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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 03/25/15

Guests: Kellyanne Conway, Zephyr Teachout, Matt Bennett, Steve Wallace, LizMair, April Ryan, Nicholas Confessore

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Cruz missile. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Isn`t this what the Republicans were afraid of? Isn`t this why they wanted to limit the number of debates and keep them from being ideological street theater, no more talk about evolution and legitimate rape and that stuff that scares people? Well, what will happen by having that sword-swallowing Ted Cruz in the mix next time? Does anyone think he`ll be there debating the nuances of trade policy or corporate tax rates? This is a hard-right roller derby with Cruz working the rail position. This is going to make Hillary look like a one-person Department of Homeland Security. David Corn is the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones" and Kellyanne Conway is a Republican pollster and strategist. I`ve got to go to Kellyanne. Kellyanne, the whole idea from Reince Priebus -- that`s all we`ve been hearing now for at least a year or two -- this Republican fight for the nomination is going to be tightly controlled, not a lot of crazy theater, no more talk about evolution, no more liberal journalists involved. And along comes Ted Cruz blowing the trumpet saying, It`s going to be my kind of show. Who`s the toughest fighter on the right to take down the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment. This isn`t what Reince Priebus and the boys in the back room wanted, not at all. Is it? KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Oh, they can mutually co- exist. I don`t think -- I don`t think Chairman Priebus had Senator Cruz in mind when he said that. Look, Chris, we know what doesn`t work in the Republican Party, the Dole/McCain/Romney formula of nominating somebody everybody says can win and then goes on to be a big loser. Why? Because they`re moderate centrist candidates who won`t throw a punch. The grass roots get demoralized. Millions of them stay home.   And we know what works in the Democratic Party. You had John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama -- average age, 46. It`s time for the Republican Party to at least entertain the notion of generational change in the party, people who are willing to take the case and show some contrast to the left. I think we should have a wide-open primary... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Just to clarify, you have two arguments. One, you want a guy in the 40s or a women in their 40s, and you want somebody on the further right than the center. CONWAY: We want somebody who can win. And you know who can`t win? All the people we were told could win because they were centrist. Mitt Romney won one of the nine swing states. President Obama cleaned his clock and won the other eight swing states. We know what doesn`t work and... MATTHEWS: OK... (CROSSTALK) DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But this is what I don`t understand. Do you think Ted Cruz, as he plays to the white evangelical votes and basically talks about this being a Christian nation, announcing his campaign at Jerry Falwell`s university -- that he can do better in these swing states, that... MATTHEWS: Ask her, not me! (CROSSTALK) CONWAY: He can`t do worse! CORN: I mean -- well, actually, he could do worse!   CONWAY: David, by the way, he`s a Hispanic, David. So we`re not going to say he`s just appealing to the evangelical whites. I know that`s a great -- you know, great sound bite... CORN: Well, that`s what... CONWAY: ... but you`re an honest broker here and you got to -- you got to say this isn`t... CONWAY: He`s also against... (CROSSTALK) CORN: He`s also against immigration reform, which is probably a key issue for that constituency. So I think just his -- you know, his heritage is not going to be enough to overcome what people should be doing, which is voting on substance and policy. So just because he has that last name is not going to get him a lot of Hispanic votes... CONWAY: We don`t know that! CORN: ... if he`s so solidly against -- against their key issue. Well, I think -- I`ll make you a bet on that, if you want to. And you know, listen, Whit Ayers (ph), one of your colleagues, a Republican pollster... CONWAY: Yes. CORN: ... had a really smart piece in "The Wall Street Journal" saying if we don`t -- "we" being the GOP -- doesn`t expand our reach beyond old white guys and votes even moreso than we did last time, that the party can`t win. And Ted Cruz has said quite decidedly he`s not about expanding the tent. He`s about... CONWAY: He has never said that!   CORN: ... getting more -- more conservatives. He`s about getting more... MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Hey, Kelly, let`s go to some other voices here. Cruz -- the senator has become a hero on right-wing radio, of course, since his announcement this week. They see him as a victim of the press, the media, and the Republican establishment. It started with Rush Limbaugh watching Cruz`s presidential announcement in awe and going after what he called "the drive-by media." Here`s Rushbo. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I`m watching this speech today, and it is flat-out amazing. The drive-by reaction to that speech, without a prompter -- they could not help but be bedazzled, and they were. They were dazzled. They were -- they were so dazzled, they`re worried the guy is superhuman. SEAN HANNITY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I find the reaction amazing here. You know, you can tell Democrats and their media water carriers are petrified of Cruz and a conservative being elected. Extremists! He tried to shut down the government! MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I had my favorite cable network on, and a number of the people were trashing Ted Cruz. These people are neophytes, neophytes! They have never fought in Republican primaries for conservative candidates. GLENN BECK, TV HOST: For those who believe that God is in control, fast and pray like you`ve never fasted and prayed before because all of the guns are coming out for this guy, all of the guns. The real battle is with the establishment GOP. Cruz is a direct threat to their rule.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. Kelly, what did you make of that theater there? I mean, I know how this works. And there`s two numbers you have to think about. If you`re on television and political talk like this, like I am, or you`re somebody like O`Reilly or you`re Rush Limbaugh on the radio talking, basically, to traveling salespeople -- I know the markets for this. You can get 10 percent of the public, you`re in big -- you`re box office. But the game is to get 50 percent. Are those guys we just heard from, from Rushbo and the rest of them -- are they talking about the need for the Republican candidate to win 50 percent or for their own broadcast needs to get about 10 percent? Because that`s a different question. Your thoughts. CONWAY: Well, my thoughts are that this is not as much about the media, who I think did a very nice job covering Cruz`s announcement on Monday, and I do think people will give him a fair shot, and here`s why. In the media, they`re fascinated by his ability to not -- to use no notes, no net. You`ve got Hillary Clinton reading from binders. You`ve got her reading from teleprompters. It`s refreshing. He also went to Ivy League schools, like a lot of people in the media did. So the credentialist snobs will love him. Here`s the other thing, though. I think it`s a big shot at the Republican establishment. That`s what I hear these three super-journalist, you know, icons of the right talking about because this is Ted Cruz who took on the establishment not once but twice in Texas, Chris and David. He beat David Dewhurst, who put over $50 million of his own money. He had all the king`s horses, all the king`s men supporting him, Dewhurst did, Governor Perry, Karl Rove, every lobbyist, every member of the assembly and senate in Texas. And guess what? Ted Cruz started at 2 percent in the polls. The margin of error in the poll was 3 percent. He started at 2 percent. He made it to the runoff and beat Dewhurst in the runoff. So the idea is that if you actually show contrast to the establishment in a primary, you may just prevail. MATTHEWS: OK. Who... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... Kellyanne... CONWAY: I`m not an anti-media conservative, so...   (CROSSTALK) CONWAY: ... more about the establishment. MATTHEWS: Well, this is a reliable source here. What -- do you -- would you vote for -- if you had to come down to -- the final brackets were Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, who would you vote for? CONWAY: Me? MATTHEWS: Yes, you. CONWAY: Oh, me. I`m sorry. I thought you were talking to David. Ted Cruz. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He wouldn`t vote for either one, so that`s easy. Who would you vote for? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Is it Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush? CONWAY: Right. I think having the...   MATTHEWS: For president. OK. CONWAY: ... third -- yes, having the third Bush versus the first woman is going to attract about 15 to 18 percent Republican women and independent women to say, I`m going with the first woman. CORN: True. CONWAY: So I don`t think that`s a fair fight. I think arguing about how you prosper under the Bill Clinton economy or either or both of the Bush economies is not a fight that the Republican Party definitely should want to take on, Chris and David. And I do -- you know, I think the fact that 77 percent of Republicans say they`re for generational change in the party, including a majority of seniors, means they`ve been watching the Democratic Party. MATTHEWS: OK. Yes, well... CONWAY: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama all told, You can`t win. MATTHEWS: OK.. CONWAY: Don`t even bother running. MATTHEWS: This is a question... (CROSSTALK)   CONWAY: We had 20 years of Democratic presidencies with them doing what the Republican candidates never do, which is to resist royalism (ph), next in line, and go for somebody new. MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the question. Parties have to make a decision. Are they going for the gold or they going to go for the silver? And `72, the Democrats figured they couldn`t beat Nixon, probably, for reelection... CORN: Right. MATTHEWS: ... so they picked a guy they really believed in, the anti- war George McGovern. Eight years before that, 1964, the Republicans said, We`re not going to beat Lyndon Johnson because Kennedy`s just been assassinated. The whole emotion of the country`s for his successor -- you know, I will continue. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Let us continue. So they ran a guy they really believed in, Goldwater. Is this one of those years where the Republicans say, Enough of this clever gaming the system. We`re going to run the guy we believe in. CORN: Well, I... MATTHEWS: Which is it this year, go for the gold or go for the silver? CORN: I think this year, the Republicans have a shot at winning the presidency. MATTHEWS: Well, no, would... (CROSSTALK)   CORN: But I still think... MATTHEWS: So they won`t go with this guy. CORN: No, but I still think there`s a Tea Party fever at the base of the party that will be rejectionist towards Jeb Bush. I`m not saying they are going to go for Ted Cruz, but I think they will yearn for somebody... MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: ... who wants to continue the anti-Obama hard-line... MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: ... GOP approach, which I think will not bring them successes in the swing states that Kellyanne has, you know, talked about earlier. MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: So they`ll get somebody who -- you know, who will reflect the ideological preferences, and not because they don`t want to win. MATTHEWS: OK, I want to bring up a little thing that has concerned me about Ted Cruz. And I don`t know much about the guy. I met him once. He seemed all right to talk to. But let me ask you this. You know, he has gone after the president with this thing about -- if you really want to -- where is this quote -- "Understanding Harvard law school is very important to understanding our president," he said in an article. "Barack Obama, he`s very much a creature of Harvard law. To understand what that means, you have to understand that there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans."   Now, what is that supposed to mean, Kellyanne? Because why (INAUDIBLE) Chuck Hagel, a guy who`s got two Purple Hearts and he accused of getting money from the North Koreans. This is McCarthy stuff that I didn`t grow up with, but I remember reading about. I know about it, when I was very young. Why is he going back to impugning people`s patriotism as a tactic? That`s what I don`t like about Cruz. Your thoughts. CONWAY: I hope he`s not -- I don`t believe he`s attacking the president`s... MATTHEWS: Well, what did he mean by saying... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... to understand this president... (CROSSTALK) CONWAY: ... Scott Walker and Rudy Giuliani`s comment. You should never question any president`s love for his country, period. MATTHEWS: Why`d he do it? CONWAY: End of story. However, I think Ted Cruz does best when he talks about the issues. And you watch the applause lines... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Why is he calling the president... CONWAY: ... a big conversation about that. MATTHEWS: Why is the president being accused of being under communist influence? CONWAY: Well, I think that`s -- I don`t know that he is. I think that what Cruz was trying to say was that -- I think he should have talked humorously about the Harvard law school faculty and not really involved the president in it, if you ask me. (CROSSTALK) CONWAY: ... talks about issues, when he -- if you want to have a big conversation... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... Chuck Hagel took money from the... (CROSSTALK) CONWAY: ... win, but you have to have a big conversation... MATTHEWS: Was it fair...   CONWAY: ... about big issues. MATTHEWS: Was it fair to say that Chuck Hagel, who fought in Vietnam, won a couple Purple Hearts over there, was awarded them, a Republican -- was it fair to say he may have gotten 200,000 bucks from the North Koreans? Is that fair to bring that up in a hearing? CONWAY: I think when you`re deciding whether he should be secretary of defense, people should know more than somebody`s war record. I think that`s fair. But... MATTHEWS: Well, is it fair to ask him... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He had no evidence whatsoever... CONWAY: Listen... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, he had no evidence whatever he took money from any communist government. He threw out the name North Korea -- why would he do that for any other reason... CONWAY: Well, the Clinton Foundation has taken it from anti-women governments... CORN: That wasn`t the issue.   CONWAY: ... so I think that`s fair game. MATTHEWS: North Korea is a communist country. Go ahead. CORN: The other thing that he`s done, you know, usually... MATTHEWS: I think... (CROSSTALK) CORN: Usually, you can`t hold people accountable for what their relatives say and do, but Ted Cruz has sent his father out as a surrogate for him... MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: ... to talk to Tea Party groups, and his father has gone out there and said the president`s from Kenya, this is a Christian nation, he doesn`t trust the patriotism of the president or even believe that he`s a Christian. And so again, Ted Cruz has allowed that to happen. He`s playing the same game that Republicans keep playing... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: We learned a lot here. Kellyanne, I respect you a lot, and I think the fact that you`re ready to go for the gold here with a very conservative candidate is a very strong statement. I hope -- I think we`ve made news tonight. Thank you so much, David Corn. Thank you, Kellyanne Conway.   Coming up: What`s the right path for Hillary Clinton? Should she run to the left or hew to the center, like her husband did? That`s the big question for her and a big question for Democrats heading into 2016. Plus, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are the ying and yang of the Republican Party, the shirts versus the skins, the so-called mush middle versus the ticking timebomb bent on destroying the establishment. What a fight this is going to be! And new information about that German jetliner lost over the French Alps with, we now know, three Americans aboard. They`ve got the voice recorder. What`s it going to tell us? Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this battle for the mind of Hillary Clinton. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning. I didn`t have a public position on it because I was part of the administration, but when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic. So what I have said is that we need to have a plan to fix NAFTA. I would immediately have a trade time-out, and I would take that time to try to fix NAFTA by making it clear that we`ll have core labor and environmental standards in the agreement... (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was then senator Hillary Clinton explaining her position on trade, specifically NAFTA. And now that she`s running for president gain, liberals in the Democratic Party on the left are focusing their energy on pushing Hillary to the further left and shaping her platform, rather than finding an alternative to her all but certain candidacy now.   Well, the Progressive Change Committee unveiled a new Web site, Readyforboldness, a play on Ready for Hillary, in which 200-plus leaders and activists from Iowa and New Hampshire have signed a petition urging the Democratic nominee to adopt a populist, left-leaning agenda. While Hillary stands the best chance to be the Democrats` nominee, of course, in 2016, it`s also more likely that she`ll be forced to confront the two factions within her party that are at odds over important policies. Issues like education, free trade and regulating Wall Street are forcing Hillary Clinton to take sides on either the union side of the reformers. As "The New York Times" points out today, "On a number of divisive domestic issues that flared up during the Obama administration -- trade pacts, regulation of Wall Street, tax policy -- she will face dueling demands from centrists and the liberal base of the Democratic Party." So who will Hillary be with on these issues, the unions or the reformers, the left or the center-left? Matt Bennett`s a senior vice president of Third Way and Zephyr Teachout was a former candidate for governor of New York. Zephyr, your thoughts now. Let`s take the general question of political positioning, passionate left or center left? Can you -- if you don`t mind those terms... ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Of course I mind... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... where Hillary should go? TEACHOUT: Of course I mind those terms, Chris. I mean, the series of issues you just talked about -- they`re all pretty populist issues where you see people across the political spectrum really rising up in resistance to what`s happening. I mean, take trade. You see people left and right. Or school policy, where you can find Republicans all around the country who are furious at the high-stakes testing regime, the kind of bureaucratic privatization... MATTHEWS: OK... TEACHOUT: ... trend that you see big donors coming from. So actually, I think it was really interesting in what the Ptrip (ph) -- PCCC was talking about because they`re talking about populism. They`re talking about Hillary Clinton actually speaking to middle class Americans.   And I think that if she wants to, you know, show her leadership and really get people out to vote, she`s got to tap into her own populist core. And she has that. I mean, she`s shown it from time to time... MATTHEWS: OK... TEACHOUT: ... not as often as I`d like to see it, but I think that`s essential for her to actually win eventually. MATTHEWS: OK, that doesn`t sound like Bill Clinton`s approach in `92. So... MATT BENNETT, THIRD WAY SR. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look... TEACHOUT: Well, he had... BENNETT: Hang on, Zephyr. I object to the term, too, because we`re passionate centrists, and we believe she is, as well. I think when you see candidate Clinton come out -- and she`s not a candidate yet -- what you`re going to see is somebody that is trying to unite both wings of the party for sure, but somebody who is true to her principles. She`s an internationalist, so she`s going to be for sensible, good trade agreements. like the one that the president`s negotiating now, and she`s going to be for reform... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s get down to specifics, both of you. Will she come out and support before or during the decision on the Trans Pacific Partnership -- will she support the trade deal? BENNETT: I don`t know. That`s a strategic decision for her and her campaign. MATTHEWS: Do you think she should?   BENNETT: I think she will support the deal ultimately because she knows it`s the right thing to do. There`s going to be tough labor environmental standards in the deal. It`s good for America. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You don`t really get to offer -- let`s go back to you, Zephyr. You don`t really get to offer amendment. Let me just set this up. The thing about these fast-track deals is it`s sort of a yes or no, it comes down to. Will she be a yes or no on TPP? TEACHOUT: Well, she was opposed to it 12 years ago, 13 years ago And ultimately this deal, it`s called a trade deal, but it`s really about reshaping power. And if you see any kind of political movements in this country now, a lot of them are about people feeling powerless and wanting a greater assertion of power. There`s not very many people left or right, except for a few donors, who are really excited about taking power outside of the United States and giving it to transnational corporations. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Will she support it or oppose it ultimately? TEACHOUT: I hope she opposes it. I think she will get an enormous amount of energy and excitement. And you know that she needs that and she knows that she needs that. And she`s got these two different sort of beating hearts within her. And if she chooses to go with, as the "New York Times" story today suggested, the donor class instead of the sort of more populist wing... MATTHEWS: Well, the donor class is also her husband. It`s classic Bill Clinton policy to be free trade. Do you think she will break with him? TEACHOUT: Well, she said, as you know, in the section that you showed before, she was talking about the problems with NAFTA. So...   (CROSSTALK) BENNETT: Right. TEACHOUT: I think if Hillary Clinton -- this is entirely separate from ideology. I think if Hillary Clinton really wants to be president and not just win the Democratic nomination, she has to go pretty... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let me move on to the other topic which I care about, which is charter schools, teacher standards. Will she be with the union there with Randi Weingarten opposing those movements and just defend public education for all kids going to public school, or will she take this sort of position that supports charter schools, spending federal money on them, government money, rather, at the state level, and also putting tough teacher standards out there? Where will she be on that, Zephyr? TEACHOUT: Well, there`s been a huge flip in the country on the last five years on that. I think a lot of people were initially attracted to the language of charters. And what you see now in Chicago, in New York and around the country is people seeing there`s actually a lot of corruption within the charter system. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Yes. So you`re against that? TEACHOUT: Yes. So I think she`s actually going to try to stay quiet on it as long as possible. But if she comes out as a strong pro-parent, pro-teacher, pro-kid, public education as infrastructure of democracy candidate, she`s again going to get people organizing. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: OK. I`m a believer. I watched Davis Guggenheim`s movie "Waiting for Superman," so that`s where I`m at. But I`m going to ask where you think Hillary should be. BENNETT: I think that she should be with the reformers, where President Obama is and where his team is, because that`s where the progress is being made by kids. If you look at the numbers, just the numbers, minority achievement has gone up enormously. White achievement has gone up enormously. That`s why the civil rights groups like No Child Left Behind, they like the ESEA. They want this kind of accountability. And that`s where she`s going to... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the kids in my high school, when they grew up, and my city are so glad they went to Central High. So, the magnet schools matter. Anyway, Zephyr, we will have you back again. This is a debate that is going to go on for months. You`re a great guest. Thanks for coming on, Matt Bennett. We will find out where she stands. BENNETT: We will. MATTHEWS: Hillary is going to have to make these big decisions, Hillary Clinton. She knows the issues. I`m going to talk about at the end nobody is better prepared to make this decision than she is.   Up next: new information on the crash of that Germany airliner over in the French Alps and the big question still out there. What happened in that cockpit during those eight minutes with those pilots? And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the human toll for the crash of Germany -- Germanwings Flight 9525 was evident today with victims identified from nearly 20 countries. At least three were Americans aboard. They include a mother and daughter from Virginia. Emily Selke had recently graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia. But amid the tearful tributes today, there is one gaping mystery. What happened in the skies above the French Alps that caused a plane with a good safety record and a pilot with 10 years experience to crash in clear weather? One key piece of evidence is the flight`s cockpit voice recorder, which investigators said was recovered and is yielding some information. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just succeeded in getting an audio file which contains usable sounds and voices. We have not yet fully understood and worked on it to be able to say, OK, this is starting at this precise point in flight, this is ending at this precise point in flight, and we hear such persons saying that, et cetera. This is an ongoing work which -- for which we will -- we hope to have first rough ideas in a matter of days. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: In a matter of days.   Among the questions that need to be answered, why was there no distress call from the cockpit and what accounts for that eight-minute silence before the crash itself? And what caused the plane to begin descending in the first place? Was a pilot even in control or was the plane on autopilot? NBC correspondent Tom Costello joins us right now, along with Steve Wallace, the former director of the FAA Accident Investigation Unit. First to you, Tom. What do we know now we didn`t know last night? TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That was a very measured French investigative agency today, very disciplined in their message and in their approach. What essentially they said was, yes, we have heard voices on that cockpit voice recorder. We have also have heard ambient noises. But they want to go through a very thorough and careful analysis to determine who is on that cockpit voice recorder and what are the sounds, because, remember that the recording is for two hours. So it`s possible they might be hearing the pilots sitting at the gate, that they might hear maintenance people in the cockpit, et cetera. Right? MATTHEWS: Yes. COSTELLO: And every time the flip -- a switch is flipped in the cockpit, that kind of thing, they need to understand, what are all those sounds? That`s a very thorough audio type of analysis that can take days. he actually went to say, this could take weeks, actually. But they want to marry that up -- they want to marry that up, Chris, with the flight data recorder, because it`s not until you get both pieces of the puzzle that you can create a very complete picture. So let me give you a sense. The flight data recorder essentially carries anywhere from -- well, in the neighborhood of 25 hours of data, the previous 25 hours of flight. And it`s about 1,000 to 1,300 pieces of data, everything from altitude to speed to vertical acceleration, heading, pitch, roll. Was there a decompression event? What were the exact parameters of the engine performance? What were the inputs into the autopilot system? All of those different pieces of information are going to be critical to figuring out, why did this plane descend from 38,000 feet down to 6,000 feet? Why was there no -- at all, no deviation on that path?   It flew straight into a mountain. Why was the crew not responding to air traffic controllers who were asking, why are you suddenly descending? Were they incapacitated? Was there a catastrophic event on board that maybe had been picked up by the audio recordings or by the flight data recorders? And, as you mentioned, was that descent programmed into the autopilot? And, if so, why wasn`t there a target altitude destination? In other words, normally, if you come from 38,000 feet down quickly because you have got some sort of an in-flight emergency, you want to get to 10,000 feet and level off. But that wasn`t apparently what happened. It kept descending down to 6,000 and then slammed into a mountain. So, unfortunately, tonight, we don`t have any more answers than we had last night. MATTHEWS: Steve, why didn`t they just fast-forward the tape and look at the last couple minutes of the flight, the last eight minutes? STEVE WALLACE, FORMER FAA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: So, this is the BEA. That`s the NTSB of France, a very respected and competent authority. And they take a quick look to see if they have got good data and then they will assemble a team of experts familiar with the plane, familiar with the language, and they will go through it very thoroughly. They are just -- not just quickly trying to release this on the second day. That`s the way the NTSB would do that as well. MATTHEWS: Why do we need two recorders if -- why don`t we just package them together if they telling us now we need both? Why don`t they just tie them together, so we get them together, if you need both? (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Well, they are right next to each other and in fact some manufacturers I think do combine them. But right now, they have the voice recorder, which is tremendously... MATTHEWS: OK. You have been through this a hundred times, a thousand times. What does it look like to you?   WALLACE: Well, the common thread to all those things that Tom just pointed out, like no distress call, and the plane descended -- a common explanation for that is that somehow this crew was incapacitated in some... MATTHEWS: Right away? WALLACE: Incapacitated. You know, so that points to the possibility of decompression. These pilots would every simulator session train for that emergency. They have quick-donning oxygen masks. They should be able to put them on in five seconds. At that altitude, they have about 30 seconds, 20 to 30 seconds of useful consciousness. So, it`s very difficult to explain. We have great recorders and a great authority. So, this mystery will be solved. MATTHEWS: Tom, it happened when they reached their cruising altitude. They reached for the highest they were going to be, and then about a minute or two after that, this tragedy began, right? COSTELLO: Yes, that`s right. Literally, one to three minutes at 38,000 feet, and then the descent began, this unexplained descent. You know, I think it`s also important to note here that if it was a decompression event, as you just heard -- and that -- I have got to tell you, a lot of people are kind of guessing right now that that may have been what happened, that they lost consciousness -- then the question would have been, well, then why did they make the decision not to put into their -- not to dial into their target altimeter that they wanted to go to 38,000 feet -- I`m sorry -- to 10,000 feet? Why did they just keep descending? And why was the rate of descent at about 3,500 feet per minute? That`s a good clip. It`s not slow. It`s not super fast. It`s a good clip. It`s as if -- I have described it as if you`re on a plane -- have you ever been on a commercial plane and the pilot says, folks, we have a medical emergency on board, we`re going to step it up and we`re going to get there fast? And you kind of feel that plane accelerate. I have been on it twice and felt that. It`s the pedal to the metal, but it`s not -- the people on board would not have been feeling like they are sinking or anything like that. It`s just you feel like an acceleration. That`s kind of what it should have felt like. The question is going to be, were they conscious or not? We simply don`t know. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Well, I hope we find out. Thank you, NBC`s Tom Costello. And thank you, Steve Wallace, for coming on tonight with your expertise. Up next, some history that won`t make Ted Cruz happy. Going first is never -- wait until you catch the stats on this -- never a recipe for success. So starting doesn`t mean you end well. Plus, Jeb Bush gets a hand from his brother, former President George W. Bush, on the money end. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. Severe weather is rumbling across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. The National Weather Service reports one tornado has touched down west of Tulsa and two have hit Northwestern Arkansas. Tornado warnings continue for parts of both states. So far, we have gotten reports of damage to homes and buildings in the Tulsa area, but no injuries as of now. U.S. and coalition forces are now taking part in airstrikes to help the Iraqi forces take back the strategic city of Tikrit from ISIS. Iraq`s prime minister requested coalition help expelling militants from the city. And the Saudi ambassador to the United States has just announced his country has launched military operations in Yemen, as Yemen`s president is reportedly in an undisclosed location after fleeing his palace in the southern city of Aden. He sought refuge there after rebels seized the capital last month -- now back to HARDBALL.   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, has sucked the oxygen out of the room this week -- that`s what fires do actually -- following his big announcement on Monday. He now has the distinction of being the first candidate to officially declare for 2016. But, as David Letterman pointed out last night, that`s not necessarily a good thing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN") DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Ted Cruz is running for president. He`s the first candidate to announce. Let`s see now how the first candidates to announce in a presidential race, how they do in the actual election. Take a look at this. NARRATOR: Republican Senator Ted Cruz is the first official candidate for the 2016 presidential election. And, as history has shown, the first declared candidate always goes on to win the election, except in 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1976, 1972, 1968, 1964, 1960, 1956... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you in the White House, President Cruz. NARRATOR: ... 1950, 1948, 1944, 1940. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: While Cruz may be a long shot, he is likely to wreak havoc on the Republican field. As an ultra-conservative candidate, Cruz intends to destroy what he calls the mushy middle. According to Politico, "The goal is to become the main conservative alternative to whomever emerges as the establishment candidate."   Chief among the establishment candidates, of course, is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Despite efforts to hit the reset button on his family name, Bush today is reenlisting his brother former President George W. Bush to headline a fund-raiser in Dallas. The move perhaps is part of a final push to meet his target of raising $100 million by the end of March -- that`s this year -- a goal that Bush confidants leaked to the press in January in an attempt to clear the field of challengers. What we seem to have here is a party caught between two extremes, the mushy middle and a ticking time bomb out to destroy that establishment. I`m joined right now by people at the roundtable tonight: Republican strategist Liz Mair, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, and author of "The Presidency In Black and White", you ought to read that, as well as Nicholas Confessore of "The New York Times." I`m going to start with Liz. This is -- well, people tell me what he is doing is running for the establishment. That`s his first goal. Take on the Democrat Hillary later on. LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that`s probably correct. I think that the question that I have about the strategy is, is this really a field that is going to be whittled down to the usual two, or you have establishment and anti-establishment? Or as I think maybe more likely, are we going to see this splinter into four, where you have a more moderate candidates, somebody who is an acceptably mainstream conservative for this field, probably somebody who`s in the Rand Paul area, the more libertarian, and then somebody who is the more social conservative, evangelical? And what I thought was interesting -- MATTHEWS: So, there`s four arenas? MAIR: That`s what I think. And I thought it was very interesting with Cruz`s announcement that he seems to be gunning for the fourth arena that I think is more dominated by Mike Huckabee, and Cruz seems to think he can make a play for that. MATTHEWS: The conservatives. MAIR: Yes, I think so. So, I -- MATTHEWS: Going to Liberty University was certainly a sign of that. MAIR: Right.   MATTHEWS: April? APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: I think that you may be right to a certain extent, but I think it boils down -- MATTHEWS: You think there are four arenas that you can survive longer than normal because there are four different parts of the Republican Party? All you do is well in that arena for two or three primaries and you`ll still be in the race? RYAN: Yes, but I`m going to throw something else, and I`m going to throw immigration in, because I think that`s going to play really big, because I think a lot of Hispanics are trying to find their way and I think Jeb Bush -- I`m calling him Jeb W., Jeb Bush -- MAIR: A lot of people are going to do that. RYAN: Yes, Jeb Bush, I think, will give the Hispanic vote what they want, and I believe -- MATTHEWS: Is there a Hispanic vote in the Republican -- (CROSSTALK) RYAN: Let me tell you, yes, there is right now because many of the Hispanics are very concerned about President Obama`s overall job approval rating but when it comes to immigration they are for them. But you have Jeb Bush who is clearly talking about immigration and they`re willing to go with anyone who`s going to push that issue -- MATTHEWS: What percentage of the primary caucus voters is Hispanic and is pro-immigration? MAIR: In Florida, it`s significant.   MATTHEWS: So, he can get there? He can get that far? MAIR: Yes, I think there`s a case to be made for it. MATTHEWS: How -- if you go -- Cruz is going to do well. He`s going to get his portion on this. To me, he`s like a talk show guy, and you go for 10 points, you don`t go for 51. But, you know, I don`t know how he gets to 51. I know how he gets to 10. NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, every -- MATTHEWS: Like Bill O`Reilly, he`s going to 10, ain`t going to 50. Ten percent of the country falls in love with you, that`s all you need. CONFESSORE: All these cycles have a couple of guys you suspect are running for a talk show at the end of this. I don`t think Ted Cruz -- MATTHEWS: I don`t mean that literally, by the way. CONFESSORE: I don`t think Ted Cruz is that guy. You know -- MATTHEWS: That`s not what I meant, by the way. If you`re playing the hard right, you don`t need 50 percent of the country to be enormously successful like Bill O`Reilly. You need about 10 points. CONFESSORE: I just feel like all these primaries eventually get to a point where there`s a guy and the other guy, or a gal, right? And it`s going to happen in this one, but it`s going to take a lot longer. MAIR: Right.   CONFESSORE: I just think it`s going to take months -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I have a tough question. The old rule was three tickets out of Iowa, two tickets out of New Hampshire, one ticket out of South Carolina. In other words, you got to win one of the three. In fact, you can`t get blown (ph) away in all the three certainly. Is it going to be that way or is Liz right, it`s going to go on and on because different kinds of goals to reach, libertarian, hawkish, you know, whatever? RYAN: You have so many different factions within that party and everybody is going to be trying to get, one may win this one, one way win the other one, one may win two of them. But I mean, you have to really think all of these people that are in there, and they have to have some kind of agenda. I mean -- and I do think right now Cruz may be the -- I guess the great guy. He was brilliant. He came out brilliantly. I mean, when no one else was out there, he was the underdog. So, he did the right thing. MATTHEWS: You mean this week? RYAN: Yes, this week, he did the right thing. MATTHEWS: He`s already brilliant. RYAN: Well, I think he did the brilliant thing. MATTHEWS: Because he memorized a speech? Give me a break. RYAN: Green eggs and ham.   MATTHEWS: We did that in high school. RYAN: I didn`t say he was brilliant but -- MATTHEWS: So, here`s what -- CONFESSORE: What`s changing in this campaign, Chris, is that it takes less and less to be a real candidate. You need like a pickup truck and a good Twitter following and a super PAC and you can stay in for four or five or six of these contests. Like a Rick Santorum. I think we`re going to have six of these people that are going to be topped up on the super PACs to $10 million or $20 million, each of them, at least, and they`re going to go on and on and on with money. MATTHEWS: I`m going to think about it, because in Africa, some I experienced, they have -- the one guy is known for the courtship, one guy is known for a fly swatter, different leaders throughout modern history have been known for one iconic thing. But let me go back to this theatric thing. When Al Sharpton was in the base in the Democratic, he was the best performer. He always had something very funny and memorable and made the top of the poll, the front page, if there was a front page story, he was in it. He didn`t do well in the end, he didn`t win it, but he made a statement and he became well known as a result. It seems to me Cruz is going to be like that. Cruz is going to be the best show. He`s going to be out there throwing the bombs, throwing the bombs, the other guys are going to look kind of mushy-mushy. RYAN: But we don`t know that yet. He just came -- we don`t know that yet. MATTHEWS: You don`t think he`ll do that? He says he`s going to do it. RYAN: He says but the proof is in the pudding. When he was out there at Liberty University, I was tweeting everything he was saying. I think right now his stand is, this one segment, this far right segment and going against Obama. Let`s see what happens when the other candidates come out.   MATTHEWS: Are you saying he`s going to let somebody else get to his right? CONFESSORE: Yes. I think -- MAIR: It depends on the issue, right? I mean -- MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. I heard him the other day. He went through everything. Get rid of Obamacare. (CROSSTALK) MAIR: On spending, there`s absolutely no way that Rand Paul is not to Ted Cruz`s right. There`s no chance. MATTHEWS: Really? MAIR: Oh, yes. MATTHEWS: He`s going to close everything but the post office, this guy. MAIR: No, I think he wants to get rid of the post office. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Total abolitionist. CONFESSORE: So far, the rule of a bomb thrower is being played by Bobby Jindal, right? He`s the guy who says a thing little further than the next guy at each of these encounters. Not so much -- RYAN: No, Ben Carson says the thing that is over -- (CROSSTALK) MAIR: Yes and no, though, because I mean, if you look at what a lot of the poll team are doing, particular with things like Google ads, that are basically trolling Jeb Bush. I don`t know. They`re picking up a lot of fights, too. I think there are going to be a lot of lobbing bombs at Jeb Bush on these debates. MATTHEWS: What`s he do in reaction, when he gets directly aimed at him -- clearly aimed at him? What`s he do? MAIR: I think what he`s going to have to do is actually really, really talk up all of his conservative bona fides and not actually like start looking like he`s pandering or shifting or anything like that, because I think that`s extremely deadly in politics. I think he`s going to have to rely on the fact that, like, yes, there are areas where we disagree but I challenge you to show that you have a better record when it comes to budget and spending -- MATTHEWS: Yes. I just wonder what his opponents, lots of them, will use -- will control the definitions. He will be for amnesty. He will be for Common Core. They will have him using -- they will have established the language of the debate. MAIR: Well, the challenge with this is that a lot of these guys are for amnesty and for Common Core or have been, you know? CONFESSORE: Right. MATTHEWS: Not now.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to come right back and talk more. We`re going to talk right now about the Secret Service when we come back, whatever to the whatever. But this guy Clancy has got some challenges facing him. We`ll be right back and you`re in charge of this one. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK) MATTHEWS: More fireworks in another congressional hearing with a director of the Secret Service in the hot seat. Now, surveillance videos show his agents rolling up on to an active crime scene. The allegations are serious and includes senior agents drinking and then driving government vehicles, interfering with an active suspicious package investigation, and then a five-day lag time before the details of the incident were conveyed to the director, Joseph Clancy. We have not been seeing exactly the Clint Eastwood-type of Secret Service agent during this investigation. We`re back with our roundtable, Liz, April, and Nick. April, you`re there every day. What`s your sense of the Secret Service foul ups? Are they systemic or just bad luck, or what, with this new guy Clancy at the head? RYAN: There`s been a culture. And you have to remember, these guys are -- there`s some really good guys in the Secret Service uniform and plain clothes division. But what we`re seeing now is a culture that is finally coming to light. And this -- MATTHEWS: What is the culture that you understand to be there?   RYAN: From what I`ve heard, that the culture is -- we can do -- we kind of make our rules. We do what we want at times. That`s just a certain group. I`m not going to say that for all of them. But when you walk into the White House today, you feel the tension in the air. You can feel how antsy they are because they know -- MATTHEWS: Because of the sad stories? The guy that walked in the front door, the guy that jumped the fence and walked into the White House. RYAN: They know the microscope is on them and they feel it, and they`re very antsy. I can tell you some stories about some things that have happened recently. But they`re very antsy. But I will say this that -- MATTHEWS: By the way, that`s why you`re here. Tell us one of them. RYAN: I don`t want my badge yanked. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Really? RYAN: Seriously. But I will say this -- a couple of weeks ago, when it was very cold, I was walking in, had my badge out. And I was challenged. It was supposed to be around my neck, and it was around there. And the gentleman said, come here. I said, excuse me? He said, come here. I never told this in public. But -- and I said, for what? And he was antsy, he was nervous, because of what was going on. My badge was there clearly. I walked onto my booth in the White House. And the sergeant came down and apologized to me. But they are very anxious right now, because the microscope is on them.   MATTHEWS: You`re there every day. RYAN: So what? I`ve been there 18 years every day. MATTHEWS: You`re recognized. RYAN: But at this time, you know, I`m anybody. I`m anybody. So, I`m anyone who comes in there. So they have to do what they have to do. This is the house of the president of the United States. This is where he works, he lives, and his family`s there. So, there needs to be protection of the highest level. Unfortunately, it has not been. And a lot of times when the presidents, or the families leave, they`re on the other side, one side may not be as protected as has been. But you see a difference, you feel it -- MATTHEWS: OK. I got to go to get Nick in on this, because it seems to me, historically, we have a lot of faith in the Secret Service, not just because of films like, you know, "In the Line of Fire" with Clint Eastwood, but we always look at them with the guys that would take a bullet for the president. But a lot of that had to do with the Treasury Department, I thought. They were "T" men, they were treasury agents. There was a real esprit there. Moving into homeland security, do you think that was a mistake? CONFESSORE: That`s a good question. I mean, you know, the Homeland Security Department is sort of the target and the butt of jokes and dislikes from everybody. There isn`t much -- MATTHEWS: It`s an expansion change, that`s why. It`s new. CONFESSORE: It is so striking that, you know, in so many years, for years, the Secret Service was the last untarnished, you know, government institution. They were never the bad guys in any pop culture, they were always the good guys. And now, for a year now or more, month after month, more and more.   MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to have to go. But we`ll have you back. RYAN: Jeh Johnson will be in a subcommittee hearing at 9:00 in the morning. Just to let you know. MATTHEWS: He`s a good guy. Anyway, thank you, Liz. And thank you, Liz Mair. Thank you, April Ryan and Nicholas Confessore. When we return, let me finish with the battle for the mind of Hillary Clinton. This is going to be the battle for the next year. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this battle for the mind of Hillary Clinton. My strong belief is that the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state, should do what she believes is right. Does she believe charter schools and rigorous teacher standards are important, or does she believe they undercut public education? Does she believe trade is good for this country or does she believe in restricting it? Secretary Clinton has been focused on child development and education through much of her public career. She`s a certified policy wonk, and doesn`t need others to tell her where to stand. She knows the issues, knows the arguments, sees the flaws. The same goes for trade. For four years, she had to deal with the economics foreign policy. The positive role of good open trade plays in relations between countries.   Bottom line, Secretary Clinton has a great grounding and perspective on these matters and should take the position that this fits as closely as possible with her own policy judgments. The right position is the one she believes in. All this lobbying by the interest groups is good for them, not necessarily for her. The person who has to believe in what she`s going to be out there fighting for, and defending. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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