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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/17/2016

Guests: Heidi Przybyla; John Kasich

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 17, 2016 Guest: Heidi Przybyla; John Kasich

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Inside John Kasich.

Let`s play HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Last thing on Trump. Can you imagine him as president? Can you think of him up there on the stand in the west front of the Capitol becoming president of the United States?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s kind of hard for me to believe.



MATTHEWS: Are you with President Obama on that, he`ll never be president?

KASICH: I just don`t think -- look, I -- I -- Chris...

MATTHEWS: Well, if you`re going to be president, me he can`t be president, so...

KASICH: That`s right. That`s right. No, I think -- what I believe is going to happen is I think, little by little, as the debate stage shrinks - - and it`s not just the debate stage. That`s the dumbest way to pick a president. We got a debate, OK. Tell me the history of the world. Go. You`ve got 30 seconds.


KASICH: I mean, it`s ridiculous. But I think the ground game, the town halls, you know, raising money, having a positive message -- I just believe it`s going to work.


MATTHEWS: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

That is my remarkable talk, I believe, with Ohio governor John Kasich just a few hours ago. Kasich has just been endorsed by "The State," the biggest newspaper here in South Carolina. He surged from 3 points to 11 points, a quadrupling his numbers, in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll just out tonight. We`ll have the rest of my candid interview with Governor Kasich coming up shortly tonight.

Let`s get to that brand-new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll I mentioned on the national Republican race. It`s got Cruz in front now, rising 8 points from the last poll we took, with Trump dropping 7. Rubio went up 4 points, but as I said, the other big winner is John Kasich, who also went up, in his case by 8 points.

All this is a clear result, I believe, of the chaotic performance last Saturday night in the Republican debate. Trump, I believe, went into dangerous territory Saturday night when he said the Iraq war was based on a lie, and even worse, that 9/11 happened on George W. Bush`s watch.

These thoughts and statements struck at the very heart of the Republican religion, if you will, that they -- they believe this -- kept us safe.

Meanwhile, down here in South Carolina, Donald Trump is still the name of the game. In the three latest polls -- look at these numbers. The latest CNN/ORC poll shows Trump at 38 percent. Cruz is second down at it 22, and Rubio`s in third at 14.

A Monmouth University poll released today showed Trump also at a 16-point lead. He`s at 35 percent, followed by Cruz and Rubio. And a brand-new Bloomberg poll released just a couple of hours ago shows Trump dominating the field at 36 percent, 19 points ahead of Cruz.

And my question is, what`s going to matter more after Saturday night, this coming Saturday night, who wins in South Carolina or how badly a candidate behaved in the debate a week ago?

NBC`s Hallie Jackson is in South Carolina, and Heidi Przybyla is a senior reporter for "USA Today." Thank you for joining us.

Hallie, I saw your interview with Cruz.


MATTHEWS: And he`s riding high right now. But the problem he faces -- these things happen point by point. We go from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina Saturday night. And then the national polls tend to reflect that. How does Cruz come out of this Saturday night, if the numbers hold the way they`re going?

JACKSON: So it`s interesting, Chris, because this is one of the things that I talked about with Senator Cruz on his campaign bus late today, this idea that perhaps Donald Trump did not have a strong debate, that Ted Cruz felt good about where he was coming into this week and coming into South Carolina.

You`re right that they`ve got to eke out sort of improvements in where they are right now, state by state, particularly in South Carolina, where in this state, Trump does still lead Cruz, but Cruz tells me that he feels very encouraged about the new national poll. He actually talked about it at his rally late tonight. He says everybody must be screaming in Washington, D.C., because he`s now the new national front-runner.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, lawyers for Donald Trump have threatened to sue Cruz for defamation over an ad Cruz is running in South Carolina showing a 1999 -- that`s a 17-year-old interview with Trump -- who calls himself pro- choice back then. Trump has changed his views, by the way, very quickly after that. Within a year, he changed his views and said he was against partial-birth abortion.

Anyway, at a press conference today, Cruz said he welcomes a lawsuit.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things I look forward to most of all is deposing Donald Trump. For that particular endeavor, I may well not use outside counsel. I may take the deposition myself. And I will say this. Whether in a deposition or a court of law, getting Donald Trump under oath, under penalty of perjury, answering these questions -- well, I`ll point out it didn`t work out well for Bill Clinton.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump -- Donald Trump later responded in a statement, quote, "Cruz is a liar, and these ads and statements made by Cruz are clearly desperate moves by a guy who`s tanking in the polls. If I want to bring a lawsuit, it would be legitimate. Likewise, if I want to bring a lawsuit regarding Senator Cruz being a natural-born Canadian, I will do so, as well. Time will tell, Teddy."

Well, that`s interesting, that line, "Teddy." Anyway, Trump was asked about Cruz`s taunt today in a town hall with Joe Scarborough and Mike Brzezinski. It`s going to air tonight here at 8:00 o`clock.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve had great success in business. I`ve had great success with lawsuits. I`ve had great success in things I do. And I don`t know that we`re going to have a lawsuit, but we certainly want to keep somebody honest. And you know, when he makes statements about -- like as an example, I`m pro-life and he said, He`s not pro-life. You can`t say that.


MATTHEWS: Let me go to Heidi on this. It seeps like Cruz, who is doing very well in our national poll -- is getting pressed by both the guy above him in the South Carolina race and the one behind him in the South Carolina race -- that would be Marco Rubio. Rubio is going after him for saying dishonest things about Trey Gowdy, the congressman down there, shifting to Cruz, when, in fact, he`s not.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": Right. Well, this was all a spectacle that we did not see after Iowa, when Trump threatened to sue him there, as well. And why? Because just like you said, he`s feeling the pressure on both ends.

And the truth -- the fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton isn`t the only one with a firewall in the South. Ted Cruz is very heavily dependent on what happens in South Carolina, which then sets the precedent for these SEC states.

So what you saw today was Cruz essentially coopting what`s been a very successful tactic for Donald Trump all along, which is kind of turning the campaign trail into a bit of a reality show spectacle.

Everybody knows this is all just a bunch of baloney. Nobody`s going to be filing lawsuits or deposing people.


PRZYBYLA: But he did steal the spotlight and is doing some of these last- minute things to try and knock either Trump or Rubio out of the -- out of the, you know, running there.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Hallie for the last third. I`ve got Kasich coming up here in this interview today. It`s quite candid. And I got him -- you know, these guys, when you get to them -- Can you see Donald Trump taking the oath of office, actually becoming president of the United States -- they sort of go back and go, Oh, no, I can`t see that happening.

So in that debate stage where Trump seems to dominate, he doesn`t dominate the thinking of these other candidates that he will be the president.

JACKSON: Yes, that`s a very real possibility, Chris. When you look at where Donald Trump has polled in this race so far, not just nationally but on a state level -- you talk about going off of Heidi`s remarks about Cruz getting hit from above and below in South Carolina, it was fascinating to watch his news conference today -- scorched earth. He basically burned it down. He hit Trump and then he pivoted to hit Marco Rubio.

Until now, Cruz has talked about this being a two-man race. Today with me, today, he said, Well, or a three-man race. And he`s including Marco Rubio in that. That is how Cruz potentially sees this moving forward as we head into the primary on Saturday, and then Nevada after that.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, we`ll see. Thank you so much, Hallie Jackson. Thank you, Heidi Przybyla.

Coming up, my candid one-on-one with Governor John Kasich. And coming up at the top of the hour, of course, our MSNBC town hall with Donald Trump hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from -- well, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re live now in South Carolina ahead of Saturday`s Republican primary down here.

And a few hours ago, as I said, I had a pretty candid talk with Ohio governor John Kasich, who landed a very strong second up in New Hampshire and surging is nationally right now. He said he just can`t see Donald Trump actually being president.


MATTHEWS: I picked up "USA Today," and I`m looking at this thing, front page, "Who scares Americans the most?" Trump 38 percent, Hillary 33 percent, 28 percent Bernie Sanders. They`re afraid. They`re not just dissatisfied with these candidates. They say, at least to the pollsters, We`re afraid of them.

What have we got here in this country? Afraid of the candidates.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Chris, honestly, I have been -- done more town halls than any candidate, OK? I`m leveling with you. This whole interview is going to be -- I`m leveling with you, OK?

MATTHEWS: OK, why are people afraid of these guys?

KASICH: I don`t -- I don`t find -- you know how they say there`s all this anger and all this -- I don`t find it out there.

MATTHEWS: How about fear?

KASICH: I think there are people that are very nervous about Trump, and there are people that -- you know, Bernie says he`s a socialist, so, you know...


KASICH: ... people don`t like socialists. And with Hillary, you know, her problem is people don`t trust her.

MATTHEWS: Actually, the Democratic Party, about 40 percent...


KASICH: But I`ll bet it`s all...

MATTHEWS: ... telling people they do like the socialist thing.

KASICH: But I`ll bet it`s -- I`ll bet it`s partisan. Well, look, if Democrats are going socialist, they`re not -- I mean, what -- are you kidding?

MATTHEWS: They`re frustrated. Let me ask you...

KASICH: They`re going to want to annex Cuba.


MATTHEWS: OK, now. What?

KASICH: I mean, they`re socialists, right?

MATTHEWS: OK. I think we`re...

KASICH: Look, here`s what I`m trying to say...

MATTHEWS: I think a lot of people are hoping that Cuba will become democratic. But go ahead.

KASICH: But look, here`s the thing -- yes, well, maybe, if we a the right policy there. Here`s the thing. I`ll bet this a reflection of partisanship, really...


MATTHEWS: ... Trump is 38 feared and Hillary`s 33 feared?

KASICH: Yes. Yes, probably Democrats saying, I`m afraid of...


MATTHEWS: Why do you think Bernie Sanders -- you say he`s got the socialist tag, which he put on himself, of course. He`s only -- He`s the least feared candidate.

KASICH: Yes, but he`s at 28 percent. I mean...

MATTHEWS: The last feared, with 28 percent feared. (INAUDIBLE)

KASICH: I think that`s probably Republicans versus Democrats.


KASICH: You know, there`s a great antagonism towards Hillary. You know, they`re angry at her Benghazi and they`re angry at her because of the computer...

MATTHEWS: What did she do wrong with Benghazi?

KASICH: I`m just telling you what they...

MATTHEWS: See, you use these code words...

KASICH: ... believe.

MATTHEWS: Benghazi.

KASICH: I`m not using any code words!

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s...

KASICH: I`m just telling you.

MATTHEWS: ... Benghazi mean?

KASICH: Well, they think that we did not get there soon enough, that...

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

KASICH: I don`t know enough about it.


KASICH: What do I think? I`ll tell you where I think she really went wrong. She`s the one that kicked Gadhafi out of Libya and caused all the problems. That`s the thing they`re missing. I mean, to me, with Benghazi, they should have sent the aircraft. Why they didn`t...

MATTHEWS: You don`t like this regime change thing, do you.

KASICH: Well...

MATTHEWS: Like we`re trying to do against Assad.

KASICH: Well, that`s different.

MATTHEWS: Well, you said you don`t want to try to topple him.

KASICH: Well, I would want to topple him, but I wouldn`t use ground troops to do it. I would support the rebels. And I had called McCain and Boehner -- and I called John, I said, We got to support the rebels. He said, OK, I got your message. I got to -- I got to...


MATTHEWS: I think you were just against ISIS. I thought you were just against...


MATTHEWS: ... them, and not worried about that Assad thing.

KASICH: No, no. I want Assad to go because Iran, Assad and Russia -- I mean, he`s got to go. Assad`s got to go.


KASICH: But I`m not for being in the middle of a civil war. I`ve never supported civil wars, all the way back to when we had troops in Lebanon. Civil wars are a prescription for prolonged engagement and no good resolution. It`s not smart to be in a civil war.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Last thing on Trump. Can you imagine him as president? Can you think of him up there on the stand of the west front of the Capitol becoming president of the United States?

KASICH: Kind of hard for me to believe.



MATTHEWS: So are you with President Obama on that, he`ll never be president?

KASICH: I just don`t think -- look, I -- I -- Chris, this is such a crazy time.

MATTHEWS: Well, if you`re going to be president, he can`t be president, so...

KASICH: That`s right. That`s right. But I think -- what I believe is going to happen is, I think, little by little, as the debate stage shrinks -- and it`s not just the debate stage -- that`s the dumbest way to pick a president. We got a debate. OK, tell me the history of the world. Go. You`ve got 30 seconds.


KASICH: You know, I mean, it`s ridiculous. But I think the ground game, the town halls, you know, raising money, having a positive message -- I just believe it`s going to work, and I keep chugging right along.

MATTHEWS: Are you amazed, having worked in politics and been elected all these years back to the `80s, when you hear people out on a stage, national television, yelling across the room, face to face, Liar, you`re a liar!

KASICH: I was little surprised at that.

MATTHEWS: That`s become the normal way people talk in politics.

KASICH: Yes. I don`t think -- I don`t think -- I don`t think -- I was really frankly shocked, Chris, because we grew up at a time where you would say, I think the gentleman is distorting...


KASICH: ... things.


KASICH: We didn`t say, you know, You`re a liar! I mean...


KASICH: ... witness for the prosecution when that -- remember when the lawyer yelled at that lady on the stand?


KASICH: I just don`t think you should be calling names like that.

MATTHEWS: Well, in the old days, your words were taken down. You weren`t allowed to...


KASICH: ... mean by that, but if you were on the House floor and you personally insulted somebody, the whole House condemned you. And that was appropriate. Those were called manners!


KASICH: You know -- you know what I think part of it is...

MATTHEWS: I think Tip O`Neill, my boss, did that to Newt Gingrich one time. Anyway, let me...

KASICH: Yes. That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get into the Supreme Court thing because I think you`ve had a couple views here. One is you say it would be nice for this president, Barack Obama -- he`s still president of the United States -- to wait off -- don`t put a nominee before the United States Senate and let`s the voters decide on what kind of a person we want.

KASICH: Isn`t that an interesting thing?

MATTHEWS: Well, no -- then you also said, if somebody asked you, would you put forward a nominee if you were in this situation? You said, Of course I would send somebody.

KASICH: Well...

MATTHEWS: Well wait a minute. Is this just partisan politics? You would do it, but you don`t want Obama to do it.

KASICH: No. Now, can I -- Let me answer this question, OK? Look, first of all, we know where we are. You know where we are. The whole thing is melting down. As soon as Scalia died, I told the people around me, I said, The problem is, we`re going to have another war here, another political war, more damage, and we got to stop all the damage. I mean, I believe it.

Now, Obama, the president, has so polarized the Congress that we know there`s no likelihood that this is going to happen, that anybody is going to get confirmed.

If you had a president who had pulled people together and a Congress who had been brought in through the -- you know, through the efforts of a president to bring people together, you would have a better chance. And so I think now things are too polarized.

Now, he`s going to send somebody up, they`re not going to be confirmed, and we`re going to have an election, and whoever wins is going to not only be present but decide what the...

MATTHEWS: So you still think he should...

KASICH: ... fundamental makeup of the court is.

MATTHEWS: First of all, Mitch McConnell declared war on this president from the day he was inaugurated. He said, I`m going to get rid of this guy as my number one goal.

KASICH: I don`t -- I don`t like that kind of rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: He`s the Senate Republican leader.

KASICH: I don`t like that kind of rhetoric. We`re not a parliamentary system.

MATTHEWS: So it`s not all Obama`s fault, this...

KASICH: Oh, no, no, no. But here`s the problem, Chris. When you`re an executive, you have an obligation to really get out there, get out there, get out there. And I just don`t think the president understood how to get out there, get out there, get out there.

And you can get mad at the other side. I mean, I experienced partisanship in Ohio, but you can`t knock the pieces off the chess board. You got to be patient and you got to find people that like you. And I mean, it`s a mess down there.

You know, I used say that -- I still do say -- the cattlemen and the sheepherders all hated one another because the sheep ate the grass so low to the ground, the cattle couldn`t eat any. So they`d have wars, but they never poisoned all the wells. We got most of the wells in Washington poisoned. It`s a mess!


KASICH: Now, you can undo it. I -- you just got to be patient. You know what I tell people at the town halls -- you`ll laugh -- I said, One of the things I will do if I`m elected president is I`m going to get the phone numbers of all the moms and dads of people who have kids in Congress, and then on the moms` birthdays, I`m going to call them up and wish them happy birthday, and then they`re going to call their kid in Congress and say, Don`t mess with the president, I like him.


KASICH: We got to rebuild those relationships like we had when both of us were there and we saw people -- they`d fight. But you know, we didn`t hate one another.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about you. Didn`t you sign a bill in Ohio that would -- that got rid of the six days you`re allowed to go to vote, register that day and vote that day? Why did you do that?

KASICH: We have the most expensive -- expansive voting...


MATTHEWS: But why reduce the ability of people to vote?

KASICH: Because whenever people who run this voting system say, We need to have more order, that`s fine. Then I have to listen to them. But we`re voting, like, what is it, 28, 29 days early voting? I mean, we have one of the most liberal...

MATTHEWS: But why restrict it? Why restrict it further? Why would you -- isn`t that a partisan move, to reduce the number of days you can actually vote?

KASICH: Reduce the number of days to, like, 28? You know how many they have in New York? Do you have...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but why`d you reduce them?

KASICH: Because the people that are working in the -- in the voting booth, the people who are the -- or the election officials said, We got to tighten things up a little bit. But...

MATTHEWS: Were they Republicans?

KASICH: Yes, but you know, Chris, I don`t operate on that basis. Look, I had to stop the Republicans from, you know, moving forward on you got to have a driver`s license if you -- I said, Don`t do that.


KASICH: So I want people to vote. But I also think 28 days is great, and I don`t know why you`re picking on Ohio. Why don`t you go pick on New York?

MATTHEWS: So why don`t you believe that public employees in Ohio should have collect bargaining rights?

KASICH: Well, they do. They do have collective bargaining rights.


KASICH: What we tried to do when...

MATTHEWS: Well, because the public demanded them, but you were trying to get rid of them.

KASICH: No, what I`m trying to say with them is, I needed the local governments to have the flexibility to do what they needed to do when we had an $8 billion hole.


KASICH: OK? And frankly -- it`s very interesting. We were actually in negotiations. Aside from the -- the bill that that legislature passed, we were in negotiation with the unions...


KASICH: ... to try to figure out a more moderate approach.

And when the national unions found out about it, they put a halt to it. And then they raised all the money and they outspent, you know, I don`t know, 10-1. But it has all settled down. It has all settled down in Ohio now in regard to unions.

I got the endorsement of the building trades. I got the endorsement of the operating engineers. And I even nailed down the endorsement of the carpenters. I have good relations back there with organized labor.

And I have told them, if you -- if everything keeps going the way it is going, we`re going to be great. Just don`t disrupt the economy in the state.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the role of the Supreme Court.

I think you made a point that -- and a lot of the conservatives -- and you`re a conservative -- a lot of conservatives have said the court should not interpret. It should basically take the Constitution, go by what they intended by it and stick to that.

But if you look at the court decisions that really matter to our lives, like the Brown case in `54, where they outlawed that Supreme Court said no more separate but equal, like down here in South Carolina, no more separate but equal. Separate means unequal.

That was a court decision. Citizens United, these cases are important. How do we avoid having courts make big decisions? They`re going to make them. I think Citizens United was making law. I think it said money is speech. That`s a law now in this country, that you could spend all you want in a campaign, corporate or whatever, and nobody can stop you.

Who had more -- you can`t do that in Congress. Do you think Citizens United is good for the country?

KASICH: No. No, I don`t think that letting a handful of billionaires determine who is going to be president is good for the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a Supreme -- that was a conservative Supreme Court decision by Republican-appointed...


KASICH: Doesn`t mean I have to agree with it.


KASICH: I just would like -- look, I have picked over 100 judges in Ohio, and including a woman who serves on the Ohio Supreme Court.

I just want somebody with conservative values, who is not going to try to make law. And I`m not going to agree with everything the courts do. I don`t agree with everything the courts in Ohio do.

MATTHEWS: But where are you in the Brown case? What was the Supreme Court supposed to do when they`re confronted by the fact there were segregated schools here and around the country? It`s mostly in the South.

KASICH: You know how I feel about that.

MATTHEWS: Well, the court made the right decision, didn`t they?

KASICH: Yes, they probably did. Not probably did. They did.


MATTHEWS: But that`s not in the Constitution. It doesn`t say -- I mean, you guys are strict constructionists. And I keep saying sometimes along the way, whether it`s public prayer or Roe v. Wade, some people at the...


KASICH: Well, they made a terrible decision on...


MATTHEWS: But somebody has to make these decisions.

Oh, you think they should still have public -- state-written prayers?

KASICH: No, I think..

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what they were.

KASICH: Well, you know what? In Massachusetts, they had the state-written prayers all the way almost to the 1900s.

MATTHEWS: You think that is OK?

KASICH: No, no, no, Chris.

What I supported and still support is a silent prayer, not some state- written prayer. You know that. And, look...


MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I didn`t know that, because a lot of people still want -- they want the King James Bible to be cited in school.

KASICH: No, no, no, I`m for a silent moment, just so we can think about our creator.


KASICH: But here is the thing.

Obviously, everything is not perfect, right? Thank God that they ruled out separate but equal. I mean, that was just crazy stuff. That was a terrible situation and time in our country.

Look, sometimes, sometimes, you know, they`re going to make decisions, they`re going to be more aggressive, and, sometimes, I`m going to agree and, sometimes, I`m going to disagree. But I`m not going to run the court. I`m just going to pick a judge. And I want to pick a judge who is fundamentally conservative, high ethics, good character, and a decent record. But I`m not going to ask them...


MATTHEWS: What would have been better than Roe v. Wade?

KASICH: Oh, I don`t -- Chris, I don`t want to get into a big discussion here about the court and all their decisions.

MATTHEWS: About abortion rights?

KASICH: Yes. I mean, I`m pro-life. Everybody knows that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but, in other words -- OK, so it`s up to the states?

KASICH: Look, the -- what Roe v. Wade said is that -- sort of legalized it. And there have been growing restrictions on it. And I think the public is getting more comfortable.

I`m pro-life, with the exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother.


MATTHEWS: When we come back, what would John Kasich do if ISIS under hi watch grabbed a U.S. soldier and said it was going to behead him? What would happen then in that war?

Back in a minute.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So, what would you do if ISIS grabbed an American soldier on your watch and threatened to behead him?

Well, here`s more from John Kasich on what he would do.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this ISIS thing here, because we talked about it a minute ago. And it is the thing that people are most worried about.

You have said ground troops to fight ISIS, or where are you?



MATTHEWS: What happens if you`re president of the United States? You talk about a 3:00 in the morning problem. You`re president of the United States. You find out one of our G.I.s, one of our enlisted guys has just been picked up by ISIS and they`re going to behead the guy.

What do you do?

KASICH: Well...

MATTHEWS: They say right there on international television and the world, they say, we`re about to behead this guy, Joe McGee or whatever his name is. He`s a corporal or whatever, staff sergeant, whatever. And we`re going to kill this guy and we`re going to do it on television.


MATTHEWS: This is why I worry about putting troops in harm`s way with these guys.


KASICH: Well, Chris, Chris, look, we cannot abide with ISIS any longer.

Look, I have saying for a long time in the air, on the ground. Now, look, I served -- Tip got me actually on the Defense Committee. I served for 18 years. And I went in the Pentagon after 9/11. We have seen lots of -- I have seen lots of things, the whole gamut throughout my adult lifetime.


KASICH: We have to go in the air and on the ground. Some people say, well, we can get the Sunnis go in and take care of this. We will be waiting 100 years for that. They`re not going, but they will go with us. And I think we have a unique opportunity.

Look, let`s think about it quickly, the region. The Egyptians, they know that it`s a matter of time until they get taken down if something doesn`t happen. The Saudis, you know what is happening there. I mean, they`re actually in a war in Yemen against Iran indirectly. And then you have the Jordanians, who, every day, they wonder if the king is going to survive.

And then you have Gulf states, which is so Western. So, they`re ready. They`re ready to work with us. And then in Europe, we have never had Europe more prepared to do things.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they join the united force? Why doesn`t the Arab League get together?

KASICH: Well, because we have to show the leadership. They`re not going to do all this on their own.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. What do we do? What do you do?


KASICH: Don`t you remember when Saddam got kicked out of...


KASICH: And the Egyptian ambassador was in the Rose Garden saying, we`re committed to the West?

MATTHEWS: It`s still our troops got to fight.

KASICH: Well, we have to have our troops there.

MATTHEWS: No, they didn`t fight. We did.

KASICH: Some of them were there. They were absolutely there.

But, look, here`s the thing. If we`re not leading, they`re not..


KASICH: They`re not going to lead...


MATTHEWS: My question to you, if we get -- how do you have a limited war with ISIS? If we put guys and troops in the field, limited.

KASICH: A limited war, what does that mean?

MATTHEWS: How do you keep it limited?

OK, we put guys in the field and they pick up one of our guys and they say they`re going to behead him, how can the American people put up with that?

KASICH: Well, that`s why we got to go destroy ISIS.

MATTHEWS: No, but what would you do as president? What would you do if we had a guy over there about to be beheaded by ISIS? What would you do?

KASICH: What I would do is, I would be on the ground and in the air to destroy ISIS.

That`s what I would do. I don`t want to wait any longer on this.

MATTHEWS: They say we`re going to do it in three days, what are you going to do? They`re going to behead the guy, what do you do about it?

KASICH: That`s why we`re there. We`re there to destroy them.

MATTHEWS: OK, so just -- so we watch the clock and then we just watch the guy get beheaded?

KASICH: Come on, Chris. That`s such a...


MATTHEWS: It`s a terrible situation. And we will probably face it.

KASICH: Well, no, I mean, look, it`s war. It`s war.


KASICH: It`s war. They take hostages. This happens in war.

And the longer we wait, the bigger this problem is going to be. Can`t you see what is happening with those folks? There`s no negotiation with ISIS. I mean, these folks, they despise the way we live. Their trip to paradise is to destroy us. But it`s bizarre.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

I`m just asking, wouldn`t you feel -- wouldn`t you believe that, at some point, we are going to have to escalate the war against them, because we can`t them behead our guys?

KASICH: Escalate it? I want to go destroy them yesterday. What are we talking about here?


MATTHEWS: We`re talking about the difficulty of being president in 2017. That`s what I`m talking about.

KASICH: Look, I`m elected, let me tell you what I would do very quickly.

First of all, I would have a meeting with Putin and I would tell him, we are going to arm the Ukrainians. It`s going to happen. And if you come into Finland, Sweden, or any of our NATO allies, it`s an attack on us. We don`t want any trumped-up excuses about Russian-speaking people. Forget it.

And then with China now, who is a very provocative in those islands, I`ll tell you, we can`t tolerate that. Now, we don`t need to turn the Chinese into an enemy, but they have got to understand what the limits are. And the same with Putin.

I would gather the forces in NATO and the Arab countries, the Muslim Arabs who are with us. I would destroy ISIS. I would settle it down and then leave, leave it to them. I`m not a nation-builder either. I don`t believe in this spending American lives to try to convert them to become democrats. Are you kidding me?

And I have a history on all of this, Chris. And, look, we talk about Iraq. If there had not been weapons of mass destruction, there would have -- should have been no grounds on which we should have gone there, OK? We didn`t know, or was -- you know, we didn`t know.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have had the expert on from the CIA who told us that he never told the president that there were nuclear weapons there. That was something that Cheney made up. No evidence.

KASICH: Well, why did Colin Powell -- look, I don`t -- I`m just telling you...

MATTHEWS: He`s a good soldier.

KASICH: ... that a civil war between...


MATTHEWS: Ask him now if he`s glad what he did.

KASICH: Between Sunni, Shia and Kurds, you don`t get in the middle of that.


KASICH: And you know what? They`re going to redraw the map, the people in that region. If we stop ISIS, they`re going to redraw the lines.

MATTHEWS: I think so. I think Churchill...


MATTHEWS: ... the first one.

Let me ask you about this trouble. The president said yesterday, just to be up-to-date here, he said the world leaders are being troubled -- are troubled by hearing the Republican candidates and the way they`re talking about Muslims -- banning Muslims.


KASICH: He is not talking about me.

MATTHEWS: And about immigrants.

KASICH: He is not talking about me.

MATTHEWS: So you`re OK on this? You think -- just talk about it, because he says, I`m not just talking about Trump.

KASICH: OK. Then who is he talking about? He doesn`t want to get into a war of words with me. I mean, I have never had a war of words with him.

But you`re not talking about me. What have I said? I have said that, you know, we need everybody to work together. I have never said anything like that. So, I mean, if -- don`t just make statements like -- see, that`s the kind of thing that he doesn`t understand, the implications of just making statements like that. That`s not smart.

MATTHEWS: But it`s been hard for your party to challenge Trump on immigration, for example.

KASICH: I haven`t. I got into a war with him in, what, the third debate.

MATTHEWS: So you are for a path to legalization?

KASICH: Yes, of course you know I`m for a path to legalization. Finish the border.


MATTHEWS: OK. What does finish the border mean?

KASICH: It means guard the border, so people just can`t come walking in.

MATTHEWS: Would we have a wall?

KASICH: In some places, you will. In some places, you got technology.


MATTHEWS: Well, up next: John Kasich`s memory of his parents getting killed by a drunk driver. Wow.

Back in a minute.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

Apple`s CEO says the company opposes a judge`s order demanding it unlock an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino gunman.

And Pope Francis is celebrating mass is in the border city of Juarez, where thousands gathered to hear his messages on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico divide -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and my one-on-one with John Kasich. Here it is.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about you, John Kasich, not Kasich.

KASICH: No, Kasich, rhymes with basic.


MATTHEWS: It`s always like -- people still say Roosevelt, Roosevelt. Why didn`t Roosevelt just come on the radio one day and say it`s Roosevelt and get it over with?

KASICH: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the horror in your life, your parents.


MATTHEWS: How old were you when you lost them?

KASICH: Thirty-five.

Chris, the funny thing about it -- the funny -- the ironic thing...

MATTHEWS: Some drunk driver?

KASICH: Yes, a drunk driver.

They were at Burger King. You know why they went there? Second cup of coffee for free, because that`s the way my parents were.

MATTHEWS: Yes. My parents were like that too, saving coupons.

KASICH: Were hardworking, and everything -- to give everything to their kids.


KASICH: And they`re pulling out the...


MATTHEWS: Never had a steak in their life, never went to a nightclub. I know. My parents...



One time, I went to lunch or dinner -- yes, lunch with my mother and I order escargot.


KASICH: And she looked at me and said, what are you doing?

And then one time, I was with my dad in the mall and I went in and bought a paperback in the bookstore. I come out. He says, what`s in the package? I said, it`s a book. He said, Johnny, do you know what libraries are for?


KASICH: Take the book back. So, here`s the...


MATTHEWS: Same background.

KASICH: When I was a boy, my dad used to drive at night to pick my mother up. She worked downtown. My father carried mail in McKees Rocks. My mother actually worked in the post office in Pittsburgh.

So, he would drive there and pick her up late at night. And that road scared the crap out of me, you know? It was -- I thought it was dangerous and maybe they wouldn`t come home one night. So, isn`t it ironic that they lost their lives in an accident?

Chris, the only thing I can tell you is, I entered a black hole with a tiny little pinprick of light. And, you know, I think back on it, people have suffered a lot worse, you know, from the standpoint of children or whatever. But this was -- I was just completely devastated.

And, fortunately, people showed up, and I found my faith. I found a real relationship with the lord. And, you know, and I have worked on it for 29 years, still trying to get it right.

And then it gave me credibility with people. So now, when people have horrible things happen, I feel like I can go and either sit with them or talk with them.


KASICH: You know, I can only say to people who might watch this who have tragedies, you just got -- you have to realize that, at some point, the sun will come up and learn from it and grow from it.

And, I mean, it took me a long time, but now I`m whole. And I`m healed, and I am a better man for it. Is that unbelievable?

MATTHEWS: Where do you think your parents are?

KASICH: They`re in God`s space. And they either know what`s going on down here or they don`t, because they don`t need to. I mean, that`s what I think.


You were an altar boy.

KASICH: I was, started that in the fourth grade. And here`s the craziest thing.


MATTHEWS: How many years were you an altar boy?

KASICH: I was an altar boy until the ninth grade and then one noon, Guy Pirot (ph) -- Guy Pirot was the greatest commentator in the Catholic Church the world had ever seen -- he didn`t show up and the priest asked me to go down and take over the role. So, in the ninth grade, I went down and started leading the folks, first time I ever spoke on a microphone.

And I`ll tell you a funny story. I don`t know if I was maybe a junior or senior, but I never sang, because I was too sissified to sing when I`m doing this commentating kind of thing. So I announced the closing hymn and nobody is singing. The priest is coming off the altar, and I shouted at the organist, "Stop the organ. Do you know why do you people come to church? Do you that God" --

MATTHEWS: You did this?

KASICH: Yes, I did.

Do you know God loves singing? The priest is looking up to me, and said, OK, now turn to page 49 and sing the closing hymn, please. Go ahead.

So, they played the organ, the priest walks out, I`m walking out, a little old lady walks up to me, "You know, young man, I do love to sing the closing him, the next time, could you give me the right page?"

MATTHEWS: Wow. You sound like a Baptist out here.

KASICH: Well, look, here`s the thing, you don`t want to be -- I don`t want to be preacher.


KASICH: But when I tell people, and I mean it, when we`re all created special for a purpose, I want them to know that. I want them to know that I believe that they`re here to change the world, to bring about healing. I mean, I`m happy about it.

When people think of religion, all of a sudden, the thought bubble is "don`t do this, don`t do that, don`t do this." For me, I`ve got to get the dos for first, which is, you know --


KASICH: -- interviews like this. This is hard.

MATTHEWS: So, you -- speaking of a commentator, you were a commentator in church as an altar boy, you escalated to a higher level there of greatness. But then you became a commentator for FOX for about six or seven years.


MATTHEWS: How was being a FOX commentator different than being an altar boy?


KASICH: Here`s the thing. I`ve got to tell you a great story. I walked in one time and saw Roger Ailes who is a genius.


KASICH: I was there I guess nine years or whatever it was. I was hosting O`Reilly when I was still a congressman once. It was great.

So, I went in one time and I said, "You know, I`m not a sycophant for George Bush." He said, "I`m very well aware of that."

MATTHEWS: So, you got a lot of freedom of him. Nobody told you what to say.

KASICH: Nobody told me what to do, no.


KASICH: What do you think?

MATTHEWS: I know. I just want to get that --

KASICH: How far would that have gone?

MATTHEWS: I like Roger.

Anyway, let me ask you about Nixon. I think Nixon was a mixed bag. Obviously, he deserved what he got, but having to lead --

KASICH: Bad people around him I think played to the wrong instruments.

MATTHEWS: You were, how old when you met him?

KASICH: Eighteen.

MATTHEWS: And you met him because?



KASICH: Yes, I went to see the president at the university.

MATTHEWS: The Ohio State University.

KASICH: Yes, I was in the Ohio State, yes, my first quarter.

MATTHEWS: The Ohio State, yes.

KASICH: Yes. And I`m going to see the president and I started telling him some things I was worried or concerned about, and then I said, "What do you do in this job?" And he told me and he said, "Tomorrow, I`m going to see President Nixon." I said, "Well, I`d like to talk to you with you. I`d like to talk to him also." He said, "Well, you can`t go."

MATTHEWS: Where did you get this stuff to say to the president of the university, like Ohio State, I want to go to the White House?

KASICH: My mom and dad, blue collar. You know, Chris, you know this growing up -- look, the thing.

MATTHEWS: It`s kind of pushy.

KASICH: Yes. You know, I have been criticized in my life for being brusque, a brace save. You know, when you come from McKees Rocks, your dad is carrying mail in his back, you`ve got to fight your way to the top and things you believe in. It`s not self-aggrandizement but things you believe in.

So, I said to the president of the university, would you give Nixon a letter, and he said he would and I invited myself to the White House basically. Nixon wrote me back and invited me. And I called home and I said, "Mom, I`m going to need an airline ticket. The president of the United States like to have a meeting with me in the Oval Office."

MATTHEWS: Had you ever been on a plane before?

KASICH: No. And listen to this one. So, she`s yelling, "Honey, pick up the phone, something wrong with our kid." They didn`t know what was going on. And it was really remarkable.

MATTHEWS: How did Nixon strike you as a person? Did he seem a little awkward or were you OK with him?

KASICH: I can`t really remember in `70. But in 1987, I saw him again. He told me, study foreign policy and he said, is there anything you can do for you? And I said there is, you need to write a letter to my sister because my parents were killed by a drunk driver and she`s devastated.

And his reaction was so human. And it was like -- and he wrote a two-page letter to her. It was beautiful.


KASICH: Different side of him.

MATTHEWS: Yes. First of all, McKees Rocks --

KASICH: Rocks.

MATTHEWS: -- is that near McKees port?

KASICH: No, McKees Rocks, if you`re in McKees Rocks, you can see downtown Pittsburgh.

MATTHEWS: OK, because McKees Ports is where the first Kennedy Nixon debate happened in 1947.

KASICH: Not much happened in McKees Rocks.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask about you, because, you know, a lot of Democrats, a lot of progressive thinks the Republican Party is a party of the rich, and they`ll go by the -- who contributes to the big campaign, the Koch brothers, you know all this stuff, and they don`t like Citizens United. But every year, we have a close election in this country. It`s about 50/50, pretty much.


MATTHEWS: So, half of people vote Republican. I always said my Democratic friends, I say, you know what, if all the people are rich, that means half the country is rich and they aren`t. There`s such a group as cloth coat Republicans not mink coat Republicans. Nixon used to get their votes. Are you a cloth coat Republican?

KASICH: Yes, but I think I can get those --

MATTHEWS: Why -- how do you explain the fact that people -- listen, talk to the progressives now. Why does half the country vote Republicans if they`re not all rich? Fifty percent of the country isn`t rich.

KASICH: Well, I think, Chris, first of all, they`ll vote for Republicans who not only have a good head but a good heart. I think that`s why Reagan did so well. People thought he had a good heart and in terms -- and also, you know, sort of what he wanted to do with policy. I`m sort of the same way from where I came from.


KASICH: Things are pretty simple. They`re common sense. And look, my job is to stick up for people who have nobody to stick up for them. I mean, you come from McKees Rocks, where the wind blows the wrong way, and everybody is out of work. Those are the people in my head.

You know, we did really well in New Hampshire. You couldn`t believe the crowds, the volunteers. I`ve tried to figure it out and I can`t --

MATTHEWS: You came in second.


MATTHEWS: Sixteen percent.

KASICH: I mean, I beat everybody else. They spent millions of dollars against me.

You know what I think it is, is that for some reason, I`ve been in a position of where people think that if they`re connected to these efforts, that I`m involved with, that they can live life bigger than themselves.

I don`t consider myself to be any great guy. I`m just doing my thing. And it`s honest. It`s real. It`s idealistic. It`s hopeful.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, John Kasich on how to really fix Washington.

And coming up at the top of the hour, of course, our MSNBC town hall with Republican front runner Donald Trump. He`s the front-runner in South Carolina any way, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back from South Carolina. Here`s John Kasich on how he would fix Washington.


MATTHEWS: Nobody knows this, but every afternoon the healthier members of the Democratic and Republican members of the House play basketball.


MATTHEWS: It`s a pick-up game. I think it`s a three-quarter length court or something like that. I`ve never been in there in the gym.

KASICH: You`ve been in there.

MATTHEWS: No, I don`t want to go in because it`s for members only.

So, you were in there playing basketball and you played with Ron Dellums. Ron Dellums is a big, tall guy. He`s an African-American, very left, people`s republic of Berkeley, very proud of it, they have their own foreign policy, and yet you two guys were able to put together a deal to get rid of some of this gold plating in the military.


MATTHEWS: Tell me about --

KASICH: Do you want to know how it happened?

MATTHEWS: I want to know. Talk about Ron Dellums of the left --

KASICH: So here`s how it happens.

MATTHEWS: You`re much further right than him, that`s for sure.

KASICH: Yes, the president -- we`re friends to this day. The president invades Grenada. They break into Maurice Bishop safe and they find all these congressional papers and people -- we`re on this airplane. People were saying Dellums gave them all these papers, he`s a traitor to America.

So, I didn`t know Dellums. I walked up the aisle and I sat next to him. I said, "Mr. Dellums, can I ask you a question? Did you give these papers, these secret papers to Maurice Bishop in Grenada? Are you really like against America?"

And he looked at me and he laughed. He said, "Two ladies that were on my staff went to Grenada. They basically fell in love with this guy, Maurice Bishop, and they took those papers down there and, of course, I had nothing to do with it." I shook his hand and I said, "Good. I`m going to tell everybody else what you told me."

And for some reason that kind of bonded us and we moved forward. He and I couldn`t -- look, we disagree on 99 out of 100 issues, OK, but we`re buddies. I mean I flew out to his wedding and I`m not in California, I think I was the only Republican in San Francisco that night. There`s Barbara Boxer and there`s Willie Brown.

And, you know, I`ve always felt, Chris, that you can get along with people in the other party. You don`t have to hate them.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about getting things done, because before we started here today, you and I talked about what are the chances of really getting something done.


MATTHEWS: Now, I think numbers are great. One guy says 9, the other says 7, you get an 8, you compromise. Numbers are great. You do it when you buy a house, when you buy a car, you haggle, and somewhere you get the car bought.


MATTHEWS: It`s either a good car or a bad car, but it`s done and you move on. In politics, you can`t seem to do those basic deals, you know?

KASICH: I did. And I still do.

MATTHEWS: Tell me, how did you save money in the military with the B-2 or wherever else?

KASICH: Well, we -- I put a coalition together, and we were in this plane --

MATTHEWS: Cheney didn`t like that. Dick Cheney.

KASICH: No, no, no, no, he didn`t. There was -- the plane was going to cost over a billion dollars apiece and its job was to fly in the middle of the Soviet Union and not drop weapons in the middle of a nuclear war. I`m like what? OK, let`s not do that.

MATTHEWS: This was in the `80s.

KASICH: Yes, it was -- yes, it was in the `80s and the `90s.

So, who did I have in my coalition? I had Tom Ridge, I had John Sununu. I mean, I had conservatives, Judd Gregg --


MATTHEWS: That`s why Tom Ridge didn`t get to be a vice president with W.


MATTHEWS: That was it.

KASICH: And then there were the liberals that came in. Look what I did with Tim Penny.

Tim Penny was the guy --

MATTHEWS: From Minnesota.

KASICH: Yes. A penny cut in every dollar in Washington. I had my Republicans, he had his Democrats, we came together. If we had a majority that favored a penny cut, we enacted it and we went to the House floor. We were going to save like $100 billion and Republicans and Democrats both fought us and stopped us, four votes short, but it led to the balanced budget.

I sat down with the Clinton administration. I didn`t get everything that I wanted but I got a lot.


KASICH: I mean, look --

MATTHEWS: What was it like dealing with President Clinton on the budget issues? You did balance the budget. Newt Gingrich deserves a lot of that credit, but it got done. Was that just a good economy that produced a lot of revenue?

KASICH: No, no, look, it`s the formula. You reduce taxes, you balance the budget, because we cut capital gains taxes, you restrain spending and that unleashes economic growth.

The same thing I`ve done in Ohio, and that`s what I want to take back. I lost my train of thought because we talk so fast here.

MATTHEWS: No, just about how Reagan --


MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton was a deal maker.

KASICH: Yes, he was. And he had people around him that timed to get to a balanced budget but it took a government shutdown of which I was involved with because they were trying to phony up the numbers and make something up. And I said, the time has come to stop misleading the public. Now, I`m going to give you the --

MATTHEWS: Who had the phony numbers?

KASICH: Clinton, didn`t add up.


KASICH: Yes. I mean that`s why Domenici and I, you know, threw a fit and ended up shutting the government down. And then they came and saw me and said we want to open it up again. We want to get into negotiations. Will you do it? I said these are the ground rules, they said yes and we negotiated.

MATTHEWS: So, you know how to get things done. We`re going to take a break.

KASICH: Wait a minute, one thing, national security issue. The national security issue is when America can`t solve problems because then other countries wonder what`s happening over there.

MATTHEWS: OK. One problem -- I just got a statistic the other day that blew me away. Two-thirds of the Republicans in the Congress right now have only served under President Obama. They`re all brand new. They`re Tea Party guys a lot of them, women. They don`t know what a Republican party is except as an opposition party. That`s what they think it is because that`s all the experience -- how do you turn a Republican Party of opposition into something.

KASICH: It`s always been -- it`s always been an opposition party. They`re most comfortable being against than for, that`s what makes them conservatives.

But with the shock-and-awe strategy within the first 100 days a whole series of things -- the border, Social Security, balancing budget, cutting taxes, fixing regulations, all of a sudden you will get them inspired to do things and Paul Ryan, who was an aide when I was Budget Committee chairman, that`s where he cut his teeth on ideas with Kemp, you know? We can get them going. And we have to.

MATTHEWS: That stuff was great.

Thank you. Governor, thank you.

KASICH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Not Kasich.

Thank you for all the time.


MATTHEWS: I`ve known that guy for a third of a century and I think who comes across as who he is which is not always true with politicians. As I said, he just surged in our latest national poll.

And we`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

Tomorrow, I`m going to be in Las Vegas and joined by Senator Harry Reid. That`s going to be a hot one.

Up next, MSNBC`s town hall with Donald Trump hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.