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Trump battling self-inflicted chaos. TRANSCRIPT: 8/22/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Susan Page, Ron Reagan, Donna Edwards, Sam Stein, Wayne A.I.Frederick

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  A worried king.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Rattled by the U.S. economy and his prospects for re-election, an unsettled President Trump is stumbling through a week of self-induced chaos.

Since Sunday, the president has picked stupid fights with an array of perceived adversaries.  He ignited outrage by saying Jewish Americans are disloyal if they vote Democratic.  He accused his enemies of conspiring against him to crash the U.S. economy.  He`s ginned up a fight with Denmark, of all countries, canceling a state visit there because it rebuffed his offer to buy Greenland.  Is this the behavior of a level- headed leader?

As The New York Times reports, some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the president`s behavior, suggesting it stems from rising pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year`s election approaches.  That may explain why the president went off into La La Land during a 35-minute Q&A with reporters yesterday.

Among other things, the president called the prime minister of Denmark nasty.  He contradicted himself on gun safety measures.  And he defended his accusation that Jewish Democrats are disloyal.

Well, the president`s changing stance on whether to soup up the economy only added to the confusion this week.  On Tuesday, Trump said he was considering a payroll tax cut to boost the economy, only to roll it out 24 hours later.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Payroll tax is something that we think about and a lot of people would like to see that.  That very much affects the working -- the workers of our country.

REPORTER:  Will we see a payroll tax cut which is aimed --

TRUMP:  I`m not looking at a tax cut now.  We don`t need it.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Equally confounding is that the same time Trump attacks Jewish Americans for voting Democratic, he`s become flummoxed that they are not lining up to support his re-election.  That`s according to The Washington Post, which reports that Trump believes his support for Israel should automatically translate into electoral support from Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, according to a new poll by the Associated Press, the president`s approval rating has ticked down slightly to 36 percent now, with 62 percent of Americans disapproving, more than three out of five don`t like his presidency.

I`m joined right now by former Democratic Congressman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Sam Stein, Politics Editor of The Daily Beast, Ron Reagan, welcome back, Ron.  He`s author and Political Commentator.  And Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist.

Ron, just in from Italy, I assume, as always.  Let me ask you this.  What have you missed?  Have you noticed the strange oddity, this crotchety is my word for it, irritable would be a good old -- sort of a sterile word.  Crotchety is my favorite.  He wants to fight with everybody, including the quiet American-loving Danes.  What`s up?

RON REAGAN, AUTHOR:  Yes.  Well, it`s craziness, but I take a little umbrage at this idea that we have to ascribe it to something like the economy or his anxiousness about re-election.  He is acting the way he`s acting because he is who he is and what he is.  And we`ve got to stop being surprised about any of this kind of stuff.  It`s only going to get worse as we get closer to the election and more pressure mounts on him.

Look, the economy may be heading into a recession.  That puts pressure on a president.  Well, you know what Truman said about heat and kitchens.  The presidency is full of pressure.  If this is enough to push him over the edge, really, let me state the obvious, he does not belong in this office.

MATTHEWS:  I`m going to argue with Ron for the first time in a couple months here because of this.  I think going to war with Denmark is still freaking news.  I`m sorry.  It still makes my list.  This is a president -- it`s like a Mel Brooks movie.  I mean, what -- I`m sorry, I`ll go back to you, Ron.  Why do you think it`s okay or this sort of fits the norm or a pattern of our lives now?  He wants to go to war over Greenland.  If you wrote this as a script in Hollywood, no one would buy it.

REAGAN:  No.  It`s not that it`s okay.  It`s just that it`s normal for him.  I mean, yes, this is completely crazy, of course.  Buying Greenland, like it`s a chunk of Manhattan real estate or something you can pick up for a song.  But this -- but, you know, every time I come on this show when I get back from Europe, we have a discussion about how crazy Donald Trump has been while I have been gone.  I think it`s about time we just acknowledge he`s been crazy because he is crazy.  And it`s just going to keep going.

MATTHEWS:  But if we were in a hospital and we would have a good nurse or doctor, we would have a chart, a very strong diagonal line heading up skyward in the craziness department.

REAGAN:  It`s a trend line.  I agree.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Susan, because, Susan, I noticed you reading one of the magazines I read, like Variety, that Jimmy Cagney, James Cagney`s 50- acre estate up in Martha`s Vineyard is for sale.  That`s what Trump should be looking at.  Ron is right.  He shouldn`t be looking at Greenland.  Prime real estate, yes, retirement real estate in Martha`s Vineyard is what he ought to be looking at.  Your thoughts.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes, you`re absolutely right, Chris.  The president, now, I`m not a doctor so I`m not going to go into his mental health and where he may be, but this is a president who is acting as he always has.  He`s scared.  He gets defensive.  He is not a leader.  No one ever follows him.  He may give orders, and people may follow them, but they`re not inspired by him.

He`s living in a land where only surfactants (ph) survive.  That`s all he has around him.  And that plus the economy, plus the poll numbers that are coming out against him, he`s nothing more than a frightened child who just has a lot of dangerous things he can do.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have that from the inside, from, I mean, the kind of people who sit in the office from him?  When he comes out with these zenoic (ph) ideas, do people like shake their heads and go and get in the other room and talk about him, or what is the humanity like around him, people with brains?

DEL PERCIO:  Well from what I hear, people just try and keep their head down.  And the ones I know of just try and get their jobs done and not let him cause damage.  Btu there`s also those who are enablers.

And let`s not forget, Donald Trump is not --

MATTHEWS:  Mick Mulvaney?

DEL PERCIO:  Well, he doesn`t do anything.  I wish he would do something.  He just lets Trump be Trump and let him make his phone calls to people, you know, and call his friend, Jim, whoever that is, and get opinions.

MATTHEWS:  Harvey, Harvey, the rabbit, for all we know.

DEL PERCIO:  For all we know.  So that`s where we are.

MATTHEWS:  Okay, let me go to Donna on this.  You`re a politician.  First of all, the Jewish Community, generally, since I was born, especially Democratic going back to the FDR times.  I mean, they`re new deal (ph) Democrats, generally.  They are, they are just socially liberal, blah blah blah.

Trump thinks he thinks he can buy them by moving the embassy.  I mean, look what he`s doing.  How come they`re not being bought?  It`s all transactional with him now.  He doesn`t understand the acquisition mentality of his.  I acquired your votes.  What gives here?

FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD):  You know, this is the thing, it is about a transaction.  And so he`s making the tick-tock list of all the things that he`s done, and darn it, why aren`t you with me?  It turns out that Jews, just like a whole bunch of other voters, don`t just vote on one thing.  They vote on a lot of things.

And, you know, when I think about my own relationship with the Jewish community, actually, it goes back to childhood where Jews and Blacks lived in the same neighborhoods, because, guess what, we couldn`t live anyplace else, and so we lived together, and those sort of things.  And he doesn`t even factor any of that stuff in.  It`s not about history.  It`s not about relationships.  It`s all about what did you do for me, because this is what I did for you.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, what can I buy from you?

The New York Times also points that after casting off advisers who displeased him at a record rate in his first two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump now has fewer aides around him willing or able to challenge him, much less restrain his more impulsive -- you`re an expert on this, this thing about, well, you are, because you know politics, and The Daily Beast knows all about this stuff, this intrigue.  Who is left that can say, Mr. President, I think you have lost it?  Who is willing to say to him, are you sure?

SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST:  Well, no one, really.  And this is partially because people have left and they haven`t backfilled the positions.  It`s partially because Trump has evolved in the office.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Scaramucci was too sane for him?  I mean, think about the people that have left.  These are not exactly buttoned-down people.

STEIN:  So we didn`t start in a great place.  But when Trump did take office, he was humbled to the degree that Donald Trump can be humbled.

MATTHEWS:  Omarosa?  These are people are too restrained for him?

EDWARDS:  He did have his generals.

STEIN:  He did have his generals and they`re gone.  And I think --

MATTHEWS:  Mad Dog Mattis.

STEIN:  Increasingly, he is someone who feels he needs to rely on his own advice, he needs to -- he`s his best counsel, he`s his best political adviser.

Let me say one thing though.  We talk about how his craziness is a vulnerability, and truly, it is, but I don`t necessarily think it`s his number one vulnerability.  I think exhaustion is.  I think people are just tired of this.  I think people are tired of this show.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) exhaustion --

STEIN:  Collective exhaustion with the --

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Let`s go back to Ron on this.  Ron, you have this Captain Queeg notion of this guy, right?  He`s playing with ball bearings, I wonder who took the frozen strawberries.  I mean, that`s -- you`re laughing.  That`s not (INAUDIBLE).

Your dad, I do know this, once said that people get tired of politicians.  You`ve got to like a Hollywood actor and keep a little bit of this, a little -- Trump is in our face starting at 6:30 in the morning every day.  I go to a party, we should have like, you know, I`m sorry, this is the zone you can`t talk about Trump.

REAGAN:  It`s like the quiet cart in the train.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about that.  When are we going to get tired of him?

REAGAN:  Sam makes a very good point.  Yes, people are going to get exhausted by him, and this is, you know, a sociopath like Trump, this is one of their secret weapons.  They`re crazy 24/7.  They`re working it all the time because it`s who they are.  But for everybody else who just wants to have a life and kind of live, go to dinner and enjoy themselves, it becomes just incredibly exhausting to keep up with this 24/7.

MATTHEWS:  They`re wearing those hats, the MAGA hats.  They put the hat on when they get up in the morning, they take it off when they fall asleep or the still -- maybe they sleep with the hat on.  I don`t know.  But, Ron --

REAGAN:  Yes.  No, it`s all the time.

MATTHEWS:  You think he`s certifiable?  You think he`s certifiable?

REAGAN:  Well, I`m not here to diagnose him.  I`m just -- when I say, crazy, I`m using that --

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you are.

REAGAN:  Well, I mean, I`m using it in a colloquial sense.  I`m not a psychiatrist.  But I think all of us can recognize crazy when we see it.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  When you`re in Italy, because I know you go over there lot, when you`re over in a country, a really interesting country, they read the paper, they know what`s going on, what do you say in defending our country led by him?

REAGAN:  Oh, well, I don`t defend our country led by him.  I try and defend our country and reassure them we`ve got a chance in less than two years to right a serious wrong.

But, really, you know, I think Donna was saying that he`s always been this way.  He has always been this way.  We knew this was coming, or we should have before he was even nominated.  He`s always been this person.  So what did we expect was going to happen when we put that person in the White House?

MATTHEWS:  You sound like the snake story.  That is Donald Trump`s snake story, right?

REAGAN:  His snake story?

MATTHEWS:  You know, Sam?  You invited him.  You invite the snake in.  What do you think it`s going to do?  It`s a snake.

STEIN:  Ron is completely right, right?  I mean, prior to running for office, he led the birther movement.  And then we just suddenly act like, well, he`s a political figure.  But, obviously, he`s always been a conspiracy theorist.  He`s always been --

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  We`re going to have more of this mishegas, as Jewish people say, which is complete craziness in a moment with my guests who are sticking around.

Coming up, Donald Trump`s delusions of grandeur have gone biblical.


TRUMP:  Somebody had to do it.  I am the chosen one.


MATTHEWS:  That`s going to go in the history -- it goes in the time capsule.  He`s now calling himself, as you just saw there, hands up in the air, the chosen one.  He Tweets a quote calling himself the king of Israel.  Has this reality show presidency finally jumped the shark?

Plus, how basketball superstar Steph Curry is helping to change lives through the game of golf, and a generous donation to a major historically black university, something really nice to end the show with tonight.

Much more ahead.  Stick with us.



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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump accepting the Republican presidential nomination back in 2016.  Trump`s delusions of grandeur have developed into something of a messiah complex now.

Yesterday, he quoted a right-wing conspiracy theorist comparing him to the second coming of God and called himself the chosen one when it comes to handling China.


TRUMP:  Somebody had to do it.  I am the chosen one.  Somebody had to do it.  So I`m taking on China.


MATTHEWS: By likening himself to a god, Trump earned the ridicule of the New York Daily News today.  Look at that cover which mocked the president of biblical depiction on its cover today, the last whopper, not talking about the burger either there.

And here, look at this, disciples, his apostles.  There is Mike Pence looking very beatific and there is, of course, his daughter and his son-in- law.  And over to the right, you`ve got Ben Carson and Melania, and apparently, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.  They`re all worshiping him.

We`re back with people who are not doing that, I hope, tonight, Donna Edwards, Sam Stein, Ron Reagan and Susan Del Percio.

This is scary.

STEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  When you make yourself into a deity.

STEIN:  The question is does he believe it?

MATTHEWS:  Well, the chosen one is either rabbi (ph).  I mean, who is this guy?  What is he making of it?  It`s frightening.  I`m dead serious.  Nobody calls himself the chosen one.  Maybe some do in religion.

STEIN:  I mean, some people, but they`re usually on the corner with sandwich boards over their bodies screaming about something.

What is an interesting thing here is we have a very problematic confluence of forces.  One is an incredible narcissist in Donald Trump, who was a narcissist prior to becoming president, and then the presidency, which is the most powerful position in the world.  When you combine those two things, it might affect your self-perception.  So in this case --

MATTHEWS:  You know, in certain ways, he is the king.  His long ball game he`s played while we`re chuckling at his sometimes near insanity, he`s probably -- he gets re-elected again, two more Supreme Court justices.  He will have a seven to two court for the next 30 years.  So there is a king- like quality, the guy`s power.  If you just sit back and say, wait a minute, while he`s doing all the crazy stuff with Denmark.  He`s also ready to do that again if he gets re-elected.

EDWARDS:  Well, he`s doing that but also things like, I mean, completely ignoring everything having to do with the rule of law, ignoring the Congress as a legislative body, all of those things, because he said he wants to be in charge.

And what really gets me is that --

MATTHEWS:  I`m the one who calls the shots.

EDWARDS:  Right.  But he completely confuses religion, right?  And so he inserts like the second coming, talking about Judaism.  And it`s like, no, those two things actually don`t really go together.

MATTHEWS:  That sort of have been an issue for about 2,000 years, am I right?  Donald Trump`s belief in his superiority is no surprise.  Listen to a few of the things he has said just over the last couple of years.


TRUMP:  I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.  I tell you that.

Oh, are you happy you voted for me.  You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.

Let me tell you, the one that matters is me.  I`m the only one that matters.

I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there`s hurricanes or whatever, that`s good enough, will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president.


MATTHEWS:  Ron, I don`t know what to say but except the obvious comparison to what happened in the `30s and `40s in Europe.  But let me tell you this.  I went with a Catholic school for all those years.  They used to have pictures of Jesus that I -- I`m a Catholic.  I`m not just was a Catholic.  I am one.

But they used to have these pictures of Jesus holding like one finger in the air.  And it was like the way that the messiah, our messiah, spoke to us when he gave us the -- you know, the beliefs, our beliefs, our father and the rest of it.

Trump does that.  I have never known a politician in my life to put his finger up like that, like this, like, I`m the one. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m the chosen one.  Listen to my words. 


REAGAN:  The little -- the tiny little hand there?  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s true, yes.


MATTHEWS:  His little -- you couldn`t resist that, could you? 



REAGAN:  Well, you know.  Why not? 

Well, he is a narcissist, of course.  And all of this is sort of a defensive strategy for the narcissist.  He doesn`t really think all these things inside.  He tries to convince himself of them.

But let`s remember -- it`s worth remembering, I think, he didn`t really want to be president, and he didn`t prepare to be president.  It was all a big infomercial for him.  And now it`s kind of a reality show.  He`s obsessed with ratings and things like that, but he doesn`t actually engage with the idea of being the president of the United States. 


REAGAN:  Not interested in learning anything in particular. 

And so he just sort of floats along day to day in this stew of chaos that he creates. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you`re right. 

You know, Susan, I don`t think this guy did a lot of book work getting ready to be president. 


MATTHEWS:  I don`t think he read many history books, if any.  I don`t think he read, like most politicians, great biographies, which I have known -- any politician I know reads biographies. 

Not interested in how people got to where they got, how they learned.  No intention of learning himself, no autodidact effort on his part on philosophy, any of that information that does help you lead. 

DEL PERCIO:  Yes, because he`s not a serious person.  He is not a leader.  I can`t -- I want to stress this enough.  People follow leaders.  They`re inspired. 

He tends to bring out that dictator sense of...

MATTHEWS:  Mussolini?

DEL PERCIO:  Mussolini.  Follow what I say.  You must obey me. 

It`s funny.  My father used to say, obedience, I can demand.  Respect, I must earn. 

He`s not earned anyone`s respect in the White House.  He`s learned what those powers are, to your point earlier, of what he can and cannot do.  But when it`s time to get actually something done, like health care, he failed.  He failed miserably. 


MATTHEWS:  He likes rallies, though.  He likes rallies.

DEL PERCIO:  He likes rallies.  He likes people who...

MATTHEWS:  Like Duce, Duce, with the car horn blowing. 


DEL PERCIO:  Very much so.

MATTHEWS:  No, really, I remember those old newsreels of Duce and people yelling "Duce, Duce," blowing their car horns.  I think he likes that. 

DEL PERCIO:  Of course he does.  I mean, that`s who he is.  He is a narcissist.  He only likes the adoration of it.  And, again, he only can tolerate people who will bow to him.  That`s it. 

MATTHEWS:  Can`t beat that.  Thank you so much. 

There is no accolade that President Trump thinks is beyond his reach, however.  Speaking to a group of American veterans just yesterday, President Trump said he wanted to give himself the Medal of Honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation`s highest award for military valor. 

Here he is. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nothing like the Medal of Honor.  I wanted one, but they told me I don`t qualify. 


TRUMP:  I said, can I give it to myself anyway?  They said, I don`t think that`s a good idea. 



MATTHEWS:  And today, giving that award, the award of Medal of Freedom, to Bob Cousy, the basketball great, he said, there`s a difference between -- like somebody just briefed him on this.

There`s a difference between the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom, like he just learned it overnight.  I think he did.

Anyway, he`s also spoken a number of times about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. 


TRUMP:  Prime minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize.  Many other people feel that way, too.  I will probably never get it, but that`s OK.  They gave it to Obama.  He didn`t even know what he got it for. 



MATTHEWS:  I think, again, his lack of -- a thing called the Nobel Prize, a thing called.  It`s like he -- this is new information to this guy. 

EDWARDS:  He doesn`t know anything.  He doesn`t know anything. 

And, I mean, you hear this over and over again, you know, the Frederick Douglass quote.  I mean, it really just goes back.  He doesn`t know.  He doesn`t read.  He doesn`t actually want to know, and he`s sort of losing that in his own universe, which is why he loves standing in front of a crowd and having people recite after him, because it`s all about him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump has welcomed those who have compared him to the second coming of God.  Actually, it`s a totally different reference. 

It wasn`t long ago that Republicans were attacking President Obama for what they said was a messianic complex. 

Well, here`s far-right radio host Rush Limbaugh back in 2014 criticizing Obama. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You watch Obama, he makes a speech, does an appearance, uses terms like my military and my -- and I really do believe that this messianic complex still exists. 

I think that he thinks that all of us are totally focused on him, just like he is. 


MATTHEWS:  Of course, Rush Limbaugh thinks using terms like my military indicates a messianic complex.  I wonder what he thinks about this:


TRUMP:  What I do is, I authorize my military.  We have the greatest military in the world.  I see my generals.  Those generals are going to keep us so safe. 

My generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. 


MATTHEWS:  Mine, Ron, mine, mine. 

REAGAN:  Mine.  Yes.  Mine.  Mine.  Mine. 

MATTHEWS:  I own these people. 

Your thoughts, last word on the messianic president we have. 

REAGAN:  Well, we don`t need a messianic president. 

Look, this president is rotting our democracy from within.  He`s destroying our alliances on the way to destroying, let`s say, NATO and the E.U.  And, more importantly than that, at a time when the United States is engaged in this sort of global struggle, we and the West, with autocratic regimes like Vladimir Putin`s, it`s democracy vs. autocracy now across the world, Donald Trump is giving democracy a bad name. 


REAGAN:  We don`t need this.

We should be at our vibrant best right now, pushing back against the Xis and the Putins of the world.  And, instead, people are looking at us and saying, if this is what democracy produces, this guy, why do we need it? 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ron, you have come just recently, as you often do, from a country that`s had, I think, 75 prime ministers since World War II. 


MATTHEWS:  And there we are looking down on our little democracy.

REAGAN:  And about to have another.


MATTHEWS:  Now we`re looking -- I know. And now we`re looking down on our little republic here. 

Thank you so much.



MATTHEWS:  Better for you, though.

Thank you, Ron Reagan.  Thank you, Sam Stein.  Thank you, Ron -- well, who`s the other person I met?

STEIN:  Susan.

MATTHEWS:  Susan, Susan Del Percio, of course, and Donna Edwards.

What a group, a great quartet. 

Up next:  A climate change candidacy comes to an end, as Governor Jay Inslee drops out of the race.  They`re slowly dropping out. 

And looking ahead to the next debate, who`s already made the cut, who`s about to, and who`s looking for a long shot at best to make that stage?  Right now, it`s 10.  If it gets any more, they will split in half. 

I hope they can hold it at 10, so we can have them all on at once.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA):  It`s become clear that I`m not going to be carrying the ball, I`m not going to be president.

So I`m withdrawing tonight from the race.  But I have to tell you, look, I have been fighting climate change for 25 years, and I have never been so confident of the ability of America now to reach critical mass to move the ball. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on "Rachel" last night officially dropping out of the Democratic presidential race and expressing his optimism about climate change action, however. 

Many of the 2020 candidates tweeted their thanks for Inslee`s work in bringing climate change to the forefront of the political discussion. 

This is the third candidate, however, to drop out of the race, along with Congressman Eric Swalwell, a regular on this show, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who announced today that he`s going to do it.  He`s going to run for the Senate out there, in hopes of defeating the incumbent, Cory Gardner. 

Good for him.

As the field narrows, several candidates are still hoping to make it into the stage -- or onto the stage for the third debate, which is just three weeks away. 

As of today, 10 candidates have qualified for the debate.  There they are.  Three candidates have met the donor threshold, but not the polling threshold, which is two points in four polls.  Tom Steyer needs to have 2 percent support from one more poll to make the stage.  If that happens, the candidates would again be split, unfortunately this, into two debate nights, so probably five in one night, six the other.

But if no one else qualifies by next Wednesday, there will be one debate with everybody on the stage together, and that means that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, the top people, as well as Bernie Sanders, all three of those, will be right next to each other.

And you know that ABC will put them all right next to each other. 

Regardless of who qualifies further on now, the topic of electability, which Biden has centered his campaign on, will likely come up during the next debate. 

Here was Biden yesterday:


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Everything every one of us in the Democratic Party, all 400 of us running -- no, all of us running...


BIDEN:  ... we all -- we all have visions that are -- fall within the same general spectrum.  But none of it matters unless we defeat Donald Trump.  None of it. 

The person viewed as who is best capable of defeating this president rises above the test of, I have to agree with the person 100 percent. 

I have always been -- I have done very well in states like Pennsylvania.  And I think that I have as good a chance or better than anyone to be able to win in those states. 


MATTHEWS:  I think that`s a good format for Biden to talk one-on-one with somebody like that. 

Anyway, it`s a topic that Biden`s opponents have already been forced to face on the trail out there.  That`s coming up next.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARD -- back to HARDBALL, actually.

Electability has come up a lot in this campaign.  People talk all about who can beat Trump. 

Here it goes. 


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it`s going to be the voters in Iowa and across the country who are going to decide that issue of electability.  No one knows who is electable right now. 

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the biggest risk we could take is try to play it safe.  So I think this idea of electability is an illusion, and a dangerous one. 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have been to blue states, red states, purple states, red parts of blue states, all because I`m reaching out to run for president of all of America.  And I think a lot of folks are ready for change, and 2020 is our big chance. 

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need a candidate that is not the safe bet.  We need a candidate that can speak not just to the head, but to the heart and to the gut.  That`s the candidate who I am. 


MATTHEWS:  In other words, a long shot. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by Jason Johnson, politics editor -- I would say that if I was him, too.  Bet on the long shot. 

He is with  And Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." 

So, I think polls are all we got.


MATTHEWS:  And, right now, what do the polls tell you about who is electable, if that means anything, if you can bet based on all the polls?

JOHNSON:  I have always said that Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, probably Beto O`Rourke are electable.  Whether or not they`re viable, which is you can win your party`s nomination, is something different. 

I think Joe Biden has a better chance of winning a general election than he does of actually winning the nomination. 


JOHNSON:  And so that -- I think we always have to sort of separate the two.

MATTHEWS:  Too bad it`s not first. 

JOHNSON:  Exactly.  Exactly. 


JOHNSON:  He could pull that off. 


I don`t know because I think -- well, your thoughts. 

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY":  Well, I think there are other things to look at besides polls.  Polls are one thing to look at.

But you look at intensity of support.  You look, who gets crowds that turn out?  Do they connect with the crowds?  Do the crowds get excited?  Are the crowds more excited after the event than they were before the event?  That`s an important thing to look at. 

So I think, by that standard, Joe Biden is obviously the front-runner.  But Elizabeth Warren has done pretty well by the standard of getting people to be enthusiastic about her and to like her better after the event than they did when they walked in.

MATTHEWS:  Look, I think she`s the favorite right now to win Iowa.  And I think, once you win Iowa, it`s a whole new ball game. 

PAGE:  You know, if you want to show you`re electable, win something. 

JOHNSON:  See, here`s the catch, though. 

If you`re talking about intensity and ground game, Bernie Sanders has a great ground game.  He has intensity.  The issue that I -- the reason I question whether or not he`s electable is because I don`t know if Bernie Sanders has already hit his ceiling. 

The people who like him love him.  And they don`t really want to support anybody else.  But I don`t see Bernie Sanders -- Elizabeth Warren has jumped because she ate all Kamala Harris` support.  She ate all of Pete Buttigieg`s support. 

I don`t see Bernie Sanders pulling away from -- supporters from other people and gaining in this lead. 

PAGE:  All right, it`s interesting, because we have seen them pull from somewhat the same group of voters.

JOHNSON:  Right.

PAGE:  They have similar positions, and yet not attacking one another.

JOHNSON:  Exactly. 

PAGE:  Interesting approach for them to take.

And if they keep doing it -- that has, I think, also served Elizabeth Warren`s interest, because she has not annoyed Bernie Sanders` supporters in a way that would make them...

JOHNSON:  Which is easy to do.

PAGE:  Which is easy to -- make them less likely to support her down the road, if Bernie Sanders didn`t go the distance. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think is a problem with the Biden thing?

Jill Biden said it the other day.  And I never knock anybody`s family members, but she basically said, even if you don`t like his health care -- she should have said it a little more elegantly, of course, and said, if it`s not progressive enough for you, which is just a measure. 

But people don`t like being told what they can`t do. 

JOHNSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I -- and that`s always been my experience.  When people say, you can`t vote for Reagan, he is too right.  Oh, yes?  I will make up my mind. 


MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes?  You can`t vote for these other candidates because they can`t win in a general.  Oh, yes?  I will make up my mind.  Don`t tell me I got to vote for Biden.

PAGE:  Also...

MATTHEWS:  And I think that is the strategy they`re saying right now:  You have to vote for me. 

JOHNSON:  Right.

PAGE:  People who win the presidency have voters who want to vote for them. They`re not voters that make some elaborate calculations down the road. 

MATTHEWS:  Strategic decision. 

PAGE:  It`s somebody they like, they believe in, and they`re enthusiastic about.  So, I think that is not -- I think that attitude does not serve Vice President Biden well. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the debates coming up.  I`m big on small debates.  Like two people.  We`re not going to get that for a while, maybe three, but three doesn`t even work because Ross Perot screwed the whole thing up with the games he plays, the rent`s too high kind of character, we don`t need that, or the 999 guy, we don`t need that stuff. 

We need people actually running for the general election right now.  So, my sense -- my hunch is, if we get a debate with Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders on the stage together, with the outliers who are really gaming this thing or gunning for it, like Cory Booker and Buttigieg, are they going to go to war? 

JOHNSON:  I don`t think the top candidates are. 

MATTHEWS:  Kamala, too. 


MATTHEWS:  Are they going to go to war?  Are they going to wait for Cory to get a shot, too? 

JOHNSON:  They`re going to let Cory, they`re going to let Beto, they`re going to let Buttigieg, they`re going to let Harris --

MATTHEWS:  Let do the shot, the potshots. 

JOHNSON:  Yes, exactly.  And those guys are going to do the suicide mission, and those top three candidates are going to try to establish themselves as being electable.  Elizabeth Warren hasn`t attacked many people.  Bernie Sanders, he didn`t really Hillary Clinton that much.  He left it to his surrogates. 

MATTHEWS:  Enough about the emails, remember?

JOHNSON:  Yes, he`s the guy, I`m not going to do that. 

I don`t think we`re going to get this big melee from the top three.  It`s going to be all the other sort of satellite people who are going to make those fights.

PAGE:  I would like to see your impressions of all the candidates. 


MATTHEWS:  I can do Bill Clinton a lot better.  Let me ask you about this.  Why are some of these candidates -- we`re covering everything tonight.  Why are some of them not able to break out of 1 percent or 2 percent? 

What is it that has kept -- Inslee got nowhere.  He`s a gentleman.  Obviously, he left.  This is good.

There`s a lot of whom it`s not working.  I`m not going to name them, but they have to decide.  But there`s so many people who have not gotten launched, failure to launch.  What`s going on? 

JOHNSON:  You know, I have a story.  Look, Tim Ryan used to be my congressman.  I think he`s great, individually.  He`s a great congressman.  He doesn`t have a story. 

Jay Inslee, look, the guy looks like Christopher Reeve.  Superman, great image as a president, but he didn`t have a story other than climate change. 

You have to have a narrative in order to break through the 20-something people.  Harris has a narrative.  Mayor Pete had a narrative.  Beto had a narrative.  These bottom feeders didn`t have a story. 

And outside of Marianne Williamson, who she got Googled a lot, but it didn`t turn into numbers, in Tulsi Gabbard, you`ve got to have a story to make people pay attention.  They don`t have one.

MATTHEWS:  Who can still jump up?  Can Kamala break out of the 5 percent and 7 percent? 

PAGE:  Sure.  It`s pretty early.  Let`s remember, we`re -- it`s August.  And it`s not even election year. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m stunned by her inability to be really near the top of the field. 

PAGE:  Somebody -- we have seen this in the past where a candidates who gets counted out, even at the beginning at the process, Trump comes around and wins the nomination.  So, I don`t -- the candidates who are still in the race and who are doing the slogging through Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada, I wouldn`t count them out. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the black/white thing because it`s really talked about.  I hate talking about this because it sounds like South Africa.  We`re talking about tribes, but let`s face it, it`s the way people vote in many cases. 

JOHNSON:  Always have been.

MATTHEWS:  African-American women, they`re not breaking for Buttigieg.  They`re not breaking for even Kamala yet. 

JOHNSON:  Nope. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they`re breaking for Trump. 


JOHNSON:  Not where I go. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I meant.  They`re breaking for Biden. 

JOHNSON:  They`re breaking for Biden and they`re breaking for Warren, right? 

MATTHEWS:  They`re leaving Bernie, right?  Bernie, it`s Biden and Bernie who are doing the best with black voters.  Elizabeth Warren has been doing better and better with African-American women who tend to be influencers and bring black men along. 

Pete Buttigieg is doing terrible with black voters, even though he`s trying.  But the differences that you`re also saying --

MATTHEWS:  That`s orientation, we hear.  Is it?  No?

JOHNSON:  No, that`s not what it is.  It`s because of his youth, because of his background, and it`s because of his own staff.  If you notice the campaigns that tend to be doing better with black voters have high name recognition or they have actually hired black staffers. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s smart. 

JOHNSON:  That makes a difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that`s complicated. 

JOHNSON:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jason Johnson.  Thank you, Susan Page. 

Still ahead, why an NBA star`s pledge to fund a golf program at a historically black university is a really big deal.  The president of Howard University is going to join us right here in just a moment, next on HARDBALL.



On Monday, three-time NBA champion Steph Curry announced that he would sponsor Howard University`s first division I men`s and women`s golf teams, bringing the team back to the school for the first time in decades.  Curry, an avid golfer himself, spoke about the importance of the game. 


STEPH CURRY, NBA PLAYER:  It`s extremely rewarding to be here.  I know, again, what the game of golf has taught me.  Obviously, I play basketball full-time and enjoy that part of my -- or that career path, but in terms of what golf has taught me about the different places it takes you, the things it teaches you about yourself, the people you get to play with. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, "The Washington Post" reports that Curry is making a seven-figure donation paid out over the next six years aimed at giving Howard a time to raise an endowed fund that would make the program self- sustainable. 

Well, the announcement was made in Washington`s Langston Golf Course when is named for John Mercer Langston, Virginia`s first black congressman and Howard Law School`s first dean. 

According to "The New York Times", golf has long been difficult to assess by the access by communities of color with barriers ranging from hard line racist practices at member clubs, to more systemic issues involving the locations of courses, of course. 

Well, the president of Howard University spoke to reporters about the significance of Curry`s gift.  Let`s listen. 


DR. WAYNE A.I. FREDERICK, HOWARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT:  I want to also address Mr. Curry.  You know, we are in a very interesting time in our country and our nation`s history, no doubt about that.  There`s a lot for us to be cynical about, a lot for us to be disappointed by, especially in terms of the rhetoric.  But one of the things that I think we all must make sure we double down on is investing in the people who invest in us, and one of the things that we have to take pause today among everything else happening is to realize that Mr. Curry represents what is great about America. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by the president of Howard University, President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. 

Thank you, sir. 


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the particular issue of the big fund.  The money that Steph Curry is giving to the university, Howard University, to get golf going.  Let`s talk about that and what it means to you, that somebody is giving away a lot of money to something good. 

FREDERICK:  I think it means a lot, you know, like I was saying on Monday, there`s a lot of cynicism about what`s taking place in our country, and I do think that there`s a lot of good that`s taking place, and a big part of this gift is to create scholarship for students, a big part of having the program as well and getting an endowed fund is to make sure those scholarships can be given every year going forward and that ability to access an education today in particular in terms of where we are as a nation and in terms of where African-American students are I think is also critical. 

MATTHEWS:  Curry`s one of my heroes because I love the three-pointer, and especially the three-pointer because it`s so unlike anything else in sports.  It seems magic, you know.  Home runs are one thing.  When you throw that ball up from midcourt when you`re moving, and you`re going left to right, I mean, it`s right to left, and you`re in the air and you somehow hit that ball right there and it doesn`t even touch the net, that`s magical. 

What`s that -- what`s that tell you about this guy`s gift in life.  He has talent like something. 

FREDERICK:  He does, but I think the other talent that he has is his humanity.  I think he`s a very, very good American, very, very good human being, and I think that comes out in interaction, you play four and a half hours of golf with someone, you can really see a lot of their genuine character, and he`s just as nice as he appears. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about golf as game, I`m trying to learn it, which is dangerous at my age, but I`m trying.  I do think it`s mental, although there`s some really stupid brilliant golfers out there, some politicians I know. 

But this -- Howard, I got an honorary degree there a few years ago.  It`s fantastic that school, I think people should pay this attention, the greatest orchestra I`ve ever heard at a college, without a doubt the best speakers.  John Legend was there, and Duncan, the secretary of education. 

Tell us about Howard.  You got to a minute.

FREDERICK:  Yes, Howard is a historically black college and university.  We got schools and colleges, about 10,000 students, 44 states and 71 (ph) countries.  And I think if you look at what we do in terms of graduation rates, in terms of giving access and the opportunity for students, we do a great job.  We`re the number one producer of all the African-American physicians in this country.  If you look at where they come from, the largest number have come from Howard University. 

MATTHEWS:  How are people of color this your community where you lead dealing with Trump?  This too shall pass is one attitude.  What`s your attitude? 

FREDERICK:  My attitude is that I think the pendulum swings in this country, and I think when you have a George Bush, you end up with a Barack Obama, and you end up as some people would say in my community with a Donald Trump.  And hopefully, again it will swing back.  I think there`s always some self-correction. 

However, in the moment right now I think we must not be distract bid the rhetoric but must be focused on the issues.  There are people hurting in this country for different reasons. 

We have significant issues, whether it`s gun violence or income inequality.  I think those issues need to be addressed.  What we do at Howard is try to produce young people who can go out in the world and solve those bigger problems. 

MATTHEWS:  How are young people today dealing with the cost of tuition that come from families that don`t have money? 

FREDERICK:  Yes, it`s difficult.  It`s definitely an issue in terms of cost.  But at Howard, I think we do some great things.  We give tuition rebates.  We`re starting to create a two-year track. 

We`ve allowed students to go to summer school for free.  They are making good progress and have zero balance in the spring.  So, we`ve done some innovative things and our graduation is up 15 percent over the past four years as a result. 

So, we`re trying to attack that issue by giving students an opportunity to matriculate more quickly and to give parents an alternative from taking up loans such as a tuition rebate. 

MATTHEWS:  Kamala Harris, one of your graduates. 

FREDERICK:  Absolutely, one of my alums.  Extremely smart, gifted --

MATTHEWS:  You`re smiling.  Are you guys rooting for her? 

FREDERICK:  I think very highly of her.  You know, I try to stay middle of the road with my politics, but she`s a very talented person and I think that she also is representing a very, very significant movement in the country in terms of younger people, African-American women, that there`s a lot to be happy about to see someone like that simply have the opportunity to even give this a shot. 

MATTHEWS:  She`s a contender. 

FREDERICK:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you.

FREDERICK:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick.  What great university. 

Look it up.  Google it.  Great graduates up there. 

Anyway, up next, President Trump has lost his confidence.  Don`t you think you want to hear me on that point? 

You`re watching HARDBALL, coming back. 


MATTHEWS:  Donald Trump`s been acting like a loser, where`s the edge of confidence he used to have.  He now seems ready to fight anyone or anything no matter how small.  Denmark?  Is Trump afraid to take on somebody his own size? 

It all shows me that Trump finally knows his situation.  If he loses in 2020, it`s because he can`t out rival his worst opponent of all, that would be himself.  Over the last week, instead of criticizing his rivals with his usual bravado, the Democrats, the media, what he calls the deep state, foreign governments, everyone really, he seems to be barely holding his own. 

Again, Denmark?  Why did he go along with his trip to that country and then join a conversation he started about buying Greenland, just enjoy it.  The old Trump just a few weeks ago would have had more fun with this thing.  Could it be the recent polls? 

Trump picked a fight with Fox News over the weekend because their numbers show that Democrats have more than a fighting chance to knock him out of the game next year, but I think the deeper thing bugging the man in the White House could be the failure of his big casino bet on that tax cut.  It was supposed to get the GDP rolling into next year`s election season.  It was supposed to be the deal closer, the case that no Democrat could beat. 

Who would dump a president who brought the country prosperity?  But Trump doesn`t have that ace in the hole anymore.  He sees the Democratic front runners rising in the polls and the economy falling, and with had his dream of a two-term legacy, a bright, glamorous set of pages in the country`s history books.

And that`s why he`s so crotchety.  When you can`t take it out on the world, just be miserable around the house.  And that`s what Trump`s been doing -- and unfortunately for him, looking like he`s doing it. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES", live show, right now.