Show: HARDBALL Date: August 1, 2016 Guest: Michael Caputo, Jay Newton-Small, Khizr Khan, Ghazala Khan, Dianne Feinstein
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: My guests tonight, Khizr and Ghazala -- Ghazala Khan.
And this is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
My special guests tonight are Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son gave his life in Iraq to save his fellow American soldiers. These two U.S. citizens have been the target this weekend of the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. They`re here to respond and to give their testimony on what America means to them, what the sacrifice of their son, a captain in the United States Army, means to those who loved him and cherish his memory.
With his wife by his side, last week Mr. Khan delivered a powerful speech on the final night of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. This is what he said directly that night to the Republican presidential nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF SLAIN WAR HERO: Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
K. KHAN: I will -- I will gladly lend you my copy! You have sacrificed nothing and no one!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While Trump later called Khan`s son a hero, he questioned Khan`s right to speak out against him, saying in a statement "Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, which is false" -- that`s Trump speaking -- "and say many other inaccurate things."
Well, Trump also questioned Ghazala`s silence during that convention address. Here he is again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: His wife -- if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn`t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ghazala Khan answered yesterday in "The Washington Post." Quote, "Without saying a thing, all the world, all America felt my pain. I`m a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart. Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifice. He doesn`t know what the word sacrifice means." That`s Ghazala writing there for "The Post."
I`m joined right now by Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Thank you for coming tonight.
GHAZALA KAHN, MOTHER OF SLAIN WAR HERO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I wanted to give people a sense of you and your family in coming to America as immigrants. I`ll say later on tonight, my grandmother and grandparents were immigrants and had three sons fighting in the U.S. Army and Navy and Air Corps.
Let me ask you about yours. When you first came to this country in 1980, what was it like to be -- to come in this country from Pakistan, where you grew up, and to become an American? What was that like, sir?
K. KHAN: It was literally same story. We shared the same story with the rest of the immigrants. Came empty-handed, we rented a $200 apartment, one-bedroom apartment with the family, and started life. But we were looking forward to the goodness of the country and the values. And it -- the reception that we received where Ghazala and I lived -- she made friends, next-door neighbors, loving, caring people.
MATTHEWS: And these were native Americans you made friends with, not immigrants.
G. KHAN: I think Americans. I didn`t have any Pakistani or Indian around me. They was both white American, my both neighbors.
MATTHEWS: What was it like about naturalization? Because I was lucky enough to be at one of those ceremonies. What do you remember of your naturalization?
K. KHAN: I just have such a -- such a soft place in my heart whenever I see United States flag. It means so much to me. And I can tell you the reason.
And whenever I see these ceremonies and the expressions of the people`s faces, it reminds me when we first came to this country with hope and with belief that we will make it, it will get better henceforth, we are at a place where things get better.
And with that hope in the ceremony, I was just beside myself that what is about to happen. I`m going to get the rights that no other country grants to its immigrants except this good nation.
MATTHEWS: Ghazala, do you remember all that?
G. KHAN: I do.
MATTHEWS: How about the Constitution? Because it`s such an issue now about learning. These are requirements to become a naturalized citizen.
G. KHAN: Yes. They had to ask me some questions. And I had read this. At that time, it`s 20, 25 years ago. And I had good answers for the...
MATTHEWS: Do you think you`re better than Trump at this? Do you think you know more than he does?
G. KHAN: Yes. Much better, I think. That`s why I clear (ph) it the first time and became citizen.
MATTHEWS: When you pulled out that Constitution the other night and said, Here, read it, basically, to Trump, did that remind you of the fact you had to learn it?
K. KHAN: Of course. Of course. Read it page to page. I -- that was not the plan, to pull out the Constitution.
MATTHEWS: You have it there?
K. KHAN: What I -- what I...
MATTHEWS: Where`d you get that, by the way?
K. KHAN: Well, look -- look at its condition.
MATTHEWS: It`s all marked up.
K. KHAN: It`s marked up because I read it. And this 14th Amendment, equal protection of law, is my favorite part of the Bill of Rights.
MATTHEWS: That means that your children...
K. KHAN: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: ... get all the rights of somebody who`s been here 20 generations.
K. KHAN: Exactly. And I did not realize up until I was in the cab to the convention that I had this in my pocket. We talked -- I was to say that when you read the Constitution, look for the word liberty and equal protection of law. So I`m putting my coat on, and I touched this, and here it is. So I said, If I pull it like this, it will be this. So I had to place it in this form so when I pull it, it comes like this. We practiced.
MATTHEWS: You`re like Justice Kennedy because Justice Kennedy, Anthony Kennedy, who Ronald Reagan appointed, is the swing vote, you know, and he uses the liberty clause and the equal protection clause for all of his recent big decisions.
Let me ask you about this because I`m always amazed because you have accents from your native country. And to have children who don`t -- what is that like to hear your kids running around the house with American accents?
G. KHAN: Well, I don`t feel any different because I don`t speak in English to them.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. But you hear...
G. KHAN: I hear back English, but I speak Urdu with my children.
MATTHEWS: And they now -- they`re bilingual?
G. KHAN: They will speak in English to me.
K. KHAN: But it is so heartening, Chris, to see our children moving forward. I look at them, look at their progress, look at what they have accomplished. No other place will grant them that freedom of choice, freedom of pursuing their dreams, and I bow my head looking at them and moving forward.
Now they have their children and all and they`re moving forward. That is what this entire society is all about. Nowhere in the history of mankind had been a country like United States of America.
MATTHEWS: I know. What was it like to see your son in uniform the first time, in military uniform?
G. KHAN: I was very proud of him. He looked so handsome!
MATTHEWS: Yes. How about you, sir?
K. KHAN: And after he -- after we pinned him his lieutenant bars after commissioning, we got the first salute from him, and it meant world to us, looking at our young son in the uniform of this beautiful, beautiful place where we had made home. And the pride in his eyes and happiness and joy on his face was just amazing. Amazing.
MATTHEWS: Did he know -- could you -- well, you never know what people (INAUDIBLE) Did he know the dangers?
K. KHAN: Yes, we talked about...
MATTHEWS: In going to Iraq.
K. KHAN: Before -- when he was deployed, he informed us, and we spoke over the phone.
G. KHAN: He came to visit us.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And we talked about the dangers, and he said, Look, I don`t think that far. My responsibility is to take care of the people that are in my charge. And I will do anything and everything to be safe myself, but I have this responsibility and I will continue to do that.
MATTHEWS: He took it to heart, didn`t he.
K. KHAN: He certainly did. Certainly.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump pushed back this morning, tweeting, "This story`s not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather radical Islamic terrorism and the U.S. Get smart."
Anyway, Trump also said yesterday that he had made sacrifices for his country. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think I made a lot of sacrifices. I worked very, very hard. I`ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I`ve done -- I`ve had -- I`ve had tremendous success. I think...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You think those are sacrifices?
TRUMP: Oh, sure, I think they`re sacrifices. I mean, I was very responsible, along with a group of people, for getting the Vietnam memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for. I raised and I have raised millions of dollars for the vets. I`m helping the vets a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of his sort of defense of his line of attack?
K. KHAN: It really explains -- you know, certain things cannot be defined. His answer defines it. Any decent American listening to that figures it out, what he`s saying, how he`s defining sacrifice.
If that is the definition of sacrifice -- this candidate is about -- is now a candidate of a major political party and close to become president of this country, commander-in-chief of this country. And that is the definition of sacrifice?
MATTHEWS: Here`s a question from Peggy Pollenberg (ph). She has submitted it on Twitter. "If you could write the script of his apology, what would you like him to say?"
K. KHAN: No apology needed. In certain -- the best apology would be that his supporter repudiate him, be away (ph) and pronounce their repudiation. We don`t need any apology from him. We are beyond those apologies. And we were promised several months ago that he will pivot in the right direction, he will change and he will not...
MATTHEWS: I know.
K. KHAN: ... do all that, but...
MATTHEWS: Do you want to hear anything more from him, Ghazala?
G. KHAN: No. No. I don`t want to hear anything from him, and I don`t want to say anything to him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about a larger question about being a member of the Islamic community here in the United States. What is your emotion when you turn on the TV or the car radio or you listen to Sirius radio or you watch this program or you read the paper, and you hear that there`s been an attack?
Is it different to be Islamic when you hear there`s an attack by someone claiming they`re doing it in the name of religion, whether it`s San Bernardino or it`s Nice or it`s Paris, or anywhere? What -- how does it strike you?
K. KHAN: The very first thought that comes to mind is, Oh, my God, there we go again. How can we stop this happening as Muslims? Because it comes directly to you. Your faith is involved.
So you wind up thinking, How could I participate in the stopping of this madness that is taking place? The first concern and the thought, that is that this cannot be my religion. These criminals are not part of my religion. They have hijacked -- these words are being manipulated. They call themselves Muslim terrorists, Islamic jihadists and all -- nothing to do with Islam.
In Peshawar, Pakistan, same people, same jihadis went in an elementary school and killed hundreds of small children. These are jihadists? These are Islamists? Not at all. We condemn them.
And so the second thought comes that, What is the solution? The solution is stricter check on people that are coming in.
K. KHAN: Second thought, second solution is that communities joining hands to deter this kind of thinking, this kind of part (ph) that is cooking in a person`s mind, a person is thinking of harming others and all, and making them part of the solution instead of building walls, throwing them out and blaming them and all that. That encourages alienation, encourages such destructive behavior, but making them part of the solution.
I`m not saying that we should just simply open the borders and let anybody come and everybody come. Not at all. We should have stricter policies, a stricter homeland security check. But the community that is here making that part of the solution, working jointly with them, would really take...
MATTHEWS: Do you think the religious people in the Islamic community or in this country -- and it`s a varied community, obviously, from Pakistan to Indonesia, everywhere, especially the Arab world even. Do you think there`s been an effort made to pacify people, to stop this -- this anger that reaches such a point that it leads to zealotry and then to terrorism? Has there been that?
K. KHAN: There had been at a smaller scale effort, is being made, has been made, but this is not what Islam is. Name of Islam is being hijacked. And to the extent that we would like to see or I would like to see an effort, that had been nonexistent. But in smaller scale at individual community levels, there are leaders that are trying to minimize...
MATTHEWS: What do you think when you -- or feel when you see us attack Iraq or go into Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden, or we go attack with bombs Libya? We`re bombing Syria now -- all Islamic countries. What do you feel as an Islamic man?
K. KHAN: As a Muslim American, not just as Islamic man -- as a Muslim American, I feel that these policies are not in the interest of United States of America, and we see the result of it. We are more vulnerable now. We have created a chaos and -- for ourselves.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know you`re speaking to the choir.
K. KHAN: I wish -- I wish this country would have listened to Chris Matthews when he was talking, when he was preaching, we could have saved ourselves from this quagmire.
MATTHEWS: I didn`t think Iraq made any sense, and I think you agree.
What do you think about Trump -- and it first struck me that he was -- I don`t know what the word is, out of bounds, to use an old American expression, when he went after the president and said he was born in some other country, that he was not a legitimate president. He didn`t belong on the list of presidents. He was born secretly in Indonesia or Kenya or somewhere that his mother, his white mother, snuck over there, had him over there, gave him the name Hussein Obama, married a man from Kenya, all this so that she could say he was born in Hawaii. It`s a crazy story!
Why would a guy like Trump, who`s not crazy -- maybe he`s not. Why would he spread that story? And he`s stuck with it. He`s never taken it back.
K. KHAN: Well, it is...
MATTHEWS: Our first African-American president.
K. KHAN: Sure. It`s disappointing. And since then, look at the rhetoric since then on various subjects, various topics, various issues. Same thinking continues. Same thinking continues, craziness, total void of empathy, total void of moral compass.
Candidate for the stewardship of this country had to have caliber (ph), had to have understanding, capacity to accept criticism and capacity to understand those who follow him, those who do not follow him, because if he becomes president, he`s president of all, not just the group that follows him. Therefore, a capacity of accepting, receiving criticism, is...
MATTHEWS: What`s your worst fear if he becomes president?
K. KHAN: I say this really, really clearly. This country will be in such a constitutional crisis. For example, he said, I will throw out 11 million people. So what is he going to do, go to Congress and pass the law? Congress is going to pass the law? No!
So what is second option? Second option is issue an executive order. Who implements executive orders? So he signs it, sends it to the Department of Justice. Would the Secret Service start to go or the Marshal will go to door to door and start to throw people? There are courts watching this happening. There are court challenges. Supreme Court is watching. Courts of appeal are watching.
K. KHAN: They`re going to put a stop to it. Where would we be? This country will be in such a constitutional crisis. That is just one example of the policy that he has -- he has said.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to have you here a little more, a few more minutes. We`ve got more of your questions coming in from the public out there for Khizr and Ghazala Khan. They`re staying with us to answer your questions. We`re taking them, in fact, right now. Unusual for us to do that, but we wanted to be interactive tonight.
And later -- Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump`s comments about this family, but so far not his candidacy. Can that start to change?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Many Republicans have spoken out against Trump for his comments about the Khan family over the last 48 hours. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said in a statement, "As far as I`m concerned, they have the standing to say whatever they want in the political process and should not face criticism for it."
Former Governor Jeb Bush tweeted: "This is so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country."
Senator Lindsey Graham said: "There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics that you don`t do, like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier, even if they criticize you."
And House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke out against Trump`s proposed Muslim ban before saying: "Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan should always be honored, period."
Back with Khizr and Ghazala right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As commander in chief, I`m pretty tired of some folks trash-talking America`s military and troops.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Our Gold Star families have made a sacrifice that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. They represent the very best of our country. They continue to inspire us every day, every moment. They serve as a powerful reminder of the true strength of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s President Obama.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, our president speaking today about Gold Star families at a convention of disabled veterans down in Atlanta. It comes after Donald Trump spoke out this weekend against the Khan family, whose son was killed in Iraq while serving this country in 2004.
Well, just moments ago, Trump`s running mate, Mike Pence, was confronted in a town hall meeting by a mother of a veteran over Trump`s comments about the Khan family. Let`s listen to the vice presidential nominee here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: military. How do you tolerate this disrespect?
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I thank you for the question.
All right, folks, that`s what -- that`s what freedom looks like and that`s what freedom sounds like, OK?
PENCE: Let me just say first I want to honor your son`s service to the country and your family`s service.
PENCE: Obviously, I know this has been much in the news of late, the last few days.
But, as I said last night, as Donald Trump said, Captain Khan is an American hero, and we honor him and honor his family.
PENCE: The story of Captain Khan is an incredibly inspiring story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s breaking away from his running mate a bit there.
We`re back with Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
And we have been monitoring Twitter and Facebook for some questions from our audience.
Here comes a question from Greg Hurley on Twitter, who asks: "If Trump becomes president and bans Muslims, do you think Muslim service members should refuse to serve?"
K. KHAN: That says it all. That says it all.
It requires no -- this indicates the lack of thoughtfulness on this candidate`s part. All of his statements, he`s going to do this, he`s going to do this, the economic policies, the security policies, lack of tolerance, lack of thoughtfulness.
MATTHEWS: This comes from Dannell Boatman, who wants me to ask: "Did they expect Trump to react to their speech?"
Did you expect Trump to come back at you the way he did?
K. KHAN: Not at all.
MATTHEWS: Did you, Ghazala?
G. KHAN: Not at all. I did not even think that he might say anything. I don`t -- president -- he`s candidate for our presidency. He won`t even pay attention to us. That`s what I thought. But...
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s another question from Tammy Patterson: "How do Mr. and Mrs. Khan`s other sons feel about Trump`s responses to their parents?"
How is your family taking this? You are in the spotlight, whether you like it or not, now.
K. KHAN: Before I accepted to speak, I spoke with Ghazala.
She`s my editor, my strength, 42 years together. And I spoke to my family, and we said, should we do this? Yes, we should do it. Will there be some negative criticism? Maybe. So, I got their support and got their strength. And so other children, they don`t want any part of this. They have their private lives.
MATTHEWS: Yes. They don`t like the exposure.
K. KHAN: They are -- they don`t want this exposure. They are telling us to stop all this and come back home, rest. Every now and then, if there`s a question, answer it, and let it be.
This would not be a political discourse, or we would be sitting here and talking and all that, had it not been these thoughtless comments made by a candidate for presidency.
I am just amazed at the level of thinking, lack of empathy. This Gold Star mother is standing there full of grief and cannot speak and open her mouth, and this candidate has to take a cheap shot.
That is what made me say things that I have said. I didn`t want to say what was the rest of my speech, but disrespect has limits. This good nation, thoughtful, patriotic people, place the Gold Star mothers at the highest pedestal, because they give all to the safety and security of this country. And this thoughtless, this compass-less, this empathy-less candidate takes a shot at -- to pander for some votes, to create more hatred?
MATTHEWS: So that`s to the heart of it. I would like to ask this question, because I have been following politics since I was a kid.
Do you think Trump believes all this stuff that he says? Do you think he believes that Barack Obama was secretly born by an American white woman over in Kenya so that she could pretend he was born in Hawaii, all this jabberwole (ph) he comes out with?
Do you think he believes you can have a religious test in a country that your Constitution, my Constitution says you can never have? Did he ever think he could oppose -- impose that at the airports and the ports? Did he ever think of that? Does he ever think they`re going to build a wall and the Mexicans are going to pay for it?
Does he believe any of this, or is it all what you say is pandering?
K. KHAN: It is pandering.
That is the sad part. And the sadder part is that some good-hearted, sincere, genuine, pure-hearted, patriotic Americans are falling in his trap. He`s a snake oil salesman. He -- they are falling in his trap.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me say something on behalf of the approximately million people watching right now. Thank you for your service.
G. KHAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We can`t thank you for this last full measure, as Lincoln called it. And thank you for coming on this program.
K. KHAN: And it means a lot. And the love and the support that we have received, we have not been able to walk three steps...
MATTHEWS: I hear it everywhere. You will hear it in time. It`s everywhere.
MATTHEWS: It`s everywhere. This country is a better country than Donald Trump.
K. KHAN: It is.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Khizr. And thank you, Ghazala Khan. Thank you for coming here.
And coming up on this program tonight on HARDBALL, reaction to this conversation that comes from a top senator who says Trump is unfit to be commander in chief. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is going to be with us next.
Plus, Trump is also getting criticized for his comments about Russia and the Ukraine. He doesn`t seem to have a handle on what`s going on over there. Big surprise.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We just heard from Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan reacting to the latest criticism from Donald Trump.
Joining me right now is United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California.
Senator Feinstein, did you get to hear what we just went through here with the Khan family?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I did.
MATTHEWS: What`s your reaction?
FEINSTEIN: Well, my reaction is, they are so real and they are so poignant.
And they are really -- excuse me -- it brings a lump to my throat, what America is all about. The way they use the words, what words they use, their stories, you know right away this isn`t made up, this isn`t a political speech. They are really speaking from the heart.
And their heart is what beats in America the strongest. No question about that.
MATTHEWS: When you live a life in politics, one thing I think you learn is when you`re up against something that`s bigger than you and you stop talking. What makes Trump keep talking? Why is he picking this fight, of all -- what`s it say about his nature that he would want to fight with them, a Gold Star family?
I don`t get it. And I think he`s a mixed bag, but I don`t get this one at all.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don`t either, candidly.
But I think there`s unpredictability in him. And I think that`s what bothers me the most, that he really can`t take a jibe, he can`t take a criticism. He has to respond, and he has to attack back.
And the attack has to be worse, essentially, than what he interpreted was said about him. I think that`s a very bad trait for a president. And I think the fact that he hasn`t been able to curb it, to stop it, to change, to be more reserved, to use language that is different than the crudeness that he expresses it with is really, really a problem.
MATTHEWS: What strikes me is that he has a brand, which is, he`s pushing nationalism, sort of the spirit that broke the Brexit thing, us against the world.
And yet he takes on a family that`s fought for this country, that sacrificed a son for this country. He`s trashing them in a sense, when that`s what his -- it`s part of his brand. And now he goes over to Russia and he`s got Putin, asking Putin and the defense industry over there, the defense intelligence people, to pull Watergate against Hillary.
He`s supposed to be the nationalist, and yet he`s going outside the United States and coming back and hitting us from Russia. It just seems, he doesn`t know his own brand anymore, is my thought.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I have begun to think he doesn`t know what he`s doing. He doesn`t know the impact of what he`s saying.
I think what he wants to do is create an audience. And he`s been very successful in creating an audience, and, you know, whether it was FOX or CNN, and any criticism that they might levy...
MATTHEWS: He`s been on here, too. You can spread it around. He`s here, too.
FEINSTEIN: ... is a problem. Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. You`re the foreign policy -- you know so many things, but let me ask you about foreign policy.
He came out one day and he said that Russia hadn`t -- isn`t going to invade Ukraine. And, of course, they have already grabbed Crimea. And then the next day, he said, well, they`re not going to do it or something like that.
He doesn`t seem to have a consistent fact in his head about what`s going on in Central Asia.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that`s right.
I think there`s no question about Russian aggression. I think that aggression is still in the Ukraine. There`s still military. There`s still black military. I mean, I think we all know that this was Russia. There`s no question about it. And the intelligence certainly shows that.
So, if Russia is going to be an aggressive power, that`s a real problem for Europe. And that`s what this is really all about. And Russia has a huge territory. Enough is enough. And Ukraine wants to be separate. It wants to be closer to Europe, and there really is nothing wrong with that. A nation`s destiny should be its own.
MATTHEWS: I hope you run for reelection, Senator. I`m rooting for you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. I have got a while yet. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know. You have got a while to think about it.
FEINSTEIN: OK. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, joining me now is former Trump adviser Michael Caputo.
Michael, that same question about Mr. Trump`s desire to take on any challenge. Why would he take on this? Why wouldn`t he just pass on this and say, OK, this fellow and his wife spoke at the Democratic Convention, they made some good patriotic points, I`m not going to go after that?
Why did he choose to get engaged in this dispute with people that are unassailable?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: You noticed after Michelle Obama`s speech, the entire Trump campaign went silent. Some of the things she said, you would have thought Donald Trump would have responded, but they didn`t.
And when, of all things, a midday -- or, I mean, late-in-the-day speech by Gold Star parents drew him out for criticism, you see, the problem I have is that Gold Star parents are more off-limits than the first lady is.
I would rather have seen him criticize Michelle Obama`s words than the Gold Star parents. But, frankly, I`m going to have to tell you, I don`t see what Donald Trump said as something that`s aggressive or taking on or some of the very active verbs that are being used by the media. I think, unfortunately, he should have taken a pass entirely.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s try this one on you.
Michael -- Michael, you know this world of politics as well as I do and how words matter. Saying that the mother in this case, Ghazala, couldn`t talk, because what was -- like some sort of conspiracy, whoa, she`s not allowed to talk.
Well, why would he go after her, when she -- she is obviously emotionally, you know, unable to get out and start talking about this as well as somebody might in sort of a non-attached political debate? She is so attached to this. And the fact that she chose not to speak at that point, why would he go after her and then say, somehow, there`s some sort of conspiracy about why she didn`t talk?
What was that about? Why would he do that?
CAPUTO: Well, I understand -- I understand what you`re saying. MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. But he must have.
CAPUTO: And I get that people trying -- trying to put that out there as some kind of a critique.
I think he was trying -- was stumbling and trying to find something to say about her. I`ll tell you what. I know Donald Trump. And as an infantry veteran, 25th Infantry, I could tell you...
MATTHEWS: I know, sir. And thank you for your service. I appreciate that. I do.
CAPUTO: But -- you know, I want to see Gold Star parents treated with respect, because what happens if I were killed in battle?
We -- all veterans want to see the Gold Star parents, because it could have been our parents.
But I don`t think he was attacking them. And, listen, I`ll tell you what. I do think this is -- has become a campaign tactic by the Clinton campaign, a very successful one.
CAPUTO: Who would have thought that the Khans` speech would have been the -- we would have been talking about it a week later after the convention?
This is a remarkably well-executed campaign tactic by the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign needs to pivot away from this.
MATTHEWS: You know, that may be the case, I don`t know, I don`t know about what goes on in headquarters of these conventions or these political meetings, but I do think both sides used the events as they develop and I think when there`s a terrorist attack, Trump is quite exploitative of that. I understand that, and nobody is going to hold that against him either. So, this is about a reality, a party reality or --
MATTHEWS: Muslim Americans fight and die for the country, that`s a fact. Now, it`s on the table and Trump has got to recognize it and stop trashing Muslims per se. That`s what he`s been doing.
He`s saying, because of your religion, we are keeping you out of the country. Not because of any connection to terrorism. We are keeping you out because of what you believe religiously. And that has now been exposed and I think it`s good for the country to get that in their heads and hearts. Michael, I think that hurt --
CAPUTO: Here`s the thing. Here`s the thing, Chris. The Khans` son didn`t die because of immigration policy. He died at the hands of radical Islamic terrorism and that`s what the topic is here.
CAPUTO: And the problem, I think that exploiting Gold Star parents is just as bad as confronting Gold Star parents. And we are walking a very, very fine line on both campaigns.
MATTHEWS: Just a minute. Just a minute. Mr. Khizr Khan wrote an article about what happened with his son, he brought the story out to the public. I agree, I would always be suspicious of this if I were what you`re doing.
But I think in this case, he`s the one that came forward.
Anyway, Michael Caputo, please come back again. You make good points.
CAPUTO: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, it`s a question we have asked before, but is this the final straw? You know, what`s the final straw mean with Donald Trump? Will voters give him a pass again or forget about it, move on to something else?
We`ve got new polling that shows Hillary Clinton did get a big lead, a big -- we call it a bump, out of the Democratic Convention. You can feel it in Philly. It felt good there. It felt like the Democrats were getting their act together, although her speech wasn`t the best speech and that`s always been the case at Democratic conventions. I think the best speech was probably Mr. Khan`s.
Anyway, the HARDBALL roundtable will be here next. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump`s attack on the Khan family has created yet another crisis for the Republican nominee. Unlike last comments, this confrontation seems to raise serious questions about Donald Trump`s temperament.
Anyway, Trump`s about to take the stage at the campaign rally up in Pennsylvania. And tonight, new polling shows Hillary Clinton getting a sizeable bump out of the Democratic convention.
Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, Clinton leads Trump by nine, that`s national. It`s Clinton 52, Trump 43. Last week, he held a three point lead. It was Trump ahead by three. So, it`s a 12-point shift there.
Similar story from a new CBS national poll where Clinton`s lead is now seven. It`s Clinton 46 percent, Trump down at 39 percent. The race had been tied at 42 percent after the Republican convention.
Well, joining me for tonight`s roundtable, Robert Costa, national political reporter at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, Jay Newton-Small, Washington correspondent for "Time Magazine", and Howard Fineman, of course, global editorial director for "The Huffington Post".
Howard, I keep waiting for Trump to sort of implode on certain issues. He`s a nationalist, and then he goes and asks Putin to intervene or the Soviet, what it is, the Russian defense intelligence operation to intervene in the American political election by going after Hillary Clinton`s e-mail. And then he goes and trashes a Gold Star family.
That`s not comporting with nationalism. Nationalism is gross patriotism. Why is he doing these things?
HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: As a matter of fact, the Khan family tonight on your show was the utter expression literally of American exceptionalism.
MATTHEWS: This is the place you can --
FINEMAN: You heard Mr. Khan saying there`s no country on earth like this country.
So ironically, Donald Trump has handed the flag of American exceptionalism to the Democrats if they can take it.
FINEMAN: Khizr Khan took it.
And the other thing is, that he said, Mr. Khan said, yes, there needs to be tighter border checks. Yes, we need to have the imams telling the kids to cool it. Yes, we need to be careful about intervention.
He gave actually the modulated, shrewd version of what Trump has done in excess. That`s what was so amazing about it. He put himself out of the mainstream.
MATTHEWS: People in this country, most of us grew up with grandparents or parents who spoke with an accent.
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: Uh-huh. My parents did.
MATTHEWS: And become an -- my grandmother talked like Mrs. Doubtfire. We all know what an Indian or Pakistani accent sound like.
But the kids talk American accent. They are Americans. They`re American as anybody else. And that`s the exceptionalist part, because that doesn`t happen in other countries. Not like here. And that`s the great strength.
NEWTON-SMALL: It`s the melting pot.
MATTHEWS: So, we are bragging about America and Trump`s left as a critic. He blew it on that point, an important point.
NEWTON-SMALL: It`s a nationalism, it`s a me-ism. That hits right into Hillary`s criticism of it. It`s always I, I, I, me, me, me, not we, we, we, because for Trump, it`s what`s good for Trump. Not necessarily what`s good for the nation if you are looking at it in this case, right? So it`s not exceptional for Trump but it`s exceptional for the nation.
MATTHEWS: You are really good at covering the innards of this campaign.
MATTHEWS: Who inside the campaign comes up to him and says like a Dutch uncle, Donald, pull back on this, baby, you are in a hole, stop digging. The more you are seen as an enemy of this family, the more votes you are going to lose, two people in the suburbs who really want to be nice to people who want to be Americans.
All I want for somebody to be American is I want them to be American. That`s my standard. Do they want to be an American? Yes, if they want to be an American, you`re in.
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I just got off the phone a couple of hours with Rudy Giuliani, former New York --
MATTHEWS: What`s he saying about this?
COSTA: Close friend to Donald Trump. His advice to Trump, to the campaign, ignore the Khans, move on to a different subject.
MATTHEWS: Did he tell them that?
COSTA: I said, Giuliani, have you spoken directly to Trump. He wouldn`t really give a straight answer in that. He said he`s been in touch with the campaign this weekend.
But it`s people like Giuliani, like the investor Tom Barrack, not so much the advisers and the family. It`s the older people of Trump`s generation, people who don`t work for the campaign, who he`s talking to. And I think the most telling thing you saw tonight was Trump did not engage again with the Khans. He did a lot of different attacks but not the Khans.
NEWTON-SMALL: He went to the reps like he always does. He blames fire marshals for not letting people in, he blames the media for being unfair, he blames debate preparers for picking the wrong dates.
MATTHEWS: I was talking about Pittsburgh Billy Khan. That`s who I was talking about is what he should have said.
FINEMAN: We always thought as the grandson of immigrants, we thought he was Jewish. No. He was Irish. We loved him anyway.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re waiting right now for Donald Trump to take the stage in the campaign rally if Pennsylvania, a state he needs to win to have a chance for the presidency. He needs Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, all big tough ones. Anyway, Hillary Clinton campaigned in Omaha, Nebraska, that`s red country, alongside billionaire investor Warren Buffett who challenged Trump to release his tax returns.
Nebraska`s a red state, as I said. It`s one of only two states that splits its electoral votes by congressional district. Anyway, the Clinton campaign hopes to pick off the single electoral vote. It`s always the big city, right? This liberal, the state`s largest city just as Barack Obama did back in 2008.
And we`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable to find out something I don`t know.
Robert, you first.
COSTA: Trump campaign trying to pivot towards the general election. I expect Trump is going to do some policy speeches in the coming days, focused on economics
NEWTON-SMALL: Hillary`s people told me she stayed up until to 2:00 a.m., the night before her speech in the convention, and actually paid off. A big Gallup poll showed there was net 17 points. People loved her speech.
MATTHEWS: Why does staying up to 2:00 help?
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, she was polishing it, finishing it, changing it with her speechwriter.
MATTHEWS: Did she purposely make it non-lyrical?
NEWTON-SMALL: That`s a good question. I don`t know the answer to that.
FINEMAN: There`s not a speech that Hillary hasn`t stayed up until 2:00 in the morning for.
Every Republican senator who`s in a contested race has criticized Donald Trump over this topic.
MATTHEWS: On this thing?
FINEMAN: Every single one of them. None of them has repudiated voting for the idea of supporting Trump except Mark Kirk of Illinois and he did it weeks ago. So, they`re still trying to have it both ways. Mr. Khan is trying --
MATTHEWS: In or out, buddy.
FINEMAN: You can`t do it.
MATTHEWS: In or out.
FINEMAN: Yes, right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa. Thank you, Jay Newton-Small, and, of course, Howard Fineman.
When we return, let me finish the Khans, who joined us and I get a thought about what they said tonight.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the Khans who joined us here tonight.
Let`s imagine, if we can, the feelings this family has been through, the pride of having a son serving as a United States Army officer, the horror of losing him in battle, the pain of that enduring loss, the endlessness of it. I remember growing up and seeing those three pictures on the wall, they were the sons of my immigrant grandparents, one in the army air corps, the other in the United States Army in Europe, a tank commander, the other my father in his naval uniform.
Well, today, an immigrant family like that is at the center of the American presidential discussion. Should a group of people who include those like the Khan family who have given to their country what Abraham Lincoln called their last full measure of devotion be banned from entering this country? Should an entire religion be stopped at the airport and publicly suspected by those in high position for the crimes of the terrorists?
I said last week that Donald Trump has done something unprecedented. He`s forced this country and both political parties to confront their own beliefs, to consider their commitment to the country`s founding principles in a way they haven`t, certainly not in my memory.
There`s only good to be gotten from the Khan family`s willingness to endure this debate. There`s only good beyond measure in their patriotic commitment to a country they love.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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