Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/11/2016
Date: January 11, 2016
Guest: Abby Phillip, Nomiki Konst, Liz Mair, Ann Coulter
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is Ted Cruz an immigrant?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
What`s the worst thing a guy like Donald Trump can call you? How about
illegal immigrant? Is that roughly what he`s calling Ted Cruz, an
immigrant trying legally to become president? Is he saying that the
Canadian-born Cruz who came down here from Calgary is running for president
even though the Constitution says you have to be natural born to serve in
the country`s highest office?
Think Trump doesn`t have an issue here? I`ll give you three reasons – or
actually, three people who think he might – Laurence Tribe, the country`s
top liberal constitutional expert, who calls the question of Cruz`s
eligibility to the presidency murky, Iowa governor Terry Branstad and 2008
Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
So Trump may have something. Facts matter. President Obama was born in
Honolulu, the state of Hawaii, which is part of the U.S. Cruz was born in
Calgary, the province of Alberta, which is part of Canada.
NBC`s Katy Tur is in Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight. Robert Costa is
national political reporter for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC
political analyst, and Hallie Jackson is NB – MSN – actually, NBC News
Well, Donald Trump zeroed in this weekend and today on the issue of Cruz`s
Canadian birth. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted Cruz has a real cloud
hanging over his head! So the question is, is Ted Cruz – is he a natural
If he was born in Canada, whether we like it, don`t like it, he lived
there, he was there, he was born in Canada.
He has to solve this problem because the Democrats will sue him if he`s the
You can`t have a person running for office – even though Ted is very glib
and he goes out and he says, Well, I`m a natural born citizen – the point
is, you`re not!
You can`t have a nominee who`s going to be subject who be thrown out as the
nominee. You just can`t do it! I`m sure Ted is thrilled that I`m helping
him out, but I am.
TRUMP: I am. I mean, he`s got to go and he`s got to fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: As I said, Iowa`s governor, Terry Branstad, gave Trump`s attack
more action- oxygen today, telling reporters, When you run for president of
the United States, any question is fair game. So let the people decide.
Well, Robert – no, let`s go to Katy Tur on this and see how this is
working out in the country here. You know, you don`t want to cause
questions about whether the other side is going to be able to have
litigation against your candidate if you nominate him. I guess that`s the
way he`s going to play this, knowing the Democrats are not going to get a
prior review from the Supreme Court and they`re certainly not going to try
to get one because they`ll probably enjoy this if it comes their way.
If Cruz is the nominee, they`ll play the same game, the same way
Republicans used Willie Horton after Al Gore brought it up. I mean, people
play the same weapon. If it`s thrown to them, they use it. Go ahead.
KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And they`re going to let the
Republicans fight amongst themselves because they only think it`s going to
hurt both of the candidates.
And Donald Trump – what he`s doing is he`s casting doubt. He`s trying to
raise questions about Ted Cruz, whether or not he`s eligible, make voters
think, Oh, no, maybe I don`t want to vote for him because there`s going to
be issues down the line.
Whether this works for him remains to be seen. He did get big cheers in
Reno over the weekend and he got some cheers today in New Hampshire for
this line of attack. Remember, we said he was testing it out in the press
last week to see how it would play, how conservative commentators would
regard it. And so far, it seemed like they were OK with that line of
I`m not so sure it`s going to work in a place like Iowa, where Ted Cruz has
that strong base of evangelical support.
TUR: I`m not sure this is enough of an argument for them to change their
minds about Ted Cruz and go to Donald Trump.
Right now, Iowa is the state for Ted Cruz to lose, in many ways, although
if there is a larger turnout, Donald Trump certainly is favored to win
there, if that is the case.
But a place like New Hampshire, a place certainly like Nevada, potentially
even a place like South Carolina, I think this line of questioning will
eventually – potentially, I should say, work for Donald Trump in casting
the doubt in voters` mind whether or not they think that he will be a sure
enough bet to beat the Democratic nominee when Donald Trump is saying, I`m
here. I`m strong. I can beat Hillary. I`m stronger than Hillary. I can
beat Bernie. I`m stronger than Bernie.
So what he wants to do is, essentially, Chris,is just make voters question
MATTHEWS: Yes, and of course, Trump has a great advantage. He was born in
New York City, in Queens, actually, not in Alberta.
Anyway, Senator Cruz responded to questions about Trump`s attack this
weekend. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand that a lot of
candidates in the field are dismayed. They`re dismayed because they`re
seeing conservatives uniting behind our campaign. As that happens, you`re
seeing candidates trying to throw whatever rocks they can. That`s fine.
That`s their prerogative.
I like Donald Trump. I respect Donald Trump. He`s welcome to toss
whatever attacks he wants. We`re at a time of enormous challenge and
crisis. I recognize that there are candidates in the field that don`t want
to talk about those issues and they want to instead encourage the good
people in the media to go down rabbit trails and engage in circus
sideshows. I don`t think the American people are interested in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the governor of Iowa and Laurence Tribe and John McCain
like that rabbit hole, Robert.
ROBERT COSTA, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Most hurtful…
MATTHEWS: People are enjoying this for one reason. Nobody likes Cruz.
And if he`s got a little problem, a little kurfuffle with claiming –
proving that he`s eligible to run for president…
COSTA: Some people like…
COSTA: Conservative activists like…
MATTHEWS: Do they know he`s from Canada?
COSTA: They`re getting to know it this week.
MATTHEWS: White House didn`t they know it until now? He never told them?
COSTA: It wasn`t on the radar and it wasn`t part of the Cruz persona.
MATTHEWS: I thought it was part of his – you know, they`ve argued before
that this was part of his success story, that somehow, he came down from
COSTA: He talks about his personal life a lot on the campaign trail, about
his father, his mother`s relationship…
MATTHEWS: But he skips where he was born.
COSTA: He doesn`t skip it, he just doesn`t make an emphasis of it. And I
think Cruz is relying on these hard-core conservatives in Iowa to stick
with him regardless of…
MATTHEWS: But they`re anti-immigrant, the people.
COSTA: They`re anti-illegal immigrant.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. And what about the fact that – would he be the first
person in our history to be born outside the United States who`s president?
Does that bother them?
COSTA: It doesn`t bother them in the sense that when I`m in Iowa and I`m
in New Hampshire, they rely on him being a constitutional scholar. They
say, Hey, he says it`s fine by the Constitution. He…
MATTHEWS: He says it!
COSTA: He says it.
MATTHEWS: Laurence Tribe doesn`t agree with him.
COSTA: Well, it`s an open question. As Trump says, it`s a cloud.
MATTHEWS: Of course he would say it!
MATTHEWS: What`s he supposed to say, I`m not eligible to run for
president, even though I`m running? Of course he`s going to say he`s
eligible to run!
COSTA: Cruz is…
MATTHEWS: I have a thought here. In the next several days, we`re going to
find out how this thing tests. Hallie, we`re going to find out what Cruz
is trying – rather, what Trump is trying, whether it works or not. If it
works with those very conservative people, you know, very isolationist,
very home-grown, home-schooled people that don`t like foreigners and
strange people around them all of a sudden Say, Wait a minute, I didn`t
know – we`ll see.
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, though, Ted Cruz wrote
about his – he hasn`t made a secret of it. He wrote about it in his book.
He talked about it being part of his success story. I`m not sure that
that`s the case they make. It is part of it in that his father abandoned
him and his mother…
JACKSON: … while they were living in Canada and moved to Texas, and then
came back. I think that – my sense is the campaign is not overly
concerned with how this is playing and how this is resonating with voters,
at least not yet. But let`s look at what we saw this weekend, which is
Trump bringing this up on his own, not when he was asked about it. If he
continues to do that, let`s see if that changes minds.
COSTA: Numbers are so close in Iowa right now. I mean, you really see
COSTA: … closing the gap. I`m not sure it`s because of Canada. We
haven`t seen data…
COSTA: … to back it up. But since Trump has brought – talked about
Canada, the numbers are narrowing in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Remember how George Bush, Sr., made fun of – made sport of Pete
Dupont when he called him during the debate, Let me help with you that one,
Pierre? Do you think Rafael`s going to hurt with people up there in Iowa?
Rafael is his real name.
COSTA: His father is Rafael…
COSTA: One of his biggest assets in Iowa is father, Rafael.
MATTHEWS: And so the Latino background doesn`t bother people, and the
COSTA: They know it. His father is Rafael Cruz and he goes around Iowa…
MATTHEWS: … find out all this. But you know, every time we read
something about Iowa Republicans, it`s very culturally conservative and
very much resistant to anything new (INAUDIBLE)
COSTA: He`s got the Steve King guy in western Iowa on his side.
MATTHEWS: The guy who talks about cantaloupe legs.
COSTA: He`s with Cruz.
MATTHEWS: Yes. He doesn`t like immigrants too much, does he.
COSTA: He`s with Cruz.
JACKSON: … message that Cruz has hit, which is he is the conservative in
this race. He is more consecutive than Trump and…
MATTHEWS: OK. Did – did Cruz ever speak out when Trump was making fun of
the president saying he was born in Kenya? Did he ever once attack the
whole notion of discrediting a president because he`s African-American by
saying he was born in Africa?
Did he ever once – the reason I`m enjoying this to some extent is there`s
a little bit of payback, a little bit of blowback going on here. The
people that enjoyed like hell – the 20, 30 percent of the country, close
to 30, who let the president be pilloried out there as some sort of
interloper, some usurper who came here some magical way through Kenya, are
now saying we shouldn`t bring this up about Cruz.
JACKSON: So you`re saying Cruz is getting a taste of the Trump medicine
MATTHEWS: Yes. And he never once fought it before when it was not (ph)
attacked on him.
Anyway, I mentioned Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, a liberal
Constitutional scholar, says it`s anything but settled, this question of
whether Cruz is eligible to be president. Tribe, who taught Ted Cruz when
he was a student at Harvard law, says questions about what constitutes
natural born are murky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURENCE TRIBE, LIBERAL CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR: A lot of people, including
me, think it`s a pretty un-American concept to say that members of Indian
tribes and tens of millions of naturalized citizens can`t become president.
But without amending the Constitution, or getting a definitive ruling from
the U.S. Supreme Court, it`s just wrong to say, as Senator Cruz has tried
to say, that it`s a settled matter. It isn`t settled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Settled, Robert, or not?
COSTA: Well, according to Trump, it is. I`ve got a good story about
MATTHEWS: I mean, Trump says it…
COSTA: Trump`s watching Laurence Tribe on “Last Word” and – this is how
he runs a gut-level campaign. My sources close to Trump say he`s watching
“LAST WORD,” sees Tribe and says, That`s my argument. I`m taking Tribe
from his MSNBC appearance and putting it in the center of my campaign.
That`s the campaign Trump`s running. He goes with what he finds.
MATTHEWS: He lives off the land.
COSTA: Lives off the land.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, there are a slow of new polls out that show he`s close
this is getting in Iowa and New Hampshire, showing the state of play in the
In Iowa, the contest is a two-man race now between Cruz and Trump. An
NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows Cruz edging out Trump by 4 points,
within the margin of error. But a Quinnipiac poll just out today shows
Trump – Trump – with a slight edge in Iowa, 31 to 29, also within the
margin of error. So all this is within margin of error stuff.
In New Hampshire, the story`s different. In all the polls, Trump has
soared to a commanding lead. The NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll there
shows Trump at 30, ahead of his nearest competitor, Marco Rubio, by 16
points. Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Jeb – poor Jeb Bush –
are clustered behind all of them.
A Monmouth poll of New Hampshire Republicans shows a similar story. Trump
leads by 18 points in the Monmouth. Ted Cruz and John Kasich are tied at
second at 14. But no establishment, or we used to say, moderate candidate
comes close to challenging Trump`s lead.
Hallie, this is an amazing race. So we got a very tight race in Iowa, with
the home schoolers and the very culturally conservative evangelicals just -
- they probably think Donald Trump is who he is, a pretty cosmopolitan, big
city, secular guy. They can spot him. He`s not one of them, right? He`s
not a country mouse, right?
But up in New Hampshire…
MATTHEWS: … where they like gritty – where they like gritty and
independence (INAUDIBLE) they like the mustang up there, the wild one,
Trump`s their guy.
JACKSON: But here`s what`s interesting to me when you look at the Cruz
campaign and what their strategy is in Iowa and New Hampshire. They`re
leaving Iowa. They`re going to New Hampshire this week and next week to
try to make a play there. And to me, that`s a sign the campaign is feeling
very confident about where they are right now, a campaign…
MATTHEWS: Who`s talking confident?
JACKSON: They`re not – they`re not…
MATTHEWS: Trump is.
JACKSON: Ted Cruz, feeling good about where he is in Iowa-
MATTHEWS: Is Trump going to spend some money to win Iowa or not?
JACKSON: He`s going to spend some money to win Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to go for it, or let it go?
COSTA: He`s spending about a million on the air each week in Iowa, and
MATTHEWS: Can he buy it, if he has to?
COSTA: No. It`s all grass roots in Iowa. He`s got Santorum`s guy. He`s
hired him for a year. He`s…
JACKSON: But look what happened…
MATTHEWS: OK, let me…
JACKSON: He changed his tone a little bit. I mean, he was a guy who –
and I`m sure Katy can speak to this, too – who prior to this weekend had
sort of said, Well, it`s just a couple of points here and there. This
weekend, we saw him say, We got to win Iowa.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think, Katy? That`s the big question. Will
Trump win both?
TUR: You know…
TUR: … I think that he`s going both ways. I think he`s going both ways.
I think he certainly wants to win Iowa for his ego. I think that would be
a big boost to his ego for him. I don`t think he would like to lose it.
But he is also laying the groundwork that he might not (sic) lose it. He
is saying it is Ted Cruz`s state to lose.
TUR: I think he understands that Iowa isn`t his stronghold, but he does
want to at least come in within a few points.
Of course, he wants to win. This is Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but you know…
TUR: But he is banking a lot on New Hampshire right now. He`s going to be
here every Monday. He is winning by a ton today. Today, Chris, he showed
up at a diner. He showed up at a diner – Donald Trump at a diner today!
And that was a massive surprise.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, it seems to me the best way to win New Hampshire, if
you`re Republican, is to lose Iowa. Iowa has been voting for people like
Santorum and Pat Robertson and, my God, all the – and Huckabee. I mean,
God, is that the route to success? I can`t believe it. It`s not the
yellow brick road to get to the nomination.
Thank you, Katy Tur. Thank you, Hallie Jackson. Thank you, Robert Costa.
Coming up – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in tight races in both
Iowa and New Hampshire. They`re neck-and-neck in both. That`s why
Clinton`s turning up the pressure on her rival on the issue of guns.
Bernie`s not quite as good on guns as Hillary.
Plus – Donald Trump has broken all the rules for Republican Party
politics. He`s soaring in the polls, but the party establishment, such as
it is, wants him stopped. (INAUDIBLE) Ann Coulter and Liz Mair (ph)
debate, mano a mano, if you will, whether Trump`s broadening the Republican
Party or destroying it.
And the White House is promising big changes to President Obama`s final
State of the Union address tomorrow night. Gone is the laundry list of
issues he wants to tackle this year. Instead, the president is expected to
frame the 2016 presidential debate and talk about where we need to go as a
country after he leaves office.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the story of a public service, and a public
and personal (INAUDIBLE) police officer in Philadelphia. What a great
story of heroism.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, in this year of voter frustration, voters are at or near
all-time lows for party identification. Catch this – 29 percent of U.S.
adults say they`re Democrats. That`s an historic low – historic low,
according to Gallup. 26 percent say they`re Republicans, just 1 point off
the all-time low. And 42 percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as
Big news. Think about it. It explains so much.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Oh, would I love to run against Bernie! I tell you, I would – I
mean, can you imagine? Remember, they took the microphone away – get off
the stage. They told him. This is our president. He goes like this, Oh,
TRUMP: And everyone`s out there saying, Get off the mike. We wanted to
hear him. He walked back like a little puppy. This is going to be our
president. I would love – please, FBI, please, go after Hillary! I want
to run against Bernie!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Donald Trump
earlier today, though, saying that if he`s the Republican nominee, he wants
to run against Bernie Sanders.
Well, according to the new NBC News/Marist/”Wall Street Journal” poll out
just yesterday, the contest on the Democrat side is now a real race to
watch. It`s a toss-up in Iowa, as we said, where Hillary Clinton leads
Sanders by just 3 points, 48 to 45. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Sanders
is on top 50 to 46. Both polls have a neck-and-neck quality within the
margin of error.
But Sanders outperforms Clinton in hypothetical general election matchups
in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which are likely to be swing states come
November, In Iowa, Clinton beats out Donald Trump by 8 points among
registered Democrats (sic), but Sanders leads him by 13. In the New
Hampshire area – in New Hampshire state, Clinton rubs out Trump by 1
point, while Sanders beats him by 19.
For more on the battle over the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,
let`s bring in NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker on the
trail in Des Moines. Kristen, I`m – I actually am surprised – people
tell me it`s the independents – that Senator Sanders is doing better
against a potential race with Donald Trump in both Iowa and New Hampshire
than Secretary Clinton would do.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it`s the independents.
It`s the progressive voters. I think it`s this issue that you and I have
been talking about, Chris, this authenticity factor.
Bernie Sanders has it, so he has excited a number of voters not only in the
Democratic base, but of course, the independents. It`s also, Chris, the
fact that you have Senator Sanders who has gone up with ads in November
here in Iowa. Essentially, he wasn`t on the air. Now he`s up on the air.
That`s why you`re seeing the race get tighter here in Iowa. That`s why
you`re seeing him surge ahead when it comes to going after Donald Trump.
But it`s certainly a fascinating race, Chris. And I think that it`s
actually getting closer between Clinton and Sanders than a lot of people
were anticipating if you look at the race here in Iowa. I think New
Hampshire, not as big a surprise, but they weren`t expecting to see this
here in Iowa.
And that`s why you`re seeing Clinton really change her strategy. In recent
days, she`s been going after Republicans. Now she is drawing very sharp
lines of attacks against Bernie Sanders, taking him on over the issue of
guns, health care and taxes today.
So, I think that you are seeing the Clinton campaign respond to these
polls. It`s making them a little jittery, although the official line from
the Clinton campaign is, look, this is what they always expected to see.
But it`s a real race now.
MATTHEWS: All right, great, Kristen Welker of NBC on the campaign trail in
As Kristen just said, Secretary Clinton was in Iowa today, appealing to
caucus-goers there for their support and sharpening her attacks on Senator
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m asking to you make
a decision to come caucus for me. And I have two very worthy opponents,
people that I have known, people that I have served with, people that I
And I`m asking to you choose to caucus for me over either of the other two.
I just have a difference with Senator Sanders. He has a different plan.
His plan would take Medicare and Medicaid and the Children`s Health
Insurance Program and Affordable Care Act, health care insurance, and
private employer health insurance, he would take that and he would take it
all together and send health insurance to the states, turning over yours
and my health insurance to governors like Terry Branstad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Perry Bacon is a senior political for NBC News, and Nomiki
Konst is a Democratic strategist.
Nomiki, I want to start with you.
Is there any surprise that Hillary Clinton is now turning her, well, I hate
to use the phrase, guns on Bernie Sanders on the gun issue, that she has to
find – it wasn`t just that sort of grab bag thing about social programs
being sent back to the states, which seems a little wonkish.
NOMIKI KONST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Clever, very clever.
MATTHEWS: No, it`s the kind of issue you dig for, your research team comes
up with, but it`s not the kind of thing that move the voters.
MATTHEWS: Guns, however, I think does have it. I may be wrong, but you
don`t want a pro-gun Democratic president.
KONST: That is about the harshest shot she can take on Bernie Sanders, and
it might move the needle a little bit.
But I think at this point, after she spent three times as much money as
Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, not including super PACs, if she
hasn`t moved that already and she has all the media, all the endorsements,
everything lined up from the local party leaders in Iowa to Planned
Parenthood to the national anti-gun organizations, I really don`t see how
she is going to be able to move the needle.
I think it`s going to be about getting people out to vote. And she just
has to keep reminding her support in Iowa especially that these are the
issues that make a difference.
MATTHEWS: How about the fun factor? Let`s not get too deep here, Nomiki.
How about the fun factor? It`s fun being for Bernie. He`s a lefty. And
there is nothing wrong with that.
MATTHEWS: In the Democratic Party, lefty is a good word. He is a
socialist, no problem.
MATTHEWS: And he is sort of a mustang, a renegade like Trump in a
different way, a very different way. But it`s fun. You can make a
If you vote for Hillary, you are basically voting for the Democratic Party.
KONST: The establishment.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And that`s not as – it doesn`t cause you a giggle in your
stomach when you vote. It`s not a, ooh, this is wild.
KONST: Right. Right.
And going back to what you said about 42 percent of independents – of
Americans being independent, think about that. A lot of those people are
young. And those are the people supporting Bernie Sanders. Those are the
people who aren`t watching those TV ads the way that the Hillary Clinton –
the older demographics are. In a way, he`s been able to have a fun
MATTHEWS: Because they are not watching TV.
Let me get Perry here in a minute, but good thinking there.
Anyway, Secretary Clinton called into HARDBALL, as we know, on Friday. She
made one of her toughest critiques of Senator Sanders to date. Sanders
reacted to what she said over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When it really
mattered, Senator Sanders voted with the gun lobby and I voted against the
gun lobby. So, this is a significant difference, and it`s important that,
you know, maybe it`s time for Senator Sanders to stand up and say, I got
this one wrong.
But he hasn`t. He defended his vote time and again.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, what you had was
a complicated piece of legislation. There were aspects of it that were
absolutely right. There were aspects of it that were wrong.
I am absolutely willing to take another look at that legislation and get
rid of the onerous provisions. When gun manufacturers, for example, are
selling guns into an area and know that those guns are going into the hands
of criminals, absolutely, those gun manufacturers should be held
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a pretty narrow distinction. In other words, when
a gun producer somewhere in some factory is making a gun, they are making
it for a criminal on the streets that they know about, and know him by
name, in fact.
That`s kind of – that`s an absurd…
PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he just give up and say, like Hillary did – finally
did on Iraq, OK, wrong vote?
BACON: I am confused with this. He should go ahead and apologize.
Democratic voters support gun control, period.
MATTHEWS: I`m not going to defend the gun manufacturers anymore.
BACON: Interestingly enough, this feels like December 2007 to me.
At some date last time, Hillary started attacking Obama really
aggressively. And the sign of it was, oh, she`s in trouble in Iowa. And
you can tell that again, this last – she was sort of cruising, talking
MATTHEWS: Will it work? Will it work? Come on, expert. Will it work?
BACON: I think it will work. I think she needs to have a little bit of a
gain among progressives and a little bit of a gain among voters under 45.
Can you convince young voters or old voters, either voter, middle-aged
voters, can you convince them that this guy with a Brooklyn accent who
seems liberal, left, progressive, on everything about him – everything
about him says that – that he is some sort of Charlton Heston? Is that
BACON: I think it`s the reverse, that Hillary has to convince them that
she is close to being as progressive as him. I think it`s more about
Hillary`s – her credibility to the progressive…
MATTHEWS: Thank you, buddy.
Nomiki, thank you. Please come back.
Nomiki Konst and Perry Bacon, thank you.
KONST: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the great debate among the Republican Party, or we
should say between the Republicans, has Donald Trump destroyed the GOP or
has he fired up the Republican voters` base? Ann Coulter and Liz Mair will
debate the Trump effect here coming up next in a minute.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald, as the gifted self-promoter, went out there and
pitched this as I got the project done that the New York City government
couldn`t get done.
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM”: I think you see
the same instincts coming out now that you did with the Wollman Rink, with
Trump being frustrated at how inept and useless government is and jumping
in and saying, I`m going to fix this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was conservative columnist Ann Coulter in my documentary “Citizen
Trump” there talking about Donald Trump`s first foray into politics in New
York City back in the 1980s.
For his supporters, Trump is bucking the party establishment and finally
channeling the outrage that Republican voters have felt for a long time.
But, to his detractors, Trump represents the end of the Republican Party as
we know it.
In his column last week, former Bush speechwriter – that`s W. Bush
speechwriter – Michael Gerson said that: “All presidential nominees to
some extent shape their parties into their own image. Trump would deface
the GOP beyond recognition.”
Well, I`m joined right now by Ann Coulter, as well as Republican strategist
Liz Mair, who runs the anti-Trump super PAC Trump Card, LLC.
I was just quoting to you, Liz, during the break that Richard Nixon once
said whenever you hear of a stop X movement, bet on X.
Aren`t you leading a stop X movement?
LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am. And I aim to prove Richard Nixon
wrong about that, in addition to many other things.
MATTHEWS: So, you think you`re right?
MAIR: I hope I`m right. I hope I`m right.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe he`s, in the words of Michael Gerson, defacing
the Republican Party?
MAIR: Yes, I think he is. And, inherently, I don`t think that there is
necessarily a problem with destroying certain aspects of the Republican
Party as it exists.
I think that there are many of us in the Republican Party who have a real
problem with the establishment and the way that it`s run things. But, from
my perspective, of somebody who is a legitimate economic and fiscal
conservative, I do have a problem with Trump and where he stands on an
array of economic and fiscal conservative issues, and the fact that he is
very close to Hillary Clinton on those, in some cases, actually to the left
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Let me go to Ann.
How do you review that thought, that set of thoughts?
COULTER: Well, I think it`s all about immigration. It doesn`t really
matter what a Republican`s position is on saving Social Security or how
they are going to reform Medicare.
Americans are being outvoted by foreigners. And Americans have been
begging their own party to shut it down, to stop this endless immigration
for decades now. Both the media and elected Republicans and Democrats have
tried to push amnesty through three times in the last decade. And every
time, it was shot down, not by a presidential candidate, not by some big
media figure. It was the American people getting wind of it and rising up
Donald Trump is the first one to finally take America`s side on
immigration. That is why he is sweeping the polls.
MAIR: Well, I think that that is a patently ludicrous notion.
I mean, most of the time, when we have been looking at amnesty fights,
supposedly, they have actually been shut down by a set of groups that are
funded by a population control enthusiast liberal who is actually involved
with zero population growth in the Sierra Club.
That`s who has actually shut it down. It`s not actually in any way
advancing the economic interests of the American people. Free market
economists across the board agree with that. The only people who take the
stance that Trump is taking with regard to immigration and who actually
believe that what he is proposing would be a good idea are hardened
liberals who adhere to the same economic policy line of unions out of the
MATTHEWS: You want to respond to that, Ann? Because I think you`re right
COULTER: I think it`s crazy.
MATTHEWS: I will give you a broader…
MATTHEWS: I think a couple things. I think Trump is appealing to
MATTHEWS: No, a sense that the country has been sold out by the elite on
immigration, on jobs, and on these wars we shouldn`t be fighting.
MAIR: Yes. I don`t disagree with that. But to say it`s just about
immigration or even primarily about immigration is bogus.
MATTHEWS: But that`s how he got in the door. Why did he come in that door
if it didn`t work? He came right in the door on immigration. That is the
issue that gave him his ticket.
COULTER: Not only that. If I could say, that was his opening – look, his
announcement speech announcing he was running for president was about
Mexican rapists and drug dealers.
His very first policy paper, for this guy who allegedly isn`t giving us
details, was an immigration policy paper. When he was talking at that
Values Voters Summit and he said something untoward about Marco Rubio, the
crowd starts to grumble and turn against him. How does he attack Rubio?
He instantly goes to immigration.
Every day, he is giving speeches before thousands, tens of thousands
sometimes, of Americans, regular, ordinary Americans. He knows what gets
them on their feet. He knows what is getting him the standing ovation.
And over and over again, it is immigration.
To try to say it`s some guy I never have heard of, and they are the only
people who are opposed to immigration, no. Immigration was shut down – or
amnesty three times now, when the American people rose up and shut down the
MAIR: Yes, that`s patently false. It was driven by Numbers USA, which is
a John Tanton-funded group. You can Google it and read about it in “The
New York Times.” They have a great story about it that deals with what
happened in 2007.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about today and this weekend. What do you make about
the fact he`s talking about another guy who came in the country at the age
of 4 or whatever, Ted Cruz? Rafael Cruz„ the guy came in the country from
Now Larry Tribe, one of the top – maybe the top liberal constitutional
lawyer, says it`s a big open question whether he should be allowed to run
for president, because he may not be naturally – a natural-born American.
MAIR: That is completely bogus.
MATTHEWS: Tribe is bogus?
MAIR: Yes. He is bogus.
MATTHEWS: Why would he be bogus on this one? He`s been respected up until
now, by the liberals, certainly.
MAIR: Well, liberals have a vested interest in trying to kick the crap out
of Ted Cruz. They hate him and everything he stands for, the same as
Donald Trump, who, by the way, is another liberal. He just happens to have
an issue with Mexicans.
MATTHEWS: How about Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa?
MAIR: Again, he has a vested interest.
MATTHEWS: A vested interest in supporting…
MAIR: Yes, the Republican establishment hates Ted Cruz. That`s hardly
Where are you on this, Ann? Where are you on the issue of his eligibility
to run for president? This thing about natural-born, it doesn`t say
native-born. But it says natural-born. But then you have to ask, what did
the originalists think, if you want to get back to Judge Alito and Scalia.
What would they – well, you are a lawyer, aren`t you? How do you do this?
And since my very first book, “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” I find it, to
use a Smith College word, tiresome that constitutional law provisions are
supposed to be interpreted based on what we would like the Constitution to
The Constitution is the Constitution. Natural-born has a meaning going
back to 1608. We have a half-dozen Supreme Court cases interpreting it.
It means other things, too, but you have to be born within the country.
MAIR: That is not true.
COULTER: And I have been saying that when Cruz was the only candidate I
had. I had no idea Trump was going to run.
So, it`s not that I want him not to be a natural-born citizen, but it`s not
an answer to you`re not a natural-born citizen to say, but I`m a
That could be. And I don`t know. Maybe I will have to write this up, but
I don`t see the point. He`s not going to be the nominee. The nominee is
going to be Donald Trump, so why bother?
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they phrase in, Ann? Excuse me, Ann.
Why do you think, Liz, they put that in the Constitution, the phrase must
COULTER: We know why.
MAIR: No, we do know why, Ann. And you should know why, a somebody who
COULTER: I said we know why.
MAIR: No, you don`t, because, in 2013, you were out there saying that Cruz
was a natural-born citizen and was eligible to run for office. People can
check my Twitter feed. I retweeted your tweet from 2013 earlier today.
COULTER: I changed my mind.
MAIR: You were right then. Well, you know what? You were right the first
MATTHEWS: Were both of you guys clean on birtherism? Do you think Obama
was born secretly in Kenya?
MAIR: Absolutely not. Of course he is eligible. He was eligible to run
for the presidency.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever go that way on Obama being born outside the
MAIR: My newspaper, along with many others, shot it down. As you know, it
was raised by Hillary Clinton. But if…
COULTER: If Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen, then there would be no
problem with Obama being born in Kenya.
So, what was the issue with that? If he had been born in Kenya, nobody
disputed that his mother was an American citizen.
MAIR: Now Ann is dabbling in Obama birtherism as well.
MATTHEWS: Can we go back to what I like, horse race call?
Ann, you`re good at horse race. What is your bet on Trump winning this
win, 50/50? Where would you put him, one-to-one bet here? Where is right
COULTER: From the week after he announced, I said he is going to win the
nomination and he`s going to win the presidency.
MATTHEWS: He`s going to win. He`s a favorite? He`s your favorite? OK.
COULTER: Not a favorite. He is going to win.
MAIR: Ann also said that Mitt Romney was the perfect and best Republican
COULTER: He was. There was no Trump back then.
MAIR: And she kissed Chris Christie`s backside up the wazoo.
COULTER: Until he went bad on immigration.
MAIR: This is not – which has nothing to do with conservatism.
COULTER: In fact, my ideal ticket is Trump/Romney. That`s what I`m really
MAIR: And that is the proof right there that you are in no way
conservative and in no way interested in conservative policy.
MATTHEWS: Would Romney join that ticket, Ann?
COULTER: I wish he would. He seems to love – one of the things I like
about Romney and Trump and Ronald Reagan is, these are three men who, by
running for president, and being president in two cases, I suspect, made
their lives immeasurably worse.
For most of these guys, like Rubio, what else is he going to do but run for
president? These are people who are running because they love the country
and they want to help fix it. So, I don`t think it`s out of the question
that Romney would be – would serve the country.
MATTHEWS: You mean it won`t be a salary increase for Donald Trump.
Thank you so much, Ann Coulter, for coming on.
Thank you, Liz.
You have been feisty, and I like that.
COULTER: We try.
MATTHEWS: Up next, legacy building, a look ahead to tomorrow night`s State
of the Union address, President Obama`s last and perhaps the most ambitious
speech of his presidency.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, there is no bigger stage for American politics than the president`s
State of the Union Address. And this year will be President Obama`s final
State of the Union, coming just 20 days before the Iowa caucuses.
What the White House is promising here is, promising a nontraditional
address. This will not be the usual laundry list of policy proposals.
Instead, they say it`s going to be billed as a rallying cry against the
doom and gloom of the Republican candidates for president, especially
Well, the president will have to walk a fine line, of course, being loony
tune optimistic and funeral dirge of the Republican field.
Here is Trump`s assessment of the State of the Union yesterday on “Meet the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now, the State of Our
Union is a mess. We can`t beat ISIS. Our military is falling back. It`s
not being properly taken care of. Our vets aren`t being taken care of.
Obamacare, as you know, is going to fail very soon, probably in `17, our
healthcare. We don`t have borders. We don`t have anything.
I think if I`m there, in two years and I`m making a speech, I say we`re
getting better fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We don`t have anything.
Here is the White House chief of staff Denis McDonough previewing the
president`s response to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What I see is an America
that`s surging, 292,000 new jobs just the other day, the fastest reduction
of unemployment in more than three decades over the last two years, and the
biggest job growth in two years since the 1990s.
I do not understand why the Republicans, each of them including the one we
saw, continue to run down America. You`ll hear a big optimistic, generous
view of the future of America from the president on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable, Kasie Hunt is MSNBC
political correspondent, David Corn is Washington bureau chief of “Mother
Jones”, and Abby Phillip is a political reporter with “The Washington
Abby, you`ve got to – you`ll start here.
How does the president keep us up but not sound loony tune optimistic?
ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, I think that`s going to be the
MATTHEWS: Seventy percent of this country according to our latest poll
thinks this country is headed in the wrong direction.
PHILLIP: I mean, the baseline numbers favor him. Unemployment is at 5
percent. It`s been that way for quite some time. Job numbers that came
out Friday were good for him.
MATTHEWS: They were at 290.
PHILLIP: Yes. But the problem is Americans are feeling insecure, both
economically and in terms of national security. He has to speak to that.
If he ignores it, it will come across as out of touch.
MATTHEWS: Tell me, how does he bolster us?
PHILLIP: Well, I mean, this is something that you see on the campaign
trail with Democrats. It`s about the fear of a Republican future that
turns back from the progress that`s been made. I think that`s what –
where he is going to go.
We are moving forward. Republicans are trying to take us back. You know,
it`s going to be looking towards a Republican future and pointing out the
threat that that poses to Americans, and you know –
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think if that`s, in fact,
what happens, you`ve got (INAUDIBLE) to a certain extent running on a
climate of fear, right? Republicans saying, you need to be afraid of
terrorism, you need to be afraid of economic insecurity, et cetera. And
Democrats on the flip side saying, you need to be afraid of, in Obama`s
case, the unraveling of my legacy, right? That`s a lot about what this
speech will do.
Now, whether that plays into Hillary Clinton`s hands or Bernie Sanders`
hands – I thought that was interesting McDonough saying over the weekend
that the president won`t endorse before the Democratic primary is over.
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you?
HUNT: I think it tells you that – I mean, look at the numbers that are
coming out there for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It says in many
ways the same thing that the Republican numbers tell you, that people are
hungry for a system that doesn`t seem to only work for itself. That`s on
both sides of the aisle.
MATTHEWS: But what the president`s tendency would be to endorse Hillary
Clinton, the secretary of state. Not doing that tells you there is
something troubling him about it.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Obama for the last six years or so has tried to
tell a story of America, political story, which is highly ideological. He
doesn`t call it ideologically, but he says there are basically two types of
approaches to our collective problems, both overseas and domestically.
Republicans take one approach. We saw it in the Bush years. We`ve seen in
Reagan trickle down economics. We saw it with the neocon-led foreign
policy. I try to see something different. You know, communal investments
in our economy, a different approach overseas.
I think tomorrow night is his basic opportunity to say, I won. I had
MATTHEWS: Can you sell in the American polity today the argument we are
all in this together, which is what you`re saying? The American people
don`t feel we are all in this together right now. You think?
CORN: I think we are highly divided and polarized and it`s hard case to
make. But he is not going to win over the Trump supporters. He wants the
suburban independents to say, you know what? The auto industry is great.
The economic number is OK, still a lot of economic insecurity. But this is
much better than if you let Paul Ryan do what he wanted to do –
MATTHEWS: We`ve got to figure out why people are grouchy. We need to
figure out they`re not going to be grouchy. But they are grouchy. Seventy
percent say we are going in the wrong direction.
The round table is sticking with us. And up next, these people will tell
me something I don`t know. I hear Abby`s got has a wild one. I don`t know
what this is.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: You`ve got to tune in tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
We`ve got a special edition of HARDBALL ahead of President Obama`s final
State of the Union Address. At 8:00 p.m., Rachel Maddow and I will bring
you full pre and post-speech coverage with full analysis of the president`s
address, as well as reaction from top lawmakers and journalists, and the
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back with the roundtable.
Abby, tell me something I don`t know.
PHILLIP: Well, over the weekend, white nationalist groups began airing
robocalls for Donald Trump, essentially saying he`s the candidate who
understands that what America needs is more white immigrants and white
people who –
MATTHEWS: That`s an original idea. Let`s follow up on that awful thought.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JARED TAYLOR: I`m Jared Taylor with American Renaissance. I urge you to
vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that
we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don`t need
Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to
our culture. Vote Trump.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t think so. But I mean, that`s probably a nice thing
David, tell me something.
CORN: Like many people today, I`m saddened by the death of David Bowie.
But I was surprised that the German foreign office sent out a tweet, a
message thanking David Bowie. Why? Because they think he helped bring
down the Berlin Wall. He gave a concert at the wall a week before Reagan
was there and gave his speech. It caused riots. And his song, his very
popular song “Heroes”, was adopted as the unofficial anthem of citizens of
HUNT: On a less artistic note one thing that this week I think is reaching
fever pitch is the Republicans in Washington are finally entering the
acceptance phase of Donald Trump –
HUNT: – and Ted Cruz.
The number of people that I have talked to who are just at the point where
they think that the establishment has almost no hope and they`re going to
have to figure out – many of them have worked in –
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. What`s after acceptance? I forgot the list.
HUNT: Lots of drinking.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Kasie. I do love the way you said that.
Kasie, thank you. David, you big heart. And Abby Phillip for stumping me
with this horrible racial crap.
When we return, let me finish with a story of public service and personal
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story of public service and
personal bravery. You know, with all the bad stories about police work of
late, I was thrilled to see the real-life account of a Philadelphia police
officer`s grace under pressure. Since so much good day to day, night to
night police work goes unnoticed and un-praised, I was glad too to see it
all on television.
We`ve all seen the surveillance tape by now of the assailant on that West
Philadelphia street shoving his arm in the squad car, his getting off at
least 11 shots at point blank range at the police officer inside. And yet,
and yet we saw – all of us saw too what followed. We saw the police
officer seriously wounded with three bullets in him pulling himself from
the car, racing up the street past the camera after the assailant he knew
to be armed and mortally dangerous, finally firing a shot that caught the
fugitive and led to his arrest by Officer Hartnett`s backup, who arrived on
Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he couldn`t say enough about how
Officer Hartnett conducted himself. Perhaps this is how all police
officers are expected to act under fire. Perhaps it comes with their
training and approach to the difficult, dangerous job they have. But when
you see it right there in front of you. When you see the guts of this guy
recorded on camera. You have to ask, where do we find such men?
It tells us that even in a dangerous world with street crime and terrorism
about us, we have real public servants ready to take it on, all of it, to
fight the bad guys on their own rotten terms, that even with the criminal
able to set the time and place, to demonstrate for all of us, to see the
god-given instinct to defy the danger, to fight back, to confront the
attacker even on the worst of nights and save justice for us all.
Here`s to Officer Jesse Hartnett of the Philadelphia police department.
Get well. Thank you for your service and your courage.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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