Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/18/2015
Date: December 18, 2015
Guest: Susan Page, Dana Milbank, Abby Philip, David Catanese
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama grabs the mike.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Today, President Obama tried to fight his way into the news before
saying “Merry Christmas” and heading off to Hawaii. He pushed his
successes – the climate change agreement in Paris, the opening to Cuba,
the nuclear deal with Iran, the initial trans-Pacific trade accord. But he
first had to push past the country`s concern over terrorism, a topic on
which he had little good news to share today.
What we heard today from the president was a tale, of course, of two
cities, the Paris of the climate talks, the Paris of the terrorist attacks.
He wanted to talk about the first Paris, and the media and the public were
focused on the latter, on the attacks. For better or worse, nothing has
concentrated the public mind these days like the prospect of another
Perry Bacon is NBC News senior political reporter, Susan Page is “USA
Today” Washington bureau chief, and Michael Beschloss is the NBC News
Let me get to this whole thing about the president, and this was the
parting shot from the president to the American people, his final press
conference of the year. He asked the American public to stay vigilant
because some attacks, like mass shootings and lone wolf attacks, may be
nearly impossible to detect ahead of time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is very difficult
for us to detect lone wolf plots, or plots involving a husband and wife in
this case, because despite the incredible vigilance and professionalism of
all our law enforcement, Homeland Security, et cetera, it`s not that
different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter.
You don`t always see it. They`re not always communicating publicly.
And if you`re not catching what they say publicly, then it becomes a
This is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with
an organization like al Qaeda that involved highly trained operatives who
are working as cells or as a network.
It does mean that they`re less likely to be able to carry out large,
complex attacks, but as we saw in San Bernardino, obviously, you can still
do enormous damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president also characterized the ISIS threat, the
terror threat, as dangerous for quite some time to come. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: ISIL`s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with
people who`ve traveled to Syria or traveled to Iraq and the savviness of
their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who
may be French or British or U.S. citizens, will continue to make them
dangerous for quite some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Perry, I didn`t hear much to calm the nerves
there because he said we can`t catch lone wolves ahead of time. They`re
like almost family disputes or a lone shooter who may be a mental case. We
can`t tell if they got the problem because they don`t talk to anybody. And
then he went on and said ISIL, as he calls it, is going to be there a long
time and dangerous for a long time because they`re recruiting even in this
PERRY BACON, NBC SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He was careful of saying
– you know, in the past, he said ISIS was contained and he got criticized,
so he was very much trying to avoid using phrases like that. And he all
but said this could happen again.
He really does not want to – you know, George Bush made his
presidency about the war on terror, I`m fighting terror. You can tell
Obama does not want to do that. He wants to keep talking about Iran,
climate change. He hasn`t changed and adjusted his presidency in a way to
say terrorism is the number one and the number two and the number three
thing. It`s a very (INAUDIBLE) He wants it to be broader than terrorism.
MATTHEWS: I agree completely. The question is, can you get away with
it and still be in the American conversation?
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: You know, the problem is, he is undoubtedly
correct, accurate in saying it`s impossible to stop these lone wolf
attacks, these self-inspired terrorists, very difficult, you can`t stop
them all. It is politically really unsatisfying. And that is not an
argument you`re going to hear from the people running for president because
they`re going to try to the case that there is something you can do, and if
you elect them, they will do it, whatever it is.
MATTHEWS: And there`s no way for them to be accountable in the whole
PAGE: Not until they`re elected.
MATTHEWS: They can make any promise they want.
PAGE: That`s right.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. And
historically, it`s a problem of a president in a political year trying to
be the one who is restrained. I mean, you saw this at close hand, Chris,
with President Carter in 1980. A lot of were people saying, Why don`t you
bomb the Iranians and get the hostages out? Why aren`t you tougher against
the Soviets in Afghanistan? And he was in the position of saying no.
But unlike Carter in `80, Barack Obama next year, although he`s not
running, is going to be confronted with the specter of, at least for part
of that year, Donald Trump, who`s not going to be as polite as Ronald
Reagan was in 1980. He`s going to say a lot harsher things that are going
to gin this up.
MATTHEWS: Well, the first reporter today in the presser was basically
challenging him on his ability to say, We have – we understand there`s
nothing planned right now, right?
MATTHEWS: But then he admitted, Well, we can`t tell if there`s
anything planned, so when we say there`s nothing planned, we don`t know of
anything planned, it`s meaningless!
BACON: It`s not a very – he keeps saying that we – there`s nothing
currently that know of that`s planned. It`s not a very comforting answer
BACON: … we don`t know what happens tomorrow or the next day…
MATTHEWS: Because we didn`t know what happened last week.
BACON: … or we didn`t know what happened in Paris, either…
BACON: … more importantly.
MATTHEWS: Problem (ph).
PAGE: Sure, it`s…
MATTHEWS: It is a real conundrum for this president.
PAGE: And so it`s the difficulty of being actually in power as
opposed to seeking power.
MATTHEWS: Anyway – well, that`s right. That`s the advantage of the
out party. Anyway – all the time (ph) – the threat of terrorism in the
wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks dominated the news conference
today. It was clear that President Obama wanted to talk about the other
Paris, where the U.S. and world leaders recently inked a massive climate
deal. The president slammed his Republican rivals for their resistance to
that deal. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Right now, the American Republican Party is the only major
party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies
climate change. I mean, it`s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to
this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments.
Even the far-right parties in many of these countries – they may not like
immigrants, for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us we got
to do something about climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, somebody once said – it must have been in
“Readers Digest” – I care more about my toothache than the starving in
Ethiopia, because when it`s close at hand, it bugs you, all right? You`re
thinking about what maybe you shouldn`t be thinking about, the starving in
Ethiopia, but you`re thinking about that toothache.
Terrorism has grabbed our attention, and it`s almost like everybody
sits down who went to college and they go, yes, I believe in science. I
took biology. I took chemistry. Yes, there`s climate change. I agree
with the scientists.
But what am I thinking about right now? That airplane I`m getting on,
that train I`m taking, that movie theater I`m going to.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And that`s why it`s so hard for him to make
this argument. I think that if he were running for election this next
year, what we`ve heard today that would not be a very powerful selling
PAGE: You know, I think there`s something else at play here, and
that`s that climate change has become part of the partisan battle in
Washington, so that if you`re a Democrat, you`re more likely to believe in
– in climate change, and if you`re a Republican, it`s become part of being
a Republican to question that.
MATTHEWS: Susan, is that business talking? We don`t want to told we
want more regulation, we don`t want to be told anything.
PAGE: Well, it may be partly that, but I think it`s also just that we
– there`s just this big divide down the middle of American politics, and
you`re either on one side or you`re on the other.
MATTHEWS: It`s a test of party loyalty.
We heard a very hawkish tone from President Obama today when the
subject turned to the dangers of Syria and its leader, Bashar Assad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds
of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and
say nothing is contrary to who we are. And that does not serve our
interests because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of
governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president went a step further, saying that ISIS
could not be stamped out unless Assad was first taken out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to
eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam.
Our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that
they don`t have any safe haven. And so long as Assad is there, we cannot
achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, compared to Trump, everybody begins to seem like
Jeb Bush because you turn your head a little bit to this side and you go,
Well, you know, first thing got to do is get rid of Assad. And everybody
does, Well, that`s not going to happen for 20 years. And then after that,
we`ll get around to getting rid of ISIS. The people, what are they
thinking out there? They want to get rid of ISIS next Tuesday!
BACON: The reporter asks the president a great question. The
reporter asks, Is Assad going to be leading his country longer than you
BACON: And the reporter asked twice. And if you noticed, Obama never
answered, and he conceded that in some ways – like, Trump would have said,
We`re getting rid of him tomorrow.
BACON: The president, accurately, I would argue, is suggesting now
Assad may have – be there longer than he will.
MATTHEWS: But Susan, that puts us in a position of having to wait for
all these things to happen before we feel safe.
PAGE: And it…
MATTHEWS: Long way down the road.
PAGE: And it means Americans – you know, it makes Americans more
PAGE: … more comforted, and it makes the political election to
succeed him have even more turmoil and even more perils for Hillary
Clinton, who I assume is his candidate.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s turned the page already, the president?
BESCHLOSS: You mean in terms of thinking of his post-presidency?
MATTHEWS: Well (INAUDIBLE) what he worries about going to bed at
night, what he worries about getting up in the morning. Is he already
focused on the larger legacy question?
BESCHLOSS: Probably, but he also knows that part of that, even, is
going to be electing a Democratic president. But the problem here is that
– look over the last 43 years. The way Republicans get elected is –
president oftentimes is to say, We are stronger than the Democrats are, who
are weak, and this is a moment of national crisis.
MATTHEWS: Except in `60.
BESCHLOSS: Nixon, the two Bushes, did that…
MATTHEWS: … in `60, though. Jack Kennedy ran off…
BESCHLOSS: That`s why I`m saying 43 years, and not going further
BESCHLOSS: But they do that extremely well, and this is getting set
up to make it very easy for…
MATTHEWS: OK, another card…
BESCHLOSS: … whether it`s Donald Trump or someone else…
MATTHEWS: … this little hint that they`re not really loyal, that
the Democrats are really secretly Muslim, secretly this, they don`t really
want to call them Islamic radical terrorism because there`s some question
about – this is Trump talking. So it`s not just they`re not strong, they
may not be on our side.
BESCHLOSS: And that`s why next year may be something like we have
never seen before because you had politer people, like a Ronald Reagan or
even a Richard Nixon, than someone like Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they used to call Carter weak, but they never
suggested he was working on the other side! This a fifth column argument
BACON: It`s not just Trump. Every Republican candidate says, Why
won`t he call it radical Islam, as if there`s some great mystery. I think
every knows what religion the terrorists are.
But I do think Hillary Clinton does not come off to people as weak. I
think that`s one thing about her. She`s known for being tough, known for
being strong. So it`ll be hard to run and say she – Obama talks like an
academic all the time…
BACON: … constantly. Hillary does not do that as much. It`s a
different campaign. Obama…
MATTHEWS: … even the guys who are the most chauvinist – older guys
are convinced Hillary is a tough person.
BESCHLOSS: No question.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think anybody thinks she`s weak.
PAGE: Used to be, like last year, that people would say the one
problem women will have running for president is looking tough enough to be
commander-in-chief. Not Hillary Clinton`s problem. Hillary Clinton was
more muscular on military affairs than Barack Obama when she was secretary
of state. She has that quality of toughness. She`ll have other problems,
but that`s not going to be (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: There`s an edge there.
Anyway, thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, Susan Page. And thank
you, Michael Beschloss.
Coming up – Mitt Romney is now leading the establishment charge to
stop Trump. Bet on Trump! But as Richard Nixon once said, If ever you
hear of a “stop X” movement, bet on X. That`s next.
Plus, Jeb Bush is on the ropes right now. He`s desperate, and now
he`s taking what may be his last best shot, going in with an all-out attack
on the front-runner, Trump. Will this be Jeb`s ticket out of mediocrity,
or will it be his exit strategy, a way to get off the stage.
And the HARDBALL roundtable is here tonight. We`ve got three top
reporters. They`ll tell me something I don`t know, in addition to talking
Jeb Bush`s exit strategy.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with a tale of two cities. I`ve mentioned
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Bernie Sanders`s presidential campaign has filed suit
against the Democratic National Committee, accusing the party of trying to
undermine his campaign and aid Hillary Clinton`s.
NBC News learned four Sanders staffers allegedly accessed Clinton
information on voters after a glitch on a DNC database left it vulnerable
to a breach. The party suspended the Sanders campaign`s use of that system
pending an investigation.
The Sanders campaign has fired one staffer, but this afternoon, the
Sanders campaign filed a federal lawsuit to regain their access to voter
Both DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sanders campaign
manager Jeff Weaver spoke on the issue earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIR: What we are doing is following
our memorandum of understanding, our agreement that we have with each
presidential campaign. They are prohibited from accessing another
campaign`s proprietary information, and we have the ability to suspend that
campaign`s access to the voter files in order to make sure that we can
preserve the integrity of the voter files and ensure that there is
confidence in it.
JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: By their actions, the
leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting
to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable! Individual leaders of
the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not
going to sabotage our campaign, one of the strongest grass root campaigns
in modern history!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Last night, we had a little quiz
here on HARDBALL. We asked our roundtable if they could tell the
difference between statements made by Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin. And
in nearly every instance, we – myself included – got it wrong because you
cannot tell these guys apart.
Yesterday, in his year-end press conference, Putin praised Donald
Trump, calling him, quote, “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader
of the presidential race.”
Well, today, Trump took his bromance with Putin into overdrive. In an
interview with “MORNING JOE,” Trump praised Putin despite being confronted
with Putin`s awful human rights record. He also took his vitriol towards
President Obama to new levels by stating that a leader said to have killed
journalists and invaded countries is a better leader than President Obama.
Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you like Vladimir Putin`s comments about you?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. When people call you
brilliant, it`s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST: Well, I mean, he also is a person that
kills journalists, political opponents and…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invades countries.
SCARBOROUGH: … and invades countries. Obviously, that – it would
be a concern, would it not?
TRUMP: He`s running his country, and at least he`s a leader, you
know, unlike what we have in this country.
SCARBOROUGH: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with
TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so
SCARBOROUGH: Well, but…
TRUMP: But a lot of – there`s a lot of stupidity going on in the
world right now, Joe, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity. And
that`s the way it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, David Corn`s the Washington bureau chief with “Mother
Jones” and Howard Fineman is the global editorial director of the
Anyway, Howard, I did like to be reminded occasionally that we are
overseas in other countries killing people. That`s not – not civilian
killing. It`s not picking out somebody you don`t like you bumped into the
other day. But we do kill lots of people. We killed maybe 100,000 in Iraq
because we decided to invade that country and kill people who got in our
way. We did that decision, our president, George W. Bush.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL
ANALYST: Yes, but that – but the point that Donald Trump was making, I
think, was that there is`s lot of stupidity and killing going on in the
world, so what`s wrong with some more of that?
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) some more of that.
FINEMAN: What`s wrong with some more stupidity and killing?
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s one interpretation.
FINEMAN: Well, that`s – well, basically, he is selling unbridled
strength in – at least in talk.
FINEMAN: That`s Trump`s brand. And the other brand is to attack
Barack Obama and everything about Barack Obama any possible way he can.
And when he does that, those are both things that play directly to the base
and the emotions of the Republican Party. And those kinds of comments,
including this one, are why he`s in the lead.
MATTHEWS: David Corn, is this the sophisticated or Trump version of
you think you are better than me? Because he is basically saying, you so-
called liberal Democrats, you`ve knocked off governments over there. You
are involved with Syria and Libya and Bush W. was knocking off the
government in Iraq.
Go ahead. Your reaction.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I don`t know what he was talking about. He
said we do killings overseas, comparing drone strikes to what Putin does.
I don`t know what he was at. But –
MATTHEWS: Maybe he did mean that.
CORN: Well, he didn`t tell us what he really means. He throws out
My theory here is that Donald Trump sees the world, his world, as one
big green room with bold face celebrities. And if you are one of those
guys like Putin, that`s good enough. It doesn`t matter that you are a
thug, corrupt, and oligarch, whatever it might be, you are a leader, you
are big, just the way Donald Trump is big. Being big is what counts the
And so, he sees himself on the level with the big Vladimir Putin even
if he is a repressive leader. It is absolutely ridiculous saying, I`m glad
that Joe brought that up again, but really, there is something that Trump
that lets him get away with this stuff. Anybody else had said this, you
know, anything positive about Putin they would be laughed out of town.
Imagine what Hillary good gets just the thought of having to improve
relations with Russia.
FINEMAN: It`s not just bigness. It`s the type of leadership. He is
FINEMAN: He is saying I`m going to be the American Vladimir Putin.
I`m going to be the American Vladimir Putin and I`m not going to listen to
any guff from anybody and I`m not going to worry about the niceties. I`m
going to shut out the Muslims and I`m going to do this stuff that is
borderline dictatorial because that is what America needs and they need me
personally to do it. It is a cult of personality.
MATTHEWS: You guys both know foreign policy.
You first, Howard. Is this what goes on a lot of these “stans” over
the world, these former Soviet republics? They`ve got leaders like that.
FINEMAN: Yes. This is what goes on all over the world. In much of
the world, he is the strongman is the model and he is basically taking the
Latin American or Kazakhstan model of political leadership and applying it
to the United States and it is working.
CORN: In the early days of fascism in the `30s, there were leaders
here or politicians here who looked at people like Mussolini and even
Hitler, and said, listen, I like a strong leader over there. They are
cracking down on unions. These guys are strong.
And then people wanting to see a strong leader here during the
Depression when things felt very chaotic and the country looked like it was
going to hell in a basket.
MATTHEWS: That`s why we`re looking at Huey Long in the United States.
CORN: Yes, exactly.
So, here you have Donald Trump playing the same game with Putin. I
don`t care what he does to people, he is strong. I mean, Howard is right.
And he wants to say, listen, I won`t take my shirt off to ride on a horse.
FINEMAN: We can only hope, David.
CORN: We can hope. Now, that might hurt him. That might hurt him.
He wants to be tough and strong and have nobody get in his way and
say, you can`t really do that.
MATTHEWS: I remember he said look at my stomach. Look how it works
when the knife comes at me. That was a little un-macho.
Anyway, after hearing Trump`s high regard for the Russian president,
the establishment is heading after Trump. Today, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt
Romney tweeted, “Important distinction, thug Putin kills journalists and
opponents. Our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.” Well,
that sort of positive about our presidents.
Trump`s Republican rivals added to the backlash. Jeb Bush tweeted,
“This is what Donald Trump thinks is strong leadership. #chaoscandidate.”
Lindsey Graham joined in, tweeting, “I suggest Mr. Trump visit Ukraine
and Syrian refugee camps to see if President Putin is really respected and
John Kasich weighed in, tweeting, “Putin is a thug and a bully.
Candidates should know it and say it. Our next president needs to stand up
to him and not befriend him.”
FINEMAN: Well, I hate to say it, Chris, but the people you just
mentioned, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Lindsey Graham are the
people that Trump enjoys rolling over like a Mack truck, OK? And you
didn`t hear – you didn`t hear Ted Cruz and the other candidates
castigating Donald Trump because they understand that he is going after
Obama and when you inferential go after Obama in this way, that`s what
sells like popcorn at the Republican base.
The strong and this whole notion that Barack Obama is not only weak
but there`s something mysterious about him where he is deliberately being
weak because he`s got another agenda that –
MATTHEWS: Because he is one of them.
FINEMAN: Because he`s one of them.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. I think that`s the sneaky dirty part. You
know, even at the worst moments of the Carter presidency when people will
say anything against Carter, they said he was weak. But they never said he
was secretly one of the Iranians.
MATTHEWS: They never poll that number –
CORN: And they never said that the Russian leader was better than the
U.S. president. I mean, that`s really what Trump is saying here.
MATTHEWS: No, they never said Ayatollah Khoemeni was better anybody
else. Anyway –
CORN: They`re comparing Putin to Obama and Trump saying I would
rather have Putin. He is a leader.
MATTHEWS: I think he is going for the right here. Just guessing.
CORN: You think so? You think so? A little red meat, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman. David, happy holidays.
I want to invite you to join me Tuesday, at 7:00 Eastern, for a
special hour, “Citizen Trump”. Why don`t the rules apply to Donald Trump?
Join me Tuesday night at 7:00 Eastern for the premiere of our documentary,
“Citizen Trump”. Wait until you see this thing.
Up next, a look at the movie “Spotlight”, a true life story of how
“Boston Globe” reporters exposed to scandal within the Catholic Church and
it`s already receiving critical acclaim. We might be looking at the Oscar
winner right here.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cover up story, unless I get confirmation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you out of your mind? Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our town. Everybody knew something was
going on and no one did a thing. We have to put an end to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t tell me what I got to do. I helped defend
these scum bags, but that`s my job, Robbie. I was doing my job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You and everyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a great scene from
“Spotlight” out in theaters right now and hailed as one of the best
journalistic dramas since “All the President`s Men.” “Spotlight” is a
story of how a team of “Boston Globe” investigative reporters exposed the
widespread sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests in the
Boston archdiocese, and the decades long cover up by church officials.
The movie takes us behind the scenes behind the scenes of the newsroom
where these journalists and editors uncovered a systemic pattern of abuse
carefully navigated around the city of Boston`s sensitivities, when it came
to the sins of one of its greatest institutions.
Here is another scene from “Spotlight.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? Why are we hesitating? Barry told us to
get law. This is law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barry told us to get the system. We need the full
scope. That is the only thing to put an end to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s take it up to Ben and let him decide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll take it to Ben when I say it is time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time, Robbie. It`s time. They knew and they
let it happen to kids, OK? It could have been you. It could have been me.
It could have been any of us.
We`ve got to nail these scum bags and show people that nobody can get
away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. It stars an ensemble cast of actors including Michael
Keaton, you saw him there, Mark Ruffalo, you saw him there, Rachel McAdams,
just saw her. Liev Schreiber fantastic as Marty Baron, and, of course,
Stanley Tucci played the lawyer there, and John Slatter who plays our guest
coming up. “Spotlight” was also nominated for three Golden Globe awards
including best picture, best director, best screenplay.
Joining me right now is Ben Bradlee Jr., was the deputy managing
editor at “The Boston Globe”, but oversaw the group of journalists
investigating the Catholic Church known as the “Spotlight” team at “The
Globe”. He`s played by John Slatter in this movie.
Mr. Bradlee, it`s an honor to have you on.
You know, what we liked about it is the low key way. It`s called a
procedural. You talk, it seems to me from a dramatic point of view the way
journalism works at its best. You are thinking about the film as reality.
BEN BRADLEE, JR., FORMER BOSTON GLOBE REPORTER: Yes, who would have
thought, Chris, that a procedural investigative reporting in the raw if you
will, looking at documents, spreadsheets, working the phones, the making of
the journalistic sausage, so to speak, could be interesting on film even
riveting. But these guys, Tom McCarthy, the director, and Josh Singer, the
screenwriter, really found a way to tell a powerful movie.
MATTHEWS: I love the way they showed where you have to tie the thing
down and go inside on the other camp, the church camp, if you will, the
lawyers protecting the church, and finally get somebody to wave you in the
right direction. Somebody has to secretly outside somewhere say you got
it. You got the goods here and you can go with it.
BRADLEE: That was a key moment in the film. And a source of Walter
Robinsons, the lead reporter on the “Spotlight” team. And, yes, we were at
a critical stage when we needed confirmation. And as Keaton said in that
great scene, we weren`t going to run it without that confirmation. And he
picked a very dramatic way to confirm by circling those names.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Marty Baron who I think has played
brilliantly by this guy, Liev Schreiber, I mean, he`s got the personality
that where have seen from Marty Baron. I thought it was good the way they
showed his class and his guts.
The idea of an outside guy coming into the Boston world, where people
say, when you live in Boston, you got to buy into Red Sox thing, you got to
buy into the Patriots, you got to buy into the whole culture, including
church dominance. Here is a guy who is not part of that and he sees is
criminality. He doesn`t see the sanctimonious nature of the church or the
respect for the cardinal. He sees criminality and this is a secular issue
which is fair game for a secular press.
BRADLEE: Well, sometimes, you know, it does take a pair of fresh eyes
and Marty had that. This was not an unfamiliar story to us. We had gone
after sexual abuse in the church quite aggressively, but were never able to
get internal church documents that we were able to get in this case which
made the story bullet proof. The church couldn`t allege Catholic bias or
anything of the sort by “The Globe”.
I was – I might have been a little skeptical initially because we had
made a very aggressive run at another priest referenced in the film, Father
Porter, and we did very good work there but we couldn`t get the internal
documents. So I was a little concerned about overkill initially and being
But Marty had this idea and it wasn`t long before the “Spotlight” team
was uncovering some incredible stuff. So, we were all in.
MATTHEWS: It`s a powerful statement for a print guy. Thank you so
much, Ben Bradlee. Print looked very good in that movie, better than TV,
because you had time and the effort, and you had an owner and a publisher
and editor willing to commit the resource and talent to get the goods on a
very important story that wasn`t going to may be sell newspaper, but would
certainly improve the credentials of everybody in journalism.
Thank you so much for the movie, “Spotlight”. Ben, thank you for the
story behind the movie. It`s in theaters right now.
And, by the way, if you want to see a good movie, go see this one.
Up next, circular firing squad, Jeb Bush takes on Trump. Marco Rubio
takes on Ted Cruz. But will it narrow down the field? You know, I hope
so. I want to see a narrow field of people who could be elected president.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Jeb Bush has been languishing in the polls nationally and in early
voting states. And now, he is hoping some fraternal support will bolster
his base. Former President George W. Bush said on a private conference
call with big donors that, quote, “Jeb is a candidate who is peaking at the
right time I guess is the best way to put it. As we head into the actual
voting season, I feel very good about our chances.” That`s W. talking.
And the Jeb campaign put out this ad knocking Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is another example of the
lack of seriousness. We are at war. Two months ago, Donald Trump said
that ISIS was not our fight.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let Syria and ISIS fight.
Why are we –
BUSH: He said Hillary Clinton would be a great negotiator with Iran.
TRUMP: I think Hillary would have – Hillary always surrounded with
very good people. I think Hillary would do a good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are fighting each other
for the second spot in the GOP race, you can say, with the first primaries
just around the corner. It`s about all the battle that`s just coming in
close enough to Trump to be in the running.
I`m joined now by the HARDBALL round table this Friday night,
Washington columnist Dana Milbank, and political reporter Abby Philip,
“U.S. News and World Report” senior politics reporter David Catanese.
Thank you all, in order, right across the table here.
Should Jeb just get out? What is he fighting for? Is there honor in
fourth and fifth place showing in, say, New Hampshire if you`re coming in
eighth or ninth in Iowa?
DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: I go further and say he should get
out and it is his patriotic duty to get out. Not just him, several others,
Christie, Kasich, they may have made –
MATTHEWS: Why are these stray cats still in this thing?
MILBANK: Well, because there is unlimited funding basically. You
know, it used to be you`d be doing poorly in the polls, your money would
dry up. It doesn`t dry up anymore because you can be propped by these –
MATTHEWS: Why is Carly Fiorina in this – not just Jeb, but I want to
single out Jeb. Why is Carly Fiorina in the race, because she has enough
money for bus fare or airplane fare to the next, Abby? Why are they
ABBY PHILIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: There is theory that this is all
about New Hampshire, that after New Hampshire, reality will hit voters, and
that all these people who are milling around in the middle and at the
bottom are finally going to have some oxygen, that New Hampshire voters are
going to eventually get rid of Trump, the field will open up.
MATTHEWS: Get rid of Trump?
PHILIP: Or –
MATTHEWS: Who says that?
PHILIP: Or the alternatives are that the Republican insiders will
rise up in rebellion after New Hampshire. There is that theory, too.
DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: They all think they have a
shot because they don`t believe Trump is real. They don`t think Cruz can
be the nominee. So, they think, hey, I can be the last guy or gal left
standing. The problem is if Jeb –
MATTHEWS: Jim Gilmore, is that his thinking?
CATANESE: He`s not running, some of these guys. But take the second
tier. They think Christie, Kasich, Jeb, Marco, they are going to be the
guy. The problem is, if Jeb is not within the top three in New Hampshire,
he is going to get embarrassed in South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Jeb. What do you think of his chances?
PHILIP: What`s worse about Jeb is that the more he flounders now, the
more voters are saying, you know what, I don`t really want a Bush/Clinton
matchup. He is kind of the weak link. As long as that keeps up, I think
that dynamic is going to come to play here.
MILBANK: What you`re seeing here is, I call it the march of the
narcissist. Everybody believes he`s the best, or she`s the best possible
If you put their support together – Rubio, Bush, Christie, all of
them, then you have a viable contender to defeat Trump. I don`t think they
can afford to wait.
MATTHEWS: Or Cruz.
MILBANK: Well, Cruz will go down of his own volition. But I think
they can`t afford to wait.
MATTHEWS: Let me put your words together. Are you suggesting you
think Trump is a plausible nominee? It could happen?
MILBANK: If the sensible – the party is still sensible if you put
them all together. If they fracture that then –
MATTHEWS: You seem to be saying that, too.
CATANESE: Absolutely he can be plausible. You ask me this in August,
I thought it was sort of a joke like everybody else.
MATTHEWS: Not everybody else.
CATANESE: But the consultants and campaigns I talked to said this
will end in September. Voters will come back, they`ll go back to school –
it is late December. We`re about to go into Christmas. They are a month
out and I didn`t see any urgency in this last debate from these guys. They
still think he is going to self implode. All going to go out a way.
Guess what? There is a new poll out today. He is still at 34 percent
nationally. He has gone up since the debate.
MATTHEWS: You think he`s going to explode?
PHILIP: No, I actually think that voters are warming to Trump, even
Republican voters. I used to talk to voters and they would say I really
dislike Trump. Now, some of them are saying, you know, he has a point
about terrorism or these other things. I think that is a phenomenon that
Republicans are worried about.
MATTHEWS: I think Paris and San Bernardino did a lot to him. Anyway,
Donald Trump struck back at Jeb and the whole Bush family today. He
tweeted. I don`t like tweet. Say it.
“The last thing our country needs is another Bush, dumb as a rock.”
Something about tweeting and the word tweet that just plays to school yard
stuff. It is all one-liners. And then you type it. You don`t have to
answer for it right away. You send it out.
MILBANK: And, of course, that was Trump`s genius, if you want to call
it that in this campaign. You can see in the debate –
MATTHEWS: Dumb as a rock.
MILBANK: They weren`t tweeting in the debate, but they were basically
insulting each other like they were on the playground taunting each other.
And that`s what this campaign has become. It`s become a series of insults
directed at each other.
MATTHEWS: I went to school with a lot of tough kids from the city.
They talk like that. You know, who is moose? You talk to moose? He is
the tough kid. Who`s the kid from K&A, you have to talk to the
neighborhood kids. It was all about toughness.
PHILIP: This is all about political correctness for Republicans,
right? I mean –
MATTHEWS: Do you think they are politically correct?
PHILIP: I think Trump is speaking to a desire to get rid of political
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with that.
MILBANK: He`s succeeded at that.
PHILIP: He has the most fun on Twitter. One of the things folks love
MATTHEWS: I mean, Abby, dumb as a rock is a campaign message to the
American voters to be president of the United States. Dumb as a rock.
CATANESE: It can go unfiltered to 5 million followers and not have to
respond. It`s not like an interviewer where you have to take flack –
MATTHEWS: All weekend we are talking about it. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio
and Chris Christie are clumped together behind Trump in a poll out today.
Those three are climbing but Jeb Bush isn`t making head way with voters in
Conservative Peggy Noon writes in her latest “Wall Street Journal”
column, I love her column, it`s coming tomorrow, “If after New Hampshire,
Mr. Trump is trumping Republican candidate whose aren`t going to make it,
should he be pressed to sacrifice himself to narrow the field and let the
viable non-Trumps rise.” And she called out Jeb Bush to do the right
thing, if he doesn`t win the Granite State, adding, quote, “Jeb Bush, by
stepping down, could become what he wanted to be this year, a hero, a
history changer, a man who enhanced his own and his family`s legacy.”
She wants to walk off the stage.
PHILIP: Yes, I think that is the biggest concern. His legacy is
taking a blow right now. I think people, the longer he stays out there,
the more damage he does to himself. When you watched last Tuesday`s
debate, he stumbled. He stammered.
CATANESE: That`s better –
PHILIP: That was better than his previous ones. That is a problem.
CATANESE: To play devil`s advocate –
MATTHEWS: Don`t play devil`s advocate. Say what you believe.
CATANESE: Why does he think have to get out? Why don`t Christie or
Kasich get out?
MATTHEWS: Because he was carrying the banner for the establishment
into the fight and he can`t win.
CATANESE: They all, but I also think New Hampshire may be too late.
If Trump rolls through New Hampshire with 34 percent and has beaten these
guys, two, three to one, how are they going to coalesce?
MATTHEWS: The reason he is in this race is his name and the reason he
is going to lose is probably his name. I don`t think there was a nod
between the two Bushes.
MILBANK: You lose a lot less if he gets out now in a statesman like
way, than if he waits until he gets pummeled in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: Ted Kennedy walked out in 1980 with Jimmy Carter and gave a
speech where he gave a liberal speech what he believed in, even if it
wasn`t popular at the time. I think Jeb should talk about being married to
a woman from Mexico, having a Hispanic kids, be a Hispanic family, be very
proud of the assimilation process in America and say, I`m not going to walk
away from that. That`s what I believe in this country.
Anyway, the round table is staying with us. Up next these, three tell
me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Florida`s own Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio combined can`t
match Donald Trump`s latest showing in the Sunshine State. In a new
“Florida Times-Union” poll Trump is on top with 30 percent of Republican
support. Ted Cruz is second at 20 percent. Rubio at 15, Bush at 13.
Also, among these Florida voters polled, 30 percent said Jeb Bush had the
worst debate performance this week.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
David, tell me something I don`t know.
CATANESE: Chris, we`re talking about the winnowing process. When
does this Republican field get smaller? Well, it`s not going to get
smaller after Iowa. A lot of these establishment candidates are ditching
Iowa. They`re going all in in New Hampshire.
So, I think after New Hampshire, February 9th, February 10th, we`ll
have a lot smaller field. Christie, Kasich, Jeb are going to have to make
some hard decisions. And Lindsey Graham, who gets out afterwards and
endorses before South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: Somebody else.
CATANESE: Somebody else.
MATTHEWS: OK. Abby?
PHILIP: I think voters` eyes are glazing over in this fight between
Bernie Sanders and the Clinton campaign over allegedly stolen data. I`ve
been told that situations like this have occurred in the past, 2008 and
2012. We`ve never heard about it.
The fact that we`re hearing about this now tells us a little something
about where the Clinton campaign is in terms of how they feel about the
Sanders campaign and how they`re doing, how the DNC as well.
MILBANK: Well, I`m going to tell you something you don`t know because
I didn`t know it until the last couple of weeks in criticizing Trump I`ve
received a number of e-mails, messages and other things from the Trump
supporters out there informing me that among other things I am a commie
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) and a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) supremacist and that because
I am Jewish I am loyal to a foreign state and I want to kill Christians to
get their gold.
I`ve also been – I`ve had many ugly words used about me suggesting
that I am gay, while also suggesting that my girlfriend is a gross Jewess.
Now, I`m saying all these terrible things on your air because I think
it needs to be said that this is what Donald Trump is stirring up and that
conservatives and Republicans need to ask themselves if this is what they
want conservatism to be and what they want the Republican Party to be.
MATTHEWS: A little more information. There`s a word we never would
like spoken but you speak it in context.
MILBANK: I`ve never uttered these words before.
MATTHEWS: And politically important I think. How wide is this? When
you look at your e-mail is there 50 of these? Twenty of these? Thirty of
these? How many of that sort have come in?
MILBANK: It`s a proportion of them. Certainly not all of the Trump
supporters. But a significant minority of them are quite vulgar. And it`s
about me. It`s about Muslims. It`s about women. It`s about Latinos.
It`s about African-Americans.
MATTHEWS: I`m glad you reported it. You know, maybe this will stifle
it a bit. But that has no place anywhere in our politics. And that word
especially. Thank you, brother, for coming on.
Thank you to the roundtable, Dana, Abby Philip, thank you, come again,
of course. David Catanese, you`ve been back. I`m in a good mood right
When we return, let me finish with a tale two of cities.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a tale of two cities. In fact,
both tales are about Paris. The Paris of the terror attacks. And then
there is the Paris of the world climate talks.
What was clear today, that the media at President Obama`s press
conference wanted to speak first and foremost about that first Paris, the
one hit by the historic attack of this autumn. It was clear that the
president had no good news for them. He said that lone wolf attacks like
the one that struck here in San Bernardino, killing 14 people, is very,
very hard to detect ahead of time. If the killers don`t communicate with
anyone else as they may not have in the San Bernardino case, the government
has no way of knowing what people are up to or even that they are people to
be worried about.
The president also threw water on the notion of sifting through the
social media traffic of those applying for visas to the U.S. he said we can
only see what they put up on social, on public sites, but there`s really no
way of getting to look at what they do on e-mail or other private
transmissions. So, not much good for the president to report there.
Certainly not for a country on edge about a future attack because if we
don`t know if someone is going to attack some lone wolf, how can we say
What brightened up the president today was the question about the
other Paris story, the successful talks on climate change. Clearly, Barack
Obama wants to be the president who achieved a number of historic
breakthroughs. Climate change is near the top of the list along with of
course Obamacare, the opening to Cuba, the initial transpacific trade deal,
which is yet to get congressional approval. These are legacy achievements
placing him on the world stage for saving the planet, working for peace
among nations as the accord with Iran and Cuba and enhancing trade
relationships among countries.
And, clearly, this president wants to think about the long-term
matters affecting his time in history while the country itself, led by the
Republican presidential candidates wants to focus on the hour to hour
issues in the news reports. We`ll see who wins this battle for the
country`s attention, and for its respect.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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