July 23, 2014
Guest: Michael Tomasky, John Feehery, William Taylor, Alicia Reece
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Is nothing sacred?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco.
And "Let Me Start" tonight with this relentless, shameless, negative,
partisan effort to destroy every effort to accomplish anything by the
president of the United States. Worse than any of it, the attempt to kill
"Obama care" in its crib, the refusal to back immigration reform, the
rejection of Obama`s plea for congressional action even with the urgent
border crisis, the cold-blooded opposition to background checks for gun
buyers. Worse than any of that are the poll numbers showing that the
average Republican out there is as feverish as the elected officials in
wanting and hoping the president will go down in the dirt.
This is the fact now facing voters. Can a political party win the minds
and hearts of this country by promising to do nothing, nothing but destroy
the efforts of the other party to govern?
Michael Tomasky`s a special correspondent with the DailyBeast, and David
Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief at "Mother
Republicans, as I said, are rooting for their leaders to knock down
President Obama. According to a new CNN/ORC poll conducted earlier this
year, 73 percent of Republicans hope that President Obama`s policies fail.
Only 14 percent of Republicans hope they succeed. That`s 59 point negative
Compare that to how Democrats viewed President George W. Bush in his sixth
year, which was a year after the CIA`s final report that found there were
no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which debunked, of course, the
entire justification for the Iraq war. Even then, six years into his
presidency, 40 percent of Democrats wanted Bush to succeed. Fifty-one
percent wanted him to fail. Those numbers are from a Fox News poll taken
Let me go to Michael Tomasky. There is a real difference between the
normal partisanship which faced George W. Bush -- and by the way, that`s
with all his limitations -- and the nasty hatred of the Republican rank and
file of this president to the point that something like four out of five of
them want him to go down in the dirt, fail on every single thing he tries
to do. And sometimes even if they agree with it, they want him to fail.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, DAILYBEAST: Chris, Democratic support for Bush on major
Bush initiatives actually wasn`t that low. I`ve looked up these numbers on
the five or six really major things that Bush did and counted the
percentages. On the tax cut, on the war vote, on No Child Left Behind,
there was pretty good Democratic support. The only big Bush thing that
didn`t get a lot of Democratic support was the Medicare reform of 2003.
But other than that, Democratic support for Bush was about a third,
something like that, on Capitol Hill.
Republican support for Obama on his major things -- 5 percent, 2 percent.
I mean, it`s really -- it`s nothing. And this is not new. This goes back
to 2009, the very first week of the administration, the stimulus bill. And
so it`s is that has been a constant for six years. And it`s, believe you
me, going to remain a constant for the next two-and-a-half years.
MATTHEWS: You know, David, you and I look at this thing in a kind of a
critical way, but I remember -- and I think you were with us on that in the
country -- when Bush stood with that firefighter down at ground zero after
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- everybody wasn`t running around saying, I hate Bush, he let
this thing happen. Everybody`s first response was, Let`s see what we can
do as a country to deal with this situation. It was a totally different
reaction in the first instance to -- to what -- every -- every time Obama
tries something, in the first instance, it`s kill Obama.
CORN: Well -- well, I remember, you know, you and I, Chris, were critics
of the war before the war. But I remember, once the war started, hoping
that it would succeed, hoping that Cheney and Bush were right and that I
and you were wrong.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
CORN: I mean, I didn`t want it to fail. I didn`t want it to happen, but
once it happened, I didn`t want it to fail.
I think there are two things that are overlapping here. You and I have
talked about for years that the Republicans and conservatives basically see
Obama as illegitimate, and they don`t want to give him credit for anything,
not the stimulus, the auto bailout, getting bin Laden. They just don`t
want to do it.
And the other thing here is ideological. The Republican Party has moved so
far to the right, they only stand for one thing now, and that`s, Government
is bad. Government is the problem. Government never works.
You put those things together, and they don`t want to give Obama any credit
and they don`t want to see government do anything good because it
undermines their only raison d`etre. The only reason to be at this moment,
if you`re Republican, is to dump on government, so you can`t concede that
there`s anything right, whether it`s "Obama care," the stimulus or any
other government initiative.
MATTHEWS: And they don`t even have a candidate right now they`d like to
see as president! That`s the amazing negativity.
Anyway, the latest example of the GOP dance of death over yesterday`s D.C.
court of appeals decision, which was actually brought the case -- the case
was brought by former Bush appointee and cheered by the hard right. That
shows the lengths the Republicans will go in their efforts to destroy the
president`s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
Paul Waldman, a contributing editor for "The American Prospect," put it
best in yesterday`s "Washington Post" on-line. Here`s what he wrote.
"Consider what it is Republicans are asking the courts to do here. They" -
- the Republicans -- "want millions of Americans to lose the subsidies they
got this year, in many if not most cases, making health insurance
completely unaffordable for them. And their justification is this: We
found a mistake in the law, so you people are screwed."
"It isn`t the first time Republicans have tried to topple the ACA by
deliberately trying to find ways to hurt people. Republican governors in
20 states, for example, rejected the law`s expansion of Medicaid, which
means that nearly six million working-class people, not rich people in
those states, won`t have access to health care under the law. And on top
of that, the GOP has led the charge in the 36 states refusing to even set
up their own health care exchanges. And in some cases, they`ve purposely
tried to make it harder for people to navigate into the system."
Back to you, Michael Tomasky. And this question is -- this is -- I`m going
to go through all the issues here, gun control, the economy, the border,
the most recent border crisis, of course the whole question of can`t we get
an immigration bill through -- it seems like they`re not just freezing the
ball, in basketball terms, the old four-corner offense, what they`re trying
to do is just make sure the country hates its government, it doesn`t like
it because it can`t do anything, and they make sure it doesn`t do anything.
That seems to be the strategy.
TOMASKY: Very conscious part of the strategy. There`s no question about
it because they know -- they`re the party of anti-government, as David just
said. And they know very well that if the American people hate government
and don`t trust government and don`t believe in government, in the long
run, and probably in the short run, too, they`re the ones who are going to
On the health care issue, you know, think about the longer context of this,
Chris. I remember, as both of you guys do, we started talking about the
millions of uninsured in this country back in Reagan`s time, back in the
`80s. And I remember when it was 15 million and then it was 30 million.
And now it`s -- before "Obama care," it was 45, 46, 47 million.
In all those years, the Republican Party has not done one thing to try and
insure these people, not one thing. The Democrats have tried twice, failed
once, succeeded once. And the Republicans have fought tooth and nail every
step of the way, thinking up every cockamamie legal strategy they could to
try and destroy an effort to give people health coverage.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I mentioned earlier, in addition to that, Michael, the
border crisis. President Obama asked --
TOMASKY: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: -- Congress to find the -- and address the border crisis back
on July 8th, not a million years ago. But since then, the GOP has punted
on the issue. They`ve blamed the president and they`ve advanced a lawsuit
against his executive authority.
Well, today, a Republican working group finally unveiled something of an
outline to address the crisis. That`s all what we need is an outline. But
even then, Speaker Boehner would not commit to bringing any border
legislation up for a vote before the August recess. In other words, in the
next eight days, that`s all they got have left before they go on vacation,
nothing`s going to get done -- though he did use the podium today to take
another crack at Obama. Here`s the speaker of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What the president is
asking for is a blank check. He wants us to just throw more money at the
problem without doing anything to solve the problem.
We`ve got a humanitarian crisis on the border. It has to be dealt with.
The president clearly isn`t going to deal with it on his own, even though
he has the authority to deal with it on his own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes, David, I think that`s David -- David
Aykroyd or whatever his name, take -- replace -- sort of imitating a --
CORN: Dan Aykroyd, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- speaker of the House -- Dan Aykroyd -- imitating a
CORN: Well, you know, you only have to go back to that wonderful video of,
you know, a few months ago, when John Boehner, you know, was talking back
home in Ohio, and they asked him about immigration reform and he started
saying the problem is his own guys saying, It`s too hard, it`s too hard!
They could pass immigration reform in two minutes. Bring the bipartisan
bill from the Senate for a vote in the House. At least 25 Republicans will
pass -- will vote for it. And it`s done.
So it`s really -- this whole song and dance about Obama being weak, not
doing anything, not caring, not -- you know -- you know, he`s not dealing
with the humanitarian crisis. And yet what`s happening on the House side?
Absolutely nothing. And they`re going away. They`re taking time off
rather than dealing with the immigration crisis that`s at hand.
CORN: The question, Chris, is how does Boehner continue to get away with
MATTHEWS: Well, last year, the Republicans killed a really modest gun
control bill. It was really about people -- keeping unstable people and
criminals from getting guns. And I don`t understand that. Anyway, Pat
Toomey of Pennsylvania -- here`s what he said afterwards, when it died. He
explained how his colleagues abandoned the effort. Quote, "There were some
on my side" -- the Republican side -- "who did not want to be seen helping
the president do something he wanted to get done just because the president
wanted to do it."
Michael Tomasky, David Corn, I`m going to give you this runthrough. On
every single big ticket item the American people care about, whether it`s
immigration, it`s crisis on the border right now or it`s gun control or
it`s the economy or it`s anything, health care, the Republicans` position
is nada, nothing, nothing. It`s -- how -- can they get away with it this
fall? Your last question for tonight, Michael.
TOMASKY: Yes, they can get away with it this fall, probably, because the
simple fact is that the Democratic base -- as of yet anyway -- isn`t really
revved up to come and vote about something, and the Republican base is
And your person who doesn`t pay that much attention to politics and may not
even be a midterm voter, that disciplined a voter -- your average person
looks at it and just thinks, Oh, dysfunction. It`s both of their faults.
You know, it`s everybody`s fault.
Well, no, it`s actually not. Big percentages of the American public
support immigration reform. They even are supporting now the "Obama care"
bill, at least to the extent of saying, Let`s keep it, not repeal it, and
try to fix it, 66 to 32 in a recent poll that I saw.
But you know --
TOMASKY: They`re going to get away with it.
CORN: Chris, my dad always told me when I was younger, Don`t get in a
fight with a skunk, you can`t win. You both come out smelling bad. And I
think the Republicans know that. They want to get their stink of
government dysfunction on the Democrats and make everything murky and a
mess. And as long as there`s not a media that cuts through this and gives
a clearer message, a lot of people look at Washington and throw up their
So I think they can get away with that, and they rigged, you know, as all
parties do, a lot of the districting, so that there are a lot of safe
districts and that the Democrats would need 55 percent of the vote
nationally to win back the majority of the House. That`s really not fair,
but that`s the way the game`s been rigged by the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: There are not always two sides. Thank you, Michael Tomasky, and
thank you, David Corn.
Coming up: Democrats have a plan to turn Georgia blue, not in 2020 or 2016,
but right now. Demographic changes have made Georgia the Democrats` best
shot for a U.S. Senate pick-up this November.
Also, can you shoot down a civilian plane and pay no price? So far, the
Europeans seem afraid. The U.S. has little leverage and the Russians are
suffering no consequences.
Plus, fewer voting machines, reduced early voting days, attempts to end
weekend voting -- it`s all happening in Ohio, and we`re going to talk it a
state lawmaker who`s fighting back.
And how desperate is Michele Bachmann for attention? Desperate enough that
she`s complained that no one is speculating about whether she`ll run for
president. Wonder why?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Take a look at this new poll that shows people actually think
"Obama care" is working. A CNN poll out today shows a majority of
Americans say the president`s health care law has either benefited them
personally or others. Eighteen percent say they or their family have
benefited, while an additional 35 percent say the law has improved the
lives of other. That`s 53 percent who see a benefit in "Obama care."
Forty-four percent say no one has benefited from the law.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Last night`s Republican Senate run-
off in Georgia set up a battle between business Republican David Perdue and
Democrat Michelle Nunn in the fall`s U.S. Senate contest this November. A
RealClearPolitics polling average has Nunn and Perdue actually tied, but
Perdue is expected to gain some ground in the next few weeks, of course, as
Republicans consolidate their base from a tough primary fight.
But the polls are give Democrats hope they can turn the red state blue
because of a huge demographic change in Georgia that has altered the
playing field. As "The New York Times" Nate Cohn wrote it -- wrote today,
"No other plausibly competitive state, not Nevada or Virginia, not Colorado
or North Carolina, has had a change in the racial composition of the
electorate that`s as favorable for Democrats. That`s giving Georgia
Democrats hope that they might win a race that they almost certainly would
have viewed as a lost cause just a few years ago."
Since the year 2000, roughly one million new non-whites have registered to
vote in Georgia -- that`s a million! -- compared to just one over -- over -
- just over 100,000 white voters. So it`s about 10 to 1, the non-white
advantage, in the last several years. Now Democrats hope to turn those
numbers into a win for Michelle Nunn."
John Feehery`s a Republican strategist and Eugene Robinson is an opinion
writer with "The Washington Post" and also, of course, an MSNBC political
John, let me ask you about the numbers. What does this say to Republicans
when they see these demographic shifts of a million new voters in this
century on the Democratic side, potentially, and only 100,000 white voters,
who tend to vote Republican in the South?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, this is no surprise to the RNC.
They wrote a whole report about how Republicans have to embrace immigration
reform. Some Republicans, obviously, have rejected that idea. But the
fact of the matter is that Republicans have to do a better job of
attracting voters from Hispanic regions and from African-American
communities. If you don`t do that, you`re going to be overrun and you`re
going to be a minority party.
So I think that the RNC`s been on this. I hope that -- I`ve been a long
proponent of immigration reform. I think that helps us have a better
conversation with Hispanic voters. If we don`t do that, we`re going to be
a minority party.
MATTHEWS: Gene, I guess there`s two sides to this coin. You have a large
non-white population, which is obviously opportunity, at least, for
Democrats, maybe more than that, given the patterns -- Hispanic voters and
But you also have this problem of morale right now. It seems like, if you
look at all the numbers in the polling you and I look at, the red-hots,
people dying to get in that voting booth this November, tend to be the
conservatives on the Republican side, rather than the progressives or the
minorities in the Democrat side.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, that`s
exactly right. So if there is to be an upset in Georgia and Michelle Nunn
is to beat David Perdue, it will only be because Democrats managed to do
something they don`t usually do, which is get their people out to the polls
in large numbers in an off-year election.
And you know, that`s not an easy thing to do. It`s not impossible to do, I
don`t think. And given the way the state is changing, I think there`s a
real shot there, but it`s -- but it`s still uphill.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it is about Georgia? I`ve always noted, I
mean, looking back at the races, close races there in `92, `96, the large
minority population -- why is it -- is it just the big city aspect of --
the urban aspect, the draw, the magnet of Atlanta? Is that what`s making
it more of a non-white state? What do you think is singling it out, I
guess, from the other Southern states in that region?
ROBINSON: Well, if you`re asking me, Chris, you know, I -- the draw of
metropolitan Atlanta for middle class and rising African-Americans is well
established. I mean, people have flocked to that area, and it`s become
sort of a -- sort of a -- you know, a black mecca for -- for people who are
aspiring to do great things.
ROBINSON: So that`s been a big factor.
And, look, there were a whole lot of black folks in Georgia all along.
Some are just newly registered.
ROBINSON: And so it is -- I put Georgia kind of where North Carolina was
maybe in 2008, you know? Who knew it was going to go in the Democratic
MATTHEWS: The nice thing to say, John -- let me say something nice about
Georgia. They say it of Atlanta it`s the city too busy to hate. And
that`s a nice thing.
Your thought, John?
FEEHERY: Well, I think Eugene is right.
I think also, over the years, a lot of African-Americans have flocked back
it Georgia. But also have you a huge influx of Hispanics that are working
on a lot of the farms, a lot of the different agriculture interest in the
state. And that`s what`s led to really a bolstering of the Hispanic
community within Georgia and it`s really kind of made it an opportunity for
Republicans if they have that conversation. But they got to have that
MATTHEWS: Yes, 500,000 new Hispanic voters apparently just this -- since
Anyway, demographics alone, as I said, won`t turn Georgia blue this year.
Democrats hope to turn Perdue -- he`s the Republican guy -- into Georgia`s
Mitt Romney, a wealthy out-of-touch elitist with a questionable corporate
"The New York Times" writes today -- quote -- "Mr. Perdue was chief
executive of a coming called Pillowtex, a textile manufacturer that went
bankrupt and ultimately closed in 2003, leaving 7,500 people unemployed
after Mr. Perdue had left the company."
And the Georgia primary has provided ready-made video attacks for the
Democrats, who are eager to use those in the fall. Perdue, for example,
criticized fellow primary opponent, one of them, for having only a high
school degree. Kind of an elitist comment. And others for not living
outside the United States at some point. This may not sell too well with
regular people down there. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Look at the backgrounds.
Look at the credentials. There`s a high school graduate in this race, OK?
I`m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex, there`s only
one candidate in this race that`s ever lived outside the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What an odd thing to say. You`re supposed to have had some time
living outside the United States for your -- I don`t know, your
construction of your personality and your mind?
Anyway, Perdue`s primary opponents hammered him as an aloof millionaire
profiting in business while his employees lost their jobs. Here is part of
a video that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already sent out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David, when you left your Dollar General, your golden
parachute was $42 million over two years. Not bad work if can you get it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: David, it doesn`t take a college degree to figure out
that with your record of sending jobs oversees at Haggar, giving out
thousands -- thousands losing their jobs while you walked away with
millions, you took millions in corporate welfare even. Even as you have
gone across the state railing against the debt, you contributed to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David, your whole lifestyle is based in a different
way. Now, you have done well for yourself. But you live in a gated
community, inside a gated community, and have a gate at your house.
How are you going to work with John Q. Public when they come up to you and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Gene, is that too personal, going after the fact lives
apparently, according to that statement, behind two gates, the community
gate and the household gate?
MATTHEWS: I`m not sure it`s true, but it sounds -- it`s kind of iconic, I
Well, that`s certainly establishes a sort of atmosphere around the guy.
And maybe that can be kind of effective. I tend to think, though, that if
you are really going to motivate Democrats to come out, you got tell them
the bad things that are going to happen if they don`t.
So here is a vote to try once again torpedo the Affordable Care Act and
take your health care away. Here is a vote that is going to try to
restrict voting rights through ever more stringent voter I.D. laws. Here
is a vote that will try to further restrict women`s reproductive rights.
I think you have got to tell Democrats that, look, there are things at
stake here. And if you -- if you don`t vote, you know, and they go the
wrong way, then you just only have to look at yourself.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to the fun stuff, John Feehery. I`m glad you`re
on the show tonight because you can respond to this.
Remember when John McCain didn`t know how many houses he owned? I thought
that was pretty good. I also liked the fact that Mitt Romney had an
elevator for cars in his house. Now, I don`t know about gated community,
but I don`t think it measures up to those two babies. Your thoughts?
FEEHERY: Well, let me say, Chris, Mitt Romney won Georgia, so it obviously
didn`t have an impact on him.
FEEHERY: The other thing, if David Perdue won the primary, so the attacks
didn`t work in the primary.
And the third point I would make is, the Perdue name is pretty known well -
- well known in Georgia for being a name of wealth. And Sonny Perdue was a
very popular governor with that same last name.
So, listen, I think that Eugene`s right. You have got to attack issues
that people feel this viscerally. I don`t think the class warfare stuff
necessarily works. I think that Michelle Nunn has to figure out a way to
inspire minority voters. I think that is going to be her biggest problem.
MATTHEWS: Or challenge or opportunity.
Thank you, John Feehery, for coming on. And thank you, Eugene Robinson.
FEEHERY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, it turns out no one is above the law. And that
includes Sarah Palin. That`s coming up quick.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You come on the
program, loaded down with your "Jon Stewart was absolutely wrong" file, and
I will see if I can perhaps dig up one or two things you have been mistaken
STEWART: So how about it, McCain, you and me, wrong to wrong, no holds
barred? And the loser has to sit for 24 straight hours watching the person
he is best known for unleashing on the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Those are high stakes.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."
That was Jon Stewart responding to some nasty shots at his show from a
ticked-off Senator John McCain.
Meanwhile, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann`s wondering out loud why
nobody is paying attention to her any more. Absent in the talk about the
Republican presidential field for 2016, the Minnesota politician appears to
She told RealClearPolitics: "The only thing that the media has speculated
on is that it is going to be various men that are running. They haven`t
speculated, for instance, that I`m going to run. That -- well, what if I
decide to run? And there`s a chance I could run."
I really don`t think it is a gender thing here, not this time at least.
The potential 2016 candidate getting most of the media attention is Hillary
Another Republican making headlines today is, spoiler alert, Sarah Palin.
But it`s not her politics that has grabbed mama grizzly`s attention this
time. It is her lead foot. The former Alaska governor was pulled over for
speeding last week in her hometown of Wasilla. The Web site TMZ says Palin
was going 63 in a 45-mile zone.
But Ms. Law and Order said: "I wasn`t speeding. I was qualifying."
Palin joked to the Web site that it wasn`t all her fault. She was
listening to Sammy Hagar`s "I Can`t Drive 55" on the car radio at the time.
She paid of course the $154 ticket.
And, finally, an amusing take on the Republican argument against raising
the minimum wage. Actor Harry Hamlin portrays House Speaker John Boehner
in a new clip from "Funny or Die" where he, as John Boehner, gets one or
two of his facts wrong when it comes to real life, how real life really is
for the hourly wage guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY HAMLIN, ACTOR: A Jack in the Box cashier may make $50 a day, but by
the end of the year, if they flip those burgers good, they can make up to
$200,000 in bonuses.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Excuse me, sir. Jack in the Box employees don`t get
HAMLIN: You don`t know what you`re talking about, son. Of course they do.
This is America.
Just stand back over there, please.
What about the company car to take the minimum wage Taco Bell fry cook to
work? Hmm? Or the executive steam rooms at Wal-Mart? Hmm? Have you ever
been in a steam room?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Good for Harry.
We will be right back after this.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, everyone. I`m Alex Witt. And
here`s what`s happening.
Secretary of State John Kerry says there`s been progress in efforts to
secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Earlier, he met with
Israel`s prime minister, Palestinian President Abbas, and U.N. Secretary-
General Ban Ki-Moon.
The FAA has extended ban on U.S. flights to Israel`s main airport. Flights
were halted after a Hamas missile landed nearby.
And lawyers for an Arizona death row inmate say an hour after his execution
began, he was still alive gasping and snorting. The execution of Joseph
Wood began at 1:52 p.m. He wasn`t pronounced dead until two hours later at
We will have more on this story tonight here on MSNBC -- but now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In a somber ceremony today, the bodies of some of the victims from last
week`s Malaysian air downing arrived home in the Netherlands. Two military
transport planes carried 40 coffins. It`s been six days of course since a
missile fired from rebel-held territory in Eastern Ukraine brought down
Well, yesterday, U.S. intelligence officials said Russian-backed
separatists probably fired that missile, but they said they did not have
evidence of a direct role by the Russian government, at least not yet.
Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine today, two Ukrainian warplanes were shot down
close to where Flight 17 came down. Rebels took responsibility in this
case. Of course, it fits a pattern. In the days before Flight 17, three
other Ukrainian warplanes in that area were shot out of the sky and now two
NBC News reported today that Russia is still providing military equipment
to the rebels, including tanks and armored personnel carriers. Senators
are urging President Obama to impose harsher sanctions on Russia. But, in
Europe, where Russia is a major trading partner, sanctions are a tough
Is it possible there could be no price at all to pay for shooting down a
plane full of civilians, innocent civilians?
William Taylor served as United States ambassador to Ukraine. And Howard
Fineman is editorial director for The Huffington Post and an MSNBC
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much.
Lay it out for us. What can the United States do? What do you think we
should be doing in the days ahead about this horror?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: We should be leading
the international attempt to -- and effort to put on serious sanctions,
sanctions across sectors of the Russian economy that really have an effect
on the Russian people and decision-makers.
Now, that`s not the only thing. There are other things that we ought to be
doing. We ought to be supporting the Ukrainians as they develop and
increase the capability of their security forces, their military. We
should also be leading the effort to provide financial assistance, to
generate international financial assistance for the Ukrainians.
But the Europeans, as you say, are right next -- they do a lot of trade
with the Russians, which means they could have a real effect, if they were
to support the sanctions that we have already put on. The Europeans need
to step up.
MATTHEWS: Will the sight of those dead bodies coming home, their
countrymen in many cases, people like them, Europeans, people that went off
on a trip they thought was going to be a delight, killed in mid-flight for
no reason at all, except reckless disregard for human life, will that wake
TAYLOR: I believe it will. I believe it will. I think you are exactly
right. This is a game-changer.
Up until now, for the past several weeks, we have been asking ourselves and
asking Europeans, what is it going to take for to you take this conflict
seriously? Tragically, it`s taken this disaster, this disaster that`s come
from the Russian-supported revels, tragically, it`s taken that tragedy to
bring them to their senses.
But I believe the game has changed. I believe they will now step up for
the reasons that you said.
MATTHEWS: Well, here in the United States, three powerful Democratic
senators are urging President Obama to impose far stronger sanctions
against Russia, including on their defense, energy and financial sectors.
Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and Robert Menendez wrote -- quote --
"We understand and strongly support your effort to coordinate the
imposition of sanctions with our key European allies in order to ensure
their maximum intended effect. And we encourage further cooperation in
pursuit of this goal. However, the United States must not limit its own
national security strategy when swift action will help fulfill our
strategic objectives, support an independent Ukraine, and counter malignant
Howard, my friend, this is a tough one, because can we do something alone,
can do something if we can`t lead? Sometimes, I wonder if we are going to
do anything here, and then I do want to give the president a few days to
get the facts solid. Do you think he is waiting to get the facts solid to
move hard or he`s just playing for time? What do you think?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it`s the
latter, Chris. I think he is playing for time right now.
Look, the fact is that if the United States is going to really dive into
that situation there, that means sending or helping to send billions of
dollars worth of new economic aid to the Ukraine, to Ukraine, a country
that is struggling terribly in its economy. It means some real help for
the Ukrainian military, which is vastly overwhelmed by the Russians.
It means a truly active and truly tough effort to get the Europeans to go
along. The Europeans, as you know, rely in terms of economic -- in terms
of trade with Russia and in terms of reliance on Russian energy, they rely
very heavily on the Russians.
And they`re not -- and knowing the history that they know, they are not
real eager to back the Russians into a corner. A small detail perhaps, but
this is interesting. The Germans -- some Germans suggested that Russia be
denied the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup which they are now
scheduled to do.
But interestingly, the Dutch, who have one of the closest relationships and
energy relationships with the Russians, demerged. They said, you know,
let`s wait. Let`s talk about that later.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the West, there is consensus that Russian-backed rebels
were responsible for bringing down that plane. But in Russia, the view is
very different. The largely state-owned Russian media has been producing a
steady stream of conspiracy theories that all absolve Russia of any guilt.
Here are a few, according to "The Washington Post". It was all in an
elaborate plot by Ukrainian leaders to assassinate Vladimir Putin, whose
plane supposedly crossed flight paths with Flight 17. Another says that a
Ukrainian flight dispatcher intentionally steered that jet into a warzone
in order to get it shot down. Still another far more bizarre theory says
the plane was actually filled with dead bodies from take off.
"The New York Times" reported today the conspiracy theories are also
thriving in Eastern Ukraine, where people are heavily influenced by Russian
television. Quote, "Some theories were particularly strange. A woman said
there was something suspicious about the flight because all of the
passports of the people on plane were new and been collected in one place.
And because most of the bodies were without clothing, quote, `Were they all
having sex before the plane came down,` said the woman, who identified
herself as Tatyana, out of concern for her safety."
Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador, help me. Why would people be so sick and
weirdly nationalistic -- I guess pro-Russian, actually -- that they would
make a joke like that about dead people?
TAYLOR: Chris, that`s a commentary on the state control of the media in
Russia. If you take a look at Russian media, it is dominated by the
If you take a look at the other hand on the media in Ukraine, there you
have an independent media. Not only that, you`ve got a very strong civil
society. You`ve got people there who have forced the government out. This
is a civil society that has power and has influence.
And that`s the difference between Ukraine and Russia. In Russia, it is
totally dominated by the Kremlin.
MATTHEWS: Howard, do you think we`re going to have an Adlai Stevenson
moment? Again, back to my question, is the president arraying his evidence
to there will be a dramatic moment in the next week where he goes before
the Security Council, well, perhaps Susan Rice will -- I`m sorry, not Susan
Rice, but Samantha Power, will go before the U.N.
FINEMAN: Samantha Power, yes.
MATTHEWS: And basically present the hard evidence that this was a Russian
supported effort to give this weapon to people that shouldn`t have had it
in their hands and therefore, they are accessories before the fact. Do you
think they`ll be -- the president is planning for such a dramatic moment,
or I ask again, is he just playing for time and hoping this thing drifts
away into an amorphous world so many crises end up doing?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it`s probably the latter, Chris, because they have
said that they think the Russians are responsible, although they don`t know
that they pulled the trigger, that Russian advisors were really on the
scene at the time.
I don`t know what further evidence they`re going to find and I don`t know
that urgency will be increased in the days ahead. And I don`t think he
wants to go it alone. I think he`s not going to go out there without
strong European support, because the Americans, slice of the Russian
economy, even if you look at energy and defense and so on, it`s pretty
small compared with Europe and it`s the European sanctions that would
really fight deeply in Russia.
And frankly, the world is in such a mess right now, there are so many
different conflicts going on in different places they are actually some
places where we still want to do business with the Russians where we think
the Russians can help us in some regards.
So, it`s a complex game going on right now. Some people think that the
president is kind of miss -- kind of frozen by the complexity of what he
On the other hand, it is tricky. Knowing this president and having covered
limb for six years, I don`t see him charging off on his own with a big
expensive effort to try to reign in the Russians in Ukraine. I would like
to think that he would. I mean, I think in a way, a sense of decency
almost requires it, but I don`t see that in the cards.
MATTHEWS: Well, what I want to see is a clarity of fact. We can`t win the
argument but we can state the fact so everyone in Europe especially notes
who is responsible for this. So, it will go down into their hands and
hearts. No matter what they decide to do on sanctions or trade, they will
know who the bad guy was. I think that`s the most important thing, not
yelling and screaming but just getting facts on the table. This is a real
test for our intelligence community. If they can come through and prove a
solid case that this was done by the rebels, with the Russian`s hand in
this, I think we win in the long run.
Anyway, thank you, Ambassador William Taylor, for your expertise and
And, Howard Fineman, as always, my friend.
Up next, the Republican effort cut back voting access in Ohio, a key state.
We`ve got state lawmaker who`s fighting back against that.
And this is HARDBALL, a place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ve got new polling on two of the most watched governor`s
races this year. Let`s check the HARDBALL score board.
Starting in Florida, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, Charlie Crist, the
Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat leads incumbent Republican
Governor Rick Scott by five. It`s Crist, 45, Scott, 40.
Next, Wisconsin, where incumbent Republican Scott Walker finds himself in a
tight race against Democrat Mary Burke. In a new Marquette University
poll, it`s Burke up one, 47-46. I think she`s going to do it.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America did not stand up and
did not march, did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves
and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren.
We`ve got to pay attention to this. So, let`s be clear, the real voter
fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You tell them.
And we`re back.
As we reported in the past, restrictive new voting laws passed by
Republican state legislatures over the last couple of years threaten to
disenfranchise African-Americans and other minorities at the ballot box
When it comes to voting rights, the election in 2004 was a wakeup call for
many, in the crucial swing state of Ohio, with some African-Americans
waiting up to 10 hours to vote. A DNC study estimates that over 170,000
people in the state of Ohio gave up in frustration and walked away.
President Bush beat John Kerry in that state by only 120,000 votes. So,
this stuff is decisive, this gaming of the political process.
Bipartisan voting reforms have increased absentee and early voting in the
state help expand to the polls in 2008, however. But Republicans changed
their minds as they took over in 2011.
And since then, Ohio has seen new restrictive voting measures -- including
a cut in number of voting machines required in each county across the
state, a cut in the number of machines to vote, a shorter early voting
period, which is cut down by six days, less access to absentee ballots,
which means longer lines on polling day. And also, two attempts to
eliminate weekend voting, both of which were overturned by the courts in
It`s no wonder Democratic State Representative Alicia Reece has called her
home state ground zero in the partisan tug of war over voting rights.
She`s calling for a state constitutional amendment to protect access to the
ballot box. She joins us now.
Representative Reece, thanks for joining us.
And tell me about emotions --
STATE REP. ALICIA REECE (D), OHIO: Thank for having me --
MATTHEWS: You`re an expert in this, you`re working out there, it`s nice to
be appreciated and applauded. What are the people you meet in your
district across the state, do minorities know the game that`s being played
on them? It`s almost like the old literacy test and poll taxes.
REECE: Absolutely. You know, people in my district and across the state
of Ohio are just upset about all of the different games that are being
played with voting rights. I hear people tell me, well, I thought there
was a bipartisan law that was passed that created early voting and
provisional ballots, and I told them, you know, that was the case,
unfortunately, after the presidential race of President Barack Obama, the
Republicans felt that the wrong people in their minds came out to vote.
And so, because it was not in the constitution, they`re able to change
those laws to fit the needs that they have.
And so, that`s why we`re going for voter Bill of Rights, constitutional
amendment, and we have over 100,000 people who signed that petition in 90
MATTHEWS: Do the Republicans who are pushing this, do they ever admit the
game they`re playing in Ohio? I know it`s happened in Pennsylvania, my
birth state, where they actually come out and say, we`re doing this so
Romney could win. Do the people of your state admit they`re playing a game
to keep the blacks and Hispanics from voting?
REECE: Well, of course not publicly. They`re not saying that, but we`ve
caught some election officials, Republican election officials who have said
different things about we don`t want to make it easier for African-
Americans to come out and vote.
And so, this definitely is an assault on African-Americans, minorities,
this is an assault on college students and seniors, because they came out
in record numbers and they elected President Obama. So, they`re doing
everything they can. The voter intimidation billboard was across the
street from my house. My own polling location took two years and a million
dollar lawsuit in order for votes to be counted.
So, this is real, and so that`s why we`re working on getting something more
permanent, taking Dr. King`s movement to the next level. The Voting Rights
Act, and having to get that renewed every so many years, and then the
Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act Section 5 being
unconstitutional. It`s time now we think for a new people`s movement that
starts in Ohio and goes across the country where the every day citizen has
an opportunity to fight back, has an opportunity to decide what their
voting rights are, by putting it in the constitution. That`s what we`re
doing here in Ohio and hope to do it around the country.
MATTHEWS: A lot of times, I get the impression from people who are
affected by this, that they`re going to vote out of defiance. They know
the game is being played against them. So, they`re going to make a special
effort to vote. I think that happened in states -- a lot of states in
REECE: Oh, absolutely, Ohio it was the case here. We`ve got record number
turnout. More folks turned out in the last presidential race than they did
in 2008, because when those voter intimidation billboards went up, I saw
generations go out to vote. I saw grandma, all the way to granddaughters -
MATTHEWS: Well, I hope they keep it up.
REECE: -- out of college voting.
MATTHEWS: Well, good work by you.
REECE: We`re going to keep fighting until we get into the constitution.
MATTHEWS: I think everybody watching right now thinks they`ve been
targeted by this effort, that keep you up from voting, your rights, and
having a right to vote, should make a special effort. That`s just my
thinking. If somebody`s coming after me, I`d strike back and teach them a
Anyway, thank you, State Representative Alicia Reece.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this blast of unreality we`re getting
from the separatists territory of Ukraine.
"The New York Times" reports today the bizarre propaganda and rumors
spreading in the separatist territories. The people there speak as if
driven by a close thought process of dead bodies having been placed on a
Malaysian plane at takeoff. They say, this accounts for some of them being
naked when thrown from the plane.
This is the nonsense you get when you get your main source of news from
Moscow television, an instrument of Vladimir Putin, formerly of the KGB.
This is the truth you get when you`re getting it from someone who was
reared in a Soviet communist mindset that truth is what serves the party`s
interest. This is what you get when there`s no "New York Times" or other
quality newspaper on your doorstep, when the very idea of objective truth
simply does not come to mind. Truth is what you accept it to be, having
had your head filled and your heart impassioned by the propaganda`s serving
Whenever you get angry with an editorial in this country or an opinion even
on this show -- remember, there`s a real difference between having and
offering an opinion, and burying the facts. As the great Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan once opined, you`re entitled to your own opinion, not your
own facts. Vladimir Putin never got that message.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014