updated 4/6/2015 9:21:53 AM ET 2015-04-06T13:21:53

Show: HARDBALL
Date: April 3, 2015
Guest: Ron Christie, Anne Gearan, Lanhee Chen, Alex Gibney, Jeremy Peters,
Clarence, Page, Nedra Pickle>


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The war party.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The right-wing assault on President Obama and his historic effort to rein
in the Iranian nuclear program recalls this infamous political ad of the
1960s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six, eight, nine, nine --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two,
one, zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Question. Is the 2015 partisan attack on the president`s
negotiations meant to avoid an all-out conflict with Iran or drive this
country toward one? Are the Republican critics offering an alternative
route to containing that country`s nuclear program, or simply a countdown
to war?

To debate that question tonight, I`m joined by David Axelrod and Ron
Christie. But let`s start in Tehran and NBC News correspondent Ali Arouzi.

Ali, thank you for joining us tonight. Is this going to be as tough a sell
for Zarif and the other negotiators with the ayatollah and the hard-liners
here as the president`s fight`s going to be here in the States?

ALI AROUZI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I don`t think it`s going to be
as tough a sell because for them to put this deal through, to be able to
sell this deal, to be able to make it in Lausanne, they needed the supreme
leader`s blessing. And without that, there is no way this deal was going
to happen. The buck stops with him. All the decisions are made with him.
They have to counter (ph) back with him, they have to call back to him to
see what`s going on. So it`s not going to be a tough sell back at home.

That`s not to say that hard-liners here weren`t critical. Today, an editor
of a very hard-line newspaper, who`s also an adviser to the supreme leader,
said this is a good deal for the West but a bad deal for Iran. He made the
comparison saying Iran gave up a ready-to-go race horse for a broken
bridle. So that might be domestic politics, but it`s not going to be as
hard a sell as it is for the president of America -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Do the hard-liners in Iran -- do they openly state they want a
nuclear weapon arsenal? Do they say that?

AROUZI: No, no. They don`t openly say that. They`re a lot more wily and
pragmatic than that. They`ve always said that a nuclear weapon is for -- a
nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and they don`t have any intention
to make a bomb.

Now, saying one thing and doing something are two different things, but
their line has always been that it`s for peaceful purposes. Now, there are
other hard-line factions that aren`t really in the throes of power that
might throw out things like that, but they`re on the sidelines. The people
that count here never say that openly -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: I think there`s a parallel there with our own opposition to the
president, where some people in this country say they want an alternative
way to contain the program, and others simply say they want to go bombs
away.

What impressed me in the news today, Ali, was that the Iranian authorities
allowed President Obama`s speech yesterday, the bulk of it, to be broadcast
to the people of Iran.

AROUZI: I can`t remember ever seeing an almost full-length speech by a
U.S. president on Iranian TV. Yes, snippets here and there, but nothing
like this.

And what was also unusual is that people were so excited about the news of
the deal, they would see pictures of President Obama on TV and take selfies
with themselves with him on the television and post it on social media. If
that was to happen during Ahmadinejad`s time, if somebody took a photograph
of themselves with President Bush on the TV screen and put it on social
media, they would have probably ended up in jail. But not today.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s great to have you on, as always. Great reporting this
week -- Ali Arouzi over in Tehran.

I`m joined right now by David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President
Obama and an NBC News senior political analyst, and Ron Christie, a former
special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Well, back in 2007, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton offered two very
different answers to the question of whether, without preconditions, they
would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria and other regimes
that had been isolated by the U.S. Here`s that debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would. And the reason is
this, that the notion that somehow, not talking to countries is punishment
to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this
administration, is ridiculous.

One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic
effort in the region forward is to send the signal that we need to talk to
Iran and Syria because they`re going to have responsibilities if Iraq
collapses.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not promise to
meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will
promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that
you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the
intentions are. I don`t want to be used for propaganda purposes.

Certainly, we`re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel
Castro and Hugo Chavez, and you know, the presidents of North Korea, Iran
and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I love that part in your book -- by the way, a hell of
a book, "Believer," David, in your book by David Axelrod.

DAVID AXELROD, NBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You talk about that critical moment when you had that debate.
You guys may have been a little nervous about the president sticking his
neck out and saying, yes. First answer, yes, I think we should discuss --
we should get to discussions with these people who don`t agree with us on
most stuff and may be dangerous, and Hillary Clinton as a candidate saying,
No, don`t do it.

And he called you guys in your meeting the next day and said, Stick with
it, no pulling back. I thought that was -- I, by the way, completely agree
with you, that was the heart of the campaign right there with the
president, future president.

AXELROD: Yes. No, no, it definitely -- you know, look, he took a position
that was difficult to take at the time, took a lot of opposition within our
party and from the other party. But his -- but he was very steadfast about
it because his attitude was you don`t resolve these situations by not
talking. You have to talk to resolve these situations unless you`re
willing to accept war as the alternative in every instance.

And America has had -- you know, we`ve had a plenty of experience in that
in the last dozen years or so. So he -- he -- that`s what he believed
then. He`s carried through on it. He`s been very consistent.

I was with him, Chris, for two years as we traveled the world, and he
pressed the case for punishing sanctions on Iran, which is why we brought
them to the table, and now we`re on the doorstep of perhaps something
historic that could help us avoid a military conflict.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- ask Ron Christie to get in here. You, worked with
the previous administration. Your reaction to what`s been going on the
last 24 hours.

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Chris, for me -- good evening -
- it`s starting to feel a lot more like September of 1938, where Neville
Chamberlain, the, of course, prime minister of Great Britain, said the deal
that he had concluded with Hitler was akin to peace in our time.

The way I look at this is I think that now the Middle East is a lot more
dangerous as a result of this framework, and that we`re on the verge of
having countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey try to develop their own
nuclear program to deal with the Iranian mullahs, who still at this very
time, with this framework, won`t have to give up any building, will not
have to give up any enrichment of uranium, won`t have to give up a damn
thing, frankly. I`m actually really scared by what`s going on here.

MATTHEWS: Well, they did have to give up --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You go in here, David. Take over.

AXELROD: No, that`s so outrageous that it can`t just pass. To compare to
what`s going on now to Neville Chamberlain is so ridiculous. You know, the
-- I heard today the undersecretary of state from Ron`s own administration,
Nick Burns, on television talking about what a step forward this was, how
Obama`s played the cards just right, that we were able to do what the Bush
administration couldn`t, was to bring the Iranians to the table.

And no one, no serious person would suggest that they`re not giving
anything up in this deal. It completely -- it degrades by two thirds -- it
eliminates by two thirds the number of centrifuges, it degrades the nuclear
material that they`re producing to less than -- far less than weapons
grade. It has the most intrusive inspections that have ever been visited
on any country.

And what is the alternative? If we don`t have an agreement now, the
Iranians will go back to doing what they were doing before these
negotiations, which is to complete their program and then what is the
answer? And that`s the question --

CHRISTIE: Well, and David --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: I have the answer to that question. And I stick by my original
statement. I think that the president`s framework that he put in place has
made the world a lot more dangerous and not safer as a result of this
foolish, foolhardy run that he`s trying to do to secure --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me --

CHRISTIE: -- his own legacy as opposed to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, no. I want to ask you a question. This reference to Munich
disturbs me because I think a lot of people make that reference don`t know
what they`re talking about. Now, back in 1938, when Chamberlain made that
concession, giving away the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Hitler -- you
compared this decision, this very complicated issue over nuclear arms
control, which is what we`ve been in business of since Kennedy started the
Nonproliferation -- the limited test ban treaty back in `63 -- this is very
complicated stuff and it`s very subtle and there`s certainly room for
argument on both sides.

But how the hell you compare this to giving away half of a country? How do
you compare it when the Tory Party of Great Britain, fighting the Labour
Party, which opposed that deal -- and now you flip it around and somehow,
say that this time, the Tories are the good guys, the conservatives are the
good guys -- I don`t even think you understand that history, Ron! This is
an incredible --

CHRISTIE: Actually, I understand that history quite well, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: You and I have debated World War II continuously over the years
--

MATTHEWS: I do not understand how people make this comparison!

CHRISTIE: I absolutely -- I absolutely understand it.

MATTHEWS: I don`t get it.

CHRISTIE: My point -- well, I`m sorry you don`t understand that, Chris,
because it`s pretty clear to me. What Neville Chamberlain --

MATTHEWS: What is dishonorable about trying to find --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What is dishonorable about trying to cut a military deal over
military control -- actually, absolute access by the United Nations
authorities to go into Iran and make sure that this deal is held up as it
was intended to -- this isn`t anything like giving away half a country!
There`s nothing comparing it to!

CHRISTIE: Chris, this is about --

MATTHEWS: I`m out of this. I`m --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: This is about giving away the security of the United States, and
it`s also about giving away the sovereignty of the United States to the
United Nations. You say, first of all, that this is about --

AXELROD: Oh, my God.

CHRISTIE: -- going to the United Nations. Iran has repeatedly lied to
the United States, has repeatedly lied --

MATTHEWS: OK --

CHRISTIE: -- to the U.N., has repeatedly lied to the IAEA --

MATTHEWS: OK --

CHRISTIE: -- about inspections. They will not have unfettered access.
And of course, if Iran violates the term of the deal, Chris, it goes to the
five members of the Security Council.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CHRISTIE: Do you really think that Putin or the Chinese will --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me just say this --

CHRISTIE: (INAUDIBLE) No, they will not.

MATTHEWS: David, you take over. I want this debate to be yours. But I
want to tell you something. I hope all the people who make these Hitler
comparisons, which are never apt -- never apt, we should just stop doing
that, these Hitler comparisons -- five years from now, six years from now,
when this deal holds, will come back and say, I said a lousy thing back in
2015. I compared this president to giving away Europe to Hitler. I will
totally regret that the rest of my life, like you guys ought to be
embarrassed about the Iraq war and never apologized for that!

You`re wrong, wrong, wrong over and over again, and you never get ashamed
of it, and you keep making the most outrageous things! Comparing this
president to being in bed with Hitler is disgusting! If that`s all it is -
- go back to David --

CHRISTIE: No, my comparison to Neville Chamberlain, Chris --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- giving away the security of the world --

MATTHEWS: No. No. There`s no comparison.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: You`re entitled to your opinion, Chris. I`m entitled to mine,
and I strongly believe that.

MATTHEWS: No, it`s not an opinion.

CHRISTIE: I strongly believe that.

MATTHEWS: No, It`s not an opinion.

CHRISTIE: Well, of course it`s an opinion because I articulated it, Chris.
The Iranians have given up nothing!

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, David.

CHRISTIE: The sanctions were working. The Iranians -- all they wanted was
the sanctions relief.

AXELROD: You neither understand --

CHRISTIE: And they got what they wanted.

CHRISTIE: You neither understand history nor this agreement, Ron. You`re
just spouting, you know, Republican talking points.

And we ought to not make this a partisan issue. This is an issue of
whether we`re going to resolve this problem through an aggressive agreement
that the world can enforce, or whether we`re going to be drawn into
military action that would be catastrophic in terms of the atmosphere in
that region and what it would mean --

MATTHEWS: Look let`s --

AXELROD: -- for the United States and for the rest of the world. So why
not give this a chance? Every expert, every arms expert that I`ve seen is
treating this seriously. You may have differences on some aspects of it,
but to say it asks for nothing is completely off base, completely off base!

CHRISTIE: Well, no, David, that`s --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s Vice President Cheney telling a crowd of New Jersey
Republicans this week, quote, "There have been a number of times where we
have been faced with the potential threat of a nuclear Middle East, and
what`s worked is military force and the willingness to go in and use
military capability to strip nuclear arms from places such as Iraq, such as
Iran, such as Syria. And unfortunately, Barack Obama doesn`t seem to
understand that," close quote.

Another former Bushie, John Bolton, wrote this month, quote, "The
inconvenient truth is that only military action can accomplish what is
required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed."

And here was Texas congressman Louie Gohmert calling for the United States
to bomb Iran -- another argument for bombing. Here he is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We need to encourage this administration to
go take out Iran`s nuclear capability. I don`t think that we ought to put
Israel in a position of having to save both themselves and the United
States. I think it`s time to bomb Iran. Anything that resembles a nuclear
facility with centrifuges, it`s time to bomb!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Senator Tom Cotton said countries like Iran only respond to
the threat of military force. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Israel struck Iraq`s nuclear program in
1981, and they didn`t reconstitute it. Israel struck Syria`s nuclear
reactor in 2007. They haven`t yet reconstituted it. Rogue regimes have a
way of getting the picture when there`s a credible threat of military force
on the table that we will not allow the world`s worst regimes to get the
world`s worst weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ron, where do you stand on all that talk?

CHRISTIE: Well, actually, Chris, I disagree with some of the commentary we
just heard there. I do think that there is a diplomatic way to go forward
with this, and I think there are two competing bills in the United States
Senate that really should be taken a look at. Both of them are co-authored
by Senator Menendez from New Jersey.

The first one, Kirk-Menendez, would increase the economic sanctions on Iran
to get them to negotiate. And the second one, Corker-Menendez, which I
think is also a smart move, really says to the Iranians, OK, if you want to
negotiate a treaty with the United States, let`s take that back to the
United States Senate within 60 days and talk about it.

MATTHEWS: OK --

CHRISTIE: I think there`s still plenty of diplomatic routes that we can
take here, and I think those two bills should be passed and the president
should try to work within that framework.

MATTHEWS: David, I don`t think --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

AXELROD: The reason that the sanctions worked was because the entire world
was unified and the president was able to bring the Chinese, the Russians
and all of Europe together in these sanctions. The notion that we`re going
to hold them -- we can increase our own sanctions, but the notion that
we`re going to hold the rest of the coalition together I think is a very
dubious proposition.

The point of the sanctions was to bring them to the table. They`re at the
table. There`s something on the table that is a workable agreement, if
they can get the details done. We ought to let them get through this
process until June because the program is frozen right now for the first
time in a very long time. We all know that. Israelis, everybody agrees on
it. Let them finish this process and let`s make a judgment on it and let`s
not bang the drums of war or hold out the possibility --

MATTHEWS: OK --

AXELROD: -- of solutions that aren`t realistic.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m glad I opened this program by showing that Tony
Schwartz ad, that infamous ad from 1964, because it was infamous for a
reason. This threat of Armageddon, this use of outrageous references to
Hitler is what`s wrong with the current political atmosphere in this
country. You ought to be able to disagree over very complicated matters
without recalling Neville Chamberlain, Munich and Adolf Hitler. I think we
can have a reasonable civilized discussion without that crap!

Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod. Thank you, Ron Christie.

Coming up, there`s something going on in American politics I just mentioned
right now, where the more you know about politicians, the less you seem the
like them. Maybe it`s this kind of conversation. Look at Hillary
Clinton`s numbers, by the way, lately. They`ve fallen back since she`s
been secretary of state. She`s got her head actually just above water when
it comes to favorability.

However, something (ph) Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republicans would love
to have her numbers, and that says a lot about this rough political season
we`re heading into.

Plus, Republican governors in Indiana and Arkansas back down on those anti-
gay laws showcased 5as religious protection. But for the Republican Party
heading into 2016, the damage this week has been done, and it`s real.

And the filmmaker behind the new documentary about Frankie, Frank Sinatra.
It`s the definitive account of the life, career and politics, including his
relationship with the mob.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with that unthinkable act of brutality and horror
at the holiest time of the year for Christians over in Kenya, a wonderful
country.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The March jobs report is out today, and it revealed a dramatic
slowdown in the economy, unfortunately, after several strong months of
growth. Only 126,000 jobs were added during this month, and the
unemployment rate remained fixed at 5.5 percent. The March report snapped
a 12-month streak of job creation over 200,000 jobs per month.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Presidential politics is a nasty sport, of course. It doesn`t matter who
you were or where you came from. There`s no escaping the notoriety of
politics, especially these days.

When Hillary Clinton finished her term as secretary of state back in 2013,
she was one of the best liked figures in American politics, according to
the "Washington Post"/ABC poll. Her favorable rating was 67 to 26. That`s
a 41-point positive margin. Hard to beat that.

Today, after a wicked assault by her enemies and some P.R. mistakes by
herself, that positive margin is down to three points, within the poll`s
margin of error. Look, she`s barely above water there, 49-46.

But Hillary is flying high compared to the Republican field, where not a
single prospective candidate is viewed favorably in this country. Jeb
Bush, for example, has a favorable rating that is 20 points underwater. We
have a series of public service announcements, by the way, that NBC called
"The More You Know," but in politics today, you might call it, the more you
know, the less they like you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s unbelievable.

David Corn is Washington bureau chief at "Mother Jones." Anne Gearan is a
national politics correspondent with "The Washington Post" and Lanhee Chen
is a professional of policy public at Stanford University and was the
policy director of Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential campaign.

I`m going to start with you, Lanhee. And I have to tell you, this -- what
disturbed me about my friend Ron Christie`s push today was how unoriginal
it was. It`s because like the new hoary kind of thing you do. Oh,
compared to Hitler or getting in bed with Hitler or when, in doubt, you
can`t think of anything interesting to say about the complexity of
centrifuges, just call them Neville Chamberlain.

That`s why I think people don`t want to run for office today. Who wants to
put up with that crap? Your thoughts.

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Yes, you know,
the public dialogue has reached a point where I think people don`t want to
get into the game.

And, look, the reality is, this Iran nuclear deal is a complex deal. I
personally don`t think it`s headed in the right direction. But, look, we
can have a civil discussion about the reasons we disagree or the reasons we
like this thing, but the reality is, yes, it`s tough to get into politics
these days.

MATTHEWS: So, there`s nothing dishonorable about trying to make a peace
treaty with a country that`s been very troubling. It`s difficult. And yet
we have the good news coming out of yesterday, which is no reason for
making dishonorable attacks.

When the Iranians show our president on their TV, basically confirming the
dignity we`re giving them, the respect we`re giving them, it`s the
beginning of something a little better than it`s been. And to call that
Hitlerian or Neville Chamberlain stuff is just outrageous, I think.

ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it -- everyone`s opinions of
this were set long before the deal actually happened, including apparently
Benjamin Netanyahu`s.

And so, for Obama, he`s trying to show that he`s actually got something
good and worth selling, but he`s got to sell that to a Congress that is
already fixed, essentially, in saying that this isn`t a deal that they want
and that they may actually try to sabotage.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GEARAN: He`s got a very hard sell.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But -- and I think it goes beyond
that. I think politics has really been driven to a very extreme point.

And I will say, it`s not even-handed. I really think that the Obama years,
you have seen the Republicans get out there and not just disagree with the
president, but say he`s not an American, he doesn`t understand this
country, he doesn`t believe in American exceptionalism, or he`s a secret
Muslim, or he`s a secret Kenyan, whatever it is.

So, you can`t have an honest disagreement with him on a policy matter. It
has to be as far right or extreme as you can go. And I think that`s
because they`re trying to appeal to the Tea Party base, which, if you don`t
slam him in those terms, then you`re a RINO, you`re a squish.

And that`s why I think these numbers are very low for a lot of the
Republicans out there, because they`re being identified with some of the
slimiest, most mudbally politics we have seen in a while.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, it wasn`t always like this. Back around this time
in the lead-up to the 2008 race, the field was generally well-liked.

Look at this. Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, John McCain, John Edwards and
Hillary Clinton all had pretty positive favorability ratings. Mitt Romney
did, too. And you can look at the -- I figured out the math here. They
had an average of about a 15-point positive.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Now it`s about a 15-point negative, everybody in politics.

Get in here, Lanhee. This whole question of, if you go into politics, I
mean, Hillary Clinton went from being a recommended, respected secretary of
state. She was up there in that penumbra of statesmanship. The minute she
left the Foggy Bottom office she was in, the attacks about Benghazi went
out there. Her missteps like, you know, what difference does it make and
businesses don`t create jobs, admittedly, they were mistakes, but this
villainization of her has almost reached a point now where she is going to
have a negative.

In the next couple weeks, I bet, based on trends, she will be seen as a
negative force about the time she announces. Isn`t that cute?

CHEN: Well, this is the issue, Chris, is, I think people see multiple
Hillary Clintons.

They like one Hillary Clinton, which is the one that is traveling around
the world visiting countries and engaging in statesmanship. And then they
don`t like the Hillary Clinton that`s engaged in politics. Her problem is
that that`s the Hillary Clinton people are going to see for the next two
years.

So I think she`s really got to figure out, how does she take an image that
people inherently don`t like, they don`t find to be trustworthy, that they
frankly don`t think that she can relate to them, how does she take that and
turn that into a net positive? I think it`s a very difficult thing to do,
Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, since we`re doing math now, what percentage of her bad
P.R. right now is her mistake, and what percent has been a relentless
driving attack on Benghazi, that somehow she was asleep at the switch or
she was out having dinner with somebody or at a fund-raiser, some
implication that she wasn`t doing the job?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Stand down.

GEARAN: Benghazi has become kind of just a shorthand for all -- a whole
big set of attacks on her, that she was not doing her job as secretary of
state, or was -- that there was even some greater --

(CROSSTALK)

GEARAN: -- than that.

MATTHEWS: It`s worse. It`s worse.

GEARAN: Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It says that she didn`t care about the life of a friend.

GEARAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s really rough stuff.

CORN: Yes. Yes.

GEARAN: Oh, no, it`s very rough stuff.

And right before she left the State Department in January `13 was when she
had that hearing postponed because of her ill health.

Remember, she fell and hit her head and all that. So they didn`t have the
hearing that they were going to have earlier in the year. The Republicans
wanted to go after her on Benghazi.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GEARAN: They didn`t have it until the end of January. And that`s when she
made that statement. She got very, very angry and she said, what
difference at this point does it make, which will obviously come back to
haunt her throughout this whole campaign.

But I just want to point out one thing from that poll.

MATTHEWS: By the way, watching "House of Cards" again, and they did the
same thing to the first lady, Robin Wright`s character. The guy on the
Foreign Relations Committee purposefully says afterwards, I did that to
trip you up, and I succeeded.

CORN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

GEARAN: Right. No, and that was her parting shot from the State
Department, right?

CORN: Listen, we`re still a long time out from any elections on both
sides. You have the -- her negatives are going up. The negatives on the
Republicans are pretty high at this --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Hey, let`s get this straight. This nomination fight will be
decided by this time next year. We`re not that far away. Don`t kill this
-- don`t kill this buzz. Don`t kill this election buzz.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Chris, what I`m saying is, there will be plenty of negative ads to
come on both sides, Republican violence against other Republicans, that, by
the time we get to the first votes, I think a lot of people on each party
will be sick of their candidates, be really upset.

I think Hillary, the one thing she has going for her, if you assume she`s
the leader and Jeb Bush is the leader, it will be the first woman vs. the
third Bush.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: In that fight, I know who gets the advantage.

MATTHEWS: Can we have e-dogs by then, where you can hang around with a dog
that is not actually a dog, so that Scott Walker can have -- be seen with a
dog?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We need e-dogs, I don`t know, some electronic kind of dog.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: A robot dog. There are robot dogs.

MATTHEWS: There`s probably money in this for somebody, some young genius
in Silicon Valley.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Corn, Anne Gearan, Lanhee Chen.

Up next: things we didn`t know -- things we didn`t know about Frank
Sinatra. Frankie, the blue eyes guy, is coming here. We will talk about
his relationship with the Kennedys and of course his ties to the mob.
That`s got to be in there with the filmmaker behind that new documentary
that`s coming out this Sunday.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Frank Sinatra of course is one of the most celebrated pop icons of the last
century, but while his songs are timeless American classics, of course, the
story of his life is a lot more complicated, I would say. And this Sunday,
HBO is debuting a two-part documentary series, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at
All," based on his lyrics, obviously, in time to mark the 100th anniversary
of Sinatra`s birth.

With new interviews and never-before-seen footage from his 1971 retirement
concert, the film is the definitive story of an artist who in his
professional and private life could never slow down.

Here`s a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SINATRA: ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL")

FRANK SINATRA, ENTERTAINER: Well, aside from having an independent picture
corporation, we have a recording company. We have several music publishing
companies.

We have gone into a titanium manufacturing business. We have recently put
together a -- an airplane charter service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the things that defined Sinatra is his inability
to stop moving. He was always on the move. He was so restless -- 12:00,
he was bored, let`s get on the plane. His plane would fly to Las Vegas.
We will do something there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the filmmaker Alex Gibney.

Alex, that`s exactly what Jack Kennedy was like. I have written a couple
books about that. They have to go to the next room, have to keep moving,
whether it`s a girl, or whoever it is, it`s a friend. Even on his
honeymoon, he had to go hang out with his buddy Red Fay. He was bored.

ALEX GIBNEY, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: So, Sinatra was always on the move?

GIBNEY: Always on the move, perpetual motion machine.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the guy in -- well, the most famous story
in "The Godfather." Al Martino played him.

By the way, Al Martino played at my high school junior prom, Sciola`s (ph)
in Philly.

But here`s the question. Did Willie Moretti, as Jerry Lewis claimed in his
book, put a gun in the mouth of Tommy Dorsey and say, your brains or your
signature`s going to be on that contract? Did anything like that happen
that was the basis for "The Godfather" story?

GIBNEY: It`s not anything that we have ever found any evidence for. It`s
possible, but we don`t think so.

MATTHEWS: Well, how did he get the part in "From Here to Eternity"?

(LAUGHTER)

GIBNEY: Well, that was one where Ava Gardner was desperate to try to get
him a job. He wasn`t doing anything. His career was really in a mess.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIBNEY: And, also, Eli Wallach was asking for too much money. And he
really campaigned hard for the part.

So, again, that was another one where it`s supposed to have been the mob
that got him the part, but it was really that at all. It was really Ava
Gardner, I think. She wanted to get him a job.

MATTHEWS: You know, I thought he was really good in the movies. I`m a
movie nut, of course. And I love movies like "Von Ryan`s Express" and "The
Detective."

He was -- he -- where did he learn to act? Did he ever take an acting
lesson?

GIBNEY: No, I think it was instinctive for him, though, you know, for my
money, I mean, he played -- he played some great roles, but for my money, I
think his greatest acting was in singing the songs.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIBNEY: What I learned most about him was what an extraordinary
storyteller in song he was.

And I think of his songs as kind of four-minute movies, because he really
put everything of himself into them. And he learned how to breathe under
Tommy Dorsey, a special technique, so that he never had to shortchange a
phrase just because he needed to take a breath of air. It was always about
the story for him. And that`s what made him greater than all the other
singers who also had good voices.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

And women, when they hear him, hear a guy making love. I mean making love
romantically, not physically, but making love. They hear that voice as for
real, don`t they? I have heard this many times.

GIBNEY: That`s right.

It`s a sense of, he`s seducing you. And he`s able to make you believe in
what he was singing. I think that was his great gift.

MATTHEWS: Now, J. Edgar Hoover warned -- warned Jack Kennedy off, and
Bobby warned Jack off to break off the relationship. Remember that famous
time he was supposed to go to Palm Springs and hang out with Sinatra. He
has actually built a heliport for him there.

And next thing you know, Sinatra finds out, oh, he`s going to hang with
Bing Crosby, a Republican, that weekend. Why was that handled so badly?
And what did that have to do with? It obviously broke up their
relationship.

GIBNEY: Well, I think they were sending a message to Frank Sinatra, and it
was a rather ugly message, because, after all, Frank Sinatra, through his
mob ties, particularly Sam Giancana, you know, he helped swing the election
for John F. Kennedy, both in the West Virginia primary and then also in the
general election in Illinois.

And when, I think, Sam Giancana convinced his mob buddies who had ties with
the unions that the Kennedys would go easy on us once they got elected,
well, that wasn`t so. Bobby made sure of that. But then they were going
to send a message to Sinatra, which was, we can`t associate with you
because you`re in bed with the mob, which was a deeply ironic, but very
painful moment for Sinatra.

And I think he didn`t really -- he blamed Bobby and he blamed Joe. He
never really blamed JFK, though I think JFK was certainly in on it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, JFK was wonderful, I know this, at making somebody else
take the hit, usually Bobby.

Anyway, this is going to be great. This is America at its best, anyway,
with all the wrinkles.

Alex Gibney, congratulations. I`m going to watch it. I wish everything
wasn`t on Sunday night anyway. But this is. We will have to watch this.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

GIBNEY: Thanks, Chris. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations.

GIBNEY: All right, many thanks.

MATTHEWS: Up next: the long-term damage to Republicans from this week`s
fight over those anti-gay discrimination laws out in Indiana and possibly
they were going to be in Arkansas, too, and North Carolina. This was a
long string of trouble they managed to avoid a little bit. But is there
scar tissue?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, two governors are hoping to put their political missteps over
controversial religious freedom bills behind them. Arkansas Governor Asa
Hutchinson and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, of course, both signed revised
legislation of this Thursday, that`s yesterday. Politicians in Georgia and
North Carolina are slow tracking pending similar bills in their statehouse.
I love that word "slow tracking," slow jamming.

Anyway, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger admonished his party in an
op-ed in "The Washington Post" today writing, "I know plenty of Republicans
who are sensible and driven to solve problems for America. They believe in
Reagan`s vision of a big tent where everyone is welcome. This message
isn`t for them."

But former Arkansas governor and likely Republican presidential candidate
Mike Huckabee says he`s disappointed and concerned that Pence and
Hutchinson capitulated to the advocates of gay and lesbian rights. Here he
is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I think it`s a phony crisis.
It`s been manufactured by the left just as was the war on women. There was
no war on women. The left has gotten very good at creating a crisis. It
won`t stop until there are no more churches.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this week has been a telling political tale of the two
wings of the Republican Party in the preprimary phase of 2016.

Joining me to talk about it now is our roundtable: Jeremy Peters of "The
New York Times", "Chicago Tribune" columnist Clarence Page, "Associate
Press" White House correspondent Nedra Picken.

Now, we`ve got the cream of the crop here. You know? I mean it. I`m
going to blow a lot of smoke. Seriously, you guys know what you`re talking
about. Is this a killer bee for the Republicans or is this something they
can put them, this idea that we`re stuffily anti-gay, true or not as an
image?

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: If you look at the
way Republicans hoped this was going to play out a few months ago, a lot of
them are saying, OK, the Supreme Court is going to address and hopefully
settle the question of gay marriage in this election cycle. They`ll
probably take it off the table and we won`t have to talk about it.

MATTHEWS: In other words legalize it.

PETERS: Exactly. There were a lot of Republicans who I think candidates,
too, who were counting on that. Now it`s reared its head again in the form
of this religious freedom legislation and they can`t get away from it.

I think you have candidates like Huckabee and Cruz who are out there all
but saying if there is a Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage, states
ought to resist it. And that`s where I think that this becomes a lot more
complicated because you have the religious freedom aspect of it, and you
can potentially have a Supreme Court case.

MATTHEWS: Here is Ted Cruz on that very point, here he is, who is running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Fortune 500 is running shamelessly to endorse
the radical gay marriage agenda over religious liberty to say we will
persecute a Christian pastor, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, any person
of faith is subject to persecution if they dare disagree, if their
religious faith parts way from their political commitment to gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A Jewish rabbi even. Oh, I`m glad he made that clear.
Shouldn`t make jokes on Seder night.

But the fact is, they`re really overboard here, I think. Your thoughts?

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: And you have a faction of the
Republican Party and leadership right now, people like Cruz and Mike
Huckabee who are trying to carve out a niche among the other presidential
hopefuls. This is a way to do it by appealing to the evangelicals and the
teavangelicals, as they`re also called, who look like Tea Party folks who
are person --

MATTHEWS: But how this, public accommodation is a compelling public value
we believe. In other words, you put a story that says open, it means open.
The store`s open. You know, jiggle the door when you come through, you
come in, anybody that comes in that door can buy a hamburger.

You can`t say, no, you`re gay, you can`t buy a hamburger here. But
obviously, when you contract for something, a complicated thing, a catering
service, that would seem to be different, when you`re saying a priest is in
trouble. Nobody saying a priest is having to witness a gay wedding.
Nobody is saying that. Nobody says a rabbi.

What is he talking about? There`s nothing in this law that can be
construed that way?

NEDRA PICKLER, AP WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you`re also probably
not a Republican primary voter, right?

MATTHEWS: But I`m just wondering what`s in the law objectively that would
threaten any cause that`s religious.

PICKLER: So, some of the religious leaders that we`ve talked to, we have a
story out on the "A.P." wire about how this will persist, are concern that
this could impact religious organizations, like Christian colleges like the
Catholic charities, that they`re going to be -- not just on gay issues but
forced to provide birth control.

MATTHEWS: I think that was settled with the Hobby Lobby case.

PICKLER: But this isn`t just about florist and photographers. This is an
issue that the evangelicals know they`ve lost on gay marriage. They know
that. So, this is an issue they`re trying to run after in the states.

PAGE: Remember, Chris, they`re playing the fear card here now. You know,
back --

MATTHEWS: No, I`m concerned about what you`re saying, I wonder if that`s a
legitimate fear because I do think that, you know, nuns should -- the
Little Sisters of the Poor should be left alone as far as I`m concerned.

PAGE: How do you find legitimate? Back in the early days of the moral
majority and Christian coalition, they said we are the majority. That has
shifted now to where now we`re an oppressed minority.

MATTHEWS: How about just applying the -- you can`t be prejudice against
race, a guy comes into your store and sits in your lunch counter? Why
didn`t they just apply that to identity orientation? Well, why didn`t --
why didn`t Pence push for a civil rights clause to protect gays and
lesbians as well as other minorities? That`s the real question here. If
he had done that, you wouldn`t have an issue in Indiana right now.

PETERS: That`s the thing. That`s exactly the point, because if you look
at what Nathan Deal did in Georgia, he said to the legislature, OK, send me
something similar to the religious -- identical, actually, to the religious
freedom law that passed in the `90s and I would sign that, but that`s not
what these Republican-led legislatures are doing. That`s not what they
want to do. They want to send these bills that carve out exceptions that
are aimed at that are motivated rather by gay marriage.

MATTHEWS: Again, it`s Friday night, somewhere along a state highway
tonight at a bar that says cocktails, chops and steaks, 10:00 tonight,
there will be guys talking about this at the bar and I wonder what they`re
going to be saying.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next Michelle Obama goes on Jimmy Fallon to do some dancing. This
is always fun. And talk about life in the White House. She`s doing it
here.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We learned late today that Sarah Brady has died. The widow of
former White House Press Secretary James Brady was a crusader, of course,
for gun safety laws after the assassination attempt on President Reagan in
1981 nearly killed her husband. She died after a battle with pneumonia.
Sarah Brady was just 73.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MATTHEWS: That`s great stuff. We`re back, of course.

That was Michelle Obama with Jimmy Fallon poking a little fun at each other
in their latest performance of the evolution of mom dancing.

Anyway, the first lady appeared on the show just last night to mark the
five-year anniversary of her Let`s Move Campaign but she also opened up
raising two daughters in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: Are you the good cop or the bad cop?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We`re both pretty equal. That`s the one thing
I love about Barack. Even though he travels, he comes in, he can enforce.
The other days the girls were trying to clue him into what a group chat was
on text.

FALLON: Already this is going to make me laugh. I wish I had a video of
this.

OBAMA: He didn`t know. So, we`re sitting around the dinner table and they
all kind of looked at him and Malia said oh, dad, you`re so detached.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that may be a common opinion, actually.

We`re back with the roundtable, Jeremy, Clarence and Nedra.

Nedra, your dad`s detached. That`s a knock on him. The senators say that
about him, he`s detached.

PICKLER: You know, this is what makes her so down to earth in these
interviews. That`s what I do with my friends. We make fun of our husbands
and our kids a little bit.

MATTHEWS: Diss.

PICKER: We diss, yes, and laugh.

So, you know, this goes to show why she`s very likable, way more likable
than him in public opinion polls, and they use her very selectively to do
fun pieces where she`s out showing her bust and her move.

MATTHEWS: She`s pretty attractive too, and Jimmy Fallon knows how to do
this imitation, these cross-dress numbers a lot.

PAGE: I agree. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Jeremy, your thoughts?

PETERS: Well, it kind of makes you wonder why we don`t see -- why we
haven`t seen more of her.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s all answer that question, because I`d love to know
that. I`ve always thought that she was a charger. She`s obviously one of
the best spokespersons you can have and yet these are rare occasions.

PICKLER: She is very controlled in her media appearances. She doesn`t do
interviews with White House reporters like me. She goes and she does more
of these entertainment programs. We`ve seen her on Ellen DeGeneres dancing
recently. She`s going on Rachel Ray. That`s where they like to use her in
those types of programs.

MATTHEWS: Is it to stay away from interrogations.

PAGE: I think it`s her comfort level. You know, she always had to be
talked in to the political life of -- her husband has written about how --

MATTHEWS: That`s in the book.

PAGE: Yes, about how -- you know, she`s said, OK, I`ll let you run for
office one more time, otherwise it`s off to divorce court. And she and the
girls have given up a lot in order to be his family, and I think that`s
where it is. It`s a very personal thing.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I mean, I -- he talks in the book about the clipped
telephone conversations with his wife when you`re out campaigning. That`s
right. You`ll be home at some point?

PICKLER: Well, remember back in the 2008 campaign, there were some very
unfair portrayals of her as an angry black woman and I think they want to
protect her from that.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re allowed to be angry when you got a good case.

Anyway, thank you guys. Thanks to you, Nedra. Thank you, Clarence. Thank
you, Jeremy, for setting me up for the opportunity to talk about how much I
want to see more of the first lady.

We`ll do an interview here, by the way, right here on HARDBALL. No
dancing. Just a little chat, a little diss.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this horror over in Kenya. All those
young people killed, all those parents who had such pride in them now
overwhelmed with grief. All that hope for Kenya, a country that has tried
to take a moderate hopeful course to joining the modern world.

The raiders who came down from Somalia had but one goal to kill Christians
and to kill the hopes of a country that`s trying to do the right thing,
trying to develop itself in peace. There`s one thing we have to do, we
Americans, we have to stand fast with Kenya with its president, Uhuru
Kenyatta, and with the tradition of his father ever since the day of
independence. We Americans must stand up against terrorism in East Africa
and do everything we can for a good country, a moderate country, a country
that has tried to be our friend against the forces that hate us both. God
bless Africa.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us tonight. And, of
course, from all of us to all of you -- happy Easter and a happy Passover.

A special encore presentation of "ALL IN" 2016 fantasy candidate draft with
Chris Hayes, it`s up next.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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