updated 3/13/2015 10:36:06 AM ET 2015-03-13T14:36:06

Show: HARDBALL
Date: March 11, 2015
Dana Milbank, Jamelle Bouie, Blanche Lincoln

(MAYOR KNOWLES PRESS CONFERENCE)

QUESTION: ... admission that there was something wrong going on here,
that some of what is being talked about in this report was valid?

KNOWLES: Those -- you know, again, we`re going to level four (ph).
Those resignations are mutual decisions both by the chief and the city
manager, and I think that their comments and their resignation, you know,
do say that they admit no wrongdoing, so...

(CROSSTALK)

KNOWLES: OK? Thank you very much.

QUESTION: ... about how to deal with the officers to improve
relations with the community?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in
Washington, and you`re watching HARDBALL

That was, of course, Mayor James Knowles of Ferguson, Missouri, in a
press conference on the departure of police chief Thomas Jackson who
announced this evening that he`s resigning his post effective next week.
The decision follows a devastating Justice Department report on the broad
scope of systemic discrimination against African-Americans carried out by
the police force in that city. That investigation began after the fatal
shooting of Michael Brown last summer.

In a statement to NBC News earlier today, outgoing Chief Jackson said,
"I`m confident the city will pull through these trying times. The people
are committed to Ferguson."

I`m joined right now by MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee and Jim Cavanaugh, a law
enforcement analyst and retired special agent with the ATF.

Let me -- Trymaine, this is so -- so calm and almost bureaucratic
tonight. It`s a strange way to end, or at least put a punctuation point on
this long saga, if you will.

TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC.COM: It certainly is, especially as the ripples
from last week`s release of the DOJ report continues to shake up the city.
You have the city manager gone. You have the chief of police gone. You
still have protesters, activists and residents calling for Mayor Knowles to
step down.

And kind of what`s been par for the course, in terms of the mayor,
he`s kind of dug in his heels. He`s say, you know, If I leave, who`s going
to run the show? And so again, it`s a time where we`re going to see much
change, and folks say this is just the tip of the iceberg. They expect
more. They expect something in terms of the consent decree with the
Department of Justice, something with teeth to really shake up and reshape
this culture that has been exposed, to -- at least to some degree, be run
(ph) on this racially biased machine that`s kind of grinding up black
folks, you know, as they come.

MATTHEWS: So the racially biased machine -- that`s your view or is
that what`s in the report?

LEE: Oh, when you`re talking to folks -- when you see the report,
it`s clear that police officers, that they were told -- you know, it was
almost a contest between police officers to see how many tickets they can
give. And look at the deep disparities in who was being stopped, when you
look at who was being bitten by the dogs -- of the 14 cases, all have been
targeted (ph) by African-Americans.

MATTHEWS: Right.

LEE: When you see the deep, deep disparities, it`s clear that the DOJ
has at least found and investigators have found a deep pattern and
practice, which kind of validates what folks on the ground have been
saying. So I don`t have to say much. When you open the pages of that
report, it`s clear that black folks were bearing the brunt of this
policing.

MATTHEWS: OK. Jim Cavanaugh, your view of what was just happening
there, the apparent -- we have three resignations now in a matter of hours,
really.

JIM CAVANAUGH, NBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right, Chris. Well, you
know, there`s a lot of ways that this can be handled. You know, I wish the
mayor would consider asking the Justice Department to, you know, use the
Interstate Compact Agreement. That`s been used before -- I`ve seen it done
-- where a federal commander or law enforcement commander is brought in to
run the department. The Justice Department did that at the New Jersey
State Police when racial profiling was a problem. So they brought in an
FBI special agent-in-charge to run the state police for a period of time.

I think that would be a good thing for Ferguson because what you got
to understand is the citizens are what matter the most. That`s number one.
Certainly, the officers and the personnel, of course, number two. But the
first thing is the citizens. And they have to trust the chief. I`m sure
the lieutenant colonel is a good man. I understand that. But he`s from
the county. Chief Jackson was from the county. You know, is that going to
give the citizens the level of trust they need? I`d rather see a little
bit different take on this to get the citizens more behind if the chief`s
going to be with us.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jim Cavanaugh, and thank you, Trymaine Lee, for
those reports.

When we return, the big political story of this day, Hillary Clinton`s
e-mails. Republicans in Congress want more answers than she`s willing to
give them.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton yesterday asked the country to trust her.
She asked the American people, friends and skeptics alike, to believe her
about only protecting her private mail, not anything related to her service
as secretary of state.

Well, like everything else regarding Secretary Clinton, the issue is
fraught with baggage, history and attitude, of course. Everyone figures
they know something about her, some insight into who she really is. They
think they see something of their own challenges in life, the struggle of a
woman to lead, of a wife in a high-spirited (ph) marriage, that of a
politician in quest for the top office in the land.

But if it`s a challenge to be Hillary, it`s an even greater challenge,
I`d argue, to be her enemy. The Republicans were right to let the media
ask the questions in the e-mail matter. Now they`re vying to take charge
of the fight. They`re demanding the evidence before even specifying the
crime.

Will (ph) the debate and the drama shift to the belief that the
bloodhounds have left the fields and are nosing around in the house, in
fact, actually up in the Clinton bedroom? When it does, you can expect,
safely predicted, Hillary Clinton will be the one getting most of the
public support. This does, after all, have the aspect of a soap opera, and
in soap operas, the public tends to take sides.

Anne Gearan is a reporter with "The Washington Post," Kellyanne
Conway`s a Republican strategist and pollster, and Robert Gibbs was White
House press secretary under President Obama.

How far are Republicans willing to pursue this? Well, the House
Select Benghazi Committee`s now calling for Secretary Clinton to testify
under oath at least twice about the e-mails. Meanwhile, the Associated
Press announced that it is suing the State Department for Clinton`s
records.

Republican congressman Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi
committee, told "MORNING JOE" this morning that Congress may have the
authority to forcibly seize Secretary Clinton`s e-mail server.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Let me just get right to the
heart of the matter moving forward. Are you going to be taking steps to
try and compel her to hand over the server?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, our committee doesn`t have
the power. Under our rules, we don`t have the power to seize personal
property like that. The House as a whole, that`s, frankly, an open
constitutional question as to whether or not the House as a whole has that
legal authority. The House as a whole may have the authority to seize
personal property. My committee does not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And late today, the House Oversight Committee said it was
prepared to subpoena Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, for electronic access to her e-
mails. When asked if that includes access to her deleted e-mails, a
spokesperson for the committee told HARDBALL, "We want the content on the
server."

Robert Gibbs, what do you make of this -- the way that the Clintons
are handling this, Hillary Clinton exactly and her people?

ROBERT GIBBS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well...

MATTHEWS: Is this the -- she seems to be very good at answering the
questions of last week but never quite prepared for next week`s questions.
I mean, she doesn`t make herself available for the surprise questions.

GIBBS: Well, I will say waiting eight days to say what they said
yesterday I think was startling to Democrats. I doubt there was anything
that was said yesterday that couldn`t have been said last Wednesday or
Thursday or Friday and put a little bit of this story to bed a lot earlier.

I think not having the apparatus of a campaign, even though everybody
on the planet knows she`s a candidate for president, I think hurt her in
this instance. And I think they also didn`t understand who the
stakeholders were in this, and that is the media. The media was vested
rightly, I think, in asking serious questions, and they had surrogates on
TV actually making it seem as if it was Republicans pushing these
questions, and I think, in many ways, that emboldened the media.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and then there was a conflict. I mean, I`m not going
to nitpick this, but there was a conflict. Last week, she tweeted near
midnight one night for the State Department to release the e-mails, and now
we find out that she destroyed 30,000 of them. So how could they -- how
could they release 30,000 e-mails that she destroyed? It doesn`t -- it
doesn`t square.

ANNE GEARAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Right, I mean...

MATTHEWS: The one step to the next step. There`s rolling disclosure.
It`s not even-minded (ph).

GEARAN: I mean, that was a huge disclosure and she made it herself
yesterday, that half of the stuff that at one point would have been
available to her or to anyone else to look through is gone or, you know, in
her case...

MATTHEWS: Well, why did she say the State Department should release
it, if she knew it was already gone?

GEARAN: Well, what she -- because she only meant the part that she
herself had determined...

MATTHEWS: Oh.

GEARAN: ... was work-related. And that`s going to be, I think, the
largest question dogging her going forward, is should she have been the
arbiter or her lawyers or whomever she deputized to do it, to decide what`s
work-related and what`s not, something that she owned...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GEARAN: She owned -- she owned the server, therefore, she owned the
work product on it. And you know, they made that decision before the State
Department or anybody, the White House or any other outside lawyer, had a
chance to take a look at it.

MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me go to Kellyanne. Kellyanne, I know your
hat is to the right, but I want to ask you one bit of advice, if you were
Hillary. I`m not sure there`s -- I think she`s in a real problem here...

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... a Hobson`s choice. If she doesn`t leave the server
out, this will die perhaps in a couple weeks, maybe it`ll be completely
dead. But if she said, The server`s mine, I`m getting rid of it, in fact,
whatever -- maybe you can destroy one, bury it somewhere. The other
question is, if she does release it with all those 30,000 e-mails on -- and
I don`t believe they`re about her and her husband talking about funerals
and -- because she`s only had, like, two e-mails from her husband,
according to him.

But there`s probably -- and this is in all fairness, a quite
legitimate thing. She`s running potentially a candidate for presidency,
and -- this year. But all these years, while she`s secretary of state, I
assume she was keeping up with her people all around the country, just
keeping up -- How is that kid doing at Stanford? Can I help you with this?
Are we going to see him when we get to LA this weekend, just regular
keeping up, fence-mending stuff. Does she want that out?

CONWAY: No, she doesn`t want that out.

MATTHEWS: But that`s what it is. I assume that that`s what -- is it
better to put that out or just stonewall and say, You ain`t getting near my
server?

CONWAY: Well, it`s better to put it somewhere. It doesn`t need to be
disclosed to the public necessarily. And I have to tell you, as a
Republican and a conservative at that, I don`t want the first lady
embarrassed. I don`t want Secretary Clinton embarrassed, as any of us
would be if you disclosed personal e-mails.

But I think yesterday, she really didn`t do herself much good in that
regard, and I don`t know if it would go away, Chris, if she put the server
out there because a lot of my Democratic friends were shocked to see how
unprepared she was yesterday and uninspiring, and they`re worried about the
political implications here, as well. They`re worried about someone who
seemed not very likable, not very authentic, reading from a binder, and
even then flubbing her lines. I think that all these reports you see now
about some in Hollywood backing Elizabeth Warren -- I believe Jim Webb is
formidable...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CONWAY: ... military guy, Reagan`s Navy secretary -- I think that --
that`s really -- that`s what`s...

MATTHEWS: She`s 86 percent.

CONWAY: ... going to persist in the next couple weeks...

MATTHEWS: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: Pardon?

MATTHEWS: She`s 86 percent.

CONWAY: Pardon me?

MATTHEWS: In the latest poll. She`s 86 percent. I`ve never seen
anybody at 86 percent.

CONWAY: Oh, because -- because -- because nobody would dare go up
against her. But there`s a lot -- as you see now in these reports, there`s
a lot of chatter. And I think her whole claim that it`s a vast right-wing
conspiracy always trying to get in her way will not fly this time, Chris.
The AP, the venerable Associated Press, issuing FOIA requests, and really
wondering -- for five years, the one FOIA request has been out there, many
others since 2013.

They`re hardly part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, and I think a
lot of soul-searching Democrats, like our friend Robert Gibbs, have called
this highly unusual and think that what she did yesterday couldn`t have
been done eight years ago -- eight days ago -- excuse me.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re right...

CONWAY: You know, I think there are a lot of Democrats who are soul
searching and saying, Is this all we`ve got?

MATTHEWS: OK, well, you`re right. Some in the press were not
impressed with yesterday`s performance. The front page headline in "USA
Today" reads, quote, "Hillary out of practice in the media`s glare." The
Politico magazine reads, "Go to hell. Hillary Clinton had something to say
to the media about her e-mails. It wasn`t too subtle." And the --
(INAUDIBLE) That was her to us, I guess.

The editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" headline is, "Clinton-
alt-delete." She gave preposterous explanations that only James Carville
could pretend to believe." And "The New York Post" cover ran this scathing
headline, "Deleter of the free world." Well, actually, it`s clever, but I
don`t think it`s that harmful.

Here`s a theory advanced around the office here tonight, and I want to
try it by -- basically, Hillary Clinton, like Bill Clinton, stays mentally
healthy by realizing there`s about 30 percent of the country that don`t
like them, and there`s no sense worrying about them. They go to bed at
night thinking how much they hate the Clintons. They`ll get up in the
morning hating the Clintons. So nothing she does is going to change their
view.

Work the 70 percent that is either for her or open-minded, and they`re
not going to go after her about e-mail. They`re not going to go to bed
thinking, I can`t stand Hillary won`t let me see her e-mail.

GEARAN: Right. Right. I mean, it was quite a scene there yesterday.
It was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It looked like the Academy Awards red carpet, is what it
looked like.

GEARAN: But it -- I mean, it probably did not change the minds of
that 30 percent, and it shouldn`t change the minds of the -- I don`t know
what it is, maybe 30 percent who are, you know, absolute die-hard Hillary
supporters on the other side, and almost no matter what she says or is said
about her would make any difference. She`s really hitting for a middle
section of America that we don`t yet know how...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: Yes, we do. We do know what they think.

MATTHEWS: ... the reference to the funeral and the daughter, the
wedding and the reference to yoga -- was that an attempt to connect with
people in their lives?

GEARAN: Probably. I mean, it could have been an attempt to humanize
the part of the story that she wants -- she wanted to make the point that,
you know, I`m a person, I`m a normal person who has -- you know, who has a
yoga routine, and I don`t really want that out, and if you -- and you
wouldn`t either.

MATTHEWS: Does that (INAUDIBLE) get to Kelly in a second. Does that
make sense to you or not?

GIBBS: Yes, I think it does.

I mean, it`s what everybody else has on their personal e-mail. And
the 30 to 70 percent thing, I think what -- what -- I think there was a
decision that was made to the convenience of carrying only one device. The
flip side of that is the inconvenience of at some point dealing with these
questions.

And they decided that convenience greatly exceeded the inconvenience
of having to deal with these questions. They have made the bet that this
isn`t going to be a voting issue. They have made the bet that there
won`t...

MATTHEWS: That they could keep their privacy, in other words?

GIBBS: Yes, and that they have made the bet that there won`t be
enough that accumulates that ultimately makes the meme of secrecy and
nontransparency something that she ultimately has to deal with.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go back.

Kellyanne, I was hearing some unpleasant groanings there from you.
What is -- what were you saying about the middle-of-the-road voter and
there`s a way to measure their view of what happened yesterday?

CONWAY: Sure. No, no, no, look, here`s the broader implication for
her from yesterday.

If she`s trying to connect with real people and uses the yoga and
funeral and wedding references, as you suggested, as a way to connect,
goodness, she`s been in public -- the public eye for at least 25 years, the
national public eye, and if she`s trying to show herself as authentic and
likable now, I think that`s problematic for the front-runner and the would-
be nominee for the Democratic Party.

It`s very clear -- and it was on full display yesterday, lady and
gentlemen -- that she lacks her husband`s political gifts and she lacks the
kind of optimism, forward-looking hope and change that Senator Obama was
able to convert into a two-term presidency. I can`t believe that smart
people in the party like Robert Gibbs are going to allow the legacy, the
transformational, generational legacy...

MATTHEWS: See how they`re doing this?

CONWAY: ... of switching the Democratic Party to the next generation
to be -- to go back...

MATTHEWS: This is -- Kellyanne...

CONWAY: Look, "Back to the Future" was a great movie. It`s a
terrible governing philosophy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, Kellyanne, I`m on to your -- I`m on to your -- I`m on
to your game here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Which is, remember when Obama was in trouble, and people
said, you know, I really like Hillary better?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But Hillary is up front. Now, no, the people would say --
the Republicans say -- and now the minute that Hillary is up there, and
she`s going to bat now, they say, I like Bill a lot more than Hillary.

GIBBS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s always the one who is not at bat that they fall for.

GIBBS: Well, the one thing that will unify Democrats around the
president is Hillary and the one thing that will unify Democrats around
Hillary is the president.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the media question. I know it`s hard
to do it because you have got to sit with your managing editors and people,
national editors, everybody, assistant managing -- assistant managing
editors and all that.

Is there going to be a story here for the next couple of weeks on the
e-mail itself? Do you see it growing or continuing?

GEARAN: Oh, definitely continuing.

There will -- there will be -- in addition to the question that I
raised earlier about, should she have been the arbiter and I think that`s
going to be kind of a continuing theme, I think there will be some -- think
there will be some -- a lot of specific questions pursued by the press
about the mechanics of this.

I mean, were those e-mails all actually deleted? Who did all of that?
Did she actually run...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are the attack dogs still going after you guys, the
mainstream press?

GEARAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`re still going?

GEARAN: I mean, but we can take it.

MATTHEWS: David Brock, Sid Blumenthal. This is not new.

Anyway, thank you.

You know what Mickey Cohen said. If you have a dog, you don`t have to
bark.

Anyway, thank you, Anne Gearan.

Thank you, Kellyanne Conway.

You can have that one.

Robert Gibbs, smart guy.

Coming up: Those 47 Republican senators who sent that letter to Iran
in an attempt to scuttle President Obama`s nuclear talks are not getting
blasted just by the left. A lot of conservatives are now criticizing what
they did. And they should be criticizing it.

Plus, the red hot debate over going to war with ISIS. John Kerry says
the president already has the authority he needs. He just wants a unified
front from the Congress. Will this Congress give it to him?

And check out the big fights breaking out on the right. First,
Republican congressman Peter King trashes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. He says
they are not responsible adults and they would both make lousy presidents.
That`s why I love Peter sometimes.

In an early battle -- by the way, it`s near Saint Patrick`s Day. I
got to love him. Early battle among 2016 front-runners, Jeb Bush and Scott
Walker have the knives out for each other. Isn`t that interesting? I
guess that the Bushies know that Walker is riding pretty high in the polls.

Finally, let me finish with that lucky number the Republicans have
gotten their hands on, 47.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, those 47 Republican senators who sent a letter to the leaders of
Iran trying to derail a nuclear deal are continuing to face pushback. And
this afternoon, Hillary Clinton tweeted, "GOP letter to Iranian clerics
undermines American leadership. No one considering running for commander
in chief should be signing on."

Well said.

The current secretary of state, John Kerry, also blasted the letter at
a Senate hearing today. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My reaction to the letter was
utter disbelief. During my 29 years here in the Senate, I never heard of,
nor even heard of it being proposed, anything comparable to this.

When it says that Congress could actually modify the terms of an
agreement at any time, that`s flat wrong. They don`t have the right to
modify an agreement reached executive to executive between countries,
between leaders of a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Kerry`s comments were criticized by a
number of Republicans, including the chairman of the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Senator Bob Corker.

Corker cut him off after several minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Mr. Secretary, I know this is a well-
written speech, but...

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: Not a speech.

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: This is not a speech.

CORKER: I will say that I didn`t sign the letter. I`m very
disappointed, though, that you have gone back on your statement that any
agreement must pass muster with Congress.

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: To say that we should not or be
communicating is nonsense. Members of Congress, every single day,
communicate with members of other countries.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I am not particularly happy with being
lectured to by the administration about the Constitution.

This is an administration who I believe has trampled the Constitution
at many turns. I signed the letter to Iran. But you know what? The
message I was sending was to you. The message was to President Obama that
we want you to obey the law. We want you to understand the separation of
powers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he must have sent the letter to the wrong address,
huh? What do you think?

Senator Chris Murphy was in the hearing and asked Secretary Kerry that
question about Iran.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

And we have also syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who wrote today
that 47 senators were acting like children at a school fair whose single
purpose is to dunk the principal.

Did you buy that statement by Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky,
that this letter was actually addressed to the administration, not to the
mullahs?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think a lot of these
senators really do want to derail these negotiations.

I think people like Tom Cotton sort of see American foreign policy
only through a military lens. And so they think that the only way that
you`re going to divorce Iran from nuclear ambitions is to bomb them. A lot
of us are very worried about that path.

But this is just a fundamental misread of the Constitution. The
United States Senate has the power to approve treaties. We do not have the
power nor the responsibility to approve executive agreements. And there
are thousands of executive agreements that have been signed by this
president and previous presidents that have gone into effect without
Congress weighing in.

So this is just about a fundamental misunderstanding of the
Constitution.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MURPHY: And, yes, a lot of this is just about politics. A lot of
this is just about Republicans trying to continually blow up whatever the
president is trying to do internationally.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s where they set the explosions which concerns me.
I can understand where they would want to vote on something afterwards.
I`m always pushing for that on war issues. But why do they want to blow it
up before there is a deal?

MURPHY: So, this is a key point here. And this is where I think
maybe Kerry got a little bit off-kilter today.

Congress does have the ability to weigh in on this deal, because
what`s going to have to happen is, the president is going to need to waive
sanctions for a period of time before Congress appeals them. Congress does
have the power to take away the ability of the president to temporarily
waive these sanctions.

So, Congress reserves the ability, once the deal is on the table, in
order to do something about it.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

MURPHY: But it`s beyond me as to why they are trying to stop this
deal from getting to Congress in the first place, other than...

MATTHEWS: It`s beyond you?

MURPHY: Yes. Well, other than -- other than...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it really beyond you? Come on. You`re being -- you`re
being rhetorical. You do have a guess as to why they would do this.

Could it be that they are afraid the deal will look good, that the
country will be satisfied with it and say this is the best that we could
get under these terrible circumstances, the best option on the table? Or
else why would they fear its culmination, if they think the culmination
will be unpleasant to the American people and unacceptable to the American
people? They would want that to happen if that...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: That`s why I`m saying this is political. This is just about
trying to frustrate anything good that the president is trying to do.

But, again, back to my original comment, I do also think that this is
an outgrowth of a neoconservative orthodoxy within the Republican Party
that continues to regain strength. There is just a group of them that
believe that diplomacy is weakness and that the only way that you exert
American influence in the world is to drop bombs on people.

That hasn`t gone very well for the United States in the last 10 years.
And Iraq is a country that is -- Iran is a country that is three times the
size of Iraq. We better be pretty careful about the consequences of
negotiations failing.

MATTHEWS: Who is scarier, Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton?

(LAUGHTER)

MURPHY: I`m getting to know Senator Cotton.

Listen, both of them seem to be much more interested with advancing
their own political agendas than really making the Senate work. And,
unfortunately, there are too few people like Senator Corker...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MURPHY: ... as much as I disagree with what he said in this hearing,
who are willing to be a little bit more judicious about these kind of big
ticket international issues.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I guess it`s a question, do you want Joe McCarthy to
come back or the Bates Motel?

Anyway, thank you very much, Chris Murphy from Connecticut, for
joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Secretary Kerry today also clashed with Senator Marco
Rubio, who suggested the administration`s strategy against ISIS was driven
by a desire to reach a deal with Iran.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I believe that much of our strategy
with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran, so that
they don`t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you are
working on. Tell me why I`m wrong.

KERRY: Because the facts completely contradict that.

Our negotiation is calculated to make sure they can`t get a nuclear
weapons. And it`s really almost insulting that the presumption here is
that we`re going to negotiate something that allows them to get a nuclear
weapon.

RUBIO: I haven`t discussed about the nuclear weapon. What I have
discussed -- and I`m not saying there`s a grand bargain. What I`m saying
is that I believe that our military strategy towards ISIS is influenced by
our desire not to cross red lines that the Iranians have about U.S.
military presence in the region.

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: No, absolutely not in the least.

RUBIO: OK. Well, let me ask you this.

KERRY: There`s no consideration whatsoever as to how they or anybody
else...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you get a little complicated there. I mean,
Rubio is -- everybody is out there sporting out there, trying to figure out
a way to plant their flag. And I don`t get it.

Why do you think? You wrote against this. What`s your view of this?
And 47, by the way -- I was going to point this out at the end of the show
-- is an unlucky number for the Republicans, because in the last campaign
they got involved with, 47 percent...

(CROSSTALK)

KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought the same thing,
Chris.

MATTHEWS: Did you think it too?

PARKER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What are they -- it`s like putting the money back on the
roulette wheel, the same number again.

PARKER: Absolutely.

Well, I would disagree with the senator that the only option to the
Republicans is to bomb. But I do think -- my reaction to this was, first
of all, I always ask the question, what good does it do? Because we should
always be doing things that are good for our goals and for our country.

And I feel like that this made us look silly. I`m, frankly,
embarrassed for the 47 senators who signed. And I`m extremely sorry that
some of those who are seeking higher office would put their names to
something like this. It undermines the president. It`s basically saying
to -- you`re writing a letter to the ayatollah? Come on.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PARKER: I mean, you know when you`re writing letters to the ayatollah
while your president is negotiating, you`re probably on the wrong team.

And, you know, if indeed they wanted to get that message to senator --
I mean, to Secretary Kerry and the president, as Rand Paul said, well, then
by all means, write the letter to them. Take out a full-page ad in "The
New York Times" or "The Washington Post."

MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, they have pretty good mail down here in Washington.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why do you think Rand Paul was unusually chicken? Because
he`s usually a gutsy guy and being an independent guy. He said, I signed
it, but I was really sending that letter to President Obama.

No, he wasn`t. He was sending a letter to another government and
probably, if you enforce the law, in violation of the Logan Act. You can`t
have your own foreign policy. You can`t.

PARKER: Yes. Well, I can`t -- I can`t speak for why he did this.

I suspect that that comment, that he was really speaking to the -- to
our leaders, was to back it up just a tad.

MATTHEWS: I thought -- you`re right. Anyway, thank you.

The pushback...

PARKER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t like that new word, pushback.

PARKER: Yes. We have to come up with another one.

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER: How about...

MATTHEWS: Chicken out?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Kathleen Parker, for your very sublime
note here.

Up next, Washington debates war against ISIS now. There`s another
video of a hostage being killed, this time at the hands of a child. And
once again, I think it`s an innocent person. And that`s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
breaking news.

The White House says it`s aware of an alleged incident involving two
Secret Service agents who drove a government car into security barricades
at the White House after a night of drinking at a party. The head of the
Secret Service has turned an investigation into the incident over to the
Department of Homeland Security. Secret Service director Joseph Clancy
says, if misconduct is identified, appropriate action will be taken.

According to "The Washington Post," the incident occurred last week
and involved a member of the president`s protective detail -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I find it really hypocritical to have
people come before you and say, I stand with the firefighters, we have to
be with you, and then they don`t vote to fund the Department of Homeland
Security.

No member of the House, no member of the Senate should ever, ever deny
you the funding that you need to do your job.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And the best of Irish luck to you, Senator -- Congressman,
I should say.

That was Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, speaking at a
forum hosted by the International Association of Firefighters yesterday.
When it comes to issue of national security, Congressman King has been an
outspoken critic of his own party.

But he didn`t just slam Republicans for attempting to defund the
Department of Homeland Security. He took on some big name contenders for
the Republican nomination for president in 2016 as well.

Here`s what King had to say about Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I mentioned Rand Paul. Now, he`s concerned about drones. He`s
afraid the CIA might use drones to attack Americans drinking coffee in
Starbucks. Now -- and he gave a filibuster on the Senate floor talking
about this.

Now, if you are head of ISIS and you are going to plan something
against the United States and you want to do a background check on who the
president was and you found out that he thought that the real threat was
the CIA attacking Americans at Starbucks, would you really be afraid to
attack the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, congressman also had choice words for Senator Ted
Cruz of Texas as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Then, we have Ted Cruz who believed that if the government
should be shut down a year and a half ago. And he went on the Senate floor
and read Dr. Seuss.

Again, do you really want a commander-in-chief who thinks the way to
run the government is to read Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor and shut down
the United States government? No. We need responsible adults.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by some responsible adults. The panel
includes Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post", Jamelle Bouie of "Slate",
and former United States senator from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln.

Senator, I love that -- I love it when Peter King brings out the Tommy
gun and just mows down these guys. They are in the clown car. I mean,
Cruz, demagoguery is not a good career move, OK?

And the other guy, Rand Paul, he has the interest that a lot of people
in their 20s have right now. Government surveillance is the big problem in
their life. Someone going into my e-mail is more important than fighting
these wars.

Your thoughts?

BLANCHE LINCOLN (D-AR), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, welcome to the
primary season. Anybody, whether it`s those that are running in the
primary or want the position, or whether it`s those that are trying to
assist in some way, it`s all going to be about sensationalism. He was
looking for some good things to say to those firefighters to get them all
excited and ginned up, I think that`s exactly what he was doing.

MATTHEWS: Jamelle, what happened to the 11th commandment Ronald
Reagan once postulated, where you say, speak no evil of a fellow
Republican? I think he was. I liked it.

JAMELLE BOUIE, SLATE: I mean, I think the people he was attacking are
the people that made that commandment moot. Ted Cruz has had no
compunction about --

MATTHEWS: Well-said. Explain that, because people don`t -- he went
around looking for incumbents to knock off.

BOUIE: Right. He`s aligned himself with the group of other
Republicans whose entire reason for existing is to knock off other
Republicans and get more conservative Republicans elected. And that kind
of environment, the gloves are off. You know, Peter King is just like, if
you guys come at me, I will come at you.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the Republican Party historically ever since
the Cold War, they`ve been the hawk party. You can disagree, but generally
the hawkish party. Can they get street cred for being able to protect
people in this country if they shut down Homeland Security with impunity
and actually do it for sport, they do it to make points?

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s exactly what Peter King is
talking about. As a Long Island native, I`m proud of him and he`s done as
well.

MATTHEWS: Can you give us some accents?

MILBANK: I could do it a little bit after the show.

But Peter King is what Republicans used to be. He`s hawkish, he`s law
and order, he`s no nonsense, you fund things in government that you need to
do. You fight terrorists.

MATTHEWS: You`re getting there.

MILBANK: You don`t play games with drones.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s right.

MILBANK: And you don`t play with the government shutdown.

MATTHEWS: You explain the dichotomy. Why do you think Republicans
feel that defending the country involves more than ever defending here?

MILBANK: But Peter King is a non-ideological in that sense that I
think a Ted Cruz wants to starve the beast. So, he really doesn`t care
what the ramifications are, and Rand Paul is so concerned about his
libertarian base that he`s not seeing the bigger picture here.

So, in a way, Peter King is a blast from the past. And you see him
surface, he did it with Hurricane Sandy, too.

MATTHEWS: I had a sense last week, that when Netanyahu was all of the
buzz around here, that he went right up to the edge. I don`t care --
morally, he shouldn`t have been invited but politically he went up to the
edge and probably did OK, he probably made the Republicans happy. They go
ahead and they did.

I don`t think they are glad that they did the 47 senators.

BOUIE: No. I think --

MATTHEWS: I think they went past their smarts with that one.

BOUIE: I`ve seen no one, among regular people, people on my Facebook,
people I talk to --

MATTHEWS: Where do you go to find them?

BOUIE: People I talk to from where I grew up, I see no one who is
happy about this.

MATTHEWS: The 47 letter?

BOUIE: The 47 that signed the letter. Everyone I talked to sees this
as just like a violation, something that you don`t do.

MATTHEWS: Sedition.

BOUIE: Maybe not treason or sedition, but certainly --

MATTHEWS: How about the Logan Act? Look at that, because I read it
the other night.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It does specifically violate it. Specifically violate.

Anyway, let me ask you about this other weird thing. Not all
Republicans are crazy and not all Democrats are consistent, Blanche
Lincoln. I`m looking at Menendez who`s got his own troubles. He wants to
-- he`s a hawk beyond hawk about Iran. You know, no deal is -- I`m not
going to let anything go by and yet, he wants to put all kinds of
restrictions on fighting ISIS.

The American people want to fight ISIS in some way. They don`t want
more restrictions. What they want with restrictions is we are not going to
war with Iran.

How does he have this dichotomy? Is this politics? Could it be?
Could it be politics? It`s OK to be for fighting Iran because, you know,
it`s pretty good, healthy in terms of fundraising and things like that, it
makes you popular with some people, some hawks. But nobody really wants to
go into ISIS in a big shot community. That seems to be the case.

LINCOLN: Well, I mean --

MATTHEWS: Big fund-raisers are not for the war with ISIS but they are
very hawkish about Iran. That`s a fact.

LINCOLN: I think it`s pretty dangerous to play with any of this
through a political effort. And I think a lot of what happened in that
letter was just that. And I think it`s also the same --

MATTHEWS: Who do you think wrote it? Is that too nasty to think that
Cotton didn`t write it?

LINCOLN: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: He`s a freshman. He`s two weeks in the Senate. Three
weeks, right? And he`s writing -- he`s knocking out letters and 47 guys
are signing them. That`s pretty fast moving.

MILBANK: He`s no Blanche Lincoln but the guy went to Harvard, and he
can put a letter together. And the fact that the letter --

LINCOLN: He also went to war in Iraq and Iraq -- I mean, Iraq and
Afghanistan. And, you know, he deserves the credit for serving. I mean,
there are many who have --

MATTHEWS: You know, that`s one hell of a co-sponsorship, 47.

LINCOLN: It is. But I also think that it was, again, just a
sensational type of situation where a lot of those people that signed that
letter know that the Senate has a responsibility to advise and consent, and
their time will come. There will be a right time. But these negotiators
are working towards peace and I hope that they will look and see that --

MATTHEWS: You know what would look good, the Republicans who didn`t
sign it.

MILBANK: Seven of them.

MATTHEWS: We need seven. We need seven that can change the universe.

Anyway, the round table is staying with us.

Up next, here`s a fight. Jeb Bush is feeling the heat. Here in the
footsteps. Scott Walker is coming on. He`s becoming the front-runner.
They don`t like it. The Bush people are attacking him, big surprise. Both
camps are going at it. That`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the nomination of
Loretta Lynch for attorney general, finally. Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell says he expects to bring up the vote next week. He`s been under
pressure from Democrats who say it`s taking too long to bring Lynch`s
nomination to the floor for a vote. Lynch is expected to be confirmed by
the full Senate. She cleared the Judiciary Committee with the support of
all the Democrats and three Republican senators nearly two weeks ago.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

The race for 2016 Republican nominations is now virtually tied between
former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

According to the latest McClatchy-Marist poll, Bush leads Walker among
Republicans by a single digit, 19-18. That`s a big improvement for Walker,
of course who was polling way down in the low single digits in December.

And as "The Washington Post" reports today, the knives are already out
between the two rival campaigns. On Tuesday, Bush ally Al Cardenas cast
Walker as a flip-flopper tweeting, "Did you know Scott Walker was for path
to citizenship, now not? Did you know he was against the ethanol subsidy,
now he is for? Do you really know him?"

And in an e-mail to "The Post", another Bush supporter, Ana Navarro,
took up the same line of attack saying, "Running for president requires
have the mettle to keep your boots on, not changing into flip-flops when it
starts getting hot. I think the flip-flop label hasn`t yet stuck to
Walker, because unlike Romney, until now he`s had a low profile
nationally."

We`re back with our roundtable, Dana, Jamelle, and Senator Lincoln.

This fighting is below the level. It`s really petty, right? Why are
they already out attacking each other? It`s now -- what`s the month? It`s
March of the odd year.

MILBANK: We`re already like six months into this campaign. So, of
course, this is what they`re doing now. It`s following the same old
script. You have sort of the titular front-runner Jeb Bush, who is kind of
sort of everybody`s second choice.

And you can see they`re going to go through the flirtation with every
one of these guys. It would be Walker now, then it will be one of the
other guys. And eventually, they all say, oh, heck --

MATTHEWS: Herman Cain had his month.

MILBANK: Exactly, and they`re going to -- you know, Marco Rubio will
have his --

MATTHEWS: Herman Cain, 999, was up there for a while.

MILBANK: And they`ll have that, and they`ll decide, all right, I
think we`ve got to go with this guy.

MATTHEWS: You think they`ll give up and go with the establishment
candidate.

MILBANK: They have every -- if past if prologue, they`ve done it
every time.

MATTHEWS: Why is that? Why is that, Jamelle? Why do they always go
with a guy they don`t like? It`s like the Democrats used to for years
never gave the nomination to the guy who gave the best speech. Teddy gave
the best speech, they gave it to Carter. Bentsen gave the best speech,
they gave it to Dukakis.

I mean, what is this? Or Mondale. They always go to the guy who
can`t talk. Your thoughts?

BOUIE: You know, Jeb, they do this because the people who they always
go to, they don`t like, tend to be at least minimally acceptable to
everyone in the party. Mitt Romney wasn`t glamorous, he wasn`t great. But
he didn`t anger anyone especially. So, you can be OK with that.

Where I disagree with Dana a bit here is I think Walker fits that
profile, too. I think it`s an unusual situation --

MATTHEWS: Explain it. What are his specifications?

BOUIE: Foreign policy aside, he`s weak on, he is an evangelical
Christian from a Midwestern state who became a conservative superstar after
surviving --

MATTHEWS: He switched from Catholic to Baptist.

BOUIE: That`s right. Yes.

MILBANK: It could happen. But he`s not very well known.

MATTHEWS: Keep going. He`s evangelical, he`s a governor. What are -
- he`s young.

BOUIE: He`s relatively young. I think his status is someone how has
been an ideological conservative governor.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s relatively young. He`s young.

MILBANK: Relative to whom?

MATTHEWS: To me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re younger than him. He`s young.

BOUIE: Yes. He`s an ideologically conservative governor in a blue
state who`s never had to compromise. I think that`s the kind of --

MATTHEWS: I think the tax cutting thing is good for him. When he
said, I stood up to the labor of course, but I saved -- I protected the
taxpayer. I think that works with the Tea Party.

BOUIE: I think it does. He`s breaking the --

MATTHEWS: So, your theory, he`s the player of the month.

MILBANK: I mean, that may be right and he may be different, but what
are we finding out? There`s billions of dollars in deficits, there are
going to be huge cuts coming up. The world and the Republican electorate
doesn`t know Scott Walker.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the nominee of the Republican Party, Senator?

LINCOLN: I think it`s going to be Jeb. And, by the way, Jeb is
young.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MILBANK: All right. Now, we`re getting somewhere.

MATTHEWS: I agree completely.

Dana Milbank, of course, Jamelle Bouie, and Blanche Lincoln, thank you
all.

When we come back, let me finish with that lucky number the
Republicans got their hands on. It`s not like Herman Cain`s 999. It`s 47.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the lucky number the Republicans
have gotten their hands on, 47. That`s the percentage of your fellow
Americans the great Mitt Romney said were free loaders in this country.
Well, now, the same number of GOP senators have signed a letter to the
Iranian mullahs telling them not to trust a deal with President Obama
because any deal will be written in disappearing ink. It won`t be honored
by Obama`s presidential successors.

Forty-seven this time means the number of Republican senators who
refused to even let Obama negotiate. They want a deal killed before it is
a deal. They want the United States to fail to reach an agreement with
Iran because that would guarantee Iran`s nuclear arms program which would
guarantee they could continue making a weapon, which would guarantee that
any American president would ultimately have to attack.

And 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.
END

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