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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/21/15

Guests: Barack Obama, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Debbie Askin, Dr. AbhijitDasgupta, Jim Corcoran, Debbie Stabenow, Heather McGhee

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The president plays HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. I`ve just come from Washington, where I spoke with President Obama about the threat of Iran and the news we`ve got U.S. warships that could intercept an Iranian weapons convoy off the coast of Yemen, that and Putin`s decision to sell advanced surface-to-air missiles to the Iranians that could be used to guard nuclear weapons. We begin tonight with the president`s declaration of war on his own left led by Senator Elizabeth Warren. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Elizabeth. We`re allies on a whole host of issues, but she`s wrong on this. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong. (END VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: Senator Warren is among a group of activists, unions and environmentalists out there to kill a deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership, the historic trade pact being negotiated now by the Obama administration. The goal of the trade administration is to unleash an economic boom by making it easier to sell goods, everything from Florida oranges to Japanese video games.   Supporters of the deal, led by the president, argue that if we don`t write the rules on trade with these countries, China will. We`ve brought you the passionate voices against the deal -- Ohio Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown on this show. Here`s Senator Elizabeth Warren. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: 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!) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, today, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, Hell, no, to the trade deal. We now hear from the president and his view. Earlier today, as I said, I had a chance to lead a discussion on this trade war with a panel that included the president and some of his trade allies.   (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: Thank you for inviting me to moderate this discussion. We have Congressman Gerry Connolly from this area in Virginia. We have Jim Corcoran -- kind of an Irish crow here -- Jim Corcoran, who`s head of the Chamber of Commerce out here. We Dr. Dasgupta, who`s co-founder of a health care startup, and we have Debbie Askin, who is founder of an IT firm out here, right? DEBBIE ASKIN, TEAM ASKIN TECHNOLOGIES: Yes. MATTHEWS: So I want to ask you, Mr. President, obviously, the hot question. U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren is out there saying things like this about the trade agreement we`re going to talk about today. It`s going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind. She also says it challenges U.S. sovereignty. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. MATTHEWS: They are throwing the kitchen sink at this trade agreement, which will involve 11 nations and ourselves on the Pacific rim. Why are they saying these things? OBAMA: Well, I guess they don`t want it to happen. And I love Elizabeth. We`re allies on a whole host of issues. But she`s wrong on this. And let me be very clear about my views on trade generally and why this is so important. You know, I`m not somebody who believes in trade just for trade`s sake. You know, I come from a state, Illinois, that was devastated by the loss of manufacturing in many small towns. I think that we had a stretch of a couple of decades where, in part because of globalization, you had manufacturing moving to other places in search of low wages, no environmental standards, no labor standards. So trade deals haven`t always worked for us. But what I`ve also always believed is that it`s important for us to be able to export our goods, to make sure our businesses are competitive. That`s good for American workers. That`s good for American businesses. It`s good for America`s small business. So when I came into office I said, What kind of trade deal would I like to see? How would we revamp how we`ve done trade to make it work for America and we know that we`d have strong, enforceable labor standards for other countries that we trade with? We`d have strong environmental standards with the countries that we trade with. We`d make sure that we had access to their markets just like they`ve got access to ours so that it was fair and reciprocal.   And we decided to start trying to craft a new kind of trade deal in the largest market in the world because 95 percent of the customers for U.S. businesses is going to be outside of the United States, and if we want to compete and create jobs here in the United States, we`ve got to be there. And the fastest growing, most populous region in the world is in the Asia- Pacific region. So we`ve pulled together 11 countries to come up with a high-standard, enforceable trade provision that has unprecedented labor standards, unprecedented environmental standards, fixes a lot of the problems that you had in things like NAFTA. And ultimately, I would not be putting this forward if I was not absolutely certain that this was going to be good for American workers. MATTHEWS: Yes. OBAMA: Now, understandably, folks in labor and some progressives are suspicious generally because of the experiences they saw in the past. But my point is, don`t fight the last war. Wait and see what we actually have in this deal before you make those judgments because what I know is that if we are going to succeed as an economy where already about 11 million of the high-paying jobs in the United States are directly related to exports overseas -- and it`s not just big businesses, it`s small businesses like are represented around this table -- then we`ve got to be able to craft the kinds of trade deals that I`m talking about. MATTHEWS: Let me ask Congressman Connolly, the record of NAFTA, which was about 50-50 in the U.S. Senate, and the House was a little moreso, but there were more Democrats for NAFTA back then. Was NAFTA flawed in the way that this new trade deal isn`t? In other words, was it -- did it have reasons like people like Sherrod Brown and Bobby Casey, who are out there now opposing this -- are they -- as the president said, they opposed it on the basis of how bad the last deal was. Was the last deal flawed? Was NAFTA flawed? REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Well, I think NAFTA wasn`t perfect. And I do agree with the president. I think the agreement we`re looking at now significantly improves upon that, and in fact, goes back in and makes some improvements to the areas that critics are concerned about legitimately. But I wouldn`t call NAFTA a failure. NAFTA, in fact, opened up a lot of trade here in North America. And you know, there have been some problems in terms of labor standards and environmental standards, but I don`t think it`s been pronounced as a failure. And I think the narrative that all trade is bad, all trade agreements have failed just isn`t true. You know, we have a trade surplus with 11 of the 14 trade agreements we have in place -- not a deficit, a surplus.   It`s not a secret agreement. It doesn`t favor the wealthy and leave everyone behind. MATTHEWS: So Elizabeth Warren is wrong. CONNOLLY: I think she`s absolutely wrong. MATTHEWS: Why are some people like Chuck Schumer, who`s probably going to be leader of the Senate -- which is he switching from a big city, financial center, pro-trader, to being an anti-trader? Is that because of upstate New York? What`s going on? I can`t figure this out. OBAMA: I think you`ve got to talk to Chuck. But look -- MATTHEWS: Was NAFTA a good deal? Was NAFTA a good deal? OBAMA: I think that NAFTA did a couple things that were important. It integrated the North American economy. Mexico and Canada are important trading partners for us. MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: We sell a lot of stuff to them. They sell a lot of stuff to us. The problem with NAFTA that I identified when I was running for Senate, long before I was in the Oval Office, was the labor agreements and the environmental agreements were in a side letter. They weren`t enforceable the same way that the business provisions were in the document, and you could actually penalize somebody if they violated them. That`s fixed in the trade deal that we`re looking at here. But here`s the larger point that I want to make, is that the American people are right to be concerned with growing inequality. American workers are right that they haven`t seen their wages and their incomes go up in a couple of decades, even though the economy has grown significantly. And so I understand the anxieties that people feel. And some of that has to do with globalization. A lot more of it actually has to do with automation and just shifts in the economy away from manufacturing towards services.   The thing is, though, that if -- if we are going to capture the future, then we`ve got to open up markets to the kinds of things that we`re really good at, that can`t be duplicated overseas. We`re good at innovation. We`re good at services. We can create things that other countries can`t create. We`re not going to be able to compete for low-wage manufacturing jobs anymore. That ship has sailed. What we can do is compete for the high end where we`re adding value, and the small companies that are represented by the doctor and by Debbie, where it`s IT, it`s talent, it`s innovation -- that`s the kind of stuff that we can sell all around the world. And by the way, we`re still doing good on manufacturing. Look, Chris, think about it. I`ve spent the last six-and-a-half years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Every single thing I`ve done, from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum wage, to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get good job training, to what we`re pushing now in terms of sick paid leave -- everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal? Now, I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good -- MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: -- for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong. First of all, they call it a secret deal. We`ve done 1,700 briefings up on Capitol Hill. It`s -- there`s a misnomer about fast track. Essentially, what we`re -- the only thing we`re looking for is the same trade authority, negotiating authority that almost every president in the post-World War II era has had to be able to negotiate ahead of time. Congress lays out the parameters for what the deal should be, then we go out and we finish the negotiations. We bring the deal back -- MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: -- and for a minimum of three months, everybody in Congress gets to read the actual -- MATTHEWS: Why are they saying this stuff? Rosa Delauro -- OBAMA: I don`t know!   MATTHEWS: -- is saying stuff, Sherrod Brown -- OBAMA: You`ve got to talk to them. MATTHEWS: They are saying -- they are saying this is a totally unfair deal, it`s never been done before. OBAMA: I know! MATTHEWS: I want to bring in these Republicans -- no, you`re not Republicans, all right? I thought you would be. (LAUGHTER) OBAMA: But the one thing I just want to say about this, though, Chris, is that I am happy to debate this, and I`m sure Gerry and others are, based on the actual facts. MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: This is the most progressive framework for trade we have ever had. MATTHEWS: OK. OBAMA: This requires us to have binding labor agreements. On the environment, we`re actually negotiating with countries that almost have no environmental standards, but suddenly, they have to pay attention to excessive logging. They have to pay attention to excessive fishing. They have to pay attention to how they`re protecting their oceans. They`ve got to pay attention to wildlife trafficking.   I mean, we`re -- we`re embodying in this deal all the stuff that the environmental community and the labor community for years has been talking about as a requirement for them approving trade deals. This is better than the Colombian free trade agreement, the Panama free trade agreement and the Korea free trade agreement that we just passed a couple of years ago. So some of this has to do with, I think, people`s legitimate fears and concerns. Some of it has to do with politics. You know, Democrats aren`t adverse to, you know, making political arguments that aren`t always entirely accurate. We do it less often than the other side. MATTHEWS: Can we talk about these other -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You know, Henry Ford (INAUDIBLE) he used to say, If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse, OK? Henry Ford. So innovation. How many people can you hire with better trade agreements? What good will this do you guys out here? I want to know what the -- because we`re hearing about the hollowed-out manufacturing base of the older cities where I grew up, in Illinois, where there was this terrible loss of jobs in big cities like Flint, Erie, Pennsylvania. This is a booming part of the country. This has got Tyson`s Corner, the most exuberant shopping mall in the world out here, world famous. You`ve got money. OK, let`s talk jobs. You got any? ASKIN: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: You going to create any?   ASKIN: We`re currently exporting -- about 60 percent of our current revenue is through exporting, and we are exporting knowledge workers. I mean, it`s services -- and that`s what other governments, other countries want. And by having the trade agreement, it will allow us to work in a level playing field so that we understand and we`re all working with the same rules. MATTHEWS: It isn`t this -- I`ve been reading about this, that people -- higher-paid people, better-educated, certainly -- they will be the winners. DR. ABHIJIT DASGUPTA, ZANSORS HEALTH CARE ANALYTICS: Yes. I think absolutely. What our company, Zansors, sells is, we`re creating innovative new products for health care using low-cost sensors and mobile apps, and being able to transmit that data to the people who need it, who are the doctors and the caregivers. MATTHEWS: Let me give you to Jim Corcoran. You`re the president of the Chamber of Commerce here. By the way, I love the way you said the other day, I didn`t get elected by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, but here you are! (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: But here you are, with these people! I mean -- (CROSSTALK) JIM CORCORAN, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA: And we`re independent. We support people -- MATTHEWS: OK -- CORCORAN: -- who support businesses. MATTHEWS: -- tell me about this part of the -- because there are parts of country like, of course, the Silicon Valley, 128 in Massachusetts. We know about that.   In this area, along the corridor (INAUDIBLE) people go to Dulles Airport. They see it on both sides of the highway. What is it about this area that works? Why is this place booming? CORCORAN: Well, you know, it`s interesting. In Virginia -- and I think we can say that Virginia is probably a microcosm of the United States economy. We`re exporting about $35 billion a year in products, and it`s evenly split between services and manufactured goods. And I would say to your question, it`s -- it`s education, it`s technology, it`s talent. We used to be the number one dairy-producing county in Virginia -- MATTHEWS: Yes. CORCORAN: -- 50 years ago. It was by far the largest -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we`re Silicon east. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that knowledge-based economy Debbie talked about just is so critical. But it`s an international economy we (INAUDIBLE) and anyone who works in business here would tell you that. OBAMA: But the one thing I think is important to point out, Chris, is there is this notion that somehow, high-end knowledge workers -- they benefit from trade. The average -- MATTHEWS: Is that true? OBAMA: -- Joe six-pack doesn`t. What is true is, is that every worker is going to need some skills. That doesn`t have to do with trade, that has to do with the nature of the economy because even if there`s no trade, you know, machines are going to displace routine work over time. And we`ve got to make sure that all our workers are engaged in lifelong learning so that they`re prepared for the new economy in which they are taking technology, taking tools -- you go into a factory these days, and it`s all computer- run.   Now, the guys who used to be there, they`re hired now not because of brawn but because they can work a machine. They can identify problems. They can help develop new products. But -- but this notion that somehow, it only benefits a handful -- I was down in Panama, and while we were down there, Boeing signed an agreement with a major airline down there, selling a whole bunch of airplanes, and the deal is probably worth several billion dollars. Let`s say $10 billion. Now, Boeing has suppliers everywhere in the country, and those suppliers, that supply chain, involves small companies that are making specialized parts. You can go into a little, small town far away from Seattle -- MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: -- and you`ll find people who are benefiting directly. They may not know it initially, but because of that order and all of the planes that we`ve been selling over the years, in part because of free trade agreements, in part because of things like the Export/Import Bank, that`s benefiting manufacturing workers, not just service workers. When you go into the agricultural sector -- you know, Gerry just said that Fairfax has changed in terms of dairy, but we are still the preeminent agricultural producer in the world. It is a huge part of our rural economy. So trade isn`t just benefiting San Francisco and Manhattan. Trade is benefiting, you know, tiny towns in Iowa and in Nebraska and in Montana because we produce food better than anybody else does, and other countries want it. But in order for us to be able to sell our beef in Japan, we`ve got to be able to pry open those markets. And when I hear critics of the possibility of us instituting the most progressive trade deal in our history -- their answer, I guess, is the status quo. The status quo is not working for us. You think about how many Japanese cars are being driven here in the United States. You go to Tokyo, there`s not an American car in sight. Why would we want to keep that status quo, as opposed to have a new deal in which Japan has to open up its markets so that Chrysler, Ford and GM can start competing in those markets? (END VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: Still ahead, more of my meeting with the president. What does he say to the towns and districts hit hardest by trade, places like Flint, Michigan, and north Philly, where I spent my early years? All those factory jobs are gone. What happens now to those people? Will this deal help them? What does he say to the Democrats in those districts?   And later, my HARDBALL interview with President Obama. What`s the commander-in-chief say is happening right now as U.S. Navy ships are blocking an Iranian convoy bringing weapons to Yemen? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Still ahead on HARDBALL, my one-on-one interview with President Obama. We`ll hear from the President on this confrontation at sea with the naval forces of Iran. It`s all coming up here. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and part two of my discussion with President Obama, as he makes his case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in the face of opposition from progressive members of his own party. I began by asking the president what happened to those good American factory jobs where people could work and make a living straight out of high school? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: If you go to my old neighborhood, where I grew up, in North Philly, where it was -- my grandpa was the local Democratic committeeman. OBAMA: Yes. MATTHEWS: But he worked in a factory two subway stops away. He could work at a good job.   My uncle Charlie worked for Bud, Boeing, those big -- those -- you could come out of high school at 17 and earn enough living for the whole family. Yes, you know about this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. MATTHEWS: And, Gerry -- and that`s gone. And those people say, what happened to that? How come we`re not the winners? The Democratic Party looks out for the losers, in many cases. You guys are all the winners. OBAMA: Wait, wait, wait, I`ll -- I want to correct that. MATTHEWS: Well, help me out here. OBAMA: The Democratic Party looks out for middle-class folks who are playing by the rules, working hard and folks who are trying to get into the middle class. And we`re happy when people succeed. I want -- I want these two small businesses -- MATTHEWS: What about the people that need help in those --   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- old industrial areas? OBAMA: And the way we`re going to help them is to make sure that they`re getting the education they need or their kids are, they`re getting the training that they need. And we`re going to make sure that there are rules of the global trading system that work for U.S. companies and U.S. goods. And there`s one last part of this that we haven`t talked about, the specific deal that we`re trying to organize, which is in the Asia-Pacific Region, the big 800-pound gorilla out there is China. Now, China is not a signatory to this deal. But China`s gravitational pull in that region is powerful. They don`t play by the same rules. They, you know, are coercing a lot of these smaller countries to enter into trade deals that exclude or disadvantage U.S. companies, exclude or disadvantage U.S. workers, that take our intellectual property. They don`t have high standards in terms of labor or environmental protections. And if we don`t get this done, if we`re not the ones engaged out there writing the rules, and China is writing the rules in the fast-growing market, the most populous region of the world, we`re going to be locked out. MATTHEWS: I`ve got to end with one point. There`s a pattern over the last 30, 40 years, I have noticed. Democratic presidents, from Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton -- and he still supports TPP -- I heard him over in Tokyo. He`s for it. OBAMA: Right. MATTHEWS: Why did the leaders of the country -- do you see a bigger picture than the average senator? I`m giving you a break here, because I think there is an argument here. Does the national interest -- is there a bigger argument than, say, Ohio vs. the country or Ohio vs. the future or Pennsylvania?   Because I look at those senators I do respect, and they disagree with you on this. OBAMA: Well, I -- MATTHEWS: What`s the difference in perspective? OBAMA: I -- I think there are a couple of things. One is that local congressmen, local senators, the -- they feel -- particularly if they`re Democrats, they feel the pain of folks who have been displaced by trade in the past. MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: And that`s pretty, you know, powerful. I mean, if you go through a small town that lost its main manufacturer, you know, and you -- you talk to somebody who`s 55, 60, 70 years old and they talk about the loss there of community and dignity -- MATTHEWS: Sure. OBAMA: -- of work, that`s a hard thing. So -- so, I understand sort of what they`re going through. But my point is we -- we have to understand what the answer is. We`re not going to eliminate globalization. We`re not eliminating technology. We`re not eliminating the fact that we`re going to have to train our workers better and we`re going to have to compete.   The question is, do we do it under rules where we can succeed, or we do it under rules that are set by China and do we lose? And -- and one last point that I -- I`d add, part of what is part of the package that we`re trying to promote right now is a significant expansion of trade assistance that is provided to folks who do potentially get displaced. It`s about double what it currently is, which means that we can help more workers get retrained, work at community colleges. And that is going to allow them to compete. But we cannot simply cut ourselves off thinking somehow that us not competing in 95 percent of the world is going to benefit us. And, you know, I`ve got to say, Chris, that some of the information that has been getting thrown out there plays into legitimate fears that Democratic voters have, and progressives have, but it -- it`s simply not true. It`s simply not the facts. And I`m willing to go through, step by step, every one of the arguments that they`ve made and knock them down, because they`re not accurate. They may apply to previous trade deals. They sure don`t apply to this one. MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton said -- I`ve got to be -- cause trouble here, Mr. President. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton said yesterday the economy is stalling. Is it? ASKIN: I disagree. I mean, I know we`re adding jobs. We`re actually providing a -- we have a call center here in Virginia. And we are providing call center support for our work that we`re exporting. So we`re bringing that work in -- into the U.S., and it`s not going -- it`s not being outsourced. MATTHEWS: OK. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Jim, she said small business is stalling in this country yesterday. CORCORAN: I`d say it`s growing at a slower rate, Chris. And -- OBAMA: Well, it actually -- (CROSSTALK) OBAMA: And, actually, it has grown at a slower rate this quarter, primarily because of weaknesses in Europe. And the dollar has gotten strong because of the fact that we`re growing faster than everybody else, which -- which raises one last issue that you will hear a lot, and that`s this whole issue of -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I know, the currency issue, manipulation of currency. OBAMA: And -- and I`ll just say this. We have pushed really hard to make sure that China is not manipulating its currency and a couple other countries aren`t. And we`ve had some success. But what we are working with Congress on are provisions that allow us to monitor this and -- and to make sure that folks are not manipulating their currency. We can`t do it, though, in a way that is so haphazard that it ends up affecting the ability of our Federal Reserve, for example, to engage in monetary policy to try to put people back to work.   But -- but the -- the truth is, is that we are the strongest economy among the advanced economies right now. And the -- the main reason -- the main way that we`re going to strengthen the economy and keep the momentum that we`ve had over the last six years is to adopt the agenda that I`ve talked about. Let`s rebuild our infrastructure all throughout this area. In this area of Fairfax, they need a much improved transportation system. We could be putting people back to work right now. We could be making sure that we are expanding, you know, the kind of research and development around things like precision medicine that the doctor talked about, so that individuals are getting better health care. There`s huge growth in that area. We know what to do, but part of the recipe for us succeeding and growing is making sure that we write trade rules that benefit U.S. companies and U.S. workers. And that`s exactly what this trade deal does. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. President. OBAMA: Thank you. (END VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: Up next: my exclusive one-on-one interview with the president, as those U.S. Navy warships try to block Iran from delivering weapons to war-torn Yemen. You will hear from the commander in chief himself. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here now is my exclusive interview with President Obama.   (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: Mr. President, we`re all watching what`s going on with the Iranian navy. How do we avoid -- it seems like the old Cuban Missile Crisis, where we`re trying to send signals back and forth. What signal are you sending, as commander in chief, to the Iranians? OBAMA: Well, we`ve been actually very straightforward to them. Right now, their ships are in international waters. There`s a reason why we keep some of our ships in the Persian Gulf region. And that is to make sure that we maintain freedom of navigation. And what we`ve said to them is, is that if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that`s a problem. And we`re not sending them obscure messages. We send them very direct messages about it. My hope is generally that we can settle down the situation in Yemen. That`s always been a fractious country with a lot of problems. It`s very poor. And, right now, there are a lot of people inside Yemen suffering. What we need to do is bring all the parties together and find a political arrangement. It is not solved by having another proxy war fought inside of Yemen. And, you know, we have indicated to the Iranians that they need to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. MATTHEWS: How do you keep a coordination with the Egyptians and the Saudi navies? They also are in that area, and they might engage with the Iranians. How do you avoid a confrontation there? OBAMA: You know, ultimately, when it comes to the seas, we are obviously the dominant force. And we`re coordinating closely with all of our allies in the region, sending a message that, rather than another conflict in the region, we need to settle this down. MATTHEWS: What about the Iranians and the Russians? They just conducted this -- they`re going to buy the S-300s. They`re going to use surface-to- air missiles.   Doesn`t that put us in the situation and the Israelis in the situation where, if they do go ahead and weaponize their nuclear program, they will have a fantastic defense system against any attack on their nuclear facilities? OBAMA: Well, you know, this is a sale that`s been pending for six years. In fact, the Russians stopped it, at my request, as we were putting together -- MATTHEWS: Right. OBAMA: -- the sanctions that ultimately brought the Iranians to the table. You know, it`s of concern. We object to it, particularly because, right now, we`re still negotiating to make sure that they don`t get a nuclear weapon. But, as I said before, Chris, we have to keep this in perspective. Our defense budget is just a little under $600 billion. Theirs is a little over $17 billion. Even if they`ve got some air defense systems, if we had to, we could penetrate them. Now, my goal is not to resolve conflicts and tensions in the region through more war. My goal is to make sure that we are able to negotiate a deal that we can verify, that ensures that Israel is safe and ensures that our -- neighbors like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are safe, and that there`s not a nuclear arms race in the region. But, ultimately, it`s going to be up to the Iranians to make sure that they -- that they come to the table prepared to memorialize what has already been agreed to. There are details that have to be worked out. They could walk away over these next three months. But if, in fact, we get a deal that the world community can verify and trust, then that`s the best path forward. It`s not going to eliminate all the other conflicts that we may have with Iran -- MATTHEWS: Yes. OBAMA: -- including what we`re seeing with respect to Yemen or what`s happening in Syria.   But what it does do is create a climate and an atmosphere in which potentially we can start lessening some of the tensions. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Another area I know you care about -- I certainly do -- is Africa. And on your feelings about watching those refugees, 950 people drowning, just trying to find a life, and then also Kenya, a country we all care about, a very moderate country, pro-Western, getting terrorized as college kids, who are the hope of their families, getting killed because they`re Christians. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Are you going to still go to Kenya? OBAMA: I am going to still go to Kenya. Look, it`s a heartbreaking situation. There`s a lot of tumult and chaos around the world right now. And part of our goal, as the world`s leading superpower, is to work with partner countries to try to resolve conflicts, to be ruthless in going after terrorism. But we`re not going to do that by ourselves, and we`re not going to do it just by deploying more Marines in every country that has these problems. We`ve got to build up their capacity in these areas, so that they`re not recruiting centers and safe havens for terrorist activity. We`re seeing some success. In other areas, we`re still having problems. Somalia is actually improving from where it was 20 years ago. But it`s still not where it needs to be. And it still has these hotbeds of terrorist activity that spill over into Kenya. When it comes to the refugee problem from Libya, again, that results from the fact that you have tribal conflicts and, in some cases, factions or religious differences inside of Libya that are creating chaos.   But Libya actually has a lot of oil, has a lot of gas, a relatively small population. They could be a successful country. So what we`re seeing in a lot of these areas is failures of governance -- MATTHEWS: Yes. OBAMA: -- governments that have no civil society. They`re not creating the kinds of economic policies that work for people. And our solutions are going to be ones that we have to shape with the world community, with the region. And some of it is going to take time. But I always tell people we have to maintain some perspective on this. The Middle East and North Africa are going through changes that we haven`t seen in our generation. I think the Islamic world is going through a process where they have to isolate and push out the kind of extremism that we`ve seen expressed by ISIL. And that`s a generational project. What our job is in the meantime is to make sure that we are protecting Americans, we`re protecting our interests, that we`re maintaining things like freedom of navigation, and that we`re partnering with the best elements of those communities in order to be successful. It`s going to take some time. But I remind people that, you know, there actually is probably less war and less violence around the world today than there might have been 30, 40 years ago. It doesn`t make it any less painful. But things can get better. We just have to be vigilant and we have to have strong partners. MATTHEWS: Thanks, Mr. President. OBAMA: Appreciate it. MATTHEWS: Thanks for your time. OBAMA: Thank you.   MATTHEWS: Thank you. OBAMA: You bet. (END VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: When we return: reaction to what we heard from the president today. And we will hear the other side of that trade fight that`s splitting Democrats right now. Progressives are speaking out loudly against this deal. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the fiercest opponents of the proposed transpacific partnership trade deal are usually President Obama`s natural allies, unions worried cheaper wages abroad will further undercut their dwindling membership salaries here at home, environmentalist and human rights advocates insists the deal further opens U.S. markets to foreign companies that place profits over worker safety and productivity over curbing pollution. In my interview, the president called out Senator Elizabeth Warren for her opposition. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Elizabeth. We`re allies on a whole lot of issues, but she`s wrong on this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who has her own concerns about the deal. Senator, I know you`re concerned about the currency manipulation here and the president seemed to address that saying he`s going to moderating it and they`re going to make sure that nobody is going to be manipulating currency like the Chinese have done. Your thoughts on that? SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Well, Chris, first of all, the language in fast track just isn`t strong enough and I should start by saying we know we`re in a global economy. I want to make sure we`re exporting products, not jobs. And when you talk about currency manipulation, right now we`ve seen when Japan was manipulating their currency that the Japanese auto companies actually were making more profit by that artificial discount in their price than they were on anything else. They sell to us, we can`t sell to them. They`ve manipulated their currency. So we`re going to have to do fast track authority on trade then we better have you have to enforcement to make sure we can`t have countries manipulating their currency. MATTHEWS: Are you one of the senators that the president was talking who are just very pro-labor and anti-trade, because I notice your record is pretty much you voted against the Columbia trade deal, you voted against the central American deal, and you voted against the one in 2002. You do have a track record of opposition. So, is this just part of that, what you`re doing now? STABENOW: Well, Chris, I have voted for trade agreements when they made sense for people in Michigan, for businesses and workers. MATTHEWS: Which ones? STABENOW: -- and people in the country.   Korea -- and I`ll give a shout-out to the president. President Bush negotiated a Korea trade agreement that was bad for manufacturing, the auto companies. President Obama came in and fixed it. The UAW and the automobile companies supported it, and I supported it as well. So, there have been others. But frankly, we`re at a point in time where we don`t need another race to the bottom on wages -- MATTHEWS: OK. STABENOW: -- and environmental standards and so on. We need a race to the top. You want to fast track something, fast track the middle class. MATTHEWS: This has gotten rather ferocious. Senator Elizabeth Warren who a lot of people respect, not just people on the left respect her a lot for integrity, saying that this is basically going to help the rich get richer and leave everybody else behind. And then the president comes out today on our program tonight and says, basically, look, don`t you trust me. I`ve been looking out for middle class ever since I got to be president. Getting the jobless number down, getting the economy back. Why would I be out hurting people who are working people? Who -- it seems like both believe what they`re doing. So, tell me what you think of the president`s position. It`s at odds with you right now. STABENOW: Well, Chris, I support this president. He has done more to get us out of a hole and get us on the right kind of track in the economy than any president I think maybe ever. I appreciate that he has enforced more trade agreements than anyone else. What I disagree in terms of the toughness of this fast track process. Frankly, I`m never going to forget sitting in Greenville, Michigan, a little town in west Michigan, when a company that makes refrigerators was talking about moving -- moved to Mexico after NAFTA. We`re trying to get them to stay and they finally said, senator, with all due respect, you can`t compete with $1.57 an hour in wages. Well, you know want, I don`t want to race down to that? MATTHEWS: Yes.   STABENOW: We want to race up and that`s what this is really about. It`s not about trade. It`s about is it going to be a trade that increases the middle class or loses the middle class? MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you, Senator Debbie Stabenow -- STABENOW: Thank you. MATTHEWS: -- of Michigan. Please come back. Let`s bring in the roundtable right now: former U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, "Salon`s" Joan Walsh, and Heather McGee of Demos. Congressman, let me ask you about this. This is a battle among people that generally agree on most things. Democratic -- mostly progressives. I mean, most of the progressives are against the president. What do you think of this fight? HAROLD FORD (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I hope the president prevails. I think many of the concerns raised by my former colleagues, and Debbie and I served in the Congress together, as well other progress are legitimate concerns. Let`s try to address them quick. One, with regard to currency -- remember, we engaged in extensive bond buying here in the U.S. in `09 to create monetary easing to revive investment and spending and it did it. Now, you have the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan doing the same thing for their economies. Hopefully, we`ll stimulate spending there and give people more power to buy things which we do export our goods there we`ll be able to buy them. Two, we talk about the labor concerns and environmental concerns. This is the strongest labor and environmental concern package of protections that we`ve seen in any trade agreement, to the president`s point he made earlier. And three, when people talk about trade -- remember trade agreements and trade are different. Some of the bad things have happened. Income inequality have been exacerbated by a number of things, perhaps including trade, globalization, technology, and I would argue flawed tax and education systems in America have also contributed to it. But most of these countries that we have a bad deal, we actually don`t have a deal with. Trade agreements actually allow us to protect not only the U.S. companies competing there but U.S. workers. Have they have been perfect? No.   I heard Trumka ask the question or Ed ask the question earlier. Will this ensure that wages go down and jobs don`t leave? Of course you cannot ensure that. But does this put the American companies and American worker in a stronger and a better position? You bet it does. So, I hope it passes. MATTHEWS: So, you`re for it. Let me go to Heather. HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS: Well, I think I would love for there to be a little more honesty about what this is really about. This massive deal is actually not about trade. It`s about 14 things, and trade is the smallest piece of it, right? So, take something like the investors state provision which is what Senator Warren has really said, this worries me because it allows multi-national corporations and foreign companies to sue our government for the laws that we pass. Well, those have been rising. FORD: But this bill doesn`t allow for that. (CROSSTALK) MCGHEE: It does -- 150 in the past three years is a good example. Big ag suing Mexico who is trying to address its obesity problem by taxing high fructose corn syrup, right, and they won $100 million of taxpayer money from Mexico. We don`t want that -- FORD: That concern is legitimate, but the text of the pact doesn`t allow for that. It says that any trade provision -- any provision this trade pact that contradicts U.S. law is not effective. It`s not -- it doesn`t go into effect. So, I hear you, but I don`t know how it`s better for it to be written that be the way it`s written in the pact that the president supports. That`s a legitimate concern. JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: When I listen to you talk about it, it sounds like a decent deal. But people who are reading it are saying that language isn`t there yet. It`s not a done deal, and let`s also separate the trade deal from the fast track provision because if it comes back, the president said, you know, it`s not done, they will have three months to read it -- great. They have three months to read it and they can do nothing but vote it up or down. There can`t be any --   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That`s been the case of the every trade deal ever done. It`s fast track. WALSH: For the last several decades. MATTHEWS: You can`t amend it to death. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Here`s my question about the Democratic Party. Democratic Party wins when it`s a combination of all interest groups and something value added, something bigger than that. With Bill Clinton, it was something bigger than that. When it devolves down to just interest groups, just its regional concerns, its ethnic concerns, it dies and it loses. That`s my concern. I think this president is trying to represent the whole country. By the way, it`s hell of a debate. We`re going to continue it on this program. The roundtable is staying with us. When we come back, the other hot story the president talked about: Iran and U.S. Navy`s efforts to block Iranian ships from delivering weapons to Yemen. This could get hot. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Tomorrow on HARDBALL, Senator Chuck Schumer is going to be with us. The future leader of the Senate Democrats says he`s against the transpacific partnership trade deal as it stands. He`ll be here tomorrow to make his case. HARDBALL back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back with our round table. A dozen U.S. Navy ship are in the Arabian Sea monitoring nine Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels inside Yemen. As the president told me early today, the administration has put Iran on notice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What we have said to them is, is that if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that`s a problem. And we`re not sending them obscure messages. We sent them very direct messages about it. My hope is generally that we can settle down the situation in Yemen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Congressman, this is hairy, and I just wonder what we`re going to do here. We`re facing them down saying you can`t continue to carry that material to Yemen.   FORD: You have to wonder what the Iranians are thinking as they hope that the Congress will approve the framework that eventually gets worked out. MATTHEWS: On the nuclear deal. FORD: On the nuclear deal. WALSH: Right. FORD: And if you`re the president, you have to worry deeply that this is the only emboldens critics, Democrats, Republicans alike to approving the deal, because in the middle of this deal, if the Iranians think the best way to assure the American people and the U.S. Congress they need well is perhaps send arms to people in Yemen whom we`re opposed to and want to upset in that government, and -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And also to buy the state-of-the-art missile systems to shoot Israel planes if they try to -- (CROSSTALK) WALSH: As the president says, that`s been in the works for a long time. This is a nuclear deal. This is a nuclear deal. It`s not an everything deal. On the other hand, I think there`s a lot of theater going here on both side. They`ve got their hard liners. He`s got his hard liners. The ships haven`t moved yet. I believe diplomacy will work in this situation, too. FORD: I`m for an agreement, but I`m just saying --   WALSH: I know you are, I know you are. FORD: -- this is not reassure Congress in any way -- MATTHEWS: You surprise me. Joan, you have taken an optimistic view of geopolitics. I think it`s great. I love the way you talk. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, Joan Walsh. We`ll be back to battle the trade issue again and again. And Heather McGhee, thank you for joining. You as well, you`re very aware on this issue more than I am. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: 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. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>