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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 09/23/15

Guests: Simone Campbell, Bob Casey, Kathleen Parker, Matt Schlapp, Michele Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Can`t blame the messenger, not today and not tomorrow. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. You want to get a message across, send the right messenger. You want to fight that message, be careful you don`t attack the messenger. Today, it all came in beautiful pictures. You could have heard Louis Armstrong singing "It`s a Wonderful World." Everyone was smiling today. The weather glistened. The first lady smiled widely. The president giggled in glee. And the crowds were biblical. Pope Francis had arrived at the power seat of the Western world. He had something to say, and he was going to say it now. Then out came the words as softly as an announcer on the 18th green or as a commentator from the Sistine Chapel itself, softly but no doubt about their power on immigration, on climate change, on income inequality, on freedom of religion in this country, one hot button after another pounding their way to tomorrow`s morning headlines, just in time to set up the pope`s big address to the U.S. Congress tomorrow. Well, afterwards, he and President Obama held a private meeting for 40 minutes this morning. Then the pope paraded from the White House, waving to -- look at this! -- waving to the thousands of supporters lining the streets of D.C., stopping along the way for his security detail to bring -- watch this! -- bring him babies and children from the crowd to receive his blessing. The security risks were abundant. Anyway, this afternoon, he celebrated mass for thousands of people at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University. He also canonized the Spanish-born priest who founded missions in California back in the 1700s. It was the first time a saint has been canonized on American soil. But the politics are what the Democrats and Republicans of this city heard today. In his remarks at the White House this morning, Pope Francis went, as I said, right for the hot stuff. He began as a personal advocate for immigrants.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE FRANCIS I: As the son of an immigrant family, I`m happy to be a guest in this country which was largely built by such families. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. Speaking as one. Anyway, Pope Francis also talked about climate change and air pollution. Catch this (INAUDIBLE) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE FRANCIS I: (INAUDIBLE) the urgency (ph), it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem we can no longer be left to a future generation. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He said that climate change has had a particularly harsh effect on the planet`s poorest communities. He`s right about that. He then cited Martin Luther King, Jr. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    POPE FRANCIS I: (INAUDIBLE) face of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on our promissory note, and now is the time to honor it. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, then backing up the country`s Catholic bishops, the pope talked about the right to religious liberty in this country, calling it one of America`s most precious possessions. I`m joined right now by NBC News special anchor, Maria Shriver, HuffingtonPost global editorial director Howard Fineman and MSNBC national correspondent Joy-Ann Reid. Thank you all for joining me. You know -- Maria, it`s great to have you on the show. And thank you for this, coming from the Kennedy family, it`s always stunning to hear from you and also because you are a working Kennedy and always have been a journalist. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And that`s a good thing. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... stuff for you, the real thing! Look, you`ve covered everything. I don`t think I`ve seen a day like this. It glistened.    MARIA SHRIVER, NBC SPECIAL ANCHOR: Yes, I think it was so inspirational. It was so hopeful. And it was one of the few times I felt growing up in this city or being at something that didn`t feel partisan. MATTHEWS: Yes. SHRIVER: It really didn`t. It felt American -- actually felt American, with all its different facets. It felt international, but it felt American. It felt moving. It felt aspirational. You felt that the president was moved and happy and excited and kind of showing off with his back yard and everything. MATTHEWS: Yes... (CROSSTALK) SHRIVER: Yes, I mean, it was -- you got a sense of, like, Look at what we`ve -- you know... (CROSSTALK) SHRIVER: ... and great deal of respect. It felt very respectful and very moving. And it was really -- I found it incredibly inspirational. MATTHEWS: Actually, you know, I felt the same way I felt about this city, which I`ve come to love. I chose to live here, obviously. Everybody`s proud who lives in Washington, especially on pretty days, usually spring days, but today was like a spring day. The city -- it was, like, Come see our house. Look how great this is. And here`s the -- the president is a cool customer. He`s Sinatra cool sometimes. He was giggling with this guy today! And Michelle Obama, the first lady, can be a little hard to sell sometimes, and she was really smiling. It seemed like they were just like kids.    HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, the way I viewed it -- and I`ve lived here for a long time, too -- is that this kind of citadel of power was occupied by the armies of faith... MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: ... in a really good way. You had a lot of things happening today. I`m Jewish. I just came from high holiday services. You have the Muslims starting a very important holiday of their own tonight. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: And you have the pope here. And it`s as though all of the usual concerns of Washington, amid this beautiful weather, were put aside by the very charm and the message of this man, who, by the way, is a fantastic politician. He has a theme. His theme is, Our common home. Everything... SHRIVER: Yes, I loved the way he said that today. FINEMAN: Everything comes under that -- immigration, income inequality, climate change, our common home, and from his point of view and many in the church... SHRIVER: Freedom. FINEMAN: ... not only freedom but freedom of religion and the sanctity of conception. All of it came under one theme, all of it expertly embodied by a man with a smile who always accentuates the positive. Anybody who wants to lead in any realm of life, politics or anything else, could study what this man did in this city today. MATTHEWS: And Maria...    (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... the old Cuomo rule, which is leave people feeling up at the end of the speech -- you know, a little lecture -- a little -- but basically leave them feeling like you can do this thing. FINEMAN: That there`s hope. SHRIVER: Yes, I don`t think people feel, though, that he`s lecturing them. I think his tone, his shift of language... MATTHEWS: Were you surprised how soft his voice was for... SHRIVER: Yes. I mean, I thought it was really -- he seemed to really be making an effort to speak in English so that was... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I noticed. SHRIVER: Right. But I think if you back up... MATTHEWS: Every word was right. SHRIVER: To pick up what Howard said, I think what -- you know, people feel better about him than they do about the church at large.    MATTHEWS: You think? SHRIVER: Absolutely, and our polls all show that, that they feel like their values match up with him. They appreciate that he says, "Who am I to judge," that he is asking people to come back, that he feels inclusive, that he`s leading with issues of social justice and poverty and not condemning people if, you know, you`re on the way to getting a divorce, if you`ve been divorced, if you`re gay, if you`ve engaged in premarital sex. It used to be, growing up, like, if you did any of these things, you were going downstairs, you know? MATTHEWS: Yes. SHRIVER: And then if did, you felt sort of shame. MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the church. You mean the priests. You don`t mean the nuns. SHRIVER: No, I don`t mean the nuns... MATTHEWS: I think it`s hard for them (ph) to catch up to the nuns. Anyway... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I think they`re the best. Anyway, your thoughts, Joy-Ann, because I just think the nuns weren`t there today. And I thought they weren`t there -- it was a completely man world today, all the... SHRIVER: Today?    MATTHEWS: ... bishops -- well, the visibility of the male structure of the Catholic church of was on vivid martial arts display today, all the bishops, obviously, everybody in the political power here, the trumpeters! Everybody was a guy! And I just thought since the Catholic church basically is run day to day by the nuns, doing all the real work of teaching and keeping those schools together and keeping those parishes together in tough neighborhoods, they didn`t get a lot of attention today. Your thoughts. JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I -- OK, I will give you that. And I think that might have been the one maybe demerit to what otherwise was just a really grand celebration. I think for a church that has had its issues, this was the best of what the Catholic church can be, the grandeur and the pageantry, just the beauty of that gorgeous church. This mass was so serene and beautiful. MATTHEWS: Yes. REID: I think that this was the church at its best. And you know, there`s a line, a piece in Psalms 23 that says, "Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." This was a man who just embodied goodness and mercy. And I think his presentation is -- is -- he`s a -- he`s a warrior, really. He`s a warrior... MATTHEWS: Yes. REID: ... for goodness and for mercy. And I think that is a beautiful thing. As somebody -- you know, I haven`t been Catholic since I was about 6 years old, but this made me really compelled by the church again. And he forces you to listen because he speaks so softly. And I`ll tell you, Chris, I think it`s so significant. This is a Latin American man and he`s speaking with that accent, speaking as an immigrant to a country where immigrants are really under duress right now and really being targeted by bigotry. And I think that in and of itself was so moving and really wonderful. MATTHEWS: He started that way, with bringing up the immigrant background of his own experience as a son of immigrants coming from Italy. REID: Yes.    MATTHEWS: And also, it was interesting that the president pronounced the capital of Argentina with a very Spanish accent today. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... talked about that with an anchorwoman who got in trouble, who (INAUDIBLE) become controversial. It was Univision -- by saying something Spanish in Spanish. And he just said "Buenos Aires." I mean, he really did go into it! Anyway, here`s a part of President Obama`s greeting to Pope Francis this morning at the White House. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the excitement around your visit, Holy Father, must be attributed not only to your role as pope but to your unique qualities as a person, in your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit. We see a living example of Jesus` teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We live in a world where people`s religions are being questioned by political people, you know? SHRIVER: That was one of my favorite parts of the whole speech, and it got a rousing applause when he said it has -- This gathering has something to do with you being pope but much more to do with you as a person. And I think Pope Francis, this last -- at the canonization mass, he talked about everybody -- urging people to give themselves away in service because that`s really how you experience the gospel and that you have to fight against apathy. And I think he challenges all of us on the small things, as well, to treat our neighbors with kindness, with joy, with compassion, not with apathy. He talks -- when he talks even about global warming, he gives you concrete things you can do in your own home.    MATTHEWS: Yes. SHRIVER: But I think particularly about turning to your neighbor, being aware of the suffering -- and he himself has spoken about his own suffering... MATTHEWS: Yes. SHRIVER: ... his own challenges. And I think that makes him very human for when he talks about, you know, that he himself has struggled. So then you feel like, Oh, he`s more like me. MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann -- Joy-Ann first, and then Howard -- the little car. I think (INAUDIBLE) I mean, I`m sorry, but pictures tell a thousand words. He shows up in a Fiat. REID: Yes. MATTHEWS: I mean, I don`t know what design it was, but it was a Fiat. It was a small car. And here`s a guy used -- you`re used to limos pulling up to the White House, you know? And here`s this little Italian car, and this guy gets out like "A Thousand Clowns," getting out of a little car. And I kept thinking, this is the message we`ll remember a year from now... REID: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: ... not the words, but the Fiat -- Joy-Ann. REID: No, the Fiat is awesome. And listen, he ever doesn`t seem comfortable wearing all the robes. You get the sense that he would just want to put on some sweats or something and do his whole thing... MATTHEWS: Yes.    REID: ... not in all the vestal robes. He`s such a casual, down-to- earth person that, you know, the idea that he is, you know, the vicar of Christ, in the words of the church, but that he`s this common man who wants to be common, who wants to be ordinary, who doesn`t want all the ostentatious stuff. He doesn`t want, you know, the special Prada slippers. He just wants to be an ordinary man and wants to touch people, wanted to talk to people, wanted to bless people as he walked, which I`m sure the security team was -- it was driving them insane that he wanted to just talk and touch people. But I think this is one of the -- his charms. And look, make no mistake about it, this is a man who is not afraid to wade into controversial topics, confront people on climate change... MATTHEWS: That`s for sure. REID: ... and immigration right in the belly of the beast, right in Washington, but he does it with a soft touch and such gentleness and such ordinariness, it`s incredibly compelling. FINEMAN: His real genius to me that I see on display here is his ability to connect the personal with the global and the moral with the political. That car and the popemobile that he had, that had open sides... MATTHEWS: Yes, I noticed. FINEMAN: You remember the phrase that they used during the Iraq war, "up-armor," We`re are going to up-armor everything? MATTHEWS: Yes. He didn`t. FINEMAN: He down-armored. He`s down-armoring. MATTHEWS: It`s dangerous, though.    FINEMAN: He`s about -- no, no. But he`s about taking off the armor of the self... MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: ... and the selfishness of society... MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: ... selfishness of society because we all live in one common home. That is his theme. MATTHEWS: Really, what grabbed me was the tactile nature of it. I mean, he went though that crowd, and these guys were, like, grabbing him, kissing him. One guy (INAUDIBLE) wouldn`t leave go of him. And he didn`t mind. SHRIVER: No, and everybody that I`ve talked who has known him and watched him said that he actually wasn`t like that before he became pope, and that he has talked to some people about kind of feeling a grace that came over him when he became pope, and that he`s now much more... MATTHEWS: He`s (INAUDIBLE) SHRIVER: ... demonstrative, and he`s talked, as I said, very movingly about his time in Cordoba, where he was, so to speak, exiled and what he looked... MATTHEWS: That`s the second city of Argentina.    SHRIVER: Yes, and he -- but he was sent there really because his style of leadership wasn`t... MATTHEWS: Well, let me follow (ph) that, Maria. Last question to you. How come people know they can touch him? I can`t imagine somebody touching Benedict, touching him... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... reaching out and grabbing him when they did it with complete impunity. They said (INAUDIBLE) he`s a guy we can grab! SHRIVER: Right. As a priest said to me the other day, people just want to hug this man. They feel like he`s... MATTHEWS: It`s (INAUDIBLE) can do it. SHRIVER: ... understands their struggles, their suffering. FINEMAN: He reaches... MATTHEWS: There were a couple of Blutos going along with in aisle in church there, pushing people out of the way, though. FINEMAN: Well, he reaches out to them. He -- he reaches out to them. That`s his metaphor and that`s that -- this whole "common home" thing. MATTHEWS: I`m so proud of my city today, so proud of the reception they gave the pope, so happy -- I hope he says he likes us. I really do.    (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I think the city was at its best today, Joy-Ann. Joy, it`s great... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You were so Catholic. Maybe you`ll be back. Maybe you`ll be back... REID: I may come back. He`s bringing me back. MATTHEWS: ... a change of -- you know, the old boyfriend kind of thing, you know, Well, maybe I`ll go back. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joy-Ann Reid, you`re the best. REID: Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: And thank you, Howard Fineman, my friend. And than you, Maria. It`s a treat having you here... SHRIVER: Thank you.    MATTHEWS: ... Maria Shriver, who`s... SHRIVER: Thank you. MATTHEWS: ... something else. Coming up -- where are the women? And we`re going to get to this one. We`ve seen Pope Francis surrounded by his cardinals and his bishops, but as I asked earlier, where are the nuns? We`re going to delve into the role of women in the Catholic church. They do have a role. They basically run the place. Also, what issues will the pontiff address in his speech before a joint meeting of Congress tomorrow? Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey`s going to be here for a preview of that, and I hope it isn`t partisan -- the pope, I mean. And turning to the presidential campaign -- yes, we have to do it. Donald Trump takes his signature issue off the table, saying he doesn`t want to discuss President Obama`s birthplace, whether he`s American or not. But can he -- well, who`s going to request that anyway? Who`s going to let him get away with that? Who`s going to give him an interview and not ask him, Is the president the president or is he an illegal immigrant that ought to be deported? Reasonable question to start with. Plus, guess who`s surging in a new poll of Democrats? And here`s a hint. It`s not Hillary Clinton and it`s not Bernie, it`s that guy smiling, Joe Biden. He is really surging. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, politicians are often polled for their favorability, and Pope Francis is no different. A new Bloomberg Politics poll shows the pontiff with a 64 percent favorable rating, with just 15 percent of U.S. adults viewing him unfavorably. We`re going to see if that number changes after his address to Congress tomorrow because he`s going to say things that matter to people, positively or negatively.    We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic church in Chicago to my travels as president, I have seen first-hand how every single day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, laity are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, educating our children and fortifying the faith that sustains so many. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And that`s all true. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama, of course, welcoming Pope Francis to the White House this morning, acknowledging the hard work of nuns in the United States who work tirelessly for the needy in mind, body and spirit. And that`s all true, I can tell you. But on the center stage of the South Lawn, it was a sea of black cassocks alongside the pope and the president. Absent was any visible sign of those American nuns. It was all men. Later, the Holy Father said mass at the Saint Matthew`s Cathedral filled with bishops of the church all in the front pews, filled with men of the cloth. It is true that Pope Francis certainly changed the tone about some women`s issues in the church, including those who have had abortions and they can ask for absolution, of course, but for some Catholics looking for a real change in the role women play in the church, there has been some disappointment. And early in his papacy, when asked about whether women should become priests, Francis told a reporter -- quote -- "As far as women`s ordination is concerned, the church has spoken and said no." Joining me right now is Sister Simone Campbell, one of the nuns on the bus -- that`s a great phrase -- and MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh. Both of my guests were on the South Lawn this morning for the White House ceremony.    Well, first of all, Sister, thank you for joining us. And thank you for your work. And, well, just tell me what your feelings are about watching it all today, what you saw and what you didn`t see and wish you had. SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NETWORK: Well, Chris, I was so touched by Pope Francis` candor in immediately going to the issue of immigration and the issue of climate and including the economic crisis in our time on the lawn at the White House. I thought his presence was really a powerful statement. And one of the things that I enjoyed most was watching President Obama sit on basically the edge of his chair leaning forward hearing every word that Pope Francis said. That was so hopeful. And then I have to say that when I saw the picture of Saint Matthew`s Cathedral, with all of those bishops sitting in very neat rows, it kind of took my breath away and made me think we have so far to come when everyone gets invited into leadership and all can hear and be pastoral, because I know so many of my sisters serve pastoral roles, yet they couldn`t be there. MATTHEWS: Sure. I know, at mass now, you see women playing a much larger role, of course. CAMPBELL: Yes. MATTHEWS: But, Joan, here is the question. In the United States, we were a little slow. We had emancipation back in the 1860s after the war and -- during the war -- and then we had the Civil War. And then of course we had the 15th Amendment, 13th, 14th, 15th, to basically, at least legally, constitutionally, bring black freedom and the right to vote and all. And then women finally got it after World War I because of suffrage. Right? JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.    MATTHEWS: But why did that work and this isn`t working? Is it because -- I will be very personal here. Could it be that men have to be encouraged to open up the door to equality by women? And wives probably played a big role. And since these guys don`t have wives, nobody is pushing them to do the... WALSH: Right. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Sister, to do the obvious, which is women can do almost everything a man can do. I`m not getting into who is physical, who can play tennis better. But on the intellectual and spiritual stuff, please tell me the big difference. There isn`t any. There is total equality. And why can`t the women have a role that men play? And certainly women are better dealing with people than men. WALSH: Right. We definitely are. Sister Simone and I... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And the pastoral role is definitely better, more sympathetic and more understanding and they get along with each other, better consensus builders. Men want to fight to see who the boss is. WALSH: We do. We do get along better. I think that is a lot of it, Chris. I think they are so insulated, the women. They do have mothers and they do have sisters, and yet they have resisted these calls. And I was so struck today. I had the honor to walk in with a group of nuns from the bus. I was on the South Lawn with a lot of nuns. That was beautiful. But I had the same reaction when -- as Sister Simone did, when I saw that all- male hierarchy. (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: They`re so peripheral. The nuns are in the periphery. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Sister, they showed the -- after the pope left the Nunciature, the embassy today across from the vice president`s house, that was all beautifully done. But then if you kept on watching our network here, you saw these very humble nuns come out. They`re the ones that take care of the pantry and they clean the place up and they make the food. That`s fine. But that is all they are allowed to do. That is the weird part. Your thoughts? (CROSSTALK) CAMPBELL: But, Chris, actually, when you look at the leadership that we provided on the bus, we are able to take the Gospel to where it wouldn`t be otherwise. And all the other people that we meet along the road, so many of them are not churched, are not connected to church, but that we can be in touch with them. And I think I have -- as a Catholic sister, I have a tremendous freedom to be in relationship, that spiritual leadership relationship without ordination. And a bunch of my sisters are... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You can be a pastoral figure. CAMPBELL: Oh, absolutely.    MATTHEWS: You can advise people. You can counsel them. CAMPBELL: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: Do you remember -- used that word churched. Do you remember how the word churched used to be used? Who wants to say? Which one of you two wants to remind us how bad it was? Remember being churched? You had a baby. Then you had to go to church. Then you had to be cleansed. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... having a baby. (CROSSTALK) WALSH: And to be unchurched was also -- was a terrible thing. So, yes, I am sure Sister means that... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: My mom had to do it. If you had a baby, you were unclean there and you had to go to church to be cleansed for having had a baby. So strange. (CROSSTALK) WALSH: I love this pope. I respect him. I admire him for what he is doing for the world.    But as he`s here on his listening tour, I really hope he listens to the voice of the women who found it so painful, so hurtful to hear one of the first things out of his mouth say, no, I`m absolutely closing the door to this. MATTHEWS: Well, I think he should open it at least to married couples. That could start, be the beginning of it, not just former Episcopalian priests, people who have joined, because we could use some nice families running the church. Anyway, Sister Simone Campbell, you are very nice and very thoughtful and also very patient. Coming up -- don`t be too patient. Coming up, Pope Francis heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow. What will his message be? And how will it resonate among congressional Democrats and Republicans? I`m going to speak with a great guy, senator of Pennsylvania -- Senator from Pennsylvania Bob Casey, next. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In his public address at the White House this morning, Pope Francis touched on many familiar themes of his papacy. He called for action on climate change and said millions of people have been overlooked in this country. He even quoted Martin Luther King to drive home his point. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH: Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.    To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it was preview, many think, of what the pope might say tomorrow at that big speech on Capitol Hill, and tomorrow, when members of both parties will assemble for that joint meeting of Congress. I`m joined right now by someone who really understands what the pope is talking about, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Senator, thank you. I think I heard every word as if coming out of the mouth of a Casey. I thought this was pure progressive Catholicism. Most of what he had today sounded very much like progressive Catholicism. Your thoughts? SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes, Chris, it`s really an inspiration to hear that message from the Holy Father to be able to focus on such central issues like climate change, wages and lifting up the poor. It was just a preview, I think, of tomorrow maybe. But it was really enlightening and really inspiring. And the one song that keeps coming back to me every time I think about the kind of pope he has been -- I don`t profess to be an expert on his papacy -- but the idea of being a servant, we have heard in our church, Chris. Servant leaders, there`s a lot of people in Washington that probably emphasize the leader word, not the servant word. MATTHEWS: Yes.    CASEY: This guy really gives new meaning and really is a personification of that kind of service. MATTHEWS: When you talk to Republican members -- and I`m sure you do because you get along with everybody, Senator -- I`m just wondering how is it going to be? Is this going to be an embarrassing night, like Bibi Netanyahu, when they go in there and some people stand up on one side of the aisle, and the other side of the aisle, they don`t stand up, and then it`s reversed? Are we going to see some of that or is there going to be a coordination and, well, a symphony of positive reaction, I should say? What are we going to see tomorrow, do you think? CASEY: Well, first of all, I think it will be very affirmative. I think he will affirmative and I think he will probably will gently, if not aggressively, challenge both parties. And that`s good. But in terms of our decorum, we have got to make sure we don`t do tomorrow what happens at a State of the Union. No one should be standing up. We should all be clapping. And if you don`t want to clap, you don`t have to. But no one should be standing up and treating it like a pep rally. It should have the dignity and I think the decorum that any faith leader should be accorded in that circumstance. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this dispute. Is it over now between the church and the government regarding how you find accommodation for institutions, Catholic and other religious institutions, with regard to the implementation of something I know you are for, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act? Is that -- that fight is still going on in the courts. Is it hot or how do you see it? CASEY: Well, I think there is probably still some dispute there about how to reconcile those. But I really believe we can get there, that we can respect a faith tradition, any faith tradition when it comes to religious affiliated institutions and differentiate from institutions that have a connection, but provide a service to the wider public. It is a tough issue to get right. But I think we can. We have always recognized it in the tax code. And I think our policy should reflect that. But I don`t know if he will get that far down the list tomorrow. But I think he will probably have a message that will inspire both sides, but I think will also be a message that will challenge us. MATTHEWS: Well, today is September 23. It`s Wednesday. In about a week-and-a-half, it looks to me, Senator -- you are the expert and you`re there. You`re voting in the Senate. Are we going to have a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood? Is this coming?    CASEY: I sure hope not, because it makes no sense to shut down the government, certainly not to have a repeat of 2013. That didn`t work out well for the country especially. I don`t think it worked out for Republicans. I think they should rethink that strategy, if that is the way they are going. But I hope that their leadership gives meaning and value and integrity to what they promise, which is no more shutdowns. They have said that over and over again. They need to deliver on that promise. MATTHEWS: OK. Senator, thank you so much, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Let`s go now to Massachusetts avenue. We are watching the pictures now in Washington, where Kasie Hunt is awaiting the arrival of the pope in what is informally the Vatican embassy. That`s where he is going to sleep tonight -- Kasie. KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good to see you. The crowd has been steadily growing over the course of the past few hours, as people are waiting to see the pope. There are Catholic schoolchildren who have been led into the area where the pope will be getting out of his Fiat momentarily. They have closed down all of Central Washington for this motorcade back here. He drove straight through Dupont Circle and through many of the roads that you traverse every day. A lot of the people who have gathered here frankly are neighbors of the Apostolic Nunciature, which is, as you say, the equivalent of a Vatican embassy. Many of them simply saw on TV that they -- this was happening not far from their home, so they decided to walk out here and take a look. Others have been waiting for hours. And as you can hear, I`m sure, the wild cheering behind me, people waiting just for a glimpse of this pope. And I have to say, Chris, this really caps off a day that has been remarkable in Washington. And I know you have covered so many major historical figures in your time in Washington, but I think that both the reporters, even the Secret Service agents I talked to really said that this was in many ways elevated beyond anything that they were used to dealing with here in Washington. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: It just transcends politics and was really a moment to witness in history.    And we talked earlier to a woman and her daughter who had come here. The woman had pulled her daughter out of school just to come see Pope Francis for a quick few seconds as he drove by. And they weren`t able to get very close. But the woman, she was raised in Hungary, and she told her daughter, this is a moment in history. And her own mother had worshipped as a Catholic in Hungary during the Cold War, during a time when it was very dangerous to practice Catholicism openly. So, there is a lot of meanings here, a lot of different layers for so many different people in Washington, Chris. MATTHEWS: Yes. And just watching this in human terms, what a good guy, but he is 78 years old. All of these kids just going crazy over him like a rock star, it`s just an amazingly human experience. And, by the way, the only thing that compares to this -- and it doesn`t compare -- was when Gorbachev came when he and Reagan ended the Cold War, which had been over our head all my life, that we were going to have a nuclear war or something like it and an end to the world basically. And finally Gorbachev and Reagan got together. When he came to town, I was jumping on the sidewalk. But this is much bigger, much bigger. HUNT: And, Chris, Gorbachev, you will remember -- yes. Gorbachev, you will remember, though, also credited Pope John Paul II with ending the Cold War. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: So, I think that one of the things we have already seen is this pope start to wade into the political. His speech at the White House this morning hit several political notes that are going to -- are likely to divide many of the people that he is going to be speaking to tomorrow in Congress. But the reality is popes do have a long history of impacting world affairs in a significant way. And I think we have already seen this pope really step out onto that stage. MATTHEWS: Yes. As Joseph Stalin asked, how many divisions does the pope have? Well, he has different kinds of powers, as we know.    Kasie Hunt, thank you so much for joining us. Anyway, great to have you there. She is very patient to wait this out for that great scene. I thought I had enough of these scenes. I love that scene. I wish it had gone on. Up next: Donald Trump takes his most famous issue off the table, he says. So, just why is this GOP front-runner refusing to talk birtherism now, after years of questioning the president`s birthplace? I think he needs to answer this question, or there should be no more questions of the guy. If you don`t accept the legitimacy of this president, saying he`s an illegal immigrant, you shouldn`t be the next president. You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Once again, Donald Trump dodged a question about President Obama`s birthplace, this time on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert". It was the latest opportunity for Trump to finally put the issue to rest and Trump whiffed. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW: I`m going to throw you a big fat meat ball for you to hit out of the park right now. This is the last time you ever have to address this question if you hit the ball, OK? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Go ahead. COLBERT: Big old like sauce all over my hands meat ball is so big. OK?    TRUMP: I want to hear this one. COLBERT: Barack Obama born in the United States. TRUMP: Let me just say -- COLBERT: It`s a meat ball. It`s hanging out there, right there. Come on. (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: And do you want to know? I don`t talk about it anymore. COLBERT: You don`t talk about it? TRUMP: I talk about jobs. I talk about our veterans being horribly treated. I just don`t discuss it anymore. COLBERT: You know, that meat ball is now being dragged down the steps of the subway by a rat. You missed the meat ball. TRUMP: I saw that. (END VIDEO CLIP)    MATTHEWS: But Trump can`t escape the fact that he has been the most vocal champion of the birther movement all along. Here is how he fuelled the ridiculous conspiracy theory back in 2011. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? I wish he would. I think it is a terrible pail that`s hanging over him. He should say his birth certificate. If he has a birth certificate, he should release it. All I want to do is see this guy`s birth certificate. The reason I have a little doubt, just a little, is because he grew up and nobody knew him. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life. It`s very strange. If he weren`t lying, why wouldn`t he just solve it? And I wish he would, because if he doesn`t, it`s one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history, period. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, now as the front runner for the Republican nomination, Trump is trying to avoid the issue as much as he can and his birther business lends credence to recent caricature I saw of Trump by former "New York Times" illustrator Cynthia Wick. The message, "Even clowns can`t stand Donald Trump." I`m joined right now by the round table, Kathleen Parker is syndicated columnist for "The Washington Post", Matt Schlapp is a Republican strategist, and, of course, Michelle Bernard is president of the Bernard Center. Still president today. Good work in that reelection campaign.    (LAUGHTER) MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER PRESIDENT: Thank you. MATTHEWS: I know it`s a hard fight. Let me start with you. Everybody knows my position. I find this a revolting, disgusting disgrace that somebody running for president who won`t accept the legitimacy of somebody who is obviously a part of America whose only difference from Donald Trump is the color of his skin. He`s as American as anybody could be. And this nonsense that he`s perpetrating, I can`t judge anyone`s soul, but I can say who he is playing to. He is playing to the races. KATHLEEN PARKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I agree with that, Chris. And I think -- you know, it is also ridiculous. You didn`t mention that. MATTHEWS: Not for the 35 percent who believe him and 25 percent of his supporters who think he might be right. PARKER: He is clearly playing to those people. I think he also recognizes that it is ridiculous and he doesn`t want to have to be saddled with it anymore. This is why he is trying to change the subject. But I agree with you -- MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he admit he is wrong? PARKER: Well, why doesn`t he? Why he just say, look -- MATT SCHLAPP, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He doesn`t admit he is wrong on anything. He back tracks and changes the subject. MATTHEWS: But the argument is so absurd, because he is saying that Barack Obama`s mother is not his mother, because if it is his mother, he`d be an American, natural born, just like Ted Cruz. So, he`s arguing the inarguable.    BERNARD: He will not -- he will not admit that he is wrong because it is a wink, wink and nod to the racist to say, you know what I mean. You know he is really a Muslim. You know, he is really, you know, born in Kenya. MATTHEWS: Or Borneo, or wherever the hell. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: As long as where people are dark and not American, and therefore, you don`t have to put him on the list of American presidents when you grow old. And your kids won`t have to look at it. He won`t be there because in our hearts he is not really president. BERNARD: He is pandering to the lowest life form that we have existing in the United States today. It is horrific. It is absolutely embarrassing and he is pandering quite frankly to all of the people in all of the states that have these show me your paper immigration laws all over the country. I`d like to say somebody walk to Donald Trump and say, show me your papers. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Matt. You know the party. Suppose he said tomorrow, you know, I played around with that issue. I thought about it. I give it some thought. You know, it`s not right for me to keep talking like that. I`m going to drop it. SCHLAPP: Yes, I think it`d clearly the right thing to do. MATTHEWS: What would happen to his base? SCHLAPP: He`s got this base not based on this question. MATTHEWS: You think he went clean on this? SCHLAPP: Chris, let me tell you, the reason why he keeps leading in polls is not because he is questioning the president`s birth location. It`s because he is appealing to people that are so disgusted about Washington, conservatives who feel like the Supreme Court, Congress, Obama is out of control. That is the reason for his support. It`s not a racial --    (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He started on this issue. This was his business that got him into politics. This is why we ever talk about it. BERNARD: That is who is supporting him. MATTHEWS: I disagree. He has been selling this crap since day one. It`s his thing. PARKER: That`s how he got in the club and the club is his base. MATTHEWS: Ends justify the means. Say the president is not the president, say he`s not an American. PARKER: And now, he doesn`t have to say it anymore. I think your suggestion is the only one that`s available. MATTHEWS: Why do people let him do phony interviews? Because it`s phony interview if you sit down and say, oh, let`s talk about the price of potatoes then. PARKER: They`re not going to do it anymore. FOX has said they are not interviewing him anymore because he won`t deal substantive issues. MATTHEWS: You think FOX will stick to that? SCHLAPP: No.    PARKER: I think they might. I mean, of course, he is saying now he fired FOX. But he`s not going to talk to anybody -- SCHLAPP: Wait, he calls in and they put him on. And the reason why he is getting so much coverage is because he continues to call in. It happens night after night, day after day. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: The man walks around talking about silent America, "Make America great again," calls Mexicans rapists. He is not going to apologize about what he is saying. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- as anybody. And the idea of him saying he is not based on no information is appealing to racism. And by the way, anybody who asked the second question if he dodges this one shouldn`t be in the business, because it`s not OK. He`s got to answer the question. The roundtable, by the way, is staying with us right now. And up next, look at the numbers now. Vice President Joe Biden surged in a new poll. Can his popularity keep rising if he actually jumps in the race? That`s the old Ted Kennedy question. Once you are in, it gets hotter. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: The 2016 presidential debate schedule has been set for the fall of next year. Here they are, locations has been set for Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, for Washington University in St. Louis, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and UNLV, the great sports team.    Anyway, the vice presidential debate will be at Longwood University in Farmville Virginia. Locations and dates were set by the nonpartisan commission on presidential debates. That`s all news. We know where they are headed now. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back with our roundtable, Kathleen, Matt, Mistle -- wait a minute, Michelle. Anyway, look at this, Vice President Joe Biden has said he`s not ready to make a decision about whether to jump into the 2016 presidential race. But new poll numbers out today suggest he could pose a threat to Hillary Clinton. In the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll, Clinton now leads by only eight points. She`s at 33. Catch these numbers -- Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders are both at about a quarter of the Democratic vote. They`re very close. Biden ahead. What do you make of this? BERNARD: I think this is huge news. He is not even in the race. And he`s that close to Hillary Clinton. If I`m Hillary Clinton and anyone who is advising her, I`m thinking, this looks like --    (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What is causing the numbers to go the other way? BERNARD: Well, it is a sin of omission. I mean, let`s assume that nothing illegal happened with regard to the emails. People don`t trust her. And it is part of the Clinton distraction and a reminder that with Bill or Hillary or both, there`s always something. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But go ahead. SCHLAPP: Weak candidate, bad campaign, they bungled this e-mail question, like I can`t believe we`re still talking about it. MATTHEWS: What makes it so sticky they can`t get ahead of it? SCHLAPP: Because they can`t get one answer continually. Give the same answer continually. Clearly, what it looks like, now we`re going to see the e-mails because the FBI has apparently found them. MATTHEWS: And they`re digging through them. SCHLAPP: That`s right. So, the question is -- MATTHEWS: And they`re not destroyed like her lawyer --    SCHLAPP: That`s right. And we`re going to find out. MATTHEWS: I would get a new lawyer. If my lawyer said they`re all destroyed, don`t worry about it, and now it turns out, oh, they`re not. SCHLAPP: Are they all about yoga appointments? We`re going to find out. MATTHEWS: What do you think they`re about? (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: I don`t know. MATTHEWS: What`s the worst-case scenario here? SCHLAPP: The worst-case scenario with the Clintons is this, is that they believe -- she believes that the Republicans are out to get her and she has this complex, and she wants to hide. (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: But that`s not the way it works. When you`re secretary of state, you can`t do it. It`s illegal. PARKER: There`s something in here.    MATTHEWS: But the Republicans are out to get her. SCHLAPP: But it`s illegal. PARKER: There`s something about Benghazi, just any mention of Benghazi. That`s the worst-case. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You guys know more about than I do. Can you just push a button and say, any time the word Benghazi or Libya -- SCHLAPP: Yes, you do a search. MATTHEWS: Any of these, we`ll look at that and move on. SCHLAPP: I`ve been through three or four of these and you simply do a search. You do have a search term -- MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t the government do that right now? SCHLAPP: Because she got rid of them, that`s the whole point. Well, now we`re going to find out.    BERNARD: Benghazi, I think it`s the least of her worries. MATTHEWS: What is she doing in Benghazi? BERNARD: Donald Trump is -- Donald Trump is allegedly -- (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: She lied on every Sunday show right after -- MATTHEWS: What does that have to do with what happened? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I know your trick. Somehow because they didn`t come clean afterwards, that -- SCHLAPP: But do you think it`s okay to go on the Sunday shows and came up with a lie? MATTHEWS: No. But it didn`t cause to get killed. BERNARD: But, of course, the American public hates politicians because they think --    (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: It hurts Hillary Clinton. PARKER: I`m with you, Michelle. BERNARD: Thank you, Kathleen. Thank you. MATTHEWS: Let me examine why George W. Bush let the country get hit and 3,000 people get killed. Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh, we could all play that game. Matt Schlapp, Michelle, when we return, let me finish -- PARKER: I`m Kathleen Parker. MATTHEWS: Something that wasn`t said today. Kathleen? PARKER: Kathleen Parker, not -- I love her, but I am Kathleen Parker.    MATTHEWS: You are -- PARKER: Welcome to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with something I think is really important, something that wasn`t said today. Everything about today was great, of course, Pope Francis was simply wonderful, especially in the way he let people touch him, let himself be gripped by the thousands who came out to see him. He showed a love equal to that of the crowd. And that was a lot of love. Our city, the U.S. capital, was radiant. Not just the weather, but the glow on the trees, the crispness of those in uniform, the eagerness of the president, the bright smile of the first lady. And I loved it all, yet, I believe, I must add another picture to your memory bank. One more endearing, more loving, more Christian, more Catholic, yes, even than the pope. Late yesterday, I attended a funeral mass for my Aunt Eleanor. It was held where she`s lived in recent years, St. Joseph Village, just outside Philadelphia. The chapel was alive with the Sisters of St. Joseph who shared Aunt Eleanor`s life, her calling, her vocation, her commitment to teaching, including those most vulnerable who find learning, even basic learning beyond their God-given reach. Well, this is the true Catholic Church. This is where Christian charity lives, not just on big days of the White House, but on difficult days, those of relentless challenge. My Aunt Eleanor, Sister Eleanor Shields, spent 73 years teaching in the Philadelphia and area schools, 73 years. Many of those years teaching kids who find learning brutally hard if not impossible, special education is called in for a reason because it takes special people to perform it -- people of patience, people able to work on God`s time.    Well, this is the true world of Christianity. This is where Jesus` work is getting done, far from the fanfare without a tweet from a celebrity or a dollar is spared. This is where the Catholic Church, my church, lives at its best and yes, its brightest. As Pope Paul said today, God bless America, especially this part, the caring part. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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