Date: May 20, 2015
Guest: Sen. Angus King, Susan Milligan, Robert Klemko
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: We caught him, finally.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
And this is the treachery, of course. This is the lie that sold the
war. This is the bugle calling "charge." This was the mushroom cloud, the
warning of Armageddon. It`s when Dick Cheney told us, the American people,
that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons. That was the claim, which
for many thinking people, tipped the balance. It was the smoking gun that
got us into war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we know he`s
been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we
believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here on HARDBALL last night, the top CIA official, the
man who briefed President Bush on a daily basis, said that what Cheney said
was not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Was that true or not?
MICHAEL MORELL, FMR. CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: So we were saying...
MATTHEWS: Was that true?
MORELL: We were saying...
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?
MORELL: No, that`s not true.
MATTHEWS: They`re selling the war using your stuff, saying that you
made that case when you didn`t. So they`re using your credibility to make
the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.
MORELL: Look, I`m just telling you...
MATTHEWS: Well, you just admitted it!
MORELL: I`m just telling you what we said, Chris...
MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.
MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.
MATTHEWS: That he has a nuclear weapon!
MORELL: I`m telling you what we said.
MATTHEWS: That`s a big deal!
MORELL: Chris, I`m telling you what we said.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree, it`s a big deal they claimed he had a weapon
when you knew that he didn`t?
So this final piece of the sales pitch is what did it. And to know
and now hearing it from you that that wasn`t based on fact or on evidence
or any intel, that that was just made up backs the case for why I`m so
angry about that war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Corn, is the Washington bureau chief with
"Mother Jones" and Eugene Robinson`s the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
with "The Washington Post."
Gene, I`ve been doing this business for a long time, rarely do you get
that Perry Mason moment.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no,
that was a great interview.
MATTHEWS: When the guy comes and just says, You know what? I`m the
top briefer from the CIA for the president. I`m deputy DCI. I`m right
there telling them all we knew, and we never knew and never said he had a
ROBINSON: No, that`s...
MATTHEWS: And yet we went into war with that argument.
ROBINSON: That`s just what I thought Perry Mason -- they could have
just walked him back.
MATTHEWS: Taken it back...
MATTHEWS: What do you think people...
MATTHEWS: Gene, what do you think people like Cheney and Bush are
saying right now? The guy`s outed us?
ROBINSON: Yes, well, you know, they`re -- some of them are probably
still in denial and others are start saying, you know, Ha, we got away with
MATTHEWS: We got away with it.
ROBINSON: We got away with it.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And you focused
on one remark that Cheney made on "MEET THE PRESS" near the invasion of
Iraq. They had spent almost a year making similar remarks, not always
about nuclear weapons, sometimes biological weapons...
ROBINSON: Don`t forget mushroom cloud...
CORN: ... mushroom cloud, about aluminum tubes, about yellowcake and
about the supposed link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that again and
again were not backed up by the intelligence. Some of the intelligence was
wrong, but they were not misled by the intelligence. They used the
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s what I wanted to...
MATTHEWS: I`m going to make that at the end of the show.
CORN: ... because...
MATTHEWS: In other words, this story -- let`s listen to this while
we`re on this. Some people who watch television, follow the news, believed
he had a nuclear weapon. They believed everything because they think, Why
would they be lying? So you can`t completely blame them, except for too
much naivete. But the people who perpetrated the dishonesty are in a
different kettle of fish here...
MATTHEWS: ... different crowd.
CORN: At the end of 2002, which was a few months before the invasion,
George W. Bush had a press conference and he was asked about nuclear
weapons in Iraq. And he said, We don`t know if he has one already or not.
Now, every intelligence estimate they had in hand said -- even the
ones that were wrong -- said at best, they had a program and maybe within a
couple of years might have a nuclear weapon. They were wrong about that.
There was no nuclear weapons program. But there was nothing to suggest
that they might have one already.
So when people go out there and say Bush didn`t lie, he just relied on
bad intelligence -- no. Again and again, he and Cheney said things that
had nothing to do with the intelligence. They made stuff up!
ROBINSON: Right. They knew it wasn`t...
MATTHEWS: It reminds me of Will Ferrell in "The Anchorman" --
CORN: Yes, that`s the ticket, yes, he has a nuclear weapon!
MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s the mess we`re in right now thanks to that
stuff that went on, with ISIS. The headline on the front page of "The New
York Times" today says it all. "Iraq`s Sunni strategy collapses in Ramadi
As NBC News reports Iraqi forces abandoned American equipment when
they fled, including dozens of vehicles, a half dozen tanks and armored
personnel carriers. And then there are the country`s estimated 50,000
ghost soldiers -- catch this -- who pay a portion of their salaries to
their superiors in order not to have to show up for duty.
The fall of Iraq`s Ramadi to ISIS was Baghdad`s worst military
disaster and most damaging setback for U.S. strategy to defeat the
extremists in almost a year. In fact (INAUDIBLE) new reports that ISIS has
taken over the strategically important city of Palmyra in Syria.
Gene, the Iraq government, such as it exists, is losing this war.
ROBINSON: Yes, it`s losing this war and...
MATTHEWS: And we`re building a bigger caliphate, a bigger ISIS.
ROBINSON: It`s losing the war. And our plan, right, is to train the
Iraqi army, the one that fled the battlefield the other day, to take the
fight to ISIS. But we want a unified, pluralistic democratic Iraq more
than the Iraqis want it...
ROBINSON: And -- I mean, and that`s just the bottom line.
MATTHEWS: Nation building.
ROBINSON: We`re saying they should fight and die for this ideal that
ROBINSON: ... but that they don`t want to fight and die for.
MATTHEWS: You know, when I look at the map of the world (INAUDIBLE)
since grade school, which is the map with Iraq, it`s so neat. And then
there`s Jordan, it`s so neat, you know? And every -- Egypt -- everything
looks like a real country until you realize in the Arab world, that`s not
the way they look at it. These are European boundaries.
MATTHEWS: In the Arab world, there`s Sunni and there`s Shia, you
know, and there`s Kurds, I guess. And that`s it. And so who`s fighting
now who? The only people that will take on the Sunni ISIS crowd are the
Shia, who hate the Sunni. But the Sunni ran...
CORN: It`s not just Sunni versus Shia in Anbar province and Ramadi,
it`s the Sunnis who live there versus the extreme Sunnis of ISIS. And then
you have the Shi`ites who we wanted to keep out first, the Shi`ite
MATTHEWS: OK, you`re living in Sunni-occupied...
MATTHEWS: You`re living in ISIS-occupied Sunni (INAUDIBLE) country.
Who would you fight and die for?
CORN: Well, this is the whole question. The Sunnis don`t believe
that the Iraqi central government in Baghdad really care about them. But
they don`t want to be ruled by the extremists of the Sunni ISIS. And ISIS
is now spread out over Syria and Iraq. The border doesn`t matter.
CORN: And in the meantime, the neocons and the hawks say that we
should get more deeply involved here in a tri-polar ever-shifting civil
MATTHEWS: And they also want us to fight Assad in Syria.
CORN: Well, that`s a whole `nother...
MATTHEWS: OK. Critics of the president`s strategy have flooded the
airwaves lately to thump their chests. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president,
frankly, should withdraw the authorization of use of military force and
start over. We don`t have a strategy!
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This did not have to happen! This is
a result of a failed feckless policy! It`s because of this president`s
refusal to leave a force behind!
JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He could have kept the troops
in. He could have kept the troops in. I think we`re now paying a price
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama,
you`re at a defining moment in your presidency. If you don`t change your
strategy regarding ISIL in Iraq and Syria -- because it`s one and the same
-- then this country is very likely to get attacked in another 9/11
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send in troops. Destroy their training centers.
Destroy their recruitment centers. Destroy the area where they are looking
to plan to attack us here, and then get out. And leave a little note
behind. You come back, so will we.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We can`t even agree on what to call this place. We call it
ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State. I mean, I don`t think we`re going to find
common ground here. By the way, this notion, I know you`re going get to,
that somehow, it`s all President Obama`s fault because he failed to leave a
corporal`s guard behind when we left Iraq -- nobody believes that a few
non-fighting American soldiers were going to stop this country from coming
MATTHEWS: They weren`t even combat brigades!
CORN: It was Bush in 2008 who negotiated the 2011 departure of...
MATTHEWS: Yes, that got us out.
CORN: ... and got us out. And then when 2011 came along, Maliki, who
Bush had supported as prime minister of Iraq, didn`t want to cut any deal
with Obama or anybody else. So Obama stayed true to the deal that Bush
cut. And there`s no telling that if you kept in 10,000 troops...
MATTHEWS: What would they have done?
CORN: ... that it would have made any difference...
MATTHEWS: What would the troops have done?
CORN: ... to what was happening in the northeast of Iraq.
ROBINSON: No, there would have been a question. What would those
troops do? And so it could have gone one of two ways. Either they would
have had no impact, or we would have sent a lot more troops back in to
ROBINSON: ... to keep ISIS...
CORN: For urban warfare against ISIS.
ROBINSON: Exactly. I mean, so is that where we`re going? Really?
MATTHEWS: Look, let`s go back to Colin Powell and the Pottery Barn
rule -- the Potter Barn (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: You broke it, you bought it.
MATTHEWS: We broke that country.
ROBINSON: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: We took a country that was run a certain way. We
(INAUDIBLE) liked it for years. We broke it apart and said, No, we got a
better idea. We`re going to have elections here.
So we have elections and the Sunnis are outvoted, and they go off and
form their own place. It`s called ISIS.
CORN: Well, don`t forget...
MATTHEWS: And this is what happened. And that`s exactly what
CORN: Well, don`t forget debaathification...
MATTHEWS: Which was all part of that.
CORN: All part of this. Listen, in 1919, the Brits made...
MATTHEWS: You broke it, you bought it.
CORN: ... made some terrible decisions at the end of World War I.
You can watch it in "Lawrence of Arabia." And 100 years later, we have
CORN: ... and we have outdone them...
ROBINSON: But the question is, can you take the shards of pottery and
put them back together again...
MATTHEWS: OK, OK...
ROBINSON: ... into anything resembling...
MATTHEWS: Do you buy that theory?
MATTHEWS: That we can rebuild Iraq?
ROBINSON: Oh, I -- at this point, no.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...
ROBINSON: I don`t.
MATTHEWS: In 1965, Lyndon Johnson, who came in after Kennedy, had to
decide what to do with -- Kennedy had left us with 18,000 troops in
Vietnam. Johnson had to decide, are we going to accept the loss of Vietnam
to the north, South Vietnam to the north Vietnamese? Are we going to
accept it and get the hell out of there, or are we going to go in there
heavy and win the damn war, or are we going to go somewhere in the middle?
So he decided to go somewhere in the middle and muddle through for X
many years until we were all exhausted, and we came home. What is the best
solution? Go in all the way, whatever that means, 100,000 troops on the
ground -- (INAUDIBLE) Lindsey Graham says 100,000 troops -- go in there and
really try to win the battle, or pull the hell out, or something in the
And what -- what`s his name? McCain (INAUDIBLE) John McCain says a
few special forces troops on the ground will make the difference.
ROBINSON: Those are the three options. And I`ve been wrestling with
this all day, and I think -- I think I`m on the pullout side.
MATTHEWS: Get the hell out.
ROBINSON: ... of the equation. You know, to go in heavy, it`s not
going to take 100,000 troops...
MATTHEWS: So let the beheadings continue.
MATTHEWS: So let the beheadings continue. There`s a consequence
ROBINSON: Well, if you`re going to stop the beheadings, you can`t
just stop them in Iraq. You`ve got to go into Syria. You`ve got to solve
-- you`ve got to the Syrian civil war. So what do you do? You make a deal
with Assad, who you say has to go. And together with Assad in Syria and
together with the Iranians in Iraq, you`re going to -- I mean -- I mean,
MATTHEWS: What do you say?
CORN: I think...
MATTHEWS: In, out, or somewhere in between?
CORN: You muddle.
MATTHEWS: You muddle?
CORN: Because there are no good options. I would -- you know, I
think Obama`s policy in some ways is the best of several bad choices.
MATTHEWS: Which is what? Please help me.
CORN: Which is to have air strikes, to have some troops there...
MATTHEWS: Didn`t work in Anbar province!
CORN: It hasn`t worked yet. But in fact, in some places, it actually
pushed ISIS back. ISIS would certainly be further along if the U.S. was
MATTHEWS: You know what the American people generally vote against?
Korea in `52, Vietnam in `68. They vote against muddling through.
CORN: I know.
CORN: Sometimes that`s the only choice you have...
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
CORN: ... putting more in or taking out.
MATTHEWS: OK, Gene Robinson, you have many people agree with you.
And David Corn, a lot of people would like you because they like you. But
they have no idea what muddling through means.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, inside the mind of Osama bin Laden. Newly
declassified documents gathered from his Pakistan compound give us new
insights into the world`s number one terrorist and what he was thinking.
He was committed, apparently, to hitting us at home here big-time before he
was killed by our Navy SEALs.
Plus, what`s so bad about ambition in politics? Every presidential
candidate`s got it. But why is Hillary Clinton being singled out today to
explain why she`s running? Is it because she`s a she?
And it`s the comeback of the cockfighter. Matt Bevin, who once
championed the rights of cockfighters, is trying to become governor of
Kentucky. And after a wild result last night, he`s one claw closer.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with something that truly matters.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is still on the Senate floor,
railing against the Patriot Act. He took control of the floor a little
after 1:00 PM today. He`s speaking out against government surveillance and
the bulk collection of electronic records. And he`s been joined in the
effort by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Senator Steve Daines of Montana and
Democratic senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, New Mexico`s Martin Heinrich and
Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Senator Paul could speak through the night, possibly even go on to
tomorrow. And if he does, it could delay the Senate`s plans to consider
its renewal of the Patriot Act.
We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, at my direction,
the United States launched targeted operation against that compound in
Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation
with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They
took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed
Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Just over four years after
President Obama delivered the news that Osama bin Laden was killed, the
intelligence community is now releasing what amounts to a treasure trove of
documents taken from the al Qaeda leader`s Abbottabad compound.
It`s a bit like getting a peek inside King Tut`s tomb. The files show
bin Laden remained a steadfast believer in the goal of attacking U.S.
targets, even as newer jihadi groups focused on attacking easier and closer
targets in their countries of operation.
In one correspondence, Obama -- Osama bin Laden wrote, "By God, we
shall not stop, God willing, except at the doorsteps of the White House,
and to raise the banner of monotheism on their so-called Statue of
Liberty." That`s Osama bin Laden.
Well, today`s release also revealed what was on bin Laden`s bookshelf,
39 English language books that focused on everything from the war on terror
to U.S. financial institutions, and even vote stealing in American
elections. They included "The Best Enemy Money Can Buy," "Black Box
Voting," "Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century," "Imperial Hubris" and
"Obama`s Wars" by Bob Woodward. Also, "Secrets of the Federal Reserve."
Does this tell us anything about bin Laden and his organization? I`m
joined right now by Angus King, senator from Maine who sits on the
What did you make of this wealth of stuff taken from, basically, what
became the tomb of Osama bin Laden, Senator?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, I think it`s fascinating, although,
Chris, I can`t imagine that one of your books wasn`t there. I mean, I
don`t know about you, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, he wasn`t a believer in American democracy like I am.
KING: How did he miss that? No, but it is -- it is fascinating to
get that insight. And as you know, this is really the first bunch of this
material that`s going to be released. And there`s going to be more, I
think, as we see the contents of the computers and the hard drives. This
is really the kind of the tip of the iceberg, I think.
But clearly, one of the things that came through was, A, he wanted to
attack us here at home. And B, he was becoming sort of distanced from the
other jihadi groups. I mean, one way to think of it is that bin Laden was
terrorism 1.0, and of course ISIL -- we`re now at 2.8 or something. But
there were clearly changes in the wind, and I think he felt that. You get
a sense from some of that correspondence that he felt isolated.
And also, he was into conspiracy theories. I mean, some of the books
and articles that he had were, you know, the -- sort of conspiracies.
Interestingly, one of them was about September 11 itself.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s talk about the financial thing because
everybody is fascinated by the fact he chose the twin towers to attack as
his primary target. And of course, that has to do with our financial
institutions and upsetting our whole grid of power, economic power in this
country in New York.
Do you think that`s why he`s studying up on the Federal Reserve? He`s
one of these guys who`s trying to figure out, how do you create complete
and utter chaos in American financial circles? Maybe that`s what he was
KING: Well, I think he probably was. Remember, there was an earlier
attack on the World Trade Center...
KING: ... that didn`t -- that sort of fizzled. And I think, clearly,
that was one of his targets. And you know, frankly, it`s one of the things
that keeps me up at night is not so much a bombing like what he was
thinking about, but a cyberattack.
And you know, here we are 14 years later. He probably never heard of
a cyberattack. But right now, that`s what we have to worry about,
particularly with our financial institutions.
Chris, the next Pearl Harbor is probably going to be cyber, and we
have to get ready for it.
MATTHEWS: I would say you`re right, sir.
Thank you much, Senator Angus King of Maine...
MATTHEWS: ... who has seen the stuff.
I`m joined right now by MSNBC terrorist analyst Evan Kohlmann.
Evan, tell me about what you think of what you saw in the treasure
troves? You`re an expert on this thing. Like, the books he was reading,
how he still wanted to hit our big targets and blow us apart, I think he
was looking at the Federal Reserve, trying to figure that thing out.
EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. He has this obsessive
need to attack the United States. And I think part of it actually can be
explained through some of the other correspondence, which is that bin Laden
seems to have gotten frustrated about the fact that he keeps pushing
attacks on the United States, and a lot of his acolytes and a lot of the
different al Qaeda affiliates seem more interested in fighting each other,
in killing local people, in doing things that have only bare -- kind of
bare resemblance to what his larger mission is.
And he seems to be constantly trying to fight with these people to say
to them, look, but can`t -- don`t establish an Islamic state. Just kill
the Americans. Don`t fight with each other. Just kill the Americans.
And the people who are fighting with each other, it`s remarkable --
during one of the documents, there is a dispute that is revealed between
the Afghanistan and the Pakistani Taliban, a dispute that apparently got so
bad that the Afghan Taliban executed a Pakistani Taliban member without
ever seeking any kind of permission or OK from the Pakistani Taliban.
You see disagreements with bin Laden, with a variety of different
jihadi groups, both al Qaeda factions, as well as others, and you have
certain people writing to bin Laden, saying, look, you`re sitting there.
We`re telling you things are dramatically wrong with your organization.
We`re jihadists, and you`re ignoring us. You`re not doing anything about
MATTHEWS: OK. Here is a great question, based upon what you`re
looking there in terms of what is in with bin Laden, sort of stuff he has
in his apartment there. He seemed to be mainly focused on an almost
generational hatred of his parents. That`s what he was always against in
Saudi Arabia, against us as his sort of economic superiors.
I`m going get those bastards. I`m going get those -- I`m going to
kill those people. I`m going to drive those people to chaos and bedlam and
hell, whereas the other people were talking about creating a caliphate.
Was -- is he primarily negative in his purposes, whereas some of these
other people seem to be more aimed at creating some sort of Islamic new
future? They seem to be different directions.
KOHLMANN: Honestly, I think bin Laden recognized what worked. I
think he recognized what missions and what campaigns and what slogans
When you`re talking about a global jihadi movement made up of a
variety of different jihadi factions who have all their own leaders and all
their own personality beefs and all their own little mini -- mini missions
and mini campaigns, the one thing that these folks could all agree on, and
more or less without debate was -- or with quarreling -- without quarreling
-- was attacking the United States.
And I think bin Laden keeps trying to direct people and saying, that`s
uncontroversial. Everybody agrees with that.
MATTHEWS: Why did he hate us? Why did he hate us?
KOHLMANN: I think that`s more complicated.
I think, if you look at the letters that he writes, and he talks about
with his various different family members, this is a very deep-seated
hatred. Obviously, he is concerned about everything from the American role
in destroying the climate of the Muslim world to on down the list. He
seems to have this obsessive interest or fascination with the idea that
America is responsible for all of the ills of the world, and particularly
in the Muslim world, and that, without removing America, without
obliterating the United States and its influence in the Middle East, it
would not be possible to move forward.
KOHLMANN: There is no point in discussing creating an Islamic state
as long as there are still U.S. troops in your country of origin. And I
think that`s his message throughout...
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s where I always thought Cheney was wrong,
again, putting them in the holy land of Mecca, and when we staged those
10,000 troops and kept them there, I always worried about at the time off
Anyway, one of the more fascinating files that it reads -- reads like
an application form for an H.R. department in this pile. They ask for
details about the applicant. These are people who want to join the jihad,
including amount of schooling, fluency in foreign languages, and any
Among the questions, which sheiks do you listen to or read often? Any
hobbies or pastimes? Do you know anyone who travels to Western countries?
List your previous occupation. Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?
And what objectives would you like to accomplish on your jihad path?
I mean, these are all questions -- he is obviously looking inside --
he`s like an executive search firm looking for people to join up and go
blow up the United States.
KOHLMANN: Yes. Look, we have previously seen these kind of
applications in al Qaeda guest houses or training camps.
But the idea that bin Laden himself is personally reviewing these
applications and looking at the qualifications of these people, apparently
looking to groom people for missions outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan,
i.e., missions here in the United States, it`s very interesting. And,
again, it`s another reminder that bin Laden appears to have been playing a
very active role in attempting to organize attacks directed against the
He was not merely hiding in a house somewhere. He does not appear to
have been being kept prisoner. He was actively planning and communicating
with his various acolytes all over the place. And these letters are spread
over a good period of time. And they`re from all the most senior al Qaeda
MATTHEWS: Not to join the Sy Hersh fan club, but if the Pakistani
people living in that area of Abbottabad didn`t think he was Osama bin
Laden, who the hell did they think he was?
KOHLMANN: Yes, I -- look, it`s a good question. On the other hand, I
suppose if the Pakistani ISI comes in and says there is somebody living
there, and ignore him, people are going to ignore him.
On the other hand, it`s Pakistan. And this is a compound surrounded
by a 10-foot wall, or even higher.
KOHLMANN: It`s a compound where no one ever went in or went out.
KOHLMANN: Is it possible that someone just didn`t notice or never
asked the questions? It`s possible. It`s certainly possible.
MATTHEWS: It reminds me of losing track of the Japanese navy before
Pearl Harbor. The fact that we didn`t know where they were should have
been a big sign that they were coming.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Evan Kohlmann.
Up next, by the way, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks out on
Deflategate and Tom Brady`s four-game suspension, a little brief there, and
then we will go back to politics.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s been two weeks, believe it or, not since the Wells report
concluded that New England quarterback Tom Brady was probably generally
aware of the deflated footballs he used against the Colts in that AFC
While the Patriots announced yesterday that they will not appeal their
punishment for the incident, Brady himself, who did not cooperate with the
Wells investigation, is fighting to overturn his four-game suspension next
year -- at the end of this year, rather.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is set to hear Brady`s appeal, and he
spoke about it at a press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What would you have to hear from Tom Brady in order to
either reduce or vacate his suspension?
ROGER GOODELL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE COMMISSIONER: The key for us
is to be able to allow any information that Tom Brady and his
representatives have. I look forward to hearing directly from Tom on that.
And is there any new information or information that he can bring more
clarity to or something that wasn`t considered in the Wells report?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by football writer Robert Klemko of
Robert, what could he possibly bring into the eyes and mind and heart
and spirit of Roger Goodell that would say, you know, how about two games?
What is going to change this thing?
ROBERT KLEMKO, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Well, I think that Goodell is
leaving the door open for Tom Brady to supply the text messages and e-mails
pertinent to the case that were initially requested by Wells and not
provided by Brady`s camp.
I think that was a very clear nod to that point. Again, it`s been
characterized that Brady needs to hand over his cell phone. But, really,
they just want printouts of any relevant texts. Short of that, I still
think there is a precedent for this suspension to get shortened. In the
past, players have been punished for not cooperating with investigations,
but never to this extent.
MATTHEWS: I guess I like it when people stand up for what their
beliefs are, like in Boston when they went for capital punishment. If they
stick to four, then he obviously believed in what he did the first time.
If he goes to two, he is saying, well, I really didn`t believe what I did,
but I will sort of do something. It shows to me a lack of perseverance.
Let me ask you about what he might do. Here is what I think Brady is
going to do. I think Brady is going to use this as a chance to make
himself look better for everybody. He is going do show that he has been
autographing footballs for years, autographing pieces of paper for years,
that he has been giving away souvenirs for years. And the fact that he
gave them to the great deflator and the other guy in the locker room was no
indication of a quid pro quo.
Your thoughts on that? I think he is going to make -- shine up to his
reputation through this process. Then he can`t lose.
KLEMKO: Well, I think the two biggest things in the Brady suspension,
the reason for them are the fact that he didn`t cooperate with the
investigation, and nobody believes that these two equipment managers acted
on their own...
MATTHEWS: I know.
KLEMKO: ... without his urging to deflate footballs. So just the
fact that the team suspended these two guys is in part an indictment on
Brady and his role in it.
Well, where are they going to end up, these two guys, these
Rosencrantz and Guildensterns, these small playing characters that nobody
cares about? I care about them. Are they ever going to work again in the
NFL? Are they done? And if they`re done, how can Brady be even partially
innocent? Your thoughts.
KLEMKO: I think these guys will come back to the Patriots in some
form or fashion. They have been suspended from handling footballs, being a
part of that process.
But they haven`t been fired yet.
KLEMKO: I think, once this all blows over, they will get roles with
the team. But it`s a pretty apt title for those guys, Rosencrantz and
Well, what do you do to these guys? You say, you can`t be within 100
feet of a football?
MATTHEWS: And yet you`re working in a football stadium? What kind of
a deal is that? It`s like you can`t be near your wife again. Oh, I can`t
be near a football again?
KLEMKO: They will be in charge of the cleats or something.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Oh, God, it`s ridiculous. You know what? The great
deflator, if you ever write the book, maybe you will make a buck on it.
Thank you, Robert Klemko, my favorite. There it is, "Sports
Is it -- does your magazine still have that thing where if you get on
the cover, you`re finished? Does that still work that way?
KLEMKO: Yes, it`s something like the Madden video game curse, but
MATTHEWS: Oh, God. Beware.
Anyway, up next, did you see the front-page headline in "USA Today,"
"Challenge for Clinton: Explain Why She Is Running"? But why is that
challenge unique to Hillary Clinton? Let`s get to that with the roundtable
in a minute. Why do the she`s have to explain their ambition when the he`s
You`re watching HARDBALL, the police for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
The owner of the oil pipeline that ruptured near the California coast
says up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked into the Pacific. The oil from
yesterday still stretches along nearly nine miles of Santa Barbara`s
coastline. Officials are still investigating the cause of that leak.
And Nebraska lawmakers have voted to abolish the death penalty,
although the governor plans a veto. It appears the measure has enough
support in the legislature to override the move -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK. Are you all
ready? Please tell me something I don`t know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That`s, of course, Hillary Clinton just yesterday in Iowa gearing up
to take questions from reporters.
Anyway, the former secretary of state was there to speak to a group of
small business owners at a Cedar Falls bike shop. Here is more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
People are not getting a fair shake. I`m running for president because
everyday Americans and their families need a champion, and I want to be
that champion. I want to make the words middle class mean something again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But running to be a champion for the middle class may not
be enough to satisfy some. The bold headline below the fold in "USA Today"
this morning read, "Why Is Clinton Running?"
The story continued. "Hillary Clinton has sought to score points for
style and substance. However, as she looks ahead to the next phase of her
presidential bid and tries to continue to avoid the missteps that cost her
in 2008, she will be challenged to put forward a clear rationale for her
Does Hillary need to state her rationale any more clearly than, say,
the 18 Republicans running to beat her right now?
Joining the roundtable -- I love gender issues so much. Howard
Fineman is global editor of The Huffington Post. Susan Mulligan --
Milligan is contributing editor -- I have known her forever -- for the "USA
Today" and -- "World Report." And Perry Bacon is a senior political
reporter for NBC News.
Go ahead, Susan. It`s your baby. Why does Hillary Clinton have to
say why she is running, when people like Donald Trump, it`s intuitive that
they`re ambition -- ambitious?
SUSAN MILLIGAN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Yes. Yes.
No, I think -- you know, it`s interesting to me that you have got all
these Republican men and one woman running, and the only reason they have
for running is that they have this double-decker clown car of candidates
and think, well, why not me, if these guys can run, whereas Hillary
Clinton, who has been first lady, United States state senator, secretary of
state, a brilliant person, whether or not you agree with her, somehow has
to come up with a reason why she is running because the default presumption
is, why would a woman want this job? Why does a woman have this much
All those columns people wrote about like, well, she is going to be so
distracted now that she has a grandchild, she is going to be handed this
baby and she is just going to lose her mind.
MATTHEWS: So, Susan Milligan, why is Hillary Clinton running for
MILLIGAN: Because she wants to be the president, the same reason the
rest of them are running. I think she wants to be president.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I would go to, because you know what I thought
the best answer -- not to defend anybody here politically or personally --
but you got to understand, Mitch McConnell, the second day after the
election in 20 -- what did we get through -- 2014, said, I have an entire
caucus of class presidents. Every one of the people on the Republican side
of the aisle in the United States Senate was a class president in high
school and college.
They have been running since they first thought of going to law
school, Howard. You don`t have to ask why a guy is running.
MATTHEWS: They have all been running.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but...
MATTHEWS: That`s what they do. They run for office.
FINEMAN: I agree with what Susan says in -- on one level.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with me?
FINEMAN: On one level, it`s very unfair. On another level, this is a
problem that I think that all sort of longtime politicians and incumbents -
- she is sort of an incumbent in a way.
PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
MATTHEWS: So it`s incumbent on her...
FINEMAN: Incumbent on the incumbent to have a narrative. And...
MATTHEWS: But what is it? What would it have to be to satisfy the --
FINEMAN: Well, they`ll never be satisfied, obviously. But it`s the
dissonance between her love of everyday Americans and the way she has been
up to her eyeballs in money and influence for all these years that is
something she has to figure out how to square the circle of. She can. I`m
not quite sure how.
MATTHEWS: But a lot of that success in raising money through speech
make and friends and all has financed her political career. I mean, that`s
how you do it.
FINEMAN: Well, I think she has to say that. I think she has to say
MATTHEWS: Winston Churchill, my hero, was out there lobbying and
doing writing to pay per his career.
FINEMAN: She has to say that actually.
PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS: I think what people are really asking is, what
is the Clinton campaign about. And I think that has not been clear yet.
One thing she has to deal with is President Obama has achieved a lot
of things she has talked about her entire life, universal health care,
things like that. She hasn`t said in a great way here`s what -- here are
these. She has these four fights. But they`re a little vague right now.
She hasn`t actually said here is the thing I`m going do that no other
president has done before.
MATTHEWS: But we know, a center left Democrat, a little bit to the
left probably of Bill, maybe, a little to his right on foreign policy,
maybe. We know roughly where she stands.
MATTHEWS: Better than most people elected president.
Here, listen to Mark Halperin of "Bloomberg Politics", recently
conducted a focus group with Iowa Democrats and asked them, these are
everyday people, about Hillary Clinton. Here is a bit of what they had to
say. I hate that phrase. I hate it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of fact is made that oh, she is so
ambitious. Well, you know what? If you`re going to be a politician, if
you`re going to set yourself up to be elected to any office you have to be
ambitious. You have to have one big ego.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is a bad mamajama. Yes. She is a strong,
confident woman. She knows what she is doing. She is not afraid to step
up. She is not afraid to take advice, and she is not afraid to say no, I
don`t want to do it that way. I`m going to do it this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, mamajama?
BACON: I think it`s good. I think they`re saying that she is
ambitious, she is confident. They`re confident in her. I think that`s
good. The people (INAUDIBLE) answering the question also were not sure
what is her biggest accomplishment. So I think she does need to add on and
say here are the things that I`ve done already.
MATTHEWS: Obama didn`t have a big accomplishment before he got
BACON: Exactly. You already know what she is for.
SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT POLITICAL WRITER: Most
people when they asked what accomplishment did she have as secretary of
state, I think most people could not look at a secretary of state and point
to an accomplishment. Frankly, mostly what a secretary of state does is
keep something from becoming a massive crisis. So, that in a way wasn`t
terribly fair question.
MATTHEWS: I wish she hadn`t left it to John Kerry to stand up to
Netanyahu, though. A little tough on --
FINEMAN: To me, the analogy here historically is to George H.W. Bush
as a follow-on to Reagan. And I remember when George H.W. Bush ran the
strategic imperative of his campaign --
MATTHEWS: He wasn`t a wimp. That was your magazine that tagged him a
FINEMAN: Yes, it was my magazine. And by the way, Barbara Bush has
never forgotten. I think H.W. has.
MATTHEWS: "Newsweek" calls him wimp.
FINEMAN: Yes, but it was a follow on to Reagan. And the strategy was
hug Reagan by the ankles. No daylight, Lee Atwater his strategist said,
MATTHEWS: What about kinder, gentler?
FINEMAN: Yes, with a little kinder, gentler tweet.
I think what`s happening here is Hillary is effectively, as Perry is
sort of indicating, is for the most part going to be running for a third
term of Barack Obama. I`m not sure she wants to admit that.
FINEMAN: But I think that`s what it`s going to be. And to me that
means it`s going to be quite a negative campaign.
H.W. ran a very negative campaign. He tore Mike Dukakis apart to
protect the Reagan legacy. I think that`s the position that Hillary is
going to end up in as the protector of the Obama legacy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you -- don`t we ask for phoniness when we
say give us a reason why you`re running?
We know her reason is ambition. So she is going to cook up a couple
of phrases. I remember Kathleen Brown running for governor of California,
which is basically the reason she is running, it`s the family business.
MATTHEWS: Jerry was governor. Her father was governor. She said to
create a million new jobs. She had to come up with something. We ask
people to be phonies.
MILLIGAN: There is nothing wrong with that. I don`t think she has to
come up with reason for running when she is almost the only candidate in
the race on the Democratic side. I think she can let the Republicans fight
I think she is smart to sort of build the steam now of defending the
middle class and income inequality. I mean, it`s hard to do when you just
made $25 million in speech --
MATTHEWS: How about the clown keep the clown car from parking at 1600
MATTHEWS: How about keeping Bernie Sanders out of the White House?
FINEMAN: That`s what the campaign is going to be is the clown car.
That`s going to be there.
MATTHEWS: In the end -- you`re right -- in the end, I`ve said this
before, and I don`t know if it`s going to be true. I hope not. I hope
there is a choice. But I think Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of
state, former United States senator, former first lady, is going to end up
running against a meathead.
I don`t see any chance the Republicans have got it figured out yet.
That they may find a John Kasich or somebody they`re going to reach back in
their bench and say he is the one. This guy we have been hiding is really
BACON: I was in Iowa. Jeb Bush seemed like he might do OK.
MATTHEWS: I want a choice myself.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, that wild race in Kentucky and apparent trite (ph) of a
guy known for supporting cockfighting -- speaking of the clown car.
This is HARDBALL. Kentucky goes clown car. We`re sticking to the
place for politics. Look at that.
MATTHEWS: Well, we learned late today that the first Republican
presidential debate might not feature the entire field of candidates. FOX
News, which is hosting the debate, will require candidates to be in the top
ten in an average of the five most recent national polls leading up to the
debate, to take part in the debate states. And that means as many as eight
candidates could be left out in the cold. That first debate is coming up
on August 6th of this summer.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable -- Howard, Susan, and Perry.
And you all heard about the big castrator, of course, the hog
castrator. Now the cockfighter is back. I love his name.
Matt Bevin, a Tea Party favorite, challenged Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell for his seat in 2014. Bevin stumbled badly in that race after
attending a cockfighting rights rally. There is such a thing.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MATT BEVIN (R), KENTUCKY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve never been to
a cockfight, I don`t condone cockfighting. But here`s the thing, I`m not
going to disparage people for exercising their First Amendment rights. But
it`s interesting, when you look at cockfighting and dogfighting as well,
this isn`t something new. It wasn`t invented in Kentucky, for example. I
mean, the Founding Fathers were all actively involved in this, and always
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Washington, the well-known cock fighter.
On Tuesday, came in ahead by just 100 votes in a race to become the
GOP candidate for governor in the Blue Grass State, that`s the Kentucky.
The final outcome won`t be known for a few days.
So, here`s the question, by the way, Frank Mankiewicz, the late of
press secretary of Bobby Kennedy, he said, ignore everything a politician
says before the word but. Afterwards, he says not that I`ve ever been to
one of these things, but they`re as American as apple pie, cock fighting.
FINEMAN: Here on the farm report of HARDBALL. I was not, you know,
I`m going to --
MATTHEWS: I know you --
FINEMAN: Well, no, Perry and I -- Perry`s from Kentucky, I worked
there for five years. I was not surprised, because the Democratic Party is
slowly dying on the vine in Kentucky. Kentucky is always 20 years behind -
MATTHEWS: But you`ve got a Democratic governor?
FINEMAN: You have now, but he`s a country guy, he`s an old fashioned
southern Democrat of the kind that could get elected in Kentucky. Kentucky
has been trying.
MATTHEWS: So, they might go with this guy.
FINEMAN: They might go with this guy. And Mitch McConnell who is
trying to be a little more of a centrist lately up on the Hill is going to
swallow hard and go with this guy. The guy that he put forward a standard
traditional cookie cutter, blow dried Mitch McConnell type of southern
Republican. In Kentucky now, they`re going for the hard stuff. They`re
going for the hard stuff.
MATTHEWS: So, somewhere in China, the geniuses and Beijing politburo
are thinking of how they`re going to thump us, right? And while they`re
watching the news from the American politics, and they`re going they`re
electing a governor like a cockfighting enthusiast. What kind of crazy
people are they? They think Jesse Ventura a few years ago.
MILLIGAN: -- cynical an attitude about this, this is America, can you
always make a comeback. Just when you think you`re on the floor, you
completely screwed up, you can always come back.
MATTHEWS: So, you`ve seen enough cockfights to know they`ve turned
around in the last round? Seriously.
FINEMAN: The more you make fun of cockfighting, the more popular Matt
Bevin is in Kentucky.
MATTHEWS: OK. Bevin came from behind this week to make his points
with this ad. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Running for governor is supposed to be about leadership.
But Hal Heiner and James Comer are acting like children, throwing insults
and attacking each other. Kentucky can do much better. Matt Bevin is
running a positive campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Matt Bevin`s closest Republican rival said, "It`s
been the dirtiest campaign that I`ve ever witnessed in Kentucky history."
It looked like a dirty campaign, throwing food at each other.
Perry Bacon, you`ve been out there. You know more.
BACON: It`s been a rough campaign. One candidate is accused of
sexual battery, of attacking a woman. The other candidate highlighted
(INAUDIBLE). So, the attacks were real and about something really, it
wasn`t a food fight. This was a like a very serious debate.
MATTHEWS: So, the cleanest of the bunch is Matt Bevin?
BACON: The cleanest of the bunch was Matt Bevin, despite the
FINEMAN: By the way, he only won --
FINEMAN: He only won 33 or 34 percent. It wasn`t exactly a surge and
he stayed out of it. He cleverly -- wisely stayed out of the food fight of
MATTHEWS: A poll taken before Tuesday`s vote. Bevin got 36 percent
going head to head with Democratic nominee Jack Conway who got 42 percent.
So, the race is close, but Conway is a mainstream Democrat.
BACON: Howard`s right, the big point here is the Deep South has
become very Republican.
MATTHEWS: This isn`t the Deep South, it`s Kentucky.
BACON: I know. Kentucky voters are like the Deep South. So that`s
the key thing here. I mean, Beshear has done a great job. He`s very
popular. He`s very popular among Democrats and Republicans in Kentucky.
That said, he`s a Democrat from the rural area. Conway is a city
Republican. Remember Rand Paul blew him out in 2010.
MATTHEWS: Where was Kentucky in the civil war?
FINEMAN: Well, it stayed in the Union, but it -- it stayed in the
union and there was heavy battling and a lot of confederates. Kentucky is
the classic border state. And to get elected as a Democrat, it`s hard to
be from the city. It`s hard to be a graduate of Duke University.
MATTHEWS: This is how things have changed though.
Bill Clinton carried Kentucky a couple times.
FINEMAN: They love Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: So, things have changed in the Democratic Party`s ability
to reach Western Pennsylvania, which you know, the Appalachian areas, West
Virginia, those kind of places were Democrat. Not when we were growing up,
BACON: You know one name Bevin is going to use a lot is Barack Obama.
That`s what Jack Conway --
MATTHEWS: I wonder why.
BACON: You wonder why.
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman, thank you, Susan Milligan and Perry Bacon.
Great roundtable tonight. We talked about everything from
cockfighting to serious stuff.
When we return, let me finish tonight with something that truly
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with something that truly matters.
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once noted we are entitled to
our own opinions but not to our own facts. The fact that came forth here
last night was pure, clear and stunning. The leaders of our country led by
Vice President Dick Cheney led this country, bugled it into a war on a
claim we know now to have been confected by Mr. Cheney himself.
It was Cheney who told us, the American people, that Saddam Hussein
possessed nuclear weapons. It was he who sounded the bugle call of war, he
who convinced the skeptics that we had no choice but to invade, conquer and
occupy a country that had neither nuclear weapons nor a role in 9/11.
How do we know this? Well, you know what because the deputy director
of the CIA, the man who briefed the White House on a daily basis about Iraq
never once said that it possessed nuclear weapons. Never once. He made
that clear here last night.
So, the next time someone says that we made a mistake going into Iraq,
please correct that person, say yes, yes, some of us made a mistake
believing Dick Cheney, and the rest, and some of us believed him when the
vice president said Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. I guess we weren`t
smart or suspicious enough to imagine a tough person like him would make
something up just to get us into a war.
But the next time Dick Cheney or one of his crowd says going into Iraq
war was based on bad intelligence, say this: I don`t believe a word you
say. You took us into a war on evidence that didn`t exist, that no one
ever said existed. Go away and stop doing damage to a country I love.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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