June 4, 2013
Guests: Ron Fournier, Nicholas Confessore
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mudball.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. I can`t remember a time in American
politics when anything that happens becomes a chance to throw mud at the
president of the United States. Whether it`s an attack on a facility in
Benghazi or a screwup at the IRS centralized operation in Cincinnati, it`s
not only the president`s wrongdoing, his critics say, it`s his moral
wrongdoing, more evidence that he`s a bad man and shouldn`t be in the White
This mudball is personal. It`s un-American. It`s about one thing, the
total hatred of a group of Americans who cannot stand the fact that Barack
Obama was elected leader of this country by solid majorities of his fellow
citizens. It`s McCarthyism with an ethnic twist.
He`s assembled an enemies list for the IRS to use. He`s responsible for
the death of foreign service officers in Libya. He`s evil personified.
His spokesman is a paid liar. You name it, he`s evil through and through.
Reince Priebus and the party he runs has one creed, one secular religion --
Barack Obama should not be president. He must be denied that distinction
in history. He must have an asterisk put next to him in the history books
saying, This guy wasn`t really president of the United States.
This is what this bunch wants, and everything they say shows it. Instead
of debating policies and engaging in clean politics, they throw mud because
-- and I get it -- mud is all they`ve got. And the only thing that unites
them right now, the Republican Party -- the only thing that holds them
together is that this guy, Barack Obama, is president, and it kills them to
go to bed at night knowing there`s nothing they can do about it but pout
and throw mud.
And today, he`s decided to face them down. He sees -- well, let`s see how
he does it.
Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington
Post" and Joan Walsh is the editor-at-large for Salon. Both are MSNBC
You know, I`ve watched this thing, Gene. It`s gone on and on. They use
the IRS out there at someplace in Cincinnati. They use Benghazi. They use
all this stuff basically to say this president did it somehow. Today a guy
said he had an enemies list and they`re using it out in the IRS.
And I read the article. I didn`t even wait for the jump. I went to the
second paragraph. There is no enemies list. There is no evidence he wrote
one. There is no evidence anything was used from the White House in the
IRS. He simply states it now.
This is how these Republicans are talking!
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I know.
They go immediately to, It`s Obama`s fault, he was personally involved,
when, in fact, there is no evidence that any political appointee was --
MATTHEWS: How do you fight that if you`re him?
MATTHEWS: How do you do this, Gene, if you know you`re just being
ROBINSON: Well, you know, it`s going to happen, right? I mean, you know,
this is a free country. We have free speech. So they can say what they
want. I think one way you fight back is you fight back, right?
ROBINSON: I mean, you come out swinging. What else can you do? And --
MATTHEWS: Well, here it is. The president went bold today, nominating
three people to fill the three openings on the very important U.S. court of
appeals for the D.C. circuit, the court that is considered a step right
below the Supreme Court.
As "The New York Times" puts it, the president is effectively daring
Republicans to find specific ground to filibuster all the nominees, all
three of them. Let`s watch the president today do it. He`s basically
playing Matt Dillon (ph), Meet me out in the center street here, and right
out there at high noon. I`m going to be there. Are you going to be there?
I think that`s what he`s doing. It just might work.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time and again,
congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to
delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.
This is not about principled opposition. This is about political
obstruction. I recognize that neither party has a perfect track record
here. You know, Democrats weren`t completely blameless when I was in the
Senate. But what`s happening now is unprecedented. For the good of the
American people, it has to stop. Too much of the people`s business is at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a good president. Watch this. To get a sense of
the kind of opposition Obama`s been facing from his -- about his
appointments to the circuit court, take a look at this report last month
from the Congressional Research Service. They calculated the average wait
for circuit court nominees from the first committee report to the
confirmation -- watch this -- for Reagan, it was just under 10 days. The
first Bush, President Bush the first, had an even smaller average. It
jumped a bit for Clinton and then again for George W. Bush.
But Obama`s in a league all his own -- look at this -- an average of 138
days from the time the committee reports to the time the committee -- the
nominees were confirmed.
Joan, this is an example. Now they`re accusing him of packing the court.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: The big mistake that Roosevelt did, the overreach he did back in
the late `30s in his second term, they`re accusing him of doing. There are
WALSH: There are.
MATTHEWS: He`s filling the three vacancies. But they use that dirtball
thing because they know it works in the history books for people who have
any sense of history -- well, actually, some sense of history.
WALSH: Well --
MATTHEWS: If they have any real sense of history, they know --
WALSH: They know it`s not true.
MATTHEWS: -- that Roosevelt did pack the court. What they`re saying in
this case is he`s doing what Roosevelt did, which is not he`s not doing.
He`s simply filling the vacant seats. But they`re putting out this stuff
out over and over again to make him look like a bad guy.
WALSH: Well, this goes back to all that language that Newt Gingrich
introduced, where you just find the lowest and vilest terms, Chris. And
you accuse --
MATTHEWS: Everybody`s corrupt.
WALSH: Right. And you just accuse the other, the Democrats always, of
being low, base people. And so the president is now court-packing, he`s
defying the Constitution, when he is simply doing his job. He is doing the
job he was elected to do. And he is doing the job that they have
obstructed him from doing for five years. He`s had nominees languish
literally in this circuit court for years without being confirmed.
So yes, he picked three. Two are women. One`s an African-American.
They`re supremely qualified. They`re moderate people. And he`s daring
them to filibuster them, and I say it`s about time. I`m really happy to
see him handle it just this way.
MATTHEWS: Me, too.
Let`s take a look at what the Republicans have been saying. This is the
kind of mudball they`re practicing. They seem to be going off the same
talking points, by the way. Somebody`s issuing these little words of
wisdom, like Grassley, who`s become pretty trollish out there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Packing the court because it has issued
rulings against the administration is a cynical approach to the judicial
I`m concerned about the caseload of this circuit and the efforts to pack
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I certainly hope that neither the White House nor
my Democratic colleagues will instead decide to play politics and seek,
without any legitimate justification, to pack the D.C. circuit with
unneeded judges simply in order to advance a partisan agenda.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What did our Democratic
colleagues do in response? They consulted with the White House and pledged
to pack the D.C. court with appointees, quote, "one way or another."
They want to use the nuclear option to pack the D.C. circuit so it can
rubber stamp the president`s big government agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: If this was a Woody Allen movie right now, somebody would say
the keyword here is packing the court.
MATTHEWS: Again, it`s a ridiculous comparison. I want you to point out --
packing the court refers to what was attempted by FDR back in the late
`30s. He put six justices, or tried to, on top of the nine. He wanted 15
so he could get some liberal opinions out of the court. Obama`s just
filling 3 of the 11 seats in the judicial branch at the appellate level,
which is what he`s supposed to do as president. If he wasn`t, doing it,
they`d be saying, How come he didn`t fill -- they haven`t filled out the
Let`s watch them go at him here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some Republicans recently have suggested that by nominating these
three individual, I`m somehow engaging in -- and I`m quoting here -- "court
packing." I didn`t just wake up one day and say, Let`s add three seats to
the district court of appeals. These are open seats. And the Constitution
demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats. What
I`m doing today is my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I just wonder if you can even penetrate it, Gene and
Joan, because I know he said it clearly. There are 11 seats in the court,
3 are vacant, I`m filling them. I`m not creating new seats for the purpose
of tilting the court to the left.
ROBINSON: Right. And the --
MATTHEWS: And yet I know out there in the right-wing echo chamber, they`re
never going to hear him say that. They`re just going to hear their own
people screeching about this.
ROBINSON: Yes. Some junior Frank Luntz must have told them that court-
MATTHEWS: That`s what I thought --
ROBINSON: -- is something that`s going to resonate --
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s exactly --
MATTHEWS: -- production meeting!
ROBINSON: -- and nobody`s going to -- going to actually investigate it
and -- which doesn`t take a lot of investigation, by the way. The court
was fully staffed, had its full complement of judges under George W. Bush.
ROBINSON: So it`s -- you know, he`s just actually returning the court to
the number of judges that it should have.
MATTHEWS: You know -- you know --
MATTHEWS: I`m always (ph) dangerous grounds (ph) guess, because you never
know what`s in people`s hearts. And I grant that. But Joan, there`s a
pattern here. It`s like Bill Maher says, "new rules."
ROBINSON: Oh, you know!
MATTHEWS: There are new rules for this guy. They keep moving that guard
(ph). And I`m sorry, if another president said, I`m going to fill some
vacancies, they would say, It`s about time. When he does it, Barack Obama
does it, Oh, he`s packing the court. Just like he`s got an enemies list.
None of this is true! They just say it.
WALSH: Right. And Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell participated. They
kept -- confirmed the 10th and 11th judge on those -- on this -- on that
circuit under Republican presidents. It was all fine to have 11 judges
under Republican presidents.
Because he`s going to get to appoint three people, four people, he deserves
to, that is somehow extra-constitutional. And we do see this time and
again and there are new rules for this president.
But you know, there is that right wing that`s going to resonate to this
language, but there`s the rest of the American people. And what I`m really
happy about is that he`s talking over their heads. Call it court packing,
you lunatics, I don`t care. I`m doing my job, and you know, the three of
MATTHEWS: Yes, here`s the problem, though. Let`s go to the problem here.
The Republican Party, the tail is wagging the dog.
MATTHEWS: What used to be the responsible conservative party of this
country is now being wagged by the Mike Lees and the --
MATTHEWS: -- and first of all, the strange lurch to the right over the
years by Grassley.
WALSH: And I don`t want --
MATTHEWS: Who used to be --
MATTHEWS: Who used to be a regular conservative.
WALSH: And I don`t want to minimize that. I don`t want to minimize that
at all, Chris. But I think the only answer for it is for him to talk over
their heads and to talk directly to the American people --
MATTHEWS: OK, how do you get --
WALSH: -- and to fight.
MATTHEWS: How do you get this done, though? How do you get the job of
being president done when they hold you up and they don`t give you 60 votes
because you`ve only got 55?
WALSH: You don`t.
MATTHEWS: They`re not even going to kick in five seats --
WALSH: Harry Reid --
MATTHEWS: What do you do?
WALSH: The Democrats have to do something. The Democrats are going to
have to do something about their insane super-super-majority rules. We
cannot -- he cannot --
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you on that.
WALSH: -- govern requiring 60 votes for everything he does, including
judicial appointments --
MATTHEWS: You know whey?
WALSH: -- including agency employments.
MATTHEWS: You know why?
MATTHEWS: And this is a totally nonpartisan assessment of our politics. I
think as long as the three of us are in this business of trying to analyze
American politics, this country is going to be roughly 50/50. It`s just
the way it is. You`re never going to have 60 votes, or rarely have 60
votes on one side.
MATTHEWS: And certainly not with the president`s party. You`re not going
to be able to get anything done!
MATTHEWS: And that`s what they want.
ROBINSON: Yes, of course. But you know, the numbers on filibusters over
the years are exactly like those numbers on -- on -- on --
WALSH: Judicial --
ROBINSON: -- nominees --
ROBINSON: -- and how long they`ve had to wait. In other words, it`s
down here, and then you get to Obama and it goes up here, right?
WALSH: It explodes.
MATTHEWS: I think the Republican Party --
ROBINSON: So it is -- it is time for Democrats in the Senate --
MATTHEWS: You know what --
ROBINSON: -- and for Harry Reid to change the rules.
MATTHEWS: You know what trolls do?
ROBINSON: (INAUDIBLE) change the rules.
MATTHEWS: I`m not going to get too personal, but a couple of these guys
like McConnell and Grassley have become trolls.
WALSH: They have.
MATTHEWS: And I`ve watched (INAUDIBLE) they`ve not always been trolls, but
now they`re the little, mean, little guy that lives under the bridge and
waits for Obama to cross the bridge so they can bite his ankle.
MATTHEWS: That`s all they live for. Anyway, they are cartoonish. Anyway,
thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Joan Walsh.
WALSH: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: We`ve seen this before, military brass being called
to testify about sexual abuse, but never -- well, never have to see this,
well, them facing questions from seven -- look at this, seven -- women on
the Senate Armed Services Committee. Well, one of them, Claire McCaskill,
joins us next. This is a new breed of action here.
Plus: It`s not enough for Republicans to blame President Obama for failing
to prevent crises. They`re now accusing him of causing them all, as in the
president`s personally targeting conservatives using the IRS with his
enemies list. He`s playing this nasty game right now more
enthusiastically. Who is doing it? It`s the echoing, tail-gunning Joe
McCarthy, Darrell Issa. He should watch the old McCarthy movies.
Anyway, and then there are those tax hearings, by the way, on Capitol Hill.
Ask yourself this. Are Republicans looking to find out what happened in
Cincinnati, or are they just looking to throw mud at big government in
general? And the president, in particular, of course.
Finally, Joe Biden may be vice president of the United States, but tell
that to his 12-year-old granddaughter, who thinks he should have been able
to get her to meet the great Bradley Cooper. Apparently, he wasn`t.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced today that
the state will hold a special election this year to replace the late
Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died yesterday. The special election will be
held on Wednesday, October 16th, with primaries for the race in August,
Christie could have held the special election on the same day as the
November general election in which he`s up for reelection. Christie says
he wants New Jersey to have a senator as soon as possible. But by holding
the special election three weeks earlier than the general election, he
won`t have to share the ballot with a high-profile candidate for Senate,
someone like Newark mayor Cory Booker, who could potentially could bring
votes to Christie`s opponent in the governor`s race.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. At today`s hearing of the Senate
Armed Services Committee on sexual assaults in the military, the power of
having women in the U.S. Senate, and particularly on this traditionally
male-run committee, was on stark display. Arrayed at the table in the
first wave of testimony, all men who hold top jobs in various branches of
the military, all urging that the role of military commanders in sexual
assault cases not be diminished.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, U.S. ARMY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Our goal should be
to hold commanders more accountable, not render them less able to help us
correct the crisis.
GEN. RAY ODIERNO, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Making commanders less responsible
and less accountable will not work. It will undermine the readiness of the
GEN. JAMES AMOS, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: A unit will rise or fall as a
direct result of the leadership of its commanding officer. Commanding
officers never delegate responsibility. They should never be forced to
delegate their authority.
GEN. MARK WELSH, AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have a daughter who is
looking at coming into the United States Air Force. I will not be tolerant
of this crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, then among the senators who questioned the military`s
wisdom were seven women serving on the committee, including Senators
Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, both of whom have proposed
legislation to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: There are two problems. One is you
have sexual predators who are committing crimes. Two, you have work to do
on the issue of a respectful and healthy work environment.
These are not the same issues. And with all due respect, General Odierno,
we can prosecute our way out of the first issue. We can prosecute our way
out of the problem of sexual predators, who are not committing crimes of
My years of experience in this area tell me they are committing crimes of
domination and violence. This isn`t about sex. This is about assaultive
domination and violence.
GEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: While you are all so dedicated and
determined, not all commanders are objective. Not every single commander
necessarily wants women in the force. Not every single commander believes
what a sexual assault is. Not every single commander can distinguish
between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of these crimes
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this is food for thought. Joining me right now is
Missouri senator Claire McCaskill. I love the way you dichotomize these
issues because, I mean, I hate it in my religion where they talk about
priests molesting some young altar boy. Tell me what you said, what you
meant by molest. I want to know what we`re talking about here.
Now, let`s talk about -- I love the way you break this down between actual
crimes, which would be crimes outside of the military, and discipline
problems in terms of how you treat other workers.
This issue of rape -- have you uncovered charges, or cases where women have
been raped -- and we all know what that means -- and gotten away with it in
MCCASKILL: Oh, of course. In fact, not just in the military, but also in
the civilian criminal justice system. The issue here is, is the military
doing everything it can to prioritize the prosecution of these predators
and support the victims? Or have they mushed it all together into some
kind of, We`ve got to make sure there`s not dirty jokes being told and
we`ve got to make sure there`s not sexual harassment? Two separate
MCCASKILL: They don`t even have the statistics, Chris, to really --
MATTHEWS: Why do they do it?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think they did it originally --
MATTHEWS: Everybody knows the difference between physical behavior and
maybe bad speech that`s not appropriate to any workplace.
But rape, it used to be a capital crime in a lot of states, especially in
the South. I mean, it isn`t some bad behavior. It`s a serious, almost
murder, in the history of common law, as you know. You`re the prosecutor.
Well, I think the reason this happened was -- in fact, General Dempsey said
today 15 years ago they thought if they captured the information under the
large title of unwanted sexual contact, they could get at the problem. But
that was part of their wrongheaded thinking on this.
MCCASKILL: You don`t get at this problem by doing training. You get at
this problem by training investigators, getting victim advocates, creating
an environment where victims feel safe about coming forward, going after
people who retaliate against victims, and putting these people in prison.
MATTHEWS: Why would a commander officer, say a middle-level officer,
major, why would a major or colonel put up with what he knew is -- to be
sexual abuse, criminal actions? Wouldn`t that destroy the morale of the
women serving as commission, noncommission, and as enlisted people?
Wouldn`t that ruin the whole esprit of the operation to have it known that
women are not protected by their superior officers from this horrible
MCCASKILL: Well, don`t get me wrong. I think most commanders, they want
to get these cowards and they want to get them out. The question is, do
they view this as a problem to get rid of or do they view this as a mission
to prosecute the predators who join the military?
I think too often it`s probably in the first, rather than the latter.
MCCASKILL: And I think we`re changing that culture now. I think all of
these scandals, and the pressure especially the women on the Armed Services
Committee are bringing to bear on this has made them realize that generals
cannot be overturning jury convictions. You have got to prioritize
protecting these victims and making them feel comfortable about coming
And if you don`t get after this, you`re going to really end up with a
military where women just aren`t willing to serve because they don`t feel
MATTHEWS: How do you give women, when they`re surrounded by men who have
more rank on them, the confidence to have -- to stand up for their rights
as serving military people?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think one of the things you have to do is you have to
have a command structure that takes retaliation against someone who reports
a sexual assault as serious as they do the sexual assault.
MCCASKILL: In other words, you have got to really put your thumb on people
who are making these women`s lives miserable -- and, by the way, men, too.
I mean, there are men being sexually assaulted in the military.
MATTHEWS: By other men, other men.
MCCASKILL: By other men.
MCCASKILL: And you really need to get after this from looking through the
prism of, are we protecting the victim?
MCCASKILL: And if you do that, you`re going to have a lot more
prosecutions and ultimately you`re going to turn the corner on this
MATTHEWS: I think the more you talk about the men being sexually assaulted
by other men, the more you will get some general interest from the male
Let`s take a look at Senator McCain, who amazes me sometimes with the truth
and the goodness of what he says. And this is an example. He expressed
the other day his disgust with the apparent epidemic of sexual misconduct
in the military. And he is ultimately a military guy, himself. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Just last night, a woman came to me and
said her daughter wanted to join the military, and could I give my
unqualified support for her doing so? I could not. I cannot overstate my
disgust and disappointment over the continued reports of sexual misconduct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes, Senator, I would like to be a movie editor
and I could edit John McCain out, the one I really like, and take out the
MCCASKILL: I know.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts about what he had to say as a military man?
MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, no one questions his patriotism or his
commitment to America`s military.
So, when John McCain says, we have got a problem, that is very meaningful.
And I`m working closely with Senator McCain and Senator Graham and with
Senator Gillibrand and with my colleagues in the House of Representatives.
One thing that`s nice about this issue, Chris, if there`s one redeeming
quality about this issue is it seems to be one that we`re not playing
politics with, that everyone is coming together on a bicameral, bipartisan
basis to try to fix this problem, because we all know that it really casts
a dark shadow on the finest military in the world.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you completely. Great work there, Senator. Thank you,
and the other women on that committee.
What a -- I always say the great thing about diversity is that stuff
doesn`t get by that would get by in just an all-male, white male crowd,
that you caught it. Thank you.
MCCASKILL: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Hillary Clinton`s new idea for a reality TV show, and
this is funny.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
First, Hillary Clinton shifts from politics to pitching reality TV shows,
kind of. At last night`s awards ceremony for the Council of Fashion
Designers of America, Clinton floated an idea for Bravo`s Andy Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now that I have
some more time on my hands, I am going to be pitching Andy and others on a
new show for Bravo --
CLINTON: -- to sort of fill that gap that is so apparent to some of us.
And all you really need is a small but passionate audience to be
successful. We could call it "Project Pantsuit."
CLINTON: We -- we have all kinds of ideas. So just call me after tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we all know about the flak she`s taken for pantsuits over
By the way, Hillary Clinton has made it known that she`s not immune to the
appeal of reality TV. She said that one of her favorite TV shows and ways
to unwind is watching the HGTV show "Love It or List It."
Next, Joe Biden apparently got into some hot water with his 12-year-old
granddaughter. This al has to do with a missed opportunity to meet the
great Bradley Cooper, the movie star. Some family members accompanied
Biden on a diplomatic trip to Brazil last week. And it turned out that the
star of "Silver Linings Playbook" was staying in the same hotel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My youngest grandfather
says, pop, she says, Bradley Cooper`s in this hotel.
BIDEN: And I said, you`re kidding me. I said, that`s nice. She said,
pop, you`re his friend, right?
BIDEN: I said, well, yes, we`re kind of friends. She said, well, pop, you
ought to call him.
BIDEN: And I said, what do you want me to do? She said, pop, we have got
this very big suite. And he -- said, you should have him down, like you do
other people, like you have presidents and things come and see you.
BIDEN: And I said -- swear to God, true story. I said, well, honey, I
have got to go meet the president of Brazil, and you`re going to favela
She said, pop.
BIDEN: That`s all, just looked, pop. I said, honey, I have got to go to
the meeting. OK, pop.
BIDEN: I will see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Well, she gave him the look, as he said.
Anyway, Bradley Cooper was in Washington yesterday to participate in a
White House conference on mental health. There he is.
Also, Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant realizes after one
sentence that he better start backpedaling. "The Washington Post" put on a
panel yesterday, a discussion featuring several state governors out there.
And at one point, the moderator asked why the U.S. education system tends
to have mediocre outcomes. Good question.
Here`s what Governor Bryant said in answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Oh --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These statistics across the board, every single one
of your states, you know --
BRYANT: You want me to tell the truth, where I tell the truth? I think
parents became -- both parents started working, and a mom is in the
workplace. That`s not a bad thing. I`m going to get in trouble. I can
just see -- I can see the e-mails tomorrow.
BRYANT: But now both parents are working. They`re pursuing their careers.
It`s a great American story now that women are certainly in the workplace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it`s the mother`s place to teach them to read?
BRYANT: No, no, no. But I think there was that loving, nurturing
opportunity, that both parents had a little bit of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Does he know he`s talking to Mary Jordan of "The Washington
Post," who`s a woman in the workplace?
Anyway, blaming women in the work force for problems in the education
system is probably not the best route to go. Shouldn`t he have just said
something related to schools?
Finally, we turn to a middle school student on -- on-the-spot reaction to a
mid-performance snafu. The school band`s rendition of "The Star-Spangled
Banner" was going off without a hitch until something went awry. Here`s
Jimmy Fallon, of course, summing it all up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": You see, this band in
Illinois was performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" when one of the kids
accidentally broke his cymbals. Did you see this? But he reacted really
quickly and pretty well. Look at this.
FALLON: That kid should do that every time he`s in trouble. Like, how do
you explain this F. on this report card?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That kid is great, and Fallon`s great. When in doubt, just
salute. Well done.
Up next: echoes of Joe McCarthy, and I mean it, how today`s Republicans are
shooting first and asking questions later in their aggressive effort to
take down President Obama over Benghazi, IRS, you name it.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
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That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Cherry-picking your evidence, presuming guilt, smearing reputations,
excessive examinations, spreading fear, those words just some of the
techniques of the infamous Joe McCarthy, a man whose name is synonymous
with terms like witch-hunt and zealotry, a man that American history would
like to forget, but can`t and shouldn`t.
By the way, it wasn`t exactly a witch-hunt with him. There were
communists. The question about this crowd is, is there anything there?
And here`s why.
You would like to think the kind of -- this kind of demagoguery is a thing
of the past, a relic of the `50s, like some old and outdated ham radio.
But that`s not the case -- far from it. In their crusade to take down the
without, some Republicans now, led by Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, have
resorted to the kind of name-calling and fear-mongering that, as Ron
Fournier of "The National Journal" puts it, stirs echoes of McCarthy.
Ron Fournier joins us right now, along with MSNBC contributor and former
RNC Chair Michael Steele.
Gentlemen, I do hear phrases like, we`re working to get the evidence when
they don`t have the evidence or calling the president`s press spokesman a
paid liar. The ad hominem attack on this president to me is extraordinary.
I remember they didn`t -- a lot of people didn`t like Clinton. A lot of
people like me didn`t like W., but this relentless personal attack on the
very morality of the guy, like he`s a bad person responsible for everything
that goes wrong.
RON FOURNIER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": It`s not only deplorable on an ethical
level, but it`s just -- politically, it`s stupid.
Why not let the damning facts speak for themselves?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Do they have them?
FOURNIER: What we definitely do know is that the IRS was targeting
conservatives. We definitely do know that IRS, President Obama`s IRS,
denies it for months and months and months when they were doing it.
And what we also know is that the -- we really haven`t had an investigation
yet. We don`t know how high it went up. Why not do the investigation,
subpoena the e-mails, put people under oath, find out whether or not this
was limited to the IRS and just terrible incompetence?
MATTHEWS: Do you think, by the way, if you were -- if you were -- if you
were Torquemada here, you`re the real investigator, could you find out
anybody, could you catch the connection if there ever was one between the
White House and the IRS in Cincinnati? Could you find that out by
MATTHEWS: By investigating?
FOURNIER: But not by being the I.G. who just asked people, hey, did you
commit a crime? And when you say no, you report back that they said no.
That`s not an investigation.
But an investigator with subpoena power, whether it`s Congress or a special
prosecutor, sure, could --
MATTHEWS: Why isn`t Issa doing that?
Michael, why isn`t Issa doing this the regular way, by sitting down in a
room and trying to get evidence and then coming forth with it if he has
STEELE: I don`t know. And that`s really kind of the rub for me, Chris, to
be honest you.
I think the facts kind of lead to additional questions, obviously, that has
been reported and told so far. But there is more there. And I would think
that you would just hunker down in a room. You would call people in. You
put them under oath. You have them stand with their hand on a Bible and
swear before the committee to tell the whole truth and nothing but the
And then you come out and you lay out the case against the administration.
STEELE: I think a lot of the ham-handed, loud noises right now distract
from that --
STEELE: -- and give the -- the White House the out that they need to
say, well, see, this is nothing more than a political circus.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at a few of those echoes that we`re
talking about. You wrote about it, Ron.
This is Congressman Issa on Sunday, the same day he went public with
limited excerpts of transcripts from interviews his committee conducted
with IRS officials in Cincinnati.
Why just release tiny snippets of those interviews? Well, Issa was asked
that question. Here`s his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The whole transcript will be put out.
We understand, these are in real time, and the administration is still,
their paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind, he`s still making up
things about what happens in calling this local rogue.
There`s no indication. The reason that Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth
is not because there`s a rogue in Cincinnati. It`s because this is a
problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington
headquarters and we`re getting to proving it. We have 18 more transcribed
interviews to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re getting to proving it, in all likelihood. It`s just
another Issa -- here`s another one. It`s not just him.
Other Republicans like Hal Rogers of Kentucky. He`s also on the committee.
He chairs the House Appropriations Committee. They`re making outrageous
and unsupported claims when it comes to the White House`s involvement, if
any, in the IRS controversy.
Here`s Representative Rogers yesterday on FOX. He was asked, what do you
want to know from IRS Commissioner Werfel, that`s the new guy, due to
testify later that day?
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAL ROGERS (R), KENTUCKY: I want to know his explanations. Of
course, the enemies list out of the White House, that IRS was engaged in
shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint
across the country. And enemies list that rivals that of another president
some time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We should note Rogers made a similar accusation on his opening
statement but never brought it up with the commissioner when he was talking
Ron, you used phrases like "enemies list", people think it actually exists,
and you find out he just made it up. Then, you say the president dictated
that enemies list to the IRS, to use by the IRS, no evidence to that. They
just make these statements up.
RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yes, and it`s really a disservice to the
country. We do need to find out how far this went up and why the IRS --
MATTHEWS: You took another step there. Remember Richard Nixon? He went
after the BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics. He had the assumption that all
the guys and women working there were liberals -- because there`s always
been an assumption in this town the people who work in our giant
bureaucracies tend to be public servants by definition. They tend to be
liberals. They like it. They believe in what they`re doing.
MATTHEWS: It could well be the people at the IRS are a bunch of liberal
guys who had a point of view and did like the Tea Party. Who knows? Why
are we making the assumption they were directed by the White House? We
don`t know --
MATTHEWS: We don`t know.
FOURNIER: That`s why -- that`s why he`s hurting his case, because what`s
going to happen if he`s not careful, if he keeps demagoguing like this, the
party is going to tune it out, assume it`s pure politics. If they come up
with something more, the public is not going to believe it.
Plus, if they just stops right here, if all we know is what we know now,
what the president has already conceded, that this is a deplorable action
by a bunch of bureaucrats, why cover that up with demagoguing?
MATTHEWS: I know why. Every time you trash government, you help the
Republicans. Because if you don`t believe the government --
FOURNIER: Not in this case.
MATTHEWS: Well --
STEELE: Well, no, I mean, I think Chris is right there. I think there is
a benefit to the loud cymbals clashing by Issa and others right now.
But then you have others like Lindsey Graham who are saying, can we cut
this out and do it the right way? Can we be smart about how we go about
making this investigation real?
And I think more in the party need to listen to those voices in order to
set this thing right. I think Ron`s absolutely correct. If we`re not
careful, the validity of the argument, the value of the evidence will mean
MATTHEWS: -- my friend. What`s the Republican jobs bill? What`s the
Republican health bill? They don`t have a program. This is their program.
STEELE: Chris, this is a fair point. You come back and say, we`re
investigating this and going to lay out the agenda.
MATTHEWS: By the way, it`s going to take 170-year to do this and it`s
exactly what your party did back in the late `40s when they got control.
After the New Deal, they come in `46, they said, let open it with a prayer
and end it with a probe. That`s they did every day. That`s all they did
and they were cast out by Harry Truman.
STEELE: That`s politics, Chris. It`s nothing new.
FOURNIER: Not winning politics.
MATTHEWS: Good luck in that governor`s race, by the way, if you go for it.
I voted for you once. I could do it again.
Anyway, thank you, Ron Fournier and Michael Steele.
Up next, the IRS scandal. Do Republicans want answers or they`re just
using the IRS as a proxy for the president and what they see as the evils
of big government? That`s ahead.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with the latest troubles for the IRS we`ve
been talking about, and the Republicans who want to blame it all on the
HARDBALL back in just a minute.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
The IRS was under attack again today on Capitol Hill as conservative and
Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS testified before the House Ways and
Means Committee this time. And there was no lack of emotion or fireworks
from the witnesses or the members of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BECKY GERRITSON, WETUMPKA TEA PARTY: I`m a born free American woman, wife,
mother and citizen, and I`m telling my government that you`ve forgotten
JOHN EASTMAN, DIR., NATL. ORG. FOR MARRIAGE: This isn`t somebody dropped a
piece of our tax return out on the sidewalk inadvertently. They
deliberately provided our donor list to the very political opponents of
ours who have been seeking that information for a long time.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: What happened to you was unfair. It
was unfair and incredibly inconvenient, but it was a mistake. Anything
else, like the circus that`s happening in the oversight committee or here,
is simply political theater.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I`m going to deviate from my original
question in response to what I just heard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman --
RYAN: Welcome to Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s Paul Ryan jumping to the opportunity there. But
as conservatives and Republicans rail against the IRS, you`ve got to
wonder, do Republicans really want to get to the bottom of this or are they
using the IRS as a proxy for President Obama and the evil, all encompassing
big government they run against?
Nick Confessore is a political reporter for `The New York Times". And Ed
Rendell is the former governor of Pennsylvania, as well as MSNBC political
You know, Nick, it seems to me that they got good theater there today. And
fair enough, these people believe they were targeted. They believe they`ve
been harassed by government. This seems like something that`s not going to
stop. I mean, it looks to me like they`re going to hold these hearings all
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, they -- they
probably should, Chris. There are so many questions we don`t have. And
what`s odd about this is there`s been all this focus on how soon did the
president know. It`s a fair question.
But the question we still haven`t answered from any direction is, who got
this ball rolling? Who in Cincinnati or in Washington started those flags
of Tea Party groups? It`s kind of amazing to me as a reporter.
You know, I haven`t got subpoena power. But a few of these people do. And
it`s one question we haven`t answered. And it would put to rest or inflate
some of the speculation about how it got started if we knew the answer.
MATTHEWS: I was thinking of a perverse version of what Churchill said,
when in the history of man kind have so many owed so much to so few. How
many people in the Cincinnati office actually did something wrong in terms
of targeting or profiling the right? How many were there? Dozen? Half
CONFESSORE: Well, there are at least a couple dozen analysts whose names
appear to have been on some of the correspondence with the groups. And one
thing we saw in our reporting was that responsibility for these cases kept
shifting over the course of these three years.
And, look, this is -- this is a pretty good example of a bureaucracy amok
and screwing up. It`s a real problem.
MATTHEWS: OK. When Lois Lerner yelled at the people and said, "Stop doing
this", found out they were doing it again and then caught them again, how
many people was she yelling at saying, "Don`t do this again"? Do we know
CONFESSORE: It`s amazing. We don`t know. It`s one of the things we don`t
know. Who was in that meeting with Lois Lerner? Who was she yelling at?
We haven`t even heard from the committee or from the IRS.
MATTHEWS: Governor, the president gets blamed for this because they throw
everything back at him as if he`s ruling the world. He`s blamed for
Benghazi, western Libya. Everything that goes wrong in the world now is
now Obama`s personal responsibility and he`s evil.
And this question is guess do they have to prove it or they can beat him by
just making the charges? Do they have to find the smoking gun?
ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s a fine line. I
think they`re certainly getting value out of this. They`re decreasing the
president`s leverage to do things on the important issues facing the
RENDELL: And they`re beating the president up.
But every Republican knows in his heart that Barack Obama is a man of high
personal integrity who would never be involved in something like this.
They know that the IRS commissioner when this was ordered was a Bush
appointee. So, there`s no chance of a conspiracy between them and the
They know all that. And they don`t want to get to the truth because the
truth will set it free. It`ll be a bunch of bureaucrats who ran wild and
did a wrong thing. But it`ll set the president free and the White House
free. They want to keep bleeding this out, little by little, creating the
Chris, I think if they were wise, they would say, what is the case, that
here was the president out of touch with his government. He didn`t know.
His staff didn`t inform him about this scandal. He didn`t know about the
attorney general subpoenaing --
MATTHEWS: I guess you`re right.
RENDELL: -- e-mails from FOX and from "The A.P." Well, gosh, why didn`t
the president know about these things? Isn`t the president in charge?
Isn`t he in command? To me, that`s a more real and in some ways more
And I think just because they`re so obsessed with Barack Obama being evil,
which we know he isn`t, they`re missing out on the better trail.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Nick, is it possible, I mean, I`m a political nut. I know
this stuff. The governor certainly knows it. You have presidents like
Lyndon Johnson or Jack Kennedy. They were on the phone to middle of people
all the time. They were the kind of people that liked being chief
Kennedy, if you look during the Cuban missile crisis, calling up officers.
What are you going to do today? How`s this work? You`re restrained here.
Johnson finding out who got the contract for the Philadelphia Navy yard?
Who didn`t get the contract? He knew everything like that stuff. And he
was ready to go out there and play it.
I get the feeling the president of the United States goes home at night
after his eight hours of work, reads at night, probably serious stuff,
maybe worries about his place in history, write his speech now and then,
he`s not this kind of super executive. And I think that is the failing.
But it isn`t corruption.
CONFESSORE: Well, you know, the IRS --
CONFESSORE: Since those analysts you talked about, obviously, things have
changed. The IRS is now set up in a way that`s supposed to influence it --
or, sorry, insulate it from political influence. The president only really
nominates for appointment the top two officials there. So, it would be
hard to have that kind of direct line.
But, also, let`s pull back a second. If the president was trying, really
trying to use the IRS to punch his political opponents, why go after these
groups? These are mostly very small groups with small budgets. But the
big groups spending hundreds of millions of dollars to beat him haven`t
gotten banged up in this process as far as we can see so far.
MATTHEWS: And why would he let Doug Shulman, the Republican appointee,
stay in there so long if he`s going to manipulate that operation. He let
Bush`s guy run it.
Anyway, thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, Nick Confessore. And, Governor
Rendell, as always.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
The clown car once filled with the Republican vagabonds running so absurdly
for president last year has been refilled. Well, today, the clown car is
packed to the roof with a roving crew all shouting the same words: court
packing, Benghazi, IRS, enemies list, Nixon.
Well, the party that put Richard Nixon on its national ticket five times in
every election but one for 20 years, from 1952 to 1972 is now making him
the villainous name for smearing of a good president -- the goal of which
Reince Priebus, of course, and all the others have set their hearts.
There are roles of those who have tougher course for Republicans, of
course, Joseph McCarthy. They don`t need evidence to make their charges.
Oh, no. One congressman said the IRS in Cincinnati was working off an
enemies list coming from the White House.
I read that accusation looking for the evidence only to realize I`d been
snookered. There is no evidence. The congressman declared there was an
enemies list, simply declared that it was a list used in the IRS offices in
Darrell Issa, the self-styled prosecutor, made some charge against Obama
the other day and then said something that sounds like something out of
Orwell. We`re getting to proving that. We`re getting to proving that.
He`s charged the president with something and then admitted he hasn`t
proven it. He`s getting to proving that. It`s polluted politics, polluted
by so much hatred of this president that all it takes to make a charge is
the obsession to do it.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for watching.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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