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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/18/15

Guests: George Pataki, Michael Weiss, Barry Levinson, Mike Paul, NicholasConfessore, Tara Palmeri

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Oh, brother. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, up in New York. Jeb Bush took the first big step to the White House today. He did so by stepping away from his father, and most important, his brother`s presidencies. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make, but I`m my own man. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: "I`m my own man." But look who he`s got on his foreign policy team as of today. Yes, he`s got James Baker, a realist, but guess who else? Stephen Hadley and Paul Wolfowitz, those best and brightest who took this country into Iraq, who came up with that damned (ph) warped choice that broke that country and left us with ISIS, a nutso policy that proved what General Colin Powell called the Pottery Barn rule -- you break it, you bought it. Will the real Jeb Bush please stand up? Are you the pragmatist your father and Jim Baker were, or the go-it-alone, French-hating Freedom Fries neocon ideologue that W. was sucked into being? I can be tougher. Your father took us into war with the Iraq the first time. Then your brother doubled down with his war of choice. Are you taking us to war with Iran? Is this going to be the Bush trifecta? Are you truly going to be your own man and find other means to guard and advance this country`s interests than by taking us into another war?   MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt is in Chicago covering Governor Bush today. What was the feeling out there, that he separated himself from his sibling and his father, or he didn`t? KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I think that while the headline out of this was "I am my own man," you didn`t actually hear very many specifics where Jeb Bush is actually differentiating himself between George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. If you listen to his explanation on Iraq, for example, that came during the Q&A period, while he said that there were mistakes that were made in Iraq, he also then went on to say that the surge was politically heroic, one of the most politically heroic things any president has ever done, and he said that President Obama is the one who squandered the gain from the surge that -- and that that is what ultimately led to ISIS. MATTHEWS: And how did President Obama splurge (ph) the surge, if you will? HUNT: Well, the way that Jeb Bush outlined it in his Q&A is just that because Obama accelerated the withdrawal from Iraq, that`s what ultimately led to the power vacuum. And his accusation seemed to be that if the president had shored up the troops in Iraq, left them there longer, had a presence that was more -- that was stronger, more resilient, that we ultimately wouldn`t be in the situation we were today. MATTHEWS: OK, Kasie Hunt, great reporting. As I mentioned, during those remarks to a global security group in Chicago, Governor Bush cited the mistakes in Iraq but praised his brother`s strategy as heroic. He was talking about the surge. And here`s Jeb Bush. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure. Using the intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass destruction was not -- turns out not to be accurate. My brother`s administration through the surge, which was one of the most heroic acts of courage politically that -- that any president`s done because there was no support for this -- and it was hugely successful, and it created a stability that when the new president came in, he could have built on to create a fragile but more stable situation that would have not allowed for the void to be filled. The void has been filled because we created the void. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Steve Kornacki`s the host of MSNBC`s "UP" and George Pataki, of course, was three-time governor of New York.   I want to go to you, Governor, because I`m not sure whether you`re running for president or not, but you may want to make an announcement. Now? GEORGE PATAKI (R), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I`ll wait a little bit. MATTHEWS: OK. PATAKI: Probably New Hampshire. MATTHEWS: How does Jeb Bush separate himself from a very recent presidency, with whatever your politics, is now recognized as a very unpopular war with Iraq? PATAKI: Well, I think he did not do that today. He said he`s his own man, and he is. And during the course of the campaign, he will be asked specific issues and he will outline positions that will allow him to stand on his own two feet. But what he really said today was basic Republican orthodoxy. He said that we made the wrong decision on Cuba. Almost all Republicans agree on that. We have to rebuild and strengthen our military. Almost all Republicans and I think most Americans agree with that. We have to stand with Israel. I think these are all things that they don`t separate him from his brother, but he doesn`t have to on these issues because these are things that Republicans across the board, with the possible exception of Rand Paul, think are the right... MATTHEWS: In the primaries, especially. PATAKI: I the primaries, and I think in the general, too. The American people support a stronger military and standing with Israel. MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I think the interesting thing is how tactical he was, Steve, I mean, going out and saying, I supported the surge, when most people if you`re going to get stuck in Iraq, at least we`ll get to leave on our own terms, which the surge allowed us to do. But the more strategic question is, was that a smart war to fight? Were we right to go in there? Are we better off for having that situation the way it is now...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Is ISIS better than Saddam Hussein? STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, MSNBC "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": And that`s the question -- that`s the question he doesn`t want to answer. In fact, he practically (ph) came out and said that flat out the other day. It`s also a question a lot of Republicans, and Democrats, for that matter, who supported this war, you know, 10, 12 years ago... MATTHEWS: Like? KORNACKI: ... don`t want to... KORNACKI: Like? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: The vice president of the United States and like Hillary Clinton. KORNACKI: Yes, Hillary Clinton... (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: ... comes right to mind. But I think what the governor was saying there is true in that what Jeb Bush said today, the broad message he laid out -- absolutely, that`s consistent with where the Republican Party is. And the Republican Party, I think, with all the developments with ISIS in the last year -- so this is probably true of the whole country, but the Republican Party in particular, which has always been a little more hawkish, moving in a more hawkish direction response to this. So Bush is where he needs to be, I think, ideologically. It`s a pragmatic question, though. Do you want to nominate another Bush?   MATTHEWS: I think he wanted to be very Reagan-esque, rather than Bush-ish, if there`s an adverb -- a verb -- anyway, Jeb Bush described Iran as an existential danger to the world -- Iran -- and slammed President Obama`s nuclear negotiations with that country. Here it is. And this is the hot stuff. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Iran`s ambitions are clear and its capabilities are growing. For many years, they have been developing long-range missile capabilities and their own nuclear weapon program. When he launched his negotiations, President Obama said that that was the goal, stop Iran`s nuclear program. Now we`re told the goal has changed, and the point of these negotiations isn`t to solve the problem, it`s to manage it. Iran`s intent is clear. Its leaders have openly expressed a call for the annihilation of the state of Israel. This is an existential threat to Israel and to the world, including the United States. We could face large- scale proliferation issues throughout the region if Iran has the ability to launch a nuclear weapon. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK, the overstatement`s obvious. It`s not an existential threat to the planet. The planet will exist. Well, anyway, that`s fine. He made a mistake in his words there. What is the Republican mainstream alternative to continue negotiations at least for a couple more months or a couple more weeks, actually, with Iran on nuclear? What`s the alternative? PATAKI: Chris, I think you see it in Congress. If the negotiations don`t work, go back to hard sanctions and try to get as much buy-in globally as possible. Can we get the Russians and the Chinese this time? I`m not sure. MATTHEWS: Yes. PATAKI: I think Obama made an enormous mistake in lifting the sanctions in exchange for returning to negotiations. We should have had negotiations, but while the sanctions remained in place. And if Iran wouldn`t do it, then crater their economy and result in a much weaker... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... admit, right off the fact (ph), that tougher sanctions won`t be bought by the people that -- who trade with Iran, what -- they won`t work.   PATAKI: We have to preserve the opportunity, if they are close to developing a nuclear weapon, to prevent that from happening. MATTHEWS: I know. PATAKI: Jeb (INAUDIBLE) the important thing. It`s not just Iran and their existential threat, as they are, to Israel, but also the fact that Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Turkey, they`re all going to have nuclear weapons! MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the gut question. Do you think either administration would ever attack -- if there`s a Republican administration coming in -- either them or Obama would ever attack Iran unless they were on the very edge of having a nuclear weapon, and not a year out? I get the sense listening to Bibi Netanyahu, and I have listened to the hard right -- I think they`re ready to bombs away right now because they talk about it. They are very close to a hawkish position, which scares the hell out of me. Go to war with another Islamic country when you don`t have to? KORNACKI: Well, that`s -- that`s one of the legacies, I think, of Iraq and of the idea of preemptive war that I think -- you know, the world has changed a lot in the last year. At least how we perceive the war has changed a lot in the last year. And I think a lot of people in this country who -- who`ve sort of been spooked by the experience of Iraq for the last 10 years are maybe rethinking that a little bit. But I think the one thing at least that carries over from Iraq in terms of the public mood and the reality for administrations is that preemptive attack, that preemptive war like we launched in Baghdad in 2003 -- I don`t think that`s going to be happening... MATTHEWS: Do you think anybody in your party would go that far... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... hit them before they even have a nuclear weapon? PATAKI: I think when they are on the verge of a nuclear weapon, there will be many, not just in my party...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... Democrats will do it, too. PATAKI: ... who agree that that is a necessary strike (ph)... MATTHEWS: I agree. I agree. PATAKI: ... for the safety of the world. MATTHEWS: You have to hit them before they have an opportunity to hit us. I agree with that. The question is, how much lead time are you willing to give them? Are you willing to say, Well, a year out, I can live with that because that gives me a year to track them, if you have the right kind of inspections. KORNACKI: Well... MATTHEWS: You have to be there... (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: This will come down to intelligence, too, right? MATTHEWS: Right.   KORNACKI: I mean, we`ve been hearing all sorts of... MATTHEWS: On the ground. KORNACKI: ... warnings for the last two, three, five, six years... MATTHEWS: Longer (INAUDIBLE) KORNACKI: ... that they`re six months away, they`re a year away, so... MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jeb, the governor, cheered the coming visit of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address a joint meeting of Congress in an open effort to derail the president`s negotiations. Why know why Bibi`s coming. He`s going to criticize Obama`s plan. Let`s watch the governor -- Governor Bush here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I`m really eager to hear what he has to say. Israel is not at the negotiation table with Iran, but it has a lot at stake. I don`t blame him for wanting to share his views. And in fact, I think it will be important for the American people to get the perspective of our closest ally in the region. I`m surprised that the administration is upset to hear from a close and valuable ally on such a sensitive subject. Foreign policy should be a place where our long-term security interests are front and center, and the political hacks should be doing the campaigns and staying there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Speaking of political hacks, I have never heard of a speaker going along with a secret plan to invite somebody to speak to a joint meeting. All they had to do was call up the president, say, I know you`re not going to like this, but I got the prime minister of Israel coming over here. He didn`t do it! He never -- he never -- he just went and cut the deal, invited the guy, and all of a sudden, Obama`s cut (ph) cold (ph) with a fait accompli, a partisan move, but looks to be a Likud partisan move by Bibi, a move by the ambassador to help him, it looks like, and all to the detriment of a bipartisan foreign policy.   PATAKI: And Chris... MATTHEWS: All to the detriment. PATAKI: Chris, the fact is, Netanyahu is going to be addressing Congress. The Democrats should go. And by the way... MATTHEWS: Well, do you think it`s right to do it the way he did it? PATAKI: It`s done. I think what is not right is the president should invite... MATTHEWS: You`re avoiding the question! PATAKI: The president should invite Netanyahu to the White House. He is a... MATTHEWS: Oh, OK! (CROSSTALK) PATAKI: ... a head of state. He`s coming. I... MATTHEWS: OK, how about...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How about inviting Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the opponents in the next election, since it`s only two weeks off? PATAKI: I don`t think, other than for... MATTHEWS: Two weeks off. PATAKI: ... for people like the pope, you don`t invite candidates. MATTHEWS: Oh, you... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... candidate for reelection. PATAKI: He`s the prime minister of Israel. MATTHEWS: It`s two weeks before the election. They sneak him into the country. They do this without... PATAKI: He`s not sneaking into the country.   MATTHEWS: Well, they did... PATAKI: He is the sitting prime minister of Israel. MATTHEWS: Has there ever been in your lifetime someone invited to talk to a joint meeting of the Congress without the president knowing it was being done? I`ve never... PATAKI: I can`t tell you that. I don`t know the answer to that. MATTHEWS: Well, why are we setting precedent here? KORNACKI: Well, it is sort of extraordinary, and I think the bigger sort of political story is... MATTHEWS: I know the politics here. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... once he`s here because then you`re snubbing him. But this was a snub perpetrated by the ambassador to Israel -- from Israel, not to Israel -- and the speaker of the House. They put this thing together, and it`s official now. They never told the president. KORNACKI: And you can see there`s this political alliance that`s sprung up in the last decade or so between Netanyahu, between the right in Israel, and the Republican Party in this country. And I think this is... PATAKI: One quick point...   MATTHEWS: By the way, this is cooked. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: This isn`t about Israel or Jewish people or supporters of Israel. This is about the crazy right-wing evangelicals... PATAKI: No! No! MATTHEWS: ... that they`re selling this to. PATAKI: No, I think it`s about the breakdown in civil negotiation between parties... MATTHEWS: Fair enough. PATAKI: ... the president in Washington. MATTHEWS: Well, who started this fight? PATAKI: That`s the bigger picture. MATTHEWS: Who started this fight?   PATAKI: The president, I believe, with "Obama care," when he wouldn`t even talk to the Republicans, began the breakdown in civil dialect. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That is (INAUDIBLE) because I have heard that. That is not so off the wall. I`ve heard... PATAKI: (INAUDIBLE) off the wall. MATTHEWS: ... the reason -- the reason -- I said it`s not off the wall. PATAKI: Yes. MATTHEWS: I said Boehner -- some people say the reason he did this little tricky little number with Netanyahu was to get even for the executive orders on immigration, which is really... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you keep going back, it`s 1-0, it`s because of this, then the other says it`s because of that. (CROSSTALK) PATAKI: ... our country`s leaders, they should sit down, work together and... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: ... the greatest country in the world. We should stop the Mickey Mouse, and this is part of the Mickey Mouse. I know we all agree. PATAKI: On both sides. MATTHEWS: I know, but in this case, Mickey Mouse is a Republican. Anyway, thank you, Governor George Pataki, who may well run for president. Any thoughts on that right now? PATAKI: We`ll decide later. MATTHEWS: I love this "we." (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Where do these... PATAKI: My wife! MATTHEWS: OK, your wife. PATAKI: She has veto power, Chris.   MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Steve Kornacki, my buddy. Coming up -- the ISIS barbarity continues. The group has taken torture and violence to a new level with mass beheadings and burning people alive, then they post their crimes on line for the world to see. To whom they are -- my question, to whom are they addressing their message? Plus, a State Department spokeswoman is being attacked by the right wing for the comments she made here on HARDBALL the other night about the root cause of terrorism. Also, John Boehner, the speaker, blind-sided the White House last month by inviting Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu -- yes, he did -- to address Congress. A new poll shows nearly two thirds of Americans say Boehner shouldn`t have sent that invitation. Finally, the man responsible for some all-time great Hollywood classics, from "Diner" to "Good Morning Vietnam" to "Rainman" to "Wag the Dog," the great Barry Levinson, has a new movie out starring Al Pacino. He`ll be here in just a moment. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Obama plans to name a new director of the Secret Service. A senior administration official says the president will name Joseph Clancy as director. Clancy has been serving as the interim director of the Secret Service since October, when Julia Pearson resigned following a string of mishaps. By appointing Clancy, the president is ignoring criticism from Capitol Hill that the agency should be run by an outsider, rather than appointing someone from within. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What does ISIS want? Great question. And how can it be defeated? Those are the questions facing counterterrorism officials here in the U.S. and around the world. Well, late Tuesday, the group continued its assault, launching multiple waves of attacks against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, there`s disturbing news about that ISIS video of 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded in Libya. One voice expert who viewed the tape for NBC News said the main speaker had a North American and likely American accent. Well, today, President Obama addressed a White House summit on countering violent extremism. He said military force alone won`t solve the problem. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence. Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam, and they propagate the notion that America and the West generally is at war with Islam. That`s how they recruit. That`s how they try to radicalize young people. We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders, they`re terrorists. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by Graeme Wood, who wrote about ISIS in the latest issue of "The Atlantic," and Michael Weiss, who`s co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror." Gentlemen, the president continues to make this dichotomy between Islam and the terrorists. I don`t know what -- do you think that`s useful? GRAEME WOOD, "THE ATLANTIC": I think it`s important that he mentions that Islam is not defined by ISIS. It`s also false, however, to say that ISIS doesn`t derive some of its basic rules of the world from the Islamic tradition. And making that distinction is a very important thing for the United States to do to, as he says, show that the United States is not at war with Islam, which is really what the narrative of ISIS is.   MATTHEWS: What`s ISIS about? What`s its purpose? It`s a new organism on the planet that came from somewhere. It`s a -- is it a derivative of al Qaeda? What is it? MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, "ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": Well, it used to be a part of al Qaeda. It`s not new, though, Chris. We`ve been at war with them for 11 years. I mean, if any -- if any -- if ever there was a familiar enemy to the United States, it`s this. They were founded in 2004 in Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, himself a Jordanian. They first went under the banner of al Qaeda in Iraq. They have gone under serial changes to their upper echelons in terms of the leadership, also the banner that they fly under. MATTHEWS: When did they begin to claim land and hold land as a caliphate? WEISS: OK. As a caliphate, recently. But, remember, they were taking over whole cities and towns in Iraq. When the U.S. had a military presence there, they were in Fallujah. We kicked them out of Fallujah. They showed up in Mosul. We kicked them out of Mosul. What do they want? MATTHEWS: But the map is new. Now we look at a map that`s a big part of Iraq and a big part of Syria. It looks like a country developing there. It`s got its own militia and it`s running its place. It`s running health care. It`s building loyalty I guess under Sharia law, because those Sunnis would rather have that, apparently, than have the militias from the Shia crowd in Baghdad. WEISS: Well, that -- I think you have hit the nail on the head there. ISIS is fundamentally, I would argue, more of a political project than it is a religious one. The religion plays a huge role. They are, as Graeme said, tapping into wellsprings of Islamic theology and Islamic history. The idea of merging the two fiefs that persisted at the time of the second Crusades of Aleppo and Mosul, this is very powerful. It`s part of their propaganda and their narrative. But I would argue that propaganda is aimed at what you might call the foot soldiers or the rank and file. The guys at the top, a lot of them are true believers in Salafi jihadism, but a lot of them also come from the regime of Saddam Hussein, guys who literally went from wearing military fatigues, smoking cigars, drinking wine and having 80 mistresses to being in the dishdasha with the long black beard and claiming that they were Salafis.   Saddam actually had a program called the Islamic faith campaign, where he tried to marry Baathism and Salafism. A lot of guys he put through that program came out of it, graduated, and said the helicopter with Baathism. Let`s just become Salafis. He had a role to play in cultivating this. But, look, these guys -- there is an economic incentive. MATTHEWS: So they come from sweet deals with the older Iraq government of Saddam Hussein. They are kicked out by our de-Baathification program, so they find a new call. WEISS: Exactly. And is an economic incentive here. The Sunni tribes of Eastern Syria and Western Iraq have persisted for centuries cutting all manner of pragmatic deals, doing horse trading with whoever is in charge. Right now, ISIS is in charge and they say, as you put it, let`s join forces with these guys. They are brutal and they`re barbarists, but it`s true they make the trains run on time, they provide health care sanitation. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about what we`re up against. The reason we`re fascinating with this, it`s not looking at a map somebody shows us, not for regional studies. It`s because we`re seeing people beheaded. We`re seeing people burn alive and we identify with those people. I do. I think why is a bunch of -- why is this woman who is a good woman get supposedly killed in some air attack, which she probably wasn`t? And then you get someone else who is a loyal fighter for the Jordanian air force, probably a good guy, burned alive with gasoline just because he`s a soldier. There`s no rules of warfare here. And then these Coptic Christians are killed because they are Christians. WOOD: Certainly, if you ask them, they do have rules of warfare and they talk about them constantly to themselves and to the rest of the world. These are rules of warfare that I think most Muslims would say deviate extremely from the norms of warfare in classical Islam and most scholarship of warfare law since then. But to say that they are making it up as they go along I think would be a mistake. And to suggest that, even though it`s certainly true that we have so many of these Baath Party members who have joined the upper echelons of ISIS, to say too quickly that they are simply insincere, I think... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about their true belief. How do they see the world, these people? They are killing people ruthlessly. They are recruiting with it. It`s a recruiting tool, but you say it`s deeper than that. WOOD: Yes. They believe that they are agents of the apocalypse and they believe that part of what they have to do is create a fight between the West and, as they call it, the army of Rome, and Islam, and once they are able to do that, they will have a particular signpost along the way and eventually that`s going to lead to the end of time. MATTHEWS: So how many in that group of the ISIS people in the black uniforms driving around in the armored personnel carriers, how many of those people are actually the true believers at the top who have this religion, this cult? WOOD: We don`t know. We know that there are programs to make sure that there is ideological enforcement. There are of course many people who are probably more interested in making sure that they have a paycheck, making sure that they have security and they find that ISIS is the fastest way to get there. MATTHEWS: How do we beat them? WOOD: Well, we can defuse in some ways their propaganda. We can kind of break the spell, because one crucial element of their propaganda is to say that we are constantly expanding, we`re modeled on the Islamic conquests of the very earlier days of Islam. If we stop their expansion, they start to look a bit less inevitable and maybe a bit more pathetic because the territory that they do control, it`s impoverished. It delivers very little in the way of social services. MATTHEWS: Are they heading to Cordoba? WOOD: They would love to. MATTHEWS: I think they might. They`re going all the way to Spain, but I guess we can stop them before they get there, I hope.   Thank you very much. Very good read there. Michael Weiss, thank you. Both of you. WEISS: Sure. MATTHEWS: Up next, the American film director, the great one, who gave us "Diner" and "Rain Man." Barry Levinson joins us up next. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, with so many worthy films in contention this year, the Academy Awards this Sunday night are as anticipated as ever, especially in the hotly contested best actor category. Our special guest this evening knows a thing or two about what makes a great performance. In his career, Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson has directed six actors in Oscar-nominated roles, Glenn Close, Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Dustin Hoffman, and the late Robin Williams. Levinson`s new film, "The Humbling," about the price, you might call it life toll that an actor pays to be in front of an audience. It features Al Pacino as Simon Axler, a stage performer at the end of his career, whose love interest, played by Greta Gerwig, is nearly 40 years his junior. Here`s a clip.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE HUMBLING") AL PACINO, ACTOR: You know, I was thinking, don`t you think it`s time you told your parents about us? GRETA GERWIG, ACTRESS: Oh, no, no, no. My mother can never know about... PACINO: Why? GERWIG: Anything. PACINO: Why? What are you thinking? GERWIG: Well, even if the two of you hadn`t had a thing for each other back in the day... PACINO: What thing? Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute. GERWIG: I`m just saying, I could never -- I could not possibly tell her, or him. Oh, God. Think of the look on Asa`s face. That would be terrible. It would just be way too painful, wouldn`t it? Oh, you want to go? Let`s get settled in? Oh, thank you so much for trying to help. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the filmmaker behind "The Humbling," Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson. Barry, thank you for joining us. BARRY LEVINSON, DIRECTOR: Thank you. MATTHEWS: We often read about how All Pacino almost didn`t get the part for "The Godfather" because he had to do the restaurant scene before he nailed the part. And yet everybody who has seen him in "Panic in Needle Park" or any of those movies said, this guy pops. That young woman there pops in your... LEVINSON: She does, Greta Gerwig, fantastic. MATTHEWS: So you`re talking about in this movie about how this -- it seems to me it`s about what a life in acting does to you. It takes so much experience out of you, so much -- it exhausts your very being, so you have a guy like Al Pacino -- I don`t know how autobiographical this is, but it`s about an actor who is just at the end of the line. LEVINSON: Well, I mean, it takes a toll physically and mentally. I mean, mentally, there is a point you begin to forget lines, you can`t remember certain things. And then just the pure getting beaten up in a sense. You have done all this work. You get attacked. You get praised or whatever. I mean, it just plays games with your head. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look. It`s hard to pick a single best performance among this year`s nominees for best actor. They include Steve Carell in "The Foxcatcher," Bradley Cooper for "American Sniper," Benedict Cumberbatch for "The Imitation Game," Michael Keaton for "Birdman," Eddie Redmayne for "The Theory of Everything." I always thought -- I`m a nut for movies, as you know. And I always the guy who gets the nominee and the woman who gets the best actress, they have won already. The nomination, you have had six people you have directed to. And who wins the final? How is that based on what? To break out of the age groups, too many British movies or that kind of stuff?   LEVINSON: No. It`s pure -- it`s pure -- there is no answer to it, because there are these performances in a given year, some great performances. And they are so different. It`s very hard. All of them who were nominated, but you say Bradley Cooper did a terrific job. That`s over here and then you have got Benedict Cumberbatch, a totally different kind of piece of work. There`s all of these different things and in the end somebody says, I guess I will pick so-and-so. MATTHEWS: Is there any sentiment to this, like Michael Keaton, who has had a tough time in his career and here is his comeback movie? LEVINSON: Yes, I guess so. It does to a certain degree. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I guess so. Anyway, "The Humbling" is about an actor at the end of his career. And it`s a very great Pacino -- if you love Pacino, he`s in this movie. You did "Diner" back in `82 and it featured many actors at the beginnings of their career. It`s amazing the number of guys you found here. They are household names. But here`s a clip. By the way, the music you have just done is fantastic. (CROSSTALK)   LEVINSON: Oh, thank you. MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s the original movie. Here`s the movie (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DINER") UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do you pick, Sinatra or Mathis? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Would you just let that die, please? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s important to me. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s annoying me. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s important in my life. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You`ve been asking that question to every man that walks in here. Would you just forget it? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Maybe I have something to gain from the answer. Did you ever think of that?   (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What does it matter? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Let the man speak. Let the man speak. Speak. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Presley. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Elvis Presley? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. There you go. There`s the definitive answer. Sinatra or Mathis? It`s Presley. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So you cast this Kevin Bacon, who has been around ever since, and Mickey Rourke, who has had a rough run. But these guys -- Steve Guttenberg, of course, and Paul Reiser. LEVINSON: Paul Reiser. MATTHEWS: And Tim what`s his name. LEVINSON: Tim Daly.   MATTHEWS: Tim Daly, who is on "Madam Secretary now." You spotted them all. LEVINSON: Well, you know, I saw 500 guys for those, you know, six roles. MATTHEWS: See where -- to look for guys like the ones you grew up with. LEVINSON: Well, I was trying to find -- I wanted to do a movie that sounded like the way the times were when I hung out, just ordinary conversation, not special stuff, very ordinary things. You know, who do you like better? Do you like this? Don`t -- you going to eat this? You`re not going to eat it? Just very ordinary talk. And I had never seen it done in a film that way. And I thought, can I just get down to the way we really function and how we can`t communicate? That`s really what is behind it. We never really say what we want. We`re always going sideways. And our relationships with women, we never just go to it. We`re always just doing a dance. We never want to come out and say the way we feel. And I thought, can I put that on film? Can I do it? MATTHEWS: Did you know a guy that really made his girlfriend go through a sports test before he would agree to marry her? LEVINSON: My cousin Eddie did. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And he really held her to that?   LEVINSON: He did. And he said to me, he says, Barry, I saw the movie five times, and I realized it was not a good idea to give my wife the football test. And I said, really? I was thinking you learned something. He says, you know why? Because three weeks after we were married, she can`t remember one of the answers. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: So it didn`t work. It didn`t stick. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: One of the most celebrated films this guy produced -- or directed was "Rain Man" with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Here`s the famous scene. Here`s Cruise and his autistic brother, who insists on buying new boxers, I mean underwear, from the Kmart in Cincinnati. Here we go. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RAIN MAN") TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You don`t have to go to Cincinnati to get a pair of underwear at Kmart. DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: You have to go to Kmart, 400 Oak Street. CRUISE: What did I tell you, Ray? We are not going to Cincinnati, and that`s final. HOFFMAN: I get my boxer shorts at Kmart.   CRUISE: Raymond, that is final. Did you hear me? HOFFMAN: I don`t want to be short-less. CRUISE: I`m going out of my mind! What difference does it make? What difference does it make where you buy underwear? What difference does it make? Underwear is underwear! (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You know, that movie is so good. LEVINSON: Thanks. MATTHEWS: And you won the Academy Award for that. And I got to tell you Dustin Hoffman -- and I think Cruise was great in that. He gets underestimated. LEVINSON: Cruise was great because he had to push the whole movie. Dustin is going to -- was over here, but Cruise has to move the whole film forward. It`s a tough role. He was great. MATTHEWS: Ratso Rizzo, on to these roles that Dustin Hoffman -- who`s the greatest actor of our time?   LEVINSON: That`s a hard question. I think -- there -- I don`t know that I can say. I certainly think, in having worked with Al on several movies, he`s one of the greatest actor I have ever seen. He has such dedication. He`s so committed and so loves to work. It`s really quite remarkable. MATTHEWS: I loved his Shylock. LEVINSON: It was -- on Broadway? Amazing. MATTHEWS: It was amazing. Here`s something I have always wanted to know from you. You made a movie in 1997 about how a president manipulates events to get himself off the hook from an embarrassing sex scandal. It was called "Wag the Dog." And in it, the girlfriend of the president who was causing him trouble, or he caused her trouble. had a beret. In fact, there was a joke in the movie and they would sing "Thank Heaven," the old Maurice Chevalier line. And then along a year later comes Monica Lewinsky and that whole mess. How did you know the girl would be a beret-wearing woman who looked just like this woman? I said to you in the break, religions are based on less than this. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: How did you know that she would be wearing a beret? LEVINSON: You know what is so funny?   MATTHEWS: No answer to this coming. LEVINSON: There`s no answer to it. But it`s funny, because someone said, so what did you do? You went back and put that in the movie? (CROSSTALK) LEVINSON: I said, no, no, no, we just happened to have her with a beret. We thought it would look good. And so who would know. MATTHEWS: You didn`t show an early version of this to Bill Clinton, did you? LEVINSON: No. MATTHEWS: Get him confused. (CROSSTALK) LEVINSON: But I will tell you a quick little story about it. When we were in Washington doing a -- on a break -- we were only here for one day. And someone came in and said to Dustin and De Niro and myself, would you like to meet the president and Mrs. Clinton? We said yes.   So we go through the whole hotel. We were in the restaurant part. We go there. And we`re waiting outside. She says, I will be right back, as some guy comes out and says, can I help you? We said, we`re supposed to meet the president. He said, the president is very busy, turns, goes back in. We feel like silly fools. We go back to the restaurant and the same woman comes running back, says, oh, my God, there was such a mixup. She`s out of breath. Would you still like to meet the president? And De Niro looks at her with that kind of way he can do that and he goes, will he meet us halfway? (LAUGHTER) LEVINSON: And so she`s... MATTHEWS: Did do you that? Did you stand him up? LEVINSON: She gets nervous, says, oh, I see. You were kidding around. And we go, and we go into this room and Clinton walks in. The president about a minute later comes in, hi, how are you, says hello, et cetera, et cetera. And then he says, so what`s this movie you`re doing? MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. LEVINSON: And all of a sudden, we realized, wait a minute, we can`t talk to a president about the fact that the president was having a relationship with this young girl, et cetera. This is all before Monica Lewinsky. But we can`t talk about that. We don`t know what to say. And we all look at one another and all of a sudden Dustin comes forward and he says, well, it`s a story. And he makes up an entirely fake movie.   (LAUGHTER) LEVINSON: We were too embarrassed to tell him at that point. MATTHEWS: Oh, my gosh. He must wonder about your religious powers. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, Barry Levinson, the great director, thank you for coming on. LEVINSON: Thanks. MATTHEWS: Up next: A State Department spokeswoman is being attacked by the right wing for comments she made here about the root causes of terrorism. Anyway, is this criticism fair? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. State Department spokesman Marie Harf is being attacked by the right wing over comments she made here on HARDBALL Monday night of this week. Harf said, we have to do more than just kill terrorists. We have to address the root causes that lead people to become violent extremists. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them? MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We are killing a lot of them and we`re going to keep killing more of them, but we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the longer term -- medium and longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it`s lack of opportunity for jobs, work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economy so they can have job opportunities for these people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, those comments didn`t sit well, if you will, with conservative commentators and they jumped on her. Here they are. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO SHOW HOST: This is an insult to all of the people in the world who are actually poor and not blowing people up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.   INGRAHAM: And not targeting Christians. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now, they send their spokesman from the State Department to say, well, we cannot kill our way out of this war with ISIS. We`re going to have to get to the root cause. We`re going to have to find them jobs. This woman is simply a product of the deranged, delusional beliefs of the professors and graduate assistants and the teaching assistants. SEAN HANNITY: I guess maybe if we just try and get every terrorist a job and provide a better way -- maybe we should put them on our food stamp program next. Like seriously? Now that has to take the lead, seriously, for the dumbest statement I`ve ever heard even from this administration. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MATTHEWS: Well, this morning on MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE," Harf`s old boss at the CIA, Michael Hayden, said Harf probably wishes she could take those comments back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: You started your show today quoting Marie Harf, who used to work with me at the CIA. And I think Marie would want to take a mulligan in how she said what she said two days ago. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Harf also appeared to all the criticism and doubled down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   HARF: Well, I`m not sure I would take a mulligan on this one. Military commanders, politicians of both parties, counterterrorism experts all agree that if you`re going to prevent terrorist groups from spreading to other places getting a more recruits, you have to look at the root causes that can lead people to extremism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK. Joining me tonight on the round table: Mike Paul is a former aide to Mayor Rudy Giuliani of this city, Nicholas Confessore is a political reporter with "The New York Times", and Tara Palmeri is with "The New York Post". Tara, that seemed to be -- I want to let you have the first shot. Was Marie Harf correct in saying that you have to get to the root causes which are mainly poverty or should we look at this more as a military/political thing, fighting ISIS, killing them? TARA PALMERI, NEW YORK POST: She only gave a piece of the story and that was a problem. It was just like picking up a line out of the quote and saying it`s the full story. And, unfortunately, she`s being skewered for it. But let`s be serious, that`s one of the dumbest remarks to make, because it doesn`t sit well for Americans. It`s hard for them to stomach the idea of helping a group of terrorists who are seeing beheading -- MATTHEWS: Potential terrorists. PALMERI: OK. MATTHEWS: She says give them jobs and hope before they become desperate enough to become bad guys. PALMERI: Recruits are leaving our country, leaving Europe to join is thinking that there`s opportunity there. And so, there`s opportunity here in the United States and we`re supposed to be helping them? It doesn`t sit well with Americans. NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Different questions, right, Chris? I mean, the guy who is leaving his home to go fight in Iraq, right, he`s not going to not behead somebody because he has a job at McDonald`s. It`s not going to happen. He has to be killed.   MATTHEWS: I want a better job. CONFESSORE: He has to be killed. But soft power (ph) has his place, right? MATTHEWS: A good job as a plumber, electrician making good money, would he stick around? CONFESSORE: I don`t know. Would he? MATTHEWS: I`m just wondering what the bidding here is. CONFESSORE: I just think that you can have soft power as part of the conversation. When we`re talking about people who are beheading people -- MATTHEWS: Yes. CONFESSORE: -- it`s not the thing you want to hear first or even second. MATTHEWS: When somebody comes up to you and says they have this new nonflammable material that might be more helpful, no, you want the fire truck to show up. MIKE PAUL, FORMER MAYOR GIULIUANI AIDE: Chris, as the only spokesperson sitting at the table that I have to defend which is she was not speaking for herself. She was speaking for the administration. MATTHEWS: What do you think the administration believes is the way to deal with ISIS? Job program?   PAUL: I think there`s another problem that we`re not talking about. On Monday, there was a message about is and the beheadings and that was a serious message and should have had a serious response. On Wednesday, today, they were prepping on Monday for a conference that was going to be on terrorism. They had agreed it was going to be a softer message and I`m sure her bosses said that you need to talk about both. She came on your show, she was asked a direct question from a war perspective, from a beheading perspective, and she answered that first and then gave the soft answer after and she got hit. MATTHEWS: Yes. I thought when I heard her answer that this was coming. I mean, I think because people -- when you`re in a war, it appeals to the bellicosity of politicians. It doesn`t appeal to the specific feature of people, you know what I mean? When you say, I got a long-term plan of -- in some cases around Paris, obviously the Muslim immigrants are having a hell of a bad time -- PALMERI: Right. MATTHEWS: -- but you remember 9/11, all of those guys were technically skilled. PAUL: Also, one of the things that she should be hearing now is, make sure on Monday when you have a message with 21 beheadings, you stick to that message on Monday. PALMERI: Right. PAUL: Tuesday morning was fine to go into the softer message before the conference. MATTHEWS: And the guys who flew the planes on 9/11, they didn`t know how to fly planes, we taught them. There`s the job training program we shouldn`t have gotten involved with. PALMERI: In her defense, that is her job, long-term. It is her job, you know, long term development in these countries. So, that`s what I would say in her defense but is that something you want to be saying on national television. MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us.   And up next, a new poll shows majority of Americans don`t agree with John Boehner going behind the president`s back to invite Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to address Congress. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: The Supreme Court is taking up an appeal case on lethal injections later this year and now, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for a moratorium on the death penalty until that decision. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think the fundamental question about the death penalty need to be asked. And among them, the Supreme Court`s determination as to whether or not lethal injection is consistent with our Constitution is one that ought to occur. For my perspective, I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court made that determination would be appropriate. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Holder added that he disagrees with Justice Antonin Scalia who believes an innocent person has never been executed. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back.   Speaker of the House John Boehner ignited a political fire storm when he and fellow Republicans invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress next month without notifying President Obama first. Now, a new CNN/ORC poll reveals that most Americans believe it was a bad move, 63 percent of Americans say it was wrong to invite Netanyahu without notifying the president. We`re back with our roundtable, Mike, Nick, and Tara. Tara, what do you think of this, in the long run, how`s this going to break? Good for Boehner, good for Netanyahu, bad for who? PALMERI: I think it`s a delicate issue right now and they`re playing politics. You know, I`m not sure which way it`s going to go, but I think we shouldn`t forget that back in 2007, Nancy Pelosi went to Syria against the White House`s wishes on behalf of Israel. So, this has been happening for a while. They play politics in international relations. So, it will be interesting to see how it works out. MATTHEWS: We do have a Logan Act however, Nicholas Confessore, which is we`re not supposed to -- I know this isn`t exactly doing that. It`s getting close when you start inviting a leader of a country in a very difficult situation where he disagrees with our president on a policy of trying to negotiate away from having nuclear weapons in the hands of the ayatollahs -- (CROSSTALK) CONFESSORE: -- feels very strongly about a potential deal. MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want a deal. CONFESSORE: But the Constitution which we hear a lot about in the House, does not give the speaker of the House the right to set foreign policy. It does not put him in charge of it. It`s one thing to invite foreign leader to a joint address. It`s another to invite him to essentially lobby on an issue in which there is an active disagreement in American politics over the proper policy. It`s inappropriate. It`s unprecedented. PAUL: And during an election time in Israel and during the week that 21 Christians were beheaded in the Middle East, I mean, we could go on and on, it`s a horrible precedent. I think it was a big mistake. And I think it will come back to bite any --   MATTHEWS: You know, there is a dispute about who knew what? Dermer, the ambassador from Israel, says that he was informed by somebody, doesn`t say who, that the president was going to be told of this invitation. PAUL: Guess what? This is why the State Department handles foreign policy and dealings with foreign leaders. PALMERI: I find that hard to believe that he didn`t know that the president -- MATTHEWS: Yes. So, what`s that going to do to Israeli politics? I`m curious about it, because I keep reading about the investigation now of the prime minister over there. Bibi is a hell of a politician, but he`s got Tzipi Livni, who`s a great person, and Herzog and this new Zionist party, and this polling over there. Israel is a very difficult country politically. People like to argue. Everybody thinks of themselves as prime minister. It looks like a squeaker of an election over there. Will it be seen that he gave that bloc a break here? Will it be treated that way? CONFESSORE: I`m not an expert, but I do think there`s a sense that the relationship with the U.S. is so important, it is the bedrock of the national security. And to kind of meddle in it in this way for what it appears to be kind of a campaign purpose, is probably not going to sit well, even with the voters who share his worries about a deal with Iran. MATTHEWS: I`m amazed at the people who have stood up and said they`re not going. It is outstanding to stand up in Israel in this way in way that looks like it`s anti-Israel. We know it isn`t. But in a way that could be used by political enemies as being anti-Israeli. You never want to be in that box. CONFESSORE: I mean, the polls, you saw showed it, like this has actually penetrated beyond the beltway. PAUL: It`s not going to be a cake walk for Boehner. It`s not going to be a cake walk for Netanyahu. It`s going to be troublesome. MATTHEWS: Yes. We`ll see how Bibi will be. I think he`ll be at the height of his charm. Thank you. It`s not that high. Our roundtable tonight, Mike Paul, thank you, sir. Nick Confessore, thank you. And welcome, Tara Palmeri.   I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>