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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript, 8/11/2016

Guests: Molly Ball, John Feehery, Matt Schlapp, James Carville, Radhika Jones, William Kennedy Smith

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 11, 2016 Guest: Molly Ball, John Feehery, Matt Schlapp, James Carville, Radhika Jones, William Kennedy Smith

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Trump slump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And another day, another Trump controversy. Last night, the Republican nominee made this claim about President Obama at a rally in Florida.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He`s the founder of ISIS, OK? He`s the founder!


TRUMP: He founded ISIS! And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton -- co-founder!



MATTHEWS: Well, the Clinton campaign itself responded earlier today. In a statement, Clinton`s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan wrote, "This is another example of Donald Trump trash-talking the United States. What`s remarkable about Trump`s comments is that, once again, he`s echoing the talking points of Putin and our adversaries to attack American leaders and American interests while failing to offer any serious plans to confront terrorism or make this country more secure."

Well, the Associated Press, which is known for its objectivity, called Trump`s claims patently false. ISIS was formed as the local al Qaeda franchise in Iraq after the invasion. Its founding preceded this president`s tenure, as well as Hillary Clinton`s time as secretary of state.

Nevertheless, Trump doubled down again today.


TRUMP: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They`re the founders.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Do you think it`s appropriate to call the sitting president of the United States the founder of a terrorist organization that wants to kill Americans?

TRUMP: He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely. The way he removed our troops...

HEWITT: I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace...

TRUMP: No, I meant he`s the founder of ISIS. I do. He is the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way.

HEWITT: But he`s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He`s trying to kill them.

TRUMP: He was the founder. The way he got out of Iraq was -- that was the founding of ISIS.

HEWITT: By using the term "founder," they`re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

TRUMP: No, it`s no mistake. Everyone`s liking it. I think they`re liking it.


MATTHEWS: Everyone`s liking it. Mikey likes it!

Anyway, in his speech last night, Trump also pointedly referred to President -- the president himself using the middle name Barack Hussein Obama. Trump has a history of questioning the president`s birth, of course, and even his birth certificate, his school records, his credibility, even his loyalty to this country.

What is his strategy right now? NBC`s Hallie Jackson`s in Kissimmee, Florida, where Trump will speak live this hour.

Hallie, you`re a reader of this guy. Help me read him. Why is he pushing this founder of ISIS, not even the explanation Hugh Hewitt tried to help him with. No, founded, literally founded ISIS. Why does he insist on that?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was given an out by, obviously, Hugh Hewitt, as well. Here`s the deal. The campaign says that this is Trump trying to basically force a conversation about the president`s policies in the Middle East, what as you know, many conservatives argue is a failed policy to destabilize the Middle East and open up a power vacuum that let ISIS flourish.

Here`s the deal. That`s not what Donald Trump the candidate is saying. Instead, he is doing anything but back off of this. Doubling down doesn`t begin to describe it. By this morning alone, he had repeated the claim that President Obama was the founder of ISIS at least nine or ten times, and this was before, like, 2:00 or 3:00 PM. It is something that we`ve heard from him repeatedly.

So what is the strategy here? Clearly, Trump and his campaign see a political opportunity in linking Hillary Clinton to President Obama by painting and arguing that Clinton will be a third term of the Obama presidency.

But here`s the political risk in that, Chris. And that is when you look at NBC`s newest favorability ratings, the president is nearly twice as popular as Donald Trump is. So even though Clinton has troubles when it comes to her approval rating, the president doesn`t, not nearly as much.

So that may be a problem for Trump moving forward, in addition to the fact that he is repeating what is a demonstrably false statement, President Obama obviously not the founder of ISIS. Again, if Trump wants to make the argument that the president by his policies opened up room for ISIS to grow, that`s something different. That is not what we`re hearing out of his mouth.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Hallie Jackson down there in Florida.

Over the past several weeks, Trump has heightened his attacks on Hillary Clinton, even calling her the devil. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: 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.

In one way, she`s a monster, OK?

He made a deal with the devil. She`s the devil. He made a deal with the devil.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Joining me right now, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Democratic strategist and Clinton surrogate James Carville. He`s the author of "We`re Still Right, They`re Still Wrong: The Democrats` Case for 2016."

Let me start with Matt, and we`ll get to James in a second. Matt, what do you think of that hyperbole? Let`s call it hyperbole, the devil...


MATTHEWS: ... doesn`t have it together, the accusations of mental instability, of evil, in fact, the very force of evil, the devil. All that based upon what?

SCHLAPP: I think it would be better if he just used her words. She said herself that she short-circuited. I think he ought to use Director Comey`s words, that she was reckless. Those are fair charges to make, sometimes by people in her own (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I think she meant to say shortcut, but that`s all right.

SCHLAPP: OK, but I mean, the point is, is this, which is she didn`t accurately describe what happened with her e-mails. She didn`t accurately describe Director Comey`s testimony. And Director Comey himself said that she was reckless. So I think Trump needs to stay in these lanes where he`s got plenty to go here...


MATTHEWS: ... a guy who`s known to speak the truth.


MATTHEWS: No, Trump. I mean, here`s Trump...


SCHLAPP: Well, hold on...

MATTHEWS: ... Hillary Clinton not being right on occasion (INAUDIBLE), which are important, but Trump night after night after night is saying stuff that he then says he didn`t say.

SCHLAPP: Well, what about her? She`s...


SCHLAPP: He`s at 70 -- she`s at 70 -- she`s been doing this for 30 years, and she`s at 70 percent disapproval on her honesty and trustworthiness.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s (INAUDIBLE) the way we started the show. James, founder of ISIS, and then referring to the president Barack Hussein Obama, once again implying the old Islamic thing.


MATTHEWS: Is that of any value to history, to truth, to anything?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, he killed bin Laden so he could found ISIS.


CARVILLE: Look, the guy, in his mind -- he`s impotent. His supporters stay frustrated. He`s getting outflanked, outmaneuvered by Hillary Clinton. I mean, in other words, he`s like -- in his mind, he`s losing to a girl. He can`t believe it.

And so what`s he -- what`s his reaction? His little stubby hands out there flailing away...

MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.

CARVILLE: ... saying every ridiculous thing that anybody can come up with. We really shouldn`t be covering this like he`s serious. He`s just a guy that`s been -- you know, been cold-cocked and he can`t believe he`s hit and his mouth is bleeding, and he`s starting to call everybody names and he looks stupid in front of his supporters.


MATTHEWS: OK, help me out with this, James. His mouth is bleeding. I lost you on that one. What`s that mean?

CARVILLE: Meaning he`s gotten hit. He got hit during the convention.

MATTHEWS: Oh! Like a boxing match. I get you.

CARVILLE: Yes, like a guy -- he starts a fight and then somebody punches him back, and his mouth is bleeding and he`s crying, you know, calling people names. He looks small. He looks like a loser. He`s weak.


CARVILLE: He`s down in the polls. He`s not doing well. And what`s his reaction, is he just flails away out there. It`s a psychology thing. That`s all this is.


MATTHEWS: Are you channeling Elizabeth Warren when you say he`s losing to a girl? Because I think women can say that. I don`t think we can say that, James. We can`t say...


CARVILLE: I said in his mind...

MATTHEWS: Yes, in his mind.

CARVILLE: ... he`s losing to a girl. Not in my mind, in his mind. I would never -- of course -- you know, I would never say that. But that`s the way that he thinks.


SCHLAPP: Well, I`m glad you understand what`s in his mind.


SCHLAPP: And I think if we`re going to talk about people who are throwing around charges, you`ve already said he`s got little hands...

CARVILLE: He does.

SCHLAPP: ... and he`s worried about losing to a girl. Why don`t we talk about the issues? And here are the issues for Hillary Clinton -- she might be in his head. I`ll give her credit, James. She`s withstood a lot of punches so far and she looks pretty good right now, and Trump is the one who looks like he`s on the back of his heels.

That being said, she`s been doing this game for 30 years, and her numbers are rancid with these voters! How does that feel?

CARVILLE: You know, Matt, I didn`t pick Trump. Your party did. He ran over 16 other people. He is your nominee, selected by the members of your party. And you know, they knew what he was doing.


CARVILLE: They knew what they was getting into. So your -- if you want -- (INAUDIBLE) if you want to attack the Republican Party, that`s your choice. That`s your nominee. I didn`t put him in there. And he`s reacting poorly because he`s getting slapped around.


SCHLAPP: We actually elected our nominee. You used superdelegates to get yours!


CARVILLE: Matt, Matt, Matt...


MATTHEWS: OK, just for a second. Did you say superdelegates were decisive?


SCHLAPP: I think they were very important.

MATTHEWS: They weren`t decisive.


MATTHEWS: She won them on earned delegates. That`s...


SCHLAPP: ... superdelegates...


MATTHEWS: She won among earned delegates. She didn`t need the superdelegates. Anyway, we can argue about superdelegates, but that`s not why she won.

After the massacre at the Orlando nightclub in June this summer, Trump insinuated that President Obama`s motives, or at least his sympathies, were suspect. Let`s watch one of Trump`s -- here he is.


TRUMP: We`re led by a man that either is -- is -- is not tough, not smart, or he`s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind -- you know, people can`t believe it.

Well, there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn`t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn`t want to know about it.


MATTHEWS: What are these asides all about, these little things, like, We have 2nd Amendment options here, Well, nobody knew him in school, We don`t know what -- there`s something going on here. You can hear the music in the background, the spooky music when he talks.

What`s he implying? I know what I think he`s implying. What do you think he`s implying?

SCHLAPP: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. What do you think?

SCHLAPP: Look, he`s trying to find...

MATTHEWS: Nobody knew him in school? What does that mean?

SCHLAPP: He`s trying to find every angle he can on Obama. There`s no question about it. And he has a long record of doing that.

MATTHEWS: What`s he trying to suggest he is, a foreigner?

SCHLAPP: Oh, I think -- I think for conservatives like me, that he is a left-wing guy.

MATTHEWS: No not...


MATTHEWS: It`s not ideological because he talks about his roots, where he`s from. He says he`s from somewhere else besides America. He`s not a legitimate president.

SCHLAPP: Well, he`s actually from Kansas, which I kind of like.

MATTHEWS: Why does he keep saying he`s alien?

SCHLAPP: I haven`t heard him say he`s alien.

MATTHEWS: No, he suggests it over and over. He says he`s not from America!

SCHLAPP: Well, he doesn`t call him alien. Here`s the thing...

MATTHEWS: What do you mean, he doesn`t call him alien?

SCHLAPP: He is playing -- there`s no question he`s playing to...

MATTHEWS: What`s a birther?

SCHLAPP: He`s -- there`s no question that he is playing to conservatives over the fact...

MATTHEWS: What kind of...


SCHLAPP: ... that Obama is way left and more left...

MATTHEWS: OK, James...

SCHLAPP: ... than the country.

MATTHEWS: James, what do you think the message is? It`s not -- it`s not...


MATTHEWS: It`s not a dogwhistle. It`s quite audible.

CARVILLE: Right. His message is he`s not -- he`s not a real American.


CARVILLE: That`s his message. I mean, everybody knows that. He`s -- he`s an unrepentant birther. But my point is, is all of that, as long as he thought he was -- it was working, he didn`t care. Once he got hit, he can`t take a punch, Chris. He got hit, and then he goes nuts and he flails away out there. And that`s what`s happening to him.

And he looks very, very weak in front of his own people. And he just goes in one day and he does one thing, he flails away, and he`s just, you know, throwing these, you know, haymakers that are just moving air molecules around. And meanwhile, they`re coming in, getting a shot left (ph) and it`s snapping his head back. And that`s what`s going on.

I mean, I know Matt. And you know, Matt`s a thoughtful guy. He`s a real conservative. But it was his party that picked him. It wasn`t -- the press didn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s...

CARVILLE: It wasn`t a conspiracy.

MATTHEWS: James, you`re amazing.

Let`s look at this. Calling in to CNBC this morning -- Trump has to pick (ph) his calls, by the way -- Trump was asked if he had any regrets about recent comments he made about this 2nd Amendment people thing, as well as criticism of the Khan family, the parents of Captain Khan, who was killed in Iraq. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: On the 2nd Amendment, everybody came to my defense because there was nothing said wrong. I`m talking about the power of the voter. And nothing was said wrong. And only the haters tried to grab onto that one, and it was very unsuccessful.

As far as Mr. Khan, I think it`s been said by everybody, I think that`s been very well talked about and that`s been put to bed a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, but do you agree with your friend Carl Icahn that you made a mistake?

TRUMP: You`ll have to define what a mistake means. I mean, we`re not here to talk about that. We`re here to talk about economics.


SCHLAPP: I like that last answer!

MATTHEWS: He talks like a dictator! He says, We`re not going to talk about anything I want to talk about. We`re not going to talk about the news or anything I`ve said!

SCHLAPP: Well, wouldn`t it be good if we talked about his economic plan?


MATTHEWS: You think that`s why he got that gig to go on the air that morning, or to talk about what he`s been saying?

SCHLAPP: Apparently, people will give him a gig to talk about anything he wants.

MATTHEWS: OK. A recent Monmouth poll found that while Americans rank Islamic terrorism as the thing they most fear is a threat to their way of life -- that makes sense -- look what comes in second -- Donald Trump. 54 percent say Trump is a threat. 42 percent say Hillary Clinton would be a threat.

These are numbers that -- you know, to me, it`s apples and oranges in terms of the threat of Trump and the threat of ISIS, but they somehow are able to answer these questions. What do you think of 54 challenging 61, Matt?

SCHLAPP: I think it`s terrible. I think we have two candidates. I think you got Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in that poll. You can see it in poll after poll...

MATTHEWS: But he`s -- a majority of people say he`s a threat to them.

SCHLAPP: I can show you polls where she`s got similar problems. And here`s the thing. We`re going to elect a president...

MATTHEWS: You guys...


MATTHEWS: You and Rudy Giuliani (INAUDIBLE) I get along with you guys, I get along with Rudy for years, but every time you say something about Trump, he switches the topic.

SCHLAPP: OK, I`ll talk about Trump. Here`s the fact. If Trump gets elected president -- and I still think he has a shot to get elected president -- he`s going to win with people who in these polls say they don`t like him or they think he`s a threat. If anything is true, it`s the other...

MATTHEWS: People will pick a threat?

SCHLAPP: (INAUDIBLE) pick something we don`t like!

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s a new one. James...


MATTHEWS: ... somebody`s actually picking the specter that they see out there. Your thoughts, James? Last word.

CARVILLE: Oh, look, I mean, my thoughts are consistent. My good friend Matt, I`m glad I`m not in his position. We have difficult cycles. This is a difficult cycle for him. Trump is going to continue to do this because he`s just getting slapped around and he`s getting humiliated in front of his people, and this is all he knows how to do.

MATTHEWS: Is Louisiana still in play?

CARVILLE: No. Louisiana in play?


MATTHEWS: Yes, but you`re saying -- yes, I know, but you say Trump can probably win Louisiana right now.

CARVILLE: Yes. I think Trump -- yes, I`m not -- I mean, I`m not going to be ridiculous, but yes.


MATTHEWS: This is why James, through all the messes, all the years I`ve known him, always tells the truth.


MATTHEWS: ... a twang to it, but it is the truth. Anyway, thank you, James.

CARVILLE: You bet. And Matt`s a good guy. That`s the truth.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.

CARVILLE: You bet.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, inside the Republican Party`s growing frustration with their nominee, which you heard some of that already, there are new reports tonight that the RNC chairman told Trump on the phone that his campaign is headed for failure. The projections are bad, and that can cause the party -- him, in other words, Reince Priebus, the chairman -- to rethink his strategy for November. The latest on that coming up next, inside the belly of the beast.

Plus, more fallout over Trump`s line about, well, how "2nd Amendment people" could stop Hillary Clinton once she`s elected. You`re watching -- well, we`re joined tonight by a member of the Kennedy family, by the way, William Kennedy Smith, the nephew of the president, President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who reminds us that political violence is no joke.

And we`ve got new polling on the five things Trump has said during this campaign that bother voters the most. And I doubt the most offensive Trump line will come as a surprise. We all know what that one is. It`s a physical thing he did making fun of somebody.

Finally, the HARDBALL roundtable will be here to tell us something I don`t know.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some surprising new numbers on how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fare in three states this November. Let`s check out the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In Wisconsin, Clinton has a 15-point lead over Trump among likely voters in the Badger State. That`s widened from her 4-point edge just last month.

In Iowa, it`s within the margin of error there. Trump is ahead by just 1 point. It`s Trump 41, Clinton 40. In other words, it`s even, pretty much.

In South Carolina, which last voted for a Democrat in `76, Trump is up by just 2 points. It`s Trump 41-39. Same there, that`s too close to call, putting her in striking distance, Secretary Clinton, of actually turning a red state blue.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With just 89 days now to Election Day, Donald Trump continues to struggle to get his campaign train back on track.

Anyway, today, "TIME" magazine is reporting that the campaign is in -- quote -- "meltdown mode." Look at that picture. In it -- well, that`s the face of Donald Trump -- it reports the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, was so frustrated by Donald Trump`s initial refusal to endorse even Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, that he got on the phone and said -- he told Trump -- this is indirect -- he told Trump that internal GOP polling suggested Trump was on track to lose the election.

Priebus explained to Trump that Priebus had a responsibility now to the entire Republican Party, not just to the presidential nominee. At the same time, "The Hill" reported that gloom was setting in -- that`s "The Hill" -- for GOP lawmakers and strategists who increasingly think Donald Trump will lose the presidential election.

Reports come at a time when Trump continues to struggle daily to get on message for the general election. This week alone, he suffered a slew of defections from establishment Republicans who say Trump is just too dangerous to be president.

For more on this story and what the campaign is thinking right now, I`m joined by "TIME"`s deputy editor, Radhika Jones -- there she is -- and "The Washington Post"`s Roberta -- Robert -- I was going to Roberta -- Robert Costa, who is an MSNBC analyst.

Not funny, is it, Robert, to be called Roberta?

Let`s go right now to Radhika.

Radhika, what is the "TIME" magazine story? From the outside, we can imagine that there must be a meltdown going on the inside, because these poll numbers showing Hillary polling maybe 10 points ahead in many polls nationally, and winning in a lot of states that Trump needs to win, like Pennsylvania, where she`s ahead by 10.

How do you know from the inside, by reporting from the inside, that there is truly a meltdown going on inside Trump Tower?

RADHIKA JONES, "TIME": Well, we talked for this story to Republican officials. We talked to the Clinton campaign.

And we talked to the candidate himself. And what`s striking about our conversation with Donald Trump is that, on the one hand, he acknowledges that he is getting advice to soften up a little bit, to pivot for a general electorate, but virtually in the same breath, he says: I`m not sure if that`s really what the country wants.

So, you sense a good amount of ambivalence even from the candidate, who is very forthcoming about it, about what his trajectory will be. And that`s a really, you know, odd position to be in at this point in the race.

MATTHEWS: Robert, there`s an old expression in politics I have always liked. It`s called dance with the one that brung you. And in this case, Trump, what got Trump to here, by beating 16 other guys, people, in the fight for the Republican nomination was the style -- we are looking at it now -- the arms waving, the wild statements, the accusations, the nicknames.

And now people are saying that`s not working. Is that it? He wants to stick with what got him there?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He is someone who thinks extemporaneous politics could be a path to the presidency.

But what`s changing right now is this dynamic between the party chairman, Reince Priebus, and the candidate. Priebus has coveted his role as a confidant to Donald Trump in recent months. If you were a donor, if you were a party official, you went to Reince Priebus, he was a way to get to Donald Trump, a whisperer of sorts within the GOP.

But, remember, Priebus is also a former Wisconsin state party chairman. He`s someone who is close to Paul Ryan. That Paul Ryan vacillation by Trump, that was a breaking point in some ways for Priebus. He was forced to have some tough conversations with Trump, based on my reporting.

MATTHEWS: Well, then -- Radhika, then you saw Trump in an odd, almost awkward move for him, coming out late that night last week and say: I endorse this guy. I endorse Ryan.

That looked like he was under pressure. He was like a POW at that point. So, sometimes, he seems to buckle to Priebus, but the other times, he gets back on that stump and he`s back to him again, the old self again.

JONES: He`s capable of using the teleprompter when he needs to. He stayed on message for -- we lost count -- I think about 36 hours, during which he gave his economic speech.

But time and time again, we have seen this candidate resort to his gut instinct. And his gut instinct seems to take him in the direction of making statements, the way that he did last night, about President Obama founding ISIS and then doubling down on them.

MATTHEWS: Well, could it be something as simple as flop sweat? You are in front of an audience and you realize you`re losing the audience. I know what that`s like. Everybody who has done public speaking knows the moment, wait a minute, this isn`t working. And then you hype it up to get their attention.

Is that what it is? He can`t stand giving boring speeches because he thinks he`s losing his popularity as he`s standing there?

JONES: Well, it`s true that this is what has gotten him this far. He plays to a crowd.

In our interview with him, he talks a lot about -- you know, he`s a little bit baffled by the poll numbers because, in his mind, he sees energized crowds in front of him and he thinks this is the voting electorate. And, of course, it`s a very, very small percentage of that electorate.

MATTHEWS: I know. That`s delusional.

Anyway, last -- just quickly from Robert, do you know what it is about flop sweat? Why does he have to almost instinctively have to hype it up every time he thinks it`s dragging?

COSTA: Because ever since he came down that elevator last year, this has been a candidate who runs on the crowd, instincts, running on those instincts and trying to just gauge the election on his own.

He`s an isolated candidate, a candidate who runs each day as a new day. And that`s -- the reality of a general election is much more rough and tumble than a primary, where that seemed to work well.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you much, Radhika Jones, and also to use, Bob Costa, Robert Costa.

Coming up: In the wake of Trump`s Second Amendment talk, some members of the Kennedy family are speaking out about the danger of such rhetoric. I`m going to speak in a moment here to a nephew of president John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He`s coming here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

The man who climbed Trump Tower yesterday in hopes of meeting with the Republican candidate is charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass.

Authorities are investigating what caused the deadly blast at a Maryland apartment building that tore through the structure last night. Two people are confirmed dead.

And, in Florida, the number of non-travel-related Zika cases continues to rise, this time by three, to 25. They are centered in the northern Miami neighborhood of Wynwood -- back to HARDBALL.


SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D), NEW YORK: What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was 48 years ago. In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy addressed a crowd of mainly African-American supporters in Indiana -- it was Indianapolis itself -- on the night that Martin Luther King was assassinated.

It was those extemporaneous remarks that kept the peace in Indianapolis that night, many believe, as cities across the rest of the country erupted in violence.

Well, now Kennedy`s sister and his nephew -- that would be William Kennedy Smith, who is right here -- have written an op-ed in "The Washington Post" that appeared today contrasting Robert Kennedy with Donald Trump.

Quote -- the article reads: "In the white-hot cauldron of a presidential campaign, it is still the words delivered extemporaneously, off the cuff, in the raw pressure of the moment that matter most. So it was with a real sense of sadness and revulsion that we listened to Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, as he referred to the options available to `Second Amendment people.` While calling on Second Amendment people to take action marks the first time Trump has seemingly targeted a political opponent, he`s called for violence against protesters at his rallies throughout his campaign."

Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.


TRUMP: OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.

This guy started screaming by himself, and I don`t know, rough up. He should have been -- maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.

Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They would be carried out on a stretcher, folks.

Like to punch him in the face.

If you`re a little rough -- you see the abuse the police were taking back there? They were abused. I mean, the police should be suing them. It shouldn`t be the other way around.

In the good old days, this doesn`t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily.


MATTHEWS: It`s amazing, when you put it all together.

I`m joined right now by William Kennedy Smith. He`s chairman and CEO of MedRed.

Will, thanks for coming on.


MATTHEWS: And it`s unusual for the Kennedy family, as close as you are -- your uncle -- both uncles were assassinated, President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

And here you are, the nephew, and your mom both writing an article today.

What hit you when you saw that speech by Trump about Second Amendment options?

KENNEDY SMITH: Well, Chris, I love politics. You love politics. My family loved politics.

In the years since Bobby died, Ethel didn`t run away. She was involved in the foundation. She was involved with human rights, with Bedford- Stuyvesant. It`s something that we all have participated in.

And everything that we love in this country in regards to politics is based on the peaceful transition of power. It`s the great thing that the founders left us, the peaceful transition of power. It was -- if you go all over the world, where it`s something that is the basis of our legal system, it`s the basis of our economic system, if you go all over the world, we are the envy for that.

So, when you see some candidate directly appealing to undermine that, whether it`s the Second Amendment comments or the other things that have been going on in the rally, it really is something that we felt needed a response.

MATTHEWS: You said it was particularly important to focus on the off-the- cuff remarks.

KENNEDY SMITH: You know, I think, if you want to know about John Kennedy, look at those press conferences where he talked to reporters, and that was the first time that had been done. He enjoyed that back-and-forth.

If you want to know about Robert Kennedy, look at Indianapolis. And I think that`s true of Donald Trump. I think those kinds of extemporaneous remarks reveal something about a candidate. And consistently in this campaign, we have seen something that is different and very, very ugly.

I don`t think it`s the only way. I think, if you look at the Democratic Convention, that`s a reflection of the candidate. And you look at the Republican -- there are other ways you...

MATTHEWS: Yes, they were different.

KENNEDY SMITH: They were different. And they do reflect that.

So, I think that`s why we felt that was something that contrasted Bobby`s words -- what we need is not division, not hate, not violence -- contrasted in a way with what we are hearing from this campaign.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t a partisan comment. I can tell by reading it. You are not saying you prefer Hillary Clinton, for example, over Donald Trump. You are saying he`s unfit.

KENNEDY SMITH: And that`s a first.

I talked to my mother, who has been in politics -- around politics for six decades, more.


KENNEDY SMITH: Never has anybody in our family come out and said, this person`s not fit.

But something different, again -- you know, we have a great generation of people coming up. I have young kids. There`s tremendous technology here. The important thing is to keep the political system operating. And anything that strikes at that, that strikes at the peaceful transition of power, really creates a threat to all of that, creates a threat to the next generation, creates a threat to all the people who want to participate.

And that threat has been out there for years, but it`s important to address it.

MATTHEWS: You should do more television. Thank you, Will.

KENNEDY SMITH: Thank you so much, Chris.

MATTHEWS: It`s important stuff, important.

Dr. William Kennedy, thank you for coming -- William Kennedy Smith -- thank you for coming on to talk about that.

KENNEDY SMITH: I really appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: I hope people read the article. It`s online everywhere. It`s in "The Washington Post" today.

And people should read it, because it`s well-considered, well-written, and it makes a very powerful point that has nothing to do with partisan politics. Right?


MATTHEWS: Up next: As we have said, Donald Trump`s statements have been troubling to his critics and also to some of his supporters. We have got new polling that shows the five remarks he`s made during this campaign that are the most concerning to voters.

And the worst one, I think you will recognize quickly.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump`s call for a Second Amendment people to take action is just the latest in a pattern of statements that have provoked outrage. Now Bloomberg Politics has poll-tested some of the more controversial remarks Trump has made throughout his campaign to find which ones bother voters the most.

Well, tonight, we take a look at the five most concerning statements that Donald Trump has made.

For that, I`m joined by the roundtable. John Feehery is a Republican strategist and columnist for "The Hill." Molly Ball covers politics for "The Atlantic." And "The Washington Post"`s Jonathan Capehart hosts a new podcast, "Cape Up," and is also an MSNBC contributor.

Let`s start with the fifth most -- fifth most offensive Trump description. It`s of the sacrifices he made for the country. The poll finds that Trump`s statement that working hard is a sacrifice bothered 73 percent of voters.

Let`s take a look at that and what he said on ABC two weeks ago.


TRUMP: I think I made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I have created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures, I have done -- I have had -- I have had tremendous success.

INTERVIEWER: Those are sacrifices?

TRUMP: Oh, sure. I think they`re sacrifices.


MATTHEWS: What did you make of that, Molly? Sacrifice, he was comparing himself to Captain Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: To the parents, I believe, who have sacrificed. I think obviously, to denigrate the sacrifice of the parents of a fallen soldier is offensive on its face but beyond that, plenty of Americans are willing to believe that Donald Trump has contributed something to this country, has worked hard.

MATTHEWS: Why is the word sacrifice appropriate? You`re making a living, it`s not a sacrifice.

BALL: Maybe he has even given up dinners out when he had to be at the office, but compare that to the parents of a fallen soldier, the lack of empathy to not be able to put yourself in those people`s shoes and say that was worse than what I experienced, he doesn`t seem to be able to put anybody`s experience above his own.

MATTHEWS: I wish we had a camera on your wince. You have one coming up.

Next up, the poll finds that 74 percent of voters say they were bothered by Trump`s statement that he may not defend NATO allies if they are attacked. In the interview with "The New York Times" Trump was asked, "Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military and if, I guess, if they were attacked by Russia?"

Here`s how Trump answered that question, "Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfilled their obligations to us the answer is yes. I`m not saying if not."


MATTHEWS: If you don`t pay your dues, we`re leaving you --

CAPEHART: How are you and your bills? Sorry, we can`t -- we can`t help you.

Look, I think that`s a rather specific instance that people say they are uncomfortable by him, but if you look at it in the context of all the things he has talked about in the foreign policy sphere, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons and people are focusing now on the fact the president of the United States is practically a monarch when it comes to using nuclear weapons, that the idea that this person would leave our allies in the lurch, especially NATO allies, is unfathomable.

Here`s something, Chris, I bet you don`t know. I`m going to get this, get you one a little early. The only -- NATO is an Article 5 treaty. Article 5 says if one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked and have to come to that country`s defense. It has been invoked one time, after September 11th when the United States was attacked. NATO came rallying around the United States and the United States went to war in Afghanistan to avenge the attacks of September 11th.

MATTHEWS: So, we are a beneficiary at least in that instance.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the next one here. I think we have the next coming up. This is for you, John Feehery.

Next up, the poll finds that 75 percent, three quarters of us say they were bothered by Trump`s pronouncement that he alone can fix the problems the country faces. Let`s listen to that line from Trump`s convention speech itself.


TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.



MATTHEWS: You know, watching him, it`s funny when you put it all together. The boastfulness, the ridiculous hamming up and the mugging is unbelievable -- he`s like playing a guy. He`s like Darrell Hammond playing him, playing Darrell Hammond playing Trump.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He`s definitely a caricature. He`s playing a caricature, playing a type. I alone can fix it. It works very well for "Saturday Night Live." I`m not as offended by this as some others.

MATTHEWS: Which part?

FEEHERY: The "I alone can fix it". Politicians are always making promises they know they can`t keep. So, in many ways, Trump is playing a politician. I remember the old campaign theme "Jeb can fix it". Remember that? When you see problems, that Jeb can fix everything.

We all know now that politicians really can`t fix anything.

MATTHEWS: That`s a hell of a statement.

FEEHERY: Especially alone. I think that maybe that`s what offended voters so much, especially Republican voters.

MATTHEWS: I think politicians can get things done.

FEEHERY: Listen, not --

MATTHEWS: Winston Churchill saved Britain in World War II. Roosevelt basically did a good job --

FEEHERY: Not by themselves.

MATTHEWS: But they can lead.

FEEHERY: They can lead, right.

BALL: But I think that was clever spin by the Clinton campaign, right, because you had Hillary use that line in her speech to paint it as a quasi- dictatorial thing. It didn`t necessarily sound that way when Trump said it in the context of someone who knows the system.

MATTHEWS: You are burned out, buddy. How did you get so burned out?

I`m not a big "W" fan because I think he took us into a war we shouldn`t have. That`s my opinion. But I thought on 9/11, on that Friday when he stood down there where it all happened and he had put his arm around that firefighter, I thought for that brilliant moment it was out of Shakespeare, he united this country. We`re going to get the guys who did this.

It wasn`t woe is us, it was gee-whiz, there was no whining, there was a toughness and directness to -- I wish he had stayed on that line. But at that moment, he was a leader. I believe in leaders.

CAPEHART: And the key word in that statement is the fellows who knocked these buildings down will hear from us soon, not me. Us.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. It wasn`t like MacArthur, "I will return", to use an example of a somewhat flawed leader. You are down on leaders.

FEEHERY: I`m not down on leaders. I`m not down on the process. But I do think the voters are down on both.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the second most offensive line, the runner- up, was his criticism of the Khan family, Gold Star parents of a soldier who did sacrifice his life in Iraq to save his buddies. The poll also finds that 75 percent of voters were bothered by what Trump said about Mr. Khan`s wife, who stood behind -- beside her husband as he addressed the Democratic convention. Remember, she didn`t talk. Here is Trump bashing that.


TRUMP: 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.


MATTHEWS: Plenty of -- who are these off-stage describes that come out with this religious dictum he comes out with? Who said she wasn`t allowed to talk?

BALL: Well, I think Ann Coulter said that on Twitter. I mean, Trump, it`s like weird conspiracy fever swamp stuff goes straight from the Internet into Trump`s brain and he believes it and alludes to it, same with the Ted Cruz conspiracy theory.

So, beyond the fact he`s saying unfounded things and things about women, he spouts these conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact and he does it on a regular basis.

FEEHERY: If Trump loses by a bigger margin as the poll suggests, it`s because of this moment. This is the jump the shark moment for Donald Trump. He`s got to apologize and get it past him.

MATTHEWS: Which one?

FEEHERY: On the khans.

MATTHEWS: I agree. To me, that was the showstopper.

FEEHERY: It`s a show stopper and it`s been devastating to his campaign. He hasn`t recovered.


MATTHEWS: It hits to the heart of the people, to the working class families out there whose kids do fight.

BALL: That`s right. But Republicans, you know, people who believe in patriotism and the military and the Constitution, they looked at that moment and they were moved by it.

MATTHEWS: The military in our country is one of the highest, most prestigious classes of Americans there are right now.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. We`re going to have the guy next, I think you all can guess the worst most offensive thing that Trump said according to our voters.

Anyway, HARDBALL back after this to give you the worst of the worst.


MATTHEWS: President Obama`s on vacation this week in Martha`s Vineyard. And today on Twitter, he revealed his summer play list. During the day, he`s listening to a mix of Jay-Z, Aretha Franklin and the Beach Boys among others. That`s a wide group. At night, his favorites include tunes from Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Fiona Apple, and Janet Jackson. She`s back on the news.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We are back with the roundtable -- John, Molly and Jonathan.

Anyway, we have been reviewing the results of a new Bloomberg poll which measures voters` reactions to some of Donald Trump`s most controversial remarks.

And the poll found that the top statement that voters found most concerning was Trump`s mockery of a reporter`s physical disability late last year, 83 percent of voters say they were bothered by this. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Now the poor guy, you got to see the guy, oh, I don`t know what I said, I don`t remember. He`s going like, I don`t remember, maybe that`s what I said.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was pretty direct. That was graphic. He was imitating a reporter with a physical disability.

BALL: I was there. I was at that rally in South Carolina last November. I think what is so stark about that, on top of just what he is doing is you can see it. It is so obvious.

So, whatever excuses he makes, whatever rationalizations he tried to put forward, for oh, it was a whacky impression, it had nothing to do with the disability, which is what he said. When you look at the evidence, it`s undeniable, it becomes so powerful.

MATTHEWS: It`s primordial.

BALL: People know, everybody has someone in their life who has a disability and can relate to that.

MATTHEWS: Everybody has the notion of a kid walking down street, whether it`s Down`s syndrome or anything, somebody making fun of them. It`s a smart ass kid at the street corner, its something you`re told from time you`re 5, don`t do that. Every parent tells you don`t make fun of somebody with a problem like that.

CAPEHART: Well, this gets to -- this is -- it`s bullying. Everyone recognizes that for what it is. It`s bullying.

I think this polled higher than say the offense of criticizing the Khan family, it`s because everyone knows someone who has been bullied or bullied themselves this is what Secretary Gates pointed out as secretary of defense, only 1 percent, less than 1 percent of the American people have someone in the U.S. military, who served. And so, people can empathize with the Khan, but they know exactly what`s happening.

MATTHEWS: Have you been bullied?


MATTHEWS: When you were a kid?

CAPEHART: Of course.

MATTHEWS: You remember it?

CAPEHART: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It`s a natural experience for almost everybody and isolated by the unfairness of our society basically.

FEEHERY: First of all, I agree with both of what they said. The third point I`d make is we have become of the last 20 years, a caring society with the disability community. We reached out to them.

MATTHEWS: Thanks to Bob Dole.

FEEHERY: For a lot of various reasons. For him to do that, it`s so completely beyond the pale. It`s really unforgivable.

MATTHEWS: I wonder why he does it. Some brain suit, somebody think itself that`s what I`m going to do. I`m going to do this.

BALL: What motivates any bully, right? I mean, I don`t, I`m not inside Donald Trump`s heads, but most bullies are insecurity deep down. So they have to pick on somebody lesser than them.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to more basic -- the bad. It`s a bad thing to do. It`s just wrong.

When we return, these three will tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: Barack Obama, number one, is incompetent and, number two, remember this, number two, he is the founder in a true sense, if you want to stay, I didn`t want to be there. But if he would have kept a relatively small force, he probably could have been prevented ISIS from forming. OK?


MATTHEWS: That`s Donald Trump, moments ago, calling President Obama the founder of ISIS.

We`re back with our HARDBALL roundtable. John, tell me something I don`t know. You, John?

FEEHERY: Rob Portman, one of the few bright spots electoral landscape -- Rob Portman is going to win, and win fairly easily.

MATTHEWS: He`s going to beat Strickland for his re-election in Ohio?

FEEHERY: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Exactly?

BALL: Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who got in the race this week, they`re telling me, he is making the ballot in Colorado, one of the states that have a deadline this week, a swing state, where he could play a spoiler.

MATTHEWS: Why is he running?

BALL: Because he wants people to have another choice besides the choice they have.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan?

CAPEHART: Today for my new podcast, Cape Up, I interviewed Ambassador Wendy Sherman. And one of the things we talked about, after the interview was over, I asked her if she was on Twitter, she said she`s not on Twitter. When she was on the Democratic platform committee doing the fights, just before the convention, she told, don`t go on Twitter, don`t read anything, I don`t want to hear it.

Her daughter told her some of the things. She was non-plus because she said when you`ve heard "Death to Wendy Sherman" on the streets of Tehran, nothing else is.

MATTHEWS: People know how to access this new vehicle of yours?

CAPEHART: It will be on iTunes, premier, August 16th, Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, John Feehery.

Do have you anything to pitch at all tonight? OK. Molly Ball, just teasing. Thank you, Molly. Thank you, my friend, Jonathan Capehart.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.