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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 01/21/15

Guests: Jonathan Darman, Jonathan Chait, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. EmanuelCleaver, Jackie Kucinich

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama shoots for the history books. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Like a ball player shooting from beyond the three-point line, President Obama last night gave it his best for history. He laid out his legacy, what he believes he`s done and wants still to do with the time left, with what power he can send to his successors to do. Well, we know some of it, the historic economic recovery since W.`s financial disaster back in 2008, the turn against endless ground wars in the Middle East, the health care program, his support for marriage equality, the climate deal with China, the executive orders on immigration, the opening to Cuba. But thee are a lot of questions about what else is he going to do? Will he close Gitmo, prevent war with Iran while keeping from the ability to wage nuclear war? And last night, Barack Obama took the first step, gave us the first draft, if you will, of his claim to history -- equal pay, paid sick leave, free community college, middle class economics. Well, those were the buzzwords in last night`s address where president Obama made clear that the fourth quarter of his presidency is a commitment to cementing his liberal legacy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. It`s time we stop treating child care as a side issue or as a woman`s issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.   (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: This Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It`s the right thing to do. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: I`m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero! (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: To zero. That`s pretty strong. Jonathan Chait`s the man behind the truly great piece of work in this month`s "New York" magazine called "The Obama History Project." What an edition to that magazine. And Jonathan Darman`s an historian, and of course, author of "Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America." Gentlemen, let`s talk, first of all -- I`m going to give you free rein right here to talk about what you heard last night and what`s the claim he`s making. It seemed like it was his most -- his boldest State of the Union, I thought.   JONATHAN CHAIT, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Right. It was. It was his moment of vindication because his program has been in place for a long time. Most of it was passed in his first two years, when he had Democrats in Congress, but the economy has been terrible, so it`s been really hard for him to take credit the way he feels he deserves credit for the long- term changes to America that he`s been able to enact. But now that the economy has really turned up -- and this is something that`s only become evident in the last month or two, that the economy seems to be really entering this rapid growth phase, where people finally feel good about it, now... MATTHEWS: And wages are getting stronger. CHAIT: Wages are getting stronger. Jobs are really going up at a fast rate. So now he can say, Look, I`ve done it all. Look back at my works, ye mighty, and despair. MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over to Jonathan -- the other Jonathan, Jonathan Darman. He also -- you know, he`s not playing the Clinton "third way." He`s not being Tony Blair. He`s being what we`ve always called being grown up. I always called it liberal, a guy who believes in the positive role of government and the positive role of government to move a better advantage to people at the lower end of the food chain, if you will, at the expense, oftentimes, of people at the top, but saying it declaratively and saying, This is the way I think, this is what I think government should be doing. JONATHAN DARMAN, HISTORIAN: Yes. I mean, I was really struck listening and watching the speech last night by how overtly he was really saying, This is how I want my historical narrative to be shaped. I mean, the first line of the speech was, My fellow Americans, we are now in the 15th year of this new century. So there was right off the bat this sort of grand historical sweep. And every issue that he talked about, he really framed in this idea of transformation. The country, when he took hold of it, was, you know, on the brink of economic collapse. It`s now heading into an economic boom. Energy -- you know, people -- we had this dependence on foreign oil. Now we have this huge energy boom in this country. An issue like same-sex marriage -- he talked about it as -- not long ago, it was a wedge issue used to divide people, now it`s the law of the land in the majority of American states. And he really, I think, was saying to people, This is how I want you to think of me, as someone who came to this -- took hold of this country as president and really turned it into something different in my time here in a positive way. And that`s the president he wants to be remembered as. MATTHEWS: Don`t say "comes to this country." DARMAN: I`m sorry. I didn`t mean in it that sense. MATTHEWS: There are -- there are Donald Trumps out there waiting to hear you said that. He`ll probably be quoting you tomorrow, even though it was a slip, which I know it was.   Anyway, Jonathan Chait, you write about President Obama`s -- here`s a great phrase because I`ve felt this -- his infuriating serenity. First, I want you to tell what that means. But we`ve seen that this president has no patience for public hysteria or the theater of the office, which I may be part of, whether it`s the Ebola panic, the border crisis, his joy in golfing after that ISIS beheading -- that was a bad moment for him -- or the state of American politics generally. Let`s watch him, the infuriating -- what`s it called -- serenity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It`s a serious disease, but we can`t give in to hysteria or fear because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. This isn`t theater. This is a problem. I`m not interested in photo ops, I`m interested in solving a problem. Part of this job is also the theater. Part of it is, you know, how are you... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hate (INAUDIBLE) OBAMA: ... how are you -- well, it`s not something that -- that always comes naturally to me. The important thing is, in addition to that, is am I getting the policies right? Many of you have told me that this isn`t what you signed up for, arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fund-raising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. (END VIDEO CLIP)   MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true. I think politicians -- I can`t believe they love all the time raising money on the phone. I can`t believe sometimes they have to be cartoonish on shows like this when they come on and say -- when they know it`s complicated, pretend it`s not. CHAIT: Right. MATTHEWS: You know? CHAIT: Right. Well, there`s... MATTHEWS: But I want to ask you about this -- what`s the word called, your phrase, "infuriating serenity" because, you know, when he was 20 points behind Hillary in the fall of 2007, I was going nuts. CHAIT: Right. MATTHEWS: I said, When are you going to turn on the gas? When are you going to get going here? She`s killing you! CHAIT: Right. MATTHEWS: And of course, he and David Plouffe and Axelrod and those people and Gibbs were planning and strategizing how to win all the delegates! CHAIT: Right. It is not -- it`s not infuriating to me. It`s infuriating to a lot of people in the national media who are covering politics as a day-to-day drama because there`s always something happening, and whatever`s happening that day seems really, really important. In fact, part of it`s your job to make it important and explain the importance to people so that politics is an engaging drama that... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: And he`s always, on the other hand, taking the exclamation points off everything. CHAIT: That`s right. DARMAN: That`s what he does. CHAIT: That`s not how his mind works. He`s a placid guy. He`s analytical. He thinks long-term. He keeps -- he keeps his cool. And I think that actually has helped him understand what`s important in the long run, and he hopes that people will see things the same way over the long run. MATTHEWS: Jonathan Darman, what`s your take on the guy`s cadence, his way of living? It`s almost -- almost different than us. We`re occidental (ph). It`s everything that happens every 10 seconds. He`s so (INAUDIBLE) he`s much more comfortable with the deliberative, the long-term, I`ll wait for it, you know, and we`re all pretty anxious. Your thoughts. Why is he -- he seems to have a different pace than we do, or at least I do. DARMAN: He does. And I think what we saw last night is sort of the up side of that. That same serenity is what allows him to sort of take those risks in a room like that, which is an incredibly, you know, high- pressure situation and play off the crowd and have those great moments like he did when he made -- you know, when he -- when he talked back to the people who clapped about him not having any more campaigns. That really takes a certain poise within you to be able to do that, and he`s remarkable at it. And I think that`s actually an element of the theater that he likes. I was reminded, watching that speech last night, that this is a guy who likes politics. He`s a competitive guy, and he likes this sort of show aspect of it when he feels like he`s playing it on his terms. MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you`re right. He certainly liked putting down the other side last night, let`s face it, when he said, yes it`s because I won both of them. That will go down in his scrapbook, I`m sure. Anyway, there`s no end to the feeding, by the way, to feeding the historian (ph) when it comes to the president`s critics, his enemies out there, whether it`s the scandals, the public health scares with Ebola or wild conspiracy theories that never seem to end with this president. Let`s watch some of them, just remind ourselves what he`s up against. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: People need to know how serious this is. To me, this (INAUDIBLE) may be starting to use the "I" word before too long. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, "I" word meaning impeachment? INHOFE: Yes. REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This is a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters, and we`re getting to proving it. We have 18 more transcribed interviews to do. DR. BEN CARSON, RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: You know, "Obama care" is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers gets Ebola. It`s a big mistake to downplay it and act as if, Oh, this is not a big deal, we can control all this. This could get beyond our control. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that he is a Muslim. FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: You do. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. LUNTZ: How many you believe that here? Wow. DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR: As the speaker of the House, as a leader, do you not think it`s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?   BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: David, it`s not my job to tell the American people what to think. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Jonathan Darman, I think that little display of crazy attitude against the president shows what kind of static he`s faced in trying to explain his role as president of the United States and his role in history. But it also shows that no matter how disembodied the Republican Party is, no matter how many voices they put on last night, they all hurt (ph) a little bit. They all distract a little bit, whether it`s the -- Donald Trump saying he`s not from this country, whatever, it does -- has slowed his ability to tell his story, it seems. DARMAN: It has. And I think, you know, one of the things that we`re going to see when he has a successor is -- are other presidents able to more connect than he has been in this fractionalized universe, or is this just the normal in this country now? The president last night expressed this really noble idea of, We`re still one America. But we do all live in very different media landscapes and we talk to each other in sort of closed silos, and we`re really going to have to wait and see how the presidents that follow Obama deal with that, as to whether this is a... MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a long way off... DARMAN: ... problem that`s specific to him or not. MATTHEWS: ... Jonathan Darman. That`s -- you`re talking the spring of `017. (sic) I want to work around (ph) now. I got the spring of `015 (sic) that we`re thinking about right now. Jonathan Chait, what I loved about your article and the whole spread of articles in "New York" magazine -- because people like me, who do live day to day and week to week -- a lot of us do, daily journalists -- what I didn`t realize is how much power there was in what he`s done so far and how some of the times that we`ve gotten all excited, like over Ebola, not a single, you know, casualty really here after something we thought was going to be a pandemic! CHAIT: Right. MATTHEWS: And we`re all jumping up and down like jumping beans! CHAIT: It`s easy to forget these episodes after they recede into the past, even if (INAUDIBLE) were terrified about at the time. There`s been episode after episode like Ebola, where people are freaking out and saying, This is going to define Obama`s presidency, this is it, this is his Watergate moment, this is his Katrina moment, it`s now or never. And then nothing happens, sometimes because they handle it well, sometimes it`s just not that important. And people are not keeping their eye on the major pieces of legislation, the major executive changes that he`s really doing to change American life.   MATTHEWS: Yes, well, we`re going to talk a lot more about that. I thought this week was an important week. Anyway, Jonathan Chait, Jonathan Darman, great to have you on to play (ph) a real big perspective on what happened last night and what we should have been thinking about before last night. Coming up: After the president`s defiant speech last night, look who`s got a newfound concern. I don`t know if it`s right or not or true or not - - income inequality. All of a sudden, Mitt Romney, Joni Ernst, of course, the castrator, Rand Paul, the liberator, or libertarian, and Ted Cruz, the least able to believe that one, I`ll tell you. They`re all talking populism like they`re all Democrats. We`ll see. Are they for real? Are the Republicans populists? Plus, the president`s progressive call to action was so much about him as it was about the future. And for Democrats, the future may well be, let`s face it, Hillary Clinton. Is the president urging Hillary to run as a true liberal like he is now identifying himself? And in politics and in sports, how far is too far to go to win? The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl under a cloud of controversy that they may have deflated game balls to get an edge. Do you believe it? We`ll see. Finally, let`s get to the finish tonight to that devilish question. Are the Republicans -- is Mitt Romney serious about closing the income gap between the little people and him? Does he want that to happen? Really? Mitt? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama hit the road after last night`s State of the Union, and he`s going to some uncharted territory, at least for him. His first stop was Boise, Idaho, today. It`s a state that`s as red as they get, and Obama`s never been there as president, at all. And his next stop, Kansas, isn`t any friendlier for Democrats. Neither state has voted for a Democrat for president since LBJ`s landslide in `64. HARDBALL back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, watching the president`s State of the Union last night and the Republican responses that followed, one theme emerged. Everyone is a populist now.   On last night`s show, New York senator Chuck Schumer previewed it and pointed out that Republicans now are fighting here on Democrats` turf. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: You know what`s so interesting, Chris? They`re no longer using their old rhetoric -- deficit reduction, cut the government, everything`s too out of control. Instead, they`re appropriating the president`s rhetoric. They`re talking about the middle class. They`re talking about job growth. Now they`re on our playing field. You know, for a few years, we had to play on their playing field. They`re playing on our playing field. And I wouldn`t be surprised, if things continue the way they are -- and I have no reason to think they won`t -- that they`re going to come and compromise with us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s optimistic. The varied Republican responses last night all emphasized populism, like Senator Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: President Obama offers more of the same policies, policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Even if this president is not willing to help solve the fiscal and economic problems facing this country, then it`s time to move on. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And newly elected Senator Joni Ernst, of course, shared a story about shoes and bread bags.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So why are both parties now talking populism, and of course, talking about the 47 percent, an infamous term from the last campaign? Joining me right now is South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney and Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver. Congressman Mulvaney, it is true, and Mitt Romney has honestly portrayed it in his confessional, basically, since the election of 2012, that his being caught, recorded -- and in fact, recorded, talking about how the Republicans shouldn`t bother with that bottom 47 percent because they`re already takers. They live off the government. They`ll never listen to us. Is this an attempt to repair that damage by talking, as Mitt Romney is doing, about the need to talk about income inequality? REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, Chris, I was surprised by that clip you just played by Senator Schumer who says that we`re now playing on his grounds because we`re talking about things like fairness and opportunity and job creation. We`ve been having that conversation as Republicans for a long time, so I`m not really sure if this is new. It may be new for Mr. Romney in particular, but Republicans have been talking about exactly those things in the four years I`ve been in Congress. MATTHEWS: But have you ever talked as a party about the problem of the gap between rich and the people less well-off... MULVANEY: Sure. MATTHEWS: ... the gap itself as being -- I have never heard Republicans talk about, there is something wrong with the gap.   Maybe they have -- certainly, they have been for tax cuts to stimulate the economy. We know all that. But they never seemed to be bothered, your party, as a party, by the problem that some people are zooming into super wealth right now, while most people are stuck with wages that haven`t really grown. MULVANEY: Yes, I think you`re -- I think you`re misconstruing a discusses about that gap with a discussion about redistribution, which we don`t talk about which -- because we don`t believe in, and if we do talk about it, it`s in a negative sense. We don`t believe in redistribution of wealth. But if you have followed Republican politics, as you have, you know we have talked for many, many years about trying to raise hardworking Americans, raising ordinary folks, raising the middle class through various policies. So, no, it`s not new for us by any stretch of the imagination. MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Congressman Cleaver. Thank you, sir, for coming on as well. And it seems like the Democratic Party is very much supportive of a progressive tax system, where you tax the people with the most ability to pay taxes. And that has been a part of the tradition of the progressives. It`s also consistent with the word progressive tax. The president is pushing that now, $3,000 child tax care credits for people who need them and then, of course, being paid for by hitting the 1 percent at the top. He`s being very clear about it. It seems to me that is a prescription for dealing with income inequality. That`s a real one. REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Well, two things. First of all, I don`t know any Democrats who are talking about income redistribution. But if I can just go back just a second -- and I will do it quickly, Chris -- you mentioned earlier the president going into Idaho and then into Kansas, red states. MATTHEWS: Sure. CLEAVER: As is his faith tradition, you want to concentrate on people who you want to convert.   And so I think that`s why he goes into those areas. But he has also been magnificent in converting people because now Mitt Romney, who I think has been converted, is doing the same thing that the president did in the campaign. Look, people who are wealthy ought to thank God that they have gained that wealth in this fabulous nation of ours. And because they have been so blessed, they believe that they ought to share more with the well-being of the country. That`s not wealth distribution. It`s called, you know, paying your taxes equally. So I hope that we look at the -- at what`s going on now as a conversion. People are -- have been converted to the populism that we have been presenting, I think, now for decades. MATTHEWS: Do you think the president was successful last night in moving the Republicans to compromise, or was he too sarcastic toward them in that little joke back and forth about winning two elections? Do you think he primed them for a deal or ticked them off? CLEAVER: Well, I don`t think what he said last night is going to have any impact at all. But what I think is important, though -- and I wish he hadn`t said it, but it`s irrelevant now -- Ronald Reagan, people need to remember, in 1985 talked about all the bills he was going to veto, and then said to the Democrats, make my day. MATTHEWS: Yes. CLEAVER: Now, if that`s if -- if what the president did last night was taunting, so was what Reagan said. And if I had a name for this place where we work, it would be, in a religious term, the taunting tabernacle. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over to Congressman Mulvaney about that.   The taunting went on last night. I saw the president had a piece of the action there, too, taunting back to the people who were doing their sarcastic clap at him. He went back and whacked them by saying, I don`t have to run again because I have won twice. MULVANEY: Correct. MATTHEWS: And then he put that beautiful little smile he knows how to do it back on it to try make up for it. But what kind of mood is your caucus in right now? Are you a little ticked off that he sort of won the night, that he was doing a victory lap in the end zone? Or what was your mood? I don`t want to tell you what it is. You tell me. MULVANEY: Well, the funny part about the clapping yesterday when he said he wasn`t going to run again is it actually came from the audience in the balcony and not from the members on the floor. MATTHEWS: Really? MULVANEY: I don`t think that was really widely reported. Yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t know it. That`s why I didn`t report it. I thought it was coming from your caucus. MULVANEY: No.   Our attitude is probably more disappointment than anything else. The president could have done two things last night. He could have said, look, I just got waxed in a midterm election. Maybe it`s time for me to start working with these folks. Or he could have said, I have only got two years and I don`t care about you folks and here`s what I would like to do in a perfect world. And he did the latter. I just don`t think it set the tone. We will ignore it. I enjoy working with gentlemen like Mr. Cleaver. We will continue to work through that in the House. MATTHEWS: Yes. MULVANEY: But if the president was trying to set the tone last night, it wasn`t very productive. MATTHEWS: You know, I think Joni Ernst, the new senator from Iowa, had a -- made a good appearance last night. I don`t think she hurt herself at all at home in Iowa. But I did wonder why it was such a narrow prescription she offered. She said, the Keystone pipeline, we`re going to -- Keystone pipeline, that`s probably going to become law at some point. But why is that the main and really only thing she really pushed as party spokesperson? MULVANEY: No, I actually -- I agree with that. MATTHEWS: Give me some other things she was for. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Well, give me something else that you were willing to say you were for last night.   MULVANEY: Oh, sure. Well, we have already passed a 40-hour workweek. We`re going to pass a repeal of the IPAB in the next couple of weeks. We`re going to pass things that deal with tax fairness. We haven`t talked about tax fairness. Mr. Cleaver mentioned the rich paying more. The top 1 percent already earn -- only earn 20 percent of the income. That`s a lot. But they pay 40 percent of the tax. We want to talk about tax fairness. But back to Joni`s speech last night, I think the message was, we`re willing to focus on things that are actually accomplishable in this Congress. And we sort of opened the door to the president, look, why don`t you work with us on Keystone? If he wants to go and solve the larger problems, how do you solve the larger problems if we can`t agree on Keystone? So I think Joni`s speech last night was as much an invitation to work as anything else. And I`m again disappointed that that hasn`t been accepted by that -- as that by the president. MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Cleaver for a listen point. Do you see compromise here? I don`t believe there`s a lot of common ground between the two parties. But you have got Keystone, which the Republicans want and some Democrats. You have got infrastructure spending which creates jobs in all the big cities around the country. And it seems Democrats -- is there a compromise there? Is there a compromise on infrastructure with Keystone? Is there a compromise about tax reform that somehow gives a break to the middle? CLEAVER: I think so. You know, one of the best parts of the speech last night was when the president talked about working together and about all of the chaos and, you know, partisanship that we see today. But I do think we can work together. You know, I would compromise on some things that I don`t feel really strongly about seeing approved, such as Keystone, if we could get something like the transportation bill, where we can catch up with China on infrastructure. MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said. CLEAVER: I would do that in a heartbeat. MULVANEY: Hard to do when the president...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Boy, that sounds like -- that sounds like what I would love to see. You know, I think of this country and having been to China recently, gentlemen, and to see how those trains go 300 miles an hour, you don`t hear a sound, and that country knows how to get around, and we`re still running Amtrak here, which is OK, but it`s not state-of-the-art. Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Congressman Mick Mulvaney. Up next, Ted Cruz gave an impromptu response of his own to President Obama`s State of the Union last night. It didn`t exactly go as planned. A little fun here we`re going to have with Mr. Cruz in the "Sideshow," where actually he belongs. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON") JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": The Obamas invited 22 guests to the speech, including a former Cuban prisoner, an astronaut, and a doctor. Another one of the guests was the CEO of CVS. He was there, yes, which explains why this year Obama`s speech was printed on one long CVS receipt. (LAUGHTER)   (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) FALLON: All right. I`m holding half-a-tree in my hand. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I love those CVS receipts. They always come with a deal. Anyway, time now for the "Sideshow." That was Jimmy Fallon, of course, on what was obviously a big night in Washington. But while the State of the Union is generally a serious affair, there were some amusing highlights. Earlier in the evening, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer seized an opportunity to taunt the Republicans over an incident from last summer. Back in August, many Republicans had expressed their outrage over the president`s wardrobe choice when he dared to wear a tan suit at a press conference. They didn`t like the president`s tan suit. So in a clear attempt to belittle Republican criticism last night, Pfeiffer tweeted out this photograph, supposedly from the president`s dressing room, implying that the president would in fact double down on the tan suit for the State of the Union. The caption reads, "The president`s suiting up for the big speech.. tune into at 9:00. #yeswetan." Anyway, meanwhile, while delivering the Republican response, Senator Joni Ernst spoke poignantly about wearing bread bags over her shoes to keep them dry in the rain when she was a child. But her choice of footwear last night also made a big impression. She was wearing a pair of camouflage heels, a fashion statement that may well have played well to her gun-toting conservative base. In addition to that official rebuttal, by the way, Republican Senator Ted Cruz forewarned that he would release what his office called an impromptu response of his own last night. However, Cruz might have been a little too hurried or harried because the video he posted accidentally included a botched line that he meant to edit out, but didn`t.   Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The president tried to say his policies are lifting the middle class. And yet, today, median incomes have stagnated for over a decade. Let me start over. Tonight, America saw a powerful demonstration that it is time to move on beyond President Barack Obama. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Senator, once more with feeling. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up next: President Obama`s triumphant and progressive speech last night sharpens the battle line for 2016 and possibly hands the baton to Hillary Clinton. We will get to that next with the roundtable coming up here in a minute. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. President Obama traveled to Boise, Idaho, on his first post-State of the Union trip. The president focused on middle-class economics like affordable education and tax breaks, which will face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Congress. Two bodies have been found at the scene of a four-alarm fire that destroyed a Maryland mansion. Six people were unaccounted for after that blaze. And a massive fire is burning at this hour at a residential building in Edgewater, New Jersey. No injuries have been reported -- now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president took some steps last night to shape and define the fights important to his party, to the Democrats in the years to come, and especially the 2016 election, which is coming on strong, by pushing issues like paid sick leave, free tuition for community college, infrastructure investments, tax cuts for the middle and working class, tax increases for the wealthy. President Obama is starting to pass the baton, I think, to his successor, who is probably going to be Hillary Clinton. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It`s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that sounded like Democratic applause coming from one half of the room there. Anyway, the former secretary of state showed her support for the man she`d like to replace by tweeting, "Barack Obama`s State of the Union pointed the way," she said, "to an economy that works for all. And now we need to step up and deliver for the middle class #fairshot #fairshare." As President Obama continues to pave a populist path forward, it appears Hillary Clinton is likely to embrace those same policies. Joining me right now to talk about it, our roundtable, Joe Madison, SiriusXM radio talk show host, Jackie Kucinich, senior politics editor for The Daily Beast, and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. Jackie, I want you to start on this. It seems to me that the president gave a -- Cokie Roberts said this, s morning on "MORNING JOE." She it`s a Democratic speech. Of course it was. It wasn`t aimed at, we`re all in this together. It was saying, basically, the government has got to play a positive role, it`s got to do things which are going to bother rich people, raise them taxes, give more of a tax break to regular people, get people into jobs, technical education through community college, stuff for people that vote Democrat. Is this something Hillary Clinton is being -- is he saying to Hillary Clinton, I want you to do the same thing, we got to do it together? JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it`s a really familiar baton for her. If you look back at what she pushed in 2008, she talked about making the tax rate go back to the same one in the `90s and she talked a lot about the middle class and she talked a lot about the same themes. So, I don`t know if it`s an unfamiliar baton for her to take anyway. And she`s been -- we have seen her start talking more and more and more about the middle class, since Senator Warren has been around. MATTHEWS: And 85 percent of Democrats say they want Hillary to run. I get the feeling that this party, which is usually in disarray -- you know the old alliteration, Democrats in disarray? It doesn`t seem to be happening.   DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the interesting thing about Obama is that I think he has always played the long game. He seems to have this vision that extends beyond the immediate horizon. This has been throughout his presidency. You have probably talked to him about it. I know I have. And I think what he`s doing now, he said the next 15 years. He`s only president for the next two years. And he`s always had this idea that there is this debate in this country over values. (CROSSTALK) CORN: This is how he beat Mitt Romney. He turned the 2012 campaign into a debate about political values and what we do as a community, as a government together. And he applied that to the speech last night, a progressive, somewhat populistic, Democratic principles. And so, I mean, he -- Hillary Clinton doesn`t have to do this, but I think you`re right. She gave a speech at the New America Foundation a few months ago, which she sounded just like, who? Elizabeth Warren. MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: So, this is not an unfamiliar territory. He`s sort of paving the way because he wants his legacy to be this continuing discussion. MADISON: He also knows that he`s got a Republican Party in disarray. MATTHEWS: Yes.   MADISON: I mean, the reality is -- MATTHEWS: Five voices last night. MADISON: Five. They are divided but this is the most important but not diverse. They -- I mean, really. They are divided but not diverse. So, I think -- MATTHEWS: You know, that`s so true. They are all hawks. I mean, they are all hawks. CORN: Except Rand Paul. MATTHEWS: OK, one out of 150 guys. We`re going to war. We`re going to fight here, we`re going to fight there, we`re going to fight in Syria, we`re going to fight in Iran, we`re fighting everywhere. MADISON: Yes. So I think he has them. He really absolutely has them right where he wants them. And -- CORN: And after losing this election, it`s kind of a weird thing to say. MADISON: Well, but he has. He does, because now they have to govern and this is what the American people are -- what are you going to deliver? You can`t just keep saying no to -- you are not now saying no to the president. You`re now saying no to values. MATTHEWS: Yes. Bill Clinton used to do this really well, and I think the president was doing it last night. People work hard and play by the rules. If a young kid, 17 years old, is thinking of his future, if he has one, so he needs one, a guy. I think of boys especially and I`m thinking -- because I was one in some of those neighborhoods before they changed, these are tough neighborhoods. The chance to go into crime is easy. There`s always going to be someone selling you on that.   But the chance to go and actually imagine yourself making really good money, you know, as a technical guy, a kid who can really imagine having -- being proud to have it, there`s no doorway for that now. There just isn`t. You know, he says community college, I wish they would bring it home and say not going back for photography classes or catching up with Shakespeare, but this is going to get you a job up to $100,000 a year. CORN: Or get you to another school. A lot of pathway for kids to college now, real college and university. It`s through the community college system. It`s a back-doorway to getting more education because the manufacturing jobs are somewhat coming back. They`re not going to be able to give those type of kids, those high incomes. JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: But here`s the thing. If you`re a Republican buy-in here, you can`t just make attacks on the wealthy. It`s like the fundamental reason that some people are Republicans and Democrats, some of these tax issues. And so, I think there`s a little bit too much stick and not enough carrots in some of these proposals, which is why they`re not going to go anywhere. MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think this going after Wall Street and just whacking it the way Elizabeth Warren. She doesn`t just go to help the little people, she says let`s screw the big people. I mean, that`s a big part of her theme. MADISON: Well, I don`t know if she`s saying, let`s screw them all. MATTHEWS: She doesn`t say it that way. Let me tell you, Joe -- (CROSSTALK) MADISON: She wants to play by the rules. MATTHEWS: If you had to draw a line, you`d say, Republicans don`t like government and you`d say Democrats really don`t like big business. They don`t like it. Big corporations have a too easy ride, they`re not regulated enough, they make too much, and the average guy is getting hurt by it. MADISON: I draw the line differently. I draw the line -- Republicans always talk about personal responsibility. Personal responsibility. I mean, they do this to the black community all the time. Personal responsibility. Now, progressives, unfortunately, spend too much time talking about public policy, public policy. The reality is, all of us sitting here know it`s a combination of both. That`s the reality.   So, it`s public policy to say we`ve got 12 years public education which made this country what it is today. It`s now 12 years plus, too, because that`s the only way this country and it is young people are going to compete in a global economy, and that`s what I heard -- MATTHEWS: Well, put that together because that`s a well -- good -- suppose a family is working hard, they`re making very moderate income, husband and wife are both working. The kids get to the point where they`ve finished high school, they`ve done their homework, they got B`s, maybe B- pluses, maybe not. How`s the government supposed to be right there meeting them at the age of 17? What`s the government going to be? When the parents have done their job and is this kid going to do a liftoff or drop down, where has the government got to be there? MADISON: Well, the government has got to be where it was when G.I.s came home from the war. (CROSSTALK) MADISON: That`s what it has to be. CORN: But the countries we compete with, if you look at other Western democracies and emerging nations, a lot of them, they actually go to college with tuition assistance or there`s much more free public colleges. In-state tuitions have exploded in this country. You used to be able to go to an in-state university or college, really at a very cheap rate. That`s becoming part of that -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let`s make an opportunity for all. Will Joe Biden challenge Hillary Clinton? Because he said he hasn`t decided yet. KUCINICH: I don`t think so. MATTHEWS: Why is he saying that he hasn`t decided it? KUCINICH: I think he wants to be relevant. The minute he says that, you know what, I`m not doing this, it will be like, OK, thanks, Uncle Joe.   MADISON: It`s true. KUCINICH: He wants to stay relevant. CORN: It`s his chance. He didn`t say he was 2 percent but he said there`s a chance. MATTHEWS: When will he say I`ve decided? CORN: After she gets in. KUCINICH: Yes. MATTHEWS: The latest testament, if she gets in April, he`s got a few months. If it wasn`t for Hillary Clinton -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think he`d be one of the very possible candidates if it wasn`t for Hillary. But she does -- look at these numbers, 85 percent of the people are rooting for her to get in this thing of the Democrats. Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And, by they way, up next, from politics to sports -- we`re going to get into this amazingly complicated for some people, maybe me, the New England Patriots and whether they took the air out of the footballs to help them get to the football. This is fascinating politics. And what`s it going to mean?   We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Late today, the Senate voted down two amendments to the Keystone pipeline bill stating that human activity does contribute to climate change. The first amendment read, climate change is real and human activity contributes to climate change. It failed 59 to 40. The second amendment went a step further saying climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to it. It failed 50 to 49. But the Senate did pass an amendment acknowledging the simple fact that climate changes over time. Well, it does, doesn`t it? That passed 98 to 1. What a meaningless waste of time. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back right now, with a question every football fan out there is asking today. Did the New England Patriots cheat? The Super Bowl, the country`s biggest sports and cultural event of the year, is just 11 days away right now. But questions are swirling already about one of the teams set to take the field. According to ESPN, the NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots 12-game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL`s requirements at last Sunday`s AFC championship game. There`s been no official from the league which says it`s still investigating. The Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team will cooperate with the league. But in the sports media, the scandal has been dubbed deflate-gate. As "USA Today`s" sports columnist Jarrett Bell wrote today, "One might be an accident, and three could be a coincidence. Yet, when the New England Patriots come to the game with 11 of their 12 footballs deemed to be illegal by NFL standards, it looks to be seriously shady."   We`re back now with our panel. Of course, Joe, David, and Jackie. Joe, I want you to answer this because apparently two hours before the game, the balls are weighed, they`re tested for air pressure, they made sure that they were official. This is what it`s supposed to be. It`s not a joke. MADISON: Right. MATTHEWS: Because it affects how you handle the ball. MADISON: Right. MATTHEWS: Apparently in that two hours, 11 of the 12 game balls were deflated significantly. Somebody did it. MADISON: Yes, I`ll give you 11 balls, I`ll give you 11 balls, and then what will happen is, you`re now in control of them, the team. CORN: Each team controls its own ball. In the NFL, there`s an honor system. Go figure. MADISON: Well, and at that time you can do -- apparently whatever you want to them. Now, this is about physics. Because what happens is, one, it`s easier to catch. MATTHEWS: If it`s less inflated.   MADISON: Because it`s palatable. (CROSSTALK) MADISON: And in cold weather quite honestly, it`s easier to throw. So, look, who was it, Hal Davis said, if you`re not cheating, you`re not trying to win. MATTHEWS: Let`s not -- MADISON: That`s what you hear on sports talk a lot. MATTHEWS: But the referees are getting their hands on the ball every play. MADISON: That`s the other thing. You would have to sit back and say, wait a minute, if throughout that entire game every time a play is run I throw it to the referee. And the referee, no one said anything. Not one single thing. MATTHEWS: So, it took the safety who intercepted Brady a couple of times to notice the ball seemed to be more supple. Something was going on there. MADISON: Right, and then he went over and they tested it. That`s when they said something`s not right here. CORN: What`s interesting is they test the balls two hours and 15 minutes before the game. Then they give them back to the teams. That means in those two hours, someone had to take, let`s say proactive steps, to get the ball -- MATTHEWS: But you`re talking about expediency here and it ends just by me (ph).   Bottom line, they won the game big. They walked away with the game last week. (CROSSTALK) KUCINICH: I think we talked about earlier, it could have been baseball. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But what about now? Suppose this turned out -- OK, I deflated the ball. It helped us win the game. What can they do? They fine. But still the message is to the ball players and to the team, if you get fined, you still get to the Super Bowl. KUCINICH: And right ahead of the Super Bowl, too. This is all going right into the Super Bowl. (CROSSTALK) CORN: Last time Bill Belichick got caught for cheating, which is a big deal, he personally got fined half a million dollars and Patriots lost several draft picks, one of two, I think. MATTHEWS: So, it could be draft picks. It could be down the road. It`s not the Super Bowl. MADISON: But the sad thing now is, now, the Super Bowl is going to be about deflated balls. I guarantee you, that`s what you`re going to see. MATTHEWS: Will it take the air out of the game?   CORN: Ooh! (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joe Madison, Jackie Kucinich, David Corn - (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with that devilish question: are Republicans serious about closing the income gap? Really? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I think the Republicans, a lot of them at least, are getting the word on income and equality. In 2012, Rick Santorum got it. Recently, Mitt Romney picked up on it. The reason for these conversions differ. Santorum running against Romney the last time could obviously see the inability of his wealthy, well-born rival to appeal to regular income Republicans. He saw the opportunity to reach for what he called, what he used to cloth coat Republicans, those of moderate income who believe in the conservative philosophy. Mitt Romney`s conversion came after his defeat for president. He confessed that his failure to defeat the president in 2012 had much to do with his being recorded deriding what he called the 47 percent of Americans who depend on government, the takers. He said he didn`t have anything to offer them. He was therefore had to win over the voters who make the top 53 percent of the country.   Well, anyway, the word is out now. If you`re a Republican and still wants to be president, and so many of them do obviously, don`t let the Democrats get easy dibs on votes of people who find themselves in economic difficulty. If you want to actually win, you need to contest for the votes of people who are not better off. Well, this, one could argue, is how democracy is supposed to work. It forces all candidates to submit to popular thinking. The country thinks working people need a break, if they think there`s too much inequality in the country, they`re going to vote that way. They`re going to pick leaders that way. If you want to be a leader, start talking about income inequality. And so, we have today a Mitt Romney of all people out there talking like he`s a GOP version of Senator Elizabeth Warren or Pope Francis or whoever else you think of as caring about this rich getting richer thing and poor getting poorer. Jesus, of course, said, that the poor we have always with us. They`re not new to the scene, the poor people. What`s new is the political appeal of noticing them and at least offering to do something about their standing in this country. Well, let`s be pragmatic, this isn`t much of a bad thing, actually having the two parties out there talking the right talk at least about the income gap between the top and those worse off. The trick is to get both parties actually doing something together, or more likely competing to come up with the best program for people. We`ve got problems. It could be that someone, the president, the speaker, Senator McConnell, Mitt, someone in these conversations will come up with something that grabs not just the headlines, but truly gets to the problem of income inequality, because unlike some of the talk, it`s real. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 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.>