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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Date: February 18, 2015
Guest: George Pataki, Michael Weiss, Barry Levinson, Mike Paul, Nicholas
Confessore, Tara Palmeri


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, up in New York.

Jeb Bush took the first big step to the White House today. He did so
by stepping away from his father, and most important, his brother`s


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I admire their service to the
nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make, but I`m my own


MATTHEWS: "I`m my own man." But look who he`s got on his foreign
policy team as of today. Yes, he`s got James Baker, a realist, but guess
who else? Stephen Hadley and Paul Wolfowitz, those best and brightest who
took this country into Iraq, who came up with that damned (ph) warped
choice that broke that country and left us with ISIS, a nutso policy that
proved what General Colin Powell called the Pottery Barn rule -- you break
it, you bought it.

Will the real Jeb Bush please stand up? Are you the pragmatist your
father and Jim Baker were, or the go-it-alone, French-hating Freedom Fries
neocon ideologue that W. was sucked into being? I can be tougher. Your
father took us into war with the Iraq the first time. Then your brother
doubled down with his war of choice. Are you taking us to war with Iran?
Is this going to be the Bush trifecta? Are you truly going to be your own
man and find other means to guard and advance this country`s interests than
by taking us into another war?

MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt is in Chicago covering
Governor Bush today. What was the feeling out there, that he separated
himself from his sibling and his father, or he didn`t?

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I think that while the headline
out of this was "I am my own man," you didn`t actually hear very many
specifics where Jeb Bush is actually differentiating himself between George
W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. If you listen to his explanation on Iraq,
for example, that came during the Q&A period, while he said that there were
mistakes that were made in Iraq, he also then went on to say that the surge
was politically heroic, one of the most politically heroic things any
president has ever done, and he said that President Obama is the one who
squandered the gain from the surge that -- and that that is what ultimately
led to ISIS.

MATTHEWS: And how did President Obama splurge (ph) the surge, if you

HUNT: Well, the way that Jeb Bush outlined it in his Q&A is just that
because Obama accelerated the withdrawal from Iraq, that`s what ultimately
led to the power vacuum. And his accusation seemed to be that if the
president had shored up the troops in Iraq, left them there longer, had a
presence that was more -- that was stronger, more resilient, that we
ultimately wouldn`t be in the situation we were today.

MATTHEWS: OK, Kasie Hunt, great reporting.

As I mentioned, during those remarks to a global security group in
Chicago, Governor Bush cited the mistakes in Iraq but praised his brother`s
strategy as heroic. He was talking about the surge. And here`s Jeb Bush.


BUSH: There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure. Using the
intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass
destruction was not -- turns out not to be accurate.

My brother`s administration through the surge, which was one of the
most heroic acts of courage politically that -- that any president`s done
because there was no support for this -- and it was hugely successful, and
it created a stability that when the new president came in, he could have
built on to create a fragile but more stable situation that would have not
allowed for the void to be filled. The void has been filled because we
created the void.


MATTHEWS: Well, Steve Kornacki`s the host of MSNBC`s "UP" and George
Pataki, of course, was three-time governor of New York.

I want to go to you, Governor, because I`m not sure whether you`re
running for president or not, but you may want to make an announcement.

GEORGE PATAKI (R), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I`ll wait a little bit.


PATAKI: Probably New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: How does Jeb Bush separate himself from a very recent
presidency, with whatever your politics, is now recognized as a very
unpopular war with Iraq?

PATAKI: Well, I think he did not do that today. He said he`s his own
man, and he is. And during the course of the campaign, he will be asked
specific issues and he will outline positions that will allow him to stand
on his own two feet.

But what he really said today was basic Republican orthodoxy. He said
that we made the wrong decision on Cuba. Almost all Republicans agree on
that. We have to rebuild and strengthen our military. Almost all
Republicans and I think most Americans agree with that. We have to stand
with Israel.

I think these are all things that they don`t separate him from his
brother, but he doesn`t have to on these issues because these are things
that Republicans across the board, with the possible exception of Rand
Paul, think are the right...

MATTHEWS: In the primaries, especially.

PATAKI: I the primaries, and I think in the general, too. The
American people support a stronger military and standing with Israel.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I think the interesting thing is how
tactical he was, Steve, I mean, going out and saying, I supported the
surge, when most people if you`re going to get stuck in Iraq, at least
we`ll get to leave on our own terms, which the surge allowed us to do. But
the more strategic question is, was that a smart war to fight? Were we
right to go in there? Are we better off for having that situation the way
it is now...


MATTHEWS: Is ISIS better than Saddam Hussein?

question -- that`s the question he doesn`t want to answer. In fact, he
practically (ph) came out and said that flat out the other day. It`s also
a question a lot of Republicans, and Democrats, for that matter, who
supported this war, you know, 10, 12 years ago...


KORNACKI: ... don`t want to...



MATTHEWS: The vice president of the United States and like Hillary

KORNACKI: Yes, Hillary Clinton...


KORNACKI: ... comes right to mind. But I think what the governor was
saying there is true in that what Jeb Bush said today, the broad message he
laid out -- absolutely, that`s consistent with where the Republican Party
is. And the Republican Party, I think, with all the developments with ISIS
in the last year -- so this is probably true of the whole country, but the
Republican Party in particular, which has always been a little more
hawkish, moving in a more hawkish direction response to this. So Bush is
where he needs to be, I think, ideologically. It`s a pragmatic question,
though. Do you want to nominate another Bush?

MATTHEWS: I think he wanted to be very Reagan-esque, rather than
Bush-ish, if there`s an adverb -- a verb -- anyway, Jeb Bush described Iran
as an existential danger to the world -- Iran -- and slammed President
Obama`s nuclear negotiations with that country. Here it is. And this is
the hot stuff.


BUSH: Iran`s ambitions are clear and its capabilities are growing.
For many years, they have been developing long-range missile capabilities
and their own nuclear weapon program. When he launched his negotiations,
President Obama said that that was the goal, stop Iran`s nuclear program.
Now we`re told the goal has changed, and the point of these negotiations
isn`t to solve the problem, it`s to manage it.

Iran`s intent is clear. Its leaders have openly expressed a call for
the annihilation of the state of Israel. This is an existential threat to
Israel and to the world, including the United States. We could face large-
scale proliferation issues throughout the region if Iran has the ability to
launch a nuclear weapon.


MATTHEWS: OK, the overstatement`s obvious. It`s not an existential
threat to the planet. The planet will exist. Well, anyway, that`s fine.
He made a mistake in his words there. What is the Republican mainstream
alternative to continue negotiations at least for a couple more months or a
couple more weeks, actually, with Iran on nuclear? What`s the alternative?

PATAKI: Chris, I think you see it in Congress. If the negotiations
don`t work, go back to hard sanctions and try to get as much buy-in
globally as possible. Can we get the Russians and the Chinese this time?
I`m not sure.


PATAKI: I think Obama made an enormous mistake in lifting the
sanctions in exchange for returning to negotiations. We should have had
negotiations, but while the sanctions remained in place. And if Iran
wouldn`t do it, then crater their economy and result in a much weaker...


MATTHEWS: ... admit, right off the fact (ph), that tougher sanctions
won`t be bought by the people that -- who trade with Iran, what -- they
won`t work.

PATAKI: We have to preserve the opportunity, if they are close to
developing a nuclear weapon, to prevent that from happening.


PATAKI: Jeb (INAUDIBLE) the important thing. It`s not just Iran and
their existential threat, as they are, to Israel, but also the fact that
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Turkey, they`re all going to have
nuclear weapons!

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the gut question. Do you think either
administration would ever attack -- if there`s a Republican administration
coming in -- either them or Obama would ever attack Iran unless they were
on the very edge of having a nuclear weapon, and not a year out?

I get the sense listening to Bibi Netanyahu, and I have listened to
the hard right -- I think they`re ready to bombs away right now because
they talk about it. They are very close to a hawkish position, which
scares the hell out of me. Go to war with another Islamic country when you
don`t have to?

KORNACKI: Well, that`s -- that`s one of the legacies, I think, of
Iraq and of the idea of preemptive war that I think -- you know, the world
has changed a lot in the last year. At least how we perceive the war has
changed a lot in the last year. And I think a lot of people in this
country who -- who`ve sort of been spooked by the experience of Iraq for
the last 10 years are maybe rethinking that a little bit.

But I think the one thing at least that carries over from Iraq in
terms of the public mood and the reality for administrations is that
preemptive attack, that preemptive war like we launched in Baghdad in 2003
-- I don`t think that`s going to be happening...

MATTHEWS: Do you think anybody in your party would go that far...


MATTHEWS: ... hit them before they even have a nuclear weapon?

PATAKI: I think when they are on the verge of a nuclear weapon, there
will be many, not just in my party...


MATTHEWS: ... Democrats will do it, too.

PATAKI: ... who agree that that is a necessary strike (ph)...

MATTHEWS: I agree. I agree.

PATAKI: ... for the safety of the world.

MATTHEWS: You have to hit them before they have an opportunity to hit
us. I agree with that. The question is, how much lead time are you
willing to give them? Are you willing to say, Well, a year out, I can live
with that because that gives me a year to track them, if you have the right
kind of inspections.


MATTHEWS: You have to be there...


KORNACKI: This will come down to intelligence, too, right?


KORNACKI: I mean, we`ve been hearing all sorts of...

MATTHEWS: On the ground.

KORNACKI: ... warnings for the last two, three, five, six years...


KORNACKI: ... that they`re six months away, they`re a year away,

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jeb, the governor, cheered the coming visit of
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address a joint meeting
of Congress in an open effort to derail the president`s negotiations. Why
know why Bibi`s coming. He`s going to criticize Obama`s plan. Let`s watch
the governor -- Governor Bush here.


BUSH: I`m really eager to hear what he has to say. Israel is not at
the negotiation table with Iran, but it has a lot at stake. I don`t blame
him for wanting to share his views. And in fact, I think it will be
important for the American people to get the perspective of our closest
ally in the region.

I`m surprised that the administration is upset to hear from a close
and valuable ally on such a sensitive subject. Foreign policy should be a
place where our long-term security interests are front and center, and the
political hacks should be doing the campaigns and staying there.


MATTHEWS: Speaking of political hacks, I have never heard of a
speaker going along with a secret plan to invite somebody to speak to a
joint meeting. All they had to do was call up the president, say, I know
you`re not going to like this, but I got the prime minister of Israel
coming over here. He didn`t do it! He never -- he never -- he just went
and cut the deal, invited the guy, and all of a sudden, Obama`s cut (ph)
cold (ph) with a fait accompli, a partisan move, but looks to be a Likud
partisan move by Bibi, a move by the ambassador to help him, it looks like,
and all to the detriment of a bipartisan foreign policy.

PATAKI: And Chris...

MATTHEWS: All to the detriment.

PATAKI: Chris, the fact is, Netanyahu is going to be addressing
Congress. The Democrats should go. And by the way...

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think it`s right to do it the way he did it?

PATAKI: It`s done. I think what is not right is the president should

MATTHEWS: You`re avoiding the question!

PATAKI: The president should invite Netanyahu to the White House. He
is a...



PATAKI: ... a head of state. He`s coming. I...

MATTHEWS: OK, how about...


MATTHEWS: How about inviting Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the opponents in
the next election, since it`s only two weeks off?

PATAKI: I don`t think, other than for...

MATTHEWS: Two weeks off.

PATAKI: ... for people like the pope, you don`t invite candidates.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you...


MATTHEWS: ... candidate for reelection.

PATAKI: He`s the prime minister of Israel.

MATTHEWS: It`s two weeks before the election. They sneak him into
the country. They do this without...

PATAKI: He`s not sneaking into the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, they did...

PATAKI: He is the sitting prime minister of Israel.

MATTHEWS: Has there ever been in your lifetime someone invited to
talk to a joint meeting of the Congress without the president knowing it
was being done? I`ve never...

PATAKI: I can`t tell you that. I don`t know the answer to that.

MATTHEWS: Well, why are we setting precedent here?

KORNACKI: Well, it is sort of extraordinary, and I think the bigger
sort of political story is...

MATTHEWS: I know the politics here.


MATTHEWS: ... once he`s here because then you`re snubbing him. But
this was a snub perpetrated by the ambassador to Israel -- from Israel, not
to Israel -- and the speaker of the House. They put this thing together,
and it`s official now. They never told the president.

KORNACKI: And you can see there`s this political alliance that`s
sprung up in the last decade or so between Netanyahu, between the right in
Israel, and the Republican Party in this country. And I think this is...

PATAKI: One quick point...

MATTHEWS: By the way, this is cooked.


MATTHEWS: This isn`t about Israel or Jewish people or supporters of
Israel. This is about the crazy right-wing evangelicals...


MATTHEWS: ... that they`re selling this to.

PATAKI: No, I think it`s about the breakdown in civil negotiation
between parties...

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

PATAKI: ... the president in Washington.

MATTHEWS: Well, who started this fight?

PATAKI: That`s the bigger picture.

MATTHEWS: Who started this fight?

PATAKI: The president, I believe, with "Obama care," when he wouldn`t
even talk to the Republicans, began the breakdown in civil dialect.


MATTHEWS: That is (INAUDIBLE) because I have heard that. That is not
so off the wall. I`ve heard...

PATAKI: (INAUDIBLE) off the wall.

MATTHEWS: ... the reason -- the reason -- I said it`s not off the


MATTHEWS: I said Boehner -- some people say the reason he did this
little tricky little number with Netanyahu was to get even for the
executive orders on immigration, which is really...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you keep going back, it`s 1-0, it`s because of
this, then the other says it`s because of that.


PATAKI: ... our country`s leaders, they should sit down, work
together and...


MATTHEWS: ... the greatest country in the world. We should stop the
Mickey Mouse, and this is part of the Mickey Mouse. I know we all agree.

PATAKI: On both sides.

MATTHEWS: I know, but in this case, Mickey Mouse is a Republican.

Anyway, thank you, Governor George Pataki, who may well run for
president. Any thoughts on that right now?

PATAKI: We`ll decide later.

MATTHEWS: I love this "we."


MATTHEWS: Where do these...

PATAKI: My wife!

MATTHEWS: OK, your wife.

PATAKI: She has veto power, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Steve Kornacki, my buddy.

Coming up -- the ISIS barbarity continues. The group has taken
torture and violence to a new level with mass beheadings and burning people
alive, then they post their crimes on line for the world to see. To whom
they are -- my question, to whom are they addressing their message?

Plus, a State Department spokeswoman is being attacked by the right
wing for the comments she made here on HARDBALL the other night about the
root cause of terrorism.

Also, John Boehner, the speaker, blind-sided the White House last
month by inviting Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu -- yes, he did --
to address Congress. A new poll shows nearly two thirds of Americans say
Boehner shouldn`t have sent that invitation.

Finally, the man responsible for some all-time great Hollywood
classics, from "Diner" to "Good Morning Vietnam" to "Rainman" to "Wag the
Dog," the great Barry Levinson, has a new movie out starring Al Pacino.
He`ll be here in just a moment.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: President Obama plans to name a new director of the Secret
Service. A senior administration official says the president will name
Joseph Clancy as director. Clancy has been serving as the interim director
of the Secret Service since October, when Julia Pearson resigned following
a string of mishaps.

By appointing Clancy, the president is ignoring criticism from Capitol
Hill that the agency should be run by an outsider, rather than appointing
someone from within.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What does ISIS want? Great
question. And how can it be defeated? Those are the questions facing
counterterrorism officials here in the U.S. and around the world.

Well, late Tuesday, the group continued its assault, launching
multiple waves of attacks against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, there`s disturbing news about that ISIS video of 21 Egyptian
Christians being beheaded in Libya. One voice expert who viewed the tape
for NBC News said the main speaker had a North American and likely American

Well, today, President Obama addressed a White House summit on
countering violent extremism. He said military force alone won`t solve the


squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups
use to incite people to violence.

Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy.
They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in
defense of Islam, and they propagate the notion that America and the West
generally is at war with Islam. That`s how they recruit. That`s how they
try to radicalize young people.

We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a
lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that
they seek. They are not religious leaders, they`re terrorists.


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by Graeme Wood, who wrote
about ISIS in the latest issue of "The Atlantic," and Michael Weiss, who`s
co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror."

Gentlemen, the president continues to make this dichotomy between
Islam and the terrorists. I don`t know what -- do you think that`s useful?

GRAEME WOOD, "THE ATLANTIC": I think it`s important that he mentions
that Islam is not defined by ISIS. It`s also false, however, to say that
ISIS doesn`t derive some of its basic rules of the world from the Islamic
tradition. And making that distinction is a very important thing for the
United States to do to, as he says, show that the United States is not at
war with Islam, which is really what the narrative of ISIS is.

MATTHEWS: What`s ISIS about? What`s its purpose? It`s a new
organism on the planet that came from somewhere. It`s a -- is it a
derivative of al Qaeda? What is it?

used to be a part of al Qaeda. It`s not new, though, Chris. We`ve been at
war with them for 11 years. I mean, if any -- if any -- if ever there was
a familiar enemy to the United States, it`s this. They were founded in
2004 in Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, himself a Jordanian. They first went
under the banner of al Qaeda in Iraq. They have gone under serial changes
to their upper echelons in terms of the leadership, also the banner that
they fly under.

MATTHEWS: When did they begin to claim land and hold land as a

WEISS: OK. As a caliphate, recently.

But, remember, they were taking over whole cities and towns in Iraq.
When the U.S. had a military presence there, they were in Fallujah. We
kicked them out of Fallujah. They showed up in Mosul. We kicked them out
of Mosul.

What do they want?

MATTHEWS: But the map is new.

Now we look at a map that`s a big part of Iraq and a big part of
Syria. It looks like a country developing there. It`s got its own militia
and it`s running its place. It`s running health care. It`s building
loyalty I guess under Sharia law, because those Sunnis would rather have
that, apparently, than have the militias from the Shia crowd in Baghdad.

WEISS: Well, that -- I think you have hit the nail on the head there.

ISIS is fundamentally, I would argue, more of a political project than
it is a religious one. The religion plays a huge role. They are, as
Graeme said, tapping into wellsprings of Islamic theology and Islamic
history. The idea of merging the two fiefs that persisted at the time of
the second Crusades of Aleppo and Mosul, this is very powerful. It`s part
of their propaganda and their narrative.

But I would argue that propaganda is aimed at what you might call the
foot soldiers or the rank and file. The guys at the top, a lot of them are
true believers in Salafi jihadism, but a lot of them also come from the
regime of Saddam Hussein, guys who literally went from wearing military
fatigues, smoking cigars, drinking wine and having 80 mistresses to being
in the dishdasha with the long black beard and claiming that they were

Saddam actually had a program called the Islamic faith campaign, where
he tried to marry Baathism and Salafism. A lot of guys he put through that
program came out of it, graduated, and said the helicopter with Baathism.
Let`s just become Salafis. He had a role to play in cultivating this.

But, look, these guys -- there is an economic incentive.

MATTHEWS: So they come from sweet deals with the older Iraq
government of Saddam Hussein. They are kicked out by our de-Baathification
program, so they find a new call.

WEISS: Exactly. And is an economic incentive here.

The Sunni tribes of Eastern Syria and Western Iraq have persisted for
centuries cutting all manner of pragmatic deals, doing horse trading with
whoever is in charge. Right now, ISIS is in charge and they say, as you
put it, let`s join forces with these guys. They are brutal and they`re
barbarists, but it`s true they make the trains run on time, they provide
health care sanitation.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about what we`re up against.

The reason we`re fascinating with this, it`s not looking at a map
somebody shows us, not for regional studies. It`s because we`re seeing
people beheaded. We`re seeing people burn alive and we identify with those
people. I do. I think why is a bunch of -- why is this woman who is a
good woman get supposedly killed in some air attack, which she probably

And then you get someone else who is a loyal fighter for the Jordanian
air force, probably a good guy, burned alive with gasoline just because
he`s a soldier. There`s no rules of warfare here. And then these Coptic
Christians are killed because they are Christians.

WOOD: Certainly, if you ask them, they do have rules of warfare and
they talk about them constantly to themselves and to the rest of the world.

These are rules of warfare that I think most Muslims would say deviate
extremely from the norms of warfare in classical Islam and most scholarship
of warfare law since then. But to say that they are making it up as they
go along I think would be a mistake. And to suggest that, even though it`s
certainly true that we have so many of these Baath Party members who have
joined the upper echelons of ISIS, to say too quickly that they are simply
insincere, I think...


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about their true belief. How do they see the
world, these people? They are killing people ruthlessly. They are
recruiting with it. It`s a recruiting tool, but you say it`s deeper than

WOOD: Yes. They believe that they are agents of the apocalypse and
they believe that part of what they have to do is create a fight between
the West and, as they call it, the army of Rome, and Islam, and once they
are able to do that, they will have a particular signpost along the way and
eventually that`s going to lead to the end of time.

MATTHEWS: So how many in that group of the ISIS people in the black
uniforms driving around in the armored personnel carriers, how many of
those people are actually the true believers at the top who have this
religion, this cult?

WOOD: We don`t know. We know that there are programs to make sure
that there is ideological enforcement.

There are of course many people who are probably more interested in
making sure that they have a paycheck, making sure that they have security
and they find that ISIS is the fastest way to get there.

MATTHEWS: How do we beat them?

WOOD: Well, we can defuse in some ways their propaganda. We can kind
of break the spell, because one crucial element of their propaganda is to
say that we are constantly expanding, we`re modeled on the Islamic
conquests of the very earlier days of Islam.

If we stop their expansion, they start to look a bit less inevitable
and maybe a bit more pathetic because the territory that they do control,
it`s impoverished. It delivers very little in the way of social services.

MATTHEWS: Are they heading to Cordoba?

WOOD: They would love to.

MATTHEWS: I think they might. They`re going all the way to Spain,
but I guess we can stop them before they get there, I hope.

Thank you very much. Very good read there.

Michael Weiss, thank you. Both of you.

WEISS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the American film director, the great one, who
gave us "Diner" and "Rain Man." Barry Levinson joins us up next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, with so many worthy films in contention this year, the Academy
Awards this Sunday night are as anticipated as ever, especially in the
hotly contested best actor category.

Our special guest this evening knows a thing or two about what makes a
great performance. In his career, Academy Award-winning director Barry
Levinson has directed six actors in Oscar-nominated roles, Glenn Close,
Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Dustin Hoffman, and the late
Robin Williams.

Levinson`s new film, "The Humbling," about the price, you might call
it life toll that an actor pays to be in front of an audience.

It features Al Pacino as Simon Axler, a stage performer at the end of
his career, whose love interest, played by Greta Gerwig, is nearly 40 years
his junior. Here`s a clip.


AL PACINO, ACTOR: You know, I was thinking, don`t you think it`s time
you told your parents about us?

GRETA GERWIG, ACTRESS: Oh, no, no, no. My mother can never know


GERWIG: Anything.

PACINO: Why? What are you thinking?

GERWIG: Well, even if the two of you hadn`t had a thing for each
other back in the day...

PACINO: What thing? Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.

GERWIG: I`m just saying, I could never -- I could not possibly tell
her, or him. Oh, God. Think of the look on Asa`s face. That would be
terrible. It would just be way too painful, wouldn`t it?

Oh, you want to go? Let`s get settled in? Oh, thank you so much for
trying to help.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the filmmaker behind "The
Humbling," Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson.

Barry, thank you for joining us.


MATTHEWS: We often read about how All Pacino almost didn`t get the
part for "The Godfather" because he had to do the restaurant scene before
he nailed the part. And yet everybody who has seen him in "Panic in Needle
Park" or any of those movies said, this guy pops. That young woman there
pops in your...

LEVINSON: She does, Greta Gerwig, fantastic.

MATTHEWS: So you`re talking about in this movie about how this -- it
seems to me it`s about what a life in acting does to you. It takes so much
experience out of you, so much -- it exhausts your very being, so you have
a guy like Al Pacino -- I don`t know how autobiographical this is, but it`s
about an actor who is just at the end of the line.

LEVINSON: Well, I mean, it takes a toll physically and mentally.

I mean, mentally, there is a point you begin to forget lines, you
can`t remember certain things. And then just the pure getting beaten up in
a sense. You have done all this work. You get attacked. You get praised
or whatever. I mean, it just plays games with your head.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look.

It`s hard to pick a single best performance among this year`s nominees
for best actor. They include Steve Carell in "The Foxcatcher," Bradley
Cooper for "American Sniper," Benedict Cumberbatch for "The Imitation
Game," Michael Keaton for "Birdman," Eddie Redmayne for "The Theory of

I always thought -- I`m a nut for movies, as you know. And I always
the guy who gets the nominee and the woman who gets the best actress, they
have won already. The nomination, you have had six people you have
directed to. And who wins the final? How is that based on what? To break
out of the age groups, too many British movies or that kind of stuff?


It`s pure -- it`s pure -- there is no answer to it, because there are
these performances in a given year, some great performances. And they are
so different. It`s very hard. All of them who were nominated, but you say
Bradley Cooper did a terrific job. That`s over here and then you have got
Benedict Cumberbatch, a totally different kind of piece of work.

There`s all of these different things and in the end somebody says, I
guess I will pick so-and-so.

MATTHEWS: Is there any sentiment to this, like Michael Keaton, who
has had a tough time in his career and here is his comeback movie?

LEVINSON: Yes, I guess so. It does to a certain degree.


MATTHEWS: I guess so.

Anyway, "The Humbling" is about an actor at the end of his career.
And it`s a very great Pacino -- if you love Pacino, he`s in this movie.

You did "Diner" back in `82 and it featured many actors at the
beginnings of their career. It`s amazing the number of guys you found
here. They are household names. But here`s a clip.

By the way, the music you have just done is fantastic.


LEVINSON: Oh, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s the original movie. Here`s the movie


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do you pick, Sinatra or Mathis?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Would you just let that die, please?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s important to me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s annoying me.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s important in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You`ve been asking that question to every man
that walks in here. Would you just forget it?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Maybe I have something to gain from the answer.
Did you ever think of that?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What does it matter?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Let the man speak. Let the man speak. Speak.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. There you go. There`s the definitive
answer. Sinatra or Mathis? It`s Presley.


MATTHEWS: So you cast this Kevin Bacon, who has been around ever
since, and Mickey Rourke, who has had a rough run. But these guys -- Steve
Guttenberg, of course, and Paul Reiser.

LEVINSON: Paul Reiser.

MATTHEWS: And Tim what`s his name.


MATTHEWS: Tim Daly, who is on "Madam Secretary now."

You spotted them all.

LEVINSON: Well, you know, I saw 500 guys for those, you know, six

MATTHEWS: See where -- to look for guys like the ones you grew up

LEVINSON: Well, I was trying to find -- I wanted to do a movie that
sounded like the way the times were when I hung out, just ordinary
conversation, not special stuff, very ordinary things.

You know, who do you like better? Do you like this? Don`t -- you
going to eat this? You`re not going to eat it? Just very ordinary talk.
And I had never seen it done in a film that way. And I thought, can I just
get down to the way we really function and how we can`t communicate?

That`s really what is behind it. We never really say what we want.
We`re always going sideways. And our relationships with women, we never
just go to it. We`re always just doing a dance. We never want to come out
and say the way we feel. And I thought, can I put that on film? Can I do

MATTHEWS: Did you know a guy that really made his girlfriend go
through a sports test before he would agree to marry her?

LEVINSON: My cousin Eddie did.


MATTHEWS: And he really held her to that?

LEVINSON: He did. And he said to me, he says, Barry, I saw the movie
five times, and I realized it was not a good idea to give my wife the
football test. And I said, really? I was thinking you learned something.
He says, you know why? Because three weeks after we were married, she
can`t remember one of the answers.


MATTHEWS: So it didn`t work. It didn`t stick.


MATTHEWS: One of the most celebrated films this guy produced -- or
directed was "Rain Man" with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Here`s the
famous scene. Here`s Cruise and his autistic brother, who insists on
buying new boxers, I mean underwear, from the Kmart in Cincinnati.

Here we go.


TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You don`t have to go to Cincinnati to get a pair
of underwear at Kmart.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: You have to go to Kmart, 400 Oak Street.

CRUISE: What did I tell you, Ray? We are not going to Cincinnati,
and that`s final.

HOFFMAN: I get my boxer shorts at Kmart.

CRUISE: Raymond, that is final. Did you hear me?

HOFFMAN: I don`t want to be short-less.

CRUISE: I`m going out of my mind!

What difference does it make? What difference does it make where you
buy underwear? What difference does it make? Underwear is underwear!



MATTHEWS: You know, that movie is so good.


MATTHEWS: And you won the Academy Award for that. And I got to tell
you Dustin Hoffman -- and I think Cruise was great in that. He gets

LEVINSON: Cruise was great because he had to push the whole movie.
Dustin is going to -- was over here, but Cruise has to move the whole film
forward. It`s a tough role. He was great.

MATTHEWS: Ratso Rizzo, on to these roles that Dustin Hoffman -- who`s
the greatest actor of our time?

LEVINSON: That`s a hard question.

I think -- there -- I don`t know that I can say. I certainly think,
in having worked with Al on several movies, he`s one of the greatest actor
I have ever seen. He has such dedication. He`s so committed and so loves
to work. It`s really quite remarkable.

MATTHEWS: I loved his Shylock.

LEVINSON: It was -- on Broadway? Amazing.

MATTHEWS: It was amazing.

Here`s something I have always wanted to know from you. You made a
movie in 1997 about how a president manipulates events to get himself off
the hook from an embarrassing sex scandal. It was called "Wag the Dog."

And in it, the girlfriend of the president who was causing him
trouble, or he caused her trouble. had a beret. In fact, there was a joke
in the movie and they would sing "Thank Heaven," the old Maurice Chevalier

And then along a year later comes Monica Lewinsky and that whole mess.
How did you know the girl would be a beret-wearing woman who looked just
like this woman? I said to you in the break, religions are based on less
than this.


MATTHEWS: How did you know that she would be wearing a beret?

LEVINSON: You know what is so funny?

MATTHEWS: No answer to this coming.

LEVINSON: There`s no answer to it.

But it`s funny, because someone said, so what did you do? You went
back and put that in the movie?


LEVINSON: I said, no, no, no, we just happened to have her with a
beret. We thought it would look good. And so who would know.

MATTHEWS: You didn`t show an early version of this to Bill Clinton,
did you?


MATTHEWS: Get him confused.


LEVINSON: But I will tell you a quick little story about it.

When we were in Washington doing a -- on a break -- we were only here
for one day. And someone came in and said to Dustin and De Niro and
myself, would you like to meet the president and Mrs. Clinton? We said

So we go through the whole hotel. We were in the restaurant part. We
go there. And we`re waiting outside. She says, I will be right back, as
some guy comes out and says, can I help you? We said, we`re supposed to
meet the president.

He said, the president is very busy, turns, goes back in. We feel
like silly fools. We go back to the restaurant and the same woman comes
running back, says, oh, my God, there was such a mixup. She`s out of
breath. Would you still like to meet the president?

And De Niro looks at her with that kind of way he can do that and he
goes, will he meet us halfway?


LEVINSON: And so she`s...

MATTHEWS: Did do you that? Did you stand him up?

LEVINSON: She gets nervous, says, oh, I see. You were kidding

And we go, and we go into this room and Clinton walks in. The
president about a minute later comes in, hi, how are you, says hello, et
cetera, et cetera. And then he says, so what`s this movie you`re doing?

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.

LEVINSON: And all of a sudden, we realized, wait a minute, we can`t
talk to a president about the fact that the president was having a
relationship with this young girl, et cetera. This is all before Monica
Lewinsky. But we can`t talk about that.

We don`t know what to say. And we all look at one another and all of
a sudden Dustin comes forward and he says, well, it`s a story. And he
makes up an entirely fake movie.


LEVINSON: We were too embarrassed to tell him at that point.

MATTHEWS: Oh, my gosh. He must wonder about your religious powers.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Barry Levinson, the great director, thank you for
coming on.


MATTHEWS: Up next: A State Department spokeswoman is being attacked
by the right wing for comments she made here about the root causes of
terrorism. Anyway, is this criticism fair?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.




MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

State Department spokesman Marie Harf is being attacked by the right
wing over comments she made here on HARDBALL Monday night of this week.
Harf said, we have to do more than just kill terrorists. We have to
address the root causes that lead people to become violent extremists.

Here she is.


MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

them and we`re going to keep killing more of them, but we cannot win this
war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in
the longer term -- medium and longer term to go after the root causes that
leads people to join these groups, whether it`s lack of opportunity for
jobs, work with countries around the world to help improve their
governance. We can help them build their economy so they can have job
opportunities for these people.


MATTHEWS: Well, those comments didn`t sit well, if you will, with
conservative commentators and they jumped on her. Here they are.


LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO SHOW HOST: This is an insult to all of the
people in the world who are actually poor and not blowing people up.


INGRAHAM: And not targeting Christians.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now, they send their spokesman
from the State Department to say, well, we cannot kill our way out of this
war with ISIS. We`re going to have to get to the root cause. We`re going
to have to find them jobs.

This woman is simply a product of the deranged, delusional beliefs of
the professors and graduate assistants and the teaching assistants.

SEAN HANNITY: I guess maybe if we just try and get every terrorist a
job and provide a better way -- maybe we should put them on our food stamp
program next. Like seriously? Now that has to take the lead, seriously,
for the dumbest statement I`ve ever heard even from this administration.


MATTHEWS: Well, this morning on MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE," Harf`s old
boss at the CIA, Michael Hayden, said Harf probably wishes she could take
those comments back.


today quoting Marie Harf, who used to work with me at the CIA. And I think
Marie would want to take a mulligan in how she said what she said two days


MATTHEWS: Well, Harf also appeared to all the criticism and doubled


HARF: Well, I`m not sure I would take a mulligan on this one.
Military commanders, politicians of both parties, counterterrorism experts
all agree that if you`re going to prevent terrorist groups from spreading
to other places getting a more recruits, you have to look at the root
causes that can lead people to extremism.


MATTHEWS: OK. Joining me tonight on the round table: Mike Paul is a
former aide to Mayor Rudy Giuliani of this city, Nicholas Confessore is a
political reporter with "The New York Times", and Tara Palmeri is with "The
New York Post".

Tara, that seemed to be -- I want to let you have the first shot. Was
Marie Harf correct in saying that you have to get to the root causes which
are mainly poverty or should we look at this more as a military/political
thing, fighting ISIS, killing them?

TARA PALMERI, NEW YORK POST: She only gave a piece of the story and
that was a problem. It was just like picking up a line out of the quote
and saying it`s the full story. And, unfortunately, she`s being skewered
for it.

But let`s be serious, that`s one of the dumbest remarks to make,
because it doesn`t sit well for Americans. It`s hard for them to stomach
the idea of helping a group of terrorists who are seeing beheading --

MATTHEWS: Potential terrorists.


MATTHEWS: She says give them jobs and hope before they become
desperate enough to become bad guys.

PALMERI: Recruits are leaving our country, leaving Europe to join is
thinking that there`s opportunity there. And so, there`s opportunity here
in the United States and we`re supposed to be helping them? It doesn`t sit
well with Americans.

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Different questions, right,
Chris? I mean, the guy who is leaving his home to go fight in Iraq, right,
he`s not going to not behead somebody because he has a job at McDonald`s.
It`s not going to happen. He has to be killed.

MATTHEWS: I want a better job.

CONFESSORE: He has to be killed. But soft power (ph) has his place,

MATTHEWS: A good job as a plumber, electrician making good money,
would he stick around?

CONFESSORE: I don`t know. Would he?

MATTHEWS: I`m just wondering what the bidding here is.

CONFESSORE: I just think that you can have soft power as part of the
conversation. When we`re talking about people who are beheading people --


CONFESSORE: -- it`s not the thing you want to hear first or even

MATTHEWS: When somebody comes up to you and says they have this new
nonflammable material that might be more helpful, no, you want the fire
truck to show up.

spokesperson sitting at the table that I have to defend which is she was
not speaking for herself. She was speaking for the administration.

MATTHEWS: What do you think the administration believes is the way to
deal with ISIS? Job program?

PAUL: I think there`s another problem that we`re not talking about.
On Monday, there was a message about is and the beheadings and that was a
serious message and should have had a serious response.

On Wednesday, today, they were prepping on Monday for a conference
that was going to be on terrorism. They had agreed it was going to be a
softer message and I`m sure her bosses said that you need to talk about
both. She came on your show, she was asked a direct question from a war
perspective, from a beheading perspective, and she answered that first and
then gave the soft answer after and she got hit.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I thought when I heard her answer that this was
coming. I mean, I think because people -- when you`re in a war, it appeals
to the bellicosity of politicians. It doesn`t appeal to the specific
feature of people, you know what I mean? When you say, I got a long-term
plan of -- in some cases around Paris, obviously the Muslim immigrants are
having a hell of a bad time --


MATTHEWS: -- but you remember 9/11, all of those guys were
technically skilled.

PAUL: Also, one of the things that she should be hearing now is, make
sure on Monday when you have a message with 21 beheadings, you stick to
that message on Monday.


PAUL: Tuesday morning was fine to go into the softer message before
the conference.

MATTHEWS: And the guys who flew the planes on 9/11, they didn`t know
how to fly planes, we taught them. There`s the job training program we
shouldn`t have gotten involved with.

PALMERI: In her defense, that is her job, long-term. It is her job,
you know, long term development in these countries. So, that`s what I
would say in her defense but is that something you want to be saying on
national television.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, a new poll shows majority of Americans don`t agree with
John Boehner going behind the president`s back to invite Israeli Prime
Minister Bibi Netanyahu to address Congress.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: The Supreme Court is taking up an appeal case on lethal
injections later this year and now, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is
calling for a moratorium on the death penalty until that decision.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think the fundamental
question about the death penalty need to be asked. And among them, the
Supreme Court`s determination as to whether or not lethal injection is
consistent with our Constitution is one that ought to occur. For my
perspective, I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court made that
determination would be appropriate.


MATTHEWS: Holder added that he disagrees with Justice Antonin Scalia
who believes an innocent person has never been executed.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Speaker of the House John Boehner ignited a political fire storm when
he and fellow Republicans invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to speak before a joint session of Congress next month without notifying
President Obama first. Now, a new CNN/ORC poll reveals that most Americans
believe it was a bad move, 63 percent of Americans say it was wrong to
invite Netanyahu without notifying the president.

We`re back with our roundtable, Mike, Nick, and Tara.

Tara, what do you think of this, in the long run, how`s this going to
break? Good for Boehner, good for Netanyahu, bad for who?

PALMERI: I think it`s a delicate issue right now and they`re playing
politics. You know, I`m not sure which way it`s going to go, but I think
we shouldn`t forget that back in 2007, Nancy Pelosi went to Syria against
the White House`s wishes on behalf of Israel. So, this has been happening
for a while. They play politics in international relations.

So, it will be interesting to see how it works out.

MATTHEWS: We do have a Logan Act however, Nicholas Confessore, which
is we`re not supposed to -- I know this isn`t exactly doing that. It`s
getting close when you start inviting a leader of a country in a very
difficult situation where he disagrees with our president on a policy of
trying to negotiate away from having nuclear weapons in the hands of the
ayatollahs --


CONFESSORE: -- feels very strongly about a potential deal.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want a deal.

CONFESSORE: But the Constitution which we hear a lot about in the
House, does not give the speaker of the House the right to set foreign
policy. It does not put him in charge of it. It`s one thing to invite
foreign leader to a joint address. It`s another to invite him to
essentially lobby on an issue in which there is an active disagreement in
American politics over the proper policy. It`s inappropriate. It`s

PAUL: And during an election time in Israel and during the week that
21 Christians were beheaded in the Middle East, I mean, we could go on and
on, it`s a horrible precedent. I think it was a big mistake. And I think
it will come back to bite any --

MATTHEWS: You know, there is a dispute about who knew what? Dermer,
the ambassador from Israel, says that he was informed by somebody, doesn`t
say who, that the president was going to be told of this invitation.

PAUL: Guess what? This is why the State Department handles foreign
policy and dealings with foreign leaders.

PALMERI: I find that hard to believe that he didn`t know that the
president --

MATTHEWS: Yes. So, what`s that going to do to Israeli politics? I`m
curious about it, because I keep reading about the investigation now of the
prime minister over there. Bibi is a hell of a politician, but he`s got
Tzipi Livni, who`s a great person, and Herzog and this new Zionist party,
and this polling over there.

Israel is a very difficult country politically. People like to argue.
Everybody thinks of themselves as prime minister. It looks like a squeaker
of an election over there. Will it be seen that he gave that bloc a break
here? Will it be treated that way?

CONFESSORE: I`m not an expert, but I do think there`s a sense that
the relationship with the U.S. is so important, it is the bedrock of the
national security. And to kind of meddle in it in this way for what it
appears to be kind of a campaign purpose, is probably not going to sit
well, even with the voters who share his worries about a deal with Iran.

MATTHEWS: I`m amazed at the people who have stood up and said they`re
not going. It is outstanding to stand up in Israel in this way in way that
looks like it`s anti-Israel. We know it isn`t. But in a way that could be
used by political enemies as being anti-Israeli. You never want to be in
that box.

CONFESSORE: I mean, the polls, you saw showed it, like this has
actually penetrated beyond the beltway.

PAUL: It`s not going to be a cake walk for Boehner. It`s not going
to be a cake walk for Netanyahu. It`s going to be troublesome.

MATTHEWS: Yes. We`ll see how Bibi will be. I think he`ll be at the
height of his charm. Thank you. It`s not that high.

Our roundtable tonight, Mike Paul, thank you, sir. Nick Confessore,
thank you. And welcome, Tara Palmeri.

I`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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