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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/05/15

Guests: Robert Grenier, Liz Mair, Ken Vogel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The 20th hijacker. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. "Let Me Start" tonight with this. Here is the horror of 9/11 -- 19 terrorists that hijacked four planes, two hit the World Trade Center, one the Pentagon, one crashes into a Pennsylvania field, more than 3,000 Americans murdered. Fifteen of those nineteen hijackers are from Saudi Arabia, which makes you wonder why we went to war against Iraq. The man known as the 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, is now serving six life sentences in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Moussaoui has told lawyers for 9/11 victims what he describes as a Saudi involvement in the worst act of violence in this country`s history. Is he telling the truth? Evan Kohlmann is an NBC terrorism analyst. He was in the room when Moussaoui gave his deposition. Robert Grenier is a former CIA agent and author of "88 Days to Kandahar." Thank you so much. Evan, tell me about -- you were in the room when this deposition was given by Zacarias Moussaoui, in which he pointed to the role, larger than we`d ever believed before, played by the Saudi -- the Saudi people -- the Saudi leadership clique. Explain what he was arguing. EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, look, I went in there a skeptic, I think, as many others would have been. My understanding of Moussaoui was that he was a crazy lunatic. And I have to say, you know, that opinion was wrong. After I sat with him for close to two days and got to question myself in two different languages, it was pretty clear to me that Moussaoui is quite sharp. He`s very coherent. He has a very, very deep understanding and -- deep understanding and knowledge of al Qaeda, al Qaeda`s financial networks and other aspects of the organization.   I obviously can`t verify every single fact he had to say with regard to the Saudi royal family or his private meetings with them. But I can tell you this. I was actually brought into this interview specifically to try to see whether or not there were any aspects of what Moussaoui was saying that could be corroborated with other facts. And I can tell you that there was a lot of stuff that he said during that interview about a variety of aspects of al Qaeda, everything from financing to training camps, guesthouses, individual commanders that was correct and accurate down to the tee. And what`s more is, is that Moussaoui was given an opportunity to talk about people where we were seeing -- you know, is this guy just going to say he has information about everyone? Moussaoui declined those opportunities. When he knew -- when he was given a name of someone who didn`t know, he said, I don`t know that person, I don`t have any information about that person. He was very specific about the people... MATTHEWS: Yes. KOHLMANN: ... who he identified and who he -- you know, he laid the blame on. Whether or not everything he said is true, it`s difficult to say. MATTHEWS: I just want to put a little bulletin out here right now. You were working in this case for the families of the Americans who were -- who lost someone at 9/11. So -- just so everybody knows why you were in that room... KOHLMANN: Correct. MATTHEWS: ... because it was an amazing place to be. Anyway, Moussaoui, Zacarias Moussaoui pointed the finger at the following Saudi leaders, "The New York Times" reports. Quote, "He said in the prison deposition that he was directed in 1998 or `99 by al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to create a digital database of donors to the group" -- to al Qaeda. "Among those he said he recalled listed in the database were Prince Turki al Faisal, then the Saudi intelligence chief at the time, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the long-time Saudi ambassador here to the United States, Prince al Waleed bin Talal, a prominent billionaire investor, and many of the country`s leading clerics." Now, I want to show you something, an interview right now. I want to show you what happened to me. In the months right after 9/11, I interviewed Prince Bandar, who was mentioned there, Bandar bin Sultan, who was then Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Here was his reaction to my argument that a lot of people in America thought that the Saudis played a game. They paid al Qaeda off, they left their kids alone -- it was a younger generation -- let them go around the world, proselytize, cause trouble, commit terrorism as long as they left he country of Saudi Arabia alone. Here`s how he responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI ARABIA AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Does it makes sense to you, Chris, if bin Laden and his likes (ph), those evil people, are supposed to be the product of the Saudi religious teachings -- if that is true and they consider -- bin Laden was in public was saying the Saudis are infidels, get rid of the infidels, the religious leaders -- are we stupid? Why would we go and teach people so they can come and attack us? MATTHEWS: So they can attack somebody else. BIN SULTAN: The premise is wrong. No. They stopped (ph) to do this. They could -- what Taliban has been doing for three yours, now five years? Killing other Afghanistanis, other Muslims! MATTHEWS: Yes. BIN SULTAN: You just... MATTHEWS: But you know the sense in this country is that -- that your government has been very smart to buy off the younger generation... BIN SULTAN: No, no, no. MATTHEWS: ... give them all the money they need to go proselytize around the world and do their dirty will, and leave them alone. They`re paying protection money, in a sense. BIN SULTAN: You know what? This is (EXPLETIVE DELETED), to be honest with you. MATTHEWS: OK. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, he said it was BS. He actually used the actual word. Anyway, Mr. Grenier, what do you make of this right now? Because the Soviet -- I mean, not Soviet, the -- there`s a mistake -- the Saudi government obviously denies any role in 9/11. The Bush administration never accused them of anything, and yet there a lot of people that wonder how come there were 15 Saudis on that plane out of the 19? Most of the terrorists, three quarters of them, were Saudis. Bin Laden comes out that world, angry at their parents, a generational dispute, but yet it just seemed to me that with all this Wahhabism going on in Saudi Arabia, all this culture of Islamism, extreme Islamism, how does the Saudi culture and society, an elite clique, get out of any responsibility for 9/11/ That`s my question. Because he`s pointing the finger at them, Moussaoui, right now. ROBERT GRENIER, AUTHOR, "88 DAYS TO KANDAHAR": Well, look, I mean, if you look at Saudi society, I mean, it`s a -- it`s a complicated picture. And absolutely. I mean, these are Wahabbis. I mean, they are religious... MATTHEWS: Zealots. GRENIER: They`re zealous. They`re fundamentalists. And yes, absolutely, there are wealthy Saudis, others who wanted to proselytize. And so absolutely. When I lived in Pakistan, there was a large religious school that was just down the street from me, and it was -- it was built with Saudi money. That doesn`t necessarily mean -- it casts suspicion on them. It puts a doubtful light on them. But it doesn`t necessarily mean... MATTHEWS: Well, what about Moussaoui`s argument now in this deposition he made this fall that we`re just getting access to now? What do you make of his accusation? Was it just a desperate prisoner`s effort to win some sort of relief, or is there truth there? GRENIER: Yes, I don`t know if he was -- if he was trying to, you know, build himself up, to make himself seem more important than he was. I have no brief for either party in this, but... MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Evan on this because this is what everybody in Washington wants to know right now. Is this guy another stoolie in prison, trying to BS his way out of prison, or is he a guy who had something to offer, knowing he`s going to be in prison the rest of his life and he just wants to do something that has some truth telling to it? What is your sense of his motive, Evan, when you watch him? Why is he spilling the beans, if they are the beans? KOHLMANN: Well, he has no doubt that he`s going to be in prison for the rest of his life. He knows that. And he`s also up front about the fact that he still considers himself to be an enemy of the United States. I think -- my perception is, is that Moussaoui is deeply embittered towards other members of al Qaeda, as well as the Saudi government, as well as others, who I think he feels played a role in all this and were not held to account, and he`s paying the price for that. So there`s no doubt Moussaoui appears to have very personal reasons for wanting to do this.   But I -- you know, again, I think it`s quite clear he`s not trying to paint himself as America`s new best friend. And he was also very explicit about the fact that, look, he wasn`t going to try to play games. He wasn`t going to try to con us, or at least that`s what he said, because he realized we had more information about this than he did, and we were asking him questions from a perspective... MATTHEWS: OK... KOHLMANN: We could know exactly what we were asking him about. If he made up an answer, we would be in a position to know about it immediately. He could not... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, let me suggest another interpretation. He`s watching television. He obviously has access to the news. He knows that we`re in a coalition right now against ISIS and against the terrorists. And one way to screw up our coalition is get us suspecting the Saudis of a role in 9/11. GRENIER: There you go. MATTHEWS: It`s a perfect way to bring us all apart. Right? GRENIER: Absolutely. Absolutely. That`s what I would be trying to do. I mean, if -- this is somebody who has to hate Saudi Arabia. And this is somebody who believes, as an article of faith, that if the U.S. ever cut off support for Saudi Arabia, they would fall. He wants to see these people fall. MATTHEWS: Isn`t that possible, Evan, that what this guy is doing is screwing up our coalition right now by just... KOHLMANN: It`s always possible, and I think one of the only... MATTHEWS: ... spreading the seeds of doubt.   KOHLMANN: The only justification here for withholding this information is if it had some tremendously deleterious impact on U.S.-Saudi relations. But there`s two things to say about this. Number one, my understanding is that Moussaoui has been emphasizing this information or has been trying to put forward this information longer than Saudi Arabia has been part of our coalition in Iraq and Syria. So that simply doesn`t make any sense. I think the other part about this is -- again, I -- I -- Moussaoui appears to have had this long-standing sense for a while. I really don`t think this is born of anything recent. MATTHEWS: Yes. KOHLMANN: Moussaoui is very clear about this. Now, again, I think everything he says should be measured up against any information we can, any information about his travel records or others. If we can verify this with official information, we should do so. But that`s the point, is there`s no point in withholding this information anymore. You know, even Saudi Arabia wants... MATTHEWS: OK... KOHLMANN: ... the 28 pages from the joint intelligence inquiry out there. The Saudis want this out there. If the Saudis want this out there, the families want this out there, the American people want this out there, then what possible reason is there to not release this information? If there`s anything in here that implicates the government of Saudi Arabia, we should know about it. If the information in there exonerates the government of Saudi Arabia, it`s their right to have that information and be able to defend themselves... MATTHEWS: OK... KOHLMANN: ... knowing what the information actually is. MATTHEWS: But gentlemen, the United States government, the very much respected commission on what happened on 9/11 -- it was generally roundly respected -- said no Saudi government role in 9/11.   GRENIER: They could find no evidence for it. MATTHEWS: What about this idea... KOHLMANN: And yet... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Evan you make a point, here. I think it`s debatable, but it`s a good point. He says they should release these 24 (sic) pages of the Senate and House Investigative Committee on 9/11. Now, I know there`s always a problem, and I understand it, the decency factor. Do you release raw data, raw -- I mean, people say the wackiest things to FBI agents. Do you just throw it out there, and somebody could be a truther out there, somebody could just be throwing out the theory that this -- and all of a sudden, that becomes gold. Should they release the 24 pages of the Senate- House investigation? GRENIER: Well, we can only speculate. So there may be lots of good reasons why these 28 pages shouldn`t be put out. As President Bush said before, you know, there are sources and methods reasons why they shouldn`t do that. I don`t know, but that`s what the president has said. There may be some things in that report which are embarrassing to the Saudis and would -- and would have made it more different for the Saudis to take effective action in their domestic political context if that stuff were known. MATTHEWS: What could it be? What would that be? GRENIER: Well, for instance, maybe there were members of prominent Saudi families who it would be very difficult for the Saudis to move against in an overt way... MATTHEWS: Yes. GRENIER: ... and yet if this were out there, they would essentially be sandbagged. MATTHEWS: Who made the decision, Evan, to release all the Soviet -- I mean, all the -- why do I keep saying that? -- all the Saudi -- the Saudi diplomats that went -- they lived right near the -- their embassy is right next to the -- to the Watergate apartments, of course.   Why did they all get a sort of a free ride out of the country right in the middle of all that security concern, where nobody was allowed to fly for a couple hours or a couple days after 9/11? They were given the exception. people want to know, why were all the Saudis allowed to split so easily against all the rules at the time? KOHLMANN: Well, look, I think it`s very easy to answer that. It`s that these were wealthy and important people. They were -- some of them were diplomats or they were related to diplomats. They were people that had a tremendous amount of influence, and they had people that could reach out to people in our government. And I think part of the problem is, is that then, as of now, there were a lot of people who just -- the idea that Saudi Arabia, one of our closest allies in the Middle East, could have been involved in funding or coordinating 9/11 -- it sounded ridiculous. It sounded ridiculous. MATTHEWS: Yes. KOHLMANN: Unfortunately, there`s enough evidence out there from very credible sources, from people that should have had a reason to know, that it behooves us to look into those documents and those questions... MATTHEWS: OK... KOHLMANN: ... and verify if there`s any truth to them because the FBI has had information going all the way back to 1995 that wealthy Gulf governments, wealthy Persian Gulf governments were providing money to al Qaeda in order to -- protection money, essentially, for their regimes. And we know that the current king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, when he was the governor of Riyadh back in the 1990s -- he was raising money for Saudi charities that have since been shut down not just by the U.S. government, but the Saudi government, for funding al Qaeda. So there`s no doubt that money was exchanged. The question is, is were the Saudis aware of where that money was going and who they were contributing to. MATTHEWS: OK. Well, Evan... KOHLMANN: And any information we have that helps illuminate that question, I think it`s incumbent upon all of us, including the Saudis, to be honest in answering that question, now more than 10 years after 9/11. MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you made that point here and you made it in the "New York Times" front page right at the fold -- I mean, top of the right- hand side of the paper. You`ve made it in the best slot in the news business there is, the right-hand side of "The New York Times," and you`re here tonight. I think people are questioning this. I`m not a truther, but I think these questions are very healthy to ask.   Anyway, Evan Kohlmann, Robert Grenier, thank you both, gentlemen. Coming up -- Jeb Bush loves his dad and thinks his brother was a great president, but for Jeb, being a Bush cuts both ways. The Bush names helps him. As for the Bush reputation, not so much. Can Jeb Bush divorce himself from the Bush political record? Plus, some top Democrats won`t commit to attending Benjamin Netanyahu`s politically charged speech next month to Congress, the one John Boehner arranged without telling the president. Meanwhile, we get word today that his holiness, Pope Francis, is also coming to address Congress. Is this Boehner asking for a do-over? And Olympic hero Bruce Jenner is about to become the highest-profile transgender person in the world. We`re going to talk about what gender`s - - Jenner`s decision says about tolerance and acceptance in the year 2015. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with these new questions about the Saudi involvement in 9/11. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Rand Paul is the latest Republican to come out in opposition to Loretta Lynch, President Obama`s pick for attorney general. Senator Paul said today in a statement that Lynch, quote, "has a track record of violating individual freedoms granted to us by our Constitution." Well, yesterday, Texas senator John Cornyn said he won`t support Lynch. And last week, David Vitter of Lousiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama said they`d oppose her, as well. And we`ll be right back.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I know some in the media think conservatives don`t care about the cities, but they`re wrong. We believe that every American in every community has the right to pursue happiness. They have the right to rise. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Jeb Bush, of course, yesterday in Detroit testing his campaign message for 2016. It`s called a "right to rise." It sounds a lot like what his brother, George W. Bush, offered 15 years ago. W. called it "compassionate conservativism." Anyway, let`s watch George. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Big government is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity. This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it`ll be hard for Jeb to run away from that family or the Bush family name, and the records of both his brother and father. And the former Florida governor talked about that yesterday. Interesting conundrum here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I love my dad. In fact, my dad is the greatest man alive. And if anybody disagrees, we`ll go outside unless you`re, like, 6-5 250 and much younger than me. Then we`ll negotiate.   (LAUGHTER) BUSH: I`m still not going to change my mind for sure. And I love my brother, and I think he`s been a great president. It doesn`t bother me a bit to be proud of them and love them, but I now for a fact that if I`m going to be successful going beyond the consideration (ph), then I`m going to have to do it on my own. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now, "The Washington Post`s" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson, and Republican strategist Liz Mair. Let me start with you, since you`re the Republican... LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure. MATTHEWS: ... and proud of it. I think -- it`s interesting because I think it works, but tell me how it works. You benefit from a fine family name, Bush, but you don`t have to defend the policies of your relatives, but somehow, you -- what is it that you`re benefiting from if it`s not the performance of those two family members? MAIR: I think... MATTHEWS: The performance. MAIR: ... experience of being in the public eye at that level and putting up with that level of scrutiny. I think a lot of the fund-raising infrastructure, and I think just the collective knowledge that is bred into the pool of Bush family advisers that you`re able to tap that a lot of these other guys can`t. But I do think you`re right. Jeb Bush is a very different political animal to his brother, and his brother is very different political animal to his dad, I think.   There`s a tendency to do a lot of characterization of the Bushes as moderates. I think that`s very true when you look at George H.W. Bush. I think when you look at George W. Bush, you`re actually talking about somebody who I would characterize much more as a big government social conservative. And I think when you`re looking at Jeb Bush, you`re looking at somebody who actually I think is a bit more of a mainstream conservative, despite the fact that he`s being depicted as sort of this Republican in name only at the moment. MATTHEWS: OK. OK. You`re Joe out there or Jane out there, a regular person, not a fund raiser, not an insider, and you go out to the burbs, where the fight is going to be, the burbs, middle-class burbs. You`re going to say to somebody, vote for another Bush. But vote for Bush because you`re familiar with the name and they haven`t stolen any money, so give them another break, but don`t look back at what the father did or the brother did. How does that work? EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first you have to get over the hurdle of the name, right? MATTHEWS: It`s a hurdle. ROBINSON: You have got to get over the hurdle of, we`re going to have a third Bush. MATTHEWS: But isn`t that the reason he has got the bid? ROBINSON: OK. Well, we... (CROSSTALK)   MAIR: It`s a reason he was in position to run for Florida governor. ROBINSON: Right. Exactly. We say we don`t have dynasties. We do. OK? We do. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Imagine you`re a cereal box. I have been thinking about this. Imagine you`re a cereal box. I love Kellogg`s. I eat too many Raisin Bran breakfasts, OK. Suppose I said I have got a new cereal coming out from Kellogg`s. Now, you may not have liked the last two you tried, but the next one is going to be really good, but it is a Kellogg`s, so buy a Kellogg`s. I mean, who`s going to do that? ROBINSON: Well, look. MATTHEWS: You`re going to say, I didn`t like the last two. Why would I like the next one? ROBINSON: If you could hark back to the first, right, to George H.W. Bush, he was frankly an underrated president at the time and his reputation has improved with the years. MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s true. ROBINSON: Right? MATTHEWS: He`s almost beloved.   ROBINSON: If you can hark back to that without harking back to George W. Bush, whose reputation decidedly has not improved. (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: It`s a hard thing to do. MATTHEWS: Will the tough reporter sitting there in a debate situation let him get away with that, will say, wait a minute, yes or no, was the Iraq war a smart move and a good move for this country, yes or no, not, is it better to get rid of Saddam Hussein? Do you still defend that and think that was the right thing, looking back, looking back on it? Will he say yes? MAIR: I don`t know what he will say. I think that there are a number of questions about that that are going to be very awkward when he`s pinned on aspects of his family`s record. MATTHEWS: Should your dad have raised taxes after saying no new taxes, read my lips? Should he have broken that promise? MAIR: Right. Which between your dad and your brother did a better job in terms of gathering allies together to go to war against fundamentally the same dude? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Well, you know the answer to that one. MAIR: Well, sure, but I think in terms of getting an answer from him, that`s going to be an awkward situation to deal with in a debate.   (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: The Iraq war question is really the tough one, I think. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s tough for Hillary, too. MAIR: It`s tough. Yes. MATTHEWS: It`s real tough for Hillary. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s tough for Biden. It`s tough for Kerry. They still haven`t explained why they went for the ridiculous arguments of W. and the neocons. ROBINSON: Right. Right. Right. MAIR: I think fundamentally one of the things that he is going to have to deal with, the fact that there are aspects of his father`s record and his brother`s record that people don`t like. The flip side of that is there are aspects of his father`s record and his brother`s record that actually he may want to appeal to, too. When we`re talking about Republican repeal to minority voters, particularly when we`re talking about Hispanics, maybe that`s an area where it`s good to be a Bush.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: John Sununu has got a new book coming out I have been looking at in galleys. And it makes the case for Bush Sr. as being a very aggressive, positive president, with a lot of things done. So we will see. ROBINSON: One difference on Iraq is that Hillary Clinton has said it was a mistake. And so will Jeb Bush say that? MATTHEWS: A mistake. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I always wonder about that word mistake. What does mistake mean? MAIR: She`s still going to be pressed. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Ted Cruz was saying -- we`re going to do it in the "Sideshow." Ted Cruz said he smoked some dope. He made a mistake. He thought it was a Marlboro? What do you mean by mistake? I went to the wrong house? ROBINSON: I shouldn`t have done it. I shouldn`t have done it. MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. It`s a broader notion of mistake.   ROBINSON: I shouldn`t have done it. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I joined the Marines. That was a mistake joining the Marines. That was a mistake. I thought it -- I should have joined the Coast Guard. I don`t know. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, yesterday, Jeb Bush gave President Obama some credit -- this is fascinating -- for an improving economy, but also criticized the president for a slow recovery. I said it slow. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: It`s true enough that we have seen recent good gains and it`s welcome news for the economy, but it is very little and it has come very late. Six years after the recession ended, median incomes are down. Households are on average poor, and millions of people have given up looking for work altogether. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: But the recession Jeb was speaking about there was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And it started when his brother, George W., was president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past few weeks, many Americans have felt anxiety about their finances and their future. I understand their worry and their frustration. We have seen triple-digit swings in the stock market. Major financial institutions have teetered on the edge of collapse, and some have failed. We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive action. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a really good line. I don`t think if you heard it yet, Gene or Liz. At last week`s annual Alfalfa Club dinner -- that`s a meeting here, a dinner of big shots, business guys -- California Senator Dianne Feinstein joked about another Bush seeking the White House -- quote -- "Jeb Bush looks like he`s running for president, so now we know what the Bush family means by no child left behind." (LAUGHTER) MAIR: It was a good line. (LAUGHTER) ROBINSON: That`s a great line. (LAUGHTER) ROBINSON: Great line.   MATTHEWS: So this is strange. The old man, the father, who has become increasingly beloved in his country, is late in life. We know that. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: He will be out there raising the flag for his son. W. will as well. How does it all work together? The sort of reasonable centrist, pragmatist, what do you call them, realist policies of his father again the neocon-ish policies of the son, does he -- does Jeb do what he seemed like he`s going to do, saying, I`m going to triangulate, I`m going to be something else besides both of them? Is that what he`s going to do? ROBINSON: Well, I think he is somewhat different from both of them. And I think that`s what he has to be. Ultimately, he`s got to be -- carve out this image and this reality of himself as different from his brother, different from his father. If he doesn`t, I don`t think he goes anywhere. MATTHEWS: Liz, you`re in the business. Liz, will the word, the phrase reform conservative, will it work? MAIR: Hard to say, honestly, very hard to say. MATTHEWS: Does it sound like moderate? MAIR: I don`t think it sounds like moderate necessarily. My question that I have is that you get into some difficulty when you`re talking about reform conservatives and what they want to do with the tax code vs. people who really want to just flatten things out. And so that`s a real tension when you get into those economic policy debates with people who are very wonkish and care about that.   But I agree with you that I think Jeb Bush is different to his father and to his brother. That`s what we were discussing last. And I think that the most important thing that any presidential candidate can do, and this includes Jeb, is be authentic, be who they actually are. At the end of the day, the voters may not like that, and they may go against you, but doing the inauthenticity thing and flip-flopping and trying to make yourself into something you`re not, they reject that every time. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I`m waiting to see who his foreign policy team is. If he hires John Bolton, I`m leaving. Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Liz Mair. MATTHEWS: Coming up -- I forget. John Bolton is running himself for president. Coming up, Ted Cruz, marijuana and why Seth Meyers says kids should just say no. Anyway, the "Sideshow" is coming up next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS") SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": A representative for Senator Ted Cruz said yesterday that Cruz tried marijuana as a teen, but hasn`t used it since. He has not used it since he tried it as a teen. So, you hear that, kids? Just trying it once can make you go crazy. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time now for the "Sideshow." That was of course "Late Night"`s Seth Meyers on Senator Ted Cruz`s admission this week that he smoked marijuana as a teenager, a decision that his spokesperson described as a mistake. What, did he think he was smoking something else, like a Marlboro? Anyway, next is the debate over measles vaccinations continues, the Centers for Disease Control is fighting recent outbreaks of the disease throughout the country. Here`s what Jimmy Fallon had to say about that last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")   JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": The CDC just announced that they`re currently 102 measles cases in the U.S. Yes. Some say it`s because people aren`t vaccinating their children. You can tell things are getting bad, though. Today, Disneyland opened a new ride called It`s a Smallpox World. (LAUGHTER) FALLON: And even Hillary Clinton is weighing in on the measles outbreak. She -- check out what she tweeted out earlier this week. "The earth is round, the sky is blue, and vaccines work." (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) FALLON: She actually didn`t stop there. Look at what else she tweeted. "Fire is hot, ice is cold, and the Seahawks should have handed it off to Marshawn Lynch." (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) FALLON: They should have. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, it`s been a month since Senate Minority Leader now Harry Reid`s exercise accident, but he still bears the battle scars, of course, including a swollen right eye. There he is. As Reid describes it, he was working out at home using an exercise band that snapped, tossing him on to some furniture. Well, shortly after the incident, Reid, who used to be a boxer himself, joked about the source of the injury. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: As most people know, I fought for a couple years. After any one of those fights, I never looked like I do now. However, I didn`t get this black eye by sparring with Manny, by challenging Floyd Mayweather. I didn`t go bull riding. I wasn`t riding a motorcycle. I was exercising in my new home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Reid, of course, was referring to Manny Pacquiao, the welterweight champion of the world. Well, yesterday, the 75-year-old lawmaker encountered Pacquiao in person on Capitol Hill, tweeting: "Explained my injury to Manny Pacquiao. He also told me he`s ready to fight Floyd Mayweather. Let`s make it happen." Up next, big news today. Pope Francis is addressing Congress, and the announcement comes after John Boehner got in a world of trouble for inviting Benjamin Netanyahu without ever telling the White House. That`s ahead with the roundtable. And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. John Kerry is in Ukraine, where he`s promised millions in aid to help victims of rising violence in the east, where troops are fighting pro- Russian rebels. Kerry also urged Russia to end its support for separatists in that region. Five children have been diagnosed with measles at a Chicago day care center. An outbreak that began at Disney parks in California has now spread to more than 100 people in at least 14 states. And struggling retailer RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy protection. It plans to sell up to 2,400 stores -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There was big news from Capitol Hill today. Speaker John Boehner announced that Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to speak to the United States Congress this coming September. That`s an historic first for a pope, of course. Meanwhile, another congressional invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to anger many Democrats. That`s because the news blindsided the White House, including the president. It seems aimed at scuttling negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. And it comes just two weeks before Israeli elections, of course. That`s the Netanyahu invitation. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and the Israeli Knesset speaker were on Capitol Hill yesterday trying to calm Democrats. According to Politico -- quote -- "It didn`t work. If anything, Democrats finished the day more frustrated. Seven Jewish Democratic members of Congress lit into Dermer. The invitation, they said, was making these choose between Netanyahu and Obama, making support for Israel into a partisan issue they never wanted it to be and forcing them to consider a boycott of the speech." Meanwhile, Senator Dick Durbin called the invitation of Netanyahu a serious mistake by the speaker and by the prime minister. And here was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We have great friendships in terms of country to country, leaders to leaders. It`s really something that we should be able to resolve. Maybe we have to even review the idea of joint sessions of Congress, because they should not be a political arena two weeks before an election. There are some people who just think it`s outrageous. Some staunch supporters of Israel have called me and said it`s outrageous -- and they are supporters of Netanyahu -- that our floor of the House would be used, exploited in that way for a political purpose in Israel and in the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, nevertheless, Pelosi said she intended to go to the speech. For more, I`m joined right now by tonight`s roundtable. Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican National Committee, of course, and an MSNBC political analyst. Amanda Terkel is senior political reporter for The Huffington Post. And Ken Vogel is chief investigative reporter for Politico. Michael, former seminarian, I have to ask you about the -- I think the nice news here is that some time in September, we`re all going to feel really good about ourselves. MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes. MATTHEWS: I think that`s going to be a positive night for the country. STEELE: I think everyone is generally psyched for the pope to come to America, period, particularly this pope, who has endeared himself in a way that transcends what faith you are. But then to have him come and speak to the Congress, a joint session of Congress, is going to be profoundly important, because it will allow him an opportunity on American soil to connect some dots, if you will, Cuba and the United States and the role that he played there. MATTHEWS: So you expect substance?   STEELE: I think there will be some substance. MATTHEWS: Yes. STEELE: I think, not a whole lot, because the pope doesn`t want to step on anything politically for the president and certainly not get into that so much, but I think he`ll have a chance to really lay out a very interesting conversation that a lot of Americans will appreciate. And war and peace issues related to that, and certainly what`s going on in the Middle East right now. So, I think the pope will have some profound things to say. MATTHEWS: Amanda, it seems to me there would be a lot of crowds along that center aisle when he comes in. TERKEL: Yes. MATTHEWS: You know how they always gang-attack the president when he comes in. They want all their pictures taken, both sides. I think a lot of members will want their pictures taken with this fellow. TERKEL: Both Pelosi and Boehner are Catholic. I think there will be some substance. I think also, domestically, you may hear the pope saying things that you hear a lot of candidates saying right now -- issues of poverty, income inequality, helping the poor is something this pope has made sort of a centerpiece. MATTHEWS: How does he stay off the hot ones? KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: I don`t think he does, talking about Cuba. MATTHEWS: Well, do you think he`s going to talk about life, he`s going to talk about abortion? (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Is he going to talk about same sex? VOGEL: He talked about gay rights in a way that I see made some conservatives uncomfortable. They wonder -- MATTHEWS: I`m talking about the really hot buttons. Does he sort of do like to do with the state of the Union, he has to hit all the (INAUDIBLE) buttons? VOGEL: Whether he actually does or not, it`s sort of the backdrop to this. And there are political implications here. Catholics are key swing constituency. They`re socially conservative. Maybe they`re economically a little more liberal -- well, this pope is a little bit shifting that balance in a way that again I think makes some conservatives a little leery, some Democrats kind of happy. STEELE: I think on that point, the interesting thing is the following month is when the pope will have the Synod on the Family, and a lot of this visit is going to be centered around the family, his coming to America. As we just saw played out last year, when he threw that tell me what you think, cardinals, about, you know, divorce and the structure of the American -- of the family as a whole, you saw some very interesting dynamics. This pope likes to sort of toss out and sort of get a feel. I think you`re going to see some things tossed up to get a feel of where America is, and then he`ll come and address those issues, and I think -- MATTHEWS: I think he has to talk to people like the wife who`s in a terrible marriage and it`s over, you know, it just is over and she`s there alone. You have to talk to that person, who are victims of bad marriages. You have to talk to a lot of people who are gay, who are born gay, that`s how they feel, that`s who they are, and start talking to them as God`s people. He could do a lot of good there. Anyway, here`s John Boehner, the speaker, last week explaining why he invited the Israeli prime minister. Let`s see if it sounds like politics was involved at all. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I believe that the prime minister of Israel has a strong voice. He believes that the threat of the Iranians having a nuclear weapon is a very serious threat. The Israeli prime minister can also talk with some expertise about the growing threat of radical Islam. We`ve got a serious problem mountain world and the president just wants to act like it`s just going to disappear, so as a coequal branch of our government, I don`t have any problem at all in doing what I did to invite the prime minister to come to Congress and address those concerns. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: You know, one thing I think is not fair is to suggest the prime minister speaks for Israeli public opinion, pure and simple. You can go to Israel and argue about anything over there. It`s a very free country. You can be (INAUDIBLE), you can be (INAUDIBLE) now. You can be all across the board, Tzipi Livni. You have a right to speak. He`s going to come over and define Israeli foreign policy, define the U.S. interest and the Israel and say this is a fact, when in fact his Likud (ph) on the right, with a right bloc of people that are to the right of most Israelis. Your thoughts, Ken? VOGEL: Yes. MATTHEWS: He`s not speaking for the average Jewish people in Israel. He just isn`t. VOGEL: Well, I think there is sort of a lion`s share of population that is with him when it comes to Iran. However, that`s not what will decide this election. The election is by no means a slam dunk even if he - - MATTHEWS: Do you think average Israeli is a bombs away when it comes to Iran? VOGEL: I think the average Israeli is probably closer to him than is to Tzipi Livni. MATTHEWS: The bombing? I think he is. VOGEL: The bombing, you know, I`m not prepared to state (ph) to the polling on that. MATTHEWS: You think he`s for a two-state solution? Most Israelis are. Do you think he`s for a two-state solution, honestly? VOGEL: He does not seem to me.   MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that. You agree with me. Go ahead? TERKEL: I mean, this is essentially a campaign stop for him. And that`s what I think that`s why some Democrats are trying to push, if you want him to come, that`s fine, but why don`t you delay it until after the Israeli election, so it doesn`t look as political. MATTHEWS: Who you do think timed it? Do we know it? Was it Dermer, his ambassador here, or is it him? Or -- TERKEL: Reports -- I don`t know who timed it, but reports say the idea originated with Ron Dermer. STEELE: Yes, with Dermer. You know, at the end of the day, the reality still remains he`s going to come -- MATTHEWS: Dermer, by the way, says that he`s a civil servant, and I take him at his word. So, he shouldn`t be arranging a political oriented meeting, right? TERKEL: I think that`s what made people so uncomfortable is that it seemed like behind the scenes, he was strategizing with Republicans. Only now, he`s reaching to Democrats. VOGEL: I think it helps Republicans. It helps John Boehner. It helps Republican re-seize (ph) the mantle. MATTHEWS: Mike Brooks (ph) is in heaven, the guy who does the Jewish outreach for the Republican National Committee after the Scalise case hanging out with neo-Nazi, I think it`s a change of topics. STEELE: You guys are glossing over the substance of what could come out of this visit, dealing with the concern that the Israelis and a lot of Americans particular in Congress have about what we`re doing with Iran, what the administration is failing to do with Iran.   The administration wants room to negotiate with Iran. The Israelis are very uncomfortable with that. The global partnerships we have are saying you can`t trust these guys. So, at the end of the day, this is an opportunity to sort of put a stake in that particular heart when it comes to what the administration wants to do in Iran. So, there is, yes, the politics of it, but there is also a real substance to what the, you know, Congress and -- MATTHEWS: What`s the alternative to trying to negotiate an end to their perhaps move toward a nuclear weapon? What`s the alternative to trying to stop them before they get there? Is there some other policy that would keep them from having nuclear weapons than trying to talk them out of it through a combination of big -- (CROSSTALK) VOGEL: Not obviously -- there is the advocacy on the Israeli right for a nuclear -- for a military strike. MATTHEWS: Which you do every couple of years. You have to keep doing every couple of years, because you can tell, the minute we bomb them, or Israelis bomb them with our help, they`re going to go right back to rebuilding with 100 percent Iranian support for that. You`re never going to stop again. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So you have to stop them before they do it, I think. Anyway, thank you. We agree on the need to stop them. The roundtable is staying with us. Up next, this will blow your socks off. What is Bruce Jenner`s decision to say about tolerance and acceptance in this country in 2015? This is HARDBALL, a place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Obama is considering arming Ukraine with lethal weapons in its fight against pro-Russian separatists, and we`ll decide whether to go forward soon. Well, that`s news. That`s the word from Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Kiev today. Kerry says our interest is not a proxy war with Russia, but using all of our options to change Russia`s behavior in eastern Ukraine. Kerry`s visit comes as the leaders every France and Germany push a new peace proposal to the leaders in both Ukraine and Russia. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Everyone has their own idea of perfection. What would be perfection for you in the 10 events? BRUCE JENNER: Winning the Olympic Games, it`s that simple. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: When Bruce Jenner broke the Decathlon record at the Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976, he was held as the world`s greatest athlete. Overnight, Jenner became a national figure, attaining a celebrity status that many people did not believe. Now, 39 years later, Jenner is again at the forefront of the national conversation, with reports that he might transition into becoming a woman. And this comes as attitudes in this country on gender identity are changing dramatically, of course. Quote, "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof wrote today that, quote, "considering the violence and discrimination that transgender people endure, no one would go through this exception for the most profound motivations, to be authentic to ones inner self. Jenner seems to be preparing for a bold publish mission involving something intensely personal in a way that should open up minds and hearts. So, in my book, Bruce Jenner is now a gold medalist again. Come on, Wheaties, it`s time to put Jenner back on the box." That`s Nick Kristof from "The Times" today. We`re back with the panel, Michael, Amanda and Ken.   Amanda, what do you make of this in terms of our culture and the way we look at things as opposed to 40 some years ago. TERKEL: Well, I mean, I think transgender issues are getting a lot more attention, especially with shows like "Orange is the New Black". I think many people are a little bit weary. It`s important to note that Bruce Jenner has not confirmed that he is planning to transition. There`s been a lot of reports about it. Right, or at all. He has not really commented -- MATTHEWS: But the pictures that you see suggest it. TERKEL: So -- and his mother gave an interview saying she didn`t confirm it, but she is very proud of him. He`s being very courageous. So, I think people are weary. His family, reality show is not the most tasteful and classy affair. So, if he does decide to document his transition, is it going to be more like what we have seen from his family, or is it going to be an intimate portrayal of what it`s like emotionally and physically transition? MATTHEWS: Yes, you mentioned physically. He had his Adams apple shaved. There is differences in his face that make him more feminine. VOGEL: Grow his hair out. Yes, I mean, this is like the last frontier for gay rights. It is a subject that makes folks uncomfortable -- MATTHEWS: It`s also informative, and there is queue out there, people who are not quite sure, and I have to sympathize or empathize with the people who have a disconnect with the way they were born and the way they feel. I mean, it`s just a fact. These are people that didn`t think of being transgender, they have something in them. VOGEL: This is a sort of a challenge for public policy. We have legislation that protects or that seeks to protect employment, nondiscrimination, ENDA, there`s a bill. And even as recently as 2007 there was a big debate about having transgender protections in the bill was seen as a deal breaker. So, this is something that I think our society is still kind of gravitate away. MATTHEWS: Every HR department is looking at this not negatively. By the way, we have come a long way from these conditions being joke- worthy. It`s a big difference. Instead of joking and laughing at people, we go -- I`d like to know more what`s it feel like, what cause you do to this, it`s an opening that we haven`t had before.   Last December, in fact, in Ohio, Lela Alcorn (ph) committed suicide after struggling with her own gender identity. The note she left behind described the concerns of many in the transgender community. Quote, "The only way I will rest in peace is if transgender people aren`t treated the way I was. They are treated like humans with valid feelings and human rights. My death needs to mean something." Well, I can`t say it better than that. Thank you, Michael Steele, Amanda Terkel, and Ken Vogel. And I`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with these questions about the Saudi involvement in 9/11. The facts sitting there in front of us are hard to deny. Bin Laden, a Saudi, was behind the attack. Fifteen of the terrorists aboard those planes were Saudi, 15 out of 19. Somehow these facts got conveniently erased by a Bush administration that: (a), wanted to keep good relations with the Saudi government, i.e., the Saudi royal family, and, (b), wanted desperately to attack Iraq and therefore just as earnestly wanted to direct voter anger toward it. There is always something murky about what happened on September 11, 2001. Why did that warning about al Qaeda to attack in the United States get by us? What did the administration know about the Saudi role in 9/11? Was there a policy by its government to close its eyes to what bin Laden outside Saudi Arabia, as long as they left the government there alone? And how much did the zealots brand of Islam preach in Saudi Arabia, led to the actions of its people, especially those 15 terrorists who struck us on the worst act of violence ever perpetrated in this country? Good questions. Who wouldn`t want them answered? Think about it. Who wouldn`t? And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.   THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>