Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/12/2016
Date: January 12, 2016
Guest: Cory Booker, Richard Dorment, Cornell Belcher, Kellyanne Conway,
Rand Paul, Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It`s State of the Union night, and this is
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
President Obama is getting ready to deliver his final State of the Union
address. And the breaking news late today is that 10 United States sailors
are being held by the government of Iran. American officials are
optimistic, however, that Iran will release the servicepeople soon.
For an update, let`s go to NBC`s Ali Arouzi in Tehran. Ali, do we have
real optimism we`ll get our people back?
ALI AROUZI, NBC TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Chris, it`s a very good
question. I mean, this has happened before, in 2007. The Revolutionary
Guard had arrested some British sailors, but they had been held here for
Now, we`re getting snippets of information here from the semi-officials
Fars (ph) News Agency confirming that they have arrested 10 U.S. sailors,
nine men and one woman. The Revolutionary Guard says that they
intentionally strayed into Iranian waters. It said that the ship had a
.50-caliber gun on it, they had GPS systems, and they were snooping around,
and they knew what they were doing.
But as you mentioned, this comes as a very sensitive time, as Iran wants to
implement the nuclear deal, and I`m sure President Rouhani wants to sort
this out as soon as possible.
But let`s not forget he`s not the commander-in-chief. The Revolutionary
Guard take their orders from the supreme leader. So I`m sure Rouhani is
making a huge diplomatic effort to get them free, but the ball isn`t in his
court. You know, the supreme leader will make that decision.
Having said that, before the nuclear deal, Chris, there was no contact
between the U.S. and Iran. Now we hear that Secretary Kerry and Foreign
Minister Zarif are talking, so that might speed up the process – Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, this would be quite an example, if there`s a good one
coming, that we`re going to have better relations on these kinds of tricky
Thank you so much, NBC`s Ali Arouzi in Tehran.
Now to the big story in Washington tonight, the president`s State of the
Union. There`s no way to undersell it or oversell it. The conflict we`re
going to see is about the one we`re going to witness, quite clearly. It`s
the stark conflict between a president defending the way things have been
headed the last seven years, and are still headed, and the critics out
there, Republican candidates for president, conservative and right-wing
media voices, who say everything, to put it bluntly, sucks.
Have I put that too strongly? I don`t think so. “Make America great
again” is the sharpest possible statement that we`re not great, not by a
long shot. And tonight, one man has to get up there before the United
States Congress and say it ain`t so, that what Donald Trump and Ted Cruz
and the rest of the wannabes are saying in rough but relentless course (ph)
does not define America as we enter the year 2016.
NBC`s Kristen Welker is in Des Moines, Iowa, tonight. Howard Fineman is
global editorial director for the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political
The other big news tonight, by the way, is the battle heating up on the
Democratic side. Polls show Senator Bernie Sanders surging in Iowa and New
And last night, Vice President Joe Biden seemed to enter the fray. He was
asked why Secretary Clinton is struggling. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bernie is speaking to a
yearning that is deep and real, and he has credibility on it, and that is
the absolute enormous concentration of wealth in a small group of people
with the middle class now being able to be shown being left out or
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But Hillary`s talking about
that, as well.
BIDEN: Well, but it`s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that.
Hillary`s focus has been on other things up to now, and that`s been
Bernie`s – no one questions Bernie`s authenticity on those issues. So…
BORGER: And they question hers, do you think?
BIDEN: Well, I think they question everybody`s who hasn`t been talking
about it all along. But I think she`s come forward with some really,
really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, this morning, the vice president, Joe Biden,
backtracked a bit from that criticism of Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: For the last five years, she`s been engaged in foreign policy –
for four year here. This has been Bernie`s mantra from the time he`s
gotten involved. Even when income inequality wasn`t as serious as it was
today, it was his – it was his drumbeat. And so that`s what I meant. And
she`s coming up with some very good ideas, but Bernie is pushing the
envelope on this and for everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So Kristen Welker, is the vice president fishing in troubled
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the Clinton campaign, of
course, when you ask them about this, they say, Well, he cleaned it up
today on the “TODAY” show.
There`s no doubt, though, he is touching a nerve with the Clinton campaign,
Secretary Clinton today on the campaign trail very defensive on this issue
of Wall Street and the fact that – she was making the case she`s been
tough on Wall Street, as well. No coincidence there, Chris.
I think what`s so fascinating, though, is that Joe Biden, when he announced
that he wasn`t going to run for president, said but he`s still going to be
part of the conversation. And I think that that is what we saw play out
today. He still wants to be a part of this debate. And clearly – you
heard him say it – he thinks that Bernie Sanders is the one who`s pushing
the envelope on this really important issue to Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Howard, if I were Hillary Clinton, I`d be quite angry with the
vice president of the United States. Is it her fault for not being nice
enough to him, offering him something in a new term that he might – like,
secretary of state, something to get him on board? Because he`s not on
board. That`s clear today.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL
ANALYST: Not only is he not on board, Chris, at the moment, when polls are
showing Hillary teetering on the edge of a cliff in both Iowa and New
Hampshire, he practically shoved her right over into the chasm.
FINEMAN: So yes, a lot of diplomatic work should have been done, clearly
should have been done. And I think he signaled quite a while ago that he
wanted it to happen. Remember when he got out, and even before he got out,
he was meeting with Bernie Sanders, he was talking about Bernie Sanders.
That was an open invitation, I think, to Hillary and Bill to make nice.
The fact is that Joe Biden has no love lost in him for the Clintons. But
the Clintons, who are usually good at approaching people who don`t like
them and winning them over…
FINEMAN: … haven`t done that – haven`t done that with Joe Biden, and I
think that was a big mistake, as you point out.
MATTHEWS: Well, what is it, that he`s not Ivy League enough for them? I
mean, why are they – why don`t they offer him some – let me go back to
Kristen on this. Why don`t they offer him State or something for a couple
years? Normally in politics, when two people want the same job, one moves
the other one out by giving them a piece of the action.
WELKER: Well, I think, Chris, remember, when you go back, there was this
big question mark about whether Vice President Joe Biden was going to be
one of her biggest competitors, and she spent a lot of time trying to box
him out. And she did that by being aggressive, not by bringing him into
I think the interesting thing will be in the coming weeks and months, do we
start to see that happen? It`s possible that we do because of these
comments that the vice president made today, which, as Howard points out,
could potentially be damaging, particularly in a state like Iowa, where
just today, Chris, a poll came out that showed Bernie Sanders in the lead.
MATTHEWS: Look at these numbers. You`re right there, Kristen. Hillary
Clinton continues to lead in national polls by a wide margin, but new polls
in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire show her campaign has
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll just out today, Hillary Clinton now
trails Bernie Sanders by 5 points among likely Democratic caucus goers in
Iowa. That`s a 4-point decline there. Sanders is up 9 points since
December. Hillary Clinton has dropped by overall 7 points.
However, the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal”/Marist poll shows Hillary
Clinton leading Sanders by 3 points in Iowa. So a difference of polls. In
New Hampshire, a new Monmouth poll shows Sanders beating Clinton by 14
points. He`s gained 8 points since November, while Clinton has lost 9 up
The most recent NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows it to be a much
Howard, these numbers are going in one direction, towards Sanders. It`s
pretty clear he`s got the momentum. Has she made the mistake of going into
cruise control, by assuming she had knocked him out of the race a couple
months ago in that first debate, and she could go back to just sort of
moving along without a lot of edge to her message?
FINEMAN: Well, she, of all people, should know that a week is a month and
a month is a lifetime in politics. So yes, that`s the first thing.
The second thing, Chris, as you and I were discussing last week, the mood
of the American public is so anti-institution, so anti-elite, so anti-
establishment, so anti-familiar political figures, and the Clintons are in
the wrong place at the wrong time. They`re swimming upstream against this
tide of resentment against establishments.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
FINEMAN: And what was happening on the Republican side is now also
happening big-time on the Democratic side. In the piece I wrote for
HuffingtonPost around the world, I said that this was the thing to watch.
And I think it`s what`s happening.
The other thing you have to realize is no candidate in modern times has
lost contested races in both Iowa and New Hampshire and gone on to win the
nomination. Bill Clinton did it in 1992. He lost Iowa and New Hampshire.
But Iowa wasn`t really a contest because Tom Harkin…
FINEMAN: You lose both Iowa and New Hampshire in a real contest, that`s
uncharted territory, and that`s what Hillary`s facing right now.
MATTHEWS: And for her to say, “It`s time to get real” has a lot of irony
to it because…
MATTHEWS: … you could argue that she doesn`t see the situation as it`s
developing and leaning left.
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Kristen Welker out there in the cold, and
thank you, Howard Fineman.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The Democratic battle takes place against the backdrop of
tonight`s presidential final State of the Union address.
I`m joined right now by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Senator Booker,
thank you for joining us. It`s rare to get you on, so I want to get you on
the big story tonight, which is 10 U.S. sailors have been taken prisoner.
I don`t know if that`s the right word, but they`re certainly being held in
– they`re being held by the Iranian government. What should we be doing?
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, right now, we should be making
sure that their release is certain. This is a very frustrating few weeks
with Iran, whether it`s the testing of ballistic missiles, whether it`s
been their engagement in some of the other destabilizing activities in the
region with Syria and Yemen, and now we see this, what I think is an
But the Obama administration, I think, is handling this well right now.
The focus is not on the politics, not on the noise. It`s making sure that
our sailors are safe and secure, and obviously, returned. But it`s
something we`re going to continue to watch.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president`s goal tonight. I mean,
every president, after serving two terms, wants to have his party hold the
White House. That`s the way you say you`ve won. It`s how Reagan got
George Bush, Sr., elected, and it made a point that he was still a popular
fellow coming out of office.
How does President Obama seal the deal or try to seal the deal for a
Democrat next November – this November?
BOOKER: Well, I think he`s got to be and he will be very presidential
tonight. I think he`s going to remind folks of how far we`ve come.
Remember, this is a guy who took over a presidency when not only the
nation`s economy but the global economy was in financial freefall from
financial markets to unemployment to the housing market. And here we now
have been seeing steady economic gain.
And we do have a lot of insecurity, whether it`s the insecurity that`s
coming from stagnating wages or the insecurity that`s was coming just from
a lot of the things going on around the globe.
But I think he`s going to really speak to those issues that resonate with
Americans, bring us together and say, Hey, we`ve come a mighty long way,
we`re not there yet, but here`s my vision for where we need to go in the
next year and the years beyond that.
And I think giving that kind of momentum of vision for the next year plus
five, I think is going to really help to hand the baton to whoever is the
eventual candidate for the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, sir, thank you for coming on
tonight, on State of the Union night.
Coming up – two competing visions for America. And later this hour,
Donald Trump offering his plan to make America great again. That`s his
And our top story tonight, of course, President Obama set to make his final
State of the Union less than two hours from now. We`ve got top pollsters
from both sides of the aisle here to weigh in on what`s actually the state
of the union, according to the American people.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “TODAY”: So when you stand and deliver that State of
the Union address, in no part of your mind or brain can you imagine Donald
Trump standing up one day and delivering a State of the Union address?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I can imagine it in a
“Saturday Night” skit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Talk about a putdown.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama joking, if you will,
about whether he could ever see Republican front-runner Donald Trump
actually delivering a State of the Union.
Well, with his own big speech less than two hours away, the president`s
challenge tonight is to provide a credible and optimistic counterweight,
both credible and optimistic to the sort of funeral dirge out there we`re
hearing from the Republicans like Donald Trump.
In doing so, he`ll have to communicate why the state of the union is better
than people think it is, or might be. Here`s how the president outlined
that objective himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Politics in Washington are so much more divided than the American
people are. And part of what I want to do in this last address is to
remind people, You know what? We`ve got a lot of good things going for us.
And if we can get our politics right, it turns out that we`re not as
divided on the ideological spectrum as people make us out to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, a recent poll by NBC News and “Esquire” magazine shows why
that might be a tough sell. 68 percent of respondents say they get angry
about something they`ve read in the news at least once a day. 54 percent
say their financial situation now is worse now than they thought it would
be. 55 percent say the United States is no longer the most powerful
country in the world. And when asked whether the American dream is still
alive, well – and well, 52 percent say “Not Anymore.” Those are the
In contrast with President Obama, Trump on Sunday, this Sunday, said the
State of the Union is a mess. Let`s listen.
(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 properly taken
care of. “Obama care,” as you know, is going to fail very soon, and
probably in `17, our health care. 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: Well, Trump has made no secret of the fact he`s running against
everything that President Obama stands for. As we speak tonight, by the
way, Trump`s holding a rally in Iowa, essentially giving his own pro pre-
buttal to the president`s address.
I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur from Trump`s event in Iowa, as well
Richard Dorment of “Esquire” magazine, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway
and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. They`re all here.
What you make of – what did – I want to go to Katy Tur. Katy Tur, are
KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I`m here. Can you hear me?
MATTHEWS: Katy, I don`t see you. Oh, there you are. What do you – what
do you make of the fact that the South Carolina governor came out and took
a shot – Nikki Haley took a shot, basically, at Trump and his immigration
attitudes? Here it is. Let me give it to you right now.
MATTHEWS: She`s giving the Republican response tonight. And here`s some
quote from her.
Move the prompter up and we`ll get to it. Here it is. Keep going, keep
going. Here`s an excerpt.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the
angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to
work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel
unwelcome in this country.”
Now, she`s the daughter of Indian immigrants, people from India, and she
doesn`t like – well, she`s saying so – the Trump attitude about
immigrants. And I thought she was on the list for VP. Go ahead.
TUR: Well, what I want to say is the GOP was – Nikki Haley (INAUDIBLE)
the GOP was hoping to get for this election – youth, diversity, inclusion.
Instead, they have a front-runner (INAUDIBLE) white man who`s calling for a
ban on Muslims coming into America. It`s everything that they didn`t want
for this election because of what happened last cycle, Romney not winning
the Latino vote. They wanted to be more inclusive this time around.
Obviously, that`s not happening. They underestimated just how frustrated
and angry their base of support was.
But Donald Trump saw that. He saw an opening, and he`s been able to speak
(INAUDIBLE) people who feel like this economy has passed them by, who don`t
feel like President Obama represents them. They don`t feel like President
Obama is fighting for them. And that`s why you`re seeing these massive
crowds (INAUDIBLE) wherever we go (INAUDIBLE) in places like Iowa, where we
are right now, in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, Illinois. All
across the country, you`re seeing this, whether or not that is the majority
of the country. President Obama certainly doesn`t think so. He thinks
that the country is not quite as – as divided as it`s made out to be.
And, Chris, what I will tell you, if you supporters at these rallies, they
are pretty divided. We asked (INAUDIBLE) if there`s anything that
President Obama has done over the last seven years that they say is good or
great, that they agree with. And nobody said yes. Every one of them said
the only thing that he could do that would be right tonight would be to
Thank you, Katy Tur, for that resounding rejection of the president.
Let`s go over to Cornell Belcher, Kellyanne Conway, and Richard Dorment.
Richard Dorment, you`re the most objective person here. So, let me start
with you, because you have a study to put out.
MATTHEWS: This anger, what impressed me in your report that came out
recently, was that it`s not just white men. And I hate talking
tribalistically, but it`s the way we do it these days.
White women, why are white women angry?
RICHARD DORMENT, “ESQUIRE”: Because they`re not just disappointed in the
American dream and the loss of American status across the world, at least
as they see it, but they also look across the headlines in their news feeds
and they see police violence against blacks and discrimination against
So, they have this anger of empathy that`s really fueling their anger and
making them perhaps the angriest people in America.
MATTHEWS: What can the president say tonight to convince people they`re
wrong in their anger?
DORMENT: He can continue to try to highlight the positive, but as we have
seen with Donald Trump, that`s just not going to sell.
I think what makes “Make America great again” such an effective slogan is
that it really resonates with people…
That we`re not great.
DORMENT: That we`re not great and that he can lead us back to greatness.
MATTHEWS: Cornell, I want go to you and then I will work my way in to
Kellyanne, who is always the hot ticket here.
Let me go to Cornell.
I have noticed in the polling today, which staggered me, that men, and
they`re Democratic men voting in the primaries and voting in the caucuses
in Iowa, are turning to Bernie dramatically, dramatically, and turning away
from a very known product, Hillary Clinton. What`s that about?
CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, I think…
BELCHER: It`s a tough time to be part of the establishment on either side
of the aisle.
I think you see an enormous sort of push for change that`s not only coming
from Republicans, but also from Democrats. And I think any establishment
candidate – I mean, look at the mayoral races that happened this past
year, where you had incumbents, arguably with fairly good records, who
struggle to win reelection in a lot of cities.
There is a there`s an anxiousness that`s sweeping across America, and it`s
not just on the right, although I will say it is uniquely different on the
right. And there is an anger…
MATTHEWS: Why are you hiding from my question?
BELCHER: Well, I don`t – I answered your question.
MATTHEWS: Why are men, Democratic registered voters, moving away from
Hillary Clinton dramatically now toward Bernie Sanders? Why is there a
gender split here?
BELCHER: Well, Chris, there`s usually a gender split…
MATTHEWS: Dramatic within the Democratic Party?
BELCHER: … in our politics.
I mean, I would have to see how that holds up over time. Right now,
certainly, Senator Sanders is getting a bump in polls and certainly he`s
doing well, and he`s doing well in Iowa, and he`s doing well in New
I think that`s more about sort of an anti-establishment sort of thing going
on than I think it`s gender-specific.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is gender. These numbers are very gender-specific.
Let me go – Kellyanne, you`re a person of the right or center-right
lately. I can`t ever tell, somewhere in there. But why are Democratic men
who are registered to vote in the caucuses in the – why are they swinging
all the way to a man who calls himself a Democratic socialist? That`s not
a new – that`s an old phrase. We have always known what it meant. It
meant more government, you know, more government, probably more taxes, more
stuff from Washington.
And yet Democratic men are saying, that`s what I want.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE POLLING COMPANY: Well, there are
MATTHEWS: Or are they turning against Hillary?
CONWAY: Some of them are very – it`s both. Some of them are truly
economically vulnerable. And whether it`s Richard`s survey that was on NBC
or other surveys, you see that these men are economically vulnerable.
Now, who are we talking about? The guys who are blue-collar workers, non-
college-educated households, for whom these jobs in construction,
manufacturing are not coming back.
CONWAY: They can`t all go learn how to hydraulic frack in North Dakota.
They feel economically vulnerable.
But the other thing is, Hillary Clinton had a hard time with men in the
2008 elections. If you go back and look at who voted for her, the idea was
that she was going to run the tables among women, and women comprise about
55 to 56 percent of Democratic primary voters.
In my Republican Party, it`s the opposite. Women are about 45, 46 percent.
So, if she can run the tables among women, she can make up the deficits
among men. She didn`t run the tables among women and she`s never been very
attractive to men.
The other thing is, Cornell is absolutely right. In an anti-Washington,
anti-establishment quest for fresh blood and new ideas environment, Hillary
Clinton just – she reeks of Washington and the establishment.
CONWAY: And I think she doesn`t benefit from what most female candidates
benefit from. Most female candidates are seen as warm, accessible, good
negotiators, fresh and new.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is all new to me, because I have always thought women
tended to be more pro-Democrat, more pro-government, because the challenges
to a woman, a wife with kids, is health care, education, needing a good
public school, needing child care, needing all those things.
It`s very hard for that to add up to the regular family, and they do need
help. And men say, oh, well, I will just keep red China out of the U.N. or
something, and they won`t even be focused on this issue.
CONWAY: Well, a lot of men have not done well under the Obama years. You
remember, it was called the she-recovery and the man-cession.
MATTHEWS: Oh, something is going on. You know so much. Thank you so
Richard, we`re still living off your great new polling. It`s fascinating.
Cornell, thank you, sir. I want you to come back with that gender
difference, because I`m stunned that the men are going left and the women
are going – staying center. Why are the men going away from Hillary and
off to the left? It`s a great question for me.
Up next, he says he will boycott the Republican undercard debate Thursday
night. That`s two nights from now. Senator Rand Paul is coming here to
talk to us about why he`s not going to the little kids table. And that`s
what it`s called these days, that little kid table you go to when you don`t
make the big one.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In two days, the Republican presidential field will take the stage for
their first debate of 2016. And this time, the stage will feature fewer
candidates. FOX Business is hosting Thursday night`s debate in North
Charleston, South Carolina.
And the network determined the lineup by selecting the top six candidates
in national polls, along with anyone placing in the top five in Iowa or New
Hampshire. And among the candidates who made the cut for the prime-time
debate, Donald Trump will take center stage, flanked by Marco Rubio, Ted
Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich.
But these new criteria sent Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina down to the
undercard debate, along with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Senator Paul
called the decision an insult and has vowed to sit out the undercard
And he joins me right here tonight in New York.
Senator Paul, you`re a major figure. You represent libertarianism and, I
would argue, against the regime change mentality of the previous Republican
president. How will the absence of those thoughts and thinking affect the
debate Thursday night?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we had a great
debate last time when they chose to have me in the debate.
We had a good debate over whether regime change is a good idea. It may be
the most important question we have in the Middle East right now. Should
we topple Assad? Will it make the situation better, more chaotic? Will it
make us safer or more at risk for terrorism?
And without me – I`m the loudest voice in the Republican Party saying we
shouldn`t topple Assad. I`m the loudest voice, frankly, saying the
government shouldn`t collect all your phone records.
So, without me, I think they lose a lot of the libertarian supporters you
would think they would want in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about Iran today, a tricky situation,
dicey, you could say. We had 10 sailors out there, including a woman. We
know – the official word is that their boat had mechanical problems, one
of the boats, and the two boats pulled alongside a – we don`t know.
Somehow they found their way into Iranian waters, and, of course, the
Iranian government jumped on them and they are holding them.
PAUL: Yes, but I think the good news is, is, they`re talking about getting
it resolved within 24 hours or so. And if they do and they`re starting to
act like a civilized nation – I`m not saying they have in the past or that
they always do – but if they do act in a civilized manner, I think maybe
it`s an indication maybe that things are going to change.
MATTHEWS: You know, you talk like somebody who doesn`t want war.
And some people in your party – and you know them well, the hawks, the
John McCains, the Lindsey Grahams, the neocons, they`re called – they seem
to want to get into a fighting mode, like they`re schoolyard kids. Yes,
let`s fight. You want to fight? I`m ready to fight.
Where you sound like you`re hopeful we can avoid fights over like the War
of Jenkins` Ear and stupid wars in the past, where people have got into big
power fights over stupid incidents like this.
PAUL: Well, I think that`s the voice that will be missing on the stage
with them excluding me is that, what does Chris Christie want to do? He`s
eager to show you that he`s ready to shoot down Russian airplanes.
PAUL: But most people beyond third grade would think, that`s a really
naive approach and that might start a war with Russia.
MATTHEWS: Don`t you think it would be great if we had him during the Cuban
Missile Crisis? Wouldn`t that be great? We would have blown up the whole
PAUL: Republican or Democrat or independent, most people should be alarmed
at people like Chris Christie that would eagerly want to engage with
But also, look, Donald Trump has no idea what the nuclear triad is. And
what does he say when he finds out what it is? He says, our biggest
problem in the past is that we have not been willing enough to use it.
That was from his spokesman. He has yet to deny it. And it`s like,
really? We`re going to nominate somebody…
MATTHEWS: He didn`t know it was submarine-launched missiles and land-
launched missiles and airplanes, bombers.
PAUL: It`s not that complicated.
PAUL: But now that he does know what it is, his main regret is that we
haven`t used it enough.
MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.
PAUL: And so that should alarm most people.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to something that a lot of our viewers care about, not
just minorities, but progressives and you. Our jails are filled. Our
prisons are filled, people with lives being – they`re probably learning
how to be bad guys in prison, a lot of them, right?
PAUL: Well, you know, I was always opposed…
MATTHEWS: You want to fix that?
PAUL: I was always opposed to the war on drugs, for many different
But I read Michelle Alexander`s book a couple years ago about the mass
incarceration and the new Jim Crow and I became very aware of the racial
disparity in the war on drugs. I have always thought the war on drugs was
bad, but now I have figured out and learned from the statistics that three
out of four people in jail are black or brown. They`re almost all poor.
MATTHEWS: Why do minorities get picked up for drugs? Because they don`t -
- white people use their drugs in their homes, where they`re safe from
MATTHEWS: How is it different?
PAUL: There probably is still some leftover racism and discrimination.
However, a lot of it is, the police – many of the police now are African-
American, and the police chiefs are, the mayors are. But there is more
crime in the city and there`s more crime where there`s poverty. And
there`s a higher percentage of African-Americans in the city.
So, some of it`s inadvertent, but it`s still a problem. And it`s – if you
look at marijuana use, white kids are using marijuana about the same rate
as black kids are, but, in some cities, it`s 15-1 arrests of black kids vs.
MATTHEWS: They must not be walking around and carrying it, or there is
racial discrimination. It`s one of the two.
PAUL: It`s a little bit of both.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Senator Rand Paul.
We will miss you Thursday night.
PAUL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Maybe you should come on here.
PAUL: We are going to be loud and proud somewhere.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. You have a voice.
Still ahead, it could be a subway series in the general election. What do
you think, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? We have got New York Senator
Chuck Schumer coming here to talk about the prospects of two home buddies.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You heard what happened. Iran
took over two of our boats. They said they`re going to release them. Oh,
isn`t that nice? They`re going to release them.
This isn`t the same country. When I heard – that just happened, just
happened. It literally just happened. And I think it`s not so good. It`s
just – it`s just an indication of where the hell we`re going. I mean,
hopefully, they get released and fast. But it seems to be an indication of
where we`re going. That Iran deal is the dumbest deal I think I have ever
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, earlier today, Iranian military forces did seize a pair of U.S. Navy
military vessels in the Persian Gulf. And senior U.S. officials tell NBC
that Iran is detaining the American sailors, 10 of them, including one
woman, on Iran`s Farsi Island. And there it is pictured there in the
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told MSNBC that U.S. authorities have
been assured the Americans are safe. Secretary of State John Kerry has
spoken by phone with his counterpart, Iran`s foreign minister, to try to
resolve the incident.
Well, this latest development came as President Obama was putting the final
touches on his State of the Union.
And joining me right now is “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson.
Gene, here we go with a little bit of a party favor or a door prize for
Donald Trump tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this
just plays into Trump`s wheelhouse.
He`s been inveighing against the Iran deal in every speech for months now.
And, once again, another provocative act by the Iranians…
MATTHEWS: Serves his…
ROBINSON: … certainly serves him.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the polling you came in here with tonight, the
MATTHEWS: The fact that this national number between Hillary Clinton and
Bernie Sanders is tight.
ROBINSON: It has tightened dramatically. A new “New York Times”/CBS poll
just came out, Hillary Clinton 48 percent, Bernie Sanders 41 percent.
MATTHEWS: Striking distance.
ROBINSON: Right, the last – in their last poll, there was a 20-point gap.
That`s down to, you know, a seven-point gap.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re two guys, and maybe that`s unfair to have two guys
to have a conversation about anything in politics anymore.
MATTHEWS: We will have to broaden that conversation very quickly.
MATTHEWS: But the fact is that she`s holding her numbers among women, and
men are going to Bernie.
Traditionally, women have been more liberal, more progressive than men,
because of the needs of home care, health care, education, public
education, all those needs which are chronic with women.
ROBINSON: I think – yes.
MATTHEWS: And the men that can say, well, I don`t need that, but the
mothers and the wives do.
ROBINSON: I think the technical term for it is a very strange year, Chris.
ROBINSON: Strange things are happening on both sides, in both parties
among a number of groups.
MATTHEWS: It is anti-Hillary or pro-Bernie?
ROBINSON: Well, we don`t know yet. I mean, that`s going to take some
reporting to figure out. There`s – look, there`s a lot of pro-Bernie out
there. And I`ve been hearing from a lot of young people, including some
young people in my family –
MATTHEWS: Me too.
ROBINSON: – you know, you`re not enough paying enough attention to
Bernie. Watch Bernie. Bernie is happening. And it seems like Bernie`s
timing has been pretty good, because he seems to be rising at a good time,
at a time when insurgent candidates rise and they can steal Iowa, they can
steal New Hampshire, and then you`ve got a whole new race.
MATTHEWS: Well, the interesting thing is, he`s not exactly today in
television. He`s not cool. He`s very hot. You know, he`s got that Larry
David aspect to him.
But I notice when Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, seemed to
knock him off in that first debate. She just put him away, when he said,
OK, no more about Benghazi, blah, blah, blah – the e-mail, rather.
And then he came back. He has come back since. There`s not an even art to
this. He went down and now he`s coming back. The question is, is it
because Bill Clinton`s become more evident in the news? Is it because
there`s too much talk in the magazines about Hillary land and women around
her, not enough talk about men as well? I don`t know.
ROBINSON: Well, I think the debate is a good format for her, just in
general, because of her vast experience, because she`s quick on her feet,
because she`s got facts and figures that she just kind of, you know, just
like a ticker tape, that, you know, she`s got it all.
MATTHEWS: Has done her homework.
ROBINSON: So, she always shows well in the debates.
In between the debates, I think it`s Bernie and his people out there
working. And, look, it is a good year to not be a traditional politician.
She cannot claim to be anything but an establishment politician. Now, she
has the distinction of being potentially the first woman president, but,
she certainly a part of – a traditional politician.
Bernie Sanders is not. This is a very good year to be untraditional.
MATTHEWS: I loved your column today. Let me ask you about Joe Biden now.
That`s the new – Joe Biden is out there playing with this. He must know
the numbers. He sees them. He sees them tightening up. And he`s playing
this thing. What`s he up to? Why`s he taken the side of Bernie, it seems?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, number one, I think he was kind of doing what I
do. He was being an analyst, right. And he was asking questions –
MATTHEWS: Is that how Hillary looks at it?
ROBINSON: And he gave an honest answer, right?
MATTHEWS: Is that how Hillary looks at it?
ROBINSON: Well, I don`t think so. I don`t think so. I mean, I think it`s
clear, it would be evident to her – he`s keeping himself available.
MATTHEWS: Did he get not treated well by her when he decided to pull out?
Did she say, well, I`ll find a use for you in the next term? Or, usually
you do that in big city politics, you say, OK, you`re not going to run
against me, I`ll have something for you.
ROBINSON: I don`t think he was ill treated.
ROBINSON: No, I think – look, look. If Bernie Sanders wins Iowa and New
Hampshire, and it looks as if the Democratic Party is in for a, you know, a
huge Donnie Brooke, if potentially, the party is going to nominate a
Democratic socialist from Vermont, against who? Donald trump?
I mean, you know, Joe Biden`s got to be sitting there and thinking, hold on
for a minute, you know? I could get in –
MATTHEWS: Let me go to a pro. Chuck Schumer, Senator Charles Schumer is
the senior senator from New York. He joins us right now.
Senator Schumer, we`re talking about the strangest situation that Bernie
Sanders, the Democratic socialist and independent in the United States
Senate is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton. What do you make of
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, you can`t make much of it.
Numbers have gone up and down for each candidate. I think Hillary`s going
to be the nominee. I have very little doubt about that. She`s running a
good, strong, long-distance race. She`s putting all the fundamentals in
place that will help her win not only the primary, but the general
So, those of us who are Hillary supporters have confidence in her and are
not at all rattled by any of these polls.
MATTHEWS: What`s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat?
SCHUMER: Oh, it depends how you define each one, doesn`t it?
MATTHEWS: Well, you do it.
SCHUMER: Well, I`m not going to get into it. But –
MATTHEWS: Why not? Nobody will – Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of
the Democratic Party won`t answer my question.
SCHUMER: The Democrats –
MATTHEWS: You guys are well schooled in political polemics and language
and nomenclature. You`re quite capable of defining the difference between
a socialist, self-described and a Democrat self-described. What is it?
SCHUMER: I have nothing bad to say about Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie
is the real deal.
SCHUMER: He`s been talking this way since the day he`s got to the Senate.
This is not a contrivance, he believes in what he does. He`s a
But I think Hillary is going to beat him in the primaries, and she`ll be
the nominee, and my guess is Bernie will be supporting her in the general
MATTHEWS: Would it be helpful to change the name of the Democratic Party
to the “Social Democratic Party”? Would that help improve the definitions
SCHUMER: I think we`re happy with our present name.
MATTHEWS: You`ve told me so much, whenever I hear not speak, it teaches me
a great deal.
Senator Charles Schumer, senior senator from New York.
Up next, Senator Amy Klobuchar is coming here for a look at the president`s
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Well, tonight`s a ritual unlike any other in American politics. In one
hour, the president will deliver his final State of the Union Address. And
for President Obama, the legacy he leaves, his successes, failures, and
challenges are etched alongside these historic nights.
Well, as we await the president tonight, let`s take a look back at the road
he`s traveled these past seven years.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will rebuild. We will
recover. And the United States of America will emerge stronger than
I have never been more hopeful about America`s future than I am tonight.
Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not
quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit.
Governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws
will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move
forward together, or not at all.
For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this
Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis. We can say with
renewed confidence that the State of Our Union is stronger.
America does not stand still and neither will I. So wherever and whenever
I ask take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more
American families, that`s what I`m going to do.
The shadow of crisis has passed and the State of the Union is strong.
We have a laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write.
Let`s begin this new chapter together and let`s start to work right now.
Thank you. God bless you. Good bless this country we love. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from
Senator Klobuchar, it`s great to have you on tonight. A big night.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks, Chris. It is a big night.
MATTHEWS: Put it together, you can imagine being in this situation, I
think, having to sort of win back the credibility and the optimism, put
them together, actually – credibility and optimism of the American
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think in this case, you have seen the president just
watching those speech, you are reminded of how he started. I remember him
saying this is not the portfolio he wished for. First month he was in
office, the country shed more jobs than there were people in the state of
Vermont. Now, we had 70 months of straight job growth.
He`s cut the employment rate in half. Our workers, our companies have done
all the front line work they needed to do. But the president has worked
very hard on policies that work for America. I also think we`ll hear about
that tonight. But we`ll also hear about the challenges ahead.
And I think it`s very important that he does both things, that he takes us
on that journey from where he started, but that he also looks to the
future. He will be handing this off to the next president. But I think
it`s important he layout those challenges for the next year as well as the
years to come. Because there is a lot of American people that are still
hurting and a lot of people that need help.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think 70 percent of people tell “The Wall Street
Journal” and NBC News, our pollsters, that the country is in the wrong
direction, headed in the wrong direction, right now? Seventy percent?
KLOBUCHAR: It`s clear to me, I`m bringing an unemployed steel worker today
as my guest to the State of the Union because of what we have seen with
illegal dumping of steel from China. We have a plot lot of people that are
hurting, even though you don`t have a job, despite the improvements in the
unemployment rate, or they just have to work one or two or three jobs just
to send their kids to college. So that income inequality issue, the fact
that people feel that these institutions are further away from them.
I think that`s what I meant when I said there are challenges ahead, and
he`s going to have to not only strike that balance of saying, look,
naysayers, we made a lot of progress. Our country is strong and stable.
But also look to the future and how we can take on these challenges.
MATTHEWS: Well, neither party establishments looking very good right now.
Hillary Clinton is doing, of course, much better than Jeb Bush by a long
shot. But now, we`re seeing Bernie Sanders, your colleague from, your
independent colleague from Vermont, closing in on her, getting up to 41 to
48. It`s within striking distance.
What`s changing in that? What`s the contour of that race right now that he
seems to be competitive?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think what you have seen – I think Secretary Clinton,
who I am supporting, she has always made clear this is not some kind of a
coronation, that this is going to be a serious race. She`s taken him
seriously. They`ve had major debates.
And Senator Sanders is making a case that I believe is very similar to the
case that Hillary Clinton is making, that it is a stark difference between
the policies of our Democratic candidates who have, I think, have had very
strong policy debates.
And what are you seeing on the other side, where they`re basically blaming
everyone they can besides suggest solutions.
MATTHEWS: Senator, we`re on the clock. The clock has run out tonight.
Thank you so much.
KLOBUCHAR: I guess you don`t want to miss the president there.
MATTHEWS: No, we got to get ready for our 8:00. So –
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Senator Klobuchar, Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota.
When we return, let me finish with a moment, this moment of national
transition. It`s a big one tonight.
You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this moment of national transition.
One president is headed towards the exit. Another is in the process of
Well, the president who was leaving office, Barack Obama, speaks tonight on
the State of the Union. He will, no doubt, try to arrest the terrorist
towards pessimism that`s been exploited and doubled down on people hoping
to succeed him.
You don`t win the presidency by saying how great things are. You win by
convincing people that there is a big need out there and you are just the
person to fill it. Well, you can tell a lot about the public`s judgment by
paying attention to those it is responding to with the most excitement.
Right now, the second week of the year, there are two, Donald Trump and
Bernie Sanders. They are the political newbies who are making all the
noise out there.
Who isn`t? Well, let`s start with the Bush heir. Jeb is doing nothing.
He is the dog food the dog doesn`t like. That`s after a heap of
Other nonperformers include most of the other office holders who put their
name in the fight. Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Gone.
Who`s doing well? Three Republican newcomers, Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco
Rubio, not one of them has completed a single term in national office. And
that`s what the public seems to like about them, their innocent of
They remind me of the best line Ronald Reagan ever came up with, “I`ll
admit I`m irresponsible”, he said, “when they admit they`re responsible.”
So, tonight, the president we have is stuck two a difficult field position.
He must defend the way things are by a country serenaded by those who know
the keys of the kingdom go to those who convince the public by next
November that there is something deeply wrong with it.
The president`s big implicit goal tonight is to give him enough of a
positive sale to make it possible for a Democrat, most likely, Hillary
Clinton to succeed him. Otherwise, the noes will have it.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Stay tuned to MSNBC`s live coverage of President Obama`s final State of the
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