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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/14/15

Guests: Jonathan Allen, Ruth Marcus, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Jeanne Cummings,Ryan Grim, Lilly Ledbetter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary goes Hawkeye. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in San Francisco. Is this thing going to work, Hillary Clinton out there taking notes, jotting down what people say? When it comes to exciting the American people, can a listening tour grab us like a strong, clear statement of purpose? When it comes to politics, can you lead from behind, or do you have to get out there and lead the charge. And maybe she will. And Obama takes Cuba off the terrorist list. Will that hurt his home front fight to forge a nuclear deal with Iran? It`ll certainly stick Cruz and Rubio in the eye. And it`s Equal Pay Day today. Are women ever going to get it? Tonight, we`ve got equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter herself on HARDBALL. Let`s start with Hillary`s listening tour, which brought her to Kirkwood (ph) Community College today, where she held a roundtable with students and teachers. She gave a more detailed explanation of what she wants her campaign to be about. Let`s listen.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans in four big areas, four big fights that I think we have to take on. We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. We need to strengthen families and communities because that`s where it all starts. We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we need to protect our country from the threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Andrea Mitchell is covering Hillary Clinton`s campaign swing through Iowa for us tonight. Also, Ruth Marcus, a columnist with "The Washington Post," and Jonathan Allen, chief political correspondent for Vox and author of the book "HRC," which is all about Hillary Clinton.. Secretary Clinton`s rhetoric has been decidedly populist of late. In her announcement video, she said the deck was stacked in favor of those at the top, and today, she expanded on that theme. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: There`s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker. There`s something wrong when American workers keep getting more productive, as they have -- and as I just saw a few minutes ago is very possible because of education and skills training -- but that productivity is not matched in their paychecks. And there`s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Let me go to Andrea Mitchell about Hillary Clinton. And you`ve been watching her for many years, as long as I have. And I guess the question -- is she still a center-left politician or is she trying to be Elizabeth II here, trying to be like Elizabeth Warren in a very strong, populist message. Where do you gauge her right now in this listening tour? ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: She certainly sounds much more populist, much more like Elizabeth Warren. I asked Jennifer Palmieri, the deputy campaign manager about that, and she said, No, it`s just that for the last four years-plus, she was focusing on foreign policy. We saw her as secretary of state, and so she wasn`t talking as much about the economy. And in fairness, when she was in the Senate, she did talk a lot about income inequality, but still, she was the senator from New York. She was representing Wall Street. She certainly was not complaining about CEO salaries that I can recall. I`ll stand corrected, if that`s incorrect. MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll find out. Jonathan Allen, you`ve written a book... MITCHELL: And she wasn`t talking about hedge fund managers -- indeed. MATTHEWS: Yes. Jonathan, we`re going to get to the shorthairs on this baby in a couple minutes, couple days certainly. Where does she stand on TPP, free trade with the Far East? Where does she stand on carried interest on Wall Street? We`re going to get some specific answers that`ll tell us, will be keys, I think, to most of us following this campaign where to put her politically. What do you think? JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: Well, today, she advocated closing that carried interest loophole. If you listen to what she said closely, it sounds like that`s what she`s going to do. She did that in 2008, actually. You`re right that, appropriately in Iowa, she`s got the pitchfork out now. She`s emphasizing part of her -- her philosophy and less some of the others. I think the question for her is, which side of the stacked deck are the Americans going to see her on? Is it the side that she says she`s fighting for, the have-nots, or is it the side that she raises money from, the haves? MATTHEWS: Well, let me go -- let me go right now to Ruth on that because one of the great ironies of today -- all three of you -- was that the very day that Hillary Clinton basically got out there and started ginning it up in terms of talking to real people at that community college, Chris Christie`s up in New Hampshire, the other big fight start (ph) there, the big first primary, talking about getting rid of Social Security benefits for anybody who makes $200,000 a year or more in retirement.   That`s how much Hillary Clinton gets in a single speech. Is that an accident, Ruth? I mean, this is fascinating. You have the Republican playing Mr. Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton`s playing Senator Elizabeth Warren. Is this populism real, or is it the latest flavor of the month in terms of politicians? RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, you know, the flavor of the month question is really interesting, and I think Jonathan reminds us of an important point, actually, which is there`s no doubt that Elizabeth Warren`s presence in the -- not in the race but in the debate -- and also the fact that we`re having this presidential election in the aftermath of the financial meltdown makes a difference. But I do remember hearing Hillary Clinton in 2007, 2008 talking about the carried interest loophole and the differential tax treatment, the preferential tax treatment for hedge fund managers. So this is not an entirely new issue for her. What Chris Christie is up to, that`s really much -- in some ways, at least as interesting a question. MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at -- at NBC`s Kristen Welker, our colleague. She caught up with Hillary Clinton today. And it`s fair to say that her conversation with the former secretary of state was brief. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: Great to see you. KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You lost Iowa in 2008. How do you win this time? What`s your strategy? CLINTON: I`m having a great time. Can`t look forward any more than I am. Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP)   (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, the... (CROSSTALK) MARCUS: ... in depth submitting to interviews. MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, the video that shows the level of media attention Clinton is getting in Iowa -- take a look at what happened live on MSNBC today when Hillary`s van pulled up to the community college. React to this, Andrea. Watch this picture. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the media running behind me here to chase the Scooby van. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she`s going around to the back. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. They`re... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, and we`ll see here -- we`ll see her very soon.   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy in the orange pants is pretty quick. Alex (ph), I mean, I`m looking at these people -- wow! All right, orange pants, he`s really outnumbered now by all the people that are racing around the back. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Andrea, this is the greatest mismatch in history. You`ve got reporters running their butts off just to get a shot at her getting out of her van. No questions, no answers. This is an interesting kind of campaign. MITCHELL: Well, you know, you see at least Kristin Welker caught up and got a question to her and... MATTHEWS: Yes, "I`m having a great time." MITCHELL: Look, you know, they -- this is very carefully orchestrated. It`s deliberate to try to make it look as though she is connected to everyday Americans, as she says. One of the dissonant notes today was that she`s calling now for a constitutional amendment to ban or limit campaign spending at the same time as her top advisers, her top staff members, are calling, they`re dialing for dollars with all the big donors. They started doing that a couple of days ago. She what Palmieri says about that is that she`s not going to unilaterally disarm. And she needs money, and as long as this is the system approved by the Supreme Court, but because we now know that the court will not permit any kind of McCain-Feingold or anything else since Citizens United, this is what she`s now calling for. So that was a new wrinkle today. I do think that, you know, as Ruth says, yes, she has -- she was progressively moving more to the left on economic issues in the last couple of years, but she is really making this the campaign platform. And the other thing about -- about your opening question, your opening headline, was whether people will react to this. I got to tell you, here in Iowa -- you know what I always like, Chris. People really like the fact that she was sitting with teachers and students at a community college and really engaging for more than an hour and answering and asking questions. And this is what her listening tour is all about. It`s what she did successfully in New York when she ran for the Senate in 2000, and they are duplicating it.   MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at something that happened that I don`t think was on the plan for the PR part of the campaign. Yesterday, Secretary Clinton stopped at a Chipotle in Ohio on her ride out there, and she went unrecognized. The manager of the store described it in "The New York Times" as just another lady coming in there. In fact, the only way they knew she was there is that later -- later! -- they caught her on the security camera. They didn`t know she had been there. It was a far cry from her husband`s brand of fast food retail politics. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: We had to show this, Jonathan, the difference between the way they go to a fast food store I think is still instinctively different, Jonathan. Bill wants everybody in the room to be a hugger, a huggee, and Hillary`s fine to have her chipotle salad or whatever it was without anybody even knowing she was there. Your thoughts on that difference. ALLEN: To be fair with Bill Clinton, what we really remember is the "Saturday Night Live" sketch of him in the McDonald`s... MITCHELL: Darrell Hammond. ALLEN: ... in New Hampshire asking for a Big Mac and some fries. And then, you know, with Hillary Clinton, as you point out, this wasn`t known until someone tipped "The New York Times" off. I don`t know who tipped off "The New York Times," but I`m guessing it was somebody in that van. When she went unrecognized, the campaign made sure that a reporter got the report and we got the security cam footage. I think they very much did want her to be seen in a Chipotle. MATTHEWS: Yes. I would think so. I think that when you retail in politics, you go out and say, Hi, I`m Hillary Clinton. I mean, that`s the first... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That`s the first thing you do!   Anyway, thank you, everybody. We`re having a little fun. It is so early in this fight. Andrea Mitchell, thank you for being on the campaign trail. MITCHELL: You bet. MATTHEWS: Ruth Marcus... MARCUS: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: I think it was vapid maybe, too, but that`s your word, not mine. Coming back to you, Jonathan... MARCUS: Insulting word (ph), vapid." MATTHEWS: OK. I love that. Well, you`ll pay for that. And Jonathan, congratulations on the new gig with Vox. Coming up... ALLEN: Thank you. MATTHEWS: ... big breaking news late today, President Obama endorses taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. He`s making a bold move toward normalizing relations with the Cubans. I think we`re going all the way with this. And he`s sticking it to two of his loudest critics out there. He`s sticking it to them. Think of what Rubio and Ted Cruz like about this -- nothing! Plus, today is Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how much more women have to work in this year to earn the same amount that men made last year, in addition to working last year for them. Anyway, the issue could catapult Hillary Clinton into the White House, and equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter herself is with us tonight.   And Chris Christie says he wasn`t ready to run for president in 2012, but he is now. He was going to cross that bridge when he came to it. And to get back on the game, he`s throwing the long ball, calling for major reforms to the third rail of politics -- boy, the mixed metaphors here. He`s going after Social Security. Finally, they call themselves the party of Lincoln, but today, on the 150th anniversary today of Lincoln`s assassination, the Republican Party has strayed far from Lincoln`s beliefs, especially on voting rights. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Congress is back in session, but still Loretta Lynch waits. President Obama nominated Lynch back in November, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won`t move on her nomination for AG until the Senate passes a bill that toughens laws against human trafficking. But that bill`s been at an impasse because of abortion restrictions that Republicans put in the bill. Lynch is the longest-delayed nominee for attorney general in 30 years. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Two historic developments tonight on matters of U.S. foreign policy. President Obama has informed Congress that he is dropping Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation which has been in place for more than 30 years. The decision comes as Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of whom are Cuban-Americans in the Senate, have aggressively lobbied against the White House agenda to normalize relations with Cuba. Rubio has called the president`s Cuban agenda, quote, "willfully ignorant." And late today, he put out this video statement.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising, unfortunately. They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think it sends a chilling message to our enemies abroad that this White House is no longer seriously -- serious about calling terrorism by its proper name. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Both Rubio and Senator Cruz are part of a bloc of Republicans also trying to derail the president`s nuclear agreement with Iran, and tonight`s big news on Cuba comes on the same day as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to approve legislation giving the Congress the authority to review and potentially reject any final Iranian deal. The full Senate could vote on the legislation as a body as early as next week. Let`s get right to it. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is a Democrat from New Hampshire and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Shaheen, thank you so much for joining us. SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you. MATTHEWS: I`ve got a lot of respect for you as a political leader and as a senator. I just wonder, do you think that this means, in the end, that the Senate and the Congress as a whole can kill an Iranian deal that the president has signed? Can you kill it, ultimately? SHAHEEN: No, I wouldn`t characterize what the Foreign Relations Committee did today in that way. I think what we did was to say that we have a vital role to play. And I would point out that the Foreign Relations Committee voted 19 to zero, so it was unanimous, a unanimous vote that we should be able to review the -- any negotiated deal with Iran and weigh in on that. And in order to -- we could do a resolution of approval or a resolution of disapproval, and it would require a significant number of senators in order to disapprove any deal. The important thing about what we did, I think, is that we continued to assert the role that we have, and it`s an appropriate role for Congress to play. We also said that we should get reports on what`s happening with Iran with the negotiations every six months, and that was beefed up.   And we had a review period -- we have a review period, so we`ve asked the president -- as part of the legislation, the president would submit any final deal to the Senate, and within about five days of the negotiated deal, and we would have 30 days to review it. So I think this was an important step forward. I think the fact that it was bipartisan was very important. MATTHEWS: Yes. SHAHEEN: We`re all -- we all believe that we need to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and having Congress weigh in in a bipartisan way in support of continued negotiations I think is important. MATTHEWS: But haven`t you opened the door for the Republicans, the partisans on the Republican side -- and there are a majority in your body - - to simply vote -- after you`ve done this, to use this opportunity you`ve created here to condemn the plan? And that means what? Does the president have to veto that to make sure he can continue with his effort to find an arrangement with Iran? SHAHEEN: Well, I think we`ve done just the opposite. I think we`ve put in place bipartisan support for continued negotiations. It would require at least 34 votes to -- only 34 votes to keep the deal going... MATTHEWS: I see. SHAHEEN: ... so a significant number to kill the deal. And I think that`s very important. MATTHEWS: I got you. SHAHEEN: So a resolution of disapproval would be very hard to get the votes to go forward. MATTHEWS: So you`d still have the -- so you would still have the option of sustaining a veto. You still can stick with the president.   SHAHEEN: I think so. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- let me ask you -- I mean, I hope (INAUDIBLE) Let me ask you about this Cuban thing. The president made history today, maybe bigger history than your committee did, when he said that we`re going to take Cuba off the terrorist list. does that -- are we really getting toward regular relations with Cuba? Is that where we`re headed -- just any other country, we`re going to treat them like any other country in Latin America? SHAHEEN: Well, I hope that`s where we`re headed. I think it`s long past time that we normalized relations with Cuba. Now, that doesn`t mean we will not continue to oppose any human rights violations, to raise those issues with the Cubans. But the fact is, our policy in Cuba hasn`t worked. If you look at how it compared to our policy in Eastern Europe, where with the fall of the Berlin Wall, we saw dramatic change, and we continued to talk to the Russians throughout... MATTHEWS: Yes. SHAHEEN: ... the Cold War. MATTHEWS: Yes. SHAHEEN: We haven`t done that with Cuba. And, as a consequence, we`re where we are today. Now, I think the moves to normalize relations are very positive. And I believe that, as the result of that, we will see real changes for the people of Cuba. It will not only open up their economy, but I think it will make a huge difference in terms of the human rights and civil rights violations that have gone on in Cuba.   MATTHEWS: You know, we`re a free country, and I can feel the freedom a lot, but I wonder why we`re not free to visit Cuba. Do you think every American who is watching right now should be allowed to go to Cuba, if they want to, just to take a look at the place or get a tan or what -- any reason they have? Why shouldn`t Americans -- well, I will ask you. Should Americans be allowed to go visit Cuba? We`re a free country. Can we -- shouldn`t be we able to do it? SHAHEEN: I think we should be able to do it. I`m old enough to remember before Castro took over Cuba. I was a child in the `50s, but I remember when people traveled to Cuba. So, I think that opening up, normalizing relations provides that opportunity and Americans should be allowed to do that. MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. It`s great having you on today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. SHAHEEN: Thank you. MATTHEWS: As I mentioned, both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have criticized the president`s agenda to normalize relations with Cuba. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And did they agree to freedom of press? No. Did they agree to free and unfettered access to the Internet? Did they agree to elections? Absolutely not. Did they agree to independent political parties? No. Did they agree to freedom of assembly? What democratic opening are we getting here? None whatsoever. SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, Cuba is an ally of North Korea. It is an ally of Iran. It`s an ally of Venezuela. It`s an avowed enemy of this country. This president believes appeasement works. So, when it comes to dealing with tyrants and bullies, whether it is Putin, whether it`s Khamenei in Iran or whether it is the Castros in Cuba, he believes that a position of weakness is how we should negotiate, and that doesn`t work.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Yes, and we`re weak toward Cuba. I don`t get it. Anyway, Ryan Grim is a reporter with The Huffington Post. Ryan, I don`t know. Would you please translate Ted Cruz to me? He says we`re in a position of weakness toward Cuba. We have got everything on Cuba. They are surrounded by our economic prowess. They want to join us. The latest polling out of Cuba, for what it`s worth, says they want to get with us as much as any other country in the world wants to get with us. Where is the appeasement? Where does even the appropriateness of that old word come in here? I don`t get Ted Cruz sometimes and maybe never. Your thoughts? RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, and in some ways, it`s a shot -- it`s a sign of strength. It`s a sign that you have self-respect. And the president has said, look, this is a tiny country over in the Caribbean. Yes, we can afford to experiment with our policy here. We`re going to try engagement and openness. And if it doesn`t work, we can go back to the old policy that we tried the last 50 years. It will be interesting to see how -- and if I get a chance, I will ask Rubio and Cruz this -- do they want to -- do they prefer normal relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia? If Cuba did 10 percent of what Saudi Arabia does, we would throw them on the -- we would have kept them on the terror list. So, the advantage here for them, though, is that, in foreign policy, it`s easy on the campaign trail because, once they want to shift their position in the general, they can say, well, things have changed over time, not necessarily that these two ever would, but that is something you can do with the -- with foreign policy. MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, I was struck by what -- we just had Senator Jeanne Shaheen on from New Hampshire, who is the Foreign Relations Committee. And she said basically, even though they all voted together today in a bipartisan way to bring the Congress into this whole negotiation with the Iranians, they basically kept the door open for the Democrats on the committee, to be blunt about it, 34 of the senators, to sustain a veto.   So, even if they vote the wrong way, if you look at this positively for president, the Democrats still have the option, 34 of them, to save the deal with Iran. GRIM: Yes, the key thing to remember here is that Congress always had the ability to kill the deal if they could get a two-thirds vote in both chambers. MATTHEWS: Right. GRIM: So, in other words, it`s not as if this gives them the ability to do it. They already had the ability. And what the White House was worried about was that they would be able to get 67 votes and two-thirds over in the House in order to move the threshold down to kill a bill to 60 votes or even a majority vote. That didn`t happen with this deal. They still need two-thirds, which is what they always needed. MATTHEWS: Yes. GRIM: So therefore they didn`t actually gain anything, as Senator Shaheen was saying. They still need to come back and come up with two-thirds in both chambers to kill any deal. And with Pelosi in the House, it`s virtually impossible for them to get that number. MATTHEWS: Yes. And she has been very strong for the president`s efforts here to find a deal in Iran. And, by the way, I hope now John Kerry, our secretary of state, and the others over are able to convey this to the Iranians, including the ayatollah, that it`s still up to the president. Thank you so much, Ryan Grim, for joining us from The Huffington Post. GRIM: Thank you.   MATTHEWS: Up next: Today is Equal Pay Day, the day that represents how far into the new year women must work to earn as much as men did the previous year. Equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the very first bill that President Obama signed into law, joins us next. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s Equal Pay Day today, the date symbolizing the additional days of work necessary for a woman to complete in the new year before she makes what a man is calculated to have made the year before. According to the government statistics, full-time working women today make 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. And one of the trailblazers in the battle for equal pay is Lilly Ledbetter. Told by the Supreme Court she was too late to file her equal pay case, Congress interceded and passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but only after becoming a Republican filibuster. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LILLY LEDBETTER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: I would feel that this long fight was worthwhile if at least at the end of it, I knew that I played a part in getting the law fixed, so that it can provide real protection to real people in the real world. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, the first bill he signed as president of the USA.   And that fight continues for equal pay, of course. And joining me right now from Scottsdale, Arizona, is Lilly Ledbetter. Ms. Ledbetter, thank you so much. What do you want to see? I don`t know if you`re for Hillary Clinton or not, but you might be. What do you think she should do for the cause of equal pay if she gets elected right off the bat? LEDBETTER: She will support it. And also we need paycheck fairness passed. That needs to become a bill passed and become law. That would have helped me. Had that been the law back in my day, I wouldn`t be here today. And Hillary was one of the -- as a senator, was one of the co-sponsors for the Ledbetter bill. So I think she gets it. And I think she understands that she will be fighting for equal pay for equal work. MATTHEWS: What is the number one obstacle right now that keeps a woman from fighting for her rights? What is the obstacle? (CROSSTALK) LEDBETTER: It`s mainly the fact that it`s been done like this for so many years, and the companies and employers have not adhered to the federal laws and guidelines, because President John F. Kennedy signed Equal Pay in 1963. And here I am in 2015 still talking about equal pay. The companies are just not adhering to the federal guidelines, and it has to be enforced. And also they use so many problems against women that really shouldn`t be a part of the problem, because women hold jobs and do it as much as the men. And, also, it creates a problem for the American family. MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the recently announced Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio talking about equal pay during the last presidential election campaign, when he was a surrogate for Mitt Romney.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUBIO: Just because they call a piece of legislation an equal pay bill doesn`t make it so. In fact, much of this legislation is in many respects nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And Senator Ted Cruz of Texas didn`t vote on last year`s Paycheck Fairness Act, but he did have this to say about the bill. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRUZ: Well, this has nothing to do with actually improving the situation of women in the workplace. This has everything to do with a political show vote for the Democrats and paying off the trial lawyers. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Ms. Ledbetter, they seem to have their talking points down. They say this is a payoff to the trial lawyers. Your response? They don`t believe it exists, the whole issue of inequality, I guess. LEDBETTER: No, sir, they -- it`s not a myth. This is math. And trial lawyers do not get a lot of money out of cases like mine, because most people in the predicament that I found myself in, earning only 77 percent of what my male colleagues made, we don`t have the money to afford a lawyer that can hang in there with a big case for 10 to 15 years. It took me 10 years to get my final verdict from the time I filed my charge until the end. This is not a win situation for trial lawyers. And most people like myself, we don`t want a lawsuit. All we want is the right to have our job, go to work, and get paid according to what we should be paid legally under the law.   MATTHEWS: Let me give you a case. Suppose a woman has been working at a job for, say, five years and she listens around, she hears the scuttlebutt, and she gets a pretty clear sense that some guy who is doing exactly what she`s doing is getting more than her. What can she do about it? What stops her from finding out the question of the number the other guy is getting compared to her number and getting something done about it? What are the obstacles? LEDBETTER: The obstacles, like in my case, was the company I worked for said, if we spoke about our wages, we wouldn`t have a job. And so no one ever talked about it, nor did they ever post the pay scale as it increased with the cost of living. And, also, if you go to your H.R. department, which is the chain of command to find out and ask questions -- it`s your immediate superior -- oftentimes, I`m told by many people that in three weeks or two months, they`re handed a pink slip. You no longer work here because we`re cutting out your job, not because you asked about your money, but it`s simply because we`re cutting out the job, which is not really true. MATTHEWS: Yes. LEDBETTER: And people are so afraid of asking about their pay. MATTHEWS: Retaliation, retaliation, retaliation. LEDBETTER: That`s right. That`s right. MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Lilly Ledbetter. You`re a pioneer. LEDBETTER: Thank you. MATTHEWS: It`s so great to -- thank you for coming on and fighting this.   LEDBETTER: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Up next: Chris Christie says he`s now ready to run for president. Are we? The Jersey governor is in New Hampshire today testing the waters, and he`s not letting the threat of indictments slow him down. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have come to New Hampshire today to talk about the challenges that we`re facing as a country. One of the challenges that we face is the unrestrained growth of government spending on entitlements. We need to raise the retirement age for Social Security as a result. I`m proposing we raise the age to 69, gradually implementing this change starting in 2022 and increasing the retirement age by two months each year thereafter, until it reaches 69. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, of course, earlier today making a bold push to raise the retirement age for Social Security up to 69. It`s Christie`s first of a three-day swing through the Granite State, where he`s testing the waters for 2016 and a presidential possibility. If Christie runs, he faces an uphill battle, of course. The latest poll out of New Hampshire shows him with just 6 percent from registered Republicans and voters who lean Republican. By the way, that`s two points worse than Donald Trump. And 69 percent of registered voters in Christie`s home state of New Jersey do not think now he would make a good president, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton poll. It`s just out today.   Governor Christie sat down with Yahoo!`s Matt Bai and addressed those poll numbers. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: The fact is, you know that all of them are just a snapshot in a moment. They`re based upon a whole lot of factors. And so, no, I don`t particularly worry about that. And if you try to make up your mind about whether to run for president based on what your poll numbers are on any particular day, then you have no business running for president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Yes, but six percent? Christie said he wasn`t ready to run for president back in 2012, but he is now. Joining the roundtable tonight is "Washington Post" opinion writer Jonathan Capehart. Jeanne Cummings is deputy government editor at Bloomberg. And Michael Steele was chair of the Republican National Committee. Let`s go the substance here. Michael Steele, I was impressed by the depth of the proposals that Governor Christie offered today on Social Security reform, saying there should be a $200,000 means test. If you make that kind of money, no Social Security benefits, whatever, even if you have given in your whole life, also raising the retirement age up to 69. A lot of courageous stuff in that, but it does seem to be odd, given his chances right now that he could do any of that. Your thoughts? MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this -- this -- I think it speaks right to that point that he`s not looking at polls, that if he`s planning to get into this race -- and it seems like he is -- he`s going to walk in the door with something substantive to put on the table.   This is a very bold plan. It is something that it`s going to be very hard for people to just sort of pick apart just because. They`re going to have to look at the substance of it. I mean, you`re talking about, you know, retirees -- individuals over 62 years old who are still working being exempt from the payroll tax. You`re talking about, you know, a retiree -- individuals over 62 years old who are still working, being exempt from the payroll tax. You`re talking about raising the minimum age for retirement to 69. This is moving the discussion of Social Security to a whole another level, which as a governor and I`ve said this for a while and you and I have talked about this. When the Republican governors get into this race, it`s going to change the dynamic because these are individuals who have actually governed and who`ve actually laid out and had to deal with these types of issues within their states. So, they would bring something extra to the table, and the conversation I think is going to be fascinating. So, kudos to Christie for opening the salvo of the conversation with proposal like this. MATTHEWS: Jeanne, I think you and I know that women care more about Social Security than men. Women live longer, they have health needs going into their 80s and 90s, and the old joke is that men would say, if I`m lucky, I won`t need Social Security. Well, you probably won`t. Well, women are going to need it. They live longer. You go to a retirement home. It`s 10/1. Would courageous steps to try to save this system and keep it solvent, would that win points for a guy or simply scare the other people that the other Republicans go chopping away Social Security? Which way are they going to hear it? JEANNE CUMMINGS, BLOOMBERG NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Christie is going to try to have to hang onto the thought that this is for future generations because his opponents are going to try to fuzz that line up and scare the old people away. MATTHEWS: Yes. CUMMINGS: Now, what is interesting, though, is that Christie now has said a marker out there and the other candidates are going to have to respond to it. They`re going to be asked, what is your plan for Social Security? So, he could flush some of them out and start a real conversation. Obviously, Christie has been a governor and worked in a bipartisan setting. So, he`s coming in with this position. And there`d be debates, there could be debates over exactly the 200,000 or this or that.   MATTHEWS: Yes. CUMMING: But at least, he is thrown into the debate with something substantive that others must respond to. MATTHEWS: OK, I`ve been nice long enough, Jonathan. It`s my turn here and your turn. Here he is saying to the reporter at Yahoo, you know, I wasn`t ready to run for president four years ago but now I`m ready. Well, you know, "I`ll cross that bridge when I come to it" comes to mind when I heard him say that. Like, did you know how bad and trouble you`re going to be in by now, and if you run last name, you wouldn`t have the bridgegate problem you have now. So, stop talking about what could have, should have. JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. MATTHEWS: And what could have and should have mean anything to anybody. But why is he telling people I wasn`t ready last time but now I`m ready? I think that was odd. CAPEHART: Well, I presume he was asked the question what`s different today than was four years ago. You know, maybe he wasn`t ready. Maybe he wanted to spend more time at Drumthwacket and bone up on the issues like the Social Security plan and run for president. The only problem is, as you said, if he had run in 2012, he wouldn`t have sort of the horror that`s lurking behind the curtain that`s about to befall him and those are the indictments that are -- we keep hearing might be coming down from federal prosecutors, all those people in his office who were involved in the bridgegate scandal. So, you know, Governor Christie, if he does indeed get into this race and to Jeanne`s point, if he does indeed stick with this bold plan of his, then maybe he will be a formidable candidate but I`m not convinced at all. MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jeanne. Can he bull his way through the indictments? Can he still say, well, that`s not me? CUMMINGS: Well, he`s -- I would put money on him trying that. He`s not one to shrink from an adverse situation, from adversity. So if he`s not indicted and if none of them are going state`s evidence where he has a fear that this investigation is going in bad direction for him, I don`t think he`s going to let this scandal be the reason why he doesn`t take what he may believe as his best shot at the presidency. I mean, I think he`s -- I think he would try to just say, yes, that was them and they never talked to me about it, because that`s about his position since day one. MATTHEWS: Michael, I think the "Wall Street Journal" and its non-opinion page, in other words, the A section, that would be very tough. They`re going to say Christie aides indicted. They`re not going to say in the government of New Jersey. They`re going to say "Christie aides" as the headline, right? (LAUGHTER)   STEELE: They`re going to -- you`re absolutely right. His name is going to be tagged to every last one of them. But I think Jeanne is right. I think Christie has -- will have a mind-set and he already does that this -- along as that indictment doesn`t land on his desk and his name is not the one that`s coming out of a grand jury investigation, I think he`s going to go forward with whatever his plans are to look at this presidential campaign. He`s got his record in the state of New Jersey. Yes, he has issues there he`s going to have to address. So he can pivot and focus on a host of other things that have nothing to do with this indictment. Those individuals will do what they have to do with their lawyers in the process, and he, I think, will move on from that. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s see if it works. It`s going to be fascinating to watch. This is going to be fascinating to watch. Everybody sticks with us. We`ll be right back with our panel. Today marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln`s assassination. And while the Republicans call themselves, as they should, the Party of Lincoln, they`ve strayed very far from the things that Lincoln believed in, especially on voting rights, don`t you think? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Obama has made plans to visit his 50th state as president. The White House announced this week that President Obama will travel to South Dakota, the only state he hasn`t visited as president. He`ll deliver a commencement address next month at a community college in Watertown. President Obama vowed to hit all 50 states during his time in office and it looks like he`s going to do it. We`ll be right back.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable, Jonathan, Jeanne and Michael. A hundred and fifty years ago today, in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance at Ford`s Theatre in downtown Washington. His assassination came days after Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox courthouse, putting an end to the civil war. But the next crucial challenge of reconstructing the Union would be left to Lincoln`s successors. A column by James Swanson and Michael Bishop at "The Wall Street Journal" today pointed out that it is obvious but too often overlooked that Lincoln died a martyr for civil rights, already the prime instrument of the abolition of slavery through the emancipation proclamation and 13th Amendment he masterfully maneuvered through Congress, Lincoln in the last speech of his life called for voting rights for black Americans. Lincoln was the first president to be elected from the still young Republican Party, a party that to this day claims the mantle of his legacy even though they create obstacles to the ballot box for African-Americans. That`s me talking. Most recently, Wisconsin has joined seven other states with strict voter ID requirements. Among them, North Carolina and Virginia, have been swing states in recent presidential elections. Let me go to you, Michael. You know your stuff on this. Why is your successor at the RNC chair allowing three dozen states under the Republican leadership to push to make it harder to vote, especially for older people and in that group especially for minorities? Your thoughts? STEELE: To give Reince the room he needs here, that`s not something that he ultimately controls is what a Republican legislature is going to produce and promote. I think the broader question, though, which is around this idea of the Party of Lincoln -- the party that not just talked about emancipation but then followed it up with the right to vote and you contrast that, that legacy against the current backdrop of legislation, particularly in states that Republicans control the legislature in which it is perceived if not, in fact, a diminution or rejection of that principle. That`s a problem for the party and it`s hard to claim that mantle in the 21st century when you look at the arc of time from Lincoln to the present day. So, I think it`s important for the party to understand its roots when you talk about Lincoln, when you talk about the things that he fought for, how he used government as a tool to empower people and to operate within the constitutional strictures, but to expand that opportunity. MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I`m going to get into this in my close tonight, but, you know, I think American people are basically -- if you catch them at it, you force them to be fair-minded. If you said to a white person, do you want to change the rules to somehow make it harder for black athletes to compete so that white guys got a better shot, they`d say, no, that would be cheating, I`m not going to do that. But in something far more important, elections, they seem to have no problem doing it. OK, let`s try this new thing, these voter ID, making them give a photo ID from the government, you have to go to the Department of Transportation to get one. If you`re 70 years old, you got to get a driver`s license which we`re better off without people getting driver`s license at a certain age, and they say, well, let`s play that game.   So, they are willing to at least -- I don`t think Reince Priebus sits around planning this stuff, but they close their eyes to it and say, if it works for our team, let`s do it. CAPEHART: Well, that`s because it`s about power. Your football example works because, you know, you have a -- MATTHEWS: It`s entertainment. CAPEHART: If your team loses, oh, well, you don`t lose anything but when it comes -- MATTHEWS: Tell that to an Eagles fan. Tell that to an Eagles fan. (LAUGHTER) CAPEHART: But when it comes to voting, voting equals power. Your candidate wins, your mayor wins, your governor wins, your city council wins, they change the laws that can benefit you. And so, this is -- this is -- we`re talking about power here. But, you know, what the Republican Party has become today, when I first started out as a journalist, it used to be first reference was Republican Party, second reference was GOP, third reference was the Party of Lincoln - - I don`t feel right calling the Republican Party the Party of Lincoln because to my mind it doesn`t represent that anymore. And even though the GOP talks a good game about reaching out to people of color, reaching out to people who are not singing from the Republican party hymn book, the words are great but the policies stink. MATTHEWS: You`re the best. Thanks so much, Jonathan Capehart. It should be called the party of Reince Priebus. Anyway, Jeanne Cummings and Michael Steele. When we return, let me finish with the systemic effort by the Republican Party to keep the children of freed slaves from exercising their right that Abraham Lincoln himself died fighting to get.   And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, who was shot 150 years ago today. He was killed because he fought and won a war that saved the Union. He was killed fighting still for the right of freed American slaves to vote. And now the Republican Party he helped to start is out there in a systematic effort to keep the children of those freed slaves from voting. I`ve brought this up before and will again. This is no way to win the hearts and minds of Americans. We are a competitive people. We love a hot rivalry. We love rooting for our side and we don`t like bad calls. We don`t like the very idea of a biased ref or umpire. And this is the heart of the matter. If Republicans can`t win an election in which everyone votes, does anybody truly want them out there trying to make sure certain people don`t? You know, I don`t think so. Does any true American want to see a sports team picked on the basis of anything other than talent? Does any true American want to put up obstacles that keep minorities from participating in any of our national contests? Then, why do the people running the Republican Party, starting with Reince Priebus, oversee a national effort in three dozen states to create voter laws that make it hard for minorities, especially older minorities, from exercising the right that Abraham Lincoln died fighting to get them? This is a scar on the Grand Old Party. Who can blame Marco Rubio out there as the candidate of youth and the future? But who cannot blame the Republican Party itself from reverting to the bad old days of Jim Crow and poll taxes and bogus literacy tests?   Practically, everyone who comes to Washington, DC, marches up the many steps of the Lincoln Memorial to pay tribute to the man who freed the slaves, the man who saved the Union, passed the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery and died pushing for voting rights for those who were freed. It`s time for Reince Priebus and the rest of today`s GOP leaders to get up on those stairs and pay true tribute to their party`s and the country`s finest president. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. END 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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