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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

May 28, 2013

Guests: Steve McMahon, Glenn Thrush, Lanny Davis, Robin Wright


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The late Chicago mayor Richard Daley
once said that good government is good politics. Well, watch New Jersey
governor Chris Christie in action. Better yet, watch his work for New
Jersey by working relations with President Obama.

In an era when so many elected officials have forgotten the power of
positive politics, Christie knows that politicians are generally known for
one thing. He wants it to be rebuilding New Jersey after Tropical Storm

But wait. Can a positive, constructive Republican like Governor Christie
still win in the party nationally? Can he convince the angry Tea Party
types that government can work for them? Can he be a boardwalk empire in
2016 that stretches down to Florida, and west through Pennsylvania, Ohio
and Michigan?

He`s not the only voice asking for this. Bob Dole wonders what happened to
Eisenhower Republicanism. And wasn`t Ike the president who built the
country`s interstate highway system? Two big voices for a return to GOP
glory -- will they be heard or drowned out by the hard-right bomb throwers
like that Cruz missile from Texas?

Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican Party. He`s now an MSNBC
political analyst. And Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.

Now, let`s hear it. The Obama-Christie cleanup team was back this week,
working the Jersey shore just this afternoon. Let`s watch.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It is my privilege to introduce the
president of the United States of America!


thank you to Governor Christie for that introduction and the great work
he`s done here. Thanks to the hard work of an awful lot of people, we`ve
got wonderful shops and restaurants and arcades that are opening their

And I saw what thousands of Americans saw over Memorial Day weekend. You
are stronger than the storm. After all you`ve dealt with, after all you`ve
been through, the Jersey shore is back, and it is open for business!



MATTHEWS: Stronger than the storm, Michael Steele. Those are bragging
words I haven`t heard before.

Pretty good.

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t want to take on the ocean, by the way.


MATTHEWS: But I have to tell you -- Christie is getting a little thin, by
the way, have you noticed?


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) working at it with that operation. Good for him.
He`ll get healthier.

STEELE: And he`s looking good not just physically, he`s looking good
politically, I think.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, there he is with that white shirt again. I still --


MATTHEWS: You know what? Let`s talk about this politics. It obviously
had an influence on the election. People who were really better at calling
this election than I was -- I thought the president could still lose, but
they thought that the turning point before the election of 2012 was the
behavior of these two guys.

STEELE: Yes, they -- you know, a lot of people want to, you know, put that
particular -- that particular issue on Chris Christie. Chris Christie did
what a governor of a state in trouble should do, and he did it in a way
that I think showed the rest of the politicians around the country of how
not only you work with an administration you may be in opposition with on a
number of other issues, but more importantly, how you galvanize people, how
you bring them together.

You know, the polarization that we saw in that election could have torn
under any effort by the Christie administration or the Obama administration
to actually get something done that`s going to be resourceful and helpful.
They overcame that.

And I think that`s a very powerful message that the governor is going to
take into this fall campaign, which is why he`s going to win strong. And
he`s going to take that message, I think, and re-brand -- have an
opportunity to re-brand it with the party nationally and to talk about how
leadership does make a difference, even when you disagree with your

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to the key issue of voters. When you go out to
vote -- most people are not ideologues. They vote for effectiveness. They
may like a person, a man or woman, right or left, because they like what
they say. But then they want to see what they can do.

My question here. Who would you rather bet on this coming election, Chris
Christie this fall or Michele Bachmann next year?


MATTHEWS: I think Bachmann has just wasted -- if I were her constituent,
I`d say, Well, I don`t mind your speeches, they`re harmless, but it doesn`t
seem like you`re doing anything else but giving these speeches.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If you asked a poll question --

MATTHEWS: Whereas Christie isn`t known for giving speeches.

MCMAHON: That`s right. If you asked --

MATTHEWS: He`s known for doing something.

MCMAHON: If you asked a poll question in New Jersey and a poll question in
Michele Bachmann`s district, Name one thing that Chris Christie or Michele
Bachmann did, their constituents, I would bet you, in Michele Bachmann`s
case, couldn`t name much of anything, and in Chris Christie`s case, could
probably name two or three things.

They might not be things that everybody agrees with, but being effective,
even if sometimes folks disagree with you, is far more important in a
political race and for your political future than being, you know, somebody
who gets sound bites and --

MATTHEWS: Well, speaking of sound bites, this is a little bit funny here.
I haven`t seen it yet. I can`t wait. On the boardwalk arcade, which I
grew up on a boardwalk arcade in Ocean City, New Jersey, here in Point
Pleasant, New Jersey, President Obama and Governor Christie competed in a
game called Touchdown (INAUDIBLE) You know these boardwalk games. And it
was pretty evident who played high school football and who played high
school basketball.

Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Governor, you want to give it a shot?


OBAMA: That`s because he`s running for office.



MATTHEWS: You know, this is really not politics --


MATTHEWS: -- but I`m coming off the Memorial Day weekend, and it`s a
little lighter, but the president is really good at certain sports like b-
ball. He`s unbelievable. I still remember the way outside downtown shot
of his, the three-pointer. Can`t bowl, but that`s fair. If you don`t --
if you`ve never bowled, you can`t bowl. It`s not natural. But he still
throws a football like a dartboard (ph).

STEELE: He throws a football like a basketball!



MATTHEWS: He`s never quarterbacked. But you know, the guy`s -- and now
he`s learning golf on president time. I mean, he`s actually learning
sports. Anyway, back to Christie.

MCMAHON: Do you think it`s a coincidence, though, that the game that they
played wasn`t the hoop game at the fair but it was the throw the football -


MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, having lost a lot of money at those hoop games
-- you put it through the rim, the trouble is, for the money guys who --
sitting back there, collecting money, giving away a doll a year --

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- those guys, there`s a little extra -- about two inches into
the basket, it gets really tight in there.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: The ball bounces right out every time.

Anyway, former Senate majority leader Bob Dole -- he`s 90 years old now --
who held the post of Senate majority leader back in `96 and then ran for
president against Bill Clinton, giving him a pretty good run -- dished out
a bracing dose of truth today, actually, to Republican lawmakers.

Let`s listen to what the old guy has to say to the younger guys and women.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of your party, of the Republicans

think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says,
Closed for repairs until New Year`s Day next year, and spend that time
going over ideas and positive agendas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You described the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower
Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people like Bob Dole, even Ronald
Reagan -- could you make it in today`s Republican Party?

DOLE: I doubt it. And I -- Reagan couldn`t have made it. Certainly,
Nixon couldn`t have made it because he had ideas.


MATTHEWS: It`s amazing. I remember him as when he was in great shape.
He`s 90 this July.

MCMAHON: A true American hero.

MATTHEWS: I used to work -- when I worked for Tip, he was -- the last
night Tip left office -- and this is how times have changed -- he and Bob
Michel, the Republican leader from the House, they came over and just sat
there, almost like sitting shiva together. The Jewish people do that. But
they were alive. And they were just sitting together, drinking coffee for
two or three hours, just spending the time together in this kind of
reverence for joint politics, when you fight with each other but a sense
that you`re in this together. That`s gone.

MCMAHON: Those are the kind of people that you name buildings after.
There`s not -- there`s not much in Congress today that would result in a
building-naming ceremony.

STEELE: No. I agree with that.


MCMAHON: True American hero, Bob Dole.


MATTHEWS: Infrastructure`s a bad word. I want to get back to you --

STEELE: -- appropriation!

MATTHEWS: -- because you were from Maryland. I remember voting for you
once for senator, sir.

STEELE: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: And I got to tell you something. The Republican Party used to
build things.


MATTHEWS: Ike built the interstate commerce -- interstate highway system,
which we can`t imagine living without -- 395, 495, 695, 95 --

STEELE: He connected the country.

MATTHEWS: -- 70, 80, go across this country. How could have done it?
You`d be going from little --

STEELE: Connected the country.

MATTHEWS: -- little speed trap to speed trap.

STEELE: Well, we took -- we took -- we took smart ideas and we put them to
work. And now what we do is we do a lot of talking, but we`re not -- we`re
not good at -- not just explaining, but then going out and doing. And so
we get this impression that we want to stop, we want to block. We`re not

I think Bob Dole is absolutely right. I`ve said even when I was chairman
of the RNC that a Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult time. The guy
we know and love, that we honored because of his view on taxes, on some of
the social issues --


STEELE: -- on compromise, would not make it in that Republican primary,
which I think is the setup call for the kind of primary that a Chris
Christie, a Jon Huntsman, and others within the party are going to have to
push for in order for us to have an effective --


MATTHEWS: See, my problem with Obama -- and it continues, and I don`t
understand it. You know, the reason he`s been in trouble the last four or
five weeks because of these kerfuffles -- they`re bad, but they`re not
awful. He`s been in trouble because it`s very hard to play defense all the

You got to play offense. You got to be for something. If he was out there
pounding the door every day on Congress, walking around door to door in
Congress, saying, I want a jobs bill, this 7.5 percent unemployment is not
the new norm, the norm should be 5.5, and we`re going to get back down to
that and we`re going to work together, public and private together -- I
don`t understand why he doesn`t keep -- Democrats who aren`t for jobs are
not Democrats.


MATTHEWS: You got to be for something. Then you got to take these bad
weather situations where things are screwed up in the IRS -- I don`t think
he had anything to do with it, by the way -- and then you live with them.
But if the engine`s dead in the boat, you`re going to drift.

MCMAHON: That`s right. That`s right. He actually started off pretty
strong. He wanted an immigration bill. He wanted debt reduction. He had
20 senators up for dinner. It looked like they were off to a good start.
They`ve gotten completely distracted by this garbage, and --

MATTHEWS: Well, tell me why he`s not for a jobs bill. Why --


MATTHEWS: -- you can borrow $30 trillion at no interest -- there`s no
interest out there. You can borrow it at no interest, rebuild this country
and never have to pay anything back except the $30 trillion because there`s
no interest. It`s a simple thing. We`ve got all these unemployed
engineers out there and all these people -- just make a list of everybody
unemployed right now and think of a job for them to do.

MCMAHON: He is for -- you know, it`s -- the ironic thing is he is for a
jobs bill. He`s put two or three of them up there --

MATTHEWS: Where is it? What`s the name of it?

MCMAHON: But he`s stopped pushing for it because he can`t get it past the

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s not a big one.


MATTHEWS: You can`t even draw me the picture of what he`s going to build
with that. That`s your problem.

MCMAHON: Well, he`s going to --

MATTHEWS: That was the trouble with the stimulus bill.

MCMAHON: It was a trillion-dollar infrastructure (INAUDIBLE) It`s actually
not unlike what you described, but it seems to have gone by --

MATTHEWS: Where is it?

MCMAHON: -- the boards.

MATTHEWS: What committee is it in on the Hill?


MATTHEWS: What committee is it in? When are they going to report it out?

STEELE: I think this is where Chris is absolutely right --

MATTHEWS: I don`t understand what (ph) Democrats want for jobs.

STEELE: I think the president and the Republicans have missed this
opportunity to lead. If the president isn`t filling that vacuum with a
jobs bill, the Republicans have an opportunity to talk about the kind of
economy they want to create and put those bills in place.


STEELE: The same thing with the president. The president is looking for
the Congress to act. This is a moment to get out there and lead. Here`s
my bill.

MATTHEWS: Yes. By the way --


MATTHEWS: -- Michael and I aren`t the only ones -- and he`s a
Republican. Let me tell you something. What did all the public relations
advisers he (ph) went to see in the last two visits tell him? Get the
truth out about the IRS as fast as you can and have a jobs bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it over with.

MATTHEWS: And have a jobs bill. They`re all saying what I`m saying.

MCMAHON: Well, you know, he`s got two or three things that he wants to get
done. Jobs is one of them. He needs to get immigration reform and he
wants to get a big budget deal. And he`s got to keep working all three
simultaneously. And he`s got to work with Republicans just like he did
today --


MATTHEWS: The immigration bill will take care of itself.

STEELE: Right, but I was going to say all that is going to fall by the
wayside if the administration doesn`t get in front of the scandals or the
issues that are popping up now.

MATTHEWS: We`ll see. Let me say it my way. Jobs.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, both. Thank you, Steve McMahon.


MATTHEWS: Well, some things I could be good at.


MATTHEWS: You like to see -- by the way, if you`d like information about
contributing to the continuing relief effort on Hurricane Sandy, actually
Tropical Storm Sandy, up in New Jersey, here`s the Web site,
Sandynjrelieffund -- See that? Take a look at
that, Sandyrelieffund -- njrelieffund. Take a look at that one. And the
number is 973-521-5820 -- 973-521-5820. It`s important to do that. The
trouble up in New Jersey and New York, in Breezy Point and Staten Island
and the Rockaways is still there. It`s really horrendous up there.

Coming up: If it`s not -- well, if it`s now how, it`s who. Hillary is
running for president, it`s clear as a bell, with all the dozens of people
that talked to her over the weekend. They all believe she`s running. It`s
just a question of what kind of a campaign and who`s going to help her win

Plus, it turns out that some of those conservative groups scrutinized by
the IRS did, in fact, engage in the type of political activity not allowed
for non-profits. In other words, they deserved scrutiny not based on their
ideologies or their name, but their behavior. And my big question tonight
-- did the White House learn anything from how they dealt with the IRS

Also, John McCain`s in Syria on a trip to meet the rebel forces who want
America to take sides with them. White House officials, by the way, say
they knew about McCain`s mission beforehand. But put all this -- well, you
put it together.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with this question. We get into a war in
Syria, what are we fighting for, exactly, and who?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Wow, we`ve got some new polling data from up in Massachusetts on
that special election for the United States Senate, which is coming up in
June. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to an Emerson College poll, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey has opened
up a 12-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez. It`s Markey 45, Gomez
33. The election is, by the way, four weeks from today. It`s a good one
to show up for.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: It`s a fascinating story we`re bringing up right now, and it`s
whether -- not whether she`s going to run or not but who she`s going to run
with. According to staffers, donors, all kinds of allies, Hillary Clinton
is gearing up for sure to enter the 2016 presidential race. It`s not if,
as I said, it`s how and who with?

Politico reports today, right today, this Tuesday, that Clinton supporters
know she`ll need a new team of advisers, not just old-time pals, to run a
winning operation next time. Quote, "She wants to hear many voices, not
simply retreads, a huge `help wanted` sign for people who know what they`re
doing," said a senior Democrat who has worked with Clinton for years.

Don`t forget now, Hillary won big primary states in 2008 against Obama --
Ohio, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Pennsylvania. It was unbelievable.
California -- just to name a few. So she can bring in the right team to
(INAUDIBLE) further in 2016.

Anyway, Glenn Thrush co-wrote this story for Politico, and Joan Walsh is
Salon`s editor-at-large and an MSNBC political analyst.

First of all, I got to go to Joan first on this because I want to go back
this other fellow, to Glenn. Sometimes -- let me go to Glenn first. I`m

Did you step on your lead here? It seems like what you did is you went
around saying, Is she going to have a -- is she -- is she going to have a
new team, an old team, what hybrid kind of mix of a team to win next time,
because she almost did last time? And in fact, the lead is apparently,
from what I hear through the buzz, everybody you talked to acted as if
she`s definitely running.

GLENN THRUSH, POLITICO: Hey, thanks, man.


THRUSH: No. The -- yes, no, there -- there -- no, there is a sense. You
know, we talked to 20, 25 people on this story over the past few days, and
we really, much to our surprise, didn`t get any red lights on writing this.
I mean, we talked to people in her orbit and folks she`s been talking to,
and there was no real sense of people saying to us, No, stop, don`t talk
about this. It`s too early.

I think there is a real sense, at least internally, that the calculation is
she`s far more likely to run than not.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and fact is, the idea of her thinking about who should run
the team is not premature at all because the way these campaigns run, they
take two or three years, she`s got to get going at some point this year
picking the right folks.

THRUSH: No, Chris, and -- and the scars are so deep. I mean, you know,
Hillary -- people kind of forget because we`ve had four years of her as
secretary of state. You know, 2008, at least the first six months of that
campaign, were really poorly managed. You know, you had all this layering
(ph) over, folks who were fired, phone throwing, wall punching, you know?

And there was a real sense, particularly, that the biggest fault of all was
having this kind of separate star chamber with Bill Clinton and Terry
McAuliffe and all these other guys second-guessing what the campaign was

If she`s going to be serious about running, she`s got to create a
completely different structure, inject the thing with new blood, and most
importantly, empower people whose position hasn`t been attained solely
through loyalty.

MATTHEWS: Wow! Joan, I know you like her and I`m thinking -- I do, too,
and I`m thinking she might be saying to us, if she`s watching right now,
Well, why should I need a new team because I could probably beat anybody
but Obama last time? I only lost because he was sort of a wunderkind last
time, the first ever African-American. And he was on the war -- he had
positioned himself well on the war in Iraq, and everybody else had not.


MATTHEWS: That ain`t going to happen again, no matter if I`ve got Mark
Penn running the race.

WALSH: Well, I really hope she`s not saying that, Chris. I really hope --
I think that Glenn and Maggie did an amazing job of reporting. My takeaway
was the same as yours. The really interesting thing is no one`s saying,
Don`t write this story, what are you, crazy? People want to talk about it.

But I also saw a kind of embarrassment of riches there and potential
trouble, which is there are a lot of people -- you know, not everyone, but
top people in the Democratic Party are going to want to work for her. Her
loyalists are going to come back and work for her. There are going to be
some Obama people who, hopefully, are going to want to work for her. She --
her first leadership challenge is going to be to put that together into a
team. And that is not easy.

As Glenn says, I would fault her quite a bit on leadership structure. Even
when she brought in, say, Maggie Williams to take over the campaign, there
were not clear lines of authority. And there was lots of confusion. And
there was fighting. And it was very hard for anybody to really be in

And so that was a knock against her. She can`t do that again. So, I think
she`s really got to look at -- look at what has been reported, listen to
everybody, and then she`s got to figure out what combination of her
loyalists -- you know, Cheryl Mills is going to be right there. And then
who else? How does she expand? And also how does she think about her
coalition? How is the Clinton coalition going to take off from the Obama
coalition and include a real diversity of faces and voices and points of

It`s a fascinating, exciting challenge, but it`s a challenge.

MATTHEWS: You know, the question, Glenn, I always think about politics as
tonal, the music behind it, not just the words, the music. And Joan is
shaking her head, because you know it`s about that.

Is this a time coming up three years now where you`re looking for an old
style tub-thumping Democrat who`s for jobs like I talk about, or who really
sort of tries to get people off their feet at labor rallies, the old style
politics? Or is it a time for sort of a reflective, I`m the senior
statesman, like Eisenhower was in `52, I have been overseas, around the
world, I can speak almost like a briefing with the American people, I can
bring them up to date on the world we face out there, because I have seen
it, without the tub-thumping?

Regardless of gender --

THRUSH: Yes, I mean, that`s --

MATTHEWS: -- you have to get to the question of tone.


MATTHEWS: And Obama has been very good at the tonal. It`s his best thing,
in fact. What do you think about this, the message and the music?


THRUSH: Well, I think it`s a great question.

I also think where the economy is going to be in two-and-a-half, three
years is crucial, right?


THRUSH: We have had some really good numbers lately. Things seem to be
turning around. The question that I would have is, you know, after eight
years, this country tends to want to press the reset button, to coin
another Hillary Clinton phrase here.

MATTHEWS: Yes. So she runs against Obama.


THRUSH: Yes, I mean, who is she actually -- that`s the point. Who does
she sort of run against?

I mean, the thing about Barack Obama that people don`t necessarily take
into account is, he is one of the great counterpunches of our time. He ran
against Hillary Clinton. Then he ran against John McCain, and overarching
it all, he ran against George W. Bush.

Who does Hillary Clinton run against when she`s essentially looking to do
what Al Gore did, which was to be a continuation of what happened before?

WALSH: I think -- Glenn, I think she`s running against this Republican
Party. And I think she`s running with -- she`s running with Bob Dole. You
know, she`s running against this modern obstructionist Republican Party --


MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

WALSH: -- that her husband faced, that her friend Barack Obama has
faced, that has paralyzed this country.

I listened -- you know, listening to the previous segment, Chris, you
talking about the way we could be borrowing money. Even if the economy is
better in three years, we are still going to have people locked out. We
are not the land of equal opportunity anymore. And that is the music.
That music will be there for her.

And she has got to be a tub-thumper. I don`t think anybody wants to be
briefed on how we are. Her great strength in the primaries -- the one --
maybe one strength -- one was appealing to women. But the other was
appealing to working-class Democrats and talking about --


WALSH: -- talking with urgency about this economy.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.

WALSH: She`s going to have to do this again.


MATTHEWS: I think we have got to -- I think you have just opened up -- and
this is really the opportunity.



MATTHEWS: She`s now got 63 percent in the latest PPP poll. So, she`s not
probably going to lose the primary. It`s a question of how she uses the
primaries and caucuses to present herself so she can beat a right-wing
Republican perhaps like a Cruz, who ought to be beaten, or Christie, who
ought to have some competition.

But I will tell you, she`s probably going to be lucky enough if she wins
the nomination to face somebody like Cruz or Rand Paul.


MATTHEWS: And I tell you, that`s not going to be a complicated vote for
most people. The suburbs will go --


THRUSH: Chris, Joan made a --

MATTHEWS: Yes. Go, Glenn.

THRUSH: Joan made a really great point.

I mean, the last part of the primaries, you know, Ohio, Indiana, places
like that, Pennsylvania, she was wonderful. I mean, she totally let it
fly. And she really, really appealed to white working-class voters.

I think that is -- if they can just kind of -- you know, if they can kind
of run a campaign that`s a continuation of that, she will be very well-

MATTHEWS: Well, I would run a campaign -- I would have her -- I`m not a
Clintonite. I can`t put myself in the ring for running her campaign, but I
do recommend Eddie Rendell. He will win in New Jersey for her. He will
win in New York. He will win all over the Northeast and probably all over
the Midwest.

He understands what we used to call lunch bucket Democrats, regular people.
He`s won with them. He`s a big city guy. But he knows how to connect.
And I think she does, too, with the right team around her.

Anyway, thank you, Glenn Thrush.

And you got to carry Scranton to start with.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Joan Walsh, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Up -- Scranton to Oshkosh, that`s the road to victory.

Up next: Did you ever think you would see a negative ad against a 4-year-
old? Stick around for the "Sideshow." It`s getting rough out there.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."

First, news in the Virginia GOP`s hard shift to the right. Quick recap
here. There`s the state`s Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, E.W.
Jackson. He`s the guy that said gay people are icky and that President
Obama has Muslim sensibilities.

And then there`s Ken Cuccinelli, the nominee for governor of the Republican
Party, who`s faced backlash on women`s health issues. Among other things,
he`s advocated to defund altogether Planned Parenthood.

Well, Virginia`s Republican Party treasurer, Bob FitzSimmonds, was recently
asked how he would advise Cuccinelli on issues like distributing
contraception -- contraceptives on college campuses. Here`s how that went.


you what I would advise Ken in terms of -- of contraception distribution on

You know, there`s a lot -- that`s a pretty complex issue. And when you`re
talking about college, you`re talking about married students. You`re
talking about graduate students. You`re talking about all kinds of
different things. I`m not a big fan of contraception, frankly.

I think that there`s some issues with -- you know, like, we`re giving
morning-after pills to 12-year-olds. And pretty soon, I guess we will hand
them out to babies. I mean, I don`t know. I think there are some real
serious issues about that.


MATTHEWS: You know, just guessing, and probably Republicans should stop
talking about this stuff, like contraceptives.

Anyway, next, not many kids can say they got the chance to play freeze
dance with the first lady. It happened actually for a pre-K class in
Washington, D.C., just last week when Michelle Obama, the first lady, paid
a visit.



UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: The godfather of soul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You better believe it.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Yes, yes, break it down. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I`m going to try it again. Ready? I
hope I don`t mess it up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m getting more complicated. Let me see.


MATTHEWS: This is great.

Anyway, those kids aren`t even in kindergarten yet.

Finally, ever think you would see an attack ad against a 4-year-old or that
a 4-year-old would have any involvement in politics whatsoever? Well, in
Dorset, Minnesota, a town with under 30 people in its population, the mayor
is actually chosen from names drawn out of a hat.

Well, in the last drawing, 4-year-old Robert Tufts won the job of mayor.
His term is up this August. There he is. And the VH-1 show "Best Week
Ever" had fun trying to figure out what an attack ad against him might look


NARRATOR: Robert Tufts is 4 years old.


NARRATOR: Four years old and already spending our tax dollars on pony
rides, 4 years old and already on a major power trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think she likes you just for you or does she like
you because you`re the mayor?

TUFTS: Likes me because I`m the mayor.

NARRATOR: Four years old and already dodging the tough questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s your favorite flavor?

TUFTS: Strawberry and chocolate.

NARRATOR: Last time we checked, that`s two flavors.

Robert Tufts, wishy-washy, power-hungry, hopelessly obsessed with pony
rides, wrong for Dorset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This ad paid by a 5-year-old who wants to be mayor,



MATTHEWS: That`s like most ads. Anyway, for the record, that was
definitely not a real ad. You hear me? Not.

Anyway, up next: Has the White House learned any lessons from the scandal,
the kerfuffle, rather, over at the IRS? That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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because, look, I`m a public figure. And if a future administration is
starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one
political view over another, obviously, we`re all vulnerable.

And that`s why, as I have said, it doesn`t matter whether you`re a Democrat
or Republican. You should be equally outraged at even the prospect that
the IRS might not be acting with the kind of complete neutrality that we


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Outrage, that`s been the reaction from so many politician and pundits on
the IRS controversy, even from the president, as you saw there. The
outrage, of course, includes the conservative groups at the heart of this
story, those that were the subject of additional scrutiny by tax auditors.

But even though the IRS is bungling how it identified such groups to
scrutinize, it turns out a lot of those groups that were perhaps unfairly
scrutinized deserved it. That`s according to "The New York Times."

The quote here: "A close examination of these groups and others reveals an
array of election activities that tax experts and former IRS officials said
would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for a closer review."

But more central to the issue, of course, is that -- this, is that of any
political value to the White House, this news story? And, more
importantly, have they learned their lesson from the beginning, and do
stories like this one and others like it just reinforce the
administration`s theory that they did everything right?

Jonathan Alter is an MSNBC political analyst and author of the new book
"The Center Holds." And Lanny Davis is a crisis management expert and of
course author of the "Crisis Tales" that has just came out.

Let me ask you, gentlemen. I want to keep these on three different levels.
One, it turns out "The New York Times" has done the homework on this. And
a lot of these groups which were flagged by the IRS because of names,
perhaps, patriot groups, using those names or Tea Party groups using those
names, flagged because of their identity, turned out to be guilty as
charged when it comes to their actual behavior.

They were crossing the line into political activities when they were
supposed to be social welfare groups. They weren`t supposed to be doing --
but my way of reacting to that is, yes, you could line up everybody that
looks Arab-American and put them in a line at the airport and you might
catch somebody bad some way down the line, but that would be wrong.

It`s not how we work in America. You don`t flag people based on identity.
You flag them on basis of behavior. And that`s the fair way to do it,
whether it`s police work or tax work.

So, let`s move on here. My question to you, Jon Alter -- by the way, good
luck on the big book that`s coming out. I have been reading it. It`s


MATTHEWS: Let`s go on here.

This White House, the thing that scares me, they think they did this right.
They think the lawyer did it right at the White House, that Denis McDonough
did it right. And the trouble with that is, if they think this was a
success, they ain`t going to change for the next four years. They`re going
to be what they were, and they walked right into this. That`s my view.
What`s yours?

ALTER: Well, I just don`t think they reacted right in terms of their own
political self-interests.

When this came to the attention of the White House, there was a delay.
They should have gotten all the information out quickly. And, by the way,
even now, all the information is not out. It turns out from "The New York
Times" and other sources that there were liberal groups that were also
investigated by the IRS, legitimately investigated for misrepresenting the
purpose of their organization.

If it had been put in proper context at the beginning, and it had been the
White House that was bringing the information out, rather than having it
leak, I think they would have been better off.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not sure of the facts yet because I still believe --
Jon, are you sure you`re right about this, that mostly they were the Tea
Party and the patriot groups?


ALTER: Well, it was mostly, but I tell you why, Chris.

It is because after the Tea Party became a big -- a big deal in the United
States, there were hundreds, if not thousands of Tea Party organizations.
It was a decentralized movement.


ALTER: And -- but if you put party in your name, or something that sounds
political, it`s reasonable to expect that the IRS will interpret it as a
liberal organization.


MATTHEWS: But, Jon, if you`re right, the I.G. was wrong, because that`s
not the I.G.`s report. The I.G.`s report, was bias here, that they
targeted improperly the right-wing groups. So, which is right?

ALTER: Well, I`m not saying they were targeted properly. I don`t like the
way they handled this.

But it needs to be put in its context. Just very quickly, Chris, in 2010,
Crossroads GPS, that was Karl Rove`s organization --

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know.

ALTER: -- made a filing, an official filing to the IRS, where they said
that the -- their activities did -- quote -- "did not constitute" -- "their
organization did not constitute primarily a political effort."


ALTER: That was materially false.


ALTER: They then spent $70 million trying to affect the outcome of the
2012 election.

So, when people make false representations to the IRS, which many of these
Tea Party and other groups --


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: OK. You`re making a case, but that`s not the

ALTER: They needed to be investigated.

MATTHEWS: The point is, Jonathan, the problem is the I.G. came out with a
report, the White House saw it coming, the president could have gotten
ahead of it.


MATTHEWS: And pointed the finger at the IRS and said, this is wrong. If
this report is right, the IRS is wrong.

And what did he do?


MATTHEWS: I don`t know what he did. They didn`t tell him.

DAVIS: There was some theory they wanted the president of the United
States to have plausible deniability. First of all, that`s not good for a
president to not know something that the chief of staff and the counsel
knows. Secondly, plausible deniability is not exactly good pr if that`s
what you`re trying to achieve.

And Jonathan is exactly --

MATTHEWS: Is that lawyer talk? Is that what lawyers do? They always
want to reduce exposure.

DAVIS: This is a great lawyer. I have nothing against Miss Ruemmler as
to her legal skills. But when you`re in a silo, as Jonathan just pointed
out, one single fact that shows it wasn`t just right wing groups being
targeted, just putting that single fact out would have put the story in
some context. And their failure to do that on the talking points --

MATTHEWS: That sounds like defense to me, Lanny. We disagree. That
sounds like playing defense. You don`t win in this business playing
defense. Go offense.

DAVIS: Look at the talking points -- look at the talking points story on
Benghazi. I`m told that the White House counsel`s office objected to
publishing those 12 versions, even though if they had initially done that,
every version had the CIA writing the words spontaneously inspired by the
Cairo demonstrations. Why wouldn`t you put those documents out --

MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you, let`s go back to Jon on this, because
this is pure politics. It`s not history. It`s not policy about taxes.

My belief is the public hates rolling disclosure. They hate it.

ALTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Because they know when things dribble out it`s because the big
shots in Washington -- Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative -- are
holding back information at their convenience and their staffers in the
middle are sitting around in the middle of the night having pizza, having
plans about what to release. They know what`s going on.

Look at this. Here`s a pro, Bob Schieffer, the veteran newsman at CBS,
hit (INAUDIBLE) this week and let`s talk about what he said about the
communications strategy at the White House.


BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: If their chosen spokesman turns out to have no
direct connection to the story of the moment, as was the case when you and
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to explain the Benghazi episode,
then that`s what we and you, the taxpayer, get. And it usually isn`t much.

So I am glad the president has asked the attorney general to review
whether his investigations into leaks is having a chilling effect on
journalists. But it shouldn`t stop there. The president needs to rethink
his entire communications policy, top to bottom. It is hurting his
credibility and short-changing the public.


MATTHEWS: What I hate about politics is cleverness. It`s like guys who
play tennis. It`s just a minute, they don`t swing away at the tennis
racquet, they did this little dribbles, little flee flickers. This
administration has got too many of those flee flickers.

Why don`t they just come out on the IRS on all these stories and blow it
out there? If the president is innocent, act it. Why not?

DAVIS: So, Mike McCurry, who thought me everything that I know about this

MATTHEWS: He`s a brilliant guy. He`s smart enough, I would say.

DAVIS: If you try to be too cute, everyone knows you`re being too cute.
And Jonathan was exactly right --

MATTHEWS: Why did they put Susan Rice out there when she wasn`t involved?

DAVIS: Well, once you do put out the talking points that she relied on.

MATTHEWS: Jon, when in doubt, put a doubt.

ALTER: Absolutely. Otherwise, it becomes torture -- drip, drip, drip.


ALTER: That never does any administration any good.

But the truth is, even if you tried to get ahead of it, the way Ed Meese,
for instance, went into the pressroom and revealed the Iran/Contra
connection, it still doesn`t get you out of the woods. So, it`s not like -


MATTHEWS: I`ve studied that. I`m studying it, Jon. Let me tell you
something about that story.

The president, Reagan at the time, lost 20 points of his public
credibility, of his job approval because of one issue: trading with the

DAVIS: Right.

MATTHEWS: When it came to the issue of diverting the funds to the
Contras, it didn`t cost him a point because people already knew that`s
where he stood. He broke his campaign promise not to deal with the enemy.
The reason he was elected is because of the hostage takers over at the
Middle East, and he was then caught trading them guns, trying to get
hostages out which is exactly what defeat them --

ALTER: So, my only --

MATTHEWS: -- that only cost him -- by the way, Meese didn`t cost him a
point. He was right to get that out.

ALTER: My point is that even if he handled that perfectly because of what
you just said, they would have taken a beating on Iran/Contra.

DAVIS: But, Jonathan --

ALTER: On some level, the handling of it is marginal.


DAVIS: You can`t make a bad story worse. If it`s bad, it`s bad. You
can`t make it worse.

MATTHEWS: You`re wrong. You`re wrong, Jon. If it had gotten out, the
securities route, if they`d been caught shifting that money to the Contras,
they would have been dead in the water. It probably would have been

Thank you, Jonathan Alter. Good luck with the book.

Lanny Davis, great to have you on.

DAVIS: Thank you. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think you`re a blow hard.


MATTHEWS: Up next, somehow before (ph).

Up next, John McCain`s secret trip to Syria. This is going to be
interesting. There he is, secretly opening. But we know about it. Is he
trying to join us and get us into another war? He does seem to support all

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Americans don`t want military action in Syria on our
part. John McCain, of course, does. We`ll find out what`s up, next.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

John McCain spent Memorial Day weekend inside Syria, meeting with rebel
leaders there. The Republican senator snuck into the country from Turkey.
The White House today said it knew about McCain`s plans ahead of time.
McCain, of course, is one of the leading advocates for U.S. involvement
militarily in the Syrian civil war. He`s calling the administration to arm
the rebels and set up a no-fly zone.

Both options, the president -- present, of course, major risks, which is
why the White House has taken a cautious approach.

But McCain`s trip could increase the pressure on the president. I don`t
know how, but I guess so.

Before crossing the border, McCain warned the United States needed to step
up its involvement -- of course, he did -- in Syria.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Support the good people and separate them
from the bad people. That`s the answer to the problem. And right now,
Bashar al Assad is winning. And that`s because the United States is not
leading or assisting.


MCCAIN: So, what was the point of McCain`s surprise trip? And what
should the United States do about Syria and how do we want it to end up?

Richard Engel is chief foreign correspondent for NBC News. And Robin
Wright is a distinguished scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Richard, thank you for joining us. I know we have a bit of a time delay.
But tell me, what`s McCain wanting to do, and what has he accomplished over
the weekend?

wants to do is he wants to put pressure on the White House. And he wants
to give moral support to the rebels themselves.

There is a danger that he`s creating some false expectation. The rebels
simply loved his visit. They were very happy.

This is exactly what they want from Washington. They want to see senior
U.S. officials putting themselves at risk and this was a risky trip, the
area that he went to. Although in some degree under rebel control, it`s
still dangerous. There have been suicide attacks there. There have been
air strikes.

And the rebels saw this is the kind of thing we want from Washington. We
want leaders in Washington who fully embrace our cause and will cross over
and be with us and want a no-fly zone.

The problem is he`s not the president and he doesn`t have the ability to
deliver on all of this. I think what he was trying to do was show people
in the U.S. administration that there are reasonable rebel leaders. And he
went in specifically with General Salim Idris.

General Idris is the overall commander of the Free Syrian Army. You often
hear in Washington there`s no responsible actors in Syria, that there`s no
one that the U.S. can trust. We don`t know who we could arm.

And McCain was trying to say, here`s the guy, this is the guy the U.S.
should support.

MATTHEWS: So, these rebels, these new heroes of ours, Robin, what do you
-- I wish we`d interviewed them with day one. My hunch -- my hunch is what
they want is to march into Damascus, kill every one of the Assad family,
basically repress the Alawite communities that`s been running the country.

Is that our goal? And why are we on a team like that? Because in the
end, it`s just the Shia against the Sunni, the Sunni against the Shia
fighting these wars for the next 1,000 years, and we`re getting involved in
these wars. I know it`s brutal, but the rebels are getting killed because
they`re rebels.

My question is, is there a peaceful solution over there that doesn`t
involve another embarrassment like chasing Gadhafi down a storm sewer or
this horrendous hanging of Saddam Hussein, that horrendousness, or putting
Mubarak, our ally for like 40 years, in prison for life. It always ends up
that way.

And why are we part of that? Why do we want to be part of that? That`s
my -- let them do it. They want to butcher their leaders, we can`t stop
them. Why are we joining in it?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: One of the problems for the Bush --
Obama --

MATTHEWS: What do we get out of this?

WRIGHT: One of the problems for the Obama administration and all of its
allies has been, who do you actually deal with? John McCain went in with
one rebel leader, one general.

But the problem is that the rebels actually reflect many different trends
inside the country. The exiles outside the country who provided most of
the political leadership also have an array of different ideas. They can`t
even get together on forming a shadow government that`s in opposition to
President Assad.


WRIGHT: They can`t get together on the peace process.

So one of the great problems for the United States is trying to figure out
who actually is viable on the ground. And then figuring out what they
want, because they haven`t provided --

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Richard. We don`t have much time.

Richard Engel, do we have any heroes over there, anybody we would trust
who would actually negotiate, perhaps, a bloodless -- in the end when it
comes to the end game in a year or so, actually could somehow put together
a reasonable transition of power?

ENGEL: I think Salim Idris is the person the U.S. officials are most
confident in right now. But the problem is, as Robin just mentioned, there
are shadow governments for the Syrian opposition. There are leaders who
are now meeting in Istanbul. They`re talking about potentially going to

They can`t even come up with the list of the delegates they would send to
the peace conference. There are other opposition figures who are in Cairo,
others who are in Doha, some who are living now for over a year in hotels
in Istanbul. So, there is a variety of people.

You ask, why does the U.S. maybe need to get involved in this in some way?
And I think the -- the answer or an answer is, not doing much right now
isn`t leading to a good scenario on the ground, that you have the -- the
war in Syria spilling out. And that doesn`t lead to good things for the
United States down the road. That Iraq is heading back into that terrible
sectarian conflict despite so many years of U.S. efforts.

The bloodshed in Syria is almost becoming another Afghanistan situation
where you have a complete no man`s land -- and that doesn`t lead to good
things for the United States or for anybody. War is spreading back here
into Lebanon. There was some rocket attacks just a couple of days ago.
Hezbollah is now mobilizing, talking openly about getting into the war.

So, you have conflicts out of Syria now involving three different
countries. And if the U.S. as the world superpower doesn`t address it,
it`s -- it won`t lead to it shall we know where this is going. So
something needs to give.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s your view, not mine.

Thank you, Richard Engel, in Beirut.

And thank you, Robin Wright. We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

Let me suggest a way to go about this Syria debate. Before we start
arming the rebels, who we don`t know, in a war in which we don`t have any
way to predict an outcome, a war between Shia and Sunni, like so many wars
these days, shouldn`t we first state a position about what should happen at
the end of the war?

Isn`t it the position of the United States that the rebels should win the
war, kill the Assad family and wage an Arab revenge against the Alawites
who have been ruling the country, you know, like the Shia did after the --
after we liberated, that was the word, wasn`t it, Iraq? Is that what the
United States wants? Is it?

I got a better idea. Why don`t we push for some transition of the country
of Syria. Some sort of cease-fire. We take the side of the side that
agrees to let revenge go, let peace emerge between the warring groups or we
don`t. We stay out.

Sound naive? Well, the only way I can justify getting into a war is if I
thought one side offered a threat to the United States. And the other
policy option should be that we are not, once again, as we`ve been for more
than a decade, simply out there on international television killing Islamic
people. It`s all we seem to do these days. And guess what? The Islamic
people of the world including those here in this country are watching.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.



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