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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/06/15

Guests: Rep. Elijah Cummings, J.C. Watts, Andrew Cuomo, Heidi Przybyla, Paul Singer, Jay Newton-Small

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary tried rescuing Ambassador Stevens. So why didn`t we know it? Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. In an all-out counterattack, Hillary blames Republicans for pushing Benghazi to beat her, which a top Republican leader now admits. We now have evidence, as well, that the GOP-run committee has been withholding testimony from a top Hillary official that the secretary of state herself pushed for a military rescue the night of the attack on Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans in Benghazi. The Hillary camp has begun running a TV ad blasting the about-to-be Republican speaker of the House for admitting the entire Benghazi investigation so far has been a strategic move to drive down Hillary Clinton`s support in the opinion polls. U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings is a Democrat from Maryland and the ranking member of the House select Benghazi committee. Democrats on the Benghazi committee have gone public with the explosive charge now that Republicans on the committee are selectively leaking witness testimony to smear Secretary Clinton and hiding exculpatory evidence that would clear her. In response, the Democrats have released excerpts from witness testimony, including the secretary of state`s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, that refutes the heart of Republican allegations that Secretary Clinton ordered the military to stand down on the night of the attack. Here`s the testimony. The committee asked Mills, "Did Secretary Clinton request that military assets be deployed?" Mills responds that, "On our secure video teleconference, which obviously had the presence of a number of different agencies, of which I believe the Defense Department was one, she said, We need to be taking whatever steps we can to do whatever we can to secure our people. And I can remember that someone from the White House said that the president was 100 percent behind whatever needed to be done, and we needed to do whatever needed to be done."    Let me take that up with Congressman Cummings. It seems to me that that`s a gut punch to the argument that Hillary didn`t give a damn about her friend, Chris Stevens, but in fact, she said, Do whatever we can. REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: She did everything she could. Cheryl Mills made that clear. The Republicans don`t want that out there. As a matter of fact, they`ve been holding it back. And Chris, they`ve been putting out leaks, and that`s why we want to make sure the entire transcript is put out. Keep in mind, Ms. Mills said - - even before she gave her transcribed interview, she said, Look, I don`t want leaks coming out. Do this in public so that everybody can hear every single word I say. They refused to do that. And by the way, Mr. McCarthy, Congressman McCarthy, has basically lifted the veil and shown that this is not a fair, thorough and a fact- based investigation, but it`s about how can they derail Hillary Clinton`s campaign by any means necessary. And it`s very important... MATTHEWS: What do you think... CUMMINGS: And by the way -- by the way, we`re using taxpayer dollars, Chris, taxpayer dollars to the tune of $4.5 million and counting. MATTHEWS: Well, "counting" is the right word for it. How long can that go on? Are they going to keep trolling for evidence on this major fishing expedition, hoping to catch some e-mail that somehow shows a conflict? What do you -- how long is this going to go on, can you tell, right through the general election? CUMMINGS: I have absolutely no idea. Keep in mind, when we first started this, Chairman Gowdy said that we would be finished with this within a year. Well, now we`ve gone on far more than a year, about -- approaching a year-and-a-half, and we`re still going. And by the way, he had scheduled originally 11 hearings, Chris, where we would have DOD come in, a fellow named Maxwell was supposed to come in, who claimed that there was some destruction of evidence by Cheryl Mills and the Clinton -- Secretary Clinton. He -- they never presented him. And any kind of exculpatory evidence, they refused to let come forth. So when McCarthy said what he said -- and I know he`s trying to walk it back now... MATTHEWS: I know.    CUMMINGS: But basically, he said -- he just got up there and told the truth. And what he said, also, Chris, keep this in mind -- he said that we`re, again, using taxpayer dollars for political purposes. By the way, that`s unethical and that`s against the law. MATTHEWS: Anyway, Chairman Gowdy is going after you now. He says you`re shilling for Hillary Clinton. "By selectively leaking parts of Mills`s testimony, Democrats have shown their nakedly political motivation, willingness to violate the letter and spirit of House rules, and their desire to shield Secretary Clinton without regard for the integrity of the investigation." Sir, what`s your response to that... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... counterpunch. CUMMINGS: You know, I -- Gowdy is a good man. I like him. But we`ve got to remember that we`ve already -- he crossed this bridge a long time ago when he released the e-mails of Sidney Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton. He did that way back in June. So this is nothing new. What we`re trying to do is clear up everything. Don`t just put out some information and then let that lay and not have the complete transcript. We`re saying, Put out the whole transcript so that the American people can see it. As a matter of fact, I`d like for all the transcripts put out there so the American people can make their own judgment. Nothing to hide. And I think if they were put out there, I think Hillary Clinton would look pretty good. MATTHEWS: You know, if this were an Alfred Hitchcock movie or a suspense movie, I`d be thinking, What don`t we know? Where is -- what is this -- the thing, the piece of gold that they`re looking for? Do they even know what it is, the smoking gun? What is the thing that they say they`re going to get to if they hold hearings for another 10 years? Where are they heading with this? CUMMINGS: I don`t have a clue. After you`ve had eight investigations, some of them, indeed, bipartisan, everybody asked the question back then, when they first established this committee, Why are we doing this? Well, I think that McCarthy answered it. He and Boehner apparently sat down and said, How can we derail Hillary Clinton? How can we destroy her campaign? And how can we use taxpayer dollars, hard-earned taxpayer dollars, to do it? And that`s what`s happening.    MATTHEWS: Well, your chief witness is named Kevin McCarthy, sir. You got him -- you should get him under oath to say it now. CUMMINGS: Yes. MATTHEWS: The whole thing is about politics. Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. CUMMINGS: Thank you. MATTHEWS: The Clinton campaign has a TV ad out right now attacking the Republican-led Benghazi committee. Here it is with the big counterpunch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans finally admit it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republican Kevin McCarthy saying the committee investigating Benghazi and Clinton`s e-mails was created to destroy her candidacy. REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she`s fighting for everything they oppose, from affordable health care to equal pay. She`ll never stop fighting for you, and the Republicans know it. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.    (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, they`ll be relying, obviously, heavily on media attention to reach eyeballs, according to the trackers, the ad trackers, the buy`s just $25,000. So Hillary`s holding onto her money, but she`s still getting the message out. Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, of course, and DNC chairman, of course, presidential candidate -- he`s had all those hats, he`s endorsed Hillary Clinton -- and Michael Steele was RNC chair and lieutenant governor of Maryland before that madman Reince Priebus took over the Republican Party. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You`re a Republican. You`re proud of it, I guess, still. MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, very much. MATTHEWS: What do you make of this whole thing? Cheryl Mills, honest person, I assume, said that Hillary, the night of the horror, when our people were under attack over there, including the ambassador, Ambassador Chris Stevens, her friend, Hillary has appointed the guy -- had him appointed -- did the best she could. Now, the argument has always been the deep little gut shot -- the rabbit punch here has always been, Oh, Hillary was out having fun, she didn`t really try to save the guy. STEELE: Clearly, she did try... CUMMINGS: Well, yes, and I think this... MATTHEWS: But what`s left to talk about?    STEELE: Well, the -- well, that`s the big question I think a lot of people are going to be asking, number one. Number two, I go back to when this story first broke. And a lot of folks on the Hill, on the GOP side, started making this about Hillary Clinton, and it never should have been about Hillary Clinton. MATTHEWS: What is it about, then? STEELE: It should have been about the -- just an appropriate investigation into the facts of what happened. But it immediately became this -- this thing to sort of poke Hillary, which put it into the political. And this is what you reap from that. And so McCarthy`s statement now sort of closes the loop on the argument that had been out in the public for some time that this was all about politics. And I don`t know, honestly, Chris, how they extricate themselves from that because Hillary now is going to go into that hearing and she`s going to sit there and she`s going to be, quote, "the political victim" of what this is... (CROSSTALK) STEELE: Smart politics on her part. MATTHEWS: ... the best position in politics, or I understand, in warfare, is attack from a defensive position. STEELE: Yes. MATTHEWS: Hillary, again, has the perfect right to defend herself and say, You guys came at me, you`ve exposed yourself now with the dumb talk by -- the goofy talk by McCarthy. Now we know what the game is. I just have to sit here, like you say. STEELE: Yes.    MATTHEWS: I`m the victim of you guys` bad politics. HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FMR. GOV. FMR. DNC CHAIR MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This was fraudulent from the beginning. I mean, this was -- this was... MATTHEWS: But it worked. DEAN: Well, it... MATTHEWS: Look at the numbers on Hillary! DEAN: No. That... (CROSSTALK) DEAN: I don`t think that`s -- I think it was the e-mail. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s how they got to the e-mail. DEAN: Well, except this has been going on forever, for... (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: They trolled their way to the e-mails. And then they talk about the e-mail because of the Benghazi committee. DEAN: Well... MATTHEWS: We wouldn`t be talking about the e-mail otherwise. DEAN: But the mainstream media is talking about the e-mail. "The New York Times" is putting stuff in the paper that`s not true and that (INAUDIBLE) not true, and then having to backtrack later on. I mean, this is pack journalism. I saw it because I -- I saw it up close and personal when I was running. When you get to be the front- runner, you can expect pack journalism, which is basically intellectual laziness. I would never accuse the press of being lazy because they work too hard, but they`re intellectually lazy because all write the same story and they compete to write the same story day after day after day. MATTHEWS: Why are you shifting attention, if you`re for Hillary, from where she`s winning to where there are still questions? DEAN: I don`t think there are... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They`re constantly trolling for -- there`s 30,000 of these things that are going to come out. Nobody knows what`s in them. DEAN: Everybody knows what`s in them. Nothing. (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: How do we know? DEAN: Name one thing... MATTHEWS: I don`t know! They`re trolling for gold. I don`t know. DEAN: they`ve already released about 12,000 of them. Name one that is even remotely incriminating. Not one! Not one. So I mean, this is all... MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a couple that can be argued were tagged as top secret at some point... DEAN: After the fact. MATTHEWS: Right. DEAN: After the fact. So here`s the deal. The Republicans -- you can`t trust the Republicans to be competent about anything. All they can do is throw mud at the wall and hope it sticks, and that is exactly what this Congress has done. Now, there are some good Republicans who are competent. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be in this Congress, and I think the public now knows that. MATTHEWS: So why do we have an e-mail system that was separate from the government`s? DEAN: Because that`s -- she thought it was a reasonable thing to do and she was perfectly within her rights to do it.    STEELE: But the administration said that it wasn`t. They made it clear that they wanted something that was -- had more accountability to it, and she went outside that very system. DEAN: That is absolutely not true. That is plainly false. What she -- the rule was that what she sent had to be recorded, and she has said that she sent it, all the .gov stuff... STEELE: Well, that`s what she has to take up with the administration because the administration clearly had a different position on it. DEAN: That is not true. In fact, read Obama`s... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Are you here for Hillary or against her? Because you just shifted from a position where she`s 100 percent... DEAN: No. Right! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... Benghazi, and you shift to e-mail! My God, I`ve never heard of a tactic like this! DEAN: You were the one that shifted to e-mail. MATTHEWS: No, no...    (CROSSTALK) DEAN: You said without... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, you started talking about -- go ahead. DEAN: OK, so look, the whole thing is a fraud. These attacks on Hillary Clinton, they`ve been going on as long as she`s been around. They can`t stand strong, smart women. MATTHEWS: OK, so you`re predicting they`re not going to nail her. DEAN: They cannot stand strong, smart women. MATTHEWS: They`re not going to nail her. They`re not going to nail her. DEAN: Of course, they`re not going to nail her! She`s going to be the next president of the United States. That`s what`s going to happen. STEELE: Well... DEAN: She`s by far the most competent...    STEELE: I don`t know if she can make that leap. DEAN: She is the most competent, qualified person running for president... (CROSSTALK) DEAN: ... and the press and the lazy Republicans can make up... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. OK. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I don`t have -- I have a totally different brief. I think we`ve now been exposed to the fact that the Republicans went out to hurt her for political reasons and... DEAN: Boy, what a surprise! MATTHEWS: Excuse me. I just have to get to the facts before I know the answer. (LAUGHTER)    MATTHEWS: You seem to be ahead of me on the facts there, the conclusion (ph). Thank you, Howard Dean, a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, regardless of any evidence or whatever. We don`t need evidence, we don`t need nothing! STEELE: No, nothing! MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele. I have to be prodded along here. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Coming up, Donald Trump senses a threat from Marco Rubio. Watch him stomp the guy. Trump`s not alone (ph). Rubio is rising. He`s become Trump`s number one worry. You know, mirror, mirror, on the wall, who`s the fairest of them all? He thinks it might be a little guy named Rubio coming at him. Anyway, but does Rubio have a real shot at the nomination -- I think he does -- or is he just the Republican flavor of the month? Well, I don`t think he is flavor of the month. I think he`s a danger to Trump. Plus, Joe Biden is getting close to deciding whether to run for president, and today, Politico reported that when Maureen Dowd wrote five weeks ago that Biden dying son, Beau, tried to get his father to promise to run for president, her source for that column was Biden himself. Politico`s trying to make him look calculating, and his office is pushing back on that hard. We`ll get to that with the roundtable tonight. And can Hillary Clinton beat back the challenge from Bernie Sanders by exposing the deep divide now between two of them on the issue of gun safety? He`s -- well, he`s to her left on just about everything else, but not gun control. Finally, a newly recovered or uncovered speech on gun control by Robert F. Kennedy. Catch this back in `68. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D), NEW YORK: Now, does that make any sense, that you should put rifles and guns in the hands of people who have long criminal records or people who are insane or people who are mentally incompetent or people who are so young that they don`t know how to handle rifles and guns?    (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it`s notable not just for how familiar it sounds to today`s debate, but for where it took place. He gave that speech you just watched in Roseburg, Oregon, site of last week`s mass shooting. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Donald Trump is on top in a new Pennsylvania primary poll, but he shares that position. Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are tied among Keystone Republicans, each at 18 percent. Jeb Bush follows with 9. Carly Fiorina`s at 8. Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz all follow with just 4 percent each. The Pennsylvania primary will be held April 26th. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Just as Senator Marco Rubio is climbing in the polls, the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, is seeing his numbers plateau. Look at that there. It`s making Trump nervous, and when Trump is scared, he attacks, and those attacks are usually pretty personal, like this one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m looking at guys like Marco Rubio, who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate, and a young guy -- although he sweats more than any young person I`ve ever seen in my life. (LAUGHTER)    TRUMP: I`ve never seen a person sweat. I`ve never seen a guy down water like he downs water. I`ve never seen -- they bring it in in buckets for this guy! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Rubio`s first introduction to the national stage was there when he gave that 2013 Republican State of the Union response and reached rather widely there for the water. Anyway, on Monday, the Trump campaign took the water joke to a new level, sending a case of Donald Trump-branded bottled water to the Rubio campaign office in D.C., along with two towels emblazoned with Trump`s "Make America Great Again" logo. Trump reveled in the joke, then launched another attack on Rubio early today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: This Rubio -- who`s a total lightweight, by the way, believe me. He`s weak on immigration. He`s got such problems. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s coming up in the polls. TRUMP: He`s going nowhere. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people says he has promise. (CROSSTALK)    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says you`re old, you`re the old generation... TRUMP: He`s a lightweight. He`s weak on immigration. Take a look at his past. He`s got $12 in the bank. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I love the precision, $12. You know, like, how would you know that? As for Rubio, he took it in stride. Here he is on the "Today" show this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apparently, the water is very high-quality water. It`s top-notch water that he sent us, that Donald Trump sent us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Smart response. But sweating it out in the national television is not a laughing matter for a politician, as we see there with Richard Nixon. He found out with his sickly and sweaty performance in the 1960 great debate with Jack Kennedy. Joining me right now is NBC`s Katy Tur, who covers the Trump campaign, to tell us more about the Trump/Rubio feud. Katy, thanks for -- I would love to hear your innermost thoughts sometimes about this race because you must be storing a lot of really good journalistic -- or journal material. KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I have no comment!    MATTHEWS: It seems like Trump -- it seems like Trump knows as much about the media as people like you and me, where we watch all the shows, if we can. We know what everybody`s saying. It`s all part of our traffic control in our brains. He knew that we had Stewart Stevens on last night (INAUDIBLE) he couldn`t win. He gave -- he raises hell about that on his Twitter. And also, he seems to know who`s moving up. Even if they`re down in single digits like Rubio, he sees him coming up in a trajectory that might be trouble, say, in December, real trouble. Is that why he`s swatting the guy so hard and trying to humiliate him? TUR: I think he`s a voracious news consumer. I think he`s constantly checking his numbers. He`s obsessed with numbers, as we know. And I think that he is -- this is one of the smarter moves of the Trump campaign. They`re -- instead of calculating who they`re -- who is a threat right now, Fiorina or Carson, they`re saying that -- they`re believing -- excuse me -- that Rubio is going to be a threat in the future, which is what GOP insiders have been saying. And now he`s swiping at him and trying to cut him off at the knees before he can take off, if you will, much as he did to Jeb Bush. And it was really effective with Jeb Bush, when he would criticize him or insult him. Jeb, you could see, was very flustered and didn`t quite know how to respond to it. Rubio, though, is taking it in a different way entirely. He is obviously being coached to laugh at it, to not be bothered by it, and to make a joke of it. So, ultimately, what`s happening is that Rubio is kind of coming off as more of the adult in this situation, while Trump is coming off as this jokester and this prankster who`s not necessarily taking this campaign seriously. Trump keeps saying that Rubio is the kid in this race, but Rubio is certainly coming off more like a grownup. Then again, Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He`s going to be who he`s going to be and his supporters like exactly that about him, that he`s wild, that he`s outrageous, that he`s speaking his mind and that they believe that he`s representing them more accurately than anyone else. I think the concern for the campaign, though, is whether or not the media is going to grow tired of all this. Will we stop airing him as much as we have been? Will we stop giving him the same amount of attention? When that happens, he`s going to need to do TV buys like the rest of them. That`s when we`re going to start seeing him spend money. And will he willing to spend as much money as he`s going to need to stay in the spotlight, as he has been for free for these last three months? MATTHEWS: You know what? I`ll defend the media. I will certainly defend myself. I find it very hard to get interested in the other candidates. Rubio is interesting. He`s a hawk, a total hawk. He`s got guys like Braman behind him. And he sings little serenades to Sheldon Adelson every night. He`s a total, utter neocon-loving hawk.    He`s frightening, but he`s a great speaker and he always speaks in a symphonic manner that scares me, because I think a lot of people will be thinking that that shows intelligence, when it may just show the ability to recite. Anyway, Katy Tur, yes, go ahead. TUR: I think people certainly react really well to him. When we were at Values Voter just the other day, the crowd was very into what he was saying. He`s very charismatic. He`s somebody who is very likable on that Republican stage. And the more airtime he gets, I think the more popular he`s going to become. Whether or not people agree with his stances, his positions on things, we`re going to have to wait and see about that, as you said. But, as of now, he does light up the camera in a way that a lot of the other candidates aren`t necessarily doing right now, other than, of course, Donald Trump. MATTHEWS: Yes. For the older viewers watching right now, not you, Katy, obviously, he`s playing Ralph Kramden to Rubio`s Ed Norton. Anyway NBC`s Katy Tur. Look it up. Thank you so much, Katy. Great reporting. (CROSSTALK) TUR: I know it. I know it. I know it.    MATTHEWS: Oh, good. TUR: OK. MATTHEWS: You knew it. OK, great. Thank you. Joining me right now is former Oklahoma Congressman and Rand Paul supporter J.C. Watts and of course senior NBC News political reporter Perry Bacon. So, Donald Trump has also regularly jabbed at Rubio`s absenteeism for votes in the Senate. Rubio responded this morning about missing all those votes. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW") SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: the majority of the job of being a senator is not walking on to the Senate floor and lifting your finger on a noncontroversial issue and saying which way you`re going to vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, J.C., you were a member of the Congress. And I think you took the responsibility, since you were getting paid to do it and had a staff to do it. Putting your little finger up in the air is what the voters expect you to do. And for Rubio to come out and say, I`m not doing my job, I don`t see how that works with voters. If I were Trump, I would deck him on this one. You don`t think it`s important to show up and vote? You get paid to do it. You took an oath to do it. And now you say, sticking my little finger up in the air is how I vote. Your thoughts, J.C.?    J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Chris, I understand what the senator is doing. I know he`s got to campaign, and I don`t fault him for that. But I do think people expect you, when -- once you`re elected, to show up and vote. And I don`t think you`re a House member or a senator, if you`re in the state legislature, if you`re the city council or the school board. They do feel like they elect you to vote. Now, he`s got a lot of ground to cover and he`s making a conscious decision to say, I feel like I can miss those votes and be out there telling my story. MATTHEWS: Yes. WATTS: But I do think, if the people are upset about that, I do think they got a legitimate concern or a legitimate right to be concerned about it. MATTHEWS: You ever been in a schoolyard fight, Perry? PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have not been in a lot of fights. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Well, back in my day, they had a lot of them. BACON: Sure. MATTHEWS: And if a guy saw that you had braces on them, he`d punch you in the mouth until you bled like hamburger. If you had a bad eye, he`d punch for the eye.    This guy -- I don`t want to act like I`m a Borstal Boy or anything or an East Side kid, but there was fighting in school. Trump is a schoolyard fighter. He finds the other guy`s weakness. Like in a boxing match in a movie, the eye is closing, hit the eye. The guy sweats, talk about sweating. He misses votes, hit him on that. He just pounds away at the other guy`s weakness, and usually it works. BACON: We know it worked, because Jeb Bush was so irritated by that low-energy thing and kept making jokes about it. Trump really captured him. MATTHEWS: Yes. BACON: And Rubio, he said three things about him, he misses Senate votes, he`s too young and inexperienced, and he`s the amnesty guy. These are really three of Rubio`s biggest problems. MATTHEWS: Does it hurt if you keep punching the same wound? BACON: I`m sure it does. And Rubio, you can tell, is nervous about it. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s stopped attacking your guy, Rand Paul. Is that a bad sign for Rand Paul? He`s not getting punched up enough by the front-runner? WATTS: No, I don`t think it is, Chris.    But think about what Donald Trump does. Going on the Chris Rock show and trying to be funny with Chris Rock, that`s not the way you go and do Jon Stewart or Chris Rock or somebody that`s a comedian. I think Marco has handled it very well. I think Rand Paul handled it very well, to say, we`re not going to get in a tit for tat, we`re going to laugh about it, we`re going to blow it off. MATTHEWS: That works. WATTS: The voters are going to decide. And, Chris, there`s one piece of data that nobody can say, you know, it`s defying conventional wisdom. And that`s the unfavorable numbers. And I think Senator Clinton and Donald Trump, they have always had very high unfavorables, and very -- especially Donald Trump. So, I think this thing is starting to balance out, and you`re going to see at the end of December, it`s going to be a competitive race between four or five people, and I don`t think Donald Trump`s going to be the nominee. MATTHEWS: Well said, J.C. Watts. Thanks for coming on. Please keep coming. Perry Bacon, as always. Up next, in the wake of the Roseburg, Oregon, tragedy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joins us here on how politicians should take action on gun safety. He`s pretty good on this. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The tragic mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, has again brought gun safety to the forefront of the political conversation. While advocacy groups like the NRA have made it increasingly difficult to have a national or rational dialogue about the issue in recent years, the debate over gun control goes back decades in this country.    In his campaign for the presidency, Senator Robert F. Kennedy made a heartfelt speech in support of the 1968 gun control bill, which had stalled in Congress at the time. It was five years after he`d lost his brother to an assassin`s bullet and just two weeks before he would become a victim of gun violence himself. Now, 47 years later, Kennedy`s words have taken on a new meaning because of the place where he delivered his remarks, on the steps of the county courthouse in Roseburg, Oregon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1968) SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D), NEW YORK: Anybody can have a gun. Anybody can have a rifle. But a person who has a criminal record or is in an insane institution or is mentally incompetent shouldn`t have a rifle or guns. Is there anybody out here that thinks those people should have rifles and guns? CROWD: No! KENNEDY: And that`s all the legislation does. It doesn`t stop anybody from having a rifle or a gun. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, following Kennedy`s death, the 1968 Gun Control Act was signed into law and supported by the NRA. While the debate has evolved in the years since, conservatives have long cited their hero, Ronald Reagan, as a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. What they don`t mention is how Reagan, who was shot and nearly killed in 1981, came out in support of the Brady Bill in the early 1990s. Writing an op-ed piece in "The New York Times," Reagan reflected on the day that almost took his life and that of three others -- quote -- "Four lives were changed forever, and all by a Saturday Night Special, a cheaply made .22-caliber pistol purchased in a Dallas pawnshop by a young man with a history of mental disturbance. This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now, the Brady Bill, had been law back in 1981."    Wow. I`m joined right now by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who last month lost a top economic staffer to gun violence. New York State passed tough gun safety laws in 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook massacre. Governor, it`s great to have you on the show. I know you care a lot about this issue. What does it take, tragedy after tragedy? And even that doesn`t seem to work. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: You know, listening to -- listening to your setup, Chris, it really is amazing how long we have been grappling with this issue. And, by the way, it`s only gotten worse during that time. It hasn`t gotten any better. Society has gotten more violent. The weapons, the guns, assault weapons have become more capable. And it is -- it`s seemingly every few weeks, now, you know, and it`s distressing. You mentioned the situation that we had here in New York; 43 years old, a black man who grew up in the projects in the Bronx, Chris, you would never think that he had a shot at making it. He brought himself to Harvard University. After Harvard University, he came to work for the state government. He could have made $1 million in a law firm. He wanted to give back. He was a beautiful, beautiful human being, and just shot down in random gang violence. He was with his brother. The two of them bend down behind a car when they hear the gunshots. One brother gets up; the other brother doesn`t. I`m amazed, frankly, that the American people have been as quiet in their response as they are. Either they`re getting numb, which I hope isn`t the case, or they have just given up on Washington and the federal government. You know, in a relationship, when you stop yelling, Chris, that`s when you`re really in trouble, because you have given up. And I think that`s the state they`re at, because I passed what is probably the toughest gun law in the nation. I can`t protect my state, because I closed the front door, and the guns are coming in the back door. I`m in New York. If you drive to Virginia, you drive to South Carolina, you can come back with a gun. So, the states can`t do this. It has to be the federal government. They`re arguing about the border down south with the Mexicans. I`m not worried about the Mexicans coming across my border. I`m worried about assault weapons coming across my border. And that`s what the federal government and the ATF should be focused on.    MATTHEWS: What do you make of the resistance by the NRA and their supporters to any kind of background checks? It seems like, way back when, they used to say, guns don`t kill people, people do. So why don`t they keep the wrong people from getting the guns? CUOMO: Well, I think their slippery slope argument, right? And I went through this, as you said, when we passed the gun bill here in New York. Their position is now no conversation, no common sense, no cooperation, slippery slope, government is trying to take the weapons because they want to disempower the citizenry. I mean, it is absurd. That`s why there is a commonsense approach here. There really is. But the NRA has taken a position, a zealot`s position. They have attracted a zealot crowd, frankly. And I think they have actually galvanized the opposition. But, you know, we both have been around long enough. At one point, Chris, you have to say, I`m going to do it anyway. MATTHEWS: Yes. CUOMO: I understand why politicians want to stay away from this issue. I understand that it`s going to cost you political points. It cost me political capital in this state. There are 30 percent, 40 percent of the population that is just against it. But you have to have a political system that acts and acts on the tough ones. And this is a tough one, but this is not going to change unless you get people to talk common sense, bust the gridlock, and you have politicians who actually stand up. MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you on, Governor Cuomo. I`ll see you at the Al Smith Dinner. As always, you`re a great man to have on the program. Thank you, sir. Up next: Vice President Joe Biden finds himself in the headlines once again as he decides whether to challenge Hillary Clinton. When will we know? Well, I guess the guessing game is getting pretty close to a solution, hopefully.    You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening. The death toll from the massive floods in the Carolinas has risen to 17. The president signed a disaster declaration for South Carolina last night. The Bureau of Prisons says about 6,000 federal inmates will soon be granted early release. The inmates are eligible for shorter sentences thanks to changing guidelines for drug offenders. And the owner of the cargo ship that went missing during Hurricane Joaquin says it`s working with Coast Guard to locate the ship and its crew. The El Faro, with 33 on board, is believed to have sunk during last week`s storm -- and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A number of you have said to me over the last three to four years, thank you very much -- no, didn`t say that. (LAUGHTER) Oh, anyway, what was I saying? (CHEERS)    (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday in a lighthearted moment at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. One story receiving a lot of buzz today is that a report from "Politico" that it was Biden himself who told "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd about his son Beau`s dying wish that he, Joe Biden, run for president in 2016. "Politico" says according to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son. Beau`s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run to president because "The White House should not revert to the Clintons", this is a direct quote, "and that the country be better off with Biden values." That was apparently a quote by Biden about his son speaking on his death bed. Almost immediately after the Dowd comment August 1st, Biden began to make calls, seeking advice for a presidential run and support for the vice president to actually challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest and that began to grow. But NBC`s Andrea Mitchell reports that Biden aides are vehemently now disputing story in today`s "Politico", that he was trying to use Beau`s death for politics. Quote, "He was a grieving father trying to deal with his son`s death. He was not making a political calculation." Well, Heidi Przybyla is senior political reporter for "USA Today", and Paul Singer, of course, Washington correspondent for "USA Today", and Jay Newton-Small is correspondent for "Time" magazine. She also has a great book coming out. Let me ask you, personal opinions. Is this story new today? When the story ran with Maureen Dowd, you would assume it came from the father, it didn`t say anybody else told her. What do you make of it? HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: I think there might have been some cringing inside the beltway, but let`s pretend here for a moment that we`re normal Americans and we see this story. So what? I kind of assumed when I read the story that Joe Biden might have been the source for it. It was such a personal story. And it was reported in other places as well. It was well known that - -    MATTHEWS: A story today he was telling a lot of people. PRZYBYLA: That Beau Biden was pushing him to do this. That was kind of documented. And we know that. PAUL SINGER, USA TODAY: And the fact of the matter is, Joe Biden is a political person. He`s been a political person all his life. It would not be at all surprising that even in this tragedy, he`s still thinking about politics in the back of his mind, when he`s running for president for two decades. MATTHEWS: He`s still a public personality every minute of his life. SINGER: Yes. MATTHEWS: Yes. JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: I mean, these are the impetuses that made people run for president, make people run for higher office. I mean, look at John Edwards. He lost his son, Wade, that was his huge impetus to run for office. He certainly politicized that death, but it wasn`t detrimental to him. It was ultimately because he had an affair. (CROSSTALK) SINGER: Good call now. MATTHEWS: Here`s the argument, fair enough for the reporter for writing it today, but I thought that it`s interesting, when everybody was so taken with the vice president`s performance on Colbert. And what everybody walked away with was, this guy`s not running. The guy was desperate. He was sad, he was beaten. He was in grief to the point he couldn`t act. And so, if there`s some calculation a couple weeks before that, that he was going to run, it didn`t seem to square with what he did on Colbert in front of our eyes.    PRZYBYLA: The timing on it was also bizarre. And I think there`s no one -- you have to talk to people who are close to Joe Biden as well. There`s no one who doesn`t believe he was genuinely grieving at that time. And I don`t doubt as well that he didn`t have a conversation with Maureen Dowd. In that context, she`s known him for many years. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- connection here, too. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: We don`t have a term like landsman but there is a connection among the Irish. And Joe Biden always has the breakfast on St. Patrick`s Day with a bunch of people. I`m in the larger circle, I`m not in his inner circle. But I`ve always been friendly with that family. And I think he feels very comfortable with Maureen. SINGER: Right -- MATTHEWS: And I think they do talk about it that old Irish thing you share. It`s very much an Irish thing. Everybody else doesn`t grieve. But I can see him in the middle of a conversation with Maureen, telling this story of what Beau said without some plan. SINGER: But even if you accept the "Politico`s" premise here, that there was some sort of planting a seed for a campaign, I still don`t believe now that that means that the Colbert appearance was false, that he has decided that he`s going to run and that -- MATTHEWS: What`s your bet right now?    SINGER: You know, I`m still 50/50. I think if he runs for president now, he takes the legs out of Hillary Clinton in the middle of the campaign and there are going to be a lot of angry Democrats. MATTHEWS: Well, I talked with a former senator, a big Democrat, and she said, he will be blamed. In other words, not just David Brock and some others, but the people and, Blumenthal, a real loyalist, and troubled for any opponent, but the people in the general press will say, Biden took away moderate votes, exposed her to a more left-wing candidate, now the left- wing candidate can beat both of them or at least challenge them. The math is there. NEWTON-SMALL: Remember how angry women got when Barack Obama came in on Hillary Clinton? The backlash this time around, I think, would be even bigger. MATTHEWS: More pumas. NEWTON-SMALL: More pumas, yes. MATTHEWS: More puma trouble. I know all about that, baby. PRZYBYLA: And the whole context, initially when we were discussing Joe Biden getting into the race, it was about Hillary Clinton stumbling. MATTHEWS: What about her good week? PRZYBYLA: She`s having a good week now, right? MATTHEWS: I think a lot of this is -- by the way, if you`re a friend of Biden`s and don`t want him to run, pushing this story out into the print today may be a way to do that, too, in a weird world, if you don`t want him to hurt himself. I`m sort of in that group. I don`t want him to get hurt.    Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, Hillary Clinton makes an impassioned argument on guns. She went over the Sanders crowd with this time because there -- well, Sanders is not a gun safety guy. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Senator John McCain stopped by the "Late Show" with Stephen Colbert last night and he wasn`t afraid to make a joke at President Obama`s expense. Let`s take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST: Can you explain something to me. You know, you`re one of the leaders of the Republican Party. What is happening? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would remind you that this time four years ago the leader in the polls in the Republican -- not for the Republican nomination, was Herman Cain. COLBERT: Yes. MCCAIN: And that was followed by, as I recall, Michele Bachmann. COLBERT: Yes.    MCCAIN: So there`s a lot more, there`s a lot more -- COLBERT: And how have you felt the Bachmann/Cain administration -- MCCAIN: Hell of a job. COLBERT: Yes. So right now -- MCCAIN: Would have done better than this one. COLBERT: So right now -- MCCAIN: Whoo! COLBERT: Making friends with John McCain. Hey, come over to John McCain`s barbecue. Your kid`s ugly! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, McCain and Colbert seem to have had fun in that interview, though it was a bit awkward.    We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with a roundtable, the HARDBALL roundtable, Heidi, Paul and Jay. Well, in the wake of the Oregon shooting just last week, Hillary Clinton yesterday made a big push for gun safety laws up in New Hampshire, making an impassioned case against the NRA itself and Second Amendment extremists. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the NRA was on one of their you know, tirades and calling the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms enforcers you know jack booted thugs, President George H.W. Bush resigned as an NRA member. And said, no, I`m not going to be associated with that. (APPLAUSE) So -- I mean, ideally what id love to see is gun owners, responsible gun owners, hunters form a different organization and take back the Second Amendment from these extremists. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton`s proposal would impose universal background checks, close loopholes like in gun shows that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and also repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers which would allow victims to sue the gun manufacturer for negligence. Gun safety is one of the few issues where Secretary Clinton is to the left, if you will, of her primary opponent Bernie Sanders who opposed gun control measures in the past. He was quoted in an alternative Vermont publication in 2013, not a million years ago, 2013 as saying , "If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don`t think it would have a profound effect on the tradition we have seen."    What do you make of this, Heidi? PRZYBYLA: Well, it`s the one -- MATTHEWS: Does she have the stones? It`s so scary. We`ve all grown up in this country. If you run a national campaign against the NRA, don`t you like give away 40 some percent right away and have to struggle to get the other 60? PRZYBYLA: That is the myth -- MATTHEWS: That`s the myth? PRZYBYLA: -- the NRA has been promoting over the last 20 years since the 1994 assault weapons ban. We all know going back to that it was not necessarily the 1994 assault weapons. MATTHEWS: Myth, the NRA is myth? PRZYBYLA: It was what the Clinton administration did on health care. MATTHEWS: OK, why are these members of the Senator historically afraid of this myth? PRZYBYLA: They`re an afraid of the control and power that the NRA has. But if you look at more recent elections, there`s been a lot of people who have not been helped by the NRA and actually, their voting records don`t line up, and the NRA also doesn`t make that kind of a key issue. So -- MATTHEWS: Who`s ever run against the NRA and gotten away with it? No, I`m not -- this isn`t a quiz show.    SINGER: There`s not a lot of people who go after the NRA. There`s not a lot of people who stand up to them. NEWTON-SMALL: There`s been a lot of successes lately. Delaware last week passed a law that closed the gun loophole for online sales. One of the big loop hoes. So there are states where they`re making progress. The NRA is losing ground. It`s just on the federal level that they`re not. MATTHEWS: I`m just thinking of those states that always decide elections -- Ohio, Virginia, Colorado is hard to read, always hard it read, Florida is probably OK down there. But I would say Ohio. SINGER: Colorado, that`s the one with are they voted ford gun control and got the state legislators kicked out because -- MATTHEWS: That`s right. So, these are dangerous votes. So, it`s not a myth. PRZYBYLA: If you look the specific things she`s targeting, though, in the past, Chris -- MATTHEWS: I know. PRZYBYLA: -- the mistake Democrats have been have been making the assault weapons ban repeal kind of the heart of their proposal. She`s not doing that, going for the low hanging fruit where 90 percent -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s show how smart she is.    She`s going after background checks. She`s going after Toomey- Manchin, which is a very carefully exquisitely carved proposal that does not really ignite the NRA but it does improve our ability to make sure bad people don`t -- crazy people don`t, to be blunt about this, don`t get guns. NEWTON-SMALL: NRA will be against it. (CROSSTALK) NEWTON-SMALL: Even Toomey-Manchin didn`t pass. I mean, it was blocked in the Senate. PRZYBYLA: But if you remember how this all came down, Dianne Feinstein and other Democrats made it part of a proposal where the assault weapons ban was, again, a major. MATTHEWS: Heidi, Heidi Przybyla calls NRA a myth. Ha! (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to say except I grew up in Pennsylvania and I don`t believe it`s a myth. There`s a lot of gun owners in Pennsylvania who are Second Amendment zealots. PRZYBYLA: You have to distinguish between what she`s doing in terms of the specific. MATTHEWS: And they don`t want to hear anything about those slippery slope either as Howard Dean said. SINGER: Democrats come out with a proposal this week. Let`s see what`s in it.    MATTHEWS: Guys that live in Vermont like Howard Dean know what`s going on too. Thank you, though. Where did you grow up? PRZYBYLA: Michigan. MATTHEWS: That`s a gun -- what am I thinking? John Dingell. Anyway, thank you. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: As much as I know, we have different reads. Thank you, Heidi Przybyla, Paul Singer, and Jay Newton-Small. HARDBALL back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a picture that MSNBC has been showing in newspapers and magazines around the country. It`s from the staff section of the old Air Force One, the scene you see there is from the Saturday before the 1980 presidential election.    The people you see are chief speechwriter Henrik Hertzberg and me sitting at the staff table. Behind us are the White House military aide, President Jimmy Carter in the middle there, and press secretary Jody Powell. It was quite a memorable moment, as I recall. We just campaigned in five Texas cities and were headed up to Milwaukee. You can see Jody holding a pillow. He`s about to bed down on the bench that runs along the corridor between the staff section of the plane and the president`s cabin which is forward. We ended that Saturday night pretty late in Chicago, only to learn early in the morning hours that there was movement in Tehran, evidence that the 50 American hostages might get released before the election. Well, it didn`t turn out that way. Once back in Washington that Sunday, we learned that the Iranians were going to make sure the Americans didn`t get released until President Carter was out of the office. It was a tough time for the country, a turbulent time to be serving the country in such an extraordinary position. I will never forget the people, especially President Carter, a good man who gave me the honor to serve the country at such a time. 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.>