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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 03/04/15

Guests: Carol Leonnig, Matt Schlapp, Jess McIntosh, Rep. Donna Edwards,John Feehery, Gregory Angelo, Christina Bellantoni

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary`s front page news. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. It`s front page news. It`s right up there. Read all about it. Hillary Clinton used private e-mail while at State. Find out the true story. Read "The New York Times." Read "The Washington Post." Read all about it. What is going on? Suddenly, the once and future presidential candidate is the topic of A-1 attention from the country`s major newspapers, including "USA Today." And one thing this means -- we`re back to Benghazi. Late today, the House select committee says it has issued a new batch of subpoenas for Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. But let`s get inside this big spotlight on Hillary`s behavior at State. Is this a major problem, a minor one, or a concoction by her critics? Carol Leonnig is a reporter with "The Washington Post," Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Jess McIntosh is the spokeswoman for Emily`s List. Anyway, last week, the big front page story in "The Washington Post" focused on potential conflicts of interest with millions in foreign donations given to Hillary Clinton`s group, CGI, the Clinton Global Initiative, when she was secretary of state. And yesterday, "The New York Times" front page raised concerns about her exclusive use of private e-mail during her tenure at State, saying that she may have violated federal requirements that officials` correspondence be retained as part of the agency`s record.   Well, today`s story on the front page of "The Washington Post," says the White House says Clinton did not heed e-mail policy. Quote, "She appears to have operated in violation of what the White House said Tuesday was very specific guidance that members of the Obama administration use government e-mail accounts to carry out official business." And the front page of today`s "New York Times" has a story that she thwarted records requests. It reports there were, quote, "several instances in which records requests sent to the State Department, which had no access to Mrs. Clinton`s e-mails, came up empty." And the Associated Press today reports that Hillary ran her own e-mail servers. Quote, "The highly unusual practice of a cabinet-level official physically running her own e-mail out of her family`s home in Chappaqua, New York, would have given Clinton impressive control over limiting access to her message archives. Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas." I want to go to Carol Leonnig, much respected reporter for "The Post." The placement of these stories right at the top of the two major metropolitan papers in this country -- why are these stories so big in the judgment of the news business? CAROL LEONNIG, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, two reasons, Chris. I mean, number one, it involves Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. And second, you know, as many government employees have been saying to me in sort of vitriolic language, If I did that at the government, do you know how much trouble I would be in? It`s almost as if there`s a different standard for Hillary Clinton, in the view of these folks. And even the White House and at the State Department, people are really shocked -- some people are really shocked that she was able to basically create her own rule system. MATTHEWS: Let me go to Matt on this, Matt Schlapp. You`re obviously -- I think I can fairly say you`ll be a critic of Hillary`s, so let`s get it out on the table. If you had to explain this to you mother or your mother or somebody at a bar somewhere, a regular guy, what`s the big deal here? MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION PRES.: It looks like she has a separate set of rules governing her behavior, that she didn`t do what was mandated by law that we have these as records, that she had a separate... MATTHEWS: Did she break the law? I`m not... SCHLAPP: I don`t know! I don`t know, but I do know this, that she received 65,000 e-mails to a server put in her house that was not protected like e-mails would be at the State Department. And what I worry more about, besides the fact that she has her own set of rules, is who looked at these e-mails? Sony got hacked by North Korea. I don`t know who was looking at these e-mails. I`m worried about it from the fact that she`s the secretary of state, and I think there should be a protocol on the kinds of information the secretary of state... MATTHEWS: Well, give me -- give me anecdotal observation. What would be in there that she would want to hide? SCHLAPP: Well...   (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: Chris, we had six investigations on Benghazi, and this only came out... MATTHEWS: But this was a decision she made well before Benghazi. SCHLAPP: This only -- these e-mails have only come out in this most recent Benghazi investigation. How come they didn`t come out earlier? MATTHEWS: OK, Jess, where do you put this, no offense, small offense or a concoction? JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Every secretary of state prior to Hillary Clinton used a private account for their e-mails. I think, more importantly, can you possibly imagine any American family at any kitchen table across the country sitting down and saying, Wow, I`m so concerned that she used private accounts instead of a State account, and where was the server located? No! Because there are major economic questions... MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. You changed the subject. MCINTOSH: I just don`t -- MATTHEWS: But you`re changing the subject right now. MCINTOSH: I think that the electorate isn`t going to be focused on... MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you...   MCINTOSH: ... where the server was. MATTHEWS: ... why do you think -- I just asked the news media. Why do you think "The New York times" is leading with this in its major front page placement here again and again this week, "The Washington Post," "USA Today," all front page treatment of this thing. They are not anti-Hillary Clinton. You can`t tell me "The New York Times" has got a case against... (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: I think Carol is exactly right. It`s leading because Hillary Clinton makes news. She was... MATTHEWS: So they confected this. SCHLAPP: That`s not what she said. Did you hear what she said? She said... MCINTOSH: She`s the front-runner for... SCHLAPP: ... the reason why it`s leading... MCINTOSH: ... the Democratic nomination, and... SCHLAPP: ... is because she`s... MCINTOSH: ... that`s correct.   SCHLAPP: ... talked to people in these agencies and they`re flabbergasted... MCINTOSH: No, they`re very -- SCHLAPP: ... that the secretary thought she could have a separate set of protocol. MATTHEWS: OK, let`s just split a table here. Suppose Dick Cheney, you found out, had never used government e-mail the whole time he was operating and pushing these wars in Iraq, et cetera, et cetera, (INAUDIBLE) MCINTOSH: Wait a second... MATTHEWS: The whole time, he had a completely... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... somebody has a better idea. Go ahead, Carol. LEONNIG: Hey, Chris... (CROSSTALK) LEONNIG: No, Chris, I mean, there was a huge hubbub about this. You know, really, there`s no partisanship at "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" in our news decisions. It`s really because she`s a presidential candidate and because this...   MCINTOSH: Right. LEONNIG: No, and second... SCHLAPP: And? LEONNIG: ... because it`s a huge deal. It`s a huge deal. And you may remember the missing e-mail case in federal court in D.C. involving Karl Rove`s e-mails and these vanished e-mails, and people thought that was a huge deal because why? Because our government is supposed to be open. You`re supposed to be able to not only see what our government is up to, but if you were a citizen or an investigator for a congressional committee, you`re supposed to be able to go back later and see what happened. MCINTOSH: But we`re not talking about vanished e-mails. We`re talking about 55,000 pages of e-mails over turned at State request... (CROSSTALK) LEONNIG: No, no. Actually, what we`re talking about are a certain set of e-mails turned over to the State Department at the decision of Hillary Clinton and Clinton aides, not State Department aides -- turned over to the State Department, so it`s not a government entity making that decision. And -- and in terms of what the Benghazi committee got, as far as I know, they`re somewhere in the couple dozen. It -- we don`t know who`s making the decision about what we`re allowed to see. MATTHEWS: Let me find out something I didn`t know. Apparently, you don`t have to be on Gmail or AOL. You can set up your own server, and Hillary Clinton went out in the beginning of becoming secretary of state -- and I don`t know why she did this, but she created a whole separate reality, where she could -- and decide when and if and what she was going to release to anybody asking for it. In fact, she would be the only one that knew what it was. So doesn`t that give her the power to decide what government business she`s going to share with the country and with investigators, journalists, historians? Doesn`t that give her the discretion that most public officials don`t have anymore? MCINTOSH: Lots of public officials set up their own server. Jeb Bush did the same thing and... (CROSSTALK)   SCHLAPP: He wasn`t secretary of state! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So you think it`s OK for her to keep this private? MCINTOSH: And she`s talking to State Department on their account. MATTHEWS: No, I`m just asking if you think it`s all right for her to keep it all private if she wants to. MCINTOSH: I think -- yes, absolutely. MATTHEWS: If she wants to. MCINTOSH: I mean, I think that she should be able to disclose things that ought to be disclosed... MATTHEWS: No, but she is... (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: ... that ought to be kept private.   MATTHEWS: ... she should get to decide what she discloses. MCINTOSH: I think that she should follow the letter and the spirit of the law, and that`s what I think she`s done. MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) use. I`m just asking you, do you think it`s OK for a public servant at the level of secretary of state to carry on correspondence, official correspondence, but keep it to themselves if they choose to because that`s, apparently, the option she has now since it`s all her account. MCINTOSH: I think that at that level, it`s important that they follow the law. I also think that if we spend the next few months debating how long something was kept on the server, the American electorate is going to flock to a third party. SCHLAPP: Oh, that`s ridiculous! MCINTOSH: There is just no... MATTHEWS: OK, let me... (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: ... American families are going to care about... MATTHEWS: ... front page story. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton appears to have violated or operated in violation of what the White House said Tuesday -- that`s yesterday -- - was, quote, "very specific guidance that members of the Obama administration use government e-mail accounts to carry out official business." What do you make of that headline? Front page! MCINTOSH: Look, I think that she is talking about issues that matter to the American electorate. I think that she will have lots of opportunities to answer lots of questions...   (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: Wait! She`s not talking to anybody about anything! She`s saying nothing. And what she needs to do is come out immediately, explain what her process was. The fact is, I worked for Karl Rove when you just referenced those e-mails. I was in the White House... MATTHEWS: Why did have... (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: ... we got the hell beat out of us for the fact that they thought that maybe not every e-mail was going through a White House server. We still had White House e-mails. The idea that we wouldn`t have any White House e-mail would just be nothing but trying to avoid the... (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: ... clearly did not have department e-mails. She didn`t. MATTHEWS: OK, let me... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... go back to Carol on this about -- on the importance -- we do all -- I think all of us here at this table do expect Hillary Clinton to make an announcement for president. We do expect that. All the signals... SCHLAPP: It could be delayed.   MATTHEWS: ... putting together -- - no, putting together a team, clearly, is going on. But here`s the question. Is there -- I always look at these stories and I say, Well, there`s got to be a back story here. There`s something that suggests a fuel to this story beyond what`s being reported. Is it this supposition on the part of her critics, and maybe stand-by critics, just people watching her over the years, that she is very private about her person -- not wrongdoing or something like that, she just doesn`t like to be totally exposed in what she does every day. It`s her instinct based upon perhaps years of being attacked by the right when she was down in Arkansas and since then, a built-in instinct for self-protection, a built-in instinct for privacy which this displays? I just wonder if that is isn`t coloring this story and the news interest in it, Carol. LEONNIG: I think you`ve got a great point about this, actually, Chris. And one of the interesting things about this is it`s almost like a double whammy effect. I can totally emphasize with the former secretary of state`s desire for privacy, the desire not to be -- you know, have all these e-mails read. We all know about super-duper government surveillance now in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures. We know that lots of e- mails or calls that we make may be monitored or tracked in some way. So I get that. But it`s funny -- funny ironic -- that you know, a Benghazi committee that was looking for some sort of dirt and some sort of, you know, smoking gun about how Hillary handled the attack on the consulate in Benghazi didn`t really find anything that striking about the State Department`s handling of it, and they knew that it was a terrorist attack long before they acknowledged it. But now the committee has found something that actually is quite worrisome, that the secretary of state decided on her own power that she was going to behave in a way that other government employees would not have been allowed. (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: ... secretary of state before her, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... guidelines I just read you from the -- from the current administration, which she sort of -- could it be -- the irony here, the chicken and the egg thing -- did she get too paranoid because she had reason to be paranoid? You know, even if you`re paranoid, if we said last night on this show, they could still be chasing you. Hasn`t she given Trey Gowdy and this committee an excuse? What we know is there is behind the curtain we can`t get to because she`s destroyed the e-mails. They`ve given them now a case that there was something bad she did by simply putting up a wall that allowed her to get rid of stuff -- even if she didn`t do it -- allowed her to get rid of e-mails? MCINTOSH: I don`t think that there`s any way that she could have conducted herself as secretary of state that would not have...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... in other words, anything that`s said against Hillary Clinton is... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: This reminds me of Operation Move On! MCINTOSH: No, I... (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: She`s put herself in a bad position because the reason why you have this protocol on e-mails is because when there are investigations and when you`re in a big job like secretary of state, there`s going to be investigations. It`s out of her hands. It`s in the IG`s hands. In this case, it`s all on her hands... MATTHEWS: It`s one less reason to go into government because every single e-mail`s got to go through the bureaucracy and goes right to the National Archives. But when I was a speech writer for Jimmy Carter -- one million years ago -- we had to turn in every draft of every speech... SCHLAPP: Right. MCINTOSH: Right. SCHLAPP: That`s right.   MATTHEWS: And weren`t even allowed technically to Xerox it! And that was -- anyway, so it`s not new. You`re a good defender, but changing the subject ain`t going to work as these newspapers are powerful! They got a barrel of ink... (CROSSTALK) MCINTOSH: It`s about voters, though! MATTHEWS: They go on the trail and the more you say... MCINTOSH: It`s about an agenda! SCHLAPP: It`s about the national security of this country, is what it`s about. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... have to walk right through the gauntlet (sic) of reporters going. Thank you, Carol Leonnig. LEONNIG: You bet. MATTHEWS: You`re the best, Carol. Thank you from joining us from "The Post." Matt Schlapp, thank you, sir. It was easy for you tonight. Jess McIntosh -- a little harder. Thank you. Please come back, all of you. Coming up, the Supreme Court might do what Republicans in Congress have tried time and time again to do, kill "Obama care." And the health care lawsuit the Supreme Court took up today is only round one. They still have gay marriage this summer and immigration to go, and without Congress, President Obama`s completely at the mercy of their rulings.   Plus, the genius presidents. As part of our ongoing "Seven Days of Genius," we`ve got two top historians to tell us which presidents were the smartest of them all. And what`s behind the Republican Party`s love affair with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu? They lapped up everything he said yesterday during his address to Congress. Finally, the day after Ben Carson announced his presidential exploratory committee, he said that homosexuality is, in fact, a choice. His evidence? Catch this. People go to prison straight and come out gay. That`s really clinical. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb Bush doesn`t want to be portrayed as a candidate beholden to the rich, so what`s he doing about it? According to "The Washington Post" today, he`s telling donors not to give him more than a million bucks this quarter -- not a million bucks this quarter. "The Post" reports that his team is hoping a donation cap will keep them -- allow them to build a wider base of donors. Bush hasn`t launched a campaign or an exploratory committee yet, but he`s currently raising lots of money for his Right to Rise super-PAC, which will likely be the foundation for his White House run. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember, "Obama care" is the president`s legislation. So the president has decided, since this disaster occurred, that if he doesn`t like something, he just changes the law!   REP. LOUIS GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We`re hoping the Supreme Court will actually do the right thing here. I know it`s a lot to hope for. REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: When it comes to the subsidy issue, I really think that they will rule in our favor. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Emotions were running high outside the Supreme Court earlier today, where inside the court, the nine justices heard oral arguments on another fight over "Obama care." But it`s only round one for what is expected to be a very busy and historic year for the judicial branch. As the president`s party has lost the Congress and the opposition party`s in constant turmoil, it`s the Supreme Court who`s in the driver seat. The power of the judiciary will decide three historic issues this year. First, the fight the played out today over "Obama care" subsidies. If the court rules for the plaintiffs, the president`s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, will be gutted. Also coming, a federal court of appeals case over the legality over President Obama`s use of executive action on immigration. And the Supreme Court will this year will also settle the issue of marriage equality. The stakes are high for President Obama`s legacy, and nine men and women could decide his political fate in the months to come. U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a Maryland Democrat and John Feehery is a Republican strategist. Congresswoman, it just seems to me that everything`s on the Supreme Court`s platter right now, starting with the "Obama care" because of this argument that the legislative history of "Obama care" did not provide for giving subsidies to moderate income and poor families, for getting subsidies, if they`re in states that didn`t create exchanges. And this sits there as a problem. What happens if the court says, That`s a problem. You`re not going to get those subsidiaries in those areas? REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, let me tell you, I was in the court today, and there was a very animated discussion. And I think the court is rightly concerned with the fact that -- you know, the federal exchange is there for a reason, and I think that they are going to take the argument that there`s a choice that states can make, either you could adopt your own exchange or you could have a federal exchange, but either way, subsidies could apply across the board. And we`re talking about 10 million people just since 2013 who are newly insured, and the state is sensitive -- the court is sensitive to the fact that it doesn`t want to turn complete disarray in the insurance markets and the states. And actually, you know, there were some questions about whether this will be coercive for the states if you remove the subsidies -- I happen to agree with that argument -- in a way that would be unconstitutional.   I also agree with the fact that we have 10 million people. The Republicans don`t have a plan. And what are they going to do when they throw all of these people off of insurance... (CROSSTALK) EDWARDS: ... and tell them they can`t have insurance anymore? MATTHEWS: You`re making a -- you`re making a policy argument, that it would be bad for the country and bad for the people who benefit by these -- from these subsidies for -- and get health care they can`t otherwise afford. Why does the court care about that? Why don`t they just -- aren`t they more likely just to read the legislation and see in it that there`s no provision for subsidies for states that don`t have exchanges? What happens if they do that? EDWARDS: I think they are likely to do the opposite, Chris. What they are going to do is, they`re going to read it and they`re going to say, they -- courts were given -- states were given a choice when it comes to health care. Either you set up your own exchange or the feds would set up an exchange. MATTHEWS: OK. EDWARDS: Otherwise, it doesn`t make any sense for us to have had a federal exchange. That wouldn`t make any sense at all. And I think the court is going to look at the plain language and say, you know what? You have choices. Choose the federal exchange, you still get the subsidy. I believe that the court is going to conclude that and not create the disarray that would result.   MATTHEWS: John -- John, we have worked in politics, but politics may not have any role in this, because the Supreme Court has -- there`s two justices now, Roberts, the chief justice, and Anthony Kennedy, who are s together. JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. MATTHEWS: These two guys who were never elected to anything are going to decide whether same-sex is a constitutional right. They`re going to decide whether the president is allowed to do all this stuff with immigration as an executive order or not, and they are going to decide whether Obamacare stays funded or not. These two guys, according to all the reporting, are going to decide it all, like a big trifecta. FEEHERY: When I think about this in the context of Obamacare, I think that Justice Roberts has a mulligan. The first time, he ruled with the Obama administration. I think this time, he`s going to rule against the Obama administration. And then... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Why would he do that? Why would he do that? FEEHERY: Because the law is the law. It`s clear what it says in the law. MATTHEWS: So, he will go with the letter? FEEHERY: I think he will go with the letter. And I think then the Republicans in Congress have to come up with some way to fix this, because it -- the congresswoman is right. It`s going to cause some turmoil. And I do think that the Supreme Court is going to say, well, we got to give some time, because Alito said this today -- we have got to get some time to make this right, because we don`t want to throw those people out right away.   So, I do think that the Congress will have some work to do. But you`re right. The Supreme Court has become the referee. And I think with Chief Justice Roberts, he`s become a real referee and is calling them like he sees them. And I think that he has tremendous power. MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to Congresswoman Edwards. If the court rules the wrong way, but says there is a way to fix this thing, do you think the Republicans will play ball and help fix Obamacare or once again knee-jerk try to destroy it? EDWARDS: You know what? I can`t read what the Republicans are going to do. What I can tell you is that there will be 10 million people who can`t afford health care anymore. The prices are going to skyrocket. The market is going to be in turmoil. It will be their responsibility to fix it, given that it was their -- their idea to undo it. And so I don`t know what the Republicans are going to do. What I do is, I feel for the 10 million people who are newly insured who will no longer be able to afford their health care. Let them live with that. MATTHEWS: Have you decided whether to run for the Senate to fill Barbara Mikulski`s seat? She`s retiring in Maryland. EDWARDS: How did I know that you were going to ask that? MATTHEWS: Well, you know. EDWARDS: I`m seriously considering it. And I think it`s important to follow on a legacy of leadership for women and leadership in the Congress with Senator Mikulski. And I think I could fill that bill, and I`m considering it.   MATTHEWS: Can you beat the mayor of Baltimore for the job? Can you beat Chris Van Hollen, the two of them? EDWARDS: I see -- if I were to do it, it would be because I see a pathway to victory, not because I`m making a statement. MATTHEWS: Whoa. OK. Thank you. Well, I have always been a fan. Good luck there, Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, which needs a senator. And thank you, John Feehery. Up next, Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ. As part of our 7 Days of Genius project, we want you to know which presidents have been the smartest in history. We`re going to ask that question of two smart people. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address in the closing days of the Civil War, he asked for divine intervention to help this country -- quote -- "see the right" and choose its own path forward. Well, today marks the 150th anniversary of that speech and it serves as a reminder that the fortunes of this country have rested on the shoulders of just 43 Americans.   So, how do we measure these men? All were smart enough to attain our country`s highest office, but which U.S. president comes closest to the notion of genius? Well, as part of MSNBC`s 7 Days of Genius Festival this week, we`re exploring the people, ideas and leaders who have changed the world. I`m joined right now by two presidential historians, Doris Kearns Goodwin, who could have done this show without you, the author of "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism," and Jonathan Darman, who is author of "Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America." Doris, I have to start with you. The ground rules, please, how do you distinguish a genius, if that`s the right word -- we have chosen it -- and who are your nominees? DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think it`s not necessarily high intellectual achievement, which is what we ordinarily think of genius, but rather a natural talent that allows a person to achieve eminence in the course of his life. And in that case, Teddy Roosevelt said about himself, I`m an average man with ordinary qualities that I have brought to extraordinary degree through the application of hard, sustained work, and he said, if I have any genius at all, it`s in leadership, that in the first five days of being a Rough Rider, he wasn`t as good a horseman as his men, he didn`t have experience, he wasn`t as good a soldier. He was clearly their leader. And he looked at Lincoln, for example, when somebody said to him, your speeches aren`t as good as Lincoln`s, what can you do? He said, Lincoln was a rare literary genius. Lincoln had a poetic gift. So, he`s certainly one of those, his speeches remembered for generations. And, weirdly, I would put LBJ in, who had a certain psychological genius to look at every senator, every congressman and figure out, what did they want for themselves? Dirksen wanted to be remembered by history, so he says, Dirksen, you come with me on this bill, 200 years from now, schoolchildren will know only two names, Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen. And he knew every single congressman, what they cared about and brought them together to produce that extraordinary legislation. So, there`s others, but I would stick those three right there. MATTHEWS: I have heard that you think of genius as the ability to sort of marry into the flow of history and understand where it`s going and to somehow find in that what you can do.   Did Johnson fail at that regarding Vietnam, the ability to ride with history and to move it in his direction? GOODWIN: Without a question. Just as he succeeded in 1964 to understand after Kennedy died that the most important thing was to take command of the office and get that civil rights bill passed before the election, so he failed to understand what was going on in Southeast Asia, what containment meant. He was looking back to World War II, as too many leaders were at that time. So, his legacy, as gorgeous as it is in domestic stuff, is cut in two by that war in Vietnam. And you`re right, not understanding the flow of history. Every president has to see what their opportunities are, where history is and hopefully shape it in the right direction. MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Jonathan Darman. I think -- it`s great to have you on. Let`s talk about the same question. How do you define it and who meets the standard of genius? JONATHAN DARMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I actually put Franklin Roosevelt at the top of my list for exactly that reason that Doris was just talking about. There`s the famous moment after Oliver Wendell Holmes meets FDR and, says, well, it`s a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament. And you wouldn`t necessarily say that FDR has the greatest intellectual ability of all of these presidents, although his intellectual capacity was significant. But what he was really unique and I think exemplary in was his intuitive powers. And that was what made him so good at sitting back and watching the course of events and understanding where his opportunity was as a president to sort of step in and try and effect change. The second on my list is Lincoln, for similar reasons, actually. He was also a man of great ability and who was very good at having people underestimate him, but he also understood that a lot of human understanding is beyond us and that a president shouldn`t try to control everything, that he can go forth humbly and just try and do good work. My third choice is probably a little more iffy. It`s John F. Kennedy, really, exclusively, I would say because of his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.   I think when you look at JFK in those moments, you see a brain and a spirit that is sort of operating on the highest level. MATTHEWS: Yes. DARMAN: He is able to be both in the moment and also thinking beyond the moment. And he`s able to take, you know, counsel and advice from some really incredibly credentialed people and sort of keep them happy, but also think about what all the flaws in their logic are. And he`s able to do it under more pressure than any other president probably had ever had up until that period of time. And that really is what I think makes him an extraordinary genius-like president. MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Doris for a minute. We have had presidents like Jimmy Carter who had probably great SAT scores, they probably did very well in engineering, and yet didn`t know how to connect. Distinguish political I.Q. from sort of taking-tests I.Q. GOODWIN: No, without a question. What`s much more important, as was mentioned, in terms of temperament absolutely outdoing pure intellect, is, how does a president understand the opportunities of his time? How does he connect with the people, the people at large and with the congressmen? We call it today emotional intelligence. And Lincoln had that in spades. It meant that he didn`t let past hurts occupy his mind, that he knew how to bring people of alternative points of view together, that he understood how to reconcile opposing points of view. I mean, those are human qualities. MATTHEWS: Yes.   GOODWIN: And some people have more of a profound empathy -- I think they are born with it -- than others. Lincoln, probably more than any other president, understood other people and how to get in their points of view and care about them. MATTHEWS: Yes. GOODWIN: And that`s far more important than your SAT. And that`s why it`s important to think of genius not as something like Albert Einstein. None of us can become that, but we can develop leadership skills, if we think of genius as a natural talent, like Teddy Roosevelt did, that is developed to an extraordinary degree through hard work. I really believe in that. MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I think you should both consider the possibility, the prospect of taking the soul of LBJ and Barack Obama and putting them together. You would have wholesale and retail thrown together with such confusion. It would be amazing. GOODWIN: You got it. MATTHEWS: That would be a real emotional I.Q. that I wouldn`t want to -- I`d be afraid of that person. Anyway, thank you, Doris Kearns Goodwin. And thank you, Jonathan Darman.   And all this week, by the way, as I said, MSNBC will feature more of this special project, 7 Days of Genius. For more information, log on to Up next: How do you explain the right`s infatuation with this new hero of theirs, Bibi Netanyahu? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening. Jurors heard opening statements in the trial of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His lawyers do not deny his role in the attack, but say he was brought into a plan masterminded by his brother. In an exclusive interview with NBC`s Ann Curry, Iran`s foreign minister insisted his country does not want to build nuclear weapons. He also said Iran and world powers are very close to a deal on its nuclear program. In Seoul, South Korea, U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert was attacked with a knife while giving a speech. His injuries are not believed to be life- threatening -- and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART") JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress today in observance of the sacred Jewish holiday of "Suck On It," Mr. President. (LAUGHTER)   STEWART: It was a -- it was a -- it was a festival of slights. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Festival of slights. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. The reviews are in. Conservatives loved Bibi Netanyahu`s speech yesterday, while many prominent liberals called it condescension, condescending, and politically motivated. Last night, Jon Stewart pointed out there that the man invited by Congress to give advice on the Middle East has been very wrong before. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART") STEWART: What many in our government love about Netanyahu is his conviction and his certainty. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa. STEWART: We have to act. Look how Iran has expanded its power since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the destabilization of the region. I mean, what kind of an idiot wouldn`t have seen that coming in 2002?   Oh, shalom. (LAUGHTER) NETANYAHU: If you take out Saddam, Saddam`s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region. And the reverberations of what happens with the collapse of Saddam`s regime could very well create an implosion in a neighboring regime like Iran. STEWART: Or the opposite. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by tonight`s roundtable, NBC News senior political reporter Perry Bacon, "Roll Call" editor in chief Christina Bellantoni, and the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, Gregory Angelo. So, here we are. Who here is a conservative? Anybody? Anyway, you`re nonpartisan. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Why are these guys just festering and -- they are so excited about this Bibi -- my brother called me up: "I just love this guy." What is it about Bibi they like, even though he`s been dead wrong about the Middle East? (CROSSTALK) GREGORY ANGELO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: First of all, as a gay conservative, one of the things that I like is that Bibi Netanyahu and all of Israel is standing out in support of gay people in a part of the world, the Middle East, where people who are gay or merely suspected of being gay are being targeted for being execution. MATTHEWS: Yes. ANGELO: So, in that -- in that regard, Israel is this beacon of freedom. It`s our greatest ally in the Middle East. But, from a greater perspective, I think that the Republicans -- MATTHEWS: How orthodox doing on this issue? ANGELO: Well, I was in Israel in 2013. I can tell you that there are still difficulties there, much like we have difficulties here in the United States but people are not being killed just for being gay in Israel, right? MATTHEWS: Widen your aperture a little bit beyond the gay rights issue, which is legitimate issue. ANGELO: Yes.   MATTHEWS: To the question of -- here`s Bibi Netanyahu running us into Iraq, Iraq becomes the conquest of Iran and then he goes on TV yesterday, goes in the House of Representatives and says, look at the big hell that broke loose, Iran got control of Baghdad. Well, he pushed that. He pushed the Shia overthrow of the Sunni government there. He was behind it all and said it was going to help bring down Iran, cause an explosion there, an implosion. Totally, utterly wrong as a visionary and now, he`s giving us advice? ANGELO: At the end of the day, these were all actions that the United States took. The last I checked -- MATTHEWS: He was pushing it. Well, here he is in our chamber giving us more advice, more bad advice, maybe. ANGELO: I think he`s certainly calling out Iran, a country that does not have a good record, number one, on human rights, But certainly is right now working to destabilize the Middle East even more. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. I`m afraid the issue here is war and peace. It`s going to be -- I didn`t hear him once offer a sound proposal besides war. Because all he said was you can`t cut a deal. Any deal is bad. He basically said that. You can`t get a better deal. He treats us like rubes. You don`t think we`re not trying to get the best possible deal? Come on? CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, this is what the president has been saying, like this can`t undercut what we`re trying to do with these cuts and we need to consider both these speech being a problem and also the Iran sanctions. I mean, the Congress and president have a huge disparity on this issue. You know, he says he`s going to veto this and they are all saying, no, we need to push ahead and he`s saying this could really endanger these talks, they are saying push ahead. So, it`s very weird dichotomy where you`ve got this thunderous applause and, yes, 55 Democrats didn`t show up but people were excited to see him, yesterday. MATTHEWS: You could have predicted this.   ANGELO: Except Nancy Pelosi. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Don`t go after her. Anyway, the response on the right to Bibi`s speech was close to hero worship. Conservatives were falling over themselves to contrast Bibi Netanyahu with President Obama. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: People who can speak the way Netanyahu spoke yesterday rather than the way the president speaks. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re right about that. I had leadership envy watching that. I will confess, leadership envy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Netanyahu is a warrior, he`s a combat veteran, he is a leader who takes his commander-in-chief responsibility seriously. Barack Obama is a community activist. He`s a rabble-rouser. He`s an ideologue. And he`s an appeaser. LT. COL. RALPH PETERS: Obama is so desperate -- so desperate for this deal, for his legacy, that he is willing to give Israel up. I mean, let`s face it, if Israel disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, Obama would not shed a tear. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MATTHEWS: OK. President Obama wasn`t their only target.   The right also found something wrong with Rand Paul`s response to Netanyahu. "The National Review" pointed out, unenthused Rand Paul lifelessly applauds Netanyahu`s speech. Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin tweeted, "Oops, almost like he`s been faking his support for Israel until now." Senator Paul was asked about the criticism this morning and he defended his applauding. Let`s watch this ridiculousness. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think what`s funny about it is, you have these gossipy websites who demean themselves by putting that out. I gave the prime minister 50 stand being ovations. I co-sponsored bringing him here. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What`s this, Pyongyang? The North Korean assembly, not clapping like machines, then you`re in deep trouble? Is that the new thing here? PERRY BACON, JR., NBC NEWS: Rudy Giuliani does not like President Obama? I did not know that until just now. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Putting down Obama. Big news. BACON: It is clear, though, that Rand Paul`s views on foreign policy are close to the president and I think what you are seeing the people who criticized Rand Paul saying he`s like Obama who, of course, they hate.   MATTHEWS: But if he`s not smiling until his cheeks hurt, they go after him. BACON: Exactly. MATTHEWS: They wanted him to fake it. BACON: They want him to fake it, yes. BELLANTONI: What`s interesting about this, is this all happened as they finally relented and funded the department of homeland security. You have somebody warning of these massive threats of terrorism, the threat of, you know, a dangerous world and then you`re having this big fight go on, you know, between Republicans about how things get funded and it was like a really bizarre scene. BACON: Why would they (INAUDIBLE) Iron Dome and vote down homeland security? Help me out here. They voted down Homeland Security -- (CROSSTALK) ANGELO: -- supporting Homeland Security. MATTHEWS: Not the Republicans. Not your party. ANGELO: There were a lot of Republicans that -- MATTHEWS: No, your party overwhelmingly voted against it. Why would they vote for U.S. security and vote for the Iran Dome? Their point of view is very strange here. Security is OK for other countries but not ours?   ANGELO: Ultimately, we passed the bill. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Democrats voted for the bill. ANGELO: There was a caucus in the Republican Party who did not vote for that bill because they never vote for any -- MATTHEWS: Can we use English here? Did the Republican majority vote for or against the bill the other day? ANGELO: I saw over 100 Republicans voting for that bill. MATTHEWS: Seventy-five voted for it. The rest voted against it. (CROSSTALK) BELLANTONI: Right. The Republican Party leadership allowed that to move forward, to clear a conference. MATTHEWS: Yes, they let the Democrats passed the bill. BELLANTONI: It was just part of this theater yesterday. Security tape blocking off some of the entrances, you had, you know, this massive show of force of security because of the speech and then this debate going on.   MATTHEWS: This is going to be remembered as a very dark day for American democracy when you bring a foreign leader in to try to displace the American leader. Obama sets our foreign policy, not Netanyahu. Anyway, the round table is staying with us. And up next, Ben Carson`s indefensible statement about being gay. He says it`s a choice because how else would you explain people go to prison straight come out gay? That`s tough clinical analysis. And this is HARDBALL, a place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, the new governor of Illinois has a strange way of thanking his buddies. Bruce Rauner won in Illinois with the help of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who was head of the Republican Governors Association. But Rauner doesn`t seem to think much of Christie`s home state. In a speech last week, Rauner said that his state has the highest property taxes in America other than New Jersey, and then added, "I don`t want to compete with New Jersey on anything, especially that. That`s a disaster." He went on to say that "New Jersey has lost, they are going down the drain and they ain`t turning around." Ouch! Anyway, Christie campaigned for Rauner eight times, funneling in $10 million of RGA money and got him elected. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back with our roundtable, Perry, Christina and Gregory. Well, Dr. Ben Carson`s known for making some provocative statements about homosexuality. And today, however, he might have taken it to a new level while trying to prove his belief that homosexuality is actually a choice.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. BEN CARSON, AUTHOR: People have no control over their race, for instance. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think they have control over their sexuality? CARSON: Absolutely. CUOMO: You think being gay is a choice? CARSON: Absolutely. CUOMO: Why do you say that? CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they`re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You hear that? People go to prison straight, they come out gay. Keep in mind, Dr. Carson is a neurosurgeon. He knows the science. What he`s doing with it is a problem. For the record, scientists say Carson`s example is totally unfounded. Helen Eigenberg, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Tennessee, who has studied sexuality and incarceration for a quarter century told "The Washington Post," "The fundamental assumption of the analogy here he`s using is insane. I don`t know of any research that substantiates the claim that men go to prison and come out gay. There is no data to support that claim."   MATTHEWS: We go to you, Greg. ANGELO: Well, I need to comment -- MATTHEWS: Because everybody, I don`t know, you`re gay. So, talk about it. ANGELO: Apparently Dr. Carson is one federal felony conviction away from turning gay himself. It was absolutely staggering. And, Chris, here`s the thing. From -- MATTHEWS: If he goes in the slammer, he`s going to come out different. ANGELO: From a bigger picture perspective, what`s frustrating me the most about this that by all means, today should have been the day that Republicans around the country were unified in our message. We had a gift on a silver platter with Hillary Clinton using a personal e-mail address for government affairs. We have the Supreme Court case against illegal Obamacare subsidies. But what happens to the start of the day. Dr. Carson, on the fringe right, says this absolutely ridiculous comment and puts all the Republicans on the defensive. I hope that there are Republicans in the rest of the GOP field for president that took note today. MATTHEWS: Who`s going to get more publicity, Dr. Ben Carson or you? Ha! He`s going to get, you`re right, he`s going to get so much publicity. ANGELO: One of the things that we do at Log Cabin Republicans, in addition to making the unique conservative case is gay conservatives, for things like Obamacare repeal, lower taxes, et cetera, is reminding Republicans, especially Republicans who are bad actors like Dr. Carson today, that this is not doing the party any favors, in addition to just being absolutely out of touch on cultural issues. BELLANTONI: This is not the first time he`s said anything along these lines. And it won`t be the last because there`s a certain segment of the Republican group of presidential candidates who are running for a certain segment of that base. It is a social conservative base, and, you know, whether it`s Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum, they are going after a place that is not the mainstream of America anymore.   You know, people do not believe that. Younger Republicans do not believe that. MATTHEWS: Who does believe the orientation, or identity is a matter of choice? BELLANTONI: Social conservatives. I don`t have the statistics in front of me, but there are a small percentage of people that ho believe that. I don`t personally believe that. I think he`s appealing to a group of people that will be able to help him in places like Iowa marginally, enough that he can continue to be on the debate stage by the rating in the polls. BACON: I think Christina is giving Ben Carson too much credit for political tactics. He says crazy things all the time. I don`t know that I view him as a legitimate candidate as opposed to someone who sort of rants and says things. The broader question is, though -- MATTHEWS: He`s not completely oddball in the party. I want to show you something here. Dr. Carson is certainly popular with many conservatives. He came in fourth last week in the CPAC straw poll. And in the latest Quinnipiac poll of likely caucusgoers in Iowa, Carson finished third. So, he`s not some uncalled from the hallway from somewhere. He`s part of your Republican Party. ANGELO: But I don`t see him actually gaining traction beyond Iowa. A third place finish in Iowa is not actually something to celebrate. What`s really interesting right now is that you`re finding it`s not just like Santorum 2012, the one guy and -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas who won Iowa`s caucus a couple years ago, he said he will leave the party if it drops his opposition to same-sex marriage. ANGELO: And even then, in his most recent book, he was rather nuanced on the marriage point, right. He was rolling that back a little, saying that the greatest threat to marriage was not gay people getting married, but the erosion of marriage and the rise in divorce in this country.   MATTHEWS: Thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, Christina Bellantoni. Two Italians here, and Gregory Angelo. When we return, let me finish with the power of the Supreme Court on three top issues. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: For the first time in our lives, the Supreme Court is the most pivotal branch of our government. Those nine people up there could have more power on three top issues than a speaker of the house, the whole body of the U.S. senators, and the president of the United States. Will Obamacare be allowed to continue? Will people with modern income still receive the subsidies that allow families like them to afford health insurance? That depends on how a pair of swing justices, Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted to say that Obamacare is constitutional, and Anthony Kennedy, how they read the law which Congress passed creating the program. Could President Obama`s executive orders of last autumn not go into effect? Will those 5 million people who entered the country illegally not obtain legal status here? It could well go to the Supreme Court for a decision on the separation of powers where the decision lies, in fact, between the executive discretion and policymaking. Marriage equality, again, it comes down to two members of the U.S. Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Will same-sex marriage be viewed as a constitutional right in this country? Don`t ask Mitch McConnell or Speaker Boehner or the Tea Party or even President Obama. Ask the Supreme Court deciders, Roberts and Kennedy, because when you want to know what the law of the land is, check with the firm of Roberts and Kennedy. They know, because these two people are the pair who will decide the issues. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.   THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. 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