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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/22/2016

Guests: Eli Stokols, Jay Newton-Small, David Weigel, Susan Page, Steve McMahon, Charlie Sykes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 22, 2016 Guest: Eli Stokols, Jay Newton-Small, David Weigel, Susan Page, Steve McMahon, Charlie Sykes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Can the birther man win African-American votes?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump is currently polling at 1 percent among African-American voters -- 1 percent. He says he wants their vote, and this weekend, he repeatedly pitched himself to that group.

What`s his claim based on? Well, trump built his political foundation on saying President Obama, the first African-American president, was born overseas, that he`s constitutionally illegitimate to hold the office. Well, now Trump says African-Americans should vote for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The GOP is the party of Abraham Lincoln, and I want our party to be the home of the African-American voter once again.

What do you have to lose? You`re living in poverty! Your schools are no good! You have no jobs! Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed! What the hell do you have to lose?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for the record, his claim about African-American youth unemployment`s wildly out of context. He seems to be using a statistic that doesn`t really mean anything, the rate of the total population of young people, meaning even high school and college students, people not actually looking for work.

Anyway, the second part of Trump`s pitch was a strong rebuke of Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future. If Hillary Clinton`s goal was to inflict pain on the African-American community, she could not have done a better job!

Hillary Clinton would rather provide a job to a refugee from overseas than to give that job to unemployed African-American youth in cities like Detroit, who have become refugees in their own country!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Clinton campaign called it "shockingly ignorant," that pitch for African-American voters by Trump. And many critics have pointed out that Trump made the pitch in suburban areas with minuscule minority populations.

Meanwhile this weekend, some Trump allies have hinted the candidate might soften his tone on deporting illegal immigrants, a bedrock issue, of course, of his campaign. And NBC News reports that Trump was postponing a planned speech about immigration which was scheduled for this Thursday. What is Trump up to?

NBC`s Katy Tur is in Akron, Ohio, where Trump is speaking at this hour. Katy, can you hear me? I think this is a real question. I don`t think Trump`s after the black vote, the African-American vote. I think he`s after moderate Republican women in the suburbs, where he`s bleeding. Your thoughts. What do you know?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You`re not the only one who thinks that, Chris. Lookit, we don`t know from the campaign that that is exactly what they`re doing, but I can tell you that from past conversations, the goal of the campaign was to mitigate their losses when it comes to women. They`re trying to not lose any more support. They`re trying to retain what they have and perhaps grow it here and there, but the big goal is to not bleed any further.

And these sort of pitches to African-Americans, this idea that he might be pivoting or moderating when it comes to immigration and deportation forces, could be a direct appeal to suburban white women. It`s for them to start supporting Donald Trump more. As we know, his gap among women, between him and Hillary Clinton, is quite large, and issues like that do contribute to it.

So is this going to be an effective new tack for Donald Trump? We`re going to have to see. We should note that he`s talking about African-Americans right now on stage. He did mention immigration, he talked about building the wall, but he did not talk about whether he was planning to do away with this idea of deportation forces.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s talk about these two conflicting goals. He wants women to vote for him because most voters are women. He wants white women to vote for him because that`s his chance. He`s not going to get many minorities to vote for him.

At the same time, he`s saying, I`m better for African-Americans to appeal to the moderate Republican white woman -- I hate talking like South Africa, but that`s the way we`re talking now -- he`s also going after Hillary Clinton, saying she`s sick over and over again. She`s sick. There`s a gender aspect to the way he`s going after her on this, I think, because it`s been done before.

How does he convince women, I`m on your side, when he`s saying the first woman who has a shot at being president is too ill for the office, based on no information at all, just saying it?

TUR: That`s the real challenge, Chris. I`m not sure how he`s going to do that. And I`ve asked the campaign repeatedly what sort of outreach they`re going to be doing to women or to potentially African-Americans, and I`ve gotten no real response. Instead, the campaign just pivots away and talks about Hillary Clinton.

But this fringe allegation that Hillary Clinton is not well, her health isn`t good, is something that we`re seeing more and more with Donald Trump supporters, on line especially. Some of the Breitbart readers have brought it up. Also, Roger Stone has been talking about it. And more and more Donald Trump supporters have been tweeting various journalists...

MATTHEWS: OK...

TUR: ... that Hillary Clinton is not well, using a Getty image of Hillary Clinton falling down some stairs to try and prove that.

Donald Trump himself has not gone full force with this at his rallies, but he has alluded to Hillary Clinton being tired, she sleeps all the time, she doesn`t have the strength or stamina. Many people see that as a dogwhistle attack against her as a woman, a sexist attack, and if Donald Trump is going for women, which he needs to get, that is not something that`s necessarily going to put him over the edge.

But the women who come to these events, I can tell you, Chris, are very much in line with him and don`t believe that any of his attacks are sexist in any way. They`re totally against Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: OK, now for the big three. Of course, he still says Barack Obama`s here illegally, basically, he`s from overseas, born in Kenya, never naturalized. He says Hillary`s sick. Barack Obama`s a foreigner, Hillary Clinton`s sick and he`s going to build a wall.

Let`s catch the act. Here he is. As you mention, Donald Trump again called tonight for Mexico to pay for a border wall. It happened just moments ago. Let`s watch this third leg of the stool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to build a wall, folks! We`re going to build a wall.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We`re going to build it. Don`t worry. We`re going to build the wall. That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And you`ll say, You know, he meant it. And you know what else I mean? Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton`s plan amounts to total and absolute total open borders, open borders.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, Katy Tur.

As I mentioned, the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Trump polling at 1 percent among African-Americans. And even as Trump attempts to reach out to that community, supposedly, his history of inflammatory comments about race and ethnicity could be a major stumbling block. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I still would like to see his college records. I mean, I`d like to see a couple of things.

Trump comes along and said, Birth certificate. He gave a birth certificate. Whether or not that was a real certificate -- because a lot of people question it. I certainly question it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don`t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don`t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don`t know anything about what you`re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don`t know.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shut-down of Muslims entering the United States.

We have to have assimilation. To have a country, we have to have assimilation. This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.

We had a case where we had an African-American guy who was a fan of mine -- great fan, great guy. In fact, I want to find out what`s going on with him. You know -- oh, look at my African-American over here! Look at him!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Think hard about that, everybody -- There`s my African-American over there.

Anyway, Eugene Robinson`s a columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst and Susan Page is Washington bureau chief...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re laughing hard, Gene. This is...

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I just...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: He just lost half of 1 percent, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: In the past week, he`s lost half of his 1 percent.

MATTHEWS: ... a foreign usurper who snuck into the country through some mysterious way. Hillary Clinton is secretly sick through some disease we don`t know what it is, and we`re going to build a wall. The guy hasn`t given up on his most crazy ideas.

ROBINSON: No, he hasn`t.

MATTHEWS: He`s adding to the list.

ROBINSON: If he thinks he`s going to get any African-American votes or Hispanic votes, for that matter, or Muslim votes or any Asian-American votes, he`s not!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Fifty-nine (INAUDIBLE) in Philadelphia, not a single vote for Mitt Romney. Think they`re going to change...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: This is going to be negative figures for Donald Trump, right? So no -- look, clearly, if there`s any rhyme or reason to what he`s doing now, it`s trying to appeal to the suburban white women. That`s the only possible...

MATTHEWS: OK, why the white women? Before we get to the woman of the three of us, why would women be more sympathetic -- to unsympathetic to a candidate who`s clearly a racist (INAUDIBLE)

ROBINSON: Look, I think there are a lot of moderate Republicans, both male and female, who don`t want to vote for a flaming racist, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And so if he can reassure them or he can act like he`s not a flaming racist...

MATTHEWS: But he`s been acting that way.

ROBINSON: Well, he`s...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: All we have to go on is what he says and does, right?

MATTHEWS: The birther thing to me strikes me as racist because you wouldn`t say it about Mitt Romney. You wouldn`t say it about any other white guy. Why would you say it about -- he does have a Muslim name or a Swahili name, whatever. It`s a name from Africa, from Kenya. He does have that name. Is that his reason for believing he was born over there? No, I don`t think so.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I -- I mean, the -- got me. I don`t know why he persists with this because...

MATTHEWS: He hasn`t taken it back.

PAGE: ... it`s, of course, been disproven and disproven. But the Hillary Clinton health thing is, I think, the equivalent for Hillary Clinton of the birther charge, which is a charge he`ll make over and over again. And the more you respond to it, he doesn`t accept...

MATTHEWS: What`s her sickness, according to Trump? He ever say what it is? Dysphasia? What are these...

PAGE: Or Giuliani this morning saying, Just Google it.

ROBINSON: Yes.

PAGE: I mean, really?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: It`s on the Internet, it`s got to be true. Right.

MATTHEWS: We go to "The National Enquirer" to find out about Ted Cruz`s father`s connection with Castro...

ROBINSON: Yes, right.

MATTHEWS: ... or killing Kennedy, right?

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: That`s in there.

ROBINSON: Of course.

MATTHEWS: And now we go to these crazy -- I looked at those crazy Web sites. We`re not going to show them. If anyone wants to look at Hillary, go ahead, look it up. We`re not going to put it on the air. It`s crazy people and crazy ads and...

PAGE: And so she`s put a statement from her doctor that says she`s in good health. And you know what? The way she disproves it is by going out there and campaigning...

ROBINSON: Yes. Of course.

PAGE: ... and showing that she`s vigorous and showing that she has energy. That`s the only effective response to this particular (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: You know what she said this weekend? I`ve been accused by Donald Trump of getting a lot of sleep these days. Maybe he ought to try it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, as I mentioned, there were indications this weekend that Trump might soften his stance on one of his bedrock campaign policies, the deportation of 11 million illegal people here in the United States. Well, anyway, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and one of his main surrogates right now, Senator Jeff Sessions, fielded questions about that on Sunday. Here they go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a little confusion about his position, but you`re pretty certain about where he is in terms of removing the 11 million from the United States.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Well, what I`m certain about is that he did not make a firm commitment yesterday or the meeting the other day about what he will do with that, but he did listen and he`s talking about it.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: As the weeks unfold, he will lay out the specifics of that plan that he would implement as president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will that plan include a deportation force, the kind that he just -- you just heard in that sound bite and that he talked about during the Republican primaries?

CONWAY: To be determined.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Kellyanne is smart, "to be determined." That is a smart answer. But what does it mean?

ROBINSON: Well, who knows? Who knows? I don`t think they know yet. They apparently don`t know yet because they canceled the...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) soften (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBINSON: ... immigration speech on Thursday.

MATTHEWS: OK, he`s staying firm, if you will, on the wall. He`s still joking about it tonight.

ROBINSON: OK. OK. Yes, right. So there will be a wall.

MATTHEWS: OK, he`s going to stick to the wall. Obama is still a foreigner, and Hillary`s sick. But he`s willing to give on the deportations.

ROBINSON: Right. Right. Which was, by the way, one of the pillars of his campaign, right? We`re going to round up these 11 million people and deport them. Now, that was never going to happen. It`s physically impossible.

MATTHEWS: But his saying it...

ROBINSON: But he said it and he...

MATTHEWS: OK, OK...

ROBINSON: ... said it and said it and he promised it, and now he`s going to take it back.

MATTHEWS: We`ve all watched the fall of tyrannies in history. They fall when they usually get a little weak, and they say, Well -- like the French revolution, We`ll give a little here, the Russian revolution, We`ll give a little here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And then everybody (INAUDIBLE) They`re giving in. We get it. Is he making mistakes politically by not -- I mean, it`s really -- it`s a Catch-22. If he sticks with this crazy stuff, he`s crazy. If he gives up on it, then he looks weak.

ROBINSON: Well, look, none of us sitting here knows what it is he can do to make his core supporters abandon ship, right, because...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He can betray them.

ROBINSON: That could do it. But I -- but I`m not prepared to say...

MATTHEWS: The thing is, the liberals in the media will come out and trash him if he buckles in any way. They`re not going to give any credit for buckling.

PAGE: You know, I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: But then the conservatives will attack him as a traitor.

PAGE: I don`t think either side will believe him, right? I think his core supporters will continue to...

MATTHEWS: The wall...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: ... whatever he`s going to say...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: ... and the people he`s trying to reach out to, who are more moderate, are not going to believe him.

MATTHEWS: OK, what`s going on right now? Why does he seem wobbly right now?

ROBINSON: Well, look...

MATTHEWS: Why does he seem to be softening up here? Why is Trump not Trump this weekend?

PAGE: Because he`s trailing in every poll...

ROBINSON: Yes, because he`s behind.

PAGE: ... that`s been taken for a month, and we`re getting -- what -- however many days we are from the election, and so he`s now focused on, What do I need to do to right this ship? I think that`s why he seems...

ROBINSON: Oh, I think, absolutely, and they`ve convinced him to use the teleprompter and to, you know, try to stick to some sort of...

MATTHEWS: Is he in a bunker? Somebody compared it the other day to the downfall, the movie about the end of the Third Reich, and said -- it`s never fair to do that, but the idea he`s in a bunker but doesn`t know what`s going on outside. Does he know he`s falling?: Is he facing the abyss?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: No, I think he`s -- look, I think he follows every number and every poll. I think he -- I think it`s like a fever chart for him. And every day -- and he`s looking for a little uptick and a little encouragement. But I think he knows where he stands.

MATTHEWS: He`s facing the abyss.

ROBINSON: Right. And only for that reason, he`s agreed to these strictures that he may not be able to keep to for very long. He hasn`t in the past.

MATTHEWS: I think Elizabeth Warren is tough. She is very tough. But she`s good at it. She said he doesn`t like knowing that he`s losing to a girl.

PAGE: Yes.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: There`s something about this is Bobby Riggs.

PAGE: There`s something...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the game but losing it...

PAGE: There`s something so strategic about the last word in that phrase.

MATTHEWS: Because she was basically projecting what he was thinking.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Not what she was thinking. Anyway, thank you. (INAUDIBLE) girl. Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Susan Page.

Stay with us. Tonight, by the way, at 11:00 PM tonight, we`re going to bring you a special late night live edition of HARDBALL. That`s coming up here on MSNBC at 11:00 Eastern.

Still ahead this hour, on offense. The Trump campaign`s throwing the kitchen sink at Hillary Clinton right now, as we`ve been saying. But will those attacks stick like, Is she sick? Totally making this up.

Plus, we`ve got the NBA all-time scorer here to play HARDBALL. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- he`s coming here to discuss (INAUDIBLE) this wild election and his search for equality in America.

And the HARDBALL roundtable will be here. As Donald Trump tries to stoke fears of a possible rigged election, is it possible -- it is possible he won`t admit defeat ever should Donald -- should Hillary Clinton win the presidency. I think he`s setting it up for a defeat.

And finally, "Let Me Finish" this Monday night with Donald Trump`s attack on Hillary Clinton`s health. You`ll be glad to hear what I have to say tonight late in the show.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got great new numbers from the key battleground state of Ohio, which often decides presidential elections. Hillary Clinton now has a 4-point lead over Donald Trump in Ohio. Now, that`s not much. She`s got a 43-to-39 lead on him. Libertarian Gary Johnson -- this is fascinating -- is up to 10. He gets to 15 nationally, he`s in the debates.

And as for the home state governor, John Kasich, 38 percent of Ohioans say they think more of John Kasich personally after Kasich said he`ll never support Donald Trump. Fascinating. Although I bet a lot of them are Democrats.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina. Hillary Clinton doesn`t have that strength or stamina, believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s what he`s selling right now.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Donald Trump last week in Wisconsin remarking, if you will, that Hillary Clinton doesn`t have, as he said, the strength and stamina to take on ISIS. Well, the Trump campaign is taking on Clinton, and the latest line of attack is on the former secretary of state`s health. Trump continued that attack Saturday Night in Virginia. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She will never be able to fix the ISIS problem that her policies created. For one thing, she doesn`t have the strength or the stamina, coupled with all of the other problems that this country has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump campaign adviser, pushed that conspiracy theory just yesterday. Let`s watch Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: She has an entire media empire that constantly demonizes Donald Trump and fails to point out that she hasn`t had a press conference in 300 days, 200 days, 100 days, I don`t know how long, fails to point out several signs of illness by her.

All you have got to do is go online. All you have got to do is go...

QUESTION: Which her campaign and a number of people defending her are saying there`s nothing factual to the claims about her health, and that that is speculation at best.

GIULIANI: Well, so, go online and put down Hillary Clinton illness, and take a look at the videos for yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: They are outrageous. Good look yourself. Hillary Clinton illness, go look it up, somebody. Anybody watching, go look them up online. They`re right there. And make your judgment about them.

Anyway, Charlie Sykes is a conservative radio talk show host from Milwaukee. And Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.

Charlie, thanks for your effort to get on tonight.

And I want to ask you about -- I got something at the end of the show about it. I have been watching politics since I was about 5 years old. And I have been watching how this health issue is used. The funny thing is -- or the sad thing is, when it really is relevant, they don`t talk about it, like Roosevelt in 1944. He was really in bad shape and he died very soon after getting reelected. And that really wasn`t a big issue.

But then they use it other times when there really isn`t, like Mike Dukakis being accused by Reagan and the others of being an invalid because a right- wing newspaper pushes this story that he had had counseling.

So, whenever it`s raised, it seems to be wrong. And when it`s not raised, well, we don`t know about it. Your thoughts. Health of Hillary Clinton, is it a factor in this election?

CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Only to the extent that Donald Trump rather than talking about the Clinton Foundation or more substantive issues, has allowed himself to veer off into the fever swamps.

And I think this is going to be a mark of what this campaign is going to look like. This is the kind of stuff that, as Rudy Giuliani mentioned, you can look up on the Internet. You can go into the alternative reality bubble of the conspiracy theory Breitbart.com world.

And, yes, this is really a big deal. And Donald Trump is insisting on talking about it, when he should be talking about more substantive issues. But, again, this is what you get.

MATTHEWS: What do you think, Steve? Are there more substantive issues? Let`s talk about the health thing right now. It seems to me Hillary`s defense is to just keep showing up.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Now, whether she holds a press conference or not is another kettle of fish. She may not want to hold press conferences because she doesn`t want to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative, the things that Charlie is talking about. There are a lot of reasons why you might dodge a big-picture hour of anybody can get me who wants to.

MCMAHON: Anybody who has ever watched somebody run for president, and that -- Hillary Clinton has been doing it a long time -- sees how much stamina it takes. She doesn`t run home every night so she can sleep in her own bed.

She doesn`t come out once a day for a rally at 7:00 at night and then fly home to her penthouse in New York. She`s out there campaigning every day, all day long.

MATTHEWS: Does she have a penthouse in New York?

MCMAHON: Anybody -- Donald Trump, I think, might have a penthouse in New York.

MATTHEWS: Oh, Trump. I`m sorry. Go ahead.

MCMAHON: Anybody who doesn`t think she has the stamina should go on the campaign trail with her and walk a mile in her shoes or a week in her shoes and find out just how much stamina she has.

MATTHEWS: So, why is Trump pushing this baby?

MCMAHON: Well, I don`t know.

Earlier in the show...

MATTHEWS: Because it`s not provable that she`s healthy? Is it one of those things where you can`t disprove a negative?

MCMAHON: It`s the birth certificate -- it`s the birth certificate of 2016.

Earlier in the show, you were talking about how he`s trying not to lose any more support. He`s hemorrhaging support among women. And he wants to try to shore up whatever support he has left. This is no way to do it.

MATTHEWS: You know, when he went after Ted Cruz, you know all about that, Charlie.

SYKES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And the sick thing about going after Cruz -- and I`m no fan of Cruz -- but going after his father for being part of the assassination of Jack Kennedy, based upon, I`m sorry, reports in "The National Enquirer."

MCMAHON: Right.

SYKES: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why would anybody vote for someone who believed this, as Joe Biden would say, malarkey? Who would -- how would you trust a guy to deal with anything, the economy, anything that mattered to you, if they based their facts on this kind of stuff, "The National Enquirer" and what`s on the Internet?

SYKES: Well, that is what`s going on here.

And, you know, when he named Steve Bannon to be CEO of his campaign, he basically said, look, this is the kind of stuff I`m going to be talking about.

Look, every single week, I get calls from Republicans who tell me, Charlie Sykes, he is going to make the pivot, he is going to be talking about substantive issues, he understands that he has got to stop the insults, he is going to be talking about Hillary`s record, he is going to be talking about these other issues.

And then when I will ask them, well, why is he talking about Hillary`s -- her health, why is he peddling these kind of things, and they just roll their eyes. And I don`t know why they are even surprised by this anymore.

MATTHEWS: Well, could it be that -- you see these women behind him? These are grown-up women.

MCMAHON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They are all laughing at this stupid stuff about the wall.

But could it be, Charlie, and could it be, Steve, he`s made the mistake of believing reality is what people will laugh at and cheer at his rallies?

MCMAHON: That`s exactly...

SYKES: Yes.

MCMAHON: This is what convinced Mitt Romney that he was going to win the election in 2012, the people that were around him at his rallies.

Charlie actually had the best line of the campaign so far when he said it`s like Donald Trump has gone into hospice. He wants to be surrounded by the people who admire him the most.

MATTHEWS: Painlessness.

MCMAHON: Political hospice, I`m talking about, not -- I`m not spreading a health rumor here. I`m just saying political hospice.

He wants to be surrounded by people at his rallies who admire him when he says crazy things and who get all excited, so he will say even crazier things.

SYKES: And in the bubble, this slays.

MATTHEWS: The thing about being in public life -- and, by the way, when you`re in public life, nice people who like you always say so. People that don`t like you walk past you and ignore you.

That`s really -- I have learned that. I think that`s the way it works. Otherwise, everybody loves me. I`m not sure that`s true.

Anyway, Charlie, maybe they love you more than anybody else on the Earth. But, anyway, thank you for joining us, Charlie Sykes, who made a big effort to get here tonight, and my friend Steve McMahon.

Up next, the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is coming here.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

President Obama will visit Louisiana Tuesday following the devastating floods that have killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands.

The first case of Zika virus has been confirmed in South Dakota. A woman was infected after traveling to Florida and several islands in the Caribbean. She is not pregnant.

And U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is losing all his sponsorship deals today, including Speedo and Ralph Lauren, over an incident where he falsely claimed he had been held up by robbers at a Rio gas station -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

rMD-BO_KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, AUTHOR, "WRITINGS ON THE WALL: SEARCHING FOR A NEW EQUALITY BEYOND BLACK AND WHITE": Hello, everyone. I`m Michael Jordan, and I`m here with Hillary.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ABDUL-JABBAR: I said that because I know that Donald Trump couldn`t tell the difference.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia just last month.

While he`s known as one of basketball`s greatest, if not the greatest -- he`s the NBA`s all-time scoring leader and a six-time NBA champion -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also a social and political activist and writer.

In his new book, "Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White," Kareem shares his personal perspectives on political issues that face us today, race, religion, gender and class, just to name a few. He joins me right now.

Kareem, thank you for letting me do a blurb for your book. It`s a great book.

I want to talk about right now and how your book relates to right now. What do you think when you see Donald Trump say, I want the black vote, I want the African-American vote? He`s really pushing it this weekend.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think probably there`s some remorse as to how he`s handled his campaign. If he could approach all people with some respect and humility, I think he would get a lot further in his quest to be elected president.

MATTHEWS: Well, right now, it was a few moments ago tonight, here on Monday night, in Akron, Ohio, Donald Trump made an appeal to African- American votes, supposedly. I don`t think it`s for real. But let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our government has totally failed our African-American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country, period.

Poverty, rejection, horrible education, no housing, no homes, no ownership, crime at levels that nobody`s seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we`re fighting, and it`s safer than living in some of our inner cities.

What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I will straighten it out. I will straighten it out.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, those women behind him who are white women were all laughing at that. I thought it was odd that that was a joke, making a joke about people`s predicaments in this country.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, you know, if he had some credibility, I would be more interested in what he was talking about. But, so far, he hasn`t come up with any, like, concrete plans on how he`s going to do it. He hasn`t shared them with us. So I don`t think that, at this point, we need to believe that that`s what he`s going to do.

He`s said he`s going to do a lot of things, and there`s been no concrete plans for anything.

MATTHEWS: You know, for a while there, I had some faith that he meant something about infrastructure, which is the most boring word in history, as you know. But I thought he was going to rebuild the cities, the sewer systems, the subway systems, the water systems, the highways, the bridges, and then maybe put some real state-of-the-art transportation systems into this country, reunite this country coast to coast.

He seems to have dropped that idea, which would create real jobs, high-paid jobs, and get this country working again. And yet he seems to kill that idea. I don`t know. Why do you think he dropped that idea, which was a positive thing, let`s get building again?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I don`t know why. That is a very real issue. And I think that a real plan to make that come about would certainly get a lot of interest.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about his decision to go after Muslims? He said, I`m going to keep them out of the country. And then he`s keep them away from -- keep people from coming from dangerous countries where there is terrorism from coming here.

Of course, that wouldn`t stop people coming here from Germany that put together 9/11. So this regional approach won`t work. A lot of African- Americans, a significant number are Muslim. You`re Muslim.

Is there a sense that he doesn`t like Muslims, he doesn`t really like Mexicans, why would he like us? What`s the sense about minorities in the way Trump talks, just generally?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think that the contempt that he has manifest with regard to minority people, I think, is more or less a nostalgia for the way things were in the `50s and `60s, when all the people in charge of everything, well, the majority of them, the overwhelming majority of them, were from Europe.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ABDUL-JABBAR: And now that`s not the same. So I think there`s some nostalgia there for a time when things were more to his liking.

MATTHEWS: What was it like when you, as a young man, a young adult, converted to Islam? Was there -- did you feel the pressure? And what was that like? And how does that feel today, given the fact he`s talking about banning people of your religion?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, when I became Muslim, Islam was more or less under the radar. People weren`t that interested in it. And as long as I didn`t go out and do outrageous things, people were pretty tolerant of me.

And I think, after 9/11, people changed. They want to know, what`s this all about? What is this faith that keeps supplying people that hate us?

And I can`t blame them for feeling like that. And, you know, I started having to answer questions of that nature.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about your religion in terms of the terrorism? How do you react to terrorism?

(CROSSTALK)

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, as you know, Islam doesn`t teach terrorism. Islam teaches us that we have to be able to interact with other faiths and make sure that we aren`t taken advantage of, and make sure that we don`t try to take advantage of them.

That is the golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated. And that`s what Islam teaches us.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I thought, too. Thank you.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thank you.

ABDUL-JABBAR: You`re welcome.

MATTHEWS: Kareem`s book is "Writings on the Wall." "Writings on the Wall," there it is. It`s out now.

Up next: If Trump doesn`t win the election, will he concede? Will he ever say it was a straight election that he lost, or will it always be, it was rigged, we was robbed? The roundtable is coming here with a look at the rigged election talk of Donald Trump and what that could mean come the day after the election.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we get cheated out of this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is such a vital state, especially when I know what`s happening here, folks, I know she can`t beat what`s happening here - - the only way they can beat it, in my opinion -- and I mean this 100 percent -- if, in certain sections of the state, they cheat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump in Altoona, Pennsylvania, earlier this month referring to potential cheating.

Well, talk of a rigged election is now a staple of the Trump campaign, but is he trying to blame the ref if he loses?

Politico`s Eli Stokols reported on a story titled "What If Trump Won`t Accept Defeat?" and quoted a close Trump ally saying that, if he loses, Trump would -- quote -- "point the finger at the media and the GOP establishment."

Well, that ally went on to say, "I can`t really picture him giving a concession speech, whatever the final margin."

Anyway, Trump`s national infrastructure also raises questions about whether he can win. "The New York Times" reports, "Mr. Trump`s operation still largely resembles the bare-bones outfit that he rode to victory during the primary season. More concert tour than presidential campaign." Good writing there.

For more on this, I`m joined by Eli Stokols himself, national political reporter for "Politico", Jay Newton-Small, correspondent for "Time Magazine", and David Weigel, political reporter for at the "Washington Post".

So, let`s all just run by this word association, rigged election. Why would somebody push that?

ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO: Well, he`s trying to --

MATTHEWS: Now, in August.

STOKOLS: He`s trying to keep his supporters ginned up and set, you know, an excuse if he loses.

MATTHEWS: Would you be more likely to vote in an election you thought was rigged or less likely? I`d be less likely to vote. I think, why waste my vote.

STOKOLS: And he`s trying to get --

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute, why would you tell someone that was going to vote for you it`s a rigged election ahead of time?

STOKOLS: It doesn`t seem motivational but it seems like he`s getting these people ginned up so that afterwards, they stayed up and angry about it.

MATTHEWS: To what effect?

STOKOLS: That`s what we don`t know. I mean, never in our history have we seen an election where the loser of a presidential contest doesn`t concede and say and recognize the person the --

MATTHEWS: I love concession speech. It`s the one honest speech of the campaign.

Let me ask you this, Jay, he`s got to get close to make this believable. I mean, just be practical. You can steal an election, I guess, with a small number of votes, like, you could argue the old thing in Ohio in 2004. You can argue -- you can`t really claim LBJ stole 100,000 votes, I don`t think. That`s a lot of votes to steal.

So, you got to get close and say we was robbed. But 6-5 in baseball, OK, you got robbed on a call. But if it`s 6-0, you weren`t robbed.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: But this is outrage, right? It`s part of the --

MATTHEWS: For what purpose?

NEWTON-SMALL: It`s again, ginning up outrage has been his number one goal the entire election.

MATTHEWS: Is it excuse-building right now?

NEWTON-SMALL: It is. It`s setting himself up to say, if I fail, then somehow it`s not my fault. Just like the debates. He`s called into question the debates Tuesday, well, the debates are rigged --

MATTHEWS: How do you steal a debate? How do you rig a debate?

NEWTON-SMALL: He was saying, well, the NFL, everyone, the scheduling wasn`t worked out, like, you know, it wasn`t in our favor, the schedule was done without us. I mean, he`s already starting to talk about somehow all of these institutions are rigged --

MATTHEWS: David Weigel, if Donald Trump has a fantastic performance against Hillary Clinton and she chokes for whatever reason or he chokes, everyone on earth will know it within a few hours. They don`t have to watch. It will be in the atmosphere.

You know how it works.

DAVID WEIGEL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s everywhere. People call you up, did you see that? You watch the repeats, you watch the bites. Everybody knows when what was it, Dan Quayle said, I`m Jack Kennedy? Everybody knew about it.

WEIGEL: Completely. But part of what Trump`s doing is feeding into an attitude that`s there already. Every election since 2000, the number of people who on the losing side think the election has been stolen has increased. It`s about 40 percent --

MATTHEWS: Who believes, which elections were stolen?

NEWTON-SMALL: Al Gore v. Trump. Gore v. Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

WEIGEL: ACORN stole it for Obama. That there was fraud in Philly for --

MATTHEWS: ACORN stole it?

WEIGEL: No, I`m serious. If you talk to people after the polls were taken they had stories about how there were parts of Cleveland where they suppressed Republicans, parts of Philadelphia. So, this was there already. This is an example of Trump feeding into something that people already feel is unfair.

Same things with these debates, a lot of conservatives you talk about 2012 and they will say Candy Crowley helped steal the election because she shut down that discussion --

MATTHEWS: That`s an argument. That`s not a conspiracy theory. She said, governor, he did say, that`s to me one of the major comments. I don`t think people who moderate the debate should be emcees. They shouldn`t go to the next question. They should listen and try to keep some order.

STOKOLS: But that hurts the candidate that you`re supporting, you say, oh, the media is biased. He`s playing into the politics of grievance. That will be useful to him even after the election, if he wants to stick around, if he and Steve Bannon want to -- you know, if there`s a growing conservative media --

NEWTON-SMALL: Roger Ailes.

STOKOLS: You never know. But these people -- keeping them angry, that accrues to Trump`s benefit.

MATTHEWS: Somebody ought to say something. You know, I`m a little bit of a romantic but we have clean elections in this country for president of the United States. You know, there may be state Senate races that were a conflict, like in Philly years ago.

You know, most of the states, all the states, it`s honest. I mean, we can argue about the Supreme Court decision. I didn`t like it, but it was right out in public and there wasn`t anything stolen. They did it, 5-4, Republican.

NEWTON-SMALL: No. I mean, there was a comprehensive study done over the last decade that showed there is something like maybe 31 votes in a decade could be proven to have not actually been the actual votes.

MATTHEWS: Clean system.

NEWTON-SMALL: That`s out of hundreds of millions cast. It`s a very clean system.

MATTHEWS: OK, here gets back to prejudice. I know what Trump`s saying when he says certain sections of this state. He`s talking about Philly, which is largely black, African-American now. He`s saying they steal l -- yet when we have these studies, 59 precincts where there was no vote for Mitt Romney. That wasn`t stealing elections. They don`t even have a Republican ward leader there. They don`t have anything there. The whole vote is Democrat.

STOKOLS: They have a lot of offices in Ohio. They don`t have any in Cleveland. So this is like --

MATTHEWS: They don`t win elections there.

STOKOLS: It`s not like we haven`t worked that area. It`s like how can we get zero percent of the vote, it must be rigged. It`s a more convenient but not believable excuse.

NEWTON-SMALL: And that`s amazing, his infrastructure is so nonexistent.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have local.

NEWTON-SMALL: Hillary has 152 offices in Ohio. He -- that`s more offices in the state of Ohio than he has staff, 82 staff.

MATTHEWS: OK, Trump`s message that the system is rigged seems to be working. Fifty-one percent of his supporters, you are good at this, have little or no confidence in the accuracy of the vote count. That`s a change from supporters of Republican nominees in the past. So it`s getting worse.

WEIGEL: That`s what I mean, and it`s going to be worse because there`s even more episodes of people showing up at what they see as a giant rally, they can see on Twitter, it was bigger than Hillary`s rally, they`re going to go home and wonder why he didn`t win. I saw this covering Ron Paul in two elections. He got 5,000 people to show up, and then wouldn`t win the election. And Trump is setting that up.

Trump also setting up people to blame the media, literally chanting for our jailing at these events, right? So this is something that he`s not interested in bottling. I don`t know how --

MATTHEWS: Should he feel proud -- this is rhetorical. Should he feel proud for getting our elections to the lowest level of discourse, we are like the worst banana republic country where they always blame the other side when they lose, it was stolen and when they win, they jail the person that loses. Like in Pakistan where they take the guy and hang him. Is this where it`s getting?

STOKOLS: We don`t know.

MATTHEWS: A joke? Where we -- in Africa, I understand in Africa it`s like this because in Africa if your tribe loses the election you`re out of business. You`re just gone. The other tribe gets in, they win, they get ought the bennies. This country is not like that. Trump is not going to be poor if he loses. These people aren`t going to be poor if they lose.

WEIGEL: If you want to propose more money and more standardization and make it as easy as going into a bank or something, you could. He`s not doing that. He`s just saying we`re helpless against this crooked wink-wink urban system. Yes, he does it without the intent of fixing it. Just with the intent of inciting people.

NEWTON-SMALL: It does so much damage to the system, too. You`re undermining the establishment. So, your faith and confidence in government is just completely destroyed.

MATTHEWS: As we speak moments ago, he sent out a call to his supporters to watch the polls. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You`ve got to get every one of your friends, you`ve got to get every one of your family, you`ve got to get everybody to go out and watch. Go out and vote. And when I say watch, you know what I`m talking about, right? You know what I`m talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You think the women behind him will check the voting booths and the voting in North Philly? I don`t think they will be there. These are suburban white people and they are all chuckling and nodding in agreement. We have to stop this black vote stealing, you know?

STOKOLS: But it sounds like that`s what he`s asking them to do.

(CROSSTALK)

STOKOLS: You call him on it, he`s like, oh, no, that`s not what I`m saying.

But that`s what he`s calling on his supporters to do, it sounds like.

MATTHEWS: Jay, poll watchers in the worst, tough neighborhoods? That what he`s pushing?

NEWTON-SMALL: I don`t think he`s getting suburban moms to go out to like inner city neighborhoods and monitor polls at all here. But he`s sowing the seeds of doubt. That`s what he`s doing.

MATTHEWS: This is getting raw. David, this is getting raw. This election is about Barack Obama being a foreigner, usurper, shouldn`t be in the office. If he`s riding down Pennsylvania Avenue, right, running down with the former -- the president of the United States he believes is illegitimate. He`s in the car with. Hillary Clinton is sick. He`s going to build that wall.

The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three tell me something I don`t know. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: So, tune in tonight, at 11:00 Eastern. We`re going to have a special live late night edition of edition of HARDBALL, all new show coming your way. The latest on the Trump and Clinton campaigns tonight as we kick off this week, and final 78 days to Election Day. It`s coming on. That`s 11:00 Eastern tonight. Right here on MSNBC.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

We have some time now for some interesting predictions and statements of unusual fact. Tell me something I don`t know, David.

WEIGEL: Well, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is still in the lead in her primary but not by much. A new "South Florida Sun Sentinel" poll has her up by 10, and Bernie Sanders who very early on endorsed her opponent is debating whether to go and campaign before the primary Tuesday. He`s finishing his book. That is officially the reason why he`s not there yet. But there is still a shot for a huge upset in South Florida --

MATTHEWS: What`s the issue against her?

WEIGEL: Oh, the Democratic Party corruption. They actually lost a little bit of steam since she lost the DNC position. That was the momentum.

MATTHEWS: OK, now that you`re talking Florida. You got to use your head now. Alan Grayson, I get stuck with him two or three times a day. It`s good stuff. It`s relentless.

Does he have a shot against Murphy?

WEIGEL: Declining. There are less polling on that. There are people who backed him that already pulled away.

MATTHEWS: Can the winner be Marco Rubio?

WEIGEL: Can if there`s a big enough Florida --

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean? Who`s going to win?

WEIGEL: Who`s going to win in November?

MATTHEWS: General?

WEIGEL: Well, I think Rubio wins eventually.

MATTHEWS: OK.

NEWTON-SMALL: So, Kellyanne Conway is no stranger to.

MATTHEWS: Nate Fitzpatrick.

NEWTON-SMALL: Nate Fitzpatrick, is no stranger to dealing with very controversial candidates and their controversial statements. You may forget that she actually represented and pulled for Todd Akin in 2012.

MATTHEWS: I do remember, who was one of the rape candidates.

NEWTON-SMALL: Exactly.

And then, as to the autopsy of 2012, she then went and addressed the House Republican Caucus conference in 2014 and told them to stop saying anything about rape whatsoever.

MATTHEWS: OK, Eli?

STOKOLS: I had an interesting conversation with a campaign source after he first made that pitch to African-Americans, when he said, what the hell do you have to lose? They said, you know, this is something it`s really about Trump feeling he doesn`t have anything to lose by saying that because he is deeply frustrated and does not understand why in public polls and the campaign`s private polling, he is sitting at zero percent.

MATTHEWS: OK, zero is rough. Zero is rough.

Thank you, Eli. You know your stuff. Thank you, Jay, as always from "Time" magazine. And Dave Weigel, who`s increasingly frequent guest here.

When we return, let me finish with Donald Trump`s attack on Hillary Clinton`s health. Talking about cheap shots.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish this Monday night with Donald Trump`s attack on Hillary`s health. The first thing to say is it`s a legitimate issue if it`s true. If there`s no basis for the claim, I can`t think of a political shot that is quite as low, quite this desperate.

FDR was in terrible health in 1944. The Democrats were so concerned that he wouldn`t finish the term. They dumped Henry Wallace for the vice presidency and put in Harry Truman. Wallace is considered too far left in his politics. The Democrats didn`t want to becoming president. It was as simple as that.

But you have to ask yourself in that case, if a president`s health is so bad you have to dump his V.P, what basis do you have for renominating him? Well, the Democrats tried putting the shoe on the other foot in 1956, realizing they couldn`t deny popular President Dwight D. Eisenhower a second term, they focused on his recent heart attack and they had loudly imply that the country couldn`t afford to have Ike`s vice president, Richard Nixon, become president, that didn`t work. People like Ike and Eisenhower completed that term.

Lyndon Johnson tried to keep Jack Kennedy from the presidency, putting out word that he suffered from Addison`s disease which he did. If we had known the truth, Kennedy might never have been elected president. Think about that one.

Ronald Reagan was seen as losing in 1980. Coached by Roger Ailes, he told a joke about it, saying he wouldn`t use his opponent`s youth and immaturity against him, even his opponent laughed. Reagan got re-elected.

Reagan wasn`t so kind of Michael Dukakis who was accused in 1984 by "The Washington Times" of suffering from depression. Reagan quipped he didn`t want to pick on an invalid, cheap shot there. And that, of course, was a cheap shot of course, and the kind we`re getting directed by right now Donald Trump, right now at Hillary Clinton, a cheap shot there.

There ought to be a special political graveyard, I`d say, for politicians who attack someone`s health, makes me think this one about Hillary Clinton might be directed at her gender, don`t you think? I`m not the only one that thinks that.

The fact is Dick Nixon did the same thing to his rival back in the 1950 Senate race. He said that campaigning is, quote, "hard on a woman", close quote.

I think this campaign is getting hard on Donald Trump, don`t you think? He keeps saying Hillary is getting a lot sleep these days and she said this weekend maybe he ought to try it.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. I`ll be back in 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for another special late night edition of HARDBALL.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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