June 13, 2014
Guest: Bobby Ghosh, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, Kimberly Dozier, Perry Bacon,
Kimberly Dozier, Howard Bragman, John Fugelsang
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Will Baghdad fall?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" with the possible collapse of Baghdad. Collapse. How
many times have we heard that word in history, the collapse of the Chinese
nationalists in the face of Mao Zedong`s advancing red army, the collapse
of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. How many times have we seen the
armored personnel carriers racing down the streets of a capital, men waving
and firing their weapons into the air, the hotels and other symbols of the
status quo suddenly thrown open to the bearded, triumphant forces in from
Is this the immediate future of Baghdad? Is this the picture we`re
soon to see on American TV screens, the blatant contradiction of what we
see with our stunned eyes and what we were told was going to be the
enduring reality, between the ways (ph) are (ph) in Iraq and our self-
taught notions of nation building?
Whatever gave some people the idea we Americans could confect a
country over there to our specifications and that we could convert a
Ba`athist dictatorship into a secular democracy? Didn`t the gruesome
hanging of Saddam Hussein by his Shi`ite conquerors offer advanced warning
that this new governing order over there we`ve given power to in Baghdad is
less intent on healing sectarian wounds between Shia and Sunni than in
exacting sectarian revenge?
So here we are, watching the Sunnis head toward Baghdad. The Shia,
backed by Iran, prepare to hold them off. The president of the United
States reviews options, none of which will correct that initial mistake of
U.S. getting into this jamboree from hell.
Bobby Ghosh is the international editor of "Time" magazine. He`s soon
to be the managing editor of "Quartz." And Paul Eaton is a retired Army
general and a senior adviser at the National Security Network.
Well, today Iraq`s most senior Shi`ite cleric told his followers to
take up arms in order to defend their country against the onslaught of a
powerful Sunni militant group. That group, ISIS, has taken over several
major cities and has vowed to march on Baghdad.
In Washington, some powerful voices on the right are now urging
military action, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Well,
today, the president said he was considering his options. He also had a
pointed message for Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq. The United States will
help, but ultimately, it`s up to the Iraqis to solve their own problems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be sending
U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security
team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi
And any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi
security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq`s
leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability and
account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq`s communities. We
can`t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort,
short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "We can`t do it for them." That statement reminded me of
another U.S. president speaking to another world leader. Here was
President John F. Kennedy in September of 1963, asked about Vietnam in an
interview with Walter Cronkite. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the final
analysis, it`s their war. They`re the ones that to win it or lose it. We
can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as
advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam against the
communists. We`re prepared to continue to assist them, but I don`t think
that the war can be won unless the people support the effort. And in my
opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch
with the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bobby Ghosh, I think that resonates with what we just heard
President Obama say to Maliki. Your thoughts about the situation right
now? I`ll get to the general in a second. Same question to both of you.
What`s it look like on the war front right now in the outskirts of Baghdad?
BOBBY GHOSH, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, Chris, you have to think that the
-- that Baghdad won`t fall, although a week ago, I would have said Mosul
wouldn`t fall. But you have to think that the Iraqi capital, with a large
Shi`ite population, with presumably the best units of the Iraqi military
and with Shi`ite militias arming again are going to put up a stronger fight
against ISIS than Mosul did or Beji (ph) or Tikrit, which are all
predominantly Sunni towns.
That being said, this is a war that the Iraqis have to win on the
ground. It`s all very well for us now to say to Maliki, You should govern
better, but that`s a problem for next week, next month, if he can survive
that long. Right now, for the next 48 hours, for the next seven days, he
has to protect his capital, and he has to take -- his army has to take back
the cities that they have lost.
If he can`t do that, then no amount of assistance we can provide from
here is going to change the dynamics on the ground. That`s why...
MATTHEWS: Bobby, that -- Bobby, unfortunately, that puts us in a
situation for the next week of being on the same side as the Iranian
GHOSH: As well as Bashar Assad.
MATTHEWS: We are basically in military bed now -- and -- well, yes.
MATTHEWS: So we`ve joined the side we`ve been fighting, for this
week, you say?
GHOSH: Well, I don`t think we can join this fight. I think it`s the
fight the Iraqis have to fight and win. And there`s not a whole lot that
we can do. There`s been all this loose talk of...
GHOSH: ... providing air security and drones, but that`s -- that`s
just not going to happen. Air security and drones, as I`m sure the general
will say, requires a level of ground intelligence that we don`t have, and
we cannot trust the Iraqi military or the Iraqi government to provide that
kind of intelligence.
So there`s nothing at the moment militarily the United States can do.
The Iraqis have to win this one by themselves. And politically, it`s
important, as well, for the rest of Iraq to see that their army is standing
up to these people. It won`t do to have a foreign -- foreign boots on the
ground, whether they`re Iranian boots or American boots, to protect the
capital of Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, General, we have a situation where we
have the Iranian Revolutionary Guard coming to the assistance, two
battalions -- coming to the assistance of this home guard there. And my
question to you is, how does it look militarily? And should we even be
thinking about what John McCain is saying today?
By the way, Senator McCain just said he wants -- he wants pilots --
here he is on "Today." McCain -- Senator McCain insisted the war in Iraq
had been won,. The country was pacified and stable, he said, and all was
good until President Obama withdrew the troops. Let`s watch him here. But
he goes further later today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The fact is, we had the conflict won.
The surge had succeeded. And then the decision was made by the Obama
administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about going in, in the first place? And
what about churning the hate? What about taking the Sunnis out of
leadership positions in 2003? What about the fact that there might have
been some parts of this that are on the previous administration that could
be relitigated, as well?
MCCAIN: Well, what about the fact that we had it won? What about the
fact that people like me said we`ve got to fire Rumsfeld...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did we?
MCCAIN: ... we`ve got to get the surge going? Yes, we did, finally.
And what about the fact that General Petraeus had the conflict won, thanks
to the surge?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know what victory means anymore in that kind of a
situation. I mean, there`s snapshot...
MATTHEWS: There`s snapshot victories, and then the next day, some new
group takes over.
MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, NATIONAL SECURITY NETWORK: Military -- we came
to a draw. But there has been a slow train wreck going on politically that
has set the stage for where we are right now. So we may have come to --
fought to a draw, as Senator McCain said, militarily, but we had not solved
the political problem that has endured and has created the mess that we`re
in right now.
And by the way, I don`t think Baghdad is going to fall. The units are
coming up. They`re predominantly Shia. They`re going to hold. Maliki`s
going to turn it over to a competent general, and we`re going to harden the
defense of Baghdad. Once he`s got a reasonably strong defense of Baghdad,
at that point, you leave the fortress and you take back the terrain that
But the ISIS -- these guys are coming into territory that is
increasingly unfriendly to them, so...
MATTHEWS: Unfriendly to the government.
EATON: Unfriendly to -- no, they`re coming into...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I get you.
EATON: ... coming out of the Sunni triangle, where they`ve got a base
of support, where they`ve got people who are either friendly, or at least
going to turn a blind eye. But as they come into the Shia-controlled
areas, or where we`ve got more Shia population, it`s going to get tougher
for the ISIS to prosecute. And I expect that we`ll see a turn in the
combat here to Maliki.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of John McCain saying we need air power to
get in there right now, start shooting at the insurgents, start shooting at
ISIS on behalf of the government in Baghdad?
EATON: Target-level detail intelligence is difficult to come by in
the best of conditions. ISIS...
MATTHEWS: Translate that to civilian talk.
MATTHEWS: Meaning -- these are not advancing columns.
MATTHEWS: This is not like in World War II, where you have units, you
know, moving forward along a roadway.
EATON: Correct. This is -- they`re going to have to find the
targets. But the problem with the ISIS and insurgents is that they hug the
EATON: So the bombs don`t discriminate when you`ve got a lot of
people in a tight space, not all of whom are enemy people. So air power is
an issue. I -- if we do military options, the president has a profound
amount of military talent in the United States...
EATON: ... that can stiffen the spine of the Iraqi forces.
MATTHEWS: Bobby, this gets back to the central question, what are we
in this war for? If it is a civil war between Sunni and Shia, and it`s
become the -- it looks like it`s become that. Maybe it shouldn`t be, but
this ISIS group has ginned it up this way now. If they`re able to claim
effectively the Sunni territory, as the general said, but are meeting
resistance going into the Shia area, it begins to look like a divided
And why are we taking one geographic half of that country and killing
people on the other side because we`ve somehow politically cut a deal with
Maliki, who has refused to play our politics, which is inclusion politics?
You know, why are we killing anybody? What moral right do we have at this
point to go in there and kill people?
That`s my old question, the moral question. What are we doing on
international television for 10, 12 years now killing Arabs? That`s what
GHOSH: Well, it`s especially hard. As the general says, these guys
hug the population. It`s one thing if you`re facing an open battle against
a terrorist group that has enormous amounts of civilian blood on their
hands that are quite plainly identifiable as bad guys.
GHOSH: But the trouble is that that`s not how they operate. As you
rightly said, they do not march down single file on a highway, as if this
was the Second World War. They are scattered. In fact, if they did
operate like that, they wouldn`t have been this successful. Even the Iraqi
army, as weak as it is, would have been able to pick them off if they were
marching down a column.
The fact that they are -- they can -- they can disappear, blend into a
crowd, the fact that they can -- they know the terrain very well -- these
are mostly Iraqi fighters, not foreigners. That`s the reason why they`ve
succeeded, and that`s the reason why simple solutions like the one that
Senator McCain is suggesting are not going to work.
MATTHEWS: General, here`s my view about this thing generally. Our
military is unbelievable. They`re a volunteer army. They do what they`re
ordered to do within moral grounds. They are incredibly courageous, and
they`re in the worst places in the world, like these outposts in
Afghanistan and -- and all these different places. They`ve been in Iraq.
So that, to me -- my wife said this. Kathleen said to me to a while
ago. She said that puts more and more onus on the political leaders to get
it right. If these guys are going to fight a good fight, make sure they`re
fighting the right fight.
And my question to you is, did it ever make sense to you, going into
Iraq? What are we doing in there?
EATON: I was a major general when...
MATTHEWS: We overthrew a government.
EATON: Indeed. I was a major general watching this unfold. I was
not a part of the invasion force. And I heard all of our leadership tell
us that -- you know, when -- when Secretary Powell said, you know,
MATTHEWS: Nuclear weapon.
EATON: I said, All right, perhaps we have a problem here. But it has
proven to be utterly disastrous.
MATTHEWS: And also, that was confected for the European allies.
EATON: And executed badly at the senior leadership level. So this
has been a disaster from the very beginning.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. Well, I`m looking at the politics. I
-- thank you for your service, General. And thank you to all the military
people watching. Anyway, Major (sic) Paul Eaton -- and thank you, Bobby
Ghosh, for the regional look at this thing.
Coming up: Americans overwhelmingly say the war in Iraq wasn`t worth
it from the beginning. So what makes the hawks now think there`s an
appetite for more military action, people like John McCain saying, Send in
the fighter pilots and the bombers?
Plus, how far will Chris Christie go to try to make the world look
past his troubles back in Jersey? This far.
MATTHEWS: Like all that political shock therapy, when a politician
does something so unexpected and ridiculous, so out there, to try to shock
public opinion back to his side.
And what happens when U.S. Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York is
caught Googling on his handheld device during a debate? Foreign object in
the hand. That`s in the "Sideshow."
And finally, "Let Me Finish" with my call for the people who took us
into Iraq to never again mention the word.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new polling on the 2016 presidential race.
Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
According to a new poll in from Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton leads Chris
Christie nationwide by 7 points. It`s Clinton 45, Christie 38. No other
Republican comes that close to Hillary Clinton.
Against Jeb Bush, Clinton leads by 9, 47 for Clinton, 38 for Bush.
Same score for Rand Paul. Here again, Clinton leads by 9, 47 to 38. And
against Marco Rubio, Clinton`s lead grows up to 11 points. It`s Clinton
47, Rubio just 36.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In poll after poll, no matter
how the question is asked, a majority of Americans clearly considers the
Iraq war a mistake.
In the most recent NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, when asked whether
the Iraq war was worth it, nearly 60 percent say not worth it. Then
there`s the way CBS asked the question in a March 2013 poll. "Do you think
the United States did the right thing in taking military action against
Iraq, or should the United States have stayed out?" Fifty-four percent say
we should have stayed out.
And in the most recent poll -- the most recent poll, actually, comes
from Pew, "USA Today," conducted in January of this year. It asked,
"Overall, do you think the United States was mostly succeed -- has mostly
succeeded or failed in achieving its goals in Iraq?" Fifty-two percent say
Well, given that set of data, let`s listen to Andrea Mitchell ask
Senator John McCain about selling Americans now on any sort of military
involvement in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Given the state of the facts on
the ground right now, how do you persuade Americans that there is any
military option that they ought to embrace to try to bail Maliki out and
restore a country that is coming apart at the seams?
MCCAIN: First of all, I think you have to explain to the American
people what kind of a threat that an ISIS takeover of Iraq would pose to
the United States of America. Can you imagine a caliphate or a center of
violent Muslim extremism dedicated to attacking the United States, the
consequences of that? That has to be explained to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me now NBC News senior political reporter Perry
Bacon and the DailyBeast`s Kimberly Dozier, who in 2006, was seriously
injured covering the Iraq war. I think we say "wounded" when you`re hurt
during a war. You never say "injured."
You know, John McCain, bless his heart, has a particular history,
seven years in the Hanoi Hilton waiting for the United States to win the
damn Vietnam war. So he doesn`t like half-hearted war attempts. But most
Americans look upon this war far differently. They look at it as a long,
long slog of nothing, of all we do is put one side in power so they can
screw the other side.
And to me, the most vivid example of that is that horrific ghastly
hanging of Saddam Hussein. That wasn`t an act of justice, it was an act of
revenge by a bunch of thugs that looked like a bunch of guys just -- How
much fun can we have at this party? And we had to put our hand to that.
Your thoughts. The American people -- what can you tell from their
opinion about this thing about McCain`s out there talking air strikes?
Hillary Clinton says not now, prudently, but not now. But still, even
talking about nuclear -- I mean, any weapons by the United States and
killing more Arabs seems to be a turn-off to Americans.
BACON: Not just in Iraq, but Afghanistan and Libya.
The polls show Americans, Republicans and Democrats just want to stay
out of wars right now. So, I think the idea that Obama or John McCain can
convince Americans we would intervene is not going to happen.
Obama may decide airstrikes are appropriate any way, but it`s not
going to be public opinion is demanding so. I don`t think it will ever be
the case anytime soon where public opinion is demanding that.
MATTHEWS: You know what I despise? People who say all options are on
the table, because what they really mean is, we`re going to go to war and
we`re going to get in there and we`re going to end up shooting people.
Anyway, the only people that seem to be for the war are those who have
access to op-ed pages, the ones that write columns. I don`t know if the
service members` parents are pushing this war. Your thoughts?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, President Obama is
specifically saying he won`t be putting large numbers of troops on the
MATTHEWS: But what about airstrikes?
MATTHEWS: He`s saying he`s reviewing all options. What is he talking
DOZIER: Airstrikes would require some more intelligence forces on the
ground, both special operations, CIA, et cetera.
MATTHEWS: Where is our moral authority to go into Iraq at this point
and start killing one side of that fight? Where is our moral authority?
DOZIER: You know, that`s one thing that they have got to figure out.
MATTHEWS: Or constitutional authority.
DOZIER: Because the ISI, it`s not specifically al Qaeda.
And at this point, the armed use of military force, that which we used
to invade Iraq, it doesn`t apply, because -- well, that which we used to
invade Afghanistan -- it doesn`t apply because it doesn`t specifically say
a group that divorced itself from al Qaeda is also a threat.
So the White House might have to go back to Capitol Hill for approval.
MATTHEWS: I would think so.
DOZIER: You have got to even figure out if it`s allowed.
MATTHEWS: Is there some piece of paper somewhere, Perry, sitting on
Capitol Hill somewhere in the legal counsel of the White House that says we
can just bomb people if we think about it, it`s one of our options? Where
did this come from?
BACON: Congress is not going to approve another war.
MATTHEWS: The American people would like to know that there`s some
limit to power in the presidency.
BACON: We have already seen this. The president talked about having
strikes in Syria, and the Congress pushed back so aggressively, he
immediately stopped that. There may be the legal authority. I have been
told that John McCain has been saying that there`s the legal authority.
MATTHEWS: What is the legal authority?
BACON: Based on the -- we already authorized the war.
MATTHEWS: But we left.
BACON: We left. I agree, yes.
DOZIER: Article 2 of the Constitution says that Americans are under
threat -- and you do have Americans under threat.
MATTHEWS: How are we under threat?
DOZIER: You have American diplomats.
MATTHEWS: We`re in every capital in the world. We have missionaries
and businesspeople anywhere. Under that authority, we could fight anywhere
we wanted to at any time.
DOZIER: But to play the devil`s advocate here...
MATTHEWS: Well, you are the devil.
MATTHEWS: You`re playing the devil.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. You are making an argument that justifies
military action any time a president wants to conduct it.
DOZIER: Think about what could happen with Iraq and Syria remaining
permanently in the hands of an Islamic militant group or just Northern Iraq
It becomes a nexus for foreign fighters.
MATTHEWS: You mean like Iran.
DOZIER: Even more than it already is.
Well, we`re talking about foreign fighters being drawn to Syria, and
possibly now to the northern part of Iraq, or the Sunni-held areas, to
learn the kind of skills that would not only perpetuate a civil war in that
area between the Sunnis and the Shiites, but also be the kind of thing that
they could use in Western capitals in the United States.
That`s the kind of thing...
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s an argument against us -- argument for us
controlling all the land mass in the Middle East, because it may be used
for terrorism against -- here`s my question. Why are we on the same side
as the Iran Revolutionary Guard that`s now in the -- that`s got battalions
in there defending Baghdad?
What does Iran got in common with us in fighting terrorism?
DOZIER: Well, look, there`s a difference between using, as John
Brennan used to say when he was counterterrorism adviser, the
counterterrorism forces of the U.S. like a scalpel to try to hit certain
targets, take out certain leadership.
And from what I understand, that`s the kind of aid being considered to
give to Iraq, not ground forces.
MATTHEWS: I will go back to my point, I will go back to my point,
both of you, you first, then Perry.
We in the United States Senate -- I didn`t get to vote. I`m not a
certain. And I certainly wouldn`t have voted for this. Hillary Clinton
actually voted for this one -- John McCain of course always does -- to
declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Now
there`s talk by McCain of joining them on the same side, fighting the
rebels over there, fighting the Sunnis, because they`re in there fighting
on behalf of the Maliki government now.
We`re talking about sending Air Force strikes in there on their
behalf. If they`re the terrorists, are we on their side now? Or are there
terrorists on both sides?
DOZIER: And what administration officials would say is that the
Iranians are in there backing the Shiite side of the government, and
possibly fomenting more of this sectarian violence, making matters worse,
What the U.S. would hope to do is provide the kind of aid and, as the
president said today, that they have to clean up their political act and
represent all sides of the country or they`re not going to get U.S. help.
So, the U.S. is trying to say, we will give you even more help than
the Iranians, but you have got to start playing with all sides of your
MATTHEWS: OK. Just to politics here a little bit, back when we were
de-Baathicizing that government, back after 2003, when we went in, and this
guy with the nice-looking suit, what, Bremer, with the suit and the big
brown shoes he wore all the time walking around, the work shoes, they went
in there and basically did something that had nothing to do with us.
They got rid of the Iraqi army, they got rid of the Iraqi government,
they Baathicized and destroyed the entire political establishment of that
country, which was Sunni. They sent the word to the Sunnis, we`re not on
your side. Now the Sunnis are coming back to fight the power that we put
into power. How can we claim we`re not part of a civil war, when we took
what -- we basically waged war against the Sunnis?
BACON: Chris, those are the right two words. Is it a civil war,
which is what you`re saying, or is it an elected government that we`re
trying to defend, which is John McCain`s question?
I think that`s the frame of the issue, the way to think about it, is,
if it`s a civil war, it`s like Syria, where we`re definitely not going to
go in. If the president determines this is different...
MATTHEWS: Well, what was de-Baathification all about? What was that
DOZIER: Wait, historical point here. Yes, de-Baathification went on
under Bremer, but later on, the U.S. military reached out to the Sunnis and
there was the whole Anbar awakening.
MATTHEWS: And then?
DOZIER: And we became their greatest ally.
MATTHEWS: And then what happened?
DOZIER: And then in 2011, we hand it over to the Maliki government.
And we withdrew forces.
MATTHEWS: And then he got rid of all the Sunnis in his government.
DOZIER: And then he started working against the Sunni leadership and
death squads started going after -- settling old scores again, just like
they did in the bad old days.
MATTHEWS: That`s my case. That`s my case.
Thank you, Perry.
And thank you for making my case. It was a little fight there, but it
always should be a fight here. It`s called HARDBALL.
Actually, Kim Dozier, have a nice weekend. You too.
MATTHEWS: I`m not sure they`re having a nice weekend over there.
Coming up, Jon Stewart`s theory on why those Sunni insurgents are
moving so fast towards Baghdad. That`s coming next in the "Sideshow."
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The militants are advancing towards Iraq`s
capital of Baghdad.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": What the
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) is going on over there?
STEWART: How are the militants moving so quickly? Is it -- E-ZPass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow, of
One New York congressman is becoming known for his high-tech hijinks
during primary debates. Last month, Charlie Rangel pretended to take a
phone call during the opening statement of his Democratic primary debate.
But when the candidates faced off again Wednesday, Rangel was supposedly
caught researching a candidate`s answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing that I created was the Dream Center
to help young people reimagine the possibilities that are bound for them.
And it`s not an idea I have talked about. I have actually done it in the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, are you Googling during this
debate? What are you doing?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: No, I just wanted to show that
what he was picking out was not consistent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it`s not fair because they don`t have
RANGEL: Oh, I was going to show it to him, but you`re right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: From now on, this is the clip that comes up if you Google
the words Charlie Rangel and debate, that scene.
Finally, the World Cup has begun in Brazil. And Here`s what Jimmy
Fallon of "The Tonight Show" had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": Today was
the start of the World Cup.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FALLON: The World Cup. It`s that special time of year when Americans
in bars are like I guess we`re watching this now.
FALLON: I don`t know. Is that all that`s on?
FALLON: Isn`t there a lumberjack competition on ESPN5 or something?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s so true.
Regardless, it`s safe to say football fever, the international kind of
football, is spreading rapidly across the globe and even out of this world.
NASA released this video of astronauts on the International Space
Station playing soccer in space. Two American astronauts and one German
can be seen here showing off their moves in microgravity. Hmm.
Up next, Chris Christie dancing with Jimmy Fallon. Like Nixon in
"Laugh-In" and President Obama with Zach Galifianakis, it`s a great example
of political shock therapy, a politician trying to shake up his image. For
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is back in the U.S. Army officials say he`s in
stable condition and unaware of the controversy surrounding his release.
So far, there`s no timetable for his release from Brooke Army Medical
Center in Texas.
Richard Rockefeller, who is the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller,
died this morning in a small plane crash. He was on his way back to Maine
when the plane he was flying went down near New York`s Westchester Airport.
And GM is recalling more cars because of an ignition problem. This
time, half-a-million Chevy Camaros are the target. The automaker has
recalled about 14 million cars this year -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL after that.
Anyway, that was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dancing, I guess
you would call that, on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" just last
And that out-there performance, we`re not likely to forget any time
soon, of course. To me, it`s the latest move in Christie`s charm
offensive, his effort to rehabilitate, at least temporarily, his image amid
the unfolding George Washington Bridge scandal, et cetera, et cetera,
posturing himself for a potential run for president still in 2016, should
he escape the legal entanglements of the scandal.
What he wants to show here, I think, is that he has nothing to hide,
literally, that he`s willing to look really silly and maybe that may be
harmless. It`s the perfect counternarrative, I think, to the headline-
driven perception of Christie as a schoolyard bully, which we have been
But playing against type isn`t new in American politics because guess
what? It works. The common perception of Richard Nixon in 1968 was that
he was uptight, rigidly old-fashioned in a changing era. But his
appearance on that goofy variety show "Laugh-In" helped counter the
impression a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY CARNE, ACTRESS: Oh, no. I don`t think we could get Mr. Nixon to
stand still for a sock it to me.
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sock it to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Judy Carne.
As a candidate in 1976, Jimmy Carter hoped to shed his holier-than-
thou image by agreeing to an interview with "Playboy," causing a shutter to
many who thought the born-again Christian was too prudish.
And, in 2000, Mayor Rudy Giuliani topped them all, hoping to soften
his tough law and order image, appearing with Donald Trump in a -- well, a
video in a cross-dress situation as a woman. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: You
know, you`re really beautiful.
And a woman that looks like that has to have her own special scent.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Oh, well, thank you. Maybe --
maybe you could tell me what you think of this scent?
TRUMP: Mmm. I like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think that`s pretty indecent, actually.
But most recently, we saw President Obama join Zach Galifianakis on
"Between Two Ferns" in an effort to rehabilitate his public image on the
Affordable Care Act after its rocky roll out.
So is Chris Christie`s image makeover going to work? At it is, his
hands are pretty full with problems in the Garden State. He faces five
active investigations right now, legal investigations into the George
Washington Bridge scandal. He`s got a budget shortfall that`s real and
lackluster job growth up there, all big hurdles on his way to 2016.
Anyway, joining us right now is longtime crisis P.R. expert and vice
chair of Reputation.com, Howard Bragman, and John Fugelsang, who is a
political commentator and a comedian.
Let me start with Howard.
Howard, this looks to me like classic crisis management. He and his
P.R. team have said, you have got to wait a long time, many months to find
out if you`re clean of this legal entanglement. You have got people who
may all get indicted. You don`t know that. But you have got to assume and
have a contingency plan that, if you do avoid indictment, if nobody too
close to you gets indicted, and you`re clean enough to run, you have
already got some momentum.
I think that`s what he`s up to.
HOWARD BRAGMAN, FOUNDER, FIFTEEN MINUTES PUBLIC RELATIONS: I think
this was a very good political moment.
He went to Jimmy Fallon, who`s been very critical of him. So, you get
extra points for going into the lion`s den, gone very viral, very funny,
very well-written. All these things work to his benefit. A great moment.
But I don`t think in any way do I see this as a game-changer. And
that`s the issue here, any more than Nixon ended up being a warm, cuddly
president after he said, "Sock it to me." you know, he`s not going to
change who he is.
And further, Chris, there`s one thing. I keep thinking if I was the
political opposition, I could craft the best anti-Christie ad by taking
some of the nasty headlines that run in the state of New Jersey and you
simply ask the question, is Chris Christie dancing again? And you show
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
John, what do you think? I think the picture of him dancing is so
unforgettable. I don`t even think you have to show it again. I think
people are going to just -- why is this guy doing this on television?
FUGELSANG: Well, that`s a very diplomatic adjective, Chris, and I
applaud you for it.
You know, I think it actually works for Governor Christie. He
actually got a panel of critics that were hired by Governor Chris Christie
to review this.
For the few minutes I was watching, I forgot this is a guy who doesn`t
think gay Americans should be allowed to marry who they want. This is a
guy who doesn`t think people with cancer should have medical marijuana.
This is a guy who`s against gun safety regulation. This is a guy who`s
against raising the minimum wage. He was very lovable.
The fact is that I`m glad he had a good day. He`s had a very rough
year. He deserves to have a few laughs in his life, and it`s not the
liberals or the media who are Chris Christie`s foes on the road to the
I think you gentlemen are both right. Anybody who watched his speech
at CPAC knows this man is running. What Chris Christie is up against is
the Tea Party. And they`re the ones who despise him because he put helping
his own hurricane ravaged state above hating the president.
MATTHEWS: Even the more puritanical people on the right would
probably -- people opposed to dancing, for example, I think there`s still
many religious like that. They probably say, this is why there shouldn`t
be dancing out there.
FUGELSANG: Lost the Calvinist vote last night. He blew it.
MATTHEWS: I mean, usually growing up and you heard to me that the
dance like he was there, you have to have a few pops. Anyway, Governor
Christie sought to downplay the bridge scandal with humor, of course. He
even extracted an apology from Jimmy Fallon for beating him up over it.
Let`s listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: You had a little scandal happen and --
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What are you talking about?
FALLON: I don`t know if you heard about it. Boy, did you get hit in
the press pretty hard. And some late night shows made --
CHRISTIE: What do you got to say?
FALLON: I`m very sorry.
FALLON: I just want to say, you know what --
CHRISTIE: I accept your apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know what -- you know, Howard, I have to tell you about
Christie, we covered him on the way up, we covered him through the scandal.
There`s something about the guy and I don`t know how much trouble he`s
going to get into. He`s certainly not going to walk away from this totally
clean, because look at all his aides involved in this. And there was a
culture of bullying obviously.
My question is, is he just good copy? Is he like some of these guys,
like Frank Rizzo that come along in Philly? That are such -- they`re
ethnic big guys, they`re like Ralph Kramden, they`re so much more
interesting than most politicians, just because of the nature of who they
BRAGMAN: Well, there`s certainly that aspect of it, Chris. This guy
is kind of fun to watch. He says a lot of outrageous things. And if to
you look at the Republican Party and one of the poll numbers are, it`s
anybody`s race right now.
MATTHEWS: He`s four points down from Hillary Clinton in the strongest
state. I grew up in Pennsylvania. I know how strong Hillary is up there.
He`s only four points behind her -- this guy, with all his troubles, right
BRAGMAN: He`s incredibly formidable if he were to ever get the
nomination. But I don`t think there`s a chance in hell that this guy is
ever going to get the Republican nomination. There are too many far right
people that hate him for hugging Bill Clinton. And we`ll never forget
FUGELSANG: Well, I think you`re exactly right. And it`s interesting
in noting watching this that, you know, the dances he did were -- really
brave of him to do. I don`t think we`re going to see Rand Paul coming out
to do the libertarian two-step or Ted Cruz doing the renounce my Canadian
So, you know, I`d give him a lot of points for it. I would have liked
to have seen him do the missing Sandy funds, that`s a good dance, or maybe
the three credit downgrades for my state. But I think until he dances the
New Jersey perp walk, look, the guy`s career is not over until FOX News
puts a "D" after his name in the Chyron.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me suggest to both of you and everybody watching,
do yourself a favor and get on YouTube and watch the whole dance. It is
FUGELSANG: Very funny stuff.
MATTHEWS: We only showed you some of it. It goes on and on and on
and on. And it`s so bouncy.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Bragman, and thank you, John Fugelsang.
Up next, just in time for Father`s Day, my NBC colleague, Willie
Geist, there he is, will be out with us to talk about his great new book,
"Good Talk, Dad."
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, conservatives are pushing to get one of their own to
succeed Eric Cantor as House majority leader. And earlier today, it looked
like California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the Republican whip, is the
only candidate in the running after two rivals dropped out. But today, we
learned the Tea Party Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho, wants the job.
He`s officially declared his candidacy.
So, it`s McCarthy for the accomplishment versus Labrador for the Tea
Party. The vote, next Thursday.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER: Now I have my own family and, well, we`re on our own
vacation. And you know something, Russ?
SON: What dad?
FATHER: We`re going to have fun. We`re going to have fun. Hey,
don`t let your mother smell that beer on your breath. She`ll take it out
Well, I better get a move on if I want to get us out of here by dark.
SON: All right.
FATHER: Good talk, son.
SON: Good talk, dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Good talk, dad. We`re back.
That was a scene from Chevy Chase`s "National Lampoon Vacation" back
in the 1980s. It helped actually inspire the new book co-authored by my
colleague Willie Geist and his father, "CBS Morning News" correspondent
Bill Geist, titled "Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees and Other
Conversations We Forgot to Have."
After Willie`s father Bill announced to the world that he had
Parkinson`s disease, a condition he hidden from Willie and his sister for
nearly 10 years. They decided to get to these get to these awkward
conversations they didn`t have when Willie was actually growing up, from
sex and booze, to his father`s experience in Vietnam, and what life is like
living with Parkinson`s disease. Better late than never, I guess, right?
Anyway, it`s a great read and perfect of this weekend, of Father`s
Day. And if you`re looking for last-minute Father`s Day gift, this is the
one. Go out and buy this book.
Willie Geist is co-host of the third hour of NBC`s "Today Show" and
MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE", and joins me now.
So, how is it different doing "MORNING JOE" with Mika and all that
gang, and then shifting over to the more conventional -- I`m just kidding.
I would never ask you that.
What`s it like --
WILLIE GEIST, AUTHOR, "GOOD TALK, DAD": I love how you lead right off
with that. It`s great, Chris. Good to see you, man.
MATTHEWS: What about -- let`s get out to the question of war stories.
My dad, who didn`t serve overseas in World War II, but was in the Navy,
never got sent over, but his uncles and his brothers were, he -- and I
said, don`t you miss having war stories to tell? He said, no, my friends,
he hanged with the Knights of Columbus and all, they never tell the
stories. Is it your sense that your father, did he ever come clean and
tell you the bad stuff that happened in Vietnam?
WILLIE GEIST, NBC NEWS CO-HOST, "TODAY": It`s funny. In writing this
book, a lot of people asked you what did you learn about your father? You
feel like over 40 years you know about everything about him. But there was
a year from 1969 when he served in Vietnam as a combat photographer that he
just never talked about, didn`t want to talk about it.
I nibbled around it several times. He would have a couple of drinks
in the back porch on a Saturday night, you try to go there and he just
never wanted to. And he had these photographs, because he was a combat
photographer, so I had some sense of what he had been doing and what he had
seen, but he didn`t want to talk about it.
I think it`s exactly what you said. He told me he didn`t want to be
the guy in the bar trading on the deaths of guys he knew, and the deaths of
58,000 guys in Vietnam. He didn`t want to be a war story guy. And also he
was living in denial, didn`t want to talk about it.
And I said wouldn`t it be great in this book if you took this
opportunity and told me and told other people about what you went through.
And so, he sat down and he wrote it. And, Chris, he remembered everything.
He remembered every guy, every village, every road. And it`s a really
MATTHEWS: When you asked him -- I always ask this of guys that are in
a combat situations out there in the jungle which movie that we get to see
is the most realistic. Did you ever ask him that? Because, certainly,
"Platoon" is pretty scary.
GEIST: Yes, "Platoon", I mean, "Apocalypse Now"" probably goes a
little far. But he just never glamorized it that way. He never
romanticized it for me at all. I mean, he`s very clear and he feels that
way when he watches these discussions that you`ve been having just today on
your show about war.
You know, he was there in Vietnam and he knows what happened and he`s
had the experience looking back and says, when we will ever learn? When
will we ever learn and I think it`s not something he views, his experience
in war, in a very glamorous way. And he frankly just didn`t want to talk
about it very much. But I did get him to write it in this book. It`s
MATTHEWS: Well, "Good Talk, Dad" is the name of the book. You know,
my dad never talked to us about the birds and the bees. The closest he
came was to say, to me and my four brothers, well, if you don`t know it
now, you won`t know it, or something like that. I`m sure you know it all
now. He was -- but your dad finally got to it, at what age were you when
you finally got to the birds and the bees?
GEIST: Well, he tried once when I was 13 or 14. We were sitting
around watching a Yankee game, and he said, there was a pitching change.
And he came to me, there was lull in the action and said, hey, do you think
we should have that sex talk? I turned to him action faced and immediately
started talking about Don Mattingly, and Dave Winfield, anything, go right
back to baseball, our safe place.
So, we never had the conversation about the birds and the bees. And
now, he tries to go back, part of this book is we have these conversations
retroactively. In this case, it`s probably about 25 years too late for me
to have the sex talk with me. But he says, you know what, you got two
kids, you figured something out.
MATTHEWS: He must be proud of you. I mean, look how far you`ve come
GEIST: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: You`re on a projectory -- I always say projectory --
MATTHEWS: Trajectory to greatness, to greatness.
GEIST: Oh, come on, come on. This isn`t about me.
MATTHEWS: Am I embarrassing you? Enough about me.
MATTHEWS: We`ll talk about you and your father.
GEIST: I`ll tell you, Chris, I had a great role model, not just
professionally and how to write and how to put stories together, but how to
behave. And so, again, with career, he didn`t suggest I get into this
business. He never sat me down and said journalism is a noble calling, try
it out. All I had to do was watch him.
He had a fun life and it seemed like his job was more interesting than
the other dad`s jobs. I think like a lot of things in our relationship and
our life, I learned by osmosis, that it was something I do want to try.
MATTHEWS: Well, some day I want to read, "Joe, Mika and Mika", I want
to read that story. That`s going to be one of the great stories. Any way,
the book he wrote, great for Father`s Day. Get out there Saturday morning.
The perfect time to buy a book is Saturday morning when you go trolling
around to the stores. Your wife wants to go to look at the clothes, you go
buy a book. Good for yourself, "Good Talk, Dad".
Thank you, Willie Geist, my colleague.
And we`ll be right back after this.
GEIST: Chris, thanks for having me on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let me end this week with a message from almost 13 years
ago. It was in the days after 9/11 that the neocons and their hawkish
Republican allies began beating their drums to get us into Iraq. There was
no reason for it, of course. Nothing in our national history justified our
attacking a country that had not declared war on us, had not committed an
act of war against us.
No, before we went into Iraq, we Americans had believed sense the time
we were kids that the aggressors, those who started the war, were the bad
guys. I will never understand how a president so limited in his ability or
sense of history as George W. Bush, a vice president as uncharismatic as
Dick Cheney or a band of unelected ideologues could so screw this country
to the wall of history as the band that ran things in the early years of
We were united after 9/11. They were the ones who divided us. They
were the ones who divided Iraq into the two warring factions we see today,
battling for control of Baghdad. They were the ones who went into Iraq and
took apart the Iraqi army, the Iraqi government, the Iraqi establishment,
and replaced them with a sectarian bunch primarily interested in getting
even with their fellow Iraqis.
Just look at the spectacle of Saddam Hussein being hanged to a jeering
of a mob of Shiites engaged in something we should have no part of. Sadly,
history will make us part of this whole debacle, the people who took us
into Iraq, who tied us into this blood feud should cease and desist from
ever again even saying the word "Iraq."
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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