Show: HARDBALL Date: October 12, 2018 Guest: Adrienne Elrod; Ryan Costello; Ruth Marcus, Eli Stokols, Annie Karni, Anita Kumar
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Republicans call retreat. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.
Fearing a massacre at the polls next month, Donald Trump`s Republicans are concentrating their forces, cutting off outposts they see as lost causes. The goal is to save their majority in the House, if only by a single seat. To do so, Republican groups are cutting funding to roughly a dozen members, members of Congress incumbents who are deep underwater, in effect turning off their lights.
According to "The New York Times," the embattled incumbents are mainly in suburbs where Trump is vastly unpopular, including suburban Colorado, northeast Iowa and a district near Pittsburgh. It`s a far cry from the confidence coming from the party`s leader, Mr. Trump himself, in recent weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They keep talking about a blue wave. I don`t see it. We have the greatest economy we`ve ever had. What`s going on, they have been driven so far left, I don`t know why they don`t talk about red waves. They`re talking about this blue wave. I don`t think so. I don`t think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Just you wait, Mr. Trump. The nonpartisan cook "Politico" report rates roughly 70 districts up for grabs now, most of them Republican incumbents. And one Republican helping to steer the House effort told "the New York Times" that they believe intensifying their efforts in smaller number of districts. They can limit Democratic gains to perhaps 20 seats in November 6th, just short of the 23 seats Democrats need to take over the House so they try to hold on by inches now.
Additionally, the "New York Times" is reporting that private Republican polling shows conservative voters growing more enthusiastic over the last few weeks, but Democrats are still more energized, and moderate Democrats are currently leaning to the Democratic way.
For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Allen, national political reporter for NBC News digital, retiring Republican congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania. Adrienne Elrod, former director of strategic communications for Hillary for America.
John, you start. It looks to me like the outposts are falling. They are concentrating their forces and help of at least surviving if only by a seat.
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS DIGITAL NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: You are absolutely right, Chris. This is called triage in the political business. And basically, they are deciding which districts to treat and which ones to let guy. You have got a situation here where Democrats are absolutely going to pick up seats. There is no one that contests that. The question is are the Republicans going to be able to Marshall their resources in enough districts to be able the hold on.
On the other hand, you have got Democrats competing and funding sort of an unprecedented number of races right now, and the question is will they over expand. Will they try to go toward too many?
MATTHEWS: What about these green wave? What about the green wave that is coming on top of the blue wave, all this cash coming in from independent sources to help the Democrats pull off a sweep?
ALLEN: You hit the nail on the head, Chris. That is the x-factor. Now you have Democratic candidates. They don`t even need the money as much as they used to. You have got candidates, a good example in Pennsylvania`s tenth district. George Scott as a Democrat reported $900,000 in the third quarter. That`s a huge amount for a race that`s not even really on most people`s maps.
All over the country, you are seeing Democrats pull in crazy money in the Senate. You saw Beto O`Rourke, the Texas Democrat, pull in $38 million in the last quarter, which would be good for most Presidential campaigns.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to congressman Costello. What do you make of this when you talk to your caucus members about what`s going on in places like the burbs around Philly? You have all those attractive candidates, most of them women running for those open seats.
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, look, the green wave is real. I mean, FEC reports demonstrate that. But I will push back a little bit on Jonathan in the following respect. If the NRCC isn`t up on a week, it might very well the CLF, the speaker Ryan`s super Pac, it could be the chamber of commerce. So some of this is just laying down a marker on what needs to be spent from week to week.
I think that the Republican advantage is this. You have very talented, battle-tested incumbents. The Democrats` advantage is the green wave. I mean, it is just an exorbitant amount of money for first-time candidates coming from all across the country, and the fact that in suburban districts, Trump`s un-favorability in suburban districts is anywhere between 55 percent and 60 percent. And the closer it gets to 60 percent, the more difficult it becomes to get as a suburban Republican to 51 percent. But it`s not over. This could be 8 or 10 seats that the Democrats pick up, or it could be considerably more. We are definitely in the throes of a very competitive midterm.
COSTELLO: And I still think the jury sought on what high pressures on Election Day.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m betting 30 to 40, congressman. So I`m beyond you on this.
Let me go to Adrienne on this. You are thinking about this. I`m the one who know what it is like to be Republican incumbent and getting the word from Washington to your campaign folks, they are cutting you off, because that`s what this story is about in "The New York Times" today. They are turning out the lights in some of these incumbent districts -- Republicans.
ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, they are. And if you are a Republican who has given a lot of money to the NRCC over the years, you are probably not too happy about this.
But look, the NRCC, the Republicans are doing exactly what they should be doing. They are in incumbent protection mode. They are shifting their resources where they can actually win some seats.
And look, you know, Chris, I`m with you. I think Democrats are going to do well. I think we may pick up 30 to 40 seats, but a win is a win. We need 23 seats to take back the house, to take back control of the House of Representatives and that is what we are looking at. (INAUDIBLE) of course is playing in over 100 seats. They have expanded the map dramatically. They recruited really smart candidates who fit the profile of their district.
I`m actually here in Michigan. Eleven right now campaigning for my friend Haley Stevens who is in a lean D district as she will flip that state hopefully from red to blue. But Democrats have expanded the map. And the NRCC is doing exactly what they who be doing, which is marshalling their resources to where they can actually try to hold on to some of these really, really competitive tough seats.
MATTHEWS: And if they win the House, I believe, whoever Pelosi says to hold the next two terms next two years, fine. If she decides to require some time in the next years from the speakership, which she will have, I think the questions will it be a woman who replace her? It better damn well be a Republican or Democratic woman replacing Pelosi if anybody does. I think it`s going to be Sheri Bustos (ph).
Anyway, according to Republican memo acquired by the "the New York Times," the head of the congressional leadership fund, a Republican super Pac told donors that the Supreme Court fight had boosted Republican enthusiasm and a few vulnerable incumbents were looking stronger in polling.
However, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll just out, most Americans disapprove of Kavanaugh, and certainly of his confirmation. In fact, when asked how the Kavanaugh debate would impact their midterm vote, slightly more said they would be inclined to support Democrats over Republicans because of this confirmation. But women say it draws them towards Democrats over Republicans by a 16-point margin.
I have got to go back to you on this, Adrienne. This Kavanaugh thing has not been good for Republicans when it comes to women
ELROD: No. And I think we kind of knew this all along, Chris. Again, I`m not quite sure why Republicans on a Senate Judiciary Committee in particular thought that having an all white male panel of Republicans essentially not believing Dr. Blasey Ford would actually help them going into the midterms.
And enthusiasm is on the Democrats` side. To your point, women in particular, independent women, and independents overall, men and women are flocking to the Democratic Party right now because they don`t like Brett Kavanaugh. They don`t think he should be on the Supreme Court, and they are really disappointed how he was essentially rammed through so quickly by the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: At his most recent campaign rally on Wednesday night this week, Trump stressed the importance of voting to reject the Democrats. Let`s watch the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: On November 6th, you can vote to reject the Democrats` shameful conduct by electing Republican House, and really we need it badly. We need these votes, a Republican Senate. If you want security for your family, for yourself, if you want to continue our great economic boom like we`ve never seen before, but it`s all very fragile. It can end. They want to end it. Then you must go out and vote Republican. We need those votes in D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I think that`s as much as he is good at the PT Barnum (INAUDIBLE), that sounded like a statement of desperation, like we got to do it to save the House. The House is in jeopardy. That`s what he seemed to be saying there, the President.
COSTELLO: Look. The President says a lot of things. I thought you were going to ask me about the manufacturing summit yesterday with Kanye West.
My take, my take is this. I mean, Senate wise, if you look at what happened in terms of the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings, Tennessee and Arizona are really inching away from Democrats.
MATTHEWS: I agree. We are going to get to that in a minute. OK, we will get to that. There is a geographic split. The suburbs around the big city, all around the suburbs, I mean across the country, Denver, L.A., everywhere, it`s helping women especially. But you get into the deep red states, I agree. I will give you something for it. And you can won (ph) here, congressman.
There are new signs that it`s a very different story when it comes to the Senate fights the red state. They are struggling the Democrats out there in Trump states like Texas and Tennessee. But also in Nevada, which Hillary carried.
A slew of new polls just out today show Democrats struggling in some key states they were hoping to pick up in November. Red states, very red. Congressman Beto O`Rourke, for example, is not trailing Ted Cruz, that popular fellow, by eight points in Texas.
In Tennessee, which is every bit as red as Texas, former governor Phil Bredesen is down 14 points now to U.S. congressman Marsha Blackburn. I always thought she was going to be strong.
In Nevada, congresswoman Jacky Rosen is a two-point down from senator Heller, the incumbent. (INAUDIBLE) stuff.
But you go back, congressman, talk about the geography. I really do think you get anywhere near a big city and the Democrats are in great shape you. Get out into the wilderness, the plain states, you get out to even Missouri, you get the North Dakota, you get to Nevada even which is Hillary country, it`s much different story.
COSTELLO: Yes. And for suburban Republicans in competitive districts, the challenge is how do you channel independents, how do you brand yourself separate from the cultural identities that the Republican party has in the Midwest and more rural areas. That becomes a challenge.
Listen, when the President goes out and does those rallies, you know as well as I do, they love him. They love him there. But you can`t do that in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, or Chester County, Pennsylvania, and get the same type of response or at least the same type of political victories that would ensue from that it`s just a fact of the matter.
We can go back to President Obama`s second term, and even there you saw the suburban districts trending away from Democrats. If this is a wave year, it would be a scenario where Democrats sweep the suburbs. I`m just not convinced that we`re there yet, and I don`t know that we get there because you have to look at the -- in a very -- in these tight districts you really have to look at candidate quality. And it`s good for two or four points. And I would say to some of my colleagues who were in these districts, they are strong, they are sharp. And that may make the difference between holding the House or not.
MATTHEWS: OK, John, here is my theory of politics. It`s binary. You can either say yes, I love the way things are going. Keep it up. Keep it up. This is great! I love it! I love it. Or you say, no I don`t like the way things are going in this country. I don`t like this Trump era. I don`t like the smell of it. I don`t like the language of it. I don`t like this guy. I don`t like Trump.
You have only got one vote. It seems to me you`re going to exercise that vote against what`s going on now if you`re like most voters. That`s my feeling why Democrats are going to win across the country, except for the red states. They are going win these house races.
ALLEN: The gas or the brake, Chris. The evidence of what you are talking about is where President Trump is campaigning. I have been to about a dozen rallies in the last few months across the country. He has had a couple dozen this year. He is campaigning in those deep red states. He is campaigning for Senate candidates. He almost never goes to a county that is competitive or that he lost, with the expectation of Clark County, Nevada, where he is going out to help Dean Heller. That`s Las Vegas. You basically see him in places that are heavily Trump company.
MATTHEWS: I know wherever they got a big city newspaper.
Go ahead, congressman.
COSTELLO: One other point. The one thing that none of us know is who has the better data. I mean, in a 2018 congressional campaign between the RNC, and nobody thought Trump was going to win, and somehow the polls were off by about six points. So those data troves. And it`s not just RNC and DNC. It`s also what candidates do on social media and how they cull that data and who they`re delivering that could be the difference between who wins and loses on Election Day in upwards of 20, 30, 40 districts.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see. I think 30 to 40 for Democrats in the house, the Senate stays Republican.
Thank you, Jonathan Allen.
Thank you U.S. congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.
Adrienne Elrod, thank you.
Coming up, damning new evidence in Saudi Arabia`s involvement in the disappearance of a "Washington Post" contributor and Saudi dissident.
Plus, presidential historian Michael Beschloss comes tonight to sound the alarm about presidential war powers in the age of Trump. What could Trump do if he wants to?
And the notoriously private first lady Melania Trump tells a reporter that her husband`s alleged infidelities are not a concern to her. We will show you that.
Finally, let me finish tonight with a time when a Sunday school teacher swept past the Democratic establishment and defeated a Republican President.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O`Rourke announced today that his campaign has raised an unprecedented $38 million in just the last quarter, a sum that shattered records for Senate races, but also rivals the amount of money for past Presidential campaigns.
And Austin`s NPR station is reporting today that Travis County which encompasses Austin and its nearby suburbs is on track to register, catch this, 93 percent of eligible voter, which would be a modern record, 93 percent. But it`s unclear if fundraising and voter registration even at this level in this Texas race, one of our HARDBALL ten Senate races to catch race will translate into votes on Election Day.
As we mentioned before, in a "New York Times" poll completed yesterday, Ted Cruz leads O`Rourke by eight, 51-43.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
NBC News tonight is reporting that according to U.S. and Turkish officials quote "Turkish authorities have told the United States that Turkey has recordings now from inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that provide evidence that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside." NBC has not heard or seen the tapes yet, but this comes after "the Washington Post" reported, excuse me, that the Turkish government says it has audio and video recordings. And that`s according to U.S. and Turkish officials that say the recordings show that a Saudi security team showed Khashoggi into the consulate and killed and dismembered his body.
The news continues to upend the administration`s strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, excuse me. The Trump administration`s relationship with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman whose rise to power was accompanied by a crackdown on his rivals.
Anyway, Jared Kushner in particular has scored the 33-year-old crowned prince. According to "The New York Times," Kushner once even hoped that the future king would put a Saudi stamp on approval on his Israeli/Palestinian peace plan, that was Jared`s plan.
Anyway, despite warnings of mounting evidence implicating Saudi Arabia, the President, that`s Trump, tonight said he will talk to the king soon and that nobody yet knows what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we`re going to find out what happened with respect to the terrible situation in Turkey having to do with Saudi Arabia and the reporter.
And nobody knows quite yet. Nobody`s been able to put it all together. People are starting to form ideas. And as they`re formed, we will you know.
But it certainly is a terrible thing.
QUESTION: Was it a mistake for Jared to develop such a close relationship with the crown prince?
D. TRUMP: No. I know if it`s any closer than other relationships that people have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now from Istanbul is Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News. And Ruth Marcus, she`s a deputy editorial -- yes, deputy editorial page editor at "The Washington Post."
Richard, how is the world looking at this disconnect between the evidence coming from the Turkish government, which is gruesome and total, with apparently a tape, an audiotape of this killing, and our president`s refusal to accept the fact?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of the world reaction has been similar to the way the world looks at President Trump from the beginning, that he is someone who values a strongmen. He is someone who values money, values trade relations, and tries not to cast any moral judgments and does not want morals to get in front of business interests.
And I think that is the way people look at it. They`re somewhat scratching their heads. Some think it`s pragmatic, but they are not looking at as the way they traditionally have seen the United States, which tries to present itself as a champion of human rights, not always very successfully.
But we`re learning tonight -- and the "Washington Post" guest can elaborate more on this -- is really a new take on what happened inside the Saudi Consulate behind me.
We know that Jamal Khashoggi was nervous about going inside this building. That`s why he`d been living in exile. He knew he`d made enemies of the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, also referred to by initials, MBS.
He was so nervous about going inside that he told his fiancee to stay outside with his phones and to call authorities should he not come out. And he didn`t come out. But, apparently, that was not the only precaution that he took.
A Turkish newspaper tonight, a pro-government newspaper, is reporting that he was wearing an Apple Watch, and that he had set the Apple Watch synching in with one of his phones to record, and that while he was inside, the phone was recording, uploading data to a server, and that he may have, through his cunning, recorded the interrogation, the beating, the torture, and ultimately his own murder, leaving behind the clues that Turkish investigators are now putting together.
MATTHEWS: Is that the source of the recording that the Turkish government has?
ENGEL: According to this one pro-government newspaper, which, I must say, has been pretty reliable. This pro-government newspaper has throughout the past week-and-a-half been drip, drip, drip releasing information, tips about the timeline, about how two charter jets arrived at Istanbul Airport, how a convoy of vehicles came here to the consulate building, that they were very early on in quoting security sources saying that Khashoggi had been murdered inside.
So their information has been consistent and proven out to be true and supported by other Turkish officials. It`s possible that that is not where these recordings come from, but that`s where they say came on.
MATTHEWS: Well, hold on there, Richard.
Let me go to Ruth Marcus.
What`s -- what`s impressed me is the way, I think thanks to your newspaper and other journalistic organizations, the American people have taken up this cause. He`s -- Jamal Khashoggi is felt at this point like he`s one of ours, somebody who chose to live in our country, sought refuge in our country, worked for our country, reported for our country.
And we feel like a kinship with him after his death, apparently. And I wonder if anybody thought like this in the -- in that part of the world, that they knew how much of an affront we were going to take here.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, we certainly think of Jamal Khashoggi at "The Washington Post" editorial page, at the opinion section, as one of ours.
And I have to say, the response of the American people, the response of our colleagues at NBC, MSNBC, and across the American media to this outrageous disappearance, and perhaps worse than disappearance, has been a really heartening aspect of a really terrible and tragic story.
And I think that we know, the American people know instinctively that people who criticize their government, whether here or abroad, are not enemies of the people. They use a phrase that people may recognize. They are acting out of love for their country.
Read Jamal Khashoggi`s op-eds for "The Washington Post." You understand that this is a man who truly loved his country, wanted to get it on the right track, praised Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi leadership when he thought they deserved praise doing things like allowing women to drive or opening movie theaters, and also was fearless in criticizing them, a fearlessness that might have led to his murder.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has long been a vocal advocate for better relations with Saudi Arabia. In fact, Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the first stop on his first foreign trip after becoming president.
And he`s consistently praised that country and its leadership since entering politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. TRUMP: It`s a great honor to have the crown prince with us. Saudi Arabia has been a very great friend and a big purchaser.
The king of Saudi Arabia is a great guy, King Salman.
Think of it. I have great friendships in Saudi Arabia.
I have many friends that are Saudis. I see them all the time.
I`m all for Saudi Arabia. I like the Saudis. They`re very nice. I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.
Saudi Arabia, I love Saudi Arabia. The people are very nice to me. They buy my apartments. You wouldn`t believe it. It`s true. They will pay me anything. They have nothing but money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Richard, do the Saudis think they own Trump?
ENGEL: Well, they may have thought that, but I think what happened over the last couple of days here in the international reaction may prove that the Saudis, if in fact they were behind the murder or disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, that they misread the situation.
There has been a ferocious backlash. Turkey has been relentless in its leaks, telling reporters what happened, telling the media about what it says was a hit squad of 15 Saudis who arrived in this country, who came to the consulate, and were waiting inside, so that they could kill and then dismember Jamal Khashoggi.
So if they thought they had Trump bought and paid for, and they thought that no one was going to react to this, then I think they were mistaken.
MATTHEWS: Richard Engel, you`re the greatest. Thank you so much for that report from Istanbul.
Ruth Marcus, as always, from "The Washington Post."
Up next: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss joins us to talk about his new book that sounds the alarm about American presidents, including this one, who might use their -- their destructive war powers without any check with Congress.
We will be right back with Michael Beschloss.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. TRUMP: When you have the strongest military ever in the history of this world, nobody`s going to mess with you. These big guys know it over here. These people know it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
D. TRUMP: I don`t want to use our military. But this is a very dangerous world. This is a sick world in many ways, OK? It`s a very, very -- I mean, I see things, as president, that you don`t want to know about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump in Iowa earlier this week.
As commander in chief, this president has power to wage war that has, in many ways, become virtually unchecked.
In his new book, "Presidents of War," presidential historian Michael Beschloss examines the evolution of that power by looking at how previous presidents led the United States into war.
He writes: "Were the founders to come back, they would probably be astonished and chagrined to discover that, in spite of their ardent strivings, the life or death of much of the human race has now come down to depend on the character of a single person who happens to be president of the United States."
I`m joined right now by the man who gave us this warning in this big new book, Michael Beschloss. He`s NBC News presidential historian. And he`s author of the big one, "Presidents of War."
It`s a beautiful book. I`m into it now, Michael, as I have been with your other books. It`s a great big epic.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And here it comes at a time we have a president who, for most of the people watching right now, is dodgy, shaky. You come up with the words.
The one thing I heard from Trump that I liked in the campaign was, he was going to stop stupid wars. He thought he W. was the stupidest president in history because he took us into Iraq.
And now the way he pushes Iran, he kills the deal. Well, what`s the alternative? He gets tough in his talk around the world, Rocket Man, things like that. He`s -- he says he`s against war.
But my question is, could he take us into one?
BESCHLOSS: Yes, I think he could, Chris.
And I agree exactly with what you just said. Could do it in two ways. One is he may not have the ability to keep us out.
One of the stories I tell in this book that made news is that LBJ stopped his commanders in 1968 from being -- bringing nuclear weapons into Vietnam. And he said, lock up the documents, stop this, I don`t want this to become a nuclear war.
I hope President Trump would have that kind of talent.
The other thing I worry about is that he would get us involved not in a war by accident, but for politics. In 2011, Trump tweeted over and over again, watch out, Americans, President Obama is going to take us into a war in order to get reelected.
Very dangerous thing for a president to connect those two ideas.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think that indicates he might do it himself?
BESCHLOSS: I think it`s in his -- he realizes that there is a political advantage for a president who wants to elevate his poll ratings, or who wants to run for reelection, if he does, to get involved in a war in which he looks commanding.
And just imagine -- we`re totally saying this hypothetically, and I hope that it will never come to pass.
MATTHEWS: Well, here...
BESCHLOSS: But he could be tempted if he`s in a situation, let`s say, with Mueller, or he is in political danger. People worried about that with Richard Nixon.
And that`s why, as you said, it`s such a dangerous thing that, over 200 years, through all these presidents, we have got into a situation where a president can take us into war almost overnight, almost single-handedly.
MATTHEWS: OK, that`s wag the dog. We always worry about a president going us to -- taking us into war to help himself or save himself politically.
What about ideology? One of the people who were -- one of the big, strong -- of the war in Iraq and all -- the sort of the belligerent attitude of the W. administration in the first term was John Bolton.
And now John Bolton is head of all national security for this guy. Is that -- how did that happen? How did a guy who ran against basically the stupid war syndrome find himself picking John Bolton? And how much...
MATTHEWS: ... does Bolton have?
If you choose John Bolton, it means, if you`re president, you`re not so much against war after all.
BESCHLOSS: And the other thing I find through history is that presidents oftentimes take us into war based on fake incidents, like the sinking of the Maine by the Spanish, supposedly.
BESCHLOSS: The Spanish had nothing to do with it.
Gulf of Tonkin incident, that never happened, yet Johnson and Nixon for 10 years waged the Vietnam War based on that terrible resolution from Congress based on this incident that never happened.
MATTHEWS: What about -- let`s go back to this nuclear war, because I did know back in the `50s, Nixon wanted Operation Vulture, I think it was, in `54 during Dien Bien Phu, when the French were getting kicked out of Vietnam, North Vietnam.
He wanted to put nuclear weapons in. And Ike said, no.
MATTHEWS: ... that Westmoreland, our commander over there, wanted to bring them in.
Was that because we were losing after Tet? I mean, was it Khe Sanh?
BESCHLOSS: That`s exactly...
MATTHEWS: What would you good to do with a nuclear war, by the way? You`re fighting in the jungle. What do you do with a nuclear war -- warhead? Where do you send it?
BESCHLOSS: Well, that`s why it was so crazy, Chris.
And that`s why it`s so imperative that you got a president with the leadership skill to stop it. Lyndon Johnson made terrible mistakes in Vietnam, but thank God he said to Westmoreland, his commander, exactly what you have just said: I don`t want nuclear weapons to reverse a possible defeat at Khe Sanh. All it`s going to do is provoke the Russia -- Russians and the Chinese.
BESCHLOSS: Can you imagine, Chris, if that escalated into a nuclear war that killed tens of millions of people, basically as a result of what we now know was a civil war in the agricultural country of Vietnam?
It would be absolutely crazy. And that`s why I pray that, if it ever comes to that, that our current president has that kind of leadership skill. I`m not so sure.
MATTHEWS: You spent years on this book, Michael...
BESCHLOSS: Ten. Ten.
MATTHEWS: ... and for the good of our country and the world, and I got to tell you, "Presidents of War" is a book we all have to have on our shelves and in our heads.
Thank you, Michael Beschloss.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Get out and buy this book on Amazon or wherever else you get it, because you need this book to protect your children and every -- everybody to come in our country against presidents who have no right to this kind of power.
Coming up, once again -- under the Constitution.
Coming up: Trump supporters are out there calling for a Democrat to be locked up, any -- by the way, they always seem to be a woman. It`s lock her up all the time. It was lock up Hillary Clinton. Of course, then it`s Dianne Feinstein. And now it`s -- wait until you here -- tonight -- he`s saying tonight, tonight, he wants Nancy Pelosi locked up.
What crimes? Just being a woman?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, I`ve been going around lately saying the Democrats are the party of crime and nobody even challenges me, not even the fake news media. They don`t even challenge me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Anyway, President Trump is campaigning now in Ohio tonight, his seventh rally this month. Well, moments ago, the president continued his attacks on the Democrats, and some in the crowd began chanting "lock her up" -- catch this -- as Trump mentioned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat Democrats --
Take control, they will try to raise your taxes, impose socialism on this country, take away your health care, and take away your jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable on that note. Annie Karni, White House reporter for "Politico", Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for "McClatchy" newspapers, and Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The Los Angeles Times".
Annie, you first. And "lock her up" seems to be gender specific now with these crowds, these Trump crowds.
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, it just sort of is a chant. It seems to have lost its original meaning which had to do with Hillary Clinton. Now it`s a chant when women come up. But it`s interesting Trump is trying to use Nancy Pelosi as an attack on the Democrats in the midterms, because I`ve talked to people in Nancy Pelosi`s office who have actually seen those attacks kind of getting -- it`s not working as much. Her numbers aren`t bringing down other Democrats as much.
So, she`s not this cudgel that she used to be to harm other Democrats running in House seats. So it was interesting to see him bring her up again like that. But lock her up now, it`s just something that you say at a Trump rally.
MATTHEWS: Eli, you think the women in the audience liked that gender aspect to always her. They never say lock him up.
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes, I don`t know. I don`t know if they recognize the difference or the fact that it`s always a woman whose name elicits those chants. I was at the rally Tuesday night in Council Bluffs, and it was Dianne Feinstein. The president was up there complaining that Feinstein may have leaked Dr. Blasey Ford`s testimony, and the same chant broke out.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
STOKOLS: I mean, these morality plays that are rallies, they`re such familiar experiences to the people who go to them because they`ve seen them on TV. You can really feel in the room that night, and I`m sure this is true at most of the rallies this week and for a long time that people are even kind of -- before they get their cue from Trump, they are chomping at the bit to deliver their lines. A and the big line for crowd has been "lock her up" for a long time.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump is speaking out in a rare on camera interview. During a recent trip to Africa, she dealt with reporters` questions about the allegations of her husband`s extramarital affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: It is not concern and focus on mine. I`m a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do. I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage, and certainly the gossip, but I understand the gossip sells newspaper, magazines, getting advertisers. And unfortunately, we live in this kind of world today.
INTERVIEWER: Have you been hurt, though?
MELANIA TRUMP: Media that is speculating, yes, it`s not always pleasant, of course. But I know what is right and what is wrong and what is true and not true.
INTERVIEWER: You mention you`d still have a good marriage. Do you love your husband?
MELANIA TRUMP: Yes, we are fine, yes. It`s what media speculate and it`s gossip. It`s not always correct stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anita, what do you think of that question from a reporter, just generally? Do you think that`s in order?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Oh, sure. Think about all the things that we`ve seen with President Trump this year in the last year and a half, all of the allegations against him. I think it`s perfectly fine. I found it interesting that she sat for the interview.
I mean, she is a very private person. She hasn`t done a lot of interviews. She did this interview and seemed to not like the questions. It was very telling to me that her spokesperson, the White House press office, the first lady herself are really pushing back on the media.
They`re using -- she is using her husband`s line, really, that the media is out to get us and sort of using that for her benefit.
TRUMP: Annie, you`re thinking about this. Because, you know, whatever it was, she wasn`t elected. She`s a civilian, as we say. His behavior is not under her control.
I don`t know. It`s always tricky to go after a family member with the elected official`s problem, I think. But obviously it`s an old-time attitude.
KARNI: I mean, there is long been fascination about the marriages of our presidents, and I think her answer on she is a mother and first lady, what else is she going to say?
But I think there is a lot of anxiety in her team about doing this interview, a lot of anxiety among the president`s allies that she did it. A little confusion about why she picked ABC, why she picked, like, a straight news reporter where she was going to get tough questions she didn`t like.
And actually, more telling than this answer I thought was the clip they released yesterday where she said she is the most bullied person in the world. And I saw a lot of cleanup from the White House kind of explaining what she meant by that statement, that that`s why she launched Be Best. And it`s not a good sign when there has to be explaining what she meant to say means it was -- she didn`t explain it well herself.
So, there has been a lot of anxiety for many reasons about this very rare sit-down interview that she did on her trip.
MATTHEWS: Again, she`s not -- she is a civilian. She is not a politician. She doesn`t have Trump`s shamelessness. Obviously she was disturbed by the whole situation.
Anyway, finally, President Trump was in Pennsylvania, Wednesday night where he endorsed the Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I`ll tell you, he is a really good man, and he is a hard worker. And I know it`s a tough race, but based on competence, based on everything, very successful guy, successful businessman, which we like, Scott Wagner -- Scott?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in a new Facebook video published this morning, Wagner threatened to stomp on the face of his opponent, incumbent Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, on his face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT WAGNER (R), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Between now and November 6, you better put a catcher`s mask on your face because I`m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes because I`m going to win this for the state of Pennsylvania, and we`re throwing you out of office because, you know, I`m sick and tired of your negative ads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This afternoon, Wagner, the Republican candidate responded with another video saying that he may have chosen a poor metaphor and shouldn`t have said what he said.
Eli, there is something about a guy saying I`m coming at you in my golf clothes, look out. It doesn`t exactly scare somebody. I don`t know. Your thoughts?
STOKOLS: I agree with you. I think it`s kind of a joke. But I also think that Trumpism and Trump`s rhetoric and this projected male toughness, this bravado, it spawns a million copycats. Republicans are now basically aping his behavior, his message. And you can see he is up there every night at the rallies, basically accusing Democrats of terrible things, saying that they`re a mob, saying that they`re unhinged, that they`re wacko.
And so, it`s no surprise that some of these down ballots candidates in some of the places where the president may be popular are going to try to parrot his phrasing. And as you saw there, they often don`t get it right. There is only one Trump out there. Trump would never have apologized for such a comment, yet you see the candidates taking it a little too far and then they have the walk it back.
MATTHEWS: Yes, the fact is, I think you heard it in the language of Trump. He said his candidate`s in bad shape. Governor Wolf is going to get reelected overwhelming, Bob Casey, the senator up there, the Democrat is going to get re-elected overwhelmingly. They`re wasting their time this time around.
Anyway, the round table is sticking with us. In the next minute or so, we`re going to have these three tell us something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Pope Francis today accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Cardinal Daniel or Donald Wuerl. Wuerl is the former bishop of Pittsburgh, accused of mishandling cases of sexual abuse described in that recent grand jury report out of Pennsylvania.
In accepting the resignation, Pope Francis compared Wuerl to a noble shepherd, putting the good of his flock ahead of his own interests. Well, bottom line here, I`m glad to hear this, the church, my church is getting serious about this, and sometimes people who are otherwise good people have to take the fall.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
KARNI: In the post-Dina Powell landscape for replacing Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador, the Trump world is looking to find another woman. They`re worried about losing a woman at the cabinet level. They`re looking at senator -- former Senator Kelly Ayotte and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are a few names they`re considering.
MATTHEWS: You know, they`re great prospects, both of them.
KUMAR: Sure. With just a few weeks left until midterms, you would think everybody would be spending money and time on House and Senate candidates. Well, you would be wrong. There are six super PACs spending over $9 million on President Trump`s reelection for 2020.
STOKOLS: Well, the president`s busy campaign schedule is going to continue until election day. White House official told me this week that they are increasingly bullish on Senate races after spending a week or two working on House candidates and helping them. The president`s going to hit the trail for a lot of Senate candidates. They`ve seen positive movement in a number of states post-Kavanaugh and they said you can expect a swing out west before Election Day as well.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think they`re going to hold the Senate because the red states, they`re going to lose the House by 30 to 40 seats.
Thank you, Annie Karni, Anita Kumar and Eli Stokols.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a Sunday schoolteacher who became our president. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We had a great documentary airing Sunday night here on MSNBC. It`s an intimate look at my old boss, President Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia who raced across the Democratic establishment and defeated a Republican president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: My name is Jimmy Carter, and I`m running for president.
MATTHEWS (voice-over): Like Donald Trump he ran against the Washington political elite.
CARTER: I never was part of a political establishment.
MATTHEWS: But Carter was no TV celebrity. He rose from nowhere.
CARTER: I was going to run for president if I only got my vote and (INAUDIBLE) vote.
I don`t seem to be better than anyone else.
MATTHEWS: And not only that, can we imagine in what we`re experiencing now a Sunday schoolteacher seeking and winning the country`s highest office on a promise not to lie to us?
CARTER: When I`m president, I`ll never tell a lie.
MATTHEWS: I`ve known him for decades, even worked for him as a speech writer. And I`m still trying to fully get my head around the man.
CARTER: Good to have you back in place.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t been here in a while.
CARTER: I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Tune in Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END