September 4, 2013
Guests: Rep. Rush Holt, Dana Milbank, Ted Yoho, Jonathan Martin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Rumors of war.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. What is it that makes me resist all
this? What is it that makes me ask why will attacking Syria and killing a
bunch of people there would be a signal to the people running Syria that
they were wrong to kill a bunch of people in Syria?
We shoot Cruise missiles into the country, kill dozens of people who
happen to be working in or near or living near some weapons pile. The idea
is to teach their government a lesson. I guess killing its people is a way
of instructing him not to do the same? Well, their relatives then hold
funerals, the people of Syria demand violence and they demand vengeance,
and the government of Syria looks for ways to teach us again a lesson, some
act against Israel, some unleashing of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.
Does anyone watching right now believe this is our first and last act
of war against Bashar Assad? Really? The president says he wants Assad to
go. He`s helping the rebels in Syria. Several weeks or months from now,
won`t he begin to push for stronger methods to get Assad out? Will he
really allow this war to fester in the middle between Assad`s forces and
those opposing him, with millions of refugees pouring into Jordan and
Isn`t this the balloon going up really for a wider U.S. military role
in the Mideast? If not, why is every neocon in the country bounding around
right now from TV show to TV show, blowing their plastic bugles? And why,
if these boys, the neocons, are pushing it, aren`t the people usually
showing restraint showing it now?
Robert Gibbs is a former press secretary to President Obama and an
MSNBC contributor and Rush Holt is a Democratic congressman from New
Jersey. He represents the 12th district.
Congressman Holt, I don`t know if you`ve seen the actual vote from the
Senate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted just a few hours ago
-- actually, not that long ago, 10 to 7 that -- and they voted basically
for the president`s resolution to authorize the use of force in Syria.
Even in the committee, however, the vote was lopsided. Only three
Republicans voted for authorization. Among them was John McCain. The
resolution includes controversial language McCain pushed for that said the
goal of intervention was to, quote, "change the momentum on the battlefield
in Syria." While the authorization passed in committee, it still faces
major hurdles on the full Senate and the House vote next week.
As Politico reported today, nearly 80 percent of the House Republican
conference is opposed to launching a strike. And in the Senate, there are
only about 8 to 10 yes votes among the Republican support there, the
I`m looking at this language, Congressman Holt, that was jammed into
this resolution -- has nothing to do with a bombing attack to get through -
- to stop them from using chemical weapons. It`s talking about requiring
the president to submit to the Congress, the Committee on Foreign Relations
and the Committee of the House on Foreign Affairs, an integrated plan
basically to bring about a negotiated political settlement in the conflict
in Syria involving all kinds of arms and aid of various kinds, particularly
arms aids to the various groups, their efforts to try to keep Iran out of
This is a multi-faceted demand in this resolution which the president
will sign that calls for a major U.S. effort, apparently, to change the
direction of the war in Syria. And everybody`s saying, Oh, don`t worry,
this is a dainty little one-time-only operation.
By the way, why do they need 60 to 90 days to carry out a two-day war?
That`s my question.
REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, that`s a lot of questions,
Chris, and good questions. You know, I -- it`s not -- the vote count that
you need is not just in the House or just in the Senate. It`s really in
the United States of America and more broadly than that, in the world.
The only reason for us to be involved in this civil war in Syria that
-- possibly justifiable reason would be to enforce international standards
for civilized behavior, to say that weapons of mass destruction may never
be used, or else there will be real consequences.
But a single nation can`t enforce international standards against a
single nation. That`s -- and particularly the United States, who -- you
know, our reputation for having clean hands with respect to chemical
weapons is not all that good if you look at the CIA and other things.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean? We`ve used...
MATTHEWS: Are you saying, Congressman, that we have used chemical
HOLT: No. I`m saying that we have been historically too close to the
involvement, too close to the use of chemical weapons in the Iran and Iraq
MATTHEWS: By whom?
HOLT: And much of the world...
HOLT: Against Iran.
HOLT: And much of the world sees United States culpability in that.
And my point is, if you`re going to enforce worldwide standards, it has to
be done multi-nationally. It can`t be done international.
HOLT: I mean, unilaterally. And furthermore, it has to be done in
the way that the world understands so that future potential users of these
weapons of mass destruction will clearly understand.
MATTHEWS: I get your point.
HOLT: And therefore, it can`t be done by a single nation.
MATTHEWS: So you`re voting against this resolution when it comes to
HOLT: Well, likely. I`ve talked to the White House today and two
days ago and given them a long list of questions that they have to answer.
And I said that you`ve only got a few days to answer them. And the more
they try to answer them, the less satisfied I am.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Robert Gibbs. Thanks for coming on, Robert.
And it seems to me that you`re here more or less in support of the
administration position. Is that fair to say?
ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:
Well, I -- I -- depends, I guess, on what question you -- I gave up my...
MATTHEWS: No, do you support -- do you support the resolution?
GIBBS: ... fee (ph) job months ago. I do believe...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about this. Here`s the problem. The
president is trying to square a circle here. He wants to keep the
progressives with them who are skeptical of involvement in the Middle East,
and I`m one of them. At the same time -- at the same time, he wants to
bring in McCain and win the support of AIPAC, win the support of the
neocons, who want a more robust policy, they like to say, a more muscular,
less ashamed of U.S. policy (sic) of strength.
Then we have this language -- now, it may be refined, in the process
of being refined, but basically, it was enough to get the McCain crowd to
support this resolution out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And
it talks about the president having to come forth within 30 days of
enactment of this bill, his signature -- he`s got to come up with a plan,
an integrated plan for basically helping the opposition overthrow Assad.
MATTHEWS: Now, why are we getting into that when all this was
supposed to be about was whether we deal with them with regard to the
chemical weapons use? Why bring all this in?
GIBBS: Let me say what I would say. I would say I think that is a
paragraph on what Senator -- or excuse me, Secretary Kerry and others have
said for a long time. And that is we have to bring to bear some change in
the political calculus of Assad to leave power. That`s what we desire. We
desire that he leave power in a negotiated settlement. I do not...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) about military aid to the rebels?
GIBBS: Which we have begun to...
MATTHEWS: So we`re taking sides.
GIBBS: Well, we made a decision as a government. I don`t mean "we."
I mean the government made a decision to begin passing limited arms to the
rebels. Again, I think this is a time-limited...
MATTHEWS: Well, why would progressives...
GIBBS: ... no boots on the ground resolution.
MATTHEWS: ... support this? Why would the people on the Democratic
left, who are very skeptical about war -- why would they say, Not only do I
support the president`s right to this bombing mission or Cruise missile
mission, but also, I think I`ll sign onto this stuff that McCain wants to
do and the neocons want to do and AIPAC wants to do...
GIBBS: I would say this...
MATTHEWS: Let`s just say the neocons...
GIBBS: I don`t know where...
MATTHEWS: ... who love this stuff.
GIBBS: I don`t know where John Bolton and Liz Cheney are on the
neocon scale, but they`re both opposed to this. So -- and I don`t think...
MATTHEWS: That`s local politics out there, but anyway.
GIBBS: Well, I don`t...
MATTHEWS: With her.
GIBBS: Well, John Bolton, I don`t know what he`s running for yet.
But I would say if you`re a progressive, and I would say to Congressman
Holt, if no one will stand up and enforce the international norms that I
think he is extremely concerned with, that somebody`s going to have to do
that because if we don`t stand up and enforce those international norms,
the nearly 100-year prohibition on the use of chemical weapons in warfare -
- if we don`t do it, then what sort of signal does that send to Assad and
MATTHEWS: OK, my question...
MATTHEWS: ... to the congressman. My response quickly is your notion
and very cleanly and very daintily you`re saying enforce international
norms. What you mean is give the president and the military, because he`s
got -- they want it, apparently -- the right to send Cruise missiles into
Syria and kill people. And that is somehow going to stop Assad from
killing his people.
GIBBS: No, I...
MATTHEWS: Explain how that stops him from killing his people.
GIBBS: I think what we do is we degrade his capability...
MATTHEWS: By doing what?
GIBBS: Go after helicopters, go after airfields, go after the
delivery mechanisms for these chemical weapons.
MATTHEWS: So you think this is going to be a surgical strike.
GIBBS: I think it will be a surgical strike, yes.
MATTHEWS: And not kill many people.
GIBBS: I do not think it will kill many people.
MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman, your thoughts about that in terms of just
the idea we kill people to punish someone for killing people, and
basically, we`re killing the same people, the Syrian people, which is so
encrusted with irony, I don`t know how to keep going here. Your thoughts.
HOLT: Yes, well, I`m not sure that`s what Mr. Gibbs is saying. He`s
saying we`ll make a surgical strike to deter Assad`s ability to do it in
the future. That`s very hard to do. Chemical weapons are no doubt
dispersed. It`s going to be very hard to take them out.
As I say, the only possibly justifiable reason would be to deter
future use around the world of weapons of mass destruction -- in other
words, to enforce these international norms. That`s what Secretary Kerry
talks about. It`s what the president talks about.
I don`t see how one nation can do it. If the rest of the world won`t
do it, then we can`t. It is not up to one nation to enforce...
GIBBS: Well, then nobody can.
HOLT: ... international standards.
GIBBS: Well, then nobody can.
GIBBS: If one nation can`t, then nobody can. And again, I think if
the standard is we don`t want this to happen again, then somebody has to
stand up and do it. Look, the Russians and the Chinese are not going to do
it, right? The Russians are the arms dealer to the Syrians, right? The
HOLT: Well, you know, I`ve asked...
GIBBS: ... is not going to do this.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, Congressman, if -- let me give you...
HOLT: I`ve asked the administration...
MATTHEWS: Secretary Kerry threw a question at Rand Paul, the senator
on the committee from Kentucky, Armed Services -- or Foreign Relations
committee -- asked him does he think if we don`t do anything that Mr.
Assad, the president of Syria, will do it again. And he didn`t answer the
question. Let me throw it to you.
HOLT: He answered his own question. Kerry said, Oh, absolutely, they
will. You know, it has not yet been established for the world to
understand. You know, it`s only been established for some leaders of
Congress in some closed sessions that -- who did what to whom. It won`t
work if that is -- if those are the people who are convinced. It has to be
the world community that is convinced...
MATTHEWS: All right, so...
GIBBS: ... about who did what to whom.
MATTHEWS: ... you think it`d be ineffective...
MATTHEWS: ... send Cruise missiles, Congressman. You`re saying we
send Cruise missiles into Damascus or the outskirts, wherever these bombs
are, whatever the equipment is we`re trying to disable, and that will not
be a statement at all because it`s not an international statement.
HOLT: That`s right. That`s right.
HOLT: And what do we mean by international? Well, if we can`t get
the U.N., if we can`t get the Arab League -- well, I`ve asked the White
House what`s their criterion. What do they think will be satisfactory? Is
it 20 nations with rhetoric saying, Go for it, guys, you Americans go do
No, that`s not good enough. And so, you know, I think this really has
to be an international operation...
HOLT: ... and the -- and it`s on the administration -- the burden is
on the administration to show what that means.
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman -- U.S. Congressman Rush Holt, Democrat of
New Jersey, thanks for joining us. Robert Gibbs, as always. This is going
to be a tough fight.
Coming up, the rejectionists on the right. They already have their
excuses -- Benghazi, Obama can`t be trusted. He`s going too far. He`s not
going far enough. Over to you, Speaker Boehner.
Well, plus, it`s not too early to look at what the means -- this means
for 2016. Hillary`s in favor of this action by the president, Rand Paul is
against it. This vote`s going to stick to every member of Congress who`s
thinking of moving to Pennsylvania Avenue -- 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And look who`s back on late night TV after 12 long weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": You can`t use chemicals to kill your
own people! You have to do it organically!
STEWART: America and the world want to make sure Assad only uses
locally sourced free long (ph) range lead (ph) ordinance.
MATTHEWS: A sarcastic way of making a good point. Welcome back, Jon
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with how this debate over Syria is
offering a roadmap for the Republican nomination for president come next
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Vice President Dick Cheney was the architect of misleading
us into the war in Iraq. So we wondered, where does his daughter stand on
Syria? Well, Liz Cheney, who`s running for the Senate out in Wyoming, she
says, she says she`d vote against the resolution to authorize force in
Syria. She says the administration should have supported the rebels when
the war began.
Liz Cheney also says not to believe the media when reporters say
there`s a split in the Republican Party on this issue. Yes, actually,
there is, and we`ll get to that in a moment.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t see a clear-cut or compelling
American interest. I see a horrible tragedy, but I don`t see that our
involvement will lessen the tragedy. I think it may well make the tragedy
worse. I think more civilian deaths could occur. I think an attack on
Israel could occur. I think an Turkey could occur. I think you could get
more Russian involvement, more Iranian involvement. I don`t see anything
good coming of our involvement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Senator
Rand Paul from Kentucky earlier today outlining his objections to President
Obama`s Syria resolution.
Paul`s hardly alone. Republicans have been vocal opponents of the
president`s stance on Syria. Some are arguing that Obama has already
failed or that he isn`t going far enough. By the way, two different points
of view there. Some in the GOP will oppose Obama no matter what on
anything, and others contend he simply cannot be trusted on anything.
The issue of trust sparked a series fireworks on the Hill today during
a House hearing on Syria. Republican congressman Jeff Duncan here told
Secretary of State John Kerry that he couldn`t trust the Obama
administration due to -- get this -- the Benghazi coverup, the IRS and Fast
Take a listen to part of the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Administration has a serious
credibility issue with American people due to the unanswered questions
surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you
factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen
issues, Fast and Furious and the NSA spying programs, bottom line is that
there`s a need for accountability and trust building from the
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We`re talking about people being
killed by gas, and you want to go talk about Benghazi and Fast and Furious.
We don`t deserve to drag this into yet another Benghazi discussion when the
real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for
international norms with respect to dictators that have only been broken
twice until Assad, Hitler and Saddam Hussein!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that guy`s a walking clown show, anyway. He`s an
entire car filled with one person.
Anyway, "The Washington Examiner" reports that the influential
conservative group Heritage Action -- it has something to do with the
Heritage Foundation -- has come out against the president`s Syria
resolution. They may end up scoring GOP lawmakers` positions on it,
putting -- in other words, scoring them in terms of how good you are -- put
more pressure on GOP lawmakers to find a way to oppose the president.
David Corn, of course, our pal, is MSNBC political analyst and he`s
with "Mother Jones" and Dana Milbank is the brilliant columnist for "The
Gentlemen, this is really weird because talk about weird sociometric
overlaps. I don`t agree with any of these right-wing guys about these
things. In fact, those (INAUDIBLE) reasons had nothing at all -- at all --
to do with this discussion. They want to talk about Benghazi, fine.
That`s the horn they want to blow.
But David, here`s the question. I don`t think -- I think it`s really
the question of consistency ought to be brought to bear here. You know
what I mean? Consistency?
I`ve heard a lot of progressives talking like they`re neocons lately.
And a lot of neocons talking like neocons who are at least consistent.
They always want to go in, both boots (ph) flying. They want in. They`re
But now we have progressives floating around, talking like they just
learned their lines from the last time around from the other side. And
we`ve got guys who are -- who are questioning the administration when it
talks like the other side. This is getting wacky.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...
MATTHEWS: Forget this clown...
CORN: None of the usual ideological...
MATTHEWS: Let`s take Rand Paul!
CORN: None of the usual ideological scripts are holding true here. A
lot of progressive House -- progressive Democrats in the House oppose this.
They just oppose it. They`re not voting for it. And they`re not being
persuaded by Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants. Now, some do or will
because they want to back the president. They`re on the fence...
MATTHEWS: But they don`t believe in it.
CORN: ... but they may not believe in it. But they have all these
issues. They don`t want to weaken the president as he goes into budget
fights, debt ceiling fights. They want to give him the benefit of the
You have Republicans who otherwise would be for any war that came down
the pike, except this is from Barack Obama...
CORN: ... so they`re so they`re opposed to that. But I think the
real key thing here which you get with Rand Paul is there`s been a
festering schism in the Republican Party...
MATTHEWS: And it`s real!
CORN: ... for decades now between interventionists and isolationists.
And the interventionists have always had the heavy hand, whether it`s John
McCain types or neocon types like Bill Kristol.
CORN: And now they`re being -- now they`re being almost chased out of
MATTHEWS: The old pre-World War II crowd...
CORN: ... by the...
MATTHEWS: ... are coming along.
CORN: Yes, they`re coming along. This is like Pat Buchanan`s moment!
MATTHEWS: You know, I think I would accept it without Pat Buchanan.
MATTHEWS: And I want to go back to this, because, on the right -- let
me just talk sheer politics for a second, Dana.
You know how to write it. You know how to think about it. It`s not
all ideology. I think Rand Paul is Rand Paul. I think he is what he is.
I don`t get this guy Ted Cruz. He seems mad at everybody on the planet.
MATTHEWS: But Rand Paul is a libertarian. And it`s sort of like
projection large, writ large, and a libertarian is basically an
Basically, it isn`t complicated. You don`t like getting involved in
other people`s marmalade. Why are we getting involved in the Middle East?
That`s their thing. Why do we have to have bureaucracies and big defense
departments? I will live my own life here.
MILBANK: On the Republican side, you have got two things going on.
You have got the legitimate, genuine disagreement going from the
isolationists, from Rand Paul. But it`s really a small segment of that
MATTHEWS: Growing or small?
MILBANK: I don`t think it`s growing at all. I think the neocons are
very much still in charge of this party. But the problem is it`s
MATTHEWS: Why are we hearing that 80 percent of the House Republicans
want to vote against this thing?
MILBANK: Because they want -- if the president came out and said I`m
for peanut butter and jelly, they would vote against peanut butter and
jelly. It doesn`t matter. They were interested in attacking Syria when
Obama wasn`t. Now that he`s interested in attacking it, they`re not.
It`s just reflexive opposition. It doesn`t mean this party has become
isolationist. If it were a Republican president recommending this same
course of action...
MATTHEWS: They will say, you don`t have my kind of bread. They
wouldn`t say I don`t like peanut butter and jelly. They would say wrong
CORN: Let me disagree a tiny bit with our -- with my good friend here
from across the aisle.
MILBANK: Is this about peanut butter?
CORN: Not about peanut butter and jelly. But I do think there is
more of a real fight here. And I think it`s a true divide.
If you look at the leading candidates for the 2016 nomination now in
the Republican Party, they all have this position against Obama and
intervention or they`re moving there really fast.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to take the more opportunistic way of describing
this, because I`m not sure it`s ideology.
Republicans have undergone a major shift in their stance on
intervention in Syria. This very point, according to a "Washington
Post"/ABC poll published this month, Republicans oppose missile strikes
against Syria by a margin of 12 points. In other words, 12 percent more
are opposed to it than are for it, just about the same as Democrats.
In fact, both parties are about the same on this issue, as we`re
discovering. But look at those margins how they compare to polls taken
last December, not a million years ago, December 2012. The Republicans
supported intervention in Syria then by a margin of 38 points.
So don`t tell me there`s been an ideological shift. It`s been
CORN: Well, I think it is both. I think what`s happening here now is
that the ideologues...
MATTHEWS: They switches ideologically by 40, 50 points?
CORN: No, no. The ideologues like Rand Paul are taking the political
energy, the Obama hatred, the mania, and sort of -- and again capturing it
and they`re doing it in a way that`s going to cause Bill Kristol and the
others real problems, because this is going to become a political issue in
And so that`s why Ted Cruz saw where Rand Paul was going, Marco Rubio,
and they all ran to meet him today, to be in that same...
MATTHEWS: OK. If only eight or 10 Republicans support this in the
Senate and only about 20 percent, 50 or so members support it in the House,
would you then say there`s an ideological difference or is it just I don`t
want your cooties, Mr. President? I just don`t want to be touched by you.
MILBANK: I`m sure it`s the latter.
But I don`t think it`ll turn out that way. I think a lot of people
are sitting on the fence. And, yes, you have got the presidential
candidates. You have got the loons like Ted Cruz talking about, we don`t
want to be al Qaeda`s air force.
MATTHEWS: Pretty good line.
MILBANK: It was a good line. But, yes, but when you -- I was over
there in the House committee today. And I think you hear some of the more
responsible voices kind of tiptoeing in that direction.
I think those Republican numbers will move. They`re just afraid to
get out there right now.
MATTHEWS: Did you hear what Palin said? Sometimes, the broken clock
is right like twice a day?
MILBANK: What, when she said let Allah sort it out?
MATTHEWS: No, that was a pretty funny line, if you`re not a Muslim, I
But she said, so the Syrians are killing Syrians, so we`re going to
kill Syrians, and they call me the idiot.
MATTHEWS: How do you beat that? We are going to go in there and kill
Syrians. That`s what this is about. There are 100 or 200, whatever
people, how many people in Syria will be dead in a week or two because of
And everything else is about message, smoke signals we`re sending,
supposedly to some mullah who is 90 years old sitting over in Tehran in
some tent and these guys are going to get a message. Oh, they killed 200
people in Damascus. Therefore, we better not build a nuclear bomb. They
might get the idea a nuclear bomb is scarier than those 200 people getting
killed. You think? If this is about scare tactics, wouldn`t you build the
CORN: Of course.
CORN: Obama has backed himself into a corner with this red line.
MATTHEWS: You got the bomb, they won`t shoot the cruise missiles
anymore. And I`m not giving any advice here to the mullahs.
CORN: Oh, you just did.
MATTHEWS: Oh, thank you. I`m sure somebody...
MILBANK: And you agreed with Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: I think they`re smarter -- well, maybe not smarter than me,
and that would be ironic.
Anyway, thank you, David Corn. That`s you.
CORN: That`s me.
MATTHEWS: And that`s you, Dana Milbank.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the "Sideshow."
I didn`t mean to send any good ideas over to those guys.
By the way, somehow, something you might have missed the last 12
weeks. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics -- that guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You can`t use
chemicals to kill your own people. You have to do it organically.
STEWART: America and the world wants to make sure Assad only used
locally sourced free long-range lead ordnance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome to the "Sideshow."
That`s of course Jon Stewart on President Obama`s stand against the
use of chemical weapons last night. Well, the longtime "Daily Show" host
is back in the anchor chair after spending the last 12 weeks in the Middle
East, where he was directing a movie. But Stewart apparently had more
difficulty adjusting to life back in the States than you might think.
Check out the sketch that opened his show last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JOHN OLIVER, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Jon is back. Hey,
What? OK. OK. That`s nice. No. How you doing? Hey, Jess, we have
a huge problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What, are you still hosting the show?
OLIVER: Hey. No. Jon`s back, but I think the Middle East has
changed him. He`s not even acting American. Get a defibrillator and two
Big Macs. Let`s do this.
OLIVER: Hey, Jon? Clear.
STEWART: Obamacare can suck Paula Deen`s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for all
I mean, it`s a politically correct culture. Why can`t we say that
OLIVER: No, no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Glad to see him back. Anyway, "The Tonight Show" put its
own spin on the Syria question last night. Here was Jay Leno explaining
the dilemma facing President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Are you confused by
this whole Syrian situation? It is confusing. Here`s a video metaphor
that will maybe help explain the situation. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The following is a video metaphor for President
Barack Obama`s Syrian dilemma.
This guy represents what would happen if we bomb Assad, which would
mean we would be siding with the rebels who are members of al Qaeda. This
guy represents what will happen if we don`t bomb Assad, which would send a
message to Iran that we won`t do anything to stop their nuclear weapons
program. Either way, it`s a lose/lose situation. This has been a video
metaphor for President Obama`s Syrian dilemma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I wonder if that just happened -- while -- or ever
While Leno may think a U.S. intervention is a lose/lose situation,
most pundits have described it as a high-risk gamble.
And during yesterday`s Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator
McCain made some gambles himself, in poker, that is. A "Washington Post"
photographer caught a glimpse of the senator playing the game on his phone
as Secretaries Kerry and Hagel were testifying. McCain tweeted afterwards
-- quote -- "Scandal. Caught playing iPhone game at three-and-a-half-hour
Senate hearing. Worst of all, I lost."
We will be back in a moment. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.
Tonight, President Obama was in Stockholm attending a dinner with
leaders of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. Earlier, the president
reiterated the need for military action in Syria.
James Comey was sworn in as the new director of the FBI, taking over
for Robert Mueller.
And an autopsy confirmed Ariel Castro hanged himself in prison. his
suicide comes a month after he was sentenced to life for keeping three
women in his Cleveland home for a decade.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The use of chemical
weapons is a barbarous act. It`s pretty clear to me that the United
Nations is unable to take action, NATO not likely to take action. I`m
going to support the president`s call for action. I believe that my
colleagues should support this call for action.
We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we`re
not going to tolerate this type of behavior.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Hundreds of children
were killed. This is behavior outside the circle of civilized human
behavior. And we must respond. I do not -- in my district, I don`t think
people are convinced that military action is necessary, but it`s important
for them to know that the weapons of mass destruction`s use has taken us to
a different place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
As we told you earlier, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has
approved the use of force in Syria in a vote of 10-7 today and setting up a
showdown for the full Senate. The major showdown will happen next week
when the full Congress returns to Washington from its August recess.
President Obama will need every vote he can get in the Senate and the House
to support intervention in Syria.
But Republicans and Democrats alike in both bodies are split over the
debate on a military strike.
Joining me right now is a member of one of those bodies, U.S.
Congressman Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida who is opposed to military
action, and Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer,
columnist, national columnist for "The Washington Post" who supports the
call for a strike.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
I guess the main argument, the big picture argument raised by the
people, including your speaker of the House, the speaker of the House, John
Boehner, is that this has to be a message-sending operation, that we have
to signal Iran especially that we`re not going to condone the development
of nuclear weapons by them, and the way we do that is to signal we`re not
going to permit the use of chemical weapons by Syria.
REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: I don`t support that.
I represent the people of North-Central Florida, and overwhelmingly 98
percent have said to stay out of Syria. So, I have got to listen to the
people of my district. And if we`re going to enter in on that effect and
if you go back to the CWC agreement that was signed by over 189 nations,
where are the other 188 demanding that we come together and bring the U.N.,
bring NATO, bring the Arab League, and we sit down on one side of the table
and demand Mr. Assad sits down at the other side and bring a close to this?
And through diplomacy, I think we can get a resolution and an end to
this conflict, not with military. Our foreign policy for the last 30 years
has led us down to this path where we`re at today. And I think to continue
on the same old, same old, it`s is like Groundhog Days.
And we need to change course. And this is an opportunity in America
for America to show leadership to bring people to the table and show that
we can resolve this and we can get this done and we can win this without
guns and bombs. And that`s a new direction for our foreign policy,
especially in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Is that your position toward Iran in regard to nuclear
weapons, that we shouldn`t use violence, we shouldn`t do a preemptive
strike, we shouldn`t support the hard-line positions of, say, Bibi
Netanyahu in Israel? Is that your consistent policy, do not use violence,
do not use military weaponry to stop countries from violating what are the
norms of weapons of mass destruction?
YOHO: That`s my policy.
But go back to the CWC. That agreement was stated that any country
that produced, stored, transported, sold, or used chemical weapons or WMDs
were in violation. So when do you start doing that? When do you draw that
line? And I don`t want to talk about red lines, but once you do that, do
you act in totality or do you act in, you know, we will pick and choose who
we`re going to attack? And I think it`s a very dangerous thing and I think
we need diplomacy at this point in time in our country.
MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, that`s the argument made by Rush Holt, the
former -- the member actually from New Jersey -- made the other argument.
He made the same argument, that why should we be the world`s policemen of
the international norms if the international organizations are not going to
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, maybe we shouldn`t
have to be, but guess what? If we`re not, nothing`s going to happen. I
mean, it`s very clear nothing`s going to happen. The U.N. Security Council
is going to do nothing because Russia is an ally of Syria and Russia is not
going to allow anything to happen.
And where are the other nations? Well, some are supporting publicly,
a few. A few are supporting privately. But they`re not going to do
anything. And when you look at the list of nations that has the capacity
to do anything, I mean, what the president is talking about -- and I take
him at his word -- is a punitive strike, not an attempt to chart the
outcome of the Syrian civil war.
I think the use of chemical weapons is a very big deal and a very,
very bad thing. And I think there should be punitive action, and, you
know, not fair that we have to take it, but I don`t know who else is going
to do it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman, would you take the same -- I know
this sounds pushy, but would you take the same position if Mitt Romney were
commander in chief right now?
YOHO: Yes, sir, I would. This is not -- this is not party politics.
This is what`s best for America. And again, we`ve been down this road.
And I disagree with the gentleman that just spoke that we need to take
the lead in this. You know, I asked that to John Kerry. Why America? Why
does America need to be in front when 189 countries have signed this pact?
And his response is the world expects it. We did it in World War II.
But my comeback to that was in World War II, we entered that war because we
got attacked in Pearl Harbor. Our allies Germany and France were attacked.
We had no option.
There are options on the table. We have not -- we have not brought
those to full fruition yet.
And talking about Russia -- Russia in the paper today said that they
would reconsider their stance if the evidence was 100 percent conclusive.
I think that`s a huge move on Russia`s part. And if Russia could do that,
I think China could do that.
And I think with America supporting so many of these foreign countries
around the world with our aid --
YOHO: -- we need to use the clout of America`s aid and say, listen,
if you want our aid you come to the table and help us negotiate peace
without war. And that`s what I want to do.
MATTHEWS: It`s surprising to hear this from a Republican conservative
because you are one and you are conservative. And yet, you`re saying that
your view is the same towards -- it`s consistent with your view towards
I`ve been in this business now of covering politics for years and all
I`ve heard from the conservative side of things is we`ve got to be
aggressive with regard to Iran. We`ve got to draw red lines. We have to
stop them from weaponizing the nuclear program. We have to make sure, even
if we have to attack them ahead of time or support Israel and attack them
or working together with Israel.
And now, you`re saying that norm doesn`t apply. You would not support
an aggressive step to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. That seems
odd to hear from you.
YOHO: Well, Mr. Matthews, I ran as a Republican but I also ran as an
American. You know, our problems today, not just in America but around the
world, are bigger than Republicans and are bigger than Democrats. We`ve
got to come together as Americans --
YOHO: -- to solve the problems we have. And I ran on that and I will
not waver from that.
MATTHEWS: And you don`t have any problems supporting this president
as our legitimate commander-in-chief, you don`t question his legitimacy?
YOHO: No, sir. He`s been enough over -- he`s been under enough
scrutiny. I think we need to move on from there.
In fact, the issue about his birth certificate came up at a town hall
and people wanted me to pursue that. I said, is that where you want us to
spend our time for three and a half years? It was probably 99 percent said
We need to move beyond that.
YOHO: We`ve got $17 trillion in debt that this country is facing.
We`ve got Social Security failing. Medicare is failing. And we`re talking
about going into another war? Give me a break.
MATTHEWS: So you accept the fact he was a born American?
YOHO: I`m not -- no comment.
MATTHEWS: No comment? In other words, you question the president`s
YOHO: I disappointed you, didn`t I?
MATTHEWS: Well -- no, you didn`t. I`ve never met you, sir. So I
don`t know what disappointment would mean in this case. But you do
surprise me when you say -- after saying you oppose the president, and now
you say he`s legitimate, then you, but I don`t think he`s necessarily a
native born American, a natural born American.
YOHO: I didn`t say that. I just said no comment. What you said was
I said that --
MATTHEWS: What did you mean?
YOHO: What I would like to say is I haven`t studied it enough to come
back with an intelligent answer so I will not respond. And I`d rather get
back to Syria.
MATTHEWS: When do you intend to find out whether the president is
legitimate? When would you put time into that discovery?
YOHO: Let`s get Syria taken care of and let`s get our debt taken care
of. Then, you and I can have a one-on-one and I`d be happy to talk to you.
MATTHEWS: Are you a birther then?
YOHO: I`m not going to comment on that, Chris. We came here to talk
MATTHEWS: OK, fine. I appreciate it. You`ve stated your position
well. Thank you for coming on, Congressman. I mean it. Thank you for
expressing your views.
YOHO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, you never know what you`re going to hear
here, do you?
ROBINSON: Live television.
MATTHEWS: Anyway. Up next, what happens in 2013 doesn`t stay in `13.
How the Syria vote could determine the 2016 presidential election.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the sticky problem Syria poses for 2016
presidential candidates. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On what I believe was
the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation,
whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a
commander-in-chief. I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her
judgments on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Any doubt that the votes of position staked now on Syria could have
enormous consequences for a potential 2016 run should be put to rest by
that clip. Among the potential contenders who know this -- Senator Rand
Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Marco Rubio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t want see a clear cut or
compelling American interest. I see a horrible tragedy, but I don`t see
that our involvement will lessen the tragedy. I think it may well make the
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We should be focused on defending the
United States of America. That`s why young men and women sign up to join
the military. Not to do, as you know, serve as al Qaeda`s air force.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This idea that a military response is
the only way to respond to what`s happening in Syria is just not true.
Instead our response should have -- should have always been and should
still be a multifaceted plan to help the Syrian people get rid of Assad and
replace him with a secular and moderate government they deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Those are just the potential contenders who have to vote on
Syria. There are others, of course, like Chris Christie and Scott Walker
who can sit on the sidelines for now and not have to vote.
Joining me right now is "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza, and
"The New York Times`" Jonathan Martin.
I want to start guys in an unusual way. I want to offer you a
premise. I believe this is a road map. I`m going to say it at the end of
the show. You watch the Republicans and how they walk right now, and you
can you see the road map to where they think this election is going in
2016. The campaign will begin, what, Chris, in two weeks? It`s going to
begin pretty soon.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: If it hasn`t already, yes.
MATTHEWS: My question is, Rand Paul is -- I predicted he will be the
nominee, you don`t have to agree with that, he`s the pathfinder for where
this party`s going. It`s time for eruption, a volcanic eruption in the
party. They`re going hard right and he`s their leader.
CILLIZZA: So, Chris, I would say I`m not sure he`s going to be the
nominee, but I do feel very confident that he`s the prime mover in the
party right now, which is that he acts and others react.
We saw that with his filibuster early in the year on drone strikes
which is not exactly -- sort of opposition to drone strikes is not
typically an issue where you see Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn,
all coming down to the floor of the Senate to support him. And, you know,
whether Marco Rubio and his people like it or not, I think the narrative
that comes out of that vote, Rand Paul was quite clearly always going to be
There was some debate over where Marco Rubio may come down. He comes
down as a no.
We know for a fact that Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are watching how
each other votes, seeing how it goes. I do think you`re right -- the
libertarian strain within the Republican Party. I think people
underestimate its power.
I think Rand Paul is the figure that best coalesces that group.
Again, he`s the prime mover in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: When you`re out there, do you sense the libertarian mood is
stronger -- the party of the Rudy Giuliani instinct, just four years, eight
years ago, remember? All Giuliani did was saying 9/11 and everybody shut
up, like Ron Paul had to shut up.
JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think the combination of a
decade of war, and that impact on the party, and the country more broadly,
combined with the fact that you`ve got a Democrat in the White House, has,
yes, led to an ascendant isolationist mood in the Republican Party. The
question is, how deep does that go?
MARTIN: We know it`s happening in the grassroots. Is it happening in
the donor class? That`s what you talk about --
MATTHEWS: Well, probably not. But if Iowa is the first donor class,
the people that give their votes -- let me ask you about the thing you just
MARTIN: It`s very much in Iowa. And keep in mind, Iowa across the
board, it`s a pretty dovish state, Democrat or Republican. It always has
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the thing you just touched on and,
This anti-Obama, I have a sense what you want to do is position
yourself as a Republican, as the most anti-Obama person running.
MATTHEWS: It`s the easiest -- the inside rail. Is part of that going
on here, not the ideological, we`re all Ayn Rand enthusiasts, than Rand is,
but that -- and all libertarians. But they really don`t like the cooties,
if you will. Like we used to say, don`t get your cooties on me when we
were in school. I was ten foot from Obama I didn`t feel comfortable, you
Is that part of this too, just don`t be an Obama associate?
MARTIN: I think the big challenge that Chris Christie has and it`s a
temporary challenge, but it`s certainly a real one, is the mere proximity.
You`re talking about cooties. Seriously, the mere proximity that Christie
had to Obama on the Jersey Shore, if you talk Republican activists today,
10 months later, 11 months later, that`s still the issue that comes up.
Not any stance he has, not any issue, it`s the fact that Christie was
next to Obama on the Jersey Shore a year ago after the hurricane. So, yes,
that`s going to be a challenge.
The question is, does that fade at all in 2016.
MATTHEWS: How about in this vote? Is that another disincentive to
vote with the president on Syria?
MARTIN: Keep in mind, Chris, George W. Bush got the nomination in
2000. His party had impeached President Clinton. He ran against not just
President Clinton, although he did, he ran against Washington generally.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MARTIN: So, he was certainly an establishment figure. I think there
is recent history here.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back. Let me go to Chris.
Is this a further disincentive for the Republican not to vote with the
president, on anything, but especially an act of war?
CILLIZZA: So, first of all, I take the senators at their words who
voted against it, that it`s based on principle. And I would say it relates
to Rand Paul, this is not a new position that Rand Paul has arrived at.
Rand Paul has been very consistent as his father was in saying, look, we
need to rethink our involvement abroad.
CILLIZZA: I would say, I do think the sort of success of -- we
haven`t talked about him all that much -- but the success Ted Cruz -- if
you want to say, who gets the biggest response from early state audiences,
it`s Ted Cruz. What is Ted Cruz defined as? Repeal Obamacare, sort of the
most anti-Obama candidate.
None of these guys, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Scott
Walker, none of them operate in a political vacuum, they all look around
and see what the others are doing. I think the uproarious appeal that Ted
Cruz is getting is not lost in the Marco Rubio --
MATTHEWS: OK. Great. Thank you so much.
Chris, thank you much. Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Martin, thank you
so much from "new York Times" and from "The Washington Post". We got the
And we`ll be right. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this.
I believe that this debate over Syria is offering a roadmap to the
Republican nomination for President next time.
The candidate who wishes to be the nominee will be the one who
positions himself as directly as possible against President Obama.
You know. It`s for the simple new definition of the Republican Party:
it`s the anti-Obama party. The more you hate Obama, the more you are
deeply entrenched in the deepest bunker of the GOP. The further away from
Obama, the further right you are -- and that is the safest place to be come
So watch this episode, the testing zone, this ground-zero for
political posturing. Rand Paul voted against the Syrian resolution today.
Marco Rubio, another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, followed
him, also voting "Nay."
Watch when we get to the Senate floor. It will be the same -- anyone
who wants in in 2016 will vote to stay out of Syria.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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