August 29, 2013
Guests: Rep. Donna Edwards, David Ignatius, John Schwartz, Ron Reagan, Rick Tyler
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The party of Lincoln? You`ve got to be
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Ask yourself, would Abraham Lincoln be a Republican in the year 2013?
Would the man sitting up in that chair yesterday be invited to join the
party of the birthers, nullifiers and talkers of secession? Just ask
yourself, in a lineup of Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the
"great emancipator," who would be the odd man out? What would be wrong
with that picture?
Well, the truth is, the reason the Republican Party wasn`t represented
yesterday at the King reunion at the Lincoln Memorial is that the
Republican Party no more longer represents Abraham Lincoln. Its real
leader today would be Jefferson Davis or George Wallace or Strom Thurmond
or some other character in the long list of nullifiers and obstructionists
and states` rights-ers.
Can you imagine the reaction of Rand Paul, had he been alive at the
time, to the Emancipation Proclamation? Please don`t ask. Can you imagine
Abraham Lincoln`s reaction to Governor Rick Perry`s claim that Texas has a
right to secede from the union whenever it feels like it?
Any honest Republican today will tell you that the values of Abraham
Lincoln -- the belief in a strong federal government, the paramount nature
of human right over states` rights, the need for justice for African-
Americans all he, Abraham Lincoln, would be far more welcome in the other
political party, while Jeff Davis and his boys would be a hell of a lot
more welcome in the party of Paul, Perry, Bachmann and Lee.
So who`s kidding who? The reason Boehner and the boys -- and that
certainly includes the wild bunch of Cruz, Paul and Lee -- didn`t make it
Wednesday is they don`t feel they wanted to be in the same picture as
And do you even have to ask how proud Lincoln would be to see who the
president of the United States is today? Do you even have to ask? As Bill
Clinton, would say, give me a break!
Michael Steele is former chairman of the Republican National Committee
and an MSNBC political analyst, and U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a
Democratic congresswoman from Maryland, who spoke at yesterday`s events
commemorating the 20 -- well, it was the 50th anniversary of the march on
Congresswoman, I think I`m right. The tables have been switched. In
the last 100 years since the Emancipation -- or the last 150 years since
the Emancipation Proclamation, and certainly in the last 50 years, since
the march on Washington, things have changed. The party of the South, the
Democratic Party, the old segregationist party has been replaced, in many
cases, Dixiecrats pretending to be Republicans.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think it`s true. And apart
from my friend here to my right...
MATTHEWS: He`s an exception.
EDWARDS: An exception. But I mean, it used to be the case in my
state and all across the country that you actually had, you know,
Republicans who were moderate. Maybe they were fiscal conservatives, but
they did not share this sort of very right-wing, very rigid agenda that
we`re hearing today. And it`s not inclusive at all.
MATTHEWS: Mac Matthias (ph).
EDWARDS: I mean, I think Lincoln must be rolling over, and Mac
MATTHEWS: Yes, great examples that you have in every state, like
Pennsylvania, Hugh Scott, and all those people like Arlen Specter, even.
I want to talk about this because the real topic I want to bring up is
why wasn`t your party represented yesterday? And there`s all kinds of
excuses, but as Woody Allen, with all his imperfections, once said
something really brilliant. He said 80 percent of life is showing up. And
your guys didn`t show up.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They didn`t
show up. And quite frankly, Chris, you know, everything else you said
notwithstanding, not showing up to that event yesterday to me was
It was a slap in the face of Everett Dirksen and all those Republicans
who fought to bring Civil Rights legislation to the table, to work with Dr.
King and to really push forward the agenda that had been so much a part of
the history of our party going back to the 13th Amendment, the 14th
STEELE: ... when they were originally written by Republicans post-
So to not be there in that moment to look America in the eye and
complete that leap, that forward progress for the American people, and to
say that the African-American community, that we have made missteps in the
last 50 years, but we stand here united with you in the journey forward in
the life and times of Dr. King...
MATTHEWS: But -- you`re wonderful to say this and to be honest about
your party, but it wasn`t just one or two people that chose to...
STEELE: No, none of them.
MATTHEWS: None of them. The day two stories on yesterday`s march on
Washington commemoration, of course, noted there were no Republican elected
officials on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday. And "The
Washington Post" headline says "Republicans absent from march on
Washington." A headline in a "Washington Wire" section of "The Wall Street
Journal" reads, "At 50th anniversary of march, no GOP speakers."
Interesting point here. For evidence of the shift over the years,
let`s take a look -- let`s take a look now at the relationship between the
Republican Party and African-American voters.
Consider this example, contained neatly in two generations of the
Romney family. Here`s George Romney marching with Civil Rights activists
through Detroit`s Grosse Point suburb in 1963. That`s 50 years ago. The
editorial information on that AP photo notes, "Romney said he had not been
asked to head the parade, but added that since he was in the Detroit area,
he decided to come out anyway." In other words, he didn`t wait for an
invitation. He made sure he was there.
In this 1966 reelection -- his 1966 reelection for campaign for
Michigan governor, Romney won 30 percent of the black vote. One generation
later, in the same family, Mitt Romney wins 6 percent of the African-
By the way, here`s a great picture because it`s part of the world I
grew up in, Jackie Robinson and Nelson Rockefeller together. The AP
caption says, "Robinson told reporters he was a Rockefeller Republican."
You had Jackie Robinson. You have Lionel Hampton. You had all those
people, famous people, Wilt Chamberlain...
MATTHEWS: ... a lot of people were Republicans.
EDWARDS: But Chris, a lot of our...
MATTHEWS: Today, you can`t find them.
EDWARDS: ... families were. A lot of our families were. I mean, I
can go back in my family, especially my family in North Carolina, and there
were a lot of Republicans.
But when the party changed, you know, blacks decided we needed to go
to a place where we were welcome and where we were at home, where somebody
spoke to the agenda of things that were of concern to us. And right now,
the Republican Party just doesn`t.
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t it shatter you that, like yourself, Colin Powell is
a Republican, and yet the party would call him a RINO because of the things
STEELE: Oh, my goodness, yes. I mean, I can`t tell you how many
times Powell, myself, J.C. Watts, we were all called RINOs because we don`t
toe this ridiculous line where we judge people and we make these...
MATTHEWS: But your roots in the party are deeper.
STEELE: My roots in the party are...
MATTHEWS: Your roots go back...
STEELE: ... way deeper than people who run their mouths.
MATTHEWS: ... intellectually and historically.
STEELE: Trust me, my roots are much deeper than the people who run
their mouths. And I`ve just gotten to the point at my life where I just
ignore the noise and forge ahead. But let me also say...
MATTHEWS: But why do Dixiecrats, who all quit the Democratic Party
when it went for Civil Rights and voting rights in the `60s, and Lyndon
Johnson, we all know, historically said, I know I`m going to lose them --
why didn`t your party just embrace them...
STEELE: It`s presidential politics. It was a strategy to win the
White House, as opposed to recognizing that the future of the party really
rested in those smaller communities, in those local elections for mayor and
for city councilman. That`s where the strength of the party is. When the
community looks around and sees Republicans...
EDWARDS: But Michael...
STEELE: ... particularly African-American Republicans...
STEELE: Well, the strategy was abandoned.
EDWARDS: But you all can`t win a national election...
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the weird part...
EDWARDS: ... now with the party that you have.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman -- I call you Donna because we`re friends.
But let me just tell you, what strikes me is that we -- when I went -- it
was a nice day yesterday, by the way. And the weather was great because it
wasn`t real hot, like it`s been.
MATTHEWS: Even a little rainy was better than that scorching hot
we`ve been having. But everybody was -- there were no personal shots --
maybe there were one or two -- against Republicans by name. Nothing by
MATTHEWS: Weren`t you amazed at that? There was no partisanship
EDWARDS: I think part of the reason is because we were also taking in
the moment. I mean, I just felt really blessed to be able to speak there,
to stand at the top, at the Lincoln Memorial, and look out at that Mall and
to see that, really, in terms of Dr. King`s dream, I mean, it was black and
it was white and it was Asian and it was Muslim. It was just everything
that you could imagine.
And I think that people were really taking in the moment, and it was
about our values and our norms. And it wasn`t about partisan politics.
Republicans could have been there, could have found a place there...
MATTHEWS: You would have been...
EDWARDS: ... and would have found a home...
MATTHEWS: She would have been a hero.
EDWARDS: ... on the stage.
MATTHEWS: ... whoever had shown up and said something. Too bad Jack
STEELE: But the organizers...
MATTHEWS: Jack Kemp would have been there.
STEELE: ... also dropped the ball here.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t he?
EDWARDS: Why do you say that?
STEELE: Because the only African-American United States senator was
not invited to speak.
EDWARDS: That`s actually not true. And today`s news proves that.
Actually, in fact...
STEELE: Tim Scott`s office said they got...
EDWARDS: No, they declined it.
STEELE: No, their office...
EDWARDS: They declined the invitation.
MATTHEWS: We`ll check that.
STEELE: Their office and every report that`s been -- that I`ve
MATTHEWS: We`ve been spending a day, by the way, trying to find out
who was invited, who wasn`t.
STEELE: They`ve said -- they said that they...
EDWARDS: No, everyone was invited, and in fact, the leader...
STEELE: But they were invited? They were not invited. He was not
invited to speak. And there`s a difference. You`re right, every member...
EDWARDS: Well, Michael...
MATTHEWS: No, let me make this point because I get this. There are
two sides of this coin here.
MATTHEWS: "Roll Call" says he wasn`t invited, by the way.
STEELE: There are two sides of this coin. Yes, he was invited like
every member of the United States Congress, House and Senate. But if you
have the only African-American sitting in the United States Senate and you
do not ask him to speak at that event...
STEELE: ... then there is something wrong.
MATTHEWS: Let try another way.
EDWARDS: I wasn`t invited to speak until after I...
MATTHEWS: Why not the George Romney role...
EDWARDS: ... accepted the invitation.
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they ask -- can I ask you something?
STEELE: He`s the only one in the Senate...
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t the party of Lincoln ask to come?
STEELE: I get that.
STEELE: Chris, I`m with you on that. But remember, there are two
sides to this coin.
STEELE: He was not invited by the people who put it together, either,
STEELE: He was invited to attend and not to speak. And that was
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it`s so interesting about the celebrities
that were there. We had Forest Whitaker, who`s...
MATTHEWS: By the way, does he come off as younger in person than he
does in the parts he plays? He plays Idi Amin and that old guy and here he
EDWARDS: And also...
MATTHEWS: ... he seems like he`s 30.
EDWARDS: (INAUDIBLE) and everything, and he was just so gentle and
moving. And it brought tears to my eyes, I`ll tell you that.
MATTHEWS: I was thinking of who the guys were 50 years ago, Charlton
MATTHEWS: ... who has identified so much with the right and gun --
gun -- gun rights. And yet he was a big Civil Rights guy.
STEELE: Huge Civil Rights guy.
STEELE: And a lot of those voices are missing now. And I think -- I
think the party needs to have them reelevated. I think, you know, myself,
STEELE: ... the Kim Blackwells need to get out there and really push
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you...
MATTHEWS: ... because I`m a history nut, as you know. And Jackie
Robinson -- we`ve all seen "42." Did you see "42"?
MATTHEWS: So great. OK. So Jackie Robinson is a Republican. He`s a
Northern Republican, like Rockefeller. And he gets on the train with Nixon
in 1960. And all he wants to do is get him to say something about Dr. King
being arrested. And just please say something. He gets off the train
crying. And he says, Nixon doesn`t get it. That was the moment, you know?
And these moments make history.
STEELE: And it was the reason Daddy King left the party because the
party didn`t respond to his son sitting in a jail.
MATTHEWS: And so what are you going to do about it, Michael?
STEELE: Well, we`ll keep pushing. We...
MATTHEWS: What`s the message? What`s the -- what`s the reverberation
in the Republican Party, now that they know that they weren`t even -- they
were no-shows yesterday? Because there`s no sense in shouting about this.
STEELE: I think...
MATTHEWS: I really do believe this, that we`re better off in a
country where people like me can go in that voting booth -- it doesn`t
happen all the time. There come elections where you want to have a choice.
MATTHEWS: I may decide I like Hillary, but I`d to have a choice.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`d like Biden to run. I`d like a Republican to
be -- Christie to run, some reasonable person to run.
MATTHEWS: And I want an option when I get in that booth.
STEELE: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: Maybe you don`t want an option...
MATTHEWS: I want an option.
STEELE: I think the reverberation is going to be profound because you
cannot go out and tell people that you want their vote and that you`re
going to do everything to get it and then not show up. It doesn`t work
MATTHEWS: Are you counting on...
EDWARDS: You know what?...
MATTHEWS: ... Reince Priebus to fight for the black vote?
EDWARDS: I have to tell you something...
STEELE: I`m going take him at his word. I`m going to take the
chairman at his word, and we`ll see what he delivers.
EDWARDS: You know, Michael, the Republicans aren`t even...
MATTHEWS: Three dozen (ph) states are trying to suppress the black
votes. If you don`t let the blacks vote...
STEELE: He`s going to have to...
MATTHEWS: ... they may not vote for you.
STEELE: The chairman`s going to have to -- the chairman`s going to
have to address that.
MATTHEWS: Last word...
EDWARDS: I mean, I represent Republicans, too. I show up. Not that
they`re going to vote for me, not that they`re going to agree with me, but
I show up. Republicans have to start showing up.
MATTHEWS: And you take the heat.
MATTHEWS: Good for you. Congratulations.
STEELE: She`s a strong woman.
MATTHEWS: No, I know. She may be running statewide one of these
days. I`ve already been talking...
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele. Look, there`s a seat open,
unfortunately. U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland right
Coming up: Will we or won`t we attack Syria? This is serious
business. We`ve got two serious people to talk about it with different
And by the way, it`s not just if, but how, and with whose support
around the world and to what end and what are the consequences? Are we
sending a message that we can do something? Can we even prove they did it?
And what`s our ultimate goal here and what consequences with regard to
Israel, for example, are we willing to accept? What if Hezbollah starts
shooting at Israel because of what we do this week?
Plus, 50 years ago, Dr. King denounced Southern talk of nullification
and interposition. Now Missouri Republicans are about to push through a
measure that would nullify federal gun laws. The law would, in effect,
turn federal agents doing their jobs into criminals. How`s that, Mr.
Also, think it`s only the crazies on the right threatening to collapse
the economy to get what they want? Now it looks as if John Boehner and
Eric Cantor are siding with the wild bunch over the debt ceiling.
And "Let Me Finish" tonight with why Dr. King -- or rather King
Solomon would have little trouble smoking out the Republicans these days.
Who wants to cut the baby in half? The right-wingers do.
That`s HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: When Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the march on
Washington, segregation was, of course, the law of the land in many places.
It no longer is the law, but in much of the country, it`s still the norm.
Look at this map of Detroit created by Dustin Cable (ph) of the
University of Virginia. White people are represented by blue dots,
African-Americans by green. That clear and unambiguous black/white
dividing line is called the Eight Mile Road, which runs east to west.
Cable mapped the entire country`s ethnic distribution. You can find
your city or town at Demographics.coopercenter.com -- .org, rather.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Obama administration`s
desire to send a message to Syrian president Bashar Assad over his alleged
use of chemical weapons last week is running into some speed bumps both at
home and abroad. A growing list of lawmakers have called on the president
to get congressional approval before any attack on Syria.
This comes as "The New York Times" reported this morning that American
intelligence organizations lacked a smoking gun tying Assad himself
directly to the attack.
Meanwhile, one of our strongest allies, Great Britain, seems to be
putting the brakes on any attack. Late today, its parliament voted against
military intervention in Syria. The prime minister, David Cameron, said it
was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military
action and his government would act accordingly.
And in another troubling development, Russia says it`s sending two
warships of its own to the Mediterranean, raising tensions, obviously, in
the region. Last night on PBS on the "NewsHour," the president said he had
not made a decision about what action to take, but he spoke about the need
to defend the international norm against using chemical weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, in fact, we can
take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict,
not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are
worried about -- but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very
limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, Stop doing this, that
can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, David Ignatius is a columnist for "The Washington
Post." And David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones"
magazine and an MSNBC political analyst.
I read your column this morning. I was impressed. But it does raise
this question -- a couple questions. Do we know that the chief, the boss,
Assad -- I don`t even know what his title is -- of Syria ordered the use of
chemical weapons? Do we know that?
DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": According to "The New York Times"
reporting -- and I don`t have independent confirmation of it -- we do not
have that information. U.S. intelligence officials are confident that
chemical weapons were used, that it was an attack way beyond anything Syria
has done in the past, but who ordered it...
MATTHEWS: Do we know if his defense team -- his defense structure,
his military chiefs approved it?
IGNATIUS: The attack was so broad that it had -- it was well
coordinated, so the command structure -- it couldn`t have been done without
the command structure knowing about it.
MATTHEWS: What do you do if the government of Syria uses a nerve gas
and uses sarin gas, in this case, when you say, If you do it, we`re going
to make you pay for it?
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, red lines,
as we see, box you in. They take away the flexibility for the president
and anybody else...
MATTHEWS: But he used the red line.
CORN: He did use the red line.
MATTHEWS: He used the red pencil...
MATTHEWS: ... and he said, I will do something. Doesn`t he have to
CORN: People talk about this all the time. The last thing I think --
the last reason I think we should go in and commit an act of war and
perhaps kill civilians is to protect credibility. That goes back to the
old Kissinger way of looking at the world. But you know, that`s something
that is debated in Washington again and again.
The interesting thing regarding what you asked David here is that we
have conflicting reports and different media accounts of what the
intelligence is about who knew what, where in the Syrian government about
"Foreign Policy" magazine put out a report saying that the
intelligence intercepts showed a Syrian defense minister in a panicked way
asking a general what happened here. Maybe -- this is a big maybe, but
maybe somebody went off the reservation and...
MATTHEWS: OK, suppose we find out...
MATTHEWS: ... fingerprints are on this. I want to ask you a
conjection (ph). Two days from now, three days from now, a different
report comes from "Foreign Policy" and says it was pretty clear that the
command structure of Assad approved this.
CORN: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: Will you then be for an attack?
CORN: I would -- in theory, you know, taking a punitive military
action to prevent the further use of chemical weapons can be a good thing
if -- and this is what the president said in that clip you just played.
The first sentence in his -- the first word in his sentence was if, if
in fact we can have a limited strike that achieves these outcomes that
don`t have even worse unintended consequences. And I think those are
really big ifs.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s find out...
CORN: And I don`t think he`s gotten to that point yet.
MATTHEWS: I want to get to the reporting.
David, is it your -- is it your understanding -- you`re good with the
intelligence community. It your understanding that we`re still not --
still trying to get the intel on this?
IGNATIUS: A lot of intelligence has been gathered. It`s in
preparation for a big launch to justify the strike. And that was expected
as early as today.
MATTHEWS: Do we expect an Adlai Stevenson-type presentation to the
U.N., for example, something on television?
IGNATIUS: I was told earlier in the week to expect that there would
be a rollout of the intelligence community`s findings that would then back
up the president`s announcement of what he was going to do.
That`s been delayed by political reality. President Obama is finding
the difficulties of being a politically weak and a vulnerable president.
And, also, I have to say advertising, telegraphing all of your policy
decisions before they have been made, talking about options before you have
the political support is a mistake.
And he is now caught in that. It`s poignant to see this president
wanted to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now caught in this Syria dilemma.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question about consequences, because it
does seem to be highly unlikely that we can get away with just whacking
them, if you will, and everything will be OK and he will say, oh, I had the
punch, I get the message, I`m not going do it again.
That -- because it seems to me that our history shows that when we
whack people, whether we did it with Saddam Hussein or anyone else, they do
it again. And then we have the question, will Hezbollah be unleashed
against Israel or, worse yet, the message to Tehran will be red lines don`t
mean nothing with this president?
Back to you, David.
IGNATIUS: Well, so that`s the heart of what I was writing about this
morning. The president really has lost credibility with -- clearly with
Syria, clearly with Russia, clearly with Saudi Arabia.
And that`s a problem for any...
MATTHEWS: Do we know that that -- do we know that Assad is mocking
him? Or do we know that Assad -- do we think Assad is mad about this...
IGNATIUS: Oh, Chris, all we have to do is look at people`s actions.
In a sense, this is not an intelligence issue, but it`s an open source
Let me make one point. What our military is telling the president,
what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, is telling the
president is, you cannot launch this without thinking of the knock-on, the
IGNATIUS: You have to think about the attack on Jordan. You have to
think about the attack on Turkey, not to mention the attack on Israel. And
you have to have the forces in place. We just moved an aircraft carrier
back into the Mediterranean.
CORN: You have got to think about the Russian warships there as well.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t they love to get Israel and fight?
CORN: Of course they would.
MATTHEWS: If you`re Syria, wouldn`t you love to make this an Arab vs.
Israel fight as fast as you can do it?
CORN: That would get maybe some support in the region for Assad that
he doesn`t have.
Getting the U.S. involved helps him in a lot of ways as well. And
this have what General Dempsey says juxtaposed about against what some
people on the op-ed pages are saying about preserving credibility. It`s
nice to preserve credibility, but that`s also an abstraction, which is the
reality of getting stuck in a military situation where you have to go back
again and again and again and you get sucked in without having any outcome.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s my problem. I have to admit I`m all prejudiced
when it comes to this stuff. I don`t have the reporting that you have to
do every day.
I don`t want to get in the same company as the neocons. I don`t want
to be a part of people who are always more knee-jerk military action in
that part of the world. A lot of people want the United States to be the
main military power in the Middle East. I don`t. I think in the long run
we will be rejected like tissue rejection.
We don`t belong there. And eventually we won`t be there. But in the
short run, we`re just going to make more and more enemies. Now, people
disagree with me on that. They say we have to be strong, be muscular, and
not be ashamed of our power. You know the arguments. Bill Kristol is
excellent at this. And he says it`s a better bet to stay in and be strong
than to fade out and be weak.
IGNATIUS: I don`t think you...
MATTHEWS: That`s the big ideological argument.
IGNATIUS: I don`t think you need to think about, worry about being a
neocon when you see what is an international norm against the use of
chemical weapons being egregiously violated. You look at the pictures of
those dead kids. I have read -- the reports from the doctors are
MATTHEWS: Do the people who voted for Obama want him to do this?
CORN: Nobody. Nobody. The polls show like 9 percent support for
this. Congress is more popular than having a military strike against
MATTHEWS: Yes. Why do you think that`s the case? Because fatigue
CORN: Fatigue over the...
MATTHEWS: Too many wars.
CORN: And I don`t know if they trust anybody who comes forward with
MATTHEWS: I think that`s where we are.
CORN: This is where we are. And you can thank the neocons in part
MATTHEWS: I do thank them, because I think nobody trusts intelligence
FBI anymore, except this guy knows it.
MATTHEWS: I always wonder about it, because I read him. And I think
my heart is with you. My brain is sometimes with him.
MATTHEWS: But I will in the end follow my heart.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, David Corn.
And I`m not making the call whether we attack Syria or not. Even at
this table, we can`t decide that. Anyway, maybe we should. David
Ignatius, thank you, sir, a member of the legion of honor, and thank you,
MATTHEWS: And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": They`re
saying now that the war against Syria will last no more than two days.
LETTERMAN: They`re saying -- that`s what they`re saying. It`s going
to be a two-day war. Well, you know what that means. We will be there for
another 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Too much truth in that. Welcome to the "Sideshow."
That was David Letterman, of course, last night on a potential U.S. strike
on Syria. Let`s hope he is wrong on that one.
The U.S. Marine Corps held a retirement ceremony in Washington
yesterday for Sergeant Chesty XIII, an English bulldog who served for five
years as their official mascot. He is being replaced with a new English
bulldog, Chesty XIV, who has been training for the position since March.
They say it was his dogged determination that earned him the honorary role.
And here`s something you might have missed yesterday. Amongst the
many the big speakers at the March on Washington was a little one, 8-year-
old Robby Novak. You may know him better as Kid President, the YouTube
sensation whose imaginative videos scored him an invite to the Oval Office
back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you should try
to sit behind the desk so you look a little more official.
ROBBY NOVAK, "KID PRESIDENT": Hello?
OBAMA: Is anybody on it?
OBAMA: OK. Well, just make sure not to cause an international
Now, Kid President, what grade are you in?
OBAMA: Third grade?
OBAMA: Yes. How`s school going?
OBAMA: It`s going pretty good? OK. Because I know you`ve got all
these other activities.
OBAMA: So much demands on your time, trying to balance being
president and being in the third grade, you know? That`s a lot of stuff.
OBAMA: But you seem to be handling it pretty well.
NOVAK: Very well.
OBAMA: Now even though we`re presidents, can we still hug?
OBAMA: Is that OK? Thanks, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the aspiring young politician there officially made
his mark on history yesterday. Here was his live debut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: I wasn`t here 50 years ago, but I hope to be in the next 50
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NOVAK: We all have a duty to make sure the world keeps dreaming for
better things. Keep dreaming, keep dreaming, keep dreaming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Next up, just a week after WikiLeaks source Private Manning
revealed her new identity, Chelsea, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange got
something of a makeover himself. The famous leaker appeared as an `80s pop
star in a spoof video that is so far out, you have got to see it to believe
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bizarro, isn`t it? Anyway, I guess he fans himself as a
Anyway, up next: Republicans in Missouri take sides with people who
break the law on guns over the federal agents who arrest them. We`re
talking nullification here. And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. Here`s what`s happening.
The Justice Department says it will not challenge state laws like
those in Colorado and Washington that allow the recreational use of
marijuana. Fast food workers walked off the job in more than 50 cities as
part of a protest calling for higher wages and the right to unionize.
And the NFL making a big payout of $765 million to settle a lawsuit
filed by former players suffering from the effects of blows to the head.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We are back.
File this under the category of blatantly unconstitutional. Missouri
Republicans are trying to nullify all federal gun laws in their state, all
of them. You want to buy a machine gun? Go ahead. In fact, the bill goes
even further. It says it would be illegal for federal agents to try to
enforce any gun law in Missouri. Federal agents would be breaking the law
themselves just by doing their job.
It is as if -- "The New York Times" reported the most -- it is in fact
the most far-reaching states` rights endeavor in the country, according to
"The New York Times." Well, the bill passed in those legislatures there in
Missouri overwhelmingly in the House and in the Senate. All but one
Republican in the House in Missouri voted for it. A handful of Democrats
Democratic Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but lawmakers will try
to override it next month.
Well, the lone Republican who voted against the measure was state
Representative Jay Barnes. He said -- quote -- "Our Constitution is not
some cheap Chinese buffet where you get to pick the parts we like and
ignore the rest. Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that
this bill is plainly unconstitutional. And I`m not going to violate my
oath of office."
Well, John Schwartz wrote the piece. He is national correspondent for
"The New York Times." And Ron Reagan is an MSNBC analyst.
Gentlemen, I -- we talk sometimes here about Rick Perry talking
succession. We got people talking about ignoring a statute of the law,
which is now, of course, the Affordable Care Act, and acting like it`s a
bill, not a law. There is sort of a new disrespect for the law.
And here we have it, it seems to me, John, a disrespect for the notion
that the federal government has a right as the federal government to pass
laws and have them enforced.
JOHN SCHWARTZ, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, what you have got is
nullification, which is an attempt to simply redo the compact between the
states and the federal government.
The supremacy clause of the Constitution says that when there is a
conflict between federal and state, federal wins. And that`s been around
for a long time.
MATTHEWS: Because, otherwise, the federal law could always be
SCHWARTZ: Well, exactly right. And you don`t get the interstate
highway system built. And you still have laws against miscegenation in
states like Virginia. The law of the land is being set is a very old
system. And for this country, it`s worked.
MATTHEWS: You know, Ron, it doesn`t take a huge leap to follow, say,
where Rand Paul would go with this baby. If you can basically say in
Missouri we don`t like the gun laws of the federal government, passed by
the federal government, by all the states, we may not like the civil rights
laws or the voting rights law. To hell with them too. What is the
difference? Substantively, there`s no difference.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. We can have 50
different little countries here with one -- in one jurisdiction. This is
part of a larger pattern.
MATTHEWS: Swiss cheese, yes.
REAGAN: Yes, Swiss cheese, exactly.
It`s part of a larger pattern you see. It`s not just the gun issue,
which is a hot button issue everywhere. You push that button and the board
lights up. But this is when you join it with the effort to defund
Obamacare, for instance, and the birther nonsense about delegitimizing his
What you get is Republicans and conservatives who basically have said,
look, if we lose an election, we will claim that our opponent is
illegitimate. If a law passes we don`t like, we will try and defund it.
If that doesn`t work, we will shut down the government. Whatever happens,
if we`re losing, we`re taking our ball and going home and just shutting out
the lights here. This is -- it`s delegitimizing the president and the
federal government, yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you.
MATTHEWS: Well, Missouri`s law, as you point out, may be an extreme
example, but it`s not the only state trying to pass laws nullifying federal
In Tennessee, State Senator Mae Beavers introduced a nullification
bill. According to the news site ProPublica, she aired her frustration
with the Supreme Court -- that`s the U.S. Supreme Court -- at a hearing in
She said -- quote -- "You think that the Supreme Court is the ultimate
arbiter of any of these laws? I don`t believe that. I don`t believe that.
It was never granted the authority under the Constitution."
And just for point of clarification, here is part of Article 3 of the
Constitution, against her, of course. "The judicial power of the United
States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as
the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judicial
power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under the
Constitution, the law of the United States, the treaties made or which
shall be made under their authority."
John Schwartz, the Constitution as written, original intent, up to
Scalia levels of originalness, and there it is. And, by the way, we do
have Marbury vs. Madison and the right of judicial rule established under
John Marshall in way-back times.
SCHWARTZ: Well, exactly right.
Somewhere -- somewhere, the ghost of John Calhoun is smiling...
SCHWARTZ: ... the idea that nullification is something that can come
You know, it`s a cherished view of people who don`t like the balance
that was set in Marbury vs. Madison that was set after the Civil War. But
there you have it. The states come behind the federal government on laws
of this nature.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- let`s talk about the history yesterday,
Ron. And you can do this as well. Yesterday everyone paid tribute,
everybody was there. The Democrats, at least and the independents, and
Hollywood paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and his great speech of
course included a reference to lips dripping with interposition and
And here we have it in real life terms in 2013, 50 years after the
speech, 150 years after the emancipation proclamation. Here we have a
state in Missouri, which is not exactly a Confederate state, it`s a border
state, saying -- to hell with Washington. Nullify it.
REAGAN: Yes, it`s amazing that we sometimes seem to still be fighting
the Civil War, still be fighting and slogging through the civil rights era.
If you look at the states, many of them that are involved in these kind of
nullification efforts not just around guns, but also around Obamacare, you
know, it`s the Southern states and of course the rural states up there into
the high plains. And stuff too.
It is extraordinary. And it`s as if there is a certain segment of the
population here, the political body who simply says federal government
doesn`t work. We`ll have none of it, and we`re going our own way -- as if
we can really do that.
Didn`t we have a civil war once? Didn`t we decide this question? I
think I remember that.
MATTHEWS: It`s getting more and more like the Middle East. Nothing
is decided. We just start the fight again the next day.
Anyway, one Democrat who voted for that bill, TJ McKenna, said he did
so even though he thought the bill was unconstitutional. How is that for
thinking? Why did he do it?
Quote, "I can`t be Mr. Liberal St. Louis-wannabe. What am I supposed
to do? Just go against all my constituents?"
So, it`s bad enough, Ron, you can`t be seen shaking hands with the
president or see what happened to Charlie Crist, hugging him, or walking
the beach, look what happened to Christie. You can`t be seen as being from
St. Louis. Ha!
I mean, that is like the worst thing that can happen to Missouri or
Missouri even. So, this country is getting polarized.
SCHWARTZ: You can imagine having to give up on gooey butter cake.
SCHWARTZ: I`m just saying, you know, all the wonderful things from
St. Louis, gooey butter cake and you`re not going to be able to say you`re
MATTHEWS: I know, I know.
MATTHEWS: I think Ron is -- where it`s at. Yes, go ahead, Ron. Last
REAGAN: If you pledged to defend the Constitution of the United
States, apparently if you`re a conservative or Republican, you`re in
MATTHEWS: My God, that`s Washington stuff.
Anyway, thank you, John Schwartz. It`s funny, but -- funny isn`t the
right word. It`s sad.
Anyway, Ron Reagan, thank you, sir, for putting it all together --
because it goes together with the de-legitimization of our president, the
attempt to delegitimize the Affordable Care Act, they basically throw
everything up in the air and say it`s all a big debate.
Up next, is the Republican leadership about to go up the deep end like
their Tea Party friends? What is Boehner doing? What`s Cantor doing? Why
are they following the craziest people instead of their brains?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We finally have a director of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms. You may have to deal with some of the people at
Missouri we just told you about. Todd Jones was sworn in today by Vice
Jones is the first ATF director confirmed by the Senate. Before the
year 2006, ATF directors did not require Senate approval. Since then none
has survived Republican filibusters until now. There he is.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK LEVIN: The Republican leadership, that would be Boehner and
Cantor and McCarthy, they told the Republican members they will not try,
they will not try to defund Obamacare through the continuing resolution and
they`re content to fighting for the continuing sequestration level
reductions in spending. No more.
This is your Johnny Boehner, ladies and gentlemen. I said several
months ago -- maybe I ought to repeat this. Maybe this ought to be it.
Rather than calling it Obamacare, we should call it Boehner-care.
Boehner won`t even fight. He`s just -- is the word pathetic
appropriate? I think it`s appropriate.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You must be really miserable listening to a guy like that
on the radio.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, conservative -- I don`t think he`s conservative -
- right-wing radio show Mark Levin calling speaker of the House, Johnny,
first of all, and then calling him pathetic. Boehner is also under
pressure from the wild bunch out there in his party for potentially
defaulting on the nation`s debt if President Obama doesn`t cede to their
demands in negotiations leading up to the end of our year.
In other words, the fight is on now. Will Boehner, it seems like he
wants to do it, willing to risk those who want to default.
But in advance of what`s shaping up to be a September war, the
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, there he is, urged Congress to act right away,
because as our fiscal year ends, the United States will also run out of its
money to pay its bills. Our borrowing capacity will be exhausted by the
middle of October.
But Boehner`s colleagues in the House aren`t budging. The Republican
Party wants to turn U.S. savings bonds into junk bonds, refuse to pay our
bills and tell our creditors to forget it. That is the bottom line. I`m
open to argument. And that`s what we`re hearing from the far right. The
question is, will Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor join
people on the hard right or will they demonstrate responsible leadership,
stand up to the Tea Party types and tell the children in their caucus that
America pays its bill.
Joining me right now to talk about this is an ex-aide to former
Republican speaker -- he`s Rick Tyler. He worked for Newt.
And Joan Walsh, an MSNBC political analyst.
Thank you both of you.
It seems to me that we have a fact -- the federal government is
running up against its debt ceiling. According to the secretary of the
treasury, we have no other authority on this matter since Mid-October. If
we decide not to extend or raise the debt ceiling, the United States will
either have to not pay the people who bought savings bonds which we were
told as Boy Scouts you absolutely could guarantee you`ll get the money on,
or not pay its bills overseas it owes on debt or whatever. Not pay Social
Security. Just stop being able to pay its bills.
People like Ted Cruz say, we`re willing to take that risk.
And now, apparently your party leadership is going along with them.
RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Chris, look --
MATTHEWS: Are they right?
TYLER: Yes. I think you got two irreconcilable conditions. First,
you got the president has drawn a red squiggly line on a plaid paper saying
that he`s got going to negotiate with the Republicans over the debt
ceiling. He has to, ultimately, negotiate with them.
And you got the speaker who`s now said recently that he is not going
to pass an increased debt ceiling without offsets in how much it`s going to
increase. Because remember, the fact here is that we have a deficit, and
it seems to me the actors that are being portrayed as insane are the ones
who have no plan to reduce the debt, the Democrats in the Senate and the
Democrats in the White House. And the are the ones who are being portrayed
as insane are the ones who actually want to have a plan to reduce the
MATTHEWS: But you had deficits under Reagan, you had deficits under
W. You didn`t shut down -- you didn`t default on the national debt under
those guys, did you? We defaulted on the national debt?
TYLER: No, we didn`t default.
MATTHEWS: That`s what you guys are talking about now.
TYLER: We`re $16.7 trillion. That`s what we`re approaching --
MATTHEWS: So, your solution to the fiscal challenge of the country is
TYLER: No, I think the fiscal challenge of the country is to figure
out how to reduce debt, how to reduce the scope of government.
MATTHEWS: First of all, what you`re saying is not what they`re
saying. Rick, I respect you being here. Thanks for coming on.
But what Ted Cruz is saying, if you don`t defund a law of the land,
the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, I`m going to bring down the government.
I`m going to make sure we default. That`s what he`s saying.
TYLER: And he has every right to pursue that strategy.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, though?
TYLER: Well, first of all, I don`t think you should use the word
defund, because we`re not defunding anything. It has been funded to begin
MATTHEWS: It`s been enacted into law.
TYLER: It`s been enacted to law and it hasn`t been funded. And so,
we already lost the argument because we`re --
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to Joan on this one. Joan, it seems like you
have to figure out who we`re talking to here. It`s like who`s got the gun?
Who`s going to make the decision? Is it going to be Boehner who says it`s
about spending or is it going to be people on the far right, far right like
Ted Cruz who say if you don`t get rid of a program already enacted into law
by defunding it and starving it to death, we`re going to default.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Chris, you know, I think they`re passing the
MATTHEWS: Pretty radical.
WALSH: I think they`re passing the gun around. John Boehner is
talking about it this week. He`s saying we`re going to have a wheel of a
fight over it. He`s saying I`ve got the leverage now and it may be unfair,
but the president is going to have to give. He`s going to have to
negotiate in order for us to do what we`ve done 79 times in the last bunch
of years without incident to get us to raise the debt ceiling.
He said that at a fund-raiser this week. Maybe he`s playing to the
Tea Party whackadoo caucus. But that -- he -- that man, himself, said it.
I think it`s really dangerous.
MATTHEWS: I think Boehner is a president of -- Joan, I don`t know
about you but I wonder if he has the leverage to say no to the Tea Party.
WALSH: I don`t know. I don`t know. There are some things you lose
your job over. Maybe that job isn`t good enough to have if you`re going to
bring down the global economy to listen to your crazy base. And meanwhile,
can I just --
MATTHEWS: OK, we have to go. John, I want to quote another guy here.
WALSH: The deficit is coming down faster than at any time since World
War II. So, the deficit is coming down. We have cut the deficit.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me, Rick, I want to respond to that. Here`s an
Idaho fund-raiser on Monday, Representative Mike Simpson. Boehner said he
planned to - at that fundraiser, Boehner said he`d to use the debt ceiling
negotiations to gain leverage and fired up the base for an epic political
battle with the president.
Quote, "The president doesn`t think this is fair, thinks I`m being
difficult to deal with," Mr. Boehner said. "But I`ll say this, it may be
unfair, but what I`m trying to do here is leverage the political process to
produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices.
We`re going to have a whale of a fit."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney however dismissed Boehner`s
tough talk. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me reiterate what our
position is and it is unequivocal. We will not negotiate with Republicans
in Congress over Congress` responsibility to pay the bills that Congress
has racked up, period. It is Congress` responsibility to maintain the full
faith own credit of the United States. We have never defaulted, and we
must never default. That is our position, 100 percent full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Rick, response?
TYLER: Look, in the end, you`re not going to get the default. What
you`re going to get is a series of continuing resolutions right up until
the deficit ceiling. We`re going to have a grand bargain and somebody is
gong to have to --
MATTHEWS: In other words, it`s a bluff?
TYLER: Look, the speaker has every right --
MATTHEWS: Is your side willing to default?
TYLER: I don`t -- you know, I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: That`s the question.
TYLER: If you get to $16.7 trillion and have $100 trillion of
unfunded liabilities, at some point --
MATTHEWS: I don`t think you do this to Mr. Reagan. I don`t think you
do it to W. I think you`re doing it to Obama.
TYLER: You got to grow the economy and Obama`s answer is just raise
taxes, which is not math.
MATTHEWS: I know.
WALSH: There`s been a grand bargain on the table that Speaker Boehner
walked away from. Progressives are not happy with it. But this president
has put things on the table that are anathema to a lot of Democrats and he
still can`t find a partner to negotiate with.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joan. Thank you, Joan Walsh, so much for coming
Thank you, Rick Tyler, for coming on. I`m sorry.
We`ll be right back. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this baby:
I think we all love the story of King Solomon and two women claiming
to be the mother of the same baby. The King Solomon solution he told them
was to cut the baby in half.
We know how that turned out. The woman who protested that solution
and said to give the baby to the other was the true mother, the one who
thought cutting the baby in half was the perfectly fair solution was not
the true mother, obviously. That`s what we call a Solomon-like solution.
So, who cares about the success of effective self-government in this
country and having a federal government that is credible which pays its
bills that can be counted on when you buy a savings bond, for example, or
when someone in the world invests in U.S. treasury? Who cares about
keeping alive that credibility?
And now, ask yourself, who does not? Who`s willing to let that
credibility be killed or seriously damaged in order to score an ideological
point? Who`s willing to throw the credibility of the United States into
the gaming table at a partisan contest of who will blink?
The simple undeniable fact is this: the reason the new hard right wing
in this country is ready for this country to risk fiscal default to become
the world`s number one deadbeat, it doesn`t give a damn weather government
is downgraded. It much prefers an every man for himself world where
libertarian has as much power as the American people united together in
self-government. If there was an explanation for this crazy brinkmanship,
we`re all finding right now, would someone please give it to me?
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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