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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, August 26th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

August 26, 2013

Guests: Myrlie Evers-Williams, Robin Wright


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Did you see the movie "42"? It`s the
story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major
leagues. It`s the story of how a number of bad guys tried to bounce him
out of the game, even at his first at-bat -- the snarls from other dugout,
the catcalls from the crowds, the trouble even from his own teammates.
They all wanted the same, to somehow make it like this guy, this black guy,
was never in the majors to begin with.

What we`re watching right now on the news could be called "44." It`s about
the same crap being thrown at the first African-American to make to it the
White House. He`s not from here, he`s from Kenya or Indonesia or someplace
else. He`s got no right to be president.

The shouts come from the dusty towns of Texas all the way to Trump Tower.
He`s not eligible to be our country`s head of state. That was only the
beginning. Next came the effort to delegitimize the people who put him in
office. Can`t let that happen again. So the word went forward to three
dozen states that the best way to keep future Obamas out of the White House
is to keep African-Americans and young people who don`t think that much
about race out of the voting booth.

A couple more things. Got to kill any evidence we ever had an African-
American president. Got to get that Obamacare off the books. Ted Cruz
will shut down the U.S. government to get that job done.

Finally, why not, let`s impeach the guy. Let`s run him out of town on a
rail. Let`s tar and feather him. Let`s really mess up his record by
putting the word into the history books -- There was talk of impeachment on
his watch -- even if they can`t find a reason for it, except one big, fat
reason that everyone sees. It`s the number on his back, 44.

How do we get it into the books that this guy really wasn`t president? If
we can`t convince people he came from Africa, can`t kill the African-
American vote that elected him, can`t kill his historic accomplishment in
health care, let`s bring him up on charges. Let`s string him up, boys, so
nobody will ever say he was president, much less a pretty good president.

David Corn is with "Mother Jones" and David Axelrod is a former adviser to
President Obama. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, I want to start with this. Take a look. Take a look right now
at this flurry of activities on efforts to impeach the guy. These are all
Republicans` efforts to impeach, all in 2013.

Representative Steve Stockman threatened impeachment over the president`s
plan to curb gun violence by executive action. Representative Mo Brooks
introduced a constitutional amendment that would impeach Obama if he can`t
balance the budget.

Senator James Inhofe has suggested Obama will be impeached over Benghazi.
Representative Blake Farenthold says the House has all the votes it needs
to impeach Obama already. He didn`t even mention a reason, by the way.

Representative Kerry Bentivolio says he would -- it would be a dream come
true if he could personally write legislation to impeach Obama.

Senator Ted Cruz has entertained the idea. He`d told his constituents that
it was a good question why Obama hasn`t already been impeached.

And Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is calling the president lawless and
warning that he`s getting perilously close to a reason for impeachment.

David, this is a consistent pattern of delegitimization leading all the way
up now to 2013 with a big impeachment effort now by these people.

reminds me of? It`s what people say -- it may not even be true -- about
pornography and drugs, that you keep having to get a bigger, better fix.
You get used to something, you got to go more --

MATTHEWS: You mean birtherism ain`t good enough.

CORN: It`s not good enough. And this whole issue -- we`ve been talking
about this for five years, about delegitimizing this guy --

MATTHEWS: But it`s escalating.

CORN: -- not accepting him. You know, it hasn`t worked politically. It
hasn`t really soothed the salvage, you know, beasts of the right-wing part
of the Republican Party. And yet it`s like the ante keeps getting raised
higher and higher, and to be legitimately seen by the Republican grass
roots, you have to now at least -- look what Tom Coburn did. To me, he`s
the real measure here. He`s the guy who`s had a good personal relationship
with the president. He sometimes goes against his own party --


CORN: -- even though he`s a real conservative. And here he won`t smack
this down.

MATTHEWS: And guess what -- and guess who said, I wonder what his enemies
are saying about him? David Axelrod.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: David, I heard your line over the weekend. It does seem to be
like in sports terms going back to `42 in that great movie about Jackie
Robinson, which was really a good movie, a great movie.


MATTHEWS: This idea of trying to put an asterisk next to President Obama`s
name, like Roger Maris, Well, it was 162 games that year, it didn`t really
count, or Barry Bonds and drugs or anything to get the guy off the record

I mean, trying to get -- this obsession with getting rid of the affordable
health care act, this obsession with letting birtherism fly. We`re going
to talk more about it in the show, the way these bigwigs in the Republican
Party like Boehner, they just let it fly all around them and refuse to
shoot it down.

They still like the idea of the echo out there about birtherism, that he`s
really from some other country, whether it`s from Donald Trump or somebody
in Texas.

AXELROD: I think a lot of this emanates from the nature of the Republican
base. And a lot of these guys are throwing red meat to the base. How much
red meat they need, you know, is a big question. I would think they would
be -- their cholesterol would be about 400 by now, but yet they keep
throwing the red meat, and they get rewarded within their constituencies
for throwing that red meat.

You mentioned Speaker Boehner. The real question is, is the Republican
leadership going to tolerate that. Boehner has yet to really stand up to
these folks. And you know, this is something that really deserves to be
repudiated, and you`d hope he would.

One thing I would say, though, Chris, is delegitimization of presidents is
something that we`ve seen now. It happened under the Clinton
administration. We all remember how vituperative those times were. And
there were people on the left who aimed some of that at George W. Bush.

Now, admittedly, it`s spun out of control now because these folks are in
control of the Republican Party, so it`s at a fever pitch now. But we`ve
got this mad cycle going --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but let me -- let me --

AXELROD: -- where each party -- yes. Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: But let me throw something at you to challenge that because
Nancy Pelosi had an opportunity to jump on George W. Bush in the same
regard. Look at what she did here. She didn`t play that game. She shot
it down right away -- I`m not going to get into delegitimization. Here --

AXELROD: No, no, no, no. I --

MATTHEWS: No, here she is on impeachment. Let`s watch Nancy. She did not
let them play this game. Let`s watch her, please. I`m sorry.

AXELROD: OK. OK, go ahead.


LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": She has pledged that as speaker, she would
give the Republicans` rights they denied the Democrats, like allowing them
to introduce amendments to bills. But she may have trouble reining in the
Democrats` appetite for revenge. There`s already been talk of multiple
investigations and impeachment of the president.

the table.

STAHL: And that`s a pledge?

PELOSI: Well, it`s a pledge on the -- yes, it`s a pledge. Of course it
is. It is a waste of time.

STAHL: So that`s completely off the table.


MATTHEWS: Well, she went with Lesley Stahl on that very point, David. She
wouldn`t play the game of saying, Well, we`ll look at that --

AXELROD: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: -- or, I don`t want to shut down any members, like Boehner
keeps saying, I don`t want to shut down any opinion. If somebody said he`s
from Indonesia, fine, say it. If somebody says he`s from Kenya, fine.
It`s like let a thousand flowers bloom. It`s all OK --

AXELROD: No, no. I --

MATTHEWS: -- with Boehner, as long as I don`t lose my job as speaker.

AXELROD: I thoroughly agree with you. And that`s why Nancy Pelosi, in my
view, was a great leader because she was willing to stand up to the most
strident voices in her own party in order to do what she thought was best
for the country. And that`s what people expect from their leaders.

We don`t see that kind of leadership in the Republican Party right now.
And it`s a problem for them. It`s one of the reasons why their stock is
trading so low nationally. It`s one of the reasons why Congress`s stock is
trading so low nationally.

MATTHEWS: Well, one thing I`ll say about -- everything looks different --
you know, at the time the smart move might have been with regard to
Clinton`s misbehavior with the intern or former intern, probably was a
letter of resolution or some sort of censuring and move on, you know,
instead of the Republicans going crackpot over it and going all the way to
impeaching him.

But it seems like, at least, I`ll say, the Republicans back in those days
had a cause. He did something. He didn`t tell the truth under oath.

CORN: There was a real scandal!

MATTHEWS: This time, they don`t even have a reason. They just say,
Impeach him because we don`t like him, basically.

CORN: There was a real scandal. There was sex in the Oval Office.


CORN: -- in talking what Nancy Pelosi did, there was a real issue.
There was the whole WMD allegation. I mean, back in the Reagan years, the
Democrats took impeachment off the table during the Iran-contra business,
which was a real scandal, too.

But I think the problem here is you see this divide. You see Bobby Jindal
just this weekend saying, I don`t want any of this talk of impeachment.
Let`s stick to serious stuff. You`re going see a divide within the
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Who`s in the majority?

CORN: -- between the crazies and the non-crazies.

MATTHEWS: Well, the crazies are going (ph), buddy. They`re getting -- let
me take a look -- take a look, David Axelrod. Take a look at this.
Republican delusion isn`t just confined to the issue of impeachment. Ted
Cruz says that President Obama might himself defund the historic Affordable
Care Act that he got through with 60 Senate votes and a House majority.

Here`s Cruz speaking with CNN`s Candy Crowley actually saying -- well,
maybe this is tactics -- Obama would crush his historic accomplishment in
health care. Here he is. Here`s Cruz.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Now is the single best time to stop Obamacare
because there`s bipartisan agreement that it`s not working. The wheels are
coming off. And because defunding it, if it doesn`t happen now, is likely
never to happen.

going to sign a bill that defunds Obamacare.

CRUZ: You know, you may be convinced of that.

CROWLEY: You`re not convinced of that?

CRUZ: I am not at all convinced of that.

CROWLEY: This is his signature --


MATTHEWS: What`s the tactic there? You`re an expert on politics, David
Axelrod. Why does Cruz openly suggest that the president would croak his
historic accomplishment, which every Democrat and some Republican
presidents going all way through the 20th century said they were going to
do health care? He did it. Why would he ever kill it?

AXELROD: Well, look, I`m not the -- I can`t crawl into Ted Cruz`s head and
explain --

MATTHEWS: Please do.

AXELROD: That`s a place --

MATTHEWS: Pretend he`s John Malkovich.

AXELROD: That`s a place I don`t want to go, brother.


AXELROD: But I will tell you this. You know, he`s trying to make the case
that the president is somehow moving away because he`s -- because he`s
extended some deadlines in order to smooth the transition --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

AXELROD: -- to Obamacare.

MATTHEWS: Well, they want to impeach him for that, too.

AXELROD: But here`s -- but Chris, here`s what`s phenomenal. Here`s a guy
who comes from a state where a quarter of the people don`t have health
insurance. It`s the worst record in the country. And he smarmily sits
there and makes a case that somehow, we shouldn`t move forward on this.

And I have to believe there are an awful lot of people in Texas who feel
that they`re being ill served by this guy right now --


AXELROD: -- because they have such a terrible problem down there, and
Obamacare will help, but if the state allows it, which they are not right

MATTHEWS: And by the way, anybody who`s ever sat in an emergency room
knows it`s not like on television. They`re not racing through. It`s hours
and hours and hours of waiting to get treated.

CORN: Well, one --

MATTHEWS: And I had it once with malaria. I did it. Let me tell you
something, you`re so right, "smarmily," because how this guy who pretends
to be a populist is not looking out for the regular person, it`s pretty
obvious to us.

CORN: Well, there`s --

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to stop here.

CORN: This is a sense of desperation, though, that they have. Obamacare
is going to start --

MATTHEWS: People are going to like it.

CORN: People are going to like it, show more benefits. So they`re getting
desperate. They`re talking about Obamacare, shut down the government, and
impeachment because, boy, they got to get their people --

MATTHEWS: They got to get him off the record books. Thank you so much,
David Corn and David Axelrod. Thank you, gentlemen.

Coming up: voter suppression fever. We know Republicans have decided that
if they can`t get people to vote for them, they`ll just make it tougher for
people to vote against them. Now Colin Powell is telling his fellow
Republicans their voter ID laws will backfire on them.

Also, birther fever. Nothing has stopped the birther talk on the right.
Let me ask you this. When was the last time a Republican did a McCain and
stood up to this dangerous birther talk?

And that horrible chemical weapons attack over in Syria. Everyone seems to
agree we need to do something, but no one can agree on what that something
is. All the body language suggests the U.S. is about to take some kind of
military action.

Finally, something new here on HARDBALL. I`ll answer some of your Twitter
question on the air. And when I give you my answers, I`m not limiting
myself to 140 characters.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Donald Trump likes to say "You`re fired." Now New York`s
attorney general is saying to Trump, you`re sued. Eric Schneiderman has
filed a $40 million lawsuit against Trump, saying he has helped run what
turned out to be a phony Trump University, which was supposed to make
students rich.

Instead, Schneiderman says, students who paid up to $35,000 a year were
steered into mostly useless seminars, and that Trump failed to deliver on
promised apprenticeships. Schneiderman calls it a classic bait and switch
scam. Trump says Schneiderman`s case is politically motivated and that
Trump University has a higher approval rating from its students than
Harvard or Wharton.

We`ll be right back.



need a photo ID for decades before. Is it really necessary now? And they
claim that there`s widespread abuse and voter fraud. But nothing
documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn`t widespread abuse.

And so these kinds of procedures that are being put in place to slow the
process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African-Americans
might vote, I think, are going to backfire because these people are going
to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote. And I encourage


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s for sure.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. With that statement yesterday, General Colin
Powell became the highest-profile Republican yet to criticize the GOP, his
party, for trying to disenfranchise minority voters. And he said the plan
is going to backfire. You heard him there. That was yesterday.

Some Republicans have been unnervingly candid about their goals here. In
Pennsylvania, Republicans spoke as if under truth serum about using voter
ID requirements, the new ones they`re pushing, to simply limit the vote.

Here`s Pennsylvania House Republican leader Mike Turzai in June of 2012,
followed by the Pennsylvania GOP chairman, both openly saying the purpose
of these new laws is to screw the black voter. Let`s watch.


MIKE TURZAI (R), PA HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Voter ID, which is going to
allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania -- done!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think all the attention drawn to voter ID
affected last year`s elections?

ROB GLEASON, PA GOP CHAIRMAN: Yes, I think a little bit. I think we
probably had a better election. Think about this. We cut Obama by 5
percent, which was big. You know, a lot of people lost sight of that. He
won -- he beat McCain by 10 percent and he beat Romney by 5 percent. I
think that probably voter ID helped a bit in that.


MATTHEWS: Are they blunt or what? They just openly say voter ID`s a way
to slow down the Democratic minority vote they`re talking about.

Anyway, we`ve talked a lot about this on HARDBALL, this systemic
disenfranchisement -- and it is systemic -- of minority voters, and it
comes in many forms, of course -- photo ID requirements, shortened early
voting days, including the Sunday before election day, when many African-
American churches encourage their members to vote in a "souls to the polls"
effort, cutting off same-day registration, and of course, longer waiting
times, longer lines to discourage people from voting.

These numbers from an MIT survey are astounding. In 2012, an average black
and Hispanic voter spent about twice as much time standing in line waiting
to vote as a white voter.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington this
Wednesday, it`s more clear than ever that civil rights are inextricably
voted -- well, linked to voting rights. As the first field secretary of
the NAACP in Mississippi, civil rights leader Medgar Evers organized voter
registration efforts. Evers was assassinated back in `63, mere months
before the march on Washington.

Since then, as a civil rights activist and former executive director of the
NAACP, his widow, Myrlie Evers Williams, has carried on his legacy. She
joins me sitting rights here, along with Joy Reid, my pal, managing editor
of TheGrio and an MSNBC contributor.

I`ve been chasing after you, Joy.


MATTHEWS: I see you everywhere but here. Now I`ve got you here, finally.


MATTHEWS: You are very smart about this stuff. And I know you`re from the
younger generation. I want to get Myrlie on this, too. But I want you to
react to this.

A couple things. It`s not just minority voters that benefit from
traditional voting patterns, the easier way to vote. Younger people have a
harder time budgeting their time. They just do, for whatever reason.
Easier it is to vote, the more of them are going to vote.

African-American voters -- many of them don`t have money to have a car,
don`t have a driver`s license, may be older, living in rowhouses like I
used to live as a kid. And they basically have a hard time coming up with
that government-approved ID card, which everybody in the burbs says is so
easy to get when, it ain`t so easy to get.

So where`s this it looks to me like this is getting hotter. They ain`t
quitting, no matter how much we mock them on this show. And I mock Reince
Priebus and his, you know, 36-state effort.


MATTHEWS: It doesn`t stop them, because they`re not after black votes.
They don`t care if they humiliate black voters.

They seem to have given up on the minority vote, whereas, when I grew up,
people like Arlen Specter, and John Heinz, Tom Ridge, competed for the
black vote in the old days. They have just given up. So, they don`t care
what you think, I guess.

REID: Yes, even Nixon. Nixon got more than 36 percent of the African-
American vote. It used to be Republicans were at least competitive for
that vote.

But, if you look at it, I`m glad you included Hispanics in that, Chris,
because, look, when you see a demographic wave coming at you, there are two
things you can do. You can try to appeal to those voters, which would mean
changing your tone and policy, or you can just make it harder for those
voters to vote.

And what Republicans have chosen is the latter. And what they`re doing is
they`re not just going after the stuff you mentioned. They`re also
attacking same-day voter registration, which is overwhelmingly used by
young voters. They are going after college campus locations to vote.


MATTHEWS: I love that. Explain that one, how it works.

REID: Yes, so, basically, a lot of students, when I was in college, you
vote on the campus and there is actually a polling place right there.

One of the tricks that Republicans are using, they`re doing this in North
Carolina, is actually closing that polling place, so that you as a student
now don`t have any place on campus to vote. You have to go further. They
even tried this at an historically black college in North Carolina, meaning
that those students have to travel.

And they`re challenging in some states the ability of students to vote
where they go to school. That`s really important, because a lot of kids,
you earn a four-year degree, you actually vote where you go to school, not
where back home, where your parents live.


MATTHEWS: And you don`t have a car. You don`t have a car.

REID: And you don`t have car. So, if you can`t vote on campus, how are
you supposed to get to the polling place?

And what this is about is that the demographic wave that is hitting them is
a youth wave. For their voters, for white voters over 60, four-fifths of
the voters are white. But for voters under 30, something like three-fifths
are minority. When you`re going after young voters, you scoop up minority
voters at the same time.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. You`re great.

REID: And they don`t think they can win those votes.

MATTHEWS: But they know what you know and they`re playing a different

Myrlie Evers, thank you for coming on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: You said it was an honor to have you. Of course it is for us
have you.

This voting rights issue, it`s the name of the game, isn`t it?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: It is the name of the game. But I have encouraged people
to take something that has been used recently as a slogan, and that is hold
your ground, not in the sense of the Trayvon Martin case, but in the --


EVERS-WILLIAMS: -- sense of how important it is to hold on to the gains
that we have made and be aware of the fact that there are all kinds of
efforts being made across this country to reverse us from where we are now
in progress to back where we are.

If I may, we had to tell how many beans were in a jar, how many bubbles in
a bar of soap, interpret the Constitution of the state.

MATTHEWS: These were literacy requirements?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Yes. And it was something that not only held people back,
but it gave them strength to move forward. We`re looking at a new
generation now of people.

MATTHEWS: We had the poll tax, or you did.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Well, we had the poll tax. And the poll tax was something
that said, I am a man, I am a woman, I am a citizen of this country. It
was something, a pride.

People gave their lives for that.

MATTHEWS: To make your point, let`s take a look at the 2012 election
turnout numbers, which really is inspiring. This is the first time this
has ever happened in a census. You see, here is the reason why the
Republicans may want to suppress their own efforts. Well, we will see how
these numbers look out.

In 2012, that`s a year ago, for the first time in that election history,
black voter turnout passed that of whites; 66.2 percent of eligible black
voters cast ballots in November; 64.1 percent of eligible non-Hispanic
whites cast ballots.

In other words, the percentage of turnout was better. The old days of
trying to do registration so blacks could catch up to whites because of
past history has succeeded to the point -- the only person who ever did a
better point of black voter registration was Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia.
The black felt so much that that mayor was anti-their interests, they went
out and registered. And, apparently, Reince Priebus and the boys have
accomplished the same goal as Frank Rizzo.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: But, you know, I think will --


MATTHEWS: And they didn`t want to.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: But we`re going see a movement, a strong movement of not
only African-Americans, but other minorities in America, come together,
devise ways to get that vote out, to override what is being taken on as
something very important in states amongst white -- and I don`t like doing
that, but it`s true -- of white politicians and whatnot.

It`s power. And we have to the realize that that is what it is. We must
become innovative. We must become strong. We must use old tactics and
come up with the new ones and, most of all, impress upon our youth how
important it is.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, this is a hot issue.

Joy, thanks for coming on the show tonight, Joy Reid.

REID: Any time. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: You were great and compelling.

And, Myrlie Evers-Williams, what an honor to have you on. Thank you.


MATTHEWS: What a week to have you on too.

Up next: something new here on HARDBALL. I`m going answer your Twitter
questions. I`m going do it right here on the show. And I`m going to
respond to the tough ones too.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back.

Since I first started on TV, HARDBALL has always been the place to make a
little noise. As those of you who play the game of politics know,
sometimes, it`s only the tough questions that get real answers. It`s the
fastballs, after all, that get knocked over the fence.

And so as a thank you to all those who have been loyal over the years, I
want to turn the tables and give you the bully -- give up the bully pulpit
to you, the audience, and answer some questions that you have posed on

Before I kick that off, I wanted to show you just how much times have
changed with this, the original opening to this show back in the late `90s.




MATTHEWS: Ah, youth.

Anyway, those were different times.

Let`s start with our first question, which comes to us from Darrin Derosea
(ph) from Albany, New York. He asks -- quote -- "Should Hillary Clinton
declare that she will only serve one term as president to blunt age

My answer is the protocol is you never talk about the second term. You
just talk about the first term. And I think she will be able to make that
decision at the end of her first term if everything is looking good for

Next up from Gustavo (ph) in Idaho, he asks: "Do you feel President Obama
has done enough to push this Congress toward deficit reduction?" My answer
is no. It hasn`t been a priority for him. It hasn`t been a priority for
the other party either, because neither party wants to take the first step.
On the Republican side, it`s dealing with revenues, which they refuse to
do. On the Democratic side, it`s refusal to deal with entitlement reform.

Both sides -- sides should take the first step. They won`t. I wish the
president did.

Up next, the question packs quite a punch. It comes from Andrew Rye (ph)
from Portland, Oregon. He asks: "Chris, how about we call today`s GOP what
they really are, fascists? They adhere to all 14 defining characteristics
of it. Shaking my head."

Well, you call them what you want. I don`t like terms like that. They
call the Democrats communists and socialists. I don`t like name-calling of
that kind. But I do think -- and this is just a separate answer to your
question -- I think there have been tactics used by the Republican right,
like voting against everything, trying to shut down the government, voting
in a way that just basically shut downs any kind of activity by a
Democratic government, I think has a totalitarian quality.

I would never use the word fascist on an American.

And we will be right back. You`re watching HARDBALL.


what is happening.

The raging wildfire in Yosemite National Park is moving closer to a
reservoir that is San Francisco`s main source of water. The Rim fire has
burned 234 square miles and is 15 percent contained.

More than 360 pit bulls were rescued in a huge dogfighting raid in Alabama,
Georgia, and Mississippi; 12 people have been arrested.

And 11-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who received two sets of lung transplants
will go home Tuesday after winning a court battle with the donor system --
back to HARDBALL.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he
is not -- he is not -- he is an Arab.

He is not. No?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma`am. No, ma`am. No, ma`am. He`s a
decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with
on fundamental issues. And that`s what this campaign is all about.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Republican John McCain in October of 2008 correcting the record
for a voter in New Hampshire for claiming his then rival, Senator Barack
Obama, was Arab. But nearly five years later, McCain`s forceful and
dismissive response has had little effect on the party he once led.

Even after President Obama`s resounding reelection in 2012, Republican
lawmakers in Congress continue to fan the flames of the birther movement.
But what is more outrageous is the indifference leaders of the GOP itself
show towards its rank and file who dishonor the presidency this way. Where
are the grownups? Why do the leaders in this Republican Party refuse to
stand up and put an end to this nonsense the way Senator McCain admirably
tried to do?

Maybe they`re scared of facing some irrational voters back home. Take a
listen to a constituent at the moderate and soft-spoken former Republican
Mike Castle`s town hall in 2009.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go back to January 20, and I want to know ,
why are you people ignoring his birth certificate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not an American citizen. He`s a citizen of


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am American. My father fought in World War II, the
greatest generation, in the Pacific Theater, his country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don`t want this flag to change. I want my
country back.



MATTHEWS: "I don`t want our flag to change."

A racial undercurrent to the shocking disrespect that this president has
endured over the years seems obvious. But the real question remains, why
has not one Republican come forward to denounce this incivility towards
President Obama and lack of respect for the office he holds?

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee, of course, is Michael
Steele, our friend here and colleague, and the former governor of
Pennsylvania and Democratic National Committee chair Ed Rendell joins us
now to discuss.

I want to start with Michael, who has got the Republican roots here.

It seems we got a bunch more examples recently. I`m going to run through
Stockman now and this Ted Yoho and there`s more of Ted Yoho. It`s not like
they`re a majority. But when they creep up like -- sort of like weeds
growing through the sidewalk, these people, they just keep growing, nobody
pulls them out and says, no, that`s not our party.

Why won`t your leader, people like Boehner, who isn`t a bad guy, won`t
just, I`m not going to say it anymore, this is unacceptable, it`s un-
American, stop talking that way? He says, sort of like Mao in the old
days, let a thousand flowers bloom. Anybody has an opinion, they`re all
valid. Let`s listen to them.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that`s -- and that`s
part of the problem.

I think a lot of it, Chris, goes to, as we say in the neighborhood, just
"afeard" of them. They`re scared to death of that base. They don`t want
to get on the wrong side of it.

MATTHEWS: These whack jobs waving certificates and flags?

STEELE: Because -- because when you get back home in that environment and
that pressure cooker starts to build around your support of the president
or saying something nice about the president, which makes what John McCain
stand out so all the more, because in the heat of a presidential debate and
battle, he was willing to say, no, this man is a decent human being who is
an American citizen I just happen to disagree with --


STEELE: -- which is the approach I think if the party leadership took,
if a lot of these folks would take, people would resonate to that, because
then it`s not personal.

But when you personalize it the way they have, the reality changes for --

MATTHEWS: I can imagine -- again, I`m not an African-American, but those
are the voters have given up with the Republicans.

Governor, you gotten a lot of support in all different kinds of communities
in Pennsylvania. It seems to me that if the Republicans have any shot at
the middle-class black vote in this country, any shot, they would say
something like McCain just did, and people watching on television would
say, he`s not a bad guy.


MATTHEWS: I could see voting for him.


MATTHEWS: But they`re not going to vote for these yahoos or these crazy
people that are saying the flag is theirs. The flag doesn`t belong to
blacks. The flag doesn`t belong to Democrats. It`s theirs and only theirs.

RENDELL: Chris, you`re absolutely right.

But not only does it hurt with African-American voters. It hurts with the
independent moderate voters who could be persuaded to support a Republican
candidate, but who look at that, and when they hear silence from the
leadership, silence from Chris Christie, silence from John Boehner, silence
from Ted Cruz, silence from Rand Paul, they say to themselves, what is
wrong with this party? Are they controlled by these whacks? Are the
leaders so afraid of these whacks that they`re not going stand up and say
what is right?

You know, there`s an easy answer when someone does that at a town meeting.
The answer is, no, folks, he is an American citizen. And to tell you the
truth, talk like that is one of the things that is hurting our political
party, the party that you and I care about. So cut it out.


RENDELL: That`s a good answer, and that`s an answer that would resonate
with most of the people in the room -- not all, but most.

MATTHEWS: But who are they more afraid of, John Boehner or that loud guy
in the back row?

STEELE: They`re more afraid of the loud guy in the back row. There`s no
doubt about it.

And a lot of that vitriol, which is what it`s become, has poisoned the
political conversation, to the point where you can`t even say that I`m
going to -- I want to meet the president at the White House and talk about
these issues.

MATTHEWS: How about the guy that said, I didn`t want to stand 10 feet from
it -- I mean, the mere physical contact --


MATTHEWS: And look at Charlie Crist. He got blown out down there in
Florida because he hugged the president. Oh, my God. Or -- you know,
you`re not supposed to do that.

STEELE: And will likely come back as a Democrat.

Here`s Steve Shockman -- Stockman. We don`t make this up. He is from
Texas. He is a U.S. congressman.


STEELE: He is floating the possibility of introducing a new piece of
birther legislation in Congress, because he says -- quote -- "One of the
things I always questioned was the documentation of the president, whether
that was fraudulent."

And let`s keep going with this. Stockman already has one co-sponsor for
his potential birther bill.

Speaking at a town hall meeting earlier this month -- this is fresh news --
Florida Republican Congressman Ted Yoho said he was hopeful that a birther
investigation could bring down the whole government. He said, quote, "They
said if it`s true, it`s illegal. He shouldn`t be there. And we can get
rid of everything he`s done. And I said I agree with that get rid of
everything he has done." That`s what it`s all about.

Now, Yoho tells his constituents at the town hall meeting that he is on
board with Stockman`s potential bill. Let`s listen to Mr. Yoho.


ATTENDEE: My question is what do you know about Obama`s identification

MULLIN: Let me just stop you right there. You`re talking about the birth


MULLIN: We lost that argument November 6th.

ATTENDEE: I`m sorry?

MULLIN: We lost that argument November 6th. We had four years to get
that. We didn`t. We re-elected him. So that`s a dead issue.

And guys, I don`t -- I`m not defending this guy. Please give me -- hear
what I`m saying. I`m not defending this guy.


MATTHEWS: I`m not defending this guy. He has to apologize --


MATTHEWS: -- for saying the president is not an illegal immigrant. It`s

STEELE: But you skate over the fact that as a political point, you lost
the election because of those types of questions that are coming out of
birth certificates. People are concerned about jobs. They`re concerned
about the economy and health care. So, you weren`t even talking about some
central issues.

MATTHEWS: OK. I started with a strong statement. I know you`re going
challenge me at some point. So, go ahead, Michael.

I think a lot of this is 44 kind of stuff. Just like I compared him to
Jackie Robinson. These guys it`s almost like we`ve got to put an asterisk
next to his name. He`s not really been president. His bill didn`t go
anywhere, that Obamacare, we`re getting that off the books.

We`re going get him off the books. We`re going to say he was illegitimate.
He is from somewhere else. We`re going to make sure blacks don`t vote

It`s like they want to erase him. They can`t stand -- it`s like tissue
rejection in their bodies. They`ve got to this get foreign object out.

We can`t live -- I can`t got to sleep, put my head on the pillow, dear. I
can`t fall asleep tonight because there is a black president. It`s killing

I know that`s hideous, but isn`t there something there? Why don`t they get
off it and fight over jobs or fight over trade or immigration?

STEELE: Look, I would agree with it. Governor, I don`t know what we`re
going to do with Chris tonight. He is on a roll here.

But I would agree with that part of it. There is something visceral here.
And, unfortunately, it comes off as a little bit racist. It comes off a
little bit, you know, anti-fill in the blank.

But I think if those voices, the Chris Christies, the Rand Pauls out there
who can take this --

MATTHEWS: Don`t say Chris Christie to Governor Rendell.

STEELE: Right, right.

MATTHEWS: There is tissue rejection coming right there.


STEELE: That can position themselves to really change the dynamic of this

MATTHEWS: You like Christie after all, right, Governor?

RENDELL: No, think he has done some good things, Chris. I really do. But
I differ with him on a lot of stuff.

But look, the bottom line is --

MATTHEWS: But he is up against 4i8, you may not like him so much.

RENDELL: Well, absolutely.

But look. I think the bottom line is, Chris, you can stand up to the
people in the room. You can stand up to them. And I think the Republican
primary voters, they may be to the right. They may be Tea Party members.
But I think most of them understand the president is a United States
citizen, period.

And if you show a little gumption, a little guts, a little backbone,
they`re not going to vote against you because of it.

MATTHEWS: That`s well said. I think part of it is giggling, and they love
needling him, and they know technically he isn`t an American. They just
don`t like it.

Anyway, thank you -- I don`t mean technically, really. Michael Steele,
thank you as always. And thank you, Governor Rendell, it`s great to have
you on.

Up next, should we get involved in Syria? I mean, militarily? And if we
do, do we really want either side, that`s the problem, picking somebody to
root for in this terrible fight with the horrific use of now chemical
weapons. What are we going to do?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: I`ve got some new Quinnipiac polling numbers straight out of
Colorado. Let`s go to the HARDBALL scoreboard for that.

It`s neck and neck now between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie out there
and Hillary Clinton in the purple state of Colorado, with Christie edging
Clinton by a statistically insignificant one point. That`s fun, though,
isn`t it?

Clinton comes home with a 3.5 percent lead over Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
That`s not much, but that too is within the margin of error. And that`s
not much.

Vice President Joe Biden doesn`t fare nearly as well as Clinton. He loses
in the poll to Christie by 17 points, 50-33. And even loses to Cruz by 6.
Not good for Joe.

We`ll be right back.



JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we saw in Syria last week should
shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality.

As a father, I can`t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his
dead child, wailing, while chaos swirled around it. The images of entire
families dead in their beds without a drop of blood, or even a visible
wound. Anyone who could claim an attack of this staggering scale could be
contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral

What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Of course, that`s Secretary of State John Kerry with great emotion now,
unusual emotion for him talking about what has been happening with this
horrendous attack by chemical weapons by the government in Syria.

The United States seems poised to launch some kind of military retaliation
-- we don`t know what -- against Syria. The likely scenario would involve
cruise missile strikes. And this comes as American officials say there`s
very little doubt as you just heard that Syria did use chemical weapons
against civilians last week.

According to Doctors Without Borders, a very credible group, 3,600 people
showed symptoms consistent with exposure to a toxic nerve agent like sarin
gas. Of those, 355 died.

Today, John McCain said launching cruise missiles isn`t enough.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And if the United States stands by and
doesn`t take very serious action, not just launching some cruise missiles,
then, again, our credibility in the world is diminished even more if
there`s any left.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s pretty tough. Perhaps not ironically, it`s the
people in the military, themselves, former generals like Colin Powell who
are most cautious about striking Syria. Asking the key question, OK, then
what happens?


for Mr. Assad. I`ve dealt with him. I know him. And he is a pathological
liar, with respect to my interaction with him.

But at the same time, I`m less sure of the resistance. What do they
represent? And is it becoming even more radicalized with more al Qaeda
coming in? And what would it look like if they prevailed and Assad went?
I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: Well, Robin Wright is senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson

I got to put my cards in the table, I`m pretty dovish, OK? I didn`t like
Vietnam. I don`t like Iraq. I think we get into wars that cost us of
60,000 Americans. You can fill giant baseball stadiums in overflow with
dead people from that war.

Heroic, wonderful people in a war that really -- please tell me what it
accomplished. Same with Iraq. So, I`m skeptical. When the bugles blow, I
cover my ears because I know what that means. But even this war, only 9
percent of the American people, less than one in 10 say let`s go fight in

So, even at the beginning, before we have shot a single round of anything,
the American people say, we`re not getting in this war.

So, how do we reconcile not wanting to get in this war and smashing the
face of Bashar Assad, the guy who launched chemical warfare?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CTR.: There are no easy options at the
moment, but I think the administration has now signaled that it is prepared
to act. What is so interesting about Secretary Kerry`s comments was the
passion he put into it, even more so than the content. This was clearly a
moment that we`re trying -- he`s trying to take the American public along
with him and to say, this is worth the investment.

The question, of course, becomes as so many Americans are asking -- what
does come next? And the fact that the Syrian opposition has not provided
the kind of interlocutor we had, whether it was in Libya, Iraq, or
Afghanistan, and yet all three of those countries ended up with the kind of
leadership that weren`t exactly admirable.

MATTHEWS: What government would replace the Syrian government of today?

WRIGHT: Well, that`s just question. The Syrian opposition has not been
able to provide an alternative government, a shadow government. It`s not
been able to come up with a team that would engage with the regime in
Damascus and peace talks.

Now, we can strong arm them and get them to Paris or Geneva or some place
to talk. The question is, how popular are they on the ground? How many of
the forces who are actually fighting the regime --

MATTHEWS: Let`s play the usual game that we do. Our biggest friend in
Israel -- is Israel. OK, maybe, it used to be Egypt. Certainly Jordan
after Israel, but Israel clearly.

What happens to Israel if the Assad government is overthrown? They have
somebody on their border. They have the Golan Heights in dispute. They
have a border, they share with them. They have to live with them.

What happens to Israel? They do start -- what do they do? Do they -- do
they side with -- they`re not going to side with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah just lost the war. It was on the other side. Hezbollah is the
with the Assad government.

WRIGHT: Israel early wants some kind of government, some kind of
transition, that we`ll see Assad step down and secular liberal democratic
national --

MATTHEWS: We all want that.

WRIGHT: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It`s called Christmastime.

WRIGHT: That`s right. That`s the problem with Syria. This is the
strategic center. No country is more important.

But no country is more divided when it comes to ethnic groups, sectarian
division. And that`s a problem, that there`s no easy --

MATTHEWS: How do you do no warm?

WRIGHT: How do you do no warm? And how do you ensure that once you cross
that threshold and are engaged in some kind of military action, that you
aren`t blamed for everything that follows, either because of your action or
your inaction.

And there`s a danger that we kind of get sucks into it step by step by step
by step. This is, you know, the kind of thing that`s polarizing the
region, polarizing the world --

MATTHEWS: The hawks who want us to go in. They want us to go against
Iran. They want us to go against Iraq. They want us to go against

They want us to go in this time again, which makes me suspicious. That`s
not a good reason, but I do know these things.

Robin Wright, thank you so much.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I am not new to politics, nor to the issues that divide us, nor am I free
of the passions they engage.

I caught the bug when I was five. I can`t remember a time I haven`t care
about who was running for office, who I wanted to win, and what they did
when they got there.

Starting just after I got back from my two years of change -- life change
over in Africa with the Peace Corps, I have chalked up five years working
in the US Senate, four in the White House -- including my time as
presidential speechwriter -- and six years as a top aide to Speaker
O`Neill, Tip O`Neill.

On top of that, I`ve had 15 years experience with "The San Francisco
Examiner" as a newspaper man, and, later, "The Chronicle".

All this background taught me how to watch politicians in action.

But there is more to it than that.

In the `60s -- the real `60s, between Kennedy being killed and Nixon
resigning -- two issues dominated this country: civil rights and Vietnam.

Those two causes still dominate me: support for the rights of people in
this country; opposition to wars abroad that are based, so often, on
failure to stop, look and listen before getting into them. We lost 58,000
Americans in Vietnam -- enough to overflow a giant American baseball
stadium. We`ve gone in the Middle East again and again under the Bushes
and I have yet to see the advantage to us or to the Middle East.

Here on HARDBALL, you can expect me to discuss history as it relates to
what`s happening now.

You can expect to hear me analyze what politicians are doing today with
what I`ve seen other politicians do before.

And you can expect me to fight for the causes that stirred me in my 20s,
when passions rose, minds were set and life missions accepted.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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