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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Date: November 26, 2014

Guest: Marq Claxton, Zerlina Maxwell, Rashad Robinson

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: The night before Thanksgiving, will there be peace
in Ferguson?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber, in for Chris Matthews.

Demonstrators (sic) and protests continue again today, now 48 hours after a
grand jury declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson for murder or
manslaughter for shooting Michael Brown. Demonstrators gathered near the
historic arch in downtown St. Louis and tried to storm City Hall. Police
say three protesters were arrested, including one for assaulting an

The new protests come after what St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar
called a much better night on the streets of Ferguson. Demonstrations
there were small last night, with none of the shootings or arson that
occurred that first night after the grand jury decision. The police did
arrest at least 44 people in Ferguson for mostly misdemeanors, and police
seized two guns and a Molotov cocktail.

At an early morning news conference on the scene, the police sounded a note
of support for some demonstrators.


CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: A lot of the protesters that
came out for peaceful protests actually were assisting us tonight. But
once again, there are those that are stuck on violence and embed themselves
with the peaceful protesters.


MELBER: Also new today, Michael Brown`s mother, Leslie McSpadden, is
speaking out. She said that tomorrow, Thanksgiving, is going to be
particularly difficult for her.


want to think about tomorrow being Thanksgiving. It`s just Thursday. I
don`t even plan to celebrate because I can`t!


MELBER: On the other side of the story, Officer Darren Wilson has been
making his case in the court of public opinion, and we`ll show that to you
in a moment.

But meanwhile, in another local case that`s drawing national outrage today,
Cleveland police released this video showing two officers shooting a 12-
year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun. Now, police say the officers
told him three times to put the gun down. An investigation there on that
is forthcoming.

And back in Ferguson, night is falling on Thanksgiving eve here, a period
that authorities do hope will mark a peaceful few days for this community.

Now, we`re joined by MSNBC`s Amanda Sakuma on the ground. How is it right

AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari. You know, the night is
young, but things are very quiet here in Ferguson as the residents in the
community here pick up the pieces from the devastation from days before.

You know, last night, we did see that mixture of peaceful protesting and
some aggressive flare-ups from the crowd, and it was on the first night of
this heightened police and National Guard presence, as local officials were
promising. Now, that heightened presence should continue on tonight, but
it`s yet to be seen whether or not the snow that`s been falling all of
today will have an impact on the crowds coming out.

Now, earlier today, we did see an example of what we`re seeing more of,
these groups of protesters who are using the day to use their message,
instead of just solely at night. This is something that we`re seeing more
and more here in St. Louis, with a heavily organized practice (ph).
They`re taking nods (ph) of this civil disobedience tactics in having
organized routes. They have predetermined actions. For example, they
stood in the middle of an intersection for a moment of four minutes of

And instead of damaging property, these groups are getting residents`
attention by being that minor pain in the neck during their daily commute,
but they`re keeping that message alive. And they`re also broadening that
message into a more national scope. As you were saying, Michael Brown is
not the only young African-American to be shot dead by police. There are
so many other names, there are so many other stories to be told --

MELBER: Yes, and Amanda --


MELBER: -- we`re seeing that around the nation today, tonight, even
going into Thanksgiving. What has been the reaction in Ferguson to all of
these other demonstrations that are designed to be solidarity with

SAKUMA: That has been the hope since the very beginning, that this could
really spark a national outcry. And it was almost overwhelming to see how
many other cities not only across the country but also around the world who
are gathering in solidarity. And it`s not just for Michael Brown, and I
think that`s the message that they`re wanting to convey. It`s that black
lives matter, all lives matter, and that they really want justice for a
very broken system.

MELBER: All right. Amanda Sakuma on the ground there, thank you. And
happy Thanksgiving to you.

I`m joined now by NBC News senior political reporter Perry Bacon and Marq
Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. Good evening to
you both.

Let me start with you on the news, Marq. What do you make of what`s
happening in Ferguson here as things are slowing down a bit and the police
themselves saying it`s been better?

first night were really based on some strong -- quite naturally, some
strong emotions that start outed based on the fact that the announcement
was made so late. And those provocateurs that are in every demonstration
and every protest and that criminal element that also sometimes will creep
into a protest -- they had an advantage. They were able to thrive off the
emotionalism of the announcement being so immediately before the start to
the demonstrations.

I think what`s happened now is that you see the more organized police
response. But more importantly, you see a more organized protest response
because there have been groups that have trying to organize, putting this
thing together for several months, and you`re seeing that come into play.

MELBER: Right. And yet some of those groups so frustrated by feeling like
the crimes that did occur out there on night number one, something that
they don`t want to be blamed for, that they were trying to organize

Perry, I want to play ABC here, airing more of its interview with Darren
Wilson this morning -- that, of course, the Ferguson police officer
embroiled in all this. And he explained in his version what happened
during that initial confrontation inside the car. Let`s watch.


(ph) up and I point it at him. And when I started to say, Get back or I`m
going to shoot you, and then his response -- immediately, he grabbed the
top of my gun. And when he grabbed it, he says, You`re too much of a
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) to shoot me. And while he`s doing that, I can feel his
hand trying to come over my hand and get inside the trigger guard and try
and shoot me with my own gun.


MELBER: And then Wilson also described what happened in the moments just
before he shot and killed Brown.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Some of the eyewitnesses have said, when
at that moment he turned around, he turned around and put his hands up.

WILSON: That would be incorrect. Incorrect.


WILSON: No way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you said he starts to run, does (ph) stutter steps
(ph), starts to come toward you. And?

WILSON: At that time, I gave myself another mental check. You know, Can I
shoot this guy, you know? Legally, can i? And the question that I
answered myself was, I have to. If I don`t, he will kill me if he gets to

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though he`s, what, 35, 40 feet away?

WILSON: Once he`s coming in that direction, if he hasn`t stopped yet, when
is he going to stop?


MELBER: And for context here, Perry, of course, there was a different
story from Michael Brown`s friend, Dorian Johnson, who was there when this
all went down. Johnson took issue with a number of those points that
Wilson offered, including the claim that Brown had his hands anywhere
inside his waistband.


DORIAN JOHNSON, FRIEND OF MICHAEL BROWN: His hands were never at his
waist. He had on basketball shorts. He couldn`t -- he couldn`t hold
anything in his waist. His hands was up. He didn`t have a belt on, so it
wouldn`t stay at his waist -- even if he did have anything at his waist, it
wouldn`t have stayed at his waist. His hands were up. He never punched at
the officer in no type of manner. He was merely trying to explain to the
officer that he did not have a weapon, and Why are you shooting?


MELBER: Perry, people are going into the Thanksgiving holiday. A lot of
folks don`t like to discuss tough issues around that table. And yet you
got to think, looking at these differing accounts, this is going to be
something people are going to try to make sense of.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR NBC REPORTER: You had these two radically different
accounts, first of all. And then second, you had, I think, Officer
Wilson`s -- the language he used when he referred to he thought Michael
Brown was -- he used the term "demon" to describe Michael Brown. That`s
how he felt at the time. I think the language he used (INAUDIBLE) going to
cause a lot of controversy and a lot of angst. You already heard Michael
Brown`s family was very angry about that.

It`s also, too, goes to the -- there`s a discussion about policy solutions
that should come from this. And one idea people have talked about is the
idea having (ph) requiring officers when they`re out patrolling to have
body cameras on them. And it would probably help address this situation,
where you have two accounts that are so radically different, as if they did
not see the same incident at all.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned body cameras, and some of these studies on that
are pretty clear. There was one area where they instituted them with a
control group so you could compare. And they found a 60 percent drop in
use of force by officers, an 88 percent drop in citizen complaints.

Marq, untangle that for us because from an officer perspective, that would
suggest a benefit for police, too, because they have video to defend them
against some of those citizen complaints, and every one gets documentation
then of these interactions.

CLAXTON: Sure. Absolutely. I mean, it`s really a no-brainer and it is a
win-win, regardless of the fact that many police unions and police
associations are resistant to support it. But it is a win-win and it`s a
no-brainer. And moving forward, that`s something that should be part of
modern day policing.

I do want to touch on one thing, a legal point that`s been made, and it`s
very important, and that is about the use of deadly physical force and the
cop-out that has been commonly used by police officers involved in these
type of shootings for quite some time, being in fear for their life.

I think it`s very important for us to really put that in perspective and
realize that the legal standard is not just fear for your life, it`s
reasonable fear for your life. So for example, if you are seeing a demonic
presence before you, with glowing demonic eyes, is that reasonable? If
you`re seeing yourself in a position similar to Hulk Hogan, you know, this
fantasized wrestling figure, is that reasonable?

So I think in many of these shootings, and moving forward, we must demand
that the fear of life be reasonable, and that`s a legal standard.

MELBER: Right, and that`s something people were trying to make sense of, a
reasonable apprehension. Missouri state law speaks to that. Or the
rationale of a felon fleeing -- a suspect fleeing a felony would be the
other rationale, both of which have a factual component.

Perry, I want to play also something as folks are weighing this out that
James Williams, the lawyer for Dorian Johnson, told MSNBC`s Chris Hayes,
namely that as everyone compares different testimony, there`s a difference
between the testimony of his client, a witness, and that of Wilson.


JAMES WILLIAMS, DORIAN JOHNSON`S ATTORNEY: I think it`s important to note
Dorian Johnson observed this, but was not on trial for his life. Officer
Wilson, who gave his grand -- self-serving grand jury testimony, was trying
not to be indicted.


MELBER: Perry, do you think folks around the country as this becomes
increasingly this political question, will view the officer that way, as
someone who had to say anything he could to try to defend himself? Or will
they continue to see him as someone who risked his line in the line of
duty? Because lot of this now with this George Stephanopoulos interview is
about people`s assessment of this individual.

BACON: I think we`ve entered a zone of -- you know (INAUDIBLE) the
politics are polarizing a lot of issues, and I think you`re seeing that on
this issue, as well, or where some people believe Wilson a few months ago
and still believe him now. Others believe the Brown family. I think,
ultimately, it`s going to be challenging to figure out -- ultimately, it`s
going to be challenging because we now have people sort of set into their
narratives about what they think happened.

And you`re seeing that with even, like, President Obama`s trying to figure
out, How do I talk about this in an issue -- in a way that is -- that
appeals to all people? One idea I think you`re hearing a lot from the
administration looking forward is an idea of, like, how do we have -- how
do we train police officers better to work with communities and the idea
maybe about having training in terms of racial bias and to deal with that
because (INAUDIBLE) that`s a way where you can look beyond -- we don`t
necessarily know -- we may never know what happened on that day, but we can
think about ways in which officers can work better with their communities
in the future.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned the president. Marq, take a listen to what the
president said in the wake of this grand jury decision and what he`s asking
his attorney general to do.


work constructively, your president will work with you. So as part of
that, I`ve instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not just to investigate
what happened in Ferguson, but also identify specific steps we can take
together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust
in our communities.

And next week, we`ll bring together state and local officials and law
enforcement and community leaders and faith leaders to start identifying
very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is


MELBER: That sounds great, Marq, and yet I think what -- it`s a fair --
it`s a fair reflection of what protesters are asking for, not only
Ferguson, but as we`ve been reporting, around the country tonight is, we
don`t need more meetings. What we`re hearing from these folks on the
ground is, We need the grand jury process to function the way it`s supposed
to, uniformly for everyone, not that there`s a different process for, say,
a police defendant in this situation than there would be for everybody

CLAXTON: Yes. I think what the president is proposing, which is positive,
is a more comprehensive approach, where the conversation about criminal
justice reform can be included, along with dealing with issues of
individual police and state regulations, along with the use of technology
or training, et cetera. And that is a positive step forward.

There is no one side -- one size fits all for this problem. There must be
a comprehensive approach, and it must involve the community, in large part
involve the community because perception becomes reality across the board.
And unless we`re really willing to have an open, honest and candid
discussion about even race and its part in law enforcement, in the criminal
justice system, then we`re just spinning our wheels. So a comprehensive
approach to this, and it starts with a discussion and with planning and
with mobilizing.

MELBER: All right, Marq Claxton and Perry Bacon, thank you so much for
joining me this evening.

Up ahead, we have an update on weather and Thanksgiving travel. There are
flights delayed across the East Coast, and we`ve got you covered.

Also, new reporting on this response to Ferguson, as I`ve mentioned, around
the country tonight, including some very large and spontaneous protests.
We`re going to look at what is sparking the unrest, the goals of these
efforts and why even some conservatives are saying an outbreak of activism
and politics in the streets could be, yes, a good thing. That`s next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MELBER: Now to some news with one of the most powerful federal judges in
America tonight. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been on the federal
bench for 34 years, underwent heart surgery today. The 81-year-old justice
experienced discomfort during a routine workout. Now, doctors discovered a
blockage in her right coronary artery. They installed a stent, and they
say now she`s resting and could be discharged in as soon as two days.

Justice Ginsburg has resisted recent calls to retire before President Obama
leaves office, telling "The New Republic" in September she`s going full
steam and that she leads the other eight justices for issuing the fastest

We`ll be right back.


MELBER: Welcome back to HARDBALL. At this hour, we`re almost two days out
exactly from the grand jury`s decision not to indict Ferguson officer
Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, and while Ferguson is calmer,
protests have been spreading throughout the rest of the nation.

Here in New York City, angry protesters in Manhattan blocked the entrance
to the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour. That is, of course, a crucial exit
from the city. In Boston, 1,500 protesters marched through the streets in
the Roxbury neighborhood towards the city`s South Bay section. Police made
several arrests.

Now, down south in Atlanta, police arrested 21 people after protesters
broke a window at a local pub. They also smashed windows of a police
cruiser, echoing attacks on police cars in Ferguson, and the windows of a
taxi, as well.

Over in LA, dozens of protesters shut down a stretch of the 101 freeway.
That was last night. Now, the freeway opened an hour afterward. Up the
West Coast in Portland, over 1,000 protesters gathered for a mostly
peaceful rally. But then a few hundred of them did clash with police, who
used pepper spray on some demonstrators and also made several arrests.

This energy and outrage may have begun in Ferguson itself, but we are
seeing energy and activism spreading around the nation this evening, and
often spontaneously.

Joining me is Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange, a
network and on-line Civil Rights organization. Good evening to you.


MELBER: Let`s -- let`s start with this idea, spontaneous protests all over
the place, not something we see normally.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

And I think that this is incredibly important to help bring this issue to
cities around this country. You know, we have been concentrating so much
on what`s happening in Ferguson, but there are Fergusons all around this

And as we at Color of Change continue to get these issues, these stories
that bubble up over and over again where someone is hurt or killed by
police officers, and there`s no sense of accountability, what you are
seeing from folks may feel spontaneous, but this is the bubbling up, the
bringing forth of stories and energies from everyday people, diverse crowds
that we`re seeing all around -- all around the country of people who are
saying, enough is enough, and that we`re no longer going to allow these
issues to just be in one community, for certain people to have to deal with
this, for black and brown people to have to deal with this.

We`re going to bring this to the table, so that everyone has to deal with
this and see this, so we can start pushing for the type of political change
that we need.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned diversity.

In many of the places, we`re counting up to 37 states feeling some kind of
action. And when you look out there, many of these crowds are very
diverse. Let`s be clear and blunt. We`re not just talking about young
black people in a given city saying, this is our problem. We`re seeing
something like a coalition in a lot of cities of people saying, this is
everyone`s problem.

I want to show you some still photos from the protests over the last few
days, as we try to reflect on what people are calling for. In L.A., we see
there, "The odds are never in our favor." Protests in Washington, D.C.,
"Racism hurts everyone." Also, a sign, "End racial profiling in D.C.,"
that`s an issue that kicks around a lot. And also, "Stand with the people
of Ferguson."

So, Rashad, let me ask you a question that is obviously one of those media
questions that`s not really answerable, but I`m curious for your thoughts
anyway. How much of this is solidarity with Ferguson and how much of this,
as we see in the racial profiling signs and some of the other calls, or
Albuquerque, which I want to get to, a response to other distinct problems?

ROBINSON: You know, Ari, in many ways, Ferguson is a flash point.

Ferguson, like many of these stories that we have seen, could have went
away. It could have been a moment in time. But there was young folks in
Ferguson, the young leadership who said, enough is enough. And I think
they have helped to inspire this new age of activism that we`re seeing,
sort of this participation age.

You know, 23 years ago, when that video of Rodney King surfaced and media
had to validate it, and those stories had to be validated through the media
before it got amplified, and over and over again, we have seen these
moments where, if it doesn`t get covered by mainstream media, sometimes,
the story doesn`t get out there.

But underneath in it communities around the country, people are
experiencing these moments and these issues with police. Armed with social
media, in this participation age, we`re seeing that everyday people now
have the power to sort of stand up and fight back. So, yes, there is
solidarity around justice for Mike Brown.

MELBER: Let me ask you that, because we were talking about body cameras
earlier in the broadcast.


MELBER: What does it say when we have this conversation in this nation
about security, national security and surveillance, and everyone says, from
the government on down, hey, if you`re not doing anything wrong, you got
nothing to hide, right? Just let us take look at everything to keep you
safe. Why do you think that argument that`s been made so vociferously
since 9/11 doesn`t seem to apply so often to these calls to video police,
who are of course public officials doing their jobs, and say, hey, if you
have got nothing to hide, why is it controversial to throw some videos up

To your point, video has made the difference in some of these cases.

ROBINSON: You know, we have actually heard from some law enforcement who
want these type of cameras.

MELBER: Some do. That`s fair. Some do.

ROBINSON: Who feel -- yes, who feel like this is going to help exonerate

At the end of the day, though, we have a real problem in this country
around accountability. We do not have the type of accountability
structures that actually help communities come together, to help law
enforcement and communities come together to solve the type of crimes.

Whether it is independent community review boards that have the type of
teeth that are going to make sure police are accountable, or having new
systems of prosecution that don`t rely on sort of the political system that
we currently have that has no incentive to charge and vigorously prosecute
police, we have got a lot to do here. And I think body cameras are one

Color of Change is going out on a petition to urge and build the type of
momentum locally and nationally, give everyday people who want these type
of body cameras, so we actually know what happens in a situation like
Michael Brown.


MELBER: Right. Let me tick through, Rashad, a couple of places, because
Ferguson isn`t the only community where these kinds of reforms have been

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

MELBER: New York City, where I mentioned these big protests tonight, stop
and frisk has been a huge issue. It was an issue in the mayoral campaign.
Drug enforcement, big changes in pot here, and of course that Eric Garner
case, where there was video.

L.A. used to be a city plagued by tensions with police. There have been
some reforms there. Federal supervision, something talked about for
Ferguson, that has already been instituted in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
where police were criticized for multiple shooting incidents, including
areas where excessive force was found by some independent reviews.

So, what do you make of that sort of connection between here, this one
case? And I have got to be clear. We do hear from critics in Ferguson who
say, hey, this isn`t a national issue. This is one case. And yet, as your
group has argued, there`s many cities where it connects to larger reforms
and arguments.

ROBINSON: You know, Color of Change was on the ground very early in

And what I heard from many of the local leaders in Ferguson, our friends at
the Organization for Black Struggle and others, and they reminded us, there
are Fergusons all around the country. And as people sort of came from
other places, they said, hey, it is going to be important that we build the
momentum locally other places.

So as folks are dealing with these issues in New York, where I live -- and
we have been very involved in pushing back against stop and frisk and
pushing for more sensible drug laws in our state and city -- and as we look
at issues in Los Angeles and Ohio and these issues that keep bubbling up
over and over, we need to build the momentum to push for local change and
federal change.

These marches around the country that are inconveniencing many people, but
amplifying the stories and the issues that everyday people are going
through, are exactly what movement-building is about. It is exactly sort
of the new civil rights movement of our time, where civil disobedience
helps to amplify the stories that some of us don`t have to experience.

There are many people around this country that go through their lives every
day never having to worry about interactions with police officers. Helping
to make these stories real for people, helping to force these conversations
on to the front pages of the newspapers and have everyday Americans deal
with it will help us all in the end look back at this moment five years
from now, 10 years from now, and say that, in this moment, in this moment
of national crisis, we were able to come together, stand together and make

And that is such the sort of powerful thing I see about seeing this new
generation of young activists, diverse, armed with technology, and willing
to make a stand for the folks in Ferguson, but also connect that back to
what`s happening in their community.

MELBER: No, and I think that`s the question. While you were speaking, we
were looking at new footage here recently from New York, where you have the
police battling. You had some arrests. You have that around the country,
as we have said.

Later in the program, we`re going to talk more about that, about where this

I think some people would be excited about what you just said, but I think
it is, to be fair, an open question whether this energy is a movement or
dissipates in different ways.

Rashad Robinson, thanks for your perspective tonight.

ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Up next, it`s a busy travel day for much of the country, of
course, and it has been made more treacherous this year by that nor`easter
headed up the East Coast. We have the latest on both the weather and
everything you need on holiday travel. That is next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democrats
and Republican presidents before me, to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac
and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.



MELBER: He does have that legal authority there, President Obama pardoning
this year`s national Thanksgiving turkey at the White House. That was just
earlier this afternoon.

The annual ceremony had to move indoors, though, this year due to that
inclement weather caused by the Winter Storm Cato, which is complicating
holiday plans for millions of Americans traveling on the East Coast this
Thanksgiving eve.

And for more on all of this, we go now to NBC News meteorologist Domenica
Davis -- Domenica.


Well, the situation is getting better. So that certainly is the good
thing. The storm system now is pushing up to the north and the heaviest of
this is in New England right around the Boston area. So, here`s a look at
the airport delays.

As this storm system clears, D.C., and Baltimore, no delays. And the only
delays we`re holding on to right now are Newark at two hours and Boston`s
Logan Airport, which is an hour-and-a-half. And that will persist through
much of tonight, unfortunately, because they are seeing the brunt of this
storm. So, probably about six hours until this storm clears the New
England area.

Here it is, shifting up to the north. And we are getting some snow on the
back edge in places like Philadelphia, Newark and Bridgeport. So, we`re
looking at still about one to two inches coming their way before this is
all said and done.

Some big snowfall out to the northwest still, in excess of six inches in
some places in New Jersey and parts of Connecticut and Upstate New York.
So pretty much that I-81 corridor, if you are traveling that tonight, still
be aware you are looking at snow-covered roads. Mainly along I-95, though,
is just that slushy mess and a little bit slick. And as we get into the
overnight hours, black ice will be a problem.

Here`s a look at the snowfall forecast. The blockbuster snow will be out
through Albany, Bangor and Manchester. The rest, the coastal areas, that`s
where we`re looking at just a slushy one to two. By Thanksgiving, it is
all said and done. We`re looking at a beautiful day, clear across the
board, a few leftover snowshowers in Boston in the morning -- back to you,

MELBER: Well, that`s good news for tomorrow. Thank you, Domenica Davis.

And from the holiday weather to the holiday travel we promised you, we have
got the latest from Washington`s Reagan National Airport with NBC`s Luke
Russert -- Luke.


A busy day of air travel in the D.C. region, the three airports expecting
to see 84,000 passengers over the course of today. And there were a fair
amount of cancellations here at Reagan National Airport, over 50 or so,
also a lot of delays. On average, the delays accounted for about 35 to 45
minutes coming in and out of the airport.

A lot of that is due to the precipitation you see falling behind me.
Around 11:00 a.m. today, it was snow. Turned into a little bit of sleet.
Now it is turning into a steady freezing rain. Thankfully, because the
temperatures have been above freezing, that has allowed for the runway to
stay mostly safe. It has not frozen over by any means.

All that being said, it`s expected this weather system should push out by
about 8:00 tonight, at which point every flight going out of DCA tomorrow
should be in the clear. So, if you`re flying out tomorrow morning from
here, you should be in the clear. I spoke to a lot of passengers. Most of
them were in good spirits, 35, 45 minutes, nothing they can`t handle.

Obviously, the cancellations are no fun, but if they can travel out there
tomorrow, they will be OK from DCA -- Ari, back to you. Take care.

MELBER: Thanks. You take care as well, Luke Russert there at Washington
National Airport.

And up next, the long-simmering problems in Ferguson were not news to
President Obama. He is once again trying to speak to what can seem like
two Americas, a political challenge that carries more risk than reward, but
one the president says is vital, and he is doing that while changing up his
foreign policy team in the middle of the war on ISIS. We will dig in to
this busy week for the president next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


what`s happening.

The first family spent part of the day taking part is in what is becoming a
Thanksgiving family tradition. They helped hand out food to those in need
at Bread for the City in Washington, D.C.

Despite some wicked weather, preparations are under way in New York City
for the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The giant balloons are being

And the White House is congratulating doctors at the National Institutes of
Health for their work on an Ebola vaccine that has shown promise in phase
one trials -- back to HARDBALL.

MELBER: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Thanksgiving is usually a lighter week for the White House, but President
Obama has been busy addressing the problems in Ferguson two days in a row,
including asking people to apply any anger here into civic action.


OBAMA: The bottom line is, nothing of significance, nothing of benefit
results from destructive acts.

I have -- I have never seen a civil rights law or a health care bill or an
immigration bill result because a car got burned. It happened because
people vote. It happened because people mobilize. It happened because
people mobilize. It happens because people look at, what are the best
policies to solve the problem? That`s how you actually move something


MELBER: It is too early to know whether the protests continuing around the
country that we`re monitoring tonight will move things forward. But is
voter mobilization really a realistic way to move things forward for many
of the most marginalized in Ferguson?

Jonathan Capehart asked Wesley Lowery, reporting on the ground there,
whether protesters might connect with local officials there, given all the
talk of a more civic response.

Well, Lowery offered a bracing reply -- quote -- " This is a
disenfranchised populace. They don`t vote for their elected leadership and
don`t feel represented by them. So, why would they turn to them for
leadership now?"

A fair question. Let`s take it to the HARDBALL roundtable: Pulitzer Prize-
winning "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, "Ebony Magazine"
Zerlina Maxwell, and MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.

Gene, why would we ask or expect that kind of civic participation now?

expect anything. But I think that`s what you need, right? That`s the way
our system works.

And so, what I think people need to focus on are specifics. Specific
candidates, specific proposals, specific ideas, specific concrete things
that they can -- that they can vote for, that make it worthwhile to get out
and vote.


MELBER: If I can push back on it a little, let me ask you -- is there
something of a false distinction here, though? The idea that you have to
do everything and we should get people mobilized voting and do politics
because that`s what a lot of people associate as a way to make change. Or
whether protests are their own type of politics, whether people register or
not, because that`s something we`re seeing around the country. I can tell
you, I don`t think the voter registration rate is 100 percent at all these
events and I`m be convinced that has to be a bad thing.

I want your respond and I want to play for you an unlikely advocate of
street protests here. Listen for this new sound from "The Tonight Show"
from Bill O`Reilly.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: African-Americans, some of them, not all, feel
that the justice system does not give them a fair shake. That`s a
legitimate protest, and I respect that, because things don`t change in this
country unless you protest. They don`t get better unless you protest.



ROBINSON: Well, no, that`s absolutely right. There is clearly a role for
protest. I`m not saying there is no role for protest because there has
been my entire life. I wouldn`t be here without protest.

But at some point, that protest does have to get translated into action and
hopefully that energy can get translated into concrete change. But you
need the energy first, clearly.

MELBER: Zerlina, what do you think of what we`re seeing around the country
here? Is it political? Or is that what folks want it to be who follow
politics but it`s something else entirely?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, EBONY MAGAZINE: Well, I think it`s a combination of both.
I think a lot of the mobilization that`s been done on social media all
across the country, a lot of these events, there are voter registration
efforts in order to sort of connect those two pieces together. But just as
far as the suggestion, one of the ways in which to enfranchise the folks in
Ferguson is to change the date of their local elections, which as reported
in August when all the flare-ups began, their local elections are held the
first Tuesday in April, and African-American turnout has been as low as 6
percent, where -- compare that to 2012 where African-American turnout was
on par with white turnout in Ferguson.

So, I think that`s one thing tangibly, as far as the suggestion to help
more of the people in Ferguson know that the election for their local
officials, including the district attorney is taking place so they can
then, you know, participate in their self-determination.

MELBER: Jonathan, you`ve spoken about the low turnout there in Ferguson as

also draw a distinction between Ferguson and what`s going on around the
rest of the country. You know, you have these protests all across the
United States.

So, the big question now is, what should the agenda be? And I think we
should think as Gene said, very specifically. And to me, something that is
very much needed are these vest cameras for every police officer in the
United States.

I was interested to hear that Sean Hannity, the night before last, said he
thought that was a good idea, too. The resistance to it comes from the law
and order community which doesn`t like change. They don`t like anything
new. Even if it could be a really useful tech fix, which is not going to
end, you know, the harmful treatment of either criminal justice system in
all cases. But it will improve things.

And as it happens, President Obama, when he was an Illinois state senator,
negotiated a compromise between prosecutors and defense attorneys that led
to the videotaping of interrogations in Illinois criminal cases. It`s been
very helpful. It has been very helpful for the prosecution and for the
defense and for the search for truth.

The same thing is true of a vest cam. We have the technology. Imagine if
we had had it in this case. How much further along we would be in the

So, let`s get that done -- the energy, the energy that drives this
particular reform.


MELBER: Such an important point.

And, Gene, Jonathan is talking about fact finding and how having a system
to find the facts that was transparent would be useful here, doesn`t this
seem to go to one of the distinctions in this new wave of what some are
calling a different civil rights movement than the old days.

In the old days, a lot of segregationists knew exactly what they thought
and what they wanted to hold on to. Here there seems to be an actual
factual underpinning dispute as America debates what happened here, just as
they did with Trayvon Martin, just as they so often do. And, Gene, speak
to us about why the transparency in the grand jury has been such a big
issue on this one?

ROBINSON: Well, it is because there are these different narratives of what
happened in this case and every case, and the narratives tends on align
with political views and socioeconomic status and all sorts of things that
should not bear on the actual fact of what actually happened.

Cameras would take us a long way toward being able to determine that.
Another thing that would take us a long way, you know, a trial in open
court, where everything could be aired and witnesses could be cross
examined properly and we could perhaps get closer to the truth. I think we
do get closer to the truth in criminal trials.

MELBER: And just briefly --

ROBINSON: We will not have that opportunity here.

MELBER: And just briefly, Zerlina, how much is there an age gap for a new
generation that`s growing up with video phones?

MAXWELL: Oh, I think there is a huge age difference. I`ve had a lot of
discussions with my parents who grew up in the `60s, obviously, and they
were focused on more of the looting, and the fires and the violence, and
not so much on the fact that there were protests, that were peaceful
protests all over the country.

So, I think we need a little education in terms of telling our parents and
our grandparents the ways on which we are organizing and then they can
teach us the way they did it, and so there`s best practices all around.

MELBER: All right. Very interesting.

All of you stay, so, Eugene, Zerlina, Jon.

And we`ll be back after the break. We`re going to talk about what kind of
person President Obama also wants as his new defense secretary.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MELBER: This is HARDBALL, where it is never too early to look ahead to
2016. We`ve got new poll numbers on the presidential race for you.

According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, Mitt Romney leads the Republican field
with 19 percent support. Jeb Bush next there with 11, followed by Chris
Christie and Ben Carson coming at 8 percent.

Now, with Romney out of the race, Bush and Christie would be the top two
finishers in that poll.

And in the Democratic side, it`s all Hillary Clinton, folks, with Elizabeth
Warren and Joe Biden running way behind.

And, by the way -- this is interesting -- Romney is the only Republican
that would beat Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up there.
Hypothetical races apparently where he does best.

We`ll be right back.


MELBER: We are back.

President Obama needs a new defense secretary after ousting Chuck Hagel.
And at a time when the administration is recalibrating a military response
to ISIS, this new secretary will need to get confirmed and battle a
Congress skeptical of Obama`s strategy and legal footing.

To fill this tall order, though, it appears there`s no clear front-runner.

I`m back with our politics roundtable, Eugene, Zerlina and Jonathan.

Gene, you`ve been writing about this. I want to read something from "The
New York Times", basically assessing the problem.

They write, "Defense Secretary Hagel was not in sync with the Obama
administration. The reality led to his ouster. Mr. Hagel fell short in
the president`s eyes because he was passive and quiet in the Situation
Room. Hardly the commanding figure need when the country`s in a new war
against ISIS extremists in Iraq and Syria. And he seemed captive of the
generals and not in sync with the president`s team."

Is that fair, Gene?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, I`m not sure. When, you know, people in the
White House say that defense secretary`s captive with the generals and the
secretary of state is captive to the diplomat, or whatever, you know, that
could be true. You also have to wonder how much the White House wants to
listen to that sort of input.

And it`s a fine line to walk, because the generals will try to roll any
defense secretary and get him or her to do whatever they want. That said,
what the president really needs, I think, is someone to help figure out
this whole is strategy, which, as I`ve written several times, seems to be
betwixt and between to me. It doesn`t make a lot of sense. And it`s hard
to see how it gets the president where he says we need to go in terms of
defeating ISIS.

MELBER: Well, you`re nailing it. I mean, when they talk about like the
EPA, you don`t want regulatory capture because all the power is in the
industry that the EPA is supposed to regulate. In the military context,
the power is with the generals.

And, Jonathan, let me read something pretty remarkable here from Rosa
Brooks, who worked in the Obama administration at the Pentagon. And she
said about a Hagel replacement, "The clear suggestion is that the White
House does indeed still want a doormat. Hagel just forgot whose doormat
he`s supposed to be. So, it`s sure looking like this move presages a White
House doubling down on existing ways of doing business."

Jonathan, that picks up Gene`s point here about whether to some degree,
Hagel`s problem was that he might have been doing his job well if he was
reflecting some of what the generals were concerned about in the top-down

ALTER: You know, it`s very hard to know exactly what all the head slamming
at the line of scrimmage is between the National Security Council and the
people at the Pentagon and the uniformed officers at the Pentagon.

So, you know, in the past, in 2009, for instance, you know, I had a big
section in my book that year about how Obama felt like he was being jammed
by the Pentagon. That was the word that he used. He felt like he was
being crowded by them, and they were limiting his options in these very
complex issues, particularly related to Afghanistan.

So, now, we`re back in Afghanistan, we`re back in Iraq, we`re sort of in
Syria. And he needs somebody really smart at the Pentagon who is going to
kind of sort through these various options and be able to give him enough
options so that he`s comfortable drilling down and making the decision for

The important thing to remember, Ari, about this president is it doesn`t
matter that much who`s in any of these jobs. He makes all the big
decisions by himself.

MELBER: Clearly. And I want to jump in and say that`s why the doormat
analogy is so evocative.

And, Zerlina, the other political piece here is Republicans coming back in
January and saying, we don`t know that we want to authorize this ISIS war.

MAXWELL: Well, I think that that`s the problem that we are in right now.
And I think that, you know, that is a problem that is nothing new. I don`t
think that we should be optimistic in thinking that Republicans are going
to be reasonable simply because the secretary of defense is such an
important position and so necessary in this moment.

So, I think, I`m pessimistic about them being able to confirm someone who
at least is in the middle between the positions of the Republicans and
where the White House is right now on issues of foreign policy.

MELBER: Yes, you could say, well, maybe the president should reach out,
pick a Republican for this job.


MELBER: He already did that.

MAXWELL: Exactly.

MELBER: And they didn`t like Chuck Hagel after that.

I want to thank Gene Robinson, Zerlina Maxwell, and Jonathan Alter, for
joining me here on a snowy Thanksgiving Eve and a happy Thanksgiving to
you, guys.

ROBINSON: Same to you.

MAXWELL: Thank you so much.

MELBER: We`ll be back right after this.


MELBER: You`ve been watching HARDBALL. I`m Ari Melber, in for Chris
Matthews. If you have any thoughts on the show or the news, you can always
e-mail me, or you can wish me happy Thanksgiving. And I wish
you one.

Thanks for being with us. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving to everyone
out there. And thanks for watching.



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