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updated 3/18/2014 11:54:26 AM ET 2014-03-18T15:54:26

HARDBALL
March 17, 2014

Guests: Peter Goelz, Steve Clemons, William Dobson, Cynthia Tucker

JOY REID, GUEST HOST: Ten days later, and still more questions than
answers.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Joy Reid, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Why, where, and how? It`s been 10 days since Malaysia
flight 370 vanished, apparently into thin air. It`s now a criminal
investigation, with 26 countries involved in the search effort.

Countless teams of experts are poring through information. Investigators
are raiding homes. The most sophisticated technology in the modern era is
looking for clues. And remarkably, we are no closer to answering any of
these basic questions than we were 10 days ago, when Malaysia Airlines
first confirmed flight 370 had disappeared. It`s a frustrating and
agonizing mystery that has engulfed and embarrassed the entire Malaysian
government, and time is running out quickly.

Then there`s the politics behind the investigation, which we`ll get to in a
minute, including the regional tensions that, until now, were considered
secondary pieces of this puzzle. Was the investigation compromised due to
incompetence, or was it bungled to protect Malaysian leaders, or was it
both? Well, it`s also still a huge mystery, but here`s what we do know.
Something very disturbing has happened.

Robert Hager is an aviation analyst and a special correspondent for NBC
News and Peter Goelz was the managing director at the National
Transportation Safety Board.

Well, so far, here`s the latest. While information has been scarce, and at
times contradictory, new statements from Malaysian officials and other
reporting has given us perhaps the best picture, at least for now, of what
happened to flight 370 the night it disappeared.

It starts a little after 1:00 AM local time, when the plane`s on-board
computer and diagnostics system sends an update, then stops working, though
we don`t know why. At 1:19 AM, the co-pilot is the last person to talk
with ground control. He says, "All right, good night," no hint that
anything is wrong.

Just two minutes later, the plane`s transponder stops communicating with
ground-based radar, but the plane seems fine because at 2:15 AM, the flight
shows up on Malaysian military radar screens as it veers off course, back
across the country and out to sea.

From there, it`s a mystery, except we do know that at around 8:00 AM, a
communications satellite registers a working signal from flight 370,
suggesting that it continued flying for another six hours until it truly
disappears for good. Because of the lack of information from that last bit
of satellite data, the possible flight arc, and the corresponding search
area is enormous, stretching from Kazakhstan to the southern Indian Ocean.

But nations to the north, including Kazakhstan and Vietnam, says they have
no evidence that the plane entered their airspace, so the search is now
being focused primarily on the southern corridor.

But this is still an incredibly daunting task. An investigator involved in
the search effort told reporters, quote, "This is not just a needle in a
haystack, it`s a haystack that gets bigger and shifts under us due to the
ocean`s drift."

So gentlemen, I want to start with you, Peter, and talk about this issue of
time running out. Explain to us why we have so little time left to try to
find something, some evidence of this plane.

PETER GOELZ, FMR. MANAGING DIRECTOR, NTSB: Well, there`s really two
reasons. One is the flight data recorder and the flight voice recorder.
Both have a limited-life battery on them, somewhere around 30 days,
sometimes 35 days. So some time in the next three weeks, those crucial
signals will go dark, and then we`re in a whole new series of challenges to
try to find them.

Secondly, whatever wreckage might have been available has now faced the
tides, the winds and the currents. We`re going to have to work hard, if we
found a wreckage field, to trace it back to where the aircraft was located.

REID: Give us your best sort of guess as to what happened here.

GOELZ: Well, I can tell you, you know, it is still a mystery, but I think
it`s correct that we are focusing inside the cockpit. There simply is no
other explanation, if the facts that we have been able to verify so far are
true. Somebody had control of the plane, made the turn, and caused it to
not be seen on radar. And that`s the best we can do so far.

REID: And Bob Hager, does the fact that the pilot did communicate at some
point with ground control give us any clues whatsoever as to whether, for
instance, these pilots could have been in distress? I mean, wouldn`t the
pilot have reported, logically speaking, that they no longer had the
ability to be tracked by radar? Doesn`t that seem like something that
logically should have happened?

ROBERT HAGER, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don`t know exactly the
timing on that, whether he would have been aware yet that they weren`t
being tracked on radar because I think that happens -- the transponder gets
turned off after his last communication.

They`re trying to do some analysis, the Malaysians said, on that voice
transmission, to see if they detect any stress in the voice. Certainly,
the wording sounds, right now, "Good night" -- it`s very routine. So it`s
very hard to tell from that what was going on.

I mean, this is a case where we`ve got so little to go on here. You almost
have to hope, if they get any shred of evidence from the investigating the
pilot, the co-pilot, the passengers, if they stumble on something about
somebody that had some reason to commit suicide or hijack the plane or take
it on a joy ride, inexplicably -- you almost have to hope there`s some
break on that side of it because this other angle, the wreckage, the flight
data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder -- that`s looking slimmer and
slimmer, in terms of locating any of it.

REID: All right, well, new information is also emerging about the pilot of
flight 370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Investigators have raided his home, where
they`ve confiscated a homemade flight simulator and a laptop -- Shah, 53
years old, active in Malaysian politics, specifically for the opposition
party. His co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, much younger, 27 years old, and
local media is reporting that he was planning to marry his girlfriend. And
so far, the material found in both their homes has offered nothing
conclusive about any type of scheme or sabotage attempt on the flight.

And Peter, I want to go back to you on this. You did -- you were involved
in the investigation of the Egyptair craft, which was found to be a
suicide. Is there anything about the way this scenario has played out that
reminds you or that is reminiscent of what happened in Egyptair?

GOELZ: Well, there really isn`t, because in Egyptair, we had indications
early on that there was a potential problem with the co-pilot, that he had
run into trouble the night before, that he had not had a successful career
at Egyptair, and we had very solid radar from five different radar sites
that showed us a very erratic flight during the final moments of flight
990. So we had much more evidence to go on than the investigators have in
this case.

REID: And Bob, I have to ask this because so many people are asking it.
It is part of the conversation out there about flight 370. Is there any
chance, in your view, that this plane landed somewhere, that it`s intact
somewhere?

HAGER: Oh, my own view, without any (INAUDIBLE) but I think that`s zero
chance. I mean, I`ve been thinking, if this plane is found on the ground,
it`ll be in little pieces in the Himalayas or at the bottom of the seabed
in the south Indian Ocean. I just can`t see a circumstance under which you
could land a 777, keep it on the ground for, what is it, 11 days now,
without it being discovered somewhere.

REID: And same question to you, Peter. Any chance at all that this plane
can be found somewhere intact and that it is not, as Bob just said, in
pieces somewhere?

GOELZ: I agree with Bob completely. It`s infinitesimal. I mean,
unfortunately, I think we`re looking for a wreckage field, and if we`re
unlucky, it`s going to be in the bottom of the south Indian Ocean. If
we`re in some ways lucky -- and that`s a strange word to use -- it may be
over land and we`ll be able to find it on an expedited basis.

REID: And Bob, going back to looking at these two pilots, the pilot and
the co-pilot, what would investigators be looking for in their lives,
obviously, other than obvious signs of potentially suicidal motives in
their lives? Beyond finding that, what should investigators be looking for
that would be helpful?

HAGER: Well, first, you`d look for any hard evidence, you know, something
they wrote, something they left, some idea that they`d been planning
something like this. Otherwise, you look for those subtle psychological
issues, like unhappy marriage or failed relationship. Those are the kind
of things -- you can imagine, I mean, the ordinary psychological kind of
scenarios that come with everyday life, looking for something that would
make a person very unhappy, unhappy experience at work, you know, that kind
of thing. But that`s touchy work. I mean, it`s hard to uncover that sort
of thing.

REID: And you`re also, Peter, looking at every single passenger and every
member of the crew. I mean, this is not just a look at two men. This is
looking at more than 230 people. Do you think that the investigation so
far has been efficient enough and has started early enough, digging into
the backgrounds of the people on that plane?

GOELZ: I can`t comment on that. I don`t know. But I think, clearly,
you`re going to have to do that for each and every passenger. And for the
flight crew, you`ve got to dig in. Maybe there was some financial stress
going on. Certainly, the flight recorder -- the flight simulator that
Captain Shah had needs to be examined very, very carefully and forensically
to see whether it shows anything that might shed some light on his either
state of mind or his plans.

REID: All right.

HAGER: Joy, can I jump in for just a second?

REID: Please do.

HAGER: Why -- if you intended to commit suicide or murder this plane full
of people for unknown reasons, why wouldn`t you take the plane in right
away? Why fly it around for seven or eight hours?

GOELZ: Right.

HAGER: I mean, there are just a lot of questions in this case.

REID: Yes, I mean, the fact that the plane just continued to be airborne
for some hours after the initial incident...

HAGER: Yes, why?

REID: ... that is what is really just -- it`s confounding. But thank you
so much to both of you for your insights, Robert Hager and Peter Goelz.

GOELZ: Thank you.

REID: Coming up, much more on the investigation and what we`re learning
about the pilot, his politics, and what`s going on inside Malaysia. Does
any of it help get us any closer to finding a motive, let alone the plane?

And the far right is using that missing Malaysian jetliner to blame -- wait
for it -- President Obama. Wait until you hear this tortured logic, if you
can call it logic, from former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton.

Plus, it`s been a year since the Republicans acknowledged in an autopsy
report that they need to be more inclusive of women, minorities and gays.
And while the party chairman says they`re making progress, even he concedes
they`ll have a hard time winning a presidential election when lots of
people actually get to vote.

And finally, on this St. Patrick`s Day, a certain conservative media titan
is urging Irish-Americans to boycott Guinness. Seriously.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Rand Paul has emerged as the leader, such as it is, in a crowded
Republican field for 2016. According to a new poll from Opinion Research
and CNN, the Kentucky senator has the support of 16 percent of Republicans.
He just edges out Paul Ryan, who`s at 15. Texas governor Rick Perry`s
third with 11. Then it`s Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush -- not a lot there for
anyone.

On the Democratic side, it`s just what you`d expect. Hillary Clinton has a
commanding lead over Vice President Joe Biden. She has the support of
nearly two thirds of Democratic voters.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As search teams continue to hunt for
Malaysia airlines flight 370, the investigation has turned to the pilot and
his politics. Zaharie Ahmad Shah is described as a supporter of the
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and Slate`s William Dobson says
that he`s been characterized as a fanatical supporter, but that that`s not
the whole story.

Dobson writes that a, quote, "fanatical supporter of Anwar Ibrahim does
sound scary, as long as you know nothing about him. Anwar is trying to
defeat Malaysia`s authoritarian regime through elections, not terrorism,
let alone revolution. So to be clear, what we know is that the pilot of MH
370 is a fanatical supporter of a nonviolent man who supports a pluralistic
and democratic Malaysia."

It`s been 10 days of false leads, bad intel, conflicting statements and
disarray, and the country in charge, including its government, has been
thrust into the global spotlight. The stakes here couldn`t be much higher
than simply figuring out what happened to flight 370.

William Dobson is with Slate magazine and Steve Clemons is an MSNBC
contributor with "The Atlantic."

So I want to go to you first, William Dobson. Can you just describe to us
the government of Malaysia as it is now and what Anwar Ibrahim`s
relationship to it is?

WILLIAM DOBSON, SLATE: Sure. Yes, I mean, the first thing that you need
to understand about the Malaysian government is that what you`re dealing
with is a ruling party, UMNO, that has been in power continuously for 56
years. So this is the type of country which many would describe as a semi-
authoritarian one. It`s one in which you have elections, but not a lot of
political change.

However, Anwar Ibrahim has begun to make inroads against that behemoth that
is the Malaysian state, in that, the last several years, his coalition of
opposition parties has been successful at the ballot box. In 2008, they
won 5 of 13 state governments, and then on top of that, they won more than
a third of the parliament seats, which was the first time that the ruling
party lost its super-majority.

And then last year, the party -- at least, Anwar`s supporters, say that
they won the election. What we do know for certain is that UMNO didn`t win
a majority. And so this is a party that has been able to maintain itself
increasingly in the last 10 to 15 years through vote rigging, allegations
of fraud, and certainly, corruption.

REID: And so Steve, this is the government upon whom we`re relying for the
data and information about this investigation. Should Americans be a
little bit dubious about the information we`re getting out of the Malaysian
government, given what William Dobson just said?

STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this incident of
the tragic case of the disappeared airliner has become so politicized that
it is animating right now every move that the Malaysian government makes.
And so there is a sense that the incumbent prime minister, Najib, is
seeing, you know, a fragility and seeing concern in every move he makes.

I think William Dobson described Anwar Ibrahim and the growth of the
opposition beautifully. So you`re both at an inflection point,
potentially, inside Malaysia, over a very controversial -- really, an
indictment, if you will, of Malaysia`s governance at home.

We don`t only have the disappeared airliner. We had other cases of the
passports that had been bought on the Thai market and brought on, with
passports that had been declared in Interpol. And it so raises a
fundamental question about corruption in Malaysia, competence in Malaysia,
and the solvency of that government writ large.

And so while we`re all looking for where the airliner is, Malaysians
themselves are looking with a big spotlight at their government and how
incompetent and corrupt it appears to them.

REID: And William, at the same, now an increasing spotlight being shined
on this pilot. What do you make of now describing him as a fanatical
supporter of Anwar Ibrahim? Is this a distraction? And does this color
the investigation, from your point of view?

DOBSON: Well, it definitely is a distraction. And it`s important to note
that this story sort of began the way that stories like this often begin,
which was unnamed sources, many of them appearing to be police sources, and
the story beginning first to be picked up by tabloid publications in the
U.K., somewhat in Malaysia, and then beginning to spread from there.

And you know, in many ways, it makes a lot of sense that it would be about
eight days into the investigation that you`d begin to see something like
this. As I said in my piece, you know, almost everything that happens in
Malaysia, if you wait long enough, it comes back around to Anwar Ibrahim.

And so sure enough, we don`t have a crime scene, we don`t have a clear
suspect yet, but we have an Anwar Ibrahim connection that the government
probably is trying to at least tarnish or to at least share some of the
blame that`s going around that`s right now completely focused on their own
actions and lack of clarity in the investigation.

So I think that the important thing is, you know, could this man have been
responsible for this act? It`s possible. But his politics aren`t
dispositive one way or the other. His politics don`t tell you one way or
the other that he`s the person behind this. And it`s a little bit of a red
herring.

REID: And it does strike me, Steve, as, it is an opportune time to bring
up Anwar Ibrahim, isn`t it, when you do have the global focus on the
Malaysian government, on this investigation that seems to be absolutely
going nowhere, with no idea whether the plane went north or south or over
the Indian Ocean or the Strait of Malacca, and all the confusion, it does
seem like the timing is opportune, doesn`t it?

CLEMONS: Well, it may be opportune, but it`s also weird.

It`s weird in the sense for all the reasons Will Dobson outlined. If there
was some great conspiracy through authoritarian regimes in the region to
have a proponent of healthy civil society, inclusiveness, you know, fair
and free elections, a freedom of the press, that is what Anwar Ibrahim
represents within the Malaysian political system.

So if that is what the pilot was trying to reach out to and land a plan of
folks who -- but that`s completely -- that`s completely illogical. And I
think that -- so I think if the Malaysian government has done this, what
they have done by doing that is shown how brutal and thuggish the nature of
their regime is, because they`re shining a spotlight and the affiliation,
potentially, of this pilot with someone who represented a real foil to the
thuggishness of the current regime.

REID: Yes, and a regime that Americans are quite unfamiliar with up to
now, but definitely getting to know it more. Thanks so much, William
Dobson and Steve Clemons.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

DOBSON: Thank you.

REID: All right, up next, boycott Guinness on St. Patrick`s Day? That`s
what one conservative wants, after Guinness stands up for gay rights. And
that`s next in the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Time for the "Sideshow."

What do you get when you mix Mayor Rob Ford and St. Patrick`s Day? A hot
mess. Yes, Rob Ford is in the headlines again. This time, he was filmed
in an apparent drunken stupor outside of Toronto`s City Hall. What`s
worse, though, is that he was cursing in front of a 13-year-old boy, which
prompted the boy`s shocked mother to release the video to the media over
the weekend.

Here`s how Toronto`s CTV covered the incident and its aftermath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO, CANADA: I need a -- I need to (INAUDIBLE)
home. I`m no pro, but I need...

(CROSSTALK)

FORD: You have got to take this home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s Ford stumbling and speaking strangely, then
loudly swore in front of the 13-year-old.

FORD: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You weren`t drinking last nigh?

FORD: We`re good. But I`m here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but we just want to...

(CROSSTALK)

FORD: No. Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get your side of the story.

FORD: Were you drinking last night? You never drink, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Hot mess, indeed.

Next up, it may be St. Patrick`s Day, but billionaire media mogul Rupert
Murdoch is raining on the parade, literally. He wants to boycott Guinness,
Ireland`s most popular beer, on St. Patrick`s Day.

On Sunday, the famed beer company announced its decision not to participate
in New York`s Parade because organizers of the event barred gay and lesbian
groups from marching openly -- quote -- "Guinness has a strong history of
supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were
hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year`s
parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its
participation."

But their decision, in solidarity with New York`s LGBT community, didn`t
sit well with Murdoch, who tweeted his outrage earlier today. Quote:
"Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of a religious parade, bullied by
gay organizations, who tried to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott this
stuff."

Yes, good luck with that.

Finally, a Republican lawmaker is taking a stand for discrimination in his
home state of South Dakota. State Senator Phil Jensen is still defending a
bill he introduced last month that would have made it legal for businesses
to deny service to customers based on sexual orientation, religion, and
race.

According to "The Rapid City Journal," the self-described Reagan
conservative says that nondiscrimination laws are necessary in a free
market economy -- quote -- "If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan,
and they were running a little bakery -- running a little bakery, for
instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refused to
serve blacks. And guess what? In a matter of weeks or so, that business
would shut down, because no one is going to patronize them."

While Jensen may think public shame is enough to stop discriminatory
practices, a Republican colleague called his bill mean, nasty, hateful, and
vindictive. And the bill died in committee.

Up next, it`s been a year since that Republican autopsy report found the
party needs to be more tolerant of women, minorities, and gays. But it
still doesn`t look like the GOP has learned its lesson.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More problems for a troubled...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re having an earthquake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REHBERGER: A 4.4-magnitude earthquake shook Los Angeles earlier, taking
many people, including KTLA`s morning anchors, by surprise. Video of their
reaction to the quake has gone viral at this point. No damage has been
reported, but several aftershocks were recorded in that area.

In Washington, a late-season snowstorm shut down federal offices and made
travel difficult. These storms caused hundreds of accidents and shut down
runway airports for hours. And 10 inches of snow fell at Dulles
International Airport. Reagan National saw more than seven inches.

And fashion designer L`Wren Scott has died of an apparent suicide. The 49-
year-old former model was also the longtime girlfriend of Rolling Stones
front man Mick Jagger -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If there`s one
message I want everyone to take away from here, it`s this. We know that we
have problems, we have identified them, and we`re implementing the
solutions to fix them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

One year ago, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled the Growth and
Opportunity Project, a postmortem to Republican losses in 2012, a report
that became known simply as the autopsy. Among its conclusions,
Republicans had a lot of work to do on outreach.


So how`s the party done? Well, it depends on who you ask. But keeping all
Republicans on message proved a challenge this year. Case in point, Mike
Huckabee.

(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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Huckabee said he has comments were intended to criticize the way
Democratic politicians treat women, but the effect of his words was to
highlight a GOP that`s sorely out of touch with them.

To be clear, uncle sugar may be hilarious, but it`s no way to address the
gender gap -- gender gap laid bare in the 2012 presidential race, when
presidential -- when President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 11 points among
women.

And, more recently, there`s Congressman Paul Ryan`s inartful wording on the
cycle of policy.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: You know, your buddy Charles Murray or Bob
Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is we
have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men
just not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about
working or learning the value and the culture of work. And so there`s a
real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

REID: Ryan quickly backed away from the language, after taking heat for
his comments, saying he was "inarticulate about the point I was trying to
make," and that he was not implementing the culture of one community, but
of society as a whole.

On Sunday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus defended Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: I mean, Paul had said that he thought it was inarticulate, but,
quite frankly, I mean, Democrats are lying in wait as well to pounce on
whatever...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, but that`s how -- I mean...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: But whether Democrats pounce or not, comments like Ryan`s won`t help
erase the enormous deficits Republicans have with African-American voters,
as shown in 2012 presidential exit polls, an 87-point gap.

Joining me, "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC political analyst
Jonathan Capehart and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and visiting
professor of journalism at the University of Georgia Cynthia Tucker.

OK, Cynthia and Jonathan, I`m going to give both of you, each of you a
chance to give the Republican Party a grade one year after they released
their manifesto on how to improve their lot with women and minorities.

Starting you, Cynthia Tucker, how do you think they have done?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: F.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCKER: For heaven`s sake, Reince Priebus should have said -- what he
should have said is, we identified the problem, and we have set about
making it worse.

What have they done in the last year? Proceed to continue to alienate
black voters. It`s not just so-called inartful comments, such as those
Paul Ryan made. What about all of those continued barriers to voting
they`re setting up in state after state, brown voters with Republicans
refusing to do anything on immigration reform?

So I have to give them a failing grade, Joy.

REID: Oh, Jonathan, a harsh grade so far from Cynthia Tucker. What is
your grade for the Republicans thus far?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Maybe it`s St. Patrick`s Day that`s
giving me sort of a warm heart here. I will give them a D-plus.

REID: OK.

CAPEHART: And I`m not giving them an F because I know that they have made
efforts, in their own way, to reach out to the African-American community.
Last month, they did a Black History Month program here in Washington for
black Republicans.

And I have to say, quite frankly, when I went it -- I was invited to go
there -- they thought I wouldn`t show up, but I did -- and I was surprised
by how many black Republicans were in that room. And the speeches that
were given had nothing to do with, you know, slamming the president or
slamming the Democratic Party, and talking all about growth, opportunity,
education.

And, so, I -- I came away from that feeling, actually, you know, rather
impressed by the Republican Party`s outreach to the African-American
community. Chairman Priebus was there. That being said, they still get a
D-plus because -- for all the reasons Cynthia just laid out.

But, also, I would add to the disrespect shown by members of the Republican
Party to this president of the United States, I think, is something that
the Republican Party is going to have to -- is going to spend years trying
to clean up.

REID: Including by some of their African-American surrogates, like Ben
Carson, for instance...

TUCKER: Absolutely.

REID: ... I think goes in that category too.

OK, well, since Jonathan`s charitable grade is D-plus, which I don`t know
how charitable that is, I want to get you both to react to the Republican
National Committee`s new -- they have an ad. They`re spending six figures
on cable and digital to buy an ad that features minorities and young voters
explaining why the Republicans. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe in opportunity for all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think children should be the focus of our education
system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe a strong military equals a strong America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe there shouldn`t be so much red tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for religious freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every human life is worth protecting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for an all-of-the-above energy policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo soy Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe in opportunity for all, and I`m a
Republican.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: OK. Cynthia, that looks like a really awesome party. It`s super
diverse. Look at all those diverse people. Who is that ad designed to
appeal to?

TUCKER: Well, if it`s designed to appeal to voters of color, it`s not
going to do very much to overcome the real problems that the Republicans --
the real messaging problems the Republican Party has.

You know, Joy, you and Jonathan both know that, every four years, at the
Republican National Conventions, they manage to gather all eight black
delegates and the two brown delegates in the room and put them in the very
front towards the cameras.

And that is their messaging, so that the camera focuses on this very small
group of voters of color, when, in fact, the hall is filled with white
people. There`s a reason for that.

You know, there was nothing in that ad that I haven`t heard voters of color
say before. There are many black and brown voters who are anti-abortion.
There are many black and brown voters who would like to see less government
red tape, if they get ready to start a business. There are many black and
brown voters who are concerned about educational opportunity.

But the messages that the Republican Party has put out there, they have
hung up this big "You are unwelcome" sign that people cannot get past. So
it doesn`t matter how many warm and fuzzy ads they put out there. As long
as Paul Ryan is pretending that the only black -- only men who are out of
work are black men, Republican voters -- excuse me -- black voters
recognize that and want nothing to do with the Republican Party.

REID: Yes, I mean, and, Jonathan, you talked about going to an outreach
event, but that is in a small closed room, right?

Can the Republican Party, with just sort of gauzy messages that look really
diverse, get past the existence of a Ted Nugent, who called the president a
subhuman mongrel, or some of the things that Ben Carson has said, or even a
Paul Ryan sort of seeming to denigrate "inner city" -- quote, unquote --
men.

Can they get past that with warm and fuzzy images?

CAPEHART: Well, no.

They -- the only way they get past that is by having the -- the policies
match the rhetoric. I would argue that that ad -- sure, there might be
some Asians and African-Americans and Latino who is look at that ad and
women who look at that ad and say, hey, this is a party for me. But I
actually think that that ad probably is geared towards independent voters,
who would like to see that the Republican Party isn`t this sort of hateful
or mean-spirited party, but a party that is open and welcoming to all.

But, you know, as Cynthia, again, laid out, the Republican Party has a
whole lot of work to do when it comes to convincing African-Americans,
Asian Americans, women, and Latinos that the "welcome" sign actually is out
there and that they are truly welcome within the Republican Party.

REID: Yes. Perhaps they should get the people in that ad to run for
office. That might -- that might help as well.

All right. Thanks so much, Jonathan Capehart and Cynthia Tucker.
Appreciate it.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Joy.

REID: All right. Up next, the crisis in Ukraine. President Obama doesn`t
have a lot of good options after Crimea votes overwhelmingly to leave
Ukraine and join Russia. That`s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Iowa has voted for a Democrat for president every year but one since
1988. And new polling for 2016 shows Hillary Clinton in a strong position
to keep it in the Democratic column.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new poll from
Quinnipiac, Clinton leads Rand Paul by 10 points in Iowa, 49 to 39. That`s
as close as the Republicans get.

Against Chris Christie, Clinton leads by 13, 48 to 35. Christie led by
five in Iowa back in December. Jeb Bush trails Clinton by 14, 51 to 37.
And Ted Cruz does the worst among Republicans. He`s down 16 to Hillary, 51
to 35.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: And we are back.

The crisis between Russia and the West over the future of Ukraine grew more
heated today. The White House announced it was imposing sanctions against
officials in Russia, while Vladimir Putin signed a decree, recognizing
Crimea as a sovereign and independent country.

Both moves come a day after an overwhelming majority of voters in Crimea
chose to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.

Today, the president called the referendum a violation of Ukrainian and
international law and he announced there would be a cost for Russian
actions there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are imposing sanctions on
specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty,
territorial integrity, and government of Ukraine. We`re making it clear
that there are consequences for their actions.

If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose
further sanctions. We`ll continue to make clear to Russia that further
provocations will achieve nothing, except to further isolate Russia and
diminish its place in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The White House said these would be the most extensive sanctions on
Russia since the end of the Cold War. All told, 11 people are targeted,
seven of whom are leaders of the Russian Duma or top advisers to President
Putin. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans. The European
Union also announced sanctions today against 21 Russian and Ukrainian
officials.

One of President Obama`s strongest foreign policy critics, Senator John
McCain, said that short of doing nothing, the president`s response couldn`t
have been weaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think Vladimir Putin must be encouraged
by the absolute timidity the president said we will, quote, "consider other
options." The president should have said, we`re going to provide military
assistance to Ukraine and that will be in defensive weaponry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Howard Fineman is editorial director for "The Huffington Post."
David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones". Both are MSNBC
political analysts.

OK, I`m going to start with you, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: OK.

REID: John McCain going where John McCain goes, which is that we should be
providing military support to Ukraine. I don`t mean to laugh, but -- I
mean, is that a serious option that would ever be on the table for the
United States?

FINEMAN: Well, it might be at some point, but highly unlikely.

The fact is, we don`t have the money, the material, or the strategic
presence in that part of the world, nor do we have the desire to confront
the Russians directly in their own backyard with military assistance. And
as you know, assistance turns into other things pretty quickly. But I do
think it`s true that at least over in Russia, the cronies that the
president purported to isolate today are basically laughing and are heroes
of mother Russia, at least according to the reporting that we have in "The
Huffington Post." So, at least as far as the Russians are concerned, this
wasn`t much.

REID: Yes, and much the same is being reported in "The Daily Beast," where
the president`s moves the today are said to be not likely to put a ton of
pressure on --

FINEMAN: I prefer to quote "The Huffington Post".

REID: I actually think that that probably is wise, that they would be more
an irritant than anything else.

But, David Corn, OK, so we have "The Huffington Post" and then on the other
side, the other publication, which shall remain nameless, saying that these
are a relatively weak response. But what other response could be credible?
I mean, the American people have no interest in starting some sort of armed
conflict over Ukraine.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John McCain has the support of
Lindsey Graham in this endeavor, and virtually no one else. It`s highly
provocative to talk about military engagement with Russia and the Ukraine.

And at the same time, the U.S. has the perennial issue of having to deal
with our allies. And so, to impose sanctions, they`re not undermined by
the Europeans, because they don`t want to go that far. And at the same
time, we see Putin has some choices ahead of them, whether he sort of stops
where he is now, or whether he goes into other eastern parts of Ukraine.

And so, I think these sanctions were designed, even if the o oligarchs are
laughing in Moscow, to be able to get tighter if Putin goes farther. And,
you know, it`s a tremendous balancing act.

And this is the problem with foreign policy. You know, they`re talking
about foreign policy in a political context. Politics is binary. People
win and lose elections. Legislation passes or doesn`t pass. And foreign
policy often what you`re doing is nuance and you`re trying to prevent
something worse from happening. It doesn`t translate well into a political
environment many times.

REID: I mean, Howard, is the other issue that there is no way to sort of
have a kind of big moment that the American people can grasp as sort of
definitive, right, the way the killing of Osama bin Laden was definitive, a
win -- something that could be read as a win.

You have a country that most Americans don`t know much about. You have a
country, Ukraine, in the sphere of influence of Russia, not of the United
States. You have the Europeans who are the principle people at issue when
it comes to trade with Russia, when it comes to oil, et cetera.

I mean, is there any winning this for the president?

FINEMAN: No, probably not because the only victory will be the absence of
a loss. The next thing up, as others have pointed out, is the possibility
of Putin making a move on eastern Ukraine. I think as David said, the
president and the national security officials at the White House started
low with the first measure against these cronies because they want to
reserve the right to have a fairly long list of other menu option short of
military action to take.

And at some point, presumably they`re going to bite. One thing, though,
these oligarchs according to the reporting I`ve seen were moving their
money out of American and European banks months ago which indicates to me
that they knew they were getting the signal that something was going to be
up because of unrest in Ukraine. And, you know, Putin`s going to make
additional moves and at some point it`s going it be in our more direct
interest to slow him down.

This apparently, at least to the White House people, doesn`t seem to be the
moment.

REID: Howard Fineman and David Corn are staying with us.

And when we come back, the latest example of Obama derangement syndrome.
The high-profile conservative, believe it or not, is using the missing
Malaysian jetliner to bash President Obama.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think it`s so weak that
it`s embarrassing. I mean, naming 11 individuals and imposing visa
restrictions on them and freezing their assets in the United States is
nothing in the big picture. I think this simply reinforces in Putin`s mind
that he has the high cards. He has the upper hand. And he`s going it
continue to do what he`s been doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: And we`re back.

That was former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, today
complaining about the president`s weak response to Russia. The man who
called President Obama our country`s biggest national security crisis
rarely misses an opportunity to knock the commander in chief. So, why
should anything be different if he`s talking about the missing Malaysian
airplane? A story I think is fair to say has nothing to do with the
president.

Well, watch how Bolton and FOX News host Jeanine Pirro do exactly that,
turn the airplane mystery into an indictment of the president`s world view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: What about the United States? I mean, we didn`t
jump in right away. It`s an American-made aircraft. We`ve got three
Americans onboard. Clearly, Ambassador, we have the best capabilities of
anyone in the world to get information and to solve something like this.
Why did we hang back?

BOLTON: I think the United States really had enormous interests and I
think the administration, for fear of acknowledging that, perhaps, it was a
terrorist incident, that perhaps it involved Islamic terrorists, drew back,
and at the top levels just did not want to give the impression this was as
serious as it may turn out to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: We`re back now with Howard Fineman and David Corn.

OK, David, this I`m going to start with you. I just sometimes -- I`m just
a little flabbergasted and wonder what is it that the right that people
like John Bolton, what is it they would want the United States to do?
Because now they`re saying the Malaysian plane is showing weakness.

CORN: Oh, it`s very easy. I know what they want them to do -- to act
without thinking. I mean, that seems to be what they`re responding here,
what he`s calling for.

God forbid, you wait until you find out whether it`s terrorism or not
before you call something terrorism. That`s the whole genesis of the
complaint with Benghazi that the president waited five days or whatever it
was to attribute it to possible terroristic motives.

So, it`s really about using any club you can find in the golf club bag to
whack the president at a time when people still don`t know what the facts
are about the tragedy of this missing airplane. It`s, you know, it`s low,
but unfortunately, not unexpected.

REID: But it`s quite a long route, Howard, to get from the Malaysian
airplane to a Benghazi-like situation with President Obama. I mean,
there`s almost no concept, is there, of sovereignty?

This took place and this is a Malaysian issue. How would the United States
have imposed itself upon Malaysia in the right`s view? I just don`t
understand the criticism.

FINEMAN: Well, obviously, because the United States made the airplane.
Don`t you get that, Joy?

REID: It`s an American plane.

FINEMAN: It`s an American plane. I`m surprised that Ambassador Bolton
didn`t imagine that the plane had somehow landed in Benghazi, where it`s
now being kept under a tarp by the radicals who attack.

That`s what -- you grade people on different curves. John McCain is always
going to be looking for the military option. That`s who John McCain is.
He`s sort of the bad cop in the American routine. He always has been.

John Bolton, at least in theory, is a diplomat. He was ambassador to the
United Nations. Now, I know they didn`t care about or believe in the
United Nations when he was there, that is the administration that sent him,
but he should know better. That was one of the purest, rankest pieces of
destructive speculation I`ve heard in a long time, and if you watch a lot
of TV, you hear a lot.

REID: Yes. And this also the guy who said the United Nations could lose
several floors and it wouldn`t be a problem. So, I`m not sure he`s a
beacon --

FINEMAN: The ambassador.

REID: Indeed. All right. Thank you so much, Howard Fineman and David
Corn. Appreciate it.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

CORN: Thank you.

REID: 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.
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