Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 06/10/15
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No escape.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
This war we know is bad. Usually, we get into a war with the bugles
blowing and the crowds cheering, yet here we go back into Iraq, knowing
just how little hope there is, lacking any faith in our side. How can
President Obama sound the trumpet for a war that`s already lost?
And the story I love, how two bad guys got through thick walls to find
freedom, five days and counting. The latest on the great escape.
First this horror in Iraq and Syria. Why are we getting back into a
bed that`s already on fire? Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize columnist
with “The Washington Post.” And David Corn is the Washington bureau chief
for “Mother Jones.” He has just been inducted in the Society of
Professional Journalists Hall of Fame. Thank you, sir. Congratulations.
And Republican J.C. Watts was a congressman from Oklahoma. He`s supporter
of Rand Paul`s presidential bid.
Well, gentlemen, here`s the big news from the White House statement
today. Quote, “The president authorized the deployment of up to 450
additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise and assist Iraqi
security forces. The president made this decision after a request from
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi and on the recommendation of Secretary
Ashton Carter and Chairman Dempsey of the Joint chiefs and with the
unanimous support of his national security team. These additional U.S.
troops will not serve in a combat role.” That`s the White House statement.
Gene, do you believe it?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well…
MATTHEWS: Where are we getting into this?
ROBINSON: You know, I think I do believe what he said, at least for
these troops, because what the president didn`t say was that these troops
would be allowed to serve as forward spotters, for example, for air
strikes. Apparently, they will not be allowed to do that.
So what that tells me is that the president has kind of grudgingly
agreed to these 450 new troops, but not with a new role, not with a sort of
forward-leaning role, and that he`s still not sold on the idea of greater
U.S. involvement, even as he slides in that direction.
MATTHEWS: Yes, J.C., you can usually tell when somebody`s not
thrilled with what they`re doing when they say they`re doing it because
these other guys want him to do it. So he says Dempsey wants him to do it.
The secretary of defense wants him to do it.
If he really wanted to do it, why didn`t he just say, I said so? I`m
J.C. WATTS (R), FMR. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Well…
MATTHEWS: I`m just thinking here.
WATTS: Well, Chris, I don`t think they drew down – I don`t think we
drew down correctly back in 2011. You know, you had many that cautioned
back then, Republicans and Democrats, that the drawdown had gone way too
far. And now we`re kind of having to retract that and send more back in.
I do believe the president when he says that he`s not putting them in
a combat role, if you will. But that infrastructure has been lost.
MATTHEWS: I want to get back to you, sir, because I think the
Republican Party, which you represent here tonight, is not with this action
here. Let me just jump on this. I`ll jump ahead of you, David.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner skirted questions about moving
forward with a war authorization. Instead, he ripped into President
Obama`s comments from earlier in the week that we don`t have a strategy to
train the Iraqis to fight. Here`s Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He has no strategy,
as he admitted himself, much less an overarching strategy to take on ISIL.
We don`t have a strategy, and you can`t have an authorization of the use of
military force if you don`t know what the strategy is.
The president hasn`t outlined a strategy in order to win.
But as the president admitted the other day, he has no strategy to
Where`s the over-arching strategy? What`s the over-arching strategy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the key word there is “strategy,” by the way.
MATTHEWS: Why don`t Republicans support the idea of a war against
ISIL, even the notion of it, if you`re saying we should have kept troops in
to fight them?
WATTS: Well, I think Rand Paul – and you said I`m supporting Rand
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. Which guy are defending? Are you
defending the Republican establishment here or Rand Paul?
WATTS: Well, I – I`m defending the fact that I am not – we didn`t
draw down correctly, but to send American troops back in there, to put
boots on the ground when Iraqis aren`t willing to support themselves, and
we`re sending American troops back in there to do it – again, I don`t
think we did it the right way when we drew down…
WATTS: But we`ve got to…
WATTS: We`ve got to think through…
MATTHEWS: Where I disagree with you is the idea that if we had kept a
couple hundred guys over there, they would have fought against ISIS.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We drew down
pursuant to the agreement that Bush and Cheney negotiated with the Iraqi
government at the time. So that was – you know, bush and Cheney said that
that was fine, that type of drawdown.
And what the president`s doing now, by sending in 450 troops to add to
the 3,100 troops we have there, in a sense – in essence, set up one more
training camp. There are four training camps now for the Iraqi military.
We`re trying to help, although it hasn`t gone too well. So he wants
to try to, you know, train a few more, so they can have a chance to take
That`s what this is. It`s very modest. But you see on the Republican
side, they still don`t know what to say except to attack the president.
What is John Boehner`s strategy?
CORN: What does he want…
MATTHEWS: Suppose, Gene, you`re moderating the first or second or
third Republican debate, and you say to them – or even a big debate with
Hillary Clinton, probably, against a Republican – and you say to the
candidates, Which of you wants to send more troops back into Iraq to fight
this war on the ground? I would think – well, tell me what they would
ROBINSON: Well, no, if I were moderating, I`d turn to Lindsey Graham
and say, OK, you know, Lindsey Graham here says 10,000 troops to start
with. That`s the ante. And by the way, we also need to pacify Syria
somehow. And so we need to take care of this big scale. What do you
think? What do you think, Rand Paul? What do you think, Scott Walker?
What do you think, Marco Rubio?
MATTHEWS: Do you think anybody besides Lindsey – do you think any of
the serious candidates who might actually be the nominee are going to come
in for more troops on the ground? You suggest no.
WATTS: Rand Paul has been hammered because he kind of took the Prime
Minister Netanyahu – he took his position to say, you know, when you
support the enemy against the enemy, you`re still supporting the enemy. So
we`re saying, OK, let`s give the bad guys – let`s help the bad guys
against the bad guys. You`re still helping the bad guys.
He`s saying, think through this thing. You`ve got to think through
how you send American troops in there. If they`re not willing to help
themselves, why should…
MATTHEWS: I hear the voice of the Republican Party here, and I don`t
think it`s for more troops on the ground.
CORN: Well, there will be some. I mean, the neocons, whether it`s
Lindsey Graham or others, do want more troops. They do want a more robust
military presence. Now, what`s going to – the crunch point is, at some
point, Jeb Bush…
MATTHEWS: By the way, when is the regiment from the American Heritage
CORN: … or the American Enterprise Institute…
MATTHEWS: … American Enterprise Institute…
MATTHEWS: When are they marching over there? Like the fighting…
CORN: Not any time soon. But there will be a crunch point when Jeb
Bush and John Boehner have to say what it is they actually want to do if
they don`t like the president`s strategy of kind of muddling through.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know.
Let`s take a look at this because your guy here, Senator Rand Paul, is
blaming his own party for creating this mess we`re in right now. Here`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ISIS exists and grew
stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately,
and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. They created these
Everything that they have talked about in foreign policy, they`ve been
wrong about for 20 years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying
and pointing fingers otherwise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I think this is a terrible situation we`re in
right now because I think everybody at this table and everybody watching
right now has someone to blame right now for Iraq, the condition we`re in
right now in 2015. You can blame the drawdown. It was done too quickly.
I can blame Cheney for being born.
MATTHEWS: I think these hawks have the wrong instincts for the modern
world. They always want to go in with big armies fighting, and it
(INAUDIBLE) more casualties, more enemies, and more hell to pay.
ROBINSON: I think we ought to blame the bad people for being bad. We
ought to blame ISIS.
ROBINSON: And you know, when did we get into this habit…
MATTHEWS: What do you do when you blame them?
ROBINSON: … of pointing fingers at each other when, in fact, there
is an enemy there? So let`s blame them.
MATTHEWS: And then what?
ROBINSON: Well, that`s the question.
MATTHEWS: I guess you can start with the guys beheading people.
ROBINSON: What do you do?
CORN: But the critical debate here has really not been about what to
do. It really has been a blame game.
CORN: And that`s part of the issue. ISIS is bad. They do pose a
threat to the region and probably some degree of threat to us. It`s hard
to assess it. And how can we have a debate over what to do when, really, I
think the Republicans are aiming just…
MATTHEWS: Nobody wants to go into another war, except for this guy.
Here`s – well, the hawks are still screeching. Scott Walker of Wisconsin,
the governor, with no foreign policy involvement so far, isn`t ruling out
two more invasions with troops on the ground. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you rule out a full-blown U.S. re-invasion
of Iraq and Syria?
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I don`t think – I don`t think we
should ever send a message to our foes as to how far we`re willing to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you wouldn`t rule out a full-blown…
WALKER: I would not rule out boots on the ground. I think…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but I`m asking would you rule out a full-blown
re-invasion of Iraq?
WALKER: If the national interests of this country are at stake, here
at risk in this country or abroad, that`s to me the standard of what we do
for military engagement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So here we have the guy with the best chance right now of
winning in the Iowa caucus and starting a big roll, perhaps, to win the
MATTHEWS: He fits the – he fits the uniform. He`s a governor of…
MATTHEWS: And he`s talking about, I got no problem with another big
war in Iraq. I got no problem with – what is he talking about?
CORN: The problem, I think, with the question is it was theoretical,
and he said, I`m not taking anything off the table. The real question is,
You want to be president? You ready to be president today? What do you do
today? Don`t give me theories about whether you`re for a re-invasion or
not. What will you do?
MATTHEWS: Well, the message there was, I`m willing to go back in.
That was pretty clear.
CORN: Well, the message is that he`s not taking anything off the
table because he doesn`t want to have a fight in the Republican Party and
he wants to appeal to as many people as possible. He won`t commit to
anything. None of these guys will commit to anything.
WATTS: Well, I think the question is this. Ask Republican and
Democrat candidates, Are you willing to send American soldiers, moms, sons,
wives, husbands, back into Iraq to defend them and try to get some
stability there when they won`t do it for themselves?
CORN: That`s a good question.
ROBINSON: And – and specifically, we could send troops in and retake
Ramadi. Then what? What do we do with it?
MATTHEWS: That was our question when we went in the first time in
2003. Who are we going to turn this over to? And then you have Rumsfeld,
who was the architect, I suppose, of the campaign to take that country over
– he says we made a mistake trying to enforce democracy, when in fact,
that was the reason we went in, to overthrow the Shia – I mean, overthrow
the Sunni, put the Shia in power, and the Shia said, Thanks.
MATTHEWS: Bye-bye Sunnis!
ROBINSON: Bye-bye Sunnis, Hello, Iranians.
CORN: And remember, at the time, before the invasion, there were
people like General Shinseki and others saying, You`re going to need
hundreds of thousands of troops after the invasion to keep control of this
country. So if Lindsey Graham thinks he can do this with 10,000 troops,
WATTS: But whatever the infrastructure was there, that was there,
it`s all gone now.
CORN: It`s worse now. It`s worse now.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) J.C. on this one point, which is if we`d kept a
couple thousand more troops in that country, I don`t think it would have
stopped the creation of the caliphate over there because I think they would
have had to be fighting soldiers.
They would have to go into those Sunni areas and kill a hell of a lot
of ISIS people to stop them from taking over because they were all,
remember, former military people from the government of Iraq. They were
trained – they were seasoned soldiers, who had been finding Iran for
years. And we get rid of them. So what do they do? I got a job over here
called ISIS. They found an opportunity.
Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson – nobody knew this was going to
happen, by the way. Nobody. I don`t think – Joe Biden might have known.
Anyway, thank you, David Corn and J.C. Watts. You guys laugh. I think he
Coming up – it`s been five days and since no sign – so far, no sign
of those two convicted killers who broke out of prison in upstate New York.
We`re going to have the latest on the manhunt. This is – where`s Tommy
Lee Jones when we need him?
Plus, 2016 politics – Hillary Clinton isn`t looking towards her
husband or President Obama for inspiration as she gets ready to kick off
her campaign. She`s going back to the all-time great, Franklin Roosevelt,
And why is big labor bashing some Democrats? Well, unions are showing
their clout by taking it out on some usual allies.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the failure of our leaders to lead.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A group of high-profile New Hampshire Republicans is
pushing for a change in who`s allowed to take part in that first
presidential debate. The debate, scheduled for August 6th on FOX News,
will be limited by that network to the top 10 candidates as determined by
Well, in a letter to FOX and RNC chair Reince Priebus, the New
Hampshire Republicans write, quote, “Historically, it has been the
responsibility of early primary and caucus states to closely examine and
winnow the field of candidates, and it is not in the electorate`s interest
to have TV debate criteria supplant this solemn duty.”
As many as 18 Republicans could be in the field, meaning eight of them
would be left off the stage under current rules for the first debate.
And we`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We need to find these escapees.
They are dangerous men. They are killers. They are murderers. There`s no
reason to believe they wouldn`t do it again. They`re going to be more
desperate than ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The manhunt for two convicted
murderers who escaped from a maximum security prison over the weekend
continued for a fifth day today. Police were going door to door in the
village of Dannemora, searching houses for the men.
Richard Matt and David Sweat have so far evaded capture, obviously.
They reportedly cut through walls and pipes with power tools and then
climbed through tunnels and pipes to escape out of a nearby manhole.
Authorities say the two men almost certainly had help.
I`m joined right now by NBC`s John Yang. He`s in Dannemora. And
Kenny (sic) LePaul, retired commander of the New York and New Jersey
regional fugitive task force. Gentlemen, thank you.
How do you get power tools into a prison cell, John Yang?
JOHN YANG, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, they tell – you know, we talked
to – NBC News talked to a retired corrections officer here, and they say
that employees go in and out of there with duffel bags and other things
that are not searched. They don`t go through metal detectors. Their
belongings aren`t searched. So it – that is one possible route. But that
is clearly one thing that investigators are looking into.
As you know, they`re interviewing a person of interest, Joyce
Mitchell, a teacher in the tailor shop in the prison where both inmates
worked. NBC News is being told by investigators they are still talking to
her. She is still giving them information – Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this distance traveled. I know if you
do a compass and you draw concentric circles, you could find these guys –
they could be anywhere in the world at this point (INAUDIBLE)
Let me go to Lenny LePaul on that. Sir, it seems to me the distance
traveled now is almost total. You could get to almost anywhere in the
world in five days, if you get an airplane, or they meet somewhere in
Canada, with all this time to think and their connections on cellphones, I
wonder, could they have agreed – they could be up in Churchill, Canada, by
now, and they could be flying from there to somewhere else in Russia, for
all we know. Your thoughts.
LENNY LEPAUL, FMR. CHIEF INSPECTOR COMMANDER, U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE:
Absolutely. I mean, that`s why this is certainly an intense manhunt that`s
still ongoing and will continue. But it`s also a fugitive investigation.
And what I mean by that is the net has been cast a little bit further.
There have been some leads sent by the U.S. Marshal Service, my former
agency, of course, working and supporting the New York state troopers.
They have sent some leads out to a few other states, which, unfortunately,
I can`t share, but they`re extending their search, and the puzzle, you
know, needs to come together.
And as they continue to get intel in to the investigators and these
tips that are continuing to come in, they`re going to do their – do what
they do best. So they need to – yes, certainly, they could be on the moon
at this point. I mean, five days is a long time.
MATTHEWS: Well, prisoners like this don`t have to use credit cards.
They must have accumulated some cash, right, so they can use cash to get
food. To get food, you have to buy it. You have to meet some human being
generally to get food. To get a car, you have to buy it or steal it.
There`s no record now – is there any reports of a car being stolen in that
LEPAUL: Well, that`s just it, there is not. And there`s nothing
coming in to the investigators that I`m aware of. And of course, I don`t
want to, you know, get involved in the middle of their investigation, but
from my past experience, that`s why these guys certainly could be still
If that`s the case, and they`ve been out for five days, if there was
help on the inside, was there money taken in to them before they escaped?
Was a cell phone given to them before that? So there`s a whole lot of
questions that I`m sure these investigators have asked and have answers to.
And they`re continuing to ask.
MATTHEWS: Back – back to John Yang and the news.
What`s this about a Vermont option here, that they may have gone to
Vermont, because there`s not much – I guess it`s a more, obviously, less
settled place, Vermont. There`s a lot of places with nobody living in it
up there. Is that – is that solid, that news?
YANG: Yes. Well, Governor Peter Shumlin said it in a press
conference here just a little bit ago, with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New
They said that this is information they have been developed in the
investigation. They have been interviewing inmates. They have been
interviewing employees. They have been interviewing private contractors.
And as Governor Shumlin put it, that their thinking was that New York
was going to be too hot and Vermont would be cooler, that a good place to
hide out might be a camp in Vermont. So they have worked out a deal where
New York State Troopers can go into Vermont to search. There`s a Vermont
State Police person at the command center here in New York. There – so
they think that Vermont was at least a possible intended destination after
MATTHEWS: Do we have – let me get back to Lenny.
Do we have technology that`s any different than it would have been in
the movie “The Fugitive,” for example? Do we have facial recognition
technology? Do we have anything, fingerprint technology, anywhere where we
can capture evidence of these people, hard – these targets?
DEPAUL: I mean, technology certainly has well advanced than Tommy Lee
Jones and “The Fugitive.”
Our technological operations group, our electronic surveillance units,
our financial surveillance units, we bring a variety of things to the
table, the U.S. Marshals Service task force does. And being asked into
this investigation by the New York State Troopers, we certainly have
resources, manpower, state-of-the-art equipment, money to go after these
guys and not stop until they`re caught.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Last question to John Yang.
Are people rooting for or against these guys? Is there a spirit of
the chase here? I know they`re evil guys, they`re murderers, they`re
terrible people. Is there some sense people like the excitement of this up
YANG: At least here in Dannemora, where people have been – now
gotten the news that they may not be that far away, there`s no one rooting
for these guys.
YANG: These guys are – based on what they did, based on their
trials, are nasty, mean, devious, deceptive, everything, every adjective
you want to think of.
They want these guys caught. They want them back in their – back
behind bars. People here are locking doors here for the first time in
many, many years. People going up, checking their summer camps with great
trepidation, taking hunting rifles with them when they go up and check
I haven`t found anybody who`s rooting for them up here, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes. One of the things I learned from Gavin de Becker`s
book, that great brook “The Gift of Fear,” is be careful of bad guys,
because they have a charming capability.
They will charm you, bond with you, pretend they`re on your said.
They have got all the techniques in the world. That`s probably how they
got out of there.
Anyway, thank you, John Yang.
So, beware of the charming stranger.
Anyway, Lenny DePaul, thank you, sir.
Up next: Did we underestimate George Bush, Bush 41, I`m talking
about, as president? Look at this guy`s numbers. He`s up there with Bill
Clinton, a very popular former president, and the guy Bill Clinton beat is
equal with him in public esteem right now. That`s fascinating. Let`s
figure out why.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After 12 years of Republican rule and control of the White House, with
his approval rating at all-time lows, former President Herbert Walker Bush
was voted out of office, as we know, in 1992, by Bill Clinton basically.
Despite serving just one term, a poll found just last month found
that, believe this or not, among the living presidents today, Bush 41 is
now among the most popular. And he`s tied at the top spot with the man who
beat him, former President Bill Clinton. Isn`t that interesting? Sixty-
four percent favorability right now.
In his new book, “The Quiet Man,” Bush`s former Chief of Staff John
Sununu argues that the 41st president deserves a lot of credit for the
tough decisions he made, many of which were unpopular at the time when he
made the call.
I`m joined right now by the author of “The Quiet Man,” former Governor
of New Hampshire, former Chief of Staff to the first Bush, president, John
Governor, thank you for joining us.
JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know whether it`s the thing about, you live long
enough and people find you – but I think there`s more to it. What is
there? Why do people like this fine, fine gentleman of the old school?
SUNUNU: I think a lot of things that people criticized him for when
he was president are turning out to have been right, certainly not
following Saddam into Baghdad after he kicked him out of Kuwait.
MATTHEWS: And not getting stuck there.
SUNUNU: Not getting stuck there. People understand now that was the
The budget agreement that people didn`t like turned out to generate
all those surpluses, with the budgeting rules that were part of it in the
mid-`90s and the growth rate…
MATTHEWS: OK. So, he promised no new taxes, read my lips, the Clint
Eastwood thing. He got in office. Among the tough decisions, as you said,
that President Bush made was his reversal on that in 1990, despite his
pledge at the Republican Convention, first the pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Congress will push me
to raise taxes, and I will say no, and they will push, and I will say no,
and they will push again, and I will say to them, read my lips, no new
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, two years later, when Bush said he would, in fact,
raise taxes, I wrote in a column, this column – here it is – “Would any
sane president, running at 70-plus percent in the polls, start kibitzing
about taxes if he didn`t absolutely have to? Want to know why George Bush
has changed course? Because the current heading is taking this country
into a tornado.”
And what I argued then was, if we kept building the deficits in `90,
we would have had a hell to pay before – and I think, as a result, I think
it`s fair to argue, it`s an argument that because Bush had the guts to do
that, to reduce the deficits, it was a lot easier ride for Bill Clinton to
get the credit in the `90s.
SUNUNU: Absolutely. And that`s what the president understood.
And in addition to that…
MATTHEWS: Well, he wanted to get reelected, of course.
SUNUNU: Well, but he also had another big reason. And this was
September-October of 1990. And he had just sent young men and women over
to the Middle East to get ready to go in and take Saddam out of Kuwait.
And he was very concerned that we would end up with a budget stalemate
that cut off defense funding, with young men and women not getting the
support they wanted. It was one of many reasons.
SUNUNU: And he also had to deal with a Congress that was 260-175 in
the House, 55-45 in the Senate, and Tom Foley and George Mitchell were
MATTHEWS: Well, in your book, you blame one other person. You accuse
Congressman Newt Gingrich of Georgia, remember Newt, of putting his career
above the best interest of the country.
Quote: “As we moved into 1990, with the November elections just a few
months ahead of us, I began to get the uneasy feeling that the Gingrich
agenda and the Bush agenda were not completely aligned. By that point, I
simply did not trust Newt Gingrich. Dan Quayle later told me that Gingrich
actually wanted Bush not to be reelected, so a Gingrich-led Republican
House delegation would have a better shot at becoming a majority under a
SUNUNU: What made it all the worse…
MATTHEWS: Do you hold to those words?
SUNUNU: Yes, I hold to those words.
What made it all the worse is that Newt was part of the negotiating
team. He agreed to the agreement that was developed. He had set criteria
down. And we met that criteria, not fiddling around with personal income
taxes. You know the tax was a gas tax that had not been adjusted for
inflation in almost a decade.
So he agreed to it, and then after everybody came to the White House,
he avoided the last ceremony, walked out and decided to oppose it.
Let me ask you something about him. Right after you lost that
election in 1992, a young Clinton campaign staffer made fun of Bush, your
boss, saying, when he was asked, what was the most important thing about
the president, personally, he said the honor of it. And they thought that
SUNUNU: But I think that was an accurate description.
George Bush loved America. He thought it was an honor to serve. He
thought it was a privilege to be in the White House, and he felt that he
was doing each day what he would want someone else to do if they were in
MATTHEWS: Anyway, during the 1990 Gulf War, the one that ended right,
President Bush rallied American allies around the world to support the
effort to drive Saddam Hussein`s army out of Kuwait. But it was an offhand
remark at an impromptu press conference that became the public symbol of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression
BUSH: I have got to go. I have to go to work. I got to go to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How tough was it for him, when he had the whip hand, he had
it done, he could have gone into Baghdad, taken over the place, occupied
it, and he said, no, we`re just killing Iraqis now, we`re not accomplishing
anything? And if we get in there, we will be stuck running the place. The
Colin Powell rule, you broke it, you bought it. We didn`t want to buy it.
How tough was it to say to the hawks in the administration, I know you
would like to do this, but we`re not doing this, we`re not going in there?
SUNUNU: Look, we had a serious debate on it.
But when the president decided, I think everybody was comfortable with
the decision. He knew that we would get stuck there, but more than that,
he also felt that since we were operating under the resolutions from the
U.N., he had to meet the letter of those resolutions, and they did not
really allow for him to go in.
MATTHEWS: What do you think lost for him in `92? I remember watching
the debates and Clinton of course was loaded for bear. He was great with
that young African-American woman asked him about what was the impact of
the deficit on his personal life, and, of course, she meant to say the
unemployment rate, the recession.
The president said, I`m not sure you know what you`re talking about,
pretty much. And then Bill Clinton says, I know exactly what you`re
talking about. He gave a beautiful answer. In fact, he approached her.
SUNUNU: Yes, went over to her.
MATTHEWS: But your boss was kind of like out of it. Why was Bush out
of it in the second reelection, the election campaign?
SUNUNU: Well, there two were problems. One, Ross Perot was there.
And I think Ross Perot was a lot of the reason that he lost the election.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I agree.
SUNUNU: And, number two, I think the president got frustrated with a
campaign that wasn`t going in the right direction, with a campaign that I
personally, looking from the outside, did not understand why they weren`t
hitting on Ross Perot.
I didn`t understand why they weren`t running a tougher campaign.
MATTHEWS: Did you guys miss Lee Atwater?
SUNUNU: And Roger Ailes. Roger was gone. Lee was gone. I had left.
Some people are a little tougher on opposition than others.
MATTHEWS: Well, Lee is tough.
SUNUNU: Yes, and that`s what I`m saying. The toughness wasn`t there.
I think if Atwater were there – I think I say it in the book – he
would have hit Perot over the head with a two-by-four.
MATTHEWS: Well, Perot had some weird thing in his bean. He was
against the Bush family for some weird reason. Anyway, he didn`t solve
Anyway, thank you.
The book is called “The Quiet Man,” great writing by an insider.
This isn`t outside objective journalism here. This is a guy who was
on the inside that knows what he cares about, John Sununu, a great book
from the inside of politics, which is where I used to be.
SUNUNU: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Hillary Clinton is not looking at her husband or
Barack Obama for inspiration as she launches her big campaign speech this
weekend. She`s going back to FDR, we hear, and it may be a smart strategy.
You can`t beat the best guy of the 20th century at politics. That`s FDR.
And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
Investigators say the engineer at the controls of the Amtrak train
that derailed in May was not texting or using his phone. Eight people were
killed in that derailment. And more than 200 were injured.
An American who traveled to Syria to fight with the Kurdish forces
against ISIS has been killed. The State Department has confirmed it is in
contact with the man`s family.
And in a meeting with Russian President Putin, Pope Francis said
there`s a need for a sincere and great effort toward peace in Ukraine –
now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As many of you
may recall, I have been known from time to time to have conversations with
Mrs. Roosevelt. And…
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Hillary Clinton there, as first lady, recalling her fondness
for Eleanor Roosevelt, but when Secretary Clinton holds her first big
campaign kickoff event this Saturday at Four Freedoms Park on New York`s
Roosevelt Island, she may be embracing the other Roosevelt, FDR.
Franklin Roosevelt famously declared during one of his early political
campaigns, “There is nothing I love as much as a good fight.”
And that`s exactly what Hillary Clinton is going to get in this
campaign for the White House.
Joining me right now is the roundtable, The Huffington Post global
editor Howard Fineman and “Washington Post” columnist Ruth Marcus and Vox
chief political correspondent Jonathan Allen.
Jonathan, do you think – let`s ask you what did. What do you think
about Hillary and FDR? Is there going to be a parallel here in her
JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: Absolutely.
I think she thinks that there`s a necessity for her in connecting to
Franklin Roosevelt. Number one, it gets her away from two other
presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who Republicans are going to tie
her to as the third term of. So, that`s for starters.
But even more so, when you talk to her campaign officials, they really
want to make the argument that you can be rich and look out for common
people as well at the same time. Franklin Roosevelt very well known for
that. I think, from her perspective, there are some other parallels.
I think she is somebody who wants to project at least that she`s
pretty progressive on domestic issues and at the same time muscular abroad.
Franklin Roosevelt was no dove. Hillary Clinton is no dove.
MATTHEWS: That`s interesting. I agree with all that.
ALLEN: I don`t think we`re going to hear a second New Deal out of
her, but I think we`re going to hear some rhetoric that tries to link her
to the past of the Democratic Party and that Roosevelt coalition that
really forms the base of the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: Can new money act like old money, Ruth?
MATTHEWS: Because it always tries.
MATTHEWS: I`m dead serious. For some reason, Democrats have always
been comfortable with the Stevensons, people with a lot of old money, the
second generation and third generation. But the self-made, the Robert
Abplanalps, the Bebe Rebozos, they have been more Republican.
You know what I mean?
RUTH MARCUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I`m not really sure that
making – reminding people affirmatively that FDR was rich, Hillary Clinton
is rich, therefore don`t worry about it, is going to be the best argument
for the Clinton campaign.
I do think it`s going to be very interesting that – where she`s going
to have had seances with Eleanor Roosevelt, now beginning to channel
Franklin as well. Nobody else is going to be able to claim that.
But she`s in a – it`s – it`s actually a different coalition, I
think, than the FDR coalition, certainly geographically for the Democratic
Party, and also a completely different mindset.
Yes, progressive at home. Yes, muscular abroad. But we`re not
launching either the fifth Roosevelt term, or the second New Deal, I don`t
MATTHEWS: That sounds like Hubert Humphrey, too.
FINEMAN: I disagree with that.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You disagree with what?
FINEMAN: I think that Jonathan`s right, but it`s a next evolution of
Roosevelt. I think what she`s going to be saying is, we need a Roosevelt
for our time, in the sense that Franklin Roosevelt was really fighting
against, and being opposed to, the excesses of the go-go years of
capitalism during the jazz age, to look at it historically. He brought in
government to try to balance the scales.
And I think the American people are looking for that now. They can`t
quite explain it to themselves. They don`t have the policies for it
exactly. But they sense that there`s an imbalance here somewhere.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.
FINEMAN: That a lot of rich people are getting really, really, really
rich, but the average American is not. And that`s going to be the spirit
in which she`s going to fight with. I think it`s very smart. And Bernie
Sanders is practically of the Roosevelt era. We may as well give him –
MATTHEWS: I`m amazed at the fact that so many people, regular people
as Hillary calls them, Secretary Clinton calls them, know all about the
rich, because when I`m at a couple of cases when I like being at the homes
of somebody really wealthy, if anybody saw it, there would be a revolution,
because this is so different that what people live.
Anyway, Franklin Roosevelt was a rich patrician, of course, during the
Great Depression, yet he was elected an unprecedented four times to the
presidency. Hillary Clinton struggling with her own aura of wealth as she
tries to frame herself as a warrior for the middle class. In fact, last
week, “The Washington Post`s” Dan Balz, he`s a smart guy, wrote, quote,
“Clinton can talk all she wants about income inequality and reducing the
influence of money in politics, but her recent experience makes it seem
Is that fair, Jon?
JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: I think it`s a little bit –
MATTHEWS: I mean, 200 hours a speech, 20K a speech, that kind of
ALLEN: Look, she says things that seem completely out of touch, like
we were dead broke when we left the White House. I think that even though
technically true, I think that makes it seem like she can`t be the person
who is the wealthy woman that`s serving the lower classes.
But is it possible to do that? Absolutely. I think we got to wait
for a policy agenda. One of the things that I think is really interesting
is her staff has been working closely with the folks at the Roosevelt
Institute, many of whom are liberal on things like regulating corporations
and Wall Street.
So, what comes out of that relationship, what comes out of those
discussions, what is her big platform, I think we`re still waiting to hear.
Ruth wrote a big column today –
MARCUS: I was disagreeing with you and now you`re being so nice to
ALLEN: No, but that`s some of the things she has a –
MATTHEWS: OK. Are we being fair? I`m asking for American fairness.
It seems like nobody has to take any heat, the Bushes never took heat in
the old days. The guy we talked about a few minutes ago, George Herbert
Walker Bush, the old man, nobody ever held it against him he was born to
the manor. Nobody ever held it against a lot of people.
You know, I just wonder, when did we decide certain people shouldn`t
be rich? Are we saying the Clinton shouldn`t be rich?
ALLEN: It`s the way they got rich.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK.
ALLEN: They got rich off their public service, and often times from
the very people that they were helping when they were in office. So, I
think part of it is that. That`s a huge part of what the negatives on
Hillary Clinton are right now. But I do think –
MATTHEWS: But nobody holds Reagan responsible for taking 2 million
from the Japanese.
FINEMAN: Can I just say that old money becomes more innocent over
MARCUS: Reagan also –
ALLEN: Like the Kennedys.
MATTHEWS: Who was it that said behind every great wealth, there`s a
MARCUS: Well, you know, Ann Richards did say that George Bush was
born on third base, silver spoon in his mouth.
ALLEN: He hit a triple.
MATTHEWS: I think she lost the next election too.
ALLEN: And we didn`t hold Reagan, and it was controversial at the
time, Reagan`s $2 million speech, but he didn`t then want to go back into
MATTHEWS: Peggy Noonan changed history when she wrote the acceptance
speech for George Herbert Walker Bush down in New Orleans. It got to me.
She made George Herbert Walker Bush into a regular guy and those magic
moments. Dan Quayle didn`t help.
The roundtable is staying with us.
And up, next, big labor is turning up the pressure on pro-trade
Democrats. About 20 of them are facing the heat for supporting the
president and the Republican majority on this issue.
HARDBALL, the place for politics – we`re coming back.
MATTHEWS: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is running for
president. If he wins, he`d be the first life-long bachelor in the White
House since James Buchanan back in 1856. So, who would be first lady?
Well, Graham told “The Daily Mail” that he`d use a member of his family to
fill the role. He says, Graham, “I`ve got a sister. She could play that
role if necessary. I`ve got a lot of friends. We`ll have rotating first
Google search data shows that the number one question people have
about Lindsey Graham is, whether he`s married.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back at the roundtable, Howard, Ruth, and Jonathan.
Well, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the big
trade bill, granting President Obama trade promotional authority, otherwise
known as fast-track. This Friday is the big day. “Politico” reported
earlier today that House leaders are confident but not yet certain they
have the support to pass sweeping trade legislation are aiming to bring the
package to a floor vote by the end of the week, ideally by Friday. To
spare – this is key – to spare support of lawmakers the possibility of
another weekend of attacks by trade foes back in their districts at home.
Many of those attacks are coming from labor unions who are targeting
Democrats right now who are planning to say yes. As we showed you last
week, the AFL-CIO was running a TV ad against California Democrat Ami Berra
for supporting the bill.
And yesterday, it began airing this TV ad slamming New York Democrat
Kathleen Rice, who has also decided to vote for fast-track.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In January, Congresswoman Rice wrote a letter to President
Obama, saying she opposed fast-track trade authority, because it would send
American jobs offshore and push down wages.
In April, she said it again.
On Saturday, Rice flip-flopped and now supports exactly that bad
policy that experts say costs millions of American jobs we can`t afford to
lose. Actions speak louder than words. Why should we ever trust Kathleen
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the leader of the group running that ad, AFL-CIO
chief Richard Trumka appeared on MSNBC earlier today sounding confident
about labor`s chances to destroy the bill. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO PRESIDENT: Well, I think we`re going to win
on Friday. I think we have the votes. But we`ll see. It will be a close
vote. This is going to be the most stark contrast that those 435 people
ever had. Either you vote for working people or for corporate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Johnny stopped by my office right after the
appearance and he`s confident, he says they got the votes. They say, 70
Republicans may be voting against this. They think no more than 20
Democrats. The numbers work against the passage.
Where do you see it?
ALLEN: 2002 fast-track bill was 215-214. It`s too close to call at
MATTHEWS: Can the president and the Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
who I am so impressed with, will she help the president on this?
ALLEN: I think she`s trying to figure it out. She would like to
leverage something more for labor if she can out of some of those
Democratic votes. She met today with Denis McDonough, the White House
chief of staff, and about four other top White House officials, labor
secretary came down to her office, Jeff Zients came down to her officer.
They`re all in there huddling –
MATTHEWS: Why don`t they deal anymore? What happened to politician
dealing? You go to the congressman, OK, we`ll give you fast track, but
give us minimum wage. How about a deal?
FINEMAN: That`s why I think this –
MATTHEWS: Nobody does that anymore.
FINEMAN: This is basically a conflict between the spirit of American
politics right now, which is extremely distrustful of big corporations,
global trade and all of that, against the – what the leaders of the
country view as long range interest, presidents always support this kind of
thing. I would bet it is going to come down to a couple of votes just like
Jonathan says. And even though Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, he`s
got the presidency.
MATTHEWS: Can he deliver –
FINEMAN: The Republicans have the majority in both the House and the
Senate. They got to be able to find a few things – also Hillary Clinton
as John was saying earlier, Hillary Clinton had said nothing.
MATTHEWS: Nor has Nancy Pelosi or Steny Hoyer.
MARCUS: Nor has Steny Hoyer, exactly.
FINEMAN: With Hillary not coming out – if Hillary is really going to
be a leftist, she would have come out against the thing.
MATTHEWS: Here she is. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated
for President Obama`s trade deal. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-SECRETARY OF STATE: To continue this progress,
we are both pressing ahead on something called the Trans Pacific
Partnership. It`s an ambitious multilateral free trade agreement that
would bring together many more nations of the Pacific Rim. Australia and
the United States are helping to lead those negotiations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She did have some concerns about that, in her book. But
Bill Clinton, I heard him in Tokyo a couple of months ago completely for
the bill. He called it fabulous.
FINEMAN: Of course, he was the main proponent of NAFTA of the earlier
trade agreement. Hillary has been on both sides of all this.
MATTHEWS: OK. But now, Hillary Clinton is staying on the sidelines
of the trade debate right now. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have any concerns about the trade deal and whether
that will hurt the competitiveness here?
CLINTON: Well, any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and
increase prosperity and protect our security. And we have to do our part
in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.
I have said I want to judge the final agreement. I have been for
trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements. I tried to make
the evaluation depending upon what I thought they would produce and that`s
what I`m waiting to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One thing we know –
FINEMAN: Immaterial to the vote coming up.
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton knows this issue as anybody at this table,
Hillary has been an expert, secretary of state when this thing was put
together. What does she really believe? Is she for trade or against it?
MARCUS: She`s for getting elected and for not annoying the base
unnecessarily, and that`s what`s going on here. So, there`s two different
levels of the vote. One is whether to support the fast track authority and
what the Clinton campaign folks are saying, which is really kind of
laughable, is – well, that`s a kind of procedural vote, that`s really an
internal congressional matter.
Ha, ha, ha! She would have that authority if she were president.
And the second is, whether she supports the Trans Pacific Partnership
MATTHEWS: I got to go.
FINEMAN: The whole vote in the week is whether you see the bill in
advance or not. She`s saying I want to see it afterwards. That`s too
MATTHEWS: I understand. We play dodge ball growing up.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Ruth Marcus.
And thank you, Jonathan Allen.
When we return, let me finish with the failure of our leaders to lead,
my point entirely.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the failure of our leaders to
lead. Am I the only one who sees the immense opportunity for getting
things done in this country if only our political leaders would learn how
to be politicians again?
I look at the big table of opportunities for this country to move
ahead and wonder why our political leaders can`t find trades and deals to
make. The Democrats desperately want to get the government back into the
building business, especially on transportation.
Who exactly is against transportation? Is there some senator or
member of Congress who wants dangerous bridges, who is happy with trains
that shake, rattle and roll, that ramble along like a farmer`s buck board,
like the Acela does between D.C. and New York?
Is there anyone happy that Memorial Bridge, which we marched across in
the march on the Pentagon in 1967 against the Vietnam War is now crumbling?
Does anyone wish that President Eisenhower had not built the interstate
highway system that unites this country now, Route 95, that cuts north and
south, Route 70 and 80 that cut across the continent uniting east and west?
Isn`t there a way in all of the clatter of opportunities, the trade
build, the minimum wage hike, Keystone, infrastructure spending that
grownups can find ways to jam things together and make a go of it? Does
everything have to die in the logjam? Does anything we need to get done
need to rot on the tracks? Is everything about killing something like
Obamacare? Can`t the pols find a way to get something done by letting some
Where are the LBJs, the Tip O`Neills, the Bob Doles, the Bill
Clintons? Lincoln built the transcontinental railway in the middle of the
civil war, the land grant college system, and with it, scientific
agriculture in the same war. I`m waiting for a presidential candidate of
either party to propose a deal that would actually get done. I wonder if
any have the courage to do it because that would be interesting.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
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