Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/11/15
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: War power.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Late today, President Obama blew the bugle. He asked the U.S. Congress to
approve what amounts to a declaration of war against the terrorists of
ISIS, the authorization for use of military force against the Islamic State
of Iraq and the Levant. Will the Congress give it to him, this
authorization to go to war with ISIS? Will doves have faith in the
language in the war authorization that rules out, quote, “enduring
offensive ground combat operations”? Will hawks say this overly ties the
The president said he hopes to have strong bipartisan support for the war
authorization against ISIS, but could the combined opposition of doves and
hawks alike deny him that support? And how`s that going to look to
The draft language from the White House today says “The president is
authorized to use the armed forces of the United States as the president
determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL or its associated
persons or forces.”
However, it also sets, as I said, some limits, according to the draft.
Quote, “The authority granted does not authorize the use of United States
armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
Well, this afternoon, the president elaborated on what this authorization
was not, another Iraq or Afghanistan war. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolution we`ve
submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat
forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war
like Afghanistan or Iraq.
As I`ve said before, I`m convinced that the United States should not get
dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That`s
not in our national security interests and it`s not necessary for us to
defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are
best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL, and that`s what they`re
doing. At the same time, this resolution strikes the necessary balance by
giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining us right now is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Senator Manchin, do you think the United States should be using military
force to defeat ISIL?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Oh, we`re going to have to use
military force. It`s a matter of, do we use our own combat troops on the
front lines and get bogged down like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not
intended to, and I appreciate the president for saying he doesn`t intend
for that to happen. But you know, in West Virginia, we have a little
common sense and we know what the word of insanity means, the definition of
insanity, and it looks like over in that part of the world, you just get
bogged down. And if money or military might would have changed it, we`d
have done that by now, Chris. So – and you read the thing about the
enduring offensive ground combat operations.
MANCHIN: What does that really mean?
MATTHEWS: Well, what could it mean to you in a way that would concern you
and make you perhaps vote against this resolution?
MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is, I`m not going to vote for anything that
has the interpretation that we can have combat ground forces on the front
line fighting someone else`s war. Now, we`re going to go after ISIL. It
makes no difference. We`re going to protect America. But if we could just
fast track Jordan, getting them the necessary equipment they need to fight
this war, if we can get the Turks to engage, if Saudis would engage – the
Kurds are fighting and doing a heck of a job and we ought to make sure
we`re getting them the equipment to do the job.
The other thing is, Chris, the 2001 AUMF – it`s still in force. I don`t
really know what the reason or the purpose why we need this one if you`re
not going to repeal 2001.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just looking at the language that you just mentioned,
Senator. I know you`re going to have to deal with this in a more fine way,
word by word…
MATTHEWS: … but one word that looks like it bothers you is “enduring,”
that you want to basically say let`s have no offensive ground combat
operations. Wouldn`t that get to where you`re at?
MANCHIN: Yes. I think from the standpoint, we do have to look at this,
and if we can get it to the point that we have some comfort with that, but
“enduring” right now could mean that, basically, Oh, we don`t intend for
them, but we`re going to go ahead and put, if it takes 5,000, 10,000 or
(ph) surge – surge, I mean, you`re putting an awful lot of American lives
on the front line again, and we`ve seen the outcome of that. I don`t wish
to repeat that one.
They`re not determined to fight their own ground war over there yet
(INAUDIBLE) I would think Jordan and King Abdullah was very, very precise
in what he was going to do, and he did it. We need to have…
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you – yes, you know what I know, Senator,
probably more from briefings, but the president says today that he needs
that authorization for anything short of enduring ground combat operations
because there may be an opportunity to jump in there with special forces,
SEALs or whatever, and capture a whole bunch of these bad guys at once.
So he wants the option play to be able to go in there, not as a big front
line moving – sweeping across the ISIS territory, but in that opportunity.
He wants to have a chance to use ground forces in an opportunity situation
to grab the leadership. Are you against that?
MANCHIN: What I`m saying, no. I want to make sure that we stop ISIL any
way we can to support, basically, the people over there who are fighting
the front lines. The Iraqis are engaging. We have to use our special ops
where we can to make sure that our air strikes, and you know, our – that
we`re being effective.
Chris, the only thing I`m saying is that the 2001 AUMF is still in play.
MANCHIN: That`s the one that Bush has used. That`s the one that President
Obama has used, and a broad scope. I don`t know why they think this one
here, who they`re trying to appease with it. If they were repealing 2001
and 2002, and we only had one to work on right now, that`d be a different
story. So I`m going to wait and see what the language they come up with.
If they`re able to change it a little bit, as you`re said, if we`re ever to
have strategic strikes, get in and get out, all this could be different.
But we haven`t seen that yet.
MATTHEWS: I can see your argument, and certainly, your background in
understanding all this and representing West Virginia. But the president
is, I would say, to your left in terms of war. I think you know that.
He`s a bit more dovish. You`re of a centrist mode, I think. Do you really
think he`s going to turn out to be more hawkish than Joe Manchin? More
hawkish. I mean, it doesn`t seem in his build (ph) to do that.
MANCHIN: I don`t – I don`t – I would hope that would not be. I mean, I
say in West Virginia, you know, we`re one of the most patriotic states in
the nation, veterans per capita and people still fighting. We`re willing
to go anywhere to defend this country.
But again, I`ve said, ground troops in that part of the world has not
solved that problem. We`ve lost 6,000 – more than 6,000 Americans
already, 55,000 have been maimed, and we`ve spent $3 trillion, Chris.
MANCHIN: They have got to engage over there. Now, make no mistake, if it
looks that ISIL`s a threat and coming in this direction, we`ll do whatever.
MANCHIN: … more problems right now with them coming – basically coming
back to our country, coming to the Western world.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the hardball question. We all look – I know you
do, as well as I do – with incredible – what`s the right – agony at what
they`ve done to our people over there, especially the young woman, Kayla…
MANCHIN: Oh, my.
MATTHEWS: … Kayla Mueller, and what they did to that poor, courageous
pilot for – for Jordan. We look at that and we want to stamp it out. We
don`t want that to be on our planet with us. We don`t want to see that
happen again. We want to get the people and erase them who do that.
At the same time, you draw restrictions. You say, Well, let the Jordanian
air force do it, let the Kurds do it, let whatever there is of the Iraqi
government or army, if there is such a thing, and they`re all Shia, and
maybe these sort of – these sleeper cells on our side in the Syrian Free
Army, whatever they are.
But in the end, do you see any coming together of ending this war, ending
this ISIS organization in the near future? Do you see it in any future?
MANCHIN: Chris, first of all, my heart goes out to the families in these
horrific tragedies, horrible atrocities to these people. My heart goes to
out, along with every other American. But with that also, my heart goes
out to over 6,000 American families that lost their loved ones trying to
help that part of the world and those people in that part of the world.
They`ve got to stand up and fight for themselves. They`ve got to clean up
their mess. We`ve got to keep them from coming in through any way, shape
or form into this country. Sleeper cells, whatever it may be, people
coming back – there are quite a few Americans engaged now. We`ve got to
stop that. Europe has got a horrible problem with it. So these are the
areas that we can keep them from coming in. Putting more troops on there,
kind of rile them all up and ginning them up to go out and recruit and get
more people fighting America – that doesn`t seem to win that war over
MATTHEWS: OK. A lot of thinking going into that. Thank you, so much.
MATTHEWS: I know it`s a complicated one. Thank you so much, Senator Joe
Manchin of West Virginia.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Chris. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Scott Perry, Republican
of Pennsylvania. Congressman Perry, this is a tough one, but would you
support the authorization for us of military force against ISIS as it`s
been written today by the president?
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I don`t know if I`d support it
as written, Chris, but I think – I certainly think it`s time to update the
authorization of the use of force. I don`t think they were ever meant to
go into perpetuity forever, as it seems they have. So I do support an
authorization of the use of force, but I have questions, and I think many
Republicans and Democrats have legitimate questions.
And I think the president even – he even kind of implied that that was
going to be case and we were going to have a responsible conversation about
the use of force and actually make it better. So with that, that`s kind of
my position at this point.
MATTHEWS: Well, he seemed to build a wall on his leftward side this time,
his dovish side, by telling the doves, Look, it`s not going to be an
enduring combat operation.
MATTHEWS: Do you have some concern on the other side, on the Republican or
conservative side, that there`s not enough stretch to this thing and not
enough width, bandwidth to get something done?
PERRY: Yes, I think there is some question about the term “enduring.” You
know, what does that mean? And to some people, it means it`s a limitation.
To others, it mean it could be wide open and it leaves it up to conjecture.
And from my standpoint, while we`re looking at ISIS, what about Khorasan?
And what about Boko Haram? And what about AQAP and all these different
district (ph) groups that – you know, today it`s ISIS, but tomorrow it`s
going to be somebody else. And so is it too limiting? This is an
ideology. You know, it transcends borders…
MATTHEWS: They still have the 2001 document he`s not going to get rid of,
which is pretty – pretty inclusive, isn`t it, according to your concerns?
PERRY: That`s exactly right. And quite honestly, the president already
said he`s got the article 2 power. So maybe this is an unnecessary – at
all, but you know…
MATTHEWS: I think that`s a good point.
MATTHEWS: I bet he`d argue that point, if he has to.
PERRY: Well, I agree. I think he would argue it, and I think he`s already
said it. So that, you know, I think he`s coming to the Congress for
validation. And you know, listen, I think is an appropriate discussion to
have, but I don`t necessarily believe that what he sent is ready for
primetime, and Congress has to do its part.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at here – the speaker had today – he had to
say about the president`s strategy, or lack that (ph) of, to defeat ISIS.
So far, he seemed to not believe there is such a strategy. This is a good
argument, and I want you to respond to what the speaker says. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I believe that if we`re
going to authorize the use of military force, the president should have all
the tools necessary to win the fight that we`re in. And so as you`ve heard
me say over the last number of months, I`m not sure that the strategy
that`s been outlined will accomplish the mission that the president says he
wants to accomplish. And his point, the president`s point, is that he
wants to dismantle and destroy ISIS. I haven`t seen a strategy yet that I
think will accomplish it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, same question I asked Senator Manchin of West
Virginia. How do you connect our hatred of what these people have been
doing to their prisoners over there – burning somebody alive, a good
soldier, killing one of the American women – whatever way they did it,
they killed her. And yet we`re limiting ourselves to helping their
Jordanian air force, maybe helping what there is of the Iraqi army, helping
the Kurds, as always, maybe having the Free Syrian Army somehow get
equipped to fight and trained. But it doesn`t seem like our emotions are
backed up by our actions. It doesn`t seem to be enough there. My
thinking. Yours? What are yours?
PERRY: My thoughts exactly. With all due respect to the speaker, I think
what we see from the president is some aspirational goals, right, an
objective. We want to defeat ISIS. We want to destroy ISIS. But that`s
not a strategy. That`s where you want to end up, but he hasn`t laid out
the points about how we get there.
He hasn`t talked about the financial implications, the diplomatic
implications, how we get the other nations in the neighborhood, get their
soldiers, get their – you know, get their lives engaged and involved
because they have the most to lose. That`s what a strategy includes, and
quite honestly, we haven`t seen that from the president on the greater
issue of terrorism, of ISIS, or on Syria, which is right next door. What
happens when we`re done with ISIS and we end up in Syria with Assad?
What`s the plan?
MATTHEWS: And you`re a military man, right?
PERRY: I served in Iraq, yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: I know that. That`s why I wanted you to say so. Thank you for
your service, sir. Anyway…
PERRY: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: … United States Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Coming up, the horror of what happened to American hostage Kayla Mueller
raises a critical debate, and it`s a hot one. Should we pay ransom for
prisoners? Should people be allowed to pay it? President Obama says
there`s nothing harder than telling a parent we, the United States, will do
everything possible to bring your child home short of paying ransom.
Plus, David Axelrod, who was President Obama`s top strategist says there
were 12 days during the 2012 presidential campaign when he was actually
worried – catch this, this is the news – about Sarah Palin and her
amazing electoral ability at the time. Axelrod`s joining us tonight with
An inside look at both Obama campaigns, `08 and `12. Plus, we`re going to
look ahead to `16 and some of the early stumbles by the big names in the
race. And that`s happening already.
The big announcement that shocked our world will have a huge impact on
late-night comedy. Jon Stewart is stepping down from “The Daily Show.”
Boy, news out there.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the president`s call for Congress to back
military action against ISIS.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Late today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the
Keystone pipeline bill. The vote was 270 to 152, with 29 Democrats joining
all but one Republican in favor of the pipeline bill. The bill will now
head to the White House, where President Obama is expected to veto it.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama in an interview with
Buzzfeed talked about the anguish of talking to the parents and family
members of hostages and telling them that the United States will do
everything possible to secure their release except pay ransom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My immediate reaction is
heartbreak. You know, I have been in touch with Kayla`s family. She was
an outstanding young woman, had a great spirit, and I think that spirit
will live on.
The one thing that we have held to is a policy of not paying ransoms with
an organization like ISIL. And the reason is, is that once we start doing
that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent people and
strengthening their organization, but we`re actually making Americans even
greater targets for future kidnappings.
So you know, it`s – it`s as tough as anything that I do, having a
conversation with parents, who understandably want, by any means necessary,
for their children to be safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The president went on to point out that paying ransom actually
makes Americans less safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The one thing that we have held to is a policy of not paying
ransoms with an organization like ISIL. And the reason is, is that once we
start doing that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent
people and strengthening their organization, but we`re actually making
Americans even greater targets for future kidnappings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But is paying ransom to terrorists always wrong? Joining me
right now is “The Atlantic`s” Steve Clemons and Maryland U.S. Congresswoman
Steve, you first because you take a position which is not common. Tell me
what you think about the appropriateness of an individual or an
organization that has one of their members or family members taken captive
by an ISIS-type organization. What should they do if they have – if
they`re called upon to pay ransom?
STEVE CLEMONS, “THE ATLANTIC”: I think if families have the resources, if
they have the ability to move in ways that save their loved ones, I don`t
think government should be impeding that process. This is too dire a
process if (ph) there. I feel that government should stay out of it. But
the fact is, lots of governments do pay ransoms. And so you have,
essentially, conflict between European governments and America in not
paying them. I think they all not to pay them (sic), but we ought to
remove the restrictions on families doing whatever they can to save their
I know it sounds like – you know, I have any (ph) conflict with myself,
but I just don`t see it is right that the United States government says it
may prosecute families if they proceed in getting ransom money paid for
their loved ones.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, where are – Congresswoman, where are you on
private families with the wealth to do it?
Should they be giving the money to the ISIS forces to use as they will?
They are not going to use it to pay for food and children. They`re going
to use it for guns and bullets and torture. But do they think they should
be doing that, morally, or politically or whatever?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think, as the president has
described, it`s a heart-wrenching choice for families.
But I agree with the United States policy. I think it unfortunately,
frankly, that some of our allies are indeed paying ransom. And I think
that`s upped the ante for terrorists to continue their kidnapping and
hostage-taking and to continue to finance their destruction.
And so, as sad as it is, I think the government policy is the correct one.
And my heart just breaks for families like Kayla`s, a wonderful young woman
who was just trying to do good in the world. But I do think it`s the right
policy for the United States.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to that question to you, Steve. What about
the use of the money? It`s a two-way street. You give a couple million
bucks or whatever the current price is, 20 million bucks. You may have the
family or you may have a corporation behind you that`s willing to dip into
their treasury for that.
That 20 million bucks or $2 million, whatever, goes towards the assets of a
horrible, inhuman crowd. How do you justify that?
CLEMONS: I mean, absolutely, it`s not a justifiable thing, absolutely. If
you give money to terror organizations, it enhances the market for taking
them. I think governments ought to do everything they can to stop that
market from growing, except for the fact if a family member or someone was
taken, I think that we ought to impede it. And we`re inconsistent.
MATTHEWS: How? Just a minute. I think you have a problem here.
CLEMONS: I happen to know in the case of David Rohde of “The New York
Times,” “The New York Times” offered a ransom, and the U.S. government
didn`t threaten “The New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens if you give somebody a lot of money? Are
they likely to take another capture, another hostage and ask for more
money? It seems to me that would be human nature.
CLEMONS: Of course they are. But – yes, but, Chris, I agree with that –
what you said last night. I think that there are other elements of power
to go down and track, kill, try, bring to justice those people that kidnap
people. And that ought not to be a pressure that is borne by the family of
James Foley, Kayla Mueller and others.
Last word to the congresswoman.
What would you say to a friend of yours who may be a person of great means,
who has a lot of money in the bank, and their young son or daughter is
grabbed? What would you say to them when they came to you for counsel?
What would you do?
EDWARDS: You know what? If my son were grabbed, I would want to do
everything possible to free him, including reach out to anybody I know who
is wealthy to do that.
I mean, that is the inequality in all of this, the inequity in it. But I
do think that our policy is the right one. And I think that we have an
obligation to try to pursue these terrorists and to, you know, stop the
But I would hate for us to change our policy. I do think that it has kept
us and our citizens actually safer, knowing that there is not this point of
EDWARDS: And I really do worry about our citizens around the world who
might be subject to hostage-taking if they knew that there was a great
ransom at stake.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
Thank you so much, Steve Clemons, my friend.
Thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards, also my friend.
Up next: What got David Axelrod worried before Barack Obama won the 2008
presidential race? You will be astounded by the news. It`s in his book.
Axelrod is coming here in a minute.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be candy.
And welcome back to HARDBALL.
David Axelrod has been the chief strategist and political adviser to
President Obama`s successful Senate and two presidential campaigns. he
served as a senior adviser to the president in the White House as well,
coaching him through debates. He remains a close friend. As a preeminent
Chicago-based political consultant, he`s led dozens of local and statewide
candidates to victory out there and also across the country.
He`s now the director of the University of Chicago`s Institute of Politics
and the author of a great new book, “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.”
David Axelrod joins me now.
I don`t read every book I have on this show, but I am reading this one.
And I have read a lot of it.
And let`s start with the first big surprise in the book. Sarah Palin, she
is an issue of dispute in our production staff almost every day.
DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Some people are true believers in her as a political product.
They just think she is something.
You were worried from the time of her great acceptance speech, where she
just dazzled the country, up until the Lehman Brothers crash, which was
only 12 days, September 3, 2008, to September 15. In those 12 days in this
book, it`s amazing what you were concerned about, her potential.
AXELROD: Well, there`s no doubt that she was that little bit of energy
drink for the McCain campaign that badly needed it. And it shook things
up, and it shook things up because she provided this sense of change and
newness and assault on the Washington establishment, which was really
undermining our message.
So, you know, by the time the – the day before the Lehman Brothers crash,
we were getting together because our poll had us one point ahead in that
race. And it was largely because of the energy that Palin had inserted
into the McCain campaign.
MATTHEWS: Here`s my favorite – I love the way you write. You`re a good
writer, by the way.
AXELROD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You don`t have any ghosts out there.
AXELROD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: “The East Coast establishment might disdain her as unlettered and
ill-prepared, but that would only make her more appealing to millions of
Americans who felt that they had been getting the raw end of the deal.”
That – you understand that the way that Carville understands it, that
there`s a lot of working-class regular good Democrats who vote Republican
once in a while because of the culture thing and the attitude towards the
elite. They don`t like the elite.
AXELROD: See, that was the mistake people made. When she was picked,
people focused on the fact that she was a woman.
The fact that she was a woman wasn`t the key. The fact that she had this
cultural affinity for these disaffected working-class Americans was what
made her potent.
MATTHEWS: Yes. She was wasn`t Yale. She wasn`t Seven Sisters. She
wasn`t elite. She went to five colleges, like a lot of people, and finally
got a degree.
AXELROD: Yes. And she spoke to them. And when she spoke at the
convention and really kind of thumbed her nose at the establishment, she
found a responsive chord. That speech was well-received.
Anyway, you also write that you – I was going to say she`s very attractive
as a candidate by any standard, since Jack Kennedy. I don`t think anybody
looks as good as her. Anyway, the trouble early…
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You want…
AXELROD: One thing I wanted to say about this, though, Obama had a really
interesting reaction when we heard that she had been picked.
AXELROD: He said, that`s really – I understand why he`s doing it, he
said, but this is really tough, this national thing. It took me six months
to be a good candidate. He said, she may be the greatest politician since
Ronald Reagan, that she should could come out of Alaska after a year of
being governor and handle this, he said, but give this three weeks, four
weeks. Let`s see how it settles.
And the truth is, she ran into some problems.
MATTHEWS: Well, Katie Couric.
MATTHEWS: Katie Couric. Anyway, she asked her what she reads, which you
could say was a snarky question, except it isn`t. It`s a reasonable
question. She didn`t want to answer it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, you saw – let`s talk about the 2012 election, which
turned out to be much closer.
You talk about the early trouble in that first debate with Mitt Romney, the
one I went crazy about on television. I think you were watching me.
AXELROD: Yes. Yes. I didn`t need a TV to hear you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Here`s the beginning of that first debate which jumped out of my
head, that one. Go ahead. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of points I
want to make tonight, but the most important one is that, 20 years ago, I
became the luckiest man on earth, because Michelle Obama agreed to marry
And so I just want to wish, sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know
that, a year from now, we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And congratulations to you, Mr.
President, on your anniversary. I`m sure this was the most romantic place
you could imagine here – here with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: See, what you wrote about that is great.
AXELROD: Yes. No, I…
MATTHEWS: The president was phony, and the challenger seemed authentic.
AXELROD: And, clearly, he was – in baseball parlance, he was laying on
the pitch. Romney – they sniffed out that we might do something on the
anniversary, and he knew exactly what he was going to do, and he looked
completely natural doing it.
Obama looked force in doing it. It was painful, and it was just the
beginning of the pain. It was a very tough night for us.
MATTHEWS: Explain to me, because I, like everybody else, went crazy out
here watching it and I go, why didn`t he fight, why didn`t he fight?
And then I looked at Romney. He had all of the traits I despise,
aloofness, elitism. He seemed like, I`m the white guy against the black
guy. I`m the Mormon, well-educated, prep school guy against the guy who is
not. I have got all these advantages over him.
I don`t know what mix it was, in fairness to Romney. But there was a sense
of superiority that really bugged me, and yet it worked for him. You call
it comfort. You said charm. I don`t know about charm.
AXELROD: No, I actually thought he was very well prepared for that debate
and he handled himself well in that first debate.
You see, he understood what Obama resisted, he knew, but he resisted, which
is debates aren`t a free exchange of ideas. Debates are performances. You
practice your lines, you know what you`re going to do when you hear a
question. And if your team has practiced with you, prepared well, they
know what you are going to say.
Romney knew exactly what he was going to say on every question in that
first debate. He practiced. He delivered. And he did really well. And
our guy just didn`t. He wasn`t prepared. He didn`t want to prepare.
MATTHEWS: OK. I know. He didn`t want to have knee-jerk reactions that
you prepared him with.
Now, here `s – but you get deeper into this. It`s almost like a Woody
Allen movie, because you`re getting into the head being wrong. What did
the Romney do to the president that got him wrong-footed? And what did you
have to fix? You had all these prep sessions trying to retrain the
president on how to debate, how to debate.
It wasn`t working until he finally said something out of “Tin Cup,” out of
movie, where he said, I finally got my head around this right.
MATTHEWS: What was that about?
AXELROD: Well, he had done poorly in the first debate. And we were really
worried about that first debate for – because presidents tend to do poorly
in the first…
MATTHEWS: They all lose.
AXELROD: They all do.
MATTHEWS: All incumbents lose first debates.
AXELROD: And so – and we tried to avoid that. And we didn`t avoid it.
So the second debate became important, because we didn`t want Chris
Matthews going nuts twice in a row.
MATTHEWS: No, you couldn`t predict that.
AXELROD: No, no, but what happened was, he had a bad debate prep 36 hours
before the second debate. And we`re freaking out. And we do an
And he says – and he talks about the movie “Tin Cup,” when Cheech was –
who was the star? Was it Kevin Costner?
MATTHEWS: Costner. It was Costner.
And he says, OK, here`s what you do. He`s trying to…
MATTHEWS: Put your hat on backwards.
AXELROD: Put your hat on backwards.
Do this, do that.
MATTHEWS: You put your tees in your left pocket.
AXELROD: Your left pocket. And he said – and he swung and he hit the –
and he said, that`s it. It`s in my head. I have got to – and so we
worked it through and we did give him a golf tee to put into his pocket
going into that debate.
It`s so interesting the role that – and this is what you have got to write
more about, is the role of guys like you in getting a president, a guy you
know is smart, but he needs to get help sometimes. Everybody needs help.
Anyway, you write in the book that President Obama reflected on Mitt
Romney, saying: “He represents the America of the 1950s and believes the
country does well when guys like him are in charge.”
OK. HARDBALL question, “guys like him.”
AXELROD: I think he meant the corporate elite, the prep school elite. He
meant the sort of…
MATTHEWS: The guy that thinks he is, and is.
AXELROD: Yes, exactly.
And, you know, he was very focused on the fact that the country had changed
dramatically, that it was a more diverse country.
AXELROD: And he represented that diversity and he represented a different
kind of America where people could work their way up, and you didn`t have
to come from the ruling elite to be president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: What makes you – I only have a minute here, but I`m impressed
because it`s not in the book really yet. I haven`t found the part.
What has made you devote a lot of your years as a political pro to helping
black candidates, per se, black guys?
MATTHEWS: Harold Washington, people like that?
AXELROD: Part of it is that I was raised by this woman who took care of me
when my mother was at work, an African-American woman. She was the one who
took me to see John F. Kennedy when I was 5 years old.
And I think she instilled in me a sense of a kind of yearning for justice.
I always think about her because I wonder what she would think about the
AXELROD: … to see Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: And this is what has driven you to help African-American
AXELROD: I think that`s part of it. And I was raised in a family where
civil rights was a value.
But I always – I believe in an America where there are no barriers, where
you can go as far as your talents take you. And I want to fight for that
kind of country.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think the president has gotten a raw deal because
of his ethnicity by some people?
AXELROD: I always resisted this question, Chris, when I was working for
him because I never wanted to give people a chance to say we were using
race as an excuse.
But there`s no question that he has been treated differently by some people
because of that. No one else has been shouted down in the Congress during
a speech, “You lie.” No one else has been consistently…
MATTHEWS: Huckabee did it this week. Huckabee is still out there saying
he`s pro-Islamic and anti-Christian and Jewish.
AXELROD: Yes, well, and persistently challenging his citizenship.
AXELROD: These are reflections of race. And I don`t think there`s any way
to deny that.
MATTHEWS: Please explain Donald Trump to me some day, will you?
MATTHEWS: He is a smart guy. What is he up to?
Anyway, thank you.
This book, political junkies, read this book. It`s not one of these books
that somebody writes for somebody, by the way, which I know about. It
happens out there, believe it or not. This is David Axelrod, his true
story, with lots of inside stuff like this. I wish I had hours with him.
The book is called “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.”
David Axelrod is staying with us. He will be in our roundtable tonight,
which everybody wants to be in to. We`re going to talk about 2016 and the
early stumbles by the likes of Christie, Bush and, yes, Hillary Clinton.
They`re making some mistakes. Plus, Jon Stewart`s amazing announcement
last night that he`s stepping down from “The Daily Show.” That caught
everybody off guard.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
A candlelight vigil is taking place right now in Chapel Hill, North
Carolina. It`s in honor of the three Muslim students allegedly murdered by
a neighbor. Investigators say a dispute over parking spaces may have led
to the shootings, but some are wondering if the students` race or religion
may have played a role.
And after being called off twice due to bad weather, SpaceX tonight
launched a new deep space weather satellite from Cape Canaveral. It will
track storms on Earth from more than a million miles away – back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the candidates for 2016 aren`t even out of the gate yet, but the
would-be campaigns run to some stumbling blocks this week, big ones.
Among Republicans, Chris Christie appears to be toning down his bombastic
style. He was in Iowa on Monday. And as “The Washington Post” reported,
“Gone were the bluster and bravado that have made Chris Christie a long-
touted contender for the White House. The new Chris Christie was serious,
earnest and calmly gesturing as he spoke. The reception to Christie`s soft
pitch, however, was decidedly mixed.” Which always means now.
Meanwhile, the newly-hired chief executive or technology officer of Jeb
Bush`s political action committee resigned yesterday after “BuzzFeed”
unearthed degrading comments that he had made about women on Twitter.
Former Governor Bush who prides himself of being tech-savvy also failed to
vet the thousands of emails from his time in office that he made public
yesterday, ultimately the unredacted private email addresses of many
Florida residents were dumped out, along with the content of the e-mail
themselves. The address was there. Everybody knows.
There was discord on the other side of the aisle when the absence of a
formal announcements from Hillary Clinton, frictions between various pro-
Clinton groups have boiled over into a territorial spat. It`s the kind of
drama that any campaign would want to keep out of the public eye.
The questions are, are these examples of campaign growing pains or do they
foreshadow larger problems to come?
We`re joined by right now the roundtable: Huffington Post`s” Sabrina
Siddiqui, and Jeremy Peters of “The New York Times”, and our special guest
tonight, David Axelrod, former senior strategist to President Obama and
author of the new book “Believer: My 40 Years in Politics.”
Sabrina, what do you make of these crumbling walls of – let`s start with
Jeb Bush. He gets a pretty good ride from the press. Is he really so
competent that he puts out all e-mails that people wrote to him as governor
and spills their addresses and everything else in their worlds?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I think, first and foremost,
none of these candidates are playing to their strengths. So, that`s a
major problem –
MATTHEWS: His being confidence?
SIDDIQUI: His being confidence and knowing how to manage and wants to look
like the most tech-savvy Republican candidate and he`s forgetting just the
basic 101 of how to do that. And not only that he did not vet these e-
mails for personal information and dumping the constituents` information
online, but also, I think that politicians need to understand the role that
social media plays. You cannot hire anyone anymore for your campaign
without checking the social media.
MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s getting sucky numbers in New Hampshire among
independent. I can`t believe how low. The dog doesn`t read the label on
the peanut butter jar, the dog food jar. Just because you say he`s Bush
doesn`t mean people are going to like him. I can`t believe the low regard
so far for him in this campaign.
Let me ask you about the other guy, about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton
has – it was always the dog fighting in that campaign before. Now you`ve
got already David Brock, who`s sort of an outrider, a watchdog for her, and
then you got the fighting with the Messina operation. It`s like a drug war
is going on. That`s my turf, no, that`s your turf, trying to raise – and
it`s all out in public on “The New York Times.” Your paper, front page,
you write about it.
JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That`s right. My colleague Nick
Confessore broke that story.
MATTHEWS: Front page.
PETERS: Fantastic job.
But I think part of the problem is they – these operatives and strategists
and donors don`t have anywhere else to go, so they are all fighting over a
very large pie but it`s only one pie. So –
MATTHEWS: And some people are raising a lot of money making this money, 15
PETERS: Yes, that`s absolutely, millions of dollars.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that a lot of money?
PETERS: I want that kind of job.
MATTHEWS: So, that`s why – now, let`s go over to you with the bad guy
from New Jersey. What is wrong with him? I should say –
MATTHEWS: – losing weight.
DAVID AXELROD, AUTHOR, “BELIEVER”: Flipping people off may be charming in
Vail (ph) but not in Keokuk. He`s finally discovered that. But he is who
he is and so the question is whether he`s – he comes across as authentic
when he`s bridling his authentic self. I think without authenticity, it`s
very hard to go far in a presidential process.
MATTHEWS: We like it when he said, none of your business. None of your
business, Emily, when he asked about where his kids were going to school
because it did seem to be a private matter, but in every public occasion
before, his selling piece is, I`m pretty obnoxious.
PETERS: Right. It`s a big part of his persona. I think people love this
irreverence about him. They love the bravado. Is it real? Maybe he was
just tired on Monday? I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: So, who`s the real Chris Christie?
PETERS: But I think one of the things we need to remember is, the
Republicans last time ran a candidate who tried to scrub away who he really
was and it didn`t work. So, is Chris Christie really going to run a
campaign where he`s trying to hide what has made him so appealing to our
AXELROD: Giving the pressures of presidential campaigns, if you`re
irascible, you`re going to be irascible.
AXELROD: Because there are so many provocations. I don`t think he`s too
far away from telling people to sit down and shut up again. I think it`s
going to happen and I think that`s a problem for him.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s one of the good things about campaigns, it
rubs all the cover off?
AXELROD: You know, it`s a ridiculous process but it`s the harder test and
gets harder as you move along, and it should be because you`re auditioning
for the toughest job on the planet.
MATTHEWS: I love the mistakes that people make, like your candidate, who
I`ve always liked, and that`s Obama, when he said things like she`s likable
enough. Terrible line as you put in your book.
AXELROD: It was a bad moment.
MATTHEWS: You can`t protect people against –
AXELROD: People are going to make mistakes. The question is, do the
mistakes reveal something that voters take away from it or are they
You know, the Bush thing, at the end of the day, doesn`t strike me as
something that is going to characterize him. But some of these other
things are – the problem is, John Podesta has to get control of the
Clinton operation and I think that`s part of his job over there.
MATTHEWS: One thing I like about Joe Biden is all the gaffes he`s made in
history, and none of them ever have hurt anybody, it`s really true. Even
the shylock line, which is stupid, it didn`t really hurt anybody. I think
People like him and he`s a nice guy and he makes mistake.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, we think we know it was coming but we didn`t. Jon Stewart,
for whatever reason, says he`s leaving “The Daily Show”, the most
successful comic of our time probably. David Axelrod was there when it
happened in the Green Room. We`re going to get the actual story when the
story broke to this fella.
We`ll be right back, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder today
awarded the Medal of Valor to 22 public safety officers. Among them, two
police officers from Watertown, Massachusetts, who confronted the Tsarnaev
brothers at a gun battle after the Boston marathon bombing last year. Also
honored were two officers who responded to the August 2012 shooting at a
sheikh temple in Wisconsin.
We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: I don`t have any specific plans. Got a lot
of ideas. I`ve got a lot of things in my head. I`m going to have dinner
on a school night, with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources
are lovely people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So funny guy.
We`re back and that was Jon Stewart in his good-bye last night. After 17
years on the job, he will be stepping aside as anchor of “The Daily Show”.
A pioneer in his field, Stewart has earned his reputation as the leading
voice of political satire, providing much-needed levity to the national
debate on a nightly basis.
We`re back now with our roundtable, Sabrina, Jeremy and David, who is there
in the Green Room.
AXELROD: Yes, it was kind of stunning. I came in, Jon Stewart came in and
said, listen, I`m going to make an announcement tonight and you need to
have a heads-up. It`s going to make some news. He says, I`m done, I`m
And I was there, my wife was there, and some of my staff and we were
stunned. There was this weight of history, because this guy has had an
enormous impact on our politics and on society in some ways.
AXELROD: He`s that big a figure. What interested me, Chris, was that in
the coverage, we had the Brian Williams story yesterday. And in some ways,
Stewart leaving superseded that story.
MATTHEWS: Double-barreled with the big papers, double-barreled.
AXELROD: Yes, which tells you how much – this is the same day the
president gave an interview on “BuzzFeed”.
MATTHEWS: The generation of my daughter, three New Hampshires ago, I think
it was, I has had a kid joining me in New Hampshire when I covered New
Hampshire, and the only person, all these big-shots, my daughter wanted to
meet this guy named Jon Stewart who I never heard of. He was grabbing the
young people very early on.
SIDDIQUI: And he was. I think the younger generation, he really has shaped
the political attitude.
MATTHEWS: Is that like the froth on the beer? What is it that he
delivers? All the kids in the audience, they seem to know all the
political references, they know all the political references, they know all
the news references, and yet they don`t read the paper. How do they know
that stuff, to know when to laugh?
PETERS: Well, I think that`s a good point and it`s why –
MATTHEWS: What is the answer to that question?
PETERS: It`s why politicians treat him as a news man, not as a comedian or
an entertainer. I was on Capitol Hill all day today, actually asking
MATTHEWS: I saw you up there.
PETERS: Yes, that`s right. I bumped to you in the hallway.
Asking them what it was about Stewart`s program that was so appealing. And
one after the other, they called him a news man. There was no qualifier,
no entertainer, no foe, nothing like that. They said, without a doubt, the
first show they want to go to reach especially the younger voters is Jon
SIDDIQUI: Younger people do go to him to get their news.
MATTHEWS: How do you get the news with these quick setups? I think you
need to have the setup to know how the punch line works. Don`t you have to
know what he`s talking about?
SIDDIQUI: I think one of the things you need people to do, though, was
build trust. And I think that younger –
MATTHEWS: You`re not answering my question.
SIDDIQUI: None of us know –
MATTHEWS: I almost seem to know what he`s talking about. How`s that work?
AXELROD: I think the reason he connected with young people is he
persistently called out hypocrisy, and lack of authenticity. That`s what
kids hate about politics. They hate the inauthenticity. They hate all the
And he stripped it bare, ridiculed it. Young people reacted to that. You
know, I think it was very, very powerful.
MATTHEWS: He`s got some guts, too. He has guts.
PETERS: Yes, he really does. He also – there`s a – I wouldn`t undersell
how much young people read either. I think that –
MATTHEWS: “The Times”?
PETERS: Yes, “The Times”.
AXELROD: Hope springs eternal.
PETERS: Exactly. But we`re getting by somehow.
So, no, I mean, if you just think about how people consume news now, I
think it`s differently that how, you know, I grew up consuming news.
MATTHEWS: OK. You get on the subway right now. You`re (INAUDIBLE) out in
California, they`re reading paperbacks if anything. How do they read your
PETERS: On their phones.
MATTHEWS: On their phones. And you can do that now.
I`m just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Sabrina Siddiqui. Thank you, Jeremy Peters. I was
pulling your leg there, sir.
David Axelrod, good luck with the book. I mean it. This is the kind of
book people should read, real books written by real people who know their
stuff. “Believer”, David Axelrod.
When we return, let me finish with the president`s call for Congress to
back military action against ISIS.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
What I hear tonight is the president of the United States blowing the
bugle, calling for the U.S. Congress to back military action against ISIS.
What I see tonight are members of Congress left and right heading for the
The question of backing war or opposing, it is not for lawyers to answer,
but for citizens and their representatives. It`s basic, do we as a country
do what we can militarily to destroy this terrorist regime that looks for
Americans to capture, frighten and ultimately kill with the maximum amount
of public humiliation? Do we? Or do we simply agree to sit and watch the
pictures coming in?
Does anyone among the doves truly fear that President Obama is going to
transform before our eyes into George Patton roaring tanks across the
desert in the pursuit of the ISIS leaders? Do they honestly question he
will let this thing get out of hand? Or are they simply unwilling to put
their hand to any document that might be used against them in the primary?
Same on the right, what are they afraid? Does the declaration of the
president`s asking the Congress for will tie his hands? What sense does
that make if he intended to lead a ground war against ISIS, why would he
put language of this authorization to specifically rule out, quote,
“enduring offensive ground operations”. People don`t ask people to stop
them from doing what they intend to do.
What seems to be going on here is a vast desire of politicians to protect
themselves, and the safest place to hide is in the tall grass, where the
other people are hiding. Not up there with the president, called the
Congress to do its duty.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>