Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 03/04/15
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary`s front page news.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
It`s front page news. It`s right up there. Read all about it.
Hillary Clinton used private e-mail while at State. Find out the true
story. Read “The New York Times.” Read “The Washington Post.” Read all
What is going on? Suddenly, the once and future presidential
candidate is the topic of A-1 attention from the country`s major
newspapers, including “USA Today.” And one thing this means – we`re back
to Benghazi. Late today, the House select committee says it has issued a
new batch of subpoenas for Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.
But let`s get inside this big spotlight on Hillary`s behavior at
State. Is this a major problem, a minor one, or a concoction by her
Carol Leonnig is a reporter with “The Washington Post,” Matt Schlapp
is chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Jess McIntosh is the
spokeswoman for Emily`s List.
Anyway, last week, the big front page story in “The Washington Post”
focused on potential conflicts of interest with millions in foreign
donations given to Hillary Clinton`s group, CGI, the Clinton Global
Initiative, when she was secretary of state.
And yesterday, “The New York Times” front page raised concerns about
her exclusive use of private e-mail during her tenure at State, saying that
she may have violated federal requirements that officials` correspondence
be retained as part of the agency`s record.
Well, today`s story on the front page of “The Washington Post,” says
the White House says Clinton did not heed e-mail policy. Quote, “She
appears to have operated in violation of what the White House said Tuesday
was very specific guidance that members of the Obama administration use
government e-mail accounts to carry out official business.”
And the front page of today`s “New York Times” has a story that she
thwarted records requests. It reports there were, quote, “several
instances in which records requests sent to the State Department, which had
no access to Mrs. Clinton`s e-mails, came up empty.”
And the Associated Press today reports that Hillary ran her own e-mail
servers. Quote, “The highly unusual practice of a cabinet-level official
physically running her own e-mail out of her family`s home in Chappaqua,
New York, would have given Clinton impressive control over limiting access
to her message archives. Operating her own server would have afforded
Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private
I want to go to Carol Leonnig, much respected reporter for “The Post.”
The placement of these stories right at the top of the two major
metropolitan papers in this country – why are these stories so big in the
judgment of the news business?
CAROL LEONNIG, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, two reasons, Chris. I mean,
number one, it involves Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the
Democratic nomination. And second, you know, as many government employees
have been saying to me in sort of vitriolic language, If I did that at the
government, do you know how much trouble I would be in? It`s almost as if
there`s a different standard for Hillary Clinton, in the view of these
folks. And even the White House and at the State Department, people are
really shocked – some people are really shocked that she was able to
basically create her own rule system.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Matt on this, Matt Schlapp. You`re obviously
– I think I can fairly say you`ll be a critic of Hillary`s, so let`s get
it out on the table. If you had to explain this to you mother or your
mother or somebody at a bar somewhere, a regular guy, what`s the big deal
MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION PRES.: It looks like she
has a separate set of rules governing her behavior, that she didn`t do what
was mandated by law that we have these as records, that she had a
MATTHEWS: Did she break the law? I`m not…
SCHLAPP: I don`t know! I don`t know, but I do know this, that she
received 65,000 e-mails to a server put in her house that was not protected
like e-mails would be at the State Department. And what I worry more
about, besides the fact that she has her own set of rules, is who looked at
these e-mails? Sony got hacked by North Korea. I don`t know who was
looking at these e-mails. I`m worried about it from the fact that she`s
the secretary of state, and I think there should be a protocol on the kinds
of information the secretary of state…
MATTHEWS: Well, give me – give me anecdotal observation. What would
be in there that she would want to hide?
SCHLAPP: Chris, we had six investigations on Benghazi, and this only
MATTHEWS: But this was a decision she made well before Benghazi.
SCHLAPP: This only – these e-mails have only come out in this most
recent Benghazi investigation. How come they didn`t come out earlier?
MATTHEWS: OK, Jess, where do you put this, no offense, small offense
or a concoction?
JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Every secretary of state prior to
Hillary Clinton used a private account for their e-mails. I think, more
importantly, can you possibly imagine any American family at any kitchen
table across the country sitting down and saying, Wow, I`m so concerned
that she used private accounts instead of a State account, and where was
the server located? No! Because there are major economic questions…
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. You changed the subject.
MCINTOSH: I just don`t –
MATTHEWS: But you`re changing the subject right now.
MCINTOSH: I think that the electorate isn`t going to be focused on…
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you…
MCINTOSH: … where the server was.
MATTHEWS: … why do you think – I just asked the news media. Why
do you think “The New York times” is leading with this in its major front
page placement here again and again this week, “The Washington Post,” “USA
Today,” all front page treatment of this thing. They are not anti-Hillary
Clinton. You can`t tell me “The New York Times” has got a case against…
MCINTOSH: I think Carol is exactly right. It`s leading because
Hillary Clinton makes news. She was…
MATTHEWS: So they confected this.
SCHLAPP: That`s not what she said. Did you hear what she said? She
MCINTOSH: She`s the front-runner for…
SCHLAPP: … the reason why it`s leading…
MCINTOSH: … the Democratic nomination, and…
SCHLAPP: … is because she`s…
MCINTOSH: … that`s correct.
SCHLAPP: … talked to people in these agencies and they`re
MCINTOSH: No, they`re very –
SCHLAPP: … that the secretary thought she could have a separate set
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s just split a table here. Suppose Dick Cheney,
you found out, had never used government e-mail the whole time he was
operating and pushing these wars in Iraq, et cetera, et cetera, (INAUDIBLE)
MCINTOSH: Wait a second…
MATTHEWS: The whole time, he had a completely…
MATTHEWS: … somebody has a better idea. Go ahead, Carol.
LEONNIG: Hey, Chris…
LEONNIG: No, Chris, I mean, there was a huge hubbub about this. You
know, really, there`s no partisanship at “The New York Times” and “The
Washington Post” in our news decisions. It`s really because she`s a
presidential candidate and because this…
LEONNIG: No, and second…
LEONNIG: … because it`s a huge deal. It`s a huge deal. And you
may remember the missing e-mail case in federal court in D.C. involving
Karl Rove`s e-mails and these vanished e-mails, and people thought that was
a huge deal because why? Because our government is supposed to be open.
You`re supposed to be able to not only see what our government is up to,
but if you were a citizen or an investigator for a congressional committee,
you`re supposed to be able to go back later and see what happened.
MCINTOSH: But we`re not talking about vanished e-mails. We`re
talking about 55,000 pages of e-mails over turned at State request…
LEONNIG: No, no. Actually, what we`re talking about are a certain
set of e-mails turned over to the State Department at the decision of
Hillary Clinton and Clinton aides, not State Department aides – turned
over to the State Department, so it`s not a government entity making that
decision. And – and in terms of what the Benghazi committee got, as far
as I know, they`re somewhere in the couple dozen. It – we don`t know
who`s making the decision about what we`re allowed to see.
MATTHEWS: Let me find out something I didn`t know. Apparently, you
don`t have to be on Gmail or AOL. You can set up your own server, and
Hillary Clinton went out in the beginning of becoming secretary of state –
and I don`t know why she did this, but she created a whole separate
reality, where she could – and decide when and if and what she was going
to release to anybody asking for it. In fact, she would be the only one
that knew what it was.
So doesn`t that give her the power to decide what government business
she`s going to share with the country and with investigators, journalists,
historians? Doesn`t that give her the discretion that most public
officials don`t have anymore?
MCINTOSH: Lots of public officials set up their own server. Jeb Bush
did the same thing and…
SCHLAPP: He wasn`t secretary of state!
MATTHEWS: So you think it`s OK for her to keep this private?
MCINTOSH: And she`s talking to State Department on their account.
MATTHEWS: No, I`m just asking if you think it`s all right for her to
keep it all private if she wants to.
MCINTOSH: I think – yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: If she wants to.
MCINTOSH: I mean, I think that she should be able to disclose things
that ought to be disclosed…
MATTHEWS: No, but she is…
MCINTOSH: … that ought to be kept private.
MATTHEWS: … she should get to decide what she discloses.
MCINTOSH: I think that she should follow the letter and the spirit of
the law, and that`s what I think she`s done.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) use. I`m just asking you, do you think it`s OK
for a public servant at the level of secretary of state to carry on
correspondence, official correspondence, but keep it to themselves if they
choose to because that`s, apparently, the option she has now since it`s all
MCINTOSH: I think that at that level, it`s important that they follow
the law. I also think that if we spend the next few months debating how
long something was kept on the server, the American electorate is going to
flock to a third party.
SCHLAPP: Oh, that`s ridiculous!
MCINTOSH: There is just no…
MATTHEWS: OK, let me…
MCINTOSH: … American families are going to care about…
MATTHEWS: … front page story. Former secretary of state Hillary
Clinton appears to have violated or operated in violation of what the White
House said Tuesday – that`s yesterday – - was, quote, “very specific
guidance that members of the Obama administration use government e-mail
accounts to carry out official business.” What do you make of that
headline? Front page!
MCINTOSH: Look, I think that she is talking about issues that matter
to the American electorate. I think that she will have lots of
opportunities to answer lots of questions…
SCHLAPP: Wait! She`s not talking to anybody about anything! She`s
saying nothing. And what she needs to do is come out immediately, explain
what her process was. The fact is, I worked for Karl Rove when you just
referenced those e-mails. I was in the White House…
MATTHEWS: Why did have…
SCHLAPP: … we got the hell beat out of us for the fact that they
thought that maybe not every e-mail was going through a White House server.
We still had White House e-mails. The idea that we wouldn`t have any White
House e-mail would just be nothing but trying to avoid the…
MCINTOSH: … clearly did not have department e-mails. She didn`t.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me…
MATTHEWS: … go back to Carol on this about – on the importance –
we do all – I think all of us here at this table do expect Hillary Clinton
to make an announcement for president. We do expect that. All the
SCHLAPP: It could be delayed.
MATTHEWS: … putting together – - no, putting together a team,
clearly, is going on. But here`s the question. Is there – I always look
at these stories and I say, Well, there`s got to be a back story here.
There`s something that suggests a fuel to this story beyond what`s being
Is it this supposition on the part of her critics, and maybe stand-by
critics, just people watching her over the years, that she is very private
about her person – not wrongdoing or something like that, she just doesn`t
like to be totally exposed in what she does every day. It`s her instinct
based upon perhaps years of being attacked by the right when she was down
in Arkansas and since then, a built-in instinct for self-protection, a
built-in instinct for privacy which this displays? I just wonder if that
is isn`t coloring this story and the news interest in it, Carol.
LEONNIG: I think you`ve got a great point about this, actually,
Chris. And one of the interesting things about this is it`s almost like a
double whammy effect. I can totally emphasize with the former secretary of
state`s desire for privacy, the desire not to be – you know, have all
these e-mails read. We all know about super-duper government surveillance
now in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures. We know that lots of e-
mails or calls that we make may be monitored or tracked in some way. So I
But it`s funny – funny ironic – that you know, a Benghazi committee
that was looking for some sort of dirt and some sort of, you know, smoking
gun about how Hillary handled the attack on the consulate in Benghazi
didn`t really find anything that striking about the State Department`s
handling of it, and they knew that it was a terrorist attack long before
they acknowledged it.
But now the committee has found something that actually is quite
worrisome, that the secretary of state decided on her own power that she
was going to behave in a way that other government employees would not have
MCINTOSH: … secretary of state before her, Colin Powell,
Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright…
MATTHEWS: … guidelines I just read you from the – from the current
administration, which she sort of – could it be – the irony here, the
chicken and the egg thing – did she get too paranoid because she had
reason to be paranoid? You know, even if you`re paranoid, if we said last
night on this show, they could still be chasing you.
Hasn`t she given Trey Gowdy and this committee an excuse? What we
know is there is behind the curtain we can`t get to because she`s destroyed
the e-mails. They`ve given them now a case that there was something bad
she did by simply putting up a wall that allowed her to get rid of stuff –
even if she didn`t do it – allowed her to get rid of e-mails?
MCINTOSH: I don`t think that there`s any way that she could have
conducted herself as secretary of state that would not have…
MATTHEWS: … in other words, anything that`s said against Hillary
MATTHEWS: This reminds me of Operation Move On!
MCINTOSH: No, I…
SCHLAPP: She`s put herself in a bad position because the reason why
you have this protocol on e-mails is because when there are investigations
and when you`re in a big job like secretary of state, there`s going to be
investigations. It`s out of her hands. It`s in the IG`s hands. In this
case, it`s all on her hands…
MATTHEWS: It`s one less reason to go into government because every
single e-mail`s got to go through the bureaucracy and goes right to the
National Archives. But when I was a speech writer for Jimmy Carter – one
million years ago – we had to turn in every draft of every speech…
SCHLAPP: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And weren`t even allowed technically to Xerox it! And that
was – anyway, so it`s not new. You`re a good defender, but changing the
subject ain`t going to work as these newspapers are powerful! They got a
barrel of ink…
MCINTOSH: It`s about voters, though!
MATTHEWS: They go on the trail and the more you say…
MCINTOSH: It`s about an agenda!
SCHLAPP: It`s about the national security of this country, is what
MATTHEWS: … have to walk right through the gauntlet (sic) of
reporters going. Thank you, Carol Leonnig.
LEONNIG: You bet.
MATTHEWS: You`re the best, Carol. Thank you from joining us from
“The Post.” Matt Schlapp, thank you, sir. It was easy for you tonight.
Jess McIntosh – a little harder. Thank you. Please come back, all of
Coming up, the Supreme Court might do what Republicans in Congress
have tried time and time again to do, kill “Obama care.” And the health
care lawsuit the Supreme Court took up today is only round one. They still
have gay marriage this summer and immigration to go, and without Congress,
President Obama`s completely at the mercy of their rulings.
Plus, the genius presidents. As part of our ongoing “Seven Days of
Genius,” we`ve got two top historians to tell us which presidents were the
smartest of them all.
And what`s behind the Republican Party`s love affair with Israeli
prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu? They lapped up everything he said
yesterday during his address to Congress.
Finally, the day after Ben Carson announced his presidential
exploratory committee, he said that homosexuality is, in fact, a choice.
His evidence? Catch this. People go to prison straight and come out gay.
That`s really clinical.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb Bush doesn`t want to be portrayed as a candidate
beholden to the rich, so what`s he doing about it? According to “The
Washington Post” today, he`s telling donors not to give him more than a
million bucks this quarter – not a million bucks this quarter. “The Post”
reports that his team is hoping a donation cap will keep them – allow them
to build a wider base of donors.
Bush hasn`t launched a campaign or an exploratory committee yet, but
he`s currently raising lots of money for his Right to Rise super-PAC, which
will likely be the foundation for his White House run.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember, “Obama care” is the president`s
legislation. So the president has decided, since this disaster occurred,
that if he doesn`t like something, he just changes the law!
REP. LOUIS GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We`re hoping the Supreme Court will
actually do the right thing here. I know it`s a lot to hope for.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: When it comes to the subsidy
issue, I really think that they will rule in our favor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Emotions were running high outside the Supreme Court
earlier today, where inside the court, the nine justices heard oral
arguments on another fight over “Obama care.” But it`s only round one for
what is expected to be a very busy and historic year for the judicial
branch. As the president`s party has lost the Congress and the opposition
party`s in constant turmoil, it`s the Supreme Court who`s in the driver
The power of the judiciary will decide three historic issues this
year. First, the fight the played out today over “Obama care” subsidies.
If the court rules for the plaintiffs, the president`s signature
legislation, the Affordable Care Act, will be gutted.
Also coming, a federal court of appeals case over the legality over
President Obama`s use of executive action on immigration. And the Supreme
Court will this year will also settle the issue of marriage equality. The
stakes are high for President Obama`s legacy, and nine men and women could
decide his political fate in the months to come.
U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a Maryland Democrat and John
Feehery is a Republican strategist.
Congresswoman, it just seems to me that everything`s on the Supreme
Court`s platter right now, starting with the “Obama care” because of this
argument that the legislative history of “Obama care” did not provide for
giving subsidies to moderate income and poor families, for getting
subsidies, if they`re in states that didn`t create exchanges. And this
sits there as a problem.
What happens if the court says, That`s a problem. You`re not going to
get those subsidiaries in those areas?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, let me tell you, I was in the
court today, and there was a very animated discussion. And I think the
court is rightly concerned with the fact that – you know, the federal
exchange is there for a reason, and I think that they are going to take the
argument that there`s a choice that states can make, either you could adopt
your own exchange or you could have a federal exchange, but either way,
subsidies could apply across the board.
And we`re talking about 10 million people just since 2013 who are
newly insured, and the state is sensitive – the court is sensitive to the
fact that it doesn`t want to turn complete disarray in the insurance
markets and the states. And actually, you know, there were some questions
about whether this will be coercive for the states if you remove the
subsidies – I happen to agree with that argument – in a way that would be
I also agree with the fact that we have 10 million people. The
Republicans don`t have a plan. And what are they going to do when they
throw all of these people off of insurance…
EDWARDS: … and tell them they can`t have insurance anymore?
MATTHEWS: You`re making a – you`re making a policy argument, that it
would be bad for the country and bad for the people who benefit by these –
from these subsidies for – and get health care they can`t otherwise
Why does the court care about that? Why don`t they just – aren`t
they more likely just to read the legislation and see in it that there`s no
provision for subsidies for states that don`t have exchanges?
What happens if they do that?
EDWARDS: I think they are likely to do the opposite, Chris.
What they are going to do is, they`re going to read it and they`re
going to say, they – courts were given – states were given a choice when
it comes to health care. Either you set up your own exchange or the feds
would set up an exchange.
EDWARDS: Otherwise, it doesn`t make any sense for us to have had a
federal exchange. That wouldn`t make any sense at all.
And I think the court is going to look at the plain language and say,
you know what? You have choices. Choose the federal exchange, you still
get the subsidy. I believe that the court is going to conclude that and
not create the disarray that would result.
MATTHEWS: John – John, we have worked in politics, but politics may
not have any role in this, because the Supreme Court has – there`s two
justices now, Roberts, the chief justice, and Anthony Kennedy, who are s
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.
MATTHEWS: These two guys who were never elected to anything are going
to decide whether same-sex is a constitutional right. They`re going to
decide whether the president is allowed to do all this stuff with
immigration as an executive order or not, and they are going to decide
whether Obamacare stays funded or not.
These two guys, according to all the reporting, are going to decide it
all, like a big trifecta.
FEEHERY: When I think about this in the context of Obamacare, I think
that Justice Roberts has a mulligan. The first time, he ruled with the
Obama administration. I think this time, he`s going to rule against the
Obama administration. And then…
MATTHEWS: Why would he do that? Why would he do that?
FEEHERY: Because the law is the law. It`s clear what it says in the
MATTHEWS: So, he will go with the letter?
FEEHERY: I think he will go with the letter.
And I think then the Republicans in Congress have to come up with some
way to fix this, because it – the congresswoman is right. It`s going to
cause some turmoil. And I do think that the Supreme Court is going to say,
well, we got to give some time, because Alito said this today – we have
got to get some time to make this right, because we don`t want to throw
those people out right away.
So, I do think that the Congress will have some work to do. But
you`re right. The Supreme Court has become the referee. And I think with
Chief Justice Roberts, he`s become a real referee and is calling them like
he sees them. And I think that he has tremendous power.
Let`s go back to Congresswoman Edwards.
If the court rules the wrong way, but says there is a way to fix this
thing, do you think the Republicans will play ball and help fix Obamacare
or once again knee-jerk try to destroy it?
EDWARDS: You know what? I can`t read what the Republicans are going
What I can tell you is that there will be 10 million people who can`t
afford health care anymore. The prices are going to skyrocket. The market
is going to be in turmoil. It will be their responsibility to fix it,
given that it was their – their idea to undo it.
And so I don`t know what the Republicans are going to do. What I do
is, I feel for the 10 million people who are newly insured who will no
longer be able to afford their health care. Let them live with that.
MATTHEWS: Have you decided whether to run for the Senate to fill
Barbara Mikulski`s seat? She`s retiring in Maryland.
EDWARDS: How did I know that you were going to ask that?
MATTHEWS: Well, you know.
EDWARDS: I`m seriously considering it. And I think it`s important to
follow on a legacy of leadership for women and leadership in the Congress
with Senator Mikulski. And I think I could fill that bill, and I`m
MATTHEWS: Can you beat the mayor of Baltimore for the job? Can you
beat Chris Van Hollen, the two of them?
EDWARDS: I see – if I were to do it, it would be because I see a
pathway to victory, not because I`m making a statement.
MATTHEWS: Whoa. OK. Thank you.
Well, I have always been a fan. Good luck there, Congresswoman Donna
Edwards of Maryland, which needs a senator.
And thank you, John Feehery.
Up next, Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ. As part of our 7 Days of
Genius project, we want you to know which presidents have been the smartest
in history. We`re going to ask that question of two smart people.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address in the
closing days of the Civil War, he asked for divine intervention to help
this country – quote – “see the right” and choose its own path forward.
Well, today marks the 150th anniversary of that speech and it serves
as a reminder that the fortunes of this country have rested on the
shoulders of just 43 Americans.
So, how do we measure these men? All were smart enough to attain our
country`s highest office, but which U.S. president comes closest to the
notion of genius?
Well, as part of MSNBC`s 7 Days of Genius Festival this week, we`re
exploring the people, ideas and leaders who have changed the world.
I`m joined right now by two presidential historians, Doris Kearns
Goodwin, who could have done this show without you, the author of “The
Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age
of Journalism,” and Jonathan Darman, who is author of “Landslide: LBJ and
Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America.”
Doris, I have to start with you.
The ground rules, please, how do you distinguish a genius, if that`s
the right word – we have chosen it – and who are your nominees?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think it`s not
necessarily high intellectual achievement, which is what we ordinarily
think of genius, but rather a natural talent that allows a person to
achieve eminence in the course of his life.
And in that case, Teddy Roosevelt said about himself, I`m an average
man with ordinary qualities that I have brought to extraordinary degree
through the application of hard, sustained work, and he said, if I have any
genius at all, it`s in leadership, that in the first five days of being a
Rough Rider, he wasn`t as good a horseman as his men, he didn`t have
experience, he wasn`t as good a soldier. He was clearly their leader.
And he looked at Lincoln, for example, when somebody said to him, your
speeches aren`t as good as Lincoln`s, what can you do? He said, Lincoln
was a rare literary genius. Lincoln had a poetic gift. So, he`s certainly
one of those, his speeches remembered for generations.
And, weirdly, I would put LBJ in, who had a certain psychological
genius to look at every senator, every congressman and figure out, what did
they want for themselves? Dirksen wanted to be remembered by history, so
he says, Dirksen, you come with me on this bill, 200 years from now,
schoolchildren will know only two names, Abraham Lincoln and Everett
And he knew every single congressman, what they cared about and
brought them together to produce that extraordinary legislation. So,
there`s others, but I would stick those three right there.
MATTHEWS: I have heard that you think of genius as the ability to
sort of marry into the flow of history and understand where it`s going and
to somehow find in that what you can do.
Did Johnson fail at that regarding Vietnam, the ability to ride with
history and to move it in his direction?
GOODWIN: Without a question.
Just as he succeeded in 1964 to understand after Kennedy died that the
most important thing was to take command of the office and get that civil
rights bill passed before the election, so he failed to understand what was
going on in Southeast Asia, what containment meant. He was looking back to
World War II, as too many leaders were at that time.
So, his legacy, as gorgeous as it is in domestic stuff, is cut in two
by that war in Vietnam. And you`re right, not understanding the flow of
history. Every president has to see what their opportunities are, where
history is and hopefully shape it in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Jonathan Darman.
I think – it`s great to have you on. Let`s talk about the same
question. How do you define it and who meets the standard of genius?
JONATHAN DARMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I actually put
Franklin Roosevelt at the top of my list for exactly that reason that Doris
was just talking about.
There`s the famous moment after Oliver Wendell Holmes meets FDR and,
says, well, it`s a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament.
And you wouldn`t necessarily say that FDR has the greatest intellectual
ability of all of these presidents, although his intellectual capacity was
But what he was really unique and I think exemplary in was his
intuitive powers. And that was what made him so good at sitting back and
watching the course of events and understanding where his opportunity was
as a president to sort of step in and try and effect change.
The second on my list is Lincoln, for similar reasons, actually. He
was also a man of great ability and who was very good at having people
underestimate him, but he also understood that a lot of human understanding
is beyond us and that a president shouldn`t try to control everything, that
he can go forth humbly and just try and do good work.
My third choice is probably a little more iffy. It`s John F. Kennedy,
really, exclusively, I would say because of his handling of the Cuban
I think when you look at JFK in those moments, you see a brain and a
spirit that is sort of operating on the highest level.
DARMAN: He is able to be both in the moment and also thinking beyond
And he`s able to take, you know, counsel and advice from some really
incredibly credentialed people and sort of keep them happy, but also think
about what all the flaws in their logic are. And he`s able to do it under
more pressure than any other president probably had ever had up until that
period of time. And that really is what I think makes him an extraordinary
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Doris for a minute.
We have had presidents like Jimmy Carter who had probably great SAT
scores, they probably did very well in engineering, and yet didn`t know how
to connect. Distinguish political I.Q. from sort of taking-tests I.Q.
GOODWIN: No, without a question.
What`s much more important, as was mentioned, in terms of temperament
absolutely outdoing pure intellect, is, how does a president understand the
opportunities of his time? How does he connect with the people, the people
at large and with the congressmen?
We call it today emotional intelligence. And Lincoln had that in
spades. It meant that he didn`t let past hurts occupy his mind, that he
knew how to bring people of alternative points of view together, that he
understood how to reconcile opposing points of view.
I mean, those are human qualities.
GOODWIN: And some people have more of a profound empathy – I think
they are born with it – than others.
Lincoln, probably more than any other president, understood other
people and how to get in their points of view and care about them.
GOODWIN: And that`s far more important than your SAT.
And that`s why it`s important to think of genius not as something like
Albert Einstein. None of us can become that, but we can develop leadership
skills, if we think of genius as a natural talent, like Teddy Roosevelt
did, that is developed to an extraordinary degree through hard work. I
really believe in that.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
I think you should both consider the possibility, the prospect of
taking the soul of LBJ and Barack Obama and putting them together. You
would have wholesale and retail thrown together with such confusion. It
would be amazing.
GOODWIN: You got it.
MATTHEWS: That would be a real emotional I.Q. that I wouldn`t want to
– I`d be afraid of that person.
Anyway, thank you, Doris Kearns Goodwin.
And thank you, Jonathan Darman.
And all this week, by the way, as I said, MSNBC will feature more of
this special project, 7 Days of Genius. For more information, log on to
Up next: How do you explain the right`s infatuation with this new
hero of theirs, Bibi Netanyahu?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
Jurors heard opening statements in the trial of Boston bombing suspect
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His lawyers do not deny his role in the attack, but say
he was brought into a plan masterminded by his brother.
In an exclusive interview with NBC`s Ann Curry, Iran`s foreign
minister insisted his country does not want to build nuclear weapons. He
also said Iran and world powers are very close to a deal on its nuclear
In Seoul, South Korea, U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert was attacked with
a knife while giving a speech. His injuries are not believed to be life-
threatening – and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: Benjamin
Netanyahu addressed Congress today in observance of the sacred Jewish
holiday of “Suck On It,” Mr. President.
STEWART: It was a – it was a – it was a festival of slights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Festival of slights.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
The reviews are in. Conservatives loved Bibi Netanyahu`s speech
yesterday, while many prominent liberals called it condescension,
condescending, and politically motivated.
Last night, Jon Stewart pointed out there that the man invited by
Congress to give advice on the Middle East has been very wrong before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
STEWART: What many in our government love about Netanyahu is his
conviction and his certainty.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: In the Middle East, Iran
now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa.
STEWART: We have to act. Look how Iran has expanded its power since
the fall of Saddam Hussein and the destabilization of the region. I mean,
what kind of an idiot wouldn`t have seen that coming in 2002?
NETANYAHU: If you take out Saddam, Saddam`s regime, I guarantee you
that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.
And the reverberations of what happens with the collapse of Saddam`s
regime could very well create an implosion in a neighboring regime like
STEWART: Or the opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by tonight`s roundtable, NBC
News senior political reporter Perry Bacon, “Roll Call” editor in chief
Christina Bellantoni, and the executive director of the Log Cabin
Republicans, Gregory Angelo.
So, here we are. Who here is a conservative? Anybody?
Anyway, you`re nonpartisan.
MATTHEWS: Why are these guys just festering and – they are so
excited about this Bibi – my brother called me up: “I just love this guy.”
What is it about Bibi they like, even though he`s been dead wrong
about the Middle East?
GREGORY ANGELO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: First of
all, as a gay conservative, one of the things that I like is that Bibi
Netanyahu and all of Israel is standing out in support of gay people in a
part of the world, the Middle East, where people who are gay or merely
suspected of being gay are being targeted for being execution.
ANGELO: So, in that – in that regard, Israel is this beacon of
freedom. It`s our greatest ally in the Middle East.
But, from a greater perspective, I think that the Republicans –
MATTHEWS: How orthodox doing on this issue?
ANGELO: Well, I was in Israel in 2013. I can tell you that there are
still difficulties there, much like we have difficulties here in the United
States but people are not being killed just for being gay in Israel, right?
MATTHEWS: Widen your aperture a little bit beyond the gay rights
issue, which is legitimate issue.
MATTHEWS: To the question of – here`s Bibi Netanyahu running us into
Iraq, Iraq becomes the conquest of Iran and then he goes on TV yesterday,
goes in the House of Representatives and says, look at the big hell that
broke loose, Iran got control of Baghdad. Well, he pushed that. He pushed
the Shia overthrow of the Sunni government there. He was behind it all and
said it was going to help bring down Iran, cause an explosion there, an
Totally, utterly wrong as a visionary and now, he`s giving us advice?
ANGELO: At the end of the day, these were all actions that the United
States took. The last I checked –
MATTHEWS: He was pushing it. Well, here he is in our chamber giving
us more advice, more bad advice, maybe.
ANGELO: I think he`s certainly calling out Iran, a country that does
not have a good record, number one, on human rights, But certainly is right
now working to destabilize the Middle East even more.
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m afraid the issue here is war and peace. It`s
going to be – I didn`t hear him once offer a sound proposal besides war.
Because all he said was you can`t cut a deal. Any deal is bad. He
basically said that. You can`t get a better deal. He treats us like
You don`t think we`re not trying to get the best possible deal? Come
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, this is what
the president has been saying, like this can`t undercut what we`re trying
to do with these cuts and we need to consider both these speech being a
problem and also the Iran sanctions.
I mean, the Congress and president have a huge disparity on this
issue. You know, he says he`s going to veto this and they are all saying,
no, we need to push ahead and he`s saying this could really endanger these
talks, they are saying push ahead. So, it`s very weird dichotomy where
you`ve got this thunderous applause and, yes, 55 Democrats didn`t show up
but people were excited to see him, yesterday.
MATTHEWS: You could have predicted this.
ANGELO: Except Nancy Pelosi.
MATTHEWS: Don`t go after her.
Anyway, the response on the right to Bibi`s speech was close to hero
worship. Conservatives were falling over themselves to contrast Bibi
Netanyahu with President Obama. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: People who can speak the way
Netanyahu spoke yesterday rather than the way the president speaks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re right about that. I had leadership envy
watching that. I will confess, leadership envy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Netanyahu is a warrior, he`s a combat veteran, he
is a leader who takes his commander-in-chief responsibility seriously.
Barack Obama is a community activist. He`s a rabble-rouser. He`s an
ideologue. And he`s an appeaser.
LT. COL. RALPH PETERS: Obama is so desperate – so desperate for this
deal, for his legacy, that he is willing to give Israel up. I mean, let`s
face it, if Israel disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, Obama
would not shed a tear.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: OK. President Obama wasn`t their only target.
The right also found something wrong with Rand Paul`s response to
Netanyahu. “The National Review” pointed out, unenthused Rand Paul
lifelessly applauds Netanyahu`s speech.
Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin tweeted, “Oops, almost like he`s
been faking his support for Israel until now.”
Senator Paul was asked about the criticism this morning and he
defended his applauding. Let`s watch this ridiculousness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think what`s funny about it is, you
have these gossipy websites who demean themselves by putting that out. I
gave the prime minister 50 stand being ovations. I co-sponsored bringing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s this, Pyongyang? The North Korean assembly, not
clapping like machines, then you`re in deep trouble? Is that the new thing
PERRY BACON, JR., NBC NEWS: Rudy Giuliani does not like President
Obama? I did not know that until just now.
MATTHEWS: Putting down Obama. Big news.
BACON: It is clear, though, that Rand Paul`s views on foreign policy
are close to the president and I think what you are seeing the people who
criticized Rand Paul saying he`s like Obama who, of course, they hate.
MATTHEWS: But if he`s not smiling until his cheeks hurt, they go
MATTHEWS: They wanted him to fake it.
BACON: They want him to fake it, yes.
BELLANTONI: What`s interesting about this, is this all happened as
they finally relented and funded the department of homeland security. You
have somebody warning of these massive threats of terrorism, the threat of,
you know, a dangerous world and then you`re having this big fight go on,
you know, between Republicans about how things get funded and it was like a
really bizarre scene.
BACON: Why would they (INAUDIBLE) Iron Dome and vote down homeland
security? Help me out here. They voted down Homeland Security –
ANGELO: – supporting Homeland Security.
MATTHEWS: Not the Republicans. Not your party.
ANGELO: There were a lot of Republicans that –
MATTHEWS: No, your party overwhelmingly voted against it. Why would
they vote for U.S. security and vote for the Iran Dome? Their point of
view is very strange here. Security is OK for other countries but not
ANGELO: Ultimately, we passed the bill.
MATTHEWS: Democrats voted for the bill.
ANGELO: There was a caucus in the Republican Party who did not vote
for that bill because they never vote for any –
MATTHEWS: Can we use English here? Did the Republican majority vote
for or against the bill the other day?
ANGELO: I saw over 100 Republicans voting for that bill.
MATTHEWS: Seventy-five voted for it. The rest voted against it.
BELLANTONI: Right. The Republican Party leadership allowed that to
move forward, to clear a conference.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they let the Democrats passed the bill.
BELLANTONI: It was just part of this theater yesterday. Security
tape blocking off some of the entrances, you had, you know, this massive
show of force of security because of the speech and then this debate going
MATTHEWS: This is going to be remembered as a very dark day for
American democracy when you bring a foreign leader in to try to displace
the American leader. Obama sets our foreign policy, not Netanyahu.
Anyway, the round table is staying with us.
And up next, Ben Carson`s indefensible statement about being gay. He
says it`s a choice because how else would you explain people go to prison
straight come out gay? That`s tough clinical analysis.
And this is HARDBALL, a place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the new governor of Illinois has a strange way of
thanking his buddies. Bruce Rauner won in Illinois with the help of New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie who was head of the Republican Governors
Association. But Rauner doesn`t seem to think much of Christie`s home
state. In a speech last week, Rauner said that his state has the highest
property taxes in America other than New Jersey, and then added, “I don`t
want to compete with New Jersey on anything, especially that. That`s a
He went on to say that “New Jersey has lost, they are going down the
drain and they ain`t turning around.” Ouch!
Anyway, Christie campaigned for Rauner eight times, funneling in $10
million of RGA money and got him elected.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back with our roundtable, Perry, Christina and Gregory.
Well, Dr. Ben Carson`s known for making some provocative statements
about homosexuality. And today, however, he might have taken it to a new
level while trying to prove his belief that homosexuality is actually a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON, AUTHOR: People have no control over their race, for
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think they have control over their
CUOMO: You think being gay is a choice?
CUOMO: Why do you say that?
CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison
straight and when they come out, they`re gay. So, did something happen
while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You hear that? People go to prison straight, they come out
gay. Keep in mind, Dr. Carson is a neurosurgeon. He knows the science.
What he`s doing with it is a problem.
For the record, scientists say Carson`s example is totally unfounded.
Helen Eigenberg, a professor of criminal justice at the University of
Tennessee, who has studied sexuality and incarceration for a quarter
century told “The Washington Post,” “The fundamental assumption of the
analogy here he`s using is insane. I don`t know of any research that
substantiates the claim that men go to prison and come out gay. There is
no data to support that claim.”
MATTHEWS: We go to you, Greg.
ANGELO: Well, I need to comment –
MATTHEWS: Because everybody, I don`t know, you`re gay. So, talk
ANGELO: Apparently Dr. Carson is one federal felony conviction away
from turning gay himself. It was absolutely staggering.
And, Chris, here`s the thing. From –
MATTHEWS: If he goes in the slammer, he`s going to come out
ANGELO: From a bigger picture perspective, what`s frustrating me the
most about this that by all means, today should have been the day that
Republicans around the country were unified in our message. We had a gift
on a silver platter with Hillary Clinton using a personal e-mail address
for government affairs. We have the Supreme Court case against illegal
But what happens to the start of the day. Dr. Carson, on the fringe
right, says this absolutely ridiculous comment and puts all the Republicans
on the defensive. I hope that there are Republicans in the rest of the GOP
field for president that took note today.
MATTHEWS: Who`s going to get more publicity, Dr. Ben Carson or you?
Ha! He`s going to get, you`re right, he`s going to get so much publicity.
ANGELO: One of the things that we do at Log Cabin Republicans, in
addition to making the unique conservative case is gay conservatives, for
things like Obamacare repeal, lower taxes, et cetera, is reminding
Republicans, especially Republicans who are bad actors like Dr. Carson
today, that this is not doing the party any favors, in addition to just
being absolutely out of touch on cultural issues.
BELLANTONI: This is not the first time he`s said anything along these
lines. And it won`t be the last because there`s a certain segment of the
Republican group of presidential candidates who are running for a certain
segment of that base. It is a social conservative base, and, you know,
whether it`s Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum, they are going after a
place that is not the mainstream of America anymore.
You know, people do not believe that. Younger Republicans do not
MATTHEWS: Who does believe the orientation, or identity is a matter
BELLANTONI: Social conservatives. I don`t have the statistics in
front of me, but there are a small percentage of people that ho believe
that. I don`t personally believe that. I think he`s appealing to a group
of people that will be able to help him in places like Iowa marginally,
enough that he can continue to be on the debate stage by the rating in the
BACON: I think Christina is giving Ben Carson too much credit for
political tactics. He says crazy things all the time. I don`t know that I
view him as a legitimate candidate as opposed to someone who sort of rants
and says things. The broader question is, though –
MATTHEWS: He`s not completely oddball in the party.
I want to show you something here. Dr. Carson is certainly popular
with many conservatives. He came in fourth last week in the CPAC straw
poll. And in the latest Quinnipiac poll of likely caucusgoers in Iowa,
Carson finished third. So, he`s not some uncalled from the hallway from
somewhere. He`s part of your Republican Party.
ANGELO: But I don`t see him actually gaining traction beyond Iowa. A
third place finish in Iowa is not actually something to celebrate.
What`s really interesting right now is that you`re finding it`s not
just like Santorum 2012, the one guy and –
MATTHEWS: Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas who won Iowa`s caucus a
couple years ago, he said he will leave the party if it drops his
opposition to same-sex marriage.
ANGELO: And even then, in his most recent book, he was rather nuanced
on the marriage point, right. He was rolling that back a little, saying
that the greatest threat to marriage was not gay people getting married,
but the erosion of marriage and the rise in divorce in this country.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, Christina Bellantoni.
Two Italians here, and Gregory Angelo.
When we return, let me finish with the power of the Supreme Court on
three top issues.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: For the first time in our
lives, the Supreme Court is the most pivotal branch of our government.
Those nine people up there could have more power on three top issues than a
speaker of the house, the whole body of the U.S. senators, and the
president of the United States. Will Obamacare be allowed to continue?
Will people with modern income still receive the subsidies that allow
families like them to afford health insurance?
That depends on how a pair of swing justices, Chief Justice John
Roberts, who voted to say that Obamacare is constitutional, and Anthony
Kennedy, how they read the law which Congress passed creating the program.
Could President Obama`s executive orders of last autumn not go into
effect? Will those 5 million people who entered the country illegally not
obtain legal status here? It could well go to the Supreme Court for a
decision on the separation of powers where the decision lies, in fact,
between the executive discretion and policymaking.
Marriage equality, again, it comes down to two members of the U.S.
Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony
Will same-sex marriage be viewed as a constitutional right in this
country? Don`t ask Mitch McConnell or Speaker Boehner or the Tea Party or
even President Obama. Ask the Supreme Court deciders, Roberts and Kennedy,
because when you want to know what the law of the land is, check with the
firm of Roberts and Kennedy. They know, because these two people are the
pair who will decide the issues.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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