updated 8/14/2015 9:05:30 AM ET 2015-08-14T13:05:30

Show: HARDBALL
Date: August 13, 2015
Guest: Adolfo Franco, Larry Sabato, Anne Gearan, Janell Ross, Anne Gearan,
Cornell Belcher, Janell Ross

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: It`s come to this, the Republican Party`s
biggest dove has gone to war with Donald Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

Grab some popcorn because we begin tonight with the must-see TV of
this election, the bomb-throwing and fireworks from the latest assault on
the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Two of the party`s biggest
hawk, Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham, tangoed (sic) with Trump, and their
campaigns went nowhere.

Now you have the biggest dove in the Republican Party, Rand Paul, who
finds himself struggling in the polls, going to war with everything he`s
got.

Here we go. After slamming Trump as a fake conservative, Paul`s
campaign put this ad on line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: In many cases, I probably identify
more as a Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care.

TRUMP: A liberal on health care. We have to take care of people that
are sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Universal health coverage.

TRUMP: I like universal.

Hillary Clinton I think is a terrific woman. I mean, I`m a little
biased because I`ve known her for years. I think she really works hard,
and I think she does a good job. And I like her. She`s a really good
person (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, Trump responded with a lengthy diatribe against Paul.
He first fired back at the charge that he`s a conservative phony, saying,
"Unless you are a piece of unyielding granite, over the years, positions
evolve, as they have in my case."

Then Trump threw in this bit of macho talk. He said, "Recently, Rand
Paul called me and asked me to play golf. I easily beat him on the golf
course and will even more easily beat him now in the world of politics.
After trouncing him in golf, I made a significant donation to the eye
center with which he is affiliated. I feel sorry for the great people of
Kentucky, who are being used as a back-up to Senator Paul`s hopeless
attempt to become president of the United States."

And it gets stranger. Paul`s campaign strategist responded to that by
defending his boss`s honor and his golf handicap. Quote, "While he
appreciates Donald`s golf skills, I will note that the game was on his home
course that he plays often." He also escalated the battle Trump saying,
quote, "He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and
getting attention for foolish statements and bluster."

Now, as this back-and-forth is playing out, Rand Paul is at a town
hall in New Hampshire attacking and also impersonating Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we have now people
up there who say such profound things as, You`re stupid. You`re fired!
You`re a pig. You look terrible. You only have half a brain.

And then when you respond with an argument, it`s, like, You`re stupid!

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Or my favorite is, You know the reason I tell women they`re
ugly is because I`m so good-looking.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Everybody knows I`m good-looking, right? Another one is, You
know, I must be smart. I`m rich.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: I`m rich. I`ve got to be smart, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Michael Steele was RNC chairman, David Corn is Washington
bureau chief with "Mother Jones," and Joan Walsh is editor-at-large with
Salon. All are MSNBC political analysts.

Well, Michael Steele, let me start with you.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: I mean, let`s just -- let`s talk about the theatrics of it.
Right, it`s your party. You got a front row seat for this, so...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Let`s talk about the theatrics, though, because that`s what
this is really about. You got Rand Paul there impersonating Donald Trump.
You see the indictment he`s trying to make. You got Donald Trump hitting
him back as hard as he probably can. Who`s winning battle?

STEELE: Well, you know, I don`t know if there`s a real battle here,
to speak of. You know, Donald Trump is just doing his thing. Rand Paul
is, I think at this point, trying to lob a few bombs at him.

But I just -- I think that`s a little bit misplaced right now. I
don`t think that is really the level of engagement that you want because it
just draws us into another round of silly.

I think that, you know, candidates like Rand Paul who are stuck in the
middle of the pack have been trying to make that move up. You just got to
get on the table with something fresh, and I don`t think that something
fresh is necessarily going after Donald Trump.

He relishes in this. You know, he can lob back, Oh, yes, I played
golf with him and I beat him, you know? And he feels like that`s scoring a
point, where the broader point should be, How are you going to defeat ISIS?
How are you going to grow the economy? How are going to you make this
country whole again, particularly where there are gaping holes in wealth
disparity and income disparity.

So I think, you know, that`s a better approach. But you know, you got
to do what you got to do, I guess.

KORNACKI: But Joan, I mean, does Rand Paul have to do this? I wonder
because we`ve seen all these attacks that Paul and other Republicans have
tried against Donald Trump. They haven`t worked. He is not the first one
to bring up Donald Trump`s comments about single-payer health care...

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

KORNACKI: ... Donald Trump`s comments about the Clintons before.
This stuff has not been sticking. Donald Trump comes back with that
statement. And it really seems when you strip it all away, whenever Donald
Trump gets into these fights, it`s this supposedly independent outsider
businessman fighting against politicians and telling the politicians to go
screw, and the base loves that!

WALSH: Right. And you know, I`ve got to say, Senator John McCain
said it best, you know, you don`t have a mud fight with the pig. I`m not
going to go any further than that, but you know, it`s an old expression.

And I think Rand Paul is seeing that he can`t win this, but he`s
fighting back. I mean, look, what grade are we in? When you`re reduced to
mocking someone and imitating their voice, it`s pretty -- it`s pretty
silly.

But I just want to take issue with one thing Michael said, which is,
look, I don`t really love Rand Paul, but he has tried to run a campaign of
ideas. He has tried to do some different things around intervention. He
has tried to reach out to the African-American community -- not very
successfully.

I can critique the things that he`s done and said, but he is the one -
- I think this is part of why he`s mad. He`s the one who`s given thought
to maybe putting together a new coalition and bringing new voters into the
Republican Party, but instead, he`s getting beaten by this guy with zero
ideas.

KORNACKI: Yes, no, he was the -- he was the big story a year ago,
cover of "Time" magazine, "most interesting politician in America."

WALSH: Right.

KORNACKI: Thunder completely stolen by Donald Trump.

Well, starting with last week`s debate out there in Cleveland, Paul
has made attacking Trump his Alamo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Here`s what`s wrong. I mean, this is what`s wrong. He buys
and sells politicians of all stripes. Hey`s already...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Paul...

PAUL: Hey, look -- look, he`s already hedging his bet on the
Clintons, OK? News flash. The Republican Party`s been fighting against a
single-payer system...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK...

PAUL: ... for a decade. So I think you`re on the wrong side of this
if you`re still arguing for a single-payer system.

TRUMP: I`m not -- I`m not -- I don`t think you heard me. You`re
having a hard time tonight.

PAUL: We are kidding ourselves to even consider someone who is such a
chameleon that he`s been on every side of every issue. Wake up, America!
Wake up (INAUDIBLE)

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: So if you want to elect somebody who says people are bleeding
or stupid or pigs, go right ahead. But I want to fix country.

I really think he`s a fake conservative. I don`t think he`s
consistently been anything in his life, other than a promoter of himself.
So people have to really listen to him and decide what he really stands
for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: All right, David Corn, I don`t know exactly what it is. I
can`t put my finger on it totally, tone of voice, attitude, body language,
something. But I`m watching that exchange back there in Cleveland. Rand
Paul is hitting Donald Trump on things that should hurt a Republican in a
debate. But I look at that exchange, and I say Donald Trump just won that
thing hands down.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump in
a lot of ways is bulletproof because whatever you say about him, he says,
You`re wrong. I gave you money. Now get away from me. And he -- your
facts are wrong, you`re stupid, you`re ugly. And his crowd, that 10 to 25
percent, maybe 30 percent of the Republican base who wants to hear someone
venting outrage at anybody, goes, yes, man. They don`t even care what he
says!

So if you put him in that position and give him the chance to fire
back that way, you`re only helping him. I mean, these attacks are not
about Donald Trump, they`re about Rand Paul. He wants to get in the mix.
He wants people to talk about him like we`re talking about him tonight, and
the only way he can do that is by venting in frustration against Donald
Trump.

He`s not scoring any points against him, and he won`t. Nobody can
because Trump doesn`t care. And I think a lot of his voters -- well, they
haven`t voted yet, but a lot of people who like him in the polls don`t
care, either.

So the problem the Republican Party is going to -- has, is what do you
do with this 20 percent block of Trump -- you know, Trump-ites who don`t
really care about policy, they care about venting, passion, attitude, and
can`t be persuaded otherwise?

KORNACKI: Yes, well, like David`s saying, Rand Paul finds himself
struggling for air in this race. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll out
in Iowa, he pulls just 5 percent of likely caucus goers. That puts him
back in seventh place.

And in New Hampshire, the latest polling has Paul at just 6 percent.
That is a decline of 7 points just since March. And nationally, it is the
same story. The NBC/Survey Monkey poll taken after that debate has Paul
with just 6 percent support. That is good enough for just eighth place.

And Michael Steele, I mean, I think the risk for Rand Paul is real
simple. If what Donald Trump is tapping into here is anger at the
political system and disgust with anybody who`s a politician, what Rand
Paul is doing here looks like something a politician would do.

He reads the polls. He sees who the front-runner is. He sees who he
needs to take down, and he starts coming up with these calculated attacks.
It looks like -- it almost plays into Donald Trump`s hand.

STEELE: Right. And that`s precisely why I made the point I made.
And I accept whole-heartedly what Joan said about what Rand Paul has done
up to now.

So my point is, do more of that, only bigger. All of that energy and
anger and frustration that you`re venting at Trump, put it out on the
street in terms of how you want to lead and why you want to lead. Yes, you
can make the sidebar to reference to Trump, but to do the one-on-one
engagement, I think, to David`s point -- he doesn`t care, number one,
Trump.

And number two, it just draws you into a rabbit hole that is tougher
and tougher to get out. There`s been nothing shown so far that anything
with regard to attacks leads to an uptick in your poll numbers when it
comes to Donald Trump. So you`ve got to figure out a different way, which
is why I think you see for the majority of these folks, laying back and
leaning away from Donald Trump at this stage, as they get ready for the
second debate, because there is no up side to engaging him directly.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Joan, that`s the other threat that the Republicans
face here from Donald Trump, right, is if you go after him, if they all
gang up on him, he`s said if he thinks this process isn`t fair, he runs
third party.

WALSH: Right.

KORNACKI: And this is -- the polls are clear on this. Third party
Trump hurts the Republicans.

WALSH: Right. Absolutely. And look, we also saw somebody else kind
of go up against Donald Trump this week and lose, and that`s Megyn Kelly.
You know, Megyn Kelly did a great job at that debate. She did her job.
She was a tough moderator.

And you know, the Fox audience turned against her when she was, you
know, really a very popular anchor. I know any time I criticize Megyn, my
Twitter feed was full of people attacking me. So it`s a bit little bit
scary, the extent to which they could -- they can turn on someone who`s
really an icon, and it kind of looks like Roger Ailes backed Trump in that
battle, so she`s going on an unscheduled vacation.

So that`s got to be scary for the other candidates. They don`t really
have the cache of Megyn Kelly. So you know, why are they going to go up
against Trump?

KORNACKI: Yes, I -- I think that is such an important point because I
think when we talk about these Donald Trump poll numbers, everybody is
always saying, Hey, you know, Herman Cain was at the same place four years
ago. We`ve seen this before.

STEELE: Yes.

WALSH: Right.

KORNACKI: Herman Cain did not stare down Fox News and win. This is
something new and this is something different.

We`re out of time here, unfortunately, but Michael Steele, David Corn,
Joan Walsh, thanks for joining us.

STEELE: You got it, man.

KORNACKI: And coming up on the show, Donald Trump unveils his eagerly
awaited plan to fight ISIS. He wants to, quote, "knock the hell out of
them and take their oil." That`s it. That`s the plan, and it`s far from
the only style-over-substance proposal we`ve heard from the Donald.

Plus, with Trump dominating the headlines, Hillary Clinton`s
struggling and Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic alternative to her.
Is Vice President Joe Biden now getting serious about jumping into the
race?

And all the Republican candidates are talking about defunding Planned
Parenthood, but only Ben Carson has gone so far to accuse the organization
of trying to, quote, "control" the African-American population in this
country. That`s coming up with tonight`s "Roundtable."

And finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my first lesson in political
polarization over a president who deserves better than he gets from either
the right or the left.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The Iowa State Fair has begun, and with it comes the
Soapbox. Eighteen presidential candidates will flock to the "Des Moines
Register" event. They`ll each have 20 minutes to sell their candidacy and
take questions from voters and hecklers, too. Perhaps the Soapbox`s most
famous exchange came back in 2011 with this Mitt Romney moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: If we are ultimately,
not just this year but over the coming decades, going to be able to balance
our budget and not spend more than we take in, we have to make sure that
the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are promises
we can keep.

And there are various ways of doing that. One is we could raise taxes
on people. That`s not the right...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations! Corporations!

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on --
of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to
people. So where do you think it goes?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People`s pockets. OK, human
beings, my friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not confirmed
Soapbox appearances this week, but both plan on going to the Iowa fair.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`ve got more on Donald Trump.
At times, the Republican front-runner talks about his policy positions the
way a good Hollywood movie trailer deals with plot. He teases out crumbs
of information without spoiling the good stuff, the stuff he promises will
be spectacular.

For example, what`s his policy to take on ISIS? Well, black in May,
Trump only offered this spoiler-free promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I do know what to do, and I would know how to bring ISIS to
the table, or beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly. And I`m not going to
tell you what it is tonight.

If I run, and if I win, I don`t want the enemy to know what I`m going
to do. All I can tell you is that it is a foolproof way of winning. And
I`m not talking about what some people would say, but it is a foolproof way
of winning the war with ISIS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And this week, Trump gave more information. He said we
should, quote, "Go in, knock the hell out of them and take their oil."

On issue after issue, however, he has played coy when it comes to
specifics. For example, here`s what he said this week about replacing
"Obama care."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So "Obama care" is no good, doesn`t work. One of the first
things I`d do if I get elected, end "Obama care" and do something really
good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And here`s what he told Mika Brzezinski Monday when she
asked him about the issue of equal pay for women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: All I can say is on women`s issues and women`s health issues,
there will be nobody better than Donald Trump. But I`ll be coming out with
some policy on that, and I will be making it in the future. I just don`t
want to discuss it now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And when it comes to his tax plan, Trump had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I know exactly what I want to do. I just don`t want to
announce it yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, despite all of this vagueness, Republican voters seem
to like his approach. A new CNN/ORC poll of Republican caucus goers in
Iowa finds Trump doing better than any other Republican candidate on the
question who they think would best handle the economy, illegal immigration,
even terrorism.

I`m joined by author Ron Reagan, an MSNBC political analyst, and
Adolfo Franco, a former adviser to John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Well, yesterday on Fox News, Trump elaborated on his plan to fight
ISIS by taking their oil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now you have ISIS -- and others -- but you have ISIS cutting
off Christians` heads, and others`. They cut off anybody`s head. They`re
drowning them. They`re cutting off their heads. We have to go in with
force. We have to take the oil.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You`re going on surround the perimeter.
You`re going to take the oil. What else do you got to do to stop ISIS?

TRUMP: That will be the beginning of the end because that cuts off
the money. That cuts off the head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, Ron, look, a lot of people can laugh at Donald Trump
here and say, Look, he`s not being specific. He`s saying things that will
not match up with reality.

But there is a real appeal to what he`s doing, I think. We`ve seen it
before, the idea of the tough guy, people investing in the idea of the
tough guy who`s going to solve problems. I always think back to Richard
Nixon. He had the secret plan to end the Vietnam war. He wouldn`t tell
anybody, but people bought into the idea that Richard Nixon`s the guy who
can do it.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Richard Nixon, for all his many,
many flaws, was a far more substantive character than Donald Trump is.

The question the Republican Party has to ask themselves here, we can -
- we can talk about Donald Trump`s -- quote, unquote -- "policies" here.
But really I would hate to waste time talking about what is basically
nonsense.

But the question the Republican Party has to ask themselves is, why is
a quarter of their electorate taken by this guy, by this carnival barker
who appears to know nothing about anything and to have not thought anything
about any issues?

It is a problem, and it is a problem of the Republican Party`s making.
They have dumbed down their party over the year to such an extent that, at
this juncture, 25 percent of Republicans seem to think that Donald Trump
has a thought in his head, which he does not.

KORNACKI: When it comes to immigration, Trump has said he will build
a wall across the border with Mexico and then make the Mexican government
pay for it. He elaborated in an interview with FOX News last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": How do you make them pay for the wall,
as you have said?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So easy. Will a politician
be able to do it? Absolutely not.

You know, it`s funny. I watch some of the shows, and including your
show. And I watch these guys. You can`t get them to pay for -- we give
them tens of billions of dollars a year. They are ripping us left and
right. Their leaders are so much smarter than our leaders, Sean. They are
ripping us left and right. The wall is peanuts.

HANNITY: So, through a tariff, whatever means necessary, you`re going
to say, if you want to do business with the U.S....

TRUMP: Absolutely. We`re not paying for it.

HANNITY: You want to do business, you`re going to help us with this?

TRUMP: Do you know how easy that is? They will probably just give us
the money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And it might not be as easy as Trump states, at least
according to the Mexican government. A spokesman for the Mexican president
told Bloomberg -- quote -- "Of course it`s false. It reflects an enormous
ignorance for what Mexico represents and also the irresponsibility of the
candidate who is saying it."

Well, Adolfo, let me ask you about this. And maybe pick up on what
Ron was saying just a minute ago. He`s saying, look, the question, as
Trump says all this stuff and a quarter of the electorate responds to it,
so let`s take this as an example. He talks about getting Mexico to pay for
a wall. I haven`t heard one credible person say it is at all possible that
he is going to be able to do that.

What is about it that message, though, that is connecting with that
chunk of the Republican base?

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the problem is the
following, that a lot of people are very frustrated with conventional
politicians, I think, of both parties.

So, when they hear these simple statements and solutions, they embrace
them, that`s what we need to do, without filling in the blanks. I really
believe this to be a temporary and really a notional situation. And we
have seen it in the past with -- have been either third-party candidates or
opposition candidates such as Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan and others.

I understand there`s a little dynamic that is a little bit different
with Donald Trump, also the reality TV component of it. But, ultimately,
when voters and activists participate in this process, despite this
frustration, I don`t think these numbers will be sustained anywhere near
where they are today.

I don`t really believe they`re really actually real, Steve, because I
think this is just a manifestation of a discontent with not only the
policies of President Obama, but the inability of the Republican Party to
put the brakes on the agenda as it has moved forward, particularly during
the second term, when the president has been quite aggressive.

KORNACKI: Well, Trump also has big plans for dealing with Iran.
Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Let me go back to Iran. You said, "They will do what I tell
them."

How do you make them do what you say?

TRUMP: They will know I`m not playing games. By the time I get
there, they will be very rich, because Obama will have given them all of
these many billions of dollars, et cetera.

I study contracts. No matter how bad this contract is, I will make
this contract be enforced to such an extent that they will not be able to
do it. And then I will do things that you won`t believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Ron, I mean, this gets to something else we have seen
before in political history, the appeal of the businessman, the savvy
cutthroat businessman who is going to deal with Iran in a way none of these
dumb politicians know how to.

There is a populist strain that resonates with that, isn`t there?

REAGAN: Well, there is, and particularly on the right, particularly
in the Republican Party.

I don`t disagree with Adolfo when he was saying that people are,
generally speaking, on the right and the left, Democrats and Republicans,
fed up with government and politics as it is being practiced now, fed up
with the money in politics in particular.

But it is a little too easy, with all due respect here. There is a
reason that Donald Trump is running as a Republican and not as a Democrat.
He could not get traction as a Democrat. No matter what he was saying,
even if he was sort of spouting off and trying to sound like Bernie
Sanders, or Hillary Clinton, for that matter, Democrats would not give him
the time of day.

But Republicans, at least a quarter of them, do give him the time of
day. And that, again, is a question the Republican Party has to deal with
here. Why is it that this complete charlatan, this guy who has no clue in
terms of foreign policy or, frankly, economic policy either, why is it that
so many of our constituents find him attractive? It is a good question
they need to answer.

KORNACKI: All right, we are out of time in this segment,
unfortunately.

But, Adolfo Franco, Ron Reagan, thank you both for joining us.

FRANCO: OK. Thanks, Steve.

REAGAN: Sure.

KORNACKI: And up next, are Iowa Democrats concerned about the Hillary
Clinton e-mail story? We will get a report from the Iowa State Fair.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Hillary Clinton has a strong lead with Democratic voters in Iowa,
according to a new poll. Half of all likely caucus goers there are in her
corner.

But even with that good news, the Clinton campaign is having to battle
back against continued attacks about the security of a private e-mail
server she used while secretary of state. This week, Clinton ordered her
aides to turn the servers and thumb drives containing her work-related e-
mails over to the Justice Department, this amid concerns there could have
been classified information on those drives.

Also this week, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook sent a memo to
supporters saying they have got the situation under control. And the
campaign spokesperson circulated this reminder yesterday -- quote -- "To be
clear, there is absolutely no criminal inquiry into Hillary`s e-mail or e-
mail server. Any and all reports to that effect have been widely
debunked."

But the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, isn`t waiting for the results
of any investigation to be completed. He had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think she`s committed a crime.

The problem that she -- that let`s say everybody has, in terms of
finding out, you have Democrats are all the prosecutors, and they don`t
want to prosecute it. Did she commit a crime? Yes. Will they prosecute
it? Perhaps no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Clinton heads to Iowa for more campaigning tomorrow.

And joining me now is NBC correspondent Kelly O`Donnell, who is at the
Iowa State Fair, and Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at
the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Well, Kelly, let me start with you with the question, what is Hillary
Clinton walking into tomorrow when she comes to Iowa? We have that poll
this week that suddenly has her down in New Hampshire. It`s a 19-point
lead in Iowa. That is good, but it is not great when you`re running
against a guy who isn`t even a Democrat. Now we got this e-mail story.
Are Democrats out there nervous about her right now?

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, historically, the Clintons
have had some trouble with Iowa, but she will be here tomorrow.

And one of the questions will be, will she participate in what is
known as the soapbox here? It`s a place where candidates stand on a bale
of hay and talk about their ideas and take some questions. She did it back
as a candidate in `07. She is not scheduled to do that tomorrow. But will
she change her mind? She has got other events here in Iowa. She will be
visiting with folks.

And I just spoke to Martin O`Malley, former governor of Maryland. He
did the soapbox. I asked him if the Clinton e-mail issue opens up a lane
for him. And he said that he thinks that people are actually hungry for an
alternative here in Iowa, and so he is here trying to fill that space, as
is Bernie Sanders.

The fair is one of those places where you get all of that Americana,
all the scents and sights of summer and politics mixed in. And so Clinton
will get a reception here that will certainly reflect both the favorable
status that she has for many Democrats, the strong Democratic Party here,
as well as the nature of the fair, where there are hecklers, where there
are people who will ask tough questions. It is part of what makes the Iowa
process so interesting.

KORNACKI: Kelly O`Donnell in Des Moines, Iowa, with my dream
assignment with all that deep-fried food behind you. Enjoy your time out
there.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

KORNACKI: Turn now to -- let`s turn now to Larry Sabato to talk about
some of the fallout from this.

And, Larry, I wonder, what do you -- this story is -- in one way, this
is a dense and granular story. It is very difficult to follow the details.
You have an inspector general who is out there saying, look, there`s some
classified information in these e-mails shouldn`t have been there. You
have the State Department saying, look, that actually could have been
retroactively classified, nothing wrong it actually popped up in her e-
mail.

How do you think this is translating to people who casually follow
this stuff?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS:
How it`s translating, Steve, listen, most -- this is going over the heads
or under the bodies of the vast majority of people, except those who are
paying close attention.

And we know, from a number of surveys and from historical patterns,
that only about 20 percent of the American public is actually paying close
attention to the presidential race. In other words, 80 percent are sane.
And 20 percent are spending their time in the summer before the
presidential year, including you and I, focusing on presidential politics.

But that doesn`t mean it is unimportant, because it is one of those
problems, controversies, scandals, take your pick of words, that inevitably
will follow Hillary Clinton for months and months, maybe all way through
the general election, assuming she is the Democratic nominee.

KORNACKI: Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, thanks for joining us
tonight. Appreciate it.

SABATO: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: Up next: As Bernie Sanders rises and Hillary Clinton
battles her e-mail issues, has the perfect moment arrived for Joe Biden to
get in the race?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The United States is expressing its condolences to China after the
explosions in the port city of Tianjin. The death toll from the blast
stands at 50. More than 700 people were hurt.

National wildfire officials are raising preparedness levels, as the
number of blazes burning in the Western U.S. continues to rise.

And in Connecticut, the state Supreme Court abolished the death
penalty for all 11 inmates on death row. Three years ago, lawmakers
abolished the death penalty for future crimes -- back to HARDBALL.

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump is sparing no one from attacks these days. And that
includes Vice President Joe Biden, who isn`t even a candidate, at least not
yet.

Here`s Trump yesterday on Hugh Hewitt`s radio show.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: If it is Joe Biden, how do you match up against Joe Biden?

TRUMP: I think I would match up great. I`m a job producer. I have
had a great record. I haven`t been involved in plagiarism. I think I
would match up very well against Biden.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Trump, of course, referring there to Biden`s 1988
presidential campaign, when he used a line from a British Labor Party
leader without attribution. It was also discovered that Biden faced
questions of plagiarism at Syracuse Law School.

"The Wall Street Journal" reported today that Biden is seriously
considering jumping into the 2016 race and that he is making call from his
vacation in South Carolina, asking political allies for advice, and gauging
the strength of Mrs. Clinton`s campaign as he weighs his options.

Anne Gearan is a political correspondent for "The Washington Post."
Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster. And Janell Ross is a reporter
with "The Washington Post."

Well, Anne, let me start with you.

Conventional wisdom would say it is a little late in the game for Joe
Biden here. Hillary Clinton has locked down all these endorsements. She
is still way ahead in the polls. How much room do you think there
realistically is, in light of the e-mail stuff we have just been talking
about? Does that change it for Joe Biden?

ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it seems slightly more
plausible this week than last that he could see an opening.

But there are so many practical barriers to his getting into the race
and being able to mount a -- what would essentially be an insurgent
challenge to both Clinton and her closest competitor, Bernie Sanders. It
is hard to see where he thinks the support will come from. Who does he
peel off? Where is his base, when they both have significant parts of the
primary base locked up at this point?

KORNACKI: Well, a source close to Vice President Biden told NBC`s
Kristen Welker today -- quote -- "He is not calling people and saying
should I run, but, rather, I am thinking about it, but I am also thinking
about Beau."

This source who got a call from Biden this week said, "I think he`s
doing the analysis and homework."

And this come at a time when some Democrats are, as we say, nervous
about the problems swirling around Hillary Clinton`s use of personal e-
mail, a private server being investigated by the FBI and congressional
Benghazi hearings coming up this fall.

In yesterday`s "Boston Herald"/Franklin Pierce University poll, 46
percent of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire said they want to see
Biden run.

So, Cornell, let`s think about Joe Biden as a prospective candidate.
And, first of all, look, the outpouring of sympathy and goodwill in the
wake of the terrible death of his son, that has, you can see, affected his
poll numbers, his image. He`s doing better in polls now than he has at any
time as vice president.
But you also wonder, you look at what`s going on with Donald Trump
right now on the Republican side. In this sort of unvarnished, unpolished
image that he has going up against all these practiced politicians. Is
there something in Joe Biden? You know, we always say he is gaffe prone or
whatever, maybe those tendencies in the age of Trump work in his favor a
little bit?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, look, the vice
president is I think, walks out of that office better positioned with core
Democrat constituencies than he walked in with. I think he has a potential
to say that, look, I am the rightful heir of the Obama coalition because I
stood beside the president and helped him fight.

That said, I have to agree when you look at -- you know, is he going
to be the darling of the left that Bernie Sanders is? You know, can he
compete for minority voters and women voters with Hillary Clinton? I don`t
know that. But you got to think that here`s a guy who has strong
progressive credentials, I mean, Violence Against Women Act, et cetera, and
Democrats don`t lack coordination. We`ve seen that time and time again.

I think it is good that he jumps in, because quite frankly, I think
whoever wins the nomination will be better off if they have to compete for
every vote and a lot of different states.

KORNACKI: Well, Janell, let me ask you about this scenario, I`ve
heard this from a few people. It could be very farfetched. We`ll say that
up front.

But, look, Bernie Sanders right now running about 20 points behind in
Iowa. Iowa is a state that likes the insurgent, that likes that outsider,
that likes the more liberal candidate, let`s say Bernie Sanders knocks off
Hillary Clinton in Iowa next year. Then they go to New Hampshire. Bernie
Sanders is the next door neighbor. There`s already as we say, that poll
that has him leading there.

Is Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont who`s not even a
Democrat, knocks off Hillary Clinton in the first two contests next year,
does that create the kind of panic and the opening that would allow someone
like Joe Biden to step in and say, look, Hillary is damaged goods and we`re
not nominating a socialist so here I am?

JANELL ROSS, THE WASHINGTON POST: It would almost certainly create a
situation where some people would be willing to have that conversation.
When I say people, I mean people inside the party and certainly people to
whom the vice president could turn for the financing that he would need to
mount a campaign. But, of course, at that point he would be pretty far
behind other candidates and organizing himself in every way that would be
necessary to actually win.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, I put that out there. As I say, I think it`s a
farfetched question. But when you`re the sitting vice president, when
polls put you 40 points behind Hillary behind in this race, it`s going to
take a farfetched scenario for it to actually come to something for you.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

Up next, Ben Carson alleges that Planned Parenthood clinics in
neighborhoods are there to control the population.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: President Obama is on vacation in Martha`s Vineyard. And
today, we got a glimpse of his summer reading list. On the fiction side,
the books include "All That Is," "All The Light We Cannot See", "The Sixth
Extinction" and "The Lowland". And for nonfiction the titles include
"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and "Washington: A Life" by
Ron Churnow.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We are back with the roundtable, Anne, Cornell and Janell.

Weeks after disturbing revelations about Planned Parenthood came to
light, Republican candidate Ben Carson is now going further in condemning
the organization. Appearing on FOX last night, Dr. Carson said Planned
Parenthood operates clinics in black neighborhoods to, quote, "control the
African-American population".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe I`m not objective
when it comes to Planned Parenthood but, you know, I know who Margaret
Sanger is. And I know that she believed in eugenics and she was not
particularly enamored of black people.

And one of the reasons you find that most of their clinics in black
neighborhoods is so that you can finds a way to control that population.
And I think people should go back and read about Margaret Sanger who
founded this places, a woman Hillary Clinton, by the way, says that she
admires. Look at see what many people in Nazi Germany thought about her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, Carson, a famed neurosurgeon who has never held
elected office has surged in all the polls since last week`s debate. The
latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll out of Iowa shows he has taken second
place there.

But with his rise comes greater scrutiny. Today, he is facing new
questions about the credibility of his denunciation of Planned Parenthood
over their sale of fetal tissue for medical research. A recently uncovered
study co-authored by Carson back in 1992 shows that the candidate did, in
fact, work with aborted fetal tissue himself. And the news appears to be
at odds with Carson`s past statements that fetal tissue is not useful for
medical research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARSON: It has been overpromised, what the benefits of fetal research
would be, and very much under delivered. There is nothing that can`t be
done without fetal tissue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Here`s what Carson had to say about the apparent
contradiction today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Why did you change your decision about whether to use fetal
tissue or not?

CARSON: To not use the tissue that is in the tissue bank regardless
of where it comes from would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that?

REPORTER: Would you ban this now if you`re saying it is not
essential?

CARSON: That is a very different thing from killing babies,
manipulating them, taking their tissues, selling them. That`s a very
different thing. To try to equate those two things is absolutely
ridiculous.

I have no idea where the tissue comes from. These are tissue blocks
maintained for decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Anne, look, this is obviously a very complicated question.
If I`m understanding it right, what he seems to be saying there is, look,
if the tissue has been procured and it`s sitting there, you might as well
use it. That doesn`t necessarily mean it should be procured going forward.
Is that -- is that a fair reading of what he is trying to say?

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is one of the things he is
trying on say. Part of the problem is he has said about 18 different
things over time. I mean, I`m only exaggerating slightly. It`s certainly
a perfectly plausible position scientifically and politically to take that
as a doctor, he sees the medical utility of using this tissue, whatever
it`s provenance, but that he still personally and politically opposes
abortion.

But that isn`t exactly what he said today, and it also appears to be
at odds with the 1992 paper which clearly is labeled as using that tissue.
And one is left to wonder what did he think he was doing at the time? I
mean, he thought he was writing a scientific paper that would be of
valuable -- value to the medical community. I don`t know why he feels like
at this point he needs to somehow back away from that.

KORNACKI: Well, Janell, how about this comment about Planned
Parenthood being in black neighborhoods to control the African-American
population? Obviously, a very inflammatory comment. What`s interesting to
me is this is not the first inflammatory comment that Ben Carson has made.

I think about this. We put all this attention on Donald Trump going
way out there on one issue after another and surging to first place. You
look in these polls especially since the debate, Ben Carson is right up
there in second or third place, and he`s saying a lot -- rhetorically he`s
out there almost as much as Trump is.

ROSS: I think you`ve hit on something interesting, which is that
there is, as "The Washington Post" reported today, it seems a really strong
current of voter dissatisfaction, perhaps even anger, that Trump`s sort of
off-the-cuff sort of statements seem to tap into and this seems to really
appeal to a set of voters and perhaps some of Dr. Carson`s comments do the
same.

KORNACKI: Cornell, I mean, it`s fascinating to look at this field,
obviously the biggest Republican field. But I mean, look at this,
supposedly, this was the strongest field they had ever had. You`ve got
these governors, and, you`ve got these senators. But it`s Donald Trump,
but it`s Ben Carson, it`s Carly Fiorina. She lost a Senate race by ten
points five years ago.

These are the ones who are surging in the polls.

BELCHER: Reality television is eating our country. The ethos of
reality television, you now see is impacting our politics. And God help
us.

You know, to the Carson thing, from a political strategist, Carson is
going to be under more scrutiny now. And, by the way, there is no nuancing
your position on abortion in the Republican primary. You are against
abortion. You can`t nuance it. If you`re behind carson now, you`re going
to attack him because he flip-flopped. There`s no nuance for him there.

And the statements about, you know, the Planned Parenthood in black
communities, to control black communities, I wish he would use the same
fervor to talk about liquor stores in the black community, to talk about
military policing in the black community.

I think you have someone saying outrageous things, particularly
calling Obamacare sort of, you know, slavery that would probably do worse
among black voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012, which means if he`s the
nominee, the Republicans have no chance of winning Ohio, they have no
chance of winning Virginia, they have no chance of winning Florida, they
have no chance of putting Pennsylvania into play, and they have no chance
of winning the White House.

KORNACKI: All right. Thank you to Anne Gearan, Cornell Belcher and
Janell Ross.

And when we return, let me finish with a lesson in partisanship and
decency.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with this: My first lesson in
political polarization came when I was in second grade. The assignment was
to find out who the president was when we were born. These were the days
before Google and none of my friends had the answer, so I turned to the
only people in my life old enough to know.

The answer was Jimmy Carter, my dad told me. By the way, he was a
total failure.

But mom chafed at that. Jimmy Carter was a good man, she told me. He
believed in peace.

Here was my introduction to the divide between red and blue America.
It ran straight through our house. Dad, the son of Nixon Republicans, a
Navy veteran, a small businessman, and mom, the social worker from blue
collar Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of a nurse who unionized the
city hospital there.

It was also my introduction to Jimmy Carter, whose presidency is part
of the foundation of the deep and intractable political divide we know
today.

To the right, to red America, it`s an essential ingredient in the
legend of Ronald Reagan. After all, in any good story, it can`t be mere
mediocrity that the hero saves everybody from, it has to be a crisis. So
for Ronald Reagan to rescue America, he couldn`t just follow a
disappointing president, he had to follow the worst president ever.

To the left, to blue America, the Carter presidency is a different
kind of tragedy, the kind of tragedy where a swirl of crises and misfortune
beyond the control of one mere president creates an opening for an extreme
ideologue who couldn`t get elected under any normal circumstance, to seize
power and pull the country sharply and in many ways permanently to the
right.

Jimmy Carter is now the longest surviving ex-president in American
history. It`s been 34 1/2 years since he left the White House. They have
been busy years for him. Busy in ways we don`t usually see with former
presidents. Tireless humanitarian work around the globe, provocative and
controversial books, turned out at the dizzying rate of almost one a year,
jarringly frank public comments about his successors, about the state of
the world.

Jimmy Carter`s post-presidency has in many ways been as polarizing as
his presidency. But one of the worst things about polarization is that it
reduces every public figure to a boring two-dimensional caricature, a champ
or a chump. There`s never any in between.

But with any leader, with any person, it`s the in-between that`s
invariably the most interesting -- the heroic traits, the grand ambitions
mixing with weakness, with blind spots, with all of the imperfections that
make us human.

Jimmy Carter is 90 years old now and we learned this week that he`s
sick. But he`s still here. As long as he is, maybe now we can put aside
all those decades of caricaturing and salute the goodness that`s always
been right there in front of us.

Whatever you think of his politics, of his presidency, of any
provocative pronouncement he`s made, Jimmy Carter is an honest man who
loves his country and his family, who speaks his mind, who believes in
peace and who lives the biblical edict to serve the least among us.

There have been better presidents and there have been worse, but we`d
be a better nation if all of them were as decent people as Jimmy Carter.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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