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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/06/15

Guests: J.C. Watts, Nicholas Confessore, Robert Costa, Michael Rubin,Bernard Kerik, Ryan Grim, Jeanne Cummings, John Brabender

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Opening day. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. And tomorrow morning in Louisville, Kentucky, the 2016 presidential campaign gets into real action. Rand Paul, who just beat Hillary Clinton in a respected Pennsylvania poll, announces his presidential candidacy. And before you sell this guy short, just watch how far and how fast he`s moved. In 2010, he knocked out not only the establishment Republican candidate, Mitch McConnell`s candidate, but beat the Democrat in November by a dozen points. He shellacked the guy. Now he`s a genuine contender for the White House. When Senator Paul announces tomorrow, he`ll be joined by former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, who joins me now from Louisville. Congressman Watts, it`s great to have you back. You were a regular on the show for so long, and I guess you will be now again as a big surrogate for Mr. Paul, Senator Paul. Why has J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, an evangelical man of the South, why are you, a Bible guy -- why are you with a libertarian guy like Rand Paul? J.C. WATTS (R-OK), FMR. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Rand, Chris, obviously has some libertarian leanings, but I think he has the right perspective and I think he wants to do the right thing. And over the last two-and-a-half years that I`ve been talking to him, that I`ve had his ear, I think he`s wanted to learn.   And I think the things that he`s done -- he`s not just taken on just your typical conservative issues on the social side and on the economic side, but he`s gone much further than that, and he`s gone into non-traditional constituencies. I think he`s tried to be very consistent in striking up a dialogue with those non-traditional constituencies. And I think that`s what we need. You know, post-Jack Kemp, you know, I`ve been looking for somebody -- MATTHEWS: OK -- WATTS: -- that would that would offer up himself or herself to have this type of dialogue with more than a narrow constituency. MATTHEWS: Well, you know, the thing that I`ve been beating the drum on around here for a couple years, J.C., is the Republican Party`s efforts at suppressing the vote, all these new requirements about photo IDs. And then some of these Republican leaders like in Pennsylvania just come out and say, yes, we do it to suppress the vote (INAUDIBLE) vote. In fact, one guy said, We`ll keep the black vote down with it, in so many words. And yet this guy you think is different, you believe is different. WATTS: Well, I`ve talked to the senator about this. He wants to expand ways that we can get more people to the polls to vote. And you know, the nonviolent offenders -- we`ve had the conversation about that in saying that -- MATTHEWS: Right. WATTS: -- they should have the right to vote. And again, he`s talked about things in the last four years that most conservatives would be afraid of getting voted off the island if they were talking about those type of things. And obviously, he`s made some mistakes. He`s evolving. But I think he is honestly -- he has honestly made the case to me that, J.C., I want to have the right perspective, I want to learn, I want to go to the next -- take the country to the next level in so many areas. And Chris, we`re so focused on the 30,000-foot level on so many of these issues that we don`t get down to that 300-foot level -- MATTHEWS: OK --   WATTS: -- and have a dialogue, have a conversation, have deeper relationships, and I honestly think that he wants to do that. MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you why I like him, and you may disagree because we have often disagreed, J.C. I like him because he`s not a hawk. He`s not a neocon. He`s not somebody who always wants to take us back to the Middle East for the latest country we have to go to war with. He seems like a guy who has restraint in the use of military, just like he has restraint in the use of big government. What do you think of that? WATTS: Well, I will tell you this, Chris, my conversations with him, I don`t think there`s any question that his philosophy in terms of war is, you know -- if we`re fighting a war, we win, they lose. That`s the bottom line. However, I think he hasn`t taken on a demeanor that says, Let`s shoot and then aim. And I think -- MATTHEWS: Yes. WATTS: -- most people agree with that. And I think this ISIS thing is getting crazy. It`s getting more crazy by the day in Kenya and Nigeria and all over the Middle East. And it`s something that we certainly need to be concerned about, and I think he is. But the fact that he said -- you know, as John Kennedy would say, you know, Never -- never -- never fear to negotiate, but never negotiate out of fear. So I do think that -- now, he`s going to have to make that case to the American people because you`ve got many people trying to frame who he is or what he believes in terms of our national security. But again, I think his philosophy, no question, is if we`re going to do it, let`s do it the right way. We win, they lose. MATTHEWS: Any room on the ticket for you, sir? WATTS: Chris, I`m having too good a time hanging out with you like this. (LAUGHTER) WATTS: And by the way -- MATTHEWS: What a charmer.   WATTS: -- I had to jump through hoops to get here tonight, but -- MATTHEWS: No, I`m glad you did. We fought -- we did every method of seduction to get you here. Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, a great guy. WATTS: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on. You`ll make news tomorrow. And today, Senator Paul released a three-minute video which includes, actually, a clip from this show to tease tomorrow`s big announcement. Here`s some of the video that has us in it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The senator from Kentucky might just be the candidate who ends up winning this thing! MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He`s got the organization on the ground right now. He`s in all 50 states. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It`s time for a new president! SUPPORTERS: President Paul! President Paul! President Paul! (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, you got the message, he`s running against Washington. That`s means Hillary Clinton. I`m joined right now by two of the best front page political reporters in the business, Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post," and Nick Confessore, political reporter for "The New York Times." I want to start with you, Nick. Let`s talk about this. Is this fellow a real contender, as you look at the shape of the field right now? NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Absolutely, Chris. I think he`ll have his moment. Look, his foreign policy views -- if you took things he has said on foreign policy and polled them individually, it`s hard to imagine that any of them would not be, you know, kind of over half in a primary electorate or nationally. He believes what I think a lot of ordinary people think, the problem is foreign policy in this country is crafted by elites in both parties and not by voters. MATTHEWS: Yes. CONFESSORE: So in Washington and think tanks and the State Department, it`s very different. But it`s hard for me to think of anything he`s said on foreign policy that your average voter is not going to kind of shake their head in agreement with. MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m so with you. And here`s a poll to back up what you said. The grass roots regular Republicans are not as hawkish as the money people, the ones who make all the noise, including with Jeb Bush. Here a recent Quinnipiac poll, has Rand Paul in a close race in matchups with Hillary Clinton in some key swing states, the ones that matter. In Ohio, for example, Paul is within earshot, actually, Clinton 41 -- actually, Clinton -- he`s 41 percent, Clinton`s 46. Right? CONFESSORE: Yes. Exactly. And look -- MATTHEWS: And in Florida, he`s within the margin of error, 43-46 against down there against Hillary Clinton. In Pennsylvania, where I come from, he actually leads Clinton. Now, I want to go with Robert on that, Robert Costa. What that tells me is despite all the hawkish neocon talk about, We got to go into the latest war against Iran now -- we`ll talk about that in the next section -- the average working guy and woman in Pennsylvania goes, Wait a minute, that`s us that has to do the fighting, our kids. We ain`t going into another stupid war that people laugh at afterwards, and our kid comes home, you know, beat up.   ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST": Senator Paul looks at what his father did in 2008, 2012. He sees someone who in almost every primary was in the top three. So he starts with a base. The question is, how does he get number one or two? MATTHEWS: What`s his percentage of the -- what`s his percentage of the -- COSTA: I`d say it`s about 20 percent, that libertarian base, 20, 25 percent. You add in some young voters, that`s his coalition. At the moment, he needs to expand it. MATTHEWS: OK, let`s -- here`s are the allies Rand Paul takes into presidential battle with him -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Paul`s state of Kentucky. He`s with him. "The National Journal" reports that a group of House members, mainly Tea Partiers, will be in Paul`s corner. They are Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Paul (sic) Labrador of Idaho. He`s pretty conservative. Mark Sanford -- Raul, rather -- and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who`s an interesting fellow in all kinds of ways. But let me go back to Nick on this. This is a small cadre of people behind him. But I`m amazed there`s anybody behind him, he`s such an individualist. CONFESSORE: Yes, I mean, you know, he`s not been a party guy. I suspect the alliance with Mitch McConnell is more, you know, an alliance of convenience than an alliance of love. But look, those general election matchups -- it`s funny to see, you know, him and Walker and Bush are the guys who do the best against Hillary in the general election. And there`s a reason for that. But there is going to be a group of people in the party, you know, the hawks, as you describe them, who are going to fight tooth and nail against him, who are going to pour money into the race to make sure he does not become a contender. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that. You know, a couple years ago, a couple cycles ago -- they run into each other after a while -- his father, Ron, dared to say something about stupid wars, after we`d gotten into Iraq and we found out it was -- the whole thing was crazily put together and had no basis in fact. And he made a reasonable comment, but immediately, Giuliani starts doing his -- and I like Rudy as a personality, but over and over again, a sentence that included the word "9/11" in it, so everything is 9 /11. COSTA: It`s going to be even more rough this time around. You`re going to maybe have John Bolton having a long shot. MATTHEWS: No.   COSTA: Peter King from New York may run for president, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, all these hawks flying in, looking at Paul trying to edge him out of the race. This is going to -- what is going to -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Can he get shouted down like his father was, or can he speak his mind? COSTA: He`s going to speak his mind. He still has a non-interventionist philosophy. The question is, can he not scare some of those suburban hawks away who are still somewhat sympathetic to George W. Bush? MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t know. What do you think, Nick? Do you think that the suburban Philadelphia person -- and everybody`s talking about that as being the key. I thin -- it was George Will, I think, this week in his column, and the people I read relentlessly, like he and Peggy Noonan -- they all seem to know from the Republican side, if you can`t carry Pennsylvania, you got to be contending there in those suburbs to win the general across the country. And I don`t think those people are hawks. I may be wrong. I don`t think they are. Your thoughts? CONFESSORE: I think people are worried about defense and security, but it`s not the way it was even last fall when ISIS and diseases abroad, so to speak, were really on everyone`s mind. The thing about foreign policy is you never know, Chris, exactly when it`s going to become a central issue in a campaign again. MATTHEWS: I know. CONFESSORE: We`ve had a long time now where it wasn`t really at the forefront, several campaigns now where it wasn`t the main issue. And the question is, is this campaign going to be one with Iran and ISIS, where it comes back to the forefront for a broad section of voters and not just a big interest group in one party? MATTHEWS: Yes. And trying keeping up with this, like you guys do for a living, and I try to do -- I mean, you pick up the paper today and you realize that the fight over Tikrit, you know, that the -- the Shia militia are doing a hell of a job smashing and taking back territory from ISIS. Are they -- which side are we on? I guess we`re with the Shia militia. COSTA: This is what really hurts Paul. When you talk to his inner circle, they didn`t think this was going to be a foreign policy election. Now it`s looking like a foreign policy election. It`s all --   MATTHEWS: But it`s a hard decision about where we go in. What do we do? Do we back the Shia? Do we back the -- you know, where do we go here? With our usual Sunni allies now, we`ve got a problem right in the middle of that is ISIS, which is Sunni. And we don`t get this. The Americans aren`t part of the Sunni/Shia conflict. CONFESSORE: I`m not even sure the average voter, who is supposed to be critical of Rand Paul, theoretically, on these issues could even tell which side any of those groups you mentioned are on. It`s confusing even to me. MATTHEWS: All we want to do is -- well, we`ll get into this in the next segment -- Munich, Munich, Munich, Munich. Just keep saying Munich. Tie in Hitler because people know what he looks like, and hope that people can get in your side of the fight. Thank you, Robert Costa. Thank you. Top guys here -- Nick Confessore of "The Times." Coming up -- I read both of your papers every day. And I read it in paper. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I go down the driveway and get it, just like the old days. Coming up -- (CROSSTALK) CONFESSORE: Ka-ching (ph), Chris. Thank you. MATTHEWS: And I read "The Wall Street Journal," too, guys, the hawks watching. Coming up -- President Obama`s got a tough road ahead on that deal with Iran. He needs to convince Senate Democrats the deal makes us safer. He`s facing a Republican Party that wants to fight him every step of the way, a crowd that constantly compares Iran and the agreement to the appeasement of Hitler back in `38. Plus, from cop to criminal. Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik joins us to talk about his new book -- what a title -- "From Jailer to Jailed." By the way, he was commissioner for corrections, as well, back then, and he learned all about that later, and his stunning fall from grace. That`s going to be fascinating.   And Ted Cruz says the world`s on fire. Hillary Clinton is all about experience. Of all the candidates running for president in 2016, who`s got the best message? Finally, "Let Me Finish" with my theory about presidential elections. It`s who`s got the best strategist. That side wins. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: And now to the guy Rand Paul will try to take down, Jeb Bush, who is the front-runner now, but is not exactly this year`s Pied Piper, is he. "The New York Times" reports today that Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic in a 2009 Florida voter registration application. A Bush spokesperson offered the newspaper no explanation, but Bush later tweeted, "My mistake. Don`t think I fooled anyone." Oh, what a waspy guy he is! We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s starting to feel a lot more like September of 1938, where Neville Chamberlain, the of course, prime minister of great Britain, said the deal that he concluded with Hitler was akin to peace in our time. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: well, that was former aide to President George W. Bush Ron Christie on our Friday show. He`s not the only conservatives who recently has compared the president`s potential deal with Iran to this infamous moment in history, the appeasement of Hitler back in `38. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This morning, I had another talk with the German chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper, which bears his name upon it, as well as mine. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Ah, the word of Adolf Hitler. As good as gold! Anyway, last week, Senator Mark kirk said, quote, "Neville Chamberlain got a lot more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman got out of Iran," Wendy Sherman being John Kerry`s deputy at State Department. Others have made the comparison before there even was a deal. Here they go. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALAN WEST (R-FL), FMR. CONGRESSMAN, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: If you really are a student of history, this reminds you of the Neville Chamberlain/Hitler moment, when Chamberlain had this piece of -- this signed agreement that ended up being nothing but a piece of paper to Hitler. JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO U.N., FOX CONTRIBUTOR: The United States is about to sign an agreement with the ayatollahs in Tehran over their nuclear weapons program that will be, in my judgment, the biggest single act of appeasement by the West since Munich in September of 1938.   SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I believe that history may well record it as a mistake and a catastrophe on the order of magnitude of Munich. And when our negotiators return with a promise of peace in our time, we should believe it no more now than we should have believed it then. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK. Why has this become such a popular refrain on the right? I have a theory. But I`m joined right now by Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst, and Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He`s the author of "Dancing With the Devil." Michael, it seems to me that the neoconservative movement intellectually has always been founded on a couple things. They didn`t like community control of the teachers in New York, especially, I understand some of that. But this notion, it`s all about World War II again, that somehow, history repeats itself. And excuse me if I don`t like that argument because it`s always Munich because that argument of Munich is what got us into Vietnam. We can`t give any more territory. It was like Hitler in the Sudetenland. So therefore, every political or geopolitical situation that involves conflict with an enemy, which is normal, somehow goes back to, Oh, this is Neville Chamberlain giving away half of Czechoslovakia. Is it like giving away Czechoslovakia? MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I`ll go back further. It`s pre-World War I. It`s Kellogg (ph) and Brian (ph) saying that this is -- it`s just naivete, that everyone wants peace. We`re projecting our own sincerity onto others. Now, the reason why it`s not Neville Chamberlain, Chris, is Neville Chamberlain was negotiating from a position of weakness against a much stronger Hitler. MATTHEWS: Right. RUBIN: Obama is caving in.   MATTHEWS: Well, he didn`t have an army. He didn`t have an army. (CROSSTALK) RUBIN: Obama is caving in from a position of strength. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Why -- what is the -- let me ask you this. I want to get to Gene. The implication of the whole debate with Netanyahu and conservatives in this country, hawks in this country, if you will, is that there`s a third option, that it isn`t war. We`re not going to have to blow them apart, and use bunker busters or help the Israelis do it. No, because there`s this other option. We don`t have to do this deal. We can make a tougher deal work. Do you believe that? We can make a tougher deal work. RUBIN: We gave $11.9 billion worth of unfrozen sanctions relief. Now, the annual budget of the Revolutionary Guard, this group that killed hundreds of Americans, $5.6 billion a year. Why -- it`s like giving a little kid dessert first and then asking him to eat his spinach? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Could we have gotten a better -- there is a better deal, you argue?   RUBIN: Yes, with economic leverage. Oil was down to $50 a barrel. (CROSSTALK) EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, where`s the better deal? If there`s a better deal, where is it? And the answer is that they got actually a better deal than most people expected them to get. And, in fact, the alternative to this deal is likely military action, I mean, because it`s not going to be tougher sanctions because you`re not going to get the Russians and the Chinese to go along with tougher sanctions. You`re talking about unilateral sanctions, which aren`t going to take you very far against Iran. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do we have the world with us for tougher sanctions? RUBIN: Not Vladimir Putin, but most of the toughest sanctions were Bill Clinton with his executive orders, as well as some of the Bush administration financial sanctions. But, look, you have when Iran is suffering economically, can you negotiate tougher verification? Yes. Do you have to give them financial relief before they pony up? Yes. And the problem is, with Iran, it`s one step forward, two steps back. (CROSSTALK) RUBIN: We don`t even know what the deal is, Chris. MATTHEWS: Let me just ask you this. I just want to know, do we have partners with us on this?   (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: Because you`re assuming things about the deal that you actually don`t know. You don`t know exactly when the sanctions come off. You don`t know exactly when they get the relief. And so -- RUBIN: Well, neither does Kerry and neither does Obama, because here`s the thing. Even with North Korea 20 years ago, you didn`t have a situation where both sides came out and it was almost as if they were talking about completely different -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about this date forward. Here we are on April 6, right? Let`s move forward. There`s probably going to be a vote in the Senate the next couple weeks. You want it to go down, right? You want 67 senators to challenge the president on this? RUBIN: I think it`s a bad deal, yes. MATTHEWS: No, you want 67 senators to challenge the -- RUBIN: Yes, I do. MATTHEWS: OK. What happens then?   RUBIN: Then we go back to the negotiating table. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The president of the United States, having been defeated by his Congress, goes back, goes back to where? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Where`s this meeting? Where`s this meeting? RUBIN: Chris, in his "New York Times" interview, Obama said Iran is not going to get nuclear weapons on my watch. Well, I hate to break it to you. The world isn`t ending its watch in 20 months. They want Iran not to get nuclear weapons, period. That`s why we have got to use our leverage and we still have that leverage. ROBINSON: If I were taking your position, the last thing I would want would be for this deal to go down, because I would then have a president who`s going to be in office for another 18 months or so. I would expect that he`s not going to bomb Iran, that, in fact, Iran is going to -- perhaps thinking it`s not going to be able to negotiate a deal with the West to its satisfaction, rush pell-mell, perhaps secretly, closer toward a nuclear weapon, or nuclear weapons capability, and that at the end of 20 months or whatever, we`d have a situation that was more dangerous, rather than less dangerous. If I were taking your position, I would want the deal to go through, and then I would say, wait until a Republican president comes through. RUBIN: I don`t think the Senate`s going to come through, Gene, until June 30, and we don`t know what the deal is. What we have --   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But if this goes down -- let me go down -- let`s go back to this third option. If this president fails with his whole effort here, and he will fail if two-thirds of the Congress rejects him and overrides his veto, he`s left with nothing on the table, as you say, Gene, nothing on the table. So he`s a lame duck. You guys use the word lame duck. RUBIN: He`s already a lame duck. MATTHEWS: And then how do we avoid a war with Iran? RUBIN: Well, ultimately, you avoid a war with Iran by credibility -- with credibility. MATTHEWS: Who does this? RUBIN: Who does this? The United States does this. The Bahrainis do this. The Saudis do this. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no, no. So, you`re suggesting military action in replacement for what failed diplomatically? In other words, if this deal goes down -- RUBIN: No. Every comprehensive deal has a diplomatic, informational, military and economic component.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s talk reality today. If this deal goes down, what happens next? RUBIN: If this deal goes down, frankly, it`s going to be the Iranians who do it. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Then how close are we to a war? How close are we to a war? RUBIN: I don`t think we`re close to a war at all. MATTHEWS: We`re not going to have to bomb them? RUBIN: No. I don`t think that -- why would you bomb Iran without having a policy in place to take advantage of the delay? That`s where I would disagree with the notion that we have to bomb Iran. The fact of the matter is, we have got to worry about not just the nuclear weapons, but the regime that would wield them. And it`s not just the Iranian regime writ large. It`s the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who would have command of the control. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So, you`re talking regime change.   ROBINSON: So, you have a plan for regime change in Iran? RUBIN: Well, why is it, Gene, that liberals and European greens all over the world support organized labor, but they refuse to support Iranian trade unions, for example? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Here we go. This is how far it goes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I invited you to give your views. Do you think we`re going to end up having to bomb them? RUBIN: No. I don`t think we will have to bomb them. MATTHEWS: What will we end up doing? RUBIN: I think we`re going to have to use economic coercion. Iranians can`t make payroll with oil going down. MATTHEWS: How do we do this if this deal goes down?   RUBIN: The Saudis are doing it for us because we forfeited our leadership, Chris. (CROSSTALK) RUBIN: They flooded the oil market. MATTHEWS: You`re so fast here. You mean the Saudis are going to bring down the Iranian leadership? RUBIN: The Saudis are going to bring down the Iranian economy because they have more foresight strategically than the Obama administration. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What do we have to do in this to make it work, then? (CROSSTALK) RUBIN: I would say leading from behind ain`t the place to start. I would argue, OK, comprehensive strategy, Chris? MATTHEWS: Yes.   RUBIN: What you want to do is undercut the Iranian economy so they can`t make payroll. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How do we do that? RUBIN: You flood -- you keep oil prices low, for number one, and it`s working. ROBINSON: Number one, the Saudis today announced their support of this deal. Number two, the idea that Iran is going to suddenly cave under economic pressure seems to me absurd. Iran did not cave under a million deaths in the war against Iraq. (CROSSTALK) RUBIN: Actually, Ayatollah Khamenei got on the radio and he said it`s like drinking a chalice of poison, but the cost of this has been too great to bear. MATTHEWS: OK. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: My problem is -- Michael, thank you for coming on.   RUBIN: Thank you. MATTHEWS: My problem is that the Munich metaphor or comparison has been used before to take us into Vietnam. It`s has been used before to take us into Iraq. It`s always question of, do we have the guts to fight? And I don`t think it`s about guts to fight. I think it`s the brains to figure out how to get through these things. Anyway, Eugene Robinson, thank you. Michael Rubin from the AEI. Up next, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik will be here. He was nearly the secretary of homeland security, until a dramatic fall from grace which left him behind bars. He is coming here when we come back. This is quite a show tonight. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, aptly named. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. New Jersey native Bernie Kerik rose from high school dropout to become police commissioner of New York in 2001, under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He also had been -- and this would become oddly important -- commissioner of corrections. In 2004, George Bush wanted him to join his Cabinet and become secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. But there were problems. His failure to employ -- or his failure to employ a legal nanny and pay her taxes made him withdraw his nomination and initiated further scrutiny of his finances and affiliations. By February of 2010, Bernie Kerik stood convicted of eight counts of criminal conspiracy, tax evasion and lying under oath and headed to prison. Joining me right now is Bernard Kerik, author of the new book, "From Jailer to Jailed."   Mr. Kerik, thank you for coming on. BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: I want to ask you what you know, what we don`t know, what the fall from grace felt like, what prison was like. Most men fear rape in prison. They fear being beat up. They fear just the hell of it. Why don`t we start with that? What was the worst part of something that you never thought you would experience, prison life? KERIK: Honestly, Chris, the worst part is -- for me was not prison life. The worst part for me was the removal of my kids, was being taken away -- was being taken away from your family. And I think the depravation of freedom, for anyone, especially someone in my position or someone in your position, the depravation of freedom is far more profound than you could even imagine. And the loss of your children and family is beyond anything you can comprehend, really, until you`re there. MATTHEWS: You spent two months in solitary while waiting to testify against an old friend. But most of your time was spent in minimum security prison in Western Maryland. In the book, you say: "You come to the realization that you`re staying there. One piece at a time, your hope gets chipped away and you go into a deeper mode. A deeper depression set in. This is something you can`t get away from." I don`t even know where to begin here. Did you think that you were wrongly accused? Did you think that you had screwed up? What was sort of your self -- I guess I`m Catholic. I`m trying to figure out exactly how you look at this internally. Did you say, mostly me, mostly them, or others guys do it, I just got screwed? How did you look at it at that way in terms of justice? KERIK: You know what, Chris, listen, I -- as I said in the book, I have made mistakes. And I have made plenty of mistakes. I`m not perfect. No one is.   At the end of the day, I think my mistakes could have been handled differently. They could have been handled civilly or ethically. MATTHEWS: Without you getting convicted? KERIK: Without a criminal conviction, you know? MATTHEWS: Yes. KERIK: And keep in mind -- and you -- you were fully aware of this at the time -- I was actually being prosecuted, being investigated for tax violations and nanny issues when Timothy Geithner was being confirmed Treasury, you know, and after he admitted he had failed to pay his own taxes. MATTHEWS: Yes. KERIK: Look, I made mistakes. The bottom line is, I paid for those mistakes. And I think what`s important right now is the content of the book, the reality of our criminal justice system and how it should be changed. MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about that. You know, my colleague Reverend Sharpton talks about this. A lot of people talk about this, that we have too many African-Americans in prison, a particular group that`s in there. When you were in there, did you sense that there was this unfairness in the way people were being put away? KERIK: Honestly, yes, Chris. And I talk about that.   One, I put a lot of people in prison, people for long periods of time. But they were really bad people that did bad things. And then I went to prison, I meet a young 19-year-old black man, a kid, that was sentenced to 10 years for a first-time low-level nonviolent drug offense, and people sentenced to 15 years, 20 years, commercial fishermen that caught too many fish. We`re putting way too many people in prison across this country that didn`t have to be there to learn from their mistakes or to learn what they did wrong or pay for those mistakes. We are creating, in essence, a complete second-class generation of men and women by doing what we`re doing. And I think it has to stop. It`s unsustainable. We can`t continue to do this. MATTHEWS: Well, your book is called "From Jailer to Jailed." You know what you speak of. Thank you so much, Bernard Kerik, the new author of a great new book. The next -- up next, the newest battle lines in the fight over those so- called religious freedom laws. Hollywood has picked up the fight. Anybody see "The Good Wife" last night? It`s right off the pages of the newspaper this week. I don`t know how they do it. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in the MSNBC Newsroom. Jury deliberations begin tomorrow in the trial of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He faces 30 criminal counts; 17 of those could result in the death penalty. A fourth New York City man is charged in an ISIS recruitment plot. Three others were arrested last month. And the man charged with killing three Muslim college students in February could face the death penalty if he`s convicted. Prosecutors in North Carolina say the suspect confessed to the shootings and was arrested with the murder weapon -- now back to HARDBALL.   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the fight over religious freedom set off by legislative action in Indiana and then in Arkansas last week made its way to Hollywood in last night`s episode of "The Good Wife." A debate over religious liberty was on full display. I don`t know how they did this, but they did it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GOOD WIFE") UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows exemptions in anti-discrimination laws. UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Not in California. California does not have one. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Let`s say it`s in New Mexico. UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: It doesn`t matter. The baker is refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple for who they are. That is the heart of discrimination. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What if our baker won`t sell wedding came to a gay couple, but he will sell them bear claws, cupcakes? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s right. She isn`t in fact refusing to serve homosexuals. She just won`t do the one thing her religion says is a sin. UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: That`s insane. Selling someone something they don`t want is the same thing as refusing them service altogether. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, it isn`t.   UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: A vegetarian couple walks into a market, and you refuse to sell them vegetables. In fact, you will sell them anything but vegetables. You`re effectively denying them service. A gay couple wants to buy a wedding cake, and you refuse to sell them a wedding cake. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, they got more sophisticated than that, than you can believe, last night. But, in the real world, the fight doesn`t end there. Those laws that many say discriminate against gays and lesbians found support from governors in states beyond Indiana and Louisiana -- actually, Arkansas. Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal has defended the rights of private businesses to deny some services to same-sex couples. Here he is taking the hard view here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: I`m disappointed. Let`s remember what this debate was originally all about. This was about business owners that don`t want to choose between their Christian faith, their sincerely held religious beliefs and being able to operate their businesses. Now, what they don`t want is a government to force them to participate in wedding ceremonies that contradict their beliefs. They simply want the right to say we don`t want to be forced to participate in those ceremonies. So, I was disappointed you could see Christians and their businesses face discrimination in Indiana. I hope the legislators will fix that, rectify that. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: I think he was joined there by Rick Santorum. A couple guys thought that was the right way to go. Let`s go to our panel members right now. We got Ryan Grim here. We`ve got Jeanne Cummings. And we have John Brabender. I`ve got to start with you, John. JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I knew you would. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, because I think because you`re a Rick Santorum guy. And I like Rick Santorum. But on this issue, I find it very hard to figure where the courts are going to end up here. Is it OK -- we agree if you open up a convenience store on the open, see a couple gay fellows come in, they look they`re lovers, no, you`re not going to get any chewing gum. That kind of street corner operations is clearly just -- for everybody to come to a -- everybody has to be allowed in. But then to get the catering and ordering up special stuff for weddings and stuff, and -- I don`t know. That gets into contracting. I`m waiting to see how that figures out. He`s saying I`m against any kind of law that requires you to serve gay people basically. BRABENDER: Well, but let`s go with what we agree with first. I mean, we start getting into the emotional side, the legal side, I think all of us would agree here, and I Rick Santorum would agree if there was a restaurant that said, I do not want to serve a gay couple and I`m not going to serve a gay couple because of my religious beliefs, he would not go to that restaurant. I don`t think any of us would go to that restaurant. We would tell our friends not to go to that restaurant. MATTHEWS: Well, what would happen then? Would the restaurant be allowed to do that? BRABENDER: But then, the crux of the issue becomes, does the government have the right to step in and tell that restaurant owner that they have to disregard their religious beliefs and take an action that the government feels that they should have to?   And that`s really what a lot of these governors are saying. That`s a lot of what the conservative Republicans are saying is. We did not intend this to be a discrimination issue against anybody. MATTHEWS: OK. Think of all the words you can think of that are negative about people who are gay. We grew up in high school, a lot of us. They`re bad words. And you put a sign over the store, none of them allowed in here. Do you think that`s legal? I`m just asking a question. Is that legal? BRABENDER: I have no idea. MATTHEWS: Answer the question. We`re debating here. Is that illegal? BRABENDER: No. What we`re debating is I would not go to the store. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You might if you`re tough. You`d say, I`m going to prove I`m right. (CROSSTALK) BRABENDER: I`m saying -- MATTHEWS: Brabender, you`d do it. You`d do it. If it said no Brabenders allowed, you`d go. BRABENDER: You`d go with me.   MATTHEWS: I would do that. BRABENDER: But the question is, you know, sometimes, the real test of freedom is allowing something that we find abhorrent. MATTHEWS: Jeanne, politically, I get the feeling because Jindal and Santorum are taking the conservative side, you`re allowed to say no to certain weddings, parties you don`t want to be participating in religiously, that that`s going to be an appealing argument to a good chunk of the Iowa caucus vote, of the early primary vote in the Republican Party. A good chunk of it. JEANNE CUMMINGS, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Absolutely, a good chunk of it. There`s a big percentage, 20 percent, 30 percent of the Iowa caucus-goers are evangelicals or -- they`re all almost all Christians. So, this matters to them. And Santorum and Jindal will indeed use it because they`ve got space now because bush moved. Bush initially defended the law, but then -- MATTHEWS: Will Ted Cruz come chasing after them? Ryan? CUMMINGS: Not come chasing. He`ll come charging in and go after them. MATTHEWS: You think there will be a pull to the right here? CUMMINGS: Chris, I`ll say this -- this is not a good thing for them to be talking about. I know -- MATTHEWS: Is this like the candidates of a couple years ago, the two guys Mourdock and Akin, don`t talk about rape if you`re a Republican male or any male? RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: This is a little bit better for them. Ted Cruz jumped out extremely quickly. You know, he knows he lives or dies in Iowa and wants to come out of there on top. That`s the place he can take out Scott Walker, take out -- if he can win these --   MATTHEWS: You can kiss off the gay community of the United States and their relatives and friends, you can risk that to win the Iowa caucuses? CUMMINGS: But it`s a short-term risk. It`s short term. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You think they`ll forgive you? Is this like Bibi Netanyahu, say I don`t like Arabs one night and the next day, he said, well, I`m not really against the Arabs? You can do that here? CUMMINGS: No, you can`t. MATTHEWS: OK. CUMMINGS: No, you can`t. That`s how I say. Long term this is not good for them. MATTHEWS: All right. We`re going to talk about -- I want to talk about something serious, which is what I study. And Brabender knows about this. I want to talk about themes and strategies that win elections. I`m waiting to see if we`re emerging -- we haven`t heard it from Hillary yet. I want to know why these people running for president think they should be president. Simple words: Reagan was tough patriotism. Jimmy Carter was innocence, remember? Nixon was tough politics, I`m tougher than this guy. Kennedy was: let`s get this country moving again. God, FDR was New Deal. They all had a theme. I want to know whose themes we`re going to see now.   This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Mitt Romney is in the top 1 percent but not in a way you might expect. Romney`s NCAA brackets are better 99.98 percent of the brackets filled out in ESPN`s bracket challenge. He picks them all the time. He`s always right. Romney predicted all four final teams this year and has Duke over Wisconsin in tonight`s championship. Tonight is the deal maker for him. If Duke wins tonight, Romney is perfect. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We are back. And as more 2016 candidates declare for president, their next challenge: to develop a message for their respective campaigns, a message -- a winning message communicates a candidate`s rationale for running in the first place as well. Of course, it`s a vision for the country`s future. Most importantly, it should differentiate a candidate from whoever else is running against them. It should say, "This is why I should be picked for president." In 1960, for example, John F. Kennedy said he would get the country moving again, promising vigorous action in contrast with a static leadership of the 1950s. It was just right with the pulse. Richard Nixon asked America to vote like your whole world depended on, in `68, he brought test and experience to a country divided over Vietnam. In `76, Jimmy Carter promised he would never tell a lie. His slogan, "Leaders, for a change", spoke to a country disaffected, in fact, very angry about Watergate. In `88, George Herbert Walker Bush promised "a kinder, gentler nation", a theme which son George W. Bush echoed in 2000 with his call for "compassionate conservatism."   Barack Obama`s message of hope and his change we can believe in work to inspire an electorate who become skeptical about the war, at least skeptical, hateful of the war in Iraq. So, which candidate will have the winning message in 2016? We`re back with our roundtable: Ran, Jeanne, and John. John? BRABENDER: Well, first of all -- MATTHEWS: Who`s got the best theme so far? Anybody have one. BRABENDER: No, but it doesn`t work that way anymore because -- MATTHEWS: Why? (CROSSTALK) BRABENDER: But you`ve got to understand -- MATTHEWS: I still think it matters what the message is. Go ahead.   BRABENDER: At this point, your theme line is toward a base vote that you can get to become the nominee. You can`t have a universal theme that plays for everybody. If you look at Rand Paul, tomorrow, his theme is going to be attack Washington, anti-Washington. Cruz will be like -- I think he came out and said, the conservative that you can trust, or something like that. They`re all going to play to some small position because they`re not trying to get 50 plus one right now. They`re trying -- MATTHEWS: If they go for the 30 percent and they win the Iowa caucuses, where -- how will they end up getting 51 in November? CUMMINGS: I take a stab at this because I think we are starting to see some of it. I think what Cruz is selling -- I`m the fighter," I`m the one who`s going to go in there, sure we all believe the same things, but I`m the fighter. MATTHEWS: I`ll bring down, I will filibuster, I will shut down the government, I will fight -- CUMMINGS: I will fight. I will fight the way you want me to fight. I think Bush is coming in much like his brother and his father, which may or may not be good. But he`s empathetic to newcomers he wants to lure to the party, while at the same time trying to stay true to the roots where he started. Scott Walker is, you know, iron man. I have beat them all. MATTHEWS: I beat Ed Schultz. CUMMINGS: That`s right. And I`m still standing, and now he is wrapping himself around the Reagan mystique. Hillary Clinton, we haven`t heard much from her, but one of the first things we did hear is experience, and she mentions bipartisan legislation that she worked on in the Senate.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: She doesn`t have to worry about the primaries. BRABENDER: When you went through those, you will see that some of them were anti-Washington, anti-establishment when you`re on the Republican side. MATTHEWS: Ryan, what are you hearing? GRIM: I mea, it`s tough, tough for Hillary because she can`t, I don`t think, go back to experience because she torched that by doing it so badly last time. MATTHEWS: It didn`t work for McCain either. GRIM: She can`t do change, because then it`s too much of a break with the president. MATTHEWS: How about -- our producers think there might be something more subtle. Like I`m grown up, I`m a grandmother, I`m a human being in this country, I`m part of you, I`m living like you, I`ve got a grand kid Charlotte and I`ve got a lot of stake in this battle, but I`ve got a lot of maturity. CUMMINGS: That`s experience. The veteran in the fight that can go to Washington and have the best shot of getting Washington to work again. MATTHEWS: Put that together and then you`ve got manage. Anyway, thank you so much, Ryan, thanks for coming in. Thank you, Jeanne Cummings. And thank you, John Brabender, for being the barrel tonight, but thank you. We need somebody there.   When we return, let me finish about my theory on presidential elections. And tomorrow, actor Russell Crowe is going to be here to talk about his directorial debut. There he is. What a guy. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I have a theory about presidential elections. To win, you need a top drawer strategist, someone with their finger on the country`s pulse, someone who knows what the voter feels, knows and wants for the country, and wants it, and the candidate running for president. The strategist needs one other thing besides message, he needs to know how to exploit it, how to lead his candidate to victory. David Axelrod knew the key factor in the 2008 election was, which candidate will deliver us from the stupidity of the Iraq War. David Plouffe knew that the key to exploiting that advantage was winning the deluge of the caucus and smaller primary states, even as Hillary Clinton was winning the big Democratic states. In 1992, James Carville and Paul Begala knew that the key to beating the insurmountable (ph) George Herbert Walker Bush was to connect with regular people. Bill Clinton promised to look out for people who worked hard and played by the rules. Bill Clinton cared about people like you. In 1976, Jimmy Carter knew that the country wanted deliverance from Watergate and the smell associated with it, including the part of Richard Nixon. His campaign manager Hamilton Jordan also knew that the Democratic voter wanted more than the usual rhetoric. They wanted a governor, not a senator, who would focus on making things work, not the same old agenda that they never got delivered. So Jimmy who beat the whole pack of the liberals. The shape of the field once again decided the winner. In 1960, Jack Kennedy`s pollster Lou Harris could sense the country`s restiveness. People could feel us losing a step or two from the post-World War II years. Let`s get this country moving again, JFK promised. And how did he deliver on that promise? His brother Bobby said that the key to winning primaries was to go out and meet people, get to know delegates personally. And that`s what Jack did and one before the 1960 convention even met. The word "strategist" is way overused in this business. I limit it to the people of who`ve done it. It started with the guy James Rowe who wrote the memo that Harry Truman used to win the biggest political upset ever, winning that presidential election no one ever thought he could win in 1948. He, Jim Rowe, saw how the great New Deal coalition of farmers, labor and liberals, Catholics and African-Americans have splintered apart, and told Truman how to rebuild it. He said the Democratic Party has spent too much time on fundraising and not enough on party building. Truman kept that memo of Jim Rowe in his Oval Office desk every single day. It changed everything. Real strategists do that. We`re going to know who will win the 2016 election when see a strategy like this begin to unfold. We will hear a clear and compelling message. We`ll see a successful campaign carrying it out to the voter, and if we don`t see the strategy, don`t expect to see a victory.   That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>