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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/25/17 North Korea says Trump has declared war

Guests: Dave Zirin, Donte Stallworth, Ginger Gibson, Sahil Kapur, Tammy Baldwin, Nan Hayworth, Gordon Chang

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 25, 2017 Guest: Dave Zirin, Donte Stallworth, Ginger Gibson, Sahil Kapur, Tammy Baldwin, Nan Hayworth, Gordon Chang

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Political football.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Once upon a time, there were leaders in this very land who faced moments of national horror and did all they could to unite us. There was Birmingham back in 1963, when people saw firehoses and police dogs assaulting young African-Americans. It`s when a young president went on nationwide television to say we had to do better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and it is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There was the shooting of Martin Luther King five years later, when a young senator went before a crowd of African-Americans to tell them the news and try to rescue hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There was the attack on the United States, when the president stood for unity and urged people not to give way to religious hatred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That`s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don`t represent peace, they represent evil and war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, these were moments when leaders took great heroic events - - horrific events, earth-shaking events, but used their leadership to try and hold people together.

And then this weekend, there was this from the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn`t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out? He`s fired.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He`s fired!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Like that contrast? Donald Trump took a small incident, a football player taking a knee, much as Dr. King once did a half century ago -- there he is -- and turned that gesture into a firestorm of trouble and more division. He followed it up with no fewer than 13 tweets this weekend about the NFL.

Is this man a leader? Is he?

Donald Trump has traded on identity politics for years, though he said his recent comments didn`t have to do with race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This has nothing to do with race. I`ve never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the reaction from the NFL this weekend -- displays of protest and solidarity from coast the coast. Players kneeled or locked arms. Many owners backed their players. Even some well-known friends of Trump criticized him. Here`s Tom Brady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I certainly disagree with, you know, what he said, and you know, thought it was just divisive and -- you know, like I said, I just -- you know, I just want to support my teammates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a Trump supporter, released a statement saying "I`m deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday."

So what is President Trump up to? And are his words dividing the country? David Zirin is sports editor for "The Nation" magazine. Donte Stallworth is a former wide receive with six NFL teams. And Heidi Przybyla is White House reporter for "USA Today."

Let me start with David here and -- and I am -- in the past scene -- politics entered the Oscars, the Academy Awards, and a few people paid attention to that. And obviously, "SNL" has got great satire. But I`ve never seen anything explode totally across the American landscape culturally. Every television show today -- I`m sure "The View" did it, everybody (INAUDIBLE) Natalie Morales was doing it.

It seems that -- we had a meeting with our producers. Every one of our young producers is totally into this story, more than any story we`ve covered. Tell me why sports, football, NFL, tough, rough football, and this use of the race issue, this way he engaged with it, when he said "sons of bitches" he called players.

DAVE ZIRIN, "THE NATION" SPORTS EDITOR: Yes. See, here`s the thing about Donald Trump. He never played the game, and yet he talks about football as if he`s some kind of an expert just because he ran the USFL into the ground, as if that qualifies him as an expert.

And when he stood on that stage, he violated something that he doesn`t even understand, and that`s something the in the NFL locker room they call the brotherhood, which means that tons of NFL players may not agree with Colin Kaepernick`s reason for taking the knee, fighting racial inequities in the criminal justice system, raising a voice against police violence -- maybe they don`t stand with him on those questions, but they do stand in solidarity with each other.

And so to hear the president of the United States call for people to get fired, threatening their livelihoods, and then call...

MATTHEWS: That`s the picture I like. I mean, I hate talking ethnically, but I`m going to do it. The white player who puts his hand here over his chest, his left hand, so he can put his other hand on his fellow player.

ZIRIN: Well, that`s what was so beautiful about the weekend is it showed an alternative model of solidarity that this president does not represent. He`s in front of a crowd in Alabama, calling NFL players, quote, unquote...

MATTHEWS: A white crowd.

ZIRIN: ... a white crowd, calling them sons of bitches. And then he has the temerity, such little respect for us, the American people, to say this has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with race. It has to do with venom. It has to do with his lizard brain that looks at his audience and say, I know what they`re going to respond to in Huntsville. I`m going to go after these black dissenters. But he wasn`t counting on the brotherhood. He didn`t know that it would spread.

MATTHEWS: Donte, you were in those lines. You were in uniform. You played for all the teams. You were a wide -- I love wide receivers because you catch the ball.

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Magic hands.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Magic hands. Anyway, what did you feel about when you watched this whole spectacle this weekend? What did you think?

STALLWORTH: The first thing that I got was a text message from a buddy of mine, Reggie Bush. And we have a group text, a group chat that`s about four or five guys. And I was a little surprised.

But then I thought to myself, well, it is Donald Trump. It`s the president of the United States. He`s done these things before. He`s said worse things than what he said today or Friday night in Huntsville.

But it also showed that immediately, the players` response right away, current players, former players, everyone. And then you had Lebron jump in, Steph Curry. This was a -- we felt like this was an attack on not just NFL players, but on the whole professional sports as a whole.

And everyone who was always, you know, speaking out in the community, speaking out on these issues that we really need to keep it in the forefront and not allow Donald Trump to hijack this whole issue.

MATTHEWS: You know, Heidi, it`s so fascinating. You and I talk all the time about everything. But you know, I was reading a wonderful speech delivered in, I think, Australia over the weekend by Bret Stephens who`s our new commentator here, previously of "The Wall Street Journal." And he says we got to be for free speech. We got to be for agreeing to disagree. We got to learn how to sit next to somebody and disagree with him.

The conservatives like himself have been using that against the people -- the college protesters who won`t let a right-wing alt-right type person come to campus. But here we have so quickly on the heels of that debate people who may be progressives. We don`t know the politics of these players, but they definitely don`t like the police situation right now. And they`re saying they can`t express themselves. They can`t have a 1st Amendment right.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: All of a sudden, they set themselves up as the snowflakes that they`ve been speaking out against all across college campuses who are triggered by a -- a football players` socks, when you look at what`s going on on Twitter here.

I think the big question is, Why did he do this? Why did he pick this fight?

MATTHEWS: I think he did it to stir things up in the conservative white community.

PRZYBYLA: Well, it`s either intentional to stir things up like that, and to distract from what`s going on right now with North Korea, what`s going on right now with his...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Health care and an Alabama defeat he`s facing tomorrow night.

PRZYBYLA: Or I think there`s something to this, though, to the impulse aspect of this, to where he gets up in front of these crowds. And we see this time and again. He can`t stop himself. He has this impulse that he wants to throw out this salacious red meat to kind of get them riled up.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Donte on this because I`m not sure it`s confined to what we think it is, race. I thin, it`s also, have you noticed every time he had a rally, there`s a certain -- and this sort of a tincture of fascism here. I`ll just say that. When somebody`s complaining against him, or rallying against him, protesting -- Throw that bum out! And get physical with him and hurt him a little bit! That is some of this instinct, the SOB phrase. It wasn`t just we disagree with this guy, we have to reduce him to something we can beat up.

STALLWORTH: Yes, it`s depressing. And it`s really disturbing to see some of the trends that`s been happening -- since he -- really before since he even took office, just a lot of the things that he`s done now -- you`re talking about trying to limit free speech for certain people. He`s attacked his political adversaries and threatened to jail them. He`s attacked anyone who is pretty much seen that is in his way and in opposition to him.

But to me, the bigger disturbing fact is that -- I`ve been reading this book by Dr. Charles (sic) Whitman, and it`s basically called the -- the Nazi laws and how the Nuremberg -- how the Nazi lawyers learned from Jim Crow laws and they modeled their Nuremberg laws after Jim Crow.

MATTHEWS: Get me that book.

STALLWORTH: I will. And it`s a disturbing read because it...

MATTHEWS: Have you read it, too?

ZIRIN: Yes. Fantastic.

STALLWORTH: It really shows -- it really shows the beginnings of how this country was built on race law and race issues that we still haven`t come to grips with today...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me talk economics right over here.

ZIRIN: The influence of Jim Crow on Hitler.

MATTHEWS: I`m struck by -- OK, this is not a lesson in economic determinism, but I`m a little taken with this. This player who started this by taking a knee...

STALLWORTH: Colin Kaepernick.

MATTHEWS: Right. He can`t get hired.

STALLWORTH: Right.

MATTHEWS: So the owners aren`t hiring him. They make the decisions, right? But yet all the owners stuck behind -- this weekend. So how come the owners are making one economic, cultural-slash, whatever ethnic decision, political decision, and then they switched this weekend? So how did Trump get it wrong? Because Trump probably figured...

STALLWORTH: I`ll tell you how he got it wrong.

MATTHEWS: ... because they wouldn`t hire the guy -- Trump may have figured the owners were on his side for their own reasons.

ZIRIN: And this is where Heidi got it...

MATTHEWS: Why`d they switch?

ZIRIN: This is where Heidi I think gets it exactly right with the question of impulse control because I think Trump got up there to talk about those black dissenting NFL players, red meat for the audience, and then he couldn`t help himself. He was, like, This is why people don`t like the NFL. And then he said...

MATTHEWS: Ratings are down.

ZIRIN: ... this is why -- yes, this is why -- they don`t hit anybody anymore. Like, he pines for traumatic brain injury.

MATTHEWS: He wants more violence.

ZIRIN: More violence. And so what he was doing, though -- people -- he doesn`t realize that in NFL ownership circles, there is an existential fear right now about the future of the game. Will it even exist in 20, 30, 40 years because science is not the NFL`s friend.

MATTHEWS: And the helmets can`t do it.

ZIRIN: And the helmets got -- no, it`s like trying to make a safer cigarette. You can have less tar, bigger filter, still going to give you cancer.

And so what Donald Trump did, though, is he went after the business of the NFL, the profits of the NFL. And so all these owners who wrote him million-dollar checks, all of a sudden, they found their inner Dr. King...

(LAUGHTER)

ZIRIN: ... and then they`re on the field linking arms with the football players, including Dan Snider (ph), who looked so uncomfortable out there.

MATTHEWS: Oh, no, he`s -- I think Dan is -- I know him -- very...

ZIRIN: I just think he looked uncomfortable.

MATTHEWS: He`s very good on...

(CROSSTALK)

ZIRIN: He looked like a germophobe in a junkyard.

MATTHEWS: He is not like that. You can knock him on personality and other things, but you cannot knock him on that.

ZIRIN: I`m just saying he looked uncomfortable.

MATTHEWS: No, he`s very good. Also this weekend, President Trump went after one of the NBA`s biggest stars. We know who that is. He said he wouldn`t go to the White House. The president tweeted, "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation withdrawn." Curry responded. Her he is, Stephen Curry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: It`s kind of, I mean, surreal, to be honest with you. I mean, just -- I don`t know, you know, why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than -- you know, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it`s just kind of beneath, I think, a leader of a country to go that route. It`s not what leaders do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`d call that the height of understatement. Anyway, Lebron James backed Curry. Let`s watch him back his -- his opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It`s basically at a point where I`m kind of -- you know, just a little frustrated for him to try to use this platform to divide us even more. It`s not something I can stand for, and it`s not something I can be quiet about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That must have been a short cameraman there (INAUDIBLE) Lebron. What do you think of this? I mean, I love Steph Curry. And I love Kevin.

STALLWORTH: Yes. So the thing with Steph Curry is that when the president attacked him, he attacked one of the more classiest...

MATTHEWS: Oh!

STALLWORTH: ... one of the best individuals that this game has to offer, all of sports has to offer.

MATTHEWS: Number one attraction today is the 3-pointer.

STALLWORTH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Everybody loves him.

STALLWORTH: Everybody loves it. And so the fact that he attacked him -- you saw Lebron`s immediate response when he came out and he called the president of the United States a bum. And I think that just shows the solidarity not only with the NFL players, but just in general with professional athletes feeling like, This president is trying to intimidate us into silence.

MATTHEWS: Has the president finally brought himself down to the level of anything he`s ever said? I keep waiting, you know -- you know, you get -- what is it, you lay with dogs, you get fleas, when every one of the -- but these are classy opponents. But he seems worthy now (INAUDIBLE) attack. Like, Lebron`s not going to take any heat for calling him a bum, which tells you the mistake Trump got into here.

ZIRIN: I think so.

PRZYBYLA: I don`t want to pronounce anything the bottom, but I want to say that have I talked to some people, though, who are kind of the swing voters, you know, the Obama-Trump voters. I made a point of calling back to some of these men that I met in a bowling alley a couple of weeks ago who were the Obama-Trump voters. And I think we make a mistake in constantly analyzing these eruptions as jut appealing to the base because the only thing that matters that we learned from this election is the base matters. No. The people who elected him were not just the base. They were these swing voters.

And so I made a point of calling back and talking to them. And they said, Look, this is the kind of thing that we tolerated because -- we didn`t like it. We never liked it. But we tolerated it because we thought he was going to do great things for the country. He was going do all of these other things on infrastructure and bring back jobs. And the more he does this stuff, the more intolerable it becomes. And I spoke to a man who was big Trump supporter, met him two weeks ago, and he was very irritated by this.

ZIRIN: Wow. And when you Alex Smith, who is the white quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, say, Why is it Donald Trump has more criticism for us than neo-Nazis in Charlottesville?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ZIRIN: I mean, that really does have an impact beyond what we`ve typically seen.

MATTHEWS: You`re obviously a great editor to put that together like that. No, I`m serious. I don`t mean -- I mean, it`s fantastic because I don`t always think -- amazing, he`s so angry about this, and it`s not ethnic?

ZIRIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And he`s not angry about these white guys running around like Nazis? He`s not angry at them. He never gets into it with white guys.

ZIRIN: Very fine people.

STALLWORTH: His own actions speak for themselves.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s terrible. And I think the moral factor -- I`ll say it at the end of the show. Presidents should be moral authorities. Republican or Democrat, they ought to be people -- even George W., not my favorite, would come along and say, Don`t hate Muslims. This is not what this is about. It takes moral authority to do that. You can`t be a clown and try to make a moral statement. Nobody cares what clowns think.

David Zirin, thank you. It`s great to have you. I didn`t know "The Nation" had a big sports section. Donte Stallworth and Heidi Przybyla.

Coming up -- after a day of protests at the U.S. Capitol, Senator Susan Collins of Maine announces late today she`s the third Republican no vote to repeal "Obama care," and that`s enough to kill the bill and save "Obama care" again -- perils of Pauline here. But there`s a personal fight over health care between John McCain and President Trump. Trump attacked McCain, who`s a no vote now on the repeal vote, and McCain hit back. We`re going watch that. That`s coming up here in a fight tonight.

Plus, what`s the point of Trump escalating the name calling with North Korea? He`s now calling Kim Jong-un the "little rocketman," of course. And now the North Koreans are accusing Trump of declaring war, which I don`t think he did, but they`re going to play that game because of what he said. And they`re threatening to shoot down American planes anywhere near their airspace.

Back to our story. The HARDBALL roundtable tackles the politics of Trump`s battle with the NFL, the political football, for his base, or is this or isn`t this a political winner for his base? Heidi doesn`t think so. We`ll see.

Finally -- Heidi actually...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... because of the swing vote. She`s right here to correct me.

Finally, let me finish tonight with the "Trump Watch."

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Remember how Donald Trump made a major campaign issue out of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails? Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It`s unbelievable how Hillary Clinton got away with the e-mail lie, the e-mail scam, the e-mail corruption!

We know Hillary can`t be trusted. We`ve learned that -- with America`s security. You take a look at her e-mail situation. Can we trust her with our security?

She should have been disqualified for running for president from the first batch of e-mails!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: First batch. Anyway, today we learned Trump`s top White House adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has used a personal -- has used a personal e-mail address while working in the West Wing. Politico reported that Kushner used a private e-mail account set up during the transition last December to correspond with other administration officials. So it`s been official. Kushner`s attorney, Abbe Lowell, confirmed that Kushner has used a personal e-mail account, but says it handled fewer than 100 e-mails between January and last month.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senate Republicans` push to repeal Obamacare`s now dead on arrival, DOA. Late today, Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced her opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill. She joins John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky in opposition.

Now, as we know the math, three Republican no-votes leaves Senate Republicans short of the 50 they need, because they only have 52 to start with. Three minus 52 is 49. No cigar.

The announcement from Collins comes just after the Congressional Budget Office announced a -- quote -- "preliminary assessment" of an earlier version of the bill which had been revised to win over holdouts.

It found that while the bill would reduce the deficit by $133 billion over 10 years and cut Medicaid spending by $1 trillion over 10 years, the number of people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events would be reduced by -- this is the phrase -- millions.

And it said Medicaid block grants to states would cause market disruptions.

Collins said: "The CBO`s analysis on the earlier version of the bill, incomplete though it is due to time constraints, confirms that this bill will have a substantially negative impact on the number of people covered by insurance."

The bill was already imperiled earlier in the day where -- I was up there watching this in the Senate building. The protesters are amazing, some in wheelchairs. There was a blind fellow there. There have people that have really been -- spent their lives in wheelchairs. These were desperate, tough cases. Real, real health challenges, these people face.

They were dragged out of a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, arrested for disrupted a hearing to consider that Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill.

Anyway, the battle to repeal Obamacare had already gotten personal, with President Trump blaming John McCain personally for not getting it done.

On "60 Minutes" last night, John McCain was asked if his vote against a July repeal effort was retaliation for the president`s mocking of his Vietnam War service during the `16 campaign and his years as a prisoner of war. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If I took offense at everybody who has said something about me or disparaged me or something like that, life is too short. You have got to move on.

And on an issue of this importance to the nation, for me to worry about a personal relationship, then I`m not doing my job.

He is in the business of making money. And he has been successful, both on television as well as Miss America and others.

I was raised in a military family. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.

LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": Did he ever apologize for saying you`re not a hero?

MCCAIN: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, still, President Trump doubled down on his criticism of McCain today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Health care, I have been watching for seven years, when we have 52 senators. So you lose two, you`re out.

When I ran, I was told I would have a bill on my desk, I would sign it day one. And what McCain has done is a tremendous slap in the face of the Republican Party. That`s the only reason we don`t have it, because of John McCain.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for more on the fight over health care now growing increasingly personal, I`m joined by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

I have to tell you, I was watching the Vietnam thing on NPR last night, public television, which is spectacular. And I`m watching them interview John McCain. He is like this. He had broken arms, both arms broken from when his plane was shot down over Hanoi, his legs broken. He is like in a straitjacket. He can`t move.

He has had some kind of medical treatment by the communist North Vietnamese. And there`s some French journalist who is asking him, and he refuses, even in that condition, to do what the captors wanted him to do, which is thank them publicly for how well they treated him.

If he can put up with that, he doesn`t have any problem with Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: For sure, for sure.

And it just shows you -- when you watch something like that, it`s deeply personal. And John McCain has talked a lot about process, hasn`t talked a lot about what it means to not have health care and what it means to have it.

But you know that that`s sort of going on in his consideration of this too. And...

MATTHEWS: He can`t raise his arms. Did you know...

BALDWIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... that he has permanent challenges, disabilities as well, from what happened to him, when this guy -- and he treats the president, in his words, as sort of a carnival operator, some guy that does beauty contests, as a clown.

And I heard that. You heard it.

BALDWIN: I did.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t take him seriously as somebody to argue with.

BALDWIN: He -- John McCain has been serving, in various capacities, his country throughout his entire life.

And he doesn`t have to name it. You just know it. And he has done the right thing in saying he will vote no on this measure. He did the right thing in July, when we thought it might be over.

MATTHEWS: At 1:30 in the morning.

BALDWIN: Yes, when we thought we had resolved this.

But we`re going, I guess, through until the September 30 midnight deadline. But that said, I think part of what we`re seeing is so many people following his and other leads in telling their personal stories.

This is personal. And when you show the footage of the Finance Committee hearing, you`re talking about people who are so frightened about whether they can live independently.

MATTHEWS: Quadriplegics. Quadriplegics.

BALDWIN: Right, where Medicaid is the difference between whether they can...

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something. It`s interesting to notice the women in the Republican Party. There aren`t that many. There are more in the Democratic Caucus.

You see Murkowski is very impressive. And, Susan Collins, I have always been a fan of her. That they have really stood out.

Why do you think? Do you think there`s a gender factor, or is it just geography? What do you think it is, why they have been the ones who have been most brazenly going after Trump and saying, I don`t care what you think? Now Susan Collins came out today, as we said, and just said no.

BALDWIN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think women -- I don`t know if there are women involved in this. There`s more women more concerned about health care. They have been gutsy.

BALDWIN: Right. I agree, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And they`re Republicans.

BALDWIN: And I do think I find among the women in a bipartisan manner that we typically ran for these positions because we wanted to fix things. We wanted to work. We wanted to get the best ideas. We wanted to work in a bipartisan manner.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, I only got a few minutes.

BALDWIN: Well, let me...

MATTHEWS: When are we going have the Democrats say to the Republicans, or Republicans say to Democrats, you know what, this gladiatorial stuff has gotten us nowhere? Why don`t we sit down, make a list of what`s wrong with Obamacare, and do it?

BALDWIN: And so that`s exactly what we have been doing the past seven weeks, actually since July, with Susan Collins, with Lisa Murkowski, with Patty Murray, myself, all on the Health Committee.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Will that come to the floor?

BALDWIN: Well, as soon as we defeat this, it better, because we have actually, through Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray`s leadership, had a high degree of consensus on ways to fix Obamacare to stabilize the insurance market, bring down costs, exactly what the American public wants us to do.

MATTHEWS: Let`s do it.

BALDWIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, next time they`re having -- Chuck and Nancy and Donald are having Chinese at the White House, which I think is great -- big city, very big city people -- do it. It would be great.

You`re a great, great senator.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for coming on.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, that`s Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

For more now, we`re joining by former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, a Republican from New York state and a member of the Independent Women`s Forum board of directors.

Thank you, Congresswoman. Thank you for joining us.

NAN HAYWORTH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: My pleasure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Are we going to get to fixing the problem? Or where are we at now? Because I think the gladiatorial part is over.

Everybody has tried. I don`t think there were votes for repeal in the Republican Party. There were votes for repeal and something called replace, but nobody could agree on the replace part.

It seems we -- somebody ought to just put their hand up in the air and say, no mas, we can`t do this anymore, we`re actually going fix it now.

Your thoughts?

HAYWORTH: Chris, I agree we do need to fix it.

Obamacare, unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act is failing. It is in a deadly spiral.

MATTHEWS: Well, fix it.

HAYWORTH: Well, I agree with you.

MATTHEWS: Well, fix it.

HAYWORTH: I agree with you.

And the best way to fix it, Cassidy-Graham would have been a great improvement. Even the CBO said , its broad estimates -- it didn`t come out with details, as you know.

MATTHEWS: Would have, could have, should have.

HAYWORTH: But states would be able to craft better, more fitting insurance...

MATTHEWS: It`s over.

HAYWORTH: ... for their populations, and more people would be going to work.

So we need to hold those ideals with us. And I know that the Senate could come up with a bill that could pass, that could get at least 50 Republican votes if they could broaden the terms of the bill.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not bipartisan. That`s not going to happen.

HAYWORTH: You know what? I love to see...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You guys have been trying and trying. You -- in other words, you`re saying, Congresswoman, that you haven`t given up. You still think the Republicans can do this by one party alone.

HAYWORTH: Well, Chris, right. And I`m a Republican. And I`m a Republican, the only female physician of either party ever a member of Congress.

And I can tell you that there is great will to do this right. And, yes, I agree, we want Democrats to work in this process. But, quite honestly, Senator Schumer has no intention of participating meaningfully in passing that kind of a bill through the Senate.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: So, we have got to do it with Republican votes.

MATTHEWS: What do you have to say to John McCain tonight? The president calls him the problem of all -- the problem.

Do you think he is a problem?

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: Yes, I honor and respect your service. I wish you nothing but health and healing.

I think your better decision would have been to fulfill the campaign pledges you gave to the folks in Arizona who elected you and to have voted yes for Cassidy-Graham.

MATTHEWS: But there wasn`t -- Cassidy-Graham wasn`t on the ballot last year.

HAYWORTH: But repeal and replace was, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HAYWORTH: And this is, in many senses, the only realistic chance we have to make things better.

MATTHEWS: Well...

HAYWORTH: And it would have done that.

MATTHEWS: OK. But I think we`re replace and repeal is a non sequitur.

Anyway, thank you so much.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you on, former U.S. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York state.

Up next: What is Trump getting by escalating his attacks on the leader of North Korea? Are we safer because Trump calls him the little Rocket Man, Rocket Man? High school again. High School Harry.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Rocket Man should have been handled a long time ago.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I`m going handle it, because we have to handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, President Trump at his Alabama rally Friday night, telling supporters that he`d handle North Korea, whatever that means.

In a late-night tweet this weekend, he added that he: "Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of little Rocket Man, they won`t be much longer."

Well, North Korea construed this as President Trump declaring war. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RI YONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Last weekend, Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn`t be around much longer, and, hence, at last, he declared war on our country.

Since the U.S. declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the U.S. strategic bombers, even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.

The question of who won`t be around much longer will be answered then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed those remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not declared war on North Korea. And, frankly, the suggestion that of is absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this comes after senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea`s leader at the United Nations this week, saying: "Insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis," according to "The L.A. Times."

I`m joined by Gordon Chang, columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

Well, Mr. Chang, thank you, because I have no idea what`s going on in the head of Kim Jong-un and what he -- his reaction might be to the intemperate remarks made by our president.

What do you -- what can you tell us?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Oh, I think that he is very concerned.

We live in a democracy. So our government is inherently legitimate. Well, not so the North Koreans. And they`re very worried about attacks on the dignity of the leader, especially because North Korea is like a cult. So it`s almost considered to be existential.

And that`s why you got the comments of Ri Yong-Ho, the foreign minister, at the U.N. General Assembly meeting on Saturday, and, of course, this morning at that impromptu press conference. You can see how seriously they take this.

MATTHEWS: Well, when you look at these guys, the way they march, the way they smile in unison, everything is synchronized swimming in terms of their physical behavior.

You think it`s like they`re going to look at the game pictures afterwards. If anybody isn`t smiling the right amount, the right wide-enough smile, isn`t kissing up to the guy appropriately, they`re dead.

Is that the environment in which a guy like him would be sensitive, because he doesn`t know what criticism sounds like?

CHANG: Yes, absolutely right, Chris.

And to talk about people being dead for inappropriate displays, you had a senior North Korean leader sleeping during a Kim Jong-un speech last year, and the guy was actually executed only for that. So, clearly, this is something which is commonplace.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about President Trump.

If you were -- I will put you in the box. If you were advising any American president, how do you deal with a touchy guy like this, who does have the potential to put a bomb in San Francisco potentially in the next few years? I don`t know. I don`t know how close he is. But he may be over the next five or 10 years capable of hitting us here.

CHANG: Yes, the answer to your question is zero insults, far less rhetoric, much more pressure.

You know, President Trump had a great Thursday with the announcement of those sanctions in his executive order. And what he needed over the weekend was for the rest of the world to talk about cutting off the flow of money to North Korea, because that`s really critical.

If we`re going to have a peaceful solution, that`s what has to come first. But, instead, we -- we`re talking about President Trump`s early-morning tweet on Friday saying that Kim Jong-un was obviously a madman.

And then, since then, of course, we have had all the comments about the NFL and other related matters. So, no one is really focusing in on that executive order, which I think is a big step forward. So, basically, President Trump stepped on his own message.

MATTHEWS: Great guest. You are a great guest. You should give lessons on how to be clear on television. That is so clear. Walk softly, carry a big stick.

Thank you so much, Gordon Chang, for joining us tonight.

Up next: Trump`s fight with the NFL. For this president, it`s all about identity politics. Let`s face it, he is more of an identity politician than anybody.

But it could work with his base. Do you think? I don`t know. I just don`t know. I`m not sure the base is going to swallow this whole thing.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

And taking on the NFL and professional athletes as such, President Trump has been accused of fueling racial tensions in this country, in fact, divisions. The president`s assertion that his remarks aren`t about race ignores the underlying point of the demonstrations which began as a way to bring attention to racial disparity and law enforcement, of course.

As Philip Bump points out in "The Washington Post", he`s repeatedly championed the needs of his base and a continued embrace of racial politics, as seen in his taking sides against the NFL protests. And that fits the pattern neatly.

Whether referring to African-Americans, Muslims or Mexican immigrants, President Trump has a long history of making racially divisive statements. Let`s watch a few awful examples.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? And you know what? I wish he would. Because I think it`s a terrible pall that`s hanging over him. He should show his birth certificate.

They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.

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

You know what -- look at my African American over here. Look at him.

Are we going to work on our ghettos?

Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.

Places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.

You have to look at the Muslims, and we have to do something. We cannot stand by and be the stupid people while our country is destroyed.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST, FACE THE NATION: If it were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn`t be able to treat you fairly because that of policy of yours?

TRUMP: It`s possible, yes, yes. That would be possible. Absolutely.

His wife, if you logistic 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 have a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined now with the HARDBALL round table. Eugene Robinson is a columnist with "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst. Ginger Gibson is a correspondent with "Reuters". And Sahil Kapur is national political reporter for "Bloomberg News".

Gene, is there anything more to say about this?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he said it, right? I mean, what more is to there to say about this episode except that we didn`t preview in those clips? I mean, this has been Donald Trump. Before he got into politics, this was Donald Trump. Not just the birther stuff.

But he first came -- the first time he was in the newspaper probably was when he was -- he and his father were sued for racial discrimination in renting apartments in Queens. And then he made a big deal of the Central Park Five. And insisted they were guilty even after DNA had conclusively proved --

MATTHEWS: He stuck to that case. Yes.

ROBINSON: No, he stuck with it until like last year.

MATTHEWS: Why -- is he doing this for showmanship with his base? Or is it what he believes or doesn`t it matter?

ROBINSON: I think it`s what he believes. I think, look, you know, I use this quote too often. But Maya Angelou said, you know, when somebody tells you who they are, why don`t you believe them?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: He has been telling us for years and years who he is. Why don`t we believe him?

MATTHEWS: Well, I think there is a brutality added to the ethnic feature, the racial feature, if you will. I think his love of saying, throw them out, rough them up, be tough with these people, anything that suggests a sort of, you know, a fascistic sort of point of view. Power the over minority.

GINGER GIBSON, CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Trump has a playbook, and it`s got one line in it. If it worked the last time do, it again.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIBSON: And saying outrageous statements that get people to say, I can`t believe he would ever say that. That`s going to make his polls drop, that`s going to make him lose, that`s making the whole world turn out upside down, and then he comes out on top and says, look, that worked. That was the right thing to do. And he`s going to just keep doing that.

MATTHEWS: Who was it -- who, Ginger, who was it who said they have 300 and some executions in Texas, and they were all cheering? I made that was something that may have predated Trump. But clearly, it`s ethnic. Do you think it is?

GIBSON: I think that there`s --

MATTHEWS: Does he pick his ethnic enemies?

GIBSON: He has walked into a fight that was about race. And he knew it was about race. And there`s no way you could call it anything else. And that was clear.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- let me ask, Sahil, about this, because I just wonder, you know, I started off the show showing how politicians have addressed tremendous tragedies like the killing of Dr. King or the 9/11, or something. And they found a way to look good because they`ve said let`s not make anger the reaction of this whole thing. Let`s just fine, even Bobby Kennedy is walking into a tough neighborhood. And he says your spiritual leader is dead and a white guy did it, but let`s talk.

What would Trump have done? He wouldn`t have gone into that neighborhood. Trump would have gone to another neighborhood. I mean, it`s -- nobody tries to be a moral authority anymore. Nobody tries to say right or wrong.

Trump never says this is right and that`s wrong. He is this is white, maybe, but he doesn`t say it`s wrong or right. It`s -- we`ve lost the moral imperative at all I think completely.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It`s usually the role of presidents to try to bridge divides in that situation when you have the largest megaphone in the world, and these little people want you to do, that`s what previous presidents have done.

But I think President Trump -- this president has a different impulse. He loves riling people up. He knows the value of this.

MATTHEWS: But it`s always the same crowd, the peanut gallery.

KAPUR: Exactly, it`s the same crowd --

MATTHEWS: Well, look, Trump`s rally seem intent on following the president`s lead. Newt Gingrich, he is awful, suggested yesterday that the players can`t feel oppressed because they`re millionaires. Let`s watch Newt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Watching people who -- young guys who are multimillionaires explain that the country hasn`t been good to them, watching them refuse to honor the symbol of those who have died so they could be free is very, very frustrating. If you`re a multimillionaire who feels oppressed, you need a therapist, not a publicity stunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Isn`t that cute? Others were calling the players ungrateful. Former Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, quote, remember all this NFL stuff began before Trump? It began because ungrateful millionaire athletes said America is racist. They`re wrong.

Columnist Jelani Cobb argues in "The New Yorker", that the term ungrateful is a coded word. The belief endures that visible, affluent African- American entertainers are obliged to adopt a pose of ceaseless gratitude, appreciation for the waiver that spared them the low status of so many others of their kind. Ungrateful is the new uppity.

ROBINSON: Yes, don`t get me started. Jelani Cobb is absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: The ungrateful term. Aren`t they lucky we gave them some money? We don`t have affirmative action in football, do we? I mean, these guys are the best players. That`s why they`re out there. And they work since they were 5 years old to be the best.

ROBINSON: They worked hard since they were 5 years old, exactly, to get where they are. And you try to do the stuff they do, OK?

MATTHEWS: Yes, you run --

ROBINSON: But no, they`re supposed to be grateful that they were granted admission to the great white country club.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Ha!

KAPUR: Can we also note that President Trump is a millionaire himself? Nobody takes issue when he says no, we`ve got change this and that about the country, we`ve got make it great.

These are different people. The athletes are speaking out in their own version of what they think this country is lacking. And I think it`s important I think also to remember, they`re not protesting --

MATTHEWS: Let me demur a little bit about here about -- I don`t know why. It seems to me if a player wants to do -- you know, take a knee and show a point of view about the flag, a point of view about the kind of -- the point of view of our justice system, that`s a point of view.

That`s not a really disparagement. It isn`t really an assault. It isn`t flag burning. It isn`t even this, the fist in the air. It isn`t like that.

It`s a reasonable statement of political objection, which is exactly what the right is saying we got to do on college campuses everywhere in the country that the First Amendment should be honored across the board. And if you disagree with somebody`s politics, let them speak.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don`t they see the inconsistency? If you can do it on a college campus, why can`t you do it in a football stadium?

GIBSON: Would you call a millionaire who`s complaining about the rate at which they`re taxed by the government ungrateful? I mean, I think that there`s -- that`s a clear example. This is how the government treats people.

MATTHEWS: They never do that. They never criticized taxes.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these people tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months for sexting with a 15-year-old girl. As his sentence was announced, Weiner dropped his head into his hands and cried.

Weiner`s habit of sending lewd text messages to young women destroyed his career in Congress, his campaign for mayor of New York, his marriage to former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and even became an issue in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election. It sure did.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round.

Eugene, tell me something I don`t know.

ROBINSON: Mitt Romney tweeted this afternoon that instead of chasing all these crazy stories, what everyone in D.C. should be focused on is the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And he`s right. Just reading the news from down there, it`s a horrible situation, arguably getting worse and worse in Puerto Rico without power, with people stranded, with community flooded. And we should be hearing more about that. And we`re hearing -

MATTHEWS: Is this Katrina?

ROBINSON: Huh?

MATTHEWS: Is this Katrina?

ROBINSON: It could turn into Katrina or something worse than Katrina.

MATTHEWS: Ginger?

GIBSON: If you`re following this football debacle debate, the place to watch is Woody Johnson. He was a Trump donor. He had fundraised for him and he owns the Jets.

He is now a member of the Trump administration. He is an ambassador to Great Britain.

MATTHEWS: And his view?

GIBSON: He has been very quiet. His brother is running the team in his absence. He locked arms with the players on Sunday. But there were no kneelers on the Jets team on Sunday.

KAPUR: Chris, Obamacare repealed died another death in Congress today. The deadline is Saturday to either get this done or give up. And the Republicans` next big thing, their next last chance to get anything major done in legislative terms this year is a tax plan they plan on releasing Wednesday. It`s going to include across the board cuts including for wealthy, including for corporations. This is going to be a big fight.

MATTHEWS: We`ll see what it`s got for the middle class who voted for Trump.

Anyway, Gene Robinson, thank you, Ginger Gibson and Sahil Kapur.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, September 25th, 2017.

You know what`s missing in national politics today? I think it`s moral authority. Who has the standing today to say what is right or wrong? Who even makes the effort? Who at the top even brings up the question of basic morality?

Think about that scene we showed briefly at the beginning of the program of Robert Kennedy standing before an African American audience in Indianapolis and telling them Martin Luther King had just been killed. Think about the moral authority to that April night to appeal to that group to show restraint to avoid violence, not to hate but to love. Kennedy words seem like they`re from another place as well as another time. Today, we have become so clouded and overrun by nasty, derisive nicknaming by attacks on ethnic groups as rapists, by a claim that a duly elected chief executive was an illegal immigrant, by a then-candidate saying that women are worthy of being grab and exploited sexually.

Well, today, it`s all in the game. Anything goes. And the leader, the moderator of all this is the president. Moral authority, a sense of right and wrong, an acceptance that here on Earth our job is to be good to each other? It`s not even heard of these days, certainly not from the White House.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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