Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 01/28/15
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Invitation to trouble.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
“Let Me Start” tonight with this. Remember when Supreme Court Justice
Potter Stewart was asked about his standards on pornography and he said, “I
know it when I see it”? Well, I think a lot of us have had this reaction
to Bibi Netanyahu speaking to the U.S. Congress. There`s something wrong
with this picture.
Is it because it was done in a way that blind-sided our president?
Was it done not only without his compliance, apparently, but without his
knowledge? Would there have been anything wrong with Speaker Boehner at
least calling the president and asking what he would think of such an
invitation? Was there reason to go around him in secret in inviting a
foreign leader to address a matter of obvious urgent national concern to us
Or was it because this invitation went out and was accepted by someone
running himself for reelection just two weeks after his appearance here?
Is it right to set up a cheering section and live television pictures of
the cheering that will be witnessed by the voters over in Israel? Is it
right looking at our own interests to have a foreign leader get into the
middle of an American president`s pursuit of successful negotiations to
stop Iranian nuclear ambitions?
David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones,” and Eugene
Robinson is a columnist for “The Washington Post.”
Gentlemen, this is a hot issue. I think it`s going to get hotter.
And we`re going to go through a lot of the people, you would be surprised,
I think, in saying they got a real problem with the way this has been
timed, the way it was done secretly.
What is this Mickey Mouse thing by Boehner here?
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the
interesting thing is the backlash it`s creating not just in the United
States but in Israel. There are a lot of people who used to work for and
with Netanyahu who are against this. Why are they against it? Because
it`s creating a rift between Israel and the United States.
As prime minister, he has two jobs, essentially. One is to protect
the security of Israel, of course, and the other is to protect the
relationship with the United States not just with the president but also
with Congress. And this week, you see Democratic senators running away
from what AIPAC wants, which is a sanctions bill signed before the end of
negotiations. So it`s blowing up what AIPAC`s trying to do here…
MATTHEWS: So you think it`s hurting their own hard-line ambitions?
CORN: In both places, in Israel and in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Gene, this is something that – something about it just
seems wrong because when I worked for the speaker, there was always a
coalescing between the two of them and – you know, Thatcher would come or
somebody would come. Either the president would ask for it or the speaker
would check. It was always something sort of done together.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No,
everything about it is wrong, Chris.
ROBINSON: I mean, this just doesn`t happen. This is not the way it
happened. I mean, you know, Israel is one of the closest allies of the
United States. That`s the way it has been. That`s the way it will
MATTHEWS: For both parties.
ROBINSON: But the prime minister of Israel is a foreign leader, and
you don`t invite a foreign leader to address a joint session of Congress
without telling the president, without consulting the president!
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he tell him?
ROBINSON: You work with the president…
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he call him up and say…
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he tell him he was coming?
CORN: The whole point of this exercise from Boehner`s perspective is
to undermine the president as he gets into these very crucial end stage of
negotiations. So you don`t call up the president and say, By the way, I
want to sabotage your negotiations. Is that OK with you?
ROBINSON: But as you pointed out, it did exactly the opposite…
ROBINSON: … now running the other way.
MATTHEWS: I think when you`re going to challenge somebody like the
president, even if you`re going to do something he disagrees with, you tell
him you`re doing it.
CORN: Well, of course.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, yesterday Speaker Boehner defended his invitation
to Bibi Netanyahu. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House of
Representatives is an equal branch of the government. And we had a right
to do it, and we did it. And I`m, frankly, proud of the fact that the
prime minister has accepted our invitation and will be here on March 3rd to
talk to the members of Congress about the serious threat that Iran poses
and the serious threat of radical Islam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, his decision, the speaker`s, to invite the Israeli
prime minister without consulting the White House and three weeks before an
Israeli national election drew criticism both in the U.S. and in Israel, as
we`ve said, including from some, you might say, surprising sources.
Abe Foxman, the president of the Anti-Defamation League – a great guy
there – he says, quote, “This looks like a political challenge to the
White House and/or a campaign effort in Israel.” Senator Dianne Feinstein
told an Israeli newspaper, quote, “Inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu
without consulting the administration is an unwelcome injection of partisan
politics into our foreign policy.”
Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan wrote this weekend, quote, “We see
disrespect toward the president, and more consequentially, toward the
presidency in the decision of GOP Hill leaders to invite Benjamin
And “Washington Post” columnist Richard Cohen said, “It would not
surprise me if, at the next Republican national convention, Benjamin
Netanyahu took a seat in the delegates from abroad second.”
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s obviously – Richard`s a funny guy. He`s your
colleague over there at “The Post,” and he`s obviously showing how
ludicrous this is.
ROBINSON: Yes. He was very – but Richard was very, very tough and
very quick on – you know, in reacting to this because, you know, as I
said, this is just not the way to – not the way things happen. And for
Boehner to go out of his way that way to try to torpedo these talks…
ROBINSON: … is – is just something…
ROBINSON: … can`t do.
CORN: There are so many dimensions to how wrong…
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk the partisan stuff, what we do here pretty
well. We talked about Democrat versus Republican, Likud over there is
against this new party, the opposition party, the Zionist party, with great
people like – I know Tzipi Livni pretty well and a couple of…
CORN: Chaim Herzog.
MATTHEWS: … and Herzog, who comes from this incredible Israeli
family. OK. He`s sort of like the Bush and the Kennedys over there.
MATTHEWS: Right. So there`s a fight going over there, and it could
be a close election. You never know. It could (INAUDIBLE) tight. We have
partisan differences here. Both parties are overwhelmingly – both parties
MATTHEWS: So is this an attempt to sort of grab the Israeli flag, if
you`re a Republican – let`s talk about Boehner. What`s he up to? By the
way, this comes a few days after Scalise was caught having gone to a neo-
Nazi rally. So I felt bad for Matt Brooks (ph) with “The Jewish Outlook”
on the Republican side for about five minutes. I felt bad for him. Wait a
minute? Is this their way of balancing the books? We`re going to come
back and invite Bibi?
CORN: I think it was a way of trying to make a bad play for the
hawkish Jewish vote, but also sticking the knife into the president…
MATTHEWS: What percentage of the Jewish community would you call on
the hard right?
CORN: On the hard right?
MATTHEWS: On hawkish stuff.
CORN: Ten, twenty percent at most. I mean, this is…
MATTHEWS: When it comes to elections, yes.
CORN: Listen, American Jews support Barack Obama more than any other
religious group. They are obviously liberal. They`ve been behind him. So
what Netanyahu is doing by siding with Boehner, who has spent the last four
or five years trying to destroy the Obama presidency, is telling the
American Jews, who support Israel, Forget about you, I don`t care about
your desires and your needs. I`m going to embrace myself with this guy who
tries to screw your guy over all the time!
ROBINSON: … even American Jews who might have been inclined to lean
Netanyahu`s way on the actual issue, on the issue…
MATTHEWS: I know.
ROBINSON: … of Iran resent what is being done…
MATTHEWS: This is just the beginning. This fuse has been lit.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that Prime Minister Netanyahu is
alienating many elected – elected Democrats. One – quote, “One Jewish
member of Congress told me” – that`s Goldberg speaking – that he felt
humiliated and angered by Netanyahu`s ploy to address Congress, quote,
“behind the president`s back.” A non-Jewish Democrat elected official told
– texted Goldberg over the weekend to say that the damage Netanyahu is
doing is Israel`s – is in Israel`s relationship with the United States
that may be irreparable.
I`m not sure about anything`s irreparable, but…
CORN: I don`t – I mean (INAUDIBLE) but last night, I was at an event
and I spoke to a couple of Democratic senators, and they – you know, while
this is going on, AIPAC, the American-Israeli…
MATTHEWS: Was this at Margaret Carlson`s house?
CORN: It was.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Good. I got there later.
CORN: You got there later. They were – a lot of them were gone.
But while this is going on, AIPAC is trying to run up support amongst
Democratic senators, and Republicans, for a bill that would impose greater
Iranian sanctions before Obama finishes negotiations…
MATTHEWS: So his deadline is June. He wants to get a deal with Iran
in this extended deadline of June. Now they agreed, as of this morning, I
read in the paper, that said March.
CORN: Well, no, what happened is, they were trying to get them to
pass this bill in the next couple of weeks, and the Democratic senators,
including Menendez, who`s name is on the bill…
CORN: … have said no to AIPAC. And I asked one of the senators,
Why is that? And they say, We – you know, we senators, a lot of our
senators, are just fed up with AIPAC coming at the time of this Netanyahu
booing (ph) of the president.
ROBINSON: So Menendez, the ranking member on Foreign Relations, will
not support his own bill…
ROBINSON: … will not support it until March 24, is the deadline
they`ve set now.
MATTHEWS: AIPAC, for those who don`t know, is American Israeli
Political Action Committee. Do you know if they`re involved in this?
CORN: In the invitation?
CORN: I`d be surprised if they didn`t have some knowledge. I mean,
the Israeli ambassador to the United States right now is a man named Ron
Dermer, who used to work for a Republican – he grew up in Florida, though
he`s an Israeli citizen. He used to work for a Republican consultant.
He`s very close to John Boehner. It`s been reported that the two of them
helped design this event.
CORN: So it`s – you know, whether the…
CORN: … what AIPAC knew about it.
MATTHEWS: You know, as unpopular as this thing`s going to end up
being, we`re going to find out who came up with the idea. That`s how it
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, has
gotten some pushback himself over in Israel. Michael Oren, of course, a
much respected former Israeli ambassador to the United States, urged
Netanyahu to turn the invite down. He said, quote, “The behavior over the
last few days created the impression of a cynical political move and it
could hurt our attempts to act against Iran.”
Well, Michael Oren`s got some clout here.
ROBINSON: Yes, he`s got a lot of clout, and…
MATTHEWS: Because he grew up…
ROBINSON: And that`s the other whole dimension of this, the fact that
if Netanyahu did this as a way to improve his own political prospects ahead
of the election, in fact, that seems to have backfired, too, and – because
there`s a big hubbub in the Israeli media over this, and a lot of it is
extremely negative – What are you doing?
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a minute here to talk about why this is
important. You start, then you. I want you to talk about how this looks.
I mean, President Obama has basically put the word out, less than 50
percent chance we`re going to cut a deal with Iran. It`s very touch-and-
go. And that means they`re going to continue, perhaps, it looks like, on
their road to a weapon. Where`s that take us, a nuclear weapon?
CORN: Well, maybe. I mean, that`s getting pretty far down…
MATTHEWS: If they get out of the deal, out of negotiations.
CORN: Well, there`s still some dispute whether they are heading
towards a weapon or they`re heading towards a nuclear program, civilian
program, that will get them close to be making a weapon. And so it`s not a
given that they will definitely have a weapon if these negotiations fail.
MATTHEWS: If you`re living over in Israel, what would be your – what
would be your wall you`d say, I don`t want them to go past?
CORN: Well, this issue here.
ROBINSON: It`s the issue.
CORN: The issue here is that Netanyahu and some others in Israel, not
everyone in Israel, say that any civilian nuclear program is unacceptable
to them. And if that`s your position, which I think is for the birds –
but if that`s your position, that means you`re going to end up with war
because there`s no way the Iranians are going to accept a deal without some
nuclear program existing, which the president is willing to live with…
CORN: … if there are safeguards and regulations.
MATTHEWS: That`s how you see it?
ROBINSON: That`s exactly right. It`s where you draw the line, and
Netanyahu wants to draw the line – just get rid of everything –
MATTHEWS: Does he know, like we know, they`ll never go with it,
therefore, it`s on the road to war?
ROBINSON: Oh, I think he must know that, and perhaps he`s taking a
maximalist position to try to, you know, optimize his final result. But
that`s what he says, and so…
ROBINSON: … you`ll never get a deal on that basis.
MATTHEWS: I hope everybody knows what common sense is. I think we
agree. No American president, left, right or center, can live with Iran
having nuclear weapons. Right?
CORN: I don`t know about that.
CORN: But if the option is there`s another war in the Middle East, as
opposed to what happens with the Iranian government and what safeguards
there are, then maybe…
MATTHEWS: … have weapons, anywhere near weapons, I think we got a
war on our hands.
ROBINSON: Just to – just to point out that the Obama administration
would say Iran is further away today than it…
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s…
ROBINSON: … if they had not – had not taken this process…
MATTHEWS: … a weaponized Iran. We`re not going to live with it.
No president will survive with that. It`s just – that`s American
Anyway, thank you, David Corn. And I think we agree on that political
part. Eugene Robinson, thank you, sir.
Coming up, there`s a fascinating battle right now unfolding with the
Republican Party – within it – and it`s over same-sex marriage. Do you
believe it, they are fighting on that? If mainstream Republicans think
they can dodge the issue in 2016, they may have to think again. People
like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie will try to run to it, run to the middle,
but the social conservative base will drag them back in, just like in “The
Godfather.” They`re going to have to talk about same-sex marriage. It`s
in their platform. It`s in the blood of Mike Huckabee.
Plus, on the opening day of her confirmation hearing, Loretta Lynch,
President Obama`s pick for attorney general, defended the president`s
executive actions to shelter millions of immigrants here from deportation.
She says it seems reasonable. But will Republicans say the same of her?
And what do we make of first lady Michelle Obama not wearing a veil
over in Saudi Arabia? Some say she wasn`t respectful enough. Some women`s
activists – rights activists are praising here, and actually – this is
unfortunate – she got a kudo from Ted Cruz, but – what does that tell
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the Republican predicament on same-sex
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, a judge in South Carolina has reversed a major
mistake of the Civil Rights era. Back in 1961, nine African-American men
were convicted for integrating a whites-only lunch counter in Rockhill,
South Carolina. The men are known as the Friendship 9. And today, in an
emotional hearing, their convictions were tossed out.
Here`s how it unfolded in the courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the named defendant, I move for the
convictions to be entered in 1961 be vacated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, as solicitor for York County, I represent
the state. So allow me to take this opportunity to extend each of you my
heartfelt apologies for what happened to you in 1961. It was wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am now signing the order. And that is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the judge in that case said while he can`t rewrite
history, he can make history right. Well said. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, there`ll be two battles at
the Republican 2016 primary on gay marriage, between those who don`t want
to talk about it and those who want it to be a litmus test. The Supreme
Court`s decision on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to
marry is expected in June, and it could make that fight all the more
Many of the 2016 Republican contenders have said the court`s decision
should be respected – or called for respect, at least, in the debate. But
Mike Huckabee – Mike Huckabee of Arkansas – will allow for no such
position. He`s even threatened to leave the party over the issue. Here he
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: A lot of
Republicans, particularly in the establishment and those who live on the
either left coast or those who live up in the bubbles of New York and
Washington, are convinced that if we don`t capitulate on the same-sex
marriage issue and if we don`t raise the white flag of surrender and just
accept the inevitable, then we`re going to be losers.
I tell you, Tim, it is the absolute opposite of that. And if the
Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-
fearing (INAUDIBLE) people, go ahead and just advocate on this issue. And
while you`re at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn`t matter, either,
because at that point, you lose me. I`m gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
HUCKABEE: I`ll become an independent. I`ll start finding people that
have guts to stand. I`m tired of this.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Huckabee intends to make it impossible, I
think, if you hear it there, for Republican presidential candidates to keep
the issue of same-sex marriage under the radar.
Joining me right now is Gregory Angelo. He`s executive director of
Log Cabin Republicans. And Tim Head is the executive director of the Faith
and Freedom Coalition.
Tim, tell me, what do you think about this issue? The Republicans
have had it on their platform. Now you get the sense that people like Jeb
Bush would love to finesse away from it. He said, I respect same-sex
couples. You got Chris Christie from Jersey who probably doesn`t want to
run on this thing. And Mitt Romney will probably want to run on economic
So what happens to the Huckabees? What happens to the Santorums, the
Perrys, Jindals, the Rubios? I think they`re all going to be fighting
TIM HEAD, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: Well, I do agree that they`re
going to be talking about it. I`m not exactly sure that they`re going to
be fighting about it. Now, here`s – here`s – I think that calling it a
dramatic fight is probably a little bit of an embellishment. I do think
that it`s a lively discussion, but my hope over the next, you know, 15 to
18 months, is that we can find a way to discuss this without being at each
other`s throats, both in content, as well as in tone.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s – that`s about manners. You think there will
be good manners over there?
You think Huckabee is sounding like a guy who wants to cool this thing
down or a guy that wants to heat it up? It sounded to me like he wanted to
hype it up.
HEAD: Great, great question. I don`t know the room that he was
sitting in when he had that conversation. And I also – obviously, I don`t
speak for Governor Huckabee or any of the other candidates, but…
MATTHEWS: He was of sound mind and body, I think.
HEAD: He – he also recently released a book, as you`re probably
And I haven`t read the whole book, but excerpts from it. And he
actually talks about being for marriage, traditional marriage, biblical
marriage, not necessarily being against same-sex marriage, or at least
people that are same-sex attract…
MATTHEWS: Here he is. Let`s listen to him.
GREGORY ANGELO, LIBERTY EDUCATION FORUM: You`re being real easy on
MATTHEWS: Let`s listen to him right here. Mike Huckabee took a
direct shot at Republicans who say they will abide by the court`s decisions
on gay marriage, questioning the validity of the court to make such
Here he is. This is pretty strong stuff, by the way.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: One thing I am angry
about though, Hugh, is this notion of judicial supremacy where if the
courts make a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the
presidency say, well, that`s – that`s settled, and this is the law of the
land. No, it isn`t the law of the land.
QUESTION: Would you counsel civil disobedience to county clerks?
HUCKABEE: Well, the point is, states would be in a position that
their legislatures would have to go into session. They would have to
create legislation that the governor would sign. If they don`t, there is
not same-sex marriage in that state.
Now, if the federal court says, well, you are going to have to do it,
well, then you have a confrontation. At that point, somebody has to
decide, is the court right? If it is, then the legislation will be passed.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s saying the Supreme Court doesn`t have the right
to interpret the Constitution. That`s certain new.
Anyway, at “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Chuck Todd followed up in
asking him the question about what he would do. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD”)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: I just want to clarify, are
you advocating, essentially, nullification here by the states if the
Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage?
HUCKABEE: I`m advocating an adherence to the Constitution. I`m
really saying that there is a process to change the law. And it doesn`t
just involve one unilateral branch of government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here`s the question that Huckabee raises, which is the
whole question of the Supreme Court. And it goes back to the Civil War, of
I mean, we operate under judicial review. Whatever we like it or not,
we say the Supreme Court has to decide what is constitutional or not. We
can argue about it. And the Supreme Court can change. It has over time
with Dred Scott and Brown cases. They change over time, right?
ANGELO: Chris, I will say this.
MATTHEWS: We accept them in their time. That`s how it works.
Log Cabin Republicans does prefer legislative solutions, as a
preference, right, because it`s more rock-solid when you pass laws
legislatively. Court rulings, whether you support them or don`t – or you
oppose them, can be overturned. Right? This is the sort of danger in
using that as your all-or-nothing strategy.
However, you know, just in your last segment, you had Speaker John
Boehner saying, well, the House is a branch of the government, a
legislative body that should be respected. The Supreme Court is a also a
branch of government and one that should also be respected by Republicans,
as well as Democrats.
And this canard that is getting thrown out there to bring same-sex
marriage before legislatures completely disregards the fact that marriage
is something that already exists in state legislatures. The courts are
looking at same-sex – at the institution of marriage. They are looking at
civil marriages and they`re seeing discrimination that exists to committed
same-sex couples. That`s all this is about.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Tim.
The problem, I think, you have from your side is that the courts in
each state, these 30-some states, have basically – you`re right – they
were not elected to – there wasn`t a referendum on same-sex, and normally
you don`t have a referendum on rights, by the way. They`re interpreted out
of the constitutions of those states.
And so how do you rectify the fact that all of those state courts said
that those state constitutions provided for this right? How do you deal
with that in each individual state?
HEAD: The simple fact of the matter – and, of course, all of us
would agree that here we are 200 years into U.S. jurisprudence and, just in
the last decade, just over a decade, we have removed the issue of marriage
from being a state issue to becoming a federal issue.
And so, you know, we`re…
MATTHEWS: I think we`re headed there, by the way. Do you think we
are? Do you think the Supreme Court is going to rule that there`s a
constitutional right to same-sex marriage? Do you think they will?
HEAD: I think that they certainly have kind of tipped their hand in
that direction, probably late summer, maybe early fall.
I agree, Tim. We ought to shut it off there. I agree with you, Tim.
I – you agree, don`t you?
ANGELO: I agree.
MATTHEWS: You think Anthony Kennedy is going to be the fifth vote?
ANGELO: I would just say, if you want to talk about why things
happened so rapidly in the last 10 years, it`s because in states like Iowa
that started recognizing same-sex marriages in 2009, all these years have
gone by, people have seen committed same-sex couples in civil marriage
partnerships. They are no threat to them.
MATTHEWS: Your group, the Log Cabins, that didn`t push marriage years
ago when I used to speak to you guys, you have changed. The country has
ANGELO: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: … accept the right.
There are so many people who are born gay. They respect those people
that God made. That`s what is going on here. It ain`t complicated.
Thank you, Gregory Angelo.
And thank you, Tim Head.
It`s a difficult argument. I don`t think all states can have their
own situations. You have custody battles. You have rights battles over
Social Security, everything if you let that happen.
Up next: Bill Clinton proposes a new title for himself in the event,
which is probable, in fact clearly plausible, that his wife becomes
president. That`s coming up in the “Sideshow.”
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the “Sideshow.”
While New England absorbed the brunt of winter storm Juno earlier this
week, many cities in the Northeast were thankfully spared. However, as Jon
Stewart pointed out last night, the storm preparation effort in New York
City produced an unlikely media sensation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: No warning of
dire weather-related emergency would be complete without charismatic sign
language interpreters vying for the title of best silent mayoral hype man.
STEWART: And in that contest, there was a clear winner.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: New Yorkers should not
underestimate this storm. Assume conditions will be unsafe.
STEWART: That is some New York sign language. I don`t read sign
language, but I`m pretty sure he`s going, you bring that (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) snow and I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you up. Do you hear me? Plow
me? No. Plow you, mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: Boom! Boom!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How`s he do that?
Next up, it`s a question that`s gone unanswered for years. What
should former President Bill Clinton be called if Hillary Clinton becomes
our next president?
Well, “The Washington Post” offered the following possibilities today
– quote – “first gentleman,” which was a title first suggested by former
first lady Laura Bush, first dude, which was the title Sarah Palin actually
used for her husband while she was governor up in Alaska, first spouse,
which was how Congresswoman Michele Bachmann referred to her husband when
she was in Congress, and last but not least, first laddie, a title that was
suggested to Bill Clinton by one of his Scottish friends.
Well, Bill Clinton joins food show host Rachael Ray on her program
airing tomorrow. She asked the president what he thinks he should be
called if he returns to the White House. We got an advance clip of that
conversation. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHAEL RAY, HOST: I really want to know, what would you then be
called? Would you be first fellow?
RAY: Would you be Mr. and Mrs. Presidents?
RAY: Like, is there a proper – have you thought about this?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
CLINTON: But, you know, if you call – if the president is the man,
you call the president`s spouse the first lady. So we will have to cross
this bridge if a gay couple ever…
But let`s say, if a woman became president, we could – I could be
CLINTON: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, he`s referring there to the original first man
from the Old Testament, Adam of Adam and Eve fame.
Finally, there is no doubt New York Senator Chuck Schumer is certainly
one of the most high-profile lawmakers in the United States Senate. He`s
never been one to be shy from publicity.
Just watch the Sunday political shows on any given weekend, the
chances are good he will be on. Well, today, at the confirmation hearing
for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, Senator Schumer himself poked a
little fun at his reputation for seeking the spotlight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Ms. Lynch has always been a nose-
to-the-grindstone type, rarely seeking a claim, only a job well done. She
has earned a reputation for keeping her head down and avoiding the
spotlight, just like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what Bobby Kennedy, one of his predecessors as
New York senator, called hanging a lantern on your problem.
Up next: President Obama`s pick for attorney general depends –
defends his executive action on illegal immigration. That`s a big one.
Plus, women`s rights advocates are cheering Michelle Obama`s decision
not to wear a veil in Saudi Arabia. There she is.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
President Obama spoke a short while ago at a farewell ceremony
honoring outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The president called him
a great friend and a true American patriot.
Parts of New England are digging out from almost three feet of snow
after the blizzard of 2015. Some coastal areas were severely damaged by
And investigators say an electrical fire that quickly spread to
furniture and a Christmas tree caused a deadly blaze at a mansion in
Annapolis, Maryland. Six people, including four children, were killed –
back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Fireworks on the Hill today, Capitol Hill, over the nomination of the
new attorney general. If confirmed, Loretta Lynch would make history as
the first of the country`s African-American woman to serve as A.G.
But, first, she has to navigate the hard right`s gauntlet. Lynch made
clear today she will be a strong ally of the president and his agenda when
it comes to issues like voting rights, surveillance, torture, and in
particular his executive actions to halt deportation for those millions of
Anyway, the hearing was dominated today by the Republican Party`s
anti-Hispanic crusade over those executive actions. It was the hot-button
issue at the hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Not only is this action contrary to
our laws. It`s a dangerous abuse of executive authority.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: This is a dangerous precedent and
cannot be allowed to stand. And, frankly, the attorney general of the
United States should have told President Obama that, urged him and – to
SCHUMER: I would like to remind my colleagues that the president`s
immigration policies are not seeking confirmation today. Loretta Lynch is.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Could you give us an
estimate, if not now, in the future, what it would cost to deport 11
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the roundtable tonight, Huffington Post global
editorial director Howard Fineman, Huffington Post politics managing editor
Amanda Terkel, and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Chicago Tribune” columnist
Let`s go to Amanda.
You know, I don`t get it. Why would Lindsey Graham, who is for
immigration reform for – he voted for it in the Senate, last Senate, why
is he asking about the price of deporting 11 million people? Is it because
he`s for doing something as ludicrous as that, 11 million people kicked out
of the country at once, or is it because he wants to discourage it,
thinking about that, or what?
AMANDA TERKEL, THE HUFFINGTON POST: That`s a good question.
I don`t – Lindsey Graham has never been for deporting everyone. And
it`s unrealistic. I hope that it was the Lindsey Graham who is sometimes
more of a maverick and bringing it up to show what a ridiculous policy it
is, because that policy just isn`t serious. It would cost too much and
logistically it doesn`t work.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think
that`s probably right.
I think he also wanted to show that the administration and its allies
haven`t even thought of what it would cost to do it, because they don`t –
because they don`t want to do it.
MATTHEWS: But they B.S. about it. They act like we`re going to do
MATTHEWS: Hold me back. Hold me back.
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: I`m getting rid of those 11 million people.
MATTHEWS: Everybody knows, if they had all the Congress, all the
Senate, if they had the presidency and all that, they wouldn`t do it.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Right.
MATTHEWS: They have been there.
FINEMAN: I think the main point is, the main point is that she
handled the whole topic incredibly smoothly and on point, because she said,
look, I read the details. There`s no amnesty here. There`s not a path to
citizenship, which legally is the right point to make.
FINEMAN: And she made it repeatedly and very well.
Clarence, what`s going on here with these hearings? Because an
African-American woman from New York, not a politician, not a high-flyer
like Chuck Schumer…
PAGE: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: I never heard of her before, but she`s made some noise,
though. She went after Grimm. She`s done some work up there.
PAGE: Well, yes.
And she`s done her job. And she`s been – she`s got a terrific record
for prosecuting terror cases and a variety of other crimes. There`s very
little for conservatives to dislike about her, except for the guy who
happened to appoint her, Barack Obama. And so they are using her as the
surrogate, shall we say, for attacks on Barack policies, as…
MATTHEWS: Should she have worn a veil today to the hearings?
PAGE: She might as well.
FINEMAN: She didn`t need it.
PAGE: Yes, she – no, she didn`t need it.
FINEMAN: She didn`t need it.
PAGE: No. She gave – she had the right answers, didn`t commit
herself on her actual – or her – or judicial opinions.
FINEMAN: And, by the way, she`s going to get a bunch of Republican
votes on this committee.
MATTHEWS: That would be a smooth move.
FINEMAN: She`s going to get Hatch and Cornyn, and I think at least
and maybe Lindsey Graham and Tom Tillis.
AMANDA TERKEL, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Maybe Jeff Flake.
FINEMAN: The new senator, Republican senator from North Carolina.
She`s from Greensboro. If I`m a Republican I`m sitting there and saying,
why can`t we have somebody like that? Prosecutor, not ideological. She`s
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Lynch, the U.S. attorney up in New York, is up for
nomination, went further in her defense of the president`s actions on
immigration by saying that everyone had a right to – this is where she
might get in trouble. Everyone has a right to work in the country,
regardless of their immigration status. Well, let`s watch that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTY. GENERAL NOMINEE: I believe that the right
and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this
country regardless of how they came here and certainly if someone is here,
regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the
workplace than not participating in the workplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s weird in a way because the number one reason
people come here is to work and to get a legal job. They come illegally,
they get a job illegally. The whole idea of E-verify is to prevent that so
employers don`t accidently hire somebody here in the country without
And what is she saying? She`s saying, you shouldn`t have any verify.
We shouldn`t be checking who we are hiring. We should be the good person
and hire them? I mean, I don`t know how else to read that. What do you
think she meant?
FINEMAN: I don`t think she said that. She –
MATTHEWS: She said people should be working here even illegally.
FINEMAN: She was trying to make the point that it`s better socially
if people work or don`t work. She probably shouldn`t have used the word
“right”, because in another context she said there`s no civil right to
FINEMAN: She was trying to make the contrast between drawing the line
there, which is the proper one to draw and which the conservatives would
like and the one on this.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, I think they`re going to take it home and read
the transcripts and they are going to think tonight and they`re going to
come and say, wait a minute, why have this huge E-verify system that`s
being launched (ph) all the time to make sure people don`t hire somebody
here illegally if we`re not going to do it?
PAGE: Well, at one point –
MATTHEWS: If we`re going to do it, I should say.
PAGE: I think she had a slip of a tongue in terms of distinguishing
citizenship from documentation as well and saying, well – what she said it
sounded like she was saying, you can`t hire someone who`s not a citizen.
She meant to say somebody who is not documented. And that`s the sort of
thing that may have led to some confusion.
MATTHEWS: Clearly, Ms. Lynch would continue Eric Holder`s legacy as a
champion of voting rights. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: How do you view the state of voting
rights in America today and what do you view is your responsibility should
you be our next attorney general?
LYNCH: I believe the right to vote is the cornerstone of a democracy
and one that every citizen has the right. And, in fact, some would argue
the obligation to exercise.
The concerns that are raised, Senator, is when acts are taken with a
goal towards protecting and preserving the integrity of the vote act in a
different way and act to suppress the vote or in some way prevent people
from exercising the franchise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she`s being very kind there because leaders in
Pennsylvania, where Howard and I are from have openly said, the purpose of
all of this effort to demand ID cards of 80-year-old who is live in row
houses is to make sure they don`t vote. They basically said that.
TERKEL: Well, this is where she got into a testy exchange with Tom
Tillis from North Carolina because the Justice Department has gone after
North Carolina for dismantling the laws and making it easier for people to
vote and Tom Tillis obviously sort of led the legislature there and he was
not very happy about this and said, I hope that the Justice Department
under you will not go under states like North Carolina.
But I think this is going to be one of the most important pieces of
her job, because the Voting Rights Act has been dismantled by the Supreme
Court. It`s now up to the Justice Department to try to be on the lookout
for what these states are doing and some of these voter ID laws and things
MATTHEWS: So they are still arguing, Clarence, that the reason that
they are making it tough for people to vote in a big macro sense, like you
have to go down to DOT and get a picture and get all of this done because
they think there`s a lot of cheating by blacks? That`s what they think?
They honestly think that.
PAGE: Well, that`s certainly – it`s just funny how when you say
honestly think, it`s funny how people honestly think along partisan lines.
You go back historically when Democrats were in the Southern
segregationists, you just had the opposite occurring, where Republicans
were accusing Democrats of voter suppression.
It`s obvious what is going on here. And the question is, these cases
have to go to court where they are argued. And I think Loretta Lynch is
going to be quite aggressive on this case.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t see how anybody who is African-American would
think about voting Republican as long as Reince Priebus is running the
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
Up next, the controversy – it does exist – over Michelle Obama`s
decision not to wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: On Friday, join me for a special Super Bowl edition of
HARDBALL live from Phoenix. We`ve got great some guests lined up as the
Patriots and Seahawks get ready for the big game on Sunday, and we`ll have
plenty of politics with Joe Scarborough and Mike Brzezinski and New
England`s own Mike Barnicle.
It`s all coming up this Friday night live at 7:00 Eastern, right here
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Well, social media erupted over First Lady Michelle Obama`s decision
not to wear a head scarf during the first couple`s visit to Saudi Arabia
yesterday. An Arabic hashtag translated to #Michelle_Obama_unveiled was
tweeted nearly 2,500 times.
Well, Saudi Arabia is a country with a very strict public dress code
for women, were required to have their face and hair covered at all time.
While the rules for foreign women call for long, loose fitting clothing,
the head scarf is optional for visitors.
Michelle Obama seen here was wearing a flowing blue top, black pants
and no head scarf. And some are saying the first lady was making a
political statement instead of a fashion statement. Even Texas Senator Ted
Cruz, an unlikely ally of Michelle`s, cheered her on Facebook this
afternoon saying, “Kudos to first lady Michelle Obama for standing up for
women worldwide and refusing to wear a Sharia mandated head scarf in Saudi
Arabia. Nicely done.”
Well, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said today the
first lady`s attire was consistent with what first ladies in the past have
worn to Saudi Arabia. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SCHULTZ, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: The attire the first lady
wore on this trip was consistent with what first ladies in the past have
worn. First Lady Laura Bush, what Secretary Clinton wore on her visits to
Saudi Arabia, Chancellor Merkel and her visits to Saudi Arabia, and
including other members of the United States delegation at the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, back now with the panel, Howard, Amanda and Clarence.
We`ve got to go to Amanda on this one.
Was this a breach of practice, or protocol or either?
TERKEL: No, I don`t think so at all. Condoleezza Rice went over
there and didn`t wear a head scarf. And Michelle Obama has worn a head
scarf in the past. She went to Indonesia, but then she was visiting a
mosque. So, it was more appropriate.
But foreigners don`t have to do it. You know, I think Michelle Obama
doesn`t usually wear a head scarf, so she didn`t want to, and I think that
was perfectly appropriate. I don`t – I am very surprised this is such a
MATTHEWS: Well, what started it? Who`s out there twittering?
PAGE: It`s a controversy because all eyes are on Saudi Arabia right
now, in ways that haven`t been in the past because of this blogger, who`s
been sentenced to, what, a thousand lashes for –
MATTHEWS: Fifty a week for 20 weeks, if he heals –
PAGE: Yes. And this is a kind of thing that all of a sudden all eyes
are on Saudi Arabia in a different kind of way –
MATTHEWS: So, why aren`t the bloggers talking about the flogger?
PAGE: It goes both ways. No, the bloggers are talking about the
flogger, believe me, including me. I mean, this is something that`s truly
atrocious. And in the past when W. Bush was president, Saudi Arabia was
viewed more of a kindly friend with these eccentric religious practices or
whatever. But they`re providing us our oil.
Well, we don`t need them like we used to now, because of fracking, and
the oil prices plummeting, and the fact that there`s a tizzy to free press
issues, religious freedom issues. This is the kind of thing that has
changed the landscape.
TERKEL: And some of the tweets that were using the hashtag were
making fun of Saudi Arabia. So they weren`t all negative toward Michelle
FINEMAN: I agree with Clarence, I think the position of Saudi Arabia
politically has changed. People are much more aware of the kind of double
game that they play with their strict rules, and also their alliance with
the West. And I think –
MATTHEWS: And their sort of under-the-table relationship with al
FINEMAN: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: You kids do what you want, but not here.
FINEMAN: And so, that makes it more fraught, whatever Americans do.
But I also agree with Amanda, the White House carefully researched this,
and they were going with what the precedent had been.
MATTHEWS: I would think that made sense, because we went over there.
The president from India went over there.
The other thing is, with the price of gas, tell me if I`m wrong, isn`t
Saudi, aren`t the Saudi government people allowing the price, Amanda, to
stay down where it is? Anybody can manipulate supply and demand. That`s
not hard to do when you`re Saudi Arabia.
TERKEL: When you`re Saudi Arabia, you have a whole lot of control.
FINEMAN: They don`t have the power – the whole point is, they don`t
have the power to do that.
MATTHEWS: They can`t pump the –
FINEMAN: The notion that they are doing this deliberately to drive
all new energy forms out of business so they can come back and –
MATTHEWS: But aren`t they consistent –
PAGE: While other countries and companies are cutting back oil
production, Saudis are going full bore, deliberately trying to bring the
price down, no question about it.
FINEMAN: I think they have a budget to support. And if they think
they can do that, they`re going to find out that they`re not going to be
able to do that. Things have changed. Things have changed a lot.
PAGE: They`ve got money and oil in reserves. They`re not really
MATTHEWS: I know. Our government generally treats them like the rich
uncle. Said uncle, what`s his name?
Anyway, thank you. See the pyramids along the Nile, Bush walking
along with the crown prince. Very daintily and lovingly.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Amanda Terkel, for
joining us. And, Clarence Page, as always.
When we return, let me finish with the Republican predicament on same-
sex marriage. They are on the horns of a dilemma on this baby.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
FINEMAN: Let me finish tonight with this:
With spring training coming on the way, I think a fair way to describe
the Republican predicament on same-sex marriage is being caught off-base.
We all know what that is – the pitcher spins from his position on the
mound and shoots the ball to the alert first baseman who tags the runner
for having taken too much of a lead, a lead he just can`t get back from.
Well, that in baseball terminology is called a pickoff. And how in
the heck are the Republicans running for president – I mean, the people
serious about beating Secretary Clinton going to do that when they`ve
alienated families across the political spectrum for having sons and
daughters, cousins and nephews and nieces who were born gay. Seriously,
how to do you defend this position laid forth in the Republican platform.
How do you defend bowing to the cultural right to win the Iowa caucus
saying, what you really don`t believe in to get the country to believe you
want other things? Is this too complicated?
Think about it. If a person`s willing to sell themselves to the
opponents of same-sex marriage in order to win their vote, would you take
that person`s word yourself? Would you, or would you suspect more than a
smidgen that anyone willing to dump on marriage equality to snag a
political opening would do just the same on other matters? I can see how
this whole mess is going to pile up, again, on the more serious Republican
Mike Huckabee, who has threatened to quit the party if he drops the
opposition to same-sex marriage, will drive the competition on the right.
He will make every other contestant on the right – Jindal, Rubio, Perry,
Santorum, of course – head out there on the limb with him. He will insist
that the debate over same sex marriage be a central player in the overall
debate season. He will keep the air in the ball as long as he can because
it`s the one way he can come out top by going furthest to the right and
daring anyone else to follow him all the way.
Well, we`re going to see in the months between now and the spring of
2016 as a partisan version of Gresham`s Law. Just as bad money is said to
drive good money out of circulation, a bad issue is going to drive the
better Republican issues out of discussion. You watch, there`s going to be
no hiding from homophobia, once the GOP chitchat gets going out there.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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