Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/23/2016
Date: December 23, 2016
Guest: Susan Page, Heidi Przybyla
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: How not to run for president and win.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
When Donald Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16th,
2015, to announce his candidacy for president, even those who hoped he
would shake things up wondered how long he`d last. His attack on Mexican
immigrants that day stoked outrage. It was hard finding an expert who
predicted he`d wind up taking the oath of office.
But over the next 17 months, Trump roared past a field of 16 Republican
challengers and one of the best financed and best prepared Democratic
candidates ever. At every turn, he seemed to check the box for what not to
do while running for president.
Trump went to war with a popular news anchor on a conservative network,
attacked a beauty queen for gaining weight, called for his Democratic
opponent to be locked up and put away, said women who get abortions should
face criminal punishment and defied Republican orthodoxy on war, relations
with Russia and trade. He called for banning an entire religion from
entering the country and weathered a storm over recorded comments from 11
years ago that seemed to endorse assaulting women.
For the next hour, we`re going to show highlights or lowlights of the most
confounding, out-of-the-box presidential campaign ever, a campaign that
broke every rule, yet somehow turned out on top. And that`s the story
tonight, how not to run for president and win.
I`m joined for the hour by former chair of the Republican National
Committee Michael Steele, “USA Today`s” Washington bureau chief, Susan
Page, “USA Today” senior political reporter, Heidi Przybyla, and the
HuffingtonPost global editorial director Howard Fineman.
And tonight, we begin with Donald Trump`s comments about women. For
months, Trump`s approval rating among women hovered at historic lows. The
conventional wisdom said they`d preclude him from ever making it to the
White House. He then inflamed the problem.
At the first Republican debate, the primary debate, Trump was angered by a
question moderator Megyn Kelly asked him about his past statements on
women`s looks. He didn`t let it go, attacking Kelly again and again over
the next week. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She gets out and she starts
asking me all sorts of ridiculous question. And you know, you could see
there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever.
She asked me a question. It was an inappropriate question. It was a
ridiculous question. Even the other candidates came up to me and said that
was absolutely out of line.
The fact is, she asked me a very inappropriate question. She should really
be apologizing to me, you want to know the truth. And other candidates
have said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Susan, I thought, just as a guy watching this thing, that Megyn
Kelly, who – and nobody`s not a competitor in this business, everybody`s
doing their job, trying to get ahead – that she won that exchange, that
she made him look out of control, that his temperament was totally out of
whack. And she seemed calm and tough, doing her job.
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: I agree completely. She acted like a
professional asking an appropriate question, but not enough to cost him the
presidency along with a series of other exchanges where you take them in
isolation and (INAUDIBLE)
PAGE: At the end of the day, he lost women. Hillary Clinton got 54
percent of women. But he won white women by 10 percentage points, and that
was a surprise.
MATTHEWS: Well, what did you make of that, Heidi? Because I thought the -
- out of the blood thing, I just though – I didn`t even get it the first
time, and I thought, Oh, my God, this guy`s gross, and yet it didn`t seem
to stop him.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, “USA TODAY: Well, it actually created that outcome, Chris,
because it was such a good question and it did parlay back his exact words,
which spoke for themselves to all American women.
And he was very upset about that and he couldn`t let it go because if you
look at this war he had with Megyn Kelly, it started with that, and that is
what prompted the, you know, “blood coming out of her wherever” comments,
but he continued to beat up on Megyn Kelly for the duration of the next
couple of months, even when looking at news reports, she was behaving no
differently than her male competitors, asking questions no differently than
her male competitors, but Trump kind of made her this unwitting symbol of
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Apart from sex, apart from the context (INAUDIBLE)
here, he broke the oldest political rule in the business. When you`re in a
hole, stop digging. Michael…
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes?
MATTHEWS: … he just – he wouldn`t get out of that – he wouldn`t get
out of the fight with this popular anchorwoman.
STEELE: He loves rabbit holes. And the more he finds, the more he finds
an opportunity to go down them. And the interesting thing about the
exchange with Megyn Kelly is that he did the one thing that you didn`t
think was possible. He made Megyn and Fox News a creature of the – you
know, the vast right-wing conspiracy against Republicans running for
office. In other words, you found Republicans chiding Fox and Megyn for
the way they engaged with Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this first debate. Hillary Clinton knows
how to fight, too. She seemed to bait Trump by bringing up a former Miss
Universe who accused him of making fun of her weight. Trump blew the story
into a much bigger deal by spending the next few days attacking the beauty
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She was the winner, and you know, she gained a massive amount of
weight. And it was – it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not
only that, her attitude.
I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much
weight. And it is a beauty contest. You know, I mean, say what you want,
Bill, I mean, they know what they`re getting into. It`s a beauty contest.
And I said, Don`t do that, let her try and lose the weight. Can you
imagine I end up in a position like this? So that`s the way it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, over Twitter, Trump even urged people to hunt down a
supposed sex tape, which turned out to be nonexistent.
Howard, again, he goes into the hole, he fights (INAUDIBLE) like a foxhole,
he wants to fight on this line.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL
MATTHEWS: Him against women.
FINEMAN: Chris, let me suggest two themes here that we`re going to be
discussing for this entire hour. The one is that the media failed to
analyze how Trump used the media.
FINEMAN: OK? Let`s talk about that for a second. He loves the
controversy. He courts the controversy. He uses the controversy. He
sucked the energy and wind and attention out of every other candidate in
the race. Donald Trump`s motto was and is, If the attention is on me, no
matter what the cause, it`s a good thing, number one.
The second subpart of that is, Attack, attack, attack, always attack your
accuser. So that`s one thing. We in the media missed the way he used us
the entire year.
And the second big point is, people want change and wanted change, and they
will pick up whatever cudgel they need to pick up, no matter what you say
about that instrument. That`s what happened this whole year.
MATTHEWS: And the irony is, of course, once again, to make your point,
that the guy who got hurt in this next episode was the guy from the media.
The biggest bombshell of the campaign was in early October when audio
surfaced from a 2005 interview – or actually, an overheard comment by
Donald Trump and former “Access Hollywood” host – former “Access
Hollywood” host Billy Bush, talking about women prior to a promotional
Listen to what Donald Trump says he can get away with because he`s a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ve got to use some Tic-Tacs just in case I start kissing her.
You know, I`m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing
them. It`s like a magnet, kiss, kiss.
TRUMP: I don`t even wait. And when you`re a star, they let you do it.
You can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab `em by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So he`s president of the United States-elect and Billy Bush is
out of a job. I mean, I guess that`s what happens to the media in a story.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But I mean, that one I thought was probably mortal.
PAGE: We all thought that.
MATTHEWS: Felt like it at the time.
PAGE: It was – but it was like the 56th mortal wound that we thought he
was – remember when he said John McCain wasn`t a hero, and we thought that
was a mortal wound, and that was like an innocent time from long ago that
that would have been so devastating.
I actually think, with all these candidates, their strength – and
multiplied for Donald Trump – your strength is your weakness, your
weakness is your strength. His weakness is that he says outrageous things
and will never back down, will never apologize. And that`s his strength
because people figure, I want change, I want things shaken up, I want him
doing that on my behalf. So in a funny way, it helped make his brand.
MATTHEWS: To make Howard`s point here, every fight he had was with the
establishment. Everything he said, as gross as it was, whatever it was, no
matter what you thought of what he said, it said also – subtext – I`m not
one of them.
FINEMAN: Right. And therefore, I`m a change agent.
MATTHEWS: I`m a change agent. Heidi, the issue here with that tape, we
all thought would be about women, how there`d be a – I think a lot of
women must have because the woman vote wasn`t that bad for him compared to
everything that – it`s sort of a standard women vote, less than a majority
for the Republican. It seems like he benefited, and women weren`t as
outraged as people were attracted by his insolence.
PRZYBYLA: We all went back to our partisan corners. I mean, but let`s –
let`s also point out that there was a significant gender gap here, and for
the first time, the Democrats – in a long time – the Democrats took
married women. So I don`t think we can completely dismiss this and say
that women decided at the end of the day that this was all OK.
I think this would have been a mortal wound, and it definitely was going
into that final debate in Las Vegas. It was very grim. I saw no
surrogates on my plane flying out there other than Jeff Sessions. So I
think that had the FBI not jumped back in and shook things up a little bit
and some other intervening factors, that this may have really been a mortal
But I think it`s also a little depressing for some women who did kind of
put things – their reputations on the line in coming out in terms of what
the – the lesson is because of the – the blowback that they personally…
MATTHEWS: He hasn`t settled that stuff yet.
FINEMAN: Can I say, it`s depressing for everybody, OK? It`s not just for
women. It`s depressing for everybody that he was able to use these things
in the way that Susan said, to show in an odd, upside-down way his insolent
PAGE: And the gender gap this year, 11 points. That`s not a record. That
only matches the record from 1996, which was Bob Dole and Bill Clinton.
And can you imagine that Donald Trump did as well as Bob Dole did among
STEELE: And for me, I think it still boils down to the fact that people in
the media and in the political class continue to look at this election
through conventional lenses. And they looked at women…
MATTHEWS: Excuse me for living.
STEELE: Well, I know, I know.
STEELE: I know, but, you know, here – here it is with the egg on your
face after this guy has weathered all these storms.
STEELE: It really goes to what you were saying, Heidi, that at the end of
the day, people were kind of looking at this and were kind of maybe put
off, but also attracted at the same time.
MATTHEWS: I think we`re taken with the exclamation point when something
happens – Oh, my God, he did that. Oh, my God, he did that. Outrage,
outrage, as we read the headlines in the big paper and go – in the news –
Oh, my God, oh, my God. And the people out there go, Huh. They`re making
a big deal about this. Let me think about it myself.
PRZYBYLA: And the thing we have to keep coming back to, as well, in terms
of not overanalyzing exactly what happened here with Trump`s message and
Trump`s voters, is that always, always come back to the fact that half of
the registered electorate, the voting electorate, chose not to vote.
There`s been some really compelling journalism out of these Milwaukee
districts, for example, Philly districts, of these voters who voted in 2012
but were so disheartened by, you know, what has or hasn`t happened and
didn`t feel like this would really make that big of a difference in their
lives, just stayed home.
MATTHEWS: OK, we have to go.
PAGE: (INAUDIBLE) which is first woman nominee for president, and it
didn`t work in her favor in terms of consolidating the votes of women.
FINEMAN: I was also going to say that Donald Trump may have, in an odd
way, also made politics so distasteful, dragged it down so far, it
depressed the vote of everybody but his firmest allies.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
Anyway, the panel`s sticking with us. And up next, Donald Trump`s angry
rhetoric on race. From day one of his campaign, he painted ethnic groups
with a broad brush, using racial language and imagery. He called Mexicans
rapists. And that kind of talk would have destroyed any other politician,
but not in this case Trump.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, recognizing an opportunity,
ever (ph) savvy businessman burst onto the political scene – that`s Trump
– by warmly embracing the birther movement calling into question President
Barack Obama`s nationality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? And you know what? I
wish he would because I think it`s a terrible pall that`s hanging over him.
Nobody ever comes forward! Nobody knows who he is until later in his life.
It`s very strange.
He may have one, but there`s something on that birth – maybe religion.
Maybe it says he`s a Muslim. I don`t know.
I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe
what they`re finding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have people now down there searching, I mean, in
TRUMP: Absolutely. Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they`re
I still would like to see his college records. I mean, I`d like to see a
couple of things.
Trump comes along and said birth certificate. He gave a birth certificate.
Whether or not that was a real certificate, because a lot of people
question it – I certainly question it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Outrageous. Anyway, questioning President Obama`s birth
certificate provided Trump with the foundation upon which he built his 2016
campaign. So it`s not entirely surprisingly that he declared his candidacy
by attacking an entire nationality. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best.
They`re not sending you. They`re not sending you. They`re sending people
that have lots of problems, and they`re bringing those problems with us
(sic). They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.
And some, I assume, are good people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, accusations plagued his campaign to the bitter end, of
course. And for more on how Trump demolished political norms when
discussing race in America, I`m back with our panel, Michael Steele, MSNBC
political analyst, Susan Page with “USA Today,” Heidi Przybyla, also with
“USA Today,” and Howard Fineman with the HuffingtonPost.
Let`s go from this end over. The rapist thing just jumped out at me. What
is that based on? What is it based on, any data? I don`t think it would
ever be anything to do with data. How many rapists are there?
STEELE: (INAUDIBLE) based on crimes that have been committed by illegals
here in the United States over a period of time. So you take one or two
instances, and you kind of glom them together, and it becomes a pejorative
representation of everybody.
STEELE: And so Trump has this unique way of taking language and sort of
exploding it up. So you know, you can do one thing, but then (ph) all
women, all right? You can say one thing, and it`s, like, Well, I`ve been
hearing from a lot of people. And so that kind of political rhetoric
worked very effectively for him, and he was able to – because he can
always, as you saw in the clips, deflect. You go, Well, I`m not saying it,
someone else said it. It may have just been one guy standing in a corner
whispering to himself.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get back to journalism for a second on one point. He
said – let`s just fact check this – I`ve got people out in Hawaii, and
you won`t believe what they`re coming up with. And then he goes to this
Manchurian candidate theory that not only did the guy sneak in the country,
but he`s assumed a false identity, that he really wasn`t the guy going
through Harvard law. He really wasn`t the guy at Columbia, Hawaiian high
school. Nobody knew him.
What was that about? That he was some mysterious pretender.
PAGE: Well, it was about…
MATTHEWS: Who (INAUDIBLE)
PAGE: … about raising a cloud of dust about Barack Obama, and not based
in fact, and in fact, saying things that were just – were – were shown to
be disproven, like things that you could prove were not true, and these
suggestions maybe his birth certificate said he was a Muslim. That wasn`t
true. Nobody knew who he was until he got into high school or college –
that`s also not true. It`s – it`s a rhetorical technique and that is
dangerous and that journalists have an obligation to call out.
MATTHEWS: You know, when you go to a criminal trial, or watch them – you
know, somebody once stole my car and I learned how it was done – you just
make up completely different stories that have nothing to do with reality
just so the jury thinks there`s, you know, plausible deniability – what do
you call it – probable – not probable – not probable guilt, you can`t
prove it, shadow of a doubt. Just make up a story because that might be
true, too. It might be true that this guy`s a phantom. He doesn`t even
exist as Barack Obama. It worked for some people.
PRZYBYLA: This is bringing back flashbacks to the campaign trail,
actually, right after the primaries in New Hampshire and Bill Clinton was
telling voters to be careful because a lot of this is going to happen
during this campaign. And it`s not about facts anymore, it`s simply about
raising the suggestion out there and letting it multiply.
And we`re seeing that not only by Trump, but by some of the people who are
some of the leading conspiracy theorists, quite frankly, who have been now
brought on, like Michael Flynn.
If you look at some of the things that he was tweeting just days before the
election about Hillary Clinton and child pornography and money laundering,
it`s really crazy stuff.
FINEMAN: And can I say we`re beating around the bush here a little bit?
Donald Trump goes for the perceived weaknesses of any public figure or
anybody that stands in his way. With his voters and a lot of other people,
we need to talk about race, we need to talk about religion, and we need to
talk about ethnicity.
He was going after a black – the first black president, the first African-
American president. He was going after the notion that he was a Muslim,
which was somehow supposed to be a mark against him in this society. And
he was going against Latinos and Mexicans in particular.
And in this rough marketplace of politics, he was willing to go, he was
willing to touch buttons that other people have not been willing to do. As
a matter of fact, not only gingerly do it, but to do it aggressively.
Anything that smacked of criticism of him, he brushed off as political
correctness. He was attacking the entire culture of the last 20 or 30
years of the supposed consensus that we had, that you don`t speak that way
about other people.
MATTHEWS: To make that point, by the way, sort of like he`s the only one
to ever to shoot the moon, to use a hearts game thing.
FINEMAN: Yes. He picked up all the cards.
MATTHEWS: Yes, anyway, in May, Donald Trump accused a federal judge,
Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over a class action lawsuit against Trump
University out in California, he called him incapable of hearing the case
fairly because of his Mexican heritage.
Let`s watch him here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have had horrible rulings, I`ve been treated very unfairly by
this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I`m building a wall,
OK? I`m building a wall. I`m going to do very well with the Hispanics.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you invoke his race as a reason why he can`t
do his job.
TRUMP: I think that`s why he`s doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So you talk about building the wall, make the Mexicans pay for
it, then make the Mexican-American judge pay for it. He`s like, he can`t
give me a fair hearing.
PRZYBYLA: Yes, they are saying now they`re going to make Mexican
restaurants pay for it, because everybody knows nobody`s paying for that
But just back to Howard`s point, he crossed over those kind of racial and
gender barriers that up until now have been completely off-limits in our
PRZYBYLA: Yes. And now.
MATTHEWS: So why did he get away with it? Or did he just do what he
wanted to do?
PRZYBYLA: Well, I think it has enabled a certain segment that we didn`t
realize kind of how large that segment in our society is.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`ve got 4 percent.
STEELE: I think it`s a lot larger than people like to admit.
STEELE: The reality of it is, he injected race in a way in which a lot of
people said, finally, someone is saying what I`m thinking. And that may
say a lot about how we have not dealt with race in this country.
But he understood that well enough to be able to pick that particular scab
off the civil rights movement and off of…
FINEMAN: Or immigration, for that matter. And there were legitimate
questions about immigration, but he took it in the most extreme fashion.
PAGE: He got 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. He got more of the Hispanic
voters than Mitt Romney did.
MATTHEWS: We`ll talk about that over time. When we come back – that is
an interesting – we had better know more about the Hispanic community than
the generalizations. They`re not all liberal Democrats.
Anyway, Trump`s over-the-top attacks on his opponents are coming up, from
petty name-calling like “liddle Marco” and “lyin` Ted” and “crooked
Hillary,” to telling Hillary that she ought to be in jail.
Trump used degrading personal attacks against opponents. Did it work?
Well, you tell me. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You have to brand people a certain way when they`re your opponents,
like Jeb Bush, we call him low energy, low energy.
Jeb Bush is a low-energy person.
So low energy that every time you watch him you fall asleep.
You have lyin` Ted Cruz. I call him – I nicknamed him lyin`. I say
lyin`. How would you spell that. Lyin` Ted, L-Y-I-N with an apostrophe.
You know, we call him lyin` Ted.
Liddle Marco, by the way, is a choke artist. He`s “liddle.” L-I-D-D-L-E.
Liddle. Liddle. Liddle Marco.
Don`t worry about it liddle Marco.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX ANCHOR: Gentleman, gentleman.
WALLACE: You`ve got to do better than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That is high school and a bad high school. Anyway, welcome back
to HARDBALL. That was a look back at how Donald Trump resorted to name-
calling during the primaries.
While it was clear Trump relished hurling insults at his Republican
proponents, he took a more degrading approach to his campaign against
Hillary Clinton, attacking her ethics, her experiences, even her health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton, oh, she`s crooked, folks, she`s crooked as
a $3 bill.
In fact, she`s the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the
United States of America.
Her international donors control her every move.
She is a dangerous liar.
She`s the devil. He made a deal with the devil.
She`s really pretty close to unhinged.
Honestly, I don`t think she`s also there.
She also lacks the mental and physical stamina.
You see all the days off that Hillary takes? Day off. Day off.
She gives a short speech, then she goes home and goes to sleep and she
shows up two days later.
You ever see her 18-minute speech? Bomb, bomb, bomb, see you! And then
she can`t even make it to her car. Isn`t it tough?
I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate.
No one is more corrupt than crooked Hillary Clinton, nobody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Does this all make you feel good? Anyway, we`re back with our
panel. I`m amazed at putting – looking in the rearview mirror is pretty
Susan, anyway, the name-calling, is this going to teach our young daughters
and grandkids and all, if you want to get ahead, sticks and stones will
break their bones.
PAGE: Well, we actually see signs that kids are learning this lesson,
right? We have these incidents – scattered incidents, anecdotes about
kids being abusive, including in neighborhoods where you would think that
wasn`t going to happen.
Here`s a question in politics. Can you put the toothpaste back in the
tube? Is it going to be possible for someone who follows the traditional
rules, the normative rules of courteous behavior and rhetoric?
MATTHEWS: Let`s ask the gentleman from the RNC. Is anything going to put
this – because trash-talking is working?
STEELE: No, I think this genie is out. I think it`s out. I think you
have elections to look forward to in the future, particularly in primary
settings, in which candidates take it to another level. I really do.
I think that door has kind of opened, simply because it sort of draws
people further into the conversation. He was defining his opponents,
because he knew that that would resonate with the audience. And that would
be something that would stick with them.
So no matter what else she said or did after that, they would always look
at Jeb Bush as low energy.
PRZYBYLA: We were all amused by this and frankly thought, oh, look how
off-message he is, look how off-script he is, can you believe he said that?
And yet at every point, there was a strategic reason why Donald Trump would
want to say, look over there, because there were some news stories that
weren`t very flattering because it actually got to.
MATTHEWS: So he lost the.
PRZYBYLA: . for example, his taxes. And he`s even doing it now, now that
he has, you know, become president-elect, tweeting about “Hamilton” and et
MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to get back to that very soon.
But let me ask Howard about this, what you said earlier, because it seems
to me everything we`ve talked about in this program, and that`s why we
designed it this way, is to show the kinds of things we would point to if
he lost. We would say, well, he lost because of the way he treats women,
the way he talked about minorities, the way he talked about his opponents,
it was unacceptable to the American people.
And all of that we were wrong about.
FINEMAN: Well, of such votes is history made. I mean, it is what it is,
he won, as he said. He was asked, I think after the election, if he
regretted anything that he had said. He said, no, I won.
To him that`s the only reason, the only rationale, the only justification.
I would say that, as somebody who`s in digital media, who`s in social
media, I think the personalization of politics, the fact that it has gone
from programs and agendas more and more to the personality and the intimate
relationship that social media allows between the person, the candidate,
and the voter, editing everything else out of the way, Chris, when you`re
talking to Donald Trump via Twitter or Facebook, you`re talking directly to
Barack Obama was the first to use this with Facebook. He had 20 million
Facebook friends. He used it in what we would generally regard as an
uplifting, hope-filled way. That was the good side of the growth of social
Donald Trump is the combative side. The side that knows that a car wreck,
as it sells on TV, a train wreck, a confrontation, and name-calling is
going to sell on social media.
MATTHEWS: I just want to get moving here, because we have more pictures to
In an unprecedented move last summer, Trump also called on Russia, which
was behind the cyber-attacks on political organizations in this country, to
find Hillary Clinton`s emails. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will tell you this, Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re
able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably
be rewarded mightily by our press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So there`s another no-no. Making a coalition with a government
that for years was our – not the government, but a nation which was our
enemy in the Cold War, but not our enemy like that, but to go against a
rival in the world as your ally.
STEELE: Yes, you know, I have a different interpretation of that. I mean,
I kind of get some of his sarcasm sometimes. I saw that more as sarcasm
than any alliance between him.
MATTHEWS: Did the Russians hear it that way?
STEELE: I think they probably did as well. I don`t know how they heard
it, but I know how he meant, and I think he meant that more as sarcasm.
But, of course, it was not played out that way.
But that`s the thing about trump. You know, he`s like, all right, fine, if
the Russians are doing this, hey, guys, while you`re in there, find these
emails and turn them over because our press would love it.
FINEMAN: Also he was pushing on an open door as far as Russia is
Chris, you and I, and maybe Michael, certainly not the ladies here, grew up
in the era of the Cold War when Russia was the number one enemy. We were
fighting the Cold War against the evil empire. A whole generation of
people has grown up without that in their thinking whatsoever. And I think
Trump was very shrewd.
MATTHEWS: Don`t they teach history anymore?
FINEMAN: No. Trump was very shrewd to pull on that.
PAGE: But the critical word in that – in his statement was not Russia,
the critical word was email, because any time he could talk about Hillary.
FINEMAN: No, no, but that`s part.
PAGE: Yes. But any time he could talk about Hillary Clinton`s emails was
a bad day for Hillary.
FINEMAN: Well, I understand that, but he wouldn`t have been so light-
handed about talking about Russia and emails had they still been the evil
MATTHEWS: And someday somebody is going to have to explain to me why email
was a killer for Hillary. I had never gotten it, the evil of that word.
There were emails.
FINEMAN: As Susan says.
MATTHEWS: I know, I know. But it`s not the worst thing that has ever been
done in American history and it has been treated like that.
Anyway, up next, she`s secretive. Let me just stipulate that, as lawyers
say, just stipulate, Howard`s a lawyer, let`s stipulate Hillary is
secretive. Anyway, the moment Trump says women who have abortions, we`re
going to talk about that, when he said they should be punished, that was a
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One of the more memorable moments for our HARDBALL “College Tour” this
year, and some might call it a highlight of the campaign, or lowlight, was
an interview I did with Donald Trump in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a few days
before the state`s Republican primary.
It came over a question I asked Trump about the issue of abortion. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?
MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge.
TRUMP: It`s a.
MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have
to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?
TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and
conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.
MATTHEWS: How about you?
TRUMP: I would say that it`s a very serious problem. And it`s a problem
that we have to decide on. It`s very.
MATTHEWS: But you`re for banning it.
TRUMP: Are you going to say – well, wait, are you going to say, put them
in jail? Is that the punishment that you`re talking about?
MATTHEWS: Well, no, but I`m asking you. Because you say you want to ban
it. What does that mean?
TRUMP: I am against – I am pro-life, yes.
MATTHEWS: What does ban – how do you ban abortion? How do you actually
TRUMP: Well, you know, you`ll go back to a position like they had, where
people will perhaps go to illegal places.
TRUMP: . but you have to ban it.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes. There has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents, 10 years, what?
TRUMP: That I don`t know. That I don`t know. That I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, why not?
TRUMP: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: Frankly, I do take positions on everything else, it`s a very
MATTHEWS: What about the guy that gets her pregnant, is he responsible
under the law for these abortions or is he not responsible for an abortion
TRUMP: Well, it hasn`t – it hasn`t – different feelings, different
people, I would say no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He did have an answer on that baby, didn`t he?
PAGE: You know what, we heard him figuring out his position on abortion
while you were talking to him, right?
MATTHEWS: But he had a position on the man`s responsibility rather
quickly. That was a much quicker answer.
PAGE: That was quicker on whether you should punish –
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? Was he trying to find his way in an
uncomfortable, blind way, find his orientation with the pro-life people?
They must be for some kind of abortion, punishment. What does that law
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The giveaway on that point,
Chris, was what he said there are some inside the GOP who would, you know,
say, yes, punish the woman.
So, once you then begin to probe that, and say, well, what`s your position?
Because you want to ban it, then all of a sudden, to your point, he was
like, okay, let me do the math. One plus one equals – and tried to find
I thought that was one of the more profound moments in the campaign for a
lot of reasons. Because it really was a touchstone inside the GOP, for
those who do believe that. And they had to reconcile that view with the
family members who have a different point of view.
But more importantly for Trump, I think he realized, these things are
complicated. He kept saying it, but I don`t think he really appreciated
how complicated it really was in that moment, until you pushed him on it.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: I think it`s a poignant moment, because I think
it`s a moment that when Trump makes his first Supreme Court pick, we`re
going to look back on, because I don`t know that Trump himself, the way he
was flailing around, he didn`t want to really say what he personally –
MATTHEWS: What`s he mean by pro-life?
PRZYBYLA: But it shows how far he may be willing to go in terms of
appealing to that wing of the party. And you see that already in some of
his rhetoric, after the election, in that he says that he`s okay with the
court`s decision on gay marriage. Separate standard for Roe v. Wade,
should go back to the states. So, I think that women are going to remember
that moment –
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know what he was thinking
when he was sitting there, Chris. He was thinking, why did I agree to do
FINEMAN: And you – I think – not to butter you up anymore than I –
FINEMAN: Now, wait a second, wait a second. That was probably the most
sustained questioning on any one point that he got during the entire
campaign. So when I say, he was regretting that he sat down for the
interview, he managed to avoid that kind of thing, that kind of situation,
almost exclusively, and it showed that he hadn`t really thought through
what he was doing. He was making it up on the spot, right there.
MATTHEWS: Well, there was another piece of that.
FINEMAN: And he went to the right of most of the pro-life community on
MATTHEWS: The irony of the whole thing is, and I don`t knock the
journalists, I`m not a media critic, but I don`t dislike him personally. I
get along with him personally. So, when I was going at him, there wasn`t
any viciousness about it. I was just trying to get the answer.
Maybe that`s why he was honest. If he saw the blood coming out of my eyes,
he probably would have said, stop this interview. I don`t know what he
would have said.
FINEMAN: The first part of what you said is why he came on the air. But
once he`s live on the air, that`s different from what a print reporter is
going to have a chance to do.
MATTHEWS: I know. I`ve been interviewing him since the `90s, so I`ve
gotten – it is something else. I think there`s an area, where we all
know. Ask me about the penguins. There`s a lot of areas I know nothing
about. Or even the penguins, I know nothing about.
Anyway, there are areas of vast ignorance, and that was one area where he
was vastly ignorant, except for the guy. He knew that part.
When we come back, Trump`s response to terrorism and his promise to ban
Muslims from entering this country. What – that was supposed to kill him,
that`s an area that still scares people to this day.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
In response to a terror attack in San Bernardino, California, last
December, Trump made what is considered one of the most controversial
statements and policy proposals of the 2016 campaign – an announcement
that continues to haunt him and his detractors alike. A ban on Muslims
entering the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of
Muslims entering the United States, until our country`s representatives can
figure out what the hell is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Heidi, let me ask you about that. I think there`s still a live
concern to a lot of Americans, there`s going to be some sort of religious
test on coming in the country, even if it`s based on geography, there`s
still going to end up being Islamic people. There are a lot of Islamic
Americans who are quite rightfully scared about that.
PRZYBYLA: When he said that, the first reaction would be, well, that would
be unconstitutional by the elite, I guess that would be us, or anyone who`s
floor, frankly, with the constitution.
But the concept itself of stopping people who may have bad intentions, who
may be Muslim from attacking us, that had broad support, because then you
started to read the poll numbers. And then you started to see that it was
actually a significant number of Republicans who agreed with it. And as he
began to caveat it a bit, and now we`re at the point where it is just
people from certain countries, it`s becoming more accepted.
MATTHEWS: And now the Democrats may pick as their DNC Chair Keith Ellison,
a guy whose religious faith is Islam.
STEELE: Yes, and I think that`s the point, counterpoint, in the political
word, but I think Heidi`s really touched on how there are two evolutions
that have occurred here. One is among the American people, themselves, who
in polls near the end of the campaign showed some 50-some percent thought
that Islam was incompatible with the values of this country.
Trump understood that and spoke to it long before that poll resonated, more
broadly. But now, as he`s sort of assuming the reins over the government
and getting that daily full-throated briefing on what the real stakes are,
you`ve heard Reince recently and others around the campaign sort of back
that down. So, yes, we still want to make sure we protect the borders,
but. And that`s going to be something he`ll have to navigate over the next
few months, I think, because the expectation is, you`re going to protect us
from these attacks.
FINEMAN: The problem is, having dipped into that to fuel his campaign, all
FINEMAN: Having done that, he`s going to have trouble putting that back in
the bottle, as well. Assuming he even wants to. And we don`t know that.
And by the way, it`s not unconstitutional. People – there`s no
constitutional right to immigrate to the United States. But we have an
understanding in this country that diversity and immigration is our
strength. Donald Trump has questioned that entire premise.
MATTHEWS: And this is where Trump bragged that if he was elected, America
would start winning again and that would mean defeating ISIS, though Trump
attacked Hillary Clinton`s hawkish tendencies when it comes to foreign
interventions. Trump`s proposed strategy to eradicate ISIS was aggressive
to say the least.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would knock the hell out of the oil areas because they`re rich as
I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.
I`d blow up the pipes. I`d blow up the – I`d blow up every single inch.
There would be nothing left.
We`re going to declare war against ISIS. We have to wipe out ISIS. These
are people that –
INTERVIEWERS: With troops on the ground?
TRUMP: I`m going to – very few troops on the ground. We`re going to have
unbelievable intelligence, which we need, which right now we don`t have.
Now, you have ISIS and others, but you have ISIS cutting off Christians`
heads, and others. They cut off anybody`s head. They`re drowning them.
They`re cutting off their heads. We have to go in with force. We have to
take the oil.
INTERVIEWER: How are we going to take the oil? How are we going to do
TRUMP: You`d leave a certain group behind and you would take various
sections where they have the oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Now, Matt`s question was very interesting because it`s the
biggest question in the world. Of course, you always want the biggest part
of the country, the oil part. But somehow, you protect the wells with
aircraft. You`ve got to AAA fire, you have to have all kinds of stuff to
prevent it being bombed. How do you defend a certain portion of Syria or
Iraq with oil? How do you do that?
PAGE: He has a secret plan. It`s smarter than the generals.
MATTHEWS: Without a war?
PAGE: Here`s – the problem is he outlines extremely aggressive steps, I`m
going to bomb the hell out of them, but without the commitment of U.S.
troops. That`s the problem that President Obama has had in trying to
devise a strategy toward that region that works because Americans, believe
me, are not ready to have a big deployment of U.S. troops.
MATTHEWS: Is he a hawk or a dove?
PAGE: Yes, is he a hawk or a dove?
MATTHEWS: What is he? Do we know?
PAGE: Yes, I don`t think we know. He`s both.
PRZYBYLA: His appointments to try and figure out. He`s got everyone from
Tulsi Gabbard, who was like staunchly against the war, to hawks like John
Bolton and Rudy Giuliani.
FINEMAN: You have to read “The Art of the Deal,” Chris. He`s not anything
FINEMAN: He`s strictly transactional, deal by deal.
MATTHEWS: OK, Iraq was a bad deal. We shouldn`t have gone to Iraq. But
we should go into –
FINEMAN: The Iran deal wasn`t a good deal, et cetera, et cetera.
MATTHEWS: But we`re getting these retroactively, Howard. Unfortunately,
we`re finding out what a bad deal was after a deal, because when we went
into Iraq, he didn`t say anything against that.
FINEMAN: You have to deal with a lot of deals, they`re big deals.
STEELE: Let`s deal with the bad deals that have already been done, but
then he`s going to come up with some deals of his own, and that`s going to
FINEMAN: His whole philosophy is keep your options open.
MATTHEWS: OK, I`ve got a minute left. I`m going to go one big
philosophical challenge to all of you. If you basically tell Islamic
people that their religion is questionable and they shouldn`t let their
people, their relatives come into the country, how do you expect them to
rat out the cousin that`s causing trouble? Because Trump is saying
somebody should have dropped the dime on those people out in San Bernardino
because they were very suspicious out there. Who`s going to drop the dime
on somebody living next door if they themselves feel under assault?
PAGE: And it`s going to be very hard to do. And why should she hold an
allegiance to the values that we hold so dear in this country if that is
the attitude that the American government is taking toward them.
PRZYBYLA: Can I just say? I grew up in the area of this country that has
the highest concentration of Muslims in the U.S., just outside of Detroit,
in Dearborn. And after 9/11, those people were the first person to have
their American flags outside of their restaurants, their gas stations, in
part because of patriotism and in part because they were scared of exactly
this type of scenario.
And these people – a lot of them are my friends. They`re my friends on
Facebook, my friends from high school. And they`re deeply, deeply
I know Muslim people who are legitimately wanting to move to Canada. It`s
not that hard because of that population.
FINEMAN: I wouldn`t limit it to that. I wouldn`t end here on Muslims. I
would say that every American has an obligation, including Donald Trump, to
understand and appreciate the virtues of diversity and tolerance in the
country. And however he ran, I think he has to do that now for the good of
And by the way, if there`s a Muslim registry, I`m signing up.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me tell you, I did this show in the spirit of black
humor, meaning like this is really gallows humor, but there`s a lot of
information that we`re getting in this last hour that makes you really
shaking, I think.
We`ll be right back with Michael to start with, when we get back with some
final thoughts about where we`re headed from here.
You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, this has been weirdly unsettling, in fact, weirdly, almost
comic in its absurdity. Anyway, Michael, Susan, Heidi and Howard, all of
you. I`ll start with Michael right around the room here.
What did happen? I mean, everything that was considered off base, out of
line, wrong, and he got past it and somehow exploited it.
STEELE: I think for the first time in the longest time that I can
remember, the American people said to the political establishment and the
media, we got this. We`ll decide this election, not you. And they wanted
a nuclear option in this campaign and they got it in Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: And half the people disagree.
PAGE: I don`t think this is what elected him. I think it failed to not
make it impossible for him to get elected. He got elected because the
number one reason people gave in exit polls for voting for a candidate was
ability to bring about change. And the voters who said “I want change”
vote for him by 6-1.
MATTHEWS: You don`t think it was the way he said the word “change”?
PAGE: This is – you know, it might have worked with some voters, but when
you talk about the voters that we didn`t think he was going to get that he
got, it was the change message. It wasn`t all of this.
PRZYBYLA: I call it a Hail Mary for change, combined with the fact that
the Democrats have failed to hold on to those white working class voters
who were so strongly behind Bill Clinton. I don`t know how many times I
went out into the field and talked to people who had voted for Bill
Clinton, a guy in coal country who used to have a job in a mill on the back
of a porch now cleaning houses. It`s because of people like him who felt
they`d been abandoned by the Democrats and that Hillary Clinton was trying
to build on and not completely – she wasn`t completely genuine about
rejecting the parts of Bill`s agenda like NAFTA that they felt that really
FINEMAN: Having begun my career in Kentucky and spent five years there, I
wasn`t surprised that Donald Trump won. But what I`ll say is that the
conversation that is the country, the argument that is the country goes on
and it will continue.
And as Barack Obama said, hey, you know, this is an ongoing conversation
here. Progress is made in zigzag, not in a straight line. There may be
some good things and some strong issues that Donald Trump puts on the table
that do need to be discussed. Let`s hope they can be discussed civilly in
MATTHEWS: I`m with that.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Susan Page, Heidi Przybyla
and Howard Fineman.
I`ll be back with another edition of HARDBALL. See you then.
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