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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/02/15

Guests: Bill Richardson, Joe Cirincione, Kristina Arriaga, Steve McMahon,David Boren

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Leadership. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. And today, the president of the United States delivered on his promise to this country that twice elected him. He refused the trumpets of war and set America and its world partners on a course toward peace. He brought us hope. He will be challenged, of course. Everything he has done in these long talks with Iran has been an in-your-face challenge to the people who surrounded and ruined the last presidency. The neocons and their assorted Colonel Blimps, armchair generals and chickenhawks, the Dick Cheneys and John Boltons who controlled George W. Bush and brought us to the chaos and craziness of today`s Middle East all detest the very notion of talking to the enemy. They live and speak and write their op-ed columns in the world of endless, relentless hatred, a dismal atmosphere where everyone hates us, no one is to be trusted, least of all, our elected leaders. Well, President Obama threw out the challenge today to this crowd late today, with this preliminary deal with world leaders and the government of Iran. He said that those who set out to kill the deal before it is even tested must take full responsibility for the ultimate option out there, another war. And this is why we elected this president, to strike out a new position of hope. He is not the first president to do so. Woodrow Wilson campaigned to the end of his life for U.S. membership in the League of Nations, only to have Republicans in the Senate back then, like the senior Henry Cabot Lodge, kill it. Harry Truman fought the isolationists and the naysayers after World War II for the Marshall plan. Jack Kennedy signed the limited nuclear test ban treaty with Nikita Khrushchev, the first step toward detente, which Richard Nixon continued with Leonid Brezhnev. Jimmy Carter was the last man standing, pushing for peace at Camp David, with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat resisting him. He ended up brokering a treaty between Israel and the country which then posed its greatest military threat in the region, a treaty that stands today. And of course, Ronald Reagan brought an end to the cold war working with Mikhail Gorbachev.   In that historic American tradition, President Obama today took his place. This afternoon, he praised the deal as an opportunity to resolve one of the greatest threats to world security. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal. And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives. This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon. We have a historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and to do so peacefully with the international community firmly behind us. We should seize that chance. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: For the big story today, let`s go to Switzerland and NBC`s Andrea Mitchell. The big story today, Andrea. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big story today is the deal is a lot more specific than many people had imagined, partly because they simply refused to give any details to keep the secrecy of the negotiations. They had an all-nighter last night. They ended at 6:00 in the morning, and it paid off because they got a deal that the president then signed off on. He was briefed on it about 10:00 o`clock your time, 4:00 in the afternoon our time, and then it all started coming together. And the fact is, they did leave a lot on the table. A lot has to still be negotiated. The Iranians said that sanctions would all come off, but the timing on that, the phasing out has not been determined. There`s hard negotiations ahead in the next three months before a final deal, if it can be done, can be agreed to on June 30th. But I really feel that they delivered more than was expected. They brought down other number of centrifuges, of working centrifuges to 5,000- plus. The centrifuges that make the nuclear fuel will have to be first generation, not the new, advanced ones. They`ve got eyes on, they claim, with new technology from the U.N. weapons inspectors, that can be verified. So I mean, I think the downside was that they wouldn`t stand up together and read or sign the same statement, and Javad Zarif very quickly tweeted out that it was spin, that the State Department or the White House put out a specific fact cheat sheet. He just felt that the deal was good enough, why do you have to be specific? They don`t want to be that specific. It`s important to them, for their politics back home, to keep it vague until they have to actually get the sanction relief...   MATTHEWS: Right. MITCHELL: ... which is what they want, and sign the real document. MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. That`s NBC`s Andrea Mitchell over in Switzerland. MITCHELL: You bet. MATTHEWS: Today, President Obama had a strong warning for Congress. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If Congress kills this deal, not based on expert analysis and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it`s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. Governor Richardson, thanks for joining us. This -- is this going to be a tough sell? I just wonder if the president`s first goal is to get to June 30th and not have anybody screw up the deal before it`s even brokered. BILL RICHARDSON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, it`s going to be a tough sell. There are three problems. One, will the negotiators achieve the unquestioned big questions that are in the agreement -- in other words, the pace of sanctions release (sic), the inspections regime.   Secondly, will Khamenei, the Iranian leader, embrace this deal? Secondly (sic) will be how can Iran destroy 10,000 centrifuges in this short period of time? So there`s still a lot of questions out there, but Congress, on the sanctions issue, if they move before June 30th, they can squelch this deal. I think the Congress needs to give the negotiators time between now and June 30th, the Europeans and the U.S., a chance to conclude the best possible deal. MATTHEWS: Well, the only thing that could actually stop the president is a veto-proof move by Congress, and that would require a lot of Democrats. JOE CIRINCIONE, PRES., PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Yes. I think Democrats are going to be with the president on this. I think some Republicans will be with him. There will always be those politicians and ideologues who are against any deal with Iran. But this deal is so breath-taking, it is so much more than anyone anticipated, that the serious national security people in this town, the warriors -- they`re going to like this deal. It eliminates one of the greatest threats we face, and nobody dies and it doesn`t cost us anything. MATTHEWS: Governor, I`m afraid there are people out there that want it to fail, not just the deal but the success of the deal. They don`t want any kind of rapprochement with Iran. They don`t want any kind of working relationship, even if it`s only on the issue of strategic weaponry. The Saudis don`t seem to want us getting back together, like we were with the Shah. Some Israelis on the right don`t like them as an economic rival in the region. It`s not just a nuclear concern they have. They don`t like them being there. They want to crush them. And in our own country, good old partisan politics, they don`t want Obama to look good. RICHARDSON: Well, I`m not as optimistic as Joe is. I want to see more details. I think it`s a good start, a good diplomatic start, but I wouldn`t be doing any victory laps. I would like to see Iran go beyond this nuclear agreement. If they`ve made concessions on these issues, Chris, between now and June 30, why don`t they release that American Marine, that American journalist? Why don`t they act more responsibly in Iraq and act more responsibly in Yemen and act more responsibly Yemen and act more responsibly in the region, stop being a state sponsor of terrorism? I know I`m throwing a lot in there... MATTHEWS: Yes. RICHARDSON: ... but they`ve made concessions. Sanctions has hurt them. I want them to be more responsible actors. I think the devil`s in the details. I think the administration deserves credit for moving the ball forward with the Europeans, but I don`t think you`re going to see this great exultation of a major victory.   MATTHEWS: OK... RICHARDSON: It`s a very good step forward... MATTHEWS: Well... RICHARDSON: ... and the administration deserves credit. MATTHEWS: As I mentioned up front, we had Brezhnev deals with Nixon that had nothing to do with stopping the Vietnam war, but they bring down the threat of a nuclear war between our two countries. So you can get big stuff done without getting everything done. CIRINCIONE: Right. When Nixon went to China in 1972, 20 years earlier, the Chinese army had killed thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers in Korea, and they were still arming the North Vietnamese, who were still at war with us. This nuclear deal doesn`t solve all our issues with Iran, but it solves the most dangerous. It shrinks their program, freezes it, locks it up and puts a camera on it. That is a big win for U.S. national security. MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Bill Richardson. Isn`t it true -- I agree with the president -- that, ultimately, there are not three options. There are two options. One is try to get a deal. Two, we end up having to blow them up over there, their nuclear facilities. Do you believe there is this third alternative? The president says there isn`t, which is to get tougher sanctions and break them. RICHARDSON: Well, I think sanctions has hurt them. It`s hurt them with their gasoline, with their food, their comprehensive on energy markets, on medicine. You know, another issue is going to be if there`s Iranian oil that comes into the market with sanctions relief, that`s going to lower -- that`s going to lower gasoline prices, but it`s also going to lower the price of oil worldwide. That`s going to be a little bit of economic turmoil, which can go either way. Look, I think it`s a good start. But again, the proof is in the pudding. What is going to happen between now and June 30th, when you have to formalize these agreements? Yes, there is less plutonium. Yes, there is less centrifuges. Less there is -- I was pleased that nuclear fuel cannot be exported. I was pleased that the IAEA is going to inspect.   But the level, Chris, of finding ways that Iran ensures its observance of this treaty -- that hasn`t been settled, and the sanctions relief, the base of that, that hasn`t been settled, either. So let`s see how -- what happen there is. MATTHEWS: On a score of 1 to 10, how much do you trust their willingness to go ahead with what Zarif, their foreign minister, said he would do today? RICHARDSON: I`d say 4 to 3. I don`t trust the Iranians. I want them to do... MATTHEWS: OK... RICHARDSON: ... a lot more, but that`s the role that the international inspectors, and the international community... MATTHEWS: OK. Joe... RICHARDSON: ... has to play an important role. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... that continuum, 1 to 10? What are the odds they`ll do what they said they`d do? The guy`s very charming, Zarif, today. Is he as good as his word? CIRINCIONE: This is a deal that`s been verified by the world powers. This isn`t just U.S. and Iran doing this. I think all the incentives are on Iran now to fulfill this deal. MATTHEWS: What...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... 9 or 10? CIRINCIONE: I`m going to give it a 9. MATTHEWS: OK. CIRINCIONE: But it`s not matter of trust. It`s all about verification, and that`s the test of this. Do we have a verification system that can catch Iran should they cheat? MATTHEWS: OK... CIRINCIONE: And do we have a united coalition... MATTHEWS: OK... CIRINCIONE: ... to enforce the deal? MATTHEWS: We got a mean number here of 6-and-a-half -- not great but OK. Anyway, thank you, Governor Bill... (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: I just averaged the two. Thank you, Governor Bill Richardson, who knows his stuff, and usually finds a way to bring pace. And thank you, Joe Cirincione. I`m joined right now by NBC News correspondent Ali Arouzi, who is in Iran. Ali, thanks for staying up all night tonight. What is the reaction? Can you feel it in the streets of Tehran, to this deal, this preliminary deal? ALI AROUZI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, as soon as the deal was announced, people took to their cars, even though it`s a public holiday here, and they were honking their horns, flashing victory signs, celebrating the good news. People have been hoping this would come through here for quite a while because they wanted sanctions lifted, and they were in a celebratory mood. And I think that will carry on for now, as long as the deal is inked -- Chris. MATTHEWS: Do they want a bomb? AROUZI: It`s a very good question. I mean, you know, Ahmadinejad, when he was in power, said a bomb is very 20th century, but you know, that -- that`s all talk. I mean, whether you look at these (INAUDIBLE) bomb (ph) still does that as a deterrent. You know, I`ve been in meetings here with senior people in Iran, and they`ve mentioned to me, they`ve said, Well, look, you know, the Pakistanis have a bomb and the world engages with them. We don`t, and we get threatened. So that`s definitely some of their thinking here. But I don`t think they want to give up everything just to have a bomb. Possibly, you know, they do, but they`re certainly not in a rush to get one. They`re more interested in keeping their ideological strongholds here with Hezbollah and Syria, and if they went down the bomb route, they would put all of that in danger. So they`re playing their cards very carefully here, Chris. MATTHEWS: I think so. Thank you so much, NBC`s Ali Arouzi over in Tehran. Still ahead, we`ll get to the politics of that agreement today with Iran. Can President Obama sell this deal here at home? The "bombs away" crowd in Congress is making that job tough. Coming up next -- lawmakers in Indiana take steps to fix that so- called religious freedom law that could be used to discriminate against gays, but they already showed their true intentions, don`t you think so, by passing that law in the first place. Plus, racism on campus. The president of the University of Oklahoma will be here with us tonight. His campus has been dealing with tough issues after a video emerged of fraternity members singing a racist chant.   And George Will says Republicans have no chance to win the White House in 2016 if they nominate a hard-right conservative. Ted Cruz didn`t get that memo. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Two women in New York have been charged with trying to build a bomb for a terrorist attack. Prosecutors say the two women, who are from Queens, New York, were inspired by ISIS, al Qaeda and the Boston Marathon bombers, and the November killings of two New York City police officers. They were arrested after they showed an undercover informant the propane gas tanks and torches they allegedly planned to use to make a bomb. Loretta Lynch, President Obama`s nominee to be U.S. attorney general, is the lead prosecutor on that case. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a bill late today that clarifies that religious freedom law he signed last week. The language now explicitly bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. But let`s take a look at the recent history here. Indiana Republicans had their chance to say they opposed discrimination weeks ago, when an amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was offered up in the state senate. But the amendment failed and was defeated with 40 state senators opposing it and only 10 supporting it. And then Governor Pence was given an opportunity on TV to say if he wanted to protect the LGBT community of his state. And here he is with George Stephanopoulos. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: One fix that people have talked about is simply adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the state`s civil rights laws. Will you push for that? GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I will not push for that. That`s not on my agenda, and that`s not been -- that`s not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, if it was not on his agenda back then, on Sunday, it certainly is today. Their intents were not as inclusive back then as they said they are today. They got caught trying to make a political statement, those people in Indiana, to exclude gays. Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post," and Steve McMahon`s a Democratic strategist, and Kristina Arriaga is executive director of the Becket Fund. Kristina, you first. I think they got caught BSing us, if you will, because they had an opportunity when the bill came up, a Democratic members of the legislature, of the senate, offered an amendment saying (INAUDIBLE) make sure that this bill doesn`t allow people to discriminate at the storefront, whether it`s a bakery or what it is, or a bar, you can`t discriminate against gay people, and they shot it down 4 to 1. Then the governor got a chance to say he`d like to have that addenda put on it so it wouldn`t be misread as anti-gay, and he said, No, that`s not on my agenda. And now they`re coming out and said, Oh, we were misread. We really didn`t -- we really didn`t intend to discriminate against gay people. Your thoughts. They`re caught, I think, aren`t they? KRISTINA ARRIAGA, BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: Oh, well, I mean, there has never, ever been an exemption (ph) granted to an anti- discrimination law based on a RFRA claim. Never. In the last 22 years... MATTHEWS: But let me ask you -- can you get back to my question? The question is, why didn`t they take the opportunity when they passed the law to make sure it wasn`t anti-gay? ARRIAGA: Because there was no need. There was no need. The difference between the old version and new version...   MATTHEWS: Well, how about Sunday, when George Stephanopoulos, when there was a need, and the governor had a clear chance to say, We`re not anti-gay, said, No, that`s not on my agenda? Why didn`t he take the chance then? Why didn`t the legislature take the chance when they wrote this to say -- so there`ll be no confusion, this could be about caterers and weddings and churches, but it`s not about somebody walking into a store and somebody saying, You two guys like lovers. I`m not serving you. ARRIAGA: There is no doubt that the messaging was terribly mishandled, but so was the overreaction on the other side. MATTHEWS: Mishandled? I thought they said what they wanted to say. ARRIAGA: I don`t know. I don`t think so. MATTHEWS: Jonathan... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think they were very clearly heard. They don`t like -- they didn`t want to protect gay rights. JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Now, the messaging wasn`t mishandled, the law was mishandled. The problem with the Indiana law was two-fold. One, it applied to private business, and two, it provided a shield from civil rights litigation. So, if -- if my partner and I were to walk into an Indiana shop and be refused flowers, say, and then we get mad, we go and sue, we wouldn`t be able to have a suit because they could claim a religion exemption, and... ARRIAGA: When was the last time that happened? That has never happened. (CROSSTALK)   CAPEHART: It doesn`t matter. We`re talking about... (CROSSTALK) STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It doesn`t matter if it happens. It matters if it can happen... CAPEHART: Right. MCMAHON: ... and if it creates the opportunity for it to happen. Let`s not -- let`s not kid ourselves here. The reason this law was written was specifically to discriminate against the GLBT community, because everybody is so afraid in Indiana, apparently, of gay marriage. And that`s exactly why it`s coming up. So, you can talk about 20 years of legislative history. But what`s going on in the country right now is, the country is moving, the courts are moving. And there are some politicians in Indiana and apparently in Arkansas who don`t want to move with it. MATTHEWS: Kristina, I want to give you some space here, because I think there is some space. I have been reading a lot about this. I read a couple of arguments today. And one of them was that there is a place -- if you run a catering service and you don`t want to cater a gay wedding, well, I don`t why a guy who is gay or partners who are gay would ever want you to do it anyway. But it seems to me that would be an argument you could say, OK, that`s a contract relationship. I don`t have to sign the contract. But if you open your store to -- a bakery, for example, and somebody comes in and says, I want to buy bakery goods for some -- that`s a place of public accommodation. If it`s a storefront, it`s a storefront. If it`s a separate contracting organization, I think that is what the law intended to cover.   Is that why they passed the law in the first place? ARRIAGA: Yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Who were they trying to protect? ARRIAGA: Americans disagree about religion and sex all the time. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But what were they trying to protect? ARRIAGA: They were trying to protest -- what RFRA protects -- what RFRA protects is members of minority religions, like my client. MATTHEWS: To do what? ARRIAGA: Like my client, my client Pastor Robert Soto, who is a Native American, who wanted eagle feathers for his religious ceremonies. The federal government came and confiscated all his feathers, threatened him arrests and fines. And it was thanks to a RFRA claim that he is able to obtain those eagle feathers back from the government.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: This was passed for American Indians? ARRIAGA: This was passed largely to protect minority religions. This was not some sort of magic wand that said the religious person wins and the other people have no rights. What this meant is you get your day in court. If you cannot do something... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What was the Catholic Church and the conservative Jewish people, what they were interested in? Because they were the ones standing with the governor when he signed this. What did they want? ARRIAGA: They wanted their religious liberty. MATTHEWS: From what? From what? (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: Well, right now, the Obama administration is trying to -- for Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptives and abortion- causing drug to all their employees. For some reason, the government has decided they cannot give out these drugs through the exchanges or through anyplace else, and they are trying to force an order of Catholic nuns to do so. MATTHEWS: I thought that was Hobby Lobby.   (CROSSTALK) CAPEHART: Well, yes, like, here`s the problem with your argument, Kristina. The examples that you have given, the Hobby Lobby example, the contraceptive example, the eagle feathers examples, those were all government actions. The problem with the Indiana law was that it opened itself up to being -- it was actually expressly given to private business, this exemption. And that was the problem. (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: The Obama administration... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let me get... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... question. I don`t want to hog this because I -- like everybody, I have been thinking about this for a week. ARRIAGA: Yes. MATTHEWS: Should a business that opens -- says open on the door, should they be able to say no gays?   ARRIAGA: No. But no... MATTHEWS: As a principle... (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: In the -- in the last 22 years, that has never been in court. MATTHEWS: But is that your belief? ARRIAGA: It is our belief... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, your belief that nobody should ever be discriminated because they are gay? ARRIAGA: I don`t think that there should be a discrimination to service because a person is gay. But I believe... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But should there be a law protecting that right to walk in any door of any bakery, barroom, hotel room, and say, I want a room for the night, and no guy, no night clerk can say, sorry, you guys look gay? Where are you? I want that answer. Where are you on that issue?   (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: My... MATTHEWS: Where are you? ARRIAGA: I think it`s -- I think it`s very difficult to make a generalization on either side. (CROSSTALK) MCMAHON: What if they`re African-American? What if they`re African- American? (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: Look, I`m Latina. Race has an entirely different place... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How about the mixed-race couple? ARRIAGA: I`m in a mixed-race marriage.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So it should be part of our anti-discrimination laws? ARRIAGA: What? I`m sorry. MATTHEWS: Should it be part of our anti-discrimination laws? Should it be protected? ARRIAGA: There are anti-discrimination laws. MATTHEWS: Are you for them? (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: Yes, absolutely, we`re for anti-discrimination laws. (CROSSTALK) ARRIAGA: But I don`t want to discriminate against religious people either. Why should a person who has a religious belief not have a day in court, even if their views are repulsive to most Americans?   MCMAHON: Here`s why. Here`s why. Because the law is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest. And that`s what it has to meet in order for... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s watch politicians in action, which is always a joy for me, even though I respect them. Here`s Jeb Bush, one of the best of them, perhaps. But here he is, front-runner Jeb Bush, raced to defend Indiana`s law on Monday. They catch him on Monday in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. This is a conservative radio guy. Listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of -- people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have -- to be able to be people of conscience. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: But here comes the flip-flopping. Last night, Jeb appeared to modify his public comments about the law in a closed-door Silicon Valley fund-raiser, telling a small group of highly, I would say, secular potential supporters that a consensus-oriented approach would have been better at the outset. He said -- quote -- "By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need, in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience. That is a constitutional right, that religious freedom is a core value of our country, but" -- quote -- "we shouldn`t discriminate based on sexual orientation."   Well, he has evolved from Monday to Wednesday night. (LAUGHTER) CAPEHART: Right. MATTHEWS: And this is what happens in politics, the squirming need to reconcile your views with opposing philosophies, one that is ultra- religious, and that`s all that matters, to the other group that says, we got to live in a business world. CAPEHART: You know, in that... MATTHEWS: Like those guys in Silicon Valley. CAPEHART: But the -- what he said in Silicon Valley, I believe, is Jeb Bush`s natural instinct. That`s where he wanted to be. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Aren`t you good? Aren`t you good? (CROSSTALK) CAPEHART: No, no, because...   MATTHEWS: Because you agree with that? CAPEHART: Well, I agree with it, but also because Jeb Bush is somebody who has gone way out there on discrimination against his party, way out there on Common Core against his party. MATTHEWS: I know. CAPEHART: And maybe he thought, I can`t go any further on this other issue. But if he had stayed true to himself, Jeb Bush wouldn`t be in the bind that he`s in. MATTHEWS: I wonder if you`re also saying what I say, which is, please, God, give us a real choice next election, that we can imagine voting for the other guy besides Hillary. What do you say? MCMAHON: Well, no, but small-government conservatives who are true to their principles think that the government doesn`t belong in any of these decisions. I think Jonathan is right. I think Jeb Bush and some of the others in the race, Chris Christie and others... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Rand Paul hasn`t spoken yet.   CAPEHART: At all. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But you know he`s a libertarian. MCMAHON: He wants to be a libertarian and he probably wants to be a libertarian on this issue. But Ted Cruz won`t let him. It`s going to be really interesting to watch these guys evolve and flop and flop. MATTHEWS: He`s afraid to be called a sexual libertarian, which this guy called somebody the other night on this show. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart, Steve McMahon, and Kristina Arriaga. Thank you for coming on. Please come back. Up next: race on campus. The president of the University of Oklahoma will be here to talk about how his campus is coping after that video surfaced of fraternity members singing a racist chant. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.   On March 8, an online video went viral showing members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma leading a racist chant with a busload of students. University president David Boren took immediate action, closing down the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter on campus and ordering an investigation. Boren then expelled two students. President Boren`s investigation shows the racist chant was learned at a leadership cruise sponsored by the national office of the fraternity years ago. He sent a letter to the fraternity, saying the matter can`t be closed until the national office tells them what steps are being taken to stop this racist rhetoric from being taught to others. Joining me right now from Norman, Oklahoma, is the president of University of Oklahoma, David Boren. Governor, thank you for joining us. What has been the reaction? We hear that the president of the international fraternity is denying they ever taught this anti-black chant. DAVID BOREN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: Well, Chris, I received a letter of apology from him today. He made a Facebook posting and immediately or very quickly took it down. He`s trying to draw a distinction between hearing a chant at the national convention and learning a chant. I said, no, don`t waste your time on splitting hairs. Let`s talk about moral issues. The executive director of the fraternity is saying he`s going to investigate. This happened four years ago. And we want to know how many other chapters are singing this, because the culture has to be changed, not only changed at the University of Oklahoma. It has to be changed all across the country. And all of us have to join together and say zero tolerance for this kind of thing. We have got to stop this epidemic of racism across the country. And we hope we`re doing our part by sending a strong message that there`s zero tolerance here. And we hope other people will take up the call at other universities, at other institutions. And all of us as individuals, we can`t sit silent when we hear the word used in social conversation or in jokes or other things. We have to start speaking up and saying, not here, not in front of me. That`s not us. And I think that`s what we have to do everywhere and that`s what we are trying to do here at the University of Oklahoma. MATTHEWS: How much can you moderate that? Or could I say, if you -- if some kid who`s of color or a kid who is concerned, like most people are, about any kind of racist chatter and they hear somebody make a comment at a football game or in a cafeteria, they hear an ethnic reference...   BOREN: Right. MATTHEWS: ... should they turn that person in to the school authorities? Is it that serious? (CROSSTALK) BOREN: Well, I think it is serious. I don`t know that they should turn the person in, but I think that they should turn around to the person and say, I beg your pardon, but I don`t believe in making these kind of racial stereotypes or comments. And please don`t make them in front of me. You know, I think all of us have to do that. We sit there. It`s socially awkward sometimes, even in conversation, but until we all do our part, I think it`s going to be very hard. The outside culture come in on us at universities and other places. And we have to fight back against that. And we have to, I think, again, take immediate action. I hope other college presidents and I hope students -- I`m so proud of our students, because, right away, the next morning, even as the fraternity was being closed down and students were being withdrawn from school and being disciplined in other ways, our students were out there with a single voice saying, this isn`t who we are. This isn`t our family. This isn`t our community. And they were really, really -- and that continues. I have -- we have had dialogue with all of the fraternity members on campus of all fraternities. I have talked with them in a group setting. We have had personal apologies between the past officers of the fraternity and African- American student leaders in my office, no cameras, no one there. They exchanged apologies. They talked about why they were hurt. They hugged each other. These kind of healing things are going on. But it all starts, I think, with every single American. MATTHEWS: Yes. BOREN: Just like we said this is not the University of Oklahoma, we all have to say, this isn`t American, not our America.   MATTHEWS: Well, I think everybody in the country, Governor, liked the way you handled that, because it was swift, it was clear. It wasn`t a lot of mushiness. You made clear where you stood and where your university stood and where we all should stand. I really am proud of you, Governor David Boren, governor, senator, president of the university of Oklahoma. You have done it all, a trifecta. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up -- thanks for coming on HARDBALL. BOREN: Thank you. Thank you, Chris. Thank you. MATTHEWS: Up next: selling the deal. President Obama called it historic today. He said it could prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but can he convince a skeptical Congress and the country? Can he say it will work? He`s got to. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. One hundred and forty-seven people are dead after a rampage at a college in Kenya. The terror group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that attack. All four gunmen are dead. The Germanwings pilot blamed for crashing a plane last week researched cockpit door security and methods of suicide. Investigators are reviewing the browsing history on a tablet found in his apartment.   Meanwhile, at the crash site in the French Alps, searchers have recovered the plane`s second black box, the flight data recorder, though it is damaged. And here in the U.S., New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to corruption charges earlier today in federal court. A tentative trial date is set for July 13 -- now back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There will be no sunset to the deal that we are working to finalize, no sunset, none. Certain provisions, including many transparency measures, will be in place indefinitely into the future. They will never expire. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re now witnessing a pivotal moment, I think, in world history and for this president`s legacy, certainly, and it`s all tonight. If these Iranian nuclear talks succeed, it would disarm one of the greatest threats of our time, a nuclear Iran. If they fail or are sabotaged, we could be very well be headed toward war. This is the ultimate test of what you might call the Obama doctrine. "The Washington Post" summed it up as the president`s firm belief that -- quote -- "Persistence and engagement with our enemies can change the world" -- close quote. President Obama and the White House have battled months of attacks and repeated attempts by critics on the right to destroy these negotiations, and they will face many more in the month ahead, especially between now and June 30. The bombs away crowd on the right is growing, and a skeptical public and Congress awaits. Republican Senator Bob Corker says, "There is growing bipartisan support for congressional review of the nuclear deal." And that legislative battle begins on April 14th. He`s going to hold hearings on Foreign Relations.   President Obama seemed to acknowledge that today, that Congress has the ability to kill this deal in its crib. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress kills this deal not based on expert analysis and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it`s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse and the path to conflict will widen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, the roundtable tonight: A.B. Stoddard is a columnist with "The Hill", Jackie Kucinich is senior politics editor with "The Daily Beast", and Michelle Bernard is the president of the Bernard Center for Women. I always make that sound funny because I know it goes way back to (INAUDIBLE). Anyway, let`s go with this. Where does the politics stand? You folks all know the Hill, especially you. A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST, THE HILL: Well, Republicans are not happy. And you hear from the chorus of people you already know saying they want a destruction of Iran`s nuclear capability. There is already some conflict with the lead negotiator from Iran, Zarif, tweeting out that there is spin about the deal, the Iranians want the people to believe that the sanctions are immediate in June. We want phased sanctions relief. There will be disagreements and this is not a deal. Andrea Mitchell just tweeted out that she spoke with John Kerry and asked him, do you think you`ll have a deal by June? He said, I hope so. This is a very fragile situation. JACKIE KUCINICH, SR. POLITICAL EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Democrats are not really willing to give away any power either. Harry Reid is optimistic about this. So, I think Congress is going to review this and no one is going to be -- no one is willing to just let the president do his thing. STODDARD: Yes. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Do you think there will be a vote, up or down in Senate? Michelle, you lead the way. Will there be a vote up or down in the Senate between now and when they actually have the deal, at the end of January? Will there be a vote to kill before we have it? BERNARD: No, I don`t think they are going to kill it before we have it. I think they are going to go and see, number one, if we really have anything. I mean, right now, all we can call it is we have a deal on a framework. That`s the big problem. MATTHEWS: How will we know that answer until we get to June 30th? BERNARD: Well, we`re going to have to get to June 30t. I don`t think we have a choice. And I don`t think we have a choice. And I think despite all of the bloviating that we may see, we are going to get to June 30th but there are going to be a lot of questions that are asked and frankly they should be asked. (CROSSTALK) STODDARD: Congress is -- they want to force a vote so they are involved and they weigh -- MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take the president`s argument. I think it`s right. We can`t get tougher sanctions because the Europeans are in no mood for more of this. STODDARD: Right. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Either this, or head towards blowing up them at some point. STODDARD: I`m not going to weigh in on the policy here. I can tell you politically Republicans say we`re not for war. We`re for deeper sanctions.   MATTHEWS: How do you get them? STODDARD: They think that sanctions have worked so far. MATTHEWS: How do you get them? STODDARD: I don`t know. They are going to work their magic with the rest of the coalition. But that`s what they`re arguing. MATTHEWS: We can`t sanction them by ourselves. BERNARD: The whole world has to do it and the rest of the world isn`t prepared to do it. We want -- I am somebody personally who wants the deal -- I don`t want the deal killed but I don`t want them to have nuclear capability. But the bottom line is, Congress is going to get to a point when they realize this is the best probably that we can do. If we want to minimize anti-Western sentiment, that`s the best -- KUCINICH: There are going to be the tom cottons of the world that are never going to vote for this. MATTHEWS: What do they want? KUCINICH: I mean, they want another president.   MATTHEWS: No, what do they want in terms of policy? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The new president, Cruz, what would they do with Cruz? KUCINICH: That`s the question. MATTHEWS: Here`s Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney will tell you what he believes. I`ll say this for Dick Cheney. He`s ain`t bashful. Here he is championing a growing group of hawks on the right to say war is the only option. Quote, "What`s worked is military force and willingness to go in and use military capability to strip nuclear arms from places such as Iraq, such as Iran, such as Syria." Here`s a sampling from the bombs away crowd. Here they go. They are not shameful here. Here they are. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: You have an Iran, you have other places around the world, groups that want to annihilate Israel, but annihilate us in America. It`s like a virus, you got to eradicate it. You can`t take out part of it or it will come back. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We should never, ever take off the table, the notion that it may be necessary to conduct some sort of military strike against their nuclear ambition. That is a real option because that`s how serious the Iranian nuclear threat is. SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Israel struck Iraq`s nuclear program in 1981 and they didn`t reconstitute it. Israel struck Syria`s nuclear reactor in 2007, they haven`t yet reconstituted. Rogue regimes have a way of getting a picture when there`s a credible threat of military on the table. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I think it`s time to bomb Iran -- anything that resemble as nuclear facility with centrifuges. It`s time to bomb.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Jackie, at least they tell you what they believe, because these others like Netanyahu say, you don`t have to deal with the Iranians because you can`t deal with them, they`re not to be trusted. So, what`s the alternative? If you can`t make any deal with them, there`s another alternative. KUCINICH: I think talking about sending in troops is one thing. MATTHEWS: Sure. They`re talking about bombs. KUCINICH: Right, and I think there`s two very different -- you can talk about it all you want. When it comes down to it, there`s going to be a division in the Republican Party. BERNARD: Also, the president has never said that a military option is completely off of the table. Anyone who would argue that this president would allow the United States government or Israel to be in danger of being bombed by Iran is wrong. He`s going to hit that button and they are going to be gone. MATTHEWS: No American president, right, left or center, no matter how far left you think Obama is, he`s not going to be president of the United States who let them have the bomb. BERNARD: Exactly. MATTHEWS: By the way, there`s a test of time of this. He has a legacy. He`s a young man, Obama. He intends to spend 30 years on this earth celebrating what he`s accomplished. If they get the bomb because of him, he ain`t going to be celebrated by anybody. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, can Republicans win the White House by going far to the right? Ted Cruz seems to think so. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Obama is heading to Utah late tonight, deep red Utah, a state in which he managed to get 25 percent of the vote back in 2012. Anyway, the president will be speaking at the Air Force Base out there, and the trip to Utah means he`s hit 49 of the 50 states as president. The only one missing is South Dakota. Go to Mt. Rushmore, Mr. President. He made a goal to hit all 50 states during his time in office. Just as Bill Clinton did when he was president. President George W. Bush made it to 49. The other he missed was, no surprise there, Ben & Jerry`s country - - Vermont. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren`t voting. They`re staying home. Imagine instead -- millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, A.B., Jackie and Michelle. Well, in his announcement, we just saw there for president last month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas outlined his strategy, political strategy for winning the White House next year. Cruz says that only a true conservative nominee can motivate evangelical voters to turn out in big numbers to secure a Republican victory in November. Otherwise, he says, a large portion of the Republican base just won`t show up. But will a base turnout strategy really work for Republicans? In other words, get the hard right out in 2016.   Conservative columnist George F. Will doesn`t seem to think so. In his piece today titled "Cruz is aiming at the wrong Republicans", Will writes, quote, that "by disdaining the mushy middle," as he calls, "Cruz evidently assumes that the electorate`s middle -- likely partisan and only mildly ideological -- is too minuscule to matter. The Republican nominee must crack the ice that has frozen the electoral map, and Cruz cannot do that by getting more votes from traditional Republican constituencies." Even the architect of George W. Bush`s electoral victories, Karl Rove, says Cruz is off base. In an opinion piece today called "The Myth of the Stay at Home Republicans", Rove points out "the conservative share of the 2012 electorate was highest since exit polls begun asking voters about their political leanings back 1976. Republicans concerned about voters who failed to show up should look elsewhere." So, there you have two guys who I think is trying to say, want to win more than anything else. George F. Will, who always like to win, and, of course, Karl Rove, who does it for living, he`s an architect of victory. They think if you go to the hard right, evangelical right, and do all these cultural war stuff, you`ll lose the general. And they`re worried because their guy, Jeb Bush, is not looking too good in the polls. I get to that in a minute. STODDARD: They do want to win. And Democrats actually are little worried about whether or not Hillary Clinton who is sort of a default Democratic nominee can excite enough depressed Democrats after Obama and replicate the Obama coalition and get over -- over the finishing line. KUCINICH: Look -- STODDARD: Romney lost by 333,000 votes in a few swing states. KUCINICH: What does that conservative even mean? Are those the ones that float? Are those the ones that sink? I don`t know. MATTHEWS: Are you talking about witchcraft trials? KUCINICH: I mean, seriously though. It`s kind of -- it`s a false premise in some ways. But I think -- MATTHEWS: OK, Barry Goldwater in `64 didn`t care what the middle thought and he lost. KUCINICH: I think if you`re the hard right candidate, you need to vote for the hard right candidate to win. Sort of make sense that you`re pitching yourself.   BERNARD: Look, if Ted Cruz is the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is going to sail through and be the next president of the United States with no -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Smarties, who is she afraid of? BERNARD: I`m sorry? MATTHEWS: Who`s she afraid of? BERNARD: If I were her, I would be afraid of Jeb Bush and although nobody believes it, I would still be afraid of Chris Christie. He out of all of the Republicans is the only Republican I have seen that has a winning strategy for reaching out to nonwhite people that will vote for him. He`s done it in New Jersey. He`s got the African-American vote. He has so many people -- MATTHEWS: He didn`t get the African-American vote. BERNARD: He got the largest -- MATTHEWS: He got like 20 percent. BERNARD: No, he got like 36 percent of the African-American vote in a blue state. No other Republican has ever done that. MATTHEWS: Who was his opponent?   (CROSSTALK) STODDARD: You know what? Romney wanted -- MATTHEWS: I can`t remember. STODDARD: Romney won independents and he lost. They watched Obama turn out new voters. Cruz hopes he`s turning new voters. MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the problem for you guy. BERNARD: Which guy? MATTHEWS: I think it`s Bush. Anyway, this comes as support for Jeb Bush erodes in his home state of Florida. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Bush still leads the Republican field down there with 24 percent, but that`s down from 32 percent a big drop of eight since February. The poll shows Scott Walker is leading in the Pennsylvania primary with 14 percent. Walker in Pennsylvania. Bush is tied up there in second with Ben Carson. Rick Santorum at 9 percent. That`s not good for a Bush. And Ted Cruz is fifth at 7 percent. Thank you all, by the way. A.B. Stoddard, it`s always great to have you. Jackie Kucinich, you`re great. And, Michelle Bernard, you`re obviously great. When we come back, let me finish with President Obama. He`s leading and not from behind on this big treaty.   And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me end tonight with this, a great senator once told us, I was the one on the room, that the only reason to be in politics is to be out there all alone and then be proven right. Well, today, President Obama took a position out there on point. Politically, he is the one that must win the fight for this deal with Iran. He must to do it stage by stage, beginning with this period between now and the final agreement deadline of June 30th. His goal I expect will be to prevent a Senate vote to kill a deal before we even reach that point. So, whatever else can be said against him, no one can say this president is leading from behind. I am myself content with the belief that whatever deal he strikes, Barack Obama, the president and the man who will some day be the former president, must standby what he agreed to. His deal with Iran will be tested by time. It will either work or it won`t, it will either keep Tehran from a nuclear weapon or it will not. I wonder -- actually, I don`t wonder -- I believe that there are those, many critics out there who don`t want this deal to work. They want the Iranians to cheat so they can continue to blow their bugles for war. They can continue to thrash this president because somehow, his very existence, much less his presence in the White House, bothers them. Let`s put that aside and hope that the best of our common sense will prevail and we as a people will push for an alternative to war -- war being always the easiest thing to start, the hardest thing to end. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for be 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. 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