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updated 6/18/2014 9:17:41 AM ET 2014-06-18T13:17:41

HARDBALL
June 17, 2014

Guest: Colin Kahl, Michelle Bernard, Jeanne Cummings, Michelle Bernard,
Jeanne Cummings, Doug Brinkley, Tom DeFrank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Home run for Hillary.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.

"Let Me Start" tonight with Hillary Clinton`s strong performance this
evening. Her big town hall interview with CNN came on the day the United
States captured what President Obama described as the mastermind or one of
the masterminds of the attack on the U.S. Facility in Benghazi in 2012. It
is clear to me, however, that Secretary Clinton, after a week of facing the
lions of the press, is in impressive form right now to take on the
questions that have been thrown at her.

She went out there and defended the obvious fact that ambassadors like
Chris Stevens, who was killed in Benghazi, take risks as part of their
commitment to this country and to their mission in a dangerous world. She
used it as an opportunity to say the United States needs to be engaged in
the world, even if it is dangerous, especially because it is dangerous.

But Secretary Clinton made clear we should not be engaged militarily
in today`s Iraq for the simple reason that the people of Iraq are not
united behind the government there, again for the simple reason that the
government there itself clearly wishes to be sectarian in both method,
makeup and purpose. The government in Baghdad is of, by and for the
Shi`ites, to the exclusion of Islam`s Sunni community.

On domestic policy, Secretary Clinton said she has changed her mind on
the issue of same-sex marriage, like the great majority of Americans have.
And she took on the NRA by saying that we need background checks on gun
purchases. And she said that despite the human horror involved, we cannot
let people on the other side of our borders get to believe that getting a
baby into this country, as they`re doing right now, means those babies get
to stay in the country. She pushed for a path to citizenship, but not that
path -- a strong performance not intended to make everyone like her, but
certainly enough to deserve solid respect tonight on this, just the second
week of her national engagement.

Joan Walsh is the editor-at-large with Salon and Michael Steele was
chairman of the RNC, the Republican National Committee. Both are, of
course, respected MSNBC political analysts.

By the way, in her -- in her town hall interview with CNN late today,
Hillary Clinton went on offense on the issue of Benghazi, as I said.
Here`s Hillary Clinton with Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: We send Americans into
perilous, dangerous places all the time. And I believe that`s the right
decision. We have to do it prudently, of course, but we need to be where
things are happening that can affect us, the security of our country, our
friends and allies, and so much else we hold dear.

When people have every right to second guess and question, but when
they say the United States shouldn`t be in dangerous places, I just
fundamentally disagree. I don`t think we should be retreating from the
world. And that would be a position that I would, you know, strongly
advocate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, I`ve been waiting a long time to hear
somebody say the obvious, ambassadors make decisions in the countries where
they represent the president of the United States. That`s their job, to
make the tough decisions. Chris Stevens made a decision which he was
probably proud to make but which cost him his life because that comes with
the territory. She said that.

She also made a point of talking where the president was that night.
She talked about where she was that night, all the details everybody`s been
asking for. I think she hit a home run tonight on all these issues. Your
thoughts.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- Chris,
I will agree with you. I`ll give her to at least third base on a number of
things. And the reason I won`t give her the full home run -- because she
herself said there are still things about Benghazi I don`t know. And so if
she is saying that as the former secretary of state, you know, at a time
when this happened on her watch, then you`re going to -- it feeds that --
that cycle of curiosity about, OK, so what is it that we still need to
know? What is it that you don`t know, Madam Secretary, that the rest of us
should know or we need to find out? And so I...

MATTHEWS: Well, she said so. She told us what the question she still
has is under questioning tonight. She said, I`d like to know the major
motive. Was it this, was it that, there was a combination of things. But
why then? Why now? Why`d they go after that facility?

STEELE: Well, that`s only part of it, Chris. That`s only part of it.
There`s also not just a major motive of the perpetrators of the horror that
happened that night, it`s also the motivations and the politics and the
approaches that were taken by the administration.

So I think, yes, she was more solid on Benghazi than she has been in
the past, and I think -- I give her a lot of credit...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... for -- this was almost a reset for her in that sense.
But there`s still more that she knows is going to come on this. So it`s
not over yet.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to Joan on this. Joan, I thought she hit a
home run tonight right across the board, really. I thought it was the --
it was the Hillary Clinton I have met on occasion. It was also the Hillary
Clinton who was able to answer in real time questions which were not easy.
Your thoughts.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. She was much
more comfortable, she was much more on her game than she was last week
either, I thought, with Diane Sawyer or with Terry Gross in that interview
where she got kind of bogged down in whether and when she changed her mind
on gay marriage. She handled that question really forthrightly. She
didn`t seem rattled by anything. Those are all good things.

You know, in terms of Michael`s question, yes, there will always be
more to know. We will never get to the bottom of exactly who was there and
why that night. We`re going to learn a lot more in the coming days, I
think. But I thought she handled those questions without defensiveness, in
a way that she hasn`t quite before.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to an issue a lot of our viewers care about. Last
week, Secretary Clinton took heat after jousting with NPR reporter Terry
Gross, who aggressively questioned her about the politics of her changing
stance on gay marriage. Well, today -- or tonight, rather, Hillary Clinton
was asked about it again, and this time, she was ready for it.

Here`s more from Hillary Clinton on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Like most Americans I know, my views have changed over time.
It really became very clear to me that if we`re going to support marriage
in our country, it should be available to everyone, regardless of who they
love and that this marriage equality issue is a great human rights issue.
So yes, I evolved over time, and I`m very -- very proud to state that I`m a
full supporter of marriage equality right now.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Joan, she said "change." That`s all she had to say with
Terry Gross.

WALSH: Change, yes. I know.

MATTHEWS: And she just came through with it on the first breath
tonight. I thought, Wow, that`s the way to kill a problem. Answer it.
And she did.

WALSH: Exactly. I mean, she and Terry Gross talked past each other
that day, Chris. And you know, I do believe that she did eventually answer
the question, but Terry, I think, seemed -- I call her Terry as though I
know her. I don`t. She seemed so flabbergasted by Secretary Clinton`s
refusal to answer directly that I don`t even think she heard the answer
when it came.

This time -- I think, you know, she was -- she felt she was called a
liar last week, that, Oh, secretly, you supported it. You never did change
your mind. It just became politically convenient for you. I think now
she`s kind of clear on what she`s being asked, and she`s being honest about
it.

So I thought that was a great sequence, and it shows that she`s
learning from -- she was a little rusty when she started this. It`s hard
for us to necessarily imagine that, after being in the public eye. I think
she was rusty and I think, you know, she`s -- she`s definitely tuned up.

MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, respond to this one. Here`s Hillary Clinton
staying on offense here, actually, and attacking the GOP on voting rights.
Here`s more from her town hall at CNN just a moment ago with Christiane
Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Should there be mandatory
voting in the United States for America?

CLINTON: No, but there should be automatic registration. I think
when a young person...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: When a young person turns 18, that young person should be
registered to vote. And I deplore the efforts by some to restrict the
right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael, that must drive your Republican soul crazy! One
thing Republicans don`t...

STEELE: No! Chris!

MATTHEWS: ... like is everybody voting. Everybody can vote!

STEELE: No, Chris, let me -- let me just state very for the record,
and it`s been part of my political career ever since I entered in politics,
I have always been an advocate. The more participants in -- in...

MATTHEWS: How about automatic registration at age 18?

STEELE: You know, I had have to take -- I don`t -- personally, I
don`t have a negative response to that. I think anything that we can do to
encourage a young person to be engaged and committed citizen to the country
through voting, absolutely. I think it`s something that`s worth putting
out there and further exploration, if that`s what we -- if that`s what we
want to do.

I agree with her that, you know, my party needs to get off this
perception, if not in fact, the noise about cutting back or at least
creating these hills and these valleys and these difficult, you know,
approaches...

MATTHEWS: Yes, 36 states...

STEELE: ... for people to vote.

MATTHEWS: ... led by Republican legislatures are trying to make it
harder for people to vote. You know that.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: And I mean, you know, North Carolina did an amazing thing. It
used to be possible for high school seniors to pre-register if they weren`t
18 yet. They could pre-register. They made that illegal. So they`re
going in the opposite direction. Instead of having -- making it easier for
young people to just cross that -- that hurdle and get in there, you`re
expected to vote, they`re affirmatively looking for ways for specifically
young people not to be able to pre-register and participate. So I thought
that was a really -- really important answer.

You know, where I think she might get some criticism from her own base
is ducking the question on whether some of the opposition, not all of it,
by any means, but some of the opposition, the strident opposition to the
president is motivated at all by race. She -- eventually, she said yes,
there`s -- you know, there`s prejudice about race and gender and sexual
orientation. But I thought she was a little bit too evasive on that. I
think it`s very possible...

MATTHEWS: Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But let me go back to -- I think the president himself
doesn`t like to make that charge.

WALSH: He doesn`t.

MATTHEWS: My experience with this...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... is purely political. You accuse a person, even
generally, Michael, of being -- having a race problem, you just agitate
that person...

STEELE: Absolutely, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... because everybody has -- not everybody, but it`s part
of our history to have some.

WALSH: But she didn`t have to name names.

MATTHEWS: And you have some, you go crazy when somebody accuses you
of it.

WALSH: But Christiane wasn`t asking her about names, this person or
that person.

MATTHEWS: I know.

WALSH: It was a general question. I think there are people...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but she was saying it about Republicans.

WALSH: I think there are people who wanted to hear a little bit
more...

MATTHEWS: But that would imply...

WALSH: ... of an answer.

MATTHEWS: That would imply that Republicans have a race problem,
wouldn`t it, though?

WALSH: No.

MATTHEWS: Joan?

WALSH: It would imply that some...

STEELE: Right.

WALSH: It would imply that some people have a race problem. And she
did eventually acknowledge that.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think they do, but I`m not running for anything. I
think they do. There`s a pattern here in this country.

STEELE: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: It`s geographic, and you can find where the real -- the
worst trouble comes from, the usual suspects. But go ahead, Michael.

STEELE: Chris, you don`t know -- you don`t know and you cannot assume
that every Democrat in the South is, you know, sitting there thanking --
you know, thanking heaven that...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... Barack Obama is in the White House. So look, the reality
of it is, Joan is exactly right. There are people in this country who
still have a very narrow view of race. And that is something that is --
you know, for Hillary Clinton, as well as for Barack Obama, it is something
that you want to approach very carefully. So I`m not going to beat her up
too much on the way she answered that question.

MATTHEWS: OK.

STEELE: I think it`s important when you engage in that discussion,
Chris, you fill it out with the appropriate context. You just don`t answer
it in a...

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: ... political moment and let it go.

MATTHEWS: She was very sophisticated. Here -- let`s take a look at
this. Like clockwork, some on the right, on Fox News actually, are
suggesting Hillary was part of some bizarre conspiracy today surrounding
the arrest of that mastermind of the Benghazi attack. They believe the
United States picked up the ringleader today so she`d look good in her
interviews tonight on CNN and Fox.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this crazy talk. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a great thing to announce on an interview
tonight at Fox News that the perpetrators had been brought to Justice.
It`s all too neat! And it`s too cute! And I want to give -- I want to be
grateful. I always want to give the benefit of the doubt to our
authorities. But in this case, it feels too neat on the timing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The timing on this stinks, Gretchen. Let`s face
it. Tonight, Hillary Clinton for the very first time is going to get some
tough questions about Benghazi. Tonight, when that interview hits, there
will be a twin narrative in the media. There will be the Hillary Clinton
interview and there will be the capture of this terrorist. And I don`t
think it`s a coincidence. I think this timing was planned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I think that, Michael, I`m going to let you start
with this. That is true paranoia.

STEELE: (INAUDIBLE) Why? Why?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, whenever you go to a party sometimes, you feel
like everybody knows each other, but you don`t know anybody. That`s that
weird sense of the universe, Michael, that everybody else is in cahoots
against you.

STEELE: Yes. Yes. I know, Chris. I don`t even really want to
dignify all of that (INAUDIBLE) I seriously don`t because, you know, it...

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you glad to be on a network like MSNBC, where we
don`t have truly crazy people regularly appearing?

WALSH: Only occasionally.

STEELE: Oh, we`ve got some crazies here, too!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, look, it`s been a great night...

STEELE: I`m not going to say that.

MATTHEWS: I give Hillary Clinton a home run. That`s a four-bagger.
You give them a three-bagger, Michael. How about you, Joan? You haven`t
given a rating here on Hillary`s performance so far tonight.

WALSH: Inside the park home run. Did I split the difference between
the two of you?

STEELE: I think you did. I think you did.

MATTHEWS: She`s -- by the way, Joan will going on line later to
explain the infield fly rule.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh, and thank you, Michael
Steele.

STEELE: You got it, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: What`s next on the U.S. and Iraq? Are we ready
to take sides now in a religious war? Should we even be in this fight?
Let`s think about it.

And then back to Hillary, in the line of fire on Fox tonight. We`re
going to see how she stood up to questioning from two Fox anchor people in
an interview that took place right after her appearance on CNN tonight.

Also, Los Angeles mayor Garcetti uses a crude word to show his
excitement over the LA Kings victory in the Stanley Cup. That`s in the
"Sideshow," +where it belongs.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the strange matter of Watergate.
It`s an anniversary tonight of the break-in.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: A new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows that at this
early stage in the game, there are already a lot of minds made up about
Hillary Clinton in 2016. Twenty-three percent say it`s a near certainty
that they will vote for her -- that`s 23 percent. And 15 percent in
addition to that say they`ll probably vote for her. That`s 38 percent
altogether, the electorate strongly in Hillary Clinton`s favor -- 38. But
just as many, almost, 37 percent, say there`s no chance -- that`s the
phrase -- that they will ever vote for Clinton in 2016 if she runs.

And look at this stuff. People give Hillary Clinton the highest
rating possible when it comes to qualities like her knowledge, her
experience, her compassion and personal standards. But she gets a negative
score when it comes to being honest and straightforward. That`s going to
hurt.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Iraq`s senior Shi`ite and Sunni
political leaders called for national unity today. But sectarian violence
is on the rise in that country. Shi`ite men are signing up to join
militias, and Sunni extremists are massacring Shi`ites.

Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki shows little sign he is willing
to reconcile with the Sunnis. And yet we keep hearing calls for the U.S.
to get more and more involved in the conflict.

A hundred and seventy military personnel have been sent to help secure
Americans and the U.S. embassy there. The president also has informed
Congress yesterday that up to 275 U.S. soldiers could eventually be
deployed in that country. Meanwhile, there are reports that he, the
president, may send up to a hundred special forces in a training and
advisory capacity.

This all comes as Iraq is showing worrying signs of open sectarian or
religious warfare. In one incident, police said pro-government Shi`ite
militiamen killed dozens of Sunni detainees at a jail outside Baghdad.
According to the Associated Press, Sunni militants stormed the jail to free
the men, but Shi`ite militiamen raced to the scene. Later, the bodies of
the detainees were found with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Meanwhile, there`s more evidence of mass killings from the other side.
The Sunni extremist group ISIS -- here`s Richard Engel reporting on an
unsettling video I couldn`t believe I saw today released by ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fighters from the
al Qaeda offshoot ISIS stopped trucks on the highway between Syria and
Iraq. NBC News can`t independently confirm the video released by ISIS, but
it appears to show the terrifying religious violence tearing this region
apart.

A militant asks the drivers if they are Shi`ite. They claim they are
Sunni, just like the gunmen. The militant asks how Sunnis pray,
specifically. It`s a test. The answers are apparently unsatisfactory.
The three are executed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Barry McCaffrey is a retired four-star general and an MSNBC
military analyst, and Colin Kahl is a senior fellow at the Center for a New
American Security. He was deputy assistant secretary for defense for the
Middle East from 2009 to 2011.

I want to start with General McCaffrey.

I guess the question is, we know hell is breaking loose over in Iraq.
Is it our business? Do we have a national interest in going in there with
our manpower?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we certainly
have a national interest in Iraq.

At the end of the day, we are going to see a Shia-Sunni religious war
fought out Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran. So, we do have interests at stake.
The question is, is there is a vital national security interest that would
call for U.S. military intervention?

The answer pretty categorically, in my judgment, no. It is hard to
imagine what political purpose renewed engagement is going to entail,
except we better be ready to pull 5,000 Americans out of our embassy, which
is going to be some kind of a challenge, if Baghdad turns into a street
fight.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Kahl, it seems to me that Maliki, the guy we -- well,
we gave him the opportunity to get control. He was elected. He is a Shia.
He seems to have built his case with the Shias, of, by and for them.

His government, his politics, everything is aimed at quelling their --
winning their love and basically screwing, if you will, to use an American
expression, the Sunni minority. He also seems to have pretty good ties
with Iran.

How do we turn him from that really very deep strategy of building a
sectarian force politically into being sort of a Franklin Roosevelt with a
big, broad coalition with all kinds of people? How do we do that at this
point?

COLIN KAHL, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: You know,
I`m not sure we can. We have been trying since 2006, when he first became
prime minister.

Look, I think I would disagree a little bit with General McCaffrey, in
the sense that I think do we have an interest in ISIS not establishing a
safe haven in Western Iraq and in Eastern Syria. This is a group that does
very much want to hit the United States.

They share al Qaeda`s ideology and in fact their competition with al
Qaeda in Pakistan gives them an incentive to punch us in the nose if they
can. So, I think we have an interest, a very narrow counterterrorism
interest.

But I share your -- all the concern about us getting involved in a
sectarian civil war, which is why I think the Obama administration is
exactly right that any increased military assistance, whether it be
advisers, or intelligence, or even potentially airstrikes, has to be tied
to a commitment by Maliki and other Iraqi leaders to reach across the
sectarian divide.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know. But let`s not waste time here, sir. You are an
expert.

Do you believe it`s plausible that these political preconditions could
be established before we get involved militarily, or are you already on the
slippery slope to getting us involved militarily and sort of have a wish
sandwich, to use a phrase, that somehow Maliki is going to change?

KAHL: Well, I don`t think it is a yes, no, zero, one equation.

I think that there are things we can do that are fairly limited which
could help, like expedited military equipment and advisers. I don`t think
we should become deeply involved in the case of airstrikes or other things,
unless Maliki and others are willing to make compromises. It`s not clear
that he is, but I`ll tell you this, Chris.

He`s facing an existential crisis. We are putting a lot of pressure
on him and so are the Iranians, frankly. On this issue, we and Iran are
pushing in fact in many of the same directions.

MATTHEWS: You really believe the Iranians want to help the Sunnis?

KAHL: I don`t think thy want to help Sunnis, per se. But they have
an interest in ISIS not establishing a safe haven and they have an interest
in Iraq not becoming a failed state.

MATTHEWS: Well, here is this morning super hawk Bill Kristol, of
course, said the president should go back into Iraq with airpower, special
forces and maybe a few conventional troops. The goal, according to
Kristol, is to essentially be a referee between the warring sides. Let`s
watch him on MSNBC with Gene Robinson and Joe Scarborough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We do what we should
have done in Syria in 2011 and what we should have done in Iraq, which is
we go back in, we try to strengthen what moderates there are.

We have to give the Sunnis an incentive to break from ISIS. How do
the Sunnis have an incentive, unless we`re there to protect them?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Or are we going to stand in
the middle and somehow try to keep these warring sides apart? It...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Yes. That is true. That what we should do, Eugene.

ROBINSON: I don`t see any of those as good options, Bill.

KRISTOL: That is -- it is what we should do.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, stand in the middle and get
shot at by both sides?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Well, there will be a little bit of getting shot at by both
sides. But the alternative, as Richard Engel said eloquently, is an
unbelievable deterioration of the situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: General and Colin, that`s exactly the language that guys
like Kristol, the neocons, were pushing back in 1973, pushing us to try to
play referee in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, right before our Marines were
blown up.

The idea that we are seen as noncombatants, as we are nonpartisans, we
are always taking a side. Obviously, we go in there now, we are taking a
side against ISIS. Who are we kidding that we`re referees?

I want to start with the general.

Why do we lie to ourselves to start with and expect the truth to come
out somewhere along the line? Why would want to lie ourselves into a war?
That`s a lie, that we are not -- that we`re referees in that part of the
world. We take sides, or why else would we go in there?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAFFREY: Chris, here is the deal.

The administration has to write down the purpose they are trying to
achieve in Iraq. Write it down as a political goal, and then end up with a
military response that they think is valid and it going to help. What we
are now seeing are round numbers, small units. Don`t worry. They are not
going to engage in direct combat. They are only going to be there for
advisers.

This is the kind of nonsense that gets us engaged. If we want to
smash ISIS, we probably can do it with 2000, 3,000, 4,000 people, special
ops all over around the country, bring in close air support, B-2 bombers,
et cetera.

But that`s not going to fly with the American people. And it is
unlikely to help a military, four of whose divisions out of 14 just
evaporated in the face of 9,000 fighters. So, we are not yet clearly
thinking about the issue yet.

MATTHEWS: I think thinking would be a good start. And telling the
truth to ourselves would be a good start.

Thank you, General Barry McCaffrey.

And thank you, Colin Kahl.

Up next, Vice President Joe Biden celebrates a big American victory
down in the -- in South America.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Militants continue their march toward Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happening now, Iraq 2.0.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Yes, it`s Iraq 2.0.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And, like any upgrade, it`s faster. Once in a while,
everything crashes, and you get the error message "404: Government Not
Found."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time now for the "Sideshow," of course.

And the advance of ISIS forces toward Baghdad has got many in this
country wondering once again why the United States tried to democratize
Iraq in the first place.

Jon Stewart was on hand last night to have are a man-to-man talk about
how it all began.

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

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": As you know, we
went into Iraq for one reason, and for one reason only.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That`s what this
fight is about in this part of the world, planting the seeds of democracy.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: That seed of
democracy in Iraq.

STEWART: It was about what happens when one country loves another
country very much.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: And that country then deposits his democracy seed, typically
laser-guided, into another country`s, let`s say, fertile crescent.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Next up: The Los Angeles Kings may have won the Stanley
Cup, but they are being upstaged right now by their own victory party
yesterday, when their hometown mayor, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, decided
to add a little shock value to his congratulations speech.

This is what he said on live TV before a sold-out audience at the
Staples Center.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: But there are two rules in
politics. They say never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand and
never swear, but this is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) day. Way to go, guys.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think that`s what I would call showtime. Anyway, it`s
one way to get your point across.

Finally -- you know what word he used.

Finally, in other sports news, team USA beat Ghana 2-1 in the American
teams` first World Cup game in Brazil last night. Vice President Joe Biden
in Brazil on a four-country tour of Latin America dropped by the winners`
locker room after the match. He was clearly in high spirits, as he
congratulated the players.

Up next: in the line of fire, Hillary Clinton again in her interview
on FOX tonight that ended just moments ago. We are going to catch up with
Hillary, how she`s doing tonight. So far, she`s hitting homers.

Back here in the place for politics in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Two deaths are blamed on the powerful twin tornadoes that tore through
Nebraska on Monday. The storms destroyed most of the town of Pilger.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has declared a state of emergency.

President Obama is in New York City for a series of fund-raisers,
including a high-dollar event at the home of "Vogue" editor Anna Wintour.

And in Iraq, a car bombing in a Shiite area of Baghdad left 10 people
dead and another 25 injured. The blast hit a crowded outdoor market -- now
back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Hillary Clinton, as I said, wasn`t done when she finished up her hour-
long -- hour-long town hall meeting on CNN. Forty-five minutes later,
Secretary Clinton went into the lion`s den itself, FOX News, to face
questions from Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren.

And to the surprise of no one who has watched FOX over the last two
years, the first -- count them -- eight questions -- eight questions were
about Benghazi. Big surprise. And soon after that, there were more.

Joining me right now is Michelle Bernard, president of the Bernard
Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, and Jeanne Cummings, who is
deputy managing editor at Bloomberg News.

Thank you for joining us.

Let`s take a look right at this. Secretary Clinton gave a clear, I
think precise, detailed account of where she was the night of the Benghazi
attack and whom she talked to. Let`s listen to her ticktock here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We were in
direct communication, insofar as it was possible, because, remember, they
were under heavy attack.

We had a lot going on for those diplomatic security officers to deal
with. And then, as you know, the attack later moved to the CIA annex.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Did you talk to
Secretary Panetta that night?

CLINTON: I talked with Director Petraeus. I talked on a video --
secure videoconference with a full array of officials.

I knew, because I had talked with the national security adviser, Tom
Donilon, that both Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey were doing
everything they could.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: We had open lines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Secretary Clinton also was crisp and clear on the
president`s whereabouts when the Benghazi attack happened. Let`s listen to
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Do you know where the president was through the attack?

CLINTON: The president was in the White House. The president was in
the Oval Office when I got word of the attack. And I called the White
House, asking for National Security Adviser Donilon, who is our point of
contact for the entire government, which would mean CIA, DOD, and others.

And I was told, well, he`s in with the president and with Secretary
Panetta and General Dempsey. And I said, well, I need to talk to all of
them. And I know from my conversations with Panetta, Dempsey, and Donilon
and the president, that at that moment, the president said to our defense
officials, do everything you can to help our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jeanne, it seemed the FOX cannons were in fixed positions
tonight, eight questions on Benghazi. But they didn`t show a lot of what -
- I would call it -- what didn`t they do? They didn`t scamper too much in
answering -- asking interesting questions.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It was interesting that they went
there first.

And this has been a very big issue for them. They have been
monitoring all of the probes and investigations of that Benghazi attack.
So, it makes sense that that would be the area that they would hit first.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But also where she would be the most prepared.

CUMMINGS: Exactly.

I mean, he went through a series of very specific questions that, if
you had seen -- had read her book, she does a whole chapter on this. And
she had the answers at the ready for that. So she was prepared to answer
all of those questions. And I don`t know -- in listening to it, I don`t --
I didn`t hear anything that was particularly new.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was interesting, Michelle, that when you write
a book, I have noticed -- well, I have experienced it -- you really do
spend time getting the questions out of your head, the questions you want
to answer, the questions your editor raises in the case of Hillary Clinton,
where you have a combined effort to get a book out, where she must have
known all these questions, because she seemed to have them ready, pretty
clearly, at the moment they were asked.

It was real-time performance I thought tonight.

MICHELLE BERNARD, FOUNDER, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS AND
POLICY: Well, I thought -- I actually thought the interview was pretty
extraordinary, not so much the questions.

You know, in looking at sort of the tone and tenor of the interview,
of the questions that we saw coming from Bret Baier, the questions were
kind of boring. What I found to be so intriguing about her answer is how I
think you -- once again, if we believe that she`s going -- she`s running
for president -- and I absolutely think she is -- I think it was intriguing
to look at how she`s reaching out to the FOX demographic, because in the
CNN interview, she distanced herself from the president on questions of how
we would deal with Syria and how she would deal with Afghanistan.

On the question of Benghazi, by her talking about the fact that she
was at home and that the president was the person was the person who was in
the White House, with Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey, and Tom
Donilon, you`re left with that question, you know, if she had been in the
White House, in the Oval Office, with those three men, at that time, had
been given an opportunity to make the, quote/unquote, "hard choice", would
Benghazi have turned out differently?

And I thought, I don`t know if it was done purposefully or not, but I
think it gave her an excellent opportunity to show to a FOX audience that
she is to the right of President Obama on issues of national security.

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute here. What would have been a tougher
position that she could have taken conceptually that night?

BERNARD: You know, honestly, Chris, I don`t know, because I don`t
know all of the information that was coming into them during the interview.

MATTHEWS: No, but just generally, what would she have done? What
would a tougher person, what would a FOX viewer want done that night?

BERNARD: A FOX viewer would want to know that they are doing
everything they could to deal with what was happening in Benghazi. And I
think a FOX viewer or somebody who is very tough on national security and
very hawkish would like someone who says, basically, I would have told them
to go in and blow those people up and make sure that our people came up
unharmed. I think that`s what a FOX viewer might be looking at.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you can do both. Jeanne, I want to tell
you something. I heard Hillary Clinton, and I have heard this before. She
was at the State Department almost all night. She eventually went home.

I think this argument, I don`t buy that, what you just said, Michelle.
I just don`t buy it.

I don`t think she was trying to distance herself, because all through
these interviews in this evening, Jeanne, I think she`s been adopting to
her role as a deputy to the president, not trying to out -- except in one
case where she said she would have gone and supported moderate forces in
Syria two years ago.

BERNARD: But that is a difference --

: That is an area where she has put some space between the president
and herself. I found it interesting tonight on FOX where she said she`s
not at all in favor of negotiations and communications with Iran in dealing
with what`s going on in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

: And, you know, we don`t know where the administration is going to
end up on that particular question. Secretary Kerry has opened some
informal discussions with Iran. And I was a little bit surprised that
Hillary Clinton drew a pretty clear line in the sand for herself on that.
And we`ll see how events play out for the Obama administration.

This could turn out to be another area where they have a differing
view.

MATTHEWS: Yes, in the Middle East, she`s definitely to the right.
She`s never pushed Netanyahu on the issue of settlements like this
administration has, where Kerry has.

Back to you, Michelle. Your thought?

BERNARD: My thought was I think, I respectfully disagree with both of
you and Jeanne in this area. I think if you look at the two interviews and
interviews she`s been given over the last few weeks on issues of national
security and certain issues where we look at voting demographics, she`s
distancing herself from President Obama.

Did you notice tonight in the CNN interview when she was asked, for
example, are there people who are racist in terms of how they deal with
President Obama? She fused to ever come out and say there were instances
of racism. However, in the FOX interview, she did say to Greta van
Susteren, sexism is still a problem today. That indicates to me that she`s
reaching out to women voters and not necessarily African-American voters,
at least this point in time. But that`s just my opinion.

MATTHEWS: But, Michelle, after she refused to say people were
operating against her, operating against the president because of his
African-American background, she did say that prejudice against people of
color, prejudice against people who are women, prejudice against people who
are gay, she went through the whole lineage of our country`s history and
said, of course, they are evident in our society. She just didn`t want tie
together, which I think is smart politically.

They don`t take people and tie their motives to something particular
when you can`t read their minds. And I think she`s being careful.

BERNARD: She`s being very careful, I agree to you. I think that some
of the interviews that we saw tonight, Hillary Clinton was reaching out to
voters that in 2007 or 2008, Barack Obama said were people who get scared
of people who are different to them. And they cling to religion, or they
cling to guns or they have anti-immigrant sentiment. And I think she`s got
to reach out to that demographic. And that`s what we saw here doing on FOX
tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I said before, Michelle, I believe people have
been opposing President Obama, many of them because of his background,
because of his race, absolutely.

Anyway, thank you, Michelle Bernard. But I`m not running. Thank you,
Michelle Bernard. Thank you, Jeanne Cummings.


Up next, a burning question for more than four decades. Who
personally ordered the Watergate break-in back in `72 on this day?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: One week to go before the run-off Senate election in
Mississippi. The Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel looks strong.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new poll from The
Polling Company, McDaniel has a 12-point lead over incumbent six-term
Senator Thad Cochran. It`s McDaniel, 52, Cochran just 40.

Some Democrats believe, perhaps too hopefully, that McDaniel`s far out
statements as a radio jock could make him vulnerable come November.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It was 42 years ago today that five men were arrested trying to bug
the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office
complex in Washington. The break-in at the Watergate spawned a series of
revelations and cover-ups that led to the resignation of President Richard
Nixon in August of 1974.

In his 1978 memoir entitled "R.N.", Nixon said, after all this there
was no evidence that anyone in the White House had been involved in the
Watergate break-in. But in 2003, 31 years after the break-in, Jeb
Magruder, a former Nixon White House aide, who went to jail in the
Watergate affair, insisted that Nixon himself had ordered the break-in.

Here he is Magruder on NBC`s "Today" show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liddy thought the Republicans needed intelligence
on the Democrats.

JEB MAGRUDER, PARTICIPATED IN WATERGATE: Well, I don`t think Liddy
fought it. I think he was told by the White House to prepare some plans
and we had rejected all six of them except the Watergate plan, and the
president got on the phone and said, "We need to get the information on
Larry O`Brien, so let`s go with the Liddy plan."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You actually heard the president?

MAGRUDER: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, four decades later, fascination with the attempted
bugging that toppled a president remains.

Douglas Brinkley is a presidential historian, and Tom DeFrank is an
author and contributing editor to "National Journal."

Doug, thank you for this for coming on tonight. This is fascinating,
because it took 31 years for someone to say, nail Richard Nixon, himself.
Do you think that`s credible the way he describes that conversation where
Nixon sort of bugged in or interrupted a conversation between John Mitchell
and the others?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It`s plausible, Chris, but
I wouldn`t bet any money on it. Jeb Magruder switched his story
constantly. He was almost a professional liar. He told so many different
versions that a scholar looking into this can`t really know what Jeb
Magruder really thinks.

With that said, you know, look, either Nixon knew or John Mitchell
knew, it seemed like it did come from the White House, but I don`t think
Magruder is a footnotable source because he wasn`t credible.

MATTHEWS: Tom?

TOM DEFRANK, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, he may or may not have been
credible. Maybe he was just trying to assuage some of his own guilt. He
was 68 or 69 years old when he made those revelations. It`s clear, it`s
kind of like the Hitler diaries that turned out to be fake. Somebody once
wrote it almost didn`t matter.

I mean, the bottom line was the conspiracy reached all the way to top
levels of the White House, and it`s fairly clear, I think, most scholars
and historians now believe that if not President Nixon, himself, some of
his closest aides ordered the break-in.

MATTHEWS: Well, I always thought, in fact, I wrote about it in my
book that Nixon had a determination back then, obsession to find, prove
that Democratic Party chairman Larry O`Brien was on the payroll of the
mysterious tycoon, Howard Hughes. In the book, "Kennedy and Nixon" I wrote
years ago, anyway, O`Brien, quote, "O`Brien`s not going to get away with
it, Bob," Nixon told his top guy Haldeman, more eager than ever to get to
the details of O`Brien`s Hughes connection into print." He wanted it in
newspapers.

Quote, "We`re going to get proof of his relationship with Hughes and
just when he`s done for the money." Yet Nixon was frustrated at his
campaign`s failure to find dirt on the Democrats.

Back to you, Doug.

It seems to me that Nixon always wanted to get even for the fact that
he paid brutally back in `62 for the connection where his brother had
gotten the $250,000 so-called loan from Hughes and then Nixon knew that
Larry O`Brien, the top Kennedy guy that chairman of the Democratic National
Committee was also on the payroll of Hughes and he wanted that in print and
he wanted to get the dirt.

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. You know, Chuck Holston used to say Nixon was
part of the knee in the groin school of politics. I mean, he came up just
going after everybody when he ran for Congress, when he ran for senator.
He was the pit bull for the Eisenhower campaign in 1952 and `56.

He really liked rough and tumble politics and wanted to get O`Brien.
He thought he could him on what he said and also by bugging the Watergate,
they thought there`s information that Cuba had a connection to the
Democratic Party that some Cuban, you know, Castro types were funneling
money into the Democratic Party. Hence the break-in.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Tom, it seems so much of Richard Nixon as we know is
a result of his life in politics. He felt that he had had a break-in when
he was running for Congress the first time. The press never liked him.
Even when he was right about Alger Hiss, the president didn`t like him.
Eisenhower never liked him. Kennedy beat him and Kennedy got away with a
lot of personal stuff we all know that he never got caught.

I think Nixon didn`t understand that he`s one of these people that
gets caught, you know, like Ted Kennedy gets caught. Some people get away
with everything and some people get caught. Nixon led his life as if he
wasn`t going to get caught and he did.

DEFRANK: And he was -- he had real paranoid tendency. He had demons.
I mean, I remember Jerry Ford once said to me, Richard Nixon was the 90
percent a good person, there was 5 percent or 10 percent of his persona
that was bad.

And at time, the bad just simply overwhelmed the vast majority of the
good Nixon. And it usually came in situations like this, Chris, where he
felt like he`d been screwed his entire life by political enemies and it was
time for payback.

MATTHEWS: I remember Henry Kissinger, who can be one tough customer
said of Nixon, if only someone has loved him. Unbelievable.

Thank you, Tom DeFrank. Thank you, Doug Brinkley. I always look to
your history books.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the strange matter of Watergate.
It sits there as a moment in our history that could well be hard for future
generations to even fathom. People from overseas, I think of France, never
did grasp what all the excitement and condemnation was about back then. I
think it`s a case of you had to be there.

For all kinds of reasons, past history, psychological, logical self-
protection, President Richard Nixon decided to create a group of plumbers -
- that`s what he called them -- to operate outside the official
investigative agencies of the United States. He wanted stuff done that the
legitimate authorities would not do for him or decided they would not do
for them.

He wanted secrecy about his own policymaking. He also wanted to know
the Democrats` secrets. He wanted to know what the Kennedy people were up
to, the people who had beaten him and humiliated him back in 1960. And
again, he believed when he lost the California governorship race two years
later.

Richard Nixon tried to cover up the Watergate break-in. If he ordered
the break-in, that certainly made sense. If he didn`t order it, he still
felt the need to try to have his people get away with it. Again, you had
to be there.

Nixon made the big mistake of telling the American people one thing,
that he didn`t engage in a cover-up. And what`s found out on the White
House tapes to have done just that. And once that happened, the American
people couldn`t have him as their president. No one knew that better than
his own party. Those who knew they could no longer defend him.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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