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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 08/20/15

Guests: Anne Gearan, Matt Schlapp, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Janice Min,Michael Scherer, Jonathan Allen, Eliana Johnson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good Time Donny! Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. It isn`t supposed to be this way. Donald Trump is supposed to be appealing to the angry people in this country, but take a look at the people`s faces in his crowds. They`re having the time of their lives, hanging and laughing on every word. Trump`s out there talking with energy and enthusiasm and optimism. He`s going to make everyone rich, he says. Happy days are here again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But being president is so hard, why do I want to be president? Because I love this country, and I know that I can make it great again. We`re going to be thriving as a country. Thriving! I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: I`m really rich. I`ll share (INAUDIBLE)   If you have a billion, you can live very nicely. I`m only kidding. That`s the mindset that we need as a country. What I want to do is I make the country great. That`s all I want to do. I have some of the greatest assets in the world, best locations in Manhattan. Whatever kind of a brain that is will be used to making our country rich again... Trade deals, great trade deals... -- making our country rich and then making it great. We`ve got to make us -- I know it sounds a little bit rough. We`ve got to make our country rich again. We have to make our country great again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, amidst that jaunty tune, Anne Gearan writes for "The Washington Post." Howard Dean, of course, the former Vermont governor and DNC chair. And Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union. I`ve got all three of you here with different views. Anne, "Happy Days Are Here Again" was the theme song, of course, of the Roosevelt campaign in `32. We`ve had buoyant (INAUDIBLE) "I`m wild about Harry," you know? This one`s pretty good. I mean, this guy has got people laughing. He`s supposed to be the politics of the grim and the angry, angry at everybody. Yet if you look at the faces, they`re not much like -- they`re a lot like the faces at a Bernie Sanders operation. They`re all having the time of their lives, and the other candidates are dying.   ANNE GEARAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I love that Trump`s insult to Jeb yesterday was that he was a low-energy person. (LAUGHTER) GEARAN: Isn`t that great? I mean... MATTHEWS: Well, what did he call Chuck Todd, sleepy time or something? GEARAN: Yes, yes, "sleepy eyes." MATTHEWS: "Sleepy eyes." GEARAN: Yes. Well, I mean, clearly, he`s having a -- he`s having a ball. I mean, it`s fun to be with somebody who`s having fun, right? People are showing up because they don`t know what he`s going to say next, but also because he`s entertaining. We can`t help ourselves. We`re all laughing. MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- politics, Governor, as you know, from the beginning of the picnics they held 200 years ago, Lincoln (INAUDIBLE) you got to keep the audience involved. Now, it is, of course, a first step. The question is, what do you do when you got the crowd? Where are you going to lead them? HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FMR. GOVERNOR, FMR. DNC CHAIR: Well, I think... MATTHEWS: But he`s making them happy! DEAN: This is a hard crowd to make happy, too. These are -- this is the wing of the Republican Party that`s really angry at everybody. And Trump comes along and says, I`m right with you.   So I -- you know, I -- listen, Trump confounds me totally. I thought he`d by gone by now, and everything... MATTHEWS: You`re an honest man. DEAN: Everything he says... MATTHEWS: That`s an honest statement. We don`t get that much around here. DEAN: I mean, everything that he says that I think he`s going to leave him (ph), is get him out, he gets stronger. First it was attacking John McCain, who`s a war hero. Then it was attacking women. And I`m just going, This is -- OK, I was wrong, but this is the end. MATTHEWS: Bleeding out of everywhere. DEAN: Right. And now he`s leading the polls and now he looks like the real deal. I mean, I don`t know -- the thing that`s so amazing is I initially thought when he got into this race, this was going to be a great thing for Jeb Bush. I actually think he -- Jeb Bush is in deep trouble right now because he`s not second or third, he`s fourth. And he`s not getting any traction and it`s because he won`t stand up to Trump. He`s afraid to do it. MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION PRES.: That`s not true. DEAN: I think it is. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: I don`t want to interrupt the fight... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... start with this, first of all. Anne, can you answer this question, as a straight journalist covering this? Does this guy have the possibility of being the nominee of the Republican Party? GEARAN: I mean, I think... MATTHEWS: I mean the actual nominee. GEARAN: We have -- at this point, we have to say yes, he has the possibility. It`s unlikely but a possible. DEAN: Yes. I agree. MATTHEWS: He can win, so he`s a contender. We all agree he`s a contender. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... not a sideshow. SCHLAPP: And definitely, with 17 candidates and with super PACs and the way campaign finance reform works, I don`t know if we`re going to see a lot of these candidates getting out. If you`ve got 10, 15 percent in the polls...   MATTHEWS: Yes, they`re... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But they`re going to zombies, if (ph) something like you just said. SCHLAPP: I don`t think they`re going to be zombies. MATTHEWS: Well, if you have PAC money still spending your money... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... you don`t have anything left and nobody`s rooting for you... SCHLAPP: That`s right... (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: Rick Perry has no paid staff on his campaign, but he`s still in the race. So that just shows you that the rules have made it different. MATTHEWS: Well, Trump is standing room only, His campaign put out a statement today that at an event they`re holding tomorrow night in Alabama -- we`re going to cover a lot of that live tomorrow night -- the Donald Trump pep rally in Mobile, Alabama -- Mobile -- has been moved to a larger venue and will be held in a 40,000-seat football stadium.   Well, last night, Trump touted the energy at his town hall as Jeb Bush was holding a rival town hall just a few quiet miles away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I love these rowdy crowds! Isn`t it great? There`s spirit. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: There`s spirit! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: You know what? I`ll tell you what. You know what`s happening to Jeb`s crowd, as you know, right down the street? They`re sleeping! They`re sleeping now. Oh! My group -- these are my people! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: These are my people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Not to spoil the fun, today in New Hampshire, Jeb was asked -- that`s Jeb Bush -- was asked by a reporter about Trump`s charge that Bush`s audience was sleeping. Here`s Jeb.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You went to the event, you would have found there was a lot of enthusiasm. And there`s a big difference between Donald Trump and me. I`m a proven conservative with a record. He isn`t. I cut taxes every year. He`s proposed the largest tax increase in mankind`s history, not just our own country`s history. I have been consistently pro-life. He until recently was for partial- birth abortion. I`ve never met a person that actually thought that that was a good idea. He`s been a Democrat longer than being a Republican. When people get this narrative, whatever the new term is, the compare and contrast narrative, then they`re going to find that -- that I`m going to be the guy that they`re going to vote for. And it`s a long haul, man. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He doesn`t seem like a presidential candidate, that guy there. Anyway, in that clip Jeb references Trump`s the tax plan from 1999, when Trump was thinking about running third party. Trump came onto this show, actually, HARDBALL, to tout his plan then to impose a heavy tax on the very wealthy. Quote -- this is Trump talking here -- "The economy would boom. We`d have no debt. Hey, I know about debt probably as much as anybody. I`ve had too much and I`ve had too little. And you know what? Too little`s much better, believe me." So Trump came on the show and talked a big tax for the very rich, and now he`s denying it. Does this matter, Governor? DEAN: No.   MATTHEWS: Does substance matter at all... DEAN: It doesn`t -- no, not anymore. MATTHEWS: ... in this summer season? DEAN: Not anymore. And we`ll -- I actually think that`s the miracle of Donald Trump. He just says what he thinks and people love it. SCHLAPP: I think this is way too... (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: This is way too cynical. The fact... MATTHEWS: Well, how -- how did he -- how can he -- how can he be a guy who was a big taxer, especially on the rich, which he... SCHLAPP: Well, you`re asking me -- you`re asking me to explain how he`s changed his mind over the years. Look, he has -- no question that he has gravitated from one party to the other party and been different places on different issues. What happened to Donald Trump? Barack Obama happened to Donald Trump. And he saw what`s happened over the last seven years, and he has -- completely thinks it`s got America on the wrong path. And that`s what`s got him in the Republican camp. And by the way, as a Republican, I think it`s great. He`s reaching voters we couldn`t get to otherwise. MATTHEWS: Would you vote for him for president?   SCHLAPP: If he`s our nominee? You think I want Hillary Clinton to be president? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You would vote for him for president. SCHLAPP: Absolutely! MATTHEWS: In Florida, Donald Trump now leads Florida governor (sic) Jeb Bush -- down there, they`re willing to answer (ph) the question -- and current Florida senator Marco Rubio. It`s Trump 21, Bush 17, Rubio 11. Why is he losing down there, Jeb Bush losing in his own state? (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: Trump is connecting in every state in the land. What he is saying is working. It`s working in Florida. And that also gets to this Hispanic question, as well. Everyone assumes that, you know, the Hispanic population of the Republican Party won`t vote for Trump. I don`t think it`s true. I think they`re really taking a hard look at him, especially those people who came to this country legally through the fair process. MATTHEWS: Yes, I get the sense that the Republican Party`s sort of, like -- they`re sort of battening down the hatches. They know this is going to a while, this hurricane, which I really think it is a hurricane. And they`re thinking, Well, this will be over at the end of the summer, hurricane season. Then we can come out of hiding. Nobody wants to take a shot at him. I mean, Matt doesn`t want to decide against him. GEARAN: Well, it`s interesting to see Jeb start to do that. For a long time, Jeb and many of the other establishment candidates considered Trump a sideshow, a carnival barker, and nobody that they had to really take seriously by getting down and dirty and attacking him. We`re starting to see that change this week. Jeb spent two days now...   MATTHEWS: You know what Gandhi said? First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win. GEARAN: And then you know you`re in, right? MATTHEWS: No, you win. GEARAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Has he got that quality, do you think? DEAN: Look, I think... MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) you admit it, very honestly, which nobody ever does around here. You won`t make a decision, but you admit, you`re honest in saying you made a mistake. You thought he was not going anywhere. Now you say you don`t know. DEAN: No, I think that he -- I think he`s in the catbird seat for the time being. Now, the big question -- and I`ve said this before -- is does he have an organization? Because if he doesn`t have an organization, this is all going to go away. SCHLAPP: He has an organization. GEARAN: Well, he doesn`t really... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Well, tell us about that. Is it paid or volunteer? SCHLAPP: He has -- both. He has real operatives who have good reputations who are active in these early states. This is not just the... MATTHEWS: So is he making the effort... SCHLAPP: ... a cult of personality. MATTHEWS: So he`s making the effort to win in Iowa first... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, take a look at -- here`s Trump`s shtick on the border wall, which he keeps talking about. Here he is just last night talking about the big high wall, which is -- he`s pretty graphic now about the building materials he`s going to use and the specifications. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Now, they have these walls built. And they said, Well, people go over these walls with a ladder. You know how tall the wall is? Like this. (LAUGHTER) TRUMP: And it`s not a wall, it`s a little fence. And people put up a ladder that they buy at Home Depot and they go over the wall (INAUDIBLE) And then they say -- I`m talking about a wall. See that ceiling up there? Higher.   And you do a beautiful, nice pre-cast plank with beautiful everything, just perfect. I want it to be so beautiful because maybe someday they`re going to call it the Trump wall. Maybe. (LAUGHTER) TRUMP: So I have to make sure it`s beautiful, right? And you put that plank up and you dig your footings, and you put that plank up -- there`s no ladder going over that. If they ever get up there, they`re in trouble because there`s no way to get down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, I was just thinking that -- it`s like when you see a movie star like Jack Lemmon playing the piano. It`s, like, all of a sudden, the guy who`s just sort of talking and acting -- you say, Wait a minute. He can play the piano, too. He`s talking building materials, specifications. He`s obviously been a land developer. GEARAN: Yes, this is a guy who`s... MATTHEWS: He knows... (CROSSTALK) GEARAN: ... really tall buildings. MATTHEWS: He has capabilities.   GEARAN: Yes, not usually ones that coordinate with being president, but who knows, right? I mean... MATTHEWS: They tend to be generalists. You got a lot of time to think. Jeb Bush... SCHLAPP: About which things? MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush... SCHLAPP: Great -- would be a great nominee. MATTHEWS: ... or Donald Trump? SCHLAPP: Donald Trump would be a great nominee. We have 17 people to choose from. MATTHEWS: This is the condition of the Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen! (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: No, we have so many great choices! (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: I gave you a choice between two. Howard Dean, I love the fact you admit that you were surprised by this. There is something new under the sun. Everything`s not the way it was. And a lot of people in this Washington guilder (ph) I listen to, this guild, they try to deny Trump`s existence because he isn`t part of something we grew up with. I like it -- things -- surprises. Anne Gearan, what a pro. Thank you, Governor. Thank you for coming on. Thank you, Matt. And coming up, Senator Claire McCaskill is coming here. The Missouri Democrat has just today come out in support of the Iran nuclear deal. That`s gutsy. Plus, I`m going to get her thoughts on what`s going on -- well, what`s all this gung-ho -- why is she so gung-ho about Hillary Clinton all of a sudden? And whether Vice President Joe Biden would be smart to jump in this race for 2016. Also, reality TV and reality politics. Donald Trump graces the covers this week of "Time" magazine and "The Hollywood Reporter." I`ll speak with the two reporters who`ve just gotten up close with the great entertainer and newly found politician. Plus, while Trump laps some of the competition, we`re going to review the rest of the field. Who is hot and who`s not? We`ve got our HARDBALL "Scoreboard" for that. And in our own words, by the way, his own words, the gutsy, honest Jimmy Carter. My old boss reveals the extent of his health challenge. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a little boost for the vice president of the United States as he mulls a 2016 presidential bid. Quinnipiac has new numbers that show that Joe Biden is now leading Donald Trump in three swing states. Let`s go to the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." In Florida, Joe Biden beats Donald Trump by 3. It`s Biden 45, Trump 42. In Pennsylvania, it`s Biden by 8. He`s up at 48 percent, Trump`s at 40. And in Ohio, it`s Biden by 10 -- Biden 48, Trump just 38. And we`ll be right back.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Missourians have rejected the politics of personal character attacks. The nation was watching, and we showed them! They all said, It`s over. It`s done. It`s too red. It`s just too red. There is no way that Claire McCaskill can survive. Well, you know what happened? You proved them wrong. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Democrat Claire McCaskill on election night in 2006 when she became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri. Anyway, Senator McCaskill was reelected in 2012 in a state Barack Obama lost that year by 10 points. Well, that year, Republicans made her their chief target nationwide. Well, now Senator McCaskill, who holds President Harry Truman`s U.S. Senate seat, is out with her memoir, "Plenty Ladylike" -- that`s the name of it -- in which she recounts her life story and gutsy political journey. Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill joins us right now. Thank you so much. Anyway, Senator, welcome, and congratulations on the book. MCCASKILL: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: You took a big risk in 2008 endorsing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. You wrote -- write in your new book, "The national women`s groups that considered my election a product of their handiwork were furious at the possibility of my backing Obama."   And after you endorsed him over Hillary, you write, quote, "People across the country, especially women, were very upset. Some wanted their campaign contributions returned. In fact, one group told me never to contact them again." You also say that you told "The Atlantic`s" Jeff Goldberg that Hillary in 2008 would be fatal for other Democrats on the ballot, saying, "The Democratic Party has to look at candidates who can be competitive in all 50 states." And finally, you write about something you said about the Clintons on "MEET THE PRESS" during your Senate race. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR: You were having Bill Clinton come in and raise money for you. Do you think Bill Clinton was a great president? MCCASKILL: I do. I think -- I had a lot of problems with some of his personal issues. I said at the time I think he`s been a great leader, but I don`t want my daughter near him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, this time, you`re an early Hillary supporter, in fact, endorser. Tell us about Hillary and your evolution toward becoming a gung-ho Hillary Clinton backer after opposing her last time. MCCASKILL: Well, last time, it was a hard choice. We had two historic candidates, two amazing candidates. This time, it`s not so hard. We have one candidate that has the strength and the stability to lead this country. She`s come out with amazing substantive proposals that will help Missourians, that will help the middle class in this country. She is the right leader at a time when our world is very dangerous and complicated. So I think she is head and shoulders above the field, and I`m excited to work on her behalf. MATTHEWS: What`s the trick to winning a state that could easily go the other way in a Senate race? I mean, I always think the people that run in tough states for a Democrat or a Republican, where you have to appeal across the line to get a majority, learn a lot more about politics than those who just grow up and spend their lives in safe seats. Your thoughts.   MCCASKILL: Well, it`s easier for me because I`m truly a moderate. I love to forge compromise. It`s not unusual for the far left and the far right to both be mad at me at the same time. And frankly, we need more people that are comfortable with that because that`s how you get people to come in from the edges and really work things out. That`s why so many people, Chris, are so mad at the government because it`s dysfunctional. And they`re gravitating towards outsiders because they have, I believe, a misplaced belief that somehow, these outsiders can change our Constitution and the checks and balances of our government. But it really takes moderates to get this done, and that`s what I think you have to be in a state like Missouri. MATTHEWS: What would happen if Bernie Sanders were to pull an upset, lightning upset, and defeat Hillary Clinton? Would he win in Missouri? MCCASKILL: Oh, I -- you know, it depends on who the Republican nominee is. Obviously, there`s a cast of thousands over there. And we can`t tell at this point. Eventually, the circus will leave town, and they will narrow it down to two or three candidates. MATTHEWS: OK. Suppose the circus sticks around? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Suppose it is Donald Trump against Bernie Sanders in the middle of the country of Missouri. Is that too hard to imagine? (CROSSTALK) MCCASKILL: Ay yi yi. I`m going on a long vacation if that`s the case.   (LAUGHTER) MCCASKILL: That`s hard. I don`t know who wins that. I think Bernie Sanders wins that, because I think he has got substantive issues he cares about. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about someone who everybody likes who is being talked about. You`re right in the middle of it, even if you`re on a book tour with this great book "Plenty Ladylike." Joe Biden. Personally, I home he doesn`t run, because I don`t think he can beat Hillary Clinton and I`m not sure it is a great fight to have right now. But it seems like it`s still a possibility. What do you think? Is it something he should do? MCCASKILL: I feel exactly the way you do. I love Joe. I feel protective of him. I worry that I don`t know what he pulls away from Hillary Clinton. I don`t know how he is really competitive in the long run, because, once you get in, then all the guns start getting -- everybody starts aiming at you with all the negative. I don`t think people realize the amount of incoming that Hillary Clinton is taking right now. Everyone is shooting, literally -- not literally, obviously -- figuratively, everyone is aiming all of the negative at her. And if Joe gets in, then some of that will begin to be directed at him. And I -- you know what? If he gets in, that is fine. And I love Bernie. And Bernie is talking about things we need to be talking about. And Hillary Clinton has to earn this nomination. And she knows that. She can`t just walk in. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I do -- I`m not supposed to, but I do sympathize with the situation she is in intellectually, because as one of our smart producers said yesterday, it`s not that they`re looking for a smoking gun. They may never have one or even know what they`re looking for. They don`t even know what the gun looks like or they -- they don`t even know what the -- as long as they have this smoke cloud around her.   And so every time they get her in a press conference, they start jumping on her about -- they just yell Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. And then they yell e-mail, e-mail, e-mail. It`s a smoke cloud around her that is hard to fight your way out of, because there`s not a gun you can say isn`t there, because you don`t -- they don`t even know what the gun is. What are they looking for? How do you deal with that in terms of press relations? Like, she had this trouble the other day. MCCASKILL: Well, I think, first of all, she has got to fight through it. She has got to fight back. She has got to be strong and assertive. And at the end of the day, what they`re really asking Americans to believe is that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, somehow wanted to harm Americans serving abroad as part of her organization, or that she wanted the Chinese to be able to hack into our systems? MATTHEWS: Yes. MCCASKILL: I mean, I think, at the end of the day, a lot of this becomes noise. And look at her numbers, still, Chris. MATTHEWS: I know. MCCASKILL: People talk about her unfavorables. Her unfavorables are much lower than Donald Trump`s. Everybody is talking about Donald Trump that, oh, he`s great and he`s doing so great. His unfavorables are much higher than Hillary Clinton`s. MATTHEWS: Yes. I know they`re pushing this. I know what they`re pushing. MCCASKILL: And, by the way, he`s got 20 percent of the vote? That means 80 percent of the vote is against him. So, I mean, perspective here and context matters.   MATTHEWS: I think they like to push the image, though they don`t have to say it, just the night that Chris Stevens was killed over in Benghazi, and the other three people, other three Americans, she had her feet up on the desk. She was having a Schnapps or something. I don`t know what they`re trying to argue. That she wasn`t paying attention, she didn`t care, she didn`t answer the phone? I think everybody knows she worked like hell to save that guy. You know it is an absurdity. MCCASKILL: Of course she did. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Donald Trump. I have been following politics like forever, since I was 5 years old. And everybody came -- all the master of the cloth hall, the old experts around here, said, oh, he`s not going anywhere. He`s just a cloud of dust. It is all going to go away by September. And he is still there. And he`s winning in Florida now, beating Bush, beating Rubio, beating all the established big shots of the Republican Party. Is he real or not? MCCASKILL: Well, every time somebody who is kind of the Washington culture says he`s not real, it makes him stronger, because what people are reacting to is in fact the Washington culture. MATTHEWS: Yes. MCCASKILL: And I respect that. I mean, people -- I may not respect how Donald Trump is running for president, without substance, with rhetoric and aren`t I wonderful, and kind of anything I can do to get attention, but I respect that people who are gravitating toward him, because they want Washington to work differently. They are frustrated, cynical, angry and very negative about their government. And I completely get that part. MATTHEWS: You`re my kind of politician. By the way, here`s Sheryl Sandberg selling your book here. I will let her -- use her words, "a brilliant memoir that nearly explodes with encouragement for women on how to achieve their dreams for women."   It`s so great. What a great role model you are, Senator Claire McCaskill, elected twice from Missouri. "Plenty Ladylike," it`s her memoir. Good luck with it on the road. MCCASKILL: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: And thanks for coming here, as always. Please come back ever and ever again. Up next, reality TV meets reality politics. Donald Trump goes toe to toe with a bald eagle in a cover shoot for "TIME" magazine. By the way, he is on the cover. And, yes, whatever you think of that picture, it is reality. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump is on the cover of this week of this week`s "TIME" magazine with the simple phrase, "Deal with it." But ever the showman, turn the page or go online and you will see Trump posing with a bald eagle, with the caption -- quote -- "The Donald has landed. Deal with it." Anyway, it was "TIME" magazine`s photographer who thought of posing Trump with an eagle and the GOP front-runner was unflappable. In the interview, Trump took a shot at former President Bill Clinton. Here he goes.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clinton had a lot of problems with the Monicas of the world. And had he not had those problems, he would have had a pretty good presidency, not a great one. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Not a great one. Anyway, Trump also takes Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to task for running for reelection to the Senate while also running for president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I hit back maybe sometimes much harder than they hit me, but I came out with a very strong statement about Rand Paul. First of all, I think he`s totally taken advantage of the people in Kentucky, because what are they, an afterthought? If I don`t win here, I will go back to you. It doesn`t work that way. Somebody should primary him out, because he can be beaten, believe me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, "The Hollywood Reporter" has him on the cover, Trump, anyway. They have got him on the cover as well. There is that other picture. They`re comparing him to Ronald Reagan. Well, hold your breath on that one.   Joining me right now are the two reporters who interviewed Trump, "TIME" magazine`s Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, who is with me, and Janice Min is with "The Hollywood Reporter." I will start with you, Janice. And I have -- you`re smiling, maybe because of me or just being on television, but were you smiling during your interview with Donald Trump? Did you enjoy the up-front charm of the rather strong personality himself? rMD-BO_JANICE MIN, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": You know what? He is a total -- he`s a complete entertainer and he`s smart. And I think one of the things that his rivals should not underestimate is how smart he is. A lot has been made about the fact that he is a fool, he says silly things. But it really struck me during the interview what he talked about. And he said to me, would you be paying any attention to me, would you be sitting in my office if I weren`t -- if I weren`t -- if I were boring? And I had to answer and say no. And that is really what`s going on right now, both in television, online, and social media. He is owning the entire conversation. So, yes, I was entertained. MATTHEWS: If you think about skiing, those people who look like they`re controlling and those who look like they`re just madly falling down the hill, is the kind of guy that is controlling his words? Is your sense that he says what he has thought about saying, or is just flapping out of his mouth stream of consciousness? What is -- is there a brain working it or is it just good luck and the right kind of synapses? MIN: I think he knows exactly what he`s doing. There were times -- and you know this better than anyone. You ask a question, and they don`t answer the question. They answer what they want. That happened repeatedly. He definitely has the points he wants to make. A lot of the points have similar themes: I`m right. Other people are wrong. But he is an effective communicator. I think there`s -- I have to tell you, in all the time I have interviewed people, when we interview people on staff, there`s usually some publicist who calls afterwards, tries to get some of the quotes killed, begs you not to use stuff. Not a single thing happened. I was with Trump for about a total of four hours, all told. Not one thing was ever interrupted by a publicist. No one ever tried to strike anything afterwards. He knew exactly what he was doing the entire time, if you ask me.   MATTHEWS: Years ago -- years ago, by the way, I had somebody call me and ask me what -- the questions I was going to ask Hillary Clinton at the time, Senator Clinton. Why these people think they are going to make things any better 10 minutes before a debate. Any way, "The Hollywood Reporter" interview, recalling his most controversial debate moment in Cleveland with Megyn Kelly, Trump offered a kind word of sort for Rosie O`Donnell. Here he is, trying to be, in his way, nice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: That was a rough question. And in the middle of the question, I blurted out something like, only Rosie O`Donnell. So, Rosie, finally, you saved me. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Michael Scherer, let`s get to "TIME" magazine. I want to go to Michael for a minute. I will be back to you. "TIME" magazine is historic. You remember, you had Hitler on the cover one time because he was a danger in the world and the most important person in the world because he was the most -- greatest danger. The decision, how hard was to it put him on the cover, Trump? MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME": I don`t think it was hard at this point.   I think we have been watching Trump, obviously. We have been writing about Trump for several weeks now. But he has defied everyone`s expectations. MATTHEWS: Is he real? SCHERER: Depends on what you mean real. MATTHEWS: Well, is he a contender for the presidency? Has he got a plausible route to the presidential nomination, a plausible route? SCHERER: Very narrow route. A very, very narrow route. He`s running now 25 percent in the Republican Party, which is about 40 percent of country, generously. He is doing... MATTHEWS: No, I`m talking about the nomination. Can he be one of the last two guys fighting it out, say, next June? SCHERER: He could be on the last two, but I think the other guy will have more votes. Right now, in the latest poll, he would have to change a lot of minds. Latest FOX poll had 58 percent saying the ticket would be weaker with him on it than with him off it. I think there`s a lot of evidence that the people who are not with Trump now are never going to be with Trump. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. In the "TIME" interview, it gives you a glimpse of what -- his mind works and often how it appears to be making money, about making money, not just about himself. He offered to make the next GOP debate into a moneymaker for charity. He suggested -- quote -- "So, if I go to CNN and I say, look, you`re going to have a massive audience, and if I say to them, I want $10 million for charity, nothing for myself, what happens? I`m not showing up, right?"   Can he leverage that? SCHERER: It would never work. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: CNN wouldn`t run it? SCHERER: CNN wouldn`t -- I can`t imagine a scenario in which a respectful journalistic organization would pay $10 million for a candidate for president just... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. You know, Janice, in an earlier part of the show, I suggested just for sheer political theater, that we would all watch, Hillary Clinton just agrees to debate Donald Trump right away a week or two from now for the biggest TV purse in history, all of it going to some really good charity in the world. You know what? Wouldn`t that be a night? MIN: Oh, this is pay-per-view. It`s the Pacquiao fight. It`s Pacquiao-Mayweather. It`s amazing. (CROSSTALK) MIN: And, Chris, when I was just -- I was just on the phone with Donald Trump about 10 minutes ago before we -- I came on here.   And he said -- what is interesting about him, he said -- the article was not entirely flattering. He told me he loved it. Then I told him I was coming on here. And I just have to tell you, he said: "I love Chris Matthews. I love HARDBALL." I think he called you a wild and crazy guy. MATTHEWS: Well, OK, touche. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Scherer and Janice Mine. Thanks for delivering that message. You ought to have a Cupid`s arrow in your quiver. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up next, the honest man, Jimmy Carter, reveals the full extent of his cancer diagnosis, an earnest and very personal press conference today. By the way, the press looked really good today at how they handled this thing just right. And he handled it just right. It was a great moment in American communication, especially from a guy who has got challenges now. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening. Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the deadly wildfires burning in his state are an unprecedented cataclysm and authorities all resources that can be safely deployed. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says Turkey should do more to help in the fight against ISIS. And according to the Associated Press, the hacking at cheating Web site Ashley Madison exposed the accounts of hundreds of government workers, some with sensitive jobs in the White House, Congress and law enforcement - - now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Within the bounds of my own judgment, I will do what the doctors recommend for me to extend my life as much as possible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was former President Jimmy Carter, who spoke at length today in a press conference about his reason cancer diagnosis. Well, earlier this month, Carter underwent a surgery to remove a tumor on his liver which turned out to be melanoma. Further tests revealed that that had spread to parts of his brain. And he said today that the cancer is likely to show up in other parts of his body. So, that`s what`s coming. But in his characteristic way, the 39th president, who famously promised the country he would never lie to it, he delivered the very personal news with courage and candor.   Here`s how he described his initial reaction to the diagnosis. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARTER: I just thought I had a few weeks left. But I was surprisingly at ease. You know, I have had a wonderful life. I have had thousands of friends. And I have had an exciting and adventurous and gratifying existence. So, I was surprisingly at ease, much more so than my wife was. But now I feel, you know, it`s in the hands of God whom I worship, and I`ll be prepared for anything that comes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That`s a powerful Christian statement there. I`m joined right now by the round table: Jonathan Allen, chief political correspondent of "Vox", Eliana Johnson is the Washington editor for the great "National Review", and MSNBC political analyst Chris Cillizza is with "The Washington Post." Of course, I`m going to start with you, Chris. CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. MATTHEWS: I was -- I worked for him for all those years. I was a speech writer to the end and I was still taken by the three things about him I`ve always known. He is particular, lots of information. He is very honest. And he is really gutsy whenever you think of his politics.   CILLIZZA: Yes, I always tend to see these things as hypochondriac through my own lens of, you know, if this happened to me, how would I treat it? I`m just amazed at the ability to be sort of both magnanimous, honest, have candor and yet be able to say, which is an awesome thing to say if you`re 90 years old or if you`re 39 years old, to say, look. I`ve lived a really great life. I lived a life that I probably never -- he didn`t say this but I`m sure, a life that I never thought I would be able to live. The whole thing was peanut farmer from Georgia elected president. The guy started an amazing philanthropic humanitarian effort at the Carter Center. So, that ability to sort of contextualize news that is devastating for almost any of us into a boarder context is really, I thought -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Chris, I thought you hit the nail there in the 90. If you make to it 90, you got no complaints. I mean, he`s about the same age as Bobby Kennedy. We lost Bobby Kennedy back in `68. It`s one of those things I like to put in perspective. Check the date of birth and see how some people live long lives. And others don`t get that break. ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL REVIEW: You know, what I think was so remarkable about what did he today, is there`s a tradition of protecting the integrity of the presidency by shielding the privacy of former presidents, current presidents in these difficult moments. FDR wouldn`t be photographed in a wheelchair, and I think Carter showed that you can expose weakness -- former presidents, current presidents can expose weakness and talk honestly about their weakness, the most difficult moments of their lives and still frequent dignity of the office. MATTHEWS: Would Jack Kennedy have been admitted if he had Addison`s disease? JOHNSON: Exactly. MATTHEWS: Would he have been elected? JOHNSON: I don`t know. It`s doubtful. He had difficulty -- MATTHEWS: So, let`s talk about Jimmy Carter and how you appreciate him and what you thought of today, because I thought -- I don`t know how you talk with your brain, you`re saying the brain has cancer. It is so personal. I mean, it`s almost frightening.   JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This guy is someone who explained to America in very easy to use terms for his entire life what was going on in front of them. I think he did it in 1976 which got them elected. And then later on, I think he spoke on disease, poverty on, all of his humanitarian efforts. And even when you disagreed with him -- I disagreed with him a lot on, for instance, his book (ph) on Israel and apartheid, even when you disagreed with him, there is a tremendous value that he brought to raising issues, and even today, raising the issue of cancer. MATTHEWS: He was direct on Benjamin Netanyahu today, wasn`t he? ALLEN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s listen to how President Carter answer the question about his regrets in life. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Anything you wish, I`m sorry, that you had not done or that you had done differently? CARTER: I wish I had sent one more helicopter to get the hostages. We would have rescued them and I would have reelected. But that may have - - but that may have interfered in the foundation of the Carter Center. If I had to clues between four more years and the Carter Center, I think I would choose the carter center. REPORTER: Thank you. CARTER: Could have been both. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: You never get over it, Eliana. JOHNSON: I know. MATTHEWS: I don`t think you ever get over losing the big one, especially when you`re president of the United States. It`s still in his head all the time. JOHNSON: Talk about honesty, you know, and a candid moment that really was a low point of his presidency, eight Americans dead. But to go back to what he did, somebody who always cared deeply about America`s role in the world, and the moment with the Iranian hostages. I don`t think Carter has gotten enough credit for all did he over that year to secure the release of the hostages. MATTHEWS: He got them home safe. JOHNSON: Exactly, and something Reagan actually has gotten credit for, that I think Jimmy Carter deserves a whole lot of credit for. MATTHEWS: I think they kept those hostages to screw Carter, not to reward Reagan. Anyway, the roundtable stay -- thank you for this honesty from the "National Review". You jump over the net, it was a great tennis match and you were very generous. Up next, who is hot and who is not? This is going to be simple, because we can look at the numbers. We`re going to start with Cillizza, who`s the expert. By the way, they`re not named Trump. But there are some guys riding high like Slim Pickens riding that rocket, that nuclear bomb. Some guys are using this guy Trump and some are attacking him. The ones that are using him seem to be doing well, as Rachel pointed out last night. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressman from the state of Ohio, passed away this week after a battle with brain and lung cancer. The powerful Cleveland Democrat rose from an early childhood in a housing project, serving three decades in the U.S. House tapped by Speaker Tip O`Neill to serve as chair of the select committee that investigated the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He was older brother to the late Carl Stokes, the first African-American mayor of a major U.S. city. When Congressman Stokes announced he would be leaving, retiring from Capitol Hill after 30 years in office, a Cleveland columnist wrote, "Stokes brought more than money home from Washington. He also brought laughter and inspiration and pride and sometimes those are harder to come by." Louis Stokes was 90 years old. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only thing constant is Trump. I mean, all of them change. On the bottom, they`re going up and down like yo-yos. I`ve been up there a long time and I hope I`m going to be up there a long time. You know, I read a lot of phony reports. A couple of reports today in the paper saying, oh, well, you know, when Donald Trump gets tired of doing this. He`s doing great and he`s leading all the polls -- I`m not going anywhere, folks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, Jonathan, Eliana, and Chris. Anyway, as Donald Trump towers over the field, the remaining 16 Republican candidates are struggling to be heard or even seen. Some are having more success than others. While no one`s close to eclipsing Trump, there`s new evidence that the momentum of the race has shifted over the last four weeks. So, who`s got the hot hand? This week`s national CNN/Opinion Research Polls show a search and support for Dr. Ben Carson, who`s gained five percentage points since last month. Carly Fiorina, who`s gained four points. Both candidates are Washington outsiders who have never held elected office, obviously. Rubio and Kasich have also ticked up as well, but just a bit.   In contrast, one-time favorites like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are on the down swing, losing two points each, as well as Chris Christie, who`s fallen from the ranks of the top ten candidates. With attitudes towards Washington more negative than ever, the appeal of political outsiders may be the new normal for 2016. On Monday, for example, Scott Walker was asked about the state of the race. And he said the polls merely reflect voter protest and not actual support. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the reason why you see not just one candidate, but a couple candidates moving in the polls who are not elected to any position is really a matter of a protest. I talk to Americans all across this country, who say I may not end up voting for this candidate, but I`m going to say in the polls this I`m for them, because I`m tired of politicians in Washington not listening to me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, if this guy, Scott Walker, who looked really good in terms of profile, governor of a Midwest state, gets re-elected, had the labor unions after him, beat them back in a recall. If his inside looked as good as his outside, he`d be in great shape. But Trump looks good when we`re getting up close to him which is -- this guy doesn`t look so good close up. CILLIZZA: Look, I mean, it`s -- I don`t know if Scott Walker is wrong, but it`s certainly convenient for Scott Walker to make the argument, these are protest votes, you don`t worry about them. The polls will go up and go down. The one thing that`s changed, Chris, when you say, who`s hot and who`s not, well, the one thing that`s changed is the debates. Look, Carson quite clearly was perceived as doing well, Rubio, Kasich, Carly was sort of the winner of the undercard. So, that`s what`s changed. I mean, I don`t know that -- I don`t know that it means that it`s a protest vote. It could mean that people want something different. Yes, maybe they want something different in August 2015 and in February of 2016, they`re going to go back to the establishment, but maybe they won`t. MATTHEWS: One division, Eliana, is those who are siding with Trump sort of trust, saying I`m with him on the blah, blah, blah, and others say, I`m against him on the trust.   JOHNSON: I don`t think it`s crazy to say that the polls aren`t completely accurate here. We`ve seen Rick Santorum come way from behind out of nowhere last time. Mike Huckabee come back in 2008 to win Iowa. And so, as to what Chris was saying, I don`t think the polls we`re seeing in the early primary states are necessarily predictive of the voters who are actually going to show up. So, I think Scott Walker`s right on that point. MATTHEWS: You think he`s still in the running? JOHNSON: Oh, absolutely. CILLIZZA: For sure. MATTHEWS: Jon -- ALLEN: Yes, I think what we`re seeing -- MATTHEWS: So the more boring candidates can still do well. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) CILLIZZA: Put that on a bumper --   ALLEN: Scott Walker is like -- MATTHEWS: Wake up and vote for Scott Walker. Anyway -- ALLEN: I was just going to say that the important paradigm used to be moderate conservative. Right now, the important paradigm is insider/outsider. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, add them up with Donald Trump and you`ve got a big number there. MATTHEWS: Rick Perry`s campaign is effectively broke, but the former Texas governor isn`t backing off just yet. A piece in "The Washington Post" declared yesterday, quote, "The zombie apocalypse has arrived and it`s in Iowa with Rick Perry. He can in longer afford to pay his staff," this is Perry. "And yet due to a recently known experiment known as super PACs, Perry`s zombie campaign lurches forward. He may have no money, but there`s $17 million from super PACs propping him like a brain that can no longer coordinate with its body. Perry has no control over how his money is spent." How wants to explain it? Super PACs keep spending money and spending money, but you can`t even call them up and say, put this ad on the air, right? JOHNSON: Sure. I mean, we heard in 2012, which was the first time super PACs were able to play. They propped up Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich for longer than people thought they`d stay around. Now we say, hey, do you even need a campaign now that we have these big money super PACs? MATTHEWS: OK, simple question for you, first, and you. Will this prevent any candidate from getting 50 percent going into Cleveland, the convention city? ALLEN: Oh, yes. MATTHEWS: So, we`ll have -- ALLEN: I shouldn`t say -- I don`t know for sure. But I do think that`s a possibility. And I would not have said that --   MATTHEWS: Chris, do you think -- can it force us to actually have a gavel-to-gavel convention to cover -- CILLIZZA: I think it`s more like never before, because super PACs exist, and because of the ghost of Tim Pawlenty. Tim Pawlenty was out of the race by this time four years ago. He should have just stayed in, sort of lived off the land, and maybe might have come back. I think every candidate sees him and thinks, well, I`m not dropping out, because who knows. Donald Trump is the front-runner right now. Why do I need to get in or out? MATTHEWS: I think you may have a convention and I can`t wait -- CILLIZZA: Well, if you`re a political junkie, it was amazing. MATTHEWS: Anyway, the public wants one. Anyway, Jonathan Allen, Eliana Johnson, and Chris Cillizza. When we return, let me finish with the undeniable fact of Donald Trump. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the undeniable fact of Donald Trump. So far, he`s getting about a quarter of the Republican vote. Put him up against the rest of the GOP candidates, and that`s about what he gets, over and over again, about 25 percent of the Republican vote. Assume that`s about half the total vote of the country. That means the man from Manhattan is getting regular backing from about one-eighth of the American electorate. But even when you put it that way, the incontestable fact is that Trump is gaining the regular support of more Republicans than any other candidate. Not only that, but he`s gaining dramatically in imagined matchups with Democrat Hillary Clinton.   And is there anyone who wouldn`t like to see that imagined matchup become a prime-time reality? A two-hour test of wits, imagine it, of nerve and political stamina between the woman whose turn it is politically and the country`s most controversial party crasher. And that may be precisely why Mr. Trump is still the man to beat, because somewhere in the minds and souls of those on right, especially, is the spoiling, simmering lust to see a Trump/Hillary bout that goes the distance -- one that we haven`t seen anything like between the tennis match between the mouthy Bobby Riggs and the gusty stalwart Billie Jean King. OK, I`ll admit, I`d like to see it, Hillary versus Trump. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>