CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Clinton versus Bush? Don`t bet on it. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. And campaigns matter. Some candidates look better after them and some look much worse. For months, the right wing has been running a campaign against Hillary Clinton. That campaign has been relentless on conservative media, among Republicans on Capitol Hill and among all the Republican candidates for president. Long before they make their candidacies official, they make their contempt for Hillary Clinton official. The pounding on Benghazi and the e- mail server has been non-stop, and it`s worked. We`ve got the polls to show it, polls that show not just lowered favorability or higher unfavorability for Secretary Clinton but lowered numbers of honesty and trustworthiness. Jeb Bush has also suffered in the polls. These many weeks of playing defense on Iraq and other issues have left him half the candidate he was heading into this race. Once seen as the prohibitive favorite, he`s now battling his way in the pack, just one of several Republican contenders fighting to stand out. Well, joining me right now is Stephanie Cutter, the former deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama back in 2012, former RNC chair Michael Steele, who`s an MSNBC political analyst, and Joe Scarborough, who`s the host of "MORNING JOE." Well, according to a new poll from CNN/Opinion Research today, 46 percent have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, 50 percent do not have a favorable opinion of her. It`s the first time those numbers have been upside-down since 2003. But look at this, a majority, 52 percent, say Clinton does not care about people like them. That`s bad news. It`s also an even split on whether Clinton is inspirational or not, and she`s lost ground on the question of honesty and trust. On that question, only 42 percent now say she`s honest and trustworthy, while 57 percent say she`s not trustworthy. I want to start with you, Stephanie. You`ve dealt with this, trying to protect candidates over the years. This number shift -- is this because of the constant talk about these issues like Benghazi and the server? Have they just worn her numbers down? STEPHANIE CUTTER, 2012 OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I first want to say this is one poll of many polls, and the polls do show her still winning in the horse race and have... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: We`ll get to that number. She`s still ahead of Jeb. CUTTER: But in terms of, has the beating taken -- had an impact? Yes, absolutely. There`s been largely a one-sided conversation happening out there about some of these issues, whether it`s the foundation or Benghazi. And I think when we see her announce her campaign, which they announced would be happening June 13th with a rally in New York, maybe some of the other side of this story could be put out there in a much more forceful way. MATTHEWS: Michael? MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think Stephanie is right. I mean, I think the reality of it is -- and this goes back to conversations we`ve had over a year ago -- when the, Republicans going back to 2011 and `12, made the decision that Hillary was going to be one of the central players in their presidential drama. And they have relentlessly gone after her on the least little thing to the most important thing. And so yes, after a while, like a cut by 1,000 knives... MATTHEWS: Yes. STEELE: ... you start to bleed, so -- but this is -- this is good for Hillary this early. If this were next year, if we were in June of next year and these numbers are at this level, that presents a real problem. So does it give someone like a Bernie Sanders a chance to make some noise? Yes, so he`ll have 5,000 people show up at a rally. So Hillary`s got to pay attention to this because those cuts are beginning to cost her. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the big question for you, Joe, and that is, is she better off playing rope-a-dope? She didn`t campaign for a long time, didn`t say she was a candidate, still isn`t saying she`s a candidate, hasn`t gone on the offense, has accepted these blows. Would she have been better off running an aggressive -- aggressive offensive campaign against the Republicans from the day they started attacking her? Would it have made any difference? JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE": Well, I mean, Hillary`s problem is Jeb`s problem. They -- they both are allowing others to define them. Hillary`s problem, though, is not Rush Limbaugh or "The National Review" or "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, it`s that they`re attacking "New York Times" reports. They`re attacking "Washington Post" reports. They`re attacking "Wall Street Journal" reports. And there are a lot of questions out there that she can`t answer right now, that she doesn`t want to answer right now. And so she`s sitting back and she`s on the defensive. And if she could get out and explain away the server, if she could get out and explain a lot of the foundation issues, I`m sure a lot of these numbers would change. Jeb, though, has the same problem. Jeb is on the defensive. He`s fumbled around on George W. Bush being his top adviser to the Middle East. And you see a tale of two safe candidates who are actually seeing their numbers tank. It reminds me what happened to Giuliani and Hillary at this time during the cycle in 2007, and it`s the same problem. For Jeb to be losing support among evangelicals and moderates at the same time is very tough for him. For Hillary, to watch her numbers -- and I wrote them down from "The Washington Post" -- her numbers for women under 50 dropping from 72 percent to 48 percent... MATTHEWS: Yes. SCARBOROUGH: It`s pretty staggering. And both of these campaigns are too safe. They need to -- to start getting aggressive and punching back, or else they`re going to see those numbers fall, and they`re going to see the same problems that set in with Mitt Romney setting in with them. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at those numbers. Jeb`s been knocked off the top spot. According to the poll, having the Bush name is not necessarily a plus right now. Fifty-six percent say that Jeb Bush, the name he has, makes it less likely for Jeb to get their vote. Let`s go back to Stephanie on this. You know, the name Bush, is it bushed? Is it gone? I think it is. I -- I -- look at these numbers, I watch him falling back into the pack. Everybody knows who Jeb Bush is. But he -- but I think -- I think Joe`s right. He hasn`t been out there -- I can`t think of a strong performance by him yet this cycle, where he stood on TV and we all watched him give a barn burner. I haven`t heard one yet. CUTTER: No. I think that he hasn`t distinguished himself in any way, whether it`s -- you know -- the thing that people found appealable about him, regardless of his name, was that he stood up for things that he believed in, regardless of party, whether it`s immigration or Common Core. MATTHEWS: Common Core. CUTTER: And we haven`t seen him do that. We really haven`t seen him defend those policies. And he`s really has tried to blend in with the pack because he has a problem with conservatives. He also has a problem with the larger country the way he answered the question on Iraq. That should have been a no-brainer. No, of course, we shouldn`t have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now. But it took him three or four days to answer that question. MATTHEWS: Yes. I think Hillary`s campaign is responsible, to a large extent, for the trustworthy numbers because when you say you`re not going to answer questions, when you say, I`m going to run a controlled campaign, the message is -- you put the message out there. Nobody else did. STEELE: Everybody else is defining you but your own team, and... MATTHEWS: But you are -- you are defining one fact. I`m not answering any questions. STEELE: I`m not answering any questions, and... MATTHEWS: That`s a statement. STEELE: And of course, after a while, if you`ve got one side that`s saying, See, she won`t even respond to a question, and this is why, because she`s afraid of X, Y and Z, and you don`t respond to that, you get into this cycle where the public gets this perception that you think you`re somehow better, you`re somehow bigger than, and you don`t want to engage while everyone else is engaging. (CROSSTALK) SCARBOROUGH: ... damaging than that is a question that we all ask. Why isn`t she answering the question? STEELE: Right. SCARBOROUGH: Why -- why -- why won`t she hold a press conference? Why won`t show stop being so controlled? You know, if -- if you`ve got -- if all of these issues are just being drummed up by the right-wing noise machine, well, it`s very easy to go out there and hold a press conference and answer all the questions. She can`t do that right now because they -- they`ve made up to $200 million. There are very complicated relationships that none of us understand right now. And maybe they`re all legal and maybe they`re all on the up and up, but if I were Hillary Clinton, I would have scores of lawyers poring through everything, trying to figure out where I was going to get blind-sided. And again, maybe they`re all legitimate, but make no mistake about it. The Clintons made this much harder for themselves than they needed to if they knew she was running for president again. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take these numbers down. We can break down this "trustworthy" issue even further. The new "Washington Post"/ABC poll, as I`ve been talking about, shows over the course of a year, Hillary Clinton has lost 12 percentage points in the honest and trustworthy category. Look at that shift, from a pretty strong advantage in `14 in June, this time last year, to now being 11 points down in that department. You know, I think it`s probably -- you know, let me just ask. I think if you ask the question a little different, you get a little different answer. Is Hillary Clinton private in her manner? Is she a person that doesn`t like to talk a lot about herself? Is she a person who prefers to sort of live in that world she lives in, the Hillary world? I think most people would say yes. Now, some people would find that bad, and other people would say we can live with that. She`s not going to change. As president, she`s going to be just the way she is. Personalities don`t change. But it may well be her up against a Rubio, they`ll say, I still want her because she looks like a grown-up. CUTTER: You know, it`s interesting. That poll I don`t think even asked about -- they asked about Jeb Bush, but they didn`t ask about other Republicans, at least not as far as I could see. But on the Jeb Bush question, he`s only a couple of points above her in terms of trustworthiness so part of this... MATTHEWS: I was asking about that myself. CUTTER: ... is also moving from secretary of state to back into being a politician. This is a natural fluctuation in these numbers. MATTHEWS: Right. STEELE: I think the other thing, though, when you look at these numbers on trustworthiness, the public, I think, in large measure bakes that into their calculation already because the general mood about -- the public has with government and government officials, they don`t trust them. They don`t like them to begin with. So I don`t know if that is as much as negative for a candidate in 2016 as it would have been in 2008 or 2004. MATTHEWS: Yes, I remember years ago -- Joe may remember this -- maybe before you were in the house, Joe, but Dick Gephardt was so despondent because he`s a completely honest politician, and he had seen a poll that showed, Do you believe that Congress people, members of Congress, when they go home at night from the office on Capitol Hill, steal office equipment, Joe, on their way home. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And the poll said, Yes, we believe that on the way home... SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my! MATTHEWS: ... they take typewriters out the door. And he said, Once they believe that -- I get chills thinking how horrible that is -- if they think that about politicians... SCARBOROUGH: You know, my... MATTHEWS: ... why worry about outside speaking deals? You`re already a thief. SCARBOROUGH: My mother would always send around that spam e-mail that I`m sure we all get through the years that said, Do you know of all the members of Congress, 287 are indicted, 104 -- these outrageous numbers! And like, after about the fourth time, I told her, I said, Mom, you know I`m a member of Congress. Stop sending this around! (LAUGHTER) SCARBOROUGH: But people want to expect the worst. But with the Clintons, as we`ve seen time and time again, they`re usually smart enough to beat the rap, whether it`s a legitimate rap or not. And at the end of the day, it only insulates them. It puts an extra layer of skin on their political character, and they move forward. I think at end of the day -- these poll numbers matter because at the end of the day -- and I`m going to upset a lot of people on the Republican side -- I think at end of the day, we`re probably going to have Clinton versus Bush because I don`t believe Americans have had a good look at who Jeb Bush is. They remember the last Bush. They didn`t like him that much. They liked the first Bush, but they think... MATTHEWS: Well, here you go -- SCARBOROUGH: ... this Bush is like the last Bush. I know Jeb. He`s one of the few politicians I can say I know pretty darn well. I`ve seen him work up close. He is nothing like his brother in terms of... MATTHEWS: That`s what I hope. I hope that, Joe, but I think this campaign has not allowed him, for whatever reason, to distinguish himself. SCARBOROUGH: Right. STEELE: I think that`s right. MATTHEWS: He should have said, I would have never taken us into Iraq, period. Just say it! SCARBOROUGH: And let me say, Chris, I`ve talked to the Bush people and they understand that was a mistake. MATTHEWS: Yes. SCARBOROUGH: And I will say even for somebody like myself, I`ve always seen Jeb as a guy who is very conservative but also moderate in all the right ways temperamentally. I was stunned when he made the mistake on campaign trail, which, of course, it happens... MATTHEWS: Yes, well... SCARBOROUGH: ... when he said that George W. Bush would be his top adviser. I think it`s that whole Bush loyalty thing that I think has really actually hurt him. And he`s going to have to figure how to run -- he says he`s his own man. He`s got to run as his own man, or he`s not going to win. MATTHEWS: Last look at the polls. The latest "Washington Post"/ABC poll we`ve been talking about, Hillary Clinton`s ahead of Jeb Bush by just 3. She was way ahead of him, by the way, 12 points just in March. That is a decline. I think campaigns matter. Stephanie, you know that. Michael, you know that. I don`t think Bush is running a good campaign. I think Hillary is running a defensive campaign. It hasn`t been offensive... (CROSSTALK) STEELE: I don`t think Bush is running a campaign at all at this moment, which is part of his problem. And so... MATTHEWS: He`s raising money. STEELE: He`s raising money. So I think for him, his launch will be that moment -- to Joe`s point -- where he gets his brother off his back, and he has to clear the distance between them. MATTHEWS: Yes. STEELE: And I think these polls also reflect that -- what I said before, the voters have baked it in, and despite they don`t trust Hillary or care for her in that regard, she`s still beating the Republicans at this point. MATTHEWS: It`s a fascinating case. If this guy can win the nomination of the Republican Party with a Mexican-born wife, for Common Core, a man who has an intellect and says, I`m not my brother, these are hurdles he`s going to have to get over. But I still think he may be the best candidate. We`ll see. Joe Scarborough, thank you for joining us tonight. We`ll see you tomorrow morning on "MORNING JOE." SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Chris. MATTHEWS: Early up at -- is it 5:30 or 6:00 Eastern time? I can`t keep track lately. SCARBOROUGH: It`s early enough, 6:00 o`clock. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: 6:00 o`clock. Sometimes it`s even earlier. 6:00 o`clock tomorrow morning. SCARBOROUGH: Yes. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Stephanie. You are a star, and thanks for coming back here. Michael Steele, as always. We get used to the good guys here. Coming up -- So far, Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley -- don`t call him Marty -- are the only two Democrats challenging Hillary Clinton for the nomination -- but here`s the big one coming up -- former senator Jim Webb of Virginia may soon be the third candidate. He`s coming to sit right here in a moment. Stay for him. He`s a former U.S. combat veteran from Vietnam. He wants to talk about us and what`s going on. We also are going to talk about the former U.S. Marine being held in Iran right now. Congress is pushing to get Amir Hekmati released. And Montel Williams and Hekmati`s sister are here, right here. They`re coming next to make his case. And since when did the Republican Party get so politically correct? Ran Paul`s taking a pounding for bucking the party on national security. And Rudy Giuliani says he`s not running because he`s pro-gay marriage. Isn`t there room for someone who doesn`t toe the party line? Answer, no. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with how Rudy Giuliani is serving the Republican Party with its eviction notice. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`ve got more polling out today on the 2016 presidential race. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." According to a new poll from CNN and Opinion Research, Hillary Clinton`s toughest matchup right now nationally is against Rand Paul. It`s a 1-point race, Clinton 48, Paul 47. Clinton beats Marco Rubio by 3 points. It`s Clinton 49, Rubio 46. Same score against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, 49 to 46. Against Jeb Bush, Clinton`s, lead swells to 8 points, 51 to 43. And she`s well ahead of Ted Cruz. It`s a 9-point race there, Clinton 52, Cruz down at 43. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Jim Webb was a combat Marine in Vietnam. He received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and Navy Cross. He served as assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and was elected United States senator from Virginia, and he could soon be a Democratic contender for president. He`d likely be the only candidate in either party with combat military experience and one of a few with any military experience at all. How would he run against Hillary Clinton? And what would a Webb presidency actually look like? Jim Webb joins me right now. So those are the questions. You know, if you run for -- you know, first of all, let me ask you a question. I`ve always liked leaders like Yitzhak Rabin and Dwight Eisenhower. They tend to be -- they go to the presidency or the head of their country without anything to prove. They`ve been in battle. Jack Kennedy, for example -- he didn`t have to prove his guts as president. Lyndon Johnson, for whatever reason, thought he did. So I don`t want people being president to use this as some test of guts. I want that to be established before they get there. Now, that`s my judgment. So you are an interesting and attractive candidate for that reason. You`ve been there. You`ve been in combat. JIM WEBB (D-VA), FMR. SENATOR: Well, I`ve been able to have a pretty diversified professional life, totally by accident because after I was wounded, I ended up having to leave the Marine Corps. But I`ve spent four different periods in public service and then four different periods out doing other things. And I think we`ve been able to see the country as it is and have been able to accomplish things in government, but not have to rely on -- purely on government service for... MATTHEWS: A lot of the heroes of the op-ed pages, the pencil necks, the neocons, love to talk about "taking out" somebody. They use the military terminology without any idea what they`re talking about. They overestimate the benefits of war. They still think you can win a war. They still underestimate the cost of war because they have never been in one. You know both, the limitations of what you -- the Europeans, for example, I have heard, they know you don`t win wars, you survive wars. Churchill once said, it`s not who is right, it`s who is left, you know? They get it. We still sort of have this sort of bravado that we can go into a country like Iraq and come out happy. WEBB: Well, I think, as you know, I wrote a piece in "The Washington Post" five months before the invasion of Iraq warning that this was a strategic disaster if it were to happen, that it`s going to empower Iran, allow sectarian conflict to grow and those sorts of things, and I think we`re paying the price of that right now, but also paying the price for the way that the Arab spring was handled. At the same time... MATTHEWS: You saw a lot of that coming? WEBB: Yes. I spoke about it on the Senate floor. I spoke about the Iraq War, yes, at some cost to some of my friends at the time. MATTHEWS: Yes, military guys. (CROSSTALK) WEBB: But also warning about the consequences of the way that we handled the Arab spring, particularly the Libya situation. But, at the same time, I want to say I think I`m among the strongest advocates of the presence that we need to have in East Asia. And we`re looking now at situation now in the South China Sea that I have been speaking and writing about for 15 years now. MATTHEWS: Well, what`s the danger over there, from a militarized China? WEBB: We have been the guarantor of stability in that region ever since the end of World War II, at some cost here and there. But what China has been doing, along with growing its economy, is claiming areas in the South China Sea as their sovereign right. It`s a classic tactic over the years by an authoritarian, expansionist country, and that they have carved out an area in the South China Sea that is about two million square kilometers. It`s larger than the land mass of the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam combined. And over time, over the last several years, they have politicized this area. They have actually declared it as a prefecture in the Chinese governmental structure. And now they are militarizing it. And in order to maintain the stability in that region, we have to address these issues, not simply in a military way, but I think by now with economic -- potential economic concerns. MATTHEWS: How do we avoid a war with China? WEBB: I`m not as much worried about a direct conflict as I am in the imbalance over time that you have with an expansionist power. You saw this with Germany when they decided they wanted to create maritime power when they were basically a continental power. MATTHEWS: Yes. WEBB: You`re seeing it now with China moving toward what they call, what we call a blue water navy, an oceangoing navy. They are actually going to be conducting naval exercises in the Mediterranean with Russia right now. MATTHEWS: Yes. WEBB: And you see an intimidation of an entire region right now that will not come to the table. We need them -- we want them to be a positive contributor to the international environment. And they are -- their conduct has not been... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Remember when that plane was shot down, the EP-3 over there in the early part of this century? And I thought Hillary was a bit too hawkish on that. She wanted to -- she wanted -- I said, my God, be careful here. We`re not going to war with China. This country is war-weary right now. You know that. WEBB: It`s funny. I wrote a piece for "The Wall Street Journal" right after the plane was found in 2001. And it was about Chinese expansionism in the region and the measures that we should be taking as a country to make sure that we can promote stability over there. If you look over the generations, in Northeast Asia, it`s the only place in the world where the geographical interests of three historical powers intersect, Japan, Russia and China. And we have become the -- sort of the stabilizing factor in the region, and it`s vital. MATTHEWS: Yes. WEBB: And this is the... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So Obama is right to pivot to Asia, right? WEBB: We did it out of our office two years before Obama was elected. MATTHEWS: And you`re with -- and you`re with the trade deal? WEBB: I have questions about the trade deal. MATTHEWS: You`re not with the trade deal? WEBB: I have questions about the trade deal. MATTHEWS: What does that mean? You`re like Hillary Clinton. What do you mean? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: This is -- I thought you were different than Hillary. You have got questions. Are you for or against it, if you had to vote right now? WEBB: I would want to see the document. They haven`t shown... (CROSSTALK) WEBB: I would want to see the document before I would say, because there are a lot of downsides potentially in this document as well. MATTHEWS: So, you`re dodging this one right now. The combat warrior is dodging the trade issue. WEBB: I`m not dodging at all. I have issued public statements saying they need to show the actual document to the American people before... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Are we doing the right thing in trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with the Iranian government, the mullahs? Are we right trying to cut a deal so we avoid a war? (CROSSTALK) WEBB: I don`t think it`s to avoid a war. I think what we have seen right now is so much activity by Iran in the region that we have to make sure we don`t send the wrong signals into the region about whether we are acquiescing, with Iran eventually acquiring a nuclear weapon. That`s the problem with that agreement. And, by the way, we haven`t seen that agreement either. MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to one area where you... (CROSSTALK) WEBB: Well, may I make one more point about this, though? MATTHEWS: Sure. WEBB: And that is that, on those types of agreements, you do need the specific consent of the Congress. I said that in Iraq, when the Bush administration was also putting together the strategic framework agreement. MATTHEWS: So, you want to have -- you want a final -- you want a final approval of the deal? WEBB: Not just an approval. I think the Congress should actually vote on the specifics in the agreement itself. MATTHEWS: Yes, you mean a number of amendment votes. WEBB: Whatever it takes. MATTHEWS: Right. OK. WEBB: That`s what our Constitution says. MATTHEWS: So, when are you going to make a decision to run for president? WEBB: Fairly soon. MATTHEWS: It`s June. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Will it come this month? WEBB: You know, we`re doing this in a very careful way. There are huge consequences on the other end of an announcement. MATTHEWS: When does a candidate for president go from an I to a we? When did that happen? Everybody says, we`re deciding. But when you do take positions, it`s you taking the decision. WEBB: Well, I think it`s a collective we. MATTHEWS: Are you commander in chief material? WEBB: I would leave that to the voters. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: When are you going to do it? WEBB: I`m comfortable with making decisions with respect to our national security. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You agree with Hillary on trade. You agree with her on the -- no, I think she`s with the deal on Iran. But you haven`t decided whether... (CROSSTALK) WEBB: I haven`t -- no, this is about the country and not about any other candidate. MATTHEWS: You have faced greater dangers than me, sir, so thank you for coming on. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Senator Jim Webb, who served our country. Up next: the new push to free a former U.S. Marine held captive in Iran right now. This is serious business. Talk show host Montel Williams is waiting in the other room here to come in. And the Marine`s sister is also coming here to make the case to get this back home here. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the House Foreign Affairs committee held a hearing today on the Americans currently being held in Iran. Former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran Amir Hekmati is among those in prison in that country right now. He was charged with espionage while visiting his grandmother in Iran four years ago. And he was sentenced to death, before an appeals court reduced his sentence to 10 years in prison. In her testimony today, Amir`s sister, Sarah Hekmati, questioned the credibility, the very credibility of Iran`s charge that Amir was cooperating with a hostile government, and pled for his release. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HEKMATI, SISTER OF AMERICAN HELD IN IRAN: Relations between the U.S. and Iran are at a historic point. Even according to Amir`s Iranian attorney, how can the U.S. still be considered a hostile country to Iran when we sit across from them at the negotiating table for the first time in decades? It does not make sense to our family how previous American prisoners in Iran have been released when the United States had no diplomatic relations with Iran, and were not sitting across the negotiating table, much sooner than Amir. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Anyway, following the hearing, the committee unanimously -- the American committee -- a resolution calling for the immediate release of the United States citizens that Iran is currently being held captive. I`m joined now by the Sarah Hekmati, as well as former talk show host and former United States Marine Montel Williams, who is advocating for Hekmati`s release. Montel, thank you for a minute. I want to hear from you, Sarah. And you tried to make a kind of almost rhetorical appeal to Iran, like, don`t you get it, we`re talking. What is their motive here? Can you figure out, why they are holding your brother? HEKMATI: I wish I understood what leverage my brother had in this relationship between the U.S. and Iran. He has nothing to do with it. He is an innocent man. He was very transparent before he even went to Iran, just as a disclaimer, knowing that there were tensions. I served in the U.S. military. Would this be a problem when he applied for his visa? He was told, no, this is not going to be an issue. Two weeks into his trip, he was captured. MATTHEWS: Well, do they have some background mentality in Iran that, once an Iranian, always an Iranian, you can never leave, you can never serve another country? (CROSSTALK) HEKMATI: Well, according to them, he was an Iranian for two weeks, by default, because our parents were born in Iran. We were all born here. MATTHEWS: Ah. HEKMATI: So, when he traveled, he had to obtain Iranian citizenship in order to visit the country. But they`re holding his -- when we`re speculating, when they say his charge now is no longer espionage, it`s cooperating with a hostile country, we`re assuming that that has to do with his military service to the U.S., although, in the supreme leader`s mandate, there`s nothing written that says that a dual national cannot serve in a foreign country`s military. So, again, even his own attorney in Iran is saying that this is conflicting against their own Iranian legal mandates as well. MATTHEWS: Fellow Marine. You`re interested in this case because it`s a fellow Marine. MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: No question, sir. And the idea, the fact that he was a dual citizen, remember, he applied for his citizenship two weeks before he went to go visit his grandmother. He was born here in the United States. He served with honor wearing our uniform, wearing the uniform of a Marine. And we have a Marine that is sitting in prison now for 1,773 days. And the thing about this is that he himself has stated, I don`t want to be considered a pawn in these negotiations for the nuclear -- the nuclear talks. He just wants to be set free on the fact that, you know, he`s not cooperating with a foreign nation. He`s serving his country, and that`s what he did. MATTHEWS: Every time you meet an Iranian in this country who has moved here in the last 30, 40 people, you like the people. They`re very quick to adapt to our culture. You know they want to be part of this country. And I also hear what -- we were just talking before we went on the air a minute ago -- that the Iranian people like this country. HEKMATI: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: They -- and this -- this -- these tragic games where they say they are going to take a person, it does seem like they are looking for pawns. WILLIAMS: And his father is passing away now. He`s been suffering from cancer, and is literally dying. And so, from a compassionate standpoint, why not let this young man come home and see his family? Another thing, Chris, is this family has been doing this. I have to say this on their behalf. They are doing this, they are battling this fight around the world without any remuneration, without any help. And so if anybody out there could listen and understand that, you can follow me at Montel_Williams, but you can also donate, donate. Please give to giveforward.com/freeamir. MATTHEWS: We will give you another chance to do that. Here`s what White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Friday about the Americans being held captive in Iran. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will not allow these American citizens to be used as bargaining chips. We`re not going to negotiate for their release. They should be released because they are being unheld -- they are being held unjustly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I asked President Obama a while back about this very issue. Let`s take a look at what he said about the connection, if there is any, between grabbing your brother and the other Americans and these negotiations we`re involved in right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s not going to eliminate all the other conflicts that we may have with Iran, but what it does do is create a climate and an atmosphere in which potentially we can start lessening some of the tensions. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Are you hopeful, Montel and Sarah, that part of this deal in the next couple of weeks, we`re going to become a little more rapprochementy between these two countries? HEKMATI: Well, what I`m conflicted with is, yes, I want to remain optimistic, but, again, Amir has been there longer than any other American before him. And now we`re engaged face-to-face in these talks. So my question is, if our diplomacy moving forward is going to help release him, then why is he still there? It`s longer than others that were before him before we even had this engagement. So, again, Amir needs to be separated from that. MATTHEWS: It`s so weird. Some people think it`s because the ayatollah wants to show, even if we do cut a nuclear deal in their interest, we`re still going to show we don`t like them. What is that about? WILLIAMS: What we have to show -- and I`m sorry -- the president did it right here again. He`s yet to say Amir Hekmati`s name. It`s not come out of the president`s mouth. He`s the Marine. He wore the uniform to support and defend this Constitution. The president should say his name, because when he doesn`t, the Iranian Guards make sure Amir knows that. And they go into his cell and they say, look, your country doesn`t care about you because your president won`t even say your name. So, I know the vice president has reached out, but the president needs to say his name. MATTHEWS: Well, again, you can support the effort to free Amir Hekmati at the Web site giveforward.com -- giveforward.com/freeamir. And thank you, Montel. And thank you, Sarah Hekmati. Good luck with your brother. HEKMATI: Thank you very much. MATTHEWS: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Up next: The neocon death squad is coming out for Rand Paul. Is there any room in the Republican Party for somebody who doesn`t stick to the party orthodoxy? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) was shot dead after pulling a knife and advancing towards authorities who were trying to interview him. He was shot after he refused to drop that weapon. And, in China, 400 people remain missing after a cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze River. At least 15 have been rescued. Five people are confirmed dead -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the neocon death squad has been sicced on Rand Paul, have you noticed? Paul dared to declare war on his party`s hawks, blaming them for creating ISIS and for spying on your cell phones here at home. Now, they are out to purge this dove from the party. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We`re not going to defeat evil through weakness. Unfortunately, Senator Paul doesn`t seem to understand that. GEORGE PATAKI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Rand Paul made a terrible mistake. I just hope that we don`t have any terrible consequences. RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: This man is living in Never Never Land. REP. PETE KING (R), NEW YORK: Rand Paul should be a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president. Rand Paul does not belong in the Republican Party when he carries that message. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, he sounds like Bernie Sanders, not like some Republican running for president. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he prevails over you and other candidates, who would you support for commander-in-chief, Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, when I came out of my coma, I would support Rand Paul. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, besides being a dove, the party`s machinery appears ready to purge itself of a few other heretic viewpoints. Last night on FOX, Rudy Giuliani, perhaps the most hawkish man in the party, said he`d never pass muster in the primaries, and here`s why. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: I believe I can`t get nominated. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? GIULIANI: Because of my views on gay marriage. I`m in favor of gay rights. I`m in favor of gay rights. I`m pro-choice. I`m anti-abortion personally, but I`m pro-choice. And I am pro-immigrant and haven`t backed down from it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: In other words, the primary menu has been set. No substitutions at this little ole GOP diner. Nedra Pickler is the White House correspondent of "The Associated Press", Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent at "The Daily Mail", and Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist. Let me go -- Francesca, this looks like tight rules for admission. You must check all the boxes, you got to be a hawk, you got to be against - - you got to be tough on immigrants, no path to citizenship, you got to be against something called Common Core. You got to question the science about climate change, the whole thing or you`re not in. FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, DAILY MAIL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Rand Paul doesn`t necessarily need to be concerned what all the other GOP candidates think about him, but what he does need to be concerned about is what the voters think. And Quinnipiac actually took a poll after his filibuster that wasn`t a filibuster, and his numbers didn`t move at all. MATTHEWS: We got him tonight tied -- actually knocking off Hillary. CHAMBERS: Sure. MATTHEWS: He`s only one that`s challenging her. CHAMBERS: But within the Republican primary, his numbers, he`s in the second tier of candidates. And so all -- all this that he`s been doing hasn`t moved him up to the top of the GOP field. MATTHEWS: Yes, outside the GOP, people seem to like him. They like his independent cut. Something about him that says I`m not one of them. DAVID MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s exactly what it is, something about him that says I`m not one of those guys and every time he does this, you know, it hurts him among the mainstream conservatives who participate in primaries which is unfortunate, but there is a sliver of folks who actually agree with his libertarian tendencies in the Republican Party. The question is whether or not that sliver comes out to vote, because in a 20-candidate field, 15 percent looks like something. Has to get into the finals against Jeb Bush or somebody and then it`s going to be, you know, is he conservative enough? Is he not? MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m stunned, Nedra, by the simple fact, even somebody like Jeb Bush who`s got fortitude, I mean, he`s got -- he married somebody from a different country, he broke with the Bush sort of waspiness, you know, he`s certainly not W. in terms of IQ. He`s his own guy. And he wouldn`t have gone into the stupid war. He`s just loyal. But yet, even he has to buckle on so many things. It seems like this party is so -- it`s like homogenized milk. Everything has to be homogenized. No cream at the top, right? NEDRA PICKLER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it is striking that you have this many candidates and still their positions are all very similar. There isn`t one candidate who is running who supports gay marriage. MATTHEWS: And Jindal is like the high priest, saying everybody has to be exactly the same or he`s out. He`s no good. PICKLER: Well, Rudy Giuliani, he`s speaking from experience, right? He ran in 2008. He ran as a candidate. MATTHEWS: He tried to run -- run Ron Paul out of the party himself. PICKLER: That`s right. And he ran as a candidate who supported abortion rights and a that time civil unions is what we were talking about. MATTHEWS: And lived with two gay guys and he took so many heat for that, you know? PICKLER: He got run out of race. MCMAHON: But, you know, campaigns are about differences. And that`s why you can look at Rand Paul and you can say he`s crazy, but he may be crazy like a fox because there`s a certain sliver of the Republican base, the question is whether or not they vote. But there`s a certain sliver -- I mean, his father proved that. He had a huge cast of supporters financially and a lot of them -- MATTHEWS: Here`s some of the -- I`m sorry, Steve, here`s some of the action Rand Paul`s father Ron Paul went off on a FOX Business anchor for saying Senator Paul, his son has killed his chances of becoming the Republican nominee. Let`s watch the action. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RON PAUL (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I think you`re wrong, and I think what you`re saying is very discouraging because what you`re saying is truth is unbearable, and I say truth is only treason is an empire of lies. You know that you`re on the right track when everybody is after you because they -- the status quo can not stand the truth to be put out in the open. Most people in this country don`t believe the government anymore. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got it to just -- PAUL: And I think it`s very healthy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, that`s so true. I`ve got to think -- you know, I keep thinking, what`s the sweet spot right now in American politics? What`s the thing if you hit it, you win the presidential election. With Jack Kennedy in the `60s, a country`s sense of stasis, we`re stuck. You know, we lost our momentum from World War II. We`re getting slowed down. Let`s get this country moving again. He hit the point. What`s that magic message say? It`s I don`t think I`m part of the system, I`m one of the guys, and this guy is saying, I don`t know what it is yet and maybe Hillary will get because she`s the first woman candidate or maybe her simply resume, but there`s a sweet spot no one has gotten it. PICKLER: And Rand Paul is trying to run on anti-Washington-ism. He says none of these other candidates get it and he`s tapping into that. But I don`t think that`s strategic for him. He actually has been talking about this for a long time. MATTHEWS: Sure. PICKLER: He believes it, and he`s going down on this, going down swinging on something he believes in. MATTHEWS: That`s well said, because I spent some time with him last Friday. That`s who he is. Anyway, thank you. The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, a big victory for Attorney General Loretta Lynch, this is rookie of the year, as the head of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer is gone. She did it. She knocked the guy out in the first round. This is HARDBALL, or whatever they say in soccer, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Barack Obama today honored two heroes of World War I, one African-American, one Jewish who had been denied the recognition they deserved because of discrimination at the time. Sergeant William Shemin was just 19 years old when he dodged gunfire to save wounded soldiers. His daughter now in her 80s said he was denied the honor because of anti-Semitism. And Private Henry Johnson rescued a wounded soldier from his all-black unit, the Harlem Hell Fighters they were called, while fighting off a German attack. The Medal of Honor is generally bestowed within five years of heroic action on the battlefield but in the cases today that requirement was waived. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We are back. Well, last week, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch handed up a massive 47 count criminal indictment against FIFA, the bosses running international soccer. And today, the boss at the top, Sepp Blatter, announced his resignation in Zurich. "The New York Times" reporting that he`s now also the focus on the fed`s corruption investigation. If you`re a casual fan of soccer or maybe you don`t follow it at all, this story matters fop for years, FIFA has operated under a cloud of suspicion. The U.S. competed, our country did, to host the World Cup in 2022, but lost out to Qatar, and the World Cup stands today as a prize jewel for Putin`s Russia coming up in 2018. Well, now, everything has been turned upside down, pulling us into battle. By the way, the Swiss have opened up a criminal investigation into those World Cup bids. Putin, meanwhile, is accusing of us trying to steal the World Cup away from him with all this stuff. What was once unthinkable, Sepp Blatter`s resignation at the top is now a reality. We`re watching, by the way, the new attorney general declared war on an organization that like what is thought to be a powerful mob boss was thought to be invincible, is now being dismantled piece by piece. We`re back with the roundtable, Nedra, Francesca and Steve. Nedra, this is big time for everybody in the world, maybe except some Americans, because everybody in the world watches soccer. PICKLER: That`s right. And Loretta Lynch has become a big star over this. When she was nominated as attorney general, a lot of people had never heard of her. And someone was joking today, she might as well step down because it`s not going to get any better than this. MATTHEWS: Yes, I wonder whether Eric Holder left it to be -- to have the first big win, because he must have this in his table when he left. CHAMBERS: Well, this is a big win for her and it helps here, you know, start off on a good start, right out of the get. It`s really hard to follow in the foot steps of someone like Eric Holder. You know, he was black, he was an attorney general, black president. So, I think this really helps her set herself apart. MATTHEWS: You`re talking about it`s hard to follow in his foot steps among a certain portion of monikers. But another portion will like her because she`s taken down a foreigner, which is always popular in this country, and secondly, a big shot foreigner who is probably dishonest by the standards of this investigation. MCMAHON: Yes. I mean, there is clearly a new sheriff in town and she is famous around the world. You`re absolutely right, Chris, I mean, the left and the right applaud this because this is an organization that for many, many years people suspected or felt, and some of them accused publicly -- MATTHEWS: You mean Qatar may have bought it? MCMAHON: -- of being corrupt. Yes. I mean, people did wonder -- MATTHEWS: Did Putin buy it, too? MCMAHON: Well, I mean, there have been all kind of suggestions and accusations. Now, I think, we`re going to find out. I think probably the federal prosecutor communicated to Sepp Blatter today that if you go away quietly and quickly it might be a lot easier on you than if you try hang around and fight this. We`re going to take this apart and everyone is going to know what happened. MATTHEWS: Yes, I used to think Reince Priebus was the strangest name. I think Sepp Blatter makes Reince Priebus sound very nice. Anyway, let me ask you about this politics. I don`t even understand this, but if this guy goes down, he`s retiring, he`s been humiliated. He could go to prison, right? PICKLER: Well, what`s interesting about him is that they`re using all of these other investigations into lower ranking officials within FIFA to get to him. And -- MATTHEWS: Who gets the money? Who has gotten the money if they`ve been selling these World Cup championships? Who gets the cash? PICKLER: That`s yet to be seen. I think that`s what a lot of this investigation is going to be about. And there are questions about what will happen with this prosecution. Loretta Lynch actually started this investigation in her U.S. attorney`s office and they`re using very novel laws to try to prosecute this. But it`s still a win to have him step down from this organization even if it doesn`t end up in the process. MATTHEWS: How do we get standing -- how does somebody sitting in Washington, the Supreme Court, get to bring down somebody over there in Zurich? CHAMBERS: I think that`s actually a -- MATTHEWS: It worked. Somebody did something. PICKLER: They`re using the same RICO laws that they used to prosecute mobsters and it`s the money going through U.S. banks that they`re going after. MCMAHON: And it`s American companies. I mean, there`s been a suggestion or an implication that it was American companies that were getting shaken down. If it was American companies going to the U.S. banking system, you`re slightly right -- MATTHEWS: This is the opposite of the black helicopters. Instead of the world government coming to get us, we`re going to get the world. Anyway, I love it. Anyway, thank you, Nedra Pickler, Francesco Chambers and Steve McMahon. When we return, let me finish with the eviction notice, that what I`m calling it, that Rudy Giuliani just served on his his own Republican Party. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Rudy Giuliani today served the Republican Party with its eviction notice. He did it in New York fashion -- big, loud and crystal clear. He said you can`t be a Republican candidate for president unless you`re right on gay marriage, meaning against it. If you`re not right on abortion, you want to outlaw it and you don`t want to give a chance to illegal immigrants a chance to become Americans. Rudy`s list was quite a score sheet, but it doesn`t tell the whole story. If you want to be a Republican today, a candidate on the Republican ticket, you have to be against Common Core, against Obamacare, against gun control, against any recognition of man`s role in climate change. This is why the Republican Party has lost so many popular elections for president of late -- in fact, five of the last six. It`s why even with a platoon of candidates now it has yet to offer a positive winning vision to the American electorate for next year. It`s simply hard to get the majority of American people, in a country would well over 300 million people to agree on so many items to score a perfect 100 percent on the assigned list of positions people are supposed to take. Well, if the Republican Party loses next year, it will be for a simple reason. It asked too many Americans to agree to be simple minded. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
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