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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 08/13/15

Guests: Adolfo Franco, Larry Sabato, Anne Gearan, Janell Ross, Anne Gearan,Cornell Belcher, Janell Ross

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: It`s come to this, the Republican Party`s biggest dove has gone to war with Donald Trump. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews. Grab some popcorn because we begin tonight with the must-see TV of this election, the bomb-throwing and fireworks from the latest assault on the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Two of the party`s biggest hawk, Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham, tangoed (sic) with Trump, and their campaigns went nowhere. Now you have the biggest dove in the Republican Party, Rand Paul, who finds himself struggling in the polls, going to war with everything he`s got. Here we go. After slamming Trump as a fake conservative, Paul`s campaign put this ad on line. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care.   TRUMP: A liberal on health care. We have to take care of people that are sick. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Universal health coverage. TRUMP: I like universal. Hillary Clinton I think is a terrific woman. I mean, I`m a little biased because I`ve known her for years. I think she really works hard, and I think she does a good job. And I like her. She`s a really good person (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, Trump responded with a lengthy diatribe against Paul. He first fired back at the charge that he`s a conservative phony, saying, "Unless you are a piece of unyielding granite, over the years, positions evolve, as they have in my case." Then Trump threw in this bit of macho talk. He said, "Recently, Rand Paul called me and asked me to play golf. I easily beat him on the golf course and will even more easily beat him now in the world of politics. After trouncing him in golf, I made a significant donation to the eye center with which he is affiliated. I feel sorry for the great people of Kentucky, who are being used as a back-up to Senator Paul`s hopeless attempt to become president of the United States." And it gets stranger. Paul`s campaign strategist responded to that by defending his boss`s honor and his golf handicap. Quote, "While he appreciates Donald`s golf skills, I will note that the game was on his home course that he plays often." He also escalated the battle Trump saying, quote, "He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster." Now, as this back-and-forth is playing out, Rand Paul is at a town hall in New Hampshire attacking and also impersonating Donald Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we have now people up there who say such profound things as, You`re stupid. You`re fired! You`re a pig. You look terrible. You only have half a brain.   And then when you respond with an argument, it`s, like, You`re stupid! (LAUGHTER) PAUL: Or my favorite is, You know the reason I tell women they`re ugly is because I`m so good-looking. (LAUGHTER) PAUL: Everybody knows I`m good-looking, right? Another one is, You know, I must be smart. I`m rich. (LAUGHTER) PAUL: I`m rich. I`ve got to be smart, right? (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Michael Steele was RNC chairman, David Corn is Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones," and Joan Walsh is editor-at-large with Salon. All are MSNBC political analysts. Well, Michael Steele, let me start with you. MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course.   (LAUGHTER) KORNACKI: I mean, let`s just -- let`s talk about the theatrics of it. Right, it`s your party. You got a front row seat for this, so... (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: Let`s talk about the theatrics, though, because that`s what this is really about. You got Rand Paul there impersonating Donald Trump. You see the indictment he`s trying to make. You got Donald Trump hitting him back as hard as he probably can. Who`s winning battle? STEELE: Well, you know, I don`t know if there`s a real battle here, to speak of. You know, Donald Trump is just doing his thing. Rand Paul is, I think at this point, trying to lob a few bombs at him. But I just -- I think that`s a little bit misplaced right now. I don`t think that is really the level of engagement that you want because it just draws us into another round of silly. I think that, you know, candidates like Rand Paul who are stuck in the middle of the pack have been trying to make that move up. You just got to get on the table with something fresh, and I don`t think that something fresh is necessarily going after Donald Trump. He relishes in this. You know, he can lob back, Oh, yes, I played golf with him and I beat him, you know? And he feels like that`s scoring a point, where the broader point should be, How are you going to defeat ISIS? How are you going to grow the economy? How are going to you make this country whole again, particularly where there are gaping holes in wealth disparity and income disparity. So I think, you know, that`s a better approach. But you know, you got to do what you got to do, I guess. KORNACKI: But Joan, I mean, does Rand Paul have to do this? I wonder because we`ve seen all these attacks that Paul and other Republicans have tried against Donald Trump. They haven`t worked. He is not the first one to bring up Donald Trump`s comments about single-payer health care... JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.   KORNACKI: ... Donald Trump`s comments about the Clintons before. This stuff has not been sticking. Donald Trump comes back with that statement. And it really seems when you strip it all away, whenever Donald Trump gets into these fights, it`s this supposedly independent outsider businessman fighting against politicians and telling the politicians to go screw, and the base loves that! WALSH: Right. And you know, I`ve got to say, Senator John McCain said it best, you know, you don`t have a mud fight with the pig. I`m not going to go any further than that, but you know, it`s an old expression. And I think Rand Paul is seeing that he can`t win this, but he`s fighting back. I mean, look, what grade are we in? When you`re reduced to mocking someone and imitating their voice, it`s pretty -- it`s pretty silly. But I just want to take issue with one thing Michael said, which is, look, I don`t really love Rand Paul, but he has tried to run a campaign of ideas. He has tried to do some different things around intervention. He has tried to reach out to the African-American community -- not very successfully. I can critique the things that he`s done and said, but he is the one - - I think this is part of why he`s mad. He`s the one who`s given thought to maybe putting together a new coalition and bringing new voters into the Republican Party, but instead, he`s getting beaten by this guy with zero ideas. KORNACKI: Yes, no, he was the -- he was the big story a year ago, cover of "Time" magazine, "most interesting politician in America." WALSH: Right. KORNACKI: Thunder completely stolen by Donald Trump. Well, starting with last week`s debate out there in Cleveland, Paul has made attacking Trump his Alamo. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Here`s what`s wrong. I mean, this is what`s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes. Hey`s already...   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Paul... PAUL: Hey, look -- look, he`s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? News flash. The Republican Party`s been fighting against a single-payer system... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK... PAUL: ... for a decade. So I think you`re on the wrong side of this if you`re still arguing for a single-payer system. TRUMP: I`m not -- I`m not -- I don`t think you heard me. You`re having a hard time tonight. PAUL: We are kidding ourselves to even consider someone who is such a chameleon that he`s been on every side of every issue. Wake up, America! Wake up (INAUDIBLE) (APPLAUSE) PAUL: So if you want to elect somebody who says people are bleeding or stupid or pigs, go right ahead. But I want to fix country. I really think he`s a fake conservative. I don`t think he`s consistently been anything in his life, other than a promoter of himself. So people have to really listen to him and decide what he really stands for. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: All right, David Corn, I don`t know exactly what it is. I can`t put my finger on it totally, tone of voice, attitude, body language, something. But I`m watching that exchange back there in Cleveland. Rand Paul is hitting Donald Trump on things that should hurt a Republican in a debate. But I look at that exchange, and I say Donald Trump just won that thing hands down.   DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump in a lot of ways is bulletproof because whatever you say about him, he says, You`re wrong. I gave you money. Now get away from me. And he -- your facts are wrong, you`re stupid, you`re ugly. And his crowd, that 10 to 25 percent, maybe 30 percent of the Republican base who wants to hear someone venting outrage at anybody, goes, yes, man. They don`t even care what he says! So if you put him in that position and give him the chance to fire back that way, you`re only helping him. I mean, these attacks are not about Donald Trump, they`re about Rand Paul. He wants to get in the mix. He wants people to talk about him like we`re talking about him tonight, and the only way he can do that is by venting in frustration against Donald Trump. He`s not scoring any points against him, and he won`t. Nobody can because Trump doesn`t care. And I think a lot of his voters -- well, they haven`t voted yet, but a lot of people who like him in the polls don`t care, either. So the problem the Republican Party is going to -- has, is what do you do with this 20 percent block of Trump -- you know, Trump-ites who don`t really care about policy, they care about venting, passion, attitude, and can`t be persuaded otherwise? KORNACKI: Yes, well, like David`s saying, Rand Paul finds himself struggling for air in this race. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll out in Iowa, he pulls just 5 percent of likely caucus goers. That puts him back in seventh place. And in New Hampshire, the latest polling has Paul at just 6 percent. That is a decline of 7 points just since March. And nationally, it is the same story. The NBC/Survey Monkey poll taken after that debate has Paul with just 6 percent support. That is good enough for just eighth place. And Michael Steele, I mean, I think the risk for Rand Paul is real simple. If what Donald Trump is tapping into here is anger at the political system and disgust with anybody who`s a politician, what Rand Paul is doing here looks like something a politician would do. He reads the polls. He sees who the front-runner is. He sees who he needs to take down, and he starts coming up with these calculated attacks. It looks like -- it almost plays into Donald Trump`s hand. STEELE: Right. And that`s precisely why I made the point I made. And I accept whole-heartedly what Joan said about what Rand Paul has done up to now. So my point is, do more of that, only bigger. All of that energy and anger and frustration that you`re venting at Trump, put it out on the street in terms of how you want to lead and why you want to lead. Yes, you can make the sidebar to reference to Trump, but to do the one-on-one engagement, I think, to David`s point -- he doesn`t care, number one, Trump. And number two, it just draws you into a rabbit hole that is tougher and tougher to get out. There`s been nothing shown so far that anything with regard to attacks leads to an uptick in your poll numbers when it comes to Donald Trump. So you`ve got to figure out a different way, which is why I think you see for the majority of these folks, laying back and leaning away from Donald Trump at this stage, as they get ready for the second debate, because there is no up side to engaging him directly.   KORNACKI: Yes, and Joan, that`s the other threat that the Republicans face here from Donald Trump, right, is if you go after him, if they all gang up on him, he`s said if he thinks this process isn`t fair, he runs third party. WALSH: Right. KORNACKI: And this is -- the polls are clear on this. Third party Trump hurts the Republicans. WALSH: Right. Absolutely. And look, we also saw somebody else kind of go up against Donald Trump this week and lose, and that`s Megyn Kelly. You know, Megyn Kelly did a great job at that debate. She did her job. She was a tough moderator. And you know, the Fox audience turned against her when she was, you know, really a very popular anchor. I know any time I criticize Megyn, my Twitter feed was full of people attacking me. So it`s a bit little bit scary, the extent to which they could -- they can turn on someone who`s really an icon, and it kind of looks like Roger Ailes backed Trump in that battle, so she`s going on an unscheduled vacation. So that`s got to be scary for the other candidates. They don`t really have the cache of Megyn Kelly. So you know, why are they going to go up against Trump? KORNACKI: Yes, I -- I think that is such an important point because I think when we talk about these Donald Trump poll numbers, everybody is always saying, Hey, you know, Herman Cain was at the same place four years ago. We`ve seen this before. STEELE: Yes. WALSH: Right. KORNACKI: Herman Cain did not stare down Fox News and win. This is something new and this is something different. We`re out of time here, unfortunately, but Michael Steele, David Corn, Joan Walsh, thanks for joining us.   STEELE: You got it, man. KORNACKI: And coming up on the show, Donald Trump unveils his eagerly awaited plan to fight ISIS. He wants to, quote, "knock the hell out of them and take their oil." That`s it. That`s the plan, and it`s far from the only style-over-substance proposal we`ve heard from the Donald. Plus, with Trump dominating the headlines, Hillary Clinton`s struggling and Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic alternative to her. Is Vice President Joe Biden now getting serious about jumping into the race? And all the Republican candidates are talking about defunding Planned Parenthood, but only Ben Carson has gone so far to accuse the organization of trying to, quote, "control" the African-American population in this country. That`s coming up with tonight`s "Roundtable." And finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my first lesson in political polarization over a president who deserves better than he gets from either the right or the left. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: The Iowa State Fair has begun, and with it comes the Soapbox. Eighteen presidential candidates will flock to the "Des Moines Register" event. They`ll each have 20 minutes to sell their candidacy and take questions from voters and hecklers, too. Perhaps the Soapbox`s most famous exchange came back in 2011 with this Mitt Romney moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: If we are ultimately, not just this year but over the coming decades, going to be able to balance our budget and not spend more than we take in, we have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are promises we can keep. And there are various ways of doing that. One is we could raise taxes on people. That`s not the right...   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations! Corporations! ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on -- of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. So where do you think it goes? (CROSSTALK) ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People`s pockets. OK, human beings, my friends. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not confirmed Soapbox appearances this week, but both plan on going to the Iowa fair. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`ve got more on Donald Trump. At times, the Republican front-runner talks about his policy positions the way a good Hollywood movie trailer deals with plot. He teases out crumbs of information without spoiling the good stuff, the stuff he promises will be spectacular. For example, what`s his policy to take on ISIS? Well, black in May, Trump only offered this spoiler-free promise. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   TRUMP: I do know what to do, and I would know how to bring ISIS to the table, or beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly. And I`m not going to tell you what it is tonight. If I run, and if I win, I don`t want the enemy to know what I`m going to do. All I can tell you is that it is a foolproof way of winning. And I`m not talking about what some people would say, but it is a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And this week, Trump gave more information. He said we should, quote, "Go in, knock the hell out of them and take their oil." On issue after issue, however, he has played coy when it comes to specifics. For example, here`s what he said this week about replacing "Obama care." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So "Obama care" is no good, doesn`t work. One of the first things I`d do if I get elected, end "Obama care" and do something really good. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And here`s what he told Mika Brzezinski Monday when she asked him about the issue of equal pay for women. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: All I can say is on women`s issues and women`s health issues, there will be nobody better than Donald Trump. But I`ll be coming out with some policy on that, and I will be making it in the future. I just don`t want to discuss it now.   (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And when it comes to his tax plan, Trump had this to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I know exactly what I want to do. I just don`t want to announce it yet. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, despite all of this vagueness, Republican voters seem to like his approach. A new CNN/ORC poll of Republican caucus goers in Iowa finds Trump doing better than any other Republican candidate on the question who they think would best handle the economy, illegal immigration, even terrorism. I`m joined by author Ron Reagan, an MSNBC political analyst, and Adolfo Franco, a former adviser to John McCain and Mitt Romney. Well, yesterday on Fox News, Trump elaborated on his plan to fight ISIS by taking their oil. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Now you have ISIS -- and others -- but you have ISIS cutting off Christians` heads, and others`. They cut off anybody`s head. They`re drowning them. They`re cutting off their heads. We have to go in with force. We have to take the oil. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You`re going on surround the perimeter. You`re going to take the oil. What else do you got to do to stop ISIS?   TRUMP: That will be the beginning of the end because that cuts off the money. That cuts off the head. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Well, Ron, look, a lot of people can laugh at Donald Trump here and say, Look, he`s not being specific. He`s saying things that will not match up with reality. But there is a real appeal to what he`s doing, I think. We`ve seen it before, the idea of the tough guy, people investing in the idea of the tough guy who`s going to solve problems. I always think back to Richard Nixon. He had the secret plan to end the Vietnam war. He wouldn`t tell anybody, but people bought into the idea that Richard Nixon`s the guy who can do it. RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Richard Nixon, for all his many, many flaws, was a far more substantive character than Donald Trump is. The question the Republican Party has to ask themselves here, we can - - we can talk about Donald Trump`s -- quote, unquote -- "policies" here. But really I would hate to waste time talking about what is basically nonsense. But the question the Republican Party has to ask themselves is, why is a quarter of their electorate taken by this guy, by this carnival barker who appears to know nothing about anything and to have not thought anything about any issues? It is a problem, and it is a problem of the Republican Party`s making. They have dumbed down their party over the year to such an extent that, at this juncture, 25 percent of Republicans seem to think that Donald Trump has a thought in his head, which he does not. KORNACKI: When it comes to immigration, Trump has said he will build a wall across the border with Mexico and then make the Mexican government pay for it. He elaborated in an interview with FOX News last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL) SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": How do you make them pay for the wall, as you have said?   DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So easy. Will a politician be able to do it? Absolutely not. You know, it`s funny. I watch some of the shows, and including your show. And I watch these guys. You can`t get them to pay for -- we give them tens of billions of dollars a year. They are ripping us left and right. Their leaders are so much smarter than our leaders, Sean. They are ripping us left and right. The wall is peanuts. HANNITY: So, through a tariff, whatever means necessary, you`re going to say, if you want to do business with the U.S.... TRUMP: Absolutely. We`re not paying for it. HANNITY: You want to do business, you`re going to help us with this? TRUMP: Do you know how easy that is? They will probably just give us the money. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And it might not be as easy as Trump states, at least according to the Mexican government. A spokesman for the Mexican president told Bloomberg -- quote -- "Of course it`s false. It reflects an enormous ignorance for what Mexico represents and also the irresponsibility of the candidate who is saying it." Well, Adolfo, let me ask you about this. And maybe pick up on what Ron was saying just a minute ago. He`s saying, look, the question, as Trump says all this stuff and a quarter of the electorate responds to it, so let`s take this as an example. He talks about getting Mexico to pay for a wall. I haven`t heard one credible person say it is at all possible that he is going to be able to do that. What is about it that message, though, that is connecting with that chunk of the Republican base? ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the problem is the following, that a lot of people are very frustrated with conventional politicians, I think, of both parties.   So, when they hear these simple statements and solutions, they embrace them, that`s what we need to do, without filling in the blanks. I really believe this to be a temporary and really a notional situation. And we have seen it in the past with -- have been either third-party candidates or opposition candidates such as Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan and others. I understand there`s a little dynamic that is a little bit different with Donald Trump, also the reality TV component of it. But, ultimately, when voters and activists participate in this process, despite this frustration, I don`t think these numbers will be sustained anywhere near where they are today. I don`t really believe they`re really actually real, Steve, because I think this is just a manifestation of a discontent with not only the policies of President Obama, but the inability of the Republican Party to put the brakes on the agenda as it has moved forward, particularly during the second term, when the president has been quite aggressive. KORNACKI: Well, Trump also has big plans for dealing with Iran. Let`s take a look at that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HANNITY: Let me go back to Iran. You said, "They will do what I tell them." How do you make them do what you say? TRUMP: They will know I`m not playing games. By the time I get there, they will be very rich, because Obama will have given them all of these many billions of dollars, et cetera. I study contracts. No matter how bad this contract is, I will make this contract be enforced to such an extent that they will not be able to do it. And then I will do things that you won`t believe. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So, Ron, I mean, this gets to something else we have seen before in political history, the appeal of the businessman, the savvy cutthroat businessman who is going to deal with Iran in a way none of these dumb politicians know how to.   There is a populist strain that resonates with that, isn`t there? REAGAN: Well, there is, and particularly on the right, particularly in the Republican Party. I don`t disagree with Adolfo when he was saying that people are, generally speaking, on the right and the left, Democrats and Republicans, fed up with government and politics as it is being practiced now, fed up with the money in politics in particular. But it is a little too easy, with all due respect here. There is a reason that Donald Trump is running as a Republican and not as a Democrat. He could not get traction as a Democrat. No matter what he was saying, even if he was sort of spouting off and trying to sound like Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton, for that matter, Democrats would not give him the time of day. But Republicans, at least a quarter of them, do give him the time of day. And that, again, is a question the Republican Party has to deal with here. Why is it that this complete charlatan, this guy who has no clue in terms of foreign policy or, frankly, economic policy either, why is it that so many of our constituents find him attractive? It is a good question they need to answer. KORNACKI: All right, we are out of time in this segment, unfortunately. But, Adolfo Franco, Ron Reagan, thank you both for joining us. FRANCO: OK. Thanks, Steve. REAGAN: Sure. KORNACKI: And up next, are Iowa Democrats concerned about the Hillary Clinton e-mail story? We will get a report from the Iowa State Fair. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Hillary Clinton has a strong lead with Democratic voters in Iowa, according to a new poll. Half of all likely caucus goers there are in her corner. But even with that good news, the Clinton campaign is having to battle back against continued attacks about the security of a private e-mail server she used while secretary of state. This week, Clinton ordered her aides to turn the servers and thumb drives containing her work-related e- mails over to the Justice Department, this amid concerns there could have been classified information on those drives. Also this week, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook sent a memo to supporters saying they have got the situation under control. And the campaign spokesperson circulated this reminder yesterday -- quote -- "To be clear, there is absolutely no criminal inquiry into Hillary`s e-mail or e- mail server. Any and all reports to that effect have been widely debunked." But the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, isn`t waiting for the results of any investigation to be completed. He had this to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think she`s committed a crime. The problem that she -- that let`s say everybody has, in terms of finding out, you have Democrats are all the prosecutors, and they don`t want to prosecute it. Did she commit a crime? Yes. Will they prosecute it? Perhaps no. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Clinton heads to Iowa for more campaigning tomorrow.   And joining me now is NBC correspondent Kelly O`Donnell, who is at the Iowa State Fair, and Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Well, Kelly, let me start with you with the question, what is Hillary Clinton walking into tomorrow when she comes to Iowa? We have that poll this week that suddenly has her down in New Hampshire. It`s a 19-point lead in Iowa. That is good, but it is not great when you`re running against a guy who isn`t even a Democrat. Now we got this e-mail story. Are Democrats out there nervous about her right now? KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, historically, the Clintons have had some trouble with Iowa, but she will be here tomorrow. And one of the questions will be, will she participate in what is known as the soapbox here? It`s a place where candidates stand on a bale of hay and talk about their ideas and take some questions. She did it back as a candidate in `07. She is not scheduled to do that tomorrow. But will she change her mind? She has got other events here in Iowa. She will be visiting with folks. And I just spoke to Martin O`Malley, former governor of Maryland. He did the soapbox. I asked him if the Clinton e-mail issue opens up a lane for him. And he said that he thinks that people are actually hungry for an alternative here in Iowa, and so he is here trying to fill that space, as is Bernie Sanders. The fair is one of those places where you get all of that Americana, all the scents and sights of summer and politics mixed in. And so Clinton will get a reception here that will certainly reflect both the favorable status that she has for many Democrats, the strong Democratic Party here, as well as the nature of the fair, where there are hecklers, where there are people who will ask tough questions. It is part of what makes the Iowa process so interesting. KORNACKI: Kelly O`Donnell in Des Moines, Iowa, with my dream assignment with all that deep-fried food behind you. Enjoy your time out there. (LAUGHTER) KORNACKI: Thank you very much. O`DONNELL: Thank you. KORNACKI: Turn now to -- let`s turn now to Larry Sabato to talk about some of the fallout from this.   And, Larry, I wonder, what do you -- this story is -- in one way, this is a dense and granular story. It is very difficult to follow the details. You have an inspector general who is out there saying, look, there`s some classified information in these e-mails shouldn`t have been there. You have the State Department saying, look, that actually could have been retroactively classified, nothing wrong it actually popped up in her e- mail. How do you think this is translating to people who casually follow this stuff? LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: How it`s translating, Steve, listen, most -- this is going over the heads or under the bodies of the vast majority of people, except those who are paying close attention. And we know, from a number of surveys and from historical patterns, that only about 20 percent of the American public is actually paying close attention to the presidential race. In other words, 80 percent are sane. And 20 percent are spending their time in the summer before the presidential year, including you and I, focusing on presidential politics. But that doesn`t mean it is unimportant, because it is one of those problems, controversies, scandals, take your pick of words, that inevitably will follow Hillary Clinton for months and months, maybe all way through the general election, assuming she is the Democratic nominee. KORNACKI: Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate it. SABATO: Thanks, Steve. KORNACKI: Up next: As Bernie Sanders rises and Hillary Clinton battles her e-mail issues, has the perfect moment arrived for Joe Biden to get in the race? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.   The United States is expressing its condolences to China after the explosions in the port city of Tianjin. The death toll from the blast stands at 50. More than 700 people were hurt. National wildfire officials are raising preparedness levels, as the number of blazes burning in the Western U.S. continues to rise. And in Connecticut, the state Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for all 11 inmates on death row. Three years ago, lawmakers abolished the death penalty for future crimes -- back to HARDBALL. KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump is sparing no one from attacks these days. And that includes Vice President Joe Biden, who isn`t even a candidate, at least not yet. Here`s Trump yesterday on Hugh Hewitt`s radio show. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) QUESTION: If it is Joe Biden, how do you match up against Joe Biden? TRUMP: I think I would match up great. I`m a job producer. I have had a great record. I haven`t been involved in plagiarism. I think I would match up very well against Biden. (END AUDIO CLIP) KORNACKI: Trump, of course, referring there to Biden`s 1988 presidential campaign, when he used a line from a British Labor Party leader without attribution. It was also discovered that Biden faced questions of plagiarism at Syracuse Law School.   "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that Biden is seriously considering jumping into the 2016 race and that he is making call from his vacation in South Carolina, asking political allies for advice, and gauging the strength of Mrs. Clinton`s campaign as he weighs his options. Anne Gearan is a political correspondent for "The Washington Post." Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster. And Janell Ross is a reporter with "The Washington Post." Well, Anne, let me start with you. Conventional wisdom would say it is a little late in the game for Joe Biden here. Hillary Clinton has locked down all these endorsements. She is still way ahead in the polls. How much room do you think there realistically is, in light of the e-mail stuff we have just been talking about? Does that change it for Joe Biden? ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it seems slightly more plausible this week than last that he could see an opening. But there are so many practical barriers to his getting into the race and being able to mount a -- what would essentially be an insurgent challenge to both Clinton and her closest competitor, Bernie Sanders. It is hard to see where he thinks the support will come from. Who does he peel off? Where is his base, when they both have significant parts of the primary base locked up at this point? KORNACKI: Well, a source close to Vice President Biden told NBC`s Kristen Welker today -- quote -- "He is not calling people and saying should I run, but, rather, I am thinking about it, but I am also thinking about Beau." This source who got a call from Biden this week said, "I think he`s doing the analysis and homework." And this come at a time when some Democrats are, as we say, nervous about the problems swirling around Hillary Clinton`s use of personal e- mail, a private server being investigated by the FBI and congressional Benghazi hearings coming up this fall. In yesterday`s "Boston Herald"/Franklin Pierce University poll, 46 percent of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire said they want to see Biden run. So, Cornell, let`s think about Joe Biden as a prospective candidate. And, first of all, look, the outpouring of sympathy and goodwill in the wake of the terrible death of his son, that has, you can see, affected his poll numbers, his image. He`s doing better in polls now than he has at any time as vice president. But you also wonder, you look at what`s going on with Donald Trump right now on the Republican side. In this sort of unvarnished, unpolished image that he has going up against all these practiced politicians. Is there something in Joe Biden? You know, we always say he is gaffe prone or whatever, maybe those tendencies in the age of Trump work in his favor a little bit?   CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, look, the vice president is I think, walks out of that office better positioned with core Democrat constituencies than he walked in with. I think he has a potential to say that, look, I am the rightful heir of the Obama coalition because I stood beside the president and helped him fight. That said, I have to agree when you look at -- you know, is he going to be the darling of the left that Bernie Sanders is? You know, can he compete for minority voters and women voters with Hillary Clinton? I don`t know that. But you got to think that here`s a guy who has strong progressive credentials, I mean, Violence Against Women Act, et cetera, and Democrats don`t lack coordination. We`ve seen that time and time again. I think it is good that he jumps in, because quite frankly, I think whoever wins the nomination will be better off if they have to compete for every vote and a lot of different states. KORNACKI: Well, Janell, let me ask you about this scenario, I`ve heard this from a few people. It could be very farfetched. We`ll say that up front. But, look, Bernie Sanders right now running about 20 points behind in Iowa. Iowa is a state that likes the insurgent, that likes that outsider, that likes the more liberal candidate, let`s say Bernie Sanders knocks off Hillary Clinton in Iowa next year. Then they go to New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders is the next door neighbor. There`s already as we say, that poll that has him leading there. Is Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont who`s not even a Democrat, knocks off Hillary Clinton in the first two contests next year, does that create the kind of panic and the opening that would allow someone like Joe Biden to step in and say, look, Hillary is damaged goods and we`re not nominating a socialist so here I am? JANELL ROSS, THE WASHINGTON POST: It would almost certainly create a situation where some people would be willing to have that conversation. When I say people, I mean people inside the party and certainly people to whom the vice president could turn for the financing that he would need to mount a campaign. But, of course, at that point he would be pretty far behind other candidates and organizing himself in every way that would be necessary to actually win. KORNACKI: Yes. No, I put that out there. As I say, I think it`s a farfetched question. But when you`re the sitting vice president, when polls put you 40 points behind Hillary behind in this race, it`s going to take a farfetched scenario for it to actually come to something for you. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, Ben Carson alleges that Planned Parenthood clinics in neighborhoods are there to control the population. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: President Obama is on vacation in Martha`s Vineyard. And today, we got a glimpse of his summer reading list. On the fiction side, the books include "All That Is," "All The Light We Cannot See", "The Sixth Extinction" and "The Lowland". And for nonfiction the titles include "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and "Washington: A Life" by Ron Churnow. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We are back with the roundtable, Anne, Cornell and Janell. Weeks after disturbing revelations about Planned Parenthood came to light, Republican candidate Ben Carson is now going further in condemning the organization. Appearing on FOX last night, Dr. Carson said Planned Parenthood operates clinics in black neighborhoods to, quote, "control the African-American population". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe I`m not objective when it comes to Planned Parenthood but, you know, I know who Margaret Sanger is. And I know that she believed in eugenics and she was not particularly enamored of black people. And one of the reasons you find that most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can finds a way to control that population. And I think people should go back and read about Margaret Sanger who founded this places, a woman Hillary Clinton, by the way, says that she admires. Look at see what many people in Nazi Germany thought about her. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, Carson, a famed neurosurgeon who has never held elected office has surged in all the polls since last week`s debate. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll out of Iowa shows he has taken second place there.   But with his rise comes greater scrutiny. Today, he is facing new questions about the credibility of his denunciation of Planned Parenthood over their sale of fetal tissue for medical research. A recently uncovered study co-authored by Carson back in 1992 shows that the candidate did, in fact, work with aborted fetal tissue himself. And the news appears to be at odds with Carson`s past statements that fetal tissue is not useful for medical research. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARSON: It has been overpromised, what the benefits of fetal research would be, and very much under delivered. There is nothing that can`t be done without fetal tissue. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Here`s what Carson had to say about the apparent contradiction today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Why did you change your decision about whether to use fetal tissue or not? CARSON: To not use the tissue that is in the tissue bank regardless of where it comes from would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that? REPORTER: Would you ban this now if you`re saying it is not essential? CARSON: That is a very different thing from killing babies, manipulating them, taking their tissues, selling them. That`s a very different thing. To try to equate those two things is absolutely ridiculous. I have no idea where the tissue comes from. These are tissue blocks maintained for decades.   (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Anne, look, this is obviously a very complicated question. If I`m understanding it right, what he seems to be saying there is, look, if the tissue has been procured and it`s sitting there, you might as well use it. That doesn`t necessarily mean it should be procured going forward. Is that -- is that a fair reading of what he is trying to say? ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is one of the things he is trying on say. Part of the problem is he has said about 18 different things over time. I mean, I`m only exaggerating slightly. It`s certainly a perfectly plausible position scientifically and politically to take that as a doctor, he sees the medical utility of using this tissue, whatever it`s provenance, but that he still personally and politically opposes abortion. But that isn`t exactly what he said today, and it also appears to be at odds with the 1992 paper which clearly is labeled as using that tissue. And one is left to wonder what did he think he was doing at the time? I mean, he thought he was writing a scientific paper that would be of valuable -- value to the medical community. I don`t know why he feels like at this point he needs to somehow back away from that. KORNACKI: Well, Janell, how about this comment about Planned Parenthood being in black neighborhoods to control the African-American population? Obviously, a very inflammatory comment. What`s interesting to me is this is not the first inflammatory comment that Ben Carson has made. I think about this. We put all this attention on Donald Trump going way out there on one issue after another and surging to first place. You look in these polls especially since the debate, Ben Carson is right up there in second or third place, and he`s saying a lot -- rhetorically he`s out there almost as much as Trump is. ROSS: I think you`ve hit on something interesting, which is that there is, as "The Washington Post" reported today, it seems a really strong current of voter dissatisfaction, perhaps even anger, that Trump`s sort of off-the-cuff sort of statements seem to tap into and this seems to really appeal to a set of voters and perhaps some of Dr. Carson`s comments do the same. KORNACKI: Cornell, I mean, it`s fascinating to look at this field, obviously the biggest Republican field. But I mean, look at this, supposedly, this was the strongest field they had ever had. You`ve got these governors, and, you`ve got these senators. But it`s Donald Trump, but it`s Ben Carson, it`s Carly Fiorina. She lost a Senate race by ten points five years ago. These are the ones who are surging in the polls. BELCHER: Reality television is eating our country. The ethos of reality television, you now see is impacting our politics. And God help us. You know, to the Carson thing, from a political strategist, Carson is going to be under more scrutiny now. And, by the way, there is no nuancing your position on abortion in the Republican primary. You are against abortion. You can`t nuance it. If you`re behind carson now, you`re going to attack him because he flip-flopped. There`s no nuance for him there.   And the statements about, you know, the Planned Parenthood in black communities, to control black communities, I wish he would use the same fervor to talk about liquor stores in the black community, to talk about military policing in the black community. I think you have someone saying outrageous things, particularly calling Obamacare sort of, you know, slavery that would probably do worse among black voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012, which means if he`s the nominee, the Republicans have no chance of winning Ohio, they have no chance of winning Virginia, they have no chance of winning Florida, they have no chance of putting Pennsylvania into play, and they have no chance of winning the White House. KORNACKI: All right. Thank you to Anne Gearan, Cornell Belcher and Janell Ross. And when we return, let me finish with a lesson in partisanship and decency. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with this: My first lesson in political polarization came when I was in second grade. The assignment was to find out who the president was when we were born. These were the days before Google and none of my friends had the answer, so I turned to the only people in my life old enough to know. The answer was Jimmy Carter, my dad told me. By the way, he was a total failure. But mom chafed at that. Jimmy Carter was a good man, she told me. He believed in peace. Here was my introduction to the divide between red and blue America. It ran straight through our house. Dad, the son of Nixon Republicans, a Navy veteran, a small businessman, and mom, the social worker from blue collar Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of a nurse who unionized the city hospital there. It was also my introduction to Jimmy Carter, whose presidency is part of the foundation of the deep and intractable political divide we know today.   To the right, to red America, it`s an essential ingredient in the legend of Ronald Reagan. After all, in any good story, it can`t be mere mediocrity that the hero saves everybody from, it has to be a crisis. So for Ronald Reagan to rescue America, he couldn`t just follow a disappointing president, he had to follow the worst president ever. To the left, to blue America, the Carter presidency is a different kind of tragedy, the kind of tragedy where a swirl of crises and misfortune beyond the control of one mere president creates an opening for an extreme ideologue who couldn`t get elected under any normal circumstance, to seize power and pull the country sharply and in many ways permanently to the right. Jimmy Carter is now the longest surviving ex-president in American history. It`s been 34 1/2 years since he left the White House. They have been busy years for him. Busy in ways we don`t usually see with former presidents. Tireless humanitarian work around the globe, provocative and controversial books, turned out at the dizzying rate of almost one a year, jarringly frank public comments about his successors, about the state of the world. Jimmy Carter`s post-presidency has in many ways been as polarizing as his presidency. But one of the worst things about polarization is that it reduces every public figure to a boring two-dimensional caricature, a champ or a chump. There`s never any in between. But with any leader, with any person, it`s the in-between that`s invariably the most interesting -- the heroic traits, the grand ambitions mixing with weakness, with blind spots, with all of the imperfections that make us human. Jimmy Carter is 90 years old now and we learned this week that he`s sick. But he`s still here. As long as he is, maybe now we can put aside all those decades of caricaturing and salute the goodness that`s always been right there in front of us. Whatever you think of his politics, of his presidency, of any provocative pronouncement he`s made, Jimmy Carter is an honest man who loves his country and his family, who speaks his mind, who believes in peace and who lives the biblical edict to serve the least among us. There have been better presidents and there have been worse, but we`d be a better nation if all of them were as decent people as Jimmy Carter. 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. 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