against somebody we don`t want
HIMES: Well, Chris, "guarantee" is not a word you use in the Middle
East. And of course, what you do is, you assume -- and if you look at what
happened in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, you assume that the plans that
you make and what you think you`re going to achieve probably aren`t going
So yes. How are we going to know that these guys -- and I`ve met some
of them -- are, in fact, going to go after ISIS because we tell them to?
They hate Assad. They`re going to go after Assad. So what do we do? And
I expressed this concern to the White House. Do we tell them that on one
day, they go after Assad, and on the next day, they go after another group
that is also fighting Assad? That is fighting -- again, both sides of a
MATTHEWS: John McCain says that this group was formed to fight Assad
in Damascus. It was not formed to fight ISIS.
HIMES: Well, that`s true. Look, these are -- and as I said, I`ve met
some of these guys, and they are people who have been badly, badly abused
by Assad. Now, you know, ISIS a, you know, profound threat to them, as
they are to many people in the world. But it is not clear, again, what
their mission will be. Is their mission anti-Assad or is their mission
HIMES: By the way, if it`s both, do they have the capability to do
two missions at once?
MATTHEWS: Well, today, the president insisted the United States won`t
get involved militarily, at least on the combat ground forces against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to be clear. The American forces that have been
deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. As your
commander-in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces
to fighting another ground war in Iraq.
After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to
use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they
can secure their own country`s futures. And that`s the only solution that
will succeed over the long term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, this is the strangest war in the world. We`re
fighting a war the American people say they want us to fight, but also say
in our latest polling, Wall Street Journal and NBC, they don`t think we`ll
win. Also, we`re fighting a war without our army. What kind of war is
this? Are we hoping to find the Hessians out there somewhere? And the
Hessians, by the way, lost to us in a war. (INAUDIBLE) got to find another
If you want to fight a war, but you don`t want to fight it, how do you
HIMES: You asking me that question, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Yes, sir.
HIMES: Look, I take the president at his word when he says he`s not
going to commit ground forces. The reality is, the American public is not
going to tolerate a major commitment of ground forces.
Now, there will be those who say that you can`t get rid of a group
like ISIS without armed -- without people on the ground, right? They will
not be our people. I take the president at his word. But you know, are we
expecting the Saudis to provide those ground forces?
And by the way, why aren`t we talking about the only way you eliminate
these groups, which is by doing away with the conditions that give rise to
these groups, political repression, lack of economic possibilities, the
fact that an awful lot of our allies in the region are actually funding
HIMES: You know, until we change those things on the ground, we can
bomb these guys into caves, but they`ll still be there. We can put boots
on the ground, as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, but guess what? They`re
still in Afghan and Iraq. So we got to be thinking a little deeper than
just a military approach here.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, Congressman Jim Himes, for joining
HIMES: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Today, Secretary of State John Kerry said that ISIS had to
be defeated, period, he said. He said the end game would be when the
terror group can`t threaten Iraq, the region, or the United States.
There were some tense moments, however, including when Senator Bob
Corker of Tennessee challenged Secretary Kerry for not having what he
called a "serious" plan for achieving the goal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I hope you`ll lay out a plan that
will convince us that you`re serious about doing the things you said you
were going to do to the American people and to us about ISIL because you
haven`t done it now.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator, you know, I must say to you
I really find it somewhat surprising for to you suggest that as the
president of the United States talks to the nation and commits to take
strikes in order to deal with ISIL, as we have come back from a week of
very serious meetings with nations around the world, all of whom are
committed to this, that you sit there and suggest that it`s not serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks joins us now. He`s an
Alabama Republican. Congressman, thank you for joining us. Your caucus,
Republicans, voted about 2-to-1, a little more than 2-1 for this war
measure to arm the Free Syrian Army. Why did you question it? Why`d you
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, let me be clear first about what
the vote today was about. The White House and the president believe, and I
don`t disagree, that they can form a coalition and they can use American
military forces and coalition forces to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq,
in Syria or anywhere else. So that`s not what the issue about -- tonight
The issue tonight was about whether the United States of America is
going to raise, train and arm a rebel group that is then going to be
engaged in Syria`s civil war. And I`m very hesitant for the United States
of America to be engaged in a civil war when our secretary of defense and
our commanding general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is telling
us that we may have to use ground troops, combat troops, in order to be
successful, while at the same time, you`ve got our commander-in-chief, the
president of the United States, vowing that ground troops will never be
MATTHEWS: So you see this as, basically, the decision that Congress
decided not to make a year ago, which is, don`t get involved in fighting
the government in Syria, don`t get involved in backing a rebel group
because you believe that this Free Syrian Army`s main goal is to overthrow
the government in Damascus, it`s not to join our fight against ISIS. Is
that your thinking?
BROOKS: Well, I think, to date, that`s an accurate prescription.
Their goal has been to topple the Assad regime, which is the current
governing body of Syria, although they`ve had a mixed relationship with the
Islamic State. At times, they`re contested (ph) with each other. At
times, they work together as they try to topple the Syrian Assad regime.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this coalition we`re talking about? I
couldn`t tell from your first remark. Do you believe it is doable? Do you
believe we can assemble, the way George Bush, Sr., did as president, a
coalition of actual fighting people on the ground? In other words, the
Saudis come in and fight on the ground or fight in the air, the Jordanians
contribute, the Emirates contribute. Do you see that actually being a
coalition, or is it going to be once again us, using our air power and
maybe our ground troops?
BROOKS: If the Islamic State is as dangerous as has been represented
over the past couple months, then there ought to be motivation around the
world to join in this effort. It`d be wonderful if the United Nations, by
way of example, did what the United Nations is supposed to do, or if NATO
became much more active as a body in this kind of engagement, spread out to
focus on the Middle East with what is happening with the Islamic State.
The opportunity is there for us to have a viable coalition that
includes ground forces from multiple nations. The question is going to be
whether Secretary of State John Kerry, President Barack Obama have the
skill set and the wherewithal to mold that coalition into a cohesive unit
that will combine to defeat the Islamic State.
MATTHEWS: You know, we really haven`t had a ground campaign where we
had soldiers next to our soldiers since Korea, where the Turks were
fighting with us, the South Koreans. They were great fighters. Everybody
said they were the greatest allies, to have the Turks and the South Koreans
fighting with us against the North Korean communists and the Red Army from
You talk about the U.N., and they did put that -- that was a U.N.
action. When since then have we had a U.N. action that has really been a
forged unit of fighting men willing to fight a war to its end?
BROOKS: None that I can recall, and that`s been one of the greatest
disappointments I`ve had with the United Nations. Perhaps they have done
something, and my memory escapes me at the current time.
BROOKS: But in terms of peace-keeping, the United Nations has failed
to do the job that was envisioned when it was created after World War II in
the late 1940s.
MATTHEWS: Looks like us a gun (ph) and us alone again. Thank you so
much, Congressman Brooks from Alabama, for joining us.
BROOKS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to get to the fear-mongering about ISIS and the
alarms, the crazy alarms that are coming -- that the ISIS people are coming
across the Mexican border. They`re talking about having found across Arab
clothing and stuff. There`s some crazy talk out there -- along the Rio
Grande. Anyway, the congressman whose district is down there -- he`s going
to come and tell us the reality of what`s happening on the border with
Also coming up, the House Select Committee on Benghazi held its first
hearing today. It didn`t yield any evidence about the attack that killed
four Americans. It did show evidence that the Republicans are out there to
get Hillary. Get Hillary -- that seems to be the message here -- who`s
fresh off her campaigning this weekend in Iowa. It looks like she`s
running for president.
Plus, you`ve heard the saying "money talks"? Well, the NFL in that
case is darn true. After its big sponsors raised hell, the Minnesota
Vikings finally removed star running back Adrian Peterson from the all --
all team activities as he faces allegations, as we know now, of child
And the battle for control of the Senate. It`s a pure toss-up right
now, many think, and tonight, we`re going to take a look, at some of the
color and excitement from one of the big races that will decide it, Iowa.
That`s the closest out there. It`s a hell of a contest between Democrat
Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst -- you know, the hog castrator.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this fear-mongering that somehow, ISIS
is going to attack us all in our beds -- a little crazy talk out there.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Earlier in the week, I showed you Alison Lundergan Grimes`s
latest ad, where she fires a shotgun and distances herself from President
Now it`s Mark Begich`s turn up in Alaska. Here`s part of his new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took on Obama to get drilling in the Arctic, to
keep our F-16s at Eielson and to get local health care for veterans. And
he voted against Obama`s trillion-dollar tax increase. Mark Begich wins
the fights for Alaska.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Begich is another Democrat in a deep red state trying to
run from the president. A new Hayes (ph) Research poll out today shows
Begich up 5, however, over Republican Dan Sullivan among likely voters,
Begich 41, Sullivan at 36.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, some on the right wing out
there are warning that terrorists could be infiltrating the southern border
of this country and are linking the Islamic extremist group ISIS to the
contentious immigration issue which has been a political hot potato facing
the lawmakers, as you know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found copies, or people along the border,
where the trails of these people come across, have found Muslim clothing.
They have found Koran books that are laying on the side of the road, or
side of the trail. So we know that there are Muslims that have come across
and being smuggled into the United States.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": Do you think that they are already
here in the U.S.? Or do you think they would use the southern border to
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Sure. Potentially. But it`s not just
ISIS. I mean, there are multiple groups around the world that want to
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I think there`s obvious great concern
that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not
being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals
from ISIS or other terrorist states could be, and I think it is a very real
possibility that they may have already used that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But Texas congressman Beto O`Rourke, who represents a
district right on the southern border, is pushing back. He told "The New
York Times," quote, "There`s a long-standing history in this country of
projecting whatever fears we have onto the border. In the absence of
understanding the border, they assert their fears -- insert (ph) their
fears. Before, it was Iran and al Qaeda. Now it`s ISIS. They just reach
the conclusion that invasion is imminent, and it never is."
Beto O`Rourke`s a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, and he joins us right
now. Beto, I don`t know where these people get their theories from. What
do you make of that guy with the cowboy hat who said that they`ve
discovered the Koran, when they`ve discovered Arab clothing? What is the
evidence of that that`s real?
REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS: You know, the best response to that
came today in the House Homeland Security hearing that we had with the
secretary of Homeland Security, with the director of the FBI, with the
director for the National Terrorism Center -- or Counterterrorism Center.
Each one of them said that there is no credibility or evidence or
intelligence to support this idea that ISIS or the Quds Force from Iran or
Hezbollah or al Qaeda are on the southern border to have plans for an
imminent attack. There`s no evidence of a plot. And there certainly
haven`t been any arrests or interdictions of plotters or terrorists on the
So by the evidence and by everything that we can measure, the border
with Mexico has never been safer than it is today.
MATTHEWS: The only evidence of border crossing by a terrorist was
back with the Canadian border in the Northwest, the millennial bomber. I
mean, why don`t they talk about the Canadian border if it isn`t just
another ethnic attack against Hispanics?
O`ROURKE: It`s a great point. In my mind, this is the Maginot Line
of our time. We`re pouring $18 billion a year into the southern border.
We`ve doubled the size of the border patrol, largely focused on the
southern border. And yet the terrorists who`ve been successful in
attacking the homeland have come through the northern border. They`ve come
through airports. They are home-grown U.S. citizen terrorists.
That is where the risk-based assessment would tell us we should focus
our resources. It doesn`t mean that we shouldn`t remain vigilant on the
southern border or guard against potential attacks, but I think we should
direct resources where they`re proven to be effective. And right now, that
is not on the southern border.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Beto O`Rourke, who
comes to us from Washington. He represents El Paso.
Coming up, that new committee investigating Benghazi, supposedly, held
its first hearing today, if that is what you call it. They didn`t clear up
anything about the attack. What they did make clear with clear evidence
is, they`re going after Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state.
That`s the target here.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
Those images of Hillary Clinton in Iowa has driven home the perception
that she is actually running for president.
Contrast those images with these. The newly created House Select
Committee on Benghazi held its first hearing today with Hillary as the
obvious target. The biggest fireworks came when chairman of the committee,
Trey Gowdy, brought Hillary into the mix by digging up an old
accountability review board report from 1999.
Here is Gowdy sparring with witness Greg Starr, who is responsible for
diplomatic security at the State Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Back to the 1999. The secretary
of state should personally review the security situation of diplomatic
facilities, closing those which are highly vulnerable and threatened.
Why do you think the 1999 ARB went out of its way to use the word
GREG STARR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: No comment, sir.
GOWDY: Is the answer privileged?
I mean, that`s a recommendation from the 1999 ARB. The secretary of
state should personally review. And I`m asking you, with all due respect -
- we`re not going to get to the word review. We got to get past the word
that modifies review, personally. Why did they think it was important that
the secretary of state himself or herself personally review?
STARR: I think, ultimately, the secretary, who bears the
responsibility for the security, has to be brought the information that is
necessary for him to make decisions. That is my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he was not going to pass the buck, was he?
Anyway, Hillary will have to survive -- Hillary Clinton -- more than
GOP potshots like that. The biggest challenge for Secretary Clinton is
charting the course through victory all the way to the presidency, assuming
she is running.
Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The
Washington Post." And Roger Simon is a columnist with Politico.
I want to talk to you about -- start with Roger -- this Republican
obviousness, the obviousness of tilting the hearings, supposedly about some
report, but it is really about trying to put her in, to be blunt about it,
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, POLITICO: Yes. Well, you go
with what you got. You ride the horse you got. And...
MATTHEWS: She wasn`t secretary of state back in `99.
SIMON: They don`t care.
SIMON: Benghazi is -- Benghazi is the rallying cry. It is what they
got, you know?
It is not like you can -- you can go through Hillary`s record as
secretary of state and say, look, she didn`t solve the Mideast problem, she
didn`t solve North Korea, she didn`t do much in Russia, she didn`t do this,
but that`s all dull.
You scream Benghazi, and you have got a couple of million people in
the Tea Party who say, yes, yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: What do they think is -- what do they think, in their
midnight, 3:00 a.m. nightmare, that this woman, this person was so evil,
that they did? Did they think she just said, I don`t care about that guy
Chris Stevens, let him die? Do they think that she actually did that to a
friend of hers?
SIMON: Yes. I think some of think that she issued a stand-down
MATTHEWS: Why would she?
SIMON: Others -- who the heck knows?
MATTHEWS: She knew the guy. They don`t. They never knew the guy.
Gene, he`s not a friend of hers or a person working for her.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Look, anyone who has ever had an underling go into dangerous
circumstances knows that feeling and knows what is -- you know, how tense
and nerve-racking it is, and how tragic it would be if something like that
So, of course, she didn`t want that to happen. Yet that is -- I think
-- you`re right. I think that`s the underlying claim, that somehow she
MATTHEWS: Yes. She went to dinner.
ROBINSON: She didn`t care. Yes, she didn`t care.
MATTHEWS: She went to a fund-raiser.
SIMON: I agree.
MATTHEWS: None of it happened. But, OK, let`s talk about the stuff
you two -- you have got both -- you both wrote great columns this week.
And I love both of -- I love great column writing. You`re a Pulitzer.
You will get yours someday, a Pulitzer Prize.
MATTHEWS: Let me start with yours, because it`s about craft. You
write in a way -- I don`t think it is snarky at all. It is about how
Hillary Clinton is a very controlled person. Obviously, you go to Ivy
League schools. She went to Wellesley. She went to Yale Law.
She`s very smart, but most importantly, very organized. What was your
point in talking about how each word was crafted? Even the jokes were told
in a very set piece way. What do you think that`s saying to the voter?
SIMON: Because she is measured, cautious, meticulous, and
MATTHEWS: She is un-Joe Biden.
SIMON: She is un-Joe Biden.
MATTHEWS: She probably wouldn`t use that word Shylock in common
SIMON: I have doubt it. I have never her say it.
SIMON: But -- and Joe is -- apologizes.
But, you know, she -- Tom Harkin -- it was a Tom Harkin steak fry.
SIMON: He gave an interview to "The Washington Post."
MATTHEWS: Steak grill.
SIMON: It has never been fried.
But he said, you know, I have known her for years, but I`m not close
to her. And that`s who -- people don`t say that about Joe Biden. They
say, I know him. I love him. She -- all eight years she spent in the
Senate, she worked with Tom Harkin.
But when Tom Harkin, who obviously likes her, talks about her, the
first thing he says is, I`m not close to Hillary Clinton.
That to me says almost nobody, except a tiny circle, gets close to
MATTHEWS: But we all know, but we all know, if we have been lucky
enough to have an interview with her, an off-the-record, that she can be
incredibly appealing as a person. She isn`t cold and off-putting.
ROBINSON: Exactly. Exactly.
And people who do know her well use words like warm, best friend you
could cover have.
MATTHEWS: Look at Hillaryland. How would you have a Hillaryland if
it wasn`t populated by dozens of people who have sworn their fealty to her.
ROBINSON: Yet there is -- yet there is something of a wall that she
puts up. And I think Roger is absolutely right.
And for the few who are inside the wall, she is this engaging, funny,
warm, spontaneous person. Yet, for people outside the wall, it is much
more formal, much more rigid, and much more choreographed.
MATTHEWS: OK. Both of you guys, who study this -- and this is a bit
cosmetics, but it`s part of the fun of covering politics.
Is she one of those people that -- Meg Greenfield of "The Post" years
ago said that Hubert Humphrey was totally different in private, that he was
this big blowhard in public, but personally he was a real mensch, a good
guy. And he wasn`t a phony like he seemed to be on the stump.
Al Gore had this problem. We have known people in politics who just
have the problem they freeze up behind that mike and become wonky and cold
and really not really human.
SIMON: You know, I was once interviewed -- in 2008, I interviewed
Terry McAuliffe, who was one of her campaign chairmen, now the governor of
Virginia, about Hillary.
And he said, she`s very funny, she`s warm. And one to one, she -- I
said, tell me a joke she`s told you.
MATTHEWS: That`s tough.
SIMON: All right. That`s tough.
But the thing is, the staff of all candidates who don`t do well say
the same thing, which is, if you could only meet her one to one.
MATTHEWS: I will never tell you a joke because you will remember it.
SIMON: I will put it in a book.
MATTHEWS: I know.
SIMON: You can`t campaign one to one. I wish you could. I wish
could you knock on the door of everyone in America.
You talked about Hillaryland, populated by dozens, scores.
SIMON: She needs millions.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Eugene Robinson and Roger Simon.
Up next, one day after corporate sponsors voiced their concerns, the
Minnesota Vikings have reversed course, removing star running back Adrian
Peterson from the team as he deals with allegations of child abuse.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins with breaking
According to NBC Phoenix affiliate KPNX, Arizona Cardinals running
back Jonathan Dwyer has been arrested on assault charges. A police
spokesman confirmed the arrest, but gave no details. It is the latest in a
string of incidents involving NFL players. The league has been under fire
for its handling of player conduct cases.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive
form of cancer. He is no longer seeking reelection.
And within hours, voters in Scotland will cast ballots on whether to
become an independent country. Results are expected to be made public
And now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, last night on HARDBALL, I took a very strong position on the NFL
and child beating, of course. I pointed out that the league has a penalty
called unnecessary roughness to protect the players. But where is the
league`s concern for the 4-year-old child who was beaten by his father, NFL
superstar Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings?
And I wasn`t alone out there. Sponsors, fans, sportswriters, even the
governor of Minnesota were outraged at the team and the league after the
Vikings G.M. announced Peterson would play on Sunday the regular way, the
usual game. Back to business. And the team would -- quote -- "let the
legal system play out." Well, that was nice.
Anyway, early this morning, at one point, 1:58 East Coast time, to be
precise, the Vikings changed course in the middle of the night. In a
statement posted at that moment to the team`s Web site, team owners said
that they were putting Peterson on something called the exempt/commissioner
permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team
activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation, until
the legal proceedings are resolved. He also gets paid during this time.
Well, today, the Vikings owner and chairman acknowledged the misstep.
Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZYGI WILF, OWNER, MINNESOTA VIKINGS: We made a mistake, and we needed
to get this right.
We embrace our role in the community and the responsibilities that go
with it. It is important to always listen to our fans, the community and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The sponsors, in other words, the money.
As Ozzie Myers of Abscam fame put it, I`m going to tell you something,
real simple and short. Money talks in this business. He was talking back
then about politics. It is the same in sports now, we know.
Here`s just a sampling of the sponsors who talked with their money.
Today, Nike dropped Peterson, saying, "Nike is no way -- in no way condones
child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns
with the NFL. We have suspended our contract with Adrian Peterson."
Castrol, the motor oil company, cut ties with Peterson too, saying:
"In light of recent events, we have decided to end our relationship with
McDonald`s could be next. In a statement, the burger giant says --
quote -- "Domestic violence and abuse are unacceptable behaviors and have
no place in sports or anywhere. Like many, we have questions surrounding
these evolving situations and are closely monitoring as the appropriate
parties investigate these matters."
And beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch put the NFL on notice with a
statement that the company is -- quote -- "disappointed and increasingly
concerned by recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season."
That was the end of that line.
And late today, the Carolina Panthers removed Greg Hardy, another
player, from the active roster until the player`s domestic violence case in
this case, his case, is resolved, exercising the same options the Vikings
did, putting the player on this exempt commissioner`s permission list,
which I guess absolves them of litigation.
Anyway, joining me right now is Dave Zirin. He`s sports editor of
"The Nation," and Michelle Bernard, who is president of the Bernard Center
for Women, Politics and Public Policy.
I want to start with my friend Michelle, because this is bigger than
sports. This is how power works in the United States. We are a pecuniary
MICHELLE BERNARD, FOUNDER, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS AND
MATTHEWS: Money is our language. When big professional teams which
exist to make money are told, you ain`t getting some, all of a sudden at
2:00 in the morning, they had this epiphany.
MATTHEWS: Oh, we were wrong. We got it wrong.
The verdict here is coming with a dollar sign. Your thoughts?
BERNARD: I absolutely agree with you. I can`t agree anymore with
anything that you have said.
It is very sad that they could not be moral leaders when it came to
this situation. The Vikings, it has been reported, have had more players
arrested for various misdeeds, DUI, sexual misconduct, domestic violence,
than any other team in the league since 2000. And it wasn`t until Nike,
McDonald`s, Castrol oil and other began to say that we have got a very
serious problem with this.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about it. You`re a pro. You have been in
all kinds of aspects of society. You`re an attorney. You have been on
this program and a lot of other things in your life. How do they get to
Is it the board of directors of these big corporations? Is it wives
in some cases of the people on the board of directors? Women on the board
of directors? How do you think this seeps through into the money business,
these values that are only now being reflected in decision making?
BERNARD: Well, we`re talking -- if we`re talking about Fortune 500
companies, Fortune 1000 companies, not many of them have large numbers of
women who are members of the board of directors.
However, they look at their bottom line, and we know, just like we do
in politics and we talk about the gender gap, and more women voting than
men, women -- women are the ones who run the pocketbooks in their homes.
They`re going to McDonald`s after school.
MATTHEWS: They watch the Super Bowl.
BERNARD: They watch the Super Bowl. They watch the ads. They make
the purchases and they`re saying to people, we are going to vote with our
Children`s lives matter. Women`s lives matter. They have made a
horrific mistake. This is a horrible two weeks for the NFL. I don`t know
that the damage is irreparable, but it has been an absolutely horrific two
weeks for them. And I don`t know how they get back and earn the trust of
women and children.
If you`re the mother or the father of a little boy and you took --
take a look at the pictures of that child who was -- quote, unquote --
"whooped" by his father, you can`t help but say to yourself, how do you
look at those images and not kick this guy off the team right away?
MATTHEWS: And what was the infringement of the 4-year-old that
deserved to have himself look like a hotdog with the grill marks?
BERNARD: With the grill marks and --
MATTHEWS: Let me just go back, David. Let me ask David about this.
Give me the mechanics of what you think, give me what we call the tick tock
in journalism, of how this led to a 1:58 in the morning decision to put out
a Web site announcement that they`re basically going along with the
commissioner and getting rid of this guy?
ZIRIN: Very simply -- sponsors left, the owners got scared. I mean,
the owner of the Vikings, Zygi Wilf, the piety and the hypocrisy of this
man to say that he listens to the community. He wasn`t listening to the
community when he was threatening to move the Vikings four years ago unless
they gave him a billion dollars in public money for a new stadium. No, he
was listening to the sponsors.
The hypocrisy and piety of Nike to talk about child abuse when they`ve
been cited repeatedly for using child labor. The hypocrisy of McDonald`s
to say they care for children when child obesity in this country is such a
Look, the main issue we`re talking about here, you said it, Chris,
it`s about dollars and cents. We saw this with Donald Sterling. I mean,
no one cared about Donald Sterling being an unreconstructed racist until
sponsors started to leave, then all the NBA owners turned into Fannie Lou
Hamer. I mean, this is the problem, is that they don`t feel like they are
accountable to the communities, where they get a ton of public money, a ton
of corporate welfare. And, frankly, they are responsible to be the
carriers of memories for generations of families and they don`t take that
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s not Marxism; it`s the old Chicago school of
economics I studied, which all about marketplace decisions. If you want to
be happy about the way this is done, you`d say people are voting with their
BERNARD: Well --
MATTHEWS: That`s how they vote.
But in this case, it is probably more the receiving edge. We`re not
getting the money. Therefore, we`re going to act.
ZIRIN: Butt covering.
BERNARD: I think they need to, you know, there was a fabulous book.
You know, David Maraniss wrote this fabulous book, I know you`re a history
buff. He wrote about Vince Lombardi, and I think it was called when pride
still matters. It actually made me love football, you know, because you
thought about what America could be.
This is not Vince Lombardi`s football league. This is very, very
wrong. They are morally corrupt.
MATTHEWS: OK. Dave, where is this heading? I mean, you work for a
political magazine, which is liberal magazine, or left even, and you have a
point of view. And I`m just wondering, where do you think this experience
with this case and the other case of child beating, wife beating, this
certainly has a pattern to it, it all has -- beating other people that are
weaker than you?
ZIRIN: Sure. I mean, this is a bigger issue, is that it`s a violent
society, it`s a violent game. That`s one of the reasons why it`s so
popular. Oftentimes, that violence can`t be contained on the field. But
that creates PR problems, because people want their NFL players to be the
equivalent of officers and gentlemen. They`re going to be people who can
be violent on the field and community leaders off. That`s not always how
You know, today, Sally Jenkins in "The Washington Post" said, why do
we care about the NFL being a moral leader at all? Why don`t we just
surrender that and say the game is what the game is? Wouldn`t we be
So, where I think this is heading, honestly, is I think Roger Goodell,
if he`s not going to give up the commissionership, he`s going to give up
the idea of being this kind of judge, jury and executioner of the league,
and actually collectively bargain some rules with the union, so there`s
some sort of standard in place so they don`t careen from one public
relations crisis to the next.
MATTHEWS: I don`t follow you on that. I`m going to hold back for
that decision, because I think there can be very tough fighters. Mohammed
Ali is one of my heroes from a lot of reasons, the way he fought the United
States government on his principles of his religion.
MATTHEWS: And he would never get in a boxing fight with anybody. You
never heard of him getting involved in the middle of a night in some club
somewhere. He led a very good life. He has led -- even in his sickness.
ZIRIN: I`m no way saying it`s everybody.
MATTHEWS: He could take on Sonny Liston in the ring, but he never
punched anybody in a barroom. So, I don`t buy this thing you can`t be a
tough competitor and not be discipline. I believe you can.
BERNARD: I agree with you.
ZIRIN: I don`t know if Sonny Liston is the best example.
MATTHEWS: He knocked him out so fast people can`t see the punch.
That`s how good it was.
BERNARD: There were stories about, I go back to Vince Lombardi.
There were stories about him recruiting people who had an edge. They had
troubled childhoods but he knew how to work with them. He was a leader.
The NFL is lacking significant leadership. They don`t care right now.
It doesn`t look like they care about women`s lives or children`s lives.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, they`ll learn the way people learn.
Thank you, Dave Zirin. By the way, George Foreman. The rumble in the
jungle. Anybody goes in that ring against George Foreman, my daughter, by
the way, thinks he is the guy that sells skillets. She doesn`t know who
George Foreman was.
Anyway, thank you, Dave Zirin, of "The Nation". And thank you,
Up next, the race for control of the U.S. Senate is in a dead heat
right now. It starts with somebody says. I think it still leans R.
When we come back, we`re going to get to some of the color from one of
the big contents that will determine who does get control come November.
That`s Iowa, and the race between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni
Ernst. We`re going to get to the color of the fight here, the inside.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back with one of the biggest fights in the battle for the
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re now.
You know, we`ve looked at a lot of polls this month on the close races
coming this November, the ones that will decide whether President Obama
keeps hold of the U.S. Senate or not. Well, tonight, we`re going to start
giving you the personality and actual color of some of these contests
beginning tonight in Iowa.
Let`s look at that race in Iowa between Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley.
Well, the seat there has been held for three decades by Tom Harkin who
everybody agrees is classic Midwest liberal. He is calling it quits after
30 years in the Congress. It was at Democratic seat and it looked like it
would stay that way. Then came this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m Joni Ernst. I grew up
castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I`ll know
how to cut pork. My parents taught us to live --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, overnight, that castrator ad, as it was called went
viral, as (INAUDIBLE) by Todd Harris, it could be the most famous ad of
2014. It not only introduced Republican candidate Joni Ernst who`s there,
it turned the race upside down.
To add to the momentum, U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley, the Democratic
candidate, got taped dumping on Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley for
the sin of not having a law degree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA: You might have a farmer from Iowa who
never went to law school, never practiced law serving as the next chair of
the Senate Judiciary Committee, because if Democrats lose the majority,
Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Thud. There should have been someone, someone should have
informed Mr. Braley, Esquire, that there are a lot more non-lawyers voting
in Iowa than there are lawyers voting in Iowa.
Anyway, the combination of the Ernst castrator ad and the Braley knock
on farmers turned the race in the one direction, right-ward. It gave Ernst
a solid chance to flip that seat from Democrat to Republican.
Now, Braley`s fighting back, casting Ernst as a far right wing
ideologue, citing her vote for a personhood amendment in the state senate,
which would have criminalized any abortion procedures, sent the doctor to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: In the state Senate, Ernst sponsored an amendment to
outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. An Ernst bill would have
banned many common forms of birth control. Ernst even wants criminal
punishment for doctors who perform an abortion.
ERNST: I think that providers should be punished if there were a
AD NARRATOR: Joni Ernst -- radical ideas. Wrong for Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ernst, while not denying the other charges, says she`s for
The Real Clear Politics polling average has both candidates at roughly
44 percent. But the latest poll by Quinnipiac has Ernst up over Braley by
six points, 50-44.
All said, this race is probably going to be one of the closest races
of the year. And the party that wins the close ones, just like in sports,
usually ends up on top.
Howard Fineman is here. He`s editorial director of "The Huffington
Post", and, of course, an MSNBC political analyst.
So, analyze this one, Howard, buddy. It seems to me that it`s hard to
pick this one.
HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON: Well, it`s hard to pick this one
because Iowa is about farms and it`s about farmers. If you spend a lot of
time in Iowa, as I have, endless farm fields.
MATTHEWS: And she -- is a farmer.
FINEMAN: She`s a farm girl, except Iowa farmers are probably the most
worldly educated farmers in the world except for those in Minnesota and the
Dakotas. These are educated people with liberal values in many cases on
things like women`s rights and education and Social Security and so forth.
So, yes, it`s a battle of the farm wives, if you will, but it`s a
battle between -- the battles of between the farm itself and what those
women think about abortion rights, women`s rights, education and Social
Security, because Joni Ernst has talked about privatizing Social Security.
She`s talked about abolishing the Department of Education.
These are openings for Bruce Braley to save himself from his
disastrous "he`s not a lawyer" remark.
MATTHEWS: Can he make her into an outlier? Can he make her into
FINEMAN: Well, he`s going to try, but it`s difficult, because we can
make fun of the hog castrator ad, but the fact is she`s more of a farm gal
than he is a farm guy. That matters in Iowa, but as I say, it`s complex.
And I -- look, you go out to Iowa during the presidential campaigns,
as I do. You spend weeks out there. You talk, you go out, you drive
around the state, you talk to farmers.
I mean, they don`t just care about the seeds. They don`t just care
about what they`re planting next spring. They care about world issues, and
they care about education.
It`s a highly-educated state, very sophisticated state. And, you
know, you don`t want to be too wild in what you say, and that`s what
Braley`s going to try to do to her.
MATTHEWS: Great example of that, back in 1980, Jimmy Carter beat Ted
Kennedy there. Kennedy came out against the grain embargo. Carter was for
MATTHEWS: Because they were patriotic, those farmers out there, even
though it hurt them.
FINEMAN: That`s a great example.
MATTHEWS: Sticking it to the Soviet Union over invading Afghanistan.
FINEMAN: That was a great example.
MATTHEWS: I think Kennedy was wrong and Carter was right.
Anyway, thank you. The farmers were patriotic. Thank you, Howard
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the fear that`s being spread out
OK, 2014`s a dangerous time but a lot more dangerous in certain places
in the world than others. Sure, anything can happen. But if you take the
position that it will happen, the worst case scenario, that is, you`ll
never get in a car and certainly not on an airplane. You`ll just lock
yourself in the house and watch the 11:00 news and the latest crime reports
just to get yourself a little more scared when you go to bed that night.
Well, look, that`s one way to live. But America, this country
certainly wasn`t built that way. I don`t have to give you a graduation
speech to remind everybody that everyone who came to this country from
Europe or Asia or Latin America or anywhere did so with some risk, some
real risk. They could have stayed home and learned to live with their
poverty or under religious persecution, but they decided to get themselves
to a country that was filled with opportunity along with the risk.
I`ll admit that it bothers me deeply to have people worry aloud about
ISIS coming to get them personally. Do you really believe -- I`m talking
to the 14 percent who told pollsters they are seriously afraid of getting
hit by terrorists themselves. Do they really believe these characters over
there in Syria and Iraq have their own personal number? Do they? Is there
a reasonable chance that your number is up because of what`s going on in
the desert of Arabia right now?
I know the political hucksters love pushing the fear the button. They
exalt in that word "homeland", that ominous term cooked up by the neocons
to drive as off to the stupidest decision in history to go into Iraq, with
the bugles blowing and the ideologues brimming with talk of converting the
Arab Mideast into pleasant members of the United Nations, friendly
neighbors of Israel, and oh, yes, moderate democracies.
But that talk was for a purpose of getting us into a stupid war.
What`s the purpose now? Why push the Armageddon button now? Could it be
that scaring people is one way to justify just about anything right wing,
anything that exploits military force, anything that turns the United
States into a relentless military presence, a machine really, in the Middle
East, an endless adversary ands killer of Arabs and other Muslims.
People who do this can call themselves anything -- neocons, hawks,
whatever. What they are not are reliable stewards of American foreign
policy. They ain`t taking us anywhere good.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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