1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 4/25/2014 10:26:02 AM ET 2014-04-25T14:26:02

HARDBALL
Date: April 24, 2014

Guests: Wayne Slater, Lizz Winstead, Scott Blakeman, Michael Scherer, Eric
Goosby, Jennifer McCrea

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: The jolly rancher`s dark side.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

And leading off tonight, more trouble at Bundy ranch. Cliven Bundy,
the anti-government rancher who became the latest cause celebre for the far
right, has vaulted himself back into the news with comments about African-
Americans and slavery that first appeared in today`s "New York Times."
Bundy describes a housing project in north Las Vegas where he says he`s
seen African-Americans dependent on government subsidies, quote, "sitting
on the porch with nothing to do," and wonders whether African-Americans
were, quote, "better off as slaves."

The right wing`s anti-government hero is looking a little tarnished
today, and some elected Republicans, who had been understanding of his
point, if not his methods, are now denouncing his comments and running away
from Bundy.

James Peterson is an MSNBC contributor and director of Africana
Studies and associate professor at Lehigh University, and Wayne Slater is
senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News."

Cliven Bundy`s comments in "The New York Times" wondering whether
African-Americans were better off during slavery were captured on video.
Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIVEN BUNDY, NEVADA RANCHER: I want to tell you one more thing I
know about the Negro. When I go to Las Vegas, north Las Vegas, and I would
see these little government houses, and in front of that government house,
the door was usually open, and the older people and the kids -- and there`s
always at least a half a dozen people setting on the porch -- they didn`t
have nothing to do. They didn`t have nothing for their kids to do. They
didn`t have nothing for their young girls to do.

And because they were basically on government subsidy, and so now what
do they do? They abort their young children. They put their young men in
jail because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I`ve often
wondered, are they better off as slaves picking cotton and having family
life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

BUNDY: Yes, they didn`t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: All right, James, I`m kind of not sure where to start with
all this. But I think -- here`s one thing that jumps out at me, is just
the overwhelming irony of this. The quote he has there, he`s talking about
seeing African-Americans in north Las Vegas and saying they were basically
on government subsidy. And this is the same guy who hasn`t paid his
grazing fees in 20 years, apparently owes the government about a million
dollars. I mean, talk about being on government subsidy -- the complete
lack of self-awareness that he can say something like this, given his own
situation.

JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right.
That`s part of what makes this patently absurd. You might also note the
phonetics in his pronunciation of the outdated term "Negro."

But then, to be honest with you, Steve, I think this unveils for us
the ugly side of anti-government, the anti-federalist sort of ideologies in
America, that oftentimes, those folk who subscribe to the sort of most
entrenched anti-federalism, anti-Obama ideologies also happen to be racist.
So his comments, I think, reveal that, and this is why you`re seeing a lot
of his Republican cheerleaders doing the two-step.

But I have to just concede to you here, Steve, this is offensive, to
hear it, to see it, to be reading about it. The fact that we have to talk
about it is just patently offensive. But you have to think about the fact
that he has ideas that other folk have and that it`s actually been tied,
more often than not, these anti-government feelings, to those folk who are
also racist still in America.

KORNACKI: Well, yes, Wayne, that`s the point that makes me wonder
because I don`t want to say all, you know, Republicans, all conservatives
were rallying behind this guy. That`s not true. But what James is saying
is if you look at the roots of this sort of anti-government movement -- you
think of, like, Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Randy Weaver, you know, the
government had sort of encountered him at Aryan Nation events -- so there
has been this intersection between, you know, white supremacy, between --
between racism and between the sort of the fiercest strain of the sort of
anti-government sentiment out there.

It just -- it seems like nobody should be surprised, that surprised,
that it came to this.

WAYNE SLATER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Yes. I mean, I think that`s a
very good point. Why should we be surprised? You shouldn`t be surprised
that this guy said this. And you should also not be surprised by efforts
to marginalize him and to say that you are just an aberration. He is not
an aberration. Among the birther, Bircher, secessionist, militia,
marginalia on the far right, this racism is one of the elements. It`s like
a toxic undercurrent. It has long fed the ideology of these folks. And so
it`s no surprise that somebody would bring it up.

The surprise is, I think, politically that you have erstwhile
otherwise intelligent conservative Republicans and certainly some maybe
less intelligent talk show types who jump on the bandwagon, the anti-
government bandwagon, beating up on the new shiny object, the Bureau of
Land Management, without thinking about two steps ahead, Wait a minute, who
is this guy and what`s behind some of this rhetoric?

KORNACKI: Well, so late this afternoon, Bundy gave another press
conference where he tried to explain what he meant. It actually ended up
sounding awfully familiar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUNDY: I`m wondering, are they better off with their young women
aborting their children? Are they better off with their young men in
prison? And are they better off with the older people on the sidewalks in
front of their government-issued homes with a few children on the -- are
they better off? Are they happier than they was when they was in the South
in front of their home with their chickens and their gardens and their
children around them, and their men having something to do?

Are they better off? I`m a-wondering. And that`s a question I put
before the world. Are they better, or were they better then? I`m not
saying that I thought they should be slaves or -- or -- I wasn`t even
saying they was better off one way or the other, I`m wondering if they`re
better off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: James, he`s trying to draw a distinction there between, I
wasn`t saying it, but I was just wondering. But that`s -- I mean, we`re --
that`s -- that`s the clarifying press conference, and that sounds exactly
the same as last week.

PETERSON: Exactly. The depths of this guy`s ignorance knows -- has
no limitation at this point. But let me be clear. There is an important
point for us to take out, is what he`s playing about the prison-industrial
complex and mass incarceration is important, which is to say that it`s part
of a system that throughout history -- Michelle Alexander does a great job
of tracking this in "The New Jim Crow" -- does stem from the institution of
slavery.

But what this nutjob doesn`t realize is, is that that`s the system
that we`re still fighting against, right? There is no one in their right
mind who believes that being enslaved, being chattel, being traded and sold
as property is somehow in someone`s imagination better than being free and
alive in America. No one believes that.

So for him to say that and to try to sort of couch it in this fake
apology is even more racist than the original comments.

KORNACKI: So -- so Wayne, I guess one of the -- one of the question I
have is trying to figure out how widespread views like this are, maybe not
the specifics, but just the -- the basic intersection of the anti-
government ideology with, you know -- you know, sort of overtly racist
sentiments like we`re hearing from Cliven Bundy. I mean, do we have a
sense -- again, I`m saying this is not the whole conservative movement,
this isn`t the majority of the conservative movement, but do we have a
sense how big that -- you know, this sort of group would be?

SLATER: And that`s -- we need to think about that. This is obviously
not every rancher. This is not every conservative, not every Republican.
Obviously, that`s the case.

But the truth is, it is a fairly substantial intellectual underpinning
which has fed a portion of the party that the more reasonable, moderate, or
moderately conservative political types like our own Rick Perry, like Ted
Cruz, George P. Bush, who`s running for land commissioner here, a senator
in Nevada we saw, were quick to jump on the bandwagon for political
purposes, recognizing or trying to ignore that there is this toxic aspect
to where some of this stuff comes from.

How widespread are the racists, the overt racists? It`s not very
widespread, but it does feed an anti-government sentiment that when you
hear them talk about the president as being illegitimate, we know what that
means, or the government as being lawless, we know exactly what that means.
It feeds the rhetoric, and that is widespread on the far right.

KORNACKI: Well, I want to pick up on what you`re saying there because
you mentioned elected Republicans have expressed some sort of
understanding, sympathy when it came to Bundy`s beef with the Bureau of
Land Management, if not his methods. Today...

SLATER: Again, there -- Steve, you -- yes, you know most of them are
running like scalded dogs...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: ... that`s exactly what we`re getting to because
(INAUDIBLE) put out statements denouncing (INAUDIBLE) Senator Rand Paul,
whose spokesman initially told "The New York Times" that Paul was not
immediately available for comment -- that was in their story -- then he
told NBC News today, "His remarks on race are offensive, and I whole
heartedly disagree with him." A spokesperson for Republican Nevada senator
Dean Heller was quoted in "The New York Times" article saying, "The senator
completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy`s appalling statements and condemns
them in the most strenuous way."

So yes, obviously, look, the great, you know, walkback has begun for
many, any -- you know, any Republican -- any elected official who came
within, you know, a mile of this guy. But I guess -- I want to focus on --
on the question of Rand Paul just for a second, James, because this is not
the first time -- you know, the thing about -- Rand Paul had this guy on
his staff who was known as the "Southern avenger." Remember this? He had
the...

PETERSON: That`s right.

KORNACKI: ... you know, the Confederate flag, the -- his comments
about Abraham Lincoln and race and all these things. And he, you know,
eventually left Rand Paul...

PETERSON: That`s right.

KORNACKI: ... except Rand Paulo was very hesitant to have him leave
the staff, very hesitant to say anything, you know, negative about him
afterwards. You had Rand Paul who on this network a few years ago had that
incredible interview where he expressed reservations about the public
accommodations...

PETERSON: Incredible.

KORNACKI: ... part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. So I just -- I look
at Rand Paul...

PETERSON: That`s right.

KORNACKI: At the same time, this is a guy who`s -- who`s made some,
you know, steps towards trying to bring in African-American voters in the
Republican Party, talked about broadening the base. But this is -- this is
getting to be a pattern with him.

PETERSON: It is a bit of a pattern. There`s no walking back that I
think can change what you just laid out for us in terms of Rand Paul`s
career and the challenges he`s had around racial rhetoric. The kinds of
things he`s done over this past week in Wisconsin in terms of talking about
the prison-industrial complex and how it affects black and brown
communities is important work, but it just smacks of being purely
political. It smacks of being purely a sort of attempt to pander to or
outreach to a specific community every time he sort of gets drawn back into
these things.

Just to your earlier question, Steve, you know, the Southern Poverty
Law Center has documented a rise in these kinds of hate groups. And we
certainly have seen studies about the ways in which the Internet has become
a space for racial hate to sort of percolate.

And so I don`t know if we can say whether or not it`s widespread, but
we can certainly say that Republicans somehow and for some reason believe
that these folk, the folk who still hold onto these old school racial
ideologies, are a part of their base. I don`t even know if that`s he fact,
but they believe that, and that`s why we always see them doing this two-
step.

This happens all the time. They find a darling. It ends up that this
darling has racial views that can be associated with other members of their
base, and they have to walk it back. And so I`m not surprised by any of
this, but it seems to me not to be very politically smart for them to
continue to find themselves in his same situation.

KORNACKI: Yes, and then they`re in this situation where they`re
trying to say, Well, yes, the sentiment, the case was right, but we just
had no idea that this person had any of these views, and that`s -- that`s
where we are today.

Anyway, thank you, James Peterson...

PETERSON: That`s preposterous at this point.

KORNACKI: ... and Wayne Slater.

Coming up, bonfire of the Hannity. Sean Hannity conceded this
afternoon that, yes, the comments by Cliven Bundy, who he`s been promoting
and supporting, are despicable and beyond repugnant. But that came after
Hannity learned the hard way why you don`t pick a fight with Jon Stewart.

Plus, two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton couldn`t name an accomplishment
as secretary of state. This week, the State Department spokeswoman was
stumped by a similar question. Hillary might want to come up with an
answer because the Republicans certainly have their own one-word answer
ready, Benghazi.

Also, you know the right has to find something to criticize President
Obama for on his overseas trip. Enter The Drudge Report with this
headline, "U.S. president bows to Japanese robot."

And finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the best decision Hillary
Clinton ever made.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: On Tuesday, we showed you part of an ad being run by the
Republican Governors Association, the RGA. It criticizes a Democratic
candidate for governor in South Carolina, Vincent Sheheen, for his work as
a criminal defense lawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s (ph) a fact. Trial lawyer Vincent Sheheen
made money off of criminals, got a sex offender out of jail time, defended
a child abuser and represented others charged with of violent acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, the head of the RGA is Chris Christie, and yesterday,
one of the lawyers representing his reelection campaign called the ad, "a
disgrace." Robert Luskin said defense attorneys are neither co-
conspirators nor enablers and that the RGA should show respect for our
criminal justice system.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This is public land. It`s not being
used. In my mind -- and I`m not a rancher, but I would think the federal
government might be thankful because you`re cutting the lawn for free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. And who can argue with logic
like that? Until today, Sean Hannity has been Cliven Bundy`s biggest
defender in the media these past few weeks, arguing the government
overreacted.

Earlier this week, Jon Stewart noted the hypocrisy of that case being
made by Hannity, of all people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": So apparently, Sean Hannity thinks
laws are served buffet-style and that you can pick and choose the ones that
you like best. The ones that you don`t like, you don`t have to abide.
Well, that`s not going to sit well with Fox`s immigration/health care law
expert pundit, a Mr. Sean Hannity.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: You only believe you should obey the laws that you want to
obey. You don`t -- that`s right? Obey the laws that you like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.

HANNITY: That`s all?

Why don`t you join with me, Juan, and say everybody should obey the
law.

Tell me how the president can unilaterally pick and choose what parts
of the law he`s going to uphold at whatever time he chooses?

STEWART: I mean, the guy`s not even wearing a cowboy hat. The
president doesn`t get to choose!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And that`s when Hannity took his fatal step, firing back at
Stewart on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: He`s kind of obsessed with this program. I know things are
tough for Stewart. His army of 50 writers that he have (sic), they just
can`t give their viewers the facts. They have to spin the story. They
want a joke. They want a laugh any way they can because Stewart and his
friends at Comedy Central, they kind of are the chief apologists for the
Obama administration.

He does suck up a lot.

I can`t expect a comedic hack and his army of writers -- I can`t take
them too seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Of course, there was about zero chance Stewart would let
that go. So here`s what he said last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Wait!
Wait! Wait! Just wait! Sean Hannity knows my name!

(LAUGHTER)

I am sympathetic to critics of eminent domain and those who feel
Obama`s jack-booted thugs should never have signed that executive order
extending those federal grazing fees indefinitely. I`m sorry, did I say
Obama? I meant Ronald Reagan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: This is a story seemingly made for "The Daily Show."
You`ve got a rancher saying racist things and complaining about African-
Americans abusing government subsidies while he`s grazing his cows for free
on government land. You`ve got politicians jumping to the defense of a guy
that doesn`t recognize the existence of the United States. And then, of
course, you`ve got a conservative cable host talking about pastoral lawn
care.

Lizz Winstead is a comedian, as well as the co-creator of "The Daily
Show." And Scott Blakeman is also a political comedian.

Lizz, so Sean Hannity actually -- I`ll start with you (INAUDIBLE) but
Hannity actually (INAUDIBLE) news today. He actually responded on his
radio show. He strongly rebuked today Cliven Bundy for his comments about
African-Americans and slavery. Let`s just play that for a second.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HANNITY: His comments are beyond repugnant to me. They are beyond
despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me.

People that for the right reasons saw this case as government
overreach now are, like, branded because of the ignorant, racist,
repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now I`ll go to you, Lizz. My reaction -- you know, Sean
Hannity always ends up being the victim. That`s what it sounds like. But
look, I mean, he`s acting as if, you know, people are just going out of
their way to connect him, and you know, the other people, you know, like --
who had spoken up in defense of Bundy, to Bundy, when, you know, Sean
Hannity made this guy a cause. He didn`t -- he didn`t just say, Oh, yes,
hey, it`s a good principle, and move on. This was -- this was, like, his
driving cause for the last few weeks.

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, "THE DAILY SHOW": Well, and it`s acting
like Cliven Bundy was wonderful until he said these awful things.

I mean, Cliven Bundy -- the fact that -- that Sean Hannity frames this
as governmental overreach, when Cliven Bundy is the one who has for 20
years had his cattle grazing on federal land and not paid a dime for it,
and that just gets to sit there, is just absurd, not to mention, like you
said, the defense of this insanity with the racism, and, you know, Sean
Hannity being like oh, he was awful, just terrible, but, before that, he
was great.

Why dive into a vat, like Sean Hannity did, before looking to see
what`s inside of it? I mean, that`s the problem, really, isn`t it, that
Sean Hannity went out on a limb to defend this guy before he knew anything
about him? And every single thing that Cliven Bundy has claimed about
himself has turned out to be not true.

So, now Sean Hannity has got to backpedal with the egg on his face and
figure out how to remain in Cliven Bundy`s court without being -- defending
the racist.

KORNACKI: Right.

Well, earlier this week, Hannity said he is only concerned about the
lack of proportionality in the government`s response. Here was Stewart`s
take on that last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Sean Hannity is
for proportionality when dealing with dissent, like when a police officer
generally seasoned nonviolent protesters at U.C. Davis.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": In all seriousness, that`s a lot of
pepper spray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a lot of pepper spray. All right, did
they cross a line? I don`t think so.

(BOOING)

STEWART: No, that was proportional.

In fact, they couldn`t have crossed the line because I didn`t even see
a line, because my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) eyes were burning...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ... because I just had a pepper spray Silkwood shower.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Scott, I`m actually feeling a little sorry for Sean
Hannity here, because, look, Jon Stewart kind of goaded him earlier this
week, and you could see Hannity couldn`t take it anymore. He took the
bait. He responded.

You know, and then Stewart had a field day last night. And then --
then Cliven Bundy implodes. And now I think everybody in the country is
sort of looking and waiting to say, what is Jon Stewart going to say
tonight? Because he`s going to get the last word, and it`s going to be
memorable.

And I -- I almost feel a little sorry for him, but what do you think?

SCOTT BLAKEMAN, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Well, you know, if I didn`t know
better, I would think that Viacom owned FOX News and Comedy Central.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAKEMAN: Because, historically, Sean Hannity and Jon Stewart have a
symbiotic relationship. It shouldn`t be surprising that Sean Hannity is
not being consistent, that he`s being hypocritical.

That`s the hallmark of FOX News. And factualness has never entered
into play on FOX News. But, really, I think the story should be about the
story, not the people who are talking about the story. You know, both Sean
Hannity and Jon Stewart are entertainers in the broadest sense of the word.
And I know Jon.

And the big difference between Jon and Sean is that Jon is very funny,
very insightful and very factual, which I would not associate with Hannity.
But it`s working in both of their favors. I mean, Sean Hannity does not
have to be truthful or accurate to appeal to his base, his viewers. And
despite the fact that Jon Stewart is clearly in the right and being so much
funnier, in the end, it won`t hurt Sean Hannity at all.

KORNACKI: So, so, Lizz, what do you think Hannity does now? OK, we
listened to the radio show earlier today. And he condemned Cliven Bundy
individually, still sort of said, but the cause was just, it`s just a
problem with Cliven Bundy.

Do you think that`s it now, he has enough sense to just walk away from
this? Or do you think we`re going to hear anything more from Hannity on
this?

WINSTEAD: See, this is the thing that I don`t get, because he has so
doubled down on this guy for so long.

And when he says it`s really about the cause, and now these racist
remarks the he made is going to obscure what the cause is, it`s like, the
racist comments he made were statements of his observations about the black
community and how they are in society. That is not a small little misstep
or statement. That seems to me that that is part of the fabric of who
Cliven Bundy is. And how does Sean Hannity stick with that? I don`t know.

KORNACKI: So, Scott, we say, what does -- what does Hannity next? I
guess the other question is, what does Jon Stewart do next? I guess, in a
way, the segment probably writes itself for him. But what does he do next?

BLAKEMAN: He just DVRs whatever FOX News does.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAKEMAN: No, as I said, I mean, but the point is, both are serving
their own base, essentially.

But we should focus on the fact is that the government is not
overreaching. In fact, I think the government is under-reaching, if that
were an actual word. All these people like Cliven Bundy, which sounds like
a fake name, which is why he`s so liked at FOX News, is a common criminal
at best, and a potential domestic terrorist at worst.

And both these people hate the government so much, leave America, go
to Somalia. You will love it there. And maybe FOX News could do well
there also.

KORNACKI: And I guess one of the questions now is, does -- Bundy`s
implosion actually now going to make it easier for the government to get
those grazing fees, or to confiscate the cows, to do what they were trying
to do in the first place?

Anyway, thank you, Lizz Winstead and Scott Blakeman.

Up next: the latest argument by a Republican against equal pay for
women.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMPUTER VOICE: I can kick a soccer ball, too.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: He`s going to kick it there? OK. Come on. I`m ready. Right
here?

COMPUTER VOICE: Here I go.

OBAMA: Hey, good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow." .

That was President Obama during his visit to Japan with a robot named
by Honda called ASIMO. I think I`m saying that right.

The Drudge Report saw an opportunity to jump on the president with
this headline -- quote -- "U.S. President Bows to Japanese Robot."

Presidents are often the first to preview emerging technology. George
W. Bush was among the earlier to try riding a Segway in 2003, but that
didn`t end well, after reports got this photo of him falling off.

Next, Republicans have arguments against equal pay legislation, but
this latest is whopper. Here`s what state Representative Will Infantine
of New Hampshire said while debating a new paycheck fairness bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL INFANTINE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Women make
half of what men do because of flexibility of work, men are more motivated
by money than women are. This is fact. I`m not making this stuff up.
This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, with an argument like that, it`s no wonder the New
Hampshire House of Representatives ending up passing the bill.

Finally, what happens when Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee go shopping
together? Well, they buy a tiger skin rug, apparently. Yes, that`s Cruz
and Lee posing on bended knee with the spoils of their shopping expedition.
Cruz tweeted that photograph last night with the caption: "Did a little
shopping for the office with Senator Mike Lee in Houston today."

While the rug looks like it`s seen better days, I guess it really ties
the room together.

Anyway, up next, time for Hillary Clinton to come up with an answer to
the question, what did you accomplish as secretary of state.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Craig Melvin. Here`s what`s
happening right now.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke a short time ago about Russia and
the escalating crisis in Ukraine. He says Russia has refused to take a
single concrete step in the right direction to defuse tensions.

Three American doctors working at a hospital in Kabul are dead. They
were fatally shot by an Afghan security guard this morning.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down earlier with
Andrea Mitchell. He said Israel has broken off peace talks with the
Palestinians because they decided to form a unity government with Hamas --
back to HARDBALL.

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the clear early favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2016,
Hillary Clinton has more than a few targets on her back. And judging by
what her enemies are focusing on, the biggest bullseye just might be her
time as secretary of state, which of course included that security lapse in
Benghazi.

That`s the reason why an exchange between State Department
spokesperson Jen Psaki and AP reporter Matt Lee has the right so gleeful.
Earlier this week, Lee brought up a 2010 State Department audit called the
QDDR. At the time, the agency hailed it as -- quote -- "a sweeping
assessment of how the Department of State can become more efficient,
accountable and effective."

You would think that, four years later, the spokesperson at the State
Department would be able to name one accomplishment as a result of that
sweeping audit. As you might be able to guess, she couldn`t.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Off the top of your head, can you
identify one tangible achievement that the last QDDR resulted in?

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, Matt, obviously, it`s
an extensive expansive process. We`re looking at how it was done last
time.

LEE: So, no. Just one.

PSAKI: I`m making an important point here.

The secretary wants it to be focused. It`s going to focus on a more
narrow range of issues. It`s always to look at how we can improve things,
and we`ll see where we come out on the end.

LEE: So, can you off the top of your head identify one tangible
achievement that resulted from the last QDDR?

PSAKI: I am certain that those who were here at the time who worked
hard on that effort could point out one.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: One that since you`ve come on board that you`ve noticed, that
someone has said -- that you noticed that you can point back saying, wow,
the first QDDR identified this as a problem and dealt with it?

PSAKI: Well, as you know, I have only been here since it was
concluded. I`m sure there are a range of things that were put into place
that I`m not even aware of were a result...

LEE: I won`t hold my breath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The RNC pounced on that exchange, saying -- quote --
"Americans are quite familiar with Hillary Clinton`s role regarding
Benghazi and the failed Russia reset initiative, but they`re still
scratching their heads on what exactly she accomplished as the secretary of
state."

The State Department tried to clean up the mess the next day by
pointing out how -- quote -- "effective" the process was. Clearly, the
damage was already done so.

It all raises a much bigger question facing Hillary in 2016 if she
does run. When Republicans attack her record as secretary of state, which
we know they are going to do, how does she respond?

Joan Walsh is the editor at large for Salon. And Michael Schmidt is
the Washington bureau chief for "TIME" magazine, which is out with its
annual most 100 influential list. I might have been 101st. Once again, I
just missed the list.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: But, anyway, this is not the first time that we have seen
someone struggle with this topic, Jen Psaki`s comments there the other day.

Hillary herself had trouble defining her accomplishments as secretary
of state. Here she is earlier this month a bit flummoxed when Thomas
Friedman asked her, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment on the
job?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I really see
my role as secretary, and in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as
a relay race.

I mean, you run the best race you can run. You hand off the baton.
Some of what hasn`t been finished may go on to be finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Joan, between -- this isn`t just a case of a State
Department being sort of caught off-guard one day. This is something that
it sounds like Hillary herself has not fully come up with a way to
articulate.

Republicans clearly think this is something they can hit her with in
2016. I assume she`s going to come up with an answer. Do you know what
that answer is going to be? And is it a good one? Is it going to satisfy
the question?

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She hasn`t sent me her book yet.
I`m kind of aggravated about that, Steve. So, I can`t tell you.

But she`s written a book, and I`m sure that it deals with what she
wants her accomplishments to be. But can we separate out these two things?
Because I think that Jen Psaki clip, that`s incredible gotcha politics.
She doesn`t work for Hillary Clinton, first of all. She works for John
Kerry. She works for the current State Department.

And the current QDDR, OK, I concede any day that you`re spending
talking about the QDDR, you`re losing. But basically it is a bureaucratic
overview. It`s meant -- when she finally came back and gave some answers,
yes, it`s meant to move money here and take money away from there. And
that`s what it does. It`s not about cutting off diplomatic relations with
Iran or something.

It`s an internal, kind of boring, bureaucratic thing that`s done. So
Jen Psaki is not sitting there as Hillary Clinton`s surrogate saying, this
is what she did, but I can`t come up with anything. It`s really kind
apples and oranges.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, I take the point.

But, Michael, I guess it gets to the broader question we`re raising
here, which is like, because we have not had Hillary Clinton sort of
articulate through her book or through a speech or really any way, hey,
these were the -- this is what my being secretary of state was all about,
these are the major achievements, it leaves the question out there, so when
a spokesperson with the State Department is confronted with a question like
that -- and apparently there`s a -- there may be a history there between
her and that reporter.

That reporter, I guess, is apparently pretty -- known to be pretty
aggressive. But it makes it a bigger story than maybe it needs to be. I
guess the question is, I mean, do you know, like, what -- what are
Hillary`s biggest accomplishments as secretary of state? If she wants to
run for president in 2016 and answer this question, what can she point to
in a big way and say, hey, this is what it was all about when I was
secretary of state?

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME": Well, one of the issues is the premise of
the question.

Being secretary of state is not like baseball. You don`t get an on-
base percentage when you finish. No one knows how many home runs you hit.
She`s basically a deputy of the president. And it`s not a job at least in
her tenure that produced a lot of, you know, clear wins.

She was deeply involved in Iran negotiations and sanctions, which seem
to be making some progress. She helped bring together the Libya coalition
in Europe that supported the bombing there. She was involved in the Asia
pivot. She was involved in the Afghan double-down and now the withdrawal,
the withdrawal from Iraq.

But all those things are not things you sort of win medals for and
then wear on your jacket. I think it may be that all of this ends up being
a moot point. I can`t imagine that many voters in 2016 going to the polls
and deciding between a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy and a Republican
opponent by saying, oh, but she was really good as secretary of state.

I think Republicans are hitting on her now because she`s the topic du
jour, and she will be until she gets out of the race, or unless she gets
out of the race. And they`re trying to establish a pattern that they can
use in an election year. And that pattern is she`s not a very good
manager.

I think that critique actually is something she`s going to have to
deal with. It goes back to the `90s in the White House where she had
trouble. Goes back to 2008 where she had trouble running the presidential
campaign. And that`s going to be something she has to answer for.

But she has plenty of time between now and then. She`s going to
clearly come out swinging in June with her book. So, I`m not worried that
she won`t have the next word in that.

KORNACKI: Well, when you talk about through the importance of being
able to answer that question, being able to answer the simple question,
it`s hard not to be reminded of another prominent candidate in waiting, Ted
Kennedy, who back in 1979 who had this memorable rambling and incoherent
response when he asked a seemingly easy question by CBS`s Roger Mudd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER MUDD, CBS NEWS: Why do you want to be president?

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I`m -- I would like to
make the announcement to run -- the reasons I would run is because I have a
great belief in this country, we`re facing complex issues in this country
at this time. But we faced similar challenges at other times. And the
energies and the resourcefulness of this nation, I think, should be focused
on these problems in a way that brings a sense of restoration in this
country by its people in dealing with the problems we face. It`s
imperative in this country to either move forward. It can`t stand still
otherwise it moves backward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: It`s not exactly a simple answer. But, look, Joan,
obviously, I mean, that was November right before the election year. We`re
still a few years out. Hillary Clinton has plenty of time. I guess that`s
the good news, she has plenty of time to answer this.

I guess the question is, quickly, though, is, you know, secretary of
state is not normally in modern politics a launching pad for a presidential
campaign. So, we`re sort in unchartered territory here when it comes to a
major candidate having that background. What do you see, though, as the
biggest challenge of her going from secretary of state to running for
president?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, I do think it`s what Michael referred
to, that she really was working for the president. And she -- you know, he
happened to be the man who beat her. They were fierce rivals. They came
together. She took the job. It was the right thing to do.

But he`s not a George W. Bush either. He`s a guy with a foreign
policy of his own, with a global vision, with an international presence.
And so, she was in, I think, a tougher position than most secretary of
states are.

But it`s not the kind of job that you go around bragging about, I did
this and I did that. It doesn`t tend to actually attract, if you look back
at who`s been there, people who have a long career or want to run for
president. So, you know, it`s hard -- she`s just, as usual, you know,
she`s very hard to compare to anybody else. But right now, I think this is
just a way for the right -- another way for the right ring to say Benghazi
with different words.

KORNACKI: I think the last secretary of state who tried to do it was
Al Hague. But I think Hillary Clinton and Al Hague are in different
leagues. I will say that.

Anyway, thank you, Joe Walsh, and Michael Scherer.

We`ll be right back.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Republicans have been trying to expand the Senate map and
make more races competitive. And it looks they might have succeeded in
Colorado.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

Quinnipiac poll shows the race neck and neck with incumbent Democrat
Mark Udall holding just a one point lead over Congressman Cory Gardner 45
percent to 44 percent. Republicans need to take six seats if they`re going
to win back the Senate and they`re heavily favored in three states. In
Colorado, that would be a huge coup.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We are back and before you even had a name, the horrors of
AIDS have devastated entire communities.

And in the trenches from the beginning was a man named Dr. Eric
Goosby. Studied at medical school, he saw his first AIDS patient in 1979.
He went on to treat many more during his time at San Francisco General
Hospital. In the 1980s, 80 percent of the hospital`s patients were
infected with AIDS. Many of them died due to lack of effective treatment.
1991, he went to Washington to work on the federal response to the epidemic
and more recently, President Obama appointed him U.S. global AIDS
coordinator.

He stepped down from that post last year. He`s now an adviser to Born
Free, which HARDBALL is partnering with. The group is working on an
ambitious goal to stop the transmission of HIV from mothers to their
children. In 2012, 700 children, each and every day were infected. A vast
majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa where Born Free is focused.

The goal is no child is born with HIV by the end of 2015.

Dr. Goosby was there at the beginning of this epidemic. Is he now
watching the beginning of the end?

He`s with us now along with Jennifer McCrae. She`s the CEO of Born
Free and the senior research fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil
Society at Harvard University.

Doctor, I`ll just start with you. I mean, your own personal story is
amazing. I mean, you were there, when they were just -- you know, just a
few sort of isolated cases in this country and became this horrible, global
epidemic.

Are we really now at a point where after all these years, you can --
you can start to see the end of this thing as an epidemic?

DR. ERIC GOOSBY, FORMER U.S. GLOBAL AIDS COORDINATOR: Well, yes. The
truth of it is, is that we have come a long way. The United States has
played a central role in orchestrating the effective response through the
president`s emergency plan for AIDS relief, started by President Bush,
brought to scale by President Obama. It has reached out to the countries
most heavily impacted by HIV throughout the world, and brought care,
prevention and treatment services.

KORNACKI: So, Jennifer, maybe you can explain this to me because the
goal of your group, it sounds like, it`s incredibly noble, often sounds
incredibly ambitious to people. We`re seeing 700 children a day still
being affected, still being born with this disease.

You`re saying by the end of 2015, you know, this is less than two
years a way, this can be brought down to zero. How? What will happen to
make that happen?

JENNIFER MCCREA, CEO, BORN FREE: Well, this is a very large global
coalition of stakeholders have come together to make this possible, ranging
from the private sector where we`ve gotten especially involved in terms of
providing funding and resources and business acumen to the U.S. government,
global fund, implementing partners on the ground, civil society, and of
course, African governments and African global health experts.

And the numbers have really spoken for themselves. Since 2009, the
epidemics decreased more than 35 percent.

KORNACKI: So, what are -- you know, you talk about how so many of
these cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, you talk about sort of, you know,
working with other governments -- government groups. Sort of from
international standpoints, the international community, what are some of
the challenges they face just in trying to confront this?

MCCREA: Well, the international community has an obligation and an
opportunity to really get involved in this in so many ways. I think that`s
what`s happening. There`s a global effort to get this done. And it`s the
beginning of the end of AIDS, because as moms are giving it to their
children, the epidemic will continue.

KORNACKI: The beginning of the end. So, Dr. Goosby, I go back to you
because you were -- you know, you were there at the beginning. You saw
just the horrors of this right from the start. I wonder if you can take us
back to that time. You saw your first AIDS patient in 1979.

When was it in that era when you saw -- when you realized the scale of
this thing? That this was going to be national, global. When did you
realize just how big and how bad this was going to be?

GOOSBY: Well, it was somewhere around 1982, that we realized that
this was crescendoing. We hadn`t reached the highest numbers yet, but they
continued to grow. We were overwhelmed with opportunistic confessions
being the entry that a patient would have into the medical delivery system.
As a result, hospitals were congested.

And in San Francisco, the census was started at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,
and peaked out in the 80s. Eighty percent of the people on the hospital
were there for AIDS related causes.

KORNACKI: That`s an amazing statistic.

Jennifer, just saying, you know, sort of we can begin to see the end
of this, did you think, though, Dr. Goosby, at the beginning of this that
it would take this long, that you`d be sitting here in 2014 talking about
this?

GOOSBY: You know, I really didn`t think it would take this long. You
know, a young doctor at the beginning of his career was very optimistic. I
thought we could figure anything out. I thought the science would lead the
way.

One of the remarkable stories about HIV is, is that the science has
been explosive in and around the natural history of HIV, how it damages the
immune system, how it sets an individual up to develop opportunistic
infections and AIDS-related malignancies.

All of that has been worked out because of the science with HIV, that
has application to other viruses, as well as other malignances. But the
remarkable surge in the knowledge and then in taking that knowledge and
allowing it to inform policy, and then having the policy be translated into
program has been the hardest part of the task.

KORNACKI: All right. Thank you, Jennifer McCrea and Dr. Eric Goosby.

For more information, you can visit BornFreeAfrica.org. And we`ll be
right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with a look back at a moment that
history may one day remember as the defining political moment of this era
for the Democratic Party and maybe for the country as a whole. It was
December 1st, 2008. That was the day that Barack Obama announced that
Hillary Clinton would be joining his administration as secretary of state.

We talked earlier about how Clinton and her supporters are going to
have to do a better job answering a very basic question, a Roger Mudd
question, about what she actually accomplished in that job if she`s going
to run for the White House in 2016.

But let`s remember the politics that were at played back in December
of 2008, the politics that made the idea of Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton just as appealing to her as it was to Barack Obama. From
Obama`s standpoint, it removed an imposing shadow from Capitol Hill.

The Hillary Clinton of 2008 was a senator with an enormous national
profile, one who just won 17 million votes in the Democratic primaries.
There had been tension between her and Obama in the primaries, ugly words
have been exchanged by some of their high profile backers, and there were
definitely some hard feelings.

And here was Barack Obama in December 2008, poised to take over the
presidency, just as the country was plunging into an economic crisis. He
knew that he was in for a rough first term, that a deep recession, high
unemployment and a slow recovery were going to steadily and quickly erode
his political strength. And he knew the last thing he needed was for his
vanquished rival from the 2008 primaries to be sitting in the Senate and to
spot an opportunity in his struggles to question, artfully, of course, his
priorities, to challenge his strategy, to remind Democrats without ever
actually saying the words, that things might have been different if only
they sided with her.

Barack Obama didn`t need Hillary Clinton hovering over the domestic
political scene and he definitely didn`t need the press, not to mention his
own party getting any ideas about a 2012 primary rematch.

So, Obama made peace and offered his rival the plummest of plum
cabinet slots and she took it because there was a lot in it from her, too,
becoming secretary of state freed Hillary from all of the domestic
political land mines that every Democrat in Congress was about to face,
think of the stimulus and health care, things Republicans were poised to
demagogue into deep unpopularity.

Being secretary of state elevated Hillary, too. It elevated her above
the polarization that defines this era, that makes everyone with a "D" an
automatic target for everyone with an "R" after their name. Obama`s
approval rating dipped into the low 40s when Democrats were slaughtered in
the 2010 midterms, with the public`s disgust with Congress reached an all-
time high -- when all this happened, Hillary was nowhere to be seen on
Capitol Hill. She was off traveling the world and burnishing a new image
as a stateswoman, in watching her poll numbers back home climb and climb to
heights she had never before realized.

Removing Hillary Clinton from day to day politics of the Obama
presidency ended up being good for Barack Obama and also for Hillary
Clinton.

So, yes, she needs a better answer to the question of what she`s
achieved on the international stage as secretary of state. But when it
comes to what she achieved on the political stage back here in our country
-- well, the answer to that is very clear. Taking that job was one of the
smartest moves Hillary Clinton has ever made.

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

Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

More on TODAY.com

  1. Nicole Tung / freejamesfoley.org via AP file

    Journalist James Foley's parents 'haunted' by how he died

    8/20/2014 7:35:14 PM +00:00 2014-08-20T19:35:14
  1. Cindy Ord / Getty Images

    6 things I wish I knew before getting a dog

    8/20/2014 5:25:06 PM +00:00 2014-08-20T17:25:06
  1. Savannah Guthrie via Twitter

    Savannah Guthrie, baby Vale send adorable birthday wishes to Al Roker

    8/20/2014 6:43:47 PM +00:00 2014-08-20T18:43:47
  1. Getty Images

    Dear celebrities, please stop straightening your hair!

    8/20/2014 8:31:41 PM +00:00 2014-08-20T20:31:41