May 8, 2014
Guests: Bryan Perlmutter, Abraham Cooper, Martin Goldsmith
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A tale of dark conspiracies.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this Republican effort to scare up right-
wing voters with Benghazi and other dark Obama conspiracies, scare off
minorities, the young, and others who might vote Democrat without outright
Well, this is a double whammy aimed at the elections this November,
obviously. One, drive up the suspicious right, including the 2nd Amendment
people, by saying the government is lying to them about the death of U.S.
diplomats, about the IRS, about the Fast and Furious campaign to catch
cross-border drug dealers. Two, change and restrict voter laws to
discourage and confuse Democratic voters. Bottom line, a big Republican
victory this November, a veritable thumping of the Democrats, setting the
stage for two years of administration frustration and Obama hatred that
seeds right up until the 2016 election.
Well, let`s start with this insidious conspiracy mongering designed to
convince fringe voters of grand and dark maneuvering here in Washington to
betray those serving the country overseas, to, in the words of John Bolton,
leave Americans to die at the hands of terrorists, to cheat conservative
groups out of their tax dollars, and in some underhanded way, be in cahoots
with the international drug trade. The goal, rile up the right-wing base
and ramrod them to the polls.
Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican Party. Joan Walsh is
editor-at-large of Salon. Both are MSNBC political analysts.
Anyway, House Speaker John Boehner, who green-lighted the Benghazi
select committee, laid out the GOP strategy yesterday. It`s about stoking
conspiracies in the name of pursuing the truth. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When is the
administration going to tell the American people the truth? They`ve not
told the truth about Benghazi. They`ve not told the truth about the IRS.
They`ve not told the truth about Fast and Furious. Now, only one would
have to guess if they`re not willing to tell the American people the truth,
it must not be very pretty. Thanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats are criticizing the Republican effort to
score political points by stoking these conspiracy theories. Let`s listen
to Congressman Elijah Cummings on the House vote to hold former IRS
official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: This is unprecedented, except in
the McCarthy era. And even in that era, it failed. And so, you know, I`m
wondering where we`re going here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hear Hillary Clinton on the subject of the
House select committee investigation of Benghazi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benghazi, the new investigation -- are you
satisfied with the answers? And are you content with what you know what
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely. I mean, of
course, there are a lot of reasons why, despite all of the hearings, all of
the information that`s been provided, some choose not to be satisfied and
choose to continue to move forward. That`s their choice. And I do not
believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to
call the shots in the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Steele, former Republican national
chairman. Let me see, Michael. It seems to me that the message here, just
to get it straight, is a broad conspiracy that all the Democrats do on all
the issues that seem to matter in the erogenous zones of the Republican
right is to hide stuff. It`s all about hiding stuff, hiding in Benghazi,
hiding on IRS, hiding on this Fast and Furious campaign, with a particular
goal of going to the hardest right, the gun people, the people that think
government is out to get them, not just Democrats but all government.
It seems to be playing to the fringe. That`s the way I see it. This
isn`t for upper middle class voters from the suburbs. This is aimed
particularly at the more rural, more suspicious type people who will vote
Republican, if they do vote. This is to get them out, and angry.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it
lays down markers, Chris, on a number of issues, and you hit on three of
them there. And of course, you know, you`re driving your base. I mean,
just as we`ve seen Democrats do in the past and even recently in terms of
how Harry Reid has gone out and fomented the wrath of the left to, gain,
drive that base on a particular issue.
So I don`t -- I don`t get the hyperactivity or the hypersensitivity to
what Republicans are doing in that instance. It all plays itself out
ultimately in the end. You`ve got to get through a primary process, and
you`ve got to figure out how, once you lay down these markers on some of
these issues, you either deliver the goods, or you`re going to get the
wrath of the voters at the polls this November who reject your political
So it`s a big risk that they`re taking. It`s not necessarily one I
would take in all instances as a national chairman. But that`s the
politics of it right now, and that`s where we`re coming. We`ll see how
this plays out for them. I think it`s a big risky, but I completely
understand it, and I think you do, too, ultimately.
MATTHEWS: I get it, too, completely. And I`ll ask Joan what do you
think before I`ll tell you what I think. I want to ask Joan. What do you
think of this whole strategy of basically alerting, igniting, turning on,
exciting, scaring up, whatever, the right wing, the far right, who are very
suspicious of government, period, no matter who`s running it, who are
willing to believe the IRS is evil and some kind of conspiracy-driven
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: ... that they`re very concerned about losing their guns to
anybody. They don`t like this Fast and Furious thing, and then throw it
all in with Benghazi, where, basically, people like John Bolton are out
there saying we killed one of our diplomats...
MATTHEWS: ... in some sort of betrayal out there in the field? It`s
really vicious stuff, and I think Boehner is being coached into how to sell
it. That`s my theory.
WALSH: Well, he obviously is. I mean, for John Boehner to be
bringing up Fast and Furious at this point really smacks of desperation,
Chris. I mean, the whole Fast and Furious conspiracy has Eric Holder in
cahoots with, you know, the gun control people to set this up to eventually
have a big takeaway of guns.
That`s at the bottom of why they`re upset about Fast and Furious,
wholly concocted on the fringe of the right and nurtured by Fox News. John
Boehner should not be talking about Fast and Furious. He shouldn`t be
talking about any of this, but that in particular.
I just have to say one thing to my friend Michael. I mean, yes, we
both, both sides do it in terms of we do want to get out our base. But
when Harry Reid talks about the Koch brothers, they actually are oligarchs
who actually are pouring millions of dollars into our political process
WALSH: ... in large measure to line their own pockets...
STEELE: Oh, they`re not lining...
WALSH: ... and advance a deeply right-wing agenda. That`s not a lie.
The rest of this is based on lies.
STEELE: Hey, Joan -- Joan...
WALSH: Are we now calling Robert Gates a liar, Leon Panetta`s a liar?
I mean, the Benghazi stuff is really, really dirty, Michael. You know
STEELE: Joan, I appreciate -- I appreciate that. But the Koch
brothers are doing as everybody is doing on the left, is expressing their
political views, and they`re doing it through their wallets. They`re doing
it through the political action committees. They`re doing it in very legal
You can buy it or not buy it. That`s your prerogative. The same in
terms of what the party`s talking about more broadly. Yes, I get that one
level, there may be some concern about, you know, how we do some of this
stuff or do we push that envelope as far as we should? But there are still
some substantive questions on all three of those issues...
STEELE: ... what were raised...
WALSH: What are they?
STEELE: ... that should be discussed...
MATTHEWS: You have the floor, Michael. I want to ask you this. Do
you believe that Leon Panetta, who is a very credible, moderate Democrat,
all these years we`ve been watching him -- do you think he went out there
to kill Chris Stevens? Did he let him lie dead in the field?
STEELE: No! Of course not!
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what...
STEELE: Of course not!
MATTHEWS: ... Bolton`s (INAUDIBLE) Do you believe that Lois Lerner,
who`s a bureaucrat -- I don`t mean that derogatorily, but she`s no
politician -- was sitting there talking to the Obama people about how to
screw the right wing? Do you believe she`s in cahoots with the...
MATTHEWS: ... completely made up?
STEELE: That we`re still investigating, Chris. I mean, we don`t know
what Lois Lerner...
MATTHEWS: Are you really...
WALSH: We`re not investigating!
STEELE: ... because Lerner hasn`t told us what Lois Lerner...
MATTHEWS: She is a federal employee probably for life, and you`re
STEELE: Come on, dude! Come on!
WALSH: Can I just say something about...
MATTHEWS: Don`t use that word with me...
MATTHEWS: ... because that says something that -- you`re not a
stoner. Don`t start talking like one. Go ahead. Go ahead, Joan.
WALSH: You know, here`s the thing about -- here`s the thing about
Lois Lerner. She exercised her 5th Amendment rights. We all have them.
More than that, though -- Elijah Cummings has talked about this. She --
her lawyer made a proffer to the committee, to Darrell Issa`s committee,
and the committee that Congressman Cummings sits on. He was willing to
kind of give a vague outline of what she knows, to talk about some kind of
possible, you know, protection from prosecution. They wouldn`t even go
there with her.
WALSH: ... a witch hunt and a show trial.
STEELE: You don`t get to say to -- you don`t get to say to the
Congress of the United States on something like this, Oh, we`ll just tell
you vaguely what we were doing.
WALSH: Not vaguely!
STEELE: You just used that term!
MATTHEWS: The cavalry has arrived, and you`re in the infantry. The
cavalry on the Democratic side, which it rarely does. We`ve caught them.
The American people have caught the Republicans making money on this. And
this is something that`s not up for debate, right?
MATTHEWS: The National Republican Campaign Committee is out there
raising money on the House select committee hearing, Benghazi with an e-
mail that reads, quote, "Stand with Congressman Trey Gowdy, the Benghazi
select committee, the House Republicans as we fight for the truth about
what happened with the Benghazi terrorist attack. Help fight liberals by
Well, Politico today lists other Republican fund-raising efforts using
Benghazi, including one from super-hawk John Bolton. Here`s how Politico
describes it. "A John Bolton Political Action Committee e-mail from April
accused Obama, Clinton and former defense secretary Leon Panetta of
refusing to take responsibility for" -- and this is Bolton`s line --
"leaving Americans to die in the hands of terrorists."
MATTHEWS: And late today on the House floor, the ranking member of
the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, called on Speaker Boehner to end
Republican fund-raising off the Benghazi probe. Let`s listen to Elijah
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUMMINGS: They have been using the deaths of these four Americans for
political campaign fund-raising! I call on the speaker of the House to end
that process right now.
With all due respect, if the Republicans want to fix the problems with
their partisan investigation, they need more than just a new chairman. I
have tremendous respect for Mr. Gowdy, and I`m glad that he said that the
fund-raising should not be done on the deaths of these four people. And I
hope that the Republican conference will finally agree with that. We are
better than that!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the question, are they or not? (INAUDIBLE)
today, at his weekly briefing, House Speaker Boehner was questioned rather
well by Luke Russert of NBC about whether it was appropriate to raise money
over the deaths of Americans overseas. By the way, one of these fund-
raisers asked for 500 bucks for the four dead Americans. It was ruthless.
Here`s Luke Russert going after Boehner, asking him, if he thinks it`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Speaker Boehner, four Americans died in
Benghazi. Should the NRCC fund-raise off of your effort with the select
BOEHNER: Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who
lost their loved ones, period.
RUSSERT: But should the NRCC -- they`re fund-raising off of it right
now. Is that -- is that a wise thing to do?
BOEHNER: Our focus -- our focus is getting the truth to these four
families and to the American people.
QUESTION: But the campaign committee, which you are very involved in,
is fund-raising off of this. Why is that happening?
BOEHNER: Our focus is on getting the truth for the American people
and these four families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "No controlling legal authority." I mean, why didn`t he
answer the question, Chairman Steele?
STEELE: Let`s just put it out here. He should back up his chairman
of the select committee. Congressman Gowdy is absolutely right. There
should be no fund-raising on this issue. It is disrespectful to the
deceased. It is disrespectful to their families. And it is disrespectful
to the process that the Republican leadership wants to pursue.
So if you`re serious about the...
STEELE: ... impact of Benghazi, then show it by pulling back off the
STEELE: Look, you`re going to raise your money. You don`t have to...
MATTHEWS: OK, so...
STEELE: ... for something else.
MATTHEWS: Former chairman of the Republican National Committee says
it`s wrong to raise money off of Benghazi.
MATTHEWS: Is that right?
STEELE: I support Chairman Gowdy 100 percent on this. He`s
absolutely right. And the leadership need to back him up.
WALSH: This is a stunning abdication of responsibility by John
Boehner, I have to say. I mean, seriously. But it goes back to when he --
he once told us that it wasn`t his business to tell the American people or
his members what to think about whether the president was born in this
country. I mean, he has a habit of doing it.
WALSH: But for him not to back up Trey Gowdy to say, Of course we`re
not going to fund-raise on this and I`ve told it -- and I want it to stop,
I want it to stop -- it`s stunning that he wouldn`t do that.
MATTHEWS: You`re one of these reporters that keeps their file cabinet
in their head all the time! Joan, you know what`s going on. You remember!
I`m sorry. I`m just kidding. You`re so good at remembering it. You`re
right. And by the way, I`m sure Chairman Reince Priebus will back up
everything you said, Michael Steele...
MATTHEWS: I`m just kidding. I`m being totally sarcastic. The RNC
chairman has no guts to stand up against this crappy raising money off dead
people. It`s horrible. It`s ridiculous. Morally, it`s absurd. And by
the way, I think, Michael, you nailed them on it better than I could.
Michael Steele, thank you for joining us, and Joan Walsh -- catching people
raising money off horrors overseas.
Coming up: We`ve seen -- we`ve been actually saying for years here
that the new Republican restrictions were going to make it harder for
people to vote. And now in North Carolina -- we talked about scaring up
votes. They`re scaring it away. They`re using -- we`ve got signs now as
of the primaries this week in North Carolina, a state I`ve come to love.
They`re screwing people out of voting, and it`s already working.
Plus, a school assignment, believe this or not, in 2014, asking 8th
graders out in California to write whether the Holocaust was real or
whether it was a hoax. Holocaust denial answer (ph) two (ph). Was it just
an ignorant assignment or evidence that Holocaust denial is gaining
credibility in some schoolrooms?
Also, Michele Bachmann -- remember her? Was for it before she was
against, and now she`s really against it. What is it? Well, that`s coming
up in the "Sideshow." You can`t miss her.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with how nasty campaigns to roll up
the score can come back to bite you.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s new poll out there right now that four years
in, Republicans are souring on the Tea Party. According to Gallup, 41
percent of Republicans say they support the Tea Party, but that`s down 20
points from November of 2010, when Tea Party anger swept Republicans into
power. And it comes just two days after primaries in three states saw so-
called establishment Republicans fend off Tea Party challengers.
But the story bheind the headline is not good for progressives.
Despite its recent setbacks, the Tea Party has pushed the Republican Party
so far to the right that the party`s establishment candidates are in turn
becoming more palatable to its hard right. So the right`s getting
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: ... when the law kicks into full gear over the next few
years -- this is me talking -- the fallout will likely only get worse. And
of course, that`s the point. Republicans in the state have passed the law
last year. It eliminates same-day voter registration, kills a popular
program that pre-registered high school students and it slashes early
voting, and it mandates strict voters ID requirements. Those requirements
disproportionately affect minorities, especially blacks. That`s according
to a study conducted by the state`s Department of Motor Vehicles.
And like I said, if Republicans have their way, what`s happening in
North Carolina will be coming to a city near you.
Eugene Robinson`s an MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-
winning columnist with "The Washington Post," and Bryan Perlmutter is the
director of North Carolina Voter Defender Project.
Bryan, I want to start with you on the ground.
And what was your reaction? How do you assess the results of the
voter laws as they`re affecting the minds of voters and how they go and
actually try to vote, the good people who do try to vote?
BRYAN PERLMUTTER, THE VOTER DEFENDER PROJECT: Yes, and on Election
Day, which was Tuesday, we had over 300 people on the ground in 36 counties
in North Carolina.
And what we noticed was that people were confused when they came to
vote, especially in places like Boone and in Halifax County, voters who
were showing up to vote at precincts. And the state, you know, in specific
counties have been changing and moving precinct locations, that the out-of-
precinct voting regulations that would not allow people who are voting out
of precinct for their votes to count, that folks who are showing up at the
wrong precinct were having to be shuffled around and were very confused on
where they needed to vote.
MATTHEWS: So, it used to be the law in North Carolina was if you
showed up at the wrong precinct, because you went to the closest place, you
thought was the closest place, they would still count your vote. But now
PERLMUTTER: Yes. Now your vote doesn`t count. You have to be at the
And so where I was in Boone, North Carolina, there were students who
were showing up. The campus is split into two. So students who were
showing up with their roommate to go vote at a polling location would be
inevitably at the wrong -- they would pick the wrong precinct and have to
walk a little over a mile to get to the other precinct.
And so just regulations like this are making it harder and making it
more difficult for students to vote, for people of color to vote. And this
is a trend across North Carolina that happened yesterday.
MATTHEWS: OK. And this is all purposeful, Gene. Look at this. A
Republican in North Carolina actually went on the record during an
interview with "The Daily Show" to gloat about how these laws would hurt
the black vote. And this is a Don Yelton, a North Carolina Republican
precinct chairman. Take a listen to this guy laying it out there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
DON YELTON, NORTH CAROLINA GOP PRECINCT OFFICIAL: The law is going to
kick the Democrats in the butt. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that
wants the government to give them everything, so be it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it just so happens that a lot of those people
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it`s amazing when you get the eye of the
tiger here. Anyway, Yelton was forced to resign after that incredible
interview. You`re not supposed to say it out loud.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, you`re not supposed to
say it out loud.
What you`re supposed to say out loud is this is to protect the
integrity of the voting process. We can`t have voter fraud, when, in fact,
let`s just set the context. This is all ostensibly to solve a problem that
MATTHEWS: No, they have a problem, though. It`s a different problem.
Democrats are voting Democrat.
ROBINSON: Really, you solve a different problem, ostensibly to solve
a problem that doesn`t exist.
MATTHEWS: But aren`t you amazed? You grew up in South Carolina
during the worst days. You saw it all. This guy did -- are you surprised
that this guy is willing to just come out and mumble out the fact this is
to keep blacks from voting, just like in the old days with the literacy
ROBINSON: I am surprised, actually.
ROBINSON: Even back then, they would keep up a pretext.
MATTHEWS: They would say they were looking for truly literate voters.
ROBINSON: Exactly, or something like that, just not saying a bunch of
MATTHEWS: Well, Bryan, this guy talks like Mr. Poll Tax, Mr. Literacy
Law. Can you spell this Greek word here. He doesn`t seem to have any
problem saying that.
When you go around there, are you surprised that people are so openly
or are they so openly flagrant about the goal here to keep blacks from
PERLMUTTER: Yes, I think the -- I think that -- that there is this
intense reactionary wave of people in North Carolina, but there`s also a
group of folks, you know, in like this grassroots effort that is mobilizing
people in North Carolina to fight back against these immoral laws.
People want to get involved. And people are tired in North Carolina
and they want, you know, the voting process to be meaningful. And so we
have been mobilizing people on the ground and all over the place to really
fight back against this legislation.
MATTHEWS: OK. By November, is there going to be a fair vote in North
Carolina, or is it going to be tilted, the table tilted against Kay Hagan
getting reelected basically on the ground? I know you`re not partisan, but
will the laws, and the way they are being enforced, and the way people are
perceiving them, is this going to tilt the table against Kay Hagan?
PERLMUTTER: I think it`s going to -- what we`re seeing right now, and
hopefully -- hopefully, everyone is able to vote in North Carolina. But
what we saw in the primary -- and this is a primary election, where there`s
a very small turnout -- that people were already confused about with what
was happening with this law, when it was being implemented, if they needed
There were precincts. Some people were asking folks and telling them
they needed an I.D. for 2016. Other precincts, they wouldn`t ask and tell
people about these regulations, that it`s just creating this confusion and
this hysteria in North Carolina.
And when you have millions and millions of dollars coming into the
state, the last thing we need is more confusion and more layers on top of
that creating barriers for people to get to the polls. And so while we
hope that isn`t the case and we`re going to be on the ground making sure
that everyone can get to the polls, it is definitely a concern that we
MATTHEWS: So you have Boehner in the white shirt doing the white
shirt job. His job is to get out the crazy right-wingers by scaring them
about Benghazi and IRS and Fast and Furious, even though these are words he
would normally not speak, we know.
And at the same time, you scare up the vote on the right, you have to
scare up the liberal vote or the progressive minority vote.
MATTHEWS: It`s pretty much two-pronged here.
ROBINSON: Tilts the playing field.
MATTHEWS: Why are they doing this when they`re already ahead? This
is what Nixon did back in the...
MATTHEWS: ... Douglas days back in...
MATTHEWS: And ruined his career. This is what they did in Water --
in `72, when they were going to kill McGovern. But, no, they had to go
break into offices and cover it up. Why are they going so crazy here?
They`re going to win anyway.
ROBINSON: They may not be sure they`re that far ahead, you know?
MATTHEWS: You look at the polls, Gene. You look at the polls. Your
paper produces them.
ROBINSON: No, I see the polls. North Carolina is a state that`s been
changing. They have got a huge Hispanic vote now.
ROBINSON: You know, it`s a changing state. It`s changing week by
MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re an optimistic on your side. But let me tell
you, I think...
ROBINSON: I think they`re more insecure than you think. I don`t --
look, I think that they`re ahead.
MATTHEWS: When you roll up the score in any game, you pay later for
ROBINSON: Well, yes.
MATTHEWS: I think they`re trying to roll it up in a nasty way.
Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. You`re skeptical, but I think they
are in a good shape now, if they wouldn`t be dirty about it.
Bryan Perlmutter, we will have you back again. We like your
Up next, the new Washington project Michele Bachmann was for before
she was against this project.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics and also for Michele
Bachmann. We like having her on display her.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."
It`s no secret that Senator Ted Cruz professes his admiration for
Winston Churchill any chance he gets, but he didn`t have much to say about
the British prime minister when he met a pig that happened to share the
name of his hero and my hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time that Senator Cruz has had his
picture taken with Churchill, maybe the not Churchill he was thinking of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, that was Senator Cruz posing with a pig named
Churchill yesterday. The creative photo op was part of an initiative to
cut pork-barrel spending. Hmm. Although, as you could see, before too
long, it came to resemble a petting zoo.
Next up, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve a commission to
consider allowing a privately funded national women`s museum or women`s
history museum to be built in Washington there on the Mall. It`s just an
initial step toward OKing plans a museum to showcase the contributions of
women to the American culture.
It turns out the most vocal opponent of the bill is U.S. Congresswoman
Michele Bachmann. She says the museum dedicated to American women would
only serve to embolden what she calls the radical feminist movement.
Listen to this point of view here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I rise today in opposition to
this bill, because I believe ultimately this museum that will be built on
the National Mall on federal land will enshrine the radical feminist
movement that stands against the pro-life movement, the pro-family
movement, and the pro-traditional marriage movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ironically, that is the very same Michele Bachmann who just
three years ago expressed her gratitude when she the proposed museum`s Web
site featured her in one of their online exhibits.
"The Washington Post" reports that Bachmann posted this on her
Facebook page on Mother`s Day back in 2011 -- quote -- "The National
Women`s History Museum is featuring a special online exhibit dedicated to
moms. I`m humbled to be included in this exhibit as a foster mom of 23.
But all moms have a special role in their children`s lives. On this
Mother`s Day weekend, special thanks to all moms for their courage,
sacrifice, and love."
Well, talk about being for it before you`re against it.
Finally, a Republican candidate for the Georgia State Senate is making
quite the impression on voters. Take a look at a clip from his new ad and
see if you notice anything familiar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY (R), GEORGIA STATE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Growing up,
my dad taught me the value of hard work. His wisdom inspired me to work my
way through school while helping my mom and little brother. In the Senate,
I will keep working hard. I`m John F. Kennedy, and I ask for your vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s right. His name is John F. Kennedy.
But, in this case, the F. for Flanders, not Fitzgerald.
Nevertheless, he`s taken to using his middle initial in his campaign
ads and his Web site. Not only that, but his logo bears a striking
resemblance to the kind of campaign buttons you might have seen 50 years
In fact, just look at it next to a 1960 Kennedy for president button.
Similar, don`t you think?
And we will be right back after this.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
The House has voted to establish a new committee to investigate
Benghazi. Speaker John Boehner insists the focus of the panel will be
finding the truth about the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead.
The U.S. team headed to Nigeria help in the search for more than 200
kidnapped schoolgirls will arrive in the next 24 hours.
And some severe weather is taking aim at the nation`s midsection, with
at least two tornadoes confirmed in Minnesota. Look at that -- now we`re
going to take you back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I want to say a
special word to the survivors who are with us this evening, not just of the
Holocaust, but as Steven noticed, survivors of other unimaginable crimes.
Every day that you have lived, every child and grandchild that your
families have brought into this world has served as the ultimate rebuke to
evil and the ultimate expression of love and hope.
OBAMA: And you are an inspiration to every single one of us. And on
behalf of all of us, thank you for the example of your lives and sharing
your stories with us and the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was of course President Obama last night speaking at Steven
Spielberg`s Shoah Foundation, which documents the stories of Holocaust
This week, unfortunately, we have gotten a reminder as to why it`s so
important that survivors share their stories with the world, because,
believe it or not, there are teachers in America who are actually
encouraging debate about whether the Holocaust ever took place.
The Rialto Unified School District near Los Angeles, where the
president was, gave its eighth grade students perhaps the most disturbing,
ignorant, I would say, essay assignment imaginable this spring. It said --
quote -- "When tragic events occur in history, there`s often debate about
their actual existence. For example, some people say -- claim the
Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda
tool that was used for political purpose and monetary gain. Based upon
your research in this issue, write an argumentative essay utilizing cited
textual evidence in which you can explain whether or not you believe the
Holocaust was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme
created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."
Well, after the district was criticized for that assignment for the
kids, school board at first defended that assignment, but the board later
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
He recently spoke at a Rialto school board meeting. And with me is a
special guest tonight. Martin Goldsmith is author of the great new book
"Alex`s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance." In it,
he traces the route members of his own family took as they tried to flee
the Holocaust and were subsequently taken to Auschwitz. The grandfather
and uncle in his family both perished there at that death camp.
Thank you for joining us.
I want to start with the bad news and then I want to get to this
excellent book by Martin Goldsmith.
Rabbi, tell me about this -- this -- how -- what did you -- what was
your reaction when you heard about the fact that schoolkids were given an
open question, apparently, was there a Holocaust?
RABBI ABRAHAM COOPER, ASSOCIATE DEAN, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Well,
actually, Chris, first of all, amen to what the president said last night
about survivors and the unique role they play with young people in terms of
giving hope and guidance for the future.
The actual reality was a lot worse. It wasn`t just one teacher.
There were five teachers who collaborated on this project. There was
someone within the district curriculum who reviewed it. We still don`t
know for sure if this is just the ultimate stupidity or something worse.
But 2,200 eighth graders in Rialto were given 18 pages to look at,
told to quote reliable documentation, which was -- quote, unquote --
"provided," Anne Frank was a hoax, stuff downloaded from hate sites.
This was not -- maybe it was supposedly designed for critical
thinking, but what it did was elevated hate with historic fact.
And maybe one of the good news I reported to you, there was another
call that was down there last night. We`re going to make sure that all
2,200 of these kids and the adults in the room make their way to the Museum
of Tolerance. We have a new exhibition on Anne Frank.
And, thankfully, we still have a few Holocaust survivors and they`ll
be there to give a human face, the human touch to these unbelievable
statistics, 1.5 million Jewish kids, and every story that can be told, in
this case, a wonderful book, that will humanize what it is that took place
during the Holocaust --
COOPER: -- is extraordinarily important for every generation.
MATTHEWS: Rabbi, here`s the one school board member said last week,
depending that assignment, quote. "This will allow a person to come to
their own conclusion. Current events are part of the basis for measuring
IQ. The Middle East, Israel, Palestine and the Holocaust are on newscasts
discussing current events, teaching how to come to your own conclusion
based on the facts to test your position, be able to articulate that
position, and then depend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to
Martin, I`ve watched for years when people who are Jewish go on C-Span
even and you get this reaction from crazy people. Anybody who reads these
follow-up comments online. The anti-Semitism is out there. But here are
teachers saying, well, that`s one point of view.
MARTIN GOLDSMITH, AUTHOR, "ALEX`S WAKE": Exactly. It`s astounding.
And, yes, my grandfather and uncle were two of the 6 million, two of the
1.1 million to 1.5 million people murdered in Auschwitz. I was, as you
might imagine, pretty outraged when I heard about this.
MATTHEWS: And you went back in your book. By the way, you let me
right a blurb for it, because it`s such an amazing story. You went back
and just for your own human need went back and retraced how people who were
in your family on the St. Louis that was sent back from America, sent back
from Cuba, ending up in three-quarters of the cases going to the death
GOLDSMITH: Exactly right. My grandfather Alex Goldsmith, my uncle
Helmut Goldsmith, two more than 200 refugees turned away first from Cuba
then the United States, then Canada. The ship sailed back to Europe.
My grandfather and uncle got off the boat in France, spent the next
three years in various French concentration camps before being shipped to
their deaths in Auschwitz in 1942. Three years ago, my wife and I retraced
their steps beginning in the small Lower Saxony village of Saxon Hagen
where my grandfather was born in 1879, going to all the places in France
where they were held and ending in the polish city of (INAUDIBLE),
Auschwitz in German.
MATTHEWS: Rabbi, that`s important, isn`t it? Just to go back, as you
said a minute ago, to tell the human story of a guy like this, Martin
Goldsmith, who I`ve been listening to on radio, classical music and he`s an
expert on that and wonderful, giving us -- somebody you know says look, my
family, I went back and traced it. It actually happened in human terms.
We know in (INAUDIBLE) they have all the names in Israel of people who were
killed. But these people keep --
COOPER: From 5.5 million visitors to the Museum of Tolerance, that,
you know, young people want to know the truth. They will identify with the
message. Sometimes they have more common sense than the adults in the
But when you have teachers, five of them, and an assignment on core
things of teaching about critical thinking downloading hate material, you
know, what`s next? We monitor Web sites that say harken back to the great
old days of slavery and say blacks were better off then or the Martin
Luther King Web site that`s put up by white supremists that denigrate.
We should be actually using the hate materials to teach critical
COOPER: Not legitimatizing the hate message to young minds. It
really was a disastrous decision on the ground. And we`ll take care of the
young people who went through this, but I sure hope the Rialto school
district will take a hard look in the mirror and fix what`s broken, because
something is very broken there.
MATTHEWS: Martin, why do you think people deny the Holocaust?
GOLDSMITH: It`s part of -- you know, what you might think of as
propaganda design to appear as ignorance, or hate manufactured look as
COOPER: Chris, there are really two reasons for Holocaust deniers. I
deal with this now for almost 40 years.
MATTHEWS: We only have a half a minute here.
COOPER: Right. There are those people who say the Holocaust didn`t
happen, like Ahmadinejad, give me a chance and I`ll finish the job.
And then you have the more sophisticated bigots who say, you know, I`m
just more comfortable not having to deal with the reality of what happened
in Auschwitz, or on the St. Louis ship, or what happened in the `40s or
Cambodia or Rwanda. Those people are in some way more dangerous.
MATTHEWS: The great irony is I think the government of Germany has,
as a country, I was just over in Berlin with my wife, you see the way
they`ve recognized it with Berlin with that incredible memorial to the
horror. And at least they`re doing that over there now.
Anyway, thank you, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, and my new friend Albert
Goldsmith, author of "Alex`s Wake", whether you`re Jewish or not, and you
care about history, you care about humanity, you should read this book.
It`s a great human story. It really is a great story about going back and
-- it`s a road picture, if you will, of a man tracing a tragedy. It`s a
great book to read.
We`ll be right back in a moment.
And this HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Ever wonder which company is the most Republican-leaning.
It`s not Koch Industries, even though Koch`s 88 percent of its political
contributions to Republicans.
"The New York Times" crunched the numbers now and it`s Georgia-based
Flowers Foods, the parent company of Wonder Bread and Tastykakes which I`ve
always loved. Of the political contributions Flowers has made since 1979,
more than 99 percent has gone to Republican candidates.
Well, the company that gives the greatest percentage to Democratic
candidates -- believe this or not -- Citizens Bank, the American subsidiary
of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT: If you just stayed with these simple boards, you
wouldn`t have those are problems with those highfalutin computers, Tom.
This is the answer, get it right.
We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be and no one is
going to dispute it, Keith. You know, sometimes in campaigns the candidate
is the last to recognize the best timing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. I remember that when he counted the ballots, he
counted the delegates in 2008 and it looked like Barack Obama was winning
and he nailed the fact that he was winning. In fact, that he had won the
Anyway, next month will mark six years since the death of my colleague
Tim Russert. Tim was known for his sharp political mind and tough
questions, which drew answers that in some cases changed political history.
His son, Luke Russert, of course, has written -- of course, he is his son
but he`s also written the preface of the tenth anniversary paperback
edition of Tim`s book about his dad, "Big Russ & Me."
Luke says, I know why I loved my dad. He was my best friend. But now
years after his death, I often wonder why the man who threw around the
baseball with me, watch games, made me laugh and forced me to memorize
vocabulary cards, still resonate so vividly with so many. Perhaps his best
quality was that he always got people, whatever their race, gender, sexual
orientation, or nationality, my dad could relate to anyone."
Luke Russert is NBC`s congressional correspondent and joins me right
Luke, it`s great.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having
MATTHEWS: I keep thinking of all the things. First of all, the book
was great. If Luke Russert -- Tim Russert had not been a star of our
medium, of news gathering and news analysis, this book still would have
been great. What`s great about it, you have come far because you`ve done
all of this in your youth.
But your dad came from a regular family, working-class family. His
father was a garbage man. And what I love -- in fact, we were just talking
how we`re careful with our garbage now. We always make sure the senior
producer and I agree, we make sure personally because of this book never to
leave sharp objects in the hefty bags --
RUSSERT: Cut their hand.
MATTHEWS: Just to cut the hands are or the guys.
RUSSERT: The garbage guys.
MATTHEWS: The moment that got to me in this book which I`d sell
again, because if you haven`t read -- you`ve got to read this book -- is
the emotional moment when Tim is riding around in a garbage truck with his
dad. And even though that`s not the most celebrated job in the world, the
pride he had in being with his dad.
RUSSERT: It`s something that resonated so vividly with him.
And I remember my father often talking about how he was able to
interview popes and presidents. But some of his proudest memories were, in
fact, on that garbage truck with my grandfather. And one of the things he
actually documents in the book is that he really learned the value of hard
work on the back of that garbage truck, and that he knew for a fact after
he did it for a summer, there`s no way he could have lasted the dozens and
dozens of years my grandfather did it.
One especially poignant moment is my father decides he`s going to go
on to college and go on and graduate school and succeed, it`s the last day
in the garbage truck where he takes off his uniform and throws in the back
and the guy riding says, you`ll be back soon enough. He says, no, I`m not
coming back. I have to get out of here.
And my grandfather is very supportive of that but wanted him to know
the meaning of hard work, wanted him to know the meaning of what would
happen if you flunked out. It was quite remarkable.
MATTHEWS: Yes, whenever I complain about a writing assignment I got
late at night, I think how hard my dad worked. I can do that.
Let me ask you about what motivated Tim, your dad, because he was
driven, driven to get the answers. He was like an Irish cop if in almost
(INAUDIBLE), the interrogation room, (INAUDIBLE) would be Irish.
But finding out the answer, I watched him on "Meet the Press." He
would come in with that ma manila folder. He would keep it aside.
And then sometime during the interview, he`d open up with the folder,
with the real question, which is David Duke, why did you hate America so
much that you joined the Nazi party? And there was no answer. Or you say
the three biggest job producers are the issue and he had no idea who they
RUSSERT: What his method was, he learned in law school. He was
prosecutorial. His idea was nobody was going to out-research him. So, he
would read constantly. He would read at work. He would read at home. He
would just have mounds and mounds and mounds of research, almost just tons
of legal briefings, if you will.
And he would read it all, and he would anticipate ten steps ahead from
whatever answer his guest would give. And oftentimes you see now, you come
forward as a host -- and I`ve been guilty of doing this sometimes too, I`m
sure you are in the daily cable room, where you have three or four thought-
out questions and you don`t listen closely enough to the response his guest
He never had that problem. He always was very aggressive listener and
would oftentimes throw away his pre-prepared questions. Excuse me, what
you said is spin. The reason I know, I read all these documents --
MATTHEWS: Because this follow-up is key. Of all the people, as Ed
McMahon (ph) once said, the best question comes out of the last answer --
which is true. I could do it all day.
I`m here to sell the book here, because I think it`s a great personal
story about America.
RUSSERT: It is.
MATTHEWS: It`s a story about growing up.
RUSSERT: And it`s story about fathers and sons.
MATTHEWS: And I`m going to read -- I`ll review your preface.
RUSSERT: You`re very kind.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Luke Russert of MSNBC.
RUSSERT: Thank you for having me.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this insidious plan to scare up
right-wing voters and scare off the votes of those who tend to vote
This is just the kind of campaign mentality that leads to trouble on
the part of those who pursue it. Everyone knows the Republicans are
heading for a good election night this November. They are poised to win
the Senate -- poised, at least -- and to pick up five to 10 seats in the
House of Representatives.
You know it. They know it. Believe me, smart Democrats know it.
So, why this plan to roll up the score, to bring out the crazies on
the right and drown out the progressives, including many minorities who
will be intimidated by the new Republican pushed voter laws? I`ve watched
how exactly this kind of stuff blows up in your face. It did with Richard
Nixon several times in 1950 when he called his senator opponent pink right
down to her underwear, and in 1972 when he took a sure win for re-election
and turned it into Watergate.
The trouble with nasty politics like the kind we`re getting from the
House leadership is it makes you look nasty. It makes it look like you`re
money-grubbing on the debts of those four American diplomats, like you`re
ready to kill a little more faith in government to get a few more votes.
It`s a rotten deal, and the people who play it will pay for it -- maybe not
this year but in the years to come.
You can`t build a brand by painting a bathtub ring around your rivals.
Why? Because people, voters, are watching when you do it -- so is the
media. Nobody wants somebody in the White House who got there through
scare tactics and keeping people from voting.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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