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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 09/02/15

Guests: Katie Packer Gage, Steve Clemons, John Feehery, Robbie Blankenship, Jesse Cruz, Eliana Johnson, Jonathan Allen, Francesca Chambers

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Trump versus Bush, the punches keep on coming. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews. The Trump/Bush grudge match continues tonight. Yesterday, Bush questioned Trump`s conservatism in a splashy on-line video. This morning, Trump said that that showed a level of desperation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think he had really no choice. He`s doing very poorly in the polls. He`s a very low-energy kind of guy, and he had to do something, so they`re spending a lot of money on ads. You know, he has a lot of money from the hedge fund guys, from the special interests, from lobbyists. So let`s see what happens. So far, everybody that`s attacked me has gone down. Let`s see what happens here. He`s probably going to now stop because it seems to be backfiring. Based on the polls, it seems to be somewhat backfiring on Jeb. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, for its part, the Bush campaign continued to attack Trump as insufficiently conservative. In a new interactive feature on its Web site, the campaign offers a quiz of sorts, asking which candidate you`re more in line with, Bush or Trump. For example, would you rather support a candidate who opposes the Iran deal, or someone who thought Hillary Clinton would negotiate a good Iran deal, a reference to a Trump sound bite from several years ago.   In a personal jab, also going after a reported Trump quirk, another question asks, Would you rather support a candidate who strives to shake every hand everywhere, or someone who is a germ-o-phobe when it comes to shaking hands? Yesterday, Bush also spoke to reporters in Spanish, calling Trump, essentially, a bully. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, in an interview today with Breitbart News, Donald Trump said, quote, "I like Jeb. He`s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States." I`m joined now by "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, HuffingtonPost global editorial director Howard Fineman and the former deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential bid Katie Packer Gage. Eugene, let me start with you. So Jeb Bush wants this fight now. Maybe he feels he has no choice but to engage in this fight. But I`m watching this, I`m looking at the poll numbers with Donald Trump, and I`m wondering who in the Republican universe -- who is Jeb Bush winning over by doing this, anybody? EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I`m not sure, but who doesn`t love a great food fight, you know? And that`s what we seem to have now. You know, I think what Jeb Bush hopes to do is establish himself as the anti-Trump. And so, in a sense, this may be aimed at distinguishing himself from the Kasichs of the world and from Rubio and from the others who have some establishment support. And he could figure that if he can be the anti-Trump, then if and when it gets down to just a two-candidate race, Trump versus the anti-Trump, he`ll be there, and maybe he can take him then.   KORNACKI: Is it -- Howard, is it convincing, though? Bush is trying -- look, trump`s been taunting him all summer, calling him names. You see it again right there. He`s basically telling him -- his response to all that is, Hey, speak English. I mean, he`s been doing that to him all summer. Is this convincing, Bush`s attempt to fight back? HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in terms of style and in terms of sort of mano a mano in the streets, Bush is -- Jeb Bush is never going to top Donald Trump. He`s just not. He`s not going to do it personally. Can he do it in advertising? Maybe, although the PAC that`s supporting -- the independent PAC that`s supporting Jeb Bush is getting ready to drop $12 million worth of positive ads about Jeb. They`re not going the negative route. In terms of Jeb trying to say, Look, he`s not a conservative, but I, Jeb Bush, am -- I don`t think that`s necessarily going to fly in this big field because there are a lot of other candidates who are more thoroughgoing conservatives than Jeb Bush. What could happen here is Jeb spends a lot of money and time trying to nick up Donald Trump. Jeb doesn`t make much more progress, but he makes way for some more doctrinaire conservative who can become the true anti- Trump. KORNACKI: Well, Steve Schmidt, a former senior adviser on the John McCain campaign, told "The Washington Post" today, quote, "We have reached a moment where conservatism is not defined by issues anymore for a big percentage of the country." In "The Washington Post," Kathleen Parker wrote, "Trump doesn`t just sell snake oil, he milks the venom from the gathering throng of willing believers, then bottles it up and sells it right back to them, delicious with raw meat." Here`s some of that venom. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: You know, I`m a Republican. I`m a conservative. But I`m just as angry with the Republicans because they go to Washington, something happens. They become weak.   If you want a nice person, honestly, you should vote for Jeb. The country`s going to go to hell, but we won`t talk about it. I didn`t want to go there in the first place, but now we take the oil. We should have kept the oil. Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil. And I said, What about our children? Why can`t our children, that are in the country -- why can`t they be the dreamers? Nobody ever talks about that! You know, we talk about the dreamers, we talk about illegal immigrants, who, by the way, are treated better than our vets! So Huma is getting classified secrets. She`s married to Anthony Weiner, who`s a perv -- no, he is! He is. Hillary Clinton was the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States. He`s probably the worst president in the history of our country. He`s a very divisive person. He has just been a disaster for our country. I`m running because our -- we`re not going to have a country soon. We don`t have borders. We don`t have law and order. We don`t have -- I mean, our country`s going to hell! (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Well, Katie Packer Gage, that quote from Steve Schmidt really jumped out at me. I`ve been thinking about that a lot today, the idea that maybe the definition of conservatism is changing, and maybe that`s what we`re watching here. I wonder what you think of that because Donald Trump -- you see it in those Bush attacks. There are so many vulnerabilities that in the past would have sunk any candidacy. But here`s Trump who`s sort of defying it with -- he`s selling bluntness. He`s selling swagger. He`s selling authenticity. And that seems to maybe matter more to the base right now. KATIE PACKER GAGE, FMR. ROMNEY DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, just for the record, speaking to something that he just said, I think it`s interesting when he talks about our children and their children being dreamers. Four of his five children are the children of immigrants. So I think that`s something that he might -- should have to react to at some point.   But you know, I think Steve`s not wrong about that. I do think that there`s a significant part of the Republican Party base that is angry. They`re not necessarily doctrinaire conservatives, and maybe they never were. If they were, this would not be the guy that they follow because he clearly is not a conservative. But he is, without a doubt, speaking to a portion of the base that`s very angry and frustrated and wants to send a message to the establishment, and nobody in the field says establishment like Jeb Bush. KORNACKI: Well, on "MORNING JOE" today, Senator Lindsey Graham, another candidate, said Trump is tapping into a dark vein of Republican politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s consolidated all the Republicans who think Obama`s a Muslim... (LAUGHTER) GRAHAM: ... and that he was born in Kenya. So whatever block that is, that`s what he`s got. (LAUGHTER) GRAHAM: And I`m going for the other crowd. I`m going for the crowd that says, OK, I think he`s a Christian. I believe he was born in Hawaii. But he`s a bad president and he`s been a very poor commander-in-chief. Mr. Trump`s solution to destroying ISIL is as follows. I`m going to send our guys and gals over there to take oil from Iraq and Syria to pay our wounded warriors. I don`t think that destroys ISIL, Harold, I think that destroys our standing in the Mideast, and he`s leading. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!   GRAHAM: So pay attention to what the guy is saying on national security. He`s making no sense. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Well, so that`s -- there`s the knock right there. They say, you know, he`s -- he`s an ideologically -- he`s at odds with the conservative base (INAUDIBLE) so much Lindsey Graham said he makes no sense. But Howard Fineman, I mean, when I watch these speeches from Donald Trump, I mean, I think the appeal in a way is very simple. I mean, look at it this way. He talks about his poll numbers. He talks about his opponents in very sort of negative, personal terms. He says the things that people know every politician, every candidate is actually thinking, but no candidate and no politician actually says. It`s powerful, just the fact that he says it. FINEMAN: Right. I agree with you. I think there are a few elements to his appeal. One of them is what you just said. It`s pure combat with him. So he`s reduced presidential politics to what in certain respects it already has become, pure, naked, WWE on cable television. That`s number one. Number two, he talks the language of the people. He talks plain English. He doesn`t beat around the bush. And he also is not -- and I agree with Steve Schmidt on this. It`s not ideological so much as that it`s against -- it`s against the system that we have. It`s against the Congress, against the president, against the press, it`s against the politicians. That`s really not that ideological. And last, I think there is an appeal if not directly to race all the time, to this notion that we`re being beset by others, by outsiders, by the Chinese, by the Japanese, by the anchor babies, by the undocumented immigrants, by the big "Them" with a capital T. You put all those together, you get Donald Trump. And there`s no sign yet that anybody, and as someone else said, least of all the most establishment of Republicans, Jeb Bush, can counter that power. KORNACKI: Yes, and Gene, you know, he -- Trump keeps saying, too -- we talked about this yesterday -- no more Clintons, no more Bushes, the idea that even Republicans don`t like the idea of another Bush. And I keep thinking about it. I mean, I think there`s a constituency there in the Republican Party that says, We went along with Romney, we went along with McCain, we went along with Bush, we went along with Dole, and what did we get for it? I think there`s a lot of that out there. ROBINSON: Exactly. A lot of the frustration, I think, in the Republican Party is precisely that, that, We did what you said, we went along with the establishment pick, and, look, you`re not doing anything. You haven`t accomplished what we sent you there to accomplish.   And so in that sense, I think what Trump is selling is efficacy, that he`s different. He`s not like those guys. And he will actually get something done. Now, if you actually -- if you parse how he intends to get anything done, he doesn`t really say. And a lot of what he says he`s going to do doesn`t make literal sense. But nonetheless, he gives voters the impression that he`ll go to Washington and do something. And they believe they sent up a lot of candidates who went to Washington and did nothing. KORNACKI: Well, a report in "New York" magazine yesterday suggested that some Republican insiders are hoping that Mitt Romney will jump into the race. And according to a senior member of Romney`s 2012 campaign, quote, "Mitt wants to run. He never stopped wanting to run." Another former Republican adviser suggested the 2016 field wasn`t up to snuff. Quote, "These guys like Walker and Perry, they were big deals in their states, but you get them onto the national stage and it`s a different story. It`s like they were in middle school, and now they`re freshmen in high school and they`re getting their faces slammed in the toilets." (LAUGHTER) KORNACKI: Katie Packer Gage, veteran of the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012, do you think he wants to run still? GAGE: I don`t think he wants to run. I think, you know,people that run for president want to be president. That`s why they run. He did that twice. I think, you know, you don`t lose that desire to serve in that role, but I don`t think he has any desire to jump into what`s going on here, and I don`t think he`s reconsidering his decision at all. I think his spokesman yesterday made that pretty clear. But you know, let`s not lose sight of the fact that Donald Trump`s numbers aren`t even approaching what Mitt Romney had in New Hampshire in the primaries in 2012. So it`s not as though Donald Trump is speaking for a majority of the Republican primary base. He`s, you know, in the 25 percent range in most of these surveys. He hasn`t grown dramatically. He`s appealing to that portion, but it is not a majority of Republican... (CROSSTALK) GAGE: ... and I`ll say what I said before, is he will not be the nominee.   KORNACKI: I hear you that, Katie, but take -- take a step back and add Donald Trump, plus Ben Carson, plus Carly Fiorina, maybe throw Ted Cruz in there... GAGE: Sure. KORNACKI: ... -who`s sort of the outsider-insider... GAGE: Sure. KORNACKI: ... you`re over 50 percent. GAGE: Yes, without a doubt. But I don`t think that -- I think that if somebody was going to be for Trump, they would be for Trump. They`re not sitting there supporting Ben Carson right now, going, Oh, maybe I`m for that other big loudmouth guy. You know, they may not like the establishment, but they`re not for Trump. They`re going to go with somebody else. And it might just not be Jeb, but there -- you know, there`s a lot of candidates in this race. KORNACKI: All right. Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman, Katie Packer Gage, thank you all for being here. And coming up, President Obama`s big win on the nuclear deal with Iran. He now has the votes he needs to get the deal done. And for his critics, the effort to tank the deal this summer has been a major bust. Plus, that county clerk down in Kentucky who continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Tonight, we`ll talk to one of the couples who was denied a marriage license. And Joe Biden is ramping up his public schedule, testing the political waters today in Miami, and that is fueling more speculation that he might be getting ready to jump into the presidential race and challenge Hillary Clinton. And finally, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Joe Biden are all headed to the late night comedy shows next week. We`re going to look at how the comedy shows can make or break the careers of politicians.   This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Some bad news for the presidential front-runners in how voters see both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Just 43 percent of registered voters now say they have a favorable impression of Hillary Clinton, 56 percent viewing her unfavorably. That, though, is better than Donald Trump. Just 40 percent of voters say they see him favorably, 58 percent holding an unfavorable view. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We can sum it up by saying that without this agreement, the Iranians would have several potential pathways to a bomb. With it, they won`t have any. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`ll be front-page news tomorrow, and for good reason. That was Secretary of State John Kerry in Philadelphia today, speaking about the Iran nuclear deal on what is a historic day for President Obama because today, Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the 34th senator to announce her support for the president`s nuclear deal with Iran. With Mikulski, now President Obama has the support he needs to protect the agreement in Congress. If the support holds, it would mean a historic victory for the president`s legacy and a major legislative defeat for Republicans, who have painted this deal as a one-way ticket to the apocalypse. In April, Republican senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas said the deal would likely mean nuclear war. Dick Cheney wrote an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" last week predicting that it would likely lead to the first use of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   Ted Cruz has said that the deal would make the Obama administration the world`s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism, and Mike Huckabee told Breitbart News that President Obama is marching Israelis to the door of the oven. Today, Lindsey Graham put a statement saying, quote, "The only reason the ayatollah and his henchmen aren`t dancing in the streets of Tehran today is they don`t believe in dancing." David Corn is the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones," Steve Clemons is the editor-at-large for "The Atlantic." John Feehery is a Republican strategist. Well, Steve Clemons, let me start with you. You know the nuts and bolts of this deal as well as anyone. So it look likes, legislatively, this deal is safe, this gets through. I guess my first question is how safe is this deal long-term? Because a year-and-a-half from now, we`re going to elect a new president. Every Republican -- you just heard the rhetoric. If there`s a Republican president in January of 2017, does this deal survive? STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC": I think no matter who is elected on the Republican side, I would hope that the day they came in, they wouldn`t start a global international crisis with our allies on the first day. I think -- you know, when Donald Trump said that on his first day, he wouldn`t rip up the deal, he`d just lawyer the heck out of it, that was actually a good response. So maybe Donald Trump will win, and we`ll be OK. Scott Walker is a different story. A lot of other people have said they would destroy this bill, but it would create such a collapse of confidence in the United States that it would be the president actually shooting himself -- shooting himself. DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s all -- and isn`t it unclear how they would actually do that? I mean, one of the issues that we have had and that Republicans refuse to address -- maybe John will -- is that we can`t impose sanctions on Iran on our own that have the impact of the sanctions that have been multilateral. We have unilateral sanctions. Some will even continue after this deal. But the real carrot here was lifting the multilateral sanctions. CLEMONS: David, David, you`re -- with all due respect, you`re being sane. We`re talking multilateral vs. unilateral.   (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: Let`s try to put some context to this with some polling numbers too, full steam ahead, as we say, for Republican critics of the deal. And there`s good reason for that, because in polling, two-thirds of Republicans oppose the nuclear deal, this according to a CNN poll. And 80 percent say they have no trust in Iran to uphold the agreement, this according to a Monmouth poll. And today, Republicans took to the stump to slam the president`s victory. Here they go. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m frustrated that there`s not enough votes to block it today. But, as president, I will terminate that bad deal on day one. I will reinstate the sanctions. I will go to Congress to put in place even more crippling sanctions and I will get our -- convince our allies to do the same. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I`m president, that deal won`t survive. It`s not a treaty. It`s not legally binding. If people vote for me, they know they`re voting to get rid of that deal on the first day of my presidency. SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The media is spinning it that he`s going to win. Well, he may win, but we haven`t passed the first step, where he`s going to get his butt kicked on the first vote. I think the agreement is a bad agreement. I`m a no-vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And next week, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will host a rally in Washington to protest the deal. It`s the same day that Hillary Clinton will hold a major foreign policy address to defend it. Trump has been out there slamming the deal with his typical bravado. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s going to lead to nuclear holocaust. I have heard a lot of people say, we`re going to rip up the deal. It`s very tough to do when you say rip up a deal, because I`m a deal person and... (CROSSTALK) TRUMP: Let me tell you, but I will police that deal. And I would police that contract so tough that they don`t have a chance. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And today, Trump put out this video on his Instagram page. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A powerful display of American leadership and diplomacy, shows what we can accomplish when we lead from a position of strength. Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, taking a decidedly hawkish tone on Iran. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cheat and you will pay. And when you threaten the region and Israel, you threaten America. We will keep confronting you on human rights and terrorism.   And make no mistakes, we will never allow you to acquire a nuclear weapon, not just during the term of this agreement, never. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Well, John, the Republican side of this, here`s what I`m curious about. You look at the polling right now, obviously, within the Republican Party, you have a very strong opposition to this. But even among the general public, there`s not a lot of support for this right now. But look at the rhetoric we`re playing there, the idea of Huckabee saying this is marching Israelis to the oven door. Have Republicans set a standard that is so disastrously high for what this thing is going to do, that it`s actually going to be fairly easy in next two years for the administration to say this was a success? JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, time will tell, Steve. I think the fact of that matter is that this is one of those few issues that unifies the entire Republican Party and divides the Democrats. And from a political perspective, with the American people largely on the side of the Republicans, there`s no downside for them to have these votes against it. The president will sustain the veto apparently and then we will go on to other things like having other votes on other parts -- sanctions on terrorist activity and other types of sanctions, and we will see what happens when we have a new president come in. I think that you can safely say that the next president to comes in on day one is not going to tear up this agreement, because I think there`s a lot of risk to that. (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: John, is this something like -- is this -- we`re hearing a lot about it right now. It survives Congress, does it sort of dissipate? Does it sort of disappear as an issue for the rest of the campaign? Or is this a theme? Is this something the Republican Party is really going to be pounding in 2016? FEEHERY: I think international security, including Iran, is going to be a theme. I think ISIS will be a theme. I think fighting terrorism will be a theme. I think making the country safer will be a theme. I also think that being the strongest ally possible to Israel will continue to be a theme in this election.   KORNACKI: And, Steve Clemons, is there a way between now and the election a year-and-a-half -- I know this deal runs a lot longer than that, but is there something the administration, something the Democrats are going to point to over the next year-and-a-half and say, see, it`s working? CLEMONS: Well, it all depends on Iran. If a few months after the deal survives the veto or veto threat, then I think that if you begin to see Iran release prisoners, American prisoners, if you see Iran play a constructive role, as it`s flirting with right now in places like Syria, where it just floated a plan that essentially ends up with a Syria without Bashar al-Assad -- fascinating to see Iran do that -- if it plays a more constructive role, as it`s flirting with right now with the Saudis on Yemen, if a number of those things begin happening, then the bad, nefarious, evil Iran story begins to dissipate to some degree. CORN: Now, I have to say, now Steve is making the mistake of talking like a sane person. (LAUGHTER) CORN: I do believe that for the next year-and-a-half, the Republicans, almost no matter what happens, will demonize this deal and demonize Iran. And it`s very doubtful that even positive steps that Steve laid out, enough of them will happen to change the overall American impression of Iran. So, they will say again and again -- they will find some ayatollah somewhere saying death to Israel and death to the United States, and tie that to the deal, and say this is who Obama made a deal with. Now, whether that plays with the electorate probably depends more on what`s happening externally with national security matters and whether people are attuned to that type of message. But I have no doubt that every one of the 17 candidates out there will take that type of line of attack one way or another. KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, you`re right. It`s been almost 40 years now we`re coming up on since the embassy siege in Tehran, the hostage situation there. That`s a lot to overcome in a year-and-a-half, I guess. But thank you for now to David Corn, Steve Clemons, John Feehery. Appreciate the time. And up next, Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis isn`t standing down from her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I will speak with a couple who were turned down by her just this morning and they`re not going down without a fight. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody that, I mean, knows us, can just -- we are deeply in love, as deep as you can be. And for her to see that love and have her deny it, and say the comments that she said and invoke God, and to bring God into the equation, God would not condone this. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A Kentucky clerk today continued to deny marriage licenses to anyone because of her personal conviction against same-sex marriage. Robbie Blankenship and his fiance, Jesse Cruz, went to the Rowan County Clerk`s Office this morning, where clerk Kim Davis refused to give them a license. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the paperwork ready. And we are getting a marriage license. KIM DAVIS, ROWAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY, CLERK: Not here today, you`re not.   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Davis has been ordered by a federal judge to issue the licenses, but she says she is acting on God`s authority. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVIS: We`re not doing marriage licenses today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why? Why? DAVIS: Because I`m not doing marriage license today. We`re pending an appeal UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under what authority? Under what authority? DAVIS: Under God`s authority. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God`s authority. I knew you would say that. (CROSSTALK)   (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Davis said her Apostolic Christian faith stops her from issuing the licenses, but Blankenship says this is purely a civil matter. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re here to get a civil marriage. This is not a church. This is no steeple. It`s not a temple. OK, we deserve the same rights as any other couple. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, Kim Davis has made multiple legal appeals to remove her name from the county`s marriage licenses. Now federal Judge David Bunning has ordered Davis and six of her staff to appear tomorrow to hear arguments they should be held in contempt for their refusal. Lawyers for the couples don`t want Davis to go to jail. They want her fined. In their motion, they "urge the court to impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis` immediate compliance." As of today, two other counties have joined Rowan County in refusing to issue all marriage licenses because of same-sex marriage. Joining me now from Morehead, Kentucky, is the couple that was denied a marriage license earlier today, Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz. Welcome to both of you. Well, Robbie, let me start with you.   And more at a personal level, I guess, because I think we`re seeing the inevitable next phase of the battle over same-sex marriage -- we talk so much about how public opinion`s changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Legally, obviously, it`s now legal across the United States, but this is a reminder, and especially in the part of the country where you are, there`s still an awful lot of people out there that look at this and say, I don`t like it. ROBBIE BLANKENSHIP, SEEKING MARRIAGE LICENSE: You would be surprised. I was very surprised. I was actually also surprised at the support. I had much support coming into the courthouse this morning. I had more support than opposition. However, you would think that most of the people in this part of the country were on Kim Davis` side, seeing how nobody`s calling for her impeachment, her removal from office via the legislature, which is unlikely to happen in this -- in the climate of Kentucky politics. So... KORNACKI: Do you think there`s -- I mean, she`s -- we had her lawyer on yesterday. And he`s talking about, there needs to be some kind of an accommodation for her. She has a religious objection... BLANKENSHIP: No. KORNACKI: ... to this. Do you think there should be any -- is there any kind of accommodation you could see? BLANKENSHIP: Does this look like a church behind me? No. No. There should be no religious accommodation. OK, she has no more right to deny Jesse and I a marriage license than a grocery clerk has to deny, you know, selling products to a person of color, for example. There was an example not too long ago where a cashier in a supermarket, he requested his own cash register because he did not want to handle pork products. OK, now, that`s another example. That is a secular establishment. This is a secular establishment. If you can`t handle pork products, you can`t be a cashier. If you can`t issue marriage licenses, you can`t work at the county clerk`s office, that simple. KORNACKI: Jesse, let me bring you into this.   I`m curious, You were in there today, and obviously this was sort of a tense situation in there. But if you got a chance to sit down, maybe over a cup of coffee or something with Kim Davis, and you got a chance just to deliver a message about your relationship and why you want to get married and why you think she should be issuing the license, what would you tell her? JESSE CRUZ, SEEKING MARRIAGE LICENSE: I would tell her that my love is real and that we just want to be married, be happy, be a family. BLANKENSHIP: Right. KORNACKI: And, Robbie, you -- obviously, there`s going to be a court hearing tomorrow. BLANKENSHIP: Yes. KORNACKI: Are you optimistic that you are inevitably going to get this license? BLANKENSHIP: We are going to get the license. And it will come from this -- this building right behind me. Her opposition to giving out the marriage licenses really has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. We have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. If she wishes to discriminate and turn people away, she`s free to do so. Churches have no obligation to marry any person that they don`t wish to marry. The county clerk`s office has no such privilege. That would be a privilege, to be able to turn people away. And she doesn`t have that privilege. The court should heavily fine her, personally fine her, and imprison her, I would like to see, but... KORNACKI: But that`s not what`s being sought at this moment, right? It`s just a fine. Well, as we say, it`s going to be continued in court tomorrow, but, for right now, Robbie Blankenship, Jesse Cruz, good luck to both of you.   BLANKENSHIP: Right. KORNACKI: Thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate it. CRUZ: Thank you. BLANKENSHIP: Thank you so much, Steve. KORNACKI: And up next: Joe Biden hits the road, fueling more speculation about a possible run for the presidency. Is his travel schedule a sign that he`s getting 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. A judge has ruled that the six Baltimore officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray will stand trial separately. Gray suffered a severed spinal cord while in custody and died a week later. Authorities are still searching for three suspects who fatally shot a Fox Lake, Illinois, police officer. A vigil for Lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz is taking place at a local park. And 12 refugees, including five children, drowned off the coast of Turkey after their boats capsized on the way to Greece. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have fled Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan bound for Europe. Thousands have died on the way -- back to HARDBALL.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ladies and gentlemen, we`re in a situation where I know I`m referred to the press, or at least I have been, as the White House optimist. I`m optimistic and I`ve been around longer than all of them. But I`m optimistic, because I know the history of the journey of this country. What happens when you give the American people a fighting chance, they have never, never, never, never, ever let their country down, not one time. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Vice President Joe Biden speaking this afternoon in Miami- Dade College. Biden appears to be picking up his travel schedule, testing the waters, and fueling speculation that he will make a third run for president. He`s fund-raising for Democrats, and selling the Iran deal in Florida tonight and tomorrow, delivering another foreign policy address in Atlanta on Thursday evening, also marching in a Labor Day parade with the president of the country`s largest labor union, Richard Trumka of AFL-CIO, in Pittsburgh on Monday. And in his inaugural week, Biden is going to be appearing on the new late show with Stephen Colbert next Thursday. All of this comes as the Draft Biden Super PAC has made prominent staff key hires in the key primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, signaling that the V.P. is still seriously considering a White House bid. And a new "Reuters"/IPSOS poll says Biden is the top choice among Democrats should Hillary Clinton`s campaign collapse. For more now on Joe Biden`s big decision, let`s bring in the roundtable: Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of "The National Review", Jonathan Allen is chief political correspondent for Vox, and Francesca Chambers is the White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail". So, Jonathan, he succeeded in getting the buzz going over the last month. The Joe Biden buzz is out there. Now, here come the public appearances. We played that clip there, that sounds like the kind of message a presidential candidate might be sharing. What do you expect over the next month or two from Joe Biden? JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it looks like he`s going to get in, Steve. I mean, I don`t understand why he would schedule this Colbert appearance, I don`t understand why he`d go march in a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh with the AFL-CIO chief -- and that`s, by the way, if you`re going to look for a segment of the Democratic constituency that will be with Biden, I think AFL-CIO is probably most likely, their members. So, this is what a ramp-up looks like for a presidential campaign. And unless he`s teasing us, like -- well, I don`t want to make a comparison to teasing us. But unless it`s a big tease, Joe Biden looks like he`s running.   KORNACKI: I`m still -- I know he wants to. I know he wants to. And I wonder if he`s seeing how much fun he can have with this before he pulls back. So I`m still a little skeptical. Eliana, so there it is, next week, the new late show, Stephen Colbert. There is this history. We looked at history of candidates starting on late night TV. Bob Dole did it on Letterman show back in `95, Fred Thompson did it on Leno show on `07. I don`t think you want to be compared to those campaigns, I guess. (LAUGHTER) ELIANA JOHNSON, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Careful, Steve. KORNACKI: Yes, if he`s going to sit down, he`s going to be asked the question, though, right? I mean, Colbert is going to ask him, are you running? What do you think he`s going to say? JOHNSON: You know, Steve, I paid very close attention to what Biden was saying today in Florida. He was talking about the middle class. And some people have asked, what was Biden`s message be if he ran. Talking about the middle class has always really been his forte, and white, unionized, you know, middle class voters have drifted away from the Democratic Party, they were part of Bill Clinton`s coalition, less so of Obama`s coalition. These are people who have drifted right and people who Hillary Clinton tried unsuccessfully to appeal to in 2008. I think you could really see Biden take that message and run with it, and try to create a coalition for Democrats that is slipping away as the party becomes more of a collection of minority and interest groups. And that`s something that could really appeal to, I think, higher-ups in the Democratic Party, depending which way they want the party to go, the old Clinton coalition, or the new Obama coalition. And I think that`s something that could be tremendously interesting about his candidacy. KORNACKI: Yes, Francesca, so the idea here, Eliana said, the higher- ups in the Democratic Party, that`s what I`m thinking here, too, is the question of who`s with him if he runs, because if you think about what a dramatic step that is for any big-name Democratic politician leader to do, you got Hillary Clinton who we`re sort of conditioned to see as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination. She`s going to be controlling this party again next year. She very well could be the next president. So, to right now come out and say, I, major Democratic figure, am backing Joe Biden, you`re taking a big risk there.   FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: Well, I think that`s what Biden is still trying to figure out, who would be with him if he ran. And I think he is seriously considering this. I talked to the vice president`s office today, and they told me there`s still no updates, they still haven`t made a decision. So, I think we`ll have to wait and see. You talked about him ramping up. I personally is someone who covers the white see this as his general schedule. He loves people. He loves being out there, he kind of stopped a lot of these activities over the summer after the death of his son. But I think part of what we`re seeing now is Joe Biden getting back to normalcy. KORNACKI: Yes, that`s true, too, you know? That`s the great thing about being vice president is you can do two things at the same time. It`s official travel and everybody says it`s political travel, too. Although I got to say, the one thing I keep thinking of, we`re saying how serious is this? I`m thinking back to 2010 and 2011, and all of the stories I read back then about, hey, Hillary Clinton might replace Joe Biden as V.P., and I got to imagine that drove him crazy and he`s kind of loving tweaking her a little bit over this, if nothing else. Anyway, the roundtable -- JOHNSON: Talking about the middle class and hanging out with Richard Trumka, that`s his constituency. CHAMBERS: Well, I don`t think he wants to be out of public office either. I mean, like I said, he loves people, he loves these types of events. You know, he loves all of this. So I think he wants to still be out there in the public eye even after the White House. KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is staying with us. Up next, funny or die. The top presidential contenders are lining up to appear on the late night talk show circuit. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Well, President Obama had a run-in today in Alaska with a fish out of water. Take a look at this. The president is holding a salmon on an Alaskan beach when this happens. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Uh-oh. What happened there? Did you see that? Something got on my shoes. (LAUGHTER) Generally, you don`t want fish spawning on your feet. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he was happy to see you. OBAMA: He said he was happy to see me. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Believe it or not, that is actually the second time today a politician had a fishy moment. Check this one out. You`re looking at video right now of Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy getting photo-bombed earlier today by a beluga whale, not a fish but a mammal, at the mystic aquarium in Connecticut. We`ll be right back after this.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We`re back with the roundtable: Eliana, Jonathan and Francesca. Well, political junkies have a lot of late night television to look forward to in the next week. "The Late Show" will feature Jeb Bush as a guest when it debuts Tuesday with its new host, Stephen Colbert. Also, as we just said, Vice President Biden scheduled to appear two days later on, next Thursday, and then on Friday, Donald Trump is going to be on with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show". Now, presidential candidates have made some big impressions on late night television in the past. There was Bill Clinton`s saxophone rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel" on Arsenio Hall show back in 1992. During the 2004 Democratic primaries, John Kerry tried on rev the engine of his flagging campaign by riding a motorcycle on to the set of the Jay Leno`s "Tonight Show". But the tradition goes back even further than that, starting back in the campaign of 1960. Here was John F. Kennedy`s attempt at a joke about cowboys and Indians on "The Jack Parr Show" that year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACK PARR, HOST: Senator, have there been any amusing things that you can tell in 30 seconds? (LAUGHTER) SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I was made an honorary Indian and I now cheer for our side on TV. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)   KORNACKI: Richard Nixon would later follow suit in 1968 with a cameo on the wacky but beloved variety show "Laugh In". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no. I don`t think we could get Mr. Nixon to stand still for a sock it to me. RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sock it to me? (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: I always love hearing him say that. In more recent history, George W. Bush delivered a top ten list with David Letterman as a candidate in 2000. Here`s one thing he said he would do if he became president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Number six. Just for fun, issue executive order commanding my brother Jeb to wash my car. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Past cycles are any indication, 2016 holds a lot in store for late night, according to a report in "Variety", politicians logged more than 100 appearances on late night television in the 2008 cycle, which was the last time the nomination of both parties was up for grabs.   Well, so, Jonathan, I always think back to Bob Dole at the end of the `96 campaign, he goes on Letterman`s show. The race is over, he is lost and he is hilarious. And everybody says if we had seen this Bob Dole for the last year and a half, I don`t know if the result would be different but it might have been a more interesting campaign. So, I always wondered who out there in this field has the potential like Dole to shine on late night television. Is there anyone? ALLEN: With the Dole situation that falls under the category of the concession speech, the best of the campaign. But in terms of the people going on late night this week, I actually think this is a huge opportunity for Jeb Bush who is known as Donald Trump says, for being kind of boring, putting those audiences to sleep, to try to find a way to be funny. Don`t obviously try to outdo the comedian, the professional comedian, but I think there`s more risk for Jeb Bush and Joe Biden, who are seen as pretty likeable and seen as pretty humorous on their own to potentially have -- to not meet the bar of expectations. For Jeb Bush, it`s pretty low. If he seems a little bit warm, a little bit loose, a little bit friendly, he might do himself a favor. KORNACKI: Yes, not much of a standard there, I guess. Midnight comedians also have known been to broach sensitive topics with their guests, when Bill and Hillary were on the Arsenio Hall show. Arsenio asked this question about their private life. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARSENIO HALL, COMEDIAN/TV HOST: Have you ever found yourselves at home fighting? Honestly? HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-FIRST LADY: No. Not about anything important. We fight about what movie we want to see. HALL: It`s hard to think that you never at some point said, who is Gennifer, you know? Who the hell is she? It`s like -- I mean -- HILLARY CLINTON: I know who she is. I know who she is.   HALL: And you know what her problem is? HILLARY CLINTON: She`s got lots of problems. HALL: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: I mean, wow. I mean, that also, that right there, that`s the risk of late night television. I mean, there are questions that might be considered off limits in a more traditional interview or that would be phrased in a way that they would never be phrased -- how blunt that was, asking Hillary about Gennifer Flowers like that. That`s a risk on going on a comedy show. JOHNSON: Oh, absolutely. I think it is this typically American thing where we want our presidents to be more hardworking, more diligent, smarter, and have better character than we do. But at the end of the day, we also want see that they`re like all the rest of us but they can sit back, have a beer and crack jokes -- which, of course, means they`re anything but normal because the regular people are watching that happened on a couch with a bag of Doritos. But, which is -- all of which to say they`re not a monarch retiring to their throne. And so, I think if you can`t project the aura of being somebody that somebody who would want to have a beer with, and I don`t think anyone would say they`d want to sit down and have hang out with Bill and Hillary together, that`s a real problem. KORNACKI: All right. Well, we got a couple of appearances coming together, as we say, in the next week. Let`s see who shines, let`s see who goes too far. A lot of interesting stuff going to be happening late at night. Thank you, Eliana Johnson, Jonathan Allen, Francesca Chambers. HARDBALL is right back after this.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: 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.>