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updated 6/17/2014 9:39:36 AM ET 2014-06-17T13:39:36

HARDBALL
June 16, 2014

Guest: Brian Katulis, Robert Costa, Roger Simon, Melinda Henneberger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What we did to Iraq.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. It appears from our reports that
Iraq is on the edge of an all-out civil war, with personnel in the American
embassy packing their bags and leaving Baghdad for safer areas. We are
seeing horrible pictures of massacres, what the United Nations is calling a
systematic series of cold-blooded executions.

Iraq, the country where the United States has lost over 4,000 lives,
where we`ve sunk hundreds of billions of dollars, a country targeted as a
regional pest is now engulfed in a religious war between two traditions of
Islam with one side, the insurgents, ISIS, calling themselves an all-out
enemy of the United States.

Again, this is a civil war based on religion. Sunni is the religion
of the group ISIS, which is fighting its way to Baghdad. It`s got allies
joining it along the way, former members of Saddam Hussein`s army and
Sunnis generally. The government in Baghdad, led by Nouri al Maliki, is
run by and for Shia. It is being backed by the other Shia governments in
the region, Iran and Syria.

This war between Sunni and Shia has been going on for a thousand
years, but it is reaching a head, a crisis point now in Iraq, where the
battle lines are along religious lines. Can this situation get any worse?
Is there any way to make it better? Or is it only a question of what price
we pay for getting involved once again?

And let`s not forget who created this hell on earth, the neocons and
Dick Cheney and his vessel, George W. Bush, who broke apart the government
of Iraq and the unity of the country, who disbanded the Iraqi army and left
the Sunnis angry, without jobs, without a government, without hope, who are
now finding their only future in this war on Maliki and his Shia government
in Baghdad.

And here`s how NBC`s Richard Engel, now in Baghdad, paints the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It doesn`t feel like a city that
could fall easily. It feels like a city that has taken its gun out, locked
and loaded it, and is holding it in its hands should something happen.
People here expect that there won`t be any kind of invasion, that those
days may have passed because the communities here have woken up and are now
in a very strong defensive position.

But what they do expect is car bombings, assassinations, militants
slipping in perhaps from a neighborhood or who are already here and trying
to destabilize the government through terrorist attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Brian Katulis is a senior fellow for the Center for
American Progress. And of course, Howard Fineman is editorial director of
the Huffington Post Media Group and also an MSNBC political analyst .

I want to start with you, Brian. In my worst nightmares as a critic
of this war from day one, when they first started talking about it, when
Wolfowitz started muttering it out at Camp David right after 9/11...

BRIAN KATULIS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... I never thought it could get this bad...

KATULIS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... a religious war in which we are somehow the bad guys in
now a country we really weren`t -- we could have avoided almost entirely as
just a regional pest, Iraq.

KATULIS: Absolutely. We took a strategy of dual containment,
containing Iran and Iraq. And in 2003, we ended that. And what that
unleashed in terms of the extremism, the sectarianism and sort of the
violent jihadists that we see right now controlling territory -- that was
in part...

MATTHEWS: There was no ISIS...

KATULIS: Absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: ... when we moved into Iraq.

KATULIS: No. And it`s morphed and it`s grown and it actually is
presenting a threat to the entire region there.

MATTHEWS: Howard, again, you and I have been talking about this.
You`re perhaps a much more journalistic person. I have a strong passion
about this. I have to tell you, I thought it was bad news are from the
beginning. We took apart the Iranian army -- the Iraqi army. We took
apart the whole culture of that country, got rid of Hussein, we got rid of
his army, we got rid of his government. We threw all those people into the
streets, and guess what? They`re now joining up with this crowd.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well...

MATTHEWS: The Sunnis.

FINEMAN: ... two things, Chris. One, in terms of domestic American
politics, you now have a situation where a lot of the people who got us in
from the beginning are now trying to reestablish their credibility somehow
by attacking the way the war and the aftermath...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... has been managed by this administration. Meanwhile,
what I sense from talking to administration officials...

MATTHEWS: We`re going to do a whole segment on that next, by the way.

FINEMAN: OK. I`ll just...

MATTHEWS: The necons coming back...

FINEMAN: Yes, but what the administration officials are, ironically,
trying to do is find a way to get Iran to help us, to cooperate without
making it too visible, so that such...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: Wait! The moderate Sunnis who are left aren`t turned off.
And that`s a very difficult needle to thread. I don`t know how they`re
going to do it.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s how it started. In 2001, we had adversary
governments in Iran and Iraq. We had a Sunni-led government in Iraq that
was a pain in the butt, but it was there. And it was a good buffer for
Israel and our of our friends against Iran. It was a good thing to have
there, a pain in the butt, but good to have there.

We got rid of the pain in the butt. We now find ourselves in this
weird situation -- weird-ass situation (INAUDIBLE) of having to choose
between backing the government in Baghdad we helped put there, with the
alliance of Iran behind it, the alliance of Assad behind it in Syria. We
are joining the Shia coalition against the Sunnis, who in countries like
Saudi Arabia, in countries like Jordan and in Egypt and in North Africa are
generally much more moderate and more pro-Western and less trouble for
Israel.

So we`re going to find ourselves on the side of the biggest problem we
have in the world, which are Iranian Shia fanaticism -- we`re going to be
on their side so that we don`t have to confront the ISIS group now that we
created, which says -- now it`s now saying in a blood-curdling way they
want to get us.

KATULIS: Well, this is why I think it`s important. What President
Obama said is we could offer some support to this guy, Maliki, the prime
minister of the Iraqi government, but he`s got to work with other Sunnis.
He`s got to have a national...

MATTHEWS: He`s not going to do that!

KATULIS: ... unified response. And if he`s not going to do that...

MATTHEWS: We had 140,000 troops there trying to get him to do that...

(CROSSTALK)

KATULIS: ... not going to do that. We`re not likely to act and pick
sides in this sectarian civil war. I think what we`re going to do is try
to contain the threat, right? It`s important...

MATTHEWS: I don`t think you can turn a dog into a cat. I mean, he is
what he is.

KATULIS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He`s a Shia nationalist, who has been in there fighting a
Sunni government his whole career, and we`re going to turn him into Mr.
Kumbaya?

FINEMAN: I think -- I think today, John Kerry in an interview that he
indicated that he certainly wouldn`t mind if Maliki would go. I mean, the
not too subtle message from what John Kerry said is, We`ll leave it up to
the Iraqis to decide. When he was invited to defend Maliki, Kerry did not
do so.

But the key thing is what we are able -- according to my
understanding, is what we can possibly work out with Iran that isn`t too
obvious...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... to anger...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s...

FINEMAN: ... and upset the moderate Sunnis. That`s the situation
we`re in.

MATTHEWS: I know. How do we work with Iran without becoming their
friends again?

FINEMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: We still have the nuclear threat from them. Anyway, here`s
how our government`s operating. In an interview today with Yahoo! News,
Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the possibility of the United
States, our government, again getting involved militarily with air strikes
against this insurgent group.

Here`s what he said. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: They`re not the whole answer, but
they may well be one of the options that are important to be able to stem
the tide and stop the movement of people who are moving around in open
convoys and trucks and terrorizing people. I mean, when you have people
murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I hear we can`t do that. I hear when you have a bunch of
people that are sort of partisans, they`re not really organized militarily,
they`re not moving in columns, you can`t go in there even with drones and
start killing people. You won`t know your targets.

KATULIS: You need good intelligence from the ground and...

MATTHEWS: Where would we get that from?

KATULIS: ... at this point -- you need it from partners on the ground
or some of our operatives. But I don`t think we have that presence that we
did before. So I think you`re going to see a very careful stance on the
part of this administration. We`re going to try to, again, contain and
safeguard the threat. The most important...

MATTHEWS: Do we want to kill Arabs again on international television?
I hate to sound -- I am not a -- I am a dove, I`m not a pacifist. Why is
it good in our interests? Again, I go back to what we`ve been doing now
for 12 years, killing Arabs and Islamic people on international television.
They`re the only people we kill, by the way.

KATULIS: Well, there is blowback for that, but the thing is...

MATTHEWS: Do we want to be killing ISIS people?

KATULIS: ... if they`re trying to kill us -- like, one of the things
that both President Obama and President Bush have done is these drone
strikes, which are controversial, right? But they actually have stopped
attacks on the United States. And there`s evidence...

MATTHEWS: But they`re against individuals, not armies.

KATULIS: Exactly. And that`s why I think action here is going to be
very targeted, if it happens at all.

FINEMAN: And by the way, if you`re tying to cooperate with the Maliki
government, for the Maliki government to tell you whom to hit, those are
not the people whose word we want to believe at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... tell us to kill Sunnis.

FINEMAN: Yes, but that`s not the -- yes. Exactly. But you can`t --
it`s a hopeless situation because...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: They prosper propaganda-wise from our attacks.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the tricky question again. We`ve got a
religious war going. The Sunnis are on one side. They don`t like us.
They`re going to after the government in Baghdad we stood up. The
government we stood up in Baghdad is supported by the Iranians and King
Assad -- or President Assad over there in Syria. All our enemies agree on
the guy we`re supporting.

Anyway, according to Secretary Kerry, again, the administration, our
administration, is willing to talk with Iran about the security situation
in Iraq. We`re going to start talking to these guys. In an interview with
Yahoo! again, he was asked if the United States would ever cooperate
militarily with Iran to quell violence in Iraq.

Let`s watch the secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: We need to go step by step and see what, in fact, might be a
reality. But I wouldn`t rule out anything that would be constructive to
providing real stability, a respect for the constitution, a respect for the
election process, and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form
a government that represents all of the interests of Iraq, not one
sectarian group over another. It has to be inclusive. And that has been
one of the great problems of the last few years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Brian -- you focus on the region more than
I do. And I have to ask you why he seems surprised.

KATULIS: Well...

MATTHEWS: Why is Kerry, as the Brits would say, caught wrong-footed
on this? We had never heard of ISIS before. There was no talk of some
moving column that was really going to threaten Baghdad, even take as much
of the country as it`s done already. This has been dramatic and totally
surprising to people in Washington. I haven`t heard even the neocons or
the usual suspects like John McCain or Lindsey -- Lindsey Nelson -- (sic)

FINEMAN: We didn`t hear alarm bells, right.

MATTHEWS: They weren`t yelling about this until now we`re on the
verge of what looks to be a civil war.

KATULIS: Well, I think part of it is we stuck our head in the sand
after we got bin Laden. And this threat has migrated. It`s morphed in
different ways. And I think people here have been talking about it, people
who follow the region, people who travel there quite a lot. But quite a
lot -- America has been disengaged to all of these dynamics...

MATTHEWS: Why did we let Maliki turn his government into a sectarian
government which was going to fuel this fire?

KATULIS: That was a mistake. I think...

MATTHEWS: Why did we do it?

KATULIS: I think in part because we wanted to get out of Iraq and we
all wanted our troops out of there, and the quickest simple solution was
there. And I think it was a mistake by both the Bush administration and
the Obama administrations not to use leverage in terms of our money and our
resources. We`re still spending lots of money there. We got more than
10,000 Americans there...

MATTHEWS: Could we have stayed, another 10,000 guys in there?

KATULIS: No. I don`t think that`s the real issue here...

MATTHEWS: But could we have? Because that`s what people on the right
are saying, we should have kept 10,000 or so in there.

KATULIS: Look, George Bush couldn`t negotiate this agreement with
Maliki. He insisted on a date certain for U.S. troops to leave.

MATTHEWS: Maliki?

KATULIS: Yes. President Obama wanted to actually renegotiate that,
and the terms were not acceptable to us and our military commanders.

MATTHEWS: I wonder whether Maliki isn`t happy right now. He`s got
Iran helping him out. He`s got Syria helping him out. He`s got us
worried. He`s got all the cards on his table. All the Shia are united
behind him now. And he`s involved in maybe saving two thirds of the
country, but it will all be his.

FINEMAN: Well, it`s probably...

MATTHEWS: A lot of the oil.

FINEMAN: It`s probably a little bit too late for John Kerry`s studied
silence about the future of Maliki because, you`re right, the only way
Maliki survives now is as a sectarian...

MATTHEWS: OK, by the way, the secretary of state, who I like a lot...

FINEMAN: Me, too.

MATTHEWS: ... was awaiting orders.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: From the president.

FINEMAN: I agree.

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t calling the shots.

KATULIS: I agree.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Brian Katulis. Thank you for joining us
and for your expertise. Howard, as always.

Coming up: The same people who were whooping up Iraq war fever in 2003
are back at it again. The usual suspects once again, they`re talking up
U.S. military engagement in Iraq. They were wrong then, dead wrong, and
they`re wrong again, I think. So why does anyone even listen to the neocon
chorus?

Plus, how bad have things become for the Republican Party that people
are openly -- Joe Scarborough for one -- for drafting Mitt Romney? Yes,
it`s that bad. Who are you going to call, Chris Christie, Jeb or Mitt?

And those bumps in the Hillary book rollout -- people want the -- got
the -- they want the impression of candor from her. They also want
politically correct answers, though. But isn`t this what politics is,
getting them both right?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the break-up of Iraq. Isn`t
this what we did to the place?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Another historic low for Congress. A new Gallup poll finds
that only 16 percent of Americans approve the job that Congress is doing.
That`s the lowest number for a midterm election year since Gallup began
asking the question 40 years ago. And it`s in line with another Gallup
poll from last month showing just 1 in 5 Americans say that most members of
Congress should be reelected, the lowest number ever.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, they`re back, the force in
force. The people who relentlessly sold us the are virtues of invading
Iraq have returned to push American intervention anew -- Paul Wolfowitz,
Bill Kristol, and this morning on "MORNING JOE," Paul Bremer himself, who
was U.S. presidential envoy to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. And of course, the
entire Kagan family was featured in today`s "New York Times" with a
reference to Robert Kagan`s recent cover story in "The New Republic"
pushing for U.S. intervention headlined "Superpowers don`t get to retire:
What our tired country still owes the world." "Owes the world" -- I love
it!

But it`s wise to remember what some of these neocons told us before
the Iraq invasion, like Paul Wolfowitz on how the war would practically pay
for itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The oil revenues of that
country could bring between $50 million and $100 million over the course of
the next two or three years. We`re dealing with a country that can really
finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So why did we have to do it for a trillion dollars? Or
Bill Kristol`s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back
in February of 2002, when he said, quote, "American and alliance forces
will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators." And who could forget this line
from Ken Adelman? "I believe demolishing Hussein`s military power and
liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

And today on "MORNING JOE," Paul Bremer defended his actions and those
of the Bush administration in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. PAUL BREMER, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY ADMINISTRATOR: The
Iraqis lusted to choose their own government. Let`s not get into this we
were trying to shove democracy down somebody`s throat. That`s just simply
not true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we did take Saddam Hussein out, didn`t we?

BREMER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did, America did, not the Iraqi people.

BREMER: Right. Therefore, what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Therefore, we then tried to impose democracy in
that country.

BREMER: We did not impose democracy!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn`t...

(CROSSTALK)

BREMER: Get away from that! It`s not true!

(CROSSTALK)

BREMER: The facts are completely in the other direction on that
subject. Anyway, it`s not the point right now. We are where we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We are where we are, thanks to you.

Anyway, joining me right now is "Mother Jones" magazine`s David Corn
and "The Washington Post`s" Eugene Robinson. Both are MSNBC political
analyst .

Gene...

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: OK...

MATTHEWS: ... this is the guy.

ROBINSON: This guy. Let`s talk about him!

MATTHEWS: He dressed well. I liked him with the boots and the nice
suit. But he`s the guy that disbanded the Iraqi army...

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... the Iraqi government. He de-baathisized so that
nothing was left for a third of the country except to join any country --
any group that would overthrow the government.

ROBINSON: He created the vacuum.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ROBINSON: And he is responsible, I think -- if you`re going to put in
one guy...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... who`s responsible for a lot of the mess that happened
in Iraq, you`d have to point right at Paul Bremer. It was a terrible
decision!

MATTHEWS: I know, and I think -- I think...

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you`re
being too hard...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I think you`re being too hard on him because, you know, what we
-- Isikoff, Mike Isikoff and I in the book we did, it was very clear to
us...

MATTHEWS: "Hubris."

CORN: ... "Hubris" -- before they went in, they had no idea what to
do afterwards.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: Bush, Cheney...

MATTHEWS: OK, here...

CORN: ... they had meetings at the White House. What -- they never
asked the question, what comes next? Bremer was sent there and said,
basically, Figure it out yourself. So yes, he made a lot of bad
decisions...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We go in there as the Americans. We overthrow the
government. We march in. If you don`t do what we tell you, shoot the guy.
You take over the government by force. That`s how we did it.

And then we said, You know what? We`re going to make -- we`re going
to get into nation building and we`re going to get rid of all this
structure of Sunnis governing this country for 300 years. We`re going to
put the other side in charge. And then we`re going to -- and then, by the
way, we`ll de-baathisize, like we denazified. We`re going to pretend it`s
Europe again, like we always make that mistake, especially neocons, and
we`re going to liberate these people.

Well, guess what their idea of liberation was? Their idea of
liberation was Shia now call the shots, 300 years of revenge!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We call that democracy!

CORN: It`s an (INAUDIBLE) authoritarian government, incompetent,
inept.

They have put down the Sunnis. So, we have the situation today when
people in Sunni areas are either -- almost tolerating ISIS, because, as
extreme as they are...

MATTHEWS: You know what they remind me of?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Because they are going up against the Shia military, which they
hate, which they see...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Look at the captive nations -- it`s just like the captive
nations -- the captive nations of the Soviet nation before World War II.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: When the Nazis came in, at least in the first few hours,
great, we`re getting the Soviets off our back.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Then they realized who were they dealing with, the S.S.

CORN: Yes. Yes.

ROBINSON: No. The Sunni tribal leaders in those areas that ISIS has
taken over, they have a strategic decision that, look, we are better off.
Let`s go with the Islamic -- the crazy Islamic fundamentalists for a while.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. So, now we find ourselves in the predicament we talked
about in the first segment tonight, which is now we find ourselves in
having this choose to -- in this Hobson`s choice.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: We can`t support the insurgency over there. They hate us,
the Sunnis, even though maybe they have got a beef.

Then we can`t support the Shia government over there, because they
have got the Iranians on their side. They have got Hafez Assad`s son on
their side. They have got the works that we have been fighting over there
since day one, since they took over the embassy back in `79. The Shiites,
right?

CORN: Right.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Where are we?

ROBINSON: Well...

MATTHEWS: Where do the neocons want us to do?

ROBINSON: The enemy of our enemy is now our enemy and our friend.
Right?

MATTHEWS: Well, what are the...

ROBINSON: Because we now have to be on the same side as Iran if we
want to stop ISIS, except we can`t be on the same side as Iran.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: The neocons themselves are coming out and the hawks like John
McCain are they completely confused. They don`t know what to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Lindsey Graham looks a little wacky right now.

CORN: Yes, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who usually are two pees
in the pod or Siamese twins...

MATTHEWS: What is their fight?

CORN: ... now disagree, because one of them wants to get in there and
work with Iran. Lindsey Graham says that, we have to work with Iran. We
will. And John McCain says, what are you smoking?

But last week...

MATTHEWS: Did he say, what are you smoking?

CORN: No. I -- but he says, you`re crazy. He calls it crazy.

Last week, John McCain got on the Senate floor and gave a speech about
how everyone on the national security team of the president should be fired
immediately.

What was his big idea? We should call David Petraeus and ask him what
to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Lindsey Graham -- Lindsey Graham this week on one of the
Sunday shows, the one that`s on earliest, before "Meet the Press," he was
saying we have to bomb. We have to go in and we have to bomb ISIS.

Then we have to go into Syria and get involved militarily there. My
God, are we going to be shooting everybody?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Yes, if they have their way.

ROBINSON: Start with bomb ISIS. Sounds like a great idea, right,
bomb these crazy, evil people. They happen to be in the middle of civilian
populations.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: There is no neat way just to bomb them and not bomb
civilians and turn the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There is no Frenchman on the ground saying, over here, over
there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There`s no targeter.

ROBINSON: No.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: How can we engage in military activity hi a partner like the
Maliki government, who we can`t trust. We can`t give them weapons because
they can`t even hold onto their own uniforms.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What brought the neocons back into parlance? Why -- "Meet
the Press" yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz shows up. I thought it was an old
show. I`m sorry. That was -- he was there.

And then we see a big spread today in "The New York Times" and the
whole Kagan family, Robert, Fred, the whole gang of them, intellectuals,
all pro-war on this thing. And then you have got -- you have got Bremer
back today.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What make them come in out of the dark?

CORN: This is like when "True Blood" goes off the air, HBO can have a
new vampire series with these guys, because they won`t -- you can`t put
them down.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They did hide for 10 years.

CORN: Yes. But no matter how wrong they were back then -- and they
were all wrong -- Bill Kristol, Krauthammer, they all were wrong again and
again on WMDs and sectarian violence and the cost of the war -- people
still go to them, they put a microphone in front of them and say, tell us
what you think now. They shouldn`t do that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s my question. And this is what is going to --
American people want to know from both parties, from all journalists and
commentators.

If -- and I don`t believe this -- but if the argument was we went into
Iraq and got involved in this impossible country because we were concerned
about a nuclear weapon -- that`s what they told people, a nuclear weapon --
once we found out they didn`t have any nuclear weapons, which took a couple
of days, and they had nothing, no process of building one, why didn`t we
just come home?

Why didn`t -- no, why didn`t we -- if that was the reason. We didn`t
go in there to nation-build. We didn`t go in there to solve the fight
between the Sunnis and the Shia.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: That wasn`t the reason. That wasn`t the reason.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m just asking. Then why did we go in?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: That`s what they told us.

ROBINSON: Because that was the stated reason.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: That wasn`t the reason.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: As you well know, because we would have come home, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m just talking their language. And the American people
want to know why we lost 4,000 lives. I`m asking you guys. If they told
us the truth why we went in, we should have left pretty quick.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: They didn`t us the truth.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Gene Robinson.

We are up against this conundrum. We`re going to be facing this for
years.

Up next: The former congressman who called himself Carlos Danger is
back in the "Sideshow." Maybe it`s time he took a break from Twitter.
Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": If computers
had become sentient, what better way to convince people they hadn`t than by
co-opting the voice of the most intelligent man on the planet?

STEPHEN HAWKING, SCIENTIST: You`re an idiot.

OLIVER: Yes, but who`s saying that, Stephen, you or the machine?

HAWKING: Both of us.

OLIVER: OK. All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."

And that was John Oliver of HBO`s "Last Week Tonight" with the
legendary Stephen Hawking.

President Obama last week, by the way, became only the fourth sitting
president to visit a Native American reservation. And here`s what Oliver
had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")

OLIVER: During the visit, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development announced they would make be making $70 million available to
improve tribal housing conditions, including money for mold removal, to
which the Native Americans presumably said, oh, finally, OK, we are
officially square.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: It was touch and go for a few centuries there, but at the end
of the day, all we wanted was our mold removed.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next, Congressman Raul Labrador launched his campaign for
House majority leader on Friday. The Idaho Republican is vying to take the
place of Eric Cantor, who lost his Virginia primary race last week.

But the Tea Party candidate has run into one big problem. When it
comes to lobbying for support, he doesn`t have any of his colleagues` phone
numbers. Aides told "The Washington Examiner" that Labrador`s staff has
been calling offices for direct contact information for House Republicans
such as cell phone numbers.

Well, Labrador`s main competition is House Majority Whip Kevin
McCarthy. A red state Republican told "The Examiner" this was -- quote --
"a great juxtaposition to Kevin McCarthy, who already had such close
relationships that he was texting or calling most members immediately."

The secret ballot election for majority leader will be held on
Thursday.

And, finally, Anthony Weiner is making headlines once again for his
Twitter activity. The former New York congressman favorited a tweet
labeling the dating app Tinder as the ultimate sext machine. Weiner, of
course, resigned in 2011, after he admitted to sending inappropriate
pictures to several women.

As to why he would favorite a dating site tweet, he told BuzzFeed:
"I`m clear on how they get marked in the first place, but I assume I hit
the little star thing accidentally as I scrolled through stuff."

Weiner sent out a tweet reading -- quote -- "OK. To recap my day, I
accidentally hit the star thingy on a Vox.com story about Tinder. Sorry."

He may want to stay away from Twitter altogether, don`t you think?

Up next: Is the Republican Party so desperate, that it`s drafting
Mitt Romney or thinking about it for 2016? That`s ahead.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
breaking news.

Severe weather is tearing through the nation`s heartland tonight. In
Nebraska, two funnel clouds were spotted churning about a mile apart
earlier in Stanton County. Heavy damage has been reported in a town of
Pilger, with a population of about 350 people. So far, there are no
reports of injuries. Crews have been dispatched to assess a number of
power outages.

Meanwhile, warm, humid conditions mean developing storms could become
severe. Parts of Nebraska are under a tornado watch until 10:00 p.m.
Central time tonight -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A Bush, Tea Party red hots, and a governor facing two criminal
investigations, well, that`s basically the Republican field for 2016. And
there is no clear front-runner. It`s with this backdrop of disarray and
perhaps desperation that some Republicans are starting a draft Romney
movement.

It began this weekend at a gathering of heavyweight Republicans in
Utah. The event was organized by Mitt Romney. And as "The Washington
Post" reports, it was intended to be a passing of the torch to the
Republican Party`s would-be saviors. Instead, it quickly became a Romney
revival.

Here is more from "The Washington Post." Joe Scarborough urged them
to begin a draft Romney movement. Harold Hamm, a billionaire fund-raiser,
said everybody would encourage him to consider it again. George P.
Shultz, the former secretary of the state, said, "I wish we could call him
Mr. President."

And NBC`s Kasie Hunt reports that Romney`s former finance chairman,
Spencer Zwick, told reporters, "I think if you asked this group who could
beat Hillary Clinton, they would say Mitt Romney could beat Hillary
Clinton."

When asked about those kinds of comments, Romney downplayed the
support, saying, "The unavailable is always the most attractive, right?
That goes in dating as well."

Well, well-said there. He later addressed the draft Romney movement
with NBC`s David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY")

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: David, I`m not
running for president. I have said that so many times. I want to find the
best candidate for us to take our message to the American people that we
can bring better jobs, higher incomes and more security globally.

We can do that. And I`m convinced that the field of Republican
candidates that I`m seeing is a lot better positioned to do it than I am.
I`m not running. And talk of a draft is kind of silly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anybody who does shots on camera with those little cowboy
fences is running for president.

Anyway, Robert Costa is national political reporter with "The
Washington Post" and Joy Reid is the host of "THE REID REPORT" weekdays on
MSNBC.

I didn`t hear any Shermanesque response yesterday, Joy, if nominated,
I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. That`s the way you do it if
you want to get out of it. If you want to run, you say I`m not running and
you keep saying I`m not running, until you are running.

I heard nothing yesterday or all this weekend that didn`t convince me
that the man who won the first debate, I think we all agree, with the
president, the man who won 226 congressional districts, who actually looks
like he might have won the race last at one point, is dying to get back in
the race, dying, because Gene McCarthy once said it`s easier to run for
president than to stop.

Your thoughts?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. No, I agree.

And you know better than I, Chris, that these -- for these guys, it`s
an addiction. Running for president, once you have done it, most people --
first of all, to get to that point where you believe that you should be
president, clearly, you believe you are the man, the person that can lead
the country better than anyone else.

And I think it is an addiction. And I don`t think Romney would say
absolutely not. And, look, the reality is, the establishment wing of the
party, a an era where Chamber of Congress Republican has become an epithet,
at least in that Virginia primary where Eric Cantor lost his seat, the
establishment wing still needs a guy.

And Chris Christie no longer looks like he`s going to be the guy. Jeb
Bush has issues in terms of brand. And you have got Romney sitting out
there as the last candidate for president is supposed to be the titular
head of the party. The party is rudderless in terms of leadership.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you old-time? You, young lady, you used the term --
I thought I was the last one to use that term.

REID: I like arcane terms.

MATTHEWS: Adlai Stevenson, the titular head of the Democratic Party.
I haven`t heard that forever.

Robert Costa, it seems to me, just like in sports, there`s two big
brackets, like in the NBA last night. There`s a West and an East Coast.
And you basically have the West Coast fight between probably Rand Paul, who
may be losing a little bit now that we are at a war situation, against Ted
Cruz, or that combination. We know where that`s headed.

One, as Joy points out, the Eastern bracket, the moderate bracket, the
centrist bracket, the mainstream establishment bracket doesn`t have anybody
who really looks like a winner in it. Your thoughts?

ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think one of the under-
told stories of this Romney retreat was Chris Christie trying to make a
comeback.

He was there wooing donors, talking with Romney`s entire financial
network, trying to find a way back, thinking that Jeb Bush may not run.
Christie thinks those Romney donors are his path to the nomination.

But I think this -- all this reporting is right. I think Romney is
coy on the sidelines, he`s chuckling, and he`s waiting and watching this
unfolding scene. If Jeb doesn`t run and Christie doesn`t run, Romney is
going to get a lot of encouragement to do so.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk money, let`s reality here. Number one, Romney
has got all the money he will need if he runs for president. He has got
the Mormon coalition out there, the network. He has got the investment
banker crowd. He knows very well the equity people. He can raise all the
money he needs.

Number two, he can run a long campaign once he gets in it. We have
seen it before. He can win late. We can have all kinds of little guys
challenge him. And he can be Gulliver and they can be little Lilliputians.
And he will beat them in the end because can outspend them in the long run.

Number two, isn`t it in his interest to let this play out for another
six months? Joy, let it play out until it`s desperate, until Jeb doesn`t
run, until Christie doesn`t get out of his legal messes and his P.R.
problems, and then he can -- the party will beg him to come, or at least
the elements with the money will.

REID: Yes.

And the thing is -- well, first of all, I think he is going to be
disappointed, because everything I`m hearing out of folks I still talk to
in Florida is that Jeb is very likely or is really gearing up, really wants
to run.

But let`s just say that, for whatever reason, Jeb decides not to.
You`re absolutely right. The establishment wing is going to want a guy.

And, again, remember, they overruled the base before, right? The
establishment got George W. Bush when the base wanted McCain. They got
McCain when the base wanted anybody but McCain. They got Romney over the
objections of the Tea Party. So, they really have a great track record of
getting who they want. And you still need somebody who can put states
outside of the South and play.

Romney could make the case that he`s the one guy that can put Michigan
in play, that could theoretically, you know, long shot, go back to
Massachusetts, somebody who can get the party out of the South and the
Midwest. So, Romney is -- it`s not a crazy idea for him to run again
because there`s got to be an establishment guy.

MATTHEWS: What happened to Romney in the campaign? He came out like
a bulldozer in the first debate, Robert. And he was arrogant, and maybe
even obnoxious by some people`s standards. But he was strong, he was self-
confident. He talked down to the president of the United States. I didn`t
like it, but it worked.

What happened to him then? Did he just crumble when Candy Crowley
said he did say terrorism? Was that it that broke his back, that one line
by a reporter in a debate?

COSTA: Maybe, Chris. But if you listen to what Romney said in Utah,
this past weekend, if he did run, he`d run on foreign policy. He may have
stumbled in that debate on foreign policy in 2012. But this is a person
right now who feels confident, if he was poised to run against Hillary
Clinton that he could beat her. He was very critical on the record about
her record at that the State Department.

And so, I`m really listening to Romney`s foreign policy confidence.

MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you.

Well, here he is yesterday on "Meet the Press", Governor Romney
talking up his game plan to beat Hillary Clinton. He`s already talking how
to beat her in the general in 2016. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, MEET THE PRESS: If you were running for president
again and if she were the Democratic nominee, what`s the playbook to beat
her?

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the playbook I
believe is to look at her record. I think you have to consider what`s
happened around the world during the years that she was secretary of state.
And you have to say it`s been a monumental bust.

And then her most recent comments as she was rolling out the book, she
was asked whether the Bergdahl trade was one that presented a threat to the
United States. She came back with a clueless answer. She was clueless.
She said, look, Bergdahl -- excuse me -- these commandos don`t represent a
threat to the United States.

Well, of course they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Over the weekend, Romney also delivered a campaign-style
speech focusing heavily on foreign policy. According to prepared remarks
he had, he attacked President Obama and Hillary Clinton saying, quote, "The
Obama-Biden-Hillary Clinton foreign policy is a monumental bust."

He laid out his four-point foreign policy vision saying, "We must be
actively engaged in global affairs. We will promote our values. We will
place a high hurdle on committing it to a kinetic military invasion and we
will act to strengthen America`s hand."

And he left the crowd with this, "I lost the election, but I will
continue to fight."

Robert, back to you.

It seems to me that everything about the set-up this weekend was aimed
at possibly getting an invitation to a program for the Sunday show,
something like "Meet the Press." Everything here -- the first time I have
noticed the guy`s timing is right. It`s in the middle of an international
crisis with Iraq. It`s just as the time we see Christie not really --
trying to make a comeback but pretty much on his knees.

And Jeb really out there -- yes, you say he wants to run. But when
you want to run, you don`t sit around and play hamlet. If you want to run,
you run, damn it. You don`t make it look like you are trying to decide
whether you want to be president or not.

Nobody wants to elect a president who can`t decide where they want to
be president or not. They know Hillary is running. They know she wants to
be president and doesn`t bother them.

Your thoughts?

COSTA: Actions speak in politics. If Romney really wanted to be
retired right now, he`d be at his beach front home in La Jolla, California,
enjoying the sun, enjoying the waves. But where was he? He was in Park
City, Utah, meeting again with the financial network.

This is someone who may not be gearing up for a run, but actions speak
louder than words. I see Romney there pushing toward a campaign, thinking
about it, moving closer to it in spite of what he says to David Gregory.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s the only man I know with a car elevator in his
house.

Thank you so much, Robert Costa. That would be fun to ride actually.

Joy Reid -- Joy, you and me we`ll get one of those cars and ride up
and down out there in his house.

REID: I`m ready to go. Let`s do it.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Hillary`s book rollout is supposed to be a
practice run for a presidential campaign. Well, we`ll see. We`ll see how
if she`s getting the kinks out of this thing, few kinks showed last week.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Who is the most admired president of the past 25 years?
Well, according to our NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Annenberg poll, it`s
Bill Clinton.

Four in 10 Americans say Big Bill is the president they like the most.
Barack Obama is second, but he was 24 points behind Clinton. George W.
Bush was third, and his father, the only one-term president during the time
period, finished fourth.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It turns out that Hillary Clinton may not be quite as ready for the
2016 run as her supporters would like her to be. Her long awaited book
tour seen as many as a dry run for a presidential bid hit a couple of speed
bumps last week. It all started with her interview with ABC`s Diane Sawyer
when Clinton said she and husband Bill were dead broke when they left the
White House in 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White
House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there.
And we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages
for houses, for Chelsea`s education. You know, it was not easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the response from usually scripted and cautious
Hillary Clinton generated a lot of criticism, given that she and the former
president are now multimillionaires.

But the rollout got rockier later in the week. During her NPR
interview with Terry Gross when the talk turned to her evolving positions
on same sex marriage. The former secretary of state`s patience ran out and
it showed in the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think you are being very persistent, but you are playing
with my words and playing with what is such --

TERRY GROSS, NPR: I`m just trying to clarify so I can understand.

CLINTON: No, I don`t think you are trying to clarify. I think you`re
trying to say that, you know, I used to be opposed and now I`m in favor and
I did it for political reasons and that`s just flat wrong.

So, let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate
it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue. And
I am proud of what I`ve done and the progress we`re making.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In her book "Hard Choices", Hillary Clinton writes, "I no
longer had much patience for walking on egg shells." But her instinctive
responses to two tough questions last week threw her off her game obviously
and could cause trouble or suggest it for a second White House run.

Roger Simon is chief political columnist at "Politico", and Melinda
Henneberger is political writer for "The Washington Post" "She the People"
blog.

Melinda, I want to start with you. Well, you can`t generalize it.
The press likes to do its job and be difficult.

But I don`t think there`s animosity there and certainly not from Terry
Gross. I listened to that over again today and said, why are they arguing?

And what Terry, who I really think is great, was trying to get the
former secretary of state to say, I think she was trying to get her to say,
I changed my mind. I went from being where everybody was, the great mass
of America was on same-sex, not really thinking about it but being against
it, they did think about it, to having thought about it and understood the
issue and sympathize with the people who are seeking same-sex marriage and
saying, OK.

And she wouldn`t do it quite that way. But you know what? I think it
might be a mountain out of a mole hill. But I don`t know. What do you
think?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I thought it was a great
interview for both Terry Gross and Hillary Clinton. I mean, you have to
get a little friction going. A spark or two is always appreciated.

MATTHEWS: What was Terry trying to get?

HENNEBERGER: I think she really was trying to clarify. I think she
wanted Hillary Clinton to be much more explicit in connecting the dots and
saying, yes, she evolved like the rest of America and there was this very
familiar pushback from Hillary Clinton, not wanting to do that.

On the other hand, can you ever really go wrong in pushing back
against the press? I think voters like that. So I --

MATTHEWS: Here`s my question.

HENNEBERGER: It was not hurtful for her at all.

MATTHEWS: I will now defend Hillary in strong terms for the
following. Everybody wants her to be loosey-goosey, be herself, because
she`s different in private when you`re just chatting with her off the
record. And at the same time, don`t make any mistakes.

How do you do both unless you`re as gifted as one of the rare people
on the planet, Bill Clinton, who can always know exactly, almost exactly
what to say?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: That`s her problem. She`s not her husband.
She doesn`t have her husband`s skill.

MATTHEWS: Who is? Nobody is.

SIMON: That`s the problem she has to solve before she runs again.
What does she do with Bill? You know, last time she listened to him. So
she ran --

MATTHEWS: Can he teach Bill? Can Bill teach Bill?

SIMON: Why would Bill change? Bill`s doing great.

MATTHEWS: Can he teach her the nuances to say, enough, to seem candid
but not give away the store?

SIMON: You can`t be a Frankenstein and create a different person.
She`s not him. She`s who she is, and who she is, is not a person -- she
wants to be president. She doesn`t want to run for president. She doesn`t
want to --

HENNEBERGER: That`s the problem.

SIMON: -- deal with all the crap.

HENNEBERGER: And she shouldn`t come across as it`s OK to come across
as pushing back. It`s not OK to come across as how dare you ask me that
question, because somebody running has to take all the questions. I was
surprised that she didn`t learn from her husband not to say we`re dead
broke.

He knows what dead broke is. And I thought that out of everything
that happened in the last week, that was the most potentially damaging for
her to say. She knows how people are hurting. And what that really means.

MATTHEWS: It`s technically true. They were in debt.

HENNEBERGER: They also had a million dollars in assets. I mean, I
heard from somebody today who said, you know, I really thought I could
support her next time, but I`m dead broke.

MATTHEWS: OK. Tomorrow night, she`s doing a couple l other networks.
She`s doing a town hall with one of the networks. She`s doing FOX. You
know Roger Ailes is sitting there putting the murder board together. She`s
going to have some fascinating questions from --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They`re going to be toughies.

SIMON: Yes. You know, but this is a healthy sign. Last time she
ran, don`t forget she announced on videotape. She didn`t have a rally in
Springfield, you know, she had a perfect format where they could change
every frame, the background, anything they wanted. Now she`s got to go out
and face the press in long interviews. None of this two, three minute
stuff.

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s coming tomorrow night. I tell you, this is great
to watch because I think, you know, it`s -- politics is a craft. It`s an
art. And you`ve got to learn how to give the answer that seems candid as
hell and you`ve thought about it. Churchill used to say, I`ve been
spending most of my life rehearsing my impromptu remarks, you know?

Thank you, guys. We`ll be back with the same topic. Roger Simon,
Melinda Henneberger., two fair-minded people. We`ll be back right after
this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: A war of choice.

Well, that was a nice way of putting George W. Bush`s decision to
attack, invade, and take over the country of Iraq. It was the deliberate
act of war, of course. Iraq had not attacked us. We attacked them. We
went into their country and shot anyone who got in our way. We declared
ourselves the conquerors of Iraq and acted accordingly.

I`ll never be able to get a clear reason why we did this. The talk of
Iraq having nuclear weapons was an argument to bring the Europeans along,
oh, yes, and the more skeptical Americans.

But if nuclear weapons were the issue, why didn`t we leave when we
discovered they didn`t have them, weren`t making them at all? Again, what
was the reason we went into Iraq and what was the reason we broke up its
army and left so many former soldiers to fend for themselves? What was the
reason we leveled the Iraqi government to the ground?

One reason, we heard, was to shake up the entire Middle East by
knocking off Saddam Hussein and turning Iraq into a governing moderate
democracy that would set a new course for the region. A new model.

But if that was the goal, why did we left the government of Iraq
become sectarian, a government hostile to the Sunnis, the main Islamic
tradition? Why did we allow this situation to emerge in Iraq that created
the basis for today`s civil war? And how could American policy be so
destructive that it used all those lies of our soldiers, all those billions
of our dollars to take a country that had been a problem limited to the
region and turn it into a horror that could well escape it?

That`s HARDBALL. That`s HARDBALL for you. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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