July 31, 2013
Guests: John Feehery, Nia-Malika Henderson, Maggie Haberman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Weiner schnitzel!
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" -- this story amazes me! Anyway, I`ve worked in politics
for a long time, as everybody knows, and that said, I`ve never -- stuff
like this that`s coming out just tonight -- and I think in politic, left,
right and crazy, I never heard stuff like this coming out of the Weiner
operation. It is unbelievable today. We`re going to try to explain it to,
the lingo coming out of that campaign as it crashes and falls, apparently.
Apparently. And what people are talking about, the language they`re using
-- I`ve heard bad language. This is just lightning (sic) years ahead of
Anyway, the American politics does have a measure of true nobility. We all
know that, certainly at times. You`re going to have to judge tonight for
yourself what you think of this latest stuff coming from inside the Weiner
Howard Fineman joins me in this incredible fest. I don`t know what it is.
He`s a Huffington Post Media Group leader. And Maggie Haberman has to
cover this story as a straight beat reporter. She`s senior political
reporter for Politico.
Maggie, I mean, I don`t know, at some point, we just have to laugh. I
refuse to give in to this as a tragedy. I don`t know -- I know it has
Anyway, more trouble for Weiner. That`s in the script tonight. Yesterday
in "The New York Daily News," an ex-intern criticized staffers in the
campaign and said some are there to connect with Weiner`s wife, Huma, in
order to get the -- cadge themselves a job with the Hillary Clinton
campaign for president. In other words, it`s not about Weiner. They`re
willing to work there, stay there, put up with it as long as they get a
chance at a job with Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign, they hope.
Anyway, that letter elicited an unbelievable response from Weiner`s
communications director, Barbara Morgan, to the Web site TalkingPointsMemo.
Most of it is impossible to repeat here on the air, filled with language I
guess you`ve heard somewhere. But it`s unbelievable.
Here`s a small, slightly cleaned-up portion of how they talk over there.
"I`m dealing with, like" -- like is a big word here -- "stupid blanking
interns who make it on the cover of `The Daily News` even though they
signed nondisclosure agreements and or they proceeded to trash me. And by
the way, I tried to fire her, but she begged to come back and I gave her a
second chance. Man, see if you ever get a job in this town again."
This is the way they talk, that macho talk. Anyway, this Miss Morgan later
apologized for her language, saying she thought the conversation was off
the record. Off the wall, maybe!
Let me try to get to you on this, Maggie, because you`ve got a job to do.
Is this the sign of inner combustion in perhaps blaming everybody, hating
everybody because the ship`s going down?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: I think that it is a sign of tremendous strain
on a campaign that has been having a lot of problems over the last week-
and-a-half, including seeing, let`s not forget, the campaign manager walk
off of the campaign last Friday after the latest disclosures about Anthony
Weiner, you know, and his life after he resigned from Congress.
I will say -- and this is no defense of the language. The language was
clearly bad and sexist. But I will say that this is not the first time at
least this New York reporter has heard language like that from a press
aide. There have been notoriously rough and aggressive and really colorful
press aides in and around New York City and state government over the
This was obviously a mistake by Barbara Morgan. This was obviously a
mistake, where she believed she was off the record or thought she was off
the record. You know, TPM stands by it, says she was not, and that that
was very clear. She shouldn`t have been saying this even if she thought
she was off the record in general, but especially given the circumstances
of this campaign.
I think that they -- yesterday, I saw Anthony Weiner`s 5:00 o`clock event
in midtown. They seem like a campaign that is having a very, very hard
time. This is not a surprise. But they don`t quite know what to do at
MATTHEWS: Anyway, as you wrote, Maggie, it seems Weiner is trying to
channel the spirit of Ed Koch, who wasn`t a bad guy, more and more. Last
night, on City Island in New York, a nice little neighborhood, we saw a
side of him come out when a voter challenged Weiner on the question whether
he could ever be trusted. Of course, he gave a self-interested answer, but
it`s interesting to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WEINER (D), FMR. CONGRESSMAN, NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I`m not going
to go into the corner and curl up because someone found something
embarrassing about me! Do you see that`s going on here today? If you
become mayor of the city of New York, you`ve got to put up with this every
single day, people saying to you, You know what? You did something we
don`t like, cameras in your face, change your mind, back out, quit. That`s
not the kind of mayor I`m going to be!
Sir, I say to you with all due respect, if you don`t like to vote for me,
do not vote for me. But don`t deny these people the right to vote for me
if they want to!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question --
WEINER: Yes, I did. You know who I decided to vote for? Anthony Weiner.
I decided I`ve got good ideas. I decided I`m not beholden to the political
class. I`ve decided that I have shown a level of independence in standing
in front of you today!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "Attica, Attica, Attica." It`s "Dog Day Afternoon." I`m sorry,
that performance was meant for the cameras. Three people clapped in that
(INAUDIBLE) I think they had the megaphone up next to them, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, I think a few of them looked a little frightened, I think, perhaps.
MATTHEWS: By that performance.
FINEMAN: I knew Ed Koch. He wasn`t a friend of mine necessarily, but I
MATTHEWS: He was restrained compared to this guy!
FINEMAN: Well, not only that, Ed Koch would love to fight on ideas. He
loved to -- he loved to -- loved to take people on. He loved to engage
people. But I think people sort of found him to be a kind of profoundly
normal person. I mean, he was just a guy. He was your average New Yorker
who somehow became mayor.
That`s not an average guy that we just saw right there. I don`t know what
he is, but average he ain`t.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the campaign. You know, I always asked people on my
old Sunday show, which is old about a week now -- I always asked people,
Maggie, Tell me something I don`t know. So we can -- what`s the smell of
the campaign when you get in close, the people you talk to? I mean,
really, literally the smell, is it burning, is it dying, is it smelling, is
HABERMAN: It is like --
MATTHEWS: Is there something going on there?
HABERMAN: It`s like being at the carnival. Look, what you -- I will say
this, Chris. It`s not like there is something that you`re seeing behind
the curtain that you`re not seeing up front here. There is not much of a
staff. Anthony Weiner is notorious for running his own campaigns. What
you see is what you get. There is this carnival-like atmosphere at every
single one of his events. You just saw it.
I do not disagree with you that that performance was for the cameras, but
that is the message that he is running on. This is the person who came up
as a political operative under Chuck Schumer. He`s --
MATTHEWS: Where is Schumer?
HABERMAN: Schumer`s been --
MATTHEWS: Where`s Chuck?
HABERMAN: -- very quiet on this. Schumer`s been very quiet.
MATTHEWS: Very quiet.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t -- I think you could Google him now and not find him
in the same line as Weiner right now. I mean, he is smart, isn`t he, to
stay -- well, that`s a judgment. But he`s smartly staying away from this.
HABERMAN: Yes, he doesn`t want -- he doesn`t want to go near this. Most
politicians in New York do not want to go near this. The governor does not
want to go near this, Andrew Cuomo. Certainly, the Clintons have yet to
talk about this, despite the fact that their names keep getting thrown into
every story, you know, in part because Weiner`s wife, Huma Abedin, works
for Hillary Clinton.
But the smell of the campaign is chaos. I mean, there is -- it`s not
completely unfamiliar. It is actually a bit similar to what went on when
Rudy Giuliani was having his divorce from his wife in 2000 and then in
2001. There was this constant sort of rolling sense of crazy going on.
HABERMAN: This is a bit like that. But it`s -- you know, look, there was
a feeling a week ago or two weeks ago that Weiner had a chance of being in
the runoff, and there was a thought that he could win. That seemed like a
long shot. But it`s very hard to see him making a runoff now.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. Weiner released a new Web --
let`s give him a break here -- an ad -- a Web ad with a simple message.
He`s not quitting. Let`s watch him in action. He`s paid for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: You know, sometimes people say to me, you know, You -- this
campaign is pretty rough. You may want to quit. I know that there are
newspaper editors and other politicians that say, Boy, I wish that guy
Weiner would quit. They don`t know New York. They certainly don`t know
the me. Quit isn`t the way we roll in New York City.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So he`s identifying himself with the people of New York, Howard.
FINEMAN: Well --
MATTHEWS: And the music is somewhere from the -- I don`t know, the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir. I don`t know where the music came from, but it had
nothing to do with Anthony Weiner`s life.
FINEMAN: I hate to say this, but I was just relieved that he didn`t pan
down in that thing.
MATTHEWS: Did I just hear an "oy"? That`s the first "oy" I`ve heard --
FINEMAN: I`m sorry, it`s drained of all -- are we complicit in this?
Let`s take on the media part of this.
FINEMAN: OK, let`s not --
MATTHEWS: I`m not a media critic.
FINEMAN: All right, but you know what I mean. Yes --
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Howard.
FINEMAN: -- but it`s his fault. It`s his fault that we`re talking about
this stuff. It`s not our fault!
MATTHEWS: No, he`s in the spotlight because he chose to be in this
FINEMAN: Let me tell you something else. His press secretary was calling
Talking -- discussing with TalkingPointsMemo some other topic.
TalkingPointsMemo is a serious --
MATTHEWS: I know.
FINEMAN: -- Web page that has serious, substantive stuff. What is that
press secretary doing even off the record, which she wasn`t, but let`s say
she was off the record -- why is she responding in that way?
Here she had a chance to talk to TalkingPointsMemo about something
completely different, something substantive, and she didn`t do it. I mean,
that`s the kind of campaign this is. They`re transfixed by their own
image. It`s this narcissistic --
MATTHEWS: Well, the word B-I-T-C-H, which I wouldn`t like to pronounce or
normally even spell, was the nicest word in that fusillade (ph).
FINEMAN: It`s an entirely narcissistic --
MATTHEWS: Anyway --
FINEMAN: -- entirely narcissistic enterprise.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to some of the comments. Let`s go to Kathleen Parker,
who wrote in "The Washington Post" today -- I know she`s a moderate to
conservative writer. Let`s take a look at what she said. Here`s how she
handled it. "Weiner`s stubbornness is likely based on two probabilities.
First is that he can outlast the electorate`s attention span, which gnats
regard with envy. A second pertains to Daniel Patrick Moynihan`s
observation that our nation has defining (ph) deviancy down. In other
words, we`re going lower and lower, normalizing the deviant to the
accommodate our own moral decay. If you can`t fix it, in other words, make
it normal -- divorce, pornography, unwed parenthood, sexting, whatever. If
everyone`s doing it, then it can`t be wrong, right?"
Well, that`s a little moral. I`m not sure I`m comfortable with that one.
Your thoughts on this. I mean, this -- this whole idea that Weiner might
just fit in after a couple weeks of this -- he puts up with this for a
couple weeks, maybe makes a strong third, maybe tries for second, but then
is in a position of endorsing Thompson, when we get into this big fight
over stop and frisk, which is inevitably coming weeks from now if it`s
going to be between Christine Quinn and Thompson. He`ll just jump in on
the side of Thompson, the African-American candidate, and play the underdog
again and somehow come out of this thing ahead.
I`m sure that`s the light at the end of the tunnel he sees, Maggie.
HABERMAN: I think -- I think right now, the light at the end of the tunnel
he sees. But I don`t know that I agree with what Kathleen Parker wrote
just in the sense that I don`t think what Weiner is actually doing is
hoping to define, you know, social values down.
I think that he genuinely believed he should not have resigned the first
time. He mishandled this in terms of explaining to people what the
timeframe was. Let`s remember, I think that people are generally loath to
actually judge what goes on in other people`s personal lives.
MATTHEWS: Is this personal?
HABERMAN: This -- he -- the issue is --
MATTHEWS: Is this personal?
HABERMAN: He said in his redemption comeback story in "The New York Times"
magazine -- the clear impression was this was all in the past, and the
timeframe was very much a piece of it. That is the main reason, according
to sources, that his campaign manager quit, was that he felt that he was
not dealt a clear picture of what happened. And so that is the big problem
for him, is the truthfulness issue.
I think that Weiner is hoping for two things. Number one, he`s hoping that
this is going to essentially die down and that he can get to a debate and
that he can do well there. There are going to be a couple of mayoral
And let`s not forget, Chris, this is a field that has been widely described
by every paper in the city as lackluster. This is not a mayoral campaign
that is --
MATTHEWS: -- all those things.
HABERMAN: Yes, but this --
MATTHEWS: But let me go back to the point I raised, that you left off
there. Do you really think that this could be described as a personal --
like an affair or a triangle or any kind of marital problem, when you`re
out there sexting all around the country, and this has been going into the
thousands? I mean, this isn`t just --
HABERMAN: No, I mean, I think -- I think --
MATTHEWS: This isn`t personal.
HABERMAN: -- that putting out -- I think that the --
MATTHEWS: This is broadcasting.
HABERMAN: Yes, the picture -- the pictures with people he doesn`t know and
-- right. I mean, I think that that is -- that there`s no question that
that is going to be something that voters are going to look at.
MATTHEWS: It`s public.
FINEMAN: Yes, and it`s -- and he has made it public.
HABERMAN: And he has made it public, as Howard said, by running for mayor.
It`s not like people went and broke down his door to find out about this.
HABERMAN: He ran for mayor. He described this all as in the past. And
then, you know, that turned out not to be the case.
MATTHEWS: OK. Howard, can he win?
MATTHEWS: I don`t think so. I think he can make noise at the end, though.
MATTHEWS: I think he can come in a strong third and make some noise.
Anyway, thank you Howard Fineman. Thank you, Maggie Haberman, a tough job
Coming up: Republicans are trying to use the scandals involving Weiner,
Eliot Spitzer and San Diego mayor Bob Filner to argue that it`s the
Democrats who are waging a war on women out there. But when it comes to
policy questions, this war is very one-sided, as we know here.
But first, the GOP at war with itself. Ted Cruz is going after fellow
Republicans for not supporting a government shutdown over "Obama care."
Let`s just say he`s a political terrorist on this one.
And Weiner`s sexting scandal has been very good for the tabloid business
and for late night comedians.
Finally, let me finish with the political terrorists of the right. I`m
going to talk about them. Their names are Cruz, Paul and Lee.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Now to the delightful stuff. Would John McCain actually go
maverick on his own party if faced with a Rand Paul versus Hillary Clinton
presidential match-up come 2016? Well, McCain told "The New Republic" it`s
going to be a tough choice.
And he said this about Rand Paul. "I think Rand Paul represents a segment
of the GOP, just like his father. And I think he`s trying to expand that
intelligently to make it larger."
Now look at what he said -- that`s McCain -- about Hillary Clinton. "She
did a fine job. She`s a rock star. She has maybe not glamor, but
certainly the aura of someone widely regarded throughout the world."
Pretty good stuff for an endorsement there. Based on those two quotes,
McCain choice may not be all that tough.
We`ll be right back. It sounds like he likes Hillary a hell of a lot more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The American people deserve not to have this law
implemented and enforced.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I`m hearing that this law makes it harder
for people to create jobs. This bill is going to make it harder on the
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This isn`t working, and Congress should defund
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the Republicans` Tea Party
faction speaking on the Senate floor just yesterday. As you saw there,
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is leading the group, which has launched an all-out
war to defund, basically kill "Obamacare" in its crib.
They are currently rallying support among the party`s base to threaten a
government shutdown if any spending bill funds a penny for the law`s
implementation. Members of their won party call the strategy insane. Here
are a few examples.
Senator Ted Coburn, a smart guy from Oklahoma, warns Cruz that`s it`s not
achievable. That`s pretty soft. But Richard Burr of North Carolina calls
it "the dumbest idea I`ve ever heard." And Karl Rove, not exactly a
sweetheart -- yes, Karl Rove -- says the strategy "gives the president the
bully pulpit and a gigantic stick with which to beat us." He means the
That won`t stop Cruz. This is Cruz on Glenn Beck`s -- there`s a meeting of
the minds -- radio show responding to his Republican critics.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CRUZ: There are a lot of Republicans in Washington who are scared.
They`re scared of being beaten up politically.
Harry Reid and President Obama will scream at the top of their lungs. The
evil, mean, nasty Republicans are trying to shut down the federal
government. And that`s when we need to respond and say no.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, my gosh. And it`s not just the issue of "Obama care" and a
government shutdown where Cruz and his allies are threatening destruction.
In addition to their vow to blow up "Obama care" and shut down the American
government this September, they`re also moving to block an increase in the
debt ceiling. That means the government wouldn`t be able to pay its bills,
wouldn`t be able to pay its debts, would go into default. The consequences
-- it would destroy the United States credit rating, of course, and send us
spiraling into default.
This is Cruz`s operation here, by the way, and his allies` operation. This
is more than just obstructionism, this is political terrorism. It`s a
strategy of mass destruction and demolition with the hope that after the
rubble has settled, they`ll be the ones left around to pick up the pieces.
David Axelrod`s an MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist and
Steve Schmidt is a Republican strategist.
David, first your view. I believe it`s terrorism. This is the first time
I`ve seen a political party or even a fraction of it saying that their
number one goal is, A, to shut down the American government -- it is the
American government -- kill a bill that`s already been passed by Congress
and refuse to pay bills already run up by the Congress in an attempt to
basically risk default.
This is an attempt to destroy all we know of as the republican form of
government in this country with the purpose -- I don`t know the purpose.
What is it?
DAVID AXELROD, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It
beats the hell out of me, Chris. But I think that the -- probably, the
best explanation is that these guys are catering to the most strident
voices in their party.
I think Cruz is a very ambitious guy. He`s just been in Iowa, got a great
reception there with this kind of rhetoric. And you know, I think that he
sees a niche and that group sees a niche for themselves in this kind of,
you know, apocalyptic approach to government.
You can look at your own polling and see that the American people are not
with him. It`s that kind of rhetoric that has driven Congress down to the
lowest standing it`s had in the history of the NBC poll.
But among their little group within the Republican Party, which is not that
small a group within the Republican Party, they`re playing to a very
enthusiastic crowd, and I think that`s all they care about.
apocalyptic approach to government. You can look at your own polling and
see that the American people are not with him. It`s -- it`s that kind of
rhetoric that has driven Congress down to the lowest standing it`s had in
the history of the NBC poll.
AXELROD: But, among their little group, within the Republican Party, which
is not that small a group within the Republican Party, they`re playing to a
very enthusiastic crowd. And I think that`s all they care about.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump basically disgraced himself in many ways. I
don`t know why he does this. I don`t know why he does it, but for months
and years, in fact, he`s been saying Obama is an illegitimate president
because he was born to an American mother in a foreign country.
By that definition, this guy, Ted Cruz, can`t run for president because he
was born to an American mother in a foreign country, in this case Canada.
So, why would -- why would he be running for president if by the
definitions put out by somebody in his side politically, that`s Donald
Trump, is he even thinking about running for president? It`s so
inconsistent. Does that matter to anybody?
AXELROD: Well, I don`t think it matters to him.
I think that there are so many reasons why Ted Cruz shouldn`t be president
before that one that I can barely --
MATTHEWS: I know. I think he`s eligible.
AXELROD: I can barely --
MATTHEWS: But I think -- I think Trump doesn`t know his history.
AXELROD: I think he is.
AXELROD: And I would be interested to hear what Steve has to say about
this. I don`t think that this should be taken lightly.
I think he is a first-class demagogue, very talented at what he does.
AXELROD: And he has the capacity to whip up that strident Tea Party base
in the Republican Party and create quite a bit of havoc.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have compared him to McCarthy. Maybe that`s just
the look-alike. I shouldn`t get into what people look like. But he does
remind me so much when I look at him interrogating a witness on the Hill,
he looks like Joe McCarthy.
He just acts that way with that somber, indictive aspect, like this guy is
the evil one. But I will say he`s a terrorist, because what the guy has
done, basically, he says my goals are -- is demolition. Blow up health
care, blow up the continuing resolution. Bring the government to a
standstill. And then make us forfeit on the national debt.
Your thoughts, Steve? I know you`re not that kind of Republican. I don`t
know what you make of this guy.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
Well, Chris, I disagree with your use of the word terrorist in its
application to him.
SCHMIDT: What he is, is --
MATTHEWS: Why is not a terrorist?
SCHMIDT: -- a demagogue. He`s irresponsible.
Because I think, when we use the word terrorist, we apply that to the
Boston bombers. We apply that to the September 11 hijackers.
MATTHEWS: A political terrorist. I have said political terrorist. That`s
what he is.
SCHMIDT: I`m just -- I`m not -- I`m not -- I`m not comfortable with the
word. But --
MATTHEWS: OK, don`t use it.
MATTHEWS: Use your words. Use your words. I`m comfortable with it.
SCHMIDT: He`s very, very -- yes. He`s -- politically, he couldn`t be more
irresponsible on this.
This is as stupid a political strategy as you could possibly conjure up.
It will be a disaster for Republicans, who have a great chance I think of
picking up seats in the U.S. Senate. And, remember, we have given up five
U.S. Senate seats over the last two election cycles by nominating this cast
of characters out there that have been rejected in states, even Republican
states, Missouri with Todd Akin, for example.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to war with you. Let me go to war with you.
SCHMIDT: And this is about -- this is about -- this is -- go ahead. Go
MATTHEWS: The purpose of a terrorist -- and they use different means
obviously than blowing bombs -- is to cause chaos and to bring down a
government because of the chaotic situation where nobody has any trust in
You tell me how that`s not what he`s trying to do here, bring the
government to default, so it`s not paying its bill, stop the government
from functioning, and bring down bills that have created institutions like
Obamacare that have already been decided upon, blow them up after they were
brought into law, blow up the government`s ability to pay bills it has
already run up.
If that`s not causing chaos, what is it, and lack of trust, which is what
SCHMIDT: Well, he is causing -- he is causing -- he is causing chaos.
Chris, I`m not going to come off this. I just -- I don`t like the use of
the word in the way that you`re -- in the way that you`re using it, because
I think that --
MATTHEWS: Because he`s a fellow Republican.
AXELROD: No, no, no.
SCHMIDT: -- when we talk about these words -- no, he`s not from my wing
of the -- he`s not from my wing of the Republican Party, certainly.
MATTHEWS: I know.
AXELROD: I`ll tell you, Chris --
SCHMIDT: And what I think he`s doing -- and what I think he`s doing is
dangerous and wrong. And I think it will have terrible political
consequences for Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
AXELROD: Just to -- just to support my friend Steve, because we share the
same barber, I want to tell you that I also am uncomfortable with the word,
only out of respect for the victims of violent terrorists.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have the same respect. I make the point political.
MATTHEWS: I have used the term political terrorist. I will continue to
MATTHEWS: But, for shorthand, I will say terrorist.
But go ahead.
AXELROD: But here`s another point, which is this notion. And this is the
point that Coburn and so many conservatives have made. They`re not going
to defund Obamacare. Obamacare has a self-perpetuating funding source.
And its funding is largely accounted for, outside of what they can affect.
MATTHEWS: OK. Then why are they -- why are they -- why are they
threatening to crash it, if not for terrorist reasons?
AXELROD: Because I think they`re --
SCHMIDT: They`re threatening to crash it -- they`re threatening to crash
it, Chris, because Ted Cruz has been running for president of the United
States since the very moment the Texas primary was called, when he defeated
SCHMIDT: And he`s running for president.
He sees this as his running lane. He`s going to whip up all the people on
the far right in the Republican Party on this. And what is so demagogic
about Ted Cruz is, Ted Cruz certainly, intellectually, he understands that
this is the wrong thing to do. He understands that we have to pay the bill
on money that we have already spent.
He`s a smart enough guy to understand the consequences to U.S. financial
markets, to global markets, to have a sense of the unease this is creating
in the European Union with our trading allies.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you a question, Steve.
SCHMIDT: It`s terrible politics, because Republicans will pay a heavy
price for this.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that Ted Cruz, who I have accused of being a
political terrorist, do you think he fears default on the national debt?
Do you think he fears a government shutdown? Do you think he fears those
things in a reasonable, rational way, or he`s playing with them because he
doesn`t care if they do blow up, Steve?
SCHMIDT: I think his ambition supersedes his care about them.
But it`s not conceivable to me, when you look at his academic pedigree,
that he doesn`t understand the consequences of the United States defaulting
on its debt. There are no small number of House Republicans, for example,
when we went through this two years ago, that I have no doubt simply don`t
understand enough about global markets when they go out and talking about
that there was risk-free, no-consequence ability to default on the debt.
I would put Michele Bachmann in that category.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, just remember Pat Robertson went to Yale Law. I
wouldn`t be caught up on pedigrees -- on these political or academic
pedigrees about people with great degrees like that.
I wouldn`t assume that they`re being any better than the rest of us.
Your last thought, quickly, David? Do you think he knows that he might
just blow up the world and it doesn`t bother him?
AXELROD: No, I agree -- I agree with Steve completely.
But the question isn`t what Cruz does. The question is how many
Republicans in positions of responsibility are willing to march lemming-
like behind him over the cliff for this country, over the cliff for their
party? And I think that`s the real question here. We know who he is.
The question is how many people who truly do know better and who in the
past have behaved responsibly are willing to follow him? And I include in
that the majority -- the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
MATTHEWS: They`re watching him plant the bomb and they`re not stopping him
Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Steve Schmidt.
Up next: Anthony Weiner has been very good fodder, of course, for late-
night comedians and the New York tabloids, of course. And that`s all
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
It`s tabloid heaven, of course, up in New York as the unfolding Weiner
drama continues to put out for late-night comedians and snarky headline
writers, of course.
And as "The New York Post" has shown over the last week, there`s plenty of
puns, metaphors and innuendo to go around. "The Late Show" had some fun
parodying that last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": We have some
exclusive footage for you now, ladies and gentlemen. This is a little
something called a day in the life of a "New York Post" headline writer.
You know what I`m saying?
PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: Yes.
LETTERMAN: This will be a rare glimpse behind the scenes, a day in the
life of a New York Post headline writer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9:00 a.m., arrive at work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9:01 a.m., go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for watching a day in the life of a "New York
Post" headline writer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Anthony Weiner`s fight against the odds are inspired --
have inspired at least one New Yorker, theater star Kristin Chenoweth, who
was on "The Tonight Show" last night, where she performed a rewritten
version of the song popular from her hit musical "Wicked."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
KRISTIN CHENOWETH, ACTRESS (through translator): Popular. The right kind
of popular. I will teach you to zip your fly. You won`t be that guy with
a camera down his pants. Oh, I will teach you what tweets to tweet,
something clean and sweet. We will make sure you get your chance to be
popular, the right kind of popular.
They will think you have become a monk, though they have seen your junk.
Now you will play a different show. So let`s start, because you have got
an awfully long way to go long, long -- well --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jay Leno is pretty hot now.
Up next: Republicans are using the Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and the
mayor of San Diego, Mayor Filner, to dishonestly say it`s the Democrats who
are waging a war on women. Don`t you think? Well, maybe they should look
at the policies they`re pushing.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
COURTNEY REAGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Courtney Reagan with your CNBC
Well, the Dow dropped 21 points, the S&P 500 was down just under one, and
the Nasdaq gained more than nine points.
Well, good news for the U.S. economy, as it showed better-than-expected
growth in the second quarter. GDP rose 1.7 percent.
And private sector -- private sector employment also topped expectations,
as employers added 200,000 jobs in July. Facebook broke through its
initial public offering price of $38 a share for the first time since it
debuted. It did close lower, though, at $36.
That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- for now, back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
If you`re a fan of this show, you`re no doubt familiar with the so-called
Republican war on women, from state measures to restrict abortion rights to
national fights over equal pay. The Republican agenda against women has
But thanks to the recent spate of sexual scandals among Democrats,
Republicans are trying to turn that national narrative on its head.
They`re alleging that the real war on women is being waged by Democrats.
Last week, just days after Anthony Weiner`s new sexts were revealed, the
RNC tweeted -- quote -- "A very real war on women is happening within your
own party, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden."
In fact, the RNC has been beating that drum week earlier, when Democrat San
Diego Mayor Bob Filner become embroiled in his own sex scandal. In a press
release, the RNC wrote: "Here`s the latest news on Democrats` war on women,
details you certainly won`t hear on MSNBC."
Well, here we`re hearing them.
Anyway, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has picked up the
narrative too, writing today on Twitter -- quote -- "Soap operas.
Democrats struggle with their own war on women." They also wrote a blog --
a blog post saying -- quote -- "Democrats have absolutely no answer or
strategy to combat their growing problem with women."
Well, just to set the facts straight, in 2012, the most recent election,
President Obama beat Romney among women by a margin of 12 points. It was a
critical part of the party`s victory. Look at that, 56-44. That`s a hell
of a lead for a party that has got a problem with women. Apparently, it
Anyway, the big question now is whether the likes of Filner, Weiner, and
Spitzer could help Republicans close that gender gap.
And John Feehery here is the Republican strategist. We also have Nia-
Malika Henderson as a political reporter with "The Washington Post." She`s
host of the new Poll TV show "On Background."
Thank you. And congratulations, Nia, on that.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
MATTHEWS: Let me start with John on this to see if there is an argument to
be made here.
Do you think Wilner -- I`m sorry -- Wilner.
MATTHEWS: Weiner -- I know much -- sorry. I`m not talking about you guys.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Weiner is something that will travel? Do you think
that it travels, say, to Milwaukee or to Nebraska or Florida or Texas,
where a Democrat running for office would have to defend Anthony Weiner, if
he -- even if he wins the New York mayor`s race, which he probably won`t?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, if he wins it, I think it has
This whole Weiner, Filner, Spitzer, it`s white liberal men behaving very
badly. And it certainly doesn`t help the Democrats as they`re trying to
get votes. Now, Republicans are not going to build their whole campaign
strategy on these three guys and hope that they do a better job among women
MATTHEWS: Well, your party is doing that. What are all these tweets and
all this stuff coming out of the RNC and the congressional committees?
FEEHERY: Chris, that`s not -- tweets don`t make a campaign.
I think what they have to do, and they do -- they have a problem with the
gender gap. And what they are doing is they have got to recruit able
female politicians to run for office and get them to win and have them be
their spokesmen for the party.
And the Republicans have a lot of good spokeswomen. Kelly Ayotte is
terrific. Marsha Blackburn is terrific. And so they have got to really
make sure that they`re highlighting these women and when they`re talking
But certainly having these three white liberal men that are behaving badly,
having them front and center and dominate the headlines is not good for the
MATTHEWS: Well, unlike yourself, my friend, apparently, the party does
think there`s -- there`s meat in this.
A spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee told "The
Washington Post" just today, quote, "The best tools we have as Republicans
to recruit women candidates this cycle are those three Democrats named Bob
Filner, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner."
And Democrats have called this ludicrous, a spokesman for the DCCS, that`s
the Democratic Senate Campaign told "Slate" today, quote, "This whole thing
shows that Republicans have no idea what the hell the war on women is all
about, the voter protecting -- the voter protecting equal pay, the birth
control access, the Violence Against Women Act. It`s about issues, not
cable soap operas in New York City and San Diego."
Well, Nia, let me go back to that, because getting a split decision here,
John Feehery says it`s not an opportunity for the Republicans to win. And
yet all these institutions, the two congressional campaign committee, the
Senate and the House, the RNC, they`re all spouting this out. They`re
going for it.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, they sort of have no
choice, I think. You know, it will get some legs just in terms of people
talking about it. It`s a good way to turn the war on women that Democrats
talk about and use it for their own purposes, Republicans. But again I
think the war on women as framed by the Democrats was all about policy, the
policies that Republicans were pushing. It just so happened that there
were a number of Republicans like Todd Akin who said things and it was very
easy for Democrats to highlight policies around that, policies that
Republicans had around abortion, around Violence Against Women Act,
Violence Against Women`s Act.
I just don`t think it will work. You know, for a couple days, they`ll
certainly push that. They have to be having something to talk about and
something of a campaign.
But I think it`s very hard to make any sort of larger assessment or larger
characterization about the Democratic policy platform around these three
men who are very isolated in terms of where they are in the party and what
their chances are.
MATTHEWS: Well, here in New York, the media band box of the country.
Let me go back to John Feehery.
You say you as a campaign advisor at some future race, in fact, the next
cycle or in 2016, would not use these people as examples of personal
behavior by public officials that is anti-women.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I didn`t say it. I didn`t say
that. What I said was I wouldn`t base the whole strategy on these three
guys behaving badly. I think you have to have a deeper strategy.
I think the Republicans can make a very effective case that the economy has
been -- the Obama economy has been terrible for women. I think that`s
where they should strike (ph). The fascinating thing about the last
election is that the president was very effective in talking about the so-
called war on women and kind of ignoring the fact that his economy has been
terrible for women.
MATTHEWS: Why did women vote for him? Why did 56 percent of women vote
FEEHERY: I think it was a very effective campaign strategy. I saw the ads
they ran in northern Virginia with no response from the Romney campaign.
HENDERSON: No, no, Romney actually did try to sort of launch a campaign
using that very framing that you just talked about, saying that the Obama
economy was bad on women. I was at some of those events where he had all
sorts of charts and graphs. He just didn`t continue. It certainly never
FEEHERY: Nia, you`re absolutely right. He did it terribly. The Obama
campaign was very effective in framing this.
I think if Republicans first they have to nominate and elect capable women
which they`ve done to a certain extent, but they`ve got to do more of that.
And secondly --
MATTHEWS: Like Sarah Palin, more Sarah Palins.
FEEHERY: No, Kelly Ayotte and Marsha Blackburn and others and really focus
on the economy, because that`s where re I think they can make some great
MATTHEWS: At least I got a smile out of Nia with that one.
Anyway, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is not helping the Democrats anyway.
Today, an eighth women step forward, alleging sexual harassment, of all
these different kinds against the mayor.
This is her describing an encounter she had with Filner in 2011.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA CURTIN, SAN DIEGO CITY COLLEGE OFFICIAL: He grabbed my left hand and
looked at the wedding ring and twirled it around and asked if it was a real
wedding band. And I said yes, it was, about 25 years worth of wedding
band. He then asked me if it could come off while I was in D.C. and if I
would go out with him. I said I really didn`t think so.
At that point, he pulled my hand closer to him and he reached over to kiss
me. I turned my head at that moment and on the side of my face, I got a
very wet saliva-filled kiss, including feeling his tongue on my cheek.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not a great advertisement for the Democrats.
That`s not staying classy in San Diego, is it?
FEEHERY: It`s not.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to lead you off this, Nia, but let me go to John
Feehery. I have more fun following up with him on this one.
You know what I think? I`m sort of on the center-left, I think somewhere,
most issues. Some issues very left, on war. I think I`m good on some
Without getting into it, I do think look at this analytical, if Weiner were
to pull an upset, I think that`s beyond him right now. The best he can do
is come in third, probably and endorsed the winning the candidate of the
runoff. That`s his best bet, I think, to be back said (ph) Thompson.
But I think if he were to win, and a couple weeks ago that was possible
with all this stuff hanging on as baggage, I think the Republicans would
use that across the country to make him a laughingstock. They would turn
him into a poster boy for what`s wrong with the Democrats. Don`t you
agree, John Feehery?
FEEHERY: Well, I do agree. I also think that -- you know, I remember when
Nancy Pelosi talked about draining the swamp about all the Republican
scandals. These are scandals. The Spitzer, Weiner, Filner thing, they`re
disgusting scandals. And that`s going to reflect on the Democratic Party
especially if these guys survive. And I don`t think that`s good for the
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t sound like a great law firm, does it, the three of
Anyway, thank you very much, John Feehery. You`re so smart, usually.
And, Nia-Malika Henderson, you`re great. Thank you.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, three top officials at Penn State -- this is a story
we`re covering because it`s so big -- are ordered to stand trial today,
accused of covering up for Jerry Sandusky. This is a real Pennsylvania
story and a national story about sports, jocks -- the whole thing. It`s
about what we value and we have not done a good job on this one.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, today marks a major milestone here at MSNBC and a proud
one for NBC News. Andrea Mitchell, our great colleague who`s on this
program often, not often enough, is celebrating -- you won`t believe this
year -- 35 years with the NBC family. Andrea Mitchell came to the network
in 1978 after working a local -- as a local reporter at KYW in
Philadelphia. That`s where I know her.
Since then, she covered every president since Jimmy Carter, conducted a
series of interviews with Cuba`s Fidel Castro. There she is. She got
tossed out of a press conference after asking the president of the Sudan
some tough questions.
Andrea has been a real role model around here, not just for women, but for
all journalists everywhere. And I`m happy to have her as a pal, as a great
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total
disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky`s child victims by the
most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State
failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a terrible story. And that was former FBI Director Louis
Freeh presenting the findings of his investigation into the conduct of Penn
State University officials and their handling of former football coach
Jerry Sandusky`s sexual abuse on campus. Actually, it was rape.
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary
Schultz, and former athletic director Tim Curley were ordered yesterday to
stand trial on charges, accusing them of covering up their failure to
report that Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in university locker room.
That`s putting it lightly, rape them.
PSU officials aren`t the only ones facing scrutiny. Pennsylvania`s top cop
at the time, now of the nation`s most unpopular incumbent governors, Tom
Corbett, has been accused of slow walking the investigation while
campaigning for office.
Corbett`s successor, Kathleen Kane, who`s now the attorney general of
Pennsylvania, the first woman to have that job, has won more votes than Bob
Casey in 2012. She appointed a special prosecutor, Kane did, to
investigate Corbett`s handling of the Sandusky charge.
So, the governor of Pennsylvania is now under investigation.
Joining me now is Philadelphia radio host Michael Smerconish, who is the
expert on this kind of matter.
Michael, let`s put it all together. I give you some time without a lot of
Q&A because you really know it and can carry it.
It seems to me what the best question here is, did Graham Spanier -- who I
think was a great president for the school overall at Penn State -- didn`t
ask the tough questions. When he heard about molestation or horsing around
or whatever the terms that were used, all those people up the line didn`t
ask the right questions, was this sexual rape? Was this sexual really bad
physical stuff? It wasn`t calling a kid a name or kidding around them or
towel snapping. It was horrible criminal behavior and these people should
have been put under arrest.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: OK. So, Sandusky is now away for
the rest of his life. For the past two days in Centre County,
Pennsylvania, there`s been a preliminary hearing regarding these three
The prosecution has a relatively small burden that they need to show. Is
there sufficient evidence that would warrant a trial among other things as
you pointed out perjury and a failure to report? And the testimony in the
grand jury of these three individuals, including Graham Spanier, the former
president, is essentially that they were out of the loop.
There are two incidents around which these charges now revolve. One in
1998, one in 2001. And Spanier says with regard, for example, to the `01
incident, that (AUDIO GAP) McQueary witnessing something in the shower
incident, that this was all downplayed and reported as horseplay.
The response from the prosecution and this is largely because of Judge
Louis Freeh`s report as you point out is to say, well, wait a minute, look
at the smoking guns. And the smoking guns in this case are the e-mails.
And the emails tell a different story of each of you being in the loop and
essentially conspiring to keep this quiet.
MATTHEWS: Well, is that a crime? Tell me about this reporting
requirement. Does that become a conspiracy charge or what would they get
hit with if they lost this case?
SMERCONISH: Well, one, they would get hit with perjury because they went
into the grand jury and allegedly said something that was at odds with what
the e-mails seem to suggest.
SMERCONISH: But, secondarily, they`ve got a report here if minors are
being violated and they know it and they do nothing about it, they`ve got
an absolute obligation to step forward and to bring in the authorities.
And to this we know, none of them did so.
MATTHEWS: OK --
SMERCONISH: So it`s going to be another litigation next year of this same
grisly set of circumstances. Now, the underlying conspiracy charges of who
was in the loop? You know, it`s the Howard Baker question, Chris, you`d
MATTHEWS: Who did you know?
SMERCONISH: Who knew what and when did they know it.
MATTHEWS: Last question. Is the governor of Pennsylvania exposed here?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think he`s exposed in so far as he was the attorney
general and then running for governor of Pennsylvania and then when a
report came, a credible report of a Sandusky victim, he chose to
investigate and not to charge. He went the grand jury route.
MATTHEWS: I see.
SMERCONISH: Now, Corbett will say, well, I needed the grand jury to smoke
out other victims. But others would say, me included, if you believed that
kid, why don`t you slap handcuffs on Sandusky especially given the rate of
recidivism of these sort of perpetrators.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much. Michael, thank you for taking my job
here, many times. You do a fabulous job.
When we return --
SMERCONISH: Thanks for allowing me.
MATTHEWS: Oh, anytime, thank you.]
Let me finish with the political terrorist of the right.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
They are political terrorists. And like all terrorists, including those
who use bombs, their number one goal, their only goal, is to blow things
up. Cruz, Paul, and Mike Lee are on the mission to destroy, shutdown the
American government, destroy Obama care, drive the country into default,
destroy the U.S. credit rating.
Terrorists with one purpose: to bring down -- not just this administration,
but let`s face it -- the American government. Just watch.
And the fact is the likelihood out there is this crew could be the one that
crashes the Republican convention next time. And that fortunately could be
the end of them.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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