Trump attacks democrats. TRANSCRIPT: 12/27/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Gwenda Blair, Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried, David Cicilline, Indira Lakshmanan

Date: December 27, 2018
Guest: Gwenda Blair, Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried,
David Cicilline, Indira Lakshmanan

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: What`s Trump`s end game on the shutdown?
Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

Today marks the sixth day of the partial government shutdown and the
prospects for a deal, they are bleak. Fresh off his whirlwind trip to Iraq
yesterday, the President renewed his shutdown demands on twitter. Quote
“have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need border
security and a wall on the southern border?” Trump went on add quote “do
the Democrats realize that most of the people not getting paid are
Democrats?” This is coming two days after Trump said that federal workers
support his stand on the shutdown.


have said to me and communicated, stay out until you get the funding for
the wall. These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn`t
want the wall are the Democrats.


KORNACKI: It was twitter where the battle over the wall largely played out
today, though. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner responding to the
President. Quote “this is outrageous. Federal employees don`t go to work
wearing red or blue jerseys. They are public servants. And the President
is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos.”

Minnesota`s Amy Klobuchar, another Democrat, adding, these shutdown workers
work for the FBI and TSA, not GOP or DNC. They signed up to protect us and
work for America regardless of party.

Later in the day, the President firing off a pair of tweets accusing
Democrats of obstruction on what he calls the needed wall, underscoring
just how far apart both parties remain on this standoff. Illinois`s Dick
Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, he wrote, no end in sight to
the President`s government shutdown.

Now, technically, both Houses of Congress were in session today, although
both the House and the Senate convened for only a few minutes. Both took
no steps to end the partial shutdown.

House members were advised there would be no more votes this week while the
Senate adjourned until Monday at 4:00 p.m. effectively ensuring the
shutdown continues through the weekend and at least to the brink of the New

I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor, correspondent for the PBS News Hour,
Eugene Robinson, columnist for the “Washington Post” and Gwenda Blair,
author of “the Trumps: three generations of builders and a President.”
Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Yamiche, let me just start with you. Trying to get to sort of the bottom
line, the key players in this. You have got the President, you have got
the Republicans on Capitol Hill, and you have got the Democrats on Capitol
Hill. Who has the appetite to extend this the longest and who the shortest
right now, would you say?

the phone with a Democratic aide who says that Democrats are not going to
budge on what the Senate already passed, which is this idea that
essentially there will be no border funding in the CR. So, Democrats are
digging in and saying they are not going to do this.

President Trump through his incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has
already signaled that the White House is willing to come down on the
initial $5 billion ask, but the President himself has not fully endorsed

So, the key thing here, of course, is that the House is going to turn into
democratically controlled House and Nancy Pelosi`s going to likely become
speaker, and that`s going to make it even harder for President Trump to get
what he wants.

KORNACKI: Yes, Eugene Robinson, there is a school of thought that from the
Democratic standpoint, that transfer of power on January 3rd gives them a
new negotiating, new bargaining position, so perhaps there is a political
incentive for them to wait until January 3rd to really make their move.

There`s also a school of thought that there are Republicans in Congress who
might also prefer if that`s the case, because that potentially gives them
somebody they can say, hey, the Democrats, you know, they have got some
extra leverage here. Maybe it gives them room to carve out a deal they
couldn`t right now.

of right, Steven, in that right now Democrats have no power. Republicans
are in charge of everything. They managed to shut down the government all
by themselves, controlling the presidency and both Houses of Congress, and
this is where we are. Come January 3rd, Democrats will have some power.
They will have the House. And so, I expect that they will pass a funding
bill without wall funding. And the President will say that`s unacceptable.

And who knows where we go from there. There isn`t a lot of incentives for
Democrats to start putting offers on the table, particularly since, as we
have seen, you can get a deal signed, sealed and delivered, except when it
comes to it, Donald Trump won`t sign it. And so, why should they put
something out and then have the rug pulled out from under them? And that`s
going to be the question for Democrats.

Plus, the wall is really a stupid idea. And you just have to, let`s deal
with reality for a second. It`s really a dumb idea. And that ought to
count, too.

KORNACKI: Well, Gwenda Blair, you know how the President thinks and
approaches situations like this, negotiations, stalemates, public
posturing, all of the elements we are seeing right here. So, if you have
got Democrats who want to pass something when they get control of the House
that`s going to have no wall money, you have seen before this shutdown and
certainly on the Senate side, it seemed a willingness on the part of
Republicans to try to come to some accommodations, some kind of deal here.

The wild card is, Gene was just saying, becomes the President. If there`s
a willingness on the part of Republicans to compromise with Democrats on
something, what about the President? Is there – do you see somebody here
who is executing some kind of long-game strategy, who has an end game in
mind? Is this somebody who is just winging it, who is just improvising it?
How is he approaching this?

is the same as the short game, really – disruption, distraction, always
pulling the rug out. Somebody was just referring to pulling the rug out.
That`s his place, pulling the rug out so that nobody knows what to expect,
and he is at the center always and everybody`s on the edge of their seat
waiting to see what`s going to happen.

KORNACKI: Does he know, though, what – I mean, obviously, he will say
it`s the wall, it`s the wall. Does he have a very specific bottom line on
this? Is there something – do you sense that it`s something he`s thought
out? Look, I can settle for this, I can sell it as a wall, I can sell it
as close enough. Do you think he`s that specific in his approach here?

BLAIR: He has to come out seeming like the winner, and he has to have his
supporters, his constituency come out seeming like they have won. And so,
does it have to be the wall? I`m not sure – I don`t think so. I think it
has to be that his won, that he came out on top, that he has vindicated,
and that – it`s all about anger, keeping that anger stoked. It`s the
Democrats` fault, it`s somebody`s fault. He has to keep the anger thing
going and he has to come out on top and seem like the winner.

If there can be a way that he can be the winner and the word w-a-l-l
somehow isn`t there or it`s a picket fence or a bunch of slats or some
bricks, or maybe it`s just like, you know, some kind of imaginary wall,
whatever, it`s OK as long as he is the winner.

KORNACKI: Right. We have heard him using the terms steal, slat fence, you
know, fence, wall. We have heard him using a variety of terms in the last
week. Late today as well, the President using a tweet from his predecessor
to try to make a point, tweeting out quote “I totally agree!” in response
to a linked video – a 2001 tweet, I should say from President Obama –
2011 tweet from President Obama, in which Obama said “I strongly believe
that we should take on once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration.”
That was a quote from Obama`s 2011 state of the union speech. Obama
calling in that speech for a negotiated bipartisan fix for illegal

Well, another thing we saw, Yamiche, today from the President, he was very
active on twitter. That`s what this is. We aren`t seeing press
conferences and rallies and marches like we have seen in shutdowns before.
We are seeing everything out there on twitter. It`s very interesting. But
one of the things the President seemed to float was that idea that was out
there a couple months ago, one of the last times we went through this,
telling the Democrats, essentially, DACA fix and wall. Pair those two
things together. He seemed to walk away from that at the end the last time
around. Is that now dead on arrival for Democrats, or is there any
willingness on Democrats` part to entertain something like that?

ALCINDOR: I think now because Democrats have more control when you have
Nancy Pelosi likely coming to be the speaker of the House, Democrats are
likely not going to want to negotiate about that anymore. Dick Durbin
already said on this network to Chuck Todd that he felt as though his hand
had already been burnt, that he had already tried touching that stove and
that President Trump had essentially made promises and then pulled back.

The President is the one who ended DACA, and in this idea that young
immigrants who were brought here as children, as minors, that they don`t
have any wrongdoing. The President took that program away. So
essentially, what you have is Democrats who are already weary of
negotiating with President Trump because they have power and they got that
power by basically saying that they were going to push back on President
Trump. And now you have President Trump essentially not able to negotiate
in a way because people don`t really trust him on Capitol Hill.

Add to that I think, what is the President`s issue here, which is that as
other guests said, he wants to be a winner. He wants to be able to
physically say I got this wall. He has already saying while he was coming
back from visiting the troops in Iraq, he said that he was going to go to a
groundbreaking before the state of the union to see the groundbreaking of
the wall.

What we really know is that there hasn`t been any funding for the wall.
That the President doesn`t have the money to build the wall, and that
whatever he does, he might be standing next to a prototype just for twitter
and for Rush Limbaugh and maybe Laura Ingraham. But the reality is going
to be that he is not going to get his wall and that`s going not to be a
hard thing for him to admit to.

KORNACKI: Well, speaking to supporters in Iraq yesterday, Trump laid the
blame to the ongoing impasse, the feed of Democratic leader of the House,
Nancy Pelosi.


TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck. And Chuck wants to
have this done. I really believe that. He wants to have this done. But
she is calling the shots and she is calling them because she wants the
votes. And probably if they do something, she is not going to get the
votes and she is not going to be speaker of the House. And that would be
not so good for her.

So, Nancy is calling the shots, and they all know – look, politically
speaking, I don`t do it for politics. I`m doing nothing for politics.


KORNACKI: And this weekend, “The New York Times” reported on Trump`s
border wall battle, noting quote “a partisan war may be just what he wants.
He is privately told the associates he is glad Democrats won the House in
last month`s midterm elections, saying he thinks that guarantees his
reelection because they will serve as a useful antagonist.”

In fact, late today, Trump tweeted, this isn`t about the wall, this is only
about the Dems not letting Donald Trump and Republicans have a win. They
may have the ten Senate votes, but we have the issue, border security 2020.

Gene Robinson, the way he is talking there, and we will see, but the way he
is talking there suggests this may be a President who is comfortable
letting this stretch out farther into the future than maybe we initially
thought, well into January. Who knows how far?

From the standpoint of Democrats, January 3rd, they are taking control of
the House for the first time in eight years. They have got plans. They
have got investigations they want to focus on. They have got bills they
want to try to get through to put Republicans in certain positions. How
much appetite do you think Democrats have politically once they take over
the House? How far does their appetite go to have this shutdown issue
hanging there, looming there?

ROBINSON: Well, look, I think Democrats would rather have the shutdown
over, but you know, Nancy Pelosi will be speaker and she will be in a sense
calling the shots, and certainly for the House, and I think she is very
comfortable doing that.

Democrats I think will continue to pass legislation opening the government
and leave it to the Senate, which may or may not go along, and then
ultimately to the President, who will have to decide whether or not he
wants his government open.

I, too, noticed that DACA for wall tweet today. I thought that sounded
like a trial balloon from the President, if he wants to go that route,
there would have to be something more than an ironclad guarantee. I don`t
think you can pre-sign legislation, but there would have to be something,
you know, very public and very guaranteed that Ann Coulter couldn`t torpedo
with a tweet. And I don`t know if – you know, I don`t think that`s ripe.
I just don`t think that`s happening any time soon. So, this could last a

KORNACKI: Hey Gwenda, two interesting in the tweet - in that comments from
the President there in Iraq, trying to bring Nancy Pelosi sort of to the
forefront in this thing. It looks like somebody there who is looking for a
foil. You think back to 2016. We talked about this last night, that very
narrow margin of victory that Trump had in 2016, how crucial – the crucial
ingredient there was how unpopular Hillary Clinton ended up by the end of
that campaign. Last two years – the next two years of his presidency, he
has had Republicans running the House, had Republicans running the Senate.
Seems this is somebody who is eager to have the other party with a little
bit more skin in the game here.

ROBINSON: Yes, but be careful what you wish for. You know, this is a
very, very different House of Representatives that he`s going to be dealing
with. And beyond the shutdown, there are things that every President wants
and needs out of Congress, and he`s going to have to – you know, he`s not
just going to get it automatically the way he got it from Paul Ryan and
Mitch McConnell.

Now Mitch is still there, but now he`s got to deal with Nancy Pelosi. And
remember, Congress has the power of the purse. And that is – you know,
it`s the article one institution. It is Congress is important. And I
think we are going to see just how important and just how powerful in the
coming months.

KORNACKI: What do you think, Gwenda? How do you think that dynamic, that
Trump/Pelosi dynamic – we got a taste of it in the oval office a couple
weeks ago? How do you think that`s going to look in the next couple years
to the country?

BLAIR: He is trying to make a voodoo doll of her right now. He is trying
- he hasn`t quite said lock her up, but I think there is going to be some
parallel chant when he goes on these campaign trips, campaign stops. We
are going to hear something, another chant is going to somehow or other
materialize. Ease that anger to stoke people. That`s what he runs on. He
really needs that. And without that, without that foil, he is lost. So,
he is going to - somebody is going to have to be the person, and right now
it`s Nancy that`s in the hot seat.

KORNACKI: Yes, we talked about this last night a little bit. This is a
President for the last two years who is not done what former, previous
Presidents have done, trying to expand that base, expand that coalition.
This is somebody who looks like he is intent on trying to win in 2020 the
exact same way he won in 2016, and that would require everything,
everything to break his way and go right for him again, just as it did.

Yamiche Alcindor, Eugene Robinson, Gwenda Blair, thank you for being with

And coming up, President Trump telling U.S. troops in Iraq quote “we are no
longer suckers of the world.” Is this Trump`s foreign policy in a
nutshell? Is it working?

Plus, new poling page a stark image of a divided America. Is there any
room left for big-picture bipartisanship? And Michael Bloomberg, what
about his quip that the President is not an entry-level position? Was that
aimed at Trump? Was that an opening (INAUDIBLE) against Democratic primary

And finally, let me finish tonight with a government shutdown that feels a
whole lot different than shutdowns we have been through before.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.



TRUMP: America shouldn`t be doing the fighting for every nation on earth.

If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price, and
sometimes that`s also a monetary price, so we are not the suckers of the

Under my administration, we are winning now. We are not playing to lose
slowly like they have been doing for 19 years.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In defending his decision to pull American troops from Syria, President
Trump took a shot at his predecessors yesterday, telling U.S. troops in
Iraq that the United States will no longer be the sucker of the world.

Today “The New York Times” notes that in making that decision so abruptly
last week quote “President Trump managed to unite the left and right
against a plan to extract the United States from two long costly and
increasingly futile conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.”

Moreover, the President now appears more determined to deliver on his
promise of an America first foreign policy, even if it means rejecting the
expert advice of his generals.

Ever since his campaign, Trump has advocated for a diminished role abroad,
saying the U.S. should get more out of its commitments overseas.


brought us nothing but poverty at home and disaster overseas. That is what
we have, disaster, the wars we never win.

We go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives,
and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be
to the victor belong the spoils.

I didn`t want to go there in the first place, but now we take the oil. We
should have kept the oil.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: What you`re saying is, Assad can stay in
power. That`s not your interest. Your interest is…


TRUMP: No, what I`m saying, we have bigger problems than Assad.

Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why do we care?

So, now you have – what, are we going to start World War III over Syria?

The United States cannot afford to be the policeman of the world anymore,

From now on, it`s going to be America first.


KORNACKI: I`m joined now by Indira Lakshmanan, columnist with “The Boston
Globe,” and Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. He
sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, I will start with you.

And just listening to those lines there, those speeches from Donald Trump
pressing that idea of the United States not being the policeman of the
world, he says, comparing it to that “The New York Times” article we`re
reading from where you talk about policy-makers, military experts, a lot of
national security experts in both parties kind of being united against
this, I guess, let me ask you the question this way.

What would you say to somebody, a voter out there, an American citizen out
there who maybe likes what he hears, what she hears when Donald Trump talks
the way we just played there and says, you know what, I have been burned by
the experts, I was burned by them on Iraq, I was burned by them on
Afghanistan, our country was burned by them, maybe we`re listening to them
too much?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think, look, the national
security establishment, I think, always has an inclination to suggest
military action.

I think that`s sort of part of their DNA. What we need is a president who
can listen to that and account for that in making decisions. But the
process is beneficial, because it ensures that the president has the most
complete and most accurate and most current information when making a

It`s also important because it includes our allies, so that they understand
what we`re doing. And, as Jim Mattis said in his letter to the president
resigning, America`s strength, in part, is because of our strong alliances
and partnerships around the world, and because America can be trusted.

And so, when you don`t have a national security process that engages or at
least alerts our allies, you undermine that as well.

KORNACKI: Well, talking about the process there, here was an interesting
argument I read in “The Week” magazine from Damon Linker.

He said that objections to Trump`s decision to withdraw from Syria are more
about process than policy, writing – quote – “Like everything Trump does,
these decisions appear to have been made in an impulsive way, without
consultation with Congress, allies, or Pentagon advisers. That`s what
policy-makers call process, but that isn`t a reason,” he says, “to reject
the policy shift.”

Damon Linker goes on to point out that – quote – “Process is good, but it
doesn`t guarantee wisdom.”

Indira Lakshmanan, I just thought this was an interesting piece, and I`m
curious to get your reaction to it, because, essentially, what he`s arguing
is the process as it commonly plays out, he seems to be arguing, sort of
inevitably leads presidents to defer to military voices, to defer to longer
military commitments, and maybe by being ignorant of traditional processes,
Trump gets the country out of something that maybe the country wants to be
out of.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”: Well, Steve, I would argue it this
way, that process is necessary, but not sufficient.

You need to have a process. The whole point of a democratic form of
government, the way we do things, having a Congress who advises and
consents, and having a Cabinet that is there full of experts, in an ideal
situation, to advise the president, is that you want the president to get
good advice.

I listened to that incredible montage that you showed, and I was reminded
of, during the campaign, I think it was during a debate, that then-
candidate Trump was asked, you know, who are you listening to, who do you
take advice from? And he said, well, first of all, I listen to myself
because I have a very good brain.

You know, so the whole problem with that is, once you get to the White
House, great. You – it is your job to then listen to all the expert
advice around you, but that`s not enough. Sure, expert advice can lead you
in the wrong direction. I mean, I think we could have an entire show just
talking about the pros and cons of being in Syria.

But I`m not sure that the president has thought through the fact that the
U.N. just said a couple of months ago that there are 20 (sic) to 30 (sic)
ISIS fighters still in Syria and Iraq. The whole point of the policy of
having troops over there and in Iraq and in Afghanistan, for that matter,
was to fight terrorists over there, so that we wouldn`t have to fight them
back here at home.

So, I think he`s done this kind of hastily. And what really stays with me,
from listening to what he said out there on Iraq, is, he used the term
suckers. He has this obsession with whether we`re being duped or conned or
something like that.

And then he also says, you know, what really matters to him is, everybody
needs to pay for it. He`s incredibly transactional in his policies and,
above all, in his foreign policy. But what he`s forgetting is that U.S.
interests aren`t just about money. It`s also about values. It`s also
about the leadership and the voice that we have gotten to have in these
last, you know, 60-plus years, post-World War II.

So, I think he`s throwing, you know, a lot of baby out with the bath water,
if all he`s concerned about is the money that we spend on alliances and

KORNACKI: Congressman, on this theme of process, I wonder, is there part
of the process here or something that maybe ought to be part of the process
that predates Trump that`s part of this equation, too, and that is getting
buy-in from the American public?

I`m wondering how many people heard the news of what the president
announced last week and said, wait a second, we had troops in Syria, this
wasn`t something that went through Congress?


KORNACKI: I`m wondering if it`s kind of news to Americans, and if that`s a
critical piece here that`s just been neglected.

CICILLINE: No, absolutely.

I have been part of a group of members of Congress who have been pressing
hard, demanding that the president seek authorization from Congress before
engaging in military action in Syria. That would give the president the
responsibility of communicating to Congress and to the American people,
what is our objective in Syria, what is necessary to achieve that
objective, and then to persuade Congress that it was a worthwhile
investment of American treasure and American lives.

The president doesn`t have a strategy in Syria, so pulling out may seem
like a great idea, in the absence of a coherent, thoughtful strategy with a
set of objectives and really an articulation of how you`re going to achieve
those objectives.

So, I think this has been something we have been clamoring for, insisting
on, and the president hasn`t requested it, and hasn`t articulated to the
Congress or to the American people exactly what we`re doing in Syria and
what`s the end plan.

KORNACKI: But what do you think the end plan should be? And what would
you tell somebody out there saying, OK, if Trump is wrong about this, if
this is the wrong time, how much longer?

Because he said – one of the things he said yesterday was, they asked me
for six months. I said OK. They asked me for six months. I said OK.

What would you tell the sort of skeptical person out there, how much

CICILLINE: I think we don`t want – we don`t – right.

We don`t want American troops to be there one day longer than is absolutely
necessary to protect the national security interests of our own country.
So, I think, again, it`s incumbent on the president to articulate, what`s
the plan, what`s the purpose of our engagement there, what does he need to
achieve that mission, and then to persuade members of Congress to devote
the resources necessary to do that.

That`s why Congress has the authority to authorize the use of military
force, not the president alone. Our founders put that in the Constitution
as we are the only body that can declare war. We have been pressing for
that for precisely this reason, to force the president to develop and then
articulate exactly what the purpose is there.

If he can`t do that, then we wouldn`t vote for it. But that`s the role
Congress should be playing. That`s the role that many of the Democrats
have been demanding. And I suspect that, when we take the majority, you
will see Congress, in fact, require that of the administration.


And, Indira, you were citing some statistics there a minute ago about why
you say there is a need for a continued involvement there. What would you
say. I ask the same question to you in terms of, how much longer?

LAKSHMANAN: Look, I think there are arguments on both sides, but I think
it`s interesting that the two countries that were really celebrating the
U.S. announcement of pulling troops out of Syria were Russia and Iran.

And what does that tell us? You know, the president claims that he pulled
out of the Iran nuclear deal because he wanted to, because he doesn`t trust
Iran and he, you know, doesn`t trust their motives. Well, in fact, they
are the biggest beneficiaries, in a way, along with Russia, who`s a big
ally and supporter, who`s been propping up Bashar al-Assad`s murderous
regime all this time.

So, you know, there`s that whole problem that he`s not taking into account.
I do think it`s something that should have been discussed more with the
American people, more with Congress, and deciding, what are the pros and
cons and lining them up.

But I don`t think that just pulling out willy-nilly is a great idea. And I
just want to remind people, a lot of Americans may not realize that there
was a group called al Qaeda in Iraq, and they were pretty powerful. And
when they were finally diminished in 2011, when the Obama administration
completed the pullout from Iraq that the Bush administration had started,
at that point, they reformed themselves as ISIS, what we now know.

So, we do know that we pull out, problems are also created in that respect
as well.

KORNACKI: All right, Indira Lakshmanan, Congressman David Cicilline from
Rhode Island, thank you both for being with us.

Up next: Heading over to the big board, we`re going to break down the
surprising extent to which our party affiliation is shaping our world view
in the Trump era.

It was the best year, it was the worst year, depending on what party you
were in.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We are just days away from the start of 2019, the end of 2018, everybody
taking stock of what`s happened over the last 12 months, how their lives
changed, how the world changed, how their families changed. Was it better?
Was it worse?

Well, here`s an interesting way to think about, to look at how people all
across the country are looking at and thinking about the year we just lived
through, the year 2018. We talk all the time about a red-blue divide in
our politics. Does it extend to how people think about their lives, the
country`s life in any given year?

Interesting new polling data here. Morning Consult just came out with this
one. And let me show you. First of all, check this out. Asking people
about the year 2018 in their personal lives, their professional lives per,
what do you see?

People generally, Democrat, Republican, they agree, things got better. By
an 18-point margin, Democrats said their personal life got better, not
worse over the last 12 months. By a 29-point margin, Republicans saying
the thing – the professional life, a 24-point margin for Republicans, an
18-point margin for Democrats.

A little bit disparity on personal finances. By a 7 percent margin,
Democrats saying theirs actually got worse, Republicans saying theirs got

But, again you see there is a lot of overlap here. You see a lot of plus
signs, a little bit higher on the Republican side. But, generally, when
you talk about personal, professional life, Democrats and Republicans
saying, hey, our lives, my life, my family`s life, it did get better in
2018, compared to 2017.

So, use that as a baseline, and then start asking about our politics, and
check this out. So, compared to 2017, 2018, as a whole, the country, the
year, Democrats said, oh, no, no, no, 51 percent, a clear majority, said
the year itself was worse than 2017.

You ask Republicans about this, complete opposite – 58 percent, clear
majority there, say, no, things got better, 2018 was a better year than

Ask folks, ask Democrats here, compared to last year, the economy. Look,
again, more than 2-1 margin, Democrats say, no, the economy worse in 2018
than it was in 2017. Same question to Republicans, completely different
answer, 56 percent of Republicans saying economy better, 26 percent saying
it`s worse.

Ask them about national security, Democrats, again, better than 2-1 margin
saying it`s gotten worse, Republicans about a 2-1 margin saying it`s gotten

So, that personal – when it came to personal and professional status,
there was some consistency. When you broadened it out, started talking
about politics, totally different universes, except one question, one
question where both parties were in almost total and complete agreement.

Check this one out. Asked folks, compared to 2017, the party divide in
this country, Democrats, 57 percent of them say it`s gotten worse. Only 10
percent say it`s gotten better. Republicans, virtually identical, 57
percent say the partisan divide, the red-blue divide, got worse this year.
Only 12 percent say it got better.

So they don`t agree on how the economy is doing. They don`t agree on the
direction of the country. They don`t agree on whether this was a good or
bad year compared to last year. But they do agree that they`re disagreeing
more. So I guess they can see those numbers that we just took you through

Anyway, we will see 12 months from now how folks assess 2019, what the next
12 months bring.

Up next, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounding serious
about a run for president in 2020. Will his $100 million war chest or
more, maybe much more, give him an edge somehow in what`s shaping up to be
a very crowded field of candidates?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Believe it or not, the start of the 2020 presidential race just around the
corner. Dozens of Democrats ready to jump in, potentially. Watch for
official announcements to start coming over the next few weeks, months –
hey, maybe even the next few days, who knows?

One of the Democrats weighing a run, former New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg. He is a Democrat now. Certainly, he sounded like a probable
candidate in an interview with Chuck Todd that`s going to air on “Meet the
Press” this weekend.

The two were discussing climate change. Let`s watch.


is not an entry-level job, OK? We have some real problems. If you don`t
come in with some real concrete answers, I think the public is tired of
listening to the same platitudes that they get – we`re in favor of god,
mother and apple pie, and trust me, I`ll have a plan when I get there. No,
you have to have a plan.


KORNACKI: Now, if Bloomberg decides to run, CNBC is reporting that he is
prepared to spend at least $100 million of his own money. Fund-raising may
not be an issue for him. Voters are not signaling excitement for a
Bloomberg candidacy. This new Suffolk University/”USA Today” poll we
talked about, Bloomberg under water with Democratic and independent voters
on the subject of a potential candidacy, more saying they don`t think he
should run than saying they`re excited about the idea of a Bloomberg bid
for president.

For more, I`m joined by tonight`s HARDBALL round table. Philip Bump,
political reporter for “The Washington Post,” Aisha Moodie-Mills,
Democratic strategist, Evan Siegfried, Republican strategist.

Aisha, I`ll start with you. Climate change, gun control, Mayors Against
Gun Violence, one of his issues as mayor, two issues important to the
Democratic base. Obviously, he tried to run on that. The question asked
in that poll, do you not want him to run or are you excited about the idea
of a Bloomberg candidacy?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Here`s the thing: he is still a
centrist billionaire, completely out of touch with the Democratic base, as
it is today.

KORNACKI: This sounds like I don`t want him to run.

MOODIE-MILLS: Look, my wife works with the Bloomberg administration when
he was mayor of New York. I have a lot of respect for him and some of the
things he did. But let`s not forget, that he also is a guy who stood
firmly behind stop and frisk that incarcerated so many black and Latino
people here and he continues to champion that to some degree, actually. He
has always loved the banks. He`s always stood up for deregulation,
completely out of touch with the populist tone that we`re seeing on the
progressive side of the party. I don`t think that he connects with the
base and I don`t think he has far to go.

KORNACKI: Philip, we say $100 million. That`s about what he spent running
for mayor of New York. Eight million people in New York, a couple hundred
million nationally. But let`s say he`s just a limitless war chest if he
runs. How far does that get you these days?

question. The last guy who raised $100 million to run for president is Jeb
Bush, who did not do very well. People remember that. The Democratic
Party had a very successful 2018 midterm season in part with candidates who
focused solely on small donors contributing to their campaigns, and I think
that that proved effective in a lot of ways. I think that every single
point that was just made is absolutely dead on the money.

This is not the Democratic party of 15 years ago. This is not the
Democratic Party of Bill Clinton and moving to the center and so on and so
forth. Democrats on the whole have grown more liberal over time. Michael
Bloomberg – there`s a sense, I think, among Republicans in particular,
that because Donald Trump is so far to the right and so conservative, that
there must be space in the middle within the Democratic Party because it is
the opposite pole to the Republicans.

But that definitely misses the change within the Democratic party itself.
I think this is a massive waste of $100 million. Look, I`ve been wrong. I
was wrong in 2016. I don`t see how investing $1 trillion in this race does
what Michael Bloomberg wants it to.

KORNACKI: It`s interesting, you`ve seen him in New York, as a Republican,
an independent, now a Democrat. A Democrat way back to begin with, too.
The one constant there, he`s looked at running for president a bunch of
time, 2008, 2012, 2016. Here we go again. He`s 78 years old, I think now.

What do you make of it?

EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there is the curse of city
hall in New York City. We`ve had prior mayors try to run, going back to
Lindsey and Lindsey couldn`t do it in the `60s and `70s and Rudy Giuliani
failed in –

KORNACKI: A combined one delegate between those two.

SIEGFRIED: My question is what`s the constituency for Bloomberg?
Everybody – we`re all in agreement. I think Bloomberg`s looking at it the
way that Ted Cruz looked at it in 2016 and same with Donald Trump. To try
to just get a plurality of votes here and there that picks off delegates
left and right and doesn`t get there, but I don`t see it.

The argument he`s making is, well, we need experience. That`s san argument
for several governors who are looking at the race as well as Joe Biden. At
the same time, he said to Chuck Todd, well, he wants to put out a message
that voters will listen to and not offer the same platitudes. Well, so far
in his visits to Iowa, he says he`s just listening. And that`s nothing

And the other thing are Bloomberg`s #metoo problems. Not only has he
bashed the movement, but the Bloomberg itself has a company has been sued
multiple times from the `90s on for sexual harassment. He himself has been
sued for sexual harassment.

“The Atlantic” did an expose in September where it said, quote, Bloomberg
is insidious manifestations of misogyny. He`s made some very crude
remarks, and I would expect this would be a huge thing. He doesn`t have a
constituency. He can`t run as an independent because it would hand the re-
election to Donald Trump.

So, is it a vanity project?

MOODIE-MILLS: He doesn`t have a message.

KORNACKI: It seems like the message that he`s – I don`t know if this is
accurate or not, but it seems like the message he would try to sell the
Democrats is one of pragmatism, I could win. I would be seen as a
centrist. I would be seen as a businessman who can match Trump, get things
done, just in generally, the market for pragmatic – I always think back,
2004, Democrats, remember their hearts were with Dean, the heads were with
Kerry. You saw how it worked out in November, but pragmatically,
Democratic voters, there seemed to be a turn in the campaign. We`re going
to be pragmatic and go with John Kerry.

Is that pragmatism there in 2020? Is that part of the equation?

MOODIE-MILLS: That message in a Democratic primary will fall flat because
the entire field will be talking about Medicare for all. They`re going to
be talking about free college education. They`re going to be talking about
what we do to disrupt in some way the 1 percent and bridge the divide
between the wealth gap.

There`s going to be a much deeper populist conversation happening that
everything he`s saying is going to kind of wonk, wonk, wonk, and nobody`s
going to be paying attention to that at all. And so, I don`t think he has
a message and narrative that resonates in a Democratic primary. Now, he
can take his centrist act on the road and maybe run as a third-party
candidate or maybe try to run against Donald Trump in a Republican primary,
but that`s not going to sell for the Dems.

KORNACKI: All right. Meanwhile, Gallup releasing its poll of the most
admired men and women in the country. Former President Barack Obama and
former First Lady Michelle Obama take the top spots. It marks the 11th
year in a row that Barack Obama`s been number one on that list. It`s also
the first year for Michelle Obama. She unseats Hillary Clinton, who held
that spot for the past 16 years. President Trump coming in second for the
fourth year in a row.

Philip, we`re talking 20 here. The role of Barack Obama in the 2020
Democratic primaries, how do you see it?

BUMP: Yes, it`s a fascinating question. He`s sort of the de facto leader
of the party at this point in time for a variety of reasons. We`ll see if
that changes once Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker.

But he doesn`t seem to be someone who has a track record of king-making,
right? He tried in 2010, in 2014 to really shape what the congressional
elections look like, unsuccessfully. There have been conversations,
apparently, between himself and Beto O`Rourke and potentially other folks
as well.

It`s going to be interesting to see how much weight that carries. I mean,
I think this Gallup poll is mostly a reflection of partisanship and other
things. I don`t know that that carries much weight, but it will be
fascinating to so where he comes down on this.

In the midterms, he waited pretty late in the cycle and mostly backed
people you might expect him to back, so I don`t know how he really gets
into this thing.

KORNACKI: I`m wondering, too, Evan, just, what is the formula? Do you
have a sense just looking at Trump`s political standing where you see his
vulnerabilities in 2020? What do you see is the formula that would be the
most sellable for Democrats in a candidate? Do you see one?

SIEGFRIED: No drama and solutions. That`s basically the slogan you want
to have. Government isn`t functioning properly. You have the wheels going
off the rails right now with the way government is working. And also,
every morning we wake up to a tweet storm, and a lot of people are tuning
it out.

But we also saw in 2018 a lot of voters say you know, I`m tired of this.
This is just too much. I get my kids ready for school, et cetera.

But there`s one thing about, you know, the kingmaker aspect of Barack
Obama. The longer he stays neutral in this, the worse it is for Joe Biden,
because it creates that question of why hasn`t he done his best buddy, Joe
Biden, and it`s going to be a question that will linger in the minds of
first the press, and it will trickle down to the voters.

KORNACKI: And you got the sense all through 2015 that Biden was just
waiting for Obama to come to him and say, I`m with you, Joe, if you go, and
he never got that message from him. Obama, it seemed, maybe like a lot of
other Democrats, thought Hillary was the most electable candidate.

MOODIE-MILLS: Don`t rule out Michelle. It`s not the Obama factor. It`s
the Michelle Obama factor. She just broke records with her book. She is
selling out stadiums with her tour.

KORNACKI: You think she makes an endorsement –

MOODIE-MILLS: I think that Michelle Obama`s effect on the electorate
inspiring people to show up and participate, in the same way that Oprah
did, is game changing for the Democrats in a lot of ways and mobilizing the
base. And it`s not just about one candidate yet, but I think she`s the X
factor we should be looking at much more than Barack.

KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is staying with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching


KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Phillip, tell me something I don`t know.

BUMP: So, it`s sort of a fascinating subtext, this whole debate over
government funding and the border wall. Donald Trump wants $5 billion for
the wall. Overall, it`s estimated it will cost $18 billion. So far this
year, because of the tax cuts passed on year ago, corporate taxes are down
$92 billion from 2017. You take – you know, one fifth of that and you
could have paid for the entire border wall if you wanted to. But that`s
not the –

KORNACKI: All right. Aisha?

MOODIE-MILLS: OK. So, if you`re walking along Capitol Hill, when this new
Congress comes in and you run into a white man who`s a member, it`s likely,
two to one, he`s going to be Republican. If you run into a woman of color,
who`s also a member of Congress, 20 to 1 likely that she`s a Democrat. I
think that says a lot about who the base of the Democratic Party is and
what 2020`s conversation is going to look like.

KORNACKI: OK. And, Evan?

SIEGFRIED: The Rick Santorum of 2020, Bernie Sanders, has been having many
of his associates go out and attack Beto O`Rourke because they see him as
the biggest threat in the progressive party. He`s being called uber
conservative and voting with Trump 70 plus percent of the time.

KORNACKI: OK. Well, that Bernie-Beto stuff, on Twitter, that`s always fun
to watch.

All right. Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried. When we
return – thank you for being with us.

When we return, let me finish tonight with a surprisingly low key
government shutdown. You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with a government shutdown that feels
different than we`re used to.

The president is firing away on Twitter, but there`s no sign of any serious
negotiations, no votes looming, no loud rallies, no dueling press
conferences, a lot of members of Congress aren`t even in Washington.
They`re away for the holidays. Democrats may be content to wait until the
New Year, that`s when they take control of the House to make their move.
Republicans, they`ve been burned by the White House already. They may be
fine with waiting until then too.

As “Politico” puts it today, quote, this episode is remarkably low key.
We`ve seen the opposite of low key with he has shutdowns before, go back
two decades to November of 1995, Newt Gingrich, the first Republican House
speaker in a 40 years, locked in a staring contest with Bill Clinton. That
government shutdown was all anyone talked about for days. It led every
newscast, there were big speeches, rallies, primetime addresses, a sense
across the country that something major was happening.

Remember when Newt seemed to suggest he wasn`t negotiating because Clinton
had ignored him on Air Force One. One of the all-time political gifts the
public sided decisively with Clinton and against the Republicans. Less
than a year later, Clinton cruised to reelection, running against the
Gingrich Congress. That, he said, had shut down the government.

More recently, there was Obama versus the Tea Party in 2013. Remember that
one? Ted Cruz told Republicans to close the government down and not to
blink until Obamacare was defunded. They held out for 16 days, but that
was it. Obamacare survived. Although Cruz`s star with the Republican base
did rise.

But now, this shutdown is very real obviously to the federal workers who
are affected. But on Capitol Hill, and around the country, this one is
different, so far. It`s a partial shutdown, only a quarter of the
government. It`s also happening during the holidays. These are definitely
factors that come into play here.

It`s also probably a sign, though, that in the Trump era, what used to be
shocking, so often now ends up feeling like not much at all.

That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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