Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/16/2015

John Heilemann, Nomiki Konst, John Feehery, Laura Coates, April Ryan, Jeff Mason

Date: December 16, 2015
Guest: John Heilemann, Nomiki Konst, John Feehery, Laura Coates, April
Ryan, Jeff Mason

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Can Republicans handle the truth?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We can see what`s happening in the Republican fight for president
right now. The outsiders, led by Donald Trump, are winning voter support,
like it or not. They include Ted Cruz, and to a declining degree, Ben
Carson. All the outsiders are doing great. So the outliers, based on now
consistent numbers in the polls, are getting the lion`s share of Republican
support. We get it.

The establishment types, on the other hand, led, rather sadly, I must
say, by Jeb Bush, are shrinking in support, moreso I think in confidence.
And as I said, the numbers are starting to harden. All the bold talk of
last summer about Trump and the mavericks fading by fall is gone as we
approach the cold, dark reality of winter.

Well, the question is, can the establishment boys, the governors of
this country, Republicans, the state party chairs, the Koch brothers take
it? Can they handle the very near reality now that they may be nominating
a birther for president in Donald Trump or a persistent “burn the house
down” type in Ted Cruz? Well, last night, it was this reality that burned

John Heilemann`s the co-host of Bloomberg`s “With All Due Respect,”
and Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with “The
Washington Post.”

We begin tonight with the national establishment, the embarrassment, I
should say, of Trump`s birther talk, which is reviled by many establishment
Republicans who know it`s a killer for them. We saw it all up close and
personal last night when I interviewed Trump on this show after the debate.


MATTHEWS: Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama isn`t
a legitimate president?



MATTHEWS: … a good question because…

TRUMP: I didn`t say you couldn`t.


TRUMP: I didn`t say you couldn`t. I knew you were going to…

MATTHEWS: You can`t stop it.

TRUMP: … because, you know, I should – I should – no, I can`t. I
should not tell you this, but I do watch you a lot. So I knew you were
going to ask that question, and you know what I`ll say?

MATTHEWS: Well, because it`s the president of the United States!

TRUMP: I don`t talk about that anymore. Here`s the story. I don`t
answer because you know what? If I do answer it, that`s all people want to
talk about. So I never…


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re going to have to answer it in the general
election. You`re going to have to answer…


MATTHEWS: Catholics believe in confession. You say you were wrong
and you move on.

TRUMP: OK, well…

MATTHEWS: You really believe this guy`s an illegitimate president?

TRUMP: I don`t want to answer the question.


MATTHEWS: Well, I didn`t end there. Today, at Trump`s rally in
Arizona, there was more birther talk. Donald Trump was introduced by
Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the first public officials in
this country to declare the president`s birth certificate a fraud.


SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ: If you recall, five months
ago, I introduced Donald Trump. At that time, I said a few things. We
have something in common. The birth certificate investigation, which is
still going on…


MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Gene, I brought it up last night. I`m
proud I did. I said I think this is ethnic. I think it`s a racial
question here. You wouldn`t be doing this for other guys, the fact he`s
not American.


MATTHEWS: And he won`t change. He won`t take it back.

ROBINSON: Yes, and nor…

MATTHEWS: And yet he`s running at 40 percent.

ROBINSON: Nor does he raise the issue, for example, that Ted Cruz was
born in Canada.


ROBINSON: … if you want to go on the issue. Look, this must be
something that Trump still believes, right? I mean, it – and it seems
weird and crazy that someone who is a birther and believes this crazy
mythology actually is leading the Republican process for the nomination for
president of the United States. But that`s where we are.

MATTHEWS: So his – the theory, John Heilemann, just to run through
this one more tragic time – if Gene`s right, then Trump`s crazy because
the presumption that some white Kansas woman went to Africa for the
particular purpose of having her baby born over there to an African so she
could sneak back to Honolulu and have announcements made at the hospital
that the kid was born there – In other words, doing it all on purpose to
make him illegitimate to be president, so that this kid, who she then named
Barack Hussein Obama as part of her plan to make him president – the whole
thing is loony toon unless you`re playing the ethnic card here, the racial

It`s the only reason I`m not Eugene. I`m going to be tougher. I
don`t think he thinks it. I think he thinks it`s a game he can play and
help him (ph) with the bad guys out there. Your thoughts.


MATTHEWS: Why is he doing it?

HEILEMANN: I think – I`m afraid I think that you`re exactly right.
I don`t think he`s crazy at all. I don`t think he believes it for one
minute. I think that, you know, he started in a systematic way to build up
a certain kind of base in the Republican electorate when he was thinking
about running for president in 2012.

We all said, Oh, he`s not going to run, he`s not going to run. It
turns out, on the basis of my reporting, you know, he was pretty serious
about running in 2012, and now we see him running in 2016. He started to
build his base then and now he`s expanded that base by playing the same
kind of ethnic cards, by talking about rapists from Mexico, by talking
about banning Muslims from coming here to the United States. He`s playing
the race card all over the place. It`s part of what his appeal is, and…



ROBINSON: Well, but he plays the race card, obviously. And he did it
with Mexicans. He`s doing it with Muslims. He did it before he even
thought about running for president with African-American. I mean, that`s
part of who Trump is.

I just don`t see what the purpose is of persisting with the birther
stuff at this point for him, even with his base. He`s got his base.


MATTHEWS: Without naming them left, right or center, there are a lot
of public officials and public figures who`ve spent their life covering a
story that isn`t true.


MATTHEWS: They just don`t want (INAUDIBLE) because they want their
friends and family to ever know that they were BS`ing it the whole time.
They were lying the whole time.

ROBINSON: Well, yes, OK, but at some point, I think, if he…

MATTHEWS: He could have done it last night! He could have said, I
think he`s legitimate.

ROBINSON: Yes, well, he didn`t.

MATTHEWS: That`s all he had to say, he`s a legitimate president.

ROBINSON: Well, he didn`t. He didn`t.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, last night, Jeb Bush attacked Trump with new-found
energy, I think, although I think a lot of this was sort of pre-fab,
somebody fed him these lines. But it was Trump who landed the biggest
blow. Watch Trump smashing the feeble attempts of the erstwhile
establishment front-runner, Jeb Bush.


business, to run for president.

TRUMP: Oh, I know. You`re a tough guy, Jeb. I know.


BUSH: And it`s – and we need to have…


BUSH: … a leader that is…

TRUMP: You`re tough.

BUSH: You`re never going to be president of the United States…

TRUMP: You`re really tough.

BUSH: … by insulting your way to the presidency.

TRUMP: Well, let`s see. I`m at 42, and you`re at 3.

BUSH: Doesn`t matter.

TRUMP: So, so far, I`m doing better.

BUSH: Doesn`t matter.


TRUMP: So far, I`m doing better. You know, you started off over
here, Jeb. You`re moving over further and further. Pretty soon, you`re
going to be off the end…


MATTHEWS: That is schoolyard, and it`s schoolyard pure and simple.
We all grew up with that in regular – you know, regular high schools, not
just toughest high schools. That`s the way you behave, schoolyard bullies.

It`s looking like Hail Mary time, however, for the guy who`s getting
bullied here, Jeb Bush. In this curious form of disloyalty to his party,
Politico reports today, prior to last night`s debate, senior Bush aides
began looking into the possibility of making a clear break with Trump
potentially with the candidate stating that if Trump were the nominee, Bush
would not support him. The option may still be on the table.

My thought, John, when I heard about Trump last night, when he said at
the end of that conversation last night in the CNN debate that he was going
to support the winner, he had gotten that word and said, OK, I`ll trump the
guy. I`ll promise to be loyal, while he`s out there saying – or thinking
of saying, I won`t be loyal to the nominee.

HEILEMANN: Right. I think there`s a reasonable chance of that,
Chris. He`s very well plugged in and his organization is very well plugged
in to the kind of scuttlebutt that runs around the Republican Party.

Look, you know, John Kasich said a couple weeks ago that he might not
support Trump if he were the nominee. I thought that was the question that
begged to be asked after Trump came out and said that he wouldn`t run as an
independent, or at least – I think he still has left the door open a
little bit.

But it was the question I wanted the moderators to go around and ask
everyone on the stage whether they would support Trump if he were the
nominee. That would have been a news-making question.


HEILEMANN: I wish they had asked it.


HEILEMANN: I think there are a lot of – I think there are a lot of
people on that stage, frankly, a fair number of people on that stage, who
would either consider or definitely not support Trump if he ends up being
the Republican nominee.

MATTHEWS: Well, today, Trump rallied crowds in Arizona and took some
swipes at Jeb. Here he is today.


TRUMP: There`s a movement going on, folks. This isn`t just like,
Let`s go and have a good time. Somebody said, Oh, Trump`s a great
entertainer. That`s a lot of bull(EXPLETIVE DELETED)!


TRUMP: I`ll tell you. We have a message! We have a message, and the
message is, we don`t want to let other people take advantage of us. I have
endorsements from incredible people, the people that I want. You know, I
don`t care if a guy like Jeb Bush never endorses me. It wouldn`t bother me
at all. I think it`s a negative if you – I get these massive numbers on
terrorism. Like, everybody wants Trump for the protection because they
know I know what the hell I`m doing!


MATTHEWS: You know, I just watched this. We fight with our audience
sometimes (INAUDIBLE), Why do you show Trump? Because the other guys seem
like deadheads, and they don`t even know how to knock him off!

And some of this is, let`s be honest, way back to the days of Lincoln
giving those three-hour speeches, you know, the great debates – I think
they threw in some laughs once in a while just to keep the audience
standing out there in the heat.

ROBINSON: Yes, no, he`s a – he`s he`s an amazingly talented
political performer, Donald Trump is. He definitely knows how to draw
attention to himself. He gets, you know, more free media than you could
ever buy, right, even with his money. What we`re really seeing is the food
fight that the Republican Party has become, basically, and…

MATTHEWS: What did you make…


MATTHEWS: What do you make of these – I think these hurt him. I
think if I were an opponent of Donald Trump, I would get these faces, these
ridiculous mugging he`s doing out there…


MATTHEWS: To me, it showed lack of what he`s usually good at, quick
response with a word or two. He didn`t have the right word, so he made

ROBINSON: He made faces, but they were effective faces.

MATTHEWS: You think?

ROBINSON: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: I thought they were too much.



MATTHEWS: What did you think, John? You think that – we`ll get to
that in the show with our roundtable – all that mugging last night, it
just got, I thought, too much. Your thoughts.

HEILEMANN: There`s no doubt it`s theatrical, Chris, but I have to
say, you know, the thing about Trump that has always been true throughout
this race – he comes across like he`s having fun. He looks like he`s
having fun on the stage. And you can say that about very few of the other
Republicans, especially someone like Jeb Bush…


HEILEMANN: … who has looked kind of miserable throughout the race.
Donald Trump look likes he`s having a ball, and I think that`s pretty
appealing to a lot of voters.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about this romance going – bromance, if
you will. The establishment was hoping for a case of mutual destruction
between Trump and Cruz, who`s the runner-up right now. Well, they`re going
to have to keep waiting. Cruz refused to go after Trump last night, and
Trump made public display of affection for Cruz during the debate and in
the spin room after it.


TRUMP: He has a wonderful temperament.


TRUMP: He`s just fine. Don`t worry about it.




TRUMP: You know what I like about Ted Cruz, though? He was with me
when nobody else was. When I was saying things that were strong, and now
people sort of came back and they said, You know, Trump turned out to be
right, whether it was illegal immigration or so many other things, Ted Cruz
was the one person that really backed me. He was with me. And I have to
respect that.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is what the Republican establishment – I think
we got to come up with a new word for it, John, because there isn`t one.

ROBINSON: Yes, there isn`t one.

MATTHEWS: The sense there`s a bunch of party elders that meet in the
Waldorf Astoria, like in the old days – they did – the Waldorf Towers and
they would pick Eisenhower, and that would be it. Today, there`s nothing
like that. They`re just watching these two outliers or outlaws in the
party dominate the numbers.

ROBINSON: It`s a full-fledge insurrection. The Republican Party is
not what it was 20 years ago. It`s different. It`s…

MATTHEWS: Why does it look weaker than the Democrats after the
Democrats on the – President Obama and Hillary – she`s getting her share
of it. All the hanging fire the Democrats have taken for leading the
country or not leading it, if you will – they`ve taken a lot more
incoming, but the Republicans – yet the Republican leadership is in

ROBINSON: It is in tatters, ironically, at a moment when Republicans
control both houses of Congress. They have done fantastically well in the
statehouses. What they have been able to agree on…


ROBINSON: … is that they want power.


ROBINSON: But they haven`t been able to agree on…


ROBINSON: … other very important things.


MATTHEWS: I want this as my most important statement last night. I
never heard anybody say this, having been lucky enough, like all three of
us, to live through the cold war because people of calm leadership
discernment on both sides, including the Russians over in Moscow, knew that
we shouldn`t go to war with each other. We`re two well armed, too big, too
proud to fight with each other. It would be earth-destroying.

Last night, somebody didn`t get the message. The other establishment
hope, if there is one, is Chris Christie, the governor over there in
Trenton who`s rising in New Hampshire somewhat. Christie`s brand is brute
force, but he can also get himself into trouble.

Last night, Christie took an uber-hawkish stance with Russia. He said
he would risk war with Putin over a no-fly zone violation. This morning on
CBS, Christie again went further, talking about shooting down Russian
planes premeditatedly and saying so on national television that he`s going
to do it. Here he is.


fly zone means, don`t fly. And if they fly there, their pilot will get
shot done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And your response to Senator Paul, who indicated
that that may cause World War III?

CHRISTIE: See, the problem for folks like Senator Paul is they don`t
realize we`re already in World War III.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if Russia is our ally against ISIS, should we
be shooting down their planes and – because we`re not engaged in World War
III with them?

CHRISTIE: You`re assuming that Russia`s our ally in the fight against
ISIS, and I don`t believe that that`s the case.


CHRISTIE: Well – well, you know, listen, then that makes it
absolutely certain that I`m right. The fact is, Russia`s been stealing our
lunch money on the entire time from the Obama administration.


CHRISTIE: They are aligning with the Iranians to try to create an
Iranian empire across the Middle East. I don`t call that a friend.


MATTHEWS: You know, Charlie Rose is so much more intellectually
competent and relevant in this debate to actually be president of the
United States than that character, that character from Trenton.

You know, John, Charlie was trying to bring sanity to that
conversation, and he kept trying to bring him into it. What happens – why
do we want to go to war with Russia by shooting down their plane? And he
couldn`t – he wouldn`t – the guy would not stop, Christie. He wouldn`t
stop being crazy.

HEILEMANN: Well, Charlie – Charlie! I agree with you, Chris, that
that`s what Charlie was trying to do. I think Chris Christie, to the
extent that he has risen in New Hampshire, to the extent that he`s been one
of the people who`s gotten some – gotten some elevation out of this post-
Paris, post-San Bernardino moment, it`s been by being a tough guy, right,
projecting strength, brute strength, brute force, as you put it before.

And I think that he, looking at Trump`s example and the way that Trump
has gained in this moment by saying some very provocative, very
indiscriminate things – he`s trying to be a slightly more reasonable
version of Trump. He thinks that`s in his political advantage. I`m not
sure he`s wrong.

MATTHEWS: If we had him during the Cuban missile crisis, we wouldn`t
be here now.

ROBINSON: Well, exactly.

MATTHEWS: We wouldn`t be here!

ROBINSON: Trump is smart enough to pick people he can beat up,

MATTHEWS: Well, Charlie Rose is so much smarter than him, it`s not

ROBINSON: Right. But – but Trump`s targets, you know, illegal
immigrants, foreign Muslims who want to come to this country, people who
are not physically a threat to him. Russia is one of the countries on
earth that the United States cannot go to war with. It can never happen


ROBINSON: … because, you know, Russia – Russia has thousands of
nuclear weapons, as do we…

MATTHEWS: And they`re at least as nationalistic as we are.

ROBINSON: That`s called Armageddon. So – and to talk like that I
think definitely contradicts or tends to take back…

MATTHEWS: What right do we have…

ROBINSON: … any momentum that Christie…


MATTHEWS: And what right do we have to pick some country in Middle
East called Syria and say, Anybody who flies over Syria, we shoot them
down? Where did the idea of any kind of sense of what rights we have in
the world – this craziness of the neocons now has gotten so out of hand,
we can pick anywhere in the world and say, If you do something we don`t
like, we`ll kill you.

Last thoughts from you, John.

HEILEMANN: Guys, I just – I`ll – I just think that, like, there`s a
lot of crazy talk going on in this nomination fight on the Republican side.
But I do think that, you know, you`ve seen this on (INAUDIBLE) both parties
over years have passed – people say stuff that they don`t – that would
not actually be the policy of their administration. It`s hard for me to
believe that Chris Christie, if he were president, would actually pursue
the ideas that he espoused this morning on CBS.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s an “if” I don`t think most people should take
– take a danger – a dangerous approach to.

Anyway, John Heilemann, thank you. You were laughing when you said
that. I`m not laughing at Chris Christie. Those days are over. It`s one
thing to yell at some call-in person during a call-in show and being
unpleasant to her or him, it`s another thing to start talking about World
War III.

Coming up – you couldn`t miss the Republicans trying to go after
Hillary, tie her, by the way, to everything that`s gone wrong in the world.
It used to be Obama`s responsible for the weather, everything. Now
Hillary`s responsible with Obama for every single thing that goes wrong in
the world. They did it consistently last night, constantly. They`re
looking for – to run against a third Obama term. I know what they`re up
to. Can Secretary Clinton present herself as a fresh start? Can she beat
this rap?

And who does the Clinton campaign, by the way, want to face in the
general election and who are they most afraid to face? That`s interesting

Plus, a mistrial in the first of those closely-watched cases relating
to – those police cases relating to the death of Freddie Gray. The city
of Baltimore is on edge tonight, as we might have expected.

And among (ph) the top candidates who helped their cause last night
heading into the Christmas holiday, and more importantly, who didn`t.
We`re going to check on all of that tonight, lots of politics tonight with
the HARDBALL roundtable.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the worst thing anyone said in last
night`s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas in that fight before

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, they had more – I guess they had a lot of time on
their hands. National Public Radio`s politics team has compiled a list of
talk time in last night`s debate. Ted Cruz came out on top with just under
16 minutes of talking. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump each clocked in at 13
minutes, 13-and-half minutes. At the bottom of the pack, no surprise, John
Kasich – hard to get a word in there – and Carly Fiorina.

You can catch the Democrats in their debate, of course, Saturday night
in New Hampshire right here – and then – no, you don`t watch it here, but
you`re watching (ph) us afterwards. Then join us afterwards for a post-
debate show on MSNBC here on Saturday night, 10:00 o`clock. I`ll be here
with all the highlights and a lot of stuff, interesting stuff.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

To hear the Republicans – we`re talking about going to the Holy Land.

Anyway, to hear the Republicans tell it last night, Hillary Clinton
was practically a co-president with Barack Obama the last seven years.
Republicans over and over again last night tied the former secretary of
state to President Obama. Watch how they do it in this montage.


Clinton says her theory against ISIS will be just about the same as the
president, then get ready for more unrest and more murder and more violence
in the Middle East.

What has Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country?

Barack Obama`s strategy is to lead from behind.

Obama are responsible for the growth of ISIS.

CHRISTIE: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the reckless people.
It`s so dysfunctional, the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – Barack Obama
and Hillary Clinton, through their foreign policy, have betrayed the
American people.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton has aligned
herself with Barack Obama on ISIS, Iran and the economy. It`s an alliance
doomed to fail.

Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees
to this country.

He`s far too often supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. What I can tell you is all nine of the
people would make an infinitely better commander in chief than Barack Obama
or Hillary Clinton.



MATTHEWS: That`s like one name now.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is a Hillary Clinton supporter here to
discuss this.

You got a free platform here, Senator. And I just think they have a
plan, which is to tie these two together and drown them together. What is
your approach to this discussion?

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Well, Chris, two things. First, I ran
for the Senate in Virginia in 2012. And that was the Republican plan
against me to brand me as a Barack Obama supporter. And every negative ad
they ran, 50 percent of the people ended up liking me better.

They are making sure that everyone who supports this president – and
in Virginia, there`s huge percentages – are going to very much support
Secretary Clinton in her quest for president.

And the second thing is that whole line of attack last night it`s a
blame America first attitude. Things are going wrong in the Middle East?
Oh, it`s got to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton`s fault. It`s not the
fault of radical jihadism. It`s not the fault of bad governments in the
Middle East. No, it`s got to be America`s fault, and it`s got to be
President Obama`s fault.

I don`t think the Americans want to blame America first or its
president, and that`s the way all these guys are running. And I don`t
think that`s going to be appealing to the American public.

MATTHEWS: Has Hillary put herself – by taking the job of secretary
of state, which I was very impressed by – that was a very patriotic thing
to do, to accept that and give up her Senate seat, which she didn`t have to
do, and to become, to some extent, a partner of the president`s.

But is it harder for her to talk about her accomplishments? I mean,
she did so much work as secretary of state. But you don`t hear her saying
that. Would you if you were her be saying more about what she did
overseas, or all those trips overseas with big-shot leaders?

KAINE: You know, I think that is important for her to do.

She gave a speech yesterday in homeland security. And it got less
attention, obviously, than the debate last night. But if you watch that
speech, it`s the difference between an adult in the room and people who are
throwing around sound bites who don`t know what they`re talking about.

And I think that the work that she`s done as secretary to follow the
work as a senator, to follow the work as first lady, gives her a gravitas,
maybe especially on these foreign policy and international security issues.
And I think the contrast between her and anything you heard last night in
the Republican debate is very, very sharp.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look, Senator, at what some of
Republicans were saying yesterday about foreign policy and national
security last night.


RUBIO: If you are an American citizen and you decide to join us with
ISIS, we`re not going to read you your Miranda rights. You are going to be
treated as an enemy combatant.

massively, like we did in first Gulf War where we destroyed Saddam`s
ability to take Kuwait. We need to have a coalition that will stand for
nothing less than the total destruction of ISIS.

CRUZ: ISIS and radical Islam terrorism will face no more determined
foe than I will be. We will utterly destroy them by targeting the bad

CHRISTIE: Yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in
fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same
feckless weakling that the president we have in Oval Office is right now.



MATTHEWS: That`s a lot of tough street-corner talk there by guys,
none of them who have served in military, ever been in combat. But they`re
all talking like Curtis LeMay.

KAINE: Well…

MATTHEWS: Like we`re just going to carpet-bomb, turn them into a
parking lot.

You know, that`s the kind of stuff Frank Rizzo, the mayor of Philly,
used to talk like. But nobody thought of him as a commander in chief.
That`s just barroom talk.

KAINE: Well, Chris, I`ll tell you, it`s more than barroom talk. Two
of the clips you just played are from U.S. senators who`ve been in this
body during 16 months of war, and rather than have a debate about the war
and vote to authorize it, they`ve been hiding under their desks. They talk
tough on TV shows.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. They don`t want a resolution.

KAINE: They don`t want a debate. They don`t want to vote. They
don`t want to be held accountable. They want to criticize the president,
but they want to hide under their desks. And that`s the kind of presidents
they`d be.

MATTHEWS: You`re great.

Thanks so much, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

KAINE: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, a common theme last night, each candidate promising
they were the best option to beat Hillary Clinton.

Let`s watch that setup.


KASICH: Our message has to be big and bold and positive.

If we do it, we will beat Hillary Clinton and we will run the White

FIORINA: And we need to beat Hillary Clinton to take our country back
and keep our nation safe.

TRUMP: If I`m so fortunate to be chosen, I think I will do very well.

Polls have come out recently saying I would beat Hillary. I will do
everything in my power to beat Hillary Clinton, I can promise you.



MATTHEWS: Well, Nomiki Konst – or Konst – is the executive director
of the Accountability Project. There she is. And John Feehery, right here
with me, is a Republican strategist.

Let me ask you, is this it? Who is she most afraid of, do you think,
Hillary, of all the candidates?


JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think they`re most afraid of
Marco Rubio, all the Democrats I talk to, because…


MATTHEWS: Because he`s young and cute?

FEEHERY: Young, new generation, Hispanic.

MATTHEWS: And maybe he`s cute, right?

FEEHERY: Pro-immigration. Could probably get some Hispanic votes.

MATTHEWS: But every time he talks, every time – Nomiki, every time
he talks, I hear a tape recording. I hear a guy who has got speech parts,
just like we`re going to the Hall of the Presidents. He`s already skipped
being president. He`s already down there in Florida, Orlando, or Disney
World, and he`s reading these scripts like they`re the great speeches of
Marco Rubio.

He`s already given them and now we`re hearing pieces of it. He
doesn`t go uh or uh. There`s no hesitation. It`s all software. It`s

NOMIKI KONST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It`s 24/7 repeat to you and I.

But to the majority of Americans, majority of the Republican base who
is not here – who is watching him carefully and not watching him on the
stump, it`s still fairly new to him.

But with all that being said, he is still somebody who – for
instance, last night, he said he doesn`t want to read the Miranda rights to
the terrorists, but he`s more than willing to prevent – to allow them to
continue to buy guns on the terror list.

This is a man who is using fear-mongering and this inflammatory
rhetoric to ignite the base. But it`s all a red herring, because he
doesn`t want to talk about the economy, he doesn`t want to talk about the
fact that he doesn`t show up to vote to improve our security so that we can
fight ISIS, so that we can increase troops to fight ISIS.

He doesn`t talk about any of these things. He`s talking specifically
to a base because he`s trying to steal that momentum away from Ted Cruz.
And I don`t see that happening.

MATTHEWS: What is the idea of that? Let me ask you, John. You know
politics. I`m not going to read the Miranda rights. Well, that`s one way
of getting the guy off, because he`s got an immediate appeal.

KONST: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: You can`t – the guy would walk if you didn`t give him his
Miranda rights. Anyway…

FEEHERY: Well, let me tell you, I think that Rubio did very well last
night, especially countering your friend Ted Cruz. I thought it was a good

MATTHEWS: Yes. My friend. Yes, I don`t think so.

FEEHERY: That was a good debate between those two. I think it was an
important debate.

I thought the other good debate…


MATTHEWS: You think people followed that?

FEEHERY: I don`t know.


FEEHERY: I thought it was – I thought that Cruz actually shot at and
missed Rubio. I thought Rubio was stronger than a lot of people thought he
was going to be.

I also thought there was a debate between Jeb and Trump. And I
thought Jeb really hit Trump very hard, which is very helpful. I think the
other guy who could be really strong against Hillary is Jeb, even though
he`s way down in the polls, because he`s got the credibility to be…

MATTHEWS: How does he handle the 42-3 charge? Nobody likes you.
You`re practically not on the stage. How does he handle that?

FEEHERY: Well, you just got to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving

MATTHEWS: You know, Nomiki, I thought that Jeb Bush came on last
night with some prepared snappers, as we call them in politics, snappers,

He`s not a snapper kind of guy. He doesn`t deal in that kind of
repartee. He`s a slow, nice, considerate – considerate, and also a
considering kind of guy. And he`s out there trying to snap this guy like
with a whip. He doesn`t look real to me, and whereas, Trump, that`s his

KONST: Well, he`s trying to answer. He`s trying to keep the momentum
and the funding that he`s receiving from his funding base, which is
spilling into Marco Rubio.

And this is really his last chance. I don`t see him growing from
here. I don`t see him continuing to raise money. When you look at the
other candidates, when you look at Ted Cruz, when you look at Marco Rubio,
they have a lot of cash on hand. They are raising and they`re keeping that
cash on hand.

Jeb Bush is outspending everyone. And he`s really on his last life
right now. And I don`t know how he`s going to be able to rise up above
this right now.

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t Jeb Bush leave with class and say what he
really believes about assimilation, education, which he`s really good on,
very conservative, and how his family has shown how America can grow with
Hispanic people as part of your family and how we have to be open, and say
what believes, instead of all this malarkey he`s dropping?

FEEHERY: We haven`t seen the first vote yet. I think that Jeb is –
you shouldn`t count him out. I still remember when John McCain was at 4

MATTHEWS: OK, Jack Germond.

FEEHERY: I`m just saying…


FEEHERY: I`m not saying he`s going to win. I think that Marco is
probably the better odds, although…


MATTHEWS: He`s the only hope you guys have.

FEEHERY: He`s our only hope.


FEEHERY: If it`s Trump or Cruz, we`re in big trouble.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president was born here?


MATTHEWS: No, Obama.



What do you think, Nomiki? Do you think the president of the United
States is a legitimate…


KONST: I`m not even going to answer that question.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

FEEHERY: He was born in Hawaii.

KONST: But Ted Cruz was not born here.


MATTHEWS: Do you think the president of the United States is here
legitimately, or is he a usurper, an interloper?

KONST: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Just wanted to see what sane minds agree.

Anyway, thank you, John Feehery. And thank you, Nomiki Konst.

Anyway, we will be right back with politics in a minute with the
HARDBALL roundtable.

But, up next, mistrial, trouble probably in Baltimore, a hung jury in
the first trial of a police officer charged with manslaughter in the death
of Freddie Gray, you know, the guy who was in the paddy wagon.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, the trial – the trial of a Baltimore police officer
charged in the death of a prisoner, Freddie Gray, ended in deadlock today.
A judge dismissed the jury, saying it was clear they would not be able to
reach a unanimous verdict.

William Porter was the first of six police officers – there he is –
to stand trial in the death of Gray. Prosecutors said he failed to get
medical attention for Gray. And Porter was charged with manslaughter,
assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment. And he pleaded not guilty
to all those charges.

Baltimore`s mayor called for calm and said anyone who chooses to
protest should do so peacefully.

Here she is.


All of us, if we believe in justice, must have respect for the outcome of
the judicial process. If some choose to protest, they must peacefully
demonstrate. That is their right. We will not and cannot be defined by
the unrest of last spring.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Laura Coates, a former
assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Laura, thank you so much.


MATTHEWS: You know, when you hear a mistrial, it sounds like somebody
did something wrong, but, of course, you know that doesn`t mean that. it
means, we couldn`t get a verdict.

Tell us, why do you think the judge gave up on that jury reaching a
unanimous jury in this very hot case?

COATES: I know.

You know, after 16 hours of deliberation, you would think that that
would not be enough time to actually have a thorough and full deliberation
process. But, in reality, what you saw here was just that, Chris.

You had seeds of reasonable doubt that had been planted throughout the
trial by the defense team. And you had some real deficiencies in the
prosecution`s argument. So, what likely happened here is, they all said
they couldn`t come together and unanimously decide on even one charge,
which, frankly, is a little shocking to the community.

We all in the community thought that it was a tough uphill battle on
certainly the manslaughter charge, but misconduct in office, reckless
endangerment or assault?


COATES: And the reason for this, Chris, is because the fundamental
flaw of the case is that the premise is that we`re punishing him for
something he did not do, as in he failed to seat belt in Freddie Gray and
he failed to get medical attention.

And people are not used to that sort of a standard for a police

MATTHEWS: Well, is there – it sounds like a reasonable standard to
me, but is there a precedent for this kind of standard being used in a case
as important as a manslaughter case, not doing something?

COATES: It is. And it`s almost like the idea of a police officer
having to have a different standard in all sorts of cases.

I mean, keep in mind that people fundamentally trust the police over
any other citizens and over any other group. And so it`s not a flawed
concept to say that you can be punished for failing to do something,
especially if you, as a police officer, your entire job hinges on you
actually being proactive…


COATES: … not just reactive.

And, here, William Porter was the last person allegedly to hear
Freddie Gray`s dying declaration for help. And you just can`t escape that
really bad fact.

But it`s far from over, Chris. What people have to understand is that
this is a real chess game in a way. There`s a reason officer William
Porter`s trial went first. There`s a reason that the very next trial will
be the van driver, whose has far more serious charges. We have got to
wait. There is a strategy and a plan.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Laura Coates, for that expertise about
the Baltimore trial.

COATES: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to get hot.

Coming up: Who is in a stronger position today than they were headed
into last night`s debate? The fight before Christmas, who was the winner?
Our roundtable is going to tell us. They`re going to break down who is
ahead of the pack right now and who fell back in the pack. That`s coming
up next in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back.

Well, the emerging candidates are hoping to get out from behind
Trump`s shadow all turned on solid performances last night. But how did
the debate help them in the early contest?

All paths to the nomination historically go to the early states.
Candidates have to win New Hampshire or before that win Iowa. And right
now, they`re all focused on that. Ted Cruz apparently is focused on
winning Iowa. You hear. And Chris Christie`s one chance to be the nominee
of the Republican Party, if he has one, is to win New Hampshire.

No candidate was ever won the Republican nomination for president
without winning one of these states. However, none of them have ever won
both. So, this is a strange situation. It`s very hard. In fact, nobody
has ever done it, won both Iowa and New Hampshire. But you damn well have
to win one of them or you`re not going to be the nominee.

So, I love the math. We`ve got the situation now.

Let`s ask Chris Christie, one shot, win New Hampshire. Did he do
something last night to advance that goal?

JEFF MASON, REUTERS: So, he started last night or one of the bigger
moments of the debate was when he looked straight at the camera and said if
your eyes are glazing over from what Rubio and Cruz said, then you`re in
the same boat as I am –

MATTHEWS: This is like the Frank Underwood aside that comes out of
those bozos.

Let`s see it.


the audience at home for a second, if your eyes are glazing over like mine,
this is what it`s like to be on the Senate. I mean, endless about how many
angels on the head of a pin from people who have never had to make a
consequential decision in an executive position. The fact is, for seven
years, I had to make these decisions after 9/11. And yet, they continue to
debate about this bill and the subcommittee, nobody in America cares about
that. What they care about is, are we going to have a president who
actually knows what they`re doing to make these decisions?


MATTHEWS: Anyway –

MASON: See, how does that help him in New Hampshire is the state that
likes people that are independent, who like the straight talk that might
help him there.

MATTHEWS: Jeff Mason of “Reuters”.

April Ryan, of course, American Urban Radio Networks, of course,
Jonathan Capehart in “The Washington Post”.

I want to go to you, do you think aside, they remind me, you know, of
Frank Underwood turning over and saying, you know, “The House of Cards”,
did you like those clowns?

Frank Underwood also spit on the crucifixion of Jesus and fell down, too.
So, let`s go there. But that kind of plays into, I mean, I shouldn`t –


MATTHEWS: It`s the roundtable. Do what you want.

RYAN: But no, here`s the deal, though. Seriously, and when you –
and it`s interesting that you make that analogy because New Hampshire is
state that`s more secular and New Hampshire is a state who is concerned
like any other state about issues of terror. And for him to come out there
and say, it kind of lessens the Bridgegate issue, but let you know that
he`s been poised to know what terror looks like, or at least to know to
handle it and persecute.

MATTHEWS: Does it work? Did it work for him last night?

the first time that Governor Christie has done that whole look at the
camera thing. He`s done it at every debate. And I think it`s very
effective because he`s leapfrogging the moderators, leapfrogging everybody
else in the stage and going right into the person`s living room and saying,
look at me, trust me.

And I agree completely with you, Jeff, that that`s what he is
appealing to the New Hampshire primary voter who values independence,
independence from the party –


MATTHEWS: Let`s go onto Ted Cruz. He might have scored points last
night, Cruz did, when he said political correctness is preventing the Obama
administration from stopping terrorist attacks. Let`s watch this number.


competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these
attacks. It is political correctness. Because of political correctness,
the Obama administration, like a lot of folks here, want to search every
one`s cell phones and e-mails and not focus on the bad guys and political
correctness is killing people.


MATTHEWS: Well, there he is saying only go after people who seem like
they are from the Middle East or Islamic in some discernible way, and skip
everybody else when we check people at airports. That seems to be what
he`s saying. I don`t know what else he could be saying.

RYAN: Yes, and a lot of those candidates to include Ted Cruz, walked
down a very dangerous path last night. They even called it out. It`s a
religious war basically saying it`s –

MATTHEWS: We`re talking Iowa. Does this help in Iowa?

RYAN: Iowa is a very savvy group of voters, OK?


RYAN: They`re very savvy, and, of course, they`re very politically
aware. They know what they heard.

MATTHEWS: They picked Santorum last time. They picked Robertson –

RYAN: But you know what? Yes, they did.

MATTHEWS: They picked Huckabee.

RYAN: But they`re very savvy, but they listen to the issue. They
listen to the issues, not necessarily the person. And what he did is
showed he was –


MATTHEWS: The theory that what he`s doing is selling nativism.

RYAN: He showed he was a fighter, whether you like or not.

MATTHEWS: What he`s doing there is selling nativism. We don`t want
to focus on the white people basically. We want to focus on people that
seem foreign in some way. They`re the ones we should focus on. That`s

CAPEHART: Well, right. What do Santorum, Cruz and one other name you
mentioned earlier, what do they all have in common? The language that they
use, Huckabee, the language they use in their campaign is red hot.

It`s so red hot, it goes it comes up to the line – in terms of
Huckabee, it goes over the line. That apparently works in Iowa. Yes,
there`s Iowa nice but the Iowa nice only relates to in between candidates.
They don`t want –


HUCKABEE: Why do you home school your kids? The keep them away from
the influences.

MASON: He`s taking page out of Donald Trump`s book there, too,
because he`s saying basically – Trump is succeeding with this attack on
political correctness. I`m going to keep doing that too. That`s going to
help –

MATTHEWS: OK, speaking of Trump –

RYAN: The reason was Lindsey Graham last night, I hate to say it.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t catch the early act.

RYAN: He called out to George W. Bush saying he missed him. That was
something different. But he also said that this is – we shouldn`t go down
this road. This is not a religious war. This is – you shouldn`t just
lump everybody together.

MATTHEWS: Maybe it is in Iowa.

Let`s take a look at Donald Trump`s body language.


MATTHEWS: I thought he really hurt himself in a comic way last night
with his multiple occasions he made grimaces, and he was making these weird
faces, he`s mugging the camera. Let`s take a look.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He gets his foreign policy
experience from the shows.

kill the families of terrorists.

BUSH: We need to have a leader that`s real tough.


can`t imagine somebody booing.

BUSH: This is – this is troubling because we`re at war.


MATTHEWS: It`s John McEnroe stuff from tennis days. That just the
thing he used to do when he didn`t like the call.

CAPEHART: Right. But, you know, we`ve seen the faces since the first

RYAN: Exactly.

CAPEHART: The act hasn`t exchanged. If you look at the other
candidates on the stage, they`re acts have changed. They`ve got –

MATTHEWS: Does that help him or hurt him?

CAPEHART: What, those faces? I eventually think it hurts him.

MATTHEWS: Eventually, what year?


CAPEHART: I`ve gotten out of Trump predictions.

MASON: It`s not hurt him at all. It`s part of his shtick. It`s part
of his thing.


RYAN: It`s that confidence and that arrogance.


RYAN: It`s that confidence and that arrogance that people love.

MATTHEWS: The bully. The bully is on your side, it`s one thing. But
it`s a bully against you. We`ve got to decide that. That`s the voters`

The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: President Obama plans to meet with relatives of the San
Bernardino shooting victims. The president will meet privately with family
members this Friday. That`s a couple of days from now before heading to
Hawaii for his Christmas vacation out there with his family.

The December 2nd attack left 14 people dead and more than 20 others

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable – Jonathan.

CAPEHART: So, wedged in the omnibus –

MATTHEWS: Tell me something I don`t know.

CAPEHART: Well, here`s what you don`t know, Chris – wedged in the
omnibus bill is $750 million for security and development for El Salvador,
Guatemala and Honduras. And why is that significant? Remember in the
summer of 2014, 50,000 unaccompanied minors streaming over the south border
largely coming from those countries.

MATTHEWS: To make it easier for them to say.


RYAN: Somebody that you don`t want to talk about too much, but I`m
going to talk about it, Dr. Ben Carson. There was a lot of talk in the
Baltimore, about a lot of people wanting to go to Dr. Carson when he was a
neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, and they were saying they couldn`t see him.
And I kept asking why, and then I found out to ask him. He said he had a
cash-only business for two years. Cash only, meaning, he served –

MATTHEWS: No insurance, no Medicare.

RYAN: And people who could afford it were the ones that could go

MATTHEWS: Pay for service.

RYAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

MASON: Also in that spending bill, for decades, the United States has
not been allowed or oil producers are not allowed to export U.S. crude.
The White House has opposed that for a long, long time. And now, that`s
part of the bill and the White House is removing its opposition or it`s
going to –

MATTHEWS: What`s that going to do to gas prices?

MASON: It probably won`t do anything because oil is so low. But it`s
interesting the president is now backing off on that. It may create
problems for him with environmentalists after having –

MATTHEWS: OK, I thought we`re going for energy independence. We
don`t give it away.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart, thank you, sir. Thank you,
April Ryan. And thank you, Jeff Mason of “Reuters”.

When we return, let me finish with the worst thing anyone said in last
night`s debate, I think, and I think I`m right.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the worst thing anyone said in
last night`s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, the fight before
Christmas, if will you. There was no doubt about it, Chris Christie`s call
to shoot down Russian planes over Syria.

We got through the 20th century by one simple rule: don`t go to war
with the Russians. That rule got us through the anger millions of us felt
about the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe following World War II. It
got us through many dangerous episodes of Soviet actions during the years
of the Cold War – the killing of an American colonel along the Berlin
Wall, the downing of a Korean passenger airliner. These in addition to the
larger wars fought with surrogates, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan,
and most dangerously, this practice of not attacking the Russians got us
through the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which would have gone nuclear.

Chris Christie has either never picked up a history book, never read
the newspaper growing up, and this is the worst possible assessment of what
he said, there`s not now care about the future safety of this country or
the world we share with others.

I hope the Russian people know that the American people are sane
enough to keep Christie in Trenton where the only damage he can do is

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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