updated 10/16/2015 9:28:02 AM ET 2015-10-16T13:28:02

Show: HARDBALL
Date: October 15, 2015
Guest: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Jeremy Peters, Willie Brown, Clarence Page,
John Stanton, Zerlina Maxwell

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Vast right-wing conspiracy.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

One thing is certain in American politics this October before the
presidential election. The Republican Party is putting all its eggs in one
basket, and that basket is called Benghazi. To defeat Hillary Clinton with
the candidates they have looks to be an extremely uphill task. None of
them looks like they have the stuff to go the distance with her in a
serious set of debates next fall.

What they`re hoping for, obviously, is a knockout this fall. And for
this, next Thursday`s Benghazi hearing looms as the main chance to nail
her. And there`s not a Republican campaign, Daddy Warbucks or cheerleader
out there who won`t be whooping it up for them to do just that.

The problem with all the conspiracies, of course, is that somebody
always talks, and that`s exactly what`s happened here. Several Republicans
inside and high in the organization of the party have begun to sing.

Senator Amy Klobuchar`s a Democrat from Minnesota. She`s endorsed
Hillary Clinton. Senator, a second Republican U.S. congressman now is
saying that the Republican-led Benghazi committee was designed to take down
Hillary Clinton. It follows what House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
recently said about that investigation. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody thought
Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi
special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her
numbers are dropping. Why? Because she`s untrustable. But no one would
have known any of that had happened had we not...

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I agree. That`s something good. I give you
credit for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And now Republican congressman Richard Hanna of New York
state has come out in agreement with McCarthy`s comments. Here`s
Congressman Hanna yesterday.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD HANNA (R), NEW YORK: Kevin McCarthy basically blew
himself up with a comment over the Benghazi committee...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

HANNA: ... you know, which -- sometimes, the biggest sin you can
commit in D.C. is to tell the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

HANNA: You know, and I -- this may not be politically correct, but I
-- I -- I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was
designed to go after people and -- an individual, Hillary Clinton. This
has been the longest investigation, longer than Watergate. I`d like to
expect more from a committee that`s spent millions of dollars and tons of
time.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So they`re talking -- they`re even singing. We should
know. We had a Republican member of Congress scheduled to defend the
committee`s word until about an hour before we put this show together. He
pulled out at the last minute.

Senator Klobuchar, this situation is strange because, to use the mob
expression, some many of them are singing. They`re singing!

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA Well, first of all, I have a lot of
respect for Congressman Hanna. We serve on a committee together, and I
found him to be someone who speaks the truth, and that`s what he was doing
there. And it`s no different than what Congressman McCarthy said, although
he kind of lost me at the word "untrustable," Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOBUCHAR: But I will say I think the debate showed all of us, the
debate this week -- Hillary Clinton had that opportunity to make her case,
and she is going to testify in front of this group of people who`ve really
been trying to do her in on this issue for years.

And let`s look at the facts here. A report came out. Eight reports
have come out, but the one I look at is the accountability report that
basically made 29 recommendations of things that had to change. We know
that in the recent history of this country, since 1977, tragically, over 60
diplomatic personnel have been killed across the world. It is a dangerous
job. We also know that during the Bush administration 12, international
facilities of the U.S. were attacked.

So sadly, this has happened in the past, and work is being done to
make sure that we have priority rankings on more dangerous postings and
that more work is done for security. And that is a result of Benghazi.

But to continue this, when we know -- we know that there`s been
measures taken, and to continue this attack on her, these two congressmen
have really called it as it is. And they`re both Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, in an interview with NBC`s Peter Alexander,
Republican congressman Mike Pompeo, a member of the House select Benghazi
committee, defended his committee`s work in the wake of Congressman Hanna`s
comments. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Was this investigation designed to go
after Hillary Clinton?

REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), KANSAS: Yes, that`s just absurd.

(CROSSTALK)

POMPEO: It`s false on its face.

We haven`t had an ambassador murdered since 1979. This man was killed
on her watch. And we have been fighting to get documents from her for an
awfully long time. We discovered that there was this server, this secret
server, home brew server that had materials related to Libya and Benghazi.
No committee`s had a chance to see that before, and we...

ALEXANDER: Does she have the qualifications to be president?

CLINTON: We have the obligation next Thursday to ask her questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Senator, this is what`s weird about the two
parties now. The Democratic Party used to be a big city party, would get
pretty rough with its politics. I don`t -- when we lost 3,000 people on
9/11, your party did not spend the last 15, 14 years blaming George W.
Bush for leaving the door open, leaving -- Condoleezza Rice, who knew that
al Qaeda was coming into this (INAUDIBLE) to hit us here.

But nobody did it because people know things happen. Surprises do
occur. Not everybody is guilty when something goes wrong. Ronald Reagan,
who`s now a saint in the Republican Party, positioned our troops in a place
the local troops, the American Marines in Lebanon, called Khomeiniville.
They knew it was dangerous. They all got blown up in their sleep. Nobody
spent the rest of our lives talking about it.

Isn`t this just about nailing Hillary because they can`t beat her in a
debate? After this week, I think they`re really sure they can`t.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think, as you know, Chris, every time these
tragedies happen, we have oversight. We have extensive hearings. Out of
9/11 came the 9/11 recommendations. It took years to get those put into
law, but they were put into law. Then at some point, once the
recommendations are brought forth in a bipartisan, sane manner, then you
move on.

And what they keep doing is having these same hearings over and over
again, and we`re finally starting to get words on the street from
Republicans themselves about what`s going on here.

And I think the beauty of this debate was, first of all, of course,
the civility we saw between our candidates, and really, the agreement when
Bernie Sanders says, you know, Enough of these e-mails, that we need to
move on and talk about the issues facing real Americans.

MATTHEWS: And you know, I think the real dishonesty of that
Congressman Pompeo, who bailed out of meeting with us today and coming on
the show -- I don`t know why. Maybe he had a good reason. But to say that
he`s the only ambassador who`s been killed -- there`s been so many envoys
and aid workers and people around the world -- I got a whole list of them -
- long before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, just in the last
part of the 20th century, early part of the 21st.

It`s what happens. The guys go into dangerous situations. They make
the call. Sometimes things break bad.

Anyway, late today, House select committee Trey Gowdy -- he`s the
chair -- responded to Hanna`s comments. Gowdy defended the committee`s
work and threw it back at Hanna, arguing that he knows nothing about the
committee`s work. Gowdy also said, "Recently, Mr. Hanna and I talked
informally about the committee, and he raised neither questions with the
scope or the approach of the committee."

Anyway, they`re all starting to talk. Congressman (sic) Klobuchar, do
you think there`s any worth to the Benghazi committee?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: ... of course, there was worth to have -- thank you. Of
course, there was worth to have oversight. But at this point, when you
keep having these hearings, the same hearing over and over, and Secretary
Clinton has already testified before Congress -- and the fact is, she`s
agreed to do it again. She said she wanted a public hearing, and I think
that`s appropriate for the American people to evaluate it.

And for a lot of the 15 million people that tuned in to the debate
this week, they were actually able to hear her calmly go through what
happened, what happened with her e-mails, and where we need to go forward
as a country. And that is just not what this committee`s focused on, as we
know, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this Benghazi ad that`s out
there which ran during the Democratic debate you mentioned. It`s from the
group called Stop Hillary PAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear Hillary Clinton, I`d like to ask you why you
ignore calls for help in Benghazi and then four Americans were murdered.
I`d like to know why you lied, saying the attack was a response to an
Internet video. I`d like to hear why you tried to silence the Benghazi
whistleblower. But Mrs. Clinton, I can`t. What difference does it make?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Ambassador Stevens`s mother herself was furious when
she found out about that ad existing. She told "The "Washington Post"
that, quote, "If I could sue him" -- the ad maker -- "I would. It`s an
insult to someone who is dead. I think it`s a wrong use for the reputation
of my son."

Well, the mother of CIA contractor Glen Doherty, who was also killed
during the attacks, was equally horrified. She said, "It`s horrifying.
I`m so upset to have my son talking about -- from" -- actually, "talking
from the grave saying, Don`t vote for this person. He wasn`t political.
He would never have done something like this."

Senator, last thought about how dirty this has gotten.

KLOBUCHAR: I don`t think you can get much lower than that, Chris.
You have mothers -- one of the mothers said, you know, she wasn`t political
at all and she doesn`t think of herself as a political person, but to do
that without talking to these families?

I`m a former prosecutor. You don`t do ads like that without talking
to the victims` families. And that is what they did here. They basically
have these courageous Americans talking from the grave, putting words in
their mouth, and horrifying their own mothers. I don`t -- I just -- I
don`t know how much lower it can get than that.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re seeing that exactly. Thank you so much.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Jeremy Peters is a political report from "The New York
Times." Jeremy, this -- I want some objective facts here, if there are
such things coming out of that committee. Do they have an agenda to find
out anything? What are they looking for besides just a fishing expedition?

JEREMY PETERS, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, what they started out looking
for was how to improve embassy security. But as we know, this
investigation veered off into the e-mail use, and then that became easy for
Democrats to say, See, all you`re doing is focusing this on Hillary
Clinton.

But what -- the problem here, as you know, is Republicans always take
this too far. You look at that ad. It wasn`t enough just to say she`s
untrustworthy, she didn`t know how to run the State Department, she left
these people vulnerable and they got killed. They had to basically say she
was complicit in murder.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what the -- it seems to me that -- the whole
thing`s about, not about the PR dance afterwards with Susan Rice doing the
Sunday shows. That didn`t kill four guys.

PETERS: No.

MATTHEWS: Nor did the failure to requisition the amount of material
it would take to defend some facility that was already vulnerable anyway.
The implication seems to be all the time, like it was with John Kerry,
with, you know, the Swift Boating, that she let her friend die, that she
sat there at some party somewhere having a good time -- I don`t want to
bother with it.

In other words, the worst charge they make is the one they imply.

PETERS: Well, and it also doesn`t seem like the most sophisticated
political attack to be making because people will believe a lot of things
about Hillary Clinton. They already believe that she`s not very
trustworthy. They believe that, you know, maybe she`s not looking out for
their best interests. But to go and say that she`s basically complicit in
a murder -- it just seems beyond the pale. And I don`t think that that
resonates with anybody beyond the rabid partisans...

MATTHEWS: Well, the right loves it. They love it.

PETERS: They love it. Exactly. But I just don`t -- I mean, how you
convince anybody to see Hillary in a different light after this ad...

MATTHEWS: She let her friend die.

PETERS: ... I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: That is the argument they`re making.

Anyway, in the past week, Hillary Clinton has spoken up multiple times
against the Republican-led Benghazi investigation. Let`s listen to her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
Now it`s clear that this whole effort was set up for political partisan
purposes, not to try to get to any useful end.

This committee is basically an arm of the Republican National
Committee. It is a partisan...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... vehicle, as admitted by the House Republican majority
leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise.

This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of
making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I
would have never done that! And if I were president and there were
Republicans or Democrats who were thinking about that, I would have done
everything to shut it down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I wish -- you know, that`s a pretty strong person
right there, Hillary Clinton. I wish sometime -- maybe they won`t give it
a chance -- just tell us exactly what you did from the time you heard those
guys were in trouble over there, from the time you heard about it, every
step you took until you gave up getting to them. In other words, just tell
us the real-life -- I haven`t heard that yet.

Why don`t they -- they don`t want it because that`s too clear. She`d
probably do a good job, like she did then, of saying, yes, here`s what
happened. I go the call. I did this, I did this, I did this. I was told
we couldn`t get anything done. I tried again, blah, blah, blah. We`d know
the story.

PETERS: And I don`t know what the demeanor is going to be like in
this hearing next week when she goes before Congress. I know that
Republicans have been careful to try to not -- to reinforce this notion
that it is a partisan witch hunt. So you have to imagine that they would
dial it back a little bit. But as we`ve seen before, she excels in these
settings. When she is back on her heels, when she feels like she`s...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Either she`s terribly, awfully, mortally, lethally wounded
because she didn`t do her job...

PETERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... or she did do her job and she should plank these guys,
just nail them!

PETERS: And you know, this is when the lawyer in her comes out, and
it`s for good. It`s not her kind of being too legalistic and hedging --
oh, not sure what the definition of "is" is, like she and her husband and
she are known to do. You know what? I think this is where it comes out,
her tenacity, and she could really, really give them a show.

MATTHEWS: She should talk about the guy she knew, Chris Stevens.

PETERS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: These guys on the committee never knew the guy. They`re
not friends with the guy. They don`t know him. Anyway, make it human, I
think. That`s the way to do it. By the way have the same guys who prepped
her for the debate prep her for the hearing.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERS: Yes, that`s right.

MATTHEWS: She did a great job. And they did, too. Thank you, Jeremy
Peters of "The New York Times."

PETERS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up -- one reason Bernie Sanders is doing so well is
because he never misses a chance to slam the corrupting influence of big
money in our politics. When these Daddy Warbucks types spend their
millions to prop up the candidates, it diminishes the votes of everyone out
there watching right now. It`s wrong, and Bernie nailed it. And that`s
ahead.

Plus, could a member -- or actually, could a number of these weaker
presidential candidates, like Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Lincoln Chafee, be
ready to bail at this point, just get out of there?

And if you didn`t stay up last night to catch me on "Late Night" with
Seth Meyers, stick around. We`ll show you the highlights. It was kind of
an interesting conversation. I said stuff I normally wouldn`t say here on
HARDBALL, including my attempt to stay serious in the face of some
absurdity on that show.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with how Bernie Sanders is right about the
corrupting power of Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and the rest of the
crowd I call Daddy Warbucks out there.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama announced today that due to the tenuous
situation on the ground in Afghanistan, the United States will keep 9,800
troops there through much of 2016, with that number eventually lowering to
5,500 in 2017.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is, in
key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile.
And in some places, there`s risk of deterioration. Afghanistan remains
dangerous. Twenty-five brave Americans have given their lives there this
year.

I do not send you into harm`s way lightly. It`s the most solemn
decision that I make. I know the wages of war and the wounded warriors I
visit in the hospital and in the grief of gold star families. But as your
commander-in-chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national
security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and
our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, last year, President Obama had planned on keeping
just 1,000 troops as a security force at the U.S. embassy in the Afghan
capital of Kabul.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. One of Bernie Sanders`s
strongest lines at this week`s Democratic debate was a call to action or a
call to war about the Daddy Warbucks that donate huge amounts of money to
political candidates and thereby control the system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a result of
this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign
finance system is corrupt, and it`s undermining American democracy.
Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into
the political process in order to fund super-PACs and to elect candidates
who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, last week, "The New York Times" reported that a tiny
fraction of the American population, just about 150 families, provide
almost half of all the money raised by candidates so far this election
season. According to "The Times," just 158 families, along with companies
they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the
campaign. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses
provided so much early money in the campaign, and most of it through
channels legalized by the Supreme Court`s infamous Citizens United decision
five years ago.

My question, what are those 158 families getting out of it? Why are
they giving all this money, if not to influence the candidates?

Clarence Page is a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune" and Willie
Brown is the former mayor of San Francisco.

Mr. Mayor, I want to start with you. Thanks for coming on.

The idea this guy Sheldon Adelson, this casino magnate, 80 some years
old, publicly goes out and flirts with the candidates, saying things like
if you keep saying the right stuff about Middle East politics, and us
wanting to go to war, and all that over there, if you keep saying that
stuff about the Iranian deal and the way you don`t like it, the nuclear
deal, I might give just you money, like a hundred million bucks.

And he is doing this public flirtation so that everybody sees it.
They see the candidate getting sucked into it, buying his, pandering his
way to the money. They see the big-money guy doling it out like Daddy
Warbucks. And yet the public, except for Bernie Sanders, doesn`t raise a
peep.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Well, there is a
reason why, Chris. People are trying to get elected to public office, and
they know that it takes a lot of money to buy time on television, to buy
time on radio, to do the Internet counter transactions, to do the direct
mail, to the robo-calls.

All those things cost a lot of money, the polling and all those
things. And they know that they can`t get the money from other than people
who want to invest, people who want to give money. And, believe me, if you
have been a politician and you have been a part of it, you know Bernie
Sanders is telling the truth. You receive that money and you try to make
sure the people who gave you that money will do it again.

MATTHEWS: Do it again. That`s the key. You want it the second time.

Anyway, Politico reported this week that Sheldon Adelson is leaning
increasingly towards supporting that little hawk Marco Rubio in 2016.
According to Politico, the two men have detailed policy discussions
especially about international affairs in Israel, the latter cause dear and
-- near and dear to the mogul.

Meanwhile, last month, "New York" magazine quoted someone close to
Adelson who said the Florida senator, that`s Marco Rubio, phones Adelson
every other week -- quote -- "Rubio calls and says, hey, did you see the
speech? Did you see my floor statement on Iran? What do you think I
should do about this issue? It`s impressive. Rubio is persistent."

My God, Clarence, this is out in the public.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is not some whorehouse somewhere and it`s private.
This is public pandering.

PAGE: It looks like deja vu all over again, because you should
remember the fuss that was made over the Koch brothers backing Walker.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They should get a tax deduction for the money they give
politicians, because they want tax breaks and regulatory breaks on oil and
gas, which they make money on.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: So, if they buy a politician, they pay less taxes.

PAGE: It`s sobering to remember, though, for all the bucks that
Adelson poured into Mitt Romney`s campaign, Mitt Romney still lost.

MATTHEWS: Well, he poured a ton more into Newt. And he kept Newt
alive through South Carolina. It worked.

PAGE: That`s right. That`s right.

I think -- I remember -- I know you do too -- the modern era of
concern about campaign finance began back there with Richard Nixon. And W.
Clement Stone, the insurance magnate in Chicago, gave $1 million to Nixon.
That was the headline.

MATTHEWS: One million dollars.

PAGE: Yes. It`s like something out of "Austin Powers," right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: But a million dollars to one person, that had never been done
before.

After the Watergate scandal broke, all the reforms came along and they
put limits on people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Now they`re all gone. And let`s be honest. President
Obama is the first guy to break loose from the funding program that was
going on until 2008. He wanted to go out and make more money on the stump.

Anyway, Donald Trump was asked about Adelson`s potential support for
Rubio. Here`s what he said. Let`s watch. This is Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m self-funding. I don`t
want anybody`s money. But if Sheldon gives to him, he will have total
control over Rubio. And that`s the problem with the way the system works,
whoever gives. You look at Jeb, he`s got $125 million in the bank. Rubio
has money in the bank, not nearly as much.

But anybody that is given a lot of money by these people, they are
totally controlled by the people.

Sheldon or whoever -- I mean, you could say Koch. You could say -- I
could name them all. They`re all friends of mine, every one of them. I
know all of them. And they have pretty much total control over the
candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, Mayor Brown, there we have a billionaire saying don`t
trust the billionaire contributors because they will buy the candidates.
At least if you buy me, you got me, for whatever I`m -- whatever he`s
worth. You got Donald Trump. And you don`t have a bunch of other hangers-
on that own the guy.

BROWN: Well, let me tell you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That is a hell of an appeal.

BROWN: As having been a politician for a very long time and now no
longer a politician, I can tell you that I think Trump is doing a
disservice to all of us when he says there`s total and complete control.

Let me tell you, Chris, politicians are much smarter than that. They
will do their best in most cases to make sure that they get money from
those resources that they are already advocating on behalf of in the views
that they have, whether they are the people who do the gun control or anti-
gun control, whether it`s pro abortion or anti-abortion.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BROWN: All of those are things that politicians regularly do. The
politician who gets caught simply doing what somebody who contributed to
him said do will lose his seat.

MATTHEWS: OK. Who was it, Phil Burton or Jesse Unruh that said if
you can`t take their money, drink their booze, sleep with their women and
vote against them in the morning, you don`t belong in this business?

BROWN: And they were right. And it was in fact the let Jesse Marvin
Unruh.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

What a wonderful statement about American politics. You can`t trust
them even when you buy them. I don`t think that is true. And you said a
word -- before this, Mr. Mayor, you made the point -- made the point that
they do want the money the next time.

And they may not be nice people. But they know, if they don`t make
good on the money they got from some fat cat, some Daddy Warbucks, they
won`t get it from them the next time.

BROWN: And usually they don`t attract the money unless there is
already an indication on the evaluation done by the donor that this
individual is consistent with the donor`s advocacy and with the donor`s
views.

The donor who goes and talks to a politician and says I will give you
money if you vote this way, that`s a bribe. And that`s prosecutable.

MATTHEWS: OK. Why did Hillary Clinton change her mind about the
trade bill in the last week or two?

BROWN: I think she did so because she is now more knowledgeable. She
sees the implications, and, clearly, organized labor and Bernie is giving
her the path.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much for that real deft response.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor, a real loyalist out there.

Thank you, Clarence.

And I`m not -- only being sarcastic because I think I have my own
thinking here.

Up next, highlights from my visit to "Late Night With Seth Meyers."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I had a great night last night with Seth Meyers on "Late Night"
discussing the Democratic debate. I also accepted Seth`s challenge of
reading fake headlines as a serious newsman in a segment he called "Gravi-
toss."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS")

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Gravitas is the
lifeblood of a news anchor.

MATTHEWS: Right.

MEYERS: So, we`re going to see if you maintain yours as you read news
stories you have never seen. You are going to turn to a new camera for
each story and read whatever is on the card with all the gravitas you can
muster. Are you up to the challenge?

MATTHEWS: I am up to the challenge.

MEYERS: All right, then let us begin.

It`s time for the "Gravi-toss."

Your first camera is camera one. Please turn to camera one and read
the news story.

MATTHEWS: Tonight, organizers at last night`s Democratic debate held
an extra podium in case Joe Biden decided to appear. And, today, the
podium is embroiled in a sex scandal with a nearby ottoman.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: A new poll shows Hillary Clinton holds a 20-point lead over
the Democratic field and a 30-point lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(LAUGHTER)

MEYERS: Camera two.

MATTHEWS: According to a new poll, 70 percent of Americans now
believe in climate change, while the other 30 percent are seeking the
Republican presidential nomination.

(LAUGHTER)

MEYERS: Camera three. Camera one.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Breaking news. Researchers at Oxford University have found
that edible bugs are a healthier source of protein than beef, or you can
get the best of both worlds and eat at Arby`s.

MEYERS: You`re amazing.

That`s "Gravi-toss." Chris Matthews, everyone!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Up next, there are new signs tonight that some presidential
campaigns may be on their last legs. Who will be the next candidate to
drop out?

The HARDBALL roundtable coming up next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Israel`s prime minister says he is open to meeting Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to end a wave of violence. Benjamin
Netanyahu called such a meeting potentially useful.

Social Security recipients will not be getting an increase in the cost
of living adjustment next year due to low inflation and a steep slide in
gas prices. There was no increase in 2010 or 2011.

Texas firefighters are battling a blaze that`s destroyed at least nine
homes. It has grown in size and is only 15 percent contained.

Forecasters say it will likely be a wet winter in drought-stricken
California, thanks to one of the strongest El Ninos on record; 97 percent
of the state is in a drought.

And republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised $3.9 million
last quarter. He contributed $100,000 of his own money to his campaign --
back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last month, we saw the first two casualties of 2016 presidential
campaigning when Rick Perry and Scott Walker dropped out of the running.
But who among the current contenders, surviving contenders with campaigns
on life support is the next to hit the rip, rip chute or whatever?

In Chris Christie`s home state of New Jersey, the governor has
plummeted to sixth place in jersey among 2016 Republicans. And 54 percent
of Jersey Republicans -- Republicans think Christie should end his campaign
for president. Rand Paul took time out from campaigning in Iowa to read
and respond to the top Google search about his campaign.

Here`s what he had to say to one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third question,
most popular question from Google, is, is Rand Paul still running for
president?

And I don`t know. I wouldn`t be doing this dumb-ass live-streaming if
I weren`t. So, yes, I still am running for president. Get over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Dumb-ass.

Anyway, the Democrat Lincoln Chafee went through a tough interview
with CNN`s Wolf Blitzer over his campaign`s life expectancy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Because of your distinguished career, you`re going
to wind up looking silly if you keep going on like this. At what point
will you decide, you know what, there are other things for me to do instead
of a futile effort to try to get the Democratic presidential nomination?

LINCOLN CHAFEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It reaffirmed what I
thought when I got into the race, and that the establishment just does not
want to hear an anti-war voice.

I have been a United States senator and a governor. But these issues
are so important and I want to continue to raise them.

BLITZER: At what point will you drop out?

CHAFEE: I`m in it as far as I can continue to raise these issues. I
think they`re important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.

Zerlina Maxwell is a contributor to "Essence" magazine. John Stanton
is Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed. And Susan Milligan with "U.S.
News & World Report."

Susan, OK, OK, let`s talk about a couple of these guys.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": All right.

MATTHEWS: Rand Paul, what did he say? I can`t repeat it right now,
but he`s really unhappy with the way life is going for him, clearly.

MILLIGAN: He is unhappy. And I`m not sure he was prepared for the
rigors of this campaign.

But he just doesn`t have that loyal base that his father had among
libertarians that would raise him up in critical mass.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He said that. He`s relying on them.

MILLIGAN: He just doesn`t. And the thing that he has to worry about
is this backlash in his home state of Kentucky about trying to run for the
Senate and the presidency at the same time. And he doesn`t want to lose a
Senate seat.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He is apparently -- on your point, he is raising money for
the Senate seat. He`s doing -- he`s pulling a Joe Lieberman here.

MILLIGAN: Yes. It`s not going over well.

JOHN STANTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: He decided just to
play nice with the establishment, with Mitch McConnell and all those guys,
to a certain point. And that alienated a lot of those libertarians.

But, at the same time, he started to move back. He got into a couple
of fights with McConnell sort of right after the election in 2014. And
that upset a lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How do you get out? How do you get out? You just pull the
rip cord and say I`m jumping out of the plane? What do you do?

STANTON: Yes. I mean, light yourself on fire on...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. You jump out of the plane first, then you pull
the cord, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

ZERLINA MAXWELL, "ESSENCE": That`s never good. When he`s drilling
sort of the tax code, he`s destroying the tax code and doing all of these
things to get attention, that`s never an indication that your campaign is
doing well.

When you`re Periscoping a day in the life, that`s not an indication
that you`re doing well.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What does Periscoping mean?

MAXWELL: When he`s live-streaming. That was from that live-streaming
that we just saw.

MATTHEWS: Will you sit down and teach me all this sometime?

MAXWELL: Yes.

MILLIGAN: Young people and their...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know all stuff. My kids teach me this. I know.

Let me ask you about Chris Christie, who was riding high. He was on
"MORNING JOE" every hour or two. He was Mr. -- Mr. East Coast. He owned
it. He was Mr. Media Lover, friend of the show and all that stuff for
everybody. And I was popular -- I thought he was great too until he got
caught into the real sleaze problem of New Jersey.

MILLIGAN: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: Which wasn`t too surprising, but he did get caught in it.

MILLIGAN: Well, but the other problem that he has is that his appeal
for so long was that he was a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of guy.

But Trump just does that like on steroids.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.

MAXWELL: Yes.

MILLIGAN: So he doesn`t have the appeal as the guy who says what
everybody else is thinking, so he is just left with, you know, Bridgegate,
right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If Trump ever said, none of your business, somebody would
say, well, he`s being polite tonight.

MILLIGAN: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He didn`t say, you`re ugly. That`s what -- there`s nothing
like Trump, what he`s been able to get away with.

STANTON: The same problem he has with Jeb and with Rubio, who are the
two Republicans that can say, "Look, I`m a conservative. But I`ve also
worked with Democrats in the past. I`ve gotten things done in the Senate
or wherever." That`s the space he wanted to straddle and he has nothing.
And so, he`s been basically blocked out by those three candidates. His
only saving grace is that he`s got a bunch of money.

MATTHEWS: OK, the one that didn`t look good the other night was
Chafee.

MILLIGAN: Oh, well, I --

MAXWELL: He was fumbling around. He didn`t look strong. He is just
a weak candidate. Most people watching the debate --

(CROSSTALK)

MAXWELL: I think most people watching were like, who is Lincoln
Chafee.

MATTHEWS: My daddy died, I who voted against Glass-Steagall, don`t
blame me.

(CROSSTALK)

MAXWELL: That was the worst answer I`ve ever heard in a debate.

MILLIGAN: I mean, those who conferred Linc on the Hill felt this
compassion. He is unable to lie.

MATTHEWS: He is honest, you say.

MILLIGAN: He doesn`t have the DNA that says spin this. He just
doesn`t.

I actually thought Jim Webb looked the worst. I`m watching him and I
thought, for his closing statement I thought he had a knife in his teeth.
I kill the man. You want to vote against me?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The only guy on history to go on TV and say I killed a man.

MAXWELL: My favorite description of him is that he was on his way to
the Republican debate but made a wrong turn and ended up at the Democratic
debate.

MATTHEWS: Which one is the first to go? Paul, Christie or Chafee?

MAXWELL: I think Rand Paul.

STANTON: I think Chafee ends up bowing out. He won`t have enough
money for a bus ticket to wherever he has to get to.

MILLIGAN: I agree. Although, I think Webb would be out before
Chafee.

MATTHEWS: This is sad. This is cruel. I do respect him for having
the nerve to run. I was wrong about a couple of these guys. I thought
Walker was going to be really tough. I thought he had all the tickets.

I thought Rand Paul had a uniquely strong following because of his
father. He would always have 25 points to go in any contest. He doesn`t
have it.

Anyway, Donald Trump and Ben Carson have threatened, both of them, to
pull out of the next Republican debate on the 28th which is hosted by CNBC,
unless their demands are met. "Politico" reported today that aides to
Trump and another Republican candidate, Ben Carson, submitted a letter to
CNBC saying their opposition to the debate criteria. "Neither Mr. Trump
nor Dr. Carson won`t participate in your debate if it`s longer than 120
minutes, including commercials, and doesn`t include opening and closing
statements", said the letter.

And this, of course, isn`t the first time Trump has threatened to pull
out of an interview or even pull out in a debate. He has done this
apparently to media outlets in the past when he doesn`t think the reporting
is fair.

Trump wants an opening. He wants a closing statement. He wants -- I
agree with him about the two hours. I do think this is, you know,
unnecessary and long-distance running.

MILLIGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What about the opening statement? Why does he want to stem
wind at both ends?

MAXWELL: Well, because most people are not paying attention in the
middle. I think that he wants to make sure that he gets everybody who is
tuning in at the beginning and anybody who came late joining so he can get
his message in. But I just think he`s been so short on substance that the
prepared remarks play to his strength, because he can prepare them ahead of
time.

MATTHEWS: Going AWOL in the last hour of the last debate.
Disappeared for an hour.

STANTON: When he was around he looked sort of like befuddled or like
he was sweating and he looked -- you know, it was funny to watch him. He
seemed like he was getting shorter standing next to Jeb Bush who didn`t do
much in the last debate --

MATTHEWS: Except be tall.

STANTON: Except be tall and stand there, right?

MATTHEWS: It was interesting, I think Hillary benefited from five
guys on the stage and her. Shape of the field in Massachusetts. Defines
the winner. Only woman. Pretty smart.

But I think this cavalcade of candidates on the Republican side wastes
so much time, John. Nobody wants to hear from Huckabee. Nobody wants to
hear from Jim Gilmore or any of these guys at the lower kids table or a lot
the of debate kids table. And I do think Carly Fiorina is fading. We`ll
see.

STANTON: Well, it gets --

MATTHEWS: Unless he takes another whack at her. That will probably
put her back at the top, because it engages her in the discussion.

STANTON: I mean, when political junkies like us are sitting in the
third hour of the Republican debate and exhausted and not paying attention
to what they`re saying, it`s hard to justify that. And the problem, of
course, is that if you shorten it to two hours, almost nobody gets a good
amount of time to really do something --

MATTHEWS: You know what the print people do in the last hour? They
go over their notes in the first two and try to get it together for the
show they`re about to do.

MILLIGAN: But this also to me defines how the Republican primary
particularly has become another entertainment show, reality show. And
Trump is looking at it not so much as a candidate, as a guy who is
programming the hours and saying our advertisement are going to fall off on
that third hour.

MATTHEWS: He`s more TV.

But I thought -- you know what? I think the Democrats did a good job.
I was proud of the country. I think Democrats should have been proud of
that week.

MILLIGAN: O`Malley had the best closing statement for that reason.
We didn`t vilify women or immigrants or made fun of each other.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s good for the other network to get an
incredible audience for this. We`re supposed to compete but I think it`s
good for America.

The HARDBALL roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, Republicans fearing a tough general election fight look
to take out, the word they love, Hillary Clinton with this Benghazi thing.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert will plead guilty
in his federal hush money case. His attorney said that today. Hastert was
charged with lying to the FBI about bank withdrawals to allegedly
compensate and conceal past misconduct to an unnamed individual. A trial
date has been set for October 28th. A plea deal would allow him to avoid a
trial. But it`s still unclear whether he will serve time in prison. Well,
that`s a big question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable, the HARDBALL roundtable --
Zerlina, John and Susan.

Republican Congressman Richard Hanna delivered a yet another --
actually yet another blow to the credibility of that House Select Committee
on Benghazi yesterday saying it is designed to go after Hillary Clinton.
According to a FOX poll, voters in the country are split on whether the
committee should call it quits, 46 percent say Congress should continue and
50 percent say they should move on.

If you look at the results by party, big surprise here. There`s a
clear partisan divide. Seventy-four percent of Republicans say the
investigation should continue, 75 percent of Democrats say Congress should
move on. So much for objective truth, I guess.

But with a major Hollywood film on the Benghazi attacks yet to be
released just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the issues isn`t going
away anytime soon. Titled "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi," the
script which was obtained by "The New York Times" includes provocative
lines like this one delivered by a security contractor at the scene the
incident. Quote, "We got nobody backing us up here. Nothing."

And if the movie trailer`s any indication, it could prove damaging to
Clinton at a critical time for her campaign. Here`s a bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the U.S. ambassador at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ambassador is in his safe haven. You`re not
the first responders. You`re the last resort. You will wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I called for air support. It never came.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Susan Milligan, you know, I saw the trailer in a theater,
and I go this is going to rile people up. It doesn`t say Hillary Clinton.

MILLIGAN: No. But it`s going to rile people up who are already riled
up about it. I mean, it`s a terrible tragedy what happened, but if you
think Hillary Clinton was responsible, this movie is just going to reaffirm
that. And if you don`t, I don`t think it`s going to make you suddenly say
she`s not qualified to be president because she let her friend die.

STANTON: I agree that I don`t think you`re going to sway a lot of
votes but what you may do is you may get people who are looking at the
people that are running right now on the Republican side, particularly
let`s say if Trump falls off, Rubio -- or Cruz is falling off. You`re
going to get the conservatives are going to be looking at Jeb Bush or Marco
Rubio and be like I don`t want to vote for that guy. And the ones that
stayed home in 2012 may be able to get them angry enough to come back out
no matter who your nominee ends up being.

If you can keep the anger on that side over Benghazi high, that is --
there`s a much higher likelihood you`re going to get those people to go out
even if you get a moderate Republican in the end.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Zerlina?

MAXWELL: I just don`t think this issue has potency any more
politically because of the fact they`ve admitted multiple times this is
politically motivated. I think that takes away some of the strength. As
many times as she steps before Congress, she`s going to testify again but
she was strong when she testified previously at the end of her tenure as
secretary of state. So I think that all of the things coming to light, all
of the information that we have now, it`s been debunked and debunked and
debunked and debunked.

How many more times do we have to debunk this as a conspiracy, as the
Republicans have laid it out?

MATTHEWS: Unfortunately, I`ve spent years watching movies full of
nonsense like the JFK movie, Oliver Stone, somehow this idiot, crazy man
Jim Garrison was telling the truth, the New Orleans D.A. It wasn`t true at
all. Nixon had nothing to do with killing Kennedy. Johnson had nothing to
do with it. And yet a lot of kids come out of that movie theater with
baseball caps on saying did you know Nixon was part of killing Kennedy and
he was involved, and so was Johnson involved apparently.

MAXWELL: I just don`t --

MATTHEWS: People do buy what they see at the movies.

MAXWELL: Google wasn`t as prevalent then as when the movie came out -
-

MATTHEWS: You`re pulling that high-tech stuff on me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s where you go. That`s your rabbit hole. So people
are going to check the facts.

MAXWELL: I think people are going to check the facts. People are
going to watch her testify and she`s going to be strong just like she was
in the debate. I just think the potency is not there.

STANTON: She still has that problem. There`s still tens of thousands
--

MAXWELL: But not with independent voters who are going to swing the
election. The people that care about Benghazi don`t like her.

MATTHEWS: You mean, the rough fibers.

STANTON: Rough fibers, right --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The grassy knoll stuff.

MILLIGAN: I mean, the amazing thing is that she does not even have to
talk about a vast right-wing conspiracy and have people make fun of her
for, because they`re doing it on alone. For a party doesn`t believe in
assisted suicide, they`re doing a good impression of it. They look
ridiculous with their majority leader and another Republican member and a
former staffer saying that this is basically --

MATTHEWS: Isn`t it great? Democrats do have that. The tape is
great, isn`t it? Once it exists. I mean, you know, Kevin McCarthy will
always have that tape, as long as he lives. That tape will be sitting
somewhere between here and Mars somewhere and be retrievable and it will
always say this thing was political.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLIGAN: They`re on defense.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MAXWELL: And they`ll realize what was really going on.

MATTHEWS: The tape is great. Let`s go to the tape.

Anyway, thank you, Zerlina Maxwell and John Stanton, of course, and
Susan Milligan, who I`ve known many years. What a great person.

When we return, let me finish with how Bernie Sanders is right about
the corrupting power of Adelson and the Koch brothers and the rest of the
Daddy Warbucks out there.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

During the Cold War, the Soviets said that American democracy was a
sham, that our politics and our government were controlled by the
Rockefellers. What dare we say to that charge now? Every time we pick up
a newspaper, watch the news or have a conversation with someone, it all
comes down to who`s paying for all this. The most powerful line in
Tuesday`s debate was Bernie Sanders` attack on the corrupting power of the
billionaires in American politics, elections and government.

Is there a person who doesn`t know that big money`s influencing our
tax policies, our energy politics? Our foreign policies? You`d have to be
hibernating underground not to know of the Koch brothers and their
interests in oil and gas, of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson`s determination
to get a Mideast hawk into the White House.

We`re all onto it. We know the system isn`t on the level. We know we
get one vote and the people like the Koch brothers and Shelley Adelson get
the equivalent of 100 million votes, the amount Mr. Casino gave to
Republicans the last election.

Do you think it doesn`t matter when someone puts money in the pockets
of supposedly upright presidential candidates? Do you think over the table
bribery in the hundreds of millions is less corrupting than the passing of
envelopes in back rooms? How do we have any idea what the candidates`
personal opposition is on new energy source when`s that candidate is
getting bankrolled by the Koch brothers? How do we have any idea what the
best judgment of a candidate is on the Mideast when their pockets are
stuffed with Sheldon Adelson`s casino wealth?

We don`t. We learned it in Watergate -- follow the money the guy
said, follow the money. In politics, it will tell you where the candidate
is going to show up singing for his supper. On this baby, Bernie`s right,
dead right.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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