April 29, 2014
Guests: Isiah Thomas, Jemele Hill, William Rhoden, Kweisi Mfume, Jeremy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hi-yo Silver!
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York again.
And "Let Me Start" tonight with this afternoon`s banning for life of NBA
team owner Donald Sterling. Is this something bigger than basketball,
bigger even than sports? Is this a national setting of a higher bar for
public and private behavior on matters dealing with race? Is this decision
to shun Sterling from the nation`s professional league mark a hiking up of
standards, private and public both? Are we now in an environment where
hate speech, even in the most personal kind and setting, is a matter for
Well, tonight, we look at the fall-out of what may go down as an historic
condemnation. The verdict from the NBA is that Donald Sterling can no
longer own a team, can no longer even attend NBA games.
Isiah Thomas is an NBA legend. He`s a Hall-of-Famer, a former coach, part
owner, and team executive. He also served as president of the NBA Players
Association. And Jemele Hill is a columnist with ESPN and co-host of
"Numbers Never Lie."
Well, late today NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as I said, announced that
the league had verified the authenticity of those recordings that set off
this firestorm and that it was fining -- the NBA was fining Sterling the
maximum amount of $2.5 million.
But that was just the beginning. Here`s the commissioner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: Effective immediately, I am banning Mr.
Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or
the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may
not be present at any Clippers facility. And he may not participate in any
business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be
barred from attending NBA board of governors meetings or participating in
any other league activity.
We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling`s views. They simply have no
place in the NBA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Commissioner Silver also announced that he would be
pressing for a vote by the league`s owners to force Sterling to sell the
team, to sell the Clippers. He also made it very clear that his verdict
was not based on Sterling`s past actions. In other words, those audio
recordings are the only evidence the league needed.
Here`s a key portion of those tapes, originally obtained by TMZ.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND: People call you and tell you that I have black
people on my Instagram, and it bothers you?
DONALD STERLING, CLIPPERS OWNER: Yes, it bothers me a lot, if you want to
broadcast that you`re associating with black people. How about your whole
life, every day, you could do whatever you want You could sleep with them.
You could bring them in You could do whatever you want. The little I ask
you is not to promote it on that and not to bring them to my games.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Isiah Thomas, thanks for coming on. You`ve had a lot of
experience with this league. Does this stun you, or you`d expect this kind
of verdict? I mean, for life -- it`s almost something out of the bible --
ISIAH THOMAS, NBA HALL OF FAME PLAYER: Well, when you look at the words
and the language that was had in a private setting but came out publicly --
THOMAS: -- and you look at the sport of the NBA -- this is a -- this is
a league that has fought racism and racialization since its existence. And
this is a place that embraces diversity. We speak to all races, classes --
THOMAS: -- creeds and gender. And this is a place where the
commissioner took a leadership position today. Adam Silver did something
today that not only stands in the arena of sports, but also goes outside of
the arena because the values that we try to exude and exhibit in sport
mirrors the ones that we want in society.
Sports is the backdrop for society in terms of values. Sport is a way that
we transport our game culturally, intellectually across the world. So this
is a big moment for us. This is a defining moment not only for the NBA,
but also for society at large if we can take advantage and have the -- and
continue to have --
MATTHEWS: That`s what I was asking --
THOMAS: -- an open dialogue and discussion.
MATTHEWS: -- you. You`ve answered it. Jemele, do you agree with that,
that we`re talking here about a new -- it`s hard to codify this in words,
what words are in, what words are out. We know some that are out. But
this is more about a private conversation which has become exposed because
of a tape recording. And it`s really about a point of view exposed in
words, rather than a particularly bad vocabulary.
I mean, he just said what he thought. He didn`t want his girlfriend, I
guess you could call her, showing up with black guys. I mean, that was his
statement, clearly stated. It`s his position. And the NBA commissioner
said, Saying that is unacceptable.
So what`s that say about the league, sports, America?
JEMELE HILL, ESPN SPORTS WRITER: I think for so long that sports -- we
often saw players held to a certain standard in the workforce, if you will.
Now it`s a new day in the sense -- and it`s the same way in the NFL. You
know, Roger Goodell has a situation on his hands with Jim Irsay -- that
where now, you`re seeing the power structure being held accountable. And I
think that`s what made this much more unique than what we`ve seen in the
Now, I know a lot of people -- and Mark Cuban even brought this up himself,
talking about, is this a slippery slope because you are punishing somebody
for something they said in private. Well, I think there are numerous
examples in today`s society that everybody`s a reporter. You know, you
can`t just go out to dinner. You have people with their own individual
smartphones. You have people taping conversations. So I think it`s just,
if anything, another lesson about whether or not you -- about whether or
not you should be careful.
I, on the other hand, am OK with how this all came to light. And in a
weird way, it`s poetic justice because here was a man who had been known
for his seedy and shady and unscrupulous business practices, and lo and
behold, he gets done in what seems to be like under a similar vein (ph).
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at that. Speaking of that slippery
slope, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is sticking up for Sterling when
it comes to his ownership of the team, warning that forcing Sterling to
sell the team could lead to a what Mark Cuban calls a slippery slope.
Here`s Cuban speaking to reporters yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: It`s a very, very, very slippery
slope. You know, if it`s about racism and we`re ready to kick people out
of the league, OK. Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who
doesn`t like a particular religion? What about somebody who`s anti-
Semitic. What about a xenophobe?
In this country, people are allowed to be morons. They`re allowed to be
stupid. They`re allowed to think idiotic thoughts. It`s a slippery slope
when you start trying to remove people from the NBA or any organization
based off of their private thoughts that they have at home. That`s damn
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Damn scary. What the -- that`s the slippery slope argument.
What do you make about that, people are allowed to be morons, Isiah?
THOMAS: Well, yes --
MATTHEWS: Aren`t they allowed to be morons?
THOMAS: Well, yes, but there`s also a protecting of the sanctity of the
game and of the sport. And in this case, you know, when you`re talking
about racism and racialization in this country and the history of this
country and an African-American league that`s predominantly African-
American, 80 to 85 percent of the players, you know, words carry weight and
words have tradition --
THOMAS: -- particularly in this country. And we have to be careful and
we have to be sympathetic to the words that are being used and the way
they`re being used in this setting. And they do transfer outside of the
MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- let`s get into how we`re -- how this is
(INAUDIBLE) like, get out there, manifest itself beyond this one decision.
What`s it going to -- like a court decision. It`s going to become a
I remember when we had the Marge Schott case, you remember, in Cincinnati?
THOMAS: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And she said her stuff. And her lawyer -- smart guy, I know
him, Bob Bennett from Washington -- said, OK, you want to play this game,
owners, every one of you owners, I want to depose you, put you under oath
and ask if you`ve ever used words like this ever, and you`re going to be
under oath for this.
So here`s -- I don`t think anybody`s pulled that number lately, but a smart
lawyer would say, OK -- suppose this guy`s lawyer, Sterling`s lawyer, says
OK, fellow owners, I want depositions publicly taken. I want to hear you
say you`ve never said anything about other ethnic groups or (INAUDIBLE) put
a whole category. Homophobia is mentioned. What happens then? This gets
pretty terrifying to some people, I would say -- I would guess.
THOMAS: It really does. But for the 30 owners and the 400-plus players in
our league, you know, we have a sanctity and a moral code that we try to
live by in terms of protecting the sport --
THOMAS: -- because again, this is not only for us, but this is for the
kids. You know, there are a lot of kids, There are a lot of young people
that watch our sport, who emulate us and who practice the values that we
try to preach. And we try to have in sport a level playing field. Sport
is the place where you come in society --
THOMAS: -- where you say there`s a level playing field. This is a place
where black, white, you know --
MATTHEWS: It`s merit-based.
THOMAS: -- all different --
MATTHEWS: -- the one area which I think is totally merit-based.
THOMAS: So you have to be careful here.
MATTHEWS: Jemele, this is fascinating the way Isiah Thomas has talked
about this, this idea of -- the way that the African-American players have
come to dominate the sport of basketball, effectively, with amazing talent,
and not just athleticism. The shooting ability -- I`ve grown up -- all the
sports -- one sport has changed dramatically in my lifetime, and that`s
MATTHEWS: It`s so much better. The players are so much more able to hit
these three-pointers with amazing swishes, relentless.
THOMAS: Seth Curry (ph).
MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s just -- I mean, the talent that`s on display, the
eye-hand coordination, whatever you want to call it, this dynamic in sports
-- the question is, the fans have accepted that. They`ve accepted merit-
based. How are the fan goings to react to this, do you think, or they`ll
just say this guy got what he deserved?
HILL: Well, let me just quickly address something, though, Chris. It`s a
kind of -- hopefully, a bit of a bone (ph) on the last conversation. I
understand what you mean about this -- those who are free speech
enthusiasts thinking that this means that their right is somehow infringed
upon. Even though the commissioner said that he didn`t take Donald
Sterling`s past behavior into account --
HILL: -- you can`t possibly think that he didn`t think about it at all.
And I think that`s a major piece to this because if this -- if Donald
Sterling`s comments on their own -- if we just had the audio, and let`s say
that up until now, he had a clean track record and we didn`t know about
anything else --
HILL: -- I think he would have been dealt with differently. I think he
would have very much --
MATTHEWS: That`s not what the commissioner said. And I`m telling, I`m
watching that commissioner, I`m thinking the guy`s thinking legalese. He`s
thinking, I better say it`s based just on this incident. There must have
been some reason, Jemele, why he said just this incident.
HILL: Well, yes, and it was probably legally. That`s probably what he
needed to say. But Chris, you and I, I mean, we both have a bit more
common sense than that. You mean to tell me he`s not going to take into
account the fact that this man has been sued multiple times and settled
those lawsuits --
HILL: -- for sexual harassment, for racial discrimination? That would
indicate that he not only thinks these things, he puts them into practice.
And that`s the true definition of racism, which is why I would not put this
in a category of simplifying it the way that Mark Cuban did. Mark Cuban is
trying to treat him like a first-time offender. I`m sorry, I consider
Donald Sterling a career racist because that`s what his track record
certainly indicates. And I think it`s more than fine -- maybe not from
Adam Silver from a legal perspective, but for me as a basketball fan, it`s
OK for me to look at him from that perspective.
Now, you asked about the fans, I think now that the commissioner has
essentially put the -- given the death penalty to this particular owner,
they probably feel a lot better about rooting for the Clippers, a lot
better about tonight`s game --
MATTHEWS: That`s interesting.
HILL: -- and a lot better about rooting for the Clippers, therefore, to
pursue winning a title, which is what this all was about to begin with.
But I can`t say I`m sorry that it came out at this particular time because
I wonder, would we have had the same reaction if this were occurring in
MATTHEWS: Yes. Your expertise is on display here. I want to take
advantage of it, Jemele. What are the percentage chances of the Clippers
winning the title this year?
HILL: Well, I still say the Miami Heat is the favorite. But I think if
you had asked anybody after the last game, considering how lifeless and
emotionless they looked, with the weight of this issue hanging over there,
I think we have all have given them a zero percent chance.
But they`ve been a pretty good team all season, and what`s lost in all of
this is that they set a franchise record for wins, and this has been a
historically below average subpar franchise. So I would say that right
now, with this new lease on life, feeling probably a lot of relief that the
situation is resolved, I think I would definitely put them in that bracket
of top three or four teams that have a chance to get to the finals.
MATTHEWS: So they`ve got a shot, anyway. Thank you so much, Jemele Hill.
And thank you -- honor to meet you sir -- Isiah Thomas.
Coming up, millionaires don`t -- well, they`re not slaves but they are
millionaires. That`s how New York sports columnist William Rhoden reviews
many of America`s top African-American athletes, wealthy but not free.
This is going to be an interesting discussion. It`s coming up right now
after this commercial.
Also, President Obama takes on the armchair generals out there. Don`t you
love them? Why are those on the right so eager to engage militarily, even
after Afghanistan and the tragedy of Iraq? I think that`s a good question,
and the president has answered it.
And speaking of the right, the hawks are after John Kerry now over a word
he used in describing Israel`s long-term choices if it can`t reach a two-
state solution. Well, let`s face it, their real goal, these critics, is to
prevent any kind of peace treaty with the Palestinians.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the crowd that is always talking war.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A federal judge in Milwaukee has struck down Wisconsin`s voter
identification law. U.S. district judge Lynn Adelman invalidated the law,
which would have required voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the
polls. Republicans who supported the law say it would cut down on voter
fraud, but the judge agreed with the law`s opponents, who said it
disproportionately hurts poor and minority voters, who tend to vote
Well, Governor Scott Walker says he believes the law is constitutional and
Wisconsin`s attorney general says the state will appeal the judge`s
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Sterling`s racist remarks have
not only (sic) sparked a national outcry that revealed how a professional
basketball team owner could be so starkly at odds with the very players
he`s profiting from. This morning, Oprah Winfrey weighed in on that on
CBS, saying that Sterling has a, quote, "plantation mentality."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oprah, I know you`ve been following this story.
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Of course I`ve been following the story,
and it feels like a plantation mentality in the 21st century, in 2014. It
just doesn`t fit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Nate Silver`s 538 blog crunched the numbers and found that
76 percent of NBA players are African-American, 43 percent of NBA coaches
are African-American, but when it comes to ownership, just 2 percent of
majority team owners are black, while 98 percent are white. In other
words, to put it simply, Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats. That`s
Well, in his book, "Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and
Redemption of the Black Athlete," William Rhoden, who`s right here, argued
that while African-Americans may have achieved wealth from the industry,
they haven`t necessarily gained or exercised real power within it. And
with us now is him, the author of the book, "New York Times" sports
columnist, William Rhoden. And also, we`ve got joining us a real expert
for history, the history of the Civil Rights movement, former U.S.
congressman from Maryland Kweisi Mfume, who`s also a former president of
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Congressman, we`ll get to you. I
want to start with William here.
WILLIAM RHODEN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Sure.
MATTHEWS: Give me your basic thrust because we all think about NBA players
as being well off. If they`ve got a 10-year career, they make $5 million,
$10 million a year, they may end up saving 50 million bucks, with all the
endorsement opportunities. It`s not just the payroll, it`s the
MATTHEWS: So how are they badly off, if you will?
RHODEN: Well, nobody is saying they`re badly off. I mean, they`re making
But you got to figure out, if -- if somebody could pay 15 players $10
million each, how much is he making, you know? So, that`s --
MATTHEWS: Well, they get a -- well, you know, too, they get a percentage
at the gate with a cap deal.
RHODEN: Yes, but --
MATTHEWS: It`s always about, what is it, half the money coming in the door
goes to the players or something that like that.
But the point is, they are well off, relatively speaking, many better off
than they would be if they`re not playing. But this is an issue of power.
I mean, you can be paid money. A lot of enslaved people actually made
money, but they had no power.
And they didn`t share in the revenue. It would be different if, like, they
said, OK, on the plantation, you could get 50 percent of the cotton sales.
RHODEN: It still wouldn`t -- the barbarism is one thing. But at least you
could say, well, OK, well, we split it 50-50.
RHODEN: But, in this case, there is -- it`s sort of like white labor -- I
mean, black labor, white wealth. So that`s the premise of this book.
MATTHEWS: But didn`t it used to be, before the big development of black
athletes` ability to dominate the NBA, you had white athletes making a lot
RHODEN: But everybody was making less.
MATTHEWS: But they didn`t own the teams.
RHODEN: Well, but everybody was making less.
And the point is -- and we talked about this -- the point is -- that`s the
point that Kurtis Blow made. All of them are on a plantation, whether
you`re talking about hockey, Major League Baseball, the NBA.
RHODEN: They`re all on a plantation. And probably a lot of white guys
don`t know that they`re on a plantation until something hits them.
But I think that one thing that`s germane here is that -- I mean, you know,
I was at the press conference. And, you know, they kind of brought
Sterling out and stoned him and all, and everybody is, yes, the wicked
witch is dead.
But I would tell a lot of those players that if you take a tour through
your particular franchises, go up to marketing, go up to sales, go through
all the executive office. You will be stunned how many back folks there
are not. There are not going to be many black folks at all.
MATTHEWS: I know, but they`re making more than those guys.
RHODEN: Well, but the point is that you`re a majority where they need you.
But when you go up to the offices --
OK. I want to go back to -- Congressman, do you accept this premise that
we have got a labor force of -- I don`t even call them labor -- super
talented professionals who make the money, who make the fans come to the
games and watch on TV, and the guys who make money off of that -- isn`t
that the nature of capitalism, just to be blunt about it?
KWEISI MFUME (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is. It is. It is.
But the nature of capitalism only moves to create opportunities when there
are pressures applied. I agree totally with Bill Rhoden and I agree with
Oprah also. It`s a plantation mentality, but we can`t just focus on just
this one incident, because when you look at the other 29 teams and what
they`re not doing when it comes to corporate officers, when it comes to
vice presidents, when it comes to marketing, communications, it`s a shame.
It`s almost like what major newspapers are doing in this country. You get
the sense that they care about opportunities until you walk into the
newsroom and you begin to wonder what`s going on here. So there`s a
disconnect. This issue has given people the opportunity, I think, if we`re
serious, to really look at what is not going on, and not just focus on
Donald Sterling alone, but the rest of the teams.
MATTHEWS: OK. But I think I`m playing devil`s advocate. So I hear --
here`s your guy, here`s your exhibit A, Donald Sterling. Here he is
defending his -- what he thinks is his kind treatment of African-American
players to his former girlfriend -- well, not at the time former, I guess,
but certainly former now -- on the tape released by that Deadspin over the
Let`s take a look at how what he describes what sounds like a plantation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
rMD-BO_DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: You just -- do I
know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and
houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I
know that I have -- who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they
make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is like Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men." He just comes
out and makes your point for you.
RHODEN: I should just probably send him a thank you note, thank you note.
And that`s exactly -- somebody who says, well, on the plantation, they
didn`t like the enslaved people. Well, no, in fact, many of them did like,
you know, Jacques and Jan. They did like you like children. It was a
And it`s the same thing here. And I think that Kweisi makes a great point.
A lot of people would love to just leave it here, say the wicked witch is
dead, racism is over, colorblind, let`s move on to the next one. And the
point, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, let`s follow the truth where it leads,
because this is much more pervasive.
You go to a Major League press -- you like -- you go to a Major League
press box, particularly during the baseball season, you would think you
were in 1955.
RHODEN: So it`s one thing to focus on Sterling, and then let the story
over, but it`s much larger than this, much deeper than this.
MATTHEWS: It`s people like me that wanted to be writers and other guys
want to play ball. There are differences in where you want to go.
You know who your hero ought to be? My hero is Thaddeus Stevens. I`m sure
Kweisi Mfume knows about that, because when slavery ended, there was a guy
from Pennsylvania, a congressman, a white guy, his mistress was black, he
had a black woman girlfriend. You know what he wanted to do? He said,
don`t just free the people. Give them 40 acres and a mule. Give them some
And we`re really talking about capital here and the lack of it being
devoted towards development of a real enterprise by black Americans.
MFUME: And we`re talking about opportunities.
MFUME: You have got to provide opportunities.
Otherwise, it calls into questions behaviors like this. There are a lot of
Donald Sterlings out there in this society. He just happened to trip up
and get caught, so we heard about him.
MFUME: But there are others that think that way. Chris, this is not a
post-racial society. Racism is alive and well.
MATTHEWS: OK. I understand. But Let`s talk positively well. Michael
Jordan owns the Bobcats. How do you get more black owners?
MFUME: Let me just say this. I don`t think -- the issue isn`t really not
how do you get more black owners, in my opinion. How do we get the other
29 teams to do what they ought to do to create opportunities for hundreds
and hundreds of qualified Latinos and African-Americans and others?
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean in the white-collar jobs in the offices, you`re
MATTHEWS: That`s what you mean, yes.
RHODEN: But let`s go with your point.
If you had -- listen, because remember we said that everybody is on the
plantation. So, the problem is not just getting black ownership, but
getting enlightened black ownership, because a black guy can turn it into a
MATTHEWS: Well, who do you like? Let`s be positive. Who do you like?
Jordan? Who is doing this? Magic Johnson has got enterprises all over
Harlem. He`s really -- around the country, I should say.
MATTHEWS: There are entrepreneurs out there.
RHODEN: Magic is great. Jordan is great.
Rube Foster was great. You know who Rube Foster was. Rube Foster -- Rube
Foster started Negro National League back in 1920. And what he said, he
wanted to avoid this whole mess. He said, you know what? We have got tons
of black baseball players. We have got black banks. Let`s start our own
league, so we don`t have to have this nonsense.
And he did it for 20 years, but finally Major League -- white Major League
Baseball said oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We`re not going to -- we`re
not going to have that nonsense.
RHODEN: And so the point is, yes, we had black banks, black baseball and
all that kind of stuff. But certain people thought that we would be better
MFUME: Let me play the devil`s advocate once.
MATTHEWS: OK. Sure.
MFUME: It`s almost like saying, oh, if we could just get a black guy on
the Supreme Court to replace Thurgood Marshall.
MFUME: So you need enlightened African-American leadership, not just
MATTHEWS: OK. Look --
MFUME: Michael -- Michael Jordan is great, and I love him and I love what
But I think he would tell you also the problem is bigger than just who will
own a team.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about plaiters. We saw they had muscle this
week. When those guys turned their jerseys inside out, right, on the Kings
RHODEN: That was fine, yes.
MATTHEWS: On the Clippers.
RHODEN: -- 1968, where they stood up with the black power solution.
MATTHEWS: I remember.
RHODEN: But for 2014, that was fine.
MATTHEWS: What do you want the players to do, before we quit tonight?
RHODEN: Well, this should be the beginning.
This should be the -- first of all, they should stop using the N-word in
the locker room. You can`t have it both ways. You can`t say, Donald
Sterling disrespected us, but then you disrespect each other every day.
That`s got to stop, number one, or else this really means nothing.
RHODEN: If you continue to disrespect yourself and call each other the N-
word, then you know what? You`re just as bad as Donald Sterling. So stop
The second thing is, basically, this should be the beginning of a movement
to make the NBA Players Association Strong, because, overnight, you have
got -- you will be the most powerful organization overnight.
You have all these young, rich African-American men who can come together
and actually have some muscle. And if it takes -- you know, it always
takes something like to make people react. Let`s be proactive. You know,
let`s be proactive.
Well, it`s a start. I think the team had a big role in this, when the
Clippers took those jerseys and reversed them. I think it got things on
the ground there.
Anyway, thank you. It`s great to have you on. What a guest.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, the thing about the N-word, I`m a white guy.
But I understand.
RHODEN: You really --
MFUME: You really are.
MATTHEWS: It`s not my job to talk about the locker room and the towel
snapping that goes on. But the use of that word does play into this in a
very interesting way.
RHODEN: Yes. No, no, it does.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MFUME: It ought to stop. It really ought to stop.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, William Rhoden, a powerful voice, here on HARDBALL.
We`re lucky to have you. And I`m not kidding.
Kweisi, as always, sir, Kweisi Mfume, thank you for joining us.
MFUME: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And still ahead: President Obama defends his foreign policy
from those let`s call them chicken hawks out there. They love the idea of
war for somebody else.
But, first, Stephen Colbert on one thing the president forgot to do on his
trip to Asia.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Japanese culture, a deep bow is very often seen as a
sign of apology or contrition. And the greater the apology, the greater
TUCKER CARLSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, the Japanese invade Pearl
Harbor, and you bow.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Oh. Oh. It goes back even
further than that, Tucker. I mean, Obama spent years on the very same
island as Pearl Harbor groveling to Japan on his hands and knees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow," of course.
And everybody is a critic when it comes to President Obama and his recent
trip to Asia. Right-wing media hound -- great work for him -- Matt Drudge
was quick to jump on the president for bowing to a robot in Japan with this
But according to Stephen Colbert, that bow wasn`t the president`s only faux
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
COLBERT: So, with all this bungling, it`s no surprise that the president
left Japan without the trade agreement and without the Hello Kitty backpack
he promised Joe Biden.
COLBERT: Someone is going to throw a tantrum.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Finally, we told you about an ad running in Ohio by J.D.
Winteregg, who is looking to take House Speaker John Boehner`s seat. The
Tea Party candidate`s campaign created a parody of a commercial for
medication to treat erectile dysfunction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Sometimes, when a politician has been in D.C. too long, it goes
to his head, and he just can`t seem to get the job done.
Used on a daily basis, Winteregg in Congress will help you every time the
moment is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While the ad was meant to be humorous, one group didn`t find it
Cedarville University, a Christian college where Winteregg has been an
adjunct professor for three years, has told the candidate his contract will
not be renewed.
Winteregg told "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "They said because of the
ad, my relationship with them will be done. It`s over. The ad obviously
touched a nerve."
Up next: President Obama calls out the chicken hawks, the ones always
beating the drums for America to go to the latest war opportunity.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
A funnel cloud was spotted earlier in Stedman, North Carolina. Severe
weather warnings are in effect for parts of the South.
A gunman opened fire at a FedEx facility in Georgia, wounded six people,
before turning the gun on himself. Authorities say the shooter was an
employee at that location.
And Malaysia`s transport minister says he`s aware that possible wreckage
has been found in the Bay of Bengal and that the potential lead will be
investigated -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama delivered an unusually strong rebuke yesterday to his
critics who say he hasn`t been tough enough on foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, most of the foreign
policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong
into a bunch of military adventures that the American people have no
interest in participating in and would not advance our core security
For some reason, many who were proponents of what I considered to be a
disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven`t really learned the lesson of
the last decade. And they kind of just playing the same note over and over
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was the president in the Philippines on the last leg
of his weeklong trip to Asia.
And over and over again, whether on Iran, Syria or Ukraine, critics of the
president`s have accused him of not being tough enough dealing with foreign
adversaries, he`s being naive or weak or indecisive.
Well, what would they have done differently? What would they do tomorrow
differently when it comes to dealing with foreign crises? The answer
frequently involves banging the war drums.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I worry when we
begin to address a crisis by -- the first we do is take options off the
table. There are military options that don`t involve putting troops on the
ground in Crimea. We could go back and reinstate the ballistic missile
defense program that was taken out.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president said we will -- quote --
"consider other options." The president should have said we`re going to
provide military assistance to Ukraine and that will be in defensive
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We could make life pretty
miserable for Putin in an awful lot of ways. You want him to be
humiliated. He needs to be weakened at home.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He very much cares about
democracy on his borders. I would like to create a democratic noose around
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He would gut our arsenal while he
allows others, enemies, to enrich theirs? Man, that`s just like a liberal
on gun control.
Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good
guy with a nuke.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Joan Walsh is editor at large for Salon. And Michael
Steele is the former chair of the Republican National Committee. Both are
MSNBC political analysts.
Michael, what would you make of the charge against the president that he`s
weak, that he is not tough enough? Do you agree with that?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that there`s some truth
aspects to what the president has done and how he`s approached some of the
policy decisions even involving the latest kerfuffle with the secretary of
state and his comments, you know, on Israel. I think it sort of plays into
a narrative that keeps our allies a little bit unsure, a little bit
unsteady about where the administration is going to go.
And particularly with respect to Crimea and Ukraine, you know, what is the
strategy? I mean, how come we`re waiting so long to bring in the heavy
handle of economic sanctions here that could really cause Putin some pain?
STEELE: I mean, keep in mind, Chris, yesterday, the Russian stock market
went up, not down. So, the fact of the matter is, there are some things
that are still left -- that have been taken off the table that maybe should
be put back on that don`t involve the military but will bring some pressure
to Vladimir Putin.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Joan, and then I`ll get back to you, Michael. But
it seems to me that the big different between Republican and Democratic
foreign policy is, the big difference is, the Republican president we just
had, W, is not a painter, took us into an Iraq war.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Right.
MATTHEWS: And this guy we have now, who I support on so many issues,
President Obama, is trying to negotiate a way to avoid going to war with
MATTHEWS: The Republicans are still proud of their damn Iraq policy and
seem to have a problem with trying to negotiate their way out of a war with
Iran. So, on the big broad strokes, one party is hawkish and one party is
dovish, and to me that is the issue. I think dovish still looks a lot
better than hawkish.
WALSH: And it looks a lot better than hawkish to the American people, too,
Chris. I mean, this president is speaking for the American people. You
know, I think what he doesn`t get nearly enough credit for what he did on
Iran. And I think that`s the model.
You know, Michael, to my knowledge, he hasn`t taken anything off the table.
Yes, they are moving slowly on sanctions. They`re trying to bring along an
international coalition. And that`s what worked on Iran.
And so, I haven`t heard things taken off the table. I`ve heard talk of,
how do we bring along our allies? How do we make things tougher? And yes,
we don`t go immediately economic sanctions. That`s tough on the Russian
people. It`s also not where our allies are right now.
If these sanctions that they imposed yesterday don`t do something, then
they`ll go to tougher sanctions. The president said that. Nothing is off
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Michael, do you support this sort of general
approach on the right? I know you`re not on the hard right, of issues like
-- well, let`s arm the Libyan rebels. Let`s arm the Syrian rebels. Let`s
This constant effort to support military action by people we take sides
with, even if we`re not sure they`re the good guys. That seems to be the
instinct of McCain and other people in the party. I just see it all the
STEELE: Yes, Chris, I agree with you on that. I don`t think that`s
necessarily the approach you rush approach headlong into here. Take AK-47
here, take a box of grenades, I think there are other ways and other
aspects of military engagement through our central intelligence community,
through our NSA community and other assets we can put on the ground to
disrupt internally, to get information, and to bring to bear the
appropriate levels of pressure that we seem to have forgotten how to do.
So, I`m not -- I`m not sitting here saying oh, let`s go charging in, you
know, blind to the military, blind to any other options, only military.
But I`m just thinking the administration at this point seems to have moved
in such a fashion that people are even doubting whether or not the options
you are taking are going to be valid enough to actually get the job done.
WALSH: But, you know, Michael, you know, he couldn`t get Congress behind
him for any kind of military action in Syria. John McCain was incredibly
reckless in his talks about the Syrian rebels. He was calling them
moderate and secular. We don`t know who they are. He doesn`t know who
And, you know, we`ve gotten 87 percent, 88 percent of the chemical weapon
stockpile out of there, based on the same kind of careful international
movement. So, I think those are things to point to that are successes.
STEELE: Yes, but the story in Syria is not over yet, number one.
WALSH: No, it`s not.
STEELE: Number two, I agree with you that, you know, the whole point that
John McCain was making about the rebels we don`t know really makes my
point. We don`t know. So, why aren`t we using the kind of assets on the
ground so that we do know who we`re dealing with, what their motives are
and what will actually move the foreign policy dial?
MATTHEWS: OK. My problem, and I think it was the president`s, was it`s
easy to be an armchair critic because no matter what you advocate, there
are no consequences. However, if you`re president, Michael, what you do
So, people like Bill Kristol can say he wants Putin to be humiliated. What
is this? Has he ever been in a schoolyard fight even? What will -- rub
his face in the asphalt. What do you mean humiliated?
I mean, give me a break. We`re going to lose soldiers so somebody can
humiliate somebody on the other ideological side. It`s absurd.
STEELE: Well, we know where the neo-cons are coming from.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. I`m glad you`re not with them. Michael,
you`re a great man. On this issue, you`re nuanced in the wrong direction,
but that`s OK.
Thank you, John Walsh. Thank you, Michael Steele.
STEELE: All right, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, more from the hawks on the right. There are also, as
you just heard after Secretary of State John Kerry for his comment --
actually, it was a word about Israel. We`re going to get to that word and
what it means if anything in this context going down the road.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: I`ve told you before about our great partnership with the group
Born Free, which is working on an ambitious goal to completely eliminating
the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from mother to child,
believe it or not, by the end of next year. That`s the goal. No children
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If you want to help this very important mission, you can find more
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site all the time, Hardball.MSNBC.com.
And we`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
The war hawks on the right wing will do anything to politicize Israel and
the peace process, we know that. And their recent attacks on Secretary of
State John Kerry is their way of opposing his efforts at peace between the
Israelis and the Palestinians, we all know that.
Well, Secretary Kerry is being criticized this week for remarks he made
last Friday in a closed door meeting. The remarks were recorded by Josh
Rogin of "The Daily Beast."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: A unitary state winds up either being an
apartheid state with second class citizens or it winds up being a state
that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Beth Fouhy, senior editor of MSNBC.com, and Jeremy Ben-Ami
is president of the pro-Israel group J Street.
Jeremy, thank you very much.
I want to get to the thing we could learn from. Not the gotcha about the
word here "apartheid". If it wasn`t for the use of the word "apartheid",
his statement that if we don`t get something like a two-state solution in
the near term or ever, we end up with Israel facing a terrible choice
that`s been talked about 40 or 50 years I have heard the conversation. You
either end up having Arab people live as are residents in your country but
not as citizens and therefore you don`t have true democracy or you allow
the Arabs to all vote and you end up with a non-Jewish state, a Levantine
I thought that was well-known that terrible set of choices down the road.
JEREMY BEN-AMI, J STREET PRESIDENT: Exactly. That`s the case that
Secretary of State Kerry has been making for over a year. He`s poured
heart and soul into an evident to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict to achieve two states for two people so that Israel doesn`t face
the choice that he outlined.
Now, whether or not he should have used the word isn`t the issue. The real
pro-Israel community should be standing up and thanking Secretary of State
Kerry for the effort that he`s put in to trying to save Israel as a Jewish
home and as a democracy rather than attack him for using a wrong word at
the wrong time.
MATTHEWS: So, Beth, to the politics of this, which you fully understand.
So, I`ll ask you the obvious question -- why are the people, the critics on
the right, leading the attack. And why do people on the Democratic side
feel they have to join it? Because of that word, the word "apartheid".
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Well, the word was unfortunate. Secretary Kerry
dialed it back and said he shouldn`t have used it and he wished he could
unspool the tape and so forth. Look, it was a reflection of his
frustration over not being able to get a deal, and if a deal that needs to
be reached at some point for the reason that you`re saying.
This situation in Israel is unsustainable as it`s going now. But, you`re
right now -- the Republicans jumped on this very quickly because there`s
been this concerted effort right from the beginning of this president`s
first term to paint him as somehow weak on foreign policy, not muscular.
And in particular, not being fully supportive of Israel, which is really
toxic and a bad thing to call a president in Washington, D.C.
MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go back to this thing about the word. We learned
from Jimmy Carter, of course, Jeremy, that you use that word apartheid to
your chagrin at best. If he took it back which he has, what`s left is a
residue to attack him with?
Are they concerned that what he`s really saying is, if Israel doesn`t agree
to a two-state solution sometime, if it ends up being a state where you
have an annexation of the West Bank particularly, and you have a lot of
Arab residents who are not citizens, then it might be fair to use the word.
Is that where he`s in real trouble? Is that where we`re at here? Is that
what bothers people?
BEN-AMI: What bothers people on the right -- I mean, in Israel, the people
on the right simply want to take over control of all of the remaining land
that the Palestinians currently live on. So, that`s the right wing agenda
MATTHEWS: Are you sure of that? I know it was the old Meir Kahane thing -
- run them out of the country. Is that -- do people even -- Netanyahu
won`t say, "I`m against it." He says he`s for a two-state, even if he set
up some problems with that.
BEN-AMI: Well, a very significant part of his party, let alone the parties
in his coalition actually, support the annexation of the West Bank. And
they oppose a two-state solution. If Netanyahu tried to bring to his own
Likud Party a vote as to whether or not the country should pursue a two-
state solution, he would probably lose.
So, it`s a very right wing coalition. There are members of it who are part
of a two-state caucus, let`s say. But the majority of his own party and,
certainly the settler party to his right, wants all the land. That`s where
the right wing politically in this country is finding its alliances, a one-
MATTHEWS: Jeremy, it`s great to have you on. Beth, the politics.
It`s clear, Steve Israel, the head of the Democratic Campaign Committee and
people like Barbara Boxer, they have to play -- they have to jump on this,
FOUHY: Well, because we are Israel`s best friends. And we will continue
always to be and that will be the policy of this country.
MATTHEWS: And also, they got to play defense because they know what the
Republicans will do now, people like Matt Brooks, the Jewish Republicans.
FOUHY: Yes. And he had to dial it back and he did.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much.
We are all grown-ups and we know we make mistakes, you have to deal with
Jeremy Ben-Ami, thank you. With great efforts there with J Street.
And, Beth Fouhy, it`s great to have you on here at MSNBC.
When we return, I`ve got some thoughts of my own about this crowd that`s
always looking for war.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with these war hawks who seize on every
world conflict, whatever the sides, to root for American engagement. It
seems there is no war that can`t use military action or the threat of it.
In their alarmist world view, this country must forever be aiming its guns
at someone, somewhere, demanding they follow our orders.
Well, the effect of this posture, as we`ve learned in tragedies, is to
transform every regional difference into a loaded weapon. We set up a
demand, an ultimatum, to use an old war, where term, when that`s not met,
we have no choice but to act. Load her up. Argue that Saddam Hussein`s
possession of WMD constitutes a cause for war. Then accuse him of having
them and then it`s on to Baghdad.
Do the same with Iran, in Libya, and Syria, and Russia and what God knows
what other nation. Then, cock the hammer. If they don`t do what we demand
they do, we start the war drums.
Well, this has been the Geronimo talk before and after the hell and
stupidity of Iraq. Ever since Vietnam, the neoconservatives and the
militarist hawks have pushed this line. If a country fails to act the way
we`d like, we start war talk. We are always one thumb to nose away from
Well, this is the world of Dick Cheney, the American Enterprise Institute
and those killers of the keyboard, those chicken hawks who send others to
battle while they man the op-ed pages. Well, President Obama did a great
job in calling them out for what they are -- warriors without swords, hawks
without wings, patriots by the page, soldiers of the sound bite.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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