IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 06/29/15

Guests: Kathleen Parker, John Feehery, April Ryan, Ruth Marcus

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What a week. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. This is, let`s joyously agree, an unusual time for progressives, political newbies and vintage liberals alike, a time of triumph. The Supreme Court has validated the president`s Affordable Care Act, a national health care program Democrats and some progressive Republicans have sought for practically a century. And it`s a time of equality in marriage for gay and lesbian people that seemed to them, and those who care about them, as dreamy as Judy Garland singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and there`s the rainbow on the White House. And yet, and yet, here we are with victory on both fronts, health care for the country, marriage equality for those historically denied it, and looks like they`re taking down that flag. I`m joined right now by Barney Frank, the former U.S. congressman from Massachusetts and the author of "Frank: A Life in Politics," which is in the book stores, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker and Perry Bacon, senior political reporter for NBC News. Anyway, Congressman Frank, thank you for joining us. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FMR. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I remember 20 years ago, you and I were in Philadelphia at an HRC event, a lot of young men there, young people were there and they weren`t so optimistic about anything in terms of gay rights. And you stood up and said, Have hope, times are changing. This is, I think, 20 years ago. FRANK: Yes, you know, Chris, it was 19 years ago that we were debating the Defense of Marriage Act on the floor of the House. And in the Senate that year, the vote was 85 to 12 against same-sex marriage. In the House, it was 360-something to 67. But my message was that the only way to respond was politically, was to get our people to the polls, to lobby. And slowly but surely, that brought it about. Well, I take it back. Not so slowly. Look at 19 years ago with the House and Senate overwhelmingly voting -- most Democrats -- every Republican but one and most of the Democrats voting to make same-sex marriage illegal, for all practical purposes, and that`s where we are today. MATTHEWS: Remember Mr. Dually (ph) who said, Methinks (ph) the Supreme Court listens to the election returns? Right now, 60 percent of the American people support same-sex marriage, marriage equality. Do you think that Anthony Kennedy -- well, I think he`s a good guy in this regard anyway, but you think they were listening? FRANK: Not to the polls, but to the reality. I do think -- you know, I wrote a piece about this -- some of the conservatives have said, Well, the courts shouldn`t get into this. But it was the court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court under the great Margaret Marshall, that broke the cycle. We had this problem, Chris. We couldn`t get support for same-sex marriage because people thought it was going to have terrible consequences, and we couldn`t prove that it wouldn`t have terrible consequences until we got same-sex marriage. And then the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 broke that cycle, and they let us have marriage. And within a fairly short period, reality beat the prejudice. We were then able to show that all of these fears about the socially destabilizing effect of marriage were wrong. MATTHEWS: Kathleen, you know, the speed of light in politics is getting faster, people being belighted (ph) -- or not being benighted. KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes. MATTHEWS: I mean, if you think gay marriage was the fastest thing in our lifetime to change in terms of the public perceptions -- including the Clintons, I mean, the big people, the big, you know, moderate to progressive people... PARKER: Well, in 2008, just seven years ago, the president was not in favor of same-sex marriage (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: He didn`t say so. He didn`t say that. PARKER: He didn`t say that, but he also didn`t say he was for it until president -- Vice President Biden... MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, then I saw that flag about to come down, and I, Go wait a minute, some things are even moving faster, maybe not as significant to some, but certainly very significant to some. PARKER: Well, it`s not so fast. We`ve been working on this for a very long time. The state of South Carolina... MATTHEWS: You`re from there. PARKER: Yes. Well, I`ve lived there for about the last 25 years, and my mother is from there, so my family goes back many -- many -- you know, for a long, long time. But the flag doesn`t mean much to most people in term of even noticing that it`s there, but we did bring it down from the Capitol dome 15 years ago. and then it went to the statehouse ground. And then -- you know, and there`s always been this movement among activists, white and black, to get that flag off state property and put in a museum, where I think it does belong. But this event that took place in Charleston, this horrible, horrible event, was galvanizing in a fresh way because the shooter was pictured with this flag. And you know, most of us do understand that it has been -- if it was once to honor our heritage, it is clearly not anymore. It`s a... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Perry, I want to respond to this surprising moment. I wasn`t here Friday to catch this. But sometimes in politics, it`s pretty dramatic. On Friday in Charleston, South Carolina, President Obama delivered a rousing, forceful eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. He spoke about the unhealed wounds of racism that still linger in the country, and he called the removal of that Confederate flag a modest but meaningful step forward toward the healing. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: As we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. Removing the flag from this state`s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness. It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He concluded his eulogy with quite a moment. The president began singing "Amazing Grace" and was quickly joined by the entire congregation. Let`s watch and listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: (SINGING) I once was lost, but now I`m found, was blind but now I see. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that was real, Perry.

PERRY BACON, NBC REPORTER: Very little surprises me in politics. That moment, I was really transfixed by it. I couldn`t believe he was singing. The whole audience was there. It was like a very moving moment I think we`ll all never forget about him. Also, think about last week. His legacy`s always going to be, first of all, he`s the first black president. If you think about universal health care, gay marriage -- gay marriage being legal across the country, the flag not only coming down in South Carolina but probably (ph) Walmart not selling it, anyone not selling it. He`s now not (INAUDIBLE) the first black president, but also this sort of liberal figure, the way a Ronald Reagan has been among conservatives. He`s really moved the country, or the country has moved while he`s been president in a decidedly liberal direction on a lot of really big issues. And last week sort of really cemented his legacy, I think, as this really consequential figure in politics. MATTHEWS: Barney, how does that sound to you? Does it sound like he`s been able to grab the lead and lead from the front? FRANK: I think, yes. The country is moving, as well, and (INAUDIBLE) the president or anybody else. You know, the leader can`t move a country that`s not ready. I liken it -- you can`t make the waves, but when you see them coming, you can help direct them. I think he has taken very appropriate and effective advantage of this. And can I add one thing about the flag? I was with a friend who is a Mississippian now living in the North, and he reminded me that in much of the South, the flag was not as big a deal before the segregation cases. MATTHEWS: Right. FRANK: In much of the South, the flag came back again, into greater prominence, beginning in the `60s as a symbol of white resistance in the South to integration, to racial equality. So I give that repudiation of that flag a lot of significance. It I hope marks the end of a very bad period in America when the reaction of the Supreme Court -- remember what Lyndon Johnson said about, We`re losing the South for generations? MATTHEWS: Yes. FRANK: You got the flag coming back in opposition to the effort to make people equal across racial lines, and so it`s particularly significant that it`s now finally going to go away.

MATTHEWS: You know, our culture, I would say, is more of a leader. I think if you watch primetime television, it`s very pro-gay rights. It`s very unquestioning of the fact that that should be the way it is. And yet if you want to have another (INAUDIBLE) of history, the 1930s, all those movies that we watched -- "Gone With the Wind," all of them -- celebrated the South. The South were the good guys. They were the noble cause. They were the Brits, basically. And the North, on the right side, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," fighting at the risk and loss to their lives, going down in the South to end slavery, were always considered somehow interlopers. So I don`t think the culture has always been leading us in the right direction, but lately, I think it has... (CROSSTALK) PARKER: No, I agree with you, and I agree with Barney Frank, that this is -- you know, the people have changed. The culture has changed. And President Obama, rather than -- you know, this may be another example of his leading from behind a little bit, where he just says, OK, the people are ready, so now we`re going to come forward and we`re going to take advantage of this moment and ride that wave all the way. But I think in that -- where he -- when he was in that church with those folks and singing that song particularly, think that was a moment that was, you know, above and beyond any that I have ever experienced covering politics. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk hard constitutional development. George Will once said, and blew me away with this comment, Congressman -- I was -- I`m ready for it, but loved when I was hearing it -- he said the American people are conservative. They wish to conserve the New Deal. And when we have a social program... FRANK: Who said that? MATTHEWS: ... that catches on, Congressman -- you respond to this -- like Medicare -- remember the great guy who said -- sounded like an idiot - - he says, Keep the government out of Medicare. What? OK, I mean, it`s like -- now we have an ACA approved by this week the Supreme Court, positive review by the court, and I would think politics played a part in it, including the part of John Roberts, which was, You know what? The people need this now. They depend on it now. Don`t take away from the people what they clearly are getting used to and relying on. Your thoughts.

FRANK: Yes, I think Roberts, more than any other -- he`s a chief justice who takes as part of his responsibility maintaining the role of the court as a respected arbiter, and I think that`s legitimate. He does not want the court to do those things -- I forget who wrote the articles about the self-inflected wounds of the court, like Dred Scott. I think he legitimately, as chief justice, doesn`t want to see the court damaging itself and being damaged. And as for your point about the -- they want to conserve the New Deal -- it has always struck me -- I would -- I would go through political campaigns and legislative battles, where the conservatives were opposing the current reform, but talking about how wonderful the past one was. And it struck me that a lot of my conservative friends, very much like dead Democrats. They like everything that Roosevelt did and Truman did... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I know. But better that... FRANK: ... and Kennedy did, but they don`t like what anybody`s doing today. MATTHEWS: I know. Because you know why. Because there`s a fight that`s going on. But I`d rather like them after they`re dead... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s a start, at least! Anyway, Congressman Barney Great, it is to have you on the show. I tell you, I really appreciate you coming her. Thank you. And Kathleen Parker, it`s great having you on the show. And Perry Back, I`ve gotten so used to you, you`re like Medicare to me. I need you. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: We`ll have much more on President Obama`s best week ever coming up later in our HARDBALL. We`re going to get really into it and what it means to both parties.

And up next, as good as things are right now for the president and his party, there`s a civil war breaking out among Republicans on this marriage equality issue. They don`t want to give it up. What was the line in "Brokeback Mountain,"? I can`t... PARKER: "I can`t quit you." MATTHEWS: "I can`t quit you!" Anyway, the ones that have a better shot at winning the White House want to move on. The ones who just want to fight the primaries and have some fun in Iowa don`t want to. The rest, we`re going to fight (ph) about that to the end. Anyway, let`s get -- look at this. New poll numbers right now are falling, and those are for Chris Christie. But tomorrow, the governor of New Jersey is announcing for president. That`s going to be interesting. And with all troubles, what exactly are his chances? Fair question. Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the stunning observation -- I think it is -- that the United States Supreme Court knows this country. And this is HARDBALL, place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: NBC Universal has cut ties with Donald Trump. A statement released by NBC Universal today read, in part, "At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values. Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBC Universal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump. To that end, the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which are part of a joint venture between NBC and Trump, will no longer air on NBC." And during his presidential announcement, Trump said Mexican immigrants are, quote, "bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists, and some I assume are good people." In a statement today, Trump himself said he stands by his statements on illegal immigration, which he says are accurate, and adds, quote, "NBC is weak, and like everybody else, is trying to be politically correct. That is why our country is in serious trouble." By the way, NBC is, of course, a parent company of our own MSNBC.

We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While Democrats have universally praised Friday`s historic court ruling on marriage equality, the Republican field of sweet 16`ers has splintered in every direction possible. Scott Walker is so far leading the charge for a -- catch this -- constitutional amendment to overturn the court`s actions. In a statement echoing the party`s 2012 platform, he says it`s, quote, "the only alternative left" for the American people. Lindsey Graham, surprisingly, has come out strongly against that rallying cry. Here he was yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He can put it in the platform, but it will, in my view, hurt us in 2016 because it`s a process that`s not going to bear fruit. So no, I would not engage in the constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the court`s ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So there you have it. Lindsey Graham (INAUDIBLE) real hawk on foreign policy coming out for marriage equality. Anyway, in an op-ed out this weekend, Rand Paul agrees pretty much. He says he wants the government -- presumably the federal government -- to get out the heck out of the marriage business altogether. Now, here we go down the old ways. Ted Cruz is out there browbeating the court. Here`s what he told Sean Hannity on his radio show after the ruling.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, it`s some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation`s history. Yesterday and today were both naked and shameless judicial activism. They have undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Oh! Sometimes he amazes me. Anyway, Bobby Jindal says he`d abolish the court altogether. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So now we got a court that says, We don`t care about the meaning of words and we don`t care about the Constitution. Reporter asked me about it. I said (INAUDIBLE) might as well get rid of the Supreme Court and save some money. What`s the point? They`s not a judicial body anymore. They`ve become a political body. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And Mike Huckabee is also talking outright rebellion. I`m not sure what he means by this, but here it is. "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch." I don`t know what that means. Anyway, David Corn`s the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones," and John Feehery`s a Republican strategist. Out of kindness -- oh, no, I`m not going to be kind.

(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) David. What do you make of -- I mean, I just - - this is really my list (ph) of what I think of these guys, to be honest with you. It fits completely with my view of them generally. Jindal -- I don`t know why he`s pandering on this thing, and I don`t know -- and Cruz is just nasty about this. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... nasty. DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They`re pandering for votes. MATTHEWS: The darkest days in our history is because gays can marry? Is that the darkest day in our history? CORN: It`s worse than 9/11, Chris. It`s worse than Pearl Harbor, according to people out there who`ve actually made that comparison. Scott Walker... MATTHEWS: What about... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... losing the revolution? What about 600,000 guys killed in the Civil War? CORN: What about any day of slavery? I mean, you can -- you can come up with far darker days...

MATTHEWS: Darkest day in our history. CORN: Listen to Scott Walker. You know, people like... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... because I thought better of him. CORN: Listen, people like to say that he`s a brainy, practical governor. Thirty-six states... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But you never -- will you say one good thing about a Republican and we will move on? Just say one good thing about a Republican, any -- any Republican. CORN: I loved John Lindsay. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: We don`t have an hour to explain.

(CROSSTALK) CORN: I like Rand Paul on criminal reform. MATTHEWS: OK. (CROSSTALK) CORN: But let me just make this point about Scott Walker. He says there should be a constitutional amendment; 36 states already have legalized gay marriage. Are any of those states going to vote for a constitutional amendment? This is just complete pandering that is irrelevant. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But that is a question. Are you going to take back from the states? See, this is the problem that we`re in, the status quo. Now 36 states have marriage equality. So, are you going to go around and through some extralegal process take back those marriage licenses, separate those couples? How are you going to celebrate the Red Sea? How do you do this at this point? It`s late. JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Listen, my humble opinion is that the Supreme Court did the Republican Party a big favor. We can now turn to national security issues and economic security issues. (CROSSTALK)

CORN: But they are not doing... (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: Well, listen, I think... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They`re doing Jeb Bush a favor. FEEHERY: The higher up you are in the polls, the better chance you have of winning, the more circumspect you are on this, because you want to try to get a bigger tent for the party. The lower down you are in the polls, the more desperate you become. And, also, listen, I don`t want to just say that for -- I think Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal, they have -- they believe this. I think it`s political, yes, but they also have beliefs on this. And 40 percent of the country is still not all in on... MATTHEWS: Well, 60 percent for, 40 against. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But how do you pull it back? FEEHERY: I don`t know how you pull it back. I don`t know. I think Bobby Jindal talks about getting rid of the court. That`s kind of -- he`s flippant and it`s ridiculous.

You see this desperation. And I have never seen an issue move this quickly. MATTHEWS: I know. FEEHERY: President Obama had the same position. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Did you see the crowd? I mean, I know everybody goes for applause lines. But he`s in some kind of dinette or some kind of room and Jindal is saying, we got to get rid of the Supreme Court. There was no applause. People know we need the Supreme Court. (CROSSTALK) CORN: When Ted Cruz gets out there and says this is -- America doesn`t accept this, this is bad for America, he is speaking for like the guys that were on the island, the Japanese soldiers after World War II. He`s speaking for people who are looking backwards. But this tide is moving. More people in the party like John here knows that this is not going to change. MATTHEWS: OK. Let me -- but those Japanese guys on the island didn`t get to the newspapers that morning. OK, let`s take a look. Here is Jeb Bush, who always, despite his efforts to move hard right, you never really believe him because of moments like this. He`s trying to move the party now beyond the fighting, including the internal fighting we were talking about. Here is Jeb campaigning in Nevada over the weekend trying to go forward. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think now we need to focus on two things. How do we create an environment where people aren`t discriminated against, where we respect people`s commitment to long-term loving relationships and where we also allow people to act on their religious conscience? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Can somebody be nominated by the Republican Party, your a party, with a view that is tolerant and accepting of gay marriage, as he just was there? Can Jeb win with that point of view? FEEHERY: I think he can win with the idea that it`s settled law, let`s move on. I think he can win with that, without necessarily being that comfortable with the whole idea, but settled law, the Supreme Court has spoken. Let`s move on to talk about other issues and then the idea of allowing churches to continue to operate. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The Catholic Church. (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: The Catholic Church. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, you can`t make the church recognize it. FEEHERY: Well, yes, I know, but there is a lot of concern about that amongst churchgoers, including people in the Catholic Church.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know. I think he`s become -- he`s a converted Catholic and he`s so Catholic and so religious and such a good family man, I think he has some credibility on this one. CORN: I think that`s right. MATTHEWS: And I think -- anyway, meanwhile, the religious base sounds like it`s gearing up for World War III on this issue. Let`s watch some of this stuff. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are we going to trade one level of what`s called discrimination for a new level of discrimination against people of faith? GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think now that this ruling has happened, Hillary Clinton and others on the left are going to be going after our First Amendment religious liberty rights. I think there`s an all-out assault by the left on religious liberty rights. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Because that`s the design. There is an all-out effort here to water down, dilute, if they could, just eliminate Christianity as a dominant cultural religious and dare I say political force. That`s the target. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The underwater walrus is talking to guys and the women in their cars trying to make a buck today. They`re out in their cars on weekdays. He`s talking to them between 12:00 and 3:00 on a weekday. And they`re trying to make a buck. And they`re listening to this -- this point of view. Does he really think that the people in their cars working for a living, making a buck, good people out there, does he think they think that Christianity is going to be outlawed? What is he talking about? CORN: Well, I think some of them do. I think some of them -- I think the right...

MATTHEWS: They`re working guys. These aren`t people sitting around with -- these are hardworking, and they believe that? I don`t think so. (CROSSTALK) CORN: Not them. But the conservative base has been fed this right- wing paranoia about Obama, about gay marriage and everything for eight years now. And so it`s not about gay marriage. There is always a secret agenda, the left always wants something else. They want to undermine Christianity. How many Christian denominations support gay marriage? Many do now. So, this isn`t about undermining Christianity. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let me tell you something about church. CORN: But he`s fueling paranoia. MATTHEWS: If you`re late for a mass in Washington, you can`t get a seat. The churches are filled. This idea that churches are dying, that they`re disappearing and that the government is outlawing them is on its face absurd. CORN: Yes, and so is that Obama is a Muslim, that he`s a socialist dictator, and all that crap. But you get these e-mails all day long. MATTHEWS: Are you worried about our religion being outlawed, being outlawed? (CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: I`m not worried about the state outlawing religion. I do think that many church leaders are concerned about this ruling and think it`s going the wrong way. And I think they have a legitimate right to have that concern. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Well, they disagree with it. (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: And I think you have to respect those opinions. MATTHEWS: I disagree with Citizens United. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: And I disagree with the gun decisions of the court, that everybody should have a gun. I think some of those decisions are -- well, I will talk about it at the end of the show. I`m teasing the end of the show, because this court... CORN: Good job. MATTHEWS: ... is not reliable if you`re a progressive. I can tell you that.

David Corn and John Feehery, and I know your names, and I don`t have to read them. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up next, we`re learning more about just how those two convicted killers broke out of that prison in New York in the first place. David Sweat, the inmate, shot and captured, there he is, by policemen yesterday, is now talking, which is fascinating, about how he got out and everything. Stay tuned for that and those tidbits. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This was "Cool Hand Luke" meets "Shawshank Redemption." You had a worker who falls in love with one or two of the men, believes they are going to escape, kill her husband, and then live happily ever after. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow.

That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, of course, who will be overseeing a complete top-to-bottom review of just how those two murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, could escape from a New York state maximum security prison and remain on the loose for weeks, three weeks. Richard Matt was shot and killed by a U.S. border agent on Friday. David Sweat was shot and taken into custody just yesterday. According to authorities, the pair used pepper to avoid detection by the bloodhounds searching for them, the same tactic used in the classic film "Cool Hand Luke." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "COOL HAND LUKE") UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You want to see something really funny? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, you go on in there and you get me chili powder, and pepper and curry and the like, a lot of it, all right? UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There you are. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Thank you, son. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, I think the idea was to throw the dogs off. Anyway, authorities say Sweat is now talking and prosecutors want to know how much help the two inmates may have received from inside the prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW WYLIE, CLINTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There may be some bad apples in the bunch, and we need to weed those out. I think how business is conducted on a daily basis is going to change. I look forward to working with the governor. I look forward to working with the inspector general to make a determination on what changes need to be made. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Looks like Senator Bob Kerrey there. Anyway, Joyce Mitchell, who worked in the prison tailor shop, remains in custody and has pled not guilty to charges, including felony, promoting prison contraband. And prison guard Gene Palmer was in court today charged with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence, and official misconduct generally. He remains free on bail. Joining us right now with the latest from Constable, New York, is NBC`s John Yang. John, let me ask you about this. What can they get from this guy they caught, and what would be the joy of him telling them anything? I mean, he is going to go into solitary for awhile. What is their negotiating strength here? JOHN YANG, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That`s a really good question, Chris. This is the field where they took him down last night. He apparently has been in a talkative mood. His condition has been upgraded to serious. He has had no surgery. They are not telling us any other details of his treatment, but the governor -- Governor Andy Cuomo has been saying that he told them that he split from Matt five days ago because Matt was slowing him down. Apparently, he had blisters. He may have been sick from drinking bad water. He also has told investigators, according to Governor Cuomo, that the plan was to drive to Mexico. The three of them were going to drive to Mexico and, as the governor says, apparently live happily ever after.

What is his advantage to talking? He`s already sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The district attorney, Andrew Wylie, said that he`s going to be in solitary for a very long time and really is not -- it is a good question, what leverage do they have with him? What is in it for him to tell the story, which they desperately would love to hear, about how all this happened, what help he got from inside the prison, what help he got -- may have gotten from outside the prison? As they conduct this review, the FBI, as NBC News has learned, is also looking into possible irregularities in that prison, as they do a top-to- bottom review. A lot of things have come out about the practices there, employees going out without -- in and out without being screened, without their bags being checked. MATTHEWS: Yes. YANG: And two of the guard towers unarmed, unmanned during the overnight hours -- Chris. MATTHEWS: Wow. By the way, that`s great reporting all this time, John. Thank you so much. By the way, those cows have come up to you from behind and have moved off to the right. They have heard enough. They got all the information they wanted tonight. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, my friend, my colleague... YANG: They`re tired of it. MATTHEWS: ... for joining us from -- from Constable, New York. Anyway, that`s John Yang in the field there, anyway, where the guy was taken into custody, David Sweat. Anyway, up next, so much for being a lame-duck president. Don`t you think about it? With a week like none other in his presidency, President Obama not only proved he`s still relevant. He secured his legacy. It`s been a heck of a week, so fast, it`s been hard to absorb. But we are going to absorb it in the next five minute, when we get back here.

What is going on with this guy right now and his role in the history books? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in the MSNBC newsroom. A wildfire in Washington State is partially contained, but it destroyed hundreds of homes and consumed 3,000 acres. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate. A Coast Guard helicopter made a hard landing during a training exercise in San Francisco. No injuries there. And a New Jersey man is under arrest for allegedly plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. And a U.S. official says nuclear talks with Iran will extend past a self-imposed deadline. However, negotiators are hoping to complete a deal during the current round of talks -- now back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter, and I`m looking forward to it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the president, of course, in his year-end press conference -- well, his year-end press conference last December, predicting what was coming, he hoped, this year. At the beginning of last week, however, much of President Obama`s domestic agenda was in doubt, but, by Friday, everything had changed, capping off an historic week of victories in what he called the fourth quarter of his presidency and proving that he`s anything but a lame-duck. He helped facilitate a blunt decision about race after the tragedy in South Carolina. And we saw a new bipartisan consensus on the Confederate Flag, we hope. And then the president won Senate approval of the bill giving him fast track authority to advance his trade agenda after a brutal fight on Capitol Hill with the Democrats mainly. And after a key vote was finished, the president was caught embracing Vice President Joe Biden there in a moment of victory after the Oval Office. By the way, that was not a photo-op. That was an accident they caught that picture. The next day, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, validating President Obama`s key domestic achievement, after years of uncertainty after -- about its fate. Once again, a triumphant president and his team were captured after another big win. And here is the president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And again on Friday, in a 24-hour period, a landmark decision by the court. Again, it delivered yet another victory for the president and his allies on same-sex marriage, marriage equality. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes, there are days like this, when that slow steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. It`s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for basic civic rights. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, there is no question President Obama is on something of a roll right now, historic roll. On the roundtable tonight, we`re talking about April Ryan is White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, Howard Fineman is global editor of "The Huffington Post", and Ruth Marcus is opinion writer with "The Washington Post". I want to start with you, Ruth, because you covered Washington, we all covered Washington. But the processes do not always work. And yet, I get the feeling that the Supreme Court follows election returns, it follows the American culture, it obeys the culture base, at least in the middle with people like Anthony Kennedy. They are not oblivious to what the American people value. RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: They are not oblivious and they`re concerned also, many of the justices, the chief justice in particular, about the court as an institution. I`ve always thought of the court having its own internal gyroscope. It doesn`t want to tilt too far one way or another, and get people too riled up. And so, it was a remarkable -- MATTHEWS: So, the people are for same-sex marriage. MARCUS: You know, the court ruled -- MATTHEWS: Right? Yes or no? MARCUS: The people are for same-sex marriage. MATTHEWS: And the court is for it.

MARCUS: And the court is for it. The court could have reached into this issue a few years ago. I think it caught the wave at exactly the right time. The chief justice warned in his dissent that they were forestalling democratic acceptance of this. I think he`s totally wrong. I think the country, the court ruled at exactly the moment that the country is ready for it. MATTHEWS: You know, George Pataki once said, don`t get so far ahead of the parade you can`t hear the music. APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: How about that? MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you -- I know you don`t like him, do you? RYAN: I didn`t say that, Chris. MATTHEWS: The way you did that. You did it with no effect. Let me make my point, I`m not telling you who told me, but somebody said don`t get so far ahead of the parade you can`t hear the music. I think the court is just about a few steps ahead of most people in the case of the flag coming down, a few steps ahead of the South Carolina white people, but -- that`s interesting that`s what a leader is, probably, you get ahead of the parade. RYAN: Yes, you got to get ahead of the parade. And the interesting thing is, this was a major week for this administration, but they said that this, it`s not over yet. You know, they said they still got a lot of things to do. And one thing I remember, I talked to President Obama going to Selma and I asked him are we post-racial, are we post-Obama? He said, you know, April, he said, I don`t want to, you know, look at my presidency as something to equate to what is it, emancipation proclamation, voting rights or the Civil Rights Act. He said, but what I`m here to do is close the remaining gaps.

And that`s what we`re seeing right now, him trying to close the remaining gaps and one thing I was told by administration official over the weekend, they still have got a lot of work to do and it`s not over yet. MATTHEWS: Howard? HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, President Obama loves basketball. MATTHEWS: So who doesn`t? (LAUGHTER) FINEMAN: But he in particular among -- MATTHEWS: That`s my sport. FINEMAN: -- among presidents. MARCUS: So, he doesn`t play anymore. FINEMAN: Yes. But I`m going to use a basketball analogy here. He`s like the guy on the team who`s really not that flashy most of the time. MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: But who gets in there and works hard, he gets the rebounds, he doesn`t miss the open shots. At the end of the game, he scored 24 points and has nine rebounds and five assists, and you`re not quite sure how he does it. MATTHEWS: You don`t notice -- FINEMAN: That`s Barack Obama. He -- I`ve always thought of him and from conversations know him to be a guy who takes the long view, who doesn`t get too high, doesn`t get too low and seizes the opportunities when they`re there and knows how to ride the wave. I ascribe that to Hawaii. You know, he`s a body surfer, so he knows how to get on that wave. He knows just the right time -- MATTHEWS: Why do we end up -- FINEMAN: His persistence has paid off here. MATTHEWS: Why do we have this conversation every couple years about this guy? FINEMAN: Because -- MATTHEWS: But we don`t have the conversation most of the time. Most of the time, he`s very frustrating, because he`s so passionate in public. FINEMAN: Because he doesn`t care -- RYAN: He`s cool as a cucumber, he`s as cool as a cucumber but he`s very analytical. And you never know -- I mean, you can`t figure out, he will call your bluff all the time. He is as cool as a cucumber and you can watch him and you never know what -- MATTHEWS: Now that you talk about cool hand Luke here.

No, seriously. How did he get David Boies and Ted Olson to bring that case to court so effectively as these two, it`s bipartisan, and how did they find Anthony Kennedy, this guy who believed in the Lawrence case, who believe in the liberty clause and all that stuff, who totally believed -- (CROSSTALK) MARCUS: I want to say something about this. FINEMAN: One thing he did on gay rights is that he stopped defending. He ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. It wasn`t a big grand thing, as I recall. They just stopped doing it. MARCUS: It was a very controversial decision and the right decision for the country and administration but, you know, he has not been, other than that, and that was a big move, the gay marriage victory was a victory for, in my view the country, but not necessarily a Barack Obama-led victory. RYAN: What he did two years back -- (CROSSTALK) RYAN: And he believes in all America having equality. That`s what he believes. MATTHEWS: OK. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, from cool to red hot. Is there room in the Republican presidential field for this big guy? Chris Christie, he`s getting in the race tomorrow, a little late, but he`s getting in. This is interesting -- a late entry that might be a lot of fun. The place for politics coming back.

FINEMAN: Just thought he doesn`t do it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new poll numbers in the 2016 general election. And for that, we check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to the FOX News poll, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are all tied up, 43-all. That`s what I think it might end up, anyway, if they`re both in it. Hillary will. And Clinton, by the way, holds one-point lead over Marco Rubio, 45-44 there. Against Rand Paul, Clinton is up by four. It`s Clinton, Paul, 46- 42. She has a five-point lead over Dr. Ben Carson 46-41. And Clinton lead grows to six against a trio of Republicans starting with Scott Walker. She leads Walker 47-41. She`s ahead of Cruz 48-42. She`s leading Carly Fiorina, 45-39. Wow is that close? We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable, April, Howard, and Ruth, of course. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as I said, is battling low poll numbers back in New Jersey, and some of his top aides are facing charges in the George Washington Bridge scandal. But none of that is stopping him from formally announcing his candidacy for president tomorrow. Among the many challenges for Christie`s campaign is his characteristic bluntness, of course, which has festered the -- or fostered the perception that he`s bully to some. A Monmouth University poll last month found that 69 percent of New Jersey voters do not believe Christie has the right temperament to be president.

In a preview of his campaign, Christie released a video to mitigate that perception, in which he describes himself and his blunt style as a product of his outspoken Sicilian mother. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Did I stay on topic? Are you stupid? On topic. On topic. Next question. Thank you all very much, and I`m sorry for the idiot over there. After you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in the courtroom, your rear end is going to get thrown in jail, idiot. It`s people raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We`re here to bring the country together, not to divide it. What`s her name? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s her name, guys? Real quick, because the governor is talking. What is it? Gail. Talk to Gail. CHRISTIE: Hey, Gail, you know what? First off, it`s none of your business. I don`t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don`t bother me about where I send mine. But I understand that for someone like you, it`s never enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that`s not true. CHRISTIE: It`s never enough. If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well, then I have no interest in answering your question. You know, Tom, you must be the thinnest skinned guy in America. If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey, and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I`ll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up. So, listen, you want to have the conversation later, I`m happy to have it, bubby. But until that time, sit down and shut up. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MATTHEWS: So, if you`re riding across the country all alone at midnight, you probably want to listen to that guy as a radio shock jock. How about president of the United States? FINEMAN: Well, I love the fact he`s explaining her character because he`s half Sicilian. MATTHEWS: That`s the cover story. FINEMAN: So, that`s the defense, so that means he`s basically running a sopranos campaign.

RYAN: Oh, my gosh. MATTHEWS: So environmental. FINEMAN: All right. So, if you want -- if you want Vladimir Putin`s head in a bowling ball bag, he`s your guy. MATTHEWS: A lot of people are going to be thinking it`s their head. Ruth? MARCUS: I`m a proud Jersey girl from Chris Christie`s hometown, and let me tell you, that is not going to play -- it doesn`t play that well inside New Jersey as that poll showed. It`s not going to play well in Iowa or New Hampshire. MATTHEWS: Why did it play for a while? MARCUS: Because people crave authenticity. So, in the beginning, the first couple times you hear him tell it like it is, it`s really attractive. When you string it all together with the sit down and shut ups, really, people in America, the real America outside New Jersey, sorry, my compatriots, don`t like it too much. I think it`s going to -- he`ll keep it down, and then he`ll get rattled and he`ll let it show and it will come back to bite him. FINEMAN: He`s proud of it. What do you mean? He`s proud. MATTHEWS: He said you`re going to put my box in your store and you`re going to like it. I mean, a bully. That`s what it seems like. RYAN: He is. He`s been running for president for three years and it`s one thing to say tell it like it is. He needs to be more euphemistic.

MATTHEWS: But he ain`t going to change. RYAN: Yes, that`s the problem. It`s playing out words. MATTHEWS: OK. Years ago, my wife, a TV station in town here, Channel 7. Channel 7 hired a big heavy set guy, overweight guy, and he used to tell jokes. So, after a while, they said, lose weight and stop telling jokes. They hired that guy and now they`re saying don`t be that guy. How can he change? RYAN: Well, Chris Christie lost -- MATTHEWS: How can he change? RYAN: He needs somebody to get -- (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Whoa, whoa. RYAN: You know how he does debate prep? He needs someone to do a prep every day, because he`s a loose cannon. MATTHEWS: Is there another Chris Christie besides that guy? MARCUS: You know what, you can lose your weight, but you can`t lose your personality. And people`s personalities don`t change.

FINEMAN: As Ruth knows, New Jersey in the legislature are very tough. He was liked for a while because he took on some people. MATTHEWS: He got reelected. FINEMAN: He took on some people. RYAN: Washington is tough. There are a lot of towns that are tough. That doesn`t excuse that. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Here`s the video the Christie campaign put out today. This is up today, the Christie campaign put out this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I know if my mom were still alive, she would say to me, I taught you that in a trusting relationship, you don`t hold anything back. And if you`re going to run for president of the United States, and you`re going to ask these people for their vote, that is the single most trusting thing they can do as a citizen, is to give you their support. So, you better tell them exactly what you`re thinking and exactly what you`re feeling. And when you ask about my moral compass, that`s it. That`s it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I want to see him up against Donald Trump in that first debate. That could be wild stuff. Look out, Jeb. April Ryan, Howard Fineman, Ruth Marcus, thank you all.

We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a stunning observation I think it is that the U.S. Supreme Court knows this country. It`s not just following the election returns as Mr. Dooley prophesized a century ago. It`s following the American character. Americans want it their way. They want the person they want -- pick the house, pick the car, pick the church, pick the vacation, pick the clothes, pick the restaurant, pick what they want on the menu, the bigger the menu, the better. Pick the president. That`s us. And here`s what this is giving us right now. You pick your partner when it comes to marriage. You do. You can buy all the guns you want no matter who you are or how nuts you are. You can spend all the money you get your hands on and, if you want to get involved in an election, spend it there. Who`s counting? It`s libertarian as hell, and it fits the American mindset, the "leave me alone" attitude, the "get out of my face" attitude. And for those men and women on the Supreme Court also believe in something very conservative. They believe in leaving things alone, that that the government has established -- health care, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. As the wildly conservative mind, George F. Will, once noted, the American people are conservative. They want to conserve the New Deal, or like the guy who said "I think the government shouldn`t get involved with Medicare". I think that`s what the Supreme Court just said about Obamacare. Leave it alone. 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.>