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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 01/14/15

Guests: Michael Kay, Kim Ghattas, Brian Katulis, Willie Wilson, Susan Page,Ron Fournier

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Al Qaeda, the killers of 9/11, claim responsibility for the Paris atrocity. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Today, a spokesman for al Qaeda, the 9/11 terrorist group, claimed responsibility for directing last Wednesday`s deadly attack on the Paris satiric magazine "Charlie Hebdo." The al Qaeda spokesman said it, quote, ``chose the target, laid the plan, financed the operation.`` ISIS, the terrorist group that today controls much of Iraq and Syria, meanwhile praised the attack in Paris and called for more of them in Europe and in the United States. Well, this defiance by al Qaeda and ISIS was matched by those supporting the magazine ``Charlie Hebdo.`` The satiric publication sold out all three million copies of its follow-up edition, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed on the front cover. I`m joined right now by international affairs correspondent Michael Kay, the BBC`s Kim Ghattas and Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Michael Kay, just give me a sense of, how important is it that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based over in Yemen, would claim responsibility for having directed, financed, organized this attack on "Charlie Hebdo"?   MICHAEL KAY, FMR. SENIOR BRITISH OFFICER: Chris, I think it`s a quick win for AQAP in this particular circumstance because trying to assess to what extent AQAP were involved with their claims is something which is actually quite difficult to do. What we usually see when we see these sort of claims come out is there`s usually a video of maybe one of the Kouachi brothers who are talking into camera, talking about what it`s like to be a self-sacrificing martyr, and you know, their thoughts before they go off and commit the atrocity, and their allegiance to Allah. We didn`t see that. We didn`t see any training videos, for example, of the Kouachi brothers in Yemen. We know through intelligence communications and what we`ve heard through-- in the subsequent aftermath, that we have an idea that the Kouachi brothers were in Yemen or they traveled to Yemen and that were talking with al Awlaki, but we don`t know that for sure. So this is a quick win for AQAP in terms of being able to put together a quick video and claim all responsibility. MATTHEWS: OK-- KAY: I`m still not convinced to the extent of the-- the serious extent of AQAP`s involvement in this. MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, one last point on this very point. I`ve seen-- I saw no professionalism in this. They had a little black car sitting outside. It was kind of like a weird sort of a Keystone Kops thing, getting in the car, getting-- trying to escape. There was nothing to suggest lickity-split planning here-- I mean, going over to kill the police officer. If they wanted to get away, why didn`t they leave immediately? Why didn`t they have the escape plan? Where`s the professionalism that al Qaeda would want to claim responsibility for in this whole operation? It looks like a lone wolf. Why are they claiming they made it-- it`s screwed up. The whole thing-- these guys are all dead. KAY: I think there`s two ways of looking at this, Chris. The first way is, is that if you get inside the mind of one of these brothers and they`re actually prepared to die for this cause, then that would sort of give you an indication as to why there wasn`t any urgency, because they`re not afraid to lose their life. But on the other hand, as you rightly point out, it may give an indication to the actual lack of training. Now, I was following this as it was breaking, and one of the first things that instantly came to our attention was this wasn`t a Sydney siege type scenario. These Kouachi brothers actually looked like they knew what they were doing. But when it comes to what I call the escape and evasion, there are two pillars to escape and evasion. I was taught escape and evasion quite comprehensively in the military. The first one is, is that you move by night and you hunker down by day. And the second one is, is that you put as much distance between where you were last compromised and where you want to get to. And then we heard about stories of the Kouachi brothers holding up a gas station in broad daylight, which would have given away their location. So on the one hand, yes, they seem to have been fairly calm, methodical and fairly well-trained. But on the other hand, as you rightly point out, when it comes to the escape and evasion aspects, they weren`t.   MATTHEWS: OK, let me go into the-- what do you-- what do you make of this- - this whole question? Let`s start with them, what I was going over. Does this have the look of an al Qaeda operation? Let`s face it, 9/11 was, whatever you think of the horror and evil of it, it had sort of an Alaister McLean (ph) aspet to it, a lot of complicated coordination for airplane flights, getting them on, making sure there`s very few men on the flight to fight them, right, getting the whole thing organized, the training down in Florida all organized within the United States, all done for what, $150,000? And this thing here didn`t have that level of sophistication at all. KIM GHATTAS, BBC: It`s very hard to verify to what extent Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula directed this. I would say it inspired it. You have-- MATTHEWS: Well, they`re claiming more than that. GHATTAS: They`re claiming it, but it`s hard to verify. I don`t think we`re going to get an interview with them any time soon. And I think that there is a certain level of preparedness to be able to carry out an operation like this. But one of the details that really struck me when I was reading about how these two guys went about it is that, initially, they walked into the wrong building. They were looking for the building. So you know, there is professionalism and-- MATTHEWS: They didn`t case it ahead of time. GHATTAS: There is preparedness, but there`s also a certain aspect of winging it. And when it`s a soft target like this and all you want to do is really kill people, it`s unfortunately quite easy to do in the West. MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, let me ask you about that because, obviously, I was going to call this ``news you can use`` tonight, although it sounds too whimsical. But people want to know what we can do about this. If this is a pattern, if this is directed by somebody in Yemen, are they directing more operations? Will they continue to direct these operations? Or were they just exploiting a lone wolf operation? BRIAN KATULIS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, we`re in a different phase right now. These are, like, pop-up jihadis or self-starter jihadis, who claim affiliation-- MATTHEWS: Self-starting?   KATULIS: Self-starting. You know, they ju8st have emerged. ANd it`s a new dynamic, and i think the more that we see, for instance-- Iraq and Syria are now importing a thousand mostly men a month from the West, from Europe and places like this. This is a phenomenon. What we can do is what we`re already doing, which is pretty good law enforcement and intelligence collection on this. We`ve gotten pretty good at the defense. This is small ball. This attack, as tragic as it was, was not the 9/11 attack. Their capabilities, I think, are diminished. I think the other thing is that we shouldn`t do is we shouldn`t overreact-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, well, let`s take a look at-- feeding into what David Ignatius argued today. He said the French response to the attacks hasn`t gotten off to a good start. He wrote, quote, ``In the days after the deadly attack on the Paris publication `Charlie Hebdo,` France declared, quote, `war on terrorism.` Ten thousand French paramilitary police took to the streets, and U.S. conservatives chided President Obama for not leading this new war against jihadists. Sorry, but this war on terror mobilization is the wrong response to the `Charlie Hebdo` tragedy. It would repeat mistakes the United States made in its reaction to September 11th, 2001.`` What were those mistakes? KATULIS: Well, look, we invaded and occupied countries for years. We spent trillions of dollars. We had things like Abu Ghraib, which-- actually, by the way, these prisons systems helped produce and contributed to-- MATTHEWS: Their approach to it? GHATTAS: Yes, and actually, some of the individuals that are part of ISIS, for instance, were in those jails. So the unforced errors sometimes are the biggest mistakes that are made. And i think the biggest thing is, we`ve got to take a deep breath and, Yes, there`s a serious issue. MATTHEWS: OK-- KATULIS: Law enforcement engagement with communities-- those sorts of things are the tip of the spear. Yes, there`s a need for diplomacy on Syria. THere`s-- MATTHEWS: OK--   KATULIS: --and a need for some military action, too. MATTHEWS: Let`s let`s talk about fanning the flames here. I`m not an appeaser, but I do wonder about this decision by "Charlie Hebdo" to put out three million copies of a picture of Mohammed on the front cover, which obviously offends generally people who are Islamic, and obviously ignites the dangerous ones. Is this going to be this daring-- daredevil thing on both sides now for a while, We dare you to come after us, we`re sticking it at you-- is that something that`s helpful? GHATTAS: It`s very tricky because if "Charlie Hebdo" had decided to back down, then they would have given a victory to the fanatics. On the other hand, you`re right, depicting the Prophet Mohammed-- although I`m not quite sure why we think this is what the Prophet looks like-- depicting-- MATTHEWS: There wasn`t very good photography back then. GHATTAS: No, there wasn`t. Depicting the Prophet on the cover does offend a lot of Muslims. There are also a lot of Muslims-- I have a lot of friends in the Middle East, in Pakistan-- that don`t really care whether the Prophet is depicted or not. MATTHEWS: They don`t? GHATTAS: And I-- MATTHEWS: Really? They honestly say they can live with that. GHATTAS: Yes, they can. And so what-- what you`re seeing are the headlines about the people who are very angry about it. And going back to the op-ed by David Ignatius and the point that Brian was just making, I think it`s very important that at this point, we don`t paint this as a clash of civilizations. It is not about your values in the West and our values in the Arab world or in the Muslim world. And I say ``our`` because I am from the Arab world. This is-- MATTHEWS: Where are you from?   GHATTAS: I`m from Lebanon. This is all of us against a bunch of fanatics. MATTHEWS: Are you Maronite? GHATTAS: I`m-- I`m not religious, but I come from the Arab world, and I`ve seen quite a bit of violence and I think-- MATTHEWS: OK, let me-- GHATTAS: --it is very important not to paint this as the West versus the rest. It is all about-- MATTHEWS: Well, let`s-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: --and I think that`s what we don`t want, is a religious East/West war. Let me go back to Michael Kay. The question, though, is does the other side of the-- of the equation here, the people from the Middle East (INAUDIBLE) or people from North Africa, from Algeria, when they see "Charlie Hebdo" go out on the-- you know, front page again, three million copies-- they used to do 30,000 copies, now it`s three million-- all over the streets, do they see that as provoking more trouble? KAY: I think-- I think Kim`s got a really good point in terms of there are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, but actually how many of that population regard the "Charlie Hebdo" cover as offensive-- certainly the latest one, which is ``Toute e pardon,`` which is "All is forgiven," it`s almost like a passive reaction to what`s happened. So it`s treading the fine line of not being overtly offensive, but at the same time, it`s not giving in and having its freedom of expression or freedom of press suppressed. MATTHEWS: Yeah.   KAY: So I think they`ve thought a long time about the cover, and obviously, within the magazine, they`re including the cartoons of the staff that were killed. But the interesting point in terms of fanning the flames is there is this-- there is this very fine line between religious tolerance and making arrests for inciting hatred, violence and extremism. And I think that`s what the legislative (ph) systems in Europe and around the world will be struggling with in terms of-- in terms of, you know, what is freedom of expression? What is the line? And when can you start arresting people for inciting that? I actually traveled to Tripoli in north Lebanon to interview a radical sheikh called Omar Bakri (ph), who was deported from the U.K. for doing exactly that. The U.K. has a corner in Hyde Park called Speakers Corner. MATTHEWS: Yeah, I`ve been there. KAY: And it is used quite vocally by people who want to come talk about anything they want to talk about. There is very recent news about people going into universities, some of the Ivy League universities in America, and wanting to talk about, you know, radical Islam, or those against it. And it`s this ongoing debate between what the line is, and I think that`s what we`re struggling with at the moment. MATTHEWS: Yes, Michael and everyone, I think that`s-- reading about the reaction by some of the students in Paris in the last couple of days, in France, who did not want to observe a moment of silence but yelled, God is great-- this is back and forth. It`s one reason why-- GHATTAS: It`s very troubling. MATTHEWS: --in the United States, we don`t like talking religion in school-- KATULIS: Yeah. MATTHEWS: --in any away because this will become-- GHATTAS: And they don`t in France because this is a very secular country, and that is actually one of the problems. People who are very observant and religious in France who are Muslim feel that they are being discriminated against if they want to wear the veil in a public space or in, you know, government buildings. And I think that`s where some of the tension comes from.   MATTHEWS: Yeah. KAY: I`d like-- GHATTAS: And the problem of integration-- that`s-- it`s really what this all about. MATTHEWS: Michael, last thought, quickly, 10 seconds. KAY: Yeah, I was going to build on what Kim was saying. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, yet at the same time, it`s got some of the most restrictive laws when it comes to freedom of expression of faith in public, and there`s a bit of a dichotomy going on there. MATTHEWS: Yeah, but (INAUDIBLE) dichotomy on top of it all is that most of the people of France, 70-some percent, have no problem with the large Muslim population. Compared to other cities-- states in Europe, they`re sort of happy to have them. GHATTAS: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: I think they`re part of the heritage-- GHATTAS: (INAUDIBLE) part of the-- MATTHEWS: Of the history of the French empire, if you will. Anyway, Michael Kay, Kim Ghattas, and Brian Katulis. Coming up: Hillary Clinton is putting together an A-list team, actually. She`s getting ready to run for president, and doing it, it looks like, the right way. But I want to know if her team will the spark, you know, the magic that propels people to victory, especially with Republicans like Reince Priebus already out there talking about going after Bill`s personally life. Big surprise from Reince Priebus.   Plus-- that`s really his name, by the way. Plus, Mitt Romney may want another chance at the presidency, but his rationale for running again doesn`t make a lot of sense. For one thing, he seems to want a rematch with President Obama, who isn`t running in 2016. For another, Obama`s numbers are now a lot better than they were a few months ago. Good luck with that rematch, Governor. And Mike Huckabee breaks the biggest rule in politics. He`s going after the Obama family. He says he doesn`t get why the president and the first lady let their daughters listen to Beyonce. Will Huckabee`s moralizing connect or kill him? Finally, ``Let Me Finish`` with my thoughts on this odd attack by Huckle- Chuckle-- I`m sorry, Huckabee. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Federal authorities have filed charges against an Ohio man they say wanted to attack the U.S. Capitol. Officials say 20-year-old Christpopher Cornell wanted to use pipe bombs to attack the Capitol, and then shoot people as they fled. But he was never in a position to carry out the plot. He was under investigation the whole time and was dealing, actually, with an undercover agent who was aware of him because of his postings on social media. We`ll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CARVILLE, BILL CLINTON CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Labor is a very precious thing that you have. And any time that you can combine labor with love, you`ve made a-- a merger. And I think we`re going to win tomorrow and I think that the governor is going to fulfill his promise and change America, and I think many of you are going to go on and help him. I`m a political professional. That`s what I do for a living. I`m proud of it. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s James Carville. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was James Carville, the ``ragin` Cajun`` and Bill Clinton`s chief strategist, in a clip from that famous political documentary "The War Room." Well, now Hillary Clinton is quietly building an A-list campaign machine of her own, including political professionals who worked for her in 2008 and for her opponent, Barack Obama. "The Washington Post" reported yesterday that Obama pollster Joel Benenson has signed on to be Hillary`s chief strategist for a 2016 presidential campaign. Jim Margolis, another veteran of President Obama`s campaigns, will be her media adviser. He`ll do the ads. He`ll be the ``Mad Men.`` And "The Wall Street Journal`` reorted today that President Obama`s senior counselor, John Podesta, the former chief of staff of President Bill Clinton, is expected to leave his post at the White House to take on a senior role as Hillary Clinton`s likely campaign adviser. Anyway, campaign operations tend to have a youthful cast, but Mr. Podesta, who turned 66 month, would come to the job as a senior strategist and it (ph) said (ph) a troubleshooter, according to "The Wall Street Journal." Recruiting strategists from both Obama and Clinton universes is the first sign that Hillary Clinton is assembling, many believe, a first-rate campaign team with a spark that it may have lacked back in 2008. Joining me now are the two strategists who helped Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton the last time. David Axelrod advised President Obama in the White House, and of course, in his two presidential campaigns. And Robert Gibbs was President Obama`s White House press secretary, also advised his presidential campaigns. Both are MSNBC political analysts. We have you guys. I`m so glad. I want to start with Rob. You know, the-- Hillary made a bunch of mistakes last-- in 2008. She didn`t understand the importance of Iowa, didn`t understand the importance of the caucus states, didn`t understand proportionality, and never got off her problem with Iraq, right? ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE hOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. MATTHEWS: Do you sense now that building this campaign with people like Podesta, she`s putting together a group of people who are not just yes people-- you have to be yes first (ph), ultimately, but don`t begin with that word. GIBBS: Right. MATTHEWS: You think she`s putting together a grown-up team? What do you see? GIBBS: Well, there`s no doubt that the people that she`s bringing in have great experience, and they`ll be trusted because they were a part of that winning team in both `08 and 2012. I think John Podesta is probably the most important hire because he has the stature, the experience and the personal relationship with the Clintons to make sure that if there`s a war or an argument in the campaign, and there will be that, that once a decision gets made, it gets implemented, it gets focused on, and you move on to the next decision--   MATTHEWS: No more sniping. GIBBS: No more sniping. Somebody who can be the referee and move people forward. MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Axelrod. It seems to me, just reading your partner David Plouffe`s book, that a flawed strategy is better than seven strategies. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You had a strategy, as I just said, win in Iowa, win the caucus states, win on proportionality, win on the numbers and become the Democratic nominee for president, which is the big challenge. This next time for Hillary, the challenge is not so much the primaries, I don`t think, I think that`s fair to say, as winning the general, building a case by next November, after all of the debates and everything, that she has a reason to be president. Is she doing that yet? Is she starting that case? DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don`t think she has started that case yet. But part of what makes this team so appealing -- and Robert and I know them well -- is that they are very good message people and I think they will help her develop and deliver that message as she moves forward, because, as you say, that`s the critical thing. The problem with the last campaign was that the rationale got out in front of the campaign -- the campaign got out in front of the rationale. No one really knew what it was about. Campaigns have to be about something. They have to tell a story about where you want to take the country. These guys know how to construct that kind of strategy and she will benefit greatly from having them. MATTHEWS: You know, David, you know, and, Rob, if you see a good sports team, usually, halfway through the season, whether it`s NFL or NBA, whatever, you hear that they are doing well, they are clicking, they like each other, they have a spirit, they may have a song, they are together.   And you don`t have to wait to see who wins, because you can tell who is going to win. Your team, the team we showed before, Carville and George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala, they had it too. When do you know in a campaign where you have got the team? GIBBS: Well, I think it took us a while, quite candidly, probably well into the fall, to really get clicking and to feel... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Fall of `07? GIBBS: Fall of `07 to really feel it moving in Iowa. I will use your sports analogy a little bit. I think you will know also if it`s clicking if the people that are in that campaign headquarters are playing for the name on the front of that jersey, rather than the name on the back of that jersey. Do they think that they are there to do something bigger than just themselves? I think that will also define success in this campaign. There will be good moments and there will be bad moments, and they all have to stick together in both. MATTHEWS: How do you decide, David Axelrod... (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Well, I think -- I think...   MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. AXELROD: No, I was going to say that it`s -- actually, it`s the bad moments when you really get tested. It`s easy to hang together when things are going well. The test of a good campaign is how it deals with adversity and whether people pick each other up, support each other, or whether they start leaking on each other and trying to purge each other. GIBBS: Yes. AXELROD: That`s what plagued their campaign the last time. This group is very coherent that they are putting together, including a young guy named Robby Mook who is going to be the campaign manager. Very good guy. Ran Terry McAuliffe`s campaign in Virginia, very good campaign manager, with a backup of Podesta. They should be able to hang together when you hit those speed bumps, as you inevitably will in any campaign. MATTHEWS: The great thing about the book -- I just read David Plouffe`s book, your partner in all this. And the great thing about him and all three of you guys was that when you screwed up -- and that happens all the time. As you just said, David, you screw up. Things happen. It`s not your fault, necessarily. Sometimes it is. The candidate there, Senator Obama, didn`t make a list of who he hated that week. He seemed to rebound pretty well. Let me go with Rob, because you`re with him all the time. He seemed to say, damn it, we screwed up, damn it, damn it, internalized it. And then even the night you lost the New Hampshire primary, you would think would be the end of the universe, he moved on. GIBBS: Well, I can -- David and I remember knocking on the door that night and telling the candidate, along with David Plouffe, that he was not going to win New Hampshire.   And he thought about it, as you said. We cataloged the mistakes we made. It`s really important that when a campaign makes mistakes, they learn from them. But both Davids had devised a strategy that we stuck to, because we thought that was the path to winning the nomination. And it`s about sticking to that tragedy. It`s about, as David said, being cohesive, playing together as a team. MATTHEWS: OK. How do you stop the person from calling the candidate at 11:00 at night to get the last call in for the night, screwing somebody else because he wants that top job and he doesn`t have it yet? How do you stop that? (CROSSTALK) GIBBS: Some of that is going to be, as David said, what Robby is going to have to police, but also what John is going to have to police. AXELROD: Yes. GIBBS: And I think having John there -- having John there to give Robby backup is crucially important. Again, John has the relationships with both Bill and Hillary Clinton. MATTHEWS: Yes, he does. GIBBS: And he has the stature of having been the chief of staff in a White House and the senior adviser in the most recent White House to end that sort of thing. MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the tough question. (CROSSTALK)   AXELROD: He may want -- he may want -- Chris, he may want some of that North Korean phone-jamming equipment. That could be useful as well. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I`m thinking, stop the guy from being the night stalker. Anyway, let me ask you this question, David. This is the toughest one. I think Hillary Clinton has got all the qualities to run for president, that she has to come out, however, to a conversation with the American people, a new one, a fresh conversation. We haven`t talked in a while. I want to talk to you now. Why am I running for president, assuming she wants to run. And I think she has to explain it, not I care about children or the universe or climate change, but something personal. I have been in this since I was in college, when I was at Wellesley. I have worked as a leader. I want to be a leader. I think I am a leader. I care about this country. I feel a responsibility to lead, to lead. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Doesn`t she have to do something like that? Like, remember when she cried up there in New Hampshire and everybody said, yes, finally we know who she is, something that`s personal, rather than too theoretical. That`s my question. Is it right? AXELROD: Absolutely. You`re absolutely -- this is very -- you`re absolutely on target. You know, I have always said she wasn`t a very good candidate in 2007. She was a very good candidate in 2008. It was too late, but she as a good candidate because she threw caution to the wind and she became much more revealing of herself, she connected better with people, she identified with their struggles. And they identified with hers. And she talked about her middle-class upbringing and so on. All of that is very important. She has to throw caution away and be that candidate she was in 2008. MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think admitting ambition of a certain kind. You know, it can be a generous ambition. It`s not me first, like Romney sometimes. I want to be the president, like a 3-year-old. Because I think politicians hate to admit ambition. And it`s really the thing that drives them in most cases.   GIBBS: Well, and it takes a certain amount of ambition to stand up in front of a placard with your name on it and say, I can lead a country of 310 million people. But, I think, as David said and as you said, you have got to have that rationale and it`s got to be something bigger than just you. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Right. MATTHEWS: Yes. AXELROD: You have got to be able to tell them where you want to lead and why and how it connects to who you are as a person and what you have been doing all your life. And I think she can do that, but it requires her to be more revealing of herself than she`s been willing to do in the past, except in that one period of time after she lost New Hampshire and was really scuffling to connect with people. MATTHEWS: Yes. No, she won New Hampshire, actually. Actually, she won New Hampshire. AXELROD: I mean won New Hampshire, yes. Yes. (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: How can we forget? AXELROD: I`m sorry. It`s such a... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, but she was on the verge of losing New Hampshire. AXELROD: After she lost the Iowa caucuses. MATTHEWS: Yes. Well... AXELROD: No, you`re right. I try and block that whole New Hampshire thing out. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I know. I know. I imagine, especially the knocking on the door to tell Obama you blew it. Anyway, thank you. Not we. You. (LAUGHTER)   MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, David Axelrod. By the way, the more I read about that campaign, the more I like you guys for running it so well. Robert Gibbs, thank you. (CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Still ahead, we`re going to look at Mitt Romney`s rationale for a rematch. His numbers just don`t add up by the -- he`s running against Obama, against Obama`s old numbers. Obama`s new numbers can beat him. By the way, Obama`s not running again, Governor. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: A Democratic challenger to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting a lot of attention after lending his campaign $1 million. His name is Willie Wilson. He`s one of four contenders hoping to give Mayor Rahm Emanuel a run for his money on February 24. That`s the primary. And his rags-to-riches life story is getting a lot of attention out there, especially in the African- American community. With just a middle school education, Wilson worked his way out of poverty, eventually founding a successful medical supply company. And last month, he withstood a tough legal challenge from the Emanuel campaign about the validity of his signature petitions.   Anyway, he`s come a long way and his biography is compelling, many believe. So, the question is, does Willie Wilson have the solutions for Chicago? Here he is. I would like to welcome him, Willie Wilson, Democratic candidate for mayor of Chicago. Mr. Wilson, thank you. Your life story is so impressive, how you went from cleaning toilets in a McDonald`s, to owning a McDonald`s, to having a franchise, to moving on and becoming somewhat of a tycoon. How does that help become a great mayor? How does that make you a great mayor or a good mayor? WILLIE WILSON (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me put it this way. The mayor you have now is not a good mayor or a great mayor. I have come through not so much of schooling, but through experience. I`m not a politician. I`m a businessperson. And I came from out of the cotton fields of Louisiana, up north, and came my way to working to mop the floors to McDonald`s. And I never left the neighborhood. I have always supported the neighborhood and still support the neighborhood today. I put in regular common sense to a regular human being and take my business philosophy and then put it together and know that adds up to one thing, and that is to add up to having other people to get ahead, those who had a disadvantage in life. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to a couple of the things we read about that are always troubling bit cities, Chicago not alone among them. Murders, homicide, 432 homicides last year in Chicago. How would you get that number down? WILSON: Well, I think what you have to do is -- there are two ways you have to get that down. First off, you must put -- and the superintendent of police has not done a good job. I would put in four superintendents of policemen. I would break the city up in four different segments. And those four police superintendents would each have their proportion.   They can get closer to the people and the community, be more friendly. I would take them out of the automobile, probably about 75 percent out of the automobiles. Let them ride the street bus. Let them ride the L, the subway. Let them walk the street with the community and get more friendly that way. MATTHEWS: Yes. WILSON: Now, somebody might say, how would you pay for it? Well, you pay for it by you don`t have to buy for the automobile, you ain`t got to pay for the gas. You ain`t got to pay for the upkeep to tune up cars and things of that nature. That will help pay for it. But the most important thing is that get more friendly. The thing that causes crime and stuff in our community is economic development and contracts. We don`t have that. You create an environment into our neighborhood that causes problem. What has got to be done is, you have got to get businesses into those communities to do business. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How do you do that? You have got a 7.3 percent unemployment rate out there in Chicago. How do you get that number down? I mean, businesses in the community, that`s people -- Rahm Emanuel do that every day of their lives. They`re always pushing trade groups coming in. They`re bringing people in to try to get them to invest. He`s a business guy, like you. But how do you make that actually happen? Would you get down the unemployment rate in four or eight years as mayor? Would it actually come down? And how would you do it? That`s what people -- that`s common sense. People want an answer to that question. WILSON: Well, here`s how. Well, here`s how I would do it. I would introduce legislation in the city council that anybody who does business with the city of Chicago must have an equal opportunity for jobs and contracts. That way, the money will circulate back into the community and create economic development. I would take the city, whatever business that the city does, it has to reflect the population of Chicago. And I`m not talking about one particular group. I`m thinking of all citizens.   MATTHEWS: Yes. WILSON: If you take right now and put the economic back into the community, those communities drive down the unemployment rate. Let`s take an example. If you look at O`Hare, if you look at Midway, those jobs do not reflect the makeup of the community, particularly with contracts. You would change those things there. MATTHEWS: OK. WILSON: The other way I would do it, I would open back up Meigs Field, create jobs and contracts that goes back to the community. The other way I would do it... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, minority set-asides, I know that`s been tried. And I hear you. You want minority set-asides. You want the pie sliced differently. Thank you very much for coming on, Willie Wilson, candidate for mayor of Chicago, who has just put $1 million of his own money. His skin is in the game. And we will be having on Mayor Rahm Emanuel any time he wants to come on between now and the primary. The primary, by the way, is in March. Actually, it`s in February. Up next: Mitt Romney says he wants to be president, but the big things Romney promised last time around, like unemployment under 6 percent, have already been achieved by President Obama. So how is that rematch going for you, Governor?   The roundtable joins us next. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. The two climbers scaling the sheer face of Yosemite`s 3,000-foot rock formation El Capitan have reached the summit. They are the first to do it without using ropes, except to guard against falls. Searchers have located the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 in the Java Sea. Both of the plane`s black boxes have also been recovered. Eight prisoners and two corrections officers are dead after a prison bus hit a train in Texas. And several people several non-life-threatening injuries when a school bus overturned in North Carolina -- now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. If Mitt Romney is banking on buyer`s remorse for voters to give him another shot at the presidency, he may have some trouble. Some of the items he said he would accomplish as president have already been accomplished by President Obama -- item number one, lowering the unemployment rate. Here`s what Romney told "TIME" magazine`s Mark Halperin: (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": Would you like to be more specific about what the unemployment rate would be at the end of your first year? MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can`t possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate would be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we`d put in place, we`d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow, 6 percent. Well, President Obama accomplished that in half the time. The December unemployment rate nationally was 5.6 percent, the lowest rates since June of 2008 when the Republicans were still in the White House. And Romney said his business experience made him the candidate to create jobs, not Obama. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for 25 years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created that someone who has never spent a day in the private sector like President Obama simply doesn`t understand. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, it turns out that President Obama understands a thing or two about creating jobs, 252,000 jobs were created last December, that`s a month ago. And the average for all of 2014 was 246,000 jobs a month, in areas like construction, manufacturing, and professional and business services. When he was running against Obama, Romney gave the president a jab about, guess what, gas prices.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Gasoline prices, are people happy with those? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, yes, people are happy with the national average. I couldn`t believe this when I saw it today, $2.10 for regular. Anyway, joining me right now, the HARDBALL round table. Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza, "USA Today`s" Susan Page, "National Journal`s" Ron Fournier. Ron, I don`t know, I guess he`s running against Obama but Obama`s not running in 2016. Guess what? Probably Hillary is running and he`s running with old numbers. RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: That`s exactly the problem. Plus, you know, he`s not running with the same Republican field last time. That was a really weak field that he was marginally the best candidate in the Republican side. This is a much stronger field that if he does run -- MATTHEWS: Why do Republicans not like him as a candidate, not as a person, necessarily? Although some of that. They don`t seem to -- why are they so mad at him for losing? FOURNIER: Well, because he lost to -- at the time, a very unpopular first- term president who they despise and who they thought they had a very good, credible argument against. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They think he blew it.   FOURNIER: He ran at a time when people are really upset with the economy, really upset with the establishment, there`s a populous fervor out there, even was two years ago. And he ran as a guy who`s -- you know, $10,000 bets, a car elevator, I like to fire people. I mean, he was like the worst possible candidate you could have. MATTHEWS: I like to fire people, I`m wondering who he`s playing -- (CROSSTALK) FOURNIER: And now, he wants to be the guy in poverty. And if you remember back in the election, he talked about how I don`t worry about the people who are the poorest, I don`t worry about the richest, I only worry about the middle class. MATTHEWS: They`re all takers. FOURNIER: He said, I don`t worry about the lower class. CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I also think, history is telling here. The Republican Party has never been in love with Mitt Romney. I mean, I think Ron is right, that losing to Obama the way that he did, pretty convincingly, given the dynamic -- MATTHEWS: But you`re a reporter. You`re a straight reporter. Did you really think Obama was toast? I never thought he was toast. CILLIZZA: Not toast, no. But I do think you look on paper -- look, I would make the same argument for George W. Bush. On paper, George W. Bush probably should have lost. The election wound up being about Lambert Field, Swiss cheese on your cheese steak and the guy who wind surfs and speaks French, right? So, on paper, I think he makes the same argument. But remember, Mitt Romney could not -- MATTHEWS: Explain the field reference, would you?   (CROSSTALK) CILLIZZA: I mean, probably if you could name one place for football in this country, if you`re not into football, right, you probably know Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers. MATTHEWS: How about the ice bowl? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, this is boys talk here, I`m sure you`re still up to date. This guy, Romney, looks like he got in on this a month or two late. He jumped the gun with Jeb. It would have felt a little different to me but Jeb seems to have filled that slot. SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Well -- MATTHEWS: The moderate, they hate that word. The centrist slot. PAGE: Yes, the more establishment, the more mainstream Republican candidate. But I think Jeb Bush jumping in spurred Romney to want to run again. There`s no love lost between those two. Remember when Jeb Bush refused to endorse Mitt Romney in the Florida primary and then said he was glad he could vote with a secret ballot? I mean, what`s the message there? So, I think there`s some rivalry there between those two families, between those two individuals. And that`s one reason we`re seeing this race unfold. MATTHEWS: Prep school boys don`t like each other.   CILLIZZA: Isn`t that what a lot of politics -- I mean, the more I cover politics, the more I feel like the old-boy politics is like high school. There`s rivalries. This one doesn`t like this one, because this one didn`t endorse me. Rudy Giuliani, you could call Rudy Giuliani up right now and say, hey, what do you think of Charlie Crist? And he would destroy Charlie Crist -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You know, it appears to be only true of southern Democrats. There was a couple, Jimmy Carter and the guy from Florida, you know, didn`t like him, and Mondale didn`t like him from Maryland. There`s like three acceptable governors at one point and none of them liked each other. Anyway, former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg who supported Romney in 2008 and 2012 provided some insight into Romney`s reason for running. Quote, "He figures there`s a lot of buyer`s remorse now and that his message is a good message and it will resonate." That buyer`s remorse may have been stoked by a July 2014 CNN poll that showed if the election were held then, this past July, Romney would beat Obama by nine points. But as I`ve said for the last few minutes, things have changed since this summer and President Obama`s approval numbers have been creeping up into the high 40s. I want to ask you something I was ready to ask, but it`s been bugging me since I walked over from the other table. When`s Obama going to pass 50? If he can pass 50 the next three or four months, it seems to me the old Republican argument which is, if you`re popular, like Reagan, then you`re successful. And if you`re successful, then you are right. If Obama can get above 50, it seems to me the other thing can`t be argued, you can`t say he`s a loser, you can`t say he`s not successful and you can`t say he`s as wrong as easy. Numbers really matter. When`s he going to get above 50? CILLIZZA: OK. I think it`s possible for him to get above 50 but this is not particularly to Barack Obama. It`s hard, I think at this point, for any president of the United States to get 51, 52 and then -- because -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What is it? (INAUDIBLE) 47 to 48.   Yes? PAGE: He won two presidential elections with more than 50 percent of the vote which is quite remarkable. CILLIZZA: Yes. MATTHEWS: So, polls are better in election then. PAGE: If there`s a national crisis, he`s close enough now to 50 that that could tip him over. Or if wages start to go up, so people really feel a better economy in their pocketbook, I think that could get him over 50 as well. FOURNIER: I think it`s hard for him to get over 50 and even if he does, it doesn`t translate to a third term of a Democratic White House. Look what happened, look where Bill Clinton was when he finished his term and look who won in 2000. MATTHEWS: That`s because Gore disowned. FOURNIER: I think that had a lot to do with it. MATTHEWS: Who is Bill Clinton? I don`t know that guy. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, Mike Huckabee, Mr. Huckle Chuckle, is going after the president and the first lady -- what a dumb thing to do -- because they let their daughter listen to Beyonce, he says. This is back to Candace Bergen again. Anyway, too much moralism. Get out of your lane.   Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, here comes Chris Christie, I suppose. "The New York Times" reports that the New Jersey governor is set to form a leadership PAC, a political action committee, by the end of the month. The PAC would allow Christie to raise money for a presidential run. "The Times" reports that Christie is not likely to make a formal announcement before the end of the spring. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back. And likely presidential -- Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is getting attention today for criticizing the president and his wife for their associations with R&B artist Jay-Z and Beyonce. Not only does he say Beyonce`s dance moves are, quote, "best left for the privacy of her bedroom" and her husband Jay-Z exploits his wife as a "sex object". But he slams the first couple, that`s Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, for their parenting skills. This is Huckabee and this is from his new book, "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy." Quote, "Jay-Z and Beyonce have been to the White House numerous times, but how can it be that the Obamas let Sasha and Malia listen to that trash? With the first lady so concerned about making sure her daughters` bellies don`t ingest unhealthy food, how can she let their brains ingest obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics? Well, if lived out, those lyrics would be far more devastating so someone`s health than a cupcake." That`s according to Governor Huckabee. We`re back with our roundtable: Chris, Susan and Ron. You know, I think there`s a general rule: leave the family alone, let the kids alone. And getting to this yucky stuff about culture, I don`t see how that gets to the presidency. Your thoughts? It may help him in Iowa. CILLIZZA: OK, there are two things at work, I think. Number one is commercial, which is, it`s from his new book. How do you get people to buy books? You kind of play to what some people think about -- here they are, they`re telling us how to live and then they are doing these things. That`s number one.   Number two, which is related, it`s political. You said Iowa. Look, Mike Huckabee, in my opinion, is unlikely to be the nominee because he showed in 2008, he was -- he coalesced social conservatives particularly in Iowa, but could never expand beyond that. Socialist conservatives agreed with what he`s saying and liked to hear it. This is tossing red meat to the dog. MATTHEWS: What do they know about the lyrics of Beyonce or Jay-Z? Nothing. PAGE: Well, probably nothing but it`s true that the Christian conservatives, who are most concerned about values and morals have been a little sidelined by the Tea Party, which has a different kind of message. They have a different agenda, small government, economic sort of agenda. But these people -- this group of voters is still very powerful part of the Republican Party and that`s who he is trying to appeal to. I do think there are enough things to criticize President Obama about that you probably don`t need to criticize him about his parenting skills, which I think doesn`t work with a lot of voters. MATTHEWS: I think he looks like a good parent, my hunch. FOURNIER: The president? MATTHEWS: Yes. FOURNIER: Certainly. MATTHEWS: The fact that`s the big knack, he spends too much time with his family and kids every night instead of yakking it up with politicians. That`s our knock her all the time at him. FOURNIER: Mike Huckabee, for all his talents, has got a career of getting himself caught up in his own hypocrisy. He`s got two hypocrisy problems here. Number one, he`s a parent of three. Any parent knows, the last thing you do is question somebody else`s parenting skills because we all parent in glass houses. He`s exposing himself to getting criticized himself.   Number two, this is the guy -- the weekend that he announced he wasn`t going to run for president in 2011, he was on the show with Ted Nugent, anybody who`s watching the show -- MATTHEWS: Who is Ted Nugent? Help me out here. FOURNIER: Ted Nugent is a Michigan-based raunchy rock and roll singer from the `70s, `60s, `80s, go online and look at some of his lyrics, and see what Mike Huckabee is condoning. MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t know. I think the thing about it, I think with people, regardless of their prejudices and everybody`s got some I suppose, you look at the two daughters and the way they turn out and behave in public, which is perfect, they all go to good schools, they do their homework, never say anything stupid, you know, compared to most families in presidents, they`ve had weird brothers, weird sisters, weird half-brothers like the Clintons that show up and embarrass you, no embarrassment for these kids, nor from Michelle. Michelle`s numbers, by the way, are in the 70s. I was talking a few minutes ago popularity. Her approval numbers are in the 70s. CILLIZZA: And this is why -- and I could be wrong about this but this is why I tend to think that everything with Mike Huckabee -- and I know he`s not doing his show anymore and he`s seriously considering running -- I just feels more to me like -- I feel it`s just a commercial play. He wants to sell books, raise his speaking fee -- MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, Roger`s not taking him back, though. Roger -- once you`re out that swinging door, you`re out that swinging door for -- PAGE: I think he`s running. I think they think history is on their side, Republicans can win and there`s a lot of Republicans who would like to be the one who wins. CILLIZZA: I was talking (ph) about Romney. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think it belongs as we say here in the sideshow.   Anyway, Chris Cillizza, thank you. Susan Page, thank you, Ron Fournier. When we come back, let me finish with my thoughts on this odd attack by Huckle Chuckle. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that odd attack on the president and first lady by former Governor Mike Huckabee. There are a few rules in politics regarding what`s in and out and one is that you leave the other guy`s family alone. They are not fair game no matter how much you scrunch and try to make them so. There are some great arguments you can make against this president. There are the red lines that he laid down but failed to defend. There`s his failure this weekend to send someone or go himself over to Paris for the big free world defiance of terrorism. But there`s one area you should avoid when it comes to criticizing someone on the other side -- lay off the kids. I would think this unnecessary to say in the case of this first family. I`ve said this before, you can hit this president`s politics all you want, but I don`t think you can knock his private life. He`s done everything that even the most hardened right-wing critic would want him to do. He`s been a good husband with never a whiff of personal scandal. He`s been a good father. Together, he and the first lady have raised these two daughters who seemed the very picture of perfection. What`s it about Obama that the right wing hates so much? Is it his personal behavior? I have to ask. Or is it simply his person, who he is? When I hear Mike Huckabee going after the Obama family`s choice of musical friends, I sometimes wonder if it`s not the sound they make that Mr. Huckabee wants us to hear but the signal his dog whistle is sending about the first family`s ethnic background. Would he be talking about any other candidate`s choice in music? It`s hard to think so. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.   "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. END 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. 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