<Date: September 4, 2013>
<Head: Rumors of War, MSNBC - Part 2>
<Sect: News; Domestic>
<Byline: Chris Matthews, Robert Gibbs, David Corn, Eugene Robinson, Chris
<Guest: Rep. Rush Holt, Dana Milbank, Ted Yoho, Jonathan Martin>
<High: The Senate Foreign Relations committee approves a resolution
authorizing use of force in Syria, but the sides aren`t lining up the way
they usually do.>
<Spec: Politics; Syria; Congress; War>
CORN: Of course.
CORN: Obama has backed himself into a corner with this red line.
MATTHEWS: You got the bomb, they won`t shoot the cruise missiles anymore. And I`m not giving any advice here to the mullahs.
CORN: Oh, you just did.
MATTHEWS: Oh, thank you. I`m sure somebody...
MILBANK: And you agreed with Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: I think they`re smarter -- well, maybe not smarter than me, and that would be ironic.
Anyway, thank you, David Corn. That`s you.
CORN: That`s me.
MATTHEWS: And that`s you, Dana Milbank.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the "Sideshow."
I didn`t mean to send any good ideas over to those guys.
By the way, somehow, something you might have missed the last 12 weeks. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics -- that guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You can`t use chemicals to kill your own people. You have to do it organically.
STEWART: America and the world wants to make sure Assad only used locally sourced free long-range lead ordnance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome to the "Sideshow."
That`s of course Jon Stewart on President Obama`s stand against the use of chemical weapons last night. Well, the longtime "Daily Show" host is back in the anchor chair after spending the last 12 weeks in the Middle East, where he was directing a movie. But Stewart apparently had more difficulty adjusting to life back in the States than you might think. Check out the sketch that opened his show last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JOHN OLIVER, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Jon is back. Hey, Stewby (ph)?
What? OK. OK. That`s nice. No. How you doing? Hey, Jess, we have a huge problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What, are you still hosting the show?
OLIVER: Hey. No. Jon`s back, but I think the Middle East has changed him. He`s not even acting American. Get a defibrillator and two Big Macs. Let`s do this.
OLIVER: Hey, Jon? Clear.
STEWART: Obamacare can suck Paula Deen`s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for all I care.
I mean, it`s a politically correct culture. Why can`t we say that word?
OLIVER: No, no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Glad to see him back. Anyway, "The Tonight Show" put its own spin on the Syria question last night. Here was Jay Leno explaining the dilemma facing President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Are you confused by this whole Syrian situation? It is confusing. Here`s a video metaphor that will maybe help explain the situation. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The following is a video metaphor for President Barack Obama`s Syrian dilemma.
This guy represents what would happen if we bomb Assad, which would mean we would be siding with the rebels who are members of al Qaeda. This guy represents what will happen if we don`t bomb Assad, which would send a message to Iran that we won`t do anything to stop their nuclear weapons program. Either way, it`s a lose/lose situation. This has been a video metaphor for President Obama`s Syrian dilemma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I wonder if that just happened -- while -- or ever happened.
While Leno may think a U.S. intervention is a lose/lose situation, most pundits have described it as a high-risk gamble.
And during yesterday`s Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator McCain made some gambles himself, in poker, that is. A "Washington Post" photographer caught a glimpse of the senator playing the game on his phone as Secretaries Kerry and Hagel were testifying. McCain tweeted afterwards -- quote -- "Scandal. Caught playing iPhone game at three-and-a-half-hour Senate hearing. Worst of all, I lost."
We will be back in a moment. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De La Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.
Tonight, President Obama was in Stockholm attending a dinner with leaders of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. Earlier, the president reiterated the need for military action in Syria.
James Comey was sworn in as the new director of the FBI, taking over for Robert Mueller.
And an autopsy confirmed Ariel Castro hanged himself in prison. his suicide comes a month after he was sentenced to life for keeping three women in his Cleveland home for a decade.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The use of chemical weapons is a barbarous act. It`s pretty clear to me that the United Nations is unable to take action, NATO not likely to take action. I`m going to support the president`s call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.
We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we`re not going to tolerate this type of behavior.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Hundreds of children were killed. This is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior. And we must respond. I do not -- in my district, I don`t think people are convinced that military action is necessary, but it`s important for them to know that the weapons of mass destruction`s use has taken us to a different place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
As we told you earlier, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the use of force in Syria in a vote of 10-7 today and setting up a showdown for the full Senate. The major showdown will happen next week when the full Congress returns to Washington from its August recess. President Obama will need every vote he can get in the Senate and the House to support intervention in Syria.
But Republicans and Democrats alike in both bodies are split over the debate on a military strike.
Joining me right now is a member of one of those bodies, U.S. Congressman Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida who is opposed to military action, and Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer, columnist, national columnist for "The Washington Post" who supports the call for a strike.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
I guess the main argument, the big picture argument raised by the people, including your speaker of the House, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, is that this has to be a message-sending operation, that we have to signal Iran especially that we`re not going to condone the development of nuclear weapons by them, and the way we do that is to signal we`re not going to permit the use of chemical weapons by Syria.
REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: I don`t support that.
I represent the people of North-Central Florida, and overwhelmingly 98 percent have said to stay out of Syria. So, I have got to listen to the people of my district. And if we`re going to enter in on that effect and if you go back to the CWC agreement that was signed by over 189 nations, where are the other 188 demanding that we come together and bring the U.N., bring NATO, bring the Arab League, and we sit down on one side of the table and demand Mr. Assad sits down at the other side and bring a close to this?
And through diplomacy, I think we can get a resolution and an end to this conflict, not with military. Our foreign policy for the last 30 years has led us down to this path where we`re at today. And I think to continue on the same old, same old, it`s is like Groundhog Days.
And we need to change course. And this is an opportunity in America for America to show leadership to bring people to the table and show that we can resolve this and we can get this done and we can win this without guns and bombs. And that`s a new direction for our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Is that your position toward Iran in regard to nuclear weapons, that we shouldn`t use violence, we shouldn`t do a preemptive strike, we shouldn`t support the hard-line positions of, say, Bibi Netanyahu in Israel? Is that your consistent policy, do not use violence, do not use military weaponry to stop countries from violating what are the norms of weapons of mass destruction?
YOHO: That`s my policy.
But go back to the CWC. That agreement was stated that any country that produced, stored, transported, sold, or used chemical weapons or WMDs were in violation. So when do you start doing that? When do you draw that line? And I don`t want to talk about red lines, but once you do that, do you act in totality or do you act in, you know, we will pick and choose who we`re going to attack? And I think it`s a very dangerous thing and I think we need diplomacy at this point in time in our country.
MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, that`s the argument made by Rush Holt, the former -- the member actually from New Jersey -- made the other argument. He made the same argument, that why should we be the world`s policemen of the international norms if the international organizations are not going to take steps?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, maybe we shouldn`t have to be, but guess what? If we`re not, nothing`s going to happen. I mean, it`s very clear nothing`s going to happen. The U.N. Security Council is going to do nothing because Russia is an ally of Syria and Russia is not going to allow anything to happen.
And where are the other nations? Well, some are supporting publicly, a few. A few are supporting privately. But they`re not going to do anything. And when you look at the list of nations that has the capacity to do anything, I mean, what the president is talking about -- and I take him at his word -- is a punitive strike, not an attempt to chart the outcome of the Syrian civil war.
I think the use of chemical weapons is a very big deal and a very, very bad thing. And I think there should be punitive action, and, you know, not fair that we have to take it, but I don`t know who else is going to do it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman, would you take the same -- I know this sounds pushy, but would you take the same position if Mitt Romney were commander in chief right now?
YOHO: Yes, sir, I would. This is not -- this is not party politics. This is what`s best for America. And again, we`ve been down this road.
And I disagree with the gentleman that just spoke that we need to take the lead in this. You know, I asked that to John Kerry. Why America? Why does America need to be in front when 189 countries have signed this pact?
And his response is the world expects it. We did it in World War II. But my comeback to that was in World War II, we entered that war because we got attacked in Pearl Harbor. Our allies Germany and France were attacked. We had no option.
There are options on the table. We have not -- we have not brought those to full fruition yet.
And talking about Russia -- Russia in the paper today said that they would reconsider their stance if the evidence was 100 percent conclusive. I think that`s a huge move on Russia`s part. And if Russia could do that, I think China could do that.
And I think with America supporting so many of these foreign countries around the world with our aid --
YOHO: -- we need to use the clout of America`s aid and say, listen, if you want our aid you come to the table and help us negotiate peace without war. And that`s what I want to do.
MATTHEWS: It`s surprising to hear this from a Republican conservative because you are one and you are conservative. And yet, you`re saying that your view is the same towards -- it`s consistent with your view towards Iran.
I`ve been in this business now of covering politics for years and all I`ve heard from the conservative side of things is we`ve got to be aggressive with regard to Iran. We`ve got to draw red lines. We have to stop them from weaponizing the nuclear program. We have to make sure, even if we have to attack them ahead of time or support Israel and attack them or working together with Israel.
And now, you`re saying that norm doesn`t apply. You would not support an aggressive step to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. That seems odd to hear from you.
YOHO: Well, Mr. Matthews, I ran as a Republican but I also ran as an American. You know, our problems today, not just in America but around the world, are bigger than Republicans and are bigger than Democrats. We`ve got to come together as Americans --
YOHO: -- to solve the problems we have. And I ran on that and I will not waver from that.
MATTHEWS: And you don`t have any problems supporting this president as our legitimate commander-in-chief, you don`t question his legitimacy?
YOHO: No, sir. He`s been enough over -- he`s been under enough scrutiny. I think we need to move on from there.
In fact, the issue about his birth certificate came up at a town hall and people wanted me to pursue that. I said, is that where you want us to spend our time for three and a half years? It was probably 99 percent said absolutely not.
We need to move beyond that.
YOHO: We`ve got $17 trillion in debt that this country is facing. We`ve got Social Security failing. Medicare is failing. And we`re talking about going into another war? Give me a break.
MATTHEWS: So you accept the fact he was a born American?
YOHO: I`m not -- no comment.
MATTHEWS: No comment? In other words, you question the president`s legitimacy.
YOHO: I disappointed you, didn`t I?
MATTHEWS: Well -- no, you didn`t. I`ve never met you, sir. So I don`t know what disappointment would mean in this case. But you do surprise me when you say -- after saying you oppose the president, and now you say he`s legitimate, then you, but I don`t think he`s necessarily a native born American, a natural born American.
YOHO: I didn`t say that. I just said no comment. What you said was I said that --
MATTHEWS: What did you mean?
YOHO: What I would like to say is I haven`t studied it enough to come back with an intelligent answer so I will not respond. And I`d rather get back to Syria.
MATTHEWS: When do you intend to find out whether the president is legitimate? When would you put time into that discovery?
YOHO: Let`s get Syria taken care of and let`s get our debt taken care of. Then, you and I can have a one-on-one and I`d be happy to talk to you.
MATTHEWS: Are you a birther then?
YOHO: I`m not going to comment on that, Chris. We came here to talk about Syria.
MATTHEWS: OK, fine. I appreciate it. You`ve stated your position well. Thank you for coming on, Congressman. I mean it. Thank you for expressing your views.
YOHO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, you never know what you`re going to hear here, do you?
ROBINSON: Live television.
MATTHEWS: Anyway. Up next, what happens in 2013 doesn`t stay in `13. How the Syria vote could determine the 2016 presidential election.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the sticky problem Syria poses for 2016 presidential candidates. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a commander-in-chief. I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Any doubt that the votes of position staked now on Syria could have enormous consequences for a potential 2016 run should be put to rest by that clip. Among the potential contenders who know this -- Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Marco Rubio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t want see a clear cut or compelling American interest. I see a horrible tragedy, but I don`t see that our involvement will lessen the tragedy. I think it may well make the tragedy worse.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That`s why young men and women sign up to join the military. Not to do, as you know, serve as al Qaeda`s air force.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This idea that a military response is the only way to respond to what`s happening in Syria is just not true. Instead our response should have -- should have always been and should still be a multifaceted plan to help the Syrian people get rid of Assad and replace him with a secular and moderate government they deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Those are just the potential contenders who have to vote on Syria. There are others, of course, like Chris Christie and Scott Walker who can sit on the sidelines for now and not have to vote.
Joining me right now is "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza, and "The New York Times`" Jonathan Martin.
I want to start guys in an unusual way. I want to offer you a premise. I believe this is a road map. I`m going to say it at the end of the show. You watch the Republicans and how they walk right now, and you can you see the road map to where they think this election is going in 2016. The campaign will begin, what, Chris, in two weeks? It`s going to begin pretty soon.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: If it hasn`t already, yes.
MATTHEWS: My question is, Rand Paul is -- I predicted he will be the nominee, you don`t have to agree with that, he`s the pathfinder for where this party`s going. It`s time for eruption, a volcanic eruption in the party. They`re going hard right and he`s their leader.
CILLIZZA: So, Chris, I would say I`m not sure he`s going to be the nominee, but I do feel very confident that he`s the prime mover in the party right now, which is that he acts and others react.
We saw that with his filibuster early in the year on drone strikes which is not exactly -- sort of opposition to drone strikes is not typically an issue where you see Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, all coming down to the floor of the Senate to support him. And, you know, whether Marco Rubio and his people like it or not, I think the narrative that comes out of that vote, Rand Paul was quite clearly always going to be a no.
There was some debate over where Marco Rubio may come down. He comes down as a no.
We know for a fact that Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are watching how each other votes, seeing how it goes. I do think you`re right -- the libertarian strain within the Republican Party. I think people underestimate its power.
I think Rand Paul is the figure that best coalesces that group. Again, he`s the prime mover in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: When you`re out there, do you sense the libertarian mood is stronger -- the party of the Rudy Giuliani instinct, just four years, eight years ago, remember? All Giuliani did was saying 9/11 and everybody shut up, like Ron Paul had to shut up.
JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think the combination of a decade of war, and that impact on the party, and the country more broadly, combined with the fact that you`ve got a Democrat in the White House, has, yes, led to an ascendant isolationist mood in the Republican Party. The question is, how deep does that go?
MARTIN: We know it`s happening in the grassroots. Is it happening in the donor class? That`s what you talk about --
MATTHEWS: Well, probably not. But if Iowa is the first donor class, the people that give their votes -- let me ask you about the thing you just said --
MARTIN: It`s very much in Iowa. And keep in mind, Iowa across the board, it`s a pretty dovish state, Democrat or Republican. It always has been.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the thing you just touched on and, Chris, respond.
This anti-Obama, I have a sense what you want to do is position yourself as a Republican, as the most anti-Obama person running.
MATTHEWS: It`s the easiest -- the inside rail. Is part of that going on here, not the ideological, we`re all Ayn Rand enthusiasts, than Rand is, but that -- and all libertarians. But they really don`t like the cooties, if you will. Like we used to say, don`t get your cooties on me when we were in school. I was ten foot from Obama I didn`t feel comfortable, you know?
Is that part of this too, just don`t be an Obama associate?
MARTIN: I think the big challenge that Chris Christie has and it`s a temporary challenge, but it`s certainly a real one, is the mere proximity. You`re talking about cooties. Seriously, the mere proximity that Christie had to Obama on the Jersey Shore, if you talk Republican activists today, 10 months later, 11 months later, that`s still the issue that comes up.
Not any stance he has, not any issue, it`s the fact that Christie was next to Obama on the Jersey Shore a year ago after the hurricane. So, yes, that`s going to be a challenge.
The question is, does that fade at all in 2016.
MATTHEWS: How about in this vote? Is that another disincentive to vote with the president on Syria?
MARTIN: Keep in mind, Chris, George W. Bush got the nomination in 2000. His party had impeached President Clinton. He ran against not just President Clinton, although he did, he ran against Washington generally.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MARTIN: So, he was certainly an establishment figure. I think there is recent history here.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back. Let me go to Chris.
Is this a further disincentive for the Republican not to vote with the president, on anything, but especially an act of war?
CILLIZZA: So, first of all, I take the senators at their words who voted against it, that it`s based on principle. And I would say it relates to Rand Paul, this is not a new position that Rand Paul has arrived at. Rand Paul has been very consistent as his father was in saying, look, we need to rethink our involvement abroad.
CILLIZZA: I would say, I do think the sort of success of -- we haven`t talked about him all that much -- but the success Ted Cruz -- if you want to say, who gets the biggest response from early state audiences, it`s Ted Cruz. What is Ted Cruz defined as? Repeal Obamacare, sort of the most anti-Obama candidate.
None of these guys, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, none of them operate in a political vacuum, they all look around and see what the others are doing. I think the uproarious appeal that Ted Cruz is getting is not lost in the Marco Rubio --
MATTHEWS: OK. Great. Thank you so much.
Chris, thank you much. Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Martin, thank you so much from "new York Times" and from "The Washington Post". We got the biggies here.
And we`ll be right. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this.
I believe that this debate over Syria is offering a roadmap to the Republican nomination for President next time.
The candidate who wishes to be the nominee will be the one who positions himself as directly as possible against President Obama.
You know. It`s for the simple new definition of the Republican Party: it`s the anti-Obama party. The more you hate Obama, the more you are deeply entrenched in the deepest bunker of the GOP. The further away from Obama, the further right you are -- and that is the safest place to be come campaign time.
So watch this episode, the testing zone, this ground-zero for political posturing. Rand Paul voted against the Syrian resolution today. Marco Rubio, another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, followed him, also voting "Nay."
Watch when we get to the Senate floor. It will be the same -- anyone who wants in in 2016 will vote to stay out of Syria.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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