Show: HARDBALL Date: August 8, 2016 Guest: April Ryan, Sahil Kapur, Dana Loesch, Tom Delay, Jared Bernstein, Peter Navarro
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is Donald Trump out of the ditch and back to the pitch?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Can Donald Trump get back on game? After a week of increasingly scary poll numbers, the Republican nominee went on offense today with a serious speech on economics and a frontal attack on Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Our party has chosen to make new history by selecting a nominee from the outside, and that`s outside of the very, very already proven rigged system.
The other party has reached backwards into the past to choose a nominee from yesterday who offers only the rhetoric of yesterday and the policies of yesterday. There will be no change under Hillary Clinton, only four more years of weakness and President Obama. But we are going to look boldly into the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Trump`s speech was interrupted more than a dozen times by protesters. And one protester shouted -- and this is ridiculous -- "tiny hands" while he was escorted out of the auditorium. So there`s still humor out there.
Unfortunately for Trump, the bad news continued into this week with a brand-new poll today that shows him losing by double digits to Hillary Clinton. Look at this one -- 13 points he`s down among likely voters. That`s the one that matters, that number, 13 points in the latest Monmouth University poll. Clinton gets 50 percent, which is enough to win. Trump is at 37. He`s falling into the 30s. That`s a 5-point jump for Clinton from last month, while Trump is down 6.
And in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, which in this case is the keystone to any Trump potential, the one he needs to win, a new poll shows Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania with a very healthy lead. She`s up by 10, 47 to 37. Looks like she`s in good shape in Pennsylvania right now, and it`s August.
Meanwhile, turmoil continued within the ranks of the Republican Party. The director of communications for the Republican Party of Florida announced he was quitting today. Fifty Republican national security heavyweights signed an open letter today challenging their party`s nominee. They wrote Trump, quote, "would be the most reckless president in American history."
And a new candidate emerged from the "never Trump" crowd. Evan McMullin -- there he is -- who served as the chief policy director for House Republicans, announced his bid today. But let`s face it, his road is a tough one. The deadline to get on the ballot has already passed in most of the states, 26 of them.
Robert Costa is national political director (sic) for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. And by the way, Eugene Robinson is right here with me. He`s a columnist for "The Post` and also an MSNBC political analyst. And Dana Loesch is a talk show radio host and author of "Flyover Nation," which is a fascinating idea, by the way, right now.
Let me go to Robert first on the road. What is Trump up to? Has he really got his boots pulled up now? Is he ready to go? Is he on the road to a serious campaign, now on?
ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Today`s speech was certainly an overture to a certain wing of the Republican Party, the supply-siders, the ideological conservatives, those like Paul Ryan, the House speaker here in Wisconsin, who have been reluctant to embrace Trump fully. With Trump`s speech, he was saying to them, On tax cuts, on the normal things, on economics that you`re usually for, I`m with you.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the discipline he showed? Did he show discipline? I see he`s got teleprompter windows there, or plates, whatever you call them. There they are. You can see them on both sides of him. Is he reading that speech?
COSTA: He was reading the speech. It was very similar to Donald Trump`s convention speech both in terms of delivery and the kind of populist economic message he was pushing.
This is something party leaders were looking for. They`ve looked at Donald Trump`s campaign over the last 9 or 10 days and they`ve wondered, Can he get back on track, not only because of the sliding polls but because of the temperament, the way he`s coming across to voters.
This was a test. Generally, party leaders today looked at this speech, and they`ve told me that they like what they heard, they just wonder, Can he stay on message?
MATTHEWS: Dana, let me ask about this whole question. There`s two great opportunities for Trump. One is only 32 percent of the country, according to our poll with "The Wall Street Journal," that says this country is headed the right direction. And political commentators going back to Jack Germond have always said, Look at that number. It`ll tell you how an election`s going to go. If people aren`t happy, they`ll go with somebody new. They`ll get rid of the person they know already.
The second thing is this general dissatisfaction with the country -- it`s out there. You don`t have to measure it. It`s there. Has he been able today to get back on that track, to exploit the anger against Hillary, the anger at the way things are going?
DANA LOESCH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think that today, Chris, was a very good first step. If he can stay on point like this and really hammer home how exactly he`s different from Hillary Clinton, what exactly he`s going to do in order to improve jobs, improve wages, improve just the economy in general, I think that he stands a very good chance of getting in a good fighting position and making up some of this lost ground between him and Hillary Clinton.
I think the RCP average had her 7 points ahead of him. He can make up some of that ground, but he can`t get distracted by all of these non-essential fights on the sidelines. His fight should be with the Democrat presidential nominee, not anybody else.
MATTHEWS: Good point. Gene, here`s the thing. When you talk to people, like my friends at home and relatives, they`ve very disappointed with Trump. They`re not going to vote for him, they say right now, some of them say right now. But then they -- I say, Well, how about Hillary? No! No!
So is that what Trump`s playing on? He can hit bottom, but bottom is that point where people say below that number, you got all the Hillary haters.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, if we were having this conversation a year ago, a year-and-a-half ago, we would have said the likely Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton, and that presents an opening for the Republican Party.
ROBINSON: Right. So that opening was there and was going to be there. But the problem is that Donald Trump has been working to disqualify himself as president and commander-in-chief, and especially since the two conventions. That week, that was a disastrous week for him. So you know, the headlines tomorrow, Man gives speech without melting down. That`s, you know...
MATTHEWS: ... going after Hillary -- is there a point beyond which you cannot win? In other words, does Hillary have a ceiling because people hate her?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, I...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) 60. Can she get beyond 50-some percent, low 50s (INAUDIBLE)
ROBINSON: Well, but if her ceiling is low, 50 is fine if his is low 40s. And that`s -- I think he has kind of lowered his ceiling.
ROBINSON: And I think, you know, once you disqualify yourself, if that`s what you do...
MATTHEWS: I know.
ROBINSON: ... it`s hard to get back.
MATTHEWS: I know. I`m wondering...
MATTHEWS: I`m wondering, in his position, if you can put yourself in his head, if you wish to, in his head -- he`s thinking, I`m plummeting right now. I got -- I need to ratchet. I got to stop this elevator from falling. And one way to stop it from falling is say Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. And -- you know, what`s he`s-- she`s evil, she`s the devil.
ROBINSON: She`s the devil. She`s -- you know, I mean, he`s called her just about everything. And the attacks I think will intensify...
ROBINSON: ... because of, you know, the two things he can do is he can -- he can double down, I think, not so much on the economic stuff...
ROBINSON: ... but on the two issues that got him here, which were immigration and free trade. And I think he can double down on that stuff and he can continue attacking Clinton. I think that`s what he`s going to do. But again, the question is, Has he disqualified himself?
MATTHEWS: Yes. What do you think of that? Does he see it the way Gene`s been analyzing it here, which is he has disqualified himself, but he`s not going to quit the race, so he`s going to have to -- the way I think he protects himself against falling continually is say at some point, the hatred of Hillary by the conservatives and the right of center people, is going to be enough to keep me from freefall. Is that what he`s doing right now? Because a lot of it today was against her.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Robert. Robert. Go ahead.
COSTA: What you`re seeing from Donald Trump is someone who doesn`t see the summer season as particularly crucial to his campaign. When you talk to people close to Trump, they say he wants to bring down Hillary`s favorability rating. And he also wants to try to right his campaign before the debates in September because those are the real showcases for the swing voters, whether it`s your family, Chris, in Pennsylvania or other places across the country. Those debates are what`s going to be the question we have.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
COSTA: Does Trump have the ability to be president? Can he have a message, though, going into those debates? That`s what something like this speech is all about.
MATTHEWS: Well, again, to your point, Gene, about unfitness -- here it is. As I said earlier, a group of 50 high-ranking Republican national security officials warned about the prospect of a Trump presidency in a letter just released today.
They wrote, quote, "We are convinced that he would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country`s national security and well-being. Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be president. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless president in American history." That`s the end of that.
Anyway, Trump responded today in a statement. He said, "The names on this letter are the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place."
Dana, your thoughts.
LOESCH: I think, actually, that`s a pretty good comeback for Trump because there are a number of different ways that he could have gone that are very Trumpian.
I think really focusing back on what really discredited Hillary Clinton with a lot of independents and a lot of moderate Democrats, there are genuine concerns about how she would perform with regards to foreign policy. And it`s smart for a candidate to focus on that, and that`s what he needs to continue to do, bring up what was actually going on in Libya, bring up relations with Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood and backing a dictatorship in Honduras.
I mean, there`s quite a record there that he can really focus on. And if he wants to have a shot at this -- and like I said, if he wants to close the gap, Chris, that is what he has to do.
MATTHEWS: You`re offering this as sort of like the subjunctive, with a lot of "ifs" thrown in there. Do you think he`s doing it? Do you think he`s back on the rails?
LOESCH: I think it`s too soon to say that. The statement was a good sign, but I kind of need more than just one example. I need three in order to say...
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s a question...
LOESCH: ... with confidence that there`s a pattern.
MATTHEWS: Suppose you got a firing squad of six guys shooting at you, metaphorically, and you say, I`m just going to...
LOESCH: I don`t deal with metaphorically! I deal with facts!
MATTHEWS: OK, I`m just going to focus on one of those guys with a rifle. No, you can`t do that. And that`s why Trump has so many people firing at him. He`s got 50 foreign policy experts attacking him. You know, he`s got all these Republican congressmen we`re going to talk about in the next segments who are saying, I`m not going to vote for the guy.
ROBINSON: Well, here`s the problem. We are talking about this election as if it were a referendum on Donald Trump, which it has become. That`s not good for him.
ROBINSON: It`s simply not good for him. He wants to make it a referendum on Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: And the way things are.
ROBINSON: And we`re talking about whether Donald Trump can two days in a row act like a normal, sane candidate. And we don`t know yet. We don`t know the answer to that question.
MATTHEWS: My concern is, as a commentator, is that -- Hillary wins, great, but the bad part of that is people will then say all the concerns the Trump race were illegitimate. And I think to a lot of American people, they are quite legitimate and they should be addressed.
Anyway, Robert Costa, Eugene Robinson -- did somebody want to say something? Robert, I heard you there.
COSTA: Chris, I think that`s the key question here, this lingering populism. Even if Trump loses, it remains here. I`m here in Wisconsin because the speaker has a primary tomorrow in Wisconsin, where people are just spoiling for a fight. And you see this across the country. They may not win, but they have anger about trade and the economy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that needs to be addressed. I think the establishment shouldn`t end this campaign fat and happy. Anyway, Gene Robinson, I don`t think they will.
MATTHEWS: ... thank you, and Robert Costa.
Tonight at 11:00 Eastern, by the way, join me for a special live edition of HARDBALL tonight. We`re going live tonight at 11:00 with the latest poll numbers on the president, plus all the reaction and analysis of what Trump`s doing today. Lots happening hour by hour. We`re going to catch it late tonight. We`re going to talk to Speaker Paul Ryan`s primary opponent, by the way, give that guy a little attention tonight, the guy running against him. Tomorrow, that`s the primary in Wisconsin.
Anyway, coming up -- the list of Republican House members who say they simply can`t support Donald Trump, and it`s getting longer, this list. And up next, former House majority leader Mr. Tom Delay, "The Hammer," is going to be here to tell us why he`s still on the fence about Mr. Trump.
Plus, Trump delivered a major economic speech today. (INAUDIBLE) while he tried to lay out his vision for the economy, he spent plenty of time blasting President Obama, who did, actually, if you think about it, pull this country out of its worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Didn`t he? Look at the numbers.
And listen to the language Donald Trump has been using against Hillary Clinton lately. He`s called her unfit, deranged -- that was on the cue card -- and lacking the temperament to do the job. He`s using the very language, the exact same words against Clinton that his critics, including her, have been saying about him, but he`s now disciplined in doing it.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the Trump conundrum, this failure of a presidential campaign to be anything more than an everyday assault on something the Republican candidate for president just said.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, earlier, we showed you that Clinton -- Hillary Clinton`s up 10 points over Trump in Pennsylvania. That`s very important. And how about that Senate race up in Pennsylvania?
Let`s go to the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
Democratic challenger Katie McGinty is leading Republican incumbent Pat Toomey, but it`s a 2-point race -- 2 points -- McGinty at 42, Toomey at 40, putting that race within the margin of error, certainly. That`s going to be a very hard to call race from now to November.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After a tough week last week, Donald Trump`s trying to turn the page today. But as he looks to make a comeback -- that`s the right word, "comeback -- he needs one -- Republicans continue to break from their party`s nominee.
Just over the past weekend, this weekend, U.S. Congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia announced he`ll vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, whom we had on the show on Friday. He`s the latest Republican congressman to say he won`t vote for Trump. He joins a growing list of House members, including, as of today, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of -- who`s Cuban-American down in Florida, a very conservative woman, too -- interesting -- Richard Hanna of New York, who`s retiring, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, represents Lehigh, the key part of Pennsylvania, Adam Kinzinger and Bob Dold of Illinois.
The list of Republican senators who so far say they`re not voting for Trump include, of course, Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska -- he`s the new kid on the block -- Mark Kirk, worried about his re-election in Illinois, Jeff Flake, who`s one of the stars of the future out in Arizona, and Dean Heller of Nevada. All of them off Trump.
Joining me right now is former Republican congressman and House majority leader Tom Delay, who hasn`t aged a day since the last time I saw him. There he is. Hi, Tom. Hi, Tom. How`re you doing? Anyway, he`s also the author of...
TOM DELAY (R-TX), FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Hi, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... "Revival, Revolution and Rebirth: A Radical Call From the Former Majority Leader of the United States."
Mr. Delay, tell us about Trump and how he fits into where your Republican Party was headed when you left it, when you stopped being a leader? What`s going on in your party?
DELAY: Well, unfortunately, the party is split apart mainly, and I think this has been said by you and so many others, is the type of leadership that we`ve had in the House and the Senate over the last few years has greatly exasperated a great number of people in the party. And they`ll take anybody that will shake up or throw a bomb right in the middle of Washington, D.C., and we`re seeing the results of that.
The party is split. People are all over the place. As far as I`m concerned. The constitutional conservatives are in disarray. They don`t know what to do. It`s -- it`s -- it`s pretty dismal.
MATTHEWS: Where would you place Trump in philosophy?
DELAY: Well, he`s not a conservative. That`s for sure. He`s becoming more and more conservative. His speech today was a pretty good speech. I don`t agree with him on trade. He`s wrong about NAFTA. But it was a pretty good speech, a good, solid Republican speech that I appreciate.
And then he had to throw a few things in there like day care and other things that are unconstitutional. But you know, I thought it was -- I thought it was pretty good, and I think a lot of people will be -- will breathe a sigh of relief to hear him give this kind of speech. He needs to do more of this all the way through the rest of the election.
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s for lower tax, top tax rate, obviously, wants to get it down to 33 percent. He wants corporate down to 15. They`re all understandable conservative goals, supply-side goals.
What didn`t you like about his...
MATTHEWS: ... plan to take a -- give you a tax deduction, for people who pay taxes, of course. You don`t get a tax deduction if you don`t have any tax payments.
You can get a tax deduction for what he called the average child care expense, so you can`t go hire some Ph.D. to take care of your kid and charge the whole amount, obviously.
MATTHEWS: But he`s saying you can get a full deduction. You said that`s unconstitutional.
We have been wanting, at least for the last four years, in the election of `12 and -- and `14, is people have been calling for a flat tax or -- or a consumption tax and get rid of this progressivism in our taxes.
He said himself that he`s -- he`s -- anybody that makes under a certain amount of money won`t pay any taxes.
Everybody needs to be paying taxes. And -- and -- and this going from seven rates to four rates, that`s just playing games, and, frankly, it`s playing Democrat games.
Cutting taxes is very, very important. Trying to figure out how we can stimulate growth is very important, and I -- I think he`s getting there.
But, for instance, he never said anything about spending. Spending is so out of control. You can`t cut all these taxes and not cut spending, too.
MATTHEWS: I heard it. He doesn`t want to touch entitlements, like Social Security and stuff like that.
What do you think, on a political basis? Can you read the House anymore in terms of numbers? You need 218 to rule. I haven`t heard anybody say, your party is going to lose the House.
Is that a smart bet, that the House is there for the Republicans no matter what Trump does?
DELAY: Well, I think -- I -- I think the House is in very good shape.
The members are not running on the presidential election. I think this is going to be a rare election where you have members of the House, at least in their districts, will poll more vote -- votes than the president will.
I think a lot of these Senate races will pull more vote -- will pull more votes than the president will. I think -- I think the vote for president is going to be really soft and -- and low and Hillary and -- and -- and Trump are going to have to work very hard just to get out their vote.
And, right now, Hillary has an up on that because she has an organization, and Trump doesn`t. So -- so all these members and these senators are running their own races, which they ought to be doing.
DELAY: And they ought to be talking about what they would do when they go into Congress. Regardless of who`s going to be president, it`s going to take good solid constitutional conservatives to stand up to either Trump or Hillary.
MATTHEWS: What about the ethnic thing?
You know, back when I was growing up -- well, when I first started paying attention to politics in about the `60s, the black vote was about 2-1 Democrat. About a third of the African-Americans voted Republican.
You had people, like famous people, Lionel Hampton, and, of course, Jackie Robinson, they were all Republicans, and a bunch more famous people, Wilt Chamberlain. But there were a lot of famous, well-known people in sports and entertainment and all that we knew were Republican.
And then, because of what happened in the `60s and Johnson and the civil rights bill, it went to about 90-10 African-American vote for Democrats over Republicans.
And now, when I look at these numbers, I just saw a poll recently -- it`s out there now -- that shows, in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Donald Trump is getting zero black votes. I mean, it`s almost unimaginable there are not some conservative African-American guys and women out there. Zero.
What`s that doing to your party, in terms of getting a -- a fair shake in the -- in the black community?
DELAY: Well, we`ve never really done very well over the last few years...
MATTHEWS: But zero?
DELAY: Zero -- zero is -- is pretty bad. But that`s the result of a very active primary where some members, including Donald Trump, didn`t watch what they were saying...
DELAY: ... or -- or projected the fact that they didn`t care.
DELAY: I mean, how many times did Donald Trump say -- say, I don`t care if the conservatives vote for me?
DELAY: Hopefully, that can be turned around a little bit between now and the general election. But this is going to be -- as you know, Chris, this is -- this is going to be a referendum on Hillary or Trump.
Right now, the referendum is on Trump, which hurts him. But I -- I think Trump is...
MATTHEWS: I agree.
DELAY: ... is going to be -- because Hillary is so flawed, you can turn that around pretty quickly.
MATTHEWS: I know all about that, Mr. DeLay. One last question.
When are the number of Hispanic voters in Texas, who are legal voters, going to make that state purple and no longer red, and maybe even blue? When is that going to happen, the way you look at the demographics?
DELAY: In Texas? In Texas?
DELAY: Not. The Hispanics are -- a lot of Hispanics are Republican in Texas...
DELAY: ... particularly the small business owners...
MATTHEWS: You don`t see that state turning and becoming...
DELAY: ... the...
MATTHEWS: You don`t see the state of Texas getting to be competitive?
DELAY: No, not at all, not for a while.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, all my...
DELAY: It would take a lot.
MATTHEWS: ... progressive friends are hoping it moves faster than you think.
Anyway, Tom DeLay, thank you for coming on.
I appreciate it.
DELAY: My pleasure, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, you gave me the scoop when you quit. I`ll never forget. I like scoops. I love scoops.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next: Donald Trump says he`s the candidate best positioned to fix the economy, but what exactly needs fixing? If it ain`t broken, what do you want to fix? Well, what is it -- Well, there`s things that are clearly broken, by the voters` perspective. They are not happy with the way this country`s going.
The turnaround we have seen the last eight years, that debate is coming up next.
And a reminder: Join me for a special edition of HARDBALL tonight at 11:00 Eastern. We`re going to have a whole new show at 11:00.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
Delta`s CEO has apologized to travelers after an outage forced the airline to cancel more than 400 flights. Many others were delayed. The company is working to resume regular service.
Hundreds of firefighters are battling the so-called Pilot Fire burning in California`s San Bernardino Mountains. The blaze has destroyed 4,500 acres and is only 5 percent contained.
And President Obama spent the first Monday of his two-week vacation golfing with basketball star Steph Curry on Martha`s Vineyard -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don`t win anymore, but when I am president, we will start winning again, big league.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: There will be no change under Hillary Clinton, only four more years of weakness and President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republican nominee Donald Trump, there he is delivering a major economic speech in Detroit today, calling for massive tax cuts, in fact, the top income rate of just 33 percent, rather than the 25 percent he had been proposing, a 15 percent, 15 percent top corporate rate, reducing the number of tax brackets from seven down to three, fully tax-deductible child care, a repeal, of course, of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, and, of course, a renegotiation of all trade deals.
Trump also criticized what he calls the Obama/Clinton economic policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Their policies produced 1.2 percent growth, the weakest so-called recovery since the Great Depression. It`s been written about all over. It`s a disaster.
And a doubling of the national debt during the Obama years. There are now 94.3 million Americans outside of the labor force. Homeownership is at its lowest rate in 51 years. Nearly 12 million people have been added to the food stamp, and these people are growing, and it`s growing so rapidly since President Obama took office.
We have the lowest labor force participation rates in four decades. One in five American households do not have a single member in the labor force, not a single member of the household. These are the real unemployment numbers. The 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, what Trump didn`t talk about was to give President Obama, who has a 53 percent job approval rating right now, credit for the economic recovery since he took office.
Under the Obama administration`s policies, the 2008 recession came to an end, the president pushed through a stimulus package to rejuvenate the economy, bailed out the American auto industry -- it`s still there -- pushed through health care reform, tax cuts, Wall Street reform and negotiated the largest trade deal in history.
And since President Obama took office, 10 million jobs have been added, 10 million. Job openings are at a 15-year high right now. The unemployment rate is down from 7.8 percent in January of 2009 to 4.9 percent today. And there are 15 million fewer uninsured health care people.
Anyway, Peter Navarro is a Trump economic adviser, and Jared Bernstein is a former economic adviser for Vice President Joe Biden.
Thank you so much, Peter.
Let me ask you, Peter, about this debt. Now, sometimes, Democrats talk about the debt, but usually it`s Republicans talking about the debt. And here`s a Republican presidential nominee who is talking about how he`s going to reduce the debt, he`s going to stop all these deficits with a huge program of tax cuts, reducing the top corporate rate down to 15 percent, the top individual rate down to 33 percent, all -- a big tax deduction for child care, good things, but no spending cuts, which means, by definition, even though, even with dynamic score keeping and all that babble, this guy is going to increase the national debt.
First thing he is going to do is increase the national debt, after campaigning against it. Your thoughts on that topic?
PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: OK. Let`s see if we can put this in perspective.
MATTHEWS: No, just talk about that. Before you put it in perspective, let`s talk about the debt, the debt.
NAVARRO: Yes. Yes. Yes.
No, the benchmark is -- no, and we`re going to talk about the debt. The benchmark is...
NAVARRO: ... is President Obama in 2008, $10 trillion in debt. He is going to leave with $20 trillion of debt.
So, how do you on attack Trump on that? So, here`s what you`re missing here, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Attacking Trump? Trump has been campaigning on reducing the national debt.
NAVARRO: This was a great day for Donald Trump, because this plan...
MATTHEWS: OK. You do have every time. Peter, this is an interview program. And I ask some questions, and you answer them. That`s how it works here.
NAVARRO: I`m trying to answer the question.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry...
MATTHEWS: OK. This is an interview.
MATTHEWS: My question is, how is he going to reduce the debt if he`s cutting revenue?
NAVARRO: By doubling the GDP growth rate -- by doubling the GDP growth rate...
MATTHEWS: Oh, doubling it.
NAVARRO: ... by regulatory policy, energy policy, tax policy and tariff policy.
That`s what everybody`s missing here. You can`t just look at -- you can`t cherry-pick the tax program, and not look at the whole Trump plan.
MATTHEWS: OK. Great.
NAVARRO: If he`s able to double the GDP growth rate back to its historical average of 3.5 percent...
NAVARRO: It`s been 1.8 for 15 years of bad trade deals -- we will have all the tax revenues we need to more than offset any tax cuts.
JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Chris...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to -- let me go to Peter for a second here.
You want to respond to that? Because here`s the question. They are talking about cutting the corporate rate, the individual rate, giving tax deductions for child care, all that good liberal stuff. It used to be good liberal stuff. Now it`s conservative supply-side.
But here`s the problem, and then raising tariffs.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. So, look...
MATTHEWS: And the cost of goods all go up across the country.
BERNSTEIN: If you could eat ice cream sundaes all week and never gain a pound, then supply-side economics would work.
When their -- their initial plan lost $10 trillion in revenue over 10 years. That was scored by the Tax Policy Center, nonpartisan group. So, they went back to the drawing board and said, that`s too much on the debt and the deficit, so they recalibrated. And now they`re -- they haven`t said how much, but probably something in the neighborhood of maybe $3 trillion they are going to lose because they lowered that.
But it may actually be a lot worse than that. And you are exactly right to focus in on this inconsistency between the idea of massively cutting taxes, a corporate rate that goes down by more than half -- there`s something called a pass-through rate here that`s going to be a huge incentive for everyone to pass their income through their personal side. That`s going to be a big revenue loser.
And Donald Trump says he`s going to hold Social Security constant, he`s going to hold Medicare constant, he`s going to add to defense spending. Once you`re losing this much revenue, you can`t possibly do that without doing one of two things. You either raise the deficit and the debt, or you have to cut a whole lot of spending or...
MATTHEWS: Peter, my question to you is, once -- Peter -- I mean, Jared makes a point here.
If Trump was confident of his economic nostrum here, of his plan for lower tax rates, just three of them, the three -- the three rates, why did he raise them? If he thought lower tax rates meant more revenue -- I mean, more GDP growth, why did he raise the rates?
NAVARRO: Because in terms of the deal that`s got to go through Congress, that makes sense.
But let`s look at the synergies. Why do you want to cut the corporate tax rate? It`s not to enrich the corporations. It`s to make sure that they are not pushed to Mexico because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
NAVARRO: This is what you guys are missing. You just want to do this Robin Hood kind of thing, where just look at taxes.
MATTHEWS: No, no, he`s doing the Robin Hood.
MATTHEWS: He`s doing the Robin Hood.
Let me ask you -- OK.
MATTHEWS: In `86, we lowered the top rate down to just about 28 percent, and Reagan...
NAVARRO: We grow another GDP point, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know you`re setting all these goals out here, but they don`t mean anything yet.
BERNSTEIN: Believe me, if supply-side -- hold on, Peter. Hold on, Peter.
NAVARRO: This is not supply-side, Jared. This is not supply.
BERNSTEIN: Yes, it is.
NAVARRO: This is not supply-side.
BERNSTEIN: When you talk about...
BERNSTEIN: Listen, when you talk about...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to basics, where most people watching are going to pay attention to this.
The economy, according to the American people, we are heading in the wrong direction. Let`s face it -- 32 percent of the country says we are headed the wrong direction.
MATTHEWS: Is that a problem for Hillary? If the country is happy with the current economic policies, why are more than two-thirds of people against the way things are headed?
BERNSTEIN: I actually think that when the people -- when people look at the alternatives in terms of the economic plans that you are hearing, the choice becomes...
MATTHEWS: No, but think of what is happening right now.
Why do two-thirds of the American people-plus say we`re going the wrong direction? Why are they saying we are heading the wrong direction?
BERNSTEIN: Because the growth in the economy is not reaching them the way it should.
And that`s something both campaigns happen to agree on. The problem -- and this is very much in the context of what we are talking about -- the Trump campaign looked at this problem that the GDP growth isn`t reaching the middle class the way it should and they said, that`s why we have to enrich our corporations and enrich the wealthy and eliminate the -- eliminate the estate tax, eliminate the estate tax, and cut the top rate from 40 percent to 33 percent.
MATTHEWS: He`s going to eliminate the estate tax?
BERNSTEIN: He`s going to eliminate the estate tax. He`s going to eliminate the estate tax, which affects 0.2 percent of estates.
MATTHEWS: Why is he doing that, Peter?
NAVARRO: Look, here`s the issue.
MATTHEWS: Peter, why is he getting rid of the estate tax?
NAVARRO: Jared and Clinton want to do the standard Keynesian stimulus, right?
NAVARRO: We know where that has taken us.
We have doubled our national debt. We have got a crazy balance sheet at the Federal Reserve with all this easy money. We have gone eight years and we have got the weakest recovery since World War II.
MATTHEWS: I know. OK.
NAVARRO: Obama could -- got a free pass for the first year or two in office. He`s been in there eight years.
Trump is attacking this economy from a structural point of view through comprehensive tax reform, trade reform, regulatory reform and energy reform. He wants to leverage on all the strengths of our economy. This economy, energy economy alone, we are blessed, and Hillary Clinton wants to put coal mining out of business. She said so.
MATTHEWS: I know, Jared.
Jared, I got to end with a thought, which is, you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat. The Republicans who are voting against Obama are doing...
NAVARRO: Reagan Democrats, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, all Republicans. Anybody with wealth in this country is doing incredibly well. The stock market is up to 18500. It was down around 6000-something.
MATTHEWS: Obama tripled it, tripled the wealth of people with money in the market in the last eight years, tripled it.
MATTHEWS: No Republican has ever done that. And why do they want to change that policy? Explain that, Peter. Why don`t they like what he`s given them?
BERNSTEIN: The one sector that`s actually been really profitable is the corporate sector.
NAVARRO: Because the American people in this country are taking it in the shorts because of bad trade policies.
BERNSTEIN: The one sector that`s been deeply profitable is the corporate sector.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, all I know is that...
BERNSTEIN: And so they want to make...
NAVARRO: All our jobs are going from Detroit to Mexico.
BERNSTEIN: I`m sorry. I don`t mean to talk over...
The problem with this -- that plan is, why do Republicans think that the best way to get people who are rich to do more, work harder, is to give them tax breaks, and the best way to get working people to work hard is to cut their programs?
It`s a weird thing -- punish the poor, reward the rich. It just seems very inconsistent.
By the way, this program is all about tax cuts for the rich. Look at this stuff.
NAVARRO: No, it`s not. That`s what you`re missing. It`s all about reducing the trade deficit, the Trump trade doctrine.
MATTHEWS: Top corporate rate, 15 percent.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. All right.
BERNSTEIN: There`s not one thing in this plan that reduces the trade deficit. There is not one thing in this plan that reduces the trade deficit. All it is tax cuts for rich people. I`m sorry. I have to talk over him because he won`t let anybody get a word in. We have tried this a million times and it never works.
MATTHEWS: -- Jared, we will continue with this and I will clarify later.
Coming up, tough talk. There`s nothing new for Donald Trump to use harsh words for his critics. Now it seems a lot of the language he`s choosing comes from Hillary Clinton`s own campaign language and her allies. The roundtable is coming here next with that.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Unstable Hillary.
She`s really pretty close to unhinged. She`s like an unbalanced person.
She`s a dangerous liar and you saw that with the FBI director.
Honestly, I don`t think she`s all there.
He made a deal with the devil. She`s the devil. He made a deal with the devil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can he get worse?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump hasn`t been shy in his attacks against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, but it`s getting worse as he just co-opted some of her language being used against him. Watch him. He`s throwing it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn`t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.
TRUMP: She lacks the judgment, temperament and moral character, moral character, to lead this country.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton furthermore can never be trusted with national security.
CLINTON: There is no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump is unqualified to be president and unfit to be commander in chief.
TRUMP: Hillary`s central role in making Iran the dominant Islamic power that they are today in the Middle East proves that she is totally unfit to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me in tonight`s roundtable is Howard Fineman, MSNBC political analyst and global editorial director for "The Huffington Post", and April Ryan is Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, and Sahil Kapur is national political reporter for "Bloomberg".
You know, I think we should call this the playpen for politics. I mean, that is distressing. But there you have Trump using Hillary`s ammo, throwing back the live grenades.
SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: To your point, there is a little bit of an "I know you are but what am I" quality to the way Trump is dealing with this. But I`m not sure what he`s going for, because he`s not going to win an election if the topic is temperament and qualifications. Let me give you some of the numbers --
MATTHEWS: How about if it`s Hillary hatred?
KAPUR: Well, if he can get her on trust, if he can talk about status quo, coziness with Wall Street, being secretive, things that people -- concerns people have about her. But on temperament, a Monmouth poll out today said that 61 percent of Americans believe Clinton has the right temperament to be president, 27 percent said that about Trump.
Qualifications, "The Washington Post" poll yesterday, 60 percent said she`s qualify to be president, 38 percent said that about him. He`s not going to win if this is the topic of debate.
MATTHEWS: April, it looks like he thinks that he stops his freefall by hitting her hard because everybody has to say they don`t like Trump one week, then has to confront my option is Hillary so attack her.
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: You know, I mean, we all covered the RNC convention and all it seemed to be about --
MATTHEWS: Some of us enjoyed it more or less than others.
RYAN: Yes. Yes. You enjoyed it? OK.
Here`s the bottom line: it felt like the platform was nothing but -- anything but Hillary. Anything but Hillary. And where was -- where was the policy? Where was the initiatives, what I`m going to do in the first hundred days?
MATTHEWS: That`s not what`s going on here.
RYAN: I know, and that`s the problem. You cannot build a foundation on that. It`s about high school back and forth or grade school pulling my hair. It is ugly and it`s vile. It`s ugly.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: He`s got to begin somewhere. It reminds me, my analogy would be to Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knight keeps getting chopped up into pieces and saying it`s a mere flesh wound. That`s Donald Trump at this point. He`s been chopped to pieces.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s simply a binary choice. Nobody is thinking -- most people aren`t thinking about Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. They are thinking these two -- one guy, one woman and they are saying you don`t like me, how about her? You don`t like me, how about her?
FINEMAN: The reason he`s doing that is a very good one. You cited a bunch of statistics. The other statistics are that Hillary Clinton is still not particularly well-liked or trusted.
RYAN: That`s true.
FINEMAN: And if he can get leverage on her and get the conversation about her, instead of about him --
RYAN: That`s true.
MATTHEWS: He wants a second look.
KAPUR: -- fractured at the highest levels, a lot of them don`t like Trump and they`re not satisfied with him. The one thing they can unite around is they don`t want her. They divided not only on things like temperament and things like tone. They are divided on major policy issues like immigration, like trade.
MATTHEWS: What`s the Hillary minimum?
KAPUR: I`m sorry?
MATTHEWS: How many people will vote just against Hillary? Thirty-three percent? Thirty-two percent?
KAPUR: I don`t know --
MATTHEWS: What can you get just running --
FINEMAN: But the problem is for Trump, is that he is now doing what he should have been done with many weeks ago which is trying to gather his base.
FINEMAN: The base, those polls are showing that white voters are fleeing Donald Trump in huge numbers right now. He doesn`t even have a base. He doesn`t even have his base together.
MATTHEWS: But the basic reason is the fact they don`t like Hillary. That`s what --
FINEMAN: That`s the only way to get them together.
RYAN: This is a deflection off of a fact that he has no ground, no policy, and he`s let the genie out of the bottle and --
MATTHEWS: Well, he has a policy.
RYAN: What`s the policy?
MATTHEWS: I don`t like trade, I don`t like immigration, I don`t like stupid wars. He`s got a policy.
RYAN: Yes, his daughter talks about helping women. That`s what his daughter saying --
MATTHEWS: We are not stupid. They`re for him for their reasons.
KAPUR: The Monmouth poll Trump says he has not gained a single point with Republicans. This is the base he needs to consolidate --
RYAN: He`s not telling us all his policies.
MATTHEWS: OK. The roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next, these people tell me something I don`t know.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
And join us at 11:00 tonight. We`re going to have a special live edition of HARDBALL tonight. It will probably be wilder, with the latest on Trump`s hopes for a comeback such as they are in this wild race for 2016. That`s 11:00 p.m. tonight Eastern, right here on MSNBC, the place for politics.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
And we`re starting with Sahil. Tell me something I don`t know.
KAPUR: The most important number to watch for is the share of the white vote in this election because Trump is not going to do well with minorities. He is at 43 to 52 percent right now with the whites, according to the two latest polls. Mitt Romney got 59 percent in 2012 and lost. Trump has a very steep hill to climb.
RYAN: The Democrats are looking for a new Southern strategy. They`re in hopes of gaining -- they think they can win Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, all by not dealing with the issue of guns right now, because they feel everyone in the South likes guns, what-have-you, and they --
MATTHEWS: Yes, good point. I like that. They`re going to cool it on the guns in Louisiana.
FINEMAN: OK, there`s a minor third party --
MATTHEWS: The gun rights (INAUDIBLE) are.
FINEMAN: There`s a minor third party anti-Trump candidate who announced his interest today in Utah. Don`t totally dismiss him because the filing deadlines are still open in Utah, Colorado, and New Hampshire. Three states where if he can take a view votes away from Donald Trump, he can stop it.
MATTHEWS: No one is big in Utah.
Anyway, Howard Fineman, April Ryan, Sahil Kapur.
After this, we`ll be right back. I`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a Trump conundrum. This failure of a presidential campaign to be anything more than an everyday assault on something the Republican candidate for president just said. The problem with it is that it`s not getting us anywhere. What we need out of every presidential election is a debate, one of consequence to all of us.
Today, less than a third of people in this country believe we are headed in the right direction. What about the rest of the country? Are they wrong? Are they stupid, ignorant, ungrateful? Are they unaware of the glory these times deserve?
Well, this is what this election should be about -- it should be about changing what needs do be changed, a re-charting of the country`s economic course. And that is precisely what we`re not talking about because we`re talking so much about the malapropisms of the Republican candidate, the gaffes which become the conversation pieces of daily coverage.
I`m not saying they don`t deserve it. And certainly anything to do with nuclear weapons needs our attention, but they are crowding us out of getting to where this country is headed. Don`t you think we should look at what these trade deals have done to us, what part they`re played in our plank in the hollowing out of our manufacturing, the death of so many industrial jobs? Don`t you think we should take a hard look at these wars in the Middle East, the Bushes have taken us into and left us there? Don`t you think we should take up the question of why this country lacks a working immigration policy? Why it`s really about cheap labor and the lack of any real enforcement against illegal hiring?
All this is getting lost in the daily chase after the latest Trump buffoonery. All this could be lost after election should the country decide to reject Trump as unfit without ever really taking to heart the bad direction of the economy in a culture which rewards an educated elite but punishes those as a Clinton once said, his name was Bill, work hard -- people who work hard and play by the rules.
What I fear most is the smugness of those who watch Trump lose and act as if his complaints about this country`s direction lack merit, because they merit our attention, and action very much.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us. Join us again, 11:00 Eastern tonight, for a special live edition of HARDBALL.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END