IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 02/24/15

Guests: Sen. Claire McCaskill, Sen. Mark Warner, Amanda Terkel, JosephCalifano, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Big deals. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Two huge stories tonight, both pointing to historic breakthroughs. The first involves Homeland Security and immigration. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today called for the Senate to separate the two red-hot issues. He wants a clean Homeland spending bill to meet the midnight deadline Friday on keeping the department running and a separate, straight up-or- down vote on whether to countermand the president`s executive orders on immigration. The second big story tonight is word of breakthrough on U.S. efforts to win a long-term halt in Iran`s nuclear program. We`re going to get to that biggie next. But let`s start with Mitch McConnell`s OK to move ahead with a Homeland Security bill, but also with a separate bill to countermand Obama -- President Obama`s executive orders on immigration. We`ve got NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell to tell us what this all means. Kelly, this is an interesting division. He`s going to have a vote to basically avoid a shutdown Homeland Security spending, but also expose those moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate to perhaps vote against the president and vote to countermand his executive orders on immigration. KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Mitch McConnell has come with an idea that would take the heat off of Republicans in Congress and really all of Congress by finding a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security and do sort of the right thing when it comes to being the governing party. But he also wanted to keep the pressure on Democrats and the president over the executive orders on immigration. So he found a path. We don`t yet know if that will work, but what he`s come up with is a willingness to do that funding bill without any restrictions dealing with the immigration order, what`s kind of known in Washington as a clean way to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded for the whole fiscal year.   And then on Friday, he says, he wants to hold a vote, much more narrow, to say that Congress would, in fact, stop the president from having the funding just to implement the November executive order -- a limited approach, less than what was in the original House bill, but a way to especially have those centrist Democrats who have publicly said they believe the president went too far, to have to answer on a bill, to be called to really put their name on this. We don`t know if it`ll work, Chris, because Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is saying, Not so fast. I want assurances from John Boehner that House Republicans will go along. And he`s leaning on the fact that sometimes Speaker Boehner has said, yes, he agrees with something, but hasn`t been able to brings his conference along. MATTHEWS: OK, well, it sounds like Harry doesn`t like the way this is going, but it seems to me McConnell is a wily fox here because, basically, as you said, he takes the heat off the Republicans because they`re not holding up funding for Homeland Security in the wake of all these discussions about the Mall of America and things like that. At the same time, isn`t he putting a scorching heat on those moderate and centrist Democrats you mentioned who may well not want to be caught for voting for president`s perhaps overreach of authority on illegal immigration -- immigration? O`DONNELL: Exactly that. And he needs to do something to put the pressure on Democrats because it is so important to Republicans, and especially very conservative Republicans, to use their power of legislating to try to stop the president. And there are so few opportunities for them to do that with respect to those executive orders. So this is a way to say they`ll let the courts deal with it. They`ll fund the department, but they`ll show Democrats a chance to say, Are you with the president or are you not when it comes to that particular executive order, Chris. MATTHEWS: Smart fellow, that Mitch McConnell. Anyway, I`m not sure he`s right, but he`s smart. Thank you, Kelly O`Donnell, for the great report. O`DONNELL: Good to see you. Last November Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said this about the president`s executive actions on immigration. Quote, "Our immigration system is broken, and I support a comprehensive plan to fix it, but executive orders aren`t the way to do it." Senator McCaskill joins me now. Senator, if you were to get a freestanding vote to countermand the president`s executive orders on illegal immigration, would you vote to countermand? SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: It`s not that I would vote to countermand. It was I would rather debate and vote on getting rid of his executive orders by Congress doing its job, Chris. We need to debate immigration reform. We hammered out a bill that wasn`t perfect, but it was exactly what we do in a democracy. It was a compromise. We had a lot of Republican support for the bill. We sent it to the House almost two years ago, and they never took it up to debate it. We`ve got to decide whether our job is to play political football with the president, or whether our job is to legislate fixing a broken system. That`s what we should be focused on.   MATTHEWS: Well, the Republicans in the Senate, your colleagues up there, seem to want to do anything they can to eliminate what Obama, the president, did last fall. Do you see there`s going to be a vote? Does it look like that the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is going to get his way and have a vote like that? MCCASKILL: Well, first what`s going to have to happen is they`re going to have to fund the Department of Homeland Security. We had need to speak with one voice. Right now, when we are threatened in so many ways, we need to not be playing political games with the funding of Homeland Security. So let`s get that funded. Get it off the table. The Republicans are in charge. They can bring up whatever they want to bring up about immigration the very next day, and let`s debate it. And let`s amend it and let`s try to hammer out a solution. Just overturning his orders puts us right back where we are, with a broken system, with not enough protection at the border, without the kind of resources we need to provide, you know, a lot of industries that are depending on people with Green Cards. We`ve got to fix this system, and that`s what we ought to do. And this is what Congress has gotten so bad at. Our muscles about legislating have atrophied. We need to remember our that job here is to compromise and get legislation passed, not just beat up the president. MATTHEWS: Well, the Senate did a great job with a dozen Republicans supporting you guys. You got a good immigration reform bill. I think it`s really first rate. I wish the House would pass it. But now we`re stuck with a court system that looks like it`s going to declare -- it could well declare what the president did last fall unconstitutional. That leaves you back to square one, as well, just as a vote would do that, wouldn`t it? MCCASKILL: Yes, and that`s the point. I wish that more people would be asking Speaker Boehner, Well, what is your idea, not what upsets you about the president, but what is your solution for the immigration problem? It`s not realistic that we can deport... MATTHEWS: Well... MCCASKILL: ... 12 million people in this country. And so why do we give them a pass? Why can they just be negative? Why can`t they be constructive and come with a plan? It`s a little bit like them saying they`ll repeal and replace health care reform. Have you ever seen replace? MATTHEWS: Could it be... MCCASKILL: I`ve never seen replace. MATTHEWS: Could it be, Senator, if I can be candid -- you don`t have to be -- that they`ve got 218 votes in districts that don`t have a significant number of Latino voters, and that`s what they`re voting. This is an ethnic thing. They figure they can stand hard against immigration, illegal immigration, whatever, because they don`t have to deal with it politically. They just vote against it.   MCCASKILL: Well, they need to talk to agricultural interests in this country and they need to talk to the Chamber of Commerce and they need to talk to businesses about whether or not -- and the talent we`re losing in this country because of the difficulty of highly educated people to be allowed to remain in this country. So yes, you know, they`re all in safe districts, and yes, they`re all worried about either their right or left flank, and the moderate people have kind of gone away in the House. But that doesn`t remove their responsibility to be a constructive partner with the Senate, debate bills, compromise on bills and try to pass bills. You know, I don`t think the American people are going to get excited about a Republican majority that just figures out every day a new way to beat up the president. MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Thanks for joining us. MCCASKILL: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: One of the Senate Democrats that Mitch McConnell`s targeting is Democratic senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who has gone on record criticizing the president`s executive actions on illegal immigration. Last fall, he told reporters, "A big issue like immigration, the best way to get a comprehensive solution is to take this through the legislative process." Senator Warner joins us now from Capitol Hill. It looks to me, Senator, like Mitch McConnell has been very much the wily fox here. He`s gotten the heat off his party by saying he`s not going to hold up funding for Homeland Security at this time of theories and worries about terrorism coming at us. At the same time, he`s making folks like you, who are more moderate Democrats, deal with the issue of the way the president handled the issue of illegal immigration last fall. SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Well, Chris, let`s take them one at a time. You know, the fact is, it would be crazy to cut off funding to Homeland Security. We have 17,000 DHS employees in Virginia alone, the idea of al Shabaab putting out videos, threatening American malls -- this is not the time to stop funding for Homeland Security. And both sides, Democrats and Republicans, had already agreed on the numbers. So this is a simply add-on by the Republicans. Now, at the end of the day, whether this plan that the majority leader has put forward -- I think you`re (ph) still going to be seeing what will happen in the House. If we end up coming back and the House simply sticks back on these conditions, we`ve not made progress. So we need to see a bill get to the president that he can sign before Friday night at midnight so that Americans can go around their daily lives recognizing that Homeland Security`s going to get funded. MATTHEWS: But why doesn`t the Senate just do its job and pass a clean bill? Why (INAUDIBLE) Harry Reid number (ph) -- He`s up to something here, Harry Reid. He is doing something here. You guys, especially him, seem to be worried that you have to vote on this immigration freestanding part of it. WARNER: No, I`m not -- no, I -- listen, as someone who said I wish the president would have done this legislatively, I think they should have taken up the immigration bipartisan bill that the Senate passed, 14 Republicans voted for. And we have already seen now the court put a hold on that action. They`re going to resolve that.   I would not vote for that standalone bill that rolls back the November 14 executive order because that executive order, whether it was for dreamers, whether it was for some of their parents, whether it was some of the kids who`ve been previous dreamers who had not been covered by the earlier action -- I think that would have been all part of the immigration reform that I supported in the past. Why would I vote against it now? MATTHEWS: Do you believe it`s constitutional, what the president did last fall? WARNER: I think the courts... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... executive. WARNER: I think the courts are going to rule on that. MATTHEWS: Where`s your ruling? WARNER: Hey, listen, that`s why I never became a lawyer and became a business guy (INAUDIBLE) instead. MATTHEWS: OK. One last time. Why doesn`t the Senate do its job and pass a clean Homeland Security bill to fund through the next segment of the -- from now to October 1st? WARNER: Chris... MATTHEWS: Why not just do that and expect the House to do what it has to do?   WARNER: Chris, you and I know that -- you and I and a few folks who follow the insides/outsides of who`s up and who`s down are very few in number in terms of House and Senate. What the American people want, what Virginia -- people of Virginia want is they want to make sure that Homeland Security doesn`t go without funding after Friday night at midnight. The only way we do that is if we get a bill that has no riders to the president of the United States so he can sign it. MATTHEWS: Anyway, you`re my kind of Democrat, so I hope it doesn`t hurt you to hear that. But thank you so much... WARNER: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: ... Senator Mark Warner, a reasonable guy from Virginia. Coming up, the United States is inches closer to an historic deal with Iran over its nuclear program, and that news comes just days, of course, before Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s controversial address to the Congress. Plus, Hillary Clinton talks to the women of Silicon Valley. She`s connecting with her base for 2016, women. That`s a big change in strategy from the last time she ran. And what`s next for the secretary of Veterans Affairs? He apologized again today for falsely saying he was in the military`s special forces. He says he was trying to connect with a homeless veteran and has no excuse for making a statement that wasn`t true. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the upbeat news from Iran, and it is good news. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the U.S. Senate will take up an override of President Obama`s veto of the Keystone pipeline bill. The president issued the veto late this afternoon. It`s the third of his presidency -- only the third of his presidency -- and McConnell promises the Senate will consider an override no later than March. The Keystone pipeline bill passed the Senate last month by a vote of 62 to 36. And as it now stands, it looks unlikely that McConnell will have the two thirds majority needed to override the president`s veto.   And we`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. And anybody running around right now jumping in to say, Well, we don`t like the deal, or this or that, doesn`t know what the deal is. There is no deal yet. And I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce. The P5-plus-1 talks have made inroads since the joint plan of action. We`ve halted the progress of Tehran`s nuclear program. We`ve gained unprecedented insight into it, and we expect to know soon whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable and verifiable plan. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That, was of course, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifying today. Yesterday, he met with his Iranian counterpart in Geneva, and both sides are reporting progress. And according to some reports, they could be on the verge of a breakthrough. The Associated Press reports, "One variation being discussed would place at least a 10-year regime of strict controls on Iran`s uranium enrichment. If Iran complied, the restrictions would be gradually lifted over the final five years. And one issue critics are certain to focus on, once the deal expired, Iran could theoretically ramp up enrichment to whatever level it wanted." Well, those are the facts. The sides are trying to reach a framework agreement by March 31st of this year, but there are plenty of obstacles, including very vocal critics both in Tehran and here in Washington. And Israel`s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, of course, is still planning to speak to the Congress on March 3rd of this, where he`s likely to criticize a potential deal with Iran. NBC News special correspondent Ann Curry is just back from covering the nuclear talks in Geneva. Ann, it`s so great to have you on for anything, but for this hot story -- I am one of those who really is hopeful. I don`t want to go to war with Iran because I don`t think it will ever end. I don`t think we`re going to get tougher sanctions from our allies than we have now, so I think the one route to avoiding a nuclear weapon or an arsenal of nuclear weapons in the hands of the ayatollahs is what we`re doing. Do we have hope now? ANN CURRY, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that we do. In the past, what we`ve learned is that not talking to Iran actually doesn`t work, that, in fact, when you don`t talk to Iran, they actually increase the number of centrifuges. They increase their enrichment capacity, so there is (INAUDIBLE) effect. I learned from somebody who was actually in the room -- and imagine this, Chris -- that right after 9/11, then Iranian president Khatami actually offered the United States that he would limit the number of centrifuges to 164 centrifuges. Because the United States was not talking to Iran, we did not take that deal.   And now we`re talking about trying to pull back thousands of centrifuges from Iran. So the idea of talking to Iran is actually ultimately going to be safer. The question, though, the big debate that you talk about when you talk about Bibi Netanyahu coming to speak next Tuesday before Congress is, ultimately, what will be the guts of the deal? And as you just heard from the secretary of state, who I flew back with from Geneva last night on his government plane, we don`t actually know the specifics of the deal. And we`ve already been told that even the things that they have agreed to can be changed until they finally sign the bottom line, which won`t be until June. But there is a deadline coming up, as you just talked about, at the end of March. And the interesting thing about that deadline that most people don`t realize, that it`s not March 31st because -- well, probably not because the Persian new year actually begins on March 21st, and just as the United States negotiators refused to negotiate through Thanksgiving, it is highly unlikely that the Iranian negotiators will want to continue to negotiate past the 21st. That new year lasts through April 4th, so that really talks about just in a matter of weeks, they`ve got to nail this thing down if they want to make a political framework that ultimately will lead to the kind of deal you`re talking about. MATTHEWS: Ann, you talked about them reducing the number of centrifuges. I don`t understand a lot of this, but are they retrenching what they have, destroying what they have, or simply agreeing or basically agreeing to a lower number of centrifuges that they`re producing? CURRY: You know, I think the real confusion -- and we talked about enrichment, we talk about centrifuges. It becomes very, very complicated, because it`s really about nuclear science. It`s about physics. And I think it`s hard for people to really understand. I can tell you that the debate is how many centrifuges to allow Iran to still have. MATTHEWS: Right. CURRY: But the real way to understand this is in what you talked about earlier, which is the breakout capacity. How long would it take Iran to build a nuclear bomb, a nuclear weapon bomb? And currently what we understand is on the table is that Iran would be limited to one year. In other words, it would take them a year. They would have the things, the centrifuges, the enriched uranium, all those kinds of ingredients, that that would -- it would take a year to work with these tools to create a bomb. Now, I need to hasten to add that Iran has insisted consistently that it has no interest in building a nuclear bomb, a nuclear weapon, that it`s against its faith, it`s again Sharia. It`s a Shia country, a Muslim country, and this has come from the supreme leader. But the interesting thing, the things that it needs to make a nuclear program for what it says are peaceful purposes are the same sorts of ingredients, these kinds of things we`re talking about, the enrichment, the centrifuges, as it will need for making a weapon. So the question really kind of comes down to trust.   And so the interesting thing that happened -- interesting sort of step forward that happened during this particular round of talks is for the first time, two other cabinet members came along with those two men you see on your screen -- that`s the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on the left, and the secretary of state, John Kerry, on the right. Along with them, both of them brought their energy secretaries. The United States energy secretary joined the talks, along with his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Salehi. These two men actually both went to MIT to study physics. In fact, we were told it was possible that they were so close -- that they were there almost at the same time, if not at the same time, though we have not learned whether or not they ever actually bumped into each other or knew each other. These two people are considered just brainiacs on the subject matter. And the difficulty in talking about this politically is that most anyone, most anybody at that table will probably not fully understand unless they have the voice of these highly trained people, every little itsy-bitsy part of that. MATTHEWS: Yes. CURRY: And I use the word itsy-bitsy, because obviously I`m one of those people who don`t -- who can`t claim to understand nuclear physics. I think that those two people being at the table this time, for the first time, brought a degree of comfort and a degree of credibility to the talks. And I think it was clear -- though no one was speaking publicly on the record, it was clear that there was a degree of comfort that their brainpower brought this time, that it created. MATTHEWS: Ann Curry, it`s great to have you on. I am hopeful after that report. Thank you so much. I hope we can avoid a war. I hope we can avoid them ever getting a nuclear weapon. Thank you so much for that hot report. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Up next, 50 years after Selma, we look back on the march that changed America, and the president who helped deliver the right to vote for everyone. It`s all now on the books because of one president, LBJ.   And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back to HARDBALL. There`s been a lot of talk this week about Selma, of course, and next week President Obama is going down to Alabama to commemorate that 50th anniversary of the historic event, when civil rights demonstrators were met with police violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Last weekend, the leader of that demonstrations, U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, spoke on CBS about the legacy of that historic day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don`t think as a group we had any idea that our marching feet across that bridge would have such an impact 50 years later. If it hadn`t been for that march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, there would be no Barack Obama as president of the United States of America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Joseph Califano Jr. was the chief assistant for domestic affairs to President Lyndon Johnson. He`s author of the memoir "The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson," with a new introduction just out. He joins me right now. He joins me right now. Joe, thank you for joining us.   Who was the greatest civil rights president? JOSEPH CALIFANO, AUTHOR, "THE TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON": I think it`s a tossup between Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. I think there`s no one closer to them, I think, Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation. But Johnson did put a lot of flesh on it with the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in employment and public accommodations, the Voting Rights Act, which, as John Lewis just said, was really a partnership between Johnson and Martin Luther King, and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, in the wake of King`s assassination. I think LBJ has to be way up there. And affirmative action, let`s not forget that. MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, driving down to spring break back at Holy Cross, where you went as well, I remember driving down to the South, through Georgia and places like that, and there were still those "white only" signs at the gas stations and "white only" signs at the convenience stores, even though they were outlawed by that act. They were still floating up there. People hadn`t ripped them down yet. But it shows you how life was. You remember it, what it was like in the early `60s still. CALIFANO: Oh, I know it. Listen, when I came -- I was in Washington in the Navy from 1955 to 1958. The theaters were segregated. Even -- remember the great August `63 march. I was in the Pentagon then. I worked with the -- Walter Fauntroy and Bayard Rustin, two great civil rights leaders, to help the Army`s part of that march and the Justice Department. And I remember we had trouble with the hotels. They didn`t want to take black clients in the hotels, hotels like the Mayflower, all these great hotels. They wanted no part of it. MATTHEWS: Yes. People forget that D.C. was a segregated city, very much so. It was very much a Southern town.   Anyway, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, what Johnson signed, passed with four out of five Republicans. People don`t believe the Republican Party in those days, and all but six Republican senators in the entire U.S. Senate. And the Voting Rights Act passed with similar support from Republicans in the House and the Senate a year later. Joe, you live up in New York. You know that city. You know the Northeast. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: What happened to those Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller and Jack Javits and Hugh Scott and all those people who totally, utterly building in civil rights? They would be scorned in the party of Reince Priebus, which is out there trying to kill voting terrorists through these I.D. laws. CALIFANO: Well, the I.D. laws, and they have been drummed out of the Republican Party. One of the great things about those years that people forget is that virtually all those civil rights laws and all of those Great Society laws were passed with significant Republican support. They were bipartisan laws. MATTHEWS: So what happened, Joe? Was Johnson right when he said the minute he signed that civil rights bill in `64 he was kissing the South goodbye, but he was also kissing the moderate Republican Party goodbye? CALIFANO: Well, he certainly kissed the South goodbye, although we may see the South start to inch back, because, as he knew, the Voting Rights Act was the most important piece of legislation in his administration, the proud -- the thing he was most proud of. And as minorities and blacks become a bigger and bigger part of the voting bloc down there, we`re going to see a change in the South, maybe not in my lifetime, but within the next 20 years. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK.   Your book is called "The Triumph and Tragedy." Let me ask you about this important question. Who is Joe Califano going to endorse for the Democratic nomination for the president next year? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And here is your chance on national television to do what you wish. Joe Califano now endorses Hillary Clinton or fails to. Which is it going to be? (CROSSTALK) CALIFANO: Let me tell you, I want a bold leader. I think we`re at a situation. We need a bold leader. We have income inequality. We have education inequality. We have climate change. You have a revolution in communications and technology. We need somebody that`s going to go big and bold. MATTHEWS: Keep going. CALIFANO: And I would hope that whoever the Democratic nominee is does that. (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: OK. CALIFANO: Not stay in the middle. MATTHEWS: Whoever. You`re endorsing whoever. CALIFANO: There`s no room -- there`s no room in the middle for greatness. MATTHEWS: OK. CALIFANO: You have got to be bold. MATTHEWS: How about -- would you like Elizabeth Warren to challenge Hillary for the nomination? CALIFANO: I would like to see a vigorous Democratic debate. I think it would be a -- it would be a very good thing. But I think whoever the nominee is... MATTHEWS: Would Elizabeth be able to fight that vigorous debate against Hillary? CALIFANO: I think it`s going to be very tough.   You know that and I know that, especially with the money you need today. And we`re talking about an election that could be a billion-and-a-half on each side, Republican and Democrat. A $3 billion election, Chris, my God. MATTHEWS: John Podesta will be calling you tomorrow morning, or tonight, Joe, perhaps to discuss this inability of you to get behind the right candidate. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, just teasing. But we are waiting for your endorsement because you`re a powerful voice against the evils of addiction and things like that, but I thought you might favor us with a news announcement tonight. Anyway. CALIFANO: Well, I just want big. Bold is beautiful for me. And I hope that Hillary, I hope any Democratic candidate will be bold. I think that`s -- you know, look at the last century, Chris, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson. They didn`t go to the middle. MATTHEWS: Yes. CALIFANO: They went bold and they brought the middle to them. That`s what the Democratic Party has to do. MATTHEWS: OK. OK. You have had your say, and you have had your chance, and you have blown it.   (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. The book is called "The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson." It`s in paperback with a new introduction by Joseph Califano. Up next: Hillary Clinton is pushing something this time around that she didn`t do last time. And that`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui. Here`s what`s happening. Jury deliberations are expected to begin soon in the trial of Eddie Ray Routh. The ex-Marine is accused of fatally shooting American sniper Chris Kyle and another man in February of 2013. A verdict could come as early as tonight. And 28 people were hurt, four critically, when a commuter train hit a truck and derailed outside Los Angeles. And former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he will not run for Barbara Boxer`s Senate seat. She will not run for reelection next year -- now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.   And this is going to be interesting. Hillary Clinton was back in the spotlight today, late today, speaking before a crowded room at a women`s conference in Silicon Valley out in California, where she was reportedly paid a speaking fee of $300,000, according to "The Washington Post." Well, Hillary Clinton was making her 2016 pitch to what is referred to as the upwardly mobile professional women, or, as some call, them the lean-in voters. And Hillary hit the gender themes hard today, leaning in as a champion for women. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My friend Madeleine Albright famously said there`s a special spot in hell for women who don`t help other women. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CLINTON: So, what you do does not have to be big and dramatic. You don`t have to run for office. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow.   As NBC`s Andrea Mitchell put it, last time Hillary Clinton ran, she played down her gender, as she tried to prove that a woman could be, for example, commander in chief. Well, this time, her role as mother and grandmother will be central to her campaign, according to her advisers. That`s news. Being the first female candidate likely to become a major party nominee for president is, of course, the change part of Hillary 2.0, intended to mitigate against her age and the fact that she could be or would be the second Clinton if she wins the White House. Well, joining the roundtable right now is Huffington Post senior political reporter Amanda Terkel, former Republican chairman and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. He is really a strategist, by the way. It`s... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I got to go to you, Amanda, on this thing, because, first of all, before we went to break, I`m asking you and others here on the panel, on the roundtable, should we call her Hillary? And I guess people -- on the posters were Hillary, first name, because -- to separate it from bill. And we always around here rather causally and somebody abusively at times say W. So we are used to separating people of the same surname by their first name. But I can also -- I also try to say Secretary Clinton. I try to say Senator Clinton, not often. I think she goes by Secretary Clinton, the most formal protocol. Let`s get back to women. She`s not running as just another candidate. She is running, it seems from this, although it was to a group of women, as the woman candidate. AMANDA TERKEL, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right. She was reaching out to women today who see themselves in Hillary Clinton. They are upwardly mobile women who sit at a table full of men and they think, I`m smarter than all these guys, why am I not in charge? Hillary, I`m sure, has thought that many times. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: But they could be wrong. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You could be wrong when you -- I mean, I think I`m smarter than everybody, too. I could be wrong. Listen, we`re all guilty. Well, go on. (LAUGHTER) TERKEL: But these are women who are very underrepresented in their field. MATTHEWS: Who doesn`t think they`re smarter than everybody else? TERKEL: I think more men think that than women think that. And I think that they would like to see Hillary break that final barrier, the cracks in the glass ceiling, the glass ceiling finally break. MATTHEWS: Yes. TERKEL: And they`re going to work on behalf of her. They have money and they will fund-raise for her. MATTHEWS: So, do you think, as a journalist or as a person, that if Hillary gets elected president -- as she`s got as good a shot as anybody.   TERKEL: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: She`s I think quite plausibly the next president -- that women will behave differently? Like, every time I go give speeches or do a Q&A, every guy in the room has got a question. Women don`t do it. What is -- is that me? (LAUGHTER) TERKEL: It will take a while. I mean, women often don`t run for office, for example, because they aren`t encouraged to run for office. MATTHEWS: How about this? Put your hand up. TERKEL: They aren`t encouraged to run for office. They don`t wake up and look in the mirror and say I see a senator, I see a president. If they see a woman as president, they might start to think that more and be encouraged more and be told, you`re smart, rather than, oh you look so pretty. MATTHEWS: See? STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have four daughters, I tell them they look pretty and they`re smart. I thought it was very interesting what she was doing today because she seems very mindful of the fact that 53 percent of voters in any presidential race for anything are women. She was very, very explicit about -- MATTHEWS: In California, by the way, it`s about 60 percent of the Democratic Party are women.   MCMAHON: The other thing I thought was interesting was she basically said there were two things the next president needs to do. One is make the economy work for everybody, especially the middle class, has been left out, make wage growth a priority again. But the second thing she talked about was, we need somebody who can bring the left and right together, which, you know, people often think of Hillary Clinton as a polarizing figure, but the mother and grandmother in her was talking about -- MATTHEWS: You think that`s the zealot, it`s that Machiavellian, I`m a grandmother, I can make people get along? MCMAHON: I think it`s, I`m a woman, and that`s just another advantage of being woman, because women can bring people together. MATTHEWS: OK, Bobby Kennedy, one of our heroes, most people here, probably yours, too, said, hang a lantern on your problem. If you got a problem, everybody calls you ruthless, don`t try to hide from it. Is being a grandmother, which I`m heard she`s pushing -- she is one, my wife is grandmother, I`m a grandfather -- is a way of saying I`m a little older, but there`s a plus to that? MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it humanizes her. It puts her in the mainstream of conversations at kitchen tables around the country. It puts her in the mainstream of living room where grandmas and granddads are sitting there playing with their grandkids and watching her give a speech. I think that`s something she wants to tap into this time. I was amazed in watching her and kind of smiling, it`s sort of like the where`s Waldo of politics today? Where is Hillary? Everybody wants to talk about -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You could say, she`s where they`re paying $300,000. That`s a heck of a lot of money for an hour. STEELE: She`s not only a grandmother, but she`s a smart businesswoman. So, I think, you know -- MATTHEWS: To get in I think it was like 300 bucks. TERKEL: She`s getting paid to talk to her base. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s cute.   (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, on Sunday, at the Oscars, we all watch actress Patricia Arquette voiced her loud support and actually got a standing ovation for the issue of equal pay. Here it is to remind of what happened to the Oscars. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PATRICIA ARQUETTE, ACTRESS: To every taxpayers and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else`s equality rights. It`s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That`s, of course, Meryl Streep seconding the argument. Earlier today, Hillary Clinton seconded herself Arquette`s call for wage fairness. Here is the secretary. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Women are paid less for the same work, which is why I think we all cheered at Patricia Arquette`s speech at the Oscars, because she`s right. It`s time to have wage equality once and for all. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So the bills out there, the bill we are fighting over here, is to somehow make it work, wage equality. It`s on the books now, but it doesn`t work for a lot of reasons. TERKEL: Right. This would be a focus of Hillary Clinton`s administration if she did take office. She had the final frontier is equal opportunities for women and girls. She did this as secretary of state. Her argument today was in some ways economic. We can`t succeed as a country economically if we`re only utilizing half our population. And so, we need these family-friendly policies that help not only women, but help men. And I think that will be a big focus, more than it was last time.   MATTHEWS: Michael, years ago I got away for writing an article in "The New Republic" about political parenthood, how the made candidates of the Republican Party, your party, is all for guns, and for national defense, capital punishment, tough, macho stuff. The Democratic party is for health care, education, child development, women`s issues. You can say, yes, the mommy and the daddy party. I`m not saying that anymore. But Hillary seems to be very carefully saying, OK, I`ll be the mommy party, that`s the big part of my agenda, and I`ll say it -- health care, education, equal play, I will play that part. I`m not running for general of the armies here. STEELE: Oh, I think that`s probably true, but she`ll get tripped up on it when, you know, the facts come out that, you know, she`s caught in that pay equity gap just like every other employer out there, given what women made in her office as secretary of state versus what -- MATTHEWS: Aren`t those government statutory titles -- STEELE: Well, again, but, yes, but you`re the secretary, you can change that. You can pay -- MATTHEWS: You have that knife in your pocket. You had that ready. (CROSSTALK) STEELE: The numbers are the numbers. And the reality of it is -- MATTHEWS: Do you have the facts on this? STEELE: Yes, I do, and it`s been reported. But again, this is -- this is part of the conversation we`re going to have, and that as she steps out into this light, a lot of these things are going to come out how she handles them playing to that role that you said. MATTHEWS: Do you want to say something here?   MCMAHON: Well, first of all, I think Michael is grasping, and her salary is set by statute. But beyond that I think -- MATTHEWS: Not her, her employees, the women who worked in her office. MCMAHON: I think Andrea Mitchell is absolutely right. She was the candidate who happened to be a female candidate for president last time. This time, she`s going to be the female candidate for president, and she`s going to play it. Don`t underestimated second part which I mentioned a moment ago. People are so tired of the gridlock which is represented and embodied by all the men fighting all the time in Washington, and only the women can make things happen. MATTHEWS: It`s just too bad the Republicans don`t have General Petraeus to run, because if you guys had him, he`s a very smart guy and would play the daddy party very well. STEELE: If he decides to run, we`ll be ready for Hillary. This is the least of our concerns at this point, trust me. MATTHEWS: I like the way your eyes flashed there, at least -- it`s very convincing. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, what`s next for the secretary of veterans affairs after apologizing today for saying he was not -- well, he apologized for saying he was in the special forces. He was not. I don`t get this one. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: The American people are growing, more supportive of a military campaign against ISIS. According to a new Pew poll, catch this -- 63 percent, about 2/3 approve the U.S. campaign against the militant group. Only 30 percent disapproved. When asked whether they support sending ground troops to fight ISIS, Americans are evenly split now -- 47 percent favor the idea, 49 percent oppose it. By the way, that`s a 14-point swing towards ground troops since October. And I have felt it myself. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is apologizing again today about falsely saying that he served in the Special Forces. He made the statement while speaking to a homeless man in Los Angeles and his remark was included in a CBS report that aired last month. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT MCDONALD, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Really? Army, Navy, Air Force? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Army. MCDONALD: Army? What unit? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special Forces.   MCDONALD: Special Forces? What years? I was in Special Forces. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I was in Special Forces. In a press conference today, McDonald called the remark a mistake and tried to explain why he said it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCDONALD: In an attempt to connect with that veteran to make him feel comfortable, I incorrectly stated that I, too, had been in Special Forces. That was wrong and I have no excuse. My biggest motivation was to connect with the veteran. It was a misstatement. It was a mistake. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, this comes after McDonald also overstated the number of people who have been fired from the V.A. following the departure of Eric Shinseki. But the White House said yesterday it`s standing by him. We`re back now with our roundtable, Amanda, Michael and Steve. Michael, as a fellow Republican, I like to connect with you -- (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: As a fellow GOPer I would like to -- are we feeling connected now? STEELE: This is the seventh sign. Go ahead. MATTHEWS: What do you think of this? We`ve had cases like this all over the media, of course. We know now with Brian. We know it now with, what`s his name, O`Reilly, and there is big debate. But, you know, resume inflation accused or real is all over the place. STEELE: It`s not resume inflation. It is something about people wanting to connect with our military by lying, about what they`ve done, how they served, how they`ve interacted with the military. MATTHEWS: First, you know, Richard Blumenthal, there is a series of candidates who have said, I served in Vietnam. STEELE: Right, I don`t understand what that is. The American people, they get it, they`re not looking for you and certainly I`m sure that the soldier thought now I`m more connected to the secretary that he`s lied to me. MATTHEWS: How about giving him a job? STEELE: Yes, thank you, this guy is a homeless guy. So, let`s start with that idea. So, it`s just an amazing to me that whether you`re in television or in politics or whatever, you feel this is -- MATTHEWS: I don`t want to get into names or media critics, I tried to avoid media criticism of anybody, including people from my network and around it, but is a need to have a macho background for men especially? What about you? You were looking at us as a gender. Is this a men to have a Hemmingway kind of background? They can`t just be a smart guy that made his way to the job he`s in. There has to be a back story.   TERKEL: Well, Hillary did this too, dodging sniper fire, dodging -- MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s right. (INAUDIBLE) TERKEL: So, I mean, I think, you know as Michael was saying, there is a little bit of, you want to show that you`re a little tougher. This may be something more common with men. But Secretary McDonald did serve in the military. He didn`t really have to inflate that. MATTHEWS: Yes, 82nd Airborne is not a slouch. TERKEL: Right, exactly. So -- MATTHEWS: Do they jump out of airplanes? STEELE: Yes. TERKEL: I mean, I don`t think he`s going anywhere. I don`t think he`s going to resign. He has it, he`s been in front that he served in the 82nd Airborne before -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They have a whole discussion about media guys watched over now and gotten in trouble. He must know it is in the air, don`t inflate. MCMAHON: It seems incredible. By the way, I think it`s also a sign that the Obama administration might not have complete and total confidence by the fact that he went out and had a news conference, which I suspect --   MATTHEWS: Somebody pushed him? MCMAHON: Go do your news conference and we`ll talk to you afterwards, and we`ll see how well you handle it. We`ll see if there are follow on stories day after day after day. But I will tell you one thing, you`re probably not going to hear a lot about this on FOX News for obvious reasons, and I think that is probably good for him because Republicans, you know, love to take these things and just pick apart -- MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t they go after him? MCMAHON: Well, they`ve got their Bill O`Reilly problem over there and they`re standing behind their man there and his embellishment was similar in many respects to this. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Bill, his name is Steve McMahon. He`s a fellow Irishman. You can look at him up. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Amanda Terkel, thank you. And Michael Steele, thank you. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Let me finish with the upbeat news from Iran. My guess is that people running that country are looking at three routes that can them take them into the near and intermediate future. They can go along with a deal that at minimum delays any plans they have for building nuclear weapons. That would end the sanctions and put them back on a road to a strong economic presence in the region. In this way, they could become a major Islamic country in the oil-producing Mideast and could make them a real economic rival of Israel over the long haul. It would give them something real, not the threat of having a nuclear weapon in their hands, but the present reality of economic power and with it, conventional military strength. This would be the smart move I would think from their way of thinking. The two alternatives are to stiff the U.S. on a deal, taking their chance that we could not get -- or we could not toughen the sanctions against them and feeling that we would not attack them militarily or would not help Israel do it. Well, those second and third options don`t seem that sane to me. I think any reasonable person knows that an American president cannot no matter what his ideology let this current government in Iran have a nuclear weapons arsenal. No president could put up with that, and certainly not a left of center president like Obama. So, I`m hoping that the leaders of Iran make the right decision, that the news we got today was real, that there`s now a prospect -- a good prospect of getting a deal that keeps Iran well short of getting nuclear weapons. I know that Bibi Netanyahu disagrees with the approach I`ve laid out, but I bet the majority of Israelis do not. Why? Because once the United States or Israel or both of us go to a hot war with Iran, there is no counting on the consequences. We listened to the neocons when they cheered us into Baghdad. We listened to those who cheered the Bush freedom agenda, as it careened its way into Baghdad. We listened to those who loved the sight of a toppling Egypt and a topping Libya, and hope just as fervently for a toppling Syria. In every case, we got worse than what we had. Let`s hope that ayatollahs in Iran are sane and do the right thing, even as the screwballs on our side of the world cheer for yet another U.S. war with far worse consequences than we can imagine. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END   Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>