Date: February 10, 2015
Guest: Charles Sennott, Sen. Bill Nelson, Mo Brooks, Susan Page
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Kayla is gone.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
And "Let Me Start" tonight with confirmation that the American hostage
Kayla Mueller is dead. Mueller was taken by ISIS in August of 2013 while
working for an aid organization in Syria. She was there trying to help the
suffering people of that country.
And today, her family said they`ve received evidence that she is dead.
According to NBC, the evidence was a photograph of Kayla`s body which had
been e-mailed -- the photograph -- to her family over the weekend. While
we now know she is dead, we do not know how she was killed or when. ISIS
said it was a Jordanian air strike that killed her, but there`s strong
reason for skepticism, as White House press secretary, Josh Earnest showed
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The information that we
have is that there is no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to
the coalition strike taking place. And that certainly would call into
question the claims that are made by ISIL. What is not possible to call
into question is that ISIL, regardless of her cause of death, is
responsible for it. This, after all, was the organization that was holding
her against her will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Agreed. Anyway, why would we believe the ISIS version of
events in any case? After all, this was a group that was negotiating over
the fate of a Jordanian pilot several weeks after the pilot was gruesomely
We begin tonight with the two key questions -- when and how did Kayla
Mueller died? I`m joined by NBC`s Keir Simmons, who`s in Amman, Jordan.
Keir, thank you for joining us tonight. What do we really know,
except we now believe, because the parents have gotten some evidence of a
picture of her, that she is deceased? What do we know besides that?
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, we don`t know very
much at all, to be honest. U.S. officials say that she appears -- and
we`re talking about them trying to study just a picture, just a photograph.
But they say that she appears to have suffered trauma wounds that would not
be inconsistent with her being in the vicinity of a bomb.
But of course, we`re talking about Syria, and Syria is a place where
bombs are dropped by numbers of different parties, including by the Syrian
government itself. And we`re talking about ISIS -- ISIL, as the White
House calls them -- where they are constantly making bombs, building bombs.
So she would have been around the kinds of munitions that could have caused
these injuries, not falling from the sky.
And that`s really where it is, Chris, to be honest. I mean, ISIS made
these claims. The Jordanians are repeating those same points being made by
the White House, that you can`t believe a single thing that ISIS says. It
is very, very difficult to be certain when she died or how she died.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Jordan. You`re in that country right
now. It`s a valued ally of our country`s. They`re massing troops, ground
troops, on the border with Syria. To what purpose? Can we tell? Are they
ready for an invasion? Or is this a show of strength, or simply border
protection, which would make sense?
SIMMONS: We think it`s border protection, but the talk about a
possible offensive against ISIS has been building ever since the air
campaign has been building in recent days.
Chris, some things that might have been missed, though. The Iraqi
deputy prime minister has said in the last 24 hours he doesn`t believe that
their forces are ready for a ground offensive against ISIS, even with the
kind of air power that they would have in support.
And Chris, you`ll know that the idea, for example, of Jordanian troops
heading across the border into Iraq to fight ISIS would be pretty
extraordinary because you`re talking about a country that is primary led by
-- OK, it`s a coalition government, but it`s a Shia government, many people
think. And then when you talk about Syria, as I mentioned earlier, that is
a country run by President Assad.
So again, a difficult arena to intervene in by the Jordanians or any
other Gulf states. So you probably are relying on the kinds of forces,
like Iraqi troops, like Kurdish troops, and you really want to be certain
that they are ready. And the Kurds, by the way, have been complaining that
they don`t have what they need in order to really fight ISIS.
That will be a bloody battle, Chris, when and if that happens, I
guess, and those -- all of those supporting the idea and pushing ISIS back
are going to want to be confident that they can be successful.
MATTHEWS: Right. Thank you so much, Keir Simmons, once again from
Anyway, the president said today -- our president -- that Kayla
Mueller represented what is best about America. Quote, "On behalf of the
American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla`s
family and all those who loved Kayla dearly. As this time of unimaginable
suffering, the country shares in their grief. Kayla`s compassion and
dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst
unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on."
And one of Kayla`s senators in Arizona, one of those representing her,
John McCain, had this to say. Let`s watch John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This wonderful young woman represented
the best of us. She had a remarkable impact on the lives of so many people
who never had the honor of meeting her, and her story will forever be an
inspiration to us.
On behalf of the people of Arizona and the United States Congress, I
want to express the deepest condolences to Kayla`s parents, Marsha and Carl
Mueller, her loving family and many friends. Our thoughts and prayers are
with you. Kayla devoted her young life to helping people in need around
the world, to healing the sick and bringing light to some of the darkest
and most desperate places on earth. She will never be forgotten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The good John McCain.
Anyway, this afternoon, Kayla`s aunts also paid tribute to her. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI LYON, MUELLER`S AUNT: Kayla`s calling was to help those who are
suffering, whether in her hometown of Prescott or on the other side of the
world. She has done more in her incredible 26 years than many people could
ever imagine doing in their lifetime!
Kayla has touched the heart of the world. The world grieves with us.
The world mourns with us. The world wants to be more like Kayla, and if
that is her legacy and the footprint that she leaves on the world, then
that is a wonderful thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by MSNBC terrorist analyst Michael
Sheehan. He`s a former assistant secretary of defense, also Charlie
Sennott. He`s the co-founder of GlobalPost and executive director of the
Ground Truth Project. Gentleman, thank you both for joining us.
So this is sort of a wide-open question, like every American watching
who cares about this country, and I think good people around the world,
including that incredibly heroic pilot who was killed in the most horrific
fashion, burned alive, knowing it was coming, watching it happen in front
of people like that -- I don`t even want to look at that picture -- and
this perfect young human American, who spent her life doing only good, and
killing people just for the hell of it.
I don`t have any idea how she died, but what do we make of this? And
what`s it going to do to us? I keep thinking, Michael, if we get somebody
-- now, this sounds pretty tough, but when are we going to stop this? I
mean, we get a person over there, we all know who they are, what happens
then? Do we change the rules? Do we go into it with a Rambo-style attack
and do what we can to get them out? We did it with her. We tried.
Do we have any capability to stop this hell, ISIS, unless we defeat
the whole operation?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: It`s very difficult when
there`s a hostage taken, Chris. They`re very good at hiding, and they know
the capability we have. They movie them from place to place. They try to
keep a low signature.
I was involved in trying to find Bergdahl and other hostages when I
was in the Pentagon, and we found one and rescued one in Somalia. But it
is extremely difficult, and especially with these people that have some
experience in hiding these folks.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, do we have any satellite photo capability to
isolate? You see these things on television. You wonder. We look so darn
good, but is it still a needle in a haystack, finding an incident, for
example, of a hostage, where we can actually see them planning or about to
carry out an execution? Can we see it?
CHARLES SENNOTT, GLOBALPOST (on-camera): You know, finding a hostage
is so hard in these situations, but they did have pretty good aerial
surveillance of Raqqa, and there was information early on in the summer
last year that really did indicate that this is where these hostages were
I think there`s so many things we don`t know right now. There`s so
many facts we don`t have, more questions than answers. But there`s one
thing. Just to stop for one minute and say I can`t understand this at all.
I don`t think any of us can.
But there is something here that I do have a bit of knowledge of and
that I`ve seen into, and that is how this family felt all that time, how
they hung onto hope. And we know that through getting to know the Foley
family. Jim Foley was a correspondent who we worked with. He was a
friend. He was a colleague, great journalist, also, you know, so much like
Kayla, driven to service, driven to bearing witness to what was going on
there, and just as President Obama put it, you know, the best among us.
And I think there`s something here to recognize in the family, what
they`ve been through, and their dignity in dealing with this. I saw the
Foleys do the same thing, and I`m just really in awe of this family, the
way they expressed their pride in their daughter, in the work she did for
others and the service that she had. And they talk about how proud they
are of her as a person. I think that`s amazing, an amazing testament to
young people who are out there in places like the Middle East trying to
make a difference. It`s really extraordinary.
MATTHEWS: I`m just wonder how long we`re going to put up with this,
Michael. And I understand everything you guys are telling me about the
difficulty of it. If we hadn`t been through these wars of Afghanistan and
the two Iraq wars, this would have been like something like the war of
Jenkins (ph) ear or something. We would just, All right, we`re going to
war, you know? All right, you`re doing this to our people -- like, even
Jimmy Carter, who could be pretty pacifist -- and I worked for him -- if
they had started executing our diplomats back in the `70s, I think we would
have gone to war.
And I think -- when do we say enough?
MATTHEWS: And just start bombing the hell out of them?
SHEEHAN: Well, we are...
MATTHEWS: Are we bombing the hell out of them?
SHEEHAN: We are...
MATTHEWS: Are we really prosecuting a real war there?
SHEEHAN: We are bombing the hell out of them, and I think we might be
able to expand that bombing more into Syria, as well.
But Chris, this has a dual-edged sword. They did this for a purpose.
First of all, they`re just barbaric and it`s just in their blood to kill
people and Westerners that they hate.
But also, there`s a purpose. No president of the United States wants
to wake up in the morning and see a young special forces captain held in a
cage being ready to be burned. They`re doing this to try to intimidate us
so that we go home. And it`s important that the president of the United
States articulate why we`re there, to prepare the country just in case this
MATTHEWS: What happens if we start putting people on the ground as
forward air controllers and people who have to spot positions and targets,
and they grab one of those guys?
SHEEHAN: It could happen. We have people on the ground right now in
Iraq, the special forces advisers. And I can tell you, Chris, we are more
effective the more close we are with the combat forces that we`re advising.
MATTHEWS: And we`re more exposed, too.
SHEEHAN: That`s right. And if we stay behind and cower in hotels,
we`ve allowed that terrorist act of killing one person to affect our entire
SENNOTT: I agree...
MATTHEWS: It`s a brutal story. Last word -- last word, Charlie.
What`s your sense of what we should be doing? I mean, I don`t know if it`s
your field to say what the grand strategy would be. What do you think?
SENNOTT: Well, I think one thing is ground forces. You`re not going
to be able to accomplish this without them. But the other thing in the
bigger picture -- it`s a little bit philosophical. How do we win this? We
win it with ideas. We`re a country that`s about freedom. We`re a country
that`s about freedom of expression.
And you know, these terrorists at the Islamic State are a kind of
death cult. Why on God`s earth would anyone want to ascribe to that or
belong to that? And I think the Middle East is waking up to that when they
watched burning alive a pilot who had been downed.
MATTHEWS: A Muslim.
SENNOTT: The Middle East is having its own reaction. We win this on
ideas and by staying true to who we are and not letting them divide us.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, there`s some evil pretty manifest here. Anyway,
thank you, Michael Sheehan. Thank you, Charlie Sennott. Thank you -- we
used to have you on a lot. Thanks for coming back, Charlie.
SENNOTT: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up -- President Obama is ready to ask Congress for a
war resolution against ISIS, but what would that war look like that he
wants to wage, and how much power will Congress give the president?
Unfortunately, politics is going to play a role. And will American troops
actually face the enemy in the field the way that Michael just suggested?
Big questions tonight coming up here.
Plus, Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee is accusing
Hillary Clinton of hiding because she`s not acting like a candidate yet.
Perhaps Reince wants her in the race so that the Republican candidates will
stop attacking each other. I`m just guessing.
And David Axelrod now says in his book that President Obama was BS`ing
-- to use his term -- when he said he didn`t support same-sex marriage.
Axelrod says there was no evolution. The president was always for it.
We`ll see what the president says about that.
Finally, last October, basketball superstar Michael Jordan mocked the
president`s golfing ability. Now we find out the president rejected a gift
from Jordan because -- catch this -- Jordan misspelled the president`s
first name. Well, this is really trash talk, isn`t it. Anyway, that`s all
where it belongs, in the "Sideshow.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Today, Kayla Mueller`s family released an unpublished
letter that Kayla wrote last spring while being held by ISIS. Here`s part
of what Kayla wrote.
"I`ve come to a place and experience where in every sense of the word,
I have surrendered myself to our creator because, literally, there was no
one else. None of could have known it would be this long. But know I am
fighting from my side in the ways I am able, and I have a lot of fight left
inside of me. I`m not breaking down, and I will not give in, no matter how
long it takes."
We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There`s already the drumbeat, there`s
already those in both parties who insist that we must have American GIs on
the ground. I`m not sending any American soldiers! I`m not sending your
son, your daughter or mine over to the middle of that chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Senator Rand Paul of
Kentucky last year warning against more American military engagement in the
The White House is expected to release a proposal giving President
Obama the congressional authorization to wage war against the Islamic State
as early as this week. The White House is negotiating with the Congress
over the language of what`s called an authorization for use of military
Well, earlier today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the
administration is working hard to secure backing from both Democrats and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the intervening period,
since the president first discussed this back in November, and even before
the president made this announcement back in November, administration
officials had been engaged in conversations with Democrats and Republicans
in both the House and the Senate to try to arrive at language that could be
supported by Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate.
In recent days, we`ve stepped up our engagement to -- with Democrats
and Republicans on the Hill to try to finalize language that could be
submitted by the administration to Congress, and we`re hopeful that we can
provide that information relatively soon, that language relatively soon.
And hopefully, there will not be a significant delay in Congress acting on
that legislative language.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the last time the Congress granted an authorization
of that kind was in 2002, when President Bush asked for the authority to
invade Iraq. Thirteen years later, President Obama is asking a different
Congress for authority to act in the war against ISIS. The big question
remains, should American soldiers do the actual fighting?
Joining me right now are two members of the Congress who will have to
take that vote soon.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is from Florida. Senator Nelson,
should we have American soldiers doing the fighting against ISIS?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: The short answer is yes, and we
already are. We`re hitting them from the air, and in some cases, we`ve
already had boots on the ground as we have tried some rescue missions.
MATTHEWS: What about having soldiers, our soldiers, join the other
forces, like the Iraqi forces, as they go to war with ISIS? Is that
something you would support, being in their ranks out front doing the
NELSON: Large standing armies, no, but forward air observers or
special operations forces doing a particular mission, yes.
MATTHEWS: What happens if they continue executing our people and
grabbing them and then killing them publicly? Does that increase the
urgency of our involvement? Does it enlarge the nature of our involvement
as you see it?
NELSON: That`s why we have to win. And that`s why we have a renewed
And just -- look, as you well pointed out, this inhumane burning of
the Jordanian pilot, that`s not only united the Jordanians. We met with
the king last week. But it has united the entire Arab world from Indonesia
in the east all the way to Morocco in the west. And they are -- they are
united to join us to go after and to stop ISIS.
MATTHEWS: What happens if what you describe as our appropriate policy
of using troops for forward to ground control and helping the planes know
where to strike, picking the targets, what happens if that`s not enough to
NELSON: Well, or what happens in ISIS goes to another country? I
think we`re going to have to give the president some flexibility. He used
the words enduring forces.
It`s equivalent of like a large standing army on the ground. That`s
not going to be allowed in this authorization.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Thank
you, sir, for taking the time.
NELSON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks is a Republican from Alabama.
Congressman, did you hear Senator Nelson? He offered up the idea of
the limited commitment of troops, to basically help with the spotting of
targets by our air attack, and basically not -- I wouldn`t say not infantry
moving into combat against the enemy. Where do you stand in terms of
restricting the president?
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, I`m a little bit perplexed by his
Personally, I think this needs to be the standard. America should not
go to war unless we`re committed to do the things that are necessary to
win, which means that we should not restrain our commander in chief if in
fact that is what America wants to do.
In that regard, the president of the United States has to show that he
has a strategy that can result in the extermination of the Islamic State.
Second, the president has to show a willingness to be committed to the
cause. There will be casualties, American casualties, and as was seen from
the Islamic State, we might as Americans be confronted with some very
horrific events that are on the Internet or on TV.
And we have to be prepared for that if we`re going to embark in this
endeavor. And I want to know that our president is committed to the task,
and has a strategy that can win.
And if he`s not committed or does not have a strategy, then we should
not engage. Rather, it should be a much greater multination effort,
perhaps a United Nations-led effort.
MATTHEWS: That has a good sound to it. I think it sounds like Doug
MacArthur. There is no substitute for victory.
And I`m just wondering, in that case, when we`re fighting an enemy
like that, we would occupy and then liberate the people later and move and
we would come home. What do you if you go in and fight ISIS and you
liberate areas of Iraq and areas of Syria? Who gets that territory behind
your front? Who do you give it to? That`s always been my question.
BROOKS: Well, I would hope what would follow a defeat of the Islamic
State is, with respect to Iraq, you would have an Iraqi government that
would be able to reassert control over its territory, and similarly a
government in Syria, which brings up another question.
Is the president going to use this as a subterfuge for toppling the
Syrian regime? As you know, within the past couple years, this White House
and its secretary of state then, Hillary Clinton, called for a toppling of
the Syrian regime. So this is a very delicate situation with the Islamic
State, with the Syrian regime, with al Qaeda on the perimeter, with Iran
not that far away.
And I think the president needs to express in a way that gives the
American people confidence that we have a winning strategy and the
commitment to win. It does us no good to get embroiled in war if we`re not
going to end up with a victory.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much. That was a very clear statement by Mo
Brooks, congressman from Alabama.
Joining me right now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother
Jones" and MSNBC political analyst.
David, what do you think?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, my condolences to
the Mueller family. I can`t imagine what they`re going through today.
It`s horrific, which is why we`re talking about the bigger picture.
The idea that the congressman just stated of the extermination of the
Islamic State at the hands of the U.S. military I think is not realistic
The way you would get rid of...
MATTHEWS: Why? Explain that.
CORN: Because I don`t think we enough bodies, whether we have the
will or not, to go in there and actually secure that whole portion of the
Middle East. Even if you go in...
MATTHEWS: There`s 30,000 of them. That`s it.
CORN: They control large swathes of land. And when we went in with
Iraq, we saw that there`s not a political solution. If you don`t have a
Sunni awakening, which is more political than military, you can`t do it on
Right now, even the bombing raids that we have targeting ISIS, every
time they hit a civilian target, it radicalizes the Sunnis and helps ISIS
MATTHEWS: I agree with that, because I think the government of Iraq
is a Shia government.
And we just heard earlier that there`s a problem -- from the experts -
- that the reason Jordan won`t go on the ground against ISIS, they don`t
want to be on the same battle, on the same side as the Shia governments of
Assad and of course in Baghdad.
CORN: This is not a polar dispute. If you go into Syria, and you
topple the Assad government, the ISIS-affiliated forces are right now
stronger on the ground. And they could take over Syria.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me throw this at you. Are we going to let this
continue? This is my conundrum here. I agree with you all this stuff.
You know your stuff.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to let them keep executing people, pouring
gasoline? Wait until they get somebody over there, a nun over there, and
start pouring gasoline on her.
At what point are we going to say we`re going to blow that place up
with anything we got, even if we don`t win? When do you just explode as a
country and say we`re not going to take that anymore? When is that going
CORN: Yes. Well, that`s a good question, but acting out of anger and
revenge, while it would feel good, would probably not get us the policy
MATTHEWS: Do you think we`re going to sit? Suppose they grab
somebody we know over there, maybe a journalist we know, maybe a celebrity.
Who knows how they grab.
And it`s going to be a person we know. It certainly was for these
families, as you point out.
CORN: Of course.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for your condolence, of course, because they`re
appropriate, because we don`t know these people. You can have tremendous
empathy for somebody like the young woman Kayla, because we have sort of
gotten to know her.
But what happens when it`s somebody over there -- I just don`t know
how long we can take this as human beings. I just think it`s a real
problem. And I`m thinking of Rambo kind of stuff, because at some point
you have got to go in there with what you got and do the best you can, or
you`re not going to be very proud of yourself.
CORN: Well, listen, we try to use indiscriminate bombing.
MATTHEWS: No, I don`t mean indiscriminate bombing. I`m talking a
heroic kind of an extraction campaign.
CORN: Well, to the degree you can do special force operations -- and
we have tried that with hostages. Sometimes, it`s worked. Sometimes, it
CORN: And I believe that President Obama is fully committed to doing
that when it`s possible.
But as Michael Sheehan said earlier in the show, it`s really hard
sometimes to locate these people and figure out what to do. Now, whether
we`re going to sort of go in, you know, with ground troops and take on the
military responsibility ourselves, that`s exactly what ISIS would want. I
don`t think we can conquer ISIS if the regional powers and forces don`t
figure out on their own that it`s most in their interest to do this with
MATTHEWS: I agree. They may want it, but Baghdadi doesn`t want his
head blown off either. Anything is possible.
Thank you, David.
CORN: Sure thing.
MATTHEWS: This is a very conflicting situation.
Up next: President Obama rejected an autographed poster from Michael
Jordan, the basketball ball, because Jordan misspelled his first name.
This is a little bit of a tiff here, and that`s where it belongs, that
story, in the "Sideshow," and nowhere else tonight.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And time for the "Sideshow."
While the debate over childhood vaccinations has proved to be
divisive, especially among the Republican contenders for 2016, Conan
O`Brien came up with an absurd solution last night, one that allows parents
greater choice, like Chris Christie says he wants, while at the same time
maintaining public health standards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")
CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": There`s a new day care center that`s
figured out a way for vaccinated and unvaccinated kids to still attend
NARRATOR: For children who haven`t been vaccinated, there is a real
danger, a danger of being ostracized, of being made to feel unwanted. But
here at Kind Hearts Day Care, we have created a safe environment for all
children, vaccinated and unvaccinated.
NARRATOR: We provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment, where all
children can enjoy a carefree existence.
NARRATOR: And in the event of danger, Kind Hearts has procedures in
place to keep your beautiful children safe with minimal disruption.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NARRATOR: Kind Hearts Day Care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do they do that?
Anyway, next up, a profile of former campaign strategist David Axelrod
in "New York" magazine reveals another chapter in the weird history between
President Obama and basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
Just before Obama`s 50th birthday three years ago, Axelrod sent Jordan
a poster to autograph as a gift for the president. But when it came back,
the inscription from Jordan read, "To Barrack, you still owe me dinner.
Wishing you well, Michael Jordan."
The problem was, of course, is the basketball legend misspelled the
president`s first name, with two R`s. Barack has only R and Jordan used
two. When Axelrod gave the signed poster to the president, the president
refused the gift, saying he couldn`t put it up because Jordan misspelled
So Axelrod kept it, eventually hanging it at Chicago University`s
Institute of Politics, where it remains today.
But this sort of towel-snapping between Jordan and the president may
simply be the way they carry on. Remember, rest last October, when Jordan
took a shot at the president`s golf game. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I never played with Obama, but I
would. But, no, that`s OK. I would take him out. He`s a hack. Man, it
would be all day playing with him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really want to say that to the president of
the United States?
JORDAN: Don`t worry about it. I never said he wasn`t a great
politician. I`m just saying he`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) golfer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he`s not a bad golfer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, and the trash talk continued when the president fired
back in an interview on Wisconsin radio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt that
Michael is a better golfer than I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
OBAMA: Of course, if I was playing twice a day for the last 15 years,
then that might not be the case.
And, you know, he might want to spend more time thinking about the
Bobcats, or maybe the Hornets, but that`s a whole `nother issue.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, Jordan is the majority owner of the Charlotte
Bobcats franchise, now known as the Charlotte Hornets. I guess they`re not
doing too well.
Up next: Why is Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee
going after Hillary Clinton for not getting in the presidential race?
Perhaps he wants Republicans to stop attacking each other. That`s next
with the roundtable.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
Just moments ago, Jon Stewart has announced that he`s leaving "The
Daily Show." Comedy Central`s president has released a statement saying
Stewart will leave later this year, and credits Stewart for turning "The
Daily Show" into a cultural touchstone for millions of fans. No word on
why Stewart is stepping down from the show he has hosted since 1999.
Stewart will make an announcement in tonight`s show.
And in other news, NBC News has learned that the U.S. will temporarily
close the American Embassy in Yemen because of the government`s takeover by
rebels linked to Iran. Most of the nonessential staffers have already been
evacuated -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, must have noticed the Republican
2016 contenders spent last week jabbing at each other over the vaccine
issue, of all things. So, today, in order to get the focus back on the
opposition, he launched a new campaign called "Hillary`s Hiding."
On its Web page, the RNC outlines plans to keep a running count of the
days since Hillary has done an interview or visited early primary or caucus
states, and it plans to put up "Hillary`s Hiding" billboards in those early
states as well.
Well, this comes on top of the Republican opposition research group
America Rising and their Facebook page with a similar theme, "Hiding
Anyway, there`s a saying in politics. Only talk when it improves the
silence. And right now, Hillary Clinton is following it. Will Reince
Priebus`s new campaign work to flush her out?
I`m joined right now in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight "USA Today"`s
Susan Page, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, and "The Washington Post"
This is going to be fun.
Why are they trying to sort of get her out there?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Because isn`t she
in a perfect position?
MATTHEWS: She`s winning.
PAGE: She`s not out there. She doesn`t have to answer questions.
There`s not a chance she`s going to say something that will be
It`s perfect. And she can do this for a long time, because there`s no
credible challenger to Hillary Clinton.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And from the GOP`s side,
it`s perfect, because they can create all this noise and buzz around her,
raise money off it, and just stoke the flames.
MATTHEWS: Wait. Wait a minute. You can do that by attacking her
policy and her -- her positions.
MATTHEWS: And you can attack her record.
But attacking the fact that she`s not talking? How do you do that?
STEELE: It works, it works.
MATTHEWS: So, you think Reince is a brilliant guy, huh? You figured
STEELE: Well, not necessarily the question of brilliance. It`s just
-- tactically, it`s just smart to engage an opponent who`s not on the field
yet and try to draw them out and get their base all fired up, recognizing
that there`s still this issue about whether or not she doesn`t have an
opponent. So I mean, this playing --
MATTHEWS: How many votes will Hillary Clinton lose next November,
about 18, 19 months right now, because Reince Priebus has decided to try to
scare her out there, get her out there.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, right, try to scare her
out there, try to goad her out there, maybe even annoy her. But the other
thing is, maybe try to stir a little panic within the Democratic Party,
which is Democratic Party is very expert at scaring themselves into action.
But this sort of thing only works if the focus of the attention, Hillary
Clinton, even cares, that have hiding Hillary.
She couldn`t care less, and so they can do everything they want.
She`s going to go on her own timetable, not care what they do, and that`s
the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t the primary concern of most of the people around
Hillary? And this is not a knock, and certainly not my usual knock, what
job they`re going to get in the campaign? That`s what they`re really
focusing right now is --
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: That`s the number one --
MATTHEWS: -- am I going to be deputy communications director?
PAGE: What`s the size of my contract? That`s absolutely right.
Now, the time will come when Hillary Clinton, even if she doesn`t have
a real opponent in the Democratic Party, is going to have to come out and
answer questions, and do press conferences, and do interviews. But that
time isn`t yet.
STEELE: Yes, she doesn`t need to do it now. I would say one of the
mistakes they made is we`re going to announce sometime in June or whatever.
You don`t need to tell anybody anything about your timetable or your
When you`re ready, you announce. So, I think that they are kind of
backing off this sort of proactive getting out in public phase and just
letting things ride to the spring.
CAPEHART: Well, you remember, though, after the midterm, people
started asking, when are you getting in? When are you getting in? When
are you getting in?
MATTHEWS: I think that it stopped.
MATTHEWS: The media, we`re not pushing her to get in. Most people
know it`s a smart move.
MATTHEWS: You want something to write about.
Here problem is she gets in, she`s going to take a strong position on
ISIS, how many boots on the ground, forward watchers, actual GIs
confronting the enemy. People in the ranks, these are tough questions, or
just let these guys keep executing Americans in the most horrific night
after night. Who wants to answer that question every day?
PAGE: She probably has to answer some questions anyway even if she`s
not running. Things like, what about this authorization for military use
of force? I think she probably has to --
MATTHEWS: She voted for one.
STEELE: Can I say one thing, though? Can we just relax a bit?
Because none of these people have declared for the presidency of the United
MATTHEWS: OK, Papa Bear, what is this?
MATTHEWS: Who are you? Let me tell you what we do here. This is the
place for politics. If you want to play hoops or something, whatever you
want to do, this is where we play politics.
STEELE: There`s no expectation --
MATTHEWS: It`s already begun, Michael. This campaign has begun.
STEELE: But from the candidates` perspective, they don`t have to
answer your questions.
MATTHEWS: They are -- we are watching polls in states like New
Hampshire already and Iowa. And what I`m watching is something very scary
about your party, if I were in your party, which is it doesn`t seem to have
a natural leader, that is very flat, everybody is in the teens, the big
Bush name that everybody thought was great, is about three points ahead of
So, if I were you, I would be worried about the fact, I want this
campaign to move a little faster, but it is moving now.
STEELE: It is moving, and I agree with you --
STEELE: I think largely it`s because there is -- there is this stage
now where people are getting out and they`re touching the grassroots on the
base to organize and develop that momentum. You still have two or three
governors who are going to enter the field. You still have the whole --
MATTHEWS: Who is coming in?
STEELE: Oh, I think you`re going to see Mike Pence possibly,
certainly Bobby Jindal is there, John Kasich. I mean, there is some good
MATTHEWS: That`s one of three.
STEELE: Some good names, two or three.
MATTHEWS: One of three might be interesting.
STEELE: But they`re all going to be interesting players once they get
on the field.
MATTHEWS: Do you really think Mike Pence could be your nominee for
STEELE: Sure, he could. Yes, I think he could.
MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.
STEELE: He`s got good grassroots. He`s got good connections with the
base. And, you know, he`s a guy who translates well with --
MATTHEWS: Who`s the last guy from Indiana you guys were pushing?
STEELE: Mitch Daniels.
MATTHEWS: What is it about you guys? Boring Indiana. Boring Indiana
STEELE: Indiana is not boring.
PAGE: That`s a very East Coast attitude. As someone from Kansas, I
would say that you people always think the people --
STEELE: Thank you.
PAGE: -- from the middle of the country are boring, and it`s not
STEELE: It`s not true. They win.
PAGE: Eisenhower, a Kansan.
CAPEHART: A Kansan, but not Indiana.
MATTHEWS: Trivialism (ph) here, it`s unbefitting.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, David Axelrod reveals that President Obama was for
marriage equality all along and wouldn`t say so.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Scott Walker of Wisconsin is latest Republican
presidential candidate to brush up on his foreign policy credentials. The
Wisconsin governor met today with British Prime Minister David Cameron over
in London. Walker is in the U.K. for a four-day trip aimed at increasing
trade investments in his state, and he is no doubt determined not to repeat
the mistakes that Chris Christie made last week when he was in London.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
In his new book, David Axelrod reveals that in the 2008 presidential
campaign, President Obama didn`t believe what he was saying about same-sex
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR: There`s no doubt that his
sympathies were very much on the side of allowing gay couples to marry. He
also recognized that the country wasn`t there yet, and that we needed to
bring the country along. He was sensitive to -- there was a lot of
resistance in the black community to it. He took a strong position in
favor of civil unions, but it was always, I think -- you know, when I think
about the things we had to deal with over the course of my association,
this was always the most vexing issue, because there was some part of him
that so wanted to say you know what? I just don`t believe it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in his new book that just came out, "Believer" it`s
called, Axelrod recalls that after Obama stumbled on the gay marriage and
the debate, he told Axelrod, "I`m just not very good at BS-ing." Well,
that`s the way I say it.
Anyway, David Axelrod will be here on HARDBALL tomorrow.
We`re back with our roundtable Susan, Michael, and Jonathan.
You know, this is an interesting knock that David who seems like such
a nice guy, in many ways, seems like a great guy, he is taking a shot at
the president, you know, Michael, on something that didn`t seem -- why is
it so vastly important that he didn`t come out and say I`m for marriage
equality, in 2008, which would have been difficult. I think even as late
as 2008, it was still a tricky position to take.
STEELE: It`s a trick issue, but I don`t see David taking a knock over
time, given what the president has said as a senator in his home state of
Illinois, as a state senator.
MATTHEWS: He had been out for it?
STEELE: He was not out, you know waving a flak for this issue. And
so, it was clearly a political calculation the president made. I think
David put it in the right context, you know? The president could not find
himself BS-ing on this issue as well as others could. But having said all
of that, the president did change the conversation ultimately.
MATTHEWS: Joe Biden changed the conversation.
STEELE: Give credit where credit is due.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this? Do you think this is like a
mortar or venial sin politically that he didn`t come out early?
CAPEHART: No, no, I`m shocked that a presidential candidate played
politic on a vexing social issue like marriage equality. A lot of people
knew that then-candidate Obama was in favor of it. In fact, there had been
some reports about a fundraiser in New York City, in 2008, maybe 2007, my
ex was there, I just found out a couple months ago where the candidates
said -- listen, I`m there with you. I`m not going to be able to --
MATTHEWS: It was a gay group.
CAPEHART: Yes, it was gay group. It was a fundraiser. I`m not going
to be able to do anything right away, but just know this.
But you know what? Look, this conversation would be completely
different if DOMA had not been overturned, if the president hadn`t stopped
defending DOMA in, up against court challenge, if he hadn`t done "don`t
ask, don`t tell". The problem that I had with the president after Joe
Biden put the president -- Vice President Biden put the president in the
box was that you had the president`s actions, which were highly pro-gay
rights, pro-marriage equality not matching his rhetoric.
So, when he finally did that interview with Robin Roberts, where he
finally said, I personally believe that same sex couples should marry,
finally the rhetoric and the actions that he had been taking for the last
five -- for the four years in office --
MATTHEWS: So, he was ahead of his words.
CAPEHART: Action-wise, yes.
MATTHEWS: That`s rare in politics.
PAGE: You kind of wish that public officials would always say exactly
what they think, right? We would -- we would honor that, that is not
always realistic. On the other hand, you can look at the political
landscape, and the other things he was dealing --
MATTHEWS: We`re all used to a terrible term for politicians which is
rolling disclosure. They tell you the truth when they feel like that.
STEELE: They tell you the truth when it`s politically convenient, or
easy, or safe to also share that with you. And I think this is an example
of that. I think, yes, Joe Biden, to a certain extent forced the
president`s hand on this issue, but at the end of the day, Axelrod I think
pegs the way a lot of us saw it, and understood it, that this president was
saying one thing to one group and saying something else to the country.
MATTHEWS: On bigger issues, remember FDR, who most people look up to
dramatically, was telling people your sons will not fight in the foreign
war, through the 1940 election, knowing all the time he was hoping to get
us involved in Europe. I mean, he wanted to fight the Nazis. Everybody
knew he wanted to fight them.
CAPEHART: You know, Chris, again, on this issue, what we saw with the
president on marriage equality, we saw him bringing the country along, he
did the same thing on "don`t ask, don`t tell."
Remember, President Clinton made a promise to the gay community, I`m
going to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military. He gets into
office and he tries to fulfill his campaign promise. He tries to do it.
And what ends up happening, we got "don`t ask, don`t tell", which ended up
being worse than the policy he tried to erase.
Now, President Obama comes into office, the gay community goes bananas
not even 100 days into his tenure because --
MATTHEWS: OK. You got a hot hand. I`m going to ask you the hottest
question of your life? Ready?
CAPEHART: Uh-oh, here we go.
MATTHEWS: Is the president secretly for single payer and he just put
this Obamacare thing to fail so he`s going to end up with single-payer,
because that`s where he wants to go?
CAPEHART: Oh, that`s very good question.
MATTHEWS: I want the answer.
STEELE: I know the answer to that one. I think yes, single payer is
the ultimate game.
PAGE: He does not want it to fail.
MATTHEWS: But if he gets single payer out of it, he`s won.
STEELE: He won`t.
MATTHEWS: Opinion writer?
CAPEHART: I`m an opinion writer, I have not had enough time to study
the issue to give an informed --
MATTHEWS: That doesn`t stop most people.
Thank you very much, Jonathan Capehart, who`s thinking, Susan Page,
and Michael Steele.
When we return, let me finish with how we`re going to deal with this
ISIS horror story, and it is real.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight on this:
I don`t hear a plan on how to deal with ISIS, the people who are
lopping off heads, burning young men alive, and doing who-knows-what to a
young American woman. I don`t hear a plan out there to stop them from
doing these things. I hear what the Jordanian air force is doing, what the
Kurds are doing up north, what the Iraqi Army may do, but I don`t hear a
plan to stop ISIS from doing what it`s doing.
So, how are we going to live with this? Are we going to close our
eyes with each atrocity? Are we going to act towards the horrors of ISIS
the way we act toward the growing federal debt, or are we going to say how
bad it is and how we all had to do something about it, knowing that it`s
going to sit there? Are we going to let the ISIS horror show continue week
after week after week without end?
Look, I believe the reason this is happening personally is that the
Bush administration and the neo-cons went forward with their
debaathification project back during the occupation, throwing all of the
generals in Saddam`s army out the door. Was I (ph) the only who know these
generals would reemerge as leaders in the ISIS fight against the government
we set up in Iraq? I suppose people on the hawky side will say that ISIS
was created because President Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq.
But here we are with the horror neither side wish to create, which
neither side fully imagine it coming to be in the area of Iraq and Syria
that`s being governed by the terrorists and executioners now. We began
tonight looking at how to deliver ourselves from this horror we will
continue looking unfortunately.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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