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updated 1/27/2014 10:51:52 AM ET 2014-01-27T15:51:52

HARDBALL
January 24, 2014

Guests: Kendall Coffey, Bob Ingle, Jonathan Capehart, Richard Lui, Joy
Reid, Sam Stein, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Paper trail.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Anything you say can be used
against you. We`ve all heard that. It`s our American right not to testify
against ourself. What about your e-mails? What about the voicemail
messages you left for a co-worker? What about some stray off-the-cuff line
you texted about what`s been happening at the office, or a pal who asked
what was really up with this George Washington Bridge mess?

All this is now being vacuumed by federal investigators in New Jersey.
Anything you ever said on a voicemail or in a e-mail or in a text message,
any memo you wrote to anyone, including yourself, it`s all being gathered
in the giant electronic fishnet being thrown out there to capture evidence
in the widening scandal that could tie Governor Chris Christie`s aides and
appointees to crimes, and they to him.

Nothing can stop this accumulation of fact, not even the 5th
Amendment. The people in this widening scandal can refuse to testify on
the grounds that it could incriminate them. What they can`t do now is
withhold or destroy evidence that they, the governor or someone between
them, or perhaps even a part of this suspicious goings-on knew about it.

And this is tonight`s story, how prosecutors can now use fear of
prosecution to gather evidence in this case that now swirls and ferments
around the highest office holder in New Jersey.

Kendall Coffey is a former U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst. And
Bob Ingle is with "The Asbury Park Press." He`s also the author of -- the
co-author of "Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power."

Mr. Coffey, talk about the three elements here, criminality, if there
was any crime committed, who might have been involved or is exposed to
being charged with a crime, and what investigators might do and prosecutors
might decide to do with that exposure on their part.

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there`s still the
big question of what exactly is a federal crime here. And obviously,
investigators aren`t sending subpoenas around unless they have some
definite idea as to what the federal crimes might be. I think it`s going
to take development of facts to see if there are federal jurisdictional
elements here.

But we think they`re looking at, for example, a question of whether
there was some kind of extortion, within a general meaning of the word of
extortion, that used the instrumentality of an interstate facility, such as
a bridge, perhaps a conspiracy to violate civil rights. They`ve got things
that they`re looking at. They haven`t, obviously, reached a conclusion as
to whether or not they`re there.

And they go from there to see who`s the most implicated. But the
critical thing right now is to get somebody to break this open and to get
that somebody to break this open for them because, obviously, as you said,
people have 5th Amendment rights. They want to get e-mails. They want to
get text messages. They want to put together a paper trail that is strong
enough so that they can look somebody in the eye and say, You are toast
unless you`re willing to work with us.

And as you know, early cooperation is a whole lot better than late
cooperation. So anxieties are high. Some people have stopped sleeping.
And when they stop sleeping, sometimes they start talking.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Bob Ingle on the personalities here. You have
people like Bridget Kelly, who for the first instance after she got
attacked by the governor, called a liar and stupid, she seemed to be hurt
by it personally, which is understandable, and the way that was getting out
through her friends and associates. And now she seems to have lawyered up
with a very top bright lawyer.

Is there a change here in what she might be forced to do, having been
tagged as a bad guy by the governor?

BOB INGLE, "ASBURY PARK PRESS": I would think that she certainly is
vulnerable to what our colleague there said because she is a single mom
with four kids. And I would think that if the prosecutors came to her and
say, We have found this evidence and we`ve got enough to send you up the
river for 10 years, unless, of course, you cooperate, in which case it
would be two weeks and time off for good behavior -- so I think she`s got a
lot to be concerned about.

MATTHEWS: Because -- and going back to Kendall Coffey -- because this
evidence now is in the public light, which is "Time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee." What is that -- is there any way she would defend
that in court when somebody said, What did you mean by that? Is there any
wiggle room for her to say, Well, I meant something besides we`re squeezing
this guy?

COFFEY: I don`t think there`s an innocent explanation. One hasn`t
occurred for me. She`s got great lawyers. Maybe they`ll come up with
something. But in the meantime, she`s got very difficult decisions to
make. And so if there is anybody that is right -- wearing the bulls-eye
right now on their back and under excruciating pressure, it`s her.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the Hoboken case for a second there, Mr.
Coffey, and that`s this question of whether it is a crime to basically
punish somebody with a denial of state disaster funds if they don`t play
ball with you on a real estate deal for people you care about, some project
you for whatever reason are interested in, they say, I`m not going to back
you now because I don`t think it`s part of our development plan here,
balanced growth, et cetera, and they say, Well, the governor says -- if
this happened, the lieutenant governor said, no disaster money for you,
buddy.

COFFEY: Well, I think here there`s a much clearer picture of what a
federal crime might be. You can`t, in effect, use federal money to try to
hit up a state official or local official to help a private developer. But
it`s a question of proof. And right now, what we have could turn into a
she said versus they said. And I think what the feds are looking for and
trying to move at light speed is to get some corroboration. So far, they
certainly haven`t dismissed what they`ve said. But they`d like to have
more than just her word and some of the personal records that she herself
maintained.

MATTHEWS: But she has a number of people, including a city council
member, who remember her saying at the time of what she said was the threat
that that lieutenant governor, Guadagno, not only told her what she told
her, but said, Look, I`m going to deny this. All this now has apparently
come through three separate witnesses, including a city councilman. And
you have her diary records, contemporary diary records.

COFFEY: Yes, I think the fact that there are others that said she was
referencing this at the time gives her credibility, but it doesn`t give the
feds another witness because so far, she`s the only person that could be a
witness to say that she was, in effect, threatened by the lieutenant
governor or others. So the feds want more. But obviously, they`re very
serious about this investigation.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let me go to Bob Ingle on that again. Let`s
start with the personalities here. You`ve got Wildstein, who`s also
involved in this bridge shutting down. You`ve got Baroni involved in the
bridge shutting. Both resigned from their positions when this stink first
occurred.

And then you`ve got the lieutenant governor, who doesn`t seem like a
full partner with the governor. She seems more like a very almost
dependent associate, someone who really depends on his political good will,
if you will, which is not surprising. Some lieutenant governors might be.
She`s not really separately elected, it seems, in any kind of real sense.

Her word against Zimmer`s word wouldn`t seem very powerful to me in a
courtroom because she seems to be very unsure of herself in public, whereas
Zimmer will tell you the story so many different times and with such
personal confidence, you got to go with your instincts here and say Zimmer
is pointing the finger in the direction she believes it ought to go,
whereas the other person is trying to point the finger away from herself
out of self-defense, which doesn`t carry the same credibility.

INGLE: I don`t know anybody who doesn`t think that Dawn Zimmer
doesn`t believes what she`s saying. And as far as Wildstein goes,
remember, his lawyer has already said that he`s got a story to tell if
they`ll get him off the hook, which sounds to me like they may have been
concerned that Kelly would go first, and he wanted to push himself to the
front of the line.

MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Coffey, now comes the key question. Where does
loyalty reside, in your family? You know, this is an easy one, I suppose,
a slam-dunk morally, protecting yourself from separation from your
children, protecting your good name from a felony rap, or your loyalty to a
guy who`s called you a liar and stupid on national television? That`s one
easy one.

Wildstein, who as Mr. Ingle just pointed out, has already proffered
himself as a state witness by saying, Just give me immunity. I`m ready to
give you something. If I were the governor and his lawyers, I`d be
thinking this is going to be one hot case to beat here.

COFFEY: I don`t think any kind of loyalty is going to survive the
threat of a federal prosecution. It`s going to be everyone for themselves.
The one thing that is critical, of course, is, did Chris Christie do
anything wrong, because the feds aren`t simply going to accept an
uncorroborated version of somebody who`s trying to save their own hide and
comes in and says, yes, Christie knew all about it.

They`re going to look skeptically at cooperators, and they`re going to
want to make sure that if they get cooperation, then whatever that
cooperation is, is credible. And so far, there`s simply no information
implicating Chris Christie.

But before this is over, I think you can count on the fact that
Wildstein and Kelly are going to be telling whatever they know to
investigators because nothing in the way of political loyalty or past
friendship is going to survive this kind of pressure and these kind of,
frankly, very serious potential consequences.

MATTHEWS: Well, Richard Nixon was forced to resign, Mr. Coffey,
without any evidence that he fingered the DNC for a break-in, although the
tape recordings that I`ve been able to dig out over the years showed that
he did finger other break-ins, like the Brookings Institution, and later a
break-in of the Republican headquarters to make it look like the Democrats
did it.

Now, he ordered these things on tape, but he never ordered, at least
on tape, the break-in of the Watergate headquarters of the Democrats. But
there was a White House mentality of -- of bugging, and of course, the
whole "plumbers" operation, Gemstone, the whole deal.

And in this case, if it`s shown in court that everybody from
Wildstein, Baroni down to Kelly, everybody thought that there was a deal
there to go after the mayor of Fort Lee, and it somehow came from the top,
but you couldn`t prove that the mastermind was the mastermind, if he was,
can you still bring a case?

Do you have to have his fingerprints, the governor`s fingerprints on
the case?

COFFEY: There has to be personal complicity. It`s not enough to have
people around you doing things wrong when you`re in a criminal context.
The reality is, we don`t know how this is going to turn out. We do know
that this isn`t going to turn to the finish line any time soon.

MATTHEWS: Well, great. Thank you so much, Kendall Coffey, as always.
Bob Ingle, of course, you as well, sir.

Coming up: Governor Christie was seen as the adult in the Republican
presidential field, the one potential candidate who had competence,
crossover appeal and the political chops to pull it all together. Now
what? If Christie goes down, it`ll be a free-for-all for those on the
right. David Corn and Jonathan Capehart are coming here to watch the clown
show.

Plus, when it comes to talking about women and sex, good advice to
Republicans might be "Don`t." Mike Huckabee`s discourse on women`s libidos
is just the latest fumble as Republicans try to close the gender gap.

Also, family feud? We now know that the people who helped elect
Barack Obama are joining team Hillary. So what happens when the loyal "eye
for an eye" Clinton aides clash with the new Obama numbers crunchers?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the danger of predicting
tomorrow when tomorrow is a couple years from now.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The investigation into New Jersey senior senator Robert
Menendez is deeper than initially thought. NBC News has learned that the
U.S. Justice Department is investigating Senator Menendez`s effort on
behalf of two bankers from Ecuador convicted of embezzlement down there.
This as the senator is already under investigation for his involvement with
a big campaign donor from Florida.

A statement from Menendez`s office calls the allegations outlandish
and says the senator helped the bankers because he believed they had been
politically persecuted down in Ecuador.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now what? That`s the question
many mainstream Republicans, the ones who aren`t riding in the clown car,
are asking themselves as they watch Chris Christie`s scandals grow and his
polls sink. As Ronald Brownstein put it in "National Journal," quote,
"Christie`s cascading difficulties underscore the shortage of good options
for voters and donors in the party`s upscale managerial wing. That dilemma
captures a long-term shift in the Republican Party`s center of gravity
towards its turbulent populist wing, whose confrontational champions, such
as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, often frighten swing voters as much as they
inspire activists."

Well, last week, Buzzfeed`s McKay Coppins (ph) interviewed more than a
dozen party officials, fund-raisers and strategists. Here`s what he found.
Quote, "Many of the party pooh-bahs are on the brink of panic. Republicans
describe a palpable sense of anxiety gripping the GOP establishment in the
wake of Christie`s meltdown. It`s gotten so bad, one operative said that
some donors have started looking back fondly on the good old days of 2012.
You know what a lot of them say to me? I think we need Mitt back."

Well, are Republicans prepared to give their party over to the clown
car in 2016? Are they willing to take that right wing-gamble, or will they
hedge as they usually do?

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC
political analyst and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

Let me ask you, David, what do you hear? Because I see you`re
smiling. But I have to tell you, after years and years, decades of
watching the Republican Party, as often as they include in their midst
people of the hard right, when it comes to the high stakes of the White
House, they hedge their bets. They don`t run crazy people for president.
Your thoughts.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know,
you`re right because the conventional wisdom has been over the last couple
of decades that eventually, they pick the person who the establishment
wants, the person who`s even in line for the nomination, as Mitt Romney
was, as John McCain was. That seems to be the pattern. Out of all the
turbulence comes the conventional pick.

We may be reaching the point that when that`s not going to happen
because the gravity that was mentioned a moment ago of the Republican
primary electorate still is really far to the right. We do have the split
in the Republican Party, ideologically speaking, between the managerial
types who are conservative but call themselves pragmatic conservatives,
mainly governors, and the disrupters, the ideological crusaders like Ted
Cruz. And this fight is going to continue not just in 2016, but to the
next two years of Congress.

And with Chris Christie gone, not only is a possible candidate gone --
well (INAUDIBLE) he`s gone, let`s say with him hurt -- not only is a
possible candidate damaged, but the bench, the disrupter bench is a lot
weaker and thinner than it was before. And that`s just going to, you know,
affect how this dynamic plays out over the next two years.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but what...

CORN: So "panic" is a big word...

MATTHEWS: You`re being a little technical here.

CORN: ... but they should be worried.

MATTHEWS: What about the regular Republican from the suburbs, where a
lot of Republicans live, a husband, for example, who talks to his wife and
respects her and listens to her. How can that kind of a couple -- I guess
this could also be true with gay couples. What would -- how could -- if
you have a person who`s sensitive to cultural issues and is not a right-
winger, how can you sell that couple on the idea of a right-wing candidate?

That`s my question. Because they`ll vote Republican for Romney,
they`ll vote for a John McCain, they`ll vote for even a W, but they`re not
going to vote for a Ted Cruz, I don`t think.

CORN: Well, I think you`re right. I mean, that`s the general
election problem they have. But the thing is, the people who get to decide
in the primaries and caucuses really don`t give a fig for that argument
that you`ve just made, the whole electability argument.

They`re going to point to Mitt Romney. We went with Mitt Romney
because you told us he was electable. We went with John McCain because you
told us he was electable. That got us nowhere.

So they want -- you know, a lot of these people want the disruption,
want the purity that Ted Cruz, Rand Paul -- I think Marco Rubio probably
can`t do this, but that maybe some others can deliver.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, jump in here. I guess the question is...

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... is the old question that`s haunted the Republicans
since I can remember, back even before I paid attention. I remember back
in `52, Everett Dirksen gave the speech that, of all people, David Corn
just gave. We followed you and you took us down the road to defeat with
Dewey. I mean, we`re not going to do that again. We don`t want to be
moderate. Moderates lose!

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: Right. And it looks like, as David said, the party has
swung so far to the right, that, you know, you wonder if the Republican
Party will be able to nominate someone who could -- who could appeal to at
least some of the middle of the country, the vast middle of the country in
a general election.

You know, Chris Christie, of course the establishment loves Chris
Christie, and we saw why -- the establishment Republican Party loves Chris
Christie. And we saw why in his inauguration speech. He said all the
things that a national governing Republican leader should say, compromise,
reach across the aisle, work with Democrats, but still work with them, not
give up your principles, and govern from a Republican/conservative
standpoint.

But the problem is, Chris Christie is viewed with such suspicion by
the base of the party that I don`t think he could even get the nomination.
And I was talking to a Republican friend of mine this week. And the person
said -- this week -- and the person said, maybe what needs to happen is
that the party has to lose 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, before
the base of the party realizes that the path that they`re going down is a
losing one for -- for decades.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, you know what I have learned? They never learn
that.

Anyway, "The Atlantic"`s Peter Beinart argues that Rand Paul is
emerging as the candidate to beat in 2016. He benefits from his father
Rand Paul -- or Ron Paul`s infrastructure in many early primary states.
But, beyond that, the party seems to be, as David said, David Corn said,
moving more and more in the direction of the Rand Pauls on key issues.

And -- quote -- "Paul is gaining acceptance within the Republican
mainstream. It`s just possible that 2016 could be another 1964 or 1980,
years when the Republican establishment proved weak and pliable enough to
allow a candidate previously considered extreme to come in from the cold."

David, you know, when I put all this together -- we`re going to talk
more about it in the end of the show, in the last part of the show, about
Hillary Clinton and how she seems to be putting it together, trying to put
it together without any real Democratic opposition.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Could this really be a year in which the Republicans are
just in a huge kerfuffle, completely confused, end up going to the crazy
right, if you will, or pretty crazy right?

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And Hillary Clinton marches in without any general
election, really, something like Goldwater losing to LBJ after Kennedy was
killed, where the country made up its mind months before the election?

CORN: Well, you know, I think anointing someone a front-runner, or
even predicting what is going to happen two years from now is a mug`s game.

Rand Paul has some obvious assets. And the scenario that you just
described could possibly happen. I still think, you know, the Chris
Christie case shows us that any of these politicians who hasn`t been vetted
nationally can go up in flames or down in flames at a moment`s notice. So
anyone who you pick as a possible front-runner can...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Especially when there`s "Mother Jones" afoot.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: Well, there are videos out there. Who knows what is out there
on Rand Paul and everybody else?

But -- you know, but the thing is, Rand Paul may be looking good now
because of Ted Cruz. I mean, Rand Paul would have been the far, far
right...

MATTHEWS: You`re right. You`re so smart.

CORN: ... of the disrupters and the crusaders, were it not for Ted
Cruz. So he is looking a little bit more moderate.

And so, at some point, the establishment may try to, you know, put him
in their warm embrace and bring him over a few steps to see if he can work.
But, also, I think if Chris Christie can`t come back, you`re going to start
seeing and hearing a lot of talk about Jeb Bush, maybe not from his mom,
but from other people.

MATTHEWS: No.

CORN: You know, the Karl Roves of the world, the Koch brothers have
to go somewhere.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, nice haircut, David. Thank you for coming on
tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I love the haircut. And thank you. I have always watched
these little things.

And, Jonathan, quick question to you, yes or no. Will it be Las Vegas
and a long shot on the right, or will they hedge their bets and go to the
center?

CAPEHART: You know, I think that they`re going to go for someone far-
right conservative. Chris Christie doesn`t stand a chase.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. You`re with Corn.

Anyway, thank you David Corn.

You`re with Peter Beinart.

Thank you, Jonathan Capehart.

Up next: Whatever happened to the Tea Party Republican running for
Senate down in Texas? Well, he has gone MIA. The "Sideshow" is next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")

CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": A top Republican said Chris Christie
should resign as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Yes.
Christie refused, said, I have made it a matter of principle to never try
to get out of a chair.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was Conan O`Brien on the latest developments out of
the Garden State.

But jokes about Governor Christie have been interrupted this week, as
late-night comedians turn their attention, believe it or not, to Justin
Bieber`s arrest. The 19-year-old pop star who is a Canadian is now at risk
of being deported. But, according to Jimmy Kimmel, the whole thing may be
just political posturing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": He did admit to police that
he drank alcohol, smoked pot and took prescription drugs that night, which
I think that may just have been his way of announcing that he is running
for mayor of Toronto.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And House Speaker John Boehner paid a visit to "The Tonight
Show" last night. Aside from calling Vladimir Putin a thug and saying Jeb
Bush would make a great president, he decided to finally dispel a rumor
that has dogged him for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

(APPLAUSE)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": We have a family
photo. Let`s show the family photo. There you go. Now, I`m guessing --
is that you right in the front there?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, I`m the dark one
on the bottom there.

LENO: There you go. Yes. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: You seem to be in the sun a lot more than the other kids.

BOEHNER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Now, I know you were in college

BOEHNER: Listen, listen.

LENO: What`s that? What`s that?

BOEHNER: I play golf. I ride a bike. I cut my own grass.

LENO: Yes. Yes.

BOEHNER: Ride a bike. And I was -- my mother is dark-complected. So
I`m a little dark.

LENO: OK, so that`s -- so we`re clear, there is no tanning bed?

BOEHNER: There is no tanning bed.

LENO: There is no tanning bed.

BOEHNER: There`s no spray thing, never, not once, never, ever.

LENO: Never a spray tan?

BOEHNER: Nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Finally, Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas is
the Tea Party challenger to Senator John Cornyn. But with that primary
less than two months away, the candidate is nowhere to be found. He has
been missing in action so long that his supporters are beginning to wonder
what exactly is going on.

Well, according to the Associated Press, Stockman -- quote -- "has
made virtually no public appearances in Texas, as questions mount about his
campaign finances. Now he`s stopped showing up for his day job. Stockman
has missed 17 straight House votes since January 9. Furthermore,
Stockman`s staff won`t say where he is. They have ignored more than six
weeks of e-mails, telephone messages, and social media posts from the
Associated Press and other news outlets. But we may have an explanation
soon. According to a tweet from his campaign late last night, we will find
out where he has been this coming Monday."

Up next: the lesson Mike Huckabee taught all Republicans yet again,
how not to talk about women.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui.

This hour`s headlines: A judge has ordered a Texas hospital to remove
a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support. The hospital has until
Monday night to remove the woman from a ventilator due to the ill health of
the fetus she is carrying.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife were in court
earlier. They pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.

And stocks, well, they sold off for a second straight day on the
global growth concerns, the Dow sliding more than 300 points earlier,
falling back below 16000 -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

If Republicans want to close the gender gap with Democrats, and they
say they do, they might want to stop talking about things like legitimate
rape or promiscuity or sex in general. And, as everyone now knows, Mike
Huckabee entered the Republican oops hall of fame yesterday with his head-
scratching comments about women`s libido and uncle sugar.

For those who need it, here is a reminder of what Republican men were
saying during the 2012 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), FORMER INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think
even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is
something that God intended to happen.

FOSTER FRIESS, FOUNDER, FRIESS ASSOCIATES: You know, back in my days,
they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their
knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I forget that last one from Foster Friess.

But here is Mike Huckabee, who didn`t forget it. They`re still doing
it. Here he is yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If the Democrats want to
insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless
without uncle sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each
month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their
reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.

Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far
more than the Democrats have played them to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Republicans themselves acknowledge they have work to do
with women voters. You think? In their autopsy report last year, they
said that. And I would say some of the early returns this year are not so
good.

Joining me right now is TheGrio`s Joy Reid and Huffington Post`s Sam
Stein. Both are -- Stein -- Stein -- both, of course, are contributors
here at MSNBC.

Joy, what do you make of this? And we`re hearing from Reince Priebus,
and we will hear from him in a minute. But I want you getting in here --
this idea, well, they`re just saying what they mean to say, but saying it
wrong?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, I think that Reince
Priebus, never have I seen the chairman of a party committee less listened
to than Reince Priebus.

No one seems to be listening at all to what he claims that he wants
them to do, which is to rebrand the party. And I think that the reason he
has to parse it the way he is, is because Mike Huckabee isn`t misspeaking.
He is saying what he absolutely believes. And the religious conservatives
who are asserting themselves in the Republican Party actually do not
support the idea, a lot of them, of birth control being legal.

We will remember Rick Santorum sort of said that, that we can`t go
around saying that there is nothing wrong with contraception. The problem
is, the vast majority of women, the vast majority of people period believe
that there is nothing wrong with contraception and believe it should be
legal.

MATTHEWS: Just to be fair -- Joy, just to be fair, how do you -- I
got my way of getting it. How did you get that out of Huckabee`s words
yesterday, that he is against birth control?

REID: Well, what he was essentially saying is that uncle sugar, which
is essentially -- it`s kind of the way people describe Uncle Sam in terms
of a pimp, to be honest with you, if you look it up in the urban
dictionary, that women are relying -- should not have to be relying on
uncle sugar to doll them out birth control because they can`t control
themselves, that this is something that women are essentially begging the
government for.

It`s absolutely insulting. And it`s not that that comment states that
he says birth control should be illegal. But we do know that, on the
religious right, as a matter of religious principle, there are a lot of
people on the right who are not just against abortion, which is absolutely
arguable. A lot of people have problems with the idea of abortion.

But they do also have a problem with contraception. And that`s the
novel piece that a lot of particularly younger women were not ready for and
do not -- didn`t know before they started to see this assertion by the
religious right.

MATTHEWS: Sam, I would normally think that was a leap of imagination,
but I got to tell you, I had the same reaction listening to the former
governor of Arkansas when he said the government`s providing women with
prescriptions each month for birth control, providing them with
prescriptions, like it`s the government that gave them the medical license
to get prescription drugs.

Nobody said the government gives prescriptions.

SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No.

MATTHEWS: It may subsidize the purchase of birth control pills, but
the right and the medical reason to get birth control is up to a doctor and
a woman. Why did he say the government gives women prescriptions? Did he
choose that accidentally, or is he playing to the crowd on the hard culture
right that Joy just mentioned?

STEIN: Well, I think he is playing to the crowd. I think that`s
pretty obvious.

I mean, there are legitimate conservative criticisms with the
contraception mandate, and they`re launched from the standpoint that you
shouldn`t mandate that insurance companies cover this thing. I happen to
think that they`re a little bit shortsighted. But what Mike Huckabee did
here was essentially conflate two things. And then also he dismissed what
a legitimate use of contraception for nonsexual activity.

Contraception plays a role in medical care. And, in fact, I think
it`s something like 58 percent of women use it non-exclusively for -- for
nonsexual activity. And so when you start putting these two things
together, when you start conflating the issue of contraception and take it
out of the realm of a legitimate health care use, and make it into
something else, where it`s just about promiscuous sex and out-of-control
libidos, then you`re sending signals to your base. And I think that`s what
Mike Huckabee was doing yesterday.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, yesterday -- or mentioned a moment
ago, today, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, perhaps alluding to Huckabee, said
the Republican positions are sound, it`s the delivery, and they have got to
work on that, he said. Listen to his nuanced statement here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I have said
many times before that the policies and principles of this party are sound.
However, as we look to grow the ranks of our party, we must all be very
conscious of tone and choice of words when we communicate those policies
effectively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And, doubling down, last night former senator and
presidential candidate Rick Santorum reacted to Huckabee`s comments his
way. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Mike speaks off the cuff, as
some of us are known to do, and probably would -- chose different words to
communicate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Back to Joy.

So I guess it comes down to, what did he really mean?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And -- and I think it comes down to topic selection.

And one thing I have always learned, it took me years to discover, if
you want to win an argument or control it, pick the topic. You say
budgets, Republicans tend to win. You say taxes, they tend to win. You
know, you talk about health care, Democrats usually win the argument, or
education, they tend to win the argument. Why would they take sex and
libido, why would they do this? You got to ask why would they keep
selecting birth control, rape, these topic selections?

It`s not the miswording, it`s where the mind is going. Why is the
mind going to these areas?

REID: Yes, exactly. Especially since, you know, this debate and for
the religious right started off on the issue of abortion. How it migrated
to birth control I think is -- is a head-scratcher for a lot of people.

But if you just parse why a lot of conservatives oppose the mandate,
if you just isolate that part of it, they don`t oppose the mandate just
because they don`t like the federal government giving subsidies to people,
they oppose the mandate because there are groups of people who are morally
opposed to contraception itself who see it as an extension of abortion.

And because these groups are saying that the government then should
not have a broad mandate that somebody with a religious opposition to
contraception itself should have to provide insurance for their employees
that might include contraception.

So, it still gets to the same basic opposition to the underlying
thing, which is contraception, the ability to control reproduction. But
the way women read that is a group of people who are attempting to impose
their own religious morality, their own religious beliefs on everyone else
by trying to strip away a benefit that helps a lot of low income women,
that allows women to family plan, and that actually becomes an economic
issue.

When you can control your reproductive health, you actually can
improve your economic condition. So, women take it very, very negatively.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: And, Chris --

MATTHEWS: I hear that every day around here.

But anyway, Huckabee`s comments have been seized upon by some
Democrats, obviously, particularly those in tight senate races. In
Arkansas, for example, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tied
Huckabee to GOP Senate candidate Tom Cotton down there.

Quote, "It`s a shame like Republicans like Cotton and Huckabee want to
push divisive social issues that would roll back women`s health care rights
instead of focusing on growing the economy and creating jobs."

Well, in Kentucky, the campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes, the
Democrat challenging Senator Mitch McConnell down there, put out this
statement, quote, "Mitch McConnell`s cringe-worthy record of standing up
for Kentucky`s women and families effortlessly aligns with Mike Huckabee`s
extreme anti-women rhetoric."

And Debbie Wasserman Schultz put out this statement. "Mike Huckabee
has no idea what he is talking about. If this is the GOP rebrand a year
later, then all they have gotten is a year older."

Sam, this question mark here. I looked at the numbers that Barack
Obama probably owes his reelection to women voters, as often is the case
for Democratic winners, and I also know there will be more women voters in
2016 when the Republicans thirst to get the White House back, and Hillary
Clinton looks now to be the nominee or the potential nominee of the
Democratic Party.

Who are they aiming for among the ranks of women voters with this kind
of talk?

STEIN: That`s a really good question probably best directed to Reince
Priebus or Mike Huckabee. I think you sort of hit the nail on the head
with your last question which is you choose the topics you want to choose.
And in this case, they`re playing on unfriendly terrain.

And I talked to a senior Republican who said, you know, it would be
best if lawmakers just didn`t talk about this stuff at all, because it`s
going to inevitably be resolved in the court system.

But then again, it`s not just about contraception. There are a whole
host of issues where Republicans get in trouble with women. For instance,
with respect to the Affordable Care Act, there is a mandate that requires
insurance companies to cover maternity care. This has been a big bone of
contention for Republicans because they say it`s driving up the premiums on
everyone else.

Well, imagine if you`re a woman who is just getting health care for
the first time and you see Republicans say, well, you know what? Forget
maternity care. It`s costing too much. Let`s toss it out.

If I were a woman voter, I would be a little bit peeved by that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you so much, Joy. Have a nice week.

And you and Sam both, amazing discussion. I tell you, it keeps coming
back, these comments by the Republican right.

Up next, culture clash. What will happen now that the old school eye
for an eye Clinton political machine is teaming up with the young tech
savvy numbers crunchers of the Obama era? They`re already putting it
together. How are they getting together? This is already happening.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: After being swept out of every statewide office, Virginia`s
Republicans are counting on former RNC chair Ed Gillespie to get back in
the win column. Gillespie is running for U.S. Senate against Democrat Mark
Warner, and early polls show Warner looking very strong.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new poll from
Christie from Newport University, Senator Warner has a 20-point lead over
Ed Gillespie. It`s Warner, 50 percent, Gillespie, 30 percent.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, of course, have a lot of allies, and they
all have a stake in a future Clinton campaign for president. And the old
guard of an eye for an eye Clinton loyalists will have to merge with the
tech savvy team from the Obama camp, and a culture clash is inevitable.

A "New York Times" magazine piece called "Planet Hillary" examines the
many layers that complete the Clinton orbit.

"The New York Times" said, quote, "Over the decades, they have
operated like an Arkansas tumbleweed, collecting friends and devotees from
Bill Clinton`s kindergarten class to Yale law school, to Little Rock, to
the White House to the Senate and beyond.

James Carville has compared the Clinton world, perhaps not so
originally to an onion. "It`s safest", he said, "to exist in the third or
fourth layer."

Well, smelling a whiff of another national campaign, old faces and new
ones are uniting around the former secretary of state. But can they run a
smart, tech savvy campaign and refrain from the old Clinton default
politics of personal destruction, stepping out of the past into the future
to avoid being yesterday, could prove to be Hillary`s biggest challenge
yet. She needs a team that will help her do that.

Harold Ford is a former Democrat congressman from Tennessee and MSNBC
political analyst.

HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening.

MATTHEWS: And Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the mayor of Baltimore.

Congressman Ford, it seems to me to put it bluntly that the old games
starting in `92 to get elected president was like roller derby. Make sure
that Bob Kerrey is out of the race, make sure Tsongas is out of the race,
and presto, you`re the nominee of the party.

And then along came Obama, who didn`t necessarily run a negative
campaign, he ran a campaign based on state-of-the-art numbers crunching,
where he was able to find delegates in states where maybe the Democrats
didn`t have a prayer in a general election, but could get a lot of delegate
votes through caucuses, in states like the Dakotas and places like that out
west and beat Hillary Clinton before she could get in the name by modern
number crunching.

How did the Clintons 2016 pull it altogether?

FORD: I think two things, Chris. One, you have to have a reason for
wanting to run. You have to have a set of ideas that you believe can help
the country grow again and make the 21st century a global century with
America leading it. Mrs. Clinton will certainly be able to craft a message
around that.

To your point around the mechanics, there`s no doubt the campaign in
`08 in my estimation didn`t really prepare for the long run. Did not
expect to have to endure the kind of incoming they did from an insurgent
campaign like then-Senator Obama`s.

I think one of the things that Clinton group will do and the Clinton
campaign, if there is a Clinton campaign, I hope there is, I`m for it, is
that they will be prepared for, and they should be prepared for a long
drawn-out primary and very tough general. It`s unlikely they`ll get a long
drawn-out primary but you have to be prepared for it. You have to be
prepared to fight in January and February and March and states that in `08
she was not prepared to fight in.

But I think, ultimately, she has to understand why she wants to be
president, not just an inevitability factor, but be able to lay out clearly
and crisply how her experiences over the last 40 years in politics will
lead to a stronger education plan, a stronger economic growth plan and
allow us to get beyond these massive income inequalities that pervade the
country. And I know my good friend, the mayor in Baltimore, is battling
day in and day out.

MATTHEWS: Well, Madam Mayor, let me put the question to you and that
is this -- how do you be the change candidate? You have to recognize what
change people want. You have to figure that out in politics.

What`s the mood, the zeitgeist to the country, going in to 2016,
starting in `15? Then, you have to figure out how you can be that change.
It takes a couple of iterations to figure this damn thing out. But unless
you do that, you`re yesterday.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE: Well, Clinton wouldn`t
be -- Hillary Clinton wouldn`t be the first candidate to rebrand herself,
to recreate herself. And I don`t think it`s that difficult. You have to
be the present candidate and that means you have to understand, as Harold
Ford said, what`s important for the future of the country.

And I think Hillary Clinton does that. The good thing about the
Democratic Party is so do many of our national candidates. The national
figures that people are talking about as our bench, we get it. We
understand the meat and potato issues of the American people.

We`re not talking about the issues of abortion, we`re not talking
about, you know, trying to take away women`s rights, we`re focusing on
creating jobs. We`re focusing on fixing this income inequality and working
to rebuild American cities. That`s what`s important. That`s what people
care about and we have a bench that understands that.

MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman, what made Bill Clinton interesting
in `92 is where he broke from the pack, where he said, "I`m for NAFTA",
which I think you support. He was for globalization. He wasn`t just a
union-driven, labor union driven candidate. We didn`t always -- he did his
Sister Soulja moment, to the break with cultural extremism as he saw it.

He was willing to break it and take positions that made him not just
the guy who represents all the Democratic constituencies he inherited, but
something plus. Isn`t that always the challenge for Hillary coming up?

FORD: There`s no doubt about it. As an example, Mayor Rawlings-Blake
down in Baltimore has great ideas on transit and how to create jobs and how
to make her city more efficient. It would behoove those around -- I know
they are -- Mrs. Clinton`s team to begin to understand better what she is
doing and some of her peers around the country. You harken back in `92,
Bill Clinton was a champion, with the help of Al From, I think one of the
great ideas leaders in the Democratic Party over the last 50 years,
championing the earned income tax credit which encouraged people to work,
encouraged employers to hire people.

We`ve got to find those new ideas, those new things that we as
Democrats can hang our hat on and more importantly that we can trumpet and
champion. I think she`ll be a campaigner for the future and candidate for
the future and she`ll bring to life what her husband has always said, that
campaigns and politics are always about tomorrow and she will be challenged
to put that forward.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.

The earned tax credit was to get people off welfare and getting them
working and earning real money.

Anyway, thank you, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. We have you on
many times.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And Harold Ford, as always, sir, have a nice weekend.
We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

There`s something odd about the current outlook for 2016. We have one
political party with a clear-eyed future. It knows who will run for
president. Grandly assumes that that person will be the nominee.

We have a second political party with no idea what`s coming tomorrow.
It`s totally in the blind who it will nominate for president come 2016.

Now, the weird thing is not that it`s happening but that the first
party, the party with its plan in place and its nominee is the Democratic
Party. It`s the Republicans who have no earthly idea what the future will
hold or even what candidate will bring that future.

Excuse me if this doesn`t make me a little wary because if there`s one
thing I`ve noticed over the several decades I`ve paid attention to
presidential politics, it is how phenomenal it is. You can`t predict one
event by remembering how an earlier event went.

The safest bet on the future is to bet on the strongest, most gung-ho
political team. One that plans smart, jumps on opportunities and never
lets the other side up for air.

There`s a reason why Americans are no good at coronations, is that
we`ve had no successful experiences with them. Even Dwight Eisenhower, the
general who received the Nazi surrender, had to fight for the nomination.
Even Ronald Reagan had his moment after the first debate when it looked
like he might let his reelection slip between his fingers.

So, look for trouble. Expect trouble. Expect the crazy. Expect the
unexpected because the oddest thing in the world would be for this parade
in 2017 to continue like the turning of the Earth.

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

"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

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