CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It`s a bird. It`s a plane. Will nothing bring down the man from Metropolis? Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. And you`re hearing it in the press rooms right now. People who don`t even watch the news are asking, What`s with this guy Trump, who keeps zooming to new attitudes (sic)? Is he, as some say, the "Teflon Don," impregnable to attacks that would leave anyone normal pol crashed and burning? What has he got his rivals don`t? Could it be he`s actually interesting? Could it be they`re not? Dare we say he`s got what the Republican voter out there wants to hear right now and his rivals don`t have a clue? Joy Reid is MSNBC national correspondent, Howard Fineman is global editorial director of the HuffingtonPost, and Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." Anyway, Trump just isn`t obeying the laws of political gravity. He`s not called Trump for nothing. He trumps everything said against him. In late June, he catapulted to second place in the primary polls after excoriating illegal immigrants as rapists and murderers By usual commercial standards, the next week was a nightmare for the Trump brand. Univision, Macy`s, the PGA and NBC, the parent of this network, all severed ties with Trump`s name, his products, his beauty contests. But by the next week, the "USA Today" poll had him leading the Republican field with 17 percent of the vote. And less than a week after that, he told a media slam -- he got a media slam again after questioning John McCain`s war record. The RNC said there`s no place in our party or our country for Trump`s comments. But the "New York Post" ran this front page spread the next day, "Don voyage. Trump is toast." And then the real hammering began. Senator Lindsey Graham called Trump a jackass, so Trump gave out Graham`s personal cell phone on live television. When Rick Perry called Trump "a cancer on the party," Trump told the country that Perry should take an IQ test. On July 25th, the CNN/ORC poll, the national poll, had Trump gaining support, with 18 percent of the primary vote, still in first place. The hits kept coming at him. Yesterday, Trump distanced himself from a top aide, who issued an apology for comments about marital rape. And today we learned that the billionaire Koch brothers are trying to freeze him out of the campaign altogether. Howard, what do you make of this? It seems like everything thrown at Nietzsche and being proved by this guy. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: What doesn`t kill me makes me stronger, and it seems to be true. Everybody`s trying to kill him. The money boys of the Republican Party... HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. MATTHEWS: ... the Koch brothers, are supposedly in charge of who gets the nomination. They don`t want to have anything to do with him, and yet he seems to have something of a shot now -- something of a shot, I`ll say -- at winning this thing. FINEMAN: Yes, I agree, Chris. And it`s not only because he`s not a, quote, "normal politician," to use your phraseology earlier. He`s not a politician at all. And he`s able to appeal across an unusual, if not unprecedented, spectrum brand here. Better watch out, he might become a liberal icon if he`s attacked by the Koch brothers. I mean, he`s taking on the old establishments and the would-be new establishments -- the Republican National Committee, the Koch brothers, the mainstream media, Rupert Murdoch, the Democrats. He`s taking on everybody, and yet he`s not attacking Social Security and Medicare. He`s not attacking Wall Street. He`s saying, Everybody can get rich like me, let`s have a party, and that`s appealing. MATTHEWS: And I think the people who are watching the conservative media, who are actually leaders in the conservative -- media like Roger Ailes and Fox -- and not to knock him, but this is commercial. I think he`s hot right now, very hot. And I think Rush Limbaugh is not going after him. So the people that watch the meters and know which way the wind`s blowing, he`s got it. JOY REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, I think... MATTHEWS: In their party, in their world. REID: Yes. Absolutely. I think Donald Trump kind of channels the unrefined id of the conservative base, who are not just mad at the mainstream media, not just mad at... MATTHEWS: By the way, where is the superego of the Republican id? REID: I couldn`t even imagine. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I wonder if there is one. REID: But I mean, the thing is, is that the conservative base, if you read right-wing blogs, if you read them on line, they`re not just mad at the Democrats and the media, they`re mad at their own party. They`re mad at the Republicans for what they see as capitulating and giving in, being soft, giving in, losing to Barack Obama over and over and over again. And these guys want someone to be offensive. They want someone to be openly mean and angry and to channel their inner rage. And he`s doing it, and he`s not going to pay a price because the people he`s attacking are people they don`t like, either. They don`t like John McCain, who only got favor because he put Sarah Palin on the ticket. They don`t like... MATTHEWS: Sarah Palin likes this guy, by the way. REID: Yes. He`s -- what is he going after, women? Well, these aren`t feminists that are on the Republican base. MATTHEWS: Well, I`ll just tell you the latest polling out -- you brought it up -- Donald Trump leading among American -- Republican women, pretty dramatically. Let me go to -- let me go to Susan Page. Your paper is always to me -- and I`m not putting you anywhere you don`t belong -- right there in the American center. It to me is the great reading on the country. When you look at who you guys put on the front page, top of the fold every day, you`re sort of right there with the zeitgeist. Where do you see Trump with the American zeitgeist, right front and center, not hard left. Is he catching up with the American people or only the fringies? Where is he? SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, you know what? For one thing, he`s fun to watch. So you can like him or not like him, you cannot look away when Donald Trump is talking. And the other thing that`s been remarkable is the characteristics that would undermine other campaigns has fueled his. He refuses to apologize. That`s great! That -- you know, he makes outrageous statements. People like the fact that he won`t apologize. He brags about his money. People like that. But I do think there`s a cap. I continue to think he is not going to be the Republican nominee. Might run as a third-party candidate. That`s possible. But we see him getting, like, 20 percent support among Republicans. There is a real ceiling on his support and... MATTHEWS: How do you know that? PAGE: ... when the field gets smaller... MATTHEWS: What is the ceiling? Make a prediction. Is it 30 percent in the Republican Party? PAGE: I think 25. MATTHEWS: This is enough to win right now. PAGE: I`m making that up. It`s enough to win right now, but at the end of the day, it`s not going to be enough. FINEMAN: Chris, I think... PAGE: When the field is smaller... FINEMAN: I think... PAGE: ... somebody else is going to be able to show broader appeal. FINEMAN: Chris, I think the interesting thing now is a lot of the decision-making about this is in Donald Trump`s hands. First of all, taking on the Koch brothers, if he`s really going to do it, is a brilliant move, number one. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: And number two... MATTHEWS: The media will love it. FINEMAN: Yes. Exactly. And if he has the ability to actually exceed expectations, which are extremely low on substance, and to begin to actually put out a few somewhat carefully considered proposals, people are going to, I think, not only tear them apart, but maybe approve the fact that this guy is actually moving toward something serious. So he can kind of win either way over the next few months. MATTHEWS: OK, next Thursday night... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: ... debate. Howard, you first, then everybody else. I argue that Trump has to be in the headline next Friday morning, that he will be in the headline, he has to be. If he`s not in the headline, he will begin to crest. What do you think? FINEMAN: Yes, I think he has to be in the lead of the stories, and he wants to be in the lead of the stories in a way that`s not about him having suddenly exploded. I don`t see him blowing up like the Hindenburg on the stage in Cleveland. He`s too shrewd for that, and he`s too leathery and experienced with New York media. But yes, he`s got to be in the mix of it, and the other people have to decide whether they want to let him be there. PAGE: He`s definitely going to be in the lead of the story. He`s going to be -- the story will either be about what he says, about what other people say to him... MATTHEWS: That`s pretty powerful stuff. PAGE: ... but he is the driver of that debate. MATTHEWS: By the way, nobody`s be yelling -- if he blows up, as Howard said, after this debate, nobody`s going to be yelling like in the Hindenburg, "The humanity!" (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Nobody`s going to be yelling that! (LAUGHTER) REID: Can I just, though, say, real quick, Chris, that I think that the stories will be about Trump after the debate because that`s the way it`s going to be framed. It`s how do the other candidates... MATTHEWS: Will he be in the headlines... (CROSSTALK) REID: He`ll be in the headline. But can I just quickly say after what Susan said? He isn`t fun to watch if you`re black or Hispanic, I can tell you that, or if you`re a woman who`s not a conservative woman. He`s actually incredibly offensive to non... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... he`s offensive? REID: Because what essentially he does, if he says Barack Obama`s not smart enough to be president... MATTHEWS: Does anybody believe he means it? (CROSSTALK) REID: Nobody believes it, but it appeals to the part of the right-wing base that wants to believe that Barack Obama`s some sort of Manchurian candidate. He says... MATTHEWS: Do you think anybody really believes that on the right anymore? REID: I`ll tell you, yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You watch the guy in a press conference, you can spot his IQ. REID: There`s a group of Americans... MATTHEWS: It`s so high. REID: ... that are appealing -- that -- Trump is at 30 in this latest poll. There is a part of the Republican base, and the media doesn`t like to admit it, that is Archie Bunker incarnate. And he appeals to them. So he`s -- it`s exciting for them... (CROSSTALK) REID: ... not the whole thing... MATTHEWS: ... a lot more people than that. I would argue more than that because I think he is entertaining and they`re tired of the BS from the politicians and the political correctitude (ph). You know, it`s why -- why is "Curb Your Enthusiasm" a popular TV show? Because the guy, Larry David, says whatever he feels like. Anyway, as we mentioned, Trump certainly has Sarah Palin in his corner right now, the former VP nominee. Remember that, Republicans? You nominated her for vice president! Praised Trump as a hero, and Trump returned the favor in an interview with Palin`s Mama Griz (sic) radio. Let`s listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is a Trump administration, could you see maybe picking up the phone, giving the governor a call, picking her brain on some things, or perhaps having her along in some official capacity? DONALD TRUMP (R-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, I`d love that because she really is somebody that knows what`s happening. And she`s a special person. She`s really a special person. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, what is that about, Howard, picking the brain of Sarah Palin? Never heard those words (INAUDIBLE) before. FINEMAN: Well... MATTHEWS: But it is fascinating... FINEMAN: ... first you have to find it. (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: First you have to find it. MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. OK. FINEMAN: OK, so... MATTHEWS: You elitist media person! (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: I`m sorry. But I think that`s Donald Trump pandering, which is something that he doesn`t usually do. And I have to say that Joy I think is right. I think in terms of the -- his politics is not dog whistle, it`s foghorn. Yes, there`s more to it than the Archie Bunker crowd, Chris. I agree with you, in his appeal. You can`t tell how far it`s going to go and in what direction it might go. But yes, one of the core pieces of it is, We don`t like the changes happening in America. We don`t like "Them." We`re going to say most of those "Them" are outside of the United States. They`re Chinese, they`re Iranians, they`re Mexicans. But it`s the "Them," with the capital T that Donald Trump`s core appeal is all about. It`s fear of the "Them" with the capital T. MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get the core appeal now to the expert. Susan, if you`re on an airplane and you`re flying to Australia, my favorite question -- Who do you want sitting next to you? Bill Clinton always won that in the past. You just want that guy sitting next to you. It`s just more fun, right? Nobody wanted Al Gore, so they want Bill. Would -- would -- who of those Republicans would have a warmer context in that regard in terms of sitting next to somebody for 13 hours than Donald Trump? Let`s see. Go through the list. Do you want Huckabee there? I don`t think so. Oh, I`m sorry. Rand Paul? I don`t think so. I`m sorry. Rick Perry? Don`t think so. I`m going through the list. now, maybe in the end -- Howard, you all may be on to something. Maybe, in the end, this attempt to try and find reality will end up with Kasich. I don`t see how it ends up with Bush. This search for the real soddy-buster out there, the real working-class hero, can`t possibly end up after this set-up, this run-up, with Bush. (CROSSTALK) REID: If they do that -- because this is exactly what`s angering the base of the Republican Party. They feel like they go out there and they support a Ted Cruz, but they get Mitch McConnell in the governing. MATTHEWS: Yes. REID: And if they get another what they think is a centrist, what the normal world thinks is a conservative, like a Mitt Romney or a John McCain, imposed on them again by the establishment, watch that turn-out... MATTHEWS: That`s why I think it`s... REID: ... go down. MATTHEWS: ... either Walker or Kasich or someone. What do you think, Susan? PAGE: Well, I think... MATTHEWS: What`s acceptable to the center-right, even the center-right? PAGE: I`m going back to your previous question. If I`m flying to Australia, I want to be with Donald Trump because that means you`re not only in first class, you`re on a private jet. (LAUGHTER) PAGE: So I`m for that. If you`re with Huckabee, or you know, Lindsey Graham or somebody else, you are back in coach. MATTHEWS: Oh, that`s really nice. It`s a class consciousness from the media, a surprise to everybody. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Chris? Chris? MATTHEWS: Go ahead. FINEMAN: My initial thought a few weeks ago was that Donald Trump is great for establishment candidates because he`s so weird and wild that people are going to run to embrace somebody, quote, "normal. " But there`s such dislike for politics today. Don`t forget that Congress`s approval rating is 8 percent. It`s never been that low in history. And even though the president was saying overseas that he could easily get elected to a third term easily, his approval rating is only 49 percent. The people`s distaste for politics is such that I don`t know what the limits are for a non-politician politician, and that`s what Donald Trump is in spades. MATTHEWS: I think he`s Santa Anna leading the charge against the Alamo right now, and I think that -- whether you like him or not, he`s got the numbers. Your thoughts. REID: Yes, I was going to say the only way that a Republican alternative could emerge that could have the power to really galvanize the base, he would actually have to put Donald Trump in his place and do it kind of in the way that Trump has done to other people. MATTHEWS: Who can do that? REID: And I don`t see anyone in that field right now that has the charisma or the credibility with the base to do it. But one of them`s going to have to find it. MATTHEWS: OK, one thing he has is the ability to think on his feet, and I don`t see the other guys doing it. They`ll have a bunch of stuff memorized. REID: Yes. MATTHEWS: We all know they`ll come in with their memorized... REID: With zingers. MATTHEWS: ... bicentennial bites, and everyone will have them. And they might even have a retort figured out. But he will have Nth degrees of them. After, after, after, after, after every one of the shots, he will have the thought that you`re an idiot, buddy, and you`re stupid for taking me on. And that will be the bottom line, and the press will eat it up! Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid, up here with me, Howard Fineman down there, and Susan Page. Coming up, the godfather of the neocons, Norm Podhoretz, is now saying what so many in the right have been thinking. He says the only alternative to the Iranian nuclear deal is to bomb Iran. He wants Israel to do it. And right now, President Obama and John Kerry were right, he says. The right wing`s alternative to the deal with Iran is war. And Podhoretz just said so. Plus, Mr. Perfect, Tom Brady, says he`ll continue to fight the four-game suspension the NFL upheld as part of the "deflate-gate" scandal, while his supermodel wife, Giselle, makes the cover of "The New York Post" in a burqa under the headline "Cover-up." And inside the half century push to kill voting rights in this country, ever since the 1965 Voting Rights Act ensured the right to vote for all Americans, many on the right have been slowly and steadily chipping away at it. And we`ve noticed. Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with this guy who went over to Africa to kill a lion. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC ANCHOR: I`m Milissa Rehberger in New York with breaking news. Sources tell NBC News that Boeing investigators believe the debris that washed up on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean is from a 777 jetliner and is likely from that Malaysia airliner that went missing last year. NBC`s Tom Costello joins us now from Washington with more. Hi, Tom. TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Milissa. So what has happened is investigators from Boeing have looked at the photographs and the video imagery from that island in the Indian Ocean, and they`ve looked very closely at it. They now believe that is a flaperon -- a flaperon -- from a Boeing triple-7. And there`s only one Boeing triple-7 missing in the world. That is Malaysia flight 370, missing since March of 2014. So this is a huge break in one of the biggest aviation mysteries in U.S. history -- in world history. The issue is, is it truly Malaysia 370? Might it be from a flaperon that fell off of a plane that was flying over the Indian Ocean? Highly, highly unlikely, but nonetheless, they won`t know concretely until they get investigators on the ground on this tiny French island called La Reunion, which is off the coast of Madagascar about 600 miles. But it is a huge break in this case. Milissa, back to you. REHBERGER: NBC`s Tom Costello, thank you. Now back to HARDBALL. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republicans have ripped President Obama for suggesting the only alternative to his deal with Iran is war, and many say the alternative is simply to get a better deal. However, in "The Wall Street Journal" today, Norm and Podhoretz, the leading neocon thinker, blows the whistle on that argument. He writes, "I am unable to escape the conclusion that Mr. Obama is right when he dismisses as a non-starter the kind of better deal his critics propose. Nor given that the six other parties to the negotiations are eager to do business with Iran, could these stringent conditions be imposed if the United States were to walk away without a deal. Well, the upshot is that if the objective remains preventing Iran from getting the bomb, the only way to do so is to bomb Iran." Well, Podhoretz is not alone publicly advocating a military strike. This spring, former vice president Dick Cheney told a crowd of Republicans that using military force against potential threats of nuclear arms in the Middle East has worked before. He lamented, quote, "Barack Obama doesn`t seem to understand that." Well, a few other hawks have openly backed military action. Here they are. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO U.N., FOX CONTRIBUTOR: The unpleasant reality is the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is if somebody`s prepared to use military force. GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Would you expect that Israel will take some military action, or is Israel just going to sit back and be unhappy with this and watch it unfold whichever way it unfolds? BOLTON: I think they should have taken action five years ago. VAN SUSTEREN: But what do they do now? BOLTON: Well, they should act today before it gets worse. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I don`t think that we ought to put Israel in the position of having to save both themselves and the United States. I think it`s time to bomb Iran, anything that resembles a nuclear facility that -- with centrifuges. It`s time to bomb. WILLIAM KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": The day before this deal, there was a clear choice that didn`t involve immediately going to war, which was to increase the sanctions, which allegedly would do them a lot of damage, A. And B, this "go to war" line is misleading. You could have strikes that set back their program that aren`t, quote, "going to war." (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Yes, sure. I`m joined right now by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. And Jonathan Allen is chief political correspondent for Vox News. Thank you so much. Colonel, thank you. It seems to me, this is what the game is being played, the game being played by the critics of the president. They`re saying knock this deal down, vote it down, veto it, sustain the veto, or whatever, override the veto, I should say, and we will come up with a tougher deal, when all along, they know this president or any president is not going to come up with a tougher deal. Certainly, they don`t trust Obama to do it. It seems to me, once this deal goes down as a failure, rejected by the Congress, if that ever happens, they will immediately start beating the drum for war, because that will be the only alternative then, and it is their preferred alternative, I think. What do you think? COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think if the alternative is war and that is the only alternative that has, let`s say, a 99 percent credibility for eliminating Iran`s nuclear program, it`s got to be more than bombing. Bombing won`t do it. Bombing by the United States, by the Israelis, by us in combination will only force the program underground, maybe delay it by six to seven years. All our analysis has shown that. And like North Korea, they will wind up with a bomb. So the only way you stop it is by full military action. You invade and you eliminate the program, every aspect of the program. And we`re talking about trillions of dollars, lots of men and women and a situation not unlike Iraq, if not worse. MATTHEWS: On FOX News last night, Mike Huckabee continued making World War II comparisons. He called the leaders of Iran animals. Let`s watch Huckabee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL) SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": I believe history will prove this deal with Iran is worse than Munich 1938. I pray that I`m wrong. Am I wrong? MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You`re not wrong. You`re right, and in part because it took an incredible apparatus to build the structure to murder people one at a time, or several hundred at a time, 10,000 a day in Auschwitz. With one nuclear device, several million people in a day murdered and killed. And I think we underestimate the radical nature of these animals who run Iran, a terrorist state. HANNITY: What is wrong with Obama? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I wonder -- I wonder, Jonathan, when I hear a guy speaking with some authority, as a Republican candidate for president, about the Islamic world being led by religious leaders, whether we like their views or not, as animals. I just wonder how that is going to get around the world. If somebody wants an East-West war, where it`s all the West against all the East, that`s the kind of talk that might generate it. JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: Well, it`s the first thing you do before you destroy somebody is you dehumanize them. And I think that`s what Governor Huckabee is trying to do there. Obviously, he`s trying also to get some attention, trying to make sure that he`s on the debate stage in Cleveland, that he`s got a position, that people are talking to him. But these comparisons to Adolf Hitler should sort of disqualify him from the debate. Anybody who ever argues online knows that the iron rule is, if you bring up the Nazis, you lose. The comparison of President Obama to Adolf Hitler is troubling and it`s beneath the dignity of Mike Huckabee, I think. MATTHEWS: Well, Huckabee invoked Chamberlain, of course, Neville Chamberlain, but here`s why that analogy gets messy. Huckabee continues to insist he does not want war, but he still wants to cast himself in the role of Winston Churchill to President Obama`s Chamberlain. Listen to this act. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL) HUCKABEE: We saw a Chamberlain before, and it took a Churchill to help get us out. When that speech was made, after it, Churchill said that there was a choice between war and dishonor, and they chose dishonor. I think there`s another choice other than war. I don`t believe that`s the only choice we have. But anything is better than allowing these terrorists to have nuclear capacity. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, the history of Munich, just so everybody gets refreshed on this, Colonel -- you know it from military history -- basically, Hitler, with Mussolini`s support, said we`re going to march into the Sudetenland, the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, and we`re going to do it very soon, like in a couple of days, if you don`t act. And he gave the Brits and the French a delay of a couple days. And then he said I`m coming if you don`t let me have it peaceably. So there wasn`t a third alternative. What does -- where does Huckabee get his history? I don`t know what he`s talking about. Back with the Rhineland and the occupation of the Rhineland, yes, there were options back then, but right now, in Munich, there`s only one option. We deal or we don`t deal and we go to war. Your thoughts? WILKERSON: Well, I think the only similarity between this oft-raised issue of appeasement and quoting Munich as the archetypical example of it is often irrelevant. And in this case, it`s so irrelevant, it hurts. The only commonalities perhaps are that each side is armed. Every other historical aspect and current aspect with respect to Iran is different, and, in most cases, dramatically so. This is not that time. Iran is not Germany. It`s not 1935, `6, `7, `8, or `9. And the situation is very different. And using historical analogies in a way to influence people for political purposes that`s basically inaccurate I think is unwise and not something that Huckabee should be doing, especially when this is a man who wrote a "Foreign Affairs" article, if I`m not too far off, in 2009 that essentially said, diplomacy was a good option, that the military option shouldn`t be taken off the table, but it should be pursued. MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes. WILKERSON: He`s suddenly changed. He`s changed because he wants polling points. MATTHEWS: For whatever you think of the Iranian government, they have agreed to a 10-year delay on their nuclear program, not -- they have not agreed, nor have we, that they march into Israel. It`s not like that. It`s not like 1938. Anyway, thank you, Lawrence Wilkerson. Thank you, Jonathan Allen. Up next: The Patriots up there in New England respond to Tom Brady`s suspension. Big surprise, they`re not happy with the NFL. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. He (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Three-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft are talking back to NFL today -- to the NFL -- after league commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Brady`s four-game suspension over Deflategate. On a Facebook post, Brady wrote -- quote -- "There`s no smoking gun and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing." Well, the league says Brady ordered his cell phone destroyed, but Brady said he got rid of it after his lawyers told league investigators they had no right to examine it. Well, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the investigation of underinflated balls during last season`s AFC Championship was flawed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT KRAFT, OWNER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I want to apologize to the fans of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. I was wrong to put my faith in the league. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wouldn`t bite on the Brady controversy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL BELICHICK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS HEAD COACH: It`s already been addressed. It`s already been addressed. It`s already been addressed. Already been addressed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: But "The New York Post" sums it up with one word, "Cover-Up," over a recent pick of Brady`s wife, Gisele Bundchen, wearing a burka. Anyway, joining me right now, Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s "UP." He`s outside Gillette Stadium up in Foxborough. And we have "The Boston Globe" sports editor himself, Joe Sullivan. Steve, thanks for joining us. What do you think? To me, it`s like Johnny Most in the old days. They always say the home team is right. I`m sorry. It doesn`t surprise me the hub of the universe still thinks it`s the hub of the universe and can do no wrong. Your thoughts? STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Actually, well, to bring a political analogy into this too, I`m thinking today of Rose Mary Woods, those 18 minutes of dead space on the Watergate tapes, and she claimed, oh, it was all just an accident. I think that`s how the rest of the country looks at this claim from Tom Brady right now that, oh, it just so happens that I switched out my cell phone and destroyed the old one on the day that I was going to meet with the NFL`s investigator looking into Deflategate. I think, certainly, from the standpoint of the court of public opinion outside of New England, outside of this area where I`m standing, Tom Brady was convicted a long time ago. Nothing that has come forward this week is going to change that. It`s only made things worse for him. So it raises the question, why is Brady going forward with this? Why is Kraft standing by him so defiantly? I think, from Kraft`s standpoint, like you`re saying, it is a little bit of that sort of rally around the home team effect. MATTHEWS: Yes. KORNACKI: Ultimately, the fans up here, those are Bob Kraft`s customers. They have got a season starting a month from now. Whatever happens with this appeal, Brady is going to be playing for most of the season. MATTHEWS: Yes. KORNACKI: So, Kraft`s rallying around his player. The fans up here loved what he did today. And I think Brady`s thinking in terms of his legacy. MATTHEWS: Is this a fake foul? Is this righteous indignation, which always works, we was screwed, we were -- whatever the old baseball term is, we got screwed here? Is that what it`s about, or are you going to take the Kraft side? (LAUGHTER) JOE SULLIVAN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": The Patriot advocates in New England are never going to back down on this. They are convinced that the NFL`s Wells report is just a ridiculous piece of paper, that they never really have any proof of guilt. So the advocates in New England are never going to back off this ever, no matter what happens, even if Tom Brady has to serve this four-game suspension. MATTHEWS: Even though Ted Wells went to Holy Cross, even though, even though. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted this today: "Boston is here to support the Patriots. I will always believe in my team and Tom Brady." That sounds like, my country, right or wrong, Joe, my country, right or wrong, my team, right or wrong. SULLIVAN: It does. It does. I think there are more, I will phrase it, sensible people up here who think that, even if something did happen, and I -- that the punishment does not suit the crime, and that the four-game suspension is just too much for what he did. Look at it, Chris. If he was a hockey player with a stick that was bent too far, he`d get a two-minute penalty. And I think this four games for what he did seems out of whack to some people up here. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Steve, in reporting this, can you quickly say what went wrong here is that Robert Kraft thought he was haggling? He thought he was at the souk arguing with the rug salesman. He was going to get four games thrown at him. He would haggle him back to two games. It didn`t work because the cell phone thing broke in. Is that what happened? KORNACKI: Yes. Yes. Well, the Kraft thought here is, there is a precedent. Usually, with these disciplinary matters, the five games will, on appeal, be reduced to two, be reduced to one, something like that. So he thought, look, I will eat a $1 million fine, I will give up two draft picks, very serious penalties, and, in exchange, Tom Brady will go, he will talk to the league, he will work something out. It will be down to -- from two games, it will be down to two games. It might even be less than that. So that was his expectation. Remember, earlier this year, he was attacking Goodell. MATTHEWS: OK. KORNACKI: Then he stopped attacking Goodell and he accepted the penalties. And now he`s back to attacking. MATTHEWS: I predict tremendous support for the Patriots in the first four games, more than ever in history. Righteous indignation goes a long way. It`s the Patriots against the world. Anyway, Steve Kornacki and Joe Sullivan, thanks for joining me from "The Globe." Up next, "The New York Times" delves into the five-decade-long effort to restrict minority voting rights in this country after the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. A white University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man has been indicted on a murder charge in the death of Samuel Dubose. The shooting, which took place during a traffic stop, occurred on July 19. The officer is expected to be arraigned in court tomorrow morning. And the mother of convicted Colorado theater gunman James Holmes took the stand today at his sentencing, at times tearing up during her testimony. Family and friends are hoping jurors might spare his life -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he did away with the arbitrary barriers that had prevented so many African-Americans from voting in this country, particularly in the South. And for years thereafter, we saw greater access to the ballot box, with early voting, same-day registration and other initiatives to expand the franchise. In 2012, black turnout exceeded that of white voters for the first time in history. Among those over 18 who were eligible to vote, 66 percent of African-Americans turned out, while white voter turnout was at 64 percent, pretty close. But it`s interesting African-Americans edged them out, edged white people out. Now, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the law`s passage, "The New York Times" is out with a big articled titled "A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-Year Campaign to Roll Back the Voting Rights Act." It`s an account of how the protections of the act are being eroded, as restrictive new voting laws passed by Republican state legislatures threaten to disenfranchise African-Americans and other minorities at the ballot box. Among those restrictions are strict voter I.D. requirements that have been passed into law in nine states since 2010. As "The New York Times" reports -- quote -- "`It`s really, really unheard of, or really rare, to have states move en masse all of the sudden to pass photocopied laws all at once without a national crisis,` said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which has kept careful track of the new laws. There had not been this many restrictive voting laws in the United States, Waldman said, since the Jim Crow era." By the way, Michael Waldman wrote speeches for President Clinton. Anyway, I`m joined right now by the roundtable, Nick Confessore of "The New York Times," Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, and Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell. Tara, tell me about this, because you`re African-American. And I`m thinking, this seems to be, all these -- the voter I.D. laws -- all these states, they seem to be copycat. One does it, one else -- somebody else photocopies the law, passes it again, all Republicans, all aimed at, I would argue, offsetting their demographic problem, which is there are fewer white people voting. TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s a great point. When you put that map up, what we saw with many of those states where there are major demographic shifts taking place. So, that is no coincidence. MATTHEWS: You mean a lot of Hispanic immigration? DOWDELL: Yes, exactly. If you look at the voter fraud prevention software that was in effect that no one talks about, the names they were talking about, Jackson, Garcia, Kim, Patel. Again, no coincidence. This is part of an ongoing pattern -- MATTHEWS: They`ve been looking for African-American names, South Asian names and Hispanic names? DOWDELL: Yes. The names that made up the Obama coalition starting in 2008. And in 2008, is no -- again, no -- MATTHEWS: I never heard -- somebody saying Washington, they figured African-American, we`re going to nail this guy, right? DOWDELL: Right. Yes. But if you look at 2008, that was the first time black turn-out nearly equaled white voter turn-out. What we saw was a ramp-up in these types of restrictions. MATTHEWS: OK, for the defense, what do you think? How does your party defend stuff like, in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, where the leaders of the legislature and the party openly say, we`re doing this to carve down the Democratic vote. They`re saying it. SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And that`s the problem. They`re using the wrong playbook. They should be doing something different. When it comes to voter rights, when it comes to ID, even -- MATTHEWS: You mean, telling somebody you don`t want them to vote is not a way to get their vote? DEL PERCIO: Probably not. (LAUGHTER) DEL PERCIO: No, when you limit who your pool of people are, then -- you know, elections are about adding, not subtracting. MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t your party go for the middle class black vote? DEL PERCIO: Because I don`t think they know how to win it, frankly and they haven`t -- they don`t know what to do or how to change it. And I think at this point, they`re so settled in, that they say, you know what, it`s not going to happen and we can keep winning this way. So, maybe they need a long walk in the woods to figure it out. But until they start opening their eyes and realizing that there is another place to go, they`re going to keep creating these issues. MATTHEWS: Nick, it`s great you`ve done this, because it`s -- I don`t think -- it comes out as helping the Democratic argument, but it`s a fact. NICK CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, what we see here is a retreat, basically. There are two ways in a diverse country to win the votes of people of color. You can appeal to them or you can stop them from voting. What we`re seeing here is a retreat from the big tent philosophy. You can`t both be the big tent party for the GOP and the party that says we`re making it harder and harder to vote if you`re poor or a person of color. MATTHEWS: Well, as your newspaper reports, voter fraud in this country is not as widespread as many Republicans would have you believed. Quote, "In- person voter fraud in which you impersonate someone or try to vote more than once or at all, if you`re ineligible, is almost entirely non-existent in the U.S. An exhaustive Loyola Law School study could find only 31 credible allegations of fraud in 1 billion vote examples." Now, that surprises me. I know in states like Minnesota, and Wisconsin, it`s very clean. I`m surprised some of our other states it`s that clean. CONFESSORE: That`s surprising. You can`t get anyone in this country to vote, right? MATTHEWS: I`m amazed that they`re that clean. CONFESSORE: Look, the tell here I think to me is, the voter ID, you put that aside. When you start passing laws that say Sunday voting is gone, and mail-in voting is gone, it`s not about security or ID. It`s about having smaller opportunities for fewer opportunities to vote. That to me is a bad thing. MATTHEWS: How do you know? Let me talk about this, you`re a Democratic person here. Tara, when you have a big city, and you have huge areas, neighborhoods, which are African American, Hispanic and they`re Democratic. There`s no Republican person there watching the polls. There`s nobody there to make sure somebody is who they`re supposed to be. So, how do you know there isn`t corruption? How do we know when we have somebody -- everything is so gerrymandered and neighborhoods are self- sorted ethnically. We know how that works, black neighborhoods, whatever, rich or white neighborhoods. There`s nobody there to watch the other side. There`s no blacks in Westchester watching the Republicans. I just wonder who`s watching to keep them clean? DOWDELL: Technically, there are supposed to be poll watchers present from both parties. MATTHEWS: Are they? (CROSSTALK) DOWDELL: They`re supposed to be. DEL PERCIO: They are actually. DOWDELL: Yes, you get paid -- DEL PERCIO: They pay the Democrat and the Republican, $120. DOWDELL: To show up, that is true. And the other thing is, the other thing is, if you look at this, the evidence, the data that`s been collected, by study after study, from different organizations, all found that this is a non-issue. Maybe back in the days in Chicago, this was something that was far more prevalent in Jersey City where I`m from, but -- MATTHEWS: I grew up in Philly. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I`m going to cast aspersions, but I saw a Republican committeeman in the voting booth with the voter, behind the curtain. I said, what are you doing in there? He said I`m rendering technical assistance. He said, this isn`t your primary anyway. Go to the Democrats and complain about them. There is this partisan sense, this is our baby, leave us alone. DEL PERCIO: Yes. But, by the way, there`s a lot of poll watching going on in Democratic primaries too. DOWDELL: Right. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I would not argue against your thinking here. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, a look at the bravado of Donald Trump, the businessman. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: This is sad news. Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah, along with four others, have been indicted on racketeering charges in connection to his 2007 run for mayor. Among the 29 counts, prosecutors alleged Fattah used charity donations to pay off a campaign loan and used money from both his congressional and mayoral campaigns to pay for his son`s student loans. The congressman has stepped down from his leadership position on the appropriations committee, but today denied any wrongdoing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: This is not deflategate. We have actual allegations. We`ll have a chance to respond. But I`ll stand by my previous statement. I`ve never been involved in any wrongdoing, any unlawful activity and any misappropriation of funds. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t need anybody`s money. It`s nice. I don`t need anybody`s money. I`m using my own money. I`m not using the lobbyists. I`m not using donors. I don`t care. I`m really rich. I`m proud of my net worth. I`m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don`t have to brag. I don`t have to. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, Nick, Susan and Tara. Donald Trump says he`s a straight talking presidential candidate, who unlike his many GOP rivals, is free from the burden of raising money or owing favors to people because his extraordinary wealth is bankrolling his quest for the presidency. Well, "The New York Times" took a look at him today with the headline that read, "Under Oath, Donald Trump Shows His Raw Side." "The Times" reported that hundreds of pages of sworn testimony by Mr. Trump over the past decade shows something less flattering. Some of his claims made under oath and under pressure are shown to be hyperbolic overstatements, and others to be shadings of the truth or even outright misstatements. In rare instances, he turns boorish, and demeaning. The testimony suggests that Mr. Trump`s relationship with the truth can be tenuous, especially when it involves claims about his business. When a lawyer in a deposition asked, have you ever exaggerated in statements about your properties? Trump replied, "I think everyone does." Well, that`s where he is. I mean, I guess when you sell a property, you say, it`s got a beautiful view here. There`s no traffic noise. You have the people come in when there`s no traffic and they buy it. I mean, selling in America is hyperbolic. CONFESSORE: Yes. MATTHEWS: I don`t know how that gets to him. You always oversell. CONFESSORE: And he was saying that, you know, what he`s saying on the campaign trail is I`m the anti-politician, right? And what he is saying is I sell buildings the same way a politician talks, and it kind of undercuts the brand a little bit. MATTHEWS: Do you think? CONFESSORE: A little bit. MATTHEWS: Do you think, Tara? Do you think he`s going to take a loss here for something he said in a deposition x-many years ago that "The New York Times" reports? Because you just go write at "The New York Times". DOWDELL: Right, exactly. Trump making up things about his business. Gee, I had not noticed. But I don`t know this is going to hurt him because Trump, this is -- the people who like -- MATTHEWS: What has he made up about his business? DOWDELL: He`s overstated his wealth -- MATTHEWS: You think? DOWDELL: -- which is why, it fluctuates with the stock market. MATTHEWS: So, what do you think his wealth is? DOWDELL: I think it`s significantly lower. MATTHEWS: Lower than $11 billion? DOWDELL: Yes, probably somewhere around $2 billion. MATTHEWS: How do you know that? How do you do that? How did you just do that? You just took $9 billion off his books, just like that. DOWDELL: Just like he does. (LAUGHTER) DEL PERCIO: At least Bloomberg did a real study on it. DOWDELL: There`s Bloomberg. Yes, they`ve been studying it. MATTHEWS: I think the margin of error of how much he owns is a lot. DOWDELL: But he licenses his name. A lot of these buildings are not outright owned by Donald Trump. They`re like -- MATTHEWS: I know. Why do buildings want buildings named Trump? DOWDELL: Because he has a brand. MATTHEWS: Who build the brand? DOWDELL: He built the brand. (CROSSTALK) DEL PERCIO: That`s going to be part of the problem. This deposition was just one little tiny crack of a million you`re going to find because he does have his name licensed to a lot of projects. He is used to being vetted through, you know, the gossip columns and business deals. He has done what we call a vulnerability study, I`m willing to vet, because his ego can`t handle it. MATTHEWS: Now, you now go into a room with this guy, you know there will be nine other guys there and you have to take on this guy, right? How do you do it? He is going to paste you. DEL PERCIO: I think the problem that some of them will have, like Jeb Bush is, I don`t think he can actually deliver the line without looking like he`s delivering the line. MATTHEWS: To have a ready line. DEL PERCIO: So, yes, that`s not going to work. But I think -- MATTHEWS: By the way, there will be a retort. DEL PERCIO: And he is ready. What I think is someone like a Mike Huckabee who can deliver a very sugary line and challenge him on the conservative issues. That`s someone who make that -- MATTHEWS: Suppose you attack from a defensive position, my favorite military and political tactic. Go out there, talk about a new line of proposals. Surprise everybody with substance, Trump -- (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- for the average person out there. Something that blows people away, something on education, something on student loans. And wait for these guys to attack him. Go ahead. And when they attack, he takes their head off. That`s what I would do if I were Trump. I would wait for them to attack and if they don`t, I noticed you said something about me the other day. You said I was this, I was a jackass. I thought that was interesting. You take his head off. You play from a defensive position, because the American people always root for the person defending. They do. CONFESSORE: I`m just wondering what his platform is, right? We`re talking about breast pumps today. But his platform on the issues and what he would do with problems for the country is kind of -- MATTHEWS: He`s pretty clear on immigration. He is pretty clear -- (CROSSTALK) DOWDELL: I`m actually curious. CONFESSORE: And build a wall. DOWDELL: He`s actually going to benefit from all of these people running because he`s not forced to articulate positions. Also, the people who he appeals to aren`t demanding that of him. So, on top of it, you`re on the debate stage -- MATTHEWS: What do they want from him? DOWDELL: They want what they`re getting. They want uncensored, unfiltered. MATTHEWS: I think his attitude is a result of his attitude. DOWDELL: Right, no, that`s -- MATTHEWS: I think he says, I have few money, I`m willing to say what I want, and I`m not afraid anybody. They just want to hear a politician show with that kind of guts. DOWDELL: And they want to channel it, because he is saying things about other politicians that they say about politicians. But he is able to say the on a bigger platform. How many people have you heard called politician idiots? He`s doing exactly what the average voter -- MATTHEWS: You know what? You have made your point, which is the average voter, 8 percent, respect Congress. Eight percent. DOWDELL: Right. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Nick Confessore of "The New York Times". Susan Del Percio and Tara Dowdell, thank you all three. When we return, let me finish tonight with this guy who went over the Africa to kill a captured lion. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this guy who went over to Africa to kill a lion. I grew up enthralled by the notion of Africa and all its vivid wildness I treasure the fact that we live on a planet that does include the wonders of elephants and lions and rhinos and all the rest -- just as I do with America that has buffalo still roaming in our beautiful west. Sadly, we also live in a world that includes a human being that gets kicks or whatever out of killing big animals, who believes he creates a picture of himself as some great hunter, even when his target is painstakingly delivered into the range of his bow. This is about death, pure and simple. Just death. That`s all. The head of the lion this guy had cut off so he could mount it as a symbol proves nothing except his ability to put a contract on a captive animal. Slaughter is not a profile in courage. Only a statement of human disgrace, stuff now with the money this character poured into his pathetic ego. If he wants to show off, he wants his ego to bulge, he should leave the animals alone and go run for president or something. And while I`m on the subject, if you want to do something about this, send some money to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, it`s called, and the people who care about saving our heritage of elephants and lions -- not knocking them off so some guy can decorate his den with their heads. 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. 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