Date: March 31, 2015
Guest: Christopher Hill, Gov. Dan Malloy, Arlene Alda, Alan Alda, Susan
Page, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Is it overtime, or sudden death?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, with the deadline passing, can the United States and the world
keep Iran from the bomb? Can Indiana escape the "we hate gays" charge?
Can President Obama head to Kenya without Donald Trump and the rest of the
wacko birthers saying he`s just heading home?
We have to start, of course, tonight with the 11th-hour struggle for a deal
with Iran. Can a deal keep them from the bomb? Better question still, is
there any other way to do it? And what does Boehner have to offer, or
McConnell, or is it just the hawks who have a plan, which is to send over
Andrea Mitchell`s NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent. She joins us
from Switzerland where the talks are ongoing. How is it going, Andrea?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think there`s a little progress.
But about an hour ago, we -- they missed the deadline. And this really is
like a college dorm, you could say, in a palace, of course, a 19th century
palace, but they`re basically missing deadlines, eating cold pizza and
trying to get this done.
And so far, they don`t have a deal. They`ve got a couple of specific
problems. One is sanctions. Do they come off, the U.N. sanctions? Do
they come off? Are they lifted entirely in June when a formal final
agreement is envisioned, if this all works? Or are they phased out? Are
they suspended so that they could then be slapped back on? There are all
sorts of ways to get at that.
Perhaps more importantly is the whole question of how much nuclear fuel
Iran can keep? It`s not going export it to Russia, they`ve now said this
week. So do they get fewer centrifuges, fewer of these advanced machines
that can create new fuel to enable both sides to agree that there is at
least one year of a breakout time, one year warning from the U.N. nuclear
MITCHELL: -- before Iran could do anything, could cheat. and of course,
you know what the critics are saying, that first of all, it isn`t even one
year and that they would be cheating anyway, that the U.N. inspectors
wouldn`t be able to get in. So this last-minute run to try to do it in
overtime is only going to give the critics more ammo because they`re going
to say, You made too many concessions just to bring something home.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell -- I know it`s a tough question. Can you tell --
as you`re watching this, can you tell whether they`re looking for a deal at
any cost on the American side? Or is that too rough a question? I don`t
know. That`s the charge that`s been made.
MITCHELL: No --
MATTHEWS: Joe Scarborough made it the other day on his program --
MITCHELL: And that is a question --
MATTHEWS: -- and he said, any deal, they`ll take anything they can get.
They just want a deal.
MITCHELL: I don`t think so, frankly, just talking to them here, saying
that they`re willing to walk away from it. But of course, the fact that
they`re staying in overtime, that they`re staying overnight, they`re going
to start again in the morning -- that clearly will fuel that argument.
We`ll have to see what`s on the paper.
I think one serious criticism, and Joe Scarborough certainly, you know,
zoned in on that, as well, is that what is going to come out of here is
going to be far less specific on really important technical points than
they had hoped for.
So they`re going to say, We`ve got the principles, we have a classified
document, we`ll brief Congress on that. And now we have until June to work
this out. Well, if it didn`t get worked out in 18 months, what is going to
make it any easier in the coming months until June?
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. You`re the best -- Andrea Mitchell over there
in Switzerland. It`s late at night there.
NBC News chief foreign correspondent over there, Richard Engel, is in Tel
Aviv right now for more of the mood in Israel. And they`ve got a lot
riding on this. Here`s Richard.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I can`t remember a stranger time
in Tel Aviv, when the government of Israel seems to be aligned with many
Arab governments in denouncing what is going on in Switzerland. Normally,
this country is at great odds with the rest of the Middle East, but now you
have Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, even Pakistan saying that they are
against the possible deal in Switzerland. They don`t want to empower Iran.
And I spoke today to a senior member of the new Israeli government, and he
said that the deal in Switzerland, if it goes forward, encourages Iran to
not dismantle its nuclear program, but to freeze it with some safeguards,
and that is not what Israel wants.
Israel believed that this process to enter into negotiations with Iran
would dismantle the nuclear program, similar to what happened in Libya,
where Gadhafi said that he didn`t want the nuclear program anymore and took
it apart. Instead, they believe that the program will be frozen in place,
more or less, with some unverifiable controls put in place.
And this is part of a larger dynamic in the Middle East, where you have
Israel, Saudi Arabia, several other countries banding together, saying that
not only is it about Iran`s nuclear program, which should be contained and
basically dismantled, but it`s about preventing Iran from spreading its
influence across the region.
You have Iran spreading its influence through rebels in Yemen. You have it
spreading its influence through militia groups that are now backed by U.S.
air strikes in Iraq. And frankly, this country -- this Israeli government
doesn`t want to see Iran, in its words, be rewarded for its aggressive
behavior -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, Richard Engel. We got a great report there.
Joining us right now is Christopher Hill, the former U.S. ambassador to
Iraq, and Eugene Robinson, a columnist for "The Washington Post" and an
I want to go to the ambassador. Ambassador Hill, you`ve been through a lot
of diplomacy in your life. Are we getting somewhere? Can you tell? Or is
this just a desperate last-minute effort to get -- to try for something we
don`t think we`re going to get, actually?
CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Oh, I think we`re
probably getting somewhere. I think they would have quit some time ago if
they didn`t think they were.
I mean, the problem is, as your piece suggests, I mean, it hinges on a lot
of technical things, which people don`t really understand, so you`ve got a
lot of analysts kind of explaining it`s a good deal or a bad deal.
And so the overall problem is they`re not going to be able to set this
thing very easily, and so they`re clearly trying to kind of backload some
of the sanctions relief because they know they can`t sell sanctions relief.
And meanwhile, you`ve got a kind of similar situation going on in Tehran,
where they`re going to -- they want immediate sanctions relief. So that is
going to be a problem.
And I think they want to keep the momentum going and maybe try to handle
these issues in the next few months. But right now, I mean, when you`ve
got Israel and the Arabs together, you know you have a problem.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we`ve got a new poll, Gene, from "The Washington Post,"
your paper, and ABC News that shows a strong majority of Americans support
a deal with Iran that would lift sanctions in exchange for Iran restricting
its nuclear program. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they would like to make
such a deal.
And yet here`s the rub. The same percent, 60 percent of Americans, say
they are not confident such an agreement will work to prevent Iran from
ultimately developing a bomb, 37 percent say they are either (ph) for (ph)
something there, but not the majority --
MATTHEWS: -- not hopeful.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: So that seems
to me that people are saying, Well, might not work, let`s give it a shot,
right? I mean, and people, I think, instinctively, and just in terms of
looking at the panorama of the Middle East these days, would rather talk
than the alternative --
MATTHEWS: Do they -- did they realize --
ROBINSON: -- because the alternative looks bad.
MATTHEWS: -- that there`s no alternative, really, ultimately, except --
if they say tougher sanctions, we`ll never get them from the Europeans, so
it means eventually bombing them, which only puts -- sets them back maybe
three years and they`re back at us again.
ROBINSON: Yes, I mean, I`m not sure people even go through that entire
process. I think they see talking or bombing. And I think they -- they
would rather try talking before -- because that`s -- that`s the way the
alternative is really presented by the hawks, right? I mean, essentially,
you know, we have to have tough sanctions, and so tough that we`ll never
get them. Therefore, what`s the alternative? The alternative --
MATTHEWS: Yes, they --
MATTHEWS: Anyway, along those lines, Ambassador, this weekend, Speaker of
the House John Boehner essentially dismissed any deal whatsoever with the
Iranian government, saying, You just can`t trust them. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, we`ve got a regime
that`s never quite kept their word about anything.
I just don`t understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of
people who, in my opinion, have no intention of keeping their word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Also this weekend, the Senate Republican leader over there,
Mitch McConnell, met with Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu in
Jerusalem, and in a video release, the two agreed on their skepticism over
the deal. Here`s the prime minister and the majority leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Will this increase or decrease
Iran`s aggression? Will this make their move (ph) forward more moderate or
make it more extreme? I think it`s a no-brainer.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The group who are here share
your concerns about this potential agreement. And there are options that
the United States has in the wake of an agreement and if there is no
agreement. The option, if there`s an agreement, is a bill that we intend
to vote on that enjoys bipartisan support to require that agreement to come
to Congress for approval.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know. What do you make of that scene, Ambassador?
There`s an American top political leader in the United States Senate acting
like -- for a while there, like a cigar store Indian, just standing there
while Netanyahu gives his speech, like it`s some infomercial.
Are you allowed to talk about politics and how bad this looks politically,
that one political party`s playing no-nothing -- Oh, we don`t nothing, we
don`t trust anybody. That`s street corner talk and trash talk, no sense
of, you know, there`s a tricky situation, we got a lot of parties in the
Middle East we`re trying to work through so we avoid a war. Anyway,
partisanship has played its head (sic) here.
HILL: This is a very -- you know, it`s obviously a very tough issue. I
mean, no agreement is going to be perfect. I mean, you go into the
agreement, you hope the other side will give up everything and strip down
to their underwear, but that`s usually not what happens.
So you end up with something that you think is advantageous to your needs,
even though the other side is trying to come up with the same calculation.
What is really interesting about this, of course, is all the Arab states
see this not just as a nuclear deal, which is kind of how we look at this
in the U.S., but they see this as somehow, the U.S. recreating the
strategic ally of Iran that we had in the 1970s --
HILL: -- and that we`re now switching partners. And so there`s a lot
more than just nuclear stuff. And when you look at all these sort of --
the Shia activity within the Arab Middle East, the Arabs are all pointing
the finger at Tehran and saying this is because of those guys, and the
Americans are being too soft with them. So it`s a tough situation right
MATTHEWS: I know. We`re not dancing with the one that brung us. Let me
ask you a purely political question.
MATTHEWS: What`s better or worse for the president? He gets a deal that
doesn`t work out, they start finding a way to build a bomb down the road,
two or three years from now, or he doesn`t get a deal? What`s worse for
ROBINSON: Well, it`s worse for him that they eventually build a bomb.
MATTHEWS: See, that`s what I think. That`s why I think he`s going to cut
a real deal.
ROBINSON: Yes. Yes. No.
MATTHEWS: Because I think he knows a bad deal is terrible for him.
ROBINSON: Yes, no, it can`t be a bad deal. It`s -- it`s -- that`s
terrible for his legacy.
MATTHEWS: That`s why I think the skeptics are wrong. Anyway, thank, U.S.
Ambassador Christopher Hill and Eugene Robinson.
Still ahead, political reaction to the nuclear talks with Iran. Most of
it`s coming from Republicans, especially the ones running for president.
But key Democrats are also making some noise. We`ll get to that later in
But up next, Indiana`s governor is feeling the heat out there. Mike Pence
went too far. He`s still defending that so-called religious protection
law, the one that could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians,
but he wants lawmakers in Indiana to, quote, "clarify the law" so it won`t
be used that way. Well, that`s not enough, Governor.
Plus, President Obama announces he`s going to Kenya, and one Republican
says this will just titillate the birther crowd. Trump will probably say
he`s going home.
And actor Alan Alda and his wife, Arlene, on what it means to be from the
Bronx. They`re coming on here soon.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: I`ve got new polling from some key swing states already.
There`s some warning signs in there for Hillary Clinton. Let`s check the
First to Florida, where the new Quinnipiac poll finds the only Republican
leading Hillary Clinton is former governor Jeb Bush. He`s up by 3 over
here, 45-42. No surprise there.
But here`s a shocker. In Pennsylvania, Rand Paul has a 1-point lead over
Hillary Clinton, 45-44. He`s the only Republican to head her in the
Keystone State, which tells me the people of Pennsylvania have had it with
Finally, to Ohio, where Clinton leads all the Republicans. Rand Paul comes
closest, but still trails by 5, 46 to 41.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It`s been a tough week here in the Hoosier
state, but we`re going to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In response to a fierce public
backlash, Indiana`s governor, Republican governor there, Mike Pence,
announced today that he wants to fix that controversial Religious Freedom
Restoration Act that he signed into law just last week, by clarifying that
it does not, as he says, give businesses the right to deny services or
discriminate against anyone. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I`ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move
legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give
businesses a right to deny services to anyone.
I believe this is a clarification, but it`s also a fix. It`s a fix of a
bill that, through mischaracterization and confusion, has come to be
greatly misunderstood. And I`m determined to address this this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Pence pushed back somewhat, I said, after a
disastrous Sunday show performance this Sunday and mounting pressure at
home, like from Indiana`s own "Indianapolis Star" newspaper, which ran this
bold headline in (ph) today, telling Pence to, quote, "Fix This Now."
That`s a front page story in three words.
But Pence is still being hammered by the private sector, who threatens to
pull their businesses if gays and lesbians are not protected going forward.
Nine CEOs from Indiana`s largest employers hand-delivered a letter to Pence
just yesterday calling for changes to the law. And the pressure hasn`t
been limited to Indiana-based companies, either. CEOs from companies like
from Apple, Angie`s List, and even the NAA -- well, NCAA, actually, oppose
Last -- I`m sure the NAACP also does. But last night, Marriott CEO Arne
Sorenson also voiced his strong opposition. Full disclosure here. My
wife, Kathleen, is executive V.P. of Marriott. Here he is, Arne Sorenson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNE SORENSON, MARRIOTT CEO: The legislation in Indiana -- and there are
some bills being considered in other states -- is not just pure idiocy from
a business perspective -- and it is that. The notion that you can tell
businesses somehow that they are free to discriminate against people based
on who they are is madness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, and other states are ratcheting up the pressure.
Connecticut governor Dan Malloy signed an executive order banning state-
backed travel to the state of Indiana. And here`s Governor Malloy laying
into Pence this morning on "MORNING JOE."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: The reality is, the governor is not a
stupid man, but he`s done stupid things. And when you see a bigot, you
have to call them on it. They knew what they were doing. And what they
were doing was deciding that they were going to make it legal for people to
refuse to serve gay men and women.
And if Indiana wants to make this right with the rest of the world, they
need to pass laws that say you cannot discriminate based on someone`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Connecticut governor Dan Malloy, and
former RNC chair Michael Steele is also with me.
And late today, by the way, the legislature down in Arkansas passed a
similar religious protection bill, and the CEO of Walmart is urging
Republican governor Asa Hutchison to veto it. But Hutchison says he`s
going to sign it.
Governor, do you believe that Mike Pence is a bigot?
MALLOY: I think --
MATTHEWS: -- in that statement.
MALLOY: Yes, I think he`s done bigoted things. Listen, you know, at the
top of the show here, or this section, he talked about how tough the last
few days have been. Imagine if you were gay in Indiana over the last
month. On February 23rd, in a debate at the state senate, an offer was
made to amend this statute that said simply that we would respect our civil
rights laws as they exist in Indiana and we would respect local laws as
they exist in Indiana.
That amendment, offered by a Democrat, lost 40 to 10. Imagine if you were a
gay man, or a gay woman, or if you were the mother or father of a gay man
or a gay woman. Imagine how tough your month has been, not just the last
couple of days, since that disastrous show that he did on Sunday, since the
disastrous legislation that he signed.
You know, when you do a bigoted thing, you`re going to get called on it.
And, quite frankly, Republicans have not covered themselves in any glory.
We have a whole bunch of candidates for president who have gone to defend
this guy, but now he said, well, maybe we do need to clarify it.
Well, hey, Jeb Bush, what were you thinking about? Cruz, what were you
thinking about? Rubio, what were you thinking about? Do you really want
to condemn gay people to second-class citizenship in America today, this
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I cannot disagree with Governor
Malloy. He just needs to bring the crazy down a little on this. I think
the hyperbole, calling people bigoted, when you know that that is not the
case, I think the governor stated very clearly --
MALLOY: wait a minute. I`m going to stop you right there.
STEELE: No, you`re going to let me finish. You`re going to let me finish
MALLOY: When you walk like a duck and you quack like a duck, you`re a
STEELE: Sir, I let you do your rant. I let you do your rant
uninterrupted. And you`re going to let me bring some clarity and some
common sense to the conversation.
MALLOY: Common sense.
STEELE: The reality of it is -- the reality of it is that there`s nothing
bigoted in this law, there`s nothing bigoted about the governor who signed
this law, and there`s nothing discriminatory about this law.
This law is based on past, present federal law; 31 states have it. The
difference between what Bill Clinton signed and what the governors -- what
the legislature signed today is now, because of Hobby Lobby, you have this
corporate aspect of this being corporations essentially being treated as
people under the protections.
The governor -- the governor has promised a fix. Let`s see what that fix
is. I suspect that fix will either address either a nondiscriminatory law
-- nondiscrimination law, in which makes very clear, as the governor stated
today, that gay and lesbian individuals will not be discriminated under law
in the state of Indiana, or something close to that.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to some things that clarify.
MATTHEWS: Governor, just a second. Governor, I have to moderate this.
Number one, I watched the Sunday show with George Stephanopoulos. And I
thought he did a good job of getting it clear. The governor was asked by
George at least once, would you support legislation to prevent people from
being bigoted, to say, if you`re gay, you`re not getting in my hotel,
you`re not getting in my bakery, you`re not -- I`m not going to help you
with the wedding?
MATTHEWS: And he said no.
STEELE: All right.
MATTHEWS: So he clarified his view. Even though the legislation is murky,
he`s clear on this. And I believe he said it again today. It`s not on my
Why isn`t it?
STEELE: Well, I don`t know why. It should be on his agenda, because this
contributes to the noise around this bill and around this legislation.
MATTHEWS: But he may disagree with you on the issue. How do you know he
does -- how do you know he supports equal public accommodations access?
STEELE: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: Do you know he if supports equal access to public
accommodations, regardless of sexual orientation?
STEELE: I`m sure he does. I`m sure he does. I`m sure he does.
MATTHEWS: But he won`t say so.
STEELE: Absolutely. I`m sure he does. I`m sure he does.
MATTHEWS: Well, Governor, I think you have a point. I don`t know about
calling him bigoted or whatever. He`s clearly politically wanting to
identify with that particular point of view. I mean, he`s had an
opportunity for a week to clarify himself.
STEELE: You don`t get to pick and choose.
MATTHEWS: Governor, isn`t it true that a lot of states that have passed
this have also got legislation protecting the rights of people regardless
of their sexual identity or orientation? That`s already on the books to
protect them. That`s not the case in Indiana.
MALLOY: I think Mr. Steele is too good a person to be an apologist for
And, clearly, if you read the history of this legislation, and how it was
attempted to be amended, so that laws that were already in place would be
applied, Indianapolis had already said we`re not going to discriminate.
Why would you pass a state law that trumps the local law? Why would you
vote that amendment down 40-10?
What senators on the Republican side did the governor actually call to say,
hey, we have got to be fair and honest, and treat our citizens equally?
Give us a list of who you called, Governor, and tell us --
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s get the answer to that question. That`s a good
question. That`s a good question.
Why -- I don`t want to spend time. You guys are here live. I`m not going
to play tape. But Rubio, and Jeb Bush, and Cruz and Walker, Governor
Walker, have all said they`re with this legislation that he signed this
week that has been criticized as being anti-gay. Why are they all taking
STEELE: Because the law on its face is not. It`s how you`re deciding to
interpret the law.
You`re -- show me the language in this law where it sets out that says that
we are going to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals? That
language isn`t in the law. This is verbatim, except for, again, the Hobby
MATTHEWS: But doesn`t it give a business the opportunity to go to court
and say, for our religious, the religion of our corporation, that we can go
then -- we can go to court and say we`re not going to serve people of this
STEELE: Unlike the RFRA law in Connecticut, the federal law and the
Indiana law requires a substantial burden be placed on the government to
show that the --
MATTHEWS: Isn`t access to public accommodations, isn`t that a compelling
public interest? You have got to believe in a compelling public interest
for public accommodations.
STEELE: Of course it`s a compelling public interest, Chris, but I`m just
saying you`re jumping to a conclusion that the law is discriminatory, where
in fact there`s nothing in the law that says that.
There`s no --
MATTHEWS: Last word to the governor. Last word to the governor.
STEELE: Where is the governor?
MALLOY: I have a copy of the amendment that was offered. And it simply
said, "This chapter does not apply to Indiana civil rights law or any state
law or local ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the base of sexual
And it was defeated in the Senate on February 23, with the support of the
governor, 40-10. That`s evidence number one.
I used to be a prosecutor. I tried 23 felony cases. I had convictions in
22. Let me assure you I could get a conviction in this one.
MATTHEWS: So, how do you respond to that, that the governor had an
opportunity to take a stand against discrimination and chose the other
STEELE: Because the governor did -- the governor`s reading of this law and
the legislative intent of the law was not to discriminate.
So, they didn`t need to carve out that exception. Clearly, they now think
that they do. And the governor is going to go back with the legislators.
Majority leaders both in the House and Senate have said they are going to
redo the bill. So, let`s see what they do.
MALLOY: He didn`t --
MALLOY: -- that on Sunday.
MATTHEWS: I think he was trying -- the governor, I think he was -- the
governor of Indiana was trying to score points, as so many Republicans are
trying to do, with the hard right. He thought --
MATTHEWS: Did you see who was standing there with him?
MATTHEWS: Yes, and --
MATTHEWS: No, because they`re opposed to gay rights.
MALLOY: There you go.
MATTHEWS: Because that`s why they`re there.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me know. All those people, you`re in that picture.
Let me know if you`re up for public access to public accommodations on the
part of gay people. Let me know, if you`re a Hoosier.
Anyway, thank you, Governor Dan.
Not everybody, just Hoosiers.
MALLOY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Governor Dan Malloy.
STEELE: See you, Governor.
MATTHEWS: You`re a tough guy. I don`t want to get on the wrong side of
you, brother, anyway.
MATTHEWS: And I never am.
Anyway, thanks, Michael Steele.
STEELE: You got it.
MATTHEWS: Who threw it back.
Up next, what do Colin Powell, Al Pacino and Regis Philbin -- I can`t do
his accent -- all have in common? They`re all from the Bronx, the Bronx.
And coming up, Alan Alda, Alda, of course, and his wife, Arlene, she`s the
author, will join us. She`s got a new book about growing up in the Bronx.
They`re coming here next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Frank Sinatra famously sang of New York, if you can make it there, you can
make it anywhere. And that`s true if you`re from the Bronx.
In her new book called "Just Kids From the Bronx," author Arlene Alda tells
the stories of 60 Americans who grew up in the Bronx, including former
Secretary of State Colin Powell, actor Al Pacino and Regis Philbin. The
stories, which span over six decades, show how growing up in New York`s
poorest bureau was a quintessential part of the American experience,
showing a community, as Alda says, that is sometimes short on resources,
but is full of talent and pride.
In his praise for the book, President Bill Clinton said, "No matter where
you grew up, you will find this a down-to-earth, inspiring book about the
American promise fulfilled."
I`m joined right now by the author, Arlene Alda, and her husband, of
course, actor Alan Alda, known for his role in, of course, what was it,
"MASH," of course. But I loved him as the presidential candidate, the
losing presidential candidate in "The West Wing."
Anyway, Arlene, you first.
This book has got great stuff that I think is not just about -- it`s about
an era too, before the crime got completely out of hand in the Bronx, but
like North Philly, where I grew up with my grandparents, and going out on
hot days, and we didn`t do it, but Al Pacino sleeping in the fire -- fire
escape, up there in the fire escape with his pillows, because it was so
damn hot in the Bronx.
And talk about that, and sitting on the roof with his grandpop, which I
used to do with my grandpop.
ARLENE ALDA, AUTHOR, "JUST KIDS FROM THE BRONX": Yes.
MATTHEWS: And it`s so big city. It`s so American. Your thought. Tell us
ARLENE ALDA: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Well, Pacino especially, he`s very lyrical in his language. He describes
going up on the rooftop with his grandfather. And what he describes is,
you know, the details of the soft tar in the bottom of the chair, you know,
spreading newspapers out. And then what he describes is the sound of all
the voices with the different accents that you could hear up on the roof,
whether it was Italian, or Jewish, or Polish, or Irish, or German.
It was all there. And then he ends by saying, you know, it was like a
Eugene O`Neill play. How beautiful is that? A tremendous appreciation for
what nurtured him. And the grandfather was a very importance influence in
MATTHEWS: Yes, I love that. He`s Sicilian. And you get a sense of that,
and the kids getting into drugs. I think of "Panic in Needle Park," his
first movie about drugs. And so much of that was his rich background.
ARLENE ALDA: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about General Colin Powell, the former secretary of
Alan, I want you in here.
Did you ever fly a kite that was menacing, that was in fact predatory, that
had razor blades in it to cut the other kites?
ALAN ALDA, ACTOR: No, but you know what is funny? When I was a kid, when
I was about 8 or 9 years old, I read about Korean kids flying kites that
they attached glass to, to the string, and would pull them and try to cut
the other kids` kites.
And I thought it was a thing that was only done in Korea, and then Arlene
interviewed Colin Powell, and he said --
ARLENE ALDA: He said, oh, yes, they put the soda bottles and the tin cans,
put the tin cans on the trolley tracks. They would get flattened by the
trolleys, the glass would get pulverized, glue the glass onto the string,
put razors on the tail, and then fly the kites a block away. You know, the
kids a block away would. And the idea was to cut the other kite string.
And that was their version of World War II.
MATTHEWS: And how about Colin Powell being a Shabbos goy for the
MATTHEWS: I just love that story.
ALAN ALDA: Isn`t that great?
MATTHEWS: Here`s this kid that lit the -- what do you call it, the stove
Tell us about -- I love -- tell this story, because we`re getting all the
ethnics groups in here, by the way. Regis Philbin, the quintessential
Notre Dame Irishman, and there he is wanting to be Der Bingle. All he
wanted to be as a kid was Bing Crosby.
ARLENE ALDA: Yes. That was so beautiful.
Here`s this little kid, 6, 7 years old during the Depression. And what he
loves is the sound of Bing Crosby singing on the radio. And he`s glued to
the radio. He knows all the lyrics, all the songs. And as he grows up,
that`s his image. He wants to be Bing Crosby.
So his parents are now saying -- it`s through high school -- so what are
you going to do in college? And he said, I will let you know after college
what I want to be. So he goes through college, and he still has this
So, ultimately, they come to the graduation. He`s -- he -- before
graduation, he takes them to a stage. He sings "Pennies From Heaven" and
he sees his mother crying, and he sees his father --
ALAN ALDA: His father --
ARLENE ALDA: Yes, a Marine, an ex-Marine. And then they -- Regis joins
ARLENE ALDA: I will let you know after the Navy, ultimately.
ALAN ALDA: And then later in the story --
MATTHEWS: You know --
ALAN ALDA: Well, go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Somebody once said -- somebody once said the first rich kids I
ever met were my own.
And I think that, sometimes, guys like us, we would be better off with our
kids to say, send them two years to the Bronx, get them ready for life.
That`s how you got to -- that`s the only way you`re going to make it.
And your book, Arlene, is called "Just Kids From the Bronx." It`s
beautifully put together. It`s a great book to read. By the way, one
story a night, you will be in heaven. Just read them one at a time.
ALAN ALDA: What a nice thing. Thank you.
ARLENE ALDA: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Arlene Alda, thank you very much.
ARLENE ALDA: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: And I`m a reader.
Alan, it`s great to see you.
ALAN ALDA: Thank you.
ALAN ALDA: And, listen, on the audio book, I do most of the voices of the
ARLENE ALDA: Male voices.
MATTHEWS: Why did you do that? I`m just kidding.
ALAN ALDA: So I have a professional reason to be here.
MATTHEWS: I accept your need -- the need for you to be here.
Anyway, thank you for joining us.
ARLENE ALDA: Thank you.
ALAN ALDA: Thank you so much. Thanks, Chris.
ARLENE ALDA: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Up next, by the way, the political fallout over dealing with
Iran. The 2016 Republican candidates gives Bronx cheers, remember those,
for the deal. More importantly, Chuck Schumer has broken with the White
House, and he`s important. What does this mean for the president and the
chance for peace here?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
More now on today`s big news, as we hit the zero hour in the Iranian
nuclear talks. The political fallout on the story is escalating, of
course, right now, as I speak. Republicans are slamming the talks as a
failure already. They say Iran is calling the shots.
The Republican field for president is sounding the bugle for war with Iran
right now, regardless of how the talks play out. And the next Democratic
leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer -- he`s the most important -- he`s not
in line with the president on this. Late last week, Schumer became a co-
sponsor of legislation that would give Congress the authority to review any
final deal. It`s legislation that could undermine or even derail an
The White House has slammed the legislation as an unacceptable attack on
the president`s authority as commander in chief. In a statement, Schumer
had said: "This issue is far too important for the United States, for
Israel, for the entire Middle East for Congress not to have any ability to
review a nuclear deal with Iran."
Well, late today, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, the ringleader of those 47
senators who sent a letter to Iran in an attempt to kill the deal, put out
this statement slamming the talks again: "The decision to extend the
nuclear negotiations in the face of Iranian intransigence and duplicity
proves once again that Iran is calling the shots. Given the dangerous
concessions by the Obama administration over the past week, one can only
imagine what further concessions it will make in the next 24 hours to
resolve these issues. The best solution is to walk away from the nuclear
negotiations now and return to a position of strength."
So that he can return to Bill Kristol`s side.
Anyway, the roundtable tonight, former Vermont governor, presidential
candidate and NDC chairman, I was saying NDC because I have on mind,
November doesn`t count.
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: DNC.
MATTHEWS: I know, DNC Chair Howard Dean. That`s my `60s coming back.
"USA Today" bureau chief Susan Page, and "Bloomberg News" Washington bureau
chief, we got the big shots here, Jonathan Allen.
Governor, it looks to me like I think all this stuff is background music,
but Schumer really has what I think is the president`s interest. He wants
to look good three, five, 10 years from now. If the president cuts a bad
deal that doesn`t hold up, and they start cheating and getting away, he`ll
be Neville Chamberlain. Chuck Schumer represents New York, a large Jewish
community, and also, he`s a very smart guy who wants to look smart. I
think he`s playing tough and he ought to be playing tough.
But I think Obama is playing tough. So, I don`t think anybody thinks
there`s going to be slipped by in a cheesy deal that folds after a couple
of weeks. I don`t think anybody is up to that. I defend the president on
this, but I especially defend Schumer`s right to say we`re going to look at
it in the Senate.
DEAN: Here`s what you have to understand, this is why the Tom Cottons of
the world are out to lunch. First of all, we are the stronger party here.
The Iranians want to desperately get out from under the sanctions. They
have to have that. They can`t run the country under the sanctions as they
So, Obama has the cards on this one. Now, we don`t know what this deal is,
which is why all this bupkis in the Senate doesn`t mean anything.
Schumer is one of the smartest people in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Are you speaking Yiddish tonight?
DEAN: I`m speaking Yiddish tonight.
DEAN: Schumer does know a lot about this, and we just have to wait to see
what`s in the agreement.
So, Schumer has positioned himself well.
DEAN: A lot of things are going to happen. But one thing is, if they pass
this bill, Obama will veto it, and then they`ll have to have 67 votes in
the Senate. I`m not sure they can do that.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that makes it very hard, Susan, for him to pass, to
sign something as a deal in behalf of the American people and the Senate
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Definitely a complication. I think if Schumer gets
behind it, I mean, he`s not just endorsing it, but if he gets out there and
lobbies for it, they could get 67 votes, because they`ll have the
Republican support. That`s a free pass card for any Democrat that wants to
break with the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s Kirsten Gillibrand. There`s a lot of people out
there, you know, the people, you know, Durbin, a lot of these people
represent large communities that care about -- not just the evangelical
right, but the Jewish community wants to see a deal that will protect the
DEAN: Right. And for all we know, that will come out.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. I think the test of time is most important
here. Nobody is going to put their name on something that`s not going to
work because you will be humiliated in history. Again, Neville Chamberlain
is the role model.
JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEW: You can`t possibly do this without seeing
what the details are. And, of course, the administration is not going to
let the details out until they got -- think they`ve got a deal with Iran.
So, we all have to wait just a minute on this.
The other thing that I think --
MATTHEWS: You think there`s a chance that a deal could be agreed to by the
president and somehow derailed by a rambunctious legislature?
ALLEN: I think it`s unlikely. I think it`s unlikely the House of
Representatives actually would override a veto of this legislation that`s
moving forward to try to kill a deal. It doesn`t mean it couldn`t happen,
but I think it`s hard to get those 290 votes. I actually think the pro-
Israel forces are more effective in Senate races than they are in the House
PAGE: I`ll tell you something else. I think the White House has been
helped by Tom Cotton and his letter, and by Netanyahu and his speech,
because it has -- it`s made Republicans look like they were going too far
and Israel was going too far in confronting the president, and it helped
keep some Democrats in the --
DEAN: I think that`s true. It makes the Democrats want to support the
MATTHEWS: Yes, the wagons are circled.
But here`s some of the wilder people, John Bolton. He`s just coming out
and saying his opportunity is to bomb them right now.
ALLEN: Well, he should run for president because he`s been talking about
it for a long time. All he does is get on TV and say things that are like
just out of the realm of reality. Like if the guy wants to president and
puts it out there, he should do it.
MATTHEWS: One question to three people. I did with Gene Robinson earlier.
Is the president better off losing a deal, not getting a deal in the next
couple days or even two months? Or passing a deal that doesn`t work out?
DEAN: It`s much better off not having a deal if it doesn`t work.
PAGE: Well, if it doesn`t work out, right. But he`s best off all if he
gets a deal that holds.
MATTHEWS: But is it better come on --
PAGE: It`s not good with a deal that then falls apart, no.
ALLEN: I think he wants a deal for his legacy.
MATTHEWS: No, does he want a deal that works for his legacy or any deal?
ALLEN: Well, that`s --
MATTHEWS: No, I`m saying that will be a test of time. This will be
ALLEN: No, I think he won`t cut a deal that he thinks is going to be bad
MATTHEWS: I don`t agree with that. (INAUDIBLE) said that yesterday, and I
think that`s an argument. I don`t think he`s willing to buy anything, but
if he buys anything, he`s wrong -- he`s just wrong for our country, wrong
for history, for himself if he gets sucked into any deal. I think he`s
smarter than anybody here right now, and I think he know -- I hope he knows
Anyway, willful thinking, hopeful thinking. Anyway, the roundtable is
staying with us.
And up next, President Obama is going to Kenya. Will this jazz up the
birthers? Will people like Trump say he`s just going home?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new polling from the first in the country primary
state of New Hampshire. And according to a new Franklin Pierce/"Boston
Herald" poll, it`s a tight race right now between Jeb Bush and Scott
Walker. No surprise here. The former Florida governor and current
Wisconsin governor each get 15 percent of the votes. Rand Paul is just
behind at 13 and Chris Christie makes a surprisingly good showing with 10
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Do you ever drive?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cannot drive. I mean, I -
OBAMA: I`m able to drive.
KIMMEL: Is that because you don`t have a birth certificate?
OBAMA: In Kenya, we drive on the other side of the road.
(END VIDEO CLP)
MATTHEWS: A quick mind -- on Kenya, we drive on the other side of the
We`re back with a roundtable, Howard, Susan, and Jonathan.
President Obama has been making the birthers the butt of his jokes. But
now, the White House has announced that the president is going to Kenya
this coming July. This summer will be his first visit as president to the
homeland of his father, right, Donald Trump, father?
Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu has said this will just get a
rise out of the birther crowd. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: His trip back to Kenya is going
to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst some of the hard right
who still don`t see him as having been born in the U.S. I personally think
he`s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead
issue a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s his fault, Governor? I don`t think so.
President Obama has taunted for years -- has been taunted for years by
those accusing him of being born in Kenya, we know that troupe. And today,
the president is capable of having a little fun as you just saw with the
topic. Here he is again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And just to be clear I know where my birth certificate is but a lot
of people don`t. A lot of people don`t. I think it`s still up on a Web
Do you remember that? That was crazy. That was some crazy stuff.
This will have a special place of honor, alongside my birth certificate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, many presidents travel to the countries of their
family ancestry. Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy both celebrated. They
went to Ireland. Obviously, we all know those pictures. In fact, Reagan
would go to what Tip O`Neill used to call the valley of the small potatoes,
as he called it, because it wasn`t so impressive.
Susan, we can chuckle about this but what gives here with that insistent
one-fifth, one-fourth of the country that says -- at least the pollsters, I
always remind our producers, what you say the pollsters, it isn`t
necessarily the truth. You just do it to stick it sometimes.
Why do they keep saying he`s born in Kenya, he`s here illegally?
PAGE: I think it`s just I`m against Barack Obama and everything he stands
for. I cannot believe that one out of five Americans thinks he actually
wasn`t born here because it`s so ridiculous. I think a trip to Kenya is a
second term trip, not a trip you would take in your first term. There`s a
mischievous part saying I`m going back to Kenya. Make your jokes.
DEAN: It`s smart politically.
MATTHEWS: He`s a smart guy. He`s saying this is his fault because he`s
going to start the crazy. Now, it`s the crazies` fault.
DEAN: No, here`s what happened. This is like the Benghazi stuff. When
people talk about the birth certificate or Benghazi, it reminds people
there`s a segment of the Republican Party that`s insane. I`m not joking.
And the problem is those are the people that give the brand of the
Republican Party because the media always features the most far out people
in every group.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I do.
DEAN: I don`t think the president is doing this because he wants to
incite, but it`s going to have the effect. And it`s going to remind the
average voter that there`s a portion of the Republican Party that`s crazy.
MATTHEWS: That`s good politics. Hillary Clinton gets hit by a sexist
charge next summer and the Republican cites someone on the far right,
she`ll say the Republicans are -- should go back at them for it. That`s
what politics do. You take the weakest part of your opponent`s argument
and you kill it.
ALLEN: Yes, elevate it.
MATTHEWS: You don`t let him make a shot and enjoy (ph) that. You`re going
to pay for that.
ALLEN: I mean, look, Barack Obama has gotten more laughs out of this than
anybody than two --
MATTHEWS: Why did Donald Trump, who has the biggest microphone in New York
sometimes I think, he can get on any show he wants to, keep doing this?
ALLEN: Well, he pays for the microphone as President Reagan once said.
MATTHEWS: Catch this one -- according to a new CBS poll that was taken in
2011, one in four Americans at that time thought President Obama was not
born in the U.S. of A, and a Fairleigh Dickinson Poll taken this January,
2015, this year, found 19 percent of respondents say the president isn`t a
legal citizen of the United States.
He`s an illegal immigrant. The president of the United States is an
illegal immigrant snuck into this country, snuck somewhere, and got himself
presumed to be in the newspapers in Honolulu, somehow to announce he was
born so that his mother, this white woman from Kansas would somehow figure
out this is the way to get her little bitty unborn yet baby to be made
DEAN: This is an argument in favor of the Common Core.
MATTHEWS: Why we need a Common Core -- the craziness of this argument.
ALLEN: Somebody should call the authorities or file a lawsuit or
something. Shouldn`t the Supreme Court be above this? It`s insane.
Nineteen percent of people --
MATTHEWS: Maybe we should bring back literacy tests just for this.
MATTHEWS: OK. That`s right. You have to be politically correct.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Dean, Governor. And thank you, Susan Page. And
thank you, Jonathan Allen.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the wild and crazy people.
I`m talking about those Americans, about a fifth of us, know that tell
pollsters the president of the United States is an illegal immigrant.
That`s right. You heard me, an illegal immigrant.
It starts with the accusation that he was born in Kenya. A fourth of the
country believed that the future president`s American mother wanting her
newborn to be president of the United States went over to East Africa to
deliver. Why? So she could deny it once he reached the required 35 years
of age to be eligible for president. Get it?
She went to Kenya to have her baby so she could say she didn`t, all the
while having the daily newspapers in Honolulu announced that he`d been born
there, and just to guarantee he`d have the very best possible chance to win
a majority of the country`s votes, she gave her boy a real kid next door
name, Barack Hussein Obama.
This is where the crazies in this country live, a fourth of this country,
one in four of us, who believe this nonsensical story of the president`s
roots. Think it`s gone? Think again. This January, a poll by Fairleigh
Dickinson University found one in five of us who say Obama isn`t an illegal
citizen of this country, that he`s an illegal alien who not only managed to
get into the country, but is sent to our highest office.
No wonder 31 percent of the country says he doesn`t believe in what the
president is doing in trying to get a deal with Iran. Two-thirds of them
don`t even think he`s here legally. They think he`s stuck in here to begin
with and his oath of office is bogus, his very identity cooked up by
strange forces starting with his mommy.
As Bill Clinton would say, give me a break.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Sure is. Thanks for be with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. It really is that nutty.
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