Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 07/14/15

Guests: Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Mathew Littman, David Ignatius, John Feehery, James Clyburn, Amy Walter, Michael Tomasky

                CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bargain or bomb?                 Let`s play HARDBALL.                 Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles.                 What`s it going to be, a deal or no deal?  A deal, or let them go nuclear?  A deal, or bomb them?  A try for peace, or all-out war?  You buys your ticket, you takes your chance.  What ticket are Obama`s critics   offering that doesn`t lead to war?  John McCain once sang "Bomb, bomb Iran" to Beach Boys music, and now some on the right are singing it for real.  Obama`s the one trying for peace.                 Also on HARDBALL tonight, yes, it`s true, it can happen to you.  Donald Trump is now the front-runner officially for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.                 Anyway, the Iranian deal finalized in the early hours of this morning will limit Iran`s nuclear capability for at least a decade in return for relief from sanctions.  President Obama said the deal isn`t built on trust, but rather on verification.  And he warned Congress he would veto any legislation that tries to block the deal.                   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)                 BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.  Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.                 I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.  But I will remind Congress that you don`t make deals like this with your friends.                 (END VIDEO CLIP)                 MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by NBC chief foreign correspondent   Richard Engel, who`s in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Richard, let`s start with the United States.  In simplest terms, why did we make this deal?                 RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think the U.S. made this deal because it felt the sanctions regime couldn`t last forever, that there were states, notably Russia and China, that were keen to break it, that the idea of putting sanctions in place was that the sanctions would eventually lead to a deal.  So there was the pressure, and there`s also a hope.  So there was a push and a pull.                 And I think the hope is that by having a deal, by reaching out, by encouraging the people who are on the streets of Tehran tonight, that you can help engage with Iran, help empower some of the reformist elements who   got elected in Iran`s last elections and have a historic rapprochement and try and bring more peace to this world with a fewer number of dangerous weapons.                 So it has quite lofty ideals.  We`ll see if it works.  It is a big gamble, though.                 MATTHEWS:  Well, the option on that gamble would be to basically have no deal and eventually have to bomb their facilities, it seems to me.  And if that`s the case, you guarantee the hostility of the Iranian people, left to right, including the secular people, the Rouhani people for time eternal, right?                 I mean, there is almost a guarantee, is there not -- you`re the expert   -- that if we don`t deal with them and we bomb them that that means the end of any chance of rapprochement in our lifetimes?                 ENGEL:  Well, it really -- it depends on how you view changing regimes.  How do you convince a hard-line rogue regime to come out of the dark and become more moderate, become more responsible and reasonable in its behavior?                 You can either -- this is Israel`s point of view -- continue to punish that regime, to strangle them militarily, to strangle them financially, and eventually, according to this theory, they will cry uncle and they will change their ways.                 Traditionally, that hasn`t worked.  The more pressure you put on a   rogue regime, the more you isolate rogue regimes, the deeper they retreat into their shell and the more hostile they become.                 The other approach, the other philosophy is the one that this administration has been trying with Myanmar, been trying with Cuba, to try and offer some incentives, offer a different path and see if that works, to see if there is a historic opportunity...                 MATTHEWS:  Yes.                 ENGEL:  ... to change the dynamic.  Israel doesn`t believe that with Iran, with the theocracy that is in place there, where for so many years, destruction of Israel has been a bedrock of the foreign policy there, that you can coax the regime enough to convince them to change their ways.                   MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  Can you objectively, or is it entirely subjective, to tell us what the hopes are there?  Is it possible that opening up this kind of engagement with Iran, after all these years of hostility, could permit the middle over there to shift toward non-hostility to the United States?                 ENGEL:  It`s possible.  There are some encouraging signs.  Just tonight, if you look at what`s going on in Tehran, people are in the streets.  Ali Arouzi, who is our bureau chief there, is desperately trying to make his way back to the bureau, but he is stuck -- right now -- but he is stuck in traffic because so many people are out on the streets honking their horns, cheering, celebrating.                   They see this as a real moment to celebrate, a moment of renewal, of hope when they could maybe improve their lives, their freedoms, their financial freedoms, their ability to live a decent life in Tehran.                 Now, the hard-liners in Iran, I think, will try and resist this.  They will try and take the money and not change the society.  So I think there`s going to be a struggle -- a struggle there.                 But giving an option to a hard-line regime in some ways is like giving it a Trojan horse.  It can upset the regime from the inside and cause it to change dramatically.  I think that`s what`s under way in Cuba.                 The question is, is Iran ready to embrace that change, or will, as Israel believes, Iran just take the money and then eventually crack down on   the people who are out on the streets tonight, tell them that the deal is off, effectively, and move on?                 There is also one other scenario.  I can just imagine the horrible disappointment that the people who are on the streets of Tehran tonight feel if, in a few weeks, the U.S., because of internal domestic disputes, decides that they can`t carry out this deal.  That would be a huge blow to U.S. credibility, as well.  So that is also on the line.                 MATTHEWS:  I`m glad you said that because I think we all should know that as we watch this debate at home.  Thank you, Richard Engel over in Tel Aviv.                 Senator Bob Corker is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.    He joins us right now.  Senator Corker, this deal -- I mean, I guess I`m looking at the option plays here.  We`ve all known the options, continue the sanctions, if you can.  If you can`t, you can`t.  But if you can`t get China and Russia to go along with continued sanctions, you`ve got to deal, it seems to me.  If you don`t deal and they continue their march toward a nuclear weapon, the pressure in this country will be to bomb them.  Am I right or wrong in that assessment?                 SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE:  Well, Chris, I think, you know, just saying that whatever deal has been negotiated is the deal -- I mean, it`s pretty amazing to look at where Iran has come over the last two years.  I mean, they were a -- they are a roguish nation that had a boot on their   neck, and with six important countries, they have come out and actually achieved every single goal they wanted to achieve.                 So look, I hear you, and I understand you`re trying to create a context that makes it very difficult for Congress to vote its conscience, but I think that`s what`s going to happen.                 Look, we`ve got 159 pages today, a portion of the deal.  There`ll be more that`s coming.  There are certifications that are due from the secretary of state and the DNI.  We`ll have robust hearings.                 And I think, at the end of the day, regardless of you sort of painting a one-sided context to this...                 MATTHEWS:  Yes.                   CORKER:  ... and I understand why you`re doing that -- I think people are going to want to vote their conscience.  But we want to go through a thoughtful and deliberate process and understand this fully.                 And let me just say one last thing.  I mean, it is kind of remarkable that we`ve gone from dismantlement to managing their proliferation, and unlike April 2nd, where people were somewhat surprised with the specificity that came out, in this case, my sense is as we`ve gone through this document, I think it`s eroded in a way that will cause some concerns.                 But again, I want to make sure we honor this process and do it in the right way, and I want to make sure that we create a vehicle and a method for people to vote their conscience on what they believe is best for our   country.                 MATTHEWS:  Well, the deal faced sharp opposition, Senator, from hawks in Congress -- you know that -- even before the details were out there.  Let`s watch some of the commentary.                 (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)                 REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  It`s going to hand a dangerous regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief while paving the way for a nuclear Iran.  And we`re going to do everything we can to get to the details, and if, in fact, it`s as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we`ll do everything we can to stop it.                 SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS:  This proposed deal is a terrible,   dangerous mistake that`s going to pave the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.  The American people are going to repudiate this deal, and I believe Congress will kill the deal.                 SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRES. CANDIDATE:   We`ve ensured hey become a nuclear nation.  We`re going to ensure that there`ll be a nuclear arms race now.                 You`ve created a possible death sentence for Israel.  This is a virtual declaration of war against Sunni Arabs.  This is the most dangerous, irresponsible step I`ve ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast.                 This is a terrible deal.  It`s going to make everything worse, and I   really fear that we`ve set in motion a decade of chaos.                 (END VIDEO CLIP)                 MATTHEWS:  Senator, even the real hawkish people out there -- I`m not sure all the Israeli (ph) agree with that, if Assad agrees with that -- is that if we bomb all the known facilities, nuclear facilities in Iran because we can`t get a deal with them, that we won`t really stop them for long, maybe a few years.                 Here`s a program that the president has laid out with Secretary Kerry that would stop them for 10 years.  Why not take a peaceful wait (ph), a 10-year moratorium, rather than a violent means to a shorter-term delay in their nuclear program?                   CORKER:  And Chris, I think people will be weighing it.  It`s really more of an eight-year, as we`ve gotten into the details today.  There`s a transition date at eight years, where things dramatically change.                 But look, I know you just laid out some of the hawks, and look, I respect the orientation of the program that you`re on.  But I think if you also went and looked at...                 MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s my orientation, Senator.  Senator, let me explain to you how the orientation works here.                 CORKER:  But -- but let me -- let me -- let me...                 MATTHEWS:  It`s mine.  It`s mine, not somebody else`s.                 CORKER:  OK, but let me speak then and say there`s also a host of   people on the left that have already applauded.  So I think, in fairness, there are people that have -- are pretty solid in where they stand.                 But I think there are some qualitative issues of how this has been completed relative to PMD, the previous military dimensions, relative to research and development, relative to ballistic testing, relative to how the sanctions evolved.  Those kinds of things -- anytime, anywhere inspections.  I think there`s a number of people that will be looking at qualitatively, how are those resolved.  And they will be making up their mind.                 So in any issue like this, Chris, people end up being solidly in different places.                   MATTHEWS:  Right.                 CORKER:  I think Congress is going to vote its conscience, and we provide -- we`re going to provide the forum for people to do that in a very educated and thoughtful way.                 MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Senator.                 CORKER:  Thank you.                 MATTHEWS:  By the way, just a point of information.  I`ve had this view of this since I first started rooting for Obama because I hoped and prayed he would take this approach to the Middle East and our dangers over there and try to be optimistic and hopeful.                 CORKER:  Yes.                   MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you so much for coming on, sir.                 CORKER:  Absolutely.  Thank you.                 MATTHEWS:  Senator -- thank you.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen is a Democrat from New Hampshire.  She sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee.  Thank you so much, Senator.                 My view of this is if you bomb all the facilities over there, like some of these people want to do, just go out and bomb them right now, you`ll slow them down three or four years, at the most.  But if you have a deal with them to relieve sanctions and get them to quit for 10 years and hope that things will be different at the end of those 10 years, that`s a smarter option.                   What`s your view?                 SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Well, I think a negotiated agreement is better than military action, assuming it`s an agreement that, as you point out, is going to keep them from getting to a nuclear weapon in the next 10 years.                 There are parts of this agreement, as I understand -- I haven`t had a chance to review it yet -- but that not only address 10 years but some things like, keeping them from doing the metallurgy that they would need to have to get a weapon is delayed for 15 years.  They`re looking at the supply chain and the mines and all for uranium.  That`s even longer.                 So I think we need to closely examine this deal and make sure that the   verification mechanisms are there, make sure that we know what`s going to happen with the sanctions.  And I hope that`s what Congress is going to do, rather than to come to a decision immediately that this is not a good agreement.                 MATTHEWS:  Well, when I look at it, it takes the president to override -- to override the president, you need 67 votes in the Senate.                 SHAHEEN:  Right.                 MATTHEWS:  If he can hold 34 away from voting to override, he can sustain this treaty.  Is that a reasonable hope on his part, that he can hold at least 34 senators to support the treaty?                 SHAHEEN:  Well, I think it is.  I think that was the way the   legislation was designed, to give Congress input but also to make sure that this is an agreement that has the support of enough members to make sure that it`s a good agreement, and that`s what we`re beginning to look at now.                 You know, this is only day one.  It`s disappointing for me to hear so many people already coming out without having a chance to review the agreement and saying this is a bad deal.                 Well, we need to take a look at it.  We`ve spent years negotiating this, and now Congress needs to spend the next 60 days looking at what`s in it, making sure that this is an agreement that we can support and not automatically saying that people don`t support it without ever looking at it.                   MATTHEWS:  What`s your estimate of our ability to just destroy all their nuclear program right now, just turn it into nothing?  Do we have that capability, if we chose to go that right-wing hawkish direction, which I think is the alternative to what we`re talking about here?                 SHAHEEN:  Well, that is the alternative that many people who don`t like the agreement are talking about.  And I think a negotiated option is better than a military option.  I don`t think people want to go to war.                 And what we`ve heard from some of the experts is that even if we bombed the sites in Iran, that it would delay the nuclear program only, as you pointed out, for a couple of years, and that`s not an answer to what we want.                   MATTHEWS:  OK.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.  By the way, congratulations again on getting reelected.  I covered your campaign.  It was a great campaign.                 SHAHEEN:  Well, thank you.  I`m glad to be here and at this momentous time.                 MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.                 Coming up, the over-the-top reaction to the Iran deal from some Republicans running for president.  You`ve heard some of it.  By the way, Jeb Bush, who seems like a moderate sometimes, calls it "appeasement."  Lindsey Graham calls it a "death sentence for Israel."   And what`s their alternative?  Is it to bomb Iran?  I think so.                   And later -- today`s announcement is another huge legacy achievement, if you will, for a president who`s having a very successful summer historically.  The president said interesting things happen in the fourth quarter.  I guess he`s proving it.                 Plus, it`s Tuesday, and that means it`s time to rev up the right-wing clown car, the Tuesday clown car.  It`s in the center ring tonight as Donald Trump takes the lead.  Believe it or not, you heard it here, he`s now the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 -- the leading candidate!                 Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this deal just struck between the world leaders and the government of Iran.                   And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                 MATTHEWS:  Long-time Arizona senator John McCain will face a primary challenger in his 2016 reelection bid.  State senator and physician Kelli Ward announced today that she`ll take on the five-term incumbent.                 McCain has had a rocky relationship with the right wing of his party out in Arizona, but in 2010 he easily beat former congressman J.D. Hayworth in a primary battle, with McCain earning nearly 60 percent of the vote that time.                 We`ll be right back.                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                   MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.                  More now on today`s historic nuclear agreement with Iran.                  While the president is hailing the deal as a step towards a more hopeful world, the Republican field for president is slamming it as a disaster.  But what is their alternative out there?  What do they want, a deal, no deal, or just go bomb Iran?                  Marco Rubio responded today by saying that -- quote -- "I expect that a significant majority in the Congress will share my skepticism of this agreement and vote it down."                 Scott Walker thinks this deal -- quote -- "will be remembered as one of America`s worst diplomatic failures."                   And here`s Jeb Bush`s reaction.  "This isn`t diplomacy.  It is appeasement."                 Mike Huckabee went even further, saying: "Shame on the Obama administration.  John Kerry should have long ago gotten up on his crutches, walked out of the sham talks and went straight to Jerusalem to stand next to Benjamin Netanyahu."                 And Ted Cruz offered this rebuttal -- or prebuttal -- yesterday saying, "This deal, if it is consummated, would transform the United States government into being one of the leading financiers funding terrorism against Americans."                 Mathew Littman was a speechwriter for Vice President Joe Biden.  John   Feehery is a Republican strategist.  And David Ignatius is a columnist with "The Washington Post."                  David, I want to start with you.  What was the option play for the president?  I have been saying three options, deal, no deal, bomb them.  Is there something else?                  DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Well, you could just leave the situation as it is, walk away from the table.                  MATTHEWS:  No deal.                  IGNATIUS:  And say, come back when you`re ready to talk seriously and assume that things will stay in place.                  What struck me about the deal -- I read every page of it today -- was   that there had been a lot of fear that Secretary of State Kerry would pull back from the Lausanne framework that he negotiated in April.  In fact, the squishy parts of that Lausanne framework are actually made more solid and there`s some new quite useful controls on Iran that have been added.                  So all this talk about a cave-in, I just don`t see it in the text of the deal.                  MATTHEWS:  Let me go to John Feehery.                  John, it seems like there`s some real extreme talk on the Republican right.  Some of it, I think, is just being supportive of Israel politically, which is not a bad move to make in any primary.  And the other is just this very extremist, almost assassination of the morality of this,   like there`s something wrong with the effort to even do it.  It`s very strong criticism we`re getting from the right here, very strong.                  JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, listen, it`s campaign season.  So, that`s a big part of it.                 And, as you said, it`s always good to be a friend of Israel in a campaign season.  I think that Bob Corker is taking a more measured approach.  And I think that, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he`s right to do that.  And I think that he will be the lead spokesman on behalf of the Senate on this.                  And, really, I think the Republicans have to take a look at this agreement.  But there also is a third option, Chris, and that is a better   deal.                  MATTHEWS:  How do you get it?                  FEEHERY:  And one that Israel is not -- you know, doesn`t think is an existential threat to their existence.                  MATTHEWS:  Of course, but how do you get that deal?                 (CROSSTALK)                 MATTHEWS:  Just we have Russia and China.                  FEEHERY:  You know what?                  MATTHEWS:  No, John, you have to have other players here.  We have to get -- we can`t have a sanctions program of any significance, just us.  It requires the world to sanction them.  Russia and China were at their   limits, apparently.  Go ahead.                  FEEHERY:  Well, I agree with that.  But you also don`t have to freeze out Israel, which is what happened during this whole negotiation.                 And I think that there`s a lot of different players here, Chris, and I think the Israelis have a right to be really concerned about this deal, not only for long term, which is nuclear, but also for the short term, which is $150 billion in the Iranian coffers which they could to finance terrorism.  And I think that`s a legitimate threat.                  MATTHEWS:  Isn`t there a larger -- look, let`s go to regional rivalry here.                  MATHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes.                    MATTHEWS:  It`s like England would never allow a strong power to dominant the continent of Europe.  Israel is never going to let a country like Iran become the major regional power.                  LITTMAN:  Well, they shouldn`t.  I mean, I don`t...                 MATTHEWS:  Even if they`re not nuclear.                  LITTMAN:  But John is right.  Israel has a right to be concerned.                  MATTHEWS:  Right.                  LITTMAN:  It`s status quo.  Iran doesn`t have a nuclear weapon now, right?                 MATTHEWS:  But they`re getting one.                 LITTMAN:  But what they will have is a lot more -- but what they will   have is a lot more money.                  And if they choose to finance terrorism with that money, they can do that.  The bet that Obama is making is that Iran liberalizes, which is a tough bet.                 MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I agree with that.                 LITTMAN:  I can`t -- you can`t say 100 percent that that`s what is going to happen.                  MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.                 Try the other way.  Let`s go the other way, all three of you.  All the experts, military, tell us, military experts, if you go in there with a strong bombing campaign and you bomb every target that you think is   credible, they will be back at it in two or three years.                  LITTMAN:  I`m not saying to bomb Iran.                 MATTHEWS:  So, we`re holding them off 10 years with this deal.  What good is bombing, which is the ultimate right-wing alternative?                 (CROSSTALK)                 LITTMAN:  This may not be a great deal, but there is no great deal to be had.                  This just may be the best of a bad world.  Iran is capable of getting a nuclear weapon.  In order to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, you basically may have to pay them off.  That might be true.  It`s not a great situation for anybody, but you can`t -- there is no alternative.  I think   Obama is making the best of a bad situation.                  MATTHEWS:  David, what`s the case?  Because we keep hearing it.  People use phrases like everything is on the table, which means either threaten them with an attack on the nuclear facilities or actually deliver one.  But is that a credible alternative?  Is it?                  IGNATIUS:  Well, you certainly could attack certain facilities and set back the Iranian program.                  I think this exclusive focus on the nuclear issue is a mistake.  The problem here is less the agreement, which I think is stronger than many expected six months ago.  The problem is Iran, Iran`s behavior.  Iran is a reckless destabilizing force in the Middle East.  It`s at war in Yemen.    It`s at war in Iraq.  It`s at war in Syria.                 And concerns from the Israelis and from the Saudis and Emirates and the whole region are, I think, justified.  So, I wish people would focus more -- and President Obama`s point is, it`s easier to deal with that problem of Iranian bad behavior if the nuclear issue is off the table for 10 years or whatever the precise calculation is.  It`s easier to deal with the real problem of a revolutionary, destabilizing Iran.                  FEEHERY:  But, David, I have a question for you.  And I just -- I agree with everything you said.  The big question is, is it easier to deal with them with the sanctions off or the sanctions on?                  And I get the whole thing about the Russians and the French and   everybody wanting to get the sanctions done with, but the fact of the matter is, this is the best time to strike a much better deal than I think with only the nuclear issue.  And your point is exactly right, that they are a bad force and we have got to try to find a way to moderate them.  And bombing is not a good option.  It`s a terrible option.                  (CROSSTALK)                 MATTHEWS:  David, answer that charge.  Do we really have a position of strength now?  I get the sense, from listening to you and others, that our position of strength is waning, that we don`t have many more weeks of this position when we can call the shots.                  IGNATIUS:  I think that Obama has been in retreat from the Middle   East.  I think he`s coming back.  We are engaged in Iraq in a significant way.  I think there`s more coming with Syria.                  I think we have signaled to our Sunni allies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, that we`re going to stand with them.  We`re going to support their getting arms, their taking actions to prevent further spread of Iranian influence.  So I think our position is not as weak as it was.                 But I think, Chris, your point that bombing the nuclear facilities, the options that Israelis and Republicans imply are out there, are just -- don`t serve America`s interest.  They don`t even serve, I don`t think, Israel`s security interest, because Iran would come back so quickly and in a more menacing way.                    LITTMAN:  But these countries -- let me just say, John, the Republican Party, these guys have come out, Jeb Bush, says it`s appeasement.  Scott Walker says we can do sanctions by ourselves.                  I mean, some of these positions are really ridiculous.  No matter what Obama does, there`s always this fantasy that there`s a better deal because Obama is doing it.  But this just may be the best of bad alternatives.                  MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you so much, Mathew Littman.                  We will have John Feehery on again and again and again on this.                  Thank you, John.                 FEEHERY:  Thank you.                  MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Mathew, and thank you, David, as always, for   your sober opinions that teach us all.                  Up next, Hillary Clinton courts lawmakers up on Capitol Hill today, meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Asian Pacific Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus.  Can she keep the Obama coalition intact?  She is certainly trying.                  And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                 MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.                  Hillary Clinton stormed Capitol Hill today, holding meetings with half-a-dozen Democratic Caucus groups, courting her party`s top lawmakers as the front-runner of the 2016 presidential race.  There she is.                    President Obama has been accused of having a frosty and somewhat distant relationship with his former colleagues on the Hill, but, today, Clinton showed a true veteran insider move, choosing to walk the Capitol`s labyrinth of basement corridors to go from the House to the Senate.                 Senator Bernie Sanders` campaign, by the way, is doing better than many would have expected.  But Clinton is comfortably ahead in all the national polls.  Still, some top Democrats are holding off their endorsements.  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, for example, certainly has nice things to say about Hillary Clinton.                 (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)                                   REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  The secretary pleased the members with her discussion about fairness and growth.  When she enters the Oval Office, she would be one of the most prepared to do so.                  (END VIDEO CLIP)                                 MATTHEWS:  How many is too many flags?  Anyway, but she has not officially endorsed Hillary Clinton.  The speaker hasn`t -- the former speaker hasn`t done it.                  Five of the six chairs, by the way, of the Democratic caucuses that Clinton met with today have also not officially endorsed her candidacy.                  The famous Tip O`Neill dictum that every politician must ask for your   vote directly never goes out of style.                  And joining me now is the assistant Democratic leader of the House, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn.  He was in one of those meetings with Hillary Clinton today.                  Congressman Clyburn, with all due respect, I have got to pop you with the toughest question.  Did she follow the rule that you know all about?  Did she ask for your, Jim Clyburn`s vote or support for president of the United States?  Did she ask you?                  REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Not directly.                  Thank you for having me.                 But, no, she did not ask directly.  I think Mrs. Clinton knows very   well that I have made it a practice that, for as long as South Carolina becomes -- remains a pre-primary state, that is one of the four states that are allowed to move before the primary season opens, when -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and, of course, South Carolina.                  In order to keep from jeopardizing that spot that we have in the calender, I have made it a practice not to publicly get involved in anybody`s campaign after the South Carolina primary.  And she knows that.  But we had a very cordial meeting.                 By the way, I was in three of her meetings today.                  MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, just you have given us the protocol that you`re honoring, and I respect that.  But can you, Congressman Clyburn, imagine   endorsing Bernie Sanders, Webb, Chafee, or who is the other guy running, Chafee -- O`Malley running?                  CLYBURN:  O`Malley.                 MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine endorsing any one of them?                 CLYBURN:  Oh, I have got a very good imagination.  You know me very well.                  (LAUGHTER)                 CLYBURN:  So, yes, I can imagine it.  We will see what happens as the campaign progresses.                  MATTHEWS:  What was Hillary Clinton`s pitch to you fellows today and women?   What was -- did you hear something different today that you   thought was a new appeal she was making to win -- to lock up this nomination?                  CLYBURN:  You know, I think everything was pretty much the same on substance.                  I saw a style today that I had not seen before.  And I have talked to quite a few members, both in the full Democratic Caucus.  I talked to a few members after the Congressional Black Caucus meeting, and they were ecstatic as to how comfortable she was, how personable she was in making her presentations.                 And I thought she acquitted herself very, very well today.  Usually, you hear things that people are a little bit concerned about, but I didn`t   hear anything that she ought to have any real concerns about after her performances today.                   MATTHEWS:  That`s great to hear.  I love politicians, when they get together and they are warm towards each other.                  CLYBURN:  Absolutely.                 MATTHEWS:  Thank you, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, who has yet to announce his favorite for the Democratic nomination, until the South Carolina all-important primary down there.                  CLYBURN:  Thank you.                  MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.                  CLYBURN:  Thank you.                    MATTHEWS:  Up next, President Obama`s best week extends now to a great month and possibly his best summer ever -- what this Iran deal means for his presidential legacies coming up ahead.  And it`s a big one.       You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                 MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I`m Milissa Rehberger.  Here`s what`s happening.                 Kentucky`s governor declared a state of emergency after severe storms left two people dead and six others missing.                  Closing arguments began earlier in the trial of James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in a shooting at a   Colorado movie theater back in 2012.                  And Harper Lee`s "Go Set a Watchman" went on sale today and is flying off the store shelves.  It is number one on Amazon`s bestseller list.  It`s also number one at Barnes & Noble -- back to HARDBALL.                  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)                 BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The list is long.  And my instructions to my team and my instructions to myself have always been that we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make when I have the privilege of -- as long as I have the privilege of holding this office.                  (END VIDEO CLIP)                   MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.                 That was President Obama at the end of a June -- a June press conference reflecting on his string of big victories, but also assuring us that he`s anything but a lame duck.                 Actually, what turned out to be a pretty good week for the president at that time, at the beginning of this month, is turning into President Obama`s best summer ever, as his hot streak seems to be continuing.  First, the president scored a huge win on his trade deal in Congress, followed by landmark decisions at the Supreme Court level, ensuring the survival -- which is very important -- of his health care law, and also legalizing gay marriage nationwide which he has been supporting.                                    And good news on the economic front, too.  The unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 this June, the lowest in seven years.                                  And then, the president turned to foreign policy where he took the extraordinary step of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba after 54 years of freezing that country out.  And, of course, today, the president made history with the announcement of an agreement over Iran`s nuclear program, capping off a historic summer of second-term accomplishments.                                    Joining me at the roundtable tonight to discuss President Obama`s legacy, Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, Amy Walter is national editor of "The Cook Report", and Michael Tomasky with "The Daily Beast".                                 Michael, let me put this -- it seems like the president is like he was in the campaign against Hillary Clinton, looking like he was the sleeper.  He was falling behind in delegates and all of a sudden, he came along with this amazing strategy of winning in the caucus states and winning with proportionality and all of us who we were sitting around as worrywarts and he went scooting right past us in the final curve or pretty much the final   curve.  He seems like his administration, his two terms of presidency of his, seems to be following that pattern of scooting along late in the game, as he calls it, the fourth quarter.                                  MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN:  Well, I have to admit, he knows how to finish strong.  And there`s no doubt about that.  The president has had a good year, a good summer, and a lot of that, interestingly enough is due, maybe ironically, is due by the actions of others, whether it`s the Republicans in Congress delivering his trade deal, the Supreme Court upholding his health care bill and even recently, you know, world partners coming to his rally on the Iran deal.  He has been able to get those   opposite pieces to work for him in a significant way.                                 And, you know, I think it`s put the Republicans in particular in some interesting positions to defense against, but I have to give the president credit for at least winding up this year rather strongly.                                  MATTHEWS:  And, Amy, you know you know, the politics as well as I do of this.  I mean, it`s not like he`s going for the usual suspects, the stuff everybody likes, the Democratic coalition.  He took on the trade unions with trade, many of the hawkish supporters with Israel with regard with this deal with Iran.  Listen to Netanyahu on this one.  He was already   in the Congress and the chamber itself, attacking on this before it happened.                                  So, he`s not like going for the easy stuff.                                  AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT:  No, but here`s the real question for Barack Obama -- when these results are going to result in an increase in his overall job approval rating.  I mean, what`s interesting is he has had a very good summer.  I think you`re seeing part of Democrats feeling better about not only how he`s doing but the chances for Hillary Clinton.                                   And yet his approval rating, it`s like he has this very narrow trading range.  He`s stuck right now about 46 percent.  We know historically for the person who wants to follow a two-term president, it helps to have that president up above 50 percent.                                 MATTHEWS:  Yes.                                 WALTER:  I don`t know that this president is going to get there.  And if he`s not there now, I don`t know how he gets there by the time we hit 2016.                                    MATTHEWS:  What`s his ceiling based on?  I mean, if he gets 80 percent or so of the Democrats or 85 percent, who he`s having problem with, independents?  He`s never going to get most Republicans.  So --                                 WALTERS:  That`s right.  So, it`s these people who define themselves as independence who, quite frankly with more Republican leaning than they are Republicans.  I think, also, there was a time at which, not that long ago, Republicans, even if they knew they weren`t going to vote for a Democratic president or a Democrat knew they weren`t going to vote for a Republican would at least have given them credit for doing well, whether   that was Bill Clinton in the `90s or Ronald Reagan in the `80s.  Those days are sort of gone.  So, maybe now 46 is the new 50.                                  MATTHEWS:  I think that`s smart.  Michael, Michael Tomasky?                                  MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST:  I agree with that, Chris.  I think we`re done with the age of 66, 67 percent approval ratings as politicians leave office.  Bill Clinton had that.  Ronald Reagan had something like that.  Barack Obama is not going to get close to that.                                  However, I do think if the economic recovery continues and if wages go   up in 2016, I think he could get north of 50.                                  MATTHEWS:  Well, explain that because --                                  TOMASKY:  Maybe about 52.                                 MATTHEWS:  Michael, you`re both on to something.  Here is Bill Clinton.  He gets impeached.  I know everybody has forgotten that but he was impeached.                                  TOMASKY:  Yes.                                   MATTHEWS:  He was impeached.  It`s going to be in his obituary, fourth or fifth draft now, maybe seventh draft.  And yet he comes back as he left office with about a very high 60-some percent rating.  So, people say he didn`t tell us the truth about the affair he had.  I don`t care about the affair he had.  I guess that`s what we`re saying.                                  But we like something else about him.  I would argue it`s economic good times.  Times kept getting better.  We kept coming up with new toys, new electronics stuff, everyone had something in their pocket and they just loved being around in the `90s.                                    So, it`s environmental.  It`s how things feel that tells you how you like a president.  Your thoughts?                                  TOMASKY:  Yes.  That`s exactly right.                                  Incidentally, I just looked this up the other day.  Jeb Bush talked GDP growth, as far as the eye can see.  We don`t have that.                                 MATTHEWS:  That`s true.                                   TOMASKY:  We averaged 2.8 percent over the last 40 years.  But the last four years of the `90s were four consecutive years of 4 plus percent GDP growth.  And you`re right, and that`s basically what it was all about.                                  Obama is not going to have that.  He`s not going to get close to that and returning to Iran the verdict will be out on Iran for a long time.                                 But I think Cuba is a no-brainer.  I think that one is very clearly his.                                  MATTHEWS:  By the way, I know I`ll be accused of saying this.  I`m   going to say it, Michael Steele, but in terms of politics I believe in economics.  So, I`m a Marxist determinist in that sense.  Economics drives.                                 You know what Harry Truman`s growth rate was when they said it was a big upset in 1948?  Do you know what the growth rate of this country was in 1948, Michael?  Guess?                                  Explain why he got re-elected -- 6.                                  TOMASKY:  Six.                                   WALTER:  Yes.                                 MATTHEWS:  Six.  It was booming.  The farm situation was booming for farmers.  Stupid pollsters that stopped polling about, what, Amy, two months before the election didn`t get it.  Times were great.  Truman won, an unsurprising victory if you look at the economics.  Thank you.                                 The roundtable is staying with us.                                  And up next, it`s time for the clown card Tuesday, which we saw over here.  Donald Trump now leads, catch this, not just the clown car that he`s   steering.  He`s leading the circus.  He is now the official front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.  Live with that one.                                 And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.                                  (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                                 MATTHEWS:  A day after commuting the sentences of 46 convicted drug offenders, President Obama is rallying support for new criminal justice reforms.  In an address to the NAACP annual convention in Philadelphia today, the president pushed for shorter sentences for nonviolent offenders.    On Thursday in Oklahoma, he`ll continue his push as he makes the first-ever trip by a sitting president -- catch this -- to a federal prison.  That is Johnny Cash stuff.                                  We`ll be right back.                                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                                 MATTHEWS:  We`re back with the roundtable, Michael Steele, Amy Walter and Michael Tomasky.                                    And it`s time now for the Tuesday clown car.                                  First up is Donald Trump, who is now leading the Republican field.  According to the latest "USA Today"/Suffolk University poll, Trump is at 17 percent right now, three points ahead of his nearest rival, Jeb Bush who`s at 14.  They`re followed by Scott Walker at 8 percent, Ted Cruz at 6 percent, Marco Rubio at 5 percent.                                  Michael, your party seems to have a problem of mush.  There`s nobody in the way of Michael`s -- there`s nobody in the way of Donald Trump.  If there was anybody serious up there, like an Eisenhower, or a Reagan or even   a Nixon, I don`t they`d be pushed aside as easily as this guy pushed them aside.  Your thoughts?                                 STEELE:  Well, no, I kind of disagree with that.  And just for the record --                                 MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is Bush strong?  Is Jeb Bush the party`s choice?  Why is he in second place?                                  STEELE:  Chris, you have people still coming into the race.  You still have at least one more candidate who`s going to announce for the office   next week.                                  So, my thinking is I`m not really judging this the way a lot of folks are looking at it right now.  Trump has got momentum.  Absolutely, no doubt about that.  This is an opportunity for the Jeb Bushes in the party to sort of push back on him if they want to.                                  But I think the telltale moment, and I want to see how the party and country reacts after the first debate in a couple weeks` time.  So, all of this right now is just fun fodder.  We`re having a good time, and Trump is ahead of the polls.  It means nothing until after that first debate.                                    WALTER:  Or after the first two debates.                                  STEELE:  Or the first two debates.                                 WALTER:  Yes.                                  MATTHEWS:  Amy Walter, how do you push the guy back, if he`s being prejudice against Hispanic people, which he sounds like and this is an ethnic thing?  How do you push back without shaming him and forcing him into a third-party situation?  Is he going to walk away?                                    I have to quit politics because I`ve been accused as being a racist so I`ll fold my tent and go away.  He ain`t going to do that.                                  WALTER:  He is the most dangerous --                                  MATTHEWS:  If he cares for that (ph).                                 WALTER:  That`s right.  He`s the most dangerous candidate in politics because he`s got a lot of money, he has absolutely -- we discussed this in the green room -- no shame.  And he has nothing to lose, right?                                    So, the more you push him, the more, you know, sort of engaged he gets.  It`s like what you learned about, not letting a bully -- you know, not engaging with a bully.  He can keep going and keep going and keep going.                                 Look, I agree with Michael Steele, that I think that now that he is on top, the media scrutiny is going to continue.  It`s not just going to be about what he says about Mexican-Americans.  It`s going to be what his positions have been on a host of issues.  What his personal finances are.  What he`s said and done.                                    The scrutiny is going to start.  The scrutiny will continue in the debates.  And we`ll see if he`s still on top.                                  MATTHEWS:  That`s when he turns on us, by the way.  That`s when he turns on --                                  (LAUGHTER)                                 MATTHEWS:  Anyway, after announcing his -- you get this, Tomasky, after he announced his candidacy, Wisconsin Governor Scott walker took to   FOX News, where he called the Democratic push for minimum wage a lame push.  Let`s watch.                                 (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)                                 GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The left claims they`re for American workers and they just got really lame ideas, things like the minimum wage.                                  (END VIDEO CLIP)                                   MATTHEWS:  He might pay for that, Michael Tomasky.  It`s a lame idea if you`re working as a dishwasher somewhere, you`re working at a fast food joint, you know, a big increase in your wages may seem important to you and the people you`re feeding.                                  TOMASKY:  He`s not going to pay in Republican primary process, but if he`s the nominee and if he makes it to a general, there`s no question that he`s going to pay about that because his opponent is going to be for, is presumably it`s going to be Hillary Clinton, is going to be for a $10 or $12 minimum wage.  I wonder if Scott Walker even knows.  If we were -- if we had Scott Walker on this show and were to ask him what the minimum wage   would be in this country if it had kept up with inflation since 1978, or what it would be if it had kept up with productivity since then, I bet he wouldn`t even know the answer to those questions.                                  MATTHEWS:  What is the answer?                                  TOMASKY:  It`s about $12 in the first case and about $19 in the second case.                                  MATTHEWS:  Yes, I once proposed working for a center for Utah, Frank Moss (ph).  I proposed taking it as an automatic increase, take the   productivity, inflation out of the gutter, and bring it up by both standards so we`d have a real minimum wage.  That did not pass the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.                                  Anyway, thank you, guys.                                 TOMASKY:  By the way -- no, sorry.                                 MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.                                  TOMASKY:  By the way, Mitt Romney supported indexing the minimum wage   to inflation in 2012.  That would be a no-go, a big no-go in this Republican Party.                                  MATTHEWS:  I`d index it to productivity and to inflation.                                 Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele.  Thank you, Amy Walter.                                 WALTER:  Thank you.                                 MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Michael Tomasky.                                   TOMASKY:  Thanks.                                 MATTHEWS:  We`ll be right back after this.                                 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)                                 MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with this, "I refuse to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire."  Well, those were the words of Winston Churchill.                                  Let`s apply them to the nuclear deal just struck between the world   powers and the government of Iran.  Who is the fire brigade here, the people who struck this deal or those who are out there whacking away at it?                                  The treaty opens up Iran to inspection and keeps it from getting near building a nuclear weapon for a decade.  What do the critics of the deal proposed us doing?  Well, for one thing, not signing the deal.  That means Iran has no restraints on heading toward a nuclear weapons arsenal, and no way of us knowing how quickly it will get to having one.  In other words, it will only be a question of how quickly we`ll have to bomb them.                                  Is there another way to look at this?  Is there any other way we could   enforce sanctions against Iran except through agreement with other world powers including Russia and China?  If we can`t get them to go along with a tougher deal and can`t get Iran to accept one, is it reasonable to assume we got the best deal here?                                  So, it comes down to three options really -- deal, no deal and bomb.  And that really comes down to two options.  Deal and delay the Iranians or don`t deal and get quickly around to bombing them, which will only have the ability of delaying them in building a bomb, what we get done by the deal we have now.  Isn`t it better to get what we want without going to all-out war?                                    And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.                                  "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.                 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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