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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 01/02/15

Guests: Michelle Bernard, Ruth Marcus, Melinda Henneberger, MilissaRehberger, Howard Fineman, Michael Steele

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Women in charge. Let`s play HARDBALL. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, and in this holiday season, we`re happy to give you this special edition of HARDBALL. There are a remarkable number of TV dramas set in Washington these days, or with political themes, that star bold, powerful, sometimes ruthless women, and yes, I`m a fan of most of them. These characters are fictional and have distinct foibles, but they are clearly the stars of this holiday season. But what story is holiday (sic) really writing here, Washington today or Washington as a coming attraction? I`m joined now by the HARDBALL roundtable, "Washington Post" columnist Ruth Marcus, president of the Bernard Center for Women Michelle Bernard and "Washington Post" writer Melinda Henneberger. Let`s start with Claire Danes and -- who stars as CIA station chief Carrie Mathison in "Homeland." Here`s Carrie calling the shots. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLAIRE DANES, ACTOR: I want you to stay here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.   DANES: Quinn... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I need to be at these... DANES: I`ll have special forces, two security details. I`ll be fine. The calls (INAUDIBLE) from Bagram. It`ll be at 45,000 feet and (INAUDIBLE) But I need you in the ops room on (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Quinn`s one of the good guys, by the way. Then there`s Katherine Heigl in NBC`s brand-new "State of Affairs." She plays a former CIA agent whose job is to brief the president on the state of terrorism around the world. And by the way, the president just happens to be a woman here. Here`s Heigl`s character, Charlie Parker, commanding the room when news of a terrorist capture breaks out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie, I don`t want to speak too soon, but I think we found Fada (ph). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, soldier! Get down! UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charlie, we go to print (ph) in about 30 minutes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Earl, where are they at with the situation report?   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just came on line. (INAUDIBLE) get back to (INAUDIBLE) He`s got boots on the ground. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we put it in the book preemptively that we may have found Abdul Fada (ph)? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s big news. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bigger news is when we kill him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And Tea Leoni, who plays Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord in "Madam Secretary." Here she negotiates via teleconference with a terrorist general and puts him in his place. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Secretary, what an unexpected pleasure. TEA LEONI, ACTOR: General, it`s time we had a talk. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By all means. We have so much to discuss. Where are your beautiful legs? LEONI: They`re under the table, where they`re going to stay.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Plus Kerry Washington, of course, who plays the top political crisis management expert on "Scandal." Ruth Marcus, you cover all these beats in your column in "The Washington Post." So you know all the real -- and are we in Hollywood -- not we in -- is Hollywood ahead of the curve or about where it`s at in terms of women in power in Washington? RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, Chris first of all, I`m not going to ask you where your beautiful legs are... MATTHEWS: OK. MARCUS: ... because I know it`s a family show. Look, Hollywood is both reflecting Washington, being inspired by Washington, and then influencing Washington in turn. So you know, here we have in Washington the situation where not only have we had a succession of women secretaries of state, there`s a bunch of boys in town who don`t think -- growing up these days, who don`t think men can be secretaries of state. Thank goodness for John Kerry! MATTHEWS: Madeleine Albright... MARCUS: Exactly. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Condoleezza Rice. MATTHEWS: ... Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton... MARCUS: Exactly.   MATTHEWS: Before that, we missed -- who did we miss? MARCUS: Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton. MATTHEWS: OK. MARCUS: And that`s the lot. And then you have the fact that the president`s counterterrorism adviser is a woman. His national security adviser is woman. His U.N. adviser is a woman. There`s a sort of robust presence of women not just at the highest levels of power in Washington, but at places of power that women have not traditionally been. This is interesting for Hollywood. And then as Hollywood takes and Hollywoodizes, if that`s a verb, its approach to this, then that then influences the public perception of women as -- and you knew I was going to get to this -- there might be a woman running for president sometime soon. MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me go -- let me go to Michelle because it seems like there`s a difference between having all these roles... MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Yes. MATTHEWS: ... and being the star of the show. BERNARD: Yes. Yes. MATTHEWS: And these women and these things -- what I like about -- well, I like all these. I certainly like "Good Wife." I haven`t missed an episode of that in five-and-a-half years, where it`s a tough woman lawyer with a husband who`s got problems. Maybe she`s got some problems, too. (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: But being the star -- and that`s what you were alluding to there. Are we ahead or we hind the curve in terms of a president because - - and there`s a new show, "State of Affairs," the woman is -- the president is a woman. BERNARD: Not only is the president a woman in the new show, she is an African-American woman, which I think is a big deal for all of the television networks. Hollywood is ahead of the curve in that sense, but I mean, I don`t think there -- I don`t think, in real life, we are that far behind. I think the American public is as ready for a female president as we were for an African-American president. Doesn`t mean that people are going to vote for someone... (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we were or we weren`t? (LAUGHTER) BERNARD: I think we were ready for the right candidate. I don`t think anyone was ever going to say, I`m going to vote for -- for you know, Obama because he`s black. I`m going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she`s a woman. I think people are saying, If you`re the right candidate, if we like you, if we like your vision for the future of the country, we`re going to vote for you. And I think we are ready for a female president and we`ll see it very soon. MATTHEWS: Melinda? MELINDA HENNEBERGER, "WASHINGTON POST": I think that a lot of these characters are based on real people, or composites of several real people. So I don`t think Hollywood... MATTHEWS: Well, let`s... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: Let`s (INAUDIBLE) "The Good Wife," Julianna Margulies, of course, a superstar. She`s won the best actress award, actor award for women for, like, five years running now. She`s been running that show through all its twists and turns. Is she Hillary with a husband? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Oh, come on, there is some parallel here. HENNEBERGER: Well, she was based On Eliot Spitzer`s wife... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... a woman abused, a woman who got cheated on, yes. BERNARD: The woman who traditionally has stood there in the pearls, you know, standing by her man. MATTHEWS: And the nice scarf. I always like a scarf. HENNEBERGER: And now she`s becoming her husband. The interesting thing to me -- many interesting things -- I love "The Good Wife," too -- is how she`s becoming a politician and sort of making her Faustian bargain pace by pace, you know, in a slow-motion kind of way. But you know, the Christine Baranski character on that show... MATTHEWS: Fabulous.   HENNEBERGER: ... is a version of Hillary. MATTHEWS: And she`s a HARDBALL fan, by the way, Christine Baranski. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this -- you just mentioned "The Good Wife." And while it`s not set in Washington necessarily, it`s a Chicago show, it`s brimming with politics. Julianna Margulies`s character, Alicia Florrick, is running for state`s attorney right now and she plays bare-knuckle politics with her husband, the governor of Illinois. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JULIANNA MARGULIES, ACTOR: Is that what I`m doing here, I`m asking you for a favor? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you are! You want something. That`s a favor. MARGULIES: No. And you know why it`s not? Because if you don`t show up to endorse me, if you go off to some governors` conference instead, your favorables will plummet through the floor! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The anger is just so inexplicable at this point! Well, what do you guys think? (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: She`s so mad at this guy! BERNARD: ... during this holiday season, so that none of the ladies watching get angry with you, I would not use the word "angry" when we talk about Alicia Florrick. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That woman`s not angry at her husband? BERNARD: Well, I think he deserves it. MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. That`s different. BERNARD: I think -- I think she`s... (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: ... and I don`t think she`s being angry. I think she`s being forceful. She`s making her point and she`s playing hardball politics with her husband. MATTHEWS: So he yells at her, that`s anger. But when she yells at him, it`s not anger? BERNARD: I don`t -- I don`t...   (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: I didn`t consider that yelling. I considered that playing hard-core politics with somebody who happens to be her husband. MATTHEWS: OK. We strike the word "anger" from the record. (CROSSTALK) MARCUS: ... about "The Good Wife" is that we have -- it was inspired in a moment when we saw so many of these women who were very accomplished women but standing very meekly beside their husbands in a way that many of us experienced as humiliating. And now with the evolution of "The Good Wife" -- she may be good, but she is not so nice these days, and that`s great because she has, like, taken back... MATTHEWS: You guys are amazing! Ruthless is good now, huh? MARCUS: Well, I can`t say that ruthless is good, given my name. MATTHEWS: Right. MARCUS: But I can say that toughness is good. And I think the thing that`s fascinating about all of these different women -- Alicia Florrick, Carrie Mathison, the wife of the protagonist on "House of Cards," Frank Underwood`s wife... MATTHEWS: What is that about, by the way? They stand at the window and share a cigarette! (CROSSTALK)   UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s their deal. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It is very Lady Macbeth, though. Let`s be honest. It`s Lady Macbeth. MARCUS: These are women who are tough. And Hollywood is conditioning the public to understand and appreciate tough women and... MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Hollywood has a message here, and they`re pushing an agenda politically? MARCUS: No. MATTHEWS: You just said they... (CROSSTALK) MARCUS: No... MATTHEWS: Let`s go back and read the transcript. You just said Hollywood is pushing something. MARCUS: No, I said Hollywood is conditioning it. Hollywood`s...   MATTHEWS: Conditioning us, why? MARCUS: Because Hollywood has always been interested in powerful, tough, ambitious women. They`re much more interesting than the meek, mild alternative. BERNARD: Stand by your man. (CROSSTALK) MARCUS: No, think about "All About Eve," right? (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: It`s not Hollywood, it`s back to Shakespeare. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: It is reflected in everyday life and it`s being highly publicized through Hollywood, and people love it. Who doesn`t read the story about Susan Rice sitting in a meeting and flipping the bird at one of her colleagues who irritated the hell out of her because of the way he was treating her? We see this happening with powerful women in Washington, D.C., and all throughout the nation, and now we see it on television... MATTHEWS: So women have babies and women live longer. And what`s the problem here? (LAUGHTER)   (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still make 70 cents on the dollar. That`s the problem. MATTHEWS: OK. All right. Let me ask you about the new show, "Madam Secretary," which I -- I`ve always been a Tea Leoni fan. Most guys are, to be honest. (INAUDIBLE) honest fact. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Tea Leoni is great. She`s very likable, I think more likely (ph) than anybody I know in public life. Maybe that`s not credible. Is it credible that a woman is as nice as the secretary of state? And her husband, by the way, is Mr. Supportive. He`s -- you know, Tim Daly was on the show a couple weeks ago -- completely supportive of her in her role. In fact, she goes to him and asks him to cheat (ph) give some Russian kid at Georgetown a better grade to help her out with her diplomacy. I wouldn`t call that nice, but he was. HENNEBERGER: I have seen exactly one... MATTHEWS: Tim Daly is a good guy! HENNEBERGER: ... minute of "Madam Secretary." I turned it on, and she was telling her communications director, Worries about my reputation and standing can wait -- said no one ever! (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You don`t see Hillary, for example, saying, I don`t care what people think of me.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I agree you it`s both genders. Everybody likes to be liked. HENNEBERGER: But these complicated characters I do think come more from life. I mean, I think that`s Hollywood writing characters as they really are. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, if you think this segment was tough, ladies and gentlemen, wait`ll you see the next one. It`s about real politicians. We`re going to the real thing, like Hillary Clinton. Anyway, coming up on this special edition of HARDBALL, from the power women of Hollywood to the real power women of Washington today. Is art imitating life? Later this hour, from the sublime to the ridiculous, we`ve got the most outrageous comments from the Republican clown car. Plus the best confrontations, what we`re calling the "Howard Beal mad as hell" moments of the past year. And the theater of the absurd -- we`ve always got that here on HARDBALL -- the most bizarre moments from the campaign trail that just ended, all ahead here on HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with our panel, Ruth, Michelle and Melinda. Well, how far off is Hollywood`s depiction of women here in Washington? Is it real? It certainly seems like Washington has come a long way itself in the past few years. Many of the president`s top national security officials, in fact, are women, people like national security adviser Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, assistant to the president for homeland security Lisa Monaco. His cabinet consists of six women. Three of the past five secretaries of state have been women. And oh, yes, the front-runner to be the next president of the United States is, of course, Hillary Clinton. Let me (INAUDIBLE) Ruth because you do this. You cover it all. (INAUDIBLE) let`s have a firefight here. Valerie Jarrett has been getting a lot of attention, not necessarily positive. If she were a guy, would this be happening? MARCUS: Less. Less. I mean, here...   MATTHEWS: And as the president`s sort of surrogate. MARCUS: A few things about Valerie Jarrett. I mean, she is a uniquely influential person who occupies a position of closeness to the president, both personally and professionally, that is unusual in White Houses. I think the fact that she is a woman just makes that a little bit harder for people to take. And I think it kind of goes back to something that Michelle was saying before about whether we were ready for a black president and ready for a woman president. Yes, we were ready for a black president. We elected him twice. Are we ready for a woman president? Yes. But that doesn`t mean there aren`t going to be moments of discomfort, haven`t been moments of discomfort from some people about Barack Obama`s race, and there`s going to be, when we have a woman president, moments of discomfort about gender that we`re going to have to deal with. MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) think about her. She doesn`t (INAUDIBLE) to represent the president. It`s almost like she embodies him. I am here. He is here. This is a uniquely powerful position. And I wonder whether what bothers some people -- men, for example -- for example, since I`m the only one here... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think -- I think you have to choose your personality. If you come on as a sort of John Wayne figure, like Margaret Thatcher, men say, I get it. She`s, like, the kind of hierarchical leader we`ve always had. Who`s the boss? She`s the boss. You get (ph) it (ph) simple. If it`s -- if it`s -- if it`s Golda Meir, same deal -- Golda Meir, real tough. She`s the -- I get it, she`s the boss. I salute her. It gets complicated sometimes when women play it both ways, and they`re both female and they cry or something, and then they`re also tough as nails. HENNEBERGER: That`s called being a human! MATTHEWS: See? See? BERNARD: Exactly.   (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: We all have that spectrum, men and women. MATTHEWS: When Muskie cried, he was dead. When Hillary cried, it was -- it was seen as a sign of humanity. HENNEBERGER: (INAUDIBLE) 30 years, 40 years later. MATTHEWS: So if a guy cries today, it`s OK. HENNEBERGER: Well, I think it depends on the context... (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: If it`s John Boehner who cries at the drop of a hat, people think it is a problem. When Darrell Issa has cried on the air, no one... MATTHEWS: You are so smart. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... interpret the crying of John Boehner for men.   HENNEBERGER: I don`t know why he cries all the time. I just think that people think it is problematic. Anything that he talks about brings tears to his eyes, and they actually seem like genuine tears and... MATTHEWS: But what`s it say about him? HENNEBERGER: That he cries a lot. I mean, to me, it really doesn`t say anything. (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: ... him as a leader... MATTHEWS: Is he a strong leader? BERNARD: I don`t -- I don`t think that -- I don`t look at him in terms of tears and question his leadership skills. MATTHEWS: Is he a strong leader? BERNARD: Not because of tears or no tears. I don`t think he`s a strong leader because he`s allowed... (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: ... and it never hurt either one.   (CROSSTALK) HENNEBERGER: McConnell has cried and is not... MARCUS: I`m going to pause at something. It is more dangerous -- it remains more dangerous in politics for a woman to cry than a man... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. MARCUS: ... notwithstanding the fact that the tears humanized Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) in the back room with Hillary Clinton and you had to spend a couple weeks with her, getting her ready for the test of her life, really, the chance to be president of the United States -- a very good chance -- if she wins -- I always say, if she runs a good campaign, she can`t be beaten. She runs a bad campaign, she can be beaten. So it`s really -- she`s the one that has to -- what would you... HENNEBERGER: It depends on the opponent. MATTHEWS: No, I don`t -- I think she can beat anybody if she runs a good campaign. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jim (ph)? MATTHEWS: Anyway, here -- obviously, you disagree. Let me go to this. Would you want to advise her to do anything different than she`s done to be the best candidate for president, any changes. MARCUS: Well, I think she had a rocky book tour. So I would advise her to do two things that are going to sound contradictory. One is to be more careful about her words. Don`t go getting so defensive about your life that you say things like, "We were dead broke when we left the White House." The other one is to be more human, right, because she -- people liked Hillary Clinton when she got teary-eyed in New Hampshire.   (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: Unless it was a Fox viewer. They did not like Hillary Clinton when she cried coming of the heels of that loss in Iowa. It was a very big deal there. People called her all kinds of names. MARCUS: There are some people, if you`re Hillary Clinton, you`re never going to be able to win over. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think it was legitimate. I don`t even know exactly what made her unhappy, maybe just her situation, but I think it really helped her. And it was genuine. HENNEBERGER: I think I would say that she needs to run a hell of a lot better campaign than she did last time, with a lot more... MATTHEWS: OK... HENNEBERGER: ... discipline. And she`s a disciplined person, but... MATTHEWS: OK... HENNEBERGER: ... that campaign... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: ... study the transcript of what you guys said. Anyway, thank you. I`ve been outnumbered by -- pleasantly, I guess. Anyway, thank you. I do... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I learn. I learn. And that`s the job of everybody in our business. Thank you, Ruth Marcus, and Michelle Bernard, of course, who gets more passionario every time I meet her. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And Melinda Henneberger, a Notre Dame grad. Up, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as I said. We heard plenty of outrageous statements from the right-wing clown car this year. We have got some of the most ridiculous coming up next. This is sort of entertainment for the season. This is a special holiday edition of HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We move now from the sublime, as I said, to the ridiculous with a look back at some of the most outrageous moments of the past year.   And as you`re about to see, there were many, from the theater of the absurd to explosive confrontations when politicians hit their breaking point. But let`s begin with the best from the hard-right clown car itself. Joining me right now is former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst and clown car specialist Michael Steele. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, and MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post. Kicking it off is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who this January wanted to push back against the accusations that Republicans were waging a war on women. Take a look at how Huckabee tried to valiantly defend American women from Democratic attempts to provide them with birth control. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So, who is he selling that popcorn to? I couldn`t figure out the constituency group...   (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... that think women have an overactive libido, and there`s some guy named Uncle Sugar out there. BERNARD: I... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I don`t all this. Tell me who is he playing to. Who is he playing to? BERNARD: I watched -- I`m watching the clip and I`m thinking to myself, is he saying that Republican women don`t have sex? Is that -- is that what he`s telling the audience? I don`t know who he was talking to, maybe somebody on the far right. MATTHEWS: They`re more self-reliant in their sex, I guess. BERNARD: Christian conservatives. I have absolutely no idea who that was supposed to play to. You would have a better idea than me. MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I have even less of an idea. (LAUGHTER)   STEELE: No, but I think -- well, the Uncle Sugar was a play on Uncle Sam. MATTHEWS: I know. (LAUGHTER) BERNARD: Or sugar daddy. STEELE: Or sugar daddy. BERNARD: Or sugar daddy, women looking for sugar daddies. (CROSSTALK) HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the classic way that sometimes these guys get into the clown car. (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: Because they are trying to make -- they`re a little too enthusiastic about the caricatures they present of the other side, to the point where it sounds like they actually secretly believe in those caricatures. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: I was thinking of Sammy Davis` song "The Candy Man." Remember? FINEMAN: That`s the problem. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: Yes, the candy man running over with a bag of birth control pills every month. I mean, it`s really -- it`s embarrassing for the party. STEELE: It`s also playing to a base constituency and sort of driving a narrative that in large measure does not resonate beyond that... (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: But who is the base? FINEMAN: He`s pretending to denounce -- what you`re saying is, he`s pretending to denounce it while reinforcing... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What about this line, though? I`m no expert, believe it or not. "They can`t control their reproductive system." BERNARD: Well, that...   MATTHEWS: What is that? Like, the -- what... BERNARD: That`s akin to -- who was the person that talked about legitimate rape and, if you`re legitimately raped, your body self -- somehow self-abort? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And, next, we all remember how Sarah Palin showed off her geographical skills and knowledge when she informed the country that you can see Russia from parts of Alaska during the 2008 campaign, of course. But the former governor had a little more trouble when it came to the geography of the most famous location in this country, the White House. Here she was at the Value Voters Summit in September. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: They scream racism our way just to end debate. Well, don`t retreat. You reload with truth, which I know is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue anyway, truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What`s at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue? The city hall? (CROSSTALK) STEELE: The Willard Hotel.   MATTHEWS: The Willard Hotel. MATTHEWS: Why didn`t she just say Pennsylvania Avenue? Why did she put in the particularity of an error there? (CROSSTALK) STEELE: Playing on the 1600 Pennsylvania. Look, that`s just a numeric slip. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The Willard Hotel. It is the Willard Hotel. You got it right. (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: My favorite part -- my favorite part is what she says afterward, truth. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Reload with truth.   STEELE: Reload with truth. FINEMAN: Reload with truth. STEELE: Well... MATTHEWS: A little ballistic reference there. FINEMAN: I still have my trophy from the great Sarah Palin days, which is the -- I think it was the Alaska moose jerky that she was handing out to people. STEELE: Oh, that`s right, yes. FINEMAN: When she was on the rise. STEELE: Yes. FINEMAN: Do you remember that? Do you remember that she was actually on the ticket? BERNARD: Yes. FINEMAN: She was on the...   MATTHEWS: Vice president of the United States. FINEMAN: Vice president of the United States. BERNARD: And at that convention, she was electrifying when she spoke. I mean, we didn`t know then that she didn`t read magazines or newspapers or anything like that. MATTHEWS: Well, that was an offensive question from Katie Couric. What do you read? BERNARD: I don`t think it was offensive. I don`t think it was offensive at all. MATTHEWS: I`m kidding. I`m kidding. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: And she did the country a huge favor. MATTHEWS: By asking that question. BERNARD: But she was electrifying at...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, a way a politician reacts to confrontation can reveal a lot about them. Here we have Iowa Congressman Steve King confronted on camera by dreamers while eating lunch in Iowa. Rather than brush off the protesters, he treated them to a patronizing lecture on what it means to be American. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For you to be fighting... (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calling us names saying that we have calves like cantaloupes. (CROSSTALK) REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I don`t call you names. I say no, no, that drug smugglers... (CROSSTALK) KING: Stop a minute, a minute. ...   (CROSSTALK) KING: You are very good at English. You know what I`m saying. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raised in the United States. KING: Right, so you can understand the English language. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not acting like I don`t. KING: No, you are, because you`re saying something that is not true. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What is it? KING: As I said, I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you`re not here to tell me you`re one of them, are you? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, there he is trying to defend the fact he said Hispanic people who come here from Mexico or Latin America, some other country, are here with cantaloupes -- I`m sorry -- what size their cantaloupes are legs -- their legs are the size of cantaloupes, which he now denies, that he was only referring to the drug smugglers themselves, which is not what he said.   He said the people, the ethnic group. FINEMAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: What is he up to here? It`s crazy talk. FINEMAN: Well, Steve King is the ultimate nativist American politician from Western Iowa, and unabashedly so. And the amazing thing about it is -- and this is only one of many crazy statements that he`s made unabashedly -- when Republicans run for the nomination in 2016, in Iowa, in the Iowa caucuses, every one of them would be delighted to have the endorsement of Steve King. Am I wrong? Am I wrong? STEELE: Well, no, that`s very true. No, that`s very true. I mean, look, I get what Steve was trying to do then. He was engaged in the conversation. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I love the way he said that. Like, am I right or am I wrong? (LAUGHTER) BERNARD: Yes.   MATTHEWS: I want you to defend your Republican Party at its worst, worst element. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, it`s fine, because you`re pointing out the fact that the Iowa caucus voter, who would -- who gets the first-round pick basically on who the next president is, that person... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: By the way, that`s the only reason why anybody pays attention to Steve King. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: But, also, he`s appealing -- he`s appealing to the part of the base throughout the country that passed these laws, like what we saw in Arizona, and South Carolina. Show me your I.D. Prove that you`re a U.S. citizen. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: And if you`re Hispanic, sayonara. MATTHEWS: Like I can argue -- all these arguments are fair, except making fun of someone ethnically by saying they have got weird kind of legs. This -- remember Dan Burton, the guy that was shooting cantaloupes to prove that somebody hadn`t committed suicide?   STEELE: But this wasn`t really -- this was not about making fun of people. This was probably taking a bit of information that he`d been given somewhere along the way, misinterpreting that information or blowing it up to something that it really didn`t represent. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: Like how they used to say that our -- that the brains of people like you and me were smaller because of our brown skin. FINEMAN: Well, I feel a little guilty for making Michael try to defend that. MATTHEWS: No, no, OK. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The sports thing -- remember that guy who was the running back who used to play for Navy Joe Bellino? FINEMAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: He had big, big calves. He could have said Joe Bellino legs. But cantaloupe legs... (CROSSTALK)   BERNARD: Yes. MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next -- do you have another thought on the cantaloupe... (CROSSTALK) STEELE: This is about poor staffing. That`s all. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: OK. OK. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up next: the best confrontation this year in politics. And these are the Howard Beale moments, mad as hell, when politicians stand up and said, I am mad as hell and I`m not going to take it anymore. Wait until you catch these acts. You`re watching HARDBALL, tonight the funny place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.   A private funeral for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo is set for Tuesday in Manhattan. Cuomo died yesterday at the age of 82. A total of 30 bodies have been recovered following the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501. Searchers have been battling bad weather as they work to locate victims and the plane`s black boxes. And President Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on North Korea in response to the hacking at Sony Pictures. It`s said to be the start of a broader response -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It was a year of wild and sometimes bizarre confrontations in politics, of course. Some politicians absolutely lost their cool, like Chris Christie. And sometimes the outbursts were heroic, like Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings standing up to the McCarthy-esque tactics of Republican Darrell Issa. And these are some of the best Howard Beale moments of the year, when your elected leaders said, for better or worse, I`m mad as hell and I`m not going to take it anymore. We`re back with Michael, Michelle, and Howard. Let`s start with Republican Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten Island, New York, who managed to turn an interview about President Obama`s State of the Union into a one-sided street fight after a reporter dared to ask him about his alleged campaign corruption issues. After the interview was over, the cameras kept rolling. Watch what happens. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 REPORTER: Since we have you here, we haven`t had a chance to kind of talk about some of the --   REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: We`re not talking about anything that`s off topic. This is only about the president -- SCOTTO: Well, what about -- all right, so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you. GRIMM: Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony. SCOTTO: Why, why? i just wanted to ask you? GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again. SCOTT: Why, why? It`s a valid question. (INAUDIBLE) GRIMM: No, no, you`re not man enough, you`re not man enough. I`ll break you in half. Like a boy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Howard, I always wondered about the language the guy used. "I`m going to break you like a boy"? FINEMAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: What is that about?   STEELE: I don`t know what that means. FINEMAN: Well... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Reminded me of that staffer from Idaho who has been talking about Clinton being a naughty boy. (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: I would observe first -- and as a warning to all of my fellow reporters, that guy was reelected. OK. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: That`s the first... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Was the reporter reelected? (LAUGHTER)   FINEMAN: Yes. I have been on the Hill a long time. And I have occasionally gotten into some shouting matches off the record. MATTHEWS: Did you ever take lip like that from a congressman? FINEMAN: I actually have. MATTHEWS: Yes? FINEMAN: And it`s not a pleasant experience. And as a reporter... MATTHEWS: Did you report what they said to you in anger? FINEMAN: No, because they were -- that was said off the record. MATTHEWS: I see. FINEMAN: Totally off the record. MATTHEWS: So they say, can I say something off the record? You`re no good.   (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: But that thing, the difference is -- and this is true of everything you`re doing here, Chris. We`re in a hyper-media age in which virtually nothing is off the record. Virtually nothing is unrecorded. Virtually nothing is not on video. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: Everybody`s got a smartphone. Everybody`s got a way to be a network correspondent, every single person. So what you got there was the camera still rolling. In the old days, that never would have seen the light of day. MATTHEWS: Because? (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Well, first of all, there was an un -- probably, if the interview was over, and the unspoken etiquette back in the day would have been you don`t show that kind of thing. That`s the other thing that`s happened. The rules have changed. And everybody understands that basically the idea of off the record has almost disappeared in American politics and American life. BERNARD: Well...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And Mitt Romney said that a couple weeks -- a week or so ago that he wants everything on the record. When he was out with Mark Leibovich of "The New York Times," he said, leave that recording on, leave that recorder on, because I want to know that I`m on the record. I don`t want to pretend I`m not at any point. FINEMAN: Well, he learned his lesson. BERNARD: And in this day and age, where you have people like Anthony Weiner who feel like it`s appropriate to take pictures of private parts and tweet them, no politician, no one should think that anything they do is off the record. Why would they? MATTHEWS: Do you think Anthony Weiner would have been normal in an earlier age? BERNARD: No. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) STEELE: To Michelle`s point, to Michelle`s point, in fact they do think, though, that they still are -- should be treated differently, to your point, Howard, that, yes, you`re not going to play this because I`m the congressman. And that`s all the more reason to show it. MATTHEWS: Next up: Republican Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa goes rogue. Issa is known for his ruthless and often inappropriate tactics during congressional hearings. But he crossed the line during an IRS hearing in March, when he turned off U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings` microphone mid-hearing. He picked the wrong guy to try to silence. Let`s watch.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: For the past year, the central Republican accusation in this investigation.... REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: We`re adjourned. Close it down. Thank you. CUMMINGS: I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this! ISSA: Well... We have -- we have members up here each who represent 700,000 people! You cannot just have a one-sided investigation! There is absolutely something wrong with that, and it is absolutely un-American! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear, hear. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes, mad as hell works. And I thought, at that moment, he was expressing what a lot of people felt, that this guy was sort of ringleading, running this thing like a dictator.   BERNARD: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: And he only wanted certain testimony. And -- and Elijah Cummings is a very dignified fellow. We know him. He`s been on the show many times. And when he gets that angry -- and that`s the right word there -- it tells you there`s something really wrong here. I think that was the beginning of the end for Issa being taken seriously. I don`t think Issa had a great year. Your thoughts? BERNARD: Well, and he shouldn`t have. I tell you, I wanted to say, I saw Congressman Cummings speak a few weeks ago, he accepted an award for outstanding achievement, people with learning differences. And he talked with such passion about growing up in the South and being told that he was stupid and that he could never learn, he would never learn how to read, he would never learn how to write, and that he talked -- he spoke too much. And how speaking so much would lead him to become a great congressman and a lawyer and how his first client who was the person -- was the first person who whoever said to him, you`re stupid and you`ll never learn anything. So, when you look -- MATTHEWS: His client said that? BERNARD: This is his first client that was the first person to say that to him as a child. So what that tells me about Elijah Cummings, he`s come very far. He is a fighter. He`s going to force people like Darrell Issa and anyone else in Congress who wants to disrespect him, to treat him with the respect he deserves. MATTHEWS: He thought that client, future client.   Let`s go right now, no list of confrontations would be complete without the man himself. That`s, of course, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It was hard to pick the governor`s most outrageous comments of the year, but this confrontation with a city councilman stands out far above the rest. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve been here when the cameras aren`t here, buddy, and done the work. I`ve been here when the cameras aren`t here and did the work. Turn around, get your 15 minutes of fame, and then maybe take your jacket off, roll up your sleeves and do something for the people of this state. So, listen, you want to have the conversation later, I`m happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Hey, buddy, what do you think? (LAUGHTER) HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: A little New Jersey goes a long way. MATTHEWS: How far will that go beyond Philadelphia? How far will it travel? FINEMAN: It doesn`t. It might make it to Pittsburgh, but probably not much farther. He was OK until the last part. It actually was a good line when he said roll up your sleeves and do something. I was with him, sort of. But then the sit down and shut up, which is going to be of course his campaign slogan.   MATTHEWS: The bumper sticker. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, of course, from anger to the absurd, some of the most bizarre moments of political history this year. And this is HARDBALL. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I`m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So, when I get to Washington, I`ll know how to cut pork. AD NARRATOR: Joni Ernst, mother, soldier, conservative. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`re back with Michael, Michelle, and Howard. It was, of course, the year of absurdities on the campaign trail. Joni Ernst ran away with the Iowa Senate race, thanks in part to the wild ad you just saw.   But that was just the tip of the iceberg this year. It was one of the nastiest midterm elections ever. Some of the big races it went from nasty to absurd, especially toward the end. Here`s the best of the best from the midterm theater of the absurd. Let`s begin in Kentucky. Joni Ernst wasn`t the only candidate trying to gain support with bizarre talk of animals. In Kentucky`s Republican primary for Senate, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin tried to unseat Mitch McConnell by defending the great American tradition of cockfighting. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MATT BEVIN (R), FORMER KY SENATE CANDIDATE: But it`s interesting when you look at cockfighting and dog-fighting as well, these are -- this isn`t something new. It wasn`t invented in Kentucky, for example. I mean, the Founding Fathers were all, many of them, very actively involved in this and always have been. These are things that are part of a tradition and heritage that go back for hundreds of years and were very integral early on in this country. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Big surprise. He lost. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: There`s that great painting in the capital of all the Founding Fathers standing around watching a cockfight. I can just tell you. Matt Bevin isn`t from Kentucky. That is what`s funny about it. Matt Bevin was a businessman from New England who moved to Kentucky only in recent years. MATTHEWS: Who is he pandering to?   FINEMAN: He was trying to impressive people with his devotion to Kentucky institutions. The fact is, cockfighting never was a big thing in Kentucky. Go to the coastal states, not to Kentucky, that wasn`t a big deal. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: I never wanted to. Did he ever hear about Michael Vick either? It`s very bizarre. But it`s like every guy who runs for president tells you they`re a hunter. FINEMAN: Trying to show he`s down-home Kentuckian. It`s absurd. MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s what happened when you`re out of order, you`re out of place, to Howard`s point. He very much showed that he was not mimicking those true values of Kentucky. MATTHEWS: Was this like Belgian endives? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Florida gubernatorial race was full of absurdities, of course, from switching parties to ruthlessly negative ads. But the contest will forever be known for this debate moment when Governor Rick Scott, the governor of the state, refused to take the debate stage as long as the challenger, former Governor Charlie Crist, wouldn`t give away his fan. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: Governor Rick Scott, we have been told that Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate. Governor Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan placed underneath his podium. The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Governor Scott --   CHARLIE CRIST: Really? MODERATOR: -- will not join us for this debate. (INAUDIBLE) MODERATOR: That has to be the most unique beginning to any debate -- CRIST: I don`t think we`ll forget. MODERATOR: -- not only in Florida but in complains about the fan? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: OK. Who`s the clown here? The guy who needs the man? The guy who complains about the fan? What`s the story? How will judge that as a voter in Florida? STEELE: Well, look, it was one bad moment for the governor. I mean, he won the election, but I think it was symptomatic of his administration in so many respects. Just a little detail about something like that, everybody in Florida knew that Crist carries this fan with him. Whether it`s a sit-down interview with you or a stand-up podium -- MATTHEWS: I knew ant it. Needless to say, he was the man with the tan and the fan and a plan. (CROSSTALK)   STEELE: This idea, Rick Scott has left the building. Oh, he`s back. I mean, it just kind of showed how ridiculous it was. MATTHEWS: Which way did it turn the election? Did it turn things? STEELE: I don`t think it turned that much at the end, no. I really don`t. I think for the governor, the power of clemency came into play. This governor largely lived in the land of the 30s in popularity for most of his four years. And, yet, he was ability to pull it out. That was the power of incumbency. It was a matter of who do I like better. BERNARD: Exactly. Who`s the lesser of two evils? FINEMAN: It was all too symbolic. If you had to pick one event and one sound byte that`s symbolic of this midterm election, that was probably it. Neither of these guys was very palatable. The guy with the fan or the guy with the rules, neither one. They both made themselves look small. MATTHEWS: And let me tell you something. In Florida, you always see this retirement place for a lot of people, not a (INAUDIBLE). But down for the south, older people go down and retire. Nobody goes north. FINEMAN: No. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And they all had these big cars down there. Everybody likes the big caddies with the license plates that have, like, 18 letters on them, you know, the comfortable ride. They all want a comfortable ride. And when he said, after his retort, what`s wrong with being comfortable -- I thought he was referring to leisure town down there, Howard. That`s what I thought he was done. Why not be comfortable? Go down where it`s always 80 degrees.   STEELE: Bt it`s something people can identify with because everybody in the state knew that`s his thing. FINEMAN: And it`s hot down there. STEELE: And it`s hot. MATTHES: Nobody goes north, Howard. It`s stranger than that. Let`s take Democrats made no secret of the fact that they ran away from President Obama this season. But one candidate made a particularly bizarre show of it by basically pretending that the president didn`t exist. Here`s Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky on the most awkward election debate moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: Why are you reluctant to give an answer on whether or not you voted for President Obama? ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D-KY), THEN-SENATE CANDIDATE: Bill, there`s no reluctancy. This is a matter of principle. Our Constitution grants here in Kentucky, the constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box for a secret ballot. MODERATOR: You won`t answer that question tonight? GRIMES: Again, you have the right, Senator McConnell has the right, every Kentuckian has the right for privacy at the ballot box. And if I was chief of election official, Bill, don`t stand up for that right, who in Kentucky will?   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Michelle? BERNARD: I think it was an enormous blunder. Every time I watch it, I still can`t believe that it really happened. Particularly for a female candidate, she was so strong it was close. I think she actually could have won the race until that moment. MATTHEWS: It seemed to be a breaking point. BERNARD: It was a breaking point. People want their elected officials to say who they are and what they stand for. If she voted for the president, she should have said why. If she didn`t, she should have said why. Maybe some of the people in Kentucky would have liked that. MATTHEWS: She should have said she voted for Hillary? Would that be good? BERNARD: Probably not in Kentucky. But the issue was give us an answer. FINEMAN: This was so patently over-scripted -- BERNARD: And wimpy. FINEMAN: -- and false, it made everybody cringe in the state. Chuck Todd, our Chuck Todd, said that was disqualifying. I think, politically -- legally, he was wrong. But, politically, Chuck turned out to be absolutely right. (CROSSTALK)   FINEMAN: Yes? MATTHEWS: Suppose the moderator there, the older guy, had just said who are you going to vote for in the primary? Who are you going to vote for in the general? She would have to say, I`m going to vote for myself. That`s not a secret. BERNARD: No. MATTHEWS: There`s nothing secret about voting. FINEMAN: This is the result of an aide sitting around -- STEELE: This is not aides. This is consultants that you pay a lot of money to -- FINEMAN: There you go. STEELE: -- come in and tell you how to run your campaign -- MATTHEWS: So, she was prepped. FINEMAN: Sure. STEELE: -- sitting in the room telling under no circumstances do you get anywhere near having voted for the president. That was dumb.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, going to the strangest gubernatorial debate you will likely ever see. Back in May, a series of third party candidates stole the show the Republican gubernatorial contest out in Idaho. This is Harley Brown, the leather-clad biker who loves his hog, but hates political correctness. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HARLEY BROWN, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: A substantial portion of my political campaign is campaigning against political correctness. I don`t like political correctness. Can I say this? It sucks. It`s bondage. And I`m not -- I`m about as politically correct as your proverbial turd in a punch bowl. What did you think? I`d be a Democrat? Their proctologist called, they found their heads. I didn`t say anything false nasty. OK, don`t think I`m crazy because I`m not. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) STEELE: They need more hogs like that. MATTHEWS: What do you, Michelle, more candidates or less candidates? There was always a guy like that, remember the guy that held the rat up in the McCarthy campaign back in `68? I remember everyone weirdness. Howard? FINEMAN: I`m ashamed of the fact that I kind of thought that was cool. MATTHEWS: OK, good. It`s you and him.   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Michael Steele, a great guy, Michael and Michelle Bernard, always. Howard Fineman, my buddy forever. We`ll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: From all of us at HARDBALL to all of you at home, we want to wish you a joyous holiday season. As an extra little gift here, I`d like to extend a special thanks to the tireless work of this staff here at HARDBAL, from the guests, to the crews, to the producers and beyond. Thank you at home for watching us, of course, for being a part of our family this year and every year for this long time we`ve been on. Thank you. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>