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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/06/15

Guests: Marie Harf, Michael Weiss, Rory Kennedy

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Dying for humanity. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. "Let Me Start" tonight with news that the last known American captive of ISIS, 26-year-old humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller -- today, ISIS said she was killed in an air strike, buried in the rubble of a building. The United States has not confirmed that claim at all. Mueller is from Arizona. There she is. She was taken hostage by ISIS in August of 2013. Until today, her name had been kept quiet at the request of her family. The news comes the same week ISIS released a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned to death while trapped in a cage. For more, I`m joined right now by NBC`s Keir Simmons, who`s in Amman, Jordan. Keir, thank you so much for joining us. I -- personally, I got to tell you up front that however she died, if she died, she died as a victim of her captors. They captured her. They put her in a spot where she was killed. I don`t care what cover-up story they`ve got. But what evidence do we have now, hard, right now about what happened to this wonderful person? KEIR SIMMONS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you`re right. And really, what ISIS are trying to do, whatever the truth is, in making this announcement is they`re trying to really kind of shift the blame onto the Jordanians, onto the U.S., onto the coalition. But let`s just be absolutely clear. It was ISIS that captured her and held her hostage, if the facts of all of this are true, and the facts are not easy to be sure about. I mean, the Jordanians, Chris, are describing this as part of ISIS media propaganda, criminal campaign. And they are saying here that they can`t be sure that she has, indeed, been killed or how she has been killed (INAUDIBLE)   In ISIS, you are talking about a group that beheads innocent hostages, as you point out, that killed the Jordanian pilot by burning him to death. They say, How can you believe anything a group like this says? Particularly when an announcement like this, by them at this point, when the Jordanian public seem to be swinging behind the Jordanian government (INAUDIBLE) how can you, they say, that believe group, when it seems so convenient for them to make this announcement now? MATTHEWS: It`s more than convenient. I think it makes sense, their motive, if they`re lying completely, to blame whatever they did to this young woman, they can blame on the Jordanians and try to cause division at home in Jordan, anything to try to take it -- to exploit the horror of their own killing. They put this person in a situation where they`re going to be bombed, and then they blame it on their enemy to hope to cause confusion in the ranks on the other side. It`s just as I think you put it so well. Do we know how many more -- what is the next prospect fro them to grab another victim? Do we know if they have any potential to reach into, for example, Turkey and grab a tourist or a missionary or a business person? What`s their reach like? SIMMONS: Well, they do have a reach, Chris. I mean, with any organization like this, be it a criminal organization or a terrorist organization, what we know is that there are layers. So there are the hard core, violent hard core, if you like, and then beyond that, there are people who either explicitly or tacitly support that group. Now, I was in Turkey just recently on the Syrian border, and we knew that there were ISIS supporters along that area, and if (ph) known, too, for example, in Lebanon. That will be the case here in Jordan, too, which is a -- by far a majority Sunni Muslim country and has a long history, Jordan, by the way, of tackling and confronting Sunni extremism, jihadism. So yes, they have a long reach. You really hope that what you described there doesn`t happen, but once again, you see ISIS attempting to use an innocent hostage in order to further its own propaganda aims. And I will say one thing, though, Chris. I mean, in a sense, it also suggests that ISIS is under pressure, that they are having to resort to more and more extreme propaganda, if you like, more and more extreme actions because these air strikes, by some accounts, do appear to be having some effect, albeit ISIS still holds Raqqa, still holds Mosul in Iraq. MATTHEWS: OK, thanks so much, Keir Simmons, for that report, in Amman, Jordan. For now, I`m joined right now by Marie Harf, who`s deputy spokesperson for the State Department. Marie, this young woman -- I have to show the picture again. I mean, this gets to everyone`s hearts in this country, a young person, really not having seen much of the world yet, except what she is seeing is on her road to help people, whether it`s in Israel or in the Palestinian territories or in India or back in Arizona working with HIV victims. I mean, all she`s done, it seems, since she got out of college, is do good. That`s it. No politics, no personal aggrandizement. She didn`t go out to get famous or anything. Just -- we never heard of her until this horror. MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, and I want to be clear we have nothing at this point on our end, in the U.S. government, in the intelligence community, to corroborate these reports today. We`re looking into it. We`re looking into whether we even thought some of these targets the Jordanians hit where hostages had ever been held. So there`s a lot of unknowns tonight. So I want to be very careful before we get ahead of the story.   But you`re right. The people ISIL`s targeted we`ve seen -- Journalists, aid workers, people from around the world who just wanted to help the Syrian people, burning alive a fellow Muslim. And I think that`s why you`ve seen on the Jordanian side such resolve in their response, on our side, on everyone else`s side. And I really think they are trying to use this for propaganda value, and that`s why the rest of the Muslim world and the rest of the world has stood up and said, This does not represent us and this cannot stand. MATTHEWS: Yes, I think if we hadn`t been through the idiocy of Iraq, we`d be going to war with them right now on the ground. Anyway, that`s my view, we`re so angry about this. But shortly before her capture, Kayla told a local newspaper, "For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. I will not let this be something we just accept. It`s important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are, and from that place start caring and get a lot done." So she was committed here. Let me ask you about -- do they have -- I raised this with Keir Simmons, who`s a reporter, a correspondent, with you or (ph) at the State Department. Do we have any knowledge of their reach? Same question. Can they keep doing this? Can they keep plucking Americans or Westerners or targets of any kind out of missionary stations or churches or anywhere, or business groups in Turkey, on the border? Can they grab more people? HARF: Well, certainly, the most dangerous places, as we`ve said from the State Department, is Syria and Iraq. And these are places we want journalists to be able to cover. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: We have people there, don`t we? Aren`t there all kinds of people there? HARF: In Iraq, certainly. We don`t have a diplomatic presence in Syria anymore. But we want aid workers to get in there because they need the aid. And we want journalists to get in there because these stories need to be told. So we have very serious travel warning in place because there is a very serious threat in Syria, along the border with Turkey and in Iraq, and people are at risk if they go there, unfortunately, to tell the stories that these people need told to the world. But it is very dangerous, very dangerous. MATTHEWS: Tell me about the passions. I mean, you work at the State Department. It`s about world diplomacy. It`s about public diplomacy. What is the right American attitude that you guys -- Richard Stengel and other people over there, which you do -- what do you want the American people to feel? Because I feel like I`d like to zap ISIS from the planet. I don`t want them on the same planet with me sometimes. And yet I understand the politics, that we`re not in the mood in this country to launch another ground war, to go in there with 200,000 people, the bugles blowing, and some popular general leading the way. It doesn`t seem like anybody wants to do that. Even John McCain, the superhawk, won`t do that.   So what is the appropriate emotional response that you`d like to see Americans have? HARF: I think you can do both. I think you can say we are going to directly take this fight to ISIL. We`ve done that. American bombs are falling on ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, and with our partners. But we`re doing it in a strategic and a smart way. I think all of our hearts break when Americans overseas are held, when they`re taken hostage, but we know that we need to lead. I mean, you look today, the national security strategy we just released -- I know it doesn`t get a lot of headlines, but it talks about American leading from the position of strength and strategic patience and strategic goals that we have here. And it`s not about shooting from the hip. You`re exactly right. It`s not about sending combat troops in. It`s about where are our interests at stake, how can we best go after them, and sometimes it`s about taking direct military action, and we`ve done that in Syria and in Iraq now. MATTHEWS: Well, you`ve said it well. Thanks so much, Marie Harf of the State Department. Thanks for joining us. Michael Weiss is an editor of "The Interpreter" and author of the new book, "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror." So Michael, what`s going on in their heads over there, to do these horrible things like pouring gasoline on a guy, a soldier, a soldier, a serving soldier of his country doing his duty, to pour -- oh, I don`t want to think about this too much. But there it is. And now taking whatever happened to this young woman now, who is totally innocent -- I mean, not even a warrior. They don`t seem have anything but hate going for them. MICHAEL WEISS, "FOREIGN POLICY" COLUMNIST: Right. You have to understand, Chris, you know, we in the West think of ISIS as a sort of ragtag bunch of peasant terrorists, 14-year-old boys from Tunisia going off to do jihad. This is a complete misapprehension. The people in the upper echelons of this organization, almost to a man, have experience in the regime of Saddam Hussein. They were Mukhabarat officers, meaning special security services. They were Iraqi military. They were Iraqi military intelligence. What this tells us -- what this tells me, anyway -- is these are guys who were trained by the Soviets, including the KGB, at all forms of warfare -- conventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, and indeed, information warfare. Now, the video -- the awful, gruesome immolation of the Jordanian pilot -- that`s actually a 22-minute-long video. Most people are focused on the horrifying denouement of him going up in flames, but the first two thirds of that video is an extraordinarily adroit and sophisticated propaganda piece directed against the state of Jordan. They are showing Jordanian airplanes dropping bombs counterposed with images of dead Muslim babies. And they`re basically saying -- and this goes to the kind of heart of their jihadi ideology -- Jordan is an apostate, illegitimate regime. This is not the true Islam. The true Islam is embodied by ISIS, and these are Muslims killing other Muslims. Now, you and I watch this and think, I mean, this is just terrible, awful propaganda, and again, it ends in the death and horrifying murder of this young man. But to jihadists, this is quite, intoxicating. And you know, ISIS`s relationship with Jordan goes back decades. Abu Moussab al Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he was Jordanian. The guys brought into Iraq from Afghanistan, he training them up in an Afghan training camp funded by al Qaeda. A lot of the guys he brought with him were fellow Jordanians. You know, the Jordanians let this guy out of prison in 1994 as part of a general amnesty coinciding with King Abdullah`s ascension to the throne. They know this group extraordinarily well. That`s why they have people from AQI in their prisons that they`ve just hanged in retaliation for this. So ISIS preying upon that vulnerability. They`re preying up on that sort of inherent weakness, I think, in the coalition. A lot of the Arab countries that are on board or that have been up to this point feel this is not the right strategy. You can`t...   MATTHEWS: OK, you haven`t gotten to the point of why do they butcher people? Why do they burn them alive? Why do they behead Japanese? What have the Japanese ever done to them? I mean, what has that woman ever done to them? You haven`t gotten to the point of their willingness to let ideology, whatever it is, supersede any morality or any humanity. So what is it justifies their behavior in a way that`s almost beyond religion? Anything we do, as evil as it is objectively... WEISS: Right. MATTHEWS: ... is good because it furthers the causes of what? So it`s not about the smart politics vis-a-vis the Jordanians and the Hashemite kingdom. What is it in their souls that says anything goes? What is it? WEISS: To their mind, and what they`re trying to sell to the world and to their recruits is that these people are all complicit. They belong to crusader or Jewish conspiracy regimes. If they`re from Japan, fine. Japan is giving money and helping out with the coalition in some manner. If they`re a Western or American journalist, well, you come from, you know, this great infidel nation, and you`re paying taxes which goes to a war machine and all that. It`s propaganda. Look, I mean, the brutality -- I have to -- I have to emphasize this. This -- you know, the imaginative (ph) brutality of ISIS -- this is actually nothing new in the Middle East, Chris. I mean, Bashar al Assad`s regime has done this. They`ve set people alight. They`ve done even worse. Saddam Hussein used to throw dissidents into bags with feral cats as a form of torture. The difference with ISIS is they   it. The publicity is the thing. And actually, I hate to say it, they are counting on the West to do their bidding for them. I always say ISIS is -- sort of wants to be the Western news editor. That`s their kind of kind of function in propaganda. So we`re -- we`re sitting here, talking about this awesome, you know -- I should say horrifying brutality. Again, this is going to lead to recruitment. They are going to swell the ranks of their... MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. WEISS: ... organization because of what they`ve just done. MATTHEWS: Well, none of what you said is good news, but it`s what you say and you know what you`re talking about. Thank you very much, Michael Weiss. Coming up, meet the 2016 pander bears. This week, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and even Bobby Jindal all took their turns pandering to the far right, performing like dancing bears at the right-wing circus. And for Christie, a bad week just got worse, with his administration facing a new criminal investigation.   Plus, when President Obama denounced ISIS and all who kill in the name of religious, he also said Christians have used religion to justify evil, like during the Crusades and slavery. And those comments made at yesterday`s National Prayer Breakfast triggered a holy war, if will you from, the hard right. Lots of expected reaction to that. And the presidency in black and white. How has President Obama done when he`s had to confront the tricky issues of race in his own country? It`s been front-page news lately. We`re going to see how he`s handled it. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this sad rush to placate the enemies of science. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: The New Hampshire primary, as we said this week, is just about a year away, and a new Granite State poll from WMUR and the University of New Hampshire shows Jeb Bush now on top. The former Florida governor gets 16 percent of the vote, 5 in front of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are all tied in third with nine apiece. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The 2016 Republican pander bears are on the loose. This week alone, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Rand Paul took turns proving there`s no pander they won`t pursue to win favor with the hard right. Bobby Jindal made opposition to Common Cause a litmus test for being a true conservative. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: This Common Core fight, we are going to sometimes have people that we agree with on other issues fight us on this. And the Common Core fight`s a great example that if we`re really sincere and authentic and if we`re true conservatives in terms of what that means, we have to be for empowering individuals, especially parents when it comes to raising their children.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Never mind that in 2012, not a million years ago, Jindal himself praised his state`s adoption of Common Core standards, which he said would, quote, "raise expectations for every child." Complete pander there. Then there`s Rand Paul. He made vaccines sound like a risky bet in a CNBC interview. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I`m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they`re a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn`t own your children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That`s a pretty clear statement of cause and effect, don`t you think? But Rand Paul tried to clean up his statements after this. Quote, "I did not say vaccines cause disorders, just that they were temporarily (sic) related. I did not allege causation. I support vaccines. I received them myself and I had all my children vaccinated." Well, then there`s the great, big pander from Chris Christie, which came in answer to a question from our own Kasie Hunt. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Do you think Americans should vaccinate their kids? Is the measles vaccine safe? GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: All I can say is that I -- we vaccinate ours. So you know, that`s the -- the best expression I can give you of my opinion. You know, it`s much more important, I think, if you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. And that`s what we do.   But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things, as well. So that`s the balance that the government has to decide. It depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is and all the rest. And so I didn`t say I`m leaving (ph) people the option. What I`m saying is that we have to have that balance in considering parental concerns because no parent -- no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child`s health. (END VIDEOTAPE) measure of choice in things as well. So, that`s the balance that the government has to decide. It depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest. And so I didn`t say I`m leaving people the option. What I`m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns, because no parent -- no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child`s health. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK. Just to be clear, in that one sentence, he went around the bend there. He said he didn`t believe -- he believed in a measure of choice for parents whether to vaccinate their kids, but he also said he didn`t believe in options. Figure that one out. If anybody can figure out that, they`re really interesting to listen to mentally. Anyway, that`s one pander one there. Joining me right now is an expert on this, Steve Kornacki, host of "UP," and MSNBC political reporter Kasie Hunt. I want to start with Kasie because you really started this sort of week of pandering. You asked him I thought a pretty direct question: What do you think of requiring vaccinations for things like measles? And he seemed to give two answers. One, I want parents to have the option, but I don`t believe in having an option for the parents. I didn`t get it.   KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: In some ways, he was trying to have it both ways. I would also point out though that this is something that Christie has actually dealt with as governor for a long time. New Jersey has had over the years some strict rules about mandatory vaccinations. And so there`s been for a long time this community of parents that are concerned. And Christie dealt with them a lot when he was running for governor. And what he did as kind of gave his stock answer on this, which is to say on the one hand, they`re good for my kids, but the government shouldn`t be mandating them. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But then he said no options. HUNT: But I think it`s -- look, I think it shows you the difference in context, right, and how hard it is, even when you`re the governor of a very large state who stood on this national stage in many ways, to go from that stage to being potentially on a presidential one. That`s what he set himself up as. MATTHEWS: What you`re really saying is, it`s one thing to govern New Jersey and understand a state that has a pretty clear East Coast mentality and is for vaccinations generally, with some exceptions, to go out into crazy country where it`s become an ideological issue, an ideological issue. Let me go to Steve. This is to a lot of people like fluoride in the water was back in my day, where fluoridation meant the communists are manipulating our minds through the water or they`re forcing us to accept sort of socialization of the water we drink. The ideological factor is what makes this hot, just like Common Core, which we will get to. Everything now in the Republican Party you have to measure between established scientific thinking and then you have to go all the way over to the other end, the one idiot and say, well, how about those who don`t like established scientific thinking and you have got to square that circle every single time. As Kasie just said, you have got to meet all these concerns in one answer, which is what you heard right there from the dancing bear himself. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes.   I mean, if you`re Chris Christie and you`re interested in running for president and being president, you have to worry, you`re saying, about the Republican base. And whatever the fixation happens to be of your party`s base, you have to be really responsive to that. I think with Christie, though, what is interesting and it`s particularly true because there`s so much built-in suspicion among the Republican base when it comes to him. He has less sort of a margin for error to begin with as he communicates to them. But it`s so interesting to me watching Chris Christie for years and listening to him right now. More than most politicians, I think, Chris Christie is really selective and really knows how to turn it on and off when it comes to seeing gray. He has all of these moments where you can think of them, where it`s like get the hell often the beach, or where he stands up for a Muslim judge in New Jersey, where there`s black and there`s white and there`s absolutely no in between. He really makes a name for himself by coming down and taking firm stands, and that`s where he gets this reputation for straight talk and for telling like it is and all that stuff. And it`s so interesting to contrast that with what you just heard there, where suddenly when it comes to, like, well, the general electorate is over here and the Republican electorate or parts of the Republican electorate are over here. And so he tries to put himself somewhere in the middle. I think where he gets himself into trouble is, that`s particularly jarring for him, because people are so accustomed to the so-called straight-talking, plain-talking Chris Christie. MATTHEWS: This is how Hillary Clinton got in trouble when she was doing in the Drexel debate last time around and she had to keep Eliot Spitzer happy with his giving driver`s licenses to people not here legally and the Hispanic community happy and also keeping the general electorate happy that didn`t like any of that stuff going on. She got caught in that. This is called, anyway, getting in the middle. Anyway, Jeb Bush back in December this past year said Republican candidates had to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general, which would basically involve not pandering. Let`s listen to Jeb. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I kind of know how a Republican can win, whether it`s me or somebody else, and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to, you know, to be practical now in Washington world, lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles. It`s not an easy task, to be honest with you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Nor is it to any of these candidates, Kasie. They tell you, I`m going into the valley of death. I`m going to take a loss in Iowa, maybe a loss in New Hampshire, maybe a loss in South Carolina, but eventually I will reach the reasonable middle-of-the-road Republicans and win this thing.   That`s a heck of a gamble. HUNT: It`s a really nice thought to be able to do this, to sort of set out. And I think you heard his speech in Detroit. He did try to do it. He talked all about the right to rise. He cast -- he didn`t offer really any policies that are necessarily different than what other conservatives have offered over time, but the way he talked about it was different. I just -- it`s going to be an interesting test when the rubber hits the road whether or not that`s going to stand up in the face of attacks from all of these other Republicans day after day after day. Can he be joyful? I think anyone who`s ever run a presidential campaign will say that it is unusually anything but joyful. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Kasie Hunt. Thank you, Steve Kornacki. Brilliant, as always, you two. You can watch, by the way, Steve tomorrow morning at "UP." Get up early on Saturday morning here on MSNBC, with special guest Alex Trebek. Up next, the Academy Award-nominated documentary the "Last Days in Vietnam." Filmmaker Rory Kennedy joins us next, and she`s nominated for best picture, best doc. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.   By March of 1973, American ground troops had finally left South Vietnam. For this country, the war was over, yet hostilities resumed just two years later when the North Vietnamese launched an all-out invasion of the South. The documentary "Last Days in Vietnam" by award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy is about those final weeks before the fall of Saigon and it`s just been nominated for an Academy Award. The film tells the courageous story of the American personnel who against direct orders from the White House decided to save as many of their South Vietnamese allies as they could. And here`s a clip from the trailer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM") UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final battle of Saigon has begun. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That morning, there must have been at least 10,000 people ringing the embassy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a sea of people wanting to get out. They looked up at the helicopters leaving, and I could see their eyes, desperate eyes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no words to describe what a ship looks like that holds 200 and it has got 2,000 on it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no more helicopters. That`s it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As it took off, I could see the group right where we had left them. It was just so serious and deep a betrayal. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who goes? And who gets left behind?   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Rory Kennedy, director of the Academy Award-nominated film "Last Days in Vietnam." Rory, congratulations for the nomination. I guess the heart of this is something we didn`t know about, which is that these American guys and women decided to break rules and say, look, we`re going to defend our allies, we`re going to try to get them out of here. RORY KENNEDY, DIRECTOR, "LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM": Well, that was the part of the story that really excited me, and because I do think it`s revelatory for many people watching it. I think you know, Vietnam, when we think about Vietnam, it was a very dark moment in our nation`s history, you know, and certainly true for South Vietnam. And I think to know that there were heroes during this time, both South Vietnamese and Americans who risked their lives, who did everything they could to save as many Vietnamese as possible, is a story that we just don`t know. And there are real heroes that come out of this moment, who just did the most exceptional things. MATTHEWS: What was the fate of the people that didn`t get on the helicopters? KENNEDY: Well, you know, of course, I think that the desperation that you saw in those images was based on a fear that the South Vietnamese had about what would happen to them. And, indeed, many of them were tortured. They were killed. Many of them spent years in reeducation camps, which was basically hard labor. So, you know, there was real struggle for those who were left behind. There`s a man in our film, Dan Pham (ph), who worked with the Americans. He was promised that we would get him out if there was a need. He wasn`t able to get out during those last days, and he ended up spending 13 years in a reeducation camp. And I think, you know, stories like that are enormously valuable, and I think they`re important for us to remember as a nation when we have these wars, when we engage in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what is our responsibility to the people who are left behind, who are our allies, who worked with us?   We leave. We left Vietnam, but then the Dan Phams (ph) of the world spend 13 years reeducation camps. MATTHEWS: Well said. I keep thinking about the interpreters over there, so many thousands of interpreters in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who are sitting in a very bad situation when we leave it. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead. KENNEDY: They`re begging to come to our country and they worked so closely with us, and, you know, they gave everything to us. And I think that we do have a responsibility to our allies and to our friends. MATTHEWS: Well, facing the possibility of death at the hands of the North Vietnamese, the citizens fleeing from South Vietnam were so desperate that they often took great risk to escape. Here`s a clip from the film showing the last flight out of Da Nang, as the communists took over the city. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM") UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our plane is surrounded here. I don`t know how the hell we`re going to get out. We`re racing down the runway, leaving behind hundreds and thousands of people. About a dozen of them running along, grabbing at the air stair. We`re pulling them on as fast as we can. There`s a sea of humanity jamming on. Impossible to stop the crowd. We`re pulling away. We`re leaving them behind. We`re pulling up with the -- people are falling off the air stairs. The plane is taking off.   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was every man for himself. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So, what`s the lesson? I guess that`s too big a question, but it`s about loyalty to allies, I guess. KENNEDY: Well, that`s part of -- that`s part of the lesson. I think, you know, part of the lesson for me is, these stories of the men who are on the ground, who did the right thing, and it`s in this face and this wave of history that is moving against them and heading in such a terrible direction, where we`re abandoning our allies, and where people are going to be left to be tortured and killed. And in the face of that, the people on the ground did the right thing. And I think there`s such an inspiration and such a great message there about trying to be the best that we can be. You know, imagine if -- you know, we look at these disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, if we want to see them as disasters, and difficult situations, if we as a country said, let`s be the best that we can be in these instances, let`s do the best that we can, give in where we are in time and place right now. MATTHEWS: So well said. KENNEDY: And I think that`s -- I think that`s a valuable lesson. And these folks, you know, can remind us of what our potential is, really. MATTHEWS: Rory, I think we`re going to hear a lot from you in years to come. Rory Kennedy, a great person, thanks so much for this great -- good luck in the Oscars. KENNEDY: Thanks.   MATTHEWS: They`re not as important as the story, but good luck. KENNEDY: That`s true. Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: Up next, the far-right freak-out over President Obama`s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier to try and advance peace talks to end the violence in Ukraine. Meanwhile, in Brussels, Vice President Biden says Ukraine is fighting for its survival, as Russia continues to escalate the conflict in the country`s east. And health insurer Anthem is warning consumers about phishing scams targeting customers after a recent hacking. The personal information of about 80 million people was compromised -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, conservatives out there are red hot, outraged, you might say, over President Obama and remarks he made just yesterday at the thing called the National Prayer Breakfast. The president denounced violent extremism in his remarks and also challenged Americans to reflect on Christianity`s own history with violence. Here he is.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge, or worse, sometimes used as a weapon. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism. And humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow, all too often was justified in the name of Christ. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it didn`t take long for those on the hard right to pounce on the president slamming him for drawing a moral equivalency between Christianity and Islamic terrorists. Former Pennsylvania Republican Senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, of course, said today`s remarks by the president were inappropriate and his choice of venue was insulting to every person of faith at a time when Christians are being crucified, beheaded and persecuted across the Middle East. And former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore said, quote, "The president`s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I`ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share." For more I`m joined by tonight`s roundtable: Clarence Page is a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune", April Ryan is a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and author of the brave new book, "The Presidency in Black and White". We`re going to talk about that in just a minute. And David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones". I want to give April a lot of time in a minute. But I`m going to start with you. David, I thought it was extraordinary the president reached back 1,000 years to the Crusades and talked about the evil the of the Crusades, which were beyond anything ISIS has ever done, thousands and thousands killed in Hungary, killed in Turkey. I mean, nobody can believe. We didn`t learn this from watching Disney movies. DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Right.   MATTHEWS: The amount of people killed by the Crusades had nothing to do with restoring the holy lands. CORN: Well, yes, but it wasn`t just the Crusades. He also talked about slavery and even more recently, Jim Crow, all justified by some, not by all, on the basis of Christianity and belief in God, that, you know, the Bible says that Abel has mark of Cain, and that stuff, and they use Christianity to justify these things. I think his only point here is that before you start saying that radical Islam is something different and using it t it -- realize that every major religion has had its time period where it`s been distorted and used by a certain set of small extremists to violent ends. MATTHEWS: OK. CORN: And it all comes after a week or two of this new conservative talking point that the president won`t call them radical Islamists, that he says they`re terrorists, jihadist, extremists, and the right wants to call them Islamist, they want to tie religion to the terror. MATTHEWS: But the Crusades in all fairness weren`t launched by a bunch of outriders. They were lead by Urban II, but by the largest -- the Christian church of 11th century. CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Details, Chris. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You say it`s horrible but they were definitely religious. PAGE: The argument is that religion is used to justify great violence, long the order of that, which we`ve seen with ISIS. That was the point, and he also mentioned the Spanish Inquisition. I mean, he bought in old manner -- MATTHEWS: But it was clearly a Christian act. It wasn`t by outriders?   PAGE: It was only within our lifetime, Chris, that the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for arguing in favor of slavery, justifying it with the Bible for several hundred years. MATTHEWS: So, it is moral equivalency. CORN: No, no, it`s not -- (CROSSTALK) PAGE: What do you mean moral equivalence? MATTHEWS: All religions are bad. PAGE: Not bad. Let`s try not to be so polarizing. Let`s try to use some nuance because the fact is, religion is used to justify evil quite often. And it shouldn`t be, and that was Obama`s point. But the main thing, Obama is in his last two years in office. He is saying what he really thinks now. He`s obviously tired of people trying to demonize Islam as if they`re terrible and all Christians are wonderful. MATTHEWS: I am with him. Anyway you guys, see how I did a bear- baiting with the chair? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think April`s great to husband her time here. Rush Limbaugh also joined the chorus of those who accused President Obama of insulting Christians and downplaying militant Islam. But Limbaugh took it even further, saying Obama has a problem with our country. Here he is.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think this national prayer breakfast kind of dots the I, crosses the T on all this. We have a guy, a man who really has a problem with this country, has a problem with this nation`s founding. He has a deep-seated problem with this nation`s existence. He doesn`t like the fact that we`re a super power, thinks it`s not been honestly earned. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, I thought that the walrus was smart here to avoid the religious issue. Did you notice? I call him the walrus, underwater. He talks about (INAUDIBLE). You know, he didn`t talk about religion because he knows that would be too hypocritical. (CROSSTALK) PAGE: Talk about holier than thou. APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: But let me say this, the Republicans are trying to find their way now. It`s all about 2016. And I think they are trying to pounce on anything they can and the White House knows patriotism, race and religion, one of the hot buttons that set them off. For Rush Limbaugh, for Bing Carson, who likes to jump on statements at any time to make himself relevant for the moment, that`s all that this is about. CORN: Can I disagree with my good friend a second? RYAN: Thank you.   CORN: I agree -- I mean, I agree with that point, but I don`t think it`s just about 2016. I think we`ve talked about this numerous times. There`s been a campaign from the very beginning to depict Barack Obama as the other. Someone who`s not really American, he doesn`t believe in American -- RYAN: As Rush Limbaugh said, he doesn`t care about this country, and the founding. What does that mean? (CROSSTALK) CORN: That he`s a secret Muslim, wasn`t born here plays into this. It`s at the core of Obama -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, if you`re in the party, the Republican Party, and you`re getting smaller number compared to other people, Democrats. Minorities, OK, what do you got to do? You go to outspend them? You get all the rules changed and you`re going to spend them, right? CORN: Yes. And they -- MATTHEWS: You got to do that. What else you have to do? Make sure they don`t get to vote? What else to do? Make sure they don`t. And there, claim god. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. We`re up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Well, the January jobs report was out today and show as major boost in job growth -- 257,000 jobs were added in January, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7, but that`s because more people were looking to reenter the workforce. All good news. Today`s report follows two strong months of job gains, making a three-month stretch the biggest boom in labor market growth in 17 years. Things are looking up. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, April, Clarence and David. You know, April is author of the, that`s April her, not April the month, a new book, "The Presidency in Black and White." She`s talking about Obama and other presidents she`s covered. In it, she looks at the last three presidents of the United States and how they dealt with the issue of race. Well, this week the subject was in the news again, thanks to a leaked excerpts of a new book by former Obama advisor David Axelrod. One anecdote in particular about the concession call that Mitt Romney made to President Obama on election night in `12. It has gotten a lot of attention. According to "The Daily News", Obama was, quote, "unsmiling during the call and slightly irritated when it was over. The president Hung up and said Romney admitted he was surprised at his own loss. Quote, `You really did a great job getting the vote out of places like Cleveland and Milwaukee, in other wards, black people`, Obama said, paraphrasing Romney. That`s what he thinks this was all about." Anyway, for the record, Mitt Romney`s body man disputed Axelrod`s characterization, but wouldn`t he? OK, let`s go right now. April, the president has a thin skin about winning with the black charge -- oh, he`s just won with the black majority. He got out the vote in the big city. That`s why he won. America didn`t choose him. RYAN: America did choose him. It was a large part of America that chose him. Yes, African-Americans, women, as well as LBGT, and other people, and whites as well. Yes, he got a large majority of African- Americans in the 90 percentile range. But you had to remember, this president had to navigate the waters successfully the first term. He did not ever want to amplify the issue of race because that is already there. Politics and race will always follow him.   But for that issue to be chided by Mitt Romney to talk to him about that, how dare he? This president was very tactful in how to navigate the waters on race. And for him to feel like Mitt Romney, the man who was the white male president, to talk to him about race, how dare you? That`s the president, that is the president. MATTHEWS: I was thinking, Clarence, the first debate, when I thought Mitt Romney looked down on him as a man, like I`m better than you, I`m whatever white, I`m rich Mormon, I`m a business guy, I`m Ivy League, I`m prep school, in every way, I`m superior to you. And it really bugged me because it worked. It seems to intimidate Obama like with, OK, with that kind of cock-sure arrogance, you`re going to get away with a debate win this time and I`m coming back. PAGE: I thought it was just the opposite. I thought Obama was overconfident in that first debate. And afterwards, when he looked at the tape Axelrod showed him, they said, I was pretty bad, wasn`t I? (CROSSTALK) PAGE: Not just you, but a lot of people were jumping up and down like crazy people, but part of that is Romney, too, though. One of his deficits is he can`t help but look arrogant sometimes. MATTHEWS: Yes, but it worked that night. PAGE: And blah, blah, blah. MATTHEWS: Anyway, to call the guy up and say, you won because you brought the black areas in, he`s exactly what Cronkite said to Kennedy, that night he won the Wisconsin primary, sure he won because of Catholic areas. Can they win through the roof? He said, now we`ve got to West Virginia. You have taken away my victory. Go ahead. CORN: Well, it is condescending, and after the election there was a conference call with Mitt Romney and some funders and they got reported at the time, in which he essentially said Obama won because he promised things to certain voters. MATTHEWS: Yes.   CORN: Again, the 47 percent, the black -- MATTHEWS: He bought the black vote. CORN: He bought the black vote, and the Latino vote and everything else. And again, it`s like he sort of did this unfairly, and he`s really not -- it goes back to what we`re talking about the previous segment, he is not a true American, he`s not a true American leader, he doesn`t bring the country together. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: We can`t do everything on the show. But your book can do everything (ph). This weekend, if someone went to Amazon or go to a bookstore. RYAN: Barnes and Nobles, any bookstore, -- MATTHEWS: What does it say? Let`s try it. What does it say to the general public? RYAN: What does it say to the general public? It`s is a personal and political stories that takes the veil off of the White House. It takes the mystery off. We`re talking about Mitt Romney. There is a story in here about how Mitt Romney brought together black reporters in Frankenmuth, Michigan, and I was one of the reporters, and I asked him a question about black unemployment rate, and you know what he said? I don`t understand. I was not speaking a foreign language or Ebonics, I was speaking clearly, and he didn`t understand. MATTHEWS: Understand what, a question about what`s the story on black unemployment? RYAN: Yes, how is he going to bring it down? So, it was very interesting. We`ve got a lot of stories. CORN: There is a great Bill Clinton story.   RYAN: Great Bill Clinton -- CORN: The whole issue about whether they -- MATTHEWS: Does your book say anything good about W.? RYAN: Yes, it does. MATTHEWS: PEPFAR, right? RYAN: PEPFAR, Africa, yes. He was the president known to have done the most for Africa. But he did get an F for Katrina, because people were disenfranchised and they died. MATTHEWS: He should have showed up with water bottles and stood there handing them out. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: It would have helped, like LBJ would have done. In fact, LBJ did do it once. Anyway, thank you, Clarence Page. Good luck, April Ryan. The name of the book again?   RYAN: "The Presidency in Black and White." MATTHEWS: OK, I really like to help you with books. Clarence, what`s the name of your most recent -- PAGE: "Culture Warrior." MATTHEWS: "Culture Warrior", warrior, "Culture Warrior", get yourself a book. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a sad rush to placate the enemies of science. Chris Christie gives a merry-go-round answer to Kasie Hunt`s question about whether states should require vaccinations for school children. There he goes round and round trying to tag all the bases and make sure he doesn`t look like he`s too modern, too moderate, or even too educated. Can`t do that. Bobby Jindal, who once praised his state`s adoption of Common Core education standards now talks about empowering parents to fight them. Rand Paul meanwhile just said that vaccinations cause mental problems and then says he never said. Well, he did. Everyone sees this scared, desperate politicians trying to avoid controversy. You see them struggle to protect themselves from what`s become the mortal sin of current politics, showing any evidence of personal conviction.   You see, the game here is not say what you think and make a case for it. It`s not to show you have spine. No, the game here, being demonstrated so well by a trio of tap dancers, is to display your jelly like ability to speak without conviction, to think only enough to navigate your way around the truth, to take pride not near fidelity to principle, but in your agility, your ability to stroll right up to the presidency by following a safe and therefore well-tried path of others before you. How can you add hire politicians who lack the basic human instinct to say what they believe? 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. 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