Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 07/22/15

Guests: Susan Page, Jay Newton-Small, Ali Rezaian, Susan Milligan, ClarencePage

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Firing back. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Donald Trump`s attack machine has finally encountered armed resistance. Today, Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, hit back hard. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK PERRY (R-TX), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: I can only ask, as Senator (sic) Welch did of Senator McCarthy, have you no sense of decency, sir? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb Bush, who`s tried to stay above the crap storm, said that Trump has been ugly in his description of Mexicans as a people and John McCain as a person. Question. Is this attack from within going to do the eventual Republican nominee such huge harm next year, even if Trump stops short of running third party?   Howard Fineman is global editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief of "USA Today." Today, Rick Perry, as I said, came to Washington to launch an all-out assault on Trump. He called him "a cancer on the party," and that was just the beginning. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement. He breathes the free air thousands of heroes died protecting. And he couldn`t have endured five minutes what John McCain endured for five-and-a-half years. (APPLAUSE) PERRY: When he would seek to demonize millions of citizens, when he would stoop to attack POWs for being captured, I can only ask, as Senator (sic) Welch did of Senator McCarthy, have you no sense of decency, sir? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Howard, you know, the words are tough. I`m not sure it has the same boffo delivery, or whatever you want to call it, the firepower of the initial attacks by Trump. Can anybody stand up to his withering assault... HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well... MATTHEWS: ... which I`m sure he`ll hit back at this guy by midnight tonight. FINEMAN: Sure. Well, that`s the -- that`s the organization of the ballgame right now on the Republican side. It`s to attack Donald Trump. It`s to be attacked by Donald Trump. It`s to raise your own profile by getting in a fight with him. That`s sort of what`s happened now. That`s what Rick Perry is doing.   And this Rick Perry, compared to the one who ran last time, is pretty impressive by comparison. He`s using -- he`s found a way to, at least for a, day demonstrate his compassionate conservative, the fact that he has a more modulated view on immigration, the fact that he wants some kind of reform in that. And he does it by making a contrast with Donald Trump. I think it was pretty successful. MATTHEWS: You know, we all grew up -- I think you did, to -- growing up watching "Gunsmoke." And every week, somebody came into town tried to get a reputation by taking on Marshall Dillon. And they always ended up dead at the end of the show. I mean, dead in that saloon, right? Same -- has this guy got it? Does he have enough sustaining power, Rick Perry -- Rick Perry -- who`s been humiliated by Trump, by -- called the guy with the glasses, but you can still tell he ain`t smart? Can he go into this or is this an "oops" on his part to do this? SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Oh, no, I think it`s the right thing for him to do because, for one thing, otherwise, he`s not in the conversation. The conversation -- political conversation is entirely about Trump, or Trump and fill in the blank. MATTHEWS: So Howard`s right. PAGE: The debate is to be... MATTHEWS: Howard`s right. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) PAGE: Occasionally. How do you get to be the person to fill in the blank? You know, Lindsey Graham got to be the guy. Trump and Lindsey Graham... MATTHEWS: Oh, we got that one, too. That`s coming up tonight. PAGE: Yes.   MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump, as you would expect, is firing at Perry. Trump released a photo of Perry next to him smiling to the cameras. Trump says it`s a picture of, quote, "Governor Perry in my office last cycle playing nice and begging for my support and money. Hypocrite." Well, Trump also announced that he`s heading to Perry`s back yard in Texas tomorrow to tour the border near Laredo, Texas. In an interview the morning, he said, "I may never see you again, but we`re going to do it." (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: He`s now going off on a frontier mission that could be dangerous, he`s suggesting. In other words, going near the Mexican border is life-threatening. FINEMAN: Yes. He`s now -- you know, and he may end up being captured, so... (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: But he won`t be a hero. MATTHEWS: You`re not going to (INAUDIBLE) getting captured, especially by the Federales. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That won`t count. Anyway, this -- we got -- we got to take a look here at -- what is Lindsey Graham up to? He put out this amazing commercial. PAGE: Hilarious.   MATTHEWS: Let`s watch. Yesterday, Donald Trump gave out Senator Lindsey Graham`s personal cell number, as we (INAUDIBLE), in retaliation for Graham calling him a jackass. And today, Senator Graham tried to outdo that stunt by teaming up with the conservative news site IJReview. They put out this video entitled "How to destroy your cell phone with Lindsey Graham." Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRES. CANDIDATE: Or if all else fails, you can always give your number to the Donald. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Who came up with using the "Four Seasons" as the music there? I got to tell you, that was -- is that pathetic or is that clever? He stayed up all night producing this thing. PAGE: In what other circumstances -- if Lindsey Graham gave a speech about the Iran nuclear deal, would we be talking about it? No. He got himself -- you know, he`s at 2 percent in the polls... MATTHEWS: He goes to the movies last night... PAGE: ... but he got himself into the story. MATTHEWS: ... with Kelly Ayotte to see some movie. While he`s at the movies last night -- this is being produced by this group IJReview. And therefore, he comes in and -- I guess he did the stand-ups in the morning. And he got in the... PAGE: Yes.   FINEMAN: Well, Chris... MATTHEWS: So it`s all done now, less than 24 hours. PAGE: And it`s got a sense of humor. FINEMAN: Chris, he is the sort of weird orange-haired maypole... (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: ... around which everybody is dancing at this point. And an example of it is yesterday, showing the thing with the cell phone. John Kasich, a serious, substantive guy, governor of Ohio... MATTHEWS: Actually a good guy. PAGE: ... head of the Budget Committee, you know, the real deal as a potential president, announces his campaign. Does anybody pay much attention? No. The number one story on CBS Radio News at 4:00 o`clock in the afternoon, the most straitlaced news broadcast that there is, recent winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award, OK... MATTHEWS: Is Keith McBee (ph) still doing that? FINEMAN: I don`t know. But who do they -- who do they talk about? What presidential candidate do they talk about at 4:00 o`clock? MATTHEWS: OK.   FINEMAN: Donald Trump. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I agree -- I turn on XM radio coming in this morning. I flick all the stations, Fox, CNN, us, everything. They`re all on the same topic. He`s dominating. Anyway, last night, Jeb Bush, who`ve been trying to stay above the fight, picked a fight with Trump. He finally did. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: The problem with Mr. Trump`s language is it`s divisive. It`s ugly. It`s mean-spirited. If we embrace this language of divisiveness and ugliness, we`ll never win. We`ll never win. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So there you have a gentleman, right -- we all know he`s a gentleman -- "Mr. Trump" he calls him -- "Mr. Trump." He talks about embracing language. But in the middle of the shot. "It`s ugly." He`s calling Trump ugly in his language. I think Trump is going to come back on this. PAGE: I think it`s not -- I think it`s risky for Jeb Bush, actually, because Trump, whatever you think of him, is appealing to a significant faction of the Republican Party that`s got a lot of energy and that doesn`t trust Jeb Bush, right? So Jeb Bush is putting off those people, and he`s already got some conservatives raising questions about whether he`s a true conservative. Maybe he`s got no alternative but to push back to some of this. But I don`t think it`s a slam-dunk for Jeb Bush, who`s near the top of the polls. I mean, at least he`s in the first tier of candidates... MATTHEWS: Well, he`s counting on being...   PAGE: Yes. MATTHEWS: Look at this. Look at this. He also -- Jeb Bush so counts on the fact that he can outspend these guys and out-wait them -- here he is trying to cozy up to who I think he wants as his running mate. Here he is saying he wants to make sure John Kasich -- if he doesn`t get in this Fox debate this August, he`s going to give him a shoutout. What is all this matchmaking at this point? Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: John Kasich is an effective governor and has a great record. And he`s the host governor of the first debate in Cleveland, and he may not be on it. It`s odd. But I`m looking forward to being a participant in it, and I`ll give a shoutout to Kasich if he is not on it. Maybe he`ll be in the -- in the -- in the crowd if he`s not in there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What`s that? Is this, like, the establishment wing cozying up and buddying up? FINEMAN: Yes. He`s already setting up the Florida-Ohio general election ticket. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: Meanwhile, as we make fun of Donald Trump, you don`t make fun of the people who might vote for him... MATTHEWS: Yes.   FINEMAN: ... and who are now supporting him. And it`s the same crowd, mostly white, mostly working class, people who are afraid of "Them"... MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: ... the outside "Them." The genius of Trump is that he`s -- as my colleague Zack Carter (ph) wrote -- a great piece -- he`s the plutocrat populist. And he`s not blaming Wall Street. He`s blaming China. He`s blaming Mexico. He is blaming the outsiders. That`s the whole thing for him, which conveniently lets the Wall Street people, including him, off the hook. Donald Trump is saying, I`m for free enterprise. I`m a billionaire. MATTHEWS: Well, he (INAUDIBLE) FINEMAN: It`s a little bit of Reverend Ike. It`s a little bit of Lee Iacocca. It`s a little bit of Ross Perot. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: And it`s a little bit, and it`s a lot of Pat Buchanan... MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: ... who ran the same thing, against trade, against the "them" on the outside... MATTHEWS: Yes. Pitchforks.   FINEMAN: ... and that`s -- that`s... MATTHEWS: Well, I think he got... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: ... pitchfork, but not against Wall Street. MATTHEWS: It`s so smart. Anyway, Marco Rubio threw out a two-fer on Fox this morning, no surprise, putting Trump and President Obama in the same -- into the same attack zone. I don`t like what he says here. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To conduct the presidency, it has to be done in a dignified way, with a level of class. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe Donald Trump... RUBIO: I don`t think that the way he`s behaved over the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of the office that he seeks. We already have a president now that has no class. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, that`s the kind of slur -- that`s not a political charge. That`s a slur against a man, against the president, that he doesn`t have any class.   One thing about this -- well, there`s a lot of things I can say about him. But look how he`s led his life. He`s done everything right. He worked hard in school. He got into the good schools. He got to be head of Harvard Business Review (sic), in a blind test to get in. (INAUDIBLE) minority or Affirmative Action. None of that. He got all the way through, and instead of going and grubbing the money on Wall Street, he went out to people, helped his community. He`s ran statewide, faced the electorate the way we say you should do, risked -- citywide and then statewide. He`s done everything right. He`s been immaculate in the presidency. Nobody`s accused him of any corruption. His kids are perfect. His wife is perfect. He`s done everything that these right-wing white conservatives say we`re supposed to be in this country. He`s done everything right! And this sleazy comment that he has no class -- what does that mean? I`d love to get him under sodium pentothal and say, Buster, what do you mean by no class? What do you mean by that? And find out what he does mean. It`s a cheap slur that works with the cheap seats in the Republican Party. You know it does. PAGE: It wasn`t even part of the theme of... MATTHEWS: It doesn`t mean anything! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He has plenty of class. And I watched the guy last night on "Daily Show." He can take any shot. He smiles with it. He has charm. He`s debonair about it. I mean, you don`t have to agree with what he does or say he`s a fantastic president. But class I think he`s got. FINEMAN: Well, that was Marco Rubio crudely trying to play to his own crowd while simultaneously... MATTHEWS: Who is this crowd that likes that, this peanut gallery? FINEMAN: Yes. I don`t think it would play even among a lot of Trump`s...   MATTHEWS: It`s a rotten thing to say. It`s a rotten thing to say. And they get away with it because of the attitudes -- let me just say that -- of a lot of those people out there. Do you agree with me? PAGE: Yes. MATTHEWS: Thank you, both of you, Howard Fineman, Susan Page. I know you`re hard to argue, you`re so objective. But I think that`s an objective fact, the president has class. Coming up, what damage will Donald Trump do to the Republican Party and its eventual nominee between now and next summer? A lot. Could Trump actually help Hillary Clinton and the Democrats by keeping the heat and undermining his fellow Republicans, even if he doesn`t run third party? That`s coming up. Plus, today marks one year since "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian was jailed in Iran. Well, tonight, his brother`s here to talk about new efforts to get him home here. And conservatives in this country are turning against His Holiness, Pope Francis. Could that have something to do with the pope`s call to do something about climate change and income inequality? You betcha. Finally, President Obama makes his final appearance on "The Daily Show," as I said, with Jon Stewart last night. He gets a few good licks on against Dick Cheney -- that`s how you pronounce it -- and Donald Trump. And that`s how you pronounce that name. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Vermont senator Bernie Sanders today introduced a bill calling for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, $15, nearly double the current rate of $7.25 an hour. When asked about his 2016 competitor, Hillary Clinton`s, stance on the issue, Sanders replied simply, "I support $15 an hour. She`ll do what she wants." Clinton`s supportive of a raise in the federal minimum, has yet to endorse a specific hourly wage. And we`ll be right back.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump`s incendiary rhetoric about the Mexican people and his vicious personal attacks on his primary opponents could haunt the Republican Party, haunt them on election day 2016. Next year`s Republican nominee could wind up with a similar fate as past presidential nominees who have been burned by nasty primary attacks. Back in 1960, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller`s attacks on Richard Nixon undercut him in his campaign against John F. Kennedy. And Kennedy jabbed Nixon over their feud at the Al Smith dinner that fall. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cardinal Spellman is the only man so widely respected in American politics that he could bring together amicably at the same banquet table for the first time in this campaign two political leaders who are increasingly apprehensive about the November election... (LAUGHTER) KENNEDY: ... who have long eyed each other suspiciously... (LAUGHTER) KENNEDY: ... and who have disagreed so strongly both publicly and privately, Vice President Nixon and Governor Rockefeller. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, in 1976, Ronald Reagan`s challenge to incumbent president Gerald Ford proved to weaken Ford`s chances against Jimmy Carter. In 1980, it was Tennessee senator Al Gore`s criticism of Michael Dukakis over prison furloughs that gave George Bush a central line of attack in that year`s general election. And in 2012, Mitt Romney`s GOP rivals attacked his business record, labeling him a "vulture capitalist," which the Obama campaign used to define Mitt Romney well before the general election. And now the Democrats are united in making sure the Republican Party, no matter who becomes the nominee, owns Donald Trump and his positions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRES. CANDIDATE: It`s shameful, and so is the fact that it took so long for most of his fellow Republican candidates to start standing up to him. The sad truth is, if you look many of their policies, it can be hard to tell difference. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: But I noticed that the other Republican presidential candidates immediately jumped on him for that, and good for them. But where were they when Donald Trump shot off his mouth about Mexican-Americans? Where was he (sic) then? The answer was they hid in the shadows. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: So all the rest of the Republican presidential hopeful (sic) may not engage in the same repugnant rhetoric, make no mistake, they`re all on the same page with Donald Trump. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Jay-Newton Small`s with "Time" magazine. David Corn`s an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones." You know, I don`t know how they`re going to get this stench off them. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And (INAUDIBLE) because they`re -- as we said in the first block tonight, either you take the crap he`s throwing at you or you throw it back at him. In any case, you get crap on you. It`s just is the case of this campaign. It is really dirty and smelly at this point.   JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: No, they wanted -- they`re rolling in mud and it`s going to keep going. And I think what the Democrats are really -- what they`re really hoping for is what -- is that Trump continues into the general election, right? He hasn`t ruled out running... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Even if he doesn`t. I`m going by the assumption he may not because it`s going to cost him a ton, although there`s a tremendous appeal to getting in a national debate three evenings of primetime... NEWTON-SMALL: Yes. MATTHEWS: ... against the two nominees. DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And you know, we look at the history of how primary battles may or may not affect the general election, as you went through in the setup. But I think what`s here is different. This isn`t Trump undermining Jeb Bush or Scott Walker in a particular way because of their own policy failures or problems in the past. It`s really tainting the entire Republican Party and making it hard for anybody else to get a line of thought through. NEWTON-SMALL: To breathe that oxygen. CORN: Yes. Yes. So, what you have, you have, in the last couple of days, the only attention any candidate has gotten other than Donald Trump is when they have attacked Donald Trump. So they`re not making -- they`re not getting a message out to the party. MATTHEWS: Or else destroyed their cell phone. CORN: Yes, destroyed their cell phone.   Even when Rand Paul went through the tax code, he would have had more success if he was going through Donald Trump`s financial disclosure forms. And that`s -- he is going to keep making the Republican circus look circus- like, or more like a mud wrestling pit. MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s get ethnic here. If you`re an Hispanic-American and you`re a voter, and 13 percent of the voters are Hispanic in their background, you`re going to notice that the Republican Party was going headstands over this guy. Look, he was leading the poll among that party. Would you want those voters to set your future and say anybody who ever voted for Donald Trump in a poll, I don`t want them calling the shots who the next president is? And a lot of Republicans have been saying yes to Donald Trump. NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, yes, that`s certainly Hillary`s criticism. It`s certainly the Democrats` criticism, is like, he was -- everyone was totally silent him when he was criticizing Latinos because it`s such a big issue, immigration. It`s like the third rail right now. You don`t want to say, oh, I`m even remotely for any kind of pro-immigration stance. MATTHEWS: Amnesty. NEWTON-SMALL: Amnesty, which is the A-word, right, like that everyone avoids like the plague. And so -- but then it`s like he said -- everything else he says, increasingly, they`re just like, oh, well, that`s not good. Well, that`s not -- oh, that`s really not good. And then -- and it just snowballs then. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How do they kill him? How do they kill him? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What do they do with the body? What happens if he fails and doesn`t get the nomination? Let`s assume he doesn`t get the nomination. I think it`s a pretty good assumption. But I`m not sure.   CORN: Well, I`m not sure. MATTHEWS: OK. He doesn`t get the nom. What do they do with the body? Where do they send him off to? Because unless they trash him and deny his credibility, which, if they do that, they lose all his votes in the general, or a lot of them. How do they get rid of him? CORN: He is operating under a different set of rules. MATTHEWS: I know. But what are they going to do with him, the Republicans? CORN: I mean, unless they know two guys in Jersey and they go to the... (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) CORN: ... field... NEWTON-SMALL: Which may have been tried before with Donald Trump. CORN: Yes. Unless they do something like that, he is here to stay for as long as he wants to stay.   (CROSSTALK) NEWTON-SMALL: And he can afford to stay for a while. CORN: In the Republican primary -- because the thing is, if you call him on anything, he just says, you know what? That`s just the media. That`s the losers. And I can negotiate better... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He`s speaking at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, right, in prime time, the way it`s going? NEWTON-SMALL: Yes. CORN: Well, I don`t know. He may be independent by then. MATTHEWS: If he is not, he has... (CROSSTALK) CORN: Well, yes and no. They don`t always put the losers up on the platform. Maybe they do... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: You guys are both missing my point. What do you do to kill this guy if you`re a Republican opponent? CORN: I don`t think they can. NEWTON-SMALL: They can`t. MATTHEWS: You got to get rid of him. CORN: They can`t. (CROSSTALK) NEWTON-SMALL: It`s why, like, Ted Cruz literally still hardly has criticized Donald Trump, because he wants all those voters. MATTHEWS: He wants to be Donald Trump. NEWTON-SMALL: He wants to be Donald Trump. (CROSSTALK) CORN: He wants to get those voters if Donald Trump actually goes someplace or he, you know, explodes or self-implodes.   (CROSSTALK) CORN: I think the problem is, he can decide to stay in this race for as long as he is willing pay to stay in the race, which means until the very end. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Does he want a platform speech at the convention, or does he want to be in three national debates? I think he wants be in national debates. NEWTON-SMALL: Three national debates. (CROSSTALK) CORN: He may want to be in that house over there, Chris. MATTHEWS: The White House? CORN: The White House. Put a big Trump sign on it. MATTHEWS: Is that what`s behind me? I never looked.   (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much. I think he is going to be big news. I don`t think they`re going to get this stuff off them very easily in this election... CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: ... because I think he`s going to make more noise, and he is the only one -- Hillary even. That wasn`t very exciting stuff from her right now. She has not exactly grabbed the attention of the American people. He has drowned her out. NEWTON-SMALL: Well, but she is happy about that. MATTHEWS: And she is expected to be the next president. CORN: That`s OK for... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do you think she likes that? NEWTON-SMALL: I think she does.   CORN: For the next six months, it`s fine. NEWTON-SMALL: Let the circus go. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Fine. More of him, less of her. CORN: Yes. She can buy her time. MATTHEWS: That`s the most unusual campaign in history. Don`t watch me. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Jay Newton-Small of "TIME" magazine, David Corn of "Mother Jones" -- up next -- and us, both. Anyway, up next, a year in captivity in Iran. We are going to speak with the brother of a "Washington Post" American reporter who was jailed by the Iranian regime a year ago today. Are we any closer to getting this fellow home and the other three? And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re not going to relent until we bring home our Americans who are unjustly detained in Iran. Journalist Jason Rezaian -- Rezaian -- should be released. Pastor Saeed Abedini should be released. Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, should be released. Iran needs to help us find Robert Levinson. These Americans need to be back home with their families. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama yesterday calling for the release of the four Americans who are currently being held in Iran. Among them is California-born journalist Jason Rezaian, who, as of today, has spent a year behind bars in that country. He was working as the Tehran bureau chief of "The Washington Post" last July, when he was arrested and later accused of spying for the U.S. And now that a historic nuclear agreement has been reached with Iran, President Obama is facing renewed calls to secure his release, and that of the other three Americans. And here is how it came up at last week`s press conference. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell the country, sir, why are you content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?   OBAMA: The notion that I`m content as I celebrate with Americans citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that`s -- that`s nonsense, and you should know better. I have met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody`s content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Iran`s deputy foreign minister confirmed today that the prisoner issue did come up on the sidelines of the nuclear talks, even though their release was not linked to the deal that was finalized last week. I`m joined right now by Ali Rezaian, who is the brother of Jason Rezaian, and chief foreign correspondent of NBC News Richard Engel. I`m so happy to have both of you on, for totally different reasons. But, Ali, tell me how it`s going. Is there any sign of life, of getting your brother out? ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF JASON REZAIAN: Jason`s trial has been ongoing. He had his third day in court just the other day. And we now expect that his next day in court will be the last day of his trial, and then at some point after that, we will get a judgment from the court. We just don`t know when. MATTHEWS: Are you being careful? You have to be careful about what you would say here, I would assume? REZAIAN: I`m usually careful with what I say. MATTHEWS: No, I mean in terms of what the hard-line -- hard-liners on that court over there might react to?   REZAIAN: I think it`s fair to say that I don`t want to do anything to hurt Jason. MATTHEWS: Of course. REZAIAN: But I think that our hope is, is they will look at the evidence, that folks within the Iranian government will have time to look at the evidence and do the... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Who calls the shot? If this is as we all see it, as a complete injustice, that there was no spying, there was no reason to believe there was spying, if it was complete injustice, a stunt, a political stunt, international stunt, who would make the call and say we have done enough, let`s let the guy go? Who does that, the ayatollahs or who makes those calls? Or the judges? It doesn`t seem like the judges have the power to do that. REZAIAN: I don`t think people realize that there is a give and take there. Everybody has their own amount of political power, their chips that they can put in. And so I think that it`s a combination. There is the judiciary, there is the president, and there is the supreme leader. MATTHEWS: How do we talk to the Iranian ayatollahs? Do we say, if you let the guy go, we will say something good about you, we won`t -- you - - won`t dump on you again? You know what I mean? They will get some pay - - some sort of international payment in a sense of they will look good? What do you do as an American to get a guy out of this situation? RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have to understand Iran is a very divided society. It has a very divided political system, like this country has a very divided political system. And there are three real centers of power. You have the presidency, which is represented by the reformers, the moderates, the people who were negotiating the deal.   Then you have the judiciary and the security services, who are holding his brother, and they are hard-liners. They do not listen to the presidency. And then you have the supreme leader that sort of oversees it all. And you have to try and negotiate and direct your message to the certain parties that are appropriate. So, in the case of his brother -- and I can understand why he is being cautious with what he says -- his brother is being held by the hard-liners in the regime, the security services, the judiciary, who aren`t happy that there is a deal going on, don`t necessarily want to see Iran... MATTHEWS: Why did they grab him? ENGEL: That`s debatable. Some people have said they grabbed him because they were suspicious that he was there. He was reporting. He was married to an Iranian woman. It was uncomfortable. Some people say they grabbed him to embarrass the government, which was going out to negotiate a deal. The negotiators, by the way... MATTHEWS: But he has press credentials. He is a professional journalist with "The Washington Post," a very well-known organization. Everybody... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... "The Washington Post" everywhere. ENGEL: Zarif -- Zarif... (CROSSTALK) ENGEL: ... said he was a friend of Jason`s, liked him personally.   REZAIAN: Yes. No, I mean, the work he was doing was all credentialed. He was doing his work by the rules that they have over there. And, you know, I think, in general, he was fair. He showed a different perspective on Iran than we saw. And there was no flamethrowing there. He was journalist, a professional journalist. MATTHEWS: Straight, straight news. REZAIAN: Yes. And he had contacts that he used to make sure he was reporting correctly. MATTHEWS: I sometimes wonder if they understand that or even respect that, free flow of information. Anyway, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is running for president, issued a press release today calling the four Americans held -- he`s calling them hostages, actually, comparing their detention to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, which occurred under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Quote -- this is Walker -- quote -- "Today, Iran`s rulers see our sitting president as weak, much like they saw President Carter. Amid all of President Obama`s dangerous concessions to Iran in the nuclear deal, he has also failed to get Americans back home to their families. The Iranians won`t release our fellow citizens until we have a commander in chief they fear and respect." In other words, you know what this sounds like? I think everything Scott Walker says that doesn`t have to do with the unions and his own state are written for him by somebody he has hardly ever met. This kind of cheap shot at Carter, cheap shot at President Obama after this nuclear deal, when the stakes are so high, just seems like low-level politics to me. ENGEL: Well, it`s an oversimplification. So, you have to also understand the dynamic. You mentioned that there are four Americans detained in Iran. It`s actually three, three Americans detained in Iran. MATTHEWS: And one is, well...   ENGEL: And one is missing. He went missing from Iran. MATTHEWS: What does that mean, in effect? ENGEL: He went to Iran. And this is the one unlike the other. You notice the three were Iranian-Americans. MATTHEWS: Yes. ENGEL: And then you have... MATTHEWS: Levinson. ENGEL: ... Levinson, who is not an Iranian-American. He went there. It`s unclear what happened to him. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But why wouldn`t they say, we don`t have him in custody if we don`t have him in custody? ENGEL: Because they don`t have him custody, as far as I... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: But they don`t say that. (CROSSTALK) ENGEL: They say they don`t know where he is. And so, if you asked, if you listen to the quote from President Obama, he didn`t say, release Levinson. He said give us information to help find him. MATTHEWS: Yes. ENGEL: So this goes back to the -- and these distinctions are important. You have the three Iranian-Americans. Iran considers them Iranians. So, Iran says, this is a domestic issue. These are Iranians. We don`t recognize their American passports. These are people who we are trying. They are in our court system. Leave us alone. MATTHEWS: So if you`re married to an Iranian, you become an Iranian? REZAIAN: That`s absolutely correct. If your parents were Iranian, you are an Iranian citizen. You don`t get a choice. MATTHEWS: That is just like North Korea, isn`t it? In North Korea, they just say everybody is a Korean as long as you live. ENGEL: As long as you live, you`re a Korean. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: ... your family exists, you`re a Korean. ENGEL: Exactly. For Iranian-Americans going there and... MATTHEWS: There is risk? ENGEL: There is a special degree of risk, because we consider them Americans who are of Iranian extraction. The Iranians say, they are once Iranians, they are always Iranians. MATTHEWS: But when he checked in and became a credentialed correspondent in Tehran, there was no challenge to him then, was there? There was no, oh, glad we got you here, we`re going to arrest you? REZAIAN: No. For years, he was reporting. He was reporting fairly and didn`t have problems. He had very good relationships with the folks at the credentialing organization. And, you know, what happens to folks like Jason and myself if they`re over there is that you don`t get consular access. You don`t have access to the Red Crescent or the Red Cross when you`re in jail. You`re denied those kinds of consular access. MATTHEWS: Has the foreign minister over there ever contacted you or have you contacted him, the guy who negotiated the nuclear deal, Zarif? REZAIAN: Zarif, we have been -- I have sent him e-mails and he has sent me brief responses.   MATTHEWS: Brief responses. Can he help? REZAIAN: I think that what he said is that it needs to work through the legal process, the judicial process before anything can happen. MATTHEWS: I think it`s as if it`s a legal process. REZAIAN: That`s what they have been saying since day one. And that`s what we have been asking them to do. ENGEL: There is a possibility that -- he has one more session in court. If the hard-liners convict him to something, maybe they convict him to time served. MATTHEWS: Time served. ENGEL: Then the judicial system feels like it had its say, everyone has respected the process, and then he could get out. That`s the best scenario. MATTHEWS: Well, this will tell you whether they want this nuclear deal to go through, because an act of generosity or whatever you want to call just... (CROSSTALK) ENGEL: The negotiators, the negotiators, I think Zarif would be half if he got out today. MATTHEWS: Well, I think it`s going to -- it would help the relationship dramatically if your brother gets out. Good luck. I have got the button. Thank you.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You`re great to keep coming on. Ali Rezaian, thank you. And Richard Engel, who is my hero. Just look out. I feel like the cop in the -- what`s it`s called, "Hill Street Blues." (CROSSTALK) ENGEL: Well, it`s great to -- I`m not sure if I have even ever been on your... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s dangerous out there. It`s dangerous out there. Up next, ahead of his U.S. visit here, Pope Francis, the people`s pope, sees his popularity slipping somewhat among Catholics and conservatives because he is taking positions. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A new Gallup poll shows that Pope Francis` overall popularity in the U.S. has dropped markedly in the last year. Today, 59 percent of Americans overall view him favorably, while in 2014, he was up there at 76 percent. Well, the biggest drop was with political conservatives, going from 72 percent down to a minority position of 45 percent. And with U.S. Catholics, the pope`s popularity dropped 18 points, going from 89 percent to 71 percent, which is still pretty good. This comes as the pope is becoming a factor in American politics. Catholic presidential candidates are being forced to contend with the pontiff`s policy positions on income inequality and his encyclical on climate change. And in September, the pontiff will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress here at the request of Speaker John Boehner himself, a Roman Catholic. Joining me right now at the round table is columnist Clarence Page of "The Chicago Tribune", Susan Milligan of "U.S. News and World Report", and MSNBC political reporter, Alex Seitz-Wald. Alex, you start this thing. You know, I am Roman Catholic. I used to -- the years of almost pick your cafeteria Catholics, the conservatives love the pope`s position on certain things, obviously life and same sex. The liberals like his position on war and capital punishment and immigration. So, it`s always been a case of, you know, pick the part you like and ignore the other part. Here we go again. ALEX SEITZ-WALD, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, you can pick the pope, too, right? John Paul II was much more favorably viewed by conservatives. Much more aligned with them than Pope Francis. And if you`re a social conservative Catholic right now, you`ve been losing a lot of issues, right? You just had the Supreme Court issue on gay marriage and now you look at this pope that looks -- sounds more like Bill de Blasio than a conservative, and you can`t be too happy about it. MATTHEWS: Really? Big Bird? He`s like Big Bird? SEITZ-WALD: I mean, he`s talking about climate change. He`s talking about --   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I`m sure. Susan Milligan? SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: What`s interesting -- I mean, you`re right that the Catholic Church is against capital punishment and the death penalty and so forth. But you never saw the bishops lobby on that on the Hill or for aid for the poor. You saw them lobby on abortion. MATTHEWS: Why not? MILLIGAN: Because their issue was abortion. That`s pretty much the only -- MATTHEWS: Does it worth like life? MILLIGAN: I would think so. MATTHEWS: Doesn`t climate change, the closing down of this planet at some point in the distant future, the end of human life on this planet have something to do with the life issue? MILLIGAN: You read the encyclical. The interesting thing to me about this pope, he is actually appealing to the very people that the Republican Party needs to attract to a keep that party viable, young people, gays and lesbians and so forth. And yes, the church is still against gay marriage, but he is certainly much more inclusive. And the interesting is that you see --   MATTHEWS: He took away the idea. You and I Catholics, I think we all remember the Vatican II. MILLIGAN: I`ve been to CYO. MATTHEWS: Vatican II really said no more anti-Semitism. So, this is now saying you can`t have all these attitudes about gay people. No more homophobia and it`s not acceptable, even though we don`t agree as a church, they`re saying. But no more attacking people because they`re gay. MILLIGAN: Right. But I think this goes beyond just Catholics. And raising this whole idea of the connection between religion and morality in his view of it, and the view of some of the candidates out there and how religion is connected to morality. I think there is going to be a division in the presidential race. But I think he`s really setting an example that is just historic on the very issue. MATTHEWS: I think most liberal Catholics that I know about, including one I know very well, me, happens to like him a lot. And we wonder, a lot of Jewish people I know who -- well, they`re religious in some cases, but maybe not even religious at all. MILLIGAN: Right. MATTHEWS: Find this guy wonderful. MILLIGAN: Yes. CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I`m really struck by how timely his remarks are. Rather than get hung up on issues that they know the church is not going to move on like abortion or gay marriage. MATTHEWS: That`s not -- that`s doctrine. That`s hard to touch.   PAGE: Exactly, exactly. Keep talking about things like income inequality, which -- and the environment, both of which are very timely issues right now, and the public on the whole is moving in that direction. And I think he has speaking as a Protestant who has lived for a long time in Chicago. MATTHEWS: What are you? PAGE: I`m a fallen away Unitarian at the moment. But Chicago got the biggest archdiocese in the country, has always been a place where -- MATTHEWS: Conservative Catholics, too. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Bernardin was not. PAGE: Bernardin was not. And he was, yes, Seamless Garment -- MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Six -- half dozen presidential candidates for 2016 are themselves Roman Catholic. And the pope`s views on climate seems at odds with many of them. On the eve of the pope`s encyclical on climate, Jeb Bush told campaigners while campaigning in Iowa that he respected the pope, but he would not take political guidance, he called it, from the head of his church. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t go to mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I have enough people helping me along the way with that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That was a little sarcastic. What do you think? During the civil rights movement, we took a lot of leadership from Protestant minister, Martin Luther King, all kinds of people, his father, Daddy King. We did accept the fact that the church, broadly defined has a role in our social and political life in this country and to the betterment of this country. SEITZ-WALD: Well, I mean, Jeb Bush and these other Catholic candidates are kind of stuck in a little bit of a hard place here. They`re taking the line that they`re not scientists. They have dug themselves in on climate change. And you`re not just going to -- MATTHEWS: I mean, they don`t know whether you`re gay because you grew up that way, were that way from the time you can remember or you had some multiple choice tests later in high school and decided which ones to block. SEITZ-WALD: Right, they`re not social scientists. MATTHEWS: They all play this. This guy, Walker, says, I don`t know. He doesn`t know anything, this guy -- it`s weird. They don`t look like they think about anything. SEITZ-WALD: But it`s that same pick your topic. On abortion, they`re going to be with the pope here. And on climate change and on income inequality, they`re not. But I think this poll also shows a little bit of the honeymoon effect, right? So, liberals have fallen off. Others have fallen off. When the pope came in, there is all this great expectation. MATTHEWS: Why do they lose the honeymoon feeling? SEITZ-WALD: Well, you know, you put everything you hope and expect for any new leader. The same thing happened when Obama came in. Once the rubber hits the road, liberals might be disappointed that these great expectations that they had didn`t actually come to pass yet. I mean, it hasn`t been very long at all. MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s possible people just can`t stay in love with anybody long?   SEITZ-WALD: Absolutely. MILLIGAN: That`s it. MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re making a personal -- (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I think there is something about just looking up to anybody for a long period of time, whether it`s Obama. MILLIGAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: We just have lost the ability to stay entranced like they used to be with Franklin Roosevelt. PAGE: Well, especially when they`re dealing with controversial issues every day. MATTHEWS: Not the liberals. I think this guy has been pretty good on all the liberals issues. Liberals should love him. (CROSSTALK) SEITZ-WALD: It`s faith in any institution. No one trusts the military, the White House, or the Vatican.   MATTHEWS: The shelf life of greatness. It`s short. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, President Obama makes his final appearance on Jon Stewart`s "Daily Show." We got some great highlights from last night. I stayed up and watched it. It was great. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Obama departs tomorrow, believe it or not, for a two-country week-long visit to Africa. He`ll arrive first in Kenya, the birthplace of his father for his first trip to that country since 2006. And after Kenya, the president will head to Ethiopia before returning home. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can`t believe that you`re leaving before me. In fact, I am issuing a new executive order, that Jon Stewart cannot leave the show. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)   It`s being challenged in the courts. JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: Yes. I have to say, for me, this is a states rights issue. It`s not -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, Clarence, Susan and Alex. Anyway, that was President Obama last night on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, making his last appearance before Stewart`s 16-year run comes to a close on August 6th. That`s coming up. That`s before the debate actually. Anyway, President Obama talked about his hopes for his last 18 months in office and the ongoing fight over the Iranian agreement. He threw a little levity, too, regarding the Iran agreement take on some of the hawks. Love it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When you hear the critics talk about, well, it`s a bad deal. We could have got a better deal, you`re going to ask them, what represents a better deal? STEWART: Right. OBAMA: What is it that you think could happen? Typically, they`re vague and they fall back on -- well, if you beat your chest a little bit more.   (CROSSTALK) STEWART: Done it in 2011, they`ll give you the country. OBAMA: Or if you`d brought Dick Cheney to the negotiations, you know, then -- STEWART: Let`s not get crazy. OBAMA: Everything would be fine. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it`s Dick Cheney, Mr. President. Anyway, get pronunciation right. That`s the family pronunciation. You know, I was watching it last night, the whole 25 minutes, I kept thinking, you know, maybe this is Obama worship. I don`t think so. All the things he`s got on his mine in the world, every trouble spot in the world is breaking out and here he is casually with this debonair quality, chatting it up with a comedian, as if he has no other job except being pretty good on the show. PAGE: He`s a good multitasker -- MATTHEWS: That`s compartmentalization. How do you make that fit in your head?   PAGE: He`s a good multitasker, for one thing. But also, this is the relaxed Obama with the senioritis as Stewart said early on. MATTHEWS: He is coming off a 5-0, the win/loss record. PAGE: I remember a time early in the presidency when he was playing hard to get with "The Daily Show", you know? The best you can get was a satellite feed. This time, he`s right there, live, man, taking up -- MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this. Stewart gave President Obama the opportunity to comment on his potential successor, Donald Trump. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If people are engaged, eventually, the political system responds despite the money, despite the lobbyists. STEWART: After seven years, is that the advice that you then bequeath to future President Trump? (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Well -- I`m sure the Republicans are enjoying Mr. Trump`s current dominance of their primary. STEWART: Anything that makes they will look less crazy.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Do you like that choice of words? Dominance. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Not up in the polls but dominance. PAGE: He is enjoying the dominance. MILLIGAN: Yes, I think it`s the president who is enjoying his stance in the polls. But, you know -- I mean, obviously, it puts the Republicans in an awkward situation. MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Alex -- Clarence Page, Susan Milligan, and Alex Seitz-Wald. When we return, let me finish with the life Theodore Bikel, who just died. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish with the life of Theodore Bikel. I first saw him in the "African Queen" that starred Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. I remember reading the John Hughes and the film director told Hepburn to pretend she was Eleanor Roosevelt. It turns out he asked Bikel, a refugee from the Nazis in Austria if he could do a German accent which he won`t to do, playing the World War I naval command who condemns Bogart and Hepburn`s characters to death by hanging, but not without first letting them marry.   The other night I saw Theodore Bikel in "The Enemy Below", his first officer on a World War II German u-boat. He was a much bigger star on Broadway as Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music", and later as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof", and yes, playing southern judge in "The Defiant Ones". And when he was playing himself, Bikel was a renowned folk singer and political activist, protesting in the civil rights movement and outspoken against police abuse in 2015. He died yesterday at 91, a U.S. citizen since 1961. A hero to the arts, a guy who could play anyone in any accent but whose true allegiance was this country`s best values. The great Theodore Bikel. And 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.>