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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/16/15

Guests: Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Rep. Steve Israel; Ken Vogel, Mark Sherman, PaulHenderson, John Brabender, Nedra Pickler

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Democrats at war. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco. For seven years, ever since the brokered alliance of Barack Obama and the Clintons in 2008, the Democratic Party has held strong. Neither the bad blood of that year`s primary season nor the day-to-day issues have cut through its unity until now, until the battle that will rise up next week, the battle over international trade. As it has in each political generation, this matter of how this country deals economically with the rest of the world gets very local, and therefore very personal. As it has before, organized labor has sought to protect the jobs of those who have them against the promise of new jobs offered by the champions of greater trade. And as it has before, as it did with Bill Clinton and now with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the opponents of the latest trade expansion are headed to the barricades. And as before, they find their party`s top leaders on the other side. President Obama promises that any new trade deal with Asia will have the greatest possible safeguards for both workers and the environment, but will this be enough to carry the fight that begins next week? And will he and the country find Hillary Clinton standing at his side? David Axelrod was senior adviser to President Obama and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is a Democrat from Ohio. Let me start with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Have you ever supported free trade? In other words, is free trade a basic battle for you and the working people of your area?   REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: Free trade is a battle for the communities that I represent and the people and companies that reside there. I have supported the Jordanian agreement. I felt it was a stronger measure. But I basically believe in our Constitution, which says that the Congress, not the executive branch, shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. It doesn`t say rubber stamp agreements that the executive branch negotiates, and it doesn`t say you can`t amend. Congress has to be able to fix what`s wrong with these agreements. And frankly, Chris, in my area and the whole country, since these so- called free trade agreements have been signed and rushed through Congress under the fast track procedure, our country has lost net 47,500,000 jobs, among them over 5 million manufacturing jobs. The American people have lived these year after year after year of trade deficit. An accumulation of $9.5 trillion in the last 35 years... MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Right. KAPTUR: ... equals lost jobs coast to coast net. MATTHEWS: OK, so you`re saying we have fewer people working today than we did before we started the free trading agreements. KAPTUR: I`m saying -- well, the population`s increased. MATTHEWS: Because you said we`ve lost -- we`ve lost 47 million jobs. Do we have more jobs now... KAPTUR: That is correct. MATTHEWS: Do we have 47 million less jobs than we had then? No. So what do you mean by that number? KAPTUR: By that number, I mean those are jobs that could have been created here. Such as last year, we lost 16 percent of our GDP, our economic growth, because again last year, we had a massive $500 billion trade deficit. So if you look at what`s happened year after year, we`ve never had balanced trade accounts. And that translates into lost jobs inside the borders of this country and the outsourcing of companies from this nation to others.   MATTHEWS: OK. KAPTUR: Look at Huffy bicycle. MATTHEWS: OK... KAPTUR: Look at Maytag. Look at what`s happened to... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I know what happened to Maytag. I`m very aware of particular industries, and that`s always -- David, that`s always the best argument against free trade, a point defense kind of thing. If you look in particular areas -- Michigan City (ph), a lot of the Midwestern cities have nothing less than a Blockbuster and a diner left, if they have the diner, and if they have the Blockbuster. They`re hollowed-out cities. So when you look at trade that way, city by city, section by section, it`s a hard fight. If you look at the whole country and you look at the Silicon Valley or 128 in Massachusetts, areas of the country which have boomed through high tech and other means, it looks pretty good. How`s it balance out to you? DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, first of all, I have great sympathy for Congresswoman Kaptur`s position representing her area because there have been big economic changes not just because of trade, but partly because of trade, and they have felt the brunt of it. I live in the Midwest, Chris, so I`ve seen what you`re talking about. But what`s at issue right now is this trade promotion authority, whether this president`s going to have the same authority that every president but Richard Nixon has had since Franklin Roosevelt, every Democratic president. And now they`ve negotiated an agreement that has standards on labor rights and environmental rights and human rights and gives -- there`s a fail-safe provision that allows the Congress to take that fast track authority back if those standards aren`t met. So it seems to me, you know, there`s an argument here that you should let this president have at least that much authority, given the fact that these provisions have been put in this -- in this -- and we do have -- we do have an issue because, we -- you know, Asia is a -- is a rising market, a huge market, and you know, will America -- American businesses and jobs benefit or lose result of this agreement?   I think the president`s going to have to make that case, and I think that`s what will begin next week. MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at what Elizabeth Warren has to say because she`s the firebrand in the party on this and other issues. Big labor, of course, is with her. They staged a dramatic rally on Capitol Hill just yesterday against the president`s trade deal. It`s called the TPP. They also railed against the authority the president that wants to get the bill through. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We`re here today to fight. We are here to fight. Are you ready to fight? (YES!) WARREN: Are you ready to fight! (YES!) WARREN: All right! No more secret trade deals! Are you ready to fight? (YES!) WARREN: No more secret deals! No more special deals for multi- national corporations! Are you ready to fight?   (YES!) WARREN: Are you ready to fight any more deals that say we`re going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind? Are you ready to fight that? (YES!) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m here today to say not no to fast track, but hell no to fast track! We are standing together to open up one gigantic pan (ph) of whup-ass on anybody, on anybody that tries to take our jobs! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, others in the Democratic Party are fighting back against Senator Warren. Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is throwing his weight behind legislation supporting the president`s fast track authority, saying it would make, quote, "historic strides in transparency, labor, environmental, human rights and open Internet standards." And President Obama today reiterated his goals for a deal. Quote, "My top priority in any trade negotiation is expanding opportunity for hard- working Americans. This deal would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time include strong, fully enforceable protections for workers` rights, the environment and a free and open market." Congresswoman, this issue -- why is the American economy so darned strong if our trade policies have been bad? I mean, what is working in America? Why does it... KAPTUR: Well, actually... MATTHEWS: Why do we have the booming GDP of the world that everyone wants to move here to live, everybody in the world wants to get in the United States, legally or not. And you say there`s something fundamentally wrong with our economic policies. Which is it? KAPTUR: Well, if you look at the middle class, Chris, if you look at what`s happened to people`s incomes for the majority of people in our country, they`re going down. The average worker has taken a terrible pay cut over the last 20 years.   And I heard what Mr. Axelrod said about Asia, and so forth. We were promised with the Korean free trade agreement, which I opposed, that we would have trade surpluses and more jobs in our country. Exactly the reverse. We`ve had over 75,000 lost jobs now already in our country because of that Korean deal, and it`s only three years old. So there`s something wrong with the fundamental trade agreement when you haven`t had a trade balance in over three decades. That means lost jobs in this country. And it isn`t just my part of the country. It`s coast to coast. It`s furniture jobs. It`s textile jobs. It`s agricultural jobs. It`s, yes, industrial jobs. It`s home appliances. It`s everywhere in the country. And people`s incomes are going down. The numbers prove it. MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let me go to -- let me go to David now. I want to go back to you with the same question. David, if you go to the average department store in the United States, or any kind of store, you`ve got tremendous options. I mean, I grew up where you had a couple pairs of pants from South Carolina or somewhere that were made from different kinds of fibers, and they weren`t that great. Now you go to any store you want, everything`s cotton, 100 percent cotton. There`s already -- the pants already have their -- their -- what do you call it, the cuffs on them in your size. There`s so much consumer opportunity in any big store in the United States. The consumers do want free trade, I think. They seem to want anything they can get their hands at the best possible price and the best possible quality in the world. They don`t want to be told they can only buy stuff made in a nearby state. Now, if you go back to protectionism, that`s where you`d be, where we grew up, where you couldn`t buy stuff from all around the world. I don`t know. It`s a tough call. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s such a tough call. KAPTUR: That isn`t the choice... (CROSSTALK)   KAPTUR: ... not closed markets. AXELROD: I think that, Chris, people -- you know, the congresswoman`s right. People also want money in their pocket to buy products, and there has been -- we have seen a flattening of wages. It`s not just because of trade. MATTHEWS: I know. AXELROD: There are all kinds of forces at play. And so the test for the administration will be to make the case as to why people will be better off. I`m not sure that we can draw -- in the 21st century, kind of put a moat around the United States of America and think that we`re going to be competitive. But on the other hand, you do have to make the case. Now, what I understand of what was signed today on this fast track agreement is that, in fact, the president can`t sign the agreement for 30 or -- I think, 60 days, so that the agreement can be reviewed by everyone, including the American people. And then if Congress finds that it doesn`t meet the labor, environmental and human rights standards, they can rescind the fast track authority and amend it in any way they see fit. Seems to me that that`s a reasonable compromise. MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Marcy Kaptur for a final view (ph) of this. Would we be better off -- I mean, I`m hearing guys like -- people from Pennsylvania I grew up with, very much anti-trade, the Democratic delegation`s always been against trade going back to the beginning. And I understand that. Do you think America would be healthier economically now if we had closed the door on all these trade deals back with Kennedy? Long before Clinton, we were having trade deals. Do you think we`d be better off the way we were, with an economy which basically is an American economy, rather than going worldwide and global? Are you saying we`d be healthier? KAPTUR: From the founding of the republic, we`ve been a trading nation. The problem is when you have closed markets, like Japan`s, for example, or major markets in Europe only allow 10 percent of their goods to come from elsewhere, we become the dump market for the world. And that comes out of the hides of our people, and they`ve had it for too long. It`s gotten to a tipping point, and we have to address this with a new trade model. That`s where we want to go. I believe President Obama -- I believe he can help us do this. (CROSSTALK)   AXELROD: Can I make a point, Chris? The point, Chris, is we need good -- we need -- we don`t -- we don`t need no deals, we need good deals. And the question is, will this be a good deal? And that`s the case the president has to make. MATTHEWS: He`ll make it beginning next week, I assume. Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod. Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio. Coming up, that postal worker who landed his helicopter, his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol is in court today. That flight yesterday may have exposed some holes in our security, of course, but it also made, I think, a bigger point about how this country is letting big, dark, secret money run our politics. That was his argument. That`s why he took the risk of flying into the Capitol. Plus, as the Supreme Court gets ready to take up gay marriage, we`ve got the fascinating story of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the court, about the closeted gay man who was his mentor and may have been his influence. And everyone knows income inequality is on the rise in this country, so why did the House of Representatives just vote to give a huge tax break to America`s richest 0.2 percent? They did away with the estate tax, a basic American philosophy that helped prevent a permanent aristocracy. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the Republican rank and file, America`s quiet doves. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a bit of good news for both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Americans are feeling more optimistic about the economy. According to a new Bloomberg Politics poll, one third of Americans say the economy will get stronger, while just one fifth say it will get worse. The poll found more optimism about the prospects for jobs, housing and health care costs compared to last June. The poll also found Americans give President Obama`s handling of the economy its best marks since 2009. It`s now 49 percent positive, 46 percent disapproving. Not that great, but better than it was, that`s for sure. We`ll be right back.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Angry over the now legalized influx of millions of dollars in dark secret money into U.S. elections, a Florida postal worker flew his one-man helicopter into Washington`s restricted air space, buzzing the Washington Monument and then setting it down right on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson says the home-built craft traveled undetected. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEH JOHNSON, DHS SECRETARY: This individual apparently literally flew in under the radar -- literally. QUESTION: Were you satisfied with the response, I guess? JOHNSON: Well, again, I want to see all the facts. I want to know all the facts before I make any conclusions or draw any judgments about yesterday`s incident. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I think we saw all the facts. Anyway, 60-year-old Doug Hughes says the stunt was a protest against the country`s campaign finance morass, and he  d in advance, by the way, his intentions to perform this dangerous act of civil disobedience in an interview with his hometown newspaper. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DOUG HUGHES, POSTAL WORKER: I`m going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes, and those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress. I don`t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, talk about special delivery. Anyway, joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, Democrat of New York and author of the great novel -- and I mean great novel -- "The Global War on Morris." And also with us, Politico`s Ken Vogel, author of "Big Money." I want to go to Congressman Israel. First of all, it doesn`t scare me one bit that this guy comes in on that flying lawn mower of his. So what? And do you think he should be charged at all? It looks like they let him off on his own recognizance. That`s the sign to me they`re not going to throw the book at this guy. What do you think should happen? REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, Chris, thanks for having me on. Look, I was in my office, and when I heard that we had been invaded by something called a gyrocopter, I thought I was on an episode of "The Jetsons." I didn`t even know what a gyrocopter was. The fact of the matter is that, look, he broke the law. There are other ways to deliver a message. But what concerns me is that everybody`s is so focused on how he delivered the message, they`re not focused on what his message is. And that is when the American people feel so marginalized, so minimized by the big money that is flooding into American politics, they`re going to resort to stunts like this. I don`t endorse the stunt, but I understand this guy`s need to make the case. MATTHEWS: You know why I don`t talk much about money on television? I want to get to Ken on this because it`s a journalism problem. Most people don`t give money to politicians. They vote. They consider that their sacred responsibility and right, and they get out there and vote. And they read the paper, the people who watch this kind of program do. They read the newspaper. They keep up. They know something of importance to them about how they vote. So that`s how they`re citizens. There`s a very small percentage of people who think, Well, I want to go beyond that and kick some money in. Maybe it`s 500 bucks, maybe it`s 50 bucks, maybe it`s 5 bucks, maybe it`s millions of dollars, but they don`t really know that percentage of people. Ken I want to get to you on this. I think it`s the reason why it`s very hard to talk on television about money, period. Economics doesn`t sell, numbers don`t sell on television, especially. That`s more for print. But it`s so alien to most people. All they know about it, they see a guy like Sheldon Adelson, some guy -- a fat cat or the Koch brothers, and they see these politicians kissing their butts or rings or toes, or whatever else. And they say, That is sickening to me because that guy, because he`s rich, has a bigger say than I do, by the millions. Your thoughts. But nobody -- it`s like they -- I think that guy had a point, Doug, the other day, the guy who was flying that gyrocopter. He said nobody talks about it. They`ve given up the fight.   KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Well, when they`re asked about it, Chris, they do say and polls do show... MATTHEWS: When asked about it. VOGEL: ... right, that they... MATTHEWS: When asked about it. VOGEL: Right, that they`re disturbed by this flood of money into politics. So the problem for folks who have been working to reduce the role of money into -- in politics and the flow of money into politics is translating that sentiment into actual voting activity because it`s just not a top voting issue for most people. And we`ve seen efforts to make it a top voting issue, but it seems like just more of the sort of rhetorical thing that, when asked about it, they will say that they`re opposed to it, but we seldom see it rising to be a top issue in elections. And that`s why it`s so difficult to actually generate the political momentum to get Congress or to get state legislatures to vote to change the laws to make it more difficult for money to flow into politics. MATTHEWS: Yes. VOGEL: Let`s not forget, Chris, and Congressman Israel, these are folks who have been elected through this system, that no matter how bad they think it is, it`s still worked OK for them on the last Election Day for them to be the office. So it`s very difficult for them to cast a vote that changes a system that works for them, even if they say oppose it. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I`ll tell you why. Let me tell you.   Let me go back to the congressman. I want to direct it more pointedly at you. As long as the Supreme Court is out there saying you have an individual right to a gun. No, forget the militia reason for having a gun, the core -- the thing we all grew up with. No, no, you can have a gun for any reason you want one. Number two, you can spend all the money you want in a campaign, because you got it. And once the court ruled that way, people like Hillary Clinton and you and everybody else who has to raise money goes, well, you can`t blame me. We passed McCain-Feingold. We did our bit, and the courts overruled us. ISRAEL: Well, I will tell you who you can blame. You can blame the Republican majority in Congress for not passing the DISCLOSE Act. When that Supreme Court decision, which was an insidious and corrosive decision that is destroying democracy, but when that decision was made, the Supreme Court actually said, we expect that Congress will require that these contributions not be secret, that they be disclosed. House Democrats offered in the DISCLOSE Act that would require transparency, that would require that these secret donors tell people who they are. And it was Republicans who voted against and that are keeping that bill bottled up. People have the right to know. Let me say one other thing on Ken`s point. He`s right. When you look at polls, campaign finance reform doesn`t really rate that high. However, when you make the connection between people`s paychecks being squeezed and the fact that the special interests are dictating policy and squeezing their paychecks, people understand that`s true. They think that the deck is stacked, and then they want campaign finance reform. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I didn`t realize that. You mean the courts would not strike down a full disclosure requirement, Congressman? If you people on the Hill got a 50-plus vote percentage in both houses and you got the president to sign it -- I think he would sign it. ISRAEL: No question.   MATTHEWS: You think the courts would uphold it? They would uphold a full disclosure act? (CROSSTALK) ISRAEL: Yes. If you read the Citizens United decision, I think at least one justice based his support for Citizens United on the assumption that Congress would require disclosure. And that never happened. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Ken, I had a fight the other day with another colleague mine of mine I respect that the fact is, there`s a casualness with which the media does this. They will put on ad from some -- they will show a piece of an ad or the whole damn ad for free, some swift boat ad, and I will say, who paid for that ad? Nobody thinks to put that on, even when they knew it. Well, they at least ought to say, it`s dark secret money and it`s the same people that produced that ad that produced the swift boat ads against John Kerry, the same bad crowd of people. They`re up to it again. No, the casualness with which people put free examples of advertising here drives me crazy. But I`m glad to see the congressman say that, because now everybody watching knows now, you can write your congressperson, Democrat or liberal or whatever, and say, look, or Republican, say this. I want to know where the money`s coming from when somebody gets elected. That`s -- just give me that. Give me squat, give me something. Maybe you can`t stop them because of this right-wing court. But I want to know who`s paying for these stupid ads I have got to watch election time. Last word from you, Ken? VOGEL: Yes, disclosure was just one of the miscalculations that was in that -- embedded in that Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in 2010. The congressman is right. There was the assumption that this money flowing into the process would be disclosed. It hasn`t been. And in fact, people have taken advantage, groups have taken advantage of another part of the decision that allows corporations to spend, to use these non-disclosing, non-profit corporations to pump this money into the system.   The other miscalculation was that this independent spending would be independent, that unlimited spending would not be done in coordination with the campaigns. We see with these super PACs, if they`re not coordinated, they`re pretty close. MATTHEWS: I have got an idea for Congress and the Capitol Police. Instead of charging this guy on the helicopter, gyrocopter, why don`t you give him community service? And his community service can be one hour. And his one hour should be spent addressing a joint session, a joint meeting of the Congress. He should walk in there and tell them why he did that. And that must all be there to watch it`s. That can be his community service and we can all watch. If they put this guy in jail, what a bunch of clowns that would be to do that. Anyway, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, thank you, and good luck with your book, "The Global War on Morris." ISRAEL: Thank you. Thank you, Chris. Up next: When the Supreme Court hears arguments this month about the constitutional right to gay marriage, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy? You know why? I think he`s going to vote for it. And when we come back, the story of Justice Kennedy`s mentor. Apparently, he was a closeted gay fellow and he may have had a lot of influence in his personal life and professional bearing on Justice Kennedy and the way he looks at individuals, regardless of their orientation or identity. Fascinating possibilities here. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments over whether states can keep same-sex couples from marrying, all the attention is focused on the one man who could potentially make or break the decision. I`m speaking, of course, of Justice Anthony Kennedy.   This week, the Associated Press writes -- quote -- "Those who have known Justice Kennedy for decades and scholars who have studied his work say he has long stressed the importance" -- catch this -- "of valuing people of individuals. And he seems likely also to have been influenced in this regard as a pillar of the Sacramento legal community, a closeted gay man who hired Kennedy as a law school instructor and testified on his behalf at his high court confirmation hearings in Washington." That mentor of Kennedy`s, Gordon Schaber, testified at Kennedy`s confirmation hearing in December of `87. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GORDON SCHABER, MENTOR OF JUSTICE KENNEDY: I think he will have compassion and empathy for all those who present themselves. He will do that without personal predilection, without a specific philosophical inclination, with an aim at consensus-building. I urge a vote of confirmation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The Supreme Court decision on that same-sex matter is expected some time in June. Boy, is news coming here. Mark Sherman is the Associated Press reporter who wrote this story and he joins us now. Also joining us is Paul Henderson, a veteran prosecutor. Let me start with Mark. And give us a sense of this. I have always had a sense about the court decisions of Justice Kennedy, about the idea of the individual, and the individual as a whole person. And, yes, sex is part of that, sexual attraction is part of that, sexual behavior is part of that, but they`re all part of being a whole person, a person who can love other people, and a person who will act on that love physically. And the question, that`s always been a portion of who an individual is, not all they are. And, therefore, I thought it made perfect sense that this article you wrote suggested that personal experience with someone else may have reminded him, as we all are reminded in our lives of gay people and straight people being people first. Your thoughts? MARK SHERMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, that`s right.   There`s probably no doubt that there are several factors that go into the several opinions that Justice Kennedy has written in favor of the support of gay rights in the Supreme Court. And lots of people I have talked to in Sacramento, who widely believe that Dean Schaber was gay, say they can`t believe that Kennedy wouldn`t have been influenced by his close friendship with Schaber. MATTHEWS: And this gift, I have to tell you, I don`t think it`s nefarious, but it`s kind of interesting. Every year, he would send him a gift of $400 worth of shirts. Now, if those were Brooks Brothers shirts, that`s about five shirts at the most, maybe four. But that`s a lot of shirts, and I always wondered. What a strange gift. It`s like Dean Smith giving everybody who played for him a dinner out one night. What is this shirts thing? Have you figured that out? SHERMAN: Well, I don`t know any more about it than that it would show up year after year on Kennedy`s financial disclosure form that he has to file on an annual basis. MATTHEWS: Paul, give me your thoughts of this, of Kennedy -- why did he become the conservative? He was Ronald Reagan`s personal attorney. He`s the guy in the liberty -- in the Lawrence case. In the Lawrence case, he gave the rights of -- he got rid of the sodomy laws. He said private behavior, sexual behavior is part of being an individual, part of being a person capable of loving someone. Let`s drop it as a prohibition. But here it is on that same question of, is it going to be the liberty clause, the equal protection law? What is it going to be? Equal protection law is going to be -- what is it going to be in that 14th Amendment that`s going to give us the decision? Go ahead. PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think that is what is going to drive the train in this analysis. It`s going to be the 14th Amendment and interpretation of equal protection and figuring out what the conflict is going to be between the state decisions that have been made and the lower federal court decisions that have been made with the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, vs. the individual rights, and we keep coming back to these individual rights here, because I liken those arguments to the arguments that have been made in the past with race, with marriage, with sexual orientation. And so that`s what he`s going to be deciding, and you are absolutely right, that these jurists don`t make decisions in a bubble. They are absolutely influenced. They don`t make the law. They interpret the law. But they also interpret what society is doing, what culture is doing, who their friends are. All of these things, they value and they interpret. As he has said before, as he values individualism, those things are what he uses as a lens to review the law and make decisions. So I think you`re absolutely correct and this article is spot on in interpreting... MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to -- let me go back to the author of the article.   Mark, I know it`s not your thinking. It`s your reporting, but the fascinating thing about -- the old joke is the Supreme Court follows the election returns. I know that. But that`s a fact. But, also, if you look at the landmark decisions, and this will be one, like the Brown case or the prayer in school or the Roe v. Wade case, Roe v. Wade, on abortion rights, they come out of some of reading of the Constitution which isn`t in there. They find inherent values in there, like when they find out that black kids, schoolkids think that white dolls are prettier than black dolls, they say, wait a minute, we`re sending the wrong values to our kids. Therefore, if separate but equal sends the message of inequality, we have got to stop doing it. That`s an inherent perception. I do think what you were writing about is fascinating. Have you checked this out with anybody else who said that the individual personal experience of Judge Kennedy with this mentor really did foster his identification and empathy for gay people? SHERMAN: Well, I think it`s really -- it`s probably a complicated answer. And it`s -- and I did not say in the story, and I can`t say here that that alone explains it. But the notion that it`s a part of what helped him form his views, I think, is perfectly plausible. MATTHEWS: And, by the way, just to get this straight for everybody, not -- straight`s the wrong word to use here, but get it clear for everybody -- the minute you have a gay person in your close company, especially in your family, all of a sudden, people have different values and different interpretations. You know, all politics is local, an old friend of mine used to say, Tip O`Neill, and it`s so true. The local it gets -- the more local it gets, the more you empathize. Hey, Paul Henderson, sir, thank you for joining us out here in San Francisco, and thank you, Mark Sherman, for a very interesting insight. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Up next: the House of Representatives just voted to get rid of the estate tax. Whoa. That`s great for some people. The quintessentially American philosophy, by the way, that helps prevents us from being a permanent aristocracy is having an estate tax. It`s so the money doesn`t just accumulate in a few families` hands. Anyway, it comes at a time when everyone is concerned about the income gap in this country, and this would make the gap larger.   You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s what`s happening. The NFL has reinstated Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson was suspended last year for violating the league`s personal conduct policy. He pleaded no contest to hitting his son with a switch. Federal charges have been filed against an Ohio man who allegedly traveled to Syria for terror training, then returned to the U.S. He planned to attack police or soldiers. And WikiLeaks has posted more than 300,000 documents from the devastating hack at Sony last year. Sony has condemned the move -- and now we`re taking you back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republicans have long criticized -- been criticized for favoring that 1 percent of top earners in this country. But today, they`re doing a big favor for the richest two-tenths of those 1 percenters, two-tenths of 1 percent. House Republicans today passed a resolution, 1105, it`s called, a bill it called the Death Tax Repeal Act, which would bring an end to the inheritance tax in this country. It`s a reflection, of course, of Republican priorities at a time when income inequality is a top concern among American people, and it runs contrary to the fundamental belief in this country long held that wealth should not be passed down among an aristocratic class, but should be earned. That`s why we have the law on the books in the first place. We`re joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable, Howard Fineman, global editorial director for The Huffington Post, Associated Press White House reporter Nedra Pickler, and Republican strategist John Brabender.   Are you any of you people beneficiaries of large inherited wealth? Because, if you are so, you have got to raise your hand now and tell us why we will defend the system the Republicans are putting in place. Just put your hands up if you`re the inheritor of a "Downton Abbey" estate. (CROSSTALK) JOHN BRABENDER, FORMER SENIOR SANTORUM CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I`m give everything to you, Chris, that I have. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, fine. OK. Let`s start. (CROSSTALK) HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Remember how you talked about when you had two pairs of pants, you know, when you were growing up? MATTHEWS: Yes. Well... FINEMAN: I had maybe two also. MATTHEWS: OK. Let me start with you, Howard, my fellow pink-diapered baby -- not exactly in either case. Let`s start with this. It seems to me that the country has held this philosophy, that we don`t want to end up with Latin America, with 17 families running a country, or Europe or the Germans or the Brits with a few families owning all the land and all the money, because it just kept accumulating over generations.   We basically say, you can leave a ton of money to your kids, but only a ton, and then it`s got to stop. So the Republicans don`t think a ton is enough, $10 plus million is not enough to give to your kids. So, so how can they win that case and why did 11 Democrats join them today? FINEMAN: That`s a mystery to me. I don`t think they can win the case. If you look at the polling numbers generally, let`s concede two points. Number one, rich people are paying a greater and greater share of the taxes, but the reason they are is that they`re making more and more of the money as compared to everyone else. Number two, Americans do like tax cuts, but they don`t, I think, like this kind. They`re not going to like this kind, because there are maybe 5,000 people a year, at most, who can conceivably benefit from it. These are people who have, if they`re married, have more than $10 million worth of assets to pass on in their estate. Nobody`s going to be sympathetic with them. And John may disagree, but I think the Republicans are kind of -- this is kind of like a reflexive thing. This is like you take, in the movie "2001", you take almost all the memory chips out and the only one left is the one that says, we`ve got to cut taxes, we don`t care how we do it. MATTHEWS: Yes. John Brabender, I would think one mistake people have who have left that much money to their kids, they didn`t get to spend it. Why didn`t they spend their money? Why -- they had time, why didn`t they go spend the money? What were they saving it for? I`m just kidding. Of course, I`m not kidding. JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, you`re not kidding. MATTHEWS: But seems like a bad value -- cloth-cut Republicans or 90 percent of the Republican people or a little bit better than regular, they don`t benefit from this kind of thing.   BRABENDER: Well, and let me say two things about it. One is, it is a bad tax. And sometimes because it`s on a small number of people or they`re very wealthy, we think -- oh, then it`s a good tax. No, it`s a bad tax. It`s an unfair tax to get rid of. But the optics of it, for the Republican Party, are terrible. Especially coming into a presidential race, where what we`re going to do is get hard-working families to believe that we`re representing and fighting for them, and we become Pavlovian, almost for cutting taxes for wealthy people and we`re opposed to $1 raise in the minimum wage. And hard-working families who aren`t either affected by either of those just get the message that we don`t understand their lives and we`re not fighting for them. And I think that`s the real mistake. MATTHEWS: OK, this comes at a time that most people in this country agree that income inequality is getting worse. A Bloomberg poll just today finds that 69 percent, seven out of ten Americans say the income gap between rich and poor is getting bigger. Only 10 percent say the gap is getting smaller, and they don`t know what they`re talking about. When it comes to the solution, the Americans are divided. Catch this -- this is a fascinating distinction into two political parties. There`s a dime`s worth of difference between parties. It`s a big one. Seventy percent of Democrats think that they should implement policies to shrink the income gap, to shrink it. But 75 percent of Republicans say the government should stand aside, even if the income gap grows. So, Nedra, just reporting on this, there is a difference in party approach. Republicans say if there`s a gap that grows because of inheritance taxes not being there so you can leave all your money to your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, and that raises the gap. They`d say, fine, that`s the way the market works. NEDRA PICKLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS W.H. REPORTER: You can make the argument that this is a winning argument for both sides, because it`s all based on how they frame it, right? The Republicans are talking about a death tax. They`re talking about these poor family farmers, not poor in money, but they`re going to lose their land when they try to pass it on to their children. And then on the other side, you know, Barack Obama had an event yesterday on this, and it was just like pitching him up a softball. You know, he was in North Carolina and he talked about how this tax would only hit a hundred and some people in the state, versus the 44 million people that he could help if he had 270 million. MATTHEWS: You`re right, they`re both working their sides of the street. Anyway, Republican Frank Luntz, we call him Fluntz, he led the effort to change the name of the estate tax, as it was previously known, to the death tax. Here`s how he defends the use of the term in his book, "Words That Work": "The notion of the phrase death tax is euphemistic or Orwellian does not withstand scrutiny. For one thing, it supposes that estate tax and inheritance tax are purely neutral terms. In fact, estate conjures up images of rolling green hills and vast real estate holdings of JR Ewing or Donald Trump rubbing their hands together and cackling like corporate villains or toasting with champagne glasses."   There, Howard, Frank Luntz admitting that you`ve got to call it a death tax, not a estate tax, because estate tax sounds too evil. Your thoughts? FINEMAN: First of all, the word "estate," estate in an estate tax is an old glib word if what gets passed to one generation to another. It doesn`t mean a big, rolling estate. So, there`s the case of the huge straw man that Frank Luntz built up so he could cleverly try to make it sound like someone`s being killed if you apply this tax. You know, that`s what Frank Luntz the good at. But the thing here is, if you want to really get down into the depths of this, independent voters, I think, in that poll and in other polls, are very worried about income inequality. I don`t know where precisely they are on this. I bet they`re quite skeptical on giving a few thousand people a year on low taxation on passed along inheritance. By the way, the other thing this bill would do is get rid of capital gains on all the stuff that was accumulate d by those people. And capital gains tax is another thing they also consider a double tax. So, actually, this bill in their framework is a triple tax. MATTHEWS: Let`s put President Obama down for a veto on this baby. I think if it gets to him -- FINEMAN: Yes, I would say. PICKLER: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: Don`t you think? PICKLER: He said that. MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us right now. And up next, George W. Bush admits, confesses, whatever, that he`s Jeb Bush`s biggest problem.   But it`s bigger than that. Republicans don`t want war. That`s my theory. The regular Republican, man and woman, father and mother, grandparent, doesn`t want to see their kids going off to another W-type war. And maybe W`s got this one right, he`s at fault. The place for politics is coming back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: The Republican presidential field may soon be getting even bigger. We reported yesterday that Ohio Governor John Kasich`s interested in getting into the presidential race. Well, today we learned that he`s launching now a political committee that allows him to raise money as he considers his candidacy. The Ohio Republican won his second term last year in a landslide, and he could make some noise in this crowded field. I think he ought to make some noise. He`s a pretty good candidate. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back. It`s been two months since President Obama sent his proposal to authorize the use of military force against ISIS up to Capitol Hill. Yet, as "The Wall Street Journal" reported today, it hasn`t been a high priority by Republican-led Congress by any means. We`re back with the roundtable: Howard, Nedra, and John. Howard, you know, for all the trumpery coming out of the Republican Party, vis-a-vis Iran, as pointed out in the paper today, in "The Wall Street Journal", there`s no real excitement about going to an actual ground war. My theory, the Republican rank and file is nowhere as hawkish as the big money people are. FINEMAN: No, no, no. No, they`re going to say that Barack Obama and therefore Hillary Clinton are weak and naive in some way. But they`re not going to prove it by advocate by sending in troops. They`re not going to do it, because the bitter memory of the American people is still too fresh and still too strong about both Iraq and Afghanistan.   And I think that presents a tremendous opening for Rand Paul, who`s going to be, I think, unless I`m mistaken, the only flat-out critic of the entire theory of the neocons in the Republican race. MATTHEWS: And, John, that`s one reason why I see there`s a difference in the top of the regular, the cloth-coat Republicans, the regular people like my parents, who are Republican. They weren`t rich at all, but they were Republican, and they didn`t -- I don`t think they were hawks. Now, my question here is: are the Republican Party at the base, people in Pennsylvania, all across that state, where I`m familiar with and Howard is -- are they as hawkish as the big money people who talk in this presidential debate, who all seem to be hawks, except for Rand Paul? BRABENDER: Well, it depends on what your definition of hawk is. If your question is -- MATTHEWS: Horniness to go to war. The urge to go to war as the first result, the first resort. BRABENDER: But see -- MATTHEWS: You hear it all the time from these people. BRABENDER: This is where we get into problems. There`s nobody that sits around and says, hey, you know what, we haven`t had a good war in a while. MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney! Dick Cheney! All the neocons that fill the op-ed pages of the op-ed pages of the newspaper are constantly talking about bombing Iran. What do you mean nobody`s talking and pushing it? BRABENDER: There are Republicans in the base who feel that the top priority of government are to keep families safe from somebody who would want to harm America. MATTHEWS: What does it have to do with bombing Iran? What does it have to do with going to war this Iraq?   BRABENDER: The belief is that Iran has played us to build a nuclear bomb -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, OK, you`re as much a problem -- you`re as big of a problem as the money guys. I mean, that`s absurd. BRABENDER: Here is what I can tell you. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- Republican thinks that Iraq attacked us on 9/11? That`s because -- (CROSSTALK) BRABENDER: I didn`t say that. Don`t put those words in my mouth. But what I can tell you, about polling data, is that people -- when you ask about national security, has gone from being about the sixth issue three years ago to the second or third issue now. And a lot of that is Iran, it`s ISIS and in the world right now, there is a sense on of unease of safety in America. FINEMAN: But I don`t think the sense of unease though necessarily translates into a commitment by Republican candidates to put troops on the ground. I think this time around, they are going to be more cautious given the history of the Republican Party and George W. Bush`s wars. PICKLER: The Republican candidates --   MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Nedra, because I`m looking at what is happening on the two committees in Congress and nobody on the Republican side wants to fight this war against ISIS ands authorize. Nobody, nobody`s doing it. Your thoughts? PICKLER: Well, the Republican candidates are all over the map and it reflects where the Republican voters are. We saw a year or so ago where they were shying away against war. But I saw a poll numbers just last month said that three-quarters would favor sending in troops to fight the Islamic State. So, it is quite extraordinary, though that you had leaders in Congress demanding that the president send up some language for war authorization. He did that in the midst of the horrible deaths of American citizens and our allied citizens and it just sat there. And nothing has happened. There was supposed to be a hearing on it and they ended up debating Iran instead. They`re not taking this very seriously so far. MATTHEWS: It`s better to blow the trumpets on Iran than fight the war with ISIS. Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Nedra Pickler. And thank you, John Brabender. When we return, let me finish with the Republican rank-and-file. My belief, they are America`s quietest doves. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I believe the average Republican voter in this country has had it the hawks, the neocons, the ideologues, all the asserted armchair generals, including the chicken hawks who have taken us so stupidly into war. I know the money people, the toes of which the presidential candidates need to kiss, are big talkers about war with Iran or Syria or with Russians. Talk is cheap. It doesn`t cost a dime to send this country`s soldiers racing back in the desert. But the regular people out there who vote Republican for good reasons of their own, lowered taxes, less government in their lives, religious values, sending those soldiers to battle has a price -- it`s their sons and nieces and nephews who were going. It`s their family that`s worrying, hoping to see their loved ones come home and -- God willing -- in one piece.   If you want real proof that the Republican rank-and-file, the little people of the Republican Party, if you will, don`t like these wars, just check on what`s happening with that proposal of President Obama to authorize the fight with ISIS. It`s not going anywhere. And the reason it`s not going anywhere it`s because the Republican congressmen on the committee know that the people back home don`t want us getting in a real war, a fighting war. They can live with the presidential wannabes blowing their trumpets for the money guys, hustling off that to Vegas or to wherever, the fat cats set to show up their trumpery, they can live with the performance art. The Republican people are saying, don`t talk about using our kids as cannon fodder just so the big shots can strut around to the next fund-raiser. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. 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