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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. Beto O'Rourke

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CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Hardball College Tour With Beto O`Rourke live  from the University of Houston.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Beto.

O`ROURKE: How are you?

MATTHEWS: Beto O`Rourke.

O`ROURKE: Yes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Whose house?

AUDIENCE: Coogs House!

MATTHEWS: Coogs House!

O`ROURKE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Did you learn that? That`s how we talk here at the University  of Houston.
I want to get to a lot of things about you, where you come from, how you  got your nickname and all -- nickname.

But let`s talk about the news tonight and what`s happened this past week.  Some people see a connection about the president`s rhetoric about invasions  and things like that and the horrors of the last week.

By the horrors, I mean the bombs being dropped at the media doorstep. I`m  talking about two African-American guys being shot dead. I`m talking about  the attack on that synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The atmospherics -- how much is this president responsible for those  atmospherics?

O`ROURKE: The invitation to hate openly, unapologetically, to call Mexican  immigrants rapists and criminals, to call asylum seekers animals, an  infestation, to describe white nationalists, Klansmen, neo-Nazis as very  fine people, that has certainly contributed to the environment that we see  in this country at this moment.
The challenge, though, is not to assess blame, but to try to lead by  example. That`s what I see here in Houston, the most diverse city in the  United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: That`s what I see in the people of Texas.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: And understanding that our very strength is premised that we are  from all over the world.
And we have come together here in the greatest nation that the world has  ever known. We`re going to shine through right now at this moment of  division, this moment of polarization, this moment of smallness and  pettiness and meanness.

We`re going to come through with our courage, with our confidence, with our  strength. I know that because I have traveled the state. I have been with  everyone. That`s what Texas wants to do right now. I`m very confident  that, on November 6, you`re going to see that in action.

MATTHEWS: We have seen leaders during times of great stress in this  country and horror and tragedy.
Bobby Kennedy, for example, after Dr. King was killed, that night, he  walked into Indianapolis, and he talked to a black community. And he  appealed to them to understand common humanity and to try to get past this.
Do you think, if Trump acted like that, the country would be different?  Can he act like that? Is he capable of it personally?

O`ROURKE: I don`t think he`s capable of it. But that doesn`t have to  limit who we are as a people.
We are more than the president of the United States, the current occupant  of the White House. I know that from traveling the state and finding  Republicans who may have voted for Trump who don`t approve of this kind of  behavior, this kind of rhetoric…

MATTHEWS: Right.

O`ROURKE: … that we`re seeing nationally.

I see people who want to be defined not by our fears, not who we`re  supposed to be scared of, but by our ambitions, our aspirations, the great  things that we still want to do.

This idea of walls or banning all people based on their religion…

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: … or the press as the enemy of the people, or tearing kids  away from their parents at their most vulnerable or desperate moment,  that`s not us. That`s not the United States of America.

But in a democracy, where the people are the government and the government  is the people, it`s on every single one of us to make that change. This  election, on the 6th of November, is our chance to do that.
And if the early voter turnout is any indication, the people of Texas are  standing up to be counted and to make this change right now.

MATTHEWS: I just talked on the phone an hour ago to Congressman Joe  Kennedy of Massachusetts, the grandson of Robert Kennedy.

And he said that what separates you from other politicians he knows is that  you basically don`t worry about polls. You don`t ask about opinion  surveys. You don`t check out how people are -- where their heads are  going.

He said you have a faith in the goodness of the American people -- explain  -- to do the right thing.

O`ROURKE: Yes.

Our only poll is visiting the 254 counties of Texas, having town halls all  over the place, never discriminating based on party affiliation or who you  last voted for, for president, finding out how you want to come together  and decide the future of this country.

It`s been the most inspiring, the most hopeful, the most thrilling, the  most optimistic journey of my life, to be with the people of Texas all over  the state of Texas.

When you add to that having the courage of your convictions, never taking a  poll to find out where you fall on an issue, not needing a weatherman to  know which way the wind blows, you can say who you are. And the people  know that.

And if we owe those who will decide this election anything, it is our  candor, it is our beliefs, it is listening to them and reflecting their  stories out on the campaign trail and the service that we want to provide  in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: You know, over the weekend, the president had an opportunity to  do something like that.
We had the horror at that synagogue, 11 people killed. A religious killing  really was what it was. It was like out of the Middle Ages kind of thing  or the worst part of the 20th century.

The president went right out on the stump, right on stirring things up  again, blaming everything on a congresswoman from California, or Nancy  Pelosi, getting the -- why do you think he thinks that`s a winner? Because  he must think that`s going to do something for him, stirring it up.

O`ROURKE: I don`t know why he thinks that.

It`s up to us, the people, to decide if it is a winning strategy, to blame  the press, to blame migrants and refugees, to blame others.

MATTHEWS: It got him elected.

O`ROURKE: Yes, it may have contributed to his election.

But it`s up to us to decide who we are. There`s this great line from Harry  Truman, that the American people are founded not on fear, but on courage,  on imagination, an unstoppable determination to do the job at hand.
I think that still describes us. I believe our best days are yet ahead,  that we don`t have to return to some form of greatness. We don`t have to  literally physically, through 2,000 miles of wall, separate ourselves from  the rest of the world.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: We don`t have to renege on our agreements, on our values, on the  alliances that we have fought for and established and secured over the last  80 years.

All of that is happening during this administration. That can either define  us for the generations to come, or what we choose to do now, at this  defining midterm election, that might be how we are known for the people of  the future, the kids, the grandkids, those kids and grandkids of  generations yet unborn, who will read about us, the people of 2018.

And they will say, in the face of all this smallness, and all this fear,  and all this paranoia, these people stood up, they were counted, they did  the right thing at the moment that history was calling for them.

I love that I get to be a part of this and that so many young people,  especially at this defining moment of truth, are getting up. They`re  leading right now on any issue that you could care about, whether it`s  access to health care, affordability of higher education, meeting the  existential challenge of climate change, or ensuring that every dreamer,  more than a million-strong in this country, no longer has to fear  deportation because they`re made U.S. citizens here in this country,  continuing to make it the greatest place on the planet.

That`s what I hear from the people of Texas, especially the young people of  Texas.

MATTHEWS: You mentioned Harry Truman, who was the first president to  integrate U.S. military services. He really did -- had the guts to do the  right thing. He brought all the units together, all those groups together,  races.

This president is talking about getting rid of the 14th Amendment  effectively. He wants to get rid of birthright citizenship. So if you`re  born in this country, under his hoped decree, you won`t be an American.
What do you make of that? That`s today, he`s talking about that.

O`ROURKE: Interesting that he drops this proposal with a week to go until  the November 6 election.

MATTHEWS: What is he playing to?

O`ROURKE: Interesting that he tries to stoke paranoia and fear about a  group of migrants who are still hundreds of miles, weeks away from the  U.S.-Mexico border, if they even make it this far.
I think he`s trying to play upon the worst impulses of this country,  instead of speaking to our ambitions, our hopes, our dreams, those things  that we can achieve if we all come together.

MATTHEWS: Right.

O`ROURKE: So, I don`t know what he`s trying to do.

I just know the task left to us, which is to be the answer to that. Our  courage, our confidence, our strength, that has to define us going forward.  And it`s up to us.

And I love that we have the chance to do it. And I love all of the  excitement, the enthusiasm, the energy that we`re seeing out on the trail  right now. It bodes very well for our answer to this moment.

MATTHEWS: And, on the record, for the record, you oppose amending the  United States Constitution, removing the 14th Amendment and the birthright  citizenship?

O`ROURKE: Absolutely, I do, yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

We`re going to take a question, a lot of student questions tonight.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Well, the first questioner is from this university, a student  who has got a question about our borders, very much on topic.

Andrea, go ahead with your question.

ANDREA OROZCO, STUDENT: Hi, Congressman O`Rourke, it`s a pleasure to be  here before you.
As one border native to another, I would just like to ask you how you`re  going to address the issue of militarizing the border.

O`ROURKE: Yes.

This idea, Andrea, that we could send 5,000 U.S. service members to the  border and somehow stop migrants, refugees, asylum seekers fleeing the most  dangerous countries in the hemisphere, or that we could build a 2,000-mile  wall, at a cost of $30 billion, where we`d have to take someone`s ranch or  farm or property through the use of eminent domain to build something that  we don`t need, at a time of record security and safety for border  communities like mine in El Paso, perhaps yours, wherever you are on the  border, it`s ridiculous.

And it`s again this idea, we can be governed by our fears, and then we are  a very small people. Or we can be known by our ambitions. Remember the  proud heritage of this defining immigrant story, state and experience that  is Texas. That`s who we are.

We can share with our friends and our colleagues in the Senate El Paso is  one of the safest cities in the United States of America, not in spite of,  but because we are a city of immigrants.

(CHEERING)

O`ROURKE: People left their hometown, their family, their comfort, their  culture, their country to come here, start anew, as strangers in a strange  land.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Gracias, Andrea.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I want to follow up with that, because a lot of people on both  sides of the immigration issue have been very passionate.

But I went direction here. In 2013, the United States Senate did something  remarkable. They passed a comprehensive bill on immigration. It had  opportunities for a path to citizenship. It was rigorous, but it was real.  It was doable for a person who is not documented.

They also had enforcement on it, E-Verify. You couldn`t hire people  illegally. It really was a comprehensive bill.

And because of that, I think, or -- 12 Republicans supported it, people  like John McCain and Corker and Ted Kennedy on the Democratic side.

It had a really good bipartisan -- what did the Republicans do? The  speaker of the House refused to bring it up as a vote.

O`ROURKE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: If -- had that bill come up in the House of Representatives,  where you were serving, would you voted for it?

O`ROURKE: I would have worked with my colleagues to improve it, so that I  could have voted for it.

MATTHEWS: What didn`t you like about it?

O`ROURKE: Well, to Andrea`s question, it had a significant militarization  of the border.

Now, if you live in Massachusetts or New York, and you`re going to put up  walls and double the size of the Border Patrol, from 20,000 agents today to  40,000 agents tomorrow, if you`re going to change the quality of life for  those of us who live in McAllen, or Eagle Pass, or El Paso, or Del Rio,  that`s something that`s important to us.

I wanted to make sure that my voice…

MATTHEWS: Right.

O`ROURKE: … those constituents that I represent in El Paso were heard.

And I`m confident that we could have improved that legislation.

MATTHEWS: And passed it?

O`ROURKE: And -- yes, and moved forward.

That`s -- that`s the essence of our democracy, compromise, consensus,  common ground.

MATTHEWS: OK.

By the way, I have got to challenge the president on this. You`re the  expert on this. But this thing about bringing 5,000 soldiers -- soldiers  have no authorization to be engaged with border -- what are they going to  do down there?

They`re not letting -- let alone shoot anybody, like they`re talking.

O`ROURKE: Right.

MATTHEWS: But they say they won`t do. Oh, we won`t shoot anybody now.
I mean, what are they doing there?

(CROSSTALK)

O`ROURKE: First of all, it -- I think it dishonors the service of those  Border Patrol agents, those…
MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: … men and women who are serving on the line right now, 20,000- strong, who are doing an incredible job.

Let`s get their back. I don`t know that we need to send 5,000 service  members. During the Clinton administration, there was an effort to  militarize the border. A young Marine tragically shot a young U.S.  citizen, 17-year-old goat herder named Esequiel Hernandez, in the back.

MATTHEWS: Right.

O`ROURKE: Thought -- thought he was coming over to this country to do  something wrong. That service member was not trained the way that the  Border Patrol agents are trained. He was trained for war.

So, let`s make sure that we understand what could happen. Let`s make sure  that we understand the relative safety of the border right now. And let`s  come up with commonsense, bipartisan solutions to better secure that  border, our communities, and our state.

But it won`t happen through walls and militarization.

MATTHEWS: Stick around. We have much more to come from our live HARDBALL  College Tour at the University of Houston with Beto O`Rourke.

This is HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was the NBC song played by the University of Houston Band. Anyway, we`re back in Houston, Texas, at the University of Houston. Let`s take some more questions from the audience. Bola (ph) is a student up front.
Bola, tell us -- well, ask your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Representative O`Rourke.

So, how -- considering the hyperpartisan political atmosphere in Congress,  how do you feel you would conduct yourselves among members of your own  party and of the other party as well?

O`ROURKE: Bola, thank you for the question.

I think the example that we`re trying to set in this campaign, going to  every one of the 254 counties of Texas, no matter how blue or no matter how  red, going to King County -- the county seat there, Guthrie, I think they  voted for Donald Trump 96 percent in the last election, I think you would  also agree every bit as deserving of our respect, of being heard, of being  listened to, of being fought for, of being served, of being represented.
No one will be written off, and no one will be taken for granted. We`re  showing up, not just in every county, but every community within every  county.

And then, over the last six years that I have had the privilege of serving  El Paso in Congress, the only way that I have gotten anything meaningful  done is by working with my Republican colleagues across the aisle, never  allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good, ensuring that we find  consensus, common ground, to make that common cause, to do the common good,  expanding mental health care access for veterans, improving security and  the flow of trade at our ports of entry, protecting public lands in the  Chihuahuan Desert.

This is a way that we get things done. And, when we see each other not as  Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, as Texans, as human beings, I`m  confident that there`s no stopping us.

So, that`s the way that I want to serve you in the United States Senate.

Thank you, Bola, for the question. Appreciate it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: The next question is Rachel, Rachel on the Second Amendment.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Hey, Rachel.

RACHEL CLARK, STUDENT: Hi, Representative O`Rourke. Can`t wait until we  can call you Senator O`Rourke.

O`ROURKE: Right on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLARK: What`s your stance on the Second Amendment? And how do you think Texas can tackle the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence we see happening across the nation, especially in terms of minority people who are particularly affected by this?

O`ROURKE: Yes.

I strongly support and want to protect the Second Amendment. And I also  think it`s a great opportunity for Texas to lead it.

Tell me a state that has a prouder, longer, richer heritage of responsible  gun ownership for hunting, for self-protection, for collection, for sport,  for what have you. By and large, we do it responsibly.

What better state, then, to lead the national conversation on how we  protect more lives in our state and the other states of the union?

We lose 30,000 of our fellow Americans to gun violence every year. No  other developed country comes even close. So we can either reach the  conclusion that there`s something wrong with us, inherently bad, maybe even  evil, and we should just accept this as a force of nature, or we understand  that there is a human solution to a human-caused problem.

One step where I find a lot of common ground amongst gun owners and non-gun  owners, Republicans and Democrats alike is universal background checks.

In those states that have adopted them, we have seen a near 50 percent  reduction in significant gun violence, fewer police officers and sheriff`s  deputies being shot by those they`re sworn to serve and protect, fewer  girlfriends and boyfriends being killed by a loved one.

Let`s at least take that first step and make sure that we protect more  lives within our lives.

Then there are other steps that we can take going forward, when we listen  to one another. And that`s what we`re doing in this campaign, because we  have not accepted a single dime from the NRA or any other political action  committee or special interest.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: When we listen to each other, instead of the special interests,  we can lead on the issues that are most important to Texas and the country.

Thank you for your question.

MATTHEWS: This is a professor, Professor Summer Harlow, with a question  about the media.

SUMMER HARLOW, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON: Yes, thank you.

I`m wondering, given the anti-media, anti-free press rhetoric that is so  prevalent right now, what would you as U.S. senator do to ensure the press  is protected, journalists are protected, and that they can continue to  serve as watchdogs for democracy?

O`ROURKE: Yes, this idea fronted by the president that somehow the press  are the enemy of the people, reinforced by him tweeting out images of a reporter being hit by a train, body-slammed in a wrestling ring, is 
incitement to violence. I don`t know any other way to call it.

That undermines an essential pillar of the American democracy; 242 years in  to this audacious experiment that is the exception, not the rule in world  history, that we can freely choose those who represent us and guide the  course and direction that this country will take, if we don`t have a free  press, if we cannot make informed decisions at the ballot box, if you can`t  hold people like me accountable, and make sure that we`re held honest to  the promises that we made, to the job that we`re performing in these  positions of public trust, we will lose the very essence of our democracy.

Nothing guarantees us a 243rd or a 244th year, unless of us stand up for  the institutions that make us so strong in the first place.

So, I think we need to vigorously defend the freedom of the press. We need  to call out violations, not just in this country, in countries like Mexico,  one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist, the killing of  Khashoggi by the Saudi Arabian government. There has to be consequence,  there has to be accountability, there has to be justice.

This is our chance to lead on the most important issues to our democracy  and to freedom around the world.
Thank you for the question.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

O`ROURKE: Appreciate it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

We will be right back with more questions for Senator -- well, candidate  Beto O`Rourke.
You`re watching HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Texas at the University of  Houston, with U.S. Congressman Beto O`Rourke.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I was reminded by the head of our network that a lot of people  in the country don`t know you as well as these people know you, so I have  to help you introduce you now to the world a little bit.
Your name is Robert Francis O`Rourke. How come? Was that Bobby Kennedy?  Was that an inspiration?

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: No. So…

MATTHEWS: Robert Francis.

O`ROURKE: My grandfather on my mom`s side was Robert Lee Williams. I was  named after him.
On my dad`s side -- my dad`s Pat Francis O`Rourke, son of John Francis  O`Rourke, son of James Francis O`Rourke.

And so, naturally, I was Robert Francis O`Rourke, RFO.

My son, my oldest born is Ulysses, UFO, Ulysses Francis O`Rourke.

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: And, at a very early age, right from the get-go, I was called  Beto, which is a nickname in El Paso, perhaps for some in Houston, but  along the border.

If you`re named Robert, Albert, Gilbert, Umberto, your nickname is Beto.

MATTHEWS: Umberto. Beto.

O`ROURKE: And so I was Beto from day one, yes.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about something about your opponent in this  race and the president.
President Trump has called -- let me get this straight, because I wrote  this down -- he`s called Ted Cruz a maniac, unstable, and a liar.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK?

Senator Cruz has called President Trump a sniveling coward and a  braggadocios buffoon.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Where are you on all this?

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: That is some colorful language.

You know, I`m staying focused on Texas.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You don`t have an opinion on either side of this.

O`ROURKE: No.

And from the beginning, we decided we would not run against anybody, and we wouldn`t run against anything. We wouldn`t run against another political party.

MATTHEWS: OK.

O`ROURKE: And we wanted to run for the future of the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s running against you. And he calls you a total  lightweight, and you will never be allowed to turn Texas into Venezuela.

I know that was on your plan.

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: Yes. There goes that plan, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of a president of the United States who stoops  low enough to go after a Senate candidate, calls him a total -- well, he`s  called other people low-I.Q., Lyin` Ted, low-energy -- low-energy Jeb.

O`ROURKE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yours is total lightweight.

O`ROURKE: Right.

MATTHEWS: How do you feel for that? Does it weigh well on you, or what? O`ROURKE: I have lost about 20 pounds over the course of this campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: I just -- I don`t see any benefit in engaging with him at that  level.

I will work with him. And we have. He signed into law legislation that I  worked with, with Republican colleagues to expand mental health care  access. Worked on the defense bill with his administration.
Really loved the secretary of the VA, David Shulkin, that he had before the  current one. I`m getting to know the current one.

But there are places where we can find some common ground, and let`s…

MATTHEWS: You and the president?

O`ROURKE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Give me one.

O`ROURKE: And we will work him any time, anywhere.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Give me.

O`ROURKE: Oh, but we have also got to stand up to him where we must.

MATTHEWS: Give me an example.

O`ROURKE: So, I mentioned that legislation to expand mental health care  for veterans.

MATTHEWS: He`s for that? He`s for that?

O`ROURKE: Absolutely.

And I think he`s really made a commitment to veterans. Again, his former  VA secretary is one of the best I ever served with, the first VA secretary  in the history of the VA to make reducing suicide his number one clinical  priority.

We lose 20 veterans a day -- and that`s a conservative estimate -- every  single day, by their own hand…

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. I know.

O`ROURKE: … the majority of whom have not been able to get into a VA or,  for whatever reason, did not go to a VA.

By focusing on it, calling it out, providing the resources necessary to  connect those veterans to care, we`re going to save more lives. And so I`m  grateful that the president had nominated him. The Senate confirmed him  100-0. And that was a partner with whom we could work.

But if you take it from our perspective in Texas, these trade policies, for  example, these tariffs on these cotton growers, on the pecan growers, on  cattle ranchers, we feed and clothe,through the food and fiber that we  grow, so much of the world right now.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: And so much of the world`s markets are going to start closing  down to what we produce in Texas, unless we can get this right.

We need a senator who can get through to the president or stand up to him,  if that`s the only way to get this done, to make sure that we protect the  livelihood and the resources that we have here in this state, not to  mention some of that really hateful rhetoric that we -- that we started out  with.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: We need not just to be against that. We need to offer the  positive example of our communities, this diverse city that we are here in  Houston, the things that we`re proud of, the examples by which we want to  lead.

MATTHEWS: A lot of people here are students. And you get to vote at 18.  So a lot of them got to vote the first time when they`re sophomores, even  freshmen maybe. And they will get to vote again before they`re out of  school.

You have been voting since you were 18. Did you ever make a mistake? Did you ever vote for the wrong person?

O`ROURKE: Oh.

MATTHEWS: Think.

O`ROURKE: Yes.

You know, I…

MATTHEWS: You`re perfect in your voting record?

O`ROURKE: Yes, well…

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know I have problems with some of my votes. But you don`t  have any problems?

O`ROURKE: So, school board trustees, city council members, county  commissioners, members of Congress, presidential nominees, I mean, I have  voted for them all.

I`m sure, if I went back through, I could probably find somebody I wish I  had not voted for. No one comes to mind.

But I will tell you, I never regret the fact that I voted.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: I love the fact that, in this country, again, not the rule in  the world, the envy of much of the rest of the planet, we get to do this.

(APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: And my folks just brought us up that, listen, this is your  responsibility. Get informed. Make sure what you`re doing, then go into  that ballot box and pull the lever.

MATTHEWS: Do you think going into the war in Iraq was a mistake?

O`ROURKE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. That`s all I need to know.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

We`re going to be right back with more student questions, a lot of student  questions, at the University of Houston.

We will be right back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the HARDBALL College Tour at the University of  Houston with Beto O`Rourke.
And Alex is -- we`re going to have a bunch of questions, a lightning round  coming up for the congressmen.
Alex is a student here at the university and has a question about  education.

There you go, Alex.

ALEX PRIETO-RIVERO, STUDENT: Good evening, Congressman.

O`ROURKE: Evening.

PRIETO-RIVERO: I have a question about education and how you plan on  making it more affordable for lower-income families.

O`ROURKE: So, first of all, I want to make sure that pre-K through 12 is  fully funded.
That means schoolteachers in Texas, nearly half of whom are working a  second or third job, that we decide that we`re going to pay them a living  wage, so that they can fully focus on those kids in front of them, not on  high-stakes, high-pressure standardized tests.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Then I want to make sure that we make an investment in people  and communities.
That means ensuring that, at least in the first two years of your education  here at the University of Houston, or Lone Star Community College for your  associate`s degree, you do not take on any debt.

That`s not inexpensive. It`s going to require an investment. But we can  decide that we`re going to make investments in corporations and special  interests and tax breaks to the wealthy, or that we`re going to invest in  you. And I want to invest in you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Thanks again.

MATTHEWS: Kirby (ph) -- Kirby has a question about climate change. Kirby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

Following the recent U.N. report that we only have 12 years to reverse the  effects of climate change, what will you do as senator to ensure the  sustainability of our planet?

O`ROURKE: Tell me a community that understands climate change better than  Houston.

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: Last year, 58 inches of rain, a landfall record for as long as  we have been keeping them in the continental United States, the third 500- year flood in just the last five years.

By my math, we should be good for 1,500 years, but the scientists -- if  we`re still going to listen to the scientists -- tell us that those floods are only going to become more frequent storms like Harvey only more 
damaging. We won`t be worried about rebuilding after the next one. We won`t be worried about whether we can live here at all.

If this planet cooks another degree and a half Celsius, the train is off  the tracks. We`re not going to be able to get it back. The good news is,  there`s still time for us to lead. We`re an energy-producing state, and  I`m proud of that.

We can do so, however, in a far more responsible way. Set the bar a little  bit higher. Allow the ingenuity and the innovation of the energy companies  headquartered here in Houston to meet that challenge and the bar and then  seize the lead that Texas already has in renewable energy.

We`re number one in country in the generation of wind power. We can create  the kind of jobs and economic growth that we need today to make sure that  we deliver on our obligations to the days to come. Texas can lead.

Thank you for the question.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Patricia has a question on women`s rights to  choose.

PATRICIA RUNNING, STUDENT: Hi. My question is about: what is your plan to  make sure women will continue to have the right to choose what happens to  their own bodies?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: This is a state that since 2011 has shut down more than a  quarter of its family planning clinics, made it that much harder for women  to get a cervical planning screening or family planning help or see a  doctor at all. Not unrelated to the fact that we are now at the epicenter  of a maternal mortality crisis, three times as deadly for women of color.

So when I talk about leading the way on guaranteed high quality universal  health care, I`m also talking about health care meaning every woman makes  her own decisions about her own body and has access to the health care that  allows her to do that. That means that Texas leads on one of the defining  health care issues of our day. And we go from being one of the worst, one  of the deadliest places to be a woman to one of the best in the country.  It will take your leadership and mine coming together to get that done.

Thank you.

I believe in a women`s right to choose.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Ryan has a question now about reaching out to Republicans --  Ryan.

RYAN LOPEZ, PROFESSIONAL BANKER: Thank you, sir.

I`m a proud Democrat, Republican co-workers, friends and families who are  on the fence. I failed to convince them but maybe you can. What would you  tell a moderate conservative to have them joined Team Beto?

O`ROURKE: First, I would share with them the son of a Republican mother  whom we have convinced to vote for me in this election. I know it can be  done.

I mentioned earlier anything of any confidence that I`ve been a part of I  have done by reaching across the aisle compromising, finding consensus and  moving forward. I`ve campaigned in every county never discriminating based  on party affiliation or who you voted for last time for president.

And every single month in El Paso as a member of Congress, I hold an open  town hall meeting. All comers welcome. No holds barred.

I fear my constituents in a healthy way. They`re going to hold me  accountable, keep me honest, bring the best ideas forward. And I don`t  care. If they`re Republicans or Democrats or independents, I just want to  make sure that I do a great job for them.

That`s what I want to do for you, for those folks that you`re talking  about. I want to make sure that every voice is heard, every single person  is represented. Your party affiliation doesn`t matter in the slightest to  me. Thank you for asking.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Congressman, do you have any -- you`ve been serving for a number  of years. How many -- what`s it like to deal with the other side of the  aisle now? Do you have, first of all, honest real friends on the other  side of the aisle? Republican Congress people?

O`ROURKE: Yes. I, last year, traveled across the country with Congressman  Will Hurd, though he`s a Republican, I`m a Democrat. Our flights had been  snowed in. We didn`t know how we were going to get to D.C. to vote. We  were in San Antonio visiting a V.A. hospital.

We were able to find a way to rent a Chevy Impala and drive 36 hours cross- country, live streaming 29 hours of it straight, talking not just about  policy, although that was helpful, but also developing a real friendship  and bond.

MATTHEWS: Allegheny College which bestows the civility prize every year  awarded it to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and a family of Antonin Scalia, Joe  Biden, and John McCain. This year presented it to the two of us, perhaps  because we can serve as an example of what we want to see more of in this  country.

When we got to D.C., each of us joined the other`s legislation. He wrote a  bill that helps service members transition into law enforcement careers in  their communities. I had written an immigration bill that I desperately  needed Republican support on if we were going to have any chance of moving  it forward.
Both of us were able to trust one another. We knew that our first priority  was not to defeat the other, or make them look bad. We trust another, one  another, and that trust is the basis of any productive relationship. So,  I`d love to see more of that in D.C., and build more relationships like  that one.

MATTHEWS: Good for you.

Let`s go -- don`t go anywhere. We got more coming back with Senate  candidate Beto O`Rourke (INAUDIBLE).
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live at the University of Houston with  Beto O`Rourke.
You know every question is serious and this one is only serious to, well,  Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz when at college -- he was at law school refused to  study with anyone who didn`t go to the following schools. We wouldn`t --  if they hadn`t gone to Harvard, Yale or Princeton, he wouldn`t study with  them at law school because they were below his I.Q., I guess.

You went to Columbia. How do you like being treated as a safety school? (LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this guy?

O`ROURKE: I was lucky to have gone there. Grateful to my parents who  helped me out. Had a work study job, every year, student loans, grants.  Got a world class education.

But the best decision I ever made was to come back to Texas after that and  start a small business in El Paso. Ultimately the good fortune of meeting  Amy, my wife now for a little more than 13 years, and we`re raising  Ulysses, Molly and Henry.

MATTHEWS: You met her at Columbia.

O`ROURKE: No, she`s a little bit younger than I am. We met on a blind  date in El Paso before Tinder and took her over the bridge to Ciudad  Suarez, her sister city.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: Had a margarita at the Kentucky Club and we just really hit it  off. And I told that story to folks to kind of remind them of the bi- national nature of the U.S./Mexico border. Cities like Ciudad Juarez and  El Paso, we`re really one community. And it`s beautiful. It`s nothing to  be ashamed of, defensive about or to wall off. It`s part of who we are.  It`s our story.

MATTHEWS: Question from Erica.

ERICA REY, GRADUATE STUDENT: Hello, Congressman O`Rourke.

How invested are you of protecting the rights of LGBTQ citizens especially  at the time when even the legitimacy of transgender identities is being  denied by few in power?

O`ROURKE: Very dedicated. I`m co-sponsor of --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: -- the Equality Act in Congress which ensures full civil rights.  And, you know, you may know this. Others in Texas may not, but in this  state though it is not okay, it is perfectly legal for you to be fired  based on your sexual orientation.

In this state, though we have 30,000 kids in the foster care system, in  child protective services until recently was so underfunded and undermanned  that you had kids at CPS offices sleeping under and on top of the desks.  In Texas, by law, you can be too gay to adopt one of those kids into your  loving household.

We need a senator who`s going to stand up for the full civil rights of  every single American regardless of who you love and what your sexual  orientation is. So, grateful for the question and grateful for the  opportunity for Texas to stand up for everybody.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: We`re going to be right back with more questions for the  students at University of Houston.
Oh, we`ve got Matilda here. I thought you were done.

Matilda, your question please.

MATILDA DAO, STUDENT: Good evening, Congressman. I was just wondering,  how many hours of sleep do you get per night?

(LAUGHTER)

O`ROURKE: We are averaging somewhere between four and six. As you all may  know fueled by the fine food at Whataburger for --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: But you know what? Driven by people by you, the example and the  inspiration you provide, all of these amazing volunteers, all of these  folks getting after it right now deciding the election of our lifetimes.  I`ve never been more energized, more electrified, more thrilled than I am  at this point. So, thank you for being a big part of this. Grateful.  Yes.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back with the HARDBALL college tour at the  University of Houston.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the HARDBALL tour, for the college tour at the  University of Houston with Beto O`Rourke, who`s running in a real hot race  for U.S. Senate.

Let me ask you about the Democratic Party today and what`s going on with  it. The latest polling by NBC and "Wall Street Journal" shows that a  majority, 52 percent of people went to college and graduated are  Republicans and a majority of people, again, 52 percent, the people who  didn`t get to go to college and graduate are Republicans.

Now what happened to that cultural, that class shift? When I was growing  up and most of my life, the Democratic Party was proudly the party of  working people, the people that didn`t get the breaks. Now, the Democratic Party seems to be reflective of people with educations, with the culture of kind of, what, elitism in some cases. What went wrong? What needs to be corrected if it does?

O`ROURKE: You know, I think the influence of PACs, of special interests,  of corporations has been profound and it has disconnected office holders,  candidates from the people that they want to serve. I`ll give you an  example. This is why --

MATTHEWS: So, they pander to the rich?

O`ROURKE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK.

O`ROURKE: I`ll give you an example. We were in Silverton, Texas. And I  was talking about how 50 percent of rural Texas does not have access to  broadband Internet.

And before I could finish my sentence, this gentleman stands up in the  library in Silverton, and he says, I`m old enough to remember being in  first grade in 1938 when Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a member of Congress,  and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president, announced they were going to  electrify our community through the rural electrification. They wanted me  in first grade to be able to read by electric light just like the big kids  could in the big cities around here.

You can better -- he said, you better believe every day after that my dad  was a yellow dog Democrat. In other words, Democrats used to show up for  us in rural communities.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

O`ROURKE: They used to invest in people, in communities, in our day-to-day  lives. I think there are too many who are too beholden to the special  interests right now. We`ve got to return to people.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you.

O`ROURKE: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let`s go to Andrew. First question.

ANDREW JOHNSON, STUDENT: Good evening, congressman. What I want to know  from you is what do you think about celebrities who are talking about  politics lately like how Queen (ph), Taylor Swift talked about how people  should be voting and how she supported Phil Bredesen in Tennessee?

O`ROURKE: Hey, listen, great thing about a democracy is everyone gets to  participate. Everyone has a voice here.

The challenge for us in Texas is we rank 50th out of 50 states in voter  turnout. Not by accident, not by design. This is on purpose. This is  some people being drawn out of congressional districts.

The court said four times last year solely based on their race, on their  ethnicity, we`re the most gerrymandered state in the Union. We`ve got to  change that. We`ve got to change the system by which we draw these  congressional districts. But before we can do that, we`ve got to win these 
elections.

So, transcending those barriers, reaching out to everyone through whatever  means possible is the way to do this. For me, it`s showing up everywhere.  I`m not as concerned about what the celebrities think. I`m really  concerned about what you think and that`s why this is our second or third  visit to the University of Houston so far. I want to be where the action  is, where those who are going to decide the election and the future of this  country are. So, thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. We`re out of time.

O`ROURKE: All right.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, thank you. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Beto  O`Rourke and to everyone at the University of Houston, thank you!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O`ROURKE: Thank you!

MATTHEWS: "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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