Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/16/15
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The face of evil.
And this is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
At the front of the news tonight, a bigger horror. A group associated with
ISIS beheads 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. They conduct the dramatic
executions in broad daylight, broadcasting the pictures to the world. Like
previous ISIS videos, the new one is highly produced. It shows the Coptic
Christians being led along the Mediterranean shoreline. Eventually, they
are forced to kneel by the water and are beheaded.
Today, the Egyptian air force responded, carrying out bombing raids against
ISIS targets. Italy warned that ISIS is at the door now of Europe.
Mari Harf is with the American State Department. Marie, this is getting
close. And I think the Italians, you know, who had some land in Northern
Africa over the years before, are beginning to feel them at their curbside
now. And what do we do as Americans when we look at 21 Christians beheaded
for the purposes of humiliating us, the Christian world, the Western world?
It`s aimed at us, those pictures.
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, I think it just
underscores to people that it isn`t just a fight in Iraq and in Syria and
that it`s not just a fight about dropping bombs on terrorists. It`s really
how we stop the causes that lead to extremism in a place like Libya, the
fact that there`s no governance and there`s no opportunity for young
people, it lets groups like ISIL grow there and flourish there, which is
what you saw with this awful situation with these Egyptians that you just
But this is a longer fight. It`s fighting them on social media. Like you
just said, these videos they produce are very technical. They`re using
social media to get converts to their cause and to spread their hatred all
over the world. This week, we`re going to have over 60 countries in
Washington to talk about how we combat this violent extremism together in
the long term, not just in this short-term fight.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do we win? How do we stop this? I don`t see it. I
see the militias from – the Shia militias coming out of Baghdad. They
(ph) were (ph) all Shia. The Sunnis hate them. The Sunnis are loyal to
ISIS rather than going with the Shia. You`ve got the Kurds, the Jordanian
air force now, the Egyptian air force.
But I don`t see any – if I were ISIS, I wouldn`t be afraid right now.
(INAUDIBLE) figure this – no existential threat to these people. They can
keep finding places where they can hold executions and putting the
camerawork together, getting their props ready and killing people for show.
And nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this!
HARF: Well, I think there`s a few stages here. Right now, what we`re
doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the
battlefield in Iraq and in Syria. That`s really where they flourish.
MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?
HARF: We`re killing a lot of them, and we`re going to keep killing more of
them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They`re in this fight
with us. 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, whether–
MATTHEWS: We`re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime, or 50
lifetimes! There`s always going to be poor people. There`s always going
to be poor Muslims. And as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet`s
blowing! They`ll join. We can`t stop that, can we?
HARF: Well, we can work with countries around the world to help improve
their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have
job opportunities for these people.
You`re right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and
combatting violent extremism, but if we can help countries work at the root
causes of this – what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47
instead of trying to start a business? Maybe we can try to chip away at
this problem, while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL
in Iraq, in Syria, and helping our partners around the world. I mean–
MATTHEWS: This sounds like we`re going to get rid of juvenile delinquency
in America over time by erasing poverty, improving education. Sure, over
time. But the American people, I think, are getting humiliated morally by
this. We are seeing these pictures – what are you supposed to say, I`m
going to think about something else?
HARF: Not at all.
MATTHEWS: What are the American people supposed to do about this right
HARF: I think – I think–
MATTHEWS: They`re watching right now.
MATTHEWS: What are they supposed to do to stop these indecent killing of
people, these – this – the burning alive of the good pilot, the –
whatever they did to the American woman over there, whatever they did,
whatever they`re doing to all these people, beheading them, beheading them
– what are we doing to stop this? It sounds like we can`t stop it.
HARF: Well, I thi8nk they should know that the United States military is
taking direct action in Iraq and in Syria. We`re taking their leaders out.
We`re taking out their financing. We`re talking out their training camps.
This is a long fight, Chris. But I also think – not to take it to
politics for a second – they should tell their elected leaders to support
the AUMF that we sent to Congress–
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK.
HARF: – to speak to the world that we are behind this effort.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. I`m with you on that, Marie, because I
think that there`s a lot of politicians left, right, and center hiding in
the bushes right now. They don`t want their fingers on this war because
they`re afraid it might not be pleasant. Thank you.
HARF: War is never pleasant, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Marie Harf–
MATTHEWS: – from the State Department. Thank you for joining us.
I`m joined now by NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann and Michael Kay,
a former British officer. Let me – let me go with Evan first. To answer
my plaint – my complaint here – Americans watch television. They watch
it on their computers. They watch it on their iPhones. They get it –
these pictures coming over from ISIS and now from Libya of people being
executed, beheaded, burned alive, whatever else – this is going to
continue, and I wonder how the American people will react to this.
They don`t want to become passive, useless, morally, you know, somehow
compliant in this because if you don`t do anything, I think most Americans
say, if we`re not doing anything, we`re part of the problem. Your
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, look, back in 2004, we had a
similar problem. We had Fallujah under the control of al Qaeda in Iraq.
They took it and they turned it into a slaughterhouse. And it took a lot
of U.S. military force to get them out of there. And we ended it. We
ended that period of executions. And what we found there was horrifying.
You know, I`m not a big advocate of putting American boots on the ground
when they`re not absolutely necessary. But I think we have to really
carefully weigh our options here. Back in 2005, President Bush said that
there were 160,000 Iraqi troops ready for action, many of whom were ready
for independent action.
That was 10 years ago. There is still no Iraqi army. If we`re relying on
the Iraqi army or Syrian rebels to take care of this problem, it will never
get fixed. So whatever we choose, whatever strategy we choose, let`s at
least choose a strategy that`s not doomed from the start. And anyone that
has looked at the last five to ten years of Iraqi history and thinks – or
Syrian history – and thinks this strategy is going to work is a fool!
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Kay on that point, and that is the quality
of the Iraqi army. It`s apparently now getting smaller. Ever since they
were overrun a while back by ISIS, they haven`t been in a fighting mood and
they`ve been replaced, overwhelmed now by the Shia militia, who are the
real people fighting ISIS.
And that`s a tough one. What side are we on with that one? Are we with
the Shia militia or with ISIS? And what are the people on the ground who
are Sunni thinking? Would they choose that force led by the Shia against
their own religion? Would they?
MICHAEL KAY, FORMER BRITISH OFFICER: Well, Chris, just going to your
initial point, at the height of the train and equip program in 2008 and
2009, there was over 200,000 in the Iraqi army, which is a significant
amount. Today, we see the Iraqi army has around 45,000. The Ministry of
Interior forces in Iraq have around 35,000. And then you`ve got these
popular mobilization forces, which are Shia-backed, coming up from the
south and Iran. And they`re comprised of the Hezbollah brigades and the
Let`s go back to Libya. I really want to concentrate on this. Actions
have consequences. And there is a very reason why there is a lack of
governance in Libya at the moment, Chris, and that`s because of a NATO-led
air campaign in 2011 which completely wiped out of all of the governance
structures, from the army and the police to Gadhafi, and it basically
created this security vacuum.
I had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting el Sisi, who`s the Egyptian
president, last April in Cairo. And he told me one of his big concerns was
that he had on his eastern flank, he had an insurgency brewing on the
Sinai, and on his western flank, he had an insurgency brewing in Libya
because of these very actions that we took without a rebuilding program
post the air strikes.
The situation in Libya at the moment, Chris, is very complex. You`ve got
two main Islamist groups. You`ve got the Libyan Dawn, which has recently
taken over Tripoli, and you`ve got Ansar al Sharia, which has taken over
The Libyan Dawn is actually backed by Qatar, and one of the main Islamists
from Libya actually hides in Qatar at the moment. It`s complex. You`ve
got Islamic groups and then you`ve got the regional backing of Iran, Saudi,
Qatar, and the UAE.
And so again, going back to this holistic approach, we`re running around
like headless chickens at the moment. We`re reactive. What we have to do
is take a proactive stance with this. We have to engage politically. And
we have to make sure we`re not creating governance vacuums like we did in
2003 in Iraq and 2011 in Libya to start with.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to go back to Evan on that because, you know, we
were warned, you know, that we were breaking apart these governments. We
broke apart certainly the government of Syria. We`ve been doing that – or
we`re in the process of doing that. We eliminated the government of Iraq,
which was a dictatorship, but it held the Sunni and Shia together. We had
Gadhafi, who was a bit of a clown, but better a clown than what we have
now. We had all those frontline states against Israel that were basically
a joke. They were no threat existentially to Israel, nor – certainly not
even a strategic threat.
Now we have this hell broken loose. I mean, we can all go back – and to
use the term of Jeb Bush, relitigate it, but what are we going to do now?
These countries are broken.
KOHLMANN: Yes, I think it`s extremely difficult and it`s very
disappointing when you look at Libya, which did show some promise. It
looked like some of the fighters there might be pro-American or pro-
Western, and I think some of them are.
I think part of the problem is, is that in the case of Libya, we did half
the job. We bombed targets. But then once Gadhafi crumbled, we
disappeared. And we kind of said to the Libyans, You do everything
yourself. You`re perfect the way you are.
And how we expected people that had no history of democratic governance to
suddenly come up with a democratic government overnight that would function
perfectly, again, was the ideal of a complete fool. You can`t just bomb
people. You have to bomb people and then provide some kind of framework
for moving on. It`s the same mistake we made in Iraq back in 2003. We
destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure, we wiped out the Iraqi army, and then
we had no blueprint to move forward. And we cannot do that again. It`s a
MATTHEWS: I want to go back to Marie Harf. You were shaking your head. I
want you to have an opportunity to say – it seems like, you know, Colin
Powell was right. He said, You broke it, you bought it. We have broken
all these governments from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. We end up with a half
of a government, a half-assed government, basically, what`s left in Syria
and they`re all broken apart, and now somehow, we`ve become the gendarmes
and we`re fighting ISIS which I`ve not heard anybody say isn`t going to be
around 20 years from now. ISIS is here! Until we get rid of it, it`s
going to be here to stay. And my question is, what`s – where do we go
HARF: Well, I think what everyone was saying was just a little too
simplistic. If you take – Iraq is very different In Libya and in Syria,
we supported people who were rising up in their own country to try and get
a better future. I remember at the time people saying we were actually too
slow to support them.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) is this, Libya?
HARF: In Libya and in Syria. And around the Middle East, when we were
talking about the Arab uprising – this is different than Iraq, completely
different – people were saying America should stand by people in these
countries looking for a better future looking to stand up against–
HARF: – people like Muammar Gadhafi. I don`t think anyone thinks we
should have stood by him when his people were rising up against him.
But you`re right, the question is what we do now. And I can guarantee you
there are people at the State Department and across this government working
with the Libyans to help them chart a better course. But we cannot do it
for them, nor should we. And it is very complex.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re paying the price of their disaster.
HARF: And we`re trying to help them.
MATTHEWS: Of their inability to form governments. We are paying the
KAY: Chris? Chris if I could just–
MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead. Certainly, get back there (ph) – get back,
KAY: Yes, if I can jump in on this, Chris – I mean, in terms of where we
go from the future, having spent a bit of time in Cairo with el Sisi, I
think one of the things we need to do is look at Egypt as a strategic pivot
both in North Africa and both in the Middle East.
Egypt went through a very important revolution recently, which basically
turned away an Islamic caliphate proposal which was from Morsi and actually
identified themselves as sovereign (ph) base (ph) people.
I think that`s incredibly important in the caliphate and the ideology that
4we`re looking to fight at the moment. So I think we need to empower el
Sisi and help him with the insurgencies that are happening on the eastern
and the western flanks.
The other thing we need to do is take away this idea of a centralized
governance template, like we`ve tried to implement in Afghanistan for the
last 10 years. And what I mean by that is empowering Kabul to outreach to
the districts, the provinces and the suras when you`re looking at
effectively a country that binds tribal entities that transcend national
boundaries. So we need to go back to a decentralized template of
governance that recognizes the cultures and the histories of tribal
entities that have been in these countries for hundreds and thousands of
years. I think that would be a good place to start.
MATTHEWS: OK, Marie Harf, thank you. This is not going to end tonight and
I`m afraid for months now and years. Evan Kohlmann, Michael Kay, thank you
for your – for your expertise.
Coming up – Jeb Bush doesn`t want to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. The
Republican front-runner is delivering a foreign policy speech this week,
but he says he won`t talk about the past. Can Jeb refuse to talk about his
Plus, it`s the best of times and the worst of times for Hillary Clinton.
Polls do show she faces no competition for the Democratic nomination, but
being so far out front means that every meal ticket in the party is looking
to her for a job.
And 40 years of “Saturday Night Live” were celebrated in one live, three-
and-a-half-hour broadcast last night. The show including appearances by
dozens of former cast members. There were also a few surprise guests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question. Yes, Tina?
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Yes. No, it`s Sarah,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sorry!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry. Oh, my gosh, of course. Governor Palin,
PALIN: Yes, I was just curious, Jerry (ph), how much do you think Lorne
Michaels would pay me if I were to run in 2016?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run for president, Sarah? I don`t think there`s a
number too big.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`ll have more of the highlights coming up. That was
an odd comment.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the horror we face on the nearest TV or
laptop. It`s ISIS.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, new polls from NBC News and Marist show Hillary Clinton
with strong leads over possible competitors for 2016. In Iowa, Secretary
Clinton has a 56-point lead over Biden. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
follows close behind these two with 7 percent, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia
hanging in there with 1 percent.
Hillary Clinton is still on top with 69 percent in New Hampshire, but here
Sanders has a slight edge over the VP, Joe Biden, 13 to 8 among those two
among registered voters. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For mainstream Republicans, there`s a
battle right now between the old and the new. Jeb Bush is the old. Scott
Walker is the new kid on the block. Bush and Walker are the only GOP
presidential hopefuls to reach double digits in the first three 2016
contests, including Iowa. The new NBC Marist poll found a similar story in
New Hampshire, as well as in South Carolina, making them the front-runners
heading into 2016.
But Jeb has the baggage of the Bush family name, of course, and an historic
record of that. And reminders of W.`s foreign policy are coming back to
haunt his younger brother, of course, and that`s the way it should be. In
2013, he was put on the defensive about his older brother`s war in Iraq,
and he was his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: A lot of things in history change
over time. I think people will respect the resolve that my brother showed
both in defending the country and the war in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That sounds like “E “for effort. Anyway, last week, we asked
how he would handle – Jeb would handle Iraq and Afghanistan differently.
Well, the former Florida governor said that he won`t – here`s a new phrase
I don`t like – “relitigate.” He`s not even a lawyer. Why is he talking
(INAUDIBLE) his brother`s policies? Let`s listen to Jeb.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I won`t talk about the past, I`ll talk about the future. If I`m in
the process of considering the possibility of running, it`s not about
relitigating anything in the past. It`s about trying to create a set of
principles and ideas that will help us move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb also said he won`t look backwards when it comes to
foreign policy, but will focus on the future. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have some big, hairy, complicated things we need to fix, and one
of those is what the role of America is in the world, to protect our safety
and security but also to promote security and peace around world, and I
think we can be a force for good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hairy problems.
Anyway, here`s the question. Can Bush hide from Bush`s war?
Michael Tomasky is a contributor to The Daily Beast, and Ron Reagan is
author and MSNBC analyst.
Ron, it`s good to see you back. You got a little tan there.
MATTHEWS: I guess you have been somewhere warmer than we are here.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about this name. You have got a famous
name, but it`s the same. You have never ran for anything. How can Bush
run from Bush`s war? I don`t get it. How does he not talk about it?
Hillary has to talk about her positions in the past. Doesn`t he?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he does.
It`s amazing. A lot of politicians these days don`t want to talk about
certain subjects. Scott Walker, who you mentioned, doesn`t want to talk
about evolution. Marco Rubio doesn`t want to talk about how old the Earth
REAGAN: A lot of people don`t want to talk about climate change.
And Jeb Bush doesn`t want to talk about the past. I imagine he`s being a
little selective about that, of course. I`m sure he will want to critique
the Obama administration, which would be delving into the past. I`m sure
he will want to talk about his governorship of Florida, which is also in
He doesn`t want to talk about things in the past that are uncomfortable to
him, Afghanistan and Iraq. But he won`t be able to avoid that, mostly
because we`re still dealing with the fallout from Iraq and Afghanistan. He
will get leeway in terms of critiquing his brother personally. I think
people understand this is family and that would be very awkward for him.
But he won`t be able to distance himself from those wars. He will have to
demonstrate that he understands that his brother made mistakes.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And he can`t say mistakes were made because the passive
voice will not work here.
MATTHEWS: It has a direct link.
If I were the reporter – it`s always easy to second-guess how the question
is put – I would just say, what do you think of the U.S. policy toward
Iraq starting in 2001? Just ask him about the policy. Don`t even mention
his brother`s name.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. Sure, just ask him that. But he`s
going to say, or he should say, if he`s being honest, I supported it,
because he did support it. He signed that PNAC letter, the original PNAC
letter, Project for the New American Century.
MATTHEWS: Bill Kristol.
TOMASKY: Yes, Bill Kristol`s outfit.
MATTHEWS: So, he`s a neo.
TOMASKY: And he came out for the Iraq war, and he has since spoken in some
of the clips that you played in favor of the war. So that`s a position he
is absolutely going to have to defend and he`s going to have to talk about
all the consequences of the war, including ISIS that you talked about in
your first segment. ISIS grew out of that war.
MATTHEWS: I think – Ron, everybody I think who is watching this show,
maybe not some people on the very hard left or very pro-Clinton, will say,
I don`t want a real contest in 2016. I want the Republicans to put up a
joker in the deck, a clown who can`t possibly win, like Barry Goldwater,
who can`t – or McGovern – who will not win, therefore our favorite
candidate will walk into the White House.
MATTHEWS: I think the American people deserve a fricking choice for once
of two people they think, can imagine as president, and then they watch the
debates and make up their mind.
But it seems to me that a lot of people like me are hoping that Jeb Bush
will turn out to be the guy who is not his brother, more like his father,
more like Scowcroft, more of a realist, and less of a crazed ideologue who
sits around waiting for Dick Cheney tells him what to do.
REAGAN: Well, that may be true, but being a realist, let`s say, and not an
ideologue, he`s going to have to grapple with the recent past. He`s going
to have deal with the blowback that we have experienced – ISIS is a
perfect example, of course – from the wars in Iraq and maybe a little
less, a bit less so, in Afghanistan.
These are realities that he`s going to have to grapple with.
MATTHEWS: You mean to tell me that if it hadn`t been for us breaking up
Iraq and then almost breaking up Syria, and breaking up Libya, if we hadn`t
created that running room for something called ISIS, if we hadn`t turned
those generals and all the other officers out of the Iraqi army and sent
them out there for nowhere, that there wouldn`t have been a recruitment by
the extremes of Islamism and that wouldn`t have happened?
You mean it really does have a cause and effect, bad foreign policy leading
to worse consequences? Are you arguing that?
REAGAN: Eventually, there would have been an ISIS because the situation in
the Middle East is what it is. But it might not right be in Iraq or Syria
right now. It precipitated that.
There was no al Qaeda or ISIS in Iraq before we invaded. That`s simply a
MATTHEWS: So, we created the animosity, hostility and also the broken-down
I look back at this and I think, give me the generals. Compared to this,
give me the army in Egypt, like Sadat and those people. They had a
history, even Nasser. It was Baathism, but it made some kind of sense. It
was nationalistic. It was basically about their country. It wasn`t
necessarily something that we had to contend with.
TOMASKY: Well, there aren`t any good choices. there aren`t any good
You had Michael Kay. Michael Kay is really smart. He knows what he`s
talking about. He says we should buddy up with Al-Sisi. Well, Al-Sisi is
a pretty bad dictator. He`s done more–
MATTHEWS: You want the Muslim Brotherhood?
TOMASKY: He`s made – no, that`s right. And those are the kinds of
choices we have got.
But here`s another choice, speaking of choices, that Jeb is going to have
to make. So, they bash Obama and they say Obama is weak and Obama is this
and Obama is that and Obama is doesn`t really want to defend America. OK,
then, what do you do differently? What do you do differently?
Forget ISIS for the moment. What do you do differently about the Ukraine?
Is it worth stopping what he`s doing in Ukraine? Is American blood worth
that? He has to answer that question.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me – here`s W.`s White House press secretary, Ari
He recently told Politico – quote –“It seems as if he, Jeb, will come out
of the more muscular peace-through-strength wing of the party.”
So, there`s Ari Fleischer wishing what I don`t want to be true, Ron. He
hopes he`s one of the neos, neocons.
REAGAN: Yes. And he may well be. I would argue with the term muscular
and peace through strength. I think that Jeb Bush probably appreciates, as
his brother and his father did, that having a nice little war going on can
be helpful politically and it also helps the military industrial complex as
So I don`t imagine that he`d be shy about using military force, but, as
Michael was saying, to what end? We can`t just bomb our way through the
Middle East and expect that everything`s going to turn out hunky-dory
there. That won`t happen.
At some point, it seems to me the Middle East, the countries in the Middle
East, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the rest of them, are going to have to solve
these problems for themselves. We can`t do it for them. As Michael said,
there are no good options here.
Some people, when they get divorced, they keep the spouse`s name, because
they like the sound of the name. It`s like that`s what Jeb`s doing. He
keeps the name, but he doesn`t want any responsibility.
TOMASKY: Yes. Well, that`s not going to last that long. He`s not going
to get away with that.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I`m sorry. It`s a human predicament, divorce, but I
think he`s trying to divorce his family name from any responsibility. But
yet get all the advantages of the name he likes the sound of.
By the way, the word Bush has opened doors for this guy his entire life.
And now he sees a door in front of him, and he says, well, I don`t want
that to be there.
TOMASKY: I don`t have to open that.
MATTHEWS: I don`t have to deal with that.
Thank you. It`s good to see you back, Ron.
REAGAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And, Michael Tomasky, I love your writing.
Up next in the–
MATTHEWS: In The Daily Beast.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to get to the “Sideshow” right now and the weather
forecast that went viral. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM CANTORE, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! We got it, baby!
We got it! We got it! Woo! Woo!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”)
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: The president always trying
to sell Obamacare and, you know, trying to reach the young people, he made
a goofy video for BuzzFeed where he`s talking to himself in the mirror –
oh, my God – and taking selfies with a selfie stick, which is – I think
that`s great, because that way he can act like all the other Democrats and
distance himself from Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the “Sideshow.”
That was Bill Maher on the president`s BuzzFeed video from last week, which
has now been viewed – you won`t believe this – 45 million times. Wow.
Next up, the weather phenomenon know as thundersnow. It`s the combination
of a thunderstorm and a snowstorm, and it`s so rare that it`s become a
white whale as far as meteorologists are concerned.
Yet the Weather Channel`s Jim Cantore was able to catch it on camera Sunday
morning up in Massachusetts. And this was his reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTORE: Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! We got it, baby! We got it! We got it!
Oh, again! Again! That`s a twofer! That`s a twofer, baby! Yes, yes!
Again. That`s a three – you got to be kidding me. And there`s another
one. You can have your $500 million jackpot in Powerball or whatever the
heck it was, but I will take this, baby, four, four lightning strikes, four
episodes of thundersnow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Real thundersnow. Boy, he was working on Howard Dean there,
wait a second he?
Finally, cold weather was the subject of a tweet by former Congressman
Anthony Weiner aimed at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week. Weiner
was trying to make fun of the governor for closing city subways, as we
know, last month in anticipation of a blizzard that never materialized. He
wrote – quote – “Sunday`s going to be cold. Governor Cuomo will soon be
closing the subway.”
Well – but when a Cuomo spokesman saw that tweet, he quickly fired back
with this – and I love it – “Yes, it`s going to be cold, a good reason to
keep your pants on.”
I love it.
Up next: New polls show how just much of a front-runner Hillary Clinton
really is right now. But that`s not the whole story.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s what`s
A winter storm that`s dropped a foot of snow on parts of Kentucky and the
South has knocked out power to thousands. The system is headed east,
where`s it`s expected to bring snow to the Carolinas and as far as north as
A freight train carrying crude oil derailed election in West Virginia,
setting one train car into a nearby river and setting off a huge explosion.
A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan just a short time ago,
triggering a tsunami warning. Coastal areas are being evacuated in the
vicinity of that quake. And now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s the best of times and the worst of times potentially for Hillary
Clinton. She`s killing it in the polls. But that means every meal ticket,
that means people looking for jobs in the Democratic Party is looking for a
job with her, a motley crew of careerists, insiders, joiners, watchdog,
sometimes attack dogs.
On last week`s roundtable, which included David Axelrod, we talked about
the downside of dominance following a conflict between Jim Messina, a smart
guy, and David Brock, who is interesting, that broke out into the open.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY PETERS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Part of the problem is, they – these
operatives and strategists and donors don`t have anywhere else to go. So
they`re all fighting over a very large pie, but it`s only one pie.
DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: John Podesta has to get control of
the Clinton operation. And I think that`s part of his job over there.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s pretty good at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, John Podesta, who David Axelrod mentioned there, is
expected to become chairman of the Hillary Clinton operation, the whole
presidential campaign. He has got deep roots with the Clintons and more
recently President Obama.
In a profile today, Peter Baker “The New York Times” described Podesta`s
role this way: “It will fall to him to impose discipline on the sprawling
and fractious Clinton universe, including the candidate and her famously
undisciplined husband. And it will fall to Mr. Podesta to manage relations
between a president focusing on his legacy and his would-be successor
focusing on the next election.”
That`s one tall order.
I`m joined right now by the roundtable, who together can`t do this
probably, The Huffington Post`s Sam Stein, “The Washington Post”`s Ruth
Marcus, and Washington correspondent for “The Philadelphia Tribune” Charles
I want to talk with Sam, start with Sam.
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Sure.
MATTHEWS: How does one guy – I don`t care how vintage or how heavyweight
he is – John Podesta, make sure Bill Clinton doesn`t do anything
embarrassing, either by word or deed – we all know it`s possible for all
of us, without prejudging anybody – and also keep together the fractious,
really, really amazing watchdogs, David Brock, Sid Blumenthal, that really
tough crowd that know how to kill the enemy, they know how to do that, keep
them in line with the real Clinton close-in friends, Cheryl Mills, people
like that, Maggie Williams, that crowd, and then all the new people that
are going to come pouring in the door because it is the Democratic Party
If you want to work in the Democratic Party, you work for Hillary Clinton.
STEIN: How does he do it?
STEIN: He doesn`t. It`s impossible. This is–
MATTHEWS: So this is another road show from hell?
STEIN: Well, listen, I think it was going to be a road show no matter who
was running that ship. It`s just too big a ship. It`s too unwieldy.
And like Jeremy Peters said on your show, it`s the only ship in town. And
so you are going to attract lifelong characters. You are going to attract
STEIN: Obviously, you have the former president himself, who in 2008 was a
problem at times on the campaign trail.
And of course you have to manage what`s happening with the current
president, who has his own legacy to look out for. I think it`s an
unwieldy task, but, in the end, I also think that we in the press tend to
focus too much on it a little bit. And they realize that it doesn`t
MATTHEWS: Excuse me for living.
MATTHEWS: So you don`t want to talk about that.
STEIN: I do.
MATTHEWS: I`m telling you – you say it doesn`t matter, but we tend to
focus on it. You diminish this question.
Ruth, but this is what caused Hillary Clinton – they did not have a
strategy to get delegates. The other guys did. Plouffe and Axelrod
figured out, oh, we know how to get delegates in Arkansas, all over the
country. We can go to South Dakota. There`s lot of delegates. You don`t
have to just do California and Pennsylvania. They figured out what these
guys were too busy to do, which is learn how to win.
She needs smart people around her to beat the Republican, because this is
going to be very touch to stretch the Democratic reign beyond 12 years –
beyond eight years. It`s going to be tough.
RUTH MARCUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: It`s an impossible task, certainly, as
you described it. But it`s also – if there`s anybody who could possibly
do this in the Democratic Party, it`s John Podesta.
Do not underestimate him. He`s got relationships with Bill Clinton. He`s
got a relationship with Hillary Clinton. He`s got a relationship with
President Obama. He knows policy, and he knows politics. And he knows how
to exert discipline. He did it in the Clinton White House. And –
MATTHEWS: Can you tell Bill Clinton what to do?
MARCUS: No one can tell Bill Clinton what to do. But there are certain
people that Bill Clinton can hear better than others. And one of them is
John Podesta, don`t underestimate him.
CHARLES ELLISON, CONTRIBUTOR, THE ROOT: I mean, that`s the great thing
about John Podesta, I mean, you can get the best of both worlds. He can
sort of balance the Clinton and Obama universes because you`re going to
have staffers –
MARCUS: That`s the easier part.
ELLISON: That`s probably the easiest part as well. But, you know, at the
same time, it`s like I`m agreeing with Sam here in terms of, how`s he going
to do it and what makes Hillary 4.0 right now different from Hillary 3.0
back in 2008? I mean, you`re starting to see the same fissures, those same
internal factions within her camp, and that was a big liability in 2008 and
it`s going to be a big liability in 2016.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the hard part is what we`re watching now. The
first guy out of the curtain is Jeb Bush.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: When you first walk out, that`s when you realize you`re hitting
the New York media world, you`re hitting the toughest media this side of
Britain, and you basically have to say who you are. And he`s having a hard
time saying I don`t want to relitigate this, a modern word. I`m not going
to – you are going to relitigate because your brother`s the reason we`re
talking about the Iraq war right now. You, brother, and you were with him.
So, Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton is going to have to come out in the
first couple days, she`s going to have to walk out and have a plan about
how to talk. That to me, I root for her, because I think that`s the
hardest thing in America to re-enter the conversation.
STEIN: I agree with you. And you find –
MATTHEWS: It`s not about the structure so much –
STEIN: But it`s always about the pace of the conversation. And it`s much
faster and more demanding than it was four, five, six years ago. Look what
Chris Christie did in London, he had to stop talking in part because his
first answer was so bad on vaccination –
MATTHEWS: What he didn`t want to talk about after that?
STEIN: He answered the vaccine question. It was a NATO – a very bland
NATO question. He doesn`t talk.
And also, go back to Hillary Clinton`s book tour. The first couple days, a
lot of misstatements and oddly sounding things about her own wealth –
she`s going to have to figure out how to phrase those things.
And I think it`s telling that a lot of her close aides, Senator Schumer
told me this himself, they`re fine with her taking her time, in part to cut
down the amount of exposure that she has, which I don`t necessarily think I
mean, the strategy don`t because I`m in the media, but I don`t think
strategically is the best thing to do because you obviously have to face it
at some point.
MATTHEWS: Certainly, you got to put your toe in the water and then jump
in. And then you`re in the water and there are alligators in there.
MARCUS: Whenever you get in the water, there`s going to be alligators, so
sometimes you might as well jump.
STEIN: Jump in.
MATTHEWS: Would you recommend to jump in and make some mistakes?
MARCUS: No, I would recommend not making mistakes.
STEIN: Make them early, right?
MARCUS: Here`s what I mean by that. I would recommend learning from the
mistakes that you`ve made. What are the quotes that we remember from
Hillary Clinton? I didn`t want to stay home and bake cookies. We were
dead broke. OK? When she gets pushed, she –
MATTHEWS: What difference does it make?
MARCUS: We need to – we, the Clinton campaign needs to talk to her and
say, you need to practice that, you need to make sure that when you get
riled up, you don`t – she does two things when she gets riled up. One is
she laughs and tries to laugh it off. And the other thing is she says
something that can cause her trouble in the end. She`s got to get more
disciplined. But she`s a very disciplined person, so I`m actually assuming
ELLISON: Let`s say she needs calibrated mistakes, calibrated flaws to look
authentic in front of this electorate because that`s the main problem with
Clinton that also was a big flaw and a liability in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Terry Gross at NPR is not a right-wing crazy person. She`s very
– she`s wonderful at what she does.
MATTHEWS: She asked Hillary Clinton about changing her mind. Like most of
us did over same-sex marriage, which we now call marriage equality, which
we now call marriage equality. We weren`t calling it that 10 years ago,
most of us. We develop – it is a social thing. You don`t just make up
your mind as if you`re in a cave somewhere. You do make it as part of a
What`s wrong with saying that it`s very hard to answer a question which
wasn`t hard to answer, which I`ve evolved, I`ve changed my mind. I didn`t
think it was possible, therefore I wasn`t think about it. Now, I realize
it is socially possibly. Now, I think somebody could have fought for it
and work for it.
But I know somebody would have jumped on that, but it would have been
MATTHEWS: It isn`t all in a vacuum. Politicians don`t operate in a
vacuum. They don`t have secret principles.
STEIN: Sometimes they`re too polished.
MATTHEWS: That`s right, they have publicly acceptable principles. I mean,
Lincoln never explained where he was on slavery. He said no more expansion
in the territories.
MATTHEWS: Roosevelt never said we`re going to war with the Nazis. He
wanted to. You don`t tell everybody everything. But when you tell them,
you tell them the truth.
Anyway, the roundtable is – that`s my speech tonight – the roundtable is
staying with us.
Up next, the highlights in last night`s major “Saturday Night Live” 40th
anniversary special, which is all about generations. We`re going to find
out from Ruth Marcus.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MATTHEWS: A lot of heart there. A loss for the world there in music and
us who lived through it, Lesley Gore died. The performer and songwriter
was the voice behind chart toppers like 1963`s “It`s My Party,” you just
heard it there. And “You Don`t Own Me”, other biggie. Gore passed away
Monday from cancer in New York at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. She
was just 68, which is not that old.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Talk about a big event on television. “Saturday Night Live” had
so many celebrities on its 40th anniversary show last night that it took
almost two minutes for Darrell Hammond to read the name of every guest in
the opening credit. The three and a half hour event was full of surprises,
including the announcement of a potential new presidential ticket for 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question, yes, Tina.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: No, it`s Sarah, Sarah Palin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sorry.
Oh, my gosh. Of course, Governor Palin, welcome.
PALIN: I`m just curious, Jerry. How much do you think Lorne Michaels
would pay me if I were to run in 2016?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run for president, Sarah, I don`t think there is a
number too big.
PALIN: OK, just hypothetically then, what if I were to choose Donald Trump
as me running mate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, you`re teasing us, that`s not nice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That would be quite a ticket, wouldn`t it?
Anyway, former cast members reunited to bring back classic roles from the
Blues Brothers to Wayne`s World. Here`s Jane Curtin back behind the
weekend update desk, reflecting on the time that`s passed since she was on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE CURTIN: Times have changed since I first sat behind this disk. For
example, I used to be the only pretty blond woman reading the fake news,
now there is a whole network devoted to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, Sam, Ruth and Charles.
Ruth, I want to talk to you because you had an intergenerational experience
last night, watching this effort.
MARCUS: I did, I watched with my 17-year-old daughter. What an amazing
thing. “Saturday Night Live” was part of my adolescence, college life, and
it now part of my two daughter`s adolescence and college life. Regularly,
they tell me on Sunday morning, because it`s too late for me to stay up
that late on Saturday. Mom, you got to watch this, you got to watch this
clip of “Saturday Night Live”.
MATTHEWS: Now, you can.
MARCUS: And now, I can – what other show is there in America that has
bridged those generations that way.
MATTHEWS: I`m only 21 years to this thing.
MARCUS: It will, but you know, there`s 19 to go.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to tell you this, I was looking at the – how do you
square it? What do you think about diversity? I`m asking in political
ways. It`s pretty good or not pretty good?
ELLISON: For some reason, we were talking about this off set, it just
feels like OK, one, “SNL” lost a lot of edge from like the `70s and `80s,
going into the `90s, and also lost a lot of its diversity. It`s real weird
MATTHEWS: Who are the big African-American stars?
ELLISON: Eddie Murphy, obviously, Chris Rock, Kenan, I`m trying to
remember his last name –
STEIN: Kenan Thompson.
ELLISON: Kenan Thompson. But really no one –
ELLISON: Everybody was trying to measure up to Eddie Murphy and no one
could really do it. He really kind of just went on the edge. He really
pushed the envelope. I could not see anyone doing that in later years. It
is hard to watch “Saturday Night Live” on certain Saturday, I mean, I still
respect, I still laugh at it.
ELLISON: And the diversity, the lack of diversity is where that loss of
MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, the cold open is always my favorite. It shows –
they take something and you realize in a matter of seconds my God, that is
something about this week and they`re tearing it apart, you know?
Something we all talked about and they just lampoon it.
And I remember watching a show where Darrell Hammond was playing Cheney,
and he gets into the character before the camera goes on, before the light
goes, before it`s actually 11:30 and he`s prowling around the Oval Office,
Darrell Hammond, he is Cheney.
MATTHEWS: Will Ferrell was playing W. And they`re really putting down
something that is real, and they`re making so much fun of it.
STEIN: Maybe it is like sort of like a D.C.-centric viewpoint, but I
always love the political comedy because it`s just so biting, it`s so
satirical and it actually always has an impact. I mean, 2008 election was,
you know, those skits with Sarah Palin and Katie Couric were amazing –
MATTHEWS: I could see Alaska, I think a lot of people think she did say, I
could see Alaska from the house.
STEIN: Yes, it has become imprinted in our mind.
MARCUS: Go back to our view of Gerald Ford, go back to the incredible
lampooning of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Clarence Thomas
hearings. No one has done –
ELLISION: I mean, that`s also set standard for folks like Jon Stewart,
Stephen Colbert, you know, for those shows. I mean, they set the standard
for like comedy central, you kind of say, it was kind of the genesis of the
comedy central network.
MATTHEWS: And live.
ELLISON: Yes, it`s live –
MATTHEWS: We`re live now, but I`ll tell you, live is something else. And
how do they do it like in the old days. I mean, every skit had to be
write, everything had to be timed. Everything – if a plot fell down, what
would they have done, if somebody missed a line, what would they have done,
and yet every single time it`s been on for these 40 years, it`s has been
Live from New York. I mean, it`s really dramatic. It is like Sid Caesar
or something, the old days.
You know, you laugh, I used to Sid Caesar.
STEIN: Me, too.
MATTHEWS: Anyway – no, you don`t.
MATTHEWS: You heard about it.
Thank you so much, guys, I think we talked about the important stuff.
Roundtable, Sam Stein, right here, Ruth Marcus and Charles Ellison from
When we return, let me finish with the horror we face on New York`s TV or
laptop. ISIS is never further away than that, unfortunately.
HARDBALL back here in a minute, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the news.
Like many of you I live in conflict over this horror for the Mideast.
These 21 beheadings of Coptic Christians is an ancient horror carried out
before our eyes, purposely so. Why else is the indecency so carefully
videotaped, so well-produced, to hit every screen in our state of the art
They`re using people other there, the death of people, to demonstrate their
devotion, their ruthlessness, their power. They`re killing people in the
most disrespectful way so they can be seen doing it by the people they want
to recruit, by the people they want to kill. They want to stir up recruit
by showing their willingness to go all of the way, to stir anger as well by
doing what the hell they decide to do to the people they are committed to
destroying, other religions, other countries, other Muslims.
And what can we do? Can we do nothing? Can we just look at the pictures,
ask what`s for supper? What`s on TV tonight? What`s the weather like
tomorrow morning and go on with our lives, warding off the knowledge that
these people are being killed in demonstration against us?
How about this? Can we content ourselves by doing something which we know
right now will not be enough to stop this horror? I know. We all know we
need a plan, we need a root that takes us to destroying ISIS, because the
alternative is too sick, too un-American, too inhuman.
e can`t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the
supports page, or the financial news, what`s at the movies, or who`s going
to win the Oscars, and act like America, our country, is not being morally
humiliated, because it is. And with the lives of at least some of these
people who must in their last minutes have to be wondering if there`s the
chance the people of the United States could be coming to their rescue,
because that`s how we were taught that we conduct ourselves. We don`t
leave people behind.
That`s HARDBAL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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