updated 5/26/2015 9:27:28 AM ET 2015-05-26T13:27:28

Show: HARDBALL
Date: May 22, 2015
Guest: J.M. Berger, Jonathan Allen, Francesca Chambers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary Clinton, winter soldier.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in truly beautiful San Francisco.

And today, Hillary Clinton signed up for President Obama`s fight with the
Islamic State. Asked about the recent setbacks fighting ISIS, she said she
agrees with the president`s policies.

Meanwhile, the Republicans signing up to oppose her in 2016 are all
competing to show how much they`re like each other. Are they all suiting
up for the clown car?

Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The Washington
Post" and J.M. Berger is a Brookings Institute Fellow and co-author of
"ISIS: The State of Terror."

When President Obama was asked by "The Atlantic" if we`re losing the war
against ISIS, he said, No, I don`t think we`re losing. And I just talked
to our CENTCOM commanders and the folks on the ground. We`re eight months
into what we`ve always anticipated to be a multi-year campaign."

Well, today in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton threw her full weight behind
the commander-in-chief. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I
basically agree with the policy that we are currently following, and that
is American air support is available. American intelligence and
surveillance is available. American trainers are trying to undo the damage
that was done to the Iraqi army by former prime minister Maliki.

This has to be fought by and won by Iraqis. There is no role whatsoever
for American soldiers on the ground to go back, other than in the capacity
as trainers and advisers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`s so much in that answer, Gene. Give me your sense,
unpack it for us, what she was saying there.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she`s
basically saying no boots on the ground or no combat boots on the ground,
and she was more definitive on that than I might have expected her to be.

She said she basically agrees with Obama`s policy. That gives her some
wiggle room to disagree on some details, or if things really go south, to
say, Well, I actually would have done it this slightly different way.

But clearly, she has no sort of desire to wade into Iraq and says the
Iraqis have to do it.

MATTHEWS: J.M., what amazes me -- mostly, politicians -- to generalize --
tend to shift away from something that doesn`t look like it`s working. And
right now, it doesn`t look like our policy, our program of going after ISIS
is working with the fall of these cities like Palmyra and Mosul and the
rest of them.

What do you think of the -- what do you think of the president`s policy per
se in strategic terms? Do we have a strategy? Do we have a plan, or are
we just sort of holding it the best we can?

J.M. BERGER, INTELWIRE.COM: I don`t think we have a clear strategy. I
think we`re looking to make the optics of having an impact on this, but
we`re not really taking an aggressive stand on it. And it`s a complicated
equation. A lot of what we do, if we were to be more aggressive with our
air strikes, providing air cover, would be assisting the Syrian regime or
assisting the Iranian regime. So everything we do has kind of cascading
consequences.

I think that, you know, certainly, I would agree that we should not be
looking to put ground troops into this situation and -- and possibly that
we should not be trying to get deeper into it even from the air strikes
perspective.

MATTHEWS: Well, what would work against ISIS, anything?

BERGER: I think that this is a regional conflict. I think there`s going
to be -- unfortunately, that we`re going to have to see a reset of the
political systems in the Middle East before we see real change on this.

If we`re committed to doing air strikes, however, I think there`s more that
we can do. I think we can be more aggressive about, for instance, taking
out the roads in between key centers in ISIS territory. We could take out
their cell towers. We could take out the electricity -- a lot of stuff we
could do without necessarily incurring a lot of civilian casualties.

MATTHEWS: Well, while Hillary Clinton and the president are getting
together on ISIS policy, such as it is, the Republican Party is offering
what you might call a Whitman`s sampler on how to combat ISIS. Try these.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to arm the Kurds and
we need to use the Peshmerga as boots on the ground. They`re effective.
They`re ready. They`re our close allies.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would go one step
further. I would arm the Kurds, and I would also offer them a homeland.

JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I like the that idea Senator Corker
is talking about, about pushing -- creating a safe zone for the creation of
a Free Syrian Army, which we should have done three years ago, but begin
that process.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need so say that our objective is to
eliminate Bashar Assad, as well as ISIS in Syria.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Put together a coalition
of armed forces from regional governments to confront them on the ground
with U.S. special operations support, and then provide them logistical
support, intelligence support and the most devastating air support
possible, and you will wipe ISIS out!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Gene, it strikes me that these guys aren`t that, you know,
familiar with what they`re talking about. Fair enough, they`re
generalists, these politicians, and when they get into office, assumingly,
they`ll get some information.

But all of them are saying these nice things about the Kurds. Of course,
the Kurds are the least trouble of anybody in the region. They`re the most
Western-like people. They`ve always been loyal to us and be reasonable to
deal with, so you say how great they are, and then say, Let`s get rid of
Bashar Assad.

Is McCain still on the neocon wagon here? Does he have to go back and say
the same old stuff that the hard right on the neocon front always wants to
do, is knock off another Arab government?

They always seem to have one in their Pez machine. The next step, their
Pez -- let`s knock off one more. Let -- and we`ll get to Syria because
we`ve been to Libya and we`ve been to Iraq. Let`s go to one more. And
they always got one -- and of course, get -- to get to Iran eventually, to
get to the Persians. That`s all they ever want to do!

Why is McCain still on that wagon? We`ve learned it doesn`t work.

ROBINSON: Well, look, you know, the Assad regime is an odious regime.
It`s a brutal regime that uses chemical weapons on its own people -- a
horrible man, a horrible government. However, what he`s talking about is
what? The invasion of Syria, I imagine. I mean, we`re going to wade in
and we`re going to solve the Syrian civil war. And by the way, we`re also
going to bring peace to Iraq.

I mean, this is -- this is -- this is some sort of weird and dystopian
fantasy. And unless you`re talking about marshaling another couple hundred
thousand troops and doing another invasion of Iraq in Syria, I mean, how
are you possibly going to achieve what John McCain is talking about?

MATTHEWS: J.M., it seems like the ideologues who got us into Iraq are
continuing on this front. I mean, they`ve brought down regime change to
all these countries. Now they`re going for the last. That`s Bashar Assad.
How do we fight Bashar Assad and fight ISIS and basically begin to wage war
through bombing raids on their nuclear facilities, Iran?

I mean, how many fronts do these people want us fighting on, and is it
feasible for our -- even our grand army to take on that campaign?

BERGER: Well, I think it is a stretch to say that we can do all of these
things, or any one of them. I mean, I think that fundamentally, we have an
attribution problem in the Middle East. We`ve sort of allowed our allies
in the Middle East to rely on us to do the heavy lifting and different
kinds of military activities.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BERGER: Ultimately, I think that they`re going to have to take ownership
of what`s going on in the region and deal with it themselves. And we can
support them as allies, but I think that, you know, our fundamental problem
in the Middle East is that we take the blame for everything, and you know,
the solution for that is not to stage another invasion.

MATTHEWS: Well, J.M., here`s the question. Marco Rubio -- he`s a fairly
smart guy, and I keep thinking -- he`s certainly an exciting public
speaker. And I go, Wait a minute. Who wouldn`t like to see a grand army
of all the Arab nations, all the sort of the reasonable countries -- it`s
mostly Sunni, reasonable countries -- all getting together and having a big
army like in "Lawrence of Arabia" and raiding (ph) into ISIS and bringing
it down.

But even back in the Gulf war, when we had people helping us out -- the
Arab League was behind us in that with George Bush the first -- they never
had a big army of a coalition of Arab countries ever in the field in our
behalf.

What`s -- what`s the -- what is the precedent for a grand army of all these
countries coming in on our side against ISIS? Has it ever been done?

BERGER: I don`t think there`s a modern precedent. I`m sorry.

ROBINSON: No, I was just going to say T.E. Lawrence. I mean, that`s
basically the precedent that I can think of.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes, well, Anthony Quinn was leading one of those armies.

Anyway, thank you, J.M. Berger, and thank you, Eugene Robinson.

As bad as it looks for the ISIS effort -- anti-ISIS efforts by the
president, it doesn`t look like it`s a lot more bigger idea on the other
side of how to do it.

Coming up -- there`s an old saying, "Democrats fall in love, Republicans
fall in line," and it looks like the 2016 Republican presidential
candidates are falling all over each other to fall in line with the party`s
right wing, even if it means ditching earlier, more moderate positions.

Plus, two big stories on the equality front. First, the polls are closed
in Ireland today, and supporters are optimistic they`ve got the votes today
to pass an historic referendum legalizing same-sex marriage in Ireland, of
all places.

And meanwhile, here at home, the head of the Boy Scouts, former defense
secretary Robert Gates, the man who oversaw end of the military`s "Don`t
ask, don`t tell" policy, calls for an end to the ban on gay Scout masters.
That`s fascinating.

And look what happened when a president -- well, President Obama -- joined
Twitter this week. His critics came out, too, spewing racist vitriol.
That`s been underground, now it`s exposed.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is wild. For the first time in Gallup poll history,
there are now as many social liberals in this country as there are social
conservatives. According to Gallup, 31 percent of American adults say
they`re liberal on social issues, 31 percent say they`re conservative. And
that`s the highest percentage of social liberals and the lowest percentage
of social conservatives since Gallup began asking the question 16 years
ago.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you envision a world where with the right penalties
and waiting periods and meet the requirements, where those people could get
citizenship?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Sure. Yes. I mean, I think it makes
sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sure. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Wisconsin governor
Scott Walker in 2013, when he backed a path to citizenship for people who
come to this country illegally. Two years later, now the likely
presidential candidate sounds very different. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: I`m not talking about amnesty, and (INAUDIBLE) I said the reason
for that is, over time, I think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you`ve said you supported it.

WALKER: And my view has changed. I`m flat-out saying it. Candidates can
say that. Sometimes they don`t. I`m saying...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you`ve changed from 2013.

WALKER: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Walker denies he`s a flip-flopper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something
different. These are not votes that -- I don`t have any impact in
immigration as a governor. I don`t have any impact as a former county
official.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Walker`s move to the right on this, on
immigration, matches many of his fellow 2016 contenders shifting to the
right on education, on immigration, on national security and even on hating
Obama. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal once supported Common Core. Now
he`s a strong critic.

Back in 2013, Jeb Bush told conservatives not to be anti-science. Here he
was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Way too many people believe
Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-
worker, and the list goes on and on and on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And this week, he called people who say climate change is man-
made -- those who say it`s man-made are arrogant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The climate is changing. I don`t think the science is clear of what
percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. I just don`t --
it`s convoluted. And for the people to say the science has decided on this
is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It`s this intellectual
arrogance that now you can`t have a conversation about it, even.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In 2016, conformity seems to be key for Republicans. It`s the
old patterns, where Democrats fall in love and Republicans are now falling
in line.

Well, "The Washington Post`s`" Sean Sullivan wrote about the Republican
candidates` lurch to the right today, and David Corn is Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Let me start with David because I know you`ve got cultural views on the
Republican Party, as I do. And I just wondered, do you think there`s
something in them that says, Well, we all have to like golf and we all have
to watch the -- whatever, the Kentucky Derby, together and we all have to
dress the same way and we all have say the same phrases we have to use.

It`s a very conformist culture. Is that what`s going on here? Or is it,
Run for your life, we got to get as far right as possible because the
battle this year is over who hates Obama most?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you
pointed out what we used to call country club Republicans, which Jeb Bush
probably used to be the epitome of, and I don`t think that`s the problem
here.

I think the problem goes back to the Tea Party base. This Tea Party fever
has not burned itself out yet in the Republican Party, and I think everyone
is coming to the realization, those who are running for president in 2016,
that the only way they can win is by, you know, catering or courting or
pandering to that part of the party.

It was Jeb Bush only a few months ago who said that he might have to lose
the primary to win the general. In a lot of ways, that doesn`t make sense.
That`s not how the game is played. But basically, he was talking about
taking on some of the Tea Party assumptions and ideologies, and he clearly
has come to the conclusion that that`s not the way to get the nomination.

MATTHEWS: You know, Sean, it seems like everybody in the Republican Party
is running for president now is a hawk. You know, they all sound to the
right of Netanyahu, if that`s possible. They are all, it seems to me,
anti-science because nobody wants to be caught really believing in man-made
climate change. They don`t believe in Common Core, any kind of federal
role in stating standards for U.S. education, especially in middle school
and high school. They don`t seem to want to have any of that.

Do they -- are they allowed to disagree anymore, or is that just un-
Republican?

SEAN SULLIVAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think, on two main issues, I
mean, immigration and national security, which you mentioned, the party
itself has certainly moved to the right since the last presidential
election.

I mean, you know, after that election, after Mitt Romney`s loss, there was
a lot of talk in Republican circles about, Look, we`ve got to tackle
immigration reform. We cannot be doing this poorly among Hispanic voters.
But as we saw, that fell apart in Congress. And then you have President
Obama taking executive actions on immigration. That enraged the
conservative base, and I think you`ve seen Republicans move to the right on
that.

And we`re seeing something similar on national security, too. The kind of
anti-war, war-weary sentiment that we saw a few years ago is simply not
there anymore. It`s concerns about the Islamic State, it`s concerns about
terrorism have been on the rise.

Each of these Republicans, it seems like, is trying to one up the other one
and try to seem like the most hawkish, the most aggressive foreign policy
figure in this field. And they`re all trying to stand out. And what --
you know, what we`re seeing is a -- you know, a race to see who can be the
most aggressive. And we`re seeing that certainly play out in the rhetoric
on the campaign trail.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the upcoming debates in August and September are
going to be examples of anger management -- how angry can you be?

Anyway, every Republican contender with the exception of Rand Paul harbors
strong hawkish views and all have bashed the president`s diplomatic efforts
with Iran and talked tough on going after ISIS militarily. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Leading from behind is not a foreign policy. We need to re-engage
with the rest of the world, that our friends know that we`re not just here
this week or next, that we`re in it for the long haul, and our enemies need
to twitch a little bit. They need to fear us a little bit.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is heartbreaking to see Iraq
fall apart, and the only way I know to defend this nation is for some of
our soldiers to go back and partner with the Iraqis to stop ISIL before
it`s too late.

RUBIO: People ask what should our strategy be on global jihadists and
terrorists, I refer them to the movie "Taken." "We will look for you, we
will find you, and we will kill you."

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

WALKER: We need a president who`s going to back away from that deal in
Iran and set the record straight!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: And let there be no
doubt Israel will know, as will the whole world, that we are their trusted
friend, and the ayatollahs of Iran will know that hell will freeze over
before they get a nuclear weapon!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, a new poll -- a Pew poll should some light on the
atmosphere in the party -- in the Republican Party heading into 2016.
Three quarters of Republicans say they want their leaders in Congress to be
more confrontational toward President Obama.

Among Democrats, it`s a little different. Only 49 percent, slightly less
than half, say they want more confrontation.

So, it seems to me that the asymmetry in the parties is still there.
David, I know the Democratic Party moves left, but the Republican Party
seems like it`s become a right-wing party, and they are a right-wing party
on the most visceral basis. You have to be seen seething at President
Obama, seen that way.

CORN: I think asymmetry is a great word to use there, Chris, because I
think, for a while now, Democrats, even when they disagree with the
president sometimes, you know, don`t mind compromise, don`t mind him trying
to reach out to the other side.

They didn`t like all the compromises, say, when he tried to pass the
stimulus or some the compromises he made to get health care, but they kind
of accepted that as the cost of doing business. That`s how we work in a
two-party state and a divided government, while the Republican position has
increasingly become over the last seven, eight years, not let`s work
together, but let`s be more oppositional, more obstructionist than ever.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: And that makes it very hard for Jeb Bush or other people or Chris
Christie to come out and say, listen, I can get things done. I worked with
Democrats.

Republican voters doesn`t want to hear this. They want to vent. They want
their vote for a primary candidate to be an act of venting against Obama...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

CORN: ... who they seem to hate even as much, if not more so, than they
did when he came into office. It`s quite remarkable.

MATTHEWS: More moderate candidates like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are
going to have to share the debate stage with candidates willing to say
nearly anything to appeal to the base. How do you do nuance when this is
your competition? Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: I have been told that he said we`re living in a gestapo age.

What do you mean by that?

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean very much like Nazi
Germany. And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don`t
care about political correctness.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will tell you, the
most important tax reform, we should abolish the IRS.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything he does is against
what Christians stand for, and he`s against the Jews in Israel. The one
group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support
would be the Muslim community.

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: I heard Jeb
Bush the other day, and he was talking about people that come into this
country illegally, they do it for love. And I said, say it again. I
didn`t get -- that`s one I have never heard of before.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I have a lot. I have heard money. I have heard this. I have
heard sex. I have heard everything.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: The one thing I never heard of was love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Sean Sullivan. We will have you back. David Corn,
it`s always great.

CORN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Is Hillary Clinton surviving the storm over those
Benghazi e-mails? It looks like it. She is.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The U.S. State Department released nearly 300 of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails
today. Many were heavily redacted, as is customary with national security
issues, when they are involved.

Anyway, Secretary Clinton spoke about the e-mails today while campaigning
up in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m glad that the e-
mails are starting to come out. This is something that I have asked to be
done, as you know, for a long time, and those releases are beginning.

I want people to be able to see all of them, and it is the fact that we
have released all of them that have any government relationship whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton said she wants the State Department to
expedite the release of more of her e-mails.

And joining me right now from New Hampshire, actually Hampton up in New
Hampshire, is MSNBC`s Alex Seitz-Wald, who was out on the trail today with
Secretary Clinton.

Let me ask you generally, do you think she got some answers out, or is it -
- what, was it more of this muffling through, where the right ring and
other skeptics just keep asking questions, she keeps giving these answers,
but it never gets concluded?

ALEX SEITZ-WALD, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think with this, Chris, it
is never going to have a final conclusion.

This is going to fundamentally come down to whether you trust Hillary
Clinton or not. If you trust her, you think that she turned over all of
the e-mails that were work-related to the State Department like she said
and that everything is more or less above board, with maybe a little bit of
wiggle room in there.

If you don`t trust her, then she never turned over the e-mails, there`s
some cover-up going on, and that`s that. For her, this is fundamentally
the issue here. She`s been in the public eye for 30 years. People have
strongly developed opinions and it`s just difficult for that to change.

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton was asked today about her credibility,
her very credibility today. Let`s hear her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: But do you have a perception problem? Do most Americans -- many
Americans don`t believe that you told the truth on Benghazi.

CLINTON: Well, you know, I`m going to let the Americans decide that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, letting the Americans decide.

Here`s the question, I guess, you know, Alex following this thing. I get
e-mail on this from my friends of mine as well. And the question that
keeps coming up, was there a consistent line of what happened at Benghazi
that came out of the White House, came out of the secretary of state`s
office in the days after the horror over there, when those four Americans
were killed? Was it consistent?

SEITZ-WALD: Well, it certainly was not.

We know that the talking points that initially came out, that Susan Rice
went on the Sunday shows and said that this was a spontaneous attack that
grew out of a demonstration against that anti-Muslim film and then they
later changed that and said, no, this was actually a terror attack.

And in these e-mails, you can see Hillary Clinton with her aides making
sure that she never got on the wrong side of that issue, after it was
clarified, that she never said this was a spontaneous issue, she never said
it was -- she never blamed it on the attack.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SEITZ-WALD: There`s one of her aides who went back and looked at all her
statements to make sure that she was OK on that.

On September 27, so two weeks after the attack, and it`s an e-mail that has
draft talking points to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and almost the
entire thing is redacted. So people are wondering, you know, what was in
that e-mail? Why are we not being able to see it?

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Well, on September 24, three days before that, an e-mail written by her
deputy chief of staff outlined her public statement showing concern about
how she characterized the attack. It said -- quote -- "You never said
spontaneous or characterized the motives. In fact, you were careful in
your first statement to say we were assessing motive and method. The way
you treated the video in the Libya text was to say that some sought to
justify the attack on that basis."

Well, that`s a guy going back, but it still leaves open the question, why
was Susan Rice the one designated to go on the Sunday shows after that
attack, and why wasn`t Hillary Clinton the one to do it, since she was the
most -- one most well-positioned to give best estimate of what was going
on?

SEITZ-WALD: Well, I think this is a question that has been addressed.

They say that Hillary Clinton was not available to do the Sunday shows that
day. And it was essentially bad luck for Susan Rice to be the one to go
out there with the best available talking points at the time. These were
talking points that came from the CIA, that were what the administration
says was their best understanding of the situation at the time, and that
they didn`t realize that the talking points were wrong until later.

And, you know, Hillary Clinton essentially dodged a bullet by not being the
one to do that. And I have been told by people who have been involved in
the process, who were there at the time, that this was pretty standard
practice. Somebody would ask for Clinton. If she was unavailable, Susan
Rice was the backup.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, it didn`t quite work out well that way.

Anyway, Secretary Clinton has agreed to testify publicly before a special
committee on Benghazi, and on that point, a group of political insiders
from both Iowa and New Hampshire were polled, and 75 percent of Democrats
and 58 percent, a majority, of Republicans think it will be beneficial for
Secretary Clinton when she testifies on Benghazi.

Many of those insiders from both sides say the GOP may be overplaying their
political hand by hammering Clinton on Benghazi.

So, Alex, are they beating a dead horse?

SEITZ-WALD: Well, I think, you know, definitely Democrats think that, by
getting this out here, by getting her in front of the committee, testifying
in public, they will set a lot of questions at rest.

It`s the last bite of the apple, as one Clinton aide told me today, with
these e-mail. There will always be a segment of the conservative base that
this will be a live issue and there is nothing Hillary Clinton can do about
that to put their fears to rest.

But for that very narrow segment of undecided voters or for soft Democrats
who they still have to get to the polls, I think they feel pretty confident
that they can convince them that there was nothing untoward here.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well said.

Thank you, Alex Seitz-Wald, up there in New Hampshire.

Up next: Big changes could be coming to the Boy Scouts of America, as
former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the head of the Scouts, wants to
lift that ban on gay Scoutmasters.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
what`s happening.

President Obama has signed a measure giving lawmakers the chance to review
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And 28 workers were evacuated after a fire broke out on an oil-drilling
platform off New Orleans. No injuries have been reported -- back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The president of the Boy Scouts of America, former Defense Secretary Robert
Gates, yesterday urged the organization to end its ban on gay Scoutmasters.
Gates, who oversaw the end of the military`s don`t ask, don`t tell policy
back in 2010, addressed the issue in a speech yesterday.

And while he was careful not to inflame tensions over the BACON: , he
warned that change was inevitable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We must deal with the
world as it is, not as we might wish it would be. The status quo in our
members -- in our movement`s membership standards cannot be sustained.

If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that
could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational
belief and our duty to God and our focus on serving the specific needs of
boys. Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes.

The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend that
this challenge will go away or abate. Quite the opposite is happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this comes as something of a pivot for Gates, who last
year said he would not reopen the issue during his tenure as leader of the
Scouts, but he cited Indiana`s upcoming religious freedom law and the
upcoming Supreme Court decision on gay marriage as factors in his
reassessment.

Reaction among Scout leadership has -- was mixed, but, as one observer
noted, Gates has a lot of credibility as a leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONDO FEHLBERG, BOY SCOUT LEADER: There were a lot of people that were
looking at each other and going, what -- this is not what we expected.

But leaders lead. Bob Gates is used to leading. This is not a guy who is
used to sitting on the back seat and rubbing his hands and wondering what
to do next. He`s a leader, and he`s leading.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I like that guy.

Anyway, current policy allows gay Scouts, but bans openly gay adult
Scoutmasters.

We`re joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable, NBC News senior politics
reporter Perry Bacon, Francesca Chambers, political reporter with "The
Daily Mail," and Jonathan Allen of Vox, of Vox.

Let me start with -- and everybody jump in on this.

Perry, I was in the Scouts for years. I had the time of my life. I`m
going to talk about it at the end of the show. I especially liked the
chance, as a kid in your early teens, to spend time with adults almost on
an equal basis. We had some musicians, some smart intellectual guys. And
we would go away and work on Scout camp and things like that as service
volunteers. I loved it.

So, what do you think this ban possibly going?

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Bob Gates is
making a logical decision. Like, in reality, like, the way America is
headed, saying a person who is gay cannot do anything is just not being
tolerated in the future.

I think the Supreme Court ruling is moving -- going to move things in a big
direction. We will have gay marriage everywhere is my guess in the few
weeks. So, I think Bob Gates acknowledging what has happened, and you
can`t have anything that looks or seems like discrimination in today`s
America.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, "THE DAILY MAIL": Well, obviously, I have never been
in the Boy Scouts of America, but my husband actually did make it to the
rank of Eagle Scout.

And we have been having this discussion a lot. And one of the points that
he made to me is that a lot of Scouts are very conservative, religious
conservatives actually, that the Scout meetings are often held in churches.

So these are the same people who oppose same-sex marriage in the first
place, and it`s because it`s a deeply held religious conviction. So I`m
not sure that just because someone like Bob Gates says that they think that
they should be able to have gay Scoutmasters, that that is going to sway,
again, some of these very religious conservatives who are often involved in
the Scouts.

MATTHEWS: According to Secretary Gates himself, 70 percent of American Boy
Scout troops are sponsored by religious groups. And that`s a fact.

Jonathan, this is -- I guess this would require some sort of a deal where
local parishes or temples will get to decide. And I wonder how that would
work, up to each -- putting it up to each one what the rules are.

JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: It`s a complete morass.

And the thing is, it`s rooted in this stupid idea, in this concern that gay
Scoutmasters are somehow more likely to pass on being gay to Scouts or to
be child molesters, which is just an absurd calumny, an absurd lie that has
been perpetrated over the years against gay people.

And so it`s good to see the Boy Scouts moving forward. If the U.S. Army
can have gay service members openly serving, I don`t understand why the Boy
Scouts couldn`t.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, this does open up potentially because this -- not necessarily
increases the potential, but there are problems with molestation. There
was a case several years ago where someone brought the case against the
scout leader, and it was the national organization of scouts, Perry, that
had to pay. They were the ones with deep pockets.

I wonder about that whole question because my church has been a problem.
And you also have to ask yourself quite bluntly you don`t have male scout
masters of girl scouts. So, there has been a separation of the genders for
whatever traditional or real reason it`s been there.

PERRY BACON, JR., NBC NEWS: Yes. I think that`s what Gates was talking
about. He wants to, you know, have the scouts on their own, wants to keep
the traditional -- the way the process works, where the genders are
separate. He wants to keep that in place, but he doesn`t want to be
accused of discriminating against gays. So, he`s saying, if we lead on
this issue first and we allow gay scoutmasters, it won`t change the rest of
the boy scouts and keep it the way it is.

And I think there`s some logic to that`s. If they make this change now,
they won`t have to go to court over it and that will save them from a lot
of lawsuits that might more broadly change the Boy Scouts.

MATTHEWS: Francesca, your thoughts on that, you`ll seen that with the
Roman Catholic Church, the amazing costs encumbered by priests who misused
their authority over young boys. It`s a fact.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think we`ll
have to actually look to see what happens with the Supreme Court ruling
that`s coming down in a couple of weeks. If the Supreme Court decides that
gay marriage is constitutional, you know, it essentially becomes the law of
the land, then I think the Boy Scouts are very much going to be under the
gun to start changing their laws.

If the Supreme Court doesn`t rule that way, then it definitely gives them
several more years.

JONATHAN ALLEN, VICE CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And it`s clear, Chris,
that the Boy Scouts should be discriminating against child molesters, not
discriminating against people who are gay.

MATTHEWS: I know. I agree. In fact, I think that so much of life comes
down to not what your orientation is but how responsible you are as an
adult.

Anyway, the roundtable staying with us.

And up next, President Obama got on Twitter this week and the haters were
right there with him. This is disgusting, but it`s a portion of our
population. What you can do in the dark people do, and apparently these
people are going to get caught by the Secret Service.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The polls are closed in Ireland where voters could make history
by becoming the first country to approve same-sex marriage through public
referendum.

NBC`s chief global correspondent Bill Neely is in Dublin with the latest --
Bill.

BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, hello. The polls
have just closed here in Ireland, and all the indications are that there
has been a very, very big turnout for what is already an historic
referendum. Ireland is the first country in the world to put the issue of
same-sex marriage to its entire population, and there is a feeling here,
especially among young people, that Ireland is about to take another
historic step and allow gay marriage to be written into the Irish
constitution.

Ireland has had referenda in the past on social issues, sometimes very
bitter and divisive social issues such as divorce and abortion but never
before has any country put it to the entire population on gay marriage.
Ireland was an extremely conservative country 30 years ago, a country where
divorce, where abortion, where homosexuality was illegal. Those things
began to change in the 1990s, and the Catholic Church began to lose a lot
of its power as well, due largely to child sex scandals which involve
Catholic priests.

A lot of people turn their backs on the church, turn their backs on the
church teaching, and although the church today has been there for the last
week has been arcing for a no vote, no to same-sex marriage, a lot of
people simply aren`t listening to the church anymore. Pews are empty, and
they are deciding that Ireland should be a more liberal country. If the
opinion polls are to be believed, and we know on both sides of the
Atlantic, opinion polls have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, but
they were predicting before this vote that there would be a solid vote to
allow gay marriage.

Back to you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Bill Neely, over in Dublin. We`re going to get those
results from Ireland tomorrow.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable, Perry, Francesca and Jonathan.

Well, President Barack Obama officially joined Twitter as we know on Monday
and quickly set a world record by attaining 1 million followers within five
hours.

His Twitter debut also enlisted an onslaught of hateful reaction from his
enemies. Among the most hostile were tweets containing racial epithets, as
well as not-so-subtle threats to the president`s life.

And here`s an example: "The New York Times" pointed out today, quote, "One
person posted a doctored image of Mr. Obama`s famous campaign poster,
instead showing the president with a head in his noose, his eyes close and
his neck appearing broken as he had been lynched, as if he had been lynched
instead of the word "hope" in capital letters as it appeared on campaign
posters the doctored image had the word rope. It`s like the kind of gross
racist graffiti you often find on a wall of men`s rooms.

Anyway, while trolling is an invariably downside of the Internet, where
users can hide behind the veil of anonymity, the vitriol here was
inflammatory enough to warrant a question at yesterday`s White House
briefing. Here`s what Press Secretary Josh Earnest had to say about this
stuff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those kinds of images and that
kind of language is, you know, all too common on the Internet. I`m sure
that some of you guys see that on your Twitter feeds as well and my guess
is we spend a lot of time trying to block those kinds of message, we
probably spend a lot of time blocking people on the Internet. So, again, I
-- I`ll let the secret service speak to what sort of threat they may -- how
they assess these threats and how seriously they need to take them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as "The Washington Post" reports, not only does the Secret
Service already monitor Twitter for threats, but the White House is
archiving each and everything that POTUS, actually the president, twitters
say, actually people who respond to them.

Anyway, I want to go back to Francesca Chambers on this. Francesca and
everybody else here -- you know, I think when you watch C-SPAN, Steve
Scully, anytime there`s an unfiltered way for people to talk, they say the
most amazing things. They can be anti-Semitic, they can be anti-black.
It`s amazing what the certain segment of this country is quite willing to
have its voice say.

CHAMBERS: Well, and it`s not just the president. It`s any elected leader.
Heck, it`s even people in the media, people on television.

I honestly cannot say on air some of the things that have been said about
me on Twitter after appearances like this one. I mean, I myself have had
some really, really horrible things said by people who don`t -- you don`t
even know me. So, I just think there is a huge segment of the population
out there who is going to say these sorts of things about people regardless
of whether it`s the president and it`s discouraging and, you know, it`s
awful.

ALLEN: For social media is such a hateful place sometimes, people are so
angry and, you know, I don`t -- I don`t personally pretend to understand
it. I think what Josh Earnest was saying today is a little bit reminiscent
of the 2008 campaign. I think the Obama campaign was getting hit with a
lot of -- with racism and some vandalism and campaign offices. They tried
to play it down temporarily. I think that`s probably the right thing to
do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, what are trolls? I want you to tell me what a troll
is. Is that the kind of person that waits for, you know, Gene Robinson or
somebody to write a column, or you to write a column and then they just
immediately go in and attack whatever comes up, just to get on that list of
comments? Just to use the person`s thoughtful column to get their face in
there?

ALLEN: That`s right. A troll is somebody who just runs around trying to
disrupt other folks, trying to mess up what they`ve done, trying to --
well, to troll them because it`s now a verb.

MATTHEWS: Perry, let me ask you about the first lady. When she`s appeared
lately, and said things down at Tuskegee about her concern is probably a
stronger word for it about this racism that`s so redolent in the country.
I wonder if it`s because she knows about the Secret Service information
about the president, if she knows what warnings they`ve gotten, what
threats they`ve gotten, that have been seen now in these Twitter comments,
these tweets?

BACON: Yes, I think they do know. I remember doing the `08 campaign.
Michelle Obama had to reassure people who were worried that the president
would get shot if he ran for president the way MLK was. I know she told
people security is good, he`s going to be safe. That is true and that is
something black people were particularly worried about.

I don`t want to overemphasize. I mean, President Obama has now won two
elections. He`s one of the most admired people in the country. There`s a
small fraction of people saying these really bad things, I would say, with
a much larger -- we`ve seen a great racial change in the last six years
that have been very positive, accepting having a black president.

So, I don`t want to overemphasize a few tweets over this much bigger,
broader positive change.

CHAMBERS: Well, I think there`s also so much attention placed on the
president, you know, and I think that`s part of the season that we`re
seeing this. Again, it`s not that this has happened to other politicians
or other people in the media, you know, public figures on a daily basis at
the same, I would say, level of vitriol. I think people are just noticing
this more because it is the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Do people ever do it to you in person, Francesca, because of
your appearances on TV, or is it always the secret messaging?

CHAMBERS: No, these people would not say these things. That`s the point.
Because they`re able to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, they`re
able to say all kinds of really hateful things. Now, sometimes actually I
respond to some of these things, you know, try to make them feel bad about
it.

And it`s kind of interesting sometimes to see the responses back.
Sometimes, people will even apologize and say, oh, gosh, I didn`t expect
you to respond. That`s such kind of a rare. Sometimes they actually do.

ALLEN: I don`t think anybody would have the courage to go say that to
Francesca`s face.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I got to say, Jonathan, over the years, I`ve had -- I`ve had
people say things to me that very much reflect their secret motives and
hatreds. So, they are -- start a fight of some kind. But I don`t think
anybody is afraid, but there`s an anger out here.

I want to finish up here, Perry. There`s an anger. You put the anger over
just the way people are today. They`re angry about something. Maybe it`s
the middle class squeeze or something economic. But you put together angry
like they`ve been cut off the highway in some way and they go after their
ethnicity.

It seems to be a compounding thing for these trolls.

BACON: And they`re having a good life and the Internet empowers them in a
way that -- you know, Twitter has only existed for seven or eight years.
So, you really have this anonymity one and you have this anger, too, and
you have people sit at their computers who would never come up to Obama`s
face or anybody else`s face and say these things. Now, the courage behind
their computer, they`re showing the courage of their mom`s basement is what
we`re seeing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, the old way of communicating --

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: I was going to say, could you imagine someone saying this to
someone`s face, to the president`s face. Could you imagine if these people
actually met the president? They would not say this to their face.

MATTHEWS: They used to send them out in these thin envelopes with no
return address on them, like the airmail address, really thin envelopes.
They would scratch it out in handwriting and it wasn`t very good
handwriting. They would say then what they thought. I used to get them in
the old days, anyway, when I was writing a column.

Anyway, thank you, Perry Bacon, Francesca Chambers and Jonathan Allen.
Great to have you on. Have a nice weekend, everybody.

Let me finish, by the way, tonight with the joy of scouting. Boy Scout
really is a good thing.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with Bob Gates` push to end the ban on gay
scout masters. I hope we can work this out in a way that keeps scouting a
vital force in this country. Some of my best times growing up were in
treasure island, the historic Boy Scout camp on the Delaware River between
Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Those weeks up there fill me with memories of
parade ground, of fun and games in the dining hall, of canoe trips and
campfires and father`s night when the dads came up to visit.

I had a special advantage in those years as a member of the Order of the
Arrow, the Scout honor society and service organization. I got to spend
weekends working at camps during the off season. It was a chance for older
scouts like us to spend time as equals with young men who had kept up their
interest in scouting. There was nothing like good work to bring people
together.

I`m hoping the men of goodwill will find a way to keep scouting alive and
bring good men in the door to keep going what was for me a great part of
growing up, Scout`s honor.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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