August 12, 2014
Guest: Marie Harf
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: A threat to the civilized world.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
"Let Me Start" with the decisions facing President Obama following a sober
assessment from the Pentagon that air strikes are not going to be enough to
slow the momentum of the nightmarish threat of insurgents in Iraq known as
ISIS. The president now faces a two-sided struggle. On the one hand, you
have a terrorist organization so evil that they were outcast by al Qaeda,
and on the other, there`s the U.S.`s ability to defeat them. But at what
And today, we got another disturbing reminder of the serial killer mindset
that drives ISIS, courtesy of an image that is being widely circulated on
line but that is too gruesome to show you here.
This is Secretary of State John Kerry talking about that image at a press
conference with Australia`s foreign minister Julie Bishop (ph) earlier
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This image, perhaps even an iconic
photograph that Julie has just referred to, is really one of the most
disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed, of a 7-
year-old child holding a severed head up with pride and with the support
and encouragement of a parent, with brothers there.
This is utterly disgraceful. And it underscores the degree to which ISIL
is -- is, you know, so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by
which we judge even terrorist groups that al Qaeda shunted them aside. And
that`s why they represent the threat that they represent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel is calling ISIS a, quote, "threat to
the civilized world." Today, more U.S. air strikes bringing the total to
at least 17 over the past four days. And NBC News is reporting that the
U.S. is sending more than 120 additional military advisers into Iraq to
help address the refugee crisis up north.
So just how far back down the rabbit hole is the president willing to go?
Or put in a different way, when you`re confronting a group of armed
sociopaths, how far back down the rabbit hole must you go?
Retired colonel Jack Jacobs is with us. But first, we`re joined by Marie
Harf. She`s the deputy spokesperson at the State Department.
So Marie, let`s just start here actually with what Lieutenant General
William Mayville told reporters yesterday about the current U.S. strategy.
Take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. WILLIAM MAYVILLE, JOINT CHIEFS DIR. OF OPERATIONS: We assess that
U.S. air Strikes in northern Iraq have slowed ISIL`s operational tempo and
temporarily disrupted their advances toward the province of Erbil.
However, these strikes are unlikely to affect ISIL`s overall capabilities
or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria. So I in no way want to
suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking
the momentum of the threat posed by ISIL.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So Marie, that caught a lot of people`s attention yesterday, you
know, a top official at the Pentagon saying, Look, we haven`t even stopped
their momentum. None of this is going to really, you know, change their
basic capabilities here. So it raises a very simple question to me, and
that`s what is the goal here for the United States? Can you define
success? When it comes to these air strikes these and humanitarian drops,
ultimately, what will make this a successful venture for the United States?
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, Steve, thanks for
having me on today. What he said yesterday is completely in line with the
goals the president outlined when he announced this military action late
last week. First, to prevent ISIL from being able to move on Erbil, which
these air strikes have done. They have succeeded in that mission over the
past few days.
And it was also to prevent a worsening humanitarian catastrophe from
turning into a full-scale genocide on top of Mount Sinjar. And they`ve
also done that in combination with our humanitarian air drops and also the
air strikes over the past 36 hours around Mount Sinjar to protect these
people. These two very discrete goals the president outlined in announcing
this action have been met.
Now, there`s a broader question here, which is what you`re getting at. How
do we fight ISIL long-term in Iraq and in Syria? There`s a broader
strategy in place, and it`s one that`s not, at the end of the day, fully an
American military solution. We`ve been very clear about that. The Iraqi
security forces working with the Kurds need to regroup and they need to
retrain and they need to reequip. And we`re going to help them do that,
but at the end of the day, that`s really the long-term strategy here.
KORNACKI: So Marie, as a long-term goal, then, is it the goal of the
United States to defeat ISIS?
HARF: Well, clearly, we want to see this terrorist group not be able to
threaten people anymore.
KORNACKI: I know you want to, but is that the goal? Is it the goal of the
United States to defeat it?
HARF: Well, of course, the goal is to defeat them operationally, yes. But
what does that mean when you`re looking at a terrorist group? What does
that mean when you`re looking at their ideology? If you look very
specifically at what we`ve done in Iraq, what we want to do is not allow
them to take more territory, not allow them to move on Erbil, of course,
further down towards Baghdad, and help the Iraqis push them back, basically
retake territory. So we`re helping the Iraqis do that now.
But it`s a broader question. Look, you`re always going to have a terrorist
threat. It`s how you contain it and it`s how you -- when they try to go
after your interests, as we`ve seen them do in Syria, in Iraq, how we can
bring our capabilities to bear to fight that. It`s different every place
you look, and you have to use different tools to fight that threat.
KORNACKI: I guess the reason -- the reason why I`m asking so specifically
there is, when you hear what Secretary Kerry was talking about today, when
you hear Chuck Hagel -- you know, these are -- these are top officials in
your administration who are talking about a threat to the civilized world.
And then I hear you on here saying, you know, ultimately, this is not, you
know, the fight for the United States. Ultimately, this is a fight for the
It does raise the question to me -- given how you are describing ISIS,
given these very real things that people in your administration are
pointing to, it does raise the question, why isn`t this the United States`
HARF: Well, look, just to be very, very clear, Steve, this is obviously a
fight we are invested in and we feel very deeply about and we`re going to
continue to be invested in.
In terms of Iraqi territory specifically, at the end of the day, that is a
long-term fight the Iraqi security forces need to be able to handle -- with
our support, but to be able to handle on their own. We will work with
them, as we do with many countries around the world who face very serious
terrorist threats, to share intelligence, to share surveillance and
reconnaissance, to help them find targets to go after these guys.
So just because there`s no long-term, you know, massive American military
solution doesn`t mean we`re not going to play a role and doesn`t mean we`re
not going to be helping. But at the end of the day, we can`t do it for
them. We want to take steps to help them fight this threat on their own.
KORNACKI: And just ultimately, in terms of the current operation with air
strikes (INAUDIBLE) let`s focus on the air strikes for a minute because the
president did say the other day that this is -- ultimately right now, this
is an open-ended commitment. He also talks about it being a limited
commitment. We`re now talking about 17 discrete instances of air strikes
now in the last -- basically, in the last week. So 17 limited --
ultimately, how far is this going to go? Is it a weeks-long thing? Is
this a months-long thing?
HARF: Well, quite frankly, I don`t think anybody could tell you at this
point exactly how long we will need to take these kind of strikes both
around the mountain area, in this very urgent and dire humanitarian
situation, but also around Erbil. We have been successful at preventing
ISIL from moving further towards Erbil.
But one of the things I think we`ve all learned here is that things happen
very fast on the ground, and the United States military and the president
has to make decisions very quickly about how to respond. So we can`t say
what the threat picture will look like in the next 48, 72 hours, in the
next two weeks. We`ll make decisions as we go.
But these two discrete, limited goals are what we`re operating under right
now, and we`ll keep going after them in any way we can.
KORNACKI: All right. Thank you to Marie Harf from the State Department.
Colonel Jack Jacobs is with us now.
HARF: Thank you.
KORNACKI: So Colonel, that`s the perspective from the administration
talking about sort of limited scope right now in terms of what they`re
trying to accomplish. I`m just curious what you make of what you just
heard from the administration.
COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I find
it interesting that the number of strikes has been as limited as it has
because the administration has been touting this offensive against ISIL. I
mean, I`ve been in gunfights with bad guys in Vietnam where we had more
than 17 strikes all in one day. This is very, very limited indeed.
And I think, ultimately, what the administration is planning to do, what
the Pentagon is planning to do is to target ISIL the same way as we`ve been
targeting al Qaeda, find targets of opportunity through intelligence
overhead and on the ground, and send precision-guided munitions to specific
There is not going to be any long-term American involvement here except
insofar as, as you`ve reported, we`re going to send special forces and
special operations forces in order to bolster the Peshmerga and others on
the ground to try to take and hold terrain. Now, taking the terrain --
anybody can take terrain. It`s holding it that`s what is really, really
And I think we`re going to focus attention on the northern part of Iraq, at
least for the time being, in assisting Peshmerga and I guess, ultimately,
the Iraqi army in seizing and holding terrain up north to prevent --
KORNACKI: Well, do you --
JACOBS: -- ISIL from coming back.
KORNACKI: So from a -- from a strategic standpoint, do you -- do you think
this could work, then? Do you think, in terms of the immediate effect of
the United States offering support here, which is to take territory, and
then you`re saying also sustaining it -- do you think, strategically, we
are doing things that would allow that to happen?
JACOBS: Yes, I -- well, not right now, we`re not. But I think we`re going
to. I think the administration is gearing up to do that by sending more
people, special forces and special operations forces, having more aircraft
and precision-guided munitions available to hit specific kinds of targets.
KORNACKI: So how -- how much -- how big is that -- because, obviously,
people -- when you start talking about sending more and sending more
advisers and that sort of thing, people start to get nervous, just given
history in general, and specifically history in Iraq. How big are you
talking (INAUDIBLE) think we`re going to need?
JACOBS: Well, I think not very big. And I don`t think the plan is for it
to be very big. And if it doesn`t succeed with whatever they plan to put
in there, they`re not going to put in anymore. I think the administration
is terribly worried about getting decisively engaged in northern Iraq, and
they`re going to do whatever they can not to do that.
The real important thing about Iraq writ large is in the south. I think,
ultimately, Peshmerga will be able to hold its own. But that`s going to
take a while. And it`s going to be a very -- it`s going to be a --
something of a bloodbath in the interim, until the Kurds can actually seize
and hold control of their own terrain. So it ain`t over, and it`s not
going to be over for months.
KORNACKI: All right, the U.S. has suggested that the entire strategy in
Iraq is dependent on the success of the Iraqi government, which has been
thrown into a constitutional crisis by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki,
who`s refusing to cede power.
This is John Kerry earlier today discussing just how critical a role the
Iraqi government is playing, particularly when it comes to the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Let me tell you in the simplest terms where the discussion begins.
There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. That
is the beginning of the discussion.
This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq, and our hope is
and the reason President Obama has been so clear about wanting to get the
government formation before beginning to tackle ISIL in the most
significant way, excepting the kind of emergency circumstances that have
arisen, is because if you don`t have a government that is inclusive and
that works, nothing else will work, plain and simply.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So colonel, this is the key to what you`re talking about. This
is the key to what Marie Harf was just talking about from the
administration, the United States playing a support role, but ultimately,
this being a fight of the Iraqi army, the Iraqi army being sort of an
extension of the Iraqi government. Therefore, you need to get the
government in place and functioning in Iraq properly.
My question is -- there`s the universal consensus now, basically, that al
Maliki is a failure. The question is, given the secular realities of Iraq,
all the divisions that exist that have, you know, torn that country apart
forever, can anybody create a real, functioning government in Iraq that can
do what we need it to do?
JACOBS: Over the short term, no. It`s really kind of interesting that the
history of the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq, goes something like
this. The only way you can actually control the entire terrain of Iraq is
if you have some bloodthirsty despot. And ultimately, that, in fact, may
be the only thing that will hold Iraq together. In the alternative, you`re
going to wind up with a country that dissolves itself into its three
component -- natural component pieces.
That`s not going to be any fun for anybody, either, because it means that
you have the danger of the Kurds in the north deciding that they really
don`t want to be just marginally self-governing, they really want to be
self-governing, they want to be -- they want to have a greater Kurdistan.
There are Kurds in six different countries up there, and it`s going to be
very, very dangerous if that happens.
In the meantime, in the southern part of Iraq, you have two different
ethnic groups, religious groups who`ve been fighting each other for 1,300
years. That is not going to change.
And so what it really is going to take is an extremely strong leader in
Baghdad. That isn`t going to happen any time soon. Right now, even though
al Maliki has decided to back away from the statements that he made just a
couple of days ago about threatening the stability from inside Baghdad,
sending tanks into the Green Zone and all the rest of that stuff, you can
expect that there`s going to be a continued constitutional challenge to
permit him to continue to rule. That`s going to be a mess, too. And even
if it`s not, it`s going to take some time to resolve.
KORNACKI: Right, (INAUDIBLE) bloodthirsty strongman. I mean, that -- that
was Saddam Hussein, actually and --
JACOBS: That`s what we had. That`s what we had.
KORNACKI: Well, thank you to Colonel Jack Jacobs.
JACOBS: You`re welcome.
KORNACKI: Really appreciate the time.
And coming up: racial turmoil outside of St. Louis. How does this most
recent shooting of an unarmed black man square with the claim by some
Republican lawmakers that we are witnessing a, quote, "war on whites"?
Plus, President Obama reportedly used a two-syllable compound word
beginning with "horse" to describe criticism of his decision not to arm
Syrian rebels, and that was before Hillary Clinton began separating herself
from Obama`s foreign policy with her interview in "The Atlantic."
We`re still absorbing the news about Robin Williams. We at HARDBALL
remember Williams as a guest on our own college tour. He also spent a lot
of time on stage poking fun at politicians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN: Where did they get Sarah Palin? Where did they
WILLIAMS; Wow! Did Ronald Reagan have a kid with Posh Spice? I don`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with what happens when you
have a coronation instead of a campaign.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: President Obama says he expects to nominate more justices to the
Supreme Court before he leaves office in 2017. The president was talking
to supporters on Martha`s Vineyard, and he suggested there will be
vacancies on the court soon. He told his supporters to work to keep
Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate so that his nominees won`t be
blocked by Republicans.
The president didn`t suggest which justice or justices may retire or when
retirements may come. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 81. She`s the oldest
member of the court right now, but she said last month she plans to stay on
the court, quote, "for a while."
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tensions ran high in Ferguson,
Missouri, again last night as armored police officers warded off protesters
three days after African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot and
killed by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb. The killing sparked
outrage in the African-American community, outrage that quickly turned from
demonstrations to rioting after a vigil was held for the late teen on
The exact circumstances that led to the shooting are in dispute pending
further investigation, but we do know this. Eighteen-year-old Michael
Brown encountered a police officer on the street on Saturday afternoon.
That was confirmed by St. Louis police chief. We also know that Brown was
unarmed but that a confrontation ensued, and the officer fired on Brown,
St. Louis County police say that Brown did not comply with the officer,
saying there was then a struggle over the officer`s gun, which then
prompted the officer to shoot Brown. But according to Dorian Johnson (ph),
a friend who says he was with Brown at the time of the incident, it was the
police who escalated the confrontation. He says that Brown had his hands
up in the surrender position when he was shot by the officer multiple
President Obama issued this statement earlier this afternoon: "I know the
events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details
unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country to
remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should
comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a
way that wounds."
Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart, also of "The
Washington Post," and Anne Allred, anchor and reporter with KSDK in Saint
So, Ann, you`re out there. I will start with you just sort of for the
latest on this. We have the police saying that essentially Michael Brown
instigated some kind of confrontation and the shooting, apparently they are
saying, came in response to this. You have a friend of Michael Brown
saying he was with him, he was there, he watched this happen, and that`s
not what happened at all.
Are we any closer right now to getting a definitive accounting of what did
ANNE ALLRED, KSDK REPORTER: No.
And I think the lack of details is what continues to kind of incite the
issues that we have seen so far over the last two days, 47 people arrested,
two officers injured, tear gas dispersed into crowds, rubber bullets shot
into crowds. And then right now we have just gotten word that the
preliminary autopsy results have been released saying that Michael Brown
was -- did die of gunshots, plural. They didn`t say how many.
And we won`t have the final results including the toxicology for about four
to six weeks. And then also today, they were supposed to name the officer
involved. The chief of police in Ferguson, Missouri, said, I will release
that on Tuesday. And then today he changed his mind and said he will not
be releasing that because he feels that this officer`s life is in jeopardy.
Serious safety concerns. And therefore it is within the law that he can
withhold the information.
And he says unless a judge tells him he`s got to release it or the officer
is charged, he has no plans to.
KORNACKI: And I -- the other question that is raised is, we know obviously
the Justice Department is taking look at this, too. In terms of getting
the kind of clarity -- the clarity that I think everybody is looking for
right now, in terms of getting that clarity, do you have a sense when that
would come, how long that would take and where that will come from?
The FBI just launched their investigation yesterday. So, we have no idea
how long that could take. And then obviously Saint Louis County police,
they are also investigating. The Ferguson police have stepped aside. The
Saint Louis County police have taken over the investigation locally.
KORNACKI: All right.
So, Jonathan, in your most recent column, you wrote about how you
identified with Michael Brown`s experience as a black male. You also took
issue with an assertion Republican Congressman Mo Brooks made last week
that there is a so-called war on whites in this country.
Quoting from your column here: "What frightens me more than anything in the
world is that the chances are very high that one day I might be in their
shoes and might meet their tragic end. The so-called victims of the
nonexistent war on whites have absolutely no idea what living under that
kind of siege, that kind of very real threat, is like."
I`m just curious. Just talk to us about your experience, what -- what the
experiences are that you`re talking about when you write that.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one thing I want to keep clear
is that Congressman Brooks was not talking about -- his comments came long
before the shooting in Ferguson.
CAPEHART: So, I want to make that clear.
But why I found this so-called war on whites so offensive was -- is in
light of what happened to Michael Brown or what happened to Trayvon Martin
or what happened to Renisha McBride in Detroit or Eric Garner on Staten
Island, as an African-American man, as I wrote in my piece, I was taught by
my mother, don`t run in public. Don`t run in public with anything in your
hands, lest you raise suspicions or think that someone -- make someone
think that you stole something.
I was taught to keep a discreet distance from white women just in case you
might be accused of, you know, something untoward. One thing that I still
do to this day is that I never leave my home for an errand, even a small
one, I never leave my home without my driver`s license, my insurance card
and my "Washington Post" business card with my partner`s cell phone number
on it, because you just never know.
I have seen too -- we have all seen too many incidents where an African-
American, and particularly an African-American man, ends up being pulled
over by the police and something happens. And I want to make sure that I
have an insurance policy to at least make sure that if I get into that
situation, that the police know who I am and who they are dealing with.
And, thankfully, I have not had any incidents with police. But as we have
seen in various places around the country, over far too many years, there
is no telling when that moment might come.
KORNACKI: Well, Anne, and Jonathan -- the experience that Jonathan is
relaying there -- and I know he`s -- he`s not from -- from Saint Louis.
But the experience he`s relaying there, as he says, this is a story we have
seen, experiences we have heard from around the country.
And it strikes me in reading about this case now, in reading about what`s
playing out there, obviously, you have this tragic shooting. But it also
seems clear that this -- that this -- the tension right now between the
protesters and the police is also the product of -- of these sort of events
and emotions that go back a lot farther.
This is a city apparently that`s -- I think it`s a two-thirds black city.
But the police force is, what, 80 to 90 percent white, something like that.
It sounds to me like there is a lot of tension here between those two --
between the -- the community, the -- the African-American community in this
town and the police force that goes back a long ways.
ALLRED: And there`s been a lot of talk about mistrust between the two.
One of the Missouri representatives told me yesterday she thinks we need
some kind of new in-school program that is going to have police and
children in schools communicating more and therefore building trust. But a
lot of the young African-American males have said to our crews, have said
to us in the field we just feel this sense of hopelessness and we feel like
our lives do not matter.
So, there is a palpable anger obviously and a very -- this sense that they
can`t trust the police. And they are acting out. And they feel -- as the
unrest continues every night, they are telling us, we feel like the police
are being too aggressive towards us, when we are just out here as a
community. We`re just trying to talk to each other. A lot of people have
their cell phones out, posting things on social media.
And that`s been a big problem, too, in a lot of ways, is that there is a
lot of misconceptions and rumors that are fueling this fire in the last
couple of days as well.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you to Anne Allred, Jonathan Capehart.
KORNACKI: When we come back, was Sarah Palin or Tina Fey talking about
minimum wage workers going on strike? Live from New York, it`s the
HARDBALL "Sideshow." That is next.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."
The ice bucket challenge continues to drench the country in order to raise
money for research into ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig`s disease.
Last month, MSNBC`s own Rachel Maddow took the plunge, accepting the
challenge from FOX News` Shepard Smith. Well, now the Kennedy family has
gotten in on the act from the family compound in Hyannis Port,
Massachusetts. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAXWELL TAYLOR KENNEDY, SON OF ROBERT KENNEDY: My name is Maxwell Taylor
Kennedy. I`m here in Hyannis Port with my family. And all of my family
has believed, my aunt Eunice, my father, Senator Robert Kennedy, my uncle
Senator Ted Kennedy and my uncle President John F. Kennedy, that in the
small diverse acts that people commit each day that we can create awareness
And so today I`m nominating my entire family to dump buckets of ice over
their heads for ALS. Yeah, baby!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Grandma Ethel!
ETHEL KENNEDY, WIDOW OF ROBERT KENNEDY: Welcome to Cape Cod. President
Obama, I nominate you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Yes. That was Ethel Kennedy there at the end of the line of the
-- Kennedy kids challenging President Obama.
The widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy told "The Cape Cod Times" about the
experience -- quote -- "I felt like, there goes the hairdo."
The White House responded to the 86-year-old`s challenge by saying: "The
president appreciates Mrs. Kennedy for thinking of him for the challenge,
though his contribution to the effort will be monetary. The president will
be making a donation to an ALS charity this week."
And, finally, from clarifying a popular notion to creating flat-out
confusion. Leave it to Sarah Palin to deliver a response that leaves us
scratching our heads. The former Alaska governor responded to a speech
delivered by Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, in which the
Democrat voiced support for workers striking over minimum wage jobs.
But Palin`s reaction was less of a coherent response and more of a tangent
that just kind of went off the rails. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Wait. I thought, fast food
joints, huh. Don`t you guys think they are of the devil or something?
That`s what -- liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would
dare work at a fast food joint that you just don`t believe in.
Thought you wanted to, I don`t know, send them to purgatory or something,
so they all go vegan. And wages and picket lines, I don`t know. They`re
not often discussed in purgatory, are they? I don`t know. Why are you
even worried about fast food wages, because --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Remember, she could have been a heartbeat away from the
Anyway, up next, President Obama`s unequivocal and unexpected response to
his foreign policy critics.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui with some breaking
news out of Iraq.
There has reportedly been a suicide attack at a checkpoint near the Baghdad
home of the new Iraqi prime minister-designate, this violence coming the
day -- the same day the U.S. sent 120 more military advisers to Iraq to
help with the humanitarian crisis involving tens of thousands of refugees
trapped by ISIS forces. About 240 military advisers are already in the
Authorities say actor Robin Williams committed suicide by hanging himself.
Toxicology results are still pending.
Former Microsoft Steve Ballmer is now the official owner of the L.A.
Clippers. Previous owner Donald Sterling fighting to prevent the sale of
the team in court, though. He was banned for life by the NBA for making
And the World Health Organization says patients suffering from Ebola in
Western Africa can be offered experimental drugs. There are no approved
treatments for the virus as of now -- now back to HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, not that there is much doubt about it, but one sure sign that Hillary
Clinton is getting ready to run for president is her recent distancing of
herself from President Obama, specifically on his decision not to aid
Clinton`s comments, which she made in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of
"The Atlantic," got enormous attention, because they were her most public
break from her former boss and her harshest criticism of President Obama to
Today, Clinton sought to calm the waters a bit. Her spokesman put out this
statement -- quote -- "Earlier today, the secretary called President Obama
to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him,
his policies or his leadership."
Well, maybe. One of the most quoted lines from Clinton`s interview was her
assessment of a slogan used in the Obama administration to describe the
foreign policy approach. They say, don`t do stupid stuff.
Well, Clinton said: "Great nations need organizing principles. And don`t
do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle."
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod pushed back, tweeting: "Just to clarify,
don`t do stupid stuff means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place,
which was a tragically bad decision."
Hillary Clinton will inevitably begin the process of separating herself
from the president she served as secretary of state, should she choose to
run for president officially. But this formal foray into publicly drawing
distinctions has shown how politically delicate this is going to be.
Joining me now, editor at large for Salon Joan Walsh and Michael Steele,
who was the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Both are MSNBC
So, Joan, I will start with you first.
To me, listen, we have the statement today. I think the Hillary spokesman
saying she plans to hug it out with President Obama as the media blowing
this thing up. Maybe I believe that. Maybe I believe that. Then I see
that tweet from David Axelrod and I say, no, she got under their skin, she
got under their skin in a real way.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She absolutely did.
And I would like to be there to see them hug it out. But I don`t think I`m
invited. But, you know, I also -- I wrote a piece that was critical of
Secretary Clinton. I think she went too far in a couple of her statements.
Substantively, I believe that she`s more of an interventionist than I would
like to see in the Democratic candidate. However, I also think it`s
possible to exaggerate exactly what she did here. There is almost --
Steve, almost nothing new in the interview.
She`s on the record in her book and in her book tour as saying, I wanted to
arm the -- quote -- "moderate Syrian rebels." I wanted more soldiers going
to Afghanistan for the later surge. And I wanted them to stay longer. I
was very skeptical of pushing Mubarak out of Egypt, because I didn`t see a
secular opposition ready to take power.
She`s really not been shy about this.
KORNACKI: Right, but, Joan, you -- I think you made this point really well
in your column, though. And it struck me, because you know this as well as
I do. I have put in interview requests with Hillary Clinton. I haven`t
gotten one. I think you have probably put in interview requests.
KORNACKI: I don`t know how many -- she chooses on this book tour --
KORNACKI: -- who she`s going to talk to. And she made a very
intentional choice here.
WALSH: Absolutely. And I do say that in the piece.
And I start with that, because it`s -- I say there are ways in which I
think he exaggerated the differences. But he -- that is -- I respect
Jeffrey Goldberg, nothing bad about him. But he`s a figure of the center-
right. His -- his politics on Israel are not in any -- are not some
Democrats` politics. And she knew exactly what he was going to do.
She did not choose you or me. You know, not envious here, not bitter, but
she knew exactly what she was doing by making that choice, she knew what he
would do. And she probably knew what the reaction would be or most of it.
KORNACKI: No, I mean, I`m really struck by it. I take your point
definitely that this in a lot of ways clearly is the real Hillary Clinton.
At the other time, there is a bit of strategy here.
Michael, that brings me to you. It seems to me that Hillary Clinton --
part of the sort of bigger picture strategy is maybe Hillary Clinton is
thinking, maybe people around Hillary Clinton are thinking a little bit
that there is a potential opening in 2016 to pick up support from
Republicans, from traditionally Republican voters on foreign policy
grounds. Republicans who look at Rand Paul, who look at sort of the Rand
Paul version of foreign policy, taking hold within their party and maybe
feeling uncomfortable with that.
Is there a message here? You see Hillary Clinton sending to those
Republicans, saying, yes, there is room on my bandwagon for you?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Not so much a message to
conservatives, neocons in foreign policy, for example. I just love
watching the left try to figure out what the hell to do with her. I mean,
they just -- she is the biggest thing on the political planet right now.
And when she makes what I think is just a very common sense statement about
-- and I think Joan touched on it. It`s in her book. It`s been printed
elsewhere, that everybody sort of hyping out about the separation. If the
woman is running for president of the United States, at some point, she`s
going to separate herself from this administration, just because she was
its secretary of state does not mean, as we saw with Colin Powell, as we
see with other secretaries of state, that they are lining up 100 percent
with the president`s policy or foreign policy. That`s one.
But number two --
KORNACKI: But, Michael, as a Republican, the position she`s doing here,
separating herself a little bit from the Obama administration but also
putting -- she`s putting herself I guess to the right of the Obama
administration but to the left of somebody like -- of the neocons.
Politically, is she putting herself a place that makes you as a Republican
STEELE: No. I mean, I don`t know how far left she would be necessarily to
some of the neocons. I mean, I think there is a consistency. She`s
supportive of the Iraq war in the beginning. She was supportive of
intervention in Syria.
So, I mean, I think that there`s some -- to your point, I think your
question is, you know, is there some kind of linkage that certain
conservatives can latch onto? I`m sure, that will be played out in the
national debate of foreign policy, which will play a much more prominent
role I think in the 2016 election than anyone thought up to this point.
And I think she`s staking out that ground, Steve, as much as she possibly
can, without in your face to the president but clearly creating distance
which I think a lot of folks on the left are going to be nervous about.
KORNACKI: Yes, speaking of that, Joan, just quickly, I know we are running
a little short on time here, but you wrote about this as well. You`re
saying Hillary Clinton may have to worry about the left or her left flank
right now, sort of distancing herself with President Obama. I`m wondering
when you say that, are you saying she has to worry about maybe a primary
challenger in 2016 or is it more that in the general election, people on
the left if their choice is Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul, if their choice
is Hillary Clinton closer to the neocons and Rand Paul with a little bit
more non-interventionism at least rhetorically, are they tempted by Rand
WALSH: Well, if they are, they are crazy, because Rand Paul couldn`t say
what he thinks about the Iraq airstrikes. He has mixed feelings.
So, Rand Paul -- he turned around. Now, he is Mr. Rand Paul stand with
Israel. Rand Paul is flip-flopping wildly on foreign policy. He`s got a
problem with his own anti-interventionist Republican friends because they
don`t know if they can trust him anymore. So, I`m not worried about that.
I guess, once again, I am concerned that she is looking past the primary
and that she is indifferent to the possibility of an anti-interventionist
challenge from her left. And, you know, I think she`s probably safe, but
not as safe as she thinks.
KORNACKI: (INAUDIBLE) in the second, too.
But thank you, Joan Walsh and Michael Steele. Really appreciate that.
And up next, the political side of Robin Williams. We`ll look back on some
of the late comedian`s best jabs at politicians.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Even before Hillary Clinton`s separation from President Obama`s
foreign policy, the president was forced to defend it before critics in
Congress. The president was meeting with congressional leaders from both
parties last Thursday. And according to "The Daily Beast" reporter Josh
Rogin, the president faced criticism from Republican Senator Bob Corker, in
which the senator criticized many aspects of the president`s foreign
policy, including Syria.
Rogin writes, "The president defended his administration`s actions on
Syria, saying that the notion that many have put forth regarding arming the
rebels earlier would have led to better outcomes in Syria was horse blank."
Well, White House officials confirmed to Rogin that the exchange took
place. They declined to confirm the expletive. Nevertheless, it`s clear
this criticism strikes a nerve with the president.
We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: It`s OK. First, having just come out of rehab some
of you don`t drink. You know who you are. If you wake up in a field with
a small animal, watch out.
Second thing, is use your right to vote. And also, keep studying. Keep --
just -- the world needs you big time.
We need your intelligence. We need you at full tilt. Don`t hold back.
Don`t let them stop you.
Don`t -- just come at it. Don`t be afraid. That`s it. You`ve got nothing
And the only thing -- the truth shall set you free, number one. Number
two, the world is waiting for you. I know it`s hard to say when you
graduate, even if you`re undecided, it`s OK. It`s out there.
It is that something of, it`s waiting for you, good and bad. I believe you
can do. That`s the bottom line. I believe you can do it. So, good luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: We are back. That was actor and comedian Robin Williams on the
HARDBALL college tour dispensing advice to students at Georgetown
University back in 2006.
Today, the coroner`s office in Marin County, California, confirmed that
Williams died as a result of asphyxia due to hanging.
Sixty-three-year-old Williams was discovered by his personal assistant. He
had several cuts on his left wrist that may have been self-inflicted. A
pocket knife with what may have been blood was discovered near his body.
Aside from his award-winning acting career, Williams also had an interest
in politics. Before attending Juilliard, he studied political science at
Claremont Men`s College in California and had a keen eye for the humor in
Tonight, we want to take a look at some of Robin Williams` more political
roles, plus comedy routine at which Williams pokes fun at our own political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Good morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test.
This is rock `n` roll. Time to rock it from the delta to the DMV. Is that
me or sound like an Elvis Presley movie?
Viva Da Nang. Oh, viva, Da Nang. Da Nang me, Da Nang me. Why don`t they
get a rope and hang me?
Hey, is it a little too early for being that loud? Hey, too late. It`s
06:00. What`s the O stands for -- oh my God, it`s early.
Speaking of early, let`s hear it for that Marty Lee Drywitz. Silky smooth
sounds, making me sound like Peggy Lee. Freddy and the dreamers.
The wrong speed. We`ve got it on the wrong speed for those of you
recovering from a hangover, that`s going to sound just right.
Take the hat, son.
That`s right, you better run, boy! You`re going to die!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Not at all. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of these United
States of America, at your service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I`m Larry Daley, the new night guard.
WILLIAMS: Ha, ha. Pleasure to meet you. Stay late. You`ll have to
excuse me, though.
Meanwhile at the southern borders of our country, 4 million illegal aliens
are crossing the border with bedroom sets and night tables.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s getting angry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not your talk show, Mr. Dobbs (ph).
WILLIAMS: And you`re not on your private plane flying to the gulf vacation
you took with the three heads of the major oil corporations. How did you
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Dobbs, you have to return to your podium.
WILLIAMS: I`m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Dobbs --
WILLIAMS: No smoking in the hydrogen, boom! Hindenburg.
Did you ever complete school, Cecil?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t go to school, Mr. President. I grew up on the
WILLIAMS: I grew up on a farm.
You have any children?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have two sons.
WILLIAMS: Did they go to an all-color school?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, they do.
WILLIAMS: We have to take a moment of silence for a fond farewell to
George W. Bush. Yes, it`s the end of the reign of George the II. The
reign of error is over. America is officially out of rehab. What`s he
going to do after he leaves office? Now, he cannot go on a speaking tour.
That`s a given.
I love Cheney. At inauguration, looking like old man putter, like good
luck with the economy, little African prince. Take care, Simba.
And he`s been an archetype now. He`s everything that if you want to
frighten a little child, you have to say, if you`re not good, the Cheney
man will get you.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: When we return, he me finish with what happens when you have a
coronation rather than a campaign.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: And finally, let me finish tonight with what happens when
instead of a campaign, you have a coronation. That`s what 2016 is shaping
up as for Hillary Clinton, at least when it comes to the Democratic
nomination for president.
You`ve seen all the numbers before. She`s running 50 or 60 points ahead of
her potential opponents. Her favorable rating with Democratic voters is 90
percent -- 90 percent.
Simply put, we`ve never seen a front-runner like this before in modern
presidential politics. What that means is that Hillary is free it do and
say things she wouldn`t be free to say and do if she had to worry about
winning her party`s nomination.
Think back to 2007, think back to 2008 when she had to deal with Barack
Obama`s campaign, when he kept reminding Democrats that she voted for the
war they hated, the Iraq war, when she had to keep explaining and re-
explaining that vote. When she had to worry every single day about how to
convince her party`s anti-war base they could trust her.
But as Hillary prepares for 2016 now, that pressure is gone. Not only is
there no Barack Obama running against her, right now, there`s no run lining
up to run against her. And it may well stay that way. Taking her on in a
Democratic primary looks like such a lost cause that Clinton could very
well end up with a free pass.
Which makes it a lot easier for her to do what she`s doing now, what we
talked about earlier in the show -- to begin moving away from her own
party`s president, from the president under whom she served and start
sending that message that she has -- the message that she has issues with
Barack Obama`s conduct of foreign policy, that hers will be a different,
more proactive, more aggressive foreign policy, that it will be tougher.
That`s the message she`s trying to send here.
This is not a message that`s aimed at his party`s base. This is a message
that`s aimed at people who aren`t Democrats, people who don`t like what the
present administration is doing. It`s aimed at hawks. It`s aimed at
Republicans who are getting nervous about the rise of Rand Paul and his
This is the message of a president who`s not worrying about -- of a
candidate who`s not worrying about the primary, not worrying about her own
party, but is already thinking ahead to the general election.
Hillary is being crafty here as she distances herself from Obama`s foreign
policy, she`s making sure to leave plenty of wiggle room, too, to point out
they agree on a lot, to praise his intellect, his thoughtfulness, his
seriousness. She knows better than to start a full-scale fight with the
Democratic base that at least for now has shown no interest in fighting
her. But she`s definitely distancing herself. And as long as she doesn`t
have to worry about a primary, that`s what she`s going to keep doing.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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