Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript, 8/9/2016
Date: August 9, 2016
Guest: Gov. Dannel Malloy, Susan Page, James Jeffrey, Laura Bassett, Zeke
Miller, Bob Wright
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Gunplay.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Donald Trump is spending tonight seeking to defend his charge that once
Hillary Clinton has gained power, she will terminate the right to bear
arms, and that the only way to stop her once she possesses that power will
be for those Trump called “2nd Amendment people” to take action. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary wants to abolish –
essentially, abolish the 2nd Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to
TRUMP: If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.
Although the 2nd Amendment people, maybe there is. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. “Don`t treat this as a political misstep,” said
Connecticut senator Chris Murphy. “It`s an assassination threat, seriously
upping the possibility of a national tragedy and crisis.” Senator
Elizabeth Warren was more personal. “Trump makes death threats because
he`s a pathetic coward who can`t handle the fact that he`s losing to a
girl.” That`s an unusual use of the word “girl” these days.
Anyway, “What Trump is saying,” Hillary Clinton`s campaign manager reacted
in a statement, “is dangerous. A person seeking to be the president of the
United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
Trump`s communications adviser, Jason Miller, said the media was
misinterpreting what Trump meant. He said, quote, “It`s called the power
of unification. 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are
tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this
year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won`t be for Hillary
Clinton. It will be for Donald Trump.”
The problem with that defense is that Trump was speaking about what 2nd
Amendment people would do if Hillary Clinton wins and gets to pick judges,
not what they can do in this election.
With me tonight, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy. Susan Page is
Washington bureau chief for “USA Today.” Michael Steele, of course, is the
former chair of the Republican National Committee and an MSNBC political
Governor, your thoughts when you heard – I was watching the gentleman
behind Trump when he said it. He just goes, Wow, and looks at the person
next to him. He can`t believe he just heard a guy saying “2nd Amendment”
actions here. Your thoughts.
GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: I instantly thought about Rabin in
Israel. There were rallies going on in Israel where “Death to Rabin” was
shouted, and politicians didn`t respond.
So I`m going to respond. This is insanity. It`s a sickness. It`s an
evil. And Republicans and Democrats, independents have to stand up to
this. We have to reject this. Otherwise, this insanity will play itself
out in our own country.
And over our existence, we`ve had enough assassinations. We`ve had enough
death. And we just have to reject this, and people have to come out to the
polls and respond.
And the final thing – this idea that she doesn`t support the 2nd Amendment
– I have been in the room when she has argued the 2nd Amendment. She
understands the significance of that. That doesn`t mean we sell guns to
terrorists. It doesn`t mean we sell guns to people who are mentally ill.
It doesn`t mean we sell guns to people when they come out of jail.
We`ve got to stop the insanity.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s what Trump said. “Hillary wants to abolish –
essentially abolish the 2nd Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick –
if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the
2nd Amendment people, maybe there is. I don`t know.”
And at that point, the guy behind him goes, Wow. He`s talking about 2nd
Amendment solutions here? What`s that about?
MALLOY: It`s – it`s insanity. It`s this – it`s this threatening. It`s
this bravado, this sick bravado of Donald Trump, where he`s just tougher
than everybody else. And because he`s so much tougher than anybody else,
he can just put anything out there and then somebody will clean up the mess
after him. He`s got more housekeepers than anybody I know cleaning up the
mess after this guy.
But I am infuriated that someone running for the highest office in our
nation would play with the kind of language. This is not a dogwhistle.
This is a confrontation which he`s calling for.
MATTHEWS: Michael, before you start, I want you to look at this with me.
Here`s the man behind Donald Trump as he made that reference to 2nd
Amendment actions. Watch this.
He goes, Wow, and his partner, maybe his wife, laughs and he sort of
chuckles. He can`t believe that the governor – the candidate for
president has just said, quote, “The 2nd Amendment people, maybe there is.
They can do something.”
And by the way, he`s talking there about what happens if Hillary wins and
gets to pick the judges, not about how you vote in the election.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know…
MATTHEWS: What`s he up to here?
STEELE: I have no idea what he`s up to and I`ve stopped trying to figure
it out. I really have. You know, I`m not going to be…
MATTHEWS: That guy thinks he knew what he meant!
STEELE: I`m not going to be that far off from where Governor Malloy is,
quite honestly. I just think that there comes a point where Mr. Trump, the
campaign, everybody has to realize that words mean things, and given the
history up to this point, that when you start speaking again off script,
when you start, you know, trying to pull the audience into you because you
may feel like you`re losing the audience…
MATTHEWS: Yes, we were talking about that before we went on.
STEELE: That – that…
MATTHEWS: His fear of flop sweat is so extreme…
STEELE: That is…
MATTHEWS: … that he – that he has to keep the audience ignited, like he
did. Oh, by the way, and then throws down little ambiguous thing, Maybe
you can use your gun.
STEELE: And whenever he`s speaking, he does that pause. After he read
what he`s supposed to say, then he goes, Oh, by the way. And I`m, like,
OK, here we go. Here comes the rest of the shoe.
MATTHEWS: Anyway (INAUDIBLE) what did you think? I thought of Sharron
Angle, the woman who talked about “2nd Amendment solutions” in Nevada the
last time we had an election.
SUSAN PAGE, “USA Today”: You know, even if you give Donald Trump the
benefit of the doubt and say, OK, he didn`t mean that, he meant political
activism, what did people hear? What did that man hear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
PAGE: And when – you know, one of – one of the things about candidates
and presidents is that they have a lot of supporters, and some of them are
fantastic and some of them might hear a message that encouraged them to do
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) John Hinckley here?
MATTHEWS: This is a sad part of our reality as a country. We lost
Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley. Teddy Roosevelt was shot at (INAUDIBLE) by
FDR, Cermak, the mayor of Chicago got killed instead of him. Harry Truman
had a Puerto Rican nationalist try to get him at Blair House. Kennedy was
killed, Ford shot twice. Of course, you know, Reagan barely survived
because they had good doctors and three minutes away because he got there
You know, this is a weird country. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King – God,
everybody. It`s amazing.
MATTHEWS: … people have been killed in this country, political people.
STEELE: Right. There`s no room for that…
MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy.
STEELE: … in the political discourse, period. And I just think that the
more we move away, and our leaders take us away from that space, the
stronger we are.
MATTHEWS: Here`s another…
MATTHEWS: I want to let one person talk here who was almost assassinated.
Responding to Trump`s remarks today, tonight, former U.S. congresswoman
Gabby Giffords from out in Arizona put out this statement. “Responsible,
stable individuals don`t take Trump`s rhetoric to its literal end, but his
words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. It must be the
responsibility of all Americans and Donald Trump himself to his supporters,
to those who remain silent or oppose him, to unambiguously condemn these
remarks and the violence they insinuate.”
And Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, of course, who
was shot and killed in `68, tweeted, “As the daughter of a leader who was
assassinated, I find Trump`s comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous.”
MALLOY: Let me just say this. And Chairman Steele made a very important
point. When he goes off script, he`s in trouble.
Can I just tell you something? I`ve been a mayor or governor for over 20
years. Governing is off script. That`s what it is. You have to respond.
You have to lead. You have to use the right language. You have to be able
to compel people to do good things, not bad things.
And this is the most disturbing example – listen, right before we got on,
he was talking about how NATO is obsolete. Well, if NATO is obsolete,
we`re in big trouble. That`s one of his lines.
But this line, this crossed the line. We can`t tolerate this. People of
good will have to reject this rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at something that I think is in the political
mind of all of us. This was what Sharron Angle did back in that Nevada
race for the Senate. Let`s watch what she said, which should have been on
his mind, if nothing else was. I know of a politician who said something
crazy like this, I better not say it myself. Instead, he did. Let`s watch
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE (R-UT), SENATE CANDIDATE: I feel that the 2nd Amendment is
the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This is not for someone
who`s in the military. This is not for law enforcement. This is for us.
And in fact, when you read the Constitution and the founding fathers, they
intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we needed it at any time…
ANGLE: … becomes tyrannical…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: … in our history, it might be right now.
ANGLE: Well, it`s to defend ourselves. And you know, I`m hoping that
we`re not getting to 2nd Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the
cure for the Harry Reid problem.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So she`s hoping we don`t get to the fact we got to blow the
heads off our politicians. I mean, God, that`s what she`s saying there!
PAGE: “2nd Amendment remedies.”
MATTHEWS: What are – are there any other – that`s what I mean. Trump
reads the papers, doesn`t he? He knows this happened. Why would he repeat
STEELE: Because he`s not thinking about that in this moment. He`s in a
different vein, in a different mindset. To what we just said, he`s trying
to keep the audience with him. He`s trying to expand on a point that he`s
just made to reinforce that point, and it takes him down a rabbit hole.
MATTHEWS: Here`s Rudy Giuliani doing his best to – here`s Rudy Giuliani,
Governor. Listen to him for a second. Then you can react. He accused the
Clinton campaign – it`s not just the Clinton campaign, Mr. Mayor,
misrepresenting Trump`s – here`s Giuliani just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: What he meant by that was you
have the power to vote against her.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GIULIANI: You have the power – you have the power to campaign against
her! You have the power to speak against her! You know why? Because
So the Clinton people – so the Clinton people – this is how corrupt they
are. From their days back in Arkansas, they were corrupt. This is how
corrupt they are. They spin out that what he meant by that was that it was
a joke and that what he meant by that was that they would kill her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, what do you make of Rudy`s attempt there? I`m not
sure he listened carefully to what Trump said because Trump didn`t say, You
can vote against this guy or you can use your – you know, your army of
voters from the NRA on down to stop her from getting elected. He`s saying
once she has the power, there`s nothing you can do about it. Of course,
2nd Amendment people might have something to do there.
I mean, that was an amazing statement of sequence, not about stopping
somebody from getting elected. How to stop them from doing what they`re
constitutionally able to do once they`re in office is what he was talking
about. And that`s the scary part.
MALLOY: Donald Trump does not need a chief apologist, particularly one
who`s going to grab things out of the air and make it up. The former mayor
of New York has done some wonderful work in the past and said some
wonderful things and I`ve disagreed with him on others, but he`s just –
he`s dead wrong on this particular point.
It`s not as if he said, Well, we got to hang onto the Senate and make sure
that doesn`t happen or we`re going to have a good Senate debate about
confirmation. He didn`t say those things. And he didn`t blow a whistle.
He said, Well, maybe there`s some people out there who are really committed
to the 2nd Amendment who will take matters into his own hands. That`s what
he was saying, and it has to be repudiated…
MATTHEWS: That`s the way it`s been heard.
MALLOY: … for democracy.
MATTHEWS: Let me go (INAUDIBLE) we got a straight reporter here.
MATTHEWS: How`s this going to play? I`m looking at it on the wires. It`s
playing as something he shouldn`t have said.
PAGE: It is, but it is item number 157 of things he shouldn`t have said or
where someone has come out and said that was what he meant to say or that
wasn`t what he meant when he said that. Look how uncomfortable…
MATTHEWS: Do some people want to hear him say that?
PAGE: Look how uncomfortable Rudy Giuliani was in even describing what it
was that other people heard. He didn`t want to go there to describe how
other people were interpreting the remarks.
STEELE: I think Susan made the most important point, and that is that
these words that come out of your mouth matter. When you`re the
presidential nominee, you`re one election away from assuming that office,
what you say, people do interpret.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about how it takes two to tango because there`s
an element here. I think he`s totally responsible for what he did, but
he`s getting a little Captain Queeg-y here, OK, just a little bit. Look at
– and I think the Democrats know how to play this very well.
Now, watch this, Governor. Enjoy this one aspect of this terrible thing
that was said.
This is, of course, Elizabeth Warren, who`s wicked in her sarcasm. She is
something else. “Donald Trump makes death threats because he`s a pathetic
coward who can`t handle the fact that he`s losing to a girl.” Now, the
only feminist in 100 years to use that word for a grown-up person, anyway,
like Hillary Clinton.
But she knows what she`s saying.
STEELE: She knows exactly…
MATTHEWS: And so part of it is getting the other guy, twisting him, making
him go a little loony like this.
STEELE: Right. Yes, no. And the thing about it is that he will likely
respond to that in some way, and it really is to sort of, you know, paint
the picture of the bully going after a girl and – and…
MATTHEWS: Or as Peggy Noonan says, the bull that has been tormented so
much by the picador…
MATTHEWS: … that it goes right into the sword (ph). Last word from you,
Governor. I mean, maybe these metaphors are dangerous, but I do find them
MALLOY: I mean, I think the senator cut him to the quick. The reality is,
this is a bully. He says it from up on the stage, gives them an
opportunity to think about what he may have made mistakes about and get the
apologists all lined up, and it`s not really what he meant.
I`m telling you that this is a dangerous human being who must be repudiated
lest we repeat what we`ve seen happen in our own country and seen happen in
Let`s be very clear. He does not have the temperament to be president of
the United States. This is not someone we turn the codes over to.
MATTHEWS: I wish you were running, Governor. Governor Dan Malloy, thanks
for coming. I do with you were running for president. Anyway, Susan Page,
as always, a – sort of center of – of intelligence and common sense and
STEELE: Yes, she is.
MATTHEWS: And then there`s you and me!
MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, thank you.
Tonight at 11:00 Eastern, by the way, join me for a special – I guess
these are catching on – a live edition of HARDBALL tonight. We`re going
to have the latest on the presidential race, all the news that`s breaking
tonight. Also, the hot news coming in from Wisconsin, where House Speaker
Paul Ryan is fighting it out in his primary, probably (INAUDIBLE) 90
percent. Anyway, that`s coming up in our late night edition at 11:00
And coming up right now, Donald Trump`s hitting back against 50 Republican
national security experts who say he`d be a dangerous president. That`s
pretty strong stuff. We`ll hear from one of those experts, along with
retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey, who also says Trump`s unfit to
be the president.
Plus, is Trump trying to blow up the presidential debates? He says he
wants to debate, but he wants to renegotiate the debate terms. Will he
join Hillary Clinton on that debate stage even if he doesn`t get what he
And the HARDBALL roundtable`s coming here to tell me something about this
presidential race that I don`t know.
And finally tonight, the COO who oversaw the growth of NBC, including the
creation of this network and the network`s coverage of the Olympics right
now, speaks out on Trump, personal responsibility and the challenge of
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, those polls in Wisconsin close at 8:00 PM Central time
tonight, so in less than two hours, we`ll have a sense of how the House
Speaker, Paul Ryan, fared in his race for renomination. Ryan was
challenged at home from the right by conservative businessman Paul Nehlen,
who was on here last night.
But 11:30 – at 11:00 PM Eastern tonight, in a special live late night
edition of HARDBALL, we`re going to bring you the full results of that race
and what it means for the GOP.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, on Monday, in a rare move, 50
of the country`s most respected Republican national security officials
joined forces to sign a letter saying that Donald Trump is unqualified to
be president. This is rare stuff. They went on to say that he would be a
dangerous president and would put at risk our country`s national security
and wellbeing, they said.
Well, this morning, Trump struck back, saying that this was nothing more
than failed Washington elite people lashing out. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: These were the people that have
been there a long time, Washington establishment people. They`ve been
there for a long time. Look at the terrible job they`ve done.
I hadn`t planned on using any of these people. I guess, for the most part,
I haven`t even spoken to any of these people because I like to speak to a
new group. The old group was not doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, among those, some of the prominent signatories in that
group were former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Homeland Security
Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, all of them.
The letter comes at a time when Trump is struggling to regain footing after
a particularly bad couple of weeks.
I`m joined by one of the co-signers of the letter, U.S. Ambassador James
Jeffrey, visiting fellow of the Washington Institute, and retired Four-Star
Army General and MSNBC military analyst Barry McCaffrey, who just last week
in an opinion piece for “The Seattle Times” wrote Trump was unfit to lead.
General, I want to hear from you first, because you are not in the business
of offering up foreign policy or certainly not political opinion. Why now?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think you`re
I have tended to talk about policies, critically or supportive. I have
tried to be analytical, but I have stayed away from the candidates. And,
by the way, I`m not here to endorse anyone`s campaign. But it seemed to
me, Chris, listening to Mr. Trump – and, by the way, I object to the
notion that his problem is, he`s going off-script.
We are actually hearing Trump and his actual views. And his views were
praising Saddam Hussein, a mass murderer, praising Putin, being apparently
unaware that he`s actually invaded another country and seized ground,
threatening NATO, loose talk about nuclear proliferation, and then finally,
the final straw to me was his insulting behavior to this grieving mother of
one of our young troops killed in action, one of 60,000 killed and wounded
fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This guy, it seems to me, has the wrong character to be president of the
MATTHEWS: Does he strike you as sort of a character out of “Seven Days in
May”? How do you see him politically? Do you see him as somebody who will
just grab power, like the man on horseback in historic terms, that mythical
notion of a guy who just comes in and does what he wants to do?
MCCAFFREY: I think that is going to be part of the danger, by the way.
We have to have an acceptance of the Constitution, of the notion of three
co-equal branches of government. I don`t think Mr. Trump will think any of
that applies to him. And, you know, so I think the problem will be that
most of life is off-message. And we are hearing the kind of impulsive,
violent, provocative and badly uneducated opinions that he comes out with,
primarily national security.
That`s what I`m talking about, homeland security. By the way, Governor Tom
Ridge, Governor – Judge Chertoff, General Hayden, these are some of the
most respected people in the country. They are American patriots. And
they think he`s reckless and shouldn`t be elected.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Ridge is near the top of my list, as you agree – I agree
Let me now go to Ambassador Jeffrey.
Ambassador, first of all, let me ask if there`s a policy difference between
you – because Trump has been very tough on the neocons. He`s been very
tough on regime change as a practice, going into countries like Iraq and
knocking off Saddam Hussein, going into Libya, helping to knock off
Gadhafi, or being obsessed with getting rid of Assad, Bashar al-Assad.
Is that your policy, or do you have a difference with him on his fitness or
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Chris, I`m a career
diplomat, retired. I didn`t support regime change. I`m one of the people
sent in to spend three years in Iraq on the ground trying to clean it up.
I know what foreign policy messes are. And we have got some explaining to
do to the American people in the past, but this isn`t the way to do it, not
with his agenda.
MATTHEWS: What do you think his appeal is on foreign policy? Why is he up
to – well, he`s falling right now. It`s a bad time for him, but he got up
to the low 40s. He was competitive with Hillary Clinton as recently as two
weeks ago, I mean, very competitive. What`s that about, in terms of
foreign policy? What`s his appeal?
JEFFREY: Well, I think there`s a general appeal, I`m a tough guy because I
say I`m tough.
And I think that appeals to a lot of people, because strength in foreign
policy is important. The problem is, unlike in domestic affairs, there`s
no checks and balances for foreign policy. The president, as commander in
chief, and as the man or woman in charge of our diplomacy basically decides
without any constraints. That`s what worries me.
MATTHEWS: Well, the president of the United States, as commander in chief,
General McCaffrey, doesn`t have a cap pistol. He has the United States
military forces ready to take orders. Do you have a sense that there`s
somewhere in the chain of command that would stop a guy like him if he
managed to be president? Would there be a defense chief or the Joint
How – would there be any effective brake on a guy who`s president who
doesn`t act like he`s a grownup even?
MCCAFFREY: Well, of course that`s one of the concerns. You know, 2.2
million men and women in the armed forces globally deployed, the most
professional force we have ever had in uniform, and yet he`s – Mr. Trump
has proposed things that are patently a violation of U.S. law, torturing
American detainees, targeting their jihadist families, just astonishing
At some point, there would be a confrontation where the chain of command
won`t follow illegal orders. And so I think one of the problems will be a
real constitutional crisis, not just for the armed forces, but with the
notion of government, respect for the Supreme Court, deference to Congress
with the money power, and the confirmation authority of the Senate.
So, I don`t think we know. This guy is impulsive, and I don`t believe he
will think the Constitution applies to him. That`s my own personal
MATTHEWS: Well, this weekend, Jim Rutenberg, who is really a smart writer
– he`s a media writer for “The New York Times” – he said that Donald
Trump`s campaign right now is testing the norms of objectivity in
journalism, which is sort of a parallel with the military.
“Mr. Trump`s candidacy is extraordinary and precedent-shattering, and to
pretend otherwise is to be disingenuous with readers. It would be an
abdication of political journalism`s most solemn duty, to ferret out what
the candidates will be like in the most powerful office in the world.”
And the reason I was grabbed by that, Mr. Ambassador, is that you folks
that normally don`t take partisan positions are doing what a lot of people
in journalism, straight journalism, not opinion journalism, are being
confronted with, because how do you play or cover a campaign in the normal
way when you have a candidate who clearly isn`t normal?
You know what I`m talking about? This guy is saying stuff that you would
normally say, oh, you can`t say that. You can`t say NATO is finished. We
need allies in the world. Every time we chase a fugitive in the world, we
need somebody to help us. We need help when we have to go to war. We need
allies. We can`t just tick off or forget them.
And yet it`s new for many people to say one guy`s objectively wrong for the
country, he just is wrong. That`s a hell of a statement.
But one thing we do bring to this fight, Chris, is that we have had a lot
of experience overseas or working with people overseas.
JEFFREY: And we have seen two things, first of all, first-hand, as General
McCaffrey has more than me, what happens when things go badly wrong to our
young men and women. And that bears heavily on us.
Secondly, we have seen other governments, countries as well off as the
United States in many respects, melt down because of bad leadership. It
hasn`t happened here, but it`s happened in other decent countries, and it`s
something that also bears heavily on us, because we know we are not immune
MATTHEWS: This weekend, I was fortunate, or unfortunate – I guess
fortunate to meet with some men who have served in places like Iraq, which
you are very familiar with, gentlemen. And they have been disfigured.
They have been – lost limbs. They have had their life changed around
It`s just amazing, the world they face now because of war. And I think
that doesn`t mean we can`t have wars or we shouldn`t have them, but it does
mean that the person at the top who makes that decision has to be almost
perfect in deciding who gets hurt.
MATTHEWS: Yes, who gets hurts.
MCCAFFREY: The president needs to be cautious.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You have said it well.
Thank you, guys, for coming on, Ambassador James Jeffrey and General Barry
MCCAFFREY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: debating the debates. Trump lays groundwork for
renegotiating the biggest three nights this fall. He wants to fight over
the debates, which is going to be interesting. What does he want?
And a reminder: Join me for a special edition of HARDBALL tonight at 11:00
p.m. We are going to do it again, a whole new show. And it`s really great
at night. There`s something cozy about as we get to the bewitching hour.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
Delta has canceled nearly 700 flights today as it works to recover from a
power outage on Monday. About 1,000 flights were canceled yesterday.
Texas is reporting its first Zika-linked fatality. Officials say a baby
girl born with microcephaly died shortly after birth; 97 cases have been
reported there, but none were contracted locally.
And three children remain hospitalized after falling three stories from a
Ferris wheel at a county fair in Tennessee. Authorities say a mechanical
issue is to blame – back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the Clinton campaign last night agreed to three debates, all three of
them proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and goaded – this
is always part of the game – Donald Trump to do the same. Whoever agrees
first says, come on, get out there.
As chairman John Podesta – he`s the chairman of the Clinton campaign –
said in a statement: “It is concerning that the Trump campaign is already
engaged in shenanigans” – haven`t heard that word around – “around these
debates. We will accept the commission`s invitation and expect Donald
Trump to do the same.”
So the dare is out there.
But in an interview with “TIME” magazine today, Trump held out, saying: “I
want to debate very badly, but I have to see the conditions. I
renegotiated the debates in the primaries, remember? I`m sure they will be
open to any suggestions I have because I think they will be very fair
He also added that he wants a role in selecting the moderators – fair
enough – saying: “I would say that certain moderators would be
unacceptable, absolutely. I will demand fair moderators.”
So, is Trump trying to blow up the debates? That`s a question there`s a
buzz about, that he`s just really saying, I don`t want to debate.
The roundtable tonight to debate, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer with
“The Washington Post.” Laura Bassett covers politics for The Huffington
Post. And Zeke Miller, one of the great American names ever, is a
political reporter for “TIME” who broke this story.
Zeke Miller, I got to go to you.
ZEKE MILLER, “TIME”: Hey, Chris. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Is he trying to get out of this or trying to get – obviously
wants the right moderator. He wants to get – what else does he want
besides a moderator who will not undercut him or humiliate him or look down
MILLER: There`s always that little bit of negotiation that goes on with
any of these debates, the height of the podiums. Is somebody going to be
taller than somebody else on stage and those cameras?
MATTHEWS: Don`t you love that trick? Michael Dukakis, they let him have a
riser, but then they had camera angles to show the riser from the side.
All these games.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Donald Trump likes to think of
himself as the great negotiator. He wrote “The Art of the Deal” and talks
MATTHEWS: What does he want?
CAPEHART: What he wants is the ability to show he`s strong, to show that
he got a win, more so than anything else.
MATTHEWS: OK. He`s much taller than Secretary Clinton. He`s about 6`2“
or 6`3“. Hillary Clinton is average size, 5`6` or something, I guess.
And so will there be a fight over the risers now?
CAPEHART: Oh, absolutely.
But I think, for Trump, the more critical factor will be the fight over the
format, which has already been announced. Each of the debates has a
different format, as well as the moderators. Who will be the people who
are going to ask the questions, and will they interject or not?
MATTHEWS: Laura, I want – I`m sorry.
Jonathan, you were jumping there.
I would think the one thing Trump wants is an audience. He wants a peanut
gallery. He only works – those jokes don`t work unless you hear that
cackle of excitement, crackle of excitement.
CAPEHART: Right. He has to hear the applause and he has to hear the
laughter. And he has to hear the boos, because the boos are the cue to him
to keep talking until he gets the applause and the laughter.
But, to me, I think he`s trying to blow up the debates, because, OK, fine,
everyone wants to negotiate over the moderators. But, please, name a news
organization or journalist who would be acceptable to him.
MATTHEWS: Well, that will hurt somebody.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, you know that`s – once he says this is my kind of
person, then you`re in trouble. Then you`re in trouble.
MATTHEWS: But he`s already declared war. I`m not a media critic. He has
already said CNN, the Clinton network. But he can do it. He can – look,
he`s got the power.
But the danger he might face is information questions.
LAURA BASSETT, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right.
MATTHEWS: If I were Donald Trump, what I would fear most is exposure of
not knowing who the prime minister of Canada is or something like that,
just not knowing something really basic to being president.
I think that there`s a lot of things that the debate moderators could do to
make Trump look really stupid. And so I think when he said – I thought it
was interesting when he said I want debate moderators who are fair and
balanced, which happens to be the same line that FOX News uses.
MATTHEWS: That says Bret Baier to me, Shepard Smith.
BASSETT: Right. But even Megyn Kelly is not enough – is not fair and
balanced enough for Donald Trump. He obviously feuded with her.
So, I think he`s trying to pick people that are going to be kind to him.
MATTHEWS: What about the format of the third debate? It`s always been –
we ought to know for a style debate. It`s a give and take. They sit on
these stools. It`s kind of embarrassing. They got to sit on stools and
interact. Is that – would he be against that?
CAPEHART: Well, that kind of debate, I think he would actually like,
because then he would be able to go after Hillary Clinton in ways that he
wouldn`t be able to, I don`t think, in any of these other debate formats.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to call her crooked Hillary to her face? This is a
question I always ask. Would you say that to her face, five feet away,
CAPEHART: I bet he would.
BASSETT: Oh, he certainly would.
MATTHEWS: He would?
BASSETT: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: If you look at the primary debates as instructive, he was never
one-on-one, but he – there were two different Donald Trumps that would
You would have the Donald Trump every once in a while that sort of faded in
the background. And you would have the Donald Trump that would engage sort
of one-on-one, in sort of the personal attacks.
And the challenge for the Clinton campaign is which Donald Trump do you
prepare for? You have to do two different debate preps.
MILLER: Well, he is not going to be able to hide in the background when it
just the two of them.
MATTHEWS: She`s good at this stuff. She`s great. If she can prepare the
substance being talked about, sort of the normal boundaries of what you
talk about, she will be great.
But he will try to get outside those boundaries, I would think, and try to
jump her from somewhere where she`s never been thinking, because she`s
smart about all the homework. She gets the homework done. She has got
people helping her. She knows her stuff that you would reasonably want.
Trump may find something that he wants to bring up that she`s not – you
know, and start arguing about something…
BASSETT: Why wouldn`t he have already brought it up? Trump is not a
MATTHEWS: He did. He is talking about Second Amendment remedies or
whatever tonight. He`s all over the place.
BASSETT: You think that would shake her in a debate? I think she is going
to wipe the floor with him. And she knows it. And she smells blood in the
water already. You could tell from her campaign`s response today.
MATTHEWS: Why does she – OK. I like that. But that`s not her attitude
towards the media.
BASSETT: Blood in the water?
MATTHEWS: No, no, can`t wait to have the next press conference.
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton does not – a lot of respect her. She`s done
her homework. She deserves to be maybe president of the United States.
There`s certainly a 50/50 shot at it now.
But she doesn`t like mixing it up with the press. So, why would she like
mixing it up with Donald Trump?
BASSETT: Well, I think she knows that she can win. I think she knows that
she has way deeper knowledge than he does about any policy issue that could
ever possibly come up.
MATTHEWS: We got some new polls, swing poll states to tell you why Trump
may be a little dangerous and wanting to know he has to win this debate,
because he may go into this behind in the swing states.
Today, it comes out, NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll and Marist has just
come out. Catch this. In Iowa, Clinton is leading Trump by four. In
Ohio, she leads by five. And he needs Ohio. In Pennsylvania, the lead is
now 11. And he needs Pennsylvania. These are all states Trump needs to
Meanwhile, a new NBC tracking poll this week shows Clinton opening up a 10-
point lead nationally, his biggest gap yet.
So, it seems to me you can always tell – Laura, you first – but the
person who goes into the debate and goes on offense is the person behind.
MATTHEWS: The person who is ahead cools it.
MATTHEWS: That means Trump goes in. And if you see the guy, often a guy,
who attacks, they look like it. And they don`t look good, because then the
opponent can just say something like, there you go again. And people root
for that person because they are being attacked.
BASSETT: And I think he`s already imploding for that reason.
I think, as his poll numbers slip, he`s starting to make more and more – I
don`t even want to call them gaffes, because it`s so far beyond that, I
mean, suggesting Hillary be…
MATTHEWS: Is he pressing too hard?
BASSETT: Yes. I think he`s panicking a little bit. And I think it`s
starting to show.
MATTHEWS: Would you have ever voted for Trump?
BASSETT: Would I?
Would you have ever thought of voting for Trump?
BASSETT: Thought of voting for him?
MATTHEWS: Yes. When did you decide?
BASSETT: Not to vote for Trump?
BASSETT: Oh, when he was on “The Apprentice” acting like a clown.
MATTHEWS: So, this hasn`t been an open mind situation for you?
MILLER: I don`t vote. So…
MATTHEWS: You don`t, really?
MILLER: No. No. I`m of that school of reporters that don`t vote.
MILLER: … “The Post” too.
MATTHEWS: Do you opine on yourself when you go to bed at night?
MATTHEWS: Do you opine ever secretly?
MILLER: No, not really.
MATTHEWS: You`re amazing.
You know that there are people like Len Downie, the old executive editor of
“The Washington Post,” who would never vote, and never…
CAPEHART: Well, I`m an opinion writer. I vote. And…
MATTHEWS: Would you ever have thought of voting for Trump?
CAPEHART: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Ever? Since when?
CAPEHART: Since June 16, 2015, when he said Mexico is sending over…
CAPEHART: … rapists and folks like that. Yes. There was no…
MATTHEWS: You thought that was an exceptional comment?
CAPEHART: … no possible way. That`s why I think coming up in the debate
MATTHEWS: I have the right to ask any question here and I have done it.
The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these people tell me
something I don`t know. Be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Zeke, tell me something I don`t know.
ZEKE MILLER, TIME MAGAZINE: Carly Fiorina, the former presidential
candidate, is getting ready to run for RNC chairman in January, should
Donald Trump lose. And that race is going to be the big fight for the
future of the Republican Party. The first fight in terms of how to define
the post-Trump GOP –
MATTHEWS: Is she going to be more like Michael Steele or more like Reince
MILLER: Somewhere between, I would suspect. Would be the first woman ever
in that job.
LAURA BASSETT, HUFFINGTON POST: Trump still has an advisor in Al
Baldasaro, from New Hampshire, who during the RNC called for Hillary to
face a firing squad. Considering his comments today suggesting maybe
second amendment people should take that into their own hands, he`s going
to have some explaining to do.
MATTHEWS: Explain this part, can you help him? Why?
MATTHEWS: Why a firing squad? What capital crime did she commit?
BASSETT: He was upset about the Benghazi situation. He said she should
face a firing squad for treason.
MATTHEWS: What did she do? I keep wondering what she did in Benghazi.
BASSETT: Didn`t send enough security forces, I suppose.
MATTHEWS: Then why didn`t they hold a decent hearing? Still waiting for
Congress to hold a decent hearing. Secretary Clinton, let`s go through
minute by minute where you were when you first heard this guy was in
trouble, your friend, Chris Stevens.
They don`t know how to have an organized hearing. Everybody asks stupid
question after stupid question and Hillary never had to do, which I think
would have been helpful for her, when I first heard it was 6:15, blah,
blah, blah. I just checked it. Then we did this, then we called, I talked
to Leon, we saw where the nearest forces were but then I heard he was dead.
OK? I never left this issue. I never got off of it. I never went
anywhere else. I tried to save my friend`s life.
But they don`t know how to have clear conversations in these hearings.
Your thought? Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: They don`t get the clarity.
Yes. Go ahead.
CAPEHART: So, a week from today, my new podcast at “The Washington Post”
premieres. It`s called –
MATTHEWS: This is about you.
CAPEHART: Yes, it is about me. It`s called, I can`t – I didn`t give the
graphic. You can see, it`s keep up, or if you see it really fast, it
sounds like keep up.
MATTHEWS: You like that caricature of you?
CAPEHART: Yes, my friend –
MATTHEWS: Your glasses are regular sized. Why do you have huge glasses?
CAPEHART: The old glasses I have. It will be great political
MATTHEWS: What`s our takeaway on this?
CAPEHART: Get it on iTunes starting August 16th.
MATTHEWS: You are so state of the art.
Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, Laura Bassett and Zeke Miller.
Up next, the COO who oversaw the growth of NBC, including the creation of
MSNBC and the network`s coverage of the Olympics, speaks out on Trump,
personal responsibility and the human challenge of autism.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Join us again tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We`re going
to have a live late night edition of HARDBALL with results of that squeaker
election out in Wisconsin with Paul Ryan running for renomination.
Lots more news breaking tonight. Lots of news breaks late at night.
That`s only on MSNBC, the place for politics.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, during Bob Wright`s career as head of NBC, he launched CNBC and
MSNBC. In 1988, his team negotiated unprecedented rights to televise the
Olympics, which you`re watching right now. He built up the network`s
primetime schedule to include hit shows like “Seinfeld.” And with such a
long career as seen here with Johnny Carson. He`s made friends for life.
And now, he`s the author of “The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks”,
that`s organization he cofounded with his late wife Suzanne.
Bob Wright, welcome to the show.
BOB WRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, AUTISM SPEAKS: Thank you very much, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Bob – thank you.
I want you to talk – you`re a citizen and you`ve had great
responsibilities running this whole network. What do you think of what
we`re talking about, of Trump, you know him from “The Apprentice”, what do
you think about this choice and what we have as a choice, Hillary or him
WRIGHT: Well, I wanted to announce that I`m running for president of the
United States. I`m running on the Republican ticket, the mainstream
Republican ticket, which is a center-right party, and I`m running against
the progressive party, Democratic Party, and the moderate Democratic Party.
And my Christian – conservative Christian party, which is also a
Republican Party, but somewhat different.
I think you`ve seen what Donald is, I`ve known him a long time. And he`s a
person with a lot of capacity, and he`s got himself in a really tight spot
here, there`s no question. He appeals to an awful lot of people, but this
is what`s happened to our politics, both with both parties. He`s trying to
deal with both what I`ll call the Christian conservatives and the
mainstream Republicans, and neither one of them are going to be satisfied.
Then, you go over to – and Hillary`s trying to do the same thing, trying
to manage and balance the progressives with moderate Democrats.
And he`s just having a lot of trouble now, and he`s saying things that go
to both parties. It`s quite awkward. But there`s a lot of time left and
if he stays with economics, if he stays with his taxes and he stays with
immigration and jobs, you know, that`s how he got there. So, we`ll have to
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your book, it`s called “The Wright Stuff”,
playing off your name. You were ahead of this corporation, certainly NBC
Universal, an amazingly successful career.
What is it you learned? Because you had responsibilities most of us will
never imagine having, what did you learn?
WRIGHT: Well, the whole tentative of the book is – when I was putting my
life together, with the help of my wife who just passed away –
MATTHEWS: I know.
WRIGHT: – less than two weeks ago, which is a terrible tragedy, and by
the way, about a third of the book is dedicated to her – I mean, in terms
of material in the book.
What I always try to do is say, if you want to be ambitious and if you want
to be in a large business or small business, you must learn to accept and
be responsible for what you`re doing. You have to accept full
responsibility. You can`t be blaming other people. You can`t constantly
say, this is a bad luck thing and all that.
You also have to have a lot of passion, and you have to have a lot of
passion in what you`re doing, and you have to try to control, if you have a
lot of good ideas – you have to try to control them as best you can, and
gather some very good people around you. And push them on. And that`s
what I tried to do.
And other people have done that very successfully. A lot of them were
entrepreneurial, but you can be entrepreneurial in a large corporation like
MATTHEWS: Take a minute or two and talk about what you and Suzanne did for
autism, and what you`re trying to build in terms of getting other people
WRIGHT: Well, we had the misfortune of having our first grandson diagnosed
with autism and he was quiet severe at the time back in 2004. And we
traveled around the United States and we looked – we were trying to learn
about it, we couldn`t get help from the major medical organizations. They
said, well, autism is not something that we treat, because there`s no
insurance coverage for it. So, really, you have to get therapies and
people have to pay for them themselves.
We couldn`t believe this travesty. All these parents out there, all
working people, and they were broke, you know, doing what you have to do to
deal with a child with autism. It`s 30 hours a week at least in the early
days. And that`s hundreds and hundreds of dollars a week. And people just
don`t have that kind of money. And so, that`s how we got into this whole
MATTHEWS: Can you improve the life experience and communications ability
of an autistic child?
WRIGHT: Yes, you can. You can certainly improve – you can`t improve
every one, because no two children are the same. They`re all different.
But, by and large, at least 50 percent of children, if they get early
access to therapies, occupational, speech, and behavioral therapies, and
they can get that with a diagnosis at least by two years old, 2 1/2, all
the way up to first grade, they have a 50 percent shot to matriculate to a
public high school system at or near average grade level with a lot of
help. And that`s a big deal. The other half is going to have a much
MATTHEW: You know, you`re only a couple of years ahead of me in life. I
think you`re two years ahead of me at Holy Cross. And I must say, you and
your wife Suzanne, who we just lost, have been like parents to this network
all these years.
And tell us about Suzanne.
WRIGHT: Well, Suzanne was a very unique person, and she had enormous
personality. And she was just so transparent. She was always looking to
be in people`s lives, to help them out. She helped me immensely in
business. She was a great partner, and she`s a great homemaker. She
cooked thousands of meals at home.
She gave up her schooling to marry me and stay in law school. Then, she
had to go back and she spent years, five years getting back her – getting
a degree at Sarah Lawrence, and the same time, doing all the things she was
doing with other children and with charities and with our own family.
And when this came along, she just poured herself into it. She just cried
because Christian was her first boy and he was perfect. We thought he was
going to be a star. He was an early talker and all that. So, she was the
champion of this and created so much of the energy and the passion that
went into it. She was 24 by 7 and then she created a marvelous
organization, and we`re around the world. It`s a worldwide organization
MATTHEWS: Well, Bob, it`s an honor to have you on the show, thank you so
much for coming on. Take care of yourself.
WRIGHT: Don`t forget to vote for me.
MATTHEWS: You`re just kidding.
You`re not kidding about this book. It`s called “The Wright Stuff”. It`s
in your bookstores. The guy who knows what he`s talking about and who does
take responsibility personally for the things in his life, and the people.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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