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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/11/15

Guests: Sen. Joe Manchin Rep. Scott Perry, Steve Clemons, Rep. DonnaEdwards, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jeremy Peters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: War power. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Late today, President Obama blew the bugle. He asked the U.S. Congress to approve what amounts to a declaration of war against the terrorists of ISIS, the authorization for use of military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Will the Congress give it to him, this authorization to go to war with ISIS? Will doves have faith in the language in the war authorization that rules out, quote, "enduring offensive ground combat operations"? Will hawks say this overly ties the president`s hands? The president said he hopes to have strong bipartisan support for the war authorization against ISIS, but could the combined opposition of doves and hawks alike deny him that support? And how`s that going to look to America`s enemies? The draft language from the White House today says "The president is authorized to use the armed forces of the United States as the president determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL or its associated persons or forces." However, it also sets, as I said, some limits, according to the draft. Quote, "The authority granted does not authorize the use of United States armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations." Well, this afternoon, the president elaborated on what this authorization was not, another Iraq or Afghanistan war. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolution we`ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq. As I`ve said before, I`m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That`s not in our national security interests and it`s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL, and that`s what they`re doing. At the same time, this resolution strikes the necessary balance by giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Joining us right now is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, do you think the United States should be using military force to defeat ISIL? SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Oh, we`re going to have to use military force. It`s a matter of, do we use our own combat troops on the front lines and get bogged down like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not intended to, and I appreciate the president for saying he doesn`t intend for that to happen. But you know, in West Virginia, we have a little common sense and we know what the word of insanity means, the definition of insanity, and it looks like over in that part of the world, you just get bogged down. And if money or military might would have changed it, we`d have done that by now, Chris. So -- and you read the thing about the enduring offensive ground combat operations. MATTHEWS: Right. MANCHIN: What does that really mean? MATTHEWS: Well, what could it mean to you in a way that would concern you and make you perhaps vote against this resolution? MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is, I`m not going to vote for anything that has the interpretation that we can have combat ground forces on the front line fighting someone else`s war. Now, we`re going to go after ISIL. It makes no difference. We`re going to protect America. But if we could just fast track Jordan, getting them the necessary equipment they need to fight this war, if we can get the Turks to engage, if Saudis would engage -- the Kurds are fighting and doing a heck of a job and we ought to make sure we`re getting them the equipment to do the job. The other thing is, Chris, the 2001 AUMF -- it`s still in force. I don`t really know what the reason or the purpose why we need this one if you`re not going to repeal 2001. MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just looking at the language that you just mentioned, Senator. I know you`re going to have to deal with this in a more fine way, word by word...   MANCHIN: Sure. MATTHEWS: ... but one word that looks like it bothers you is "enduring," that you want to basically say let`s have no offensive ground combat operations. Wouldn`t that get to where you`re at? MANCHIN: Yes. I think from the standpoint, we do have to look at this, and if we can get it to the point that we have some comfort with that, but "enduring" right now could mean that, basically, Oh, we don`t intend for them, but we`re going to go ahead and put, if it takes 5,000, 10,000 or (ph) surge -- surge, I mean, you`re putting an awful lot of American lives on the front line again, and we`ve seen the outcome of that. I don`t wish to repeat that one. They`re not determined to fight their own ground war over there yet (INAUDIBLE) I would think Jordan and King Abdullah was very, very precise in what he was going to do, and he did it. We need to have... MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you -- yes, you know what I know, Senator, probably more from briefings, but the president says today that he needs that authorization for anything short of enduring ground combat operations because there may be an opportunity to jump in there with special forces, SEALs or whatever, and capture a whole bunch of these bad guys at once. So he wants the option play to be able to go in there, not as a big front line moving -- sweeping across the ISIS territory, but in that opportunity. He wants to have a chance to use ground forces in an opportunity situation to grab the leadership. Are you against that? MANCHIN: What I`m saying, no. I want to make sure that we stop ISIL any way we can to support, basically, the people over there who are fighting the front lines. The Iraqis are engaging. We have to use our special ops where we can to make sure that our air strikes, and you know, our -- that we`re being effective. Chris, the only thing I`m saying is that the 2001 AUMF is still in play. MATTHEWS: Yes. MANCHIN: That`s the one that Bush has used. That`s the one that President Obama has used, and a broad scope. I don`t know why they think this one here, who they`re trying to appease with it. If they were repealing 2001 and 2002, and we only had one to work on right now, that`d be a different story. So I`m going to wait and see what the language they come up with. If they`re able to change it a little bit, as you`re said, if we`re ever to have strategic strikes, get in and get out, all this could be different. But we haven`t seen that yet. MATTHEWS: I can see your argument, and certainly, your background in understanding all this and representing West Virginia. But the president is, I would say, to your left in terms of war. I think you know that. He`s a bit more dovish. You`re of a centrist mode, I think. Do you really think he`s going to turn out to be more hawkish than Joe Manchin? More hawkish. I mean, it doesn`t seem in his build (ph) to do that.   MANCHIN: I don`t -- I don`t -- I would hope that would not be. I mean, I say in West Virginia, you know, we`re one of the most patriotic states in the nation, veterans per capita and people still fighting. We`re willing to go anywhere to defend this country. But again, I`ve said, ground troops in that part of the world has not solved that problem. We`ve lost 6,000 -- more than 6,000 Americans already, 55,000 have been maimed, and we`ve spent $3 trillion, Chris. MATTHEWS: OK. MANCHIN: They have got to engage over there. Now, make no mistake, if it looks that ISIL`s a threat and coming in this direction, we`ll do whatever. We`ve got... MATTHEWS: OK... MANCHIN: ... more problems right now with them coming -- basically coming back to our country, coming to the Western world. MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the hardball question. We all look -- I know you do, as well as I do -- with incredible -- what`s the right -- agony at what they`ve done to our people over there, especially the young woman, Kayla... MANCHIN: Oh, my. MATTHEWS: ... Kayla Mueller, and what they did to that poor, courageous pilot for -- for Jordan. We look at that and we want to stamp it out. We don`t want that to be on our planet with us. We don`t want to see that happen again. We want to get the people and erase them who do that. At the same time, you draw restrictions. You say, Well, let the Jordanian air force do it, let the Kurds do it, let whatever there is of the Iraqi government or army, if there is such a thing, and they`re all Shia, and maybe these sort of -- these sleeper cells on our side in the Syrian Free Army, whatever they are. But in the end, do you see any coming together of ending this war, ending this ISIS organization in the near future? Do you see it in any future?   MANCHIN: Chris, first of all, my heart goes out to the families in these horrific tragedies, horrible atrocities to these people. My heart goes to out, along with every other American. But with that also, my heart goes out to over 6,000 American families that lost their loved ones trying to help that part of the world and those people in that part of the world. They`ve got to stand up and fight for themselves. They`ve got to clean up their mess. We`ve got to keep them from coming in through any way, shape or form into this country. Sleeper cells, whatever it may be, people coming back -- there are quite a few Americans engaged now. We`ve got to stop that. Europe has got a horrible problem with it. So these are the areas that we can keep them from coming in. Putting more troops on there, kind of rile them all up and ginning them up to go out and recruit and get more people fighting America -- that doesn`t seem to win that war over there. MATTHEWS: OK. A lot of thinking going into that. Thank you, so much. MANCHIN: (INAUDIBLE) MATTHEWS: I know it`s a complicated one. Thank you so much, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. MANCHIN: Thanks, Chris. Thank you. MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania. Congressman Perry, this is a tough one, but would you support the authorization for us of military force against ISIS as it`s been written today by the president? REP. SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I don`t know if I`d support it as written, Chris, but I think -- I certainly think it`s time to update the authorization of the use of force. I don`t think they were ever meant to go into perpetuity forever, as it seems they have. So I do support an authorization of the use of force, but I have questions, and I think many Republicans and Democrats have legitimate questions. And I think the president even -- he even kind of implied that that was going to be case and we were going to have a responsible conversation about the use of force and actually make it better. So with that, that`s kind of my position at this point. MATTHEWS: Well, he seemed to build a wall on his leftward side this time, his dovish side, by telling the doves, Look, it`s not going to be an enduring combat operation. PERRY: Right.   MATTHEWS: Do you have some concern on the other side, on the Republican or conservative side, that there`s not enough stretch to this thing and not enough width, bandwidth to get something done? PERRY: Yes, I think there is some question about the term "enduring." You know, what does that mean? And to some people, it means it`s a limitation. To others, it mean it could be wide open and it leaves it up to conjecture. And from my standpoint, while we`re looking at ISIS, what about Khorasan? And what about Boko Haram? And what about AQAP and all these different district (ph) groups that -- you know, today it`s ISIS, but tomorrow it`s going to be somebody else. And so is it too limiting? This is an ideology. You know, it transcends borders... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They still have the 2001 document he`s not going to get rid of, which is pretty -- pretty inclusive, isn`t it, according to your concerns? PERRY: That`s exactly right. And quite honestly, the president already said he`s got the article 2 power. So maybe this is an unnecessary -- at all, but you know... MATTHEWS: I think that`s a good point. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I bet he`d argue that point, if he has to. PERRY: Well, I agree. I think he would argue it, and I think he`s already said it. So that, you know, I think he`s coming to the Congress for validation. And you know, listen, I think is an appropriate discussion to have, but I don`t necessarily believe that what he sent is ready for primetime, and Congress has to do its part. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at here -- the speaker had today -- he had to say about the president`s strategy, or lack that (ph) of, to defeat ISIS. So far, he seemed to not believe there is such a strategy. This is a good argument, and I want you to respond to what the speaker says. Let`s watch.   PERRY: OK. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I believe that if we`re going to authorize the use of military force, the president should have all the tools necessary to win the fight that we`re in. And so as you`ve heard me say over the last number of months, I`m not sure that the strategy that`s been outlined will accomplish the mission that the president says he wants to accomplish. And his point, the president`s point, is that he wants to dismantle and destroy ISIS. I haven`t seen a strategy yet that I think will accomplish it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Congressman, same question I asked Senator Manchin of West Virginia. How do you connect our hatred of what these people have been doing to their prisoners over there -- burning somebody alive, a good soldier, killing one of the American women -- whatever way they did it, they killed her. And yet we`re limiting ourselves to helping their Jordanian air force, maybe helping what there is of the Iraqi army, helping the Kurds, as always, maybe having the Free Syrian Army somehow get equipped to fight and trained. But it doesn`t seem like our emotions are backed up by our actions. It doesn`t seem to be enough there. My thinking. Yours? What are yours? PERRY: My thoughts exactly. With all due respect to the speaker, I think what we see from the president is some aspirational goals, right, an objective. We want to defeat ISIS. We want to destroy ISIS. But that`s not a strategy. That`s where you want to end up, but he hasn`t laid out the points about how we get there. He hasn`t talked about the financial implications, the diplomatic implications, how we get the other nations in the neighborhood, get their soldiers, get their -- you know, get their lives engaged and involved because they have the most to lose. That`s what a strategy includes, and quite honestly, we haven`t seen that from the president on the greater issue of terrorism, of ISIS, or on Syria, which is right next door. What happens when we`re done with ISIS and we end up in Syria with Assad? What`s the plan? MATTHEWS: And you`re a military man, right? PERRY: I served in Iraq, yes, sir. MATTHEWS: I know that. That`s why I wanted you to say so. Thank you for your service, sir. Anyway... PERRY: Thank you, sir.   MATTHEWS: ... United States Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Coming up, the horror of what happened to American hostage Kayla Mueller raises a critical debate, and it`s a hot one. Should we pay ransom for prisoners? Should people be allowed to pay it? President Obama says there`s nothing harder than telling a parent we, the United States, will do everything possible to bring your child home short of paying ransom. Plus, David Axelrod, who was President Obama`s top strategist says there were 12 days during the 2012 presidential campaign when he was actually worried -- catch this, this is the news -- about Sarah Palin and her amazing electoral ability at the time. Axelrod`s joining us tonight with An inside look at both Obama campaigns, `08 and `12. Plus, we`re going to look ahead to `16 and some of the early stumbles by the big names in the race. And that`s happening already. The big announcement that shocked our world will have a huge impact on late-night comedy. Jon Stewart is stepping down from "The Daily Show." Boy, news out there. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the president`s call for Congress to back military action against ISIS. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Late today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Keystone pipeline bill. The vote was 270 to 152, with 29 Democrats joining all but one Republican in favor of the pipeline bill. The bill will now head to the White House, where President Obama is expected to veto it. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama in an interview with Buzzfeed talked about the anguish of talking to the parents and family members of hostages and telling them that the United States will do everything possible to secure their release except pay ransom.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My immediate reaction is heartbreak. You know, I have been in touch with Kayla`s family. She was an outstanding young woman, had a great spirit, and I think that spirit will live on. The one thing that we have held to is a policy of not paying ransoms with an organization like ISIL. And the reason is, is that once we start doing that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent people and strengthening their organization, but we`re actually making Americans even greater targets for future kidnappings. So you know, it`s -- it`s as tough as anything that I do, having a conversation with parents, who understandably want, by any means necessary, for their children to be safe. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The president went on to point out that paying ransom actually makes Americans less safe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The one thing that we have held to is a policy of not paying ransoms with an organization like ISIL. And the reason is, is that once we start doing that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent people and strengthening their organization, but we`re actually making Americans even greater targets for future kidnappings. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: But is paying ransom to terrorists always wrong? Joining me right now is "The Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons and Maryland U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Steve, you first because you take a position which is not common. Tell me what you think about the appropriateness of an individual or an organization that has one of their members or family members taken captive by an ISIS-type organization. What should they do if they have -- if they`re called upon to pay ransom?   STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC": I think if families have the resources, if they have the ability to move in ways that save their loved ones, I don`t think government should be impeding that process. This is too dire a process if (ph) there. I feel that government should stay out of it. But the fact is, lots of governments do pay ransoms. And so you have, essentially, conflict between European governments and America in not paying them. I think they all not to pay them (sic), but we ought to remove the restrictions on families doing whatever they can to save their loved ones. I know it sounds like -- you know, I have any (ph) conflict with myself, but I just don`t see it is right that the United States government says it may prosecute families if they proceed in getting ransom money paid for their loved ones. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, where are -- Congresswoman, where are you on private families with the wealth to do it? Should they be giving the money to the ISIS forces to use as they will? They are not going to use it to pay for food and children. They`re going to use it for guns and bullets and torture. But do they think they should be doing that, morally, or politically or whatever? REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think, as the president has described, it`s a heart-wrenching choice for families. But I agree with the United States policy. I think it unfortunately, frankly, that some of our allies are indeed paying ransom. And I think that`s upped the ante for terrorists to continue their kidnapping and hostage-taking and to continue to finance their destruction. And so, as sad as it is, I think the government policy is the correct one. And my heart just breaks for families like Kayla`s, a wonderful young woman who was just trying to do good in the world. But I do think it`s the right policy for the United States. MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to that question to you, Steve. What about the use of the money? It`s a two-way street. You give a couple million bucks or whatever the current price is, 20 million bucks. You may have the family or you may have a corporation behind you that`s willing to dip into their treasury for that. That 20 million bucks or $2 million, whatever, goes towards the assets of a horrible, inhuman crowd. How do you justify that? CLEMONS: I mean, absolutely, it`s not a justifiable thing, absolutely. If you give money to terror organizations, it enhances the market for taking them. I think governments ought to do everything they can to stop that market from growing, except for the fact if a family member or someone was taken, I think that we ought to impede it. And we`re inconsistent. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: How? Just a minute. I think you have a problem here. (CROSSTALK) CLEMONS: I happen to know in the case of David Rohde of "The New York Times," "The New York Times" offered a ransom, and the U.S. government didn`t threaten "The New York Times." MATTHEWS: Well, what happens if you give somebody a lot of money? Are they likely to take another capture, another hostage and ask for more money? It seems to me that would be human nature. CLEMONS: Of course they are. But -- yes, but, Chris, I agree with that -- what you said last night. I think that there are other elements of power to go down and track, kill, try, bring to justice those people that kidnap people. And that ought not to be a pressure that is borne by the family of James Foley, Kayla Mueller and others. MATTHEWS: OK. Last word to the congresswoman. What would you say to a friend of yours who may be a person of great means, who has a lot of money in the bank, and their young son or daughter is grabbed? What would you say to them when they came to you for counsel? What would you do? EDWARDS: You know what? If my son were grabbed, I would want to do everything possible to free him, including reach out to anybody I know who is wealthy to do that. I mean, that is the inequality in all of this, the inequity in it. But I do think that our policy is the right one. And I think that we have an obligation to try to pursue these terrorists and to, you know, stop the terror. But I would hate for us to change our policy. I do think that it has kept us and our citizens actually safer, knowing that there is not this point of negotiation.   MATTHEWS: OK. EDWARDS: And I really do worry about our citizens around the world who might be subject to hostage-taking if they knew that there was a great ransom at stake. MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Steve Clemons, my friend. Thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards, also my friend. Up next: What got David Axelrod worried before Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential race? You will be astounded by the news. It`s in his book. Axelrod is coming here in a minute. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be candy. And welcome back to HARDBALL. David Axelrod has been the chief strategist and political adviser to President Obama`s successful Senate and two presidential campaigns. he served as a senior adviser to the president in the White House as well, coaching him through debates. He remains a close friend. As a preeminent Chicago-based political consultant, he`s led dozens of local and statewide candidates to victory out there and also across the country.   He`s now the director of the University of Chicago`s Institute of Politics and the author of a great new book, "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics." David Axelrod joins me now. I don`t read every book I have on this show, but I am reading this one. And I have read a lot of it. And let`s start with the first big surprise in the book. Sarah Palin, she is an issue of dispute in our production staff almost every day. DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes. MATTHEWS: Some people are true believers in her as a political product. They just think she is something. You were worried from the time of her great acceptance speech, where she just dazzled the country, up until the Lehman Brothers crash, which was only 12 days, September 3, 2008, to September 15. In those 12 days in this book, it`s amazing what you were concerned about, her potential. AXELROD: Well, there`s no doubt that she was that little bit of energy drink for the McCain campaign that badly needed it. And it shook things up, and it shook things up because she provided this sense of change and newness and assault on the Washington establishment, which was really undermining our message. So, you know, by the time the -- the day before the Lehman Brothers crash, we were getting together because our poll had us one point ahead in that race. And it was largely because of the energy that Palin had inserted into the McCain campaign. MATTHEWS: Here`s my favorite -- I love the way you write. You`re a good writer, by the way. AXELROD: Thank you.   MATTHEWS: You don`t have any ghosts out there. AXELROD: Thank you. MATTHEWS: "The East Coast establishment might disdain her as unlettered and ill-prepared, but that would only make her more appealing to millions of Americans who felt that they had been getting the raw end of the deal." That -- you understand that the way that Carville understands it, that there`s a lot of working-class regular good Democrats who vote Republican once in a while because of the culture thing and the attitude towards the elite. They don`t like the elite. AXELROD: See, that was the mistake people made. When she was picked, people focused on the fact that she was a woman. The fact that she was a woman wasn`t the key. The fact that she had this cultural affinity for these disaffected working-class Americans was what made her potent. MATTHEWS: Yes. She was wasn`t Yale. She wasn`t Seven Sisters. She wasn`t elite. She went to five colleges, like a lot of people, and finally got a degree. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Yes. And she spoke to them. And when she spoke at the convention and really kind of thumbed her nose at the establishment, she found a responsive chord. That speech was well-received. MATTHEWS: Yes. Anyway, you also write that you -- I was going to say she`s very attractive as a candidate by any standard, since Jack Kennedy. I don`t think anybody looks as good as her. Anyway, the trouble early...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You want... AXELROD: One thing I wanted to say about this, though, Obama had a really interesting reaction when we heard that she had been picked. MATTHEWS: Yes. AXELROD: He said, that`s really -- I understand why he`s doing it, he said, but this is really tough, this national thing. It took me six months to be a good candidate. He said, she may be the greatest politician since Ronald Reagan, that she should could come out of Alaska after a year of being governor and handle this, he said, but give this three weeks, four weeks. Let`s see how it settles. And the truth is, she ran into some problems. MATTHEWS: Well, Katie Couric. AXELROD: Exactly. MATTHEWS: Katie Couric. Anyway, she asked her what she reads, which you could say was a snarky question, except it isn`t. It`s a reasonable question. She didn`t want to answer it. AXELROD: Yes. MATTHEWS: Anyway, you saw -- let`s talk about the 2012 election, which turned out to be much closer.   You talk about the early trouble in that first debate with Mitt Romney, the one I went crazy about on television. I think you were watching me. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Yes. Yes. I didn`t need a TV to hear you, Chris. MATTHEWS: Here`s the beginning of that first debate which jumped out of my head, that one. Go ahead. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that, 20 years ago, I became the luckiest man on earth, because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me. And so I just want to wish, sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that, a year from now, we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people. (LAUGHTER) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I`m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here -- here with me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: See, what you wrote about that is great.   AXELROD: Yes. No, I... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The president was phony, and the challenger seemed authentic. AXELROD: And, clearly, he was -- in baseball parlance, he was laying on the pitch. Romney -- they sniffed out that we might do something on the anniversary, and he knew exactly what he was going to do, and he looked completely natural doing it. Obama looked force in doing it. It was painful, and it was just the beginning of the pain. It was a very tough night for us. MATTHEWS: Explain to me, because I, like everybody else, went crazy out here watching it and I go, why didn`t he fight, why didn`t he fight? And then I looked at Romney. He had all of the traits I despise, aloofness, elitism. He seemed like, I`m the white guy against the black guy. I`m the Mormon, well-educated, prep school guy against the guy who is not. I have got all these advantages over him. I don`t know what mix it was, in fairness to Romney. But there was a sense of superiority that really bugged me, and yet it worked for him. You call it comfort. You said charm. I don`t know about charm. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: No, I actually thought he was very well prepared for that debate and he handled himself well in that first debate. You see, he understood what Obama resisted, he knew, but he resisted, which is debates aren`t a free exchange of ideas. Debates are performances. You practice your lines, you know what you`re going to do when you hear a question. And if your team has practiced with you, prepared well, they know what you are going to say.   Romney knew exactly what he was going to say on every question in that first debate. He practiced. He delivered. And he did really well. And our guy just didn`t. He wasn`t prepared. He didn`t want to prepare. MATTHEWS: OK. I know. He didn`t want to have knee-jerk reactions that you prepared him with. Now, here `s -- but you get deeper into this. It`s almost like a Woody Allen movie, because you`re getting into the head being wrong. What did the Romney do to the president that got him wrong-footed? And what did you have to fix? You had all these prep sessions trying to retrain the president on how to debate, how to debate. It wasn`t working until he finally said something out of "Tin Cup," out of movie, where he said, I finally got my head around this right. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Yes. MATTHEWS: What was that about? AXELROD: Well, he had done poorly in the first debate. And we were really worried about that first debate for -- because presidents tend to do poorly in the first... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They all lose. AXELROD: They all do.   MATTHEWS: All incumbents lose first debates. AXELROD: And so -- and we tried to avoid that. And we didn`t avoid it. So the second debate became important, because we didn`t want Chris Matthews going nuts twice in a row. MATTHEWS: No, you couldn`t predict that. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: No, no, but what happened was, he had a bad debate prep 36 hours before the second debate. And we`re freaking out. And we do an intervention. And he says -- and he talks about the movie "Tin Cup," when Cheech was -- who was the star? Was it Kevin Costner? MATTHEWS: Costner. It was Costner. AXELROD: Yes. And he says, OK, here`s what you do. He`s trying to... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Put your hat on backwards. AXELROD: Put your hat on backwards. Do this, do that. MATTHEWS: You put your tees in your left pocket. AXELROD: Your left pocket. And he said -- and he swung and he hit the -- and he said, that`s it. It`s in my head. I have got to -- and so we worked it through and we did give him a golf tee to put into his pocket going into that debate. MATTHEWS: Yes. It`s so interesting the role that -- and this is what you have got to write more about, is the role of guys like you in getting a president, a guy you know is smart, but he needs to get help sometimes. Everybody needs help. Anyway, you write in the book that President Obama reflected on Mitt Romney, saying: "He represents the America of the 1950s and believes the country does well when guys like him are in charge." OK. HARDBALL question, "guys like him." AXELROD: I think he meant the corporate elite, the prep school elite. He meant the sort of... MATTHEWS: The guy that thinks he is, and is.   AXELROD: Yes, exactly. And, you know, he was very focused on the fact that the country had changed dramatically, that it was a more diverse country. MATTHEWS: Yes. AXELROD: And he represented that diversity and he represented a different kind of America where people could work their way up, and you didn`t have to come from the ruling elite to be president of the United States. MATTHEWS: What makes you -- I only have a minute here, but I`m impressed because it`s not in the book really yet. I haven`t found the part. What has made you devote a lot of your years as a political pro to helping black candidates, per se, black guys? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Harold Washington, people like that? AXELROD: Part of it is that I was raised by this woman who took care of me when my mother was at work, an African-American woman. She was the one who took me to see John F. Kennedy when I was 5 years old. And I think she instilled in me a sense of a kind of yearning for justice. I always think about her because I wonder what she would think about the kid she... (CROSSTALK)   AXELROD: ... to see Kennedy. MATTHEWS: And this is what has driven you to help African-American candidates especially? AXELROD: I think that`s part of it. And I was raised in a family where civil rights was a value. But I always -- I believe in an America where there are no barriers, where you can go as far as your talents take you. And I want to fight for that kind of country. MATTHEWS: Well, do you think the president has gotten a raw deal because of his ethnicity by some people? AXELROD: I always resisted this question, Chris, when I was working for him because I never wanted to give people a chance to say we were using race as an excuse. But there`s no question that he has been treated differently by some people because of that. No one else has been shouted down in the Congress during a speech, "You lie." No one else has been consistently... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Huckabee did it this week. Huckabee is still out there saying he`s pro-Islamic and anti-Christian and Jewish. AXELROD: Yes, well, and persistently challenging his citizenship. MATTHEWS: Yes.   AXELROD: These are reflections of race. And I don`t think there`s any way to deny that. MATTHEWS: Please explain Donald Trump to me some day, will you? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: He is a smart guy. What is he up to? Anyway, thank you. This book, political junkies, read this book. It`s not one of these books that somebody writes for somebody, by the way, which I know about. It happens out there, believe it or not. This is David Axelrod, his true story, with lots of inside stuff like this. I wish I had hours with him. The book is called "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics." David Axelrod is staying with us. He will be in our roundtable tonight, which everybody wants to be in to. We`re going to talk about 2016 and the early stumbles by the likes of Christie, Bush and, yes, Hillary Clinton. They`re making some mistakes. Plus, Jon Stewart`s amazing announcement last night that he`s stepping down from "The Daily Show." That caught everybody off guard. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.   A candlelight vigil is taking place right now in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It`s in honor of the three Muslim students allegedly murdered by a neighbor. Investigators say a dispute over parking spaces may have led to the shootings, but some are wondering if the students` race or religion may have played a role. And after being called off twice due to bad weather, SpaceX tonight launched a new deep space weather satellite from Cape Canaveral. It will track storms on Earth from more than a million miles away -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the candidates for 2016 aren`t even out of the gate yet, but the would-be campaigns run to some stumbling blocks this week, big ones. Among Republicans, Chris Christie appears to be toning down his bombastic style. He was in Iowa on Monday. And as "The Washington Post" reported, "Gone were the bluster and bravado that have made Chris Christie a long- touted contender for the White House. The new Chris Christie was serious, earnest and calmly gesturing as he spoke. The reception to Christie`s soft pitch, however, was decidedly mixed." Which always means now. Meanwhile, the newly-hired chief executive or technology officer of Jeb Bush`s political action committee resigned yesterday after "BuzzFeed" unearthed degrading comments that he had made about women on Twitter. Former Governor Bush who prides himself of being tech-savvy also failed to vet the thousands of emails from his time in office that he made public yesterday, ultimately the unredacted private email addresses of many Florida residents were dumped out, along with the content of the e-mail themselves. The address was there. Everybody knows. There was discord on the other side of the aisle when the absence of a formal announcements from Hillary Clinton, frictions between various pro- Clinton groups have boiled over into a territorial spat. It`s the kind of drama that any campaign would want to keep out of the public eye. The questions are, are these examples of campaign growing pains or do they foreshadow larger problems to come? We`re joined by right now the roundtable: Huffington Post`s" Sabrina Siddiqui, and Jeremy Peters of "The New York Times", and our special guest tonight, David Axelrod, former senior strategist to President Obama and author of the new book "Believer: My 40 Years in Politics." Sabrina, what do you make of these crumbling walls of -- let`s start with Jeb Bush. He gets a pretty good ride from the press. Is he really so competent that he puts out all e-mails that people wrote to him as governor and spills their addresses and everything else in their worlds?   SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I think, first and foremost, none of these candidates are playing to their strengths. So, that`s a major problem -- MATTHEWS: His being confidence? SIDDIQUI: His being confidence and knowing how to manage and wants to look like the most tech-savvy Republican candidate and he`s forgetting just the basic 101 of how to do that. And not only that he did not vet these e- mails for personal information and dumping the constituents` information online, but also, I think that politicians need to understand the role that social media plays. You cannot hire anyone anymore for your campaign without checking the social media. MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s getting sucky numbers in New Hampshire among independent. I can`t believe how low. The dog doesn`t read the label on the peanut butter jar, the dog food jar. Just because you say he`s Bush doesn`t mean people are going to like him. I can`t believe the low regard so far for him in this campaign. Let me ask you about the other guy, about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has -- it was always the dog fighting in that campaign before. Now you`ve got already David Brock, who`s sort of an outrider, a watchdog for her, and then you got the fighting with the Messina operation. It`s like a drug war is going on. That`s my turf, no, that`s your turf, trying to raise -- and it`s all out in public on "The New York Times." Your paper, front page, you write about it. JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That`s right. My colleague Nick Confessore broke that story. MATTHEWS: Front page. PETERS: Fantastic job. But I think part of the problem is they -- these operatives and strategists and donors don`t have anywhere else to go, so they are all fighting over a very large pie but it`s only one pie. So -- MATTHEWS: And some people are raising a lot of money making this money, 15 percent. PETERS: Yes, that`s absolutely, millions of dollars.   MATTHEWS: Isn`t that a lot of money? PETERS: I want that kind of job. MATTHEWS: So, that`s why -- now, let`s go over to you with the bad guy from New Jersey. What is wrong with him? I should say -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- losing weight. DAVID AXELROD, AUTHOR, "BELIEVER": Flipping people off may be charming in Vail (ph) but not in Keokuk. He`s finally discovered that. But he is who he is and so the question is whether he`s -- he comes across as authentic when he`s bridling his authentic self. I think without authenticity, it`s very hard to go far in a presidential process. MATTHEWS: We like it when he said, none of your business. None of your business, Emily, when he asked about where his kids were going to school because it did seem to be a private matter, but in every public occasion before, his selling piece is, I`m pretty obnoxious. PETERS: Right. It`s a big part of his persona. I think people love this irreverence about him. They love the bravado. Is it real? Maybe he was just tired on Monday? I don`t know. MATTHEWS: So, who`s the real Chris Christie? (CROSSTALK) PETERS: But I think one of the things we need to remember is, the Republicans last time ran a candidate who tried to scrub away who he really was and it didn`t work. So, is Chris Christie really going to run a campaign where he`s trying to hide what has made him so appealing to our voters?   AXELROD: Giving the pressures of presidential campaigns, if you`re irascible, you`re going to be irascible. PETERS: Right. AXELROD: Because there are so many provocations. I don`t think he`s too far away from telling people to sit down and shut up again. I think it`s going to happen and I think that`s a problem for him. MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s one of the good things about campaigns, it rubs all the cover off? AXELROD: You know, it`s a ridiculous process but it`s the harder test and gets harder as you move along, and it should be because you`re auditioning for the toughest job on the planet. MATTHEWS: I love the mistakes that people make, like your candidate, who I`ve always liked, and that`s Obama, when he said things like she`s likable enough. Terrible line as you put in your book. AXELROD: It was a bad moment. MATTHEWS: You can`t protect people against -- AXELROD: People are going to make mistakes. The question is, do the mistakes reveal something that voters take away from it or are they glitches? You know, the Bush thing, at the end of the day, doesn`t strike me as something that is going to characterize him. But some of these other things are -- the problem is, John Podesta has to get control of the Clinton operation and I think that`s part of his job over there. MATTHEWS: One thing I like about Joe Biden is all the gaffes he`s made in history, and none of them ever have hurt anybody, it`s really true. Even the shylock line, which is stupid, it didn`t really hurt anybody. I think he`s amazing.   People like him and he`s a nice guy and he makes mistake. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, we think we know it was coming but we didn`t. Jon Stewart, for whatever reason, says he`s leaving "The Daily Show", the most successful comic of our time probably. David Axelrod was there when it happened in the Green Room. We`re going to get the actual story when the story broke to this fella. We`ll be right back, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder today awarded the Medal of Valor to 22 public safety officers. Among them, two police officers from Watertown, Massachusetts, who confronted the Tsarnaev brothers at a gun battle after the Boston marathon bombing last year. Also honored were two officers who responded to the August 2012 shooting at a sheikh temple in Wisconsin. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: I don`t have any specific plans. Got a lot of ideas. I`ve got a lot of things in my head. I`m going to have dinner on a school night, with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: So funny guy. We`re back and that was Jon Stewart in his good-bye last night. After 17 years on the job, he will be stepping aside as anchor of "The Daily Show". A pioneer in his field, Stewart has earned his reputation as the leading voice of political satire, providing much-needed levity to the national debate on a nightly basis. We`re back now with our roundtable, Sabrina, Jeremy and David, who is there in the Green Room. AXELROD: Yes, it was kind of stunning. I came in, Jon Stewart came in and said, listen, I`m going to make an announcement tonight and you need to have a heads-up. It`s going to make some news. He says, I`m done, I`m leaving. And I was there, my wife was there, and some of my staff and we were stunned. There was this weight of history, because this guy has had an enormous impact on our politics and on society in some ways. MATTHEWS: Yes. AXELROD: He`s that big a figure. What interested me, Chris, was that in the coverage, we had the Brian Williams story yesterday. And in some ways, Stewart leaving superseded that story. MATTHEWS: Double-barreled with the big papers, double-barreled. AXELROD: Yes, which tells you how much -- this is the same day the president gave an interview on "BuzzFeed". MATTHEWS: The generation of my daughter, three New Hampshires ago, I think it was, I has had a kid joining me in New Hampshire when I covered New Hampshire, and the only person, all these big-shots, my daughter wanted to meet this guy named Jon Stewart who I never heard of. He was grabbing the young people very early on. SIDDIQUI: And he was. I think the younger generation, he really has shaped the political attitude.   MATTHEWS: Is that like the froth on the beer? What is it that he delivers? All the kids in the audience, they seem to know all the political references, they know all the political references, they know all the news references, and yet they don`t read the paper. How do they know that stuff, to know when to laugh? PETERS: Well, I think that`s a good point and it`s why -- MATTHEWS: What is the answer to that question? PETERS: It`s why politicians treat him as a news man, not as a comedian or an entertainer. I was on Capitol Hill all day today, actually asking lawmakers -- MATTHEWS: I saw you up there. PETERS: Yes, that`s right. I bumped to you in the hallway. Asking them what it was about Stewart`s program that was so appealing. And one after the other, they called him a news man. There was no qualifier, no entertainer, no foe, nothing like that. They said, without a doubt, the first show they want to go to reach especially the younger voters is Jon Stewart. (CROSSTALK) SIDDIQUI: Younger people do go to him to get their news. MATTHEWS: How do you get the news with these quick setups? I think you need to have the setup to know how the punch line works. Don`t you have to know what he`s talking about? SIDDIQUI: I think one of the things you need people to do, though, was build trust. And I think that younger --   MATTHEWS: You`re not answering my question. SIDDIQUI: None of us know -- MATTHEWS: I almost seem to know what he`s talking about. How`s that work? AXELROD: I think the reason he connected with young people is he persistently called out hypocrisy, and lack of authenticity. That`s what kids hate about politics. They hate the inauthenticity. They hate all the game-playing. And he stripped it bare, ridiculed it. Young people reacted to that. You know, I think it was very, very powerful. MATTHEWS: He`s got some guts, too. He has guts. PETERS: Yes, he really does. He also -- there`s a -- I wouldn`t undersell how much young people read either. I think that -- MATTHEWS: "The Times"? PETERS: Yes, "The Times". AXELROD: Hope springs eternal. PETERS: Exactly. But we`re getting by somehow.   So, no, I mean, if you just think about how people consume news now, I think it`s differently that how, you know, I grew up consuming news. MATTHEWS: OK. You get on the subway right now. You`re (INAUDIBLE) out in California, they`re reading paperbacks if anything. How do they read your paper? PETERS: On their phones. MATTHEWS: On their phones. And you can do that now. I`m just kidding. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Sabrina Siddiqui. Thank you, Jeremy Peters. I was pulling your leg there, sir. David Axelrod, good luck with the book. I mean it. This is the kind of book people should read, real books written by real people who know their stuff. "Believer", David Axelrod. When we return, let me finish with the president`s call for Congress to back military action against ISIS. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. What I hear tonight is the president of the United States blowing the bugle, calling for the U.S. Congress to back military action against ISIS. What I see tonight are members of Congress left and right heading for the tall grass. The question of backing war or opposing, it is not for lawyers to answer, but for citizens and their representatives. It`s basic, do we as a country do what we can militarily to destroy this terrorist regime that looks for Americans to capture, frighten and ultimately kill with the maximum amount of public humiliation? Do we? Or do we simply agree to sit and watch the pictures coming in? Does anyone among the doves truly fear that President Obama is going to transform before our eyes into George Patton roaring tanks across the desert in the pursuit of the ISIS leaders? Do they honestly question he will let this thing get out of hand? Or are they simply unwilling to put their hand to any document that might be used against them in the primary? Same on the right, what are they afraid? Does the declaration of the president`s asking the Congress for will tie his hands? What sense does that make if he intended to lead a ground war against ISIS, why would he put language of this authorization to specifically rule out, quote, "enduring offensive ground operations". People don`t ask people to stop them from doing what they intend to do. What seems to be going on here is a vast desire of politicians to protect themselves, and the safest place to hide is in the tall grass, where the other people are hiding. Not up there with the president, called the Congress to do its duty. 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. 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