updated 11/18/2014 11:07:59 AM ET 2014-11-18T16:07:59

HARDBALL
November 17, 2014

Guest: Michael Weiss, Jon Tester, Christina Bellantoni, Sahil Kapur


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Days of anger -- Ferguson, the immigration
order, a weekend beheading, a new Ebola death, a failure to stop Iran`s
nuclear path, an imminent fight over Keystone all coming to the American
doorstep this week.

Suddenly, the whole world is playing HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

It`s a gloomy world out there we`re facing tonight. We expect a decision
from Ferguson, Missouri, anytime now. I would like to live in a world
where we all look at the evidence presented to that grand jury and weigh it
openly and honestly.

We have 11 million people living illegally in this country. I would like
to live in a world where that fact could be accepted and dealt with fairly,
along with immigration policy generally.

We had a fifth beheading by ISIS yesterday. I would like to see a way to
end this horror. We had another person die of Ebola today in this country.
And this is the last week of hope for an agreement with Iran to avert it
from nuclear weapons production.

Again, I`d like to be hopeful, but hope is not on sale this November.
Instead, we face an onrush of division, of anger. On the Ferguson matter
alone, I fear that even if Michael Brown`s death to have been televised
live, there would still be division on what we were seeing before our very
eyes. I`m afraid if we all knew the facts about illegal immigration, there
still wouldn`t be a unified decision on that front.

And so we face an explosion of news in the coming days. Will there be
anywhere a calming, just voice that we can trust? Well, I`d like to make
it here, where I keep my faith with my colleagues and our self-government
and our democracy and hope that we can get it together, and yes, even to
the worst times, make it better.

Howard Fineman is editorial director with the HuffingtonPost and Eugene
Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."
Both are, of course, MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen -- of my same age. I do think that one of our jobs here,
generally speaking, is to try to find the truth all the time but also to
try to understand the American emotions and to try to reconcile them to
some extent with a better country in the future. Our goal is to make this
country better in our own way, through truth. I accept that mandate, not
just to get the news, but to present it in a way that means hope.

Now, here we are. We got Ferguson coming. It could come tonight. It
could come tomorrow. It could come in three days. Is it your sense we`re
going to get that news so we can use it? Will it be useful information
about what happened that horrible time when young Michael Brown was killed?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I
think it`s going to be divisive, but I still see hope in it because I think
that people -- I know St. Louis pretty well. I know the region pretty
well.

MATTHEWS: Do you remember--

FINEMAN: And I know the city. And I think that I -- my hope is in the
fundamental decency of the people of the Midwest, ultimately, and the
people of St. Louis, who share a common stake in their own city and in both
the image and the reality of their own city. And I know the governor has,
you know, put out a state of emergency in preparation for this.

But I think we have no choice but to hope for the best. And I think in
terms of what the president does and says, it still remains very important.
And this may be a situation where his cool demeanor and his logical
approach, I think, can be -- can be very helpful.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he has a role here? Because he has an attorney
general -- we have an attorney general. And the question is, how do they -
- the best thing I think they can do is bring truth, as much information
that gives us a mind`s eye sense of what happened that day, from beginning
to end.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Exactly. And so -- and I think it depends, frankly -- the reaction will
depend largely on how much information we get and how credible and how full
that information is. And there`s an odd thing at work here because if
there is no indictment, which is what people seem to expect, maybe we`ll
get a fuller story. If there is, however, an indictment for any offense,
the prosecution is unlikely to lay out the entire case.

MATTHEWS: Oh, so the transcripts don`t go out if there`s an indictment?

ROBINSON: Well, I think it`s unlikely we`re going to get -- the
prosecution never tips its hand for the entire case if they expect to
convict somebody.

MATTHEWS: I knew -- I knew we`re at a point in this country because of our
hundreds of -- 400 years of racial problems and injustice, let`s be honest
about it, that it would be very hard for everybody to see the same justice,
even if they all see the same picture. But it certainly would as hell
help.

ROBINSON: It would help--

MATTHEWS: But we do get a picture of the picture, and that -- I wonder if
they`ve thought this through out there and they`re going to present all the
evidence they have when they do announce--

ROBINSON: That`s a great word, "picture" counts. I was at a fabulous
event today, earlier today. A tree was planted at the Capitol in memory of
Emmett Till.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And what you just said reminded me that it was the picture, it
was the picture in "Jet" magazine of Emmett Till`s battered face that
became -- in the casket -- that become one of the enduring--

MATTHEWS: What did he, whistle at a girl or something? What was his--

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What was the so-called provocation for that?

ROBINSON: Yes, he whistled at a girl in Mississippi.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the horror that`s coming our way. That is this
EO. I don`t know how it`s going to break, but it`s more of a political
thing. I expect if millions of people, men and women, family members are
all of a sudden told they will never be deported, they can get jobs in this
country, they`re eligible for Green Cards, they`ll become, in effect,
Americans living here. Their lives will be totally changed. There will be
a lot of happy excitement. What else will happen?

FINEMAN: Well, what else will happen is that the people who oppose -- I
would say, who oppose any deal on immigration, many of them Republicans,
most of them Republicans, I think you have to say, they will -- they will -
- they will paint the president as an out-of-control autocrat. And that`s
going to be poisonous politically. And the president is going to be
talking about people, and they`re going to be talking about the law. And
politically, I think the people argument wins.

MATTHEWS: The pictures again.

FINEMAN: The pictures--

MATTHEWS: Happy people.

FINEMAN: -- that -- that -- and it`s -- but look, the president is going
to have very little political cover here because on a whole series of these
things -- you mentioned a lot of these issues. A lot of it depends on his
decisions, whether it`s this immigration decision or dealing with Iran or
the other things that you mentioned. His kind of "go it alone" presidency
-- and that`s kind of the way he`s operated -- often leaves him without any
political cover.

And that makes it more divisive and more complicated to defend him, and
that`s -- because it`s not like it`s a bipartisan thing here. He`s doing
this on his own. A lot of people think it`s justified, especially given
Republican intransigence, but without a sort of joining of hands. That`s
sort of what we`re talking about in America today, Chris, talking about a
joining of hands. Is that is still possible.

It`s harder in this situation because the president -- in his view, because
he was forced to -- is going it alone. That always makes it more divisive
in our society because our politics is designed to try to eventually forge
some kind of agreement.

MATTHEWS: Gene, what do you think will be the reaction for the country,
besides the seven million happy people?

FINEMAN: It`s unclear because polls show that what President Obama is
likely to do is a kind of solution that most people would support. Yet
there might be objection to the way he does it that goes beyond Republican
intransigence. I mean, some people might be unsettled by it.

I think the president`s calculation is that, You know what? If they`re
going to paint me as an out-of-control autocrat anyhow, they`re going to
demonize anything I do anyhow -- we kind of tried it your way, those who
say, you know, be restrained, let`s wait. We tried that before the
election.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: A lot of good it did the endangered Democrats--

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s a point you make. He doesn`t come out of this
election as a sound, whole man politically.

ROBINSON: No.

MATTHEWS: The country`s -- he`s an unpopular figure right now -- not with
me, but he is an unpopular figure. Anyway, on immigration, on Keystone,
the president has left little doubt about his intentions. It`s clear he
intends to extend that executive order on immigration. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can`t wait in perpetuity
when I have authorities that, at least for the next two years, can improve
the system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And on other issues, he is unconvinced, apparently, of the
United States` benefit here at home of the Keystone pipeline, which is a
very red-hot issue out West in this country. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of
Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf, where
it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn`t have an impact on U.S. gas
prices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we have a couple more issues to get to in just about three
minutes right now. One, Howard, is this -- before we get to Keystone, more
important than that -- the beheading. I have to admit I`m a typical
American. I`m not a journalist or anything else when it comes to this.
When I see a guy beheading -- if somebody put a button in front of that
said, Push this button and kill ISIS, I`d push it. I get so angry.

And then a week later, I go to the same old rotation. I go, Why the hell
are we over there at all? So I bounce back and forth from "Screw those
bastards" to "They`re humiliating us" to "Why are we in their country and
their world at all"?

FINEMAN: Well, again, I come back to President Obama here because like
some of these other things -- like the immigration executive order that
he`s apparently going to issue, like the decision of Keystone -- here`s a
situation where he, as commander-in-chief, has to decide how many more
troops and how much more force to put in there to fight ISIS. They`re not
going to get a declaration of war, or I even think an authorization for the
use of force out of the Congress on this issue. It`s the president alone
again--

MATTHEWS: His own war.

FINEMAN: Excuse me?

MATTHEWS: His own war.

FINEMAN: It`s his own war. And as I say, he doesn`t have the political
cover. It`s an odd situation, where he`s sort of a lame duck and yet he`s
empowered and empowering himself to do things without political support--

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- unusual situation.

ROBINSON: You said, you know, your instinct at times is to push the
button. They did push the button. About a week-and-a-half ago, they
pushed the button and tried to, essentially, behead ISIS by killing--

MATTHEWS: Yes. Air power, yes.

ROBINSON: They may have injured the leader of ISIS, and they may have
injured--

MATTHEWS: Jihadi John.

ROBINSON: Jihadi John, right. So they`re trying -- I mean, they`re
pushing what buttons they`ve got.

FINEMAN: They`re trying, but there`s going to be -- but -- but the
president may be forced to push more and put more in there--

MATTHEWS: OK -- did you hear--

FINEMAN: -- again, on his own hook. On his own hook.

MATTHEWS: But he`s again alone because -- we have the air power, of
course. We have the great air force of the world. But we also have a
problem of no allies on the ground. There`s no serious army--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The Iraqi army, according to Richard Engel this weekend, is
totally infiltrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It`s all working
for Iran.

FINEMAN: That`s a very good point, Chris. It`s--

MATTHEWS: We have no real good allies.

FINEMAN: It`s kind of not just that he`s alone in these decisions and
these actions here in the United States politically, you`re right, the same
is true around -- same is true around the world.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to small potatoes here, but it`s going to be
something tomorrow. I`m using my Massachusetts accent, which you`ve
recognized there -- "buh-day-duhs."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But it seems to me that the country overwhelmingly per capita is
for this Keystone pipeline. They like energy. They like any job they can
get. It`s infrastructure to most people -- 60 to 25. And yet the
president, after tomorrow`s vote -- where`s it going to be -- in the
Senate, he`s going to come out against it.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Again, he`s the Lone Ranger!

ROBINSON: Yes, he`s the Lone Ranger. And you know, I`m not sure that deep
down inside, he cares that much about Keystone.

MATTHEWS: I -- I -- that`s the part I have a hard time--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He says he`s yet to hear the case for it.

ROBINSON: He`s lain down this marker and said, No, we`re going to have
this process. We`re going to do it this way. And so I think he`s got to
veto it.

MATTHEWS: Why did -- why do the environmentalists, who I do generally
agree with, take this so much to heart, this issue? We have pipelines --
everybody -- down the street in Washington, we got pipelines opening up.
Every time they -- they put in new gas line, they put in a new a water line
-- we`re used to pipelines!

FINEMAN: I think -- well, it`s gone beyond all logic at this point. It`s
turned into this incredible symbol. Again, you talk about pictures, OK?
There`s going to be this big pipeline. There`s--

MATTHEWS: Yes. But it will be underground.

FINEMAN: But the -- but the -- but the economics of it don`t make a whole
lot of sense for the United States. It really doesn`t make a whole lot of
sense. So even the people who support it are more or less saying, You
know, let`s just dig and drill and--

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s the alternative if we don`t do it? What`s Canada
do with the oil shale?

FINEMAN: Well, they ship it out -- they -- they figure out how to ship it
out through--

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- through western Canada directly to Asia.

MATTHEWS: But they don`t want to do that.

FINEMAN: They -- no, they don`t want to do it. They`d rather do it this
way.

MATTHEWS: But don`t we want the refining potential down there, that we get
to make some money on that? We make some money on bigging (ph) the
pipeline? We -- I don`t know.

ROBINSON: Well, you can make that argument, but the you get--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, OK. While you`re weighing this out here, Gene, weigh out
the question why -- we`re going to have Jon Tester on. I`ll let him speak
for himself, but all the Western Democrats -- you know, Arkansas, I think
Mary Landrieu, certainly Alaska -- they want this pipeline.

ROBINSON: No, and look, any of them with oil and gas businesses in their
state--

MATTHEWS: Sixty percent of the American people want it.

FINEMAN: Also unions -- unions -- the unions want it. The unions want it.

MATTHEWS: Well, why don`t they make some noise so we can stop arguing
about it?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: The unions used to make decisions for us!

FINEMAN: Here`s the situation--

ROBINSON: Young people don`t want it.

MATTHEWS: Oh, they don`t--

ROBINSON: And young people -- you know, Democrats want young people to
vote for them.

MATTHEWS: They`re green. They`re green.

ROBINSON: They`re green.

FINEMAN: That`s -- that`s--

MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be a hell of one week. I`m glad I had
two guys here to know what you`re talking about, but I think we all agree
it is workable, but this president is out there alone. He`s on point.
This is a tough week.

FINEMAN: I`ve rarely seen a situation like this.

MATTHEWS: So many fronts, and he`s the guy. Well, we elected him twice.
Anyway, Howard Fineman, thank you. And Eugene Robinson, thank you, sir.

Anyway, coming up, what are we doing to deal with Iraq right now? This is
a problem. We had a war over there. On the one hand, we`ve got the horror
of ISIS and the beheadings. They beheaded another American the other day.
And on the other hand -- there`s two hands here -- the Iraqi government has
been infiltrated by pro-Iranian forces. We don`t have a real ally in the
field. All we have is airplanes and gutsy pilots.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The FBI is warning right now that protests in Ferguson,
Missouri, could be exploited by extremist demonstrators who want to attack
law enforcement. FBI officials sent an advisory to local police last week
warning of what could happen after a grand jury announcement is made. As I
said, it could come any time now.

But a senior FBI official tells NBC News the advisory was not based on any
knowledge of an actual plan to infiltrate those protests. Right now, the
concern is based on so-called chatter on social media and Internet
postings.

We`ll be right back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, there`s been another beheading,
of course, gruesome, of course, of a Western hostage by ISIS forces in
Syria. It`s an American. Peter Kassig was a 26-year-old former U.S. Army
Ranger. In fact, later, after leaving the service, he founded a
humanitarian aid organization to help the victims of the civil war in
Syria, using in many cases his own money and risking his life to bring
supplies into the country, medical supplies. Kassig converted to Islam
during his captivity and changed his name to Abdul Rahman while he was a
prisoner.

This afternoon, his parents spoke about their son. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA KASSIG, PETER KASSIG`S MOTHER: Our hearts are battered, but they
will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end. And
good will prevail as the one God of many names will prevail.

ED KASSIG, PETER KASSIG`S FATHER: Please pray for Abdul Rahman, or Pete,
if that`s how you know him, at sunset this evening. Pray also for all
people in Syria, in Iraq and around the world that are held against their
will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama called the murder of Peter Kassig an "act
of pure evil." Certainly got that right. So far, the group has beheaded
five Western hostages, as I said, including the American journalists James
Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Some of the executioners have resided in the past in Western countries,
including the man referred to in the media as "jihadi John," who has
appeared in all the videos. Well, today, French authorities identified
another man in the most recent video as Maxime Hauchard, a 22-year-old
Muslim convert.

Anyway, Evan Kohlmann is an NBC terrorism analyst and Michael Weiss is a
columnist and editor with The Interpreter.

Michael, I want you to start. What does this all mean to you? Put it all
together. You see these beheadings--

MICHAEL WEISS, INTERPRETER MAGAZINE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- you see the terrible shape of the Iraqi army -- it`s
infiltrated -- according to Richard Engel yesterday, it`s totally
infiltrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It`s not doing anything
but killing Sunnis.

What do we have going on over there, putting it all together?

WEISS: Well, look, it`s true that ISIS is losing territory, which is a
good sign. I mean, they lost the Baiji oil refinery. Their momentum, if
you like, has been stopped.

The problem I see going forward is, you know, Sunnis in Iraq -- there was
some great reporting done by "The New York Times" last week. Sunnis in
Iraq see ISIS by and large not as this sort of brutal occupying force, you
know, beheading people and committing all these atrocities, although it`s
true that a lot of Sunnis -- in fact, Sunnis are the majority of the
victims of ISIS`s brutality, but a lot of them welcome these guys in as
liberators.

Now, you ask, why would -- on earth would they do that? And the answer is
because of the political persecution and disenfranchisement of the Maliki
regime.

I mean, you said it yourself, Chris. Baghdad is essentially a suzerainty
of Iran. It`s controlled by the Iranian government. These Shia militia
groups, many of wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms, some of them not
wearing them, are committing atrocities on a national -- nationwide scale.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International has reported this. The U.S.
media doesn`t really pay too much attention to this. But "The Guardian"
newspaper actually did excellent reporting on this. Several months ago, a
Shia M.P. in Iraq said -- and I quote -- that what Baghdad is doing,
allowing the -- Iran`s Revolutionary Guard Corps to create this consortium
of militias, is tantamount to the creation of Shia al Qaeda.

Now, I submit to you Sunnis are not going to rise up and overthrow ISIS.
You are not going to see an Anbar awakening, the way you did in the mid-
2000s with U.S. forces on the ground, if they think that the beneficiaries
of such an uprising will be the Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WEISS: I mean, this is their enemy. This is the people that they think
are -- have -- and, indeed, have been slaughtering them, in Syria, dropping
barrel bombs on their heads, deploying chemical weapons.

There`s even allegations that Iranian pilots are flying fighter jets in
Iraq--

MATTHEWS: OK.

WEISS: -- dropping barrel bombs on Sunni communities. So they see Iran as
the community.

MATTHEWS: Evan, let me -- let`s -- let`s get a counterpoint to that.

Evan, what do you think of what you just heard from Michael? Is that the
way you see it, it`s basically the Iranians are the bad guys and that`s why
the Sunni people have basically bowed down to ISIS, as much as they know
that they`re brutal?

EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, look, look at this latest
beheading video, the latest execution video.

The video was not like the previous videos. There was an effort here by
ISIS to justify what they`re doing by saying, we`re fighting against the
encroachment of the Syrian and Iranian governments, and look at the
terrible things that are being done to Syrians by their own government and
by the Iranians. And we`re merely defending innocent people.

Now, unfortunately--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, why are you killing Americans?

KOHLMANN: Because as far--

MATTHEWS: Why are they beheading us?

KOHLMANN: As far as they see it, we are empowering the Syrian government.
We are empowering the Iranian government to wage war and by launching
airstrikes against ISIS, they`re trying to convince Sunnis in Iraq that we
are launching airstrikes against them.

And, in fact, "The New York Times" reported this as well last week, that,
unfortunately, even those who oppose ISIS in places like Raqqa in Syria,
they don`t necessarily support our airstrikes either because they`re so
desperate for any form of stability, any form of social stability after
years of being bombed by the Syrian government, that even ISIS seems like a
palatable alternative.

We have got to change that opinion. It`s not going to be easy, and,
unfortunately, there are still people who are being rallied by these
beheading videos, and there is no great groundswell of uprising within the
Sunni community right now in Iraq against ISIS. There are individual
tribes that are turning.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KOHLMANN: There are individual towns and villages, but there is no
groundswell among the vast majority of Sunnis in Iraq. If not, Mosul would
no longer be in the hands of ISIS.

MATTHEWS: OK.

To most Americans, they have got it figured down to this. There`s a Syrian
government we have never liked. They have been always anti-Israeli,
basically a rejectionist Baathist state, not a good guy, Assad, Bashar al-
Assad, the son of al-Assad.

Basically, it`s a bad country that gets a lot of publicity in magazine
covers and stuff kill that, but they`re no good. But then again, they`re
not the worst thing in the world, because we were warned that once they
went down, there would be something worse. On the other hand, we did
create this new creation, this rump government in Iraq, which is basically
a Shia government.

So if you`re a Sunni over there, which is the largest number of Islamic
people in the world and the country -- the countries that we do like over
there, like the Northern -- Northern African countries like Morocco and
certainly Egypt most of the time, and almost all the time Jordan, we like
those people.

So now the Sunnis are being overrun by ISIS, but they`re also more
dramatically threatened by the Iraqi government, which is now dominated by
Shia. Look at this.

Yesterday on "Meet the Press," here is what really grabbed me, NBC`s
Richard Engel reporting on the sectarian menace in the Iraqi army itself.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There are some units of
the Iraqi military that are making some progress. They made some advances
north of Baghdad in the last several days, but the military is infiltrated.

It`s infiltrated by Shiite militias. It`s infiltrated by the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard. Just a few -- just a few weeks ago, in fact, a unit
from the Iraqi military backed up by militias went into a town. They
killed some ISIS, but then they also went back and butchered Sunni
civilians who were living in the town.

And this was an act, according to officials that I have spoken to, directly
carried out by an Iranian-backed group within the Iraqi security services.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is a horrendous war front for us, Michael.

What happened if we -- if we were to knock out and capture every fighter
for ISIS right now, kill them, capture them, take them off the field, who
would take that land and the people around them? Who would take over?

WEISS: You mean the--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would it be the Iraqi-Iranians, or would it be the Sunni -- the
Syrian government?

WEISS: No, no, no, no, no.

You are not going to be see the Revolutionary Guards Corps do
counterinsurgency a la David Petraeus. They`re not going to go into the
sort of Sunni Triangle areas, because they know that even if ISIS --
theoretically, let`s say magically--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, who takes over then?

WEISS: -- could eliminate ISIS, there would be another insurgency.

Remember, Chris, and this is an important element here, it`s not just
jihadis that are rising up against Baghdad, OK? There are ex-Baath Party
members.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WEISS: The insurgency in 2003 wasn`t really al Qaeda. It wasn`t -- it
wasn`t a jihadi uprising. This was -- they`re sort of remnants of the
Saddam regime.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I know that.

WEISS: In fact, there`s another element, too, which is that in ISIS` upper
cadres, all the analysis I have seen, most of the guys who are actually
calling the shots are either Baath Party members who were radicalized in
Camp Bucca when they were detained by U.S. forces or coalition forces.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WEISS: Some of them are ex-Saddam military. Some of them are ex-Saddam
Mukhabarat.

So you ask yourself, why -- how has ISIS managed to sort of embed itself
into these civilian structures in the Sunni communities? They`re
exploiting smuggling networks, arms trafficking networks that predate the
U.S. invasion.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WEISS: This is the -- the stuff that Saddam put in place to evade U.N.
sanctions.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WEISS: That`s how far back it goes.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s -- and, by the way, you saw it, I saw it, and said
it on the air every night after the invasion, that stupid invasion of Iraq
where we threw out, we de-Baathicized all those soldiers and generals and
sent them off with their weapons. To do what? To do squat.

They were going to do something like this.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Weiss.

WEISS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: That was the neocon disaster.

Anyway, thank you, Evan Kohlmann.

KOHLMANN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, what are the Democrats going to do for the middle class
in this country? That`s a question we all want to know. What`s their
message to earn back public support after getting walloped the other week?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: I think if there was one message that the
voters sent out, a lot of them by not voting, it was that we need to work
together.

Now, what my role is going to be at DSCC is going out and finding
candidates that can lead, that can win, that can advocate for the middle
class in their election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s Democratic leaders right there in that picture you saw with Harry
Reid. And, of course, the man, the big guy there is Montana Senator Jon
Tester. He`s is going to head up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee. His job is to reverse what happened a couple weeks ago, the
drubbing in the midterms by the Republicans.

Anyway, he`s a red state Democrat from Montana. He won an improbable
victory back in 2006 himself. He looks like a shrewd pick for a party
hoping to make up their losses in 2016. But with two years ago in the
president`s final term, the challenges for his party are many.

Joining me right now is the man himself, Senator Jon Tester, live from the
Capitol.

Thank you.

Senator Tester, let me ask you about this. And this is the toughest
question in the world. How are you going to do it? How are you going to
win back those seats? What`s your message to the American middle class
that`s going to win what couldn`t win -- or I don`t think there was a
message -- two weeks ago?

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: I don`t think there was a message either.

And I think what we need, first of all, is good candidates. And we have
started the recruitment process already. We have got to get people who are
willing to work hard, really put their shoulder to the wheel and do what
they need, listen to their -- listen to constituents in their state and --
and run a race that`s specific to that -- to that state, and empower the
middle class in the process.

And I think that is very critical. The question is, is, what kind of
policies do we need as we move forward that`s going to empower the middle
class? And there`s -- there`s a lot of things we can do.

I`ll tell you one that`s pretty simple, because I just heard you talking in
the last segment. And that`s keeping the energy here from the XL pipeline.
Keep the energy here. Make it so we have good energy security here,
inexpensive energy to be able to get our manufacturing base back, and all
the jobs that would come with that manufacturing base.

I think that`s something that could help empower the middle class and move
the ball forward.

MATTHEWS: What happens if the president vetoes your bill, though? That
will send the opposite message: Democrats oppose Keystone.

You could vote for it.

TESTER: Oh, I will tell you that I--

MATTHEWS: But if the president vetoes the thing, what are you -- how are
you going to go out and sell that as a Democratic position?

TESTER: If we had -- if we had in that pipeline bill to keep the energy
here in the country, I can`t see how the president would veto it, to be
honest with you, because I think it would provide some real benefits to the
country and to the job market here in this country.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about jobs.

It seems to me, in general terms, that the Democratic Party is not a
deficit party, it`s not a deficit hawk party. You`re not fiscal
conservatives. You have got to be for growth. That`s also something the
Republicans could go along with, growth, jobs, infrastructure, lower
corporate tax rates to keep the money invested here, to get people to
invest more here.

The trouble with your campaign this last year, and the reason I think it
was a disaster, one, you didn`t have a president out there campaigning for
anything. He was hiding, kept hidden.

And the second thing was, you had an empty -- an empty department store --
not department store -- food store, like a general -- like a Safeway,
nothing in it to sell, except a couple point-of-purchase items as you leave
the door at the checkout counter with "The National Enquirer" and the candy
bars. You had, oh, equal pay and minimum wage.

You didn`t have anything for the middle class, the 80 percent of the
country. What`s your big message for the middle class, or don`t you have
it yet?

TESTER: Well, first of all, I think that there are there are plenty --
there was plenty of things to sell in this election, but I think there was
disaster after disaster that came down the pipe, from the rollout of the
health care, to the last one, which -- Ebola, and all sorts of things in
between.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TESTER: Couldn`t talk about the fact that energy prices had dropped.
Couldn`t talk about the fact that we were creating over 200,000 jobs a
month. Couldn`t talk about those kinds of things.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TESTER: Look, well, because we`re always dealing with the crises, always
in crisis management form.

Now, I`ll tell you this. We should have still talked about the good things
that were happening in the economy. We should have still talked about how
the country is moving forward coming out of the worst recession since the
1930s. But that didn`t happen.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re not answering my question.

We doubled the Dow, or tripled the Dow. We cut unemployment in half.
There`s a lot of good things.

TESTER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Not everybody is well-off, obviously. But it`s a progress
report you could have sold. You didn`t have a sales pitch and you didn`t
have a guy selling it.

I don`t understand a political party that isn`t out there pitching. How
are you going to change it?

TESTER: Well--

MATTHEWS: Last question. You have got to change it.

TESTER: You`re absolutely right.

I will tell you how we change it. We change it by having very, very good
candidates. We change it by having good people around them. And we change
it by not having every race run the same way. You can`t have a cookie-
cutter approach.

And the fact is, this is no different than farming. You put the seeds in
the ground. You give them what they need to succeed and you will cut a
good crop in the end. We will cut a good crop in 2016 if we do what we
need to do at this point in time.

MATTHEWS: You sound like you have got the right attitude.

Senator Jon Tester, the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee.

Coming up, Bill Clinton`s advice for President Obama. Now, you have got to
take this with a grain of salt. I suppose they`re not exactly buds, but
think about yourself as a lame duck. He said, no. Be a lucky duck. Have
fun for the next two years. It`s a psychological advantage he`s giving the
president, at least on the surface. We are going to talk about that lucky
duck with the roundtable next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui. Here`s what`s
happening.

The surgeon treated for Ebola in Nebraska has died, doctors saying the
patient was extremely ill when he arrived from Sierra Leone over the
weekend.

Missouri`s governor has declared a state of emergency and activated the
National Guard ahead of a grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case
there.

And the deadly cold that has blasted parts of the Central United States
over the weekend continues to spread, sending temperatures plunging and
burying residents from Cleveland to Buffalo in heavy snow -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Anyway, time now for the roundtable.

"Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC political analyst Jonathan
Capehart to my left, editor in chief of "Roll Call," Christina Bellantoni,
and Talking Points Memo political reporter Sahil Kapur.

Anyway, former President Bill Clinton was at it again this weekend. He
talked about the lame-duck status facing the president. He said it`s just
a state of mind, and that President Obama can still get a lot done in the
next two years.

Anyway, let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that he
should minimize the chances of being a lame duck, which he can do by
continuing to have an agenda and using the budget process to make deals
with the Republicans, because now that they have both houses, they have a
much greater vested interest in not just being against everything.

Once you get the budget process, you acquire certain responsibilities. So,
I hope he can pass immigration reform now. And I think he can. I hope he
can pass a tax reform measure and get some of that money back overseas and
put it into an infrastructure bank. There are five or six other things I
think he could do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Christina, you know, only Bill Clinton could do what he just did
there, because he`s the guy that, in 1992, lost the New Hampshire
presidential primary by eight points to Paul Tsongas, and declared victory.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And it worked.

So, it is possible to just have this mood ring around you that says, think
big, think happy. You`re not a lame duck, Mr. President. Get it together.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL: And what I love about this is that you
have so much of what he does now is clearly about his wife, Hillary
Clinton. But in this case, this is very much about, hey look, I managed to
get out of here with a really great legacy and so you can do it, too. You
know, for him, it is a matter of saying I had this great period of economic
prosperity. Look at all the things I achieved.

And it`s easy to remember that his last two years were real rough. And,
you know, for President Obama, he clearly is more interested in his own
legacy than he is about his party`s legacy.

MATTHEWS: The president as well as his legacy has done swimmingly well, of
course. We all know that, and I applaud that because it`s good politics.
But just remember how he said good-bye to us, Marc Rich. That was not a
great way to say good-bye. Go ahead.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: One thing to keep in mind, though,
is when the president, President Clinton, made those remarks, it was after
a day long symposium about the Clinton years, domestic policy, economic
policy, foreign policy. So, he was in a very reflective mood even in that
clip. That clip, I believe, was from Saturday and all the symposium were
on Friday.

So, he`s looking back and looking back on his eight years in the White
House and thinking, what could President Obama do in his last two years?
And the one thing by telling him, you know, just don`t think of yourself as
a lame duck, he`s basically telling the president, look, yes, you got gut
punched by the midterm elections but you still have two years left and you
should go pedal to the metal to get as much done as you can.

MATTHEWS: Legislatively?

CAPEHART: I think from his perspective legislatively, but I mean --

MATTHEWS: That`s not Obama`s approach apparently.

BELLANTONI: Very different Republicans than Barack Obama --

(CROSSTALK)

SAHIL KAPUR, TPM: President Obama is taking President Clinton`s advice, it
seems. He`s not behaving like a lame duck.

CAPEHART: No, not at all.

KAPUR: After the election, the thumping, the shellacking, whatever you
want to call it, it was all of the above. He announced that they got net
neutrality move. He announced the major climate deal with China and he`s
going bold on immigration.

So, this is not a president right now that is appearing dejected. He knew
that he was going to get beaten in this election and they did. But he also
has two more years.

CAPEHART: And he`s not running again.

BELLANTONI: With a strong economy, that`s what people are going to
remember 10, 15 years from now, the same way that they remember it with
Bill Clinton. They`re not thinking about Marc Rich.

(CROSSTALK)

KAPUR: A lot of things that we`re talking about right now, Jonathan
Gruber, are not going to be --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, you brought his name up, I didn`t.

Former President Bill Clinton said over the weekend that President Obama`s
decision not to take executive action on immigration before the midterms
was a tough call. In fact, a bad one. But also said it may have kept the
Hispanic community away from the polls. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: There was a collapse of the youth vote.
The African-American vote held fairly steady and was remarkable given we
had a little bit of a loss of the Hispanic vote. Perhaps because the
president didn`t issue the immigration order but it was a tough call for
him because had he done so, then a lot of the others would have lost by
even more. It was a difficult call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what that purpose serves except all I heard that
whole line of Monday morning quarterbacking, which everybody does, we do it
here, is we. The key word is we.

He has reclaimed the Democratic Party. It`s our party. It`s us together.
It`s Obama`s party. It`s his party. It`s a "we" party now.

I thought that was very powerful, the use of the word "we" there.

CAPEHART: Keep in mind, I was in the room. I was there in Little Rock all
weekend. I was in the room and the question was asking him about the
campaigns he went and campaigned for and slipping in, we`ll talk about
President Obama and immigration.

You know, President Clinton`s right, it was a tough call. Remember, we
were all wondering what the president is going to -- is he really going to
put Democrats at risk in North Carolina and Kentucky and Louisiana and
Arkansas by issuing this executive order or will he wait until after the
election?

It was a tough call because we didn`t know what he was going to do. And
then when he made the decision everyone said, oh, well now you`re just
doing it for politics.

Well, we saw with the election results just how difficult a call it was. I
think President Clinton is right. Had the president done the executive
order in the summer as he promised initially, the folks who ended up losing
anyway would have lost by a whole lot.

MATTHEWS: And they would have lost by September.

BELLANTONI: And the turnout --

MATTHEWS: There wouldn`t have been campaigns for Kay Hagan and people
like. They would have given up.

BELLANTONI: Very possibly. And the turnout wasn`t going to be that much
more just given -- there`s a depressed turnout in the off year. People
don`t pay attention. It`s not as much about the national mood as this is
not the year that people engage.

KAPUR: Right.

Colorado was probably the one state where that executive move might have
made a difference. I think won by between two and three percentage points
and there are a lot of Hispanics there. I can`t imagine any other
Democratic thumping.

CAPEHART: Do you give up -- do you save Colorado by giving up North -- at
the expense of North Carolina, and Louisiana, Arkansas?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The safest position to take in politics and I know the president
there, former president has a good heart about it. The two safest
predictions are, positions are, to oppose something that passes because
then you`re not responsible for what happens or support something that
fails. He`s taking a very safe position to say what could have, should
have, would have happened because you don`t know, you just don`t know.

Anyway, the roundtable is coming back. We`ve got a hot story coming back.
It has to do with yesterday, football. As if things couldn`t get worse for
the National Football League, they`re getting worse. Federal drug agents
are conducting surprise tests on team doctors after former players allege
the league is handing out painkillers like Halloween candy.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s official. The City of Brotherly Love will be getting
a visit from the Holy Father. Pope Francis announced today he will make
his first trip to this country. He`ll visit my hometown of Philadelphia
for the World Meeting of Families next September, September 15th. It will
be the Holy Father`s first trip to America since becoming pope.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, Jonathan, Christina and Sahel.

Let me go back to one of those helluva years for the NFL, if you think
about, but it just gotten worse.

Yesterday, with the assistance of the U.S. attorney up in New York, federal
drug agents conducted surprised inspections at multiple NFL teams in locker
rooms. The inspections are result of some serious allegations made in a
lawsuit filed by more than 1,300 former NFL players in the NFL. It was
made in May.

The suit alleges the teams sponsored drugs abuse running rampant throughout
the NFL. They say physicians and trainers both make it a practice to
illegally give out prescription painkillers, quote, "like Halloween candy"
in order to rush injured players back onto the field.

Well, the players say that they`re battling serious health problems,
obviously, like drug addiction, organ failure, all result of being pumped
full of drugs, their court complaint says it was to keep the NFL`s tsunami
of dollars flowing, which sounds right.

"Saturday Night Live," however, lampooned the whole suggestion. Let`s take
a look at Woody Harrelson and what he did on Saturday night to give some
comic relief to this terrible story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)]

WOODY HARRELSON: What`s so hard about this? It`s the same tackle you
fellas have always done. It`s just a little safer on the noggin.

You see your man, right? That`s your target. OK. So we want to plant,
arch that back, show them the feet, guys. Then, engage. Bring him up.
Then as he goes down, you cup the knave, supporting him and lowering him
gently to the turf like a prince putting his princess to bed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s part of the NFL story. The other part is this drug
thing.

Christina, painkillers, Percodan, stuff like that. Giving people stuff to
get into sleep at night, just because they got to get them up for the big
game. They`re treating them like Judy Garland being treated by Hollywood
people. Go ahead.

BELLANTONI: Well, one, these are allegations. It`s important to say that.
But this has been a difficult year for the NFL, I think we can all agree
that.

MATTHEWS: Thirteen hundred people made the allegation.

BELLANTONI: It does still matter. It is one of the most-watched live
events, still. It is something that children look up to sports players all
of the time. And when you look at the bigger picture, you`ve got, you
know, abuse questions, you`ve got the issue of concussions, you`ve got the
question of like how the college football system works.

I mean, this is like a year where really the sport needs to completely
evaluate what it`s doing and how players are treated and what comes out of
that. And the NFL is really doing a lot to try to --

MATTHEWS: Well, look at RG3 here in D.C. We all know the story of this
incredible talent they picked up. They didn`t even keep him in the game,
you know?

CAPEHART: Right, even he`s injured.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: Yes. Well, you know, to pick up on what Christina was just
saying, the NFL has to evaluate where it is. Part of the problem is the
owners. Nothing is going to change unless the owners want it to change.
And the owners aren`t going to want anything to change until the fans and
the viewers at home, the folks in the stands and the viewers at home
actually demand it.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the owners are trainers to get the guy back on the
field if he`s hauled off, or hobbles off the field, get him back out there?
Do you think they say pop him some pills.

CAPEHART: You just signed a player to multiple millions of dollars. You
eve hyped the fact that this person has joined your team and they`re
injured, and you`re not going to do anything possible to put him on the
field.

(CROSSTALK)

KAPUR: This is a reckoning that I think the NFL is going through in a
major way. It`s a cultural reckoning. It`s a moral reckoning, apart from
what`s happening to these players and what they`re dealing with.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the big umpire that`s going to say enough is enough?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They cover up whatever rape going on at Penn State. Everything
that`s going on is all about keeping the money machine going.

KAPUR: Right. I`m with Jonathan on this. It`s probably going to come
down to the owners, and the real question is, you know, when this happens,
what kind of message they want to say to the millions of people who look up
to these people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Think about it. This is something we might be back on soon,
because it is what we all do on Sunday. On Sunday, I checked how my
colleagues and watched the other games, the pro games.

Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, Christina Bellantoni and Sahil Kapur, thank you
all for joining us.

When we continue, let me finish with the words of Peter Kassig who was
beheaded Sunday morning. He wrote his parents this summer. You should
hear what he wrote his parents. What a perfect person in so many ways.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the words of Peter Kassig, who was
beheaded Sunday morning.

Peter Kassig fought for our country in Iraq. He later went to Syria to
help the people suffering there in that civil war. He was beheaded Sunday
after refusing his captors` demand that he`d make a statement.

In closing tonight, I want to read to you a letter that young Peter Kassig
wrote to his parents in words that matter.

"It is still really hard to believe all of this is really happening. So,
I`m sure you know by now, things have been getting pretty intense. We`ve
been held together, U.S. foreigners. And now about half the people have
gone home. I hope that this will all have a happy ending, but it may very
well be coming down to the wire here.

If in fact that is the case, I figured it was time to say a few things that
need saying before I have to go. The first thing I want to say is thank
you both to you and mom for everything you have both done for me. As
parents, for everything you have taught me, shown me and experienced with
me. I cannot imagine the strength and commitment it has taken to raise a
son like me with your love and patience are things I am so deeply grateful
for.

They tell us you`ve abandoned us and/or don`t care. But, of course, we
know you are doing everything you can and more. Don`t worry, dad. If I go
down, if I do go down, I won`t go thinking anything but what I know to be
true, that you and mom love me more than the moon and the stars. I am
obviously pretty scared to die, but the hardest part is not knowing,
wondering -- hoping and wondering if I should hope at all.

I`m very sad that all this is happening for what all of you back at home
are going through. If I do go, I figure that at least you and I can seek
refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to
alleviate suffering and helping those in need.

I wish this paper would go on forever and never run out. And I could just
keep talking to you, just know I`m with you every stream, every lake, every
field, and river, in the woods and in the hills and all the places you
showed me. I love you.

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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