updated 9/16/2015 10:42:14 AM ET 2015-09-16T14:42:14

Show: HARDBALL
Date: September 15, 2015
Guest: Susan Page, Bill Maher, Michelle Bernard, John Stanton, Sarah
Lenti


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, a change in the political weather.
Dr. Carson is starting to overtake Donald Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles for tomorrow night`s
Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan library.

I`m giving you, by the way, the big news at the top tonight. Donald Trump
is still rising, but Dr. Ben Carson is rising a whole lot faster.
According to the "New York Times"/CBS poll out today, it`s now Trump at 27
percent nationally, Ben Carson coming up on the outside at 23 percent. But
as I said, the former neurosurgeon is suddenly accelerating, quadrupling
his number in just two months.

Well, together, Trump and Carson are making the big news together by
administering a shellacking to the establishment Republican Party we all
grew up with. All other candidates remain in the anemic single digits.
Jeb Bush dropped 7 points since July, according to "The Times." He`s now
tied with Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio at 6, 1 in 16 Republicans.

I`m joined right now by the former senior strategist for John McCain`s 2008
campaign, Steve Schmidt, a smart guy, the Washington bureau chief for "USA
Today," a smart woman, Susan Page. And we also have Ron Reagan with us
tonight, MSNBC analyst.

First of all, I got to go to Schmidt. I`ve got to go to you on this
because you`re one of the really smart guys out there on the Republican
Party. Is your party coming apart? I mean, these are just pissant numbers
the Republican establishment`s getting. Bush -- everybody knows Jeb Bush,
and it`s less than 1 in 16 Republicans saying yes for him.

And there`s Carson, with absolutely no political history or apparent
political skills, a good guy, a smart guy, but with no ability in this
field, way up there, both of them together wiping it out for the Republican
establishment.

What`s going on in your party? Is it coming apart?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. MCCAIN STRATEGIST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s an
expression of absolute, complete and total contempt from the base of the
Republican Party towards the political establishment of the country, which
includes the leadership of the Republican Party.

And if you look, Chris, in aggregate, the Trump numbers, the Carson
numbers, Cruz, the elected anti-establishmentarian, and you add in
Huckabee, you add in Santorum, two previous winners of the Iowa caucuses,
you have a number that approaches 60 percent of Republican primary voters,
a much larger number than the typical establishment elected official side--

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SCHMIDT: -- which is about 40 percent of the electorate.

MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Trump drew a big crowd. He`s not just getting
the good news on television, lots of play, he`s getting crowds in person
that can sit home and watch him, but they show up. Here`s 15,000 people in
Dallas last night. A large part of the hour-long speech focused on the
topic of him, Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The polls come out, and we`re
really killing it. We are killing it!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: The silent majority -- it`s back, and it`s not silent.

So the debate -- I hear they`re all going after me. Whatever. Whatever!
No, I hear it.

You know, at the beginning, three, four months ago, Well, he`s just doing
this for fun. He`s doing this for his brand. I need this, like, for my
brand, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I have tremendous energy, tremendous, to a point where it`s almost
ridiculous, when you think about it.

Now it`s time to really start because this is going to happen. I`m telling
you, this -- I`m not going anywhere!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump returned to a major theme of his campaign, right
down there on the border, illegal immigration. That subject got the
biggest applause last night, like it or not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to stop illegal immigration. We have to do it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have to do it. We are a dumping ground for the rest of the
world. We are -- a dumping ground.

I don`t mean to be disrespectful, but when a man has a problem and he`s got
his wife or his girlfriend and they move her over to the border for one
day, has the baby on the other side of the border -- our side -- now that
baby is a citizen of our country for however long the baby lives.

(BOOS)

TRUMP: Hopefully a long -- it`s wrong! It`s wrong!

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, clearly, Trump isn`t dying. He may be challenged right
now by Ben Carson, another outsider, but nobody on the Republican
establishment side.

I agree with Steve. The Republican establishment has brown it on illegal
immigration. They`ve never passed a law. They don`t want to agree on
anything. All people want is some fair treatment, I think most people in
this country have been here, illegally or not, for many years, and they
want the illegal immigration stopped. They want both things to happen.
But that takes two parties to come together, and they don`t do it, so this
is going on.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, so immigration has been the launching pad
for Donald Trump, but it`s not the reason he`s become the leader of all
these polls in Iowa and New Hampshire and nationally. I mean, that`s a
more general feeling that--

MATTHEWS: What Steve said?

PAGE: Yes--

MATTHEWS: Disgust with the political establishment?

PAGE: That people -- he used the word "contempt," but I think that`s
right, contempt for the way things worked, so why not elect somebody who
seems outrageous, who will shake things up more than anybody else?

MATTHEWS: Ron, I don`t know whether there is a Republican Party, as we`ve
learned it, even when it went to the right with your father, even when it
became a conservative party and stopped being that sort of Rockefeller plus
Goldwater, it ended up just being Goldwater Reagan party. It was always a
political party that had moderate elements. It had suburban elements.

It seems to me those elements, the Bush crowd, the Bush family and what it
represents, have been dismissed -- 6 percent for Jeb, right now.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is, and that`s really the big
story. It`s not so much Donald Trump on the rise. I mean, I can`t
believe, and I don`t think Steve Schmidt or anybody else sitting around
here believes that Donald Trump is actually going to get the nomination and
actually be elected president.

But the story really is that nobody who`s from the establishment, Jeb Bush
on down, has been able to find any traction. So you`ve got Donald Trump.
You`ve got Ben Carson. And you`ve got to ask yourself, what happens if
these guys -- let`s say Trump -- actually starts winning primaries,
actually starts getting delegates amassing to him? What is the Republican
Party going to do if Donald Trump, inescapably, does somehow take the
nomination?

I think it`s really the end of the Republican Party, in a way.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about Ben Carson, the other guy that`s taken
the establishment to the cleaners. He has a history of making some pretty
wild statements himself about Obama, the president, about race generally,
and other topics.

Let`s watch his, what you might call a gag reel, but this is what he
believes, apparently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "Obama care" is really, I
think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been told that you said we`re living in a Gestapo
age? What do you mean by that?

CARSON: 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.

I think I would use the bully pulpit to help people realize what we have in
common. What it`s been used for the last several years is to create wars,
you know, a war on women, race wars, any time there`s anything involving
people of two different races.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think being gay is a choice?

CARSON: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you say that?

CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison
straight, and when they come out, they`re gay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama -- you refer to him as a psychopath. What did
you mean by that?

CARSON: I said he reminds you of a psychopath, who can tell a lie to your
face with complete -- looks like sincerity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Steve, I don`t know what to make of it. His strength is
that he`s a doctor, a man of medicine. And there he is throwing the term
"psychopath" out. So I`m not sure where he stands on firm ground anymore.
But he`s getting votes. Explain.

SCHMIDT: So--

MATTHEWS: Why is--

(CROSSTALK)

SCHMIDT: We`re at this moment in time where there`s severability between
issues and conservatism. And now how we define conservatism within the
Republican Party is who has the most incendiary rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

SCHMIDT: And the test of who is a real conservative or not is who has
fidelity to the most incendiary rhetoric. You`ve had 40, 50, 60 votes
play-fighting, Kabuki theater, repealing "Obama care." The Republican
Party`s voters think the whole system is not on the level. By the way, you
look at the Democratic Party, you see this expression in the form of Bernie
Sanders`s candidacy.

But look, one thing I would disagree a little bit with Susan is, Donald
Trump`s not running on immigration. Donald Trump is running on making
America great again.

MATTHEWS: She said that!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You agree? That`s what she said! She said it wasn`t about
immigration. She said it started on immigration, and it`s a much wider
charge he`s offering.

SCHMIDT: Well, what he`s saying is what Republican voters believe, that
Barack Obama has succeeded in transforming the country, fundamentally
changing it. He has wrecked the country. The country is no longer great.
But it can be again, if it has the right leadership.

And everything that Donald Trump does is an expression of strength in his
day-to-day actions, whether it`s fighting with Roger Ailes, whether it`s
not backing down and instead doubling down when he lost all of his
corporate sponsorships.

And I would say to Ron and his point, I actually do believe that at this
moment in time, none of these other candidates at 4, 5, 6 percent have
their destinies within their control. Donald Trump can be Donald Trump,
but none of these other candidates can beat him at this point.

REAGAN: I think you`re right, Steve.

SCHMIDT: He is in complete -- absolute complete control of the political
battle space of the campaign.

REAGAN: But what does that mean for the Republican Party, to have Donald
Trump as the potential standard-bearer?

MATTHEWS: And what stops him -- Susan, you covered this for the front page
of your newspaper and your bureau. And I -- I`m going to -- later in the
show -- we taped this just a few minutes ago, an our ago, you know, with
Bill Maher. I will say we put on -- let the people decide. We`re not gate
keepers. And I`d like to know when this act`s going to die because it`s
certainly not dying -- Donald Trump.

PAGE: Well, and we keep predicting. We`ve predicted over and over again
that--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How many--

PAGE: Yes, that`s right. This is too much. The last debate, we thought
he went too far after the debate in the feud with Megyn Kelly. Not true,
right? He continued to gain ground, although I think Ben Carson`s rise is,
in a way, more--

MATTHEWS: Well, what is the gross-out point? You say what he said about
women`s menstrual cycles, or what everybody thinks he meant, and I think he
did mean it, you talk about the president being a psychopath, running a
Gestapo operation -- I mean, Steve says you got to one-up the other -- how
do you one-up that?

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I`m talking about Carson here.

PAGE: Well, we do -- I guess we do all assume there is a point where it`s
gone too far and--

MATTHEWS: What would it be--

PAGE: -- but--

MATTHEWS: Conceptually?

PAGE: Well, and we`ve been wrong so far, so how would we know?

MATTHEWS: Ron, you know, I think that one of the reasons he does well is
the reason I like -- and my family, my daughter and all the rest of it --
our family time is watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry David because
it`s so outrageous, the guy`s political incorrectitude. But it is a comedy
show, you know? And it`s not a big broadcast. It`s just something you
have to go looking for and get on tape and you enjoy it.

But it seems like Trump just says all the things your mom told you not to
do growing up. Don`t brag about money. Don`t say "rich." Don`t say "I`m
the greatest." And he`s doing it. And these -- these people in the crowds
I`m watching real human reactions. They`re eating it up.

REAGAN: They are. And it`s important to note that we`re still very early
in the campaign season here, and Trump is, what, at 27 percent of a
minority party here. So this is not -- doesn`t bode well for him ending up
in the White House or anything like that.

MATTHEWS: Bush is at 6! Six!

REAGAN: Yes, I know, and it doesn`t -- that doesn`t bode well for him
being in the White House, either.

MATTHEWS: Brother of and son of presidents -- 6!

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: But let`s not all fall for the Trump strongman act here.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK.

REAGAN: At a certain point he`s -- you know, the field is going to narrow.
He`s going to have to answer some real questions. And the media will start
taking him seriously enough to start posing some real questions to him.
And that`s when he starts to spiral downward, I think.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Chris Christie learned from us, we cover you on the way
up and we cover you on the way down.

REAGAN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, many of the Republican candidates in 2016 have tried --
now that I have you here -- to make the case that they are the rightful
heirs of Ronald Reagan, for the library tomorrow night. Let`s watch them
all try to be Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Ronald Reagan was a Democrat and he was sort of liberal. And I
knew him. I didn`t know him then, quite, but I knew him, and I knew him
well. He liked me. I liked him. He was, like, this great guy.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With respect, my views are
very much the views of Ronald Reagan, which I would suggest is a third
point on the triangle.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can think of no three
better words to describe my political philosophy. I`m a Reagan
constitutional conservative. I will remain a Reagan constitutional
conservative.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I often joke that I -- I
know Ronald Reagan`s birthday because it`s my wedding anniversary. But
truth be told, Tonette would tell you I know our wedding anniversary
because it`s Ronald Reagan`s birthday!


(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ron, do you know what a hermit crab is? That`s a being that
doesn`t have an identity (INAUDIBLE) so it hides in a shell and pretends
it`s something.

REAGAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: These guys are all pretending they`re your dad.

REAGAN: And they`ve been doing this -- you`ve been having this
conversation with me since I think at least the 2000, year 2000 election
cycle.

MATTHEWS: And I`ll keep it up!

REAGAN: Every time, these guys want to be my father. I don`t remember my
father ever trying to be somebody else, first of all. And besides that,
it`s kind of ridiculous. He left office over a quarter of a century ago.
We don`t even know what Ronald Reagan would really be now as a politician,
25 years later. So I don`t know what these people are claiming to be in
the first place.

MATTHEWS: Well, I will say this about your dad -- and of course, I
disagree with a lot of what he said. You did, too. He brought peace
between East and West, just like Jimmy Carter did between Egypt and Israel
and Teddy Roosevelt did between the Russians and the Japanese. And one
thing conservatives ought to do is find a way to end these wars. I think
that`s what conservatism is, ending wars and bloodshed.

Anyway, thank you, Steve Schmidt. Thank you, Susan Page, my friend, and
Ron Reagan, of course.

And I`ll be at the Ronald Reagan presidential library tomorrow night for
full coverage before and after the big debate. Lots of coverage coming
here tomorrow night.

Coming up, by the way, tonight, the one and only Bill Maher is with us
tonight. You`re going to want to hear what he has to say about Trump and
this whole 2016 crazy race on the Republican side.

Plus, Trump`s success has the Republican establishment running scared, as I
said. Wall Street`s starting to panic, the money boys. The anti-tax Club
for Growth is launching a huge attack against Trump. The hawkish Bill
Kristol is promising to vote third party if Trump wins the nomination.
Does he really want Hillary to win? Can anybody slow this guy, Trump,
down?

And which Republican candidate is most likely to succeed tomorrow night?
Who`s going to throw the biggest punch at Trump, and who will be the most
desperate and look that way? We`re going to preview the big fight at the
Reagan library tomorrow night. We`re going to do it tonight.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the nasty divorce we`re watching in
the Republican Party. They`re going through it right now between the
establishment wing and the wild guys.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s more troubling the numbers out today for Hillary
Clinton in New Hampshire. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

A new Monmouth University poll shows Bernie Sanders now leading Clinton by
7 points in the Granite State among likely Democratic voters. It`s Sanders
43, Clinton 36, Biden just 13. And according to Monmouth, Sanders is
winning there among both men and women. That`s interesting.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Have you detected what`s going on here tonight? I
am trying to avoid talking about Donald Trump. That`s really what this is
all about so far. And yet it`s impossible. CNN could not be anymore
obsessed with Donald Trump if that missing plane turned up in his hair!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Bill Maher, of course,
conceding last month that Donald Trump is the elephant in the room who
can`t be ignored. As an entertainer and political satirist himself, Maher
has made a career of skewering politicians, and much like Trump, his
irreverence often flouts the rules of strict political correctness.

Well, here`s what Bill said about Trump last week. I found this
magnificent. "I don`t agree with anything he says politically, but I do
find refreshing, as a lot of people do, a guy that comes along and never
apologizes, unlike every other politician, he just doubles down on
everything he says. That`s kind of attractive because with every other
politician, if anybody complains about anything, they have to walk it back
and say they`re sorry or that they misspoke. This guy never misspeaks. He
never says anything that`s true, but he never misspeaks.

I`m joined right now by the great host of "Real Time" on HBO "With Bill
Maher."

Bill, it`s great not to be employed by anybody, isn`t it? I mean, is that
the -- is, like, Ann Coulter -- if you don`t work for anybody, nobody can
fire you. You say what you want. Is that the Trump secret?

MAHER: Well, that`s the best part of him.

You know, that thing you -- that quote you just read there talking about
how he never has to apologize and never does apologize, I do find that
attractive, because I have been in that position myself many times. I
mean, I don`t agree with much of what Donald Trump says, but, sometimes,
when I see him, I think he and I are a little like the detective and the
serial killer, when the serial killer says, you know, we`re not so
different, you and I.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And the great thing about having your own money is that you don`t
have to appeal to the donors.

The one good thing Donald Trump is saying is that he`s going to raise his
own taxes, and he`s going to go after hedge fund managers and stuff like
that. That`s actually popular, even with Republicans. It`s the donor
class that hates that. That`s why you won`t hear from the other guys.

MATTHEWS: You mean going after carried interest on the equity market, yes,
that kind of--

MAHER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I find it like -- yes, I think there`s more to the message than
the -- I think the medium is wonderful.

You`re the expert at this. You work the big houses. You have got 5,000
people on a Saturday night. This guy is drawing 20,000 people last night
in a Dallas basketball stadium. What is that about? Is there more there
than the message? I think there`s the show.

MAHER: Well, also, we have to look a little bit in the mirror on this one,
Chris. Your network covered it from beginning end to last night.

MATTHEWS: Sure did.

MAHER: Why? Why? Why are you doing that? It`s a little bit of a self-
fulfilling--

MATTHEWS: Because people are in the -- for the same reason -- yes, well,
the same reason people went out to see him knowing he`d be on TV. So, they
will go see him knowing he`s on TV. They still make the effort to go see
him.

MAHER: But why cover it like he`s Churchill giving an important speech?

Have you listened to these speeches? Trump is always saying, other
countries are laughing at us. This is why they`re laughing at us, because
of what he says and how we are taking it seriously. I mean, he talks about
how we shouldn`t have teleprompters.

Please let`s bring back teleprompters, because these are just the brain
farts, the stream of conscious ramblings of a guy who obviously has, over
the course of his life, breathed in too much construction debris.

It just goes from bragging point to something else he thought of on the
spur of the moment. It`s not even a speech. And yet people, I think what
they`re responding to is this message that the country has been losing,
which is insane, because we`re not losing. We`re winning. And we have to
restore America to what, what it was before Obama came along?

So we should be -- we should be restoring America back to where we had 10
percent unemployment and the stock market was 1,000 points lower? Who is
beating us? China? They`re beating us? Why? Because their kids make our
iPhones? Japan? They have been in a recession for like three decades.
Mexico?

I mean, this is insane. We`re the only country that did well after the
financial collapse.

MATTHEWS: All that may be true, and I think it is, but I think the reason
-- to answer your question why I put him on, why we keep him on, on most
networks, is because we`re waiting to see how long it`s going to last.

It`s almost like a character on "Survivor." How long -- on the old "Twenty
One," Charles Van Doren. How long can Herb Stempel survive? How long can
he keep going with new material every minute? Sooner or later, he is going
to run out of material and start repeating himself. He will begin to
sweat.

I`m waiting for that. I think that is the show we`re watching. How long
can he do this thing?

MAHER: Well, I think he can do it forever, because I think this is what
he`s been doing his whole life.

I don`t think his speeches are any different than what he probably does
every day before he ran for president. He probably sits in a boardroom
with all his yes-men and eats his tuna fish sandwich and starts rambling
about whatever goes into his head.

And, by the way, he`s already repeating his material. He has got stuff he
says in every speech, like he`s going to raise taxes on the Ford Motor
Company or whoever, General -- or whoever moved their plants to Mexico, as
if the president can unilaterally raise taxes.

It`s amazing how fact-free that party is. And that`s a big reason why he`s
doing well. We have Jorge Ramos on Friday. You will be with him on the
panel. And he said to Trump, when they had that dust-up in Iowa, that, why
are you building a wall? Because 40 percent of the people who come here
illegally from Mexico arrive by plane, and then they just stay.

And Trump`s response was, I don`t believe it. And this is the essential
problem with this party. They don`t care about facts. And even when
they`re presented with them, they don`t believe them.

So when Donald Trump says things like, we should repeal Obamacare and
replace it with something terrific -- ah, something terrific. Why didn`t
we think of that? You see those Democrats. They didn`t think of something
terrific.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

There`s two guys getting big audiences, he and Bernie Sanders. I think
Sanders is much more like Vaudeville. It`s the old social message. We
know a social Democratic message. It`s not communist. It`s sort of like
mellow socialism.

It`s big activities, like we`re going to pay for your scholarships, we`re
going to pay for college, we`re going to -- whatever else we`re going to
pay for. We`re going to build up our benefits under Social Security. Not
clear on the financing of the whole thing.

How do you think he gets these huge crowds, the other guy getting the huge
crowds?

MAHER: Well, Bernie does have a great message, which is being co-opted
now, which is why I don`t think he`s going to make it.

I mean, there are other reasons, obviously. There`s ageism, and he`s
Jewish and a socialist. I don`t think this is going to play in the South.
I think that Bernie is going to wind up being the guy saying, look, I was
first with this message.

But I don`t think people care about that. I think, just like most third-
party candidates, what he is saying is slowly being co-opted. Hillary
Clinton has moved to the left. I think he forced her there, to a degree.
And even the Republican candidates are talking about income inequality.

So, at the end of the day, Bernie will have a noble campaign, but I don`t
think it`s going to go anywhere.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the other guy that we`re talking about all
week, and that`s Joe Biden.

Do you think he -- in your mind`s eye, as an American, do you think it
would be good for the country if he took the risk of going in at this
point?

MAHER: Well, I like Joe. Everybody likes Joe.

He`s a noble guy. And we all feel for him now because of the tragedy in
his family, but I don`t think that`s a great reason to run for president.
This idea that my son whispered to me on his deathbed, run for president,
we all embraced like that`s something great, I don`t think it`s great -- a
great reason to run, and I don`t think it`s a great thing to have leaked
out to the press.

Also, I don`t think there`s any real reason for a Biden candidacy, except
for personal ambition. We already have Hillary Clinton. We already have a
centrist Democrat from the Obama administration. I don`t know what you`re
getting really with Joe that you`re not getting with Hillary.

You know, it`s going to be Hillary. Democrats really need to rally around-
-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How does she bang her way out of this paper bag called e-mail?
How do you bang your -- how do you end it and change the subject, if they
have got this guy taking the Fifth? You have got the fact that,
apparently, the 30,000 private e-mails she called private haven`t been
destroyed.

It just seems like it`s got -- it`s a paper chase now for the Republicans.
They can keep saying, all we want is more information right up to next
summer.

MAHER: Well, again, I hate to keep coming back to the media, but Hillary
Clinton keeps releasing detailed plans, sometimes really good stuff.
Nobody covers it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MAHER: All they talk about is the e-mails.

And that`s a very hard situation for her. Look, she`s never been my
favorite. She`s too much of a hawk for my taste. She`s too in the court
of Monsanto and Wall Street. But she`s very competent. She`s a nice
person.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: I mean, they`re just so mean to poor Hillary Clinton. I don`t know
what she has done. I don`t even know what the problem with the e-mails is.

So what if it wasn`t exactly the way it was supposed to be with the servers
and on this -- went out on this one? What did she actually do that was so
awful? It`s like they get her for parking a mid-sized car in the compact
spot. Who cares about all this?

At the end of the day, do you think the voters, a year from now -- we
forget how early this is.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, but--

MAHER: Do you think that really, when the--

MATTHEWS: Her numbers are going down. And that`s a question I`m asking.

MAHER: Well, her numbers--

MATTHEWS: I would like to see her get her act together too and be able to
prevail over all this stuff, and I think one way you do it is, you make
sure your guys working for you don`t take the Fifth Amendment and you put
out everything.

You know all the basis of P.R. You put out everything, everything. Give
them to them. Let them have it all and let them chew on it, and then it`s
over with. Everybody knew about Monica. It was over with. That`s why
Bill Clinton got through it. It was all known and done with. Isn`t that
what you have to do in politics? Get it out there?

MAHER: I guess, but I don`t know what there is to get out there. I don`t
know what they think they`re going to find on this e-mail server.

She is the most boring centrist we have ever had in American politics.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

MAHER: I don`t think there`s -- I don`t think there`s anything -- I don`t
think there`s anything interesting on her personal server either. This is
not Che Guevara in a pantsuit. This is Hillary Clinton we`re talking
about. It doesn`t matter how much--

MATTHEWS: I know. I`m just asking, how does she get out of the -- how
does she get out of it? Because the press is not going to lay up on it.

"The New York Times" is all over this story. And all the press is.

MAHER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They want to know what the story is. What was she trying to
hide? Why was she secretive about having a separate server? Why all this,
what do you call it, stuff? I know it`s a Rorschach test. One guy looks
at it like you and says, so what?


MAHER: It is.

MATTHEWS: The Republicans look at it and say, wow, this is really big
stuff for us. So, that`s not going to change.

MAHER: But if it -- but, Chris, if it wasn`t this, it would be something
else.

First, it was Benghazi, which was nothing. Now it`s this, which is
nothing.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that.

MAHER: And the Republicans will always be saying, well, you know, unless
we look, we don`t know. We`re not saying she`s a witch. It`s just a
little suspicious that she won`t let us dunk her.

MATTHEWS: I know.

MAHER: So, it doesn`t really matter.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to end on that. That`s the best answer.

MAHER: OK.

MATTHEWS: Because if she sinks, that means -- how did the witch thing
work? If you sank, then you were innocent. If you floated, you were -- I
don`t know.

MAHER: Exactly. Yes.

MATTHEWS: But it didn`t work well for the victim in any case.

MAHER: No, it was a no-win situation.

MATTHEWS: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I will see you Friday night. And thanks for the honor of coming
on your wonderful show.

MAHER: OK, Chris.

MATTHEWS: "Real Time on HBO" this Friday night.

Bill Maher, the greatest.

Up next, we will go live to the USS Iowa, a decommissioned battleship where
in just a few hours Donald Trump will speak to veterans.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Authorities say a total of 15 people have died in the devastating floods
that sent a wall of water rushing through the towns in Utah, Arizona
border, and the Zion National Park.

NBC`s Ron Mott is standing by in Hildale, Utah, with the latest.

Ron, what can you tell us about the search at this hour?

RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey there, Milissa. Good evening to
you.

They`re just about winding down the search for tonight, as we start to lose
light, because it would become too dangerous for them to continue to
search. You can see some of the folks down here, some search-and-rescue
folks, are still on the scene here assessing the damage. I saw a lot of
people coming out of the woods with shovels and things of that sort. A
helicopter just flew overhead.

But, as you mentioned, more than a dozen people dead here and at Zion
National Park, about 45 to 50 miles from here, a very devastating 24 hours,
if you will, on the Arizona/Utah border and into Utah itself -- Milissa.

REHBERGER: NBC`s Ron Mott, thank you -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

About an hour from now, Donald Trump will be delivering a speech aboard the
battleship USS Iowa, docked just south of Los Angeles, where he will share
his views, such as they are, on national security. Trump`s attendance is
expected to draw over 1,000 attendees.

Joining me right now is NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, who is following
the Trump campaign.

I have been listening to what Trump has been saying when he does get
substantive about foreign policy, and he says thing like, well, how do we
beat ISIS? Well, we go in there and knock them out, grab their oil, and
take it for ourselves.

I mean, it`s kind of not exactly precise. Is he going to get precise
tonight?

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We don`t know if he`s going to get
precise or not. We have asked the campaign if they will give us any
details about what exactly he`s going to say for his national security
speech.

They would not divulge any of those. But, in the past, he has said that
they do want to -- he does want to build a wall. That will bolster the
national security of the country. He`s also said that he wants to make our
military strong again, so strong, in fact, that we won`t need to use it any
longer.

And he`s said that there will be so much winning in this country, that
people are going to get sick of winning. Unclear exactly what he means by
a lot of that. Details do not seem to be his strong suit when he makes
these rally speeches.

But, again, he is going to be speaking to about 1,000 people, ticket sales
from $100 to $1,000. All of the money from the sales are going to go to
the make -- Veterans for a Stronger America group. None of the proceeds
are going to go to the campaign.


There is a protest outside, right now not very well-attended, about 40
people saying dump Trump. They say it`s not appropriate for Trump to be
holding a campaign rally at a war -- historic war monument or a war
battleship, essentially--

MATTHEWS: Right.

TUR: -- that he shouldn`t be here, that his message of hate is not
appropriate for this venue.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well-argued by them already.

Thank you, Katy Tur at the Battleship Iowa.

Up next: The empire strikes back. The conservative Club for Growth is the
latest to take the fight to Donald Trump, questioning Trump`s credentials
in a new ad aimed at taking the down the front-runner. But anyone slow
Trump down? Can anyone?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

He`s been the front-runner now for months and no one has been able to stop
Trump. And with 24 hours before tomorrow night`s second big debate, the
Republican Party`s establishment wing and neo-cons are growing panicked.

"The Boston Globe" reported today that Mitt Romney`s former team has united
now across various campaigns with a single goal of stopping Trump. One
adviser told the newspaper that it`s a common goal for anyone invested in
Republicanism, conservatism, and anyone who gives a flying expletive about
what we`re trying to do here.

In true neocon style, Bill Kristol is threatening to blow up the party if
Trump wins the nomination. He told CNN that, quote, "I doubt I`d support
Trump. I think I`d support getting someone good on the ballot as a third
party candidate."

So, who would Kristol and neocons like to see? This is classic. By the
way, if he screws up the whole thing, he`ll probably end up having Hillary
elected.

Anyway, he wants former Vice President Dick Cheney, of all people, and
freshman senator and puppetoon, Tom Cotton, all who work for Kristol
basically, certainly Cotton does, would be an excellent independent team.

So, it looks like everybody is getting crazy.

The roundtable tonight, Michelle Bernard is the president the Bernard
Center, John Stanton is "BuzzFeed" Washington bureau chief, and Sarah Lenti
is a Republican strategist who works with Jeb Bush`s candidate.

We`ll get to the sanity to Jeb Bush in a minute. I want to start with
Michelle.

You know, people thought Trump was crazy and says crazy things and so does
Dr. Carson. But, my God, Bill Kristol talking about bringing back Dick
Cheney and that puppetoon of his, Tom Cotton, who does what he tells him to
do, just like Marco Rubio does what Sheldon Addison tells him to do.

Of course, they want puppets, the neocons. That`s their favorite
instrument, the puppet. Go ahead.

MICHELLE BERNARD, THE BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Listening to Bill
Kristol`s statement is absolutely astonishing, because remember he is the
establishment of the establishment in the Republican Party. And what have
we been hearing for months and months and months? If you have a third
party candidate, you`re going to be handing over the White House in 2016 to
Hillary Clinton.

So, does Bill Kristol really believe that Dick Cheney or someone else, you
know, can run as an independent third party candidate, in the event that
Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee and is he truly willing to say
that the Republican Party, as they know it, is over, and, you know, hail to
the chief and the next chief is Hillary Clinton.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: I don`t know that I would say that anybody in the
party that was really paying a little bit attention to what Bill Kristol
says anymore. I think his time probably passed about ten years ago, you
know? And I definitely don`t think anybody on the Republican side would
say, you know what we should do is we should get Dick Cheney back.

But, you know, I honestly don`t think anybody wants that. But if you look
at what it means more broadly for the party and for sort of conservatives
is that, even within conservative ranks, where there are a lot of folks
that have looked at Trump and say, well, I may not really like him and I
may not be down with his positions, he`s sort of ramping people up. He`s
bringing energy to these things.

So, it`s OK for now, everyone is now starting to look at it within the
party and say, this is not necessarily going away. We thought it was going
end to in August or the end of July and he`s not going anywhere. And I
think that that`s starting to concern everybody.

SARAH LENTI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that Bill`s frustrated, like
the majority of Americans, and he`s looking at this and saying, no way.
And to think that he thinks Cheney and Cotton are a serious ticket as an
independent, I don`t think is real. But at the end of the day, Washington
-- people out in the states aren`t listening to what the Washington elite
thinks.

I mean, Trump is an example of that, and so is Bernie Sanders, quite
frankly. The conventional wisdom on this is kind of out the window.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s going on with establishment wing? Are they going
nuts? I mean, what is Kristol talking about bringing back that sock puppet
of his and actually think we`re not going to fall for the game those two
have been playing? That Tom Cotton says what Kristol wants him to say.
Like Dan Quayle did and Sarah Palin. The use of neocons on idiots has been
going on for a long time, hasn`t it, Sarah?

LENTI: So -- I`m going to go back -- I`m sorry. Can you repeat the
question, Chris, apologies?

MATTHEWS: Just the question of this masquerade has been going on by the
neocons. First of all, Dick Cheney, to get the record straight one final
time we have to bring him up again, he`s the guy who said Saddam Hussein in
Iraq had a nuclear weapon. He said it even though the intelligence
community had said no evidence of such a fact and he presented it a as a
fact. And basically, for a lot of people, turned their heads towards that
war and he has the nerve to come back again. Kristol`s part of that. He`s
a hawk on every front.

Why would the Republican Party allow those voices to rise above --

LENTI: These should not be the voice s --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why isn`t Bush being heard from? Bush got something to say.

LENTI: And I think you`re going to hear Bush say something tomorrow night.
I think you`re going to hear him talk about his record in Florida and hear
him talk about a real immigration reform plan. I think you`re going to
hear him talk about education reform, which is what made America great, and
I think he`s going to nail Trump on the economy, where Trump doesn`t have a
plan and saying whatever is not the -- you know, having his whatever
approach and throwing numbers out there is not going to get Trump over the
line, where Bush has detailed a very specific economic plan. And I think
we`ll hear that.

MATTHES: When`s the pre-season over, John? Because I think you made a
point that a lot of people in the establishment Republican, the real
Republican Party say that -- you know, they thought it would be preseason,
pre-gaming in terms of partying. And yet this seems to be the real game
right now. Trump seems to be winning the real fight. That`s what it looks
like to me.

STANTON: I think that the establishment is starting to come to terms with
the fact that this is not necessarily -- at least right now, going to be an
election, like other normal elections, where people sort of debate each
other. They, you know, go at each other over issues and do a little bit of
sniping, but they do get into some details.

This is very much a, you know, sort of like a -- having a yo mama joke kind
of a contest with somebody on the schoolyard right now. So they`re look, I
think, around to find somebody that maybe they could throw money behind.

You know, Ben Carson is getting a look by establishment money people now in
North Carolina from the party. He could potentially be somebody they could
try to get behind. They`re looking for somebody other than Trump that can
play this game of sort of get out there and have a schoolyard fight with
somebody.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ll be right back. The roundtable`s staying with us.

And up next, HARDBALL goes to high school when it take a page of the
candidates` yearbooks and predict who`s most likely to do what they do
tomorrow night at that big second debate at the Reagan Library.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, join me for full coverage tomorrow night at the Reagan
Library presidential debate. We`ll be live from Simi Valley from 7:00 to
8:00 Eastern Time and back again from 11:00 to 1:00 a.m. with post-debate
analysis, as well as interviews with top newsmakers and journalists, live
from the debate spin room. That`s where we`ll be tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable: Michelle, John and Sarah.

We`re going to a lightning round, if you will, right now, to make
predictions to who is going to standout tomorrow against Trump in the
Reagan Library debate. A reminder of who is on the early fight card
tomorrow night. By the way, the little kids table, Rick Santorum, who used
to be a big shot, Bobby Jindal who is governor of a state, George Pataki,
and Lindsey Graham, all at the little kids table or the happy hour, if you
will.

The main event, of course, is Donald Trump taking on Dr. Ben Carson, Jeb
Bush, Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike
Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, it`s not Kasech (ph), it`s Kasich, Chris
Christie and Carly Fiorina who`s made the cut this time.

John, let`s start with you. You say Scott Walker is going to be the most
desperate. He`s going to be the one throwing the punches.

STANTON: Yes. I mean, if you look at what happened when he put out this
big union proposal and no one heard about it. It really sort of fell flat.
He has been to me at least the most surprising candidate and that he has
not had much traction. He`s lost all the momentum he had coming into the
main primary process.

And I think tomorrow night, he`s going to need to be able to show that he
can stand toe to toe with a not necessarily fighting with Donald Trump but
at least engaging people, being energetic so that the money people that are
going to need -- that he`s going to need to support him are willing to keep
giving him dollars.

MATTHEWS: He`s gone down 13-2 like the wicked witch of the west, he`s
melting. He`s actually melting.

Let me go to Sarah right now. You say Chris Christie is going to be the
big slugger tomorrow. What do you think?

LENTI: Yes. I think if anyone goes ballistic tomorrow against Donald
Trump, it`s Chris Christie. I mean, this is a tough talking governor from
New Jersey. He`s talented. He single-handedly took on the unions. You
know, he`s been a prosecutor, remember, for the majority of his adult life
arguing with juries. So, I think tomorrow night, you`re going to see Chris
Christie really bring it.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s still in the race?

LENTI: I think his chances are slim to none. But he`s in the debate and I
think he`ll do a good job.

MATTHEWS: Nobody`s ever called him slim to none.

Let me go to Michelle. Is he going to try to be the class bully, Trump do
his usual thing, intimidating language like the kid in class who thought he
could beat up everybody and people are afraid he actually could? Your
thoughts?

BERNARD: Hey, look, absolutely, why not? That is the reason why he is
number one in the polls right now. You know, Chris, Bill Clinton had his
Sister Soulja moment. I was thinking about it today. Donald Trump has
given the country sort of the Bulworth moment, you remember Warren Beatty
in the 1998 movie "Bulworth."

MATTHEWS: Yes, sure.

BERNARD: He says it like it is, whether it is bullying the establishment
or moderators or bullying, you know, his other -- his fellow colleagues
that are running for president, he`s doing it, the American public is
laughing it up. He`s number one in the polls. There`s absolutely no
reason for him to change at least at this point in time the way he`s been
doing it.

MATTHEWS: I want you and Sarah, starting with Sarah, to talk about the
only woman on the stage. Hillary Clinton is the leading Democrat. But the
only woman in this Republican jamboree tomorrow night and in this whole
race is the woman who barely made the cut, but she made the cut. They
changed the rules to let her in.

I have a sense that Jake Tapper, the moderator, is going to go right to her
because Jeff Zucker knows how to do this stuff over there at CNN. Get a
fight going on right in the beginning. Do you have anything to say to
Donald Trump for his personal remarks about you? Donald Trump, do you have
anything to say back? And get the little fight going there.

Your thoughts? I think that`s coming.

LENTI: I think it`s coming. I think she needs to address it and you know,
she put out a great ad this week, the faces ad, and her execution was
incredible. She needs to address it, say it wasn`t correct and then hit
him on the substance.

MATTHEWS: Is she a second -- is she a possible VP nominee? I mean, I`m
being honest, she`s making a big run now. But is she -- does she make
sense for VP if you want to go up against Hillary, if that ends up being
the race?

LENTI: I think so. Women we represent over half the voting population.
She`s a smart woman. Her communication`s been incredible.

MATTHEWS: OK, quickly, Michelle. Do you think she should be on the ticket
or could be on the ticket? Your thoughts?

BERNARD: I think she should be on the ticket, I think she can be on the
ticket, and I think that tomorrow night, if she follows Donald Trump or
even if she comes before Donald Trump, if she starts off with that line,
look at this face, Carly Fiorina wins.

MATTHEWS: OK, great. Thank you, Michelle Bernard, a great friend of mine,
and John Stanton, thank you again. And, Sarah Lenti, thank you for
joining. We`ll have you back many times.

When we return, let me finish with the nasty divorce we`re watching in the
Republican Party, watching them go through a divorce. That`s what`s going
on now.

You watch and stick with us. We`ll tell you why.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this nasty divorce we`re watching the
Republican Party go through.

You know, back before the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party
was born of a merger of the old Whig Party of landed wealth with the
abolitionists. Well, today, the Republican Party still has the Whig crowd
represented by the old line Bush family. It`s got the red hots champion
right now by Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, people who have never even
served in office and haven`t been identified really as members of the
Republican Party.

Well, this is the divorce we`re watching right now. Look at the polls. A
bit more than half the people who do ID or vote as Republicans are dumping
the Whigs out the backdoor. Jeb Bush is getting 6 percent right now.
That`s less than one in 16 Republicans ready to keep their stock in the old
party establishment.

There`s nothing quite like this happening in the Democratic Party. Yes,
Senator Bernie Sanders is getting big audiences and, yes, he`s doing very
well up in New Hampshire, even out in Iowa. But the party is still a
political party. It`s just a question of who gets to carry out the
Democratic mission.

Meanwhile, what`s happening in the Party of Lincoln is much like what
happened in its beginning, only in reverse. What came together to form a
major political party is now clearly coming apart.

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
BE UPDATED.
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